For the Record: Prophecy by The Stakes

stakes prophecy 01by Mark Anderson
Senior Editor

After years, the wait is finally over. The Stakes, Phoenix’s premiere live hiphop band, have released their debut full-length album, Prophecy.

And believe you me, the album was worth the wait. To quote a friend, “this shit is fire right here.”

After years of gigging here in Phoenix and all around the state, The Stakes have formed a solid line-up of “self-made rappers, university-educated performers, cover artists, and lifelong gospel musicians” for a roster that truly does impress.

Marah Armenta (vocals), Lord Kash (emcee), Zeedubb (emcee), Ben Scolaro (piano), Luis Martinez (guitar), Paul McAfee (Moog synthesizer – droppin’ those fat basslines), and Kevin Phillips (drums) form the core group but the addition of Alan Acosta & Tyler Bauer on saxophone and Jimmy Barrios & Danny Torgerson on trumpet add an extra cool dimension to the Stakes smooth sound on Prophecy.

“5 Minutes of Gold” opens the album and I honestly can’t argue with that song title at all. Luis’ guitar is soon joined by Ben’s keys and then the vocals pop in and Kevin’s drums and then >BOOM!< Stendhal syndrome takes full effect.

The hits keep coming with “Then And Now”, Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” and the title track, “Prophecy”.

With an intro featuring Amber Tabares, “Blue Jean Grey” opens the Stakes into some of their best, experimental arenas yet while “Crosseyed”, their excellent Michael Jackson cover of “I Can’t Help It” and “Requiem” prove the Stakes are the best at what they do.

Closing track, “Unified”, features I-Dee and is a straight head-banger. Make sure to stay tuned for that secret track too…

The Stakes took some time out their day to answer a few questions I had about the new album, their contemporaries, and what’s next for one of the hardest-working bands in town.

Mark Anderson: Prophecy is a couple years in the making right? Did any songs change over the course of making it? Please describe the feeling of being finished with and releasing it to all the long-time Stakes fans!

Ben Scolaro: We are truly grateful to all the Stakes fans who have followed us over the last 4 and a half years. So much has changed as we’ve developed our sound. Not to mention the world around us has influenced our direction.

Take the title track, “Prophecy.” When we first started writing that song 4 years ago, it was inward-looking, about personal triumph. However, with the rise of Trump and White Nationalism, we rewrote some of the lyrics and added samples at the beginning, transforming it into a call to action against the running narrative, or “prophecy”.

Our focus is to constantly improve, so our songs evolve over time.

Paul McAfee: Absolutely. The songs have generally kept the the same structure, but the groove, feel, textures, riffs, etc. change a little bit each time. This is inevitable when every member of the group is so open and creative.

What is the Stakes songwriting process like? Does one of you come up with a main progression and everyone else elaborates? Or maybe you guys just jam and things develop themselves?

Ben: All of the above. Our greatest strength is our diversity as a group — we’ve got the full spectrum from completely self-taught to university-studied musicians, which allows us to approach songwriting from every direction.

Paul: Sometimes we just jam and develop a song as a group. Maybe somebody starts with a 4 or 8 bar groove and everyone joins in and develops their own contribution. Some of the more intricate songs were thoroughly written by a single band member, but sometimes the structure or feel is edited by the group depending on what makes sense for the vocalists and lyrics.

I consider you guys a pretty unique band but maybe I’m wrong in the sense that there may be more out there than I realize. Is there a solid hiphop/jazz/funk scene here in the Valley in your opinion? To me, your only contemporaries here seem to be House of Stairs!

ZeeDubb: I’m not a native of Phoenix but I know that it has a pretty rich history of underground rap bands through the years. I know Drunken Immortals are still going hard. When The Stakes had started, the only other band mixing in jazz was The Brother Cosmos, but they broke up.

Currently there’s The Color 8, Nick Perkins Band, Ramses II, House of Stairs, The Geibral Elisha Movement, Deliyonne & Hudson… trust me, the fusion of hip-hop and other genres with live instrumentation is alive in Phoenix and The Stakes are honored to be in the forefront.

The scene is here, the promoters just have to catch up, or we’ll do it for them.

stakes 01Could you delve into the idea behind the album title some? I’m picturing multiple layers here…

Ben: Since you asked for layers…

Layer 1 — The Idea

It’s easy to fall into the trap of passively watching things happen, like a “prophecy” unfolding. But the future is not written; we all play a part in creating it, whether by acting or failing to act.

