2010: The Recap

The Cutest Video of 2010: The Black Keys "Tighten Up" - Let's get this straight; kids are cute. So when The Black Keys chose a route alternative to MGMT "Kids" video, I was very thankful. This duo manages to come out with great material, but when they fell short purposely merging hiphop with rock for an entire album, I fell on the fence with this group as one of the new greats. However, Brothers was one of my favorite albums of 2010, with this song being one of my favorite songs of 2010. The video is adorable in so many ways, from having the kids act out the content of the song to the adults (played by The Black Keys) repeat the same actions as the kids towards the end. It's like seeing yourself when you were young, but still repeating history.

Best Good Sport of 2010: Doug E. Fresh - Let me be one of the most influential cats in hiphop and have a signature move like Doug E. Fresh, and some kids come around caking off of it, making the anthem of the year... Oh HELL no! *Robin Harris voice* Fortunately, my evil behind does not have the smoothness or finesse of Doug E. Fresh, as he sat back and enjoyed what ensued on the legacy he left. In fact, he told Mixtape Daily that the resurfacing of his dance was a blessing. Let's not go there and talk about "My Dougie" from way back when, but the fact that the originator was tapped by Soul Train, and not the Cali Swag District or Lil' Wil or Soulja Boy, to teach Wolf Blitzer how to Dougie.

Best Comeback of 2010: El DeBarge - It's absolutely safe to say that this dude had the best comeback of the year, considering everything he's been through (ran through, and then some). Can anybody say with as many kids (22) he (allegedly) has, a clear cocaine addiction, and a domestic violence charge they still warmed the hearts of millions? Once he appeared on the 2010 BET Awards performing "I Like It" like he never left, anyone with eyes could see that El DeBarge was back! He hasn't slowed down since then, putting out 16-year-overdue Second Chance, which reached the Billboard charts, plus being the most requested singer to do anyone's cover. What's sad is this dude deserves a tribute set or someone to cover him! It's his smoothness and gratuity that gets me the most. Whenever someone asks him how does he feel about being back in the music business and his warm reception, he just replies "man, I'm just glad to be here." I'm glad you're here too, El DeBarge!

2010's Most Souped-Up Bass in a Song: Usher "Hot Tottie (featuring Jay-Z)" - This was tough, not that there were many songs this year filled with bass. With The Cool Kids "Big Talk" at an extremely close second, I had to give it up to Usher and Jay-Z, well, Polow Da Don. Although Polow Da Don did his thing on this track, The Cool Kids are my favorite to give me a lot of boom for the trunk, and they certainly didn't fail with their late-year joint "Big Talk" because "Big Talk" had a wide variety of basses in the song. However, "Hot Tottie" has the same kind of bass pattern throughout the song, but it's flipped in a wide variety of ways - from the distortion to adding the echoing synth to it. It totally accentuates the sleaziness behind the content of the song, and for that you can't help but like it.

Most Cliche-Noncliche Genre of 2010: Experimental - In almost all of the interviews I've done this year, every artist claimed the "experimental sound" as their way to describe their music. Firstly, before we get into this "genre," I understand that the question "describe to me your sound"/"how would you describe your music?" is a crappy interview question, but most publication companies list that as a required interview question. So, if you call yourself an artist, spruce up the answer! Saying experimental can mean "I not only rap, I sing on my records" to "I flipped the entire structure of music and composed the beats myself" because experimental has the ability to be anything outside o fthe general norm for music. Folks who gave me the answer, and only this answer, "I have an experimental sound. It's a mix of everything" got probably the weirdest and spaciest look ever from me. I know a lot of artists "hate" the media, but a lot of the media "hates" the media just as much, so we all need to come to an understanding of deading the word "experimental" as a genre, including artists, interviewers, PR, publicists, everyone. Just let it go. Or, at least become actual experimental musicians like the ones cited in Wikipedia because they knew how to experiment with music. *Rant over*

