A Tribe Called Quest – Thank You 4 Your Service

Let’s not focus on what might be wrong with hip hop today. Instead let’s talk about what’s right with it; and how A Tribe Called Quest and their newest (and final 🙁 ) album We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service exemplifies those things.

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)

First and foremost there’s the fact that this album saw A Tribe Called Quest’s four original members, each of whom spent the most part of hip hop’s history truly pioneering and mastering its fine art, reunited and creating magic in the studio again. Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White: a long-time brotherhood, a family, with their individual talents and combined strengths effortlessly spitting out stunning beats and rhymes with a rare and sublime chemistry that’s simply undeniable.

Then there’s that cast of musical contributors and guest MCs, all of whom along with A Tribe Called Quest’s core members, are themselves masters of hip hop and further exemplify what’s right with it today. They include Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Anderson .Paak, Talib Kweli and Kanye West as well as hip hop veterans and long-time Tribe collaborators Busta Rhymes and Consequence. On We Got It From Here… those featured artists contribute to the tracks in a humble way, their parts subtly integrated into the collective whole without unnecessarily becoming the main focus.

Those MCs spit intelligent, clever lyrical rhymes of substance – speaking out about the things that need to be talked about, and heard by the masses. You know, all those seemingly persistent, cyclical wrongs of this world of prejudice and discrimination in which we still, unfortunately live; and fundamentally, the importance of critical thinking, unity and action in the face of those wrongs. Throughout the album due homage is also paid to the life, artistry, friendship and ultimate death of Phife Dawg (during the album’s making). And despite the heavy weight of its lyrical subject matter, in true and beloved Tribe-Style, the messages are delivered with plenty of humour and fun in the mix.

We Got It From Here… also had a recording process not seen often these days whereby all but two of its contributors (Elton John and Kanye West) recorded their parts in Q-Tip’s home studio-  bouncing creative energies and ideas off each other, inspiring one another, to create all the many parts that eventually made up the final intricate whole after Q-Tip and Blair Wells had meticulously slaved over its production for months after recording finished.

This hip hop album feels and sounds alive – largely because of its perfect blend of live instrumentation with programmed beats. Amongst the contributing musicians adding their creative touches are Jack White on guitar, Elton John and Chris Bower on piano, Q-Tip on drums, bass and keys, Masayuki “BIGYUKI” Hirano on piano, keys and synth, Chris Sholar, Chris Parks and Blair Wells on guitar, Louis Cato on bass and guitar, Casey Benjamin on keys, organ, fender rhodes and piano, Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass, Mark Colenburg on drums, with scratches by George “DJ Scratch” Spivey.

And not surprisingly the group stayed away from the more obvious and most heavily-sampled songs – instead choosing lefter-field tracks from a diverse range of artists including Black Sabbath, Elton John, Can, Nairobi Sisters and Musical Youth.

Finally, We Got It From Here… exemplifies what’s right about hip hop music today because it undoubtedly moves the bodies of us folk in this world who love to dance.

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your ServiceSince the release of their 1990 debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, A Tribe Called Quest have made our lives much much richer with their music. We Got It From Here… is yet another blessed musical gift from these proven masters of hip hop today and for all eternity. We can and should be thankful to the Tribe family for all of those musical gifts.

Check out 2 of the albums 16 tracks here, remembering these versions are inferior, compressed mp3s. Of course Tribe released We Got It From Here… on cd and in its most superior format, sweet vinyl. Get the hard copy from your local independent record store and add it to your Beloved-Forever-After Music Collection.

“Solid Wall of Sound” – A Tribe Called Quest

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“Ego” – A Tribe Called Quest

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Despite Phife Dawg’s tragic passing during the making of We Got It From Here… there’s been talk of a world tour of the album. Here’s hoping that’s true and we get the blessed opportunity for the ultimate of A Tribe Called Quest experiences: to hear and see the remaining members spitting beats and rhymes live on stage.

