Christmas Cheer Is Here Again


ToTheFlow


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Have a Listen

* "To the Flow (sample version)"
* "He-Done-ism (sample version)"
* "Mucha Alegria (sample version)"
* "Master Peace (sample version)"
* "Ain't Yo Mama Black?"
* "Let's Take a Ride"
* "Give It All U Got"

Muchomas


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Have a Listen

* "Give It All U Got!"
* "He-Done-Ism"
* "Mucha Alegria"-Radio Edit Version
* "Afro-Cuban Sax Brothers"
"Uncle
* Sam's Goin' Broke"-RadioVersion
* "Bold and Beautiful"
* "Connections"
* "Cocoa Venus"
* "Let's Take a Ride"
* "Ain't Yo' Mama Black"
* "Social Emergency"
* "Playaz Blues"
* "Mucha Alegria"-Extended Version

Give It All U Got!!


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Sounds of Urban Life Soldiers

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Have a Listen

* "Squash it!" Remix-Radio Edit 
* Introducing S.O.U.L.S.
* On the Street
* Cleaning House
* Bold and Beautiful
* All the Above
* I Can
* Rites of Passage
* Let's Take a Ride
* The Runner
* Social Emergency
* Connections
* Apology
* Vacant-eyed Revolution
* What Kind of Dreams Have You
* Man Upstairs

 

 

TRUE VIBE RECORDS

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Featuring Bay Area Artists

 

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Song Reviews
Song: From the Bottom Up
(Hip Hop Lyrical Version)

Overall Impression:

Hailing from True Vibe Records and chocked full of unpredictable melodies, chunky grooves, and plenty of stylistic flair, "From the Bottom Up" is an exciting slice of funk-laced Hip-Hop that is both wholly unique and wildly creative in its musical approach, giving listeners a track that feels distinct and refreshingly different with regard to its character. Fronted by gifted lyricist and vocalist DLabrie and produced by Bill Jackson, "From the Bottom Up" offers an eclectic mix of off-the-wall synth lines, rousing grooves, soulful backing vocal layers, and daringly adventurous harmonic progressions, ensuring "From the Bottom Up" is never short of an exciting moment or intriguing spark of creativity, resulting in a piece of songwriting that feels quite unlike anything I've encountered in the Hip-Hop genre before, and that's quite something!

Strongest Point(s):

It's in no way easy for a piece of music to feel distinctly unique, yet I'm definitely getting that with "From the Bottom Up". The mix of Hip-Hop, Soul, R&B, Jazz, and Funk really helps give the track its personality, and from the unpredictable melodic/harmonic elements to the charisma-driven vocal performances, it’s a wild blend of ideas and sounds that always feels exciting and undeniably fresh with regards to feel. The lighthearted nature of the music contrasts well with the important message at the heart of the lyrics and the way DLabrie articulates this particular element of the track is both engaging and empowering. DLabrie riffs off the surrounding instrumentation brilliantly, further strengthening the song's sense of momentum whilst Bill's arrangement allows each and every melody to fly off one another with a sense of vigor, ensuring energy levels are kept at a continual high throughout whilst pulling listeners in and retaining their attention with ease through the track’s sometimes unconventional approach.

About the Reviewer:

Andre Avanessian is a freelance session musician, composer, and sound engineer based in the U.K. Having studied music production and composition at a degree level, he has taken his passion for all things audio-related to a level that has allowed him to become both a competent musician and performer. Being a self-confessed "Guitar Nerd" Andre has been continually studying the guitar as well as teaching it, helping students learn the instrument, develop their songwriting, and become proficient in home recording
 

'From the Bottom Up'

Review by Abby Kenna

Opening with the roar of a live crowd, the bright energy of DLabie is already tangible from the moment “From the Bottom Up” begins. A distinctive drum lays down a rolling beat, establishing the song’s laid back groove.  An organ plucks out a riff before beginning the chord progression.

Low in the depths of the track, a deep bass mimics the movement of the organ, doubling the striking sound. This choice of lead instrument sets DLabie’s production style apart from other Hip-Hop tracks, giving it an interesting edge of
progressive-rock influences. Drawing from 70s rock bands like The Doors or Deep Purple and infusing it with 90s hip-hop flair gives “From the Bottom Up” a unique sound.

“Tell the youngun's they’re out of luck / run down or running up, sundown and sun up / they’re trynna one up…”

As the song touches on topics of upward mobility and life’s challenges, the arrangement swells in response. The chorus features a tidal wave of background vocals that echo the age-old question: “What’s goin’ on?”. A simple yet heavy statement, these lyrics are accentuated by a percussive, almost glassy synth and airy chords that ring out beneath the melody.

