Archive for the ‘Record Producers’ Category
Kenneth Gamble (born August 11, 1943, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and Leon A. Huff (born April 8, 1942, Camden, New Jersey) are an American songwriting and record production team who have written and produced over 170 gold and platinum records. They were pioneers of Philadelphia soul and the in-house creative team for the Philadelphia International Records label. On March 10, 2008 the team was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performer category.
Kenneth Gamble’s childhood in Philadelphia shaped his adult life: he recorded himself on various arcade recording machines, assisted the morning show DJs on WDAS, operated a record store, and sang with The Romeos. In 1964, before there was “Gamble & Huff” there was “Gamble & Ross.” Gamble was discovered and managed by Jerry Ross when Gamble was only 17 years old and they collaborated for many years. Gamble teamed up with Leon Huff (keyboards) for the first time on a recording for Candy & The Kisses. Ross then signed Gamble to Columbia Records in 1963 as a solo recording artist, releasing “You Don’t Know What You Got Until You Lose It”. Gamble & Ross & Huff collaborated on the hit song “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me“, recorded by Dee Dee Warwick and later by Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations.
In 1967 they produced their first Top 5 hit: “Expressway To Your Heart” by The Soul Survivors. Working for Atlantic Records, the team worked with Archie Bell & the Drells, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, and The Sweet Inspirations. They also produced Mercury Records artists Jerry Butler and Dee Dee Warwick, scoring numerous hits along the way.
With a solid track record now behind them, Gamble and Huff formed Philadelphia International Records in 1971 as a rival to Berry Gordy and Motown. They originally approached Atlantic Records, which passed on the deal as being too expensive. CBS Records, headed at the time by Clive Davis, backed the venture and distributed Philadelphia International’s records. Aided and abetted by in-house arrangers Thom Bell, Bobby Martin (musician), and Norman Harris, Philadelphia International released a number of the most popular soul music hits of the 1970s, including “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, “Back Stabbers” and “Love Train” by the O’Jays, and the Grammy-winning “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul. According to an interview on BBC Radio Four on 28 June 2006, Gamble and Huff were inspired to write Me and Mrs. Jones after seeing someone they knew who appeared to be involved in an affair, meeting a woman in a cafe frequented by the songwriters.
Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia soul sound evolved from the simpler arrangements of the late-1960s into a style featuring lush strings, thumping basslines, and sliding hi-hat rhythms—elements that soon became the distinguishing characteristics of a new style of music called disco. By 1975, Philadelphia International and the Philadelphia soul genre it helped define had largely eclipsed Motown and the Motown Sound in popularity, and Gamble and Huff were the premiere producers of soul.
Nearly all of the Philadelphia International records featured the work of the label’s in-house band of studio musicians, MFSB. MFSB cut a number of successful instrumental albums and singles written and produced by the Gamble & Huff team and arranged by Bobby Martin, including their 1974 #1 hit “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)“, now best known as the theme song from the American television show Soul Train.
Gamble’s humanitarian work
Through the 1970s, Gamble and Huff continued to work with some of the biggest acts in the music industry, and Gamble in particular began his continuing work to clean up the inner cities and help African-American youth. He also contributed his time and energy to the T.J. Martell Leukemia Foundation and The AMC Cancer Research Center and Hospital. His charitable works and civic efforts continue today. He has served on the board of directors for the Philadelphia Music Foundation, which honors the artists, songwriters, and producers from Philadelphia. His Universal Companies have opened a restaurant, a bookstore, a mosque, low-income housing, and several charter schools. These buildings, mostly built by locally hired labor, have served as the beginnings of a resurgence in the neighborhood. He also helped start the “Clean Up The Ghetto” project, which involved the youth of blighted communities helping with the clean-up and repair of damaged or neglected properties. P.I.R recorded a song using many of their popular artists in support of the project. Started in Philadelphia, “Clean Up The Ghetto” spread to Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago, and similar events have been held throughout the country.
In 1975, Philadelphia International became involved in a payola-related scandal; Gamble was fined and Huff was not. By the late 1970s, however, the popularity of the Philadelphia soul sound began to decline. Disco had suffered a backlash, R&B was going back toward the ballad, and rock had returned to the American charts. Still, the label had its share of late 1970s success. Among the later hits were “Enjoy Yourself” by The Jacksons in 1976, and “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” by McFadden and Whitehead in 1979.
One song they wrote, called “My Mood” was adopted in 1980 as the close of WRC‘s Friday Night 6pm newscasts. As of 2008, WRC still uses this music.
In 1982, Philadelphia International’s biggest star, former Blue Notes singer Teddy Pendergrass, became paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident, and the future of the label came to be in doubt. That year, Philadelphia broke its ties with CBS and made a new deal with EMI. Although the hits had by now dried up, Gamble and Huff continued to write and produce for the label’s artists.
1990 finally saw Gamble and Huff recognized with a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song, awarded for Simply Red‘s cover of the Blue Notes’ 1972 hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”. In 1999, Gamble and Huff were honored with the Grammy Trustees Award, joining musical luminaries like Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and Walt Disney. Their career output of over 3,000 songs places them among the most prolific professional songwriters of all time.
Today, Kenneth Gamble continues to write, often with Leon Huff, and Philadelphia International continues. He still lives in South Philadelphia, and remains active in his community. Gamble owns the shuttered Royal Theater and surrounding properties.
On September 19, 2005 Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for their outstanding achievements as producers at a ceremony held in New York City.
Gamble now works as a music instructor at Raising Horizons Quest Charter School.
In 2008, Gamble and Huff were the first recipients of the newly created “Ahmet Ertegün Award” by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The award replaces the former “non-performer” inductee category.
On May 20, 2009, Gamble & Huff were named BMI Icons at the 57th annual BMI Pop Awards. Together, the duo has collected an astounding 86 BMI Pop and R&B Awards.
Alicia Augello Cook (born January 25, 1981), better known by her stage name Alicia Keys, is an American R&B singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress. Keys was raised by a single mother in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan in New York City. At age seven, Keys began playing the piano. She attended Professional Performing Arts School and graduated at 16 as valedictorian. Keys released her debut album with J Records, having had previous record deals first with Columbia and then Arista Records.
Keys’ debut album, Songs in A Minor, was a commercial success, selling over 12 million copies worldwide. She became the best-selling new artist and best-selling R&B artist of 2001. The album earned Keys five Grammy Awards in 2002, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for “Fallin’“. Her second studio album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, was released in 2003 and was also another success worldwide, selling eight million copies. The album garnered her an additional four Grammy Awards in 2005. Later that year, she released her first live album, Unplugged, which debuted at number one in the United States. She became the first female to have an MTV Unplugged album to debut at number one and the highest since Nirvana in 1994.
Keys made guest appearances on several television series in the following years, beginning with Charmed. She made her film debut in Smokin’ Aces and went on to appear in The Nanny Diaries in 2007. Her third studio album, As I Am, was released in the same year and sold six million copies worldwide, earning Keys an additional three Grammy Awards. The following year, she appeared in The Secret Life of Bees, which earned her a nomination at the NAACP Image Awards. She released her fourth album, The Element of Freedom, in December 2009, which became Keys’ first chart-topping album in the United Kingdom. Throughout her career, Keys has won numerous awards and has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and 25 million singles, which makes her one of the best selling artists of all time. Billboard magazine named her the top R&B artist of the 2000–2009 decade, establishing herself as one of the best-selling artists of her time. In 2010, VH1 included Keys on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Billboard magazine placed her number ten on their list of Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years.
Life and career
1981–96: Early life
Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook on January 25, 1981, in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan, in New York City. She is the only child of Teresa Augello, a paralegal and part-time actress, and Craig Cook, a flight attendant. Keys’ mother is of Italian, Scottish, and Irish descent, and her father is African American; Keys has expressed that she was comfortable with her biracial heritage because she felt she was able to “relate to different cultures”. Her parents separated when she was two and she was subsequently raised by her mother during her formative years in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan. In 1985, Keys made an appearance on The Cosby Show at the age of four, where she and a group of girls played the parts of Rudy Huxtable’s sleepover guests in the episode “Slumber Party”. Throughout her childhood, Keys was sent to music and dance classes by her mother. She began playing the piano when she was seven and learned classical music by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin. Keys enrolled in the Professional Performing Arts School at the age of 12, where she majored in choir and began writing songs at the age of 14. She graduated in four years as valedictorian at the age of 16.
In 1994 Keys met long-term manager Jeff Robinson after she enrolled in his brother’s after-school program. The following year Robinson introduced Keys to her future A&R at Arista Records, Peter Edge, who later described his first impressions to HitQuarters: “I had never met a young R&B artist with that level of musicianship. So many people were just singing on top of loops and tracks, but she had the ability, not only to be part of hip-hop, but also to go way beyond that.” Edge helped Robinson create a showcase for Keys and also got involved in developing her demo material. He was keen to sign Keys himself but was unable to do so at that time due to being on the verge of leaving his present record company. Keys signed to Columbia Records soon after. At the same time as signing a recording contract with Columbia Records, Keys was accepted into Columbia University. At first, Keys attempted to manage both but after four weeks dropped out of college to pursue her musical career fulltime.
1997–2000: Career beginnings
Keys signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and So So Def Recordings, where she appeared on the label’s Christmas album performing “The Little Drummer Girl”. She also co-wrote and recorded a song entitled “Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)”, which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1997 film, Men in Black. The song was Keys’ first professional recording; however, it was never released as a single and her record contract with Columbia ended after a dispute with the label. Keys was unhappy with the label because her career had stalled during her two years under contract at Columbia due to executive indecision over her direction and major changes within the company. Keys called Clive Davis, who sensed a “special, unique” artist from her performance and signed her to Arista Records, which later disbanded. Keys almost chose Wilde as her stage name until her manager suggested the name Keys after a dream he had. Keys felt that name represented her both as a performer and person. Following Davis to his newly formed J Records label, she worked with Kerry “Krucial” Brothers and recorded the songs “Rock wit U” and “Rear View Mirror”, which were featured on the soundtracks to the films Shaft (2000) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), respectively.
