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AlunaGeorge Is Perfectly Fusing Dance With Meaning On 'I Remember'

One half of the musical duo talks forging a new path with their new album, keeping it real with listeners and more.

It's been nearly three years since British duo, AlunaGeroge have gifted fans with a studio album. But in that time, they've made sure their name hasn't been forgotten. They've toured the world from California to Europe, performed at numerous music festivals, and given fans something to bump to all year long. While a pat on the back is well-deserved, the journey is far from done. In fact, the group is forging an even brighter and eclectic path on their new album, I Remember. And they're tackling some majorly powerful social issues, too.

AlunaGeorge, comprised of Aluna Francis and George Reid, have something completely unique about them. Although they've often been thrown into the EDM category, they've made great strides to include a vision with their upbeat tempos and feel-good vibrations.

On their new album, I Remember, that giddy and overwhelmingly happy feeling doesn't leave, but they're also bringing a distinct perspective into the mix: their own. One of the album's lead singles, "Mean What I Mean," featuring Dreezy and Leikeli47, should give you a taste of what to expect. The feminist anthem, which is a chronicle of real life events, tackles the subject of consent and sexuality. But while it is darker in its content, it presents a sexy and sassy message than your average moral song.

I Remember is the natural progression for AlunaGeorge. It tells a story of vulnerability, sexiness, and transparency. Aluna Francis stopped by the VIBE headquarters for a brief chat. And while she admitted to always looking to the next great thing, she told us everything you need to know about I Remember, which debuts on Friday, September 16 on iTunes and more.

VIBE: It's been three years since your last studio album. Was there a reason for that, or was it simply part of your progression and creative process?

Aluna Francis: It’s not really that long when you think about what we’ve achieved in that time. We've gone around the world a few times and released tons of music since then. But writing an album for us is a very important thing. It’s not something you just wrap up in three months. We’ve written probably 70 songs for this album, and had maybe three different stages to the writing process. And we don’t double up on live shows and writing; we do it separately because they’re completely different things. We take the writing really seriously; it’s our number one priority. It can’t be done at the same time as touring because we wouldn’t get the right kind of attitude and concentration that we need.

In what ways do you think this album shows your growth and progression as artists?

Well, it’s different for both of us. For George, it’s more on the production side of things. And for me, it was all about the song writing, lyrical process. [In the past], it was easier for me to write from other people's eyes. As long as it was a real story, it was good for me to get perspective on someone else’s life. [It] was much harder for me to write about my own stories. But naturally, as I built my songwriting skills, I built this space where if I was feeling very strongly about something, I could bring it into that space and could still get a perspective. The writing tools help me to stand back away from a situation, even though I might be in the middle of it, and find a way to see it from another perspective. A song should tell a story and it should have a beginning, middle, and an end, and resolve – not just leave. I never want to leave my listener just feeling one thing. If it’s about heartache, I don’t want to be like there’s no way to feel better. It’s about finding empowerment within difficult situations.  I’m always looking for that. And it’s actually started to be good for me to get myself through these situations in life, get some kind of closure or understand why I overreacted to something.

It sounds like this album is going to be very transparent and vulnerable, especially now that it’s changing the perspective from looking out to looking within. Was this newfound openness an issue for you at any point?  

It’s a really great thing because there’s a strength in honesty, whereby it’s the truth; you can stand by it and you can keep building a relationship with that and having part of being human as a musician part of your career. Artists that don’t have that can start to detach themselves from having any kind of meaning from their career. And then you have to find meaning from something else. I feel very blessed that I found a way for the music itself to have meaning to me as well as other people who identify with those sentiments.

The single “Mean What I Mean” is super honest. It also speaks on consent, which is a very current topic of discussion. Despite the fact that it was a real-life story for you, was it a conscious decision to put it out?

