Setting The Mood At 65 Degrees

Many of you know that I just released my latest poetry book, Commissioned To Love. One of the book signings I hosted was at one of my favorite wine bars, Two Corks and a Bottle. Their ambiance is really relaxing and it was the perfect place to usher in the official release of my book. While I was there, I decided to try one of their white wines. I enjoy red wine too, but white is my preference if I have to pick. I tried their 65 Degrees wine, which was better than I expected. 

I loved the taste of 65 Degrees. The aftertaste was smooth and it was slightly dry, but not too much. It’s a full bodied, enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc. There’s a hint of honey and fruit, without an overpowering sweet taste. Basically, this is a wonderful white wine that you will be sure to indulge in (within reason, of course). Visit Two Corks and a Bottle today and try it for yourself. They have live music on some weekends and some great cake pops too. Let them know that I sent you! 

Bottoms up….it’s Thirsty Thursday! 

Vanessa Hill Sets The Tone For The Glow Up

“A glow happens after the fire has been lit. It’s the evidence the fire has been present,” Vanessa Hill says on “#CantLetGo”, the opening track of her EP, Mood: #Glow.  Her infectious concoction of futuristic sounding soul is definitely nothing short of the type of glow the music industry needs right now. I saw pictures from her EP release party earlier this year on several of my friends’ timelines. So, I had to see what her music was about. Vanessa Hill acknowledges our need to be loved, over layered production on the EP’s kickoff song. 1k Phew is the only guest artist on the project. His flow is memorable and has a great rhythm. 

“#GottaGetIt” is a bass thumping hustler’s anthem. This is the type of song you turn on in the morning to start your day and stay motivated. Vanessa Hill doesn’t mind if people call her selfish, if it means she’s following her dreams. Her style, much like her EP cover artwork suggests, is something out of this world. She has the kind of chameleon like voice that can cleverly slip into different genres. Her unique vocals and delivery cannot be denied. 

However, on “#WeAintComeToPlay”, she showcases a softer approach, vocally. Don’t mistake it though. Lyrically, this is the boldest track on Mood: #Glow. “We ain’t really got a lot of patience. We ain’t really looking for no favors,” she sings. She closes out the EP with beautiful guitar driven ballad,”#LiveItUp”. Vanessa Hill’s light and airy voice encourages all to seize the moment. Although her voice has an angelic vibe, she exudes the confidence of a seasoned artist. I definitely can’t wait to hear more music from Vanessa Hill soon.

Download her debut EP, Mood: #Glow, on all digital retailers. Watch out for her or remember that I told you so later.

 

Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott & Kelly Rowland ‘Get It’

Busta Rhymes’s career in Hip Hop has spanned over 25 years. He has maintained a style all his own and never conformed his unique delivery. Now, he has returned to the studio to work on his long awaited new album (the follow up to 2012’s Year of the Dragon). Busta Rhymes has teamed up with another one of Hip Hop’s royalty, Missy Elliott. The pair have collaborated numerous times, including this year’s Super Bowl Doritos commercial. So, I’m still waiting on them to do a joint album. Maybe one day that will happen.

“Get It” is a high energy, rapid flow kind of song. Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot trade slick verses back and forth, while Kelly Rowland sings the chorus. Some people may recognize that the hook and even some elements of the production sound eerily familiar. Kelly recorded a song called “Smooches” a few years ago that never saw the light of day. Well, until now. The song seems to have been reworked for Busta Rhymes’s liking. Nevertheless, I do enjoy this version better and it has me hyped for his new album.

Don’t call it a comeback. Busta Rhymes has been here for years. His contributions to music are frankly underrated.  He was one of the first rap artists to take the art of a music video to something the world had never seen. His creativity, energy and knack for creating music ahead of his time is unparalleled. Hear the song in its entirety below. Plus, check out Kelly Rowland’s “Smooches”, to see if you hear the similarities. However, there has been no word yet on when Busta Rhymes will release his upcoming album. Either way, I’ll be waiting for it. Keep the 2 Chainz and Culture, by way of Migos. This is real Hip Hop.

Justin Timberlake: Man Of The Past?

Justin Timberlake has had an interesting couple of weeks, to say the least. He celebrated his 37th birthday, released his fourth studio album, Man Of The Woods, and performed at the Super Bowl. He should be on top of the world right now. However, there have been very mixed reviews on his latest project (let alone his halftime show performance). I let Man Of The Woods sink in a few days before giving my honest opinion. The truth is the album is solid. Is it his best ever? No. Should it be? Absolutely not. 

