When it comes to entertaining, enlightening and educating, no one in talk radio compares to Michael Baisden. His high energy and love for interacting with his listeners is just one reason for the popularity and success of The Michael Baisden Show. Michael ignites heated discussions with explosive episodic themes like: Living Your Dream, Your Body Is Your Temple, Do Women Know What They Want, and Pimps In The Pulpit.
His radio career began in 2003 when 98.7 KISS FM in New York City offered him a position as the afternoon drive-time host. Because of budget constraints the station was unable to offer him a salary. Michael's response was, "Just give me the damned mic!" And sure enough, within six months, their afternoon drive ratings went from number 9 to number 1.
After eight months of consistent high ratings, Michael suggested taking his show national but management was apprehensive, suggesting that New York wasn't ready. A few months later, Michael threatened to quit if management did not pursue a syndication deal. "There was no doubt in my mind that I could have one of the hottest shows on radio! I knew the impact it would have on people all across the country and I wasn't taking no, for an answer," Michael rebutted.
His vibrant personality on and off the air has made him a people magnet. He began attracting attention with primarily female followers as author and publisher of the highly successful provocative books: "Never Satisfied: How and Why Men Cheat", "Men Cry in the Dark", "The Maintenance Man", and lastly "God's Gift to Women". Two of his titles ultimately were adapted into stage plays. 2012 marked the return of Baisden the author with new titles: "Do Men Know What They Want", "The Maintenance Man Collectors Edition", and just released the long awaited "Maintenance Man II: Money, Politics & Sex…Exeryone Has A Price".
But his proudest moment came on September 20, 2007, when he passionately and skillfully spearheaded the famous Jena 6 March in Jena, Louisiana. This historic and momentous occasion garnered tens of thousands of citizens of all races to peacefully march in support of six young men who have been unfairly treated by the justice system. In addition, he urged millions of listeners to wear black on September 20th in protest of unequal justice. The news traveled throughout the country, everyone wore black in support of the Jena 6, from college students of all races to corporate executives.
In the late 1980s, he contributed to the creation of new jack swing, writing and producing music for the likes of Bobby Brown, Karyn White, Pebbles, Paula Abdul and Sheena Easton.
In 1989, Edmonds co-founded LaFace Records with Reid. Three of the label's early artists TLC, Usher, and Toni Braxton were successful, the former becoming one of the best selling female groups in music history. Braxton's eponymous 1993 debut album went on to sell over eight million copies, and earned her the 1994 Grammy Award Best New Artist. TLC's first two albums on LaFace—1992's Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip and 1994's CrazySexyCool—combined to sell more than 15 million copies in the U.S. CrazySexyCool won the 1996 Grammy Award for Best R&B album. Babyface helped form the popular late-90s R&B group Az Yet.
Edmonds works with many successful performers in contemporary music. "I'm Your Baby Tonight," produced for Whitney Houston, was his first #1 Top 40 hit in the US. He also wrote and produced Boyz II Men's "End of the Road" and "I'll Make Love to You," both of which established records for the longest stay at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He co-wrote, co-produced, and provided backing vocals on Madonna's 1994 Bedtime Stories, which featured the 7-week #1 hit "Take a Bow," and shared billing with Eric Clapton on the chart-topping Grammy winner "Change the World" from the Phenomenon soundtrack. He also wrote and produced the #1 hit "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" for Whitney Houston as well as the rest of the critically acclaimed 10 million selling Waiting to Exhale soundtrack in 1995, which spawned additional hits for Houston, Brandy and Mary J. Blige.
Additionally, Edmonds has produced and written music for many artists including Carole King, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Faith Evans, Al Green, Beyoncé, Diana Ross, Sheena Easton, Toni Braxton, Michael Jackson, Michael Bolton, Paula Abdul, Pebbles, Tevin Campbell, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Tamia, Shola Ama, 3T, Sisqó, Dru Hill, Fall Out Boy, Céline Dion, Katharine McPhee, Mariah Carey, Vanessa L. Williams, Chanté Moore, En Vogue, Eric Clapton, Kenny G, Kristinia DeBarge, Lil Wayne, Japanese singer Ken Hirai, P!nk, Marc Nelson, TLC, and Phil Collins among others. He received three consecutive Grammy Awards for Producer of the Year in 1995–1997.
