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|Sun, January 22, 2006 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
The Reason For Lyfe: Can The Past Be A Prison?
At the beginning of November, I stepped out onto a warm Atlanta night. I got into my Impala and went dashing and smashing down I-20. I was already running out of time. Recording artists Vivian Green, Goapele and Lyfe Jennings were performing at a downtown club, and I couldn't miss out. I needed some beautiful music in my life. Goapele's "Closer" has grown to be one of my favorite songs of all time, and she strikes me as inspirational, beautiful, and talented As far as Vivian Green, I have been down with her sound since her debut.
Songs like "Emotional Rollercoaster" and "Superwoman" took me safely through a painful relationship ending. I wish she hadn't tweaked her image on her new album, catering to mainstream media. She has a beautiful voice, but I was too late to catch her set. I arrived just in time to see her exit the stage. There was still time to see Lyfe. "Must Be Nice" caught me by surprise with its soul and gritty truth. I didn't even know what Lyfe was all about, but something in his voice told me I had to know.
Before I walked into the press room that night, I had no idea that Lyfe had served time in prison. I wish I had known, but I knew nothing about Lyfe. My short and simple interview could have been a question of understanding. See, I recently received a letter from my cousin in prison, at the same one where my father once served.
Lyfe's answer to my first question should have been a giveaway.
"Who influenced your upbringing?" I asked, hoping to learn something to put to use later.
He mentioned his uncle Ava, who `turned (them) into rough boys'. Lyfe grew up without a father figure. So did my cousin. So did I. Lyfe made me feel real humble as we talked, and it was like I had known him for years. It made me wonder if he had left any children behind, like my father did us. My cousin left behind a son and we have not seen him in years; he's probably about nine years old by now.
I thought about the last paragraph of my cousin's letter. It entailed how he was trying to get his case reviewed again, so he could get out of prison and find his son. I wondered if my father had ever felt the same way. See opportunity is fleeting and when you miss a chance, sometimes a second try never comes around.
Lyfe found another opportunity in life; he felt that he had been prepared to do something else.
"I felt like I had something to say," he said with a East Coast accent, though his life started in Toledo, Ohio. When he got out of prison, he followed his destiny all the way to New York, where he made things happen. A prison guard told Lyfe he would be back, and indeed, he did return to the same prison. The difference is that he returned as a success, as a musician, and as a testament to rehabilitation. He `never wants to end up in prison again', but he made sure to dedicate a special song to his brothers on the `lockdown', and `every one of us that got tricked into believing that we were nothing'.
"Lets Do This Right," the last song on the album, is a letter to his brothers left behind.
"Why did you write this song?" I asked.
"There were a lot of things that I would have liked someone to tell me (in prison)," he said, "So I just told some people that might be going through that same situation."
But my cousin was always looking out for me, like he knew my situation. I still remember the time I stood alone outside the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Detroit, after a large party in a crowded ballroom. I couldn't have been more than 14 years old. My grandfather was on his way to pick me up, but I was still by myself
|Tue, January 10, 2006 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
A Chat with G.A.G.E. Aftermath Recording Artist
It was the Friday before New Years Eve in Atlanta, and I was listening to this deafening beat bump incessantly in a studio room, much bigger than the space of my apartment. Aftermath's newest artist G.A.G.E. was focused in a corner, intently working on another writing project while some of his childhood friends and associates milled about the room. He later told me his sister had just left. I noticed how the beat would run over and over as we listened to it, wondering what the song would be like. After he emptied his ideas on paper, he joined me in a smaller room down the hall, where we would chat about his life, his music, and his drive.
G.A.G.E. immediately struck me as humble, obviously gathering calm and strength from an upbringing in dual religions, Christianity and Islam, professing to be `a little of both'.
"I embrace the humbleness of the Islamic religion," he said, "They stick together."
When I asked him where he was from, he quickly stated Philadelphia as his home, representing for Germantown Avenue. I have fallen in love with the sunny Atlanta winters, compared to the gray, snowy winters of Michigan, so I had to ask if he was as pleased as I was to be out of the snow.
"I love the snow," he said, to my surprise, "I miss it down here."
Maybe he was one of those kids who liked to be out in the snow, but I hate to think about the bitter cold, the snow and salt that will always ruin a car before it's time.
"I just hate the ice," he said, "All the sliding."
"Yes," I said, agreeing and moved on, asking how he had spent his last birthday.
He thought for a moment, then shrugged, "Probably writing raps."
Suddenly, he remembers, "Oh, I was in Jacksonville for the Super Bowl."
This year, the Super Bowl is in my hometown of Detroit, so I had to ask if he was attending.
"Naw, I'll probably be in L.A. for my b-day party."
