Stay Golden: Three Reasons Why Off The Wall Still Dazzles

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Today marks 34 years since the release of Michael Jackson’s fifth solo album, Off The Wall. What makes this more amazing is that when I play this album now, it is just as exciting as when my father first played it for me when I was five. I boogied until I dropped. I remember Jackson singing happily as if he had not a care in the world. Over the years, I continued to dance like there was no tomorrow every time I played this record.

As we already know, Off The Wall was a strong departure from the Jackson Five songs of yesteryear and Jackson’s previous four solo albums. Songs of the “ABC” and “The Love You Save” variety were not found anywhere on this album. As I became older and (like many) learned of Jackson’s personal history and back story behind the making of this album, I now look at this offering as Jackson’s “exit strategy” of sorts for these three reasons:

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1. Quincy Jones

This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Jones was able to provide Jackson with the mentorship he needed to take the steps to show everyone he evolved musically. If nothing else, the album quickly gave Jones and Jackson another opportunity to work together after Jackson’s role in The Wiz. Apparently you can win, break even and get out of the game.

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2. Rod Temperton

Temperton was no stranger to writing hits. As part of popular funk band, Heatwave, he penned “Boogie Nights” and the obvious slow dance favorite, “Always and Forever.” Jones caught wind of that fact and wanted that sound/dynamic for the album. You have this man to thank for writing “Rock With You,” “Burn This Disco Out” and the album’s title track. This signaled Temperton’s exit from Heatwave and was the calm before the storm we now revere as Thriller (he wrote the title track, “Baby Be Mine” and “The Lady in My Life”).

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3. Off The Wall Really Meant “Off The Leash”

MJ sang on that album as if he was having an absolute ball. The main reason? He actually was. Big Daddy Joe’s iron hand simply wasn’t strong enough to keep him bound. He left his father’s management company and released the album in the same year. The element of sheer freedom is more than evident in his vocals. Just think if Michael didn’t have the guts to chuck the deuces to his pops. I shudder at the thought…

We all know everything that happened, from that point to now. But it is great to reminisce. Oh, and my daddy’s record, just like the amazing sound of that album and that time, is just as pristine as it was all those years ago.

Rise Above!

What is your favorite song from Off The Wall?

 

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Rhona Rhetoric: Random Ramblings

Not much to say these days, except folks are becoming weirder by the second, with gall by the gallon. Here are the two things that provoked me to give the gas face:

Ariel Castro Main Sentencing

1. Ariel Castro’s Sentencing

After accepting a plea deal for kidnapping three young women he held captive for over a decade, Ariel Castro was sentenced yesterday to life plus 1,000 years. Needless to say, this did not stop this man from calling their subsequent rapes, “consensual sex.”  He also wanted to let everyone know that he was not a monster but instead “sick.” I am shocked that his attorneys were able to sit there with their game faces on for as long as they did. Big ups to kidnapping victim survivor Michelle Knight who was brave enough to stand tall in that courtroom and give her statement.

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2. Simon Cowell – Cookie Bandit

Impregnating a woman is one thing. Impregnating a married woman is another. When that woman is married to your good friend, that’s turns into a whole other Oprah show (or should I say Maury). Reality television’s favorite smug mug, Simon Cowell, apparently did some coveting and it has come back to bite him in the bum. Read the full story here. 

You know that Simon is going to be smug through this entire ordeal, right?

 

 

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Wax Poetic: Aural Advocacy

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With June nearly over and new music constantly being released, leaked or talked about, I figured I would catch up with Gypsy Soul Entertainment’s Kayenecha Daugherty. Her Aural Advocacy project, a Tumblr blog that commemorates Black Music Month by featuring features one artist daily, has created quite a buzz. Selected by the Daugherty and her team, Aural Advocacy artists are a delightful mix of vocalists, hip-hop artists, DJs, and producers that Gypsy Soul feels is making moves and that people should follow. We wanted to get the scoop from Kayenecha as to how this project came about and what the future holds.

