Recent posts: Reviews

REVIEW: Passing the Century mark at 2024’s NAMM Show

Descending yet again on Anaheim Convention Center for its 102nd year, NAMM Show returned to Southern California with its flurry of interactive talks, lectures, award shows and musical instrument demos at the end of January. Initially not sure how I would maximize my days in the musical melody mecca, NAMM Show+ emerged conveniently providing an organized guide including an up to the minute schedule of events, a detailed map and link to livestreamed sessions broadcast internationally. Drawing aspiring students to seasoned professionals, NAMM Show proved once more why it remains THE premier place to connect with a unique group of world class musicians, instrument brands and business execs from across the globe.

4 February 2024 Breaking Bits  Reviews  Shows Read more

Chopping it up on ‘Can You Dig It?’- Hip-Hop’s Origin Story with Chuck D

Weeks after the Grammy Museum’s lauded “Hip Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit” opening, the celebratory mood continued with one of its exhibit’s contributors Chuck D being featured on a panel highlighting the latest Amazon Audible docuseries ‘Can You Dig It?’. On a busy downtown LA Tuesday night with The Lakers playing down the block, casual fan and hip-hop purist museum members alike gathered to hear more about the 1970’s Burning Bronx’s Ghetto Brothers’ Black Benjie’s gang murder backstory, leading to a peaceful culmination of Kool Herc’s historic 1520 Sedgwick Ave’s house party hip-hop birth.

20 November 2023 Breaking Bits  Reviews Read more

REVIEW: 2018’s Art of Cool Fest

Returning for its 5th year, the Art of Cool Fest brought the perfect combo of hip-hop heat and smooth soul back to NC’s beloved Bull City. Fans were treated to monumental moments like DJ sets by 9th Wonder and Spinderella, a live set by Q-Boro’s own Nas and a surprise last minute reunion of Little Brother as music coming from The Armory and The Bulls Athletic Park speakers blasted sentimental favs. Also in search of R&B band bops, we made sure to race around town to catch Dwele, Erykah Badu, Young Bull, Maxwell and Anthony Hamilton throughout the worthwhile action-packed weekend.

Keep your eyes locked for info for next year’s fest HERE!

26 October 2018 Breaking Bits  Reviews  Shows Read more

REVIEW: Treefort Music Fest 2016

With the snow-capped mountains and foothills in the distance, I made the short trip from Cali last weekend to attend the fifth edition of Boise’s Treefort Music Fest. On the quest for a new adventure and exploration of a new city, the atypical lineup intrigued and drew me in as I justified the three hour flight commute up north. I gambled that I’d enjoy it because the fests off the beaten path and under the mainstream radar tend to be the best and Treefort fell into this category. There’s no stadium, no humongous park or jumbotron to make the music fan feel like an ant in a sea of thousands. With food, ale and skateforts providing fun during the day, the artists playing intimate, live music at the cozy venues around the city thrilled each night.

Sitting with the lineup poster, there were select acts I sought to interact with and/or see live so equipped with this short list, I embarked on my mission. My favorites included:


B. Dolan– A fan of Strange Famous Records with a secret soft spot for Rhode Island boys (even though there is a NY rivalry), def wanted to connect with him. Dropping his latest great project ‘Kill The Wolf’ in 2015, B’s been busy racking up miles, in the midst of his “Kill The Wolf World Tour”. Hitting the Knitting Factory Stage on Saturday night with violinist Jenavieve Varga accompanying him on a few tracks, he won over the crowd easily during his set. I chatted with him before the show about his dedicated fans, his most prized Cadet label blues and jazz records in his vinyl collection, the recent loss of ATCQ’s Phife Dawg and funny tour moments with his label married couple wife Sage Francis. Peep the full interview soon and catch him on tour now!


La Misa Negra- Spotting this band’s name and listening to ‘Misa de Medianoche’ sealed their fate on my concert schedule. Trekking after seeing Thundercat at El Korah Shrine to The Reef to catch the Oakland octet after midnight was the best decision. Whipping the crowd into a high-energy cumbia frenzy, I seriously wondered if the floor would collapse as the crowd danced, jumped and clapped into the early hours of the morning. I caught up with the group the next day to discuss the band’s formation, early diverse musical influences, randomly meeting Alice Copper and sharing stages with Arcade Fire, George Clinton and La Santa Cecilia. Listen to the full interview soon and peep them at the Bottle Rock Fest in Napa Memorial Day Weekend!


