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Soundcheck: Is Missy Making a Comeback?

Missy Elliott is making a comeback.  Maybe.

Rumors have been swirling that the hip-hop icon was staging a return to glory ever since she joined longtime friend and collaborator, Timbaland onstage at the ˜Z104 Shaggfest 2012′ in Virginia.  While she reneged on her previously scheduled Rock The Bells appearances, and will not be working on the upcoming post-humus Aaliyah album; Timbaland says she new music coming as soon as next week.  According to a Twitter post, Missy will be dropping two singles, 9th Inning and Triple Threat over Labor Day weekend. (more…)

Your Country's Right Here: Multi-Grammy Winner TobyMac Grabs Roots for Musical Feast

Go ahead and call TobyMac‘s music – the latest of which is the album Eye On It that debuted at #1 across iTunes charts last week – Christian rock if you want. And call the music made by Eric Church and Colt Ford country. Just as long as you realize that those entertainers may not stay firmly in those boxes.

There’s a reason you’ll see the sometimes rapping TobyMac pop up around country concerts and in country-flavored venues, and that’s not just because of the close connection between Christian and country formats (think Elvis Presley). It’s because anyone who listens to TobyMac music, including on his just-released album, will hear some distinct roots sounds a la John Oates‘ solo work. And who ever thought half of the pop group Hall & Oates would have such a soulful sound before he made that sound known in Nashville? (more…)

Soundcheck: Who Is Hit Boy?

Pharell tried it.  Timbaland took a stab too.  Kanye perfected it.  Hit Boy will continue the trend.  The transition from super-producer toartist is no easy trek.

Chauncey Hollis, the man behind the beats, is ready to leave the boards behind and embark on his own journey toward rap superstardom. Fresh off his über-successful hit, Niggas In Paris Hit Boy made it clear he was ready to show the world he can rap too.

Last week, he dropped his free debut offering, HITstory, from his new label home on his House Of Hits website.

The producer-turned rapper signed to Kanye’s label, G.O.O.D. Music in May. “I’m just making music with them, so stuff will end up where it is supposed to,” he told MTV News. “That’s family and they’re the best in the world in my opinion, so I can’t lose. Being able to get advice from those guys is priceless.”

The 11-track EP features collaboration with label-mates, Big Sean and John Legend as well as Bun B, among others. His first single, Jay-Z Interview dropped in June and let fans know he wasn’t fooling around. Yeah, the sh– I spit like/ ‘What the f— has gotten into you?’/ I got ‘em tuned in like a Jay-Z interview.”

On the album, he displays a broad range of content and creativity; depicting a life of big dreams, big disappointments, and bigger determination. I knew what I wanted before I had it/ but I always had it I was an addict/ And this room is feelin’ just like an attic/making 10 beats a day and going at it¦ God damn I was just home/ now I’m number 3 on The Throne/ I had so many emotions, that I had to make it into a song, he rhymes.  (more…)

Soundcheck: Nas Gets Nasty…Again

Nas is back on top with his latest offering.

Life Is Good, his tenth studio album is full of examples of why Nas is regarded as one of the greatest emcees of all time.  His unrivaled knack for storytelling paints pictures in the way that only he can, making the Queensborough native an essential and integral piece of hip-hop’s fabric.  Honest portrayals of his own life force fans to examine their own outlooks, and fills in holes left by the two decades of tabloid snippets he’s endured as a rap superstar.

A bitter divorce from Kelis in 2009 and an ongoing tax problem with the IRS left fans fearing he had fallen off for good.  Luckily, Nas has rebounded in a big way with his latest release; and managed to clear up some controversy in the meantime.  Even the album’s cover tackles his most trying momentshead on; as he appears in a white suit with his ex-wife’s wedding dress strewn across his lap.

Debuting at No. 1, Life Is Good sold 149,000 copies in its first week, which surpassed its initial projections.  Fans and critics have applauded the 58-minute album as one of his best; and acknowledge the raw, revealing lyricism that permeates the project have been sorely missed during his four-year hiatus.

Right away, it’s obvious that Nas is going there. And he does. The tales you hear is the truth on me/Who wasn’t the most faithful husband/Reveal my life, you’ll forgive me/You will love me, hate me, judge me, relate to me.”

Singles like Daughters and Bye Baby tug at the heartstrings with introspective lyrics on fatherhood, love, and heartbreak. With equal conviction, tracks like No Introduction and The Don (produced by the late Heavy D) remind us that even at 40, Nas ain’t no punk.

He seems to have found his sweet spot when it comes to production on this album.  Aside from a few cameos by the likes of Swizz Beatz and Rick Ross, the sound is much more classic, controlled, and appropriate for the heavy lines contained by smooth beats from veterans like No I.D., Saleem Reed, and Large Professor. While there aren’t too many collaborations on this album, he did make room for the track “Cherry Wine”, which features fallen favorite Amy Winehouse .

