Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: TREY SONGZ "TRIGGA"



Trey Songz has been around a minute. And by minute I mean damn near a decade trying to break through. He's been close before-- haunting radio with a few outside three-pointers like 2010's somber "Can't Be Friends",  a beautiful ballad that never elevated past R&B-centric formats and "Bottoms UP" the banger with Nicki Minaj. But despite an obvious amount of talent, true mainstream success proved elusive. Part of that problem are the blurred lines around his brand: how exactly was Trey really different from the giant pack of R&B singers?  It's a crowded lane that for years has included Chris Brown, Usher, Ne-Yo, Miguel, Frank Ocean, Jason Derulo, Taio Cruz, not to mention the white boys swagger jacking the R&B lane like Timberlake and Thicke. Competition for slots is ridiculously fierce.

That narrative is going to change with the release of TRIGGA, Songz' sixth album, released this past Tuesday, July 1st.  The fever pitch started when he stormed radio with the sexually-charged lead single "NaNa"- complete with a hook that rode the melody from the iconic Fugees smash "Fu-Gee-La", and taking it back one MORE generation, actually the Fugees sampling Teena Marie's R&B classic "Ooh La La La"- in other words: slam dunk smash. It peaked at 22 on the Hot 100 but continues to live in power rotation across the country on FM radio, while Trey mocks the sexytime lyrics on national TV with Jimmy Kimmel.  Doesn't hurt to have a healthy sense of humor about your sexuality, especially when persistent rumors dog his own.

And sex is all TRIGGA is about, unapologetically.  Like Usher's career-defining album of Confessions-- a record that is now ten years old believe it or not-- Trey is going all the way in on the topic, covering every aspect of sexual encounters from random one night stands to getting laid by girls from other countries & ethnic groups, ("Foreign"), and on "Disrespectful"- the women of his already-committed friends, or even more overt on "Smartphone"- pocket dialing his main chick while hanging with the side chick. Sex in every way you want it served up.  The theme of this effort: Banging.  And, truth be told, banging is reflected in seriously dope production value as well-- that's exactly what saves this from being tragic or overreaching in any way.  There are several big hits to come from TRIGGA. This is one of those old school "R.Kelly" joints we used to get--- an album that grinds on you for ten songs straight, all about the fuckin'.  Those efforts tend to become best sellers, so check the hate.  Trey is coming up with this record, no doubt.  Expect a full crossover- something that has eluded him for FIVE previous efforts, despite the fact he can truly sing his ass off.  Yeah its sexual for days. Aiiiiight. And? Best to put any political correctness and/or personal inhibitions we may want to project on it aside, buy a few scented candles and get busy tonight.  That's all TRIGGA is tryin' to be. Enjoy the ride people!



 


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Ebro Interview is Entertaining

We go back, waaaaay back in the day with Ebreezy, the OG EBreezy who worked in Sacramento and Portland FM radio, long before Chris Brown was around. So many things we love about this interview-- just the mention of the old OLD school clothing store is enough--but its also a story about hard work, starting at the bottom and earning your way up using talent and intuition. Ebro's definitely done that. This is the only dude in the universe who is actually fun to argue with too.



Monday, November 18, 2013

Scourge of the Cell Phone Audience


The smart phone has made us a stupid audience. I often wonder what it feels like for the artist, having to stare at the glare of 500 devices instead of into the actual eyes of fans.  They must mourn the loss of that live connection. After all, isn't that the point of being there together?

Too many people are completely missing the moment by recording it, choosing to experience the shows through a peephole instead of immersing themselves in the collective awesomeness of what it is to witness a great live performance. Dude- are you really going to play that video again? C'mon.

That led me to wonder: is this a generational thing or a technological fad?  Or is it due to music being merged with "celebrity" more than it is "musicianship"? Smart phones hit us all at the same time, yet some of us feel like we need to validate our experience RIGHT THEN by posting something on instagram, the social media equivalent of perceived obsolescence- if you don't announce yourself as "BEING THERE" via posting then you might as well have not been. Ridiculous.  Wait till the end of the show to talk about it!  Oh ohkay it might take the 'instant' out of your instagram.  Someone please invent "Blastogram" that allows us to put someone's ass on public blast when they willingly disrupt the atmosphere of others in a selfish pursuit to be socially relevant.

What shed the most light on this however, was attending the live shows of two wildly divergent artists and observing the behavior of the crowds at each.  What a tale that told.

