The LAST thing that Ja Rule Needed!

And I swear I was having a conversation about Mr. Atkins just last week! No one has worse luck in the music industry than this guy!

I always reference him as an example of someone who’s been completely run out of Hip-Hop. And I actually own a mix cd that I personally made of all of his best songs that I like! See most people attribute the demise of his career to 50 Cent‘s taunting and baiting, but it’s really a case of him just putting a nail in the coffin.

If you guys can afford to think waaaay back to 2002, you’ll remember a struggling Ja on his last leg in a long string of formulaic hits. By the time the 4th single “Down-Ass Chic/Bitch” off of his biggest album, Pain Is Love, hit 106th & Park, (I say that because radio began to only play it sparsely) he was met with more than a few grumblings of  ‘again??!!’ by people who 6 months before would’ve considered themselves fans. Only the remix, “Down 4 U” featuring all of the women of the Murder Inc. Camp at the time breathed new life into things. It was just as formulaic, but too damn catchy to resist.

You would think that seeing a space to take a break and give an oppurtunity for artistic growth and for his audience to miss him a little that Ja would rest and step away for a year or so, but nooooo….What does he do? Come back that Winter with The Last Temptation. Maybe it’s because Rule already had his album titles laid out and was Hellbent on seeing them through, but of course he and the house that Irv Gotti built were too far up on their high horses to see that people were growing tired of the same tin-pan synths and drums over soft samples with Ja trading melodies with some R&B singer screaming “BABAAYY!!”. People were catching on to the Murder Inc. Sound, and coupled with a growing discontent toward Ashanti from older females, it seems like the label themselves were the last to know. So by the time the lead single off of The Last Temptation came out ( You guys remember the Grease inspired video right?) It was over before it started! Do you guys even remember the Other video from that album? The one with Patrick Swayze in it?? Yeah…

By then, Murder Inc. had it’s own set of problems to worry about aside from their dynasty crumbling, and their shine getting tarnished. The Feds were investigating them, and now, Curtis Jackson saw an oppurtunity to feed off of the growing public sentiment and became the voice of that wave. With the popular opinion against you already, it becomes very easy to look like the loser with every attempt you make to defy that. Knowing what we know now, Rule has way too much to prove to back down and look like the uhhmmm…bigger person. Even as news broke out today of his 2 year sentencing, he fell right into 50’s Twitter trap and began going back and forth with juvenile  barbs laced with profanity (Like really nigga? You going to Jail…You got time to tweet?). And in 2003, Ja kept burying himself deeper in the hole with entire songs and projects dedicated to 50, like the horrible Blood In My Eye. Although that album spawned a nice little buzz cut, “Clap Back” which had a different sound for Murder Inc. and should have been his lead single on The last Temptation, he proved When he released R.U.L.E. that he would’ve done a lot better by ignoring Curtis from the start – It worked for alot of other rappers.

It’s almost as if people overlook and forget that one of the biggest rap songs of 2004, “New York” was a Ja Rule song, fresh off his beef with 50 and with no mention of him at all. It’s almost like they skip over his parts and go straight for Fat Joe and Jadakiss‘ verses.

So musically, you have a virtual vote-out and cast-off by your former fans due to your failure to pay attention to your redundancy, you have a federal raid of the offices of your label, a growing beef that goes waaaay beyond rap, and if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t he the MOST involved with Superhead out of all of the other names she dropped in her now-infamous tell-all? So basically, he fell in Love with a glorified prostitute? Yikes!

And I won’t even begin to make note of the atrocious F-Level filmography that Rule has built in his time.

But I mention all of this because my conversations involving Ja Rule usually surround him being essentially banned from the rap game as a successful artist and wondering where his income generates from now and what manner of lifestyle could he be sustaining with no hopes of future revenue as a performing artist. The talk generally involves people saying how much money he must’ve made in his prime and how he should be good for life. Then I proceed to explain how even tho his money was made when rap was pumping millions in and out, that kind of money gets split so many ways and the artist always makes the least. And this was right before the era of rappers cashing in on big time endorsements like book deals, sneakers and energy drinks – none of which Ja had involved himself in. Also, I have to remind folks that Ja’s last selling album was released in 2002! Almost 9 years ago! Unless he found some great investments and flipped that cash, I’m skeptical that he’s livin’  La Vida Dulce. Plus, Mr. Atkins doesn’t look like the most astute businessman.

Now when all of this came up last week, The homie Khadj informed me that Ja was in fact doing quite well financially and he knew this because of a close friend of his who works with Rule. He said he still gets some love overseas and has plenty of residuals. Hope that’s correct because it’s a hard knock life when you put all of your eggs in the rap basket. I’m even getting ready to apply back for school as I write this!

