Now Playing: Rihanna – Rated R

After a very tumultuous and challenging year in her personal life, Rihanna has returned to her music with the release of her fourth album, Rated R. As you must know by now, Miss Sunshine has definitely left the building and the good girl has officially gone bad. Lucky for Rihanna and her fans, the music she is producing during this transformation is actually quite good!

Rated R is a dark album with a sinister but triumphant feel to it. Wait is Ova is a coyly written song full of  warning shots to potential performers laying in wait, vying for Rihanna’s current spot. Hard featuring Young Jeezy, has Rihanna demanding respect while she reminds us how gangstalicious she is. Who told you Barbados was all palm trees and beaches?

The album has its share of bravado, but some songs also find Rihanna very somber and open. In Stupid Love, she realizes her error in trying to hold onto something that was not working:

Trying to make this work
But you act like a jerk

Silly of me

To keep holding on
But the dunce cap is off…”

Clearly she is referencing her recent failed relationship and the results are that her fans are able to see Rihanna as a person. Russian Roulette, despite its controversial subject matter, remains one of the strongest songs on the album. Its brooding and eeire tone was the best way to prepare us for Rated R.

Rihanna – G4L

Rihanna – Rude Boy

Rihanna – Photographs

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Now Playing: Mariah Carey’s Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel + Plus news on her Remix Effort

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Once I fell behind on my album reviews (too much good music being released!) I made a conscious effort to at least continuing purchasing good music, since good music is what this Blog is all about anyways, right? So on a whim while picking up my Jay-z tickets a couple weeks back (concert was great!), I picked up Mariah’s newest effort, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. The linear notes showed that Mariah had solely worked with producer dream team The Dram & Tricky Stewart, which definitely excited me. The album did not disappoint. It starts off strong with one of the year’s most cunning and vengeful tracks, Betcha Gon’ Know where Mariah taunts a cheating lover,

“Betcha Gon Know how it feels and we fade to black
And you see your whole world collapse
I’m gonna lalalalala laugh…..
Right in your face boy”

Mariah is scathing on the opening track. She also gives a more in-depth treatment to the Dream’s demo for Can’t Wait to Hate You, that we posted on a while back. Mariah’s version, renamed H.A.T.E.U includes more of her writing and more of her signature high-pitched vocals. Many of the songs on Memoirs include more heartbroken love songs from Mariah – a bit unexpected since she is happily married to actor Nick Cannon.  She is feisty, unapologetic and extra sassy on songs like Up out My Face and Standing O. But Mariah also has her standard beautiful love ballads as well, including Angels Cry and I Want to Know What Love is (a remake of Foreigner’s original hit). One can see the influence Trick & Dream have had on Mariah on songs like Ribbon. With the chopped & screwed DJ voice in the background, Mariah sings,

“I got your lovin’ on my mind
You got me wrapped up, packed up
Ribbon with a bow on it”

MariahCArey – Betcha Gon’ Know

Mariah Carey – H.A.T.E.U

Even though Memoirs has not been as successful on the Charts, it is some of Mariah’s better work since the original Emancipation. It has been revealed that Mariah will be releasing a remix album soon that will include a lot more features (Trey Songz, R.Kelly, Gucci Man and Big Boi to name a few) as well as remixes to most of Memoirs songs. R.Kelly tweeted recently that he just finished recording a prelude to Betcha Gon’ Know in the wee hours of the late night. I know I am beyond excited for this effort that may also include new songs as well. Mariah is currently filming a video for H.A.T.E.U. Below are two proposed track listings for Mariah’s remix album.

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Now Playing: Pleasure P – The Introduction Of Marcus Cooper

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This review may be a bit difficult since it will include me trying to convince my Readers why they need to check Pleasure P out. Now, ya girl is a bit biased. I am one of the few (Million perhaps? check the Soundscan) people who actually liked Pretty Ricky when they came out. Not the group as a whole, but I loved the lead singer’s voice. It soon became apparent that it was Pleasure P who was the most normal in the group; all other 3 members are brothers and the group is managed by their Joe-Jackson-style Father, Joseph “Blue” Smith. Soon Pleasure grew tired of the group and the Management’s antics and was encouraged to go Solo.

With his debut Solo project, Pleasure P wants to introduce you to Marcus Cooper: “The reason I named it that is because Pretty Ricky introduced you all to Pleasure P, but now Pleasure P is going to introduce you to Marcus Cooper, which is my government name.”

Pleasure, real name Marcus Cooper, began working very closely with new writers and producers, including Tank and the late Static Major, who he became very close with. You can hear the influence Static had on Pleasure’s singing style. There is something very old-school about Pleasure’s style – maybe that is what I enjoy about it. Sadly, after Static’s passing, Pleasure was very distraught about it, but he continued to work on finishing the project without his mentor and good friend. The finished product is actually a very welcome surprise.

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Now Playing: R.Kelly Mixtape – The Demo

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DJ Skee & DJ Drama present  R.Kelly – The Demo (Download)

So I am horribly late on this…but I finally did get around to listening to The Demo– R.Kelly’s first and only official Mixtape CD. I haven’t led on to my CF readers too much, but I used to be a HUGE R. Kelly fan. Pure FANatic. I can’t say I am no longer a fan, just that R.Kelly hasn’t been the same. Ever since being acquitted, or even since being accused seriously of the charges of child molestation. Since the charges emerged in 2002, Kelly had been working at a fever pitch. He had managed to crank out a new CD of new material at least once every year or 18 months. He would appear on other artists’ tracks; having various production credits as well as songwriting credits. He would revive careers for artists like B2K, Ron Isley and Charlie Wilson.  He would write and produce for seemingly every R&B artist out; Ciara, 112, Trey Songz, Joe – even Britney Spears.  Jive Records was pushing out The Pied Piper’s albums as soon as Kelly could craft them. Then lambs fans like myself would scoop them up like it was his last great album before going Upstate. But the homie never went Upstate.

