Image courtesy of Just Jared site.
In Our America, access doesn’t come with million or billion dollar price tags. Opportunities exist for all, especially all who believe in themselves and are committed to diligence. While Our America is not perfect, it cannot keep up the status quo just to appease the good ole boys. Only doing this will forsake itself, its people, and the world by not adapting to change and by not allowing new perspectives and styles of leadership to come to the forefront.
Change, the right change—especially when given the opportunity to blossom—is essential to our livelihood, our growth, our productivity, and our economy. Our America needs to move forward. Our America needs progress. Let our America prevail!
It’s official… Brandy’s sixth studio album, Two Eleven, is a smash! Her latest effort debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart and No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling nearly 65,000 copies in it’s first week. Two Eleven is Brandy’s fourth album to debut in the top ten on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. And Brandy’s first single “Put It Down” (featuring Chris Brown) became her first Top Five song on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart since “What About Us?” in 2002. This is confirmation that Brandy has comeback in a major way.
As exemplified on Two Eleven, Brandy has come into her own as a woman and an artist. She did what some would call a revolutionary act in modern music—she made an unadulterated R&B album. While several of today’s biggest writers and producers (Warryn Campbell, Mario Winans, Mike City, Rico Love, Bangladesh, Sean Garrett, Tha Bizness, Danja, Switch, Jim Jonsin, and Frank Ocean) are featured on the album, the sound and style is thankfully not representative of the electro-dance-pop oriented music that is so prevalent with many of Brandy’s R&B contemporaries. Instead, Two Eleven harks back to the feelgood R&B music of the 90s yet is resoundingly fresh (as heard on songs like “Wildest Dreams,” “Wish Your Love Away,” “No Such Thing As Too Late,” and “Do You Know What You Have”).
It’s hard not to get caught up into Brandy’s rich, soulful voice while listening to Two Eleven. Clearly, Brandy is happy and in love—her voice embodies it. Esthero, another one of today’s best singer-songwriters, said, “If god could sing – she’d sound like Brandy.” This is a testament to the beautiful instrument Brandy continues to bless us with. The growth and maturity of her expansive voice is astounding (just listen to “Hardly Breathing,” “Without You,” and “Paint This House”). Without any doubt, she is one of the best of singers in the game—PERIOD.
Brandy’s recent success may comes as a surprise to those who may have written her off after 2004’s Afrodisiac and 2008’s Human. However, it’s only a reminder of Brandy’s resilience and her influence. After nearly 20 years in the industry, she’s still making music that moves people and she’s doing it her way. As one of her longtime Starz, I have high hopes for the Two Eleven era and happily anticipate what Brandy does in the future.
At the age of 4 or 5, I probably couldn’t verbalize or understand it completely but there was something about Vesta’s voice that left me enraptured. It spoke to me. It captivated me…touched me. It was similar to the feeling I get when listening to Chaka Khan (who was one of many artists Vesta sang backup for in her early years). In terms of vocal characteristics, Vesta and Chaka Khan’s voices were similar in terms of timbre, color, phrasing, and agility. Not to mention the fiery, playful, seductive qualities of their voices.
Like the vocal greats before her, Vesta was a song stylist and interpreter. When listening to her music, disbelief was suspended instantaneously. There’s no doubt that she knew and felt what she was singing about. You weren’t alive if you couldn’t feel a Vesta tune, especially the ballads. You felt Vesta’s heartbreak and thought the guy that did her wrong was a creep after hearing “Once Bitten Twice Shy.” Because Vesta seemed like the type of woman who gave everything her all, you’d wonder why any guy would screw up after listening to the funky “Don’t Blow A Good Thing.” You felt the longing and hope in Vesta’s search for love on “Somebody For Me.” When Vesta gets to the chorus of “Congratulations,” your heart sinks just thinking about the notion of the one you truly love getting married to someone else, and the growth it takes to be able to let them go. And if real, true love was embodied in the form of songs, the tender “Sweet Sweet Love” and “Special” would be at the top of the list.
If you had the chance to see her perform live (in-person or videotaped), you could understand why other singers would be pissed or scared to perform after her. She owned the stage, giving high-energy yet moving performances. She could dance her ass off too. Her video for the single “Do Ya” is proof of that. Vesta was also a natural comedienne, which added to her charm and magnetic, addictive personality. I have wonderful memories of watching her on The Arsenio Hall Show and BET’s Video Soul (as she was a frequent guest on both), and losing it because she was so funny. Her impersonations of Tina Turner and Chaka Khan (amongst others) were spot-on. She’d also had memorable performances in the Mario Van Peebles film Posse (1993) and a recurring role on the TV sitcom Sister, Sister during the 1998-1999 season. I’d always hoped to see her doing more on TV and in film. Could you imagine if she’d had her own show? It would’ve been sidesplitting. For a time, Vesta was a radio personality and co-hosted a morning radio on KRNB, a Dallas/Fort Worth station. Oh what joy it must’ve been hearing Vesta cut up on the radio in the morning!
