Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
"Temet Nosce: The Nag Champion Mixtape"
(Nureau iNK, LLC)
"Temet Nosce" available exclusively at store.theofficialtonex.com
"Unspoken" available at store.theofficialtonex.com and all music retailers and digital music outlets
Beginning with "Temet Nosce", which is only available via his website 's store , this is not only a continuation of his previous mixtape, "Bapost.o.g.i.c", but it is also an expansionary witnessing tool that was specifically directed to the streets. For those who don't know, "Temet Nosce" translates loosely from Latin as "Know Thyself", famously featured in the movie "The Matrix ". Packaged with Nag Champa incense (hence the subtitle, also a reference to a track on Common's "Like Water For Chocolate"), as soon as I opened the envelope, the scent of the incense permeated through the packaging. Nice. With my nag champa incense burning, I began the journey.
"Nag Champion" is a really cool intro where you can see TON3X being not only comfortable with where he is musically, but also with where he is in his relationship with God.The intro is a testament to his overcoming the obstacles that came his way, and becoming a "nag champion".
"I Believed U" is a scathing anonymous track to someone in particular who betrayed TON3X. I'm REALLY diggin' the chopped up sample on this one... (yo, Bizzy--holla at me for the info...LOL!).
"Jennifer" is a hauntingly beautiful track, seemingly improvised, dedicated to Jennifer Hudson. I simply loved this when I first heard it.
"Screwy Wabbit" REALLY through me for a loop when I first heard it. When I realized it was presented in Screwtape style (RIP DJ Screw), I understood. Great journey through "OakPark", though the "screwed up style isn't something I can really say I'm into, maybe because I'm not from Houston.
"Incense & Candles" is hot, with its guitar samples and harmonies, it's cascading synth line in the background. With T singing about incense, candles, chamomille tea, and other relaxing elements, it's a really relaxing track. One of the standouts.
"Chemystery" is another lava-lamp R&B joint dealing with the age-old theory that "opposites attract", with T singing all over the drum pattern, and the harmonies layering beautifully, especially on the breakdown.
"Steel & Velvet" is a song that women--and men, for that matter--need to hear, about grown man's business. "With lyrics like "smooth like LL, hard like Capone", it speaks of the duality of being a man. Great track.
"Changes" would not have been out of place during the DNC (Democratic National Convention) last year. A song about the inevitable ebb and flow of life, society, and spiritual evolution, this song is absolutely beautiful with TON3X flowing over a piano and drums. Beautiful vamping toward the end.
"YHWH" is a sprawling, 10-minute opus previously available on iTunes. Utilizing a sample of the Hebrew folk song "Hava Nagilah", this song is a joyous celebration of God that was released initially on the Jewish Holiday Yom Kippur in 2008 on TON3X's Myspace . It then became a hit, triggering an iTunes release, and then its inclusion on this mixtape. T's vocal prowess is showcased on this track, with him showing off his reported 6-octave vocal range. Great track.
The final track, "Until 2morrow", is a beautiful spoken-word/rap by Nureau iNK delegate Omega. Over a simple drum loop, piano, and T's vamped ad-libbing, Omega speaks words of encouragement to the listener, and possibly TON3X himself, as the mixtape draws to a close.
All in all, this mixtape is great, jumping from Erykah-Baduish soul, hip-hop, and world music, and is a must-add for fans (and fams ) as well as people who just appreciate good music.
And now - "Unspoken".
This album, in general, is going to be a huge hit in any genre. Specifically marketed as both R&B/Soul and Gospel, this album is essentially an incognito Gospel album, so much so that people are confusing some of the songs as mere R&B tracks. While maybe 2 or 3 songs are straight R&B, the rest of the songs are there as a transition. I believe that the label TON3X is affiliated with now, Battery/SONY, has a better understanding of how to market TON3X's music, as it really has no genre in and of itself.
The first song, "FIYAH", has got to be one of the most attention-getting opening tracks on an album I've ever heard. With rapper Vango opening the song, a thumpin' hip-hop club track, and TON3X's vocals, this one is sure to be a club-banger. Great opening for the album.
"Bring It" is a great club track, sounding like it could be out of the "Bring It On" soundtrack. A great dance battle jam. Love It.
