When Krizz Kaliko released his fourth album, Kickin’ and Screamin with his single, Kill Shit featuring Tech N9ne and Twista, he reminded fans that the Chicago rapper is still relevant¦and really fast.
Tech N9ne said he avoided writing his verse for the song for a week after hearing Twista’s lightning fast flow.
“I didn’t want to write it. I didn’t want to have to write after Twista. Twista’s a murderer so I ran from the track for a week, he said on his blog. I really don’t like rapping fast because it’s so hard to write but it’s one of my specialties. It was another reason I was running but once I sat down and did it, it came out superb. I think Twista killed everything on it. Everybody’s talking about how much they love my verse. I love it and I love how they love it but they really need to listen to Twista. That boy did something amazing. Yeah I didn’t want to write it and everyone came out beautiful…His verse is just so intricate. It’s just quadruple timing. The tricks that he’s doing in there, you just have to pay attention to his words and what he’s saying in there”so wonderful.”
Still, Twista has been downplaying the possibility of signing with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music since statements he made last month have sent speculations swirling.
He told Thisis50.com, “I don’t know what it’s going to be [with G.O.O.D. Music],” he said. “[The media] takes it the way they want to take it. [All I said was] that I’m open to sign with whomever as long as the situation is right¦it’s all love. [Kanye and I] both from Chi Town and he’s been in the game doing his thing for a long time. I definitely don’t look at it like [I won’t sign under a younger artist]. Like I said, as long as the situation’s right.”
For Keith Robinson, fame is a gift and a curse. For most actors, a big role in an even bigger film is the Holy Grail. In 2005, Robinson co-starred in the mega musical, Dreamgirls alongside then newbie, Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. Hudson scored a Best Supporting Actress win at the Oscars for her portrayal of Effie White and Keith delivered a powerful performance as her piano-playing brother, C.C.. Since then, he has starred in a string of successful films like Dear John and This Christmas.
People ask me if I was lip-synching in Dreamgirls, he says, unable to mask the insult such a question undoubtedly hurls. It’s not that I’m frustrated, just more eager to establish myself in this realm, he says. When I step onstage, half the people in the audience know I’m about to sing, and half have no idea that I can. It’s a blessing to have two platforms, but it’s just ironic, he says. I’m a singer. I’ve always been a singer. Acting was an accident. I came to LA for music.
In fact, his first acting class was just an attempt to improve his stage presence after he and his group, State of Mind was signed to Motown Records. An instructor took notice of the natural talent and suggested he audition for a little show called Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Keith was cast as the Green Power Ranger, and was instantly thrown into the other business. Eventually, Keith’s acting became a priority, and he landed roles in major films like Fat Albert and eventually, Dreamgirls.
Now, the singer-turned-actor faces an ironic fete; convincing the world that he’s an authentic vocalist. I still feel like a starving artist, he says. My mindset hasn’t changed at all in that way. It’s about proving to people that don’t know me that this music thing is not a gimmick. They see me one way, and it’s hard for [the public] to see me in another way.
His latest film, My Dysfunctional Friends, hits select AMC theatres on Friday and stars Megan Good, Terrell Owens, Stacy Dash and Persia White. Aside from starring in the indie film, Keith oversaw all the music in the movie through his scoring company, TKtitle. The film’s title track, Same Rules will serve as the first single for his full-length project, due out later this year.
I’m excited and relieved. I’m anxious to see how it is received, he admits. If the single is any indication, Keith’s got nothing to worry about. The smooth crooning of a bonafide hottie isn’t hard to hear. And the fact that Robinson’s R&B roots and writing style are a throwback of sorts is a refreshing retreat from the status quo.
I think there’s a timeless quality to my music, he says. I came up on the cusp of real singing and auto-tune. I bridge the gap. Heavily influenced by classic crooners like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sade and Babyface, Keith hopes to create songs people can truly connect to. I’m a real music fan, he says. Music is supposed to be sincere and heartfelt. It should evoke emotion and make people relate to where it’s coming from, and what they’re going through. It becomes the soundtrack to people’s lives.
