Rich Hil biography

Rich Hil
Rich Hil
If you want to find singer Rich Hil these days, better check the studio first.

For the past two years, the 19-year old has been putting in 72-hour work weeks, releasing a seemingly limitless—700 and counting—supply of songs, freestyles, and mixtapes for his devoted fanbase. Drawing inspiration from Dylan and Hendrix as much as hip-hop, the artist behind the Lost Limos mixtape series and his upcoming full length melds stream-of-consciousness, improvisational rhymes to woozy, blissed-out beats, creating a sound immersed in hip-hop but still rooted in the musician’s psychedelic, singer-songwriter leanings. It’s this idiosyncratic style that Hil has dubbed “hippie,” a mix of vintage beats, unabashed tributes to drug culture, and a laid back flow that rejects the gaudy materialism of certain emcees in lieu of a more thoughtful, back-to-basics lifestyle.

Growing up in the “stuck-up neighborhood” of Glenville, CT, Hil’s penchant for individuality manifested itself at an early age. “I’ve always been the black sheep of the family and the whole area,” he admits. “As soon as I realized what public school was, I made them switch me. Yeah, I got beat up in school. Yeah, I was a loser. Now, because I can say that, I made it cool.”

The precocious songwriter began writing and recording tracks at 13, learning swagger from Philly rap stalwarts like Beanie Sigel and Philly’s Most Wanted and prolificacy from 50 Cent. “I would just lock myself in a room for hours studying the same rap until I felt I knew it,” recalls Hil.

He quickly got the attention of über-producer Swizz Beatz, who produced tracks for Hil’s first group and took him on his first tour. It was as hype man for the producer, and as a performer in his own right, that Hil learned the performance side of the game, a trait that has metastasized into the performer’s current setup with a blistering live band.

The maturation process has been quick since those early days. Nowadays, Hil hasn’t touched a pen for a while, allowing the music and his instinct to decide the topic, flow and vocal melody. The result is a steady barrage of music that incorporates Hil’s mix of raspy crooning and rapping with an emotional, sometimes brutal, directness that recalls the best of Lil Wayne. “I don’t talk about money, fame or power,” admits the emcee. “It’s strictly vulnerability and the fun I have is stuff I take to ease that vulnerability.”

This atypical candor has endeared him to countless followers—some of whom supply Hil with beats via his Twitter page—including Atlanta producer Don Cannon and rapper Kid Cudi, who has collaborated with Hil on numerous tracks. “The fans that I have will never leave me. They’re cult hippie followers,” says Hil. “It’s a movement because my fans feel like they know me because there’s so much sincere material I’ve put out.”
The movement in question is Limo Life Records—Living is Musically Outrageous—on which Rich and Philly’s Most Wanted’s Boo Bonic make up the core components. “Limos are wack, but some people think it’s the coolest thing in the world,” explains Hil. “It’s a metaphor for the uncool that seems cool. I’m a lonely, depressed high-anxiety paranoid kid that’s telling you my story. But I said to myself, ‘You know how I’m gonna be the best? I’m just gonna be me. 100%. So anything that comes to my head, I’m letting people know.'”

The Spill Canvas biography

The Spill Canvas
The Spill Canvas
Nick Thomas, the singer, guitarist, and mastermind behind The Spill Canvas, recorded his first songs at age 15 while growing up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and honed his largely acoustic-based style playing solo shows in and around his hometown. Calling himself The Spill Canvas, Thomas released the raw and emotive Sunsets and Car Crashes, which earned him eager fans around the country. After officially transitioning from solo act to full-fledged rock band, The Spill Canvas recorded their dynamic debut full-length, One Fell Swoop, with producer Ed Rose (The Get-Up Kids), releasing it on One Eleven in May of 2005 to great acclaim, eventually selling more than 50,000 copies.

In 2006, The Spill Canvas signed to Sire Records, which released their major-label debut full-length No Really, I’m Fine in October 2007. Produced by Neal Avron (Fall Out Boy, Wallflowers, Yellowcard), the album spawned the mainstream breakthrough radio hit “All Over You” and climbed to No. 2 on Billboard’s Heatseeker’s chart. Throughout the years, the band have toured with Yellowcard, Motion City Soundtrack, Straylight Run, Mae, The Plain White T’s, Augustana, the Hush Sound, and One Republic, and have graced the stages of Austin’s annual music festival SXSW, New Jersey’s Bamboozle Festival and the Vans Warped Tour — earning them a growing loyal fanbase.

The Spill Canvas are currently in the studio with Mike Green working on the follow-up to No Really, I’m Fine, to be released by Reprise Records in 2010. On January 12th, they released Abnormalities — a three-song collection of new songs, which will be followed by an EP in March.

Robyn biography

The last time we heard from Robyn, it was 2008. The diminutive Swede was riding high after top ten hits with bittersweet, orchestral-pop hit Be Mine and anthemic dance ballad With Every Heartbeat. The latter song went to number 1 in the UK, shortly after the album Robyn was nominated for a Grammy. Not only did these feats provide a brilliant backdrop to the Platinum selling album from which they sprang, but the success of Robyn was the high point of a comeback which saw the one-time teen popstar reinventing her career on her own terms.

