Entertainment // October 7, 2013

DJ Lady Sha isn’t afraid to throw off the yoke of tradition in favor of the road less traveled. She is a genre-defying trailblazer in the male-dominated world of DJ-ing. Originally set on a course to study medicine at UC Berkely, Sha bucked medical school for a life of turntables and dance floors -- and she hasn’t looked back. She is an award-winning, globe-trotting entrepreneur whose diligently cultivated and eclectic sets helped her to become the first female to win the Winter Music Conference DJ Spin-off (2008). Although based in Los Angeles, Sha’s drive and spinning prowess has taken her the world wide to New York, Miami, Jamaica, and South Africa, where in 2004 she was the first woman to spin live on South African air waves. I got the chance to chat with Lady Sha after she DJ’ed the Made Woman 2 Year event:


1. Was music a big presence in your home growing up?

Lady Sha: Always, thanks to my Mom and Dad! Whether waking us up with music on weekend mornings or playing it in the car, we were always listening to something. Back then it was a mix of my mom’s favorites from Persian music to Elton John, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, etc...  or my Dad’s choice – anything on KCRW.


2. What/who is your music guilty pleasure?

Lady Sha: I love such a huge range of music from pop to underground, hip hop to dance music, and even country jams that I don’t consider anything a guilty pleasure. Most days I’m digging through hundreds of new and old mp3’s to see what I want to include in my sets, so when I have time to listen to music for pleasure, I just go with whatever I’m in the mood for at that time. On my runs, I like to listen to hip hop and dance music for example. In the car after a long night, I like to listen to KCRW late-night or a country station, something completely different than what I was just playing at an event for four hours.


3. What piqued your interest in DJ-ing?

Lady Sha: I didn’t even know I WAS interested in DJ-ing a little over a decade ago. While I was at UC Berkeley as an undergrad studying Pre-Med & Anthropology, my neighbor happened to be DJ Phatrick. He asked me to sit in on one of his DJ courses on campus. At first I told him I was too busy – not only with school, but with my hobbies as a guitarist, singer, and member of the UC Berkeley Poetry Slam team. With his convincing though, I sat in on his class and fell in love from that moment on. Two weeks after the course ended I bought my own turntables.


4. As an award-winning DJ, and co-partner on various events in LA, what advice can you offer to other female entrepreneurs?

Lady Sha: I think the most valuable advice I can give is to have clear focus on where you’d like to go, make sure your entrepreneurial signature is creative and original -- or improving upon what already exists -- and have a phenomenal work ethic to achieve your vision.


5. Do you find it difficult to make a mark in a scene so traditionally dominated by men?

Lady Sha: DJ-ing more frequently and working around the clock to showcase my style and abilities at gigs and with mix CDs, my mark slowly became increasingly noticeable and present in Los Angeles. Now to expand that to the world...

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6. Music in general is pretty integrated, why do you think DJ-ing skews so male?

Lady Sha: The pioneers of hip hop and dj-ing were male and to quote the film Miss Representation, “you can't be what you can't see”, so I think it took some time for females to break into dj-ing. I hear about so many more females DJ-ing now than 10 years ago. There’s a snowball effect of more and more females entering the industry and finally evening out the playing field!


7. You’ve traveled near and far DJ-ing, what’s your favorite city to DJ in? Why?

Lady Sha: I’ve had a ton of fun at DJ gigs in New York, Miami, Rome, Vegas, and San Francisco as well as in countries such as South Africa and Jamaica. However, nothing is as amazing as a popping dance floor in LA filled with the intense energy of my friends and people that have danced to my sets over the years.


8. Have you found that musical tastes differ in the club scene around the world?

Lady Sha: Not only do musical tastes differ in club scenes around the world, but also from club to club here in LA and from night to night in each venue. One night you may have a hip hop crowd, another night a dance music crowd, and on another night, a crowd that wants to go on a genre-hopping journey with the DJ of the night.


9. What’s your favorite genre to spin?

Lady Sha: My absolute favorite thing to do when I DJ is to play for a crowd that will let me take them on a ride through different genres from hip hop to trap, dubstep, dance music, indie-rock, and hip hop and R&B jams from the 80s and 90s. I’m not happy having to stick to any one genre.


10. Is there one song that without fail always gets a crowd going?

Lady Sha: Show Me Love – Robin S.  The only variable is what I pair before and after the song that affect the impact the song has on the crowd.


