Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Year in Review As a NYC Reporter

Being a reporter in the Big Apple has its share of heartbreaking stories, interesting interviews and monumental moments.

In the year 2011, I was able to cover historical same-sex weddings, including one officiated by Mayor Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion.

I followed the story of 17-year-old Afrika Owes, once a prep school standout who garnered the front page of the Daily News when she was busted running guns for a Harlem street gang. She was later bailed out by the prominent Abyssinian Baptist Church.

I revealed the identity of afro-wearing baby on the cover of the Notorious B.I.G. 'Ready to Die' album - and to the surprise of many, the baby had no relation to the late Christopher Wallace.

I interviewed celebrities including Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, T.I., Gayle King, Don Lemon, Kelly Rowland, Jim Jones, J.Cole, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Kangol Kid, Consequence and Keith Sweat.

I also followed local heroes X Factor rap phenom Astro and Christian Lopez, the Yankee fan who caught Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit. I even interviewed Newark Mayor Cory Booker about his use of Twitter in the midst of the Anthony Weiner photo scandal.

I covered the funerals of rap legend Heavy D, the iconic singer/songwriter Nick Ashford, poet/musician Gil Scott-Heron and even the homecoming for Clarice Taylor, best known for being Bill Cosby's TV mom.

Oh yeah, I also sat outside waiting for a glimpse of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. (blah)

I watched exhausted runners cross the finish line at the ING NYC Marathon. I attended one of the many ceremonies around the city remembering 10 years since 9/11. I saw a Harlem community mourn a beloved high school basketball player who was senselessly gunned down in a housing project.

And the year ended covering one of the worst tragedies that I've seen since becoming a journalist, three children and their grandparents were killed in a horrible Christmas morning house fire in Stamford, Ct.

Here's a look at my top 10 stories of the year (that I covered):

10. Jay-Z talks baby, Carnegie concert.

9. Stevie Wonder inducted into Apollo HOF.

8. Last Dragon co-stars reunite for film.

7. Cory Booker talks Twitter.
6. Harlem flower shop wilting in debt.

5. Rice High School Closes.

click the names above for the articles

3. Same-Sex Marriage.

2. Meet the B.I.G. Baby.

1. Afrika Owes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Beyonce is pregnant, so what now?

Perhaps the biggest star of the 2011 MTV VMAs was one that hasn't even been born yet.

Beyonce, looking stunning in a flowing floor-length orange dress, shocked the world as she gave photographers a preview of her baby bump on the pre-VMA show 'black carpet.'

It was a moment that was not televised, but it didn't take long before social media started spreading the exciting baby news.

Beyonce posed for photos while smiling and holding her hands around her protruding stomach, and the pregnancy rumors finally seemed to be put to rest - especially after MTV tweeted a photo (shown below) to prove it.

It was just a matter of moments before "BEYONCE IS PREGNANT" became a trending topic on Twitter.

The VMAs had yet to start and the buzz about Beyonce and Jay-Z's first child reached an all-time high.

And if the pre-VMA photos - that were spreading like wildfire on Twitter - weren't enough, Beyonce made it official following her powerful award show performance of 'Love on Top.'

The superstar singer - a week away from her 30th birthday - confidently tossed down the microphone, unbuttoned her purple sequined tuxedo jacket and posed with her hands her hips to let the world know she is indeed expecting.

To top it off, she gently rubbed her stomach several times with her right hand, instantly making it the belly rub heard 'round the world.

The first ever award show pregnancy announcement was met with wild cheers, and MTV cameras caught the reaction from father-to-be Jay-Z, who was congratulated in very brotherly fashion by Kanye West.

Now, what does all of this mean??

Well, it means...

-Beyonce will not be going on tour any time soon.

-We'll have to put up with constant speculation about the baby name and gender.

-Her young nephew will be taking a backseat to this new bundle of joy. Sorry, Juelz. No more award show spots for you.

- Offers to take photos of Beyonce's belly for a magazine cover will be pouring in.

-Someone will probably make a BeyonceJayZBaby Twitter handle.

-Kanye West will begin shopping for gifts to spoil his new 'nephew.' First items to purchase: red hot baby pants and gold chains.

-No one will care about photos of Michael Jackson's strange kids anymore. This newcomer is getting all the attention.

-TMZ and MediaTakeOut will be trying to outdo each other by obtaining sonograms of Bey and Jay's first child.

-Lastly, it means the baby could be born in April, which would be interesting considering Beyonce's endless connection to the number 4. (this could change depending on when the baby was conceived - but it seems April is a top candidate)

Note: Beyonce's birthday is 9/4. Jay-Z's birthday is 12/4. And her mother, Tina Knowles, birthday is 1/4. Beyonce and Jay-Z were married on 4/4. Beyonce's album is titled, '4.'

