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ALBUM REVIEW: ANTHONY HAMILTON: WHAT I'M FEELIN....

ALBUM REVIEW: ANTHONY HAMILTON: WHAT I'M FEELIN....

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Just after promoting his new Christmas offering, Anthony Hamilton is back, this time with a 12-track set that is sure to set the industry ablaze. Led by the melodic tune “Amen”, Hamilton is digging deep into his emotions and sharing both his pain and happiness with this LP. He’s dealt with so much throughout the past year, most significantly his divorce, and it’s easy to see that this album was his way of releasing and coming to grips with it all.

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Hamilton worked with a few familiar names on this LP who have helped him throughout the years in building, including Salaam Remi, James Poser, and Mark Batson, who has worked with a who’s who of entertainers throughout the years, and contributed heavily to Hamilton’s 2003 So So Def release, Comin’ From Where I’m From.

On a personal note, it’s always great to get new music from Anthony Hamilton. With each release, he ventures down new avenues, trying different things with his music, and it always results in multiple masterpieces that long-resonate with his fanbase. Examples of that include “Never Letting Go”, which features Vince Gill, and “Ain’t No Shame” with Gary Clark, Jr. Personally, I’m loving “What I’m Feelin” which features the Hamiltones.

It’s difficult to single out specific tracks as standouts, because truthfully, the entire album gels quite nicely. What’s nice with Hamilton is that while you’ve come to know what to expect with his releases, the flip side is that you still get something new each time around. He makes it a point to deliver what his fanbase has come to expect while still evolving with the industry and times. Fans will thoroughly enjoy “What I’m Feelin’”.

ALBUM REVIEW: Teyana Taylor - The Cassette Tape 94

ALBUM REVIEW: Teyana Taylor - The Cassette Tape 94

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Teyana Taylor has dropped a new mixtape that is sure to usher in an extended fanbase for her. Her new effort, The Cassette Tape 1994, is a 5-song mixtape that lends its focus to R&B of the nineties. She pays respects to some of the genre's biggest and brightest acts through samples and interpolations of such classics as KP & Envyi's Swing My Way, Bell Biv Devoe's Poison, and Tony Toni Tonè's Anniversary. So much has changed within the landscape of R&B, and a number of music fans are clinging to music of that very era with hopes of hanging on to that pure essence. Producers through the 5 tracks include Kanye West, J.R. Rotem, and Da Internz! The memories and the nostalgia evoked in listening to Teyana's vocals on this mixtape make it the classic that she was aiming it to be. 

Album Review: @EricBellinger ... Cuffing Season

Album Review: @EricBellinger ... Cuffing Season

 


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R&B is making quite he turn-around and it's definitely a good thing. Artists are actually taking the time to put together albums that truly feed the souls of music lovers. So is the case with Eric Bellinger and his new release, Cuffing Season. 

Bellinger is part of that fresh crop of artists taking R&B to the next level. They're not concerned about the current trends in music and not trying to sound like anything else that's out. They're simply following their heart and striving to make good, timeless music. It's important to know Bellinger's history when listening to this album. It gives you that amazing opportunity to feel and witness his growth in song. He's released a string of successful albums independently, along with writing a number of top selling songs for numerous artists. He's received several Grammies for his work with Chris Brown. 

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Cuffing Season boasts a number of jewels throughout. The world is singing the time of his single "Creep", which reworks the smash hit "Creep" by TLC while featuring T-Boz on vocals. "Focused on You" channels the Bravehearts' "Oochie Wally" and featured 2Chainz & Mya while "Text Threads" channels Montell Jordan's "This is How We Do It". Other winners on Cuffing Season include "The Summary", "Overrated" which borrows from the theme of "Living Single", "iPod on Shuffle" which is reminiscent of Silk's "Meeting in my Bedroom", and "Gina", which playfully borrows its theme from the hit show Martin. I feel like in his own way, he's paying homage to what we enjoyed in music and entertainment during the nineties. He's showing how his music and overall style have been influenced by those things. Tank drops in on "Turn Down 4 You" while Boosie adds his flair on "You Can Have the Hoes". 

Overall, Cuffing Season is a great listen, and a break from the norm of music. 

