Sunday, June 24, 2007


(Original version aired: Friday June 15 2007)

On June 1st, Tony Thompson passed. Not to be confused with the late drummer from funk outfit Chic, this Thompson was the lead vocalist in the young boy group Hi Five.

The Gems: 1990, I Like the Way (Kissing Game) had smooch rookies seeking out cute, willing guinea pigs for lip lock behind the girls bathroom. FFWD>> 1992: She's Playing Hard To Get and Quality Time, the former being a quality New Jack Swing effort that lit up many a venue with masses united in the execution of the that dance they called the Pyrate, while I assume the lyrics from Quality Time found perfect use on a high school love letter or two, formed the inspiration to sweeten a souring situation, or for simply yumming up the baby making....

Then came Sexsational, the solo LP in 1995 with a first single I Wanna Love Like That that stayed booming for months, It definitely had my vote for one of the better R&B jams of that year, as if we were starving for good crack then.

Tony Thompson, dead at 31. Initial reports speculate it may have been a drug related death but the official word hasn't been released yet. In any case, for all the good flavas, my simple tribute. R.I.P. Thanks for the tunes and memories.


This is also blowing under the radar, but the East Cost Rap Fraternity is mourning Monday's shooting death of Stack Bundles. Most recently affiliated with Dipset's Byrd Gang Crew, he initially stormed on the scene with other Desert Storm alums Joe Budden and Ransom under that banner. Bundles had a unique slick, thugged out oh-so-New York flow. Gutter and outspoken, his fodder was the streets and all the non-fluffy things in them unless, of course, it was a spanking new Lexus LS 460h or similar artifacts of couture and grace. His immersion into Dipset along with Jim Jones brethren Max B is directly related to Jim Jones stylistic upgrade, which led to Jones making some mainstream noise in 2006. Bundles' debut Dipset mixtape appearance was in 2006, on the same mixtape Jones' banger We Fly High debuted on. Outside of Dipset, he was involved with his own crew Riot Squad (Bynoe, thanks for everything, we're with y'all). Stack Bundles has been a mixtape favorite since 2004, it's a suprise Papoose, Saigon, Joell Ortiz, Tru Life, Maino, Uncle Murder and Red Cafe were all toting major label deals before him.

Never heard spitting some sappy mess for the ladies, always spitting crack tales, gunfights or styling on them retardedly, this is definitely one rapper I was checking for in NY...he never took a day off in his rhymes. He will be missed. No street mixtape of mine was complete without a Stack Bundles contribution. Definitely, his passing is an alert for all rappers with one foot in the game, other foot in the streets.

Rayquon Elliott, dead at 24. Before his time in the sun.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Tuesdays at the Training Camp

Mid-afternoon, early May 2007. Walking up Avenue A on a leafy sun-blessed Gotham afternoon. Tis a wonderful thing that it warmed early this year, as these NYU co-eds are keeping your boys open. With a more reticent and dignified appeal, this part of Manhattan is one I could get used to. Maybe I'm in the South Bronx and Brooklyn too much, I need to style up. But far from a lolly gag episode of fun possibilities (a shame, because dark haired queen posted up on the corner looks like the one for me. Me and her hand in hand through the park, what!), we head a block up away from the park towards a mob lined up outside a nondescript entrance. White tees and fitted hats, allover print hoodies, bapester and air force one sneaks and a slight whiff of piff. There are a few ladies sprinkled in the crowd but this for the most part is a heavily testosterone scene.

Every Tuesday night at this unassuming location in Manhattan the doors get flung open for New York to get a taste of what's next in the streets. The brainchild of Brooklynite Mental Supreme, the night is billed as Tuesday Training Camp, which also doubles up as the moniker for his nicely quorumed rap crew. Although it's only 4:45 in the afternoon, the sidewalk outside Club Pyramid is owned by these early birds. There will be no latecomers, especially when this is going to be a Tuesday more special than most. When Mental Supreme shows up to take count he only takes those he will see outside into consideration, otherwise you just might have to be really special. Mental's dark suv pulls in at about 5:30. He walks up to the chained doors holding a list, exchanging greetings with all and announces "Aight, who was first?"

In a suprisingly orderly way, the list builds itself. People go out of their way to point out who was there ahead of them. Even those who had been in line but had stepped away and were still missing at Mental's arrival are spoken for. Getting there this late in the game would mean looking at at least 20 people ahead of us, but coming from two hours away on a last minute call-up goes well with Mental. We find ourselves among the first six performers. Once the performances are settled, the crowd melts away to await showtime at 10:00pm.