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

J.Cole's phone swiped by a fan during a Canada show

J.Cole made a rookie mistake while performing in Canada, and it cost him his cell phone.

The rapper got so close to fans that one of his female groupies swiped his cell phone during his performance, and now he's taken to Twitter with hopes of getting it back.

J.Cole, the first rap act signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation, came off what seemed to be just another successful show at the Vogue Theater in Vancouver Tuesday night. It was his first show on the "Cole World Tour," that also includes stops in New York, London and Paris.

"Incredible. Vancouver we did that shit. Wowwww," the North Carolina rapper tweeted to his more than 700,000 followers.

Minutes later, the "Who Dat" rapper must have noticed he was without his cell phone and fired off tweets begging for the safe return of his cherished phone.

"People always ask my craziest experience on the road. Tonight the wildest shit happened. So to the girl in the front row with the white shirt and pink bra. Before I put this footage online of you stealin my phone out my pocket lol... Ima let you save the embarrassment and world star fame, by hittin @kingofqueenz or @iamdjdummy so I can gt that back asap. U got a few hrs."

He later gave the phone-snatcher another warning:

"And please don't call Jay-z, he on vacation," tweeted the rapper, whose debut album "Cole World: The Sideline Story," is slated to drop next month.

Thus far, a few Twitter users have said that they have the phone, including one who claims his girl took it.

Despite efforts from J.Cole and his team, the phone has yet to be recovered.

It's certainly a 'Cole' world when you can't even perform without personal items being stolen by front row fans.

Hopefully, Jermaine has learned his lesson in Rap Star 101.

Now, hurry up and release this footage of the sticky-fingered fan.


A.M. UPDATE: The fan returned the phone to J.Cole not long after the tweets threatening to expose her for the thief that she is.

"Ol girl came through with the phone, Vancouver you are now Officially fully the shit... Van City !!!!" tweeted J.Cole's manager @KingOfQueenz.

J.Cole also tweeted his excitement over the return: "The power of twitter is UNREAL! Cole World, No Thievery."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Kelly Rowland on topless VIBE cover: "I'm not trying to sell sex"

ItalicKelly Rowland is control, and she'll do whatever she wants - that includes posing topless on a magazine cover.

Earlier this week, I spoke with the Destiny's Child diva at the release for her third solo album, Here I Am. (The exclusive event also saw the reunion of Destiny's Child - both Michelle Williams and Beyonce attended.)

Of course, Rowland split from Matthew Knowles two years ago and this is her first release "on her own."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Nothing wrong with Be-YAWN-ce

There's no alter ego on this go around for Beyonce.

Unless you want to call her Be-YAWN-ce for her more mellow fourth album, appropriately titled, "4."

So it's not the booty-poppin' album that her fans might have anticipated. Some may listen to this album and, well, yawn because of the lack of party songs.

However, this album offers a slightly grown up 29-year-old singer. And I like it.

The tempo is slower this go around thanks to songs like the Dream-penned ballad "1+1," the powerful rock-inspired "I Care" and the Babyface-penned "Best Thing I Never Had." (that's just to name a few)

Sure, the first single "Run the World (Girls)" didn't top the charts. But does that make it a bad song? I don't think so. It's a solid party track that may not live up to her other popular hits like "Single Ladies" and "Crazy In Love," but it's a legitimate club-banger.

But the album - which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts selling 313,000 copies in its first week - isn't a complete snoozefest.

"Countdown" is a typical uptempo Beyonce song that talks about doing for her "boo." It sounds like it may have been more appropriate for a Destiny's Child album. But it does the job of adding some life to the otherwise sleepy album.

"End of Time" is another party-starter and probably could have had a better run than "Run the World" if it were released first. Her performance of the song - broadcast on the BET awards - proved that it has the potential to be a big hit for Beyonce. Although, it seems like Beyonce isn't too concerned about having a "big hit" these days. It's hard to top "Single Ladies" - which may be the "Thriller" song of her career.

"Love on Top" is a feel good song that sounds like it escaped the late 1980s and could have been performed by Vanessa Williams, Pebbles or Jody Watley for a romantic comedy movie soundtrack. I could see this song riding out as a couple gets married in Central Park and the credits start to roll.

Back to the ballads.

It might be what Beyonce does best, and that's probably why this album is her best yet.

The album kicks off with four consecutive ballads - "1+1," "I Care," "I Miss You" and her newest single, "Best Thing I Never Had."

There's a break for the Andre 3000 and Kanye West "swag" song, "Party," but then we go back to the slow jams with "Rather Die Young" and the powerful ballad "Start Over."

"Cause I rather die young / Than live my life without you / I rather not live at all," she belts out on the chorus of "Rather Die Young."

