Tag: R&B

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Meshell Ndegeocello Releases Tender and Joyful Cover of Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, JOVM mainstay Meshell Ndegeocello– and as you may recall, the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist was born Michelle Lynn Johnson in Berlin, Germany and was raised in Washington, DC.  When she turned 17, she adopted the name Meshell Ndegeocello, with the surname, as she has explained meaning “free like a bird in Swahili.”

In the late 80s, Ndedgeocello gigged around DC’s go-go circuit, playing with a number of local acts including Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence before unsuccessfully trying out for Living Colour’s bassist spot, after Muzz Skillings left the band. Deciding to go solo, Ndegeocello eventually caught the attention of Madonna, who signed the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist to her Maverick Records. Most readers will remember her commercially successful collaborative coverof Van Morrison‘s “Wild Night,” with John Mellencamp, a single that peaked at #3 on the BillboardCharts in 1994 and “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” peaked at #73 later that year. Adding to a rapidly rising profile, she collaborated with the legendary Herbie Hancock on a track for Red Hot Organization’s AIDS awareness, tribute compilation Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which was named Time Magazine‘s “Album of the Year.”  Her coverof Bill Withers‘ “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)” was a #1 Dance Hit in 1996 and was briefly featured in the major motion picture Jerry Maguire, and she landed Dance Top 20 hits with “Earth,” “Leviticus: Faggot,” and “Stay.” Along with that she collaborated with Madonna, playing bass on “I’d Rather Be Your Lover,” and contributing a verse at the last minute, after Tupac Shakur had criminal charges filed against him. Ndegeocello has also collaborated with Chaka Khan, rapping  on “Never Miss the Water,” a single that landed #1 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with the likes of Basement Jaxx,Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti,The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissetteand Zap Mama.

Throughout her lengthy career, Ndegeocello has managed the rare feet of achieving commercial success while arguably being one of the most uncompromising and iconoclastic artists of the past 25 years — all while being credited as being at the forefront of the neo-soul sound, thanks in part to a genre defying and difficult to pigeonhole sound that draws from hip-hop, classic soul, jazz, rock, reggae and singer/songwriter pop. Over the past few years, Ndegeocello has been rather busy — she wrote and composed a musical influenced by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, titled Can I Get a Witness?: The Gospel of James Baldwin and released a gorgeous tribute album to the legendary Nina Simone, which featured collaborations with fellow JOVM mainstay Cody ChesnuTT and others.

Ventriloquism, Ndegeocello’s later album was released earlier this year, and the album finds the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist covering songs by  TLC, Janet Jackson, Tina Tuner, Prince and others, who have been influential to her and her work — but with her unique take. As the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist explains in press notes, “Early on in my career, I was told to make the same kind of album again and again, and when I didn’t do that, I lost support. There isn’t much diversity within genres, which are ghettoizing themselves, and I liked the idea of turning hits I loved into something even just a little less familiar or formulaic. It was an opportunity to pay a new kind of tribute.” Ventriloquism’s first single was a coverof Force MD‘s smash hit “Tender Love,” that found Ndegeocello turning the slow-burning, 80s piano ballad into a folksy, Harvest-era Neil Young/Fleetwood Mac track, complete with shuffling drumming, twinkling Fender Rhodes and harmonica. Though she eschews some of the song’s cheesiness, which makes it endearing in its own right, Ndegeocello’s cover retains the song’s earnestness — pointing out that a well-written pop song can reach for something downright timeless. 

The album’s latest single is a cover of Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity,” that briefly nods at Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” as it’s centered around loose, bluesy guitar chords, shuffling drumming and a New Orleans brass band-like bridge — and while retaining the song’s sultry nature, Ndegeocello manages to pull out and further emphasize the song’s tenderness.  Much like its predecessor, the new single continues Ndegeocello’s commentary on society’s narrow expectations on what music created by and performed by black artists should sound like and be like. 

Directed by the Cass Bird, the recently released video for “Sensitivity ” was specifically released in conjunction with the end of Pride Month — and in our dark and uncertain age, the video is a much-needed burst of joy and humanity, as the video was specifically cast to focus on faces, body types and identities that are less conventional, less celebrated and often misunderstood, capturing these people at their most vital, most joyful and most human — whether dancing, tenderly embracing, kissing and loving. Certainly, the world would be a much better place if there was more love and more gentle and human moments. 

