Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne performs onstage during the EA Sports Bowl at Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest on January 30, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Kevin Winter

New Music Friday: Lil Wayne, Yo Gotti, K'Michelle And More

Lil Wayne gets back in the booth, Yo Gotti reaches number 10, and Luke James returns with his first project in six years.

This week sees rap legend Lil Wayne returning with a new album, along with a Memphis rap staple delivering a career landmark, and new releases by three of R&B's best voices. Read below for five albums from this week that you need to listen to.

Lil Wayne – Funeral
Lil Wayne will always be one of rap's greats, and after unloading the previously shelved Tha Carter V in 2018, he's now released a new collection of brand new music: Funeral. Weezy's new LP is 24 tracks and features guest appearances like Big Sean, Jay Rock, Lil Baby, and The-Dream, with production by his early Cash Money brethren Mannie Fresh and Cool And Dre, among others. It should be interesting to see what Wayne has to say after several years of tumultuous legal battles with his mentor Bryan "Birdman" Williams. But in a 2019 interview with VIBE, he sounded excited about what he was creating. "[Before] it was just me going to the studio and saying, let me kill ten more songs and then I’m going to go home or do whatever I was doing. Now, it’s let me see what I come up with," Wayne said. "Self-discovery, rebirth – call it whatever you want to call it but it feels awesome, I swear to God.” Apple Music | TIDAL

Yo Gotti – Untrapped
Memphis rap pillar Yo Gotti has been consistently releasing mixtapes and albums for more than 20 years, but this week marks a special occasion: his 10th studio LP, Untrapped. At a listening session for the album this week, Gotti said that the title was inspired by his personal dealings at the time: that when he began the album he was stressed and felt trapped, but that he felt freed by the time he completed it. The final album has Yo Gotti teaming up with the likes of Rick Ross, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Megan Thee Stallion, Rick Ross, Ty Dolla $ign, and many others. Apple Music | TIDAL

K. Michelle – All Monsters Are Human
Whether it's on one of her previous three #1 Billboard R&B albums or her role on Love & Hip Hop, K. Michelle always has something to say – and we expect that to continue on her fifth studio album, All Monsters Are Humans. Aside from the single "Supahood" with Kash Doll and the City Girls, this album sees K'Michelle going solo, so she'll likely bare all. Apple Music | TIDAL

Luke James – To Feel Love/D
Luke James became one of the most promising names in R&B since his debut album in 2018, and he's been a VIBE staple ever since. This week, after taking time to focus on acting in projects like BET's The New Edition Story and Lee Daniels' drama Star, James has finally released his second project, To Feel Love/D. According to Respect-Mag, James says the album “[is] a body of music intended to spark a feeling of love or feeling loved.” The taut, 32-minute project brings sensual vibes and cameos by Big K.R.I.T., BJ The Chicago Kid, Ro James, and Samoht. Apple Music | TIDAL

Kevin Ross – Audacity, Vol. 1
I may be running late, but I discovered Washington, D.C. R&B singer Kevin Ross after hearing "Thing Called Love" as one of Rory's "Sleepers" on the Joe Budden Podcast; the beautiful single was one of my favorite R&B songs of 2019. Turns out that Ross has written for the likes of Trey Songz, Nicki Minaj, Jamie Foxx, and Toni Braxton, and he flexes that pen and his expansive vocals on Audacity, Vol. 1, his first indie project after several EPs and one album through Motwon Records since 2014. Apple Music | TIDAL

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Mario Wants Us To Learn Our History And "Rewrite It"

The power of music cannot be denied. From Gil Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" to Kendrick Lamar's "Alright," a soul-stirring melody can galvanize the masses and uplift the spirits of those fighting against societal wrongs like racial injustice. That same energy can be channeled and molded into a soulful number with an impact just as powerful. Enter Mario's smooth single, "Rewrite It."

After the bassline sets the song's tempo and the lyric: "Got in a system that we 'bout to get out," starts the first verse, you soon realize it's a declaration—a melodic proclamation, encouraging our Black brothers and sisters to "uncover your eyes," stand up together, and really see the power we have as a historically oppressed people. "Rewriting the hold damn history/ Rewriting the things that were taught to me," he echoes over the pulsating chorus. "You see the whole damn world/ It's time for us to rewrite it...Rewrite it, yeah, rewrite it."

With movements like Black Lives Matter, it's a stance many have expressed and can agree with. Peaceful protests and calls for change continue to happen around the world, and the Baltimore native has been using this time to not only further educate himself but to also do his part in the form of song. "I just wanted to use my voice and spread a powerful message," he explains during VIBE's Instagram Live Q&A. "I feel like for us, it's another wake-up call. When I say us, I mean melanated people, whether you're in the industry or not in the industry."

The unjust killings of unarmed Black women and men like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have truly caused a chain reaction of eye-opening conversations, learnings, and revelations by Black and non-Black people alike. If you were to ask Mario what the phrase "Black lives matter" means to him, he'd simply say, "It's a call to action to study, to understand, to fight for what you believe in."

