Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten ...

Throughout Black Music Month, we've been highlighting some of the greatest songwriters, musicians and singers to ever perform. While I certainly don't want to take anything away from the folks who have been highlighted, I also want to pay homage to those who have passed on and left us with some timeless music.
Let's get things started off with Otis Redding. Mr. "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay" himself. I actually started loving his music at a very early age. I think I was about eight or nine when one of my mom's friends told me I had an old soul. I didn't know what she meant by that. So my mom had one of her famous tapes playing in the house that day and Redding's "Love Man" came on and I started singing and dancing to it.
At that time, all the adults were convinced that we knew the song because it was used in the movie "Dirty Dancing" and we used to watch it like every day. Even then, there was something about his voice that made me want to find all his music. By the time I was in my late teens, I had found a lot of it and it was in heavy rotation. From "Love Man" to "Try a Little Tenderness," I heard something by Otis Redding at least once a week and believe it or not, I still do.
Another great who left us too soon has to be Barry White. I still remember when he died. It wasn't too long after his song, "Practice What You Preach" came out. That song was the bomb! I used to stop whatever I was doing to hear that song.
I love his voice. It's so thick, deep and rich like molasses.
The first time I ever remember hearing him sing was on the Quincy Jones song, "Secret Garden." I was young then too, but I knew what I liked and that song was alright with me. It wasn't until later that I really started paying attention to all the music he'd released earlier.
I know I was late, but I really didn't know a whole lot about Barry White until "Money Talks" came out and Chris Rock was singing "My First, My Last, My Everything" in the opening credits when he took that guy's car from the car wash. Then it played for a whole season on the Fox show "Ally McBeal" for all those weird people in that law office when they went to the bathroom. After that, I was pretty much hooked for a minute.
Somebody I'm still hooked on is Gerald Levert. I almost cried for real when he passed away. I love me some Gerald Levert. He was a big dude but he was sexy with it. He just seemed like no matter what was wrong, he could give a hug that would make it all better. That's the way he looked anyway.
Well ya'll know he got the majority of his fame from being Eddie Levert's son and the lead singer of the group Levert and a member of LSG. But let's be honest, he put out some great songs by himself. Truth be told, those are some songs that I still find myself singing. My absolute favorite song by him is "I Just Can't Help Myself" from the HBO movie "Strapped" soundtrack. I'm telling ya'll, that song used to make me cry - you know, before I became all 'hard' and stuff. *smile*
Then the brother had the nerve to put out "I Was Made to Love You," and "You Got That Love." That's the ONLY man I would have let scream at me like that
Well, until I get there to hear him sing again, in that Heavenly Choir, "DJ Don't" will have to do.
I have yet to even touch on Reggae this entire month and I have a reason for that. As far as I'm concerned, in Reggae, there's Capelton, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and everybody else. I'm sorry, but that's just how I feel.
Don't get me wrong, I like Lady Saw, Buju Banton, Elephant Man and I enjoy TOK from time to time. But, there is something about hearing "No Woman, No Cry that makes me want to sit down and eat a plate of curry chicken, peas and rice while I'm inhaling the scent of salt water and patchouli (because that is as close to smelling Mari J as I can get).
There's something about Marley's voice and his lyrics (what I can understand of them) that made me fall in love with his music a long time ago. My favorite song by him is "Redemption Song" then "I Shot the Sheriff" because of the beat and then, "No Woman, No Cry." Let me put it this way, I'm on my third copy of "Legend" in 10 years. Since I had to "give it a rest" a few months back, I can't remember if I need another now or not.
Now, let's get back into some Gospel and Soul music. As far as I'm concerned, you can't do either without bringing up the name Sam Cooke. Now this dude had a sweet voice. My mom and my uncles turned me on to Sam Cooke when I was really young in the back yard at my grandma's house during a cookout. My mom started singing the verse to "Bring It On Home To Me" and my uncles joined in and they didn't sound half bad either.
After I heard that one, I had to know who sang that song. They told me and from then on, I was after all the Sam Cooke I could get my hands on. If you scroll through the folders on my mp3 player, you'll find everything from "Touch the Hem of His Garment" to "Sixteen." And for those of you who frequent my spot, I'm sure you heard my second-favorite song ever, "A Change Is Gonna Come."
Cooke is a man who should have been featured in the songwriters post. He wrote the majority of his own music. He passed in 1964 but his songs have been remade, redone and performed, albeit horribly except in the case of the group Solo who did the FOOL out of "Cupid."
Who are some of your favorites who are singing in that Heavenly Choir?

"This is for my homies ..."

"... in that gangsta lean" grave yard of one-hit wonders.
Since starting these posts on Black Music Month, I have been thinking about some of the greatest artists who have ever done this music thang. But I got to thinking, some of my favorite songs were from people I never heard from again. These are folks commonly referred to as One Hit Wonders.
Usually, nobody knows where these One Hit Wonders came from and often don't care because they don't stick around long enough for us to get to know them. I'm not going to bore you with a litany of folks who came and went just as quickly. I, instead, want to hit you in the face with some songs that I'm sure you haven't thought about in years.
Let's begin, shall we?
First of all, I'm sure you've connected the title to the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (D.R.S.) song, "Gangsta Lean" from 1994. This is the only slow song I remember the drug dealers in my town blasting on their sound systems while they rode through the neighborhoods real slow-like.

Ya'll know what I mean, usually the drug dealers have the nicest cars, with rims and tinted windows and the loudest sound systems. Usually, to be seen, these folks blast the hottest song on the radio. Well, that particular year, "Gangsta Lean" was that one. Plus, it seems to be one of the only songs where a thug can be sensitive, pissed off and religious at the same time.
What about H-Town? Ya'll remember them? I know they had two hits with "Knockin' Boots" and "Emotions" but they still fit into the category. That had to come out around '93. I remember because they made it into a Christmas song, "Knockin' Boots for Christmas." That had to be a Luke Campbell idea, right?

