Ne-Yo

Further unreleased music as "Schaffer".

Kandi and Tiny

Off The Hook: Unreleased demos from the early 2000s!

P!nk

The Truth About Choice.

Arika Kimble

A career ruined by mp3.com

Shiro

The First Lady of SoulPower.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Keplyn: The Book of Animus

Soulful, smooth, at times funky and poetic…original first effort from R&B/spoken word artist Keplyn to be released on Koch/State St Records in May of 2000. Managed by former Stax Records VP Forest Hamilton, his only album was later re-titled “Animus Diaries” and released independently in 2002, albeit in a much different incarnation.  I don’t know why Koch never released back then but his style was described as “Isaac Hayes and Gil Scott Heron, mixed with some India.Arie and Jill Scott” or alternatively the “more Ghetto-stateside version of Seal.” A video was filmed to "The Book" and was produced by Tracy Robinson. Later work by him can be found via his producer on You Tube.  Not much is known about him but he originated from Los Angeles, California and according to a somebody who formally knew him on You Tube, was friends at one point with Lenny Kravitz.
 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Chipping Away At My Amazon "Wish List"...

From Fayetteville, GA, Ecstatic Flow or E-Flow is another random Amazon find which had been sitting on my Wish List for over two years now. Over the years I have found many great things here – from stuff that was sought after to random finds that surprisingly turned out to be great – though going through it all was not the easiest task.  Admittedly, this wasn’t exactly what I expected from a mid-2000s group but is very smooth funk/soul music played by a live band. Some songs remind me slightly of this group while others are quite jazzy. The second random find (from Inglewood, CA) Dattasious “Old School Groove” is mostly instrumental but there are a few really good R&B tracks here with vocals.  “Let Me Be the One” and “I Just Want to Say” echo the modern soul drenched harmonies of classic R&B groups such as Force MDs and Surface while “(Won’t You) Come to Me” (clocking in at almost 8 minutes in length!) is the ultimate in quiet storm R&B greatness. It actually made my “Best of” list for this year which is quite surprising considering the album it came off seems essentially unfinished with many great songs that could’ve been amazing if only they had vocals. Across both albums, the only name which brings up any sort of online presence is Nicole Thrash (lead vocals on Dattasious' “Miss You” and “Can’t Hide”) who previously worked as a backing vocalist for Jonell, Tamia and others in the early to mid-2000s. Altogether two very interesting finds with some great tracks...

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

UNRELEASED GROUPS: 3Gs

Britney Spears meets 3LW, a further shelved girl group from the early 2000s on Hollywood Records and mainly known for their song “Crush” which was featured on The Princess Diaries soundtrack in 2001. They received some promotion from the label, including opening for Destiny’s Child on MTV’s Total Request Live tour and performing at 2002’s strudelpalooza event, but after one single “One More Second Chance” (which appeared to be for radio play only), they were quietly shelved and forgotten about. The album has been floating around the internet (albeit in very low-quality mp3s, mostly likely pulled from the girls’ early website in Real Media format back in the days) but to find an actual CD the files came off took a trip up to Detroit to find.  Not much is known about them but it seemed that they had a revolving door of members between 2001-2002 until they eventually disbanded for good. A few members later went on to do other projects that brought them moderate success including  Kristina Anapau and Alisa Reyes but this early project seems to be barely a footnote in their formative careers. I have no idea who their producers were but they were certainly more edgy than PYT, 3rd Faze and other similar groups around at the time. Sadly Hollywood Records chose to release the weakest, slowest songs from the project and left the best ones on the cutting room floor. A further unreleased album from another Hollywood Records artist can be found here.

UNRELEASED GROUPS: Shorty 101

Another shelved Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins production from the early 2000s and seemingly one that did not yield even one single aside from two features on movie soundtracks with the same track “Get With Me” in 2001. Aside from the similarities to a Britney Spears remix, I don’t know how much of a role Jerkins had with this group – comprised of Christina Lund, Emily Frlekin, Stephanie Frlekin, and Blythe Hensley – but it seems almost all of their tracks here were produced by him. At that point jumping on the pop band wagon with productions and remixes for the likes of Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears and other artists more suited to Disney Radio, was this his own attempt at forming a pop group?  There is sadly not a whole lot of information on them but they do apparently have a music video out there, somewhere. A few years later they popped up again on a DJ Envy mixtape with a new track “Sweet Baby” which was written by none other than Ashanti. Searching them in the ASCAP repertoire then brings up yet more titles written with her and Ja Rule that once again never saw the light of day but “Sweet Baby” was later included on Douglass’ sophomore album “Chapter II” in 2003. Altogether a very tight sampler of throwback Darkchild from his heyday in the early 2000s. It still astounds me that despite his popularity back then, how much unreleased material that he has hidden away...