Although “From the Bottom Up” delves into inspirational themes, DLabie’s lyrics have a tongue-in-cheek tone that keep the song casual and universal sending the message that people have the right to a better life and upward mobility.

‘Walk 8 miles in my shoes, wipe your Nike’s on the rug”

The engaging intersection of genres and inviting local tone of “From the Bottom Up” keep the song fresh and bursting with energy. DLabie’s upcoming release with True Vibe Records is one to look out for – an original take on modern hip-hop.
 
About DLabrie the E.O.G. (East Oakland's Greatest) aka "Mr. Network"
Bay Area hip-hop star DLabrie the E.O.G. (East Oakland's Greatest) aka "Mr. Network," a member of Hip Hop Congress who often tours the U.S., Asia, and beyond, is one of many gifted artists that True Vibe Records is proud to work with. He has performed in the same shows along with The Roots, KRS-1, Alkaholiks, Keak da Sneak, Cellski, Planet Asia, Blackalicious, Serendipity Project, Living Legends, Radio Active, Aceyalone, Hieroglyphics, and more.

 

"From the Bottom Up"
Article

   True Vibe Records, based in Oakland, California, will stay true to its promise of compelling, dynamic music with an important message of self-examination, hope, and upward mobility for the young and underserved with the Spring 2024 with the new release of its upcoming Single followed by the 12-track album titled From the Bottom Up, which is also the title of the first track.  Producer Bill Jackson aka “BJ” explains that “this time around, we’re releasing a Hip-Hop lyrical version and a Jazz instrumental version of the same song—and both versions represent our label’s Socially-Conscious Multi-Genre (SCMG) music aka Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry (JFHP), as Paradise the Poet coined it.”

      Oakland native and Bay Area hip hop star DLabrie the E.O.G. (East Oakland's Greatest), a.k.a. “Mr. Network,” a representative of Hip-Hop Congress who often tours the U.S. and Asia, shows his poetic genius as lead vocalist of this song’s lyrical version as he uses a series of similes and metaphors to describe challenges that many young people need to work through to achieve a better quality of life.

DLaBrie     Powerhouse tenor saxophonist and reed virtuoso John Patrick Douglas makes his horn an exhilarating extension  of human emotion that words cannot describe on this song’s instrumental version. His soulful melodies lift the spirit of his listeners. To his credit, he feels comfortable doing his thing in many musical genres, such as Funk, Pop, Dance, Big Band Jazz, Small Ensemble Jazz, Brazilian, Afro-Caribbean, and Classical music. He has played with many reputable musicians, including Rene Escovedo of Oakland’s celebrated Escovedo family (which includes Pete and his famous daughter Sheila E.). He often steps up as a band leader too.


Tanika  Baptiste
   Versatile vocalist/ actress/ stage director Tanika Baptiste is featured during a brief but hype-filled rap on both song versions.  “BJ,” up and coming pop singer Wakane Luke (who has sung the national anthem at a Golden State Warriors game), and classic soul vocalist Rufus Wonder as well as Tanika Baptiste sing background vocals on both versions of this lead track.




Wakane Luke    Other tracks include: a new remix of Paradise the Poet’s spellbinding “How to Be a Black Man in America,” featuring rappers Kasa Nova and Mack Mar; Paradise’s timely spoken word piece (relevant to the Crown Act) “It’s OK to Be a Black Girl” featuring Ben Ball adding flavor on alto sax; “BJ’s” commentary on freedom and democracy “Woke, Leery” featuring DLabrie, keyboard artist Ben Ball, guitarist Wally McClellan (also the engineer) while percussionist extraordinaire Bill Norwood plays congas; Latina hip hop artist Kalizay’s “Mucha Alegria” with pop singer Xavier Toscano engaging in a romantic Spanish dialogue with her and veteran trumpeter Cayce Carnahan soloing at the end. This album also brings back hip hop veteran DLabrie again, taking us to the underworld of stigmatized hardcore addictions on “He-Done-Ism,” and the soulful Brianii Savage is featured as a lead singer.

 

Rufus Wonder   “Afro-Cuban Sax Brothers” is a nostalgic Latin Jazz instrumental with Ben Ball exciting listeners on alto sax, soprano sax, and piano while the awesome Dave Ellis lights things up on tenor sax, and distinguished percussionist Bill Norwood on congas; “Uncle Sam’s Goin’ Broke” is guided by classic soul vocalist  Rufus Wonder with alto sax man Ben Ball and trumpet master Cayce Carnahan playing some impressive solos.