The yet-to-be titled project is pointed toward relationships and how men and women relate to each other. It’s my point of view as a man. An honest explanation of the vulnerability and strength that comes along with an earnest search for love.
Like all aspiring artists, he has at times been discouraged by the many pitfalls of the industry. Being determined to release his first full-length project himself has got Keith feeling the same pressure that so many up and comers experience.
The grind is constant, tedious and time-consuming. To truly be an independent artist, you still have to be dependent on someone for money. The reality is it costs a lot of money to break an artist.
According to Keith, his next single, Just Kissed My Baby, totally defines who he is as an artist. As far as sound goes, I love the heavy 808s, strings and a beautiful chorus, he says.
I love performing and I love recording, he says. It’s the funnest part of the process. I love incorporating live instruments like strings, drums and piano. Soul is the through line.
Next up for Keith will be the release of his movie, Divorce Invitation, out this fall. In the meantime, Keith will be releasing new material, touring, and hopes to direct a film in the future. Despite the occasional frustrations that come from the crossover it doesn’t seem he has any plans of slowing down his double-life.
I’m an actor and a singer. I do it every day. Love me or leave me.
I’m gonna go with love.
A US Presidential election, Summer Olympics mania (London’s calling”again!), Rihanna’s film debut (in Battleship, out May 18) and the possible end of the world. Those are a few of the things I won’t be looking forward to in the coming year. Fortunately, music will offer enough thrills to distract us from all that we’d rather forget. Here’s what’s topping my 2012 anticipation list:
1. Madonna makes fiftysomething fabulous all over again. Although I’m curious to hear what Madonna does with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on the final cut of “Gimme All Your Luvin'” when the single is released the last week of January, that’s not the main reason I’m excited about her upcoming twelfth studio album (due in late March), her first since turning fifty in 2008. “Masterpiece,” a new song featured in the Madonna-directed W.E. (which goes into wide release on February 3, two days before her Super Bowl XLVI performance) and her reunion with her Ray of Light producer William Orbit, is an achingly beautiful ballad that recalls the best of ’90s Madonna while gently proving that she can still create pop magic all on her own.
2. Madonna vs. Elton John vs. Mary J. Blige vs. Chris Cornell vs. Glenn Close (!) at the Golden Globes. Too bad the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has disqualified Madonna’s “Masterpiece” from competition at the February 27 Oscars. Why? Because it’s the second song featured during the closing credits, and eligible songs must either be in the body of the film, or the tune that plays when the credits start to roll. Oscar’s loss. The January 15 Golden Globes showdown featuring five monsters of pop, rock and soul and acting will be just as star-studded”and as tough to call”as George Clooney vs. Brad Pitt vs. Leonardo DiCaprio vs. Ryan Gosling in Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.
Pitbull drops his sixth album, Planet Pit today. The hit-maker affectionately known as Mr. Worldwide has already scored two scorchers off the album, Hey Baby featuring T-Pain debuted at Number 7 last year and his current smash, Give Me Everything featuring Ne-Yo is holding strong at the Number 2 spot. Not to mention, his guest spot on J.Lo’s, On The Floor helped make it a national club anthem.
Planet Pit is a twelve-track treat that boasts an impressive all-star line-up of music’s VIP’s including Jamie Foxx, Chris Brown, Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias. Kelly Rowland makes a cool cameo in Castle Made of Sand and the Sean Paul featured, Shake Senora is a personal favorite of mine. Production credits are just as impressive, with tracks from David Guetta, Red One and Benny Blanco to name a few. The eclectic guest list makes for a dynamic album that’s sure to be heating up dance floors across the globe this summer.
Jill Scott drops Light Of The Sun today, which features the super fun dance track Shame with Eve and The A Group. The album is a beautiful compilation of strong, introspective lyrics from a noticeable renewed Scott. Not exactly a club banger, but definitely an album to get you through those summer nights.
