Friday, April 26, 2013
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Friday, February 22, 2013
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Thursday, February 7, 2013
When I'm able to express myself in a loving environment... I'm truly at my best.
It's easy for me to accept negativity in any shape or form, for without it, I wouldn't have the free will to remain as positive as I do on a consistent basis.
Many of the intellects who support our grassroots movement, known as Checkface Society, hardly know us personally.
However, you've been granted the permission to enter the realms of our imagination & spiritual growth.
Take this invitation as a mirror reflection of your own spiritual enlightenment.
I look forward to sharing more energy with you all.
Until then... Checkface.
Monday, December 31, 2012
Download: Zodiac Signs & Porn Stars - Checkface
Production Credits & Tracklisting:
(for promotional use only)
- "Fix That Soul" (lecture from Mr. Soul Fixx) [music by R. Kelly]
- I Want That [music by Checkface]
- "Guard Ya Body Biad" (scene) [taken from "Higher Learning"]
- Your Love Ran Into Me (feat. Rich Famous) [music by Checkface]
- Harlem Blues (the serenade) [music by Kem]
- Rich & Shameless (homage to Freaky Tah & J.Dilla) [music by J.Dilla]
- Trife Life (homage to Mobb Deep) [music by Mobb Deep]
- "Boomerang Love" (scene) [taken from "Boomerang"]
- Blow The Candles Out [music by. Llama & Checkface]
- She Like That [music by. Checkface]
- "A Real Man, Not A Boy!" (scene) [taken from "Baby Boy"]
- I'm A Man [music by. Checkface]
- How Bout You Bow Down (DJ Loo Vega mix) [music by. Checkface]
- Godson [music by. Checkface] (lecture from Malcolm X)
- Garden of Eden [music by. Checkface] (lecture from Dr. Umar Johnson)
- 9-1-1 (If Raps A Crime Call The Cops) [music by. Checkface]
Sunday, December 30, 2012
(date: Jan 23, 2013)
Once upon a time on the world wide web (where most fairy tales begin nowadays), a Harlemite by the name of A$AP Rocky gained mainstream appeal with "Purple Swag" and "Peso" shortly after dropping his mixtape Live.Love.A$AP. After co-signs from veterans like Mos Def, and reportedly inking a deal worth $3 million, A$AP released his debut album Long.Live.A$AP last week. The album debuted at #1 on Billboard's Top 200 despite leaking a month early. Later this year, he will join Rihanna on her Diamonds tour in North America.
Though he's just a newcomer to the popular listener, we can still learn a few things from A$AP Rocky's career.
5. Know your platform.
A$AP's contract was strongly influenced by the presence he made for himself on Tumblr and YouTube.
4. The stereotype for "New York's sound" is changing...
Last year I wrote that A$AP uses the Spanish concept of "the fantastic" in his songs, causing his listeners to bask in their confusion about where the imagination ends and where reality begins. A$AP's infectious style is influenced by a variety of artists in creating this sound. Although he is not the first eccentric rapper, he does remind us that the stereotypical maximalist sound does not fully encompass the diversity of talent in New York City.
3. ...but a progressive sound doesn't always equal a progressive attitude.
Unlike most rappers, A$AP has voiced his support for homosexuals. He recently told The Village Voice (Jan 23-29), "Fuck religion. Fuck color. Fuck all that shit." At the same time, A$AP is notorious for his macho attitude toward women, which includes his commentary about Lana Del Rey (he wants to "fuck the shit" out of her) and his on-stage ass-grab with Rihanna.
2. Nonetheless, there is always room for growth.
A$AP gained popularity just last year and has already dropped an album. Long.Live.A$AP is burdened with missed opportunities for showing talented lyrics to match its captivating production. But... its just his first album, and a solid starting point for growth.
1. You can change the narrative arc of your life even during your darkest hour.
A$AP was a weed and crack dealer. He also witnessed his beloved older brother die due to gun violence. His 2011 album deal finally made A$AP look at himself through his supporters' eyes - he realized he was worth more (including some pesos!). Rap saved his life.
Friday, December 28, 2012
(January 21, 2013)
Perhaps as an antidote to a week filled with cultural criticisms of Chief Keef's violent references, this past weekend Sheldon Candis's film LUV trickled on to select "big screens" in the U.S., thanks to help from AMC Independent. LUV follows Vincent (Common) and his nephew, Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.), during a 24-hour tour of the Baltimore streets that becomes Woody's coming-of-age. Common's portrayal of Vincent is stellar as a humanized ex-con who struggles to create a clean business from dirty money. Meanwhile, Woody's desire to visit his absent mother (a recovering addict) is heat breaking.
Together, the duo feeds off their fantasies for a better life like parasites: it's interdependence testifies to how the most meaningful relationships in our lives are often the most destructive ones. In addition, LUV portrays the reality of a shortened, sad, or non-existent childhood for impoverished Black children. Director Candis, however, refuses to suggest that these childhoods are without love.
But LUV struggles because it relies on unconvincing clichés and far-fetched fantasies in to punctuate its urban drama. Several critics seem unconvinced that Woody would learn to drink, to drive and to shoot a gun in the same day. I would rather point out that although the script ultimately fails due to its inability to create a fully-developed realist film (or a realistic fantasy), the script also reveals rap music's potential for fostering "luv." Common's later anthems like "The Light" inspire young Rainey Jr. and other fans because his lyrics show such compassion for his Black experience. LUV's script would have benefited from insight from Common's repertoire as he confidently rhymes about the good, the bad, and love's ability to conquer (he takes the same stance in his recent memoir, One Day It'll All Make Sense).