Ya'll know he had to come back with an R&B version of the 2 Live Crew or were they supposed to be a fine version of Jodeci? Either way, they only had two decent songs. I used to watch the video just to see those twins. Umph, umph, umph. They don't make 'em that look like that in the music business anymore do they?
What the freak ever happened to Domino? Ya'll know the dude who looked like Harpo from "The Color Purple." I can't be the only one who remembers him. He came out in probably '94 or '95 with that whinny song, "Ghetto Jam" that Halle Berry was singing the Hell out of in "Losing Isaiah" when she got arrested in that store when she was high on crack.
That should have been her Oscar winning moment, not that "MAKE ME FEEL GOOD!" madness in Monster's Ball. It should have been "GHET-TO JAMMMMMMMMMMMMM!" Wouldn't that have been the junk?
And what about MoKenStef? Ya'll remember "He's Mine." Why in the world were these chicks singing a song gloating to some chick that even though her man cheated he goes home to her? I'm sorry, but I can't co-sign on that. And what was up with the words to that song? "He's mine, you mata had him once but I got him all the time."
Yea, you got a cheatin' dude all the time! And shoot, I'm with the comedienne Debra Terry, "Everybody knows that a 'mata goes on a sandwich."
How about J.J. Fad? I haven't heard anything from them since "Supersonic." It was the bomb though. That's another song that my sister and I used to tear up. I didn't know many of the words so I got to be that chick at the end that said, "summa lumma lumma lumma summa lumma lumma lumma, yea that's it!" *teheehee*
And, The System's "Don't Disturb This Groove." I was little, but I used to love that song. "Hang a sign up on the do-aaaa, that says, don't disturb this groove ..." That song actually came in handy a little later in life. >-)
Another one is "Me & Mrs. Jones." A lot of people don't realize that nobody heard of Billy Paul before or after that song. Shoot, you know I was feelin' it because, well, I am Mrs. Jones - well, Miss Jones anyway. When I first opened up my MySpace account, that was the song playing on my profile.
Another one of my favorite songs is "Cool Like Dat" by Digable Planets. I hadn't thought about that song in years until the other day when I was watching House Party 3 and the former member, Half Pint, said, "Uncle Vester's cool like dat!" Ya'll can't tell me that song wasn't the bomb. The video was crap-tackular but the song was bumping.
Another song my little cousin brought up to me tonight was "Tender Kisses" by Tracie Spencer. I'm sure I would have come up with it some time this week, especially seeing as how Family Matters just became a part of the Nick @ Nite line up. The episode where Eddie and his friends snuck into her hotel room and Travis from "227" was her manager. The only other song I remember from her is "Love Makes Things Happen" with Babyface and that is my joint - still.
And I can not talk about one-hit wonders without talking about Subway, not the sandwich chain, the group. You remember they had that song "This Lil' Game We Play" with 702 when they had four members. That song used to be the jump off! Still, my favorite song by Subway was "Fire."

And last, but not least, the modern Jackson 5, Soul For Real. Was "Candy Rain" not the -ish? I was in the seventh grade when this song came out and my friends and I used to walk up and down the hall of the "seventh-grade building" of my middle school singing this song. We even tried to do that retarded looking dance.
What are some of your favorite one-hit wonders?

All the ladies in the house ...

... say "OWWWWWW!!!"
So, I know I just did a post about R&B crooners and it was well-received. But ya'll know I couldn't leave out the ladies! Let me preface this post with the fact that I am mentioning my favorite artists. Some of you might love them as much as I do, but that's not important. smile What is important is these ladies' songs have provided the soundtrack for love, life and getting over it all!
Let's kick things off with my favorite gospel vocalists. First off is definitely Yolanda Adams. I don't have to tell you that this woman has one of the most angelic voices I've ever heard. My daddy, the man who tells people he left his eye in Vietnam, said that her voice "will bring a tear to a glass eye." And he's probably right. Lord knows she brings tears to my eyes when I hear some of her songs.
When you hear Adams' name, a lot of folks immediately think about her CD, "Mountain High, Valley Low" and while it was a good one, it's not her best work. Don't get me wrong, I can listen to "Open My Heart" all day long, but give me her early stuff, like, "The Battle Is the Lord's," "Is Your All on the Altar" or "My Liberty."
Her last studio-recorded CD, "Day by Day" has some nice songs on it too. Everybody and their mama is familiar with "Victory" from "The Gospel" soundtrack. My favorite song on that CD though is "Be Blessed." There's something about the lyrics that can make me stop dead in my tracks and want to "fall out and cry" like my daddy says.
The Clark Sisters have also had that affect on me. I talked about Twinkie Clark in my songwriters post but I didn't mention her sisters Jacky, Dorinda and Karen. These ladies have voices that make you want to throw something at them.
I'm one of those people who gets the majority of their Word through music. That's why if the music is not on point at a church, I probably won't be there long. Anyway, you don't have to worry about it with these ladies. Most folks probably know their songs, "You Brought the Sunshine," "Is My Living In Vain" and "Pray for the U.S.A." My favorite, however, is on their CD, "Live - One Last Time." It's simply called, "Instrument." While Donald Lawrence certainly wrote beautiful lyrics, the ladies sang that song like no one else could. The first few lines are:
Plastered and molded, sculpted and folded,
Designed to praise in every way
Gifted with music, anointed with lyric
You made me an instrument of praise