Advertisements

Biig Piig is an up-coming 20 year-old, London-based pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life in a wide array of cultures as she was born in Spain, moved to Ireland, where she spent several years before finally settling in London, where she eventually joined the Nine8 Collective, a London-based crew of 27 creatives, who collaborate and support each other through a number of different artistic disciplines. As a solo artist, the British-based singer/songwriter has received attention for material that assimilates the sort of life experiences — she once worked as a poker dealer and as a tequila bar waitress — that gives her work an intriguing blend of maturity and youthful naivete. In fact, her stage name reportedly came about after drunkenly reading the name off a pizza menu and relating it to a sense of self-acceptance. “The more I called myself it, the more it made sense. I’m just a mess really. Still cute tho,” the up-and-coming London-based artist jokes in press notes.

Biig Piig’s latest single, the Dylantheinfamous-produced “Flirt” is the first official single from her forthcoming debut EP, Big Fan Of The Sesh, and it features the up-and-coming pop artist’s coquettish and jazz-inflected vocals over a dusty, soulful yet minimalist J. Dilla, Madlib-like production consisting of twinkling keys and boom bap beats but underneath the surface is a song with a narrator, quietly suffering through the feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and overthinking that typically happens when you’ve started to like someone but don’t quite know what you want to happen — or if you even want it to happen. And while capturing a fairly universal experience, Biig Pigg gives the song subtle yet detailed bits of realistic and intimate psychological detail that makes it seem as though the song was inspired by her own experiences. Interestingly, the EP is conceived as the first of a trilogy of audio-visual stories mixing the deeply personal with the universal, centered around a main character, a young woman named Fran — and the material generally focuses on that first doomed, major relationship, losing yourself in city life but somehow managing to come out o the other side.  “I’d hope,” says Biig Piig, “that anyone that feels they’re in a situation like that would find some solidarity in some of the tracks; understanding that you don’t owe anyone anything, and if you’re in a cycle that makes you unhappy, best believe you can change it compadre.”

 

 

 

New Video: Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based Electro R&B Artist Tolliver Releases Surreal and Symbolic Visuals for Atmospheric EP Single “I Gotchu”

Born to a Baptist pastor father and a gospel singing mother, Tolliver is a Chicago, IL-born, Los Angeles, CA-based electro R&B artist, who began his music carer playing in a number of Stax Records-inspired acts, including the renowned Black Diet, an act that received best new band nods from a number of publications and filmed a nationally syndicated PBS special at the end of 2014. 

Supporting himself as a Mormon gay porn editor, Tolliver’s solo work thematically focuses on release and recovery, breakdowns and getting high; in fact, his solo debut EP Rave Deep was about late night partying, anonymous sex and juking — and his upcoming EP Rites finds the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based artist focusing on the sacred and the profane, and the guilt-filled torments of a man, who had a religious childhood that is currently living in a sin-filled, ungodly present. 

Rites’ latest single “I Gotchu” will further cement Tolliver’s growing reputation for collaborating with and creating a genre-bending sound with the atmospheric and moody single nodding at gospel, neo-soul and jazz centered around deeply confessional lyrics sung with Tolliver’s aching vocals, expressing guilt, shame, and vulnerability within the turn of a phrase.

While feeling like a feverish dream, the video hints at larger religious themes with the first portion of the video shot in inky and moody blacks and dark colors before ending in brilliant light, creating the sensation of redemption.  

New Video: Lion Babe’s Glamorous and Sultry Ode to Ballroom Culture

With the release of their full-length debut Begin, which featured guest spots from Pharrell Williams and Childish Gambino and album singles “Treat Me Like Fire” and “Jump Hi,” and the Sun Joint Mixtape the New York-based electro pop/neo-soul duo Lion Babe, comprised of Jillian Hervey (vocals) and Lucas “Astro Raw” Goodman (production), quickly established themselves for a swaggering and contemporary house music take on neo-soul.

