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For Tidal Fans Who Have Considered Apple When Music Exclusives Aren’t Enough

It’s time to go back to the company’s mission statement and put the artist first.

As I peruse through my Tidal account for Alicia Keys’ new album Here, I quickly realize the project (which is phenomenal, by the way) is sitting on all streaming platforms and not the Tidal exclusive I assumed it would be.

My mini-realization is warranted. The “In Common” singer is one of 16 owners of the streaming service and the latest to release a project after exclusive releases from fellow co-owners Kanye West, Beyonce, James Aldean and Rihanna. Tidal users have gotten used to getting music first (that is, except for Frank Ocean and Adele's latest albums) and asking questions later. We can deny it all we want but as consumers, we want to be the ones to boast about the latest album, shoe, pasta strainer, etc. first and when we don’t, we feel like losers.

Spearheaded by Jay Z in 2015, the company promised to “support the artists, create a sustainable music industry, and deliver the high-quality music and experiences that fans crave.” During its celeb-heavy launch in March 2015, Ms. Keys quoted Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and explained their mission was bigger than music. “We’re gathered … with one voice, in unity," she'd said, "in the hopes that today will be another one of those moments in time, a moment that will forever change the course of music history.”

While the exclusive content wasn’t the biggest promise the company made, it helped keep them in music lovers' good graces. Within a year, subscription had grown to three million after starting with a mere 500,000 before Jay’s acquisition. Many of the new listeners were due to Ye’s release of The Life of Pablo, Beyonce's Lemonade and undoubtedly the presence of Prince’s entire discography. Before the Purple One transcended to the heavens, he removed his music from Spotify and Apple, allowing Tidal to become the only streaming service in the game to have the singer’s much-coveted catalog. But that "exclusive" might mean less these days.

Over the weekend, it was reported that Prince's estate sold songwriting rights to Universal Music Publishing Group, allowing the company to release the songwriter's music whenever and wherever they please. Now with one of their biggest assets losing steam, the company promises "it will seek injunctive relief if any deals by Prince’s estate violate its agreement with him, which Tidal asserts included a 'Hit n Run' remix album, another new album and rights to his catalog."

Tidal’s growth has now been pushed to the side. Apple has successfully reached 17 million subscribers, but Spotify still leads the competition with over 40 million paid subscribers. Tidal and Apple have had several public riffs, including reports in June that the latter would be taking over Jay’s brainchild. “We’re really running our own race,” Jimmy Iovine, head of Apple Music head told BuzzFeed News, squashing the rumors. “We’re not looking to acquire any streaming services.”

So now, Tidal is left riding the wave they’ve helped create: exclusive content. But that wave in itself is slowly dying. Spotify has decided not to buy exclusives from artists and UMG is looking to ban artists from releasing their projects to streaming companies. As a very fruitful year in music comes to a close, what is Tidal to do? The answer is very simple since they’ve had it all along: focus on the artist.

No, not these artists. New fresh artists whose music accumulates in the phones and playlists of aux party DJs. They're also the artists that fill the company's Rising channel. Artists like Young M.A, KAMAU and ABRA are enjoying the space Tidal allows listeners to fall into and not be overshadowed by the big dogs. Putting the artist first by having events like the Sennheiser x Tidal showcase honestly present the company's mission statement in real time.

Jay Z said it himself during his Terminal 5 show last year that he refused to be a pawn in the streaming game. “You know n***as died for equal pay, right? You know when I work, I ain’t your slave, right?” Take heed to your own words and don't let your strong but small allegiance of subscribers feel the same way.

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Stonebwoy Spits Hot Fire On His "Blaze Dem" Freestyle

Stonebwoy had nothing much to prove when he and his entourage—known as the BHIM Nation—rolled up on a fleet of motorbikes this past weekend to a highly anticipated battle with fellow artist, Shatta Wale, his biggest rival for the title of Africa's Dancehall King. Stonebwoy has come a long way since his humble beginnings in Ashaiman, a seaside town on the outskirts of Accra, the capital city of Ghana.