Album Review: Janine and the Mixtape: XXEP

Album Review: Janine and the Mixtape: XXEP

 

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With such a beautiful voice, good, relevant lyrics, and hot production, Janine and the Mixtape is definitely that next big thing to hit the music scene. She gave us Dark Mind in 2013, and that was then re-issued last year. Now, she’s surfaced again, this time with XXEP, a 6-song EP offering what I consider to be some of her best music to date.

 

The mood is still dark with this album, and the tracks are mostly filled with pain and heartache. I’ve said before that she reminded me a little of Aaliyah, and I hear it more in her style and delivery with XXEP, but it’s honestly a good thing. It definitely isn’t at a level where you feel she’s trying to emulate. It’s evident that there’s a lot of influence in general, and it comes out in the music.

 

Nevertheless, Janine and the Mixtape is an artist all her own, and is destined for great things. She's a much-needed breath of fresh air in an industry that has become inundated with copycats and downright theft. I, for one, am eager to hear more from her. 

Natasha Mosley: Rose Hall: Album Review

R&B Artist Natasha Mosley has released her debut, Rose Hall, and the album is definitely one to be remembered. Check out our review to see just what Natasha is offering to the R&B world by clicking HERE!

 

Also, click HERE to order your digital copy via iTunes!

Game of Thrones Roundup: One Rape Too Many?

Game of Thrones Roundup: One Rape Too Many?

This past week saw a harrowing moment on Game of Thrones sparking debate on social media.  Any seasoned fan of the HBO series will know Thrones prides itself at shocking audiences. For the past five years, the show has strangled the life out of any hope for justice in the fantasy world of Westeros. If you haven't watched the phenomenon that is Game of Thrones, you are doing yourself a disservice. To your surprise, you'll find it's much more akin to Sopranos or The Wire than the likes of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. Its audience has come to expect character driven plots involving deadly political maneuvering and assassinations. We've watched season after season with main characters meeting a bloody end with no vengeance in sight. We've also seen a healthy dose of gratuitous nudity, subjugation of women, and the occasional rape scene.

*Spoiler Alert(s) for those who haven't watched up to episode 6 of season 5*

Having already experienced all the atrocities Thrones have thrown at its audience throughout the years, why the big fall out over the latest rape scene? Shouldn't we be desensitized or more understanding of the despicable actions regularly occuring in Westeros? That's really a question for audience members to think about and answer individually. Its significance could be colored by whether or not you've read the original novels the series is based on.

The particular rape scene being discussed on social media involves Sansa and Ramsey while Theon/Reek watches on. The face Alfie Allen depicts in character as Theon/Reek accurately reflects the anguish I felt while watching. With the scene slowly unfolding, the certainty of menace unveiled itself so uncomfortably. Sansa spent her wedding night losing her virginity to one of the sickest characters birthed by the imagination of George R.R. Martin, writer of the novels. Anyone who remembers King Joffrey, knows that's saying a lot and how dangerous these characters can be.

It's not fair to only focus on this one scene. The sixth episode of the season had some pretty incredible and hilarious moments. Everyone's favorite little assassin, Arya, finally made some progress at the House of Black. She's well on her way to murderous vengeance we're all dying to see. Grandma Tyrell is back in fine sassy form, putting the scheming Cersei in her place. The bromance between Tyrion and Jorah is solidified while facing slave traders and possible dwarf cock merchants. Outside of 'the scene' in this weeks episode, the only weak points were in Dorne. This whole season seems to be struggling to make Dorne's role in the larger narrative a compelling aspect of the series. We've had scarce time with the Sand Snakes and company. Their appearance comes off as both cheesy and muted when compared against the talented cast of actors elsewhere in Westeros. Daenerys' storyline in Mereen has been a drag for a few seasons, but things are looking more interesting heading into the tail end of the current season.

The direction of the show is diverging wildly from the source material, sparking ire amongst fans of the book. I can't help but think this plays a large part in the online outrage with what's happened to Sansa. In the books a decidedly more vicious rape scene occurs between Ramsey and another character he marries. Not only has the show deviated from its source material, but it's also gone out on a limb to set up a beloved character to once again be tortured and humiliated. We've seen Sansa barely escape Joffrey earlier in the series. We've seen her be manipulated by the calculating Petyr Baelish. We all know what to expect from Game of Thrones at this point, but good grief Thrones writers, give us some sort of hope.

