Monday, 16 July 2012
Nas Is Life.
From 'Illmatic' to 'Stillmatic', 'I Am' to 'Nastradamus', 'God's Son' to 'Street Disciple', 'It Was Written' to albums 'Untitled' and the declaration 'Hip-Hop Is Dead' to the close 'Distant Relatives' collaboration with Bob Marley's son Damien. Nas has released classic after classic whilst remaining the best hip-hop artist for the last 20 years he's been around and (arguably) of all time. Now the rapper who came into this game at aged 19 and now almost 40 boasts, as well as looks half his age on his new classic that tells the rap world that his 'Life Is Good'.
And how good it is too. Even with the delay of his cult classic, second installment of 'The Lost Tapes' Nasir Jones finds new life on his last contracted Def Jam release. With 'One Mic' the rapper has made us look and listen this last year with big burner hits 'Nasty' (where the swagger returned with spitting like "I'm not in the winters of my life or the beginning stage, I am the dragon/Maserati, pumpin' Biggie, the great legend blastin'/I'm after the actress who played Faith Evans") and the Supercat sampling 'The Don'. These are the type of hip-hop bangers that helped this conscious rapper explode back into the minds of the mainstream. Always with more depth than the shallow chart ground traversed, Nas has also brought attention to his thoughts on the deeply devoted 'Daughters' and the pride-swallowing honesty of his lament to his ex-wife Kelis on 'Bye Baby'.
With lines like "It ain't easy to raise a girl as a single man/Nah, the way mothers feel for they sons, how fathers feel for they daughters/When he date, he straight, chip off his own papa/When she date, we wait behind the door with the sawed off/Cause we think no one is good enough for our daughters" and "Divorce Lawyer telling you how this thing gonna be ending?/With you paying out the a**, and I’m talking half/Not some but half. No serious, half/Half of your soul, half of your heart you leaving behind/It’s either that or die, I wanted peace of mind". It's clear to hear the man holding his ex-wifes wedding dress on his album front cover has more than a few things and going, growing concerns on his mind.
'Life' begins with the no formality needed 'No Introduction' as the M.C. that broke into the game with 'Live At The BBQ' shows his rhyme slinging skills are still as hot as they've ever been. Then Nas tracks back to the rapping on the subway days with mentoring legend Large Professor on the verse carriages of 'Loco-Motive'. 'A Queens Story' is even more reminiscent of this rappers roots, before Mr. Jones brings it to today with todays, killing competition star Rick Ross on 'Accident Murderers'.
Then Nas goes back again to the old school with urban soul legend Mary J. Blige for the funky, Issac Hayes sampling 'Reach Out' which looks to extend the rappers fanbase young and old. 'Back When' and 'You Wouldn't Understand' featuring Victoria Monet paints even more beautiful shades of the past. The smooth sips of the Remi produced 'Cherry Wine' with late, great legendary starlet Amy Winehouse from their sessions (see the smouldering 'Like Smoke') takes us even further back then the golden days of hip-hop.
Along with the soulful heart of the lingering 'Stay' and the dark past depths of the itching 'World's An Addiction' with the trademark old soul vocals of today legend Anthony Hamilton this album takes us back even further to decades gone of music history. Plus with storytelling as deep as, "A patient said she needs to see a doctor soon/Doctor busy operating on a lady whos sedated/He can barely concentrate, cause he's newly separated/His estranged wife likes entertaining her acquaintance/In the house they were married in, mad people waiting" the top lyricist is writing some of his realest all over this release.
Today will know the Swizz Beatz heat hit making 'Summer On Smash' which puts the King Of New York back on the rap throne that is rightfully his. The crown fits even better with the deluxe edition which brings us closer with 'The Black Bond' and the beautiful bloom of 'Roses'. The Cocaine 80s assisted 'Where's The Love' is the final heart beat for the streets of a classic album that will put this even more soulful rapper back into the heart of New York hip-hop. Friend and former foe and Def Jam boss and current fellow best-rapper Jay-Z has to be proud if not a little jealous right now. It's all 'Good' now. Nas has still got it, drinking to success with a new old soul style twist. For Nasir Jones life really is good again, like he keeps repeating at the end of 'Cherry Wine'. We can drink to that. Cheers Nas. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Thursday, 5 July 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Let's take it back to 2006. This writer was 21. A postgraduate traveling on a year out between Toronto, Canada and Los Angeles. A lifelong Laker fan from England was finally about to see his favorite basketball team play against the Clippers at STAPLES. That was until he got stranded at LAX after his bags where lost. Hours later, through blurred, tired eyes a 6' 10 figure emerged, perhaps I was going to see a basketball player after all?
