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From The Vault: R. Kelly & Jay-Z – Fiesta

From The Vault this week journeys back to the beginning of the new millennium with a party-anthem – the aptly titled ‘Fiesta’ by R. Kelly and Jay-Z.

Released in 2001 in remixed form, ‘Fiesta’ was the third single from Kellz’ fourth studio album TP-2.com which saw the light of day the previous year. Joining the two heavyweights was Hip-Hop duo Boo & Gotti.

Commercially, the track hit #1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B tally and #6 on the Hot 100, and is believed to be the catalyst for R. and Hova’s ‘Best Of Both Worlds’ joint LP released a year later
The video for the cut was directed by Little X alongside R. Kelly and was set on a tropical beach full of scantily-clad ladies roused and ready to keep the party going.
With murmurs of joints albums for both R. Kelly and Jay-Z respectively with fan Trey Songz and wife Beyonce, we must say that we’re all for projects as such. Whether considered a side project like Pink’s You+Me and Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz or a continuation of the artists involved’s sound like Lucy Pearl – fronted by Raphael Saadiq – and Chris Brown and Tyga’s ‘Fan Of A Fan’, we feel it is a great way to refresh one’s brand by giving something unique especially in an industry where being confined in a box is the norm.
Hopefully the future will see more talented artists like Robert and Shawn get together to create undeniable jams like this.

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From The Vault: Gwen Guthrie – ‘Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent’

“Bill collectors at my door, what can you do for me?”

This week From The Vault journey’s back to the era when Gwen Guthrie let the world know that there was “no romance without finance.”

Today’s pick is the late chanteuse’s classic anthem ‘Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent.’

Written and produced by Guthrie, ‘Rent’ is a R&B song which sassily details how she is only interested in the matters of the heart if it comes with advantages of the cha-ching variety. An ancestor of sorts to Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’, the track was a minor hit in the US where it reached #42 but fared better in the UK where it was a Top 5 smash.

Filled with faux-subliminal messages like “BUY”, “SPEND”, “MONEY”, the music video showcases footage of men at actual work as well as projections of dollar bills, fancy cars and even a yacht.

Though the message feels somewhat dated in a post Girl Power, Independent Women world, we applaud Guthrie for getting herself out there and stand behind such a bold statement.

Rest In Peace, Gwen!

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From The Vault: Madonna – ‘Bad Girl’

This week’s From The Vault pick goes out to Pop titan Madonna and her hauntingly poignant music video for underrated gem, ‘Bad Girl.’

Released in 1993 as the third single from M’s controversial ‘Erotica‘ LP, ‘Girl’ lyrically tells the tale of a woman’s reckless behaviour after an intense break-up. It was produced and written by the artist herself as well as her go-to-guy at the time Shep Pettibone.

Rolled out during a window when Madonna was making headlines for her overtly-sexual image – the ‘Sex‘ book, anyone ? – the track wasn’t as successful as its predecessors like ‘Like a Prayer’ or‘Justify My Love’ but still managed to peak at a respectable #36 on the Hot 100 and occupy the ultimate position of the UK Top 10… not bad for an artist going through a media backlash.

The most unfortunate thing about the single’s moderate performance is that its accompanying video seems to be forgotten despite being – if you ask us – one of the entertainer’s finest visual offerings.
Helmed by David Fincher – whom had previously collaborated with Madge on videos such as ‘Express Yourself’ and ‘Vogue’ – it stays true to the song’s lyrical content and presents the Material Girl as a chain-smoking, moody female-executive who drowns her sorrow in alcohol, cigarettes and one-night-stands.
With Fincher on board, it was a given the cinematography would deliver, indeed the visual, which feels like a short film, exudes an air of retro-glam and the art-deco architecture of the city of New-York where it was shot gives it a dark and dramatic edge.

At many times Madonna has proven that when the world beats you down, you get back up… and keep on releasing amazing material. This is one of the many reasons she can still make headlines in 2015. Though we long for a time where she would go back to music and visuals of such quality, we can’t knock her hustle and commend her dedication to the entertainment industry.

Bad Girl? We say ‘Bad B*tch’ (she’s Madonna!)

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From The Vault: Missy Elliott & Ciara Blaze #BETAwards With ‘Lose Control’

Another year, another explosive BET Awards . Tonight, the biggest names in Urban music will be in the house to give the world yet another amazing show.

Though we presented you our Top 15 BET Awards moments yesterday, we wanted to keep this one for this week’s From The Vault – Missy Elliott, Ciara and Fatman Scoop‘s showing at the event in 2005 is our pick.

‘Control’ was the first single from ‘The Cookbook’, Elliott’s sixth LP. It was produced by the artist and reunited her with her ‘1, 2 Step’ collaborator Ciara. Hype-man Fatman Scoop was added to the mix to bring that unique party-anthem vibe that he has mastered through the years.

It was a hit for the trio, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 in the US and #7 in both the UK and Australia.

The performance was everything you could expect from a Missy and a CiCi : impressive choreography, creative stage production and swag aplenty.

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It’s performances like this which keep us rooting for Missy and Ciara, even when the charts don’t necessarily agree. Say what folk will, but most of the artists on top at the moment cannot demolish a stage the way these women can.

