Monday, September 15, 2014

Joell Ortiz

House Slippers (to be released September 16, 2014)

It's time for hip-hop to wake up from its coma and stop sleeping on Joell Ortiz.

As one quarter of Slaugherhouse, the Four Horsemen of rap, Yaowa has been unleashing instantly quotable lines for years now, yet he never seems to get the credit he deserves for his unbridled lyricism.

But Joell seems unfazed. His third solo album is called House Slippers for a reason - he's never felt more comfortable in his own skin. And that gives him lots of initiative to get some things off his chest.

The title track lets you know what's in store: "This ain't for radio play/this is for the Radio Raheems who let their radio play." Not once will you hear "Mustard on the beat ho" on this record.

"Freedom is overrated till they take it/when it's gone it feels like nothing can replace it," he spits on "House Slippers," giving a detailed account of his music industry struggles and personal battles, including watching his mom shoot insulin while his song battles asthma. It's part of Joell's everyman appeal that makes his music so genuine.

Speaking of music, he shouts out the old school on current single "Music Saved My Life": "Looking back, daddy left bad/ it was cool though, music was my stepdad/I was raised by Stevie Wonder, Lionel Ritchie, Luther and all the Jackson brothers." B.o.B. and Mally Stakz help out, but Joell goes hardest.

His brothers in rhyme Slaughterhouse show up on the solid "Brother's Keeper" for Joell shines much brighter in the solo spotlight. He goes on an absolute rampage on "Q&A," tossing out razor-sharp bars like ninja stars: "This ain't snapbacks meets new era/ this new era gets smacked till their neck snaps back - and that goes for whoever." Ortiz puts the entire game on notice: "BRB, I don't mean like 'be right back'/I mean, B, y'all R&B singing, I write rap."

Joell explores da art of storytellin' on "Phone," showing that going through your girl's cell phone can have disastrous results. And the heavenly "Say Yes" is masterful - Ortiz hits the altar and begs for forgiveness while admitting that he tends to bury his own spirituality:"I just conceal it until we're all alone and then my knees get filthy/as I cry before you like "Lord, you feel me?"/You must think I'm silly, even I don't feel me." That level of honesty is lost inside and outside the churchhouse.

Sure, there are a couple of missteps. Some purists will likely roll their eyes at the lightweight hooks of "Better Than" and "Candy" but life's frigid realities on "Cold World" and the soothing sax on "Dream On" help provide balance.

House Slippers might be Joell at his most comfortable but by no means does he take it easy. His hunger remains. Stop sleeping on Yaowa.

Best tracks: "Q&A," "Say Yes," "House Slippers"

4 stars out of 5
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Friday, September 12, 2014

It's Friday and you're here, so you know what's up - it's time to flash back.

Cam'ron, Crime Pays (2009)

It's been way too long since Killa Cam, my favorite guilty pleasure, blessed us with an solo LP. Five years later, this one is still in my rotation, but we're past due for an official follow up. Step your game up, Cam!

Also check out:
"My Job"
"Cook'n Up"

Men At Large (1992)

Don't act like you don't remember heavyweight lovers Men at Large. During R&B's 90s heyday they had quite a few hits and this, their debut, was probably their best work. Big time heat here.

Also check out:
"Use Me"
"You Me"

Now, it’s your turn. Email  hit me up on Twitter @etbowser, or stop by the comments section and share your Flashback Friday album. Leave a couple of sentences describing what makes it so great. I’ll feature your album on the blog.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chris Brown

X (to be released September 16, 2014)

#FactsOnly: It took so long for my play cousin Chris Brown to drop his latest album that in the interim Kim and Kanye West had a baby; Robin Thicke rose to biggest pop star in the world only to fall flat on his face; and America embraced, then rejected, the fine art of twerking.

Um, it’s been a pretty boring 18 months, huh?