While there are many similar forums all over the region, Tuesday Training Camp has built a reputation for being a brutally honest rapper showcase. No hoopla about cash prizes, celebrity judges or studio time up for grabs here. Just bring it. If the crowd isn't with it by the time the first hook is done they're obliged to clap you off. Maybe you'll luck up the following week. In a room full of backpacker-like purists and street honed lyricists, their fans, wannabe rappers, highly opinionated people somehow involved in rap music and label execs, the tolerance level is pretty low. We were hoping for a few familiar faces in the crowd but we had left our turf by ourselves, just the two of us, at the last minute scrambling to get out of work to make it there. The crowd that evening was a good mix of suits and baggy jeans, skirts and apple bottom slacks complete with a squadron of boisterous Brooklyn and Jersey dames. Where Harlem at? We make sure we hand out as many cds as possible.

The lights go dim as the DJ fades out his warm-up set of mid-90's boom bap. It's 9:45 but the building is already packed and there is a queue down the street. Mental and sidekick Biggs, who is a leading Training Camp member, get on stage as the Masters of Ceremonies. In the building that evening are executives from G-Unit, Atlantic, Universal and Interscope as well as scouts from D-Block and Def Jam. It's a networking bonanza. Then the reason why Mental had been adamant about us showing up becomes clear: MTV were set up ready to tape the event and there would be a special performance in the middle of the showcase by a brand new Interscope Records artist. The place gets hype. Due to the massive turnout for the showcase that week each act gets to do one song only.

First act, Ancient Scroll, an older, nay, middle aged West Indian with an off beat flow, but tonight he's just off beat and he's offstage in a rush. Act Two launches to the stage with a portable fog machine and polyester outfit like a leftover from an 80's funk band. His love song has an extra long intro and before he even lays into his song he's booed off. Act three is looking jitterish. Indeed, he's forgotten the end of his first verse. Gone. We're up.

Wait. We didn't rehearse, we are about to perform a song that we've never performed before, the crowd has tasted blood and no doubt they want more. Damn, we're up this early? So be it New York. Let's play.

"What up What up....I go by the name Smalls," my partner booms into his mic. "This joint is called Let's Go." With a slight eye cue from me the DJ sets track two off and I enthusiastically plow into my hype man role seeking to quickly find the zone. Smalls goes into the first verse. The crowd watches silently waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Being lyrically deft is a good thing in here and this uptempo club joint has heads bouncing. It seems to be going well with the ladies also. I latch on Smalls' punchlines accentuating them for impact. While Smalls tilts his mic upward rooted to the spot preaching, I venture to roam the small stage casually doing my romp nailing my cues. The second verse is wrapping up and I'm definitely feeling the heat rising from under my shirt, the words are getting throatier, the neck is snapping harder and our posture is confident. I'm channelling Freaky Tah tonight. Smalls is stellar as usual. It's the final stretch now, I spy a girl with a golden jacket and stunna shades getting atop a speaker to the right of us. That's the fuel I need. We've got them. Now we're right on the brim of the stage, words loud, spittle flying, right hand on the mic, left arm in the air body moving in time. "Let's Go!" The music cuts, and the crowd lightly claps. Props never come easy in The Rotten Apple or anywhere in the North East for that matter. And amid the clapping the rant goes up among that Brooklyn bevy, "Bullet! Bullet!" Bless them.

Post-Morterm: Phew... The first survivors of the night. I wonder if it was a good call going up that early, but better that than when the crowd gets weary ten acts in. And this new song we did sounds good live. Good pick.... Damnit Smalls, we forgot to shout out New York. We barely talked to them tonight. Not that it matters. Not as much as when the clapping was happening, as the gunfingers went up in the air, as my Brooklyn darlings saluted us, we proclaimed these words proud. Prouder words still. "Big Up all Africans."

Big Up.

