The Vision Is Blurry

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.

Album Review: Ab Soul – These Days…

These Days

Ab Soul has a huge following from fans of himself and his TDE family. And he’s the one that I’ve heard the least amount of material from but now that he’s dropped These Days…, I can see what he has to offer. Now I see that he’s had two previous releases (2011′s Longterm Mentality and 2012′s Control System) but we’re in the right now of things and no two albums are alike.

“We ain’t shooting no jumpshots, but we balling, we balling
I’m from where they get jumped or shot ’til they falling, they falling
They ain’t heard one word from God but he calling, he calling” – Ab Soul

The album begins with the SZA featured “God’s Reign (These Days)” as Ab Soul taking the good with the bad through out life. SZA makes this more clear during the hook: “Is this how it is These Days?/You even lose when you win These Days/These Days… God’s Reign/Scared to live, scared to move These Days” TDE labelmate ScHoolBoy Q and Mac Miller shows up on “Hunnid Stax” as spending money is the motive here. (“People treat you real nice when you got fifty dollar drawers on” – Ab Soul) Another track that I’m digging is the Lupe Fiasco and Nikki Jean collaboration “World Runners“.

“Or maybe I’m just a dreamer
And life is but a dream
And I would never leave her
But I bet she can’t wait to get rid of me” – Ab Soul and Nikki Jean

I don’t know what you all did to Kendrick Lamar but he SNAPPED on “Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude” (which is the sequel to “Ab Soul’s Outro” from Section.80). I like this new forceful flow from Kendrick as he lets listeners know that it’s not a game in 2014. (“Take it from the horses mouth, you’ll never understand me/I told you, my Plan B is to you win your hearts before we win a Grammy/These Days ain’t shit changed/Different toilet, same shit… and I drank a whole gallon of laxatives by accident just to shit on you has-beens/Had it been for my past tense, I wouldn’t be rapping“)

When I first listened to These Days…, I was getting ready to write it off but then I gave it a serious listen and one thing that makes Ab Soul stand out is his lyrics. You hear the rhyme structure and how he leads into them. I think that is very dope of him. These Days… is a dark album that Ab Soul allows listeners deep into his mind and that is something most rappers aren’t able to pull off these days.

A Look Back: Prince and The Revolution – Purple Rain

Purple Rain

When I think of the soundtrack to the movie Purple Rain, it reminds me that it was one of the greatest soundtrack albums that I’ve ever heard. I was four at time time this album came out so it was certain songs my mother would only play around me. But as I got older, I’ve appreciated what this album was all about. 9 tracks. 1 classic album. Let’s review Purple Rain.

1. “Let’s Go Crazy“: “Dearly beloved/We are gathered here today/To get through this thing called “life”” I love how Purple Rain starts off with Prince not turning down for anything. Prince suggests that in life we live it to the fullest until we’re called home. (“Let’s go crazy/Let’s get nuts/Look for the purple banana/Until they put us in the truck, let’s go!“) The crazy guitar riff at the end is still sick!

2. “Take Me With U“: You ever find yourself wanting to just be with someone and they tease you constantly and don’t give you an answer? That’s what goes on here. (“I don’t care if we spend the night at your mansion/I don’t care if we spend the night on the town/All I want is to spend the night together/All I want is to spend the night in your arms“) It seems as if Apollonia never gave Prince an answer on this record. Haha!

3. “The Beautiful Ones“: Lawd!!! Prince was trying to get chose on this track. (“Baby, baby, baby/Can’t U stay with me 2night?/Oh Baby, baby, baby/Don’t my kisses please U right?“) But with the slow groove production here, Prince tells us that the beautiful ones in the end lets you down. Listen how he gets forceful later on in the track: “I know what I want/And it’s to please you baby/Please you baby/I’m begging down on my knees/I want you/Yea/I want you/Baby baby baby baby/I want you/Yes I do

4. “Computer Blue“: “Where is my love life?/Where can it be?/There must be something wrong with the machinery” I remember this being played in Purple Rain as the relationship between Morris Day and Apollonia started to heat up. The guitar play here is excellent. With some songs, you really don’t need a lot of lyrics.

