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LL Cool J Announces ‘Kings Of The Mic’ Tour With Ice Cube, Public Enemy & De La Soul

Hip hop legend LL Cool J has ensured his reign over urban music for another year by announcing what it is sure to be one of 2013’s hottest tickets.

Announced this morning, the ‘Kings Of The Mic’ tour will take LL Cool J nationwide with support from Ice Cube, Public Enemy, and De La Soul. Yes, all four of those legendary music makers will be hitting the road together this year. This it not a drill.

The ‘Kings Of The Mic’ tour kicks off May 23 in Tucson, which is just under a month after LL Cool J’s new album, Authentic, is released (April 30). You can view the full routing below: (more…)

Grammy Performances Announced: Taylor Swift, fun. And More

It’s officially awards season. Sure, it can be an obnoxiously gratuitous, self-congratulatory time, but there’s always a little entertaining drama to keep things interesting. Then, of course, there are the performances to look forward to. And now, music enthusiasts, the first batch of performers for the Grammy Awards have made the rounds.

Among this year’s Grammy performers will be first timers The Black Keys and fun., along with Taylor Swift, Mumford & Sons, and Rihanna. All these performers are nominated in various categories, including fun., Mumford & Sons and the Black Keys competing for Album of the Year.

View the full list of nominees right here and don’t forget to tune in as LL Cool J returns to host the 55th Annual Grammy Awards live at 8p.m. EST Sunday, February 10th on CBS.

If you like Mumford & Sons check out OurStage artist Kory Murphy.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

The Second Coming of DMX

Let’s face it, sometimes the past should stay dead. But when an awesome artist fades from popularity,  fans later wonder, Where are they now?  You may not know it, but many artists you’ve loved in the past are still hard at work writing new albums or preparing to tour again. Fortunately, you now have Second Coming to reintroduce some of your favorite acts of the last few decades and give you the scoop on what you can expect from them in the future.

THEN: DMX (a.k.a. Earl Simmons) didn’t have a typical childhood. As a kid living in Yonkers, New York, he learned to steal money from drug dealers”a hobby that quickly landed him in group homes and juvenile detention. When he was off the streets, he turned to rapping and beatboxing to pass the time. After he was written about in a column about unsigned hip hop artists, DMX was signed to Columbia Records. The signing led to the young rapper scoring a few guest spots on the albums of hip hop heavyweights like LL Cool J, Mase and The LOX. When it came time to drop a single of his own in 1998, DMX did not disappoint. “Get At Me Dog” was certified Gold and the classic “Ruff Ryders Anthem” from debut It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot is still heralded as one of the best hip hop songs of all time. Later that same year, he released a second album, Flesh of My Flesh and Blood of My Blood, which followed Dark to a No. 1 Billboard debut, a feat only accomplished before by Tupac. After all this success, it was X’s third album, …And Then There Was X, that truly catapulted the rapper to star status. The single “Party Up (Up In Here)” has become an iconic anthem for every frat party and dance club rave since its release. Unfortunately, X’s following two albums couldn’t seem to match the sales or the commercial success of his third record. His last album was released in 2006.
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Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Jesse Frohman Catches Kurt Cobain's Final Act

Veteran photographer Jesse Frohman isn’t easily fazed. He may have become adept at photographing the “beautiful people” in celebdom, but he first began making a name for himself in the late ’80s by capturing colorful moments on the fly with hip-hop provocateurs. So, when a drugged-up, freakishly attired Kurt Cobain strolled into his shoot three hours late in November of 1993, Frohman didn’t flinch. After all, Jesse Frohman is the man who invited a militant-era Chuck D. into his house and insisted on putting a gun in the Public Enemy mastermind’s hand. Fortunately it was all in the service of an iconic photo.

“That was a funny shoot,” recalls Frohman, “because I told whoever was doing the props at the time, ‘You’ve gotta get a gun,’ because I wanted to do that [Black Panthers founder] Huey Newton-style picture, and he comes back with this grandpa gun, and Chuck D. was like ‘Where’s the Uzi?'” Frohman had some strange but memorable shoots with LL Cool J in those days too. “LL Cool J would say the funniest things, he would just call me randomly and say ‘Okay, I want to get my Pathfinder up in the woods and we’ll put a deer on the hood, and I’ll get camouflage clothes’ [laughs]. Just one thing after another, it was just a real crackup.”