As for the BET Awards more broadly, we’re elated that the show is getting more and more recognition through the years and we say it’s much deserved as it has always delivered quality production and allows an often under-appreciated community to shine like the brightest stars in the sky. We’re ready!

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From The Vault: Marvin Gaye – ‘Sexual Healing’

If there ever was a seductive-jam to lock in one’s vault it would be our pick of this week. This week’s From The Vault selection is Marvin Gaye‘s infectious ‘Sexual Healing.’

The classic was released during Fall 1982 and saw the crooner venture further into grown-and-sexy territory. Written and produced by Gaye, it was the first offering from his seventeenth and final album ‘Midnight Love’ – his sole under Columbia after leaving Motown – and is undeniably the artist’s signature song.
From a musical stand-point the jam was a departure from the Motown sound – which at that time was very – Disco-oriented – and lyrically, it is an unapologetic “baby making” track.
Commercially, the song peaked at #3 in the US, #4 in the UK and hit the top spot in Canada.

The video for ‘Sexual Healing’ presents the artist first as a nightclub singer assisted by four female dancers and later on a patient of a sexy lady-doctor who only has eyes for him after drinking the Midnight Love Potion. Fun times.

Throughout his career, Marvin Gaye managed the art of “balancing”, hence why it never felt contrived witnessing him sing about social issues but at the very same time dealing with matters of the sexual persuasion. Indeed, even the “dirtiest” song of his repertoire boasts an air of class.

We wish more artists – especially today’s male R&B stars – would take notes from The Master and express their sexuality in more a tasteful fashion.

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From The Vault: Jennifer Lopez – ‘Jenny From The Block’


After a brief rest on the bench, From The Vault is back with yet another classic. Today’s pick comes courtesy of the ever-epic Jennifer Lopez and her one of her signature jams ‘Jenny From The Block’.

After asserting that she was “real” in 2001, Lopez clearly still had a few concerns on her mind regarding the public’s perception of herself. In late 2002, she unleashed the beast that was the ‘Jenny’ single and pressed on with the idea that fame and money didn’t change her, meanwhile picking herself up a new nickname.

Obviously, not everyone was convinced by the glamorous diva’s theme of humility… still the song was a worldwide hit which peaked at #3 both in the US and the UK, #5 in Australia and in France and #1 in Canada.

The single, the first of Jen’s third offering ‘This Is Me… Then’ was produced by Trackmasters, written by Lopez and Corey Rooney and heavily relies on many samples such as ‘Heaven and Hell Is On Earth’ by 20th Century Steel Band and Boogie Down Productions’ ‘South Bronx.’

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Unafraid of mixing business and pleasure, it wasn’t surprising that Lopez’s then-fiancé Ben Affleck served as the main attraction of the song’s visual. The paparazzi-themed affair is made of a selection of “stolen shots” of Bennifer in their everyday life.
Like the message in the song, the Francis Lawrence-directed video did not sit well with everybody – especially at a time when the couple were undoubtedly overexposed. Still it was a smash and gained even more recognition throughout the years because of its media-voyeuristic theme.

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From where we’re sitting, one of the reasons Lopez is still sought after 20+ years in the game is because she understands the importance of “celebrity culture” and is always willing to play the game.

While some would call her actions (such as this video_ calculated, we see them as smart. Indeed, more often than not, her moves are attached to a greater cause – whether a movie, album or charity. Put simply, unlike some of her peers today, there often is a method to the melee when it comes to J.Lo. And we’re entirely “here” for it.

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From The Vault: Janet Jackson Rocks Billboard Music Awards 2006

Diva Serves Dynamite Showing Of 'Pleasure Principle' & 'So Excited'

This week’s From The Vault is salutes living legend Janet Jackson, who not only turned 49 years-young yesterday but also confirmed this year will see her bless us with “new music, new world tour and new movement.”
Today – keeping with tonight’s Billboard Awards spirit – our pick comes in the form of Ms. Jackson’s showing at the ceremony in 2006.

With her then-latest release ’20 Y.O.’ serving as a retrospective celebration of her two decades in the music business, Janet seized the moment to further push that theme. She kicked off her performance with a video montage of some of her most notables videos set to the intro of the Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis produced ‘Control.’ She would then break into fan-favorite ‘Pleasure Principal.’

What followed was a pop-lock themed ‘So Excited’ – which she wrote alongside Jimmy & Terry and ex-boyfriend Jermaine Dupri. The song served as the chart-topping album’s second single.

Though the volume on the vocals were gratingly low, Janet’s overall energy was turned all the way up throughout the performance. Armed with her signature troop of dancers, on that night the artist proved – yet again – that any way you slice it, she never lost that magic that made the charts, MTV and concert-goers fall in love with her all those years ago. What’s more, she proved that, in the midst of the nostalgia, she’s able to serve up something fresh, sassy, and relevant to the time.

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As keen supporters of Ms. Janet, we couldn’t be more elated about her imminent return. Seven years removed from her last LP ‘Discipline,’ we feel now is the perfect time for the diva to rock the scene and update the blueprint of what a female Pop star should be.
Whether dealing with social issues, expressing her fantasies or singing about love, Janet always brings something new to the table and is never afraid to tell us what has been going on in her world – even when it’s controversial – and we for one cannot wait to find out what the next conversation is going to be.

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