Vesta lent her horn-like, four-octave voice to TV theme songs for the ABC miniseries The Women Of Brewster Place and the UPN sitcom Malcolm and Eddie. She also did jingles for a variety of brands such as Nike, Revlon, Diet Coke, and Exxon. One of her infamous spots was a commercial for McDonald’s where she sang with another vocal legend, Al Jarreau. Trading rhythmic vocal lines, scats, back and forth—it was an event. They sang their faces off! The performance was so divine it made you want to go against your constitution and have a Big Mac (or two, or three, or four).
No matter what happened in her career, Vesta never strayed too far away from the music. Between albums or periods when she wasn’t signed to a label, she toured and went back to session singing–guesting on a number artists albums like George Duke, Phil Perry, Howard Hewitt and Najee. Most notably, she appeared on the remix to Norman Brown’s remake of SWV’s “Rain.” The oft-requested tune was an instant favorite amongst fans. The first time I heard the song was while I was on break from college. I remember being pissed because the version of Norman Brown’s album that we had, Celebration (2002), didn’t have the remix with Vesta on it. I rejoiced years later when I found this version of the song for sale on iTunes.
Vesta was fighter. Even when faced with challenges, she never gave up. She dealt with record executives who didn’t know what to do with her (A&M Records) and said they couldn’t promote her because she was too fat. This was typical at a time when executives were putting image over everything (as discussed previously). The label eventually dropped her, but she continued performing and making music. Vesta battled with an addiction to cocaine that she successfully conquered in the 1990s. Not too long after the release of her Everything-N-More album, Vesta lost 100 pounds (which she kept off). She attributed her weight loss to changing her lifestyle (eating healthier and exercising more). Her weight loss also inspired her to become an advocate for juvenile diabetes and childhood obesity.
TVOne gave a fitting tribute to Vesta in January 2012 with an episode of its Unsung series. It was one of the last projects she worked on before her passing. I can’t believe that as of September 22, 2012, it’s been a year since her death. I, like many others, miss her presence dearly. Though she’s no longer with us, there’s joy in knowing her beautiful spirit and musical legacy will continue to enrich our lives and the lives of those who come after us. Vesta’s final album, Seven, was scheduled to be released in May 2012 via Bronx Bridge Entertainment. Though there’s been no updated information, there’s still hope that Seven will see the light of day in late 2012/early 2013. I’ll be one of the many fans looking forward to its release. I’m sure it will be another soulful chapter in Vesta’s storied career.
Vesta was a multi-talented, multifaceted woman. She exuded confidence and a belief in her herself and her talent that was inspiring. There will never another like her.
Vesta—the dynamic diva who gave her all—may your soul rest in peace.
Vesta releases: Vesta (1986), Vesta 4 U (1988), Special (1991), Everything-N-More (1993), Relationships (1998), and Distant Lover (2007).
On September 7, 2012, after seven years of waiting, I was finally blessed to The Lioness, singer-songwriter Teedra Moses live. Moses opened her “Lamb 2 Lion” tour in DC at The Howard Theatre. She dazzled on the stage. Her show included a well-paced set of favorites from her debut album and her mixtapes, along with several inspired, well-received cuts from her soon-to-be-released sophomore album The Lioness. The show was further proof that she is one of the most underrated R&B/Soul singers in the game.
It’s actually been eight years since the release of Moses’ debut album Complex Simplicity. The album was released to great critical acclaim but to little commercial fanfare. However since that time, she’s developed quite a devoted following. Her beloved live shows are well-attended and her mixtapes tend to be better than some of your favorite contemporary artists’ albums. Moses has released 5 mixtapes, her most recent was 2011’s Luxurious Undergrind (released a few months after being signed to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group).
Moses wasted no time getting the crowd hype by opening her show with the lead single from Luxurious Undergrind, “Another Luvr,” with an interpolation of Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life.” Moses turned in stellar performances, especially on songs like “Take Me,” which featured her talented background vocalist Jeret Black (or J. Black), “You’ll Never Find (A Better Woman),” “Complex Simplicity,” “You Better Tell Her,” which featured Carl Kelly, “Caught Up,” and her sultry classic “R U 4real (freestyle).” Moses’ voice, pure, smooth, and soulful, glided effortlessly over the music. She possesses one of the most beautiful voices in the industry. She’s also one of the few contemporary artists who sound even better live than they do in the studio.
Moses developed a great rapport with the audience instantaneously. She rapped to the audience like we were best friends or family throughout the show. At the beginning of her encore for example, she talked about how crazy Hollywood is and how difficult it is trying to keep one’s composure when dealing with the insanity. She said she’s a sweet, down-to-earth person who is so not Hollywood. But she made it a point to say that while she may be sweet—don’t fuck with her (yet another reason why we love her). Moses had planned to perform a song she wrote entitled “Hollywood,” in which see sings about the craziness of the industry, but opted instead to pay homage to Rufus & Chaka Khan by singing an impassioned version of their song of the same name. Moses closed the show with the sexy, fan favorite “Backstroke.”
Another memorable element of the show was the live art. During the show, DC artist Demont “Peekaso” Pinder painted a beautiful portrait of singer-songwriter extraordinaire Sade, Moses’ favorite singer. I had the opportunity to meet the extremely talented Peekaso after the show. He’s mad cool. For more information about Peekaso and his work, go to: http://www.demontpeekaso.net/.