2001–2002: Songs in A Minor
Keys released her first studio album, Songs in A Minor, in June 2001. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 236,000 copies in its first week. The album sold over 6.2 million copies in the United States, where it was certified six times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It went on to sell over 12 million copies worldwide, establishing Keys’ popularity both inside and outside the United States, where she became the best-selling new artist and best-selling R&B artist of 2001. The album’s lead single, “Fallin’“, spent six weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album’s second single, “A Woman’s Worth“, was released in February 2002 and peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, as her second Top 10 single in both charts. The album’s third single, “How Come You Don’t Call Me“, was released in June 2002 and peaked at number 59 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 30 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The album’s fourth single, “Girlfriend“, was released in November 2002 in UK and peaked at number 82 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The following year, the album was reissued as Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor, which included eight remixes and seven unplugged versions of the songs from the original.
Songs in A Minor led Keys to win five awards at the 2002 Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song for “Fallin'”, Best New Artist, and Best R&B Album; “Fallin'” was also nominated for Record of the Year. Keys became the second female solo artist to win five Grammy Awards in a single night, following Lauryn Hill at the 41st Grammy Awards. That same year, she collaborated with Christina Aguilera for the latter’s upcoming album Stripped on a song entitled “Impossible”, which Keys wrote, co-produced, and provided with background vocals. During the early 2000s, Keys also made small cameos in television series Charmed and American Dreams.
2003–2005: The Diary of Alicia Keys and Unplugged
Keys followed up her debut with The Diary of Alicia Keys, which was released in December 2003. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling over 618,000 copies its first week of release, becoming the largest first-week sales for a female artist in 2003. It sold 4.4 million copies in the United States and was certified four times Platinum by the RIAA. It sold eight million copies worldwide, becoming the sixth biggest-selling album by a female artist and the second biggest-selling album by a female R&B artist. The album’s lead single, “You Don’t Know My Name“, peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for eight consecutive weeks, his first Top 10 single in both charts since 2002’s “A Woman’s Worth “. The album’s second single, “If I Ain’t Got You“, was released in February 2004 and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for six weeks. The album’s third single, “Diary“, peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, being their third consecutive Top 10 single in both charts. The album’s fourth and final single, “Karma“, which peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 17 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, first release to fail to achieve top ten status on both charts. “If I Ain’t Got You” became the first single by a female artist to remain on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for over a year. Keys also collaborated with recording artist Usher on the song “My Boo” from his 2004 album, Confessions (Special Edition). The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for three weeks, became her first number-one single in Hot 100 since 2001’s “Fallin’“.
Keys won Best R&B Video for “If I Ain’t Got You” at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards; she performed the song and “Higher Ground” with Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder. Later that year, Keys released her novel Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics, a collection of unreleased poems from her journals and lyrics. The title derived from one of her poems, “Love and Chains” from the line: “I don’t mind drinking my tears for water.” She said the title is the foundation of her writing because “everything I have ever written has stemmed from my tears of joy, of pain, of sorrow, of depression, even of question”. The book sold over US$500,000 and Keys made The New York Times bestseller list in 2005. The following year, she won a second consecutive award for Best R&B Video at the MTV Video Music Awards for the video “Karma”. Keys performed “If I Ain’t Got You” and then joined Jamie Foxx and Quincy Jones in a rendition of “Georgia on My Mind“, the Hoagy Carmichael song made famous by Ray Charles in 1960 at the 2005 Grammy Awards. That evening, she won four Grammy Awards: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “If I Ain’t Got You”, Best R&B Song for “You Don’t Know My Name”, Best R&B Album for The Diary of Alicia Keys, and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals” for “My Boo” with Usher.
Keys performed and taped her installment of the MTV Unplugged series in July 2005 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. During this session, Keys added new arrangements to her original songs and performed a few choice covers. The session was released on CD and DVD in October 2005. Simply titled Unplugged, the album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart with 196,000 units sold in its first week of release. The album sold one million copies in the United States, where it was certified Platinum by the RIAA, and two million copies worldwide. The debut of Keys’ Unplugged was the highest for an MTV Unplugged album since Nirvana‘s 1994 MTV Unplugged in New York and the first Unplugged by a female artist to debut at number one. The album’s first single, “Unbreakable“, peaked at number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number four on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. It remained at number one on the Billboard Hot Adult R&B Airplay for 11 weeks. The album’s second and final single, “Every Little Bit Hurts“, was released in January 2006, it failed to enter the U.S. charts.
Keys opened a recording studio in Long Island, New York, called The Oven Studios, which she co-owns with her production and songwriting partner Kerry “Krucial” Brothers. The studio was designed by renowned studio architect John Storyk of WSDG, designer of Jimi Hendrix‘ Electric Lady Studios. Keys and Brothers are the co-founders of KrucialKeys Enterprises, a production and songwriting team who assisted Keys in creating her albums as well as create music for other artists.
2006–2008: Film debut and As I Am
In 2006, Keys won three NAACP Image Awards, including Outstanding Female Artist and Outstanding Song for “Unbreakable”. She also received the Starlight Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In October 2006, she played the voice of Mommy Martian in the “Mission to Mars” episode of the children’s television series The Backyardigans, in which she sang an original song, “Almost Everything Is Boinga Here”. That same year, Keys nearly suffered a mental breakdown. Her grandmother had died and her family was heavily dependent on her. She felt she needed to “escape” and went to Egypt for three weeks. She explained: “That trip was definitely the most crucial thing I’ve ever done for myself in my life to date. It was a very difficult time that I was dealing with, and it just came to the point where I really needed to—basically, I just needed to run away, honestly. And I needed to get as far away as possible.”
Keys made her film debut in early 2007 in the crime film Smokin’ Aces, co-starring as an assassin named Georgia Sykes opposite Ben Affleck and Andy García. Keys received much praise from her co-stars in the film; Reynolds said that Keys was “so natural” and that she would “blow everybody away”. Smokin’ Aces had a hit moderate performance at the box office, earning only $57,103,895 worldwide during its theatrical run. In the same year, Keys earned further praise for her second film, The Nanny Diaries, based on the 2002 novel of the same name, where she co-starred alongside Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans. The Nanny Diaries had a hit moderate performance at the box office, earning only $44,638,886 worldwide during its theatrical run. She also guest starred as herself in the “One Man Is an Island” episode of the drama series Cane.
Keys performing live, March 20, 2008
Keys released her third studio album, As I Am, in November 2007; it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 742,000 copies in its first week. It gained Keys her largest first week sales of her career and became her fourth consecutive number one album, tying her with Britney Spears for the most consecutive number-one debuts on the Billboard 200 by a female artist. The week became the second largest sales week of 2007 and the largest sales week for a female solo artist since singer Norah Jones‘ album Feels like Home in 2004. The album has sold nearly four million copies in the United States and has been certified three times Platinum by the RIAA. It has sold nearly six million copies worldwide. Keys received five nominations for As I Am at the 2008 American Music Award and ultimately won two. The album’s lead single, “No One“, peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for ten consecutive weeks, became her first number-one single in Hot 100 since 2004’s “My Boo” and becoming Keys’ third and fifth number-one single on each chart, respectively. The album’s second single, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again“, was released in late 2007 and peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for seven consecutive weeks. From October 27, 2007, when “No One” reached No. 1, through February 16, 2008, the last week “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” was at No. 1, the Keys was on top of the chart for 17 weeks, more consecutive weeks than any other artist in Hot R&B/Hip/Hop Songs chart. The album’s third single, “Teenage Love Affair“, which peaked at number 54 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The album’s fourth and final single, “Superwoman“, which peaked at number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 12 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
“No One” earned Keys the awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song at the 2008 Grammy Awards. Keys opened the ceremony singing Frank Sinatra‘s 1950s song “Learnin’ the Blues” as a “duet” with archival footage of Sinatra in video and “No One” with John Mayer later in the show. Keys also won Best Female R&B Artist during the show. She starred in “Fresh Takes”, a commercial micro-series created by Dove Go Fresh, which premiered during The Hills on MTV from March to April 2008. The premiere celebrated the launch of new Dove Go Fresh. She also signed a deal as spokesperson with Glacéau’s VitaminWater to endorse the product, and was in an American Express commercial for the “Are you a Cardmember?” campaign. Keys, along with The White Stripes‘ guitarist and lead vocalist Jack White, recorded the theme song to Quantum of Solace, the first duet in Bond soundtrack history. In 2008, Keys was ranked in at number 80 the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists. She also starred in The Secret Life of Bees, a film adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd‘s acclaimed 2003 bestseller novel of the same name alongside Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning, Paul Bettany and Queen Latifah, released in October 2008 via Fox Searchlight. The Secret Life of Bees had a hit moderate performance at the box office, earning only $39,947,322 worldwide during its theatrical run. Her role earned her a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards. She also received three nominations at the 2009 Grammy Awards and won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Superwoman”.
In an interview with Blender magazine, Keys allegedly said “‘Gangsta rap‘ was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other, ‘gangsta rap’ didn’t exist” and went on to say that it was created by “the government”. The magazine also claimed she said that Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. were “essentially assassinated, their beefs stoked by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing”. Keys later wrote a statement clarifying the issues and saying her words were misinterpreted. Later that year, Keys was criticized by anti-smoking campaigners after billboard posters for her forthcoming concerts in Indonesia featured a logo for the A Mild cigarette brand sponsored by tobacco firm Philip Morris. She apologized after discovering that the concert was sponsored by the firm and asked for “corrective actions”. In response, the company withdrew its sponsorship.
