The Review: Amaris Star Is A “Dreamer”

Amaris Star 1

 

In the universe of hip hop, it has always been a man’s world. From its inception, until the dawn that it sits on currently, hip hop has always been a male dominated, controlled, and celebrated culture. From the graffiti artists, to the breakdancers, emcees to DJ’s and producers, men have owned the genre and culture from the beginning. Yet, while hip hop was still in its infancy stages, hip hop had room for its human counterpart, woman. At the beginning of hip hop, female emcees shined their light and received a lot of critical acclaim and love from the culture. From the days of Roxanne Shante’, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Monie Love, Rage, and Bahamadia; to the more raw and raunchy days of Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Eve, Remy Ma, Gangsta Boo, Trina and Diamond; hip hop found a corner for women to have some shine in the game.  With flashes of Lauryn Hill, Jean Grae, Rah Digga and others who may have given the female perspective of hip hop credence, the feminine voice of hip hop had be silenced and relegated to either overtly, sexually explicit content or using the male misogyny, dialect or voice to show that she could be as raw and hard core as the men.  Yet, those voices get lost on the phone lines of hip hop, and even with the occasional presence of Nikki Minaj or maybe an up-and-coming Azealia Banks, it seems that good female emcee’s have to play the same roles to get attention. Yet, away from the competitive beefs, gold chains, and materialistic lines that make you seem greater than humanity, maybe there is a sister spitting lyrics about something positive, refreshing, and noteworthy.  Well, insert Amaris Star, a female emcee out of Florida, who’s going against rap’s grain to bring something different to the game, and it’s worth noticing…

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The Review: Mark Rock Nelson’s Acoustic Intimacy EP Worth Noticing

                I am sure everyone knows and understands; finding love isn’t easy.  When you are young, free and untested in the experiences life brings before you, you have the most amazing fantasies and dreams of how to fall in love. It seems to go off without a hitch, no bumps in the road and seamlessly transitions from the comforts of home to the comforts of your companion’s arms.  Well, life begins to throw some amazing punches, hooks and kicks that knock that dream down worse than the beating Mike Tyson took from Buster Douglas in the infamous loss he faced.  Unfortunately, there are too many of us that never recover, and many more that never recover fully from those life blows that we take, and we struggle to regain some sense of normalcy when it comes to love.  Yet, we still yearn and hope for the dream, the fantasy that was to be, that never seems to come true. When we fall out of love, there is something, a familiar scent, the sight of a couple who are all into each other, or a song that reminds us that love is still within our grasps… Well, Atlanta resident musician, producer and songwriter Mark Nelson is stepping from behind the curtain to reveal his story of love, life and a better tomorrow that is just as tangible as they have ever been before…

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The Review: Zo!’s New Album Is More Than ManMade

                Man Made can have many different meanings and connotations depending on your perspective.  One may say something is Man Made if it’s created by the hands of a human, and not something that is naturally found in the earth or created by natural occurrences.  One could also think of Man Made as being something of a success that was created by them, nothing handed down to them or inherited and without any assistance. You can also look at Man Made as being something that is non-artificial, anti-synthetic and completely organic. It can be something totally derived from the human existence, not android driven or digitally enhanced, but merely conceived and created from the mind and molded from the hand. Man Made can induce the idea of something constructed out of a raw material and molded shaped and formed without the use of machines, robotic instruments or automated processes. Man Made can just mean original, nothing sampled, nothing copied, and nothing regurgitated or remixed, but completely made from scratch.  When you look at the new musical offering from pianist and producer Lorenzo “Zo!” Ferguson; ManMade, you realize that his approach to this album would encompass many of the definitions listed above.  There were many questions raised lyrically, thanks to the pen of Phonte Coleman aka Phontigallo, but one thing that is not in question, and that is the originality of the musical production. So, let’s take a look into the record, which maybe the best organic R&B experience to hit the music shelves and digital outlets in 2013

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The Review: Fred Hammond & United Tenors Are United For Worship

