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From The Vault: Missy Elliott – ‘Gossip Folks’

Here at That Grape Juice HQ, we love us some Missy Elliott! What’s not to hail about her? Killer flow, stellar songs, outstanding videos, impeccable stage shows and ever-enduring humility.

From The Vault this week journeys back to the year 2002 when Elliott released ‘Gossip Folks’ as the second offering from her fourth album ‘Under Construction’.

‘Gossip’, an open-letter to critics and bandwagon “fans”, was produced by partner-in-crime Timbaland and featured Hip-Hop heavyweight Ludacris. It was yet another hit for the rapper-singer-producer-songwriter, peaking inside the Top 10s of the US and UK charts. The song’s unusual chorus is built around a sample of ‘Double Dutch Bus’ by Frankie Smith.

As is always the case with Elliott, the accompanying visual is quite the event. Boasting CGI aplenty and appearances from the likes of friend Eve and then-protégé Tweet, the video was also notable for its tribute to late artists and friends Jam Master Jay, Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes and of course Aaliyah.

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With breakthrough act Azealia Banks confirming that she and Missy are to log in studio time, and with Timbo claiming her highly delayed album ‘Block Party’ is finally poised for released in June, the triple-threat seems on the right path to continue her reign as the one-and-only Queen of Hip-Hop. And we, for one, can’t wait!

Missy’s career is one to be both celebrated and adhered to as the definitive rule-book for Hip-Hop hopefuls. For her status is one achieved on the merit of skill and ever-flowing creativity; not scandal or gimmicks.

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From The Vault: Gwen Stefani – ‘Rich Girl (ft. Eve)’

Today, From The Vault journeys back to 2004, with the hit single ‘Rich Girl’ from dynamo duo Gwen Stefani and Eve.

The ragga-tinged cut served as the second offering from Stefani’s stellar solo debut ‘Love.Angel.Music.Baby’ and was released during the last quarter of 2004. Produced by Hip-Hop heavyweight Dr. Dre, ‘Rich was a global monster hit reaching the Top 10 of numerous countries and earning the duo yet another Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Grammy nod.

Indeed, the track serves as the 2nd of their collective efforts; with the first being E.V.E’s 2001 smash ‘Let Me Blow Your Mind’ – which featured Stefani on the hook and was also helmed by Dre. It would be this cut that would nab the coveted Grammy.

What’s so interesting about the ‘Love.Angel.Music.Baby’ album’s single-run (or the LP, as a whole for that matter) is how all the songs boast a genuine ‘Gwen-Factor’ while remaining worlds apart from each other. Whether Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock, New Wave, the mother of two possesses a unique musical character that enables her to touch upon every musical style without ever sounding contrived or desperate.

The tune’s David LaChapelle directed video is an elaborate high fashion pirate-themed affair complete with ships, anchors and cannon fires. It goes without saying, our two ladies look incredible in it.

From the over-the-top fashion and the ‘different’ sound, to the big-budget glossy videos and intricate stage showings, we firmly believe Gwen Stefani had laid down the groundwork for the Fergies, GaGas, Perrys and to some extent Minajs of the world; injecting the reality that “crazy” is cool and outrageous can be fun. It is a shame, then, that the said artists and their counterparts  -when quizzed about their influences- namedrop many a retro legends, often forgetting the Orange County Girl.

Here’s hoping both Gwen and Eve hurry up and hit us with some new material soon.

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From The Vault: Diana Ross & Michael Jackson Perform ‘Upside Down’

Next up on From The Vault is, without exaggeration, one of the most recognized songs around the world. We are referring to Diana Ross’ ‘Upside Down’. Talk about a classic!

Leading the campaign for Diana’s eponymous eleventh studio collection, ‘Upside’ is without a doubt what you’d call a timeless track. Helmed by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it was yet another #1 record for the Diva. At the time of its release in 1980, the track was helmed for its edgier sound and honest lyrics about a dysfunctional loving relationship.

The cut, for many, is considered Diana’s signature song; indeed it has been reinterpreted countless times by many a music hopeful on talent shows and covered and sampled several times over the years by the biggest names in music, most notably MC Lyte for her ‘Cold Rock A Party’.

With the onset of the “music video” not arriving until years after, the selected clip is one of a 1981 live performance where you can witness Ms. Ross commanding the stage by just being present and parading around.

While there exists many a stellar showing of the classic, we couldn’t resist showcasing The Boss and the King Of Pop, Michael Jackson grooving together like it’s 1999. Easily two of music’s most enduring and legendary figures,  MJ and his Dirty Diana had a very strong bond throughout the years – one which birthed timeless showings such as this.

We’d say we’ve come a long way since that performance; for while Diana is obviously flaunting what her mama gave her (as she should too), she executes the whole shabang with class and sophistication aplenty. Which leaves one thinking about how sad it is that most of today’s multi-colored-wig princesses don’t possess an ounce of this.

Still, Ms. Ross’ legacy lives on through the likes of Beyonce, as well as the countless classic memories she blessed us with over the course of her illustrious career.

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Cover Star: Shakka Covers Usher’s ‘Climax’…With A Twist (A Must-See!)