But even Public Enemy’s intimidating image didn’t rattle Frohman. “People really thought these guys were very much that way,” he explains, “and it made me realize they’re putting on a show” they were natural entertainers. When you’d meet them in person they’d drop their guard a little bit. I really didn’t have any problems with anybody, I had more problems with people like Dee Dee Ramone out at my house; he picked up the brass knuckles that he gave me as a gift and tried to use them on me. He was having a bad reaction to some drugs he took.”

Frohman doesn’t even betray an ounce of chagrin when he recalls getting kicked out of a shoot by the artists themselves. “Green Day was a great band to shoot,” he begins. “they get the attitude, they’re zany, they don’t care what they look like, they just want to have fun in the pictures, and they put on a show a little bit.” Then he drops the other shoe, continuing, “The funny thing about Green Day is, a magazine said, ‘They’re on tour,’ would I mind going to the show and doing a few pictures there? I went to the show and Billie [Joe Armstrong] says after the first couple of songs, ‘How about we kick the goddamn photographer out of here?’ I’m trying to say, ‘No, it’s me Billie! We just had this four-hour shoot!’ He either didn’t see me or he didn’t care, and I was kicked out, so I didn’t get concert pictures.” But Frohman wasn’t just fattening his portfolio by banging around with all these enfants terrible, he was gaining combat experience. “They were colorful,” he says of the aforementioned artists, “they were interesting, they were great subjects, and it really set me up for a shoot like Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.”

Frohman sets the scene for his short but momentous Cobain encounter, “I think it was November 15, 1993,” he remembers. “The London Observer magazine asked if I would do a cover story on [Nirvana]. They set up a shoot that we all agreed would be five hours. They were in New York performing at Roseland that night, so we had the late morning/afternoon to do the shoot. When I arrived at the hotel, I met the manager at the lobby and he said, ‘The plans have changed, and we don’t have anything close to five hours now, and we have to shoot in the hotel.’ He had reserved a conference room for us. We were planning on shooting in Central Park and on the street, that’s what I was set up for, and he nixed all that. So that was the beginning of the experience.”

If you’re thinking it got worse after that, you’re right. Nirvana rhythm section Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic showed up for the shoot only to find their fearless leader MIA, so they departed. When they returned some time later, the singer had still not turned up. Finally, a chemically-enhanced Cobain wandered in with only twenty minutes left in Frohman’s alotted time. He arrived with an absurd, garish ensemble including a leopard jacket that looked like it belonged to someone’s grandmother, an earflap-adorned aviator hat of the sort pilots sported in WWII, and a pair of huge plastic sunglasses that would have been better suited to Jackie Onassis. To make matters more difficult, Frohman recalls, “Once he put those glasses on he wouldn’t take them off, so I didn’t get any pictures with his glasses off except when I went to Roseland and shot him on stage.”

Fortunately, Frohman’s luck soon turned around, and he found himself getting some great, soon-to-be-iconic images of the bedraggled rock star. “Maybe not the most flattering pictures,” he allows, “but he was very expressive. He was nice, and he was fine to shoot. It was definitely a partnership in making a picture, but he wasn’t demanding, he wasn’t difficult. He was really very easy to photograph, and that was really my saving grace, because I didn’t have enough time to work with somebody that wanted to change outfits or wanted to take a break”he just walked in and stood up against the wall and he was a happy camper.”

Following the band along to their Roseland gig for some stage shots, he marveled at Cobain’s ability to operate in his impaired state, even though Frohman had no way of knowing how dire the situation really was at that point. “There’s a lot of people out there that have problems or have moments where they’re in that state,” Frohman says, “and he was a rock star, so you just accepted it, and I was really just concerned with my shoot. And then I traveled with him to Roseland and there was no problem, he was fully functioning. He got up and he conducted rehearsal and he performed that night. To me it was remarkable that he was able to do that with such ease. I don’t know how he was able to do it.”

Of course, he wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer. on April 5, 1994, Cobain made the jump from superstar to rock & roll martyr. To memorialize the eighteenth anniversary of that tragic event, Frohman decided to partner with the renowned Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City, famed for featuring rock-oriented photo shows, to present his complete collection of images from that fateful day in ’93. “It was interesting to look at a shoot from that long a period ago,” says Frohman of putting the exhibition together. “There’s lots of memories about the shoot, about the day and what I expected and what I finally got out of it, and I think that some shoots take on a life of their own. It’s really because of him, not me, to a large extent, but it definitely was a partnership. Had I done some snapshots of him at Roseland, or on the street, I wouldn’t have had the shoot that I had, so I’m fortunate that I had to shoot in a conference room and I made the best out of it. It was a twenty-minute shoot, you don’t know that it can become something.”

