Monday, July 28, 2008

Digicel Rising Star Blow By Blow: The Finals!!!

Last night was the finals of Digicel Rising (get it?). I'm quite happy though. Finally I can stop allocating part of my schedule to pandering to the masses and get back to giving some more unknown artistes some shine. I've never really watched the show before this season but as finals go this one was both entertaining and thrilling. Ah mean, I can't lie like the judges and say that I don't know who will win but that doesn't hide the fact that both finalists are vocalists skilled to the point that they deserve US recording contracts right now.

Before I get into the competition; for some reason that seems strange to me, the organizers decided to cut the final person at the beginning of the show...and then have them perform right after? Are they serious? The only way this makes any sense to me is if the person knows that they're being cut from before hand. Crystal Daniel performed like she didn't have a clue. She looked fine when it was announced that she wasn't going any further but then her voice came in shaky and thin on "Still the one" by Shania Twain and she forgot some words in the song. I mean...which other competition does that kinda thing? At least give someone a chance to cry. On another note, Knycky Cordner looked good, probably the best I've senn with her this season. Toned-down definitely suits her. Now for the performances.

Meda Ellis singing "Fallin" by Alicia Keys - This was a good choice of song for Meda. It's a good performance song as Alicia Keys' signature song it's guaranteed to be popular with audiences. As usual she is technically flawless and I can hardly detect neither a wrong or flat note throughout all the while delivering each word in almost the same tone as Mrs Keys herself. At this point I'm thinking that the winner has been decided already. Or has it?

Erica Samuel singing some song by Celine Dion - In typical Erica fashion, the girl seems like if she doesn't know how she ended up in the finals and not competitive in the least. Technically she is on par with Meda but where I think she may be a bit better is in terms of style. Her voice has a sweet emotional timbre. With that said, Erica sang Celine Dion's song with more emotion than I've ever heard from Celine Dion herself. By the end of her performance it's now obvious that Meda's was good but second best. Interesting night indeed. On a sour note, the fake crying from Simone aka Judge Dredd was not cool. Aye, we've seen you on Westwood park and that wasn't convincing either.

Meda Ellis singing "Trinidad" by Naya George - I'll start by saying I've never liked this song. This song came out around the brief period when I stopped paying attention to road march all together and began forming theories about the idiocy of large groups of people. Nevertheless, I was really liking Meda's version with its precise dialect pronunciation and the way she roughed up her voice to perform. If it's one thing that must be noted, Meda is a natural peform and commits herself to whatever she is performing whether it's her style or not. This was the most enjoyable performance for me for the night.

Erica Samuel singing "Band of the year" by Machel Montano and Patrice Roberts - Vocally, Erica sang this song than Patrice sang it on record. In every other way her performance was very limp. While performing this soca song, Erica hardly made eye contact with the audience, rarely moved, seemed totally uninterested, didn't even wave the flag that she was carrying and seemed lost on stage. The judges scolded her but at the end of the day you can only win if you want to and I don't know what she wanted to do. Thanks to Erica, Meda took this round easily.

Meda Ellis singing some spanish Celine Dion song - I couldn't spell far less pronounce the name of the song that Meda sang last and certainly didn't know what it meant but it sounded beautiful. This kinda song is picked when you want to win; it showcases skill because of the song's inherent difficulty and it comes off as exotic, especially when you're gorgeously decked in spanish-type garb complete with a flower in the hair. The judges like it and now Judge Dredd says that Meda has her shaking. She's weird.

Erica Samuel singing "Take a Bow" by Rhianna - When it was announced that she would be singing the Rhianna track I was happy for her because I know that Rhianna singing is her strength. Sad to say however, I could not endorse the performance. She sang good and everything but delivered the bitingly sarcastic song with a straight delivery and I wasn't really feeling that. In addition, she performed the song like she didn't really want to be on stage and seemed like she wanted Meda to win. I'd really give a lot to find out what she was thinking throughout last night's competition but I doubt it was about winning. At this point it's evident to me that Meda is taking this one.

Oh yeah, and one more thing; Digicel should find some other purpose for the competition besides making a money off sms votes. Kay, the winner of the competition last year could only say that she was doing vocal training in an entire year since winning the competition. Yes I understand that the winners get money but what can they really do with their careers after being made to practice one set ah foreign music from week to week. At least organize for them to get a recording contract in the US or something. $100000 must finish but a career lasts a lifetime. In contrast, Umi Marcano and Fireball of Synergy soca star have made waves locally and internationally. Step yo game up Digicel. Da Face out. Check out the videos below.

