Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Libra Scale (released Nov. 22, 2010)

Who was the marketing genius that decided to release Ne-Yo's new album the same day as Kanye West and Nicki Minaj? No wonder Libra Scale flew under the radar.

I've been known to dismiss Ne-Yo at times myself. It was Progressive Soul's Desiree who introduced me to Ne-Yo years back. Back then I wrote him off as another faceless R&B singer (before they were an endangered species) who was sure to be a one-hit wonder. But his debut, In My Own Words, made me a fan.

Since then, I've had a love-hate relationship with the guy - I love his creativity and solid songwriting but I hate his constant pining after Michael Jackson. It's one thing to be influenced by the guy, it's another to totally rip off his style.

Libra Scale is yet another MJ-influenced project. Sort of like Moonwalker, Michael's sci-fi video collection from the late 80s, Ne-Yo's new album is the story of a superhero battling for love. Most listeners will only pick up that concept via the album's linear notes and Ne-Yo's latest music videos - the five of you who still watch videos, that is. The actual songs mostly sound like typical smoothed-out Ne-Yo fare, for better or for worse.

The album starts really strong with the upbeat "Champagne Life," which manages to get the party started without the usual radio-friendly cliches (like substituting actual singing for psuedo-rapping - see Songz, Trey). The remainder of the album is pretty low-key. "Know Your Name" breezes by gently while "Telekinesis" creatively uses the superhero theme to set the mood. Things pick up a bit with the feel-good "One In A Million" (no, not THAT one...) but Ne-Yo again stays in his comfort zone.

And that's the problem. The album is a bit too safe. With just 10 songs in the set, the album's brisk running time doesn't allow much room for mistakes. Inoffensive but ho-hum, generic tracks like "Genuine Only" and "Crazy Love" really hurt the album in the long run. "Beautiful Monster" employs those annoying Euro-techo synths that have corrupted most of today's R&B songs. It's like the new auto-tune - everyone uses it and it still sucks. And "Cause I Said So" is the requisite MJ copycat track - Ne-Yo imitates Michael so much that you wind up thinking to yourself "man, I wish this was a real MJ song." I'm pretty sure that's not what Ne-Yo was going for.

Libra Scale winds up being a solid release, but it'll definitely get lost in the shuffle of high-profile releases this quarter. It's not quite the big-budget film it aims to be. If Kanye West's album is Batman Begins, Libra Scale is Batman Forever - good, but it could have been much more.

At least it's not Batman and Robin - that honor goes to Nicki.

Best tracks: "Champagne Life," "Telekinesis," "Know Your Name"

3.5 stars out of 5
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Adriana Evans was born in San Francisco and is considered one of the very first Neo Soul artists.  Her self-titled debut album was released in 1997.  Being the daughter of jazz great Mary Stallings, Adriana was immersed in music at a very early age.  At age 18 she moved to L.A. with the intentions of attending college, but ended up meeting rapper named Dred Scott and the two quickly became music partners.  She has released 5 albums. Enjoy!

-- Desiree

"Sooner or Later"

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Today, in my Hello Kitty notepad, I'm going to keep an ongoing list of things I'm thankful for at this time in my life. I suggest you guys and gals do the same between bites of turkey and stuffing. Enjoy your day! 
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Louisville, Ky., the city where I lived prior to moving to Birmingham last year, may be the hometown of my heart but it's far from perfect. One of the things that tarnishes the River City's good name is the frequent accusation that owners of night clubs at Fourth Street Live, the city's downtown entertainment district, are racist. Several black men say they've been prohibited from entering certain clubs due to dress code violations even though the white guy in front of them sporting ripped jeans and a hoodie was welcomed with open arms. A pal of mine who's a DJ (and not black) once told me that when he was hired to play at one of the clubs the owner requested that he not play much hip-hop because he didn't want it "getting too dark in here -- if you know what I mean." 

Louisville, however, is in no way the only city with stories like these. Jezebel recently reported on an incident in Boston:

A party for black Harvard and Yale alums at a Boston club this weekend was shut down just after 11pm. Why? The club owner was concerned that a long line of black people outside would make the club look bad.
A group of recent graduates had sold tickets in advance for a party at a new Boston club, Cure, to follow Saturday's Harvard-Yale game. By 10:30pm, though, club management freaked out and claimed it had seen "local gang bangers" around, despite the strict guest-list policy implemented by organizers. At first they demanded that guests show student ID — not exactly practical given the fact that it was a party aimed at alums — and then eventually shut down the entire club.

What's even sadder, I think, is that the only reason this story is getting attention is because these were Harvard and Yale alums. We should be just as outraged if this happened to a group of high school dropouts. 