"Joy" is one of those tracks that I'm glad finally got its proper label release. Originally touted as a single for another upcoming album, "Stereotype:Steel & Velvet", T snatched this one back and put it on this album. Uptempo, great vocals, this song could either be to a significant other or to the Creator. This is a track that could be taken either way, which is not to be said of the next track...
"Glorex" is an unbelievable track. A Gospel song to the core, this is what it would song like if D'Angelo, Maxwell, or Prince would do a Gospel song. TON3X's falsetto floats beautifully over this track, as do the background vocals. This is one that has my player on repeat. A must-listen.
"Blend", one of the singles off this album, is a favorite of a few of my family members and friends. An alternative/pop song that is masterfully done with percussion and an electric piano, it speaks of individuality and how lack thereof can actually hinder your trying to fit in. The underlying message is that "you are unique in God's eyes". Nice chugging drum line going on through the track. Stand-out.... but-- you need to listen to the remixes!
"Cool With U" is one of my wife's favorites, as well as mine. Interestingly enough, this is miscategorized as an R&B song, while it can be, but if one really listens, TON3X is not speaking of making his lady happy, but he's speaking specifically about making time with God and making Him happy and "making his life pleasing before Him". Again, this is one of those times where it can be perceived either way. Beautiful bridge on this one. Love the song.
"Unspoken", the title track, is a beautiful song dealing with those of us who have a need of prayer that is private, perhaps because it is too painful, but most likely due to fear of judgment from "church folk". Those of us who deal with those issues (but not you, right?) should listen to this song on a CONSTANT LOOP. I find myself listening to this over and over at times and it's very apparent why this song became the title of the album, for those who doubted. Standout.
"Again" concludes the somewhat trilogy of slow Gospel songs on this project. They seem to meld together and was obviously deliberately sequenced in that order. This particular song speaks to me, and will to you, as it speaks of being faithful in the midst of adversity because "if He did it before, He's gonna do it again". Amen. Another standout. Matter of fact, the past 3 songs should be on a loop. Real talk.
"Love Me 4 Me" continues on with the R&B aspect of the album. This song is just amazing. The vocal arrangement, the drum pattern, the lyrics. It's a great R&B song all the way around, destined to be a single, I hope.
"When I Call" is a club banger. I love the fact that this is so different from the album, and yet it works well. This is one of my favorite TON3X tracks in general, because it's so different. When he hits those high notes during the end portion, watch out. Amazing.
"Sneeze", while sounding like a regular Pop/R&B joint with Gospel undertones, it is very deep as found on TON3X's explanation of the song on his myspace. I really like this because you have to listen to it as well as groove to it. I really dig this one.
"Wired" can be best described as Michael Jackson does Gospel, at least from its vocal delivery. Nice club banger with a message. I especially like the harmonies during the chorus.
"Face Down", the final track, is a straight-up thumper. THe drum track slaps you in the face, the guitar punctuates the drum track, the vocal delivery, all of it. Amazing. The song deals with being prostrate in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Real talk, I have a friend who's a Jehovah's Witness bangin' this one. This is a great closing of the album and another one destined to be a single.
All in all, "Unspoken" is a welcome and awaited "return" by TON3X to the mainstream. I would be surprised if this does not garner any awards due to the sheer magnitude of creativity on this album. It's a great album from start to finish, in any genre.
And so, that is my review of the past 2 projects on TON3X's arsenal which were released within weeks of each other. If these are any indication of the future, we as listeners have a LOT to look forward to from TON3X. I, for one, can't wait for what's next.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
a letter to the listenerFrom MaxwellYesterday at 22:23
i know its been a long time. countless updates on various pages; false starts and empty promises. even i get frustrated with myself. why leave a world so encouraging and optimistic when so many people dream for the chances some of you may believe i might have squandered.
this isnt in response to anything or anyone in paticular. people are mercurial and my droplet is nothing compared to the oceans of you that see what you wish and perceive what you will.
again, i’m sure most of you are scratching your heads, confused with questions and concerns, but when it all surfaces and comes to fruition. i hope you can see that this journey was meant to happen as it did. i didn’t get it at first, but now, it all seems to be making sense. i guess candles have no power in the day and your many lights have been the leader leading me out from my bleak yet self induced darkness.
i’m not the best and i think even less of my contribution to music than my confidence sometimes betrays. there are hundreds i think of who rock it better than i do. some probably agree and i’m sure they will be all a buzz with details about why i suck.