In today’s environment our American society promotes and praises and mindset and atmosphere of individuality.  A state of being unique, exclusive, one of kind, separate from others, alone; doing things on your own without collaboration, is all the range in society.  We seek and search the find the one thing that’s not like any other, and if there is a group or an organization, we sift through to find the one and pull that one out of the group to exalt and celebrate, while leaving the rest of the group behind.  Our celebration of individualism has infiltrated every facet of society, even music. You are hard pressed to find any musical groups lasting or coming together in any genre of music. Especially when it comes to creating a cohesive unit from separate individual parts who have seen success individually, it’s hard to blend different distinct part into one unified composition.  That’s why it’s wonderful to see what has formed today into a super group collaboration of tenor voices coming together to worship their Creator. Each individual has built a successful career on their own, but together they’ve formed a spiritually and vocally gifted unit and have created a true purpose filled project. Fred Hammond, Dave Hollister, Brian Courtney Wilson and Eric Roberson… together they form the group United Tenors, and this album is something special for everyone, those who believe in God and those who don’t to enjoy.

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The Review: Bilal’s A Love Surreal Is His Best Album Yet

Bilal is no stranger to the music world.  His talent has been praised from the underground and hailed from the top of the musical aristocracy as far as his vocal talent, musicianship and his songwriting.  Some have dubbed the young artist as the greatest vocal talent of his generation.  If you have ever watched him live or had the pleasure of hearing him perform, many will agree that vocally he can be unmatched with this extreme vocal range, complex vocal texture abilities and the capability to hit any note at any time.  Although he was signed to a major label record company, he garnered one of the strongest underground music followings in the world when his second album was leaked.  He was able to travel across the world touring on an album that never got released, increasing his fan base with every show he performed across the entire globe. He has played on many stages, worked with the best producers, musicians and composers this world had to offer. Yet, of all of the works he has created, A Love Surreal is his best work ever. Nothing done before has really encompassed the life and artistry of Bilal quite like this album. This record shows that his sound, his music, his creativity is finally taken stage and form. A Love Surreal is more than music, it’s a story about love; both its joys and its trials. Let’s delve into what is truly Bilal at his best, at his core: A Love Surreal

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The Review: Chantaé Cann Shines Her Light With Her Voice

Today we live in a world full of action.  Movement from every direction excites our attention and draws our eyes in every direction. Chaos is more entertaining and flashing lights brighten the curiosity of what is happening beneath them. Originating from the performers like Michael Jackson, Sam & Dave and Elvis Presley, music audiences have become more increasingly enchanted with the act or performance, and not the vocal instrument.  We’ve grown from a listening community who loved instrumental marvels and vocal acrobatics and strength, to multiple dance routines simultaneously happening at the same time, digital light show phenomenon(s) and vigorous shaking and gyrating across the stage.  Yet, there was a time where an amazing voice could capture your heart as well as your emotion.  Where the fluctuation of her notes or the change in the key when they sing, would mimic the shift of emotions when telling a story through song. Singing a high notes would signify a climax or excitement, while singing a low note may speak to calm or reserved emotion. Singing soft or loud could change the way you felt when hearing a song. Many subconsciously fade away from the notion that the voice is actually an instrument in itself… Well it is, and one of the young musicians who play their vocal instrument so exquisitely, is none other than… Chantae Cann…

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The Review: Sy Smith Gets “Fast and Curious”

In the summertime, everything thing is free and open.   School is over and no one has to worry about class until the fall.  The sun stays out longer, and the beaches are going to be packed almost every day.  Summer is the season of exploration.  You are bogged down with learning in the fall, and bundled up in the house for the cold winter.  In the spring, things are starting to bloom, but with the pollen and allergies, you can’t wait for the rain to come so you can keep breathing.  Yet, when the summer comes, you can play all day.  You can enjoy the breeze from the ocean, the pool party on the shore of the intercostal at night, or the barbeque that will happen every weekend at someone’s house.  Summer is also the breeding place of love… The infamous summer love; it’s so amazing and free, hot and fun, spontaneous and without boundaries, and it feels like you never want it to end.  Yet, summer seems so short, everything moves fast and things seem to end before it gets really good.  It’s the time you want to try something new, experience new things and figure out the things you’ve never known or experienced before… Yeah, summer is the time where everything seems so Fast and Curious…

