32309125 700x700min 1 620x620 Album Review: Lianne La Havas   Is Your Love Big Enough?

In the current music terrain we are living in, a lot of music is somewhat formulaic and redundant which explains my hate type feelings with a lot of our current music.  With the exceptions of some artists, nothing has been really moved me musically.

Those feelings somewhat shifted when I discovered my new favorite thing, the beautiful UK based songbird Lianne La Havas.  I was first introduced to Havas’ music with the title track from her EP Lost & Found.  What instantly became evident from what I was listening to was not only did she have a beautiful voice; she also was able to evoke a mood or feeling through the lyrics in which she sang.

With her sublime debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough? Havas has managed to create both a beautiful/honest album, as well as a shining debut. The lyrics that Havas sings throughout the album seem to come from real life experiences, which is something that she believes an artist should always do.  In an interview with blog, Just Another Magazine, Havas said, “I’ve always felt that it was easier to write about something that had actually happened.  For me, the music I’ve always enjoyed making was when I could talk about my feelings in song form.  It perhaps turns a bad situation into a happier thing because you’re singing it.”

The album opens with “Don’t Wake Me Up,” which instantly draws listeners into the rest of the album.  Havas captivates listeners with layered vocals that introduce the song with minimal production that eventually builds throughout the track.  The lyrics of the song are beautiful, “they say some things are better left unsaid, but I’d take my life to stay in your bed.”  The song is followed by the title track, “Is Your Love Big Enough?”  Despite popular belief, this track is not about a boy; it’s about really having just a great time.  Within the lyrics, Havas speaks about dancing until she’s a sober, screaming and second hand guitar.

For “Au Cinema,” Havas creates a song based on her and her lover making a movie – not that kind of movie for those of you with your minds in the gutter.  Despite having a somewhat whimsical like vibe, the song also addresses the reality that relationships really can’t be like a movie – there’s no pause, or rewind.  With “Elusive,” Havas recreates a classic Scott Matthews song and gives it her own beautiful rendition.  The richness in her vocals, works very well throughout the song as she draws you in.

With “Tease Me,” Havas speaks essentially of a jaded lover needing to move on and attempting to find the strength to do so.  With lyrics that say, “I never know what I want, what I need/ So I think it’s best you stay away from me/ Cause I hate the way you tease me, I am not lonely I’m alright/  But you sure don’t make it easy to show my hand and say goodnight.”  The lyrics of the song are beautiful, and her vocal performance drives home the vulnerable intent of the song.  The album ends with “They Could Be Wrong,” which makes for an impressive album closure and a definite highlight on the album.  The production on the song, only adds to the overall appeal of the song, not to mention the flawless vocal performance that Havas provides listeners with.

Havas has managed to create a great debut album.  Clearly, there has to be something in the water overseas because people from the UK are dominating with their form of soul music.  Great album from start to finish – literally, from start to finish. Definitely a must have project in every music lovers possession.

 Purchase the album here via ITunes . 


385795 Book Review   Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz (1985)Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz (1985)

Marvin Gaye’s album Here My Dear is a classic album for many reasons.

Not only was the production on the album stellar, but the concept of the album also helped to make this a classic.  Conceptually, the album touched on the deteriorating marriage between Gaye, and Berry Gordy’s sister Anna.  The album serves as a powerful chapter closure in the relationship and resonates with a lot of people for that very reason.

In music critic David Ritz’s biography Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye released in 1985, Ritz creates a book that gives Gaye’s music some clarity and explains a lot about the singer through several different interviews.   Behind the sex symbol façade of Gaye, who is one of the most prolific voices in soul music, lived a sad and messed up boy with something to prove.  With the complexities of the relationships in his life, mainly Anna and his father, there stood a boy who’s only platform to gain acceptance was behind a microphone.  In the book, Ritz goes between Gaye’s early life as a child to ultimately his death in 1984 a day before his birthday.

What made this book work so much different than the typical biography is the fact that Gaye and Ritz had a real friendship.  Gaye read the Ray Charles book that Ritz wrote and asked for him to do a biography about his life.  After agreeing to do so these two built a bond that lasted until disputes over the song “Sexual Healing,” where Ritz helped create but got no credit.  The friendship allowed for better interviews with his Gaye’s parents and siblings, as well as a more in-depth view into which Gaye was.  It allowed fans of Gaye and his music to see the relationship between him and his father that was volatile that ultimately was the cause of his death.  In a quote about their relationship and sexual inadequacy,

“Feelings of sexual inadequacy permeated the life of Marvin Gaye Jr.  Complicating matters even more was his father’s sexual ambivalence.  Both men saw sex as a dangerous force that threatened and finally destroyed their peace of mind and the virtuous life they aspired to lead.”

