The Vision Is Blurry

A Look Back: The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die

Ready To Die

The album cover says it all. The little baby with the afro sitting Indian style. The Summer of 1994, East Coast was looking to make a grand return to the hip-hop game. A gem was found in a Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn MC, The Notorious B.I.G. (born Christopher Wallace) He had been rapping since he was a teenager and released a demo under the name Biggie Smalls. Mr. Cee , promoted the demo and it was heard by Matty C of The Source.

“Yeah, this album is dedicated
To all the teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothing
To all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustling in front of
That called the police on me
When I was just trying to make some money to feed my daughter” – The Notorious B.I.G. from “Juicy

Sean “Puffy” Combs was working as an A&R at Uptown Records when he heard of the demo and signed Biggie to the Uptown Records label. That lead to him appearing on Heavy D’s “A Buncha Niggas”. After Combs was fired from Uptown Records, he went on to form Bad Boy Records and signed Biggie to the label and with that came appearances on the Who’s The Man soundtrack (“Party And Bullshit”), Neneh Cherry’s “Buddy X“, Super Cat’s “Dolly My Baby” and Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” and “What’s The 411” remixes. But what really set Biggie off to stardom was his appearance on Craig Mack’s “Flava In Ya Ear” remix, alongside LL Cool J, Rampage and Busta Rhymes. To me, his verse is the most quotable out of everyone on the record. (“I see the gimmicks, the wack lyrics, the shit is/Depressing, pathetic, please forget it/You’re mad cause my style you’re admiring/Don’t be mad, UPS is hiring“) With that being said, The Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album was released twenty years ago on this date. Let’s take a look back at the album that brought the East back.

1. “Intro“: This introduction to the album takes place in different stages of Biggie’s life and is detailed by the music in the background. His birth (Curtis Mayfield’s “Super Fly“), arguments between his parents (Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight“), train robbery (Audio Two’s “Top Billin’“) and his release from prison (Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Tha Shiznit“) As he’s leaving prison, he’s rebuffs the guard’s assertion that he’ll be right back in jail. (“I got big plans nigga, big plans, hahahaha“)

2. “Things Done Changed“: (“Shit, it’s hard being young from the slums/Eating 5 cent gums, not knowing where your meal’s coming from“) On the album’s first track, Biggie details from when he grew up to what was present in 1993. First verse, he raps about ‘motherfuckers being all friendly’ and then in 1993, ‘niggas is getting smoked’. It was a grim outlook of growing up in the 90’s era of Brooklyn. Shit definitely got real in verse two when he rapped about the guy wanting to fight instead of having the MAC-10 on his side. (“Slugs in his back and that’s what the fuck happens/When you sleep on the street/Little motherfuckers with heat want to leave a nigga six feet deep“) In the final verse, he talks about the kids with the guns, pagers and how they got killed going out of town. He asked what happened to the cookouts before dropping the bombshell about his mother having breast cancer. Reality was a hard pill to swallow.

3. “Gimme The Loot“: (“I’m slamming niggas like Shaquille, shit is real/When it’s time to eat a meal, I rob and steal/Cause mom dukes ain’t giving me shit/So for the bread and butter I leave niggas in the gutter“) What was dope about this song was Biggie going back and forth on the track as he altered his voice. Robbery was motive on this record and the shootout at the end was even crazier.

4. “Machine Gun Funk“: (“So I guess you know the story, the rap-side, crack-side/How I smoked funk, smacked bitches on the backside/Bed-Stuy: the place where my head rests/50-shot clip if a nigga want test“) Fucks with this track HEAVY!!! The flow here is incredible and I can just vibe out and listen to this all day.

5. “Warning“: (“I fuck around and get hardcore/C-4 to your door, no beef no more nigga/Feel the rough, scandalous/The more weed smoke I puff, the more dangerous“) I can admit that this track was the least favorite of mine but that won’t stop me from rapping along with the lyrics. I remember on an old episode of Comicview where the young lady stated that Biggie needs an Around The Way bra. I was in tears.

6. “Ready To Die“: (“As I sit back and look when I used to be a crook/Doing whatever it took from snatching chains to pocketbooks/A big bad motherfucker on the wrong road/I got some drugs, tried to get the avenue sold“) Biggie on this track raps about his old life where he was robbing folks without any regret. Wasn’t one of my favorite tracks on the album.

