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|Tue, March 22, 2011 at 1:01 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Rapper and actor Ja Rule admitted Tuesday that he failed to pay taxes on more than $3 million in income, pleading guilty to tax evasion in federal court in New Jersey.
The platinum-selling rapper earned the money between 2004 and 2006 while he lived in Saddle River, an upscale community in northern New Jersey.
As part of a plea agreement, the government dismissed two counts against him for unpaid taxes on income earned in 2007 and 2008.
Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, is expected to be sentenced on the tax evasion charges in June. He faces up to one year in prison and $100,000 in fines on each count.
He also faces sentencing June 8 in New York on an attempted weapon possession charge that he pleaded guilty to in December. He has agreed to a two-year prison term in that case.
Police say they found a loaded gun in a rear door of his luxury sports car when it was stopped for speeding after a July 2007 concert.
Ja Rule, 35, was nominated for a 2002 best rap album Grammy Award for "Pain is Love." His movie credits include 2001's "The Fast and the Furious" and 2003's "Scary Movie 3."
|Mon, March 21, 2011 at 11:44 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Chris Brown, "F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies)" (Jive Label Group)
Chris Brown's "Graffitti," which arrived on the music scene 10 months after his attack on Rihanna, landed with a thud. But a sinister public image wasn't his only hindrance.
The 2009 album didn't do him any favors: Most of the songs were weak and simply not up to par with his past two albums, especially 2007's "Exclusive," a near-perfect CD.
Brown is back on "F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies)," but artistically, he's still not all the way there. The singer, who turns 22 in May, continues to advance when it comes to making Quiet Storm hits: "No Bull" is a certified R&B jam, and the Ludacris-assisted "Wet the Bed" is just as good.
Even on smooth grooves that aren't sexually charged, Brown sounds top-notch. "Deuces," a No. 1 R&B hit, was one of last year's best songs, and like it, "Up to You" is destined to hit the top spot — and it deserves to be.
But here's the problem: On the dance songs, Brown is just average. That's unfortunate since he is a skilled leg-mover and is (or was) seen as the heir to Michael Jackson behind Usher and Justin Timberlake.
"Yeah 3x" follows the formula currently dominating pop radio: There's endless drum loops, crowds cheering and pulsating beats. It's a song any current pop singer could sing. The same goes for the Euro-flavored "Beautiful People."
Then there's "Say It With Me" and "Oh My Love," two songs that sound too similar. For an album with only four up-tempo tunes, that's a pretty bad batting average.
So it begs the question: While Brown is a solid R&B singer, can he be a real pop star? After listening to "F.A.M.E.," the answer is unclear. "Should've Kissed You" and "She Ain't You" are R&B tunes with pop flavors that are semi-winners: Brown's voice sounds annoyingly nasally on the first song, and the second samples Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," so much work isn't needed to make the song work; SWV also sampled the Jackson song for their 1990s hit, "Right Here."
Brown's had major crossover success in the past; his debut song "Run It!" went to No. 1 on the pop charts, and he's had hits like "With You," "Kiss Kiss" and "Forever." Most of "F.A.M.E." — which is overloaded with 37 songwriters — can't compete with those tunes. Even enlisting pop's boy wonder doesn't do the trick: "Next to You" with Justin Bieber is the disc's worst track.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "Up to You" has Brown learning from his mistakes in a past relationship and making sure he doesn't duplicate them in his current one.
|Mon, March 21, 2011 at 9:56 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NEW YORK – In most ways, Sarah McCarthy is your average high schooler. She has a job, college plans, but also a peculiar passion for a 16-year-old: She's a vinyl junkie.
That's right, analog. And none of that hipster new stuff or a USB-ready turntable from Urban Outfitters.
To this senior from Centreville, Md., there's nothing like the raw crackle, the depth of sound, her delicate hand on diamond-tipped stylus to spin from the dusty stash of records she found in the basement of her grandfather — yes, grandfather.
"He gave me his receiver and speaker system and told me to listen to it the way it was made to be listened to," McCarthy said. "I've turned a lot of my friends on to it. They come over a lot to listen with me."
At a time when parents feel positively prehistoric as they explain how to use plastic ice-cube trays or speak of phones with cords and dials, this teen knows what a record is. Not only that, she knows the difference between a 45 and an LP. She met her boyfriend in a record shop and now works there!
Sure, she has an iPod, but she also has a vinyl collection of 250 records and counting. Sure, there's a broader '70s renaissance in the air, but buying bellbottoms doesn't touch the commitment of teens unearthing old turntables and records, then convincing friends to listen, too, like a pack of crazy little anthropologists.
"Listening to old music remastered to a newer format is almost comical," Sarah said. "They weren't meant to be digitalized. Listening to Jimi Hendrix on my iPod doesn't capture his endlessly deep guitar solos quite like a 33 LP of 'Blues' does."
This girl's in love with vinyl, and she's not the only member of Generation Digital with an ear for analog.
"My dad always had these old records in the garage and I never got to use them until just recently, when my uncle let me have his old record player," said 14-year-old Nick Spates, a Los Angeles eighth grader who plays guitar and piano.
What'd he find in his dad's two milk crates?
