Castles, Horses And Kings, Oh My! Alicia Keys Debuts New Track, “Not Even The King”

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A pleasant surprise in the form of Alicia Keys graced the stage at MTV’s annual Upfront in NYC on Thursday night at the Beacon Theater. The 14-time GRAMMY award winning singer debuted a new ballad, “Not Even the King,” in which she belted out a soft melody over the piano about people that “can’t afford what we got, not even the King.”

Since Keys and hubby super producer Swizz Beats had baby Egypt Daoud Dean in October 2010, Keys has (mostly) been basking in mommyhood. Its been almost three years since her last album The Element of Freedom dropped, and Keys’ last performance was an emotion-filled tribute at the funeral of her friend Whitney Houston. Many criticized her voice for being off key that day (no pun intended), but her performance last night proves she’s still got the chops. We’re unsure if “Not Even the King” is from her forthcoming album, but either way, it looks like she might be ready to get back into the studio. Read more…

BRACKET MADNESS: Who Is The Greatest MC Of The Yo! MTV Raps Era, KRS-One Or Rakim?

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Well, ladies and gents, it looks like our Bracket Madness has come down to the final two. Running for the proverbial throne of the Greatest MC of the Yo! MTV Raps Era is … drum roll please… KRS-One vs. Rakim! We’re popping our popcorn for the showdown, as this one seems like it’s too close to call.

In Round 2, KRS-One won over his West Coast opponent Ice Cube, while Rakim annihilated MC Lyte (we still love you Lyte!) with a huge victory. Now it has come down to two heavyweight emcees known for their hip-hop legacies. Will it be the philosophizing battle rapper KRS-One or the lyrical mastermind Rakim?

For your enjoyment we’ve included two videos of the emcees in their heyday. We admire the imagination, creativity and simplicity of the videos in the pre-bling and booty generation. Reminisce on KRS-One’s  “My Philosophy” vs. Rakim’s “In The Ghetto.”  Then, vote for your favorite emcee of the Yo! MTV Raps era. Voting ends Monday, 04/30 at 11 a.m. ET/PT.

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Which Of Nicki Minaj’s Outfits In Her New “Starships” Video Is Your Fave?

by (@unclegrambo)

Nicki Minaj Starships Video

Nicki Minaj is going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment, with critics and fans alike hounding her in the wake of her release of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, so much so that she recently deleted her Twitter. However, being the career-focused trouper that she is, Nicki continues to press forward, having released the street-friendly (and pretty explicit) video for “Beez In The Trap” a few weeks back and the video for the more pop-friendly “Starships” just last night.

There’s not much in the way of narrative in the video for “Starships,” but who needs plot when you’ve got someone as strikingly gorgeous as Nicki Minaj strutting around for four-plus minutes wearing next to nothing? We put together the following gallery of images to help you decide which of Nicki’s crazy hott looks is your favorite:

View Photo Gallery

Now that you have been presented with the evidence, it’s time to decide:

Nas Opens Up About His Teen Daughter’s Infamous Box Of Condoms Tweet In “Daughters”

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Nas is never afraid to go there with his emotions on real life topics. Lately he’s dropped a couple of monster tracks like “Nasty” and “The Don” from his Life is Good album (set to be released July 17). Over on Stereogum.com, we caught wind of the third single “Daughters” produced by No I.D. It’s a grown man record showcasing the realities of having a teenage daughter. As a 38-year-old father of two, Nas goes there with what it’s like knowing his daughter is dating someone he doesn’t approve of. He courageously raps about his not-so-proud moment of Destiny tweeting a picture of her box of condoms on the nightstand.

Transparent and real. We wouldn’t expect anything else from the guy whose first album debuted 18 years ago. As a divorcee, father of two that’s overcome terrible hardships, it’s refreshing to hear a deviation from the bravado of hip-hop. Very reminiscent of a 60s or 70s oldies hit that hypnotizes you with the instrumentals.

Nas– “Daughters” [Stereogum.com]
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CONCERT REVIEW: Roc Nation Signee Rita Ora Lives Up To The Hype In Her New York City Live Debut

by (@unclegrambo)

Rita Ora Performs At S.O.B.'s

In the moments before Rita Ora took the stage at S.O.B.’s in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan last night, there was a palpable buzz in the air. The packed-to-capacity club had just patiently waited through a middling set from former OFWGKTA member Casey Veggies, and people were buzzing with anticipatory glee for a few reasons. Of course, people were excited to see the artist that is being described as “the new Rihanna” make her New York City debut, but we heard more than a few people in our immediate vicinity wonder aloud whether or not her mentor, one Mr. Sean “Jay-Z” Carter, would be making an appearance at the tiny club where artists like Kanye West, John Legend and Erykah Badu caught some of their first big breaks. Well, spoiler alert, Hova did not make an appearance, but by the end of Rita Ora’s 35 minute(ish) set, no one seemed to care.

Ora bounded onto the stage just a few minutes after 10 p.m. wearing an orange knit hat, a blue jacket, a white midriff-revealing crop top and black tights. Her outfit was colorful and playful, much like Ora’s personality, with a dash of Stefani-esque sexiness thrown in (that is to say, she’s an undeniable beauty that projects a certain wholesomeness). She led off with a song that we had not heard before, but one that contained the line “It’s the kind of beat that will make your face melt.” Normally, we associate the concept of facemelting to metal riffs, but in this particular case, her description of the roaring synths was entirely appropriate. Considering this was her first showcase in NYC, we expected to see a hint of nervousness from her when she first hit the stage, but that never came to fruition. Instead, she commanded the stage like a veteran rock star, prowling from side to side, even occasionally indulging in a bit of headbanging.

