Archive for October, 2009

Chuck D (of Public Enemy)

Date of Interview: 10/21/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

Without a doubt, Chuck D is one of hip-hop’s most vocal spokespersons. For the past three decades, as a member of Public Enemy, his socially and politically-charged lyrics have challenged music lovers to “fight the power that be,” while reminding them about the dangers of complacency.

Outside of the music arena, Chuck D has also found a welcome home in lecture halls across the United States—stretching (and challenging) the minds of countless college students.  Nonetheless, his central message rings clear: “don’t believe the hype.”

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Public Enemy as #44 on its Immortals list, which highlighted the 100 greatest artists of all time.  Upon the release of the Public Enemy’s forthcoming album, Chuck D managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on the past, present and future of hip-hop.

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Katharine McPhee

Date of Interview: 10/29/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

Although 2006 was a very good year for Katharine McPhee, it spun her around at a break-neck speed, without much time to “see the forest for the trees.” And for good reason: fresh off her American Idol experience, in which she was the runner-up of Season Five, Katharine released a best-selling album, married the love of her life, and dabbled with her “other” love – acting.

An unexpected setback occurred in January 2008, however, when industry pressures led to Katharine McPhee’s abrupt break from RCA Records.  Consequently, she spent the following months in “artistic hiding.”  Once Katharine’s spirits were refreshed and her artistic confidence was renewed, she re-emerged a year later, with news that announced the signing of a contract with Verve Forecast Records and the forthcoming release of her sophomore effort, Unbroken.  The album is set for release on January 5, 2010.

In the midst of a promotional campaign for Unbroken, Katharine McPhee managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on her love of “God Bless the Child,” the inspiration behind Unbroken, and the invaluable mentorship of David Foster and Andrea Bocelli.

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K. Michelle

Date of Interview: 10/20/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

K. Michelle is raw, honest and refreshingly blunt. Her debut album, Pain Medicine, will be released on Hitz Committee Entertainment in early 2010.

Upon first listen, K. Michelle’s lyrical content may seem “too real for the radio,” but her personal experiences are reflective of countless single mothers whose survival instincts have allowed them to scratch and claw their way to success.

Currently, K. Michelle is touring the U.S. on 36-city trek, as the opening act for R. Kelly’s “Ladies Make Some Noise” Tour.  With a bit of courage, audience members will take a healthy dose of her “pain medicine” and find solace in the lyrics that have been penned from her turbulent life.

As K. Michelle prepared to embark on her national tour, she managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on the inspiration behind Pain Medicine, the provocative buzz single, “Fakin’ It,” and the mentorship she received from R. Kelly and MeMpHiTz.

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Blake Lewis

Date of Interview: 10/20/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

Blake Lewis is an ‘80s baby.  And with the release of his sophomore album, Heartbreak on Vinyl, the influences of David Bowie, Prince and Depeche Mode shine bright.  Compared against his 2007 debut, A.D.D. (Audio Day Dream), one can only wonder what magical music moments were squandered or deferred, due to industry pressures to cash-in on the American Idol juggernaut.

After an abrupt departure from Arista Records, Blake Lewis found a welcome home at Tommy Boy Entertainment.  Coincidentally, it appears, at least sonically, that he feels more comfortable in his “artistic” skin. After long last, Heartbreak on Vinyl reminds the world why Mr. Lewis is the musical “rebel” that we have grown to love.

Upon review of Heartbreak on Vinyl, Blake Lewis managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on his mother’s influence, a memorable performance for First Lady Michelle Obama, and Paul van Dyk’s “Words,” his favorite vinyl record.

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Ryan Leslie

Date of Interview: 10/19/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

Ryan Leslie is a key pioneer in the music-media movement.  By harnessing and utilizing the power of the Internet, over the past few years, he has become one of the entertainment industry’s in-demand music producers.  To date, his production credits include songs for pop stars—from Beyoncé to Britney Spears—and rappers—from Fabolous to LL Cool J.

Ryan Leslie’s claim to fame came in 2006, however, when he wrote and produced Cassie’s platinum single, Me & U, which topped Billboard’s Pop 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.  As soon as Leslie became an established producer, he released his debut album, on the strength of three singles: “Diamond Girl,” “Addiction” and “How It Was Supposed to Be.”

Upon the release of his sophomore effort, Transition, Ryan Leslie managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Stevie Wonder, “To the Top,” and the symbolism behind the NextSelection crest.