It was something that I needed to feel better about by somehow working out how I would prevent something like that from happening in the future, by empowering my future self. How do you empower somebody to at least be outraged by somebody disrespecting them? That in itself sounds like a small thing, but a lot of women can feel caught off guard if someone disrespects them because it can seem normal, like you’re making a big deal out of nothing. Obviously I’m not going to become a black belt Samurai to protect myself, and I’m not going to carry around a sword, but I can at least be bloody outraged. And that was a real motivation for me, but at the same time, it was a motivation to feel really good, excited, happy, and sexy about protecting myself. That’s the key to bringing that into any type of intimate or sexual situation, for you to not feel like you’re going to kill the vibe by being like, ‘You know what? You’re not actually respecting me right now…’ No matter what happens from there on, whether we get together or we don't, you need to know whether I’m into this. And that’s important, and that’s sexy. But I think those are things I thought about later. And having Dreezy and Leikeli47 on that really made the decision to put it out there. It felt too corny on its own. There’s such an honesty to it that I wasn’t used to expressing. I was really unconfident about the lyrics. I was [questioning] like, 'Is this really a song that people could dance to?' So I was really blessed that they jumped on it and nailed it. It could never survive without them making it the right balance of seriousness and fun and sexy and protective.

It’s interesting that you went for a more upbeat club hit rather than the typical somber gloomy ballad.

I struggle with messages about feminism that are negative and sad and boring and very mature. I get easily put off by stuff like that. So if I try to give other people a message, I’m going to be aware of that. I don’t want to sit with somebody and [tell them], ‘Excuse me, you have to respect my boundaries because I’m a very important woman and I’m very empowered. This really isn’t acceptable.’ Can you imagine? You really just want to be like, ‘Don’t touch me! I’m not feeling it. Maybe I will later, but you’re not respecting me. Get your sh** in order.’ Be romantic or talk to me and have a really deep conversation; don’t just jump to use me like some kind of ho. That’s what I want to be able to say in those situations. I don’t want to launch into a monologue like I’m better than you because it just doesn’t apply. Everyone in those moments is trying to seem cool. So it had to be that way, or it wasn’t going to work for me.

What do you want the fans to take away from I Remember?

I don’t think about it. People can take what the hell they want from it. I have put everything into it that I have. And I will have more to put into new songs and new albums. At this point, it’s everything I have, everything that I’ve worked out about being a human being, [and] all things I love about different types of dance music and laid back hip hop and R&B. If any of that gets taken out by people that listen, then I’m happy.

On Twitter you wrote, 'Waiting for this album to drop is like waiting for a cake to come out the oven...it smells good but will it taste good?' That sounds like you have some doubts. What makes you nervous?

I am a pretty common artist in the sense that there are ways that say that you haven’t achieved what you think you’ve achieved or it’s not enough. I race ahead. I’m already thinking of the next album. I’m thinking of things we didn’t do. I think that’s what makes the artist so interested and invested in making this music. It is an obsession.

You’re going on tour with Sia. What are you most excited for?

I think that is home for us – an audience that is ready to listen to big songs with this feel good kind of music. We’ll probably bring a darker edge to it. And that’s refreshing for us. Because we’re known for our EDM features. We often get put on EDM stages. And that’s tough for us because everything is about the big build and loud noises, and we’re making songs. So being with two artists (Sia and Miguel) that are pros at presenting these songs is great for us. It feels like an opportunity to showcase us as the artists that we are trying to be, not how we might be perceived if you heard us on a Jack Ü track or things like that.

You guys always bring the upbeat, party music and focus a lot on making music that makes you want to dance. It may seem weird, but that type of energy is really on trend. What’s your take on it?

I guess we’re less weird than when we started out. But we always wondered about that because we thought what we were trying to do was really a normal progression. We heard a lot of weird, electronic music and then there were so many songs bringing those two things together. It seemed really obvious to us. But when we started working and trying to do it, we realized it was really hard. So anyone achieving it to success and getting people going, I’m pleased about that because the more music we get where you feel good and it has meaning, that’s great for everybody. That's what we need; that’s all we have. There’s so much negativity around. And anything that is going to make people feel that way and it have a lasting effect just for that cathartic moment, I’m pleased about.

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Beyoncé performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California.
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Homecoming: The 5 Best Moments Of Beyoncé’s Documentary

Once Beyoncé became the first African-American woman to headline in its nearly 20-year history, we knew Coachella would never the same. To mark the superstar’s historic moment, the 2018 music and arts festival was appropriately dubbed #Beychella and fans went into a frenzy on social media as her illustrious performance was live-streamed by thousands. (Remember when fans recreated her choreographed number to O.T. Genasis’ “Everybody Mad”?)

