QUIN, born Bianca Leonor Quiñones, is an American Afro-Latina singer/songwriter/producer born in Los Angeles, California. She describes her sound as “fantasy soul” (later introducing her label, Fantasy Soul, named after the genre she coined) and music that “has the power of versatility,” which I couldn’t agree with more. QUIN dropped her debut EP, Galactica in October 2016, which includes a feature from G-Eazy on the song “OVER AGAIN”. She describes the EP as “the first chapter to my Fantasy Soul Universe.” Her song “LIGHTSPEED” was involved in the Visions of Harmony project with Apple Music and NASA, which aspired to educate the public on the Juno spacecraft by combining science and art.
A year later, in September 2017, QUIN released her DREAMGIRLEP, which she called a sequel of her album Galactica, which features collaborations with Syd on the song, “Sticky Situation”, and the artist Buddy, on the song Happened to Happen. In August 2018, she released her song “Remind Me”, described by The FADER as “daydream-inducing antidote for all life’s worries.” Later that year, QUIN teamed up with Vans for a campaign highlighting the importance of creativity and personal style. Having opened for stars like Erykah Badu, Gnash JMSN, and heading a solo performance at THE FADER Fort at SXSW, AFROPUNK and Galore’s Girl Cult Festival, QUIN is more than deserving for a spot on your playlist.
If you’ve not yet been introduced to Nesta, then let me now introduce you to you this artist. Born in Jamaica, Queens to Jamaican parents, Nesta (formerly known as Zan) grew up with Rastafarian influences, that can be heard throughout his music. His sound is an audio sun-splash, infusing modern day R&B, trap soul and his instinctive reggae/dancehall vibes.
Nesta has himself said that he wants to be “the Bob Marley of the trap-infused R&B game” and so far he’s on the right path. Here’s a fun fact, Nesta’s father was the lead singer of the reggae band, The Visionaries.
Listen to Nesta’s “I Love Leaves” below, and let us know what you think.
Lord Bones is an underground rapper that originates from Atlanta Georgia. To date, he’s released two projects under the name Lord Bones in the form of his 2017 project, End a Life, and his 2018 project, End a World. Not much is known about this artist, in all honestly, but his music not only speaks for itself; it screams! Although his appearance is similar to the rappers who are heavily saturated within the rap game on the radio, Lord Bones is far from the norm. If you were expecting to hear trap music form him, you’ve come to the wrong place. Lord Bones spits straight flames, using conscious rap as a medium to get his stories across. Let us know in the comments what you think about this artist’s music. Hot or not?
Not a whole lot can be ascertained from Tyler Coolidge‘s social media channels; he covers himself with a balaclava and fan interaction is kept to a bare minimum. Until recently, no one knew what he looked like. Perhaps the most telling things we can draw from his elusive internet presence is his hometown of Castro Valley in California and his influences – Drake, John Mayer, Frank Sinatra, Kanye West, Biggie, Sade, Jay-Z and Young Jeezy. I’d wager that the closest comparison would not necessarily be with any of the aforementioned artists but fellow California rapper Earl Sweatshirt and Mick Jenkins, albeit with a more pop and r&b driven approach. Each time a new artist comes out and conceals their identity, you just know the music is straight flames! Check him out!
Valee Taylor, known mononymously as Valee, is an American rapper known for his mixtape 1988 which got him signed to Kanye West’s record label GOOD Music. He released GOOD Job, You Found Me on March 2, 2018. The first song he released was with Ty Money, titled, “Cash Don’t Bend“). After all of the ridiculous public statements seemingly designed to provoke controversy that Kanye West has said, there is literally only one thing that shouldn’t garner any arguments: “Valee’s style is the most popular in rap, period.” The Chicago rapper who became a star, a year after signing with West.
Music on the strength of his mixtapes and hometown love — isn’t the most popular newcomer in hip-hop, though he could be considered one of the most influential by far. If you haven’t listened to him yet, odds are you’ve heard someone that’s copying his strangely soothing sound. Just look at the way SoundCloud artists like Lil Pump and 6ix9ine, defiant anti-technicians, are beginning to debut new, more complex flows (often with clumsy results). Most tellingly, they’re getting softer in tone.
All of this can ultimately be traced back to the way Valee raps. His verses sound quiet on the surface, but they conceal complex flows and consistently surprising wordplay. “Some people say on Twitter that I’m whispering,” says the 30-year-old artist, who until relatively recently was making his living customizing cars. “I’m just laid-back and not too loud, and kind of shy a little bit.” Is this artist’s style of rap up your alley? Let us know in the comments.
Mills’ style of rapping has been compared to the early work of Kendrick Lamar, especially Lamar’s 2011 album Section.80.This comparison alone should be enough to at least spark a music interest in IDK.In September of 2016, Mills released his album, Empty Bank and premiered it on Forbes Magazine. The album addresses having financial issues, an anxiety Mills wanted to tap into because it is widespread and taboo in the American mindset. In the following year, Mills released his debut studio album,IWasVeryBad, which was released through Adult Swim, to much acclaim. No IDK’s here though, without question, IDK is a definite must hear! Check out the song below and leave your thought son this phenomenal talent.
Over the last few years, St. Louis native, MattyWood$ has carved out a spot in the rap scene, racking over 3.5 million streams with the successful independent release of three projects: Backwood Bandit, Dopeboy, and ForeverFaded. He’s quickly built a huge fan base and collection of music that showcases both his lyrical ability and refreshing melodies.
Returning with an even fresher sound in 2018, Matty released his second full-length mixtape, I’ll be Fine, which is comprised of tracks that depicts Matty’s experiences living in the “lou,” while also discussing how persevered through life’s challenges. Give him a listen. I guarantee you, you’ll either be roped in by his lyrics, or his super-dope samples.
Cam The Artisan is a soulful rap artist hailing from East Atlanta. At only 21-years of age, his blend of blissful, soulful hip-hop has taken a hold of the Atlanta creative scene and helped him build a devoted fan base. His family has a strong musical background, with a father that leads the music ministry at his church, and an older sister, Isis, who makes up 1/2 of the goddess girl group, St. Beauty, currently signed to Janelle Monae’s Wondaland label.
While proud of his family’s musical history, Cam is eager to build his own legacy and help usher in a new era of MC’s in Atlanta that are both lyrical and spiritual, and aren’t afraid to express themselves freely and authentically. Coming off the strong response to his single “Bliss” which has 600,000+ streams on Spotify, Cam released his first music project HUES in February 2019 beginning his journey towards a promising career in music.
Gaining popularity as a teenager, emerging R&B singer Arin Ray has exploded onto the music scene, following his 2011 audition onto the reality talent show, X Factor. Even though he didn’t win, he won over audiences across the country with his wise-beyond-his-years personality and singing voice. Moving out of the shadow of X Factor, Arin spent the last few years in the studio honing his craft, staying out of the LA party scene, becoming a father, and working on his debut album.
Ray self-released a single, “Turn It Up,” in 2013, but within a couple years had co-written songs for Jason Derulo (“Love Like That“) and Chris Brown (“KAE“). Ray resumed solo work with the Phases EP in 2016, the same year he was credited with co-writing songs for the likes of K. Michelle (the charting single “Ain’t You“), Ro James (“Ride“), DJ Mustard (“Another Summer“), and Jahkoy (“Don’t Stop the Vibe“). In 2018, Ray made his major-label album debut with Platinum Fireon Interscope. The album featured collaborations with Terrace Martin, Nez & Rio, and Childish Major, among others, and did exceptionally well on the music charts. What do you guys think? Let us know in the comment section below.
Asoh Black!, of the group, Free.All.Mind$ (with sndw. And more) is one of NYC’s prominent musical artist. He’s had a passion for hip-hop since high school when he began listening to artists like Kanye West, Big Sean, Childish Gambino, and many others. Despite living in a household that didn’t celebrate this music, Asoh developed a talent for writing lyrics and creating feel good music. In June of 2015, he released his debut EP, 20/20, and since, has been following his dream. Asoh and his team have been featured in highly celebrated publications like Lyrical Lemonade, Bandcamp, BBC1Extra, among other platforms. Keep your eyes peeled on this artist.
The amount of new talent seems to outdo itself, with the new stars getting younger and younger. Rightfully so, this trend continue when it comes to Houston, Texas native, Aaron May. May, who is known to uniquely blend old-school rap flow with a new-school sound and look, very much similar to J. Cole, who you can almost mistake him with while listening to his tracks.
His first track and corresponding visual in “Ride” is a smooth jam that speaks on his life, his friends, his women, his vices and more. Aaron May is coming with the fire tracks, and I recommend you tap in now before you’re just too late, and have to catch the bandwagon. Let us know what you think about May in the comments below.
Just months before his graduation from Cass Tech, the 19-year-old Detroit rapper known as, Curtis Roach, independently released his breakthrough mixtape, 2017’s Highly Caffeinated, which is an incredibly well-rounded and seamlessly produced homage to an era of hip-hop that precedes him.
A self-described “music-head,” Roach has long admired the work and style of rappers Tyler the Creator and Chance the Rapper, and takes notes from rock acts like Jimi Hendrix, Tame Impala, and Rage Against the Machine. Early on though, Roach gravitated toward the classics, admitting to jamming out to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder when he was still in diapers, so you already know the music is fire!!
Tank and the Bangas is an American musical group based in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. They’re rise in popularity came following their victory in the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest. The group was founded and fronted by Tarriona “Tank” Ball on lead vocals; Ball first gained attention as a slam poet. Other members include Joshua Johnson on drums and as musical director, Norman Spence on bass and synth keys, Jonathan Johnson on bass, Merell Burkett on keyboard, Joe Johnson on keyboard, Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph and Kayla Buggage on background vocals, Albert Allenback on alto saxophone and flute and Etienne Stoufflet on tenor saxophone. Writing in The Washingtonian, Heather Rudow described the group’s work as “lively fusion of funk, soul, hip hop, rock, and spoken word.”
The English actor known for portraying “Greyworm” on Game of Thrones, Jacob Basil Anderson is actually more than just an actor. He’s also a singer-songwriter, rapper, and record producer! As an actor, he goes by the name of Jacob Basil Anderson, but as a rapper, he uses the alias Raleigh Ritchie. His debut album, You’re a Man Now, Boy, was released in 2016 to very positive reviews, debuting on the Official Albums Chart, peaking at number thirty-two. He was also featured on Stormzy’s debut album, (Gang Signs & Prayer) on track 13 – “Don’t Cry for Me“. Curious to see what Greyworm—I mean, Raleigh Ritchie sounds like? Give his music a listen!
Really I draw inspiration from my surroundings, the experience that I go through, and, I draw from what other people go through.”
Twenty six year-old, Ohio native, Schenay Mosley, aka, “Schenay,” has one of the most both powerful, and soothingly soft voices in the game right now. Sounds like a contradiction, I know but it works. Being able to hit the strong notes that Beyoncé,, while also having the ability to hit those softer high notes that Aaliyah was known for, Schenay is for sure a ray of talent just waiting to explode. Keep your eyes peeled on this one.
Having moved from Ohio to Chicago to pursue her education and dreams in music, Schenay graduated with a degree in Business and Entrepreneurship from Columbia College with a concentration in music business. She may be new talent, but she’s already made a name for herself in the wake of her debut EP entitled, LOTUS on her birthday (August 29, 2018).
She’s performed on national tours and festivals including SZA’s CTRL tour, Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Afropunk, and has notably sung backup and played for Chicago’s emerging talent including, Adam Ness, and is currently singing background for Smino on his Hoopti Tour. Strong vocals, sweet natured, beautiful smile, what’s not to love? Following the Hoopti Tour, I had an opportunity to ask Schenay a couple of questions. These can be found below:
I know that you’re from Ohio, but you moved to Chicago, right?
Yeah, I moved there for college, Columbia College. I moved there for school and for the pursuit of music.
Can you remember the first time you wrote a song or started singing?
The first time I wrote a song? I was a child. I was like, seven, or eight, just writing lyrics down.
Where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?
Really I draw inspiration from my surroundings, the experience that I go through, and, I draw from what other people go through.
From Lotus, “Fall” and “Loversgold” are literally two of my favorite song. What is yours and which was the funnest to write?
My favorite would have to be “Acidwash”. Basically, when I wrote that song in 2017, it was a very trying year, and that song is just me describing it and expressing myself, what I went through, and how I could heal myself from it.
And, do we have anymore music videos coming from that particular album?
Yes! I’ve definitely been on the road traveling a lot, but I’ve been soaking up all of these ideas, so when I get off the road, I’m going to come hard with the visuals, photo shoots, and everything.
Who are your biggest writing influences?
My biggest writing influences? Hmmm… I would say…it’s hard. It’s my peers, basically. Like, I really love SABA’s lyricism. He’s amazing the way he puts his words together. Who else? I like old school writers, like Curtis Mayfield, and the way they told stories through their music.
Wait, with good taste like this, how old are you?
And who would you most like to collaborate with in the future?
…I don’t know to be honest. It’s because I still have to focus on building my own sound, so I can’t be thinking about who I kind of want to collab. with, um, so that’s hard. I’ll have to say no one for now. I just want to get me down, before I start bringing other people into the mix, so right now I just have to focus on my sound and my craft.
For our readers who have yet to hear your music, explain your sound in two words:
Are you a superhero fan? If so, Marvel or DC?
I mean yeah, but it’s not that serious to me. Like, I watch the movies, but I’m not like, a fanatic.
I know you’ve toured with Adam Ness, SZA, and (currently) Smino, so for someone who’s never toured before, what does tour-life consist of?
The weirdest sleeping hours, weird food choices, so you have to make sure you eat healthy. You know? Like, you don’t have to eat junk food all the time. With touring, you have to remember to always stay grounded. You don’t have to drink every night. You don’t have to party every night. It is okay to go to bed.
And, are you guys always on the bus?
No, we get hotels, and Air BNB’s to stay at for a couple of days, but we primarily live on the bus.
Other than the eating and sleeping schedule, how does touring effect you me romantic life?
I’m taken, so it just takes communication. You know, talking on the phone and stuff, but you have to have a partner who understanding that you’re going to be on the go a lot.\
Do you get performance jitters before you go out and perform?
Well some shows that I do, I get a little nervous before I perform, like there’s some butterflies that I feel before I start a show.
What’s next for you? All of the fans want to know. Any plans of new singles, EP’s? (If so, you have to come to Dallas! I’ll be the first in line to purchase.”
I’m going to be releasing a new EP hopefully by the end of this year, and I’ll gear up for my first full-length project next year. No possible names for the EP yet.
Chattanooga native, Kevin Adams Jr., better known as, YGTUTis a rapper who gained major attention following his critically acclaimed album, Preacher’s Son featuring artists Isaiah Rashad, and Michael Da Vinci, among other talented names. His song “G35” even went on to gain a feature on Billboard.
Reminiscent of a fusion between Slim Thug and Kendrick Lamar, and being musically influenced by the likes of of Tupac Shakur, OutKast and Lil Wayne, YGTUT gets his musical influences from both his father, who was a pastor and his mother who was a gospel singer. There’s really not more to say. His music truly speaks for itself! Have a listen below, and let us know if his music is fire, or burnt out.
For those of you who know about Phoelix and his music, this will merely be a reacquaintance with an old friend. For those who have never heard of this musician, prepared to be blown away by a new artist’s style. Phoelix is an all-encompassing creator rooting from The Fox Valley, a western suburb of Chicago. Having said that, to better understand Phoelix’s background, go ahead and think of an instrument. Go ahead; any instrument. Every instrument you could have possibly thought of, Phoelix had access to from an early age, and mastered. He got into production at age 16, from there he went on to meet Saba at one of his shows, and the rest is Chicago music history.
His production, sounds and vocals have been released on projects like Saba’s Bucket List, Smino’s Noir, and Noname’s Telefone & Room25albums.All of this collaboration aside, Phoelix he has released his own solo projects, GSPL and Tempo, which are already highly praised for pushing creative boundary. The influence Phoelix holds in the Chicago contemporary music and Hip/Hop scenes cannot be understated as he has created staple sounds of some of the countries favorite projects this past year. He is currently touring with Smino, and Earthgang, so if you haven’t had a chance to hear his music, why not live a little and hear him live? The remaining tour dates will be listed below.
