The video for R. Kelly’s latest single ‘Rock Star’ (ft. Ludacris & Kid Rock) debuted on Yahoo Launch yesterday (September 18th). I’m really feeling the single choices from Kelly’s current LP ‘Double Up’ so far; ‘Rock Star’ is an album highlight. It’s a shame, then, that the video doesn’t really do the track any justice. Budgeting must have been an issue, because the video comes across real cheap – especially for an artist of his caliber. There’s no positive spin to put on this one; a case of good song, ruined by a crappy video.

What do you think fo the video?

It has been confirmed that Kanye West has emerged victorious in his chart ‘battle’ with 50 Cent. According to figures released by Billboard today, West’s ‘Graduation’ album sold a staggering 957,000 copies in it’s first week – besting 50’s album sales by quite a margin. ‘Curtis’ sold roughly 691,000 copies. ‘Graduation’, the third full-length from West, also charted higher than 50 in the UK, where it debuted atop of the official album chart this past Sunday.
While I’m glad (mainly because Kanye’s CD was generally better), it’s kinda unfortunate that 50 has gone back on his promise to retire if Kanye beat him. Still, I’m guessing the damage has been done. Put simply, people aren’t checking for 50 they way they once were and this shows it.

Your thoughts?
Beyonce attended the GQ 50th Anniversary bash in New York City last night (September 18th) sporting a new darker hairdo. Yes, there are things of more importance lol, but it’s kind of refreshing to see the ‘Deja Vu’ singer do away with her blonde wigs…at least for the time being.

What do you think of Beyonce’s new look?

The video for Mario’s latest single ‘Crying Out For Me’ premiered earlier this week on BET’s Access Granted. Things have been moving really slow with Mario’s ‘Go!’ project, so it’s good to see him finally put out a second single from. I’ve had the Polow Da Don track on heavy rotation for a many months. Anyway, about the video – I’m liking it. The storyline closely mirrors that of the track and stands as one of his better vids. Following numerous delays, ‘Go!’ is set to hit stores on October 30th.

What do you think of the video?

It’s kinda been a busy couple of weeks for me recently, but I’ve tried to keep things afloat as much as possible. With that said, I’ve not actually managed to get a listen to Keyshia Cole’s new CD ‘Just Like You’ – which ‘surfaced’ (lol) last week. For those who have heard the album, let me know what you think of it in the comments section.
In her interview in the October issue of Essence Magazine, Diddy’s on-off girlfriend/baby-mama Kim Porter speaks out on their son Christian’s relationship with the child the rap mogul fathered with another woman – while with her:

“Christian’s got two beautiful sisters [the twins]. He ain’t thinking about that other one, trust me when I tell you. And I don’t play that. That situation is over there, and this is over here and I ain’t got nothing to do with that.”
Is she for real? I always knew she was not right, but come on now! Aside from coming across real immature, she seems bitter toward the innocent child – something she never seems to be when talking about Diddy. Fool.

Your thoughts?

Following the poor reception Ashanti’s recent single ‘Switch’ received, the singer and her label went back to the drawing board. It’s now been confirmed that this new track, ‘Hey Baby (After The Club)’, will serve as the official first single from her forthcoming album ‘The Declaration’. It was reported a while back that Ashanti hit the studio with Diddy and Mario Winans and this must be end result as the beat is lifted straight from Diddy’s ‘Last Night’. Though the track is good, it’s still a long way off what she should be putting out if she’s hoping for a successful ‘comeback’. A tidbit: Is she really releasing another song with ‘Baby’ in it lol?

Hit or Miss?

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Bajan beauty Rihanna performed her forthcoming new single ‘Hate That I Love You’ at Yahoo studios recently. Decent performance, but I’m still not feeling the single choice. Though I found her album to be kinda lacking in material with any substance, certain tracks i.e. ‘Push Up On Me’ and ‘Sell Me Candy’ are single-worthy material – much more so than the current single choice. Anyway, the video for ‘Hate That I Love You’ was shot last month and should be debuting in the coming weeks.

