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Music Reviews

Shine/Atlantic Records

It’s a long way from being born into a strictly Senegalese/Grenadan family of eight children in London, England but anything is possible with determination and a little swagger. And yes you can shine and the world will discover your talents. That’s what Estelle has done with her second album, Shine — the first artist on John Legend’s Homeschool label.

Her mezmerizing talents as a singer, rapper, vocal arranger, and songwriter has been teamed up with heavyweight producers such as Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Wyclef Jean, Will.i.am, Mark Ronson and Cee-Lo & Jack Splash. And if that’s not enough, Legend joins in as the executive producer. Comparisons to Lauryn Hill abound, not the least of which comes from Wyclef!

Standout tracks include collaborations include Kardinal Offishall on the dancehall jam, “Magnificent,” who rhymes about his Estelle tattoo. Other such as “No Substitute Love,” “Wait A Minute,” “So Much Out The Way,” and the radio-friendly “American Boy” shows she’s a force to be reckoned with.
— K.W.

Ivana Santili
Tony/Do Right Music

“When I was a kid, I was exposed to my sister’s R&B and funk collection, to my dad’s Neapolitan love songs, but I was also raised on pop music,” says Santili. As a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist the Toronto native brings all of that to a soulful mix and the result is a very easy on the ear. Not surprising then that this Ivana who has also called London and New York home, is a much sought-after vocalist in the Nu-Soul, Broken Beat and Electronica scenes. Her resume includes working with producers such as Dwele, Omar, Dego(4 Hero_, King Britt, James Poyser to name a few.

Standout tracks from this former Base is Base member on her third solo album includes “Whateva U Want,” “Still Anymore,” and “Keep it 2 Yourself.” The later is produced Stuart Matthewan who has also manned the boards for Sade and Maxwell. Generous doses of soul, pop, and lush ballads and of course boogie on this CD.

The Truth/Capitol

Listening to Cherish, four sisters who hit big with the dance friendly, “Do It” in 2006, one is instantly reminded of girl groups that came before them. En Vogue, Sister Sledge, TLC and of course Destiny’s Child. The comparisons to Destiny’s child goes deeper beyond having a lead singer soaring above the others who sizzle with tight and slick harmonies — the group is managed by their father a la Matthew Knowles. In other words, the blueprint is there.
Cue the tracks and bam!

The club-friendly first single “Killa” featuring Yung Joc is quickly followed by slow jams that emphasizes their sweet harmonies and lots of attitude. Tracks like “Amnesia” and “I Ain’t Trippin’” should also get some spins on radio. These sisters are ready to take the torch from Destiny’s Child now that Beyonce is busy working on a family as the wife Jay-Z.

Rap/Hip Hop

The Roots
Rising Down/Def Jam

15 years. Eight studio albums in. And it is The Roots most political release yet. Ironic too since it is their second album on Def Jam, one that follows the critically acclaimed Game Theory. One can’t help but admire their daring given it is released on a major label that expects their major artists to move major units. The Roots’ defiance in going against the grain is certainly top of mind from the very beginning. Want proof? Start with“The Pow Wow.” Foreshadowing?

The album burrows its name from William T. Vollmann’s book on violence. There’s deep discontent locally and internationally with the state of affairs throughout the album. It is underscored by the production which is dark and experimental. The Roots opts for a gritty and atmospheric synth sound backed by the inimitable ?uestlove on drums and a community of rappers and singers — their supporters with what might be called their state of the union address. The list is large: Mos Def, Styles P., Dice Raw, Peedi Peedi, Saigon,Truck North, Porn, Wale, Chrissette Michele, Mercedes Martinez and Malik B. The message? They are not alone in the way they view the world and thus can’t easily be dismissed as being on the fringe of today’s rap music scene.

Rather this historic defiance in rap music places them at the centre of things as “intelligently aggressive firebrands” to quote one music critic. Overall there’s much to like but there are some tracks that could be left out. Standouts include the title track, “Rising Down” featuring Mos Def and Styles P., with Mos sounding very inspired. “Get Busy” featuring Dice Raw and Peedi Peedi and is another as is the wicked “75 Bars (Black Reconstruction” featuring Black Thought with an assist from a tuba and ?uestlove on drums.

“Criminal” feat. Saigon is also worth noting as is “I Will Not Apologise” featuring Talib Kweli singing the hook on this Fela-inspired track. The lightest moment on the album comes at the end with a catchy “Rising Up” featuring songbird, Chrisette Michelle. If you are looking for a message in their music, which after all, is also a Philly tradition, then this one is for you.
— K.W.

9th Wonder & Buckshot
The Formula/Duckdown

What do you get when you team up super producer 9th Wonder, former member of Little Brother and rapper Buckshot, he of Black Moon and Buckshot? An album for the headz!

Steeped in beats that are tight as they are smooth, these headnodda’s features Buckshot, a rapper who is on point with his flow and lyrical skills. It is also a nice follow up to Chemistry – a previous 2005 release between the two artists. Aided by a strong lead single, “Go All Out” feat Carlitta Durand and the soon to be released “Hold It Down” featuring Talib Kweli, there’s lots more fire on this CD that fans will be eager to hear on Duckdown’s tour later this summer. In the mean time, this collaboration will renew your love for underground rap.


Kenyatta “Culture” Hill
Pass The Torch/Tafari Records

Reggae reggae icon Joseph Hill, lead singer of the seminal reggae group Culture must be smiling from reggae heaven as he listens to his son, Kenyatta take the torch to front the band. He does so exceptionally well! With a voice that sounds very much like his dad, Kenyatta doesn’t miss a beat in carrying on the legacy of Joseph. The elder Hill passed away while on tour in 2006. It represented a huge loss to fans worldwide and was deeply felt by his son who penned a very emotional and heartfelt track called “Daddy.”

This is only one of many classic tracks on an album whose 14 tracks are equally shared between father and son. “Take My Hands,” “Mariwanna” and “The Message”sung by Kenyatta sits comfortably beside his father’s 7 new tracks who also leaves behind Pray Dem Off, Nyahbingi Tonight, and Mr. Music – adding to his impressive legacy of spreading peace and unity through music. Still his most impressive legacy is a son whose production skills, song writing skills backed by Sly Dunbar on drums, Dean Fraser on sax, Dalton Brownie on guitar and some of Jamaica’s best musicians — make this album a keeper. The torch has truly been passed.
— K.W.

Elephant Man
Let’s Get Physical/Bad Boy/VP Records

Elephant Man aka The Energy God’s first mainstream release on Bad Boy/VP Records and distributed Warner Music, comes with huge expectations. Especially in the context of other successes by Jamaican dancehall dons such as Shaggy, Sean Paul and Beenie Man. This effort comes at a cost in the highly competitive dancehall scene in Jamaica where six months can seem like lifetime and where Elephant Man has kept a relatively low profile recently.

The result of the album? Surprisingly strong dancehall tracks such as “Five-O” featuring Wyclef and Diddy; “Throw Your Hands Up” featuring Rihanna and “The Way We Roll” featuring Busta Rhymes and Shaggy. The fear was that in order to cross over to an urban audience, Elephant Man’s music would be watered down to suit those tastes. Instead these aforementioned guests and Chris Brown who is featured on “Feel the Steam, ” helped to smooth Elephant Man’s transition. Music fans are also treated to a couple of remixes with the standout being “Five-O (remix)” featuring Wyclef, Swizz Beatz, Yung Joc and P.Diddy.
— K.W.

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