Archive for December, 2010

Warm and Peaceful Lady T

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I was probably around 12 years old when I began a real love affair with R&B.  Suddenly, what used to be just background music spoke to me and I got it. In that moment there were two artists who really mattered to me, Luther Vandross and Teena Marie.

On December 26th 2010 we lost Teena and I felt like I lost a friend even though I never met her.  The closest I’d ever been to her was seeing her perform in 1994 at the Ritz Nightclub in D.C.  I was smack in the middle of a tightly packed standing-room only crowd.  But when she sat down behind that piano and played “Casanova Brown” I felt like I was the only one in the room.  She had the ability to be so intimate with her audience.

I tried it myself senior year of college; I performed “Casanova Brown” in a lip-sync contest with my sorority sisters acting out the words of the song behind me.  We won first place.

I also strongly considered adapting the DJ name “Warm and Peaceful Lady T” for my college radio show, a tribute to Teena’s rap in “Square Biz,” but some of my friends said it was too much.

Then there was that time I had one too many in New Orleans and thought singing “I Need Your Lovin” during karaoke night at the Black Cat would be a good idea, the video tape is proof that it wasn’t.

I’m sharing all this to say I loved Teena Marie’s music and never considered saying goodbye.  I loved the way her voice made me feel.  I loved how her lyrics made me think about love.  To really get Teena, I think one has to have loved hard… I mean really experienced passion.  As Teena sang in “Out on a Limb,”  “My lips begin to burn and my heart beats faster than the normal pace,” whooh!

She wrote about loving, caring and wanting deeply.  Her lyrics are poetry and a good lesson for any woman struggling with how to open herself to her man.

When Rick James first toured with Teena Marie back in the early 80s,  they both appeared at the Capitol Center in Landover, MD.  I was just a little girl, but I’ve heard many stories about that night from people who were there.  This was before music videos, so for many this would be their first time putting Teena’s face with the booming voice they heard sing “Fire and Desire” on the radio.  Of course Rick opens the song, so he was on stage first.  Then Teena sang, “I used to love them and leave them” from backstage, holding that amazing note as she walked to center stage.  Someone who was there that night told me a hush fell over the crowd as people watched in shock; this powerful, soulful voice was coming from this tiny, redhead white girl.  One person went on to tell me a woman sitting next to him said, “So Rick couldn’t find a “sista” to sing this song?”  It’s such a funny story to me… because wasn’t she?  Wasn’t she a “soul-sista” who felt, loved and sang with more passion than most?

Years ago I was discussing music with a white college professor.  We were talking about Motown when I mentioned Teena Marie.  He was in his early 60s and had never heard of her before.  Of course I went on to say she was one my favorite singers of all time and talked about how significant her contributions were.  He asked a very interesting question.  He said, “Why wasn’t she ever a major crossover success?  I mean isn’t it most unusual for white artists doing black music not to have great pop success…especially if they’re signed to a label like Motown?”

I’d never thought about it before, not like that.  Teena had been a part of our community for so long I think most of us forgot she was white.  My answer was this; she wasn’t Elvis, she wasn’t stealing R&B, she was R&B, there is a difference.  I think it’s an insult to call what Teena created “blue eyed soul,” as if she was some sort of imitator.  Teena Marie was soul and she was an original.

I think Teena was right when she said in the song “Deja Vu,” “I’ve been here before;”  and maybe it was that experience that made her music so powerful and her voice so timeless.  But if that’s true, it must also be true that she’s “not coming back no more,” meaning there will never be another Teena Marie.  I’m so happy I was here to experience her last visit.

I mixed this compilation the night of Teena’s death to help comfort me; I hope this celebration of her iconic slow-tempo songs does the same for you.

Download the 192 kbps version (107 MB) here!

Teena Marie – Young Love

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My heart is broken, and I have no words.  I dedicate this “Song of the Moment” to one of music’s most soulful sisters… Lady T.  Rest in peace.

Re-Enter the Wu

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This mix is for all the Wu-Tang Clan fans.  I put this together for a friend of mine (yes I take requests) and thought many of you may enjoy it as well.  I am a huge RZA fan.  He is without question one of the most talented and influential producers in hip-hop.  This mix displays his incredible knowledge of music and his gift for sampling some of the dopest beats ever used in hip-hop.  From the first minute I heard C.R.E.A.M., senior year of high school, I knew hip-hop would never be the same. This mixtape features music from Wu-Tang as a group as well as some of their solo projects and collaborations.  You’ll hear some of the original songs RZA sampled as well.  Whether you’re a Wu fan or not, I think you’ll enjoy this collection of songs.  I’m not one to sensor art, so know there is strong adult language in this mix.

