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Sounds that shaped the year...Hip-Hop Singles...

Published by Warren Dell under on Friday, December 23, 2005
The Game - Hate It Or Love It
Cassidy - I'm A Hustla
Common - The Corner
Kanye West - Gold Digger/Drive Slow
Mitchell Brothers & Sway - Harvey Knicks
Sway - Up Your Speed
Sa-Ra Feat. Pharoah Monch - Fish Fillet
Roots Manuva - Too Cold
Klashnekoff - Welcome To Jamrock Refix

Sounds that shaped the year...Hip-Hop Albums

Published by Warren Dell under on Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Common - Be

Just pipping Kanye in my opinion for Hip-Hop album of the year although he did have a hand in the production is Common’s Be. In a time where Hip-Hop albums are quickly forgotten and stick to the same tired formulae of club smash, ladies joint and filler, Common’s sixth label release was much needed, perhaps not just for Hip-Hop but for the Chicago MC himself. He answered his critics that thought he went a bit strange on his last album by dropping eleven tracks straight no filler from the boom bap driven The Corner to the more soulful and melodic driven Go. If their was any doubt about his talents Be silenced the critics and with the assistance of Kanye gave Common the commercial success he deserved.

Kanye West – Late registration

Egos don’t come much bigger than Kanye’s whether he plays up to it or not and there were many who would have wanted him to fail when The Late Registration dropped. Yet he silenced the critics with another solid album full of memorable lines, great samples and heavy production whether it was his most commercial track Gold Digger or the more underground feel of Drive Slow. It can only be a good thing when music of this substance is gaining commercial success.

Slum Village – Slum Village

This won’t be on many end of year lists and will go unnoticed by many but is as good as anything out there in the Hip-Hop arena. The duo of T3 and Elzhi really stepped up their game this year and it’s a wonder how Slum Village are still making records after all the turmoil they’ve been involved in. There was no Jay Dee onboard but Black Milk and Young RJ took us back to 2000 and those Fantastic days with their soulfully blended beats. This is the best Slum Village album since those days but without the push they deserve this will be confined to only a select few.

The Mitchell Brothers – A Breath Of Fresh Attire

From tales of cheap drinks to cheap birds this was the most distinctive British album of the year and the duo Teddy and Tony Mitchell weren’t ashamed of the fact. Whether it was being stopped by police or a tale of drinking one two many on a night out there was certainly more to relate on this set than the latest G-Unit release. A landmark album for UK black music.

Sway – This Is My Promo Vol 1

Although not strictly an album release this mixtape was as important as any of the other material released this year such was the talent on display. Whether re-working J-Kwon’s Tipsy instrumental for his own non-alcohol related anthem Pepsi, or giving us the first glimpses of future singles in Up Your Speed and Flo Fashion Sway was a shining light for UK music and a second volume followed ahead of the upcoming debut long player this February.

Dangerdoom – Mouse and the Mask

These two eccentric characters became darlings of the broadsheets after their Adult Swim inspired album brought them together. Fresh off of working with the Gorillaz and producing the heavily bootlegged Grey Album, Dangemouse hot streak continued while MF Doom so continuously overlooked in the past will now have people searching for his back catalogue.

Roots Manuva – Awfully Deep

While on first listen you won’t find another Witness, you’ll soon unravel after a few listens Rodney Smiths finest album. A well-crafted album that time has been taken with and the need to create a club banger or radio single ignored – which is only a good thing. Still the favourite UK mc for non Hip-Hop heads and another reason why he is such a success, he’s not worried about fitting into a specific audience.

Little Brother – The Minstrel Show

Thanks to 9th Wonder’s association with Jay-Z and subsequent work with Destiny Child he has been able to make people take more notice of his North Carolina natives collective efforts. The Minstrel Show is a concept album due to their unhappiness at the state of Hip-Hop and how African American culture is perceived and one of the years best, yet the public will be selecting the latest effort of The Game or 50 Cent to worry about these guys – something unfortunately doesn’t surprise you.

Sounds that will shape next year...

Published by Warren Dell under on Monday, December 19, 2005
So 2005 was a mixed year for all concerned within the scene, but there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful and look forward to 2006. Here is a selection of albums to look forward to, people who will be big next year and some up and comers to keep an eye out for.

Ne-Yo - One of Jay-Z’s first signings to Def Jam was the man who wrote Mario’s Let Me Love You and is in demand to work with others looking for a hit. Next year will see his first album and if the singles Stay With Me and I’m Sick are anything to go by then the likes of Bobby Valention, Mario and Omarion will have to watch out.