“I can’t count how many times I’ve seen comments and memes from people flooding my social media pages, expressing how much they hate their jobs and how they can’t wait for the weekend. I’ve posted a few memes myself regarding my frustration about working a job that I hate because bills have to get paid. I had a conversation with my sister about how the thought of going to school for so many years just to prepare to work for someone for the rest of your life is depressing. I do realize that in order for the average person to sustain a lifestyle, that person has to work to earn an income. We have bills to pay, food and clothes to buy, families to support, and with whatever is leftover we want to try to somewhat enjoy life within the madness.
I came across an interview that J. Cole did with Angie Martinez on Power 105.1 recently and he spoke on the same topic. He said the following about working a job that you hate:
“We all sellouts….. You selling out. You going to something you don’t like. Why? So you can live and survive. To me life don’t feel like it’s supposed to be like that no more. It feel like somebody time gotta be worth more than $8 an hour. You spend your whole day going to work, 8 hours out of your day. A day is only 24 hours, you gonna sleep 8 of those so right away that’s 16 hours. Half of your day is making $8 an hour. Even if you get $15 an hour and they trying to raise minimum wage. A hour of my life is worth $15? Ok but I gotta do it, I gotta work, I gotta eat.”
He also touched on some other heavy issues that most people are afraid to discuss. He referred to capitalism as paid slavery, and he discussed how most people are out for themselves looking to make a profit despite what is being jeopardized in the process. He even went as far as to say the type of food we eat, music we listen to and type of shows we watch are detrimental; however, at the end of the day someone is making money off all of it. He stated:
“That’s what capitalism teaches us. It’s a every man for himself mentality. It’s a I gotta be on top….For me to be on top, I gotta have a bottom. For me to own McDonalds, I gotta have somebody at the bottom working at McDonalds. For me to own any company, any business… Capitalism is like… to me it’s like… I don’t know the alternative; I don’t even know if it exists. I don’t think we’ve evolved to something that exists yet, but capitalism is just paid slavery. It’s the same set up as slavery, only difference was slaves wasn’t getting paid.”
Martinez addressed his taking part in the Ferguson protests, and he opened up on how he feels that we live within a system that wants us to become so preoccupied and distracted with our own lives that we don’t have time to take a stand on anything or have compassion for someone else.
“The people at the top love the fact that everybody is so busy with themselves and their own lives that they don’t have the time to stand for something or to fight for something.”
“It’s graduate college and it’s like now I gotta pay my bills now, I gotta get this deal before my time runs out. Like life happens and you worry about all this stuff and you don’t have the time to fight for nothing no more. You don’t have the time to even care because I got my own kids… yea this man died, but it’s like yo bruh I got bills and twitter is popping right now, and Instagram is hot, and ‘Love and Hip Hop Reunion’ is on. It’s like they love to distract you and like keep you occupied while they just molest the world and milk the world. You know what I mean?”
Cole said a mouthful. He has been one of my top favorite rappers for a while now; not just because of his music but because of his mindset and intelligence. This interview made me have a new level of respect for him. He was very vocal about certain taboo topics on his latest album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, and he recently gave an emotional and powerful performance on the Dave Letterman Showthat even left the host almost speechless.”
I recently read an article by Cassidy Kakin that I couldn’t resist sharing with you all. His words were all too familiar, as a working adult, whose escape from the reality also stems from the impact of music. I’m pretty sure we’ve all woken up in the morning, dreading going to work as each hour creeps closer to the time we have to be there. “Do I really need this job?” we think. “Oh thank God, I’ve got two more hours until my alarms clock goes off” In America, it has become common to live only for the weekends, but why? Cassidy explains how the “American Nightmare” weighed heavily on his energy, his psyche, and his happiness, and what he did to reclaim all of these things. Give it a read, I promise it’ll be worth it.
“When I was 23, my mother-in-law to be was proud of me.
I’m two years older now, carrying a few pounds less stress and a few dozen more complexes when I wake up in the morning, and that notion disgusts me.
A lot has changed; new jobs, new relationships, new addresses have come and gone. Old friends with new homes and new wives. New perspectives. New hip-hop. Looking back, I can trace the first domino in all those toppling transformations back to the morning I quit my Silicon Valley tech job. And the night before, when Kendrick Lamar dropped To Pimp a Butterfly.
Rewind to February 2015, the first time I felt like a big kid. I’d been out of school and living on my own for two years, but by the end of that cruel winter, everything was different. I’d found my pocket. Professionally, romantically, it all looked on the surface like things were lining up.
The soundtrack was golden too. Joey Bada$$ stumbling into his grown man swagger right alongside me, Run The Jewels giving all of us young old heads faith in the culture. More powerful underground music than I’d ever swam in before, doing more for my heart and soul than I’d ever thought to ask for.
Something was wrong, though. Something was missing. A grating feeling, like I wasn’t who I was supposed to be, started to work its way deep between the cracks in the paint covering the white picket fence in our tidy San Jose suburb. And it took To Pimp a Butterflyfor me to understand why.
To imagine that my struggle as an upper-middle-class white college graduate living in the Bay and smoking too much weed shared any DNA with Kendrick and the demons he was battling is naive and bordering on cultural sacrilege. But I heard his words like I was staring at myself in the mirror, tasting the same anxiety and self-doubt that lingered in the back of my throat that Kendrick was trying to drown out in that hotel room.
March 2015, I was the COO of a small Silicon Valley angel-funded tech company that builds designer bike lights worth more than my dental visits. I was good at my job, but I wasn’t sure why, and nothing made any sense. To this day, I have no idea why my boss’ patent was worth millions of dollars, or why I was trusted with a company credit card when most months I lived on the wrong side of my checking account’s overdraft line and treated my FICO score like a game of Russian Roulette.
I had everything that the TV had ever told me I wanted, and none of it tasted right. The soundtrack was turning rotten. All the artists I loved looked scared. I remember feeling nauseous every morning, hearing about another death in the black community, another cop getting a paid vacation, another stain on my comfortable millennial ideals.
And I remember feeling anxious, like none of the community leaders I looked up to had the guts or vision to make the music I needed to hear addressing all of that fear and hurt.
Then, on March 15, Kendrick dropped.
To Pimp a Butterfly, starting with the opening track, felt as abrasive and refreshing as a Sprite wrapped in sandpaper.
“When I get signed, homie, I’ma buy a strap / Straight from the CIA, set it on my lap / Take a few M-16s to the hood / Pass ’em all out on the block, what’s good? / I’mma put the Compton swap meet by the White House / Republican run up, get socked out.” — “Wesley’s Theory“
Around midnight on the 15th, I was laying in bed, staring at Twitter and hating the idea of work in the morning like the rest of us. A few minutes later, TPAB landed in my iTunes folders, courtesy of its famously bungled release job, and I remember thinking as much about Huey P. as 2Pacalypse Now.
It felt like a weight was being lifted; like I was drinking my medicine for the first time in years. Kendrick rapped “I need forty acres and a mule / Not a forty ounce and a pitbull” and I felt like the trajectory of mainstream hip-hop was changed forever. Like I was witnessing history.
By 3 a.m., I’d squeezed in two back-to-back listens of TPAB‘s neo-fusion odyssey. Staring at that ticking clock and thinking about all of the emails I had to send in the morning, I walked myself through shutting my laptop and taking off my headphones and pretending like I cared about anything other than the voice of my favorite poet speaking truth to power.
But, of course, I pressed play again, diving a layer deeper into the radical mind of the artist just as revolutionary.
“And I’m insensitive, and I lack empathy / He looked at me and said, ‘Your potential is bittersweet’ / I looked at him and said, ‘Every nickel is mines to keep’” — “How Much a Dollar Cost“
From “How Much a Dollar Cost” to “Alright” to “Mortal Man” to “Complexion,” Kendrick refused to take the easy way out. These were protest songs for the people, not for TV endorsements. They were real images, not packaged politics.
I thought about Kendrick’s world, before and after fame, and I thought about what it meant to swing so hard for the fences as a major label artist with everything to lose. I thought about his unwavering convictions. Kendrick stared White America in the eye and showed us his scars.
Halfway through my third spin, as the hands on my clock were nearing 4 a.m., the prospect of my 10 a.m. budget meeting became the furthest thing from my mind.
When “u” came on, I heard it the way Kendrick meant for me to hear it:
“I fuckin’ tell you, you fuckin’ failure—you ain’t no leader! / I never liked you, forever despise you—I don’t need you! / The world don’t need you, don’t let them deceive you / Numbers lie too, fuck your pride too, that’s for dedication / Thought money would change you / Made you more complacent / I fuckin’ hate you, I hope you embrace it” — “u”
I’d been complacent, volunteering on the weekends and writing some rap think-pieces here and there, but otherwise totally detached from everything that inspired me. I knew the stakes were high, and that I wasn’t doing enough. I convinced myself that that was ok, that I had done my time and worked hard and deserved to live with whatever luxury was left after the rent and average self-destructive habits took their financial toll.
Yet, here was Kendrick. One of the most important figures of his generation. Taking the blame. Accepting that he hasn’t always been the leader he knows he should be. Looking in the mirror and seeing a 360-degree view of himself and resolving to cast out the lie that says we deserve to love every bit of ourselves, even the parts that don’t trust in who we can be.
By the fifth spin, with the clock reading 6 a.m., I didn’t have any illusions about showing up to a meeting at a job I didn’t care about. By the fifth time “Mortal Man” rang out, Pac’s voice cutting through whatever sheets of self-deception were still hanging on like a chainsaw through a Jell-O mold, I knew I didn’t ever want to go back to work.
So I didn’t.
That morning, I called my boss, turned in my two weeks notice, and was told politely that I should shut the hell up and chase my dreams sooner than that. That same morning, I also published a review of To Pimp a Butterfly that made me feel hungrier than I ever had for a life of thinking about rap and art and politics full-time and figuring it out along the way.
Since then, I’ve been a whole lot broker but also a whole lot happier. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, as a leader or a man or a member of my community, but I’m a lot closer than I was two years ago, staring in that mirror with Kendrick and finding reasons to hate myself.
To Pimp a Butterfly is an objective classic. More importantly, as it pertains to my own life story, it caught me at the right time. Kendrick showed me how to be a version of yourself that doesn’t hide from the nuances; his commitment to creating the album he wanted at a time when that album was needed inspires me to this day. I don’t think that I’ll ever fully move past that morning when I made that phone call.
Sitting there in my bed, iTunes on repeat, wrapped in blankets, but warm most of all with passion and the certainty that the right artist could change the world. Even if that only happens one late-night bender, one phone call to your boss, and one abandoned career at a time.
Kendrick helped me to appreciate who I am and who I hope I can become. Quit your job for an album listening session and join me in figuring it out, and I’ll see you in the “thank you” card aisle whistling K-Dot.
Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, singer-songwriter, Leo Pastel is a rising-star, set to break all music boundaries before him. Pastel has strong musical roots, and has been singing for his entire life. He prides himself on his unique sound and his vulnerable authenticity.
Leo started releasing music in June 2018, and his music and fan base has picked up quickly. He has had the opportunity since to write with a few large industry labels and their artists after his first single, “Woah”, blew up, surpassing 100k+ combined streams. Pastel has stated that his purpose for making music is to spread love and positivity to all listeners, so if you could use a little sprinkle of positive energy in your life (and really, who doesn’t need this), keep your eyes and ears on Leo Pastel.
“002 / LOVE ME is me telling relatable love stories that I have lived/Imagined/fantasized about, it contains the good, the bad, and the ugly of a relationship.”
It is time for me to play the role of Ms. Cleo, and make another prediction, naming the next artist to look out for on the music charts. Louis Philippe Celestin, who goes by stage name, Lou Phelps, is a Canadian rapper known for releasing club-rap bangers in Toronto. Phelps, whose musical influences include Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Anderson .Paak and Madlib, is known for the his 2017 debut album release, 001: Experiments, which brought in well-over 1 million plays on SoundCloud, and went as far as earning a nomination from Canada’s JUNO Awards for Rap Record of the Year, Phelps has earned a reputation of creating bomb electro-rap. It also doesn’t hurt that well-known DJ and record producer, KAYTRANADA is his older brother. Phelps, who began making music in 2011 with KAYTRANADA, formed a rap group christened, The Celestics, and released their first project, Massively Massive, which brought major shine to the duo’s talent. Since then, KAYTRANADA’S career took off in a massive way, leading to his later release of breakout album, Kaytra Todo. But what about little Lou Phelps? Did his success end with 001: Experiments? Far from it.
In September, Phelps, shared club banger, “Miss Phatty,” marking the announcement of his forthcoming album, 002 / LOVE ME. “Miss Phatty” encourages the kids to go to the strip club and to fall in love with them,” Phelps stated, explaining the meaning behind the song. “002 / LOVE ME is me telling relatable love stories that I have lived/Imagined/fantasized about, it contains the good, the bad, and the ugly of a relationship.” Since then, Phelps, has been delivering new music on stages across Canada, via his fall tour, with stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto. With all of this success, there does not seem to be any sign at all of slowdown or stopping for this young rapper, so definitely be on the lookout for more music from him in upcoming months.
Chicago Rapper, Joseph Davis, better known by his stage name Joey Purp has single-handedly been releasing hit after hit that makes it almost too easy for the most uncoordinated dancer want to hot the dance floor. Purp grew up listening to Wu-Tang Clan, Sex Pistols, The Casualties, The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Dipset, and Lil Wayne. In a 2014 interview, he stated that his early recordings were heavily inspired by Currensy He is one of the founding members of Savemoney (the collective of artists that includes Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and others), and has most notably released two banging albums. iiiDrops, which came on May 26, 2016 included features from Mick Jenkins, Saba, Teddy Jackson, TheMind, and fellow Savemoney collaborators, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. The album’s single, “Girls @” even included a music video.
QUARTERTHING, Purp’s follow-up album brings more tact and attention to how his unique cadence and flow drive his music. iiiDrops established Joey Purp as a leveling rapper with range, one who can batter down the walls while simultaneously conducting a dancing crowd. iiiDrops was painted in broad strokes, and QUARTERTHING finds Purp zeroing in on an exciting and complementary color scheme.
“I’m Just a Haitian girl trying to cry less and sing more, in this crazy world because music is healing. My art does just what a cup of tea can do for you. Whether it’s hot or cold, I want people to feel good.”
Boston born, and Los Angeles based, Haitian-American artist TeaMarrr has been releasing hit after hit, passing right under the noses of the common folks’ noses, all the while remaining on the scope of true music lovers (of which I am a part of, naturally). “TeaMarrr”, which is an acronym for Totally Enthused About Making Really Really Raw “music, art, fashion, or anything,” as her bio states—tea is a signature motif in TeaMarr’s music and visuals. Clutching a signature teacup in her videos, she can be described as the embodiment of wisdom.
She exclaims, “I’m Just a Haitian girl trying to cry less and sing more, in this crazy world because music is healing. My art does just what a cup of tea can do for you. Whether it’s hot or cold, I want people to feel good.”
With a list of inspirations that range from Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill, to Big Maybelle, the songstress’ music is always guaranteed to be something special. Her debut EP, Thanks for the Chapstick has generated a buzz so loud, that she’d even gained showcases on ThisIsRnB, and the esteemed, COLORS. My personal favorite from TeaMarrr is “I do…but”, but, is this tea worth sipping or not? Let me know if you’re feeling this artist or not below.
Yoann Lemoine, the Neo-Folk musician, better known as Woodkid, is a French music video director, graphic designer and singer-songwriter. Woodkid is most notable known for his music video direction for Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”, Taylor Swift’s “Back to December”, Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” and Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times”. In 2011, Woodkid released his first EP, Iron, which, as a collective whole is about the transition from childhood to adulthood, with the songs being described as ‘organic’ and wooden. Woodkid stated that the project is about a kid, who starts out as organic, and later turns himself into marble. The music video for the single “Iron” was featured in trailers for Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Revelations the film Hitchcock, as well as in the TV series Teen Wolf. In 2013, he released his first official album, entitled The Golden Age, which essentially is an autobiographical record.
Indie singer-songwriter, and Michigan native,Anya Marina, is known for releasing music that is known for transcending the charts, but not for being played ample amount of times on the radio, but rather, for the copious amounts of streams, Youtune views, and TV screen-time. Her music has primarily gained notice after being on a variety of television sitcoms and has been featured on prime time dramas including the ABC television drama Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, MTV’s The Real World, ABC’s Castle, Showtime’s United States of Tara, CW’s Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, and Supernatural, 13 Reasons Why and Twilight: New Moon. With such prominent titles behind her name, how could you not be curious to hear Anya’s other music?