And the sleepiest song of all is "I Was Here," which is certainly more Celine Dion than Beyonce.

Overall, it's a masterful album that shows Beyonce has grown significantly as an artist who is capable of being more than bootylicious. It's more R&B than pop. More Phil Collins than Rihanna or Lady Gaga.

It's a true R&B album, and for me, that lane works for Beyonce.

It just may not be "4" everyone.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lil Wayne's "How to Love": Brandon vs. Brandyn

Lil Wayne's "How to Love" is a pretty good song, but have you ever wondered how great it could have been if someone with actual singing talent performed it?

Well, two young singers have stepped up to the challenge of turning a "pretty good" song into a "great" song.

Meet our first singer.

Brandyn Burnette, a virtual unknown from New York, posted his Weezy cover on June 12 and it's already picked up nearly 100,000 views on YouTube. Not bad.

However, his views haven't translated into Twitter followers - his account is still sitting around 1,100 and his Facebook fan page has a mere 500 likes. But that all should soon change for the 20-year-old singer, who is actually signed to Warner Bros.

Who is Brandyn? According to his bio:

Brandyn Burnette has been playing music since the age of 7 and writing songs since the age of 13. He credits his father, O'Bryan, as a main source of inspiration. "My dad was signed to Capitol Records at 18. Now, im signed to Warner Bros Records at 20 and my goal is to make him and whoever else believes in me proud."

Brandyn, who plays the piano, guitar, ukulele and drums, dropped out of NYU on a full scholarship for acting after a semester in 2009. "I'll go back one day... after im filthy rich of course. NYU is so expensive... I need a couple hits first. Once this music takes off my next goal is acting- i'd love to do film. After that, world domination... what else?"

He's currently recording his debut album in Los Angeles this summer.

His Twitter: @brandynburnette

Brandon Hines, a Detroit singer who is signed to Jermaine Dupri's So So Def, is also getting a lot of attention for his soulful rendition of the Weezy ballad.

Just released on Wednesday, the song already has 20,000 views, but that shouldn't last long as B-Hines 18,000-plus Twitter followers start retweeting the song. His Facebook fan page has over 11,000 likes. Hines is no stranger to being a YouTube sensation - his cover of Maxwell's "Pretty Wings" has surpassed 1 million views. He's also currently featured on Da Brat's new single, "Get It, Get It."

Who is Brandon? According to his bio:

Brandon Hines released his first independent album in 2006, and he captivated a quite a fan base since his days at Howard University - where he was elected "Mr. Howard University."

Hines has already worked with some top talent, including Trey Songz, Ryan Leslie, Bryan Michael Cox, Troy Taylor and Mario Winans. He was also the opening act on Estelle's 2008 "American Boy" tour.

He has yet to release an album since joining Dupri's label.

His Twitter: @BHinesTheReal

Question: Which version of "How to Love" do you prefer?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Wonderful Night: Stevie Wonder honored at the Apollo

Simply put: it was a wonderful night.

Stevie Wonder was inducted into the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame last night in what was a star-studded tribute to a living music legend.

Performers - who all sang classic Stevie songs - included Melanie Fiona ("Higher Ground"), Yolanda Adams ("Love's In Need of Love Today"), Take 6 ("I Wish"), Raphael Saadiq ("I Was Made to Love Her") and Kim Burrell ("Knocks Me Off My Feet").

There were a few surprises as well - Tony Bennett honored Stevie and they put on an impromptu performance of "For Once in My Life." Paul Shaffer, Questlove and Chick Corea also joined the Ray Chew led band for a tribute.

Rap legend Doug E. Fresh also hit the stage as he beat-boxed for Stevie who sang "All I Do" in one of the night's most memorable performances.

Stevie also performed "Fingertips," "My Cherie Amour," "Do I Do," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" and he closed out the show with "Living for the City."

Other guests included Spike Lee, Phylicia Rashad, Gabourey Sidibe, Anika Noni Rose, Wyclef Jean, Sherri Shepherd, Martha Reaves, Rev. Al Sharpton and celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson.

The celebration didn't stop with ceremony.

Wonder, Lee and Fresh joined DJ D-Nice in the deejay booth for the after party held in a giant tent behind the world famous theater.

Wonder sang "Jungle Fever" and "Ribbon in the Sky" while Fresh beat-boxed. And of course, Lee was there recording the whole thing on his iPad.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hot 97 gives the gift of Summer Jam in your home

My Summer Jam experience was the best I ever had - and I wasn't even there!

The folks at Hot 97 decided to live stream the entire concert and well, it was very well done.

The video and audio was, to my surprise, pretty superb. I had a brief moment during the Lil' Wayne performance where I lost the video, but it came back.

I was among more than 55,000 web users who comfortably watched artists like Wayne, Drake, Chris Brown and Rick Ross rock the stage at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The web users got as high as 57,000 plus during the Wayne set.