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H Is For Hip Hop And Its Queens

H in the A to Z of fusion goes to Hip Hop music – leaving aside here the other core elements that make up hip hop culture.

Hip Hop earns its place because its creation definitely involves the refined art of fusion. From DJs mixing records they spin to studio producers/beat makers sampling, chopping, looping, sequencing, recording and mixing-  the beats, sounds and grooves that make up hip hop music are found and blended together from a broad range of worldwide music sources including funk, soul, rhythm and blues, disco, jazz, rock, heavy metal, reggae, salsa, cumbia, soca, pop and well, any other genre you choose really.

The evolution of hip hop music is long and involved. Its characters and contributors are many. Its history fills pages you can find elsewhere. Sufficed to say here its original roots are found in Africa and since its formation in New York in the 70’s the hip hop phenomena has spread far and wide throughout the world. Erykah Badu perfectly describes its contemporary influence in ‘The Healer’ when she sings “It’s bigger than religion, hip hop. It’s bigger than my nigga, hip hop. It’s bigger than the government”.  And thankfully so.

“The Healer” by Erykah Badu – New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)

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It’s the hip hop Kings of the world who’ve generally been the most heard and celebrated. Check out “essential hip hop” albums to find most are compilations of tracks by male artists. But of course there are female artists all over the world creating hip hop music whether they be DJ’s, MCs, beat makers or producers. Sampled below are songs featuring just a handful of those many hip hop Queens – some widely known and celebrated, others less so.

The usual warning applies: versions you find here are just dirty, compressed mp3s. Get the real deal on hard copy from your local music store, in their sweetest of forms on vinyl.

Erykah Badu (U.S.A)

Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground

“Love Of My Life Worldwide” featuring Queen Latifah, Angie Stone & Bahamadia – Worldwide Underground

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Fugees (inc. Ms Lauryn Hill) (U.S.A)

Fugees - Blunted On Reality

“Some Seek Stardom” – Blunted on Reality

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ChocQuibTown (Colombia)

ChocQuibTown - Somos Pacifico

“Somos Pacifico” – Somos Pacifico

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Georgia Anne Muldrow (U.S.A)

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

“Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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Ladi6 (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Ladi6 - Time Is Not Much

“Give Me The Light” – Time Is Not Much

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Nneka (Nigeria/Germany)

Nneka - No Longer At Ease

“Halfcast” – No Longer At Ease 

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Telmary (Cuba)

Telmary - A Diario

“Ando” – A Diario

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Yep, blessed are we for the birth of hip hop music and its ongoing fusionary evolution since by artists all over the world.  Thankful are we for both its Queens and its Kings.

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Ten Albums of 2016 That Made Life Sweeter

Blessed we are for the music albums of 2016 that made this life feel a whole lot sweeter. Thankful are we to the artists who created those albums. Some, like Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered, came quickly after his last and were released unexpectedly. Other albums like De La Soul’s and the Anonymous Nobody, and The Diary Of from dearly-departed legend J Dilla, were an insanely-long time in coming.

Below are sample tracks from ten albums of 2016 that likely brought happiness to lovers of jazz, hip hop, R&B and reggae music. All can be found in hard copy and added to your Forever-After Music Collection if you haven’t already done so- including in their most supreme format, on sweet sweet vinyl.

1. Anderson .Paak- Malibu

Anderson Paak - Malibu

“Heart Don’t Stand A Chance”

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2. BADBADNOTGOOD- IV

Badbadnotgood - IV (2016)

“And That, Too”

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Hear more tracks from IV and watch video footage of  BADBADNOTGOOD performing live here

3. De La Soul- and the Anonymous Nobody

De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody

“Drawn” featuring Little Dragon

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Find more tracks from and the Anonymous Nobody here.

4. J Dilla- The Diary Of

J Dilla - The Diary Of

“The Ex” featuring Bilal

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5. Kaytranada- 99.9%

Kaytranada - 99.9%

“Breakdance Lesson N.1”

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6. Kendrick Lamar- untitled unmastered

Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered

“untitled 08 09.06.2014”

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Check out live concert footage of Kendrick Lamar performing at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016 here.