One Jezebel commenter added that the prior occupant of that club space was shut down after a major shooting which was caused by known "gang bangers." Therefore, the commenter argued, the new owners were simply "trying to protect a major investment," ignoring the fact that this statement is implying that it's okay to assume that black skin equals gang affiliation. But maybe I'm just overreacting. 
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (released Nov. 22, 2010)

Finally, Kanye West's new album has arrived and I couldn't be happier.

Not because I'm a huge Kanye fanatic, you see. It's because, hopefully, Kanye's embarrassing PR antics will finally come to an end. Since the last time I reviewed a Kanye album - the reviled 808s & Heartbreak - the man has made America's sweetheart Taylor Swift cry, pissed of President Obama AND former President Bush, replaced his teeth with diamonds and made a fool of himself on the Today Show.

And that's just the dumb stuff that sprung to mind off the top of my head.

All those ridiculous stunts have paved the way for Kanye's fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (what's with all the long, bizarre, comma-less album titles this year?). And it's a reflection of Kanye's long, strange journey.

"Dark Fantasy," the sinister album opener produced with the help of the RZA and No I.D., shows us that Kanye has grown leaps and bounds lyrically from his early days in the teddy bear costume: "The plan was to drink until the pain over/But what's worse? The pain or the hangover/Fresh air, rolling down the win-dow/too many Urkels on your team, that's why your Wins-low." That might be my favorite line of the year.

As the album continues to delve into Kanye's psyche, it becomes a reflection of all his tabloid mishaps of the past two years. "Power" and "So Appalled" sees Ye wrestling with fame, again spitting some of the best rhymes of his career, while "Devil In a New Dress" and "Blame Game" detail his constant relationship woes. For those, like me, who thought we'd never again hear the self-conscious, backpacker Kanye of the mid 00s, check out "Blame Game." Listening to Ye go at it with his lady, and himself, over such a soulful tune will remind you why we put up with the guy in the first place. He's as intriguing as he is infuriating. The Chris Rock outro is hilarious, as well.

The album's most impressive trait is how it's able to meld contrasting genres into one package. "Lost In The World," which swagger-jacks Bon Iver's "Woods," somehow becomes a weird, upbeat - yet still haunting - dance track. It will set techno clubs ablaze. And "Runaway," which I initially was not a fan of, fits much better in the context of this bleak album. The single, repetitive piano note makes it sound like a score from a horror film.

Many fellow reviewers have christened this album a near-perfect work - um, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The album is far from flawless. It tries much too hard to be epic, instead of letting it happen organically. "All of the Lights" is a perfectly good song (even with whiny Rihanna on the hook) without 294 additional vocalists on the track. Alicia Keys, Charlie Wilson, The-Dream (ugh) - what's the point, other than to show off Ye's celebrity ties? It doesn't matter if Ye added the California Raisins - Fergie totally ruins the song anyway. "Monster" suffers from the same problem - too many cooks in the kitchen. And sure, I like the aforementioned "Runaway" but it begins to wear out its welcome after about five minutes - why did we need five additional minutes AND auto-tune?

Kanye gets caught up in his own hype. Surprise, surprise.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is all things Kanye: complicated, hilarious, dark, extravagant, perverse, intricate and brilliant - although, at times, not as brilliant as it thinks. It's truly a diary of a madman.

Let's have a toast for the douchebag.

Best tracks: "Devil In A New Dress," "Blame Game," "So Appalled"

4 stars out of 5
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Nicki Minaj

Pink Friday (released Nov. 22, 2010)

I may have mentioned this before here on Georgia Mae, but if not, I'm down for full disclosure: one of the Bowser household's favorite movies is Mariah Carey's 2001 cinematic tragedy Glitter.

Oh yes, we realize it's horrible, maybe one of the worst movies ever filmed. But watching it is like watching five clown cars collide - an absolutely hilarious disaster.

And honestly, that's why I decided to review Nicki Minaj's supremely overhyped debut. Loyal readers know I haven't been kind to Icky Garbaj during her rise to stardom but I wanted to check out the album nonetheless - hoping to be entertained by what was sure to be the worst album of the year.

But you know what? Nicki has disappointed me yet again. This album is not the entertaining car crash I expected.

But don't get me wrong, it ain't very good.

My biggest complaint about Nicki is her scatterbrained, Tourette's-like raps. A lot of listeners have been fooled into thinking it's some type of innovative new rap style, but it's usually just downright distracting. And really, can you be considered a lyricist if you're just screaming sound effects? Oddly her bizarre Tourette's has been mostly restrained here in favor of a bunch of pop-rap hybrids.

If you're familiar with her singles "Right Thru Me" and "Your Love," then expect more of the same. "Fly" features Rihanna - the dependable go-to girl for bland pop singles - and sounds like something B.o.b. or Bruno Mars would release. "Save Me" actually works a bit better. Nicki handles the vocals herself and doesn't do a bad job.

