Saturday, October 27, 2012

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What a horrible way to start a morning. From
Natina Reed of late-'90s girl group Blaque was killed early Saturday (October 27) in Atlanta in a hit-and-run accident as she was crossing the street, according to tweets from those close to her, including group member Brandi Williams.
I wrote a "What Ever Happened to..." column on Blaque not long ago and I was listening to their initial hit "808" in the gym just a couple of days ago.

This news hits me hard, not only because's Natina's death is horribly similar to the way her mentor Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes died in 2002, but because I always looked at Natina as sort of a twin sister. We were both born on the same day and year - October 28, 1979. Yes, Natina died one day before her 33rd birthday.

I mentioned in my column that Blaque was about a decade ahead of their time. Had they peaked in 2009 instead of 1999 they would have been huge. The music industry is currently infatuated with the pop sound they employed years ago.

Natina likely will be remembered for her hits with Blaque, brief marriage to rapper Kurupt and spats with Foxy Brown. But she'll remind me how precious life is and how quickly it can come to an end.

Happy birthday, sis.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

No cutesy intro this week, playas, I'm running a fever and I'm about 20 seconds from keeling over headfirst into this soup I'm eating. Thankfully we have some good selections this week to lift my spirits.

Kim Jackson hasn't been around for awhile but she's back with a banger.

Jill Scott, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 (2000)

Kim said: "The album was awesome because the lyrics and songs were deep and thought-provoking. "

Also check out:
"He Loves Me"
"I Think It's Better"

Here we go, yo, Larry Robinson what's the scenario?

A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory (1991)

Larry said: "Low End Theory makes me feel good. It has message and still has influence today. "Check the Rhime," "Buggin' Out" and of course "Scenario." Nicki Minaj wouldn't be able to "rah rah like a dungeon dragon" without Tribe and Busta. The album, beginning to end, is a track-for-track classic. Put the album on and let me know when you stop listening."

Also check out:
"Buggin' 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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Thursday, October 25, 2012

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Be honest: Who among you would volunteer to be locked in a building for 15 hours with two dozen Kool-Aid-fueled preteens?

Once again, it's up to me to take one for the team.

Last Friday was my church's annual Hallelujah Night lock-in. Think of it as a safe and uplifting alternative to the usual Halloween debauchery. This marked my third year participating in the event and since I'm sure y'all are tired of me talking about how great Kendrick Lamar's new album is, allow me to break from the norm and share the insanity of last weekend. I'm sure it knocked a year or two off my life.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ugh, the holidays are quickly approaching and that whimpering you hear is my wallet crying in anticipation of the beating it's gonna take. This Christmas, I think everyone is just gonna receive the gift of my friendship.

On a related note, let's get into today's topic.

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

Here's today's question: 
Why do women nowadays feel like they have to buy a man's love?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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Although I've been raving about Kendrick Lamar's latest album for a week now, I still don't have a copy of my own.

I mean, I could easily get an "advance copy," but K. Dot deserves so much more than that. And everyone in Birmingham must agree - Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is sold out everywhere in our fair city. I could go to iTunes, but I like real CDs, dagnabbit.

In my review of Kendrick's monumental album, I made this statement:

There's not a lot of commercial appeal here so don't be shocked if K. Dot doesn't go triple-quadruple platinum.

Maybe, for the first time in recorded history, I was wrong. I was pleased to see my Twitter light up with people proudly going to iTunes and gasp, hitting up Best Buy to get the latest album, not simply relying on download links that could give your laptop cyber syphilis. With this type of support, Kendrick might hit platinum after all.

But why the groundswell of support? It's not like Kendrick had a hot single that caught fire. In fact, the pessimist in me says the reason why all those hard copies sold out is because his record label undershipped the album - they probably didn't even anticipate such support.

I'll put my Haterade back in the fridge and think this through. I believe the real reason for K. Dot's success is history. People want to be a part of history. And I don't think it's too soon to say that Kendrick's debut is a historic moment in today's hip-hop culture.