Layer 2 — The Image

Our actions today do become a type of prophecy for future generations by creating the world they will inherit. That’s why the album art features children — because their future is at stake in our actions today (that’s Lord Kash’s son on the cover).

Layer 3 — The Action

After the election last November, we found ourselves asking what we can do to help shape the future for the better. That’s why we’re collecting signatures at our shows to stop the expansion of Arizona’s private school vouchers.

This expansion would take money from public education and give it to wealthy people who send their kids to private school (you can read all about it at sosarizona.org). We’re part of a state-wide effort to put a referendum on the ballot so voters can reject this law. We’ve collected more than 70 signatures and will have more petitions at our shows until Aug. 1. If you come through, PLEASE take a moment to sign.

Paul: For me, Prophecy fulfills a top criterion: it sounds cool and mysterious.

Ben: That too.

I love the “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” cover. Is there a story behind that song getting picked to be covered?

ZeeDubb: It’s funny because we were suppose to do a full reggae show but only had time to crank out, maybe 3 reggae tunes, and “Master Blaster” stuck. Marah picked the song cause she loves Stevie with her heart and soul. You can really feel the purpose of the original lyrics when she sings it.

Paul: When we jammed on the groove, Kash dropped a killer verse with a flow that developed beautifully. We often work with a horn section, and I felt inspired to write horn parts for this song in particular.

What’s in store for the Stakes? Do you guys already have new songs in the works? Where would you like to see the band go from here both literally and figuratively?

Paul: We have old and new songs that haven’t been recorded yet, probably enough for an EP. We want to continue to write new songs until we have more than enough to select for for a new LP. We will be working on a music video soon and continue to keep the visibility up and play shows. My personal dream would be to open for the Roots.

ZeeDubb: In 2017 you’re going to see more videos, more loosies and singles, and another EP or album. Collaborations with other bands, musicians and artists are in the works. We have a lot of ideas and plans to execute. Some I wouldn’t share for the sake of the surprise.

Is there any thing else about Prophecy or the Stakes that you would like us to know about that I failed to ask?

Marah: It’s finally out now! Available on iTunes, as well as our website, TheStakesMusic.com, where you can see all of our upcoming shows.

~

For more info on The Stakes, check their Facebook page. Catch them live at A Stoneypie Pool Party with Paper Foxes, Haze that Saxy Rapper, Mr. UU, The Psychedelephants, Hostile Work Environment, the Bittersweet Way, De Leon & the Desert Beats Saturday July 1 at 4 PM.

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For the Record: The Hierophant by Jerusafunk

hierophant 01

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

The Hierophant, the new album by Phoenix megagroup Jerusafunk will add even more dots to your world-music map as you delve into the band’s sound. Jerusafunk isn’t confined to one region of the greater globe, but seems to draw a host of influences from Bossa Nova and Cumbia to Polka for their debut LP which comes out on Thursday at the Crescent Ballroom.

This band of troubadours draws inspiration from such disparate global points as to turn appropriation into appreciation with their pure and unifying love of music.

It’s been almost two years since Jerusafunk dropped their debut, Sweat & Glitter, so fans have just been itching for some new jams to help pass the time between shows. And, this week, the band is ready to oblige. That’s right, kids. The funky klezmer collective from the PHX will be unveiling their sophomore effort, The Hierophant, this coming Thursday.

I had a chance to ask Jessie and Chris of Jerusafunk some questions about the new album, J-Funk future plans, and, of course, klezmer. Read our Q&A below, but first, hit play on “Gateway Movement” from The Hierophant below…

For the record, who is part of the Jerusafunk cast of characters?

Chris “Chrispy Duck” Del Favero: guitar, vocals, percussion, melodica
Jessie “Juicie Duck” Demaree: clarinet, vocals, bass clarinet
Elliott “The Foxy Gemini” Fox: tenor sax, alto sax, bass clarinet, flute
Torrey “Jean Scone” McDannald: trumpet, flugel horn, piano
Austin “Ricky” Rickert: alto sax
Connor “Connie LeRoy” Sample: drums, percussion
Jeremy “Gilgamesh” Lentz: drums, percussion
Spencer “Spoonz Tambo” Hawley: djembe, saw, glock, shakers, vocals
Zack “Chip Tickler” Parker: guitar
Isaac “Time Wolf” Parker: bass
Caleb “Baylac” Michel: percussion
Alejandro Arboleda López: quena, charrango
Captain Smokey Joel Robinson: guitar
Bailey “Bagel Boy” Zick: double bass
Mike de la Torre: percussion
Bryce “Pea Soop” Broome: drums

Where did you record the album? And how did you fit everyone into the recording space? Or was it done in rounds?