Of course, the best part was that I could watch Summer Jam while still keeping an eye on the NBA finals.

While the UStream of the concert may have been a huge plus, the show overall was still pretty uneventful and underwhelming.
Summer Jam used to be something that people talked about the next day. I'm not sure what people will talk about after watching this concert. Dip Set having 500 people on stage? Diddy coming out with Ricky Rozay and eventually leading the crowd as the Notorious B.I.G.'s "One More Chance" played? Um, Mobb Deep performing during the Lloyd Banks set? Again, a very uneventful night.

But at least I got to watch it all go down from the comfort of my home.

Thank you, Hot 97.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Kanye West performs at Gil Scott-Heron memorial

It's no secret that poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron is among the musical influences of rapper Kanye West.

If you listened to West's last album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, you heard Scott-Heron's unmistakable voice.

West, who included a portion of Scott-Heron's "Comment #1" on "Lost in the World/Who Will Survive in America," brought the poetic words to a new audience on his fifth album.

West clearly respected what Scott-Heron stood for and 40-year music legacy that he left behind.

Maybe that's why he decided to attend the Scott-Heron memorial service on Thursday morning at Harlem's Riverside Church.

West quietly sat in the front left of the church, wearing all black and dark sunglasses. He nodded his head to performances by a trio of Scott-Heron's long-time band members.

And then it was his turn to take the floor.

He performed "Lost in the World/Who Will Survive in America," which included a recording of Scott-Heron's words. Following the performance, West hugged Scott-Heron's daughter, Gia, and hung out with the family after the memorial.

But in typical West fashion, he dashed out of a back door of the church and hopped in a shiny silver Maybach.

For more: check out the story at the New York Daily News.


The service also included a moving poem by Gil Scott-Heron's daughter, Gia, 31.


We use clocks and watches to watch time
But time is not a machine, it doesn't let you rewind.
Time can have a way of being so unkind!
It slows down when you're at work, and when you're having fun it flies.
It never lies, but it has this way of tricking us, and leading us to our own demise.

Youth is wasted on the young, because only time and experience can make you wise.
We treat time like a commodity, and there's never enough to go around.
Time's always runnin' out, and always runnin' you down.
Yeah the clock is tickin' and waits for no man!
Time can make you feel like you're sinking in quicksand.
Time snatched my Father's life right out of his hands!
But you can't sue, or prosecute time.
It peacefully marches on, and that's not a crime.
But I thought he had more time y'all, I thought he had more time!

He was legendary
A visionary
An illuminating luminary.
There will never be another like He.
Made of stuff usually only seen in Mythology.
And although I'm biased,
I still say he's a genius!
Much more than an ordinary man.
Deciphering the media mumbo-jumbo jargon into something the masses could understand.
And for this he was treated like an informant, and a spy.
Just for helping us see when someone was telling us a lie.
So we gotta' honor him, by keeping his vision alive!
We gotta' "work for peace," stay away from "the bottle," shoot the breeze on "125th and Lenox," "shut down the plants," and pick up the pieces when we see "pieces of a man."
He was a man who kept it realer than life.
I thought he had more time y'all, I thought he had more time.

But because he was before his time, and because time is unfair...
We weren't even aware,
That his time was up!
But time can never diminish the bonds of unconditional love!
So though your demise is publicized,
This new revolution will be televised.
Both our dreams, are already realized.
Just like in the album REAL EYES
I realize
That I am forever yours
Your daughter for all time.
Time can't erase that! Time can't even touch it.
Our relationship wasn't perfect, but who's is?
I still love him!
Pop, I love you in life and death.
Until the day that I die.
But until that time, I'll just look to the sky
'cuz I know you'll be shinin' on me,
And be shinin' on in my memory,
For the rest of my life!
So it's see you later Pop, not goodbye.........................Love you Daddy, Gia

Friday, May 20, 2011

Macho Man dies in car crash

A piece of my childhood died today.

Wrestling legend Macho Man Randy Savage was killed in a car accident in Florida this morning. He was 58.

Of course, I remember the classic Wrestlemania III showdown with Ricky Steamboat. Despite Savage taking the loss and dropping the WWE Intercontinental title, it was arguably one of the greatest wrestling matches of all-time. (I watched the VHS tape of this Wrestlemania too many times as a kid.)

He also captured his first WWE Championship belt by winning the tournament for the then-vacant title at Wrestlemania IV. He bested Ted Dibase to win his biggest prize of his career after hitting his signature finisher, the flying elbow drop from the top rope. He got the assist from good friend Hulk Hogan, who smashed DiBase with a chair to set up the finish.

We all remember the Summerslam 1991 wedding, where he married his manager and WWE "first lady," Miss Elizabeth. (She died in 2003 due to a mix of drugs and alcohol.)

