Recap: CeeLo Green Kicks Off ‘Love Train Tour’ in D.C.

Photo Credit: Rated R&B
Photo Credit: Rated R&B

After much anticipation, CeeLo Green finally kicked off his Love Train Tour at the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday (March 2) night. The line to get in was literally wrapped around the block. Doors opened a little after nine. The venue began to fill with a diverse group of people. As Green insisted in our interview, his show attracted people from all walks of life.

“When it comes to [a CeeLo Green show], maybe one person may come not knowing they would see somebody that they would never share the same room or experience with — that can be a bond between two strangers,” he told Rated R&B.

The show began around 10:03 p.m. with opening act Escort, a contemporary disco band based in New York City. Although most of the audience was unfamiliar with their music — or at least I was — Escort was able to keep the audience entertained with their upbeat performance. Adeline Michèle, lead singer, had a voice that was very impressive. From her vocal range to her stage presence, everything was just on point. The band performed some material from their Animal Nature album. There’s no question why they were the right pick for the Love Train Tour.

Photo Credit: Rated R&B
Photo Credit: Rated R&B

“I’ve been this mood of trying to draw an inspiration from 70’s, 80’s and the disco era,” Green told Rated R&B.

Dressed in a black linen ensemble with silver accessories, Green hit the stage around 11 p.m. He opened his performance with Trick Daddy’s 2002 single “In Da Wind,” which features himself and Outkast’s Big Boi. The crowd instantly cheered when they heard the throwback jam. Green followed-up with “Working Class Heroes (Work)” from his 2015 album Heart Blanche. The song will also be featured in the upcoming film, Barbershop 3, which premieres in April. During act one, Green took us on a musical ride through some of his signature jams including “Closet Freak,” “I’ll Be Around,” “Bright Lights Bigger City,” “All Day Love Affair,” “The One,” and “Fool For You,” to name a few. He also paid homage to singers who came before him including MinnieRiperton, Michael Jackson and Maurice White.

Photo Credit: Rated R&B
Photo Credit: Rated R&B

There was a brief intermission around 11:45 p.m. Green’s DJ played some old school jams to keep the audience engaged until Green arrived back on stage. He opened part two of the show with Outkast’s 1994 classic “Git Up Get Out” featuring Goodie Mob. Following the hip-hop jam, Green took us right into his hit single “Crazy,” “My Kind of People” and “Living Again.” Toward the end of the show, Green performed an encore of his Grammy award-winning single “F*ck You,” and closed his set with “Smells Like Fire.”

Photo Credit: Rated R&B
Photo Credit: Rated R&B

Green’s Love Train Tour was nothing short of amazing. From the very moment he hit the stage, it was pure entertainment. His energy on stage was just impeccable. Green and his crew will travel to other cities in the south including Asheville, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga; Mobile, Ala; New Orleans, La, and more.

Don’t miss your ride! Get your tickets to CeeLo’s Love Train Tour at ceelogreen.com.

Keithan is the founder/editor-in-chief of Rated R&B

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Justine Skye, Let’s Talk ‘Ultraviolet’: A Career Conversation

I’ve been following Justine Skye for a while. Not as far back as her Tumblr days, but around the time her Tyga-assisted cut “Collide” began to pick up some steam.

Over the past three years since, Skye has produced a couple of solid records, had some impressive sponsorships and endorsements, and even landed a record deal with Roc Nation. Minor successes aside, there’s been a common note when I’ve mentioned her name in conversation: “She’s not memorable.” And that criticism is more than valid. As someone who has kept up with her work, I even have trouble remembering most of the tracks from her three EPs (although, admittedly, I’d rather not remember her 8 Ounces EP.) Skye’s musical issues ultimately boil down to two things: artistry and execution.

We all know that every successful recording artist isn’t original, or even necessarily talented. However, those type of artists know their market, work within the limits of their artistry, and execute accordingly. The reason why it’s been hard for this Brooklyn beauty to pop is because we, as consumers, don’t know what sport she’s playing nor the arena she’s playing in.

On the artistic side of things, Skye has always struggled to nail her “sound.” Her singing voice is quite generic — which isn’t a dig, nor a hindrance necessarily — but her lyrics are also somewhat lackluster, as well as her ad-libs. Nothing truly stands out, and because Skye’s artistry hasn’t developed, her music sways with the trends of the and sounds of the time. I expressed these concerns in a series of tweets back in 2016 — which ultimately got me blocked on my old Twitter account by Ms. Skye, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Justine Skye Tweet 3Let’s talk execution. Skye released “U Don’t Know” featuring Nigerian singer WizKid in September 2016, with the accompanying video released the following month. Then, a little over a month after the video release, she releases her 8 Ounces EP without “U Don’t Know.” Yet, in 2018, she included the mid-tempo track on her album, and this time without the WizKid feature.

