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Jonathan Mannion

Shaggy Gets Real: The Legend Talks New Album, Life Lessons And The State Of Reggae

"Reggae is something that when you play it, you almost gotta feel it instead of just hearing it."

While he recently garnered his second Grammy Award for 44/876 (his joint album with Sting), Shaggy is ready to return to the music scene solo with his 12th album, Wah Gwaan?!. The aforementioned LP is the reggae superstar’s first unaccompanied project in six years, and–as he details to VIBE–it’s one of the most personal albums of his nearly 30-year career.

“I got to a space where I almost started to be a little insecure, because your age is up there, and people around you are like 'oh, you're not as cool anymore,'” the 50-year-old says of his upcoming project, which is slated to drop May 10. “You get to a point where a lot of it isn't really working, and you're saying 'maybe I should really just get back to me.' My label rep said something to me: ‘Why don't you try betting on yourself for a bit?' As simple as it might sound. I sat down, and I decided to write.”

The Jamaican-born and bred musician’s hit “Oh Carolina” made waves in 1993, and he’s kept the good vibrations going ever since. Shaggy has sold 40 million units to date and has won two Grammy Awards out of six nominations. His fifth studio-album Hot Shot catapulted to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in 2000. Two songs from the latter, “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel,” hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart. He’s also one of the top three streamed reggae artists on Spotify, with 710 million streams. Shaggy wanted his latest body of work to be a culmination of his professional and personal experiences.

“There was a lot that happened in my life, especially within the last year,” he explains. “A lot of relationships severed, a lot of sh*t that made me like, ‘What do I do from here? Do I sit down and talk about 'bangin' on the bathroom floor' again?’ A lot has changed since then, so that's what I wanted to do. I'm really, really happy with the outcome of [the album], I really, really like it.”

"I spread knowledge as much as I can. I surround myself with people that are smarter than me, because I wanna be a sponge. I say, 'if you're the smartest guy in the room, then you're in the wrong room.'”

Shaggy details that Wah Gwaan?! is “12 songs of eargasmic pleasure,” all of which invoke a different vibe for the listener. Those who are looking for feel-good riddims needn’t look further than the radio-friendly “You” featuring pop newcomer Alexander Stewart and the energetic “Money Up” with an assist from Noah Powa. The album also finds Shaggy at his most vulnerable with songs such as the honest and relatable “Live,” as well as “Praise,” the sonic equivalent of a happy-go-lucky day at the beach.

The LP features artists Nicky Jam, singer-songwriter Stacy Barthe and dancehall artist Shenseea. Shaggy notes that he focuses on collaborating with lesser-known artists in order to help cultivate their own budding careers.

“If you look at the patterns of what we've done over the years, like with ‘It Wasn't Me,’ that was with Rikrok. He was a writer that became an artist because he put in work on that song,” he says. “‘Angel’ was Rayvon, and even recently with ‘I Need Your Love,’ we had Mohombi and Faydee, [who] are not really big stars. I think that making good records boils down to chemistry... If you're just going for that hot guy, it might not connect. So it's a little riskier [with lesser-known artists], but in my experience, when you do catch one like that, they're massive. I go for the integrity of the song more so than the celebrity factor of it.”

Similarly, he worked with a “young,” “hungry” and seemingly-unknown Cardi B on the remix of his 2015 track “Boom Boom,” which was pulled due to issues between the parties involved.

“I'd rather pull the damn record than go through all of that sh*t. [Cardi] had something about her that was dope, and she sounded great on the track,” he recalls, noting that the “uncomfortable” moment is now water under the bridge. “I saw her a couple of times [afterwards], I just saw her at the Grammys again, so it was cool. She's amazing.”

While the ride to music superstardom has not been easy, “Mr. Boombastic” has persevered with his talent, vivacious personality, sense of humor and sticktuitive nature marvellously intact. He also maintains an admirable poise and discipline, which he credits to his four years as a Marine. In fact, he went AWOL weekly during the early years of his career, driving from Swoop Circle on North Carolina’s Parris Island to New York to make music. He notes that he recorded “Big Up” while wearing his military uniform during the ‘90s.