Three years later, and the singer is set to release a triple album in three instalments. Body Talk Pt 1 picks up where Robyn left off, with the emphasis on those sweeping, emotional dance tracks and the biting, quirky rap-pop with which she made her name. The album’s title reflects the singer’s love of dance culture, having spent three years promoting her last album in clubs across the world. It also reflects her personal intrigue with the disconnect between what your body does and what your mind wants. So, opening track Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do sees her sardonically running through a check-list of guilt-inducing vices- “My drinking is killing me, my smoking is killing me” against a propulsive, glitchy backbeat. It’s half manifesto of what the singer represents and half slacker rant. “It’s like everyone wants you to be perfect and you’re dreaming of a world where you can do what you want. I guess it´s about the modern world and the stress I think most people in it feel sometimes. It´s a pretentious message so I tried to make it as simple as I could. I´m talking about how I felt when I came off my tour, she explains. Similarly, the rowdily cute Fembot sees Robyn projected as a cartoon character, one who raps that “Fembots have feelings too”, and who suffers the blight of the hormonal desires which conflict with what her brain is telling her to do.

Dancing On My Own is the one which will bring a lump to your throat, and the natural successor to With Every Heartbeat. Against an industrial techno beat, Robyn depicts a scene familiar to many: the man she loves is dancing with another woman, oblivious to her presence as she looks on. It is, as Robyn puts it, a song inspired by her love of inherently sad, gay disco anthems such as Ultravox’s Dancing With Tears in My Eyes, Sylvester and Donna Summer. Again, it plays on the title Body Talk, because “it’s the contrast between dancing, which is such a happy form of expression, and feeling heartbroken. I think those songs get to people because heartbreak is such a lonely feeling but you can share that sadness so easily with the right song.”

Robyn also hooked up with Diplo for the track Dancehall Queen, her semi-satirical homage to European mid-90s chart rave and rap acts such as Dr Alban, Technotronic, Leila K and Neneh Cherry. “Sweden had these great pop groups who brought African heritage to Europe and combined their influences with Techno. It turned out Diplo and I were both fans of this period of music, one which a lot of people think is quite cheesy. So when he said he wanted to make an Ace of Base song I burst out laughing, but I loved the idea.”

For a short album, Body Talk PT 1 has many dimensions. Later on, we hear the singer offer a spooky, childlike rendition of the traditional Swedish folk song Jag Vet En Delig Rosa, which translates as I Know of a Lovely Rose and was made famous by jazz singer Monica Zetterlund. Robyn even recorded it on the original microphone which Zetterlund used to record her signatory version in the hope of channelling the right atmosphere. And then she switches tracks again; Hang With Me (Acoustic) and Cry When You Get Older offer a wise note to any younger listeners, albeit in the vein of an older sister who’ll share her alcopop with you while she’s mopping up your tears.

If it seems strange that a popstar would release three-albums in today’s current climate, where music lovers are even less inclined to download a whole album than they are to pay for music, you have to consider Robyn’s credentials as something of a pop trailblazer. This is the woman who was signed to a major label aged 15, had her first album out at 16 and had toured America before she was 20. While other teenagers were learning about who they were alongside their peers, Robyn’s formative years were spent surrounded by what she describes as a “commercial machine”, music industry execs who wanted to turn her into the next Christina Aguilera. She released an album called My Truth (“I was so pretentious back then, just look at that title!”), which no one outside of Sweden got hold of. She was working hard, but completely aware that something just wasn’t right. And so she severed her ties with the major labels and started her own label, Konichiwa.

She met Klas Åhlund, of Swedish punk group Teddybears, and the pair began working on songs for her eponymous album. “You think that you will disappear if a record company doesn’t like you. After compromising so much, I was really questioning everything, then I gave it one last shot, I worked with Klas and we made Robyn.” With the benefit of many years of working within the music industry, she was able to do things on her own terms for the first time. “More than anything, I wanted to have fun! What’s the point if you’re not enjoying it?”

Body Talk PT 1 sees her joining forces with Åhlund once again, which is one reason why the album, though only eight songs long, takes you from techno to dancehall to acoustic ballads and nostalgic Swedish folk songs in one seamless journey, and still sounds undeniably like a Robyn record. Each song on Body Talk PT 1 represents the many sides to this unique, thoughtful, uncompromising artist. It is the woman who has absolutely no trouble telling the wrong guy to back off, and the woman who, on a Body Talk Pt 2, will rap with Snoop (“he wore his slippers the whole time we were recording”) and demand the next Pope be a black woman.

At a time when the charts seem to be dominated by female solo artists, Robyn represents one of the few who is actually prepared to be an individual and let the songs do the talking. There’re no elaborate costumes, no carefully constructed image, no industry machine; instead of cultivating a pop aesthetic which will guarantee commercial returns, Robyn has spent most of the last ten years doing everything she can to find a way to be herself.

If she can go from weepy dance ballads to Fembots and Dancehall Queens on the first album, imagine what she has up her sleeve for part two?

Macy Gray biography

Macy Gray
Macy Gray
At the start of 2009 and ten years into her career, Macy Gray found herself a free agent and on the verge of “The Sellout.” Sure, she sold 15 million albums, scored two Grammy Awards, two MTV awards and with “I Try,” had one of the most successful singles of all time, but after 2007’s Big, she found herself alone, with no one to answer to but herself. Big was the slickest album of her career and she considered going even further away from the true, gritty, whiskey-voice Macy, following instead of leading. In other words, selling out.