The internationally renowned West African artist developed his own distinctive musical style, which he describes as Afro-Dancehall, fusing Jamaican dancehall and patois with Afrobeats, hip hop slang, and the local dialect Ewe. He established his own independent company, the Burniton Music Group, as well as a charitable organization, the Livingstone Foundation. He's also earned numerous accolades over the course of his career. He was named Best International Act at the 2015 BET Awards. He has won several Ghana Music Awards, including Artist of the Year. He collaborated with Morgan Heritage on the group's Grammy-nominated 2017 album Avrakedabra and recorded singles with many of Jamaica's top dancehall artists, including Grammy-winners Sean Paul and Beenie Man. His latest album, Anloga Junction, features a hit collab with VIBE cover artist Keri Hilson as well as Nasty C, a South African rapper who signed to Def Jam in March.

Stonebwoy entered the clash arena wearing a full-face gas mask, leaving no doubt that he was taking this competition very seriously. Sponsored by Ghana's Ministry of Health and broadcast by Asaasse Radio in Accra, the virtual clash between him and Shatta Wale was designed to raise proceeds to "crush COVID 19"—but Stonebwoy's mask was more suited for mortal combat than preventing Coronavirus. The first of the 40 songs he unleashed against his nemesis was a hard-hitting new freestyle called "Blaze Dem." Shortly after the clash, Stonebwoy released a music video for the track, featuring visual highlights from the hard-fought battle against Shatta, which has been compared to the epic Verzuz clash between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer.

Best known to international audiences for his appearance on "Already," a Major Lazer–produced from Beyonce's album Black is King, Shatta's provocative style included theatrics, personal insults, and throwing money all over the stage. Stonebwoy, on the other hand, let his melodies, lyrics, and big tunes do the talking. You can watch the full battle here, and stay tuned for Stonebwoy's live chat with Reshma B of Boomshots today at 2 pm ET / 6 pm GT on VIBE's Instagram Live.

Stream his latest album, Anloga Junction, on Apple Music, Spotify, and/or Tidal.

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Toots Hibbert performing at Hammersmith Palais, London in 1983.
Photo by David Corio/Redferns

Remembering Toots Hibbert

The best singers don’t need too many words to make their point. Otis Redding could let loose with a sad sad song like “Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa” and get you all in your feelings. Bob Marley got pulses pounding with his “Whoi-yoooo” rebel yell. Gregory Isaacs melted hearts with nothing more than a gentle sigh. Toots Hibbert, who died last Friday at the age of 77, could sing just about anything and make it sound good. One of the world's greatest vocalists in any genre, Toots paired his powerful voice with the understated harmonies of Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias to form The Maytals, a vocal trinity that never followed fashion and remained relevant throughout the evolution of Jamaican music—from the ska era to rock steady straight through to reggae, a genre named after The Maytals' 1968 classic “Do The Reggay.”

Whether they were singing a sufferer’s selection (“Time Tough”), a churchical chant (“Hallelujah”), or the tender tale of a country wedding (“Sweet and Dandy”), The Maytals blew like a tropical storm raining sweat and tears. The lyrics to Six and Seven Books,” one of The Maytals' earliest hits, are pretty much just Toots listing the books of the Bible. “You have Genesis and Exodus,” he declares over a Studio One ska beat, “Leviticus and Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, Judges and Ruth...” Having grown up singing in his parents' Seventh Day Adventist Church in the rural Jamaican town of May Pen, Toots knew the Good Book well.

The Maytals broke out worldwide in 1966 thanks to the song “Bam Bam,” which won Jamaica's first-ever Independence Festival Song Competition, held during the first week of August as the island nation celebrated both independence from Great Britain in 1862 and emancipation in 1834. They would go on to win the coveted title two more times, but “Bam Bam” was a singular song with a message every bit as powerful as Toots' voice. “I want you to know that I am the man," Toots sang. He was young and strong, ready to "fight for the right, not for the wrong." The trajectory of "Bam Bam" would not only transform Toots' life but make waves throughout popular music worldwide.

