December 8, 2006 Nicole Willis and her band operate in the vein of so-called retro-soul artists — musicians and singers, groomed on classic R&B, who fashion their music as if it actually came out in that era. Willis' aesthetic clearly leans toward the past, but she demonstrates tremendous stylistic versatility.
November 21, 2006 On the new compilation Rhythms Del Mundo: Cuba, modern rock songs are either remixed Cuban-style or re-imagined entirely. El Lele de Los Van Van augments Radiohead's "High and Dry" with soft trumpet and acoustic piano over a slowly paced Afro-Latin rhythm.
November 21, 2006 Jay-Z's new album, Kingdom Come, is his first since he announced his "retirement" two years ago to concentrate his alternate career as a music executive with Def Jam Records. The album is full of ups and downs that may signal the rapper's next retirement may be involuntary.
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August 18, 2006 Migrant workers came from around the world to build Panama's transportation systems. They brought, among other things, music with them. Dozens of bands that came to be known collectively as Combos Nacionales married musical styles as distinct and distant as New York boogaloo, Cuban descarga and Trinidadian Calypso. Panama: Latin, Calypso and Funk at the Isthmus charts this uniquely Panamanian hybrid.
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May 30, 2006 El Michels Affair covers a Burt Bacharach classic, stripping the song down to the essence of its rhythmic thump and melodic sizzle. Still, it feels vibrant and vigorous even without the string accompaniment that helped define Isaac Hayes's take.
May 22, 2006 The Coup realizes what the best blues and soul artists always knew: Focus on everyday people, and you'll never run out of stories. For nearly 15 years, the duo has provided one of the lone voices speaking to the trials and tribulations of working-class, inner-city black life.
March 29, 2006 Soul singer King Floyd died on March 6 at the age of 61, but his passing barely merited mention in the media — an oversight that seems at odds with his brash style. What most know about Floyd begins and ends with his massive and enduring 1971 R&B hit "Groove Me."
March 13, 2006 William Darondo Pulliam (a.k.a. "Double D" or "Dynamite D") worked in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1960s through the early '80s, but he'd also been a teenage musician. After cutting some tracks in a studio, Darondo walked away from music.
January 2, 2006 From music to film, clothing to video games, hip-hop continued to dominate popular culture in 2005. However, as rap music moves further in from the margins and takes over more of America's economic and cultural center, reviewer Oliver Wang wonders whether its grandiose fantasies have lost touch with reality.
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October 5, 2005 Motown's success has made its musical catalog one of the most recognizable in American history. Oliver Wang says it takes some guts to tackle these iconic tunes, but the producers have pulled it off.
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August 30, 2005 When Chicago's Kanye West released his debut, College Dropout, in 2004, many weren't sure if this hip-hop producer could also pick up the mic and make it as a rapper. Reviewer Oliver Wang says the music shines on West's new CD, Late Registration.
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August 24, 2005 In the world of English-language hip-hop, some rappers use nicknames. But one Los Angeles musician creates entire alter egos. Rapper and producer Otis Jackson, Jr., has recorded under the names Madlib, Malik Flavors, Quasimoto and his real name.
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May 9, 2005 The daughter of a Tamil revolutionary, Sri Lankan M.I.A. is now a rap sensation in England. The 28-year-old is known as much for her music as her life story. She combines the rhythms of global cultures with lyrics that some say incite revolution. Critic Oliver Wang reviews her CD Arular.
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March 28, 2005 Music critic Oliver Wang reviews a new CD reissue of The Rough Guide to Boogaloo. The Boogaloo dance craze began in New York City in the mid-1960s. Its fusion of Latin rhythms and R&B gained fans from North to South America, but it burned out in a few years. Now, it's experiencing a resurgence.
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