Immortal Combat

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Those of you who know me, know that gospel music is not my area of expertise. Aside from Kirk Fraklin, Mary Mary, Yolanda Adams and other “contemporary Christian” artists, I couldn’t tell you much about the genre. With that being said, I was slightly hesitant to review Hostyle Gospel’s latest album, Immortal Combat. Upon listening to the album, however, my qualms soon began to fade, as I realized that while Immortal Combat has an overarching Christian theme, it is, in essence, still a hip-hop CD.

Comprised of Christian MCs, Proverb, King Soloman, and Big Job, the Champaign group, Hostyle Gospel released their second studio album, Immortal Combat, in January of this year.

Upon listening to the album’s opening track, listeners have no idea what to expect judging by the start of the album’s opening track, “Welcome to the Show.” The phrase,  “welcome to the show” is sung, then yelled, and as the rapping begins (about a minute in), we learn, that this is in fact, “not a show.”

Throughout the album, Hostyle Gospel does a great job sonically matching their instrumentals to theme of their lyrics. Numerous times, particularly when listening to “D.H.B.” and “Souljas,”  found myself saying aloud, “this sounds like fight music,” or “this reminds me of something you would hear in a videogame,” only to then remember that the CD is titled Immortal Combat, a play off of the 1990s videogame, Mortal Kombat.

Immortal Combat is an incredibly honest album, as the members manage to rap about their personal relationships with Christ/Christianity, and as a result, they manage to avoid sounding “preachy” (although I did find the interlude between “Tell Stan It’s ON” and “Callin’ Out to To You”  to be sermon-like and out of place, as it did not fit the hip hop feel that present throughout the rest of the album). On my favorite song from the album, “Proverb’s Letter,” Hostyle Gospel call out current chart-topping artists such as Jay-Z, Drake, Rick Ross, and Lil’ Wayne even saying “half the time he’s (Lil’ Wayne) not in his right mind, so I don’t believe him,” (I’m forced to agree, the man admittedly drinks “sizzurp” and goodness knows what else, he’s not a reliable source of much).

It’s certainly refreshing to hear lyrical content that’s not centered on materialistic ideals or illegal activity. I’m sure Hostyle Gospel will have all Christans “throwin’ their C’s up” in no time.

To purchase Immortal Combat, visit Amazon.com.

Me and Mr. Jones

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Q Bossa Nostra

Maybe you should put the glass down, sir.

Note: Today’s entry was originally written for the official publication of the Chicago Chapter of the Grammy University Network, titled The Wednesday Word, which is available for viewing at Grammy365.com.

Quincy Jones is officially old and senile, or he has just simply lost all his damn sense. Why the harsh words, you ask? As if the piping hot mess that was “We Are the World 25” wasn’t enough, (I don’t have the time nor the space to mention everything that was wrong with that idea alone, nevertheless the actual recording) his latest project, Q: Soul Bossa Nostra, released yesterday, is a series of remakes of some of Jones’ best work. The first single from this album is a cover of one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs “P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)”, from the classic Thriller album. This cover featues Robin Thicke and none other than, ….wait for it…… T-PAIN!  T-Pain does not belong on any type of tribute album unless it is to Roger Troutman or Devante Swing of Jodeci. Quincy Jones and T-Pain collectively spit while doing the A-Town stomp, followed by an hour of P90X on Michael Jackson’s grave with this recording.

To top it all off, Quincy Jones told Rap-Up.com that he has “never seen so many haters in his life.” Sir: you are SEVENTY-SEVEN years old, your age, along with the fact that you are now involved in the business of ruining R&B classics, prohibits you from using any type of slang- particularly when it’s used to bash others who see the extreme error of your ways.

T-Pain was even featured on Kanye West’s 2008 single, “The Good Life,” which samples P.Y.T. Why couldn’t he just leave it as it is? But I can’t even be all that mad at him. Autotune is all that T-Pain knows, and it has yet to fail him.

Mr. Jones, however, should know MUCH better. If senior citizens can have their driving licenses taken away, then Quincy Jones needs to have his right to grant “artists,” such as T-Pain, permission to ruin perfectly good songs revoked as well. Kanye West, Monica, and Memphis Bleek are all artists who have tastefully sampled P.Y.T in past recordings- they all understood the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” especially not with your autotune machine and the circus clown that is T-Pain. Hopefully enough “haters” like myself will come forward and complain in order to ensure that an injustice like this never happens again.

Passion, Pain, & Pleasure

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I actually wrote this review for the Grammy University Network back when Passion, Pain & Pleasure dropped- about a month ago. But my recent adventures with my right hand woman, Sydni, have made me anticipate seeing Trey Songz at Usher’s OMG tour with her. Not to be mistaken, we are far from Trey Songz fanatics (one of our past times is to impersonate him, although no one can beat this guy ), but I understand his appeal and I can rock with some of his songs. Nevertheless, my album review is below. Enjoy!

Passion, Pain & Pleasure opens with an instrumental introduction, “Here We Go Again.” This album, like many others that released this year, is mixed so that it literally flows together – there are no pauses between songs, making it even easier to play the album all the way through.  Songz wastes no time and jumps headfirst into the “babymaker” songs that he has become infamous for. “Love Faces,” “Massage,” and “Alone” (the instrumental of which sounds eerily like  “Every Girl” by Young Money) all revolve around one particular topic, and with lyrics such as “Lose the panties and the bra, I’ma start with a massage,” Songz does not leave much to the imagination.

Halfway through the album, and Passion, Pain & Pleasure seems more like a second of edition of Ready, particularly “Bottoms Up,” the lead single from the album which is seemigly modeled after Songz’s Top 10 hit, “Say Ahh.” While catchy and very fitting for the club atmosphere, “Bottoms Up” is essentially yet another song about drinking (with yet another obnoxious verse from Nicki Minaj, when will it ever end?).

After the “Pain” interlude, however, Passion, Pain & Pleasure takes a turn for the better. The album’s second single, “Can’t Be Friends” is just what audiences would expect of a Johnta Austin production, a catchy slow jam that kicks off what I have deemed Songz’s “begging portion” of the album. After “Can’t Be Friends” comes “Please Return My Call,” which is pleading at his best. Songz clearly wants this woman to return his phone calls more than Anthony Hamilton wanted “Charlene” back and makes John Legend’s pleas for “Maxine” look elementary. Jokes aside, “Made to Be Together” is by far the best track on this album, a danceable slow song, Songz puts his typically dramatic vocals on the back burner and provides audiences with a clear-cut, honest performance. While I kid about the “begging portion,” the “Pain” portion of the album displays a mature side to Songz’s music, proving that he is able and willing to sing about something other than the physical aspect of romantic relationships.

Things begin to pick up during the “Pleasure” segment of the album. Songz begins this part of the album by stating “They say all I sing about it sex right?” and then begins the sexually driven song, “Red Lipstick.” Here, Songz clearly embodies the principle of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” “Unusual” features Songz’s partner-in-crime, Drake, and provides an upbeat alternative to the “Passion” section of the album. Songz ends the album with “Blind” and “You Just Need Me,” two songs that venture into the “electro” hip-hop and R&B genre that has experienced increasing popularity within urban music throughout the past few years.

The concept of Passion, Pain & Pleasure is brilliant, fans can play an entire section of the album dependant on their mood, instead of having to single out a particular song. This album is exactly what audiences expected of Songz (although one or two more club bangers could not have hurt, as Songz may have alienated some of his male fans with all of the slow love songs), and while such an album is nowhere near disappointing, I hope that Songz will exceed our expectations on his next LP.