Fantasia hit the American Idol stage last night holding nothing back. The former season 3 winner were there as a special guest during Thursday night’s results show. She performed her single “Lose To Win” off her upcoming album titled Side Effects of You. The 28 year old songstress gave an emotional yet powerful performance which, indeed, justifies why she is a talent to be reckoned with.
Fantasia received praise from the judges and a standing ovation from the audience. She looked beautiful and has clearly been working out and eating healthy since the birth of her son. Despite all scrutiny she’s faced in the media about her personal life, Fantasia is charging at life head on this time around and no one is going to stop her from receiving the success she deserves.
Check out her performance below:
On Monday, April 15, STACKS Magazine had the pleasure to attend the premiere of VH1′s hit reality show Love & Hip Hop Atlanta: Season 2. The event was held at Cream Ultra Lounge and sponsored by VH1, Monami Entertainment, and NFGTV. Invitees (i.e. various media outlets and industry insiders) were treated to catered finger foods and Mona Scott-Young’s new Moscato wine, Myx Fusions, mingled and waited for an exclusive peek of the season’s first episode.
In comparison to the New York franchise, Atlanta’s cast proved last season that their drama is plentiful enough to draw in millions of viewers. Well, after watching the premiere episode, we can assure fans that this season will be no different. More fights, more friendships ruined, more baby mama drama, and everything in between. The entire cast will return in season 2 (Stevie J, Joseline, Mimi, K. Michelle, Erica, Momma Dee, Lil Scrappy, Shay, Benzino, Karlie Redd, Rasheeda, Kirk, and Ariane). However, a few new faces will appear this season. Like, Che Mack, a female rap artist who comes between Stevie J and Joseline’s working relationship. Also, radio/DJ personality Traci Steele and her child’s father, DJ Baby Drew. Viewers can expect to be glued to the tube. This season is going to be a real hoot.
The overall evening was cool. K. Michelle was a no show for unknown reasons. Karlie Redd wasn’t present, as well, because she missed a flight supposedly. And, Lil Scrappy was M.I.A.. Some speculate it was because of probation issues or embarrassment from news that has surfaced of him having money problems. Whatever the case, we wish they all could have been there.
Below are a few photos from the red carpet. Unfortunately, our cameraman was unavailable so we had to make it do what it do. So don’t judge us on the shots. The remaining photos will be located on our Facebook page and/or Instagram (@Stacksmag).
The night ended with a Q&A session with several of the cast members. Things popped off when it was ensued that Mimi was still in love with Stevie J…and his “unmentionables”. Mimi spazzed out claiming she wants no part of Stevie’s private area and that Joseline can have him. Strangely, it almost seemed as though Mimi was drunk or trippy off of something. She used to keep her cool. But, on Monday night, Mimi was turned all the way up. SMH. It was almost sad to see. On the other hand, Erica maintained her dignity when confronted about her and Scrappy’s “existing” or “non-existing” relationship. She wasn’t wearing her engagement ring that’s for sure. But Shay definitely made it clear that she and Scrappy will “always be friends” and will always have love for him. She also told Erica that Scrappy will NEVER marry her. Damn.
Several cast members were visibly absent from the Q&A session, most notably, Rasheeda and her husband Kirk. We aren’t sure if they avoided it on purpose because of her pregnancy or if they left the event early. Nevertheless, we can confirm that she IS pregnant. Congrats to Rasheeda!
We would like to thank Saptosa Foster of the 135th Street Agency for the invite. ‘Preciate it.
Everyone be sure to tune in Monday, April 22 to Love & Hip Hop Atlanta Season 2 on VH1!
In recent years, reality shows have been one of the biggest money makers for broadcasting networks.Over 20% of primetime television is now made up of programs that are reality shows and game show competitions.Not all reality programs enjoy the same level of success as others.But this genre of programming is big business and major networks, like CBS and FOX, continue to succeed in “reality” alongside cable channels such as MTV, VH1 and Bravo.
So, how much money does a successful reality show generate?One of the biggest hit shows ever was “Survivor” on CBS.During one of their season finale’s, “Survivor” attracted more than 50,000,000 viewers.In one night, this was the largest viewership than any other series that year.For three months, “Survivor” brought in an estimated $30 million in profits for the network.CBS also reaped additional benefits from the show because of its affect on other tv shows whose viewership increased by being programmed next to “Survivor”.
The return on investment is phenomenal for networks, which is why they will continue to produce reality shows.When a program is successful, the licensing fee is raised each year.The licensing fee is the amount the network pays the production company to deliver the show. Another potential revenue source is via advertising.Advertisers are willing to pay sizable amounts of money to have their product incorporated into these television programs.This is called product placement.Product placement is a multi-million dollar industry that had been scarcely touched by telelvision (unlike the music industry who within the year or so began incorporating this marketing scheme into videos, commercials, etc).
So for those of you who despise reality tv, hate it!It doesn’t look like the cat fights, sex and gender exploitations, and the alliances aren’t going away any time soon. In fact VH1, one of the main cable stations that center their programming entirely around reality tv, will be bombarding your flat screens this summer with a host of shows.
- Send yourself an email containing your work and save it in your mailbox with the date- this would be the proof that you had the work before anyone else did, this would prove that you are the original creator of the work and the owner of its CopyRight!
- Copyscape is a free copyright search engine! That can help you register for a copyright without any money for your blog, it also reports if anyone in the web world has copied your work and reports it to you if found the same.This type of copyright is used by bloggers.