My second favorite place in the world, California. Home of the Westside Connection and Snoop Dogg. Low riders and chronic. The famed Rose Bowl.
They let me hear one of his projects earlier in the studio and there was a local artist in the recording booth, laying a hook to a socially conscious song addressing amongst other things, the tsunami, Bin-Laden, and Hurricane Katrina. When I asked him about his political views, he professed he is not really into politics, but he does have a problem with our current administration.
"I don't like Bush. I don't really think he knows what he doing."
He didn't vote in the last election, but admits he `regrets it'. So I asked him if he thought that his one vote would have made a difference.
"Maybe not, but if there were a million people who thought just like me, who knows what the outcome could have been?"
These days, I feel like everyone is a rapper, so I asked G.A.G.E. what distinguished him from the slew of other rappers trying to make their way onto the already-crowded hip-hop scene. I wanted to know what made him want to step up to the challenge.
"In short, I'm real. There's really no one else that can tell you about my life."
They seemed to be wise words from a man of twenty-two years.
"Did growing up seem fast?" I asked, wondering if he felt the same way. He agreed.
"I was taken care of all my life and then to have that taken away, it's like, oh, what do I do?"
His mother died when he was eight, but he grew up with his grandmother and father in Philly. But in a year, he lost both his grandmother to cancer and his dad in a car accident, all by the age of 17.
"My dad was a hustler," he said with a laugh, "I was a spoiled kid."
"But when they died," he explained, "I was living in Philly a
|Tue, January 10, 2006 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Oeste, Oeste, Y'all!
Wow. I'm slippin'. I seriously had forgotten how live Cypress Hill is and how much influence their music had on the spawn of West Coast gangsta rap. Greatest Hits From The Bong will walk you back down memory lane and also make you wonder why people DON'T mention their name amongst major left coast influences. Too bad. They definitely don't get the props they deserve.
The album starts off with their most popular hit ever, "How I Could Just Kill A Man," which I had to replay about 8 times just because it's so sick. How loco were these eses? Factor in the title of this track and the following: "Hand On The Pump," "Insane In The Brain," and "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That" among others. Seriously demented but that's cool when the talent is there.
Get this album if you consider yourself a genuine West Coast fan, a Latin Hip-Hop fan (shout-out to Cypress for doing a joint with Tego Calderon), a fan of weed (lol) or even a Rock fan (can't forget "Rock Superstar"). Whatever the reason, pick up a copy of this...in fact, buy it now on BlackVibes.com (shameless plug!)!
Rating: 4.5 BVs
|Mon, January 09, 2006 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Cleary the King Family is dysfunctional; with the in coming of every New Year the world pauses to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who perhaps is one of the greatest men America has ever produced. His legacy is forever etched in the fabric of American History and the world, but his offspring cannot come together to save a landmark that bares his name. A house divided against it's self cannot stand - which I the case of the poorly ruling Kings. Bernice King and her brother Martin Luther King III would fight any attempt to sell the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change to the National Park Service, which the facility's board of directors have recently voted to pursue.
This conflict has been brewing for sometime now with Dexter and Martin, recently the two brothers were fighting like Cain and Able over who would control the center and there are reports of the two brothers even have had the clocks changed and police escorts to the facility to prevent any physical altercation. Martin and Bernice are still on the board, but the two of them were removed as chairman and secretary last year. Dexter and Yolanda King, who both live in California, are for the sell along with their Aunt Christine King-Ferris and Ambassador Young.
The National Park Service owns the King National Historic site and maintains Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King birth home. A Park Service report issued last year estimated that the King Center needed $11.6 million in repairs. The report cited leaks in the reflective pool, collapsed drainage pipes and problems with loose and exposed wiring. Mrs. King is fighting to recover from a stoke that many have been brought on by the unnecessary stress of her fighting children. The last thing the world needs to see as we prepare to celebrate the King Holiday is family of the man that stood for non violence --fighting. Not one of the children ever married, had children, achieved any reasonable success of their own merit.
Bernice is seated every Sunday in Bishop Eddie Lee Long's pulpit, who according to Atlanta Journal Constitution is rolling in money since he collapsed his non-profit and put all the assets in his personal name. Bernice should ask the Bishop for the money or to help her raise it to keep a hold on to her family's legacy. Preachers sacrifice a great deal for the sake of ministry and their family's far too often go neglected. Thus is the case with the King's -- they are obviously in need of some good sessions on someone's couch to deal with the loss of such an outstanding man that was their father.
Martin and Bernice recently appeared on a popular radio show in Atlanta, in which they defended their position. Bernice admitted on the air that she does not have the best personality, which is needed to fundraise and head an organization of this magnitude. I hope the King's kids can do something right and at least keep their father's center in the family.
More than just a pretty face, Beverly Peele is a Stunt Queen. Although, she is not a blonde she does not seem to be very bright.