UNRELEASED GROUPS: Tha' Rayne

Originally the brainchild of Naughty By Nature's DJ KayGee, The' Rayne were yet another failed female R&B group from the early 2000s and were signed to Arista Records by Antonio L.A. Reid in 2001. The group, which originally consisted of three vocalists, went through numerous line-up changes before their management finally decided to make them into an R&B version of Salt-N-Peppa in 2002. They released three singles Rock Wit Me, No L.O.V.E. and Didn't You Know between 2001 and 2003 but their debut album Reign Supreme never saw the light of day. After the failure of the two early singles, it was pushed back at least twice and eventually shelved altogether upon Arista's merger with Sony BMG in 2004. A vinyl compilation - stylized as a mixtape - and this 5-track CD sampler are currently the only source for some of these unreleased tracks in full outside of the barrage of LQ internet leaks from back in the day. While the label's other group ISYSS might've appealed more to teen-pop fans at the time, Tha' Rayne had slightly more street credibility. Their unique blend of throwback soul and up tempo hip hop was later revisited by Elizabeth "Yummy" Bingham on her 2006 solo album The First Seed. Producers include Rich Harrison, Precision, Jermaine Dupri, Jimi Kendrix and Bingham’s own father Dinky Bingham on the slinky ”Luv Bug”. It’s worth noting that “Mr Postman” was eventually to be cut from their shelved album despite it being one of their favorite tracks. Again, another great group that could've gone far if only they had the right people behind them which evidently, once again, wasn't Reid...See my post on the vinyl compilation here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

From The Roc's First Lady to the Queen Alone

Another rare find from Napo and a further testament to the powerhouse that was once Roc-A-Fella Records... After her sophomore album “Electrik Blue” was shelved indefinitely, Nicole Wray parted ways with the abysmal Elektra and in 2003 signed a contract with “The Roc”, officially becoming the label’s “First Lady”. Sadly after one single, Def Jam brought out Roc-A-Fella Records in its entirely. Wray had a choice to either go with Jay-Z to Def Jam or stay with Damon Dash and she chose the latter as in her own words “he inspired me over the years to be myself, to smile, to be sad and to embrace who I am and let people know who I am.” Unfortunately due to numerous business conflicts with their parent label Universal, Dash’s label and his roster of original artists that included Wray, Rell, and N.O.R.E. was shortly to be dropped. They found a new home at Koch Records but some artists such as Wray and Rell just did not happen. After one single “It’s A Man’s World”, her third album, like Electrik Blue before it, was left on the cutting room floor and confined to a very rare Chrysalis promo that we are never likeliest to see. Her fate follows Roc-A-Fella’s former forgotten “First Lady” Denim and preceded that of Teairra Mari who was christened the label’s “R&B Princess” in 2005. Each of them could’ve been great in their own way – each brought something different - but it seemed Jay had a one-track mind at the best of times. Eventually they would’ve all been forgotten about when Rhianna and her “Umbrellas” came along. As for Wray, she is currently independent and still as spectacular as ever... 

Seville (aka 713 Seville): Promo EP (Str8 Lace Recordings, 200x)

Another great find from Napo and from Houston, another place that had a fantastic R&B and hip hop scene back in the day. The group itself (comprised of Stefan, Geno, C-Moe and Ced B) now goes by the name “713 Seville” (713 representing the area code for Houston) and released their first album “H-Town Got Our Back” in 2007. It featured an appearance from fellow Houstonian Scarface on the track “Love Is Gone” which later made it onto the 2011 album "Lethal Ent.Greatest Hits Vol. 1." Not quite as oversexed as H-Town but with slamming tracks such as "Two-Way" and "For You" they definitely had all the right ingredients for a great sounding R&B group... 
 
Ride With Me    2:39
Two-Way    3:09
Let Me Love You    4:59
For You    3:37
 

Uncle Lou Production: Hip Hop R&B (Promo EP) (Uncle Lou Production, 200x)

A further fantastic find from Napo and along with “Single” and “Ty Black”, some of the best R&B he’s ever found for us... from the talkbox sounds of “Workin” to the slow grind of “Back Seat of My Ride”, all are unknown male artists. He said that the sound seemed ‘familiar’ to him but there is no information to be found anywhere outside of a Buffalo (NY) phone number and a supposed BET email address; where these songs submitted for use in TV programming perhaps? With a barely audible background hiss, I am thinking most (if not all) originally came off of analog tape sometime in the mid 90s… the disc type itself dates back to the early 2000s.
 
Workin'    4:19 (M.A.G.I.C.)
Back Seat Of My Ride    4:23 (M.A.G.I.C.)
Please Stay    3:46 (Dru)
Don't Take Your Love    4:25 (Rob)
 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Naima: Demo EP (200x)

 
A very underground sounding demo on CDr from yet another unknown artist, presumably from either Maryland, Virginia or any of the surrounding states. Though “Keep On Going” goes slightly overboard with the synthetic beats, “Where Do We Go” is a great slice of neo/hip hop soul. “Inner Child”, with its 80s-esque jazzy soul groove, also packs quite a punch. 

Keep On Going 3:26 
Where Do We Go 2:31 
Inner Child 5:12 
Keep On Going (Remix) 3:31 
 
Listen to more of Napo's fantastic finds here

Safa: The Truth of Urban Soul (Self-Released, 2004)

Amazing urban/neo soul music from Philly-based singer Safa (Alston) although sadly a victim of pesky disc rot, it is definitely among the best female R&B/soul Napo has found for us, “Pass The Time” and “Innocence” especially are fantastic songs. Though she never did anything else, her smooth, jazzy mezzo can still be heard today supporting other local artists. As for us, we are keeping our fingers crossed that another more functional copy of this EP is found again soon...
 