Poor execution.

Sometimes the first single doesn’t work, so that’s okay. She tried again in July with “Back for More” featuring Jeremih. Despite the seven month stretch between singles, the song was an appropriate, summer jam. Unfortunately, even with the feature, the song didn’t get past a few adds at urban radio. The video was released in early August, and then it was silence again from Team Skye.

Poor execution.

Skye then releases third single “Don’t Think About It” on December 1. A week later, she announced the release of her debut album with another single — the PARTYNEXTDOOR-penned “Goodlove” and the video for “Don’t Think About It.” By the time the album dropped, she released another single (“Heaven”), which totaled a five tracks from a 10-track album.

Even with all of these musical misfires, I decided to give the album a listen. After listening to the 33-minute project, I was left generally underwhelmed. Although short albums aren’t common, they can definitely work with a strong thematic direction (see: Lalah Hathaway’s honestly. and Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic.)

Ultraviolet suffers from a combination of issues, but ultimately the music just fails to hit. I must say, though, that “Goodlove” and “You Got Me” have been on repeat, and guess who penned both of these tracks? PARTYNEXTDOOR. On a 10-track album, if the two standouts are written by the same person, I think that’s worth noting. Hit-Boy’s production on “Lil’ Boy” was also a bright spot for me on this otherwise mid-tempo album.

I don’t have anything against Justine Skye or her music, even. She’s given us jams like “Never Leave,” “I’m Yours” and “Messin’ w/You.” However, if she wants a serious shot at chart success, she’s going to need to find her artistic voice and learn how to properly execute when it comes to the visuals, singles, and the art of timing.

Ultraviolet has left me with more questions than answers, but the biggest question of all is still, “Who is Justine Skye?”

Follow Nathan on Twitter @TheGreatIsNate.

Concert Review: Keyshia Cole Pulls a Lauryn Hill at The Fillmore Charlotte

As people waited in long lines to flood their favorite retailers for Black Friday sales, I traveled from Columbia, SC to Charlotte, NC to see Keyshia Cole at The Fillmore Charlotte.

I arrived to the AvidXchange Music Factory venue at 6:27 p.m. Unlike lines at retailers Friday, where the wait is unavoidable and uncomfortable, I was perfectly at ease being the 20th concert-goer in line.

Ten minutes later, more attendees followed behind to patiently wait for doors to open at 7 p.m.

Undressed and shivering in 37 degree weather, I struck up conversation about ticket cost with Keyshia Cole admirers. “We won our tickets off Streetz 103.3,” one couple said.

Another fan said, “I bought mine off Groupon for $39. I love you Keyshia but I wasn’t spending more than $50.” I agreed since I got my ticket at the same deal.

Doors opened three minutes after 7 p.m. After getting patted down and having my ticket scanned by The Fillmore door staff, I bypassed other fans and jetted to the front of the stage to wait for the show.

Some fans claimed their spot at the head of the stage barricade too. Other fans found empty floor space to stand comfortably before those at the bar filled in the gaps.

At 7:17 p.m., MMG’s DJ MC got settled with his laptop and other stereo equipment on the smoky stage. He came fully equipped to have the crowd lit with his mega mix and fly DJing skills.

As fog occupied the stage, nostalgia filled rest of the room. DJ MC had fans right where he wanted them – in a carefree zone. Music lovers used their outside voice to recite explicit lyrics and sing classic R&B and hip-hop songs including “I Get Money” by 50 Cent, UCB’s “Sexy Lady” and “Nice and Slow” by Usher.

The VIP clique didn’t let their lack of essential amenities (i.e. chairs or tables) get in the away of their party. The wall worked perfectly for grinding.

DJ MC had help getting the crowd excited from 92.7 The Block hosts Chewy Torres and Sunshine Anderson – yes, “Heard it All Before” Sunshine Anderson, too.

By 9:02 p.m., fans were chanting, “We want Keyshia.”

Ten minutes later, DJ MC was breaking down his equipment to make room for GO DJ HI C, Keyshia’s official DJ.

I don’t know if the crowd was aggravated and ready for Keyshia but the energy shifted downward when he got on stage.

