Song Stuck in Our Heads Today: Jody Watley’s “Some Kind Of Lover” (1987)
ARTIST: Jody Watley TITLE: “Some Kind Of Lover” ALBUM: Jody Watley (1987) | Tribute WATCH/LISTEN: Song Stuck in Our Heads Today: Jody Watley’s “Some Kind Of Lover” (1987) Jody Watley “Some Kind Of Lover” appears on Jody Watley’s eponymous 1987 debut album ‘Jody Watley
Song Stuck in Our Heads Today: Jody Watley’s “Friends” featuring Eric B. & Rakim (1989)
“Friends” appears on Jody Watley’s 1989 album ‘Larger Than Life’ Jody Watley ARTIST: Jody Watley featuring Eric B. & Rakim TITLE: “Friends” ALBUM: Larger Than Life (1989) BUY: Amazon | iTunes WATCH/LISTEN: Song Stuck in Our Heads Today: Jody Watley’s “Friends” featuring Eric B. & Rakim (1989)
Happy Birthday to Jody Watley, Born January 30, 1959
Please join the Albumism team in celebrating Jody Watley’s musical legacy and share your personal Award-winning vocalist, producer, and songwriter Jody Watley made a name for herself with the dance Jody Watley Happy Birthday to Jody Watley, Born January 30, 1959 Please join the Albumism team in celebrating Jody Watley’s musical legacy and share your personal memories of her with us.
NEW MUSIC WE LOVE: Jody Watley Featuring SRL’s “The Mood” (Alex Di Ciò Remix)
(Available February 12th) Music legend and Albumism favorite Jody Watley, together with her brothers Jody Watley Artist: Jody Watley featuring SRL Song: “The Mood” (Alex Di Ciò Remix) Download: Amazon | iTunes NEW MUSIC WE LOVE: Jody Watley Featuring SRL’s “The Mood” (Alex Di Ciò Remix)
NEW MUSIC WE LOVE: Jody Watley & SRL’s “The Passion”
NEW MUSIC WE LOVE: Jody Watley & SRL’s “The Passion” Artist: Jody Watley & SRL Song: “The Passion” We’ve already been blessed with two new singles (Alex Jody Watley Di Ciò’s Remix of “The Mood” and “Waiting In Vain”) from the legendary Jody Watley in 2018, and the
100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums: Jody Watley’sJody Watley’ (1987)
Jody Watley Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here. JODY WATLEY | Jody Watley MCA authenticity for Jody Watley in 1987. The vocalist/songwriter/ dancer knew what she wanted musically 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums: Jody Watley’sJody Watley’ (1987) and she went for it. Jody Watley, a Grammy award winning collection of cool funk (“Looking for a New
50 Fantastic “Flying Solo” Albums | Jody Watley’sJody Watley’ (1987)
explore each album or view the full album index here. JODY WATLEY | Jody Watley MCA (1987) Selected by 50 Fantastic “Flying Solo” Albums | Jody Watley’sJody Watley’ (1987) Quentin Harrison It was all about identity and authenticity for Jody Watley in 1987. The vocalist Jody Watley /songwriter/ dancer knew what she wanted musically and she went for it. Jody Watley, a Grammy award
NEW MUSIC WE LOVE: Jody Watley’s “Waiting in Vain”
in the dance to the screen, with the distinct Jody Watley vibe as the sole centerpiece of the film.” WATCH: could never accuse Jody Watley of resting on her laurels. Recently, she's been busy promoting “The Mood NEW MUSIC WE LOVE: Jody Watley’s “Waiting in Vain” Jody Watley Artist: Jody Watley Song: “Waiting in Vain” Download: Amazon | iTunes Upcoming Tour: Dates One Sandoval, who I’ve worked with before on the first video for my group Jody Watley ft. SRL, was thrilled to
TRIBUTE: Celebrating 20 Years of Jody Watley’s ‘Flower’
, 1998. “I didn't want to make another record that felt specifically more R&B at that point,” Jody Jody Watley ). Though the circumstances surrounding it are storied, Flower is still one of Jody Watley's most luxe TRIBUTE: Celebrating 20 Years of Jody Watley’s ‘Flower’ Happy 20th Anniversary to Jody Watley’s sixth studio album Flower, originally released March 31 Watley confided when I spoke with her about her sixth album Flower (1998) for a Fly Global Music
Still a Thrill: Celebrating 30 Years of Jody Watley’s Eponymous Debut Album
record labels with the blueprint of Jody Watley, and she ultimately selected MCA Records. Under the Still a Thrill: Celebrating 30 Years of Jody Watley’s Eponymous Debut Album Happy 30th Anniversary to Jody Watley’s eponymous debut album 'Jody Watley,' originally released February 23, 1987. [Read Quentin Harrison's interview with Jody Watley here] Reinvention has been at Jody Watley product of Jody Watley belied a sense of citified modernity in its collision of funk, euro-dance, R the core of Jody Watley as an artist, and a woman, from the beginning. The Chicago born singer
Some Kind of Wonderful: A Conversation with Jody Watley, Warrior Woman and Master of Reinvention
Some Kind of Wonderful: A Conversation with Jody Watley, Warrior Woman and Master of Reinvention debut album here.] Jody Watley has been a musical chameleon for four decades, and in her debut album Jody Watley was released to the public and impacted hard. The rest, as the saying goes, is Jody Watley Photo: Albert Sanchez [Read Quentin Harrison’s special 30th anniversary tribute to Jody Watley’s eponymous Jody Watley, what do you think are the biggest factors of its continued legacy and appeal to like to start working on my album next year. EXPLORE Jody Watley’s Discography via Amazon | iTunes STREAM Our Essential Jody Watley playlist:
Shalamar’s ‘The Look’ Turns 35 | An Anniversary Retrospective
Jody Watley Happy 35th Anniversary to Shalamar’s seventh studio album The Look, originally released July 11, 1983. Shalamar began their career as a complete studio creation of Soul Train’s Don Cornelius in 1977. Two years later, Soul Train dancers Jeffrey Daniels and Jody Watley had come into the band along with singer Howard Hewett. Shalamar evolved into the ‘80s as a vocally strong urban contemporary post-disco/soul outfit. By the time their 1982 album Friends came out, Shalamar’s dynamic was beginning to change. 1983’s The Look was the next logical step. As written by A Scott Galloway in the liner notes to the 1998 The Right Stuff CD reissue of the album, lead singer Hewett and the group members were interested in the soulful end of the new wave sound from groups like Culture Club and Wham! at the time. This influence heavily informed The Look. It also helped that Shalamar always had great strength in the image department, which was perfect for the high fashion element of 1980s pop culture. MTV era Hollywood photographer Bobby Holland took the photo used for the cover. Again according to Galloway, The Look’s fashion magazine-like cover art worked well with Watley’s youthful interest in glamour magazines such as Harper’s and Vogue. So the element of period posing, hairstyles and makeup matched up well with the new romantic/new wave aesthetic Shalamar (and their producer Leon Sylvers) were embracing musically. As for the music itself, The Look provided very stylish production across its ten very strong musical ideas. “Closer” starts out the album with a rhythmically heavy boogie/electro funk number. The synth bass of the song plays a somewhat elaborate, brittle pattern, while the vocal harmonies of the group give the chorus some beautifully chorded flavors. “Right Here” has a light shuffle to its funky uptempo rhythm, with the disco/funk rhythm guitar and bouncing synth bass lending to its harmony-rich “sophistifunk” musicality. “Dead Giveaway”(which allegedly features uncredited guitar work by The Time’s Jesse Johnson), “No Limits (The Now Club)” and “Disappearing Act” all find Shalamar embracing the rigid beats and metronomic bass of new wave/synth pop. Shalamar embraced this new wave/synth pop approach on their previous album Friends, and these are even more committed tributes to the form of the time. “You Can Count On Me” is a Fender Rhodes piano based urban contemporary soul ballad. A Scott Galloway’s CD liner notes also mention that this particular song was penned by SOLAR label owner Dick Griffey’s wife Carrie, who also had her own solo career at the time. “Over And Over” is a synth pad laden bass/guitar driven sophistifunk tune yet again. “You’re The One For Me” is a liquid, jazzy medium tempo number, comprised of contemporary jazz tinged chords and vocal dynamics from all the musicians and Hewett himself. “You Won’t Miss Love (Until Its Gone)” hits an even harder end of the post-disco/boogie funk present on this album. The title track ends the album with something of a hybrid of the jazzy post-disco groove Shalamar had carefully developed here and their evolving interest in pulsing new wave rhythmic rigidity. Jazz fusion bass maestro Stanley Clarke slapped away on bass here too. According to Galloway, he met Hewett through their mutual accountant John Ritter and became close friends. Aside from this number, the Hewett/Clarke collaboration would also yield the hit “Heaven Sent You” from Clarke’s 1984 album Time Exposure. So in the end, The Look had a lot going for it, especially within the context of its time. In his AllMusic review of the album, Leon Stanley suggests that the combination of new wave and post-disco electro worked well on the uptempo songs here, but that the ballads lacked strong memorable hooks. I don’t per se agree with this assessment. But what The Look did do successfully was showcase how much UK new romantic/new wave music was influenced by American funk, disco and soul that the US had culturally rejected by the early 1980s. So by making albums like this one, Shalamar effectively showed where this “new” music came from. Even if it was the final album recorded by their classic lineup of Daniel, Hewett and Watley. LISTEN:
50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time: 'The Solar Galaxy of Stars Live’ (1980)
Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here. VARIOUS ARTISTS | The Solar Galaxy of Stars Live Solar (1980) Selected by Steven E. Flemming, Jr. An interesting time capsule, The Solar Galaxy of Stars Live—which documented a stop on the successful 1980 tour of the same name—captured Solar Records’ first wave of hit makers as disco was slipping into the netherworld between the R&B charts and the urban underground. Over the course of two LPs, the Whispers, Shalamar, Lakeside, and Dynasty powered through their current hits with Motortown Revue gusto, faithfully replicating Solar’s trademark high-gloss, hooky arrangements. Though many dismiss the label’s brand as sanitized bubblegum soul, there were some surprises: Kevin Spencer, a singer with underrated outfit Dynasty, delivered a crystal-clear lead vocal on the dance classic “I’ve Just Begun to Love You,” while a young Jody Watley showed glimmers of her future greatness on the Shalamar burner “Right in the Socket.” Solar found success throughout the eighties with Midnight Star, Klymaxx, the Deele, and Babyface, but these early performances best demonstrate what made Solar one of the last R&B empires before New Jack Swing and hip-hop moved into black music’s foreground.
ALBUM REVIEW: André Cymone Inspires on Revelatory ‘1969’
André Cymone 1969 Blindtango Buy (US) via Official Store, Amazon or iTunes | Stream Below [Note: 1969 will be released in Europe on 6/30 via Leopard, a division of Jazzline/Delta. European tour dates TBA.] When the Minneapolis sound hit the unsuspecting world as the end of the ‘70s transitioned to the early ‘80s, there was a certain amount of befuddlement that such a profoundly funky sound could emanate from the frozen reaches of the far north. Indeed, Minneapolis, at the time, was a place famed more for its rock music and its northern European descendants, than its housequaking bass and love of “the one.” Yet from this unlikely source sprang an epochal movement that bestrode the globe and spawned a wealth of artists—all indebted to a maelstrom of influences heard via sources such as the radio station KQRS—to concoct a uniquely heady brew. Among those was André Cymone, the childhood friend of Prince and his earliest bandmate, who released a series of three albums between 1982 and 1985 that ably demonstrated that very sound. Following a prolonged absence, during which he had both a personal and professional relationship with Jody Watley and wrote for many others, he emerged reborn a singer-songwriter with something to say about the state of the world today with 2014’s The Stone. The Black Man in America EP (whose title says it all) sprang up last year and paved the way for his new album 1969, which arrives stateside this week. Unsurprisingly, given the stage of his career and the premature passing of his childhood friend, it’s an album that finds him in reflective mood. Just as we, given half the chance, each grow old wishing to send messages back to our younger selves, so here Cymone sends a handful of warnings. Warnings about the pitfalls of fame, the evils of money, and the depressingly ever present perils of being a black man in American society. Nevertheless, Cymone remains dedicated to showing the listener a good time, which comes courtesy of a refreshingly straight-forward blues-rock swagger, devoid of bells, whistles or complications. This is an album that is testament to—and a reminder of—the power of a man with a guitar in his hand and a song in his heart. No pretense, no frippery and no bullshit. Album opener “We All Need Somethin'” is a strident rock and roller driven by chugging, crunching riffs and a certain relaxed, world-weary vocal delivery and it begins the album as it means to go on. The fundamentals of the blues-rock handbook are all in place—the searing lead guitar lines, the fuzztone feedback buzzing busily and the odd stab of organ swirling in the mix. All is present and correct. A few tracks (“Breathin’ Out, Breathin’ In,” “Point And Click” and “It Ain’t Much”) settle into a comfortable groove, but don’t light the blue touch paper, suggesting that a little something more unexpected would go a long way at times. Yet others linger longer: the swampy “Already There” rumbles, the more sedentary paced swagger of “It’s Rock and Roll Man” is a good fit for the subject matter, and the sunny disposition of “California Way” soon turns to cautionary tale. The two supreme highlights emerge when he turns his attention to addressing the ills of contemporary American life. “Black Lives Matter” and “Black Man In America” cover the gamut of frustration, anger and injustice in such straightforward terms that it is impossible not to be moved. Delivered in a raspy, cracked falsetto, “Black Lives Matter” seeks answers: “We only want what’s right,” before arriving at an optimism that lights the way to salvation: “I can see the light.” “Black Man In America” blazes comet-like, illuminating everything in the glow of a chanted chorus that could carry a thousand placards, pulling no punches lyrically and couching the problem in no uncertain terms: “If you ain’t white then you wanna die.” It’s the duality of US citizenship writ large. To be fair, there is nothing revolutionary on show here while the template is followed. But once the formula of the blues-rock is replaced by something more emotive, it showcases a man at ease with his place in this world and ready to raise hell for the right cause. And if ever our world needed more of this, it’s right now. More power to him. Notable Tracks: “Black Lives Matter” | “Black Man In America” | “We All Need Something” BUY André Cymone’s 1969 via Official Store | Amazon | iTunes LISTEN:
You Have Been Loved: Remembering George Michael, the Icon
Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou to a Greek Cypriot father and an English mother on June 25, 1963, George Michael became one of the most identifiable British icons in pop. Like many of his generation, a career in music was the dream of choice when he began making moves as a local disc jockey in his early twenties. However, not even Michael could foresee the impact he would have on popular music and culture. It was casual happenstance that led Michael to strike up a fast friendship with fellow dreamer in arms Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The result? Wham!. The precocious pop duo's sound drew from a myriad of genres, notably post-disco dance music and R&B. It was politely anathema to the full painted lips of the New Romantic movement and avant-garde synth-pop pumping at the heart of the British music scene at the dawn of the 1980s. Piloted by Michael as the principal songwriter/composer, Wham!’s infectious hits including “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Wham! Rap,” “Everything She Wants,” “I’m Your Man,” “Club Tropicana,” and “Last Christmas” helped elevate the duo to global superstardom from 1982 to 1986. But 1984's “Careless Whisper,” a solo Michael performance tucked away on the group’s second LP Make it Big, confessed Michael's reverence and genuine knowledge of rhythm and blues. The jazzy, melancholic atmosphere of “Careless Whisper” signified Michael's solo aspirations outside of the Wham! bubble. Immediately upon he and Ridgeley separating at the height of their fame together, Michael went to work on furthering his individual legacy. Long before Justin Timberlake hired Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley in order to be taken seriously as a post-pre-fab pop artist with contemporary R&B aspirations (read: affectations), Michael hunkered down alone to write, arrange, and produce his solo debut Faith (1987), one of the definitive British blue-eyed soul records of all time. A critical, commercial, and creative triumph for Michael, Faith was nothing short of a blockbuster. It was an album that appealed to the MTV market, but was sophisticated enough for the adult base that had eluded him during his Wham! tenure. Thirty years removed from its arrival, the long player and its singles―“Faith,” “Father Figure,” and “I Want Your Sex” to name three―are as enthralling as they ever were. The Faith project also saw Michael step his game up visually for the equally influential music videos. By exchanging his blouses, short-shorts, trainers, and coiffed pin-up look for cowboy boots, leather jackets, fitted jeans, shades, and an enviable five o’clock shadow, Michael's appropriation of the masculine ideal made him a sex symbol that crossed the borders of sexual orientation. The boon of Faith threatened to eclipse Michael, but he refused to repeat himself for the sake of commerce. With a second LP more musically and lyrically expressive than Faith, Listen Without Prejudice, Volume 1 (1990) was a conversation starter upon release. Commercially, the record performed fairly, but it was deemed a “successful failure” by cynical critics. The record also became the flashpoint for Michael's conflict with his label Sony Music regarding their systemic promotional politics and attempted suppression of his creative appetites. All of that dressed the stage for Michael's third effort Older (1996). A keen blend of modern soul and grown-up pop emphasized on the razor sharp stepper “Fastlove” and the dark, dank jazz of “Spinning the Wheel,” the record was a chart smash at home in England and other key world markets. Sadly, Michael had lost his momentum stateside and Older's reception was muted there. But the true power of Older resonated in that it was an accidental coming out record for Michael, whose sexuality had been hidden in plain sight if one listened closely to songs like “One More Try” or “Cowboys and Angels.” It was more than the omission of specific pronouns, rather, it was the nuance of gay heartbreak and struggle threaded throughout Older, charging material like the aforementioned “Spinning the Wheel,” “Jesus to a Child,” “The Strangest Thing,” and “You Have Been Loved,” the latter Michael's finest hour as a lyrical storyteller. Older felt like a portent to his very public outing in 1998, but in true Michael fashion, he turned what could have been a humiliating incident into humorous inspiration for the tongue-in-cheek retro modern disco of the 1998 single “Outside.” The song became a requisite hit single and spearheaded his first hits collection, Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael (1998). In the larger scheme of Michael's personal life, the “Outside” period signified his integrity to step fully into his truth as an out (and proud) gay man. Michael's second decade drew to a close on a continued upswing. His fourth album Songs From the Last Century (1999) was an ambitious covers record that mixed pre-rock standards with