For years I've spoken out about those who prematurely label an album a classic (remember when people were claiming that Tha Carter II was a classic? Ugh). A true classic is an album that stretches boundaries and influences future artists. Real classics should be considered turning points in the culture. Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is a cinematic coming-of-age tale, a masterful art of storytelling that is all but nonexistent in today's rap scene.

Old-timer hip-hop fans like myself can relate to Kendrick's album because it's a throwback to the elements that caused us to fall in love with music way back when. But newer fans are hooked because Kendrick is one of their own. I was introduced to Kendrick years ago by a cousin who was still in his teens at the time. Those younger fans watched Kendrick evolve, the same way my crew watched that chubby-cheeked kid with the chipped tooth become the legendary Nas. And while I content Nas' Life Is Good is slightly better than Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, my cousin will never buy that because he doesn't have the connection to Nas that I have. I actually respect that.

Gone are the days of 1998, when you had DMX, Jay-Z, OutKast and Lauryn Hill dropping classic albums in the same calendar year. When was hip hop's last true classic? Kanye West's College Dropout in 2004, maybe? Young fans have been aching for a classic to define their generation. They finally have it. And my generation can respect that.

Kudos to Kendrick Lamar for embarking on another hip-hop turning point. Now, what was my iTunes password?

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Question: Does it feel like fall in your neck of the woods? It's still warm down here in Birmingham. For the sake of my wardrobe, I'm aching for chillier weather. I have fall flyness in my closet that is just dying to be unleashed.

First world problems, I know.

Thankfully it's Friday and throwback music is always is in season. Here's what we're listening to.

Javacia gets divine inspiration.

Francesca Battistelli, My Paper Heart (2008)

Jai said: "The songs on this album are like my prayer journal set to music."

Also check out:
"I'm Letting Go"
"Beautiful, Beautiful"

Edward unveils his greatest guilty pleasure.

Lil Cease, The Wonderful World of Cease-A-Leo (1999)

Edd said: "I have a soft spot for Cease. He was always written off as Biggie's butler and even Cease himself admits that BIG wrote his rhymes. But in 1999, long after Biggie was around to pen his verses, Cease somehow dropped an extremely entertaining album. Illmatic it's not but it's a ton of fun. It doesn't hurt that it dropped in the summer of '99, probably the best summer I've ever had. Silly, nostalgic fun."

Also check out:
"Looking for a Lady"

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, October 18, 2012

Kendrick Lamar

Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (to be released October 22, 2012)

Buzz. Every rapper wants it. But sometimes that buzz is so deafening the artist's music is totally drowned out.

Look at J. Cole last year. After an astounding series of mixtapes, many christened him the second coming of Nas (including me). Sadly, his debut album didn't reach the monumental heights we were promised. It wasn't a bad album at all, it just couldn't match up to legendary status it attained before it even hit our ears. It's certainly not fair, but that's the tradeoff for acquiring huge buzz.

Cole became another victim of The Buzz's venomous sting.

Kendrick Lamar finds himself in a similar spot. After his unbelievable mixtapes and guest verses captured hip hop's attention and a ton of co-signs from legendary artists raised his profile, Kendrick positioned himself to become the newest West Coast superstar. All Eyez on him.

Once again, the Buzz is deafening. But Kendrick ain't hearing it.

What makes Good Kid, m.A.A.d City a phenomenal album is that Kendrick refuses to change what brought him to the forefront. Longtime K.Dot fans won't hear out-of-place club beats begging for radio play or shoehorned collabos with flavor-of-the-month rappers (paging Tew Chaaaynz...). This is the Kendrick you know and love.

Kendrick is first and foremost a storyteller. Good Kid, m.A.A.d City lives up to its billing - a coming of age tale in an urban jungle. Kendrick excels when he takes the usual rap cliches of women ("Sherane aka Master Splinter's Daughter"), fame ("B*tch Don't Kill My Vibe) and success ("Money Trees") and amplifies them with his mind-bending, double-time flow.

