Mike McCray

Monday, September 13, 2010

Local Leak: In Studio with Jeff Lucky

Posted By on Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 2:42 PM

Making a left into a dimly-lit industrial area just past Tremont Music Hall late on a Friday night, you'd probably expect to stumble upon a B&E, much less a recording session.

Checking the address twice, I parked outside Charles Holloman Productions and after getting buzzed into the building, I'm instantly blown away by the inside. It's pretty lush, no way you could tell from the outside. Walking past two women doing vocal warm-ups in the hallway, one of them points me towards the studio, "Jeff's in there."

Charlotte native and indie hip-hop performer, Jeff Lucky, is back in town from L.A., where he moved a few years ago, to wrap up production on his next album, Soul Motivation, due out later this year on SummerSoul Records.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The dangers of letting Kobe in the studio

Posted By on Tue, Aug 17, 2010 at 10:58 AM

Ever since he joined Twitter a few weeks back, Kanye West has kept writers like myself on the edge of our seats for what he'll say next.

Completely ignoring his back and forth with Justin Bieber, what stood out to me from his feed this weekend was a Twitpic he posted of himself, rapper Mos Def, producer Swizz Beatz and NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, in the studio working on the remix to his latest single, "Power."

Look, I can completely understand why Kobe Bryant's views on power and success may be pertinent to a song about power but has Ye forgetten about Kobe Bryant jeopardizing the careers of Nas and Beanie Sigel with his, thankfully, never released album K.O.B.E.

See, for everything Kobe knows about winning championship, he knows equally as little about making quality music. What could he possibly bring to that scenario? Maybe suggest Kanye rap a verse in Italian like he did. Or maybe suggest Tyra Banks for the hook? Say what you want about Shaquille O'Neal's rap career but he at least went platinum AND had a song with Biggie that was actually dope. And in terms of power, who's more powerful than a 7'3, 300+ pound human being nicknamed The Diesel?

Who doesn't belong?

PowerRmx

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The name conundrum

Posted By on Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 3:06 PM

For years, I’ve had to sheepishly admit to past girlfriends (and those awkward ice breaker groups) that my name is a compromise between Malcolm Jamal, like Malcolm-Jamal Warner, then Theo from The Cosby Show, and Michael Jordan. I guess it’s obvious who won.

That pales in comparison to some of my family members names.

I have cousins named after celebrities as well, but their names aren’t nearly as normal as Mike. There’s my cousin Beyoncé, who can’t sing and doesn’t seem destined for a career in show business. Her mom thought the name Beyoncé was cute and ironically, I never knew her real name until I randomly asked one day what Bouncy’s real name was. Needless to say there was a spit-take involved.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Legendary tastemaker finds talent in Charlotte

Posted By on Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 2:05 PM

He's the man credited for discovering Mary J. Blige. His part in molding Sean "Puffy" Combs into the media Goliath we know now is well documented. The record label he created was synonymous with R&B in the '90s and last Thursday, he came to Charlotte to search for the next big thing.

Charlotte was the first stop for Andre Harrell's six-city, Superstar Soul Search. The contest had 50 people from more than 2,500 entries compete for a spot in the contest finals, which will be in Atlanta on July 31. There they'll have the chance to win $10,000, a record deal with Harrell's new imprint which has Atlantic Records distribution.

Why Charlotte? Harrell's selection of Charlotte  was anything but random. The legendary tastemaker has a history with artists out of the city. Whether it was Jodeci or Horace Brown in the '90s or Anthony Hamilton more recently, Harrell was excited to see some pure talent.

Citing his success with acts out of Charlotte, he continued, "I wanted to go closer to the church because I thought the church was going to give me something soulful. So Charlotte being a Bible Belt city and me having experience with groups [here], Charlotte aint done me wrong yet! Did I know it was going to be this great? No, I had no expectations of anything being this amazing, this was unreal."

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Mid-2010 All-Star Team

Posted By on Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 3:13 PM

You know how Major League Baseball and the NBA have All-Star Weekend halfway through the season to honor guys who are really having a good year? I don't see why we can't do the same thing with music. With six months down and six months to go, I present you my mid-2010 All-Star team.

1. Big K.R.I.T. - KRIT Wuz Here

By far the best project I've heard so far this year. It gives the South new hope and new energy with an artist from Meridian, Miss., being able to capture the Southern aesthetic without sacrificing lyricism and spot-on production, which he does himself. For a mixtape, it plays like an album  and for those that get past the first three tracks, which are as hood as they come, it's a showcase of what's to come from the recent Def Jam signee.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Live review: Earth, Wind & Fire

Posted By on Fri, Jun 25, 2010 at 3:20 PM

Earth, Wind & Fire

Road Runner Mobile Ampitheatre

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Deal: Stars align, inclement weather holds off and Earth, Wind & Fire puts on a show worthy of their legendary status.

The Good: The luxury of being EWF is knowing that if your voice isn't 100 percent on, the crowd will pick you up. Well, Phillip Bailey didn't allow that to happen. All the grumbling about him being good but founder Maurice White — who's no longer with the group — being better went out the window when Phillip just started hitting notes. Sometimes it just seemed outright unfair, you would've thought he was just showing off. Amazing.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

NEW: J. Cole's "The Last Stretch"

Posted By on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 1:20 PM

Marking the one year anniversary of his mixtape, The Warm Up, North Carolina's current hip-hop namesake dropped a new, unheard track, for fans on his blog Tuesday, sincerely thanking them for the past year of support and promising more to come.

