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Monthly Archives: January 2013

ARTIST REVIEW: Shinobi Ninja

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Rock Hood Front Cover

Artist Name
Shinobi Ninja

Album/Song Title, Year Released
Rock Hood, 2011

Website
http://www.ShinobiNinja.com

Rating
♬♬♬♬♬

 

Riis Headphones

Riis says:

Okay, first of all, Shinobi Ninja is HIGH energy.

Pure.

Raw.

High.

Energy.

At first glance the 6-member group – with Duke Sims and Baby G on vocals, Alien Lex on bass, brothers Maniak Mike and Terminator Dave on guitar and drums, and rounded out by DJ Axis Powers on the wheels of steel – is a mashup of hip hop and rock that many bands have attempted, but few have successfully achieved. But for every 15 epic group failures, you occasionally stumble upon a band like Shinobi Ninja who convincingly grabs the rap-rock mantle handed down by legends like The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, and carried by contemporaries like Linkin Park and Rage Against The Machine.

Thanks to the band’s generosity (shout out to Dave!), TLM got a chance to check out songs from their 2011 album release “Rock Hood”, as well as the 2012 ILL ISH single (with Rusty Stab as the B-side).

On all of the tracks we heard, the band showed strength and a genuine combined skill in both genres of music. Their body of work comprises a seamless collection of heavy hitting, head pounding, hip hop/rock tracks that display an abundance of neighborhood front-runner swag. You know what I mean…  Shinobi Ninja is like that guy you often see around the block where you can tell he commands respect and admiration just by the way he walks. Yeah, like that.

Dre1 cropped

Bennie says:

Duke Sims delivers vocal agility and a strong sense of tone; never letting the melody or lyrics get lost in the depth of sound produced by the tight instrumentation of the musicians supporting the cause. His delivery, on several levels, manages to maintain hip hop credibility while singing a strong counter-melody to the phat beats and thumping bass lines.

Baby G shines on the band’s recordings and in particular during her spotlight moments on tracks like “Nah Nah” and Shinobi Ninja’s cover of Montell Jordan’s classic “This Is How We Do It”, which offers up a salute to another hip hop classic during a genre-blend near the end of the song. Baby G is authentic Hip Hop, not some contrived, sloppy reproduction. Because of this, you are released to just enjoy her instead of being caught up in the disappointment of a bad attempt.

The album is full of energetic calls to action on tracks like the eponymous “Rock Hood” and “Jump To This”, party anthems which compel you to play the tracks as loud as possible, and make you wish you had a stadium in your backyard just to fully appreciate the intensity of the top-notch production. When I say you can’t sleep on this album, I mean you literally WILL NOT be able to come down from the high this group achieves from the very first track to the last. It’ll make you want to say, “Where the party at?!”

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Don’t forget to vote for Shinobi Ninja in the Grammy Live: The Gig of a Lifetime contest. Cast your votes here: VOTE SHINOBI NINJA

Find Shinobi Ninja at these other virtual world locations:

Twitter

Facebook

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MySpace

YouTube

The Pivot Point

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This is a follow-up to my previous article: The Price.

Living in Los Angeles, there are probably very few people who haven’t at some point in their lives dreamed of being famous.  You know… face plastered on billboards all over town or your contagious song on the radio.  I’ve been fortunate to experience many extraordinary things over the years… two albums (do NOT ask me the names, I will NOT tell you), movies (VH1, but hey it still counts ), and TV commercials (Coca-Cola, KFC, McDonalds… FYI jingles make a TON of money), among others.  For the most part, I’ve always been two steps shy of the spotlight. At any moment I could easily have stepped into the hot glaring lights of Who’s Whoville. Ran through the Hollywood scene with reckless abandon.  Schmooze at houses with bathrooms bigger than my backyard.  But with all of the things that I’ve seen, read or personally experienced, I’ve come to the conclusion that fame was the last thing I ever wanted.

I told this story a couple of years ago about a very well-known, highly respected (and still active) industry exec who told me, “Riis! I will make you a star!  We’ll make your album and feature it in all of the movies I work on and you’ll guest spot on every single TV show I supervise.  Just sign on the dotted line…

I never did.

I knew everything he said was probably true.  But as I mentioned, the cost for me was far more than I was willing to pay. I’ve seen what fame & celebrity has done to people.  People I know personally.  There’s absolutely no privacy.  Increased instability for my kids who already have enough to contend with just trying to be kids. The constant travelling and being pulled in several directions at once. I realized back then that in all of my pursuing, I wasn’t chasing a desire to be famous, but simply… a desire to be liked.  I wanted to feel special.  I wanted people to look at me with the awe that comes with seeing a child prodigy, getting a book signed by their favorite author or scoring backstage passes to a sold out show.  I wanted to feel wanted.