regardless of that fact it’s just my nature and i guess my curse. i’m not fishing so please, no need for a pep talk. i just always think it, or i, can be better, but you know this already.
i urge you all to purchase prince’s new records. he is one of the last and baddest on the set. sade is on her way as well and trust me, it’s so monolithic it’ll shake you in your shoes!
pretty wings the video is set to be filmed.
the album, pre summer and the world tour.
this summer into the summer of 2010.
we’re going everywhere. details to follow.
thank you for waiting,
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Tonex is the most controversial singer in contemporary gospel music and perhaps more than any since Ray Charles and Sam Cooke first alchemized gospel into soul. His indiscreet lyrics, unorthodox musical approach, and unvarnished honesty stoke disquieting flames in the hearts of even the most liberal Christians. Other gospel artists such as Walter Hawkins and Kirk Franklin may have initially caused similar rumblings, but their critics quieted with changing times and they eventually became embraced by the status quo. That is unlikely to happen to Tonex; he has proven too out of the box in both religious message and presentation for most traditionalists (and even some progressives).
This is a shame; since Tonex is also arguably the most multi-talented composer, arranger, producer and male singer gospel music has birthed in the last quarter century. Others may make more beloved and accessible material, but Tonex has proven prolific in nearly every American musical form, from jazz to rock to rap-all done with a Christian message. His lesser known works: the double-disc Oak Park 92105, The London Letters, and The Naked Truth as much as Out The Box, O2, and Pronounced Toe-Nay prove he's not merely good at these genres; Tonex has the goods to catapult to the top of any of them, should he choose. In his musical genius and chaotic personal life, Tonex is Prince for the gospel scene. In his arrogance and braggadocio, particularly on the profanity-laced The Naked Truth, he is Kanye West, likewise endearing him to outcasts everywhere.
It may be flattering to be compared to Prince and Kanye, men representing the zeniths of their profession, but they also represent a zeal for rebellion, self-defeating antics, and conflicting, schizophrenic philosophies that also ultimately gets them labeled as kooks by the masses. Here too, Tonex fits nicely, with his highly publicized rants against fundamentalists (even as he dictates fundamentalist tomes in his songwriting), his theologically questionable ministry, and a marriage to singer "Ms. Tonex" that crashed and burned before millions of adoring fans. Responses to traditionalists' campaigns questioning Tonex's manhood, sexuality and religious integrity have all found there way into his artistic expression, sometimes with more Old than New Testament results (an eye for an eye...). It is, however, these raw vulnerabilities and the obvious sensitivities he wears on his sleeve that make him such a compelling artistic figure. His tendency to create art that is unabashedly transparent about his interior dialogues, to the point of prompting a listener's own uncomfortable self-reflections, is how his work differs from almost any other artist in gospel history. There is no ugly that Tonex won't mine or state for artistic truth, and yet he still manages to hold fast to expressions of faith.
Despite Tonex's seemingly limitless musical capacities and commercially self-destructive passion for expanding the boundaries of gospel wide enough to include secular thought and sound, he has kept his lyrics largely confined to songs about faith and, more often, the struggles and hypocrisies of a modern religious life. His ambitious offerings, musical flirtations with rumors about his sexuality, public pronouncements of martyrdom, and constant, eccentric image renewals have always made gospel seem ill-suited, if not somehow too small for Tonex's vision. Ever since his Stellar Awards debut-rocking a form-fitted outfit and busting choreography worthy of Janet-the industry expected Tonex to cross-over to pop and R&B. So, a major label debut inclusive of secular and gospel tunes is something of an expected, if not a welcome, relief. Maybe the p.k. (preacher's kid) will stop his misbehaving now that he's finally walked through that mainstream, major label door. Never one to do what is expected, Unspoken is Tonex's middle finger to that idea too, and then it isn't too. Confused? This is to be expected when discussing Tonex.
Unspoken is not completely a secular album, far from it. Though there are a few polished secular cuts here, including "Love Me 4 Me" and "Cool With You," two of the safest tracks Tonex has ever recorded. Both soft-touches are lovely harmonically-layered R&B that Urban Adult Contemporary programs would be wise to eat up. The electric club-banger "Bring It" is one of only two exceptions to Tonex's uncharacteristic caution on Unspoken. With its Rich Harrison, go-go flavored production, "Bring It," could be the crossover hit of the album. Somebody needs to get a video on this quick, fast and in a hurry.