What made her decide to launch Aural Advocacy now…

I thought about the project a couple of years ago, but I don’t think that you can tell if you actually look at the website. We are featuring one artist per day. You can’t really get the breadth of how extensive the background work can be. We did some research beforehand. You can look at the photo shoots we’ve done in Baltimore and DC on the site but there is so much more to the process. First, we had to reach out to the artists with the request. Then they had to say yes. Once we agreed, we had to coordinate those times. We had three main shoots and some additional shoots for artists who were not able to make the main ones. It took at least a month and a half to get the photographers, videographers, and artists together in one place. Then, our graphic designer, Broady Brown of Nocturnal Charm, had to reconcile all of the files, as this was not a “10-minute thing.” It was a whole lot behind that. When thinking about the project a few years ago, I noticed I would always think about it around June of each year. Being an event producer, even though it was not an event, it was still a very intensive process. It could have been done in a few weeks if everyone had the time to coordinate and were able to align their schedules quickly, but I knew that would not be possible. This year, I had been getting a lot of feedback from people who follow and miss the Gypsy Soul brand since we had not done a lot of events lately. I work with the DC Grammy Chapter and have been spending a lot of time focusing on giving artists information and empowerment through the Recording Academy. This takes up a lot of my time as I am splitting my time between the Recording Academy and Gypsy Soul. So as people were looking for more from the brand, I decided that I could launch the Aural Advocacy project this year as it was not considered an “event” and I did not have a specific deadline to launch it. I decided in March that we would launch the project then it went from there.

Revealing the formula for selecting the 30 artists for Aural Advocacy…

One important thing was practicality. We considered a lot of artists based in the West Coast like N’Dambi, The Boogie, and Alex Isley to showcase, but the logistics just did not allow that. So we had to select artists in areas that we could get to, so we settled on Baltimore and DC. In addition, we made a trip to New York in order to get the artists we wanted. We also wanted to get to Philly but there simply wasn’t enough time. Being that this was a Gypsy Soul project, it was not sponsored nor funded. Many of the Gypsy Soul projects are funded through my own money. Therefore trying to find a place for the shoots and making sure there was hospitality for the artists took a lot longer. Another part of the formula was determining which artists in those areas that we wanted to feature, be it someone we worked with before or a new artist that we would like to forge a creative relationships with. Also, we wanted to highlight artists who recently released a project in  March, April, or May as well as projects that are coming out in the coming months (between now and August) and people who the Gypsy Soul audience would definitely dig. Many people think that when it comes to Gypsy Soul, we only deal solely with R&B or soul music. This is not necessarily the case. There are different genres of music from soul to R&B to hip-hop. I am a huge Wu-Tang Clan fan and I love hip-hop. People will be pleasantly surprised to see quite a few hip-hop artists featured on the site. A lot of what we’ll be posting over the next week will definitely be hip-hop inspired.

On whether she has a trusted panel in the selection of the artists…

Gypsy Soul has a pretty solid team that I work with consistently. There is me, Broady Brown, my partner, Will Morant, Tiffany Means, Intea Deshields, and we have a new member, Daniel Harris, and Elijah Brand. They are all into music and have different tastes, so they were in a good position to nominate different artists for Aural Advocacy. There is also one person in particular that I always consult because she is a great partner, works with great artists, and always has her ear to the streets: Anshia Tull of Briclyn Entertainment. She introduced us to Collette and Elijah Brand who are featured on the site. When Gypsy Soul first started out, she was the reason we were introduced to Jessie Boykins III, Curt Chambers, Aaron Camper, and Kimberly Nichole. She has helped us garner talent to perform over the years, so she is definitely someone who I trust to ask for insight. This was especially helpful when we went to New York. Granted, not all of the artists that she suggests or recommends necessarily fit with the Gypsy Soul audience but her advice is definitely something that I keep close to heart.

