Nicki Minaj gets some help from Rihanna in "Fly"
What’s up with majority of today’s videos being without a significant concept or storyline? What’s up with all these videos where you just see the recording artist staring and posing in the camera while they let the backdrop speak for them?? That’s what you get in Nicki Minaj’s new music video, “Fly,” featuring Rihanna. With great scenery, “Fly” is set in a destroyed environment, perhaps post-apocalyptic or war-torn, but that’s as interesting as it gets. Nicki and Rihanna walk and pose through the rubble, and eventually the rap-star fights a couple ninjas briefly. The video closes with the sun coming out and a flower growing. That’s it. Rubble. Posing. Brief Ninja Fight. Flower. The end. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Considering the lyrics of the song, Minaj could’ve been some type of superhero or healer who caused the revitalization of the land and Rihanna, her sidekick or guide. Something a little more interesting than random ninjas and staring at your face. Granted, both Rihanna and Nicki Minaj are easy on the eyes, but I can Google photos for all of that. If you haven’t seen it, you can check out the video below. Also below is a poll: Did you like “Fly?”
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the death of R&B singer & actress Aaliyah. This might be cliché` to say, but it doesn’t feel like a decade has passed. Part of the reason why the memory is still so fresh is because…it’s still not ok. My heart has yet to accept that Aaliyah HAD to die. It’s still not fair to me and it still doesn’t make sense. It’s clear that Aaliyah was destined to leave, considering all of the ironic inter-connected factors that contributed to her plane crashing (the plane was overweight, she and her crew left earlier than planned, the pilot was inexperienced and suspected of being under the influence, etc.), but we still don’t know WHY a 22-year old on the brink of massive mainstream success in the entertainment industry had to lose her life. We don’t know WHY a couple had to lose their child and a brother had to lose his baby sister. One of my peers said a month after her death, “This is never going to be ok,” and 10 years later, he’s still right.
I turned sixteen 15 days before Aaliyah died, and on my birthday, I HAD to finish listening to “We Need a Resolution” on the radio before I entered the restaurant for my celebration dinner. I was so eager to hear Aaliyah’s new self-titled album, because before she went on artistic hiatus to finish high school, I was OBSESSED with her. I had multiple posters. I knew all of the words to her hit songs. I tried to mimic her style and her attitude (much to my mother’s dismay: “Why do you want to wear baggy pants and hood shirts all the time?”). She was my Miley Cyrus. And just when I got my buddy back…she died.
Like any other American teen, I religiously watched MTV. Sunday morning on August 26th, 2001, I had MTV on mute. Footage of Aaliyah kept playing, and I wondered why, but I didn’t look into it. I just said to myself “I hope she’s ok. She’s fine. It’s promo for her album.” While I was in the shower, my brother confirmed the worst: “J, Aaliyah died. She was in a plane crash.” Startled, I just stood still. When I didn’t respond, he said “Do you hear me? Are you going to be ok?” All I could say was “Yeah, I hear you.” When he left, I slowly dropped to my knees and prayed with fervor that it was all a rumor. It wasn’t. Church service after that was all a blur. I was...numb. For months, I had multiple dreams about her and almost everything reminded me of her. For example, the night of her death, Destiny’s Child was featured on Saturday Night Live. It was a long time before I was able to see that episode without getting emotional. Although it deeply affected personally, I wasn’t alone in my mourning.
In the days after her death, kids at school were constantly singing her songs and put posters in their lockers. “Aaliyah Dana Haughton 1979-2001” was carved into anything wooden. The art hall was covered in projects and drawings dedicate to her (a similar thing happened when we lost Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC in April 2002). It has definitely been a process coping with her death. Only recently have I gained some type of resolve (click the photo above to read my article on coping with this loss). I’ve tried to dwell in the glow of her life versus her death (click the photo below to read her birthday tribute). Having this approach has given me some peace, but I often still wonder why she had to die. We’ll see if I ever get the answer. We’ll see if this will ever seem “fair.” See the music polls under the “J.Says Beyond” tab to vote for your favorite Aaliyah album. Tonight, the BET network will air an anniversary special at 8pm EST.
Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson in the 1970's.