I won't personally say this scene is a mistake. The frequency of rapes and abuse inflicted on women in this serious is ridiculous, even by HBO standards. However the scene worked in being impactful. Despite the horror Sansa faced in this episode, she had an earlier moment of triumph when confronting Ramsey's lover. She's showed a spark of resilience and even a cunning ability to 'play the game' before. The rape scene wasn't visually as brutal we know Thrones can be. But Theon/Reek's face mixed with Sansa's whimpers of terror was enough to make this one of the more difficult scenes of the series.

I can only hope this means vengeance is that much closer to happening for the Starks. There's no way the show writers can leave us with such a horrific scene without seeing a spectacular fall for Ramsey. Stannis is headed to Winterfell, Lord Baelish is promising to quell the remnants of the victor, and Daenerys is still planning to scorch out all her opponents in King's Landing with her dragons. Despite the epic struggles ahead, it'll be Sansa's rise I'm keen on seeing. Enough with being a victim already. We're all ready to see her become a real player in the Game of Thrones and stick it to Ramsey. His days on the show had better be numbered.

Album Review: Ciara: Jackie

Album Review: Ciara: Jackie

Ciara, Jackie Cover Art

Ciara, Jackie Cover Art

Ciara is back with her new LP, titled "Jackie". Named after her mother, the album symbolizes the idea that now as a mother herself, Ciara is able to see things through the ideas of her mother. 

As a fan of Ciara and her music, I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with Jackie, as I believe most will be. Obviously, Ciara has been around for more than a decade now, having released her debut “Goodies” in 2004. She has grown progressively throughout the years, and this time around, she’s got an album that showcases that growth. 

Producers throughout Jackie include Rehab, Polow da Don, Dr. Luke, and Harmony Samuels, who has provided the musical backdrop for such artists as Fantasia, Ariana Grande, Keyshia Cole, and Jennifer Hudson just to name a few. 

The album starts of with the somewhat-shocking, yet pleasing ‘Jackie (B.M.F.) (Still wrapping my mind around Ciara saying she’s a back motherfucker). All jokes aside, it’s really a solid track, and the beat (provided by Harmony Samuels) pulls you in from the start, as the production does throughout the entire LP. She goes on, saying “can’t even hate cause you know this shit hot, yea I’m that bitch, like it or not, better get ready cause I’m not gone’ stop”… There’s a whole new level of confidence that I believe people will really like seeing and hearing. 

Missy Elliott and Pitbull appear on “That’s How I’m Feelin’”. There’s been a bit of back and forth about whether this would be the follow-up single to “I Bet”, but it’s looking as though it may be “Dance Like We’re Making Love”, which is produced by Dr. Luke, who has also produced for many of the biggest acts in the industry. Honestly, I feel like that’s probably a good move. “Dance Like We’re Making Love” just has this smooth groove about it that you can’t help but dance to. 

Ciara asserts her independence and strength on the Polow da Don - produced ‘Fly”. “I Got You” is a touching tune that is clearly inspired by motherhood. 

Overall, fans will be pleased with “Jackie”. Ciara has always appeared confident in her step, yet, there’s a newfound level of confidence, freedom, and independence that exudes throughout this LP. 

ALBUM REVIEW: @Jodecimusic ... The Past, The Present, The Future...

ALBUM REVIEW: @Jodecimusic ... The Past, The Present, The Future...

So the question on everyone’s mind is whether Jodeci was able to do it? Were they able to put together a solid LP after having been away for 20 years? The industry has changed drastically since they last released an album. Their last release was 1995’s “The Show, The After Party, The Hotel”. Their time away has made way for so many others to step in and command their territory, so to speak. It’s always been said that the longer you’re away, the easier for people to forget about you, but reality is no one has forgotten Jodeci. They made that much an impact with their catalog that fans literally have been wait; not so patiently, for a return. 

 

So here we are, 20 years later, with The Past, The Present, The Future. Truth is, they really do have a lot to prove. You can’t help but reiterate the fact of how long it has been. Their fanbase is that much older. Regardless of how they’ve been waiting for a new album, buying power today does not equal that of 20 years ago. Yes, people are still buying and downloading, but not in their demographic. They have a major task at hand in transitioning their newly re-established brand into album sales. Realistically, that may take some time. For the most part, The Past, The Present, The Future is a solid album. Some tracks sound quite polished and perfected [“Every Moment”, “Too Hot”, “Nobody Wins"], while others sound rushed and incomplete [“Checkin For You”]. One would imagine that once everyone was back on the same page and ready to put music together, they likely jumped in head first, and perhaps rushed through the process. Timbaland provides the backdrop for “Those Things” and “Incredible”, which in itself is great because of the history he has with the fellas. The hook to “Incredible, if you listen closely, plays just a bit on S.O.S. Band’s “Tell Me If You Still Care”, without directly sampling the tune. 

