1/20/12 – The Legendary Etta James Passes Away At 73

The 73-year-old died at Riverside Community Hospital…


Etta James’ performance of the enduring classic “At Last” was the embodiment of refined soul: Angelic-sounding strings harkened the arrival of her passionate yet measured vocals as she sang tenderly about a love finally realized after a long and patient wait.

In real life, little about James was as genteel as that song. The platinum blonde’s first hit was a saucy R&B number about sex, and she was known as a hell-raiser who had tempestuous relationships with her family, her men and the music industry. Then she spent years battling a drug addiction that she admitted sapped away at her great talents.


The 73-year-old died at Riverside Community Hospital, with her husband and sons at her side, De Leon said.

She was one of music’s original bad girls.

James’ spirit could not be contained – perhaps that’s what made her so magnetic in music; it is surely what made her so dynamic as one of R&B, blues and rock ‘n’ roll’s underrated legends.

“The bad girls … had the look that I liked,” she wrote in her 1995 autobiography, “Rage to Survive.” ”I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be.”

“It’s a tremendous loss for her fans around the world,” he said. “She’ll be missed. A great American singer. Her music defied category.”

Despite the reputation she cultivated, she would always be remembered best for “At Last.” The jazz-inflected rendition wasn’t the original, but it would become the most famous and the song that would define her as a legendary singer. Over the decades, brides used it as their song down the aisle and car companies to hawk their wares, and it filtered from one generation to the next through its inclusion in movies like “American Pie.” Perhaps most famously, President Obama and the first lady danced to a version at his inauguration ball.

The tender, sweet song belied the turmoil in her personal life. James – born Jamesette Hawkins – was born in Los Angeles to a mother whom she described as a scam artist, a substance abuser and a fleeting presence during her youth. She never knew her father, although she was told and had believed, that he was the famous billiards player Minnesota Fats. He neither confirmed nor denied it: when they met, he simply told her: “I don’t remember everything. I wish I did, but I don’t.”

She was raised by Lula and Jesse Rogers, who owned the rooming house where her mother once lived in. The pair brought up James in the Christian faith, and as a young girl, her voice stood out in the church choir. James landed the solos in the choir and became so well known, she said that Hollywood stars would come to see her perform.

But she wouldn’t stay a gospel singer for long. Rhythm and blues lured her away from the church, and she found herself drawn to the grittiness of the music.

“My mother always wanted me to be a jazz singer, but I always wanted to be raunchy,” she recalled in her book.

She was doing just that when bandleader Johnny Otis found her singing on San Francisco street corners with some girlfriends in the early 1950s.

“At the time, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters had a hit with ‘Work With Me, Annie,’ and we decided to do an answer. We didn’t think we would get in show business, we were just running around making up answers to songs,” James told The Associated Press in 1987.

And so they replied with the song, “Roll With Me, Henry.”

When Otis heard it, he told James to get her mother’s permission to accompany him to Los Angeles to make a recording. Instead, the 15-year-old singer forged her mother’s name on a note claiming she was 18.

“At that time, you weren’t allowed to say ‘roll’ because it was considered vulgar. So when Georgia Gibbs did her version, she renamed it ‘Dance With Me, Henry’ and it went to No. 1 on the pop charts,” the singer recalled. The Gibbs song was one of several in the early rock era when white singers got hits by covering songs by black artists, often with sanitized lyrics.

After her 1955 debut, James toured with Otis’ revue, sometimes earning only $10 a night. In 1959, she signed with Chicago’s legendary Chess label, began cranking out the hits and going on tours with performers such as Bobby Vinton, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers.

“We would travel on four buses to all the big auditoriums. And we had a lot of fun,” she recalled in 1987.

James recorded a string of hits in the late 1950s and ’60s including “Trust In Me,” ”Something’s Got a Hold On Me,” ”Sunday Kind of Love,” ”All I Could Do Was Cry,” and of course, “At Last.”

“(Chess Records founder) Leonard Chess was the most aware of anyone. He went up and down the halls of Chess announcing, ‘Etta’s crossed over! Etta’s crossed over!’ I still didn’t know exactly what that meant, except that maybe more white people were listening to me. The Chess brothers kept saying how I was their first soul singer, that I was taking their label out of the old Delta blues, out of rock and into the modern era. Soul was the new direction,” she wrote in her autobiography. “But in my mind, I was singing old style, not new.”