Since her new and improved website launches in early November, it’s easy to stay up to date on all of DJ Lady Sha’s happenings including daily updates on her performance schedule and new videos and mixes. But in the meantime to get your fix, you can check out Sha on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Published in Entertainment
Monday, 23 September 2013 04:12

Made Music | The Singer and The Songwriter

Made Music // September 23, 2013

Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran are The Singer & The Songwriter. The duo’s California-folk whimsy updates the swinging sounds of the gypsy jazz of the 1930s and ‘40s; a style that even in its heyday marched to its own beat, so to speak. Garcia’s sultry and booming jazz vocals are the anchor of the duo. A choir singer from a young age, it’s no wonder where Garcia learned to develop her standout voice. I first stumbled upon the duo at the modest 2nd Annual Make Music LA event in Silverlake earlier this summer. The acoustic event was little more than a rug to stand on for the would-be troubadours of the day. It was difficult to hear the day’s acts above the careening shopping carts and murmurs of the Friday afternoon weekend seekers; but Rachel Garcia was not only heard -- she put an exclamation point on the day with her richly textured voice.



 

As independent musicians in this niche genre, it’s fitting then that The Singer and The Songwriter display a special kind of moxie and are charting their own course without the backing of a major label. "There are a lot of unknowns and fear in being an independent artist, but the other side of the coin is the creative freedom [...] I get to choose who I want to be, what I want to sing and how I want to present myself.  The effect that this freedom has is you learn to trust and rely on yourself and your band mate." Garcia and her partner in crime,“Songwriter” and guitarist, Thu Tran began playing together in 2009 in San Francisco. After, a move to Los Angeles the duo hit their stride and have spent the last two years writing and recording. The Singer and The Songwriter are now primed to release their first full-length album, What A Difference A Melody Makes. Just recently the outfit launched their Kickstarter campaign in an effort to put the finishing touches on their LP. The ingenuity and creativity of The Singer and The Songwriter are what enable the duo to carve out a path distinctly and charmingly their own. 

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The wildcard that also makes The Singer and The Songwriter one to watch in the folk scene is the album’s producer, Charlie Stavish. Stavish has worked on albums for bands such as Imagine Dragons, Foster The People, and The Joy Formidable. With a delicate hand to polish off the album, The Singer and The Songwriter could be ready to breathe new life into LA’s folk scene.

Published in Entertainment
Monday, 09 September 2013 07:38

Entertainment | Fall TV Preview

TV Preview // September 9, 2013

One thing that is good about the end of summer is saying goodbye to dull summer programing and hello to new hit programs and to the return of our favorite TV shows. So go ahead and set the DVR, here are the shows that we can’t wait to watch.

The Blacklist 9/23 - 10pm NBC

If you are missing a great crime/drama/thriller in your TV lineup, The Blacklist should be at the top of your list. Fans of Persons of Interest, 24 and The Silence of the Lambs will enjoy Emmy award winner James Spader as Raymond Reddington, one of the most wanted men in America. He strikes a deal with the FBI to catch elusive criminals and will only work with one small-time agent,, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). Fans will enjoy fast-paced thrills and Spader’s psychological exploration of each case, as well as uncovering his own agenda.

 

Hostages 9/23 - 10pm CBS

Another thriller we are adding to our must-watch list is suspense thriller Hostages, coming to CBS in September. The show centers around Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette), a surgeon who is scheduled to operate on the President. But when a FBI agent kidnaps her family to force her to kill the president, she holds the nation and her family’s lives in her hands.

 

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 9/24 - 8pm ABC

Fans of The Avengers have a reason to rejoice: Agent Coulson is alive and well and is on a mission to save the world (again). Joss Whedon brings this mega-blockbuster to TV as Coulson (Clark Gregg) and puts together a top-secret team of super agents to help save the world from intergalactic threats. Sci-fi and fantasy fans will be eager to see Whedon’s latest TV series and comic book buffs will be eager to see a favorite series brought to life.

Modern Family 9/25 - 9pm ABC

One of our favorite comedies, ABC’s Modern Family, is coming back for its 5th season and promises to bring the laughs and warm hearts all over again. The family experiences new changes as Manny (Rico Rodriguez) and Luke (Nolan Gould) head to high school, Cam (Eric Stonestreet) adjusts to his job as a teacher and Claire (Julie Bowen) tries to reenter the workforce.



 

Scandal 10/3 - 10pm ABC

ABC’s hit show Scandal returns for what promises to be a sizzling 3rd season. Show creator Shonda Rhimes has hinted that the new season may pick up right where it left off, after a huge plot twist and reveal in the season two finale where viewers find out that Rowan (Joe Morton), leader of black ops team B613 is actually Olivia’s (Kerry Washington) father. Fans will be treated to nail-biting turns as Olivia continues to deal with a media frenzy after being outed as President Grant’s (Tony Goldwyn) mistress and delve into who leaked the news.

