Tag Archives: R&B

#TheStoop: The 20th Anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

#TheStoop: The 20th Anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Today on the Season 3 premiere of #TheStoop: A Mini-Podcast Summer Series, we take you back to the musical Golden Era of 90’s music, and celebrate one of the Greatest albums of the decade. Twenty years ago tomorrow (August 25, 1998), Lauryn Hill released her one and only iconic album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”. The album not only broke barriers for women in Hip Hop, but Lauryn went on to win 5 Grammys (Including Best Album), selling over 19 million albums worldwide, which sent her further into superstardom (for better and for worse).

Today we welcome Dennis Barham (formerly host of Rapsolute Programme on iLive Radio, Actor) as we discuss our Top 5 songs from the album, the impact the album had on the culture, how we view her career post-Miseducation, and a whole lot more.

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below, and also, the podcasts are now available for download. You can now check out the podcasts on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, AND now you can add Spotify to that list (officially as of right now). You can get to all of those apps on your IOS or Android devices. ***

#TheStoop: A Mini(Podcast)-Series // The 20th Anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Image result for the miseducation of lauryn hill

 

download the podcast, feel free to click the link below:

https://app.box.com/s/wv4imz5vn32hpngim2ux9xltqxnk57ms

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to South Shore Ave, click onto the Follow button, and enter your email address, or click onto the RSS Feed. Very special thanks to Dennis Barham for his guest appearance on this podcast.

#TheStoop: The Adventures of Yonge St #CaribanaEdition

#TheStoop: The Adventures of Yonge St #CaribanaEdition

Today on the Season 2 premiere of #TheStoop: A Mini-Podcast Summer Series, we take you back to the era when Yonge St may have been the most important place to be during Toronto’s Caribana weekend. I invite friends of the podcast Headley & Michael Hyatt as we break down Caribana Fridays on Yonge St. We discuss our memories on the strip, the reasons it became the ultimate hang out spot, the wild events that took place, and when things started to change (for better & for worse), plus more.

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast below, and also, the podcasts are available for download. ***

#TheStoop: A Mini(Podcast)-Series // The Adventures of Yonge St. #CaribanaEdition

 

 

 

To download the podcast, feel free to click the link below:

https://app.box.com/s/qq9jg5i8qeb1w27u443v2vsmmeatgqeb

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to South Shore Ave, click onto the Follow button, and enter your email address, or click onto the RSS Feed. Very special thanks to Headley & Michael Hyatt for their guest appearance on this podcast. Also, yes…. I’m the one in the Blue Patriots football jersey.

** To catch episodes on Season 1 of #TheStoop, click here. **

I Want The Keys of Life: The Best of Marvin Gaye & Stevie Wonder #SouthShoreAveRadio

South Shore Ave Radio presents…. I Want The Keys of Life: The Best of Marvin Gaye & Stevie Wonder Podcast.

Today on South Shore Ave Radio, we bring you the best of Marvin Gaye & Stevie Wonder slow songs for a Valentines Mixshow Podcast, Sit back, relax, pour yourself some wine, lay in the arms of your significant other, and I hope your house is soundproof, Please enjoy two of my favorite artists of all time. (Originally recorded in December 2009. No, seriously. I explain at the beginning of the pod.)

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below. ***

I Want The Keys of Life: The Best of Marvin Gaye & Stevie Wonder

 

To Download The Podcast, click below:

https://app.box.com/s/4okzxph5m9r0ya87ug5fggtdy50851ee

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to South Shore Ave, click onto the follow button and enter your email address, or click onto the RSS Feed.

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee – The Playoffs & The Trap

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 3: The Playoffs & The Trap

Welcome once again to The Ave Podcast. For Part I, we welcome O’Niel Kamaka (St. Mary’s College alumnist, Northen Kings AAU Basketball Coach), as we discuss our thoughts on the players who has both impressed & disappointed us from the 1st round of the NBA playoffs; recap our thoughts from the Pacers-Raptors series; & if San Antonio becomes the favorite to win it all with Steph Curry’s injuries mounting.

For Part II, we welcome our guest and past contributor Shawn Adonis (The Notorious B.I.G’s Ready to Die , Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx….., and a #FlashbackFriday Video discussion on Kardinal Offishall’s “Bakardi Slang”), as we discuss the phenomenon of Desiigner’s Panda, the dominance of Trap music, how the internet era has altered the balance of today’s Hip Hop music.