- Creative Commonsis a non profit org where you can register your work and make it public. This type of copyright is also used by many bloggers.
So make sure you secure your work by copyrighting it. You’d rather be safe, than sorry!
“Artist managers and lawyers have been wondering for months when their artists will see money from the copyright settlements and how it will be accounted for,” said lawyer John Branca, who has represented Korn, Don Henley, and The Rolling Stones, among others.
This quote is just one of many from artist managers who have made claims that labels, like EMI, have not yet paid their clients from negotiated copyright settlements from recent lawsuits against music websites. In February 2008, the New York Post ran an article citing how some major labels (Sony, Universal Music, Warner Music, and EMI) sued several music websites for copyright infringement for playing and selling songs by their artists. Napster, for instance, had to pay the labels up to $270 million. YouTube also settled with the four labels under a revenue participation agreement. But for some reason, the labels have not yet paid the managers and the artists are tired of waiting. Most managers are getting edgy and are now considering taking more legal action.
Representatives from several labels say that the corporate bosses are still trying to figure out the best way to pay the artists. Managers believe that they’re just buying time since the industry has been financially declining for quite some time now.
Whatever the reason is, I’m sure the labels will eventually make payments to their artists. The last thing the majors need is a Screen Actors Guild type strike taking place.
It’s tax season and everyone is in need of a huge refund check. But some of the biggest mistakes found by the IRS on tax forms are where individuals try to write off things that you simply can’t write off. It may be due to lack of tax education and the IRS policies.
To help familiarize you and prepare you for this tax season, here’s a list of items you should rethink before writing them off:
Spousal and Child Support
Many taxpayers try to deduct these two forms of familial support on their returns. However, alimony is the only type of income paid by one ex-spouse to another that can be deducted.
Unreimbursed Work Expenses
Although self-employed taxpayers can deduct every dollar of work-related expenses, W-2 employees can only deduct unreimbursed expenses in excess of 2% of their adjusted gross incomes – and only those who are able to itemize their deductions.
Above-the-Line Deduction for Roth IRA Contributions
Unlike traditional IRA contributions, there is no deduction for Roth IRA contributions because the income distributed from them is tax-free, whereas traditional IRA and retirement plan distributions are taxable as ordinary income.
529 Plan Contributions
Taxpayers who contribute money to the 529 plan sponsored by their own state can often take a deduction for their contributions up to a certain limit on their state returns. However, there is no federal deduction available for this.
Cash or property donations to any qualified 501(c)(3) organization are deductible, but political parties do not fall into this category. Unfortunately, but that $100 you sent in to get the candidate of your choice elected doesn’t go anywhere on the 1040.
The only time that this can be deducted is for those who either use part of their home for business or for those who own rental properties. Homeowners outside these categories cannot deduct their homeowners’ or rental insurance under any circumstances.
To see more items and get the full scoop, go here!
Well it looks as if it was the Trey Songz starring film ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ that ruled this past weekend’s box office. While it was anticipated that Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ would still be the top hit, its $20 million earned just wasn’t enough to top ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’s’ $23 million.
This is the first film for the singer who has already expressed interest in expanding his acting career in the near future. We’re sure the mere fact that Trey was starring in the film upped the ante on the number of female viewers that headed to the theater to see all the blood, guts and gore.
Many artists are becoming smarter and taking their careers in their own hands. Artists are realizing that giving full ownership and creative control to major labels is not necessarily the way to go.So instead, artists are creating new ways to “survive” musically by linking publishing deals.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term and what it entails, STACKS Magazine is here to help save your career by giving you the 411 on publishing.
What is publishing?Publishing is the contractual relationship between a songwriter or music composer and a music publisher, in which the writer assigns part or all of his or her music copyrights to the publisher in exchange for the publisher’s commercial exploitation of the music.
Some of the industry’s biggest music publishing houses are Sony, Universal, EMI, and Warner. Most publishing groups enter contract agreements with the writer and share the income generated by their songs. In today’s era, unlike back in the 20th century when only sheet music was entered into publishing contracts, songwriters and publishers earn income from all commercial mediums from recordings and radio to television and video.
Music publishers (like Sony) are the one’s with the power when it comes to the relationship between the songwriter and recording company.Publishers gain copyright ownership from the songwriter and most of the time demand half of the royalties.Although “promising” songwriters retain a monetary advance, those stacks are often times minimal and not enough to truly survive on until royalty payments start coming in.So it is important that songwriters budget their stacks carefully during this waiting period. (See our YOU AND YOUR MONEY post for more info on ways to manage your money.)
Stay tuned for the continuation of the Music 101 segment on Publishing. In the next post, STACKS Magazine will put you up on game with mechanical licensing and how becoming a member to a performing rights organization (PRO) can benefit you.
On November 28, STACKS Magazine had the pleasure to host its first talent showcase. The Respect The Grind Talent Showcase featured great performances by several underground artists. The showcase, hosted by funny man Henry Welch, was created to give underground artists (i.e. rappers, spoken word, musicians, singers) the opportunity to show their talents in front of STACKS Magazine supporters. Each performer also was given the chance to have their performance video taped and participate in on-the-spot interviews. Thus, giving each artists a platform to have their talents seen via our online website and social media outlets.
Here are a few pics from the event…
Special thanks to all of the artists who participated: Midnight Black, RedBoy, Trey, Snappa R.E.D., Starr Jamezz, Yung Streetz, Tikie B, DoughBoy, Bravo, and JB Kool. Also, we’d like to thank Da B.R.O.A.D.S sisterhood organization for their time and committment and KC and the staff at Major League Bar & Grill. We appreciate your assistance with the event.
