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Album Review: “Cole World: A Sideline Story”

29 Sep

It’s been a little under a year since J Cole’s third mix tape Friday Night Lights was released. If you were one of the many who downloaded as soon as it dropped, as I did, then you probably realized the Internet almost crashed that night. His buzz was remarkable. With a solid fan base built, a sign by Roc Nation and “In The Morning” on all local radio stations hourly rotation, we were all expecting a follow up album… like now. But, it didn’t happen. Time was passing, the buzz flattened into a fizz and his not so loyal fans focus drifted towards a more accomplished artist (ahem, Drake). With rumors circulating of him being dropped, we were all left wondering: Has his career hit a brick wall?

Fast forward to September 26th, 2011. “Twas The Night Before Cole World,” the rapper tweeted. I was up, (way past my bedtime) waiting for the clock to strike 12 to purchase Cole World: A Sideline Story on iTunes, like the rest of my Twitter followers. Seeing the track listing left me with some concerns. Two mix tapes songs made the album, and “Who Dat” was also a contending bonus track. I couldn’t understand why. Why would “Lights Please” a song we first heard in 2009 even be considered on his debut? Great song, but the fact still remains it was two years old.  I wondered if this could possibly hinder sales.  The album opener, “Dollar And A Dream III” hijacked the thought right out of my mind.  An optomistic beat and a encouraged flow, this track was hopeful.  ” What would you do when you’re on your last dollar?”  A situation Cole found himself in, between graduating from college and being signed, working dead end jobs to make ends meet.  “Do you fold? Grow bitter and cold? No Longer fightin’/now the only thing you grow is old/ Or do you, flip that f*ckin dollar to a dream? Whether a scholar or a fiend, watch a pawn become a king.” Cole played chess well.

“Mr. Nice Watch,” an uppity club track with a beat reminiscent of a 90’s video game which Cole speeds up.  The song was still unfinished just five days before the album’s release date. What was missing? Of course, the first cosign from the boss “What’s up Cole? It’s your time, let these n*ggas know.” Jay-Z  adds what most would call his seal of approval which appropriately compliments the song.  The following track is the albums title “Cole World,” in which the rapper name checks, Sallie Mae. “Bet it on black and pray, I quadruple my salary/ If I win maybe then I could pay Sallie Mae.”  It’s no secret J Cole is a St. John’s graduate, this makes his music that much more relateable. He glorifies the struggle of a post-grad bum, trying to live a dream.  The album’s midpoint Cole incorporates what I feel hip-hop has been missing —  story telling.

In “Lost Ones” J Cole takes listeners through the scene of an unexpexted pregnancy.  First verse is from a man’s perspective: ” I know you’re wonderin’ if this gon’ make me think about wifin’ you/like if you had my first child would I spend my whole life with you….I refuse to bring my boy or girl in the world when I aint got sh*t to give em/ and I’m not with them n*ggas who be knocking girls up and skate out.”  Women’s emotions never go unheard and in the second verse, Cole’s pitch changes. He speaking from a different place, a womans prespective “Tryna take away a life, is you God mothaf*cka? I don’t think so/ this a new life up in my stomach, regardless if I’m your wife this new life here imma love it.” The narration on this song is strong, amazing and ultimately home hitting.

“Rise And Shine”  is a hard-hitting joint. Cole aggressively attacks the beat with meaningful word play. “More than a rapper this a natural disaster/boy, I’m meaner than katrina mixed with Gina, shut up, Cole!”  The intro to the song is fitting, a sample from Jay-Z backstage tour in which he’s discussing the kind of artist he’s looking for. “In between eating his Apple Jacks he’s writing some hot sh*t and he wants my spot.”  Jay may have lucked up.

Cole World  wraps up with the first single, “Work Out.” The album experiences a record vinyl scratch moment with this track, “Straight up now tell me do you really wanna love me forever/oh oh oh.” A  Paula Abdul sample meant for a more mainstream appeal. Although the song recieved a lot of negative feedback it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the disc.  A cohesive song line up — no fillers, pure talent, no gimmicks, and substance. Cole World: The Sideline Story an impressive first debut.

-Channie

Has Boxing Lost Its Integrity?

19 Sep

As a little girl, I remember spending a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather is a huge boxing fan; its actually the only sport I can ever remember him following.  I found myself watching with him on a regular basis, not because I was interested, but it was a way for me to bond with him.  His love for the sport was reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s character in Million Dollar Baby. My grandfather was no trainer, but if you can remember the scene where Clint’s Character was watching a boxer he trained in his first professional fight, you can probably understand how passionate he was about it.  Through his passion I have grown a great appreciation for boxing.

Saturday night, one of the biggest fights of the year took place: Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz.  Boxing stans were going wild with their predictions and theories of the outcome. Most had all bets placed on Mayweather, but the underdog, Ortiz, talked a big game and made it known he was bringing nothing less than an A+ performance.