And who could forget when Jake Roberts' snake bit Macho Man in the ring in what was probably one of the most heated feuds in wrestling history.

He also had one of the most memorable wrestling theme songs in history. He walked out to the ring to the classic "Pomp and Cirumstance." A song that is also typically played at commencement ceremonies.

I have a few memorable Randy Savage memories that I was fortunate to witness as a kid:

My uncle took me, my brother and my cousin to the Intrepid in New York City to witness the "Bodyslam Challenge" on July 4, 1993. It was a scorching hot day, and I could barely see the wrestling ring. (Little kids usually don't have the best view in large crowds.)

In any event, wrestling superstars and professional athletes came out to try to slam the monstrous Yokozuna, who weighed 550 pounds. It was a huge event, and Savage was among the hosts, wearing a flamboyant red, white and blue outfit.

After all the contestants had unsuccessfully tried, Savage stepped up the plate. He was the last hope as "America's pride was on the line."

Savage went for the scoop - but there was no slam. Savage did not save the day, as that honor was left for Lex Luger, who was successful in the slamming Yokozuna. But in typical Savage fashion, his presence on that day certainly stood out.

I was also fortunate to be in attendance for Savage's last WWE pay-per-view appearance at Madison Square Garden on March 20, 1994.

He took on rival Crush in a wild falls count anywhere match. Most of the out-of-control match took place outside the ring or backstage. But Savage used his brains by tying up the evil Crush to emerge victorious in what would be one of his final moments in WWE before fleeing for the now-defunct WCW.

Savage leaves behind a legacy like few other professional wrestlers. There was only one who was bigger: Hulk Hogan.

Hogan took to Twitter share to express his feelings in the wake of the loss:

"I'm completely devastated, after over 10 years of not talking with Randy, we've finally started to talk and communicate," he wrote. "He had so much life in his eyes & in his spirit, I just pray that he's happy and in a better place and we miss him."

The Hulkster continued, "We miss him a lot. I feel horrible about the ten years of having no communication. This was a tough one."

Here is the official comment from the WWE:
"WWE® is saddened to learn of the passing of one of the greatest Superstars of his time, Randy Poffo, aka Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Poffo was under contract with WWE from 1985 to 1993 and held both the WWE and Intercontinental Championships. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends. We wish a speedy recovery to his wife Lynn. Poffo will be greatly missed by WWE and his fans."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beyonce releases new video; but was she outdone by a YouTube sensation?

eyonce's new video is here, but it seemed to fall a bit short of another video produced by a virtual unknown.

She rode in gracefully on a horse and didn't disappoint with her sand-filled dance moves. But despite enlisting the help of nearly the entire cast of The Lion King, the video for "Run the World (Girls)" just didn't live up to an unofficial version produced by Sean Bankhead.

Bankhead, an Atlanta-based choreographer, and his cast of sassy dancers seemed to outdo team Beyonce in the battle of the videos -- and the fans are already talking.

Bankhead's video, released on YouTube on May 1, has already surpassed more than 1 million views and it's continuing to climb in popularity.

If the comments on Bankhead's YouTube video are any indication, it looks like some people agree that his video may have bested Beyonce's over-the-top production that included a flaming car and an army of dancers.

Here's some of what is being said:

"Just saw the official "Run The World" video clip on ABC ... TERRIBLE ! You guys should have give Beyonce some advice !" wrote one YouTube user.

Another user wrote: "This video is better than the Beyonce's WOW!!!!!! Congrats- You got my vote on 106 & Park lol."

Another YouTube user: "I just watched the beyonce music video of girls and it didn't come close to being as great as this video. That says alot!!!!"

Check out the videos for yourself - what do you think??

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fab, Banks and Slime rep their hoods in new song

Not too many rap tracks where we see Brooklyn, Harlem and Queens come together to rep' their respective 'hoods.

But that's what we have on this banger from Fabolous, Vado and Lloyd Banks.

"Mo' Brooklyn, Mo' Harlem, Mo' Southside" was released on Fabolous' latest mixtape, "The S.O.U.L. Tape," which dropped this week. The unique mixtape features only soul-inspired tracks. This New York anthem would have to be among my favorite tracks on the release.

Definitely a certified banger. Get into it - the song and the mixtape, that is.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Beyonce sampling popular reggae track on new song

Beyonce is back. Well, almost.

A snippet of her new song, "Girls (Who Run the World)" has been making the rounds on the web today, and everyone is buzzing about it.

But much of the talk has little to do with Beyonce. It's mostly about the sample: Major Lazer's dancehall-electro-pop hit, "Pon de Floor."

The unmistakable club track was also sampled by Diddy Dirty Money for the Swizz Beatz produced track, "Ass on the Floor."