It felt like we changed the radio dial to a new station but got the same syndicated countdown – just with a harder thumb. GO DJ HI C’s blaring speaker bass creeped into my torso as if I had just painfully swallowed it.

A few recycled songs in, GO DJ HI C announced at 9:24 p.m., “I just got a text. My boss is about to hit the stage.”

Eager to record Keyshia’s opening note, I pulled out my iPhone to capture every minute. With 69 percent battery life, I tapped on the Facebook icon to start a live stream.

With no background singers in sight or any Fillmore staff prepping the stage for Keyshia’s arrival, it was evident GO DJ HI C’s receipt had no validity.

“This is ridiculous,” mumbled a female patron behind me. “I hope she shows up because she bailed before.”

As the DJ played more music and strolled through his cellphone, another female fan offered commentary. “If I wanted to listen to music for two hours I would have went to a club.”

It was 9:40 p.m. and the crowd began to get restless. Four-letter words started to be heard in the now tight quarters — most were directed to GO DJ HI C.

He attempted to ease the last nerve of fans. “Ya’ll chill,” he roared in the mic. “I wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t coming out. She’s not coming out until she can hear you guys in her dressing room.”

GO DJ HI C also tried to hype the crowd for Keyshia’s entrance. “I need the left side to say ‘Keyshia’ and the right to say ‘Cole,’” as he pointed to each side of the room.

Some were interested in crowd participation but others weren’t. I was apart of the latter group.

The DJ returned to the mic at 9:43 p.m., and began an introduction for a Grammy nominated artist.

Cell phones brighten the dark venue momentarily but quickly dimmed when attendees realized it wasn’t the headliner gracing the stage — it was Sunshine Anderson.

Used to distract fans from Keyshia’s CP time, the singer-turned radio personality tipped on stage in open-toe heels, donning a simple black top with un-curve friendly black tights.

With support of a backtrack, the North Carolina native noticeably lipped the lyrics to “Lunch or Dinner” from her 2001 debut, Your Woman.

Sunshine bought Keyshia more time to hit the stage as she started to actually sing her signature song “Heard It All Before.” It was obvious she didn’t warm up her voice. Her vocal execution reflected especially towards the collapsed bridge.

Despite Sunshine not possessing vocal conviction, she had the heart to fight through it.

The unimpressed concert-goers softly clapped to see Sunshine off the stage.

Two minutes before 10 p.m. a gentleman rocking a pink backpack sashayed on stage. Before exiting, he left two styrofoam cups on a stage podium.

“When you see him, that means Keyshia’s on her way,” shouted GO DJ HI C across the room.

Exactly seven minutes after 10 p.m., GO DJ HI C took the mic again and finally grabbed the audience’s attention. “Ladies and gentlemen, Keyshia Cole.”

With help from her security, the woman of the last two hours, walked up the side steps of the stage.

Dressed in a suede trench coat with matching heeled boots and ripped jeans, the Just Like You songstress kicked off the delayed show singing “I Should Have Cheated” off her first album, The Way It Is.

Keyshia quickly asked the audio engineer to adjust her inner ear before capping the song with an extended high note.

Joined by her three male dancers, the Oakland-bred singer moved swiftly through her medley of hits including “Enough of No Love,” “Shoulda Let You Go,” “I Changed My Mind” and “You.”

After wrapping up her remix to Chris Brown’s “Loyal,” Keyshia took off her winter coat to show off her shimmering silk shirt. Without officially apologizing for her tardiness, she mentioned being thankful for her fans as a means for damage control.

It didn’t seem to work, and she knew it. “Okay. Let’s go into the next song then,” she told GO DJ HI C.

She belted her biggest hits “I Remember,” and “Love” before she engaged in personal conversation with the crowd.

From requesting the crowds opinion on if she should back to Love and Hip-Hop: Hollywood to explaining why she opted to skip Thanksgiving dinner with her newly found dad, Virgil Hunter, Keyshia sincerely asked for fans to send her a prayer up the main line.

Thirty minutes into her set, Keyshia wanted fans to tell her what to perform next. Most songs fans mentioned like “Vault” and “Emotional” from her 11: 11 Reset album were off limits.

“This isn’t the tour guys,” she replied with a smile. “The tour doesn’t start until next year. But I cannot wait to perform those songs though.”

While she didn’t perform demanded cuts from her new album, she gave us “Incapable” along with a similar dance routine from the single’s accompanying visual.

Following three more songs, Keyshia ended the 45-minute set with her Grammy nominated record, “Let It Go.”

Before leaving the stage, she directed fans to meet her at Stats Restaurant and Bar for the official after-party.