2009–2010 The Element of Freedom, marriage and motherhood
Keys and manager Jeff Robinson signed a film production deal to develop live-action and animated projects with Disney. Their first film will be a remake of the 1958 comedy Bell, Book and Candle and will star Keys as a witch who casts a love spell to lure a rival’s fiancé. Keys and Robinson also formed a television production company called Big Pita. Keys and Robinson will develop live-action and animated projects from their company, Big Pita and Little Pita, with Keys as producer, thespian, banner spearheading soundtrack and music supervision.
Keys collaborated with the record producer Swizz Beatz to write and produce “Million Dollar Bill” for Whitney Houston‘s seventh studio album, I Look to You. Keys had approached Clive Davis for permission to submit a song for the album. Keys also collaborated with the recording artist Jay-Z on the song “Empire State of Mind” from his 2009 album, The Blueprint 3. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 and became her fourth number-one single on that chart. At the 53rd Grammy Awards ceremony, “Empire State of Mind” won Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song. It had also been one of the five nominees for Record of the Year.
The following month, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers honored Keys with the Golden Note Award, an award given to artists “who have achieved extraordinary career milestones”. She collaborated with Spanish recording artist Alejandro Sanz for “Looking for Paradise“, which topped the Hot Latin Songs chart, this was Keys’ first number one on all three charts, which also made her the first African-American of non-Hispanic origin to reach #1 on the Hot Latin Tracks. Keys released her fourth studio album, The Element of Freedom, in December 2009. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 417,000 copies in its first week. As part of the promotional drive for the album, she performed at the Cayman Island Jazz Festival on December 5, the final night of the three day festival which will be broadcast on Black Entertainment Television (BET). The album’s lead single, “Doesn’t Mean Anything“, has peaked at number 60 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 14 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Keys was ranked as the top R&B recording artist of the 2000–2009 decade by Billboard magazine and ranked at number five as artist of the decade, while her song, “No One“, was ranked at number six on the magazine’s songs of the decade. In the United Kingdom, The Element of Freedom became Keys’ first album to top the UK Albums Chart. The album’s second single, “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart“, was released in November 2009 and peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The album’s third single, “Put It in a Love Song“, featuring Grammy-winner Beyoncé, peaked at number 60 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The music video for the single, which was filmed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has been postponed several times, and later it was confirmed that Alicia Keys’ team made a decision not to release the video. The album’s fourth single, “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down“, was released in February 2010 and peaked at number 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 76 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The album’s fifth single, “Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)“, was released in May 2010 and peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, for twelve consecutive weeks and became the album’s most successful single, becoming Keys’ eighth number-one single on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The album’s sixth and final single, “Wait Til You See My Smile“, was released in December 2010 in the U.K only.
Keys at the Walmart Shareholders Meeting 2011.
In May 2009, Swizz Beatz announced that he and Keys were romantically involved, and in May 2010, a representative for Keys and Swizz Beatz confirmed that they were engaged and expecting a child together. During the time of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the couple took part of a union and had the unborn child blessed in a Zulu ceremony, which took place in the Illovo suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. Keys and Swizz Beatz were married on the French island of Corsica on July 31, 2010. On October 14, 2010, Keys gave birth to a son, Egypt Daoud Ibarr Dean, in New York City.
2011 – present: Ten Year Celebration, Project 5, Stick Fly and Upcoming New Album
In June 2011, Songs in A Minor was re-released as deluxe and collector’s editions in commemoration of its 10th anniversary. To support the release, Keys embarked on a four-city promotional tour, entitled Piano & I: A One Night Only Event With Alicia Keys, featuring only her piano. Keys is also set to co-produce the Broadway premiere of Stick Fly, which will open in December 2011. On September 26, 2011, was the premiere of Project 5 known as Five, short film that marks the debut of Alicia Keys as a director. It is a documentary of five episodes that tell stories of five women who were victims of breast cancer and how it affected their lives. The production also has co-direction of the actresses Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and film director Patty Jenkins.
On September 23, she performed at iHeart Music Festival and sang her new song “A Place Of My Own”, which is present in her fifth studio album. On October 7, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding J Records along with Arista Records and Jive Records. With the shutdown, Keys (and all other artists previously signed to these three labels) will release her future material on RCA Records.
On Saturday February 18, 2012, Alicia gave a touching performance of Send Me An Angel during Whitney Houston‘s memorial at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey.
An accomplished pianist, Keys incorporates piano into a majority of her songs and often writes about love, heartbreak and female empowerment. She has cited several musicians as her inspirations, including Prince, Nina Simone, Barbra Streisand, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. Keys’ style is rooted in gospel and vintage soul music, supplemented by bass and programmed drumbeats. She heavily incorporates classical piano with R&B, soul and jazz into her music. She began experimenting with other genres, including pop and rock, in her third studio album, As I Am, transitioning from neo soul to a 1980s and 1990s R&B sound with her fourth album, The Element of Freedom. Patrick Huguenin of the New York Daily News stated that her incorporation of classical piano riffs contributed to her breakout success. Jet magazine states she “thrives” by touching her fans with “piano mastery, words and melodious voice”. The Independent described her style as consisting of “crawling blues coupled with a hip-hop backbeat”, noting that her lyrics “rarely stray from matters of the heart”. Blender magazine referred to her as “the first new pop artist of the millennium who was capable of changing music.”
Keys playing the piano while performing, surrounded by three backing vocalists
Keys has a vocal range of a contralto, which spans three octaves. She can sing from B flat over an octave below middle C (B♭2) to B below soprano C (B5). Often referred to as the “Princess of Soul“, Keys has been commended as having a strong, raw and impassioned voice; others feel that her voice is “emotionally manufactured” at times and that she pushes her voice out of its natural range. Keys’ songwriting is often criticized for lack of depth, which has led to her writing abilities being called limited. Her lyrics have been called generic, clichéd and that her songs revolve around generalities. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune feels that she “[pokes] around for multi-format hits rather than trying to project any sort of artistic vision”. Diversely, Jon Pareles of Blender magazine stated that the musical composition of her songs makes up for their lyrical weakness, while Gregory Stephen Tate of The Village Voice compared Keys’ writing and production to 1970s music.
Joanna Hunkin of The New Zealand Herald reviewed one of Keys’ performances, where Kylie Minogue also attended. She described Minogue’s reaction to Keys’ performance, saying “it was obvious she was just as much of a fan as the 10,000 other people at Vector Arena“. She went on to say that Minogue was “the original pop princess bowing down to the modern-day queen of soul”. Hunkin characterized Keys’ opening performance as a “headbanging, hip-gyrating performance” and her energy as “high-octane energy most bands save for their closing finale”. At the end of her two-hour performance, fans “screamed, stomped and begged for a second encore”. Hillary Crosley and Mariel Concepcion of Billboard magazine noted that her shows are “extremely coordinated” with the audience’s attention span “consistently maintained”. The show ended with a standing ovation and Keys “proved that a dynamic performance mixed with superior musicianship always wins”. Throughout her career, Keys has won numerous awards and is listed on the Recording Industry Association of America‘s best-selling artists in the United States, with 15 million certified albums. She has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and has established herself as one of the best-selling artists of her time.
Keys is the co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit organization that provides medicine to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa. Keys and U2 lead singer Bono recorded a cover version of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush‘s “Don’t Give Up“, in recognition of World AIDS Day 2005. Keys and Bono’s version of the song was retitled “Don’t Give Up (Africa)” to reflect the nature of the charity it was benefiting. She visited African countries such as Uganda, Kenya and South Africa to promote care for children affected by AIDS. Her work in Africa was documented in the documentary Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland and was available in April 2008.
Keys has also donated to Frum tha Ground Up, a non-profit organization that aids children and teenagers with scholarships. She performed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as part of the worldwide Live 8 concerts to raise awareness of the poverty in Africa and to pressure the G8 leaders to take action. In 2005, Keys performed on ReAct Now: Music & Relief and Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast, two benefit programs that raised money for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. In July 2007, Keys and Keith Urban performed The Rolling Stones‘ 1969 song “Gimme Shelter” at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey at the American leg of the Live Earth concerts.
Keys performed Donny Hathaway‘s 1973 song “Someday We’ll All Be Free” at the America: A Tribute to Heroes televised benefit concert following the September 11 attacks. She participated in the Nobel Peace Prize Concert which took place at the Oslo Spektrum in Oslo, Norway, on December 11, 2007, along with other various artists. She recorded a theme song for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. She joined Joss Stone and Jay-Z on the effort, which served as a theme song for Obama’s campaign. For her work, Keys was honored at the 2009 BET Awards with the Humanitarian Award. Keys performed the song “Prelude to a Kiss”, retitled “Send Me an Angel”, from her 2007 album As I Am for the “Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief” telethon in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake
James Dewitt Yancey (February 7, 1974 – February 10, 2006), better known by the stage names J Dilla and Jay Dee, was an American record producer who emerged from the mid-1990s underground hip hop scene in Detroit, Michigan. According to his obituary at NPR.org, he “was one of the music industry’s most influential hip-hop artists, working for big-name acts like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes and Common.”
Renowned producer Pete Rock placed J Dilla on his list of the top five producers of all time, while the editors of About.com ranked him #15 on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers. Andy Kellman of Allmusic stated that—by 2004, after being active for well over a decade as a producer—J Dilla had accomplished enough to be considered “an all-time great.” J Dilla made the “Elite 8” in the search for The Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All Time by Vibe. Also, The Source placed him on its list of the 20 greatest producers in the magazine’s twenty-year history.
Yancey’s career began slowly. He has now become highly regarded, most notably for the production of critically acclaimed albums by Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Common, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, and Erykah Badu. He was a member of Slum Village and produced their acclaimed debut album Fan-Tas-Tic (Vol. 1) and their follow-up Fantastic, Vol. 2.
