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Def Soul

Musiq Soulchild's 'Juslisen' And The Art Of Writing About Love

To mark the album's 15th anniversary, we revisit each track to follow Soulchild's musical journey in the language of love.

You can't just listen to Juslisen on a partly sunny day. The skies have to be as clear as Lupita Nyongo's skin and the sun has to show out in all its splendor like Saturday's NYC weather (May 6). The grooves of a hip-swaying bass to the endless melodic discoveries of a stage piano deserve to be listened to on that perfect day. However, in addition to the instrumentals stand the lyrics of unabashed love and passion.

To mark the 15th anniversary of that chart-topping soundscape, we revisit each track to follow Soulchild's musical journey through the language of love. So gather around and get in harmony below.

"Newness"
Soulchild begins his journey to the land where lovers lay by getting over those awkward phone conversations. Via his cellular device, he gets to know his potential lifelong partner through a set of questions from "what's your sign" to occupation to meeting the parents one day. "Everything is cool when love is all brand new/ 'Cause you're learning me and I'm learning you," he sings.

"Caughtup" feat. AAries
The utilization of a woman's voice plays a central role throughout this soundscape. AAries serves as that vocal figure on "Caughtup" where Soulchild seemingly rekindles an old flame that he plans to pursue once the formalities are out the way.

"Stoplayin"
The moment when you try to figure out the difference between "talking" and "dating" rears its head on this thumping track. Soulchild is ready to become exclusive, but he can't tell if his other half is on the same wavelength. This melody could've been the precursor to 2007's "B.U.D.D.Y." with all of the "maybes" that are littered throughout the track.

"Religious"
The Philly native pledges allegiance to his girl's love kingdom with the fervor of a church choir. From the knock of the church organ to the rattling of a tambourine, Soulchild stands before the congregation to testify on a love so profound that he had to shout hallelujah. With a clever double entendre, he belts out, "I wanna thank your father/ For making you on that day."

"Babygirl"
With croons that are reminiscent of Aaliyah, it's fitting that this song is titled "Babygirl." By the time we reach track No. 6, Musiq is ready to share his fountain of love that seems to overflow when he stares at his lover—so much so that it pushes him to the brink of insanity as heard down below.

"Halfcrazy"
The question of can you sleep with your friend and not catch feelings is explored on the replay-worthy "Halfcrazy." Soulchild caught feelings for a longtime confidant once they "crossed the line." Now, it looks like those days of just chilling and joking are far behind them.

"Time"
This melody follows the quintessential template of rhythm and blues: regret, love lost and a production that pulls at the heartstrings just as forceful as the lyrics. Soulchild reminisces on a past relationship and although it didn't work out, he doesn't regret the mistakes he made because it "enhanced" his character.

"Future"
The self-confidence continues on "Future." If you need a pick-me-up, hit play on this track and allow Soulchild to be your life coach in fulfilling those goals that are within your reach.

"Intermission: Juslisen"
This doesn't serve as a bathroom break in the middle of the 19-track project. The dance party is just getting started as Soulchild doesn't allow a former acquaintance to kill his vibe.

"Realove"
Soulchild puts on his specs and lab coat to diagnose an unidentified woman with the reasons why love seems to be a figment of her imagination. While he's laying out the causes, he's also showcasing why he's the antidote to her love drought.

"Onenight"
Channeling his inner Marvin Gaye, the time for intimacy is on Soulchild's mind, but his partner's mixed signals make it hard for him to decipher if he should set the mood or wait for the right moment. He chooses the latter and saves his future lover from having to admit that she's not ready to go to fourth base. "We can take our time girl/Lets get it right," he sings. "Make it last forever/Not just for one night."

"Previouscats"
The urge to compare your current beau to the beaus of the past can be an unavoidable ordeal. Penned by fellow R&B crooner Eric Roberson, Soulchild calls out the trust issues that have made a bed in his home and reassures his lover that he's not a carbon copy of the exes that preceded him. "See now I'm not to blame for the pain/ That was caused by previous cats/ Who had your heart before me." We see you for you too, Souldchild.