Then something else happened; 42-year old (as of 2009) Robert Kelly became 23-years old again. His 2007 album, Double Up was a hip-hop compilation album chock full of club anthems where Kelly would trade bars with artists like Chamillionaire & T.I over some bass-heavy beats. This would signal the beginning of the trend of R.Kelly reverting to a more hip-hop influenced style of R&B, much to the distaste of his fans.

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Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 4:26 pm  Comments (1)  
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Now Playing: Album Review: Electrik Red – How To Be a Lady

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What a perfect formula: Dream songwriter Terius Nash writing lyrics, producers Tricky Stewart & L.O.S managing the boards, Urban powerhouse Def Jam backing the project, and 4 beautiful, fun video-girls turnt sangas along for the ride. Sounds like a Platinum album made in Heaven, right?

I may be one of few (or many) people who were not feeling Drink in My Cup or W.f.y (We F*ck You), the singles first circulating around the ‘Nets when Electrik Red first appeared on the scene. Def Jam head L.A Reid was touting their album as the Female version of (Dream’s first album) Love/Hate. Blasphemy, I proclaimed! I pretty much refused to acknowledge the girls until they released a little song, So Good, which was a perfect mix of sweetness and sass, vulnerability and street smarts; the making of a Lady in today’s day & age. So now, Electrik Red had my attention. After throwing Lil Wayne on the remix to So Good, they had the attention of the 106 & Park crowd as well.

So now, faced with listening to the entire CD, I had my reservations, but still left an open mind to enjoy the music. I cannot say the ladies disappoint. Still, I must issue a minor disclaimer: You need to listen to this CD a good couple times to fully appreciate it. After a day of repetitive listens, I am proud to say I am ready to dish out my hard-earned cash for this album.

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Published in: on June 2, 2009 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Now Playing: Chrisette Michelle – Epiphany

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I must admit, there is not much I  knew about Ms Michelle. I’ve done my best Google search to dig up some dirt on her, but most of the information I could find on her is the token PR fodder. Not that there is a problem with that. So, no, she hasn’t stabbed her husband with a kitchen knife, doesn’t have any nude pics floating around and she is not romantically linked to any of the Rappers she has collaborated with – including the Game, Nas, Jay-z or Kanye. Whew. Maybe that’s why we may have almost missed Chrisette on our ChokLit Radar. Side Note: She does have a new blonde-streaked haircut though. Its pretty cute.

In fact, Chrisette’s current claim to Blog fame is her trumping of crunk-popstar Ciara for the Number One spot on the Billboard & iTunes charts, her fist week out, for her sophomore album, Epiphany. Since I’ve already posted one of Chrisette’s videos and her second single, I told myself (and my readers) that I would give Chrisette the good ol’ college try, this time around. I can safely say, I was not prepared for what I about to hear. Epiphany is one of the best Contemporary R&B albums I have heard in a long time. I’m not even going to sugar-coat this. Not only can this girl blow, she has an enviable producing and writing team that needs to be acknowledged.

Chrisette officially appeared on the scene with her debut album I Am, back in 2007. The album was not a commercial success, though it was Certified Gold. Chrisette was nomiated for various awards including two Grammys. However, Chrisette began to express an interest in exploring a more youthful, uptempo sound for her next album. So this time around, she decided to start from scratch and worked with a new batch of producers & song-writers including Ne-Yo, who executive-produced the project and wrote 7 of the songs; Rodney Jerkins, Claude Kelly, Bei Maejor, Jayms Madison (All I ever think about) and Chuck Harmon. This was definitely a good move on Chrisette & her Label’s part; the album has a very youthful, but cohesive, testimonial feel to it. The music on Epiphany incorporates a lot of drums, guitar licks and snaps – similar to what you would expect from a Ne-Yo album. But the beautiful melodies, masterful backup vocals and Chrisette’s sassy but succinct voice give the music a new life; very polished yet extremely heartfelt. The album opens strong with the title track, Epiphany (I’m Leaving), a song about that exact moment when you realize things are indeed over.  Notebook follows, a beautiful song that shows Chrisette’s vulnerability, setting the mood for the album. The second single What You Do is next, a duet with Chrisette & Ne-Yo that has her finally telling ol boy, “No more, ‘I’m sorry‘”

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Published in: on May 18, 2009 at 4:48 am  Comments (2)  
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Now Playing: Ciara – Fantasy Ride

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Finally Fantasy Ride has landed! Are we excited? Not overly so, but we’re glad my girl was finally able to release this long-awaited album.

I was so excited for Ciara’s new album after feeling her last album, Evolution, and hearing the concept for Fantasy Ride – a 3-disc compilation album that had three parts to it: Crunk-Town, Groove City & Kingdom of Dance. With producers like The Dream & Tricky Stewart, and Danja assigned to helm the project, my excitement levels rose even higher – it was about to be C-Season!

Sadly, things did not pop off as planned. Some of you may know that Ciara fired her longtime manager Phillana Williams and decided to sign on with Jonny Wright’s (Britney Spears & N’SYNC back in the day) Management Group.  Since then, she had released her T-Pain duet, Go Girl, to very little criitcal fanfare, and scrapped the 3-disc set ideas for Fantasy Ride. Also, regretably, Ciara has been all over the place musically and image-wise. One day her style is reminiscent of Rihanna’s goth-chic look, the next, she is reminding us of her Crunk & B days **sigh**. Ciara’s music hasn’t been any less coherent. She did release the Polow-produced Neva Ever, and brought out the hip rolls for the video, but then switched it up with Justin Timberlake in her overly sexual video for Love Sex Magic.

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