  “Give It All U Got!” is a dazzling high-energy Latin Jazz track showcasing Brianii Savage and “BJ” singing lead, Kalizay spittin’ bilingual hip hop lyrics in English and Spanish, and Paradise the Poet closing things out with outstanding spoken word; then guaranteed to raise your spirits, “BJ” closes the album out with his upbeat danceable holiday jam featuring tenor sax master John Patrick Douglas lighting this track up as well as up and coming female conscious hip hop artist Kalizay adding lots of spice on “Christmas Cheer is Here Again.”

    Professional recording studio The Wally Sound is once again at its best to bring this project to peak quality, as veteran engineer Wally McClellan recorded, edited, mixed, and mastered all of the album tracks. The multi-talented and highly gifted graphic artist Aidan O’Flynn designed this brilliant album cover, adding a visual dimension that is thought-provoking for True Vibe Records fans.

 

"Woke, Leery"
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“Woke, Leery “ Article

True Vibe Records, based in Oakland, California, takes a bold stand on freedom and democracy as well as the plight of marginalized and disenfranchised people with the Summer 2024 release of its single titled “Woke, Leery.”  Producer “BJ” (aka Bill Jackson) expands his contribution to this Socially-Conscious Multi-Genre (SCMG) music as a lead vocalist and gets things poppin’--performing dynamic spoken word and singing on this emotionally-charged track.  Over the polyrhythmic Afro-Latin beat with Hip-Hop, Jazz-Funk, and R&B influences, he promotes eternal vigilance and empowerment to overcome the challenges that many underdogs face in American society.

Bay Area hip hop star, D Labrie the E.O.G. (East Oakland’s Greatest), a representative of Hip-Hop Congress who often tours the U.S. and Asia, shows his lyrical mastery and poetic genius during the second verse of the song, as he comments on the state of affairs in America.  “Flip the script like an acrobatic actress.  Watch for the theatrics, we leery of their tactics.”  He also offers solutions for concerned people in the fight for equal opportunity for all.

Multi-talented musician Ben Ball lifts listeners’ spirits with a couple of dazzling keyboard organ solos, and Wally McClellan, who is the engineer, doubles as the guitar player and adds extra flavor by treating listeners to his Wah-Wah guitar-style embellishments and solo, reminiscent of 70s stars such as Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone, and Isaac Hayes to name a few.  Master percussionist Bill Norwood fattens the polyrhythmic sound on congas. Veteran classic-soul vocalist Rufus Wonder, up and coming pop vocalist Wakane Luke (who has sung the national anthem at a Golden State Warriors Game), and “BJ” sing background vocals.  The multi-talented and highly gifted graphic artist Aidan O’Flynn designed the brilliant album cover, and Levmusic used his creative genius to make the thought-provoking music lyric video. 

“See The Video Preview Above”

 

‘Christmas Cheer Is Here Again’
New Single!
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True Vibe Records Affiliated Artists
and “BJ” bring in the holiday season with their upbeat danceable Christmas jam featuring tenor sax master John Patrick Douglas lighting this track up, as well as up and coming female conscious hip hop artist Yazameen adding lots of spice on “Christmas Cheer Is Here Again.”  “BJ,” who sings lead vocals, also wrote and produced this song.  The Wally Sound Studio recorded, mixed, and mastered the track.  Brilliant graphic artist Judith Ingram captured the magic of the holiday season with her cover graphic design of this new single release

Song Reviews

“Christmas Cheer Is Here Again”
Overall Impression: True Vibe Records Affiliated Artists transform the holiday season into a funky good time, with their release of "Christmas Cheer Is Here Again." This festive release from the Northern California label showcases a diverse collection of some of the finest musicians and singers the Bay Area has to offer, working in collaboration to bring you this contemporary yuletide soul anthem. Sleigh bells ring, organs wail and saxophones moan on this track that features an eclectic arrangement steeped in both hypnotic psych-funk and cool Latin jazz, the latter being highlighted by a brief but exciting Afro-Cuban bridge section that will knock your stockings right off the mantle. Various vocalists deliver a bevy of Christmas themed hooks and phrases, each promising to imbue a bit of holiday magic into the hearts and souls of listeners. True Vibe Records Affiliated Artists' "Christmas Cheer Is Here Again" is the absolute perfect track for any holiday festivities, guaranteed to get your gathering on the good foot.

