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End of Summer Music Spotlight: More Afropunk Goodness!

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Summer has flown by fast. My For Harriet internship is just about finished and my fall semester of college starts on Saturday (got an online class that starts on the weekend). To end the summer with a bang, I’m going to share Afropunk music that I’ve discovered since my other summer music spotlight. I’m also including some musicians and downloads I completely forgot to mention.  As in my other music post, I will include free downloads that the musicians have made available. Also, feel free to go to and sign up for their newsletter for more goodies.

1. Sophia Ramos

Genre: Soul, rock

Free Downloads: ” Freedom is Over” (from the free compilation album Fire in The Dark), “Esperanza“, “Let Me Tell You Something

2.  Songs from the compilation album Fire in The Dark (these are my personal favorites)

“Blak Girls” by Shelley Nicole Blackbushe– an empowering funk song for black women

“On Planet Earth” by California King– a rock ballad about youth and drugs

“The Last Time We’re Here” by The Family Stand– a soulful rock song about redemption

“Fear of Numbers” by Milk Plus– a fierce rock song about the fear of people coming together

Bonus Song I found after I did a Google Search- “Shades of Blue” by The Family Stand

3. Quinn Deveaux and The Blue Beat Review

Genre: rock n’ roll, gospel, blues, jazz, soul

Notable Song: Left This Town

Free Download:  Under Covers (a collection of cover songs that don’t sound like cover songs)

4. Sa’ Ra Charismata

Genre: Progressive conscious pop

Notable Song: Gold Digga

Free Download: Big Man Pharma

5.  Hadassah

Genre: soul

Free Download: Lexicon of Love EP

6. Princess Nokia

Genre: experimental, electronica

Free Download: Metallic Butterfly EP (in the article, click where it says “click here for the download”)


Other Free EPs I forgot to mention in past posts

Geechee Goddess Hardcore Warrior Soul by Tamar Kali– soulful, empowering rock

The Roxx Boxx Experience by Divinity Roxx– fun, empowering rap-rock (scroll down, click where it says “free exclusive download” and put in your email)





Written by Serena Zola

August 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Summer Music Spotlight: Afropunk and Black Nerdcore Rappers

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A couple of months ago, I did a post on my top ten Afropunk musicians. Since then, I’ve discovered more Afropunk musicians as well as black nerd core rappers. If you want to get in the know about the newest Afropunk music, go to the Afropunk website and sign up for an account. By doing this, you’ll also subscribe to a free weekly newsletter that will be emailed to you.

When it comes to black nerdcore rappers, it was something I discovered via a post on For Harriet, the blog I’m interning for. Nerdcore is basically rap music about nerdy things like video games and comics as well as other subjects. It may or may not use chiptune, the sound you hear on classic Nintendo Games.

While nerdcore is dominated by white males, there are some black ones too. I’ll get to them later on in this post. For now, let’s get the Afropunk musicians out the way. I’ll even let you know about free downloads if the musicians have any.

1. Maimouna Youssef

Genre: Rap, jazz, pop, soul, spoken word

Some Favorite Songs: I’m A Woman, We’re Already Royals, Tell My StoryBasquiat The Concrete/All Shea Everything

Free Downloads:  The Reintroduction of Mumu Fresh Mixtape

2. Chargaux

Genre: classical with elements of other genres

Some Favorite Songs:  All The PartiesGreat Expectations

Free Downloads: The Gallerina Suites

3. Purple Ferdinand

Genre: Folk

Some Favorite Songs: BirdsWasn’t Taught To

Free Downloads: DragonFly EP (click free download and use your email or Facebook to get it)

4. Estere

Genre: soul with elements of hip-hop and electronica

Some Favorite Songs: I Spy, Reptilian Journey, Culture ClashPity

Free Downloads: Estere mixtape

5. The Objex

Genre: punk rock

Some Favorite Songs: GG. Social Disease, R.S.V.P.

Free Downloads: R.S.V.P. (see above link), Toxic Waste Girl

6.  Cody ChestnuTT

Genre:  soul, funk, blues, rock

Some Favorite Songs: I’ve Been Life, That’s Still Mama, Under The Spell of The Handout

Free Download: Landing on a Hundred (on the right, click Free Mp3  and then Free Download)

Black Nerdcore Rappers

1. Sammus

Some Favorite Songs: Fly Nerd, Cybernetic Armor, America

Free Downloads: Fly Nerd EP, America (see above link)

2.  Mega Ran

Some Favorite Songs: Chun Li (with Ryu Black and Masia One),  Maya’s Song, Infinite Lives (featuring D&D Sluggers)

Free Downloads:  Maya’s Song (see above link), Infinite Lives (see above link)





My Top Ten Afropunk Musicians With Some Favorite Songs

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Afropunk has become my number one favorite music genre. Consisting of punk rock, alternative, and indie music, this genre is a part of a movement for black people to show identities not shown in the mainstream. Now, I will show you my top ten Afropunk musicians and some favorite songs by each one.

