Wednesday, 15 April 2015 00:00

Side FX (EP) - Denitia & Sene

Denitia & Sene have love on their mind (cue Natalie Cole) on their 4 track EP entitled "Side FX." When love is at its best, it's wonderful and reciprocated. When it's not, when it breaks down, when it's over, we write edgy songs of painful angst. On "Side FX," Denitia & Sene experiene both facets of love. They get their hearts broken, as well as break a few hearts.

They're on the losing side of love in "Running," the opening track, as they plead with a lover to stop "Running." Lovers need to reason, to talk, to work things out, because "we couldn't fail, unless we tried." 

"Side FX" is my favorite. Here Denitia is almost flippant toward the feelings of the lover whom she has seemingly moved on from, for as she puts it "nothing lasts forever." The love was intense, full-throttled, and messy. But she's willing to toss it off. "It's the side-effects of hurricanes." (That could be literal. Too many hurricanes have been known to result in sloppy-short-lived-love-making.)

The beats on the album vary from electronic and synthesized, sparse and haunting, and sounds that are akin to chiptunes. As always, Denitia's vocals are crystal clear and compelling, and the lyrics packed full of metaphors and imagery.

Drums drive "The Fan," where for a moment, Aphrodite seems to have blessed the love; and the song oozes happiness. But clearly, the love is temporary because on their final track, "Because We Are Fools," they question the whole business of falling in love. 

They aren't the first singers to try to answer the question, why do fools fall in love? And they surely won't be the last. But few will craft it as stylishly as Denitia and Sene have on "Side FX."

Check out the "Side FX" - the single - below:

 

 

 

 

Published in Reviews
Thursday, 09 April 2015 00:00

Set It Straight - B. Right Feat Drew Helix

Personally speaking, as a BIG HIP HOP HEAD who's had the opportunity and privilege to interview some of the BIGGEST HIP HOP stars, I still have the desire to listen to fresh NEW and unsigned artists. And with a title like, "Set It Straight," not only did I expect fresh and new, I anticipated that I'd hear hot lyrics, flow, or storytelling.

Unfortunately, B. Right's "Set It Straight" lyrics are little to basic with nothing memorable about it to make you want to COP IT!!! The beat never caught my attention and the production sounded dated, as if the artist hadn't given it enough attention. There so many rappers and artists who are hungry, you have to be ready if you wanna step out and stand in the BIG LEAGUE. That isn't to say that this artist doesn't have potential. But I feel like he needs to get in better touch with what's driving him as an artist, improve his writing skills, and maybe even find a mentor. Then come back stronger and harder.

"Don't be mad at me, I'm just the messenger."

Special Contribution by TV Host and personality Marty A. Johnson

For more interviews and segments with Marty A. Johnson, check out his Youtube channel.

Published in Reviews
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 00:00

The Pain of a Bad Review

If we are an artists, and we've allowed others to read or hear or see our work, then we've probably had to deal with the pain of bad review.

The story goes a little something like this ...

We love our craft: our writing, our music, our poetry, our art, and our flow. We conceive it, we birth it, we bring it into the universe. And then we begin to share it with others. Along the way, we've probably gotten a lot of encouragement. Many of our friends have even enjoyed what they've seen and heard, and we are proud of our accomplishment. But then a "professional" steps in and calls our baby ugly.

It hurts, and sometimes it's downright depressing.

So how do we respond? What can we do? A lot.

1.We can reflect on why we were motivated to create. Did we do it for fame and glory or did we do it because we love the art? If we did it because we loved the art, then our love for it should diminish. If we did it for fame and glory, then maybe we need to make adjustments or get used to "mixed reviews."
2.We can examine the review closely and see if there's some truth to it. Do we have some growth as an artist? Is there something I could have done better? What can I learn from what the reviewer has said.
3.We can exercise some humility. Truth is, regardless of the quality of our output, not everyone will like our work. A review is an opinion, and we all know what they say about opinions: they are like noses (and various other body parts). On a side note, I was recently perusing Rotten Tomatoes and reading bios of some of my favorite actors. Most of my favorite actors have more rotten movies than fresh. As a matter of fact, according to RT, in order for a movie to be "fresh" or well-reviewed, only 60% of the reviewers have to like.
4.Don't forget that many artists aren't "critically" acclaimed but they are huge commercial successes.
5.Shake the haters off! Anybody can be a critic – it requires an opinion and the ability to string words together will some degree of proper syntax. And many reviewers enjoy giving negative critiques over positive one.
6.Finally, be wise! If several reviews point out the same weak point, listen! You're being told something. But if the reviews are a little of this and a little of that, maybe it's just a case of "different strokes for different folks." Hey! I don't think Kevin Hart is hysterical. But my girlfriend almost wets herself every time he walks on the stage.

