Monthly Archives: December 2011

WATCH: Lloyd “She’s All I Want For Christmas”

Merry, happy everything, my good people! A musical gift from me to you!

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VIBE Ambition Goes Digital

The VIBE interns remixed their mother publication to bring 2011’s most ambitious in one issue. Check the Letter from the Editor and the cover story! 😉

Flip through here: http://issuu.com/vibeambition/docs/theambitionissue

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Hit Or Miss: Taking Care of Drake’s Sophomore Album

As Entertainment Editor emeritus at my school St. John’s University newspaper, the Torch (Red Storm, stand up!), I still dabble in a little student-run publication work here and there. Here’s my take on Drizzy’s careful album.

Take Care is exactly what the world anticipated and then some. The same delight that Drake’s debut Thank Me Later was but a more brutally honest, melodic account from the Toronto native on love, his family, career and expensive habits.

Approaching the album with as much care as possible, Drizzy called on the best to feature in his sophomore effort with contributions from Nicki Minaj, fellow T-Dot singer The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross and Rihanna, just to name a few. But it’s Drake himself who shines from start to finish.

It’s not the generic romantic R&B, nor is it straight street hip-hop. Take Care is a culmination of both sounds that paints a picture of a 25-year-old coping with the consequences of his decisions, both past and present. “Over My Dead Body” opens the album, a soothing reflective track over a simple piano melody that sets the mood for the rest of the ride. The song looks back on Drake’s career since his mixtapes were released combined with an ode to the future: “Second album, I’m back paving the way/ The backpackers are back on the bandwagon/ Like this was my comeback season back, back in the day.”

Love stories come in varied forms on the album, and elicit experiences from Drizzy that he frequently and intimately delves into. With songs like “Shot For Me” and “The Real Her,” many of the female listeners can agree that the Young Money mascot sings all the words most men would not dare to say out loud.

Even the title track on Take Care, featuring Rihanna, deserves recognition as a “We Found Love” spin-off, given the history between the two stars. Drake’s collaboration with Stevie Wonder called “Doing It Wrong” will stir up some emotion as well, along with the popular “Marvin’s Room.”

The heavy hitters on the album are the Chase N. Cashe-produced “Look What You’ve Done” and “Lord Knows,” equipped with a spiritual choir in the background and a tough verse from Maybach Music leader Rick Ross.

Drake drops a few lines that summarize his attempt at longevity in the business: “In the same place my brother Wayne at forever, I’m a descendent of either Marley or Hendrix/ I haven’t figured it out ‘cause my story is far from finished.” Listeners will also realize how much time has passed once “Practice” comes on. In a solid revival, Drizzy takes the 13-year-old Juvenile classic “Back That Thang Up” and signs off the 90s hook as an R&B song, a feat only he is capable of executing.

Drake also brings the good times with “The Motto” with his boss Lil’ Wayne, who appears on three tracks. The club-bangers are sparse on this album but the DJs have made do with the carrier hits “Headlines” and “Make Me Proud.”

The album was originally slated for an Oct. 24 release and was pushed back until Nov. 15 because of sample clearance. Although the album leaked Nov. 7, Drake responded via Twitter in good spirits: “Listen, enjoy it, buy it if you like it…and take care until next time.” October’s Very Own may have been slightly late in its delivery, but Take Care is an album worth downloading and purchasing. It may not be regarded as “Hip-Hop Album of the Year” but many will continue to support it well after 2011 is over.

Daps to: The Torch

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U.S. Troops Leave Iraq

The last convoy carrying the remaining U.S. soldiers in Iraq has crossed the border to Kuwait marking the end of a nearly nine-year, $80 billion war. Although the repercussions of the mission are still to be determined, relieved soldiers expressed joy in returning home.

With the holidays fast approaching, the troops’ exit makes for incredibly great news.

 

Daps to: The Associated Press

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Chris Brown, Big Sean and Wale Talk “Slight Work” Video

Chris Brown slides in to the director’s seat for his homies’ Big Sean and Wale’s “Slight Work” video.

The G.O.O.D. Music and Maybach Music Group collabo is gonna be “a fun video,” according to the three stars. The young playas even got a budget.