contemporary compositions, and it charted favorably in the United Kingdom. Michael's captivating collaboration with Mary. J. Blige on their cover of the Stevie Wonder staple “As” in 1999 was another coup, though not a surprising one. The Blige duet was one of many for Michael; through the years he'd duet with a range of women in soul music that also included Aretha Franklin (“I Knew You Were Waiting”), Jody Watley (“Learn to Say No”), Lisa Stansfield (“These Are the Days of Our Lives”), the late Whitney Houston (“If I Told You That”), and the Sugababes’ Mutya Buena (“This is Not Real Love”). As Michael entered the 2000s, he did it with panache and a pinch of controversy. The kinky digital funk of “Freeek!” and loose synth-pop of “Shoot the Dog” (with an interpolation of The Human League's “Love Action (I Believe in Love)”) caused a stir with the public due to their partnering music videos and subject matter upon release as singles in 2002. “Shoot the Dog” in particular drew ire for calling out the alliance of then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and American president George W. Bush. Both singles were included on Michael's fifth (and final) studio album Patience (2004). Patience secured Michael's established dominance in the United Kingdom as a hitmaker with critical acclaim in his third decade. Additionally, two large scale world tours followed in 2006 and 2011, with another hits package and live album orbiting those tours respectively. Yet, Michael's personal ills seemed to overtake any musical achievement in that third act of his career. In lieu of the trials and tribulations the singer faced before his untimely departure two days ago on December 25th, it's hard not to ponder whether Michael was truly at peace? That unanswerable question increases the weight and tragedy of his loss, bringing home the reality that many LGBTQ people face much internal strife despite victories in recent years in gaining broader mainstream societal acceptance. But Michael never faltered and often managed to turn his darkest hours into musical stories to inspire people the world over. One can see Michael's influence in other artists too, both straight and queer, such as Will Young, Sam Sparro, Bright Light Bright Light, Nick Jonas, and Bruno Mars. This speaks to Michael's enduring appeal and unquestionable impact across the broader musical landscape. George Michael's joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, all of it is heard in his music. It was a life lived in love and out loud for all to see. For his gay fans who he supported along the way with his own journey to self-acceptance, this is his greatest contribution. You have been loved, George. EXPLORE George Michael’s discography via Official Store | Amazon | iTunes STREAM George Michael’s Twenty Five (2006) here:
INTERVIEW: André Cymone Embraces Music at the Forefront of His Reality
Photo: Katherine Copeland Anderson [Read our review of André Cymone’s 1969 here] André Cymone has never had a problem with adapting to change. The singer, songwriter, producer and musician reemerged after a 27-year hiatus with the release of his 2014 album, The Stone, followed by a socially aware EP two years later, Black Man in America. He used that downtime to nurture and mentor up-and-coming artists. His benevolent motivation, Cymone says, was to prevent aspiring artists from succumbing to the pressures of the music business, a demanding world he has experienced for close to five decades. “The game was always so rigged against artists avoiding pitfalls,” Cymone reflects. “My goal is to try and get people behind a movement to push our world culture in a better direction. That’s what I’m all about.” Born Andre Anderson in Minneapolis, Cymone originally made a name for himself as Prince’s first bassist in the original lineup of The Revolution. He then became a sought-after producer for artists like Jody Watley, Tom Jones, Jermaine Stewart, Lalah Hathaway, Evelyn “Champagne” King and Adam Ant. “Music is at the forefront of my reality,” Cymone declares. “This is my reality. I look at music as art.” His latest full-length effort 1969 is sequenced with guitar-heavy rock & roll and roots music combined with astute, socially conscious lyricism the examines racial identity, geography and police brutality. Not to mention, Cymone was able to draw from his siblings’ experiences in Vietnam, in prison and travels throughout Europe. Cymone’s return to the studio was born out of playing his guitar around the house to simply entertain his kids. His wife, also his manager, further encouraged him to write and record new material. Subsequent occurrences like Barack Obama’s two terms as President, Trayvon Martin’s murder and the last presidential election fueled Cymone to address these issues through music. “I started writing and before I knew it, there was a lot of stuff going on at that time.” Growing up in one of the few families of color in Minneapolis in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Cymone flashes back to a period of time when the Twin City’s African-American