With a legion of dancers, singers and musicians adorned with gorgeous costumes showcasing custom-made crests, the singer’s whirlwind performance honored black Greek letter organizations, Egyptian queen Nefertiti, and paid homage to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Aside from the essence of black musical subgenres like Houston’s chopped and screwed and Washington D.C.’s go-go music, the entertainer performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as “The Black National Anthem,” and implemented a dancehall number, sampling the legendary Jamaican DJ and singer, Sister Nancy, to show off the versatility of black culture.

One year after #Beychella’s historic set, the insightful concert film, Homecoming, began streaming on Netflix and unveiled the rigorous months of planning that went into the iconic event. The 2-hour 17-minute documentary highlights Beyoncé’s enviable work ethic and dedication to her craft, proving why this performance will be cemented in popular culture forever. Here are the best moments from Beyoncé’s Homecoming documentary.

The Intentional Blackness

“Instead of me bringing out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.”

Throughout the documentary, Beyoncé made it known that everything and everyone included in the creative process leading up to the annual festival was deliberately chosen. “I personally selected each dancer, every light, the material on the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid,” says Beyoncé. “Every tiny detail had an intention.” When speaking on black people as a collective the entertainer notes, “The swag is limitless.” Perhaps the most beautiful moments in Homecoming are the shots that focus on the uniqueness of black hair and its versatility. What’s appreciated above all is the singer’s commitment to celebrating the various facets of blackness and detailing why black culture needs to be celebrated on a global scale.

Beyoncé’s Love And Respect For HBCUs

#Beychella — which spanned two consecutive weekends of Coachella’s annual festival — was inspired by elements of HBCU homecomings, so it was no surprise when the singer revealed she always wanted to attend one. “I grew up in Houston, Texas visiting Prairie View. We rehearsed at TSU [Texas Southern University] for many years in Third Ward, and I always dreamed of going to an HBCU. My college was Destiny's Child. My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher.” Brief vignettes in the film showcased marching bands, drumlines and the majorettes from notable HBCUs that comprise of the black homecoming experience. In the concert flick, one of the dancers affectionately states, “Homecoming for an HBCU is the Super Bowl. It is the Coachella.” However, beyond the outfits that sport a direct resemblance to Greek organizations, Beyoncé communicated an important message that remains a focal point in the film: “There is something incredibly important about the HBCU experience that must be celebrated and protected.”

The Familiar Faces

Despite being joined by hundreds of dancers, musicians and singers on-stage, the entertainer was joined by some familiar faces to share the monumental moment with her. While making a minor appearance in the documentary, her husband and rapper/mogul Jay-Z came out to perform “Deja Vu” with his wife. Next, fans were blessed by the best trio to ever do it as Kelly and Michelle joined the singer with renditions of their hit singles including “Say My Name,” “Soldier,” and more. On top of this star-studded list, Solange Knowles graced the “Beychella” stage and playfully danced with her older sister to the infectious “Get Me Bodied.”

Her Balance Of Being A Mother And A Star

Originally slated to headline the annual festival in 2017, the singer notes that she “got pregnant unexpectedly...and it ended up being twins.” Suffering from preeclampsia, high blood pressure, toxemia and undergoing an emergency C-section, the entertainer candidly details how difficult it was adjusting post-partum and how she had to reconnect with her body after experiencing a traumatizing delivery. “In the beginning, it was so many muscle spasms. Just, internally, my body was not connected. My body was not there.” Rehearsing for a total of 8 months, the singer sacrificed quality time with her children in order to nail the technical elements that came with the preparation for her Coachella set. “I’m limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol … and I’m hungry.” Somehow, throughout all of this, she still had to be a mom. “My mind wanted to be with my children,” she says. Perhaps one of the most admirable moments in the film was witnessing Beyoncé’s dedication to her family but also to her craft.

The Wise Words From Black Visionaries

Homecoming opens with a quote from the late, Maya Angelou stating, “If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.” The film includes rich and prophetic quotes from the likes of Alice Walker, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, and notable Black thinkers, reaffirming Beyoncé’s decision to highlight black culture. The quotes speak to her womanhood and the entertainer’s undeniable strength as a black woman.

