Gnarls Barkley broke out hard with the debut single “Crazy,” and earned critical acclaim with St Elsewhere. It was like they literally started a craze. The song was in high rotation on practically every radio station, became a standard for Las Vegas lounge performers, and sparked other strange and creative remakes:
All things considered though, “Crazy” is arguably the duo’s biggest hit, the buzz surrounding which, may well have been the peak of the musical careers of both Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green, in terms of celebrity.
Granted Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton (of The Grey Album fame) and Cee-Lo Green (of Atlanta hip hop group Goodie Mob fame) are successful artists respectively. However, prior to working together, they had been largely underground successes, who had toiled in virtual obscurity for years, and developed cult followings. With their powers combined, they blew the minds of music fans with their genre bending, soulfully dramatic, innovative style.
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Kissey Asplund recently crept onto my radar by way of the viral underground. Like many new artists coming out in the last couple of years, Asplund was able to use MySpace to network and find people to work with. It was through MySpace even, that she began connecting with various producers and beat makers, eventually establishing a formative bond with French producer Papa Jazz. The result of this union was her May 28th debut release, Plethora.
Described by Andy Kellman from AllMusic as a “Swedish space cadet…fading in and out of consciousness or singing in her sleep,” Asplund’s sound is futuristic and abstract, fusing jazz, hip hop and soul in ways both sensual and esoteric. As her voice flutters in a strange staccato over pulsating synth rhythms, Asplund fluidly straddles talking and singing; blurring the line between spoken word and vocal jazz.
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I was a little early to the Troubadour to see Tim Fite perform so I thought I’d try to see if I could get an interview. One of the bouncers told me Tim was around somewhere so after looking around the showroom lazily, alone and bored with staring at the empty stage, I wondered into the bar-room to sit for a few minutes before the show started. Wouldn’t ya know it, my wandering around led me to a seat right next to Fite.
He had a calm, friendly demeanor and surprised me by remembering my name from the MySpace message I’d sent him. It was 20 minutes to showtime so I had to make the interview relatively quick.
When I started off thinking he’d grown up in Brooklyn Fite quickly corrected me. “I grew up in the sticks,” he said telling about the weekend trips to into the City; mom went to the art gallery, Fite & dad went to the record store. It was in these very record stores that Fite heard Cool DJ Red Alert’s song “Don’t Believe the Hype” and began his lifelong love affair with hip-hop.
While his first two albums are largely a blue grass, folk, country fusion, the third album was the one that won me over with its quirky satirical hip-hop style. “Hip-hop is the foundation of the music,” Fite explains. “It’s all sample and loop based; it’s how I think about what I’m making.”
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Women of distinction are woefully lacking within the scope of popular reggae music. There have been a few notable exceptions including Lady Saw, also known as the "the first lady of dancehall," and Patra, a moderately popular artist from the '90s. But, of the list of 100 Greatest Reggae Artists from an open sourced music information site, only one woman made rank, the self-titled "Empress of Reggae" Marcia Griffiths.
The 2008 Ragga Muffins Festival featured two women in Sunday's line-up, a young actress turned vocalist Cherine Anderson and an uplifting and socially charged artist by the name of Queen Ifrica. Part I of our Festival coverage introduced you to reggae legends Sly & Robbie (#8 on the list of 100 Greatest) who graciously offered to accompany Queen Ifrica during her set.
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