Review of Boston’s 2011 Hip-Hop Unity Fest

[Originally published in the Boston Herald. All kinds of people caught feelings about this one. Oh well.]

The world didn’t end on Saturday, but a rapture of a different kind swept over hip-hop heads at the Paradise that night.

The fifth annual Boston Hip-Hop Unity Fest had emcees from multiple styles and stages of notoriety rocking the same stage, with famed producer DJ Premier closing out the night in tribute to Gang Starr comrade and Roxbury-born wordsmith Guru.

The rap marathon’s massive lineup almost proved too stacked, as the lengthy roster ran long and Premier was forced to shorten his 90-minute set to just half an hour.

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Concert Review: Bell Biv Devoe at Showcase Live

If time warps exist, that would explain the events at a sold-out Showcase Live last night.

JAM’N 94.5 DJ Hustle Simmons spun a series of classic disco, funk, r & b and hip-hop tracks to open the show.

Boston rap legend Edo G popped onstage for a live rendition of his old school hit “I Got To Have It.”

And Boston’s own Bell Biv DeVoe delivered a 70-minute set that transplanted the early ’90s into 2010.

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Review of Mike Posner’s “31 Minutes to Takeoff”

No telling if “31 Minutes to Takeoff” will lead to more than 31 minutes of fame for overnight sensation Mike Posner, but one thing is clear: Vocally, the 22-year-old sounds like a dance-leaning version of “American Idol” finalist Jason Castro minus the swooning romance. Posner deals in terms that most who juggle hangovers with morning classes can understand: hookups, failed relationships and white lies. “When I met you at the party and I told you you were pretty, I was honestly just trying to score,” he croons to his unsuspecting victim on “Gone in September.” Sweet. Posner’s high-pitched yet husky vocals are frequently difficult to bear, but his brand of electro-pop production proves interesting. Things even get mildly exciting when he dares to venture off-campus: Check the track to download, “Save Your Goodbye.” [Published in the Boston Herald on Aug. 9, 2010]

Bobby Brown doing it his ‘Way’

Call it a comeback. Or something. New Edition member-turned-solo-artist-turned-reality-TV-star Brown is back to claim his place in r&b, and he’s not taking no for an answer. It’s been almost 14 years since Brown released his last studio album, but time spent off the charts and in the tabloids apparently hasn’t bruised his ego. The lead single off his forthcoming album is an aggressive manifesto about falling out of favor and fighting back: “Whatcha gonna say when they move to the next best thing? Get-get-get get out the way!” Brown growls on the hook. Though this single suggests Brown still has some rust to shake off musically, he’s not short on confidence: “I’m everlasting, never fading, not trippin’ on what they’re saying,” Brown promises. Know why? “’Cause that (expletive) don’t apply to me!” Consider yourself warned. [Published in the Boston Herald on Feb. 3, 2011.]

Mobb Deep’s artistry missing

[Originally published in the Sun Chronicle on May 11, 2006]

Fans who came to Lupo’s Tuesday night looking for the Mobb Deep they know are probably still on the hunt.

In their guise as new members of the ever-expanding G-Unit posse, the Mobb — composed of rapper Prodigy and rapper/producer Havoc of Queens Bridge, N.Y. — delivered not so much a performance, but a cross between a marketing plan and a late-night party.

Goal No. 1 of the plan: Promote their new album “Blood Money,” which was released on May 2.
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Concert review: Maxwell good to last drop of sweat

[Originally published in the Boston Herald on September 3, 2009]

A lot of Maxwell fans went home disappointed on Wednesday night. Not because of anything the sexy r & b dynamo did.

A free Maxwell show at the House of Blues billed as part of the Samsung AT&T Summer Krush concert series resulted in a line stretching the length of Lansdowne Street by the afternoon. Eager fans – desperate may be closer to the truth – stood waiting in hope of gaining entrance.

Unfortunately, the entire mob couldn’t squeeze into the 2,425-capacity venue – and having a ticket didn’t guarantee access.

Those who did get inside found the three-level venue stuffed with women waiting for their personal serenade, watchful male chaperones, and other men who came on their own, possibly looking to glean some tips on how sexy is done with style.

Maxwell likely satisfied all of them.

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Concert review: Ke$ha fans get sleazy, and then some

[Originally published in the Boston Herald, April 14, 2011]

Barring a drastic makeover, newly minted pop star Ke$ha will never be accused of displaying class. Her worshippers wouldn’t have it any other way.

The 24-year-old’s Get $leazy Tour stopped at a sold-out House of Blues on Tuesday. There wasn’t much to figure out beneath the blue lipstick, American flag tunics and glittery leotards. If it’s lewd, crude and nonsensical, Ke$ha’s most likely made it a part of her repertoire.

The 85-minute show opened to the sounds of “Sleazy,” with Ke$ha perched inside a diamond-shaped light frame on the second tier of the stage wearing glow-in-the-dark goggles. She remained trapped in her music substation for the first four songs, pressing buttons that set synth riffs in motion and tapping on percussion boards with glow-in-the-dark drumsticks. She finally skulked front and center stage for “Blow” and brought the confetti guns with her.

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Review of Jay-Z’s “American Gangster”

[Originally published in the Boston Herald on Nov. 5, 2007]

Jay-Z’s second post-retirement release is a concept album inspired by the hustler biopic “American Gangster.” And make no mistake, this is inspired. Whatever remnants of mediocrity the God MC displayed on his last album, “Kingdom Come,” have been shaken off in this journey back to the streets.

All of the necessary frameworks are in place: movie snippets weaved in between songs (it’s really hard to go wrong with Denzel Washington saying just about anything on your record); well-timed samples from the Beastie Boys and Marvin Gaye; a guest spot from Lil Wayne that works; a Nas-Jigga one-two punch on “Success” that proves to be a New York knockout.
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CD Review: Kanye West’s “808s & Heartbreak” is more heartbreak than 808

Chased the good life my whole life long/Look back on my life and my life gone/Where did I go wrong?

It was bound to happen. Kanye West couldn’t rap and sample Curtis Mayfield and Otis Redding forever. He had to become a New Wave singer.

The shift actually began on “Graduation,” when the Chi-town rapper/producer moved beyond a soul-infused sound toward electronica, pop-punk and some quirky, minimal beats (“Homecoming”) unlike what he’d done before.

But if “Graduation” was Kanye’s coming out party — a feel-good album that was part sonic experimentation and part celebration of the good life — “808s & Heartbreak” is the fallout, the morning after when your house is trashed and your head is pounding.

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