Check out Smalls' brand new mixtape THE BRIEFING available for download.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007


My heart goes out for kids running the streets,
Ten years old with nothing to eat, playing in dirt,
Hair never combed, been the same since birth,
And they moms gets too high to change they shirt,
Pardon me this is my vision, the shit that I live in,
Crack heads,baby mothers with n_gg_z in prision,
Stack bread playing the dozens with liqour and izm,
Clap lead, spraying your cousin for sticking your Wisdom,

Ransom - "Hood Visions"
From the 2006 mixtape: DJ Lust Presents Ransom Is The Best In The City

The effigy has been burning for a while. But the long time apprehensions of black activists like Chuck D, Rev. Sharpton and others has taken on new impetus since Bill O'Reilly, Paula Zahn, Anderson Cooper and other mainstream (read: white) commentators have jumped on the bandwagon in the aftermath of the Don Imus fallout (Pitiful, that if it doesn't have White America's imprimatur it remains a fringe issue). And the hollerations are clear: blame hiphop!

Blame hiphop for the fact that influential white Radio Jock, Imus, called some high achieving Black women nappy-headed hoes and got crucified for it; that many of the images you see in Black Entertainment involve misogynistic and derogatory images of women; blame it for the subversive street messages like those that exhort all and sundry to stop cooperating with the police; that Inner City violence continues. Blame hiphop that words like Bling bling have made into the official American Lexicon. Blame hiphop!

Hiphop, like Blues, has always exhibited a blunt-force-trauma style of presentation. While Michael Dyson, Sharpton and others were trying to put together soundbytes for the media castigating the Federal Government as it wrung its hands early in the Hurricane Katrina Disaster, rapper Kanye West put it thus at a national telethon appearance: "George Bush doesn't care about Black People." You may have thought it, may have thought it was too contentious to say around the watercooler or at the supermarket checkout queue to the lady from next door, but there. Kanye stated without apology what he thought was the bottom line on a prime time national tv broadcast.

And hiphop has been saying it. Pinpointing the destruction that is part of the way of life of one of most endangered species on the Planet: the black man. Saying it in ways that the middle and upper class find uncomfortable to face. Jay-Z said "I can't see them coming down my eyes so I gotta make the song cry," rappers stunt like they're uberthugs in search of the next hapless victim to exact a 200 shot drive-by on, but beneath that, they are people wailing for a way out. Just like a drunk will stand up proclaiming he's fine to drive home and then totter dangerously on his feet quietly hoping the performance will elicit a volunteer from his audience to shuttle him safely home.

Before we blame the bearer of the unpalatable news, there are issues that have been ignored for far much longer than hiphop was born in 1974. The disenfrachisement of the American Lower Class - populated by a majority of the black population - in wealth generation and education is not a hot button topic on Anderson Cooper 360 ( "Tonight on The O'Reilly Factor...Libraries. Where are they in the Ghetto?"). The misogyny directed at the Black Woman is a long-standing blight. Think Hottentot Venus, or the scores of black women sexually violated during slavery. Was that perpetrated by Nelly with Snoop keeping watch? The glorification of the Barbie ideal as the standard of beauty that has led Black People to reject their own kinky-headed and dark skinned beauty for horse hair extensions and skin lighteners, was that Uncle Luke's fault? When civic actions by elements of the Los Angeles Black society grew into the nationalist Black Panther Party, the FBI got involved in shutting it down for good and put black people in jail. In the early 20th Century Jewish immigrants in New York, for example, uplifted their lot by forming socialist type groups that created businesses, housing and social support for their own. Contrast that to the demise of the Black Wall Street. There are 2.2 million black males in american prisions, which is directly related to consistent long term discriminate vicitmization of black men by the Police and the Justice system.

Against this backdrop, with dilapidated neighborhoods that are simply economic deserts, the resultant crime and the violence it creates, drug abuse, prostitution and the ultimate disaster,the dismemberment of the Black Family, Hiphop Culture lives. What do you expect rappers to talk about? And while it's true that the billions in revenue hiphop generates come from a mostly white audience, the the audience a rapper directs his music to is the people who are from or bear a similar background to the rapper, or understand it. The rest of the world simply dials in, like watching a gripping reality show.

Another major issue that all the commentators gloss over is the American Recording and Radio Broadcast sectors which bear similarities with professional sports. While Blacks excel as performers in the arenas, they are a small presence in the boardrooms where billion dollar decisions that affect the game are made. And the Federal Trade Comission has been a cheerleader as the recording industry has dwindled to four major players through mergers and acquisitions (Sony, BMG, Universal & EMI) and 80 percent of all the radio stations in America are owned by two companies (Clearchannel and Infinity). The radio aquisitions were initiated by a Clinton-era law that a Republican majority Congress approved. It eliminated the cap on the number of radio stations a single company could own.