 

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland 10/10 - 8pm ABC

ABC is adding another real world meets fantasy show to its lineup with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, a spinoff of their hit show Once Upon a Time (which we will also be watching). The original show includes some of our favorite fairy tale characters with a twist and places them in modern times. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is based on Alice in Wonderland characters (obviously) and includes favorites like Alice (Sophie Lowe), the White Rabbit (John Lithgrow) and the Queen of Hearts (Barbara Hershey). Fans will also see even more favorite characters from other stories like Jafar (Naveen Andrews) from Aladdin.



The Walking Dead 10/13 -9pm AMC

After a season of heartbreak and shocking surprises (Andrea!), hit show The Walking Dead returns to AMC in October for its fourth season with a whole new set of problems and new cast members to fall in love with. The official season four 4 trailer shows walkers piling up on the prison and hints at a possible mole in the group. Fans of the show will enjoy learning more of the backstory behind fan favorite character Michonne (Danai Gurira) and plenty of screentime for Daryl (Norman Reedus).

 


Almost Human 11/4 - 8pm FOX

J.J. Abrams is keeping busy. Between Star Trek and the upcoming Star Wars mega franchises, he is producing another sci-fi meets cop drama Almost Human for FOX. Fans of his previous sci-fi/fantasy/mystery dramas Fringe and LOST will enjoy the themes and premises in the show as well as the traditional elements of a cop drama brought to a whole new level. Almost Human explores LAPD officers who are paired with highly advanced androids. Be prepared to experience the differences between human intuition and computer logic and to explore your feelings about technologically advanced robocops.



What shows will you be watching this fall? Leave your comments below or tweet us your thoughts on fall hits @madewomanmag!

Published in Entertainment
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 15:42

Made Music | Where Are They Now?

Entertainment // August 26, 2013

1999 seems like just yesterday -- until I’m reminded that it was, in fact, fourteen years ago. Fourteen! The Thong Song was a whole high schooler ago. Remember how huge Sisqo was and how he was going to be the biggest R&B star, well, probably forever (obvi)? I vividly remember watching his MTV “Making the Video”...yes, fourteen years ago. Sigh. Well, things didn’t quite turn out like either of us planned it, did it Sisqo, old buddy?  So that got me thinking -- what black hole do all our favorite artists of yesteryear get sucked into when they violently tumble from the Billboard charts? And what on earth are they up to these days? Let us explore the goings on of five of the biggest names from different genres -- that you haven’t heard of since middle school graduation.

HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH

Hootie & the Blowfish were ubiquitous in the 1990s. They were nearly synonymous with adult contemporary rock at the time. There were those guys that did the theme song for “Friends” -- and there was Hootie and the Blowfish. That was it. But what happened to Hootie and all his Blowfish -- or should I say Darius Rucker and his bandmates? Well the band’s drummer, Jim Sonefeld battled his demons with alcohol and is now a Christian artist. Rucker himself also did an about face, though not as a Christian artist. Rucker has been releasing country albums for the last handful of years. He cautiously promises that Hootie and the Blowfish will be back though one day. A new album is something, he’s certain, the future will  hold -- though reunion dates have yet to be set.

COOLIO

I was obsessed with Gangsta’s Paradise in sixth grade when it came out. Coolio was, in fact, the coolest. But then Coolio and his Medusa-like braids vanished faster than the Greek lady-monster could turn onlookers to stone. More recently, Coolio has been using ‘90s nostalgia to stage a career comeback for himself in reality television. With appearances in Ultimate Big Brother, Wife Swap, and the UK game show Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (how did you not DVR this one?), Coolio has quickly become the Ryan Seacrest of bad reality TV.

LFO

Remember them? You know, that band made up of initials from the 1990s? They talked about liking girls who wore Abercrombie & Fitch. LFO were the poor girl’s 98 Degrees, who were really the poor girl’s ‘NSYNC so....yeah. Okay, let’s try this to jog your memory: lead singer Rich Cronin at one point dated Jennifer Love Hewitt and penned their song Girl on TV for her. Well, not surprisingly, LFO ran its short-lived course and the band went its separate ways. The band did reunite for a ‘90s nostalgia tour featuring other pop bands of the day, in 2009. These days, “Lyte Funky One” Brad Fischetti is a vocal pro-life advocate in Florida. Lead singer Cronin was unfortunately diagnosed with Leukemia and succumbed to his illness in 2010.

SISQO

We mentioned a few weeks back how much we’d enjoy seeing a Dru Hill resurgence, but do you ever wonder what happened to its shooting star, Sisqo? Sisqo shot to fame faster than you can snap a thong with the summer anthem of 1999 that was every mother’s favorite song to hear their 9 year-old sing, Thong Song.  His initial album, Unleash the Dragon was such a success that Sisqo decided to make a Dragon trilogy. Sadly, he was actually the only one who wanted more. To temper the sting of being out of the spotlight, Sisqo took part in Celebrity Big Brother in 2010. His purported third album of the trilogy, the ironically titled, Last Dragon, was slated for release in 2012, but has yet to see the light of day. As of the beginning of this year the album was again rumored to be coming out this summer...but now here we are now almost in September and the only Dragons I've seen this summer belong to Khalessi.