“I thought after Big flopped maybe I should do what everyone else was doing,” she says. “Go out and hire the hottest producers, the best writers, get real skinny. But none of those people called me back.”

For Gray, it was an ego-bruising wallop that left her bewildered and irritated at relationships that turned out to be more fair weather than everlasting. “I was terrified, I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “You have all these people telling you how dope you are and then they just go away.”

Chastened, Gray went back to her comfort zone, toiling in the studio with a select group of friends and musicians. A studio owner in Tarzana gave her a dirt-cheap deal on space and for months she went in and pushed herself to come up with new material. As the new songs took shape, that feeling of rejection gave way to a steely resolve to reestablish herself as one of music’s dominant singers. “When I was on my own, I was making songs that I liked,” she says. “It was my own money, I didn’t have to go play it for someone. I wasn’t someone’s employee.”

The resulting effort – aptly titled The Sellout (Concord Records) – is a return to form for Gray, perhaps her finest album to date, but one that propels her sound forward rather than looking longingly at the past. Sure, there are classic-Macy pop-soul stylings in tracks like “Lately,” but she branches out on tracks like the epic stadium rock-stomper “Kissed It” (featuring a blistering guitar solo from longtime friend Slash) or the Prince-like slow funk jam “Stalker” that wouldn’t be out of place on Sign O’ The Times.

According to Gray, many of the songs started out with a four-on-the-floor dance beat, but then, “everyone started doing it and I needed to stay true to who I am.” That shows up on the album’s first single, the breezy “Beauty In The World” which started out as a David Guetta-style house track but switched after Gray turned it into more of a rollicking peace & love sing-a-long. “You get bombarded with opinion and expectations and what other people want and you forget what you do well,” she says. “That song is what I do well.”

Gray also clearly ups her game in the lyrics department, filling out the portrait of herself as an artist. Many of her songs have her trademark wit (check out the horny banter between her and guest Bobby Brown on the steamy “Real Love”) but others are more agonizing, whether it’s the deeply confessional “On And On” or the making amends of “Still Hurts.” “I was depressed,” she admits. “I had been through two or three relationships in that time so my love life wasn’t going well. Last year was a real bummed out time.”

But leave it to her three teenage children to put things in perspective. “Beauty” was inspired by her daughter who one day Macy overheard laughing hysterically in the next room. “I was having a really bad day and I heard my daughter just cracking up in the next room,” she recalls. She has this really great laugh and I didn’t even know what she was laughing at. I thought ‘at least she’s happy.’ And I felt at least I hadn’t failed there, because my daughter’s happy.”

Despite the rejection, the uncertainty and the heartache, The Sellout is a total triumph and success. It’s a testament to Gray’s resolve and songwriting chops that the material feels so honest and authentic but yet effortless, moving seamlessly from one track to the next. There’s nothing forced, nothing that feels out of place. Fittingly, the album ends with the anthemic track, “The Comeback,” a bookend declaration of things accomplished and the hope for better things to come:

“Hey big world it’s me again/I’m coming way back to be big again.”

“I just poured my heart out,” she says. “I didn’t set out to have a theme, but when I put them all together it was a picture of my life in that time. I’m dying for people to like it.”

It’s the comeback. And The Sellout. And it proves that Gray has no intention of fading away.

Erykah Badu biography

Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu
In ancient Egypt, the hieroglyphic character of the ankh at the fingertips of a goddess symbolized eternal life. If Erykah Badu’s “cipher keeps moving like a rolling stone,” as she so coquettishly proclaims in the legendary single “On & On” from her dazzling 1997 debut, Baduizm, her latest opus, NEW AMERYKAH PART TWO: RETURN OF THE ANKH, the follow-up to 2008’s critically acclaimed New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War, represents the point in Erykah’s career where she has traveled that cipher’s full 360 degrees and been revitalized. The new album, a warm recital of personal philosophies on love and heartbreak, marries the understated wit of the old Erykah to the sonically venturesome new Erykah. On NEW AMERYKAH PART TWO, structured ballads and airy jam sessions coexist peacefully in the same soulful arena.

Besides the album’s posh synapses and poetic out-of-the-boxness, Badu put her executive producer title to good use, enlisting many of the same producers that made New Amerykah Part One such a rich audio feast. This time around, the cast of usual suspects—9th Wonder, Madlib, James Poyser, Sa-Ra’s Shafiq Husayn, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jah Born, R.C. Williams, Ta’Raach, Karriem Riggins, and the spectral J Dilla—are not so easily identifiable, outdoing themselves with arrangements that step out of their signature realms of production. Take, for instance, NEW AMERYKAH PART TWO’s intro track “20 Feet Tall,” which finds Badu’s astral “I Can” theme matched with a sparse and uncharacteristic 9th Wonder production interpolated by James Poyser on keys. “Erykah is fantastic at speaking on a woman’s point a view on things,” says 9th Wonder. “She can create that connection between genders, even without the help of the producer.”