In 1994, he appeared and performed on an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 entitled "Mr. Walsh Goes to Washington (Part 2)".
In the mid-1990s, Edmonds and his then wife Tracey Edmonds expanded into the business of motion pictures, setting up Edmonds Entertainment Group and producing films such as Soul Food (1997), Josie and the Pussycats (2001), and also the soundtrack for the film The Prince of Egypt, which included contributions from numerous artists, including Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. They are the current executive producers of the hit BET reality series College Hill. Edmonds also worked with David Foster to compose "The Power of the Dream," the official song of the 1996 Summer Olympics, performed by superstar Céline Dion. Linda Thompson provided the lyrics.
Babyface also participated as a duet partner on the Fox reality show Celebrity Duets. Babyface was in the studio for about two years with Ashanti to produce her album The Declaration. His album Playlist consists of eight cover songs and two original works. It was released on September 18, 2007. It was the first album on the newly re-launched Mercury Records label. He worked on the Lil Wayne album Tha Carter III, on the Kanye West-produced "Comfortable." He also worked with R&B singer Monica for her sixth studio album Still Standing. He has written and produced over 26 #1 R&B hits throughout his career.
He is currently in studio working on his tenth studio album.
To Fantasia, life and music can never be separated. So when the 26-year-old, eight-time Grammy nominee titled her third album Back to Me, she was making her current goals, both creative and personal, crystal clear.
"When I was on American Idol," she says, "people fell in love with the young lady who took her shoes off to come onstage, who spoke her mind and didn't hold anything back. They could relate because whatever I was feeling at the time, I put that in my music.
"But after doing two albums and having the chance to do some acting," she continues, "I think I allowed people to influence me and change me. As an artist, you're always asking, 'What's the new sound? What's gonna bump in the clubs? What's hot?,' when really, all it takes is you being yourself. What makes us special as artists is when we do us. So I wanted to get back to that Fantasia—the young lady who sang from her soul and didn't worry about what anyone else has to say. You have to follow your heart, and most of the time when you do that, you win."
Fantasia Monique Barrino knows a few things about winning. Following her triumph in the 2004 edition of American Idol, the song "I Believe" made her the first recording artist in history to debut at #1 on the Billboard charts with a debut single. Her album Free Yourself was certified platinum, while the follow-up, 2006's Fantasia, featured the #1 R&B hit "When I See U."
Back to Me, which includes writing and producing contributions from such hitmakers as Ne-Yo, Claude Kelly, and Rico Love, may be Fantasia's first new music in over three years, but that time has hardly been quiet. For a full year, she took on the role of Celie in the Broadway musical The Color Purple (she is also cast in the forthcoming film adaptation). She published her controversial memoir, Life is Not a Fairy Tale and starred as herself in the Lifetime Network adaptation of the New York Times bestseller. Most recently, following a series of personal and professional challenges, she returned to the spotlight with the VH1 reality series Fantasia for Real. So when it came time to focus on her music again, she was itching to go.
"When we started recording," says Fantasia, "it had been so long for me, and I must have had about 50 or 60 songs. I had kind of taken a break—not by choice, but because so many things were going on with my life, with management, with accountants, everything was in an uproar. So I just started to go in the booth with anybody that would let me in. We went for months, in Atlanta, New York, LA, working with a lot of people.
"After going through so many songs, though, I realized that what we were missing was everybody coming into one room, sitting down, and talking about real things, real-life situations. And, of course, I'm always the one to start it off, always the one to put my business on Front Street! But I do that because I feel like your life is your testimony, that's what you're supposed to speak about to help your next-door neighbor or whoever maybe listening. You help them by speaking the truth."
