Atlanta's Platinum Princess Is Back
12:00PM ET March 24, 2010
Contributor: Jecquea Howsie
A Rocky Williform Company
She's beyond the hurt and the pain. Fifteen years after Miss Thang, Monica proves that she's Still Standing.
Keeping it all in the family, Ludacris explodes on the album's title track, as Monica takes her audience on a journey, exploring love and relationships. Belting out timeless love songs such as: "One In A Lifetime" and "Everything To Me," Monica appears to be at peace with her newfound relationship, and open to anything God may have in store.
Although, the up-tempo "If You Were My Man" leaves her audience unimpressed, she quickly rebounds with "Mirror," a song that examines the reflection a person sees when they look in the mirror. Every woman dreams of waking up next to her Clark Kent, but Monica takes it a step further with the laid back track "Superman." Comparing being with her man to a movie, Monica sings, "Waking up with you is just like waking up next to superman...," and she knows firsthand, the agony and ecstasy of being in love.
Rounding out the album with "Love All Over Me" and "Believing In Me", Monica wraps her listeners in love's melodies, proving that she's back and better than ever. Production credits on this album include Ne-Yo, Bryan Michael Cox, Missy Elliot, Polow Da Don, Jim Jonsin and others. She may be at a current crossroads in her love life, but her album's a solid effort about finding and sharing your life with the one you love.
12:00PM ET March 12, 2010
By Mathis Bauchner
A Rocky Williform Company
For the past decade Ludacris has been one of hip-hop's biggest success stories. He's sold over 20 million records worldwide, has numerous hit singles on his resume, and his acting career continues to blossom. But one could argue Luda has yet to put together a great album. As talented as he is, he seems content to stay in his comfort zone. His latest release, Battle of the Sexes, is another radio friendly offering, but it won't get him mentioned among the hip-hop elite.
Already a top ten hit, the lead single and one of B.O.T.S.' best tracks, 'How Low' captures Ludacris in a nutshell, fun loving, his flow jam-packed with irresistible energy as he admires the abilities of ass-shakers the world over. It's what listeners have come to expect from him and it sounds great coming out of car speakers or in a club. It may not compare to more lyrical efforts but it is an example of the vintage Luda that fans have not heard much from lately.
He's been beating the same drum for his entire career, not that this is automatically a bad thing. Some rappers can successfully discuss the same topics album after album. But while Luda's content remains the same, his lyrics have deteriorated. On 'My Chick Bad' he declares, "Coming down the street like a parade, MACY'S, I fill her up, BALLOONS, test her and guns get drawn like cartoons.' Those punch lines may be acceptable for some but not for a veteran like Ludacris.
The rest of B.O.T.S. doesn't offer much better. True to its title, nearly all the album's tracks deal with male/female relationships in some way, but don’t hold out for any insightful observations. Luda's sexual relations are the one's most examined, with varying degrees of sensitivity. The boastful 'I Do It All Night' ("stick to you like super glue, maybe even like bubblegum") and 'Party No Mo' ('I've had about 4, 5, 6 shots, yeah I'm getting wasted, red pills, blue pills, yeah I'm in the Matrix') prompt more lyrical frustration. This is Ludacris were talking about, a 32-year-old rap veteran, and not some punk kid talking shit on his debut mixtape. He's way too talented to be navigating his way through tracks with lines this cliché.
Not to say B.O.T.S. doesn't have its moments. 'Sex Room,' with Trey Songz, is a sappy lovemaking anthem that's perfectly crafted to become a hit. 'I Know You Got A Man' serves as a reminder of how ridiculously good Ludacris' flow can be when he really commits to it. Flo Rida's featured on the track and he actually compliments Luda well, however, mismatched production and an overly repetitive singsong hook leaves the finished product sounding mediocre. That's a common theme throughout B.O.T.S. For the majority of album, Luda and his production team, which includes Swizz Beatz and The Neptunes, can't seem to get on the same page, Luda's flow either too laidback or too aggressive for the beat in question. An exception is B.O.T.S Radio, produced by The Runners, a track Luda absolutely tears to pieces.
On the surface, the album is very comparable to Ludacris' previous efforts. He's rapping about the same things, and he's just as sex-crazed, but he's not nearly as witty or entertaining. Luda's had the charts conquered for a while, and B.O.T.S., based on the performance of its first two singles, appears to be another smash. But if Luda’s wants to be mentioned with the top tier of emcees (Eminem, Jay, Nas, Kanye) he has to step his game up. For now though, he remains content to please his radio and club going audience.