When Nicki deviates from the lightweight stuff for heavier fare, things really go south. "Did It On Em" is a (very) poor woman's "A Milli" - not surprising since both were produced by Bangledesh. That track, along with album opener "I'm The Best" and the infamous "Roman's Revenge" clearly display Nicki's shortcomings - unfocused lyrics, extremely distracting vocal tricks (her annoying stuttering effect, for example), and ENDLESS shots at rival Lil Kim. At times the entire album sounds like a demented love letter to Kim - like Eminem's Stan.

There is one diamond in the rough - "Blazin'," which features a show-stealing performance from Kanye West. I have to admit that I'm in love with the beat, which sounds suspiciously like a sped up version of Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" from The Breakfast Club. My, ahem, "advanced review copy" didn't come with linear notes.

As much as I love "Blazin'," I have an equal amout of hate for "Check It Out," my pick for worst song of the year. Yes, worse than anything by Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka or that "Toot It And Boot It" guy. Will.i.am produced an over-synthesized mess. Black Eyed Peas fans might like it, but it took all my willpower not to skip to the next track. That was four painful minutes. I'd rather get a happy ending from a TSA agent than listen to that atrocity again. Sigh, the things I do for Internet journalism...

I certainly didn't expect to like "Pink Friday" - I'm not Nicki's target audience - but I think even many of her fans will be disappointed. Nicki seems overly cautious here, reining in on the maniacal persona that made her famous to travel down the pop-rap path that's all the rage these days. As I mentioned to a few friends last week, "Pink Friday" is like a Black Eyed Peas album without Fergie - who would want to sit through that?

So no, "Pink Friday" wasn't the exciting, flaming 8-car pileup I expecting. It's just a boring, annoying fender bender instead.

Best tracks: "Blazin'," and uh, "Right Thru Me," I guess. That's all I got.

2.5 stars out of 5
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Friday, November 19, 2010

In the video above women at TIME share their favorites 
on the 25 Most Powerful Women of the 20th Century list. 

Time magazine recently published a list of the 25 most influential women of the past century, a list which includes fashion industry legend Coco Chanel, pop music icon Madonna, media maven Oprah Winfrey, and political pioneer Hillary Clinton. 

Ladies on the list that have inspired me most: 

Virginia Woolf. An amazing writer whose novels and essays shed light on social and political oppression faced by early 20th century, Woolf is the woman who reminds me that I need "a room of one's own," a space to be me freely and practice my art. 

Rosa Parks. The grandmother who helped raised me, the woman for whom this very blog is named, was deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement and made sure that I knew the stories of people like Parks and that I never took the freedoms I have because of them for granted. 

Gloria Steinem. As a feminist and former journalist I, of course, felt my insides smiling when I saw Steinem's name on the list. As Time writes, "It would be hard to find an American women's rights organization that does not owe its creation in part to Steinem." Furthermore, I'm happy that the article reminded readers that, "in 1963, seven years before Hunter S. Thompson was credited with creating "gonzo" journalism, Steinem went undercover as a Playboy bunny to report on the treatment of women at Playboy clubs for Show magazine."

I was also happy to see Eleanor Roosevelt on the list. She's noted for exploding the notion that the First Lady must take a behind-the-scenes, trophy wife type of role. 
Her famous quote, "Do something every day that scares you," is my life mantra. 

Visit Time's website to check out the list. Which of these women have inspired you most? Are there any highly influential women you felt should have been included who weren't?  

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hey, Dr. Dre fans, Detox is coming! For realz this time!

Yes, I know it seems like every other month that Dre reminds us that he's still planning to release his third opus.

But this time is different. There's a magazine cover and everything!

That's Dre on the cover of XXL Magazine's Decemeber/January issue, looking old and playing chess like Samuel L. Jackson from that BET Blackbuster Cinema classic "Fresh." I guess looking pensive and playing chess is just what 50-year-old guys do. And yes, he's truly, honestly, definitely ready to release the album this time. Definitely. From xxlmag.com:

“I’m really feeling it now. My energy has been back and forth with the record, tussling with doing it out of obligation, as opposed to doing it because I really feel it. My feelings about it have been going up and down. Now I’m in that place where I’m really feeling it, and it’s coming out right. It’s like, Yeah, I’m excited about it.”

And before you cynics say "we've heard this before..." Dre has music to back up his lofty promises this time! "Kush" and "I Need a Doctor" have both leaked this week. Of course, the last time Dre gave us the runaround, he also leaked that horrible track that sounded like he lifted it from Mortal Kombat 2's character select screen.
And yet Dre's ever-loyal fans still patiently wait for Detox. I don't get it. I mean, patiently waited for I Love New York Season 3 for a couple of months, but long gave up on that. I just don't hold on to dreams like I used to.