In the early 2000s, Yancey’s career as a solo artist began to improve; A solo album Welcome 2 Detroit was followed by a collaborative album with California producer Madlib, Champion Sound, which catalyzed the careers of both artists. Just as his music was becoming increasingly popular, Yancey died in 2006 of the blood disease TTP.
Following J Dilla’s death, the hip hop community became centered upon his music and image. Many of the artists with whom Yancey worked and performed with recorded tributes, and a large group of followers voiced their support for the late musician. Yancey’s music experienced a rebirth as the producer gained many times more listeners than he had during his life, partly due to media exposure. Though several posthumous albums have been released and others are planned, the amount of unreleased recordings by the producer remain somewhat undetermined. Yancey’s estate has also been controverted.
James Yancey was the oldest of four children including a younger brother (Earl), a younger sister (Martha) and a younger brother, John, also a rapper/producer known as Illa J. The family lived in a house situated near McDougall and East Nevada, off E. 7 Mile in Detroit. He developed a vast musical knowledge from his parents (his mother is a former opera singer and his father was a jazz bassist). According to his mother, he could “match pitch perfect harmony” by “two-months old”, to the amazement of musician friends and relatives. He began collecting vinyl at the age of two and would be allowed to spin records in the park, an activity he enjoyed tremendously as a child.
Along with a wide range of musical genres, Yancey developed a passion for hip hop music. After transferring from Davis Aerospace Technical High School to Detroit Pershing High School, he met classmates T3 and Baatin, and became friends with them through mutual love of rap battles. The three formed a rap group called Slum Village. He also took up beatmaking using a simple tapedeck as the center of his studio. During these teenage years he “stayed in the basement alone” with his ever-growing collection of records, perfecting his craft. He later told Pete Rock when they met years later that “I was trying to be you.”
 Early careerIn 1992, he met experienced Detroit musician Amp Fiddler, who was impressed by what Jay Dee was able to accomplish with such limited tools. Amp Fiddler let Jay Dee use his MPC, which he learned quickly. In 1995, Jay Dee and MC Phat Kat formed 1st Down, and would be the first Detroit hip hop group to sign with a major label (Payday Records) – a deal that was ended after one single when the label folded. That same year he recorded ‘Yester Years EP’ with 5 Elementz (a group consisting of the late Proof, Thyme and Mudd). In the year 1996, he formed the group Slum Village with T3 and Baatin, and recorded the groups debut, Fan-Tas-Tic (Vol. 1)in his home studio. Being released in 1997, the album quickly became popular with fans of Detroit hip hop, as well a gaining the attention of Q-Tip, who hailed the group as successors to A Tribe Called Quest. However, J Dilla felt uncomfortable with the comparison and often voiced it in several interviews.
“It was kinda fucked up [getting that stamp] because people automatically put us in that [Tribe] category. That was actually a category that we didn’t actually wanna be in. I thought the music came off like that, but we didn’t realize that shit then. I mean, you gotta listen to the lyrics of the shit. Niggas was talking about getting head from bitches. It was like a nigga from Native Tongues never woulda said that shit. I don’t know how to say it. It’s kinda fucked up because the audience we were trying to give to were actually people we hung around. Me, myself, I hung around regular ass Detroit cats. Not the backpack shit that people kept putting out there like that. I mean, I ain’t never carried no goddamn backpack. But like I said, I understand to a certain extent. I guess that’s how the beats came off on some smooth type of shit. And at that time, that’s when Ruff Ryders [was out] and there was a lot of hard shit on the radio so our thing was we’re gonna do exactly what’s not on the radio.”
By the mid 1990s Jay Dee was known as a major hip hop prospect, with a string of singles and remix projects, for Janet Jackson, Pharcyde, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip’s solo album and others. The majority of these productions were released without his name recognition, being credited to The Ummah, a production collective composed of Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and later Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Toné!. Under this umbrella, Jay did some of his most big name R&B and hip hop work, churning out original songs and remixes for Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, Brand New Heavies, Something For the People, trip hop artists Crustation and many others. This all came off the heels of Jay handling the majority of production on The Pharcyde’s album Labcabincalifornia, released in the holiday season of 1995. Jay Dee’s largest-scale feat came in 1997 when he produced Janet Jackson’s Grammy winning single “Got ’til It’s Gone” from The Velvet Rope. The song-writing credit and subsequent Grammy were both given to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
 Performing career2000 marked the major label debut of Slum Village with Fantastic, Vol. 2, creating a new following for Jay Dee as a producer and an MC. He was also a founding member of the production collective known as The Soulquarians (along with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, D’Angelo and James Poyser amongst others) which earned him more recognition and buzz. He subsequently worked with Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, and Common – contributing heavily to the latter’s critically acclaimed breakthrough album, Like Water for Chocolate.
His debut as a solo artist came in 2001 with the single “Fuck the Police”, followed by the album Welcome 2 Detroit, which kicked off U.K. Independent record label BBE’s “Beat Generation” series. In 2001, Jay Dee, began using the name “J Dilla” (an attempt to differentiate himself from Jermaine Dupri who also goes by “J.D.”), and left Slum Village to pursue a major label solo career with MCA Records.
2002 saw Dilla producing the entirety of Frank-N-Dank’s 48 Hours, as well as a solo album, but neither record was ever released, although the former did eventually surface through bootlegging. When Dilla finished working with Frank-N-Dank on the 48 Hours album, MCA Records requested a record with a larger commercial appeal, and the artists re-recorded the majority of the tracks, this time using little to no samples. Despite this, neither versions of the album saw the light of day, and Dilla expressed he was disappointed that the music never got out to the fans.
Dilla was signed to a solo deal with MCA Records in 2002 and completed an album in 2003. Although Dilla was known as a producer rather than an MC, he chose to rap on the album and have the music produced by some of his favorite producers such as Madlib, Pete Rock, Hi-Tek, Supa Dave West, Kanye West, Nottz, Waajeed, Quebo Kuntry (J.Benjamin) and others. The album was shelved due to internal changes at the label and MCA folding into Geffen Records. In a 2007 video interview, Dilla’s friend DJ House Shoes alluded to the possibility of the MCA album finally seeing an official release through Stones Throw Records in the future. In April 2008, the album, called Pay Jay, began circulating. BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Benji B played songs from it on his April 18 show, saying that the album is coming out, and people on the internet privately shared and discussed the album.
While the record with MCA stalled, Dilla recorded the uncompromising Ruff Draft, released exclusively to vinyl by German label Groove Attack. Although the album was little known, it signaled a change in sound and attitude, and his work from this point on was increasingly released through independent record labels. In a 2003 interview with Groove Attack, Dilla talked about this change of direction:
You know, if I had a choice, skip the major labels and just put it out yourself man… Trust me. I tell everybody it’s better to do it yourself and let the Indies come after you instead of going in their [direction] and getting a deal and you have to wait, it ain’t fun, take it from me. Right now, I’m on MCA but it feels like I’m an unsigned artist still. It’s cool, it’s a blessing, but damn I’m like, ‘When’s my shit gonna come out? I’m ready now, what’s up?’
 Later life and deathLA-based producer and MC Madlib began collaborating with J Dilla, and the pair formed the group Jaylib in 2002, releasing an album called Champion Sound in 2003. J Dilla relocated from Detroit to LA in 2004 and appeared on tour with Jaylib in Spring 2004.
J Dilla’s illness and medication caused dramatic weight loss in 2003 onwards, forcing him to publicly confirm speculation about his health in 2004. Despite a slower output of major releases and production credits in 2004 and 2005, his cult status remained strong within his core audience, as evident by unauthorized circulation of his underground “beat tapes” (instrumental, and raw working materials), mostly through internet file sharing. Articles in publications URB (March 2004) and XXL (June 2005) confirmed rumors of ill health and hospitalization during this period, but these were downplayed by Jay himself. The seriousness of his condition became public in November 2005 when J Dilla toured Europe performing from a wheelchair. It was later revealed that he suffered from thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a rare blood disease, and possibly lupus.
J Dilla died on February 10, 2006, three days after his 32nd birthday and the release of his final album Donuts, at home in Los Angeles, California. According to his mother, Maureen Yancey, the cause was cardiac arrest.
 Posthumous musicUpon his death, Dilla had several projects planned for future completion and release.
The Shining, “75% completed when Dilla died,” was completed posthumously by Karriem Riggins and released on August 8, 2006 on BBE Records.
Ruff Draft was reissued as a double CD/LP set in March 2007 and is sometimes considered his third solo album. The reissue contains previously unreleased material from the Ruff Draft sessions and instrumentals. Most notably, it was also released in a cassette tape format, paying homage to Dilla’s dirty, grimy sound (he was known for recording over two-tracked instrumentals).
Jay Love Japan was announced in 2005 as his debut release on the Operation Unknown label. The official release remains shrouded in mystery, as various legitimate and illegitimate versions of this mini-album can be bought online and in stores.
Champion Sound, J Dilla’s and Madlib’s collaborative album, was reissued in June 2007 by Stones Throw Records as a 2CD Deluxe Edition with instrumentals and b-sides.
He also produced three tracks on the 2007 Stones Throw Records 2K Sports NBA 2K8 soundtrack, B-Ball Zombie War.
Dillagence, a mixtape of previously unreleased tracks featuring Busta Rhymes over Dilla’s production, was released in November 2007. Busta was one of Dilla’s most passionate supporters; on the mixtape, Busta says that, although Dilla’s name is not listed in every Busta album, he did in fact contribute to every solo Busta album. The compilation was made free for download from MickBoogie.com.
“Modern Day Gangstaz” (also known as “The Ugliest” and “Dangerous MCs”), a song produced by Dilla featuring vocals from The Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, and Labba, which originally appeared in its original form on a mixtape in the late ’90s, eventually surfaced in full-length form in 2007. This version, however, is a cut-and-paste job using verses recorded for Biggie’s posthumous Born Again album, for which a new beat was used from Nottz.
In 2008, Q-Tip used one of Dilla’s beats for his song Move off of The Renaissance.