Shaggy’s personal history has ultimately shaped his growth, longevity and how he approaches the music industry. What lights a fire under the artist is the notion carried by some that he “can’t” be successful in an ever-changing industry that tends to find difficulties working with the unknown. The odds were against him, but he continued to use their doubts as a motivating factor.

“My friend [producer and writer] Dave ‘Rude Boy’ Kelly said 'why is it that you gotta go to rock bottom before you f**kin' start rising?' And I said, ‘rock bottom is when I see the true people around me,’” he says in reference to his early days as a musician, when reggae wasn’t as widely accepted as it is today. “I’m in a genre that is not popular. I am in a genre that is not taken seriously, and I'm trying to break through a barrier to become that.”

“I found myself in rooms with people that—because I have a strong Jamaican accent—they'd be on their devices,” he continues. “Especially my manager Robert, who had a very thick accent. But [at the time], they'd be in the room and they'd just be talking to each other [through pagers]. I knew this afterwards, because a lot of them got fired. They’d say things like 'yeah, you can put him back on the Banana Boat.’ These were things that were being said constantly.”

Despite the beliefs of music’s gatekeepers, Shaggy not only became a lauded musical act, but he continued to grow and learn from others. This theme is explored in Wah Gwaan’s “Wrong Room,” a standout from the LP, and one of his most raw songs. The retrospective track features the musician discussing lessons learned both in his youth and throughout adulthood. An accompanying choir paired with bass-heavy production helps the track soar to higher, more triumphant heights.

“Some people have sight, but I got vision,” he sings. “At times I move like a politician. I try my best to form coalitions…”

“One thing about life, there's never a moment that you're not learning,” he smiles. “You keep learning and you keep finding things. If I knew what I knew then, I'd be a different person now, definitely. I spread knowledge as much as I can. I surround myself with people that are smarter than me, because I wanna be a sponge. I say, 'if you're the smartest guy in the room, then you're in the wrong room.'”

He details that the song also pertains to the relationship he has with his mother. Although she is alive, he does not speak to her, and has “no desire to.” Despite their issues, however, Shaggy thanks her for providing him with the intellect to make it this far in life and in his career.

“I was never born with a golden spoon, and I never really liked going to school,” he says in “Wrong Room,” “but you should know mama never raised no fool.”

“Everybody's born different, everybody's mind is different, everybody deals with things different, and some people, it might not work well with them,” he says of his issues with his mother. While he isn’t explicit with his details, the only child hints that he was subjected to physical and emotional abuse growing up. However, he also attests her behavior to her stern Jamaican ways. “Some people are strong enough to go through that, and be like 'Hey, I've overcome it.’ I don't have a great relationship with my father, either. I take care of both of them, but I just don't see where they fit into my life…”

“...I might not be educated because my parents never had money to send me to college to get a higher education, but mama didn't raise no fool,” he continues. “I never take that for granted, I have gratitude, I'm full of gratitude, I live life with gratitude. It is my duty to go back to all the people that [are] my family...to make sure they're okay. In the same, what I had to learn, also, was how to put me first. [“Wrong Room”] is very personal to me in that sense.”

Shaggy’s longevity is no surprise, especially considering the influx of reggae and dancehall-tinged pop ditties that have dropped in recent years. Mainstream acts such as Justin Bieber, Drake and Ed Sheeran have implemented island-flavored sounds in their tunes to great success, and Caribbean music continues to pull in new admirers and audiences. However, he wishes that the initial cheerful intentions of dancehall were still as prevalent as they once were.

“When I look at most of the songs that are out now from some of the younger crop, when I'm in the dancehall or the club, nobody dances,” Shaggy says of what’s missing from the genre in 2019. “There was another level of dancehall in my early, early days, like when Super Cat did ‘Ghetto Red Hot.’ They were very much still dancehall. The flow was a little different, but people danced to it. Then, when Elephant Man and [those] guys came in, they sang songs about dancing. It's a fun time. When you see them in Jamaica and those songs come on, and people are doing these dances, to me, it's colorful. That's what dancehall is.”

