When most people think of Lauryn Hill they instantly recall the years spent supporting her chart-topping Miseducation album. This was an era in Hill’s career where her hip-hop influence took a bit of a back seat to her more soulful side, and to this day that record plays as well as the day it was released. “Consumerism,” however, could not have strayed further from that gentle, radio-ready sound. It’s a boisterous, high-speed rant on everything from greed to religion and politics that demands your full attention. You can stream the single on HipHopDX.
Fugees member Lauryn Hill returned to our headlines yesterday with the release of a brand new, albeit rushed track. Today she returns to our front page, but sadly the news is not as good for Ms. Hill.
Hill appeared in court yesterday to face charges stemming from a $900,000 tax debt she owed to the US Government. As a result of her offenses, Hill was sentenced to serve three months prison time starting in July.
Hill plead guilty to the charges last year, but had taken care of the outstanding debt prior to appearing in court. Nathan Hochman, Hill’s attorney, told Reuters that his client actually paid off her debt through a loan leveraged against two pieces of real estate. He said, “Ms Hill has not only now fully paid prior to sentencing her taxes, which are part of her criminal restitution, but she has additionally fully paid her federal and state personal taxes for the entire period under examination through 2009.”
Hochman asked for mercy because of Hill’s charity work and 6 kids, but the judge said no.
Hill was present during the hearing, and delivered a statement to the judge in which she compared her situation to slavery, stating “I was put into a system I didn’t know the nature of. … I’m a child of former slaves. I got into an economic paradigm and had that imposed on me.”
Fugees member Lauryn Hill has been relatively quiet on the new music front in recent years. Hill has never truly left the studio, but her output to the public has been slim to non-existent for the better part of the last decade. We still love her though, and last night a new track from Ms. Hill found its way online.
Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix) is a rushed final product that was admittedly released to please pre-existing agreements, but it’s not far from being a great entry into Hill’s catalog. The song has a spastic beat that knocks you off your feet from the start. Hill rides its intriguing structure with staccato precision and passionate lyricism. Further vocal mixes would have made a better final product, but for what it is there is not much one can complain about. You can stream the song below.
In a note to fans, Lauryn Hill described the song’s release, writing:
Here is a link to a piece that I was ˜required’ to release immediately, by virtue of the impending legal deadline. I love being able to reach people directly, but in an ideal scenario, I would not have to rush the release of new music¦ but the message is still there. In light of Wednesday’s tragic loss (of former label mate Chris Kelly), I am even more pressed to YELL this to a multitude that may not understand the cost of allowing today’s unhealthy paradigms to remain unchecked!
Pony Boy, the brainchild of Marchelle Bradanini, is a self-described “junkyard country” group that sounds like a dusty old Ford rumbling down a deserted road. Having already put in time as a member of the eclectic Bedtime for Toys, Bradanini channeled her rediscovered love of classic country, blues, and Americana into her latest project. We caught up with her to chat about her poetic past, her distaste for manicured pop, and what really separates her from R. Kelly.
OS: You’ve been involved in some eclectic musical projects in the past such as Bedtime for Toys or you DJing project Pony vs. Tiger. What got you interested in the aesthetic of your current band?
MB: I started out just as a girl with a guitar influenced by Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. Then, I ended up starting a band with some friends and that was about playing music that a group of people came up with collectively at a different point in my life. When that band broke up, I was trying to figure out what I was doing next. Oftentimes you get asked to DJ after playing a show, and I had a pretty decent vinyl collection. While I was working out exactly what the solo project would be, I started getting asked to DJ all over the place. The nice thing was that those gigs were for people who wanted rock ‘n’ roll or classic country, and it was a great opportunity to go back and rediscover all of these old, great artists that I love: John Prine, The Allman Brothers, and even Ram Jam [laughs]. There’s the electronic DJ scene, but then there are also people who want to hear actual songs that were initially released on vinyl. Getting into that scene was really great because I got to work on playlists all day. (more…)
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…)
His debut album, Brown Sugar launched him into super-stardom in 1995 and helped the neo-soul movement gain real traction on the mainstream. His single Lady peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was a major commercial success. He appeared on Lauryn Hill‘s track Nothing Even Matters, from her groundbreaking album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and recorded his hit single Devil’s Pie for the film Belly in 1998. To top it off, he fathered a child with fellow neo-soul star Angie Stone.