I Am She 2:04 
Pass The Time 2:04 
Innocence 2:04 
I Will 2:04 
Infected 2:04 
Keep Movin' (Freestyle) 1:50 
 
Listen to more of Napo's fantastic finds here

Desire: Demo Tracks (199x)

Supplying us with great underground finds in his local area since 2017, Napo is back with us for another selection of unreleased heat from the Virginia Beach area and other surrounding municipalities. Above is a further track from the group “Desire” whose demos (on cassette!) he found at a music flea market for us back in early 2020 (see this post here.) Compared to their other tape, the music here is a lot more acoustic sounding (a live practice session possibly?) though the vocals of the main singer definitely give me Tamika Scott (of Xscape) vibes. Also on the tape were other compositions by various other artists incl. a lot of acoustic rock so now I am learning towards the name "Desire" being not that of the group themselves but maybe some sort of moniker for a producer. A very interesting and unique find. 

Deja Vu    4:10
Deja Vu (Edit 2)    4:10

Listen to more of Napo's fantastic finds here

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

3 Men Called Ben

Active between 1995-1997, Benz were an all-male trio consisting of Ben Ofoedu (Big Ben), Benjamin Balogun (Tim Shadez) and Tony Thompson (Darkboy) Balogun was formally signed to the Island Records and went by the name of Overlord X between 1989-1990 and while performing Balogun met Ofeodu and the rest is history. With the addition of Balogun’s friend Thompson (whose middle name was Benedict), the group as Benz released 5 singles between 1995-1997 (3 under RCA, 2 independently) but it seemed the odds were stacked against them despite the buzz surrounding them. At one point, Mercedes Benz brought a lawsuit against them and in 1996 their potential fourth single on RCA was scuppered by Sony who refused to allow them sample clearance for Michael Jackson’s song Billie Jean. Now posted on their You Tube channel in full, the song could’ve sealed their fate as the next big group in Britain – radio stations went crazy for it - but sadly it was not to be. Their album aptly titled “Three Men Called Ben” was not released. Their final two singles seemed to be released independently before they all went their separate ways. Ofendu stayed with RCA records and eventually released one single “Your Love” in 2000 which seems to have been forgotten. He along with Thompson also did vocal work for Phats & Small while Balogun, the musician of the group, went on to produce and write for other artists.

Taken from the December 1995 version of Echoes:

(Ofoedu) “We are three guys from different walks of life. Dark Boy, he goes for soul music. He brings the “Soul” to the tracks. Shadez goes with the deep hip hop, the hard bass, the darkness” Tim Shadez completes the picture “My man Ben, he’s more on the ‘rock’ side.”

Various: HAT-TOWN and 7 Presents The Review (Hat-Town Records, 1999)

A further bomb from the Bay Area (Oakland) and once again featured on Series 2 of Street Beats. Formally one sixth of late 80s R&B/dance group Split Image,  T. Hatter (aka Terrence Hatter) produced this amazingly smooth set in 1999 which somehow slipped under the radar. Featuring artists from the roster of his Hat-Town label at the time, including quite rare track from Otis & Shugg which was recorded after they were signed (albeit very briefly) to Atlantic in 1995. 

Day Dreamin    4:08 (Chelley P.)
Love So Good    4:36 (Monet)
Ooh Wee!    3:52 (The Group Genre & T. Hatter)
Kiss And Make Up    4:39 (T. Hatter & Chelley P.)
I Got A Man    3:50 (Chelley P.)
Comes Around (Goes Around)    4:46 (Otis & Shugg)
If Your Man Don't Want Cha    4:11 (T. Hatter & Jemille)
Pier 69    4:30 (T. Hatter)
Hang On    4:35 (Chelley P.)
I Need You    5:16  (The Group Genre)
I Can Do Bad By Myself    3:58 (Sunshine)
Mack Mode    4:12 (T. Hatter)
In The Mood    3:37 (T. Hatter & Jemille feat. Rap by Kaution)
Get Off    4:48 (Monet)

Steve Marshall: Savage (State Of Emergency Records, 1999)

Formally featured on Street Beats Series 2 Volume 10 with his cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Marshall believed that the industry didn’t give much “time and space” to UK male R&B singers unless you “knew the right person” but his debut album was somewhat different to your average Lemars and Craig Davids with raw blues and soul appeal and smooth vocals. There is not much information about him, but his EP “Mirage” got a glowing review in an April 1998 edition of UK dance music magazine Muzik where it was described as “uplifting and full of the whole range of ingredients” and “Good home-grown talent that's more than worthy.”

Listen to more Street Beats goodness here..

Ain't No Sunshine    4:27
Live The Vibration    4:47
Changes    4:50
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)    4:46
Home (Dub)    4:35
Mare Street    0:54
Perseverance    4:52
There's A Stone In My Eye    5:13
Walk On The Wild Side    4:57
Roar    3:30
A Burnt Offering (It's The Beat)    5:31
Home    4:35
Don't Jinx The Future    5:55

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Deni Hines + Loleatta Holloway: more demo cassettes that nobody knew existed

Early proposed demos for Australian R&B artist Deni Hines (daughter of Marcia Hines) and intended for a later abandoned US project sometime in the early 90s. This was at least 3 years before the release of her debut album "Imagination" on Mushroom Records in Australia and 5 years before the release of "Pay Attention" in Europe. One track “It Was Your Lovin” is written and sung by Andrea Martin while tracks 1 & 4 may be sung by Hines herself although I am not 100% certain. At the time of these recordings she was only really known in Australia for her work with the Rockmelons, mainly for the songs “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “That Word (L.O.V.E.)” (both top 5 hits), and prior to this she worked as a backing vocalist for Kylie Minogue on her Rhythm of Love tour. Further songs this project can be heard here and feature writing credits from Al B.Sure.  I don’t know why the project never took off but it seems she never really got the recognition she deserved outside of whipping up a minor frenzy on Twitter when she appeared as Unicorn on The Masked Singer in 2019. From the daughter of Marcia Hines to another classic American vocalist Loleatta Holloway whose vocals were a mainstay in many early 90s pop hits for me including Blackbox’s “Ride On Time” and Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations”, here is a presentation tape that she did in 1991 with French house producer François Kevorkian…Formally a name in disco, it was only natural that she would follow it up in the early 90s with some garage house goodness and most of the tracks here do not disappoint. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