Even so, the decision to do the show was not an automatic one for Frohman. “I went back and forth,” he explains, “‘Do I want to do this or not,’ then I said ‘I really do.’ I think it’s the time that there’s enough interest in Kurt and it makes sense photographically. I think it makes sense in this time and place to do something like this.” Allowing all of his rare, raw images of the rocker’s endgame to be seen together like this for the first time (the show will be up throughout the month of April) Frohman not only makes a major photographic statement, but marks a strange, sad, stirring juncture in rock history.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Sound And Vision: Guns N' Roses? Joan Jett? Why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Is on the Verge of Becoming a Joke?

Last month when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its fifteen nominees for induction in 2012, the organization really outdid itself”and not in a good way! Donovan? Not again! Erik B. & Rakim? Not before LL Cool J! Joan Jett and the Blackhearts?

What? No “Weird Al” Yankovic? Hasn’t he been eligible for four years?

The Hall of Fame has been scraping from the B-list for a while now, but the voting body should take a closer look at the A-list. There’s still a lot of unheralded talent there, and that would not include Joan Jett. Yes, Jett’s former band, The Runaways, deserves credit for introducing girl power to hard rock, but did Joan Jett and the Blackhearts really earn a spot in the hallowed Hall based on the strength of one really awesome No. 1 smash, 1981’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which the band didn’t even write? In the general scheme of things, aren’t they sort of a rock & roll footnote?

Not Linda Ronstadt. Perhaps the most influential female in ’70s rock, who spent the ’80s juggling genres from new wave to mariachi to the great American songbook, she’s the most deserving artist never to be nominated. And let’s talk about Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks, who is already in the Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac but whose solo career is far more worthy of the honor than Jett’s post-Runaways. At least the nominating committee finally had the good sense to give props to Heart, though I’ll eat my copy of the “Alone” Cassingle if the Wilson sisters actually get in.

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Pop Is a Battlefield

Musicians are an unruly bunch. They’re in constant competition on and off the charts, going for each others’ jugulars”talking first and thinking later. Rappers have been throwing stones back and forth since the ’80s days of LL Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee and Roxanne Shanté vs. The Real Roxanne. From the Supremes and the Rolling Stones to the Verve, Oasis and Sugababes, infighting among groups is nothing new. Solo pop stars, in comparison, were relatively cordial for years, and then the steel claws came out.

In a 1998 Movieline interview, Jennifer Lopez asked that Madonna not “spit” on her acting craft, while also aiming her slingshot at then-non-singer Gwyneth Paltrow as well as Winona Ryder.  Elton John, perhaps the most outspoken guy in pop, not only criticized the quality of his former BFF George Michael’s 2004 Patience album, but he also went on the record to caution Michael on the evils of his substance-abusing lifestyle. John, who famously pitched a hissy fit directed at Tina Turner while the two were rehearsing for VHI Divas Live in 1999, also once called “Die Another Day” by Madonna “the worst [James] Bond tune of all time.”

The bigger you are, the harder they go after you, and these days, Taylor Swift aside (and more on her later), nobody’s bigger than Lady Gaga.

Former Spice Girl turned designer Victoria Beckham went to town on Gaga in an interview this month with Women’s Wear Daily. If I’m being completely honest, is it fair to say she may have become a little bit of a parody of herself?” she asked. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s quite the turnaround from Beckham’s Gaga POV in a Daily Mirror interview this past July: Bit by bit she is finding her image, and it’s nice to see it, as she is undoubtedly a talented girl. I suppose it’s a pop star’s prerogative to change her mind”and it definitely makes for more interesting reading.

So does M.I.A.’s take on Gaga. She griped in NME last spring that Gaga was ripping off Madonna and Grace Jones and dismissed her as a “good mimic.” Then in June, Katy Perry took a thinly veiled swipe at Gaga’s controversial “Alejandro” video, tweeting that “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke.”

Gaga isn’t the only one bringing out the beast in her fellow performers. Elaine Paige referred to her No. 1 fan Susan Boyle as a “virus” during an interview after the South Banks Show Awards in January. And depending on whom you believe, Lou Reed may have blocked Susan Boyle’s attempt to sing his “Perfect Day” on America’s Got Talent in September (his people say US licensing issues, not Reed, were to blame), but he made it up to her by directing the video for Boyle’s “Perfect Day” video.