What was also addressed in great detail using that quote, as a reference was Gaye’s relationship towards sex.  Reading the book, readers will see Gaye’s almost hesitant and timid views on sex and how his commitment to religion somewhat made him fearful to proceed in the act.  One of my favorite quotes from the book comes from this theme, which is, “It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in sex.  I was.  But women were meant to be put on a pedestal.  Back then, sex wasn’t as free as it is today.”   Another favorite quote that comes from this theme is, “There’s a difference between reaching a woman with your song and reaching her with your body.  One is fantasy and the other’s reality.  If you’re a singer, who’s a sex symbol you’re likely to confuse the two.  When I was a kid, if I was singing to a room full of girls I could work it to any of them—everyone of them could be mine.  That’s a heavy burden to bear.”

Readers are also introduced to the relationships between his two wives: Anna Gordy, and Janis Hunter.  One of the oddest quotes or ideas rather came when Gaye was talking about his wife Anna who he knew was having relationships with other men.  Gaye says, “I’ suppose I’ve always been obsessed with the notion of another man making love to my woman.  In my fantasy, that man is always more powerful than me.  He alone can satisfy her while I can only watch.” When Gaye met the beautiful Janis Hunter who would become his second wife, he was still married and Hunter was 17 years old but he was instantly drawn to her.  He said “I knew only one thing—this lady had worked some sure enough magic on my soul.  She danced through my dreams.  The girl was in my blood.”  He hid her from the world as they moved around, and he was really in love with her.  Reading his feelings about Hunter was beautiful and the hopeless romantic I am really was drawn to this part.

Now, one of the most interesting parts to me—if you’re a UnSung fan you may find this to be interesting as well.  Fans of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell know that Terrell collapsing on the stage in Gaye’s arms before she died had a tremendous impact on Gaye and caused him to go into isolation for a period of time.  “When I learned how sick she was, I cried.  Love seemed cruel to me.  Love was a lie.  Tammi was the victim of the violent side of love—at least that’s how I felt.  I have no first hand knowledge of what really killed her, but it was a deep vibe, as though she was dying for everyone who couldn’t find love.  My heart was broken.”  On Terrell’s episode of UnSung, there was speculation that singer/songwriter Valerie Simpson, finished recording all of Terrell’s vocals on the album that would become the end of their collaborative duets.  Simpson said that was untrue, however, in this book Gaye said that she did.  Interesting.

With that being said, this is a really good book and I recommend it to everyone.  After reading this book, I Want You, and Here My Dear, makes more sense.  Prior to reading this book, I thought those albums were beautiful, great vocals, great lyrics, and great production, however I never really knew so much the back-story of Gaye’s life.  After reading it, it all becomes a little more clear to me.   Great book.

“I can’t see anything wrong with sex between two consenting anybodies.  I think we make far too much of it… sex is sex and love is love.  When combined, they work well together, if two people are of about the same mind.  But, they are really discrete needs and should be treated as such… I don’t believe in overly moralistic philosophies.  Have your sex.  It can be very exciting, if you’re lucky.  I hope the music I present here makes you lucky.” 

Buy Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz via Amazon here. 






BE[ats]ORIGINAL Vol. 3 – Instrumental Album
Artist: Nameless
Release Date: February 26th, 2012
Download Link: http://nameless.bandcamp.com/album/be-ats-original-vol-3

520243532 1 290x160 Stream: NAMELESS   BE[ats] ORIGINAL Vol. 3As a music listener/writer and blogger, I guess I have a pretty big opinion about music these days.  When you write about music or have to review projects like I do for SoulCulture, The Examineror Okayplayer, realistically, I am listening to lyrics and delivery.  What I have noticed is that through the saturation of artists these days rapping about the same concepts– money, cars, clothes, “the struggle,” and etc, I have fallen a little more towards production and instrumental projects which is why I am a huge Oddisee, Tokimonsta and Flying Lotus fan.

With that being said, a few months ago (I am a slipper/bad blogger/bad human these days) I got introduced to Michigan based producer NAMELESS and his project BE[ats]ORIGINAL Vol. 3, which is basically an eclectic instrumental project mixing together hip-hop, electro, and soul.  The project despite being instrumental has a few features from fellow Michiganers JYoung The General, Nametag, Clear Soul Forces, Quelle Chris and Illingsworth.  The project also features some cool samples like J*DaVeY’s “Rain Check,” and one that is on the top of my tongue that I can’t figure out what song it is (when I figure it out, I will revisit this post) in the form of “Wa-Wa-Waaah.”

This project is definitely a great listen, very diverse and the splashes of features on the project really, really work well within the project.  Make sure to download the project ASAP for $5 via BandCamp here.

books Read: Erins Book List

So, I realize that I am pretty nerdy, however, I love myself.  All my friends know that I am an avid book reader so they always come to me and ask my opinion on books.  Instead of writing them individually to everyone, I just thought why not write a huge list of everything on my list.  Some of these books I have read, and others are just on my list to read this year.  The list are a list of books I want to read and some of them I have already.

If you want to see the list that I did last year of my favorite books I read during the year, you can check those here.  Yes, this is a little extra, and someone told me this means my book look exceeds 4,000 dollars (not true) and others tell me my book list is why I am single (this is true) but whatever.