What do you think of the performance?

*Apologies about the slow(ish) updates recently, just managed to ressurect my laptop, so things should go back to normal 🙂 *

The long-awaited new single from X-Factor winner Leona Lewis, ‘Bleeding Love’, premiered yesterday on BBC Radio One. Hailed as one the the most talented singers to emerge from the UK in a long while, it is hoped that Leona can achieve the heights of success enjoyed by those she is most often likened to – Whitney and Mariah. However, judging by this track, she’s gonna have to come a bit harder. ‘Bleeding Love’, with it’s 90’s synth-pop vibe, sounds slightly dated and seems to rely heavily on the formula set by the Mariah’s & co before her. Still, the track has ‘grower’ potential and is mainstream enough to appeal to the masses. Leona’s currently untitled album will hit stores here in the UK on November 5th and the US in February 2008.
Hit or Miss?

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With a November 6th release date now set for Chris Brown’s sophomore album ‘Exclusive’, yet another track from the set has surfaced. Produced by Brian Michael Cox, ‘Throwed’ see’s the 18 year old singer embrace the ‘Go Go’ sounds of his native Virginia. Though the track is pretty decent, it doesn’t really go beyond being just that. Not even the track’s catchy chorus can save the song from coming across as being kinda generic – something most of his material has been sounding like as of late.

Hit or Miss?

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The official cover art for Alicia Key’s forthcoming album, ‘As I Am’, has surfaced. I’m definitely feeling this one – it has a real retro vibe to it.
Also, check out two new promo pics for the highly-anticipated album:
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After her showstopping performance of current single ‘No One’ at the VMA’s this past week, I’m really hyped for Alicia’s new CD. ‘As I Am’ hits stores November 13th.

What do you think of the cover/pics?

Apologies for taking so long to have this posted up (the Jagged Edge interview is coming soon!). Please be aware that due to time constraints, some questions had to be skipped over. Enjoy.

Sam: Hey Johnta, how are doing?

: Great

Sam: I really appreciate you taking the time out to answer these questions

Johnta: Pleasure is all mine

Sam: Quoting one of your lyrics: “Turn up your radio and I guarantee that you’ll hear one of my songs”. Indeed, your undeniable success as a songwriter has ensured that this rings true. Did you ever foresee yourself getting this far?

Johnta: Umm, not like this. I mean anything that I set out to do, I wanna do good at it. I’m not gonna lie and say I didn’t think I was gonna be a success. I would never start anything that I didn’t think I would be good or succeed in. Did I think it was gonna be to this degree though? Not like this, but I thought I would be successful.

Sam: When did you realize that music was want you wanted to pursue?

Johnta: When Tyrese’s “Sweet Lady” came out and it was a hit and I stared making a little bit o paper, that’s when I knew [laughs]. I loved music and always loved music but his was when I thought I could make it into a career.

Sam: You’ve penned some of this decade’s biggest hits – earning numerous awards in the process. What led to you stepping to the forefront and becoming an artist yourself?

Johnta: Just from working with Jermaine Dupri on a daily basis. He really saw something in me as an artist and wanted to present it to the world. I wanted to be an artist for a minute but it was Jermaine that gave me the confidence.

Sam: Did you have any fears when making the transition (from writer to performer)?

Johnta: Nah, um like I said it all goes back to I believe in myself and the talent that God has given me. I don’t really get nervous because it’s about creating the music for me. If people gravitate to it, that’s good. It’s a blessing.

Sam: ‘Ocean Drive’ – your long-awaited debut album – had been slated to drop on many different dates, yet was pushed back on each occasion. Why was this?

Johnta: Definitely, the first few dates were when I was at Virgin and things just couldn’t get right, which also led to Jermaine stepping down. It was unfortunate because “Turn It Up” was just about to take off. After that, L.A. made a home for us at Island. We re-opened the door and it’s exciting again. We shot a video with DJ UNK so this is exciting that it’s happening.

