At Merriweather Post Pavilion - LUPE FIASCO

At Merriweather Post Pavilion - LUPE FIASCO

On March 8th, critically acclaimed rapper Lupe Fiasco returns with one of the most heavily anticipated releases in recent years, a revolutionary album called LASERS, reaching new heights of lyrical and musical mastery, while aiming to reach even bigger audiences.

The album has already spawned an exuberant hit single, “The Show Goes On,” which re-introduced Fiasco to fans after a four-year absence. It will undoubtedly continue to earn attention over the next year and beyond with mind-expanding and ear-catching singles like the incendiary “Words I Never Said” featuring Skylar Grey and produced by Alex Da Kid (Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie”), the thought-provoking “All Black Everything,” and “Out of My Head,” a collaboration with labelmate Trey Songz.

LASERS is an acronym for “Love Always Shines Everytime: Remember to Smile,” and the album is a reflection of a 14-point manifesto the Chicago-born MC composed to guide him on the project, including items like “We want substance in the place of popularity” and “We will not compromise who we are to be accepted by the crowd.”

“I want to start a popular uprising,” says Fiasco. “The music is the bait to get people to come in and listen to what I’m saying.”

LASERS features some of the most thought-provoking rhymes and concepts Fiasco has ever conceived, combined with irresistible melodies, production by the likes of Jerry Wonder and The Neptunes, as well as collaborations with John Legend, Trey Songz, and others.

The album is filled with unvarnished truth, straight from the mind of the hyper-literate Muslim MC, who grew up in the projects, but read books constantly and learned martial arts from the age of three. The son of a Black Panther, his family didn’t have cable TV, but did have a subscription to National Geographic.

On the bombastic “Words I Never Said,” the MC unloads his frustration with the media and politics, calling right-wing pundits Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck racists, and even taking aim at fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama, emphasizing that he did not vote for him. Another track, “State Run Radio,” takes aim at the hyper-regulated, repetitive radio industry—don’t hold your breath waiting to hear it on your local station, but it’s sure to become a viral hit.

If those songs are grounded in modern reality, “All Black Everything” takes a fanciful look at the past, asking, What if black people got paid for slavery?

“I just started thinking, ‘What if things had gotten off on a totally different foot?,’” says Fiasco. “What if they just came over to Africa and said, ‘We want you guys to work for us.’”

Of course, not every song on LASERS is a political discourse or a historical construct. Some of them can be described as standard hit records. “Never Forget You,” with John Legend, is a soulful love song produced by Jerry Wonder. “Out of My Head,” with labelmate Trey Songz is a smooth synth-driven R&B cut.

On his first two albums, Food & Liquor (2006), and The Cool (2007), Lupe Fiasco earned his reputation as a rap philosopher, a sharp, dynamic lyricist, and an MC who could shock you, make you think, make you dance, and make you laugh, all without resorting to vulgarity or tired hip-hop alliterations.

Lupe Fiasco burst onto the scene in 2006 with “Kick, Push,” a single that sounded like nothing else in mainstream hip-hop and instantly heralded the arrival of a unique voice. Over breezy horn samples, Fiasco used skateboarding as a metaphor for overcoming struggles in life and love ("He said, 'I would marry you/But I'm engaged to these aerials and varials/And I don't think this board is strong enough to carry two'").

Food & Liquor would go on to reach No. 8 on the Billboard 200, spawn subsequent singles “I Gotcha” and “Daydreamin’,” featuring Jill Scott, and end the year with multiple Grammy nominations.

A year later, The Cool reached even greater heights selling over 500,000 copies and spawning the top-ten hit “Superstar,” featuring Matthew Santos. It’s been four years since The Cool—a long wait during which Fiasco squabbled with his label, endured some personal turmoil, and debated whether or not he even wanted to release another album.

“I kept asking, ‘What’s the point? What does all this lead up to?’” he recalls. Ultimately, he says, touring, meeting fans, and being able to do things for his family reminded him of why he wanted to make music in the first place. “You keep smiling, you keep looking for that happiness,” says Fiasco.

During the downtime, Fiasco’s dedicated fans grew restless. More than 32,000 signed a petition demanding that Atlantic Records release LASERS, an effort that was covered by CNN and Rolling Stone, among others. Then, on October 15, 2010, several hundred gathered in front of the Atlantic offices in New York City to demand they release the album. The fans called the day “Fiasco Friday.”

“That blew me away,” says Fiasco, “that so many people would come from all over the country, miss school, miss work, put themselves on the line to do that. It really touched me.”

LASERS is a superior collection from top to bottom. It’s an album with a mission, summed up in the conclusion to Lupe Fiasco’s manifesto:

“Lasers are shining beams of light that burn through the darkness of ignorance. Lasers shed light on injustice and inequality. Lasers act and shape their own destinies. Lasers find meaning and direction in the mysteries all around them. Lasers stand for love and compassion. Lasers stand for peace. Lasers stand for progression. Lasers are revolutionary. Lasers are the future. We’re not losers… We are LASERS!!!”

