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Hip Hop Habit: Lyriqs

Hip Hop HabitThis week’s edition of Hip Hop Habit attempts to learn more about the man behind the mask. With nothing more than a brief mention about his production work for other artists and a series of distancing profile pictures, all we are able to know for sure is that Lyriqs (aka Dwight Giles) is an artistic enigma—flawlessly blending the genres of spoken word, neo soul, and hip hop to create a whole new genre not yet tediously compartmentalized by the man.

All questions left unanswered in his profile are dramatically unveiled in “Me,” a 6-minute audible ablution about the life and times of Mr. Giles himself. From the get go, we learn why he isn’t forthcoming beforehand. On top of a skeletal beat furnished only with morose strings, frenetic percussion and an ironic applause sample, Lyriqs proceeds to spill his guts on what it was like growing up without a father figure, most obviously conveyed in lines like “Now this boy is a man/ just the way as mama planned/ daddy didn’t understand/ what it took to be a man” and “All I can do is think back and blame him/ vowed I never became him.” Yet out of the anger directed at what wasn’t grows an appreciation for what is, and soon enough Lyriqs is thanking his mom for her hard work in raising him and affirming himself as the “rock” he always knew he could be. When it’s all said and done, our protagonist emerges as a hero having successfully slain the troubling fodder of his past.

Baltimore Emcee LyriqsMaybe this is because it’s an unavoidable destination for the majority of Lyriqs’ targeted genres, but the same coffee house spoken word vibe present in “Me” bleeds into “Lyrical Lady,” a descriptively told artist-on-artist love (or is it merely admiration?) story that sees Lyriqs poetically lauding a fellow writer he first sees on the bus. Instead of the typical derogatory male-dominated courting that infests all genres of music, this piece sees both subjects trying to stealthily win the other’s approval, whether it be for musical purposes or other. Fun fact: The charming female voice in this piece is OurStage Artist Yung Miss!

Lyriqs music is absolutely refreshing and unique, but whether it will grow beyond the café is still debatable. There’s no question that his music is good, but it may just fit too well within its niche to break out. Thankfully, if there’s anyway for that to happen, it lays in the hands of Giles himself since he’s started his own record label and production company, Spoken Music Entertainment. Get lost in his mystery genre in the player below, and let us know how you would classify his sound in the comments!

Pop Goes Political

Following her record-breaking rack up of eight MTV VMA’s for her single “Bad Romance” and collaboration with Beyoncé on “Telephone,” Lady Gaga gave fans a taste of what’s to come when she belted out lyrics to her future single, “Born This Way” at the podium: “I’m beautiful in my way, because God makes no mistakes, I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.” The reigning Queen of Pop was escorted by three discharged US soldiers to her big night, a move made to raise awareness for the repeal of the controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy employed by the US armed forces. There’s no mistaking the pointed message of the song, but was it also a call to action to her fellow superstars?

The “It Gets Better” campaign, sponsored by the Trevor Project, has celebs rallying around the LGBT community, urging troubled teens to seek help and hope, not suicide.

Tyler Clementi

It comes at the heels of a national string of gay suicides, most recently Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers student who leapt to his death after his roommate used a webcam to film him having homosexual sex. Clementi’s suicide was the fourth time in four weeks that gay youth suicide made headlines, prompting big reactions from some serious stars.

Ellen DeGeneres, Cyndi Lauper, Wendy Williams, Aubrey O’Day, Ke$ha, Ashley Tisdale, Leanne Rimes, Jason Derulo, Joe Jonas, Jewel and Eve are just a few of the stars who have lent their time and their stories in personal video messages directed at teens struggling with their sexuality and its harsh repercussions. Also reportedly in the works is a special episode of hit show, Glee that will broach the subject of bullying and tolerance.

Cyndi Lauper's personal message. http://www.wegiveadamn.org/videos/

Rumors are swirling that Pink, this year’s recipient of the Ally For Equality Award at the Human Rights Campaign’s 14th annual National Dinner in Washington, DC, will actually marry a gay couple in her next video, “Raise Your Glass.

With today being National Coming Out Day, it seems that finally, the art reflects the time and artists and fans are uniting to be heard.

By Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.

Metal Monday: Q&A with Kylesa

Dual-drumming metal band Kylesa are gearing up to release their first record on Season of Mist. A follow-up to 2008′s Static Tensions, Spiral Shadow is pushing the boundaries of progressive, stoner, psychedelic metal even further. With two drummers, two guitarists, a bassist, and three people contributing to the vocals it’s easy to see how parts of the band could get lost in the shuffle—but that’s not the case with Kylesa. Phillip Cope (guitarist, vocalist and one of the founding members) took the time to answer some of our questions about the recording and release of the new album, as well as some other questions about the Georgia sound and playing to the band’s extremely varied musical tastes.