“Rockets,” the duo’s latest single, a collaboration with Moe Moks will further cement the duo’s reputation for their swaggering take on neo-soul as the song features a minimalist production consisting of a sinuous yet jazz-like bass line, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, twinkling vibraphone and a ridiculous infectious hook that has the duo’s sound nodding at Erykah Badu and Jill Scott — but with a subtle, cosmic glow. As the duo told Noisey, the song is about creating “good times in a crazy world.” Certainly, when everything seems to be completely falling to shit, you have to find a way to make the best of things.

Directed by Chalalai Fischbach and Jett Cain, the recently released video for “Rockets” is an ode to classic ballroom culture that effortlessly meshes grit, glamour and sultry seductiveness in a way that nods at the 20s and house music, as everyone has elaborate costumes; however, the video’s last two and a half minutes or so showcases Hervey’s and Goodman’s own creative direction as it features a sparkly dance routine over DJ Moma and Guy Furious’ uptempo remix of the original song. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Singer/Songwriter Malia Releases Ode to Enjoying Life’s Simple Things

Malia is a up-and-coming Seattle, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who at a young age was drawn to music. Although she was extremely shy, she loved to signing and always participated in choir while in school; but because she frequently suffered from crippling insecurity and self-doubt, she initially didn’t pursue her lifelong passion. “For some reason I didn’t allow myself to dream musically, I always told myself that being a singer was too far-fetched and I wasn’t good enough anyway,” the Seattle-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter explains.

Putting her passion aside, Malia upon graduation from high school, decided to move to California, where she attended college and ultimately graduate with honors, obtaining a BA in Political Science. “I just went through the motions, I never did anything with music throughout those years, I just told myself I would continue on through the education system.” As the story goes, several years later, while working and enduring through several short-term, unfitting and unfulfilling jobs, she found herself in an existential crisis, in which she realized that everything in her life had to change.

“That’s when I sat down and had the first, honest conversation I’d had with myself in years. I asked myself ‘What makes you truly happy, fears aside?’ . . . and I knew that answer was and always had been music. I had been running from my happiness for years, in fear of what people may say, reaffirming on the regular that my musical skills were not good enough to make it,” Malia recalls. And from that point on, she started to focus on pursuing music. She bought out guitar and taught herself how to play.  “I sought out people to jam with and learn from, and fell into a very fitting situation hanging out at a studio in Hollywood. Every day, I worked on my guitar skills and eventually began to play some small shows. I was able to record my first EP at the studio with the help of friends.”
 
After a West Coast tour with Syd, Malia decided to surprise fans with the early release of the Late Bloomer EP, which features singles “Simple Things” and “Dirty Laundry,” a collaboration with her recent tourmate Syd.  Reportedly, the EP reveals an artist with a newfound confidence and self-assuredness, and from the aforementioned EP single “Simple Things,” Malia specializes in an easy-going, thoughtfully crafted soul that simultaneously nods at Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others while being an ode to slowing down, taking a breath and enjoying the simple things in life and with others. But interestingly enough, the song also suggests that by simplifying one’s life that it leads to a deeper sincerity and happiness in one’s life and relationships; after all, modern life can be complicated enough. 
 
Co-directed by Mali and Quentin Lamont and shot and edited by Dana Rice, the recently released video for the song captures the easygoing, summer afternoon vibe of the song while featuring the young artist hanging out, writing and goofing off — with an enormous, endearing smile. 

Live Footage: The Legendary Mavis Staples Performs “Build A Bridge” on “Colbert”

Now, more than enough ink has been spilled throughout Mavis Staples‘ eight decades in music, both as a member of the legendary The Staple Singers and as a solo artist, so I won’t delve into her biography or what other journalists have written about her because I think that for the sake of this post, it’s largely unnecessary; however, whether as a member of The Staple Singers or as a solo artist, Ms. Staples has released some of the most important, influential and beloved songs of the 60s and 70s — and in my book, the woman is a revered, national treasure. Of course, unsurprisingly, Staples has seen quite a bit of American history — including the bitter and shameful prejudice, racism, ugliness, injustice and violence of the Jim Crow-era South, the Civil Rights era, the hypocrisy and wishy washiness of White moderates and liberals, the election of Barack Obama — and yet . . . as the old adage says — the more things change, the more things remain the same. And while the same hate has always remained, rooted around race, gender, class, ethnicity and nationally, for the first time in a couple of  generations, the discussion of whether or not this country has lived up to is ideals have forced itself back into the national consciousness. 