Big Sean is finally ready to drop Finally Famous next week. The highly-anticipated debut from Kanye‘s protégé comes on the heels of last week’s release of his I Do It video. Touted by industry insiders as the one to watch, it’s finally time for Big Sean to prove what all the fuss is about. Earlier this month, West told the crowd at Sean’s listening party his plans for the newbie. I believe Sean’s story is one of the most amazing ever, ’cause he literally got signed off a freestyle. To now, and I say it all the time, having the potential to be one of the biggest artists in the world. I feel like he can be like what Beyoncé is to R&B, that he can be that to rap music.
While the bar is set high for the Detroit rapper, the sixteen-song tracklist indicates a promising showing. The album features guest appearances from an eclectic group of hip hop heavyweights Dwele, Pharell, The Dream, Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Pusha T, John Legend, Wiz Khalifa and Lupe Fiasco. The infamous Chicago producer and Kanye-mentor, No. I.D. produced most of the album, giving him even more of a winning edge. Looks like this summer might be the beginning of something big.
Beyoncé is set to drop 4 next week, and despite early leaks and less than stellar single performance, I’m guessing Bey will still make a splash this summer. Her first single, Girls didn’t immediately catch on with radio fans, but resonated as a female anthem that will go down in history as helping Oprah Winfrey say goodbye. Her performance of the single on this year’s Billboard Awards is one of her best ever. Now, her latest single, Best Thing I Never Had is creeping up the charts and given time, is sure to come out on top. The album’s Internet leak a few weeks back was just a minor hiccup for the seasoned superstar, who snuck in some seriously sizzling dance tracks that will certainly be powering clubs all summer long.
The only thing more exciting than a new single from your favorite artist is a new single from two or three of your favorite artists. Whether the aim is to break a new artist with an established one, widen a fanbase or re-establish a prior claim to fame; good collaborations have a way of making fans feel like they lucked out. Check out some of the latest download-worthy duos.
Jay-Z and Kanye dropped “H.A.M.” today; the first single from their highly anticipated collaboration record, due out in March. The yet-to-be-titled project is sure to be a crowd pleaser, with two of the best rappers in the game on one album.
Chris Brown turned out two singles in one week, and seems to be back to the danceable ditties that made him a mainstay on the scene. Whether you like the kid or not, it’s hard to deny his talent, especially when he can’t seem to make anything but a hit.
Look At Me Now Chris Brown ft. Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne:
On this track, Brown tries his hand at rapping alongside serious spitters, Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne. While this could be a risky move, he pulls it off to deliver an effortless verse complemented by the heavy-hitting emcees.
Where Do We Go From Here Chris Brown ft. Pitbull:
This club banger is certain to heat up the dance floor with Brown belting out the hook between Pitbull’s energizing, signature style. The trance-y beat makes it impossible to stand still.
Yep Dats Me Jamie Foxx ft. Ludacris & Soulja Boy:
This slightly surprising mash-up is one to dedicate to all your haters. The catchy hook is classic Soulja Boy, and Ludacris heats up the track in a tone reminiscent of his early days on the mic. While the majority of Foxx’s album is intended for the bedroom, this is one to bang in the streets.
Alicia’s first post-baby ballad is produced by her hubby, Swizz Beatz and is pre-empted by her saying, I’m at a brand new time in my life, I got a brand new feeling. Eve gives a great performance that makes us even more eager for her album to drop later this year.
Buyou Keri Hilson ft. J. Cole:
Hilson’s latest LP, No Boys Allowed is clearly dedicated to the ladies, and this sassy track is tailored to the “fly girls getting money” who want the same from their men. Newcomer J. Cole is perfectly poised to win over the female market as he spits his appreciation for independent women, and urges them not to settle for broke boys.
That Good Snoop Dogg ft. Wiz Khalifa:
Ganja lovers rejoice”the self-proclaimed New Cheech & Chong are at it again, releasing the first-single from the soundtrack to their upcoming, untitled movie. The title refers to the potent weed strains these talented tokers have on hand, and is sure to become a new stoner anthem. Here’s to hoping Wiz stays out of trouble long enough to get through filming.
Keep the collabos coming.