On where Aural Advocacy will go after June 30…

We actually thought about it. Gypsy Soul is considering have an art show to showcase the graphics and photography from the project as well as a meet and greet with some of the artists. We are thinking about a facility we actually used for one of the photo shoots, Jubilee Arts Center on Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore. We will also be doing an interview with WEAA (88.9 FM – Morgan State Radio) on June 28 to highlight the project. Hopefully in July, we will have a jam session with some of the artists in DC. I may possibly do another edition of Aural Advocacy but I want to see how this edition turns out. I won’t give too much away right now.

If Aural Advocacy serves a dual purpose for Gypsy Soul in presenting acts where in many case, right before they go on to a broader audience and “blow up…”

I think it is two-fold. The mission of Gypsy Soul is to introduce artists to people who want to hear music with substance. Some radio stations play great music, most radio stations do not, because they play the same music over and over again, and only play mainstream artists instead of local ones. We are for the people who are reformed radio heads who are looking for something more. So yes, our mission is to say, “Here you go, come to this show to hear someone who you more than likely never heard on the radio before,” or “Here’s Aural Advocacy and here are a bunch of great artists that you may not know about because you are listening to the FM dial and that station will never play them but they have some excellent music.” If people want to know more about these acts, Gypsy Soul is the entity that will be able to bring that to you. We want people to look to us to find good music and talent that is about good artistry, not just going into the studio and making a good record. That’s wonderful and all, but we mainly support acts that can put on a great show.  They can rap, freestyle, sing, and make music that is more than talking about how much money they have, how many girls are on the pole, or shooting somebody. There is a so much more to music than that.

If Aural Advocacy shines a bigger light on her role within the Recording Academy of Arts & Sciences, its DC Grammy Chapter and its membership…

I try to keep it separate, although it is somewhat hard. At the photo shoots, I do talk to artists and everyone I know about the DC Grammy Chapter and potentially becoming members. Gypsy Soul was the catalyst for me to connect with various artists and introduce them to a new audience. Working with the Recording Academy is a higher level of being able to empower artists. When I am around artists, I talk frequently about the Recording Academy and the DC Grammy Chapter whether I am working in a Gypsy Soul capacity or not. The Recording Academy’s education and professional development can help them with their craft and elevate the music that they’re doing. Everyone should want to better their music, learn how to achieve better sound quality, or manage how to protect the voice to ensure a great performance, how to write better, and other techniques that the Recording Academy can provide. Thankfully, through Gypsy Soul, artists have grown to trust me because they have worked with me for years. They know that I am not trying to simply sell them something. When they hear Kayenecha say that being a member has its benefits, they will trust that it is another networking avenue to help them up their game because she’s been helping us for years.

On where she sees Aural Advocacy from an educational perspective, specifically laying a foundation for music students…

I’m not sure and the reason I say that is because although these artists are great, if our focus was on the foundation of music, we would have probably done editorials on artists that have contributed a lot more to the history of artistry. Examples of this would be Prince and Madonna. Although the artists featured in Aural Advocacy were selected to commemorate Black Music Month, if we were looking to provide any education from that venture, it would be from a historical standpoint. The people we are focusing on right now are doing a lot in the industry while learning from others. In the case of Joe Lindsay, who is creating a new style of gospel music called “bait music” is definitely something that may lay the groundwork for something to be considered history in the future but for now if I did something for education I would have to start with something for the old heads. I would definitely start with the greats first.

Aural Advocacy is a great blog that you should definitely check out. Log on to http://auraladvocacy.tumblr.com/

Follow Aural Advocacy on Twitter and Facebook.

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Dim The Lights: James Gandolfini (1961-2013)

James Gandolfini. photo: Barry Wetcher

The great ones continued to be called home.

Reports have been confirmed that three-time Emmy winner James Gandolfini, known for his unforgettable role as conflicted mob boss Tony Soprano in HBO’s “The Sopranos,” died suddenly of a massive heart attack in Italy.

Gandolfini is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, and two children, a son from his previous marriage, and an infant daughter.