7. Michael Kiwanuka- Love And Hate

Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate

“Cold Little Heart”

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Find more tracks from Love & Hate here.

8. Miles Davis and Robert Glasper- Everything’s Beautiful

Miles Davis and Robert Glasper - Everything's Beautiful

“Right On Brotha”  featuring Stevie Wonder

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Find more tracks from Everything’s Beautiful here.

9. NxWorries- Yes Lawd!

NX Worries - Yes Lawd!

“Khadijah”

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10. Stephen “Ragga” MarleyRevelation Pt. II: The Fruit Of Life

Stephen Marley - Revelation Pt. 2 - The Fruit of Life

“Scars On My Feet” featuring Waka Flocka

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Find more tracks from Revelation Pt. II: The Fruit Of Life here.

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Blessed will we continue to be in 2017 for the existence of those ten albums in our music collections – as well as all new musical delights coming our way this year. Thanks to all artists worldwide who create, record and play music for us live. Life could be unbearable without them, and hopefully we never have to find out.

Kendrick Lamar live concert 2016

Kendrick Lamar live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016

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Badbadnotgood Live – Immeasurably Above and Beyond

The members of Canadian quartet Badbadnotgood are young- and give me hope for the future of music. Each has stunning instrumental chops. Five studio albums on and they keep creating fresh, innovative music seamlessly and sublimely blending jazz with hip hop and subtle elements of funk, rock, Latin and more. And I’ve just discovered from one of their sold-out Australian shows that the live Badbadnotgood experience is immeasurably above and beyond the studio version.

Badbadnotgood - IV (2016)

Their Brisbane gig at Max Watts was 100% instrumental except for occasional spoken words by Alexander Sowinski from behind the drums, affirming how blessed everyone was to be there celebrating music and life. Sufficed to say every musical moment was mesmerising; and all together it was that kind of crazy-amazing live experience you walk away from feeling inspired and happy to be alive.

Get a teeny-weeny video glimpse here of the diversity of sounds created on stage at Max Watts and check out two sample tracks below from the latest album IV.

Badbadnotgood - IV (2016)

IV (2016)

Badbadnotgood – “Speaking Gently”

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Badbadnotgood –  “Confessions Pt II “

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Of course you can buy IV and the band’s previous albums in their best-sound-quality formats at your local independent music store. And most sublimely you can find your own live Badbadnotgood experience soon at a venue near you.

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Son Little Live And Intimate In Small City Brisbane

U.S. artist Son Little (aka Aaron Livingston) was the newest addition to my Live Music Bucket List after instantly falling in love with his self-titled debut album released last year.  Finding that long-awaited live experience amongst a handful of people at a tiny venue in small-city Brisbane, was a surprising and a blessedly intimate opportunity.

Son Little live in concert 2016

Son Little live in Brisbane

He performed solo on the Black Bear Lodge stage with a microphone, three guitars, effects-pedals and a laptop in tow. The set included most tracks from the debut album as well as a few new ones- each a fresh, subtly-different journey to the recorded version; all sung and played with raw, honest emotion undoubtedly seen and felt by everyone there.

I ain’t gonna sugar-coat it though. This show could’ve been magnificent, but wasn’t. It should’ve been because Aaron Livingston is a super-talented, one-of-a-kind artist in the contemporary music world. He writes, plays, sings and produces bluesy, soulful, jazzy (non-boxable), instrumentally-sparse songs infused with the essence of glorious musical days gone and stamped with a modern sound that is distinctly different to and recognisable from everyone else. His voice and the ways he uses it especially make it so.

But unfortunately the first of his Australian shows just didn’t flow as it should or reach its full potential. It’s hard to say why, exactly – but more than once Son Little told the crowd he was tired, a broken string put one guitar out of action during the gig and most annoyingly, the competing noise of non-gigging people talking in the venue’s adjoining bar was hard to ignore.