Staples’ soon-to-be released album If All I Was Was Black continues her ongoing and critically applauded collaboration with singer/songwriter and producer Jeff Tweedy — and interestingly, the album marks the first time that Tweedy has composed an entire album worth of music for Staples. And as the story goes, when Tweedy and Staples convened to write the album’s material, the duo found themselves recognizing that this was a critical historical moment, in which they wanted and needed to say something about the current state of things here in the US and about the various fissures along race, politics, gender, gender identity and so on.  “We’re not loving one another the way we should,” the legendary vocalist says in press notes. “Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.” Tweedy adds, “I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself — that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.”

Naturally, some of the album’s material reportedly expresses anger and frustration — after all, how it could it not? In some way, Election Day last year felt like major gains made by dear friends in the Black, Latino, LGBQT and Muslim communities were wiped away. And yet, the material while still rooted around Staples’ legendary optimism, the material is balanced with a grounded realism that essentially says “well shit, there’s quite a bit of hard work, love and empathy that’s needed to make things right. Interestingly, when I heard album title track  “If All I Was Was Black,” I was immediately reminded of Syl Johnson‘s aching and bitter lament “Is It Because I’m Black.” in the sense that Staples’ latest single is an earnest and hopeful plea to the listener, imploring them to look into the heart and souls of every individual they come across, and to see them for their unique abilities; to render one’s skin color as relatively unimportant as the color of one’s eyes.

The album’s latest single “Build A Bridge” focuses on the growing sense of alienation, loneliness and misunderstanding of modern life — with Ms. Staples boldly suggesting that many of the world’s problems could be solved if people could allow themselves to be vulnerable and empathetic to the plight of others, so that they can see both the glorious differences in others and the universality of all.  For Ms. Staples sake, I hope we can all try before it’s too late. 

Recently Ms. Staples, Tweedy, their backing band and members of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert band performed the song on Late Show with Stephen Colbert. 

Whitney McClain is an up-and-coming, Oregon-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who grew up in a deeply musical family — her uncle, Marlon McClain was a founding member and guitarist in Oregon-based funk, soul and R&B group Pleasure, an act that landed a Top 10 hit win 1979 with “Glide;” in fact, the young, up-and-coming artist credits her uncle with inspiring, encoring and guiding her to go from performing in front of family and friends to writing, recording material that would be performed in front of larger crowds.

Her Mauli B. written and produced debut single, “Bombs Away” was released when she had turned 21, and the single as McCalin explains “sounded like some of the late night talks I have with my girlfriends,” as the song focuses on falling in and out of love, and trying to figure out how to pick the right lover — something that we’ve all experienced at some point or another. “Bombs Away” quickly racked up over 1 million YouTube views and building upon a growing profile, she released her debut EP, Nothing To Lose, which had three singles that also received over 1 million views and an Independent Music Awards nomination for Urban EP of the Year.

McClain’s latest single “Cruise,” which was co-written with Marlon McClain, Davi Jordan and Ralph Stacy, features an incredibly sultry and self-assured vocal turn over a soulful and swaggering production consisting of boom bap drums, punctuated yet sinuous guitar and bass lines and warm blasts of soulful horn, and while being rooted around a contemporary hook-laden production, the song nods at  What’s the 411?-era Mary J. Blige.

As McClain explains in press notes, “I wanted to create a record that pushed positivity and hope that, no matter how bad it might seem, we can always work through it if we love one another. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light. Later, it developed into a love song, but I still think it holds true to the original message.”

Live Concert Photography: Blue Note Jazz Festival at Summerstage, Rumsey Playfield: Meshell Ndegeocello with Gabriel Gabon-Montano and Roy Hargrove 6/6/15

Live  Concert Photography: Blue Note Jazz Festival: Meshell Ndegeocello with Gabriel Gabon-Montano and Roy Hargrove Summerstage, Rumsey Playfield June 6, 2015 As I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this site, it’s been a rather […]