Let's not forget the main music video outlets that broadcast urban music (BET, MTV, VHI) are all owned by Viacom. There are simply no avenues today for rappers with an alternative voice to reach the mainstream without going through these corporate gatekeepers. And they are not interested in these rappers. In the early ninties for example, when the marketing formula wasn't set in stone yet, it was possible to contrast the NWA guntalk with the positive philosophies of the Native Tongue Collective. Both perspectives were on blast on major outlets and thus the audience was able to get a more nuanced message out of rap music. At the very least, there was a choice available to listeners.

Similarly in Hollywood, the gatekeepers dictate the content of black films: comedies and action flicks that exploit the common sterotypes. That's what's proven to deliver favorable box-office returns. Any attempts at creating dramatic or serious films that don't make a play on the sterotypes is simply not on the table.

The profit motive will always reign, and simply, vice sells. Be it violence, lust, pride or prejudice. Training Day is feted before Malcom X. Similarly, the recording industry knows now after the trials of the 80's and 90's and the runaway success of some rappers who lived and died by the gun in their lives and music (RIP), that 50 Cent will raise more eyebrows - and hence generate more revenue - than Common Sense. The radio broadcast industry, long in bed with the recording industry through a system of payments-for-airplay, bows to the the will of its symbiotic partner. When the decision is made to promote crime and gunplay, empty antagonism, excess materialism, pimpery and rump shaking and the stifling of messages of upliftment and genuine explorations issues in the ghetto, the rappers have no say. The ones that want to move from Hollis to the Hamptons, from Bankhead to South Beach, from Long Beach to Palm Springs, they have to hop to the masters organ tune and make music along these lines. Radio obliges and plays the same 30 or so songs the record companies want to sell the the most over and over, all day long. The playlist on a hiphop & r&b radio station in Boston is similar to the one in Chicago or St Louis or San Diego with few variations. Independent Labels that currently support messages alternative to the status quo in rap simply have no pull on mainstream networks, and therefore, their records never reach the larger part of the listenership.

And there is the problem, O'Reilly, Anderson Cooper et al. First, the opportunities for Rap and other Black music to fully express its First Amendment Right to Free Speech has been slaughtered at the altar of the Greenback Temple. The corporations involved do their best with marketing blitzes that leave the listenership no option but to swallow the drivel that is force fed to them.

Secondly and most important, the destructive issues that plague the ghetto haven't changed for generations, and thinking banning certain words from lyrics will change things in the ghetto, where these messages hit home the hardest, is window dressing. Parking the blame in front of the Rap driveway is myopic and futile. Integrated solutions that address the socio-economic issues as well as harmful messages in rap music are in order. So burn the Hiphop effigy. Paint it as the Bad Guy. Find Killa Cam and ask him why he won't snitch. Boost ratings, work up a lather among the Leafy Surbub Set whose kids buy the music and solve nothing.

Indulge Responsibly

(Original version aired: Thursday, April 26, 2007 )

Horrorscene Hollywood Crack.

Zero calories.
100% source of essential Savage Music nutrients.
Regular users are advised to utilize a neck brace or enjoy this product from a relaxed or laying down postion.
Has an Automobile Association 5 Star in-cab entertainment rating.
Also interacts well with other intoxicants.

SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Contents are highly habit forming.

24 Tracks. Heist International/Street Corner Ent Release. April 2007. Expires: Never.

Get high.

Opium Black is the current Breeding Ground Artist on Past alumni include Joell Ortiz, Papoose, Stimuli and I believe Saigon. Some of these dudes are in major level situations. Ortiz just got signed to Aftermath last year, 'Poose is Mr. 1.5 million dollars and Saigon has an enviable unbeatable access to beats by Just Blaze courtesy of being signed to Blaze's Fort Knox imprint on Atlantic.

Picture Me Grindin

A Heist International soldier uncovers a day getting it in.

(Original version aired: Thursday, April 19, 2007)

Aint nuthing to talk about pay me,
N_gga we go 'head and spark it out early,
When I'm gunning for your head,
I'm riding, you dying my gun go

Opium Black & Sam Scarfo - Bang (you can hear it here)

Riding in a nondescript two-seater at 11 am on a Saturday morning and it feels wrong to be outside right now. I mean, here I am barely five hours after I crept into my domicile for a hot meal and warm bed covers....chilling outside the theater, about 900 people inside getting the best of a Stepshow and we're waiting for them to come outside. It's no time to hunker down and wish for more slouch minutes, we need to be ready for them. Baaang.... that song gets me for real.... can I hear that one mo 'gain before we hop out the whip?