Allegedly Peele bought about $10,000 worth of large appliances and house wares for her pad recently on credit cards that she found in a lost wallet, according to the police. Beverly, who is 30-years-old was arrested Monday and charged with two counts of grand theft by access card, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Friday. She was released and is scheduled to appear in court later this month. Investigators say she found the cards in a wallet at a supermarket. Peele turned in the wallet, but she most not have been a Good Samaritan after she copied the card numbers and necessary information t
|Sun, January 01, 2006 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Back in the early '90s when gangsta rap was in mid-stride and "fun" rap (i.e.- DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Kid & Play, etc.) was on its death bed, 3 musical minds got together to release a jazzy-funky-Hip-Hop laden album called Reachin'. Butterfly, Ladybug and Doodlebug, aka Digable Planets sparked an alternative move into smooth jazz rap that was thoroughly embraced by Hip-Hop purists, "herbalists" and backpackers worldwide. From their first major release, "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)," the group provided the essential soundtrack for poetry slams and afterparties everywhere. Who was this group, 1 woman and 2 men, with braids, dreads and instruments that snuck in and grabbed a seat while the likes of Death Row and Bad Boy were most popular?
In 2005, Digable Planets reunited, after separating due to "creative differences", and released a compilation of their music, Beyond The Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles. Featuring tracks from their first two albums as well as a few B-sides and rarities, Beyond is a trip back to DP's heydays and an ode to instrumentalism taken up by the likes of The Roots and Slum Village. "Nickel Bags," "Rebirth of Slick," and "Graffiti" are amongst this Hip-Hop collection's more noteworthy tracks while rarities such as "Where I'm From (remix)" are from a Japanese-only release of previous DP work.
Though I never know exactly what the hell Digable Planets are talking about (yet the "herbalists" from college used to understand it perfectly), the beats are always infectious and smooth therefore making Beyond a worthwhile listen.
BV Rating: 3 BVs
|Sun, December 25, 2005 at 11:02 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Ja Rule is a battle-tested veteran. After all the drama he's been through the past few years, no other description fits him best. Between the career-damaging beef with 50 Cent and the subsequent federal raid on the Murder Inc offices, Ja has earned his stripes and then some. As 2005 winds down, The Inc (they've dropped the "Murder") has decided to let the world know that Ja once was a chart-topping heavyweight by releasing a compilation of his greatest hits with a few new tracks, called Exodus.
I have to admit even I forgot how many hits Ja had. Exodus is a good drive down Murder Inc memory lanes starting with one of Ja's first commercial hit, "Holla, Holla" and continuing to his famous collaborations with Lil Mo ("I Cry"), Ashanti ("Always On Time") and J-Lo ("Ain't It Funny"). However, beyond this point is when it's obvious Ja's material began to depreciate and the public started losing interest in him. Tracks like "Thug Lovin" featuring Bobby Brown, "Clap Back," and "Wonderful" featuring R. Kelly and Ashanti failed to have the same staying power as his earlier work. Ja's decline was further exacerbated by his troubles with double quarters (think about it).
Ultimately, Ja Rule's Exodus, his last recording effort based on the title and the outgoing track, demonstrates the strength of what once was a great musical career but now gives validity to ending it all now.
Rating: 2.5 BV
|Sat, December 17, 2005 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
The sultry Southern singer of Ghetto Confessions fame is back with a part two for y'all. Yes, Urban Mystic is back at it, coming hard with his newest single, It's You f. Paul Wall. Earlier this week, I caught up with him on the phone, and asked him how he ended up working with Paul Wall.
UM: Well, Paul Wall is good friends with my rep out of Texas. He (Paul Wall) heard the track and was like, 'Man that track is hot, but I can make it hotter.' So we made it happen, and it turned out real hot, like he said.
No doubt, I thought.
"Now who did the production for this blazing single?" I asked, curious to discover all parts of this equation.
UM: Kay-Gee did the production on my first single, "Where Were You?" and it went real well, so I thought it would be only right to go back to him again.
"Oh, so he's the magic behind your hit singles?" I asked, and Mystic laughed.
UM: Yeah, Kay-Gee is real down to earth and cool. It worked before, so he did some tracks on this new album.
"So who else have you been working with for this album?"
UM: Besides Paul Wall, I've worked with Trick Daddy, Pitbull, and Smitty to name a few. Trick Daddy is on my track, "Let's Make A Change," one of my favorite cuts on the album.
"I see you've got a lot of Southern artists with you, representing for the Dirty Dirty. What was your favorite Southern city to perform in?"
UM: Definitely Atlanta. I opened up for the Laila Ali fight and the crowd showed me so much love. Right now, Atlanta is my best-selling market.
