Category Archives: Music

MUSIC OF THE SUN: A RANKING OF RIHANNA’S BEST REGGAE SONGS

rihanna
instagram.com/badgirlriri, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, YouTube

Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty) has been hella busy taking the beauty and fashion industries by storm with the launches of Fenty Beauty and Savage x Fenty, leaving her navy of fans to wonder if she’ll ever release new music again. The 30-year-old style icon told Vogue recently that she’s planning to record a reggae album, which would be the first time she’s done so since 2005’s Music of the Sun. During a sit-down on “The Graham Norton Show” in June, fans rejoiced as the Ocean’s 8 actress confirmed she was “actually in the studio at the moment.”

As reggae celebrates 50 years, we’re digging deep into the Barbados superstar’s discography to rank all the times she nailed the genre.

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” feat. J-Status

A Girl Like Me, 2006

Not to be confused with Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,”Rihanna finds herself gushing over a guy whose mere presence gives her butterflies. Lyrically at times, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” feels like a continuation of “SOS,” but its distinct dancehall beat sets it apart.

“Selfish Girl”

A Girl Like Me, 2006

Rihanna’s not a selfish girl except for when it comes to bae—and she’ll do whatever it takes to receive his full attention, i.e., “You might think I’m greedy, but I just don’t care.” Nonetheless, the then-budding star’s innocence shines through.

“Here I Go Again” feat. J-Status

Music of the Sun, 2005

A perfect blend of pop and reggae, “Here I Go Again” instantly brightens your mood. From the sunny, reggae-infused melody to the song’s relatable lyrics (i.e., “I look into your eyes and then/ My heart remembers when/ And I realize I neva gotten over you”), why wasn’t “Here I Go Again” released as Music of the Sun’s third single?

“You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)” feat. Vybz Kartel

Music of the Sun, 2005

Rihanna flaunts her Caribbean charm on a well-suited cover of Jamaican singer Dawn Penn’s classic ’94 hit “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No),” putting her own spin on a beloved song in a way that feels organic and effortless.

Read my latest piece for The Boombox [here].

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A Ranking Of Beyoncé’s ‘Dangerously In Love’ Tracklist

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Credit: Genius

Going it alone takes guts, especially when you’ve spent over half of your life as the frontwoman of a wildly successful group, selling millions of records and establishing a mountain of platinum hits. Riding solo means that the public’s criticism grows harsher and the expectations become preposterously higher, but Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter pulled off the transition seamlessly.

At the time, R&B trio Destiny’s Child, who started their musical career in 1990 as Girl’s Tyme, were on a hiatus. Michelle Williams’ Heart to Yours and Kelly Rowland’s Simply Deep were both released within six months of each other respectively. Beyoncé was riding high off the success of Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Fighting Temptations, as well as the smash hit “‘03 Bonnie & Clyde” with future hubby JAY-Z.

Meanwhile, the young starlet’s first solo project was quietly bubbling beneath the surface.

Behind the scenes, Beyoncé was patiently waiting for her turn to dazzle critics. The long-awaited Dangerously In Love had been postponed, which allowed the then 21-year-old more time to record additional tracks, including “Crazy In Love.” Determined to carve out her own destiny (pun intended), Beyoncé enlisted several well-known hitmakers, including Rich Harrison, Scott Storch, Missy Elliot and Bryce Wilson, to create the most anticipated album of 2003.

Read my latest piece for VIBE [here].

10 Years Later: Mariah Carey’s ‘E=MC²’ Tracklist, Ranked

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Credit: Apple Music

Following a massively successful album would be a daunting task for most artists. But in 2008, musical icon Mariah Carey eagerly accepted the challenge when she released the long-awaited E=MC².

The 14-track LP felt like a continuation of The Emancipation of Mimi, which was dubbed as Carey’s comeback album. Earning a whopping 10 Grammy Award nominations, TEOMwas a pivotal career moment, and it went on to produce the smash hits, “We Belong Together” and “Don’t Forget About Us.” Selling an upwards of 10 million copies worldwide, MC silenced naysayers and proved that she was capable of achieving commercial success after experiencing a mini career slump in the early 2000s.

As acts like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift started to hit their prime respectively, critics foolishly pondered Carey’s lasting power when E=MC² arrived on this day in 2008, claiming that it offered no new feels from its predecessor. During that time, R&B became stagnant and was experiencing somewhat of an identity crisis, but Carey working with people like The-Dream helped keep the genre fresh. The album was also another step in her journey to creative freedom.

“Basically, I’m freer on this album than I’ve ever been. Some of the songs on the last album were cool but maybe not quite as neat as this album,” Carey told The Sun’s “Something for the Weekend,” explaining the album’s physics-inspired title, which can also be seen as a not-so-subtle nod to the singer-songwriter’s musical genius. In a separate interview, she said, “This album is so much about fun and freedom and just the continuation of me feeling emancipated … people ask me all the time, ‘How do you stay relevant? How do you stay current? How do you make music that people continue to respond to?’ You just keep being real, keep being you, stay true to who you were from the beginning.”

Read my latest piece for VIBE [here].

Mel B of the Spice Girls was the OG unapologetic Black girl

scary spiceICYMI, there are numerous reports circulating that the Spice Girls are planning to do a reunion tour this summer — another not-so-subtle reminder that us millennials aren’t getting any younger.

As a 90s baby, I was legit obsessed with the Spice Girls growing up. They were my childhood heroes, and I think the reason they appealed to so many young girls is because they were themselves and each member had something unique to offer, with Ginger (aka Geri Halliwell) and Baby (aka Emma Bunton) being the clear favorites.

But TBH, Mel B was the real star for the simple fact that she was the ONLY Black girl holding it down as Scary Spice in the best-selling female group of all time. The best part? She achieved all that success without compromising her Blackness as an attempt to fit in with her white bandmates.