5. “Darling Nikki“: “I knew a girl named Nikki/I guess you could say she was a sex fiend/I met her in a hotel lobby/Masturbating with a magazine/She said how’d u like to waste some time/And I could not resist when I saw little nikki grind” The opening verse of this track tells you everything that you need to know when it comes to spontaneous sex. Now normally it’s the guys getting sex and leaving but here on this track, Nikki left her phone number and told Prince that if he wanted a good time give her a call. Now in the movie when this song was played, you saw how Apollonia reacted. Haha

6. “When Doves Cry“: “How can you just leave me standing/Alone in a world that’s so cold?
Maybe I’m just too demanding/Maybe I’m just like my father: too bold/Maybe you’re just like my mother/She’s never satisfied/Why do we scream at each other?/This is what it sounds like/When doves cry
” I can listen to this song on repeat and not get tired of it. In the chorus, Prince compares the relationship of his and his love interest as to the relationship with his parents. I love how in the second verse, he tells the woman that he has too much pride in himself to continue to pursue her. (“Don’t make me chase you/Even doves have pride“)

7. “I would Die 4 U“: “I’m not your lover/I’m not your friend/I am something that you’ll never comprehend” This is my favorite song from this album. The lyrics suggests that Prince is comparing himself to being God-like and wants the woman to submit to him. (“You’re just a sinner I am told/Be your fire when you’re cold/Make u happy when you’re sad/Make u good when u are bad/I’m not a human/I am a dove/I’m your conscious/I am love/All I really need is 2 know that/U believe“) This song just sets it all the way off whenever I play it.

8. “Baby I’m a Star“: “Honey, I know ain’t nuttin’ wrong with your ears (Oh)/Hey, check it all out/Better look now or it just might be 2 late (Just might be 2 late)/My luck’s gonna change 2night/There’s gotta be a better life/Take a picture sweetie, I ain’t got time 2 wait” What I like about this song is the cocky nature that Prince possesses on here. He’s saying you better get with him or you’ll be out of luck.

9. “Purple Rain“: The song “Purple Rain” has significance to the characters in the film. In the three verses, Prince is singing to his Father (“I never meant to cause you any sorrow/I never meant to cause you any pain/I only wanted to one time to see you laughing“), his ex-girlfriend (“Baby, I could never steal you from another/It’s such a shame our friendship had to end”) and his band (“You say you want a leader/But you can’t seem to make up your mind/I think you better close it/And let me guide you to the purple rain“) It’s an incredible song and a mainstream favorite among fans.

Purple Rain would go on to sell over 13 million copies in the United States alone. Four of the released singles landed in Billboard’s Top 100 and the album was #1 on the Top 200. It’s often considered one of the greatest albums in the 1980′s. Listening to Purple Rain makes me long for the days of when the combined elements of funk, rock and R&B would rule the airwaves.

A Look Back: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – Creepin on ah Come Up

Creepin On Ah Come Up

I remember first seeing Bone Thugs -n- Harmony on The Box and thinking ‘Wow, this is a fresh new sound.’ These guys were from Cleveland, Ohio and would go on to make moves in the Midwest rap scene. The EP Creepin on ah Come Updropped the Summer of ’94 and they would take the world by storm.

The intro was creepy as fuck but the bass in the production sounded like the West Coast hip-hop sound that was still popular at the time. “Mr. Ouija” continued with the creepiness as the group used the board to determine their fate in life while the chants of ‘Mo Murder’ haunts in the background.

“We’re not against rap. We’re not against rappers. But we are against those thugs.” – Rev. Calvin Butts

The above quote leads off the group’s lead single “Thuggish Ruggish Bone“. This song got major play over the summer. I used to have to listen closely to understand what was being spit in the lyrics. Layzie Bone lead off first: (“Trip and don’t slip, not to mention, never knew no competition/But I gotta get mine, so scream out “mo’!” and let me hear ya holla/All about that mighty dollar, roll with the Bone, Mo’ Thugs will follow/Chain gang remaining the same, flaming my dank and drinking brew/Thinking about hanging, clocking my bank, and thuggin’ trues, foo’s“) Then you had the young lady that went by Tasha who belted out the hook. (“It’s the Thuggish Ruggish Bone“) And as crazy as he turned out to be Bizzy Bone delivered the best verse out of the four: (“Ever if you test, nuts to the chest and put ‘em to rest, but I won’t test bucks/Put a hole up into me vest and gotta get through my soul, but they won’t budge/Mud, drug me victim, the blood in me running my mental/The thug in me stuck in me keeping it simple, the bud in me runnin me pencil, so/To the temple, buck when you duck to the thuggish ruggish T’s/St. Clare P’s to appeal to the G’s and a buck to all my enemies“)

