Growing up I was hearing music from everywhere. It started with my pops, then to my Aunt...even my older sister from time to time. But for every person in my life who introduced me to music, I can associate each of them with a specific artist. For instance, when I think of my pops, I think about Regina Belle, Anita Baker, S.O.S. Band and The O'Jays. When I think of my Aunt, immediately I think After 7, Lo-Key, and the Rude Boys. Nonetheless, the artist who inspired this blog was an artist that I have to credit my older sister for introducing me to. I remember growing up and hearing my sister listen to Zhane's debut album Pronounced Jah-Nay. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for a woman with an amazing voice. Hip Hop takes an immediate back seat whenever I'm introduced to someone new. If you don't remember Zhane, they had the hit "Hey Mr. DJ" and "Sending My Love." The artists who comprised this group were Jean Norris and Renee Neufville.They were discovered by the third unknown (not really) member of the Trio Naughty By Nature Kay Gee. Their debut album was absolutely sensational (or at least in my opinion and the opinion of many others on Amazon as I read these album reviews). Some of my favorite songs were "For a Reason", "Love Me Today" and "La La La." Their second album, Saturday Night was just as amazing as their debut and solidified why they are hands down, one of my favorite duos. Sadly, a few years later, the duo split and both began to work on solo projects.
Fast forward to this past week...........I was reading an article and it mentioned something about a Jean Baylor solo album. When I looked at her picture I began to wonder how familiar she looked. But this couldn't be the Jean Norris from Zhane.....she didn't have the natural hair and of course her last name was different. After I researched the album, I found it actually was her and that she'd been touring for years and still singing since the group split. Anxious to hear it, I downloaded her album from Amazon. The first track is a song called Morning Time. Let's just say, I've been playing this one song for the last week....no interruptions!! The song simply is a testimony to GOD that she is everything that she is because of him....the lyrics r so simple yet so powerful. Check it out and lemme know what you think.......the link is at the very bottom of this post. Thanks for checking out the blog and I promise to try and do a better job of posting.
As a middle school teacher in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Memphis, I see first hand what urban education (or the attempt to educate today's children) can do to a person. Just yesterday, a coworker of mine broke down after her students broke into her cabinet and stole all of her personal snacks. Not only did they get her for her food, but they even managed to find her IPOD. Needless to say, the IPOD never resurfaced. Its frustrating as a teacher when you give all you have to your kids and they still feel the need to steal from you. I think that was what really killed her spirit. I don't know her all that well, but I do know that she seems like the kind of person who would give her last to see her kids smile. Now I know you're thinking, why is he talking about teaching when this is a blog about music. Well allow me to explain. As a lover of music, I've always used music as a tool to get me through those tough times in life when words from friends and families were just not enough. Music for me is comparable to Linus' Blanket or my American Express Card....I NEVER leave home without it!
Its amazing how music can soothe the soul in times of trouble as well as those happy times. Its funny cause I can remember every single moment of my life by popping in an old cd. I can remember where I was when I first heard it, and what was going on in my life at that time. I can truly say my life has a soundtrack. I remember taking my cousin to Arkansas cause the police were looking for him and during the ride we heard "You Don't Have to Cry" by Renee and Angela like 20 times. I remember because every time it came on, he sang every single word! I remember breaking up with my girl in college and listening to Marc Dorsey's "I Crave" for like 3 months! I also remember dealing with adversity on my job and listening to Daryl Coley's "He's Preparing Me!" Music has ushered through my life's journey and I've enjoyed every single step.
With all that being said, my teacher friend reminded me of one of my favorite artists, Mr. Donny Hathaway!!!! She actually told me that she'd gotten so fed up that she'd started listening to "Giving Up is So Hard to DO!" Now that' heavy!!! But if you know anything about Donny's music, he constantly speaks the heavy soul. I'm going to go out on a limb (and its a very short limb cause I can back it up), but black soul music has never and may not for a long time see a talent like his. I listen to Stevie, Luther, and countless other artists, but no one has the power, control, and intensity in their song that Donny gives his listeners....Don't believe me??? Listen to songs like "We Need You Right Now" or "Lord Help Me"!!!! I literally got chill bumps the first time I heard "For All We Know." It was because of Donny that I began to listening to Lalah (his daughter) who has proven to be just as gifted as her father! So if you have some time, do yourself a favor and pick up a Donny Hathaway CD. You won't regret it.
So often artists create album titles attempting to entice the listener with a title that may urge them to go and purchase. Others just try and come up with album titles that come off as clever or tie back to their stage name in some manner. What you don't find, is an album title that actually reflects the content within the album. Three years ago the Foreign Exchange released "Leave it all behind," an album that takes the listener thru the ups and downs of any normal relationship and parallels the fundamental differences between today's male and female. From there, the listener goes on a remarkable journey that eventually leads to an understanding of letting go of your fears and working toward your future. In the words of Phonte, "It don't have to be so All or Nothing!"
This past year, the Foreign Exchange again has blessed us with another masterpiece that is Authenticity. As an avid listener of the Foreign Exchange, I'm learning that 99.2% of their work is about or dealing with relationships, and as a young black man in a committed relationship, I don't mind listening to their advice. The title track has one simple line that in my opinion sums up relationships and dating altogether. As a matter of fact, it was my mantra for a short time. The line says, "She wants me to fill her needs, she begs for Authenticity. You don't want truth from me, YOU JUST WANT WHAT U WANT!" Track number 5 "Fight for Love" resonates what so many people feel once they've been in a committed relationship for a while. That basically, "I'm tired of fighting for this because it seems like the fight NEVER ENDS!" **WAVES HAND IN TESTIMONY.* My favorite track by far is "Make Me a Fool," where Phonte pleads with his lover to resist the temptation of playing with his heart as his love grows deeper and deeper. This album is definitely one for the collection, and once u cop this make sure you get "Ladies and Gentlemen and Evening with the Foreign Exchange (LIVE)." As an FE, I'm eager to see where this group will be in 5-7 years because I don't see them being a secret for very long....you can't hide from Good Music.