Thanks to all of the supporters who showed up. Please stay tuned for future events in 2013. To check out all of the pictures from the showcase, go to our Facebook page !! Follow us on Twitter @ STACKSMag !
In the new Investing 101 series, STACKS Magazine will provide readers with easy-to-understand steps and information on how to invest. We realize that in this day and time, finances are a major issue. Understanding ways on how to properly manage and invest your money, will hopefully in due time pay off and allow you to secure your financial future.
If you’re saving for college, or if you have kids that are saving for college, you should consider a Roth IRA. No kidding – even if the kid is only 8 or 10 years old – if he has earnings of any sort, be it lawn mowing, painting fences, baling hay (I used to do it!) or working at the corner store, he is eligible to put aside the lesser of $5,000 (for 2009) or the total earned income for the year.
- First, given that the child is very likely to either owe no income tax at all, or will be in the lowest of low tax brackets, this is essentially free money that will grow tax free for your child’s entire life. As we’ve covered before, a Roth IRA, if left alone until at least age 59 1/2, will never be taxed. Plus, the Roth IRA doesn’t have a Required Distribution (as the traditional IRA does).
- Second, the contributions to the Roth IRA can be withdrawn at any time for any reason, without tax or penalty. This means that, although the earnings in the account would need to be left alone (or you’d have to pay tax on the earnings, plus a penalty), you could use the money set aside in this account to help pay for college, make a down payment on a car, or whatever makes sense. Obviously, you’d want to consider raiding this account as your last resort, due to the preferential tax treatment (see first bullet above), but it does give you much more flexibility than most retirement accounts.
- Third, since the Roth IRA is a retirement account, funds in a Roth IRA are not counted as available assets in the Federal formula for college financial aid. Because of this provision, if you are planning to use Roth funds to help pay for college (see second bullet above) you may want to be very careful about your timing. Once you use the Roth IRA funds, the following year when you re-file the FAFSA form, you’d have to include the amount that you withdrew as income to the student (for the previous year).
As you can see – for savings that we want to “lock up” from the child, but still have access to in the worst possible case, a Roth IRA makes sense for lots of kids. If you’re unsure about how to set up a Roth IRA, your financial advisor should be able to help you out.
For additional information on Roth IRAs, go to financialducksinarow.com.
Quentin Taratino is known for his obession with slightly strange (but undeniably good) films that star ethnic actors/actresses. His recent film, Django Unchained, is no different. The film, starring Jamie Foxx, dives into the lives of black slaves in a very raw and uncut kind of way. A story line that has apparently captured his attention and fueled the desire to do more on the topic.
“We all intellectually ‘know’ the brutality and inhumanity of slavery… but after you do the research it’s no longer intellectual any more, no longer just historical record – you feel it in your bones. It makes you angry, and want to do something … I’m here to tell you, that however bad things get in the movie, a lot worse sh*t actually happened,” Tarentino said in an interview with The Guardian.
Therefore going forward, Taratino plans to create more films based on the subject. As a white director, does he have the know-how to justifiably develop enslavement stories? Very interesting….
What do you think? Does Quentin Taratino get a pass because he’s a film director?
E.V.E is baaaaccckkkk!
In true Eve fashion she is kicking the door down upon making her entrance back into the rap game. With her new track ‘She Bad Bad’, the former Ruff Ryder isn’t biting her tongue and is clearly warning the other chicks in the game about her comeback.
Now I’m back, forget about those other chicks, you won’t miss them,
E-V-E hungry like a lion, I ain’t never easy, never scared why you trying?
You gimmick make me sicki, what you selling I ain’t buyin’
Man, I live up at the top, so you keep climbing
Listen to the African-laced track below…
Ready for more of Eve???
Congratulations are in order for Mr. Terius “The Dream” Nash! The Dream was recently given the title of Vice President of A&R at Def Jam Records. While it’s no secret that he’s had his hands in the mix when it comes to musical success for several artists, The Dream says it’s time to take the legacy of Def Jam even higher.
About his new executive position the singer-songwriter said,
“I am committed as I have been previously to bringing the power of belief in the artist back to the forefront. My concentration and effort will be to the artist to succeed in their dreams and goals. I’ve been a part of watching and participating in the success of many great women and men including Beyonce, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Mariah Carey to name a few. Music means more than just a download, it’s life to the culture and also the people who listen. This is a new exciting yet critical time for music – ‘You Meet Change with Change!’”
In addition to working with and helping to advance the careers of Def Jam current artists, The Dream will also find and develop new talent for the label. Considering his successes thus far, this should be a good fit for The Dream.
I’m sure it’s no suprise being that she’s his girlfriend that Kim Kardashian has surfaced as one of the models for Kanye West’s 2012 Fall Collection of his clothing line. Kanye debuted the collection at this year’s Paris Fashion Week to a star-studded crowd. Check out a couple of Kim K.’s pics below…
As of late I’ve been putting some thought into athletes and some of their decisions to have part-time or second careers as musicians or actors. I was listening to Stephen Jackson’s mixtape which actually doesn’t sound bad and has pretty good features and started thinking how many epic failures preceding athletes had with their music careers. Shaquille O’Neal did have gold and platinum albums but only off his name. Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Chris Webber to name the major ones that come to mind.