Everyone loves ATL, I concurred. Lyfe Jennings said the same thing about Atlanta crowds.
Intrigued, I pressed on, "What have you learned about the music business in 2005?"
UM: Well, this being my second year in the industry, I think I've grown a lot by being out on the road touring. Opening for people like Angie Stone, Anthony Hamilton, and Lyfe Jennings gave me an opportunity to perform in front of thousands of people, and get the vibe of being a celebrity. It taught me how to conduct myself and I learned what it's like to be a star.
He's been a star for a minute, I thought, but he's still young.
Laughing, I asked, "Are you twenty-one yet?"
UM: Yeah, finally.
"So you can party legally now?" I said, and it was his turn to laugh.
"Besides age, how have you grown since your last album?"
UM: I've become more responsible. There's been times that I had to wake up and get myself to the airport on time; I'd have to get to a show or a club on time, on my own. Not having anyone to lean on and learning to take care of myself has made me a better person.
All this coming from Mr. Versitile, who boasts that he does a little bit of everything on his albums: sing, rap, and produce. And when I asked him what artists influenced his career, Jodeci, H-Town, Shai, and Mary J. Blige were at the top of his list. Definitely a product of 90s R&B and Soul.
"We know you're multi-talented within music; do you plan on making moves to other entertainment ventures or sticking with music for a while?"
UM: I'm kind of interested in film. I was in a Sprite commerical back in 2001. I'm also thinking about starting a clothing line or a jewelry line. I'm really into jewelry.
"Any names for the clothing or jewelry line?"
UM: I've debated on a couple, but nothing's solid yet.
Before I ended our conversation, I had to ask, "Is there anything the people should know about this new album?"
UM: Just that I love it; it's a continuation of the last album. "Bounce With Me" (the next single to drop) is one of my favori
|Fri, December 16, 2005 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
The death of a Modern Day Apostle Paul, Stanley "Tookie" Williams in his early days was a menace to society and founder of one of the most notorious gangs in the country-the Crips street gang. This man like Paul, who in his early years was a killer of individuals that professed Christ until a life changing experience; Paul later became one of the greatest defenders of the faith and authored 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. No different then Paul, Williams during his 24 years on death row saw the error of his ways and became an anti-gang crusader and the auther of children's books denouncing violence.
Paul also spent time in prision and wrote many of this thought provoking passages during his times behind lock and keep. Paul said is was a prisoner for Christ and Williams became a prisoner of peace. However, neither of these men could save their lives. Nominated five times for the Nobel Prize in peace and literature was executed. Williams would never apologize nor admit to the four murders he was convicted. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected his clemency appeal and his execution went ahead as scheduled.
The man that made words like "Ni66er" and "Motherf**ker" apart of everyday language is dead. The flawed Richard Pryor died of a heart attack at age 65 is said to have left a tremendous legacy to the world of comedy. No matter how many times he tried to kill himself during his careless living on the edge world of drug and alcohol with great pride we can say he did not succeed. Jim Balousi legacy is marred by his untimely death by a self inflicted drug over dose. Thank God Pryor-no matter how hard he tired-did not go out like that. The man full of contradictions suffering is now over. Jamie Foxx, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, Paul Rodriguez, Chevy Chase, Chris Rock, and Damon Wayans-all noted comedians shared similar feels for the legend they all wanted to emulate in their own capacity. The 19 years of suffering with Multiple Sclerosis is now over and Richard is gone.
There is a great deal of talk about Terrance Howard taking home an Oscar this year. I am not so sure if it will happen, although he did play a roll that is often celebrated with the prestigious honor. It is so amazing that Denzel and Halle took home best actor and actress for rolls that depicted undesirable individuals in the African American community. Jamie Foxx did an outstanding job in "Ray," however he received the golden statue for a great roll and not a body of work like all the other African American Oscar winners. Terrence, I would not get my hopes up to high if I were you. The Golden Globes are usually a good indication of who will win the Oscar, but it will not be two black men back to back. After all Stanley's life could not even be spared. While on the subject of the Oscar's, the greatest news has been released-Chris Rock will not be the host.
Thank God! One time was enough and he took away from so many of the other highlights that night. It was a chore to set through is wild antics and questionable jokes at best. Now neither side is really talking, but they have both said that Chris will not be returning to preside on the great night. Although, it was common knowledge that some of Rock's jokes were too much for the Academy. One joke was so low it caused Sean Penn to attempt to defend Jude Law, who Chris tied to make light, but really made light of himself. Chris could not let it die he had to come back and then crack on Sean, but it looks like the Academy cracked Chris.
Finally, Denzel and Sanaa respond to all the rumors that they are in love, having an affair, and just had a baby. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, but to every lie there is a little bit of truth. However, it is sai