OS: So, Spiral Shadow is going to be your first release on Season of Mist. How was the transition from Prosthetic Records?

PC: It was about a year in transition, and we just needed to figure out what we wanted to do next. We waited about a year and we figured we should tour hard to support the record that Prosthetic put out before we left.

OS: In line with Static Tensions, Spiral Shadow is your most progressive and psychedelic album to date. Do you think it’s getting close to an ideal sound that encompasses all the influences that you have in the band?

PC: You know, no one’s ever really put it that way, but I definitely think it is.  I know we’re the happiest with this we’ve ever been for sure.

OS: Did the writing process change from previous albums?

PC: Actually, it stayed pretty much the same.

OS: You’ve said you share writing duties amongst band members. Did anyone in the band have more of an influence for Spiral Shadow than your other albums?

PC: That’s really hard to say, I don’t remember it getting to the point where anyone was getting too domineering.  I think we all kind of run our ideas across each other before we go full on with anything too weird.

OS: Do you think that coming from Savannah [GA] has had a profound effect on your influences, and in turn, the music you make?

PC: In terms of bands from Savannah, definitely not.

OS: How about growing up in the south, and the music you were exposed to as kids?

PC: I’d say the big thing was being exposed to punk rock, heavy metal and other weird stuff like that at an early age due to there being an art school in our city.  It’s a small southern town, but it did have an art school, and that brought in a lot of people from many different places and I was able to get into a lot of different stuff because of that.  But also, because it was small there weren’t a lot of scenes, all of the people who were into stuff that was a little different all sort of had to stick together. So there wasn’t really a lot of room for different cliques, if you know what I mean.  When I was in high school I was more into punk rock, and there were only like two other kids into thatthen there were like 5 or 6 other people who were into metal, you knowand everybody else were jocks and rednecks.  We kind of had to stick together, we didn’t really have a choice.  You’d argue at lunch about whether Slayer or Misfits were a better band, but… (laughs)

OS: Do you think that, with other bands from Savannah like Black Tusk and Baroness, you’re sort of giving Georgia a sound identity?

PC: You know, it’s hard to say, but it looks that way.  It sounds like you know some of our historylately people have been saying “Oh, you sound like Baroness or Mastodon” but our roots go farther back than that. I think all the bands ought to keep going their own directions.

OS: Yeah, obviously you guys are going in a bit different direction than Black Tusk, Baroness, Mastodon, etc. but there are definitely some similarities among the area.  Would you compare it to the Desert Rock scene with bands like Kyuss and Fu Manchu?

PC: I don’t know, I think it’s too early to tell.  I know this though, when Kylesa started, Baroness and Black Tusk weren’t even bands yet, and Mastodon had just started up too, and I had already been going for seven years with DamadI don’t think there was an intention of there being a scene.  It just kind of what happened.  Mastodon was going in one direction and we were going in a different direction, it wasn’t until years down the road until people even made a connection between our two bands.  But what happened in Savannah was that people were starting to get an interest in there was a scene starting to build up.  Damad kind of started it, but when Damad broke up there were like sixteen people at our last show (laughs).

OS: You alluded to it earlier, and Laura has mentioned it in an interview in which she appeared to get a bit offended–you don’t like to pigeon-hole yourselves stylistically, but do you have problems with other people applying labels to your band?

PC: You know, I don’t think Laura was actually as pissed off as that article made her sound, but she might have been, I don’t knowshe said she wasn’t (laughs).  But when you play music like we play that’s like ours, what the hell do you call it? You don’t have to accept people who call it what you don’t want them to call it, but I don’t really have a problem with people calling us somethingI realize that writers need something, you’ve got to describe us somehow.  We’ve made it kind of difficult on people because we won’t call it anything ourselves.  Some people get it, some people don’t. I don’t really get too upset by people calling us the wrong term, if that makes sense.

OS: Yeah, that makes sense. So what do you think the future for Kylesa is as a band?  Do you think you’ll get more progressive and psychedelic?

PC: I’m not sure, that’s really hard to say at this point.  We try to find a good balance between being true to ourselves and being true to our fans.  We don’t want to do anything that would alienate our fans.  You know, for all the talk they’re having about this album being different, there might be some songs that are different, but there’s plenty of stuff that continues along the lines of what we’ve done in the past.  We’ve done that with every album.  We’ve brought something from the past and brought in something new.