The man who brought us hits like “Sexy Back”, “Cry Me A River” and “Suit and Tie”, was in a peculiar position during the making of his album. He continued to outdo himself with each album he released. The danger there is the goal eventually becomes making the next big hit; not the most artistically sound project. In comes the lead single, “Filthy”. Although it’s not as in your face as his previous lead singles, it’s a more mature sound. Remember, he’s 37 now. This isn’t old by any means, but he’s been in the music business for nearly 20 years. 

If The 20/20 Experience was Justin Timberlake’s induction into manhood, then Man Of The Woods is him passing the torch to the younger generation. On songs like the upbeat jungle boogie of “Midnight Summer’s Jam” and the swagger laden “Sauce”, he proves he still remembers the sound that brought him solo appeal. This album is more about reflection, love and looking ahead into the future. Ironically, his vocals are reminiscent of a young George Michael on songs like the catchy, melodic title track, “Man Of The Woods”. 

Justin Timberlake has teased elements of country music before and he dives right in on “Wave”. The song carefully blends country, soul and pop sounds in a tasteful offering. However, “Flannel” is one of the showstoppers of the songs that charter his new territory. In fact, I see this being one of the biggest songs from the album. His vocals are smooth and calculated, unlike the bombastic, hip hop driven hooks that inundate much of his catalog. Alicia Keys and Chris Stapleton stop by for some memorable guest appearances too. However, Justin Timberlake shines brightest when he’s the sole focal point (check out “Supplies” and “Breeze Off The Pond”). 

At this point, Justin Timberlake has nothing to prove or explain. Except for the oft put Prince tribute during his half time performance. Oh and maybe a formal apology or admittance of his part in the infamous half time performance he shared with Janet Jackson 14 years ago. Nonetheless, Man Of The Woods may not be filled with his usual type of radio hits, but it’s proof that he at least tried to offer something new this time around. 

 

Whistle & A White Cranberry Mimosa

I had a taste for some really good chicken and waffles this weekend. So, I searched my mental Rolodex (maybe I’m telling my age a bit there) of good places in Dallas that served it. Whistle Britches is the place I decided to go. I had only been there once before, but they have a jalapeno syrup that goes with their chicken and waffles. Let’s just say it’s pretty amazing. I went there with one of my friends. We decided to try their mimosas. Then, something on the menu caught my eye. The White Cranberry Mimosa. 

I asked the waiter what was in the drink. He proceeded to tell me that it included white cranberry juice, vodka and fresh fruit. It was a done deal. I had a feeling that this drink would not let me down. The White Cranberry Mimosa proved to live up to its hype. Also, I noticed several other people around us were drinking it too. After just a few sips, I could see why. The drink had a cool, refreshing bite. However, it came with a smooth aftertaste. Although it tasted great in 30 degree weather, I could definitely see it being a must have drink for a summer brunch. So, needless to say, I had a great meal and a great drink too. 

Stop by Whistle Britches and try out their unique twist on the classic mimosa. I suggest getting there early. They open at 10:00 on the weekend (11:00 am during the week), but they fill up quickly. Cheers and bottoms up to one of the best mimosas I’ve ever had. You will thank me for the recommendation. It’s Thirsty Thursday.

Seven Days Until ‘Commissioned To Love’

The time is almost here! Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that I am about to release my seventh book. Commissioned To Love didn’t start out like my previous books. As the title suggests, I was literally commissioned to do a book project for someone. The commissioned part actually fell through. So did the project. I was left with an unfinished collection of poems that would likely never seen the light of day. That’s when it hit me. Women are exploited and objectified in media and entertainment. There should be a separation between real life and fantasy. However, there is something to be said for a real woman. 

The concept of Commissioned To Love is to celebrate all of the mothers, wives, sisters and educators who set great examples of womanhood. These are the types of women who often go unnoticed. They are underappreciated; until now. The poems within the book are created to uplift women. Women should hold themselves in high esteem for their beauty, loving hearts and selfless sacrifices. Here’s a sample of what you can expect in Commissioned To Love. The pre-sale is going on now, until the official release date on Valentine’s Day. Get your copy today! 