population was militant. These recollections were filtered through his music. The black community, he remembers, was comprised of predominately transplants from other Midwestern cities. “We were trying to fight for our piece of the rock,” he says. “Blacks were trying to let everybody know we’re here, relevant and part of this society.” Born the youngest of six kids, Cymone always gravitated towards his siblings’ musical tastes: a potpourri of the Motown Sound, Jimi Hendrix and psychedelic rock combined with Cymone tuning into white pop radio. “I had the benefit of their knowledge and wisdom,” Cymone says, “and they had no problem showing me all of that stuff.” Cymone became kindred spirits with Prince Rogers Nelson in junior high school because both could both play numerous instruments. Their band, Grand Central, also featured Morris Day on drums, and their ensemble frequently rehearsed in Cymone’s basement. Behaving more like brothers than bandmates, Prince moved in with Cymone’s family. When Prince released his debut solo album For You in 1978, Cymone agreed to join his band but knew at some point their relationship would change. Prince initially wanted to do something similar to The Brothers Johnson with Cymone. The cooperative bassist famous for wearing a big Afro and transparent pants agreed to be Prince’s bass player until 1981. “It was the moment I realized it was no longer me and Prince,” he says. “It was gonna be different, and from that point on it was.” André Cymone, Prince & Dez Dickerson performing during the Dirty Mind tour Cymone signed a recording deal with Columbia Records in 1981, and once Prince heard his early demos, he changed musical directions, deciding to concoct new wave funk inspired by Devo and Kraftwerk. “Prince put The Time out before I had a chance to do it, so I had to rethink the whole process,” a laughing Cymone says. Columbia, however, wanted him to make records similar to Prince. Critics also accused Cymone of sounding like a no-frills version of the Purple One. Appalled by his critics, Cymone made the decision to start producing instead. “The record company knew I had it because I could do it,” he states. “It was easy to be a continuum of all that stuff I was a part of creating. They had no idea how I was involved in the ‘Minneapolis Sound.’” Taking pride in having an “artist first mentality,” Cymone adds: “I sit with artists and try to find out what they want to do and where they want to go. Those things are important for the kind of image they want.” Collaborating with Watley, also his ex-wife, on her self-titled, Grammy-winning 1987 debut album proved to be lucrative for Cymone. Calling the production a “beautiful process,” Cymone was responsible for the hits “Looking for a New Love,” “Still a Thrill” and “Some Kind of Lover.” He worked on Watley’s subsequent projects up until her 1993 LP Intimacy. “She has such a very eclectic taste,” Cymone says. “She would always pick the most experimental, avant garde stuff out there.” The music industry took notice as well, wanting Cymone to replicate that sound for other female acts, a far cry from the music business’ resistance to his vision for his own music. “It was day and night for me,” Cymone remembers. “I became the go-to producer. To give every young female coming up that same vibe is a McDonald’s attitude. I didn’t want to do that.” Inundated with countless offers to write and produce for other artists, Cymone felt more comfortable with developing and coaching talent. He stayed up on the technological shifts in music, advising record label executives to keep a close watch on consumers changing formats for listening to new releases. He also wanted to present younger songwriters and producers with opportunities. He remembers meeting L.A. Reid and Babyface in a nightclub and passing on a call to produce Pebbles to them. The future Grammy-winning hitmakers expressed their appreciation to Cymone upon Pebbles’ self-titled debut LP being certified platinum and yielding crossover hits. “They sent a card thanking me,” a chuckling Cymone says. Many years have come and gone, but music remains a focal point in Cymone’s life. He recently returned to Minneapolis for a few performances with The Revolution and New Power Generation to commemorate Prince’s untimely 2016 death. Those moments on stage, he says, were bittersweet. Cymone has no regrets about turning down potential hit collaborations, disappearing from view for over two decades or keeping his vision front and center. His ability to distinguish between artistry and entertainment, he says, is what keeps him inspired. His greatest strengths, he adds, are his wisdom, understanding of the world and musical versatility. “I have the ability to write any kind of song, period,” Cymone says. “It’s what I do and dedicate myself to.” LISTEN:
Revisiting 12 Unforgettable Verses by the Late Great Phife Dawg
