Yolanda "La La" Brown & iCandi

The forgotten Midwest R'n'B duo that met a tragic end.

Ne-Yo

Unreleased from 2001, Ne-Yo as "Shaffer".

Keyshia Cole

The way it wasn't.

MQ3

Another shelved R'n'B group from 1997

From Tha'Rayne To The First Seed

Unreleased Yummy Bingham from 2006.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Marcia: Demo (''O'' Productions, 200x)

 
Another unknown from the New York area and somewhat of a chance find in a lot of underground hip hop CDs. No information about the artist but aside from a few features on some underground rap tracks, the music is contemporary R&B with a smooth, mostly timeless sound and a slight but sweet vocal. Top tracks include the smooth R&B-flavored "Be Real" and the fantastic rendition of Antia Baker's "Angel". 
 
You're The Only One 3:30 
Feeling You 4:27 
Ride With You 3:21 
Mad At The World 3:57 
Who Am I 3:14 
Swing It 4:15 
Be Real 4:39 
The Time Is Now 4:11 
Angel 5:11 
Giving You All 1:53 
Hold On Me 4:50 
When It's All Over 4:17 
I Ain't The One 3:57 
 

Erin: Demo (McDonald Marie Productions, 2003)

Another unknown from Long Beach, California and three tracks early Beyonce-esque slow jams and a cover of “Jesus Born on This Day” that makes Mariah Carey’s own version from 1994 seem tame in comparison. The artist may have been signed to Ryan Leslie’s NextSelection label at one point and appeared on Ryan Leslie’s NextSelection Lifestyle Group Mixtape from 2004.
 
Far Away 4:33 
I Love U 4:15 
Jesus, Born On This Day 3:54 
 

Tracy Lane: Demo (200x)

Further music from Long Beach with Tracy Lane (incorrectly listed as Tracy Kane), a male singer/songwriter that has remained pretty underground despite having a very contemporary R&B/soul sound. From the the blues-flavored "Life Of Mine" to the R. Kelly-esque “Hold It Down”, he was definitely an artist that didn’t belong in the background. There was no track list on the disc but the titles were retrieved from the Grace Note database so whether this set was released at some point independently, I cannot say. He performed a lot with fellow Long Beach artist RIDIKULE and even appeared on a few of his tracks, but aside from one single “Cold World” which was released in 2018, there’s nothing else that seems to be widely available from him. 
 
Mate    4:59
Rules    3:55
Girl    2:29
Streets Of Mine    4:01
Retarded Bounce    4:03
Girl (U Know That I Want It)    3:56
Perfect Lady    3:52
My Pops    4:12
Spell    5:10
Life Of Mine    4:33
Imperfections    3:43
Hustla    3:29
Hold It Down    3:55

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Elsie Muniz: The "Urban Latina"

