R&B Throne Up for Grabs to Usher?

For more than over a decade, the title of R&B King has rightfully belonged to R. Kelly. Many would argue that several of his albums have left fans unsatisfied because it failed to meet the standards of some of his more classic ones; but there is no arguing that Twelve Play and TP-2 were unquestionably two of the greatest R&B albums of all time.
Combine that with some hit songs from his collaboration effort with Jay-Z on Best of Both Worlds and hit singles such as Fiesta, I Believe I Can Fly, Trapped in the Closet and Same Girl to name a few, and well the title is unquestionably his.
And yet, Kellz was dangerously close to having his R&B championship belt stolen from him when a young artist from Atlanta stepped onto the scene and took the world by storm not only with his vocals but also his smooth dance moves.
Looking back, much like R. Kelly, Usher made it cool for men to bump slow jams in their walkmans and Ipods. He took the music and rolled with it, slowly allowing us to get inside his own life and relate with some of his very own experiences. The fact that he was able to do so and dance his ass off made it all the more appealing.
Ursh knew how to keep the masses entertained with radio and club friendly hits like Yeah, but he could also pour his soul on wax and detail his inner conflict on a song like Confessions; where fans should have clearly seen him as the bad guy that epitomized everything wrong about the male species, and yet we sympathized with the artist more than anything as he openly spoke about his indiscretions and the baby that resulted of it.
He was that good.
He could address any topic and come out looking like the guy you wanted your sister to marry. For instance, on You Remind Me, Usher is essentially talking to a woman that he clearly seems to like and that he could potentially have feelings for. She’s a step ahead of the pack and clearly has all the physical features that he seems to appreciate. The one issue with her though is that her behavior is far too reminiscent to one of his old flames that shred his heart to pieces.
Logic would dictate that he give her a chance and find out if she is the one for him, but when matters of the heart are involved, the use of reason is rarely an option. Hence, our singer chooses to focus his attention elsewhere and move on from her despite never truly giving her a chance.
And yet, the magic of Usher was that he could be the quirkiest man in one song and then switch things around and exhibit all of his bravado and talk up his game on songs like Dot Com; but then reverse course and allow the woman to court him as seen on Trading Places.
Consequently, he held a certain appeal that very few could match in light of their character flaws as well as their past transgressions.
And then, he done messed things up. For lack of a better term, Ursh went pop on us. Commercial songs, radio-friendly singles that sacrificed some of the essence and soul of his music. It felt as though his songs no longer came from the heart and that they instead came and went straight to his wallet. As a fan, I was disappointed and figured that the ship had sailed and that his shot at the R&B throne had all but evaporated.
And then the Atlanta artist dropped Climax.
This was Usher essentially saying “POW!” to all those who had forgotten the sheer brilliance of his talent.
The song is quite basic and barely overwhelms; but it’s still Usher at his best. On the song, he is as confused as ever (big surprise for Ursh, I know), going back and forth on his relationship that has essentially met its expiration date. There is still a friendship there as well as some residual feelings, but for all intents and purposes, the union is over; but Usher is thinking out loud about his lover’s concerns as well as how he should digest it all.
On Climax, the singer hits some high notes and impresses with his vocal cords as well as a smooth melody that he just seems to ride thanks in large part to an ear-pleasing beat that just blends in perfectly.
Granted, one song is far from enough to reclaim the top spot in the game, but Usher may in fact be on his way back…