Chicago native, Tahj Malik Chandler, better known as Saba, is an American rapper and record producer. He gained his initial moment to shine in 2013 when his verse on Chance the Rapper’s mixtape, Acid Rap, in the song “Everybody’s Something“. The two even came together again to collaborate on song “Angels” and performed it live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Saba credits fellow Midwest musicians Lupe Fiasco, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and Kanye West as his biggest influences. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony got Saba into rap and made him want to rap himself. Saba also was influenced by his older brother and his older brother’s friends. His brother is a rapper who goes by Joseph Chilliams and his cousin was a rapper who went by John Walt. Together, Saba’s family and friends, are the backbone of the rap crew Pivot Gang. Pivot Gang is named after the famous scene in Friends where Ross, Rachel, and Chandler move a couch up the stairs and Ross continuously yells, “pivot.” To the rap crew it means “to take things one step at a time and to always progress
On February 27, 2018, Saba released the track “Busy”, shortly after announcing a tour for his second album, Care for Me, which featured tracks Chance the Rapper, Kaina, and theMIND. The album is dedicated to his late cousin and close friend Walter Long, Jr. aka John Walt; who was stabbed to death in February 2017 in Chicago, IL. Walter is heavily mentioned in the songs: “Busy”, “Life”, and “Prom/King”. However, “Prom/King” recounts the events that Saba and Walter shared with each other leading up to Walter’s death.
Chinese-American musician and singer, Steven Zhu, aka, ZHU has been producing nonstop music since the beginning of 2014. Until the middle of 2014, Zhu remained anonymous, asking to be judged by his music alone.
Zhu’s first track, “Moves Like Ms. Jackson” a mashup of several songs by Outkast, was released anonymously in February 2014 and was positively received by blogs and reviewers covering electronic music. Other tracks appeared on the music streaming site Soundcloud throughout February and March, followed by an EP titled The Nightday in April 2014, which earned a number 1 play of the week on Triple J.
His debut album, Generationwhy, was released on July 29, 2016. The single “In the Morning” was released. After his Neon City Tour, followed up by the title track, “Generationwhy“, as the second single. He first premiered the record at Coachella 2016 during his closing set in the Sahara Tent. Zhu’s Coachella performance was praised, with a writer for the New York Observer suggesting that he could be “the next Daft Punk”
“Musically and aesthetically, the culture of it just inspires me”
Colombian-American singer-songwriter Karly-Marina Loaiza, or, as she is commonly referred to by countless die-hard fans, Kali Uchis, is notorious for making her grand entrance into the music industry in 2012, following the release of her mixtape, Drunken Babble. The genre-bending vocalist was given the nickname “Kali Uchis” by her father. Uchis has stated that she is influenced by music of the 1960’s, with its mix of early soul, R&B and doo-wop, saying, “Musically and aesthetically, the culture of it just inspires me.” She also mentioned that she enjoys jazz, stating during her career beginnings that she draws musical inspiration from Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, Curtis Mayfield, Loose Ends, Ralfi Pagan and Irma Thomas.
While growing up, she frequently moved between Columbia to America, all the while still managing to learn how to play both the piano, and saxophone. Uchis was even part of Jazz band, before graduating from T. C. Williams High School. Sounds like the perfect studious child, right? Not exactly. Uchis often skipped classes to spend time in the photo lab, making experimental short films, where she found a newfound interest and talent for creating mix-tape cover art. She also wrote poetry, songs and music, but did not initially intend to sing, as she was drawn more towards being the magic that happens behind the scene, via directing films, rather than being the direct talent in the spotlight.
Nevertheless, the spotlight is exactly where she landed. In 2015, Uchis released her first EP, Por Vida, further increasing her recognition, which erected more hype and enthusiasm for her 2018 debut studio album, Isolation. This debut album received widespread acclaim from critics, with Llana Kaplan, of The Independent writing that Uchis “has been largely underrated the past few years, but Isolation might just finally give her the attention she deserves”.
Jang Da-hye, better known as Heize, is a South Korean singer, rapper, songwriter and composer signed to Stone Music Entertainment. After making her debut in 2014 with the EP Heize, she gained the attention of many new fans, after appearing on the second season of the South Korean reality show, Unpretty Rapstar.
Since then, Heize’s music has continued to capture the hearts and ears of many unsuspecting listeners. With the release of her fourth EP, Wind, Heize set a record for having every lead single top the music charts.
Famous violinist, Kaori Miyazono once said, “Music transcends words. By exchanging notes, you get to know one another, to understand one another. As if your souls were connected and your hearts were overlapping. It’s a conversation through instruments. A miracle that creates harmony. In that moment, music transcends words.” As such, you would be doing yourself an extreme injustice if you did not give Heize a listen.
Born D’Anthony Carlos, but known globally as GoldLink, this American Rapper has been setting fire to the tracks that he’s graced with his presence, the most recently being “Got friends”, featuring Miguel. GoldLink began making music after graduating high school, eventually recording tracks in a local studio, releasing his first tracks on Bandcamp under the name Gold Link James. It was in 2013 that he began performing under his current pseudonym, GoldLink, releasing several free tracks on SoundCloud. 2015 laid way for GoldLink’s upward claim to fame as he was chosen as part of the XXL Freshman Class. With all eyes on him, it wa sonly fitting tha he then released debut album, At What Cost, to much positive reviews. The album’s single, “Crew”, was blasted on EVERY radio station and peaked at number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as earning him a Grammy nomination. GoldLink then went on to sign a major deal with RCA Records, later revealing that he is currently working on a second album.
“It was this thing my mom was in, this little cult-church thing,” Lucky tells me over the phone “It was just all music that we made up. I would just clap rhythms and sing whatever I saw. Any words that I could find. ”
If you’re completely bananas over singers like Frank Ocean and Pharrell Williams, then boy, have I got a gem for you! New Orleans-born, LA-based singer, Lucky Daye has been setting the R&B industry on fire! However, what’s just as equally as interesting as his taste in music, is his musical origins: a religious cult. Shocker, right!? With the pure Funk that Daye produces, one would think that he grew up listening to music and singing in the church, as is typical for majority of now famous singers. The twist here is that Daye was expressly forbidden from the world of music altogether, and all secular music, spending his formative years raised in a religious cult that his mother belonged to.
Daye recalled, “It was this thing my mom was in, this little cult-church thing. It was just all music that we made up. I would just clap rhythms and sing whatever I saw. Any words that I could find. Once we got out, I realized I was kinda behind,” he says of his musical tastes. “So I started listening to everything. And because I thought I was behind, I went backward instead of forward.” Having left the cult at eight years of age, Daye, who is presently signed to RCA, and recently released his debut album, I, which consists of five tracks, signals the return of true, quality R&B. I can think of no finer example of this, than Daye’s third track, “Extra” and lead single “Roll Some Mo,” which finds Daye’s vocals placed over bountiful funky-fresh bass lines.
New Zealand singer and actress, Kimbra Lee Johnson, known mononymously as Kimbra, is a vocalist known for mixing pop with classic R&B, jazz and rock musical elements. Her debut album, Vows, was released in 2011, Include singles, “Good Intent” (my personal favorite), the winner of the Australian Recording Industry Association Award, “Cameo Lover“, and “Settle Down”. After the album’s release in North America, the numbers shot to 14 on the Billboard charts.
All of these accolades aside, most people recognize Kimbra as being a feature in Gotye’s song, “Somebody That I Used to Know”, which earned both Goyte and Kimbra the Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance awards at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. However, others (typically her “real” fans…and gamers) will recognize her vocals on the Sims 3, as a playable song, originally, “Good Intent”, but redone in Simlish, the gibberish-like language that the Sims’ characters are known for speaking. This version honestly, is just as good as the original. Kimbra’s achievements made her one of only three New Zealand singers to have won a Grammy. Kimbra’s second studio album, The Golden Echo, was released in August of 2014, and follow up album, Primal Heartin 2018, to much positive critical reception.
American singer, songwriter, actress and pianist,Kiana Ledé Brownhas been making a name for herself, essentially since birth. As a child, Brown began to regularly perform in school plays and beauty pageants while taking voice lessons and piano study. In 2011, Brown’s mother discovered Kidz Bop, a website for kids to upload and share videos of themselves performing, and, only rightfully so, uploaded a video of Ledé performing an original number on the piano, with Brown selected as a finalist. After performing Adele’s “Someone Like You” to earn her a place in the Top 4, Brown won the 2011 KIDZ Star USA Grand Prize out of 45,000 submissions, the largest national talent competition for kids age 15 and under.As far as talent goes, Ledé has got a boat load of it. Expanding her endeavors, Ledé starred as Zoe Vaughn on the second season of MTV’s horror series Scream. Since then, she has put out singles on all major streaming platforms, such as “Fairplay” and, “Ex”, which have more than garnished literally millions of plays. From acting, to singing, to playing the piano, it is as clear as crystal that this talented young lady is quite deserving of the limelight.
Eric Whitney, known to his fans as Ghostemane, is an American rapper and singer. Growing up in Florida, Ghostemane originally played in local hardcore punk and doom metal bands. After graduating from university, where he studied astrophysics, and eventually obtained a steady position earning $65,000, Ghostmane moved to Los Angeles, California after music sales proved to be too low in Southern Florida. When settles in LA, Ghostmane rebranded himself, starting his career as a rapper, thus rising to much acclaimed fame in the underground. His process of merging of rap and metal gained him popularity on SoundCloud, amongst other underground artists such as Scarlxrd, Bones and Suicideboys. In 2018 Ghostemane released the album, N/O/I/S/E, which was highly anticipated in the underground due to its heavy influence from industrial and nu metal groups. Check him out. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised at how much you like this fusion of music.
Up-and-coming artist, Taquirah is a performance artist from Illinois. She started her training at Joffrey Ballet, and graduated from UNCSA for dance. She focuses on creating performance art pieces and fusing ballet into the hip hop music scene. Together with Rebel Motion, an international creative production agency from New York City, she and female director Isabella Tan create a visual story of the female experience featuring the dance talents of both Taquirah and Jessica Hu, a ground-breaking visual/dance artist who performed with other notable artists such as Dev Hynes, Wyclef, T-Pain and Macklemore.
Taquirah releases her breakout music video for debut single “Lonely.” The music video presents the juxtaposition of the oxymoronic feelings that arise from a past relationship through a soft, divine and vulnerable balletic depiction of sadness against the angry anguish through sharp contemporary street dance. The audience follows the two dancers through their journey of self-acceptance and transcendence above the past in a deserted space suspended in construction that once held the promise of a bright future.
When asked about her debut single, Taquirah stated that “Lonely is a visual movement piece that tells a story of a black woman who feels neglected and unloved. Within her acknowledging all her feelings she finally realizes it’s most important to love yourself instead of begging for that love from someone else. This piece talks about strength of walking away from unmatched love. Taquirah was inspired by the women in her family that ultimately walked away from unhealthy relationships and focused on having a healthier relationship with themselves.” I recent had an opportunity to ask Taquirah a couple of questions, and these can be found below.
“Prince reached out to me via email and said he wanted me to direct and write a treatment for his music video”
Originally from South Florida (and later settling in Los Angeles, California), dancer, singer, songwriter, and creative director extraordinaire, Danielle Curiel, aka, DaniLeigh, has singlehandedly skyrocketed her way to fame in November 2015, following the release of her debut single “D.O.S.E.” on YouTube and SoundCloud. Since its release, the track has since accumulated hundreds of thousands of views on both platforms.
From the age 12 she had always been interested, and avidly practiced dancing, later gaining an interest in singing, and uploading covers of popular songs onto YouTube at only 14 years-old. This hard-work would not go unnoticed for long. Ironically enough, an artist world-renowned for also using a mononym noticed young Danileigh’s potential.
The legendary one himself, Prince, was so moved by the talented young artist that he sought her out to star in, write, and direct the video for his song, “Breakfast Can Wait.” “That was crazy,” Dani recalled. “Prince reached out to me via email and said he wanted me to direct and write a treatment for his music video. He gave me a whole budget and I made the video happen. That was the peak of my career. It was the first that time that all eyes were on me.” After working on the video, Prince would remain a mentor for the young artist until his tragic death in 2016. “I always say I wish Prince was here to see all of this happening with me right now,” Dani says on her website. “It’s okay though. I know he’s watching.”
Danileigh, who co-wrote J.Lo’s single “Dinero,” featuring DJ Khaled and Cardi B. has received two nominations for Best Latin Video and Best Collaboration at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. She even went viral as she completed Drake’s #InMyFeelings challenge, gaining a cameo appearance in the credits at the end of Drake’s official “In My Feelings” music video. Shortly after, she released her single “Lil Bebe,” which has gained countless amounts of radio airplay, in addition to thousands of streams on Spotify.
Not Him, not Her, but They.! THEY. is the name of the American R&B duo consisting of Dante Jones and Drew Love from Los Angeles, California, who are signed to Mind of a Genius Records. The duo began their music career in 2015, releasing debut extended play, Nü Religion. In the same year THEY. (pun intended) released the successful single “Working for It” in collaboration with Zhu and Skrillex. In 2016, the duo started touring with singer Bryson Tiller, before releasing their debut studio album, Nü Religion: Hyena. Since then, THEY. has been gaining nonstop momentum, even going as far as releasing EP, Fireside in November, in which they bring their neo-soul/hip-hop vision to life with major features, Wiz Khalifa, Jessie Reyez, Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremih, Vic Mensa, and Gallant assisting in the narrative. Go ahead and give these young guys a listen. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
“It’s never cool to copy someone’s whole concept and call it a ‘response’ to try to come up. Be you! Be original.”
Queens, New York native H.I.M, which, if you didn’t know (and many don’t) is an acronym for Her In Mind is an R&B vocalist who has just enough mystery surrounding his identity as H.E.R. His debut album was marketed and mastered superbly in terms of strategic genius. With H.E.R.’s rising success, came H.I.M.’s (yes, I am using proper English, the names just make it sound so improper).
H.I.M’s career officially began in 2016 when he released his debut album, H.I.M Volume 1, following the release of H.E.R Volume 1. Fans immediately went banana with endless amounts of conspiracy theories, the most popular of them all being that H.I.M.’s album was a collaborated effort and sub-responses to H.E.R.’s, and that they were actually an item, who were in the process of unraveling a joint album called (and here’s the kicker) T.H.E.M. H.I.M and H.E.R’s album covers, musical styles and song titles were all purposely related. But is that the right word for it? Or would “copied” be a better fit?
Imitation truly the highest form of flattery, but H.E.R didn’t find this concept cute or amusing in the least bit. The two have never even met. When you really break down the action for what it is, you’ll realize that in truth, he pretty much stole H.E.R.’s entire concept, he just did it amazingly well. Spotify said that H.I.M. “created a more complete response album than anything that has been made and does it from a genuine perspective” meaning that the world still praises him for his musical style that he completely plagiarized. In all honesty though, though not original, I completely see the genius behind the tact. Nevertheless, it would have come across as completely authentic and creative, had he created this idea with someone who had not already reached fame. Because H.E.R. was an already a well-established artist, H.I.M.’s genius translated as a person who was essentially riding the coattails of an already famous person’s coattails. As irony would have it though, after hearing of this “H.I.M.” H.E.R. actually took to Twitter to sub-tweet H.I.M. for stealing her well—everything. The tweet read, “It’s never cool to copy someone’s whole concept and call it a ‘response’ to try to come up. Be you! Be original.” What do you think? Is he in the clear, because let’s face it, dude’s music is AMAZING, or should he be placed in the negative light for pretty much being a copycat? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
“I grew up in the church, so it was a bunch of gospel along with Musiq Soulchild, Em, T-Pain—just a bunch of soulful dudes that are country. My first favorite rapper was Ludacris.”
If you’ve never heard of Christopher Smith Jr, better known as Smino, then all hope is lost for you. Luckily, I’m here to restore that hope (you’re welcome). Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer Smino is co-founder of the musical collective Zero Fatigue with Bari, Monte Booker, Jay2, and Ravyn Lenae. Signed to independent label Downtown Records, Smino initially gained local recognition in 2012 after the release of his mixtape, Smeezy Dot Com. His debut album, Blkswn was released to in 2017, with his sophomore album, NØIR following only a year later.
Smino describes his sound as futuristic funk and soulful rap. Having bene raised listening to jazz, gospel, and hip hop, with rappers including Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Field Mob being of the few, Smino lists Kanye West and André 3000 as his biggest musical influences, as well as his cousin, Drea Smith. In an interview with Pitchfork he stated, “I grew up in the church, so it was a bunch of gospel along with Musiq Soulchild, Em, T-Pain—just a bunch of soulful dudes that are country. My first favorite rapper was Ludacris.”