7. “One More Chance“: (“I fuck non-stop, lick my lips a lot/Used to lick the clits a lot, but licking clits had to stop/‘Cause y’all don’t know how to act when the tongue go down below“) Before the song begins, there’s an intro where a child is telling hoes not to call there for Biggie and the child makes sure that his mother approves. Then four women leave messages for Biggie and they are fed up with his shit. This version of One More Chance is the filthy version were Biggie talks all types of shit on this record. (“I’ll fuck around and hit you with the Hennessy dick/Mess around and go blind, don’t get to see shit/The next batter, here to shatter your bladder/It doesn’t matter: skinny or fat or light-skinned or black/Baby, I drop these Boricua mamis screaming ¡ay papi!“) This is also our first introduction to Total, who at the time were Biggie’s background singers. Now the remix sampled Debarge’s “Stay With Me” and had an all star R&B/Hip-Hop cast for the video.

8. “Fuck Me (Interlude)”: (“You chronic smokin’, Oreo cookie eatin’, pickle juice drinkin’/Chicken gristle eatin’, biscuit suckin’, MUTHAfucka“) When this interlude came on, my best friend and I would wonder if he was truly fucking the girl on this skit. A. Yes, he was. B. The woman would turn out to be Lil’ Kim.

9. “The What” (feat. Method Man): (“Fuck the world, don’t ask me for shit/Everything you get you gotta work hard for it/Honeys shake your hips, you don’t stop/And niggas pack the clips, keep on“) Soon as the beat drops, nigga!!!! Biggie and Meth killed this! I mean it wasn’t even fair what these two did to this track. It was dope during the opening verse where Biggie goes “I squeeze Gats till my clips is empty/Don’t tempt me, you don’t want to fuck with the M-E” and then Method Man takes the hand off “…T-H-O-D Man, here I am/I’ll be damned if this ain’t some shit/Come to spread the butter lyrics over harmony grit” Very dope collaboration.

10. “Juicy“: (“And I’m far from cheap, I smoke skunk with my peeps all day/Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way/The Moet and Alizé keep me pissy/Girls used to diss me/Now they write letters cause they miss me “) This is Biggie’s rags to riches tale here. That Mtume sample of “Juicy Fruit” is what set this off.

11. “Everyday Struggle“: (“My daughter use a potty so she’s older now/Educated street knowledge, I’mma mould her now”) What made Biggie great at what he did was the storytelling aspect in his rhymes. Painted his rhymes so vividly and just gave you a great story about the rise and surviving in the drug game.

12. “Me & My Bitch“: (“Moonlight strolls with the hoes, oh no, that’s not my steelo/I wanna bitch that like to play ceelo, and craps/Packin gats, in a Coach bag steamin dime bags/A real bitch is all I want, all I ever had“) Biggie talks about his down ass woman on this track. People cringe during the opening line but wasn’t aware that it was from a Richard Pryor routine “Wino & Junkie“. In true storytelling fashion, the girl dies at the end and Biggie vows revenge for her murder. Also what’s interesting is the conversation between Puffy and a young lady during the chorus.

13. “Big Poppa“: (“Money, hoes and clothes: all a nigga knows/A foolish pleasure? Whatever/I had to find the buried treasure, so grams I had to measure“) Puffy made sure to go with the sure shot commercial singles as this track samples The Isley Brothers “In Between The Sheets” and Biggie spits game to the ladies.

14. “Respect“: (“Rap was secondary, money was necessary/Until I got incarcerated–kinda scary/C74-Mark 8 set me straight/Not able to move behind the great steel gate/Time to contemplate, damn, where did I fail?/All the money I stacked was all the money for bail“) This track had to grow on me, although the autobiographical tale that Biggie tells is dope here. I hated the beat and Diana King’s vocals here were annoying. At the end of this track, there’s a skit where Biggie’s trying to convince a young lady to give him head. She’s denying the fact that she knows how to do it and from the reaction during the action, Biggie knew she was full of shit.

15. “Friend Of Mine“: (“I be cruising up the block, I be passing her/Pimping hard with the female passenger/And the only time I call her to hang/Is when me and Dee/blunted up, pissy, scheming on a gang-bang“) This was the “Who Hurt You” track off this album. Biggie details meeting a young lady then she slept with his homeboy then he (Biggie) fucked with her sister. Just a bunch of pettiness going on this track.