A lot of George Clinton — "He's a genius. I swear," declared Nick. And Funkadelic. Of the band's Eddie Hazel: "'Maggot Brain' is like my favorite song ever. The original is a 10-minute guitar solo." There was also "Spiral" by The Crusaders. "It has a lot of horns. I love horns." And "Carmel" by Joe Sample, Hendrix on "Voodoo Child" and a trove of Stanley Clarke.
"My friends think it's cool," Nick said. "Before I had the vinyls I used to Google older musicians and see what songs they made, and I'd look for them on YouTube. We're all musicians and old music is like our favorite stuff in the world."
Wayyyy back when, he said, the message of the music was "definitely more to benefit society and people's knowledge and what's going on in the world." Now, he said, "It's more about what rappers have."
Jeremy Robinson, co-owner of the plantation-size Ditch Records & CDs in Victoria, British Columbia, has up to 20,000 records in stock — half old and half new pressings from reissue labels and indie bands.
"Our vinyl sales have probably doubled in the last couple of years," he said. "The bulk of that has been young people, the iPod generation. They want to collect things, own things, which is the opposite of digital culture. They want to belong to the past."
The uptick in interest over several years includes nostalgic "nerdy superfans" looking for a way around the more sanitized sound of digital, he said, but also savvy young people with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Iron Maiden and a host of obscure
|Fri, March 18, 2011 at 2:11 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Simon Cowell on Friday confirmed that influential music executive Antonio "L.A." Reid will join him as a judge on his upcoming TV singing contest "The X Factor".
But a week before the first auditions get underway in Los Angeles, there was no word on the one or two other judges chosen for the widely-anticipated television show.
Reid, 54, who stepped down this week as chairman of the Island Def Jam record label, helped launch the careers of Justin Bieber, Usher, Mariah Carey and Kanye West. He is the first person to join the acerbic Cowell as a judge and mentor on "The X Factor" when it makes its U.S. debut on Fox in the fall of 2011.
"L.A. was my number one choice to sit alongside me on the show. In my opinion, he is one of the greatest ever music executives and of course a fantastic writer and producer," Cowell said in a statement.
Reid called Cowell, who also created the "Got Talent" TV show format and launched the recording career of Susan Boyle, "one of the world's most gifted and charismatic talent magnets" and said he was looking forward to discovering "our next generation of superstars" on the new show.
Cowell is offering an unprecedented $5 million prize to the "X Factor" winner, as well as a recording contract. Auditions begin in Los Angeles on March 27 and continue in five other U.S. cities through April and May.
Fox said the judging panel would not be available for the March 27 auditions, which will be held initially by show's producers.
Cowell has said in recent weeks that his former "American Idol" partner Paula Abdul is on his short-list for a seat on "X Factor". Singers Mariah Carey and Jessica Simpson are also reported to be in the running.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)
|Fri, March 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Jalen Rose grew up poor in Detroit, the son of single mom and an NBA player he never met. He helped transform basketball culture as a member of Michigan's iconic Fab Five team, then earned more than $100 million as a pro baller.
Grant Hill came up wealthy in the D.C. suburbs, the child of an NFL running back married to a corporate consultant. He helped establish Duke University as a paragon of success and virtue in college basketball, then overcame terrible injuries to enjoy a long NBA career.
So which one is the "authentic" black man?
The question may seem irrelevant. But when Rose said that he considered black Duke players like Hill "Uncle Toms" when he was a teenager, he exposed a sensitive and longstanding issue for many African-Americans: If blacks succeed in a white man's world, and do not conform to certain assumptions of how blacks should act, are they less black?
Rose's comment — aired Tuesday in an ESPN documentary Rose produced on the five black Michigan freshmen who rode their wave of talent, hip-hop style and trash talk to the 1992 championship game — inspired to a response from Hill on The New York Times website. Hill's riposte spent several days atop the Times' most-emailed list, and more than 96,000 people shared it on Facebook, stoking a free-wheeling debate on the Web and in print over which basketball star had the better point.
"I hated everything I felt Duke stood for," Rose said in the documentary, describing his feelings as a 17-year-old high schooler. "Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms."
Hill responded that "Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families. ... To hint that those who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not is beyond ridiculous."
Chandra Guinn, director of Duke's Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, said the argument went far beyond sniping between college hoops stars from decades ago.
"There are bigger issues here," she said. Among them: the denigration of children from single-parent homes, and adults damaging the self-esteem of black boys. Guinn also senses "a moment of revelation about black men's hurt. There's often a feeling of being 'less than.' It seemed to me that both of these men, for different reasons, have felt that way."
Duke junior Julius Jones resents suggestions that "success somehow challenges your blackness. That if you go to school, get good grades, matriculate to an elite institution, that somehow makes you less black."
Jones grew up in Portland, the son of an electrician and an accountant, and attended a majority white elementary school. In middle school, black kids saw Jones with white friends and told him, "You're an Uncle Tom, you don't want to be black, you talk white, you act white," Jones remembers.
When Michigan met Hill's Duke team for the 1992 championship, the Blue Devils were the clean-cut defending champs, and started three white players. Duke crushed the Fab Five by 20 points. ("I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five," Hill concluded his blog post, with a gentlemanly flourish of trash talk.)
Two decades later, Duke is still known as the rare school that mixes high academic standards and graduation rates — for both black and white players — and powerhouse basketball.
"The bottom line is this: (Duke does) recruit a certain type of player