We recorded the album all over the Valley. All of the rhythm section tracks and live full group tracks were done in schools, free studios and the J-Funk house. All of the overdubbing happened at the J-Funk house. We also recorded our friend Alejo in Guatapé, Colombia in his and our hostel rooms (you should Google that town… it’s something else, I’d move there in a heart beat) [Editor’s Note: Boom]. Some of the rooms were quite tight for the live recordings so we just recorded in a circle, more or less, and made it work.

I want to hear about J-Funk: the Inception. What initially spawned the idea for this musical collective?

To quickly sum up the first and second incarnations of Jerusafunk: Jessie and Chris met in Flagstaff and started the band with a lineup of guitar, clarinet, tenor sax, bari sax, accordion, and drums. After, Jessie graduated from NAU we moved to Phoenix and recreated the band. We plugged in and revamped the line up to electric guitar, bass, clarinet+pedal, tenor sax, percussion and drum set.

Then, after traveling through Central and South America for two years, Chris and Jessie returned with new material for the current incarnation. Chris and Jessie had always dreamed of playing and writing with a larger group of musicians to help realize these greater compositions, so they asked friends and friends of friends to fill out the band, and the intimacy of the group has really thrived because of everyone’s pasts with one another.

Okay, so the klezmer/funk thing… how did that come about? Were these musical styles you grew up listening to? Or something that you stumbled into as burgeoning musicians?

I think I can safely say no one in the band grew up with klezmer, except for maybe Jeremy, our drummer; his mom is Jewish. Jessie’s the one who picked up klezmer; her clarinet teacher encouraged her to listen to clarinetists from all over the world, and upon listening to two clarinetists in particular, David Krakauer and Giora Fiedman, she started focusing her efforts on playing klezmer.

Funk is an american pastime- we all love the classics and then some. More than half the band are jazz musicians, so we like get down to the cerebral psychedelic jazz funk of Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and Sun Ra quite a bit.

When we first started the band Jessie was learning about ethics, identity and musical fusion in ethnomusicology, and was up to the challenge of modernizing an old dance genre (klezmer) with a new dance genre (funk) to see what kind of sounds would emerge. And, of course, then our travels to Latin America morphed the J-Funk sound even more as we discovered and learned Colombian and Andean music.

And we definitely need to know what the songwriting process is like. Is there a process? Do you get together and jam and see what emerges? Or is there a member (or a few) that shape out the songs and present them to the group for a full fleshing out?

Well, for the first album, Chris wrote a majority of the sketches for the songs. We usually create melodies for horns, chord progressions, and form ideas, then hash out the grooves and sections for improv. Luckily, everyone in the band has creative juices so they contribute their own voice in every song. Torrey (trumpet, not trombone) has a very modern writing approach in that he records a whole song, then brings it to the table and we try to further his ideas the best we can.

Now, you cats have been out on tour and I hear you might be planning for another adventure. What’s it like touring with, like, a million band members? Is there a caravan involved or do you all turn one van into a giant mobile cuddle puddle of moving chaos?

Bed time is where the real snugglin’ begins. For the last couple of tours, we’ve had to use around two to three vehicles. Which gives us all a little more space, but its a lot more awkward to coordinate arrival times. This tour in July we’ll be renting a 15-seater just to simplify things…

But traveling with a gang of 8-10 has been absolutely hysterical. We’re all very charismatic people and feelings rarely get hurt, thank goodness. Sure, there can be daily turmoil, but there is definitely safety in numbers. We take over any space once we arrive. Touring has grown less chaotic with experience, so if that pattern persists this first East Coast tour should be something amazing.

You seem like a band with a mission. Does Jerusafunk a mission statement?

Our mission is we want everyone to resonate and learn from the music we create, but what art doesn’t? We think that if people can latch onto the challenging musical and philosophical concepts we present, maybe then people may discover something new about themselves.