After the show, Moses greeted and took pictures with fans. The fact that she takes the time to meet her fans after her shows is a testament to how much she loves and appreciates them. Having met Moses, I have to say how refreshing it was to meet a celebrity who is so sweet and laid-back in-person. Some celebrities turn the shade, pretense, and ego on when meeting their fans. Not Moses. She may be a natural rock star, but she’s approachable. And this translates quite well into her music and her live shows. Her artistry comes from a passionate, genuine, authentic place. That’s what makes it so easy for fans to relate to her and her music.
I highly recommend catching Moses on her “Lamb 2 Lion” tour. Aside from Luxurious Undergrind, I promise you it’s the perfect musical treat to tie you over until her sophomore album The Lioness is released later this year.
If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election. ~ President Barack Obama, DNC 2012 Speech
I want to live an America where we all have the same opportunities. An America where we all have the chance to live up to our fullest potential and achieve our dreams. An America where we all have access to the resources, services, and programs to maintain acceptable well-being, welfare, and livelihood. Because it’s about access, equality, and leveling the playing field, and not about entitlements or what we “deserve.”
I want to live an America where the wealthy are not rewarded for being wealthy and held accountable to the same standards and expectations of the working class and the poor. I want to live an America where I don’t have to make a case or fight for rights that are inalienable, because they are human rights granted for all. I want to live an America where the rights of corporations do not trump the rights of the people. Because after all, there wouldn’t be any corporations if it weren’t for the hard work and service of the people.
For those of us that believe and share in the dream and this country we call home, we’re more than willing to be diligent and work collectively to move this nation forward. We must not succumb to the propaganda, lies, and false promises of those who hold their personal interests above the interests of the people they represent. We must stand for up what we believe and support the officials who share in these beliefs, and will honor them while holding office. That’s why I’m voting for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. They have and will continue to fight for America, its people, and the promise of its future.
I’m voting for progress, not regression. I hope we all will do the same.
Michelle Obama is the epitome of what a First Lady should be. She exudes class, grace, eloquence, and wisdom. She hasn’t forgotten where she came from and she will not allow us to forget where we’ve come from either. We cannot sit back and allow ourselves to falter. We have to bring each other up. It’s about OPPORTUNITY. When you have it, make sure you’re leaving the door open for others to follow. Set the example. Lead with character, honesty, and integrity.
Today would’ve been icon Michael Joseph Jackson’s 54th birthday. It’s been over 3 years since his untimely passing. His presence and influence are just as strong now as they were before. Jackson was a supremely talented being that blazed trails and inspired generations of fans and stars alike. With each release, he delved deeper and deeper into himself. He bared his soul, opened his heart, and provided us with what many would consider the soundtrack of our lives. His albums went beyond music and entertainment. They were events—monumental, genre-bending, shape-shifting events. I don’t know how many fits I had in the record store as a child because I wanted latest Michael Jackson album.
Aside from Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince, and Jody Watley, his music shaped much of my childhood and young adulthood and love of the arts. Jackson’s (along with the aforementioned artists) videos changed the game, revolutionizing the visual presentation of musical artists (with everything from fashion, style, choreography, overall stage presence, special effects, and cinematography to name a few). I, like many I’m sure, would break my neck to see Jackson’s music videos. Glued to the screen, I was totally in awe of the sheer talent, artistry, and ingeniousness of it all. Still to this day, I can’t help but be pulled in completely whenever one of his videos comes on TV or one of his songs is played on the radio. The feeling, the soul, the spirit just goes right through you.
Jackson gave so much of himself to us through his art and philanthropic efforts. It’s unfortunate that he had to go out the way he did. But he was called home. He fulfilled his destiny. But the legacy he left behind will be cherished for decades to come.
So today, let’s celebrate the icon that Michael Joseph Jackson was/is. The King lives on!!!
I have arrived at a place in myself that I am comfortable being exactly who I am in this moment and sharing it with no reservations. ~ Alicia Keys (2012)
Girl on Fire is about new beginnings, new perspectives and fresh starts… stripping away all the bad energy in your life and taking full control of the reigns and how you want to live. There is something really empowering about finding yourself and your own inner strength.
Girl On Fire will be released 11/27/2012.
I thought this was funny yet so true. I took this picture while waiting for the bus one morning on my way to work. Ride On bus runs in Montgomery County, MD. Not all routes throughout the county are created equally when it comes to convenience and dependability. If you are trying to get somewhere on time you better leave your house 20-30 minutes earlier than normal (especially if you have to get on the train). Otherwise you are going to be late. Sometimes the buses are extremely late and so packed with patrons you can see the people before you actually see the bus. Or the bus may not show at all. It can be extremely frustrating, especially when it’s freezing outside and all you want to do is go home. So I can understand why someone would say Ride On “SUCKS”. Now with the American flag on the post, how would you interpret the photo? Ride On Sucks America? God Bless Ride On? Or Only God Can Save Montgomery County Ride On Buses from Sucking? LOL!