If unpredictability doesn’t explain NEW AMERYKAH PART TWO’s cohesiveness, then compatibility certainly does. Nothing else could account for the pure harmony on the album’s lead single, “Window Seat,” which features Badu’s seasoned vocals over a hypnotic thump and graceful keyboard riff. The mellow groove was co-produced by composer James Poyser with an assist from ?uestlove from The Roots on drums, representing a cache of genius that has been fermenting since Baduizm’s “Otherside of the Game.” Badu’s voice, frank and comfortable, sounds like it’s been privy to the same miles of history tread by R&B greats of yesteryear as she sings, “Can I get a window seat? / Don’t want nobody next to me / I just wanna take it out of town / A look around / And a safe touch down…”

Badu’s maturity, however, does not come at the expense of her wicked sense of humor—or her penchant for throwing sly hip-hop references into the mix on songs like the sprightly “Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY),” in which Badu waxes poetic about the power of the almighty dollar while paying homage to the classic Junior M.A.F.I.A. hit “Get Money” as well as Sylvia Striplin’s “You Can’t Turn Me Away,” which is referenced in both songs.

The Notorious B.I.G.’s influence can also be heard on “Fall In Love.” Produced by Karriem Riggins and featuring a recognizable piano loop from Eddie Kendrick’s 1977 classic “Intimate Friends” that listeners will likely recall from Alicia Keys’ 2005 hit “Unbreakable,” Badu finds herself lyrically inspired by a track called “Warning” from the late Brooklyn rapper’s phenomenal debut, 1994’s Ready to Die, as she playfully cautions, “You don’t want to fall in love with me / There’s gonna be some slow singing and flower bringing / If my burglar alarm starts ringing.”

But while the hustler’s anthem “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long,” which harkens back to Baduizm’s “Otherside of the Game,” is another standout track, the true centerpiece of NEW AMERYKAH PART TWO is “Out My Mind Just In Time,” a three-movement ballad reminiscent of “Green Eyes” from 2000’s Mama’s Gun. In it, Badu bashfully admits, “I am a recovering undercover over-lover / Recovering from a love I can’t get over / And now my common law lover thinks he wants another.” The song’s second and third movements, produced by singer-musician Georgia Anne Muldrow, provide a funky perversion of the melancholy track.

“Out My Mind Just In Time” is also the title of the cover art for NEW AMERYKAH PART TWO, which is a collaboration between Erykah Badu and famed artist and poster designer EMEK, who also designed the inspired packaging for New Amerykah Part One. The new album cover depicts an underwater image of Badu wearing a suit of armor that symbolizes the tough exterior she developed to protect herself from the harsh realities of life. The armor is her old shell and now she’s liberating herself from it by climbing out of her own head so that she can be reborn. Her tuning fork is summoning the vibrations of the universe and the purple-colored tree of life and purple sky represent the 7th Chakra—the Crown Chakra right above her third eye shield, which represents peace, wisdom, and spirituality. The numerical theme of three is symbolized by three moons, three hidden babies, three trees, and three ankhs. Closer inspection reveals that Badu’s shoulders are surrounded by many of the same objects that filled her abstract afro on the cover of New Amerykah Part One, including handcuffs, a foreclosed home, fast food, cigarettes, broken chains, and a military tank. Here, those items represent refuse and rubble from which new life grows into a vibrant garden of colorful flowers blossoming all around her.

In keeping with the concept of the cover art, NEW AMERYKAH PART TWO taps into Badu’s emotional side by thematically focusing on romance and relationships. “With Part One, I was standing at an apex, looking at what was going on around me politically, socially, and economically,” Badu explains. “With PART TWO, I’m hovering over me, looking at what’s going on inside of me.”

Indeed, Erykah Badu’s soul is a beautiful, elusive thing. It popped up from the water with three dollars and six dimes. It popped up in the Bag Lady who was gonna miss her bus because she was carrying too much stuff. Some of it told her ole man to call Tyrone to help him come get his shit. A lot of it cried warm salty tears for her green eyes when she discovered love could indeed hurt like this. Throughout her career, Badu has both controllably and uncontrollably given herself to her music. With NEW AMERYKAH PART TWO: RETURN OF THE ANKH, Badu defers to the fickle stew of emotions, laments, aspirations, and rants that strong spirits are made of, the same stew of naked passion that has made her entire body of work such a visceral success.

Josh Kramon biography

Josh Kramon
Singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Josh Kramon is a go-to musician who has played for several bands and released a pair of indie albums as a solo artist. Kramon also boasts a number of impressive credits as a composer and writer of TV theme songs, including the cult hit “Veronica Mars,” for which he composed music for three seasons and which continues to generate fans of Josh’s work to this day.

His new album, Say It Now (to be released on March 9th on Soul Shout Records,) is about being honest with who you are and living your life true to yourself so that at the end each day you’re left with no regrets. Touching on the spiritual, but also the joys of the material world, this is a set of songs that is both introspective and celebratory, a paean to living and surviving in these perilous times. In other words, carpe diem… Seize the day. Just what Josh Kramon has done on Say It Now.

“I think that the ultimate challenge in life is stripping away the layers of illusion to get to that one ultimate truth and part of the reason that I made this record was to strip away some of that illusion to get closer to the truth.”

Kramon recorded the songs which make up the new album in his home studio, recreating much of what he loved about the records he listened to growing up as a kid in L.A. Those influences include classic-rock like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Band and the Stones, as well as ‘70s singer-songwriters Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor and Jackson Browne, with elements of James Brown funk, Curtis Mayfield soul, OG hip-hop acts De La Soul, LL Cool J and Dr. Dre and even the lilt of old-school reggae from Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff thrown in.

“One of my the biggest songs that changed the way I looked at songs was when I heard Beck’s “Loser” back in the 90’s. I loved the way he mixed Hip Hop loops southern slide guitar and Dobro. Kid Rock has done that pretty well too.

After a pair of indie releases, Forward and Big World, Say It Now is Kramon’s most accomplished work yet.

“I’ve kind of blocked everything else out to focus on this album,” he says. “I felt I had a group of songs that deserved more than just throwing them on iTunes to see which ones would stick.”

From the urgent declaration of the opening track, “I’m Alive,” and the plea to speak your mind in “Say It Now” to the sing-song, tongue-in-cheek critique of the modern rat race in “End of the World” and the religious entreaties of “The Maker,” Kramon touches on all the things that affect every one of us in a world that is more fragile, yet interconnected, than ever.

“The songs are about finding peace of mind and solace from the hustle and bustle of modern society,” he says. “I’m trying to look for the best in things, offer a positive vibe, hope and optimism. And it’s also about finding truth and meaning in our lives.”

Kramon says, musically, the new album is based on “acoustic guitar, melody and groove,” ranging from The Band-like R&B funk of “Soul,” the Latin-gospel flavor of “Say It Now” and the Springsteen circa Greetings from Asbury Park lyricism of “End of the World” to the loping reggae beat and playground chant of “Beautiful Lady,” the sensual Beatlesque Rubber Soul of “Lipstick Mama” and the horn-punctuated, elemental blues of “Shout Out.”

“It’s a very different process writing songs than it is composing themes and scores for TV,” explains Josh. “I have to concentrate on either one or the other at any one time. Ideas for songs come to me all the time, so I carry a recorder to get them down. Making songs happen is a much less rushed, methodical process than scoring. Sometimes I have just three or four days to write 35-40 minutes of music for a TV show. Creating songs isn’t as cerebral. It’s a more instinctual, subconscious way of working.”

“For television, I really have to strop out of myself to serve the project and in making records I have to step into myself, it’s a totally different experience but I love them both.”

Kramon’s TV credits include composing the themes and scores for network shows such as UPN’s critically acclaimed Veronica Mars, ABC’s Cupid, October Road and Big Shots, MTV’s Making the Band and, most recently, the noir-ish ‘40s jazzy main title song to Starz’ Party Down. He has also had several of his original songs licensed for use on both Veronica Mars and October Road, but he feels Say It Now, for which he wrote every track and played every instrument, deserves to be heard as a coherent whole.

Kramon has been working on the new album for over a year. “I go into this tunnel vision,” he says about his songwriting and recording process. “Sometimes it’s hard to see what I’m doing. When the individual songs start coming together, that’s when I switch hats to become more of a producer and editor. That’s the cognitive part.”

Tracks like “I’m Alive,” “Say It Now,” “Good Times” and “Shout Out” are about living life to the fullest and being true to your own passion, no matter what anybody else says.

“They’re not only about accepting who you are, but having the people around you accept who you are, also,” explains Josh.

“End of the World” tries to make sense of what’s going on in society with a grain of salt, while “The Mask” is about the various guises and personalities we hide behind, “becoming who you really are and not pretending to be who you’re not,” according to Kramon.

“Beautiful Lady” and “Lipstick Mama” are unabashed love songs and paeans to sensuality and romance, the latter in particular “a composite of different women I have known,” acknowledges Josh.

“The Maker” speaks to his spiritual yearnings with a Dylanesque ambiguity. “Like any type of religious text, it can be interpreted in different ways,” he explains.

With Say It Now complete, Kramon is ready to play his material for audiences, and is currently putting together a band to accompany him on live dates.

“I’m very comfortable with these songs,” he says. “I want to share them. I want them to be heard. There’s a great deal I feel I can do with them live. I’m confident they will connect with people because they deal with things everybody’s experiencing and going through right now.”

On “Shout Out,” Josh Kramon sings, “I want to show you that I’m here.” Say It Now does just that.

Brutha biography

The five brothers that make up Def Jam’s R&B super group Brutha were literally born to sing. Besides their innate ability to harmonize, brothers Grady, Jake, Anthony, Papa and Jared come from a long line of gifted musicians that includes their father, Grady Harrell, who released a series of R&B albums on RCA Records in the late ‘80s.

After recognizing his sons’ natural talents, Harrell encouraged them to enter talent competitions in and around their South Central, Los Angeles homes. The boys eventually combined their efforts and in 2003, performed as a group for the first time at L.A.’s Key Club. After years of building their collective star, Brutha was offered a major label deal with Goodfellas Entertainment/Def Jam Records in 2007.

“In that four years before we got our deal we were basically grinding as much as we could as a group,” says Jake, the sensual singer of the group. “We were all pounding the streets in LA doing shows, bar mitzvahs weddings, anything we could do because we loved performing.”

“Our uncle had a relationship with the late Shakir Stewart and walked us into Def Jam and we sang for him and subsequently ended up meeting Jermaine Dupri and we were signed two weeks later,” adds the group’s eldest brother Grady.

In 2008, Brutha scored another career changing deal with the show Brothers to Brutha, a reality show that documented the group’s rise to fame and chronicled the recording of the guys’ debut album. The show was created by the prolific TV producer James Dubose and the band’s manager and uncle, Drano before being sold to BET, where it quickly became one of the network’s top rated shows. “The show allowed us to create a pretty solid fan base because we had 1.2 to 1.5million viewers every week,” says Jared who brings his love of hip-hop into Brutha’s sound. “But I don’t think the show really showed a lot of our musical side so now it’s time to start focusing more on the music.”

