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.

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