Something's wrong in the Northeast, it's April and the weather hasn't broken yet. This frigid nonsense makes the job harder. Taping up posters to walls and light poles with trembly and numb fingers. Oh well. Get those 5'X5' cd inserts in hand, make sure the grab bag has at least thirty cds in it. It's 11:30, let's revist what the rest of the team has done. Walk up to Don-Don and his homie finishing off a pungent dutch. It's looking good. Those posters are unmistakable up and down the street and in the parking lot. The City's going to hate us. When this crowd gets outside there's one thing they're going to see:

DJ Kurupt & Opium Black. Black Plague. In Stores Now.

12:15, the early birds start trickling out of the building Don-Don, his buddy and myself position ourselves by the main entrance. Every walking stiff gets handed a cd insert and an obligitory appeal is sounded for them to support the brand new mixtape 'in the streets now'. The cuties get a free cd if the sound excited enough, and the real dudes if they with it. The hobnobbing in the home city is usually easy. The dimes light up "Oh Opium! I met him before!" or "I've heard him on the radio!" or "I saw him on stage last summer! Where y'all at tonight?" And based on the misinformation served you might be copping some really utilizable digits from a pretty thang.

It's looking good. Don and his mans seem like they could handle what's left. I'm off with my my right hand man to handle some other work. We're heading towards the genesis of the whole movement.

The Northside.

An area of roughly 12 city blocks by 12 blocks. The reason why this city is a perennial feature on the top 25 most violent cities list in the The States. A wasteland of old colonial style two or three family houses and tri-level apartment blocks mixed in with corner stores and run-down shopping areas. Mostly of Black - with a heavy west indian bent - and Latino makeup. Streetcorner drug sales, late night gunfights, crazy parties in hole-in-the-wall joints and drug fiends walking up and down the main strips in broad daylight. Zombies trying to come back from the undead, if only for a while. That's jsut a small part of it. Many are just trying to get ahead and live good.

I get dropped off at the end of a busy thoroughfare, what we call The Ave, with a stack of posters and scotch tape. My partner is off to put cds in the stores. 45 minutes later I'm all the way up into the heart of the shopping area on the strip, putting up posters in and outside barber shops, hair salons, clothing stores food marts, convenience stores and liqour spots. Placement is key, trying to prominently position the posters for maximum reach both in and out of the premises. Not all stores are with it though. Some represent ah yard, them no want no Yankee nonsense dat. And some are christian. No hiphop grafitti on their walls.

An hour an a half later, slighty cold all over, my fingers definitely feeling frozen and abused, I'm back in the whip again feeling like it's a job well done. Son, gimme track seven again,

They gon put the chalk around you,
N_ggas is scared to walk around you,
When I'm gunning for your head,
I'm riding, you dying my gun go

We circle the strip again double checking the work. Then it's off to another area, Killa Hill to bombard the stores in that area with posters and drop some cds in the music stores and bootleggers that do business in the area. An hour later with a little more cash in the pocket we head to the 'hood to pay dues. Don-don sounds off bouyantly over the nextel walkie-talkie saying he managed to off half his stash of discs outside the stepshow venue. Lovely. We pull up to the hood and my partner is immediately met with cat calls and hollerations as dudes on the corner spy on one of their own respected bretheren outside.

"Aay Opium what it is kicko, where my joint at?"
"Whooo, That intro is bananas, had n_ggas dummin last night."
This shit just dropped last night? I just went by The Ave I seen the poster in the bodega. That shit looking sick. Who did that? That shit look crazy, for real."
"Eey Inf, man I want beats man, and stop bullshittin me, I want them type joints you gave Black n_gga. What the f_ck hiding that crack from n_ggas huh..."

As warm handslaps and hugs go around, dudes stay wary of the two black and white police squad cars that pulled up at the end of the block effectively curtailing, for who it may concern, some drug sales for a little while. The fiends are put on alert and told to hold tight and wait for the situation to change. Meanwhile the word is spreading. The intersection is getting piled up as o.g's gone legal and street kingpins on the low bring their maximas, beemas and suvs out to the corner. The street mainstays are also outside. Early saturday afternoon in April starts to look like July. The traffic into the liqour store on the corner starts to thicken and the fifths of Hennesey start flowing. The doors on the vehicles stay open and each vehicle is booming some type of track off the brand new mixtape we've slaved over for a few months.

