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Diddy

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If like me you have been glued to the car crash reality TV mess which is Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, then you will be well aware of a certain Stevie J, an Atlanta-based producer/songwriter and the show’s resident bad boy. Pitched in the show as someone who has female artists literally fighting each other to work with him, in this instance former stripper and his side chick Joseline and trouble maker Karlee Redd, who are both portrayed as showing extreme thirstiness to get studio time with the music maker. In the case of Joseline, it’s to the point where Stevie, or ‘Steebie’, as she calls him in her thick Puerto Rican accent, can literally treat her like he owns her, even getting her to abort their baby, coz her being pregnant didn’t fit in with his plans.

Watching this show, it is hard to remember sometimes that Stevie J, who used to date rapper Eve, was once one of the hottest producers in the game, working with Diddy’s famed 90s production team the Hitmen and played a huge part in creating some of the biggest hit songs of the 90s. Website madamenoire did a recent post to remind us of his talents (outside of juggling women), and even though he hasn’t has a major hit in a long time you can’t deny his back catalogue is pretty impressive!

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Andre Harrell picAndre Harrell has always been a trailblazer. Be it as one half of early 80s rap duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where the pair rocked sharp suits as opposed to the obligatory jeans, sports jerseys and baseball caps. And then in the mid 80s-mid-90s as president of Uptown Records, an imprint on MCA, which kick started the whole ‘ghetto fabulous’ movement and assisted in ushering in  the mainstream’s unapologetic love affair with black culture as we currently know it, from the music, the fashion, the lifestyle and the swag.

The label also changed the music industry forever by introducing acts such as Mary J Blige, Jodeci, Guy, Heavy D and the Boys and Al B Sure, who, aside from becoming a success in their own right and carving their place in music history, became a blueprint for countless acts who followed. Uptown was also where Teddy Riley’s New Jack Swing sound first began to thrive. Andre is also responsible for giving Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs his start in the music industry when he hired him as an intern at Uptown Records in 1993. And contrary to urban myth he didn’t fire him, that was Uptown’s then General Manager Mark Siegel – but that’s another story for another time.

But back to Andre, who also bought us blue-eyed soul crooner Robin Thicke, and his most recent carnation as CEO of the relatively new Harrell Records, where acts include r&b male quintet Hamilton Park.

The primary reason for doing this interview is he is currently on the look out for some more acts to add to his stable. Which is why he has embarked on a fantastic and innovative global talent search project with Blazetrak, a web platform that provides direct video access to the world’s top professionals. From now through to November 30th, 2011 Andre will be accepting auditions via Blazetrak.com from artists and aspiring producer/songwriters. He will personally review each and every submission, and all entrants are guaranteed a video response/critique directly from Andre himself. Then, after reviewing all the entries, on 10 January, 2012 he will announce the winning recipient of a record deal or production/publishing deal. Already, the talent search is gaining some serious buzz, with multiple tweets going out from Diddy, Mary J. Blige, Jermaine Dupri, Russell Simmons and Robin Thicke on Twitter. Here’s what Andre had to say about the project, his history and impact in the music industry and the many artists and figures whose careers he is responsible for kick-starting.

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When it comes to female groups, past and present TLC, will forever be my favourite. But this post is not about TLC, it’s about another female group who if I had to name my second favourite of all time would certainly fit neatly into that slot. Of course I am talking about Total!

New Jersey-bred trio Jakima ‘Kima’ Raynor, Keisha Spivey and Pamela ‘Pam’ Long made their presence well and truly felt when they burst onto the music scene with their debut self-titled album back in 1996. They were the first female group to come out of Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs’ Bad Boy Records stable and possessed the same perfect combination of attitude, swagger and great music all  Bad Boy artists (Faith Evans, 112, Ma$e and of course Biggie)  from that era did! To sum it up Total were the ‘hood TLC (with their own something special)’ as I’ve heard people say time and time again. Can’t You See, Kissing You, No One Else (all from their first album) are still played in clubs today, and have becoming r&b classics over the years.

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craigmackI’ve been meaning to do a post on the remix of former Bad Boy Records artist Craig Mack’s Flava in Ya Ear for a while, as it is a song that is never far from my mind! I play it often as it’s one of those that makes me feel really good, almost invincible, as crazy as that sounds! A lot of old school songs I listen to a lot tend to spark a memory of a certain time period in my life, which is why they are so dear to me.

This one is summer 1994. I was out of secondary school and into the big wide world of college! Hip hop was taking on a new direction. A fresh crop of rappers were emerging. From B.I.G, Craig Mack, Wu-Tang Clan, and Nas, the buzz name signed to Columbia a couple of years previous, who had released his debut Illmatic that April. In addition Dr Dre’s debut solo set The Chronic had been released the previous year (on Death Row) and was the first hip hop album I bought with my own money. As had Snoop’s Doggy Style, another one I picked up!

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SWVAs far as female groups go, the 90s was definitely the best decade for me. And you can’t speak on that topic without mentioning SWV! This trio of Cheryl ‘Coko’ Gamble, Leanne ‘Lelee’ Lyons and Tamara ‘Taj’ Johnson, all from New York, bought hit after hit to the airwaves, music video channels and clubs back in the 90s, and a lot of those songs are still hot till this very day.

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