The gritty soul of "Move on Me" provided the spark that Fantasia sought. "It gave me that sound that I had been looking for—that Tina Turner feel," she says. "I remember being in the booth and getting that same feeling that I get on stage. That song gave me a push, like OK, here we go, we finally got it."
"Move on Me" is one of three soul-drenched songs on Back to Me produced by the team of KP and Malay (along with "Teach Me" and the blistering "The Thrill is Gone," which features Cee-Lo Green). This raw and unexpected side of Fantasia, though, is balanced by cuts like the smoldering "Bittersweet," the album's first official single, and the inspiring, melodic "Even Angels."
Shaffer Chimere Smith (born October 18, 1979), better known by his stage name Ne-Yo, is an American R&B recording artist, record producer, dancer and actor. Beginning his career as a songwriter, Ne-Yo penned the hit "Let Me Love You" for singer Mario. The single's successful release in the United States prompted an informal meeting between Ne-Yo and Def Jam's label head, and the signing of a recording contract. He has won three Grammy Awards for his musical work.
In 2006, he released his debut album, In My Own Words, which contained the US number one hit "So Sick", as well as the top 10 hit Sexy Love. In 2007, he released his second album, Because of You, which contained the US top 3 hit, Because of You. In 2008, he released his third album, Year of the Gentleman, which contained the top 10 hits Closer, Mad and Miss Independent. His fourth studio album, Libra Scale, was released on November 22, 2010. It received critical acclaim from music critics, but was a commercial disappointment, debuting at number nine on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling less than all of his previous three studio albums. In 2009, Billboard ranked him as the 57th Artist of the 2000s decade. In addition to a successful recording career, Ne-Yo has amassed a catalog of chart-topping songs that he has written for other artists.
On February 25, 2011, while on his tour in the United Kingdom, he announced his new album would be called Love and Passion and would be released in September, but this was proven false as the title was tentative. American rapper Fabolous, said in an interview that he is planning a collaboration album with Ne-Yo as well. Ne-Yo has also written songs for Mary J. Blige, JB, Beyoncé Knowles, Monica, Alexandra Burke, Cheryl and Willow Smith's upcoming albums. Ne-Yo starred in two motion pictures, Red Tails, due for a release in early 2012, and Battle: Los Angeles, which was released in the United States on March 11, 2011. Ne-Yo has already finished writing songs for American pop singer and Roc Nation artist Alexis Jordan and her self-titled debut album as well as Jennifer Hudson for her second studio album, I Remember Me, which had a North American release on March 22, 2011. Ne-Yo appeared in the children's preschool show The Fresh Beat Band and is one of the few artists not to cancel appearances in the wake of the 2011 Japan earthquake.
In the spring of 2011, Ne-Yo collaborated with American rapper Pitbull and Nayer on his single, Give Me Everything, which peaked at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Ne-Yo his second U.S. number-one single since 2006's So Sick and his first as a guest artist. Ne-Yo has also revealed an interview that he would like to collaborate with Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Drake on his new album
Grammy Award-winning and 10-million-plus selling singer, actress and entrepreneur Monica, returns to the music scene with her very personal J Records/RCA Music Group aptly titled offering, Still Standing. To define oneself as "still standing" is a bold statement, and as her album title actualizes, "whatever happens to me is just a part of my story. It doesn't define who I am and it hasn't deterred me from where I'm going."
The musical part of the Georgia native's story is filled with a track record of history making accomplishments. For any average recording artist, achieving chart-topping success during their early to mid-teens is no simple task, but we're talking about Monica here. "It was the perfect life for me. I wouldn't say any 12, 14 or 16 year old could handle it, but that was for me because it shaped and molded the person that I am" she recalls. With "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)" and "Before You Walk Out Of My Life," Monica became the youngest female ever to have two #1 back-to-back hits on Billboard's R&B chart from her 1995 debut album Miss Thang. By 1998, her next album The Boy Is Mine, garnered Monica pop success when she paired with Brandy to record the Rodney Jerkins produced first single of the same name. Spending a record breaking thirteen weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts, the duet earned a Grammy Award to add to Monica's existing collection of American Music, Soul Train and Billboard Awards. "I was 16 and everything that I dreamed about was in front of me." The album boasted two more #1 hits ("The First Night" and "Angel of Mine") while establishing Monica as an undeniable voice of her generation. In 2003 Monica's chart-topping success continued when her third album, After The Storm, debuted at #1 on Billboard's Top 200 Album chart and spawned her sixth #1 single "So Gone." Monica's follow-up album, 2006's The Makings Of Me, entered at #1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart and added yet another achievement to the songstress' extraordinary career.