Favorite Heir to the Throne Emerging in 2010: Diggy Simmons - This year, so many new icons emerged out of wombs of the old icons. There was Jaden and Willow Smith from Will and Jada Smith, Ice Cube's sons OMG and Doughboy, and Reverend Run's boy Diggy Simmons. We heard his brother JoJo take a stab at it, but missed the mark by a mile or two, and the girls' Pastry line was so-so at-best. Diggy, however, was phenomenal this year, exemplifying that he has the talent and skills to live up to his old man's legacy. He took the hiphop community out in one blow when he dropped his freestyle to Nas's "Made You Look", which is below. Not to mention the boy was so dope, BET had to bring together all the sons of hiphop (meaning Ice Cube and Rev. Run) together in one cypher. It was historical!

Best 2010 Song That Highlighted The Average Woman: Strong Arm Steady "Chittlins & Pepsi (featuring Planet Asia)" - If you are a woman who steps away from unhealthy foods (not necessarily vegan, but at least staying away from devastating fast food chains and fatty foods), this was the anthem for you. There wasn't a single song that I knew of that highlighted the efforts a woman has to go through nowadays to stay healthy when foods are full of MSG/"No MSG," high fructose corn syrup, and so on. Strong Arm Steady managed to write a rap song that appreciated women who do. And, yes, I consider this a song for average women because maybe it needs to be average (MESSAGE!). Therefore, love it!!!

Best 2010 Song I Never Skipped: Donwill "Love Life, Astronote Remix (featuring Lee Sissing)" - When I first heard this song, my whole day was golden. The same could be said for the entire mixtape of Donwill's, but I could skip a few tracks and not feel left out. I was happy that Donwill, who I interviewed at this year's A3C, went a smoother route with this mixtape (and the album Don Cusack in High Fidelity), as his sound is typically rough, and I was ecstatic to hear such a positive hook on this specific record. "God don't give you nothing too heavy to carry, and my life's so beautiful I think I wanna marry it." You won't get a better-feeling hook on ANY record that came out this year!

A 2010 Song I Can NOT Listen To When I'm Not Sober: The entire MOTM II album by Kid CuDi - Before I go in on this cat, let me just say he created one of the best albums of 2010... better than Kanye West's, but we won't go there. Anyway, Kid CuDi is the most depressing artist I have ever heard (this year)! I didn't like him because I didn't want his emo bars invading my ears, but I gave him a chance at the worst time - after a couple of drinks. Man On The Moon II took me to way too many places this year that I didn't want to visit after drinking (not saying the drinking was aimed at taking the pain away, but it kinda was *looks away*). From that night on, I figured his depression is too much for me when I least want to be depressed. Other than when I'm not sober, Kid CuDi is in my rotation.

Rawest Song of 2010: Bilal "Flying" - I knew when I interviewed him in the Fall, Bilal was going to hold nothing back on his new album Airtight's Revenge. But when I say I never expected anything as uncut and raw as this song, I'm in no way, shape, or form lying. Beyond just singing some cuss words here and there, and singing about hookers and a drug bust (yeah, besides all of that), the complete rawness of "Flying" is the unexpected element of defending the mindset of a pimp/drug dealer. He says "...Coulda been a star, but you know how it is / You can't do shit when you injured, plus these hoes out here is younger everyday" signifying Johnny leaving the girl after she hurt herself on the stripper pole.

Most Socially Relevant Song of 2010: General Larry Platt "Pants On The Ground" - I'm sure I lost a bunch of folks with this one, but I don't care. He may have been 62 years old, he may not have won American Idol, and he may have been the joke of early 2010, but that dude knows sagging is awful. For that, he gets my respect, plus he may have gotten across to a few folks about how to wear some pants. Honestly, this song was more relevant to the public than a lot of mess that hit the airwaves this year, so I'm not mad at the General one bit!

Get it up!

Best Song Dedicated to an Icon: Kem & Rachelle Ferrell "Been So Long" (Tribute to Anita Baker on Soul Train) - I had the pleasure of seeing this live (somewhat, I guess the social media room during the taping counts as seeing it live), and the entire room went crazy when Rachelle Ferrell began to go into full-blown scat mode with Kem. Although they took a completely different approach to Anita Baker's classic record (and left the bass line alone), it's a bonafide fabulous way to honor a legend like Anita Baker.

