There must have been some pretty heavy rain fall early in the spring. How else do you explain the bumper crop of festivals that have sprung up this year in late August? In the past two weeks alone there have been three great hip-hop festivals; the venerable Rock The Bells Festival in New Jersey, the inaugural Made In America Festival in Philadelphia, and the eighth annual Afropunk Fest in Brooklyn.
The two former fests might have had some bigger names clogging up the lineups, sure. But this year’s Afropunk Fest really saw the event come into its own. With performances from big names Erykah Badu, TV On The Radio, Das Racist, and Janelle Monáe, to local favorites like Ninjasonik, Body Language, Phony Ppl, and featuring an art wall, a skate park, and breakdancing (!), Afropunk Fest definitely wins for coolest and (dare I say it) hippest outing.
Check out some exclusive images documenting the Afropunk festival weekend experience after the jump.
If you’re a music lover of a certain age, too young to remember when contemporary R&B wasn’t joined at the hips with rap, or didn’t come dressed up in a shimmering electro-pop sheen, we’ll forgive you for asking.
Now let the history lesson begin! Flashback to 1995, back when 21-year-old D’Angelo (born Michael Eugene Archer) was quickly becoming one of the hottest things in music. Released that year, his debut album, Brown Sugar, helped usher in the era of neo soul, and with Voodoo, his long-delayed 2000 sophomore album, for whose “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” video he bared both body and soul (literally!), he became an R&B rarity: a sex symbol capable of seducing both fans and critics with his bulging talent.
The only way was up, it seemed. But instead of ascending, D’Angelo dropped out. In some ways, it wasn’t so surprising. When I met D’Angelo in the mid-˜90s before a taping of MTV Unplugged, I was immediately disarmed by his cheerful but low-key and unassuming manner. He easily could have passed as any guy in the audience who’d wandered into the performer’s circle by mistake”and I mean that as a compliment. Modesty in a hunky package, D’Angelo, unlike the egocentric superstars crowding the charts today, clearly wasn’t in it for the star trip. Whether sitting at the piano or plucking a guitar, he was playing for love of the game, not the “F.A.M.E.” and “Fortune” (to quote the crass titles of the two most recent albums by Chris Brown, D’Angelo’s modern-day antithesis).
After taking five years to release his sophomore effort, D’Angelo spent the next decade well outside of the spotlight, only making occasional scattered appearances on leaked songs and other people’s records (including Mark Ronson’s Record Collection). And like so many musical geniuses before and after, he was plagued by demons, which may or may not have shaken up his turbulent romance with fellow singer Angie Stone, the mother of his teenage son Michael, and which definitely led to several legal scrapes, including a 2005 arrest for drunk driving and drug possession, and another in 2010 for soliciting a female undercover police officer for sex in New York City. (more…)
Jay Electronica has lived a crazy life. While that’s a proclamation heard from many rappers, eager to share their story, very few have experienced anything close to the ludicrous highs and unfathomable lows he has. Electronica (real name Timothy Elpadaro Thedford) was born into poverty in New Orleans and also spent some time homeless in Brooklyn. But at the other end of the spectrum, he had a relationship with Erykah Badu, is currently signed to Roc Nation, and has released one stone cold classic single in the form of 2009’s “Exhibit C.”
And now there’s another fascinating chapter to add to Electronica’s life story. According to the UK press, the rapper is the wedge that has driven Ben Goldsmith and Kate Rothschild apart. For those not familiar, Goldsmith and Rothschild are both scions of two of the most historically powerful financial families in Europe. While it was reported that the couple had separated earlier this year and had at one point reconciled, it came to light early last week that Goldsmith and Rothschild were headed toward divorce. And that’s when Jay-as-lothario entered the picture.
It’s unclear how long their relationship was going on., but it’s reported that Electronica first made contact with Rothschild when he came to London to complete work on his long awaited debut album. While Elect and Rothschild struck up a friendship based on their shared love of music – Rothschild runs her own record label – Jay was also friendly with Goldsmith, based on the photo of the two above.
Electronica has yet to chime in regarding the allegations of the affair.
