When musicians are preparing to release a new album, one of the necessary steps on the promotional docket is the album listening party. Most of the time, journalists and other music executives are invited to either a rented out club or a conference room at the record label headquarters to hear the new tracks. That tactic is certainly effective, but doesn’t always lend itself to really “experiencing” the music in the fullest sense of the word. Record label veteran Usher, who has been churning out albums for nearly two decades now, must’ve sat through more than a few boring listening parties over the years, so he decided to step his game up now that he’s getting ready to release his seventh studio album, Looking For Myself. Instead of holding court in some conference room somewhere, Usher instead collaborated with the off-Broadway Fuerza Bruta cast for a one time only night of interactive surprises.
This past Friday night, April 27, a group of invite-only guests gathered in the heart of NYC’s Union Square at the Daryl Roth Theater, unsure of exactly what to expect from this unlikely mash-up. For the unfamiliar, Fuerza Bruta — which is Spanish for “brute force” — is sort of reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil in that they both have incredibly athletic performers, but Fuerza differs in that there’s more crowd participation in the program. This particular show began with “Climax” blaring through the speakers, when Usher suddenly appeared on an elevated treadmill wearing a crisp white suit paired with a turquoise tie, accented with bright socks. Usher ran and ran at top speed until he was noticeably out of breath and perspiring. At first, it was unclear who or what he was running from, but then, out of nowhere, a loud “bang, bang” sound rang through our ears, and Usher fell over with a blood drenched shirt from two apparent gunshot wounds. (Perhaps at that moment he reached the climax the song alludes to?) Like Superman, he quickly jumped back to his feet, removing the shirt (thankfully he had a clean tank top underneath) and presumed running, only this time he was joined by a partner. The two ran while dodging chairs and running through paper walls.
The NYC-based Honey Brothers appeared on our morning show, Big Morning Buzz Live, last week. On the show, they not only performed a stirring rendition of their new song “Green And Gold,” but they also spent some time talking about the virtues of their charity, Power Saves The Music. This organization recently teamed up with the VH1 Saves The Music Foundation to help a music program in Jersey City, New Jersey. You can watch a video chronicling that experience here.
One of the most tragic moments in hip-hop history was the 1997 murder of Notorious B.I.G., whose young life and promising career was ended at the tender age of 24 in a hail of gunfire. VH1′s Behind The Music: Notorious B.I.G. looks back at the humble beginnings of Brooklyn bred rapper whose two album catalog— Ready to Die and Life After Death— led to his worldwide acclaim. Due to the lyricism present on these LPs, he has earned a place among the greatest rappers of all time.
In this special sneak peek at the latest episode of Behind The Music, which airs tomorrow night at 9 p.m. ET/PT, the Notorious B.I.G.’s mother, Voletta Wallace, is shown holding on to the fond memories of her only child. In rare footage, a young Biggie raps on his block to a swelling crowd of admirers. Big may have found his gift in rhyming, but it wasn’t enough to keep him away from toting guns and selling cocaine in his poverty stricken Bed-Stuy neighborhood. Fortunately, the streets never deterred him from making music.
Lil Wayne can sleep good knowing his legal woes are over, at least for now. TMZ reports the Young Money CEO has settled a $20 million lawsuit with producer Darius “Deezle” Harrison, who claims that he has not been paid for production work he did on Wayne’s smash Tha Carter III album, including “Lollipop.” Per Harrison, the album to date has grossed over $70 million, and he believes he’s rightfully owed $20 million. Harrison and the rapper/CEO reached a confidential agreement and the case has since been dismissed.
This isn’t the first time the rapper has found himself in a whirlwind of lawsuits. In July 2008, Wayne was sued by Abkco Music Inc. for copyright infringement and unfair competition over “Playing With Fire,” which was a version of The Rolling Stones’ “Play With Fire”. The song was eventually removed from the album and all online music stores. Then in February of 2009, Hip Hop DX reported RMF Productions filed a lawsuit for $1.3 million accusing Weezy of cancelling three shows. And get this. While in prison, Wayne was sued by “A Milli” producer Bangladesh for over a half of million in unpaid royalties, according to The Guardian. What is going on in the world of Young Money, anyway? Does this come with the territory of being rich, or does someone need more accountants? Perhaps a name change to Unpaid Money would be a better fit. (We kid, we kid.)
Lil Wayne Settles $20 Mil ‘Lollipop’ Lawsuit [TMZ]
[Photo: Getty Images]
Nas makes New York City proud in his latest video, “The Don,” from his 10th studio album, Life is Good, scheduled for release July 17. Directed by Aristotle, the video to his second single has a familiar feel of a time when NY’s hip-hop was leading the game. On his grown man tip, Nas toasts to the good life with friend Steve Stoute. And how does Nas demonstrate that he’s worth of such a title? Why, of course, tailored suits, antique luxury cars, classic nugget gold rings, champagne and cigars. Executed like a true don.
Although Nas is a boss in “The Don,” he didn’t hide from the troubles he’s had as a father of a teenage daughter. His third single, “Daughters,” is a heartfelt track about the realities of fatherhood, but not everyone is celebrating Nas’ new music. Carmen Bryan, the mother of Nas’ daughter Destiny (and the author of the tell book It’s No Secret: From Nas to Jay-Z, from Seduction to Scandal–a Hip-Hop Helen of Troy Tells All) took to Twitter to express her annoyance with the song, which she says did not depict their daughter in a good light. After the song was released on Thursday, she tweeted: “Just heard ‘Daughters’ by Nas. What a disappointment! He had nothing positive to say about our daughter and his depiction of her is false.”