As always, thanks for tuning in. For you newcomers, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below….

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 3 – PART I “The Playoffs”

 

PART II “The Trap”

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button or by entering your email address. Very special thanks to O’Niel Kamaka & Shawn Adonis for their guest appearances on this podcast.

#FlashbackFridayVideos – D’Angelo’s Untitled (How Does It Feel)

Welcome to #FlashbackFridayVideos where once a month we will break down classic music videos, classic sports games and general signature sports and pop culture moments from back in the day. We’ll have a quick rundown and explore all the angles that come to our minds. With that said…..

I am a huge fan of D’Angelo’s music. The man plays the piano, the guitar, he produces, he composes, he writes, and most importantly for music lovers, he can sing his ass off. He struck a perfect balance between having ALL the ladies love him, while getting respect from the fellas and the streets when he released his Brown Sugar album almost twenty years ago. Five years later, he released his 2nd album, Voodoo, a timeless masterpiece that pushed his talents into “Revered Superstar” status, and was legitimately being compared to legends like Prince, Marvin Gaye, & Stevie Wonder. If that wasn’t enough, he changed his body to the point that he started making waves as a sex symbol.

Now, most women would tell you, prior to Voodoo they all though he was a great looking guy as he was. Even with the cornrows, the baggy clothes, the fact that he hid behind the piano in most of his videos and award performances, women would still willingly throw themselves at him. When he dropped his “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” video, it was a seismic explosion. ALL women collectively lost, for lack of better words, their mothafu**in’ minds. Us men completely hated on his ass, refusing to watch the video more than once, while throwing up a collective middle finger at the whole experience. Even to this day, you mention this song &/or video to a female that remembers it, & a perverted smile etches their face. On that note, I’ve decided to go a different route on this one. I’ve decided to get an all-female perspective & responses from a collection of my friends, my friend’s wives, relatives, shit….. even “The Wife” threw her 2 cents in like a dodgeball throw. It’s only right that they give you their qualified reactions instead of me. I think the song is great, and it’s a certified baby-maker, but it’s been 15+ years since that video debuted, & I still refuse to look at this video in its face. Anyways, please enjoy…..

 

So Ladies, how did this video “Make You Feel?”

Dee aka “The WIfe”: Listen, one night whilst sitting on the couch perusing through the tv channels, slightly tipsy from the glass of Reisling I had just enjoyed, up on my screen appears this sexilous specimen of a man! (Yes! I said sexilous). And he wants to ask me with his lips in that infamous curl and penetrating eyes, “How Does It Feel?” Have mercy Jesus, as my heart pulsated, and an incredulous heat invaded my body, with a sly smirk on my face, I was willing to show him how it felt. If only I could miraculously appear on screen with Mr. D’Angelo, but then he would have to release, “Untitled Part Deux”! Because I would have gladly showed him, and the cast and crew would have ran out of film. Please believe me!!! An oldie, but DEFINITELY…a goody.

(Me: I hope you know you sleeping in the guest room tonight. Cuz uh…….)

Cheryl: Well, well, weeeelllll!! That video definitely makes you feel good all over!! What a yummie, yummie man! You just want to reach out and touch him!! Angie Stone (that’s her name right?) was a lucky woman!! LOL!!

Sasha: Well….. Here’s my 2 cents on that vid:

I had to do a quick replay of the vid because it’s been a minute! But after the replay I think I still had the same feeling I did many, many moons ago… HOT DAYUUUM (sigh)!!!  Good Lawd he’s beautiful… in a manly sort of way. Lips, body, muscles, abs (that can qualify under body), skin and he can sing like that….. sweet Jesus.  It was perfection!  I guess the jaw-dropping audacity of someone doing a video like that, to then go along with the sensuality of the song was ground breaking, and had all the ladies dumbfounded in lust!  I found myself mesmerized like I did back then, trying to tilt the screen down to see a lil’ more.  Some guys must have liked the song, then saw the video and probably hated it, Lol! Then again maybe some didn’t but it was never a song for the guys. I have to really commend D’Angelo on putting out a tune like that with a video that is incomparable.  So many years later you ask ladies about that song, it gives us a trip down memory lane, as well as an excuse to watch it after so long. Thanks! Well worth the trip…..