While we can expect big things from Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and hip hop’s newest it girl Nicki Minaj”whose debut, Pink Friday” is packed with future number ones, there are even more musical mitzvahs on the horizon. Some late December, early January rap releases are sure to get some heavy radio rotation including Yo Gotti’s Live From The Kitchen and Jeezy‘s, TM 103.
Things are looking up in the R&B department now that R. Kelly has released his guaranteed panty-dropper, Love Letter in the same month that Avant dropped, The Letter and Tank debuts Now Or Never. We’re guessing Jamie Foxx’s Best Night Of My Life will be heating up the airwaves if his single, Fall For Your Type featuring Drake is any indication. The crooning will continue through the winter, with Lloyd‘s, King Of Hearts set to drop on Valentine’s Day and Bobby Valentino’s, Fly On The Wall expected to drop before the snow melts.
The ladies aren’t lagging either, with Keyshia Cole and Ciara releasing highly-anticipated albums, lead by already- hot singles, I Ain’t Thru and Ride It to close out the year. We can expect Kandi Koated, (the currently under-the-radar release from Kandi Burress) to gain some traction this year with singles Me And You and Haven’t Loved Right being too good to stay under wraps for long.
We’re still waiting for Nas to drop The Lost Tapes: Volume 2, but it looks like 2011 might be the year of the comebacks with highly anticipated releases coming from some of hip hop’s most prolific stars. Dr. Dre’s Detox should hit shelves in February followed by some stiff competition from fellow West Coaster, Snoop Dogg when he releases Doggystyle 2: The Doggumentary in March. Weezy‘s Carter IV is expected to drop the same month, along with his collaboration album with Birdman, Like Father, Like Son 2. Hot on their heels will be newcomer, J. Cole, with his yet-to-be-titled debut going head to head with Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers. Another highly-anticipated comeback will come from Pusha T of The Clipse, when he releases his solo album on Kanye‘s G.O.O.D. Music label this year.
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.
From Justin Timberlake (The Social Network) and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side and Country Strong) to Janet Jackson (For Colored Girls) and Christina Aguilera (Burlesque), pop stars no longer act just to fill dead space between albums. And the career exchange is working the other way around, too. Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd had a hit single in the ’70s; Bruce Willis, Patrick Swayze (may he rest in peace), Don Johnson and Eddie Murphy had one Top 10 apiece in the ’80s; and Jennifer Lopez spent the early ’00s as one of the hottest women in pop. But lately, what every actor (and reality TV star) seems to really want to do isn’t direct”it’s sing.
Leading the current musical parade is Gwyneth Paltrow, who scored a Billboard No. 1 Adult Contemporary hit in 2000 with a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’,” a duet she mastered with Huey Lewis. Now she’s targeting Nashville and possibly a second Oscar with her role as an alcoholic singer in Country Strong (opening December 22). She’s already getting country radio airplay with the title song and performed it live, to a standing ovation, at the Country Music Awards on November 10. She also just made her superstar guest appearance on Glee.
Meanwhile, Paltrow’s Country Strong costar Leighton Meester, who’s also a regular on Gossip Girl”which features moonlighting rocker Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass)”is releasing an album on the Universal Republic label, and already hit the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 last year as a featured artist on Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad.”
Paltrow’s Iron Man costar Jeff Bridges won an Oscar in March for playing the male version of her Country Strong character in Crazy Heart (music from the film, by rising country star Ryan Bingham, who also acted in the film, received plenty of accolades as well). Iron Man 2‘s Scarlett Johansson released Anywhere I Lay My Head, an album of Tom Wait covers, in 2008 and Break Up, with Pete Yorn, in 2009. And Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., has sung on the soundtracks to several of his films and onstage at the 2008 American Idol finale, appeared in an Elton John video and released a CD called The Futurist.
Joaquin Pheonix, Paltrow’s costar in last year’s Two Lovers, performed his own vocals for his Oscar-nominated performance as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and spent the entire 2010 documentary I’m Still Here trying to make it as a rapper.