The first was Kanye West. Artist, yes, but more of a celebrity now, sadly--although that didn't stop every (predominantly male, 18-22 year-old)  kid around us from mouthing along to every word of the Yeezus album with full-throttle passion.  Plus the obligatory cell phone held high in the air recording everything, no apologies.  Maybe this show begs for it: Ye delivers spectacle on every level from the staging to graphics to messaging via that massive, 60-foot circular LED Screen that literally delayed the tour when it was damaged (its a major part of the show so I get it). But I found his costume especially curious: the assorted bejeweled Masks. This dude performed damn near the entire show with his face completely covered.  A fabric wall between him and the 20,000+ camera-ready-crowd.  It felt much more like an act of rebellion than some avant guard expression of fashion.  Kanye pushing back against an impersonal seige of cellular hell his particular "artistic" spectacle enthusiastically invites.

But the next live show, less than a month later, could not have been more different. Ben Harper. Acoustic. 1500-seater. Not only was there not ONE cell phone visible in the (considerably older) crowd, when people did dare to take a picture-- only during the times Harper told stories in-between songs--they apologized profusely to those around and took the pic quickly, no flash.  I'm not a Ben Harper super fan, I like him, but have never been to a live show of his before.  Completely blown the fck away by this dynamic, I've just very, VERY rarely seen such mutual respect an artist and audience have for each other.  Not to mention, musicianship is the spectacle here; a wholly different kind of awe to experience the mastery of an Asher lap steel guitar than be dazzled by a giant television flashing 60-foot abstract messages. 

One show's not better than the other, they are just different-- and they invite very different reactions from the people attending them.

We're in the age of the cell phone, there's no going back. But there is this concept of getting a clue.  Too few artists demand the respect of paying attention from fans.  Some whine openly about this issue (Bruno Mars) some are downright enraged about it (Jack White, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and others are passive aggressive and wear masks.  It's okay to say STOP and LISTEN, people.  What I experienced this weekend is that this is actually possible at a live show, and boy did it give me hope.

Kanye climbs a mountain in a mask, surrounded by a sea of cell light.

Ben Harper discusses his beloved Asher guitar and besides me, only one other person dared to take a picture.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Album Review: littleGiant:EPic by CHIEF WAKIL


Hip hop music is of the people and when done right, always leads them. Unfortunately in 2013 this genre is reflecting some of the same class divides our country is; with widely divergent economic disparity.  We have a small but powerful ruling class who run the game with a privileged hand, a hardworking middle class whose size is shrinking by the minute, and a rapidly expanding but totally poverty-stricken lower class. 

Rap's Reigning 1%- Jay, Em, Ye, Drake/Wayne. The working middle class-  J. Cole, Future, Mac Miller/Macklemore, Rick Ross plus those middle side hustlers who currently get over much more for their brand expansion than music these days: Snoop, Pharrell, ASAP Rocky, Tyler The Creator/OF,  Pitbull, even Minaj. We have the intellectual class who are outside every 'economic' bracket but still doin big things: Lupe, Talib, Nas, Ab-Soul/Black Hippy.  But after that there's a gigantic gap of mediocre that primarily inhabits the radio (talking to you Flo Rida).  And most of the new hip hop is a rapidly expanding LCD, where concepts and rhymes are just poverty-stricken in every way. Unfortunately too many to name.  That's the shit I Don't Like, nah.

There is hope though, and it resides in the future, the kids, the next generation who seem committed to fighting the expanding wackness with the riches of intelligence and some truly original, lyrically sensational, thoughtful records.  There's a gang of 'em too, all poised to change things: Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Earl Sweatshirt, Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper. 

Got a name to add to this list: Chief Wakil. 


 

This past Tuesday was all about the return of the Rap God Eminem, but on the very same day a kid from Kansas City, whose dad traveled from Nigeria to achieve that American Dream for himself and his son Wakil, who three years ago relocated to Los Angeles to go for the gold, finally did-- victoriously dropping his debut album "littleGiant:EPic". 

From the opening track "Sadly Mistaken", Chief Wakil sets the tone for the experience:  "For those who said I would never make it/ well I came a long way but I'm glad that you hated/nah you ain't a hater just innovative/ was just your little way of giving me motivation."  He positions himself as part of the underdog generation, the "little giants united" he says, and speaks to them with a rhyme style, inflection and production quality that is clearly influenced by Kanye West-- the College Dropout version of Kanye. Wakil talks openly about this obviousness on the album, while effectively living up to that comparison in both writing and execution which makes this particular new music discovery exciting as FUCK.  

Chief Wakil is officially an artist to watch.  The "Baby Ye" delivered a four star album of lyrical mastery woven with intelligent, highly relatable themes and layered them all up in a very mass appeal production aesthetic.  This is no easy feat to do totally solo, which makes him a standout from a peer like Bada$$ who is lyrically compelling but musically, had many production collaborators on his debut.  Wakil is more on the level of Chance- a one man force to be reckoned with.  The story he tells us is a passionate, honest chronicle of a "littleGiant" in this world- dream seeking, dream crushing, total redemption and the strength of character it requires to achieve that in the end.  SPECTACULAR! 