While their first album was well received by their fans, Brutha is ready to show the world just how far they have come. Their sophomore album, Vacancy is an intimate reflection of their young, fly and flashy lifestyle. With production from contemporary greats like R. Kelly, Vacancy is a sexy ride in the fast lane told only the way Brutha can.

“With our first album, we were new in the game,” says Anthony whose production knowledge enhances the guys’ overall sound. “We didn’t really get a chance to be ourselves. But his time around we have more experience and we are able to be more of ourselves. So it’s more sexual, it’s edgier and that’s who we are.”

For Vacancy, Brutha pulled inspiration from a long weekend in Vegas. It was an experience any young man would surely sing about. “This whole album is a true story,” says Anthony. “Three days in Vegas, poppin’ off doing what we gotta do. Vacancy is about love, sex, fun, and parties. It’s just completely a 180 from our first album.”

The album’s first single “One Day On This Earth” was written by R. Kelly and details the guys’ dying romantic wish and the lucky lady who will be the bearer of their final gifts. R. Kelly also appears on the titillating “Talk Box” where Brutha flex their skills over a mid-tempo track produced by Mad Scientist. The boys continue to satisfy the ladies on “Make Love” where they sing sweet nothings while proving that their love is supreme.

The second single “Yours Forever” written by Johnta Austin (Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige) and produced by Eric Hudson (Kanye West, Ne-Yo) taps into the bands softer side. This beautifully written mid-tempo love has the fivesome telling a woman everything she want to hear from the man she loves.

“High Coming Down” showcases an edgier side of the smooth singing five some as they invite rappers Twista and Rick Ross to spit game along with Brutha’s tales of a new love gone wrong. Then on “Money Green Eyes” the guys sing about an all too familiar Sin City story.

“Sometimes you have a little alcohol in you and you start having a little too much fun the beautiful ladies dancing on the pole might put you in a little trance,” says Papa who pulls inspiration from Donny Hathaway as well as 2Pac. “On ‘Money Green Eyes’ we fall in love with this stripper and her money green eyes.”

With songs that both young men and women can relate to and fantasize about, Vacancy is sure to strike a cord in just about everyone. Influenced by everyone from New Edition, Sam Cooke, Michael Jackson to Jodeci, Brutha is not only a well rounded group, but they are also continuing a longstanding tradition of musical greatness. Lucky for them, it runs in the family.

Allstar Weekend biography

Allstar Weekend
Zach – Vocals, Guitar
Nathan – Guitar, Vocals
Cameron – Bass
Michael – Drums

Even though Zach, Nathan, Cameron and Michael are still in their teens, they carry themselves like stars. So why not call themselves Allstar Weekend? The Hollywood Records quartet may be young, but they have the talent, nerve and off-the-chart charm needed to go all the way. And don’t worry. They will.

Beyond their exceptional musicianship and stage presence, these guys write great pop songs: melodic, smart and edgy. Zach and Nathan do most of the writing (though Cameron and Michael weigh in). Moreover, they wield a mature craftsmanship beyond their years. It’s unmistakable in songs like the synth-hook-laden “Dance Forever” and the introspective “Journey to the End of My Life,” available as a download on iTunes.

“I’m a kid,” says lyricist Zach, “so I feel issues a kid my age would listen to. I try not to write every song about a girl.” Adds Nathan, “When we first came to this band, we just felt we had to write all the time. That’s all we did. We just developed this cool writing process, and people started liking it.”

Currently Allstar Weekend is in the studio working the likes of Howard Benson, Eddie Galan, Charlotte Caffey, John Feldman and Dave Bassett. But long before that, San Diego band’s homegrown demos were good enough to wow siblings Richard and Stefanie Reines, founders of Drive-Thru Records, and now managers of the band. “We don’t freak out about bands too often, and we never insist every band we work with is destined for Top 40 success,” says Stefanie. “Allstar Weekend is one of those rare instances where we just know they’re going to be huge.”

The son of a working musician, Nathan credits his dad for teaching him the finer points of music appreciation. Zach was raised on a steady diet of Bruce Springsteen and Elton John, artists he credits for inspiring his artful approach to songwriting. Cameron fell in love with his parents’ 80’s pop classics, from Prince and Michael Jackson to Duran Duran, later graduating to Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King.

Zach and Cameron had been friends since middle school, but the makings of Allstar Weekend didn’t begin until Nathan met Zach later in high school. Though a year apart, they saw in each other kindred musical spirits, and began a string of garage bands. “Then Zach and I decided to take our abilities somewhere else,” remembers Nathan. “We wrote songs and recorded in our bedroom, then put the music up on Myspace.”

Not long after, first Cameron, then Michael came aboard and the line-up was complete. With key influences like the music of Queen and Blink-182 at their back, the band wasted no time getting serious about developing their careers. “It wasn’t just the artists who inspired us,” recalls Zach, “but the producers. We tried to figure out how they made things sound the way they did. It was a trial and error process, and when we first met, it was our entire life. We’d sit there all day figuring out how to get certain tones out of the guitars, how producers tracked vocals, how drums were mixed.”

Still, they found time to perform locally and build a fan base. “Our biggest asset was our self -promotion,” says Zach. “We were going out and plugging our band. It’s what got us noticed.”