"As the record spins I should pray/for I recognize I'm easily prey, I got ate alive yesterday," he spits on "Good Kid," showing that a toxic environment can even poison those with the best intentions. When the track fades into the follow up, "m.A.A.d City," the listener is bombarded with tales of street violence. K.Dot reminds listeners what the city made him: "Kendrick, aka Compton's human sacrifice." He's really the hip hop John Singleton.

"Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst" likely will be the most poignant combination of songs you'll hear all year. In the former, Kendrick steps into the roles of those damaged by the "m.A.A.d City." The most powerful verse comes from the point of view of a woman damaged by the system, who, among other horrors, justifies domestic abuse: "You needed to learn something you probably need to beat her/That's how I was taught."

But in the latter song, there is hope for redemption: "Too many sins, I'm running out/somebody send me a well for the drought." Hopelessness catches up to the broken souls but holy salvation becomes their replenishment. Who would have thought Kendrick would take us to church?

If that's too heavy for you, there's plenty of lighter moments. The best is "Poetic Justice," in which the new West Coast poster child coyly samples Janet Jackson. If you don't get that reference, just stop reading this blog right now. There is no hope for you. And "Compton" is just a speaker-knocking ode to the West that could be this generation's "California Love." It's so good that I won't even complain about Dr. Dre showing up to spit a verse he probably didn't write on a beat he didn't even produce.

Good Kid, m.A.A.d City is a triumph for the West Coast, and more importantly, for hip hop as a whole. There's not a lot of commercial appeal here so don't be shocked if K. Dot doesn't go triple-quadruple platinum. But that's irrelevant. Good Kid, m.A.A.d City is an album that stays true to Kendrick and his fans.

Kendrick says it best on "Real," where he brags about the love of his vices but ends with this line: "I'm talking about hating all money, power, respect in my will/I hate that fact none of that s*** makes me real."

Kendrick's not listening to buzz, he's listening to himself. And that's how you craft a masterpiece.

Best tracks: "Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst," "Poetic Justice," "Compton," "m.A.A.d City"

4.5 stars out of 5

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Well, this week's Love Letters question is a no-brainer, in more ways than one. I'll skip the intro and get right into it. But first...

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

Here's today's question:
Why do women hit men and then claim they were the victim, not aggressor?
@msashleythinks via Twitter

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Happy Friday, playas!

Before we revel in the awesomeness that is the weekend, take a moment to remember a couple of R&B favorites.

Third times the charm! Charles Clark is back for the third straight week.

Pebbles, Always (1990)

Charles said: "I was just thinking of my time in Hawaii as a kid and hearing Pebbles. I was just looking at 'Giving You the Benefit' and she was looking angelic in a white dress, damn...."

Also check out:

"Love Makes Things Happen"

Edward don't wanna be a playa no more...

Joe, All That I Am (1997)

Edd said: "This was a weird album because all the good singles wound up on soundtracks of ridiculous movies (Booty Call, Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood). That's a shame because the album was pretty solid. The album dropped a few months after my high school graduation and I still consider it one of my soundtracks to adulthood. That's better than the Booty Call Soundtrack, trust me."

Also check out:

"All The Things (Your Man Won't Do)"
"Don't Wanna Be A Player"

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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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

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Poor BET has yet to master the art of award shows. Much like a Memphis Bleek song, the only time it excels is when an outside source comes in to do the heavy lifting.

In the case of the BET Hip Hop Awards, we have to thank the DJs in the hip hop cyphers. 

If you're reading this blog I assume you know what a cypher is: a collection of rappers rhyming their faces off.

Last year's awards show set the bar extremely high for cyphers thanks to Eminem and his ravenous crew. Does this year's collection hold up? In a word, no. But there were some surprises. 

Before we get into the cypher, if you haven't already, check out my 20 Questions review of the award show itself. Hope you like 2 Chainz. Cuz I don't.

Anyway, here's the Cypher Report Card. 

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Y'all tricked me.