I recently had the great opportunity of speaking with D’wante Navire, budding Afrobeat/R&B singer, hailing from Jamaica. This young-man has his eyes set dead on the stars, and will soon be one of them. For listeners who don’t fully grasp what Afrobeat is, thank God we have Google, right? Afrobeat is a music genre which involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles such as fuji music and highlife with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion. In all seriousness, we all need to keep our eyes peeled on this future stars growth to stardom. Feel free to check out the interview below:
It’s an interesting one. I was born in Jamaica however my blood is Ghanaian, I have Ghanaian parents. I Moved to England when I was about one years old and lived in England since.
Is your family musically inclined as well?
They are, my mother and father were both in singing groups when they were younger, dad also played the piano and would teach choirs. I have 2 sisters who can sing well but they chose not to (lack of interest I guess).
Can you remember the first time you wrote/sung a song?
It was about 8 years ago, 1 am in the morning I was sitting at my piano creating soulful chord progressions. Now as a former poet I had a lot of lyrical content on my phone, so I decided to see if I could sing these lyrics over the chord progression. They merged perfectly, therefore my songwriting journey was birthed from there.
Who gave you the support to begin writing? Who did you play the early songs for?
To tell you the truth, songwriting was something I had to figure out for myself. I knew I had the basic ingredients i.e. (talent to pick up instruments, ability to sing and lyrical flow) and a rough idea of the recipe. So I just started cooking and getting feedback from others. The early songs were for lovers of R&B and Neo-soul.
You write all of your own music; where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?
Personal experience, topics that I am passionate, other people’s situations. The usual process is to make the beat/instrumental first, then find a theme that matches it. I would say my favorite part of the process is deciding which vocal tone/tones to use to record the vocals. I have 5 different vocal tones which I utilize throughout my music.
As listeners, we can all assume what artist’s songs are about, but I find it more beneficial to be direct and ask. What is “Announce My Arrival” about? What does it mean personally to you?
Announce My Arrival sets the foundation for what is about to come, it lets people know that I have landed on the music scene and I intend on staying. I wanted people to taste AfroBeat and R&B which are 2 essential elements of my musical DNA.
Who are your biggest writing influences, and who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Old-school influences are Donell Jones & Boyz II Men. NewSkool influences are Mr Eazi & Bryson Tiller. I would love to collab with Wizkid and Mr Eazi. I would also love to collab with Bryson Tiller & Tory Lanez.
For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words
If I was to turn on your iPod right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
2. Burna Boy
3. Bryson Tiller
4. Tory Lanez
I’ve let plenty of people hear your music, and we all agree that we can’t wait for more! Are there any plans for new singles, or an EP on the way? What’s next for D’wante Navire?
That’s great to hear, and you can expect more singles to be dropping over the next few months. In terms of what’s next, Aside from building my fan base, I have big plans for my brand “iRep Ghana, iRep Africa”. More details will be revealed in time.
New Yorker singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist,Mac Ayresis getting the credit that has been due for some time now, receiving both acknowledgement and accolades as an accomplished R&B and Neo-Soul vocalist. Ayres, who began singing in elementary school, and is self-taught on the guitar, bass and piano, is known for writing and recording nearly all of his music at home. His introduction, and passion for music began to bud at the age of 11, when his mom bought him a Yamaha keyboard. From that moment, his start as a lifelong music performer was history.
Ayres even went as far as attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts from 2014 until he decided to leave in the spring of 2017. This decision, however, did not put a halt to his ascension into the music industry. Ayres gained widespread acclaim from his debut single “Easy,” charting at over 1,000,000 plays globally within the first 2 months of its release, and even gaining support from Jonas Brothers’ member, Joe Jonas via his social media channels. To date, the single now stands at over 16 million plays on Spotify alone.
Following the success of his single, Ayres then released his debut EP, Drive Slow, in 2017, which earned him featured spots on Billboard, Pigeons & Planes, Tidal, and a few additional notable streaming hubs. This success only increased as Ayres toured Europe, Asia, and The Americas, selling out more than 90% of his headlining shows. His most recent sophomore album, Something To Feelwas released to critical acclaim in August of 2018 and even featured in Vibe Magazine as well as Billboard (again). Ayres’ Something To Feel tour is already sold out in the United States and is quickly selling out in Europe, but of you live in Asia, or are planning to visit in 2019, then you’re in luck, as that’s where the tour will continue.
Canadian singer and songwriter, Anjulie, who has released one self-titled album, says that she is utterly “obsessed with music” and drew inspiration to become a performer after watching Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope Tour. This obsession has been notably showcased on television. If you watch any of the MTV or CW shows, then chances are, you have heard Anjulie’s music without realizing it. The songs, “Rain“, “Crazy That Way“, and “The Heat” were featured on the MTV television series The Hills and “Addicted2Me” on The City. The single “Boom” has been featured on ABC’s Eastwick, The CW’s Melrose Place, The Vampire Diaries, and Canada’s Next Top Model. Anjulie has toured with Shwayze, B.o.B., Raphael Saadiq, and opened for Hedley on their tour in support of Storms. Still think you haven’t heard any of her work? Guess again. Anjulie was also the co-writer for “The Boys” by Nicki Minaj, and has written songs for Kelly Clarkson, Nicki Minaj, Icona Pop, Fefe Dobson, and Kreesha Turner, among others.
The LA-based multi-instrumentalists Amber Navran, Max Bryk and Andris Mattson, who together form the group, Moonchildhave been collectively attracting the attention of many new listeners. If you vibe to Erykah Badu, then Moonchild’s vibrations will be right up your alley! With the release of their highly-anticipated album, Voyager, which pioneered a unique blend of soul and new-school jazz and was fronted by standout singles “Cure”, and “The List”, earning the group many praises for the project. The Evening Standard and LA Weekly add to support for the album, as well as online praise from NPR, The Fader, and Bandcamp (who featured the album in their top 100 albums of 2017.
Last year the band toured extensively across the US, played shows in East Asia and set out on their first ever European tour; which included a sold out headline show at the Jazz Café and captivating performance for Boiler Room. Announcing an entire list of new US and Canada spring dates for 2018. Unfortunately, they are currently wrapping up their current tour dates, but the next time they grace the US with their presence, I’ll have no choice but to be in the crowd.
Amsterdam native, Jeff Kesse, better known as, Jay-Way is not your average rapper. Typically, when you turn on the radio (which most people don’t even listen to anymore), you’ll find a plethora of songs in which the artist is only talking about sex or drugs. If this is what you look for in music, then Jay-way is not the artist for you. However, if you’re in the market for conscious lyrics, positive messages, complex storytelling, and fire beats, then look no further. Being influenced during the short time he lived in New York, his honest, poetic and straight lyrics, speak to an entire new generation, as well as older Hip-Hop fans.
Jay-Way isn’t just a random up and coming artist either. He’s put in all of the hard-work necessary to actually put prestige behind his name. After releasing his first single “Cool Kid”, Jay-Way put out his first solo project Jaynalysis, earning him the award for Best Rapper at the Glint Awards, only a month later. The accolades don’t end there either. In 2016, Jay-Way was chosen to be one of the (5) Encore Freshmen, releasing a compilation album. His first song from this project, “Happen Dappen”(definitely my favorite song), received 100K plays within the first week of release, went straight to number 1 in the Spotify NL Viral Chart and has gained over 2 million streams up to date.
Jay-Way clearly has an ever-increasing fan-base, but in addition to this, he must also, in the words of Cardi B, have “shmoney”, as he’s been rocking the stage with his own shows and festivals with his live band as well, opening up for artists such as KRS-One, Obie Trice and Rejjie Snow, in addition to doing a live performance for the radio show 3VOOR12 on NPO/3FM. Haven spoken with this talented artist (find the interview below), there is no doubt in my mind that he is destined for the top of the top, so definitely keep your eyes directed towards the skies (just don’t look directly at the sun) to see the constant rise of Jay-Way’s continued success.
Dutch-American rapper, Nigel Williams, aka, Digitzzis a young artist overflowing with raw talent! If you like Kendrick Lamar and J.I.D., then there’s no question; you’ll absolutely love Digitzz. Deriving his stage name from a cassette tape brand, with the addition of an extra ‘z’ (with great minds thinking alike, hence the name of the website), Digitzz was formerly a member of the rap collective, Nouveau Riche, and later on in 2013, continued on as a solo artist. Drawing inspiration from artists like Bob Marley, Bootsy Collins, Snoop Dogg, Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G, it is no wonder why his rap-style is so hypnotically infectious. In collaboration with record label, TopNotch, he released his first EP entitled, The Good Stuff, with his debut single, “The Jam”, becoming an instant hit. The music video was watched millions of times on YouTube, sparking much conversation and recognition of his talent. Having heard Digitzz albums and EP’s, with my favorite being EP, DooDoo, I could not resist the opportunity to speak with him. This conversation can be found below:
This, by far is the BIGGEST artist deserving of a Limelightz segment. The only reason I neglected to do so was because I wrongfully assumed that everyone already knew about this superstar. This is not the case, so, without further ado, this piece will center on introducing Destin Choice Route better known by his stage name, J.I.D. J.I.D is an American rapper and songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia, most notably known for being a part of the musical collective, Spillage Village, founded by EarthGang in 2010, with Hollywood JB, JordxnBryant, and 6LACK, among others.
He also recently signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, where he began gaining recognition after releasing several independent projects such as Route of Evil and Para Tu. Growing up, J.I.D’s first connection with music was through his parents’ collection of classic funk and soul LPs. He names Sly and the Family Stone, D’Angelo, Wu-Tang Clan, Little Dragon, boom-bap, New York hip hop and Arctic Monkeys as his biggest influences. In a December 2018 interview, he considered OutKast, T.I., Goodie Mob, 21 Savage and Young Nudy as some of the ones he looks for inspiration.
His debut album, The Never Story, was released in 2017 and received many positive praises, especially for the hit-single “NEVER“. His most recent album, DiCaprio 2, released on November 26, 2018 to positive review and critical acclaim, which in turn led J.I.D to announcing the first leg of his headlining Catch Me If You Can tour, which includes 34 college dates, beginning in January 2019.
Phony Ppl, no, not your friends that cancel plans and talk about you behind your back, but Phony Ppl, the R&B/Neo Soul musical group based in Brooklyn, New York, which originally consisted of nine members, and currently consists of five, is now rising to higher and higher prominence, following their recent album release.
Phony Ppl’s current members are vocalist, Elbee Thrie, lead guitarist, Elijah Rawk, drummer, Matt “Maffyuu” Byas, keyboard player, Aja Grant, and bass guitarist, Bari Bass. After meeting, and forming the group in high school, the band released their freshman album, Phonyland, and later, sophomore album, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, which peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Heatseekers Album chart, number 15 on the Trending 140 chart, and number 7 on the Emerging Artists chart.
The band released the single “This Must Be Heaven” in November 2016, and later made their first television appearance in 2015 on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Where they performed “Trap Queen” with Fetty Wap. In October 2018, they released the single “Something About Your Love” right before thy unrolled album, Mō’zā-ik, in October of this month (2018).
“I hate when people ask me that, I’m going to start saying I’m from the Internet”
When people think of bands, and the possibility of forming a band (or any singing group really), most people’s minds form a huge, red exclamation mark, as the stigma surrounding bands is quite horrible, and quite predictable. When members enter a band, the fans literally start betting to see not if, but when one of the members will break up the group by going solo. It happened with Queen, Destiny’s Child, 5th Harmony, B2K, The Jonas Brothers, and countess other singing groups. However, this does not seem to be the case with Los Angeles based band, The Internet. In fact, I’ve never seen a group before the Internet that actually encouraged members to do solo projects. The Internet, which currently consists of five members, Syd, Matt Martians, Patrick Paige II, Christopher Smith, and Steve Lacy, have collectively released four studio albums and three extended plays since their formation.
The Internet’s formation came about in 2011 by Odd Future members, Syd and Matt Martians, along with touring members Patrick Paige, Christopher Smith, and Tay Walker. The band’s name originally started out as a joke, inspired by Left Brain’s answer to a reporter asking where he was from, to which he responded, “I hate when people ask me that, I’m going to start saying I’m from the Internet”. The idea amused Syd, and inspired the name for her side project that eventually became The Internet. Their official debut album, Purple Naked Ladies was released later in the year through Odd Future Records, which featured the two accompanying music videos, “Cocaine” and “Fastlane“.The band then released their second album, titled, Feel Good in 2013, which received many praises from both fans and critics alike.
Their third album, Ego Death was released in 2015 to widespread acclaim, leading to the Internet’s best year in total; 2018. 2018 gave way to the release of their senior album, Hive Mind, which received widespread praise and applause from heavily influential critics. The New York Times, for example, specifically praised the band’s fusion of digitally processed and hand-played music, stating that the band “imperceptibly melds hand-played parts with loops and samples; whether or not it actually is, the music feels analog. With so many acclamations, it’s only fitting that readers should take the time to meet the members of the band below.
Duties: Vocals, Production
Recent Solo Project:Fin, February 2017, via Columbia
“I was always called that when I was younger. Like when I was little, I always called that, since kindergarten. My friend, Miles, was like, ‘I’m gonna call you Ebz,’ and I was like, ‘Okay’.”
21-year old, Durham-based artist, Ebony Nicholson, aka, Ebz the Artist is a multi-talented vocalist and producer with her eyes set on the top of the top, and with her overwhelming amount of talented, it is essentially her birthright. Ebz’s release of EP, The Feel, placed a bright yellow highlight on her dreamy voice, diverse ability to go from sweet and innocent R&B melodies, to quick-spitting, raunchy rap lyrics, along with her wide ranges of vocal pitch.
The Feel consists of Ebz starting off with a slow, sultry sound, though she quickly changes the mood to a rhythmic, sensual vibe with “Don’t Shy Away”. Ebz closes the EP out with a slowed down, melancholic wave, as she flawlessly depicts the desperation one feels when a person can’t be saved from themselves and their own problems in “I Can’t Save You“. It is reminiscent of Erykah Badu and Rhapsody’s stylings. Both her voice and deep hitting beats make The Feel an EP that you just HAVE to listen to on repeat, over and over, and over and over, and over, and over, and over, and over— well, you get the point.Being such a huge fan myself, there was no way that I was going to miss out on speaking with Ebz. There were so many questions that I, and other fellow fans were curious about. Well, you know what they say about curiosity: it killed the cat, but, satisfaction brought it back, so be prepared to be satisfied.
Give me a little background on yourself and your upbringing: Where were you born, and when did music become a serious passion for you?
I was born in Durham, North Carolina, and my family that I lived with, they weren’t really that religious, but my real mother in Chappel Hill was, so like, my parents weren’t together all the time, so I would go from Durham, to Chappel Hill, to visit my dad, but I was always in Church. That’s basically what brought me in to singing, because I would always sing with my older brother, like, just playing around, and singing around the house, like Gospel songs and R&B, and my mom’s side of the family in her household she’d always play R&B; 90’s R&B and Neo Soul, like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Musiq Soul Child ,Maxwell, like, all the above [played in that household].
I’m pretty sure I know how, but humor the readers, where did you come up with the name “Ebz the Artist”?
I was always called that when I was younger. Like when I was little, I always called that, since kindergarten. My friend, Miles, was like, ‘I’m gonna call you Ebz,’ and I was like, ‘Okay,’ and then I just left it at that, and ever since then, everybody’s been calling me Ebz, and I just went with it, as Ebz, the Artist, since I do art. Yeah, it was simple. I sing, rap, write, produce, and I mix a little. My main thing that I started doing is Visual Arts, like painting, drawing, and sculpting.
If I was to look at your iTunes right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
Frank Ocean, Snoh Aalegra, and Marco McKinnis.
Some of my personal inspirations, in relation to music and artists who I would love to work with (limiting myself to only three) would be Miguel, J. Cole, and Masego. With that being said, who would you most want to collaborate with alive and dead?
Alive: Frank Ocean, Brent Faiyaz, and Masego
Deceased: Whitney Houston, Prince, and Michael Jackson
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Frank Ocean, because I like to challenge with writing, Whitney Houston, because I like to challenge my vocals, and, a lot of people don’t say this, but Brandy. I’ve always rocked with her sound, and it’s like, she’s so, I’m not going to say underrated, because a lot of people know about her, but she doesn’t get enough recognition. Her sound opened a lot of doors for a lot of artists. Of course, Kid Cudi, because sometimes I like to make weird music, and Kanye. I think that’s about it. I might be missing some people, but that’s all I can think of right now.