The Walt Disney Company sure noticed. The band was selected to participate in Radio Disney’s “Next Big Thing” program, and the reaction was so positive, Hollywood Records grabbed them. So far, they’ve racked up more than 2.5 million Myspace plays and 50,000 You Tube plays for their video of “Journey To The End Of My Life.” In concert, Allstar Weekend has shared the stage with bands like Justin Bieber, Maine, Forever The Sickest Kids, Selena Gomez and Savanna. Typically their live shows turn into a picture-and-autograph frenzy. “A few months ago we didn’t have a single fan,” laughs Cameron. “Now we love hanging out with them and getting to know them.”

With their new 24/7 whirlwind existence, the members of Allstar Weekend have mastered the art of chilling, and do not take themselves too seriously. Which is a good thing, considering the frenzy is only just beginning. “We never clash and we’re always on the same page,” says Nathan. “That’s because we have music in common.”

So America might do well to get ready for Allstar Weekend. Because at this point, there simply no way to stop them. “Every day freaks us out,” says Zach with a smile. “How cool is that?”

Say Anything biography

Say Anything
“With great power comes great responsibility.” Surely a meaningful quote, but who can take credit for it? Thomas Jefferson? Sigmund Freud? Socrates? Nope. Spider-Man. It goes to show how something sort of profound can spring from an unlikely source. Any reluctant underachiever can make a difference: nerdy dude who gets bit by a mutant spider or awkward bipolar kid in a vaguely “indie” punk-pop band. That is the premise behind the band and the new self titled record Say Anything – we are in danger and any one of us has the power to save us. It’s a fitting concept for a cult-favorite band who, on November 3rd, will release a definitive artistic statement aimed at the masses.

Like the origin of any unlikely hero, Say Anything was forged from conflict: a feisty young punk band from Hollywood formed during the birth of “hipster” elitism, always out of place. In that day any group of rich kids with a penchant for the Velvet Underground and enough five o’clock shadow could be paid millions of dollars to be walking billboards for “anti-culture” consumerism. Say Anything shunted pretension, choosing initially to play sincere and nervous rock music and opening locally for the touring bands they closely identified with (The Weakerthans, Rilo Kiley, The Promise Ring). A few years passed and songwriter Max Bemis continued to feel alienated from the collegiate “scene;” He witnessed young rebels devolve into the counter-culture clichés they sought to avoid in the first place, “reverse psychology” victims of homogenized humanity. By identifying this mass-marketed “hip” lie, Bemis found his “arch villain” and, imbued with purpose, Say Anything’s music became a new monster – as theatrically pop-based as it was angular and dark. Influenced by bands like Fugazi, The Who, Botch and Smashing Pumpkins, Say Anything dually expressed its irreverence through sing along punk and almost awkwardly confessional Woody Allen-esque lyrics.

The band soon released their rock-musical debut Say Anything…Is a Real Boy on Doghouse Records, garnered a cult fan base, and then entered a partnership with RCA Music Group. They earned a niche of their own, more relatable than sometimes high fallutin’ “indie rock” bands but more intelligent than the youth oriented “emo craze.” A cathartic live show began to attract thousands of kids a night. Say Anything became unusually critically-lauded for such a pop-based “punk” band. Bemis’s openness with his bipolar disorder increased awareness of the disease’s affect on musicians and led to him creating a close, respectful relationship with Say Anything fans that has endured their success. Their sophomore double record In Defense of the Genre affirmed they weren’t leaving fans behind despite the “hype machine” they’d been placed in. Say Anything’s first two records went on to sell several hundred thousand copies and the band became an underground rock fixture rapidly leaking into the mainstream.

So now what of the good fight? Had their cause fallen by the wayside of the normal mechanizations of the music business? After his tumultuous early twenties, overcoming an abusive relationship and a struggle with mental illness, Bemis was finally able to clear his head. He even fell in love and got married. Informed by this spiritual awakening, he finally sat down to write a record that would encapsulate Say Anything while at the same time naturally appeal to a broader audience. Recorded early in 2009 by acclaimed producer Neil Avron (Everclear, Linkin Park, Weezer), Say Anything’s self-titled record is almost undeniably the one they’ll be known for, highly accessible but replete with dark, sardonic lyrics and musical twists.

It feels like the record the band has been destined to make: one that your Jonas Brother worshipping 12 year old sister and your quarter life crisis Arcade Fire fan big brother can both somehow enjoy. The record explodes with the gnarled, chunky chords of its fierce opener “Fed to Death,” defining the band’s crusade against both nihilism and fundamentalism. The Clash-meets-Queen single “Hate Everyone” cheekily captures the first stage of personal renewal: waking up on the wrong side of the bed. “Do Better” is an orchestral do-good-feel-good anthem for the mentally perverse. “Mara and Me” finds Bemis declaring to fight his alienated nature over a frenetic Mike Patton-eque musical landscape replete with mathcore flourishes, circus music and a “surf” breakdown. “Property” tells the story of the world’s worst boyfriend, skewering modern gender politics and serving an evil 50’s doo wop love song over a punk rock beat. “Crush’d” satirizes Justin Timberlake and Lil Wayne, while at the same time evoking a sweaty, Jewish Coldplay. The proverbial hooks keep coming all the way to an epic resolution, the “Hey-Jude” meets Minor Threat hymnal “Ahhhh….Men.” The record tells YOUR story: it’s both a strange romantic epic and a call to arms.