Watch ’em rep on set in L.A. here: http://www.mtv.com/videos/news/720192/chris-brown-talks-directing-wale-big-seans-slight-work-video.jhtml

 

Daps to: This Goes In

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Lil Wayne To Launch Skateboard Line “Trukfit”

Lil Wayne aims for more young moolah with the announcement of his new clothing line “Trukfit.”

Young Money’s own will release designs tailored to skaters and inspired by Weezy’s distinct taste for fitted fashion and bold, quality street wear.

The collection will make its debut on Jan. 23 and 24 at the Agenda trade show. The retailer forum said this about the brand:

“Trukfit, the new clothing brand from Grammy Award winning, platinum selling hip hop icon LIL WAYNE, will debut at Agenda in January 2012. The highly anticipated line of uniquely designed apparel was inspired by Lil Wayne’s passion for skateboarding and quality street wear. Pulling influence from Lil Wayne’s distinctive style and voice, Trukfit is made from quality fabrics and features bold graphics at a moderate price point.”

Mr. Carter is also getting ready to drop two albums in 2012.

Daps to: Hip Hop Wired and Complex

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Jhene Aiko Signs To Def Jam; Posts “I am not your next popstar”

The sailing soul(s) singer Jhene Aiko is finally signed, sealed and about to deliver.

Last night, she tweeted a picture of her freshly inked deal to Def Jam, adding a “Merry Christmas !”

She now joins labelmates The Dream, Frank Ocean among other major recording artists. Her recent mixtape released during the summer included collaborations with Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar.

But just to be clear, the soulstress took to her personal Tumblr to straighten out any misleading expectations. She writes, “I’m not your next popstar…next Beyonce…next Aaliyah.” And don’t even think of calling her Cassie’s competition.

Daps to: Fader

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Kobe Bryant’s Wife Files For Divorce

Kobe Bryant put a huge ring on it and she still didn’t like it.

Vanessa Bryant, 29, is filing for divorce against the Los Angeles Laker, citing “irreconcilable differences” in the court documents obtained by TMZ.

“We ask that in the interest of our young children and in light of the upcoming holiday season, the public respect our privacy during this most difficult time,” the couple told The Insider’s Kevin Frazier.

They wed in April 2011 and Vanessa stood by her husband even through accusations that Kobe had sexually assaulted a woman and publicly admitted to cheating on his wife. He expressed “disgust” with himself for the infidelity, apologizing and calling Vanessa his “backbone.” Sources say the decision to split came early December after the pair went through counseling.

Vanessa will be represented by high-profile divorce attorney Lara Wasser, who has represented Britney Spears, Maria Shriver, Kim Kardashian and Angelina Jolie.

The couple was married for 10 1/2 years and have two daughters.

P.S. Yes, she does get to keep the bling.

Daps to: TMZ

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Ryan Leslie Talks To VIBE About Delivering The Unexpected On ‘Les Is More’

I recently caught up with hit-maker Ryan Leslie for VIBE.com to talk about his forth solo project and first visual album Les Is More

Much can be said about an artist who has a reputation that precedes him.

Ryan Leslie was a Harvard graduate by the age of 19 and then went on to become a beatmaker for everyone from Britney Spears, Fabolous and Kanye West. He’s also a master of strategic social media, responsible for Cassie’s popularity on MySpace and the subject of over 43 million views on YouTube. And now the multi-talented artist has created a new album done entirely his own way.
 
After recently dropping his second video, “Beautiful Lie,” out of a 10-part series for the album, Leslie caught up with VIBE.com to explain why he took a different approach in delivering his upcoming project.“I decided to do a visual album because I believe we’re at a time where technology affords an artist to be more expressive,” Leslie said. He returned to the viral vehicle (YouTube) that allowed him to connect with the world musically. “I really had to ramp up that distribution channel to make an album that you could not only listen to, but an album you can watch.”
Les Is More  will be Leslie’s fourth album to date. He says this project contains more rapping to go along wiht his black-and-white visuals. In his recent “Beautiful Lie” video, Ryan (along with model girlfriend Kenza Fourati) is seen rapping about the good life in Paris, but taking the common term and elevating its meaning into ‘having something to believe in.”
Originally, the video was lost when Leslie and his production team came back to New York and even though the second filming cost triple the amount of what it probably should have, Leslie didn’t want to rob his fans of the video. “Evan Rogers, my cinematographer, said ‘Look man, are you ready to fly back to Paris and do this all over again?’ And I’ve never been a quitter.”
 