"Festival in Jamaica is very important to all Jamaicans," the veteran singer stated in a video interview this past summer while promoting his latest entry into the annual competition. "I must tell you that I won three festivals in Jamaica already, which is “Bam Bam,” “Sweet & Dandy” and “Pomp & Pride.” Toots described that first festival competition as a joyous occasion. "Everybody just want to hear a good song that their children can sing," he recalled. "Is like every artist could be a star."

In 2016, on the 50th anniversary of "Bam Bam" winning first place, Toots looked back over the legacy of the tune that made him a star. "I didn’t know what it means but it was a big deal," he told Boomshots. "You in the music business and you want to be on top and you write a good song and you go on this competition and if they like it then it becomes #1." After The Maytals won, the group was in demand not just all over the island, but all over the world. "We start fly out like a bird," he says with a laugh. "Fly over to London."

"Bam Bam" went on to inspire numerous cover versions, starting with Sister Nancy, Yellowman, and Pliers. It would also be sampled in numerous hip hop classics, and interpolated into Lauryn Hill's "Lost Ones." But according to Toots, he did not benefit financially from these endless cover versions. "People keep on singing it over and over and over, and they don’t even pay me a compliment," he told Boomshots. "I haven’t been collecting no money from that song all now."


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“This man don’t trouble no one... but if you trouble this man it will bring a Bam Bam” Original Maytals Classic @tootsmaytalsofficial 🎶 All them a talk, them nuh bad like Niya Fiya Ball ☄️🔥💥 via @tonyspreadlove . 💥💣🔫#Boomshots

A post shared by Word Sound & Power (@boomshots) on Sep 12, 2020 at 8:19am PDT

When Toots began singing in his parents' church, music was not seen as a career prospect, and the profits were slim for Jamaican recording artists in the 1960s. "Those days we get 14 cents for the record to play on the radio," Toots said. "I get three shillings and five shillings for a number one record, which I had 31 number one record in Jamaica... It’s not about money for me. It’s about the quality that Jamaicans need to go back in the festival jamboree... You gotta talk to the children."

On the poignant “54-46 (Was My Number),” Toots recalls the dehumanization of his arrest and 18-month imprisonment at Jamaica's Richmond Farm Correctional Center for what he always insisted was a trumped-up ganja charge just as his music career was taking off. The song's crescendo comes two minutes in when Toots breaks into a scat solo that cannot be translated into any language known to man, delivered with palpable passion that made his message universal. During Toots' ecstatic stage performances he would follow this riff by commanding his band to “Give it to me... one time!” Then the 'd make 'em say Uh!  (Way before Master P!) “Give it to me... two times!” Uh! Uh! And so on and so forth until Toots worked the place into a frenzy.

The Maytals' live show was so explosive that Toots began touring all over the world, opening for rock megastars like The Rolling Stones and The Who. While Bob Marley richly deserved the title King of Reggae, his friend Toots was performing internationally before The Wailers, and remained a force to be reckoned with throughout his life, blazing a trail for generations of reggae artists to follow in his footsteps.

On his Grammy-winning 2004 album True Love, Toots recorded some of his greatest hits with a host of legendary artists, many of whom were also good friends, including Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and Eric Clapton. His 2006 cover of Radiohead's "Let Down" was a favorite of the band's, who used to play it on their tour bus. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood called Toots’ version “truly astounding,” according to Easy Star Records Michael Goldwasser.

Toots supported himself and his family by touring all over the world. During a 2013 show in Richmond, Virginia he was singing John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" when a teenager in the crowd threw a vodka bottle at the stage and hit him on the head. He suffered a concussion and had to stop touring for several years. As his first album in a decade, Got To Be Tough was highly anticipated when it was released on Trojan Jamaica label August 28. On the cover the former boxer and lifelong fighter can be seen throwing a punch. Just a day after the album dropped, Toots came down with symptoms similar to COVID 19. Within a few days he was hospitalized where doctors placed him into a medically induced coma from which he never recovered. As his Tidal obituary pointed out, he passed away exactly 33 years after his old friend Peter Tosh died by gunfire.