Eboni: I heard the song “Untitled” before I saw the video and loved it. D’Angelo’s work brings me to a place of elevation and peace. But when I saw the video, I don’t think I exhaled nor did I close my mouth until the very last line. I later found out the video was inspired by his grandmother’s cooking. That made me respect the many layers of his artistry, and how his raw talent fused with his musicality and radical religious upbringing created a riveting sound. With his clothes on or off, D’Angelo is still one of my all-time favorites.

Tania: I think I was at Western University with my girls when I first saw the “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” video.  We were all about that Neo Soul movement and definitely had the Brown Sugar album on repeat for a long time. But I don’t think ANYONE was ready for this video! This video…..Oh this video… I don’t think I even heard the song the first time I watched it.  I don’t think I even knew who was singing the song when I first saw this video.  Let’s just say I certainly gave that body the appreciation and admiration that it deserved!  Untitled didn’t need a title! That body spoke volumes. Did everyone else hear what he was trying to say??? Well…. that’s another issue.

After I shook out my head, wiped the drool off my mouth and watched the video again, I became embarrassed. If you allow yourself to get beyond the hot body and fall into the lyrics of the song, the body language of the close up shots, and the emotion of the video you start to feel like a creeper!  It is such an intimate moment.  Basically this sexy naked man is trying to seduce a woman (maybe all women) into having sex.  This was an open and raw proposal stripped down to just the body and the words.  It was really a unique and creative production. Although, I don’t think it was initially recognized for these artistic reasons. Instead, we all talked about how good D’Angelo looked compared to when we last saw him. He went from a smooth singing, piano playing artist to a full-fledged sex symbol.  There was speculation (lots of inappropriate speculation) as to what was behind that coy smile and lip licking, just a lot of overall focus on all things six-pack.  Ultimately, all this attention and physical infatuation is what drove D’Angelo away from the spotlight and that makes me sad. As time passed, and the novelty of the shocking “Untitled” video wore off, at least we were still left with a provocatively beautiful song.

Marissa: I was like “whoa” (in a very good way) he definitely left a lot to the imagination of anyone watching it. It was a different direction he took and I was amazed, in awe, and drooling. I’m sure like the rest of the female population.

I think that video was naturally artistic. No filters necessary. No video chicks, or material things, he just put himself out there and it “made you feel” sexy just watching him.

I don’t think anyone may have expected him to go there as we all knew and loved his other songs. So I really enjoyed what he displayed musically, and I left the rest to my imagination. **wink-wink**.

Aisha: How does it feel… it feels just about right! If I think back to when I first saw this video, I believe I was in high school. If anyone can appreciate, high school was an awkward time, especially when it came to issues of sex, sexualness (clearly this is not a word but I am using it!) and sexuality. This video was like forbidden fruit…here was this fine ass black man, shiny and smooth singing about how it felt. At that time, I had no idea how it felt, but based on this video and assuming that every grown man looked like that, I certainly wanted to know how it felt! This song, like many songs during this musical era remains etched in my mind. Personally, it was when music was about emotion and not just about twerking, gold and CoCo!

At the mature age of 35, I still get goosebumps when I hear this song. The only difference is that I know your average man does not look like that!

Tricia: It was first in the Black Men United’s video for “You Will Know” off of the Jason’s Lyric soundtrack, when I first set eyes on the cute piano player who I’d later find out went by the name D’Angelo.  Thanks to Da Mix or Xtendamix (or whatever it was called back then) I quickly purchased and fell in love with the instant classic album “Brown Sugar”.  When it came to D’Angelo, I was a huge fan.  The music was great, but those curly lips were up there on the same level as LL Cool J.   Being absolutely boy crazy, I did not even care that word on the street was that he was mad short.  So when I heard that there was another album on its way, I was thrilled.

I heard the first release, “Devil’s Pie” and thought “okay”, but then I started to hear people talk about that D’Angelo video where he is naked.  Say what?  Having to wait for the video to pop up on the TV, I eagerly waited for the Much Music VJ to introduce “Untitled”, and finally it happened.

There was that sexy specimen, singing that sexy song. The boy was cut!  How could you not look at those abs and those muscles that only the really, really cut guys had?  And then there was the way the camera shot him, just high enough to make us think if we just kept looking a little lower we could see more.  Man, was he really naked — like completely butt naked?  If everything was lookin’ all good up there, I am sure as hell, it was all good down there.