In 1967, she cut one of the most highly regarded soul albums of all time, “Tell Mama,” an earthy fusion of rock and gospel music featuring blistering horn arrangements, funky rhythms and a churchy chorus. A song from the album, “Security,” was a top 40 single in 1968.

Her professional success, however, was balanced against personal demons, namely a drug addiction.

“I was trying to be cool,” she told the AP in 1995, explaining what had led her to try heroin.

“I hung out in Harlem and saw Miles Davis and all the jazz cats,” she continued. “At one time, my heavy role models were all druggies. Billie Holiday sang so groovy. Is that because she’s on drugs? It was in my mind as a young person. I probably thought I was a young Billie Holiday, doing whatever came with that.”

She was addicted to the drug for years, beginning in 1960, and it led to a harrowing existence that included time behind bars. It sapped her singing abilities and her money, eventually, almost destroying her career.

It would take her at least two decades to beat her drug problem. Her husband, Artis Mills, even went to prison for years, taking full responsibility for drugs during an arrest even though James was culpable.

“My management was suffering. My career was in the toilet. People tried to help, but I was hell-bent on getting high,” she wrote of her drug habit in 1980.

She finally quit the habit and managed herself for a while, calling up small clubs and asking them, “Have you ever heard of Etta James?” in order to get gigs. Eventually, she got regular bookings – even drawing Elizabeth Taylor as an audience member. In 1984, she was tapped to sing the national anthem at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and her career got the resurgent boost it needed, though she fought addiction again when she got hooked on painkillers in the late 1980s.

Drug addiction wasn’t her only problem. She struggled with her weight, and often performed from a wheelchair as she got older and heavier. In the early 2000s, she had weight-loss surgery and shed some 200 pounds.

James performed well into her senior years, and it was “At Last” that kept bringing her the biggest ovations. The song was a perennial that never aged, and on Jan. 20, 2009, as crowds celebrated that – at last – an African-American had become president of the United States, the song played as the first couple danced.

But it was superstar Beyonce who serenaded the Obamas, not the legendary singer. Beyonce had portrayed James in “Cadillac Records,” a big-screen retelling of Chess Records’ heyday, and had started to claim “At Last” as her own.

An audio clip surfaced of James at a concert shortly after the inauguration, saying she couldn’t stand the younger singer and that Beyonce had “no business singing my song.” But she told the New York Daily News later that she was joking, even though she had been hurt that she did not get the chance to participate in the inauguration.

James did get her accolades over the years. She was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1993, captured a Grammy in 2003 for best contemporary blues album for “Let’s Roll,” one in 2004 for best traditional blues album for “Blues to the Bone” and one for best jazz vocal performance for 1994’s “Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday.” She was also awarded a special Grammy in 2003 for lifetime achievement and got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Her health went into decline, however, and by 2011, she was being cared for at home by a personal doctor.

She suffered from dementia, kidney problems and leukemia. Her husband and her two sons fought over control of her $1 million estate, though a deal was later struck keeping Mills as the conservator and capping the singer’s expenses at $350,000. In December 2011, her physician announced that her leukemia was terminal, and asked for prayers for the singer.

In October 2011, it was announced that James was retiring from recording, and a final studio recording, “The Dreamer,” was released, featuring the singer taking on classic songs, from Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Dreamer” to Guns N’ Roses “Welcome To the Jungle” – still rocking, and a fitting end to her storied career.

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Source: BlackNews.com

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How The Cypher Saved Hip Hop – DFW

DFW Cypher formed in the late winter of 2011 when Frank “ASAP”…

DFW Cypher

When I composed my 2012 wish list, I made eleven pretty lofty requests and one that was pure snark. Among the sincere wishes, perhaps none was more of a stretch than to see underground hip hop gain a foothold in North Texas. At least that’s why I thought it was a stretch. It turns out five Dallas emcees struggled with the same goal about a year ago and decided to direct energies toward that end. The fruit of that struggle is now known as DFW Cypher, a grassroots collective with one goal: to lend a bullhorn to underground hip hop in DFW.