Anyone else noticing a common theme? Why does it seem as if only really good NBA players want to pursue a rap career. Deion Sanders and Oscar De La Hoya both tried their hand at music unsuccessfully. The only true successes I can think of are Wayman Tisdale and Bernie Williams both who have had solid Jazz careers and actually have talent. How about these players you probably never knew had rap stints, may never even knew them as pro athletes? Like, Isaiah Rider, Troy Hudson, Ron Artest, Chris Mills, Walt Williams, and even Jason Kidd. I mean really who is giving these pro athletes advice?
How about the pro players who try acting? Howie Long and Rick Fox; don’t we all wish we could forget? The best probably are from 70’s Fred Williamson and Jim Brown. I am not counting Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson because he never played pro football and Wrestling is not a sport… its men play fighting in leotards. I believe Terry Crews made a couple of NFL teams and has turned out to have a pretty decent acting career. My question is can someone name me a talented and successful athlete who actually had a talented and successful acting or music career?
Submitted by contributing writer J. Darien Stokes
There are those artists in the hip hop industry that do things by their own rules. Kool Keith will disregard anything that represents “the wack” in his eyes. Andre 3000 will loathe music just to drop guest verses better than many people’s careers. Danny Swain (stage name: Danny!) is that said artist. Instead of being a follower, he would rather be himself and stand out like a sore thumb. Knowing this, he has refused to give up. Payback is the documentation of Danny!’s struggle to strive for better (even if “better” doesn’t exist).
Notably, the type of guest stars, and how Danny! fit them altogether should be noted. The song “Shit Starters” put Jim Jones, Swizz Beats, DJ Kay Slay and EL-P together on a track and make it work. With Bruno Mars on “Evil” and Janelle Monae is singing on “Little Black Boy”, Payback still doesn’t lose its ground. Even the E-40 featured “Do It All Over Again” is still undeniably Danny Swain. Therefore, don’t expect the features to detract from the appeal of the album.
The subject matter of the album stays pretty consistent: dealing with Danny! and the “payback” that he plans on getting from life and the industry. “Hey You”, featuring Tyler the Creator, waxes poetic about metaphorically “raping the industry” only to lead to more confusion. That confusion evolves into “Misunderstood”, which explains the obvious. Concerns with family (“Speed”), life’s struggles (“Get Up”), and staying positive (“Keep Your Head To the Sky”) all get their proper shine. Even with a diverse palette, the album doesn’t musically falter.
Ultimately, Payback proves its worth by taking advantage of major backing to produce a piece of accessible lyrical art. Instead of making music for radio, Danny! manages to create a work that expresses his thoughts. Swain never gets lost within his own art. On the contrary, he manipulates what is given and still makes the composition his. If it was payback he was seeking, then payback will unequivocally be his.
Review submitted by contributing writer, Mark A. Harris.
Originality can be defined as the ability to express oneself in an independent and individual manner. The term “original” would be the way to describe the music made by ANTHM. After giving it a thorough listen, I was confused. Most of the tracks he rhymed over should be played in dance clubs. The subject matter? Not so much. On Joy & Pain, ANTHM made music that is confusingly honest and real.
To be frank, ANTHM’s music is a mixture of spiritual searching, club grooves, and the fight of carnal desire over the flesh. To shorten it up, it’s a mixture of what makes us “human”. “God of Joy” goes through a story about trying to “get with a pretty female” during a festive night of intoxication. “Siren Song” bounces right off of “God of Joy” with his talk of fighting his lust demons. “Deliverance”, with quotes of “not trying to dance with the Devil/ but he shows up at the mistletoe”, details the strain of struggle. After three songs, and seeing all the contrasts and conflicts of interests in the music, it all appropriately “works”.
The rest of the EP goes towards the same direction. “Be Still” allows him to reflect through more pain over synths, as he beckons for peace within himself and his life. “Polaris”, which features Blu, is probably one of the peaceful/mortal songs to come out this year. The EP ends with “Joy & Pain”, which deals with “sunshine and rain, yin and yang” as Freddie Gibbs fits his rugged style over the soothing production. With his message clear, ANTHM makes an understanding of his personal plight.
Joy & Pain could be seen as “a gospel rap album made by the devil”. The subject matter deals with fighting for one’s soul and finding peace. Yet, the language and the danceable track say otherwise. I guess “joy & pain” is the pure dichotomy that ANTHM wanted present. The piece is so conflicted and contrarian that it works. In truth, Joy & Pain may be the most astoundingly innovative, and creatively conflicted, piece of work this year.
Review submitted by contributing writer, Mark A. Harris.
Curren$y‘s all out independent hustle has helped him reap great rewards. Breaking camp from both No Limit and YMCMB has only lead to his own Jet Life material. With albums and mixtapes released with a fever pitch, Curren$y has plenty of catalogue. Now signed to Warner Bros, he has the budget to play around and see if he can get bigger producers to make his type of sound. The end result is The Stoned Immaculate, which is “leisure music” on steriods.
On his major debut (of sorts), Curren$y sticks to the script with the subject matter: why and how he lives the “Jet Life”. Stand out tracks like “What It Look Like”, “Capitol”, and “Take You There” doesn’t waver from his “urban lounge sound” that he has perfected since releasing “Pilot Talk”. Rather, he continues to flex about cars, weed, women, and chilling. Anyone expecting Spitta to fall off, even when he’s “in a different tax bracket”, should rest easy. This album is pure Curren$y at its best.