While we're often wary about rappers-turned-actors, LUV is the rare instance in which Common's musicality would have invigorated not just his dramatic performance, but the entire screenplay.
Rainey Jr. describes his love for Common's music here:
But lately, the difficulty with calling music "conscious" is its negative implication: New listeners might assume that Kid Fame and Par are narrowly definable, boring, pretentious, and out-of-touch with their fans' experiences. Zodiac Signs and Porn Stars actually testifies to CheckFace's discipline and self-discovery.
The multi-layered mixtape is the 11th effort from the rap collective. It is a series of four theatrical acts: "The Chase," "The Plug," "The Fall Out" and "The Conscious." These acts develop the theme conveyed in the mixtape's title -- CheckFace's recent spiritual growth, and its continued delights in music, women, and the pursuit of knowledge.
Such diversity allows a broad audience--from the bustling Lower Manhattan to the bitter cold Russia--the opportunity to enjoy CheckFace's sound as the dawn of an exciting new era of consciousness awaits us in 2013. The mixtape also challenges us to re-consider exactly what it means to be conscious. Contrary to popular belief, there can actually be multiple meanings, and Checkface believes that we have to look "backwards" (for example, "Godson" invokes a Malcolm X speech) in order to progress forward, both musically and spiritually.
Every moment on Zodiac Signs & Porn Stars is a highlight, and the production is CheckFace's best yet. We first hear this summer's hit single by Kid Fame, "I Want That," an anthem about bravado and desire that is set to a menacing bass line ("thank God I'm gifted in all the right places"). This proclamation is translated later into the carefree "She Want That" and its melody from hip-hop's Baywatch. "Your Love Ran Into Me" will also win the affection of fans for its irresistible hook and guest feature from Rich Famous.
More serious moments include "9-1-1 (If Raps A Crime Call the Cops)" and "Garden of Eden" ("you could purposely perpetrate the wrong vibration through your soul / seems the only thing missing is your vision of the globe ... switch that thought, free your mind").
By the mixtape's end, we have experienced our own journey. We realize that CheckFace uses its serenades and homages not just for entertainment, but also as a broader metaphor for the role it hopes to play in awakening our minds, while also anticipating a "fall out" from reluctant listeners.
Are you ready to free yourself? Download Zodiac Signs & Porn Stars on 12/31/12 here at everythingcheckface.com.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
In a commercial music industry that seems saturated with superficialities and dance floor anthems, can a female superstar still command our attention without hypersexual lyrics? Alicia Keys, with her foot on the piano pedal, answers with a resounding "yes, she can" on Girl on Fire, her most beautiful album in recent years.
We've listened to Alicia grow since she debuted with Songs in A Minor (2001), crowned with long cornrows and singing about a woman's worth. She has consistently referenced the Western classicists like Beethoven and Debussy, sometimes with a hip-hop influence. She channels her inspiration from both genres into neo-soul ballads like "Fallin'," motivational anthems like "Superwoman," or break-up revelations like "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart." As a result, Alicia's catalog is both sophisticated and relatable.
Girl on Fire marks a milestone for Alicia: In 2009, she married producer Swizz Beatz and birthed her first son, Egypt, a namesake for the country that once offered solace to an overworked Alicia. "I've been able to take control of my business and my life and what it is that I want to do creatively as a businesswoman," she recently told NPR Music. "And it's just a great feeling to kind of just arrive in my own space."
To situate listeners to her "own space," the album opens with "De Novo Adagio," whose piano chords seduce us into the second track, "Brand New Kind of Me." Its assertiveness is complimented by the gentle loop of high notes. "It took a long, long time to get here, took a brave, brave girl to try," Alicia explains with a barely audible but triumphant laugh, "Don't be surprised if I talk a little louder, if I speak up when you're wrong." The song is likely to become the anthem for embracing the new year.
Girl on Fire, though, is not entirely "brand new." The album's feat is less about her experimentation than about her confidence. Alicia is a woman who has mastered her craft. The album relishes in her signature style as she collaborates with new partners like Frank Ocean ("One Thing"), Jamie xx ("When Its All Over") and Dr. Dre ("New Day"). Alicia's vocals are noticeably raspier, but her tonality is natural, as if she responds to the shape her music wants to take: Alicia is narrating the soundtrack that reverberates through her soul as a result of her new happiness.
Other memorable tracks include the duet with Maxwell's charming falsetto and a guitar solo on "Fire We Make," a vivid proclamation of love's triumph over material wealth on "Not Even the King," and Alicia's subtle but impressive vocal showcase on "That's When I Knew."
There are a few moments, however, when Alicia's flame does not burn as brightly. Though perhaps a nit-picky criticism will take issue with Alicia's use of "girl" instead of "woman," Alicia also seems least inspired on the album's title track (and lead single). She challenges herself, pushing her voice into a higher key than that of her comfort zone. But the "fire" metaphor quickly burns out, with no help from the irrelevant guest feature by rapper Nicki Minaj. In addition, the album's slower tracks--which are actually its most successful--may feel like lullabies when compared to "Girl on Fire," as well as the Swizz Beatz and Dr. Dre-produced proclamations on "New Day."
Last month, Alicia broadcast her album online for family, fans, and friends. In the video, she can barely contain her excitement, and nods her head as she falls into the mystery of her own music, smiling as if she imagines overcoming her previous struggles. The journey, however, has made her the songstress who has risen from the ashes like a phoenix, poised at her piano not perfectly, but certainly more potently than before.
(Alicia's album debuted at #1 on Billboard shortly after I completed this article.)
Tears Always Win.