"The self-proclaimed "Ambassador of Rap for the Capital," Wale (pronounced "wah-lay") was able to transcend his local sensation status and become a national rap contender using go-go-inspired hip-hop as the vehicle for his clever wordplay and music. Olubowale Victor Akintimehin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1984 to Nigerian immigrants who first arrived to America five years prior. Although the family moved to Maryland at age ten, Wale was mostly raised in suburban D.C. He attended both Robert Morris College and Virginia State University on football scholarships, eventually transferring a third time to Bowie State. The music bug had already bit him hard, though, and soon he quit college altogether to turn towards a recording career.

Wale got his first airplay circa 2003-2004 with "Rhyme of the Century," thanks to the help of a local radio DJ who believed in his potential. This landed him in the "Unsigned Hype" column in Source Magazine the following year. In 2006, Wale signed with the local start-up imprint Studio 43, owned by a former VP of Roc-a-Fella Records, and enjoyed a string of hits in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area that year. Many of those records sampled from '80s go-go -- a more raw, percussion-driven offshoot of disco originating in D.C. -- like the popular "Dig Dug," a tribute to Ronald "Dig Dug" Dixon of go-go band the Northeast Groovers. Smart use of the Internet and MySpace was also a big factor in his success, as it helped British über-producer and DJ Mark Ronson (known for his work with Amy Winehouse, Christina Aguilera, and Rhymefest) catch wind of the go-go MC in 2007.

Wale struck a production deal with Ronson's own imprint, Allido, and released the 100 Miles and Running mixtape that summer. Despite not being signed to a major label, he was met with a good deal of positive press, ranging from XXL magazine to The New York Times. After a bidding war that included offers from Epic, Atlantic, and Def Jam, Interscope finally grabbed Wale for its roster in early 2008. The full-length Attention Deficit followed in 2009." - Cyril Cordor, AllMusicGuide

It doesn’t happen often. But every once in a while a young artist comes along who has the chops, vision, range and creative conviction to change the game. Miguel is among that chosen few.

Let’s start with his voice: The Los Angeles, California, native has one of those raw honey falsettos that oozes into your soul and stays there, even after the music stops. Billboard Magazine exclaims, Miguel, 24, “offers both the sweetness of Babyface and the passion of R. Kelly.” Yum.

Then there’s the power of Miguel’s pen. This Scorpio doesn’t just write lyrics. He paints aural portraits—of his loves, his heartbreaks and his kinky little fantasies. “To me, the best songs are the ones that show how vulnerable, how human we all are,” says Miguel. Penning Asher Roth’s “His Dream,” Mary J. Blige and Musiq’s “If U Leave,” and co-writing on Usher’s Raymond V Raymond album, Miguel says, “For me, writing is like making steak and potatoes into a Happy Meal—how do I work in that substance but keep you coming back for more?”

With the album tracks on his ByStorm/Jive debut, All I Want Is You, Miguel certainly delivers. Through his longtime partnership with LA-based underground stalwarts Fisticuffs, and his visits with veteran boardsmen such as Salaam Remi and Dre & Vidal, Miguel has cooked up a truly genre-bending mélange of sounds. On the same platter, you’ll find traces of the Cali avant garde hip-hop he picked up from his high school homie Blu; the funk, electro and classic rock he borrowed from his crate-digging Mexican-American dad; and the big, rich harmonies of his African-American mom’s traditional soul.

“Overall, I call my style ‘eclectric,’” says the crooner who considers himself a mashup of Prince, Lenny Kravitz and Pharell Williams. “It’s edgy and it defies category, but it still reaches the people.”

Produced by Remi and featuring Roc Nation firestarter J. Cole, the album’s title track and lead single represents this balance. Since early summer, the hypnotic track has garnered widespread critical acclaim, constant radio play and a gang of online praise from everyday fans. The underground hip-hop heads who know Miguel from his features on Blu’s Below the Heavens; the hipsters who downloaded his adventurous, electro- 2008 EP Mischief the Mixtape and the young people of today’s generation screaming for him on BET’s 106 & Park, have embraced the hit single.