Even after a four-year musical pause, Monica is still a pretty, young "thang" - present, accounted for and very prepared for everything life has to offer. The lessons Monica learned during her break not only pushed her desire to re-enter the music scene, but kept her focused on the importance of generating positive energy at all times. "Over the hiatus I learned that the more I did with a positive frame of mind, the better things went." With that attitude and some swift negotiationsBlack Entertainment Television (BET) took their viewers and Monica fans on a 12-week behind the scenes journey of Monica's life , in preparation for her new album release. Along for the ride were the nucleus of Monica's life – her 2 sons, Ramone (Lil Rocko) and Romello, cousin/manager Melinda, mother Marilyn and album executive producer Bryan-Michael Cox.
With her suitably titled series, Monica: Still Standing, "I wanted people to get a clear look at why I do some of the things that I do. The show gave me a chance to be me at all times, so now people aren't expecting something of me, they already know me," Monica attests of the show's value. Monica identifies Still Standing the album as, "my defining moment. The process of recording this album felt more like the first time where I didn't think about what was playing on the radio. This album reflects who I am now."
During the 1970s, a new brand of pop music was born – one that was steeped in African and African-American styles – particularly jazz and R&B but appealed to a broader cross-section of the listening public. As founder and leader of the band Earth, Wind & Fire, Maurice White not only embraced but also helped bring about this evolution of pop, which bridged the gap that has often separated the musical tastes of black and white America. It certainly was successful, as EWF combined high-caliber musicianship, wide-ranging musical genre eclecticism, and '70s multicultural spiritualism. "I wanted to do something that hadn't been done before," Maurice explains. "Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music…which somehow ended up becoming pop. We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners' spiritual content."Maurice was born December 19, 1941, in Memphis, TN. He was immersed in a rich musical culture that spanned the boundaries between jazz, gospel, R&B, blues and early rock. All of these styles played a role in the development of Maurice's musical identity. At age six, he began singing in his church's gospel choir but soon his interest turned to percussion. He began working gigs as a drummer while still in high school. His first professional performance was with Booker T. Jones, who eventually achieved stardom as Booker T and the MGs.After graduating high school, Maurice moved to the Windy City to continue his musical education at the prestigious Chicago Conservatory Of Music. He continued picking up drumming jobs on the side, which eventually lead to a steady spot as a studio percussionist with the legendary Chicago label, Chess Records. At Chess, Maurice had the privilege of playing with such greats as Etta James, Fontella Bass, Billy Stewart, Willie Dixon, Sonny Stitt and Ramsey Lewis, whose trio he joined in 1967. He spent nearly three years as part of the Ramsey Lewis Trio. "Ramsey helped shape my musical vision beyond just the music," Maurice explains. "I learned about performance and staging." Maurice also learned about the African thumb piano, or Kalimba, an instrument whose sound would become central to much of his work over the years.
In 1969, Maurice left the Ramsey Lewis Trio and joined two friends in Chicago, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, as a songwriting team composing songs and commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol and called themselves the "Salty Peppers," and had a marginal hit in the Mid-western area called "La La Time." That band featured Maurice on vocals, percussion and Kalimba along with keyboardists/vocalists Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead.