When do ideas and inspiration for songs typically come to you?
Sometimes Ii like to either, write lyrics first, and then come up with a harmony, or sing a harmony, and come up with the lyrics, but a lot of times, my ideas will come from me doing something, like, let’s say, I’m at work, moving around, an idea will pop in my head, and I have to write it down, on like, a sticky note, and continue to make more sticky notes. I always keep sticky notes and pieces of paper in my pocket with lyrics, for me to work on beats and stuff, and I would just piece them together, like a puzzle, and whatever works, works. A lot of times too, I like to watch visual stimulation things, like movies on mute, and I place a beat to it, like Spirited Away, and Anime that’s far out there like a dream world. I also do that to 90’s love movies.
Ok, so, “OMW” and “Say it” and “Don’t Shy Away” are my top three songs that you’ve released. Which of the songs you’ve released is your favorite? What was the inspiration behind that particular track?
I would have to say, ‘Say it’. Basically, one night, I stayed up really, really late, making a beat in my mom’s bedroom, while I was watching Black Swan, and I had it turned down like really low, so the tv wouldn’t be so loud. An I was adding horns, and bells, to make it sound cinematic, like it would be in a movie. I didn’t know what I was going to do it, but that night I just closed my laptop. One day I came back to it, and was like, ‘Oh yeah!” and I just decided to freestyle on it, and record it, just to see how it would sound, and then I decided, ‘Hmmm, this could be something’. I released it on SoundClud,and it got a lot of views.
For our readers who have yet to hear your music, explain your sound for them in 5 different words:
What was the inspiration behind ‘I Can’t Save You’?
I had this situation with this girl that I was talking to, where it was just like, she basically was constantly calling me late nights, crying, and drunk. She just had a lot of baggage; like A LOT of baggage, and she would look to me to make her feel better, and stuff, and I was like, ‘I can’t really help you in these situations that you keep getting yourself into,’ so then I started writing that, and one night in my dorm room, I started recording.
So you opened for Professor Toon at Motorco? How was that?
That was really cool. He hit me up randomly because he already had the lineup for the show. At first it was just him and Deniro Ferrar and I saw the flyer and I was like, ‘Oh, he already has the lineup,’ because my plan was just to go to the show and he randomly messaged me and was like, ‘So what are you doing December 2nd’ AND Ii was just like, ‘Um…nothing, why?’ and he asked, ‘You trying to do a thirty minute set?’ It was Monday when he asked me, and the show was on Friday, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is stressful’ because that was my first thirty minute set and I was panicking, and he was just like, ‘Yeah, don’t worry about anything, just let me know if you can do it or not,’ and I was like, ‘Yes! Of course I want to do it,’ because I’s always wanted to perform at Motorco. I think that really broke me from being nervous so much with performing, because it was such a huge venue and I just saw everyone’s face looking at me. Ever since then, I’ve been able to perform in front of crowds without getting jitters. That was pretty much my breakthrough performance.
How do you balance your music with other obligations?
Whoo, I’m still trying to do it. I try to make it a priority to save some time out of the week to make time for my music, and if I don’t, then I’m just going to flip out, and throw stuff, honestly, because I just love music, to where I have to work on something at least once a week, at least. Because I have a job, where I work at night, and I try to make time to work on music afterwards, or before. I’m still trying to balance thing. My main focus is to make sure this music thing becomes my career, and not having any other job.
I’ve let plenty of people hear your music, and we all agree that we can’t wait for more! Are there any plans for new singles, or an EP on the way? What’s next for Ebz the Artist?
Both! I plan on dropping more music in January. The name of the mixtape will be called 1997, and it’ll consist of 90’s sounding R&B songs. I keep adding to the tracklist. Right now, it’s 6 songs, but I probably will add more.
Chicago native, Ravyn Lenae Washington, referred to as simply, Ravyn Lanaeis most notably known for her smooth and sultry vocals. Lenae’s first EP, Moon Shoes, was originally released for free in 2015, but was later reissued by Atlantic Records, because, why give out gold for free, when you can clearly make a huge profit, right? Atlantic Record’s strategic gamble paid off, as it drew praise from critics, who praised her for her “fluid vocals and spare, poetic lyrics.”
After becoming officially signed to Atlantic Records, Lenae appeared as a feature on both Mick Jenkins’ album, The Healing Component, as well as on Noname’s song “Forever“. These endeavors would later prove useful, as she went on to tour with, and open for Noname on her Telefone Tour in 2017. Lanae then released her sophomore EP, Midnight Moonlight only a few months later, before performing at SXSW alongside lyricist, Smino. After all of this limelight, in August she would then go on to open for SZA on her Ctrl Tour, and release her own album, titled, Crush, which was entirely produced by The Internet’s very own, Steve Lacy.
The album’s catchiest track, “Sticky,” emphasizes Lenae’s own lyrics in relation to a well— horrible relationship, while paying attention to carefully enchant listeners as Lacy’s riffs play melodically in the background. Lenae, who has mentioned OutKast, Timbaland, Eminem, India. Arie, and Erykah Badu as her musical influences, literally just opened for Jorja Smith this past Sunday in Dallas. For everyone who missed this performance, I have got to say with full-sincerity…I am truly sorry that you missed a once in a lifetime show.
“When things are going on in the world, I think it’s important to touch on them, because as a musician, you can make people listen. As soon as people press play, you’ve got their attention.”
English singer-songwriter, Jorja Smith has released several singles since 2016, and has even collaborated with big-name artists, such as Drake, Kali Uchis, and Stormzy, which has more than given her the clout and respect necessary to list her name alongside the greats. Not to mention, that in In January 2016, her release of her debut single, “Blue Lights“, on SoundCloud brung in 400,000 plays on the website within only a month of being uploaded. Her second single “Where Did I Go?” released was even singled out by Drake as one of his favorite tracks of the moment in Entertainment Weekly. In November 2016, she released her four-track debut extended play, Project 11. Within the same month, Smith was selected as one of the fifteen rising acts on BBC Music’s Sound of 2017 songlist , and finished fourth on the list. Speaking of Drake, Smith even had the opportunity of performing as a special guest on his Boy Meets World Tour in February and March, going on to further being featured on tracks “Get it Together”, and “Jorja’s Interlude” on his mixtape More Life.
Remember when Drake first began gaining popularity, and you could find him featured on every artist’s tracks? The same is true of Smith. I’d even go as far as calling her the Feature Queen. In May, she was featured on Kali Uchis’ song “Tyrant“, the lead single of Uchis’ debut album Isolation. Having said all this, there’s way no re to Smith than simply being a “feature”. She released her third single, “Teenage Fantasy”, in June, followed by a two month gap, in which she and Grime artist, Preditah released, single “On My Mind“. In September 2017, she began dating singer and producer Joel Compass, much to the dismay of collaborator, Drake. You can hear all about that dirty laundry on song, “Jaded”, from Drake’s latest album, Scorpion. Still, this is a story for another time, and as we all know, there are two sides to every story.
Smith, who describes being “obsessed” with Amy Winehouse’s 2003 debut album Frank as a teenager and being inspired by the singer’s raw approach to songwriting, describes her own songs as “related to social issues’, saying that, “When things are going on in the world, I think it’s important to touch on them, because as a musician, you can make people listen. As soon as people press play, you’ve got their attention.” Her debut album, Lost & Found, written over a five-year period, was announced in April and released in June of this year (2018). During the month of the album’s release, Smith began touring in support of the album, and of course, if you don’t know where I’ll be at Dec. 2nd, just take a wild guess. It rhymes with P-orja Pith’s Poncert.
“I think I’ve come so far as a man and I’m just starting to feel solid where I can be like, ‘You know what? I think I can hold this down legitimately.”
As a general rule of thumb, I try not to post more than two segments per week, and they’re nine times out of ten, posted at 11 am on the dot. Only on rare occasions do I break this trend, and a rare occasion this is. So, one of my all-time favorite R&B vocalists recently got hitched, and really, what kind of fan would I be, if I didn’t announce that, and then follow it up with a highlight? So, as promised, here is the announcement: If you did not already hear the news, let me break it to you, Miguel Jontel Pimentel and Nazanin Mandi have tied the knot!!! The couple were wedded on November 24, 2018 at Hummingbird Nest Ranch in Santa Susana, CA.
Miguel and Nazanin met back when they were both 18 years old. She was interviewing him for a behind-the-scenes DVD he was putting out to promote his very first music video, when she asked him a question that wasn’t on her Q&A. The question being if he had a girlfriend. Real smooth, right? He flashed a debonair smirk, saying, “No, but I’m looking for one.” Even smoother! From there, they exchanged numbers, and he called the very next day to ask Nazanin out on a date (that’s how you do it my fellow guys. No games played). Since then, they had nowhere to go but up! A true love story at its finest.
As someone who’s actually spoken with Miguel, I can easily admit, there truly is not anyone more deserving of this wonderful news than he. He is such a down to earth, well-rounded guy, with nothing to offer but positive energy, and when you meet genuine people like that, you cannot help, but to wish the best for them. Opening up about why he hadn’t rushed into matrimony, Miguel told Hot 97 in 2015 that he just “wasn’t raised like that.” “I think I’ve come so far as a man and I’m just starting to feel solid where I can be like, ‘You know what? I think I can hold this down legitimately.” I think now people throw things around like marriage. I just wasn’t raised like that,” he said. “I just follow my instincts,” he continued.
“I think she’s learned that and she’s had to adjust and had to learn and also embrace. And I love her more for that.” I think we could all learn a lot from Miguel’s philosophy. Often times we rush into things because we have this socially given image in our brains of how things are supposed to be, even going as far as to compare ourselves to people that we’ve never even met. But timing is key. Not the timing of when other’s do things, or rushed timing from the pressures of society, or even family. At the end of the day, each and every person has only one life to live, so what’s the point of rushing through it? Comparison is often the thief of joy, and the goal is happiness and joy, right? Of course it is. So here’s to Miguel and Nazandi Pimentel, sincerely wishing you ALL the joy and happiness in the world!
“The first time I wrote a song I was 10 years old. It was about loving myself, because I was always being bullied at school. So music was my therapy and it still is.”
Globally famous for singing alongside British singer, Jamie Scott on David Guetta and Martin Garrix’s song, “So Far Away,” singer-songwriter, Romy Dya has fans on the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting her next endeavors. With powerfully smooth Contemporary R&B vocals, and a reputation for writing for Dutch artists, Sharon Doorson, Roxeanne Hazes, and Maan, it comes as no surprise that Dya is catching the attention of many listeners. Having spoken to Dya, I had the special privilege of uncovering the answers to some of the inquiries that fans might have themselves.
Where were you born and raised?
Holland, in a little village called Broek op Langedijk.
Is your family musically inclined as well?
Yes, they are! My mom used to be a singer and my dad plays the guitar.
Can you remember the first time you wrote/sung a song?
The first time I sang a song I was 4 years old. I sung ‘Gloria EstefanandMiami Sound Machine-Rhythm is Gonna Get You’. That’s when I already knew I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. The first time I wrote a song I was 10 years old. It was about loving myself, because I was always being bullied at school. So music was my therapy and it still is.
Who gave you the support to begin writing? Who did you play the early songs for?
You write all of your own music; where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?
I draw my inspiration from daily life. Love, problems I’m facing, but also friends, family, books, movies or series. My favorite part about the process is recording it, because it comes to live and you can feel the emotion of the song like you’re telling a story.
As listeners, we can all assume what artist’s songs are about, but I find it more beneficial to be direct and ask. What is “Smile on My Face” about? What does it mean personally to you?
“Smile on my face” is about turning a negative situation into a positive one. My dad always used to tell me that there was always something positive even in a negative situation. I always used to be a drama queen. I still am sometimes [she laughingly admitted], but last year was one of the toughest years in my life. I had hit rock bottom. I was overworked, my relationship ended after 12 years, I was broke, had a lot of debt, and I lost my job. I cried a lot, but I told myself almost everyday in the mirror: ‘Girl, you got this. You’re strong, beautiful and you’re a Child of God. Put a smile on your face and go.’
Who are your biggest writing influences, and who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
My biggest writing influences are Sia,Bebe RexhaandBibi Bourellywhen it comes to writing songs for myself or others. I’d like to collaborate with Russ, because I really like his way of rapping and I especially like his song ’Since I was broke’. He’s talking about the law of attraction there which I do believe in and that song has been an inspiration for ‘Smile on my face’ too.
For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words
(Vulnerable and powerful at the same time, an edgy pop sound combined with some jazz and soul influences).
If I was to turn on your iPod right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
H.E.R., SZA, GoldLink, Jorja Smith, Xavier Omar.
I’ve let plenty of people hear your music, and we all agree that we can’t wait for more! Are there any plans for new singles, or an EP on the way? What’s next for Romy Dya?
My next single is coming outon January the 11th.And I’m planning to release every month in 2019. And yes there will be an EP in 2019! I’m also still working as a songwriter for other artists, cause I’m determined to win Grammy’s.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Son of Allen West and Stephanie Smith, AJ West is known long and wide for being a basketball standout at Division 1 college, University of Nevada. Nevertheless, being one of the premier rebounders in college basketball, AJ is a double-double threat, very-well on his way to becoming a triple threat, adding music his mix of ambitions. I recently heard some of the music that AJ was working on, and knew immediately that he had something special going for him. The interview can be found below:
Give me a little background on yourself and your upbringing: Where were you born, and when did music become a serious passion/interest to you in comparison to basketball?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. And music started becoming more serious around 2012. Before that I did music I rapped and stuff but one time I hopped on a track, a producer and friend made for me and he told me how good it was and that I should just strictly sing. That’s when I realized my talent for it and got better and better. Music has always been a real hobby for me and second to basketball because I’ve been playing ball since I was 9 I played D1 college ball and now play professionally. It wasn’t till recently that I said, “Hey you know, let me release a good project and see where it takes me.”
If you had to choose between music and basketball, which would you choose, and why?
Its a tough decision at the moment I know how to make money and support myself with basketball, the foundation is already there. With music its a waiting game, so we’ll see what the future holds but I’m for-sure passionate in it now.
Who are your favorite musicians? Groups? CD’s?
Chris Brown, Bryson Tiller, Drake, Khalid, The Weeknd & Tyus. I try to study everything those artist put out and incorporate it into my music. Favorite all time R&B CD is probably the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Who would you most want to collaborate on a song/project with?
Who are your biggest musical influences?
100% Breezy that’s been my idol it this R&B game for at least 10 years. He’s my modern day G.O.A.T. From his young stuff to new that man can’t miss.
When do your ideas for songs come to you?
On the spot for sure. Ill listen to a beat and start humming melodies then record them for reference. After that i’ll come up with a concept and insert lyrics.
Do you perform in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV?
I have never not once preformed in public. In the following year I’m looking to branch out and possibly do that.
How often and for how long do you practice (singing)?
I don’t practice at all. My real practice is just making songs and getting better and trying to come up with the craziest melodies I can think of. I call it ‘Taking the song to church’
In your phone right now, which 5 artists would be in your most recently played playlist?
Chris Brown, Sam Smith, Miguel, XXXTentacion, and Drake
How do you balance your music with other obligations?
Its tough to be honest basketball is a lot of work but during my free time I try and make as much music as possible.
Describe your music using only 5 words:
Trapsoul with a incorporation of 90’s vibes and Neo-soul.
What’s next for AJ West? A focus on Sports, engineering, an EP, or all three? Any local performances where listeners can see you perform?
2019 is a year I’m looking to take music more seriously and see what comes out of it. Getting together with real producers and really pushing my stuff out there. No performances are scheduled at the moment.
“My friends kept telling me about the term ‘Saturn Returns’. It’s this idea that Saturn takes 29 years to orbit from when you’re born and it is the planet of blessings and growth”
Born Neo Jessica Joshua, but better known as Nao, renowned British singer-songwriter and record producer, Nao has been consistently producing music that can at best be described as soulful electronic music, fused with funk and R&B. You’ve got to love the singers that cross genre barriers! Nao, who coined the term “wonky funk” to describe her style released her sophomore, and most recent album, Saturn, in October (2018) of this year. Although Nao was born in Nottingham, at a young age, she moved to East London, where she studied vocal jazz at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, later, moving forward to becoming a back-up vocalist for artists like Kwabs and Jarvis Cocker. “I could hide behind it,” she reflects. “I just could rock up on stage, do a good or bad job, and no one cared. It wasn’t about me. But as soon as you started putting your own music out, it’s stressful because you’re like, ‘How am I coming across as a person?’”