Songs like "Just Brutal" from the hit different now, with Toots pleading for more love in a world gone wrong. "We were brought here," Toots sings. "Sold out. Victimized brutally. Every time I keep remembering what my grandfather said before he died."

“I’m feeling alright,” Toots said the last time we spoke, while he was still sidelined with stress issues due to the bottle-throwing incident. "I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling just cool because is Jah works. You seet?" I asked him if the song "Bam Bam," was about him—a peaceful man who should not be provoked—or else. "Nooo don't trouble him," Toots said with a laugh. "It’s gonna be double trouble, triple trouble. A lot of trouble."

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Busta Rhymes & Trippie Redd Connect, Conway The Machine Transforms #fktg, Alyx Ander & Mya Link and staHHr Loves Black Men

Nostalgia is in heavy effect as young gun, Trippie Redd calls on veteran Viking, Busta Rhymes for the smooth tune, "I Got You." With the two rap rebels round-housing the track, you'll notice a familiar refrain in the hook that Redd sings, it comes from Busta Rhymes' 2002 mega-hit "I Know What You Want," featuring the diva Mariah Carey.  “I like making timeless music,” says Trippie. “You’ve got to think of a timeless concept—love, hate, anger, sadness—all that shit is timeless. And if you can make something without it just meaning one thing, people can feel it and turn it into their own. That’s what makes it timeless.” The video starts off with Busta asking Trippie for a favor, which turns into some cool scenes of the two in high school hallways belting bars about love. Great seeing the generations of hip-hop bridging the gap like this.

Speaking of Busta, he released some new music of his own recently. The Dragon has returned with an offering from his upcoming, long-awaited Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God album titled "The Don & The Boss," featuring  Jamaica's dancehall favorite Vybz Kartel.  Check the fire...

Those Griselda guys are a different breed. They just spit nothing but gritty bars that bang your street heart to bits. The latest to continue the crew's release onslaught is Conway the Machine with From King To a God. Of the three Griselda members (Benny The Butcher and Westside Gunn), Conway is the lyrical miracle one. He breaks down the emotions of a gangster, yet still keeps his manhood in check. Seeing him go from hot feature artist to valid verses on a theme against music that matches, is an honor as most street rappers rarely care what the sound bed is to their hard-knock life tales. Conway is different. He wants you to feel every bar on a spiritual level and now he gets the music to match in a myriad of ways due to his experimentation on this project. There are some uptempo tracks that showcase what an artist with Bell's Pasley can deliver, as well as some lighter tunes that we can bop too that the Conway of five years ago probably wouldn't have recorded. Matching wits with Wu-Tang's Method Man, a Def Loaf sighting and even linking with the producer of the year in Cali's Hit-Boy can all be found on Conway's best work to date.

Going to the other side of the spectrum, we have the release of well known Electric/House producer Alyx Ander, coming through with a single that's been in the works for almost two years! How do I know you ask? Well, I was involved in linking Alyx and 90's R&B star Mya, who is featured on the dance floor shaking track, "Without You." Alyx made sure the collaboration happen by staying in touch with Mya's camp and taking a trip to L.A. from his home base in Miami on a whim. That chance journey turned into an eight-hour studio run where over 25 different versions of the song were eventually made. We will be hearing various versions for some time to come...and they are all fire. Shout to Alyx for following through on the networking connection.

stahhr is an artist that's been working the music industry for some time now, and her time to shine is starting to breakthrough. I was sent this by IG dm and took in all the love she has for black men in the cuts, snares, lyrics, and visuals. Had to add her to this roll call. Check for more of her artistry on her YouTube channel.

The young king G Herbo continues to make his city of Chicago proud as he is stretching his reach musically and getting his generation. He's doing this by performing in new spaces like for the Grammys, alongside fellow Chi' native Chance The Rapper. Seeing these two brothers together is a wonderful vision...as more artists from hip-hop should link even if their sides of the coin are different. Get into this heart-stirring performance of Herbo's "PTSD" with a live band and Chance's assistance.

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