Sharing your work is like sharing your heart. Getting a bad review is like sharing your heart and then having someone rip it apart! Just like love is a risk, sharing what's art is also. Whatever you do, though, whatever happens, whatever is said or reviewed, don't let it discourage you from pursuing those dreams.

Art is like fine wine; it gets better with age. If we refine our art, sift through the feedback and apply what's necessary, then our art will also get better with each stroke of the pen, the music, and the beat.

Published in My Blog
Wednesday, 18 March 2015 00:00

Snoh Aalegra - Emotional

 

Wanna know what's in heavy rotation on my iTunes? "Emotional" by Snoh Aalegra. This may be in part because Notion Magazine calls it, "the best single they've heard all year." That's a mouthful. But to tell you the truth, the words aren't far from wrong.

Swedish by ethnicity but apparently soulful from birth, Aalegra's vocals have been compared to Amy Winehouse. And while they both have a smoky element to their voice (and Amy remains one of my favorites), Snoh Aalegra's voice is uniquely her own. It's a fusion of jazz, soul, and blues as she mulls on her latest song, "what if he hurts me?"

The track was produced by RZA and together they are clearly a formidable duo. The ditty is enough to make Aalegra claim that she feels "a fever coming on." One listen to this perfect concotion of mid-tempo funk and you'll feel it as well. I can't to hear what else she has in store for 2015. 

Got any doubts? Check out what Okayplayer and Revolt.tv have to say about Snoh Aalegra. 

GET IT ON ITUNES

Published in Reviews
Friday, 13 March 2015 22:41

DJ BLKLUOS - Wet (ft Jane Does Smith)

We've reviewed the Toronto-based DJ before. Here's a little info stripped straight from his bio:

DJ BLKLUOS also known as SOUL

Toronto based music producer & DJ has produced for artists such as Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Troy Ave, JRDN, Tonye Aganaba, Cash Bilz, Ashleigh Ashley, Termanology, Anterluz, Oveous, Zac Facts and more. Originally born & raised in Nova Scotia, SOUL mastered his craft while living in British Columbia & Toronto after moving back to Canada from England.

Check out the latest video. 

Published in Reviews
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 00:23

Cash Bliz

Artist Feature: Cash Bilz

Home city: New York City

Label: Unsigned

Producer: Soul Facebook.com/pages/SOUL/104088789645580 and Twitter @soulonlinenet

Connections: Facebook.com/Cash_bilz and Twitter @IAMCASHBILZ

Claim to fame: Performing beside such artists as Pimp C, Gucci Mane, and Young Jeezy

Influences: Biggie, Andre 3000, 2 Pac, Jay Z, Nas, Donnie Hathaway, and Marvin Gaye

Latest single: Bullsh!t featuring Troo 

They say: "Cash Bliz's sound is lyrical, fresh, the actual meaning of dope."

We say: Cash Bilz, Troo, and Soul deliver the same attention to lyrics and beat on "Bullsh!t" as Cash Bilz did on "Peace of Mind." His musical influences are clear but he is commited to paving his own way. To the song's point, that's what happens "when hip hop's not a hobby, it's a lifestyle."

Published in Interviews
Saturday, 17 May 2014 15:53

"Sunny Day" - Christopher Blake

Christopher Blake released his album and we had the opportunity to listen to 2 cuts: "Falling Into Your Arms" and the lead single "Sunny Day."

"Falling in Your Arms" shows a smoky and tender side of Christopher Blake. It holds the eerie, nostalgic reality that we all face when once sweet love turns sour – or, at least, stale. The concept alluded to in "Falling" is that of a song being a retaliation weapon or an artful touche to an old lover. As such, the song and its theme are compelling. Christopher does a responsible job in marrying the lyric, vocal delivery, and musical arrangement in a way that helps one feel his pain, longing, and (oh so subtle) revenge.