LISA LOEB

Lisa Loeb was the adorkable manic pixie dream girl for slightly awkward, mostly nerdy guys everywhere, before "manic pixie dream girl" was even a term. With her black framed glasses, petite stature, and coquettish affect, Loeb made weepy sentimentalists of teens and twenty-somethings everywhere with her acoustic guitar. If you saw Reality Bites, or listened to the radio in the ‘90s you probably remember her smash hit, Stay (I Missed You). Loeb fell off the map as the ‘90s progressed despite her continued stream of album releases.  In 2006 she resurfaced -- looking unchanged from 1994 with her signature eyewear -- to take part in her own reality show, Number 1 Single, wherein she searched for love in the big city. Loeb has since married, had two children, released children’s music, and earlier this year put out her first adult album since 2004, entitled No Fairy Tale.

Published in Entertainment

Entertainment // August 12, 2013

Twitter is great for a lot of things besides talking to yourself publicly – it’s also good for staying up-to-date on the latest craziness celebrities are putting out into the universe, seeing what topics are trending in different cities around the world, networking with contacts in your industry (or at least trying to), etc. My personal favorite use for Twitter, though, is getting a few laughs every day. I’ve made it my personal mission to seek out the funniest people on Twitter, because let’s face it: every last one of us could use a little more comedy in our lives. I started by following stand-up comedians and comedy writers, and then I took a look at the people they found funny enough to retweet and follow. Benefit from my extensive research, and make sure you follow these consistently hilarious people.

1. @robdelaney

There’s a reason Rob Delaney tops basically every “best of” list for Twitter. Rob is a stand-up comedian and writer who managed to get famous through Twitter.  

2. @michaelianblack

Michael Ian Black is an actor and comedian. You might recognize him from Wet Hot American Summer or his semi-recent stand-up special on Comedy Central.


3. @alisonagosti

Alison Agosti is a comedy writer and sketch performer at Upright Citizens Brigade in LA.  But I only know of her from her ridiculous Twitter feed.


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4. @chrissyteigen

Chrissy Teigen is a model who loves to eat (yes, apparently they exist). She’s also engaged to John Legend, smart, and goddamn funny.





5. @charstarlene

Charlene de Guzman frequently composes her tweets as if she’s writing a story. She’s a master of dark, wry humor.






6. @mrsrupertpupkin

Lauren Caltagirone is Twitter verified, but I can’t figure out what her claim to fame is.  My research shows she works in TV and writes....?  Whatever it is, she’s a riot. She takes the personality of a crazy cat lady desperate for a boyfriend, and she is a master.




7. @juliussharpe

Julius Sharpe is a writer for Family Guy. I can pretty much end my description there.






8. @bazecraze

Alex Baze is a head writer for SNL’s Weekend Update. The end.



Published in Entertainment
Sunday, 28 July 2013 19:59

Made Movies | Fruitvale Station

Entertainment // July 29, 2013

Epic. This is the one word that encompasses the experience of Fruitvale Station.  This film grips its audience from the beginning and is so well developed and directed that it is almost unfathomable that it is a directorial debut and shot on a relatively low budget. As you are pulled into the story by the incredible realism, it almost haunts you to realize that Fruitvale station is based on a true story: A true story that grabbed national headlines and showed America the ugly realities and dangers of racism.

Fruitvale Station chronicles the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant’s life which came to a tragic end on January 1, 2009. Grant, who was 23 years old at the time of his death, is portrayed by actor Michael B. Jordan and Jordan does not fall short in his memorable portrayal.  Ryan Coogler wrote and directed the film and at the age of 23, crafting a beautiful screenplay that focuses on Oscar Grant for the person he was, including his flaws. Coogler does not shy away from Oscar’s difficulties with the law and his struggles to achieve more for not only his only life, but the life of his 5 year old daughter Tatiana. Coogler also reminds the audience from the beginning that everything we watch leads up to that inevitable moment on the BART platform. A moment  which has been viewed on Youtube millions of times around the world: when Oscar Grant is fatally shot by BART police officer Johannes Meserle. You can’t hide from what is going to happen and as you start to root for Oscar’s flawed but determined character you can’t help but be reminded of the futility of it all.