Major Lazer is made up of producers Switch and Diplo. They've worked with many of the top reggae artists, including Vybz Kartel, Mr. Vegas and T.O.K. But now, their music has hit the fast lane.

I'm sure they never thought the "Bootylicious" singer would be introducing their music to the rest of the world, but in grand fashion, she has.

Was it a good decision to sample a popular party track? I say, it was.

The beat is crazy, and definitely falls in line with Beyonce's style.

The best part is, you already know what's coming -- a dope over-the-top video. #leggo

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chris Brown rescues career with F.A.M.E.

F.A.M.E. may have been the lifesaver that Chris Brown's music career desperately needed.

It's been more than two years since the career of the 21-year-old singer took a nosedive following the assault on his ex-girlfriend Rihanna. His last studio album, Graffiti, was a flop and failed to reach the platinum status of his two prior releases.

It seemed like Brown's music career was teetering and there wasn't much he could do to restore his shattered fan base.

But the young singer refused to throw in the towel. He gave his fans three mixtapes last year and delivered an emotional Michael Jackson tribute at the BET Awards.

Mixtape tracks, "Deuces" and ""No B******t," became huge hits for Brown. They even made their way on the F.A.M.E. album, and rightfully so. They are just two of many gems on what I consider to be a stellar comeback album.

"She Ain't You," which samples Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," and "Look At Me Now" (feat. Lil' Wayne and Busta Rhymes) are among other standouts on the 13-track album, released today.

Brown also makes a valiant effort to satisfy his pop-club-dance audiences with "Yeah 3X," "Oh My Love" and the electro house-inspired "Beautiful People." You can't possibly sit still while listening to any of those songs.

In an unlikely pairing, C-Breezy teams up with pop sensation Justin Bieber on "Next 2 You." While the song is worth listening to, the only problem with the Breezy and Bieber collabo is that they sound too much alike. Don't walk out the room and come back during this song. You might not know who is singing.

Although Brown has made a name for himself with his party-friendly songs, he still has what it takes to be a crooner. He slowed down the tempo on "Up 2 You" and "Should've Kissed You."

There's definitely something for everyone on F.A.M.E., and that's a good thing because it's probably just what he needed to save his spiraling career.

Welcome back, Breezy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wendy NOT doin' so good after DWTS debut

I'll tell you how Wendy Williams is doin': not good.

In fact, she was just awful and lacked any personality in her debut on tonight's kickoff of Dancing with the Stars.

The busty talk show host attempted to Cha Cha Cha with her partner Tony Dovolani in what was hands down an absolute train wreck.

They reportedly practiced five hours a day. (if you can believe that) I'm sure most of that time Williams was luxuriating while trying on skimpy and shimmering costumes.

I don't think even 10 hours of practice a day would have changed the results of the judges, who gave the couple a score of 14 out of 30.

"You need to unleash the beast next time," said judge Carrie Ann Inabe.

Judge Len Goodman couldn't keep his eyes off Williams' exploding upper body.

"You got your dumplings boiling over!" he said, before handing them a four out of 10.

"You have to bring your personality out onto this floor!" he scolded the over-the-top talk show host. "Show us you!"

Next week, Williams will take on the quick step.

We'll see if she can improve. I certainly hope so.

If nothing else, she makes the show interesting, especially when she cried and wiped her tears with her heavyweight weave.

In the meantime, she's not offering any excuses.

"I did the best that I could for this week," she said.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Baby from "Ready to Die" is all grown up

Fans have scratched their heads for more than 16 years trying to figure out the identity of the baby on the cover of the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready to Die" album.

They finally have an answer.

Keithroy Yearwood, now 18, says it's his baby photo that has become one of the most iconic images in hip-hop history.

Yearwood and his parents told the New York Daily News that he is that Afro-sporting baby all grown up, and he only got paid $150.

But they aren't worried about any money.

Yearwood, a high school senior, just wants the world to know - it's him!

Chris Brown signs YouTube sensation Joelle James

Chris Brown is the latest superstar artist to announce he's signed a YouTube sensation.

The singer tweeted a YouTube video of California singer Joelle James declaring her "the newest member of CBE!!!!"

James has grabbed the attention of hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers with her soulful covers of popular songs like "Unthinkable" by Alicia Keys (which Brown tweeted), "All I Want Is You" by Miguel and "Rude Boy" by Rihanna.

It's not clear how Brown found out about James, but it's very possible he, like many others, admired her stellar vocal performances on YouTube. And on early Sunday morning, Brown unveiled James as a signee of CBE (Chris Brown Entertainment).

This isn't the first time YouTube helped a relative unknown attract the attention of a music megastar. It was Justin Bieber's YouTube videos that scored him a deal with Usher.