Everything stopped when that video came on TV.  No matter how many times I watched it, it got better and better.  I loved waiting for the end of the song as he would crescendo and belt out every “Ya ya!  Wooh!”  while slyly looking down at whoever she was.   I did not even care, the man was just too fine.  Woman across the world wished he was looking at all of us that way.  Want to see a room full of girls break out into a sisterhood of high fives? Just play that video.  “How does it feel” you ask??  It feels greeeeaaaaaaat!!!

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button or by entering your email address. Very special thanks to Dee aka “The Wife”, Cheryl, Sasha, Tricia, Eboni, Marissa, Tania, & Aisha for their generous contributions to this post.  

A Blurred Line

I feel as though I have to throw in my observation of Robin Thicke, especially in light of the fact that he & Pharrell had to give up $7.3M to Marvin Gaye’s estate. Can you remember a time where a song provided an artist with his greatest triumph & his worst nightmares all in one fell swoop like this? Blurred Lines has become Robin’s Gift and his Curse. I want to insert you, the reader, in Thicke’s shoes for a moment.

You’re the son of a famous 80’s actor who stepped out into a different avenue altogether to become an R&B singer. You marry your high school sweetheart (the beautiful Paula Patton) whose dream is to become an actress. Together you both embark upon a journey to make it in your respective fields. Your wife starts to acquire great roles that help her become somewhat of a movie star, acting alongside a variety of people, from Andre 3000 & Big Boi (Idlewild) to Denzel Washington (Deja Vu). You break into the R&B market as a white soul singer; casts your wife as your leading lady in your video “Lost Without You” which wins the approval and hearts of women everywhere. Your buzz starts to grow bigger. You do a couple of collabos with Lil’ Wayne, and put out a couple more hot singles & albums, & the black community continues to appreciate your work even further. You’ve basically become this generation’s Jon B. Everything goes a step further when you accept a role on your friend, Kevin Hart’s mock-reality TV show, “The Real Husbands of Hollywood.” Nobody sees the potential you have to hang with the other actors & comedians on the set. Not only do you hold your own, but you become one of the most favorite and memorable characters of Season 1.  On top of that, the frenemy dynamic with Kevin Hart at times takes the show to an whole other level than we ever imagined. The episode where you get so angry at Kevin for stealing your “Lost Without You” song and video, all the while continuing to make comments of him wanting to steal your wife, & instead of turning into The Hulk, turns into a big, buffed out angry Black man, is probably one of the funniest things seen on TV since The Chappelle Show. Even though your career has been pretty successful thus far, you still haven’t had that major hit that maybe one day would take you over the top.

Then Blurred Lines entered your life.

You collaborate with Pharrell & T.I., making a fun party record, sounding like everyone is having a good time while its being recorded. It’s a record that brought a different sound than what you would normally record. The song sounds great & you figure this could be the early-bird type of single that can start generating a buzz for your new album in the future. You release it, and within weeks, the buzz starts to mushroom. It takes over all the important music charts in the U.S., then Canada., then London, Spain, Italy, China, etc. It has not only become one of the hottest records in the world at the moment, but it might be the best R&B song that came out this decade. Every man, woman, and child, every race, every young teen demo, every senior citizen demo, and everyone in between LOVES your song. And just like that, you’ve finally obtained your major smash hit, and you’ve turned into a superstar.

Would you like to come back for Season 2 of RHOH? “Uhhhh, no thanks!”

Would you like to do exclusive interviews with people like Oprah Winfrey? “Uhhh, you mawfuckin’ riiiight!”

You went from watching these big time music award shows to now you and your wife are sitting front row, and you’re one of the performers the world tunes it to watch. It reaches its full apex when Miley Cyrus brings you on stage to perform Blurred Lines on the VMAs & decides to “Twerk” on you (if you want to call it that) while rubbing your genitals with a foam finger. The whole world goes “Andre is off his meds again” crazy…. & you’re just riding the tidal wave of fame and success. Now women (who know you have a beautiful wife at home) are throwing themselves, their bras, and their panties at your every step in every part of the world. Man, it’s getting hard to turn all this down. You start getting a lil’ handsy & comfortable at some of these after parties & the social media agents start taking & sending pictures. The wife who’s nowhere near you, keeps hearing these rumors and seeing these images & starts to flip out.

Now, no one really knows for sure what really happened between you & your wife, whether you cheated on her or not, but now your marriage is getting more blurry than your eyes after going hard in bottle service. Your wife, your friend & someone who’s been there for you for almost twenty years is about to leave. The one song that you’ve been waiting for your whole career is now cracking at your foundation. You start to panic. You start rushing an album basically begging your wife to come back….