*just cut to the 4:58 mark of the video, although the entire set was amazing*

Local Community Radio Act PASSED!!!

It's good to see community radio don't have to go through hoops no more!

Well, at least this act is settled (unlike H.R.848 "The Performance Rights Act" I blogged about way back when)!

I check out the Prometheus Radio Project frequently, and they broke it to me that Congress has finally passed  S.592, the Local Community Radio Act. According to their press release, the House and Senate has given the FCC a mandate for thousands of new community stations nationwide.

Sounds great, right? Right!

Why? Because it's a win for the little guy, of course, but also is a win for the home team (whoever yours may be). For about ten years, since the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act, small town radio has suffered under the shrinking dial frequency thanks to big corporate radio stations wanting to minimize use of the spectrum for their own gain, claiming interference (which ended up being a claimed disproved by a Congress-mandated study in 2003).

The new bill is waiting for President Obama's signature. According to Pitchfork, it does state that approval of the FCC must be "based on the needs of the local community," and that restrictions are in place to prevent applicants from getting a low power FM license if he or she has violated section 301 of the Communication Act of 1934.

The most awesome thing about the Local Community Radio Act is that this could possibly lead to more media job creation! Your girl needs a job, and is not afraid to step into the booth as a radio jockey. The world needs Bubble Gum Pop Rap on the airwaves, right? Wouldn't that be dope! Seriously, this could create more jobs in a starving market, so journalists and folks who love the radio should rejoice as Congress has done something amazing for once!

This wouldn't be right if I didn't shout out the following local radio stations in Atlanta that I always listen to when I'm in the car or near the frequency box!!!

WRFG 89.3 - Radio Free Georgia, man oh man. It plays a little bit of everything progressive-wise, including REAL experimental music, REAL bluegrass and country, and REAL hiphop music, and also very helpful and resourceful talk shows (not the crappy sensationalizing talk shows that scare the bejeebus out of folks just to tune them in on a permanent basis). I especially like their hiphop show Beats & Lyrics, plus their late night shows... which isn't what you think at all. I promise.

WRAS 88.5 - Album 88 is a radio station based at Georgia State University in downtown Atl. The thing I like about them is that they play what's hot in the blogosphere and in the community. It's a great place to hear local bands, indie bands, and whatever other music stuff that's considered hipster. I'm no hipster, but everytime I tune in, I always have a "THAT'S MY ISH RIGHT THERE!" moment. The thing I can't stand is that it's the ONLY radio station around that plays the atypical music.

WREK 91.1 - Georgia Tech's station is a station I tune into from time to time. I caught wind of it when they had a F' Action hour, which was interesting considering it was a Sunday evening. I always find something dope on Saturday nights on the road to a show or something, as they always have some crazy Techno or Drum & Bass record going crazy. Ultimately, they always play some jazz or big band record that keeps me tuned in.

There are a couple more stations that I like, or at least keep on my dial until I buck up and change to V-103 or Hot1079 or one of the old school stations. But the classic rock station The River, alternative rock stations 99x and Project 9-6-1 do keep me occupied when absolutely nothing else is on the radio. I hope this new Local Community Radio Act forms more local stations here in the A that provide more voices to this city.

Album Review: Diddy-Dirty Money - Last Train to Paris

Diddy. Who doesn't know this guy? Founder of Bad Boy, discoverer of The Notorious B.I.G (the late great Biggie Smalls in my world), pusher of Ciroc (a fine beverage in my world), and the list goes on and on. Oh, and there's Dirty Money, the broads behind him, but are something that he is not - an artist. After years of "hard" work, Diddy-Dirty Money drops an album that anybody unfamiliar to Diddy and his conniving ways of music, Last Train To Paris.

