A once, Gangsta’s Paradise! I had absolutely no intentions on writing about rap today; but I indirectly found photos of Coolio and said to myself, “damn! What the hell happen to you!! Holy cow!!! Oh, hell…. Let’s talk about it! Coolio has gone from an almost “king of rap” status, to becoming a hasbin in the span of only a single decade. Coolio is one of those cases that gives me many mixed feelings about rap in general. But, the truth of the matter is, the whole subject around the genre is very complex, because there are many elements that surround it; as there are many opinions that go along with them (both in support, and against).
Coolio hasn’t had a major hit since “Gangsta’s Paradise,” from the movie soundtrack “Dangerous Minds (1995),” starring Michelle Pfeiffer. By he way, Dangerous Minds was an incredible movie in my opinion. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I do remember enjoying it very much. Michelle did a hell of a good job; way more than I gave her credit for in the beginning. Not only did Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise hit number 1, it stayed number one for 3 consecutive weeks! That was very impressive. This rap title was very unique, in that it’s one of the very few compositions that captures the raw emotion of being young and out in the streets. I also think the movie helped to bring further context to Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise.
Now, once I started to see photos like this emerge on the internet, I knew Coolio has finally lost his last mind. A once Grammy Award winning artist, has not only been in jail multiple times, but has had more run-ins with police than most people can change clothes in a day. And you know what else? Like father like son! I found an article from NY Daily News, that says that Coolio and his son was actually in the same prison. Discovering Coolio’s website was also somewhat of a shocker. Coolio’s World, is a decent looking website. However, it also screams “I’m trying desperately to keep my old rap career alive.” Which would explain why Coolio insist on keeping those damn few strands of braids. He most likely feels it’s the only way people would remember him. Another sign that Coolio is not doing well, on his website he as a section called “Cooking With Coolio.” This man is just screaming for attention. A stark contrast from the Coolio we once knew.
You know, I’m thoroughly shocked! Absolutely dumbfounded! That the hugely popular musical group called “The Platters” only had one number one hit, and only two top 10s, according to Billboards’ Top 100 Charts (since formed in 1952)! Holy cow! Well, let me tell you, growing up, The Platters as a group were certainly #1 in our family. I remember my grandpa playing this group just as much as all his other favorites. Even as a young child, this was the kind of music I personally gravitated to.
The Original Lead Singer, Johnny Barnes, Had The Most Beautiful Voice!
The original lead singer, Johnny Barnes, had the most beautiful male voices I ever heard at the time. Even today, no other group comes to mind (when it comes to doo-wop), where their lead singer carries a tune so beautifully the way he did. Actually, you know I should add a small disclaimer to my prior statement. There were so many members that changed, members that were swapped, etc., Johnny may not actually be the original lead singer. However, his voice is the predominant voice I remembered growing up. There were sooooo many songs they produced, that became my all-time favorites. One of them on the top of that list, which also happens to be their only #1 song, is called “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” released in 1959. Man…. For me to be so young, and know nothing about love/adult relationship and somehow be able to connect with this song, was a huge testament to the power of his voice.
I was thrilled when I actually found a YouTube video of Johnny Barnes singing some of their old tunes! That was so cool! Now, that was a moment I hope the guests cherished. I would have loved to be present for that. If my research is correct, Gaynel Hodge is the only living member left from the legendary Platters. You know, considering all the scandals I’ve read; including drugs, as well as 4 male members being accused of sex trafficking (although never charged), I don’t even understand how that group continued to exist in that era, especially when news like that entered the public domain. Honestly, I really think that Johnny’s voice saved The Platters from total destruction. If they were not so talented, and had great songs, they would have been toast by the end of the 60s.
Before I close this article, I’d like to leave you with some more of my Platters favorites. “Only You (And You Alone),” “The Great Pretender,” “You’ve Got The Magic Touch,” “My Prayer,” “My Way,” “Unchained Melody,” “Please Have Mercy,” “I’m Sorry,” “As Time Goes By,” and finally, “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Thanks for reading… I hope you’ve enjoyed this article.