Blue Ivy’s Cuteness

Last, but certainly not least, Blue Ivy‘s appearance in the concert film is nothing short of precious. One of the special moments in the documentary zeroes in on the 7-year-old singing to a group of people whilst Beyoncé sweetly feeds the lyrics into her ears. After finishing, Blue says: “I wanna do that again” with Beyoncé replying with “You wanna be like mommy, huh?” Seen throughout Homecoming rehearsing and mirroring Beyoncé’s moves, Blue just might follow in her mother’s footsteps as she gets older.

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The O'Jays Provide Political And Spiritual Grooves On 'The Last Word'

Love is the mission and message on The O'Jays final album, The Last Word. The legendary group comprised of  Eddie Levert Sr., Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant feels fresh and nostalgic at the same time as they take on the thrills of innocent love from yesteryear and the sociopolitical metal clouds of today.

The group previously released the lead single "Above The Law," a righteous track that highlights the state of the nation to a tee. The rest of The Last Word is noticeably lighter with songs like "Do You Really Know How I Feel" and "Enjoy Yourself" bringing out the flower power child in all of us. The latter of the tracks bridges today's funk and soul rhymes as it was co-written by Bruno Mars and Patrick Monahan of Train.

“I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)," a reworked version from the 1967 album Back On Top closes out the album gently, embodying their full circle journey.

But the party isn't over for The O'Jays. On Tuesday (April 23), the group will perform their new single "Stand Up (Show Love)" on the TODAY show in New York.

Stream The Last Word below.

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Review: Anderson .Paak Reroutes To 'Ventura'

Just five months after his last album Oxnard, singer/producer/drummer/entertainer extraordinaire Anderson .Paak is back with Ventura, his fourth studio LP. Depending on who you ask, the new project is either a surprise second course, or a round of comped desserts to make up for an overdone entree.

The Korean-African-American musician born Brandon Paak Anderson spent the first half of this decade intermittently recording under the name Breezy Lovejoy, converting rock songs into R&B, and drumming for an American Idol alumnus. In 2015, he emerged into the national spotlight thanks to six features on Compton, the long-gestating Dr. Dre album formerly known as Detox. He took advantage of the attention and released two full-lengths in 2016: Malibu was a sprawling solo album that showed him equally deft with bass-heavy club tracks or Sam Cooke-esque soul. Yes Lawd!, a collaboration with producer Knxwledge under the name NxWorries, was a chopped up stoner odyssey, Madvillainy if DOOM could sing as well as he spit. That same year, .Paak announced that he had signed to Dr. Dre’s label Aftermath in a brief but celebratory video featuring the rap mogul himself.

.Paak took nearly three years to unleash the full power of the PR by Dre machine: he debuted the lead single on Zane Lowe, soundtracked an Apple ad, and compared the album to landmarks like The Blueprint and The College Dropout. When Oxnard finally dropped last November, reviews were generally positive but mixed, and it peaked at 11 on the Billboard album charts. Enough fans felt the singer had strayed from his post-millennial soul sound that his own mother felt the need to clap back. With a sprawling summer tour schedule looming, .Paak released his follow-up, Ventura, last Friday.

To hear the artist tell it, that was always the plan. “I told Dre when we were maybe about 80 percent into the Oxnard record that I wanted to actually do two records and he started scratching his head. ...I was like, ‘Let me do two, man. One will be gritty, one will be pretty,’” .Paak told HipHopDX. It’s clear that both albums were compiled from the same sessions, but they are distinct. While Anderson .Paak’s last project emphasized the Michael Bay-sized hip-hop beats that Dr. Dre perfected at the turn of the millennium, Ventura has a more soulful sound. It doesn’t slap, it grooves.

As the cover portrait of the artist with his child suggests, Ventura is an intimate record. He’s focused on sex and love in the long term, the ups and downs of relationships years after the introductory one night stands other pop stars sing about. His blunt-burnt yet sweet voice conjures a charming scoundrel character on record, a dad celebrating Friday night with a popped collar and glass overflowing with dark liquor. It’s a compelling persona .Paak previously exaggerated to cartoonish proportions on Yes Lawd!

Here, his pen shines on the small moments that hint at big feelings. On “Jet Black,” .Paak and his girl are getting physical for the first time in some time, sharing the peak of an unfamiliar high. “It’s been a while, baby, come here,” .Paak beckons. The house beat burbles with slap bass and descending organ as Brandy sings “Feels like someone lifted me.”