What is the most remarkable aspect of this album is the cohesion gained from using different producers. Whether it’s the soulful sounds of the J.U.S.T.I.C.E League produced “That’s The Thing”, the Pharrell conceived “Chasin’ The Paper”, or the Big K.R.I.T. created “Jet Life”, everything fits into the scheme of it all. Even when the sounds deviate from live instrumentals (Bink! on “What It Look Like”) to more synth heavy productions (“No Strings” by The Futuristiks), everything fits together. All beats fall under the same guideline: to promote the leisure living that is “Jet Life”. Impressively constructed, Curren$y managed to add different ingredients and make one unified dish.
Making the most of the budget given, yet not wavering by any means, Curren$y only strengthened his “Jet Life” brand on The Stone Immaculate. Sticking to the script, people won’t be awash in Spitta trying new things he isn’t accustomed to. Yet, with a bevy of new sounds, he makes it all come together. It may not be groundbreaking, but great music doesn’t always have to be. Great music should be “great”. In the end, The Stoned Immaculate is what the title says: immaculately hardcore (stoned) in its creation.
Review submitted by contributing writer Mark A. Harris.
Authenticity: — adj – of undisputed origin or authorship; genuine: an authentic signature.
Authenticity is a quality that is lacking in this rap industry. While many claim to be authentic, it is rarely the case. Amongst these full frontal facades are the actors/actresses, the “wannabes”, and the hypocritical. Within the plastic frames and fragile mentalities lies the truth. Truth is this: authenticity and the rap industry are usually at war.
This is why many feel that the rap industry is “Hollywood”: it is who you know, not what you can do.
S.L. Jones, however, is not that type of artist. This Little Rock rep is known for his knack of honesty through his liquid lyrics, fluid delivery, and soluble swagger. Even more apparent is his past gang affiliation that he brought with him from Arkansas. The 23rd and Wolfe Street transplant will never forget about his home turf or his Crip affiliation. It is what taught him so much about the game, music or otherwise. Using all the game he garnered, Jones will now become an artist many will have to consider in this rat race called music.
Catching up with him after he put out Paraphernalia, his free album entirely produced by DJ Burn One, I took time to pick his brain about music, the independent hustle, and the reality behind the “glamor and glitz”. After the conversation, I was convinced that S.L. is in the position he is in due to pure wisdom and street savvy. Unlike many, he has chosen to transcend his past transgressions. Those lessons will only lead to legendary status.
The Music of Paraphernalia
As far as the new album with DJ Burn One, it was originally supposed to be an EP. But, as S.L. let me know, “…it got finished so fast it felt like it was too quick. So, he was like ‘let’s just do a whole LP’.” What happened was a considerable amount of music using his past street life infused with original audible concoctions that ranged from Memphis pimp music to Texas Screw jams to even R&B interpolations. The smartest thing they ever done with the project was to allow it to grow on its own. Now, it is a free album that the world needs to hear.
There is more to why SL Jones picked Burn One. SL stated this:
“I tried so much, so I found myself at square one making music. You doing so many things, but as an artist, you are always trying to find your sound or a sound that isn’t defined. Once you popping, anything you get on goes. People are gonna look at it like a novelty. People get on a track and they define it as a sound. When you talk about a Lex Lugar track, there are certain voices that you hear on them: A Waka Flocka or a Rick Ross. Their voices are automatically tailored to the sound. So, when a track comes on, you automatically hear it in your mind. When you get on a beat like that, you are doing you. But, people want to identify you with a sound. With Burn, I had the opportunity to do something that sound like nothing”.
Additionally, Burn One also plays plenty of his own instruments. In fact, he was the guitar player on the song “Per Say”. With that given, SL Jones wanted to come with a sound that he would define instead of the sound defining him.
The Street Mentality Behind His Music
It is well known that SL represents the streets of Little Rock. From his perception, he notes that “It’s a gangland. You got everything: Bloods, Crips, GD’s, Vice Lords, the Mexicans. It’s really divided by sides. Crips are the minority and there are a lot of Bloods. So, you will have Bloods bang against other Bloods”. However, Crips don’t go against other Crips. Also, most rivalries are based on street politics. As SL would but it, “…there is a boss that is pushing the line; pushing their own agenda. That is why certain things (still) happen.” In addition, some issues are almost on the level of the Hatfield and McCoys: beefs from the past that are culturally ingrained. Thus, the street mentality is much more than simple rivalries based on “colors”.
Looking at how the gang mentality is today, though, SL notices a change. Actually, it is a change that he welcomes:
“It’s still poppin’. It’s still going down at the crib. But, it’s just different in the sense that you have other options. Your older brother might gangbang and you from the same neighborhood. But you on some hipster/cool shit. So, you ain’t wearing a Dickie suit, a flag, soldier Reeboks or K-Swiss. You ain’t dressed in the same attire as your uncle or older brother. But the affiliation is still there, so it’s still in you”.
Another relative point that was brought up was the effects of gentrification. Since so many projects are being torn down, SL Jones noted that “…Bloods, Crips, everything all in one projects. So you know it’s hot. At first, everybody had their own projects to live in. Now, they are tearing stuff down for the money. It’s a money thing, y’know. Class and money.” With government assistance as a way to control people of poverty, the government is having their way with housing situations. Thus, some of the gang situations is exacerbated by monetary greed.