Seeing this reaction in this neck of the woods is a good sign. Later on in the month there are mixshow meetings at radio stations, meetings with influental hiphop website execs and a few A&Rs at the club performances we have inked for the rest of the month, and they all need to be impressed. And there are out of town trips planned to promote where the people wont be as easily excited, but once they hear the crack we're serving they must show some respect and buy the mixtape or come to a show. And the gatekeepers must offer us some opportunities. We want in.

Creating buzz for an artist is such a tall order especially for independent bugdet goons like we. But this month alone has justified many of the things we've been through. Riding out to the Apple, seeing the artist chilling on the set of a new Kel Spencer video, or just getting love from a big-time dj at a big time club at some big time album release party, or when an heavyweight puts his word on it that we can expect a serious look on that heavy traffic site...some work is getting done. They're starting to know about dude....

The grind continues.

More Miseducation

(Originally aired: Friday, March 23, 2007)

Indulging in mind-bending soul has been a pet fetish for the kid for a while, okay, forever. And the worst thing about being stateside is that it's so much harder to feed thyself on audio art that exists on the fringes, or isn't of Yankee origin because if it's not on corporate Radio or TV, it might as well not be made, because you will hear it nada. Which is why it saddens me that I've been late to this party. I'm usually early to the hanyee...I'm getting sloppy...damn.

When it comes to soul the Brits have always been unafraid of putting together work that would make any 'normal' american record executives throw themselves out of a 5th Avenue office perched on the 26th floor. That Brit-Soul has, time after time, taken chances is an understatement. In my mind, Neo-Soul's daddy is none other that funky, avant-garde Northern English heathen, Acid Jazz; the bastard child of soul that refused to play it safe, that embraced Disco and Jazz and took them to another place. It could never have been born on US terra firma. It would have been forced to meet quarterly sales quotas and sell toys to suburban 12 year olds. Before the world embraced D'Angelo there was the Brand New Heavies. Simple.

In that vein of taking soul music to a different place cometh a white brunette who effortlessly channels the 60's refreshingly, fleshing out tunes that feel like you're tooling in a 1967 Renault listening to your AM radio with your babe cozily underarm, until you realize you're solo and Downtown bound on the 8:36 shuttle, Ipod earbuds thumping.

Wakey wakey dreamer, you're quite adrift from Motown, or 1967, for that matter, but what's cooking doesn't sound dated. And it's far from the latest edition of shrink-wrap-shipped packages of cookie cutter dry hump love tune jesters meant to deter supplicants from realizing what they're missing. Baby girl's heart sounds like it lives on her sleeve on tracks like,
Rehab, the break up ditty Back to Black, Wake up Alone, Tears Dry on Their Own and Me and Mr. Jones (fuckery). Who's been doing this woman dirty?

And it turns out her management at the time really tried to make her go to Rehab but she said 'no, no, no.' One of the best songs that will be heard this year, whether radio plays it or not.

Well some folks have been dying for a Lauryn Hill revival, but who knew the next chapter in The Miseducation of soul music would come from North London.The album
Back To Black has finally hit US shores (UK got their fix last October). DJ Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi did their thing.


Amy Winehouse is her name.

Also, brand new music can be heard from Brit-girls Joss Stone and Lily Allen.

Oh So Thickely

(Originally aired: Sunday, February 18, 2007)

So here's hoping your V-day was sweet and popping. Mine, well in the words of Katt Williams, I had to make a pimp decision. So I laid low....maybe not the best thing for some of the dames who carry on in life thinking they've got my graces, but this pimp laid low enjoyed the V-day snowstorm that hit my yard solo.

But the day after, the flak hit. The how could you nots, the shame on yous and the we're not talking right nows, but a buddy (word to Musiq) was nice enough to share their free passes to see Robin Thicke. The Jon B of this decade. He has dudes around here kind of mad though because Ms. Paula Patton (pictured below) is his main squeeze. She appeared recently in the movie
Deja Vu.

He lost the dirty hippie appeal, steered away from the neo-soul vibe and added slick production to his second lp, but the boy still brings that raw soul sound to his show. This one was at an upscale bar frequented by the 9-5 urban bourgie types. They were out in their grown and sexy gear. The sistas were out in full force. It was small for the 300 deep in the house and everybody was pressed in tight at the 11:15 pm show time. I prefer those venues to the arena shows where binoculars and other telescopic devices are needed. Don't bring your good shoes though.