Yancey Boys, by J Dilla’s younger brother John Yancey, was released in 2008 on Delicious Vinyl Records. It is produced entirely by J Dilla and features rapping by his brother, under the name Illa J. Stones Throw Records released a digital instrumental version of the album in 2009.
An album titled Jay Stay Paid (aka J$P) was released in 2009. Despite well-known collaborators rapping over Dilla’s music, the involvement of Pete Rock in mixing, and the endorsement of J Dilla’s mother, this is the second posthumous J Dilla release whose legitimacy is not fully known. It does not appear in J Dilla’s official discography.
In 2009, Mos Def used one of Dilla’s beats on his album The Ecstatic. The song, entitled “History”, also featured Talib Kweli. Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon also used Dilla beats for his songs “House of Flying Daggers”, “Ason Jones”, and “10 Bricks” which are all on his critically acclaimed album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II.
In 2010, unreleased production and vocals from J Dilla will be featured on Slum Village’s sixth studio album Villa Manifesto, the first album with all five members.
In December 2011, Jonathan Taylor, CEO of the Yancey Music Group (founded by Dilla’s mother Maureen Yancey), told the UK’s Conspiracy Worldwide radio show that the album Rebirth of Detroit is ready for a May 2012 release. 
 LegacyJ Dilla leaves behind two daughters. In May 2006, J Dilla’s mother announced the creation of “The J Dilla Foundation,” which will work to cure people affected by lupus.
Dilla’s death has had a significant impact on the hip hop community. Besides countless tribute tracks and concerts, Dilla’s death created a wealth of interest in his remaining catalog and, consequently, Dilla’s influence on hip hop production became more apparent.
Dave Chappelle gives a special dedication to J Dilla in his movie Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, which includes the statement “This film is dedicated to the life and memory of Music Producer J Dilla, aka Jay Dee (James D. Yancey)”. The film focuses mostly on members of the Soulquarians, a collective of hip hop musicians of which Yancey was also a member.
J Dilla’s music has been used in various television programs. Cartoon Network’s late night programing block, Adult Swim, has played the songs “Waves”, “Welcome to the Show”, and “Mash” during the commercial bumpers in between shows. In May 2010, UK mobile network 02 used Jaylib’s “The Red” instrumental in their ‘Pool Party’ ad. A recent BBC documentary inspired by the olympic runner Usain Bolt, contained two J Dilla-produced songs – “So Far To Go” by Common and “Runnin'” by The Pharcyde.
In February 2007, a year after his death, J Dilla posthumously received the Plug Award’s Artist of the Year as well as the award for Record Producer of the Year. In Dilla’s hometown of Detroit, House music veteran Carl Craig has fronted a movement to install a plaque in honor of J Dilla in Conant Gardens (where the artist grew up and initiated his career). A resolution for the proposed plaque was passed by the Detroit Entertainment Commission in May 2010, and is currently awaiting approval by the Detroit City Council. J Dilla continues to be remembered as one of the most important figures of the hip hop generation.
Outside of Hip Hop, Dilla has proven to be highly influential to the works of bands and producers within the United Kingdom. Jack Barnett of These New Puritans has been seen occasionally wearing a “J Dilla Changed My Life” t-shirt. The band subliminally honored Dilla by replicating the notable minimal driving drum pattern of ‘Jungle Love’ from “The Shining” on “InfinityytinifnI” which is found on the album ‘Beat Pyramid’. Southend-on-sea shoegaze-punk band The Horrors, London pop bands The xx, Golden Silvers and Mystery Jets alongside electronic producers Joy Orbison, Darkstar and Micachu & Kwes have all cited Dilla as a major musical influence.
Despite these accolades, there have been documented conflicts between his mother and the executor of his estate Arthur Erik regarding future Dilla releases. In an interview with LA Weekly, Erik described how difficult it was for the estate to “protect his legacy” due to bootlegging and unofficial mixtapes. He stressed how important it was for the estate to gather all possible income related to Dilla’s name, as Dilla had to borrow money from the government due to mounting medical bills at the end of his life.
A few weeks later Dilla’s mother, who has appeared on such unofficial mixtapes such as Busta Rhymes’ Dillagence, gave her take on these issues. In addition to stating that Arthur Erik and Dilla’s estate has chosen not to communicate with his family, she has stated that he has barred anyone from use of Dilla’s likeness or name.
One of the things Dilla wanted me to do with his legacy was to use it to help others, people with illness, kids who were musically gifted but had little hope due to poverty. I wanted to use my contacts to help people out and it was squashed because we weren’t in compliance with the state and there was nothing we could do about it. I’m Dilla’s mother and I can’t use Dilla’s name or likeness, but I know that I still can honor him by doing his work.
Mrs. Yancey also has mentioned that Erik was in fact Dilla’s accountant and not his business manager in his lifetime, and that he fell into his position because she and Dilla were first and foremost concerned about his health and not with getting paperwork in order. She also stated that Dilla’s friends in the hip hop community, such as Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, Madlib, Common and The Roots, have contacted her personally for future projects with Dilla beats, but the estate has vetoed all future projects not contracted prior to Dilla’s death. She also implied that Dilla would not support the estate’s practices, such as their persecution of bootleggers and file sharers.
Dilla was about love in many formats and for his estate to have done the exact opposite is not having any respect for him or who he was.
Due to Dilla’s debt to the government, the family receives no income from projects. Dilla’s children are being supported by the social security their mothers have drawn Likewise, Mrs. Yancey is also still paying off Dilla’s medical bills that she helped finance, leaving her also in tremendous debt. She still lives in the same Detroit ghetto, is still a daycare worker at Conant Gardens and also suffers from lupus, the same disease which killed Dilla. To help pay the cost of medication and keep her household afloat, Delicious Vinyl donated all proceeds of Jay Dee – The Delicious Vinyl Years to Mrs. Yancey in 2007. In 2008, Giant Peach created a donation paypal account for her and RenSoul.com released a charity mixtape. Despite these actions, it would appear that little income has been generated, as Stones Throw has just released a charity t-shirt on its website.
In a recent article on the family’s troubles in Vibe magazines, his mother revealed that the family lost their old home in Detroit due to her taking care of Dilla in his final days. The mother of one of Dilla’s children, Monica Whitlow, also broke her silence on the issue of the estate and his legacy:
It pisses me off, everything that’s going on with this estate. It’s ridiculous ’cause it’s been three years, and my baby has not seen anything from this estate.
On January 24, 2010, an announcement was made on j-dilla.com, regarding the J Dilla Estate and the Yancey family.
“The family of late music producer James “J Dilla” Yancey is extremely pleased to announce the appointment of West Coast probate attorney Alex Borden as administrator of Yancey’s estate, and also to announce the establishment of the official J Dilla Foundation. The developments mark a new chapter in preserving and enhancing the legacy of the legendary artist and secure a means of future prosperity for his mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, daughters Ja’Mya Yancey and Ty-Monae Whitlow, and brother, John “Illa J” Yancey.”
The J Dilla Estate will be working with the Yancey family in all business dealings of J Dilla’s catalog of music…
Ahmir Khalib Thompson (born on January 20, 1971) known professionally as ?uestlove or Questlove (also known as BROther ?uestion, Questo or Brother Question), is an American drummer, DJ, music journalist and record producer. He is best known as the drummer and joint frontman (with Black Thought) for the Grammy Award-winning band The Roots, which is now the in-house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He has produced for artists such as Common, D’Angelo, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Jay-Z, Nikka Costa and more recently, Al Green, Amy Winehouse and John Legend. He is a member of the production teams the Soulquarians, The Randy Watson Experience, and The Grand Wizzards.
 Biography Early yearsThompson was born in Philadelphia on January 20, 1971. His father was Lee Andrews of Lee Andrews & the Hearts, one of the great 50s doo-wop groups. His parents did not want to leave him with babysitters, so they took him on tour with them. He grew up in backstages of doo-wop shows. By the age of seven, Thompson began drumming on stage at shows, and by 13, had become a musical director.
Questlove’s parents then enrolled him at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. By the time he graduated, he had founded a band called The Square Roots (later dropping the word “square”) with his friend Tariq Trotter (Black Thought). Questlove’s classmates at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts included Boyz II Men, jazz bassist Christian McBride, jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco, and singer Amel Larrieux.
Questlove began performing on South Street in Philadelphia using drums, while Tariq rhymed over his beats and rhythms.
Questlove also attended the senior prom with R&B singer Amel Larrieux.
 Professional music careerThe Roots’ roster was soon completed, with Questlove on percussion, Tariq Trotter and Malik B on vocals, Josh Abrams (Rubber Band) on bass (who was replaced by Leonard Hubbard in 1994), and Scott Storch on keyboards. While the group was performing a show in Germany, they recorded an album entitled Organix, released by Relativity Records in 1993.
The group continued recording, releasing two critically acclaimed records in 1995 and 1996, Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife, respectively. In 1999, The Roots entered mainstream pop consciousness with “You Got Me” (featuring Erykah Badu); a song which would earn the band the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for 2000. Questlove shines in the final minute of this song as he unleashes a massive drum n’ bass groove over the last chorus. The song helped fuel the success of their Things Fall Apart album, which has since been hailed as a classic, eventually selling platinum. The group went the experimental route and returned in 2002 with the rock-influenced Phrenology, which went gold. Two years later, The Roots released The Tipping Point, which contained a more mainstream sound, allegedly due to demands from Interscope Records. The album sold well (400,000 copies), and Questlove shines in the bonus track remake of George Kranz’s “Din Da Da.”
Questlove at the Black Lily Film & Music Festival 2007 by Simba MadzivaBesides being the drummer for The Roots, Questlove has also lent his talents to other artists, projects, and productions.