Last Train To Paris is a product of "Last Night," which would've worked - if it came out after the hit single... in 2006/7. If this would've succeeded Press Play as scheduled, there would be reviews of this record being A+! Hell, if this came out in 2008 (or at least when his MTV "band" show was over), things would've made sense. Could Diddy's PR and label hiccups ruin everyone's trip on the Last Train To Paris?

The intro was pretty good, especially considering Diddy's aim for a new sound. He is right in the sense that this is something new, as the production for Last Train seemed to pour a righteous effort in making a futuristic, techno, electronic, hip-hop and R&B record.

Fortunately, the moniker Diddy-Dirty Money saves Diddy's behind from this being a total disaster. These women can blow! The main "backup (???)" singer that makes up Dirty Money, and member of Danity Kane, Dawn displays a powerful vocal, outdoing Diddy and "that other girl" Kaleena. Honestly, if these women went solo, the R&B community would not mind one bit*

*as long as they have the creativity to match their powerful vocalism.

Diddy, Diddy, Diddy. Folks were sick of/laughed at his ad-libs and whack raps, now they have something else to poke fun at: his singing. Like, excuse my French, but HOW DO YOU FUCK UP AUTO-TUNE??? Moving on...

The biggest conceptual fail of Last Train To Paris is that it sounds dated (i.e. when it was supposed to be out). For example, look at "Loving You No More." Well, in the words of Diddy - "I just, I can't...", so nevermind. Seriously, the single is a direct production-type inspiration of Ne-Yo's "So Sick" and "Because of You." Also, "Hate You Now" and "Strobe Lights" are among the many records that had a 07-08 vibe to it, considering the massive amount of artists who weren't as big as Diddy but had that sound he tried to master in Last Train To Paris.

"Shades" falls guilty, though the production and concept is bananas, but because the lyrics just screwed it up. It sounds like a throw away from Jamie Foxx's Intuition album. "Last Night Part 2" just because there is a part 2 to that record, which seals the deal for me as I could've been ok without that sort of Last ride to Paris.

The good news about this album is that Diddy-Dirty Money stuck to what worked for them when they released "Love Come Down" (which I was hurt was not on the album) and "Hello Good Morning," as their ticket to the Last Train was creative club records. Additionally, their club record orientation isn't just Black-folk-booty-shaking-music, it's pop-ish, electro-ish, and fun.

Overall, Diddy-Dirty Money got away on their Last Train To Paris because it was catchy, nice for just about any clubs, and the girls did all the dirty work. Unfortunately, the monstrous "Last Night" gem has been stretched thin and ultimately destroyed thanks to Diddy's aim to banking off of it, as well as all of the good music to come out of 2006-08.

Star's Grade: C+

Dear Spotify, Bring Your Arse To The States!!!

Since Imeem, among other music streaming sites, are no longer running, I've been on the hunt for the new place to extend my taste in music. I'm not a big iPerson, so suggesting iTunes, an iPad/Phone, or any other iNut-riding software or Internet tool won't work.

There are a couple dope sites and such to check out with that Imeem feel.

8tracks is one I use frequently because it has a creative gimmick to its purpose: come up with at least eight songs for a playlist. The playlist has to have some sort of title or theme to it (even if it is Brian Lehrer's Cooking Mix or Randy Moss' Post Pattern), and I have the freedom of uploading songs from my music collection or adding music other people uploaded to 8tracks. If I stick to just eight songs, it's like having an 8-track on your computer, minus the protruding cartridge.

Another site I like for music sharing and streaming is [INSERT DRUM ROLL]

*adds extra line for dramatic effect*

MySpace! Believe it or not, and amidst the crappy press it got for being Creepsterland, this site is great for sharing music for artists and listeners. It's easy to create playlists, add music, and with the new layout (which Facebook is trying to mimic btw) is easy for folks to share. Although Bandcamp and SoundCloud are good sites for artists to use to socialize with their fans as well as add music, MySpace is just as good. Plus, almost every band uses it, so to the folks I know that snub MySpace on the regular need to fall back, as journalist and bloggers quickly search "[insert artist or band] MySpace music" before anything else.

But back to the topic at-hand.