Although Breezy’s sixth album has languished in limbo for a year and a half, he’s been a constant presence on radio. So don’t call X a comeback album, Brown’s been here for years – amassing a collection that runs the gamut from soulful R&B to frantic pop to braggadocious hip-hop.
I just wish he realized that sometimes less is more. But more on that later.

The first half of X offer few surprises – it's the same CB you’ve grown to love/hate/attempt to tolerate. The title track is in the mold of hyperactive dance-pop that has been the foundation for some of his biggest hits. “Add Me In” is yet another chance for Breezy to soak in those Michael Jackson comparisons.

Trey Songz pops up on “Songs on 12 Play,” a track that leans heavily on the '90s R&B template and gives the pair and excuse to name drop a bunch of old R. Kelly tracks. Trey even swipes Kellz’s trademark “oh oh oh oh oh oh oh,” which, of course, Kelly stole from Lenny Williams. The tradition of theft continues, I guess.

And speaking of Kelly, he appears on “Drown In It,” a bedroom burner that’s less immature than CB’s “Wet the Bed” but is basically the same concept.

Yes, the first half of the album is a lot of “been there, done that.” Even “Loyal” –  a song so addictive that you’re forced to forget how offensive it is – is cloned a mere six tracks later on “Came to Do.” It follows the very same blueprint, down to the identical intros and Akon trying to imitate Lil Wayne’s flow.

However, the album really begins to shine when Brown backs away from his bad boy image and shows a little bit of vulnerability. That’s why “New Flame” is such a success –  CB and Usher might be looking for love in the club, but when the invitation is this infectious it’s hard to turn it down.

The energetic “Time for Love” is just as refreshing – and romantic too. And when it’s time for Breezy gets sentimental and apologetic, he sounds surprisingly sincere on “Do Better” with Brandy and “Autumn Leaves” with Kendrick Lamar – who, as per usual, totally steals the show.

X has quite a few strong tracks – some of the best in Brown’s career. The problem is that the album is in dire need of a diet plan. It’s way too bloated, and the strongest songs get buried in the blubber. CB bounces from acoustic country on “See You Around,” to autotuned EDM on “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” to 2000s-era R&B on “Drunk Texting.” It's all over the place. And I won’t even get into the bonus tracks (i.e., all his singles from 2013) – those push the track listing to TWENTY-ONE SONGS. It’s overkill.

I’m sure Team Breezy will eagerly say that X was worth the long wait. There’s definitely good stuff here, if you’re willing to dig through all the excess to find it.

Best tracks: "Loyal," "New Flame," "Autumn Leaves"

3.5 stars out of 5
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Fall is on the way, so you know what that means - time to get boo'd up for those chilly fall nights.

Before you get caught up, allow me to give you some guidance. Here's how:

Send your inquiries to, or find me on Twitter @etbowser. Just provide your initials, or a fun nickname. 

Here's today's question:

A coworker of mine said that recently during a company outing a fellow coworker’s brother was interested in her. However he wouldn’t approach her because he didn’t feel like he was "bringing enough to the table." In male terms what does this mean?
Table Setter

Here's a newsflash that a lot of women don't realize, and some brothers never want to admit:

Men have insecurities.

If you ask my female friends, there are really only two types of men - those who have it all together (the desirable ones) and those who THINK they have it together but don't (of course, you avoid them like Rick Rawse avoids stairs).

But it's not that simple. Some men have issues in their lives that they feel need to be straightened out before they can commit to a relationship.

I'm not talking about those Donell Jones-type excuses, where a man won't commit because he hasn't gotten all the freak out of his system yet - if you just hold on he's be RIGHT BACK, after he gets tired of running around with new chicks.

No, some guys aren't ready to commit because they need to get their houses in order. Maybe this guy is focusing on improving his finances, maybe he's still wrestling with a prior relationship, maybe he's trying to move out of his momma's basement and get his cell phone bill in his own name - who knows. But your friend should respect a man who is willing to better himself before bringing someone else along for the ride.

What else do y'all have for me today?

What does a woman do if her man is lacking in the bedroom department?
Satisfaction Not Guaranteed

Lord help us all.