Drummer, guitarist, keys and bass alongside Mr. Patton, sorry, Mr. Thicke on piano was the gang on stage. He ran through his singles:
Shooter, Wanna Love You girl, Switch and the current falsetto hit Lost Without You. He also auditioned a new song, a slow player that was also pretty good, although the name escapes me. He definitely got me at the end with his rendition of Al Green's Let's Stay Together. A low blow, but one that will always work.

A quick set but not bad. Catch him if you can.


(Originally aired: Tuesday, November 07, 2006)

From Musikland on Moi Ave to a Sam Goody in Omaha his prowess is unmatched. I'm proud to welcome again my sticky fingered compadre with a bad music habit, Shop Liftah, here to give us the deal on a few new cds he umm...acquired... recently.

It's almost time for a Styles P record. Consistently spitting that hardcoreness, Lox and D-Block frontman Styles P embodies the grittyness and bleakness of the New York concrete jungle. PCutta and DNA compile together newer and older tracks in the run up to the release of Styles' second lp Time is Money. Close to the Concrete, Aint Buying What U Sellin' and 914 are stellar examples of that bangout music Styles P is beloved for. Fewer people get consistent attention on mixtapes. Every other week some DJ has a best of Styles compilation or something similar out. This joint could've been better but until he brings his new album or an all new music mixtape to the table, I guess we have to deal with the scraps.

Undoubtedly one of New York's finest, of all time, delivers his 6th piece independently and that means the greater masses of ears in need of something more quality get to miss out. I Am the Truth, is just that as Az makes his case. Sit Em Back with fellow Brooklynites MOP is a raucous stomp-em-out heater and Little Brother show up for a marvellous collaboration on Rise and Fall. If the Nas-Az project never sees the light of day then may we take this opportunity to lobby for a DJ Premier-Az opus, as the duo reunite with good results on the title track. Az doesn't play out of pocket. It's mainly introspective hood philosophy and street storytelling told with that flawless flow over soul themed beats. Get High and Doing That should have been replaced, although they are minor shortcomings. This album may go over the Snap and Hyphy set but Allah be praised that The Aziatic is back.

It must be a New Jersey thing. Like Jahiem, the one time Teddy Riley understudy and Jersey City native Shareefa delivers sung performances with a real tight street appeal on her debut album Point of No Return. Since her appearance on the second DTP compilation last year it was apparent that she was not afraid to write about something other than love, which R&B's worst ailment currently, and sing with a realness that is hard to ignore. The Intro starts with a rock bottom moment, as she's sent to prision. And then Rodney Jerkins helps her get closure from a bad relationship on Cry No More. Another key ingredient to this piece is gogo maestro turned R&B wunderkid, Rich Harrison, who matches her street sensibility with soundscapes that recall the boom-bap driven soul of the mid 90's. No One Said lifts a sample popularized by Biggie Smalls on his first album, How Good Love Feels sounds like something Mary J. Blige would have done for her second album. Phony touches upon a betrayal by a girlfriend, not over a man, but some undisclosed situation that actually saw Shareefa behind bars for a stint. The tail end of the album slows down. DTP compatriot Bobby Valentino drops in for a bump-n-grind session on Hey Babe, Eye Wonder is a cheating-with-him episode, while Fever explores a crush. She may have only moved 30k on her first week but this is easily one of the finer all-around R&B performances of 2006.

Round Two is always a watershed phase, and for the New Millenium Nate Dogg his second album is probably his best chance to solidify his Konvict Music movement. From the jump Shakedown is that gangsta crooning that Akon is making his own. Styles P returns for Blown Away, another street bandit two step anthem. Never Took the Time, Dont Matter and I Can't Wait offer a different look as Akon does the love song thing. Akon still shines with the street conscious music, on Gringo, he's a drug dealer making a pitch, and on Tired of Running he's a street hustler done with ducking the Law. Then there's Mama Africa, a reggae joint in tribute to his roots. Overall, Konvicted stays true to what Akon does well, with a few radio songs (Smack That and I Wanna Love You) thrown in to cement the traffic to the music store.