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The Review: Tracy Cruz Directs Her Own “Universoul Symphony”

The day begins on an island for east of the American mainland.  The sun rises after a long late night pouring flooding the streets of Quezon City.  Now the time passes the mid-day hour life is returning to normal and things are starting to bloom again.  Harmony is an agreement in feeling and opinion; a pleasing combination of elements or components all in one accord.  As the sounds of Red-tailed Tropicbirds and superb fruit-doves whistle in the wind that blows off the shores of the Potipot Zambales beach, the soul of the city is finally awakening and beginning to start its day.  Businesses are operating, people are moving and life is vibrant and very much active.   The afternoon is vibrant with the sound of steps walking through the city, voices of conversations about traditions and family stories and love interjections. 

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The Review: Robert Glasper Bring Black Roadio Back Part I

In an old studio located in the heart of the urban ghetto of Jamaica Queens, NY; there is an untrained musician who’s listening to the radio sitting on the floor with a saxophone, turning the dial to hear the next song he will learn by ear off the radio.  He turns for hours, but he can’t find anything that peaks his interest to pick up his horn and figure out the notes to.  Meanwhile, a pianist is sitting in an old church rehearsal hall off one of Houston’s busiest streets, practicing some concert music from his days in the music academy… He hears the radio playing out of one of the nearby apartments, but he can’t understand what’s playing, so he heads into rehearsal to get away from the music.  There is a young kid in 5th Ward of Billboard Texas, 3rd coach who is sitting on the corner with two drumsticks and two paint buckets trying to make some change in the summer by playing abstract percussion sounds and fancy cadences to appease the people walking by.  One car stops at the corner blasting this music out of the window and the young drummer tries to play along with the music, but it’s so mundane that his abstract play is hindered by the structure of the song.  A bass player found off of State Street in Philadelphia is jamming in this rundown garage playing licks with a few cats while waiting to perform a gig later on that night.  One of the guys turns on the radio to see what’s playing and everyone’s mood changes because no one hears an actual instrument playing.  They spend hours arguing on whose better and what is real music…everyone agrees what they hear isn’t good and they just turn the radio off… 

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The Review: Robert Glasper Bring Black Roadio Back Part II

The next piece is called “Gonna Be Alright” featuring Ledisi, where Robert plays more of the Fender Rhodes and electric piano in this piece than standard piano.  Robert really features multiple piano sounds in this song. Chris Dave uses the base tom-tom drum, releasing the snares with the lever and more hitting the stick closer to the rim than hitting the snare head, making it sound more like a tom-tom.  This song allows Ledisi to play around; she mainly sings a hook throughout the melody and allows her voice in its richness to stand out.  The Glasper run in the vamp is so sick, but you may not pay attention if you don’t listen beyond Ledisi’s voice.   Derrick Hodge may get hidden in the music, and he may prefer it that way, but his play in this song towards the end of the melody is real nice.  The song ends with dialogue from The Robert Glasper Experiment band and Bilal about the state of music on the radio.  The next record is called “Move Love” featuring King, the fame girl group from 2011 that was a viral sensation with their amazing voices and layered soulful sound.  Chris Dave brings a more delayed hip hop drum beat to this song while you hear the return of the upright piano’s prominence to the melody.  King’s amazing vocals just literally dance over the Robert’s solo like Alvin Ailey ballerinas gracing an Apollo theatre stage on a magical performance. With some auxiliary keys provided by King band member Paris Strother, this is the song that bests exemplifies vocals being used as instruments, something that is almost extinct in major music today. And that is something you will find throughout the record

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The Review: Georgia Anne Muldrow Give Owed To Mama Rickie

After being away from home after a while, you return back to the town in which you called home.  You’ve experience life much different than when you grew up.  You have seen different things, been through trials, had some victories and made and broken a few relationships along the way.  It was a long drive, which gave you time to reflect on your many experiences and some of the lessons you have learned along the way.  You begin to remember some of the things your mother, aunts, uncles, grandmother and others have told you about that it took you going through to realize.  Thinking back if you have known then what you have gone through now, maybe you would have listened and taken that advice.  You pull up to that home and park in the same spot you did when you were in high school, just on the side so you never got blocked in.  You knew you would leave home and never come back… Now you have a deeper appreciation of what home made you into. 