Other standout tracks include "Flow," "Identity Crisis," "Million Trillion," and "All My Life."  littleGiant is worth every dollar you spend but more importantly- this is an artist you need to know about immediately.



Download the album on iTunes here:


And look this dude up on Vine too-- he's racked up 116,000 followers delivering the same mix of wit, humor and passion. Check some of that out HERE

Monday, September 30, 2013

Admired The Most: The Story of Polly Anthony


In this new era of Lean Forward it's tempting to assign the kick-ass female dynamic to any woman whose been able to effectively ascend up the corporate ranks to snatch a crown, a situation still regarded as "victorious" in 2013 when it should have long been the norm.  Still a man's world tho.

In the case of executive Polly Anthony whose indomitable spirit just left the world, we're not talking about simple career ascension. We're discussing a woman who was one of the genuine trailblazers, who didn't just LEAN in, she PAVED the entire road for the rest of us in the music business and she did it with intelligence, dignity, wit and class.

I've always had an "admire from afar" relationship with Polly, not because she wasn't available or invested but because she scared the freakin' crap out of me, Really.  Polly was a tough cookie with elegant creme frosting but more than that for me was the first person I truly, truly looked up to in the biz.  An icon, an aspiration.... and a stark harbinger.  All of those forces combined were an intimidating combination, but I watched her closely.  How she sacrificed quite a bit for her storied achievements, more than the men who were her peers had to that's for sure.  Probably my future too, I thought back then when I first met her at age 17.   She handed me the Music Director of The Year Award at the Bobby Poe Convention. I was thrilled and scared to death.  The Powerful Woman: who represented both an exhilarating and frightening future at the same time.

Polly Anthony was the person who taught me it was okay being that chick; the one with an undying desire to be all that you can be in a man's land, no matter what.  I honor and cherish this incredible lady's influence in my life at all times.

Rest in peace Polly.  Thank you for kicking so much ass.
 





Monday, May 20, 2013

Yeezus Has Spoken


It's been a minute since we've had new music from Kanye West but as usual, he's poised to exceedingly deliver again, for all the reasons you hate to love him-- starting with album's martyr-laden title, Yeezus, which has successfully pissed a bunch of people off weeks before release.

As he so prophesied in his own rhymes on the very first album ("Everybody feel a way about Ye but at least y'all feel SOMETHING") you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in tune with popular culture who doesn't have a vigorous opinion about West.  The fact that no one can be passive about his existence is the very testament of his importance as an artist.  Plus, few critics argue against the experience of being fully immersed in West's singular creative rages- and its always rage-- because these tantrums are not only musically spectacular but lyrically heavy, laced with the kind of potent social observation and commentary that makes the attending audience very fucking uncomfortable. 

If you feel some kinda way about Ye?  Guess what: he WINS.  Kanye's whole mission in life is to knock you out of that comfort zone, and challenge the audience beyond his core fans in ways most of his peers don't even bother, or don't have the inherent talent, to consider doing.  Whether you interpret Yeezus to be an arrogant self-proclamation about a Savior Of Hip Hop or a self-pitying victim complex about endless media persecution-- you're right.  This artist exists in eternal duality, struggling to explore both sides of himself for our enjoyment.  And his next breakdown is scheduled for June 18th.

Check the lyrics Kanye posted for the first two songs we've heard from the new album, both of which he performed on SNL this past Saturday. Then judge him for yourself.  C'mon, that's what you do anyway, right? 




Monday, November 19, 2012

American Music Awards 2012: Bieber Loses Girl, Gains Award


The American Music Awards were last night.... and after a humiliating weekend where this kid was photographed being literally kicked to the curb by his movie star girlfriend (poor thang) I'm sure this was a pretty good rebound for the ego. No denying the Biebs is a good-hearted spirit but man needs the testosterone to kick in already. He's 19 right? Still such the little feminine flower!

Annnnnd there's a "New Media" award now.  If Psy's the winner seems more appropriate to call it the "viral video" award since that's how we all heard about him, but maybe no one wants something that sounds a bit like airborne sickness.   Apparently he's gone 'Full Metal America' to extend his 15, dude even put on Hammerpants last night. Fun times.  No surprises with the rest of the awards though, and the winners are:


Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist – Justin Bieber

Favorite Female Country Artist – Taylor Swift

New Media Award – Psy

Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded by Nicki Minaj

Favorite Alternative Rock Artist – Linkin Park

Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist – Usher

Favorite Country Male Artist – Luke Bryan

New Artist of the Year – Carly Rae Jepsen

Favorite Country Band/Duo or Group – Lady Antebellum

Favorite Electronic Dance Music Artist – David Guetta

Favorite Pop/Rock Album – Believe by Justin Bieber

Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist – Nicki Minaj

Favorite Country Album – Blown Away by Carrie Underwood

Artist of the Year – Justin Bieber