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Soundcheck Album Preview: Will J.Cole Take Over With ‘Cole World’?

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known as J.Cole, has been hip hop’s best kept secret for years.  Ever since Jay-Z signed him to RocNation, we’ve been waiting to hear what all the hype was about.  After his debut album was pushed back…and back last Spring, our interest in the newbie only intensified. After a jam-packed summer of touring and teasing, the wait is finally over.

Cole will release his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story on September 27 on the heels of a massive build up.  In the months leading up to his debut release, Cole treated fans to new music through his “Any Given Sunday” campaign, delivering singles each week since July 13. While he had initially planned on dropping a mixtape prior to his major release, he changed his mind, deciding to stream music on his Web site and Ustream instead.

He told media in July, “The music I was gonna put on the mixtape I’mma just slowly drop it. I’ll just drop it out online and they’ll find it. You know, my fans will find it how they will. I’m confident. I don’t wanna run and drop a mixtape. I don’t want people to get confused with that. I don’t want them to love it, because they’ll love it. If I put out a mixtape they’re gonna love it cause I don’t know how to put out a bad mixtape. That’s the problem.”

Cole wasn’t being cocky.  His mixtapes are what gained the attention of Jay-Z back in 2007—The Come Up mixtape earned him a spot on The Blueprint 3 in 2009. After his secondmixtape, The Warm Up hit the streets that year, Jay signed him as the first artist at his RocNation imprint. Since then, Hov has kept his protégé on his toes, making him wait til the eleventh hour to lend a verse to “Mr. Nice Watch”.

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Metermaids Make The Rooftop Shake

Attention hip hop fans! OurStage’s own Metermaids, an underground hip hop duo hailing from Brooklyn, have just released a new album! If you aren’t already familiar with the duo of emcees Sentence and Swell then you should get acquainted, because they’re taking the underground scene by storm. After releasing the Smash Smash Bang EP in late 2009, the pair caught the attention of acclaimed producer 9th Wonder and underground veteran Sage Francis, who signed the group to his label, Strange Famous Records. Since then they’ve been building buzz with a series of mixtapes and EPs until finally dropping their album Rooftop Shake last week. And it is definitely worth the wait.

Metermaids

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Girl Jam

Portia Monique

Because Seattle is all but synonymous with grunge and “alternative” rock, its other schools of music sometimes have an uphill battle for national recognition. You might not ever read about Seattle’s neo-pop soul movement stealing the flannel throne, but you could very well read about the rise of one of its practitioners—Portia Monique. Monique takes R&B and gives it a forward-thinking hip hop edge. She’s blessed with a voice that can be feather light (see the dreamy piano ballad, “Get To Know You,” which was written and recorded in one sitting) or soulful, strong and limber. “Midnight Thoughts” starts with a fluttering beat, then adds layers and layers of vocals and textures, taking the listener through the twists and turns of a restless mind. The mood lightens on the percussive, synthy “I’m Not Your Girl,” where Monique echoes the sentiment of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” The girl has talent, and all we can say is, here we are now. Entertain us.

“Midnight Thoughts” – Portia Monique

Live Wired [Review]: Lupe Fiasco

In this week’s edition of Live Wired, we’re switching things up a little bit. We’ve featured show review of fun and laid-back summer concerts such as Guster and Jack’s Mannequin and The Weepies. This time, we’re bringing you our thoughts on and a look into the “Generation Laser” tour, Lupe Fiasco’s twenty-date trek around the country this fall. On Monday, we caught the first night of this tour at a jam-packed House of Blues. Fiasco, the rapper hailing from Chicago, entered the stage to chants of “Lupe”, which continued throughout the night.