Download the 192 kbps version (98.4 MB) here!

Top 5 Neo-Soul Males


D’Angelo

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They say there are events in life so significant that you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when they happened.  For me, one of those moments would be the first time I heard D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar” on the radio.  I, like so many others, knew in that moment that I was hearing greatness.  D’Angelo had one of the most short-lived yet influential musical careers of my generation.  Like with the absence of Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo has also left us with a void that has yet to be filled. He was a musician, singer-songwriter who was so significant that they had to come up with a new genre to categorize his sound… that genre was called neo-soul.

Maxwell

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Maxwell is the smooth side of neo-soul.  Because there was a D’Angelo there had to be a Maxwell in order to present that perfect balance and demonstrate the possibilities of this genre.  Maxwell’s sound was a like a fresh breeze cleansing us of the blasé music of the late 90’s.  I remember hearing the “Urban Hang Suite” album everywhere; I literally couldn’t walk from my college apartment without hearing it blasting through the windows of dorms or passing cars.  It was music so good and so different that we couldn’t stop listening to it; not just one or two cuts, but the entire album.  It is a classic, and today we are lucky enough to have this creative singer-songwriter giving us more and more.

Dwele

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I was a Dwele fan long before I even knew his name.  When he was just “that guy” on the keys and singing in the Slum Village video, I thought, I want to hear more from “that guy.”  Then when his first single dropped I was able to piece a name together with the distinct sound that is Dwele’s.  I took a similar path on my way to a love affair with the music of producer J-Dilla.  Detroit just keeps blessing us with the best.  If you don’t own a Dwele album, get one immediately.  This brother is a fantastic singer-songwriter, and musician with a sound that is unmistakably brilliant.


Musiq

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From the very first time I heard him hum the opening to “Just Friends,” I knew Musiq would be a star.  I lived in North Carolina at the time and the radio stations there were limited, at best, when it came to R&B.  I remember thinking the DJ made a mistake by playing Musiq and the song would never be played again.  I’m  very pleased to say that radio airplay has never been a problem for Musiq.  Born out of the Roots Crew, this Philly native represents oh so well.  I enjoy Musiq’s music consistently.

Eric Roberson

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Eric Roberson is one of the most under-rated talents in neo-soul.  Man I’m a fan!  Some call him the King of indie soul, I call him the Prince of neo-soul because he’s so versatile.  His sound ranges from R&B, to hip-hop, to house, to neo-soul and beyond.  If you ever get the chance to see Roberson live – run, don’t walk, to the show.  This brother takes words and or quotes from the audience and comes up with spontaneous songs that jam; it’s so amazing to watch.  He also plays guitar and has a fantastic band backing him up… he’s just a musician’s musician.  I love how he has consistently stayed true to his style of music and waits for the fans to come to him instead of vice versa.  He’s a true artists and I feel like DC can kind of claim this Philli native since he graduated from Howard University, wrote his first hit there (The Moon) and visits DC so often.

Raheem DeVaughn

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And while this is a top 5 list; I’m going to break my own rule this one time and mention the number 6 artist on my list, Grammy nominated singer, songwriter Raheem DeVaughn.  He’s a Washington, DC native so there is no way I can’t give him props.  Raheem was a stand out as a member of the local DC group Crossroads in early 2000 and has since hustled his way to the top of his game.  I remember him selling his mixtapes out of his backpack on U-Street back in the day.  People often call Raheem a throw back to Marvin Gaye, but I think that’s the easy way out of really describing his complex sound.  Raheem does walk the line between social commentary and sensuality as Marvin did and he does have a banging falsetto as well.  But I believe DeVaughn, like so many of these neo-soul artists, is an amalgamation, as am I and so many other 70’s babies who are music fans.

We are a grand mix of all the R&B, soul, gospel, pop, jazz, blues and rock music that our parents, aunts and uncles listened to.  And it just so happens to be some of the best sounding music ever produced in American culture.  Thus the need for NEO-soul; there had to be a new genre created to categorize this gumbo that we play, sing and listen to.

Sounds Like Washington Vol. 1

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I hope this smooth soothing compilation will inspire and calm your spirit just as it has mine time and time again.  This sexy slow tempo compilation is my favorite.  In 2001, I compiled “Sounds Like Washington Vol. 1”.  After living on the other side of the country and away from Washington, DC radio, I missed the music that was unique to this great City.  The title “Sounds Like Washington,” is taken from the WHUR radio catch phrase, which I love because it’s so true; its music does sound like Washington and so much of it is literally played nowhere else.  So yes, most of the songs on this compilation are WHUR classics; some just feel like DC to me.  Many of my friends have enjoyed this CD for years… I hope you will too.

Download the 192 kbps version (102 MB) here!