Sam: Could you explain what inspired the concept of the title ‘Ocean Drive’? What can listeners expect from the CD (i.e. sound, producers, writers, collabo’s etc)?

Johnta: At first it was about a strip in Miami, called “Ocean Drive”. Then we started to use that scene to create the feel for the album. It became like a way of life, a feeling. Ocean Drive is sexy, its freshness, we wanted to bring that sound to people even when they are away from the strip.

Sam: How did it feel working in the studio and writing/recording for your own project, as opposed to for other artists?

Johnta: Its pretty much the same feeling we approached it the same way. We just wanna go in there and make good music, no matter who we’re working with. I didn’t want to get overly excited about it being my OWN record, so I put it out of my head so I could treat it like I treat every other visit to the studio.

Sam: I’m really liking the album track ‘Hood Love’ featuring Mary J. Blige, How did the collaboration come about? What was it like working with Mary in the studio?

Johnta: It came about because I wrote “Be Without You” on Mary’s last album. Jermaine and I were talking about different artists I worked with that would be cool for the duo so we reached out to Mary. She was receptive and its always a pleasure being in the studio with Mary, She always brings the emotion and is genuine on every track.

Sam: You’ve finished recording the album, right? Are there any tracks you would deem as personal favourites (and why)?

Johnta: “The One That Got Away” produced by Stargate
“Hood Love” feat. Mary J. Blige
“Call Me If I Was Your Boyfriend”
These tracks are all of my personality rolled up into one. It’s cocky, it’s got swagger. What my listeners have come to appreciate: ballads, storytelling, melodies…

Sam: You evidently have a close working relationship with Jermaine Dupri. How did you guys meet?

Johnta:We met through producer Brian Michael Cox. I just kept on nagging him about putting me and Jermiane together.

Sam: Some singer/songwriters have gone on record to state that they wish they’d kept a particular track for themselves. Has this ever been the case for you (if so, which song(s))?

Johnta: No, I don’t feel like I gotta hold on to a record, cuz I always feel like I can make another great one.

Sam: Have you ever been frustrated with the fact that, prior to now, many have known the hits you’ve written but not the man behind them?

Johnta: My prime role is the coach. The coach is never gonna get enough praise and accolades as the stars. When I work with Mariah, I’m there, JD’s there to assist. Mariah is leading the team, but she’s the one that’s taking home the MVP, and deservedly so, and I’m cool with that.

Sam: For you, which gives you better satisfaction: hearing a song you co-wrote on the radio or hearing your own song on the radio?

Johnta: Hearing my own song on the radio. Cuz I’ve heard other people singing my songs for so long, so it’s great to hear my own voice on the radio.

Sam: Though you’re evidently a versatile writer, which artist has proved the most difficult to write for?

Johnta: I haven’t met a challenge yet that’s too demanding. I’m grateful to work with artists who already have their own identity. It’s easy to work with a Mariah, an Usher, a Mary cuz you just have to add to what they are doing.

Sam: Mariah Carey describes you as ‘a true talent’ and Mary J has labelled you as ‘the best thing to happen to the music industry’. How does it feel hearing praises like that from such celebrated artists?

Johnta: It humbles you because they’ve achieved so much success and they are so well liked all over the world. And they are known for their incredible music, so for them to respect my talent, that’s great.

Sam: What advice do you have for those wishing to break into the music industry, be it as songwriters or artists? How can they go about achieving their dream?

: Be persistent is the most important thing. Don’t give up. You don’t want it to be easy. The overnight guys disappear overnight as well. Stay persistent and sharpen your craft an it’ll work out.

Sam: Album release date?

Johnta: November 2007

Sam: Thanks for taking time out to answer our questions; it’s very much appreciated. Best of luck with the project, we’re eagerly waiting on it.

Johnta: Thanks you.

Your thoughts on the interview?