Since entering the urban music landscape in 2005 with her debut album The Way It Is, Cole has consistently been underrated. Until her hit BET reality show, also titled “The Way It Is,” Cole lacked much of the mainstream name recognition of many of her contemporaries. And, even now, despite her first two albums going platinum and her last album going gold, Cole still doesn’t quite get the recognition that her talent warrants. It’s a position that she’s pretty much played most of her life.
Cole’s personal struggles are no secret. Hailing from Oakland, born to a mother addicted to crack and raised by another woman whom she also calls mom, Cole’s entire life has been an uphill battle. As callous as it may sound, hers is a life almost tailor-made for the spotlight. Like her idol Mary J. Blige, Cole is an urban Cinderella who found her glass slipper in a recording booth.
It’s been far from happily ever after, though. As reflected in hit songs like “Love” and “(I Just Want It) To Be Over,” Cole has thrived off of sharing her many snapshots of pain. It’s helped her win legions of loyal fans. With her latest album, Calling All Hearts, much like her idol Blige, she stands at a crossroads. To say her life has dramatically changed is an understatement. In her love life alone, she’s gone from a rollercoaster relationship with rapper Young Jeezy to one of almost model stability with NBA baller Daniel Gibson, whom she is engaged to and now has a son with.
Okay so it’s finally time for the Soul Train Awards, which taped in Atlanta on November 10 and airs tonight at 9 p.m. on both BET and Centric. This is probably one of the times when it’s definitely better to see it on television because, in person, the show required patience greater than most humans possess.
It all started out shaky. First of all, the arrival time for those with tickets was 7:30 p.m. The show was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. and the purple carpet kicked off around 6 p.m. Atlanta traffic, however, did not get that memo thanks to a multi-car accident around 14th Street.
Of course the line to get in at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre was longer than a church sermon but getting in was a lot easier than anticipated, allowing enough time to pop into the social media room before taking a seat at the top mezzanine, dead center, where the view was wonderful. The only problem was there was no show. Comedian Damon Williams was funny but there’s only so much a person who isn’t the main attraction can do.
Already juggling an iPhone and a Blackberry, the female in all black receives a radio message over her headset and quickly leaves Hell. The world around her slowly shifts as her black sandals, masking teal-colored toenails, step into the light and hit the uneven bricked pathway. Eyes dart in her direction. Conversations freeze in mid-sentence. Necks crane as she walks by. She hurries to the front, smiles warmly, and embraces the gentlemen who had been waiting for her.
“Have you checked in?” she asks. There seems to be a bit of confusion amongst the men. She sees their frustration and politely interjects, “The artists table is right over there. You just want to check in with them and they’ll give you a pass. I’ll see you inside, okay?” As she leaves, on-lookers eye her every step. "Yo, man, that's Fadia," someone whispers.
The 2010 A3C Hip Hop Festival is the place to be if you are doing anything in hip-hop, aspiring to do anything in hip-hop, or just want to be seen among the latter two. Homemade CDs, fliers, and business cards are handed out like last year’s Halloween candy. It’s hard to decipher by the wrappers which will give your ears a sour taste, and reassurances like, “I was the underdog, but see, now we’re setting the streets on fire; you need to give it a listen,” hardly help.
It's the first day of the festival and the grounds of the Masquerade are filled with a rainbow of different sneakers ranging from beat up, classic black and white Chucks to futuristic eggplant Nike Foamposites. Posted all around the grounds are tents with artist merchandise, a wall dedicated to personal graffiti, even the Marines have set up camp to search for new recruits. If you are not about self-promotion, this is the wrong place to be.
There is a buzz surrounding the artists performing on this year's Perfect Attendance stage. It's not simply due to the amount of talent, but also the ringleader assembling them. Fadia's intuition was spot-on with last year's roster, which included sets from Yelawolf, Donnis, Curren$y and Pill, who've all become some of this year's most sought-after MCs. The audience knows that Fadia can deliver, and many have come to see if she can do it two years in a row.
If you follow Diddy on Twitter, you know that the 2010 BET Hip-Hop Awards, which were filmed in Atlanta on Oct. 2, air tonight. Now, filming in Atlanta has been no easy feat for the awards show. Most famously, T.I. was arrested literally moments before the 2007 show, and the next year Kat Williams pulled out of the show in the midnight hour. But this year, there was no reason why so many artists were not there, other than Kanye West who locked up a "Saturday Night Live" gig, ensuring that there was absolutely no chance of a live performance from him, scheduled or not. All in all, it was more a no-show show than an awards show. No Jay-Z. No Eminem. No Drake. Mind you, they all won awards.
Oh there was some star power in the Atlanta Civic Center. Nelly, who has the No. 4 song in the country, was there with Kelly Rowland seated between him and Devyne Stephens. He didn’t take the stage though. Rick Ross and Diddy did, with MC Hammer of all people. There was Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka, Soulja Boy, B.o.B., Big Boi, Yelawolf, Cali Swag, J Cole and a few others, including Antoine Dodson (how is he on a hip-hop show? Your guess is as good as mine) and Digital Underground. Surprisingly, the Dipset reunion was probably the “live” highlight. “Salute” sounded like an anthem coming to life.