D’Angelo’s sophomore album Voodoo debuted at #1 in 2000 and won two Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. It was ranked #488 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. The album’s second single, Untitled (How Does It Feel), was nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards and is ranked #44 on VH-1’s list of 100 Greatest Videos Of All Time.
He seemed to be on top of the world when he suddenly vanished from the public eye. Rumors of drug addiction swirled and D’Angelo all but disappeared, abandoning his place among music’s elite. In a recent interview with GQ, Michael D’Angelo’ Archer finally let the world in on the dark hole he’s been hiding in for the last twelve years.
Every decade lives twice. Each one seems to get a second shot about twenty years after the fact. The ’50s were hot again in the ’70s (which might be why Happy Days was one of TV’s biggest hits). The ’60s resurfaced in the ’80s (as did tie-dye t-shirts and the British invasion), and Saturday night fever flared up one more time in the ’90s (though that didn’t stop the film 54 from flopping).
We’ve been stuck in the ’80s for a while now, but the ’90s are coming around again. I recently attended a ’90s party at a nightclub in Sydney, Australia, and the dance floor was packed with the retro-obsessed. The beats were technotronic indeed, but thanks to the varied playlist, I remembered that there was so much more to the decade in music than grunge and Europop. (Bell Biv DeVoe‘s “Do Me” and Elastica‘s “Connection” provided particularly pleasing trips down memory lane.) Here are five reasons why the ’90s rocked even harder than you might recall.
1. Sisters with voices ruled. And I’m not just talking about Sisters with Voices (otherwise known as SWV). TLC was arguably the most unique multi-platinum girl group ever, while En Vogue was the most glamorous one since the Supremes. Solo stars like Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan joined the hit parade, and Whitney Houston could still raise the roof”and she did with the soundtrack for The Bodyguard. Aside from Adele and Beyoncé (when she’s not huffing, puffing and trying way too hard to bring the house down), none of today’s female hitmakers can match the fierce ruling divas of the ’90s for sheer vocal power.
2. Rock & roll was king. Grunge may have been a relatively short-lived turning point, but for a moment there, the music was actually more important than the marketing. Thanks to bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Radiohead (all of whose platinum success seemed more accidental than calculated), Britpop (Blur vs. Oasis was so much better than Kings of Leon vs. Glee or the lead singers of Coldplay and Muse being married to Hollywood), and the grrrl power of female and female-driven acts like Bjí¶rk, P.J. Harvey, Alanis Morrisette, Hole, Belly, the Breeders and L7, rock and alternative music was both popular and interesting.
3. Stars were born, not manufactured on television and YouTube. This year, Rebecca Black went viral on YouTube and became a “star” without ever actually having a hit. (“Friday” topped out on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 58, 24 notches lower than the Glee remake.) And nothing against American Idol” it’s given us some bona fide, hit-making talents (Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert, among them)”but it’s also gave us William Hung! When music stars are created instantly (in Hung’s case, due to an extreme lack of talent) or groomed in front of our very eyes, pop stardom starts to lose its mystique. Clarkson’s fame will never seem as hard-won as Celine Dion‘s; Carrie Underwood will never be as good a story as Shania Twain; and I’d trade soulful, one-hit wonders like Dionne Farris and Des’ree for Fantasia every day of the week. At least we never had to watch them almost self-destruct in public. Which brings us to…
4. Less was more. Before Twitter, YouTube and tabloid media overload, pop stars always left us wanting more. Now they reveal every thought and all of the minutiae of their lives via endless Twitter updates. (Sean Kingston recently tweeted a photo of himself surrounded by medical equipment while recovering from a jet-ski accident in Miami that nearly cost him his life. Too much?) The tabloids give us 24/7 access, showing them doing just about everything except going to the bathroom (including having sex!). And we can catch them whenever we want to on YouTube (and make them seem more popular than they actually are by continuously pressing play in order to increase their “views”) and watch them falling and bombing onstage, tangling with the paparazzi, and getting prickly with TV interviewers before doffing their shirts and hitting the streets of New York City.
