Almost Famous

The Avenues to Success

India.Arie – Testimony: Vol. 2, Love and Politics

vol2The beautiful, soulful India.Arie once again delivers positive, encouraging vibes through her passion for life and the music she creates in response. India.Arie’s newest LP, “Testimony Vol. 2: Love and Politics,” examines herself, her relationships, the world, and the love that radiates through it all. Although ‘love’ and ‘politics’ is an odd combination of words, India mentions both without sounding like a carbon-copy of the rest of the music industry who tend to emulate the Obama-craze. India brings a much-appreciated crowd as guest appearances, such as the ever-soulful Musiq and to satisfy the nostalgic hip-hop enthusiasts, MC Lyte. Otherwise, India holds her own, opening with “Therapy,” a reminiscent of “Voyage to India,” and to get her politics on, “Ghetto,” a Carlos Santana-like track exposing the hardships shared by humanity. Musiq makes his appearance on “Chocolate High,” a fun-track comparing love to a sweet-tooth’s favorite treat. Every several tracks India inserts short, 50-second prayer-like devotions to God which ultimately sets the tone for the whole album and keeps the listener focused on the message.

“He Heals Me,” a beautiful track about a lover and a best friend is definitely a stand-out track. The more political side of the album continues on several tracks for the rest of the album and the poetic compositions about love continue to impress. India tends to reach the deepest emotions in the darkest, sometimes forgotten, corners of our hearts and it’s interesting to see her experiencing with more worldly-related subjects such as politics. The worldview India creates in most evident in “Pearls,” a heartfelt track about the everyday struggles of the lower-class around the world and in reality how we are all connected, “the sun shows her no mercy, the same sky we lay under.” Another worldview track, “The Cure,” this takes love and substitutes it for the cure for everything in the world and the power it invokes, even in the political sense. Here we get a feel for the meaning of the album title and it works. Some favorites will probably consist of, “Yellow,” a Stevie Wonder snapping track and “Psalms 23,” a hip-hop/jazz composition featuring a verse by the much-missed MC Lyte, and the most refreshing, motivational track of Volume 2 comes as a surprising bonus-track, “Beautiful Day.” The heaviest political track on the album, “Better Way,” is slightly cliché, but the guitar riffs and India’s soulful chant makes up for content. India.Arie continues to stay consistent and creates another memorable album, challenging our minds and our hearts.

Real talk.

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February 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Chuck ‘D’

ChuckEnter the 1960s and breathe in a world of revolution and restoration. The music, the experimental drugs, and more importantly, the culture, were a unified fist fighting for peace. Although some of the means were wrong, the purpose was there, and it is this unification that all of us secretly long for in our broken, weary hearts in today’s age. Enter the 1960s and also enter the birthplace of Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Roosevelt, New York or as the world now recognizes him as, “Chuck D.” For the much younger crowd, Chuck D was the man behind the socially conscience rap group called ‘Public Enemy,” which may be remembered for the outrageous antics by Flava Flav, but should be dissected for its lyrics and depth of honesty and boldness. Today, Chuck D is now recognized as a legend, and rightfully so, but a legend in a music industry is he no longer performing in. Although Public Enemy may have faded in the distance, it seems we need them now more than ever. Chuck D may not be throwing a fist in the air on stage and educating his audience about worthy causes in a lyrical composition, but he is still just as appealing and influential. He has been called a humanitarian and a role model, but more importantly, he is able to step outside the media box and steer the future in the right direction. New York University students filed in the Skirball Performing Center as they normally do expecting to sit only several feet in front of a celebrity. A celebrity they would take hundreds of pictures of without a giving a second thought about the magnitude of his influence. The Catherine B. Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship at NYU opens the eyes and ears to real, effective social change.Chuck D’s approach was from the perspective of the media and shutting out their ideas and creating our own. Particularly in the African American community, Chuck heavily focused on the media’s way of defining African American culture, “We do shit, somebody else defines us,” he said. Networks like MTV, BET, and radio stations like Hot 97’ here in NYC, according to Chuck, are poor depictions of reality and to base our musical tastes and definitions of genres on them is just another way media defines our world.

Chuck reminded the students at NYU to be who you are and be proud of what you represent where many artists are falling short. Think of the artists on the radio we look up to, who are they really under all of the stardom? Dissecting the world through the microscope of Chuck D was refreshing because it was from a perspective that hardly exits in popular culture. Chuck on stage was more than an artist, writer, or speaker; he was a symbol for social change and not in the musical sense, which may have been overlooked by some. Artists like Public Enemy probably would not get radio play on today’s media sector because it seems the media has already defined what music is and we obey and listen to that claim. While NYU students will not all enter the music industry and have the know-how to be social entrepreneurs, Chuck reminds us to simply stay in school. This NYU community can stand against this “radio radiation movie nation,” as Chuck put it, and rise against backwards thinking. The transformation of celebrity to social activist occurred on that stage and that is what perhaps gave the audience the sense of being dumbfounded and star struck. It was in this refreshing view of celebrity status the audience could throw-up a fist and shout, “fight the power!”

Real talk.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Trash Bar

'Ashes'

'Ashes'

'I Love Monsters'

'I Love Monsters'

After tapping my feet to the repetitive songs coming out of my headphones on the subway everyday I was itching to try something different. I needed a taste of New York City’s music scene to satisfy my eternal attraction to underground melodic, rhythmic bliss. Cleveland, my hometown, appears for the first time in this first edition of “Weekly Underground” (I just came up with that, pretty cool huh?). One of my best friends from Cleveland, Jay Metcalf, who also happens to be my fraternity brother, introduced me to a band awhile back called “Ashes” he manages. After missing the first show in Toledo on the count of my unwillingness to show up on time, I bet my life I would be at the NYC show. This unlikely combination of a cello, keyboard, drums, and an acoustic, electric, and bass guitar will have you begging for an encore.

While their album does spark interest, it surely does not do them justice. Most of their tracks were inspired by the many travels the band undertakes. With a deep emphasis on lyrics, each song was a blessing on stage. The members clearly have a close relationship with each other as well. This is apparent on-stage with the chemistry evoked, but more evident off-stage if you get the rare opportunity to experience their lives when the lights go down. Along with the Ashes boys (and girl) came the pop/punk ensemble known as, “I Love Monsters” who I found myself jamming-out to, but you may be able to blame that on the combination of the open bar and my very first New York City show. All-in-all though both bands came strong and I was extremely satisfied only spending $7 on a cover, open bar for an hour, and ‘free’ (that’s right, free), PBR’s in that hour. Bargain. Following the show at the Brooklyn venue, “The Trash Bar,” which I highly-recommend, all of us hopped in taxi’s, groupies and all, and traveled to several bars. What I find amusing in New York City is after a show, no matter how packed it seemed to be, no one recognizes you after that. I expected a sounding of cheers when we walked into a bar, but after adjusting myself to the massive world of NYC’s music scene I checked back into reality. Happen to see “Ashes” or “I Love Monsters” coming your way in the near future? Well, you may not be sipping on a seemingly unlimited supply of PBR’s, but you will enjoy yourself, I promise.

Real talk.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment