Combat Jack
Theo Wargo

At Their Artist Forum And After Party, SoundCloud Showed Why They Are The Future

SoundCloud's second Artist Forum and After Party brought out Combat Jack, Vic Mensa, !llMind and more.

SoundCloud is more than just a music streaming service. The platform provides a community for all creatives alike. This past Wednesday (Nov. 16), the creative haven invited the neighborhood to Samsung 837 to celebrate the improvements it's making to its collective.

Founder and CEO, Alex Ljung—who made himself accessible to all who wanted to chop it up throughout the night—got the ball rolling with the reason the neighborhood came out in the first place: all the dope updates.

The first topic on the agenda, which is a synonymously discussed topic with any streaming service, was revenue sharing. With the rise of SoundCloud Go and global advertising initiatives, SoundCloud has been raking in some extra coins, allowing them to invite more creatives into the Premier program. Premier enables creatives to benefit financially on their streams and popularity. Although this specific status is still invite-only, SoundCloud hasn’t abandoned its laurels in pushing to making this an inclusive partner program as it continues to grow.

Next up: the adjustments made to the SoundCloud Pulse app. While the community is inclusive to all lovers of anything and everything creative, the Pulse app seeks to tend to the creatives themselves. Easing the process of editing track info, the upgrades allow for editing track titles, descriptions, tags and genres while also choosing whether the track will be public, downloadable or private all through the subsidiary app. Increasing convenience even further, the platform enhanced their Creator Guide which allows for a creative to understand their place in SoundCloud’s portion of the streaming world and how to make the most of their experience. With these new measures, SoundCloud will continue to enhance all of its beneficiaries’ experiences pertinent to the indie-influenced shift relative industries have been immersed in within the last decade or so.

Additionally, some of the finest of the streaming game came out to put us in the know with their stories and SoundCloud’s role in how they came into who they are today. The two panels included "Building And Empowering Modern Day Music Creativity" (Combat Jack, Toni Romiti, !llmind, Sean Bohrman, and Jami Welch) and "From Creator to Purveyor: The Creative Journey" with Ghostly International’s Sam Valenti And The Fader’s Naomi Zeichner.

SoundCloud’s lateral influence is more diverse than a investment portfolio ranging from Toni Romiti, who utilized the service in her transition from Vine superstar to multi-million stream-ist, to Combat Jack, who went from a music attorney to a “middle-aged blogger” turned podcaster helping him find a “second life” in an industry he almost lost hope in.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BM7fQ8dBQzT/?taken-by=romitimusic&hl=en

As producer, !llmind reminisced on how SoundCloud is an appropriate successor to his early beat sharing days via Underground Hip Hop’s “Beat Battles” folder on its website, we’re reminded of how the audio platform has been a kick starter to many careers.

Aside from the streaming service’s impact on the direct beneficiaries and creators, it's also allowed a space for investors to better position themselves towards the artists. Burger Record’s co-founder, Sean Bohrman and Ghostly Record’s Sam Valenti stand as examples of some investors into these creatives. Probably representing one of the most unique business plans for a record label possible, Bohrman boasts about his label’s atypical approach by targeting debut albums and high school bands, while releasing material mainly in the form of cassette tapes. If you let Sean Bohrman tell it, the way to go is being purely ballsy and achieving superior fulfillment as he quit his job, cashed out his $401K and invested all his time and money into his small record store in Fullerton, CA, which has grown. While Jami Welch discussed his experience as SoundCloud's Product Manager for Creators by day and SoundCloud artist and user by night.

After panels, food, freebies and a showcase of live graffiti artists exercising their talents on the typically unconventional canvas of headphones, we broke out to go our separate ways until the after party later. When we returned, Toni Romiti came back in full effect to kick off the line up of performances. Serving a mix between Cardi B’s swag and Kehlani’s presence, the young vocalist delivered some turn-up vibes. Demanding a space of her own, she got her Mary J. Blige two-step on, all while connecting with the crowd just enough to get us to join in on our own lit jigs.

As the night went on and drinks kept flowing, the music kept getting better and better. Araabmuzik came through and shut down the entire venue as he prepared for battle: head down, shoulders hunched ready to blast the audience with a burst of sonic stimulation. As he instrumentally crafted his club-influenced mixes, adjusting knobs and feverishly tapping away on his drum pad, his personalized renditions rallied a select few dancers to join him on stage. It also got everyone on their feet and grooving for his mash-up of Rihanna’s “B***h Better Have My Money.”

To conclude the night, Premier artist, Vic Mensa delivered a sensation emulative of the unapologetic rock’n’roll meets hip-hop vibrations of the RUN DMC era—but smoother. Starting out with his critically-acclaimed, “16 Shots,” Mensa stepped out in a leather jacket, biker boots, laced-up pants, band tee and icy, metallic jewelry. He portrayed the perfect cross between hip-hop and rock, with his torso arched and head tilted back, belting into the mic, “You know me, I like the danger!” from his track “Danger.”

The entire SoundCloud crew, ranging from the creatives, panelists and attendees, is proof of the legacy SoundCloud is paving for itself in respect to the trends of today’s industry. In a quick chat we had with founder and CEO, Alex Ljung, he explained that SoundCloud is in a lane of its own offering an "open platform," which anyone can sign up for. But the platform is also simultaneously working with major labels and indie labels alike to attract a larger audience which results in more monetization pushing them closer to their goals of opening Premier monetization benefits to everyone.

In the spirit of the No. 1 “Black Beatles” chart-toppers, it's very much ideal to “get you a [streaming service] that can do both.” SoundCloud has proved to fit the mold as it expands in its efforts of acting as a guiding force in today's creative spectrum.

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Babyface And Teddy Riley's Botched Instagram Live Battle Proves Less Is More

Last night (April 18th), the battle of all Verzuz battles between legendary music writers/producers, Teddy Riley and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, hit a major digital pothole and couldn't recover for the over 400k viewers in attendance on Instagram Live. Mega producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland — who are the founders of the battle platform and have showcased many of these events since the quarantine started — hyped this long-awaited match up for weeks. Their disappointment in the face-off being barraged with sound issues was felt through their IG Live post-talk. "Teddy Riley was doing too much, " Swizz lamented and to what Timbaland agreed.

What those two are referring to is the frontman for '80s and '90s R&B groups Guy and Blackstreet (respectively) Teddy Riley who showed up on his own IG Live with a full stage set up. He had a keyboard, a DJ, what looked like a drummer in the cut and a hypeman dancing a la Flavor Flav style. It was a lot to witness as he warmed up the sound, which was fine before Babyface finally showed up on the split-screen. Just moments before Face appeared, the followers for the event quickly climbed to 300k in less than 8 minutes. Babyface's lag time in showing up prompted some of the commenters, which was super star-studded, to say things like, "He's still picking out his wardrobe," to "I think 'Face is scared, he's not gonna show." All of which was nonsense, as the flow of followers made it hard for Riley's team to catch Face's request to join. So for about 15 minutes, there was the anxiety of weeks of talk by the promoters and days of posting by T.R. and Face falling on this moment. The pressure to deliver was on. Black Twitter was seasoning the session as a true date night and hangout spot all day. Even going so far as to shower, shave, do hair and get "a good outfit" and some drinks on deck for the festivities.

Once the pleasantries were out of the way, there was Face, solo in a studio with a black blazer (what was that, velvet?) a white button-up and a smooth setting with a mixing board behind him. Riley, on the other hand, had what is now known as a full production team (and like his live performance a few weeks ago from his home studio, there was no social distancing being practiced) and once he kicked off his tunes (Face made him go first, which no one wants to do in these battles, "Seniority wins," said Face) it was doomed from the start.

@THEREALSWIZZZ x @Timbaland discussing the issues with #TeddyRileyVsBabyface pic.twitter.com/yPkjNAlbAg

— Keith Nelson Jr (@JusAire) April 19, 2020

Riley's multiple mics and crowded space made for garbled and more so echoed tunes and took the punch away from his valued opener, "The Show" by Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew. He literally performed the '80s classic summer hip-hop hit like he was at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. His hype man was amped, but the viewing audience wasn't feeling it. Face was polite and even tipped his respect to the track, but then followed like the casanova crooner he is and toasted his champagne flute to the ladies in attendance and pressed play on his crisp sounding system and let the wailing intro of "Two Occasions," by his group with his producing partner/iconic music executive L.A. Reid, wash over the crowd. Just from resetting the tone from uptempo hip-hop to a classic slow-jam, let us know we were in for a long night of Face controlling the mood.

Most felt that the echo issue that Riley was having would sort its self out or would be handled by one of his many staffers on set, but it only got worse as Riley responded in the second round with the all-world dance theme, "Groove Me," by Guy. The deep synth groove is a surefire party starter, but the echo and his live-action performance were lost in a sea of comments that scrolled up the screen like, "What are you doing...Why do you have a hypeman...Stop and fix the sound, Teddy...What in the hell..." And that was the nice stuff. With an emphatic James Brown-like arm drop to stop the band, Riley finished the jam and knew he just sent Face a hard shot to the body. Face, ever the chilly willy, kind of chuckled and commented about how he first heard the song and liked it. He mentioned going into his list of artists to choose from for his next selection and talked about how they both worked with him to great success, then dropped the hammer with Bobby Brown's "Don't Be Cruel." Ouch. It was clean, pumping and felt like an early dagger that would only plunge deeper if he was using it this early in the match.

A little light banter was kicked as they both gave anecdotes about the times surrounding those songs and it almost seemed like a stalling tactic for Riley as his team knew something was wrong, but seemed to not be checking the stream of "FIX THE SOUND...you are echoing," chants in the comments. They toyed a bit but went on into a good mid-range gem by Riley in "I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)," by Texas quintet Hi-Five. Still beset with echo issues, right after the tune ends (a bit prematurely at that, as Face was playing his songs for two minutes or more) the talk about tech issues starts to get more robust. Face is cool with giving Riley time to figure it out, yet goes into another strong single with Bobby Brown and "Every Little Step." Again, it felt like another crystal clear banger that Riley wouldn't be able to match sound or energy-wise. And that's saying a lot as Riley has his own huge Bobby Brown hit to launch, but with the echo, it probably wouldn't work.

[email protected] also shared a video about their postponed #Verzuz battle. New date on the way! 🥊🥊 pic.twitter.com/fjAY74zED3

— Vibe Magazine (@VibeMagazine) April 19, 2020

So, at the end of round three, with the IG Live audience mainly giving the smooth operator Babyface the upper hand and straight clowning Riley's hypeman (memes and gifs of his homie were starting to pop up on Twitter and Instagram, DURING the battle) and sound issues, T.R.'s team calls a 20-second time out. He explains they need to get things right. They seem to also start wondering if it's Babyface's side that's causing their echo. The whole live feed, filled with celebs like Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Fabolous, Snoop Dogg, and so many music executives, comedians, entertainment stars and everyday people became expert sound technicians, "Take the Irig out, Teddy!" to "Just use the iphone speakers, Ted!" even "The issue is your side damn it." It got ugly. Folks were tee'd off for the fact that the situation was on Riley to fix since he had so much going on. All while Babyface threw a few shade covered remarks. When asked about fixing his side, "It's just me...you know social distancing and all."

After the brief break in action, Riley looked to redeem himself as the sound seemed to get a tad bit better. The echo was light, but the sound was low, damn near muffled and coming with no power or kick. Even though he was going hard in the paint to sell the same line up of songs, as he convinced Face to start from the top of round one AGAIN.

They sped through the rounds one more time with light convo, touching on cool stories about the same rounds of songs to ease the tension, but a little of the spark was gone and the comments were turning into tomatoes hurling at Riley. Deserved or undeserved, this performance was spiraling out of control. Comedian Michael Blackson asked, "Where are the promoters?" In the midst of a slow down in action, one of Riley's team members grabs the mic and announces that they would need to pause the battle for an extended amount of time. "We need to get the sound right, so we'll be back at 10:30 pm, about 30 minutes from now. So log back in around then." By this time Babyface had already dipped off-screen a few times (I assume to refill his champagne flute to walk to his awaiting warm bath---I kid.) and seemed to lose interest in trying to get Riley's attention when they clearly couldn't hear him. Before the end though, actor and R&B artist, Tyrese Gibson lobs a shot at Riley in the comments that ended up going viral for the wrong reason: "Throw in the tile." He surely meant "towel," but it was too late, the internet savages screen grabbed the line and dragged him over to Black Twitter to skew him over the BBQ. Why? 'Cause it was looking like the battle was over and there was nothing better to do (of course Tyrese fired back and blamed it on autocorrect).

 

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🤣🤣🤣 Y’all ain’t shit!! #TeamDL #Repost @royalewatkins with @get_repost ・・・ And so it begins!!!!

A post shared by realdlhughley (@realdlhughley) on Apr 18, 2020 at 7:34pm PDT

The live feed went out and most people huddled on the cool-out hill on the Black Twitter side of town. Quarantine life has deposited most of the in-the-know social media folks to mainland digital scapes and this battle had over 414k people wandering outside of the venue. The jokes started to pile up, memes of Teddy Riley looking like Theo from the Cosby show wearing the ill-fitting/misconstructed Gordon Gartrell shirt that his sister Denise made versus Babyface as the original pristine Gordon Gartrell shirt was floating around. (In hindsight, the fun of the night was in all of the jokes, they helped ease the tension.)

Swizz Beatz and Timbaland ran to their IG Live stations and expressed their respectful displeasure with Riley's setup but promised to get it right. It seemed like the show was going to resume at the delayed time until Babyface posted a video on his page saying that the show should be postponed and that they should do it another time. That put the fork in the whole ordeal and about 20 minutes after that, Riley also made a video expressing how technical difficulties held up the night and how they would get it right. "OUR apologies..." he stated. By then, most folks headed over to Club Quarantine on DJ D-Nice's IG Live, where he played a full set of Riley vs. Face songs. A DJ literally saved the night.

Hopefully, with all the greats that are involved in this super amazing Verzuz platform, they get the tech side going like they got the 20 tracks per artist with one verse and one hook rules implemented. All the big band production needs to scale down and some basic rules of engagement toward presentation by both parties have to be agreed upon. But with everything, there is a backstory, and this one will be told at some point...preferably over a good sound system.

"Yall, just sign back on in 30 minutes"

Babyface: pic.twitter.com/huQj3HhzUL

— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 19, 2020

500k people: We can’t hear you Teddy.

Teddy Riley: pic.twitter.com/Dw3SqbwrAw

— SB (@SBrown_) April 19, 2020

Teddy Riley sound be like... pic.twitter.com/FTyu3b9DUX

— Kevín (@KevOnStage) April 19, 2020

 

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All love @niariley. But damn 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

A post shared by Van Lathan (@vanlathan) on Apr 18, 2020 at 7:36pm PDT

 

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Ayo Teddy Riley...

A post shared by The Turntable Whisperer (@djscratch) on Apr 18, 2020 at 7:41pm PDT

Everybody watching #TeddyvsBabyface @IssaRae lol pic.twitter.com/vKdJ7Copoq

— #TeamFullSizeNigga (@DontaFromVA) April 19, 2020

Now it’s no sound. We got to wait 7 whole days for this? 🤣 pic.twitter.com/CcC2grMsGf

— Toni Braxton (@tonibraxton) April 19, 2020

Wait... pic.twitter.com/Wocp2lWTKz

— In the House Like Cool J. (@naima) April 19, 2020

Teddy’s hypeman dancing like what we all thought 2020 would be like 💃🏾 Teddy vs Babyface pic.twitter.com/jfbauDjPjc