Meda singing "Trinidad"

Erica singing "Band of the year"

Meda singing Celine Dion

Erica singing "Take a bow"

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Big new Trinidad hip hop show "The Grind" on 99.1

Whaddup mih brethren. I know allyuh must be fed up seeing it but is Da Face again, doh hate. You know what it is when I'm pon de internet. Some new underground sh*t must get buss. The other day about three weeks ago mih boy Matics (as in Chromatics) let me know that he going to start hosting a hip hop show on 99.1fm. In my mind I was like "99 point who" cause on the radio only goes on to listen 96.7 morning show to catch some jones with Blaze and Jason. However, I thought at the time that it would be a good thing for local hip hop and plus he told me that I could send my tracks and what not so I was like I'd give it a little listen. Hoss...

As a person who is not getting paid to say this I'll just let everyone who's reading this right now know that this programme is the best I've heard on Trinidad radio in a long time. And the thing is, you don't even have to be a hip hop head to enjoy the show. The format of the show is accessible with two hosts (Chromatics and some other dude) and they mix (now) quasi-underground artistes like Joe Budden and Saigon (I swear I heard one) with your Lil Waynes and some Nas. Best of all, the guests don't just talk...they freestyle homie. I've listened to it for the last two weeks and both Veta and Make it Hapn handled themselves on the mic. Who knows, maybe I'll get a chance to rip it to shreds never know. In the meantime tune in to 99.1 on a Tuesday from 9pm to 12pm and take in the second best radio programme in Trinidad (yuh know ah still love mih "Morning Show").

You can check out the myspace page here for more information and audio feeds from past shows.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Underground Trini album pick of the month (July): Levi Myaz Street Album

Yeah folks, is me again. That Digicel Rising Star rundown that I spoke about will be coming soon (like tomorrow) so don't worry about it. And don't forget people, the I Am Hip Hop is not too far off. Make sure to come out on August 16th at Euphoria Lounge and support Trinidad hip hop cause its going be wicked and you're getting the best of the best. Remember ah tell yuh.

Right, so on to the topic at hand. Last month I was in highway records as usual and I was hunting for the Real Talk 3 dvd when Chromatics who was bumpin some random reggae album, said to me "Face, yuh know dis album real bad.". So I was like "Which one?" to which he of course replied "Dis one... de Levi Myaz nah" and I was like "Levi Who?". Turns out the guy who came out with the Trinidadian anthem for nostalgia that's surer to generate singalongs from the elderly than a hymn in church had a son. And guess what...he can handle himself too.

Now I know I'm the minority in not knowing who Levi Myaz is but after listening to his album I don't think I will forget soon. The album is around 22 tracks long and it kept my attention throughout. As an artiste, Levi Myaz is a decent reggae crooner who relies on emotion to sell his concepts which are usually not much different from the usual reggae standards such as weed, Babylon, love and adherence to Rastafarian principles. The surprise comes when you realize that Levi can also spit with the best of them and on one track in particular he had me wishing that he 'chanted' a bit more on the album. Nevertheless, maintaining one's attention span over 22 tracks is no easy feat and his style; accessible and thoroughly listenable, more than achieves this. You can go and cop this album in highway records by the Chaguanas taxi stand in Curepe. Doh stick.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Which are you: artiste or businessman?

Yes folks, nuff praise to Jah for bringing me back to post for another week. I haven't watched Digicel Rising Star for like two weeks so expect a delayed post if any at all on that. Right now, I'm going to speak about something that has been on my mind for a bit which has been inspired through the observation of our local music industry and through interaction with other aspiring 'artistes'. All of the singers/rappers/whatever I know, aspire to be famous/rich but not all of singers/rappers/whatever I know, aspire to be artistes (or they just think they do). And oh yeah, please remember that other golden rule not sleep with you mouth open in public. It's the youtube era.

One of the most frequently used sequence of words (aka phrase) when speaking to aspiring 'anybodys' in Trinidad is "eat ah food" which, for the non-trinis, means that I'm going to see about myself...make sure that I profit...get mine or what have you. Normally the statement goes something like this: "hoss, I just want to eat ah food yes". Having heard this phrase so much in recent months makes me wonder as an underground artiste; what really is the basis for the struggle? As an artiste you perpetually find yourself trying to achieve two sometimes incompatible goals; producing quality work and making money. Thinking about it some more, I've determined that no sensible musician can ever hope to be successful in the long run by pursuing only one of these two goals but whether you can be classed as an artiste or businessman depends on which one is your main goal.