Following this segue into a music career, Nao began singing in an all-girl beatboxing a cappella group called The Boxettes, for six years, until she released her first EP, So Good in October of 2014. The EP was “so good” in fact, that it reached number 4 on the iTunes electronic chart, and the title track, “So Good” ft. A.K. Paul, made the BBC Radio 1 and BBC 1Xtra national playlists in the United Kingdom. This was followed by a second EP, entitled, February 15 in 2015, and a debut album, For All We Know, in 2016.
In her album, Saturn, Nao examines her personal growth, romantic upheaval, and the nuances that accompany young –adulthood, all under title, and scope of an astrological lens, focusing on heartbreak and the regenerative process that follows. When asked about the album’s connotation, Nao states, “My friends kept telling me about the term ‘Saturn Returns’. It’s this idea that Saturn takes 29 years to orbit from when you’re born and it is the planet of blessings and growth. So by the time you’re around 29, between 27 and 32, something big happens in your life. It’s like waking up and coming of age, like: ‘I’ve been going through my twenties and what have I been doing in this relationship?’ What have I been doing in this job?’ You start to rethink everything – old stuff that your parents taught you or ideas that you believed in. It’s like a complete shedding of skin and it can be painful.”In addition to her recent album release, NAO will also be internationally touring beginning Dec. 6th, kicking off the first show in Tokyo, Japan. The upcoming tour dates will be posted below, should you want to experience the magic behind the name, Nao.
“If you make an effort to not put the pedals in the order you’re meant to, then you’ll end up with something new sounding”
Picture, playing in band after band, without much success, then BOOM! After posting a new project’s tracks on Myspace, of all places, record label, after record label dials your phone. This was the case with the current leader of band, Tame Impala. After the countless offers from record labels, in 2008, multi-instrumentalist, and lead singer, Kevin Parker signed a global deal with Modular Recordings (Presently signed to Interscope Records) in July. To transfer the recordings to a live-stage format for performances, Parker enlisted the help of bass player, Dominic Simper, and drummer, Jay Watson, thus forming Tame Impala. Parker, who writes and records the band’s music, draws heavily from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Psychedelic Rock, which is achieved through various production methods. Some favored and regularly-utilized effects by Parker include phasing, delay, reverb and fuzz.
Experimentation with different effects pedals such as Roland RE-20 Space Echo, has led to the unconventional creation of new and unique sounds. “If you make an effort to not put the pedals in the order you’re meant to, then you’ll end up with something new sounding. We don’t have any things that we got from another planet or anything, it’s the same things everyone else has used. People have a distortion pedal and then a reverb pedal. A reverb is meant to make it sound like it’s in a cathedral or something. If you put it the other way around, it won’t sound like a guitar being played in a church, it’ll sound like a church being stuffed inside a shoebox and then exploded. You can do different things just by treating things differently.”
After the release of a series of singles and EPs, 2010 ushered in the release of Tame Impala’s debut album, Innerspeaker, which was certified gold in Australia, in addition to being well-received by critics. Their sophomore album, Lonerism, was also heavily praised, reaching platinum status in Australia and receiving a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. The band’s third album, Currents, was released in July 2015, and like its predecessor, it won the ARIA Awards for Best Rock Album, and Album of the Year, with Parker winning the APRA Award for Song of the Year 2016 for Currents‘ first track, “Let It Happen,” in addition to famous pop singer, Rihanna reaching out to them for their permission to cover “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” to be placed on her most recent album, Anti. Having said all of this, if all of these accolades, and even the Rihanna cover haven’t convinced you to give this band a listen, I honestly don’t know what will.
“Life experiences, sometimes writing about what I have experienced is the only way I can deal with it and work through those emotions.”
Arizona is just teeming with talent, ranging from singers such as, Alice Cooper, and Stevie Nicks, to actors like, Emma Stone and Alexandra Ship; Arizona is definitely the place to find the gifted. As such, it is no surprise that this is where Phoenix’s newest R&B singer/songwriter Sam Era reigns from. A master of transforming the nuances of heartbreak and ended relationships into enthralling melodies, Era illustrates the darker side to today’s modern R&B sound. Era spent her early childhood years studying both the Classical, and Jazz music genres, pursuing her passion for music even further in college. Her music career officially launched when her cover of Beyonce’s hit- single, “Crazy In Love,” gained some attention, leading to her introduction, and collaboration with producer, Devon Hancock. Having released her debut single, “Nothing Was The Same” in September, her name has caught the attention of countless listeners on Spotify, boosting her amounts of listens to the thousands with ease. I had the immense pleasure of chatting with Sam about “Nothing Was The Same” and what projects are set to release in the future.
“Since your release of “Nothing Was the Same” your fan-base has only grown to higher levels. As listeners, I’m sure we can all draw our own conclusions about what the song is about, but I’m sure the fans would love to hear from you what the song is about.
“Nothing Was The Same’ is about getting your heart broken and the emotions you face while dealing with it. Ultimately it is a classic tale of unrequited love. Long story short: I really loved a guy, who didn’t love me back, but liked me enough to keep me around for when he was bored or didn’t have anyone else to keep him company. It made me feel so unworthy. However, at the time I was so blinded I really didn’t see it until much, much later, but I guess hindsight is 20/20 in both life and relationships.”
“Nothing Was the Same” tells the story of being in a one sided relationship, what other type of topics can listeners expect on your new project?
“A lot of relationship gone bad songs! I don’t want to say I’m a one trick pony but you’re supposed to write about what you know right? There are more heavy topics as well as lighter topics, one of my favorite songs on the record is a song called “About Me” which is a Jazz inspired party song.”
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
“In terms of purely musical career I would say Kanye. Sound wise, so many people. A lot of 90’s R&B, Jazz, Classic Rock influences. Popular artists I look up to are 6lack, The Weeknd, Lana Del Rey, Drake, Alina Baraz.”
Who would you most want to collaborate with?
“Ahh, that’s a tough one!!! My dream collab would probably be The Weeknd.”
What inspires you the most to create your music?
“Life experiences, sometimes writing about what I have experienced is the only way I can deal with it and work through those emotions.”
Record label vs. Independence, which would you choose, and why?
“That’s so tough! I think it depends on what you want! Being independent is tough especially if you can’t financially afford to just be a full time musician. But it does come with more creative freedom. However if the goal is to get the maximum amount of people to hear your music a label would be a better choice.”
In Relation to the “safe job” vs. following your dreams, and having the safety net: Which would you recommend to fans trying to follow in your footsteps?
“I say do both! Don’t put your dreams aside but don’t put your day to day well-being at risk either.”
When can we expect your new album? What will it be titled, and what platform can listeners find it on? “January 11th! It’s called Songs for the Broken Heart, and will be available on all major [streaming] platforms.”
“When you go everywhere, you just hold on to the things that made you”
If Brandon Paak Anderson, who initially went by the appellation, Breezy Lovejoy, but currently goes by, Anderson .Paak, isn’t on your list of favorites, then, can you really consider yourself a true “music head”? .Paak, whose Neo-soul, Funk, R&B, and Hip-hop sound mixture earned him a record deal with Dr. Dre (Aftermath Entertainment) in 2016. The American musician and record producer from Oxnard, California Began gaining attention in 2012, following the debut of his debut album, O.B.E. Vol. 1. Following this releases well-received reception, .Paak released Venice in 2014, followed by Malibu, in 2016, earning himself a nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammy Awards.
Apart from his solo career, Paak is also one-half of NxWorries, alongside record producer Knxwledge. He is accompanied by the band The Free Nationals, who play a variety of instruments such as electric guitar, bass, piano, keyboards and drums and also serve as backing vocalists. Paak, who is set to release his third album this Friday, entitled, Oxnard, named after the Southern California city where he grew up, held a listening party for the unreleased album earlier this Monday, which of course, I attended. The whole vibe in the atmosphere was pretty chill, with low lights, alcohol, fine wines, and even finer women. .Paak entered the room dancing, accompanied by the DJ playing his single, “Tints”, and immediately began greeting the listeners, taking pictures (with almost EVERY fan), and autographing both, vinyls and CD’s alike.
I’ve got to say, it’s one thing when a celebrity makes good music, but is a, for lack of better words, a shitty person. I’ve heard plenty of cases where celebrities, like Nicki Minaj (back when she made good music…waaaaayyyy back, because lord knows her music is garbage now) would meet fans and treat them with the utmost disrespect, almost as if it were a bother to meet the people who support their music. But, it’s a completely different feeling when a celebrity you “ride for” is genuinely good at their craft, and even more so, genuinely a good, kind person.
.Paak, joked around with the audience, and performed a couple of tracks from Oxnard (which were fire, by the way). When asked why he named the upcoming album after his hometown, .Paak replied with, “When you go everywhere, you just hold on to the things that made you.” After the performances, he let us all know that he had to go, leaving the crowd with a “farewell, and goodnight”. The fun surrounding this up and coming album is far from over though. Beginning at 2 p.m., at the Performing Arts & Convention Center fittingly, in his hometown of Oxnard, California Paak is throwing Andy’s Oxnard Carnival to celebrate the release of Oxnard . If you don’t have a random hundred dollars laying around to spend on a trip to California, I think it goes without saying, that Oxnard is deserving of a purchase (yes, I said “purchase”, not stream).
“There’s this big house, that is me, and these different rooms, that are different genres, and each time a door opens, it could be Funk, Rap, Reggae, Screaming, it really depends on how I’m feeling at the time, and what a track calls for”
If there is anyone who enjoys discovering brand new music, it goes 100% without saying, that it is unequivocally me (obviously). Having an ear for good, quality music and an eye that can easily recognize a musical flame before it becomes an all-out blazing inferno is literally what I live for! As such, if you have NOT yet heard of Harry Edohoukwa, then prepare for your whole life to be forever changed! Harry Edohoukwa, whose musical style is comprised of both reggae and hip-hop melodies, is a McKinney native, whose future has nowhere to go, but up! I had the pleasure of seeing Edohoukwa perform at Deep Ellum Art Co., where he opened for hip-hop artist, Duckwrth. Before he even spoke a single word into the microphone, there was an unmistakable electric in the air that let you know that this young artist had a lot to say; and a lot he said, indeed!
Dressed in a satin white shirt, and black leather pants, Edohoukwa, unleashed a mouthful of lyrics literally bursting with emotion. I don’t mean lyrics where you have to infer or assume what the artist meant, I mean actual emotion that translated so smoothly, that it evoked the same emotion in the listeners! Whether it was the disbelief in the lyrics, “If you love me like you say you do,” or the fiery rage from “Rick Flair’s“, “If you want to bitch, then bitch about it,” the crowd parroted every word back with just as much force. Don’t even get me started on the women in the crowd. The way they screamed and extended their arms to reach out in attempts to touch Edohoukwa was almost reminiscent to the concerts of Michael Jackson, himself. With such a huge comparison and bigger shoes to fill, I had to know more about this talented musician. After sitting down with Edohoukwa, I learned that, like most artists, he knew that music was his calling from a very young age.
I compared the way that the women were screaming for you to the likeness of Michael Jackson. Those are pretty BIG shoes to fill. Let me ask you this, when did you realize that this was the life for you?
“I think I’ve always known that [music is what I wanted to do]. I always freestyled in 5th grade and recorded for the first time in 6th grade. I kind of left it alone, after that, but got back into it during my sophomore year of high school.”
So, what genre, exactly, would you call the music that you make?
“If you could help me with that, that would be awesome. I don’t know if it’s rapping, or singing, or screaming. Its rap, reggae, funk, rock. I wouldn’t know how to put it in words really. There’s this big house, that is me, and these different rooms, that are different genres, and each time a door opens, it could be Funk, Rap, Reggae, Screaming, it really depends on how I’m feeling at the time, and what a track calls for. It’s really hard to label!”
So, for starters, I have to know, Team Apple or Team Android?
“iPhone! Only because I have an iPhone. I used to be team Blackberry. Actually, fuck Apple and Android. I like the Blackberry. I love the keyboard. I always look at owners of Blackberries as people who know shit, and get shit done. [If you’re a Blackberry owner] You don’t need apps, because you’re all about your business. I’m an artist through and through, but I love the business side, plus I don’t like the weight of Androids.”
Often times, I have found that the artists that play nonstop on a person’s phone can tell more about them than actual words. Who do you consider worthy enough to loop through your headphones on the daily?
“I listen to a lot of reggae. There’s Bob Marley, Beres Hammond, whose Music is Life album is amazing, Lucky Dube, who, out of everyone I list is probably my favorite. If you’re going to listen to Dube, “Trinity”, “Monster”, “It’s Not Easy,” and “Prisoner” would be good songs to listen to, Fleetwood Mack, Abba, that’s some old school music, Gunna, and Ama Lou.”
If you had to name a few people, who would you list as your musical inspirations?
“That’s easy. Lucky Dube, Beres Hammond, Bob Marley, James Brown, Jim Morrison [of the Doors], Paul Simon, Chance the Rapper, Jay Z, Kanye West, Bob Dylan, who inspired me to start taking storytelling and song writing to another level, and Kid Cudi, who was the biggest inspiration, that made me resent labels and conventional rapping.”
What are your thoughts about record deals, and the idea that you absolutely have to sign to a label to be successful?
“If I was signed, they’d be expecting this out of me, and that out of me, and that’s not what I want. I know you have to do what you have to do to start doing what you want to do, but I’d choose 100% no record label. They’d have to come up with a crazy offer, which they wouldn’t do, because no one really offers you what you deserve. It wouldn’t be a good business practice. Praise god there are examples like Chance the Rapper! I remember, this girl asked me [in college] ‘Do you ever feel bad that you are the same age as Chance, and that he’s doing music and we’re studying for test?’ But I’m not mad, and I probably would’ve gone down the whole record label route [if it weren’t for him], but seeing him do it the way he’s done it, just seeing this shows me that it is possible [without a record label]. Signing a deal doesn’t sound liberating. I’d rather build a team.”
The last question I have for you is: Who do you make music for?
I’m making music for the people. That’s all it’s about; connecting to people. I want people to be like, ‘Hey man I was really tripping, and listening to “Joy”, and it really helped me through.’ I’m here to be a vessel, so whatever God wants to me to say, I’m here to say it, and I don’t want to be limited to any genre, limited to any race, limited to any country, or anything. I’m really shooting for the top of the top.”
Currently, Harry Edohoukwa has released three hit singles, “Ric Flair”, “Joy”, and “Mrs. Mrs.”, while also releasing his debut EP, Silhouettes (Circa ’17)in April of this year. Now, if you have been totally convinced, and are interested in joining the “Harry Edohoukwa” wave, I’d suggest you jump on board before it inevitably turns into a massive tsunami!
“Lighting is the biggest contributing factor to my inspiration. I see everything in pictures, and music adopts various colors for me.”
Los Angeles native, Billie Bodega, has been undoubtedly, and meticulously planning her musical debut, choosing NOW as the perfect time to unveil her mellifluous voice to the world. Although she is an actress, well-known for recurring roles in The Tracy Morgan Show (2003), Zoey 101 (2005), Movie Surfers (2006), and The Wrong Child (2016), Bodega, has been hard at work on an R&B project, surprising everyone in March of this year with the release of her smooth, and sultry vocals on her first single and music video “Ocean Blues.” Creating her pseudonym earlier this year, Bodega recalls, “[My name was] self-dubbed after a very lucid dream in which I was drinking a carafe of wine in a Grecian garden filled with goats”.
From a young age, she learned to play several string and woodwind instruments, and discovered both a love and passion for singing in her school choir. Though a musician, actress, dancer, and singer, Bodega also held a high value on the importance of education, prompting her move to Cambridge, Massachusetts to pursue her degree. Upon the completion of her studies at Harvard University, where she graduated with honors, Bodega returned to Los Angeles, where she began recording. November 2nd , six months after the success of “Ocean Blues,” Bodega released her debut EP, Ko͞o dāˈtä. If I had to guess, I would say that Ko͞o dāˈtä, which is comprised of seven songs, collectively tells the story of regaining control, but why “guess” when you can find out from the source herself? I recently had the extreme pleasure of being able to chat with Billie Bodega to find out exactly what she intended the EP to mean, as well as to gain further insight into the budding R&B singer’s life as a whole.