Despite that lack of flow and overall feeling of the gig’s looseness, it was a special pleasure to experience Son Little performing in such an intimate environment: to hear his unique vocal tone traversing both the gravel and the sweet and be impressed by the diverse ways he uses that vocal instrument; to hear him tell stories between sets and exchange banter with members of the crowd at large and individually; to hear his guitar chops and the improvised sounds created on the guitar pedals- including distortion levels hard to find outside of a Parliament-Funkadelic show.

And despite having now experienced Son Little perform live, he’ll stay on my Live Music Bucket List for now ’cause I need another. I know that in a different time and place the experience will be that kind of crazy-amazing we’re all looking for at live shows of beloved artists.

For a taste of the live experience had by folks in Brisbane last weekend, check out this video footage of Son Little performing “O Mother” at Black Bear Lodge.

For a compressed-mp3-taste of Son Little’s studio creations, listen here to sample tracks from the debut album.

Son Little - Son Little (2015)

Son Little (2015)

Son Little – “You’re Love Will Blow Me Away”

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Son Little – “Carbon”

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Son Little – “Go Blue Blood Red”

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And finally, click here to add the full Son Little album, of decent sound quality, to your Beloved-Forever-After Music Collection – importantly, whilst thanking and supporting the music-maker in the process.

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Kingfisha – Offering Reggae Up Differently

After years in the making Brisbane band Kingfisha has finally released the second album Offered It Up. On it they deliver the sounds of reggae and dub differently to any Australian act associated with those genres, both past and present.

Kingfisha - Offered It Up

Offered It Up (2016)

That means none of its songs are formulaic or repetitive. And that Kingfisha aren’t trying to copy the sound of reggae from its original Jamaican source. Nor do their lyrics describe experiences of oppression far removed from their actual experiences within the privileged part of the world they live.

Instead each one of the ten songs on Offered It Up sounds different to the next. And within each one comes smooth-flowing changes galore; a diversity of sounds to keep your close attention and move you. Amongst them are some killer bass lines that hit you deep like you want the bass to do; and a whole lot of weird, wonderful, subtle and powerful synthesiser sounds seamlessly blended throughout to make this music so much more varied and special.

Another factor distinguishing Kingfisha and making their overall sound as refreshing as they come are the wide-ranging, sublime-sounding vocal melodies of singer/songwriter Anthony Forrest which seem more akin to a soul singer than your typical reggae vocalist.

Check out two sample tracks from Offered It Up, remembering they’re just compressed mp3 versions of the full sound recorded, and get your hard copy of the entire album here.

Kingfisha - Offered It Up

“Left It” by Kingfisha
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“Water Running” by Kingfisha

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Kingfisha tours regularly both at home in Australia and overseas. Keep an eye out for the live experience near you.

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The Second by Derrick Hodge – A Gift For The People

It’s a pleasure to hear the fruits of Derrick Hodge‘s musical labours, independent of his long-time recording and performance work with artists like Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard, Maxwell, Q-Tip, Jill Scott and Common.

Derrick Hodge with Maxwell live concert

Derrick Hodge with Maxwell live at Soulfest

On his new solo album The Second, released on Blue Note, credit for almost all its sounds goes to Derrick Hodge himself. He produced and wrote its twelve tracks except for “Underground Rhapsody” which was co-written with drummer Mark Colenburg. He also plays all instruments, with contributions from other musicians on only four songs: Colenburg on drums in three; and horns by Keyon Harrold (trumpet), Marcus Strickland (tenor sax) and Corey King (trombone) on “For Generations” – musical sublime taking you way back to a dark, intimate, smokey venue of yesteryear.

Derrick Hodge - The Second

The Second is a super-chilled cinematic sonic journey designed to uplift. Derrick Hodge created this music “for the people”. That’s me. And that’s you. So take and appreciate your gift of music given with the best of intentions by this very talented artist.

Check out two sample tracks from The Second here. Remember they’re just dirty, compressed mp3-versions of all the sounds recorded by the makers – which can be heard in their fullest glory when you buy and hear the album in hard copy.