Nick Ashford, one-half of the singer-songwriter duo, “Ashford and Simpson,” has died of throat cancer. He was 69. Ashford and his wife of 37 years, Valerie Simpson, began their chart-topping songwriting career penning tunes for Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. In 1966, the pair joined the staff of the legendary Motown Records, writing what ultimately would be classics for Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”) and Diana Ross (“Reach Out and Touch”), among others. From the 1960’s until 1997, Ashford and Simpson continued to write for a bevy of popular artists (Chaka Khan and Teddy Pendergrass to name a few) and recorded their own albums, both individually and as a couple. Their biggest selling single as a couple was “Solid” (1984), which is featured below. Also below is their tune for Chaka Khan, “I’m Every Woman” (1978), covered by a pregnant Whitney Houston in 1993. Simpson can be seen in the video. To read my tribute to other recording artists that we’ve recently lost, click Ashford’s picture above. On August 25th, I will post a tribute marking the 10th anniversary of the passing of R&B singer/actress Aaliyah, and on August 29th, the commemorative fan section, “Michael Jackson: 1958-Forever” will be re-opened. Stay tuned.
Here's a recent facebook status of mine regarding the music industry: What's the point of having background singers on stage if they are going to lip-synch? That's a waste of payroll money. I find this ESPECIALLY irritating when it's obvious that the background "singers" are lip-synching and they have ear monitors, as if they were singing. RRRRR. Is it just me?
Likes: New Day, Welcome to the Jungle, Murder to Excellence, No Church in the Wild
Dislikes: That’s My Bitch
Overall: Some weak parts, but features intriguing lyrics & unique production
Ever since the release of Kanye West’s defining debut, “College Dropout,” on the Jay-z founded Roc-A-Fella Records in 2004, fans have insisted the pair record a collaborative album. After 7 years and multiple features on each other’s projects, they granted the audience’s request with “Watch the Throne.” Considering the style of the production and some of the pensive lyrics, the rappers were definitely looking to create a classic album.
“Throne’s” production is somewhat thematic and is the perfect mix of today’s and yesterday’s sound, blending futuristic synths and elements of electronica with traditional hip-hop rhythms and some classic 60’s & 70’s soul. Most of the album is lyrically adequate, but there are some feeble points. For example, “Lift Off” has a great hook and attractive production, but the verses are painfully short and barely noticeable. Another weakness is that there are one too many songs in which the rappers singly boast about their success and assets. Granted, boasting is a central tenet in hip-hop, but multiple tracks of just boasting can get redundant and tiring. Also, I’m personally over West’s womanizing lyrics that seem to now have a stronger recurring role on his projects. (ex. “…I said look you need to crawl ‘fore you ball, come and meet me in the bathroom stall and show me why you deserve to have it all…”)
Reminiscent of West’s “My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy,” the more meaningful lyrics address the societal turmoil of the black community and discuss the ugly and rewarding parts of fame, while taking time for personal, inward reflection. On the endearing and intriguing “New Day,” West and Jay-z speak to their unborn sons. Jay-z vows to be better parent than his absentee father, and West makes a mockery of what the media has found to be his missteps and lists what he finds to be valid mistakes. All in all, I predict that “Throne” will be well revered and that another collaborative record is in the future. Good album.
If I have any additional commentary on an album from a societal, cultural or fan perspective, I usually save it for a separate article, but since I don’t have too much to say, I’ll go ahead and include it here. Hip-hop and I have love-hate relationship. I see its value as a genre, but there are many things about the culture and the music that I do not agree with. As a woman and feminist, I will never find it appropriate to refer to a woman as a bitch. Most rappers proclaim that when they use the word “bitch,” it’s not in reference to ALL women, just those that are promiscuous or deceitful, but as usual, the rappers contradict themselves. On “That’s My Bitch,” Jay-z and Kanye are speaking of a respectable woman of substance that’s their companion. As a woman of color, I ask and I plea: when do I get to be referred to as your friend, girlfriend or wife and NOT your “bitch?” As a man of color, when will you give yourself and your male counterparts a title of something more exalting than a “nigga?” When? That is all.
Cover photo for V Magazine
What the star’s next move should be if she wants to conquer the world.
So, I’m watching Nicki Minaj’s performance on Good Morning America (Aug.5), and I noticed she did part of a song that I hadn’t heard before. The song was “Where Them Girls At?” by David Guetta, which features Minaj and rapper Flo-Rida. Similar to her current hit single, “Super Bass,” the track was radio-friendly, commercial pop-rap. I was immediately concerned. When something is commercially successful, record execs see nothing but green and expect you to forever duplicate the sound that got you on the pop chart. I fear that in the future, Nicki will continue to record pop-rap and that will be at the center of her repertoire. Nicki Minaj doing nothing but pop-rap is a bad thing because it’s likely that she won’t be viewed as a legitimate artist and the longevity of her career will be shortened, as it will be dependent on commercial singles. Considering the fact that her ability level is already questioned in the hip-hop community, it’s especially important for her to prove herself, demonstrate her strengths and make impactful music.