It is with the heaviest of hearts that we have learned of the passing of Malik Taylor, more affectionately known as Phife Dawg, at the way-too-premature age of 45. A key member of the revered Native Tongues collective and founder of the beloved A Tribe Called Quest along with his kindred musical spirits Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White, Phife was unequivocally the embodiment of the purest and most passionate spirit of hip-hop. A poised and masterful lyricist blessed with an engaging cadence, the always-eloquent Phife possessed a unique penchant for delivering cleverly constructed lines that stick with you for a lifetime. And as the world mourns this unfathomable loss and celebrates the brilliance of the "Five Foot Assassin," we’re compelled to revisit a dynamic dozen of the emcee’s most memorable verses across his nearly thirty-year career. In no way intended to serve as a comprehensive representation of his prolific body of work, these twelve selections are largely culled from Tribe’s discography, with a few of his noteworthy solo compositions included as well. Special thanks to the Genius team for ensuring that Phife’s poetic rhymes remain readily accessible for all to enjoy. We hope you dig these nostalgic trips down memory lane as much as we have, as we honor the life, lyrics, and legacy of the late-great Phife Dawg. 12 Unforgettable Phife Dawg Verses: “Buggin’ Out” (1991) From A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory Yo, microphone check one, two, what is this? / The five foot assassin with the roughneck business / I float like gravity, never had a cavity / Got more rhymes than the Winans got family / No need to sweat Arsenio to gain some type of fame / No shame in my game cause I'll always be the same / Styles upon styles upon styles is what I have / You wanna diss the Phifer but you still don't know the half / I sport New Balance sneakers to avoid a narrow path / Mess around with this you catch a size eight up your [ass] / I never half step cause I'm not a half stepper / Drink a lot of soda so they call me Dr. Pepper / Refuse to compete with BS competition / Your name ain't Special Ed so won't you seckle with the mission / I never walk the street thinking it's all about me / Even though deep in my heart, it really could be / I just try my best to like go all out / Some might even say yo shorty black you're buggin' out “Electric Relaxation” (1993) From A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders I like 'em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian / Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation / Told you in the jam that we can get down / Now let's knock the boots like the group H-Town / You got BBD all on your bedroom wall / But I'm above the rim and this is how I ball / A gritty little something on the New York street / This is how I represent over this here beat “1nce Again” (1996) From A Tribe Called Quest’s Beats, Rhymes, and Life I fought my shit up on Linden in the one-nine-two / Forever writing never biting ain't shit else to do / Hoping to battle, but most MC's ain't ready yet / But if they utter one word then it's as good as set / You have MC's dropping bombs that's incredible / Some of the brothers, their styles are just despicable / As for me see I just do how I love to do / Try to deny me of my props then I'll be seeing you / Most of you suckers wanna be down for the tag along / The freaking fame, someone tell em that this shit ain't games / You gots to do this from your heart meaning your inner soul / And if it's real only then will you be on a roll / I try to stay on top my game there ain't no time to lose / Four albums deep as a Quester but still we payin' dues / So hear me out one time, you gots to be yourself / Cause if you ain't yourself you end up by your freaking self / I'm coming rugged with the Linden Boule type of slang / And yo, we'll see who can hang yo “Steve Biko (Stir It Up)” (1993) From A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders Linden Boulevard represent, represent / Tribe Called Quest represent, represent / When the mic is in my hand, I'm never hesitant / My favorite jam back in the day was Eric B. for President / Rude boy composer, step to me you're over / Brothers wanna flex, you're not Mad Cobra / MC short and black, there ain't no other / Trini-born black like Nia Long's grandmother / Tip and Sha they all that, Phife Dawg ditto / Honey tell your man to chill, or else you'll be a widow / Did not you know that my styles are top-dollar? / The Five-Foot Assassin knocking fleas off his collar / Hip hop scholar since being knee high to a duck / The height of Muggsy Bogues, complexion of a hockey puck / You better ask somebody on how we flip the script / Come to a Tribe show and watch the three kids rip “Beats, Rhymes & Phife” (2000) From Phife Dawg’s Ventilation: The LP 11-20-70, who would have known / That premature born will be grabbin microphones? (Mutty Rankin) / Called Malik Isaac Taylor to Walt and Cheryl / Grew up bein a sports fanatic, wantin to box for gold medals / Influenced by the likes of Ali and Sugar Ray / Magic Johnson, Tony Dorsett and Doctor Jay / Then came the Cold Crush, L.L. Cool J / Pops said he had to move to Cali, but