The man came through and was greeted with reciprocated well-wishes. Signing baseball caps and shaking hands, it was all love and respect. After talking with this player about his career in basketball and his new one in music (he had a keyboard under his arm) the evening turned out to not be a disappointment after all. It ended up working out for the better. Thanks to Walt McCarty.
Walt McCarty the basketball star that turned out to be more than just your average player. A Kentucky Wildcat legend and champion in 1996 before Anthony Davis. His three-pointer, nailing UK's 31 point, history making comeback over LSU. A team that featured league greats like Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Mark Pope, Ron Mercer and Derek Anderson coached by Rick Pitino and Jim O'Brien. A guy that was more than a journeyman. A 19th Draft pick in the classic Kobe/Iverson/Nash 1996 class that took it higher with the New York Knick, Boston Celtic, Phoenix Sun and Los Angeles Clipper teams that selected him.
A Power Forward that hustled hard that moved like a guard. A defensive stopper who could also get it going on the offensive end. An off-the bench microwave player that could really light it up from downtown, whether clutch prime-time or garbage pine-time. Far from the zero on his jersey. 'I love Walter' Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn would exclaim after plays. And so did everybody else. Far from a poor man's Robert Horry this spark-plug star was worth every multi-contract and a household name in his own right.
Now you can expect his name to get even bigger. The man who once acted in Spike Lee's 'He Got Game' alongside Denzel Washington and current Boston star Ray Allen has more than a second career after basketball and we're not talking about an assistant coaching gig. This man has got something more in concert. This man can really sing and we're not just talking about his Jerry Stackhouse-esque National Anthem chorus. His great, debut R&B album 'Moment For Love' was more than a Shaq side or Iverson one off. Like Kareem Rush, Walt proved he can really be a real R&B star. Just ask Tank or any of the serious soul-men that follow him. With the great single 'Emotionally' heating up like his play off the bench and his new album 'Unbreakable' set to buzz before the fourth quarter this man really is a star in two games.
Want to hear more?
Q. Walt, thank you for your time. How you doing man?
-I'm well man just trying to keep busy. No complaints.
Q. When I met you in 2006, keyboard in hand I knew you where on to something. Loving 'Emotionally' how's the reception been for this single? Everything you hoped?
-Emotionally album is doing well. People were very accepting of it and their still buying so I appreciate the love so much.
Q. Tell us more about this 'Unbreakable' album?
-The UNBREAKABLE is my best work so far. It's more Urban Pop driven and really is a great piece of work and I'm truly excited how it all came together. I don't think people are gonna believe what they are about to witness so I'm just ecstatic and anxious all at the same time. grounds amazing project.
Q. Who are you working with and what artists are in touch with you about your second career?
-I worked with two very talented producers. Fred "Blaze The Champ" Crawford produced most of the record and Melvin "Saint Nick" Coleman also did some production as well. Bad Boy Entertainment artists Los and Def Jams Mickey Halstad both feature on the record as well as my close friend Rob Jackson.
Q. Who are your biggest R&B and soul influences? You remind me of Tank or Carl Thomas. Raised off the likes of Marvin and Donny surely?
-My biggest influences were The Jackson's, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Boyz 2 Men, Babyface and Brian McKnight.
Q. Some Basketball players seem to make great musicians. No one can doubt Shaq's skills. What do you think of Kareem Rush?
-I love the fact of athletes pursing their dreams away from the court as long as its a passion and not a gimmick. I haven't heard much of K Rush's music but I wish him all the success.
Q. Would you be open to collaborating with an NBA player like that? Not for gimmicks sake but to make real music.
-It all depends on the what we are doing. If its something that sounds great and connects I'm all for it.