Pharrell – In My Mind Album – This shouldn’t be on this list but for the record company putting the release date back to next year to see if Skateboard P can be a success as a solo artist. One disc is Hip-Hop and already you will have heard Can I Have It Like That, while the other is made up of R’n’B with Angel the likely next single.

Mpho Skeef – With her blend of catchy lyrics and neo-soul Mpho Skeef has done enough this year to wet the appetite for her debut LP with work for Ty and Baby J, while her track Hide From Us is one of the years little gems. Expect more live performances as well after pleasing on various support duties this year.

Nathan – One of the things about music journalism is that any new artists will always find themselves compared to someone already grabbing the attention. Case in point with Nathan who has been likened to the UK version of Usher. Both of the singles we’ve heard from him this year didn’t receive much backing but were up there with the best of American product flooding the airwaves. A record company needs to take the plunge and support this project, as the man really deserves to be a success.

Sa-Ra – These American funksters have been snapped up by Kanye West for his Good label and will be making headway next year with their debut set and working with some of Hip-Hop and Souls big names. If you can’t wait till then hunt down their excellent EP Second Time Around, which includes appearances from J Dilla and Pharoah Monch.

Rell- After years of guest appearances and tracks that don’t see the light of day Rell is finally getting the push his talent deserves. If he wasn’t on the Rap label Roc-A-Fella he would have almost certainly released a couple of albums by now. But with the choosing of sides by their artists in the split between Jay-Z and Dame Dash, Rell will be one of the first to release an album through The Dame Dash Music Group. Scott Storch produced a monster R’n’B hit for Mario and in Last Ride has done the same for Rell that has this LP down as one of the hotly anticipated for next year.

Ryhmefest – Has been causing a stir over here after a recent promo visit after what he alleged were misquotes in a HHC magazine interview where he stuck it too Diplomats affiliates S.A.S. His debut single Brand New has been ticking all the right boxes though with fellow Chicago pal Kanye West returning the favour for working on the Grammy nominated Jesus Walks by providing the hot sample that runs through the track. Plus with the backing of Mark Ronson’s new imprint behind him another star from Chicago is going to shine.

Grime – The sound isn’t so underground after the year it’s had yet didn’t make the moves it may have expected with album releases from Kano, Roll Deep and Lethal B selling respectably but not quite catching on with people not familiar with the scene. Still the offspring of UK Garage and Hip-Hop is one the most exciting things this country have produced, even catching the attraction from the US and beyond. Next year Dizzie Rascal will be releasing his third album, Maths and English while Wiley will be coming with his second – both should move the scene forward. It will be years before the scene can sell the big numbers but 2006 should see the scene further develop. People aren’t waiting for fat business minded men with no understanding of the scene to approach and are self-financing mix-tapes and their own Guerrilla marketing. With the various street DVD’s the scene is being documented and reaching people from outside of London and having people get onto the net to download pirate radio sets. There is still a lot of work to put in and there is a lot to be pleased about this year, but 2006 is massive for the scene to move forward. Finally, can we have more nights put on, it seems events are popping up everywhere from Belguim to France to the US, yet there is less and less over here.

Baby Blue – With her two mixtapes Out Of The Blue dropping in 05 Baby Blue has gone from promising newcomer too fully fledged star with her full long player set to follow. Whether it was dropping knowledge over a Hip-Hop beat or switching up to Grime little Rachel is one of the nicest females on the mic and can also hold her own with the males as witnessed on her guest work this year.

Sway – If this were GQ then Sway would get the man of year award. Leaving the others behind with his professionalism and work ethic, Sway is a name on everyone’s lips after the singles Flo Flashion and Up Your Speed from his two This Is My Promo mix CD’s – which were later put together as one complete package and into the stores of HMV and Virgin. This Is My Demo is out February 6th and promises a lot, Sway has the potential and mentality to become a breakout star for the scene and with the right support should go on to sell more than Skinnyman’s Council Estate Of Mind.

Lady Soveriegn – You either lover her or hate her but she will no doubt make a big impact next year with her debut expected and input from Jay-Z who signed her early this year.

Busta Rhymes – The last couple of albums have always promised so much from Busta but he’s always let us down. 2006 is looking likely to be the year we get that complete great album with a new energy after signing with Aftermath, a hot new single from Swizz Beats that sounds like nothing you’ve heard before and even a new hairdo with the trademarks dreads being chopped after 17 years!