No Surrender” is an nod to the lack of love for the police. Wish lets out his frustrations here: “Puttin’ me on my knees, tellin’ me move and I’m dead/Cause I’m killin’ all you bitches, turnin’ them blue suits red/And then I’m comin’ to that funeral to shoot that bitch up/Because I know that’s where y’all bitches is bound to meet up/Cop killas, all up in they chest, and/I know what to do with that vest, man/Twenty-two shots. I killa/You don’t wanna fuck with Bone, nigga” Flesh-n-Bone makes his first appearance here on “Down Foe My Thang“: “We runnin’ with no hoes, and the bigger Bone that’s/Known for gettin’ his swerve on and kickin’ it on the stage/(Off in the rag), gettin’ my serve on/So, leave ‘em alone. They come/They need to be shown that Bone done chrome, blown/Lay slugs up in to them domes, so go on/You’d rather go run a ho check, if you wanna test nuts with Flesh

Robbery is the motive on the title track as Krazyie Bone details a bank robbery: “Trail to the back with the money in the sack/Locked ‘em all in the vault, time to bail/Well, tickets I’m out the door/Hopped in the smug, and I break fast/Get to my pad, sit back and laugh, loc’d out as I flip through my cash/At last, nigga made good, and I got away smooth/Now, I’m straight. Covered my tracks/Only description is that nigga with that leather face, fool/I gotta get mine, and if you stall, then I’m gunnin’/Just work your job, get paid. I’ll rob ya/See, a nigga creep on a come up

Eazy-E joins the group on the EP’s second single “Foe tha Love of $” as he stole the show with his verse: “Standin’ on the corner straight slangin’ rocks/Aw shit! Here comes the muthafuckin’ cops!/So I dash, I ducks, and I hides behind a tree/Makin’ sure the motherfuckers don’t see me/Now my fat sack of rocks hell yeah I stuffed ‘em/Police on my drawers, I had to pause/And yeah, it’s still muthafuck ‘em/Now my game is tight, tight as fuck is my game/Eazy-Motherfucking-E or Eric Wright it’s all the same” The EP ends with the “Moe Cheese” instrumental that’s still ill as fuck to this day.

Creepin on ah Come Up peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Top 200 and number 2 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. The group cemented their legacy with this EP and would release their full length debut album the following year. Even though there were talks of Triple Six Mafia using the fast rhyming flow first, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony would go on to still be a legendary group in the hip-hop.

A Look Back: Blackstreet’s Self Titled Debut Album

Blackstreet

When you think of Teddy Riley, you think of his work with Guy and Wreckx-N-Effect as well as the sound behind Keith Sweat’s “I Want Her“, Johnny Kemp’s “Just Got Paid” and Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative“. He also co-produced Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album as that went on to sell 7 million in the U.S. (32 million worldwide). In 1991, Riley and Chauncey Hannibal formed Blackstreet with other members Levi Little and Joseph Stonestreet. Stonestreet, however would be replaced with Dave Hollister before the group’s debut album would be released.

My best friend’s brothers were heavy into the R&B sound of the 90′s so it was natural that they would be anticipating this album from Teddy Riley’s new group. It’s been twenty years since the release of their self titled debut album so let’s go back in revisit the music.

The intro of the album is letting the listeners know what the group’s primary objectives will be. Blackstreet’s very first song was “Baby Be Mine” and it appeared on the CB4 Soundtrack. It was the only song that featured one time member, Joseph Stonestreet. Teddy Riley used some old school samples throughout the album. On “U Blow My Mind“, you hear The Gap Band’s “Outstanding“. Also it seems as if Teddy Riley used a lot of raps on these uptempo tracks. On “Good Life”, Teddy sings about that everyday life: “‘Coz in the New Jack City, you gotta get paid in the shade/Shackin’ up, don’t want a down low, you gotta go for what you know/So when you have no worries, you gotta move in a hurry/If you’re slow, you blow, baby, don’t you know this is the good life” Now the single from the album “Booti Call” features an intro from Bill Bellamy and uses elements of George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” and also samples A Tribe Called Quest’s “Hot Sex” and Zapp’s “Heartbreaker”. The single reached number 34 on the Billboard Top 100. You may see a line dance of this song at corporate parties. Now I will admit that I slept on the uptempo songs for years but they will occasionally get some burn.