After relocating to Los Angeles and signing a new contract with Warner Bros., Maurice simultaneously made what may have been the smartest move of his young career. He changed the band's name to Earth, Wind & Fire (after the three elements in his astrological chart). The new name also captured Maurice's spiritual approach to music – one that transcended categories and appealed to multiple artistic principals, including composition, musicianship, production, and performance. In addition to White, Flemons and Whitehead, Maurice recruited Michael Beal on guitar, Leslie Drayton, Chester Washington and Alex Thomas on horns, Sherry Scott on vocals, percussionist Phillard Williams and his younger brother Verdine on bass.
Timeless. It's something every artist wants to be, but few earn the distinction. Charlie Wilson's name is on that short list. From his breakout as a member of the Gap Band ("You Dropped A Bomb On Me," "Outstanding") in the '80s to his revered solo recordings (2005's certified gold Charlie, Last Name Wilson, 2009's Grammy nominated Uncle Charlie, and his 2010 release Just Charlie), Wilson has sold millions of albums. He has also inspired a throng of artists who have modeled their vocal styling after his (most notably Aaron Hall and R. Kelly) while cementing his status as a music icon with accolades from Billboard and BET, among a host of others.
His newly released single, "My Love Is All I Have" is currently available on iTunes and his upcoming, highly anticipated CD Love, Charlie is due for release in February, 2013. Wilson was recently honored with two 2012 Grammy nominations for his chart-topping single, "You Are," for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance. "You Are" was the first single from Wilson's critically-acclaimed CD, Just Charlie and dominated Billboard's Urban Adult Contemporary chart remaining at #1 for 13 consecutive weeks.
In 2010, Wilson also received two Grammy nominations for Best R&B Album, Uncle Charlie, and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his hit single, "There Goes My Baby."Although Wilson struggled with alcohol and drug addiction that consumed him once The Gap Band broke up, his music resonated with generations of musicians and rappers, including Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, R. Kelly, Jamie Foxx, T-Pain and Justin Timberlake, many of whom clamored to collaborate with him and achieve the level of artistic quality Wilson has maintained. He is proud to share with his fans around the world that he has been clean and sober for 18 years.
Wilson continues to tour the world bringing his fans the ultimate concert performance combining his current chart-toppers and GAP Band hits. Famed talk show host, Steve Harvey raves "What I saw at The Hoodies was the greatest single living performer of legendary status of our time. His voice is amazing and his energy and the level of intensity that he has is unbelievable."
Beyond music, Wilson remains committed to promoting awareness and educating his community about prostate cancer. As a survivor of the disease that afflicts one in six American men –and one in three African American men – Wilson in 2008 teamed up with the Prostate Cancer Foundation. In April, 2012, he announced teaming up with Janssen Biotech to launch their Making Awareness A Priority (M.A.P.) program which brings together leading voices in advocacy and health education through live events in select cities across the country.
With music and his commitment to educate people about prostate cancer, Wilson has been able to sustain the passion and drive that have been hallmarks of his legendary career. "I'm still living this dream," Wilson says. "I still love to perform and I'm still having fun. I'm not there just to pick up the check. It's about the passion and the respect that I have for the game. It keeps me going."
New Edition's early, Jackson 5-inspired material made them the forerunners of two generations of teen pop (most of which was geared to white audiences). As they matured and progressed, they laid much of the groundwork for the fusion of hip-hop and R&B known as new jack swing. In fact, after New Edition drifted apart, all of its members had at least some significant success outside the group as part of the new jack movement, which helped ensure that their original incarnation would be remembered for much more than the bubblegum urban soul that made their name.