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The film focuses on Oscar’s relationships with his family members, in particular his mother (played by actress Octavia Spencer), his girlfriend Sophina, (played by actress Melodie Diaz) and his young daughter Tatiana, whom he affectionately calls “T.” Viewers of Fruitvale Station are able to see not just the humanity in Oscar Grant, but are also treated to what feels like an authentic tour of life in Oakland, CA. Coogler captures everything from the bay area music and dances, to the characters’ distinct bay area accents and lingo. He cuts no corners: everything is as real as it feels. Long shots and slow pacing help to create tension and a moody vibe as you travel along with Oscar. With a minimal but powerful musical score, the audience sees a young black man trying to right his wrongs and fighting his own demons. Coogler does what is almost impossible: he paints a portrait of a person that we can all identify with in some way, and we want to see succeed in life. Fruitvale Station takes us on an emotional journey that not only gets you to ponder your own ideas about racism and stereotypes, but paints a special portrait of a young man that lost his life too soon, and in its own way gives Oscar Grant the chance to tell his story.

Published in Entertainment

Entertainment // July 15, 2013

Soul artist Raquel Rodriguez is a Los Angeles native with a penchant for emotional vocal runs, a bright, driving style that will get your blood pumping, and for just being one of the ‘guys’. Rodriguez’s influences are a collection of both old and new school soul - from Sarah Vaughan to Adele -- and you can hear elements spanning the decades in all of her music. She blends the best of decades past with a modern surge. And with a seldom-seen-these-days six-piece ensemble, The Big Guys, backing her, Raquel has moved swiftly from self-titled EP in 2012 to debut LP release. An entrepreneur in her own right taking command of her career, Raquel is spirited woman with a mission to get her music out to the world. After recently releasing her first LP, Miss Me, on June 21, Raquel can take a moment to relish in her accomplishment. But just a moment, because there is no doubt that Raquel has plans to check a lot more off her to do list.

1. What made you gravitate towards Soul? Did you always see yourself in the genre, or was it more of a discovery while in music school?

Soul music has always been a huge part of my life. My mom would only play good music while my brothers and I were growing up. In my teen years I definitely gravitated to the pop/hip-hop stuff, but as I got older I found myself going back to my roots. I started to mimic the sounds I used to love and wrote about things that were important to me.

2. How did you and The Big Guys come together?

Destiny. [Laughs] Seriously though, I met all of the (Big) guys pretty much through school. Whether it was because we had a class together or just a mutual friend, I met all of them through USC. It took me awhile to find "my band," but now that I have, I'm so grateful. These guys are what make the music what it is and they're all like family to me.

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3. Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughan?

Tough question, but if I have to choose one, definitely Sarah Vaughan. I love Billie Holiday’s vibe and soul, but Sarah Vaughan has got the voice! Man, I remember when my voice teacher at USC had me transcribe one of Sarah's solos for homework, and after that I just went on a SV craze. She's dope! I definitely learned a lot from her just listening to different albums.

4. There has obviously been a recent resurgence of Soul in the last half decade in pop music - Amy Winehouse, Adele. I mean good music is good music and it should be lauded, but, sadly, good music doesn’t often find commercial success because it isn’t part of the traditional mainstream.  What do you think has spurred this change and the return of Soul?

Change is inevitable, and whether it's good or bad, it's going to happen. I think a lot of things contributed to what mainstream music is now. Technology, politics, location, life, whatever it may be, it's all taken part in what music is today. I love that Soul music is coming back because I honestly believe that it's healthy for people. It's called Soul music for a reason.

5. What’s it like being the token woman around this big group of   guys?

It's awesome! Most of the time it's so easy because I grew up with two older brothers, so I'm used to having boys around. I'm definitely a little bit of a tomboy sometimes. The only thing that's tough about it is that I find myself starting to act like them a little too much. I'm pretty sure I burp louder than any of them.

6. Can you tell us about the new album and what the production process was like?

The album is called "Miss Me," and it has that old school vibe. A lot of music today is so produced, which can also be cool, but we didn't want that for this album. Sam, who plays drums on the album, produced the whole thing and wrote a lot of the music, so he wanted to make sure that we recorded it right. We spent A LOT of time making sure things sounded exactly the way we wanted them to, all while keeping in mind that this record is being pressed to vinyl.

7. “Miss Me” (your most recent single) is a markedly different aesthetic than your first Raquel Rodriguez EP. It’s bigger, brighter, and, in my opinion, is a more modern take on the genre. How did that come about?

The [Raquel Rodriguez] EP was a lot more "calm" in a way, and the recording/production process was MUCH different than what I expected. The EP was made up of songs that I had written when I was younger and I wanted evidence of that. I've grown as a singer, songwriter, musician, performer, basically just as an artist all around, and I think "Miss Me" is definitely a good example of that.