Most college kids kill a fair amount of their time procrastinating with Facebook, twitter, chat roulette, etc. For Sam Adams that's not an option. He doesn't have enough minutes in the day as it is. Seven months ago the Boston native dropped his Asher Roth rebuttal, 'I Hate College.' A couple million listens later, he's releasing his debut EP, Boston's Boy (available March 5th), while also preparing to graduate from Trinity College in the spring. He balances classes and touring, homework and studio time. At best most college kids squeeze in a part time job. Adams has an entire career to handle.
09:00PM ET March 4, 2010
Contributor: Mathis Bauchner
A Rocky Williform Company
What's the significance of the EP's title?
Besides the obvious fact that I'm from Boston, I'm just sort of making the claim on new music around here. There's a ton of rappers that range from, you know, gangster rappers to backpackers, but there's never really been a mix of electronic rap and actual lyricism. So 'Boston's Boy' means a lot of different things for me, where I grew up, where I started this whole journey of me being a rapper.
Talk about the inspiration for the content of the EP?
Wow, I mean it ranges from everywhere from trips that a bunch of us have taken…where we've been touring, concerts, to stuff that happens in everyday life. I'm still in school so some of the content obviously has to do with that. Anyone that's listened to my stuff has heard 'I Hate College,' so I have some roots still tied to college [while also] wanting to get out of college, so a lot of it attests to everyday things that we go through, travels, shows, fans, interacting with everyone.
How do you think your music has developed from 'I Hate College' and some of your earlier material to now, with the stuff that's on 'Boston's Boy'?
I'd say I'm just way more comfortable in the studio, I have a better relationship with my engineer, and all my boys in general, anyone that comes to the studio…always has the right to say whatever they want, whatever they feel, you know. So I'd say me being comfortable around other people listening to my music, and being comfortable with being in the studio myself. I'm more comfortable on tracks. I used to write things in the studio, I still do sometimes, but things are more formatted, I'm a little more organized in terms of how we actually put shit down and the artistic process.
Starting out with 'I Hate College,' you immediately established that as your audience, and now going into 'Boston's Boy,' are you trying to associate yourself more with the city, are those fans separate or one in the same?
It's interesting because when I dropped 'I Hate College,' I recorded it and I was like 'It's straight, it's alright,' didn't really dig it. And then we released it and it took off, and I think it sort of represents now what our fans are. We'll have shows and my boys from the city will come, and they'll be chilling, and my boys from private school and college and everywhere, they'll come too, a cool blend of people. There's no real hostility. I think different people feel different tracks. You know, some people will probably skip over a couple tracks on the EP that they don't like because they're more into dance music, or they're more into electronic music, but I think in terms of fans, there's a pretty vast array that we have. I can never just classify it, as like backpackers or white kids, or city kids, or hood, you know.
Are you touring a lot?
Yeah, we're kicking off an 18-day tour, in the next 3-4 months. We're doing a bunch of dates.
Are you going with anyone else, or are you touring by yourself?
Mostly doing it by myself, just solo shows, but we got some joints with Chiddy Bang. In March we're doing a show with J. Cole. We're still in the works, putting something down with Kid Cudi in Pennsylvania. Then we got Arizona with Big Sean, Lupe Fiasco in Minnesota. So we got a bunch of shit coming up which is cool because it's definitely good to be seen with some other faces.
As far as being a white rapper, do you think there's still any prejudice against that?
Oh definitely. You're always going to have someone who doubts you 'cause, I mean, we didn't come up with it. Obviously there's going to be hate, especially when you're better than someone who likes rap, and thinks that they can rap. As far as the white thing goes, Eminem broke the barrier. I dig Asher Roth. But, there will always be prejudice, there will always be someone who thinks they're better...The best way to address it is just to remember it's their opinion of things, and that's how they think. That's how I deal with it.
Where'd you record 'Boston's Boy'?
Cybersound in Boston, and Westlake out in L.A., where Michael Jackson used to do his shit, which was crazy.
Talk about your relationship with your label, 1st Round Records. What's that like?