OS: Yeah, I’ve definitely noticed that with the new album you’ve polarized it a bit more.  You’ve got some old school heavy Kylesa sections and some more pure psychedelic sections as compared to Static Tensionswas that on purpose?

PC: Yeah, completely.  We wrote how we wrote, but you know, at the same time we don’t want to alienate the people that support us and got us here.  We have a great loyal fan base of people that have been sticking around for years, and some people that continue from Damad, and we don’t want to do anything that those people would see as a middle finger.  But we’ve said this from day one, and people who have been following us understand this, that that is part of what we dowe change, we do new things and we’ve said that from the beginning.  People aren’t going to get the same record over and over.

Spiral Shadow drops October 26th on Season of Mist. It’s a really solid albumboth for old Kylesa fans and new. You can order a copy of the new album with a DVD and/or a t-shirt from the Season of Mist webstore, or get a limited edition deluxe digipack from the Relapse Records webstore.

If you’re still on the fence about the band, check out the Spiral Shadow album trailer:

Needle in the Haystack: Hannah Miller

This week’s Needle in the Haystack winner writes music that begs to be licensed. It’s easy to hear the emotion behind each song and this clearly speaks to both the general listeners and music licensors. Hannah Miller joined OurStage in 2008 and has been tearing up the OurStage charts ever since. Miller has four independent releases under her belt, the last of which was  produced by Ian Fitchuk and Justin Loucks. She quietly seeks inspiration for her music from her husband, her dogs and the interesting people she meets on a day-to-day basis. In addition to being asked to open for Land Pigg, Patrick Davis, Katie Herzig and Langhorne Slim, Miller was a finalist in the International Song Writing Competition thanks to her track “The City and Salt.” Her song “Keep it Simple” was featured on NBC’s hit show, Mercy. Naturally, it’s an honor to have her as this week’s Needle in the Haystack winner.

We have plenty more  Hannah Miller in store for you as the week goes on. For now, take a listen to her free download “Way About Ya” below.  

Walking the Line

Alanna Clarke

Years ago, you knew a band was the shit if they played The Peach Pit on 90210. Younger generations had The O.C. as their musical zeitgeist. And the new guys now have the Canadian teen drama Degrassi to tell them who to pay attention to. Alanna Clarke may not have made an appearance on the show herself, but her song “Fine Line” did, and it’s an effective ambassador for the 18-year-old singer. The tremendous pop hook of the chorus alone is enough to send the nearest teenage girl flying to her computer to start downloading. (OK, maybe a 30-something one, too). Clarke’s voice is a gemalternating between lilting and feathery coos and full-throated warbles. “Bedroom Window” is a supple pop number, where strings and pining sighs in the background infuse the tune with adolescent restlessness. “Can’t Turn Around” is just as pretty, but with a darker, bluesy bent, thanks to a low cello moan and some emotive strings. To her credit, Clarke’s able to indulge some of the sugar addiction of her age group, but proves she’s also capable of sophisticated songcraft that’s palatable for geezers like us.

Shock, Awe, And Spin In ck one shock And Rolling Stone’s “DJ Shock Mix Competition”

Ready to count yourself part of the in-crowd? Calvin Klein has just launched their brand new “ck one shock” fragrance and is on the lookout for the nations hottest DJ. Here’s the deal: If you spin electro, funk, house or indie styles, then enter the ck one shock And Rolling Stone’s “DJ Shock Mix Competition” on OurStage by November 11th.

You could win an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to man the turntables at an exclusive nightclub gig. You’ll be chauffeured to the venue in your very own luxury limo—camera’s rolling to document the entire experience. Live the lifestyle like the celebrity you were destined to be— enter now.

 

Scene & Heard: Memphis, TN

When you think blues, you think of a couple places. We’ve already been through Chicago, so the other obvious choice for blues music is Memphis. Sure, Nashville seems to garner most of the state’s music coverage with its strong grasp on the singers and songwriters of country music. But, heading across the state to Memphis offers you a whole new flavor of southern rock, country and blues.

Proclaiming itself the “Home of the Blues,” we recommend you start your Memphis visit on Beale St. This famous strip is home to some of the best venues and clubs that Memphis has to offer. You’ll find everything from the famous Hard Rock Café to B. B. King’s Blues Club to Alfred’s. The sound of “Memphis Blues” slowly became a staple of the street  in the early 1900s with artists like Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Memphis Minnie and B. B. King. himself. In his earlier years of performance, B. B. King was even dubbed the “Beale Street Blues Boy.”