16. “Unbelievable“: (“And those that rushes my clutches get put on crutches/Get smoked like dutches from the master/Hate to blast you but I have to, you see I smoke a lot/Your life is played out like Kwame and them fucking polka dots“) My second favorite track from this album and DJ Premier clearly killed the beat. The R. Kelly scratched in sample from “Body Callin‘” makes this work. Just an incredible song.

17. “Suicidal Thoughts“: (“I can’t believe suicide’s on my fucking mind, I wanna leave/I swear to God I feel like death is fucking calling me/Naw you wouldn’t understand“) This track is still eerie whenever I listen to it and Lord Finesse created a dope beat. The way Biggie ended this album as to set up to Life After Death is still incredible.

The album was remastered in 2004 and “Who Shot Ya” (Still don’t get why that track was left off the original album) and “Just Playing (Dreams)” which was given to Lil’ Kim and she remade it for her debut album Hardcore a few years later. What was incredible about this album was just Biggie’s lyrical wordplay and how he crafted his stories in his head. Just sitting here and listening to what was the start of greatness. The first week sales for Ready To Die was 57k but by 1999, it sold 4 million copies. As a hip-hop fan, I’m appreciative of this album because of the impact that it had on me as a fan. I wonder if he was still here today, how Biggie would describe the process of creating this album?

Movie Review: The Drop

The Drop

Director: Michaël R. Roskam

Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts and John Ortiz

Story: Bob Saginowski finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.

My Thoughts: When I first saw the commercial for The Drop, the cast and the story captured my interest. The story is set in Brooklyn and this particular area of Brooklyn is bleak and gloomy. It seems as all the residents there have seen or want to see better days ahead. Tom Brady plays Bob Saginowski, a bartender at Cousin Marv’s, which is named after Cousin Marv who is played by James Gandolfini in his final movie role. Bob gives off the impression that he’s mild mannered and just runs the bar. The history in the neighborhood runs deep and everyone knows everyone. In regards to Cousin Marv, Gandolfini fits in this role as it is right up the alley from what we’ve seen him portray on The Sopranos. But Tony would see Cousin Marv and just laugh him off. Cousin Marv lost his bar ten years ago (he says it was 8 1/2 years ago) to Chechen mobsters, who uses the bar as part of an drop to an underground syndicate where the mobsters move money around. Another story that develops within the movie is the budding relationship between Bob and Nadia (Rapace). Bob’s walking home from the bar and hears whimpering coming from a trash can. He discovers a dog that he believes that’s a Boxer but Nadia tells him it’s a Pit Bull. The dog was bloodied and bruised up from an attack that occurred from Nadia’s ex boyfriend, Eric Deeds (Schoenaerts). Deeds is touted as being a hitman but once you look at the character, you’ll ask yourself, “Is this guy a killer”? I also enjoyed John Ortiz as Detective Torres, who seems to pop up and has plenty of questions for Bob and knows that he has the answers that he’s looking for. He’s that detective that knows what goes down in the neighborhood at all times.

The flow and sequence of The Drop‘s story and writing is what made this movie a win for me. Dennis Lehane, who did some writing on HBO’s The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, created a great story that makes me want to read the novel that it was adapted from. The director, Michaël Roskam did a great job in bringing this to life. The on screen chemistry between Hardy and Gandolfini in their respective roles is what makes you want to see it again. The scene where Cousin Marv is telling Bob about how he came up is on point. (“I had something once. I was respected. I was FEARED.“) If you’re looking for a great movie to see over the weekend, The Drop is it. This is definitely a future addition to the DVD/Blu Ray collection.

Movie Review: No Good Deed

No Good Deed

Director: Sam Miller

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Idris Elba, Leslie Bibb, Kate del Castillo and Henry Simmons

Story: An unstable escaped convict terrorizes a woman who is alone with her two children.

My Thoughts: So Idris Elba plays Colin Evans, a convict with a very bad attitude escapes custody as his parole was revoked. He ends up in Atlanta, where he ends up at the home of his ex-fiancé, Alexis. Terri (Henson) is a former District Attorney turned stay at home mother to two children. The limited interaction between Terri and her husband, Jeffrey (Simmons) leads to the fact that there are issues with the two of them. Something that Terri’s best friend, Meg doesn’t hesitate to point out.

