Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Looking Ahead: 2009 is MINE!

Sitting in the dumpster filled with contents from my home.

I had a great 2008, despite a few temporary setbacks.

It's at the end of the year when you look back and reflect on all that you've been through.

No regrets here. I've stayed on track no matter what obstacles were thrown before me.

I was really tested down the stretch and perhaps my biggest test was dealing with the loss of my home. (click here to read the blog about the pre-Thanksgiving house fire)

What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger and after this year I can say that I am indeed stronger and better than I was before. And I will most definitely continue to grow in 2009.

In the New Year, I will certainly have a new home. Yeah, there will be some new challenges and obstacles, but there will be no mountain that I can't climb. No wall that I can't break down. No odds that I can't overcome.

Thank you to all those who supported me and my family in what was a very tough time for us. I can't even express how much your calls, text messages and cards have meant. The generous nature of some had me in tears. I couldn't believe it.

I thought I lost it all when I saw thick dark smoke billowing out of my house, but it was all the support from friends (old and new), co-workers and some strangers that made me realize I didn't lose quite everything. I still had many people who cared for me and my family. For that, I'm forever thankful.

I've always tried to live my life to fullest and not take anything, anyone or any day for granted. I will continue to live in such a way. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone.

I'm going hard in 2009. I know a new chapter will be written in the New Year with new accomplishments and triumphs. I'm ready to fill the pages. I can't wait.

It's only a matter of time before 2009 is MINE!

See you at the TOP!

-M. Feenz

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Year Ends on a Musical High Note

Over the last several weeks I've been picking up a number of REALLY good albums, which would lead me to believe this year is ending on a musical high note.

Common's "Universal Mind Control" would perhaps have to be my favorite of the bunch. His album is like the epitome of what hip-hop/rap is supposed to be in 2008. It really displays how hip-hop/rap has evolved. Common has been in the game for a minute and this is his eighth album and some of his best work, in my opinion. I saw him perform a lot of these tracks from this album earlier this year and I was impressed then. If you don't have this album, you need to pick it up. The exeuctive producer of the album is Pharrell Williams and it's safe to say he and Common make an excellent team. This album is a masterpiece, to say the least.

FAV TRACKS: "Universal Mind Control," "Make My Day" and "Everywhere"

MUST HEAR TRACK: "Everywhere"

Jamie Foxx's "Intuition" was the shocker of the group and I was REALLY pleasantly surprised by this album. I mean, I could listen to the whole thing without skipping a track. Almost every song on there is very radio friendly. "Blame It" featuring T-Pain is one of my favorites. I know this song is already getting played on New York radio and could be the anthem of the New Year. The album is also enjoyable because of the special guests that include T.I., Lil' Wayne, The Dream, T-Pain, Ne-Yo, Fabolous and Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry. Talk about a who's who!! And I have to admit when I first heard he was releasing another album at the American Music Awards I openly said that I was NOT purchasing this album. However, I kept hearing about how good it was and had to see for myself. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed with this album. Good job to Mr. Foxx!!

FAV TRACKS: "Blame It," "She Got Her Own," "Just Like Me," "Freak'in Me"

MUST HEAR TRACK: "Freak'in Me" features the sultry songstress Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry. Jamie and Marsha really go in on this song. You gotta hear it!!

Beyonce's "I Am...Sasha Fierce" doesn't need much analysis. It is, well, Beyonce. But despite what many think about this release, I would have to say this double-disc effort is pretty good. I think Beyonce really shines on her ballads [i.e. Hello and Halo]. Obviously, "Single Ladies" and "Diva" are the catchy party-hard Beyonce tracks that everyone has come to anticipate. However, Beyonce does it all and she's great at -- bottom line.

FAV TRACKS: "Halo," "Hello," "Sweet Dreams"


Keyshia Cole's "A Different Me" is more than a just a sexy album cover. It's the sophomore effort of the modern-day Mary J. Blige. Yeah, I compare Keyshia to Mary because both have been known to sing about heartache and pain and really make you feel it. But on this album Keyshia shows she can deliver by making some feel good tracks that aren't just about sour relationships. It's no secret that Keyshia had it tough growing up. We've seen her struggles live and on front street on her TV reality show. On the opening intro for this album, Keyshia says, "I would like to introduce a sexier side of me." While I didn't feel this album was overly "sexy," it certainly was a different Keyshia. But I have no complaints. Old Keyshia or "different" Keyshia, I'll take either. One thing this album did do is solidify Keyshia as an artist who will be around for quite some time.