Butterfly

I can feel this opposing force

Restricting my wings

Preparing me to make my debut

Into this outside world

And when I break free

They will all marvel in awe

And wonder of my marvelous

Intoxicating beauty

My back will be speckled

With the most vibrant colors

That have yet to be seen

I won’t be contained

They will all bear witness

Of how I have traveled

Through the fire, unscathed

Unashamed of my testimony

Because my complicated tapestry

Tells my story more descriptively

Than any audible

Words ever could

You can find me floating

In the air

Just over your shoulders

Sit up, take notice and

Behold such a glorious creation

Janet Jackson’s ‘Control’ Turns 32

Janet Jackson broke the mold on February 4, 1986. While many revere the classic Control as her first album, it was actually her third. The album reintroduced Janet to the world and made her an icon. Control also marks the beginning of one of the greatest artist-producer partnerships ever made in the music industry. Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis made an unstoppable team. They crafted a unique brand of femininity, empowerment and confidence that many of today’s artists still look to today. 

Ironically, this year’s anniversary fell on the Super Bowl. It’s been 14 years since Justin Timberlake performed alongside Janet Jackson at the half time show. Everyone remembers the infamous “wardrobe malfunction”, right? Many fans took to social media and declared it #JanetAppreciationDay, eclipsing the anticipation of Justin Timberlake’s performance. However, after one listen to Control, it’s not hard to see why. She declared independence and the freedom to make her own choices (“Control”). She told young women that it’s ok to wait before having sex (“Let’s Wait A While”). The female stereotype for sex appeal was redefined (“Nasty”). 

Control featured an astonishing seven hit singles (of an album that only included nine tracks). Even in today’s era, that’s virtually unheard of for one album. She exuded sex appeal without exploitation on hits like the boisterous “Pleasure Principle” and the scrubs before there were scrubs anthem, “What Have You Done For Me Lately”. Don’t mistake it. There would be no Beyonce, Rihanna, SZA or countless other female artists without Janet Jackson’s influence. The album is just as relevant today (if not more) than it was when it was first released. Let’s also not forget that Janet Jackson is still selling out tours and looking phenomenal while doing so (at the age of 51).

I guess it really is funny how time flies when you’re having fun (and making hits). To this day, Control still holds the record for the highest amount of American Music Awards nominations from one album. Five singles from the album peaked in the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart. Control also holds a spot on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 200 Definitive Albums of All Time. Let’s take a walk down memory lane with some of the biggest highlights from the Control era. Janet paved the way for a long trajectory of accolades and setting records, to prove why she is the GOAT (greatest of all time). 

 

32 Life Nuggets I’m Taking Into 33

Today is my birthday! Yep, today I am officially 33 years old. I tend to get a bit reflective during this time of year and this birthday was no different. One of the most relaxing things is to sit quietly in my own space and just……think. So, here are some things I have either learned, observed, been reminded of or are striving towards in my 33rd year on this earth. Feel free to share your own or add to the list.

  1. I am stronger than I realize.
  2. It’s ok to just say “NO”, even if the reason fails to make sense.
  3. Every painful situation has a bit of humor. Find it and use that to push through and propel forward.
  4. A Lack of rest really make me have a short fuse. Sometimes rest is not just sleep, but a mental break.
  5. “It’s complicated” made more sense than ever this year.
  6. Hard times bring out the true colors in yourself, as well as those around you.
  7. Opposition is my strongest source of creativity.
  8. Pick your battles. Some things are better shown rather than told.
  9. Your health is your wealth (mentally, physically and spiritually).
  10. God provides provision, even when we can’t see it.
  11. There are absolutely no accidental encounters in life. Period.
  12. I’m pretty intuitive, but some things I just was not able to predict this year (at 32 years of age). Shocker, right?
  13. Life has a way of bringing estranged people back to you, when you are better suited to appreciate them and their perspective.
  14. Love is not black and white. There are many more muddy gray areas than absolutes.
  15. The bigger the pedestal we put people on, the harder they fall from it.
  16. The excuses you make room for are the ones that will hold you back from reaching your greatest potential.
  17. Find your peace, even in darkness.
  18. People insert their own “truths” into the truths you reveal to them.
  19. Own it. Whether it’s a decision, mistake or even a victory, take the credit (and the consequence) for it.
  20. If you don’t love yourself, you are ill equipped to love anyone else or expect anyone else to love you.
  21. Live in the moment, whether good or bad. Don’t dwell in the bad ones and cherish the amazing ones.
  22. Be a sponge. Soak up the environment around you to help you elevate to the next level.
  23. You are never too old to change those stubborn things you’ve always done.
  24. I am an introvert who likes extroverted things….on my terms of course.
  25. It’s ok to not be ok.
  26. It’s ok to admit when you need help.
  27. My times is valuable and I am becoming more guarded of it.
  28. Recognize unhealthy coping methods before they turn into monsters that can’t be put back in a cage.
  29. Forgiveness really is for you and not for the other person.
  30. People are watching you most during your darkest hours. Don’t let them see you operating outside of your true character.
  31. Anything worth having takes some form of uncomfortable discipline and sacrifice.
  32. I am striving to be more expectant of positive things.
  33. Oh yeah…..Here’s one to grow on. I would be re-missed if I failed to mention that if you’re reading this, you should pick up a copy of my latest poetry book, Commissioned To Love, HERE.