“We all go through intense feelings and experiences and shit”
Coming third in the BBC’s Sound of 2018 list, all eyes are eagerly awaiting Manchester rapper-singer, IAMDDB’s next move. With her smooth intermingled hip-hop and urban jazz melodies, it’s no surprise why. Born Diana Debrito – hence the clever name, IAMDDB, takes inspiration from Samba, Bob Marley, and Nat King Cole. After her trip to Angola (a west-coast country of south-central Africa) for several months, becoming heavily involved in the local jazz scene, following a bad breakup. After being fully immersed in the music scene, she returned to the UK, refreshed, healed, and inspired to make music. Her Hoodrich Vol 3 mixtape released in 2017, conveying an artist at ease with a deeply expressive theatricality. “We all go through intense feelings and experiences and shit,” she said in a recent interview with Crack magazine, “and if my music can help somebody get through something, then my job’s done. I’m just a vessel to make people feel better.”
IAMDDB is notorious for shutting down many festival stages with what she calls, “trap infused jazz”. If this wasn’t enough, just when it didn’t seem as if the budding star could soar any higher, following her recent back and forth with Steff London, she blessed listeners with her latest offering, Flightmode Vol. 4. IAMDDB’s most recent tour collaboration with Red Bull Music, named Flightmode Live, after her forthcoming mixtape sold out only a mere minutes of being listed online, which also, is no surprise. So, if you’re looking for a little change from the garbage on the radio, take IAMDDB on for a spin.
“I want fans to get that we are trying to make real music. We put a lot of work into it. We want to bring something different, something relatable.”
VanJess, the Nigerian-American R&B duo, comprised of sisters, Ivana and Jessica Nwokike launched their musical careers while performing covers of popular songs on YouTube. After covering Drake’s club banger, “Headlines” the two sisters viral success skyrocketed their names into success, pushing the pair to pursue a serious career in music, outside of doing covers. The two, who are only a year apart, honestly look almost like twins, and rightfully so, they appear to have an unspoken bond that allows them to read each other’s minds, as they sing and dance in perfect harmony while they perform. Their sound is so impeccably mitotic, that at times it can be difficult to tell which sister is singing which part, as they flawlessly play off one another’s voices. Ivana, whose voice is deeper, will often be found singing lead (though they do switch as the song calls for it), while Jessica, whose voice is lighter, sings as the accompanying. Being inspired by Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, TLC, and Xscape, definitely shines through their 90’s R&B sound.
By 2011, the duo hired a full-time manager, and set on to record songs in an actual studio. In 2015, the two re-released their EP, 00tillEscape in 2015, which in turn charted in the iTunes top ten, trending worldwide. This success led VanJess to complete, and release their first full-length album, SilkCanvas in July of this year. SilkCanvass, which includes collaborations with Masego, GoldLink, Lil Simz, Leikeli47, and Berhana, is a soulful reflection and introduction to VanJess’ most vulnerable moments, speaking on the moments of collapse from heartbreaks, and also therecovery process of arising with newfound confidence. Jess, of VanJess explains that “I want fans to get that we are trying to make real music. We put a lot of work into it. We want to bring something different, something relatable.” With that being said, you might as well get well-acquainted with VanJess, because their music isn’t going anywhere, but to the top of music charts!
“I really wanted to start off with an attitude of confidence as opposed to the heartbroken stuff people are used to — that sad girl shit. It’s time to regain your self-esteem and know who you are”
Have you ever met someone who you cannot quite place into one category of— well, anything? This is essentially the case with the next artist. Is her musical style Synthpop, Electronic Freestyle, Alternative R&B, or Indie pop? It is either none of these, or all of these, nevertheless, being unable to be labeled or categorized is typically what sets the truly special people apart from the norm, allowing their true charm to freely flow. Without further ado, today’s segment will be featuring the magic that is ABRA! Born in Queens, New York, to a family of missionaries, ABRA spent her early years in London, where her parents built the church they would ultimately work in. Her introduction to singing came from this very church, where she sang on the praise and worship team. After London, her family settled into the suburbs of Gwinnett County outside Atlanta. “When you move a lot like that, you’re always seen as the new kid,” she said. “I have a deep sense of non-belonging.” Music clearly became the one constant in a world of continuous change, which allowed her to perfect the craft that she is now known for.
At age 14, having settled down in Atlanta, ABRA began playing the guitar, which led to the eventual uploading of her acoustic covers of popular rap songs to YouTube. From here, it was as they say “history”, as she was discovered by Awful Records founder and rapper, Father, who was intrigued by her covers, who encouraged her to make her own original music, which would later lead to ABRA joining the label in 2014. With a wide range of vocal abilities, ABRA’S debut EP, BLQ Velvet contained tracks with a completely smooth 90’s R&B vibe, leaving its follow-up album, Rose, with an even greater rewind in time, encompassing an early 80’s Pop and Electronic Freestyle. All the same, her latest project Princess, released in 2016, combines the best of both albums, playing on the soulful ambiances of BLQ Velvet, and the playfulness of Rose. Most artists (whether musically inclined, or not) can attest to the fact that there is much positive inspiration that can come from pain and despair, and ABRA, as a creative is no different here. “When I started out, I had a lot of pain on my chest and a lot of bitterness. BLQ Velvet was [a way] to make myself feel better. It was a really cathartic project. Ever since then, I’ve had a lot less spite-fueled successes.” In Princess, listeners can hear the shift in lyrics, as they give off more of an enlightened, positive mood, in comparison to her previous two albums, which have been more on the morose and vulnerable side. It is more than apparent that ABRA was in a place of happiness as she created this project, as she goes as far as to say that, “I really wanted to start off with an attitude of confidence as opposed to the heartbroken stuff people are used to — that sad girl shit. It’s time to regain your self-esteem and know who you are.” I couldn’t agree more. Now, if you’re looking for an artist who cannot be placed in a box of a specific style, because she literally has all the style in the world, ABRA is the artist to give a shot.
“I just try to be real. I’m a flawed human being, and I want my music to look at the whole picture. I think it’s beautiful to set yourself up to be judged for who you really are.”
Micah Davis, aka, Masego, is an international, genre-bending entertainer who is actually somewhat difficult to place in any one genre of music, though his style has a Hip-hop, Jazz, and Electronic flair to it. Masego, who refers to his own musical style as “TrapHouseJazz,” has collaborated with artists, SiR, GoldLink, and SPZRKT, while also sharing the same stage with Chance the Rapper, and Kehlani, with this being only the tip of the iceberg for his collaborations. 2016 seemed to have been a significantly successful year for Masego, as his music began catching the ears of many listeners, one of which included veteran producer, DJ Jazzy Jeff, who then introduced him to TDE producer, Sounwave, adding him to the list of collaborators.
The question presented, however, is how exactly did Masego set on his path towards gaining entry into the music industry? Masego, who has stated that that John P. Kee, Andre 3000, and Cab Calloway were major influences to his music, has spoken numerous times about self-teaching himself to play the piano, saxophone, and various drum machines in order to impress his crush back in his early years of high school. Ironically, it was here that he donned the name “Masego” (which translates to “blessing” in Tswana), after completing a senior project on South African culture, where he discovered that his family had roots in South Africa.
Bringing the timeline back to the present, as of today, Masego’s song, “Tadow” has collectively brought in more than 52 million views on Youtube, while his record hit “Navajo”, first premiering on “Colors” (the Berlin streaming platform), has been streamed well-over 20 million times, explaining why his current Lady, LadyWorldwide Tour (named after his debut album Lady, Lady) sold out within mere minutes. The full-length album itself, is a compilation of real-life thoughts shared through both real, and imagined narratives, illustrating the bliss and uncertainty that the different types of black romance brings. When asked about the album, Masego says, “I just try to be real. I’m a flawed human being, and I want my music to look at the whole picture. I think it’s beautiful to set yourself up to be judged for who you really are.” I feel like it is my responsibility to tell you all that Masego himself (who is still currently on tour), will be performing in Dallas, TX. this Thursday (yes, that is literally tomorrow), so if you do have some type of special pull, favors to rack in, or connections to see his performance, I’d suggest you use them now.
“I couldn’t really listen to hip-hop… I couldn’t go outside until I was about 16, ’cause my mom thought I was going to get shot in South Central”
You asked for it, and here it is: A new gem for you all to discover! South Central LA rapper, singer, and graphic designer, Jared Lee, more commonly known as Duckwrth (no relation to Kendrick Lamar) is literally on the brink of breaking out of the Underground status, and with good reason. Signed to Universal Records, (which might be the best option, as this record-label seems to allow him full creative freedom), Duckwrth, has opened for like-minded artist, Anderson .Paak, and continues to create his own high-energy, punk-rap sound. He is also well-known for illustrating all of the artwork that accompanies the projects that he has released, in addition to creating the visual branding for artists like T. Mills and IAMSU!
Duckwrth, who considers himself a GPK (Grand Pastor’s Kid) was raised Pentecostal, where he was essentially sheltered from experiencing life to it’s fullest as a kid, “I couldn’t really listen to hip-hop… I couldn’t go outside until I was about 16, ’cause my mom thought I was going to get shot in South Central.” Still, he was able to break the mold, and create his own world through his art and music, going as far as releasing his first solo album, I’m Uugly, in 2016.The album was comprised of songs that covered love and even went as far as to address police brutality, which in turn, caught the attention of Urban Outfitters, who then booked him for their 2017 SXSW showcase. Following its predecessor’s release, An Xtra Uugly Mixtape, released in 2017, spreading Duckwrth’s music to an international level.
He now has hopes that his upcoming U.S. tour will expand to other countries. “For me to actually be able to go overseas is big because a lot of people from my neighborhood, they don’t even get to leave my fuckin’ neighborhood,” Duckwrth said. “I need that experience, ’cause I need to be able to take that back, and tell the people that are in my neighborhood that it’s possible, I did it.” For those of you intrigued enough to give this amazingly talented creative’s music a shot, Duckwrth is currently on the road, conducting his The Falling Man Tour, and will be in Dallas, TX. November 2nd. Obviously, I will be there, front and center. The real question is, where will you be?
“How do you feel about Drake? Are you still a fan?”
It never fails when discussing music tastes amongst fellow music fans that the question arises: “How do you feel about Drake? Are you still a fan?” This is not a dramatization either. I was literally asked this yesterday. The answer is not necessarily an easy one to give either. Anyone that truly knows me knows that I used to be the biggest Drake fan ever, to the point where “Drizzy” was my high school nickname (given to me by friends, not created by me, obviously). It probably didn’t help that I had a fade, a slight buzzed beard, and Degrassi was the hype at the time. The OVO lettermans, all the OVO apparel, an OVO owl tattoo, every mixtape, you name it, I had it (I still have these things). However, being a fan who was listening to Drake’s music since the Room for Improvement mixtape days, I have higher expectations for Drake’s music than the average music consumer. With the top chart bangers that he releases now, I completely understand the hype surrounding his name that makes newcomers want to jump on the fandom bandwagon, but it is exactly this shift in music where the problem lies.
Before the fame, Drake used to be (emphasis on the “used to be”) a lyricist, who’s words had a certain charm and cleverness to them. I believe it was this, in relation to the vulnerability if his music that let him rise to fame under Wayne’s tutelage as the music industry’s “Golden Boy. “The Presentation,” a song from Drake’s Comeback Season mixtape essentially illustrates, just the tip of the iceberg of the cleverness that his old style of writing possessed.
“I’m perfecting my craft using more cess
Tryna make some cheese of a single is a process
Get it? Kraft, single, cheese, process
Sit back and admire the talent that I possess
Top notch, no less, oh yes, I’m known in the city
But need to bust out like a model that show chest”
In comparison to his newer music, Drake’s blatant nonchalant lyrics seem effortless (not in a good way), uninspired, somewhat rushed and geared towards hit making. “God’s Plan” is only one of many songs to emphasize this laziness in writing.
“I been movin’ calm, don’t start no trouble with me
Tryna keep it peaceful is a struggle for me
Don’t pull up at 6 AM to cuddle with me
You know how I like it when you lovin’ on me
I don’t wanna die for them to miss me
Yes I see the things that they wishin’ on me”
Don’t get me wrong though. I have to admit that Drake stays at the top of the charts; that’s a given. In fact, he is probably one of the best at the craft of releasing songs that rake in a bunch of money, that have catchy beats, and are pretty much just catchy in general. Some of the songs like “Jaded” and “March 14th” from Scorpion(songs that still showcase his vulnerability) still have high favor with me. However, I cannot help but feel as if he sold out in order to remain successful in the music industry. From a monetary point of view, this is genius. Find out what the fans and the industry like, and give it to them time again, and your bank account stays secure, but what about the artistry itself, and remaining true to self?
It definitely can be done. Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, J.I.D, Earthgang, and plenty more have managed to do so. All of the artists listed still discuss what they want to talk about, whether it be real-life issues facing the black community, police shootings, racism, or the ignorance of the president, regardless of what type of reception it may have, and still manage to stay at the top of the charts. So, am I still a Drake fan? I’d have to say yes… but only because of the vulnerability that has remained consistent in his albums, and also because I’m generally a hopeful person, so, as such, I can honestly admit that I’m still waiting for a song that at least has a trace of the old mixtape days. But, I will say this, when the consistency of the vulnerability leaves the albums, then that’s when I leave as a fan.
It goes without saying, that it is long past overdue for me to have created a segment on this hip hop duo, so today’s belated segment will consist of all things Earthgang. The American duo, composed of Atlanta-based rappers, Johnny Venus and WowGr8 (previously known as Doctur Dot) released its first EP, The Better Party, in 2010, followed by several singles and six albums, including Rags in 2017, Robots(also released in 2017), and Royalty in 2018. The duo’s sound, often compared to that of OutKast, can best be described as lyrical, meaningful hip hop that tells a story with each track. If I’m being 100% honest, since 2010, I have more than relished at being one of the select few to know about this duo. I’m sure that dedicated music heads can relate. It is essentially a love-hate relationship in which we, as the listeners know about artists before they blow up, so they’re pretty much our “secret weapons” to pull out when in music debates, but at the same time, because we know they’re so talented, we also want the world to know and love them as much as we do.
The only issue that I’ve seen from time to time (not always) is that, when artists sign to a label and gain recognition, their style of music changes, as if they “sold out” for the record deal. Nevertheless, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Earthgang. They recently, as of the end of August, signed to Dreamville Records, joining the roster alongside J. Cole (establisher of the label) BAS, COZ, J.I.D, Lute, Ari, and Omen. Since then, they have released two songs, “Up,” and “Stuck” (ft. Arin Ray), both of which have still retained their original sound, something that has been consistent since their early days. As Earthgang is no longer a secret anymore, and signed to one of the biggest labels in the game right now, old fans and new fans alike can all sit back in anticipation for the new album, Mirrorland that is rumored to be released before the end of this year.
“There’s this Album Release Party tonight. You down?”
It goes without question that I was. It doesn’t take much to get me out of the house these days, especially where the promise and enticement of good music is involved. Little did I know that good music is not what I’d be walking into, rather, what I’d be walking into was an all-encompassing performance of great music! Front and center of the stage stood, Dallas, TX.’s very own professional, R&B singer and songwriter, Demi LaVoyce, who at the time, was providing a synopsis of her new song, “Invisible,” before playing it for the audience. It goes without saying that the beautifully talented artists’ music kept every head in the room nodding to her rhythmic melodies. LaVoyce’s newly released album, Bloom, can best be described as a soulfully vivid portrayal of her personal experiences with the good and bad aspects of relationships, bringing the listeners along for the roller-coaster ride, that is a great relationship turned sour, writing about the high points of falling in love, the low points of falling out of love, and the transitioning point of being more than fine alone, with a new sense of confidence and a fresh outlook on life.
LaVoyce, who is classically trained and very well versed across the board in Jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop vocals, and Gospel, has been both, singing and writing songs since the age of seven. This musical experience was more than exemplified as she wrapped up the night by performing “Juice,” the final song of her album. The two songs that caught my attention, and favor were “Lions & Tigers,” and “In my Bag” (with “In my Bag” being my absolute number one). I feel personally inspired and thankful for having the opportunity to have heard this budding star’s debut album, and am proud to proclaim that I am a Demi LaVoyce fan. If you too want to join this wave of fandom, then for sure go on any streaming platform (Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, etc.) and purchase/stream Bloom.