All is forgiven. If only things had gone so smoothly for Kanye West.  After he dissed Taylor Swift last year at the MTV Video Music Awards, legions of stars, including Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Adam Lambert jumped to Swift’s defense. Of course, Katy Perry joined the anti-West brigade tweeting the following message to the rapper: “FUCK U KANYE. IT’S LIKE U STEPPED ON A KITTEN.” Meow!

When words fail them, some stars let their videos do the dissing. Pink lampooned Jessica Simpson, among other starlets, in her 2006 “Stupid Girls” video. Eminem has skewered Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync, Moby and Michael Jackson in his videos, and he’s gone several rounds with his alleged (by him) ex-lover Mariah Carey, who retaliated by dressing in drag as Eminem and playing him as a stalker in her “Obsessed” video.

Over in the U.K., Lily Allen has stood in for Gaga as a favorite pop-star punching bag since she broke on to the global pop scene in 2006. Katy Perry, naturally, started a war of words with her a few years back when she described herself as being a “slimmer version of Lily Allen.” In retaliation, Allen called Perry “crass” and in a truly post-millenial move, threatened to post her telephone number on the internet. What happened to simply challenging her to a fist fight, as an irate Mary J. Blige did in the ’90s during an Interview magazine chat with model Veronica Webb?

Joss Stone also took aim at Allen last year, calling her “more of a personality than she is a singer,” and responded to her anti-filesharing stance by saying, “[Lily] needs to sell records because she’s not a singer, and that’s not an offence to her because I think that she knows that too.”

And on October 31, UK X Factor judges Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue gave Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay a rather frosty reception after his band performed on the show because of some expletive-laden comments Kay made about the show and the credibility of its judges shortly before his appearance. (The printable portion: “You’re useless. The pair of you.”) Cole won the war a week later when her second solo effort, Messy Little Raindrops, entered the UK album chart at No. 1, six notches above Jamiroquai’s new Rock Dust Light Star. Check. Mate.

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.

Will the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2011 Right Old Wrongs Or Make New Ones?

Another year, another batch of deserving, long-overdue and not-so-worthy nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This cycle, the biggest mystery doesn’t involve the ones they omitted but the legend they finally got around to recognizing. After 22 years of eligibility, Neil Diamond made the short list for the first time.

What took them so long?

Steely Dan, John Mellencamp and ZZ Top”great acts all and all short of legendary” already have secured their Hall of Fame spots, and the powers that be in Cleveland are just getting around to noticing the glaring absence of Diamond? I love the video for “Legs” as much as any child of the ’80s, but in what universe does the ZZ Top songbook hold up to that of the guy who wrote such classics as “I’m a Believer,” “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” and “Red Red Wine”?

As for his fellow first-time nominee Bon Jovi (Alice Cooper, Donovan and Dr. John also made their short list debuts), sure they had a lot of hits and continue to sell respectably, but have they influenced any kid with a guitar and a song in his (or her) heart since hair metal went out of fashion? Oh, and where are the nods for Electric Light Orchestra and Roxy Music, a band that helped define ’70s glam rock while paving the way for the New Romantic movement led by super ’80s groups like Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran?

Did the ELO and Roxy nods go to LL Cool J, a surprise nominee (to me) who is barely in his 40s? He started out with a big bang in the mid ’80s for sure, and he was rap’s first solo star, but the quality of his output went into steep decline after “Mama Said Knock You Out,” as he became more hitmaker than visionary. Now he seems to have set aside his creative pretensions in favor of a comfortable middle age on prime-time TV as the star of NCIS: Los Angeles. Though he deserves to be demerited for going from gangsta to hack, I’d let him in over Bon Jovi and Donovan, but only if Beastie Boys, nominated for the second time, get in too.

The late Laura Nyro is also a return nominee for inclusion into the (mostly) boys club, and I’d say it’s time to let her in when the Class of 2011 inductees are announced in December and feted at the ceremony next March 14th. Ditto the queen of disco Donna Summer, a second-time nominee. But where pray tell are the nominations for Linda Ronstadt, who helped define mainstream rock in the ’70s and has been eligible since 1994, and Dionne Warwick, a ’60s legend without whom the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songbook might be just another bunch of songs? (Maybe the latter’s psychic friends can look into it.) Dusty Springfield had to die to get in in 1999. Let’s hope the Hall of Fame doesn’t make the same mistake (twice) again.

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.