But you know what you often get with fame? You get a growing population who feels it is there right and obligation to criticize you… judge you… pick you apart for every little thing you do or don’t do… you become the subject of asinine headlines like “Riis addicted to Starbucks” or “Riis’ Marriage On The Brink Of Failure! Drinks Red Bull To Calm Frayed Nerves!”  And then you realize that the affirmation is fleeting.  This industry is fickle.  Jealousy overshadows your accomplishments.  People have unrealistic expectations of how you should act and who you should be.  Close relationships begin to fall apart because you just don’t have the time to invest in them like you should.

I’m not saying this is what fame looks like for everyone, but when he placed that contract in front of me and I looked at my future… this is what I saw.  And I was thankful that in a sense, at that moment I was at the pivot point… a chance to rewind.  I could choose now to trade that successful but empty future for a different one.  The one I have now.

When I take stock of all that I have, I recognize that it’s everything I ever truly wanted.  I’m not just liked, I am loved… by my wife, my kids, my family and close friends.  My children look at me with awe and think that I know the answer to everything.  I’m recognized for my skills and talents at work, with colleagues and fellow artists.  My wife wants and affirms me everyday.  And you know… if I never win a Grammy or an Oscar, I’ve acquired something more priceless… fulfillment.

Boy Band Extinction

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Okay, I know they’re not extinct.

Yet.

But c’mon, let’s be honest… One Direction feels like the last of a dying breed. Not that I’m trying to frighten their hordes of fans. I just think that particular industry season has just about run its course. Nearly every popular group from a decade ago has been gradually reduced to one (sometimes two) of its most popular soloists.

So anyway, I thought I’d upload a song demo from a few years back. I used to do studio work all the time for different producers, writers and indy record labels.  I’d record lots of demos for submission to various artists. Some got picked up, others did not. Here is one that I thought was pretty good.  This song was going to be submitted to a new N’sync type boy band that was scheduled to come out. But the band (and subsequently this song) never made it past the demo stage. Meh. I liked it though.

Riis Headphones

LOVE OFFERING

Verse 1
I’ve known you for a while.
No longer in denial.
I told you to come over cause I wanted to see your smile.
I watched you come inside
and though I really tried
what I felt was overwhelming and there was no way that I could hide.

Chorus
The way you make me feel
My heart I can’t conceal
It almost seems unreal
But I’m offering my love to you

I can’t believe it’s true
To be in love with you
I know just what to do
Girl, I’m offering my love to you

© SingOut Music, LLC. All rights reserved.

Don’t Try This At Home… Or On The Freeway

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During my web travels, I occasionally come across the bizarre and absurd. An instance of which I will now present to you here for your horror and or/enjoyment.

So what’s been happening in the world of virtual eternity… ?

Well, this actually happened a couple years ago. But we all know the internet is timeless. So let’s not pretend. Instead, let the ensuing tale serve as a warning to any other aspiring bands out there who would make the mistake of thinking the following stunt is a good idea.

So here’s what took place…

Chaos broke out when a local unknown band called Imperial Stars tried to pull a U2 on one of the busiest freeways in Southern California. Yep. Some geniuses got the ridiculous idea to pull a truck across lanes and proceed to “jam on the roof” of their truck.

Wow.

Really?

Have you ever been in L.A. traffic?!?

Dude, this is so NOT cool. :-/


This is for the homeless children!

What’s worse is your song is kinda lame. And all you got was arrested. That’s pretty much the definition of FAIL IMO.

The Price

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Someone complimented me on my music the other day. After saying thank you, they proceeded to ask me why I haven’t “tried to get a record deal??” and blah blah blah. I’ve heard that question so many times now that I’ve developed the pat answer of, “because my wife and kids are worth more than any fame or fortune I’d have sacrificed them to obtain”.

Okay, I’m not trying to sound all doomsday. So what does that mean exactly?

Well, Day 150 - 05-29-2012I’ve had many occasions to “get a record deal” (which doesn’t mean what it used to). That isn’t meant to sound boastful. I just want you to know that it hasn’t been due to lack of opportunity. But once I started a family, they became my priority. It was my choice to do so. And no amount of money or notoriety was worth the very real possibility of giving them up. Which is what I was being asked to do in nearly every single circumstance.

See, I already knew what it’s like to spend countless hours in the studio. I’d paid my dues as an artist performing multiple shows a day, multiple days a week. So while it’s true that I would have done anything for my wife and kids, I had to draw the line at depriving them of a husband and father who loves them.

My decision was based on my personal experience and firsthand knowledge that the music industry (and the entertainment industry as a whole) is not very nice. The industry machine and the people who operate it don’t really care about you. Labels, publishers and some producers only care about how you will benefit them first and yourself second, if at all. Most will be expected to act selfishly, and you could very well be asked at some point in your career to compromise everything you believe.

