Almost every person, place or thing I’ve ever encountered had a song attached to it. Sometimes it was a song of nature and sometimes it was a song of man… but nevertheless it was there. I have been lucky enough to hear life’s songs and I try to write them down when I can to share them with others. Sometimes that can have me up at some weird hours. Now, I know I’m up pretty late right now… but I have good reason: I’m inspired. Inspired to write a song for someone special.
The fact that I’m writing a song, or even that I’m up late might not be such a big deal, except for the fact that I haven’t been inspired to write a song for someone in a very long time. For the inspiration to come to me tonight is like visiting with an old friend I haven’t seen in months… I wouldn’t miss the opportunity.
This song came to me like many of them do, at the piano. I was running my fingers across the piano keys haphazardly looking for a sound that stuck with me… and all at once there was this beautiful melody. Immediately this person’s image crowded my thoughts and the words began to flow from my mouth like water… I had to find something quickly to write it all down with before I lost it.
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.
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?!”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
First let me say that I’m a fan of hip hop. I mean, my interaction goes way back to the days of, well… never mind, I don’t want to date myself. 😉 In spite of the depth of my affections for this genre however, I simple cannot tolerate someone advocating ignorance and trying to call it art! I believe there has to be more than a modicum of intelligence in all art, whether it be painting, music, theater or dance.
What do I mean by this? Well, I was listening to a rapper (who shall remain mercifully unnamed) spouting off what he considered to be a battle rap which made absolutely no sense. He used words out of context simply because… wait for it… they rhymed! Example: “Back up quick before I cap ya dome/beatin’ freakniks with wheat sticks like a motor home…” I’m sorry… what?!?
Then you have rap crews with names that have no real meaning other than the people in the group thinking it must be good because it’s different. This one crew is called “Gangsta Island” and their coming out with an album called “Gangsta Psalms” I mean, come on… Gangsta Psalms?!?!
And then there’s this one guy I know who titled his album, “MISCELLANEOUS“ because he says he’s mysterious and unique. I’m like… “Bro, have you looked up the definition of Miscellaneous lately??” Now I know all hip hop artists are not ignorant, but I wonder if I should even say something to these people. The one time I tried to reason with a guy, he told me I just couldn’t understand his “vibe” I was like… “Look, I gotta be honest… your vibe is sad… as a matter of fact, there is no vibe, it’s just sad all by itself.” Maybe that’s a little harsh, but for someone like me who considers music and poetry to be an art form, these people really bring shame to the entire industry.
Anyway, here’s the soapbox back in case someone was looking for it.