While I enjoyed "Falling," I didn't enjoy "Sunny Day" quite as much. "Sunny Day" attempts to leverage the good feelings of carefree living. It underscores a hope that the world-at-large should experience such good feelings. And while the musical score – the bouncy track – (guest rap intact) succeed at conveying happiness, I wanted more from Christopher. I was hoping for a better display of his vocal chops – more range, more clarity, more expression. Unfortunately, they aren't there. Consequently the song sounds more like an attempt to score a hit than an expression of Chris's soul.

Had it been up to me, "Falling" would've been Chris's lead single. It shines far longer than his "Sunny Day."

Special Contribution by Tony Johnson

Published in Reviews
Tuesday, 18 February 2014 01:06

"Solstice" - Lazarus

Was checking out the profiles of my twitter followers; many are artists - writers, singers, rappers. I like it. It gives me a well of artistry to dip into. Today, I stumbled across Lazarus and his album "Solstice."

He hails from Raleigh, NC, but the flow, the beat, and the vibe made me think Chicago. This is definitely not your Southern-style of rap. And while the album isn't new - it's dated 2012 - it noteworthy. The production, the lyrics, and the vocals are on-point.  

The tagline is "released in the spirit of the holidays with year round reverance." Maybe that's why the lyrics seem more about creating a "New Life" as opposed to bragging about the current one. 

Don't sleep on the winter solstice. "Solstice" by Lazarus

Published in Reviews
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 03:51

15 Greatest Hooks of Hip Hop

Marty A. Johnson – talk show host – and I have known each other for a long time, and music is a shared passion. While we agree on most things musically, we don't agree on everything. So when we decided to compile a list of the greatest hip hop hooks, it only took a matter of minutes to realize that we were going to have to complete two list – if our friendship was to remain intact!

Check out the lists below. Let us know what you think. Who did we miss? Who would you add? What are your thoughts? Have we selected the GREATEST HOOKS of HIP HOP?

What Marty said:

1. Biggie and Faith, "One More Chance." Biggie Smalls was and still is one of the greatest rappers of our time. His music speaks for itself.

2. Method Man f/ Mary J, "All I Need." Mary J and Method Man won a Grammy for this one.

3. 2 Pac f/ KC and Jo Jo, "How You Want it." This joint is timeless and always get the club jumping.

4. Snoop and Dre, "Aint Nothing But a G Thing." It doesn't matter where you are, as soon as you hear Snoop, you are going to throw your hands up.

5. Jay Z and Mary, "Can't Knock The Hustle." This is one of my personal favorites joints of ALL TIMES. It's Mary and Jay – Z enough said.

6. LL and Boyz II Men, "Hey Love." LL COOL J is the self-proclaimed G.O.A.T and Boy II Men is the biggest selling male R&B group of all time. Both had HUGE crossover appeal. They were an unlikely pair to collab. But "Hey Love" reached all audiences.

7. NAS and Lauryn Hill, "If I Rule The World." When Lauryn was at the top of her game she ruled the charts. Too bad she will NEVER reclaim her glory. At least she will go down in the history books as one of first female artists to win multiple Grammys in one night.

8. Ja Rule and Lil Mo, "Put it On Me." In the late 90's and early 2000's Lil Mo and Ja Rule were the go-to people if you needed a dope hook or a featured rapper on your record. Why not put the two together and create magic?

9. 50 and The Game, "Hate it or Love it." A perfect combination of East Coast meeting West Coast, these two proved unity does exists between both coasts

10. Fat Joe and Terror Squad, "Lean Back." At the time when people thought Fat Joe's career was done, he came back strong with "Lean Back" - a street anthem with a catchy hook that we all loved.

11. The Roots and Eryka, "You Got Me." The Roots are one of the most talented and unrated groups around. "You Got Me" earned them a Grammy and the recognition they deserve.

12. Biggie and R Kelly, "Fucking You Tonight." Though never released as an official signal, "Fucking You Tonight" always get the clubs jumping and the girls in bed! Lol. This is one of those records that is timeless!!!

13. Lil Kim and Puff, "No Time." From Lil Kim's debut album "Hard Core," she reigned high as the "Queen Bee." In the 90's Puffy and Kim were the Bonnie and Clyde of Hip Hop.