Shaggy says that for a period of time, dancehall carried darker themes and featured lyrics about violence, losing the “festive” essence of what many loved about the genre. However, he praises current reggae artists such as Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid and Koffee, for their “smooth” tunes reminiscent of artists who came before them. Other than the music that he’s planning on hitting listeners with on Wah Gwaan?!, he says that reggae music today is in good hands.

“I think what makes a good reggae record is soul, you have to have that soulful feel in it, because reggae is something that when you play it, you almost gotta feel it instead of just hearing it,” the legend explains with a smile. “If you don't know how to make it, you just feel it.”

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Music Sermon: The One Minute Hit - When TV Theme Songs Were Lit

The idea of sitting around the TV for appointment television is an archaic concept. Multiple devices with screens for everyone in your home plus the control of streaming has changed how we consume nearly everything except sports, award shows, and Game of Thrones (until tonight). But the children of the 80s very much remember when TV watching was still an event, cable was basic, and the networks reigned supreme. Back in that era of genuine primetime programming, our favorite TV shows came paired with 30-second to one-minute themes. But not just a random little ditty to open the show; these were genuine mini-songs. Verses, chorus, hook, and maybe even a reprise for the end credits.

Now, a drive for more advertising inventory coupled with shorter attention spans has rendered the true theme song a rarity; but in the cases where they do still exist, the songs continue to be a key part of experiencing the show (again, like Thrones). The theme song draws you into the world of the show, it sets the tone, and it stays with you after. And the theme song game wasn’t a space like the commercial jingle game where only folks in the game know who the players are. The theme show business has its own OGs, but there are also names we know well - acclaimed producers, artists and musicians who helped create TV music magic. As such, there’s also a lot of hidden music history and connections behind some of these joints. I have watched an inordinate amount of television consistently throughout my life - you will pry my cable cord out of my cold, dead hands - and I consider myself an expert on the TV theme song. I offer you my list of some of the most soulful, slappin’ and impactful examples of the majesty of TV theme songs from yesteryear.

Sanford & Son

There is literally no music space Quincy Jones hasn’t conquered, including television. Q was in movie scoring land when Norman Lear’s partner Bud Yorkin came to him about composing a theme for their new show, Sanford and Son. “He said, 'I'd like you to write the theme for it.' I said, 'Who's in it?' And he said Redd Foxx,” Quincy told Billboard. “I said, 'Man, you can't put Redd Foxx on national TV!” I had worked with Redd Foxx 30 years before that at the Apollo. We used to do the Chitlin Circuit. I used to write this music for him to come out with.”

Q composed “The Street Beater” without even watching the Sanford and Son pilot. “I wrote that in about 20 minutes,” he said in an interview about his work in television. “I just wrote what he looked like. It sounds just like him, doesn’t it?” The funky, rag tag, backwoods bluesy song was the perfect musical accompaniment for Fred’s surveying his junkyard as Lamont’s truck rolled up, “It was raggedy, just like Foxx.”

Good Times

Norman Lear was the goat of working-class American storytelling on screen, but his shows also had some of the most iconic theme songs – “Those Were the Days” for Archie Bunker, “One Day at a Time” has great lyrics if you pay attention, he even had Donny Hathaway singing about pre-Golden Girls Bea Arthor for Maude. TV producers often used the same writing and production teams for their shows' themes, and Lear often tapped the husband and wife team of Alan and Marylin Bergman, who got their break co-writing with Quincy on “In the Heat of the Night.”

But as I said before, don’t let the TV theme song credits fool you, the Bergmans are two-time Academy Awards winners and in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. That’s the kind of talent behind Good Times.

The Good Times theme is a negro spiritual (there’s a Hammond B3 organ in it; issa spiritual), and singers Jim Gilstrap, from Stevie Wonder’s backing group, Wonderlove; and Somara “Blinky” Williams, a former original member of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Singers along with Andrae Crouch and famed session player Billy Preston, put some extra oil on it.

You don’t believe me when I say this is worship music? Watch this.