About The Reviewer: Steven Azami is a multi-instrumentalist with over 25 years of experience in the music industry. Both as a touring/session player and as a producer, his career has spanned nearly every genre, from bluegrass to jazz, from rock to reggae. In addition, his work as a music educator has allowed him to cultivate and foster talent among the next generation of musical explorers.

Reviewed by Aaron Cloutier
Oakland, California-based label True Vibe Records presents “Christmas Cheer Is Here Again,” an infectious blend of R&B, Jazz/Funk, and Latin infused with Blues instrumentation, hip-hop beats, and inspired vocals ranging from Singing to full Rap.
 
Right off the bat, the mood throughout the piece is consistently exciting. Head bobbing grooves mix with uplifting synth patches while organs pepper the sonic landscape with tasty flourishes. The vibe is hypnotic, and the super danceable nature of the piece never lets up in the best possible way.

The majority of the vocals on “Christmas Cheer” are sung, but the rhythm and cadence bring to mind a slight hip-hop influence. Perhaps that could be due to the high-energy beat supporting everything causing the vocals to be accentuated by its influence.
 
Musically speaking, there were some nice surprises on the first listen. One of them is a rather tasty key change that occurs just before a wailing tenor saxophone solo. To my ear, things modulate up a half step (going from F# to G) as the soloist throws down hard! As things revert back to F# towards the solo’s end, surprise number two occurs as I’m hit with an utterly satisfying old-school hip-hop-flavored verse.

In Producer Bill Jackson’s own words, the song is “About a guy who loves to go back to his hometown every year to enjoy the holiday festivities.”

 

 

 ‘To the Flow’ The Single

    This fun and brand new version of the album's title track, "To the Flow," the Single, pumps up the hype and puts a positive spin on underserved Black and Brown communities featuring Bay Area hip hop star D Labrie the E.O.G. (East Oakland's Greatest, who recently toured Japan and South Korea) AKA “Mr. Network.” This upbeat conscious hip hop song celebrates Oakland in particular, and the Greater San Francisco Bay Area in general. Over the catchy jazz funk beat, he tells a story about Oakland's vibrant people enjoying fun times, Oaklanders working hard and playing hard, but also feeling empowered to stand up for social justice. In addition, D Labrie gives listeners a snapshot into the life of an upcoming conscious hip hop artist and pays tribute to Bay Area sports teams - especially those which have won championships during the 2010s decade. Listeners can dig two slammin’ solos by powerhouse tenor saxophonist John Patrick Douglas.

    This version of the song is bolstered by Jimmy Mack & The Legendary Mighty O'Town Passions singing group, which began as a Doo-Wop group at West Oakland’s renowned McClymonds High School back in the late 60s. Talented vocalists Caley Kenny, Vendetta Jeanjacques, and Bill Jackson also sing background.

    The lead track is followed by a diverse group of talented artists on six hip-sounding "edu-tainment" bonus tracks. Bonus tracks include "He-done-Ism" by D Labrie, "Mucha Alegria" - Short Version Remix by Kalizay, the smooth Latin Jazz instrumental "Master Peace" - Remix by John Patrick Douglas, dynamic conscious spoken word pieces "Ain't Yo' Mama Black" by Paradise the Poet and "Let's Take a Ride" by Big Dan, as well as the hot Afro-Cuban/ Latin Jazz and Funk joint "Give It All U Got" with lead vocals by Brianni Savage, Bill Jackson, Kalizay, and Paradise the Poet. This is another project among a series featuring a music genre called Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry (a term coined by Paradise the Poet). The album producer is Bill Jackson, the label is True Vibe Records, recording and engineering was done by The Wally Sound, and the colorful, captivating CD cover was designed by Aidan O’Flynn.

 

‘JFHP’ 5 Generations

    Oakland-based True Vibe Records promises to excite listeners with the release of its new album titled JFHP-5 Generations. As the title suggests, this project showcases a diverse collective of San Francisco Bay Area conscious hip hop and spoken word artists, vocalists, and musicians who span five decades in age - bridging the generation gap.

    According to TVR producer/owner Bill Jackson, this marks the fifth in a series of albums pioneering a musical genre called Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry, a term coined by Bay Area poet/spoken word legend Paradise (AKA Richard Moore). On this album, you can hear the influence of Common, Mos Def, Brand New Heavies, Gil Scott-Heron, Eryka Badu, to name a few. This ambitious project brings masterful fusion of Conscious Hip Hop, R & B, Jazz Funk, Spoken Word, Latin, and Blues.