8. You previously recorded with Andrew Scheps, who has engineered for some of music's biggest names: Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Audioslave, Linkin Park, Green Day and U2. What was that experience like for you?

Andrew Scheps was AWESOME! We learned so much from him in the one day we spent recording with him. He gave us so much advice and he was so knowledgeable and passionate about what he was doing. Definitely a huge inspiration. If you don't know what he looks like, just imagine a tall, powerful wizard with a long beard and that's him.

9. Over the last year or so you’ve played a lot of historic venues around LA, including The Roxy and House of Blues. Is there one venue in particular (LA or outside) that you dream of playing?

I dream more about playing in places that I've never been before. I want to travel all over the world in whatever venue that'll have me.

10. If you weren’t playing music where else could you see yourself?

Ummmmmm...


Listen to Raquel’s latest album and check out her site here.



Published in Entertainment

Entertainment // July 1, 2013

It’s officially “Yeezy Season,” and two weeks after the album dropped, the internet is still buzzing about Yeezus, Kanye’s sixth studio album.  It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts, selling 327,000 in the first week -- without any marketing.

With so much buzz around the record, I was eager to give it a listen.  In a June interview with the New York Times, while discussing his legacy, Kanye said, "I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z."

As a product designer who dabbles in music production, I’ve always respected Ye’s work as a producer and an artist.  And with Kanye putting himself on the same level of cultural significance as Steve Jobs and Jay-Z, I was excited to see what he’s been working on this year in his Paris loft.

Upon first listen, I was immediately drawn in by the album’s sonic quality.  As a combination of hip-hop, punk, rock, new wave, and soul, the production is minimal and deconstructed, yet driving and powerful.  Filled with heavy industrial-sounding drums, the entire album sounds like you’re watching Kanye work in a dark European steel factory.  It’s as if Kanye is trying to position himself as the Dieter Rams of Hip-Hop.  Sonically, as always, Kanye excels behind the boards.

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But almost just as immediately, the listener gets assaulted by Kanye’s aggressive delivery and boorish lyrics.  Kanye has always carried a chip on his shoulder, and now that chip feels like a boulder that he’s looking to throw at anyone who’s ever gotten in his way.  Knowing his history, one might expect this type of bravado from such a highly-anticipated Kanye album.  But on Yeezus, Kanye doesn’t just lyrically push the envelope.  He unapologetically tears it in half.

The album is raw and indecorous, and there are many uncomfortable moments throughout.  Songs like “I Am A God” reminds us of Kanye’s overarching confidence that dances on the borders of extreme arrogance and narcissism.  And I’ll spare you many of the details, but on songs like “I’m In It,” lyrics like “I put my fist in her like a civil rights sign,” are sure to make many think twice about playing this record at their next dinner party.

There are a few highlights on Yeezus.  As mentioned earlier, the musical backdrop is so vivid, the album sounds like you’re watching a piece directed by Ridley Scott. “New Slaves” offers an interesting perspective on how materialism and consumerism is the new form of slavery that has afflicted our current culture.  And through Kanye’s masterful sampling work, “Blood on the Leaves” references the historically important work of Nina Simone’s cover of Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit - a chilling song about lynchings and racial tension in Jim Crow America.

But in the same song, Kanye successfully sabotages the significance of Strange Fruit by comparing the civil rights struggle of 20th century America to the challenge of attending a NBA basketball game with both your wife and your mistress: “Now you sittin' courtside, wifey on the other side. Gotta keep 'em separated, I call that apartheid.”  One could argue that such a juxtaposition is artistic.  But considering the context of all of the historical references, the comparison feels brash and distastefully insensitive.

In the June New York Times article, Kanye said that from hanging out with conscious hip-hop artists like Dead Prez earlier in his career and learning how to make “raps with a message” that he has “a responsibility at all times.”  He then said, “I am in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, great activist-type artists.”

If Kanye thinks he’s in step with the lineage of Heron, and if he is really working to fill the shoes of Steve Jobs, he has some serious soul searching to do. Before his death, in reflecting on the success of Apple, Jobs gave us some of the keys to Apple’s success. He said, “The reason Apple resonates with people is that there is a deep current of humanity in our innovation,” and how you “really make a contribution and add to the legacy of those who went before...(is by building) a company that will stand for something a generation or two from now.”

However, there’s not much humanity in Yeezus.  Yes, Kanye continues to make artistic strides as a producer, and his skills to make great musical compositions are obvious.  But because he tries to differentiate himself so starkly, he seems to be becoming dangerously out of touch with his audience and the legacy that he so greatly desires to be a part of.  The misogynistic lyrics don’t sound like they come from a man who loves women like his late mother, Donda.  And they don’t sound like they come from a man who protects women, or one who vowed just days before the birth of his daughter that he “would do anything to protect (his) child or (his) child’s mother.”