It boggles my mind that people are still clamoring for an album that has been promised to us since 2005. It's the same vicious cycle - he reminds us that the album is coming, everyone gets excited, a lackluster new song mysteriously leaks, then Dre clams up for a few months and the cycle repeats. It's like one of those Star Trek time loops - or Futurama time loops for those under 30.
During a time when the most effective way for an artist to promote his or herself is to flood listeners with song after song after song (Lil Wayne, Beyonce, etc) or to act like a complete lunatic (Kanye West) how does the enigmatic Dr. Dre remain on everyone's lips by giving us nothing but empty promises?

It occurs to me that Dre has become Barack Obama of hip hop, it's great hope for change. Older fans expect Dre to show up and to rescue us from the industry's current doldrums. We'll be partying like it's 1993 - sipping our gin and juice while rollin' in our six-fo's. Newer fans might not be familiar with Dre's music but they certainly know of his legend. And everyone wants to be part of history. Dre has done it before - his 1999 album 2001 was critical and commercial hit and a great return to form after a long layoff.

But 2010 is a much different landscape. Veterans face a much tougher road these days. Legends like Nas and Redman can barely get albums released. And formerly huge sellers like 50 Cent and Nelly can't find 30 people to buy their new material - huh, I guess sometimes there IS justice.

Dre's latest tracks aren't bad but they're far from mind-blowing. "Kush" is as moldy as 4-month-old banana bread, with the same ol' piano loops and weed talk that he's been using for 15 years. And Eminem totally dominates him on "I Need A Doctor." In fact, it sounds like a leftover from Em's Recovery album. He's gonna have to come harder than that if he's looking to make an impact.

Eh, no matter what I say the Detox buzz will remain strong. But will we EVER see the album? Dre claims it will be released next year. Uh huh. I hear 50-year-old chess players are optimistic like that.

No matter, y'all will still be waiting. Patiently.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Watch the full episode. See more Mark Twain Prize.

Tina Fey is so awesome that she can make grammar fun.  Last year when I needed to review several homonyms and confusing words with 10th graders I began the lesson with a quote from Fey's show 30 Rock: "You are my heroine. And by heroine I mean lady hero; I don't want to inject you and listen to jazz." To test their knowledge of the words from the homonyms list, I had them use each tern in a sentence. They managed to somehow include the word heroin in each sentence. Now that I've posted this online I will probably get fired, but at least they learned their homonyms. 

Fey is not only making English class fun, she's also been helping break gender barriers in the field of comedy. Last week, Tina Fey was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Fey, who has also won seven Emmys, four SAG awards, four Writers Guild Awards and three Golden Globes, is only the third woman to win the Mark Twain Prize. Here's what she had to say about this in her acceptance speech: 

“I’m so honored to be numbered Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg, but I do hope that women are achieving at a rate these days that we can stop counting what number they are at things. Yes,” she continued, “I was the first female Head Writer at SNL and yes, I was only the second woman ever to be pregnant while on the show, and now tonight I am the third female recipient of this prize. I would love to be the fourth woman to do something, but I just don’t see myself married to Lorne.”

Love it. 

Visit the PBS website to watch the entire ceremony.

via Feministing

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I know that the majority of Georgia Mae's readers love Michael Jackson (as they should), and I wanted a little feedback on his new duet with, ugh, Akon. It's called "Hold My Hand."

Well, it ain't bad. It's way more Akon than I can usually stomach but it's not offensive.

Will.i.am, however, might not be a fan. Will is pissed that Sony Records is preparing to release a posthumous MJ album. He doesn't think it'll live up to Michael's absurdly-high standards. From sohh.com:

"Whoever put it out and is profiting off of it, I want to see how cold they are," he says, "to say that what [Michael] contributed during his life wasn't enough. He just wasn't any ordinary artist. He was a hands-on person. To me it's disrespectful. There's no honoring...Michael Jackson songs are finished when Michael says they're finished. Maybe if I never worked with him I wouldn't have this perspective. He was very particular about how he wanted his vocals, the reverb he used...he was that hands-on."

I actually brought this point up awhile back, wondering if record labels would do to MJ what they've done to artists like 2pac, Biggie and Left Eye - slapping unfinished or old material over shoddy beats and bookending it with a bunch lame rappers. Remember when Puffy remade Biggie's "Nasty Boy" song with Nelly, Jagged Edge, Jazze Pha, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Uncle Scrooge, Megatron and the 1988 Harlem Globetrotters? What a disaster.

I heard that 50 Cent will be featured on the new MJ album and I immediately rolled my eyes, until I discovered that the track was recorded before Michael passed and 50's contribution was not a recent cut-and-paste job.