P.O.R. & Tangéla: Fo The Fam: Volume One (Promo) (Fo The Fam Entertainment, 1999)

Further unreleased music from Bridgeport, CT with Fo The FamEntertainment and once again a lucky steal from my good friend Stuart over on Discogs a few weeks back. Featuring the old-skool R&B sensibilities of former gospel singer Tangela and the East-Coast flavas of P.O.R., the set hails from 1999 and was the label’s first and only full-length release. Originally from Norwalk, Tangela (real name Tangela Smith) started singing at 5 at the St. James Missionary Baptist Church. Citing a 2013 article from the Connecticut Post “her gospel roots run deep. Yet, in the years since, the 37-year-old songstress has branched out beyond religious refrains: Her repertoire now includes everything from Elvis to Beyonce, R&B to Broadway.” Gospel was always her first and foremost but in her quest to reach a wider audience, she had “no problem doing Top 40”. From the smoldering “He Ain’t Worth Your Tears” to the funky” Get Your Back Up Off The Wall”, Smith’s demure, soft contralto is very pleasing to the ears and to the soul. In 2013, she took center stage at the Norwalk Concert Hall for a special ‘Unplugged’ concert.
 
 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Arika Kimble: a career ruined by mp3.com

A native of Michigan, Arika Kimble was mostly known for winning an MP3.com contest for Best New Urban Artist in the year 2000. They pulled all the stops out for her, including selecting her as one of the ten initial artists for their Instant Music Program wherein her album would be available digitally for their then 50,000 registered users. Sadly the demise of the company came soon after when it was hit with a barrage of lawsuits – sadly the music industry was not very accepting of their streaming service - and in 2003, weakened financially and already having struggled for some time, they sold to Universal and then to CNET to become what they are today, essentially a defunct tabloid-style website (at the time of writing this, their feed has not updated since 2014!) As for Arika and hundreds of other artists that were using the platform to promote their music, this was the end for them. Entire artist catalogs were deleted and after initially claiming that they would relaunch, the new owners (who at the time were a subsidiary of Universal, the same company that screwed them in the first place) simply decided to throw in the towel. Decades later it turned out that some of the music was saved from eternal damnation but Arika was sadly not one of them. If we were to find her album, it would have to be a physical copy somehow which we didn’t even know at the time existed. The closest we ever got to it was to find a sampler from Ebony Records but the seller Jim was unwilling to work out a deal with us and we weren’t willing to pay $999.99 for only one track (he didn't like me very much.) It was just as well, as just over a month ago after years of looking, Stuaaart was lucky enough to catch this. I don’t know how many of these were ever given out but the fact that nobody – not even the Japanese - seemed to have it makes me think that it was not many before the site ran into financial difficulties. The front jacket artwork is identical (I would even go as far as saying it is an actual scan) of her CD single while the disc itself is just a silver Mitsui CDr, one of many that were used back then for test-pressings. Twelves tracks in length, this is mostly a very smooth album packed full of sexy slow jams and other songs that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up while covers include "All This Love" by El Debarge and Clarence Reid's "Rockin' Chair". A simply amazing catch by Stuaaart and to think how close we came to giving Jim what he wanted for his sampler just so we could hear at least one of these amazing tracks. The archived version of her webpage is still active via the Waybackmachine and states that she was allegedly in the process of recording new material for its release with a “famous producer” but the majority here were produced by Ebony Records in-house producers Keith Carter and Michael Starr. Her two singles can be found here and here

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Further unreleased music from Ne-Yo as "Schaffer"

One of my highlights last year was hearing an early recording by Ne-Yo, then going by his birth name of Schaffer, that appeared on a little-known Destiny’s Child CD. The CD was given away for free with select pairs of Levis “Superlow” jeans in 2001 and featured various remixes of some of their most well-known songs and seemingly as a bonus track, “La Di Dah”, a track recorded during Ne-Yo’s short time at Columbia Records back in the early 2000s. Sadly he butted heads with them – he started “rebelling” as he put it – so they shelved him indefinitely. Before this, a planned single “Lonely, Sad & Blue” was sent to radio stations but ultimately it never saw the light of day, only making it onto a few rare promotional compilations put out by record labels. One of them I had originally passed up in 2019 as I had no idea who Schaffer was and by the time I realized the connection, the seller had abruptly gone MIA. After years of failed attempts at buying it off Amazon and receiving the exact same German kids story CD, it finally showed up again a few months back. Featuring his aforementioned single and one other quite rare track “Not Like Me”, though his later successes came from his ability to craft great, catchy pop songs, these earlier tracks by him portrayed him in a much more soulful light. From the acoustic soul of “La Di Dah” to the heartfelt “Not Like Me”, there’s no doubting his versatility as an artist. Also featured here was another overlooked artist back then, DJ Rogers Jr. whose debut album “Emosoul” was shelved in 2003. Rogers was a second generation soul man (his father DJ Rogers had some success in the 70s and early 80s) but Motown Records just could not do him justice despite then-president Kedar Massenburg poaching him from Universal because they weren’t capable of giving him the “things he needed to be successful at the time.” Described as “expressions” of his emotions that were “channeled” through his soul, the album spawned three singles before it was dropped. Again Despite the name Motown and all the history behind that name, it seems this was another label that wasn’t the place to be in the early 2000s if you were an up and coming R&B artist. See my companion post on unreleased Roc-A-Fella and Def Soul artists here. Listen to Ne-Yo’s “La Di Dah” here
 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Unreleased music from two 90s dance divas and The X factor