— SuzieBeChoosy (@MissNoelSzn) April 19, 2020

 

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BABYFACE BATTLE POV 🤣🙄🤣🎸 . . #affioncrockett #comedy #babyface #teddyriley #verzuz

A post shared by Affion Crockett Comedy (@affioncrockett) on Apr 19, 2020 at 2:16am PDT

Babyface as soon as he got off the live: pic.twitter.com/yTVFjyprEF

— Jeremy Moon 🌙 (@jeffuhz) April 19, 2020

Listen, Babyface, Teddy Riley, Tyrese and Tamar are trending in a horrible year of 2020 in the middle of a pandemic, bringing laughter to our souls by accident. Maybe we needed this instead of the live music 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/s4a2AJ7rOx

— Kendra Ann (@KendraAnn4) April 19, 2020

Us: Fix the echo.

Teddy: pic.twitter.com/Id7GeWHGIb

— Thee Stallion of Troy 👑 (@smiilinbiig) April 19, 2020

Man imagine of Keenan Thompson and Micheal Che spoofed tonight’s fumble on SNL. Keenan as Babyface would make my night. pic.twitter.com/q503j0QV2i

— Huskegee Airman (@JLBarrow) April 19, 2020

Teddy Riley pic.twitter.com/2fA21buomg

— ANTHONY ADAMS (@spiceadams) April 19, 2020

We really turned disappointment into Twitter gold last night. Black people are so resilient lol.

— Sylvia Obell (@SylviaObell) April 19, 2020

 

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Tabernacle. #TeddyRiley #Verzuz #Charlamagne

A post shared by VibeMagazine (@vibemagazine) on Apr 19, 2020 at 7:32am PDT

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Flo Ngala

The Millennium Tour 2020: Pretty Ricky Returns To Heat Things Up

The energy inside the Chase Square at Madison Square Garden is electric. The Millenium Tour 2020 returned to New York City on a rainy Friday night (March 6), satisfying fans’ yearlong wait for the nostalgic vibes to arrive in the city that never sleeps.

Big hoop earrings and jersey dresses paint the picture inside the lobby while chatter amongst small groups of people about which artist on the bill will have the best set fills the air. "I'm here for Pretty Ricky," says one elated fan as she rushes to find her spot on the line waiting to enter the doors of the Hulu Theater. "My boys are back and I'm not missing out on this."

Around this time 15 years ago, the members of Pretty Ricky were beginning to make their debut in a crowded R&B scene that included other notable groups like Jagged Edge and 112. Their platinum-selling debut single "Grind With Me" charted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and helped the group stand out by opening the door for listeners to explore their raunchy, steamy world.

Since that time, the group has experienced ups and downs. Their first two albums, Bluestars and Late Night Special, were certified Gold with the latter debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The success from their first two albums catapulted the group into superstardom, winning millions of fans across the world and touring with the likes of Omarion, Chris Brown and Bow Wow. Unfortunately, personal issues and inflated egos within the group caused friction and placed a hold on things for the next few years.

Fast forward to today, and Pretty Ricky is back to heat things up. As a part of The Millenium Tour 2020, the group joins Omarion, Bow Wow, Ashanti, Lloyd, the Ying Yang Twins and more on a 32-date tour across the country. It's the second time in two years that Pretty Ricky has hit the road with the first being last year's The Millenium Tour, and if anything, the group is having even more fun with it.

Pretty Ricky back in NYC like they never left on The Millennium Tour 2020#PRETTYRICKY#THROWBACK#THEMILLENNIUMTOUR2020 pic.twitter.com/7RODWvEbsH

— ME VKV DON DVDV 🇭🇹 (@BlackDynamite91) March 10, 2020

"There are stretchers outside just in case someone faints," Spectacular tells VIBE as the group prepares for a special meet-and-greet with fans before their set. "You know how Pretty Ricky does it."