*** Cue the Announcer **** 

“And that’s when ‘Keeping it Real’ goes wrong”

Let’s step out of his shoes for one second…..

What Robin Thicke did was a huge no-no as an R&B male singer. The demographic who support his craft (i.e. Women between the ages of 18-40) want to always feel like he’s singing to or about them, not someone else. It doesn’t matter if he’s married or not. Even if the material he’s singing about is about his wife, it has to be done in a way that feels like it could easily be about them too. Usher’s, Here I Stand” album was a peek into his progress as a husband, a father, and a family man……but no one was trying to hear about his stable family unit after Confessions.” That album was fun, drama-filled, and salacious, mixed with great production. It’s probably not a coincidence that he released “Papers” as his first track once the “Here I Stand” album cycle ran its course. He still wanted to air out his business, but to also pick momentum back up from where he left “Confessions.” It’s a slightly twisted view, sure, but it’s a reality. Once an artist reaches that high, no one wants to see them seem weak, especially immediately after that life-changing success of a song/album. Even if they just want their wife back. If it comes off looking desperate while doing it, it’s even worse. What does desperation & ignoring the fantasies of your fan base look like when you mix them together?

Look at him. Head down, all somber, looking like he’s going to weep as soon as he’s off-camera with all the colors following him like the trail of a wedding dress. I’m sure his management team must have spent weeks double-fisting bottles of Hennessey and Grey Goose. After all the goodwill Robin collected in the last 15 months, he basically punted it all away with a “Baby, Baby please!” album to your estranged wife (with her name on it to make sure there’s no mistake who it’s about) and their eroding relationship that’s been in the news for months, & essentially putting his shit-stained boxers dirty laundry all over the boulevard for the neighbors to see. He should be getting paid by Jerry Jones, not Jimmy Iovine.

Ok, let’s step back into his shoes again…..

Predictably, you release “Get Her Back” off of your dedication album. Surprisingly, it doesn’t go over so well. You then release “Paula”, and your album tanks hard (24,000 1st week sales) officially killing any leftover momentum of “Blurred Lines.” The fame from this song has started to become the bane of your existence. If this wasn’t bad enough, along comes the Gaye family with claims that your biggest song sounds a lot like their Father’s biggest song, & since you didn’t get proper permission, you “Got to Give It Up” to the estate. It doesn’t matter if you were influenced by the man and/or the legendary song itself, the family wants their money, their cut, and for you to never perform the song again. You try to fight it out in court, but eventually you lose the case (that you’re trying to appeal). Within the same time frame that your divorce is settled, you now have to kick out $7.3M, a number so startling that you start flirting with the idea of calling your Dad & Kirk Cameron to get together and do a remake of Growing Pains just to recoup the lost monies.

Now that you have some perspective & have taken a look back at your career leading up to  Blurred Lines, the incredible peaks that the song took your career to, the depressing valleys you slid down into that sacrificed your family, putting “Paula Patton” back on the market again, and your career is now as hot as an ice bucket challenge……

……. If you had the chance to do the Blurred Line experience over again, don’t you have to have yes?

**** Removing shoes ****

In any facet of life, how do you know how far you can go, and how far you can stretch your talents and abilities to unless you reach for the ceiling? Once you do, you have to deal with the hurdles, obstacles, &/or temptations that may come with that success sometimes, and then deal with them accordingly. Once this opportunity came and Blurred Lines became what it became, Robin had to exhaust all ways to maximize on it. Could Robin have better handled the success that came with the biggest song of his career? Sure. Could he have maybe cleared it somehow with the Gaye estate just to make absolute sure he had no issues going forward? Yes. Hindsight always comes with perfect vision, and everyone can master his moves after the fact, but as long as you understand that it would be a complete disservice to his career had he not gone through his Blurred experience. He could have continued on with his career hitting doubles and singles like some average light-hitting baseball player & stayed where he was. If that was as far as he wanted to take things, then fine. But what if he knew he could hit that home run? Once he got the right pitch (song) and he know it could be knocked out of the park, doesn’t he have to swing for it, knowing that he’s going to run on the bases of temptation, vices, and pressures before he reaches home? It’s the gift and the curse of success…. and it doesn’t always come with a blueprint to navigate through it. It might be a shame what happened to Robin after that song came and went, but unfortunately that’s the price that comes with taking that bat off your shoulders. Knowing how to jog on the bases sometimes is just as important as taking the swing, so it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from everything moving forward.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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Golden Era: 20th Anniversary of Mary J. Blige’s My Life