He was the drummer for The Philadelphia Experiment, a collaborative instrumental jazz album featuring Christian McBride and Uri Caine, released on Ropeadope Records in 2001 and the DJ of the compilation Questlove Presents: Babies Making Babies, released on Urban Theory Records in 2002. He also served as executive producer for D’Angelo’s 2000 album Voodoo, Slum Village’s album Fantastic, Vol. 2 and Common’s albums Like Water for Chocolate and Electric Circus. Besides the aforementioned albums, he has also contributed as a drummer or producer to Erykah Badu’s Baduizm and Mama’s Gun, Dilated Peoples’ Expansion Team, Blackalicious’s Blazing Arrow, Bilal’s 1st Born Second, N*E*R*D’s Fly or Die, Joshua Redman’s Momentum, and Zap Mama’s Axel Norman Ancestry In Progress, Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine, and Zack De La Rocha’s currently unreleased solo material.
He played drums on Christina Aguilera’s song “Loving Me 4 Me” for her 2002 album Stripped. In 2003, he played drums on John Mayer’s song “Clarity” from his second album Heavier Things. He also arranged and drummed on Joss Stone’s cover of the White Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl”.
In 2004, Questlove appeared in Jay-Z’s Fade to Black. In addition to appearing in the documentary portion of the film, Questlove was the drummer/musical director for all portions of the show with a live band.
In 2005, Questlove appeared along with such luminaries as Madonna, Iggy Pop, Bootsy Collins, and Little Richard in a television commercial for the Motorola ROKR phone. Questlove also appears for a short clip in the 2005 film, The Longest Yard.
In 2006, Questlove appeared in the film Dave Chappelle’s Block Party as well as a couple of skits on Chappelle’s Show, including the Tupac “The Lost Episodes” skit and a skit featuring John Mayer wherein Questlove performs in a barber shop, inducing the occupants to dance and rap. With the exception of The Fugees and Jill Scott, Questlove served as the drummer for nearly every performer at the 2004 Brooklyn street concert and was the musical director for the entire show.
Questlove was given an Esky for Best Scribe in Esquire magazine’s 2006 Esky Music Awards in the April issue.
Questlove was one of a handful of musicians hand-picked by Little Steve Van Zandt to back Hank Williams Jr. on a new version of “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” for the season premiere (and formal ESPN debut) of Monday Night Football. Along with his fellow Motorola ROKR commercial co-stars, Bootsy Collins and Little Richard, Questlove’s bandmates included Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Charlie Daniels, and Bernie Worrell.
He is a playable character in the basketball video games NBA 2K7, NBA 2K8, and NBA 2K9, capable of hitting the three-point shot with ease.
In 2007, Questlove co-produced with VH1’s The Score winning producer Antonio “DJ Satisfaction” Gonzalez, from The Maniac Agenda, the theme to VH1’s Hip Hop Honors 2007.
Questlove joined Ben Harper and John Paul Jones for the Bonnaroo SuperJam on June 16, 2007, to play a 97 minute set.
He currently performs with The Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, occasionally performing solos titled ‘re-mixing the clips’ where he draws on his production and DJ abilities to dub video clips, cue audio samples in rhythm, and play drum breaks simultaneously.
In 2007 he provided the foreword for the book Check the Technique.
In late 2009, while serving as an associate producer of the hit Broadway play Fela!, he recruited Jay-Z to come on board as a producer. It was reported that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have also signed on as producers.
In January 2010, he was writing material with British singer Duffy for her second album.
He has been featured in a commercial for Microsoft’s short-lived mobile phone, the Kin.
In 2010, He was a cameo in Duck Sauce’s video for Barbra Streisand.
In 2010, In an act of great musicianship the legendary Roots-crew pay respect to the late and great J Dilla offering their renditions of the producer’s greatest hits. The featured mixtape belongs easily to the most sublime tributes to J Dilla we have seen to date. Enjoy in this highest form of appreciation, the album is called Dilla Joints.[neutrality is disputed]
He is contributing drums to the song “You’ve Got A Lot to Learn” on Evanescence’s new studio album, due for release in the Fall of 2011.
2011 – Guest DJ at LA Food & Wine’s Decadence after party
Questlove was planning to collaborate with Amy Winehouse and says “We’re Skype buddies, and she wants to do a project with Mos and me. Soon as she gets her visa thing together, that’s gonna happen.” 
Rolling Stone named Questlove #2 in the 50 Top Tweeters in Music.
In June 2011, Questlove played drums alongside The Roots bassist Owen Biddle for YouTube sensation Karmin’s cover of Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass.
Questlove placed 8th in the Rolling Stone Readers Pick for Best Drummers of all Time.
 Controversy Involving Presidential Candidate Michele BachmannOn November 21, 2011, The Roots played Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as Michele Bachmann (Republican candidate for President) appeared. Bachmann has served as U.S. Representative to Congress from Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District since 2007. Questlove tweeted prior to the show: “Aight late night walkon song devotees: you love it when we snark: this next one takes the cake.”
Nita Lowey, a Democratic Party congressional representative for New York, issued a statement following the incident: “I do not share Michele Bachmann’s politics, but she deserves to be treated with respect. No female politician—and no woman—should be subjected to sexist and offensive innuendo like she was last night.” Neither NBC, Late Night or Fallon himself would comment officially on the controversy.
On November 23, 2011, NBC sent a letter to Bachmann expressing regret, one NBC executive said, insisting that the show did not mean to offend her. The executive, who asked not to be identified because the network was trying to put the issue to rest as privately as possible, said the letter could not be categorized as a formal apology.
 Film appearancesIn 2000 Questlove appeared with The Roots in Bamboozled, directed by Spike Lee. In 2005, Questlove appeared with The Roots in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party  and the following year, he appeared in the popular music film, Before the Music Dies. His latest appearances include Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest and documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2010) for which he won the Swedish Guldbagge award for best music together with Om´Mas Keith .
 FashionIn July 2008, Questlove collaborated with Nike to design the Questlove x Nike 1World Air Force 1 shoe. The shoe’s color is a blend of burgundy leather and red canvas with neon green elephant print. It has red shoelaces, a lasered silhouette of Questlove on the back of the shoe which is also featured on the left tongue, and a gold colored Nike swoosh logo. Questlove states that these shoes are “an extension of [his] personality” as he strives to make “a very loud statement, a sneaker that sort of has 12 exclamation points behind it.”
Questlove’s 2nd Nike Questo sneaker will be released in mid February 2011. The shoe will be a combination of 4 popular Nike designs: the exterior body will be the Dunk (footwear), the interior cushion will be based on the Nike Delta Force, the sole will be the Air Force 1 (shoe), and the swoosh will come from the Nike Blazers. The shoe’s color will be a premium leather red with a white swoosh. The velcro front has 6 clear buttons to give the look of a dress shirt. A lasered silhouette of Questlove is also featured on the both tongues. There will also be limited edition versions sans velcro in all yellow and white sole and all black.
Khaled bin Abdul Khaled (born November 26, 1975), better known by his stage name DJ Khaled, is an American record producer, radio personality, DJ, and record label executive. He is a radio host for the Miami-based urban music radio station WEDR and the DJ for the hip hop group Terror Squad. In 2006, Khaled released his debut album Listennn… the Album. He went on to release We the Best (2007), We Global (2008), Victory (2010), and We the Best Forever (2011). In 2009, Khaled became the president of record label Def Jam South.
BiographyKhaled was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is of Palestinian descent and lives in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Currently, he hosts the weeknight program TakeOver on Miami-based urban music radio station WEDR with fellow host K. Foxx; Khaled states that he has worked for the station professionally since 2003. Early in his career he dj’d for a south florida regional station Power 96.5 FM. In 1998, Khaled worked as a “sidekick” for Miami rapper Luther Campbell for Campbell’s Friday night WEDR radio show The Luke Show. In his albums, Khaled usually provides “shoutouts” that assert his representation of “the ghetto” and urges people to listen. From 2004 to 2006, Khaled assisted in the production of the hip-hop albums Real Talk by Fabolous, True Story by Terror Squad, All or Nothing by Fat Joe, and Me, Myself, & I by Fat Joe.
2006: Listennn… the AlbumIn June 2006, his debut album Listennn… the Album was released by Koch Records; it premiered on the Billboard 200 chart at #12.
2007: We the BestWe the Best followed in 2007 with singles “I’m So Hood” with T-Pain, Trick Daddy, Plies, and Rick Ross and “We Takin’ Over” with Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, and Lil Wayne. “We Takin’ Over” peaked at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #11 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart and was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on November 20, 2007. Khaled made a guest appearance on the single “100 Million” from Birdman’s 2007 album 5 * Stunna; the single also featured Rick Ross, Dre, Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne. That year, Khaled won two Ozone Awards: one for Best Video (“We Takin’ Over”) and another for Best Radio DJ.
2008–2009: We GlobalIn 2008, Khaled’s third album We Global came out with singles “Out Here Grindin” with Akon, Rick Ross, Lil’ Boosie, Trick Daddy, Ace Hood, and Plies, followed by “Go Hard” featuring Kanye West and T-Pain. RIAA certified the single “I’m So Hood” Platinum on June 4, 2008. That year, Khaled won DJ of the Year awards from the BET Hip Hop Awards and Ozone Awards.
He was appointed the president of Def Jam South in 2009.
2009–2010: VictoryHis fourth studio is titled Victory and was released in early 2010. The album featured guest appearances from Drake, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Nelly and more. The single “All I Do Is Win” featuring Ludacris, Rick Ross, [[Snoop Dogg and T-Pain was certified as a double-platinum single. Other singles include: “Put Your Hands Up” featuring Ross, Young Jeezy, Plies and Schife, and “Fed Up” featuring Usher, Drake, Ross and Jeezy. The album had low sales and debuted at #12 on the Billboard 200.