    This album kicks off festive vibes, putting a positive spin on underserved Black and Brown communities with its lead track featuring veteran Bay Area hip hop star D Labrie the E.O.G. (East Oakland’s Greatest) AKA “Mr. Network” on a new remix of “To the Flow,” an upbeat conscious hip hop song celebrating Oakland in particular, and the San Francisco Bay Area in general. Over the jazz funk beat, he tells a story about vibrant people enjoying fun times and makes sure folks know that Oaklanders, who work hard and play hard, also feel empowered to stand up for social justice.

    In addition, D Labrie gives a snapshot into the life of an upcoming conscious hip hop artist and pays tribute to Bay Area sports teams - especially those which have won championships this decade. Listeners get a special treat when they dig two slammin’ solos by powerhouse tenor saxophonist John Patrick Douglas. Talented vocalists Caley Kenny, Vendetta Jeanjacques, and Bill Jackson sing background.

    The second track, “I Love Everything About You, But You,” is a remixed version of spoken word icon Paradise’s provocative signature piece, which he has performed on BET (Black Entertainment Television). He sings, raps, and delivers spoken word with comedic wit and political satire on this social protest song to criticize America’s White power structure and its exploitation of African people, their talents, valuable assets, world contributions, and the way this power structure continually refuses to accept Black people collectively as first-class citizens in the USA. Progressive-minded listeners will love both the short and long versions of this controversial and thought-provoking song.

        Noted Bay Area rapper-producer Naru contends that, “this is one of the best songs ever written!”

        KPFA Radio’s Greg Bridges (in Berkeley) calls it, “the New International Black Anthem!”

        Percussionist extraordinaire Babatunde Lea asserts that, “it’s the Song of the Century!”

        Legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy fame chimes in, “that says it all!”

        Bay Area femcee Beastella proclaims, “Paradise has forever been dope!”

    “Master Peace” (Remix) treats listeners to the smooth, melodic stylings of veteran tenor saxophonist John Patrick Douglas. During this mellow Latin Jazz gem, you can hear the melodies, styles, and rhythms reminiscent of late musicians Wes Montgomery, Stan Getz, Mongo Santamaria, and the still vibrant Poncho Sanchez. John Patrick Douglas is a distinguished bandleader who has played with many and various groups, including the Afrofunk Experience, Groove Doctors, and Rene Escovedo (of the famous Bay Area Escovedo family, which includes Rene’s Uncle Pete and Cousin Sheila E).

    The fourth track, “He-Done-Ism,” takes you to the sinister underworld of hard-core drinking, drugging, pornography, prostitution, and gambling. Once again D Labrie runs it down, telling a story about people caught up in self-destructive situations before seeing the light and finding peace of mind in recovery from addictions. D Labrie, who often tours the U.S. and abroad (including South Korea), is a representative of Hip Hop Congress, a politically active non-profit organization very influential with young people.

    Female hip hop artist Kalizay, originally from El Salvador, is featured on the fifth track with her sultry “Mucha Alegria” (Short Version Remix), a jam that takes you on a mellow Latin groove describing fun times in Chicano culture. This song also pays a brief tribute to Mexican-American heroes such as Delores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, and Stanford University Heisman Trophy winner and former star Oakland Raider Super Bowl MVP quarterback Jim Plunkett.

    Other tracks include: “Afro-Cuban Sax Brothers” featuring Ben Ball on alto sax and piano, Dave Ellis on tenor sax, and Bill Norwood on percussion; “Ain’t Yo’ Mama Black” featuring Paradise at his best rendering spoken word; “Bold and Beautiful” featuring songstress extraordinaire Shavone Pickett, premiere Bay Area hip hop diva Keldamuzik, and virtuoso alto and soprano saxophonist Ben Ball; “The Chili Is Hot” featuring Ben Ball on alto sax and keyboard; “Give It All U Got!” featuring lead vocalists Brianii Savage and Bill Jackson, Spanish and English hip hop by Kalizay, spoken word by Paradise; and an uptempo version of Charles Brown’s classic song “Merry Christmas Baby,” featuring the incredible classic soul vocalist Rufus Wonder.

    Professional recording studio The Wally Sound raised this project to peak quality as veteran engineer Wally McClellan recorded, edited, mixed, and mastered the album tracks. The artistically-gifted Aidan O’Flynn illustrated the impressive portraits of artists on the album front cover and designed the rest of the graphics.

    For more information, visit the True Vibe Records website at www.trueviberecords.com


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REVERBNATION

Congratulations! You Broke the Top 3!