The second half of the album begins with a remake of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today” (shortened to “Love’s in Need”). Now my favorite song on here is “Joy” which Levi Little just completely does his thing on here. (“Like the warm rays of the sun/Her sweet love came shining down on me, oh/All at once turned my life around/And with one kiss, she set me free“) Definitely a #LeaveItIn track. The most successful single from this album and another banger is “Before I Let You Go“. (“Turn the lights down low/Let’s take it nice and slow/My mission is to keep you mine/Don’t want this to be the last time/We make sweet love/Baby, I know you feel it, too/It’s bigger than the both of us/There’s one thing I’m so certain of…“) The music video featured Omar Epps and Shari Headley. Listeners got a taste of what Dave Hollister brought to the group on “Falling In Love Again”. (“You made all my dreams come true/Like when you told me that you’re having my baby/This miracle creates a stronger bond/And it’s so beautiful the way our love grows/Now it’s time to take it a little further/Will you say ‘I do’? I’ll take care of you/Forever and ever baby, you know that this takes two/So tell me what would I do without you/I can’t stop thinking ’bout the past/Girl I wanna make it last, I’m falling“) Now another one of my favorite songs from this album is “Tonight’s the Night“. (“Your understanding, is what brought us this far/Never demanding, although you gave your heart/You made it easy, baby, for me to reveal/All of the love I have inside, just how I really feel/So many lovers/And yeah, I’ve had big fun/But none of the others took my heart/My playing days are done/Because I’m ready baby, I never been this sure/You are the one I adore/I’m gonna love you more starting tonight“) The album version of this song features Tammy Lucas but the music video features SWV and Craig Mack. Also “Tonight’s The Night” also showcased the early production sound of The Neptunes. Chauncey did his thing on “Happy Home” and I still laugh at the end where he sings “I’m hoarse right now but that’s alright“.

The self titled Blackstreet album was certified platinum in 1995 and peaked at number 52 on the Billboard Top 200 (Number 7 R&B Albums chart). The greatest memory that I took from this album is that R&B was alive and well on this album. The music was incredible and if you were looking to get it on, the second half of the album was where it was at. I encourage you all to listen to this album and remember on when R&B was about singing and love. Not what it’s being forced down listeners ears today.

Album Review: Skyzoo and Torae – Barrel Brothers

Barrel Brothers

On Twitter last week, the majority of my timeline was talking about this joint album by Brooklyn MC’s Skyzoo and Torae called Barrel Brothers. I was seeing great things being said about the project so I decided to check it out for myself. Production on this project included !llmind, Jahlil Beats, Black Milk and DJ Premier. Let’s dig into Barrel Brothers and see what these two MC’s have to offer listeners.

The intro to this project is uses a the audio from the scene of New Jack City when Nino Brown asks “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Then that leads into “Talk Of The Town“. Torae steps to the mic and let’s the fans know that it’s not a game when it comes to these bars: “My got niggas famous, I kept in the lab and made bangers/The more heinous the bars/the more flame it is/What’s more dangerous than I and the pad/A beat tape from Oh No/My brother Sky in the lab/I been dying to spazz/you niggas eating, been dying to fast/Speaking my name shit you dying too fast” Skyzoo joins and and keeps it moving: “Louie belts on rubber bands is my attire/D-boy stance, my hands is by the fire/I been here to triple my plans like the supplier/Palms itching, the money chants like a choir/Ain’t too many left on the Land that I admire/So really I’m just rapping for me in a cramped tire/For the love of a double stanza and hemp buyer/And a few expensive habits that prance like they Mariah” If you’re a first time listener as I am, “Make You A Believer” should pull your right in.

All In Together” which features Sean Price and Guilty Simpson is one of the stand out tracks to me. The Black Milk beat took me back to the those 90′s flows where MC’s gave you hard hitting bars. Sean Price takes a shot at Hot 97′s program director Ebro in his verse (“I’m all major but I’m minor to Ebro/I’m touring all the time, what the fuck do he know?!”) Fellow Brooklyn rapper Sha Stimuli shows up on “Triangle Offense” and all three MC’s unleash on the !llmind beat. “Albee Square Mall” which also features Living Proof is an ode to Brooklyn that gives you a glimpse of that borough when they were growing up in it.

Barrel Brothers from beginning to end is a great project because it keeps up with the elements of what MC’s should do on the mic. You won’t hear this on today’s radio as there aren’t any singles that are aimed for radio play. Skyzoo and Torae aren’t lazy with the lyrics and this will be one of the albums that I’ll be constantly listening to throughout the Summer.