The first half of the show was by far the best. The energy in the room was high, the crowd knew every word to every song and Lupe captivated everyone with upbeat and exciting performances of some of his best tracks. He opened with “Words I Never Said”, the second song off of his album Lasers. It definitely set the tone for the night, with Lupe rapping the verses fueled by his political views and his back-up vocalists contributing with the song’s sing-along chorus. While most of his set consisted of content from Lasers, his latest album which was released back in March, an early highlight of the set was an older song, “Go Go Gadget Flow”. The crowd loved rapping the repetitive and easy to remember chorus, and Fiasco even changed the words around at the end to make the song about Boston.

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Soundcheck: Beach Cruisin’ With Glasses Malone

It’s been a long road for Glasses Malone, the Watts, California native who began work on his debut album, Beach Cruiser in 2006. Now, the almost five-year-in-the-making, project has finally hit the streets.

Featuring verses from the likes of Akon, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne and Lupe Fiasco, the album is a gangster rap throwback that remi

nds us what made hip hop great.   Malone is a story-teller, and on Beach Cruiser, he depicts the gangster life to a T with his signature “ganster-soul” style. His single, “Sun Come Up” features Rick Ross, Birdman and T-Pain and is already heating up the airwaves.  An admitted former Crip, Malone is not as aggressive as hislyrics may suggest.  On the contrary, his demeanor is pleasant and friendly.

“It’s been such a journey and I am so blessed,” he says.  “‘Feel Good Music’ is my favorite song on the album.  It sums up my mood.”   The track he’s referring to closes out thealbum on an oldies-inspired high-note; a testament to the almost five-year journey it took for him to get here.

Back in 2005, he hit the scene with his Crack Mixtape release and followed up with White Lightning…Sticks in 2005. That year, he signed a $1.7 million deal with Sony, but was released when the label dismantled its urban division in 2007. After a label jump to Cash Money Records, and Mack 10’s HooBangin’ imprint, the album was pushed back to April 2008.  He released two singles that year, “Certified” featuring Akon and “ Haterz” featuring Birdman and Lil Wayne.  Despite the strength of the first singles, they failed to gain traction on radio and the album continued to be pushed back…and back.  In the meantime, Malone joined Slaughterhouse and Tech N9ne for their K.O.D. Tour in 2009, and made numerous guest appearances on other albums in 2010.

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Collaborating Couples

It’s good to be Wiz Khalifa. After Warner Bros. kept delaying his major label debut, he decided to part ways with the label and instead began releasing a series of free mixtapes, including the acclaimed Kush & Orange Juice. After building up a strong underground following, he signed to Atlantic Records and released his chart topping single “Black and Yellow” late last year. In March, he finally released his major label debut, Rolling Papers, which sold almost 200,000 copies in the first week alone. Now to top it off, he’s dating a model!

Wiz Khalifa and Amber Rose at the VMAs

And apparently, his girlfriend Amber Rose is more than just a pretty face. During an interview during the VMAs, Khalifa and Rose stated that they were working on new music together. Describing the music as “mysterious,” Rose said that they might release the music for free online, and they may not even attach their names to it. Rose said that “you may not even know it’s me. We might just throw it out there, might give it out and see what’s up.”

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Soundcheck: Hip Hop Hits…And Misses Playground Music Festival

Hip hop heroes did more than disappoint this weekend when headliners for the First Annual Playground Music Festival skipped their sets, leaving fans and promoters scratching their heads and looking for refunds.

The event was billed as a two-day hip hop, rock and electronic festival, suited for all ages, and promised 200 bands over thirteen stages.  Hosted by Nick Cannon and headlined by The Game, E-40, Too Short, Big Sean,  New Boyz, Panic! At The Disco and The Bravery, it even boasted appearances by Lindsay Lohan and Pete Wentz.

When gates at Hidden Valley, Irvine opened at noon on Saturday, the mostly vacant parking lot was an early warning sign that the 30,000 capacity outdoor venue might not be packed that day.  Once inside, fans found their way across thirteen stages strewn throughout the Hidden Valley property, ultimately leading to the main stage, where Game was expected to perform his Number 1 album, R.E.D. later that evening.