"It feels like 2005 all over again," Pleasure P exclaims as fans screamed just outside the curtains. "All the girls got on their throwback stuff. The energy is great, and of course, we're banging them with hits every night and it feels good."

The hits were flowing as Pretty Ricky made a strong case that they were the best performers on the bill. During the lively set, rabid fans sang along to "Grind With Me," "Your Body" and "On The Hotline" while rocking to the first-ever live performance of the group’s newest single "Body." The Florida natives even showed they haven't missed a step hitting their trademark gyrations in silk white pajamas with precision.

First ever live performance of Pretty Ricky’s newest single “Body” in NYC. #THEMILLENNIUMTOUR2020#PRETTYRICKY#BODY pic.twitter.com/Ac41pzC4KL

— ME VKV DON DVDV 🇭🇹 (@BlackDynamite91) March 10, 2020

"We know this is exactly what the people need, that good music and that good feel from back in the 2000s," says Spectacular who also performed on stage in nothing but a towel halfway through Pretty Ricky's set. "We want to bring that same feeling back and it feels great being back on this tour to give the fans what they want."

"Every single night we get to come out here and create a nostalgic experience for them," Baby Blue adds. "It's kind of like we were the soundtrack to their life and it feels good to create that lifetime experience. They get to relive their high school moments or maybe the first time they lost their virginity, their first kiss or the first time they went out with their homegirls."

A few years ago it seemed Pretty Ricky would be no more after they put their issues front and center on VH1's Love & Hip Hop: Miami and tried numerous times to fix their problems. There were even reports of a fight breaking out backstage between Pleasure P and Baby Blue at a show in Phoenix in 2018, but Baby Blue assures the guys are more than good this time around.

"It's a family and the thing about that is sometimes you might get into disputes, or whatever, then two hours later you're hugging. That's the strength in family and it's good that it's like that with us," he says as Slick 'Em cracks a joke with Spectacular to the side. "Sometimes in other businesses you might not be able to voice how you feel about certain things and how it gets received. With family, you can voice those feelings, but you have the option to make a change and go back to that family member and tell them I apologize and I love you. I think that's what keeps us together because it's a family-based business."

Keep up with Pretty Ricky at @PrettyRicky on Twitter.

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An interior view of Spotify Celebrates Black History Is Now Pop-Up on February 28, 2020 in New York City.
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Spotify

Spotify Opens 'Black History Is Now' Pop-Up In New York City

As Black History Month comes to a close, Spotify is taking the annual moment to another level. On Friday night (Feb. 28), Spotify hosted a VIP preview of their immersive exhibit-style pop-up celebrating "Black History Is Now: Phenomenal Black Music." The opening party was an exclusive first look at Spotify’s celebration of the songs and women that have shaped the way music is made, experienced, and replicated across the world.

The pop-up celebrates 32 phenomenal songs and women, with representation ranging across genres and generations—from Bob Marley and Mary J. Blige, to Lil Nas X and Lizzo. Opening to the public for one weekend only, the exhibit features a look into the songs and artists with stories curated by music journalist Jewel Wicker, interactive elements curated by the Spotify creative team, surprise merch drops, and performances and panels.

As part of the experience, Spotify also partnered with Levi’s to build out a customization station, where guests can pick out patches designed by Joe Freshgoods and Jamilla Okubo and have them pressed onto Levi’s jackets. After DJ Olivia Dope, delivered jams from the likes of Bel Biv Devoe, Spotify's Director and Head of Music Marketing at Spotify thanked her team and attendees for joining the festivities.

Shortly after,  6LACK hit the stage and performed jams like "Ex-Calling," "Pretty Little Fears," and more. The pop-up is open to the public in NYC on Saturday, February 29th  from 11 am to 8 pm and on Sunday, March 1st from 11 am to 7 pm. As for the free merch, everything will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more details and to RSVP, visit Blackhistoryisnow.splashthat.com.

For more information on the campaign, head over to blackhistoryisnow.com. Scroll down below for more pictures from last night's opening event and watch highlights from the event on VIBE's Instagram Stories.

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