True Vibe Records Affiliated Artists
are one of the Top 3 Bands on the ReverbNation Charts.


Well done! Thank your friends and fans -  they helped you get there.

December 2014


KMPT Television-OAKLAND
Interview-Dr. Barbara Cannon with Bill Jackson

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Mutiny Radio-Internet Radio Station
San Francisco-Mission District
Interview-Aaron Stewart with Bill Jackson
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HOT ALBUM!

 True Vibe Records, founded in Oakland, recently stepped up its game by  releasing its newest and hottest album yet, titled ˇMucho Mas! Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry. Song tracks have trace elements of Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Brand New Heavies, Public Enemy, Gil Scott-Heron, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, James Brown, Ohio Players, Tower of Power, and Carlos Santana. And these thought-provoking songs create a festive mood that uplifts listeners as they inspire them to dance, reflect, and take action to affect personal and social change.

This is the fourth in a series of CDs, following the highly acclaimed Paradise Presents Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry, Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry - Phaze 2, and Give It All U Got! The title of this 14-track project hints that many of these original songs have a Latin influence, along with fusion of Jazz Funk, R&B, Conscious Hip Hop, and Spoken Word. Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry has developed immensely as a new genre of music since its inception when producer Bill Jackson recruited Bay Area poet laureate/ slam poetry icon/ spoken word artist Paradise to collaborate. Paradise coined the name of this music.

A diverse line up of topflight Greater San Francisco Bay Area vocalists, musicians, conscious  hip hop and spoken word artists were recruited to contribute their musical gifts to this album. They came from Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, Richmond, Novato, San Leandro, Hayward, Fremont, Danville, San Jose, and Gilroy with their creative juices overflowing with talent.

The album’s opening track, titled “Give It All U Got!” is a brand new version of this trail blazing cut that thrills listeners with its dazzling mix of Afro-Cuban/ Latin Jazz, R&B, Funk, Conscious Hip Hop, and Spoken Word. Sassy, sexy Brooklyn, New York native Brianii Savage (of Puerto Rican/ African American/ Jewish ethnicity, now a Bay Area resident) leads a dynamic call and response opening to this upbeat song, inspiring people to live life to the max. Lovely and talented vocalists April Dawn, Denice Carrasco, and Yolanda Davis pave the way for lead vocalist Bill Jackson to take this groove to new heights, while master percussionist Bill Norwood (who in recent years has played drums with Robin Duhe, former bass player with Frankie Beverly and Maze) is the driving force. Red hot Salvadorian MC Kalizay’s exotic hip hop flow in both Spanish and English inspires fans to reach their dreams. Speaking to the Latino community, she also praises “my brothers for breakin’ the cycle of stereotypin’.” Then Bay Area spoken word legend Paradise keeps the party going celebrating diversity with his lofty visions a multi-ethnic “cultural world fair in Oakland,” a “United States of Africa,” and Swahili as a common language to be a key to economic growth for Black people worldwide of the African Diaspora. Master trumpeter John Halbleib (who’s played with the likes of Pete Escovedo, Sheila E., Larry Graham, Aaron Neville, and Roberta Flack) ignites fans with a raw solo and anchors the brass throughout the song while Ben Ball, whose saxophone brilliance can also be heard, rocks near the end with his exhilarating piano solo. Ben Ball has performed with jazz immortal Donald Byrd, Bay Area jazz luminaries Ed Kelly, Charles Hamilton, Bill Bell, and a New York City-based African funk band called Ibrahim World Beat.

The second track, "He-Done-Ism," takes you to a dark place of addiction in the sinister underworld of hardcore drinking, drugging, pornography, prostitution, and gambling. Background vocals by singers Brianii Savage, April Dawn, Denice Carrasco, and Yolanda Davis kick it off with a chorus steeped in soul followed by the dreamy chant “I wanna feel goooood.” Then without being overly preachy or moralistic, Bay Area hip hop star D Labrie the “EOG” (East Oakland’s Greatest) takes charge and runs it down, telling a story about self-destructive situations before seeing the light and finding peace of mind in recovery from addictions. D Labrie (who has toured the U.S. and abroad), also known in Bay Area show biz as “Mr. Network,” is a representative of Hip Hop Congress, a non-profit organization very influential with young people.