2011–present: We the Best ForeverDJ Khaled announced the title of the album, We the Best Forever, on Twitter. On August 19, Khaled signed to Cash Money Records along to Universal Motown, the album will be released under the label, also under E1 Entertainment, Terror Squad, Def Jam South and Khaled’s own label We the Best Music Group, with confirmed guests as Fat Joe, Chris Brown, Keyshia Cole, Cee Lo Green, Cool & Dre, Rick Ross, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nas, Birdman, Lil Wayne, T.I., Akon, Drake and Nicki Minaj The first single titled “Welcome to My Hood”, featuring Rick Ross, Plies, Lil Wayne and T-Pain was released in January 13 of 2011, which was produced by The Renegades, and co-produced by DJ Khaled himself and The Nasty Beatmakers. The song is the first released under Cash Money Records and Universal Motown, a music video was filmed in Miami, Florida and directed by Gil Green, featuring cameos by Flo Rida, Bow Wow, Busta Rhymes, and other artists. The next single, “I’m On One”, featuring Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, was released on May 20, 2011. It debuted at #10 on the Hot 100, becoming Khaled’s and Ross’ highest charting song. “I’m On One” also reached the number-one spot on the Rap and Hip-Hop/R&B Songs charts, becoming Khaled’s first #1 song on both charts. It was #1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart for 11 non-consecutive weeks, and on the Rap chart for 13 consecutive weeks, the third most of any rap song on the latter chart. The song also got a triple-platinum certification, which is Khaled’s and Ross’ first. We the Best Forever debuted on the Billboard 200 at #5, selling 53,000 copies. It is his most successful album. The album also debuted at #1 on the Rap Albums chart, becoming his first number-one album on that chart. On December 10, 2011 DJ Khaled announced the title of his next album, Kiss The Ring, via a video, with the release date as “coming soon”, presumed 2012.
PerformancesDJ Khaled performed at BET Awards 2011 with Ace Hood, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne which aired on June 26, 2011.[
Kanye Omari West ( /ˈkɑːnjeɪ/; born June 8, 1977) is an American rapper, singer, and record producer. West first rose to fame as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records, where he eventually achieved recognition for his work on Jay-Z‘s album The Blueprint, as well as hit singles for musical artists including Alicia Keys, Ludacris, and Janet Jackson. His style of production originally used pitched-up vocal samples from soul songs incorporated with his own drums and instruments. However, subsequent productions saw him broadening his musical palette and expressing influences encompassing ’70s R&B, baroque pop, trip hop, arena rock, folk, alternative, electronica, synthpop, and classical music.
West released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004, his second album Late Registration in 2005, his third album Graduation in 2007, his fourth album 808s & Heartbreak in 2008, and his fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010. West released a collaborative album, Watch the Throne, with Jay-Z on August 8, 2011, which is the duo’s first collaborative album. His five solo albums, all of which have gone platinum, have received numerous awards and critical acclaim. As of 2012, West has won a total of eighteen Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all time. All albums have been very commercially successful, with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy becoming his fourth consecutive No.1 album in the U.S. upon release. West has had 5 songs exceed 3 million in digital sales as of July 2011, with “Gold Digger” selling 3,086,000, “Stronger” selling 4,402,000, “Heartless” selling 3,742,000, “E.T.” selling over 4,000,000 and “Love Lockdown” selling over 3,000,000 placing him third in overall digital sales of the past decade. He has sold over 30 million digital songs in the United States making him one of the best selling digital artists of all time.
West also runs his own record label GOOD Music, home to artists such as John Legend, Common and Kid Cudi. West’s mascot and trademark is “Dropout Bear,” a teddy bear which has appeared on the covers of three of his five albums as well as various single covers and music videos. About.com ranked Kanye West No.8 on their “Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers” list. On May 16, 2008, Kanye West was crowned by MTV as the year’s No.1 “Hottest MC in the Game.” On December 17, 2010, Kanye West was voted as the MTV Man of the Year by MTV. Billboard ranked Kanye West No. 3 on their list of Top 10 Producers of the decade. West has also been included in the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world as well as being listed in a number of Forbes‘ annual lists.
Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lived with his parents. When he was three years old, his parents divorced, and he and his mother moved to Chicago, Illinois. His father was Ray West, a former Black Panther who was one of the first black photojournalists at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and is now a Christian counselor. West’s mother, Dr. Donda West, was a Professor of English at Clark Atlanta University, and the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University before retiring to serve as West’s manager. He was raised in a middle-class background, attending Polaris High School in suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois after living in Chicago. When asked about his grades in high school, West replied, “I got A’s and B’s. And I’m not even frontin'”.
West attended art classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and also enrolled at Chicago State University, but dropped out to focus on his music career. While attending school, West produced for local artists. He later gained fame by producing hit singles for major hip hop/R&B artists, including Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Cam’ron, Paul Wall, Common, Mobb Deep, Jermaine Dupri, Scarface, The Game, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, John Legend among others. He also “ghost-produced” for his mentor Deric Angelettie, according to his song “Last Call” and the credits of Nas‘ “Poppa Was a Playa”.
1996–2003: Career beginnings
Kanye West’s first career productions came on Chicago rapper Grav’s 1996 debut album Down to Earth. West produced eight tracks on the album. While the album did not attract much attention and would be the only album released by Grav, West would soon be producing for higher profile artists. In 1998–1999 he produced for well-known artists such as Jermaine Dupri, Foxy Brown, Goodie Mob, and the group Harlem World.
West got his big break in the year 2000, when he began to produce for artists on Roc-a-Fella Records. He produced the well-received Jay-Z song “This Can’t Be Life” off of the album The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. West would later state that to create the beat for “This Can’t Be Life”, he sped up the drum beat from Dr. Dre‘s song “Xxplosive”.
After producing for Jay-Z earlier, West’s sound was featured heavily on Jay-Z’s critically acclaimed album The Blueprint, released September 11, 2001. His work was featured on the lead single “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” and a diss track against Nas and Mobb Deep named “Takeover“; West has worked with Mobb Deep and Nas since the track’s release.
After meeting great commercial success and critical acclaim for his productions on The Blueprint, West became a sought after producer in the hip-hop industry, even before he became known as a rapper and solo artist. In the years 2002–2003 he would produce for artists such as Nas, Scarface, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, T.I., Ludacris, DMX, and Monica. He also continued producing for Roc-a-Fella Records artists and contribued four tracks to Jay-Z‘s follow up album to The Blueprint, The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse.
After great successes as a producer, West now looked to pursue a career as a rapper and solo artist, but struggled to get a record deal. Chris Anokute, then A&R at Def Jam, said that when West regularly dropped by the office to pick up his producer checks he would play demos of solo material to Anokute in his cubicle and bemoan the fact that no one was taking him seriously as a rapper. Jay-Z admitted that Roc-A-Fella was initially reluctant to support West as a rapper, claiming that he saw him as a producer first and foremost. Multiple record companies felt he was not as marketable as rappers who portray the “street image” prominent in hip hop culture. Beginning his career as a rapper, Kanye West recorded the third verse on the song “The Bounce” off of Jay-Z’s The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse, an album he produced for, from the same label he was signed to as a rapper.
2004–05: The College Dropout and Late Registration
On October 23, 2002, West was involved in a near fatal car crash while driving home from the recording studio. The crash provided inspiration for West’s first single, “Through the Wire“. West’s faith is apparent in many of his songs, such as “Jesus Walks“, which became a staple at his benefit performances, such as the Live 8 concert. These songs were featured on West’s debut album, The College Dropout, which was released on Roc-A-Fella Records in February 2004, and went on to receive critical acclaim. The album also defined the style for which West would become known, including wordplay and sampling. The album was eventually certified triple platinum. Guest appearances included Jay-Z, Ludacris, GLC, Consequence, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, and Syleena Johnson. The album also featured the singles, “All Falls Down” and “The New Workout Plan“, as well as Twista’s number one single, “Slow Jamz“. During 2003 West also co-produced songs for British singer Javine Hylton, even appearing in the music video to Real Things playing the love interest of Javine.
West was involved in a financial dispute over Royce Da 5’9″‘s song “Heartbeat”, produced by West and released on Build & Destroy: The Lost Sessions. West maintains that Royce never paid for the beat, but recorded to it and released it; hearing him on the beat, the original customers decided not to buy it from West. After the disagreement, West vowed to never work with Royce again. Other Kanye West-produced hit singles during the period The College Dropout was released included “I Changed My Mind” by Keyshia Cole, “Overnight Celebrity” by Twista and “Talk About Our Love” by Brandy.
Taking a more eclectic route, West collaborated with American film score composer Jon Brion to construct his second album, Late Registration, which was released on August 30, 2005. Like its predecessor, the sophomore effort garnered universal acclaim from music critics. Late Registration topped countless critic polls and was revered as the best album of the year by numerous publications, including USA Today, Spin, and Time. Rolling Stone awarded the album the highest position on their end of the year record list and hailed it as a “sweepingly generous, absurdly virtuosic hip-hop classic.” The record earned the number one spot on the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop critics’ poll of 2005 for the second consecutive year. Late Registration was also a commercial success, selling over 860,000 copies in its first week alone and topping the Billboard 200. Grossing over 2.3 million units sold in the United States alone by year’s end, Late Registration was considered by industry observers as the sole majorly successful album release of the fall of 2005, a season that was plagued by steadily declining CD sales. The second album earned eight Grammy Award nominations including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for the song “Gold Digger”. The album is certified triple platinum.
On August 22, 2005, the MTV special All Eyes On Kanye West aired, in which West spoke out against homophobia in hip-hop. He claimed that hip-hop has always been about “speaking your mind and about breaking down barriers, but everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people.” He then reflected on a personal experience. He said that he had a “turning point” when he realized one of his cousins was gay. He said regarding this experience: “This is my cousin. I love him and I’ve been discriminating against gays.” He drew comparison between African Americans’ struggle for civil rights and today’s gay rights movement. The following year, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, West further expounded his experiences with and views on the relationship between the black and gay communities.