Towards the end of the 90s and going into the new millennium, it seemed that most pop artists had at least one Latin-sounding song on their album (Toni’s “Spanish Guitar”, Mariah’s “After Tonight” et al). Though the sound wasn’t exactly new in the U.S., where I was in Britain this was pretty much a new thing for us. Sadly though, it was always a little too geared towards pop music and artists such as Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez. Despite the market for Chicano Rap and Hip Hop music, there was never really much of a demand for R&B and what was even worse, some artists such as Elsie Muniz, felt that they needed to explain why they weren’t like everybody else. The intro on Muniz’ album speaks volumes at how narrow-minded some of these labels were: “Growing up I had a lot of exposure to different cultures…I think the diversity of my upbringing helped to mold me as an individual. It’s me being Latin and growing up in a black neighborhood (that) was a blessing because it helped blend two worlds together…I just hope that the public can hear all these things through my music…” Of Puerto-Rican decent, Muniz grew up in a traditional Latin family but wanted her music to reflect “everything she grew up with.” Unfortunately, it seemed that her label wasn’t entirely comfortable with this. Muniz was one of three female R&B artists signed to A. Haqq Islam’s University Records label, whose biggest success story back then was Dru Hill, but not feeling the need to explain why as Latina she was singing R&B instead of striving to be the next Selena, she moved on pretty quickly and her album “Urban Latina” was never released. We were fortunate enough to find a cassette sampler last year containing some of these lost tracks but until now the full project had never surfaced. It had been cataloged on Discogs for about a year wherein it was said that it had a limited digital release in 2008 but I have thus far found no proof that it ever was. Formally hearing Brandy’s version of “Fooled by The Moon” when it leaked back in 2009, I have always been curious about Muniz’ version and about Mya and Terry Dexter’s involvement on it. Originally written by Diane Warren, I am unsure about who recorded it first but Brandy’s version was said to be cast off from the recording of her sophomore album “Never Say Never” in 1998. Brandy’s version was a typical 90s Babyface production but Elsie’s version stays true to her Latin roots with both Mya and Terry Dexter each taking turns in singing. Timbaland’s “As We Danced,” with Muniz’ sultry vocals and infectious hook, was also a possible follow-up single that never was. The album is predominantly very upbeat with hard-edged beats and Latin guitar riffs throughout but the one exception to the rule is the blues-soaked “Oklahoma City” with the great Terry Dexter. Altogether a very colorfully promising debut album from Muniz, who along with Sierra, was a superior product to J-Lo. Why the label was so hung up on making it an issue of race, I’ll never know.

Interlude    0:17
You Drive Me Crazy    5:07
As We Danced    4:29
La Gata Negra (The Black Cat)    4:14
Take Control (Feat 1 Life 2 Live)    4:57
Does She Know    3:36
Your Eyes    4:12
Lost With You    4:41
Fooled By The Moon (Feat Mya & Terri Dexter)    4:21
What If    5:54
Giving Up On Love     3:48
Oklahoma City (Feat Terri Dexter)    4:29
Tus Ojas (Your Eyes Spanish Version)    4:13

Muniz with Nino Brown   

Saturday, October 9, 2021

MQ3: another causalty of Chris Stokes

Over the years I have had the pleasure of sampling many unreleased projects and across many of them two names always seem to come up: Sylvia Rhone and Chris Stokes. While Rhone had spoiled many quality R&B projects when she was the head of East West Records and later Universal Motown, Stokes has also left behind a trail of casualties in his wake not limited to the short-lived quartet Gyrl and early projects by two of the Chilombo girls. The above was another such group and whose only single “Everyday” was written by Stokes and produced by Rodney “Darkchid” Jerkins in 1997. Signed to Virgin’s short-lived Noo Trybe imprint, they were also co-signed to Get Hooked Records which I believe was affiliated with Stokes in the mid to late 90s. There is little information about them aside from a few very brief mentions in some 1997 issues of Billboard magazine but according to one member Shadie who commented on their You Tube video, they completed not one but two albums. Continuing on she says “Unfortunately, things did not pan out with the management and production team we signed to so it got lost in the shuffle.” A very common story that we have unfortunately heard many times before. Admittedly, I was not the biggest fan of “Everyday”; to me, it did not have the same bodacious vibe as Mary’s “I Can Love You” or Brandy & Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” and I can’t help but think that it was just pushed as a first single primarily to cash in on the rising popularity of Jerkins at the time. I think this group could’ve done better. Well, it is a long story us finally getting this tape but I can say that indeed “Everyday” was just the tip of the iceberg. From the funk-driven “Love Jones” to the love-making of ”Don’t Make Me Stop” and “Love Letter” to the smooth R&B sounds of “Serving Me” and “Share My World”, every track on it is like a chronology of the best sounds from the latter part of the 90s. They were basically what I imagine Gyrl would’ve sounded like had they ever released an album back then. Aside from Jerkins on “Everyday”, I am inclined to believe that Stokes produced quite a few tracks on here, namely “Share My Love” which features one of his short-lived MCs from back then Spark. It is often assumed that they were Jerkins’ group (a producer who despite his immense popularity in the late 90s/early 2000s also had his fair share of casualties) but now I am leaning more towards Stokes as being the main driving force behind them which is probably one of the main reasons why they sadly didn’t go anywhere. As for their other album, I can only dream of how great that one was as well.
 