Mega Ran- A video game dabbler but a lover of dope beats and rhymes, I also penciled Mega Ran into the schedule. Playing the upstairs space in the Knitting Factory on Saturday night, he commanded the room, comedically told the story of his Capcom licensure which was the first of its kind and dropped an impressive freestyle using random objects in the audience that made the crowd go nuts. I spoke with the Phoenix based MC about Philly music roots, the impact of ATCQ, his chip-hop style, college MarioKart memories and WTF moments overseas. Check out the complete interview soon and catch him on tour with Sadistik and Ceschi in April and May!


Rabbit Wilde- A fan of foot-stomping folk pop in the vein of The Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood and Lady Antebellum, Washington state quartet Rabbit Wilde def made my list. Moved by their “Porcelain Frame” video I viewed on YouTube, I used the TF fest opportunity to connect with the band about funny live anecdotes involving a wayward flying drumstick hitting cellist Jillian Walker in the head, wandering toddler onstage while they were performing and exciting recent interest by American Idol in licensing one of their songs. Hear the complete interview soon and see them live in the Northwest this April!


Naked Giants- After listening to their recent single ‘Easy Eating’, I was also intent on connecting with Seattle trio and chatted with the WA band about the automatic grunge legacy/label attached to Seattle bands, musical heroes, their recent SXSW experience involving unexpected Take 5 candy bars and playing great shows under pressure. Peep the interview soon and check out their site for more tour info!


Methyl Ethyl- Fresh from their blizzard escape out of Colorado, I also connected with the traveling Australian trio about their early musical memories, growing up outside of Perth, and teen dream fests with Bjork and Limp Biscuit. Check out the interview soon and visit their site for album info!


Oddisee- Mello Music Group MC Oddisee made his way to the City of Trees for the first time and I def couldn’t miss that. Hyped to see him live after he released one of my fav albums of 2015 ‘The Good Fight’, he did cuts off this including my favs “That’s Love” and “Meant It When I Said It” and a few off his brand new ‘Alwasta’ EP dropped a few days prior. Def a highlight of the night.

Will also give an honorable mention to Aesop Rock for performing “Rings” off his upcoming solo album ‘The Impossible Kid’ for the first time on Saturday night.

Overall, the fest yielded good laughs, good food and good times! Til we meet again, Treefort.

Rabbit Wilde Photo Credit: Lindsey Bowen
La Misa Negra Photo Credit: Andrew Zhou
Methyl Ethyl Photo Credit: Mia Mala McDonald

1 April 2016 Breaking Bits  Reviews  Shows Read more

Review: SXSW 2016 Sentiments

As SXSW 2016 fades into the distance and the hype’s died down, it’s time to recap all the madness. Returning to ATX for my third year with a plane full of Angeleno based musicians lugging all sorts of instruments in tow, the aim always remained to have a diff experience than the year before. SXSW provides any type of week on the turnt meter you’d want to have and the target “turnt” level was towards the lower end of the spectrum i.e. I’d see as much as I could, sing, dance and remember what happened each night without sunglasses and Aleve the next morning. Intent on participating in more daytime activities this time around, I was about that “badge life” which provided access to all conference panels, day stages and a pretty dope press room.

The “Organized Noize: Tales from the ATL” panel kicked SXSW off and featured “The Art of Organized Noize” documentary (now available on Netflix) producer Joshua Krause, Ray Murray and Sleepy Brown members from ONP and LaFace label promotions director Shanti Das. Dungeon production memories were abundantly shared from the crew responsible for some of the biggest 90’s songs we love (TLC, Goodie Mob, Outkast), with Shanti giving some insight into the city radio markets at the time. Switching gears, I headed to “Representation of Women in Media” panel moderated by She Shreds Magazine founder Fabi Reyna and featured Stem Artist in residence Kiran Gandhi, former Sonic Youth manager Michelle Fleschii, Mic Editor Tom Barnes and Speedy Ortiz guitarist Sadie Duplais, with themes of misogyny and identity in the artist interview context explored. I next moved over to “Rewriting Hip-Hop History” panel facilitated by Rhymesayers’ Kevin Beacham which addressed hip-hop culture in the academic setting and in the media featured Cornell hip-hop archivistBen Ortiz, Cue founder Jonathan Schecter, scholar Maco Faniel and journalist Dan Charnas who confirmed “The Breaks” is coming back to VH-1 as a series.