The majority of men out there are more than willing to put in work to satisfy their woman. But we aren't mind readers. If you need ol' dude to stop slackin' on his mackin', give him some guidance.

Now don't belittle the brother. Um, "belittle" was probably a bad word choice.

Anyway, instead of being critical, provide a little bit of direction. Tell him what you want and I bet he'll be more than happy to oblige.
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Monday, September 8, 2014

I know it's hard to image now, but there was once a time when music videos were more than racially ambiguous women standing around in bikinis with dead looks on their faces.

In the '90s, artists treated us to videos with amazing choreography - we tore up our parents' living rooms trying to act out every step.

Let's look back at 20 of the decade's most memorable routines (in no particular order). Now remember, we're talking about the '90s here, so some of your favorites - including Paula Abdul, New Edition and most of those 21st century boy bands - didn't make the cut.

So move the couch and coffee table out of the way and get ready to recreate your favorite moves.

Usher, "My Way" (1997)

Ursher battle dances Tyrese's crew in this weird homage to "A Clockwork Orange." You Got Served, Black Ty.

Michael Jackson, "Remember the Time" (1991)

Egyptian MJ steals the Pharaoh Prince Akeem's girl, makes a ton of soldiers look very stupid, then disappears in a pile of glitter. That's why MJ is the king.

Quad City DJs, "C'Mon 'N Ride It (The Train)" (1996)

Yeah, I know it's corny but that doesn't mean it isn't fun.

Janet Jackson, "If" (1993)

Every girl I knew, including my wife, studied this video move for move.

TLC, "No Scrubs" (1999)

This one is mainly here for T-Boz's weird robot dance near the end of the video.

Heavy D & The Boyz featuring Aaron Hall, "Now That We Found Love" (1991)

The Overweight Lover was never afraid to hit the dance floor. And, as always, he looked like he loved every minute.

Salt-N-Pepa, "Shoop" (1993)

I'll admit, I forgot how strong the choreography was in this video until I gave it a second look. The girls went in.

Ginuwine, "None of UR Friends Business" (1999)

Ginuwine - None Of Ur Friends Business by foxysoul

This is here solely for the "dancing broom" routine. It gets a little corny at times, especially when the broom starts levitating, but G's footwork is impressive.

TLC, "What About Your Friends" (1992)

As a kid, nothing got me more hype than seeing a couple dozen dancers simultaneously killing a routine. It's a great visual.

Madonna, "Vogue" (1990)

Honestly, I think this one has gotten a bit overrated over time. Still, you can't overlook its legacy and influence.

NSYNC, "Tearing Up My Heart" (1997)

Nsync-tearin up my heart by salg1000

Their greatest success would come in the following decade but this track laid a very strong foundation.

Usher, "You Make Me Wanna" (1997)

Usher dances so hard he literally comes out of his shoes. That was an epic routine at the time.

The Boys, "Crazy" (1990)

Bet you forgot about these guys. Their homage to '80s dance pioneers made for a great video.

Aaliyah, "Are You That Somebody" (1998)

Baby Girl mixes flamenco with hip-hop in one of R&B's most memorable routines.

Jordan Knight, "Give It To You" (1999)

The homie from New Kids on the Block went solo at the end of the decade and proved he still had moves.

Kid N Play, "Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody" (1991)

Those Kid N Play boys practically reinvented the dance scene in the late 80s/early 90s and this might be their best video.

Britney Spears, "Baby One More Time" (1999)

Brit Brit's pep rally routine (with the stuffy teacher gettin' funkay) immediately pushed her to superstar status.

Busta Rhymes, "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" (1997)

Bussa Bus might not do any dancing but his weird collection of concubines make up for that, putting on a spectacular show.

MC Hammer, "U Can't Touch This" (1990)

Oh, you can try to hate on this now, but in 1990 even the hardest thug was trying to do the Hammer Dance across the living room floor.

Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, "Scream" (1995)

Greatest video of all time? It's hard to argue against it. Plus, the siblings looked like they were having the time of their lives. They were born to do this.

Which videos did I miss? Let a brother know in the comments.
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Friday, September 5, 2014

It's Friday, so that means it's time to see what we've got cooking in the hip-hop time machine. Join us for a look back.

J. Cole, The Warm Up (2009)

J. Cole's first mixtape, The Come Up, turned heads, but it was The Warm Up that really cemented him as an artist on the rise. Cole showcased the skill and concepts of a 10-year rap veteran; he was truly a hip-hop prodigy. This set led the way to an even greater mixtape and, eventually, mainstream success. But The Warm Up was clearly Cole's launching pad.

Also check out:

Bahamadia, Kollage (1996)

Y'all can keep fooling yourselves into thinking that today's Build-A-Bear female rappers are actually good. While they distract y'all with plastic body parts, I'll be in the cut revisiting Bahamadia, one of the best lyricists - male or female - of the late 90s. Kollage is a forgotten gem that boasts the wordplay and insight you'd expect from a true MC.

Also check out:

Now, it’s your turn. Email  hit me up on Twitter @etbowser, or stop by the comments section and share your Flashback Friday album. Leave a couple of sentences describing what makes it so great. I’ll feature your album on the blog.
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Saturday, August 30, 2014


Goddess (to be released September 9, 2014)

The world of music has been very moody lately. It seems that more and more artists are veering toward atmospheric production, soul-wrenching lyrics and downright depressing themes.

All that doom and gloom can get pretty overwhelming. But in the hands of the right artist, it can be a bit empowering.

Say hi to Jillian Banks.

The LA singer has been turning heads for about a year now thanks to a collection of impressive EPs. Her debut album, Goddess, capitalizes on that potential. And although the title might seems like the usual music biz braggadocio, that's not the case at all. The album is a look into the tumultuous heart of a woman wrestling with relationship insecurities.

It's hard to categorize Banks' sound. It's almost if Alanis Morissette and The Weeknd had a baby who only listened to Aaliyah and Fiona Apple growing up. The vocals are usually light but the mood is almost always heavy.

"Give me something to convince me I'm not a monster," she says on the opener, "Alibi." When she's not beating up on herself, she goes after her lovers, and the results are usually spectacular. The brooding title track is a perfect example: "You should have crowned her cause she's a goddess, you never got this" - the delivery is spiteful but not outright angry. It's that silent, seething kind of anger. It's proof you've gotta watch out for those quiet ones.

Those quiet ones are also the most intriguing.

"Waiting Game" is equally pessimistic, as is "Brain" where haunting chants wisp around like phantoms as Banks frankly tells her man that she's not here for his mind games. "Change" takes that message to another level: When her lover blames his commitment problems on his daddy issues, Banks calls him out: "poor poor baby, say you can't help the fact that you're so crazy/and you're so good at making me feel guilty for trying to walk away." She's doesn't deal well with excuses.

The album's mood is mostly subdued but there are enough production quirks to keep things from getting dull. Synths raise the energy level of "Drowning," bringing back memories of Chvrches' "The Mother We Share."  "This Is What It Feels Like" croaks like a bullfrog while "F*** Em Only We Know" is spacy but remains down to earth. It would sound right at home on any Top 40 playlist.

Banks usually reigns in her vocals but she shows a surprising amount of strength on more traditional ballads, like "You Should Know Where I'm Coming From" and displaying tenderness on "Under the Table" and "Someone New." It's that vulnerability that keeps her music fresh and relatable, instead of whiny and miserable.

Longtime Banks fans might be a bit disappointed by the track list - nearly half the album's songs already have been released in some form. But for fans new to Banks' music, it's a great opportunity to catch up on what you've been missing.

Banks may sulk behind a moody visage but it's her fiery passion that's her true strength.

Best tracks: "F*** Em Only We Know," "Goddess," "This Is What It Feels Like"

4 stars out of 5
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