Kalizay is featured on the third track with her sultry “Mucha Alegria,” a jam that takes you on a mellow ride describing fun times in Chicano culture. She lures listeners and conveys subtle messages in English and Spanish about honesty and personal integrity in relationships, assuring that “I never lie to my sisters or the opposite sex.” This song also pays a brief tribute to Mexican-American heroes such as farm labor leaders Delores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, and Stanford University Heisman Trophy winner/ former star Oakland Raider Super Bowl MVP quarterback Jim Plunkett. The gifted, charming Chayla Gibson-Smith sets the tone for this mellow groove with her soothing vocals in the opening. Kalizay and up and coming pop singer Xavier Toscano render sizzling hot romantic monologues in Spanish before trumpet pro Cayce Carnahan (a Cal State East Bay-trained music educator) tops it off with a captivating Latin-style part muted and part un-muted trumpet solo at the end. The album includes two versions of this song: an extended version and a radio edit version.

The classy Latin Jazz cut, and only instrumental on the album, titled “Afro-Cuban Sax Brothers” features gifted tenor saxophonist Dave Ellis and master musician Ben Ball playing brilliant solos on alto sax, piano, and soprano sax respectively. Dave Ellis raises the excitement with a rich tenor sax solo, followed by his spellbinding tenor sax voice over the backdrop of vibrant background horns. Producer Bill Jackson composed this piece as a tribute to saxophone players Ben Ball, Dave Ellis (who’ve known each other since elementary school in Berkeley), and Melvin Bell (also affectionately called “Mellow,” originally from Denver, Colorado), who are all former classmates and graduates of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Distinguished percussionist Bill Norwood once again assumes the role of the driving force behind this piece, which is reminiscent of many classic Latin Jazz tracks using strings and background horns. Not only is this song is great for listening, but it also makes you want to get up out of your seat and dance.

Get ready to rock with veteran classic soul vocalist Rufus Wonder leading a cadre of many artists in a call to action on “Uncle Sam’s Goin’ Broke.” Over Ben Ball’s commanding alto saxophone voice, the hard-driving beat, blues/ rock-style guitar and bass, this social protest song (written in 2011 during the peak of the Occupy Movement) reveals snippets of our challenging U.S. economy, erosion of the middle class, a society of "haves" and "have nots" growing apart, with increasing gentrification in major cities and slight economic gains in 2014 primarily benefiting the rich. Like “Mucha Alegria,” this song also has an extended version and a radio edit version (the fifth track).

In the extended version (the final track), the tension lightens as a series of brief humorous monologues by Bill Jackson, the late distinctive bass vocalist Rick Alexander, Brianii Savage, Rufus Wonder, and Dave McClellan add comic relief. Bay Area spoken word legend Paradise shares some pearls of wisdom and a provocative Afro-Centric message of hope, healing, and inspiration at the end, advising African Americans (who now have a higher poverty rate than during President Johnson's "War on Poverty" in the 1960s, according to USA Weekend magazine) to "Occupy Black Wall Street!" The collective voices of Rufus Wonder, Brianii Savage, Bill Jackson, Denise Carrasco, Rick Alexander, April Dawn, Dave McClellan, Yolanda Davis along with masterful solos by trumpet boss Cayce Carnahan, alto saxophone boss Ben Ball, and Paradise's spoken word make this track a classic.

Elegant songstress extraordinaire Shavone Pickett, premiere Bay Area hip hop diva Keldamuzik (who in recent years has toured the Caribbean and Japan), and virtuoso alto and soprano sax man Ben Ball are featured on “Bold and Beautiful,” a tribute to strong and beautiful women in general and strong and beautiful black women in particular. The late Tina Floyd sets the stage for this piece with her engaging background vocals. This album showcases a new version of this original song, which represents a model for fusing Jazz-Funk, R&B, and Conscious Hip Hop. Lyrics were written by Shavone Pickett and Keldamuzik, the music composed by Bill Jackson, and Bill Norwood plays percussion.

Other outstanding tracks on this album include spoken word pieces (the steamy, romantic) “Connections” by spoken word artist/ vocalist Raquel Ramsey (friend, high school and college classmate of Ben Ball, who plays tenor sax on this one), “Cocoa Venus” and “Ain’t Yo’ Mama Black” by Paradise, “Let’s Take a Ride” by Chicano spoken word/ conscious hip hop artist Big Dan, “Social Emergency” by gifted Chicana spoken word artist Alejandra Mojica, and “Playaz Blues” featuring vocalist Rufus Wonder, hip hop artists D Labrie and Vendetta, with Chayla Gibson-Smith and Rick Alexander adding humorous monologues in the mix. This song is a musical parody about the life of an aging player.