For a more standard “rock club lineup,” we’ll head over to the Hi Tone Café. Here, you’ll find acts like New Found Glory, Wavves and The Tallest Man On Earth. You’ll also find OurStage folk/country/blues act Star & Micey. These guys serve up a helping of true southern folk/pop with strong blues/soul influence. The band’s music is everything you might hope for in a current indie act coming out of Memphis. Check out their performance on a Memphis trolley bus, supporting the communal qualities and southern hospitality inherent in the city’s music.

“It affects us daily. We are always meeting someone new who, whether they mean to or not, humbles us,” commented guitarist/vocalist Joshua Cosby when asked about the music scene in Memphis. “[It] reminds you that you’re on the right or wrong path.” After watching that video, it’s clear that the southern blues/traditional country feel of Star & Micey fits perfectly with these sorts of interactions.
When we asked Cosby for some advice for acts that would like to play in Memphis, he said, “Play only if you enjoy it first, because the people here (and everywhere) respond to that more than anything. Those are the kind of fans you want to meet.” He also recommended that a visitor go to the Buccaneer Lounge on Monroe Ave. He even specified an artist who does enjoy playing for himself: Dave Cousar who plays at the Buccaneer.
Star & Micey’s southern-influenced, soul-driven acoustic songs hit home in a big way. They perform throughout Tennessee quite regularly and currently have a very extensive upcoming tour schedule. Be sure to check out their OurStage profile in order to keep an eye on where you can see them next. Who knows, you might find yourself on a trolley in Memphis next to Joshua Cosby and the rest of the guys.

Q&A With Bruno Mars

He’s the man providing the bright, soulful hooks of two of this summer’s catchiest songs, Travie McCoy‘s “Billionaire” and B.O.B’s “Nothin’ On You.” Bruno Mars may be 2010′s greatest overnight success story, but he actually got his big break behind the scenes as one of the songwriters behind 2009′s smash “Right Round” by Flo Rida and Ke$ha.

Bruno released his full-length album Doo-Wops and Hooligans this week, and he’s also the musical guest on Saturday Night Live tonight at 11:30 PM EST on NBC! In a few days, he will be performing live on some of Maroon 5 and OneRepublic‘s west coast tour dates this month, followed by some European dates with Travie and some US headlining dates in November. OurStage caught up with Bruno to talk about life leading up to international fame, his new record and his live shows.

OS: Most people know you best from your guest appearances on B.O.B’s “Nothin’ On You” and Travie’s “Billionaire.” They were both huge hits, but they’re very different, musically. Is your new album mostly one style or does it span a few different genres?

BM: No, it spans a few different genres! [laughs] I just write whatever I feel. One day, I felt like writing a love song, and I came up with “Nothin’ On You”… and the other day, it was a reggae song. Not too much thought behind it, I just want to like it, you know, as I’m recording it.

OS: In addition to being a vocalist, you’re also 1/3 of a songwriting team called The Smeezingtons. Following the success of “Billionaire” and Flo Rida’s “Right Round,” do you have plans to continue writing for other artists as well?

BM: Yeah, we’re actually really excited…we had a couple songs that came out. We did a song for Mike Posner, which is “Bom Chicka Wow Wow,” it’s a fun song. But we’re really excited  about the song we wrote with Cee-Lo. “Fuck You,” it’s called.

OS: Yeah, Cee-Lo’s great…he was on your EP.

BM: That’s right, that’s how we got introduced and we ended up working with him again and we came up with that little jam.

OS: So, you grew up in a family full of musicians. How did seeing your family members perform influence your own live show?

BM: A lot of different things. My father was a great drummer and I wanted to learn how to play the drums. My uncle was an incredible guitar player, he made me want to play guitar. He was a great singer, he made me want to sing. I just came from a live performance…that’s more of my background. I’ve been doing that longer than I’ve been songwriting and producing…that’s kind of my comfort zone. I’m a lot more comfortable being on stage than doing interviews [laughs].

OS: You play guitar, piano, drums…do you play all these different instruments during your live show or just stick with one?

BM: Yeah, well…we’re gonna really fine tune our show. If it makes sense, you know…I’m not trying to go up there and look like a “boy wonder.” If it makes sense for me to play drums in said song or piano in said song, we’ll do it…but I don’t want to do it just to self-indulge.