“Underground Rhapsody” by Derrick Hodge – The Second

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“For Generations” by Derrick Hodge – The Second 

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Derrick Hodge - The Second

 

If Derrick Hodge and his collaborators are up your musical alley, you can check out interviews, live concert reviews and sample album tracks by some of those artists here: Keyon HarroldMarcus Strickland; Robert Glasper; Jill ScottMaxwellMos DefCommon.

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and the Anonymous Nobody by De La Soul, finally

Put your hands up if you’ve been been waiting over a decade for De La Soul to deliver the new album fans excitedly starting funding last year. Keep them up if your expectations of how and the Anonymous Nobody would sound, have been building up during those years.

Well put ’em down. Cause expectations of music and in life generally, will only set you up for disappointment. And naturally the De La Soul music you know and loved so long ago is very different to the music delivered by the  trio in 2016 on and the Anonymous Nobody.

De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody

Heavy sampling has been replaced by the warm sounds of live instrumentalists with chops of gold. Skits are few and far between. And only a handful of the album’s 18 songs feature Posdnous, Maseo and Dave spitting rhymes front and centre.

This creation has a huge and diverse cast of contributors writing, producing, mixing, engineering, singing, rapping and playing on it. The results on many tracks are successful; on others, not. Hearing the album in its entirety feels like every so often someone’s gone and changed the radio station on you. Sometimes your happy to stay there; but occasionally you wanna scream at that person to change it back.

Those wanting De La Soul music reminiscent of yesteryear will find some satisfaction – most likely in songs like “Property of Spitkicker.com” (featuring Roc Marciano), “Pain” (featuring Snoop Dogg), “CBGB’s”, “Sexy Bitch” and “Trainwreck”. They’ll also likely appreciate that long-time De La collaborator Bob Power mixes some tracks.

Folks with broader tastes in music will probably find greater happiness amongst the smorgasbord of sounds. It might come from the guitar-heavy song “Lord Intended” – proclaimed vocally by Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) as “the hardest rock shit you gonna hear”, a grand statement that just ain’t quite right. Or maybe it’ll be found in the dreamy song “Drawn” – a killer collaboration between De La Soul and Sweden’s Little Dragon. Fans of Jill Scott talkin’ Love will certainly find themselves some extra goodness. Unfortunately even those with the broadest of musical taste might feel the same pain as me when the and the Anonymous Nobody radio-shuffle lands on a commercial station for five very long minutes with Usher singing “Greyhounds”.

But importantly, peeps like me who revere and cherish the sounds of funk will still thank De La Soul for helping to keep them alive in 2016. They’ll understand and especially appreciate this here song “Nosed Up”.

“Nosed Up” – and the Anonymous Nobody

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“Royalty Capes” –  and the Anonymous Nobody

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No matter what your experience when hearing and the Anonymous Nobody; whether you want to skip one, none or lots of its tracks, I’m sure of two things. That we should be forever thankful for De La Soul and all the music they’ve ever created for our listening and dancing pleasure. And with a killer band of instrumentalists now in tow, the most sublime of De La Soul experiences in 2016 will be found at a live show.

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Stephen Marley – Revelation Part 2- The Fruit of Life

Stephen Marley has given music lovers a hell of a lot to absorb on his new album Revelation Pt. II: The Fruit of Life.

Stephen Marley - Revelation Pt. 2 - The Fruit of Life

The album has an epic 19 tracks, more if you access them digitally. It features around two dozen North American and Jamaican vocalists and MCs. And it showcases the roots of reggae and the many musical fruits of that tree: including dancehall, ska, ragga, dub, dubstep, electronic dance music and most dominantly in this here mix, the almighty hip hop.

Its featured artists include Damian MarleyKy-mani Marley; Jo Mersa Marley; Wyclef JeanBlack Thought; Busta Rhymes; SizzlaJunior Reid; Dead Prez;  Rakim; Kardinal Offishall; Rick RossWaka FlockaKonshens; Shaggy; Twista; Jasmin Karma; Bounty Killer; Cobra; DJ Khaled; Capleton and, last and definitely least, Pitbull and Iggy Izalea.