Q. Top star Tank follows your music I remember seeing him and actor/musician (talk about a double threat) Jamie Foxx playing basketball at Tyrese's house. You could show these guys a thing or two right?
-haha I know those guys very well and really follow them too and excited about their new project. Your big time they follow your twitter account lol.
Q. Speaking of which we got to talk some basketball? As I ask this Steve Nash has just signed for the Lakers. Him and Kobe, your class of '96. What do you think of that and what a class?
-the 96 draft was a great class. I know Stevie very well and I wish him all the best. Tremendous person and great player. Lakers are back in it.
Q. That three-pointer and more makes you a Kentucky legend. Can you share with us some of your favorite memories from the college days and what it was like to reunite with some of your alumni in the pro's?
-Kentucky was a great experience. I have too many memories. What really stands out is how close we were and how much we care about each other as people and even to this day nothing has changed. It was awesome to see everyone fulfill their dreams. That's why we went to Kentucky.
Q. Can you share with us some of your favorite NBA memories? What a career you've had.
-My favorite memories are meeting all the guys I admired and aspired to be like on the court and go toe to toe with them.
Q. When we met I remember laughing and joking about the time your Celtic team destroyed the Philadelphia 76ers with a barrage of threes. I mean even Mark Bryant was hitting from deep. That's got to be one of your favorite memories right?
-Haha yes those games against the 76ers were Classic. I have been called the 76er killer plenty of times haha
Q. You should have won 'Sixth Man Of The Year'. Like a Robert Horry or Bobby Jackson you brought so much off the bench and started well. Can you share with us some of your attitudes and approaches to the game please?
-My approach to the game was just go have fun, play as hard as you can and what ever happens in the end I walk away proudly cause I have my all.
Q. What you think of the NBA these days? Who do you like?
-I love the Nba and all the young talent. This game never gets old man.
Q. How about R&B and music these days?
-I think R&B is getting back to good music. You know guys like Tank & Tyrese is getting it back to what it use to be and you gotta give those guys loads of credit.
Q. You're about to change the game again right?
-I hope so, I believe I got something special.
In closing Walt giveas us a gem of advice for this life..."Give without remembering, Take without forgetting......"
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
More Than Big Enough.
Lianne La Havas captured the heart and soul of my love for music the moment I lent her my ears as she performed perfectly on the BBC's 'Later With Jools Holland' show live late last year. It wasn't just me who caught on as American folk giants Bon Iver-who performed on the same program-picked up on how this 22 year old from London was stealing the spotlight and the show. Following this live performance, the singer-with shades of Corinne Bailey Rae and Erykah Badu (her Facebook page shows she's recently met her idol...bet she loved her (and I'm talking about Badu))-earned herself a supporting gig on the great Iver's American tour. In concert with more hype, buzz and exposure Lianne La Havas debut album 'Is Your Love Big Enough' is ready to make even more noise and news than her sought-after 'Lost & Found' and 'Live In L.A.' E.P.'s.
If you haven't fallen in love with Lianne where have you been? This album will change all that however and show just how big your love really is with an eclectic, sonic boom. There's no bust here from the supply of the in-demand singer. Like the funky album title-track or the 'Lost & Found' E.P. top title track and it's undeniable big 'No Room For Doubt' feature with Willy Mason. 'Is Your Love Big Enough' is a debut of decadence and dominance. The tried and tested, Jools performed 'Age' about love with an older man lasts here on this album showing it's the kind of classic that will keep well like fine wine.
The album opens and pushes the envelope with the evoking and awakening 'Don't Wake Me Up'. Still it's the movie making moments of 'Au Cinema' that truly direct the silver linings of La Havas songwriting craft. 'Forget' is another beautiful track you certainly won't. Remember the name Lianne La Havas because in a matter of time she'll be one of the best and this song will be a nostalgic classic. Just like the unavoidable 'Elusive' or the all-encompassing, so good you have to name it twice 'Everything, Everything' which really tells it all.