Thursday started with “A Conversation with Dion: Rock’s Enduring Voice” featuring Bronx natives Dion Dimucci and The Orchard CCO Richard Gottehrer (who as a Bronx girl myself, I had to support). Anecdotes were shared including Dion’s memories of touring with Big Bopper, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly, with Dion choosing not to board that ill-fated flight that claimed those greats. Dion grabbed a guitar and expertly played some blues songs and told stories behind his classic hits and his funny experience working with intimidating producer Phil Spector. Next I headed to the “Can’t Tell Me Nothing: Independent Hip-Hop” panel comprised of De La Soul manager Brandon Hixon ( who discussed De La’s Kickstarter and share of their entire discography), Run The Jewels manager Amaechi Ugoizwe (who offered some advice on how to make it, starting with good music). Fader Editor Naomi Zeitner and facilitator Kickstarter Music Outreach lead Haley Rosenbaum also were featured, with Naomi chiming in on what catches her eye for lead stories and Haley provided some tips on what makes a successful Kickstarter campaign that gets promoted.


Friday began on a chiller tip with the “I Wrote That Song” panel moderated by Hits Magazine President Karen Glauber and included Dan Wilson, Matthew Caws, Holly Munoz, Fran Healy, Z Berg and Alex Greenwald. As a few panelists went “in the round” performing meaningful songs to which the entire room sang along as a campfire/beach bonfire vibe emanated. Dan Wilson’s touching and amusing story behind Semisonic’s “Closing Time” was a highlight. On deck next, I attended Ann Powers’ discussion with Angelique Kidjo, who lit up the room. Quick-witted, inquisitive and hilarious, she discussed her early life in Benin, dangerous escape to Paris and recording experience. A dynamic woman, I luckily got a chance to tell her so.


Walking over to Sway’s interview with T-Pain yielded another unexpected comedic experience. Not knowing much about T-Pain prior to attending the talk, T-Pain filled in the blanks, discussing his upbringing in Tallahassee, the ups and downs in his career and the backlash received from his autotune style. He def gained a new fan in me. Staying in the hip-hop lane, I ended the evening with Jarret Myer and Talib Kweli’s “What It Means to Start a Label in the Digital Age” panel which featured the two sharing memories about Rawkus Records’ early days, with Talib describing the experience as an artist then and label head today. After showing the video for “The Blast”, Talib dropped a funny story involving the shoot about the fake rain, a suit to block out the water and a cold due to the exposure.

For my last day at SXSW, Kelly Rowland’s interview with BET President of Music Programming Stephen Hill was a must. Vibrant and genuine, she bubbled with excited energy over her new “Chasing Destiny” show premiering after “Black Girls Rock” on BET. Reminiscing about the bootcamp training of singing, running and dancing in Destiny’s Child, Kelly dropped little tidbits about Bey and Michelle along the way. When asked for advice from an audience member on how to deal with a dude romantically who had issues with “chocolate girls”, Kelly gave a passionate response back, making it clear she feels there needed to be more of us “chocolate girls” represented in the media. Def look forward to watching her show Tuesdays starting April 5th.

When I wasn’t paneling, I somehow managed to see Lapsley, CHVRCHES, Anderson Paak, Erykah Badu and Large Professor, Nas, Mannie Fresh, Just Blaze, Buckshot, Bun B and surprise guest Talib Kweli at the Duck Down Sean Price birthday tribute showcase. I also connected with Cody ChesnuTT who chatted about working with The Roots at Electric Lady and Raphael Saadiq in his studio for his upcoming album, Riggaz from Colombian reggae band Tarmac about sharing stages with Barrington Levy and Mr. Vegas and Statik Selektah about the loss of Sean Price who he was working on an album with at the time of his passing, his collabos with Q-Tip, Freeway, Styles P, DJ Premier and producing new Joey Badass music. Watch for those interviews soon!

24 March 2016 Breaking Bits  Reviews  Shows Read more

Review: Judith Hill at The Grammy Museum

Wrapping up a pretty active live February music schedule, I figured Judith Hill at the Grammy Museum would be a great bet. Dropping one of my favorite albums of 2015, ‘Back In Time’, I talked to Judith a few months ago (check out the convo HERE) about making the album with Prince, singing onstage with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and winning a Grammy. On this particular evening, she chatted with the museum’s VP Scott Goldman, going into further depth on her funk-filled childhood and career, growing up with musician parents who exposed her to the stage, getting to see the likes of Billy Preston and Little Richard perform at an early age.

Born and raised in North Hollywood and Los Angeles, she reps that proudly and said “it’s an honor to be living in this city” full of talent you can’t find anywhere else. Paying homage to the funk on her latest offering, Judith put it best-“you’re either funky or you’re not”. When asked about working at jam utopia Paisley Park with the Purple One, she learned a lot from his production style, always thinking about how each song translates to the live stage. She also touched upon the emotional experience of singing at Michael Jackson’s funeral on the same stage where she’d sung in rehearsals days earlier. Hearing her discuss her career, it’s clear she’s accomplished much but is still just getting started. Ending the night with a 30 min intimate stomping and clap-filled set and a meet and greet, she made us all feel like we were ‘jammin in the basement”. To get more album and tour deets, click HERE!