I really wanna know what the Bergmans knew about hanging in a chow line, though. I’m not even sure I knew that was the lyric before Dave Chappelle told us.

The Jeffersons

Before we move on from Lear sitcoms we have to pay respect to the best black TV theme song of all time. And before you argue with me, let’s please look at the stats: a 35-person choir, stomping and clapping - even double clapping! - mention of fish fry, and a reprise over the end credits with hummin’ like your big mama used to do while she was cookin’ on Sundays. Winner.

Even though it’s one of the best-known sitcom theme songs ever, what’s lesser known is that another Lear alum was behind it – Ja’net Dubois, aka Good Times’ Wilona Woods, co-wrote and sang the theme. Also, the male voice that joins her in the bridge isn’t Sherman Hemsley (although it really sounds like it could be him) but career backup singer Oren Waters.

Ja’net, who was a singer as well as actress, ran into Lear on the CBS lot one day and shared that she wanted to display her talent beyond acting. Lear partnered her with Jeff Barry to work on the aspirational Jefferson’s theme. Jeff had pop hits under his belt as part of producer Phil Spector’s stable; he wrote “River Deep - Mountain High.” He also wrote “One Day at a Time,” and later “Without Us,” Deniece Williams and Johnny Mathis’ yacht-rocky theme for Family Ties.

Dubois later told Jet magazine she pulled from her own experience once she’d “made it” with Good Times. “I moved my whole family. I bought (my mother) a house, bought her a mink coat. I did everything, retired her. I did everything I ever promised her.” And you can feel Ja’net’s testimony coming through as that moving van makes its way across the Queensboro bridge and up the East Side.

Amen

Sherman Hemsley had the good fortune of being associated with two entries in the Praise Songs of TV (I just made that up) category. Amen’s “Shine on Me” is not only a rousing bop, it’s a forreal and actual gospel song. The theme was written, produced and played by the father of modern gospel, Andraé Crouch, and sung by gospel legend Vanessa Bell Armstrong. Sister Vanessa was backed in the TV version by the choir from Crouch’s First Memorial COGIC church. She later did her own version, but it didn’t have quite the same oomph when slowed down a little and without the full voices of a choir behind her.

Sigh… Imagine a time when a sitcom about a deacon in the black church with a whole gospel theme song was a primetime network hit. Also shout out to “There’s No Place Like Home” from 227, which preceded Amen on Saturday nights.

The Cosby Show

We’re going to set everything about Bill Cosby the man aside for a minute to talk about the show and its music. Agreed? Amen.

The Cosby Show has to be in this conversation, because over the course of the show’s history, the theme song and opening sequence became a hallmark of the series’ greatness, and it’s a prime example of theme songs being deeper than just something to play over opening credits. Every season, a new adaptation of “Kiss Me,” the theme written by Cosby and Stu Gardner (who also co-wrote the themes for A Different World and Living Single), opened the show. The opening sequence featured a Huxtable family dance showcase, changing as the kids grew and the cast core cast added, and sometimes subtracted. We were as anxious for the Cosby season premiere to see the new intro as we were to see the show itself.

Season 3 is when it started getting crunk, with a little Latin action. Auntie Phylicia was gettin’ it.

In Season 4 (my least favorite), “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” mania had made its way to the Huxtable family with Bobby McPheren’s rendition and a bit of a roaring ‘20s (and for the sake of the show location, we’ll say Harlem Renaissance) feel. Elvin’s first year in the sequence, Denise’s first year out.

Season 5 was a production. Literally, it was staged like a Broadway production. By now, the show was known for exposing diasporic art and culture and the people behind it to the world whenever possible, and that was the intention here as well, on the low.

The set design was a little South Pacific-esque, and costumes had a Caribbean flair reminiscent of some Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater pieces - appropriate since the movement was choreographed by Ailey great (and Boomerang’s off the chain creative director) Geoffrey Holder. Cosby’s high school classmate James DePriest, one of the first internationally recognized African American orchestral conductors, arranged the music, played by the Oregon Symphony orchestra. It was sweeping and gorgeous and I remember it being kind of a big deal. Second season with no Denise in the credits. I think she had left Hillman and gone Africa by this point. Or something.