The track, "The Last Stretch," has Cole spitting on the a mixed bag of topics. New found success, women, haters, repping his city too much. Either way, it's a great look. Enjoy.

J. Cole - The Last Stretch <-- click here to play.

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Live review: Wiz Khalifa w/ Yelawolf

Posted By on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 11:15 AM

Wiz Khalifa w/ Yelawolf

Amos' Southend

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Deal: Wiz Khalifa comes through in a cloud of smoke with Yelawolf in tow and one of the longest lines I've ever seen outside of Amos' waiting to see him.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Live Review: Phoenix

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 1:28 PM

Phoenix

Road Runner Mobile Amphitheatre

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Deal: Grammy Award-winning French band makes a pit stop in Charlotte for a set before Bonnaroo.

The Good: There's a lot to be said about a band that not only reproduces its album sound live but also enhances it, and Phoenix is a band you have to see live. While the bulk of the show was good with extremely crisp execution from the band, who at times seemed robotically into hitting every note just so, it was the last chapter of this show that was the story here.

Lead singer Thomas Mars literally created a moment putting together what had to be Road Runner Mobile Ampitheatre's (formerly Uptown Ampitheatre) first legendary encore that anyone who stuck around for will never forget. After covering Air's "Playground Love," the band went into their hit song, "1901" — that's when Mars took his corded mic, hopped off stage and proceeded to walk all the way out to the edge of the lawn, as audience members spilled out into the aisles to follow him and hundreds of feet of cable dangled behind him. He thanked the crowd sincerely then started singing again as he worked his way back to the stage by climbing over seats, hands and people before ending the show with a senior picturesque sea of humanity on stage to join him. Who cares if he's done it in other cities, it was a special.

Drunmer Thomas Hedlund (who actually isn't in the band) was great. "Borrowed" from his Swedish band, The Perishers, you'd never know he wasn't in the band from the way he went ape shit on the drums and sang along at the top of his lungs without a mic.

The Bad: Mars apologized for his voice early in the show, and you couldn't really notice then but as it went on you could tell he wasn't in tip-top singing shape, at some points being a low mumble or completely indecipherable. For those getting progressively drunker off the Bud Light tallboys, the lights were more blinding than cool.

The crowd was so unexpected. The sexting teenage girls and hipster emo chicks was standard but the flip-flop, backwards hat frat guys and middle aged couples all singing along was trippy, and at times the cross-section of people clashed in distracting ways (little girls hate when frat guys scream, play "Firebird" while their lusting for Thomas Mars).

Personally wanted to hear, "Napoleon Says" but they stuck with newer material.

The Verdict: Great show. Sure, a lot of the songs sound alike but at least they sounded good playing them. Mars  made sure that every fan left with their monies worth, and at the end of the day, his voice not being 100 percent wasn't a major issue. Nice tune-up for Bonnaroo and hopefully the first of many annual visits to Charlotte.

Setlist:

Lisztomania

Long Distance Call

Lasso

Consolation Prize

Fences

Girlfriend

Fallin

Love Like A Sunset

If I Ever Feel Better

Run, Run, Run

Rally

Countdown (Sick For The Big Sun)

Funky Square Dance

Everything Means Everything*

Playground Love (Cover)*

1901*

* - encore

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Live Review: Reflection Eternal w/ Actual Proof

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 11:36 AM

Reflection Eternal w/ Actual Proof

Amos' Southend

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Deal: Hip-hip duo hits Charlotte in support of their studio first album together in a decade, Revolutions Per Minute.

The Good: 9th Wonder jumped on the turntables for his group, Actual Proof, and the duo out of Raleigh was awesome. High-energy and engaging, they tore through their set with the flair of hip-hop veterans — but it was actually their first show ever. Unbelievable. Can't forget their female labelmate, Rapsody, who was the best female rapper I've seen in some time.

Talib Kweli's personality will never come off as high-energy but the low-key star was on the cusp of what could be described as that, ripping into a mix of old Reflection Eternal material from their previous album, Train of Thought, and incorporating new material somewhat seamlessly (the benefits of being one of the last tour dates). The only thing that could've gotten the crowd more excited about the Black Star tracks he performed would've been the actual presence of Mos Def.

Kweli also had fellow Brooklynite and Charlotte transplant, Special Ed, come up to perform two of his hits, rocking "I Got It Made" with him. Watching 9th Wonder's reaction to this, standing side stage, is one of those moments that make live shows worth it.

Always interesting to see Hi-Tek on the mic, because production is obviously his strong suit, but the hit maker was extra excited to get into verses from his album, Hi-Teknology and Train of Thought and rocked them admirably.

The pro-Black images displayed behind Reflection Eternal during "Get By" during the encore made me want the march on something like right that second.

The Bad: Transplant culture bit us in the ass once again. It's always sad when an artist has to stop the show and question how really into it the crowd is but in our defense, you're asking people who aren't from Charlotte to scream for a city they didn't want to move to and have even less pride in.

For those not familiar with the new material, it was a forced smile-and-nod situation rocking the songs they didn't really know.

Other than one guy having to be removed from the venue for his drunken exploits, the only other annoyances in the crowd came from fans under 5'5 trying to reach up and take pictures or record shitty footage on their phones. Grow 6 inches or come on time!  Thanks.

The Verdict: Cool show, nothing legendary. Great to see hip-hop be hip-hop and the joy it brought people. Eagerly awaiting new material from Actual Proof now and hoping more people take a chance on Revolutions Per Minute.

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