No, on Unspoken, it is once again the gospel and inspirational tracks that find Tonex's itchy fingers pushing that proverbial envelope. "When I Call" is a futuristic electronic romp spreading the most traditional of gospel messages: God answers if you call. It may, however, be difficult to hear this simple message amongst all the synthesized strings and the saturated funk vocals, though the vocals do present an interesting amalgamation of George Clinton and Roger Troutman. The minimalist rock of "Bl3nd" is the polar opposite of "When I Call." The percussive "Bl3nd" slow builds from a spare set to a more muscular electronic jam, celebrating and encouraging the God-given individuality of "the other," a recurring theme in Tonex's catalog. The self-explanatory "Joy" kicks up the energy a thousand-fold with trademark quirky arrangements and the baritone-to-soprano riffs that first put Tonex in a rare class of six-octave male singers.
Of the gospel cuts, only the lush gospel ballad "Again" and the title track seem like holdovers from 02 or OakPark 92105, drawing easy comparisons to his classics "Priceless" and "Inspiration." These gospel cuts and the smoothed-out R&B jams of Unspoken are still grand listens, but fans will not be able to help noticing that these songs aren't the bold efforts of a gospel maverick. Rather, they are unexpectedly reserved and simple. "When I Call" and "Joy" are more of the Tonex that pushes fans and critics alike to consider: what makes a song gospel? Yet, even these brash songs' sweet messages are a far-cry from the eye-popping ganja-induced confessional "When My Words Are Few," the explicitly painted sexual demons of "Feelings," or the self-flagellations of "Anthony." That the edgiest song is a typical R&B club-banger, if artfully done, begs the question: Is Tonex doing more of the unexpected or has finding a major label home quelled his demons at last?
Well, both. Unspoken is a reflection of the artist, daring at times, bewilderingly conservative at others. A more standard major label offering than anticipated, Unspoken rarely rises to the level of Tonex's best material, but his rote are others' classics. Tonex's relative reserve on Unspoken may be indicative of a new period in Tonex's life, one of the humbled boxer. Tonex's last three projects were modest selling independent releases, and he hasn't been hosting on BET programs nearly as much as he was even a year or two ago. If what is unspoken is a more quiet acquiescence to the status quo to keep the bill-paying opportunities flowing, one cannot blame him. Every bad boy of gospel finally tires of railing against everything quite so hard, and Tonex-like Kirk and Walter before him-may finally be ready to be accepted into somebody's fold. The cost of rebellion for grown men is high, and one should not expect Tonex to stay on the cross forever. It's just a shame that sober maturity never sounds as delicious as the pained expressions of youthful sacrifice. Recommended.
By L. Michael Gipson
*This review is based on an advance promo officially provided to ST. A longer version of Unpoken, including several additional cuts not available for review at press, have since been added to this release.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Here's the purported listing for the new 3 CD set from Prince. The first 2 discs are Prince albums (apparently one of the tracks will feature rapper Q-Tip), the 3rd is by Bria Valente, Prince's new protege. They will be sold together as a pack via Target (exclusive store) and online via www.lotusflow3r.com (and most likely other online stores) beginning March 29th.
- From the Lotus. . . Boom
- Crimson and Clover
- Colonized Mind
- Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful
- Love Like Jazz
- 77 Beverly Park
- Wall of Berlin
- . . . Back to the Lotus
- (There’ll Never B) Another Like Me
- Chocolate Box
- Dance 4 Me
- U’re Gonna C Me
- Better with Time
- Ol’ Skool Company
- No More Candy 4 U
- Here Eye Come
- All This Love
- Something U Already Know
- Another Boy
- Kept Woman
"[Chris And Rihanna] had a tearful face-to-face meeting at Diddy's $14.5 million Miami mansion, during which an emotional Chris apologized, begged for forgiveness and proposed to her on the spot.
"All she's ever wanted was to be with him forever," a source tells Star. "Rihanna is looking for the husband-and-two-kids deal before she turns 25. She believes in fairy tales, and she wants to live hers with Chris. She was totally up front and confessed to him, 'I can't live without you.'"
The pair wasted no time making Rihanna's fairy tale come true. They even called a minister to the mansion on exclusive Star Island!"
No comment... other than SMH.
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