In September 2005, West announced that he would release his Pastelle Clothing line in spring 2006: “Now that I have a Grammy under my belt and Late Registration is finished, I am ready to launch my clothing line next spring.” In that year, West produced the hit singles “Go” by Common and “Dreams” by The Game.
2007–09: Graduation and 808s & Heartbreak
In 2007, it was announced that West would be starring in a series directed by Larry Charles. He has been working on the pilot episode for the past two years with Larry Charles and Rick Rubin. He also had this to say on January 14: “I wouldn’t do something as cliché as a reality show. At least give me the credit for being more creative than that. It’s a situational half-hour comedy. It’s fictional, and loosely based on my life. ” West also collaborated with Japanese hip-hop group Teriyaki Boyz to produce the single “I Still Love H.E.R.,” a reference to Common’s 1994 single “I Used to Love H.E.R.“. Further to this, during a radio appearance in early 2007, West, like many of his peers, recorded an impromptu freestyle to the popular song “Throw Some D’s.” The song that to all other rappers was about automobile rims, was used by West to comically refer to D-cup breasts. Because of the unexpected success of the song, West went on to make a video for the freestyle, in which he is seen playing his ‘Old Ass Cousin’.
West was also featured in a new song called “Classic (Better Than I’ve Ever Been)”. It was believed to be a single for, Graduation, because he is featured on the track, but Nike quickly explained that it was for the Nike Air Force 1’s anniversary. It was meant only to be an exclusive track for the company.
On March 25, 2007, he and his father Ray West supported World Water Day by having a “Walk for Water” rally. After a two-year break, West has returned to being a fashion columnist in lifestyle magazine Complex. On July 7, 2007, West performed with The Police and John Mayer at the American leg of Live Earth. West hosted the August 17 edition of British comedy- variety show The Friday Night Project.
In July 2007, West changed the release date of Graduation, his third album, from September 18, 2007, to the same release date as 50 Cent’s album Curtis, September 11, 2007. 50 Cent later claimed that if Graduation were to sell more records than Curtis, he would stop releasing solo albums. However, 50 Cent would later dispel his comments. The album has been certified double platinum. Guest appearances included T-Pain, Mos Def, and Lil Wayne.
||When I heard that thing about the debate, I thought that was the stupidest thing. When my albums drops and 50’s album drops, you’re gonna get a lot of good music at the same time.
On August 26, 2007, West appeared as himself on the HBO television show Entourage which he used as a platform to premier his new single “Good Life” during the end credits. On September 9, 2007, West performed at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, losing in every category he was nominated for; he gave an angry speech immediately afterward. (see “Controversies” section)
Following the MTV stint, West was nominated in eight Grammy Award categories for the 50th annual Grammy Awards. He won four of them, including Best Rap Album for Graduation and Best Rap Solo Performance for “Stronger” from Graduation. During the four-hour televised Grammy Awards ceremony, West also performed two songs: “Stronger” (with Daft Punk) and “Hey Mama” (in honor of his recently deceased mother).
West kicked off the Glow in the Dark Tour in Seattle at the Key Arena on April 16. The tour was originally scheduled to end in June in Cincinnati but was extended into August. Over the course of the tour West was joined by a varying group of opening acts, including Lupe Fiasco, Rihanna, N.E.R.D., DJ Craze, and Gnarls Barkley. On June 15, West was scheduled to perform a late night set at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. His performance started almost two hours late and ran for half of its alloted time, angering many fans in the audience. West later wrote an outraged entry on his blog, blaming the festival organizers as well as Pearl Jam‘s preceding set, which ran longer than expected.
On September 7, West debuted a new song “Love Lockdown” at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. “Love Lockdown” features no rapping and only singing using an auto-tune device. This song appears on West’s fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak. The new album was expected to be released on December 16, but West announced on his blog on September 24, 2008, that he had finished the album and would be releasing it sometime in November, earlier than previously scheduled. In early October, West made a surprise appearance at a T.I. concert in Los Angeles, where he stated that 808s & Heartbreak was scheduled to be released on November 25, though it was actually released on the 24th, and that the second single is “Heartless“. The album was another number one album for West, even though the first week numbers fell well short of Graduation with 450,145 sold.
West performed at the American Music Awards ceremony on November 23. That same night he won two AMA awards, including Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album for Graduation and Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Male Artist. West performed at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August 2008, along with Wyclef Jean and N.E.R.D. in support of Barack Obama. On January 20, 2009, Kanye West performed at the Youth Inaugural Ball hosted by MTV for Obama’s inauguration.
On February 17, 2009, West was named one of Top 10 Most Stylish Men in America by GQ. The next day, February 18, 2009, West won International Male Solo Artist at The Brit Awards 2009. West was not in attendance but accepted his award with a video speech, saying “Barack is the ‘Best Interracial Male’ but I’m proud to be the Best International Male in the world.
In April 2009, Kanye West recorded a song called “Hurricane” with 30 Seconds to Mars to appear on their album This Is War, but was not released due to legal issues with both record companies. The song was eventually released on the deluxe version of This Is War, titled “Hurricane 2.0”.
2010–present: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne
In May 2010, West made an animated television guest appearance on Fox‘s animated television series The Cleveland Show (a spin-off of Family Guy) as the voice behind “Kenny West”, a rival of Cleveland Brown‘s son. In his first episode he performed in a rap battle with Cleveland’s son. The producers stated working with West was a very good experience and a reason they chose him was because they knew he was a fan of Family Guy. Kenny West re-appeared in the season 2 premiere of The Cleveland Show.
West spent the first half of 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii, working on his new album with the working title “Good Ass Job”, later named My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released on November 22, 2010. West has cited Maya Angelou, Gil Scott-Heron and Nina Simone as his musical inspirations for this album. Outside production is said to come from RZA, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier. West also had Justin Vernon flown into his studio on Oahu after seemingly expressing interest in sampling one of Bon Iver‘s songs; Vernon proceeded to feature on a number of new tracks, including “Lost In The World,” which features Vernon’s vocal line from Woods.
On May 28, the Dwele-assisted first single from the album, entitled “Power“, leaked to the Internet. On June 30, the track was officially released via iTunes. The upcoming music video was quoted as being “apocalyptic, in a very personal way” by the director Marco Brambilla.
On September 12, 2010, West performed a new song, “Runaway” featuring Pusha T, at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Shortly after the performance, Kanye revealed he was working on a 35 minute short film based around the song. The movie is said to be influenced by film noir and concerns a fallen phoenix whom Kanye falls in love with. On October 15, 2010, Kanye West was ranked 3rd in BET‘s “Top Ten Rappers of the 21st Century” list.
Watch the Throne, a collaborative studio album by West and Jay-Z, was released by Def Jam Recordings on August 8, 2011. It has been under production since August 2010 as part of West’s GOOD Friday initiative of releasing new songs every Friday between August 20 and Christmas 2010. West said through a recent interview with MTV that the album is “going to be very dark and sexy, like couture hip hop.” He appeared at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, performing the track “Lost in the World” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. On January 6, 2011, Kanye announced via Twitter that the first official single from Watch the Throne would be a song called “H•A•M” produced by Lex Luger. The song was released on January 11, 2011.
On April 17, 2011, West closed the Coachella Festival with a headlining set that received glowing praise from fans and critics alike. On July 20, a track titled “Otis” from the album was released in the iTunes Store. It samples “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding. On October 19, 2011, West announced on his Twitter plans for a Spring 2012 GOOD Music album release
Frederick Earl “Shorty” Long (May 20, 1940 – June 29, 1969) was an American soul singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer for Motown’s Soul Records imprint. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1980.
Shorty came to Motown in 1963 from the Tri-Phi/Harvey label, owned by Berry Gordy’s sister, Gwen, and her husband, Harvey Fuqua. His first release, “Devil with the Blue Dress On” (1964), written with William “Mickey” Stevenson, was the first recording issued on Motown’s Soul label, a subsidiary designed for more blues-based artists such as Long. While this song never charted nationally, the song was covered and made a hit in 1966 by Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. Long’s 1966 single “Function at the Junction” was his first popular hit, reaching #42 on the national R&B charts. Other single releases included “It’s a Crying Shame” (1964), “Chantilly Lace” (1967), and “Night Fo’ Last” (1968).
Long’s biggest hit was Here Comes The Judge in 1968, which reached number four on the R&B charts and number-eight on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was inspired by a comic act on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In about a judge by Pigmeat Markham, whose own “Here Comes The Judge” (a totally different song) charted two weeks after Long’s did in June 1968, and became a Top 20 hit. Long’s 1969 singles included “I Had a Dream” and “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. He released one album during his lifetime, Here Comes the Judge (1968).
Long played many instruments, including piano, organ, drums, harmonica, and trumpet. He acted as an MC for many of the Motortown Revue shows and tours, and co-wrote several of his tunes (“Devil with the Blue Dress,” “Function at the Junction,” and “Here Comes the Judge.”). Long was the only Motown artist besides Smokey Robinson who was allowed to produce his own recordings in the 1960s. Marvin Gaye, in David Ritz’s biography Divided Soul: The Life & Times of Marvin Gaye, described Shorty Long as “this beautiful cat who had two hits, and then got ignored by Motown.” Gaye claimed he “fought for guys like Shorty” while at Motown, since no one ever pushed for these artists. When Holland-Dozier-Holland came to Gaye with a tune, he stated, “Why are you going to produce me? Why don’t you produce Shorty Long?”
DeathOn June 29, 1969, Long and a friend drowned when their boat capsized on the Detroit River in Michigan. Stevie Wonder played the harmonica at his burial, and placed it on his casket afterwards. Writer Roger Green’s epitaph stated: “So there endeth the career of a man who sang what he wanted to sing – everything from the blues to romantic ballards, from wild and crazy numbers to a utopian vision of Heaven on Earth. Short in stature but big in talent, he entertained and amazed us, and finally he inspired us.”