Simply beautiful!
Let's move on to more heavenly voices. Though we know Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin for their rhythm and blues music, they all got their start singing in church. Now, they've all gone back to recording gospel music, so it's all come back full circle.
Starting with my favorite of the three, Gladys Knight. While she has a nice gospel CD, I'd sooner pop in her Greatest Hits CD. Most of that music is the stuff she recorded with the Pips, or the Pimps as I said when I was younger.
I know I compared Jill Scott's voice to pecan pie and Jaheim's voice to velvet but I swear to you I can NOT find a single thing in which to compare Knight's voice. I thought, and thought and though some more about what has both a rough and smooth texture. The only thing I could think of is sandpaper.
Have you ever run your hand across sandpaper? You feel these raised granules that will scratch you if you're not careful, but it will soothe you if you are careful with it. That's her voice. I'm a big fan of raspy voices and hers is, well, probably the most raspy voice I've ever hear on a woman, with the exception of Leela James.
When I hear songs like "If I Were Your Woman" and "Midnight Train to Georgia" I hear pain in her voice, but I hear that twinge of 'I'm gonna be alright' too.
Next, let's go to Re Re. That's THE QUEEN, Aretha Franklin ya'll. I really, really love her voice and I don't know why. Under normal circumstances, high soprano voices irritate the mess out of me. I don't know why they just do. Hers doesn't though.
When I think Aretha Franklin, I think "Think." I think, "Natural Woman," "Pink Cadillac" and "Spanish Harlem."
Here's a tid bit of info on your girl, Smarty. I enjoy singing karaoke from time to time. I lost my karaoke virginity in a karaoke bar in Jackson, Tenn., back in 2004 with a very good friend of mine and a co-worker singing a drunken version of "Respect."
I don't drink anymore now, but back then, I used to toss back Blue Motorcycles and Long Island Iced Teas with the best of them. Anyway, we looked through that book and it was the ONE song we all settled on immediately, after a bit of liquid courage. We ended up having to scream the song into the microphones because the rest of the ladies in the bar lifted their drinks and started singing with us. If she doesn't record another song, that will live on long after she's gone.
Now on to Patti Patti, Labelle that is. Here's a woman who is beyond explanation, I won't even try. I'll just say that she's awesome and incomparable and she's going to be that way until someone can dethrone her. To be completely honest with you, I'm not sure that there's anyone who can.
I said earlier that Gladys Knight is my favorite and she is but Patti LaBelle is in a class all by herself. This woman was the lead singer of the group responsible for "Lady Marmalade." Come on now, that's the only song that EVERYBODY knows, saints and sinners alike. The saints know it because they've condemned it forever. The sinners know it because, well, it's all about sin. ***hehehehehe***
She's not all about the sin though, my favorite Patti LaBelle song is "You Are My Friend." That song alone makes me love her. Listen:
Just before her recent gospel CD, she released a duet of "Ain't No Way" with Mary J. Blige. Now Mary, that's that chick! She is hands down the best singer of my generation and she will NEVER, NEVER be knocked off that pedestal.
I can still remember hearing "Real Love" for the first time. We were more fascinated with the beat than anything. How could you not hear that cow bell at the beginning of that song and not yell out, "Ohhhhhhhhh," and be up in time to start dancing when the beat dropped.
Shoot, between my sister and her best friend, I learned every single word to the "What's the 411" CD. My favorite on there was "Sweet Thing." I'm not a fan of remakes but Mary did that! Then came "My Life" which by far is some of, if not, her best work. Pull it out, dust it off and listen to it. After you've done that, get "Share My World" and try listening to "Seven Days," "Missing You," "You Are Everything" and "Be With You" just one time.
And then, I DARE YOU to pop in "Mary," you know the one with her profile on it that shows the scar on her face. "All That I Can Say" is that CD help to bring out all the emotions that were "Deep Inside" me. I could go on and on about her but I don't have the space.
I hope that Fantasia will be the one to pick up the torch and move it on through the new millennium. If she could just get a stylist and a hair dresser who don't think it's funny to have her out here looking like a damn fool, she'll be alright.
Since we heard her sing on American Idol and saw her movie "Life Is Not a Fairytale," we've all come to love the North Carolina native. (You know I had to throw that in there, right?) The girl has got pipes for days and she's another one who can sing the phone book and I'd probably buy the CD. You know by the time she gets to 'S' we'll all be standing up and cheering because she's tearing it up!
She's put out a few solid singles and two good solid CDs. I am just ready for her contract to be up with the American Idol producers so that she can get on to working with songwriters and producers who can sky rocket her career. I really love the song she and Aretha Franklin did together. I think that is the perfect marriage of the old school and the new.
Well, I could go on about Lalah Hathaway (Please check out her new CD), Betty Wright, Angie Stone, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Deborah Cox, Syleena Johnson and a 'slam slew' of others but then, you all won't comment. And I want you to comment. Drop a line to let me know who your favorites are and don't be shy about it!

Oh, remember I said these ladies' songs have provided the soundtrack to my life? Well check it out!

Opening credits: Livin' - The Clark Sisters
Waking up: All That I Can Say - MJB
Average day: Rock Steady - Aretha Franklin
First date: Where Do We Go From Here - Deborah Cox
Falling in love: Saving All My Love For You - Whitney Houston
Love scene: No Words - Syleena Johnson
Fight scene: 20 Dollars - Angie Stone (I only GOT 20 dollars)
Breaking up: Free Yourself - Fantasia
Getting back together: I Believe In You and Me - Whitney Houston
Secret love: I Got Love On My Mind - Natalie Cole
Life's okay: Wish I Didn't Miss You Anymore - Angie Stone
Mental breakdown: Chain of Fools - Re Re
Driving: This Will Be - Natalie Cole (I was listening to this when I got my ticket)
Learning a lesson: I've Got to Use My Imagination - Gladys Knight
Deep thought: Brotha - Angie Stone
Flashback: Family Affair - MJB
Partying: Tonight I'm Gonna Let Go - Syleena Johnson
Happy dance: Just Fine - MJB
Regreting: What Goes Around - Lalah Hathaway
Long night alone: Greatest Love of All - Whitney Houston
Death scene: Someone Watching Over You - Yolanda Adams
Closing credits:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Have you seen them?

What's happened to the R&B group?!
A while back, you couldn't turn on your favorite video show or sitcom for that matter and not see your favorite R&B group. Now, the only groups you see on TV are Day 26 and Danity Kane and that's because they have their own reality show. A while back, groups were on scripted shows and they liked it!
Remember this?

OK, before I get carried away, lets go back, waaaaaaaaaay back. Back into time. And while we're there, let's highlight some really great groups. First off, let's visit the some famous groups of the 70s. Let me just say that this in no way reflects my age. I wasn't even thought about until late 1981.
Anyway, growing up, my parents exposed my siblings and I to a lot of great music. Of course we heard all the Motown we could stand. But thanks to them, we were also exposed to groups like Kool & the Gang, The Stylistics, The Whispers, Sly and the Family Stone and my personal faves, The O'Jays.