FAV TRACKS: "Please Don't Stop," "Playa Cardz Right," "Trust" feat. Monica

MUST HEAR TRACK: "Playa Cardz Right" features 2 pac. Enough said!

Brandy's "Human"
is the much anticipated release from this former teenage singer who we've watched become a mother and woman. On this album she teamed up with old friend Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins to give fans just what they'd been waiting for. "Departed" was the comeback single, which I don't especially care for. But thanks to a good friend -- who played this album for me to hear -- I actually like some tracks on this album. On "The Definition," Brandy says, "I dropped all that baggage / Let go of that habit / The pain you can have it / 'Cause now I'm content with me." She went on to say, "Been through it, you name it / The heartache and break / And the shame / Played that game but I / Can't seem to win." It's really a good song about some of the struggles she's been through after lying about being married. Not to mention, she was involved in a fatal car accident. Brandy is all grown up, there's no denying that, and this album is a great example of how much she's grown as an artist and as a woman. B-Rocka is back!

FAV TRACKS: "1st & Love," "Warm It Up (With Love)," "The Definition"

MUST HEAR TRACK: "1st & Love"

Musiq Soulchild's "Onmyradio" is the latest from the soul singer from Philly. I feel like this release got lost in the shuffle somewhere. I think it's probably not getting much attention. Although everyone else may be sleeping on this album, it's actually a really good album. The best track is "Ifuleave," a duet with Mary J. Blige

FAV TRACK: "Ifuleave"

MUST HEAR TRACK: same as above

John Legend's "Evolver" is yet another R&B album released late in the year that seems to have flown under the radar. Good album with some good features including Andre 3000, Kanye West, Brandy and Estelle.

FAV TRACKS: "Green Light," "Quickly" and "No Other Love"

MUST HEAR TRACK: "No Other Love"

Almost Home for the Holidays

Finishing breakfast on Christmas morning with my mom and brother.

I spent Christmas in a house, not my house, but my new temporary home away from home.

As most know, my house caught on fire about a month ago [Nov. 26, to be exact -- the day before Thanksgiving].

My mom, brother and I had been staying at hotels since the fire, but thanks to insurance we were able to move into a temporary house a week before Christmas.

The house was fully furnished and even exceeded the expectations of my mother who texted me as the furniture was being brought in and assembled. She was so thrilled and even boasted about the bed sheets, bath towels, dishes and paintings that was also provided.

Because we had been staying in hotels and dealing with going through damaged belongings at our house we really didn't take the time to realize Christmas we approaching.

We didn't have a traditional Christmas tree. I bought my mom some nutcrackers, which she collects, a Santa figurine that moved and lights up and the Isley Brothers Christmas album [ughh -- nothing to brag about].

It wasn't until Christmas Eve when she picked up a couple of small Christmas trees that she placed on the coffee table. Not to mention, she got some stockings and 'Santa hats' for my brother and I. She even decocrated the area with Christmas lights and garland.

Our new temporary home was finally starting to look like Christmas, sort of.

We watched 'This Christmas' with Chris Brown -- which was actually a pretty good movie.

On Christmas day, the presents were under the two mini Christmas trees and we opened them up as we played Musiq Soulchild's Christmas album -- this was also pretty good. We would traditionally listen to the Jackson 5 Christmas album, but that was likely thrown away along with the other damaged items in our home.

Christmas this year was a little different, but the greatest gift is having a family wrapped with lots of love. My family gathered in Bronx and we did the usual family thing.

The theme this year seemed to be Barack Obama as my 93-year-old grandmother procclaimed this was a 'Barack Christmas.' Everyone was getting Barack books, t-shirts, posters, figurines, you name it!! It was Obama overload, seriously!

Nonetheless, Christmas away from home was cool. It sure beat staying at a hotel. But I quickly realized no one would be making up my bed. Oh well....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Joe Budden TV touches down in Englewood, N.J.

Jersey City rapper Joe Budden is making some noise now-a-days.

He's anticipating dropping a new album in the New Year and leading up to that release "Mr. Pump It Up" is getting some attention for his new reality YouTube videos.

"Joe Budden TV" should just be called "Just Your Average Joe" because what you see is what you get. Budden comes off as a grinding rap artist, who is hard-working, funny and surprisingly pretty entertaining.

"Joe Budden TV" could potentially grow into a show. Who knows!? If you get a chance check out his YouTube page.

Yesterday, I checked out his page and watched his most recent posting called, "fab wont diss another rapper for shit!!!"

Well, I watched the video and quickly recognized the Englewood, N.J. barber shop where the video was being shot -- The Shop, located at 496 Curry Avenue. I made the connection right because I've sat in that shop many times to make the transformation from scruffy to sexy.