For example, take Soulja Boy. Dude deliberately promoted himself using the tools available too him...mainly the Internet. He crafted a catchy dance on a woefully minimal beat made from the most basic of tools and used so few sounds on it you would think he was getting charged for melody. Listening to his music, it is clear that he works more on creating himself as a product than on his technique; his lyrics are laughable and his concepts are basic but the punchline is that Soulja Boy is self-aware enough to know all this and not care. In his interviews he constantly lauds his own album sales figures, ringtone downloads and itunes numbers using that data as evidence of his influence on and importance to hiphop, his genre of choice. His main argument is that an in-demand product, however shoddy, is the mark of being a successful artiste. Is he right?

On the other hand, we have Kanye West. Mr. West was already a successful producer (both critically and financially) before he decided to rap. He had no serious monetary reason to so since producers of his stature tend to make hundreds of thousands of US dollars when in demand (which he was) and at the time, he had already made a name for himself. However, Yeezy persevered with his dream against conventional logic and has, at this time of writing, released three critically lauded albums and has been lavished with numerous awards. Nevertheless, Kanye constantly seeks more acclaim and has been known to throw tantrums and/or bomb rush the stage when he doesn't win or get the acclaim that he feels he deserves. Now as we all know, it's clear that Kanye uses a mirror that returns an inflated image of himself but we can't say that we don't know his motivation. Kanye West views his success as indicative of him being a master of his craft. Is he right?

Which one is right? Well if we're talking about a successful artiste then Kanye is. The online merriam-webster only has two definitions of the word "artiste":
1) a skilled adept public performer; specifically : a musical or theatrical entertainer
2) an artistic or creative person
After a quick read of the definition it's clear that I would be wasting words if I proceeded to explain why Kanye West is a successful artiste and Soulja Boy isn't and I highly doubt that Soulja Boy would even care. However, to survive there is a part of us that needs to get our Soulja Boy on. Even though Kanye West is successful, he surely doesn't perform for free and every one of his albums has sold around three million copies. Creating a quality product is only the first step and after that you need to market it (online and off-line), network and build good relationships, try your darnedest to get it played on radio, perform to promote it, do some photo shoots and whatever it takes to let the world agree that your sh*t is good. Making your product successful takes a lot of business skill and rappers like Soulja Boy who focus mainly on this aspect should be considered business men rather than artistes. Their product is specifically crafted with sales in mind.

With all that being said, I reckon that Trinidad has a whole heap ah business men posing as artistes. Bringing back soca songs with the same/similar melody as previous ones, repeatedly sampling pop music in generic ways, bringing back soca songs with the same/similar concepts as your previous hits, aping popular concepts by other artistes, recycling decade old concepts, constantly quarreling about lack of airplay for lame songs, undercutting other artistes' performance fees, being in the industry for years and not improving or innovating even after financial success; all these things seem like a whole lot ah business to me...and not even the good kind not that I'm minding their business. It's getting to the point where the term "soca artiste" is becoming an oxymoron. In an age where home recording is easy and cheap and home promotion isn't rocket science (thank you myspace), Trinidad business men have not even reached Soulja Boy levels. I still hear complaints about how "de Chinee man eh playing mih music" when a full production cost $3500 and a blank cd costs $1 (the word is self-promotion). The moral to take home is: understand which one you are and do you as best as you can. Don't complain when you're critically panned as a businessman and don't whine about poor sales as an artiste. If you're smart you'll combine the two though...ask Jay Z.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Trini Videos on Youtube part 3

Yeah folks. Da Face here. Nuff blessings to all. This week I've been crawling youtube for trini videos and thankfully I've managed to locate some for your viewing pleasure. It no easy yuh know...dem ting harder to find than a Trinidad politician after elections but yuh doh have to worry since I do it for my country (yeah right). Anways, without further ado...enjoy.