Klashnekoff – The collection of singles (Sagas Of…) and the DJ Skully mixtape (Focus Mode) have been spreading the word but Klashnekoff could eclipse Blak Twang and Skinnyman’s previous successes with his first proper album seeing the light of day in 2006.

Sounds that shaped the year...R'n'B Albums...

Published by Warren Dell under on Sunday, December 18, 2005
Not the best of years for releases but as you can see from below there were still plenty of good music on offer. ..

Metropolis – The Voyage

Without a doubt the best Soul/R’n’B album released this year, yet a shame only a small few were able to appreciate the soulful tones of Metropolis. The Voyage was an independent release and a provided listeners with 20 sublime mid-tempo cuts. There are so many great tracks on here that it was hard to pick one to include in my top singles list, so I left it out to not do an injustice to the other tracks. It’s said quite a lot these days but there really isn’t many albums that don’t have you reaching for the skip button. Hunt this down as soon as.

Amerie – Touch

Touch contained the single of the year in 1 Thing but there were plenty of other tracks on here to get your moneys worth. Rich Harrison and Amerie have worked to better the previous album All I Have with Man Up, Rolling Down My Face and All I Need the standouts on this excellent set.

Bobby Valentino – DTP Presents

A year ago no one had heard of Bobby Valentino but he’s now firmly in the minds after a succession of singles from his debut long player. His first was an ode to the girl who takes your breath away on Slow Down while Tell Me was aimed at the more shaped figured women. A few of the songs are in a similar vein to Slow Down but there is plenty of material to suggest longevity in the industry and appeal to pop fans and modern soul fans alike.

Lynden David Hall – In Between Jobs

Released through former 1Xtra DJ Digz’ Random Soul label Lynden David Hall kept it simple with just ten tracks, but ten tracks full of some of the best Soul music heard in the last few years. A welcome return to the scene after a five year absence between albums. Lets hope that Lynden’s personal battle with serious illness ends soon and he can continue producing albums of this quality. and giving songs like In Between Jobs, Don’t Hide Your Heart and the beautiful Day Off can get an airing on the live circuit.

Dwele – Some Kinda…

Detroit Soul star Dwele released his second album in 2005 to more critical acclaim. From the B-Boy stance of Keep On, which features fellow Motor City alumni Slum Village to the metaphorically speaking track Flapjacks, Dwele provided a packed album of goodness to satisfy the neo-soul heads.

John Legend – Get Lifted

Last year he got into our ears with various guest appearances but with his debut long player coming in early January, John Legend backed up his self-appointed surname with a truly memorable album. From the first single Used To Love You to the tales of cheating on Alright this album took the man to heady heights, but it was Ordinary People that propelled Legend further and into the minds of a broader audience.

Omarion – O

Following in the foot steps of brother Marques Houston in leaving his group and going solo, Omarion made the move from teenage heartthrob to young adult with ease. Displaying maturity on O and Slow Dancing yet still being able to count on his previous fan bases support with the more up beat numbers Touch and Drop That Heater. The track I Wish featuring his brother and one time neighbour of everyone’s favourite twins Tia and Timera was one of the years best mid-tempo cuts that sadly didn’t see a release.

Mariah Carey – Emancipation Of Mimi

This was an important album for two reasons. Firstly Mariah firmly put her troubles of recent times behind her best effort in years. Secondly the man behind the album Jermaine Dupri stepped it up a notch and received the credit he’d son longed for yet somehow had missed out on. The two brought the best out of each other with hit single after hit single, Get Your Number and It’s Like That had the people flocking to the dance floor while Shake It Off was Carey at her sultry best. It was We Belong Together though that truly reaffirmed her status and is one of her biggest hits to date.

R – Kelly – TP3.COM

The Pied Piper of R’n’B continued with his prolific release schedule of one album a year with the third instalment of his TP collection, which included one of the most, talked about songs of the year – Trapped In The Closet. Five parts in total were on this long player and there is word of more parts to follow in the future. While Trapped was R Kelly at his song writing best he still had hits for the club teaming up with Compton’s poster child The Game and continued bringing the Chicago steppers style to the masses on the very under rated Summertime. For my money this should have been a massive summer hit but unfortunately never had the chance out in the mainstream.