Lauryn Hill was one of the biggest stars of the late ’90s yet she always managed to sidestep overexposure. Where is she now? God only knows (though it recently was revealed that she’s pregnant with her sixth child). If only Amy Winehouse, her critically acclaimed late-’00s equivalent, had been able to fall apart in the privacy of her own home.
5. Courtney Love was far more daring than Lady Gaga. I’ll admit it: I miss Courtney Love. Whatever you thought about her music, the lead singer of Hole was never boring. Take away Lady Gaga’s freaky-creepy visuals, though, and all you’re left with is a talented but over-earnest, politically correct pop star. She’s says all the right things, but listen closely”none of it is even slightly provocative. Her carefully considered soundbites are intended to be up with underdogs and offensive to no one. Even her pro-gay agenda is as respectful as possible to the political right. Just once, I’d like to see Gaga get naked and sexy (for someone who wears so little clothing, she’s remarkably, and safely, asexual), or totally lose it, throwing good intentions out the window and engaging in a public bitchfest. Isn’t the moral majority asking for it?
20 Essential ’90s Albums
Annie Lennox – Diva
Babyface – For the Cool in You
Belly – Star
Bjí¶rk – Post
The Cardigans - Gran Turismo
Dolly Parton – The Grass Is Blue
Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach – Painted from Memory
John Anderson – Seminole Wind
Kate Bush – The Red Shoes
k.d. lange - Ingenue
Mary J. Blige – My Life
Morrissey - Vauxhaull and I (or Your Arsenal)
Neil Young – Harvest Moon
Neneh Cherry – Homebrew
Portishead - Dummy
Radiohead - The Bends
R.E.M. – Automatic for the People (or Out of Time or New Adventures in Hi-Fi)
Sarah McLachlan – Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Suede – Coming Up
Women have played a critical role in the evolution of hip hop; Queen Latifah, Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill and Nicki Minaj, to name a few, have all left distinguishable marks. In 2008, the Hip Hop Culture Center in Harlem recognized their importance with its first annual tribute event called “The Impact of Women in Hip Hop”. Our very own fast-growing pool of female talent, living in the Hip Hop Channels on OurStage, also deserves some love, and we thought that featuring a playlist with a few of them was apropos.
One prime example is Nikki Lynette, who won our “NextMovie Review” competition just weeks ago with her upbeat, genre defying dance jam “Love U Crazy.” Check out her review of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie for MTV’s NextMovie.com. And that’s not her first big moment on OurStage; Nikki was a finalist in OurStage and New Music Seminar’s “Artist on the Verge” competition last year. “I was competing against all male rock bands, she recalls, and I still managed to come in 2nd. Black girls know how to rock, too!” She’s lingered in the Top 100 of our Best of Urban charts for nine weeks this year, too, peaking at 11.
Another exciting artist to follow is @Ibtunes. This Houston sensation has opened for Drake, J. Cole and Wale and was featured as the Unsigned Band of the Month in this past March’s edition of High Times Magazine. She’s also been doing very well on OurStage this year; take a minute to check out some of her mixtapes here. I mean, c’mon, they’re free!
The Lyrical Maze is another one to keep your eye on. Given her childhood interest in writing and poetry, TLM is aptly named. Her confidence on the mic is not surprising either”she’s been competing in and winning talent contests since she was thirteen. More recently, she’s transferred these skills into live performances and even a headlining slot at the NWO Word Warriors Tour. This interview with Female First sheds some more light on the person behind the music.
Tracks by these women, along with other female artists, are included in the player below. We’re proud of their achievements, and we’re sure there’s something here for everyone. Do any of these tracks really stand out to you? Write us a comment and tell us why.
While there’s always one or two artists trying to get back into the limelight each year, frantically attempting to revive their once vibrant careers; few succeed. This year, however, the hip hop scene is flooded with one-time favorites who seem poised for positive reception. Check out the list of this year’s biggest, weirdest and most exciting comebacks, as well as some old favorites we’ll be rooting for.