You know, it’s a beautiful thing as a blogger, to have literally thousands and thousands of great artists on the lists to write about!! Today, I’d like to switch gears a little bit. Violins and hip hop? How many of my readers knew such a genre called “classical hip hop” even existed? I’d like to bring to your attention, a genre within hip hop that appears to be almost ignored. Partly because I feel it’s not mainstream enough, which is a shame ’cause it would certainly add a completely new layer of diversity in regards to hip hop.
A Phenomenal Group, Black Violin
I’d like to introduce my readers to a phenomenal group, Black Violin! I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long while now. They are an extremely talented duo, that happens to be both African American, and both are classically trained violinists. Wilner Baptiste & Kevin Sylvester are from Florida, and I believe they started their group somewhere around 2003. Now, certainly Black Violin was not the first to use classical hip hip in their music. However, they are the first hip hop group I’ve ever seen that can actually not only play the violin, but are phenomenal lyricists, and creatively incorporated those skills in to their string sounds, giving us a whole new level to hip hop.
Their cultural background speaks loudly in their work! There’s so much clean quality in their music, oppose to that same ol’ repetitive gangster shit that are burned in to the minds of the young on a daily basis. Their first CD is the one I fell in love with. However, it’s extremely hard to get. I suspect something went down between them and their label. I did manage to discover it on SoundCloud. There are a couple of nice remixes of some old classics on that album. One of the pieces I really liked from that first album is “Jammin’.” Sort of reminds me of the rapper Juvenile a little bit. You’ll know what I mean when you hear it. Also, check out “Dirty Orchestra,” which is also on the first album.
Now, there are a number of songs I do like that are available for streaming. One piece that I think is real hot is called “A-Flat,” from their 2012 album called “Classically Trained.” It’s a damn shame this didn’t even register on the billboard. Another one that I think is hot is a piece called “Stereotypes,” from their 2015 album “Stereotypes.” This piece only registered at #146 on the billboard. Most young people are not ready for this kind of music; or perhaps their just not looking for it. Despite not hitting #1 on the charts, they’ve worked with some powerful people in the music business, which includes Fat Joe & the Wu-Tang Clan. Check out their Black Violin’s website.
Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake. If Michael was alive at the time of this mix, there would have been no greater collaboration! I’m talking about the hit song “Love Never Felt So Good.” Their voices blended nicely and seamlessly together. I have to say, this song is one of my ultimate favorite songs from the late MJ. I just appreciate the fact that while the producers involved offered a new spin on the song, they also managed to keep Michael’s essence of the 70’s. Hearing this song just made me miss MJ all over again 😭
The Song Was Co-written with Paul Anka!
I learned something interesting. NEVER in a million years would I ever thought the song was co-written with Paul Anka! I found this out indirectly, when I heard the original piano version, and guess who was on piano? Yup, the legendary Paul Anka! Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me some Anka, I was just thinking from the standpoint of their musical styles are so different, I just would have never matched those two together. Yet, at the same time, I am not surprised. Michael was inspired by many people that are not spoken of today, and that includes Charlie Chaplin. MJ was truly musically diverse indeed. To my understanding, the song was still just a demo put together from the 1980s, and was never released until 2014.
Now, for various reasons, I don’t watch award shows; and haven’t done so since the 80s. But it is my understanding that Justin has received a Vanguard Award @ The VMAs, according to The Rolling Stones Magazine. So, I guess the remix of Michael’s song was good timing, as Justin was at the very peak of his career. Watching the tribute video to this song just makes MJ fans wanna cry. To hear the words sung “Love Never Felt So Good,” and to see footage of some of Michael’s best performances, was just heartbreaking to me.
You know, given light to all of Michael’s past personal problems; especially in regards to his financial troubles; the only question that seemed to be in the media just before his death; “would Michael be able to make enough money for a successful comeback?” The song “Love Never Felt So Good” alone was such a huge success around the world, there was no doubt about it, he would have been very successful. It seemed that every single artist on the planet covered this song. It was like listening to a karaoke explosion or something.