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The Review: Eric Roberson is Mr. Nice Guy Part I

A young woman awakes early Saturday morning to start her weekend full of to-do list items and small errands before painting the social night life with her friends.   She enters into a nearby coffee shop for her favorite cup of Joe before starting her day.  A young man opens the door for her and holds it open as she walks through.  She doesn’t say thank you or acknowledges him, she just continues to the line to grab her coffee.  Once her caffeine fix is filled, she heads to the post office to drop some mail off and a package she had to send for a project due.  While standing in line, she drops her pen on the floor and a middle-aged gentleman picks it up for her.  She takes it out of his hand and heads to the teller since she is the next one in line. She has a lot of things to do before nightfall, so she continues to motor through her day without noticing what has happened to her.  After a couple of more stops she heads to a local Mediterranean spot to grab some lunch.  A gentleman in front of her offered to allow her to be served in front of him. She just walked in front of him and ordered her food without saying thank you.

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The Review: Eric Roberson is Mr. Nice Guy Part II

“Fall” is the perfect combination of Eric’s balladeer and house music roots from classics like “Change For Me” and “Rock With You”.  This record is a call to a woman open to the intimacy & energy in the moment of the night, with both arriving at the awaited moment when two hearts reach the highest height of love’s kiss, it is that moment when she’ll fall in love, and into his arms. Here you hear Brandon “B-Jazz” Scott uses the use a lot of strings and electric piano to voice a love melody just behind Eric vocals.  With the record “Shake Her Hand”, this is one the things that men deal with all the time.  When you are in a relationship, it always seems that is when you get the most attention from the opposite. Just when you seem to have the right one, temptation comes along to try to tell you something different. Yet, a wise man knows and understands that temptation will never go away, but you have to learn to walk away and not put yourself in a position to fail and possibly loose the good thing you have a home.

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The Review: Take A Visit Through The Dimensions Of The Smithsoneon

You enter into a dark room… the space seems large but your emotions feel claustrophobic, the temperature is above your body index but you feel frozen as your perspiration turns to ice as you sweat. Lights begin to flicker and you see images and outlines of people moving, but you can make out their faces. You turn your body to pass through the crowd although it seems you have more than enough room to move.  Your eyes are focused in front of you, your destination is just close enough to see…yet it takes forever to get there.  You were locked in when you entered, now you don’t want to leave without knowing is this real.  This is cosmic moment when things disappear because nothing else matters anymore…failure doesn’t exist… You are completely committed and you’ve fallen for what could be, and not what is… It is this moment that is created in the musical laboratory of Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith.  In an electronic musical world with minor chord hallways and melodic African rooted hi hac hits with MPC’d drum beats… Smithsoneon is true to his namesake’s wordplay; a museum full of musical artistic visions that will remain with you for some time…

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The Review: Lalah Hathaway is Where It All Begins


It all began on a late fall afternoon in December in the city of Chicago, Illinois…  The Chicago Bears loose to the Green Bay Packers the day before this cold and wintery Monday morning. During this time, Chicago was a vibrant, but troubled city, as most were in the winter months of this time period. Fresh from the Chicago riots in reaction to the death of Martin Luther King Jr., and the most significant Democratic National Convention in the history of America; in the midst of this chaos resided one of God’s premier agents of soul.