Craig David – The Story Goes

Some may have wondered whether Craig David would still be relevant after his long absence from the scene but while maybe playing it safe with the overall direction of the album to please the commercial audience, he still showed he could cut it with his most personal album to date. Johnny tackled the subject of Craig’s experiences with bullying and the sublime Thief In The Night was a tale of a girl cheating with his friend that was as good as anything the US have produced of a similar vein. Just Don’t Love You No More was a crossover hit but their was still material for the Urban masses with the lead single All The Way, a great club track.

Sounds that shaped the year...R'n'B singles...

Published by Warren Dell under on Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Everyone starts to reminisce about this time of year on the past 12 months of things they did, where they went and maybe whom they did. Music is no different and while you’ll probably be sick of reading everyone’s lists at this time of the year here’s a few more to fuel the fire. Over the next week I’ll be naming the tracks that have shaped my year in the R’n’B and Hip-Hop world, be looking ahead to some treats to look forward to in 2006 and proudly present the first It’s The Shiznit awards. Their like the Grammy’s but less prestigious. Enjoy.

R’n’B singles
2005 was a year in which r’n’b came out of the shadow of Hip-Hop to gain respect in its own right. There were still too many tracks that relied on guest rap cameos, but on the whole there were still plenty of tracks from club bangers to slow jams that shaped 2005. Newcomers Ryan Leslie and Rihanna all produced singles worthy of attention and returning heroes 112 and Donnell Jones all get honourable mentions for their efforts. The UK scene although hardly getting the support it deserves did at least have some shining lights with Nate James Set The Tone showing promise at the start of the year and Nathan came with two songs that deserved more in Come Into My Room and Round and Round. Terri Walker was unfortunately dropped from her record company but provided us with the excellent L.O.V.E and will no doubt be back next year. The US as always dominated and there were great singles from Keyshia Cole, Ciara and Gwen Stefani dropped the massive Hollaback Girl while the great Stevie Wonder returned to show he could still cut it in these times.

Below are the tracks in no particular order that had The Shiznit getting down and doing their one-two step.

Amerie – 1 Thing
If this were in any order then this would be the number one track full stop. Amerie was unlucky to not get the recognition she deserved with her debut album All I Have but Rich Harrison’s heavy drum beat made sure she got hers as 1 Thing pushed her into superstardom and became our soundtrack to the summer. Still sounding fresh even now nearly 9 months after it first surfaced.

Mariah Carey – We Belong Together
No matter what you say about her she is undoubtedly one of the true great singers and after a torrid time can lay claim to 2005 as her the year where she received attention for all the right reasons. We Belong Together was the pick of the bunch from a bevy of Jermaine Dupri produced hits.

John Legend – Ordinary People
This was the song that made people know Mr Legend was for real. A modern soul classic with just the piano accompanying a voice that didn’t seem to escape the airwaves all year with good reason.

Mario – Let Me Love You
It’s inevitable that any male star will be compared to Usher but if anyone can live up to those comparisons it’s Mario. Let Me Love You was No.1 in the US for weeks and it gained instant success on these shores for this touching number from someone who is only 18 and yet displaying a maturity beyond his years.

Bobby Valentino – Slow Down
Ludacris DTP clique didn’t do R’n’B records, until early this year when they unleashed a talent by the name of Bobby Valentino on us with his ode to that girl who walks by that steals your attention. Slowdown was an international hit with its appeal attracting plaudits from the pop to the modern soul crowd.

Omarion - O
Another male solo star that had a breakout year, leaving the shadow of his B2K days behind him with his debut O. Rather than come out with a catchy club number Omarion went with the slower O, which showed off his talent and let us know his teenager days were behind him with this mature and seductive number.

Alicia Keys – Unbreakable
Somehow this track didn’t make the Diary of Alicia Keys album but thankfully made it as a bonus track on the latest in the MTV Unplugged series. Its ode to celebrating relationships gave us one of Miss Keys most upbeat numbers and only adds anticipation to her next album.

Faith Evans – Again
Faith came back with a vengeance giving the media the finger while announcing she wasn’t ashamed of any of her past mistakes. Why she hasn’t picked up the credit she deserves is beyond me.

Lynden David Hall – Day Off
He’s currently battling a serious illness but this didn’t stop LDH dropping his first set in five years, which included this little gem. Another who it escapes me why he hasn’t reached the heights he should do, the record public need to hold their head in shame for missing out on this talent.

Craig David – All The Way
After a long absence away from the scene Southampton’s finest proved he was still born to do it with this club driven track of good times matching anything of similar vein seen from the US.

That Detroit Soul...