It was shaky to start, to say the least. But now...I've got a real good relationship with them. I wouldn't be where I'm at at this point without them, because I wouldn't have funding, you know...We all have a lot to learn and a lot to work on, but it's definitely a good relationship.
When did you first start rapping?
Like seriously rapping? I mean, I've been rapping since like age 8, 9, and dudes used to just dog me, but I used to suck though. I was writing on college ruled lined paper and shit and it sucked. I'd come home and my mom would read my raps and throw them out, 'cause it was all about guns and shit, stupid shit. But...then I sort of took a hiatus, didn't really focus on it. Soccer took precedence in my life, and then about 8, 9 months ago, I picked it up seriously again and realized that I actually had talent and started going with it. So on an official, authentic level, probably like 8, 9 months ago.
What do your parents think of your music?
They love it. My dad calls himself 'Hip-Hop Pops' (laughs). My mom digs it too. The new music I've been coming out with, from a parent's standpoint what's not to love? I'm not claiming any gang, I'm not throwing up a set, I'm not violent, I'm just a reflection of what I see and what I do...It's not like I'm putting on a costume or a fake or anything. It's all coming from me. So it's cool for them to see, 'cause it came out of left field. If you had asked them when I started college if I was going to be a rapper, I don't think either of them would've said yeah.
How difficult is it balancing college with your career?
Balancing the career and school and stuff was way harder [during the soccer] season, 'cause I wasn't just another player on the team. I was the captain, so leaving [practice] 40, 45 minutes early to go catch a flight to L.A. when we got a game in two days, not exactly the leadership role you want to take. Balancing soccer, and doing my work, and going to the studio, and doing shows, it got real tiring. But now it's a lot easier 'cause I got classes Tuesdays, Thursdays. Monday, Wednesday, Friday I'm usually up here [in Boston]...But yeah, it's difficult. But at the same time it's something I love, doing music, I don't love school at all, but it's something I got to do.
You looking forward to graduating?
Oh yeah. Big time, graduation is definitely something I need to get out of the way (laughs).
Since the beginning of hip-hop, the best emcees have used personal experience to power their lyrics. Adams channels similar energy with his music. There's no falsity in his songs, no gun talk, no coke raps. He captures campus life with unparalleled specificity. More so than most students, Adams understands the frustration of having to buckle down and do work despite the constant availability of more entertaining options. Even if he is dying to graduate.
IQue The Prodigy
Few teenagers have any idea what they want to do when they grow up. Even fewer are already doing it. Atlanta native Quentin "IQue" Smith is a rare member of the latter group. At just 18, IQue is already making a name for himself as a producer, offering up beats to hip-hop mainstays. He's a graphic designer as well, giving him an edge in terms of marketing and self-promotion. While already miles ahead of his musically inclined peers, IQue still manages to balance business and school.
12:00PM ET February 9, 2010
Contributor: Mathis Bauchner
A Rocky Williform Company
Calling him mature for his age would be an understatement, but being an aspiring industry mogul hasn't stopped IQue from maintaining his love for cartoons. He counts Pixar's The Incredibles as his favorite movie, admitting that he's watched it seven times. Existing in these two worlds, seeing simultaneously through the eyes of a teenager and an accomplished businessman gives IQue a unique perspective on the future of music. With string of impressive credits to his name and a mixtape of the way, Atlanta appears to have a pair of steady hands ready to grab the torch.
Atlanta is home to a ridiculous number of hip-hop greats. What does that tradition mean to you?
There are, and have always been, a lot of hip-hop greats coming out of my hometown. It is very important to me to keep the talent unfolding and setting the standards for southern hip-hop. As odd as it seems, these icons are all regular people that can be seen out and about as they live their everyday lives. Approaching them isn't difficult, so it's always a refreshing reminder to stay humble.
Do you have any mentors or people that have been particularly supportive thus far in your music career?
My parents have been very supportive of my music both mentally and financially. I have also had a lot of guidance from family friend Jayar Browne. He specializes in branding, marketing, and radio promotion and owns One Million Sold Inc. I have traveled to many cities and have been introduced to many people through him.
How much pressure do you feel being from Atlanta with all that's been accomplished by people that came before you?
I don't feel pressured at all actually. I am calm by nature because I live by the words, 'Everything happens for a reason.' I know that if I take care of myself, the industry will take care of itself. Everything will fall into place.