I'm on the fence about the album. It'll be great to hear new material and if these are tracks MJ actually finished (like the ones with Akon and 50) I think it's OK to release them. But I have no interest in hearing half-finished songs with Waka Flocka and Nicki Minaj filling in the gaps. I bet Mike would be spinning and moonwalking in his grave.

What do you think of "Hold My Hand?" Are you looking forward to more unreleased material?
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Vula Malinga was born in the U.S. to South African parents, but raised in London.  Her religious parents encouraged her talent by allowing her to join the church choir which resulted in Vula becoming one of the lead singers for the London Community Choir.  In 2008, she developed her own record label called DivaGeek.  Vula has also collaborated with Basement Jaxx. Enjoy!

-- Desiree

Also check out "Crash Da Party."

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Last Friday I saw Tyler Perry's latest film, "For Colored Girls," on opening night. I had planned to rush home and write a review for you guys and gals, but that didn't happen. As you can see it has taken me a week gather my thoughts. Here's why:

1. Because this movie is based on something as powerful as Ntozake Shange's play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" I expected to have a very strong emotional and intellectual reaction to the film. While there were certainly a few scenes that left my heart racing, as a whole I wasn't sure how to respond when friends asked me, "So what did you think?" I expected to either absolutely love the movie or absolutely loathe it and I was going to come home grab my laptop and tell you exactly why. But instead when I got home and Edd asked, "How was it?" I simply replied, "Meh."

2. When I first heard that Perry was writing and directing a film adaptation of Shange's play I was worried, and not just because the man who created Madea and Mr. Brown would be at the helm of the production. I just wasn't convinced that the play could translate well on the big screen and I'm still not. For those of you unfamiliar with the work, Shange's play is written as a series of poems. Trying to seamlessly mix these works with everyday dialogue and a film-friendly narrative would be a huge challenge for even the best screenwriter, which, unfortunately, we know Perry is not.

As Cynthia Fuchs, director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Film & Video Studies, at George Mason University, says in her review of the film, the movie "never finds an effective combination of image and poetry," which is perhaps why I didn't get the goosebumps I went in expecting. Fuchs goes on to say: 

Even one of the play’s climactic moments—a simultaneous overlay of life stories told by ... Tangie (Thandie Newton) and (her) mother Alice (Whoopi Goldberg)—is all but lost amid the distracting repeated rack focusing and awkward staging. You lose the sense of what the women are saying, how their tragedies are the same and different, how they’ve damaged one another in their efforts to claim themselves, how their bad choices have always, always been shaped by their lack of options. Instead, you’re wondering how such powerful language has been turned inside out and made so stunningly ineffective.

Furthermore, the male characters of the film completely lack depth, a common Perry misstep. I understand that a film adaption of this play would obviously require intense focus on the development of the female characters, but the men of the movie are so one-dimensional they're essentially monstrous, with the exception Hill Harper's character, who is, sadly, incredibly ineffectual. 

3. I must admit, however, that my opinion of the film may have been somewhat colored by my experience at the movie theater. Several of my fellow moviegoers were gabbing over important scenes and even laughing during monologues about date rape and botched abortions! Many audience members seem to have no awareness of Shange's work, so when the characters would begin to recite poetic pieces they wanted to know, "Why she talkin' like dat?" I swear half the audience was probably sat there waiting for Madea to pop out with her pistol.

4. When I left the theater, what I wanted to know most was what Shange thought of Perry's adaptation of her work. In a recent interview, she was quoted saying, "I think he did as well as to be expected."  She went on to say, "I think all the actresses performed remarkably well... I think Tyler directed them well, because there were very few flaws I could find in the acting, so that's his work and their work." To the claim by reviewers that  Perry has somehow cheapened her work, Shange had this to say: 

"Darling my work used to be for free. I used to do these poems by myself with a drummer or a tamboura player, or with a piano player, any kind of music player I could get. We would do it outside on a corner, and we would make art in the street, and people would throw things at us like coins. One time I had a group I was with called The Mushara Brothers and they gave me a tambourine, and I used to hop around with a tambourine to get our change for the night. One night we made $2.57 that's all we made, and we had to divide it between the three of us."

5. Despite criticisms I may have outlined here, I do believe that "For Colored Girls" is worth a film worth seeing. I didn't leave the theater awestruck but I also didn't leave feeling that the movie was a waste of 2 hours and 10 dollars. The film boasts a phenomenal cast and it is truly a treat to see them in action together. Because of amazing performances by Thandie Newton as Tangie, the hardened bartender who uses sex as an escape from her pain; Kimberly Elise, whose war veteran boyfriend is abusing her and their children; and the incomparable Phylicia Rashad, the wise building manager who holds the tale together, the film does pack some power. 

