José James is reborn as a powerful voice in contemporary R&B on his vibrant new album Love In A Time of Madness. Madness is something new: an R&B focused foray into moody soul, electronic pop, and trap-addled beats, with the occasional influence of American gospel and Minneapolitan funk. And though James' ear is no less adventurous, this is also his most relatable, daresay sexiest work yet. On Feb. 10, moviegoers will find James performing in the highly-anticipated sequel Fifty Shades Darker.
Shades of Blue: Madlib Invades Blue Note is a unique project that turns over the legacy of the esteemed Blue Note jazz label to one of hip-hop's most unique artists, Madlib, aka Otis Jackson, Jr. Madlib's ability to absorb his influences and reinterpret them in new forms makes him the quintessential artist for a project of this conception. He is considered to be one of hip-hop's most inventive visionaries. Those who know the enigmatic artist confess he is a quiet personality, but what Madlib doesn't reveal in public, he expresses absolutely in the studio – as a very prolific rapper, producer and DJ. Working diligently on music at all hours of the day, he employs any number of MC and production guises. The idea for Shades of Blue: Madlib invades Blue Note was generated by the esteemed jazz imprint and Stones Throw Records head, Peanut Butter Wolf, both of whom were inspired by Madlib's YNQ project. Shades of Blue isn't just a Blue Note cover album, it's a re-imagination of the Blue Note culture. Madlib draws from the label's music catalog, of course, but also its influence through the years, its history as a prestigious jazz house, the iconography associated with the label and its import on its own. Madlib covers some of his favorite songs from the Blue Note collection, which he cites as being influential to his development. "People say Blue Note was just a phase in hip-hop," Madlib explains, referring to the era when groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr would sample the label's sounds. "But music is either good music or bad music and I still listen to Blue Note. I still love it." Some tracks like Donald Byrd's "Steppin' Into Tomorrow" are longtime favorites of his, and he considered their inclusion in this project as a no-brainer. On that song, Madlib gives an already funky tune a voluptuous hip-hop bump. On "Please Set Me At Ease," Madlib rigs a Bobbi Humphrey song into a groovy, soulful beat for rapper Medaphor to rhyme over. Horace Silver's "Song For My Father" was more personal. Not only has it been an everlasting favorite but he says it's his dedication to his own father, notable 70s soul singer, Otis Jackson, Sr. Shades of Blue also includes a new song, "Funky Blue Note," that Madlib conceived as his ode to his favorite era of the label – the 1960s and 1970s. "I just wanted to show my side of understanding the music and bringing the same kind of sound," he says. "That's the sound I like from Blue Note. You were just free to do whatever ideas you wanted to do." The convergence of Madlib and Blue Note on this special project transcends the legacies and reputations of both entities. It's a special convocation . Alfred Lion and Francis Wolf would be proud.
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