Unreleased music from two 90s dance divas, formally of Soul II Soul and Livin’ Joy. While Soul II Soul wasn’t a dance outfit per se, their music reached a spanned a whole selection of different genres from R&B to reggae to dance. It was here that Melissa Bell gained notoriety as one of the co-lead vocalists, mostly for “Wish” released in 1993. She left the group in 1996 to pursue a solo career but was drawn back to groups a year later with Dazz, an Italian Jazz-dance group. Billed as “Dazz feat. Melissa Bell”, at one point they were signed to Acid Jazz, the label behind The Brand New Heavies, but their album was not released. The album in my opinion, was a masterpiece, with strong notes of acid jazz, UK street soul, funk and even dance music, the ultimate 90s combination. Highlights for me include a few amazing covers of Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be” and Howard Jones’ 1984 new wave classic “What Is Love”, a cover that retains the song’s original melody with a rocky twist. The street soul tracks are divine, with “Show Me The Way” giving me strong Kiss The Sky vibes. It certainly would not have sounded out of place in 1997 so why was it seemingly on ever promoted it Italy? Sadly Bell’s name wasn’t really mentioned again until her daughter Alexandra won The X Factor in 2008. Most upsettingly she passed in 2017, never truly getting the recognition she deserved outside of Soul II Soul or later her own daughter. And just when you think you've seen the last of it, Cowell's dog and pony show pops up again in 2018 when a very humble lady called Janice Robinson walked out onto the stage saying that "it all started about 23 years ago with a song I wrote, it's called "Dreamer." The former massive voice behind Italian house project Livin' Joy, Robinson absolutely owned the stage that night and her performance is probably one of the most memorable in the shows' 17 year history. Already a veteran at the time, she recorded the above demos in the early 2000s for a project that once again never saw the light of day. With Livin’ Joy’s “Dreamer” since being given a new lease of life in 2022, with a voice, writing ability and passion for music like hers, I still I can’t help but feel this talented lady deserved so much more. So why was she reduced to appearing on the X Factor despite having one of the most memorable voices of the 90s? And of all people to mentor her...a former US soap actress Alya Field!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Ladiez In Question: The sassy all-girl super group

 
Featuring Celetia Martin and another former member of Melodi Brown, Ladiez In Question (L.I.Q.) was another UK group from the mid-2000s that sadly went nowhere. They were flown out to Hollywood to perform and shortly after were offered a million pound recording contract with US dance and hip hop label AV8 Records. They released two singles, the most widely known being “Push Back”, a reply to Terror Squad’s 2004 song “Lean Back.” Described as Janet Jackson, Aaliyah and Left Eye “all coming together and forming one sassy all-girl super group”, a “massive” collaboration was teased for the girls’ debut (perhaps this?) but despite several labels vying for them, things ultimately didn’t work out. One member Zahra Palmer (who was previously with Melodi Brown) said that it was due to members not being “serious” or “driven” so they sadly parted ways. Undoubtedly the driving force behind the group, Celetia Martin had a solo career between 1996-1998. An apt songwriter, her charting songs included “Rewind" and "Runaway Skies", and in 2001 she had a 2 Step hit with Masterstepz called "Sorry (You Lied to Me)". Nowadays, she her songwriting resume includes big name artists such as Janet Jackson and Usher and in 2014, she set up her own publishing company to help up-and-coming talent. In her own words "“I felt that there was so much overlooked and undiscovered young talent out there that wasn’t being given the opportunity to get their foot in the door so to speak and I kept coming across a lot of them and decided to set up the company solely to offer them the chance to access more of these opportunities, and that’s something I’m very passionate about.”(1). For some reason though, her short venture with the above group and another short stint with a further group Monroe are not mentioned anywhere. As for Palmer, a fantastic vocalist, she later went on to be in yet another failed group (Flava) before making her rounds on the dreaded X Factor in 2008. Sadly the only thing she seemed to have taken away from the whole experience was being told by Cowell that she had the "best body" he'd ever seen.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Suga Holiday: Rollin' On Dubs (Promo CDr) (7ent., 2005)

Having quite a keen interest in underground female R&B groups, here we have yet another one from the mid-2000s. From Georgia, the track almost seems almost like a female take on Nelly's "Country Grammar (Hot Shit)" though I have no idea of the sample used. 

Alessa Jade: S/T (Self-Released, 2003)

Further Latina R&B/pop music with Alessa Jade, a South Florida-based singer who could’ve gone far. She took first place in “Star Power”, a nation-wide competition, and also opened for Carl Thomas in 2002. Of Colombian and Panamanian extraction, she was also one of the artists who opened the “First Annual Latin/Urban Music Festival”, also in 2002. Sixteen at the time, she could’ve quite easily joined the ranks of Xtina and Britney clones (she would’ve certainly given Aguilera a run for her money with the whole Spanish thing) but she somehow never did. Includes a sultry cover of “Loving You Still” which was originally recorded by Tamia for her self-titled album in 1998. Jade cites Tamia is one of her many inspirations. 
 
