amazing icon

Nelly And T.I. Collaborate On "Rick James"

Rick James may no longer be with us, but the legend of his smooth moves with ladies lives on today thanks to a new single from Nelly and T.I.

Featuring a thick, funky bass line as its backbone, “Rick James” found its way online this morning thanks to our friends at HipHopDX. The track brings together Nelly and T.I. for a celebration the good life, with bottles in the air and dancing on the tables. The verses don’t hold much weight, but the hook won’t let up. You can stream the song below.

And of course the man who owns all modern Rick James references, Dave Chappelle, gets a sample, delivering his famous “I’m rich, bitch” before the chorus.

“Rick James” could easily make it at commercial radio. It falls in line between Justin Timberlake‘s “Take Back The Night” and Robin Thicke‘s “Blurred Lines,” but is unique enough to stand on its own merit. Comment below and let us know your thoughts. (more…)

Mixtape Mondays: LLoyd, Jitta On The Track, And More!

Welcome to the second installment of OurStage’s latest column, Mixtape Mondays! This feature runs 2-3 times a month and highlights the latest mixtape releases from hip hop artists around the world, as well as those here on OurStage. If you’re an aspiring hip hop superstar, send links to your OurStage account, as well as your latest mixtape to jshotwell@ourstage.com with the subject “Mixtape Monday Submission.”

Two weeks have passed since we last spoke and a slew of great new mixtapes have hit the market. We talked about how great the Fall has been for music in my last column, and it seems that streak may continue well into Winter. For this entry of Mixtape Mondays I have two releases to highlight, as well as some big news from an two artists you need to know before 2013 arrives.  (more…)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chuck Brown, The Godfather Of Go-Go, Dead At 75

Photo: Darrow Montgomery

Chuck Brown, one of Washington DC’s most prominent musicians and a mainstay of the Go-go music scene, passed away on May 16th at the age of 75. Brown had been hospitalized since April for pneumonia.

Brown was credited as the “Godfather of Go-go,” a subgenre of funk and R&B that enjoyed popularity in Washington DC from the late 60s to the early 80s. While go-go music never found a large audience outside of the DC metropolitan area, Brown did experience chart success during his decades-long career. Brown and his group The Soul Searchers had their biggest hit in 1979 when their song “Bustin’ Loose” topped the R&B charts for four weeks. “Bustin’ Loose” was also notably sampled in Nelly’s smash hit “Hot in Herre” in 2002.

Brown came from extremely humble origins, working odd jobs at a young age. In his teens, Brown became caught up in a some criminal activities. Originally incarcerated for aggravated assault, Brown was eventually charged with murder after the man he attacked died in hospital care. While in prison, Brown reportedly traded a few cartons of cigarettes for his first guitar.

While popular success would prove fleeting for Brown and Go-go music at large, he continued to have a vital career. Brown scored his first GRAMMY award nomination in 2011 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals with Jill Scott and Marcus Miller for the song “Love.”

Listen to Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” below.

Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music's Unlikely Collaborations

“I get high with a little help from my friends,” Ringo Starr sang on the Beatles‘ 1967 classic. These days, so do many of music’s top stars. Two’s company, and so is three and sometimes four. The more the merrier, the higher and higher they get.

On the charts, that is.

In the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week ending December 10, seventeen songs were collaborations between separate recording entities. Four of them featured Drake, and three apiece featured Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both appeared on tracks with Drake and with each other. But will.i.am featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger”and debuting at No. 36 with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” which the threesome performed on the November 20 American Music Awards”was probably the one that nobody saw coming.

Old-school Rolling Stones fans must be cringing at the idea of Jagger going anywhere near Lopez and will.i.am so soon after Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera went to No. 1 by invoking his hallowed name on “Moves Like Jagger.” But for a sixty-something legend like him, hit records”even if in name only, a la Duck Sauce‘s GRAMMY-nominated “Barbra Streisand”are a near-impossible dream unless they’re in tandem with other, often younger, stars.

