REVIEWS

Exclusive: Recounting the “Crazy, Sexy, Cool” of TLC’s Classic Diamond-Selling Album, 20-Years Later (with Commentary from Chilli!)

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Nov. 15, 1994 there was a musical explosion. One of the greatest R&B albums of all time was released. That album, was the legendary TLC‘s sophomore effort, CrazySexyCool.

The album was a collaborative work by some of the most profound writers and producers of the time, including Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, and more.  The LP’s title delivered a relatable identity for fans as Left Eye represented the “Crazy,” Chilli the “Sexy,” and T-Boz the “Cool.”  Laced with sexy and sultry ballads, and some up-tempo flava, the album will live on forever as a staple in the R&B genre. TLC’s pioneering blend of R&B, Hip Hop and Pop music resonated extremely well with mainstream audiences as fans rushed out to buy the Atlanta trio’s sophomore project.

The album stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for more than two years and simultaneously went diamond, making TLC the first girl group to achieve this success. To date, CrazySexyCool has sold over 23 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by an American girl group, and the second best selling album worldwide behind the Spices Girls’ Spice. All four singles from the album reached the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100, two of them reaching number one.

As the double-diamond certified album turns 20 this month, it’s only right that we reflect on the amazing Crazy, Sexy, Cool of TLC’s second album!

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Album Review: August Alsina – ‘Testimony’

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Everyone loves a good story, and August Alsina has quite one to tell. The singer’s rag-to-riches tale is captivating but, as documented on his debut album, Testimony, he could’ve been just another statistic. Luckily for Alsina, rather than ending up six-feet under or behind bars in the mean streets of New Orleans, he ended up at the top of the charts, now being mentioned in the same breath as Chris Brown and Trey Songz.

But what’s so fascinating about Alsina is not just his story, but the complex duality of his artistry. Musically he sits comfortably in both the R&B and hip-hop genres without abandoning one for the other, while on a personal tip he seems to struggle between his roots in the ‘hood and his new uprising in the music industry.

That binary theme is heavily constant on the appropriately titled Testimony, a 14-track confessional of sorts that wheels into vivid, personal accounts of Alsina’s rocky road to fame and, in true male R&B style, endearing odes to the ladies. But most of all, the 21-year-old newbie is honest and wears his rugged heart on his sleeve.

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Album Review: Candice Glover – Music Speaks

Candice Glover Music Speaks

There’s an unfair stigma that comes along with the American Idol title. Some have managed to eclipse its sugary brand, while others were forgotten as quickly as they shot to fame. There are even fewer successful urban acts, however, to come out of the reality singing competition machine. With the exceptions of Fantasia, Ruben Studdard and the most storied career of Jennifer Hudson, there’s not much of a blueprint for R&B singers in the space of American Idol.

With her debut album Music Speaks, last year’s winner Candice Glover is clearly trying to sketch her name on that short and privileged list of success stories. The small town South Carolina gal with the gigantic range may not be as polarizing as some of her predecessors, but she’s certainly just as talented, if not more. Comparisons to the show and the artists to hit its stage will probably never cease, however, being the first urban and female artist to win the coveted title since 2007 gives the singer a very much-earned spotlight – and thankfully she rises to the occasion.

On Music Speaks, Glover is not only introducing herself to the world, but she has the very tall task of proving she’s no gimmick. Her tactic in doing so seems to rest primarily in her lyrical content, which is surprisingly very mature and quite refreshing, considering most R&B starlets these days seem to drink from the same pool of writers.

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List: The 13 Best R&B Albums of 2013

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From Love and War to Kisses Down Low it’s been a surprisingly great year for R&B music.  With two of the biggest releases of the year being surprises, and plenty of long overdue projects finally hitting store selves, it seems like unexpected was the trend of the year. Pundits can still argue all they want about the state of R&B in today’s music industry, the numbers don’t lie, it’s still suffering commercially, but musically – quality, substance and entertainment wise – R&B has contributed greatly to the music landscape in 2013, and continues to thrive in the live arena.