In an odd stroke of coincidence, an Ecuadorian alternative rock band began recording under her exact same name in 2015. 
 
"Up & coming artist Alessa Jade is a true, rare and soulful talent ready to be seen and heard. A very vocally oriented, versatile singer, Alessa Jade sings Pop, Rock, Hip Hop R&B. Alessa Jade is from Latin Descent, her father is Colombian and her mother is Panamanian and half American. Alessa Jade also sings in Spanish and will be recording her songs in Spanish. Her voice and unique exotic looks captivates her audiences and sets her apart from any other artist in the industry. Born and raised in South Florida, this young lady is often entertaining her family and friends. Thru out elementary and middle school, Alessa Jade took part in many talent shows. At the age of 14, Alessa Jade discovered her passion for performing and joined the drama department to further enhance her amazing talent. Alessa Jade then started taking private vocal lessons, acting lessons and private dance lessons with a local dance school. Alessa Jade has performed for her dance studio recitals, Teen Cabaret, local and state sponsored showcases, Ms. Florida Teen, Ms. and Mrs. Beauty Pageant 2002 and concerts in South Florida. Alessa Jade competed and took first place in "Star power" a National talent competition that travels throughout the United States. She also received an award for the "Highest Points Score" and brought home the "Platinum Award". Alessa Jade opened for Carl Thomas with Bad Boy Records at Club W8th in the village in New York City, New York on August 13th, 2002, Which was promoted by Red Star Productions and Octagon who are affiliated with Bad Boy Records. Alessa Jade has also performed for charities such as Make A Wish Foundation and Boggy Creek Gang Camp. A camp funded by Mr. Paul Newman for the Terminally Ill Children In Eustis, Florida. Alessa Jade was also one of the artist who opened for the "First Annual Latin/Urban Music Festival" in Miami on October 13, 2002. located at the "Bayfront Amphitheater: hosted by "Angie Martinez", "Dj Tony Touch" and other performances by City High. Alessa Jade is currently one of the five finalist who auditioned with over 1,000 performers, of all genders and styles of music to be performing at the 2003 Big Time Talent Show event on February 22, 2003 at the Center of Arts Amphitheater in Mizner Park, Boca Raton Florida. Alessa Jade's inspirations have been Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Tamia and many many more. This multi talented 16 year old beauty lights up the stage with her incredible voice and style. A true performer, Alessa jade leaves her audience intrigued and hungry for more."

Down In The Jungle    3:33
Loving You Still    5:33
Respect    4:26
Whoa    4:49
Break My Heart    3:47

Monday, May 9, 2022

Drop-Kick Productions by Sir-Jam Entertainment

Featuring a selection of male & female hip hop and R&B artists, mostly a very Lo-Fi sound on this demo though a few tracks make use of quite a few good samples and instrumentals not limited to Dennis Edwards’ “Don’t Look Any Further” ( “Tears”) and Monica & Brandy’s 1998 hit “The Boy Is Mine” (Kaycee’s “U-Can’t Be Like Me”).  Obviously from the late 90s, I have no idea who anybody is but possibly originating from North Carolina as per a quick search online. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

P!ink: The Truth about Choice

Prior to finding success as a solo artist at the turn of the millennium, P!nk (then known only as Alecia Moore) was part of an all-girl R&B trio named Choice with two other teenage girls Chrissy Conway and Sharon Flanagan. Signed to LaFace Records, the trio are mostly known for their only song “Key to My Heart” which made it onto the Kazaam soundtrack in 1998. Of course, at the time, nobody really cared and the movie itself was a relative flop. It wasn’t until Moore found success as P!nk that people made it a point to listen to it. The truth was that the group was basically Moore with two backing singers, or at least that’s the way that some producers made it seem. They preferred Moore’s voice and the other two girls were basically relegated to the background. It didn’t sit right with the other two members, particularly Chrissy Flanagan, and the rest was history. The trio – who at one point were the subject of a bidding war between two competing major record labels - recorded at least 20 songs for their debut album according to one producer. Tracks included “Love Is Such A Crazy Thing” and “Let Me Let You Know” (both of which later made it onto P!nk’s debut album) and “Stay”, a Daryl Simmons track which was later recorded by Destiny’s Child for “The Writing’s On The Wall” in 1999. A few years back, a producer/writer who worked with the group talked of releasing the set in its entirety to iTunes but as of 2022, nothing much has materialized. At one point he admitted ripping the masters (from Digital Audio Tape) to be “overwhelming”. Fortunately owing to connections that we have, somebody sent us a very brief sampler that the producer sent him before going MIA. What is there to say about it? The production is fantastic, as you would expect from LaFace Records in the 90s. Immediately we start out with “Love Is Such a Crazy Thing” and “Let Me Let You Know”, two tracks which were later included on P!nk’s debut album. Nothing much sounds different; in fact, these are the exact same recordings (the former later made it on to a LaFace Records sampler in 1998 and yes, I can confirm personally that it is the exact same recording from “Can’t Take Me Home”.) The rest of the set hovers between slinky mid-tempos and schmaltzy soul ballads with Moore’s former  ”R&B Diva” vocals and riffs primed to the max, a sound that worked so well for her before she decided to "grow up". The writer/producer Joseph Priolo was keen to release the project but the last I could see, needed clearance from attorneys. Maybe one day, it will finally see the light of day.
 