James' cover of "Unthinkable" has already been viewed over 150,000 times. Her most popular video, which covers "Rude Boy" and Usher's "O.M.G.," has snagged more than half a million views.

James, according to her Facebook page, has a few accomplishments under her belt. She's sang for Ray Charles when she was 10 and performed on Star Search. She's also made the rounds singing the National Anthem before various professional sporting events.

If that's not enough, she was also a Top 40 finalist on Season 6 of American Idol, however, she'd rather not talk about that.

Shortly after the Twitter announcement, James went to work promoting Brown's upcoming album.

"@chrisbrown tears of joy. thank you for all the sweet tweets guys. so honored to be in the CBE fam. NOW go BUY #FAME. 3/22 #lookatmenow," she tweeted to her 1,427 followers.

James is currently attending Berklee College of Music in Boston.

She'll certainly be the most popular girl in school on Monday.

Definitely a good call by C-Breezy on this one. For once, he's making news for the right reasons.

His new album F.A.M.E. hits stores on Tuesday. Coincidence? I think not.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A masterful solo debut for Marsha Ambrosius

Marsha Ambrosius is on her own, and it seems this is where she belonged from the very beginning.

Her debut solo album, "Late Nights & Early Mornings," packs a heavy helping of sensuality and soul that continues with the seducing sounds of her former group, Floetry ("Say Yes and "Getting Late").

The album, which dropped today, is a masterful 13-track release that might even make you forget Ambrosius was ever in a group. She certainly proved she can stand tall without much help. There aren't even any guest features, and they weren't needed.

"Hope She Cheats on You (With a Basketball Player)" and "Far Away" were easily magical lead singles, however, the album is much more than those two hit songs.

"With You," "Your Hands" and the title track are examples of her pure and seemingly effortless ability to set the mood for a steamy night of sheet-gripping.

There's also the vulnerable "Sour Times," where she sings, "'Cause nobody loves me / It's true / Not like you do."

Ambrosius even revisited Michael Jackson's "Butterflies," giving it an uptempo remix. She co-wrote the original version.

The best part about "Late Nights & Early Mornings" is that it can play from start to finish without once skipping a track.

Thanks, Marsha. This album was worth the wait.

Suggested track: "Your Hands"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammys say "F*** You" to hip-hop

What an appropriate year for the Grammys to say "F*** You" to the hip-hop community!?

Cee Lo Green's "F*** You" was nominated in two of the night's biggest categories - Record of the Year and Song of the Year - but he came up short in both. He would snag one award for the song in the category of Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

He wasn't the only hip-hop star to feel the Grammy cold shoulder.

Eminem was nominated for 10 awards - the most of any artist - and only walked away with two wins. His two wins came, of course, in rap categories. [Best Rap Album and Best Rap Solo Performance - "Not Afraid"]

That's got to be a disappointment, but at least he got something. :-/

Like Cee Lo Green, Em was nominated in the biggest categories of the night and took L's.

In fact, the Record of the Year category was dominated by hip-hop tunes. Four out of five nominees were from the hip-hop genre. Despite the odds being in hip-hop's favor, country group Lady Antebellum ran away with the award for their song, "Need You Now."

Drake, who was among nominees in the Best New Artist category, was also left Grammy-less. He was nominated in four categories.

Hip-hop newcomer, B.o.B., was also empty-handed despite his five nominations. He did have some stiff competition in his categories. Among the big categories he was nominated in included Record of the Year, Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song.

Jay-Z was one of hip-hop's "biggest" winners. He won three awards before the show aired on television. He won for "Empire State of Mind" with Alicia Keys in the categories of Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song; and for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group with Swizz Beatz for "On to the Next One." (That's nice Jay won with Mrs. and Mr. Swizz-Keys.)

But like Cee Lo and B.o.B., Jay could not give hip-hop the win in a "major" Grammy category. "Empire State of Mind" failed to win in the Record of the Year category.

On the bright side, the Grammys showcased hip-hop with performances by Drake, Cee Lo Green and Eminem.

It's also worth noting that Diddy was introduced as "Puff Daddy" by the Grammy announcer. What year are they living in? He hasn't been called that in years! Unless he secretly decided to go by "Puff Daddy" again and didn't send out the press release [or Tweet] yet.

The disrespect, or disregard, didn't stop there.

Easily the biggest hip-hop snub of the night didn't have anything to do with the actual award presentations.

It came during the tribute to musicians that have passed away during the last year. We saw a montage of artists who passed away, including Teena Marie and Solomon Burke.

However, it didn't take long before hip-hop fans noticed one of their own was left out.

Guru, the founder of Gang Starr, died of cancer in April. However, there was no mention of him in the annual Grammy tribute to fallen artists.

Kanye West, who wasn't at the Grammys, noticed the omission and tweeted, "R.I.P. to Guru!!!"