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Brandy “Puts It Down” On Her Grown Woman Swag With New Single

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brandy

Like a school girl geeking out over the boy band heartthrobs Immature of the 90s, I’m having a moment with the premiere of Brandy’s “Put It Down” featuring Chris Brown. Written by Sean Garrett and produced by Bandgladesh, on the first single from her forthcoming album Two Eleven, Brandy has all the ingredients necessary for a hot song — a booming beat, her deep distinctive voice, sexy lyrics and a guest feature from one of the biggest male pop singers. Don’t call it a comeback, call it a reminder. Brandy is showing folks why she’s been in the game for over 15 years. After the song dropped Brandy tweeted to her fans:

Both artists traditionally known for singing are giving rappers a run for their money in Brandy’s hot new record. At the beginning of her second verse, Bran tries her hand at rapping, again (we haven’t forgotten about that rapping alter ego), but only briefly, “I hope the chivalry ain’t dead to you boy ’cause I’m grown. Like to pull up in that, come up with that, when I see what I want,” she raps before jumping right back into her soulful signature sound. And Chris’ rhymes aren’t too shabby either. One of our favorite lines: “I’m sipping on that Brandy, this liquor comes in handy.” Simple, yes, but using her name as a double entendre was a nice touch.

In last night’s Behind the Music, Brandy’s brother said she is finally listening to her inner voice and doing what she wants. If this is any indication of where her album is going, all we can say is, Brandy’s back!

New Music: Brandy x Chris Brown “Put It Down” [Rap Radar]
[Photo: Getty Images]

Bracket Madness: The Choice Is Yours — MC Lyte Or Rakim?

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Everything about the Rakim vs. MC Lyte match up for Bracket Madness is so hip-hop. Legendary rappers who’ve been around since hip-hop’s nascence? Check. Male and female? Check. And lyrics that cannot be denied? Check. As it stands now, MC Lyte is trailing behind Rakim, but we have a feeling her fans won’t let her go down without a fight. Anything can happen between now and Friday, April 27 at 11 a.m. ET/PT when the votes are closed.

Being the hip-hop enthusiasts you are, we know we don’t need to remind you of the fire both rappers have spit in their prime. But we will anyway. Listen to MC Lyte’s master storytelling in “I Cram to Understand U (Sam)” : “‘Cause to me, oh my gosh, he was one in a million. I shoulda knew the consequences right from the start. That he’d use me for my money, and then break my heart. But like a fool in love I fell for his game. But I got mine, so I show no shame.”

Now, if Rakim & Eric B’s “Paid in Full” doesn’t remind you of a time rappers told a vivid picture with lyrical poetry, we don’t know what will: “A pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape/ of Me and Eric B, and a nice big plate of fish, which is my favorite dish/But without no money it’s still a wish/’Cuz I don’t like to dream about gettin’ paid/So I dig into the books of the rhymes that I made/So now to test to see if I got pull/Hit the studio, ‘cuz I’m paid in full.”

You decide. Voting for this round ends on Friday, April 27 at 11 a.m. ET/PT.

RELATED: BRACKET MADNESS: Does Ice Cube or KRS-One Have The Best Bars To Make It To The Finals?

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After The “Climax”, Usher’s Latest Single Will Make You “Scream”

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Usher’s smash hit “Climax”, produced by Diplo, shot all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart shortly after it was released. It was a burning slow jam with electronic flourishes, but with his second single from his upcoming album Looking For Myself, Usher’s looking to switch things up a bit. No stranger to making songs that appeal to your inner dancer, “Scream” reminds us a bit of his past hits like “OMG”, “Hey Daddy” and “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love.” In other words, his latest will surely be a club banger.

Sonically, it’s closely similar to “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” where Usher’s voice rides the uptempo beat. We can totally imagine people doing the Jersey fist pump when this comes on in the club. For a pop sounding dance track, it has all the essentials. And although his R&B ballads tickle our fancy a bit more than this, an Usher album isn’t complete without something to dance to in the mirror when you’re home alone. We can’t wait to hear the rest of the record.

New Song: Usher, ‘Scream’ [MTV Buzzworthy]

[Photo: Usherworld.com, Getty Images]

BRACKET MADNESS: Does Ice Cube or KRS-One Have The Best Bars To Make It To The Finals?

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Ice Cube and KRS-One are such different rappers that the only way to match up the two are literally comparing bar for bar. While Ice Cube’s catalog may ring more bells for most folks (because who doesn’t know “It Was a Good Day”), KRS-One’s “The Bridge Is Over” is a classic in its own right. Ultimately, whether KRS or Cube make it through to the next round of Bracket Madness to battle it out against either MC Lyte or Rakim for the best emcee of the Yo! MTV Raps era,  is up to you. Before you decide, check out three verses from each that emcee that get get the people going…because it’s provocative!
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Is Left Eye Coming Back In Hologram Form?

by (@unclegrambo)

Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of the tragic passing of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and TLC fans spent the day both celebrating her life and mourning her loss. Capitalizing on the media attention, a spokesperson for Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas announced yesterday that TLC is currently making plans for a “massive reunion tour” of the United States later this year. Does this mean that Left Eye will be coming back, a la Tupac, in hologram form?

Well, not exactly. According to a report by TMZ, the surviving members of TLC plan to incorporate Left Eye into their concerts by “projecting her image on a big screen and working her vocals into the live performances.” Now, we love us some TLC —always have, always will— but this leaves us wondering:

TLC We’re Resurrecting Left Eye FOR A REUNION TOUR [TMZ]

[Photo: Getty Images, Lauren Olson]