Budden was joined by rapper Fabolous, who the video was primarily about.

Check out the video below:

Coming in 2009: Joe Budden's "Padded Room" --- Jersey's here, again!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Knicks top Nets; Fat Joe courtside

Al Harrington had a lot to smile about as the Knicks topped the Nets last week / Photo: M. Feenz
I attended another Nets game last week and this time they were playing their rivals from across the Hudson River, the New York Knicks.

I went to the game with a good friend of mine who is a diehard Knicks fan. In fact, to this day he still boasts and celebrates the "John Starks dunk on Michael Jordan." [real sports fans know that was not quite the case]

I would talk about the game, but it's more than a week old now and no one really cares. In a nutshell, the Nets jumped out to the early lead in the first half, but the resilient Knicks roared back in the second half. The Knicks went on to top the Nets 121-109 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford on Dec. 10. And I must admit, I was pretty surprised because the Knicks are really a troubled team with a lot of problems. I had my money on the Nets, but good thing I'm not a betting man.
Devin Harris and Vince Carter couldn't stop Harrington who had 39 points / Photo: M. Feenz

Al Harrington lead the way for the Knicks with 39 points -- a pretty good homecoming for the native of Orange, N.J. Ten years ago he was drafted right out of St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J. by the Indiana Pacers.

The last time I went attended a Nets game they were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in front of a star-studed crowded, which included Jay-Z.

Well, there was no Jay-Z sitting courtside this time around.

Instead we had to settle for Bronx rapper Fat Joe, who I just happened to spot while taking pictures of the game. After all, he's a big guy and not too hard to miss.

When he wasn't on the phone, Fat Joe was clapping for his team and stayed around until the very end. I'm not sure who he was sitting with. But it wasn't anyone worth mentioning.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Solange: More than Beyonce's little sister

What I'm about to say may catch some of you off guard, but watching Solange Knowles perform at Terminal 5 in New York City on Friday night made me think of Janet Jackson.

I know it sounds crazy but let me explain.

Solange is the younger sister of a superstar singer Beyonce, who has hands down taken the music world by storm since breaking out from Destiny's Child. Beyonce went from being a part of a cute girl group to becoming a superstar solo performer. Beyonce is probably one of the best and most popular performers/singers out right now, love her or hate her.

How can Solange step out from being the younger sister of such superstar? Maybe she should ask Janet Jackson, who shared a similar story trying to break into music despite having some very talented big brothers -- specifically Michael Jackson.

Janet faced some difficulty emerging on to the music scene in the early 80's. How could she have a promising music career when most people just looked at her as being Michael Jackson's little sister? Well, it took some time. Two albums to be exact.

Janet released a self-titled debut album in 1982 and then tried her luck again two years later with "Dream Street." Neither turned many heads. In fact, most people don't even acknowledge those albums. It was her third album, "Control," where Janet finally brokethrough.

Solange's first album, Solo Star, was released in 2003 and barely sold 100,000 copies. Pretty disappointing start for being the little sister of a multi-platinum selling artist.

After five years, a marriage, a baby and a divorce, Solange returned with her second effort entitled "Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams." This time around she takes the old sounds of Motown and slapped a "modern twist" on it.

On Friday, I watched her perform a few tracks from the album -- including "Sandcastle Disc," "I Decided" and "Dancing in the Dark" -- and I was pretty impressed by her ability to singer live and really command the stage. She's a solid performer and a pretty good singer. Just too bad she's the sister of Beyonce because she'll always be compared to her.

She even tried her luck performing Kanye West's "Love Lockdown." I wasn't really pleased with this portion. I would have rather she performed something else, perhaps "T.O.N.Y." from her album. I was pretty surprised she didn't perform "T.O.N.Y." during her quick 20-minute set. But she was opening for the London pop singer Natasha Bedingfield and it was quite clear the crowd was there for Natasha. Although I did not stick around to see her.

Overall, in the short time Solange was on stage she made a believer out of me. This latest album may prove to be just another learning experience for the singer struggling to break out the shadows of Beyonce. But there's no doubt Solange is talented. Not only is she an exceptional singer and performer, but she's also a song writer that has penned songs for many, including her big sister.

Solange may have it hard because of her sister but if she keeps doing what she is doing maybe her big break will come.

Maybe Solange will hit it big on her third album. The third time was a charm for Janet and she managed to maintain a successful 20-year career. If Solange plays her cards right I think it's possible for her to do the same. Only time will tell.