Season 6 is my favorite. It was a party. The entire family was getting it in to a jam session take on the theme remixed with Junior Walker and the All Stars’ “Shotgun.” Even though the opening was set in front of the Apollo marquee, this was the Motown sequence. “Shotgun,” was a massive crossover hit, produced by Berry Gordy, and featured Motown’s famed session players, the Funk Brothers on instrumentals.

Welcome back, Denise. And hi, Martin and Olivia. Theo and Vanessa were hitting. that. heaux.

Ok, actually, Season 8 is my least favorite. Least favorite season, theme song, opening sequence, all of it. Here, I think, it’s clear that the show was past its prime. This jazzmatazz intro didn’t feel super fresh or creative, and Theo was trying to hit b-boy moves, and cousin Pam clearly wasn’t comfortable, and Vanessa looked like she just got engaged to a 40-year old ninja named Dabnis, and Clair still had her coat on because she couldn’t be bothered.

But on the cultural side, it was still in theme. The mural was created by kids at Harlem’s Creative Arts Workshop, although a legal dispute over art clearances kept this visual from being used as originally intended in Season 7. On the horn is Lester Bowie, a trumpeter known for his free jazz style.

A Different World

Obviously, we were paying a visit to Hillman next. “A Different World” is one of the best theme songs of all time – for Seasons 2 through 5 (also one of the best shows of all time – for Seasons 2 through 5).

Dawn Lewis, aka Jaleesa, co-wrote the song with Stu Gardner. She was originally supposed to sing it, as well, until whoever hired her to write the song realized she was also in the cast, and whoever cast her as Jaleesa realized she also wrote the song. The collective powers that be thought Dawn singing the theme would center her too much when the show was about Lisa Bonet, so they went to Al Green. Yes, the Reverend Al Green. A version of the “Different World” theme song sung by Al Green exists out there in the world somewhere, and I now have a life mission to hear it. Producers didn’t like it, though. They decided to go with a female voice, and pegged folk and blues singer Phoebe Snow.

As the show went into its second season, producers decided to take a similar approach as The Cosby Show and flip the theme every season with different artists and styles. Then Aretha Franklin recorded her version, and that idea was dead, because why would you ever ask someone else to sing behind Aretha. Debbie Allen, who had just stepped in as the show’s executive producer (Aunt Debbie brought A Different World out of the middling fare of its first season to the strong, black and relevant show we remember it as, but that’s a different Sermon) called Auntie Re personally, and then brought her whole team from Detroit to LA on a bus (because Auntie Re wasn’t gonna fly, chile). Then, TV history was made.

“I just know that she came in and hit it,” Allen told Vulture. “It wasn’t like she had to do ten takes, that’s what I know. She just hit it. That’s what I remember and then we all kind of hung out and had food together, you know — she loved our show which is why she did it.”

I’m low key surprised Aretha agreed to do the song since her ex-husband, Glynn Turman, joined the cast in Season 2 and she’s petty like that, but she also watched a lot of television and was a fan. When most think of A Different World, they’re thinking of seasons two and beyond. That iconic montage we’ve see recreated in tribute again and again, from SportsCenter to Grown’ish Season 2 promos. Nobody references car washes and hanging out outside of….a barn, I think? Where they at a farm for the Season 1 opening sequence? (You can tell some white people put that together – no shots).

Finally, the last season of A Different World was sort of “Different World: The Next Generation,” so they went in a new direction for the theme with a very non-Boyz II Men sounding Boyz II Men (I thought it was Take 6 for the longest), but Seasons 2 through 5 still reign supreme.

Different Strokes

On to a different show about different worlds. Remember I mentioned OGs in the theme song game? One of them was Alan Thicke. Yes, Robin Thicke’s daddy was not only lovable TV dad Jason Seaver, but also a professional theme writer. Thicke penned the tracks for a couple of sitcoms, including Facts of Life (with Robin’s mama Gloria Loring on vocals), but his thing was game shows. Your grandma has Alan to thank for the “Wheel of Fortune” theme. He not only wrote but sang “Diff’rent Strokes” (sounding a little like his son), and I mean, the song is perfect. The opening, the harmony build in the second verse, the bridge, the breakdown “…and together we’ll be fine, ‘cause it takes…,” the hum at the end of the closing credits version. You can tell from this one-minute jamalam that Robin got his blue-eyed soul honestly.