I’m not saying this is the case for everyone. And I would never discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams. It’s just that with my circumstances, for me it was very clear what the end of the road looked like had I chosen differently. I have acquaintances who are both lonely and full of regret. I have other friends who are very fulfilled in their industry careers. It wasn’t until years later that they become acutely aware of the cost of  the road they chose. I just implore you to make an informed decision about these kinds of things. Because the price you pay isn’t always obvious.

NEW MUSIC: Justin Timberlake “Suit & Tie” feat. Jay-Z

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So it’s been about 7 years since Justin Timberlake revised pop culture vernacular by declaring he would be the one to bring Sexy Back. Since then we’ve seen J.T. eschewing time spent behind a microphone and replacing it with considerable time spent in front of a camera. Now, while my beloved Bennie and many others like her have feasted on the eye candy J.T. presents on screen, those of us less concerned with the appeal of his 5 o’clock shadow have waited patiently for the release of some new audio addiction.justin-timberlake-in-suit

We have found our fix in J.T.’s lead single “Suit & Tie” from his upcoming album “The 20/20 Experience”.

The track, produced by Timbaland, combines equal parts baby-making, half-time back beats with a bouncing bass line, harp flourishes and lush synth strings. Over this J.T. offers to “show you a good thang” while alternating between cool natural vocals and a crisp falsetto reminiscent of Marvin Gaye on his classic “After The Dance“. As with most trendsetters, my prediction is that just as Jay-Z intones in his rap verse “This is trouble season/time for tuxedos for no reason”, we will most likely see an increase in faux-tuxedo based fashion cropping up over the next year. Be afraid.

Nevertheless, the release of this single, along with a statement regarding “newfound muses” in the Open Letter on his website, has caused us to eagerly anticipate hearing what he will present for our listening pleasure on the full album.

Take a listen below and let us know YOUR thoughts on J.T.’s newest release.

https://twolovemusic.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/justin-timberlake-ft-jay-z-suit-tie.mp3

I Didn’t Get The Sports Gene

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In many respects, I am a stereotypical man and I do what many typical men do… no, not THAT I mean like fix and build things. (I made this! )  However, there is one particular area where I am very different from many of my male friends: Sports.  Yep, baseball, football, hockey… You can keep ’em.

This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy playing sports. Prior to a car accident at age 12, I had a very promising career on the school track team.  Yeah, don’t hate on the runners. Some of the best runners I knew became football players. Others became managers at Footlocker. But that’s another story. To this day, I love to work out and stay physically fit (P90X!).  And sure, I love a good pick up game of basketball with my sons, or playing street football with the neighborhood kids (who apparently don’t know the meaning of “TAG” football). But anything beyond that and my attention fades to nothing. Really.  I mean, I don’t even watch professional sports unless it’s the NBA Finals or occasionally the Super Bowl, and then mostly to see the commercials (which are far more entertaining to me). I’m not glued to the big screen HDTV for Monday Night Football surrounded by my buddies with beer, chips and hot dogs. I’ve never even participated in any Fantasy Sports leagues.  Call me crazy, but there’s no excitement in that for me.

I’m not the guy who’s so consumed with which player is being traded to what team that I can’t focus at work. I’m not the husband who can’t be approached while the game is on, and gets grouchy when my team loses.  Guys at work will come in the next day and spend hours discussing last nights game and arguing over bad calls and inflated stats.  Me?  I could care less. Who got injured? Some team is 12-0? I guess I never got that gene.

It was replaced by the MUSIC gene. Ask me who won the Grammy for Best New Artist back in 2004 and I can run off a list of the songs from their album.  I could talk for hours about the rise of Country Pop and the degrading of R&B production quality. I could give you a year-by-year history of Hip Hop and provide details of pioneers like the Sugar Hill Gang, Just Ice and Grand Master Flash, or innovators like ATCQ or the Fu Schnickens, as well as contemporaries like Drake, Rick Ross and T.I.  I can tell you what High School Josh Groban attended, or about the girl who originally recorded and released “Don’t Cha” before the Pussycat Dolls (trust me, it was NO BUENO).

I guess the parts of my mind that were originally reserved to care about sports were usurped by the arts, musicality and the pursuit of sonic nirvana.  As a writer, producer, arranger, artist and musician, it infiltrates every part of my life.  I guess I got it from my parents who used to tour Chicago and the surrounding areas, traveling with an ensemble vocal group with my uncle who played the piano.  And it’s been passed on… my wife sings and plays the guitar.  My oldest son is an actor, singer and dancer. And my middle son is already an exceptional writer at the age of 16.

So while you’re watching the Super Bowl, remember me and people like me who compose the music for the broadcast introduction, replay transitions and commercial jingles that have become just as much a part of American culture as apple pie.

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