OS: So you’re going to be on tour with Maroon 5 and One Republic, playing at some huge, sold-out venues. Besides the size of the shows themselves, how will this tour be different for you?

BM: It will be different for me because I’ve never done anything like it! [laughs] I’ve done a couple of stadiums with B.O.B…just two, actually…but I finally get to do my own thing, with a band. And I’m in great company. It’s exciting.

OS: So you’re going to be playing all solo material? Will you be adding anything else to your set?

BM: We’ll see…that’s the thing, every time we go on stage, I’m always throwing new things out to keep everyone excited and keep everyone on their toes, so it’s never the same show.

OS: That’s awesome.

BM: But yet, it’s always amazing! [laughs]

OS: Of course! Now, you write music of all different styles, as we talked about before… so you must have a wide range of musical taste. Which three albums would you highly recommend to your fans?

BM: Wow, good question! Off the top of my head, I would say: get Michael Jackson’s Bad album. I’d say get [Prince's] Purple Rain…and I’d say get Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys.

OS: Very nice choices. Have those influenced your writing this time around for Doo-Wops and Hooligans?

BM: Yeah, actually, they have.

OS: You’ve said that your EP was titled It’s Better If You Don’t Understand because you feel that people are constantly trying to fit you into one category. What would you like new fans to know about your music and you as a musician?

BM: I just want them to know how passionate I am about it and I’m really doing it because I believe in these songs…that’s the goal, is to focus on the song and to think about the live show. So when you hear these songs, it’s like…we’re trying to make a movie. We want people to just get involved with this movie and want to come and see the movie.

OS: So before we wrap things up, I wanted to say, “Congratulations”… your song “Just The Way You Are” is Number 5 on iTunes today!

BM: Yeah, I’m just trying to beat that damn Katy Perry! [laughs] That’s another thing that’s just incredible…the people that are in front of me are like, Eminem and Katy Perry…

OS: That must be insane, to see your name on there with those names…

BM: Right, right. But…I’m happy!

Check out Bruno Mars on tour this fall:
10/14 - Save Mart Center, Fresno, CA
10/15 - Arco Arena, Sacramento, CA
10/16 - Viejas Arena, San Diego, CA
11/16 – Slim’s, San Francisco, CA
11/20-  Martini Ranch, Scottsdale, AZ
11/23 – The Loft, Dallas, TX
11/24 – Warehouse Live, Houston, TX
11/26 – Pops, Sauget, IL
11/27  - Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL
11/28 – Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH
11/30 – Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA

New Music Biz 101: Music Reviews

The easiest way to convert someone to become a fan of your music is by receiving a third party recommendation. Just think about how you discover new music? An awesome album review, or a friend’s endorsement of a song typically results in you taking a listen, right? There are ways to make these third party recommendations happen more often so lets take a look at a few of them.

Pay-Per-Review – There are programs that exist out there that allow you to send in your music (with a fat check) and get a professionally written review of an your album. Billboard Discovery is a prime  example. Here is a list of pros and cons for this type of service:

Pros

  • Association with a big brand in music
  • A professionally written review by a respected industry writer
  • An unbiased opinion of your music (in theory)
  • Additional content for your EPK or one sheet

Cons

  • Reviews like this cost almost 400 dollars!
  • Is it really unbiased? Some of the reviews we’ve read seemed a bit fluffy.
  • Will a review that is paid for be respected?

The Fan Re-Direct – There is a quick an easy way to get your fans more involved. It’s important to harness them at the proper time and engage them in an appropriate fashion. One example is when someone emails you or messages you via social media telling you how much they love your album. A great way to respond is by thanking them and asking them to post their comment as a review on Amazon, iTunes or wherever applicable. Now here are the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Over time, this will result in a large number of reviews of your album
  • Improve the conversion process of future sales
  • Makes your fans feel like they’re apart of something

Cons

  • May be difficult to encourage your fans to take the time to actually write the reviews
  • Some fans may feel as though you’re asking a lot of them.

These are just a few strategies to increasing the third party recommendations of your music! Let us know if you have other strategies that have worked for you!

Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: Mitten

Wow, time sure flies by when you’re having fun! We’ve enjoyed a great week of promotion with our Needle in the Haystack winners Mitten. These talented young artists offered a free track on Monday, interviewed with MTV on Tuesday and took part in a Tweet & A session on Wednesday. Now it’s time to wrap things up with yesterday’s fun phoner.  Take a listen and let us know what you think!
Stay tuned next week for more talent to come.

 


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