He continues candidly, "It's a call to action for us to unite more and do more things that will directly affect our communities. It's a call to action for all of those people that are out there of many different races, fighting for the cause, to show them what our unity can do. It's time for us to really be the change that we want to see."

R&B Spotlight's Cory Taylor sat with Mario to catch up with the multi-faceted creative about today's climate around social justice, where he thinks the solution for change lies, and his upcoming Closer to Mars EP. Watch the full interview below.

On how he's been during this pandemic and days of quarantine:

I've been doing nothing too different from what my normal daily life was like, meditating, definitely was doing a lot more yoga since I was home a lot. And just being healthy, man. I've always been health-conscious, but I just took it another step of studying more and reading a lot more. Just being kind to myself a lot more. Kind of stay and keep my anxiety at a low, because it's just so much crazy energy out there right now. I think a lot of us are reacting right now, we're reacting to what's going on, but I think we also got to be proactive moving forward.

On coming up with the TikTok challenge for his single "Closer":

I was bored in my backyard and one of my dancers came over. I'm like, "Dude, do this little routine to this record I just put out." Then we just put it out as a TikTok challenge. People started doing it, then it started going crazy. We just had fun with it.

On the civil unrest around the killings of our Black brothers and sisters:

There are so many different levels of things that we need to fix. We need to focus on, of course, okay, defund the police. We need to focus on getting convictions, continue to get that. That needs to be our main focus, because at the end of the day. We need immediate convictions. We don't need to be waiting three, four months. We don't need to be.

On the other side of things, we've collectively got to start studying more. We've got to start saving our money. We've got to start building our own businesses, which there's a lot of melanated-owned businesses out there. And we need to just start studying and reading more, and really understanding laws, and understanding what it is that we need.

One of the things that I'm passionate about, and that I want to start seeing more and speaking out more on is critical mass. When you have certain states that are majority melanated people, but then you have a lot of white people in office that are making the choices. We need to be making choices when we're the majority because we know what we need.

On career goals outside of music:

I can't wait until people really get a chance to really know me outside of what they know, because I create across the board—I'm a writer, I'm an actor, I'm a singer, I'm a performer, but I'm just a creative. And it's something that I've really been investing in, my time, so I'm looking forward to sharing this. Y'all going to see movies one day, whether it be Netflix or other platforms that make sense for it. And when y'all see the credits, and y'all see that I'm behind it, you're going to be like, "What?! We had no idea this guy was..." (Smiles) You know what I'm saying? So I'm really excited about that because it's just going to show that we can do anything.

On working on the set of Empire:

It was inspirational to see that a show could last six seasons and still be in the millions, the audience. As a creator, that's a creative's wish. You're working with Terrence, working with Taraji. The fact that we can have that level of success in film. You have multiple, different cultures and people coming throughout the show. It has so many different people. If you look at the cast list over the six years, what it did, it just lets you know how powerful art is, how powerful creativity is. I loved working with Terrence. I learned a lot from him as an actor. Taraji, shout out to the DMV. She's doing some really powerful things in the mental health space.

On his upcoming endeavors as the country is in quarantine:

Mariovip.com is the site I just started, and so I'm going to be doing virtual tours. I've got new merch that I'm putting out called "The Big Payback," that's about to be lit. I'm giving back to a lot of communities and melanated-owned businesses, and just inspiring personal economic growth. But yeah, man, we about to be back out here.

 

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The Musical 'Exodus' Of Brian McKnight

With every grand entry, there usually comes a grand closing. In the case of R&B veteran Brian McKnight, it's no surprise that he has decided to end his 20-album run of compilations with his latest studio album, Exodus. Although McKnight doesn't consider this the end of his musical career, the singer-songwriter has decided to use this time to redirect his energy and time to truly living life and pursuing other endeavors.

"It's not really retirement. It's that I think that I've said everything I need to say as far as original music is concerned," he says in an on-camera interview with VIBE. "And it's funny because I have friends of mine that are calling like, so you're not writing for yourself and well, can I have those songs that you're going to write that you're not going to use?

"I'm like, sure. So that's another way to go, writing songs for other people. I just, there's so many other things that I want to do. I want to wake up every day and my wife and I just do whatever makes us happy."

With his single Earl Cohen-produced "Nobody" and 12 other signature, love tunes on the tracklist, Exodus serves as a solid body of work. The inspiration behind is last album of original work? The love of his life—his wife, Leilani—who he randomly crossed paths with at an event he was attending.

"I think the thing that people need to realize is that when you meet someone and all you want to do is give of yourself to them, then it's no longer about you."

Watch our full interview with McKnight where he talks about his new album, how he's been managing the new normal, quarantine life, why he's been able to stand the test of time and that thing called love.