As I’d already written a segment on this artist, I was somewhat hesitant to do another so early, but credit has to be given where it’s due, so again, let’s talk about Ella Mai. Last time I addressed Mai, I did say that her upcoming album would be worth the purchase and the wait, right? Well, call me a clairvoyant, psychic, or just intuitive, because it is just that, if not more. Ella Mai’s self-titled debut album, Ella Mai, proves that R&B is indeed alive and well! Mai’s debut full-length release features production from DJ Mustard and guest appearances from Chris Brown, H.E.R., and John Legend, all of which come together to form a vulnerable story about both the highs and lows of love.
However, the adage of “Be careful of what you wish for” couldn’t be more true about one particular song on the album. For the longest, die-hard fans outright begged for an Ella Mai-Chris Brown collaboration, which only made sense, as Mai rose to stardom by initially covering multiple Chris Brown songs, via Instagram, that even grabbed Brown’s attention, to the point that he began singing snippets of her songs in return. That collaboration happened in “Whatchamacallit”, but not quite how fans imagined it. Fans were expecting a love duet, but in return got a song about cheating, and its new lingo, coined “Whatchamacallit”. Sadly, the song is fitting of the times and will more than likely see radio time, which of course, is great for Mai, but not so much for the younger listeners that blindly follow the fads and trends set by today’s artists (We all remember the infamously catchy Jhené Aiko line, “Eat the booty like groceries” trend that spread like wildfire).
Regardless, the album has plenty of other songs that will no doubt make their way to radio play-time, and rightfully so. The top three songs of the album (in my opinion), include “Sauce”, “Good, Bad”, and “Dangerous”, all of which are songs that are featureless, so major kudos to Ella for that. If you haven’t gone out and purchased, Ella’s album, go ahead and cop that. Remember, it’s the support from the fans that fuels the artists’ creative processes (and pockets).
“So I found a joy in talking about sad shit sometimes and having fun being sad”
If you’re anything like me, you love the clout and bragging rights that come from knowing about an artist while they’re still in the developing stages of the renowned “underground”. You wanted it, and here it is: A new artist’s music to check out (thank me later). Up and coming star, Tobi Lou, whose career is pretty much still in its beginning phases, has an extraordinarily unique style and sound that can best be described as somewhat resembling a fusion between OutKast and Chance the Rapper.
When asked in an interview, Lou, ironically being from Chicago (the birthplace of Chance the Rapper as well), said that one of his all time favorite songs is “Hey Ya!” by OutKast, stating that “Most people don’t know that André 3000 is talking about the saddest shit on that song, because it’s masked with happiness. He’s talking about divorce and why love doesn’t last and shit, but he’s like, ‘You don’t want to hear me, you just want to dance.’ So I found a joy in talking about sad shit sometimes and having fun being sad.”
This is more than fitting, as Lou’s music and recent videos paint an upbeat, inviting picture full of cartoon characters, and whimsical visuals that can easily be danced to, despite often being about dreary, and somewhat more serious topics. Working with artists such as Galamatias and Smino, Lou is definitely a rising star to keep an eye on. His most recent EP, Tobi Lou and the Juice, was released in early August of this year, and if I am being honest (which I ALWAYS am), it is more than 100% worth the listen, if you haven’t already (You’re still here? Still reading? No! Go listen to that album).
As a person who is always on the lookout for new lyricists who can deliver hella dope verses, I honestly don’t know how I passed up 25 year old, California native, Kyle Harvey, better known as simply, “KYLE”. I’d heard of this lyricist a couple of times, but never seriously checked out his music, until last night. It took the Netflix original, The Afterparty to convince me to check out KYLE’s three past projects. In The Afterparty, KYLE plays Owen, a struggling rapper whose goal was to spit some bars in front of the right people, and get signed to a record label, which seemed more than within reason, until the opportunity came, and was squandered after meeting, and vomiting on Wiz Khalifa (yes, the actual Wiz Khalifa, who just so happens to be one of KYLE’s biggest musical inspirations), and seizing on stage from Wiz’s earlier doobie, causing him to go viral (pun intended) worldwide, via Worldstar under the name of “Seizure Boy”.
All in all, the movie was funny, and a little corny, but it shined major spotlights on KYLE and his fresh off the dome bars. For those of us who weren’t already aware of KYLE’s lyrical skills, it lit a fire under our asses to actually do the digging to find out who this guy was. For those reading this who also want to join the wave of becoming fans, but aren’t yet convinced to do so, let me break down KYLE’s style.
To put it simple, and compare KYLE’s style to already well-established artists, imagine listening to a combination of Drake, Childish Gambino, and Chance the Rapper fused into one person. Acting, he’s done it, singing, he does it, rapping, he does it, and nerdy analytical lyricism, he’s got it. Four instant bangers to listen to in order to get you hooked, are “Really, Yeah!“, “Game“, “Remember Me?” (ft. Chance the Rapper), and “To the Moon“. His most recent album, Light of Mine, with Atlantic Records rose to Gold status only eight weeks ago. I did most of the research for you, now go check him out to see if his style is your cup of tea or not. I’m wrapping up this article to see if my boy, KYLE will shoot me two tickets to his up and coming Light of Speed World Tour. Fingers Crossed!
If you’ve been active on social media, no doubt you’ve seen the plentiful memes of Jacquees with captions reading, “Don’t let me cover your song,” or something to that effect. These memes started popping up all over the internet after it was assumed that up and coming “Boo’d Up” R&B artist, Ella Mai made Jacquees take down his cover of her most recently released track, “Trip”. It was later revealed by DJ Mustard, that this was in fact, his own demand, given with good reason, of course. After a short period of time, Jacquees’ rendition of Ella’s new song began to attract more listeners, which led to an overwhelmingly huge gap in streams, in comparison with the original version. After receiving Ella’s request, Jacquees complied, removing all traces of the cover. This unpopular request led many to flood social media with comments calling Ella petty and lame, amongst other negative remarks.
Nevertheless, I do see the purpose in having him remove it. With an album set to drop nine days away, she needs all the solo attention that she can get. This is her time to shine, not Ella Mai and Jacquees time to shine. You have to keep in mind that she’s an artist who’s had a strong underground fan base for quite a while, but only recently has she caught airtime on radio stations because of her catchy single “Boo’d Up”, despite her much better sounding songs. Having heard both versions of the song myself, I personally would’ve handled the situation slightly different, and there still might be time to do it (though I doubt DJ Mustard will).
Hypothetically speaking, if I were one of Ella’s Public Relations Representatives, I would have advised Ella to reach out to Jacquees to officially (keyword being “officially”) be a feature on “Trip”, at least as a bonus song for the album. All the same, as an artist, (and we all know the saying about artists being sensitive about their sh*t) I would probably feel some type of way if I was literally backed into the corner of having to work with someone that I didn’t originally envision for a song, not to mention the added funds that would have to be dispensed for extra studio time. All in all though, as the saying goes, and as Kanye is currently demonstrating, “All press is good press,” especially in the music industry. Ella Mai’s album, self-titled, Ella Mai is available for preorder as of September 21st, and is set to release on October 12th, and will without a doubt be an EP worth purchasing.
“Where were you when you heard?” “Hey man, are you good” “Did you hear?”
Around 4 pm today, my phone pinged with text after text like these. I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew as soon as I responded, to ask what was going on, I’d be in for a major heart break, so I didn’t respond…I didn’t have to. Something was seriously wrong. I felt it in my stomach. It’s the kind of eerie, gut wrenching feeling that you get before knowing you’re about to receive horrible news; and truly horrible it was.
I didn’t have to respond to any message to figure out what had taken place. The buzz around the office was enough to confirm the recent loss. That, and the coworkers that actually came to my desk to ask, if I’d heard the news of rapper, Mac Miller’s passing. As a major Mac Miller fan, I honestly thought it was some type of social media stunt. People are pronounced “dead” all the time in memes and online trollings as jokes. This wasn’t one of those times, nor was it a joke.
Mac Miller was found, and pronounced dead after an apparent drug overdose around noon, this Friday in his San Fernando home. Only a couple of years prior had Miller himself said, “I’d rather be the corny white rapper than the drugged-out mess who can’t even get out of his house. Overdosing is just not cool. You don’t go down history because you overdose. You just die.”
However, in cases like this, you don’t “just die”. In the Hip-Hop community, in the hearts of the fans, and in the hearts of his family there’s a shared pain that we understand all too well. Someone near and dear to us was taken way too soon.
In 2014 Miller released his mixtape, Faces, which was almost wholly centered on personal drug use. It’s here that he also makes references to a premature death. It’s almost eerie how artists who leave this earth at far too young ages somehow seem to predict their ill-fate.
Nevertheless, if there’s anything that someone who’s been around for a minute can tell you, it’s this, “In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining”. Every moment in life has the potential to be learned from, if you can find it’s teachable moment. I think it is my place to spread the news of October being National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. It is during this month that drug awareness is raised in an effort to lessen the stigma surrounding real life’s issues, while also shedding a light on healthy coping methods. Miller may have ascended to a higher plane, but his legacy of music, honesty, vulnerability, carefree spirit, and all around good vibes will never be forgotten.
“So how was it meeting Kendrick Lamar, and the rest of TDE?” “Did you sign with TDE?” “How do you know Kendrick?”
The list of questions that I got after posting this picture was endless. They weren’t bothersome, but there were quite a lot, so I’ll just answer them hic et nunc (here and now in Latin). For starters, meeting Kendrick Lamar was hella dope, but not as long as you’d think. The whole process lasted maybe two minutes at the most. That’s me being generous.
Before I even turned the corner, I just knew what I was going to say. “What’s up K dot? When shit hits the fan, I’ll still be a fan.” Clever right? True Kung Fu Kenny fans would get the saying. Being no newcomer to being around celebrities, I just knew, I’d be fine. Being starstruck was for the inexperienced, and surely I’d had enough experience to be fine, right?
Wrong! So here’s how it ended up panning out instead:
Kendrick: Hey Champ, thanks for coming out today. I genuinely appreciate it
Me: (Looks around at other TDE members) No prob, man.
Me: (Getting up from taking the pictures). Aight, y’all be easy.
That was it. No cleverly planned out lyric or questions on my end at all. I honestly only forgot because I wasn’t expecting a majority of the label to be there. If SZA would’ve actually been there at the moment, I would’ve been lucky to have gotten the few words out that I did manage to let escape out. There’s always next time though (yes, there HAS to be a next time).
I had a dream that great rappers, and even great lyricists would come together in one single label, and create a worthwhile sound, so that their music could be judged not by the catchiness of the beats, but the content of their words. I think Martin would be proud of that intro, and even prouder of the record label that has taken major steps in realizing this dream: Dreamville Records. The label, established by J. Cole and his manager Ibrahim Hamad, is comprised of. Cole himself, BAS, COZ, Earthgang, J.I.D, Lute, Ari, and Omen, all of who are considerably talented on their own. Earthgang, the duo most recently signed to Dreamville are currently touring, and opening for Cole on his KOD Tour, exposing the general masses to their unique style.
Of course, it goes without saying that those who follow underground rising stars already knew about all of these label-members before their signage, but, it’s good that every new signee will now be getting the marketing shine necessary to spread the knowledge of their music to those who limit themselves to whatever is on the radio. For the longest, whenever someone would dare utter that “Hip-Hop is dead”, the typical response would be, “Nah man, we got Cole and Kendrick!” As the adage goes, knowledge is power, and now you have a few more nuggets of knowledge to aid in Hip-Hop’s defense.
Tee-na-shay or Tin-ash? Is that how you say it? This question kills me every time I hear it. Never would I have imagined that someone who has so much potential, her own home-studio, a background in acting, amazing vocals, three released albums, three extremely popular mixtapes, and a more than dedicated fan base would not be subjected to this question. However, the reality of the matter is, that’s exactly what’s happening. Tinashe‘s Aaliyah-like vibes and phenomenal mixtapes are what propelled her popularity from the very beginning. There wasn’t a person who had any type of knowledge of the underground music scene who didn’t know about Tinashe. From the start, she was seen as the “next BIG thing”. So, what happened? Why isn’t she as BIG as she should be?
The easiest answer, and her biggest mistake, was signing to a record label. As a devout fan from the Reverieand in Case We Die, mixtape days, I can vouch for this statement. Tinashe’s connection to RCA has always been her Echelles’ Heel. Before signing, she had 100% freedom to make the music that she wanted, and the music that the fans clung to. However, I do understand that remaining unsigned has its drawbacks, the worst being lack of funds and marketing. Nevertheless, it’s still more than doable; perhaps more difficult, but, still doable. The poster boy for remaining unsigned and still acquiring extreme success in the music industry is of course, Chance the Rapper. Not everyone can pull of this feat though, but if anyone could have achieved it, it for sure would’ve been Tinashe.
So what exactly has resulted from her signing to RCA though? Let’s delve into that. For starters, Aquarius, Tinashe’s freshman album was pushed back later than it should have been. So what, right? All of her original fans stayed loyal, and even opted to get the special edition, where fan’s (who purchased this edition) could have their name put in the album book/poster. But the following album release was disastrous! Tinashe’s third album, Joyrideseemed to have been a flop, and with good reason. Not only had the chill sound that brought fans over change, but there was a HUGE delay in the album’s release, which caused her to release Nightrideas her sophomore album instead. For those who’ve gotten confused, here’s the breakdown:
1. Aquarius released in 2014
2. Nightride released in 2016 (in place of Joyride, thanks to the label)
3.) Joyride released in 2018 (years later, with half of the songs already heard her fans)
Because of this, if you’d gone to the Joyride tour (which of course, I did), then you’d essentially heard half of the tracks years early, as she exclusively performed them. Tinashe herself said that RCA constantly delayed her album release, so that they could better focus and market newcomer, Zayn Malik’s album instead.
If you thought that was bad enough, don’t worry, it gets worse. Just recently, Tinashe was set to release a fourth album, Nashe, or so she thought. RCA put a quick halt to that project no sooner had she released tracks, “Like I Used to” and “Throw a Fit“ . It’s like they don’t want her to be great, or at least, not too great. Keep in mind, this is the very same label that houses Chris Brown, Childish Gambino, SZA, Justin Timberlake, and many more, leaving the likes of Tinashe, Bryson Tiller, and a few more artists without much shine, recording time, or marketing. It’s all very reminiscent of the TLC 360 deal. Nevertheless, I guess all we can hope is that her contract comes to a close soon, so that she can get back to making the music that captures the hearts and ears of many.
“I was just trolling, out of boredom, and then the memes were everywhere”
If you’re someone who keeps up with social media, and like most people, you don’t live underneath a rock (no offense, Patrick Star), then chances are you’ve heard the famous lyrics, “Bitch I’m a cow, Bitch I’m a cow. I’m not a cat, I don’t say meow”. Catchy, right? This fun song instantly went viral, within mere minutes. The song was so catchy in fact, that multiple unknown artists remixed it and placed it on Spotify before the actual artist could! With a song as trivial as Mooo, people started to question who the artist, (Doja Cat) actually was, and what she had to offer, while others wrote her off as a viral sensation.
Anyone who knows anything about Doja Cat knows that she has much mooore to offer than her recent viral hit. Doja Cat, known for her song So HighSo High, has been on the music scene for a while now, with many other musical accomplishments. The 22 year old, California native recently released her sophomore album in March with RCA Records.
When interviewed about the popularity of Mooo, Doja admittedly said that she never expected it to be such a BIG deal. “I was just trolling, out of boredom, and then the memes were everywhere.” If this is the offspring of boredom, then I wish many more hours of boredom upon this budding star. The video’s release couldn’t have come at a better time: right before her announcement of a 2018 tour! From what’s been seen so far, tickets are going pretty fast, and with good reason. Die-hard fans who’ve been supporting Doja since her SoundCloud days were no doubt the biggest reason for the tour’s high demand, but let’s not forget the new bandwagon fans, whose contribution and Mooo’s can be heard nationwide!
If you haven’t checked her albums, Purrr!and Amalaout, then really, what are you doing with your life? You’re sitting on your couch, and your life is just passing you by (for my people old enough to remember those Everest College commercials). Seriously though, if you’re into the indie-R&B/neosoul vibe, give the albums a listen.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” — Plato
In a world full of mumble rappers, there still are amazing artists actually worth listening to. You just have to know where to start. For those of you who think today’s music is falling off, you might want to take the time to reconsider, and check these artists out (the list is in no particular order).