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Photo Recap Of The Scene At Afropunk Fest

Photo: SPIN/Matt Ellis

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.

Photo: wagz2it

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 RadioDas 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.

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Can D'Angelo Save Contemporary R&B's Soul?

D’Angelo who?

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…)

Britain's Latest High Society Scandal, Courtesy Of… Jay Electronica?!

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.

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

SoundTrax: Sticky Souls

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.

SoundTrax: Sticky Souls from OurStage on 8tracks.

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.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

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.

The Bad

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.

The Ugly

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.

Miscellany

 

If You Saw Bruce Springsteen Busking, Would You Give Him Money?

This question probably crossed the minds of a few people early last week. If you happened to be visiting Boston’s Public Gardens on September 1st you may have come across a certain singer-songwriter. No, no this wasn’t that kid down the hall from you in your down sophomore year (he was busy serenading co-eds on the quad). It was none other than Bruce Springsteen himself.

Having borrowed a guitar from a street performer he had encountered earlier in the day, Springsteen briefly played in the park, much to the delight of anybody who happened to notice. This wasn’t some publicity stunt or promo for an upcoming album. Springsteen was in town dropping his son off at Boston College and decided to kill some time in maybe the most awesome way that he could. Now, this isn’t the first time that Springsteen has been caught performing on the street like this, but still! How cool is that!

Spotting a major musician in public is usually pretty boring. If you’re in New York City or Los Angeles, you’ll catch stars of all walks of life out and about all the time. Boring. Still, Bruce’s little jam reminded us of some of our other favorite artist’s most awesomely public moments.

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Can Sex Stop You From Going Platinum?

Sex sells. In movies and on TV, in video stores and strip joints, down on the corner, out in the street, everywhere it seems, but on the pop charts. And how far the raw and the oversexed have fallen. First up (or rather, down), Miley Cyrus, who may have sent her music career to an early grave, alienating much of her tween constituency by showing too much skin in the videos for her two most recent singles, “Can’t Be Tamed” and “Who Owns My Heart.” Despite the publicity generated by the 17-year-old’s controversial porn-star moves, her Can’t Be Tamed album is in danger of not going gold.

Like Cyrus, Erykah Badu got tons of press this past spring when she stripped and waltzed nude through the streets of Dallas in her “Window Seat” video. Unfortunately, the stunt didn’t help the single or her New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) album become big hits. Nor could Ciara’s explicit bumping and grinding in her “Ride” video boost the song higher thanNo. 42 on Billboard‘s Hot 100. At least it did better than Christina Aguilera’s ode to oral sex, “Woo Hoo,” which peaked at No. 79 and was the Bionic album’s last gasp. As for Kylie Minogue, surrounding herself with a cast of barely dressed extras in her recent “All the Lovers” video didn’t help her score a crossover U.S. hit.

Meanwhile, Mariah Carey, who’s been selling her ample physical attributes for years in videos and on album covers and recently had to have cat fur superimposed over her shoulders to appease censors in Saudi Arabia, doesn’t sell like she used to. Her last album, 2009’s Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, was her first not to be certified platinum. No wonder she’s playing it safe”and presumably chaste”with her next release, Merry Christmas II You, due November 2.

Pop’s exhibitionists would be wise to pay closer attention to the genre’s ruling queens. Taylor Swift, currently music’s biggest female star, must also be the most demure one since Debby Boone. Beyoncé and Rihanna are two of music’s sexiest ladies, but they’ve never used that as their primary selling point. For all the skin Lady Gaga displays in her clips, there’s nothing remotely sexy about her. And Katy Perry’s cleavage may have been too hot for Sesame Street, but in her videos, she often uses sexuality to almost-cartoonish effect. When she strikes a nude pose in a platinum wig on cotton-candy clouds in “California Gurls,” she almost seems to be saying, “I didn’t mean to turn you on, but if I did, the joke’s on you!”  (Note that the occasionally soft-core “Teenage Dream” clip didn’t premiere until after the song was a hit.)