(more…)

Soundcheck: When Hip-Hop Goes Pop

Mash-ups are a mainstay on the hip hop scene with rappers constantly collaborating to deliver fresh material.  Even the most vicious emcee paired up with the current R&B diva has a natural charm, and we’ve come to expect Rihanna, Beyoncé or Kelly Rowland backing up big verses from big rappers.  Now, it seems that hip hop has crossed over into the pop star realm, blurring the lines between the sugary sweet stylings of pop icons like Britney, Katy and Bieber with the hard-hitting sound of the streets.

We got our biggest dose of the crossover craze when Nicki Minaj announced she would join Britney Spears on her Femme Fatale Tour this year. In a groundbreaking move, fans of pop music’s reigning queen would be shoulder to shoulder with fans of the hottest thing to hit hip hop in years.  What resulted was one hell of a party!

Now, other singers are following suit, and pairing up with some unlikely collaborators. Justin Bieber will throw a little hip hop into the holidays when he releases Under The Mistletoe, on November 1.  The fifteen-track holiday album features a version of The Little Drummer Boy with none other than Busta Rhymes. We can’t imagine Rhymes’ grimy, gruff voice singing about the birth of Christ, but we’re all ears.  Other guests on the album will include Usher, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey.

(more…)

Soundcheck: Unsigned Hype — Keaira LaShae

It’s a passion like no other.  It’s a drive like nothing you’ve ever seen.

For an aspiring artist, the road to stardom is paved with big dreams, big sacrifice and big letdowns.  The very nature of the music business breeds dishonesty, greed and broken promises. In a world where talent doesn’t ensure a thing, and opportunities seem few and far between, I have to wonder what life looks like for artists before we start watching? And how, after the hundreds of horror stories of the evils of this industry, do these artist continue their fight for fame?  How do they persevere through the pitfalls without losing faith? A case study on the subject with a particularly poised  up and comer should provide a clearer picture.

Keaira LaShae knows a thing or two about the music business. At twenty-four, she’s been at it for ten years. Born in Tampa, Florida, La Shae began singing in the church across the street from her home at an early age, discovering her knack for entertainment after winning a local competition at seven, beating out competitors twice her age. At fourteen, she formed a group with two middle school classmates.  The trio got noticed at a regional competition for Showtime At The Apollo and was introduced to their future manger, M.  After replacing one member with younger sister, Ceaira, and renaming themselves Diversity 3, the girls were flown out to Los Angeles for an in-home audition for an industry insider. He was impressed, and told them to write three songs in an hour, which he then shopped to various record labels.  What resulted was an all-out bidding war, with Sony Music inking a $4 million deal with the group.  Like so many others, the deal fell through, with the middle man taking more than his ˜cut’ of the profits. We were crushed, recalls LaShae.

Despite the blow, the girls decided to keep the momentum going by executing a two-hour production on their own.  They [the labels] knew about us, and I knew that wasn’t our only shot, she recalls. The girls worked ˜round the clock on everything from musical arrangements to choreography; making posters, securing a venue, hiring a DJ and selling tickets.  We sang the national anthem during morning announcements at every school in Hillsborough County.  We sang at malls, in the food court, on the street, at nail salons, anywhere someone would listen.  When the big night came, lines formed down the street and around the building, forcing the doorman to turn people away after they exceeded capacity. Representatives from Virgin Records were in the crowd, and within days of the show, the group was flown to New York for a showcase for the label’s president.  After a successful fifteen-minute showcase, one group member blew their chances by getting sassy with an executive. LaShae had reached her limit.

(more…)

Rapper's Delight: The Fine Line

For aspiring hip hop artists, releasing a debut album can be a scary moment. If the album flops, it can damage more than just your reputation”it can also make you doubt yourself, your talent and the very music you poured your heart into. But, on the flip side, what if a first album is too good? What if an artist drops a landmark album and spends the rest of his/her career living in its shadow? Many rappers who are defined by their first release (or single) leave fans vexed by years of comparably lukewarm releases afterwards.

Take Vanilla Ice, for example. When To The Extreme dropped in 1990, it was the fastest selling hip hop album of all time and won him both Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist and Favorite Rap/Hip Hop New Artist at the 1991 American Music Awards. And, of course, the monumental track “Ice, Ice Baby””one of the first hip hop singles to top the Billboard charts”is credited with making hip hop popular with white people. Whether you love it or hate it, you have to admit it’s remarkably catchy. But how could he possibly keep pace with such a stirring debut? Especially because, and let’s be honest here, his well of musical ability isn’t really all that deep. After five more studio releases (soon to be six), he’s still barely more than a faint and mildly amusing memory to most.