5 March 2016 Breaking Bits  Reviews  Shows Read more

Review: Hiatus Kaiyote at The Observatory and The El Rey

Constructing the February concert calendar for the whirlwind which led me to attend an event each night during Grammy week, I made sure to pencil in Hiatus Kaiyote who announced a series of last min shows in Southern Cali. Getting a chance to briefly chat with them at SXSW in ’15 (peep the interview HERE ), I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see HK (who are based in Melbourne, Australia) twice in one week. For anyone who’s experienced Hiatus Kaiyote live, you know what’s up. For anyone who hasn’t, get thee to a show ASAP.

In town for the 58th Grammy ceremony where they garnered their second Grammy nod for “Best R&B Performance” for “Breathing Underwater”, OC dwellers and Angelenos were treated to shows highlighting brand new experimental joints and familiar material off the debut, ‘Tawk Tomahawk’ and their recent release ‘Choose Your Weapon’. In a festive mood, Nai (cat and MJ repping) met each lyric-singing crowd on Tuesday and Thursday with abundant smiles, lighting up the stage in her signature way, with Simon, Bender and Perrin demonstrating the on-point musicianship that makes Hiatus Kaiyote a tight band (that always provides my airport travel soundtrack). Saying hi at a meet and greet after the LA show, I tried not to fangirl too hard (even though I wanted to) when I asked about 2016 future plans which they told me will include more touring later this year. If they’re in your vicinity, go see them and visit their site for any future show deets HERE!

29 February 2016 Breaking Bits  Reviews  Shows Read more

Laughing It Up With Lionel Richie and Kevin Spacey

As we move further into 2016, So Cal music fans annually rejoice as Grammy Week always kicks off days’ worth of activity celebrating the outstanding work of musicians worldwide. This year, the MusiCares Foundation honored Lionel Richie as their “Person Of The Year” which meant a flurry of events throughout the week highlighting the talented musician and humanitarian including a fundraising gala and tribute during Monday’s Grammy ceremony. I attended the first event of the week which featured Lionel Richie being interviewed by Kevin Spacey at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and I knew Lionel and Kevin were funny separately.

The combo of the two yielded an even more uproarious experience than I ever expected and I laughed more that night than I had in a long time. I’d been keenly interested in this conversation because Lionel always seemed like someone who’d have great stories to tell. Throwing in his on-point Johnny Carson impression, Kevin Spacey walked Lionel through the anecdote-filled discussion starting with questions about his childhood, developing his love for music early, pretending to read music but actually playing piano by ear at his grandma’s house close by to Tuskegee University’s campus. Lionel shared his experiences flying with the Tuskeegee Airmen and being sheltered in that campus bubble until visiting another city where he accidentally drank out of a “whites-only” fountain, which prompted comments from white men on the street who’d seen what he’d done. His father did nothing in response in an attempt to protect Lionel and Lionel, initially angry at the lack of response, later understood years later why.

Moving into his Commodore years, he explained how the group formed (with early screams from adoring females at a school talent show) and the decision he made to drop out of college his Senior year. By that time, The Commodores were with Motown and opening for The Jackson 5 and the dean of the school called him into his office. Expecting to be reprimanded, the dean instead told him that “college was a scheme to find a way to make money” and he’d already found one so he had his blessing. Continuing in the Commodore timeline, Lionel told a funny story about Bob Marley opening for them at Madison Square Garden, involving rolling and smoking a serious brown bag filled with 420 and passing it around without exception. In a haze, he walked onstage too early in front of a sold-out audience but was quickly pulled back, being saved from further embarrassment.

Later pursuing a solo career with a string of unforgettable hits we all know, Lionel shared the story of how “We Are The World” came to be. Stemming from a call from Harry Belafonte, concerned about the famine crisis in Africa, Lionel recruited Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson to produce and write the track while Ken Kragen assembled the rest of the crew. Written at Michael’s house which had many exotic animals including a large albino python that scared Lionel but Michael insisted “only wanted to play”, the legacy of that groundbreaking song endures. Going from hosting The American Music Awards, winning six of them that night, right into a studio with the most impacting artists of the decade is an experience Lionel will never forget.

Regaling the audience with songwriting stories of the origin of “Easy” and the catchy but nonsensical lyrics of “All Night Long”, the convo ultimately yielded the portrait of a talented artist who doesn’t always take himself too seriously. Those are always the best kind.

17 February 2016 Breaking Bits  Reviews Read more

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