Nelly: After his 2008 release, Brass Knuckles failed to make a big splash, Nelly released his long-delayed album, 5.0 in November. Singles, Just a Dream and Move That Body have been in heavy radio rotation for months, and his most recent release, Gone with Kelly Rowland is reminding everyone just how much they used to love the Midwest’s golden boy.
Bow Wow: At age 24, Bow Wow’s been at this game for years and enjoyed unparalleled success. Now, he’s re-branded himself with a new look, new sound and new label, signing up with Young Money Records in August. His single, Ain’t Thinkin’ Bout You featuring Chris Brown is one of his best in years, and his upcoming release, Underrated promises to show us a new side of the one we’ve raised from a pup.
Eve: It has been nine years since Philly rapper, EVE released a solo project, but it looks like this just may be her year. She is currently featured on singles with Jill Scott, Swiss Beatz and Alicia Keys, and recently told fans to keep an ear out for a “big record she recorded with fellow Ruff Ryder alum, Swiss, called Mama In The Kitchen. Fingers crossed for a green-lit release date, we expect big things from her upcoming fourth album, Lip Lock.
Dr. Dre: After ten years of rumors and speculation, Dr. Dre made his triumphant return to the mic this year at The GRAMMY Awards. While his album, Detox, still hasn’t hit store shelves, twosingles, Kush and I Need a Doctor have made notable radio impact. While some are still skeptical, the label is promising a May release date for the long-awaited project.
R. Kelly: Kelly has been laying low since his 2007 child pornography trial, his viral video circulation and his ill-fated ˜Unfinished Business’ tour with Jay-Z put him on everyone’s sh*t list. Now, the Chicago-based singer, (who was found not-guilty on all charges) will hit the road with Keyshia Cole for the Love Letter Tour, kicking off this summer.
Eminem: After his 2009 album Relapse failed to impress, many thought this one-time icon had seen his last days of glory. The world was shocked when he released Recovery bringing him back to the forefront stronger than ever before, and making him the best-selling rapper of the year. The Detroit emcee racked up ten GRAMMY nominations for the project, bringing home the award for Best Rap Album and Best Solo Rap Performance. Now, he’s back on top and bringing some friends with him, including longtime friend and mentor, Dr. Dre, and newbie, Yelawolf.
Salt N Pepa: The ladies who put female rap on the map are ready to do it again, celebrating twenty-fve years since their debut, Hot, Cool & Viscious launched them to super-stardom with their Legends of Hip Hop Tour. The three lovely ladies lead a hip hop revival, joined by trailblazers like Whodini, Kurtis Blow, Doug E Fresh, Biz Markie, Naughty By Nature, MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee and Slick Rick to name a few.
Chris Brown: Depite making headlines again for his ill-tempered antics, his album F.A.M.E. is certified gold and debuted at Number 1 on the charts. He kicked off his F.A.M.E. Tour in Australia last week to a crowd of adoring fans, and his singles, Deuces, Look At Me Now, and Yeah have been some of this year’s most successful songs.
Kelly Rowland: The former Destiny’s Child member is back to her R&B roots with her new, yet-to-be-titled album. While she heated up dance tracks internationally with her last project, it failed to register stateside. Now, she’s climbing back up the charts with her Nelly collabo, Gone and her sexy single, Motivation featuring Lil Wayne.
Da Brat: Recently out of jail from a 2007 aggravated assault incident, Da Brat rose to fame in 1994 when her hit, Funkdafied made her the first-ever platinum-selling female rapper. Nowshe’s back and hungry for a comeback, re-joing longtime friend and collaborator, Jermaine Dupri for her upcoming mixtape, due out Memorial Day weekend. She has already released three tracks, Racks featuring YC and Fab 5 Freddy featuring J.D. as well as a remix to Kanye’s All The Lights titled, Turnt Up featuring Dondria.
Lauryn Hill: After some impromptu appearances and rumors of a comeback swirling for months, Lauryn’s Coachella performance gave a big indication that she’s ready to return. The former Fugee performed fan favorites including That Thing and “Ex-Factor, songs she had previously refused to perform anymore. She seemed more like the grounded superstar of her Miseducation days than she has in years, and she hinted at a surprise that would shock fans. Unless it’s a sixth child, we’re guessing she’ll be delivering news of a new album any day now.