What The Jay Z Grammy Snub Really Means

If you caught the 60th Annual Grammy Awards show last night, then you know the most nominated artist of the night went home (kinda) empty handed. Jay Z was nominated for a whopping 8 awards (including Album of the Year). However, even without any wins his influence was as big as ever. The Album of the Year category was dominated by Hip Hop acts; a feat that is due in part to Jay Z’s efforts. He has boycotted the Recording Academy for their lack of Hip Hop representation more than one occasion. Ironically, he has won 21 times over the course of his career. If his Grammys were a person, they would be fully legal to drink. So he isn’t exactly hurting for Grammys. Plus, he did win the Industry Icon award at this year’s pre-Grammy gala. 

Now, let’s fast forward to the commercial juggernaut of rap of the last few years, Kendrick Lamar. Let’s be clear that I am a big fan of both Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar’s recent albums. They both are amazing efforts in their own right. However, the force and supersonic knock that Kendrick Lamar came with on “Humble” and “DNA” alone clearly set him apart. Those two songs (from his album, DAMN) are more memorable and culturally aware than any song from Jay Z’s 4:44. Who had the better album as a whole? I would have to go with Jay Z. Notice that most of Kendrick’s awards were for one song (most notably “Humble), except for his Best Rap Album win. 

Jay Z is beyond commercial appeal at this stage in his career. What likely has so many people up in arms about his loss is the fact that he made such a poignant album like 4:44 over 20 years into his career. Kendrick Lamar is the future though. His theatrical stage performance and even music videos concepts are out of this world. Hence his well deserved win this year for “Humble”. 

Was Jay Z really snubbed at the Grammy’s? Sure. He definitely should have walked away with something last night. However, he is the reason why Kendrick Lamar was able to walk away with five awards last night. Honestly, I believe that Bruno Mars more than deserved every single award he won. My prediction is Jay Z and Beyonce will drop a surprise album sometime in the near future (heck, maybe by tomorrow). Then, they will combine their forces to sweep the Grammys with all of their mighty R&B, Pop & Hip Hop adorned splendor. Just remember that I told you so first. 

 

Fall Out Boy: The ‘Mania’ Never Ends

Fall Out Boy deserves credit for remaining to be one of the premier Rock bands of the last 15 years. The group’s hardcore fans may have criticized their artistic freedom (trading their edgy sound for pop hits). Nevertheless, they are still one of America’s favorite Pop/Rock music ensembles. Now, they are back with the short (less than 35 minutes in length), yet poignant new release, Mania. Sure, we all know their hits “Grand Theft Autumn”, “Dance, Dance” and “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”. However, this is the first Fall Out Boy album I have heard in its entirety. With that said, here are my thoughts on Mania, from a non die hard fan perspective (or at least one that hasn’t heard their entire discography).

Mania kicks off strong with the quirky, Pop and EDM driven “Young and Menace”. The song (and its accompanying video) serves as a strange millennial generation anthem for being different. The group wasn’t made for the masses here and they are just fine with that. The uplifting and triumphant “Champion” acknowledges the fighter inside and an evolving student of life all in one breath. Their anger is not swept under the rug, with lyrics like, “I got rage everyday on the inside”. They call their emotions to the carpet.

“Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” is a shoe in for cardio workout classes all across America. Thankfully, the group manages to not make the song sound corny. This is one of the few songs on the album that did not have a music video before the album’s official release date. The infectious love song (and my personal favorite on the album) is the undeniable “Hold Me Tight Or Don’t”. This is a song you just have to hear (and ingest lyrically) to fully understand. Basically, it’s about two lovers who can’t be friends because there is too much history there.

Songs like “The Last Of The Real Ones” and “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” do a great job of straddling the fence between commercial appeal and rough creative edges. The group explores religious undertones in the unforgettable and slightly disturbing “Church” and the introspective tug of war “Heaven’s Gate”. The latter is an unexpected, but welcomed with open arms ballad that sticks its big toe into soulful waters. This song is perhaps the most important on the album. Fall Out Boy proves that while their career has a longevity that has spanned nearly two decades, they still have some tricks up their sleeve.