Honestly, I feel like I wasted a trip to Charlotte. I didn’t leave with a wow experience. I expected her to sing more material from her silently released album. Yet, my wish didn’t come to fruition.

Keyshia treated her Fillmore performance like an afterthought. It appeared to me that she got a calendar reminder while she caught Black Friday sales on Fashion Nova’s website. After realizing her spot date, she called her style team and caught a red-eye flight to Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Keyshia’s lateness was inexcusable and warranted a more sincere apology. Instead she rushed through her sloppy set list to get to the after-party.

Her running behind schedule wouldn’t have been terribly bad if she had a legit special guest. And I’m sorry, Sunshine Anderson doesn’t count.

Collectively, the two hours of DJing, the talent show performance from Sunshine Anderson and Keyshia Cole’s tardiness calls for a total refund. But I’m sure Live Nation is incapable of issuing it to us.

Album Review: Ledisi – ‘Let Love Rule’

As a New Orléans native, Ledisi naturally allows her jazz influenced sound to emanate through her richly flavored voice, while her use of true instrumentation reflects beautifully in her music.  She is one of few artists who can effortlessly cover selections from legends like Chaka Khan and The Clark Sisters. Achieving perfect precision with her own art takes more effort — at least for her latest album, Let Love Rule.

“This wasn’t a quickie. This album was one of the hardest I’ve ever worked on,” she revealed to Billboard.com about her two-year recording process. “We were looking for songs that could stand the test of time. It was about great songwriting. I’ve come back to what I love about R&B and also what I love about today’s music.”

Executive produced by Ledisi and longtime collaborator Rex Rideout, Let Love Rule features 15 tracks and exhibits the similar burden of relationship headaches as her 2014 album, The Truth.

With Let Love Rule, Ledisi adds more delicious relationship nuggets to her seven-piece catalog. She does this by creating a cohesive record that sounds current, needed and still Ledisi.

Before parting ways, Ledisi says “Hello” to her lover’s true self once he’s revealed. “Before you say goodbye to our forever / I just gotta let you know that I see you / So hello, to the man behind the words I thought I heard all before / But you were hiding in the lie so you decided it was time to let go,” she sings.

On “Here,” she requests her lover’s full participation in their love saga. “So if you’re going stay, I need you to be here / To show me that you care / Let me know you’re here,” belts Ledisi on the Jeff “Gitty” Gitelman-produced cut.

Ledisi’s love for her man is like a bleach stain on dark clothes, it’s not going anywhere. She makes this claim abundantly clear on “Us 4ever” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid. Over the nod worthy instrumental the she sings, “We love, we fight, we argue, then we make it right / You leave, I go, then we’re back together / Our love so strong, who’s right, who’s wrong? / What we built, won’t break / I guess it’s us 4ever.”

While Ledisi discusses love’s ugly moments, she shares the beautiful moments, too. Love elevates her on the DJ Camper-produced “High” and love makes everything alright on “All The Way,” which is a powerful piano-based ballad. “Love me, with all of your heart / Will you love me / When things get too hard, and I need you more / Make sure you’re sure, that you’ll love me all the way,” she sings.

Ledisi generously touches on the social injustice movement Black Lives Matter with “Shot Down,” a Caribbean-flavored song. “Education is a loaded gun, shot down before I had a chance to run / the system says we matter but the Black Lives only matters certain days,” coos Ledisi. She appreciates the power of patience the Kirk Franklin produced track “If You Don’t Mind.”

The R&B songstress does a spectacular job of giving fans more ear orgasms with her captivating vocal performances, especially on “All the Way” and “Forgiveness.

Unlike The Truth, which has no features, Let Love Rule includes appearances from John Legend and BJ the Chicago Kid. The latter was the only appreciated contributor, although his vocal presence deserved more time to shine. “Give You More” with Legend finds Ledisi losing her distinctive vocals, while her co-star steals her thunder.  

Although the album consists of 15 tracks, 11 are actual songs while the other four are non-exciting and unnecessary interludes from inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant and journalist Soledad O’Brien. There were definitely good intentions for their input, but their rest stops before the next track were merely constant interruptions.

Lastly, if it were not for the remarkable production, the title track would be a complete dud. It fails to underscore its purpose as a presumed standout track with less than memorable lyrics and a tiresome chorus.

Respectively, Let Love Rule is still one of the best R&B albums released this year. Make sure to grab a copy off shelves or add it digitally to your playlist now.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Standout Tracks: “Here,” “Forgiveness” and “All the Way”

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