While we were growing up, my mom used to play in softball tournaments on the weekend. She used to load my sister and I into the back seat while she and my step dad fought over whose turn it was to drive and she'd put on the cassette she'd made of her favorite songs.
I don't remember whether or not it was the same tape but for some reason, the first song was almost always, "Backstabbers" or "992 Arguments." My sister and I had to be about nine and 11 sweatin' it out in the back seat of my mom's Pontiac Sun Fire riding up and down the interstates of North and South Carolina to those tournaments.
Our ages are important in this because I don't know sisters who are that close in age who don't argue all the time. Lord knows we did our fair share of arguing and it seems like every time my mom would turn on one of those two songs, we'd stop and start singing.
"Nine hundred and ninety-two arguments, nine hundred and ninety-two, we're just a fighting, nine hundred and ninety-two ..."
And it never failed, we'd scream the last line and point to each other, "I'M SICK OF YOU!"
After that, I can almost guarantee a song by The Manhattans would come on. By that time, we were cool again so we each had a part to sing. Back in the 70s, it seems like every group's member had a part. You had the lead singer who sang every single song. Then you had the dude, or chick, with the deepest or the raspiest voice to do the "rap."
Since I had the raspier voice of my sister and I, I always, ALWAYS, had to do the talking. Well, that's until "Kiss and Say Goodbye" came on and she wanted to do the talking. Wouldn't you?
"This has got to be the saddest day of my life. I called you here today for a bit of bad news. I won't be able to see you anymore because of my obligations and the ties that you have ..."
Come on! Ya'll know that song was the joint! Anyway, we had to take turns doing that part but she always got to sing lead. (I'm still a lil' salty about that.) Anyway, we used to tear those songs up!
While we were learning those songs from my mom's "hey day," we were also learning the songs we were growing up with. Now, I was born in '82, my sister in '79 so we are children of the 80s. With that comes groups like New Edition with both Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill, Levert, After 7, Guy, The Boys and a few others.
Don't act like my siblings and I are the only ones who used to push the coffee table out of the middle of the living room so that we could learn the dances from the "If It Isn't Love" video. Truth be told, we tried to learn the dances to all the Bell Biv Devoe videos too but the camera would hardly ever let you see the WHOLE routine.
And guess what, when groups like Jodeci, Boyz II Men, Hi-Five, EnVogue, TLC, XSCAPE and SWV came out in the early 90s, it only got worse.
We knew all the dance steps to all their videos and wouldn't you know it, we each had our singing parts. When an EnVogue song was on, I got to be Maxine. In TLC, I was T-Boz and in XSCAPE, I was Kandi until she hit that high note in "Understanding." The bottom line is, we had fun - and good music.
What do they have now? Day 26 and Danity Kane. I'm sure they can sing, well, no I'm not because I know NOTHING about them except that on the show, Puffy keeps saying the "Bitchassness is a disease." I couldn't watch.
Whatever happened to groups getting together in grade school or high school or growing up together or chance meetings? Every since that weird-looking white guy put that boy band together on ABC, Puffy, and seemingly the rest of the world, has been fixated on created the "super group." It doesn't happen. Look at what happened to Fatty Koo.
Fatty Koo, a sextet out of Columbus, OH, had the potential to be the best group in music since, shoot, I don't know, since a very long time. Five of the six met on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. The bus provides free hands-on programs high schools, colleges, Boys and Girls Clubs, music festivals, concerts, conventions and community organizations.
They later added a sixth member and even had a reality show on BET (gag) called "Blowin' Up: Fatty Koo." That show was non-stop drama because they didn't know each other and they were constantly getting on each others nerves. Their career, as a group, was over before it got started.
It kinda sucks because since they split in '05 or '06, there haven't been any really successful groups. Well, B2K, but after all that nonsense with Chris Stokes and Omarion's success, we forgot about them and they were really pop anyway. The bottom line is we need to get some R&B groups or at least revive the greats.
Since recent photos show that K-Ci and JoJo look like somebodies granddaddies, I doubt seriously we'll be seeing a revival of Jodeci. But, Alicia Keys did revive three of my favorite girl groups from the 90s at this year's BET Awards (double gag).

Even though they missed a few notes (Miss Keys included) it was still good to see all the original members back together, especially EnVogue. I swear, they got gone too quickly. I wish they would get back together and do a tour or something. I think as fans, we deserve to have great groups to see perform.
***On a side note, I see why Miss Keys prefers to sit behind a piano and not dance. She can't.***

Who did I miss? Who were your favorite groups?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The best artists you haven't heard of ...

I say yet because there is no doubt in my mind that all of these folks are destined for greatness. Sadly, the success of musicians and artists is dictated by how commercially accepted their music is. That, for the lack of a better term, sucks!
It is pretty much a fact that even on the most widely selling commercial CDs, the best songs never become singles. Think back to when they used to make cassette and CD singles (I might be telling my age here), usually, if the artist or singer had three or four decent singles, it made you want to buy the entire project. And, when you listened to the whole thing, you favorite song was usually NOT a single.
With that logic, I have, what I call a talent, for finding the best singers and artist that may have a deal but no commercial success or who have yet to secure a deal or are on independent labels.
Now, you lucky readers of my blog (and my black music month posts), have the good fortune of seeing clips and hearing songs by five of my favorite artists and singers that you haven't heard of yet. Let's get things rolling with some gospel because you know I got to give the Lord his do for creating these talented voices.
Up first is Greg Drumwright and the Singers & Musicians ALIVE!. I came across Greg's music while doing my weekly gospel show "First Light" on Saturday mornings on 90.1 WNAA-FM in Greensboro. (Yea, it is a shameless plug!)

Anyway, I remember Greg from N.C. A&T. I met him on several different occasions and he is a former student government association president from my esteemed alma mater. Anyway, Greg is the senior pastor at the Citadel of Praise in Greensboro, N.C. According to his MySpace page, he's been preaching for a minute and has been singing and performing for the past 15 years.
The choir's CD, "A Long Time Coming" was released last year and has sold out on the independent artist Web site CD Baby. You can still hear some of the songs on his page. My favorite song is "My Hope".
Since we're already here, let's stay in my great home state of North Carolina and introduce you to Kim Person. Now Kim, this girl can saaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnggggggggggggg!!! I first heard her sing at my grandmother's church, Minter's Chapel First Born, Inc., down in Boardman, N.C. Trust me, that town is as small as it sounds.
Anyway, I had to be about six or seven and it was the church's annual homecoming celebration so we were in there for a hot minute. I remember getting restless and whoever the program's M.C. was called her up front to sing, her last name was McDowell then. Her grandmother requested that she sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." When I tell ya'll she sang the FOOL out of that song, that's what I mean!
She has since moved on from Minter's Chapel and is now singing at conferences and churches and she's put out a couple of CDs of her own.
She recorded her latest project, "Speak Life" in December. I was supposed to go but something came up and I had to miss it. I hate I did, but to pacify me until I get my hands on the new project, I listen to my favorite song by her, "G Double-O D God" and I got to You Tube to look at this clip:

Now, let's take a jump to the sole hip hop artist on my list, Ozy. First off, I don't hate hip hop, I hate the commercialized crap that has become of a lot of the hip hop artists of late. You know who they are so I won't bother to name names.
So anyway, I like Ozy because he reminds me of the hip hop artists of old, like De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers and Pharcyde. His flow sounds a little bit like Common but not exactly. He's not rapping about killing and disrespecting folks.
Listening to him is a breath of fresh air because I am not offended at the end of the song. It seems like he's having fun with it and that's what it is all about. Don't get me wrong, it is the music business so some money has to be made but you should also have fun with it and he seems to be doing that.
My favorite songs by him are "Fire Fly" and "Staywitchu." Go to his MySpace page and listen to some of his music.
Now we've come to the two people that you guys have simply GOT to hear. I have grouped them together because they've worked together before and I have a video of them singing a duet. It's priceless - simply priceless!