In his twenty-year career, Nas has managed to stay relevant and real, no easy fete in the world of hip-hop.  He has delivered an album as powerful as his groundbreaking, 1994 debut, Illmatic; and as impactful as his 2008 offering, Untitled.

Now that he has reclaimed his rightful spot on top of the rap charts, there’s no telling what’s next for Nas.

Frank Ocean Drops Def Jam Debut

One week after his groundbreaking admission that he is gay, Frank Ocean is making headlines for a different reason. HDD predicts he’ll move more than 125,000 copies of his Def Jam debut in its first week out based on digital album sales alone.  Thealbum, Channel Orange hits stores (sans Target) today.

Jermaine Dupri posted an open letter on his website last week,  When I saw the # that Frank Ocean is suppose to hit next week, I got extremely Happy, I said I need to get in my car and and listen to this album, by the time I got to Sweet Life I was even more happy, finally!! a RnB album that’s hip, without having the same 5 rappers on every song¦ I actually hope he hits 200k, for the sake of RnB, it’s in the worst position it’s ever been since I started making music, The Record company’s don’t believe in it, Radio won’t play it if it don’t have a rapper, and a majority of the artist that are labeled RnB, are confused and lost, so I repeat, I hope Ocean sells more than the 125k that he’s on pace for, maybe these executives u’ll wake the fuck up, or at least try to copy what he’s doing, like they always do, by the way, the end of Pyramids jammin like a mufucka.

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Soundcheck: Chief Keef Signs To Interscope Records

Chief Keef has been causing quite the stir.

Just last month, his single, I Don’t Like shot up the charts after Kanye West added himself, Big Sean, Pusha T, and Jadakiss to the remix. Within days, a bidding war ensued and the youngster was trying to choose between his three front-runners; YMB, CME, and Atlantic among others.

Now, it looks like the new teen dream has finally chosen a home at a major label, making his announcement last week.

“I’ve been talkin’ to a lot of labels, but I just noticed that Interscope got people like 50, Eminem,” he said. “They was talkin’ like I was talkin’ and I liked that. All these other labels, I was talkin’ to ‘em, but it’s time anyway for me and I’m goin’ with Interscope.”

Other interested parties put up a good fight, with heavy hitters like Birdman and T.I. clamoring to sign the sixteen-year-old Chicagoan.  Last month, Birdman sounded confident that he would sign Keef to Cash Money Records.

“I like him, he kinda reminds me of us,” he told MTV News. [He’s] out the streets, I think he’s swagged up and I’m definitely talking to his people and I’d like to see if we can make it pop, see if I can see if I can get him to be down with the team.”

Like many others in the rap game, the YMCMG CEO seemed to be impressed by Keef’s youthful outlook.

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Soundcheck: Tito Lopez–Raising The Bar

Every now and then, an artist emerges who reminds us that hip hop isn’t dead”an artist who revives the lyricism, storytelling, and passion that once made the art of rap so powerful; an artist who epitomizes the hunger, the drive, and the inspiration it takes to write songs that turn to classics and make hits that speak to generations.

Tito Lopez is that artist. And he knows it.

The 24-year-old Gulfport, Miss. native has been a quiet storm of talent for years, making his debut with Impatiently Waiting in 2008. He’s been gaining momentum after the release of his 15th mix tape, The Lost Files of Tito Lopez: Reloaded, heated up the streets with a stellar single and video, Mama Proud. He’s been heating up even more since a slew of successful appearances, one pretty heavy co-signer, and his latest mix tape, Hunger Games dropped Thursday.

Kids that fight to the death, is a fucked up premise behind the movie, but that’s what hip-hop does, he says.  I want to bring back that competitive spirit in hip-hop.  There’s no distinct sound like back in the day. That’s really my mind state.

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Soundcheck: Usher Releases 'Looking 4 Myself'

Usher released his long-awaited follow-up to the über successful Raymond vs. Raymond today with an unexpected new sound. Though many critics call Usher’s seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, one of his strongest ever; the project left me looking for my money back.

The 14-track album features tracks from Rico Love, Will.I.Am, Jim Jonsin, Max Martin, and Diplo among others.  It also features cameos from Rick Ross, ASAP Rocky, and Pharell. While his first single, Climax is currently at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B Songs chart, it has failed to win me over since its release last month.

I can respect and actually applaud an artist who isn’t afraid to push boundaries and challenge preconceptions, but I think Usher has taken this reinvention a bit too far.  What many critics are praising as ˜groundbreaking’ and ˜genre-crossing’ really just sounds retro and recycled to me.  The lines between innovation and replication have blurred, and I’m left with an album that feels like a cross between pop hits from the late 1980s and *NSYNC circa 2001 on their No Strings Attached tour.  (more…)

Soundcheck: Twista To Sign With G.O.O.D. Music?

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.”

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Soundcheck: D’Angelo To Make Triumphant Return?

A brutal battle with fame, addiction, and an almost fatal car crash fueled an eleven-year, self-inflicted isolation. Now, D’Angelo is preparing to release his first album in over a decade.

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.

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