Rumored song titles:
 
1. Love Is Such a Crazy Thing  
2. Let Me Let You Know  
3. Players  
4. Stay  
5. I Love My Boo 
6. Just To Be Loving You  
7. Make Cool  
8. Gotta Be You and Me  
9. My Love Is Gone  
10. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  
11. If I Ever See Heaven Again  
12. Don't Go Breakin' My Heart  
13. Key To My Heart  
14. Can't Wait Another Day

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Shiro: From the Princess of A Lighter Shade of Brown to The First Lady of SoulPower

Shiro Stokes’ originally started out in an early incarnation of the singing group For Real (then stylized as 4-Reel) before becoming the princess of Chicano rap duo A Lighter Shade of Brown in the early 90s. With appearances “On A Sunday Afternoon” and “Latin Active”, the former of which peaked at no #39 on the Billboard Hot 100, Stokes was to release her first album “Can We Talk” via Scotti Bros in 1995. The perfect marriage of G-Funk and smooth R&B, it didn’t really get the attention it deserved back then. Sadly most of the acts on this label – which was I am guessing semi-independent – did not last beyond one album or single. In 1998, Stokes was picked up by Soulshock & Karlin and rebranded as “The First Lady of SoulPower”. Then at the top of their game, their trademark tinkly and melodious sound was all over her two singles “I Like” and “Good Love” so what happened? Another label that couldn't get their act together in the 90s was Noo Trybe Records. Starting out in 1994, they operated as the urban subdivision of Virgin/EMI Records and became the distributor for Houston, TX-based hip hop label Rap-A-Lot Records up until its demise in the late 90s. This was the most successful venture that they had with acts such as Luniz, AZ and others making the Billboard top 200. Sadly the R&B wing of the label was not as successful with non-existent albums from One Shade (1995), girl trio MQ3 (1997), Teddy Martin (1996) and lastly Shiro. Stokes’ album, titled “Life Goes On”, has been something Stuart and I have been after for years after the artist herself confirmed its existence to us. She had a tape in her possession but did not feel comfortable about leaking it due to “copyright reasons.” So we waited patiently until it showed up and last year the anticipation was finally over, well sort of. A Noo Trybe snippets tape showed up on eBay with excerpts of tracks from the album in question. After a very close bidding war between Stuart and a notorious Chicago-based collector who almost everybody knows about, the tape was eventually won to us for the pricey sum of $1200. $1200 for just over eleven minutes of music. This had better blow us away we thought. Ranging between 1:29 and 2:12 minutes in length and crossfaded for a seamless listening experience, it along with MQ3 turned out to be among our most enjoyable finds from last year, even if it was just over eleven minutes of music in total. From the very ardent “All I Wanna Do” to the sweetly mournful “Rainy Days”, this would’ve made for a truly fantastic album, proving that Soulshock & Karlin were more than apt to take the lead entirely on a project instead of merely being relegated to contributor status. I quite enjoyed Tracie Spencer’s 1999 album but to me, she was always lacking something. Stokes had this and more in my opinion but sadly the label let her down. 
 
 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Another demo cassette haul

Out of CA, another 90s demo cassette haul and a mixture of modern soul, contemporary R&B and G-Funk flavas by a selection of male and female artists. I have no idea of the origin of any of them - there are no inlay cards - but I am leaning more toward a local producer or musician, possibly from the Bay Area. Two of them appear to be unmastered vocal session recordings. The smooth mid-tempo "Maken Me Weak", sung by an unknown female artist, is undoubtedly the highlight of the set.  

Saturday, April 16, 2022

More R&B/soul obscurities on cassette tape

Funky early 90s New Jack Swing and jazzy hip hop soul featuring writing and production from Keith Woodson (formally of Ta Mara & The Seen), Death Row Records’ Tony Green and Paul Fulton (formally of The Chips.)  Veronica appears to be a demo tape or at best a self-released project; it has an inlay but the cassette shell is completely blank while Asia did not come with a J-Card at all. I can find nothing about either artist but Asia possibly hailed from Queens, NY. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Sexy: Dar-Rell: I Wanna Make Love...Not Just Sex EP (Strictly & Company, 199x)

Originally featured on Urban Collective: Volume 1, Stuart discovered this rarity back at the beginning of the year. I don’t know much about him but it seems he released two hip hop singles in the early 90s as Dar-Rell Strickland. It seems he was originally from Detroit, MI or at least based there at one point. A mixture of sexy quiet storm R&B and funky laid back jams with inflections of classic soul vocals and bustin’ rhymes, his track “I Wanna Make Love (Not Just Sex)” was one of the highlights of CD it was featured on in 1996 (see my previous post here.) 
 