Since ladies are first, I have got to hip ya'll to my girl Shelby J. First off, Shelby can sang her face off and yours too! At the present, Shelby is singing back up for Mr. Purple Rain himself, Prince.
I'm not sure if she had to "purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka" but he's certainly recognized her talent. I'm not sure if you've had the great fortune of hearing Prince's "Planet Earth" in its entirety but if you have, you can hear her putting that "stank" in the background vocals of just about every song on there. The one that you hear her voice in the most is "Chelsea Rodgers".
I had the great fortune of meeting her long before her days with Prince. Her mom used to work at the same radio station where I do my show and Shelby used to come by from time to time. She used to sing background for Mary J. Blige, D'Angelo, fellow D'Angelo alum, Anthony Hamilton and Martin Luther.
That's the brotha she's singing with in the video. He might look a little familiar to you because he used to play with The Roots and his single "Daily Bread" did well. If you've seen the video, you might recognize Nona Gaye of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions movies.
Martin Luther has also appeared in the movie "Across the Universe" and on the TV Show "Love Monkey." That's where you might have seen him. While I think he's a decent actor, I'd much rather him him sing and play guitar.
The only CD I have by him is "Rebel Soul Music" and I lie to ya'll not, I still listen to it on a regular basis. There's something about his blend of R&B, Funk and Rock that is off the hook!!! "Daily Bread" is a nice song, but he's got this song called "Growing Pains" that talks about the things you go through immediately after you move away from home or graduate or whatever. My favorite line from that song is: "You kids don't know how good you got it, once you get grown, it's on!"
My favorite song on that CD varies from week to week, sometimes from day to day if I'm going through some things. Today, my favorite is "Sleep Walking".
Who are some of your favorites that I should be aware of but I'm not?

***All pictures were taken from the artists MySpace profile pages***

Monday, June 16, 2008

I'm in the mood for love ...

... simply because they're singing. So, I got the idea last week to do a Black Music Month post on R&B crooners after I thought about R. Kelly's contribution to music.
Say what you will about him being a pedophile, allegedly, but they man made some good music. I'm not going to say it had a good message, but it did sound good.
Before I get too far into this, let's examine the meaning of the term "crooner," shall we?
Wikipedia defines a crooner as: an epithet given to a male singer of a certain style of popular songs, dubbed pop standards. A crooner is a singer of popular ballads and thus a "balladeer". When you throw "R&B" in the mix, umph, umph, umph!!!
I started this thing off talking about the Pied Piper. I know everybody is tired of him these days, but you must give credit where credit is due. The same man who we are all sure that he has a thing for young girls, gave us songs some great songs that all began on his first CD, "Born Into the 90s." That's when he sounded like Aaron Hall.
On the first CD, we got songs like, "Honey Love," "Slow Dance" and my personal fave, "Dedicated".
I won't go on and on about this but I will mention his more mild songs like "If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time" and his duet with Celine Dion, "I'm Your Angel" from the "R." CD. Some more of my faves include "For You" from "12 Play," "Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby" and "I Can't Sleep" from the "R. Kelly CD, "I'll Never Leave," "You Made Me Love You," and "Forever" from the "Chocolate Factory" CD. I am kind of feeling his single "Same Girl" with Ursher.
The Chattanooga-born and ATL-bred Ursher started off his career singing ballads that were produced and written by DeVante DeGrate of the great 90s group Jodeci (I got a groups post coming later). His first single was "Can You Get Wit' It" when he a chubby little kid about 14 or 15 years old singing songs about what he had no business singing songs about.
Anyway, a few years later, Ursher returned with his multi-platinum CD "My Way" that gave us songs like "You Make Me Wanna," "Nice & Slow" and my absolute FAV-O-RITE Ursher song, "Bedtime". It could be my favorite because Babyface wrote it and Shanice is singing background. But, anyway, since then, he's given us songs like "You Got It Bad" from the "8701" CD and another one of my favorites, "Burn" from "Confessions (The Bonus Tracks)."
He just released his latest CD "Here I Stand" to much critical acclaim, but personally, I doubt he'll ever top "Confessions."
Speaking of confessions, I have one to make. Thought I like a lot of their songs, they are sooooooo not my favorite crooners. They sing about sex too much. Don't get me wrong, I can listen to it, but they don't leave anything to the imagination at all.
While I do enjoy "Ignition" and "Seduction", I prefer to listen to those songs like Freddie Jackson's "Tasty Love" and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" or his "Let's Get It On. If you just have to HAVE a song about the actual "act" go with something like that.
Now that I think about it, a lot of Gaye's songs were about sex. Another one of my faves is "I Want You" and "Distant Lover" and "After the Dance" - well, I guess it's how you interpret it.
But anyway, the difference here is you wouldn't mind hearing his smooth, satin-like voice in your ear singing something suggestive like that. I know I wouldn't. Shoot, the only way it would fly with the kid is if it's coming from a voice as sweet as his.
I really want to know whatever happened to a nice love song?
I understand that it seems like every chick I know, excluding myself, has something for the thugish dudes. If you need a thug in your life, more power to you. Just don't call me to borrow money to put on his books. But, hey, there's even a crooner for the thug in ya!
Jaheim is really doing his thing and has been since his single, "Anything". You can tell me whatever you want to but the first few lines of the verse are pure poetry.
"Now baby I don't want to be fictitious, saying I can get you anything is ridiculous,
But anything you ask that anywhere near my grasp it's yours ... "
If you like your crooner with just a 'hint' of thug, you gotta go with Baby Boy himself, Tyrese. Granted the brotha can't act worth a crap, but he can sang his face off. Who woulda thunk that Coke commercial would have lead to so much?