If there has been one unifying theme between all of our SoundTrax posts, we hope it is that every playlist is put together with careful thought and features music with a little more soul than your average radio hit. We’re firm believers that music should be an extension of your personality; quirky, syncopated and with a couple rough edges, which is what makes this week’s post so special for us. While there is no unifying genre for this playlist, every song is sung with emotion and style. Some feature the aesthetic of vibrant ’20s big bands, others are stuck in the sweaty gumbo swamps of Louisiana, but they all feature one unifying force; soul. Every artist understands just how much emotional power music can have, and they demonstrate their sheer prowess at manipulating these emotions in this week’s playlist.
Fitz & the Tantrums kick us off with an infectious neo soul/indie pop song crossover that would feel just as at home on your mom’s oldies station as it would on your iPod. Next up, Parov Stelar and co. are back with an upbeat, punchy, jazz-pop tune featuring intricate bass lines and playful horn riffs. The late Amy Winehouse slows things down with her sultry tone and impeccable restraint. OurStage newcomer Ernest Rose has a voice that would make any woman buckle as well as the songwriting chops to back it up. The Crystal Method and Martha Reeves revive R&B and the spirit of Detroit in their track with a modern, bass-blistering level of synth work”definitely the heaviest and most funky track on the list. A quick change of pace as Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings fill your ears with Rhodes keys, shuffled jazz rhythms and gospel choirs. Mark Ronson and Erykah Badu team up on a tune soaked in southern whiskey and filled with New Orleans jubilation. And closing out this week, one of my new favorite OurStage acts, Smokey Robotic provide a slow, dubstep-influenced tune that defies classification, so let’s just chalk it up to awesome music.
President Obama is sexy (and he knows it)
Who woulda thought that President Obama was such a big LMFAO fan? Turns out he’s been surreptitiously dropping lyrics to Sexy and I Know It into all his speeches. As long as he doesn’t collaborate with Madonna, we’re OK with it. Watch the Commander in Chief bring sexy back below.
Deadmau5 taps fan to collaborate
The Internet has elevated many things to a whole new level: spying on your exes, indulging your cat obsession and, in this case, interacting with your favorite musician. Deadmau5, otherwise known as Joel Zimmerman, streamed an unfinished track on his Web site to give fans a listen to the songwriting process. One industrious follower tweeted the DJ a vocal track, and Zimmerman liked it so much he promised to add it into the song. Oh Internet, will your powers ever cease to amaze? Watch the magic happen below.
Jerry Lee Lewis marries for seventh time, to cousin’s ex-wife
File under gross: Jerry Lee Lewis, who is now seventy-six years old, got married to his seventh wife ¦ wait for it ¦ who also happens to be the ex-wife of his own cousin, Rusty Brown. But there’s more! Cousin Rusty is the younger brother of Myrna Gale Brown, who married Lewis when she was only thirteen years old. Lets hope this latest dysfunctional marriage cools those great balls of fire once and for all.
Earl Scruggs dies
Bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs passed away this week from natural causes at an area hospital in Nashville. He was eighty-eight years old. Scruggs, along with Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt, formed the most influential bluegrass acts of all time”the Blue Grass Boys. Scruggs is credited with popularizing the three-finger style of banjo playing. He went on to play with Flatt in the Foggy Mountain Boys (later known as Flatt and Scruggs). His hits”which include the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies and Bonnie and Clyde”helped bring bluegrass to mainstream audiences. R.I.P.
Wayne Coyne bleeds collaborators for Record Store Day release
For his upcoming Record Store Day release, entitled The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, Wayne Coyne wasn’t content to give fans his figurative blood, sweat and tears. The Flaming Lips front man is including his actual blood as well as the blood of his collaborators on the vinyl and packaging of the record. That means folks like Yoko Ono, Bon Iver, Ke$ha, Biz Markie, Chris Martin, Erykah Badu and more will be donating a sample to this bio-hazardous album. Handle with gloves, people.
Bobby Brown arrested for DUI
Bobby Brown was charged with two DUI counts and a misdemeanor charge of driving on a suspended license after cops pulled the singer over on Monday. Brown faces up to six months in jail if convicted. His court date is scheduled for April 16. Our advice? We think Brown should pack up his group, get a grip, come equipped, grab his proton pack off his back and then split. Oh wait, that only works if you’re a Ghostbuster.
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