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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Big K.R.I.T. On The State Of Southern Hip-Hop

If Big K.R.I.T. wasn’t so adamant about repping his hometown of Mississippi he may not be where he is today. Who was this young rapper from Mississippi who produced his own music? was the question posed two years ago when his mixtape K.R.I.T. Wuz Here surfaced. Where he was from was almost as big of a draw to him as his music. Sure, a southern rapper rapping about where you’re from isn’t uncommon. But the only other well-known rapper from Mississippi to “make it” was David Banner. Minutes before he took the stage at Austin’s ACL music festival he told us he believes the south has always been lyrical. Like us, he too was puzzled that anyone thinks otherwise. Read more…

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Nas: Rap’s Self-Proclaimed “Most Mainstream Underground Artist” On What Makes His Life Good

An iced coffee with brown sugar is the only request of the legend who spent the previous night indulging in cigars and Moet filled champagne flutes at his release party for his 10th studio album. “You love brown sugar don’t you?” the director of Visual Media at Def Jam jokes, responding to his Starbucks request. “Damn right,” he says with a smile as everyone in the room erupts with laughter. That’s the side of Nas the public rarely gets to see.

Nasir Jones is exactly what you’d expect—no fuss, polite, no big entourage, mellow and somewhat quiet—that is until you get him going on something he actually gives a damn about. By mid-afternoon he arrives to the VH1 office still feeling nice from all of the bubbly consumed at NYC’s Bagatelle the night before. He’s dressed in a white and black t-shirt plastered with Mr. T’s face on it, white shorts and black Gucci sneakers. For a rapper his jewelry is modest. The two gold chains he rocks are far from gaudy, and his wrists are adorned with a gold watch and one bracelet. That’s it. At 38 he doesn’t look much older than he did on 2001′s album cover for Stillmatic. You start to wonder if he physically ages.

Bred in the largest housing projects in North America, the Queensbridge rapper dropped out of school in the ninth grade to pursue rap. Although he didn’t always know if it’d pay off, it did, in a big way.

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by (@Lacezilla)

Music Royalty And Heartfelt Tributes Close Out Essence Music Fest


After an already action-packed weekend of Superlounge performances, empowerment panels, and headline-grabbing mainstage sets, Essence Music Festival came to a close last night in New Orleans. Like many other festivals, Essence is notorious for headlining sets extending late into the early morning of the next day, but when the artists performing are esteemed members of music’s nobility, you stay put!

Kirk Franklin kicked off the festival’s third and final night, handing the mic off to VH1 star Fantasia before soulful crooner Anthony Hamilton and his phenomenal back-up vocalists transformed the Mercedes Benz Superdome into a refreshing gospel experience. The big-ticket performers – Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and Queen of Funk Chaka Khan – would soon follow.

As the first woman inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Aretha Franklin has free reign to pretty much do whatever she wants on stage, and did just that. She’d open her mouth, and magic would pour out; graciously bestowing gifts like “(Your Love has Lifted me) Higher and Higher,” “Natural Woman,” “Think,” and “Something He Can Feel,” the 18-time Grammy winner who sang at President Obama’s inauguration was met with a respectful, hyper-attentive audience that contrasted the normal bustling-in-and-out-of-their-seats EMF crowd. Despite the fact that she would at times meander into telling stories and jokes, appropriating an audience-member’s fedora, complaining about the venue’s sound, and acknowledging friends of hers that were in the crowd by asking them to stand, Franklin’s lengthy 90-minute set was any music fan’s dream even that late in the evening.

While Franklin changed her wardrobe from an orange gown to a green and gold frock mid-performance, a presentation was held in her honor, giving Queen of Soul a key to the city of New Orleans by its mayor Mitch Landrieu, a state award by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and the Essence Power Award from Essence Communications President, Michelle Ebanks. Representing “entertainment, empowerment and elegance,” Franklin was clearly the ideal choice for this year’s awards, and once the Queen of Soul returned to the EMF stage, she performed crowd favorite “Chain of Fools,” sang from what she called “the book of Simon and Garfunkel,” performing a cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and even found time to pay tribute to the late and legendary Whitney Houston. “She was beautiful, she was warm, she was real,” recounted Franklin of her beloved “Christian sister” as she took to the piano to execute a rendition of Houston’s heart-wrenching “I Will Always Love You.”

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by (@Lacezilla)

At Storytellers, Maxwell Pleads For The Troops To Come Home

On the surface, Maxwell’s “Fistful of Tears” comes off as a song that’s urging a woman to shake her unnecessary insecurities and, in the process, perhaps save him some unnecessary grief. Lyrics like “all you got to do is raise up, face up, stay up, all things will heal” make sense under that context and resonate deeply, so when the sultry singer revealed to our VH1 Storytellers audience that the song’s inspiration was actually drawn from the war in the Middle East, we were taken aback. But as he explains in the above sneak, Maxwell’s song-writing is a “three-prong experience,” alllowing him to apply (1) what he’s going through personally, (2) what he sees going on in the world, and (3) what he hopes the listener will get out of it, and therefore, our previous interpretation may still stand.

Before performing the powerful ballad in this clip, Maxwell candidly opens up about his opinions on the “religious war” that has been waged by the US, advocating a peaceful coexistence for all. “I hate the fact that we’re fighting, I can’t wait for the troops to come back,” said the R&B veteran, adding, “If your God is name this, and my God is named that, I’m cool.” And despite the fact that Max hates to name drop, he delivered this information via a story about being in the studio with Mary J. Blige and Anthony Hamilton, taming his somewhat reclusive mystique and making the story all-the-more juicy. Just as we were nodding our heads in new-found understanding, however, the soul singer brought us back full circle, noting that the song is also about trying to show someone “how great they are, when they can’t see how great they are.” A-ha! Not only was our original theory right after all, but it seems Maxwell also stayed true to his trusty three prongs– touching on both his life and world observations, all while allowing us to decode and evaluate for ourselves.