14. Kanye f/ Jamie Fox, "Gold Digger." This 2005 release from Kanye made a huge impact and proved Kanye has pure talent.

15. Big Pun f/ Joe, "Don't Want To Be A Player." Big Pun was the first Spanish artist to go platinum on the R&B charts, and he had a MAJOR cross over hit. The smooth R&B sound from Joe gave it that extra flavor.

I said:

1. Biggie and Faith, "One More Chance." Few would argue that Biggie is one of the greatest hip hop artists that we've seen. This song is one of his many classics. But as much as it's about Biggie and his ability to "mac," it's about Faith and her willingness to give him "one more chance."

2. Kurtis Blow and Alyson Williams, "Basketball." Many don't even know who sung the hook on this ol skool classic. But it was Alyson Williams – the first lady of Def Jam – who's sultry contralto makes playing basketball sound sexy.

3. Method Man and Mary J Blige, "All I Need." Mary won a Grammy for this performance; and she should have.

4. Ja Rule and Ashanti, "Always On Time." Love 'em or hate 'em, it's hard to ignore a hook that helped make Ashanti a force to be reckoned with on the R&B charts.

5. Lil Kim and Biggie Smalls, "Crush On You." Uncredited on the album cover but as clear as a bell was Biggie Smalls rapping, "I know you heard me on the radio ..."

6. Lauryn Hill, "Lost One." Before Lauryn Hill divorced music (and some might say her senses as well) she was a profound singer and lyricist. Here she proves both.

7. Kanye and Jamie Fox and Ray Charles, "Gold Digger." - Jamie proved his was worthy to sing AND play Ray Charles.

8. The Roots and Erykah Badu, "You Got Me." - Long distance love affairs are hard and Erykah emoted the difficulty, the pain, and the love every time she took the mic here.

9. Rick Ross and Chrisette Michelle, "Aston Martin Music." Chrisette is a delicious blend of R&B and neo-soul,her voice made you wanna rent your own two-seater and call ya girl ...

10. Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey, "I Know What You Want." It was an understated performance in which Mariah didn't break glass until the song faded. Even Busta noticed, it was an amazing touch that heightened the song while never taking it away from Busta.

11. B.O.B and Bruno Mars,  "Nothin' On You." Too obvious? Perhaps. But the hook is so strong that you think this is a song featuring a rapper, not a rap featuring a singer. And that says a lot.

12. Ghostface Killah and Madame Majestic, "Cherchez La Ghostface." One word: Memorable.

13. Wale and Tiara Thomas, "Bad." There's a reason this song went platinum: Tiara Thomas. She's not bragging about being bad. She's pained by it. The vocals are raw and real.

14. Biggie Smalls and Kelly Price, "Mo Money Mo Problems." Kelly Price channeled Diana Ross and she was on point.

15. Talib Kwel, "I Try." I'm not sure if there's a more underplayed or more talented rapper than Talib Kweli. He blends socially conscious rhymes with beats designed to make you move. And in the middle of this is Mary J, she's trying. But it's effortless. 

Published in Interviews
Saturday, 21 December 2013 21:33

"Peace of Mind" Cash Bilz

Smoothly produced and flawlessly delivered, Brooklyn rapper Cash Bilz is asking for "Peace of Mind" on his mixtape.

I'll admit, I'm a bit picky about my rap music. Do I love the genre? Yeah. But there's a tendency for rap artists to deliver the same gangsta shit, the same boastful shit, and the same sad stories over and over again. I get it. Those stories represent some lives. Yet, if those are the stories an artist is sharing, deliver them to me with some nice beats and tight lyrics.

I'm a writer. Lyrics mean everything.

Fortunately, Bilz delivers both on this joint. He's struggling; he's frustrated; he's got no support. But the rhymes are on point, mixing both timeless references - "I'm underground like Harriet" - to more current - "And I dunk on your hoop dreams."

As in all poetry, there are simple rhymes and there are more complex ones. Bilz has deferred to the more complex ones; and he doesn't miss on his delivery. 

The song is short. Too short. And that's a compliment to what he's done. I was nodding my head the entire song, and you will be as well. 

Published in Reviews
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