September 29, 2010 Paved with good intentions and covering socially conscious soul tunes of the '60s and '70s, the soul singer and hip-hop band's new collaborative album adds little to its source material. Considering the powerful inspirations and admirable ambitions, how is that so much of the album feels soporific?
July 13, 2010 Maya is the third full-length album by M.I.A., and it rattles with hard-edged and well-produced beats and electronica. Reviewer Oliver Wang says that even if it's not her best work, the record still offers reminders of why M.I.A. is one of the most compelling and unusual artists in pop today.
July 13, 2010 Though he didn't attract the same recognition as the Holland-Dozier-Holland team or the late Norman Whitfield, the Motown producer, who died July 6, was pivotal in the history of soul music. His talent touched many classic recordings in a career spanning more than three decades. Here's a look at five of his most notable contributions.
April 30, 2010 Little Ann's 40-year-old single "Deep Shadows," produced by Detroit's Dave Hamilton, is a marvel of subtle understatement, built around little more than a bass line, a slight tinkle of piano, a cutting guitar line and, most notably, those bells, which ring loud and portend nothing auspicious.
April 28, 2010 You don't have to know how to do a head spin to get a good workout from B-boying. (Just don't call it breakdancing.) Arguably the most famous form of American street dance, B-boying incorporates explosive but fluid steps marked by swinging arms, cross-stepping feet and floor moves that contort the body in seemingly impossible positions.
April 23, 2010 Throughout his career, Guru was a unique figure: a veteran who thrived when others faltered and an innovator who never followed a style he didn't help invent. His group, Gang Starr, led a vanguard of other artists who bridged jazz and hip-hop. The rapper died Monday at 47.
April 14, 2010 Times have not been kind to the hip-hop industry. Philadelphia rapper Freeway and Seattle producer Jake One have come up with a novel response, especially in the era of digital music. Their new collaboration, The Stimulus Package, comes with some of the most elaborate packaging ever designed for a hip-hop album.
April 8, 2010 The entire album is dressed with a classic romanticism; excepting a few studio-room outtakes/interludes, New Amerykah Part 2 is all love songs — or, better put, falling-in-and-out-of-and-back-into-love songs, forming a complex of conflicted emotions over love's charms and harms.
February 24, 2010 The fifth-grade MCs in 3 Titans aren't exactly baby Jay-Zs, as far as flow is concerned, but there's charming cleverness to their ode to the importance of higher education. You'd have to have a cold, cynical heart not to be at least slightly moved by Khalil Jackson, Jorden Plaines and Dallas Ifill's optimism.
February 18, 2010 With its sparse but powerful percussive push and chanting chorus, "Shacalao" strips Fela Kuti's more groove-laden song "Shakara" down to rhythmic studs, pushing it forward with the two-step beat that lies at the heart of cumbia. Yet, while Cumbia Moderna de Soledad remakes Fela, it also gestures to the deep tradition that bonds eastern Colombia with western Africa.
February 17, 2010 The compilation provides an impressive and compelling introduction to Africa's embrace of Latin music. Its songs are simultaneously global and local, offering up a twist on "world fusion" without the associations with toothless tropical music.