'Gone' is another grace filled, gorgeous, great track while the taunts of 'Tease Me' keep the interest levels of this singers charismatic talent alive. The album finishes up perfectly by the approval of the 'love against the world' number 'They Could Be Wrong' and the perfect scathing send-off of 'Hey, That's Not How You Say Goodbye' showing both sides, good and bad, in equal great measures. Some live takes are an added bonus to the iTunes deluxe edition. As Lianne brings France even more romance with some incredible captured performances in Paris. The live set-list of 'Arms Of Danger', 'Solo' and 'He Loves Me' deserve their own studio time like 'Forget'.
As incredible as Lianne La Havas is vocally, the songwriter is just as skilled as working the guitar strings. What results is a cohesive, varied set with no filler. With an album as beautiful as its singer it's clear to hear and see that today's music industry need more folk like Lianne La Havas. Bringing the heart, soul and depth back to a mainstream that has been treading shallow water for all too long Lianne is the next star. La Havas should be right there with the best. Let's just hope an industry that so often gets it wrong does the right thing and give this singer what she deserves. Is their love big enough? It should be. God help us if its not. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
If you where a teenager in the nighties-an eighties baby now staring down the barrel of your thirties-you'll know The Smashing Pumpkins as the best band in the world. The band that released iconic, classic albums of the golden era like 'Siamese Dream' and 'Adore' really paved the way for themselves and 99% of the bands you hear today. Still it was the double-album classic 'Melon Collie And The Infinite Sadness' that became the angst-ridden soundtrack for a post-Nirvana, pre-everything else sounding watered down, tormented and tortured youth. It doesn't get much better than that. Still in between break-ups and bust ups this iconic group have come back strong in the new millennium of new music, most notably with their 'Zeitgeist' album.
Since 2009, the Pumpkins have been releasing their epic 44 track album (and it's separate E.P.'s) 'Teargarden by Kaleidyscope', gracefully for free via the Internet. With incredible songs like 'Widow Wake My Mind' and 'A Song For A Son' the group have kept their classic catalogue growing by the Dylan-esque songbook volumes. Now in the middle of all this comes their dubbed "album within an album". 'Oceania' is one of their first and best real releases in years. As vastly remote and beautiful as the album artwork, this musical landscape is deep, dark and decedent. Guitarist Jeff Schroeder said Smashing wanted to make music that hit people on "an emotional level" with this one. It's hard to not be moved by that or this.
'Oceania' kicks off with the lightening strike of the illuminating 'Quasar'. that back to back with the fellow Gibson heavy 'Panopticon' make us hear that this band are back and as bold as ever. Echoing the nostalgic sounds of the 1990'2 and almost taking us back to their heyday. The acoustic and orchestral single 'The Celestials' takes it lighter but higher with boundless beauty. "Never let the summer catch you down/Never let your thoughts run free/Even when their numbers draw you out/Everything I want is free" Corgan sings in his signature, sublime style.
It gets even more beautiful when the vividly stunning 'Violet Rays' hit. Yet again on a slower note the band that gave us 'Disarm' and 'By Starlight' reach even greater depths of beauty. As Billy sings "Raised from the path of revelry/Spells fall frail/Webs catching sail/In eternal eternities/Divine purpose catching free". he's rarely wrote better. 'My Love Is Winter' is a seasonal force of devotion that will last longer than this fall. Wile 'One Diamond, One Heart' lays all the cards out on the table.
Revealing all the band play even more great hands. The kinetic 'Pinwheel's keeps this C.D. turning beautifully. It gets even deeper and better on the album title track 'Oceania' which sounds like the dark night-time drive music that could find itself on Billy Corgan's vastly underrated solo project 'The Future Embrace'. 'Pale Horse' and 'The Chimera' and 'Glissandra' are the kind of tracks that will be welcome with open arms by old and news fans alike. While 'Inkless' tattoo's this bands signature sound back into the mainstream charts and consciousness. Corgan and his Pumpkins save the best for last with the 'Wildflower'. This band is black in bloom and don't look ready to wilt soon. 'Oceania' like the islands on the tropical Pacific Ocean is vast beautiful and something that needs to be discovered. The 44 track chasing bands discography just got better. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Hitting It Out The Park.