Dangerous to Catch Feelings: Ask Budden

Whether they chose to admit or not, every now and then men catch feelings. It could be with the right or wrong woman, but it happens. It’s just a natural part of life. Where things get interesting is how men react to this notion when it does in fact occur.
On the track I Messed Up by Emanny and Joe Budden, both of them tackle one of the many reactions that men may face when confronted with the situation. The song isn’t new, but after listening to it earlier today, I figured it was well worth sharing for those still in the dark about the track.
On the first verse, Emanny starts off the song directly putting us into his state of mind:
“This isn’t what it’s supposed to be,
I went from having fun to having fantasies...”
The singer then goes on to explain the agreement that most men try to set up with their would-be conquests: friendship, no commitment, mutual back scratching not actually involving backs and so forth. That’s how the situation was initially set up, but he is now unable to just leave it at that. The playa rules are now being thrown out the door.
His cell phone is off -- a sign that he may want to be cut off from society while with her, which is, you know, kind of serious -- and he no longer leaves immediately after the business. Instead, he remains in bed and falls asleep even though in certain cases, that is a breach of the Booty Call Guidelines (you can thank me later if that was your first time ever seeing the link).
That’s when it hits our artist and that he utters the words for the first time:
“I messed up.”
Which is usually code for, he’s in love.
By the second verse, things escalate to another level as Emanny tries to convince himself that he does not have feelings for this woman, but he realizes that he is merely lying to himself. He is in too deep and does not foresee any way of getting out.
It’s gotten to the point that he is now bypassing protection during intercourse and enjoying the way things are going although he still wants to get out. This idea that he could get so close to someone is foreign and seemingly counterproductive.
The macho side of men can’t fathom the idea that they could potentially want to spend so much time with one person at the expense of everybody else when they are the ones who usually set the boundaries and made it abundantly clear that no feelings should ever develop under any circumstances.
Hence, Emanny reminds us again:
“I messed up.”
Joe Budden comes in on the third verse and takes the situation to another level.
Most men hate to admit it, but they typically have a bench player that they occasionally see to blow off some steam. The reason she’s characterized as a bench player is because she’s not good enough, pretty enough, sexy enough or emotionally stable enough for dudes to accept being seen in public with -- don’t shoot the messenger on this one -- her.
And this dynamic gets revealed when Joe explains that he has caught feelings for a woman that he would essentially tell his friends is several levels beneath him. In this instance, Jump Off Joey isn’t necessarily making this statement based on her physical appearance, but rather because she has been around the proverbial block on more than one occasion. Budden rehashes the lessons learned from Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle album as well as Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 album but adds in some advice of his own:
“Was taught that you can’t tame a hoe,
But if you should try it and get denied,
You shouldn’t blame a hoe,
Because that’s the only game she know…”
And just like that, it becomes apparent that he is at crossroads and unsure of what decision to make at this juncture. On the one hand, he truly has feelings for her and wants to be with her, but on the other there is the fear that she may not be on the same level emotionally and also that she could be seeing other men, coupled with the fact that he is well aware that he would become the laughingstock of his friends should this news break out.
Although the song ends without any resolution in sight, the New Jersey rapper still leaves us with a glimpse of where he is leaning as he concludes by saying:
“Honestly, she might be the best mistake I ever made.”

One Blood, Two...

Those that know me best, know that I rarely say or care to share things; preferring instead to be mysterious. Whether guilty or innocent, I prefer to allow others to draw their own conclusions and ride with it, never committing one way or another. But today is different. Every now and then, some things need to be said and need to be read/heard. In the memory of one Christopher Wallace, I got a story to tell
This fact may not be obvious to all, but to me the expression “blood is thicker than water” holds a lot of weight. And thus, I try as much as possible to support those within my family that are in need even if they never verbalize what it is that is missing. In the same breath, I never once expected that courtesy to be extended in return to me and yet it has in so many ways.
I have faced two major tragedies in my life, and for whatever reason, it only dawned on me this week that the two people that helped me through them were essentially one and the same, but not exactly.
One Blood
At the tender age of 17, my world came crashing down as I found out that what I was led to believe to be a wonderful life was the exact opposite. That chapter of my life offered betrayal, lies and a story with so many holes that at the time CSI: Miami would have helped me a great deal to figure things out.
As I contemplated where my existence stood and what to make of it, my cousin Superstar (his nickname) came to my rescue and told me: “everything will be fine”.
Although it was very tough to take his words at face value at the time, I believed him. He had always taken care of me and never allowed me to not be happy. And so he took me under his wing, cared for me and took me from the depths of the abyss and brought me back to surface level. No longer was I a martyr, instead I was back to living my life and feeling great about who I was because he stood there through the roughest of times and took care of me. To this day, he still has no idea how terrible a shape I was in.
It’s funny, because I spent last weekend watching The Godfather trilogy and saw a few parallels. For a big stretch, I felt like an outsider and truly I was. My very own godfather accepted responsibility for me during my adolescent years and brought me into his family much like Vito adopted Tom Hagen.
Although there were times in which I doubted what my place was, Superstar always made me feel like he was my brother. And thus, when the Earth seemingly blew up for me during my late teenage years, he helped me pick up the pieces and move along. You could say he was Michael Corleone to me given my reverence towards him and the place he occupies in my heart.
I may have never told you before, but thank you.
Two Blood
On March 8th, 2009, the second biggest tragedy in my life occurred. This time I was older, wiser and therefore better equipped to deal with situations of a huge magnitude but I still needed some type of support. It came in the form of my cousin Philly – who happens to be Superstar’s brother – who never blinked or wavered when he heard what had happened to me.
Much like his brother had done for me a decade earlier, he came to help me out and handle me as I got back on my feet. He and I have already discussed this matter and have had countless other conversations about what we mean to each other but it’s still worth mentioning that at a times when most thought I was unbreakable, he knew otherwise and helped me get back to the point where I once again felt invincible.
Philly is funny in the sense that, much like Santino Corleone, he is extremely passionate, hot tempered and not above inflicting physical pain to people; but he is also a very much grounded person that many look to as the anchor in their lives.
As we celebrate the memory of one of the greatest artists to have ever picked up a microphone, let’s also take the time to remember that there are still people in our lives today who have a profound impact on who we are and who we will become.
Live and let live.
Love and let love…