The lesson to be learned here: You don’t have to take your clothes off to sell a million. But if you must follow Ke$ha’s advice and take it off, don’t count your royalty checks before they’re in the mail. Multi-platinum is less of a guarantee than ever before.

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

Smokeout Festival 2010: Music, Politics, Higher Learning

The San Bernardino hills were alive with the sound of music (and the smell of some serious ganja) for the eleventh annual Cypress Hill Smokeout Festival, presented by Guerilla Union, this past Saturday. Forty thousand fans turned out for a day of food, music and of course”marijuana. This marked the first year that certified medical marijuana users were able to consume pot at the show in designated smoking areas. The festival featured a Medical Marijuana Expo that included voter registration booths, product samples and speaking panels on related issues like cultivation, Prop 19 and other relevant issues.

Authors Shirley Halperin and Steve Bloom led a discussion of their new book, Reefer Movie Madness, and hosted a day of stoner movies including Dazed and Confused, Friday and Pulp Fiction. Jeff Dowd, the real-life The Dude himself was on-hand to introduce The Big Lebowski.

Despite all the Prop 19 propaganda, the real attraction of the day was the music. Over 26 acts performed on three stages including MGMT, Los Rakas, Slightly Stoopid, Paul Oakenfold and Living Legends.

Nas showed no signs of stress from his current label feud when he joined Damian Marley for a high-energy performance on the main stage, looking and sounding better than he has in years. Damian’s floor-length dreads swung behind as he commanded the crowd to light up during his set, yelling, I heard this was a smokeout¦Everybody SMOKE-OUT!!

Legendary hip hop group, and the festival’s hosts, Cypress Hill hit the stage with Travis Barker on the drums, delivering a power-packed set of their hits I Wanna Get High and Stoned Is The Way.  B-Real and Sen Dog sounded as good as they did when the group burst onto the scene almost 20 years ago. After a beat battle between Barker and DJ Muggz, the crowd went wild for a rendition of their classic, Insane In The Brain.

New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh

The real showstopper of the evening was Erykah Badu. The crowd waited with baited breath as Badu hit the stage in a blonde wig and plaid poncho that covered her from neck to knees, later revealing a seventies style shift dress. She opened her stellar set with her 2008 hit The Healer, emphasizing the politically peppered evening with a raised fist and animated delivery. After introducing her band, The Cannabinoids, she followed up with her throwback hit, On And On before performing mostly new material sprinkled with fan favorites like Tyrone.

By the end of the night, throngs of mellow music lovers gathered at the main stage to watch Incubus end their 18-month hiatus. Despite a lack of fresh material, save for the track “Surface To Air,” they wowed the crowd with classics like Drive and Stellar to close out the night on a high note.

As the first festival to formally blend fans’ love of music with their love of marijuana, only ten arrests were made (all misdemeanors such as public intoxication). Show sponsors and artists begged the question: Can pot smokers be united and assemble peacefully? Furthermore, is there a chance in hell Prop 19 supporters could see success on the November ballot? The answer, written across signs and t-shirts throughout the festival, was a resounding: Yes We Cannabis.”

See fan video of Incubus, MGMT, Slightly Stoopid and Deadmau5 performances from Smokeout 2010 here.

By Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.

Soul Searching: Jeremy James

There are a few important qualities that we search for when Soul Searching for artists. Significant industry accomplishments, a unique style and ridiculous vocals to name a few. Jeremy James has all these and then some! James has shared the same stage with an extensive and impressive list of artists including India Arie, Erykah Badu and John Legend. As for Jeremy’s voice, it’s often described as a mix found somewhere between Stevie Wonder and Seal. Although these are two enormous shoes to fill, we can definitely see where they’re coming from!

Jeremy’s music is creative, and it’s apparent that he’s not just a singer” he’s a songwriter and talented overall musician. In his song, U Should Know take a listen to the old school/new school mix in both the vocals and backing track. We’ve included four of Jeremy’s tracks below to stream. Which one do you like the best? Any comments for or about the artist are always appreciated. Let us know what you think!