All in all, the film did serve as a necessary reminder that my feminism must be more action-oriented and take me from behind my computer and to the sides of my sisters. The painful stories, be they melodramatic or not, reminded me that I must love the women and girls of this world as if my life and their lives depend on it, because in the end they do.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cee-Lo Green

The Lady Killer (released Nov. 9. 2010)

These rappers ought to be shame of they d*** selves, I'm talkin bout the mc' s rappin over this pop techno. I believe in pimpin the system but got D*MN! not like this

Erykah Badu, on her Twitter last month, disgusted with pop/techno's infiltration of rap.

Amen, lady. Go ahead and add R&B to the mix too. When R&B's last remaining stalwarts like Usher have to sing over techno beats to remain on the charts, you know the genre is in trouble.

Who would have ever thought that Cee-Lo Green would be the saviour of soul music?

Cee-Lo may be better known these days for his stint in the genre-bending group Gnarls Barkley but us ol' timers remember him as part of the Goodie Mob collective from way back in the mid 90s, trading raps with Outkast. The wifey is a pretty big Gnarls Barkley fan and I've heard both their albums, but my mind always tended to separate crazy singing Gnarls Barkley Cee-Lo from Southern rap slangin' Cee-Lo. I longed for his return to rap. Until now.

The hook? Cee-Lo's infectious, foul-mouthed single "F*** You" - or, "Forget You," for the squeamish, only-buy-CDs-from-Walmart types. Cee-Lo's tale of losing his heartless lady to a richer man really isn't as mean-spirited as it seems. The writing is absolutely hilarious (especially when he breaks down and cries during the bridge) and the uptempo, retro beat infuses the song with more fun than fury. Heartbreak never sounded so good.

That's just an appetizer. Cee-Lo's new album, The Lady Killer, is pure soul food.

Cee-Lo has dabbled in funk since way back in 2001 with his single "Closet Freak." But somewhere along the way, he has been possessed by the ghost of Curits Mayfield. "It's OK" plays out like a sequel to "F*** You" - Cee-Lo is still a bit smitten with his evil ex, but not as down in the dumps as before. And how can he be on a cut this catchy? "Bright Lights Bigger City" is just as infectious -the "Billie Jean"-sounding baseline will even get your mama's toe tapping.

That's the great thing about this album - Cee-Lo has managed to reach back into time, yet remain fresh and current. "Satisfied" is full of that old soul sound from the glory days of Motown - a sound you'll only hear these days while watching movies like Ray and Dreamgirls. "Fool For You" sees Cee-Lo in tune with the elements, so to speak - he teams with Philip Bailey and stays true to the Earth Wind and Fire sound.

Many of his lyrics even boast the sincerity of an era long past. On "I Want You," Cee-Lo offers to run away with his new love, sounding way more sincere that his peers. "I'll even quit my job/Loving you, I'll even make IT my job" - you don't hear Lloyd and Trey Songz saying stuff like that.

None of this would work if Cee-Lo couldn't back up these tracks with strong vocals. No worries there. And I'm not talking about those Andre 3000/Mos Def "so bad it's good vocals." This guy's voice is absolutely amazing. Sure, he can hold a note on a Gnarls Barkley track like "Crazy" but listen to him blow on "Wildflower," "No One's Gonna Love You" and "Bodies" - he nails it every time, sounding equally unhinged and fully in control every time.

Fans of today's urban R&B likely will not be very impressed with The Lady Killer. No auto-tune, no guest rappers, no one yelling AYE! in the choruses. Even 90s-era R&B fans might scratch their heads. This collection is purely old-school, funky 70s soul with a 21st century twist. For old-school R&B fans turned off by the crassness of"F*** You," don't be distracted by that anomaly. This album is for you.

I often questioned Cee-Lo's decision to leave rap behind. And while I still miss Goodie Mob's glory days, it's a fair trade to witness the resurrection of R&B.

Best tracks: "F*** You," "Bodies," "I Want You"

4 stars out of 5
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kid Cudi

Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (released Nov. 9, 2010)

The answer is: Wiz Khalifa, B.o.B., and Jae Millz.

Alex, what are "Overhyped rappers I could care less about?"

Right, for 200.

It's not that the rappers I mentioned above are bad - they're miles ahead of the Waka Flockas and Roscoe Dashes of the industry. They're just part of a young movement of artists with huge fan bases but not much substance. I think that the bar has been set so low that any artist who slightly goes against the grain (i.e., can actually form complete sentences) is suddenly heralded as a superstar.