Spotify is another music sharing and streaming site that has the online and offline option. It's like iTunes, minus Apple's "i" and tunes, Pandora, LastFM, and Imeem, wrapped in one green bow. You can upload your own music, listen to others, make playlists, buy music, play the artist radio, go mobile, tweet it, Facebook it, among other things. Oh, and IT'S FREE! Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, for those in the US of A, it does. Clicking on the "Get Spotify" icon will lead you to this. That's right, a shrugging heifer and information about how they want to have ALL music available on the site for ALL countries or nothing at all.

The researcher and journalist in me went digging for more info on Spotify, finding out that it's a wrangling with Warner's music label. According to TechCrunch back in the summer, despite the app availability on Symbian, Droid and iPhone (and now Windows 7 Phone) Warner does not want Spotify to air out their artists' music for free.

Sounds familiar? It should. Warner and YouTube had the same issue because Warner didn't want YouTube posting their artists videos for free. The difference between the two scenarios is that YouTube had balls, and pulled all of Warner's artists off their site and moved on! And of course, because no label wants to be excluded from press, Warner came running back to make a deal with YouTube.

Now why Spotify won't grow some is beyond me. There is no reason (other than money, and if that's the case then forget coming here) Spotify is not able to do the same for their site as YouTube and generate States users. This software has already won tech awards for their services and has 30,000 of America's musical elite using their site (including Pitchfork, which brought me to Spotify in the first place), so why is it not available for the PEOPLE???

So Spotify, bring your arse to the States! We've suffered without you for long enough. We want the same luxuries as France, Spain and Sweden too! We have even shown you love for the 30,000 people you serve already, why not multiply that by a milli or two?

I hope these questions don't go unanswered, and you find your way out of other people's iPhones and into my laptop soon.



Album Review: Miguel - All I Want Is You

All I Want Is You [+digital booklet]Miguel is the type of singer/songwriter that you hate to love (if you are like me, wanting more from music than a quickie). He has been drawing me in since 2007 with his EP Mischief because he had some of the most creative concepts that year as an R&B artist. He fused together different aspects of living with different aspects of loving (i.e. making direct comparisons like computer use to submission, supernatural to infidelity, fruit and pimping, etc). When his single "All I Want Is You" hit airwaves, I was one happy camper. It was different from the material Miguel has, but it managed to appeal to everyone - young, old, immature, mature, etc. So it seems that his newest album of the same name would be that way...

He puts listeners in a tough position - if labeling things are an issue, don't bother with this cat. He's uncategorical. In All I Want Is You, he's a little reminiscent of The Dream because of the songwriting and the content used. It's straight-forward, slightly reckless, and very sexual (not to get confused with sensual, which is far from what Miguel does). Unlike the said comparison, Miguel is a crooner at-heart that can successfully dive into the perverted side of love and everyone is fine with that. Fun, mature, nasty, sexy, eclectic - that's Miguel.

He continues to fly high as one of the best breakthrough vocalists of the year, with various tracks that compliment his soft, electric voice. His extra touch is his background vocals he places in songs like "Girl With The Tattoo Enter.lewd," "Girls Like You" and "Teach Me." He saves the best for last, as far as creative writing is concerned, with "My Piece." It's hypnotizing, and has the IDGAF-attitude that Miguel thrives in having. Not to mention the direct (and thorough) comparison between a man's gun and girlfriend is mighty powerful!

He does miss the mark on a couple tunes with this album. The "club banger" single of this album sounds like something out of the 90s, minus the hook which is all of 2009. Luckily, "Pay Me" gets away with that because it's catchy and totally danceable despite its outdated sound. He makes a bad attempt to fuse his grown and sexy vocalism with an electropop in "Girls Like You," which is a mark barely missed by Miguel. A total fail was the recycled beat from "All I Want Is You" with a half-assed heartbreak song called "Hard Way." Other than that, he continues to make a sound that is both grown, futuristic and freaky.