New Edition was formed in the Roxbury section of Boston, MA, by Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Bobby Brown, who began singing together in 1978 while still in elementary school, hoping to perform for pocket cash. They eventually recruited friend Ralph Tresvant as a fourth member, and after winning a talent show in 1980, also added Ronnie DeVoe. More talent show victories followed, including a prestigious gig at the local Strand Theater, where they performed the Jackson 5's "The Love You Save." They were discovered by writer/producer/impresario Maurice Starr, who signed the group to his small Streetwise label in hopes of launching a Jackson 5 phenomenon for the '80s. "Candy Girl," a song Starr co-wrote for the group, was released as their first single in 1983, when the members ranged in age from 13 to 15. Despite a lack of major-label interest in the group, "Candy Girl" was a smash, topping the R&B charts. Their debut album, also titled Candy Girl, spawned two more R&B hits in "Popcorn Love" and "Is This the End?," and MCA offered the group a deal. Starr, however, wanted the group to remain with Streetwise; New Edition summarily fired him as their manager and signed with MCA. Starr attempted to sue the group for their name, unsuccessfully claiming that "New Edition" actually referred to a whole new style of pop music he'd created. Starr, of course, would go on to strike it rich with a similar concept, assembling a quintet of white teenagers he dubbed New Kids on the Block.
New Edition, meanwhile, released their eponymous MCA debut in 1984 and scored their biggest pop hit with the Top Five smash "Cool It Now," which ended with a short rap section. The Ray Parker, Jr.-penned "Mr. Telephone Man" soon became their third R&B chart-topper, and the group had reached full-fledged teen idol status. Yet they were growing up fast, as demonstrated on their next album, 1985's All for Love. Not only were their voices changing, but their material was becoming more adult, with harder-edged funk and more mature romantic ballads. Later that year, they also released a holiday album, Christmas All Over the World, and struck an endorsement deal with Coke. However, rumors of Brown's growing dissatisfaction proved true and he left for a solo career in 1986. Temporarily down to a quartet, the rest of the group recorded the covers album Under the Blue Moon, a set of vintage doo wop and R&B numbers from the '50s and '60s; it produced a hit revival of the Penguins' "Earth Angel."
Najee is a master storyteller. Whether the debonair multi-instrumentalist is engaged in a verbal or musical conversation, his alluring charisma has a way of seducing you into his world. A quadruple threat who is equally adept on soprano, tenor and alto saxophones and flute, Najee's technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion, fearless genre bending and superior musicianship have made him one of the most sought after musicians of his generation. In a business where trends and artists come and go, Najee's name is synonymous with innovation, consistency and the best in contemporary jazz.
With two Platinum and four Gold albums under his belt, he is an icon whose musical vision spawned an entire new genre by fusing the music close to his heart (R&B and jazz). Three decades later he is showing that he is not done yet!
An alum of the New England Conservatory of Music, Najee was mentored by jazz giants Frank Foster and Jimmy Heath as well as classical maven and flutist Harold Jones of the New York Philharmonic. He has collaborated with everyone from Prince and Quincy Jones to Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Herbie Hancock. He has also had the distinction to perform for Presidents Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela and made appearances on The Tonight Show and Good Morning America.
"I have always tried to maintain consistency when it comes to music I've recorded throughout the years," confides Najee. "As an artist I have been fortunate to attract an audience very early in my career that has followed and grown with me. My challenge has always been to record music that I enjoy playing while at the same time meeting the requirements that I believe my audience would like to hear. I am always looking for something to help me continue to grow as a musician."
On January 31, 2012, Shanachie Entertainment will release Najee's highly anticipated label debut, The Smooth Side Of Soul, a sublime offering from the peerless instrumentalist and composer, that is a testament as to why he has long reigned as the King of contemporary jazz. "Recording The Smooth Side Of Soul was truly a labor of love. Jeff Lorber, Chris "Big Dog" Davis, Darren Rahn, Phil Perry and James Lloyd are not only great artists but they are all friends," exclaims Najee. "Any time I work with any of these gentlemen it is always easy and fun. I think this comes across in the music." The camaraderie that Najee feels permeates every track on The Smooth Side Of Soul, which opens with the ultra funky "Dis 'N Dat," which Najee co-wrote with Chris 'Big Dog' Davis (George Clinton, Will Downing, Kim Burrell, Maysa).