Maybe it’s the rebirth of the Hollywood musical”and/or the drive to hang on to fame by all means necessary”that’s convinced so many actors that they can make it in music, too (no, not you, David Hasselhoff). Phoenix’s Walk the Line costar Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for her singing efforts as June Carter Cash. Catherine Zeta-Jones scored both an Oscar (Chicago) and a Tony (A Little Night Music) for musical performances. Penelope Cruz just got nominated for uncaging her inner songbird in Nine, alongside fellow Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis, Dame Judi Dench, Sophia Loren and Nicole Kidman, who”like Kate Winslet and the late Britanny Murphy (may she rest in peace)”has hit the Top 10 in the UK as a singer.
Even Oscar queen Meryl Streep has gotten into the song and dance, massacring the ABBA catalog in the 2008 musical Mamma Mia! And recent Academy honoree Mo’Nique delivered a song-stealing monologue on “Don’t Take Your Hat Off,” a track on Toni Braxton’s last album. Jamie Foxx, who won his Oscar for reincarnating music icon Ray Charles in Ray, has released two platinum albums and has a third set, Body, due on December 14. Kevin Bacon, Dennis Quaid, Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe, Zoey Deschanel, Adrian Grenier, Juliette Lewis, Keanu Reeves, Jason Schwartzman and Robert Pattinson all have moonlighted as musicians; Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars seems to have become a bigger priority than acting; veteran actor Chris Mulkey (HBO’s The Boardwalk Empire) is also a well known country singer and Steve Martin’s The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo won a 2010 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.
Among the younger set, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez were all Disney stars before becoming successful recording artists (as were Fergie, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Aubrey Drake Graham spent eight years playing Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation before becoming platinum-selling rapper Drake. Will and Jada Smith’s actor kids are also making musical noise. Son Jaden, 12, had a Top 40 hit earlier this year rapping with Justin Bieber on “Never Say Never,” and his 9-year-old sister Willow‘s “Whip My Hair” is a current pop smash that has some calling her a future Beyoncé. Then there’s, Josh Groban, who will release his fifth album, Illuminations, on November 15 and also costars with Steve Carell in the 2011 comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. He initially set out to be an actor, getting his big break in a 2001 episode of Ally McBeal, before detouring permanently into singing.
Since talent is optional in pop, and sometimes all you need is a good producer and auto-tune, reality stars are entering the mix, too. (No diss intended to Project Runway host Heidi Klum, who sang on “Wedding Day,” a track on her husband Seal’s 2007 album, System.) The Hills’ Heidi Montag and The Simple Life’s Paris Hilton, perhaps inspired by the pop careers of dueling starlets Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff in the mid ’00s, both released their own albums. Montag already tanked early this year (Earth to former reality star: If you want to be taken seriously in music, don’t call your debut album Superficial), but at least Hilton earned a Top 10 hit and decent reviews for Paris in 2006 and has a follow-up in the works.
Of course, Kim “I’ll do anything to stay in the spotlight” Kardashian is working with producer The-Dream (Rihanna, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey) on her debut album, and has said, “I would like the music to sound a bit like Lady GaGa, Britney Spears and J.Lo with a bit of an R ‘n’ B twist to it.” Such lofty ambitions!
Down south, The Real Housewives of Atlanta‘s Kandi Burruss, who had several hits with the girl group Xscape in the ’90s and co-wrote Destiny’s Child’s “Bills Bills Bills” and TLC’s “No Scrubs,” among other hits, is about to relaunch her music career with her second solo album, Kandi Koated, on December 14. And it’s probably only a matter of time before Hiltons’ The Simple Life costar, Nicole Richie, follows her dad, Lionel Richie, and her fiancé, Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden, into the family business.
But no Hollywood star has made as much of a recent dent in pop as the cast of Glee, who just surpassed the Beatles’ record for the most hits on Billboard’s Hot 100. Their schtick of taking other people’s songs for one-week spins on the chart is wearing thin”I never got the show and probably never will”but these days in life, Hollywood and pop, only a few things are certain: death, taxes, another actor-turned-singer, and a weekly barrage of Hot 100 entries by the cast of Glee.
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.