Overall, Miguel makes it cool to be corny, smooth, nasty (a borderline perv even), mature, fun, eclectic, and talented all in one swoosh, and expect nothing short of praise from even the most serious. In All I Want Is You he shows the world he's not afraid to show his inhibitions, as well as bring them out of his listeners. It is definitely an album that is and sounds a bit overdue, it's apparent with the lowpoints in here, but Miguel is still flaunting high-quality talent. Although artists need to stray away from styles like that, especially considering the world we're living in today, Miguel gets a pass because he appears born to be that kind of guy.... with his silly self!

Star's Grade - B+

Photos: 2010 Soul Train Purple Carpet and Award Show

I got the privilege to cover the 2010 Soul Train Awards for the website I intern with that I've mentioned several times throughout this blog.... Oh, you know! The Electronic Urban Report, EURweb.com?!?!?! Yeah, you better...

Anywho, I was among the massive amounts of media outlets flagging down as many celebs as I can for interviews and clear photo opps. These are some of the photos I took while interviewing some folks.

Video: DC King of Hearts - An Interview

I don't know how many people have realized this or not, but I use this blog as a tool to improve on my journalism skills, including photography, online, news, and overall print writing in general. So of course, a big part that I'm starting to work with is video journalism. This is my first video profile that I put together, edited, and everything myself (except for recording the actual video footage, which was recorded by the artist), so I'm sure there's some faults in there that I missed. ANYWAY--

An OU student and Athens/Cleveland/Alabama emcee, DC King of Hearts is rising out of life's ashes through the use of a pen and a pad. This cat has been through a lot, as one could see in his works and once you hear this interview, but turns it into an album with Pain. He's extremely reminiscent of Tech N9ne, B.o.B, and Ludacris for his down-home Southern(ess), and his dark storytelling. We spoke about his unmatched style and inspirations, the album Pain (which is available for FREE), and who he wishes to collaborate with in the Athens hiphop scene. The video footage takes place in the one-and-only Apollo Theater while volunteering for Upward Bound.

Fighting The Power: A Throwback Thought on P.E.

After the verdict from the Oscar Grant trial, and having to hear about Soulja Boy's neck tattoo on V-103 - one of the biggest hiphop and R&B radio stations in the country - after the horrifying news, I'm posting this hoping it'll enter through thick skulls what hiphop REALLY means! I wrote this a while back, but put it up because I didn't want sound too preachy on this blog, but now I feel like being preachy is necessary!

Yet our best trained, best educated, best equipped, best prepared, troops refuse to fight! Matter of fact it's safe to say that they would rather switchhh than fight
- Thomas "TNT" Todd

Hearing this song, after enveloping the atmosphere of its accompanying movie "Do The Right Thing" (at the mere age of six years old), I learned right then and there exactly what hip-hop was. This song was the premiere song for Public Enemy in what they really contributed to hiphop - the idea that hip-hop was revolutionary through its ability to be urgent, street smart, knowledgeable and fun simultaneously.

They set the standard for hiphop records, because other than that, there were songs with an extreme Pan-African message or a lackluster consciousness. Along with Flavor Flav, he was the first to say fuck Elvis and John Wayne, two of the most influential men in entertainment history, yet still say everyone deserves equal rights.

Another memorable thing was the heavy sampling used to convey its message. The DJ, Terminator X, laced in insane drops from Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" and Guy's "Teddy's Jam" to blend in with the lyrics and the beat. Not to mention the powerful speech in the beginning by Thomas "TNT" Todd, one of the best orators and Civil Rights attorney ever.

Other songs released by Public Enemy were great, but unmatched by "Fight The Power." This song, compared to the rest of their collection, was like the entrée of a three course meal. In this case, the meal was the knowledge dropped by this powerful hip-hop group.

The most memorable thing about this song was its video. It felt good to see Brooklyn covered in "fight the power" rally signs. People from everywhere were representing their home country plus signs with famous Black political figures like Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. This song was the precedent for ALL politically-driven songs, far beyond the hip-hop genre. Any metalhead, punk rocker, or backpacker will refer to "Fight the Power" as inspiration to their personalities.