We here at South Shore Ave are gassing up the DeLorean & taking you back to the musical Golden Era of 90’s music to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of one of the Greatest albums in R&B history. Twenty years from tomorrow, coming off the success of What’s the 411?, Mary J Blige gave us the gift that was My Life, an album that solidified her as the R&B voice for her generation. As we celebrate My Life, we’ll review some of our favorite songs from the classic LP. I know you can hear me now…..

**DISCLAIMER — This is not a Top 5 list. You could make a honest argument for 10 songs from this album being in the Top 5. This is strictly a review a collection of songs from the album.**  

I Love You 

“All those pretty memories / I know you can hear me now / For the record / I love you / I love you 

I shine…… you shine (shine)…….. I shine……. you shine (shine)……. I shine…….. you shine (shine)…….. I shine……. you shine (shine)…….. I shine…….. you shine……. and this day and time / we maintain / the same frame of mind / elevation / spark it up / Yo Start the circulation / 360 degrees of rotation……

…… so I can’t just recite the whole first verse of the remix? Would this be considered as a crime of laziness? Ok, fine. So I won’t do that, but I will say this: you’ll be hard pressed to find another album with so much legendary remixes off the singles. This is no knock whatsoever on the original version of the record.  If there weren’t a remix, this song would be incredible anyway with the piano loops & that hard bass line that came from the mind of Chucky Thompson (well, sort of).  It’s a beautiful record in every which way.  BUT when they threw in Smif-N-Wessun (who were an hot up & coming duo from the Boot Camp Click, that was about to release their own debut album Dah Shinin’) on the beginning of the remix, it metamorphosed into the perfect marriage between R&B and Hip Hop. It’s something that Mary J mastered throughout her entire career, singing over hip hop beats & working with rappers so seamlessly.  You couldn’t find anyone who didn’t love that record. Even the hardcore hip hop heads who never listened to R&B unless their sister was playing it in the house, had to add this single to the collection. 

When I’m 80 years old, and this song comes over whatever speaker device will be around by then, I will get up & do the Puffy dance until I pop my hip out of place. I can’t stress this enough, play this remix to any Montrealer between the ages of 30 – 45 years old, & they’ll lose themselves in that “I Shine, You shine” call-and-response. This is arguably one of the best remixes she was ever a part of, & she had a whole damn album specifically for remixes. It’s hard to separate the remix from the original because they both use the same beat, but you can’t discuss the original without discussing the remix. It’s impossible.

I’m Goin‘ Down

Singing cover songs for artists are tricky. Depending on the kind of song that’s being selected by the artists as well as their vocal range, they can either do a song justice, or just ruin the record to shit. When I was younger, I didn’t have a problem with Michael Bolton, I really didn’t. Then again, I thought those were his songs. Once I heard the originals to them, it made me wanna shave a bald spot into his curls. On the flip side, Luther Vandross did a lot of cover songs & more often that not, killed the original to the point where you pretended he created it himself. In the 90’s, Jodeci annihilated Stevie Wonder’s “Lately” in one of the more memorable cover performances & for this album, Mary J made Rose Royce’sI’m Going Down into her own song. If she were a gymnast, her artistry on this track would be equivalent to a quadruple cartwheel, where she does a crazy flip & sticks the landing on the corner of the mat. Not only did you feel the talent in the song, you felt her pain so much so that, if she started sobbing towards the end of the song, you wouldn’t have been surprised.

This song was probably the best representation of her life at the time & not just because of the song title. As reported at the time, she was going through depression and battling with drugs and alcohol. I have this depressing theory about some musicians that the more chaotic their lives are, the better their art form. I wish it wasn’t the case, but I’ve seen this example too many times in history. The best example was Marvin Gaye back in the 70s when he made the, I Want You album. He was high most of the time. Gaye then made, Hear, My Dear after going through his divorce with his first wife. It’s like their pain becomes our listening pleasure through their work. It’s not a surprise that for all the accolades & the career she’s built, her albums after this were never better than My Life, because My Life was made during her darkest moments; which is completely unfortunate for her….. as a person. However, as an artist, with her pain channeled through her work, My Life became a gift to us as her fans and R&B in general.