Man, one never knows the day nor the hour. Death is constant reminder that we can take nothing for granted and assume that our favorite celebrities will always “be around.”

Rest in power and rise above…

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Hemmed Up: Dolce and Gabbana Get Popped For Tax Evasion

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Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) reported today that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, known to the world for their eponymous fashion line, have been found guilty of tax evasion. The duo has been sentenced to 20 months in prison.

This marks the end of a saga that started with an intense investigation of the fashion brand after the duo moved the brand to a Luxembourg-based company as a tax shelter to avoid paying corporate taxes in Italy (which apparently were too high, even for their taste).

Dolce and Gabbana plan to appeal the verdict.

What is going on with all of these public figures and their tax problems? Some of these folks may have to go back to the Nike shoe box or brown paper bag way of dealing with their money. Sheesh…

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Three Reasons Why Joe Lindsay’s “W.D.I.S.” Is Needed RIGHT NOW

Joe Lindsay’s “What Do I Say?” is not an ordinary song nor video. In the midst of Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail hoopla and Miley Cyrus recent twerking on Juicy J’s peformance, coupled with an extremely draining spring, this song and visual was very much needed. The singer/producer comes with his second release from his upcoming project that is sure to garner attention from secular and Christian music heads alike. Here’s three reasons why you need to give this video a real hard look and this song a humble listen:

  1. It masters the balancing act. There is a certain symbiosis between Lindsay’s lush production with faith-based lyrics that actually speak to listeners, thus creating an effective story that in turn, creates a great song. Basic Music 101 stuff to true musicheads, but you would be surprised how many “artists” out there cannot execute this.
  2. The video and the song are actually connected. How many times have you watched a video for a song and the two are completely unrelated? You will not have that problem here as director Roberto Garcia nails it. The video serves the track justice.
  3. Who hasn’t been in this position? Lindsay says that he wrote the song while in a very vulnerable state. Even with references to Christianity (the Bible and the church in the video state the obvious), faking the funk wouldn’t do you any good. It would be easier to admit that this track taps into and sheds light on a problem we all face and how we cope within our frailties, team Jesus or not.

At any rate, it’s a cool “come to Jesus moment” in my book. We’re hoping to interview Joe soon, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, you can follow Joe Lindsay on social media via:

Twitter: @juscawlmejoe

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juscawlmejoe

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/juscawlmejoe

Rise Above!

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Rhona Rhetoric: Goodbye, Awards Season!

Before I officially move on to the next, here’s my Rhona Rhetoric adieu to awards season, Oscars style…

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1. Charlize Theron = Best Dressed at the Oscars. Hands down. The short cut with that Dior Couture gown was absolutely amazing. A close friend quipped “What about Halle Berry?” Halle looked great, too. In fact, Halle looks great consistently (as mentioned in previous posts).  In my mind, she is in the Red Carpet Hall of Fame and has thus received her “yellow jacket,” if you will. Halle and red carpet glory is a given combination, but Charlize simply dazzled.

Quvenzhane Wallis

2. They Call Me Miss Wallis: People really went there and tried it with Quvenzhané Wallis. First Seth, then The Onion, and topped off with that dumb reporter wanting to change her name to a fictitious character. In the end, it is all a reflection of them, not that adorable and talented young girl. Oh, by the way, that punk apology from The Onion’s CEO doesn’t amount to jack scratch in my book. For the quacks who are defending that garbage as satire, let’s hope you have the same stance when someone calls your child an offensive name. Just saying…

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3. How many people thought or said, “Spike Lee is having a coronary right now!” when Quentin Tarantino won Best Screenplay for Django Unchained?

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4. Dame Shirley Veronica Bassey was awesome. Say what you want. The 50-and-over-set STAYS having skills (she’s 76). “Goldfingahhhhh…”

Of course, there were honorable mentions like after party dresses looking way better than some red carpet choice. The list goes on and on.

I can only imagine what next year is going to be like.

Rise above!

 

 

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