With more than 8 million plays on MySpace, his second single “Sure Thing” has also captivated fans. The slow-burn makeup song features a chopped-and-screwed hook with rock candy-sweet lyrics like, “Even when the sky comes falling/ Even when the sun don't shine/I got faith in you and I/ So put your pretty little hand in mine.” Like every track on All I Want Is You, the song is based on a true story. “I wrote ‘Sure Thing’ after I cheated on my girlfriend at the time,” Miguel reveals. “Instantly, I knew I had made a mistake and I didn’t want to do it again. I started writing all these metaphors about how she and I belonged together like, ‘If you be the cash, I'll be the rubber band’ and ‘You be the match, I’m a be your fuse.’ That song helped me sort out how I was feeling about her.” Not only did “Sure Thing” help Miguel get his girl back, it compelled industry veteran Mark Pitts, JIVE Label Group’s President of Urban Music and the CEO of ByStorm Entertainment, to sign the songwriter to an artist deal.

Miguel’s true love story continues with the mid-tempo bounce of “Girls Like You,” a track he penned after he and Miss “Sure Thing” split for good. “I was enjoying being single, but every so often I’d look at one of my homeboys who had a good girlfriend and it would remind me that I really wanted a connection. It was like, ‘I’m out here doing all of this, but I’m still lonely.’”

Of course Miguel isn’t all Hallmark romance. On “Teach Me,” an electric-guitar-laced romp that recalls Prince, circa “Little Red Corvette,” he chronicles his quest to satisfy a woman seven years his senior. “That was a very…interesting relationship,” Miguel says with a sly smile. “‘Teach Me’ is about how I learned what she needed and wanted physically, all the intricacies of what turned her on.”

And then there’s “Quickie,” a roots-reggae influenced fantasy of a one-night stand Miguel wrote after watching a mystery woman wind at the club. “‘Quickie’” is a really special record for me because marks my personal renaissance. Up until then, I was known as the great guy, the little brother that girls would come to for advice,” he explains. “But there was something about that night—maybe it was because I was underage at an over-21 venue doing adult things—that opened me up. I went home under the influence of alcohol and inspiration and I wrote.”

Given his current candor and confidence, you might think Miguel Jontel Pimentel has always been so clear about his creative path. But you’d be dead wrong. While he started singing and dancing at age 5, songwriting at 8, producing at 11, and signing a production deal at 13, he eventually hit a wall.

“When I was coming up in the industry, I had people telling me to dress and dance more ‘urban.’ A few even said I should stay behind the scenes and write because I was a ‘hard sell’ as a half-Mexican guy who sounds Black but looks Filipino,” he recalls without a trace of resentment. “At first I took the advice—I wore the white tees, the fitted caps and the baggy jeans and focused on writing—but that didn’t work for me. Only when I said, ‘Forget what everyone else says, I should be,’ did the doors start to open for me as an artist.”

And the doors are sure to stay that way for this artist’s artist who cites James Brown, David Bowie, Queen, Kraftwerk and Jimi Hendrix as key influences. After all the hard work, Miguel has been receiving positive reviews as the opening act for this fall’s Mary J. Blige “Music Saved My Life Tour” and recently confirmed as the opening act for Usher’s “OMG Tour” in November. Later this year, after 10 years underground and behind the scenes, he’ll deliver All I Want Is You to an ever-growing audience that can recognize true talent when they see and hear it.

Game-change starts. NOW.

In an era where rappers are hard-pressed over obtaining "cross-over appeal" and forcing out commercial hits, up and coming rap artist Phil Adé has brought his easy-going subject matter and genuine flow to help lighten up the genre of Hip Hop.

Although Phil Adé proudly proclaims himself as one of the D.C., Maryland & Virginia area's own, he also has spent a better portion of his life in California, Alabama, and Florida. He says, "The 'Metro' area no matter what anyone says is my home. That's where my heart is, but being from more than one place is what makes me more of an interesting person as well as an artist. I rap for everybody."

Adé started rapping in his spare time as a source of fun in his junior year of high school, writing the usual cliché raps that he heard on the radio everyday. After a couple years of recording and studying the creative abilities of other rap artists such as The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye West, and Lil' Wayne, Phil finally found his own artistic identity and with the encouragement of his closest friends started seeing his newly developed talent as a way to make a living...and so the grind begins.

Currently Phil is under D.C. based artist management company "PaperBoy Management" and recently signed to the independent Hip Hop label 368 Music Group also based in the Nation's Capitol. Adé is slowly pushing toward his goal of "moving [his] boat into the mainstream." Until then be on the lookout for the array of songs and projects that he has been waiting to release.

For decades, US music charts have seen what they call a "British Invasion" take place. From The Beatles and Rolling Stones to Wham!, Culture Club and Tears For Fears, this phenomenon does not seem to skip any generation. In the latest decade, we have seen Coldplay, Amy Winehouse, and more recently, artists like Taio Cruz and Jay Sean hit the top of the charts. It is with this in mind that the undisputed British breakout star of 2010, Tinie Tempah, has his sights on America.

Tinie Tempah has had an incredible year - few debut artists boast three hit singles, a Glastonbury performance on the Pyramid stage and millions of YouTube views. He is officially certified as the best selling British debut act of 2010. Yet this 22 year-old artist has captivated music fans, celebrities and critics alike in just a matter of months.