Sidenote: Was there a remix for this? You bet your ass there was! Change up the lyrics, jack The What beat from Biggie Smalls, sprinkle in some Mr. Cheeks, and voila! You got a sweet remix that serves everyone well.

You Bring Me Joy

To keep with the theme of jacking beats and songs, we follow Sean “Puffy” Combs & the Hitmen in the getaway car while they load up the shotguns and prepare to jack poor Barry White for his production. I’m telling you, there wasn’t a more blatant beat stealer in the mid 90’s than Puffy. And unlike some producers who may take a piece here or there of a song, Puffy would just take every damn thing. If the original production was a chicken thigh, he ate everything off the bone, sucked out the bone marrow, & then chewed on the bone until the bone was collected into a small pile in the corner of his plate. He never shied away from that fact either. His theory was that once you heard those beats, it would automatically grab your attention. Plus, the original production worked before, so why wouldn’t it work again, right?  It was a smart way to market his artists, it was almost admirable. To me, 90’s Puffy will always be a cross between Robin Hood and Omar from the Wire. He came around in a trenchcoat & jacked 70’s & 80’s beats to provide musical pleasure to the masses. The only thing that was missing was the whistling before the start of every song.

To throw credit back to Puffy though, this particular beat and some of the other ones chosen for this album helped to make the songs timeless. When it comes to Mary, as depressed as she may have been during these times, she was also able to swing the emotion pendulum in the opposite direction. You may feel her pain in some of these songs, but you also felt her happiness, which is a hard thing to convey as a singer. Really hard. But you felt her joy in this song, and you can’t help but feel upbeat. On top of that, it was a staple on radio mixshows back then, and you can still play this song in the club right now to get the ladies feeling great. 

K. Murray Interlude

Interludes & skits are a 90’s thing that everyone used on their albums. Usually it’s a space filler to get enough material to make an album. Most are forgettable, others like Redman and Wu-Tang were classics. Bad Boy took it to another level by introducing the world to Biggie’s stroke game, Biggie’s sex stories (about how he um, “drops waste” on a chick), and the legendary Mad Rapper. Even though Mary wasn’t a part of Bad Boy, Puffy still provided the interlude influence anyway. No one remembers what the hell Keith Murray was saying, but most people I know wonder, what the hell beat is that?!?!? A few months later, we found out with “Who Shot Ya?, which at the time might have been one of the most ridiculous hip hop beats we ever heard. Who the hell would have thought that this beat eventually would be the start of one of the worst beefs in the history of music, a beef that led two A-level rappers (Biggie & Tupac) to die right before they reached the prime of their careers & altered many others? And again, this beat came from a R&B album?? That’s one hell of a 24-second warning shot. 

Be Happy    

Quick story: I’ll take you back to the summer of 2006. Mary J was performing at the Molson Amphitheatre here in Toronto. I was meeting some family members at the concert & was flying down the highway trying to get to the start of the concert so I wouldn’t miss out on her Be Happy performance. I ran into a crazy amount of traffic near the Lake Shore area due to construction. I started getting annoyed because even though I had no idea what the listings of her songs were gonna be, I just knew she was gonna perform that song early. After doing enough things on the road that would have gotten me pistol-whipped by police, I finally made it into the parking lot. As I met up with my family members who had my tickets, and we’re walking up the steps to the outdoor arena, I hear the long intro coming in, “DUH-DUH Dun-Nuh-Duh” over the speakers as the crowd starts going apeshit. SMH. I’m stuck in line waiting for security to tear my tickets, praying that Mary feels like a Reggae DJ at a soundclash & rewinds the song back ten times with the air horns. Nope. By the time I walked into the place, she was on to another song. Even though I enjoyed the rest of the concert, it still burns me that I missed her perform that song, especially considering that I’ve seen her live again since then & she didn’t perform Be Happy. F***.

I also wanted to see her perform that song because to be honest, it’s my favorite Mary song ever. Considering how many songs you can choose from her catalogue, that’s saying a lot. Some others on this list (“My Life” for starters) I put almost as high. Almost. You remember that old episode of Seinfeld where the guy Elaine’s dating goes into a trance and he can’t be disturbed by anyone (not even her) until his favorite song is finished? Well… okay, it’s not nearly that bad but it’s probably within the ballpark. If I’m by myself & that song comes on, there’s a pretty good chance I just zone out until the first chorus is over, I won’t even lie to you. The video itself was memorable only because of Mary standing on that rock overlooking the mountains. Unless it really was her stunt double doing it all this time and if so….. it’s understandable. What R&B singer is risking their lives for the sake of that song?