After Colin does a little searching and confrontation with Alexis, what he discovers lead him out in a bad storm that gets him in an accident which leads him to the home of Terri. Colin uses his charm to get inside her home and Terri was longing for that adult interaction so it was evident that she wasn’t Ray Charles to the bullshit. I didn’t like how quickly the transition from charming to unstable occurred with Colin as he was interacting with Terri. Had the characters been expanded, it could have told more of a believable story. The plot twist that Screen Gems didn’t want to be spoiled, is an ‘oh shit’ moment that ties up some loose ends.

No Good Deed was scheduled to come out in earlier this year but it would have bumped with another film (Ride Along) that this film’s producer Wil Packer also produced. With Idris and Taraji leading the charge in this film, this will bring out the female African-American viewers.

Album Review: Cormega – Mega Philosophy

Mega Philosophy

I was listening to this week’s episode of The Combat Jack Show that featured Queens rapper, Cormega. Cormega went through his album track by track and from what I was hearing it was sounding great. After I finished listening to the episode, I gave the album another few runs so I could get the full experience of the album.

Mega Philosophy begins with “A New Day Begins” that begins with a spoken word piece and then Cormega speaks on being accountable in the culture that he loves. (“My Golden Rule is/Live no lie I know truth is/Part of my focus music, art imitates life growth included/I’m bond by words hold me to it/My heart and nerve are accountable no excuses/I never made a deal with my soul included“) Really digging how that spoke of the overall vibe of the album. On “MARS (Dream Team“), Cormega rounds up AZ, Redman and Styles P to spit incredible bars over Large Professor’s production. On “Industry“, whew… Cormega spoke on his feelings about what goes on with these record labels. (“Niggas is crazy that’s why we ain’t got shit/Rappers hate each other not the labels that got rich/Don’t care about culture they only want profit
If your album sells slow bet you get dropped quick/Q-Tip warned us the industries toxic/For reference check out B.D.P – “Sex and Violence”/When Styles made “I Get High” it was playin’ all day/When Styles made “I’m Black” it didn’t get enough play/I guess they got a problem with anything positive/Doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t bring dollars in
“)

“Fuck the crown, truthfully all it did was ruin unity in the rap community, no rapper ruling me
It’s like birds amongst lions as soon as my cub starts crying you’re food to me
Love thy enemy some were once cool with me, I read niggas well some wrote their own eulogy
Maybe I’m stubborn, I refuse to be a grown man rapping about money, clothes and jewelry” – Cormega from “Reflections

I remember listening to “Da Bridge 2001” and Cormega was saying how he’s more mature now, he’s on a record with (fellow Queensbridge rapper) Nature. Actually on that episode with Combat Jack, he states that the two of them have been cool for years. The two MC’s link up for “D.U. (Divine Unity)” and gives listeners that throwback vibe as they spit about their views on life. This record is incredible. The album’s final track “Valuable Lessons” speaks on the lessons that Cormega has learned throughout his life. (“People who never voted betray you for dead presidents/Some wear two faces: friend and enemy/And gain nothing ‘cause they don’t deserve anything/I risk my life for niggas who didn’t write or visit/During my time in prison I realized my friendship/Isn’t what I envisioned/And I’m tired of giving/With no reciprocation, thankfully times are different“) This track makes me reflect on those so called ‘friends’ that I have lost over the years. In the end, you realize that you were better off without them.

Mega Philosophy‘s production rested in Large Professor’s hands and it’s an incredible sound from beginning to end. What I enjoyed most about Mega Philosophy is the lyricism that Cormega delivered. It wasn’t the bullshit bars that are considered to be ‘hot’ in the current crap of mainstream. It’s the bars that make you rewind and listen to again just in case you might have missed something. This is the brand of hip-hop that I fell in love with growing up.

Movie Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace and Benicio Del Toro

Director: James Gunn

Story: In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.