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Lyfe Jennings

Date of Interview: 10/16/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

In the world of contemporary R&B, Lyfe Jennings is the prototype for what hip-hop heads would consider a “street disciple.”  Like Nasir Jones, his musical cousin of another genre, Jennings has been vocal in tackling taboo issues that are ever-present in the social milieu.  But even thugs need love, too, and his catalog boasts tracks that spotlight the joys of life, love and the never-ending pursuit of happiness.

By straddling (and blurring) the lines of hip-hop and R&B, Lyfe Jennings has become of the music industry’s most unique stars.  And in spite of the mass media attention has been focused on his past, as an incarcerated felon, he has defied every stereotypical characterization that has come his way.  Accordingly, in 2008, the New York Times heralded Jennings as “a socially minded R&B singer.”

To date, Lyfe Jennings has recorded three critically-acclaimed albums: Lyfe 268-192 (2004), The Phoenix (2006) and Lyfe Change (2008).  In anticipation of his fourth and final studio effort, Mr. Jennings managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on the provocative “S.E.X.,” the early influence of Erykah Badu, and life as a father in the public spotlight.

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Jason Derulo

Date of Interview: 10/16/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

At the age of 5, Jason Derülo wrote his first song, “Crush on You.” Fifteen years later, his resume boasts songwriting credits that include the following artists: Birdman, Cassie, Danity Kane, Diddy, Lil’ Wayne, Pitbull, and Sean Kingston.  By the sheer diversity of his portfolio, it is evident that this emerging talent has versatile songwriting skills.

Focusing his sights on a solo career, Jason Derülo has become one of the major breakout stars of 2009.  His debut single, “Whatcha Say,” quietly stormed up Billboard’s Hot 100 chart—resting comfortably, for the past few weeks, in the #2 spot.  While promoting “Whatcha Say” on a promotional tour, Jason Derülo managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Imogen Heap, “Around the World,” and his formal music training.

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DJ Space Cowboy

Date of Interview: 10/14/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

Nick Dresti is known throughout the world as “Space Cowboy,” the official DJ of Lady GaGa.  He is also the protégé of Norman Cook, the illustrious “Fatboy Slim.”

After spending the bulk of 2009 on the road, Nick Dresti found inspiration from the sights and sounds he encountered as a performer on Lady GaGa’s Fame Ball Tour.  The resulting byproduct, Digital Rock Star, is his fourth studio album, which captures the essence of these experiences. “Falling Down” serves as the lead single.

Upon review of Digital Rock Star, DJ Space Cowboy managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Norman Cook, the origin of his futuristic moniker, and the loyalty of his Japanese fan base.

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Brian Littrell (of the Backstreet Boys)

Date of Interview: 10/14/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

Although Brian Littrell is best-known for being a member of the Backstreet Boys, he is also a highly-regarded contemporary Christian recording artist.  And while Brian’s secular journey with “the Boys” never clouded his spiritual faith, his openness about his faith made him stand out from his fellow band mates.  Together, however, the Backstreet Boys would define (and in many ways, reshape) the contemporary musical landscape.

Over the past two decades, the Backstreet Boys have sold more than 100 million records.  And within the annals of history, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best-selling artists of all-time.  Beyond all shadow of doubt, as far as vocal groups are concerned, the Backstreet Boys paved viable, commercial paths for N*SYNC, 98 Degrees and Westlife.

Upon the release of This Is Us, the band’s seventh studio album, Brian Littrell managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on his faith in God, the Backstreet Boys’ legacy, and the group’s successful blending of pop and R&B.

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N'dambi

Date of Interview: 10/12/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

Every month of every year, I am pleasantly surprised to discover an amazing talent that has existed for years in the “underground” scene, while being ignored by “mainstream” radio.  This month, I was introduced to the work of N’dambi, who has recorded as a solo artist for more than a decade and served as a background singer for several gospel and secular artists, including fellow “soul sister” Erykah Badu.

Inspired by the music of Nina Simone, N’dambi has harnessed the power of her contralto voice and let her creative spirits guide her from Dallas, Texas, to venues across the globe.  Upon the release of her Stax debut, Pink Elephant, N’dambi managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on the influence of Nina Simone, her Stax experience, and the creative chemistry behind “Imitator” and “Can’t Hardly Wait.”

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