Even with the likes of Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan in attendance at this year’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner, it was Young Jeezy, aka the Snowman, that President Obama shouted out during his pre-written comedic speech. Videos of President Obama’s smooth voice carrying the tune of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” spread like wildfire on the Internet back in January, but over the weekend, the President proved again that he is in touch with today’s hip-hop community. “In my first term I sang Al Green,” the president said in the below clip from CBS News. “In my second term, I’m going with Young Jeezy.”
We’re not sure everyone in the audience caught the reference. But of course, in the ultimate cool moment of all time, Mr. President’s wife knew exactly what her husband meant. President Obama mentioned that “Michelle said, ‘Yeah’ when he joked about singing Jeezy in his second term. “I sing that to her sometimes,” he added. Are they not the cutest couple ever?
Jeezy responded on Twitter after getting word of the President’s nod:
This week on That Metal Show, we were joined by Lemmy (Motörhead), Jerry Dixon and Robert Mason (Warrant), and Michael Schenker, who rocked out as our guest musician for the second week in a row. For our TMS Top 5 segment we decided to have the hosts come up with the Top 5 Albums of this century. There aren’t THAT many bands out there, so it shouldn’t be so hard, right? Let’s get started.
How do you choose from Tesla’s album; Into the Now (with the original band, mind you), Buckcherry’s comeback record; 15, Accept’s; Blood of The Nations, which ended up on both Eddie and Don’s list, it’s a tough choice. You also have the underrated band like Hatebreed, who released Perseverance back in 2002 and The Blackening by Machine Head who is Jim’s “modern day Master of Puppets” (Metallica). Which, of course, is debatable. So, what ended up on the list? We’ve got it for you below.
From eight MCs to one. By popular vote, KRS-One is the greatest emcee of the Yo! MTV Raps era. Of the eight lyricists selected for Bracket Madness, it all boiled down to two greats in the end: KRS-One vs. Rakim. Both legends in their own right, KRS-One takes the crown as being the No. 1 dude from the golden era of hip-hop. In a close call, KRS-One was victorious over his opponent by 20%. Here’s our theory as to why KRS-One won.
Rakim’s influence on cats like Biggie, Nas and Jay-Z is undeniable. And while Rakim mastered the art form of rap, popularizing the hustle element of East Coast rap, Rakim never blew up on a mainstream scale. He remained fairly under the radar, which affects ones popularity. KRS-One, bred of the same time period as Rakim, with just as much influence, had more of a presence. He reached a larger audience with his group Boogie Down Productions and battle raps with rappers like MC Shan and Roxanne Shante. His rhymes were also more controversial. Any song like “Sound of Da Police” in which a rapper takes shots at the 5-o is guaranteed to bring attention your way (and a group of admirers). KRS-One introduced reggae, bridging rap, battle and boasting into the genre. There’s no denying the ways in which he rapped ended up helping to shape what hip-hop is today. When two dope MCs with the stature of KRS-One and Rakim go toe-to-toe for a title, there is no real loser because this is hip-hop at its finest. But only one can wear the crown. Well deserved, KRS-One!
[Photo: Getty Images]
The profile of The Civil Wars has been raised considerably over the course of the last year. In fact, it was one year ago when the band was named our You Oughta Know artist and performed an intimate set here in our lobby on the 20th floor of VH1 headquarters here in New York City. Since that fateful day, the band has exploded in popularity, taking home two Grammys and recording not one but TWO songs for the wildly popular soundtrack to The Hunger Games. Their full VH1 Unplugged set (brought to you by State Farm) will premiere here on VH1 Tuner tomorrow, but until then, we have this sneak peak of their song from said soundtrack, “Kingdom Come,” for you above.
When we attended the taping, we asked them about the refrain of the song, which goes “Don’t you fret, my dear / It’ll all be over soon / I’ll be waiting here for you.” Clearly, this line can be read a couple of different ways, from the very optimistic to the, well, sorta haunting. What was it that inspired this particular line?
“The first thing that came to mind was this overwhelming sense of ‘survival mode,’” John Paul White explained to us. “We knew that we wanted that to be the overlying theme of what we did. We didn’t want to be completely specific as to who we’re singing about, or who is singing to whom. And that’s the way we went about it.” (Video of this moment below.)
Over the last year and change, we’ve been all too happy to see Lil’ Kim doing interviews again and making new music. And the new club banger “Countin’ Money”, off the I.R.S. South mixtape Tax Season, doesn’t disappoint. It’s reminiscent of the hardcore flow she killed the game with in the 90s. She’s back to street lyrics, and the Queen Bee wants you to know she’s the “realest b—- up in the industry.” She’s coming for blood.
Lil’ Kim’s Paypal released mixtape Black Friday (we’ll act like that never happened) was not the smash hit we were hoping for. But with her BET Rip the Runway performance, forthcoming documentary and Return of the Queen tour beginning May 11, Kim seems to be back on the fast track to making hits (it also doesn’t hurt that her long simmering beef with Nicki Minaj is helping her in the headline department). “Countin’ Money” resembles the NOTORIOUS K.I.M. sound her fans love. Raw, real and hungry. Very befitting of a Queen in hip-hop.