On his own experience with police as a Black man:

I remember what it was like in the seventies. I remember what it was like in the eighties, in the nineties. I can remember getting pulled over. I mean, as recently as August being pulled over in my own neighborhood, driving an expensive car that a police officer pulled us over, just to see if I was the person that was supposed to be driving that car. Now, it didn't go past that because he realized who I was. But my wife not being black and now learning that she is black now that she's with me. It was something that was foreign to her. And I had to explain to her that this is what it's like to be a black man. And it's sad that that's what we have to grow up with. But at the same time, I think that now we're seeing that because of social media. I remember when Rodney King happened, It was pretty much on the news. It was the news. But now the whole world, because of social media, can see that things aren't as good as we thought they were.

On whether he ever finds himself worried about his sons getting pulled over by police:

I think that what we have to do as parents is also to educate those that although something may not be fair, although something may not be the exact way you want it to be that, it's hard to say this and I don't want to get any flack for it, but sometimes it's better. And this isn't anything to just turn the other cheek and do what you got to do and stay alive at the same time.

On his cover of a song by Sting:

I did a cover for the first time in a long time. I very rarely talk about how much Sting has influenced me and I wanted to do something to show him the homage that I haven't shown him. And I covered his song "Fragile" because I think that song really speaks to what I'm trying to talk about as far as how we treat one another. That it's fragile, what we have here. And let's not take it to the point of breaking. We can bend, we have bent, we've been bending, but let's turn that thing around. And get back straight again.

On how his love for his wife inspired his album:

Since I met my wife, she has been the subject of every song I've written. And the funny thing about that is I'd never written anything about anyone. I'd never cared about anyone. I didn't know love on any level till I met the love of my life when I was 42 years old. And I never believed in it. I know I wrote about it extensively. I know that I was the love man from Borneo when it comes to music, but I was really just faking it. I had listened to a lot of songs and I knew a lot of music and I could take from a book or I can take from a movie. This is the first time in my life where actual personal experience is coming out in the music. And it's all because all I have to do is look at my wife, be around her, and she is the essence of everything that I want to say, everything that I want to be. And it's a wonderful thing to wake up every morning with the most beautiful woman who ever lived.

On advice to himself as a new artist starting out:

The advice I would say to him is, is that when you're 42 you're going to meet a woman that's going to change your life. You need to wait on everything till then. Don't waste your time doing anything but counting the days until she shows up, because that's when you're going to start to live. That's when your life is going to become everything you want it to be, period.

On who he'd take part in Verzuz battle/celebration with:

To me, the verses battles aren't necessarily about going up against each other. It's about the celebration of the music. And there are several artists. I think Joe and I could do a great Verzuz because I'm such a fan of him.

Stream Brian's Exodus album on Apple Music, Spotify, or Tidal.

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DJ Cassidy

Watch: DJ Cassidy Debuts New Digital Music Show 'Pass The Mic' Featuring Legendary Music Greats

When we think of good times from back in the day, it's usually with some type of musical soundtrack that accompanies the action we think of fondly. Another layer to those scenes are usually the songs from the legendary artists that celebrity mixmaster, DJ Cassidy has on speed dial and in his new digital music show, Pass The Mic.

From the golden era to now, the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, Jeff Red, Patrice Rushen, Ricky Bell & Bobby Brown of New Edition and many more, take turns passing the mic virtually over an impeccably timed mixed version DJ set by Cassidy, all from the comfort of their homes.

Having secured the social platform Twitch (https://www.twitch.tv/djcassidy) for the debut run on Thursday (July 2) to the huge success of over 20k viewers, Cassidy reposted the 24-minute soul session in full through his Instagram TV (watch below).

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DJ Cassidy explains the idea and inspiration for the program:

"This week is my birthday week, and since I’ve been known to celebrate by uniting my friends in droves and surprising them with legendary performances by iconic artists, I wanted to find a way to revisit that tradition in light of the times. One evening, during the heat of the quarantine, I FaceTimed with my dear friend and mentor, Verdine White of Earth Wind & Fire. While we were catching up, his classic record, 'That’s The Way Of The World,' came on my speakers. Hearing that song, while on the phone with Verdine, put a smile on my face and brought me some much needed calm. I thought about how fortunate I was to have friendships with many of my heroes and how lucky I was to be able to enjoy their music in their company.

I wondered if I could find a way to share that special feeling with others, so I sat at my turntables in my living room and began Zooming with my musical heroes of 1970s and 1980s, literally passing the mic from one home to the next, in effort to honor and uplift the heroes around the world on the frontlines of health, freedom, and justice. The result is PASS THE MIC.

I hope this virtual mix moves others as much as it has moved me. I am forever grateful to my musical heroes for their decades of hope, inspiration, and soul, and with them, I celebrate all the heroes around the world."

Overwhelming love for the project has Cassidy already looking at version two sooner than later. Be on the look out for more live home performances from our music icons and DJ Cassidy.

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