Why do I care about the longevity of Nicki Minaj’s career? Because I think she has a bigger plan and a feminist agenda that I like. From what I know of her start in the industry (which is moderate), she went from a “rough around the edges” sexually charged rapper, to a more polished-looking artist with mild sexual energy. Comparing her pre-record deal image, music and interviews versus now, I drew the conclusion that she was playing by the unwritten rules set by the “Boys Club” of hip-hop to establish herself, and planned to switch gears once she “made it.” Due to misogyny, sexism and double standards, aspiring female rappers have a difficult time succeeding in the male-dominated genre without be being disregarded, disrespected, unreasonably challenged or expected to compromise or exploit themselves. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Minaj’s former image was the result of this unfairness. Between the shift in her presence and the multiple declarations she’s made about improving the conditions for future female emcees and expanding her brand, I say Minaj is trying to change the game for the better. She’s trying to be the first female Jay-z: a “Jane of all trades,” multi-talented entrepreneurial mogul that changes the definition of what it means to be a female rapper and contributes to making hip-hop a widely embraced culture. There’s always been some sort of a “glass ceiling” for female rappers; a limit to what they can accomplish and Nicki seems to be trying to take a hammer to it. That’s why it’s so pertinent that she succeeds, because if she does, it will open a pathway for a future generation (for example, she’s the first female rapper to be featured on the “Forbes” -a finance magazine-top hip-hop earners list. Now we know it’s not impossible for a female to make the list).
The first step to achieving this goal is musical and artistic solidarity. Minaj needs to strive for a happy medium on her next record: a splash of pop-rap (ex. “Super Bass”) with a strong chunk of clever, unforgettable rhymes (ex. her feature on “Monster” or “Roman’s Revenge”). The more artistry she exhibits and the more respect she garners, the longer her career will last and she’ll have more power to access what she desires.
Just a thought. What do you think?
To see more "Curious Case" articles, click Minaj's picture above.
Yearly CD purchases have decreased steadily over the last decade, due in part to internet piracy. Music piracy is now so rampant, albums are leaking online long before their official release dates, ultimately affecting sales. Jay-z & Kanye West’s collaborative record, “Watch the Throne,” successfully hit the market on the planned date of August 8th without any mishaps, however. How did they avoid the leak? Well, according to RollingStone Magazine, having an exclusive release deal with ITunes and department store Best Buy was the key. Industry insiders have concluded that leaks tend to happen because copies of the finished product are stolen from manufacturing plants during shipping. “Throne” was released on Itunes August 8th and will be available at Best Buy on August 12th. By making the album initially available on Itunes only, no shipping is involved. If sales improve as result of this type of release plan, record labels are likely to mass implement it. While this plan seems like a dream come true for the industry, some fans and independent retailers oppose the design. Fans are concerned they may not be able to purchase physical copies if a specific store isn’t available to them and independent retailers won’t be able to sell and profit from anticipated albums. As a consumer, what do you think of exclusive release deals?
Overall: Nice live instrumentation & reflective lyrics. Kind of gloomy, though. You have to be in the mood for this record.
“Rabbits on the Run,” the peculiar and “open to interpretation” title of Vanessa Carlton’s fourth album is befitting of its imaginative and symbolic lyrical content that addresses the cynical optimism that comes with living and loving. Carlton is in such a reflective space on this album, you’d think she was 80 instead of almost 31- which isn’t a bad thing, considering the shallow nature of most albums these days. The lyrics combined with “Rabbits’” sullen music will cause you to meditate on your own life, if not put you in a gloomier mood. The downside of “Rabbits” is that you have to be in a gloomier or relaxed mood to listen to it all the way though. If not in the right mood, the album could come off as dull. Also, Carlton’s vocals can be hard to listen to for a long period of time, being child-like and squeaky. Overall, it’s a decent album.
Likes: Last One to Know
Overall: Boring and forgettable.
For her fifth album LP1”, Joss Stone decided to mesh her soulful vocals with the sound of blues-tinged rock and country. In theory, this concept is a great idea because after all, the three genres are all influenced by one another in some way. However, “LP1” didn't execute the concept well and the theory didn’t become truth. The musical arrangements are lifeless and over-simplistic and Stone sings with emotionless abandon. It’s the equivalent of your sister playing random melodies on her acoustic guitar and singing “ooh’s and ahh’s” on the porch. Most of the tracks don’t catch your attention. I usually enjoy Joss Stone, but not this go round. Sorry Joss.
Rants and raves about all things entertainment industry. Includes my own movie, music and concert reviews. You can find topics under "Tags and Categories" below.