Or, if they prefer to just listen, they can feel sexy and dance to grooves they may have never heard before and hopefully dig deeper into a world of music and culture that seems to defy time and history. Culture is a construct; not as a wall but a bridge.

What’s next for J-Funk? Taking a break after the release show? Or moving forward with the sexual revolution of klezmer?

WHAT’S NEXT?!? WORLD TOUR!!! Really though, we want a company to pick us up so we can tour Europe and the rest of the Americas. There has been talk, no fixed plans, but talk, about PAO and J-Funk doing a little AZ/CA tour in the future! Go and freak Cali out with a 30 person funk entourage! We have about enough material for to start writing for the next album, so it’ll be back to the studio(s) and bedroom for the next big piece. Hopefully we’ll start discovering new grooves from other parts of the planet and weave them into our own nasty little hodgepodge. Maybe find the new groooooooove? Oh, and ya know, sexual revolution.

Make sure you head to the Crescent Ballroom on June 15th for the Jerusafunk release party with Nick Perkins, Zach Alwin & Duck Funk, and DJ Mitch Freedom. More info on that event here

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Radio Phoenix Podcast: Jerusafunk

jerusafunk 001Those klezmer crusaders known as Jerusafunk dropped by the Radio Phoenix studios and now the podcast is available in all its deliciousness. We talk all sorts on the new record The Hierophant, the upcoming J-Funk tour, and try to find out all we can about band member side projects. Not only that, they brought in some fantastic tracks from some fantastic local bands and, as always, the complete playlist can be found below.

Now then, make sure to catch Jerusafunk perform as the in-house band for Pan Productions’ The Goblin Kings City, a live stage musical adaptation of the 1986 film Labyrinth. Only a few show dates left for that so click here for more info on how to score tickets. You should also check out The Hierophant Album Release Party with Nick Perkins Band, Zach Alwin & Duck Funk, and DJ Mitch Freedom at the Crescent Ballroom on June 15 because you KNOW that’s gonna’ be a funkysweet time.

Tune in every first and third Wednesday at 7 PM for The YabYum Hour, only on Radio Phoenix.

Complete Playlist

Jerusafunk “Gateway Movement”

Qais Essar “Maste Mange Bar”

The Stakes “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”

Sun Ra “Song No.1”

Sun City Girls “The Shining Path”

Lucas Pino “The Fox”

Marty Robbins “Big Iron”

Man-Cat “Chemicals”

Sunn Trio “Songe Too”

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Recorded live on May 17, 2017

7 Funky Music Videos

Rudie Edwards
“Lover Like You”

VegazTaelor
“Dirty T.U.B.”

DOPESICKFLY
“Hydroplane”

Jstar
“Bad Boy Stepping”

Bsmiley
“Get Out of My Way”

Drew Vision
“Without You”

Total Hip Replacement
“New Possibilities”

7 Seriously Strange Music Videos

Prism Bitch
“Ya Ya”

Adrian Underhill
“Not Good Enough”

LeoLeo
“Iowa”

Koonian
“Namaste & Sh!t”

Erica Dawson
“USA Party Girl”

Papillon Rising
“High Upon High”

Treasure Mammal
“My Love”

For the Record: Don’t Let It Be by Playboy Manbaby

for the record pbmb

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

So, I’ve been a Playboy Manbaby fan since the band’s inception or, at least, since their very first show. And, as I’ve stated before, they keep getting better with every single album they put out (which is really saying something considering the band has been consistently putting out music since 2012).

I’m not bragging when I claim to have loved the Manbabies since they were Babybabies. I’m just trying to qualify the following statement: their new album really is their best album ever, hands down.

Playboy Manbaby will release Don’t Let it Be this coming weekend at The Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix. This much-anticipated follow-up to 2014’s Electric Babyman contains 11 feisty tracks that mark real growth for the band, musically speaking.

The songs on Don’t Let it Be are refined in a way we haven’t heard before from the punk-funk outfit. They go beyond the raw explosiveness of earlier releases to carefully constructed songcraft. And they do so without sacrificing that savage emotional force that made them a crowd favorite early on.

Don’t Let it Be kicks of with “You Can Be a Fascist Too” – the first single off the album which was released just in time for that inauspicious inauguration. Then the second track, “Last Man Standing”, highlights the band’s horns section – David Cosme (trumpet) and Ricky Smash (sax and we know that’s not your real name) – before “Bored Broke & Sober” takes over. “Cadillac Car” is already to be a crowd favorite and is in contention for personal favorite from the album along with the apocalyptic “I’m So Affluent” and the super rambunctious number, “White Jesus”.