Not me! I remember we used to walk around literally murdering the runs of that little melody he was singing. There is nothing worse than a bunch of stank, sweaty kids walking up and down the street screaming that dang song in the middle of a summer day. :-)
Anyway, his first single, "Sweet Lady," was so sweet that I don't think it will ever die. In fact, I know it won't. Not as long as there is Urban Adult Contemporary radio stations, aka, KISS-stations, all over the country.
Now, he has songs like "Lately," "What Am I Going to Do" and "One." If he keeps putting out songs like this, he's going to be responsible for a few people's kids, too.
When you want to get to some real "love-making" you gotta go with Joe. That chocolate brotha can sang!
A lot of folks think that his career started with "All the Things Your Man Won't Do" from the "Don't Be a Menace ..." soundtrack, but it didn't. His career, as we know it, started in '93 with his single "I'm In Love."
After that, he "blow-up-chuated" with his CD, "All that I Am" and I am not afraid to share that I lost "it" to that CD. Needless to say that CD will forever be etched in to the corner of my mind - forever. I don't care what else he puts out, "No One Else Comes Close" will always and forever be thee song!!!
According to my girl Eb the Celeb, Joe's got two new projects coming. Visit her spot and check it out.
Since we're on the subject of fabulous songs, let's get into some Luther Vandross. Not lil' Luther, BIG Luther. That man could sing the phone book and have you reaching for your nearest companion for a lil' cuddling and maybe something else too.
I wonder just how many weddings and conceptions (not receptions) Luther has provided the soundtrack for. I wonder if there is a way to gauge that. Let's be honest, Luther's music has been around longer than a lot of us have and you just gotta wonder how many women fell for raps that were centered around "Love Won't Let Me Wait" and "If Only for One Night."
I'm gonna be honest, that might have worked on me. Shoot, it might work now if I'm not on top of my game. I'm a simple chick, a dude can kick one of those, "If This World Were Mine" raps and I'd be all bug-eyed and giggly like a teenager. The good thing about that song is there were no lies told. He didn't promise her ANYTHING. He said, "IF this world WERE mine ..." That's decent.
I know I left out Brian McKnight, Gerald Levert, Barry White, Johnny Gill, Teddy Pendergrass, Tank, Jeffery Osborne and Keith Sweat. I plan to do a "Gone Not Forgotten Post" and this was getting a little long and some of ya'll got ADD. :-)
Who are some of your favorite crooners and why?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I guess R-ra had to reach back to find his theme song for today.
A jury of his "peers" found the Pied Piper 'not guilty' on all 14 counts in his kiddie porn case.
I am not a person who can't admit when she was wrong. TravelDiva was right. In my May 13 post, "Finally!!!", she predicted his acquittal. I don't have any feelings on the verdict one way or the other. I just hope he won't take a page from Michael Jackson's book and put himself in compromising positions with underage girls. The next time he hooks up with a chick, he'd better ask for two forms of ID and a notarized letter signed by her mama 'nem that states she is who she says she is.
Now that he's been acquitted, Kells is free to go back to making the Soundtrack to Fornication. Don't try to act like you ain't ever, uh, you know, while listening to some R. Kelly. I wonder how many 8th, 9th and 10th graders exist now because of "12 Play." Or, how many 7, 8 and 9-year-olds are here as a result of "Get Up On A Room," "Half on a Baby" and/or "Etcetera."
Kinda makes you think, right? I think it's probably the same amount of us (people 27 and younger) who were conceived while our parents listened to some Luther Vandross or Marvin Gaye.
Either way, I would like to congratulate/wish him luck/pat him on the back/pray for him. What is it you say or do when someone dodges a 15-year prison sentence in a federal prison? Everybody I've ever known who faces charges that serious actually have to go.
Then again, they couldn't afford a team of four lawyers either.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Well, it seems that I've been tagged, musically, by TravelDiva. I decided to play along.

MEME Rules:
1. Put Your itunes/ music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER WHAT!!!After you’ve answered all of the questions, tag 5 other people and then let them know they’ve been tagged to do the meme themselves!

IF SOMEONE SAYS “IS THIS OKAY” YOU SAY? "Betcha'll Never Find" Chantay Savage (lol)

WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY? "Bossy" Kelis feat. Too Short (rotfl, OK, maybe)

WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL? "Do You Love What You Feel" Rufus feat. Chaka Khan (hmmmm, not sure what that means, lol "Do ya, do ya, do ya ...")

HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY? "Nappy Heads" Fugees (OMG, I did fight with the 'fro today)

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE? "Go With Us" Talib Kweli from the Ear Drum CD

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? "Grillz" Nelly feat. er'ybody (lol, "smile for me Daddy")

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU? "Sucker MCs" Run DMC (lol, I am NO sucker MC)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR PARENTS? "Is My Living In Vain" The Clark Sisters (not sure what this means)

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN? "If Ever You're In My Arms Again" Peabo Bryson (OK, so I have been thinking about the ex- lately)

WHAT IS 2+2? "Your Latter Will Be Greater Than Your Past" Martha Munizzi (I don't know about 2+2 but this fits EVERYthing! The link is to the one by Israel & New Breed)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND? "Victory" Brenda Waters (I swear, this gospel song fits her life right now, "I only know God's gonna make a way for me. I know he's gonna do it, VICTORY!!!)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE? "Lost Without You" Robin Thicke (hmmmm, don't know what this means :-/)

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY? "We're Marching to Zion" Carlton Pearson(Oh Yea!!! This isn't the right one, but you get the idea)

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? "I'm Your Natural Woman" Deborah Cox(hehehehehe whaddaya know, I am a 'natural' woman)

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE? "In the Rain" XSCAPE from the Love Jones Soundtrack. This fits soooooooo much.

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU? "Beauty" Dru Hill (this has to fit because, well, I'm the baby and they got it right the last time!)

WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING? "Peter Piper" Run DMC (hehehehehehe)

WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL? "Hiding Place" New Jersey Mass Choir (OMG, this is the prettiest funeral song EVER!!!)

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST? "Make It Last Forever" Keith Sweat (???)

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET? "Hate That I Love You" Rihanna & Ne-yo (I plead the fi-zif)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS? "Through the Rain" Tanya Blount (had to throw it back on you, this is accurate, Lord knows they've been there for me through all my life's storms)

WHAT SHOULD YOU POST THIS AS? "Music" Leela James(How appropriate)

I tag Sheletha, Eb the Celeb, my classmate Brooks, Case Quarter and one Mr. James Tubman.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Don't mean a thang ...

... if it ain't got that twang! At least that's the case for the handful of black country music artists.
Country music has somewhat of a storied history, especially as it relates to black folks. Other than gospel music, country is probably the most diverse genre thanks to the artists, song writers and it's beginnings.
The term "country music" first surfaced in the 1940s and was often called "country and western" music. The most unique thing about country is the fact that it derives from Celtic, folk, blues and gospel music. With all these influences and the evolution of music, it's only natural that country music would change and adapt with the times, so would the artists.
The most famous black artist in country music is, perhaps, Charley Pride. Because I wasn't that into country music, I'd never heard of Pride until the episode of "Martin" when WZUP went country.
Well, I did a little research and it turns out that Pride has a reason to be the most well-known black man in country. The man has sold more than 76 million records, had 36 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country charts and became the first black person to perform on stage at the Grand Old Opry in 1967 since 1925. The first was DeFord Bailey who was a harmonica player.
Anyway, Pride blazed the trails of country music for future artists like Trini Triggs, Aaron Neville, Cowboy Troy, Carl Ray, John Amos and country's newest sensation Rissi Palmer. Since I'm almost certain that the only one of these people you've ever heard of is Aaron Neville, I'll give you a small tid bit of information and a work sample from them all.
First off, I'm sure you guys know Neville from his song, "Tell It Like It Is". One thing that I found interesting in doing my research is Neville is classified as a country singer. Once I thought about it, it did make sense. When he sings with his brothers, they are classified as blues and I can see that too.
But as far as the country, Neville does a lot of songs with that country sounding guitar in the back ground and you can hear that Louisiana bayou come out of his voice every time he sings a note. Check out his remake of Brian McKnight's "Back at One."