"Never let go" by Positive

"Since you've been away" by Jah Melody (unplugged)

"Girls gone bad" by Syndicate

"In your timin girl" by Surge (yeah ah know...dis song old)

"Caribbean Girl/MyPosse" by Nadia Batson

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Digicel Rising Star Blow by Blow: Billboard hits

Yeah homies...and ladies. Waz de scene. I took a little diversion last week with the Chris Brown post and summarily experienced more views than an accident on the Uriah Butler highway. Yeah I know, I went out ah body a likkle bit but now I'm back to mihself and I'm going to start out by giving the rundown of last week's Digicel Rising Star competition (yes I know...I'm a bit late). Before we start that I want you to check out this new rap song called Looking Boy. It's quite unique and real hilarious. You can also check out this big tune dat I'm releasing this month called Jennifer. Listen out for it on radio too.

1)Claudia singing "I'll be there" by the Jackson 5 - Remember the girl ah mean woman with the smokey voice from last week. Probably not but this week she didn't do justice to one of my favourite songs. Didn't matter what I thought though, the judges absolutely loved her. Somehow the Rising Star judges nitpick on minor vocal flaws with some contestants but totally ignore the shortcomings of others. Then again, maybe I'm just a hater.

2)Crystal Daniel singing "Back on my feet again" by Michael Bolton - I'll start this one by saying that I don't really like Mr Bolton; I find him corny which may stem from the fact that I'm not a 40 year old mom. However, Crystal was almost flawless with her rendition of the song. Her voice has a nice harshness to it and she's great technically so she hits almost every note deep, full and dripping with emotion. The judges loved this and kept emphasizing how much better it was than her last performance. What was wrong with her last performance?

3)Erika singing "What's love got to do with it" by Tina Turner - Ah yes, Erika. The mystery contestant who came from nowhere and delivered Rhianna's "Unfaithful almost better than Rhi Rhi herself. This week she came back with a wig liming kinda on the hideous side (she still looked decent so I won't hate...too much) singing a song that's too low for her. I didn't like her beginning but once again the girl killed it with some insane dynamics at the end; I know my voice training instructor would have been proud. Unsurprisingly, the judges thought she was the sh*t because her confidence vastly improved from last time or something so. I can't front though; she's a scarily good singer and I won't be surprised if she gives Meda a run for her money. After this they feature a moment with the musical director for the show and is it just me or didn't they make him look like he's either autistic or challenged? I doh know. I reiterate that Kyncky must be on some kinda offense to her of course. And I preferred the wig from the week before.

Kesley Lion Joseph singing "Back at one" by Brian McKnight - Now on paper this seems terrible. Reggae dude who thus far has delivered more in stage presence than vocals doing a song by one of the vocal godfathers of the RnB seems like a maxi wreck waiting to happen. It didn't happen this time though; Kesley wasn't perfect but he used his voice the best he could and actually delivered some of my favourite notes from the song almost spot on. However, the judges views were mixed and even eye-liner dude who has been his cheerleader since day one didn't give him an entirely favourable review. I liked it though...nice work hoss.

Meda Ellis singing "Said I loved you but I lied" by Michael Bolton - Yeah I know...another Michael Bolton? Somehow anytime vocalists in Trinidad have to sing anything it's either Bolton, Whitney or Mariah. In this case it wasn't just any vocalists though. This was Meda, the favourite thus far and the only one who hasn't sung a cring-worthy note in the entire competition. How was her performance? It was flawless. Somehow though, the judges found room to hate. Something about her not being better than her last performance. Who cares? If I get 97% on a test do you scold me cause I got 99% last term? In any case, how could she have been expected to improve this week when this is the first week that I've heard her receive any criticism whatsoever?

Alicia Stephen singing "If I ain't got you" by Alicia Keys - I didn't like Alicia's rendition of Tanya Stephens last week but this week Alicia followed up by singing the song of another person with whom she shares part of her name with (I wonder what her middle name is?). This time, the song suited her voice and her warm lower resonance exuded nuff emotion and had me wondering who was the lucky fella she left back in Tobago. The judges bigged her up and rightfully so. The ending wasn't the best but she was the most improved for the night.

Vindra singing "Right here waiting" by Richard Marx - I don't really listen to these type of easy-listening, 97 fm kinda tunes so I really wasn't feeling the song too much. Being objective though, Vindra's performance wasn't really up to par. I was in his corner last week, out ah time dancing and all because his delivery of "lotaylah" was good and he seemed like he was having fun. This time he was trying too hard and ended up delivering the song with the right emotion and pitch but straight from the nose instead of the heart. Sad to say, I can see him going home next week.

I out people. Listen out for two singles from Da Face soon. Album coming out next year.