This week’s That Grape Juice Cover Star boasts a bit of a twist. Ever keen to pierce through the smoke and mirrors, the feature almost wholly spotlights performances unaided by studio wizardry. However, today’s instalment was picked because of it.

Londoners Shakka and Vula serve up an unmissable take on Usher‘s latest hit ‘Climax’. Check it out below…

Three words Off the Richter!

For more on Shaka, check out his oh so popping Youtube page

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Want to be featured on That Grape Juice’s ‘Cover Star’? Drop an email to [email protected]

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From The Vault: R. Kelly – ‘Ignition’

“Y’all tell me, what’s R&B without the the R?”

In the same way the Jackson siblings have inspired and changed the Pop landscape forever, a certain R.Kelly has left an indelible print on R&B; ensuring he go down in history as the undeniable King of R&B.
This week, That Grape Juice honors His-Highness with a throwback to the year 2002, a year when R. was commanding the world to “bounce”. ‘Ignition (Remix)’ is today’s From The Vault pick.
Unleashed during Fall 02, ‘Ignition’ was exactly the homerun Robert needed to keep his career afloat after some  very public drama saw him garner headlines for all the wrong reasons.
A critics’ favorite, it was the single that helped launch the Pied Piper’s fifth album ‘Chocolate Factory’, an LP that would see him write, arrange and produce every single song.
As with many of his releases, it was a worldwide smash, reaching the pole position of the UK Single Charts while peaking at #2 on the US Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Charts
This here is an excellent example of the authenticity and uniqueness of Kelly, from the minimalistic production to the way he rides that beat, the varied vocal delivery to the outlandish metaphors: classic. Actually we dare you to find any other artist who could pull this song off (or who could come up with a song like this entirely by himself).
If the track itself isn’t enough, its simple yet effective club set video will make you wish you were on a dancefloor ready to ‘have you some fun’.
To every R&B hopeful out there: if you are willing to learn, R.Kelly is the one.

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From The Vault: Lucy Pearl – ‘Dance Tonight’

R&B-Soul ensemble Lucy Pearl and their debut single ‘Dance Tonight’ serve as this week’s From The Vault pick.

Comprised of the great Raphael Saadiq, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and funky diva Dawn Robinson, the trio were somewhat of a super-group, having been part of Tony! Toni! Toné!, A Tribe Called Quest and En Vogue respectively. (Neo-Soul pioneer D’Angelo was intended to be part of the line-up but such plans fell through when he decided to concentrate on finishing his own record.)

Lifted from their eponymous album, ‘Dance’ was released during the Spring of 2000 and was hailed by critics who raved about its lush production and noted an incredible vocal chemistry between Saadiq and Robinson.

And yet, commercially, this piece of R&B-Soul only managed to reach the lower tier of the Top 40 (#36).  A respectable feat for a new band you’d say; only this song had (and still has #1 inked all over it) and was an edible anthesis to the Bubblegum-Pop that was flooding the airwaves at that time… and stays superior to most of the fast-food pop that is topping iTunes today.

Still, justice was soemwhat served when the cut was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2001 in the Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group or a Duo category.

From its vintage sets and an overall ‘zen’ vibe, the groove’s accompanying video is a perfect fit, bringing an already shy-high track to even higher grounds.

With the likes of Nas & Damian Marley, The Throne (Jay-Z & Kanye) and Duck Sauce (Armand Van Helden & A-Trak) killing in more ways than one the charts and stages of the world, it seems the music industry is slowly re-embracing the idea of supergroups like Lucy Pearl. Leading us to ask you…

Which artists would you put together in a supergroup?

 

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From The Vault: Mary J. Blige – ‘No More Drama’

Mary J. Blige‘s 2002 smash ‘No More Drama’ serves as this week’s From The Vault pick.

Lifted from the 2001 blockbuster album of the same name as its second offering, ‘Drama’ peaked at #15 on the US Hot 100 and on the lower tier of the Top 10 on the UK Charts at #9.

And while Blige boasts higher chartings with other releases, the stirring cut  stands as one of the most well knowned cut from the Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul.

Helmed by the ever-so-creative dynamo duo of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the heartfelt track is built around a sample of classical piece ‘Nadia’s Theme’, the very same song used as the theme from never-ending American soap opera ‘The Young and The Restless’.

And while such sample was sourced from fantasy, the song’s lyrical narrative was akin to the happenings in Mary’s wold. Indeed, ‘Drama’ represented a turning point in her life; she would reveal that it marks the first time she would let go of the pain in her life and finally allow herself to be happy or at least seek for happiness. For the music world at large, the song -for a period of time- served as an unofficial response of sorts to the September 11th calamity which rocked the free world to its core.

The track’s accompanying video (which sees cameos from Mariah Carey and Diddy) does a great job of capturing the song’s embedded passion and  raw emotion through an array of storylines. All of which relay different “strands” of drama folk face.

Through her stellar career Ms. Blige-Isaacs has experienced many peaks and troughs, yet has always stayed true to her colours musically and morally. A practice which has cultivated her a level of respect from her peers, critics, and fans, which can be neither shaken nor stirred. True talent can, and often will, win.

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