Speaking of the Chappelle Show again (there’s a Chappelle reference for everything in life), Dave closes out his famous White People Can’t Dance episode (Season 2, Episode 3) with a spirited performance of “Diff’rent Strokes,” going into a “Facts of Life” vamp, backed by Questlove and John Mayer.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Living Single

I’m putting these two together because they’re two of the last examples of the explanatory theme song for black prime time television.

The Quincy Jones-produced Fresh Prince theme tells us Will’s entire back story and the premise of the show – a ‘90s hip-hop answer to the Gilligan’s Island theme.

Living Single’s theme conveyed the high energy city life the four upwardly mobile friends were navigating, with emphasis from Queen Latifah’s sing-rapping about her homegirls standing on her left and her right, and the legendary dancing silhouette that is Big Lez.

Both shows, songs, and visuals have become representative of the hip hop generation’s takeover of ‘90s black television and ‘90s black culture, and both continue to hold up amazing well 25 years later.

We haven’t even touched on the soulful ‘70s themes that became hit singles, like “Welcome Back Kotter” (my joint) or “Angela” from Taxi, or sketch show theme songs like Heavy D for In Living Color (or TLC for “All That,” for y’all younger folks), or the cartoon smashes. There are gems galore to be mined, all containing shining bits of nostalgia and callbacks to a simpler time. These songs often resonate with us even more strongly than our favorite singles from the era because they were a constant for years instead of months. And thanks to networks later devoting blocks of time to classic TV reruns like Nick at Night and TV Land, many of these shows – and theme songs – have been introduced to a new generation.

We’ve focused mostly on black TV shows, but there are a few theme songs that cross cultural, generational and international boundaries. When the Golden Girls premiered in 1985, the series featured a remake of the 1978 song “Thank You for Being a Friend,” and it has lived in all our hearts ever since. So much so, that a member of the black church delegation gave the song a proper remix a couple of years ago. Let this be a reminder that great TV theme songs were not only catchy songs that stuck in our heads for decades, but also impetrated universal lessons about life, love, and friendship.

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#MusicSermon is a weekly series by Naima Cochrane that highlights the under-acknowledged and under-appreciated urban artists and sub-genres from the '90s and earlier. The series seeks to tell unknown and/or forgotten stories that connect the dots between current music, culture and the foundations of the past.

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8 Best Samples From Megan Thee Stallion, Tyler The Creator And DJ Khaled's Projects

Megan Thee Stallion, DJ Khaled and Tyler, The Creator have more in common than just a release date. The artists also know a thing or two about thoughtful sampling.

Their projects, which all happen to be some of their best efforts, find inspiration from 70s soul and deep 90s underground jams. Jackson 5, Jay-Z and Sizzla were sampled on DJ Khaled's previous release Grateful, but with Father of Asahd, the producer and proud dad jumps back into the crates. This time around, modern hits are used like Ms. Lauryn Hill's "To Zion" and Outkast's "Ms. Jackson."

Megan Thee Stallion's samples also prove her rhymes aren't the only thing fans should pay close attention to.

Check out some of our favorite samples from this week's releases below.

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Megan Thee Stallion- Fever 

1. "Hood Rat S**t"

Sample: Latarian Milton's Viral Video (2013)

Plucked from the wonderful world of viral videos, Megan uses the then 7-year-old's mischevious joy ride to accurately describe how she rolls with her crew.