Stay tuned for Part Two of STACKS Magazine’s Mark A. Harris exclusive interview with S.L. Jones…
El-P makes music when he is inspired to make it. Fantastic Damage broke loose back in 2002. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead came to the scene in 2007. His new album did not properly hit the scene until this year (2012). Even after all of those years passing by, nothing much changes. Cancer 4 Cure, like his previous albums, catches El-P being what he will always be: forever not compromising, forever not commercializing, and forever not contriving.
The music on this album remains as experimental, and evasive, as ever. “The Full Retard” gives us a track that would make The Bomb Squad proud. “Drones Over Brooklyn”, with its crooning epilogue, only continues the instrumental madness that is called “music”. “Stay Down” only ensures that people understand where people like Skrillex and SBTRKT got their dubstep sound from. Musically, EL-P still remains daringly different.
Even more notable are the lyrics that El-P always tends to ingeniously put together. One find example is “The Jig Is Up”, where he questions a flirty female with inquiries like “Who signs when you submit receipts?/ What do they have on you to bribe you?/ What’s the threat they held above that very pleasing face?/ What do they want from me?”. “True Story” with wide-eyed hopelessness for life and society, states “Stuck on mega lit blocks, feathered tarred and detoxed/ From the sox to the cochlear tied up tethered and boxed/ Just a Helena with legs, framing the painting of dregs/ Fuck your complaining/ I’m fresh/ I’m tainted pain in the flesh/ I’ll see you”. The average listener would think he is just throwing words together. However, many of his fans understand the method to the manic madness that is El-P’s rhymes.
Musically aggressive, yet orderly with a penchant for patchwork lyrical dramatics full of deeper meaning, Cancer 4 Cure is not the average album for the average hip hop listener. No, you don’t need to read the liner notes of a Gang Starr album like one foolish mortal wrote. However, you have to listen and ingest his music. This is not music for those that don’t take time to “marinate the meat”. This music is only for those that want to go against the grain of what music is supposed to be. Realizing this gives true meaning behind the “cancer” for the “cure”.
Album review submitted by contributing writer, Mark A. Harris.
Every notable Big K.R.I.T. release has served a purpose. K.R.I.T. Wuz Here was an introduction of sorts; a coming out party to let everyone know who he was. Return of 4 Eva was his project to bear more of his soul. 4 Eva N A Day was the concept record based on “a day in the life” of K.R.I.T. Therefore, Live From The Underground serves a particular position: enlightenment on the underbelly happenings of southerners through country rap tunes.
Many people missed this fact when they listened to the album. They either didn’t feel it measured to his previous material or was imbalanced (too much “carnal slams” and not enough “earthly jams”.)
Sorry, Charlie. This is that album to make people understand the southern in its dirtiest proposition.
If the listener pays attention to the references of the album, they will understand. Jams like “Cool To Be Southern” and “I Got This” are so countrified that one can feel the essence of harmonica playing, fried food eating, and jook joints in their aura. The carnal intentions of Memphis/Texas influenced “Money On The Floor”, the hormonally charged “What U Mean”, and the late-night-creep gone wrong “My Sub Pt. 2” alludes to street lore that occurs. “Pull Up” is dedicated to riding clean in the most admirable vehicle in the hood. In short, many of the songs shed an introspective light of shifty happenings in the hood. Yet, those shifty happenings bring about some social understanding and reflection.
“Porchlight” reminds us of the dedication of late night work for the greater good (legal or illegal). “Don’t Let Me Down” looks at the harmful side of hood activities and the depression it causes. Even with historical references to slavery (Underground Railroad) are apparent on “Praying Man”. From the positive, to the historical, there is always something dealing with the “underground” on this album.
Live From The Underground is the quintessential album to explain and analyze the “southern underground”. All the violence, sexual mishaps, crime, poverty, struggle, and historical understandings are explained for the sake of exposing and understanding its hidden truths. Maybe the album serves as a reminder of what we already understand. Or maybe it exists to present some understanding to those that don’t get it. Whatever the case may be, K.R.I.T. presented an album exposing the underbelly for examination. With a jamming soundtrack and sophisticated lyrics, he should be applauded. My suggestion: pay attention because everything has a determination and a reason.
Album review submitted by contributing writer, Mark A. Harris.
SL Jones and DJ Burn One have been putting in work for quite some time. SL was first introduced as part of Killer Mike’s Grind Time Rap Gang. On the flip side, DJ Burn One has been producing and hosting mixtapes for quite some time now. Linking up, they decided to do a full length project. With this new project, I now have a better understanding of what both of them have to offer.
Let me say this quickly: SL Jones is underrated. Either that or he is undiscovered. Then again, so is DJ Burn One.
SL Jones does not hold back, demonstrating all of his urban understanding and street influence. On “L.S.D.” he notes that he puts “repentance in every sentence like he’s praying to the lord”. Meanwhile, Jones validates his musicality by interpolating a “Candy Rain” like chorus in the song. “S.L.A.B.” presents his dedication to music that is “slow, loud, and bangin’”. “M.D.M.A.” explains his true addictions: money and drugs. Therefore, people need to understand that this is truly a street album.
What separates SL from the pack is that he lyrically takes his music seriously. Many other rappers entertain, while SL relays game. “Training Day”, with its underlying references to the movie, tells a story detailing a mentor-mentee relationship (of sorts). “Per Say” entices people to just, above all, be themselves. Even the elongated interlude “Organized Konfusion” finds SL serving his brand of game by talking instead of rhyming. As street as this album is, there are quite a few jewels encrusted in the asphalt.