With all the predictions put forward and the major hype surrounding this match no one could possibly predict the fight to end as it did.  The fourth round sparked the drama, beginning with Ortiz head butting Mayweather.  More kisses seemed to be blown than punches by Ortiz, which left Mayweather an open opportunity to land two clean sucker punches, resulting in Ortiz being knocked out. During Mayweathers post fight interview, that spark of a flame was blown into a full fledge forest fire. Words were exchanged between him and  HBO’s  bumptious commentator, Larry Merchant. “HBO needs to fire you, you aint sh*t…” Merchant responded, “If I was 50 years younger I would kick your ass.”  Watching this fight made me ask myself: Is this the sport I appreciate?

The acts displayed during this match were digusting and flat out annoying.  All parties, whether right or wrong, should be ashamed. Boxing is a sport, an art, and here were grown seasoned men treating it as a dirty street fight. I know my grandfather wasn’t pleased. Usually, he’d be the first I’d contact, chatting him up about any and every aspect involving a fight, but I haven’t. What could I say?  I had high expectations for this fight and it only left me highly disappointed and wondering: Has boxing lost its integrity?

— Channie

What to Expect Now That Beyonce is Expecting

30 Aug

If there is anything people love more than peeking into the lives of people they don’t know is peeking into the lives of famous people they don’t know. Personally, I think this country is too damn obsessed with celebrity. So much that the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred beyond recognition. To quote Ariel and her latest post on Armoire Chic regarding the public outrage of Will and Jada’s rumored separation, “How did we allow someone else’s happiness determine our own? We don’t even know these people, for goodness sake! Is it that easy to give up on love?” The Smith’s later released a statement saying that they were not headed for divorce court but the damage was done; people were losing their ever loving minds over a couple they had never met.

Enter, Beyonce and Jay-Z.

I’ve long expressed my dismay over the power couple. They are notoriously private but that does not stop them from over-saturating the media. I think Beyonce’s pregnancy marks an all time high (or low, depending on who you ask) for the couple’s PR strategy.  Not only do they both have albums in stores and pending tours in the works, they are now making room for a little prince or princess. In turn, their teams will find new and nauseating ways to subject us to Beyonce and her baby bump.

Oh the joys of opening the market.

Continue reading

Will Beyonce Remain a One-Trick Diva Forever?

30 Jun

The leak of Beyonce’s new album 4 hit the Internet a couple weeks ago, and it was just officially released this past Tuesday, and it was all anyone could talk about. I got my copy, but to be honest I wasn’t too enthused about it.

The first single from the album, “Run the World (Girls)” didn’t blow me away. It was an unsuccessful mish mosh of incoherent noise, and her lyrics were less than sub-par.

Of course, since her album is about to drop she’s already on a slew of magazine covers. Essence is no exception. Bey actually wrote the article herself. I bought the mag, hoping it wouldn’t be another typical Beyonce article. I wanted her to really show who she is. I wanted to shake from my mind that she’s boring with a flat personality outside of her Sasha Fierceness.

Well, the article didn’t change my mind. And I might have dozed off for a minute too. It wasn’t that the article was a snoozefest, but if you are a true Beyonce stan, everything that was in there you would have already known, such as:

1. Beyonce is from Houston.
2. She grew up eating fried food.
3. Her mom worked in a salon.
4. She loves to vacation where there’s water. (I mean, we always see her pictured on a yacht or on the beach!)

You get the picture. She went on to explain what she did during her well deserved time off. But still, the read wasn’t anything amazing.

One thing she did say jumped out at me, though. “I was going to give myself a year to do the things I never get to do. Simple things like… cook a meal and spend time with my husband.” I thought it was really sweet.

Which brings me back to her album. Her ballads on 4 are the absolute best. “1+1” and “I Miss You” I could listen to over and over again. “I thought things like this would get better with time / But I still need you, why is that? / You’re the only image in my mind / So I still see you… around.” I can completely relate to the lyrics. Whether or not Bey wrote them is besides the point. I feel that when you go through something that might have taken you on an emotional roller coaster, the easier it is to relate to the artist.

Her fast-paced songs sound like they should have been on the Destiny’s Child Survivor album. There hasn’t been any real growth. She was never really one for substance, but the uptempo songs on 4 are truly lacking. “Love on Top” sounds like it could be an American Idol finale song if they did them uptempo. All fluff, no substance.

She should have taken a tip from her husband. He continues to evolve while remaining relevant after 11 albums, which is rare to do nowadays. Some artists can’t stay afloat after their fourth single let alone fourth album.

Which leads me to this question, can Beyonce evolve? Can the Queen put aside the dance routines, ladies’ anthems, predictable lyrics and produce a record that shows growth and still hold the number one spot?

–Cherie Redd

(This post was originally published on Armoire Chic. )

Thank You!