Whether Rule is well off financially or not, nothing can buy respect. And not since M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice have I seen one rapper become so laughable and hated on so quickly. Respect weighs heavily and has to hold the utmost importance for a rapper like Ja Rule who spent his entire career chanting the word Murder and promoting gangster rap. It would have been a softer blow for a rapper like Common, but not so much for Rule. It’s to a point where even The Game, who’s embarrassed himself countless times, and Diddy – who no one regards as a rapper, get more love and airtime.

So the biggest understatement today is, For the unluckiest guy in Hip-Hop, a 2 year jail sentence is really the very last thing needed. Good Luck.

It’s Electric!…Minus the bus stop

It’s Almost 2011, and the New Year’s looking quite Green.

Much has been speculated and talked about the rise of environmentally conscious vehicles. It seems it’s something only discussed in the conversation of global warming, or in mixed conversation among those financially flexible enough to afford the costly hybrid cars and experimental models as their side mobiles.

What makes this approaching year different is the variety and economic range of the new slate of Eco-Friendly cars being rolled out, with sleeker designs than previous alternatively fueled cars and starting prices from $26,000 and up. The other big deal is the official major introduction of electric cars being made available to the public. The line-up of automobiles fueled by electric rechargeable power sources is formidable in number. Manufacturers from Nissan and Chevy are all bringing out first generation electric-powered rides with nouveau names like “Volt” and “Think City”. For a better look at what’s in store for 2011, check out this link http://www.practicalenvironmentalist.com/automobiles/2011-electric-cars-usa.htm

So far, I’m feeling the Think City model, and the idea of Toyota partnering up with Tesla Motors for an electric-powered RAV 4, but my favorite so far is definitely the Made-In-China CODA Sedan. http://www.codaautomotive.com/

The CODA made the news last week as its CEO took a prototype for a spin down midtown Manhattan in the rain to show off its capabilities, adaptability and overall style. 

They boast to have a 6.6 kilowatt charger at 220 volts which takes about 6 hours to charge, and state that that’s twice as fast as their leading competition. And while much has been said by early critics about its look, I’ll say that the CODA presents the most modern, sexy aesthetic of all of the green cars I’ve ever seen. For one, it actually looks like a car! Lord knows the Prius is God-Awful looking! It’s design is one that’s not instantly noticeable as electric and in a sea of comfort and luxury sedans in an urban metropolis, it’ll blend right in quite nicely yet stand out due to its unique look. Available in several colors and complete with all of those cool new features you all Love like hands free phone capability, seat-warmers and a digital touch screen radio.

Damn, I sound like a car salesman, but with tax incentives that bring the hefty price of driving smart down a bit and the moral confidence of knowing you’re not adding to carbon emissions globally, you just might wanna plug in.

*New Show* Soul Brothers x Malik-16 – SOUL BROTHERS REUNION SHOW December 18th In Harlem! (See trailer)

As always, like we usually seem to do at least 1nce a year, My extended fam  – The Soul Brothers are putting on Another Soul Jam at Harlem‘s own BlackStar Music And Video.

And Iam the special guest sharing the bill doing what I do best!

This not only marks the reunion of the 2 members, Fred Hawkins and Prince Hottness The Cure, but it’s also a return to glory that should see the event go back to the essence of the very first event at BlackStar. This will officially be the third run and the second show this year, counting this summer’s go-round without PHTC.

This time, it’s back to the basics; A Live band, FREE drinks and Dope New music and some crowd favorites. All that’s being asked is your humble $2 Donation. Hear that?? Donation, meaning you don’t have to, but why be so fucking cheap???!

Support Harlem’s last Black owned, Black operated, Video and music retailer. Support Good music and upcoming artists. Support Dope Hip-Hop performers….We’re Rare! I’ll be bringing up my group, The Have-Knotz, as well, to prepare for our debut.

Show is Saturday, December 18th @ 7:00. BlackStar is located on Lenox avenue in Harlem between 128th and 129th streets. Let’s do it big!

NYC Transit Ads get Bloody and Pissy for your Health!!

If any of you are NY Transit strap-hangers like I have become within the last year, you might notice a string of new Bold public service ads appearing around Train stations and bus stops.

This Year, the New York State Health Department is targeting Binge Drinking and excessive alcohol consumption during the holiday season, and the approach is in-your-face. 2 ads have surfaced, one showing a man bruised up from what’s alluded to be a fight that occured as a result of reckless drinking. The other depicts a woman so far gone that she’s slumped over a rail after what seems to be a wild night of partying.

Anyone who knows me knows of the paradoxical life I lead as a bartender by day who absolutely hates alcohol and what it does. I personally believe that it is thee WORST drug out there and leads to so much destructive activity, to self, and others. What makes it so dangerous is that it is so much apart of metropolitan and American culture, and so woven into socialization and readily available that it’s nature and effects tend to get downplayed. Watching Drunk people around me made me never want to get drunk. Think of all the times you’ve passed your limit and the stupid stuff you’ve done and the horrible way your body felt afterward. All for what?