Q-Tip also tweeted, "No mention of keith GURU elam?????? Come on."

Guru's former group member DJ Premier also took to Twitter to let off some steam.

"Fuckin' Grammy's didn't put GURU in the R.I.P. Of entertainers that passed away in 2010.....why should I be surprised ?" DJ Premier tweeted.

Other fans were also upset.

"RIP Guru, your fans will always remember you. The Grammys on the other hand..... #fail" tweeted user, Sorgenfrei_M.

"Still can't believe they snubbed Guru," tweeted C_Greenberg.

"why didn't the Grammy's show Guru from Gang Starr? He passed last year too and was just as important to music as the others that died. #fail," tweeted jdubcreative.

"Guru gets no love for passing away...SMH," tweeted spinTelect. "Usually not upset at awards show, but GURU getting no love is kinda wack."

Well, if it makes hip-hop fans feel any better the awards in the R&B categories weren't even mentioned during the television broadcast. And Justin Bieber was shut out in the two categories that he was nominated for.

Looks like the Grammys was saying "F*** You" to a lot of people, not just hip-hop.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Will the Grammy's have Bieber fever? Or can Drake pull off the upset?

Best new artist is the category that I'm most looking forward to at tonight's Grammy Awards.

It's a battle of the Canadian superstars - Drake vs. Justin Bieber.

As much as I enjoy Drake and his excessive hand movements, I think Bieber and his famous hairstyle will emerge victorious.

Other nominees in the category include Florence & The Machine, Mumford & Sons and Esperanza Spalding. (They could all be winners in the eyes of the Grammy voters, who tend to award not just the popular acts, but talented artists. Nothing wrong with that. #imjustsayin)

Both Drake and Bieber have had monster years and caused massive fan mayhem all over the world.

But you know all of that excitement means nothing when it comes to the Grammy's.

There's no denying that the Drake and Bieber fans are absolutely crazy about them.

I certainly can't forget the pandemonium their fans both caused in New York

Drake's fans rioted at the South Street Seaport and Biebers' supporters shut down a mall in Long Island. Both ended in cancellations of their respective appearances.

Tonight, I'm going out on a limb and predicting Bieber fever will continue at the Grammy's.

He'll join an elite group of artists who have won the Best New Artist prize, which includes Mariah Carey (1991), Bette Midler (1974), Cyndi Lauper (1985), Sade (1986), Christina Aguilera (2000), Alicia Keys (2002) and The Beattles (1965).

Last year's winner was the Zac Brown Band. [ugh]

While 16-year-old Bieber is the obvious favorite, Drake could pull off a pretty big upset like a few hip-hop acts before him.

The last hip-hop artist to win in the category was Lauryn Hill (1999). Obviously, that could be argued since her album was more R&B than it was hip-hop.

Before Ms. Hill, Arrested Development pulled off an upset besting acts like Billy Ray Cyrus and Kriss Kross. Remember Arrested Development had hits like "Tennessee," "People Everyday" and "Mr. Wendal." In fairness, they were more of an "alternative" and "conscience" hip-hop group.

A Drake win would make him the first solo male rap artist to win in the category. Something that other past hip-hop Best New Artist nominees like Puff Daddy, Tone Loc, Kanye West and 50 Cent were unable to do. Mr. West was the last hip-hop artist to be nominated in that category in 2005.

I would say we can all but count Drake out because history tells us that the Grammy's just don't like rap people. So don't count on Cee-Lo to walk away with the Song of the Year or Record of the Year for his anthem, "F*** You."


My favorite Best New Artist victories:

Mariah Carey (1991)

Jody Watley (1987)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Juelz Santana studio raided; Skull Gang's Hynief arrested

Police made a surprise visit to Juelz Santana's New Jersey studio, where they found guns, drugs and arrested one of his Skull Gang rappers.

Hynief, real name Toby Raynor, 24, was arrested at "Santana's World" studio in Bergenfield, N.J. on Thursday, according to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

Two fully loaded 9mm handguns, boxes of ammunition and marijuana were found during the raid.

Cops say Hynief on two separate occasions - June 16 and July 1 - sold marijuana to undercover Gang Unit detectives during a 10-month investigation.

A feature story on Santana, published in XXL Magazine in 2009, described the studio as "cozy and carpeted."

Hynief, who is originally from Virginia, is no stranger to trouble.

In a YouTube video, he talks about his long rap sheet, including an attempted murder charge in Virginia. (The Skull Gang crew took the video down, but nothing is ever completely gone on the Internet. Someone else posted the video as well.)

Two days before his arrest, he tweeted, "If you knew better then you'll do better...."

Maybe he'll take his own advice.

He is currently being held in the Bergen County Jail on $50,000 bail.