The album bears the mark of maturation, not just in the lyrics, but in the instrumentation as well. The orchestration is thoughtful, impeccably timed, and, well, rowdy as fuck.

Robbie Pfeffer, lyricist and vocalist, has a reputation for being a blitzkrieg onstage. Offstage, however, he’s the guy that will pet your dog and ask about your mother. Rather than suggesting that these are two separate and oppositional expressions, I’m putting forth the argument that Pfeffer is the quintessential example of the much-maligned millennial. He’s the meta-millenial. Kind-hearted, community-focused, and facing a world that keeps threatening collapse with a can-do attitude. The existential angst runs high in these young ones, but that’s not going to stop them from cold-crushing outdated conventions with their dad-staches and second hand clothes. They were born to rage against the dying of the light. That mixture of humor and personal fortitude comes through in the lyrics on this album in high shine.

If you go in for the riled-up cross-genre style of music Playboy Manbaby has become known for over the years, Don’t Let It Be might be you’re favorite album this year. You’ll laugh. You’ll dance. You might call your boss and quit your job so it might be best to hide your phone before smashing that play button. This album has that fury in equal measure to that signature Playboy Manbaby humor.

In keeping with the “For the Record” tradition, I had the chance to ask Robbie Pfeffer some questions about the album, the impending release show, and what’s next for Playboy Manbaby.

YabYum: Let’s start with all the details. Where did you record the album? Who helped out?

Robbie Pfeffer: We recorded with Eamon Ford at his old house, then at Chad[Dennis, the drummer]’s house, then at his new house. Lots of different houses. A ton of people have offered me great feedback on this album and helped it become what it is. Also we’re really stoked to have Lolipop and Dirty Water Records help make it a tangible thing!

So, what’s with the title? Do you bear some Beatles’ ill will? 

I think it fits the album pretty well, it kind of sets the tone that this is not going to be a “chill” experience.

With previous releases, the tracks seem a bit more of a cathartic drive. That energy is still very much present on the new album, but it seems like there’s more of a focus on songcraft, both lyrically and instrumentally. Has PBMB shifted their approach to songwriting? Or is this just the natural effects of the maturation that evolves from playing together for several years?

Ever since this band formed we always heard that we are band that doesn’t translate well past the live setting. So we really wanted to make a record that stands on it’s own even if you’ve never seen us. That’s the goal, at least.

On a personal writing level I’m not trying to hide the meaning of what we’re talking about in any way any more. I want to take the most direct path to the point I can find. I really don’t want subjectivity anymore, I want specific meaning. That might change in the future, but for now, that’s how I’m approaching writing.

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Playboy Manbaby – Photo by Peach Girl Photography

One of the things I like most about PBMB is the band’s ability to tap into the current cultural malaise and channel that angst into some sort of purifying flurry. As the principal songwriter for PBMB, would you say that’s an unintended consequence? Or is there some underlying philosophy at work here?

I’m an anxious dude and I try to stay alert to the societal changes around me. Music has been a way for me to work that out without drowning in my own existential dread. Also, I know I’m not the only person who questions what it means to be a person and the dynamics of power that exist in this hyper-active world we live in so if people can know that it freaks me out too, but I’m still trying my best, maybe that’ll be comforting to some people. Really I just want everybody to treat everyone else with a little more empathy and kindness.

It seems like you’re a real nice guy (irl) so my guess is that you just have a real low bullshit tolerance level to manifest the sort of aggression we see onstage. Is there a line for you between the performative persona and the other guy? Or is Playboy Manbaby the place to purge all that aggression so you’re not punching people in the throat? The people want to know.

That’s very kind of you! I really disdain violence of any kind. My hope is that when people are dancing at shows they can respect everyone around them and make sure that while they’re having a good time they’re not ruining anyone else’s good time. Generally people have been really great about this, but in the few instances where it’s gotten out of hand we have no issue stopping a show to make sure everyone gets to enjoy a safe, inclusive environment.

We’re a band of nerds and outcasts and we’re not about to be a platform for macho dudes to beat up on vulnerable people trying to have a good time. If anyone feels uncomfortable at our show for any reason please contact any of us and we will address it immediately without question.