Moving on to Trini Triggs - I'm not really sure about him. I did read on his web site that he is from Louisiana. He got his start playing in "dance" bands in high school. Then he moved on to doing two nights a week in a local restaurant.
While doing local performances, he picked up a pair of managers and went on to write his own music and perform with his idol, Pride on the song, "One Mississippi, Two Mississippi." Of his songs that I found, the one I like most is "Horse to Mexico"
One of the artists I found doing research is Cowboy Troy. I first saw Cowboy Troy on the CMT show "Gone Country" while I watched Bobby Brown, Sisqo and the chick from The Brady Bunch make fools of themselves on that show.
The Cowboy is relatively a newcomer to country music. His first CD, "Loco Motive" debuted in 2005. In the past three years, he's had an opportunity to work with the likes of country powerhouses Big & Rich and Tim McGraw. I know those names probably mean nothing to you, but trust me, that's a great thing for a new artist.
Anyway, I thought Cowboy Troy was kinda sexy and decided to look him up. He performs what he call Hick Hop. It is exactly as it sounds. He is rapping over a country beat and hook and it's actually not that bad. I'm not saying I'm going to rush out to Sam Goody and snatch it up but I would definitely purchase a couple of singles off iTunes to put on my mp3 player for when I need a little variety.
While I was looking up these artists, I came across the most authentic-looking country artist that I've ever seen. This man even has the thick a-- mustache that all stereotypical cowboys have. His name is Carl Ray - he even sounds like he ought to be singing country, doesn't he?
Anyway, there really isn't much information on the Web about him, but his MySpace page lists his location/hometown as Knoxville, Tenn. Either way, I think the guy has got a good voice. Visit his page to listen to his music, my favorite is "Play That Country Music Black Boy." It's a funny title but I like the stories he tells in the music.
Country's newest sensation, and one of my favorite new singers, is Rissi Palmer. If you're just looking at her, you'd swear she belongs in the neo-soul box, but she doesn't. The girl can sing. She got her start singing in clubs and bars like so many other folks.
Unlike a lot of other folks, she was discovered by a network TV exec and was allowed to audition to the new "Star Search." She not only auditioned, she went all the way to the finals. She's worked with some of country music's hottest producers and has come out with some great music. My favorite by her is her remake of Jordin Sparks' and Chris Brown's "No Air." Take a listen:

Now that we've taken on the serious, I've got something to make you laugh. John Amos is now performing country music. Yes, you read right. John Amos, also known as James Evans Sr. from "Good Times," also known as Cleo McDowell from "Coming to America" and also knows as Kunta Kinte from "Roots."
No, seriously, he is singing country music. I first heard about it a while back on The Tom Joyner Morning Show but I didn't have anything to peg it to. Now that's it's Black Music Month and I'm writing about country artists, what the heck?
He performs what they call "renegade country" which is the "talking, story-telling" kind. My favorite and perhaps the funniest of his songs is "We Were Hippies." That one is all talk and call and response. He does have one song where he's singing more than he talks. That one is called "Hopelessly".
Now that you've had a small lesson in blacks in country music, see if you can find some other artists and let me know about them. I'm sure they need all the exposure they can get.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm OK now ...

... last night, not so much.
The finale for Ego Trip's Miss Rap Supreme on VH1 was last night and it did not turn out the way I expected. Though she wasn't my pick to win it all, I would like to congratulate Rece Steele on her victory.
The last time I did a post, I think Lady Twist had just gotten the boot. In case you're not as avid a viewer as I am, let me catch you up. When I last posted about M.R.S., Bree, Nicky2States, Chiba, Ms. Cherry, Byata and Rece Steele were the last ladies standing.
Bree exited the show after a less than stellar showing during the video challenge. That week, she, Chiba and Ms. Cherry were teammates competing against Byata, Nicky2States and Rece Steele to create the best video possible. They had to write a song and make a video using some of the craziest props and extras.
Surprisingly, I thought the low-budget video and song, i.e. Bree's team, was better because they were more creative. The problem was Ms. Cherry out shined the rest of her group members and one of them had to go. It really wasn't that shocking to see Bree go. She stayed longer than I thought she would.
Next to go was the foul-mouthed Nicky2States. With only five folks left and two team captains being chosen from the pageant, that left three ladies to be chosen for a team. That means that three people were on one team and two on the other. Byata was teamed with her arch enemy Chiba and Ms. Cherry, while Nicky2States teamed up with Rece Steele.
For that challenge, the ladies had to write a song that would cross over to the pop audience. Byata said being the white girl came in handy for that challenge and after a power struggle with Chiba, Team Byata reigned supreme. That left Rece and Nicky up for elimination. After the most emotional elimination of the show, Nicky had to leave, but all was well because she pledged that she was going home to "get some."
Last week's episode left Chiba, Ms. Cherry, Byata and Rece Steele to battle it out to get the top three. That show was probably the most funny because Chiba tried to get back in the other ladies good graces and ended up drinking a bit much and stupidly admitted to maybe using previously written rhymes.
Long story short, there was no pageant so it was every femcee for herself. Since there were no teams, nobody got immunity. Chiba did win the competition but of course the other ladies assumed that the rhyme was previously written.
Byata threatened to quit, YoYo fussed her out like Tyra Banks did that model chick Tiffany when she got eliminated. Hearing the ladies' concerns about a possibly cheating Chiba, Search and YoYo deliberated and opted to have Chiba step off because they didn't trust her. I was happy, because, well, Chiba had been on my good nerve for a couple of weeks.
Last night left the top three, Ms. Cherry, Byata and Rece Steele. First off, I think I predicted that Rece Steele was leaving in like week four, but she didn't. I picked Ms. Cherry and Byata for the top three and what can I say, two out of three isn't bad, right?
Anyway, the final pageant was a battle between the three ladies left. Ms. Cherry being from ATL, she wasn't fluent in battle rapping. Byata claimed she doesn't battle, but that didn't stop her from ripping Ms. Cherry a new one, but she went easy on Rece. Rece, however, did NOT return the favor. She cut both of them down like blades of grass and of course breezed through the pageant.
Ms. Cherry had to go because, well, her battle raps sucked. I would still buy her music. I hope Lil' Jon or Luda picks her up because the girl is alright.
That leaves us with Rece Steele and Byata in what I call the "Battle of the Burroughs." Both ladies are from New York City, but Rece hails from the Boogie Down Bronx while Byata hails from Brooooook-lynnnnnnnnnnn!
Their challenge was to write a 16-bar verse and a song complete with a hook to perform in front of an audience and guest judges Mona Scott from Violator Management and Missy Elliot. Both the ladies stepped up to the stage, did their thing and Rece Steele reigned "supreme."
There could be several reasons that the judges chose her, I personally was rooting for Byata. I think the girl can rap, she's got a nice flow to her and she's about having fun. Rece on the other hand is a little too hard for me. She was talking about murdering folks and I can't co-sign on that.
She can battle rap her butt off, but I wasn't feeling her song or her 16 bars in the finale. But, that's why I wasn't judging, they know more about hip hop than I do. I just listen to what I like.
Personally, I think that Rece needs to link up with the Rza, the Gza, Raekwon the Chef, Method Man and the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan. For one thing, we've been knowing since '94 that they "ain't nothing to F@#* with" and I think they need one of those ride or die chicks on their squad and she's it.
All in all, it was a good show. A wonderful alternative to the regular "Celebreality" nonsense on VH1. I can't wait for the next season.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