DJ Burn One, a star player in his own right, truly cements his sound throughout the album. “Dope Man” interpolates a vocal sample on the chorus and a driving rhythm that matches the underlying bass. “Hella Trill AF” is so “screwed up” that the listener would mistake themselves for being drugged up off of promethazine, Sprite, and Jolly Ranchers. Even still, the extended beat on “T.H.C.” just further demonstrates his talent as keys pluck and the listener’s ears zone out into another realm. Clearly, DJ Burn One is taking all other producers to task.
SL Jones was telling the truth when he noted that “this is dope music/try not to OD on this/on a larger scale, you can weight a key (kilo) on this….” To be honest, this project is “all killer and no filler. This is dope music in both figurative and literal means. Figuratively, it is easy to become addicted to the conviction of his words and the entrancing detail of DJ Burn One’s production. Literally, this album is all about the streets, both positive and negative. SL Jones may not be a household name right now. Still, this mixtape should erase any doubt to whether or not he can come with a complete project.
Music review written by contributing writer, Mark A. Harris.
If any emcee can be considered a conundrum, it would be Erk. Known for his radio jams that get play in the bay, he is quick to have an auto tuned chorus. Yet, he will have those songs that are elaborate, thoughtful, and lyrically agile. I was expecting the same on Thirds Eye View. In turn, I got an album that I wasn’t expecting: more knock and less introspection.
Do not get me wrong: there are some dope songs on here. “Too Far” gives me that old Erk Tha Jerk sound that I fell in love with. Spitting the reality that is surrounding him makes him endearing. On the flip side, songs like “Fuck Hard”, “Protocol”, and “Always” bring in those descriptive lyrics of financial achievement and shining aura (i.e. ballin’ and looking fly). His most attractive qualities tend to shine through those tracks. Thus, I cannot say that he wasn’t partially consistent on this effort.
However, it is when he gets into the club/dance/bounce ready tracks that he surprisingly falters. “Hands On It” is great for the strip clubs. But, as a whole, the song is pretty run-of-the-mill. The same can be said for “Shake It Like A Dog”. There are going to be plenty of people that love these songs for their purpose. Still, they come off as borderline average at best.
While Erk That Jerk has demonstrated he has the goods, Thirds Eye View should be so much more. Instead of sticking to the previous script or evolving, he went more stationary. The album didn’t show the growth within the forums that made him a main attraction. The introspection and cold chick jams aren’t as apparent and heavy on here. Nevertheless, the average sounding party songs are. Next go round, I hope to get a real third eye view of the one we know as Erk Tha Jerk.
Music review submitted by contributing writer, Mark A. Harris.
Last week, at a small yet intimate place called the Koo Koo Room, media/press were invited to meet former member of Xscape, LaTocha Scott. The meet-n-greet is one of several promotional tools LaTocha’s team will use to help re-boost her once budding singing career. To many, LaTocha is known as the former lead singer of the group Xscape. Her vocal abilities are powerful and deep rooted in soul and gospel. This voice is something fans all over have been waiting on. So what has she been doing all this time? She’s recorded a few songs throughout the years which garnered some decent airplay. But for artists from the 90′s, it’s the season of the “comeback“. And it is apparent that LaTocha is set to do just that…reclaim her spot in R&B.
So as fans of the group Xscape, the STACKS Magazine team was elated to meet LaTocha and find out why she’s been away from the spotlight so long and the happenings with her new music.
What have you been doing lately?
I’ve been doing a lot. I’ve been writing and mentoring women. I started my foundation called Golden Girl. Writing music for my mixtape and my album right after. So, I’ve been doing a lot…working behind the scenes.
So, your mixtape that’s coming out, T.N.T.B., what does the acronym stand for?
Truth In The Booth. We were in the studio one day and my management team came in and said, “Girl, you’re the truth in the booth!”. So I was like, we can call the album “truth in the booth”. It’s a nice title. So it just stuck.
Will you have any collabs on the album with your former group members (Xscape)?
My sister and I was talking about this the other day. And I really want to do something with the girls. Everybody’s kind of busy right now. But if we don’t do something as a group, then it’ll be just the two of us. But, I do have some collaborations with other artists that are out now. I don’t like to throw names out there. But it’s going to be a nice album. A real nice album.
The new mixtape T.N.T.B. is coming soon. Everyone who digs good ole sangin’ should check it out. In case you are wondering if she’s going to stick to R&B, she says yes! But she’ll also, “… add little bits of hip-hop, pop, gospel…something that we’ve always done. I never got away from that [gospel]. That’s where my whole roots come from…church. “
To stay connected to LaTocha Scott, go to www.latochaonline.com. Also, follow her on Twitter @IamLaTocha.
“Bad Timing” by LaTocha Scott (Official Single)
Special thanks to Aleesha Carter, PR/KAC Images and U LLC for the invite!
Lately, there has been a lot of talk around NBA about the ‘flopping’ in the league and how or if it should be officiated. I think discipline of flopping is long overdue. Some analysts believe if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying; or that it’s part of the game. I think if you have to cheat to beat me then you can’t really beat me and I didn’t lose. I don’t care what the level or the game. It’s one thing to tug an opponents shorts or step on his shoe to prevent a rebound but to make it seem like something happened that didn’t and get rewarded that’s just bad character to me. I don’t know where or with whom it started but I think it’s cowardly and everything possible should be done to punish and get rid of it.
