Elsie Muniz

The Urban Latina.

Kandi and Tiny

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


The Truth About Choice.


Another shelved R'n'B group from 1997


The First Lady of SoulPower.

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