Like Spider-Man, Say Anything is a bunch of skinny, weird dudes who have been given a gift; the privilege to speak their minds in the venue of mass culture. They aren’t the type of band to take that for granted. Making music, despite being a rather silly preposterous enterprise, CAN actually affect massive change. There are wrongs to fight against: society eating itself, the influence of a corporate controlling power, the death of TRUE morality or even one person feeling their will to live slip away. This album is a weapon for that fight and clearly Say Anything wants you enlisted, laughing like a lunatic and dancing all the way.

Selena Gomez biography

Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez took her sweet time before recording her debut album. After all, she had her hands full starring in her hit Disney Channel series “Wizards of Waverley Place,” not to mention appearing in a string of movies and other TV shows. Still, music had been a core passion of hers going back to childhood. A child no more, Selena comes on strong with her Hollywood Records premiere CD, “Kiss & Tell.” It is nothing less than the emancipation proclamation of a young artist with a lot to say.

She didn’t get there alone. Producer Ted Bruner, along with songwriters Gina Schock , Tim James & Antonina Armato and Selena’s band, The Scene, wrap her vocals with fire and ferocity. “Because it is my first record I wanted it to be amazing,” Selena says. “I think of this record as a huge learning journey. I wanted to find my sound and see where I wanted to go musically.”

On that journey, she clearly found her musical home base. And it rocks. Selena’s blazing rock ‘n’ roll chops may surprise fans, especially on songs like “Kiss & Tell,” with its battalion of drums, tight harmonies and Jane’s Addiction-like lead guitar work. Says Selena with a laugh, “Basically this is my harsh song, but in a good way.”

Selena decided to make the album “passionate, fun and empowering,’ as she puts it. Thus, for the most part the 17-year-old singer bypasses the puppy love and goes straight to a righteous “guys are dogs” attitude. Songs like “Falling Down” and “I Don’t Miss You At All” simmer with feminine scorn, while the pop gem “I Won’t Apologize” (which Selena co-wrote) takes a stand for self-affirmation. “Girls my age tend to change themselves for others,” Selena says. “Whether it’s a boyfriend or trying to fit in with the ‘cool kids,’ this song says you’re not going to apologize for who you are.”

Selena tackles ballads on the wistful “The Way I Loved You” and “I Promise You,” the latter a love song steeped in unadorned romance. She shakes off the sentimentality in the sophisticated put-down rocker “Stop and Erase,” “I Got U,” “Crush” and “As a Blond,” perhaps the edgiest song yet from the legally brunette Selena. “Every girl goes through a break-up at some point,” she says, “and they never feel good. I wanted to make sure that the songs about heartbreak were all empowering rather than sad. When I perform these songs I don’t feel I am dwelling on pain.”

She ends the album with a full-circle moment, re-recording “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know,” an upbeat hip-hop-flavored track she first cut several years ago and now revisits with a more seasoned point of view. “I thought it would be a fun to redo the song and add some cool techno beats,” says the ever-adventurous Selena, who today stands at the brink of a thrilling new phase of her career.

Born July 22, 1992 in Dallas, Texas, Selena started acting at age seven when she landed a role in the popular television series “Barney & Friends,” on which was a regular for two seasons. There she met her best friend, actress/singer and fellow Hollywood Records recording artist Demi Lovato. Their connection has endured. “I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to go through so much with Demi,” says Selena. “We have known each other for so long now that we’re more like sisters.”

She landed her first feature film role in 2003, when she was cast in the sci-fi action adventure film “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.” Selena went on to lend her voice to “Horton Hears a Who!” in 2008, and made guest appearances on “Hannah Montana” and “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.”

But she made her greatest impact as an actress starring as girl wizard Alex Russo in the hit Disney Channel series “Wizards of Waverly Place,” which premiered in 2007. For their work on the show, Selena and her cast mates won a 2009 Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program. “I don’t think I’m too much like Alex,” Selena says. “She gets into a lot of trouble, and my parents would never let that happen. Overall she’s confident and doesn’t let anyone negative get in her way, which is a good quality to have.”

Her busy schedule in front of the camera did nothing to dampen her musical dreams. Selena recorded three songs for the “Wizards of Waverly Place The Movie” soundtrack, as well as tracks for “101 Dalmatians,” “Another Cinderella Story” and “Tinker Bell.” But she had broader ambitions. “I have always loved music and write all the time, but to make a career out of it seemed scary,” she says. “I focused more on acting at one point, which blessed me with my show and other projects I had the honor of working on. Now I’m putting more into my music.”

With a new album, a hit show and more movies on the horizon, it’s a wonder Selena has time left for anything else. But she makes time to give something back. She has volunteered for St Jude’s Hospital for children, Disney’s Friends for Change and she was twice named youth ambassador for UNICEF, a role that recently took her on a fact-finding trip to Africa. It all served to expand her perspective on life. “I am constantly growing and changing,” she says, “but I like to think my morals about family and friendships haven’t changed.”

She’s not done dreaming. In the years ahead, Selena plans to push her career to greater heights, while always remembering her fans and the faith they place in her. Summing up her goals, Selena says: “I want to inspire others, help and make an impact.” With “Kiss & Tell,” she won’t have long to wait.