I Wanna Make Love Not Just Sex 3:26 
I'm Just A Player 4:00 
Take 'Em Off 4:22 
Can You Get Up On This 4:11 
 
 

V/A: Urban Collective Vol. 1: R&B (Hi-Bias Records, 1996)

More top tier R&B showcasing the best in Canadian urban talent in the mid-90s. Again this has been something I have wanted for a long time after falling in love with many of the artists I heard on BeatFactory’s Groovessentials and other similar compilations from the Great White North. Again there are a lot of great tracks here that you won’t find anywhere else from Brent Taylor, Cleo-Patra,  Unique and others. Unique in particular were one of the highlights of Blacklisted Records’ Tha Crab Theory CD which I posted back in 2019 while Brent Taylor’s “I Wanna Get Freaky” is possibly the sexiest quiet storm song I have ever heard with “I Wanna Make Love” (Not Just Sex)” by Dar-rell (Strickland) a close second. Other tracks such as Cleo-Patra’s “Love You Right” and “Life Is Not The Same” by Tanya Mass are funky and rhythmic 90s R&B. Altogether an excellent compilation of 90s underground R&B talent, one which could definitely rival anything the US had to offer at the time. 
 
Denosh - Counting The Dayz 5:16   
Yolisiwa - Love Me Like I Love Ya (Off The Hook Mix) 4:11 
Daryl West - Nasty    4:11
Camille Douglas - Keep It That Way    4:35
Carlos Morgan - Feelin' Alright    4:12
Brent Taylor - I Wanna Get Freaky (Milestone Mix)    4:30
Cleo-Patra - Love You Right (Flava Mix)    3:26
M2P - Do You Love Me    3:59
Oval Emotion - It's Not The Right Time (StoneHenge Mix)    3:46
Unique - More Than Friends (Vocal Mix)    4:31
The McAuley Boys - In Another Lifetime    5:14
Dar-Rell - I Wanna Make Love (Not Just Sex)    3:29
Tanya Mass - Life Is Not The Same    4:26
Andrea Skeen - Take My Love (R&B Mix)    4:13
Renae - I Like The Way (831 Yaard Mix)    4:25
George Chambers - Nice & Slow    4:09

V/A: Solid Soul (Masiv Music, 1999)

From Blacklisted to BeatFactory, over the years we have found some great stuff from our Northern neighbors and this set Solid Soul is absolutely no exception. Volume 2 which I acquired back in 2019 was a bit of letdown. With 90% of the album focused on showcasing alternative hip hop (and with the main focus on Nigel Williams and his awful group The Pocket Dwellers), it is something that I don’t listen to all that often. Though I was disappointed, it was then that I discovered this album was actually a continuation from a CD that I had long since had in my want list and finally at the beginning of the year, I was at last able to get it. Unlike the second volume this set is 100% R&B and aside from the compulsory tracks by Carlos Morgan and Wade O. Brown (who are both great in their respective ways), there is a lot of great stuff here that you won’t find anywhere else not limited to “She Knows” by Meesah, “Everything and Anything” by 360 and “You Did Me Wrong” by Divine Earth Essence (aka Michelle “Divine” Brown or Boo Boo Brown from her earlier work.) Why Volume 2 was not of this same caliber I don’t know but it seems the original label Masiv Music shut up shop at the turn of the millennium and licensed their music out to somebody else. 
 
Meesah - Ride Wit Me 4:11 
Carlos Morgan - Watcha Got 3:51 
Divine Earth Essence - You Did Me Wrong 3:41 
Wade O Brown - No Other Woman 4:19 
Kaybe - I Cant Love You 4:13 
Fara - Pretty Brown (Dappas Mix) 5:20 
360 - Everything & Anything 5:48 
Wade O brown - Give Me The Chance 4:29 
Meesha - She Knows 4:30 
Simply E - Na Na 4:41 
Carlos Morgan - Watcha Got (Audiolab Remix) 3:26 
 
 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Caren Handley: I Wanna Be Loved (CDS) (T-Barr Records, 1997)

From the latter part of the mid-90s, a great slow jam from an unknown Atlanta female artist who visually bears more than a striking resemblance to a young Whitney Houston. No information to be found on her anywhere but the song’s instrumentation and vocal arrangements reminded me slightly of “Wait For Me” by Chalant. It was produced by Keith “Keecho” Rawls formally of the 80s R&B duo Jamm and looking at the track info for Chalant’s own song I was astounded to see it was produced by Fred “Freddie Boy” Sawyers, the other half of the duo. I guess I have a great ear. 

Karen Workman: Demo - Unknown from Atlanta, GA

From a closed down community radio station in Atlanta, GA (WRFG), another obscure demo from an unknown female artist. Though it’s on a CDr, the music is a mixture of early 90s modern soul and bouncy swing-beat that originally sounds like it was recorded onto analog cassette tape. Not full songs sadly but along with Andre and Kaize Adams, one of the better things to come from this particular seller on Discogs. 
 
 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Further shelved music from the UK: Melodi Brown

Further shelved music from Melodi Brown (Zahra, Kemi, Kelly Ann and Stefanie) an early 2000s girl group whose songs were later given to Jamelia, Rachael Stevens and even Britney Spears to record. Their debut single "Naked" was pulled a few months before its official release and "Do Something" was originally meant to be their song before it became a hit for Spears. Although very catchy, some songs were a little on the poppy side; "Never Knew My Baby" was later given to Thai pop singer Tata Young and another "Naked" starts out great before the chorus takes it - for me at least - into average pop song territory. Mostly produced by Bloodshy & Avant, the highlight of the set was undoubtedly "Skin", with its uncanny similarity to Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style", and with the energetic "Spin The Record" coming in at a close second.  Answers as to what happened include one member leaving the group and the label Polydor choosing to focus on its new girl band at the time, a certain one with a then Cheryl Tweedy as the lead singer.