Everyday    3:26
Serving Me    3:44
Icing On The Cake    3:30
Cry    3:51
1,000 Times    4:01
Love Jones    4:18
Don't Make Me Stop    4:17
Baby Bay You    4:10
Share My Love    3:54
Love Letter    4:38
Say Goodbye    3:58
Mama Said    3:19
Back To You    4:17
Everyday    3:38

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Mary J. Blige: More unreleased from the "Share My World" era

Over the years I have sampled many unreleased cuts from Mary’s albums and this is by far one of my favorites. Featuring production from Erick Sermon, it was yet another track cut from the “Share My World” album that up until now had only been available on a mix tape. It is probably one of Mary’s hardest tracks to find without shouting all over it but it seems the original source recording originated from the above promo-only tape which predated the album's eventual name. The three other scrapped tracks “Everyday”, “Would You” (aka “Paradise”) and “Always Be My Baby” (aka “Where You Are) do not appear but the b-side track “Don’t Walk Away” does. Before now I never knew that this was a contender for the album but I understand why they left it off in the end. Though it does not have the same crossover appeal that Jerkins’ tracks had for the album, “When I’m With You” on the other hand oozes "old skool" hip hop greatness and would not have sounded out of place following "Keep Your Head" or "Love Is All We Need" on the finished album. Many thanks again to Bert Fartencauf for the contribution!

Hear more unreleased cuts from the "Share My World" era here.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Keyshia Cole & Damon Elliott: The Way It Wasn't

I don’t think anybody can come close to equaling the passion and grit of Mary J. Blige in her early years but out of all of the new contenders to come on the scene in the 2000s, Oakland girl Keyshia Cole came pretty close with her saturnine tales of life’s hardships, deadbeat men, betrayal and heartbreak. Somebody that was instrumental in her earlier career – although seldom ever mentioned – was Dionne Warrick’s son, music producer Damon Elliott. He was the one who discovered her in 2003, signed her to his imprint and helped get her major label distribution for her debut album “The Way It Is”. Sadly, by the time the album hit the shelves, his role had been all but erased, snuffed out due to label politics and temper tantrums. Only two songs of Elliott’s “Love” and “Down N Dirty” (both of which he co-produced with Greg Curtis) ever remained on the disc and to make things even worse his role was reduced to little more than an afterthought. Instead it was Ron Fair that discovered her, he that mentored her… Though I thoroughly enjoyed “The Way It Is” for its fearless emotion that seemed to defy her age at the time, some of these early tracks with Elliott are splendidly roughneck. Tracks such as “Snatch Yo Wave Out” and “Dumb Sh..” probably couldn’t be pulled off by just anybody but her while “Streets Is A Motha” tells of the harsh reality of her tough upbringing. I found the song in its entirety on You Tube back in 2013 where it falsely said it was taken from her 2004 mixtape “Team Invasion Presents: Keyshia Cole”. Another track “Get Up” went on to appear on the Biker Boyz soundtrack while “Love”, “Down N Dirty” and “You’ve Changed” later made the cut to her eventual album with “Love” going onto become her first platinum single. “You’ve Changed” is in its demo form here; the production is essentially the same but it’s more stripped down, in a slightly different key and has a slightly different vocal take. A further unreleased track “Talk To Me” appears to feature Mya on backing vocals. Seeing as Elliott was also working with her at the time on her third album “Moodring”, it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that she did backing vocals for him. She may have also co-written it as she also co-wrote “Get Up” as well with Elliott. Altogether a great – albeit short - CD that I didn’t even know existed and some fascinating insight into Cole’s earlier career that not many people know about.