My Thoughts: WOW… What an incredible movie from Marvel Studios. I saw the trailers for the movie and it had me hooked. Since I’m didn’t read the comics, I did my own brand of research on the characters. When we first meet Peter Quill (Pratt), he was at this dying mother’s bedside, now he’s a space adventurer with a bit of a cocky/smart ass side. He’s cool, full of dance moves and out looking for whatever items that will put money in his pocket. After Quill has a run in with Korath (Djimon Hounsou), we begin to see what Guardians Of The Galaxy has in store for viewers. Ronan the Accuser (Pace) sends Gamora (Saldana) on the hunt to get the orb from Quill and with that lands a huge fight that also introduces us to Rocket (Cooper) and Groot (Diesel). After the huge fight lands them all in jail, we meet Drax (Bautista). Now Drax has a bit of a grudge against Ronan for the murder of his wife and daughter and initially wants to take it out on Gamora.

Now in the beginning stages of a new team, of course you’re going to have doubts about the person(s) that you’re dealing with. But once you work out those kinks, things flow smoothly. The relationships formed by each character is what makes the team come together. The relationship between Peter and his mother is helps him in the end to fully trust his team. I also love the one thing that bonded them throughout the movie. (If you go see it, you’ll understand) My two favorite characters, Rocket and Groot. Wow, I mean they truly made this movie for me. Rocket wasn’t for anyone’s shit and would check you if need be. Groot was just fucking awesome. Really humbled and looking out for everyone’s best interests. Plus his only words were, ‘I Am Groot’. How cool is that? Dave Bautista playing Drax really surprised me. Now, I’m familiar with Bautista throwing opponents around in the wrestling ring and he does that here as well. What made Bautista stand out his how he delivered his scenes here. Zoe Saldana as Gamora was a good look as you can tell that she wasn’t going to be easily falling for Quill’s sweet nothings. A couple more things that made Guardians Of The Galaxy enjoyable for me were 1. The action sequences in the movie. I felt as though the action was crisp and kept me on the edge of my seat. 2. The comedy. The one liners and other gags in this movie had me laughing constantly. Especially when Drax wouldn’t get the metaphoric references and would take offense to them. Hilarious.

So take the family and go see Guardians Of The Galaxy. It’s worth the price of admission and make sure you have those snacks flowing too. And for you 80′s babies, stay through the end of the credits. You’ll get a huge laugh at what happens at the end.

Album Review: Leela James – Fall For You

Fall For You

I remember seeing Leela James videos on VH1 Soul and always felt captivated by her vocals and vocal range. Her latest release Fall For You comes on the heels of her joining the latest season of R&B Divas: L.A.. This is the first full release that I’ve heard from her so I’m sure that I was in for a treat.

Fall For You begins with the uptempo “Who’s Gonna Love You More“. Fellow soul singer Anthony Hamilton joins Leela on “Say That” as both singers want to hear that they are wanted by their significant other. Leela James states how her world is without him: “See my sun won’t shine/Ain’t no stars at night/I swear the sky ain’t blue/It’s raining strong and gray without you/Ain’t no flame in the fire/I’m just empty inside/I’m sick but I’m there with all/I’m spending my days and being without you” Anthony Hamilton comes up crooning in his Old Negro Spiritual way: “So what’s it gonna be?/Even the blind could see/You can’t deny this love defined between you and me/See I love you baby (and I love you boy)/I couldn’t love you more/It’s you for me and me for you/This love we have it’s true“. Great song right here. “Everything” reminds me of when you find that you’ve been waiting for and it’s everything that you could imagine: “Waited so long/Seems like a lifetime/But then, yeah, came you/To mend my broken heart/Heaven, should be an angel/So this time I know it’s true/Seeing what’s real” “Stay With Me” is a very dope and intimate record. The type of record that makes you want to call out of work and curl up with your loved one: “Stay with me/Don’t leave me I need you/To hold me and touch me, kiss me/Never leave my side, I swing and you’re not here/I’m ust not the same” The album’s lead and title single “Fall For You” shows Leela giving her all to lover: “My heart is ready/For love and to be loved/And I chose you, baby/That’s the one thing I’m sure of“. Leela’s vocals are strong on this track and it gives you that sense of reality of when you give your all to another person.

Listening to Fall For You reminds me of the late 80′s/early 90′s R&B Soul sounds that defined that genre. Some great songs on this album and it’s one that you would want to pull your S/O close and just vibe to the music. Hopefully, Leela James being on the new season of R&B Divas: L.A. helps her gain some new fans.