You know, having Marilyn Monroe here probably seems a little out of place. Most of the time, when we hear or read anything about Marilyn, it’s usually one of three following things. It’s either about her struggles as an actress; her scandalous relationship with Bobby Kennedy; or whether her death was an accidental overdose or murder. However, as strange as it may seem, I chose to write about her because believe it or not, Marilyn was also a talented singer too. Luckily for us, Spotify has a treasure trove of music history hidden in its massive library.
Happy Birthday Mr. President!
Not to sound arrogant or anything, but… I’m willing to wage a bet that for most people, the only singing anybody has ever remembered by Marilyn (if any) was her famous “Happy Birthday Mr. President.” Marilyn sung Happy Birthday to then president John F. Kennedy, for his 45th birthday in 1962. Well, I guess it would make sense, since back in those days, Marilyn was considered a sex goddess. That performance was such a big deal! LOL. She sang to the president in such a way, that it seemed she was trying to seduce the president on stage! 😳
Not only the late Marilyn Monroe could sing, she had several albums to prove it. Now, unfortunately it appears I can’t find any chart information for Marilyn, but that doesn’t mean that she did not have any popular music! Especially when it came to her movie soundtracks! One of the most popular songs I remembered growing up was a song called “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.” The song was recorded in c. 1953. She performed this song in the movie “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” and it became the inspiration for Madonna’s “Material Girl (1984).”
You know, it’s a shame. Marilyn isn’t really spoken of, unless you happen to watch an old documentary about her, or some sort of conspiracy theory episode on one of those “unsolved mysteries” type of shows. But Marilyn had a powerful influence in American culture. From paintings, to fashion, film, photography, and even music performances. One good example is when Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) from “Bewitched,” turns in to her character “Serena.” She was basically a brunette version of Marilyn. Performers such as Madonna; even Donna Summer! It is said that Donna Summer literally channeled Marilyn when she recorded her hit song “Love To Love You Baby,” in 1975.
Oh, boy. I loved the Heptones growing up. They really made some nice music back in the day. Their music is the kind of music I think should have been played on stations like Light FM. The Heptones reggae version of “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” was perfect for light radio! It’s a shame that as many Americans claim to love reggae music, it was almost never played on major stations, unless it was music produced by a major American artist. The only exception to that as far as I remembered was Bob Marley, and Eddy Grant. Not even Eddy Grant; because it is my opinion that he only got famous because of the song he produced called “Romancing The Stone.” Grant originally produced it for the movie “Romancing The Stone (1984),” starring Michael Douglas, and Danny DeVito. But, even then, as I’ve discussed on my old blog, I never considered Eddy Grant’s music reggae music. 90% of it was all Americanized, and appealed to specifically American rock/pop audiences.
Now, I honestly don’t mean to rant and start bitching….. But…… Reggae groups like the Heptones need to be sought out and played! Too many American people hear that dancehall music and think that, that’s what reggae is all about. But the reality is, just like American music, there is an array of reggae music of different styles and genres. Trust me when I tell you, not all reggae music is the same! I can’t tell you just how many American people who tell me, “I don’t listen to reggae music, ’cause they all sound the same.” The reality is, if those people really searched for it, they’d immediately know they’re not the same.
Not All Reggae Music Is The Same
So, The Heptones consist of a trio, Robert Dacres, Earl Morgana & Carlton Scarlett. Past members: Naggo Morris, Leroy Sibbles, and Barry Llewellyn. They come from Jamaica, and their core genres are Rock Steady and Ska. The group harmonized so well, it was almost like listening to a Jamaican version of The Miracles. The Heptones are so talented, it infuriates me that I have such difficulty finding chart information for many of these groups. I know I sound like a broken record already, but this is part of the many causes of why we’re losing our music culture. Black music culture especially. People are searching for good music, therefore this information must be made available! Otherwise, the music simply becomes “oh yeah, my mom played that song once or twice.”
I want to leave you with one last favorite of mine by The Heptones. The song is called “Party Time (1972).” Now, this song right here?!?! This is some sweet reggae right here!! You don’t have to just take my word for it anymore, you can immediately listen to it yourself on Spotify! It just a shame that the song is so short. According to The Jamaican Observer, the legendary rock steady group is still in demand, and is now touring in Europe. That is so awesome!!