Another prime example is Nelly. Since the success of Country Grammar in 2000, Nelly has never regained the same level of sensation. Granted, he’s had his share of hits: “Hot in Herre,” “Dilemma,” “Air Force Ones” and “Pimp Juice” for starters. But none of his four later albums match the 8.4 million US copies sold of Country Grammar and, besides, “Country Grammar” and “Ride wit Me” will always have a special place in our hearts. And we could go on and on: Chingy. Chamillionaire. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Not that Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were necessarily destined for greatness, but the smashing success of Music For The People set the bar a little high. It didn’t help, of course, that their follow up album was rushed out in a year and lacked a healthy chart-topping single. But that’s enough about Marky Mark.

Don’t be too disconcerted, though. There are just as many artists out there who have had illustrious and enduring careers despite their industry shattering debut albums. Take the Wu Tang Clan, for example, with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). While virtually impossible to top, this hip hop benchmark paved the way for a legendary career without killing its longevity. Of course there’s also the Beastie Boy’s Licensed to Ill, NasIllmatic, Biggie’s Ready To Die and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic”none of these artist have exactly fallen off the face of the earth either. It’s a phenomenon worth thinking about though; the line between a positive first release and a destructive one may not be as simple as just tallying album sales.

 

Soundcheck: Don't Call It A Comeback

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.

Sound And Vision: Building the Perfect St. Patrick's Day Soundtrack — 10 Great Green "Party" Songs

Think of it as an extreme makeover that took centuries to complete. Although St. Patrick’s Day originally was conceived as a Catholic holy day, the Hail Mary is probably the last thing on the minds of most of the modern-day Irish”and the people who love them and party with them” when March 17 comes around. As holidays fit for and named for saints go, St. Patrick’s Day is to boozin’, shamrocks and other assorted secular shenanigans what Valentine’s Day is to lovin’, touchin’ and squeezin’. This year, if you’re looking to jump start your celebration, here’s the perfect “party” playlist.
“The Party Ain’t Over Yet” by Patty Loveless. Heartache and heartbreak are the sonic anthems of Loveless’s country, but she’s just as convincing and compelling when she’s wild and blue.
“Party Is Goin’ On Over Here” by Busta Rhymes. Remember when Hollywood used to churn out movies based on hopelessly dated old TV shows on a seemingly weekly basis? The Mod Squad was one of the main offenders of the ’90s, earning reviews that were as dismal as its box office ($13 million, or about a quarter of its production budget). One good thing came out it, though: a Busta Rhymes track with a snaky, hypnotic groove that sounds as fresh today as it did at the end of the last century.

“Having a Party” by Sam Cooke. Get on your boots! That twangy country-style guitar riff running throughout the track might make you want to break into a line dance while twistin’ the night away.
“I Dont Want to Spoil the Party” by The Beatles. And to complete the classic-flashback portion of the gala, a potential party pooper takes one for the team.
“(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” by Beastie Boys. Because no list of “party” favorites would be complete without it.
“Party wit Me” by Brownstone. Breakdown intermission! If anyone figures out how this ’90s R&B girl trio managed to summon the vocal power of a full chorus, do share.
“Where’s the Party” by Madonna. If anyone should know… For many years, up to her tepid, sparsely attended 2009 “Celebration,” it was anywhere she went.
“Where the Party At” by Jagged Edge featuring Nelly. Sometimes it’s all about the chase, the pursuit of happiness after midnight.
“Cold Rock a Party” by MC Lyte (Bad Boy Remix featuring Missy Elliott). “I rock the party that rocks the body. You rock the party that rocks the body.” It’s nonsense for sure, but damn if Lyte, Missy and that Diana Ross “Upside Down” sample don’t work.
“Party’s Not Over” by Love and Rockets. The dark-electro sound of being the last one to leave. A perfect companion piece to L&R precursor Bauhaus’s “Party of the 1st Part” and a fitting co-bookend to the bash begun with Loveless’s similarly titled but not similarly paced “party” vow.