The earlier mentioned “Let’s Take a Ride” represents dynamic spoken word at its best and is partially an autobiographical piece about the early troubled life of Big Dan (a motivational speaker who has also performed as a hip hop artist around the U.S. and abroad) living in the barrios and ghettos of Oakland before turning his life around to graduate from the distinguished University of California at Berkeley.

Special recognition goes to professional recording studio engineer “Smilin’ James” Heyser, who did a monumental job of recording, mixing, and mastering the tracks. Special commendation also goes to talented graphic artists Veronica Leon and Earl Bickham, Jr., who designed the artwork for the album.

For more information about Rufus Wonder and Ben Ball, click here on the Features page. For more information about Paradise, click here on the JFHP page. For more information about Shavone Pickett and Keldamuzik, click here on the Meet SOULS page.

 

 True Vibe Records Releases Follow Up to Landmark Recording,
     Lead by "Squash it!" The Anti-Gun Violence Single

(Click HERE to Preview Video)

Sounds of Urban Life Soldiers

 

 

In 2008, True Vibe Records released Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry-Phaze 2, the follow up to the highly-acclaimed CD Paradise Presents Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry.

The Phaze 2 release, a CD double set,  was the debut for Oakland Ca.-based spoken word/hip hop group Sounds Of Urban Life Soldiers or S.O.U.L.S., as the acronym is spelled and their bulging fan base refers to them as. The group members and song writers are poets Raquel Ramsey, Keith Thompson, and President L. Davis, rap and hip hop artist Keldamuzik and songstress Shavone Pickett.  Together, they have a very unique and diverse blend.

According to True Vibe Records owner and producer Bill Jackson regarding Phaze 2 he says, “as the genesis of the first CD was my pilgrimage to Senegal’s Goree Island (a United Nations historical site in West Africa which was a holding pen for slaves), this music was born from the compelling social concerns that continue in America and is musically upbeat funk with jazz, hip hop, R&B and Caribbean influences.”

The lead single Squash It! featuring Keldamuzik with guests D Labrie and Rufus Wonder certainly supports the concept of “social concerns” as it addresses the grave problem of violence in America’s urban cities, and from early indications this seems to be the song that radio will embrace and help Squash It! be a part of the solution! Following that theme is On The Street, outlining the conditions and perils in some of our urban communities.

There are lighter more playful moments on the CD as with All The Above that again features Keldamuzik at the mic running down a love and relationship theme. Then there is the Caribbean-flavored I Can  with vocalist Shavone Pickett delivering a very tender vocal with an almost dancehall track. Associate Producer Jam G "JR" Tall intensifies the groove with his lead guitar riffs.  (He also was the chief sound engineer for this album.)

The jazz lover isn’t forgotten here with contemporary tracks like The Man Upstairs with its hip hop /trip hop feeling and a scorching tenor sax lead from guest artist Ben Ball and the pulsating drum work from Lorca Hart, son the legendary drummer Billy Hart, and on What Kind Of Dreams Have You which features guests such as the smooth-talking percussionist/spoken word artist Bill Norwood, renowned guitarist Calvin Keys, pianist extraordinaire Michael “Spiderman” Robinson, tenor sax man Ben Ball again, and veteran drummer E.W. Wainwright.  This is a track that swings with the best of them! 

All three poets are full of fire and earth moving emotion here addressing issues such as fatherhood with the piece The Role of Men by Keith Thompson and coming of age with Rites of Passage by President L. Davis, while Raquel Ramsey delivers supremely and passionately with a piece titled Connections and again on the exalting Apology, a duet with bassist Nelson Braxton (Braxton Brothers).  There is more contemporary conscious-raising spoken word from the three poets of Sound Of Urban Life Soldiers on other tracks as well.

This album also showcases the talents of a host of highly-talented and dynamic guest spoken word artists such as Roxanne Hanna-Ware and poets Big Dan and Alejandra Mojica running down a Latino perspective.  

Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry- Phaze 2 is a well-balanced, well-crafted, and cleverly-written collection of urban life experiences and feelings delivered with the often pulsating bass line that locks everything in place and drives it home.

 

This is what Urban Buzz Internet magazine wrote:

"Sounds Like Life. 'Squash It!' is the anti-gun violence single by Sounds Of Urban Life Soldiers 'Squash It!' is getting airplay at WJJN, KWZA, KJMH, WESE, WBAI and more!

Plus new this week at WLYX! "Squash It!" is from the forthcoming CD, "Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry-Phaze 2" on "True Vibe Records."

Download "Squash It" Lyrics
 

 

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