.Paak heats up a similarly chilled relationship on the luxuriant “Make It Better.” “Meet me at the hotel motel, though we got a room at home, go to a place that we don't know so well,” he murmurs. Over a laidback thump, .Paak tries to reignite passion in order to save his relationship. His voice desperately yelps on the chorus as the pressure he feels to reconnect emerges, but it quickly subsides into sweet nothings. Smokey Robinson’s backing vocals float in like he’s playing on a radio outside the lovers’ motel room. They’re buried low enough in the mix to suggest that if you’re cool enough to get a feature from a quiet storm legend, you’re cool enough not to rub it in.

Ventura’s precursor was stocked with verses from luminaries like Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip, and Kendrick Lamar, but Ventura’s only guest rapper, Andre 3000, appears on the first track, “Come Home.” It’s a rough start. The song opens with a piano melody that loops but never resolves, creating an anxiety similar to an iPhone alarm clock tone. .Paak begs for someone to come home, but it’s unconvincing, like he doesn’t yet understand why they left in the first place.

While Smokey’s feature is masterfully underplayed, Andre 3000’s verse gets a garish spotlight. Since Idlewild, 3 Stacks has made a habit of releasing guest verses on occasion in lieu of making an album of his own. When he’s on, he’s one of the best rappers alive, but “Come Home” is a rare misstep. The Outkast rapper fills entire bars with syllables about asking for forgiveness on a moped with a puppy, but it doesn’t feel charismatic. Fitting Willy Wonka, Tilikum, and Billabong into the same verse is admirable in a technical sense, but it feels like Andre’s “Rap God” technique for its own sake.

The album finishes much stronger. The last track “What Can We Do?” is built around a chiming sitar, and it savors contentment like a West Coast “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” .Paak duets with Nate Dogg on the hook, using recordings made before the legend’s untimely death in 2011. The deceased vocalist was a key G-funk ingredient, but his voice sits comfortably in a sunnier sound. It’s a credit to .Paak that the faux studio banter that closes the song feels natural.

The other features are similarly complementary to .Paak. Lalah Hathaway coos in unison with him on the disco half of “Reachin’ 2 Much.” Jazmine Sullivan plays the other woman, forced to climb in through the fire escape to retrieve her rings and “Good Heels” the morning after. Only Sonyae Elise spars with her host, offering a righteous rebuttal to his demands for the women in his life and sarcastically suggesting that he might be the “Chosen One.”

.Paak name drops to a few key inspirations in his lyrics as well. Later in “Chosen One,” he raps, “Heard your fans want to keep you in the underground, cool, when I blow up say I did it for MF DOOM,” a reminder of his pre-fame time in LA’s crate digging underground scenes. He contemplates leaving a relationship on “Reachin’ 2 Much” and all he can offer is “I’ll see you next lifetime, baby, what did Badu say?”

Like Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah diptych a decade ago, .Paak’s lyrics about current events are enough to provoke reflection without detracting from the physical pull of the grooves. He nimbly raps “Chicken wings and sushi, I’ve gotten used to the perks, narrowly escaping the holy war on the turf” on “Yada Yada.” Lead single “King James” praises people with public platforms for refusing to go along with a murderous status quo, promising to jump over any wall and bring the neighbors with. In the midst of his “Winners Circle” flirtation, .Paak raps “When I get the gushy, I go dumb like the President.” It’s not a jaw-dropping lyric, but it’s comforting to know that a bar that direct will be performed in arenas across America this summer.

Anderson .Paak’s talent is unquestionable and his spotlight is well-deserved, especially knowing he’s endured homelessness and familial legal trouble on his come-up. To his credit, he appears to be striving towards a magnum opus, a landmark album that becomes a household name like The Chronic or Midnight Marauders. Despite his strong catalog plus a plethora of excellent features, .Paak has yet to deliver that opus. (Yes Lawd!’s destiny as a cult classic aside.) Ventura is a fun, pleasant listen, and an improvement on the bombast of Oxnard. Like most double albums, one gets the feeling that there’s a great forty minute playlist waiting to be assembled from their best tracks.

Ventura ultimately doesn’t quite match the highs of his earlier albums, but it’s a leisurely stroll in the right direction. Nearly a decade into his recording career, it’s proof that .Paak can always find his way to the next beach.

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