Article submitted by contributing writer J. Darien Stokes
When I first came across the rumor that Killer Mike was recording an entire album with El P, I was excited. Killer Mike is versatile enough to flex over abstract instrumentation. El P has enough gonads to bring the electronic funk to a conscious trapper. Thus, this collaboration could have the potential of musical greatness. To be honest, R.A.P. Music is pretty great.
Killer Mike, as usual, brings what he brings best: political textuals from a hood documentarian. “Reagan” makes the connection between presidential stances and the truth behind their actions (dollar signs and affiliations abound). “Jo Jo’s Chillin” and “Don’t Die” demonstrate Mike’s impeccable ability to weave worthwhile stories that connect to any urban dweller. To be even more accurate, “R.A.P. Music” spits hard about the musical influences that helped make black music what it is today. People can say what they want about Killer Kill from Da ‘Ville. What they need to start realizing is that he rarely comes wack, if ever.
In reality, I have read reviews trying to actually knock the production on this album. Personally, I think they are tone deaf.
El P actually crafted his musical mastery for the type of artist Killer Mike is. He has managed to craft his electronic sound to match the revolutionary funk that Mike is known for. “Butane (Champion Anthem)” sounds like something that people would bump in old school Caprices with big rims and white walls. Then again, “Southern Fried” sounds like a countrified version of a track that one would hear Cannibal Ox on. Even the instrumentally focused “Willie Burke Sherwood” shows depth in what El P can craft. In short, anyone that feels that El P is the Achilles heel needs to find another physician.
The “book reader, crook leader” has succeeded once again. Killer Mike brings the usual hardcore lyrics made for the “everyman” struggle. However, the biggest surprise is El P’s dynamic production that never gets boring or redundant. El Producto uses his musicianship to manipulate moods and enchant ears. I don’t ever expect people to get this album. Then again, I don’t care anymore. You either love Killer Mike or you don’t deal with him. Since I don’t straddle fences, I ride with Michael Render regardless.
Music review submitted by contributing writer, Mark A. Harris.
Just recently LeBron James was awarded his 3rd regular season MVP award which put him on a short list of elite players known for their greatness. There was a lot of media about how he was the only player on the list who had not yet won a championship. It seemed to me that the media was trying to say if he never won a championship it would lessen his career. I could not disagree more! What does winning a team championship have to do with anyone’s game as an individual player? Even though out of the 4 major sports, basketball, followed by hockey, then football, and lastly baseball is the sport that can most greatly be affected by a single player: It still is not tennis, golf or anything that only depends on one person. Barry Sanders is considered by many to be the greatest running back ever and never won a super bowl. Charles Barkley is easily a top 5 or better power forward and never got a ring. I’m far from a fan of LeBron James; I think he is soft, complains too much, and acts way to feminine for my taste. However I don’t think not winning any championship rings should affect his or anyone else’s personal legacy.
Article submitted by contributing writer J. Darien Stokes
The Kabbalah Tree of Life, according to Judaism, is a pathway to God. In many beliefs, it is a map of creation. What is interesting is its inclusion into the album artwork for Control System, the new album by Ab-Soul. Whether his music is symbolic to a pathway to God or an understanding of his own “creation” is up for conversation. However, one cannot deny the depths of Ab’s gritty warmth. In Control System, listeners get a glimpse of Ab-Soul’s intentions for himself and the world around him.
Ab-Soul’s place within the Black Hippy collective is that of the melodic revolutionary ready to fight for, love, and save his people. “Beautiful Death” makes sense of all his intents and purposes with chants of “rise!” and “change lives!”. “Empathy” relates to the love and empathy that he has for a female figure. “Book of Soul” gives true explanation of his mental state, why he looks the way he looks, and explanations of past love. Notably, Ab-Soul’s tough, yet jazzy concoctions are so melodic that he can incite riots and create relaxation in the same breath.
Even within his explanations of human understanding, carnal desires, and illegal intoxication, his lyrics are endearing. “Mixed Emotions” goes through the feelings and thoughts he has while mixing his promethazine and Sprite. “Lust Demons” is just that: the outcome of one’s sexual desires taking on a personification. “Illuminate” has him and Kendrick Lamar going hard over encompassing production. Positive or negative in context, Ab-Soul is forever endearing.
Control System is a pure culmination of what makes Black Hippy/TDE great: real music that we all can connect with. In fact, it will be considered “better than expected” by those that aren’t hip to Ab-Soul. For those that understand his music, this is just what was going to happen: strengthened concepts and context over smooth yet harsh melodies. Maybe Black Hippy is the pathway to the creation of superior music. Regardless, the rap game is better because of the music they have released.
Music review submitted by contributing writer, Mark A. Harris.
Here’s a do-gooder who is known for doing good. They say if there was an Oscar for humanitarian awareness and action Sean Penn would have one. Well, now he does. The equivalent Peace Summit Award was recently awarded to Penn. The Oscar winner was given the award in large part due to his strong crusading for Haiti during the aftermath of the earthquake (2010).
“It’s an overused phrase, I know, but I trust you know its genuine today, I am humbled. I’m trembling and I like it,” Penn said while sharing the stage with the Dalai Lama and former Polish President Lech Walesa.
An emotional Penn used this time to urge more aid for Haiti.
“It would take a poet laureate to describe for you the courage and the dignity of (Haiti’s) people,” he said. “There are no people on earth more willing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But as Dr. Martin Luther King said, it’s fine to tell a man to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, but evil to tell a man to do so without boots.”
Just think what the world would be like if more of us had this kind of humanitarian spirit.