nodoubt1 Push and Shove   No Doubt (Album Review)

Growing up as a Valley-Girl (Castro Valley Representative) No Doubt for me was an iconic group.  I grew up idolizing front woman Gwen Stefani for several reasons – banging body, good singing voice and amazing style.   Their debut album, Tragic Kingdom and Return of Saturn, are some of my favorite albums ever, so it was a no brainer that when I learned they were releasing their sixth album, I was ecstatic.

In 2001, No Doubt; Stefani, Adrian Young, Tom Dumont and Tony Kanal, released their fifth album Rock Steady. Since that time, the musical climate has changed – more about personas and personal lives than music realistically.  Also, since that time, Stefani has created an image and persona that has surpassed her band members with her bids as cover girl for multiple magazine publications, makeup endorsements, cologne/clothing line, and two solo albums Love.Angel.Music.Baby and Sweet Escape.  

Now, 11 years later, No Doubt returns to the scene with their sixth album, Push and Shove released September 25th.   With their new album, No Doubt revisits a lot of the same concepts that made them household names pre-hiatus – great production, great lyrics and concepts, as well as lovely and infectious vocals from Stefani.  Despite the lead single, “Settle Down,” not necessarily being a good indication of what the rest of the album will sound like – the album is great.

Highlights on the album begin with “One More Summer.”  The song is featured on the album three times with the actual production, acoustic version and a Jonas Quant Remix, but I’m partial to the original track.  The guitar that introduces the song sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the track.   The song speaks to essentially having a little more time for love using the summer love metaphor.

The title track of the album, “Push and Shove” featuring Busy Signal and Major Lazer serve as the perfect title track from the album.  Not only does the song have great lyrics but as a whole it’s one of the most standout tracks from the album in terms of production.  From the beginning of the song, the beat commands attention only lets Stefani to have the perfect background.  The song also somewhat will put you in the mindset of “Hey Baby,” perhaps from the Dance hall like vibe incorporated in both.

The production and lyrics of “Easy,” are both sexy.  Stefani sings,  “Put your hands up you’re surrounded/ they’re circling me/ cause I’m a hustler baby/ come on, I bring it on, can’t turn it off.”  As well as, “Gonna put it over there/ white flag in the air/ gonna get my way when I cease the fire, I wanna be with you.  I’m dropping everything, I wanna be there.”

The intro lyrics on “Gravity,” could work almost as a statement to where No Doubt are today.  Stefani sings, “We’re so lucky/ still holding on.”  While with, “Undone” the group creates a song that is reminiscent to previous classics, “Don’t Speak,” and “Simple Kind of Life.”  Stefani sings, “I’m broke, let me show you where it hurts.  I’m trying to be brave, this wasn’t in my plan and nothing you can do, I’ve changed.  It’s such a waste.”

Overall, with their latest installment, No Doubt created the album that longtime fans like myself have been waiting for.  The lyrics and production of the album both have a tremendous amount of depth and both evoke some type of feeling within me.  I think No Doubt’s veteran status as well as helped them to create this album – it’s almost like they don’t care.  Yet it’s not lazy at all. Kudos. Kudos.

 Review: Lupe Fiasco   Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part I

Rapper Lupe Fiasco has become a name synonymous with controversy, skepticism, and scrutiny.

Since his humble beginnings and debut in 2006 with his album Food & Liquor, there has been a level of negative commentary that followed the MC.  From being introduced as a skateboarder who couldn’t skate, calling out Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh as racist and calling President Barack Obama a terrorist, Fiasco has created an out-spoken ego of sorts. The skepticism also followed the emcee with his last release, Lasers.  The album, which was commonly referred to by critics as Losers (*cough cough me*) was an almost lazy effort and a project that Fiasco himself didn’t support.  Whenever you have to recruit crooner Trey Songz for a jam, your album isn’t up to par.  In the album, there were some highlights: “All Black Everything,” and “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now,” but as a whole not the highest moment in Fiasco’s musical career.

Fiasco’s negative place within music due to his public displays and last album all helped to make people questionable about his latest installment, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part. I which was released yesterday.  For the album, Fiasco creates a project that could be the soundtrack for the black militant.  Preachy on America’s injustices, the oppression of blacks through white supremacy, structural racism and etc among other topics.  For the album, Fiasco recruits production from: Soundtrakk, Fatimes & Built, 1500 or Nothin’, B Sides, Severe and more, as well as collaborations from Poo Bear (lol at his name), Guy Sebastian, Casey Benjamin, Bilal and etc.

With Fiasco’s album, there are some familiar aspects – his sister Ayesha and her introductory poem, as well as the reincarnation of a favorite from Food & Liquor with “Sunshine,” this time featuring Bilal for “How Dare You.” There are components of this album that work really well, as well as things that don’t work at all (production choices).   The good with the album first comes with the first official song on the album, “Strange Fruition.”  For the song, Fiasco recruits singer Casey Benjamin and creates a song in a way that references Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.”  Holiday’s track was based on a poem by Abel Merropol, a white man, protesting lynches.  With Fiasco’s update, he creates a song created around America and the institutional racism of the country.  Despite the song beginning with “Now I can’t pledge allegiance to your flag/ Cause I can’t find no reconciliation with your past,” the grove of the production courtesy Soundtrakk make the content not seem so preachy. [Read More]

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.

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