So Alone    1:34
You've Changed    4:21
Streets Is A Motha    3:58
Down-N-Dirty    4:05
Love    4:35
Get Up    3:24
Talk To Me    3:11
Dumb Sh...    2:42
Snatch Yo Weave Out    3:22
Trifflin    1:24

Mixtape artist from Long Beach: Shy But Flyy

Early work from Long Beach-based artist Shy But Flyy and one of three mixtapes that she did in the mid-2000s before she decided to transition to blues, jazz and spoken word music instead. These days she plays center stage at local blues festivals but back in her early days was just one of many trying to make it on the R&B scene with her slinky vocals and sexy street image. Over the years, she has kept her name which seemed more suited to an MC than a vocalist but her music and image are vastly different. For me the highlight is definitely the gorgeous track "Love Is" but I need to give a shout out to "Give In And Up", for its sample of the backing track to "Me & U" by Cassie which most likely came out at around the same time. 

Dro City Intro    1:23
What It Is    3:01
Low Key    3:39
LOVE    4:25
Girlfriend (Original)    2:25
We On Top    1:28
Give In And Up    3:00
Maybe Tonite    3:21
So Flyy    1:34
Outro    0:45

Sunday, September 19, 2021

More unsigned heat from GA: Daylon Alexander

Born in Chicago, raised in Little Rock, AK and now based in The Bronx, NY, here is another find from the defunct community radio station in Atlanta, GA. With the musical prowess of R. Kelly and the swagger of an MC, Alexander’s music is smooth and full of emotion. Backed by the infamous DJ Enuff, he was a rising star back in ’03 but is still sadly unsigned despite having appeared on stage with some of the towering giants of the industry. His first EP Days Of Night can be found on Amazon.
“With a captivating allure, and a voice that can roll like thunder and yet, still hit every bittersweet note. Daylon Alexander has the ability to lay women in trances, or to politically sway the mind of those oppressed. Whether you are snapping away dancing to his upbeat persona, or laying on your couch reminiscing of a past love, Daylon will move you.” – Reverbnation.

DJ Enuff/ You Want It 4:57
First Sight 4:02
Back Up! 2:45
Cheatin 4:23
4-Play 5:05
Daddy's Home 4:09
Stunna 3:10
Rodeo 1:03
Is What It Is 3:29
All Or Nothin 4:19
To Mama 4:52

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Umoja featuring TNO: Get Cha Wet (Promo Single) (Versachild-Black Phoenix Recordings, 1998)

From a now defunct community radio station in Atlanta, Georgia, another underground gem from 1998 and primarily a smooth R&B outfit with southern hip hop influences and sexy and titillating lyrics. There’s nothing about them anywhere but the song was said to be taken from the then-forthcoming album “The Sea.” Along with Kaize Adams, Andre and Michael Hall, definitely one of my highlights thus far of 2021.

Get Cha Wet - Radio 4:44 
Charge It To The Game 4:48 
Get Cha Wet (Seamix) Radio 3:27 
Get Cha Wet (Album) 4:44 
Get Cha Wet (Seamix) Album 3:26 
 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Andre: The Truth (Demo EP) (Tear Drops Productions, 199x)

Along the same lines as the artist above, here is another fantastic find from a now-defunct community radio station in Atlanta, Georgia which fortunately - despite being another quite old CDr - did play perfectly from beginning to end. Highlights for me are the gorgeous mid-tempo cut "Sorry" and the smooth 90s chill R&B vibe "Can I Kick It"...both very well written and produced by the artist himself who I believe is this guy here. According to a Japanese article sourced online, it seems he hailed from Houston, Texas although I am not 100% certain. 

Sorry    5:16
Sexy Got It    3:19
Can I Kick It    3:47
Jesus Love    4:25

Michael Hall: Millennium Soul (Demo EP) (LeSong.com, 2000)

Another absolute gem, which again came from the same defunct community radio station in Atlanta, Georgia. Hailing from Jonesboro, not much is known about him or his producer (DeShan Bowers) but the music is old school R&B at its finest with soulful, smooth vocals. "Sexy Little Playgirl" in particular is an absolute delight to listen to though the song and another (track 3) are very much ruined by disc rot. 

Sexy PlayGirl    4:06
The Heat Is On    4:39
Sweet Lady    4:45