The release show happens this coming weekend and the lineup is pretty stellar. Want to tell the people of the internet what they can expect by way of lineup and location?

I’m super excited about this line-up. We ran into the Thin Bloods dudes on NYE and were excited to hear after they’ve all been scattered across the country and busy with other stuff they happen to be back in Phoenix. We’ve shared a ton of great memories playing with them and they’re one of my all-time favorite bands so that’s fantastic news. Also, super stoked on The Darts, Genre, and Andy Warpigs. All great musicians and great people who bring rad stuff to the community.

What’s next for Playboy Manbaby? Touring? Videos? Sit back and relax for a while as reward for a job well done?

Hopefully, all of the above. We took way too damn long on this record and I never wanna take that long again. We’ve got like 10 new songs that we haven’t recorded and we just wanna make as much art as we can until we collapse.

~

Do not miss the Playboy Manbaby Album Release /// Thin Bloods Reunion show happening Saturday, February 25 at the Trunk Space or you will be so sorry.

7 Funky New Jams

funky 00RILLAKILL & Brandyn Burnette

“The Freshest”

You might be familiar with producer Brandyn Burnette. After all, we’ve featured him on YabYum before so you should know him. Anyway, Burnette wrote this track on his 26th birthday and brought it to Rillakill to help bring the hit to life. “The Freshest” has that slick radio style that immediately gets you dancing and stays stuck in your head for days. Consider that your only warning. The crisp production and catchy hooks of “The Freshest” won’t let go of listeners. Give the single from Rillakill and Bradyn Burnette a listen below or head here for your very own digital copy.

Lucille Crew

“Something”

HipHop, funk, and electropop melt together in this banger from Lucille Crew, an international act that originated in Tel Aviv. “Something” grooves with club energy while the melody sticks to you like glue. Or sweat. The lushly layered monotone vocals really sold me though. Give “Something” from the Lucille Crew a listen below. This single is just a little sampling from their forthcoming album, Respect the Dawn, which is due out this Spring.

Berry Juice & Josh Tobias

“Creature of the Night”

Retro synths and a funky hook really make “Creature of the Night” sizzle. The single was produced in collaboration as an international undertaking combining the efforts of Amsterdam-based producer Berry Juice and Brooklyn-based vocalist Josh Tobias. Part of a two-track single that dropped last December (available here), “Creature of the Night” feels like driving through has just enough contemporary cool to keep the 80s throwback style from inflating your hair. Let’s hope “Creature of the Night” is just one of the many collaborative tracks that emerge from this partnership. Give the single a listen below…

Swindail

“Jussrite”

The Aussie artist known as Swindail has an uncommonly self-effacing attitude for a producer, but you can’t tell that from listening to his slick singles. “Jussright” mixes chill but upbeat energy with all the little textural niceties that take a track from amateur hour to totally pro. The vocal additions from SACHI and Naji help Swindail capture that breezy summertime vibe that defines “Jussrite”. If it’s winter here that means it’s summer Down Under, right? All of us above the equator get a a little while longer to learn all the words to “Jussrite” before we hear this single on those poolside playlists. Give the single from Swindail a spin below or head here to snag your own copy before those temperatures get turned up.

Black Giraffe

“Kansas”

This song is about two days spent driving cross-country to visit a dying friend. Somber, yes, but funky too. The Seattle trio known as Black Giraffe offers up a foxy R&B/rock sound that’s backed by a solid groove. There’s an added experimental layer that keeps things interesting in a modern way.  Give “Kansas” a spin below…

Unified Highway

“Are You That Somebody”

Unified Highway fuses the talents of Eric Rachmany (Rebelution vocalist/guitarist) and Amp Live (producer, DJ, remixer formerly of Zion I). The duo creates a kickback vibe on their new single, “Are You That Somebody”, with the help of a few musician friends. The track has a reggae twist but you can hear a melting pot of styles from electropop to soul and beyond. Meander down that Unified Highway with their track “Are You Somebody” below or get your very own copy here.

Dahj

“Size Up”

Chad Phillips is the Jamaican singer/producer/songwriter who performs under the moniker Dahj. His slinky new single “Size Up” fuses R&B, Dancehall, and HipHop for a fresh sound with island flavor. If you dig “Size Up”, I suggest checking out other singles available from Dahj. He only recently moved from the role of producer to center stage so he only has a few tracks under his belt. But fear not, Dahj is currently hard at work on his debut EP. Until then, enjoy “Size Up” below or head here to get your own digi-download.