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The Review: The Black Power Mixtape Hits Home…

There shall be many trials and tribulations that will occur in the lifespan of a culture. As cultures are cultivated and conformed, constructed and destroyed, redefined and eradicated; you won’t learn much when that movement of people have reached its peak. Yet, you learn the most of the constructs and conflicts of a community in its rise and fall. It is the journey towards prominence and the decline of greatness that you see the innovations and fallacies, the

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The Review: Phonte Explains Why Charity Starts At Home


As we live in a time where the American economy has found itself in its longest period of economic stifle and recession, poverty rates for ethnic communities within the American border are beginning to rise to levels near pre-revolution times, and the tensions between racial divides are starting to resemble those pre Civil War times; we find America still heavily involved in aiding cultures and civilizations across the globe. There is still heavy international demand for the United States involvement in the rebuilding of 3rd world nations economies while its own financial status suffers. Democratic and Republican debates macerate the television frequencies and display cases on leadership, partisan bickering and adolescent back-biting over power and control in the world’s most perceived largest and influential power. Political rhetoric floods our ears and eyes with the many arguments and conversations detailing the facts and statistics of the commerce sent across this world stemming from our selfish investments in countries to the relationship payments to allies in their time of need and growth.

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The Review: Deborah Bond is Madam Palindrome

Il y a la beauté dans la parole et l’écrit… Words are like colors. They paint the picture of the visions, dreams, tragedies and tribulations we go through in our human walks of life. They can describe almost every emotion, reaction, feeling, and thought we have. Arranging words and syllables in a rhythmic formation creates a symphony much like a well rehearsed orchestra. When you hear those words, the tone of the meaning will paint the canvas of your interpretation pallet to determine the magnitude of the story. When you began to combine musical sound and rhythm when delivering these words and syllables it creates a harmonious vision that reveals the story behind those words. To master this skill is not as simple as people may think. You can’t just put a bunch of words together and try to make them rhyme and think you can instantly achieve this chemistry of words. It takes a particular attention to detail as to what you are describing and what emotions are invoked by certain words and syllables. Yet, from the acres of Yale University, neighborhoods of Edgewood and Cedar Hill, and the spaces of Erector Square and New Haven Museum and Historical Society has emerged a young woman who has honed the craft of songwriting and has now released a creative child to reveal the skill of harmonizing and composing words and sound. Deborah Bond is an artist who has become more than just a soulful voice… she has been elevated to become Madam Palindrome

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The Review: Zo! Just Visiting III Is More Than A Visit

The last thing you remembered was falling asleep from a late Friday night out with your friends. Suddenly the sun peaks through the narrow separation of your eye lids and you begin to stretch while turning over. You left the TV on last night, and when you turn your head you see a re-run of Fat Albert playing on the screen. You rise out of bed and head to the restroom to wake yourself up. After washing your face, brushing your teeth and wiping the crust out of your eyes; you realize it’s about noon on a hot summer Saturday. You make your way to the refrigerator, grab some orange juice or coffee, make yourself some Frosted Flakes and sit on the couch. When you first step outside to check the heat index, you see kids riding on their bikes, young ladies doing double-dutch in the middle of the street, and the neighborhood class clowns playing hop-scotch and tonk on the corner. You take a second look and see the high-top fades and mushroom haircuts that the people are rocking and you catch your neighbor leaving his home rocking a British Knight jump set with the matching kicks. You slide back into your house heading for the mirror to check and see if you still look the same or do you have that rose parted in your haircut you used to rock back in elementary or middle school. You head back in the kitchen to find a small boom box radio playing nothing but New Jack Swing and pop R&B cuts from Freddie Jackson, Glenn Jones, and The Deele. After you pinch yourself to figure out if you are not crazy, you hear a horn blow outside in your driveway.

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The Review: Radcliffe Bailey’s Memory As Medicine

Art is a concrete and tangible representation of the abstract expression of an individual. Art is just as much informative as words spoken or the expressive gestures. Visual communication is the coloring book of expression. It fills in the shades, hues, and primary foundation for what your vision and imagination pictures. When you look upon any visual piece, often it takes more than one look or viewing to truly see all of the different messages and meanings found in a single piece. There are several amazing nuances about visual art that are unique within each creation. One of its greatest aspects greatest aspects is interpretation. There is an intended message or ideal that the artist is trying to convey, but there is also an interpretation that relates to each individual that sees the art. There isn’t just one meaning, but one piece can mean many different things to many people. If you allow the art to speak to you, you can also take ownership of the art with your own interpretation and how it relates you. That is the underneath goal of an artist; to convey what they mean through art, but also allow it to be interpreted by those receiving the art.

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