Archive for May, 2010


Dwele (Andwele Gardner, if you nasty) is one of the most influential voices in Hip-Hop today — an especially notable accomplishment, considering he’s a Neo-Soul singer. And I say this not just because he’s one of my favorite artists. From Common to Kanye to Foxy, when you want a great voice on a Hip-Hop track, Dwele has become that artist you hope is available. Why? He’s part of a growing crop of Soul artists with styles firmly rooted in Hip-Hop. Yes, he’s absolutely brilliant on Quiet Storm cuts with folks like Boney James(!!), but he’s at his best on the songs that hint at his past as an MC. Luckily, that’s 80% of his catalog. I expect nothing less of his latest offering, W.ants W.orld W.omen, slated for a June release. 

I’m excited. You should be too. Here are 5 reasons why: 



So, police in Illinois arrested a man on suspicion of grand theft auto and attempted to send him “back to Mexico.” The only problem? Dude’s American. They refused to believe him, even after he provided a birth certificate showing he was born in the US colony of Puerto Rico. Hey, if it’s good enough for the president…

Seriously, Arizona. Bad idea.


That’s What I Said… In which I let someone else do the talking.

Late last night, I got the following spontaneous outburst from my friend DJ, At Law,

It’s All Gone to Hell

No, not because District of Columbia high school “students demand bigger, better condoms” to prevent the nation’s second-most endowed teen populace (and their partners) from HIV and unwanted pregnancy, but because you can sign up for alerts when reality shows are casting!

Are you a Norwegian oxen-handler who’s always wanted to be a supermodel?  A Christian Pole Dancer? (If you don’t believe me, google it.)  A federal judge with a penchant for pickled pig lips?  A Male-to-Female Post-Op Transsexual with a new-found eating disorder on account of your estrogen-enhanced thunder thighs and so-called “Junk in the Trunk?”  A Mormon convert from Judaism with different children raised in each faith residing under one roof during your menopause?  An 8-year-old pianist/genius akin to Mozart with an embarrassing Vicodin addiction and more embarrassing (in this day and age) speech impediment?  Basically, if your life is a mad lib, there is hope for you yet.  Hope of the 15-minute variety.

Anyway, because of my need to read extensively about any new habit acquired (so that I don’t lose sight of real reality (not “reality”)), I’m in the middle of this book now:

I’ve read about shows where parents send their pre-pubescent children away to be on reality TV away from home for 40 days and nights and sign away any liability resulting from death or sexually transmitted disease; shows where people are promised “fame” (not cash– “fame”) in exchange for subjecting themselves to solitary confinement for longer than any other contestant (and going mad in the process); where people agree to swim with “crocodiles” (who are in fact dummies but equally traumatize the contestants); where people submit their children to examination by one of these horrible child-stars-gone-terribly-wrong so that said now-fucked-up-adult can tell their kids how to become famous, and it is all considered fair play because every of-age participant is a willing participant.  People have committed suicide or been killed (see Jenny Jones) as a result.  “We” (i.e., the Neilson-ratings families) still don’t mind watching it.

Without fully getting into my horror at the amount of attention and focus given last night to as vapid a program as Lost (which was the subject of every group email I received today and which apparently brought people to tears last night but had them posting “that actually sucked” this morning– I can make no claim either way, as I only watched it when bed-ridden in 2008 after pretty serious abdominal surgery and duly turned it off once I could manage walking over to the TV), I will say I am again disappointed.  Every attempt to re-integrate myself into society is met with a perfectly reasonable explanation for why I spend most of my free time in self-imposed exile reading Mark Twain and waxing scholastic.  Frasier anyone?

This country went to hell ten years ago this summer. The problem is the average American no longer needs sunblock.

Janelle on Letterman.

I’ve heard her blow better live, so I’ll blame this on network-debut jitters. Still brilliant.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And who did Letterman seem more interested in? Sigh.

The ArchAndroid

The last 12 months have seen their share of musical dick-teases — highly anticipated releases from great artists that, despite brilliant singles, leave you wanting. From Maxwell’s BLACKsummer’snight to Sade’s Solider of Love to, arguably, Erykah’s Return of the Ankh (brilliant album, just not quite as incredible as its predecessor), trusted heavy hitters have kinda failed to hit, well… heavy.