It seems the older, deeper and darker Linkin Park get, the better they get. 'Hybrid Theory' and 'Meteora' may have made them what they are but ever since hooking up with legendary Chili-Pepper and Beastie Boys producer Rick Rubin this rock/rap ensemble have been making their deffest jams. 'Minutes To Midnight' started it and two years ago 'A Thousand Suns' brought more shine to that and them. Now the Rolling Stone certified, U.K. number one album 'Living Things' cements this collective as one of rocks best groups alive.
The lead single 'Burn It Down' sets things alight. The buzz is back and burning bright as Chester sings "We can't wait/To burn it to the ground/The colors conflicted/As the flames climbed into the clouds/I wanted to fix this, but/Couldn't stop from tearing it down/And you were there at the turn caught in the burning glow". The fact that Bennington can really sing is illuminated here. As it is on the majority of the album, especially the standout track 'Roads Untraveled' which traverses more inspiring and deep ground then the 'Transformers' favourite 'Iridescent' off the last album. Is Michael Bay making another film with a sunset scene? Probably! Well, he's found his track.
The album opener and second single 'Lost In The Echo' confirms that this band is back and as bold as ever. There's no chance their sound will be lost in the shadows. Echoing loudly and proud you're going to hear them now. 'Tinfoil' is another track where the band truly shines bright. German single 'In My Remains' shows the bands left with more than filler, while the killer 'Victimised' and 'I'll Be Gone' are standalones. The deep cut 'Skin To Bone' reveals more before Shinoda raps shades of Biggie on 'Until It Breaks' making new ground for the band as a chanting, chorus closes out the headphones on, eyes closed track.
Everyone from Bob Dylan to The Notorious B.I.G. inspired this album and everyone from Formula 1 team (the Lotus team have collaborated with the band on a racing app) to movies ('Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' used the perfect, potent 'Powerless') and video games (the new 'Medal of Honor: Warfighter' game used the real, 'Lies, Greed, Misery' and the equally dark and decedent 'Castles Of Glass') feel the influence back. This band are prominently in a perfect place and aligned amazingly with Rubin yet again their latest album is a cohesive set that flows even better than the last two. Sure some may miss the days of the first two albums but like Chester says they're "a different band now" and as they grow they stay beating and breathing. The saying goes; "adapt or die". The thing is...this band haven't sounded more alive. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
(Originally Published In 2010)
After spending some more time with Rick Rubin after midnight, Linkin Park see the sun.
It's hard to believe that it's been over three years since the release of Linkin Park's multi-platinum selling 'Minutes to Midnight' but now deep into 2010 they release 'A Thousand Suns'. With 'Suns' Chester, Mike and co once again record with Rick Rubin. The legendary producer who's worked with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys and onetime Linkin Park collaborator Jay-Z. Well on the more mature, atmospheric sounding 'A Thousand Suns' Linkin Park prove that even if they have '99 Problems' a hit record aint one.
This record has so much depth of sound and is so atmospheric that it might be the most audibly gratifying record the band has done. The set is introduced with 'The Requiem' and 'The Radiance' a haunting intro with vocals from Mike Shinoda (if you can believe that) and a radiant opening track that is classic (new) Linkin Park.
LP's new LP sounds futuristic and also varies with tone, all whilst maintaining the same pace. At times it's compellingly dark and at others it's beautifully light. Also at times it's calm and then it's almost rageful, but listen to this album in the background and it would be hard to tell as the production is so tight that everything comes together perfectly. It's an easy but satisfying listen. It almost sounds like a score or a soundtrack to a computer game. It's probably no coincidence that one of the best examples of this is the track 'Fallout'. Even the ballad 'Robot Boy' is so out of this world, but yet so beautiful that you would think it was written for a sci-fi movie. This whole album in fact is one science experiment that yields incredible results
The last two LP albums have seemed to move away from the younger, angst-ridden and more commercial sound of the first two records. Now although 'Hybrid Theory' and 'Meteroa' are brilliant and defining albums, it's good that Linkin Park can move with the times and grow as a band. Maybe this 'new' sound isn't for everyone, but even though there's a shift in the way the band do things their original integrity and style remains throughout. This is a mark of a truly great band for the ages. This is what happens when people work with a guy like Rick Rubin. He brings the best out of an artist and shows them new ways to paint a picture, but he always ensures that the artist still uses the same brush.