A Look Back: Zhané – Pronounced Jah-Nay

Zhané

Back in 1993, Kay Gee from Naughty By Nature introduced the world to two young singers from Brooklyn, NY. Jean Norris and Renee Neufville had the world singing “Hey Mr. D.J.” as the song was an instant hit reaching #6 on the Billboard Top 100 and #3 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks. “Hey Mr. D.J.” sampled Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Knucklehead” and Michael Wycoff’s “Looking Up to You“. The hit track also featured a verse from Fam, who was a member of the Rottin Razkals. The debut single from Pronounced Jah-Nay was certified Gold in October of 1993. The duo had an instant hit single and that could only mean good things to come for them.

Pronounced Jah-Nay was released on February 15, 1994. The album’s second single was “Groove Thang“, which continued with the same flow as “Hey Mr. D.J.”. “Groove Thang”, which sampled Patrice Rushen’s “Haven’t You Heard“, reached to #17 on Billboard’s Top 100. “Sending My Love” was the album’s third single and the lyrics reflected the love that your lady wanted to send you as she was missing you. (“With my heart in your hands/I’m as helpless as a baby/I’m in desperate need of your love/So just send it right away/Ive been thinking bout you, boy/Because you’re so far way/Makes me want to send you all this love/Inside of me“) “Vibe” was the album’s fourth single as it continued with the uptempo theme of its singles. The final single released was “You’re Sorry Now” dealt with the ups and down of a bad relationship. (“You always come around when it’s too late/You can’t win back my love cuz baby, I can wait/You want me more and more/My life is moving on/There’s gotta be a better way“)

As great of an album that Pronounced Jah-Nay still is, I can’t help but to be disappointed that none of the ballads from the album were released as singles. “Love Me Today” could have been easily added to the late night slow jams playlist. (“Well, every little thing/Everything that made me fall in love with you/Started all over again/The moment you looked into my eyes/Held me so tight and said, you said/Love me today/And if you got to hate me/Love me today/Why don’t you do that tomorrow“) “La, La, La” is about the realization of that effect someone has on you. (“You’re on my mind/You’re on my mind, baby, constantly/I’m in a daze/I’m in a daze so won’t you rescue me/You’re in my dreams/You’re haunting me boy, you’re haunting me“) “For A Reason” is all about finally letting that relationship go. (“Letting go can be the hardest thing to do/When you truly care about someone/You can’t say goodbye enough times to make/The feelings last a lifetime/But all the memories never go away“)

Pronounced Jah-Nay went Platinum in October of 1996 and still is one of those throwback albums that will still get the party going. My mother purchased this album on cassette and I played it often. This was a rare feat for these two young ladies to drop out of nowhere and leave a lasting impact on R&B fans everywhere. Too bad they only released this album and the follow up, Saturday Night.

Album Review: Marsha Ambrosius – Friends & Lovers

Friends & Lovers

Liverpool, England’s only Marsha Ambrosius is back with her new album, Friends & Lovers, her first since 2011′s Late Nights & Early Mornings. One thing that always stood out with Marsha Ambrosius was her voice. She doesn’t receive the praise that the current crop of England soul singers receive but she will belt out a tune that have you will make you turn your head. Her debut album and other mixtapes have always caught my attention. What does Friends & Lovers have to offer us as listeners? Let’s review.

The “Friends & Lovers Intro” spins a tale that a many people can relate to: Crossing that thin line of being a lover with someone that you were just friends with. Marsha sings about not being able to deny her feelings because she’s into that guy. It seems as she doesn’t want to be both and she poses the question ‘So what you wanna do’? This continues on to the first track “So Good” as she gets right to the point about what she wants. (“I can’t help myself around you/I wanna do EVERYTHING/I ain’t gonna front I’m upfront/Blatant bout what I want/I want you here right now baby/Looking at me the way that you do/You want me too/And I don’t wanna waste no time“) Can’t go wrong with a woman who let’s it be known what it is that she wants. The ending portion of the song she gets real filthy with it. (“You pulling on my hair/You right between my legs/You kissing on my neck/I’m scratching on your back/I say baby go head/Go hard I said go head/I said go hard I said/go head/Baby take it there“)