Tinie began the year as a newly signed artist in the melee of other musicians hoping to make an impact on the UK music scene. His major label debut single Pass Out hit No.1, and has since had in excess of 11 million views. Its follow-up, Frisky, shot straight to No.2 and has been viewed over 8 million times. Combined, both singles have sold upwards of 750,000 copies. His third single, Written In The Stars, reached #1 and thus far, he has sold over one million singles in the UK alone. His debut album, Disc-Overy, debuted at #1 in the UK, and went gold in its first week, further proving his star power. Tinie plans to duplicate this success streak in the US by introducing himself with his number one UK banger Pass Out followed by the melodic, and also number one UK single, Written In The Stars.

Written In The Stars, produced by Swedish powerhouse Ishi, details the 21 year-old’s past, present and future ambitions. “I’m trying to live the dream and other people can do the same if they put their mind to it. That’s what the song is about. You can do everything I’ve done, if you’re determined and driven enough.” Featuring the incredible vocals of Boston newcomer Eric Turner, the epic, synth-led single features crisp drums, razor-sharp guitars and a considered message delivered in Tinie’s uniquely credible style. “I used to be the kid that no one cared about, that’s why you have to keep screaming till they hear you out,” raps Tinie.

While the first singles sound like bonafide radio smashes, they are just a taste of what’s to come on Tinie’s debut album, Disc-Overy, set for release in May 2011. As well as highlighting the finer things in life that success can offer, Tinie details the lows of fame and fortune, as well as offering a candid insight into his childhood growing up in south London. “On every single song you’ll get a line that reveals what life was, and is, like for me. I recorded a lot of it after Pass Out went to No.1, so that gave me a chance to reflect on life before and after achieving success. When I’m in the studio, it’s just me in my tracksuit, a bottle of water and my thoughts. Going to No.1 gave me a chance to consider how far I’ve come, but also how far I intend to go.”

An incredibly confident debut, Disc-Overy certifies Tinie's absolute ability to achieve worldwide success. With Tinie already on the US radar thanks to remixes with Diddy and Snoop, Disc-Overy reasserts his global appeal by offering inventive production and a range of rhymes that are in turn frank and funny. The diverse and imaginative album features collaborations with Ellie Goulding and Kelly Rowland and production from Labrinth (Pass Out, Frisky), newcomer Ishi, Al Shux (Jay-Z’s Empire State Of Mind) and Naughty Boy (Chipmunk, Wiley), as well as renowned dance producers Swedish House Mafia. The song Simply Unstoppable underscores Tinie’s roots while Swedish House Mafia have created an undeniable dancefloor anthem in the form of Miami 2 Ibiza, and Naughty Boy delivers a deliciously brooding pop number Let Go, featuring Emile Sande. One of Tinie’s personal favourites, the laidback Snap talks about chronicling life photographically, including “My mom and dad’s wedding picture, which is my favourite photo in the world”, while Wonderman features Ellie Goulding and is produced by Labrinth. “I wanted this album to be really raw, not only in terms of the production but the guests. I was only interested in working with people I really respect and who I’m a fan of. I met Ellie very early on, we swapped numbers and after that we started living very parallel worlds; the same festivals, interviews and so on. It made total sense to have her on the album.”

He may be distinctive in his delivery and creative in his approach to the business of music, yet the charismatic rapper’s own background is much like an average kid anywhere in the world. “I’ve never tried to be anything than what I am. I was well brought up, I liked school, I liked learning, I’m well educated, I’m well spoken,” Tinie reflects. His mom and dad were keen to keep their kids away from trouble, moving the family from Peckham to Plumstead when Tinie was 11. It's thanks to his capital city upbringing that Tinie has been able to achieve all he has. "London is one of the only places in the world where you can live in a council block and see a beautiful semi-detached house across the street. Growing up around that was inspirational, it kept me motivated."

Yet, despite success on the underground, few would have predicted just how hugely successful he would become. Since signing, he has accomplished more than anyone might have imagined - yet for this driven young man, it’s clearly just the beginning of an already incredible career. With a long-term goal in mind, Tinie is far from a one-hit wonder. This pragmatic, prudent MC is mindful of the decisions he makes, and has big plans for himself.

“I really want people to get this album, I want them to listen to it as a whole and see that not all the tracks are chart-driven. I really wanted to give people some ‘Tinie Time’ for an hour,” he insists. “I want people to see this is not a joke to me; now I’m here and I’ve been given the opportunity, I’m not messing around. I’m looking to take my tour, the videos, the music, everything, completely beyond what you can fathom. It’s never just another day in the life of Tinie; I’ve got a lot to do and you can bet on the fact that I’ll do it.”

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