Feel free to add Kid Cudi to the list. I remember a couple of years ago when his breakout single "Day 'n' Nite" was on everyone's lips. When I finally heard it I was a bit disappointed. It was certainly different - its foreboding atmosphere was a stark contrast to the era's rambunctious ringtone rap - but I couldn't get into him. He seemed to lack charisma and energy, something even his less-talented peers had in spades.

Still, I didn't turn down the opportunity to check out his sophomore album, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. I came away with one conclusion - this is one pitiful hipster. Just look at the mopey neo-soul album cover. Dude looks like he lost the scarf that he planned to wear in 90 degree weather.

If you're into emo hipster rap, this album is your Illmatic. The album plays out as Cudi's descent into depression. Sometimes, the theme works. "Don't Play This Song" and "These Worries" both feature Cudi wallowing in his misery. Both tracks, expertly crafted by Emile, coincidentally feature vocals from Mary J Blige - R&B's resident expert when it comes to depression. I also got a kick out of "MANIAC," where Cudi proclaims that he "found a monster in me when I lost my cool."

The single, "Erase Me," is easily the most accessible song on the album. It has that rock-pop vibe that B.o.b. and his peers love, and are starting to run in the ground. The video is guaranteed to show up on MTV, between episodes of 16 and Pregnant. I wasn't too keen on Cudi's constant singing - I like my rappers to, you know, RAP. Cudi's mentor Kanye West drops in to drop off a few bars, thankfully.

And speaking of singing - bad singing, that is - this album is full of it. "Mr Rager," "REVOFEV" and "All Along" are among the culprits, with the latter sounding like it was lifted directly from Drake's last album. In fact, most of the disc sounds like an eerie Thank Me Later - darker and duller.

Near the end of the album things pick up a bit. The posse cut "The End" actually has a little bit of energy, helping it stand out among the whiny, muffled lyrics of "Mojo So Dope" and "Marijuana." And the (slight) positivity of "GHOST!" and "Trapped In My Mind" actually offer a glimmer of hope in Cudi's pity party.

You may notice that I haven't touched on Cudi's actual lyricism in this review - that's because it's largely unremarkable. Sure, he drops a decent punchline here or there, but his lack of charisma is a big detriment.

Cudi's fans will LOVE this album and call me a hater. That's cool, I'm used to it. Cudi certainly has an ear for beats (the production is the album's saving grace) and he shows flashes of artistic brilliance (I do admire how Cudi's collection has an actual theme and is not a bunch of random singles masquerading as an album) but in my eyes, he still has a long road to travel before living up to the hype.

Now I've gone and depressed Cudi even more.

Best tracks: "Don't Play This Song," "MANIAC," "These Worries"

3 stars out of 5
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Monday, November 8, 2010

U. City (formerly United Soul) is a duo from West Philly that was influenced by Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye.  Their first CD Reservations was released in 2005. This fusion of soul, rock, funk, and hip hop was a throwback to how soul music used to be.  Their latest album The Fall shows the growth and evolution of the group since their debut. Enjoy!

-- Desiree

Also check out "Soulclap."
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Posted by in ,  on 7:03 AM 1 comment

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's been awhile, but it's time for another edition of He Said, She Said. This occasional Georgia Mae feature allows our resident man blogger and I to discuss different, though not necessarily opposing, thoughts on different issues, frivolous and grave. This edition definitely falls on the frivolous side. But, hey, it's Friday. 

He said:

This really turned out to be a landmark week. History making, even.

No, not because of some silly election. And despite the buzz on Twitter and Facebook, certainly not because Lil' Wayne was released from his eight-month stint in the bing yesterday. Funny how when one overrated Southern rapper gets released from jail, another overrated Southern rapper gets locked up (hope T.I. brought the Vaseline).

Maybe it's part of Da Illuminatiz's plan to keep the country's Ignorant Rap Ratio in balance.

No, no, no, this week I learned that the McRib can again be purchased at your nearest fine dining establishment!

If you don't know what a McRib is, you're probably a terrorist. Or Javacia.

Javacia had never in her life tasted a McRib. Never! Well, no wife of mine will be deprived of such a delectable treat. Who can resist the sloppy rib-like meat slapped between two stale buns soaked in barbecue sauce and onions?

That actually sounds like a romantic evening in Southern Rap Prison, but I digress.

I picked up a McRib after work yesterday just so the wifey could at least try it. Her first question was if it really tasted like ribs. I replied "not really."

She: "Why would I eat something called a McRib if it doesn't taste like ribs?"

He: "Lemonheads don't taste like real lemons but they're still good! Eat it!"

So, what did you think?


She said:

Monday one of my Facebook friends posted this as his status update: Gross! The McRib is back. 