They've got soul ...

... and they're super bad.
The year was 1988. I was six-year-old second grader. My mom picked my sister and me up from school in her beige Plymouth Horizon. We said our hellos, put on our seat belts and she turned up the radio. Unconsciously, we all started to sing:
"Heeeeyyyyyy little Wal-ter, heeeeyyyyyy little Walter listen, heeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyy little Walter, something's gonna get ya little Walter ..."
Of course, that wasn't the first time we'd heard that song, but it is the first time I remember hearing it. That day, I think, was the start of my love affair with neo-soul.
It hasn't always been called neo-soul. In fact, until the "boom" of neo-soul artists in 2000, nobody knew what to call it. From what I understand, they just stuck it in the R&B category because the artists were black and well, black folks listened to their music.
The term neo means recent or new. And, soul, well, soul has several different definitions. My favorite is the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.
I took it a step further and looked up the meaning of soul music and this is what I got: a fervent type of popular music developed in the late 1950s by black Americans as a secularized form of gospel music, with rhythm-and-blues influences, and distinctive for its earthy expressiveness, variously plaintive or raucous vocals, and often passionate romanticism or sensuality.
We can go in several different directions with this but we won't. To me, soul music is just that, it's music for your soul. And I don't know about ya'll, but music for me is one of the best things in life.
To me, soul music inspires some of the same feelings I get when I'm in church. Sometimes, it makes me want to cry. Sometimes, all I can do is wave my hand in agreement. And there are other times when the voices or the instruments simply send chills running through my body.
Really, the definitions could imply that soul music is necessary for life. I know it's necessary for mine.
While 1988 was my first memory of this "neo-soul," it is certainly not among my most vivid. In fact I have several that date back to the eighth grade. Come with me as I go back down memory lane.
Shortly after the Tonies, Mint Condition took over the airwaves sending everybody "swinging" with one of my favorite songs til this day, "Breaking My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)."
In 1995, D'Angelo burst onto the scene with this "Brown Sugar" CD with the title track that my sister and I still argue about. We can't agree whether he was talking about a chick or some weed. Anyway, the CD was all that.
That's the same year that Amel Larrieux and Bryce Wilson, also known as, Groove Theory, came out with that banga "Tell Me." The song was a one-hit wonder but it did introduce us to Ms. Larrieux who has an awesome voice.
Enter Eric Benet and Maxwell in 1996. I call it the year of the sexy brown brothas with falsetto voices. Benet got his break singing "Let's Stay Together" from the "A Thin Line Between Love & Hate" soundtrack. Maxwell's "Urban Hang Suite" was awesome too. But I have to be honest, I was a little late catching onto it. The single was "Acension" and hey, I was in the eighth grade and I couldn't pronounce it so I wouldn't listen to it.
Around 1997, Erykah Badu emerged on the music scene with a unique voice, singing the sweet melodies of songs that bordered on the serious and the silly. Between my sister, my brother and me, we knew every single word of the "Baduizm" CD. Here's a tid bit of useless information from my life. That's the first CD I had to replace because I wore it out.
Then of course comes Lauryn Hill, before she went through her hiatus and her Miss Hill phase, with "The Miseducation ..." and she shattered the mold. She had a blend of soul and hip hop that just made sense together.
After that, it was pretty quiet until my freshman year at A&T when I had the great fortune of hearing Jill Scott's "Gettin' In the Way" and India.Arie's "Video." I can't begin to describe to you how much I was feeling these songs when they came out.
Jill Scott's voice was just so sweet and rich. I swear if pecan pie had a sound, it would be Jill Scott's voice. And "Video," ya'll, that song is responsible for putting me on the path to self-acceptance and I will always be grateful to her for that song.
In that same year, Musiq, that's when he was the Soulchild, came out with "Just Friends (Sunny)." The thing I remember most about that is when that song came out, there was a listening party on campus and one of my favorite professors, Dr. Myra Shird, started talking about that song in class.
"You know, I like that. There's no pressure, no games, it's 'let's just be friends'."
Man you gotta love Dr. Shird, ain't that right Eb?
Now here we are eight years later and we've seen artists like artists like Anthony Hamilton, Goapele, John Legend, Van Hunt and my current favorite, Ledisi, have all surfaced.
Hamilton hit the ground running with his debut CD "Comin' From Where I'm From" while Goapele has kept us groovin' with her singles "Closer" and "First Time." Legend is quickly becoming the very thing his name suggests, a legend, with his sultry voice and smooth tracks while Hunt's music sounds like the soundtrack to our favorite blaxploitation films.
But Ledisi, this sista is in a class all by herself. I've heard her compared to the likes of Scott and Etta James. I say she embodies all of the great qualities of her predecessors and a whole lot more. I'd only heard one song by Ledisi when I brought her CD in October. After I got it, I swear I didn't stop listening to it everyday until about February. That thing is fiyah, everybody should have one - a real one, not one you burned from somebody.
To show you how bad this sista is, watch her skat with the incomparable Rachelle Ferrell:

Neo-soul has given me a new outlook on music as a whole. In this sub-genre of music lies real musicians, singers and just artists period. It's been neo-soul that kept me from losing my mind in the abyss that is commercial music. And finally, I can go to a concert filled with like myself. You know, the urban, black, neo-hippies who wear natural hair, dress in old Army fatigues, burn incenses and smell like patchouli. I finally fit in! Well, musically anyway.