Some might say that his frustration is directed at the corporate executives that he seems to be battling with behind closed office doors, and that the tone of Yeezus is him expressing his anger towards the system.  What Kanye may not realize is that the real casualties of this war are his fans, his album sales, and his brand.

In the same New York Times interview, in typical Kanye fashion, he compared himself to Michael Jordan.  Kanye has never shied away from comparing himself to the greats.  But he’s getting in his own way.  I’m afraid that he’s not becoming the Michael Jordan of Hip-Hop; he looks to be turning into the Dennis Rodman.  And at this point, Yeezus appears to more resemble a grotesque painting from Goya than a Jean-Léon Gérôme masterpiece.

Published in Entertainment
Monday, 17 June 2013 01:25

Entertainment | Best Breakup Songs

Entertainment // June 17, 2013

Sharon and Ozzy. Chris Brown and Rihanna. Katy Perry and John Mayer. Something is in the air but it certainly isn’t love. The music world is uncoupling at a staggering rate. With these couples heading for the door, we couldn’t help but put together a comforting list of the Top 5 Best Breakup Songs. Whether breakups make you want to seek isolation in a dark room for a good cry over a carton of Ben & Jerry’s, or they make you so angry you could throw some sh*%, we have the best of both worlds right here.


5. MoneyGrabber - Fitz and The Tantrums

Money. Success. Both are notorious relationship-killers. You can kiss your sponge of an ex goodbye with this Fitz and the Tantrums tune playing as your own personal soundtrack. With a sound that masterfully marries Motown and new wave, lead singer, Michael Fitzpatrick, warns, “Don’t come back anytime / I’ve already had your kind / this is your pay back, moneygrabber. Don’t come back anytime / you’ve already run me dry / this is your pay back, moneygrabber.” Oozing with soul and an unforgettable melody, the heat from this track is palpable. Let Fitz and the Tantrums show your ex the door the way you had always wanted.


4. Go Your Own Way- Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac’s album Rumors is a veritable vinyl pu pu platter of break-up songs. The 1977 album was the soundtrack for the divorce of members John and Christine McVie, for the breakups of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, and for one succession from the band. All of this added up to a lot of broken hearts and one of the most critically lauded records of the latter half of the century. From “Dreams” to “Songbird,” the album is rife with breakup songs to choose from. Buckingham penned the track “Go Your Own Way” about the dissolution of his relationship with Nicks. While thoughtful and honest, the song comes up just short of sentimental, and is his final emotional and driving release of Nicks. Quality time with this seventies classic rock anthem will get you through some tough times.


3. F**K You - Cee Lo Green

When you’re really angry, you may as well just come out and say it. Radio edits aside, there is no way to hide from the title of this Cee Lo summer groove. “F**K You” might just be the most uplifting song about a breakup you will ever find. If any song can help you dance your way out of your post-breakup funk, it’s this one. If your ex is too caught up in the superficial to see what a catch you really are, then maybe it’s time to make like Cee Lo and say...uh, “goodbye.”


2. You Oughta Know - Alanis Morissette

Before Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, and Fiona Apple, came Alanis Morissette, serving as the creator of the “woman with a bone to pick” genre. Jagged Little Pill was 1995’s open letter to double-crossing men from Morissette. Power, anger, and biting language was - in the music scene - foreign coming from a woman at that time. The brash Morissette burst onto the scene with more than just irony. I still remember the day I found out Jagged Little Pill’s most potent track, “You Oughta Know”, was about Morissette’s soured romance with everyone’s favorite Uncle Joey - Dave Collier. I never watched Full House the same way again.


1. Love Is A Losing Game - Amy Winehouse

Regardless of mood, music is the soundtrack to our lives. Few singers or songwriters have the emotional vulnerability or resonance of Amy Winehouse. In her songs, much like in her life, she was not afraid to paint an honest, and sometimes unpleasant, portrait. “Love is a Losing Game” is a beautiful, heart-wrenching love song drenched in melancholia. Its arching string arrangements are breathtaking. At only 2:49 in length, this brutally honest look at love and loss is epic. This track comes off her Black to Black album, which chronicles her turbulent relationship with not-quite-then-husband Blake Fielder-Civil, and is thus stacked with breakup songs.  If you’re looking for a good cry, however, look no further than this timeless song from a timeless voice. No one understands your pain quite like Amy Winehouse did.



Published in Entertainment

Relationships // June 17, 2013

This article was originally published on Water Cooler Convos.