What about your music do you consider unique? In other words, what separates you from all the other producers out there?
My productions are composed of unique instrumentation and one-off sounds. I have a really clean, futuristic image that I think is portrayed in everything that I do, including music. I tend to use a lot of synths in combination with traditional instruments.
Whose music do you admire and who inspires you?
Many people would reply to this question with the typical old-school pioneers, but I am actually inspired by a lot of current music. Polow Da Don is a big inspiration to me. His productions are always thought of outside the box. He uses a lot of regular patterns in irregular ways to create very distinctive music.
A lot of people dream of making music. When did you really get serious and decide that it was what you wanted to do with your life?
I skipped the whole process of dreaming. I took the action of becoming a producer around the year 2008, when the economic recession first began. I was a typical teenager that needed a good-paying summer job, but no one was hiring. That same frustration powered my motivation to do things my way. I had been making beats as a hobby for about a year at the time and figured that I could earn some money selling tracks as I looked for a job. Eventually I began making more money producing than I would've working for someone else and doing something I didn't want to do. My mind was made up by the age of seventeen.
Where do you see your career going? What are your long-term goals?
I am eighteen years old right now. I have been very fortunate to have worked on projects with artists such as Jimmy 2 Tyme and Young Dro, Tyler Perry's Ashley Nicole Morris, and K-Rab. I plan on continuing producing for large-scale artists and branding IQue Music into a very influential company. I am in the mist of creating a promotion team named 'TechnIQue' to help market our upcoming mixtape entitled 'Musiq & Lyriqs.' My long-term goals include creating a record label that will supply the music industry with creative artists and innovative ideas and investing in the corporate world.
That's a lot of ambition and foresight for an eighteen year old. What's it like being so actively involved in the industry at such a young age?
When I was seventeen, I couldn't go to any events or (legally) be out driving past 12 o' clock, so it was very hard for me to market my music. I was pretty much limited to online advertisement. Now I can venture out, but one drawback is that people that don't know my age constantly interrupt me while I'm at school. Music is important to me, but at the end of the day, I still have homework.
Paint me a picture of a day in the life of IQue. Morning to night, how does it unfold?
I usually start my day off with a little reflection time. I have to get my thoughts together before I do anything. I may play my 'Money' playlist on my iPhone to get motivated for the day. After I get washed up, cereal keeps me company as I check my emails, make a few phone calls, and head out the door. I let the top back on the convertible and meet a few customers to deliver their tracks and graphics or head to the studio. Later on that night, I'll be at a music event promoting and networking. It's rare to see me partying, but you may see me in Lenox Mall greeting fans and shopping for an upcoming appearance.
Shondrae "Bangladesh" Crawford has crafted some of the most enigmatic tracks of the last 10 years. The Atlanta by way of Iowa producer consistently throws caution to the wind when it comes to his beats. Whether it's "Video Phone" for Beyonce or "A Milli" for Lil Wayne Bangladesh’s work is always immediately noticeable.
03:00PM ET December 31, 2009
Contributor: Branden J. Peters
A Rocky Williform Company
Just like his production his list of the top albums of this decade varies but they are all certified hits.
1. Outkast - Stankonia - The music stays fresh like organic cabbage out of the garden.
2. 50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin' the 1st time around your hunger is up and you’re thirsty for success. It had substance and a meaning at that time.
3. Outkast (Andre3000) - The Love Below. It covered every genre of music effortlessly. Filled with melodic themes and well written by a genius producer song writer.
4. Ghostface - Supreme Clientele – This album was unorthodox in style, I was impressed by the selection of dope beats he chose for it. The flow is incredible and he make great songs.
5. Coldplay – XandY - Was the first Coldplay album I heard and from then on I wanted to be as big as them.
6. Robin Thicke - A Beautiful World - This is the most slept on album of this decade. He embraces many different styles to make up the true sound of Robin Thicke. This is the true definition of artistry.
7. R. Kelly – TP-2 - Probably wouldn't have gotten any love but everyone that's relevant in today’s R&B world is emulating him so I guess that makes him the greatest of this decade.
8. Kanye West - College Dropout - One of the few rappers that cared about the music first.
9. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black – This album was Grammy worthy cause it was true artistry.
10. Jay-Z – Vol. 3... The life and times of Shawn Carter – He was the first major rapper to be influenced by south artist.
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