 

How The Past, The Present, The Future fares to you will depend greatly upon what your expectations were to begin with. I, for one, would have liked to see them reinvent themselves. It also would have been nice if some of the tracks dived into the things they’ve struggled with over the last two decades. Honestly, it’s more like they were trying to pick up where they left off. The content is similar, and for the most part, they’re not necessarily doing anything new. That; unfortunately, may work against them. But one thing still remains: they guys are still legends, and it’s good to see them back. All things being said, the album is still worth a listen. They are proving to the masses that despite what happens, and regardless of what struggles you endure, you can still make it through and live your dreams. Hopefully, this is the start of something that will continue to rebuild. 

ALBUM REVIEW: @Ludacris: LUDAVERSAL....

ALBUM REVIEW: @Ludacris: LUDAVERSAL....

 

Ludacris jumps back in the fire with his new album, Ludaversal, and fire is what he brings. Hip-hop has been missing that heat for quite some time. Ludacris teased fans with "Burning Bridges" some weeks ago, and now Ludaversal provides us with the full arsenal. 

He goes hard right out the gate with the David Banner-produced "Ludaversal Intro", spitting:

... "ain't nobody f**kin with me when it come to gettin' lyrical, murderin' a rapper and killin' beats n***a, I'm cinematic makin' everybody panic, I be bustin' like a semi-automatic, feel the heat n***a, we can battle in the Phantom in Atlanta, the Rover in Minnesota, or the Arizona streets n***a, they sayin' all these offensive lines, I snap back, this the quarterback sneak n***a..."

He shows right away that not only is he still a master at his craft, but he's stepped his game up in terms of wordplay and how he maneuvers over the beat. Ludacris has always been a master at his delivery and the way he bounces over the beat. As an intro, it should be a glimpse into what can be expected throughout the entire album, so to speak. While that isn't the case for many, ok - most albums, it actually rings true here. It's truly an uphill climb as the album progresses, from "Grass is Always Greener" and the #SykSense-produced "Call Ya Bluff", to the Big K.R.I.T. assisted "Come and See Me", and "Get Lit", which was produced by Da Internz. Monica appears on "Ocean Skies", on which Luda pays tribute to his father. That track is produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. I highlight the producers because Ludacris enlists some of hip-hop's best storytellers in terms of production. Others providing that backdrop include DJ Toomp, Mike Will Made It, Just Blaze, and Illmind. Other artists appearing throughout the album include Usher ("Not Long"), and Miguel ("Good Lovin'"). The albums deluxe edition includes "Money", "Problems", "In My Life", and "Burning Bridges" which respectively feature Rick Ross, Ceelo Green, John Legend, and Jason Aldean. "Money" and "Problems" are probably two of the most introspective tracks offered on Ludaversal, with lyrics on "Money" like:

"Mo money mo problems, tell me what's worse, gettin' audited by the government, givin' up millions to the IRS or havin' to take a paternity test from a b***h I never met .... I'm gettin' sued by my own family member, all 'cause my dog but her, and she was the one who walked up and put her hand out, and now she got her hand out, it's driving me crazy, almost as if the s**t was planned out..."

On "Problems", which features Ceelo Green, Luda raps:

"...and people know me on a first name basis, but all they ever really want it my cash, let me borrow just a couple hundred dollars and you know that I'm a pay you back my a**..."

Overall, Ludaversal is a win for Ludacris. Ludacris stands as his 9th album (if you include his independent released Incognegro). Reality is, rappers, and artists in general, have an expiration date, and that usually arrives fairly quickly. Ludacris has stood the test of the industry's ups and downs, remaining relevant along the way. He's been with Def Jam the entire distance, which in reality is against the norm. Most artist change labels, at least once throughout their career for whatever the reason may be. Ludacris has defied the odds in so many ways. 

Ludaversal is definitely an album you'll want to have in your collection. Look for the album in stores, and with online retailers Tuesday, March 31!