You may or may not watch Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta. You may or may not have any idea who Porsha Williams is. And, you may or may not care who her soon-to-be ex-husband Kordell Stewart, former Pittburgh Steelers football star, is. But, the gist of the story here is Kordell Stewart has filed for divorce from his wife of less than two years citing that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” But this post isn’t about the two of them. It is about marriage. It is about black marriage, white marriage, purple marriage and everything in between. But, most accurately, it is about having a successful marriage ahead of everything else.

Why should you care about this? I know, stars break-up all the time. You are thinking this is not news. But, the only reason I am writing this is because black women had embraced Porsha as the princess she portrayed herself to be on RHOA. Many women had publicly taken to her seemingly idiotic commentary, simple-ness, need to play dress up, and overall lack of depth as an ideal. In essence, they were saying, “black women don’t need to be strong, smart, witty, and bright. Look how well Porsha has done for herself.” Well, I am sure some of those same folks are eating their words right now.

On the “Subservient Wife” Trope

Now, don’t get me wrong, black women do not have to be geniuses or cure cancer to be legitimate mothers and wives. That is certainly not a requirement. Porsha actually seems like a great person. She seemed like she really wanted to be a good wife. And after dealing with a devastating miscarriage, which we recently learned of on the show, she had been rocked to her core. So, she deserves credit for keeping her household together for as long as she did. But, was it genuine or veneer?

This is not an “I told you so” post. Why? Well, because when all the ladies in the blog-o-sphere came out in support of Porsha’s attempted “homeliness” and propensity toward subservience in her marriage, I didn’t say a word. Did I agree that black women (and women in general) should strive to be the “Proverbs 31” good wife type? Certainly. Did I agree that Porsha’s efforts to have it all while catering to her man were admirable? Of course. But, where I found the Stewart marriage a bit disturbing was on the lack of accord within the partnership. They never seemed to be on the same page.

Porsha wanted to work. Kordell wanted her to cook and clean. Porsha wanted to reach the stars. Kordell wanted to reach up, grab them for her, and put them in a nice little Tiffany’s box for her birthday. From my vantage point, it was a union doomed to fail.

Women do not have to be strong all the time. Similarly, women do not have to be Beyoncé and “run the world.” But, the opposite is also true. A subservient woman doesn’t have to pretend to be simple-minded to make her man feel more masculine. Neither should any woman cower or lower herself for a man’s comfort. It only leads to demise.

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What Real Marriage Requires

What is the key? Women have to be equally yoked with their husbands. Any partnership requires give and take. And both partners have to be willing to traverse the delicate tug of war that is married life. Now, I am no marriage expert. I have only been doing it successfully for seven years now with a relationship that has lasted almost a decade. And, while I am extremely proud to say that I was blessed enough to find my match at 18 years old, that won’t be the case for everyone else. While we have weathered the storms of parental and familial acceptance, open heart surgery, miscarriage and difficult pregnancies -- and a host of other life issues -- we have always stood in lock-step on our desire to be married and stay married. Divorce is not an option in the Jackson household.

Before we said our vows, we talked about every minute detail of the rest of our lives (at least as much as we could being college kids with limited insight). We talked about kids and agreed that we both wanted three. We talked about where we wanted to live and what kind of home we wanted. We discussed working arrangements, who would or wouldn’t stay home and how we would save up for retirement. We talked about grad school. We talked about our parents and if they would ever live with us. We. Talked. And talked. And talked. We talked till we were blue in the face. And every word was worth it.

Instead of wearing our marriage like a badge of honor to boast about, we have always presented it as a blessing we had and have to work our butts off to maintain. Porsha often came off as if she was better than someone single because she had a man to take care of her. She never seemed to realize that that isn’t the real point of a marriage in the first place. Partnership is the proposition. But, all the fun stuff is just gravy.

A Bunch of “Real” Housewives Indeed

Watching Porsha cry on national television when asking Kordell for help with their future children was heart-breaking. She mentioned a nanny and Kordell grimaced. And, it was just a preview. His expectation of her as a mother was different from her expectation for herself. And no woman should compromise on her dreams or wants for herself without willing consent. If a decision about kids -- who don’t even exist yet -- drives her to tears, something deeper needs to be addressed. A man should love, cherish and respect his wife. He should allow her to shine and thrive regardless of his own personal preferences. If the two of them are equally yoked, he should be able to trust that she will make the best decisions for their family, household, and children. And, honestly, I never saw that between the Stewarts.

So, in the end, I pray that the both of them are able to find happiness whether it be with one another, alone or with other people. But for all the Porsha cheerleaders who said that black women should model themselves and their relationships after her, be careful of the advice you dole out to those seeking a lifelong partnership. There is a whole lot more to marriage than pretty dresses, big houses, and expensive catering. And if they don’t get that deeper message first, they are setting themselves up to feel the same pain poor Porsha is experiencing today.

Published in Love + Dating
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