A cypher is nothing more than a huddle of emcees trading freestyle rhymes. Unlike a battle, there is no face-to-face exchange of ad-hoc insults, but there is the same rawness of being put on the spot. A good cypher gets at the root of what makes hip hop so engrossing: individuals out on a verbal tightrope. DFW Cypher’s aim is to use that tool as a way to promote the area’s hip hop.

DFW Cypher formed in the late winter of 2011 when Frank “ASAP” Torres, Justin “GOAT” Griffith, Julio “Kilo Art-of-Fact” Corderro, Kyle “Molek Ular” Elrod, and James “Jack Rabbit” Clark decided to film a cypher and upload it. That first video, filmed in a Kitchen and produced by Molek Ular, went so well that the same group decided to do it again, with a new roster of emcees. This time, they had the help of veteran videographer Teddy Cool, the only non-performer of DFW Cypher, who came on board after finding the first video. “I saw this cypher concept and [thought], ‘That’s dope. That’s exactly the kind of music I want to push forward in this community. It’s simple. It’s hip hop.’” To date, the group has produced five cypher videos and don’t plan on resting any time soon.


Jump over to D Magazine to read the rest of the article by Dick Sullivan

Shouts out to Poor Vida

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7 Ways to Build a Brand Using Blogs

If you are not currently getting the results you want from your branding…


7 Ways to Build a Brand Using Blogs


Branding is more than just a business buzzword. It has become the crux of selling in the new economy. If the old marketing mantra was “Nothing happens until somebody sells something,” the new philosophy could be “Nothing happens until somebody brands something.”

If you are not currently getting the results you want from your branding efforts, a blog is one tool that can help.

1. Build Your Brand by Creating an Online Persona

One of the goals in creating a branding strategy is to achieve what’s known as a “franchise in the mind.” When you think of soft drinks, what jingle comes to mind? In my day, it was “Things go better with Coke.” How about insurance? Remember the slogan, “You’re in good hands with Allstate?” How about buying books online? Do your fingers automatically start typing Amazon.com? And so it goes. These companies have spent billions achieving that franchise in the mind.

What if, in your particular market, when people think of [insert a product name here], your company comes to mind? Better yet, what if you did not have to spend a fortune to do it? In today’s information-overloaded market, brand building is more important than ever, and a blog is one way to help achieve this goal.

Blogs enable you to “tell the story” of your brand over and over again, allowing customers to become both familiar and comfortable with it. Someone referred to blogs this way: “A blog is like an ongoing tour with a guide you get to know.” Manifesting your brand with a blog allows for personalization. It puts a human face on the brand.

2. Build Your Brand by Promoting Conversations

Blogging is about engaging in conversation. It facilitates a dialogue with the consumer. Consumers can get to know you through this personal interaction. As they get to know you, they come to like you and, even better, they come to trust you.

3. Build Your Brand Through Word of Mouth Marketing

Not only will consumers talk to you via your blog, they will also talk to one another. Your readers can become your best brand-building evangelists, helping you to spread your message and your presence throughout their networks. We call this viral, or word-of-mouth, marketing.

The best marketing that ever was, is — or ever will be — is word of mouth. There is no dollar value you can assign to having someone else talk positively about you, your company your services.

4. Build Your Brand Through Connections

One of the biggest advantages to using blogs is connecting in personally powerful ways with your target audience. By establishing deeper relationships, you are able to effectively influence how people think and feel about you and your business. Your connection is what will create your blog’s greatest success.

How do you make these vital connections? By being yourself, sharing what you know — your expertise and experience — and injecting some of your personality into the mix as well. You don’t have to be a professional writer to accomplish this, either. Part of the fun of blogging is that it doesn’t require a degree in journalism. It does require honesty, transparency, and a heartfelt desire to share something that will benefit readers. If you can do this, you will connect!

5. Build Your Brand by Creating Communities

Everything I have said about blogs can also be applied to social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. These sites allow individuals to coalesce around a given topic or issue of shared interest. Even if your blog serves as your social media headquarters — the digital center for content creation — it is wise to syndicate that content into such networks.