With no signage or announcements of show schedules and stages, it was tough for fans to find the sets they came to see.  Luckily, we caught OurStage’s own ForestPunk delivering one of the best rap performances I’ve seen in years. The twenty-year old Los Angeles native spit thirteen tracks in his hour-long set, which included an eclectic range of thought-provoking prose over heart-pounding dubstep beats, up against his softer-sounding songs like “Scary Monster” over acoustic guitar. His set-closing number, “Bad Monkey” had tinges of Lupe-inspired sound fused with the insight and confidence expected from an artist twice his age.

As the night moved on, Shiny Toy Gunz and The Cataracs gave lackluster performances to an eager but small crowd.  As the lock neared 8PM, the sound plug was abruptly pulled and an announcement followed that “Game won’t be performing tonight. Show is over. Please proceed to the exits.” No talk of refunds or rescheduling followed, only herds of fans rushed through the grounds with no explanation as to why.  Too Short and E-40 also missed their headlining slots, with the entire night going up in smoke.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Hip Hop Hits…And Misses Playground Music Festival’

Machine Gun Kelly, (Flash) Mobster

Social media is incredibly powerful. In Egypt, Facebook was used to help topple a totalitarian regime. Flickr has been an effective tool for UK police in tracking down and apprehending looters during the recent riots. And here in America, Twitter’s primary function has been used to bring the ruckus. Electronic producer Kaskade accidentally incited a small riot in downtown Los Angeles with a single tweet. And we all saw what happened when rapper The Game grappled directly with the LAPD over the Internets.

Rapper Machine Gun Kelly must’ve been taking notes from Kaskade when he pulled off a mini-riot of his own, this one a flash mob of the Ohio-based rapper’s fans. Kelly wanted to do something a little special to mark his return to his beloved Cleveland. Over the course of a day’s worth of tweets, Kelly instructed his fans not to do anything until they heard “Cleveland” and to prepare for the event by wearing their best “#powerRAGER” outfits. You can see the flash mob in it’s entirety below.

So another flash mob in the books, guys. For his trouble, Kelly gets cuffed, slapped with a $230 fine and a ton of free publicity. It also allowed a young man who looks like this to come off as somewhat threatening.

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Soundcheck: Who Was Victorious At The VMA’s?

The MTV Video Music Awards always serve up big surprises and this year was no different.  From Beyoncé’s big news to Lady Gaga’s dragged-up, stand-in, this year’s show didn’t skimp on the stumpers.

Lady Gaga kicked off the show with a monologue from her male alter ego, ‘Jo Calderone’. “She left me! She said it always starts out good and then the guys—meaning me, I’m one of the guys—we get crazy. I did. I got crazy. But she’s f—ing crazy too, right?” The narrative was hard to follow at first, and I’m guessing die-hard Gaga fans figured it out before the rest of us.  Still, she delivered an intense performance of “You And I” with a guest appearance by legendary guitarist, Brian May of Queen. What you didn’t see on television was the tumble Gaga took off her piano towards the end of her performance.  Ever the pro, she moved on before the crowd even noticed her slip up.  Her video for “Born This Way” earned her two awards; Best Female Video and the newly created Best Video with a Message category.

Jay-Z and Kanye West took the stage for an unexpected performance of their Watch The Throne hit, “Otis”.  While it was instantly exciting to see the two onstage together, the performance was not as magical as expected.  The best part of their set was when security bum-rushed a stage-crasher who tried to interrupt the  lackluster performance.

Nicki Minaj was nominated in three categories and  nabbed the Moon man for Best Hip Hop Video for “Super Bass”. She presented the first award of the night to tour mate, Britney Spears for “Til The World Ends” for  Best Pop Video. In her speech, a healthy, happy-looking Spears thanked God, her kids, and ex-agent boyfriend, Jason Traiwick.  Gaga presented Spears with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award telling the crowd, “I used to hang posters of her on my wall and touch myself when I was laying in bed,” before introducing an awesome montage of Britney’s videos, complete with a legion of dancers donning her most iconic outfits and legendary dance moves.