Most of the years top urban radio singles were R&B records, or heavily R&B influenced, and a handful of R&B albums topped the Billboard 200 chart this year. Knowing that it’s not going to be an easy task to pick the best albums of the year was a clear sign that the genre is the strongest it’s been in many years. From tremendous blue-eyed soul to classic rhythm & blues, from global superstars opening up like never before, to award winning second chances, from pure baby-making bangers to celebratory anthems, we had it all and more in 2013!

So, without further ado, check out ‘The 13 Best R&B Albums of 2013‘ below!!

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List: The 13 Best R&B Mixtapes/EP’s of 2013

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What a year it’s been! Exciting, emotional, passionate and sensual are all words that come to mind when reflecting on the many releases that have hit our iTunes players in 2013.  But, before we get into the LP’s, it’s necessary to shed some light on the hottest mixtapes and EP’s that were released this year, and there were certainly a lot!

R&B is definitely on the rise again when we have such strong young talent continuing to emerge and flourish each year, and 2013 had it’s fill of impressive debuts, and special projects from some already established names. Equally a good year for both male and female acts, we saw newcomers top the charts with their debut singles, build strong followings, hit national stages and sell-out shows.  With the talent that’s on this list, we are more than excited for what’s to come in the new year!

While many of these names might be newcomers or unknowns to some, they are each deserving of their spot, and are worthy of your attention.

Check out the ‘13 Best R&B Mixtapes/EP’s of 2013‘ below!!

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Album Review: Lyfe Jennings – ‘Lucid’

Lucid Lyfe Jennings

In every walk of life, there’s that one person who’s gives it to you straight with no chaser. In the world of R&B, Lyfe Jennings is just that. While most R&B heartthrobs are watering down their lyrics to basic, straightforwardness about sex and the woman’s anatomy, Lyfe Jennings refreshingly offers soul music that isn’t just pleasing to the ear but also stimulating to the mind.

Despite his superior lyricism, Jennings has always been a musical outlier within the genre. While hits like “S.E.X.” and “Must Be Nice” turned out to be great commercial successes for the singer, he’s yet to have matched the level of fame of some of his male R&B cohorts – not to mention his time in prison nearly silenced his career for good. Regardless, it certainly has had no effect on his creativity.

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Album Review: Janelle Monáe – ‘The Electric Lady’

Janelle Monae The Electric Lady

Janelle Monae was always known to have a wild imagination. The way in which she conceptualizes herself as an artist is just as wacky as it is brilliant. When the singer made her thunderous debut back in 2010 with The ArchAndroid, Monae hailed herself as the android Cyndi Mayweather (her alter-ego), whom was sent back from the future to save us mere mortals from all things mediocre. The record was met with much praise from critics and gave rise to Monae, a musical mastermind from out of this planet.

On her sophomore album, Monae continues her propensity for pushing the musical limitations of R&B. The Electric Lady is a melting pot of the past 50 years in music, from the influences of Motown’s timeless tunes to the groovy sounds of ‘70s disco. But where most artists use musical inspirations as cheap imitations or remakes, Monae presents it in a way that’s innovative and infectious.

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Album Review: TGT – ‘3 Kings’

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It’s rare that contemporaries such as Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank would put aside their individual solo successes to form a super trio like TGT. R&B’s much talked about “decline” has given rise to a rather competitive musical terrain, where solidarity is seldom embraced. But rather seeing each other as competition, the men of TGT join forces to become R&B saviors, while avoiding the trappings of hip-hop and pop influences that have deflated the quality of a genre once known for its “rhythm and blues.”

Offering classic bedroom music, TGT’s debut album 3 Kings is primarily geared toward their female listeners, providing a steamy soundtrack of pure sensuality. But the trio isn’t in the business of sugarcoating their music like many of R&B’s young contemporary artists. On the 17-track album, TGT reminds us that not only are they on their grown man status, but they’ve practically perfected the art of sex music. Long before girls were screaming the names of Chris Brown and Trey Songz, women were throwing their panties at Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank during the heights of their solo careers in the ‘90s and early 2000s.

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