Keep that in mind this season as you roll past these ads on your commute and on your way to that party for that fun night. These ads talk to New Yorkers the way New Yorkers are so supposed to be talked to; Direct, Blunt and Vivid. What do you guys think of them?

Salud! And Be Safe this year…

2 Brooklyn kids become D.A.s Thanks to Hip-Hop!

I caught wind of this earlier today on NY1 and it made me smile. I thought, ‘man, how cool is this?!’.

2 Fifth Graders, young Naiman St. Phard and Jeremiah Hyde were named this morning as the Winners of the Brooklyn Legal Lives program’s Anti-Bullying video contest. The Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hynes made the announcement and awarded the two youngsters the honor of being D.A.s for a day, stating,

“Unfortunately, bullying occurs on a daily basis in schools and schoolyards throughout the borough. Sometimes these cases escalate to assaults. It is important to recognize that children who are bullied experience real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as their school performance. In some severe cases, it may even lead to suicide. My staff is taking a proactive approach to bullying in schools and in the community so that we can put an end to this senseless behavior,” said District Attorney Hynes. “Congratulations to Nairan St. Phard and Jeremiah Hyde on their creativity and dedication to stopping bullying.”

Legal Lives is a program that was developed in an effort to prevent juvenile delinquency, utilizing group discussions and role playing. Much like the anti drug programs like D.A.R.E. that kids like me in New York public Schools grew up on, officials are brought into classrooms to educate students about the law and how it affects their lives. This one is specifically aimed at 5th Graders and reaches around 60,000 students. The bullying lesson plan was recently initiated in response to the rise of bullying related crimes and deaths.

One of the first such components of this rollout plan was the video contest which challenged students to make creative responses to the bullying threat. The two boys Naiman and Jeremiah chose to rap in their video, with one even providing the Beatboxing. You can see it here

You should have seen these 2 guys as they accepted their reward at the press conference; full of personality and charisma. They were loving the spotlight. Straight new York, Straight Brooklyn boys. I immediately was taken back to my days between 3rd and 6th grade, Doing the same exact thing – writing themed raps and performing them with my class friends who would beatbox and usually winning whatever the contest was. But this is something to be proud of. This is a moment. This is quite a big deal – a little beyond a certificate or a $10 bill. This is an invaluable experience for these young men and I hope they understand the gravity of it.

Shout outs to these 2 for taking a vested interest in their education and keeping the spirit of Hip-Hop alive all at the same time.

And The Band Plays On…

To Close out this World AIDS Day today,

I’ll leave you with this article from Reuters that goes into recent declarations of a decline in the spread of HIV and AIDS across the globe.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AM1ZA20101123

The reports show numbers that have dropped significantly over the last few years, even between this year and last. Even in major areas like Sub-Saharan Africa – which has been the most hard hit region of the world. The Write-up goes as far as to quote a specialist stating that we’re seeing a beginning in the reversal of the epidemic.

Of course, the questions and concerns that get raised from this are whether this means there will be a subsequent slow-down of funding for continuing research and medication for those still living with the effects of the disease.

I hope you are always inspired to do your own part and any other part you can do to further the education on this monster and be a helpful component in the fight against it. At the top of this year, I chose to buy a RED product (an iPod) as a small step. Let’s see what Next year brings…

Be Safe. And peace to those extra strong of you making each day count.

Opportunity Knocks, Sek-Won Breaks!!…New Instrumental Album

It’s the First of the Month.

And what better way to set things off than with a New release by my boy, Super-Producer Sek-Won??!

The project is titled Breaking Down Doors and you can sample it here…http://sekwon.bandcamp.com/album/sekwon-breakingdowndoors

This is the sophmore follow-up to his first album of beats, Earn A Name, and sees him reaching a point of refinement in his career as both a producer and album-maker. There seems to be a clean and clear point being made here. He lets the beats ride out with purpose and brings you into the identity of each one. Sure, there’s some repetition in the sounds he chooses, and with titles like “All Ya’ll Dumb Fucks Get Punished”, there is no denying that this is a Sek-Won project, made by Sek-Won. He puts his personality into his work and it shows. He can’t help it. He’s a kid straight from Washington Heights raised off salsa and underground NY Hip-Hop in it’s rawest form. You can hear his influences from tracks like “El Bochinche” to “Ma Rhumba”.

My favorite track is “Back At It Again”. Don’t be surprised if  you hear me make a banger over that one! I’m proud of my fellow former Group member from my defunct crew, The Balance. He’s Breaking Down Doors for sure…Just don’t stand in the way.

Fly, Black Buddafly…Just…Fly!!

Told you they would wind up in a Crush Alot post before the year is over!