After she hits us with that, the sexual ride continues on “69“. (“Take your clothes off/There’s a record in our heads/Take your clothes off/Fuck me till you forget, then I blackout, you’re my back out“) The guy on the track talks a lot shit (as we tend to do): (“I know your body better than you do/I might not come at all but you do/Every
motherfucking time/You tell me that that motherfucker mine, hello
“) “Shoes” is my shit. Marsha sings about sleeping with a guy that she knows she shouldn’t be sleeping with but when that sex is good and you’re addicted, things happens. (“Where are my shoes?/Panties and toothbrush and all?/Can’t keep on doing this that long/Running back to you every time you call, I’m losing my cool“)

Friends & Lovers singles include the Dr. Dre featured “Stronger” and “Run“. “Stronger” is a break up track where the two people love each other but it’s just not working out. You hear Marsha bringing back that classic line from Sade (“I still really really love you/My love is stronger than pride“) In the second verse, Marsha makes it clear that it’s time to depart: (“Sitting here wasting my time/Would be like/Waiting here for the sun to rise/It’s all too clear/Things come and go/Sitting here waiting for you/Would be like waiting for winter/It’s gonna be cold/There may even be snow“) “Run” is reality of what’s not good for our heroine. (“Couldn’t talk, couldn’t sleep/Didn’t know what you needed/Got me feeling so weak/Coz you came into deep/Wanna stay, wanna leave/I’m so caught in between/Now I finally see/That you just weren’t the one for me“)

I’ve always felt that I could connect to Marsha Ambrosius’ music because it’s not pop like. It’s real love, real sex, real emotions. I’m sure that if you really listen to the lyrics, you’ll feel them deep within your soul. That’s one thing I feel as if Marsha doesn’t slack up on is writing songs that everyday people can genuinely feel. Friends & Lovers didn’t disappoint me and I’m going to spin this just as I do her other projects.

Album Review: Robin Thicke – Paula

Paula

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” was still getting major spins and the accompanying video became a hot topic as did it cross lines. And that was before that MTV VMA performance with Vera de Milo, I mean Miley Cyrus. Then there was the photo that Robin took with the young lady where the mirror behind him reveal that he was attempting to help pull out her wedgie. Next thing you know, Robin Thicke’s wife Paula ended up leaving him and he hit the studio to craft the album, Paula, in order to win her back. So much talk leading up to the release of the album was Robin trying to publicly shame his wife into getting back with him?

Enough about the back story, let’s get into this Paula album. Now Robin Thicke produced this album in its entirety and did the writing on the album (save for seven songs). “Get Her Back” is the album’s lead single as Robin sings about what he should have been doing in the first place. Why do we as people wait until we lose a good thing in our lives to start realizing what we had there in the first place? (I should’ve kissed you longer/I should’ve held you stronger/And I’ll wait for forever for you love me again) The music video had Robin in water as text messages appeared on the screen.

“Robin: I wrote an album about you.
Paula: I don’t care.”

Robin’s also realizes that he took her for granted, now that she’s missing from his life. This is strongly shown in the second verse of “You’re My Fantasy“: “I don’t know how you do it, working the way you are/Trying to be a mother, earner, lady and a star/I will always daydream wishing that you were mine/I understand right now you need some space and time/I can smell your perfume/Your legs are on my walls/Your body’s on my ceiling/Your giggle down the hall/I remember when I was the only one you’d call/Everything has changed, everything has changed/Please, please, please, please, please, please, please“. “Lock The Door“, the lyrics describe Paula not wanting to be hurt anymore and Robin wanting to leave his old ways in the past: “But now she’s flying high you can’t hurt her no more/Now she’s locked the door because you broke the key/And she got a bright smile on her face now that she got that little/Taste/She just wants more, she just wants more” Now on “Black Tar Cloud” things got a tad bit crazy for him: “A rock in the TV/You bashin’ my ride up, you smashed my guitar/(Tell ‘em the truth)/Chasing me around the house swinging trying to hit me with my favorite golf club (truth)/You revved up the car/You smashed through the gate/I ran up the street (truth)/I waited an hour to cool off/When I came back it was too late (truth)” Paula‘s final track “Forever Love” is Robin’s last attempt at securing his wife once again: “So come on over baby start the healin’/Let me get a good look at you/Cause I miss our discussion, whisperin’ and blushin’/Secrets that only we know/Any time you need a friend baby/I can be the one that you want/And if you’re ever down and out baby/I can be the one that you want/You can lean on me anytime baby

Will Paula help Robin Thicke get his wife back? That’s actually up to them. In terms of this album, Robin Thicke had some hit and miss moments here. Paula may listen to the album and know what every single song represents but there were some songs that I know I’ll skip upon future listening to this project. Robin may think that he’s learned from his mistakes and hopes that the marriage can be reconciled. But in terms of the public eye, he’s mud to them.