Also, since this list is so huge, I thought why not make a printable PDF version for everyone just in case you want to put this in your planner and take it on the go or what not.  Lastly, I am starting a book club so if you’d like to be in that, you can email me at bella@rawemag.org.  The way that I am setting up the book club also means you do not have to live in The Bay Area, so yes, if you live in Nebraska or somewhere crazy far like South Africa (don’t know why that was my destination of choice) you too can be in the club.

Currently: I am reading Manning Marable’s The Reinvention of Malcolm X, such a great read thus far.  I’m one of those people who reads leisure books like I am in school still so you can only imagine the number of highlights I have in the book.

Download PDF here 

1.      Wax Poetics Anthologies
2.      1Q84
3.      The Business of Hip-hop
4.      Coffee with Buddha – Joan Duncan
5.      Is Marriage for White People- Ralph Banks
6.      How Georgia became o’keefe
7.      Graffiti L.A
8.      Rubbish – Jake Chessium
9.      Rules of Civility – Amor Towles
10.     Next to Love – Ellen Feldman
11.     Miss Timmin’s School for Girls
12.     In The Sea, There are Croccidles
13.     The Oriental Wife- Evelyn Toynton
14.     The Lantern – Deborah Lawarenson
15.     Turn of Mind – Alice Laplante
16.     Room – Emma Donghue
17.     The Seat of The Soul – Gary Zukav
18.     I’d Know You Anywhere – Laura Lippman
19.     The Submissions – Amy Waldman
20.     Start from Happy – Patricia Marx
21.     Easily Amused – Karen McQuestion
22.     It’s Bigger Than Hip-hop – MK Asante Jr.
23.     Zeitun
24.     Shanki Girls
25.     Dreams of Girls
26.     Hiding in Hip-Hop Torrance Dean
27.     Hip-hop Matter – Craig Watkins
28.     The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets The West
29.     Post Blackness – Toure
30.     Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams
31.     A Room of Ones Own
32.     Playdate Thelma Adams
33.     The Vagina Monologues
34.     Big Girl Small – Rachel Dee Wooksin
35.     Thoughts without Cigarettes
36.     Cannon- Bhiku Bodhi
37.     The Art of Dreaming – Carlos Casteneda
38.     A Taste of Power Elaine Brown
39.     The Girl with Three Legs
40.     Blues Legacy & Black Feminism
41.     Black Genius – Spike Lee
42.     Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to The Black Mecca of Black America
43.     The Politics of Black Liberation
44.     Nigger- Dick Gregory
45.     Purple Cow – Seth Godin
46.     Celestine Prophecy
47.     Open City
48.     Think & Grow Rich – Napeolean Hill
49.     Don’t Bring Home A White Boy
50.     How To Be Black
51.     Cinderella Ate My Daughter
52.     Day of Honey
53.     A Visit From The Goon Squad
54.     Someday This Will Be Funny
55.     Big Machine – Victor Lavelle
56.     Untold Story – Monica Ali
57.     Ready Player One- Ernest Cline
58.     House of Holes- Nicholson Baker
59.     Manning Marable Biography
60.     Blues People
61.     Miles Davis Biography
62.     Clawing At The Limits of Cool
63.     Charles Mingus Autobiography
64.     All About The Dress- Vicky Tiel
65.     A Taste of Salt
66.     Steve Jobs Autobiography
67.     The Teaching of Don Juan
68.     The Secret Life of Bees
69.     The Joy of Living
70.     The Quran
71.     Room Full of Mirrors : The Biography of Jimi Hendrix
72.     Brothers (& Me) A Memoir of Loving & Giving
73.     The Psychology of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
74.     Watergate
75.     Lit by Mary
76.     Miles Davis – The Definite Biography by Ian Carr
77.     The Active Side of Infinity
78.     Women, Culture & Politics
79.     How To Change The World: Social Entrepreneurs & The Power of New Ideas
80.     Me Talk Pretty One Day
81.     The Councils of Dad
82.     The Blue Sweater- Jacqueline Novogratz
83.     What Matters – David Elliot
84.     Black Noise – Tricia Rose
85.     Mind to Mind
86.     Manchild of The Promise Land
87.     The Finding of Third Eye
88.     The Year of Gadfly – Jennifer Miller
89.     Is Everyone Hanging Out Without me?
90.     The Letter all your Friends Have Written You

12 02 02 byTommyLau02 Event: SF Sketchfest with Reggie Watts & Robert Glasper

This was a review that I did for The Examiner, I just thought I would post it here too.  It’s definitely a little late courtesy of being sick, and traveling, however, here it is.  SF Sketchfest is definitely a really cool thing.

“In 2001, three individuals with roots in comedy: David Owen, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney, founded The SF Sketchfest.  The festival was created as a platform to showcase six Bay Area sketch comedy groups: The Fresh Robots, Kasper Hausr, The Meehan Brothers, Please Leave the Bronx, Totally False People and White Noise Radio Theatre. “

Continue reading on Examiner.com SF Sketchfest with Reggie Watts and Robert Glasper Recap – Oakland R&B Music | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/r-b-music-in-oakland/sf-sketchfest-with-reggie-watts-and-robert-glasper-recap#ixzz1mSyF0cmh

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