Best Live Band: Playboy Manbaby

best live bandNo one commands a crowd quite like Playboy Manbaby.

It helps that the band crafts feisty hits make you want to pump your fist, shake your ass, and scream your head off. So it should be no surprise that the band has sold out venues all across town from The Trunk Space to the Rebel Lounge to the Crescent Ballroom.

This six-piece superband brings enough energy to the stage to revive a funeral parlor, but when you set them before a packed-out house of writhing fans, Playboy Manbaby delivers a memorable experience every time.

Maybe that’s why they’ve performed this year with such an array of diverse acts, from Jared & The Mill to The Father Figures. Playboy Manbaby is a band that everyone should experience live. Rowdy, unrelenting, and more fun than a monkey on mescaline.

Check out their “Live at Valley Bar” video below to see what we mean…

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Previous Best Live Band Award Winners:

2015: Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra
2014: Fathers Day, Jerusafunk, Wolvves

7 Slick R&B Tracks

Domenico

“Real Good Thing”

Domenico is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and producer – all talents he demonstrates in his new single, “Real Good Thing”. If that weren’t impressive enough, this artist is only 18-years-old. The mellow permutations on this track will be sure to initiate sway while you’re listening and the subtle layers of vocals throughout the song suggest a strong understanding of song construction. Domenico is definitely a young artist you’ll want to keep an eye on. Listen to “Real Good Thing” here…

Ben Zaidi

“On Saturday”

Ben Zaidi combines pensive lyrics with minimal electronica created in his Seattle bedroom. The result is memorizing. “On Saturday” possesses a subtle beauty like rain on a window or dust particles dancing in a beam of sunlight. The track is more along the lines of future soul in the vein of James Blake than a traditional R&B track, but I would argue that Zaidi’s new single is both soulful and uniquely grafted to its rhythm. So there. Whatever genre you want to cram “On Saturday” into, take a moment to get chill with the music of Ben Zaidi.

Kyle Thornton & The Company

“Fly Girl” 

The Boston-based act known as Kyle Thornton & The Company released a new track from their sophomore (and forthcoming) effort. “Fly Girl” presents a funky, fresh style that reminds me a little of Bad Rabbits. Combining elements of HipHop, R&B, and funk, “Fly Girl” will help you get your jam on. If you dig what you’re hearing, delve further into the online musical offerings from Kyle Thornton & The Company. This is a talented bunch.

Chris Jamison

“Truth”

This is not Chris Jamison’s first rodeo. As a contestant and third place finalist on The Voice, Jamison has already seen some of the ugly in-and-outs of the industry. After being signed to Republic Records, Jamison is ready to move out on his own and “Truth” is the first single from his independent music venture. R&B isn’t just about make-out vibes. It’s also about problem solving in a relationship, then making out. If you dig “Truth” consider checking out the artist’s debut EP, I Am Chris Jamisonhere.

The Marcus King Band

“Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with That”

Once you give “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with That” a spin, you won’t be surprised to discover that The Marcus King Band comes to us from Greenville, SC. Infusing blues with funk and Southern Rock, The Marcus King Band has their own R&B style; something a little gritty and a lot of fun. “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with That” comes to us from the band’s new album, due out on October 7th, so if you like what you’re hearing, you can join us in the wait for the full release.

 DecadeZ

“Loved”

This smooth single from DecadeZ is the title track from his forthcoming release. The Bay-area emcee/producer creates a chill vibe before laying out some serious relationship goals in the lyrics. “Loved” is a promising introduction to DecadeZ new release which is due out later this year. Check out the new single below and join us in the wait for Loved, the full release.

Sabrie Tramble

“Not the One” 

R&B artist Sabrie Tramble started recording at age 13 so you can be sure that by the time she dropped the vocals for “Not the One”, she was ready. With influences including Faith Evans and Mary J. Blige, she had some pretty big shoes to fill, but I feel she lives up to the job. Sabrie’s vocals are on point on “Not the One”, classic and refined while retaining their soulful edge. The production is stellar too, sounding like a classic throwback jam you should know the words to. Released by the 2621MusicGroup out of Houston, Sabrie’s keeping her eye on worldwide recognition. Preview “Not the One” below, then purchase the jam for your personal collection here.