My sentiments exactly, I thought. Well, actually, at that point I had never eaten a McRib, but I figured the thing had to be disgusting. Don't get me wrong, I'm no food snob. I admit I eat plenty of crap and in college I even dined on Chef Boyardee despite the fact that those meatballs taste nothing like real beef. But I have my limits. There's just something about McDonald's that doesn't sit well with me unless I've had about 10 glasses of wine.  

But Edd insisted that I try this pseudo pork patty to prove my patriotism because it's apparently un-American to not eat the McRib. To get some insight into how much of a sacrifice this was for me, you should know that I gave up pork when I was 15. Over the past year I've had a few slices of bacon (It's hard to say no to swine in the South) but my lips haven't touched a rib since the 90s. That being said, I do remember the flavor of barbecue and the McRib I had last night tasted nothing like anything that's come off my daddy's famous grill. I can't say the McRib was nasty. It just didn't taste like much of anything, sort of like a piece of rubber slathered in barbecue sauce. One bite was enough for me and Edd didn't seem to mind polishing off the rest. 
As a reward for proving that I wasn't a full-blooded terrorist, Edd bought me a quarter pounder with cheese. I pretended I'd been doing Tequila and Patron shots and ate every bite. I told you I'm not a food snob. 


He said:

I finished off the rest of the McRib that she neglected. She only took a mouse-sized bite out of it and I won't front, I was ecstatic - more for me!

Mmmm, mmmm, it was as good as I remembered. Tastes like barbecued heart disease.

As I gobbled down the sloppy goodness, she asked if the meat was real pork. I replied "it's probably mongoose, but it's good mongoose." Meanwhile, I noticed my server put roughly 2,000 napkins in the bag - she's obviously not a McRib rookie.

I don't think Javacia was very impressed with the experience. She must have a little al-Qaida in her blood. She can go back to listening to Illuminatiz-approved music and burning her flags. We true patriots will be eating our McRibs - and probably dying prematurely in four years.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

A few days ago I typed the following words in an email to one of my gal pals: "Hey, if you aren't busy, do you want to go see the new Tyler Perry movie on Friday?"

If you know me well, that's a question you never expected from me. I am not a fan of Perry. At all. I've said before that while I appreciate the Christian elements of his works, his formulaic plot leaves much to be desired. Nearly every movie and play are the same: Black woman is done wrong by dark-skinned black man. God-fearing light-skinned black man tries to show her all men aren't dogs. Initially angry black woman resists and even considers giving dark-skinned black man a second chance, but he screws up again, light-skinned holy man swoops in and saves the day and they live happily ever after. 

Furthermore, I have yet to figure out why a man dressed in drag and a fat suit and toting a pistol is funny. You can call me a black snob or uppity Negro if you'd like. Honestly, I wouldn't argue with you. But despite all that, this Buppie can't wait to see "For Colored Girls," Perry's latest work. 

Like others, when I first learned that Perry was doing a film adaptation of Ntozake Shange's 1975 play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" I was nervous. I don't want Madea anywhere near a piece that deals with the pain of abortion and rape and the process of finding divinity within yourself. But according to interviews, Perry has been to hell and back himself, so I'm hoping he has drawn on these experiences to create a film that will truly honor Shange's revolutionary play. Once I see the movie, I'll be sure to let you all know what I think. 

With a line-up that boasts names like Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, and Phylicia Rashad, the cast gives me great expectations and the trailer (below) gives me chills. I just hope Perry doesn't let us colored girls down. 

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Last week Marie Claire blogger Maura Kelly wrote a post that as of Sunday afternoon had garnered over 3,000 comments. In her post "Should 'Fatties' Get a Room? (Even on TV?)" Kelly discusses the CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly," a show about a couple who meets in Overeaters Anonymous, and asks readers if they feel uncomfortable when they see displays of affection between two overweight individuals on television.  

Kelly writes that her editor steered her to a CNN article about "Mike & Molly" that reported that the show has drawn complaints for its abundance of fat jokes and well as grumblings from some viewers who are uneasy watching intimacy between two plus-sized actors. So Kelly's editor asked her, "Do you really think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?"

Kelly's thoughts: 

My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing — those people are downright obese!And while I think our country's obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it's at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity! Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny. No one who is as fat as Mike and Molly can be healthy. And obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.
So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.

Kelly goes on to say that she's not a "size-ist jerk" because she has "a few friends who could be called plump," you know, like people who exclaim they're not racist because they have black friends. 

As you might have guessed there was an uproar in the blogosphere in response to Kelly's post, a post that seems out of place on a blog for Marie Claire, a magazine that features a column called "Big Girl in a Skinny World" by 5'2″ 220 pound stylist Ashley Falcon.

Kelly has since issued an apology and even admitted that her 
extreme reaction might have grown out of her own body issues (Kelly has was once an anorexic). 

What do you think of Kelly's post and of the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly?

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