The song sets the mood for The Smooth Side Of Soul, with its fat bass lines, buttery keys and Najee's robust and soulfully expressive tenor. Chris 'Big Dog' Davis contributes several songs to the CD including the catchy "You Tube," and the captivating "Perfect Nites." Najee explains of the latter, "This song is just something you can listen to while cruising down the highway in your favorite car on your way to your favorite destination." Shifting moods, Najee invites Phil Perry into the mix on the dance inspiring and disco flavored "Just To Fall In Love," penned by Will Downing, Phil Perry and Chris 'Big Dog' Davis.
Rachelle Ferrell is unquestionably one of the most dynamic talents in contemporary pop music. Very few vocal artists in the industry have Ferrell's potent combination of range, phrasing, and musicianship. Ferrell first emerged in the states with her R&B debut Rachelle Ferrell (1992), a solid collection of self-penned originals that featured a striking duet with Will Downing ('Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This'). It was with the release of First Instrument in 1994 (recorded prior to Rachelle Ferrell) that audiences were really introduced to Ferrell's jazz sensibilities.
Rachelle Ferrell began singing at the age of six, which many speculate contributed to the "development of her startling six and change octave range." Her range also includes the ability to sing in the whistle register, as stated in an editorial review in which she references her highest notes in "It only took a minute" as "Minnie Riperton-like wailing". She received classical training in violin at an early age and by the time she was a teen, she was able to play the piano at a professional level. She enrolled in Berklee College of Music in Boston where she honed her musical abilities in arrangement, singing and songwriting.
Throughout 1988-1989, Rachelle Ferrell sang backup for Phyllis Hyman. Soon after, Ferrell's debut, First Instrument, was released in 1990 in Japan, five years prior to its US release. Recorded with bassist Tyrone Brown, pianist Eddie Green and drummer Doug Nally, an all-star cast of accompanists also leave their mark on her record. They include trumpeter Terence Blanchard, pianists Gil Goldstein and Michel Petrucciani, bassists Kenny Davis and Stanley Clarke, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter and keyboardist Pete Levin. Her unique take on now-standards like Sam Cooke's "You Send Me", Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love", and Rodgers & Hart's "My Funny Valentine", captured the hearts and souls of the Japanese jazz buying public…
Fearless. That one word eloquently captures the creative spirit of groundbreaking duo Mary Mary. Ever since siblings Erica Campbell and Tina Campbell broke through in 2000 with the pioneering crossover hit "Shackles (Praise You)," the chart-topping sister act has never wavered from defying convention to fulfill its mission: sending uplifting messages through music and words that are relatable to everyone.
"It's about making music that touches both adults and young people," says Erica. Adds Tina, "It's about spreading good news for the world but doing it in the Mary Mary way: banging beats and melodies, intertwined voices and messages of hope."
An amazing ten years later, having earned 3 Grammy Awards, 2 American Music Awards, an NAACP Image Award and a BET Award, the "Mary Mary way" sounds just as fresh and innovative on the duo's sixth album, the aptly titled SOMETHING BIG (My Block/Columbia/Sony Music; March 29, 2011). This vibrant outing, once again produced by longtime collaborator Warryn Campbell, picks up where the group's most recent mainstream success story, 2008's The Sound and its Grammy Award-winning smash hit "God in Me," left off.
Paving the way for SOMETHING BIG is the lively lead single "Walking." After only nine weeks at radio, the single has already marched its way into the top 10 at Urban AC and is steadily growing. In the vein of "God in Me," Mary Mary's 2009 Auto-Tune-laden R&B/hip-hop crossover hit, "Walking" bounces along with synthesizer-accented, percolating rhythms while delivering its uplifting message. "Some say walking takes too long/I say with walking you can't go wrong/I rock with the greatest," proclaim Tina and Erica.
Like Mary Mary's previous albums, SOMETHING BIG resonates with a fusion of sound (R&B, hip-hop, dance, pop, gospel and jazz) and empowering messages. But unlike earlier efforts, this album also features more collaborations with several talented new writers. A case in point is Jazz Nixon, who crafted the title track. Interpolating the Jackson 5's 1971 hit "Mama's Pearl," complemented by an edgy bass and drum mix and spirited hand claps, the track puts a contemporary spin on the traditional call and response song.