Little brown girls everywhere recognized themselves when they saw Mel B being carefree and living it up on the screen, paving the way for singers like Rihanna to flaunt their #BlackGirlMagic and unleash their inner badass.

Here are five ways Mel B was the original “unapologetic Black girl.”

1. She rocked natural hair.

The only thing bigger than Mel B’s personality? Her hair. Seriously though, Mel B’s natural curls were always poppin’. Even as an animated fairy in the “Viva Forever” music video.

Oh, and who can forget when she slayed horn-like Bantu knots — a hairstyle that can be traced back to Zulu tribes of Southern Africa? Or this gorgeous braided crown she rocked in the music video for “Stop”? The braided crown was a bold statement since the video appeared to be set between the 1950s and 60s. This was an era when most Black women either chemically straightened their tresses or wore wigs to adhere to white beauty standards.

2. She spoke her mind.

The Spice Girls championed a new wave of feminism, but Mel B was woke AF. Case in point: When Mel B DGAF and shut down a TV host for bringing out a dance troupe of white people in blackface.

“I think they shouldn’t paint their faces. You should get proper Black people to do it. I don’t think that’s very good.”

Side note: Mel B revealed a couple years ago that she and the rest of her bandmates got their famous nicknames during an interview with a “lazy journalist that couldn’t be bothered to remember all our names.” And of course, you can’t be a Black woman who is loud, strong and outspoken without being perceived as hella scary, right? *rolls eyes*

3. She never disguised her Blackness

Who else remembers the photoshoot scene from the movie, “Spice World”? While Emma, Geri, Mel C and Victoria paid homage to iconic figures, such as Jackie Onassis and Marilyn Monroe, Mel B saluted Black icons like the legendary Bob Marley and the original diva Diana Ross.

4. She dared to go braless before it was trendy.

Rih Rih might have inspired millions of women to step out braless, but Mel B did it first, two decades earlier in the “Wannabe” video. Virgin executives were horrified because of Mel B’s, um, erect nipples peeking through her green tank top and wanted to re-shoot the entire thing, but the group wasn’t having it. The video was banned in certain Asian countries because it was deemed too risqué for younger audiences.

5. She was obsessed with leopard print.

Can we just take a minute to show a little appreciation for Mel B’s leopard print ensembles? An ode to the Motherland, baby! Mel B must’ve worn leopard print a million different ways during her Spice Girls heyday, and I loved every single one of them. From the iconic leopard print jumpsuit she made famous at the BRIT Awards to the sequin leopard print pantsuit she rocked at the Billboard Music Awards, Mel B absolutely NAILED every look.

Let’s give it up for Mel B, y’all!

5 Female R&B Groups That Need To Come Back

By Princess Gabbara

The 90s were an incredible time for music, but it almost seems incomplete without the female R&B groups that sang their way to the top of the charts including En Vogue, SWV, 702, Zhané and Destiny’s Child. With beautiful harmonies and inescapable melodies, these ladies kept our heads bobbing, but after the 90s/early 00s, the tunes stopped coming and we were left asking ourselves, “Hey, whatever happened to that one group…?” Here are five female R&B groups that need to get back in the studio.

En Vogue…With Dawn

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In 1990, Dawn, Cindy, Terry and Maxine let the world know they were ‘born to sing’ and in 1992, they established themselves as ‘funky divas.’ In a sea of girl groups, En Vogue stood out because 1) They always looked like they stepped off the runway and 2) There was no lead singer; each member could hold their own. With a long string of hits including “Hold On” and “Don’t Let Go (Love),” these ladies were the culprit for female R&B groups of the 90s, showing no signs of stopping until Dawn left to pursue a solo career. The new trio was able to achieve moderate success, but without Dawn, it wasn’t quite the same.

Brownstone…Original Trio

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Mimi, Maxee and Nicci-these ladies were bad, so bad they caught the attention of the king of pop himself and were immediately signed to his label. Their debut album, From the Bottom Up spawned the hit singles, “Grapevyne” and “If You Love Me,” which earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Performance. But not even the  king of pop’s  approval was enough to keep the group together. After going through a series of replacements, the group’s last attempt at a comeback was in 2007, but how great would it be to hear the original trio tear it up one last time?

Jade

jade

Tonya, Joi and Di, better known as Jade, are responsible for bringing us one of the most infectious songs of the 90s, “Don’t Walk Away.”  With perfect harmonies and a fresh sound for the times, they sang their way into everyone’s stereo and had us jamming ‘every day of the week.’ But things slowed down for Jade after the release of their sophomore album and they eventually disappeared. Today, all the ladies are busy doing their own thing, which is great, but a reunion would be even better.

Xscape…With Kandi

xscape

Before Kandi joined the cast of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and Tameka a.k.a. Tiny became T.I.’s wife, they along with LaTocha and Tamika were the four ladies who comprised the quartet known as Xscape. Their debut album, Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha was a huge success and had everyone ‘just kickin’ it.’ Much like their harmonies, everything seemed to be going smoothly for the group until troubles began surfacing among the members and Kandi eventually left in pursuit of a solo career. And with unresolved conflicts still residing, the chances of a reunion happening are slim to none, but a girl can hope, right?

Total

total

The ladies of Total-Kima, Keisha and Pam were everywhere in the 90s. With guest appearances on everyone’s tracks from LL Cool J to The Notorious B.I.G., Total’s debut album was a smash hit and landed them a spot on one of the hottest movie soundtracks of 1997, Soul Food. After the release of their sophomore album however, the group fizzled out and eventually parted ways, but wait, there’s a happy ending. Last year, Pam announced via Twitter that the group is currently in the studio and working on new music. Fingers crossed!