They rap, rhyme, toast and sing about a huge range of topics from doing doughnuts in a carpark with a ferrari- to much more pressing lyrical matters like the many social injustices of the world; and how in their context, the celebration of life and music become all the more vital.

The consistent sonic pleasure throughout The Fruit of Life is the one-of-a-kind, honey-sweet voice of Stephen Marley singing positive messages about giving and showing love. As he so perfectly and succinctly puts it on “The Lion Roars” – “it’s the only law that we must obey”.

Stephen Marley - Revelation Pt. 2 - The Fruit of Life

Yep. Revelation Pt. II: The Fruit of Life has a lot to absorb – over many, many listens. From the sexy and sensual vibe of some tracks to the party ones, this album is filled with an incredibly-diverse range of instrumental and vocal pleasures to find, love and make your feel-good soundtrack for dancing, romancing, cooking, cleaning, driving, chilling, partying or anything else you do in this life.

Check out a few sample tracks (compressed mp3-versions) from Revelation Pt. II: The Fruit of Life. If you like what you hear you know the best way to properly know and enjoy all the sounds recorded by Stephen Marley and his collaborators, and thank them, is to buy the full album on vinyl or at least cd 🙂 .

Stephen Marley - Revelation Pt. 2 - The Fruit of Life

Stephen Marley featuring Capleton & Sizzla – “Rockstone”

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Stephen Marley featuring Wyclef Jean – “Father Of The Man”

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Stephen Marley featuring Busta Rhymes & Konshens – “Pleasure Or Pain”

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Aaradhna – Brown Girl

The new album from New Zealand’s young soul diva Aaradhna, Brown Girl, is another wonderful opportunity to acquaint yourself with the uniquely-flavoured sounds of the South Pacific.

Aaradhna - Brown Girl

Aaradhna – Brown Girl (2016)

Musically this album gives you a diverse fusion of flavours from smooth, smokin’ R&B to a hint of island skank and some cruisy country vibes. It’s simply the sound of Aaradhna; an expression of all her many influences from a Samoan/Indian ancestry – to an upbringing on the islands of Aotearoa New Zealand with its incredible natural and cultural landscape like no other in the world, and its many contemporary music artists fusing the sounds of soul/jazz/hip hop/reggae – whilst Aaradhna herself was listening to and taking note of the sublime music masters and mistresses of old.

Love and heartache are prominent lyrical themes on Brown Girl. Fundamentally so too are the experiences of prejudice, inequality and discrimination humans inflict upon each other for a range of crazy reasons, including the colour of one’s skin. Hopefully one day we’ll evolve to a place where artists like Aaradhna have no need to write lyrics like this. We should already be there. But for some reason completely incomprehensible to me we’re still so far away – with song lyrics like “Brown Girl” highly relevant the world over. Here you can read Aaradhna’s own words about the album and the meaning of its title track.

Aaradhna - Brown Girl letter

Aaradhna - Welcome To The Jungle

Leaving aside the album’s lyrical content, musical flavours and high class production by Brooklyn’s Truth & Soul RecordsBrown Girl is worth its weight in gold alone for the experience of feeling Aaradhna’s stunning voice hit you where you want it to over and over again. Each and every word she sings on this album is oozing with raw and honest emotion. Unfailingly I believe her, and empathise.

Check out two sample tracks from Brown Girl here. If you like what you hear you should of course gift yourself an uncompressed hard-copy of the album. That way you can also get to know and appreciate the names of the many talented musicians who helped Aaradhna in the studio to create this music.

Aaradhna - Brown Girl

Brown Girl (2016)

Aaradhna – “brown girl”

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Aaradhna – “devil’s living in my shadow”

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I can’t say from experience, yet, but I’m guessing Aaradhna is a vocalist most sublimely experienced live. Keep an eye out for an upcoming show near you.

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