After accepting her award, Britney introduced Beyoncé, who sang “Love On Top” in a suspiciously body-conscious outfit of black pants and an oversized blazer.  While those of us on the black carpet had already seen the secret bulge at arrivals, she teased the crowd during her intro saying, “I want you to stand up on your feet, I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me.” At the end of her set she opened her blazer to reveal a shockingly developed baby bump.  The smile on her face as she rubbed her belly was the highlight of the night, as husband Jay-Z and Kanye West celebrated from the front row. Her video for “Girls (Run The World)” won in the Best Choreography category, but lost to Katy Perry for Video Of The Year.

Perry (who had a whopping ten nominations this year) also took home the Best Collaboration title for “E.T.” with Kanye West. Her husband and past VMA host, Russell Brand, kicked off a touching tribute to Amy Winehouse who died last month at twenty-seven.  He highlighted her amazing voice, which he called “a timeless sound like a roar from the guts of humanity,” telling the crowd, “When a talent like Amy Winehouse comes along, it affects everybody.” He was joined by Tony Bennett, who likened her to prolific jazz singers, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald before debuting a duet he recently recorded with Amy. Bruno Mars delivered a loving performance of her cover of “Valerie” ending it with a final farewell, singing, “Say Amy, oh Amy/ I love you darling, I love you darling/ Say Amy, whoa Amy, we’ll miss you baby.”

Other stand-out performances came from Chris Brown, who didn’t win a trophy, but wowed the crowd with his stellar dance moves and Adele, who belted out “ Someone Like You” so effortlessly, it’s no wonder she’s every artist’s favorite artist. Odd Future’s Tyler ‘The Creator’ won the coveted Best New Artist award, beating out newbies Kreayshawn, Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa with his hit,  “Yonkers” prompting a profanity-ridden acceptance speech from the Wolfpack front-man.

Lil Wayne closed the show with a bang-literally, when he smashed the guitar he was using at the end of his set.  He started off with an auto-tune assisted rendition of “How To Love” and followed up with a rocked-out version of “John”, set to Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”  Weezy dropped the digital version of his highly anticipated Carter IV album following the show, with the physical album in stores yesterday.

 

88 MPH: Cee Lo Walks On Blueberry Hill

During the past year, it’s become almost impossible to avoid Cee Lo Green. Whether you’re watching his new gig as a vocal coach on NBC’s The Voice or listening to the sanitized Glee version of his hit single “Fuck You,” there’s no denying that Cee Lo has been seemingly everywhere in 2011. Though he’s most well-known currently for his solo project and for Gnarls Barkley, his collaboration with DJ Danger Mouse, Cee Lo didn’t rise to pop prominence out of nowhere. As part of the ’90s hip hop act Goodie Mob, he was instrumental in defining the dirty south style that fellow Atlantans OutKast rode to gigantic commercial success in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Though he broke from the group in 2000 (Goodie Mob has since reunited), Cee Lo carried his love of classic soul and R&B sounds into his solo career. “Fuck You” is the perfect expression of his love of the classic R&B sound pioneered by legendary rock ‘n’ roller Fats Domino.

Emerging from the New Orleans R&B scene in the late ’40s, Domino rose to become the most commercially successful black rock ‘n’ roll musician of the ’50s. From 1955 to 1963, he released thirty-five Top 40 singles and played an integral role in introducing rock to white audiences. With his jovial disposition and permanent smile, Domino was a nonthreatening musician whose music had just enough edge to get teenagers dancing, but not so much as to scare away their parents. His rollicking style of boogie woogie piano with a strong backbeat was tailor made for ’50s sock hops and had an enormous influence on young musicians at the time. Domino’s hit “Ain’t That A Shame” was the first song that John Lennon ever learned to play on guitar, and allegedly “I’m In Love Again” was the first rock ‘n’ roll song that George Harrison ever heard.

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