Sidenote: Was their a remix for this song? Why hell yes of course. New beat, same lyrics, throw Keith Murray in there to rap his 16 bars, and another hot remix is created. What artist is even dedicating this many remixes to their albums anymore??? Seriously? I’m asking. 

My Life

“Life can be only what you make it / When you’re feelin down you should never fake it / Say what’s on your mind / And you’ll find in time / That all the negative energy / It would all cease”

The album title track is the realest song on the album. It’s relateable to every and anyone going through hard times. To keep fighting, to keep believing in yourself, and to keep believing in God to get yourself through it. When you’re younger, sometimes you don’t appreciate the positive messages as much as you would when you get older, and as an adult, it rings truer to you. I never paid as much attention to it as I probably should have admittedly, just because I was lost in the melodic production of Roy Ayers…. I mean Puffy and Chucky Thompson. However, appreciating the song now, it stands as a stance against your obstacles taking you under. In 2014, we are still fighting against the mental issues as a society, although I think there is a better awareness about it now, as opposed to the mentality we had 20 years ago in terms of sweeping those problems under the  rug. On this record, you can see that advice Mary was giving to others and even herself, to basically keep fighting. In fact, I’ll let her tell it…

“I was ready to just check out,” she says now. “It was a moment—I can’t get into it—but I saw my life going and I was grabbing for it. I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ That’s when I realized that I don’t want to die. And I switched, and I started praying and crying, and my life shifted right there.”

Mary J to Billboard Magazine

The scary part of her situation is, not only do millions of people suffer through those same demons, but sometimes it’s the person right beside you that’s spiraling out of control and you have no idea. This is why it’s always important to communicate and to discuss your problems with someone when things are rocky. You never want to wait until it’s too late because when it gets too far, it’s almost impossible to come back from it. In some cases, you don’t. Which is why 20 years later a song like this can still register and resonate with many people.

Closing Thoughts

In my last post about TLC’s CrazySexyCool, I stated that they were the most relevant group of the 90s. Well, let’s just say that Mary is the most relevant R&B artist of an entire generation. I mean, Mary J is still selling out concerts & putting out quality music right now (see Think Like a Man Too Soundtrack). She may not go triple platinum whenever her album drops anymore like she did with My Life, but she has a loyal and huge fanbase that still allows her to put out material that they will respect. My Life wasn’t just an album that helped Mary J really break out as an artist, but as a listener, you literally felt it. It’s the greatest LP she ever made. Most great artists always have that one album that is their Picasso. Marvin Gaye had it with, What’s Going On?” and I Want You; Stevie Wonder had, “Songs In The Key of Life”; Michael Jackson had, Thriller; his sister Janet had, Rhythm Nation; and Janet, the list goes on and on. Some of those artists have that “It” album a few years into the game after they find their voice. Some others like Mary find that classic early into their careers. It’s scary to think she was only 23 when My Life was made. However, it never matters what age or at what point of your career it happens. Once it comes, you have to embrace it because very few artists ever achieve classic album status. It’s even harder to create another classic album once you get one under your belt.

Part of Mary’s legacy will be how she successfully connected Hip Hop & R&B together. The perfect example of this is when she hooked up with Method Man on the Ill Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By remixes in the Spring of ’95. Both versions of that remix were instant classics, and it catapulted Method Man further into the superstar stratosphere. After that, it has become a “Mama, I made it!” moment when rappers had a chance to not only work with her, but get a feature from her on their album. This My Life period was probably the highest peak of great R&B music as a whole. As the Hip Hop & R&B worlds blended together more and more since that album, the R&B industry became a little harder, and more edgier in some ways. It lost a lot of its soul and because of it, the R&B game overall has suffered. In no way does Mary carry any blame. Even if her production had a Hip Hop feel to it (especially early in her career), you always felt her soul no matter what. If the Golden Era of R&B was a mountain, My Life was the flag that was planted at its peak. We should celebrate that feat and then realize that we could only have come down from there. My question is, When is that renaissance period of R&B coming back? Two years from now? Five? Ten? Will I even like R&B anymore by then? I’ll say this: If more artists can capture the magic that this album had, I think you’ll know what my answer will be….

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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