Last year, I skipped the BET Hip-Hop Awards and my phone nearly vibrated into oblivion due to all the texts and tweets raving about the show I missed. Who would have known it would be the last time we'd see Heavy D?

This year, I made sure to set aside time on my busy schedule (of watch wrestling and eating Lemonheads) to check out what was sure to be a great show.

And I was led astray by my friends.

Before we get into things, a disclaimer - this review will be the usual 20 Questions recap. Click here for a report card of the BET Cyphers, AKA the most entertaining part of this trainwreck.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

We're just a few weeks away from a monumental turning point in American history. A day when the world as we knew it changed forever.

Yep, my birthday.

That means you have just a couple of weeks left to purchase all the Sour Patch Kids, Count Chocula, Best Buy gift cards and Keith Sweat memorabilia your credit card allows.

It's the least you can do for all these years of sage advice, right? And speaking of advice, let's get down to today's business.

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

Here's today's question: 
Why don't men like weave?

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Can you believe it's the first Friday in October? It's my favorite time of year, mainly because that means stores are finally selling Count Chocula again.

Popeye has his spinach, Rick Rawse has his "crab meats" and I have my sugary cereals.

But enough about me. What are y'all listening to today?

Charles Clark takes it back to the 80s.

The System, Don't Disturb This Groove (1987)

Charles said:  "From the background music to the words, the title track is not overpowering with sexual innuendos like today’s music is. The lead singer has a great voice and it’s just a cool ass song to sing. I like any song that lets you raise your voice and try to carry the tone. Lol."

Also check out:
"Save Me"
"House of Rhythm"

These are Javacia's confessions.

Usher, Confessions (2004)

Javacia said: "I think I listened to this CD nearly every day in 2004. Whenever I think of this album I think of grad school in California, my summer in Seattle and eating Twizzlers."

Also check out:
"Bad Girl"

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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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Last year, when The Rock made his triumphant return to wrestling, my cell phone received so many notifications that it Harlem Shaked itself all the way under the dining room table. Knowing that I'm a pretty big wrestling fan, everyone was hitting me with messages saying "Turn to wrestling! Your boy Rock is back!"

My reply: "Who said that was 'my boy?' I don't like Rocky."

One of my exasperated friends replied: "You hate everybody. Do you like ANYONE besides dead rappers?"

Well duh.

Although I'm sure he wasn't talking about him. 

There is one guy that I'm a huge fan of - T.J. Holmes. I've been a big fan of ol' Loutelious (that's his government name) since his stint as a CNN anchor. T. Jr. (that's what his mama n' dem call him) impressed me with his intelligence, poise and when it came down to it, his take-no-prisoners opinions. The wifey calls him my boy crush but I wouldn't go that far. I'm a grown man, playa, I don't have crushes. 

When T.J. jumped from CNN to freakin' BET of all places, it raised eyebrows and turned heads, Exorcist style. BET isn't exactly known for stimulating programming (Hell Date!!?!?). But instead of moping around like Bow Wow at his album release party, I was optimistic - I had enough faith in T.J. that he'd bring much-needed common sense to a lost network.

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Ready for another installment of Audio Ambush?

Watch me chat with frequent SIS commenter CJ, an up-and-coming music producer. CJ talks about his influences, creative process and his favorite beats on the radio right now. For more on CJ and his production prowess, check out his YouTube channel for Kingship Music.


Want to submit your own video discussing sounding off on music? Send a vid to or find me on Twitter @etbowser
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Monday, October 1, 2012

Unless this is your first time at Soul In Stereo, you know there's only one R&B OG who can be referred to by just one name around here.

I'm not talking about Usher. Or Joe. Or even Lutha.

I'm talking Keith. Keith Sweat. Or, as I say when one of his songs randomly plays on the radio: KEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEF!

Yeah, Keith can turn the hardest of brothers into shrill middle-aged women (no offense to the shrill, middle-aged women reading this blog. You are appreciated).

But one Keith who never get love is Keith Washington. Everyone remembers "Kissing You," but what has he done since then? Lemme remind you...

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