The previously taped MC cyphers were the absolute highlight actually. Those had a heck of a lot more star power — Ice Cube and Reverend Run rhyming with their sons, Kanye West and the GOOD Music family, including Common, Royce Da 5’9 and Raekwon. Atlanta’s own Farnsworth Bentley and Yelawolf also graced the cyphers. Now from where I was seated, it was absolutely hard to see the cyphers and the performances. That experience was challenging to say the least, partly due to the overly zealous usher.
For anyone who still harbors doubts that Trey Songz is a bona fide R&B star, the Target-hosted album release party for the ultra-deluxe version of Trey Songz’s Passion, Pain & Pleasure (sold exclusively at Target) should erase them. Held at Ventanas, the new venue next to the Hilton Garden Inn, the event let curbside passersby know that Trey Songz was on the menu. There was a modest red carpet with three ginormous portraits of Songz leaning against the building leading up to two attractive women keeping a list.
At first, I was more than salty because, lo and behold, my name was not on the list. Did the young lady care who I was or that I had an email on my blackberry to demonstrate that I belonged? Heck no! She was like, ‘Well you need to call them to come down and get you.’ Luckily my friend Isoul Harris, managing editor of 944, enlisted some help to get me in.
Once in, it wasn’t a cakewalk at all. There was another red carpet manned by publicists from a well-known PR firm in L.A. Now, I’ve paid a few dues in this industry so, unless it’s the Oscars or the Grammys, I don’t generally do red carpet. We were, however, informed that both T.I. and Trey were en route. T.I., of course, was speaking to no one. I was surprised he was slated to be there but they are Atlantic Records label mates. Some photographers told me that the real action was upstairs so I, along with Isoul and our friend Landras, boarded the elevator another level and that’s when the party got turned on full blast.
If a local band, especially one as well-connected as the N.E.C., celebrates a record release, it seems their whole community emerges out of the woodworks to witness the miracle of new musical life. The fact that it was a free show at the Star Bar didnt hurt either, and the room steadily filled as Alabama-based openers the Dirty Lungs played their brand of driving, almost-classic pop-rock, then Atlantas own punk/punk/punk prodigy Predator treated the room to its frenetic quick-strumming and un-shy shouts. It would have been enjoyable even without the chemically-aided dancers carving out a whole in the crowd at the middle of the roombut they didnt hurt the spectacle.
Havana Club must be vying for the "worst place to see live hip-hop in Atlanta" award. Last night, Drake and Travis Porter headlined the BMI Atlanta Unsigned Urban Showcase to a standing-room only crowd, full of more industry folks than fans at the relocated Buckhead club on Piedmont Ave. Hosted by Decatur homie and R&B cutie Lloyd, the event kicked off around 9 p.m. with performances from unsigned artists from across the nation. The eventual winner, Nicoya from Houston, Tex., was one of the better vocalists, but her mic went out mid-way and never came back. As the ooohs, awwws and boos ensued, that was only the beginning of the problems the crowd would have with the soundbwoy that night.
More pics below jump
During the first of the two rock 'n' roll opening acts, I asked the bartender what time Janelle Monae would come on. "10:30," she said. At 10:30 p.m. the lights went down and a short video played on the curtain surrounding the stage. It had the look and feel of a title sequence from a 70s Bond movie: a close-up on a pupil, a wash of red, underwater smoke, floating, and an orchestra. It was shoestring-budget beautiful and excessive at the same time, with a wink. A sign of things to come.
The show began before the actual show began with the distribution of a flier outlining the top 10 space-brain ArchAndroid command-whatever-ments a set of positive nonsense spiritual rules, regulations, and helpful hints on how to govern yourself while in the presence of Monae. It also checked some idols, letting you know exactly who Monae would be borrowing from, but with the utmost reverence and respect.
And Now The Comparisons: a Voodoo Chile-prodigy priestess, a moon-age Motown Mick Jagger revival, a tea-cup Screamin' Jay Hawkins in a James Brown ace bandage, a kids department Howlin' Pelle Almqvist with a Gaga twist.
Her moves are kinetic, immediate and a little goofy. She winds herself up and throws herself around, weighted down only by a pair magic, dancing, Disney spats. Her band, also beaming bright in heavy-starched black and white, matches her energy level every step of the way.
Hip-hop groupies ain't got shit on the chicks who fill up the front row at electro shows.
Something happened near the end of Little Dragon's magical set last Saturday night at the Masquerade that sold me on that fact. During the encore, two young innocents jumped onstage, overcome by the band's trance-inducing grooves, and let loose (below).
I don't know who I was expecting the typical Air fan to be, but I must admit, I wasn't expecting the crowd of dancing hippie-dippie girls and stoner guys from last night's show at Center Stage. I shouldn't be surprised though, given the band's propensity for chill-out electronica or the typical crowd at any Atlanta concert. Personally, I was hoping for the more Charlotte Gainsbourg-admiring, Sofia Coppola-watching type.
But that's what makes Air so deeply sexy--that their charm, both in songs and onstage, appeals to everyone. My friend and I were in awe of their French sexiness during their first North American tour in three years. Along with their use of retro instruments, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel channeled their allure in vaguely 70s-inspired outfits. Dunkel looked "like the sexiest milkman from the 50s I've ever seen," remarked my friend of his all-white shirt, tie and butt-hugging pants.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?