Those mega-networks are not the only place community can be created, either. You can build community around your brand by adding a peer-to-peer layer using tools such as message boards, customer ratings and reviews, user groups and profiles. Social network platforms like KickApps, Ning and CrowdVine are designed with this very purpose in mind.

6. Build Your Brand Cost-Effectively

Yet another reason that blogs are good brand-building tools is that they are inexpensive to deploy. Depending on the blog platform chosen, you can spend as little as nothing. For example, Blogger, the blog platform owned by Google, is free. So is the dot com version of WordPress. Just remember that you get what you pay for. As your knowledge of blogging and blog tools increases, you’ll most likely find that few free solutions provide the ability to customize a blog with the degree of professionalism you require.

7. Build Your Brand by Partnering with Customers

New media channels such as blogs and social networks have wrestled control over the brand away from the company and put it in the hands of consumers. As a result, postmodern branding, with its implications of distributed power, has emerged.

Smart companies realize that their brand is actually created by their audience, not by their resident “branding expert.” The true “brand” of an organization will emerge from interactive market conversations among consumers. Smart companies will embrace this new reality and become partners with their customers in creating company brands. A blog is a good place to get started in creating such a partnership.


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Feds Shut Down Megaupload And Arrest 4

Four of the people named—including Dotcom, Ortmann…


The filesharing site Megaupload.com has been taken down by the FBI as the Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging seven people associated with the site. The 72-page indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury in Virginia on January 5, charges the seven people, including Megaupload’s founders Kim Dotcom and Mathias Ortman, with conspiracy.

Four of the people named—including Dotcom, Ortmann, Megaupload.com chief marketing officer Finn Batao, and developer Bram van der Kolk—are in custody, arrested in New Zealand today, according to the FBI. The FBI worked with authorities from New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, the UK and the Phillipines, and in concert with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the case.

The indictment charges that the “Mega conspiracy” has for more than five years operated websites that willfully distributed pirated movies, often before their theatrical release, and other illegal copies of copyrighted works, earning the company over $175 million in illegal profits through advertising revenue. Megaupload is also charged with money laundering by paying uploaders through an “uploader reward program,” and paying other companies to host the pirated content.

As of the afternoon of January 19, the site for Megaupload.com had not been redirected, and requests simply timed out.


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Blast It Or Trash It: Ho-r-us(one) – Life Unda [Mixtape]

Blast It Or Trash It? Listen to the


Life Unda is back again with another joint for your ears.  He’s a fresh young voice in the world of hip hop with a classic emcees soul.  Ho-r-us(one) is the latest thing to drop from the Indiana native.

Blast It Or Trash It?  Listen to the mixtape and leave a comment to let us know what you think.  Feel free to download it for free by clicking here.

Download Mixtape | More mixtapes at MixtapeFactory.com

2nd Street Jazz Cafe In L.A. Was On Fire: The Sistem – Gimme That [Live]

Project Blowed’s own (SIS)tem Crew had Matsumoto’s…

Sistem Crew

Project Blowed’s own (SIS)tem Crew had Matsumoto’s 2nd Street Jazz Cafe (Los Angeles, California) on fire with their live performance of their latest single Gimme That.

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Download Gimme That by clicking here.


The (SIS)TEM is a collective of female emcees, producers, vocalist, and Djs, co-founded by Aceyalone, Badru, and DVS 1, from the legendary Project Blowed in Los Angeles. DVS 1 created and hosted a hip hop show respectively named, “Female Perspective.” Being a female emcee she saw that on the main stream, as well as the underground, women weren’t getting their just due. She decided to organize an event show-ing off the ladies’ talent. By the time she reached the second one the roster for performers doubled. This prompted the idea to create an album of all female emcees because apparently there was an untouched fan base out there for it. “We never knew there were so many hungry, motivated driven women all on the same grind”. You can call it “the female Wu-Tang”. The (SIS)TEM is about 15-20 solo artists all coming together to push one goal; For women to gain the respect they deserve on the mic. The (SIS)TEM came about during a time when Hip Hop is starving for feminine energy. These women are definitely filling the void with quality music.


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