6 Apr

After 2 months and close to 5000 hits on the blog all I can say is THANK YOU. The ladies of the Roaring 20’s (Elyse, Channie, Shelz, Cherie Redd and myself) are truly grateful to each and every one of our loyal readers. While we havent been posting as frequently it’s not because we’ve neglected you guys. I guess all that positive energy we started off with has been catching up to us as we are all deep into our own personal projects. AV (Redd of Cherie Redd) just started a new feature film, Elyse has been working hard on her burgeoning accessories line and will be vending at FIT tomorrow afternoon and I am working feverishly to put on my fashion show at the end of this month. Cherie, Channie and I are working on a new post and Cherie and Shelz are super excited about the new Ustream show they’ll be doing in the coming months. It’s all about progression here at Roaring 20’s so please let us know some of the things you want to see from us, stay positive and keep on keeping on!

Love & Light

-Nikki B. Decadent

Women Making Their Own History!!!

26 Feb

You and Your….Own History

We know the stories of black history month. The names of women we learned of in school. Even some women we had to learn about on our own. For example Phylicia Rashad, Mahalia Jackson and Ruby Dee. Today the Gems of the Roaring20s blog honors the women from our own community. Today our honoree is Nikkia Mcclain who is a black woman making her own history and the face of.

Tené Nícole

Tené Nícole is a PR (Public Relations) and Marketing firm. Self started by the lovely lady above. I got to sit down with Mrs. Mcclain at an event during Fashion week to ask her a few questions.

“Shelz : So where are you from?

Mrs. McClain: I’m from queens. St. Albans to be exact.

Shelz: Ok, that’s cool. How old are you?

Mrs. McClain: I’m 32 with 4 children (hahaha)

Shelz: That’s young but you look great to have 4 children. You’ve accomplished so much. So it’s black history month. I would like to know which black woman has influenced you on your journey?

Mrs. McClain: My Grandmother. Lois Biggs. She has been my inspiration!!

Shelz: I’m pretty sure your grandmother is proud of you. I would be. I have two more questions and I’ll be out of your hair. What are some encouraging words you can give young women in this age?

Mrs. McClain: NEVER GIVE UP……EVER!!

Shelz: Enough said. Now, my last question. What’s one word that can describe you?

Mrs. McClain: Nurturing.

I can agree with Mrs. McClain. The way she has nurtured her career driven by determination and executed with skill. I’m sure her children will also make their own history very soon. I encourage all women but, I’m a black woman first. It’s time we give praise to the women without fame. Bring their names to light, to show the world how they have made their own  history. With so much success I had to get a picture with her.

 

 

I mentioned earlier that Tené Nícole is a Public relations and Marketing firm. Talking with Mrs.McClain she introduced me to one of the her signed designers at the Fashion week event.  Her name is Koren Fung and she is the designer of Fungwear. YES, she is another black woman making history!!!

All I can say is……FIERCE!!!

Her clothes made me want to go back stage and rob the models….I’m kidding. Since you guys couldn’t be there, I’m here to share. Check it out!!!

 

 

 

 

This is Koren Fung. The designer of Fungwear. I enjoyed her work a lot. With her being an emerging artist I couldn’t tell. There was nothing amateur about her. She was humble, polite and polished. I wish her nothing but success. She has Nikkia McClain/Tené Nícole on her side and with them I know she will be fine.I wrote this post with honor. I look forward to both ladies making it big. Good luck on your journey!!

 

And if you didn’t know…….These are BLACK women making their own HISTORY!!!

 

Love is YOU

-Shelz

 

 

 


And the Oscar Goes to Who? The Finale

25 Feb

Last on the list is Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. I was skeptical about seeing it at first because the last thing I saw Michelle Williams in was Dawson’s Creek, and I didn’t like her too much on the show. And since it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, it has to be a little interesting right?

I can say that I was sadly in love (Get it? Because it’s Blue Valentine?) with the movie!!! For those who have never heard of the flick, it’s about a married couple, Dean and Cindy, who have been married for six years and have a daughter and the spark has completely fizzled from their marriage. They’re a working class couple who live in Pennsylvania. Cindy is a tired nurse. And Dean, his job isn’t confirmed if he has one, but he plays a mean ukelele. The marriage has turned into a chore. There is no reviving, no pulse — nada. Dean tries to get a lil’ sumptin, sumptin’ back, so he takes Cindy to a motel for a sexy rendezvous out, but she’s not really feeling it.

The movie has flashbacks as to how their relationship started and goes to where it is now, and I thought it was wonderfully done. The story line is pretty basic. A marriage in disarray? Yeah, we’ve seen that time and again. It was the performances of Gosling and Williams that made the movie so great. We really saw the strain of their marriage and how the past events of their lives affected things in the future. I can even say that by the end of the movie I got a little choked up (and that rarely happens!). If there’s one thing you do this, check this movie out! Then you’ll see why it truly deserved a nomination. A

 

— Cherie Redd