Think the old Linkin Park are gone? Than listen to the standout track 'Wretches & Kings' and think again. Throw this record on at a party and people could be mistaken for thinking it's classic Linkin Park and you know what? After a couple of listens it is classic Linkin Park. The lyrics go to battle with the powers that be and the chorus is the perfect rally cry "Feel alone, final blow/We, the animals, take control/Hear us now, clear and tall/Wretches and kings, we come for you." The track also pays homage to Public Enemy's Chuck D and with the track 'Wisdom, Justice, and Love' featuring a speech from Martin Luther King it's clear that Linkin Park don't just have something new to hear. They've got something more to say and it's time for them to act out. This album acts as a vehicle for the band speaking out about nuclear issues and they do this by striking the core with full force.
Throughout this record the band go through a real evolution of sound. The creativity on this album pushes the envelope but is so controlled that it still delivers. With 'A Thousand Sons' Linkin Park and Rick Rubin's talents burst together in a might splendor and what were left with is pure radiance, but look up the Indian Sanskrit Text, "Bhagvad Gita" (which this album was named after), because that puts it better. TIM DAVID HARVEY
Monday, 2 July 2012
(Originally Published in 2010)
The 5 go steady on their latest effort, but could be missing a little Jane.
Adam Levine's muse Jane, (Who was the inspiration for Maroon 5's classic pop/rock album 'Songs About Jane') may just be his gift and his curse. Sure Maroon 5's first album after their previous effort as Kara's Flowers may have propelled them to international stardom but it also set the bar high for the young band. What resulted was an almost guaranteed sophomore slump. 'It Won't Be Soon Before Long' wasn't a bad album it just didn't live up nearly as much to it's predecessor. It had hits like 'Makes Me Wonder' and 'Wake Up Call' but as Adam channeled Prince and The Police he also learned that the only ones who could really do that are 'The Artist' and Sting themselves. Over recent years as artists Maroon 5 and Adam Levine have felt the sting being the butt of jokes on Family Guy and having Levine compared to John Mayer for all the wrong reasons (In regards to them being more Lotharios than singers).
The trouble for Maroon 5 is how do they write another 'This Love', 'Sunday Morning' or 'She Will Be Loved' (to mention just a few of 'Jane's' best moments) well they know the answer, they don't. A band just has to carry on and try something different and at least that's what Levine et al have tried to do. Because like it or not 'Hands All Over' sounds more like their last album than their first, but the difference is it sounds a lot more complete and a lot more polished.
'Hands All Over' is consistent all over and doesn't lose weight towards the end like 'It Won't Be Soon (Before We Hear Some Filler)'. It's as poppy ('How'), as funky, ('Runaway') as soulful ('I Can't Lie') and as rocky ('Hands All Over') as the band has ever been and although this sound may be like change rattling on metal for some people the difference will pay off for others. The single and album opener 'Misery' is classic Maroon 5 and although we may have heard it all before it still serves as a welcome return. The bands second album cut and single 'Give A Little More' written by Levine, Jesse Carmichael and James Valentine bests the first single by being a more well rounded, well written pop song. Featuring a catchy bridge and hook that will carry the song over to the pop charts, sinking the competition.
In fact the album continues to showcase Levine's incredible ability to write catchy hooks and rhythms. This is especially evident on tracks like 'Stutter' (which features a clever use of the phrase) and the title track, which feels like an 80's throwback (and that's a good thing). Also the duet with Lady Antebellum 'Out of Goodbyes' shows yet again that Levine can hold his own going toe to toe as the leading man with the best female singers around (See, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Mary J. Blige). 'Just A Feeling' however is the track that stands out the most. If 'Misery' is classic Maroon 5 than 'Feeling' is vintage. It's right up there with 'Sweetest Goodbye' and 'Goodnight, Goodnight'. The ballad is definitely a song you will repeat and not skip on your ipod shuffle even months after this album is synced.
So even though Maroon 5 may never have it as good as they did when they used to mess with a girl called Jane on their latest they prove that it will be long before their soon done. They still have the ability to write catchy pop/rock songs with soul and funk like no other band today. Both Levine and his 5 will still have 'Hands All Over' them for some time to come. TIM DAVID HARVEY