Enter Janelle Monáe Robinson, the Kansas native who may well have churned out the best album of the year so far. The ArchAndroid is an exercise in the  familiar — referential without being derivative. It starts strong with “Dance or Die”, a moody workout from the same Afro-influenced, 1980s proto-Hip-Hop realm as Busta Rhymes’ “Dangerous”. As surprisingly unsurprising as it is propulsive, it’s got to be the album’s biggeest highlight, next to “Tightrope”. Two tracks later, the Michael Jackson-inspired “Locked Inside” is introduced with a drum kick straight from “Rock With You”, and grooves with the same exuberance as the Jackson classic.

Not only would Hendrix fans feel nostalgia at tracks like “Mushrooms and Roses”, so will anyone who’s seen the “onstage art class” segment of her stage show. Also familiar to concertgoers is fellow Suite II track “Come Alive”.

Besides the Stevie-esque “Say You’ll Go”, the most eerily subtle yet uncanny references exist on “Oh Maker” and “Neon Valley Street” — records that 1998-era Lauryn Hill would want to make in 2010, right down to the melodic style and meandering vocal runs that echo Hill’s “When it Hurts So Bad”.

And that’s perhaps the most refreshing thing about this album — its contradictions. Yes, she references the greats, but she does so as a truly accomplished student of music — nothing like that damn Keys, who copies off old term papers and gets an A every year because she looks like Little Miss Perfect. And then there’s her look. Finally, after years of waiting, we have a style-driven artist (if her three Vogue features are to be believed) who actually comes with substance. In fact, I’d argue her preference for the B&W tuxedos makes her quite the opposite, in that she chooses to perform in uniform. Either way, most importantly, she’s a style-driven artist who can actually sing. Like, really fucking blow. In the ’80s heyday of Prince, Michael, and Annie Lennox, this may not have seemed like such a big deal. But here we are in 2010, after a decade that brought us everyone from Cassie to Rihanna to Ciara to, yes, the inescapable Gaga, and style and substance seem to have become mutually exclusive in the major-label game.

All in all, it’s a brilliantly written and conceived album, greatly enriched by guitarist Kellindo Parker, with whom Monáe has a special symbiosis. Even the pacing is brilliant in its contradictions. For instance the first three tracks, the album’s most pop-accessible section, turn out to be its least shuffle-friendly. The songs flow seamlessly into one another like in Suite I, but the track-separation points aren’t as cleverly handled. So playing either “Faster” or “Dance or Die” independent of the other ends up in a pretty fractured listening experience — “forget iTunes singles; buy the album.” What it lacks in uniformity of genre, it makes up (assuming that’s a shortcoming) with uniformity of quality. The only possible lowlighht is “Make the Bus”, on which unnecessary guests, Of Montreal, do their best Bowie-as-Stardust impression. (Spoiler: it’s not that good). Still, the song isn’t awful — just poorly executed.

This is one of those albums that become more enjoyable and rewarding with each listen — perfectly achieving the artist’s cinematic aspirations without compromising on plain-old aural stiumlation.

You’ll get her next time, E-Badu.

Today in Michelle O News

Posted: May 20, 2010 by RA in "The Media", Uncategorized

Forgetting her intelligence, warmth, and astounding accomplishments, Michelle O’s greatest legacy may well be this Foxiest First Lady Ever award I’m about to present to her. So without further ado…


Make of that what you will.

A part of me dies whenever I see one of these youth-targeted ads. I always wonder why nobody in the room is willing to raise his hand and say to the room, “that’s kind of a bad idea.” I’ve done it before. In one case, when I was brand new to advertising. To one of the partners. It’s the reason they want young blood in advertising — to save them from looking like out-of-touch idiots.

So please, members of the coveted 18-34 demographic. If you’re ever in a brainstorming session and someone suggests a “hip,” “trendy,” or “urban” way to sell crap to your peers, clear your throat and let him/her know: bad idea.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way… Seriously, Bleek. That bad? I guess that inheritance from Jay isn’t putting food on your table today.

Also, should that ad be pitching Piperlime so hard?