nah, I had to stay / New York was all I ever knew, plus hip-hop started tweakin / Block parties every weekend, come home late, catch a beatin / Gettin grounded for months, to the jams young Phife was speedin / Only 4'8", still the ladies had me cheatin / I reminisce about them hot New York, nights grabbin’ mics / And hell, God forbid if your flow wasn't tight / Queens, L.I., nothin but flavor over here / I could tell you but so much, cause you had to be there / Growin up I spent much time with my nana, Mom was at work / Knew every version of Bible, I damn near lived in a church / Nana was 7th Day Adventist, those days I can't forget / All day, Saturday, I have to wait until the sun set / Friends would knock on my door: "Can Malik come out to play?" / "No hon, no way, not today, he has to pray" / Those famous words that my granny would say / Therefore I run my ass upstairs and sneak on the TV / Aw shit, Soul Train, better act like you know / I used to turn the volume down, so nobody would know / Now while I stared at Jody Watley, I would practice my flow / Look at all them asses, yo, no doubt, on the low / Steady enjoyin the show, everything good to go / Low and behold, granny was right at the do' / Now I'm dealin with the punishment of pain - I sure deserved it / Proceedin to the fullest, only three hours since the sermon / Then comes the fatal question: "Did you learn anything from service?" / But in the name of hip-hop - for real - it's all worth it / You know my name “Check the Rhime” (1991) From A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory Now here's a funky introduction of how nice I am / Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram / I'm like an energizer cause, you see, I last long / My crew is never ever wack because we stand strong / Now if you say my style is wack that's where you're dead wrong / I slayed that body in El Segundo then Push it Along / You'd be a fool to reply that Phife is not the man / Cause you know and I know that you know who I am / A special shot of peace goes out to all my pals, you see / And a middle finger goes for all you punk MC's / Cause I love it when you wack MC's despise me / They get vexed, I roll next, can't none contest me / I'm just a fly MC who's five foot three and very brave / On job remaining, no home training cause I misbehave / I come correct in full effect have all my hoes in check / And before I get the butt the jim must be erect / You see, my aura's positive I don't promote no junk / See, I'm far from a bully and I ain't a punk / Extremity in rhythm, yeah that's what you heard / So just clean out your ears and just check the word “Can I Kick It?” (1990) From A Tribe Called Quest’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm Can I kick it? To my Tribe that flows in layers / Right now, Phife is a poem sayer / At times, I'm a studio conveyor / Mr. Dinkins, would you please be my mayor? / You'll be doing us a really big favor / Boy this track really has a lot of flavor / When it comes to rhythms, Quest is your savior / Follow us for the funky behavior / Make a note on the rhythm we gave ya / Feel free, drop your pants, check your ha-ir / Do you like the garments that we wear? / I instruct you to be the obeyer / A rhythm recipe that you'll savor / Doesn't matter if you're minor or major / Yes, the Tribe of the game we're a player / As you inhale like a breath of fresh air “Jazz (We’ve Got)” (1991) From A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory Competition dem try fe come side way / But competition they must come straight way / Competition dem try fe come side way / But competition they must come straight way / How's about that, it seems like it's my turn again / All through the years my mic has been my best friend / I know some brothers wonder, can Phife really kick it? / Some even wanna dis me, but why sweat it? / I'm all into my music cos it's how I make papes / Try to make hits, like Kid Capri makes tapes / Me sweat another? I do my own thing / Strictly hardcore tracks, not a new jack swing / I grew up as a Christian so to Jah I give thanks / Collect my banks, listen to Shabba Ranks / I sing, and chat, I do all of that / It's 1991 and I refuse to come wack / I take off my hat to other crews that tend to rock / But the Low End Theory's here, it's time to wreck shop / I got Tip and Shah, so whom shall I fear / Stop look and listen, but please don't stare / So jet to the store, and buy the LP / On Jive/RCA, cassettes and CD's / Produced and arranged by the four-man crew / And oh shit, Skeff Anselm, he gets props too / Make sure you have a system with some fat house speakers / So the new shit can rock, from Bronx to Massapequa / Cos where I come from quality is job one / And everybody up on Linden know we get the job done / So peace to that crew, and peace to this crew / Bring on the tour, we'll see you at a theatre nearest you “Dear Dilla” (2014) Single Hold tight, this ain't the last time I see you / Due time, that's my word imma see you / Frontin ass rappers now here stealin' intros / Posin like they
See more