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Philly soul legends The O’Jays get political on their farewell album and its single “Above The Law”

The O’Jays: Walter Williams, Eric Grant, and Eddie Levert | photo by Shahar Azran | via Pitchfork

Though they’re originally from Canton, Ohio, The O’Jays will be forever associated with Philadelphia, due to their work with producers Gamble & Huff and their mega-hit “Love Train” being a defining song of The Sound of Philadelphia.

It’s been 45 years since that song emerged, though, and it seems that the band’s hope and optimism has hardened a bit. “People all over the world, join hands” might still be a noble ideal, but as The O’Jays admit in their new single, “evil exists as well as good.” To say nothing of forces like power, corruption, intolerance, hate.

The new song is called “Above The Law,” and it’s a deep funk groover with a dose of socially conscious real talk, in the vein of The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.” Continue reading →

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Junglepussy, Queen Jo and Rayana Jay play a commanding, empowering set at The Foundry

Junglepussy | photo by Lissa Alicia for WXPN

When one consumes a curated collection of art, regardless of the medium, there is more often than not a blatant artist statement or verbal declaration of intent. On rare occasions, one may come across an assemblage so carefully put together that even the slightest explanation would do it absolutely no justice. This was the case at The Foundry’s Wednesday night show that included Queen Jo, Rayana Jay, and headling act Junglepussy. Three women at the mic, backed by two women at the DJ decks, delivered seemingly endless prideful, raunchy and unapologetic lyrics for an empowering set that commanded the audience to take charge of their sexuality, identities, lives. Continue reading →

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Vijay Iyer delivers a beautiful and bombastic solo set at Annenberg Center

Vijay Iyer | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

If you’ve dedicated any portion of your life to obsessively writing about rock and pop, you’ve probably arrived at an eventual point where rock and pop alone become…boring. Uninspired. You begin to explore other sounds, to expand your proverbial horizons. Sometimes the process can be gradual, and sometimes the gates can blow wide open.

For me, a major entry point not only into jazz, but the possibilities of what music can sound like using jazz as a baseline, was a hand-me-down vinyl copy of Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert, a double LP, 66-minute, entirely improvised concert where the famed pianist for Art Blakey and Miles Davis rocked to and fro across 88 keys, punctuating his playing occasionally with moans and cries, finding himself in moments of cathederal-like reverence, and later cascading into dissonant depths.

Watching award-winning jazz band leader, composer, and scholar Vijay Iyer give a rare solo performance at the Annenberg Center’s Harold Prince Theatre on Saturday night, I was very much reminded of Jarrett, and this album in particular. Continue reading →

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Jay Som announces new collaboration with Justus Proffit, EP Nothing’s Changed out next month

Jay Som and Justus Proffit | photo by Kris Kirk | courtesy of the artists

California songwriter Jay Som‘s recent move down the coast resulted in not just a new home, but a new collaborative project. When Melina Duterte, the musician behind Jay Som, relocated from the Bay Area to Los Angeles following the release of her acclaimed 2017 debut LP Everybody Works, she met singer-songwriter Justus Proffit, and a just-for-fun jam session soon turned into a new musical project entirely. The duo will release an EP, called Nothing’s Changed, on September 28 via Polyvinyl. Continue reading →

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Beyonce and Jay-Z go On the Run, Again, at the Linc

PHILADELPHIA - JULY 30: Beyonce and Jay-Z perform on the 'On The Run II' tour at Lincoln Financial Field on July 30, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Raven Varona/Parkwood/PictureGroup)
Beyonce and Jay-Z | photo by Raven Varona | courtesy of the artist

Within a 2-and-a-half hour, 43 song framework – not counting additional snippets, elements and slips of other tracks, theirs and not theirs, within each tune – of costume changes, flames, good hair, stomping, dueling catwalks, raised moving stages, fireworks literal and figurative, choreographed sideways glances, nose tugs, and oh yeah, dancing, the wife and husband team of Beyoncé and Jay-Z  executed an On the Run II extravaganza at Lincoln Financial Field last night. It was great, and good, and too much, and occasionally not enough – but I’ll get to that.

Actually, let’s get to that now. Having witnessed every show that Beyoncé (Destiny’s Child, too) and Jay-Z (including duet gigs with Kanye West and Justin Timberlake) have performed within a 200 miles radius of Philadelphia, I can safely say that I know what the energy of a given Bey, Hova, and-or On the Run teaming (a la 2014’s first event) looks, sounds and feels like. Continue reading →

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Made In America’s future on the Parkway is in question; Jay-Z responds to city’s “eviction” in Inquirer op-ed

Jay-Z | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

While Jay-Z’s seventh annual Made In America music festival is set to bring Meek Mill, Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, and Janelle Monae to Philly on Labor Day weekend, this could be the last year the event takes place on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Or, depending on how alarmist you want to get about it, in Philly at all.

Yesterday, Danya Henninger of Philly news site Billy Penn reported that MIA 2019 would not be held on the Parkway, attributing the news to an unnamed Philadelphia communications official; this was verified by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Dan DeLuca, who received a statement from deputy communications director Sarah Reyes. Both accounts contained similar reasoning and language: per Reyes in the Inquirer, “When the festival first started, it was intended to provide a unique attraction to the city on the otherwise quiet Labor Day weekend. Over the years, tourism has grown overall, and the need for an event of this scale at this location may no longer be necessary.”

This, however, came as news to Jay-Z and his partners at both Roc Nation and LiveNation, who organize the festival every year. They learned about the city’s intents though the Billy Penn article, and Jay-Z responded to what he’s termed as an “eviction” with a scathing Inquirer op-ed today. Continue reading →

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Oakland’s Elujay gets old school on “Locked In,” brings the Bay Area to The Voltage Lounge

Elujay | photo via facebook.com/ElujayMusic

Oakland neo-soul singer, rapper and producer Elujay first came on my radar when he released his 2016 debut project Jentrify. It was an upbeat and soulful mix of tracks with a lot of catchy melodic hooks that showcased his laid-back style of delivery as well as his sensual vocals.

For lyrical inspiration, Elujay looked at the changes in his Bay Area community, where high-end new developments were causing a shift that displacing longtime lower-income residents. He other goal with the thirteen track collection was to represent the community’s thriving musical culture by incorporating many of its creative minds, musicians, and voices, including Samaria, Jay Ant, Rexx Life Raj, and more.

From there, Elujay has been releasing a bunch of singles such as the infectious Goldlink-esque style track “Golden” and earlier this month, a soulful gem titled “Locked In” following his equally smooth track “Starchild.” The artist debuted the new track on a performance with COLORS (watch the video here) as a preview for his to-be-titled second full-length project. Continue reading →

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Beyonce and Jay-Z’s On the Run 2 stadium tour comes to The Linc in July

Beyonce and Jay Z’s On The Run II tour poster | via Brooklyn Vegan

Beyonce has had braids in for months. For those of you who are not well versed in the language of the Bey Hive, it means she’s up to something. That something is On the Run 2. That’s correct, Beyonce and Jay-Z are teaming up for another joint tour, which kicks off in Cardiff, Wales on June 6th, and makes its way to the U.S. by late July for 21 North American dates — including one at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Monday, July 30th. Continue reading →