Another year another album. Jim Jones is definitely a prime example of how the constant grind of keeping your name out in the street whether it's albums back to back, umpteen mixtapes, being on the red carpet at the VMA's and still doing club appearances in the roughest locales in the East Coast can do to boost your profile. Stylistically, what do you expect. More thuglife, hustler tales, and floss bossman rants from Jones and Dipset Byrdgang expressed over slicked out synths and drums. Emotionless, Pin the Tail and Weatherman are notables although they all have guests on them. More people have Jim Jones' name in their heads this year than last and there is a feeling in the northeast that there is a need for their own new star instead of all the mainstays or out of town boys and Jones is well placed to feed off that. Judging by his current buzz off the runaway hit We Fly High, this will be one of the hood soundtracks of choice for many this winter.


(Originally aired: Wednesday, October 18, 2006)

Let's celebrate. Kardinal Offishall is finally looking to get a realistic stab at mainstream success at his new home, Akon's Konvict Music. And to celebrate: a Whoo Kid mixtape Canadian Coke is in order to start the streets salivating. It comes complete with a policeman buss 'em tirade (Officer Down), a kenyan Boston Marathon reference (Take the Money) and a patois flavored banger (All the Way). Vybez Kartel steps up with tough gangster posturing (Everybody Gone Gangsta), while Socrates and Choclair re-up for a mean rehash over a Rza backdrop (T-dot Chambers).

Kardinall enjoys cult status in Toronto and it's hard not to see how his hype part b-boy, part rudebwoy persona, and sharp delivery can excite. Looks like T-dot is finally ready to export something fuego.

Tekzilla is spitting a lot more on his new joint, and it's all on point. Recent Aftermath R&B signee Dion is all over this album ( 5 tracks) and doesn't disappoint. Ayak (whatever happened to Jonell) blows marvellously on Can We Go Back. Q-tip and DPG's Kurupt sound like they could be in a group together on Keep it Moving, Ghostface paints a crack queen scenario with the Willie Cottrell Band and Busta Rhymes methodically shuts it down on March. Four New York rappers bring a gritty city anthem to life,
Strong Arm Steady finally gives us a taste of what to expect on their Blacksmith/Warner debut, and Nas paints an absolutely ridiculous true school picture on Music For Life.

Hi-Tek brings his trademark knock, a more high-profile guest list (no Slum Village, Mood or Jinx Da Juvy, but more Talib) that for the most part does its thing and as such, brings forth an easy to listen to head-nodder.

Banks delivers trademark G-Unit thugman gunrap sprinkled with a few Blue Hefner detours of which Help and One Night Stand are stellar examples. Beat selection was on point, but Eminem's beat and Fif collabo Hands Up doesn't deliver. Addicted with Musiq knocks, Gilmore is bouncy and Mobb Deep's Prodigy is actually less sluggish on Get Clapped.

In future hindsight, this album will stand out as being a brash and slick New Yorkcentric piece in a shoulder-lean-walk-it-out arena.

He swerved into our speakers on the back of Kanye Soul, with an album that had as much hiphop sensibility as it had soul. Chapter two features tunes with more pop-rock lean in them. Current pop standard sounding single Save Room starts the collection off, but before you get it twisted, track two, Heaven comes in with that Kanye boom-bap; Again sounds like an Ordinary People except it's a his & her blame game story. Maxine sounds like a piano bar lounge rumba inspired joint as does Where did my baby go.

But overall, the hip-hop soul of his first record is not all over this record. He's still firmly behind his Steinway and although rhythmically he takes it to a different place, he sings with the same earnest soul and each song stands strongly on its own.

Oh how the mighty creep on the low: this chic used to be on diva status, and songs like Angel of Mine and Why I Love You So Much were top-40 favorites on blast to the point I can't bear to hear them again. But a lot of black singers who've tasted middle america adulation opt to return to a more urban flava and appease that constituency especially after an extended hiatus. This joint picks up where the last one left off. With songs like Sideline Ho, Hell Now, and Gotta Move On, she is still making confrontational love songs about love gone bad, which she does well. I don't how how they dont have the advisory sticker on this record.

There are a few missteps (Everytime The Beat Drop is an unnecessary Snap music salute) and she doesn't really harrass her vocal range in this offering, even doing some of her singy-songy rappin, but songs like the Curtis Mayfield sampled A Dozen Roses, Doin Me Right, and Gotta Move On suffice this go-around.

Still going for a grown and sexy appeal on album three. No up-tempo mishaps featuring the vogue blabberer, oops, rapper of the moment. Just love songs - mid-tempo joints and slow jams - for that ass. And a Luther remake for a bonus. Nothing really stands out, he's playing the skillful teddy bear balladeer thing to the tilt.


(Original version aired: Monday, September 25, 2006)

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