"Solong"
While out clearing his mind, Soulchild is approached by a woman who seeks to guide him to the world of temptation, but there's much at stake that could get tarnished if he gives in to his burning desires. He's strictly a one-woman-man as we wipe the sweat off our brow for what could've been a head-shaking moment.

"Bestfriend" feat. Carol Riddick
Welp, those sweat beads have returned. The lovers drift apart over meaningless arguments and tuning out each other's feelings. Carol Riddick's runs and advice serve as a source of therapy for Soulchild who returns to the drawing board to save his relationship.

"Dontchange"
This tune probably remains on the extensive list of first-dance wedding songs. One of music's most heartfelt melodies tells the tale of "through thick or thin" and the fact that as long as love's foundation remains firm, any dark day can easily turn into sunny skies.

"Motherfather"
Taking pride in the type of man that he is today, Soulchild recorded an ode to his parents where he reminisced on their life lessons and unwavering support. Let this tune serve as inspiration to call your parents right now, folks.

"Something"
There's an unknown quality about Soulchild's lover that he can't quite put a finger on. Is it her smile? Is it her style? Either way, it looks like Soulchild is here to stay while the guessing game plays on.

"Ifiwouldaknew (Girlnextdoor Remix)" feat. AAries
To close the album on a high note, Soulchild sampled DeBarge's "Stay With Me" (also used by Biggie Smalls and Ashanti) to admit his attraction to a childhood friend many years later. Time to shoot your shot? Soulchild thinks so.

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Alicia Keys is back with her full length album, Alicia and the wait has been too long for us in music land. After a four year hiatus, Keys returns and her lead off single with Khalid "So Done" has that AK soul that we love. This album seems to find Keys at her most free, as the pressures of making a hit album is behind her. The piano is her companion and compliments her so well, however, lyrics and the songwriting is what AK prides herself on most. Get with her today at 6pm with American Express as she will perform on Youtube here.

For those that still haven't gotten the memo, let me put it in caps...LA'S DOPE MC, PROBLEM IS A HIP-HOP GREAT! Now that we have that out the way, let's get on the line about how his Coffee & Kush Vol. 2 album is even more introspective and transparent than Vol. 1 which was released earlier this year. The song, "Keep Ya Head" is the perfect soul sonic detail for what we have gone through as a society. Letting the listener know to keep their head on in these trying times, while helping those around you that you care about. It's a step-by-step rule book on how to maintain and raise up others. Visually on point video and album packaging wise (big shout to VIBE contributor Laetitia Rumford on the cover art), Problem has us ready for the upcoming final project of the Coffee & Kush trilogy.

To rise through adversity is to prove to yourself that you are built for the game of life that is really no game at all. That's why when people enter industries that don't mesh with their ideals but the spirit compels them to continue...you have to salute them. So here we have a goddess of an MC in Tiye Phoenix, who earlier this year dropped the illustrious 9-track project, The Master's Program. A woman of many words wrapped in astro-heavy flows, she continues to shed light in the dark spaces of your mind with furious rhymes of deep thought and enlightened spirit. To have her still making music that hits with the power of righteous rebellion is a blessing for us all and it's evident on her latest offering, The Glow EP. From the inspiring opening words, TP proceeds to smash track after track with a strong vocal tone that could rival your hardest voiced male MC yet has a honey tone to make the lessons go down smooth. Peace Queen.

The amount of music that gets released these days is so overwhelming that the joy of listening to such quantity turns to anxiety in trying to catch it all...but what a wonderful problem to have. Like just before trying to write this weekly round up, I ran across an IG post by the Triple OG @ICET. He shared the musical genius of the sometimes shirtless, but usually silk robe rocking @marcrebillet. He's made a name for himself on social media by making up super groovy tunes as the DJ entertainment at restaurants and showcasing his beat building skills in his simple audio set up in his Brooklyn apartment. Get a load of the intensely dope space funk jam (I've had it on repeat for the last 30mins) "You And Me." With a co-sign from the Queen Badu herself, trust that he's one to watch folks.

 

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A post shared by Marc Rebillet (@marcrebillet) on Sep 18, 2020 at 7:05am PDT

 

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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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