The DC native’s work ethic speaks for itself. Although his past releases didn’t translate into numbers that record labels equated with success, the now independent artist always acted on his passion.
 
“One of the best pieces of advice that I ever got from a mentor was take everyone’s opinion, listen to everyone’s opinion, but only really take advice from people who are in a position that you want to be in,” Leslie said.
 
He looks to Kanye West as the “benchmark” when it comes to being respected as an artist overall. West, who also started his music career primarily as a producer, is not only a peer but a fan of Leslie’s.
 
“I was making records and when he sent me back an e-mail with an emphatic, ‘Yo man, I love your raps,’ that basically trumped anyone else’s opinion.”
 
Now with his new album, Ryan does what comes natural once again: the unexpected. “Whatever you were accustomed to hearing before, this album is more.”
 
He also reintroduces the rap talents that fans have heard on previous tracks, such as “Christian Dior Denim Flow.” The song, which included Leslie, West, Kid Cudi, Pusha T, Lloyd Banks, Cyhi Da Prynce and John Legend, received positive praise from listeners. Leslie originally held down eight bars on the G.O.O.D. Friday track, but boasted 12 on the re-released version. He deemed the rapper-heavy joint “one of the great moments in and of itself in Ryan rap history” And a good indicator that he was on the right path.
 
“It’s my goal with this record to raise the bar for what we expect an artist to do,” Leslie said, not just posing a challenge to himself but to evolve as an artist. The extreme example of a one-man band, he handles all aspects of his work from thinking up the concept, constructing the beat and laying down the vocals. In fact, he was also is hands on with executing the video and editing it on Final Cut Pro. Not many can do the same.
 
In terms of collaborations, Leslie said Mr. Hudson appears on the track “Breathe.” However, he emphasizes that Les Is More is a solo project that chronicles his life, journey, travels and relationships. Another record “Swiss Francs,” includes French rapper Booba and showcases Leslie’s bilingual flow, incorporating some French into his wordplay.
 
Leslie also partners with style heavyweights John Galliano, Balmain and Lanvin to depict a luxurious rap lifestyle in his videos. However, he has not forgotten his humble beginnings and still recalls the whirring sound of his mother’s sewing machine on the first days before school. “My mother used to take fabrics and she would literally sew our clothes for us (he and his sister),” Leslie said, citing it as his first fascination with creating a quality garment. Since then, his mama-made attire has now evolved into custom-made suits in Italy.
 
Another person you can expect to see plenty of on Les Is More is his girlfriend. Fourati, who has been featured in “Beautiful Lie,” also stars in the upcoming “Good Girls,” set to drop before New Year’s. The song contains self-explanatory lyrics written by the rapper to his own: “Same time next year, I’ll be hopin’ that you’re still here/ But a little better than we did this year because baby you’re my good girl.”

Leslie constantly shifts the focus to his music, no matter what he may be facing in his personal life. As seen in concerts and online videos, his live performances emit an electricity that seems effortless. With that much energy on-stage, VIBE.com was curious to know how he preps beforehand.

“To be completely honest with you, I probably have the most inexpensive rider list of all time – all I need is a bottle of water,” Leslie said, admitting that his entourage often complains that he never touches anything in the dressing room. Although the list is nowhere near as lengthy as Drake’s, it has slightly grown to include peanut M&Ms, chicken wings and other tiny amenities, but his only prerequisites remain water and a couple of towels before rocking a show. “I’m there to work.”

Despite the record label setbacks and opinions from naysayers, it’s that disciplined mentality that has allowed Leslie to be an artist of all trades. With Les Is More, fans can expect to see and hear him as they never had before. —Adelle Platon

Daps to: VIBE.com

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