Published by Warren Dell under on Wednesday, December 07, 2005

In the past month some of Detroit’s favourite sons have released new albums. Yes Eminem was one of them but there is plenty of column inches on that man elsewhere. Although for what it’s worth I will say he really hasn’t made the complete album that he could have. But onto three men who have been representing the motor city to the fullest with their soulful sounds.

First up is the duo Slum Village. They’ve had more ups and downs than most artists with legendary producer Jay Dee leaving the group and after their Trinity album MC Baatin left. While an article hasn’t gone by without mentioning the controversy and being labelled the Destiny Child of Hip-Hop their music has often been left by the wayside for comment despite producing some consistent albums. Last year the assistance of Kanye West on Selfish didn’t propel them to success due to record label problems but on their latest and self-titled effort they have produced their best album since their debut Fantastic Vol.2. Producers Black Milk and Young RJ have taken the sound back to those days of Fantastic Volume 1 and 2 with smooth Hip-Hop beats and combined with T3 and Elzhi stepping up to the plate with their rhymes we have an album that is solid all round but unfortunately won’t get the credit it truly deserves. On tracks Giant and Def Do Us the two speak about the changes and criticism that’s flown their way. While 05 is a track full of reflection and pride over a heavy drum beat. Their Detroit sidekick Dwele lends his vocals on Call Me and they keep the soulful vibe alive on Ez Up and Multiply. Other highlights include Can I be, Set It and Fantastic on what in my opinion will be one of the most slept on albums of the year, make sure you don’t give this a miss.

Providing more of a fan fare and a hot favourite on these shores with his live performances at the Jazz CafĂ© is the man Dwele. While most neo-soul artists tend to take forever to follow up a release, Dwele has hit us with more of his Hip-Hop soul flavours within two. On Some Kinda he picks up where Subject left of with Know Your Name sounding similar to Find A Way and Slum Village making their mandatory appearance on the excellent and hopefully a future single in the making Keep On. The Current single I Love You has been floating around on wax for a while now and gets a refix from Jermaine Dupri with a few familiar samples, unfortunately not on the album but one for the soul heads to track down. A track that is causing quite a stir is Flapjacks, what he can mean by this only the listener can decide, but it does beg the question how he could have kept a straight face while singing the words. From weekend flings to growing old together the stories of love are giving a fresh viewpoint with Dwele’s style of singing, he used to be a rapper and it comes across in his delivery. Some Kinda doesn’t stray too much from Subject but this isn’t a bad thing. Far from it, when you have an artist like Dwele who delivers such good soul music you can only welcome another dose of the good stuff but the real highlight is if you can catch him when he next performs over here as the songs are taken to another level. If he keeps this up he may well write himself into the record books as an all time great.

Sa-Ra EP...

Published by Warren Dell under on Sunday, December 04, 2005
Sa-Ra Creative Partners have been building a name for themselves in the last year and in anticipation for their debut long player next year they’ve dropped an EP with five new recordings. From the get go the music is so good that the funk might fracture your nose. From the heavy beats of the EP titled track Second Time Around to the J Dilla and Pharoah Monch featured tracks Thrilla and Fish Fillet Sa Ra’s spaced out soulful funk tracks get you straight away and get better with each listen. The likes of Kanye West and Slum Village are rumoured to be amongst the heavyweight cast for the full player, but in the meantime track this limited in numbers EP down for a taste of the world of Sa-Ra.

Lady Sov takes on the US...

Published by Warren Dell under on Sunday, December 04, 2005

By the time you read this Lady Sovereign will probably have finally put pen to paper as one of Jay-Z’s new crop of young talent. Hova has courted Sov for months since performing for him alongside L.A Reid and Usher at his Def Jam offices and is a hipsters favourite in the US after her performances over there including one at New York’s infamous Knitting Factory. She’s currently on a promotional run out there and in conjunction with it is releasing an EP called Vertically Challenged, which includes the tracks Ch-Ching, Random, Fiddle With The Volume, The Battle, Little Bit Of Sshh and an exclusive Beastie Boys remix by Ad Rock. The package also includes a 30-minute DVD and this is one to track down on Amazon and the usual import outlets, as there is no word on a UK release. In the meantime on these shores the monster remix by Mizz Beats of Hoodie is literally blowing up and is an essential purchase, much better than the original with heavy verses from Sov, Baby Blue, JME, Skepta, Ears and Jammer. Her full album is released early next year.

Thought for the day...

Published by Warren Dell under on Thursday, December 01, 2005

Are Party Rings the most Hip-Hop biscuit out on road?

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