2. "Pimpin"

Sample: DJ Zirk & Tha 2 Thick Family featuring 8Ball & MJG and Kilo-g  "Azz Out" (1996) 

There's something to be said about Megan's very clever samples. The chorus to the late 90s underground gem stems from southern legends like Tennesee's 8Ball and MJG along with NOLA's own Kilo-g. Megan grabs a few bars from the track and puts her own twist on them for the chorus: "Stick 'em up, stick 'em up, raise 'em up, raise 'em up Drop it off in his fucking face just to saw it off/Gotta get my a** ate, gotta make that a** shake/Gotta swipe this ni**a card so much they had to call the bank"

3. "Simon Says" featuring Juicy J 

Samples: Billy Paul, "Me And Mrs. Jones" (1972), "Looking For Tha Chewin,'" DJ Paul (Ft. 8Ball, DJ Zirk, Kilo-G, Kingpin Skinny Pimp & MJG) (1992)

Another variation of the aforementioned track is also heard on her collaboration with southern legend Juicy J. The soft intro by way of Bill Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" also offers a soulful touch to the track.

DJ Khaled- Father of Asahd

4. "Holy Mountian" featuring Buju Banton, Sizzla, Mavado and 070 Shake) 

Sample: "One Spliff a Day," Billy Boyo (1981) 

Boyo's legendary riddim has been used by a bevy of artists including SiR and Wiz Khalifa but Khaled's curation of the track with some of the biggest names in reggae takes it to another level. It also doesn't hurt that his longtime friend and icon Banton opens the album.

5. "Just Us" featuring SZA 

Sample: "Ms. Jackson," Outkast (2001) 

This sample definitely raises the eyebrows, but the careful loop paired with SZA's sing-rap flow makes it worth a listen.

6. "Holy Ground" featuring Buju Banton 

Samples: "To Zion," Ms. Lauryn Hill and Carlos Santana (1999) 

Grand opening, grand closing. Banton closes out the album with soul-baring lyrics and a thoughtful sample to match. Carlos Santana's chords from the original track give the song a sentimental feel along with Banton's lyrics about mass incarceration, cultural warfare and spiritual freedom.

Tyler, The Creator- IGOR

7. "A BOY IS A GUN" 

Samples: "Bound," Ponderosa Twins Plus One (1971) 

Tyler might have gotten inspiration to sample this song from Kanye West (Bound 2), but his take is smooth and subtle as he navigates through love and heartbreak.

8. "ARE WE STILL FRIENDS" featuring Pharell Williams 

Samples: "Dream," Al Green (1977) 

Underneath IGOR's tough exterior lies a gentle soul. The placement of Al Green's "Dream," on the latter end of the album takes the listener on a starry love high. Pharrell and Tyler allow the sample to act as a skeleton for the song as they point out how to keep love alive.

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John Johnson III

Megan Thee Stallion Helps DTLR Celebrate Fashion's Past, Present and Future

Fashion retailer DTLR has always curated the best of streetwear, with their latest fashion show proving the evolution is real and influential.

The fourth annual show took place in Atlanta this spring under a theme titled, "Genesis."  The event took place in Atlanta, GA, with hosts Yung Joc and DTLR's Radio's Tiara LaNiece. DTLR's Apprelle Norton, David Storey and KeJuan McGee curated the event to take their guests "on a journey through the past, present and future of fashion, featuring the latest from top leading brands such as Nike, Puma, Adidas, Levis, Champion, Reebok, Fila, Black Pyramid, New Balance, Tommy Hilfiger, Staple, Hustle Gang, Akoo, Ethika, Odd Sox, and many more."

In addition to presenting some of the hottest looks out, the event also welcomed performances from VIBE NEXT Alumna Megan Thee Stallion. Appearances from the the "Big Ol Freak" rapper was an added effort on DTLR's Vice President of Marketing, Shawn Caesar's part to make the fashion show more of an "experience."

"We wanted to add more of an 'experience' feel to the show this year," Caesar said in a press release. "[We wanted]  to encourage more engagement and interaction from our attendees, and to aid in creating more memories and reasons to stay connected to the DTLR brand long-term."

DTLR is quickly becoming a part of a class of successful upcoming brands. The brand has more than 240 stores in 19 states and Washington D.C. and it manages to combine fashion, sports, entertainment, sports, and community empowerment into one; all while providing their customers with elite footwear, apparel and accessories to match.

See photos from the event below.

 

 

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