A Look Back: Lil Wayne – Tha Carter

Tha Carter

Whenever the topic of the Lil Wayne’s impact in the rap game is brought up in conversation, most will point to 2004′s Tha Carter as the turning point in his career. He was a few months shy of turning twenty-one on this album and he was on the verge of blowing up like no one expected.

Lil Wayne’s lyrical ability changed greatly on this album. Matter of fact if you look back at The Sqad Up Series, this is where everyone started to take notice and Wayne’s name started buzzing in rap circles. I didn’t want to believe it because I remember his lyrical ability on Tha Block Is Hot and earlier Cash Money records. So for him to be one of the best out right now was unheard of but I gave it a listen anyway. It’s been 10 years since this career changing album was released so let’s take a look back at Tha Carter.

The best rapper alive since the best rapper retired” – Lil Wayne from “Bring It Back

Bring It Back” was the first single from Tha Carter. Lil Wayne gave listeners improved lyrics that was accompanied by a Mannie Fresh track that would get play in the club. (“I take off my brim/Moment of silence for the homeboy Soulja Slim/Fronting ’round here will get ya back chopped off/We do our own thing, we don’t act like y’all/I say, black white walls with the back swiped off/Y’all lil bustas just a tax write-off/I’m a stand up guy, not the type that fall/We don’t breed them kind, but they bleed just fine“) The music video that accompanied this single was shot in New Orleans as we watch Lil Wayne recap a day in his life. “Go D.J.” was the strongest single off the album as it reached number 14 on Billboard’s Top 100 and number 3 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Tracks. (“Murder 101. The hottest nigga under the sun/I came from under the tummy busting a tommy/Or come from under your garments, your chest and your arm hit/Pow! One to the head: now you know he dead/Now you know I play it like a pro in the game/Naw, better yet a veteran in’th hall of fame“) Themusic video was shot at the Mansfield Reformatory (where Shawshank Redemption was also filmed). Lil Wayne was freed from his electric chair as he started rapping. Cameos included Birdman, Slim, Gillie Da Kid and others.

As for the album, the lyrical change was there but also was that feeling the old Cash Money roster was lost on the label. Wayne address this on “I Miss My Dawgs” as he talks about his relationship with former labelmates Juvenile, B.G. and Turk. (“I was honored just to hang wit you, shit/And I banged to the boogie bang bang wit yo click/And I ain’t even from the 3, my hood was angry at me, shit/But I rose to my feet, played the post wit the heat/At them shows while you performed and posed“) “On My Own” shows Lil Wayne trying to make a name for himself in the hustler game. (“And the hand gun is so included/Don’t get it confused I want no confusion/And keep ya ho I don’t want your contusions/I make my hoes stop and let the dough keep moving/A bitch over some money is a hungry nuisance/It’s money over bitches that I am going to keep proving“) “Ain’t That A Bitch“, Wayne is letting listeners know that he’s the man and it was his time. (“I’m a muthafuckin man so respect me as one or the tech meet ya ass son/The tech heat ya ass son put ya fuckin chest beneath ya ass son/Blooka blook blap bleep ya ass son (laughin)/Nigga tryin to see his grandson and we/Got niggas in the pen tryin to see me wit a Grammy/Wanna be me and don’t even understand me/Could’nt see me even if you was standin with me/I’m that damn convincing not invisible that mans invincible/And advance a little due to the pine/My niggas call me Little Russell Crowe for my beautiful mind“)

Tha Carter would be the last Cash Money album that Mannie Fresh would have production on. There were strong rumors that Gillie Da Kid was responsible for Wayne’s new rhyming style. In albums before this one, Wayne rapped very elementary and then 2004 he was reinvented. Tha Carter went platinum and made Lil Wayne a household name. This album may have set the flames but Tha Carter II is considered to have brought the house down.