This is one bad-Ass sisterhood of traveling pants. The half Senegalese, Half German mixes are imports from Germany that were raised on soul and followed their dreams all the way to the States.

You may or may not have heard of the Schmahl Sisters, but these twins (Amina & Jazz) have been on the scene for quite some time. Starting off as the first act on the ill fated Russell Simmons Music Group, Black Buddafly began as a trio – then including older sister Sophie, who left after giving birth to a child in 2006. I remember seeing their video just randomly begin popping up late night on BET (when it used to actually play music videos), and thinking – ‘who the Hell?’ And ‘what a contrived group’. The look was too styled, the voices were like 3 Cassies, and the songwriting and production was microwave. Here’s that first video…

I did notice from the first second of watching tho, How bad all 3 sisters were! At the time, I brushed it off because their beauty is one that we’ve been subjected to and have idolized for the last 15 years of urban video and imagery. It’s that typical concept of beautiful that they fit. Slim, but shapely, soft smoky eyes and long eyelashes, long hair, caramel skin..the usual…Seen it once, seen it a thousand times right?

Man was I wrong.

I knew I liked them. I knew they fit my personal ideal of sexiness and prettiness, but they landed in the back of my mind. Other chics were more directly within my scope. Even though their second single “Bad Girl” Featuring Fab had become a guilty pleasure of mine, and somehow wound up making it onto my iPod years later, I never paid them attention until Me and Brandon Carter performed with them earlier this year.

It was a musical showcase based on performances that utilized live instrumentation or a band. Brandon was invited as a lead act, and we were fresh off of the hype of our “Subway, Bus or Walking” phenomena. They perused the place, mingling with folks they knew within the space, and I kept thinking, ‘where do I know these chics from?’. Then I finally saw their name on the bill and realized that they were apart of the line-up. I was automatically excited – but I didn’t know why. They added a kind of validation to the showcase, because this was a group that once had a major record deal and national publicity with one of the most famous names in music behind them. And they showed just why that night. Never before could I have been made aware of just how talented these sisters are. They sang in strong octaves, flawless harmonies, stripped down songs that hadn’t been presented to the public yet that they chose to share with us. I watched in awe as one sister propped in front of a piano and played each note while the other sang her heart out on a stool on stage. They took turns on lead and belted out over original material all written and arranged by themselves. It was an eye-opener for sure.

Without a doubt, it was also eye-candy. After all the sets were finished, they prompted everyone for a group picture of all of the performing acts. I made sure that me and Brandon stood next to the sisters. See, where I was mistaken initially from just seeing them in glossy Vibe pages and seductive videos, is the fact that even tho their kind of beauty has become a cliche caricature kind of beauty for our generation, it still is a real beauty and it comes from somewhere. So if they embody that look and that look is very much alive in person, then what the hell does that say about them?? It says that these chics are indeed, some BAD girls! 

Seeing is believing. The sisters are thicker in person, smoother in person, and that much more tempting in person. The symmetry in their features is off the hook! And the light bends and gleams off of that very caramel skin I mentioned before.

I wanted to spark a conversation with them so bad because we were all in the same space, but never got that chance. Besides, these chics seemed to know everybody in the place, and proceeded to work the room accordingly, never standing alone once.

As a group, the sisters are as aware of their sex appeal as they are their music. They push to be taken seriously and tone things down so you can focus on their songwriting and vocals and musicality, but push the hot buttons just in time so you remember that they are fantasy material. You can see this from their promo shots. They control every bedroom eye, every blush filled grin, every show of skin. It’s all very planned…and you know it…but you won’t even care, because as much as they might think they know when to turn it off or on, these women are the kind of sexy that never can shut down. There is no hibernation or sleep mode. 

Unlike some other singing sister tag-teams, like my other old crushes, JS (The Johnson Sisters – aka those 2 chics R.Kelly brought out in the early 2000’s that Ron Isley took as background singers and one as his wife), or Mary Mary, there isn’t one pretty one and one not-so-pretty. You’d be hard pressed to pick which sister is badder than the other. They are Identical twins. And more like Nina Sky, they’ve both kept up their bodies and keep their styles close enough to fall in line with the uniformity, but different enough to distinguish if you pay attention. Also, like Nina Sky, the ladies are back at a place career-wise where they’re starting from the ground up; playing by their rules and generating a more authentic following by breaking underground territory and building from there.

If they keep at it you’ll be hearing alot more from Black Buddafly very soon. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to just look at them.

Check out the…uhhmm..Twins…Who doesn’t love that? Did you peep the Piano tattoo going down the one sister’s side? Ive been in love!

And now that I’ve put it all out there and am willing to learn one of the most unsexy harsh sounding languages just to be closer to them, can I just say

Mein Gott! Amina and Jazz,

You 

Are My New Crush!!