10. Shinobi Ninja

Genre: Rock, Rap, and a dash of techno

Favorite Songs: Power Strangers, Gloom Doom

9.  Santigold

Genre: Rap, reggae, rock, electronica

Favorite Songs: Shove It, God From The Machine

8. Alice Smith

Genre: soul, jazz, blues, rock

Favorite Songs: Woodstock, Desert Song

7. Cecile Mclorin Salvant

Genre: blues, jazz

Favorite Songs: Poor Butterfly, I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate

6. Tamar-Kali

Genre:  Punk rock

Favorite Songs: Pearl, Fire With Fire

5. Divinity Roxx

Genre:Rock, Rap

Favorite Songs: Get Here, Get Yo Fix

4. Noisettes

Genre: hard rock, blues rock, pop

Favorite Songs: Burn, Atticus, Sister Rosetta

3. Angel Haze

Genre: Rap, spoken word, r&b, pop

Favorite Songs: Angels and Airwaves, Planes Fly, Who I Am, Summertime Sadness (Cover)

2. Janelle Monae

Genre: rock, funk, pop, classical, rap,  jazz, r&b

Favorite Songs: Cindi, Come Alive (War of The Roses), Locked Inside, Q.U.E.E.N.

1. Kimya Dawson

Genre: Folk

Favorite Songs: Happy Home (Keep on Writing), Wandering Daughter, Singing Machine. Burn


Authoress Note: I’d like to thank everyone for following my blog and reading my posts. It means a lot to me! Also, I will be taking classes and doing an internship this summer so I may not post for a few months.


Album Review: Dirty Gold (Explicit) by Angel Haze

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Dirty Gold, Angel Haze

Source: Wikipedia
Release Date: December 30th

Rapper-singer Angel Haze managed to make waves as an indie artist and YouTube poet for a few years, recording mixtapes with her own original songs and covers. Now, with the help of a major record label, her highly anticipated debut album has been released.

One of the strongest things about the album is its lyrics. Some of them are empowering anthems reminiscent of past original songs like “Sufferings First” and her cover of Mackelmore’s “Same Love”. “You gotta be the one difference in your life and turn it around” she raps in “A Tribe Called Red”. “So don’t get lost tonight, never let the ignorance cost your life” she says in the suicide prevention song “Angels and Airwaves”.

Besides empowerment, some of the songs are also confessional, introspective, and poetic. “Black Synagogue” discusses Haze’s thoughts on God, while “Black Dahlia” discusses her relationship with her mother. “April’s Fool” discusses love with beautiful spring imagery while “White Lily/White Lies” has a poignant metaphor for a young woman without self-respect.

In addition to the lyrics, the production of the album is very good. The beats are simple enough to convey a certain rhythm and tone in each song without drowning out Haze’s vocals and rapping or anyone else featured on the album.

With the exception of the tracks “Battle Cry”and “Black Synagogue”, Haze sings and raps on every track that has vocals. “Battle Cry” features vocals by Sia and “Black Synagogue” features vocals by Wynter Gordon. In addition, the track “Planes Fly” brings Haze’s sweet vocals center-stage and allows Haze to accompany herself  with rapping.

Also, a couple of songs allow Haze to speak for a few moments without a beat and bring out the YouTube poet. Finally, the R&B, rap, gospel, and pop influence on certain tracks demonstrates the diverse musical interests previously shown on Haze’s 30 Gold covers and freestyles.

The only flaws on the album are the inclusion of lines from Haze’s interviews at the beginning of certain songs and the track “Echelon (It’s My Way)” . Sometimes, the interview lines are unnecessary. Haze should let the music tell its story on its own instead of trying to explain it a little beforehand.

With “Echelon (It’s My Way)”, it seems out-of-place with the rest of the album. It is a personal celebratory anthem similar to the album’s first track “Sing About Me”, except it is more boastful. The track may be a good way to energize the crowd when performing live, but on the album it is just generic.

Overall, Dirty Gold is a great debut album that showcases Haze’s talent as a singer, rapper, and lyricist. Rap and pop fans alike will enjoy it.

Written by Serena Zola

January 4, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Musician Spotlight: Halo Circus

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Halo Circus, Gone music video

Halo Circus
Screenshot from the music video “Gone”

Authoress Note: This post and some past music posts will be in a new category called Under The Radar Music.

Anybody remember a young vocalist named Allison Iraheta? If you watched American Idol in 2009, you may remember her elimination performance of “Cry Baby” or her duet of “Slow Ride” with fellow Idol contestant Adam Lambert.

Earlier this year, she announced that she would be fronting her own band called Halo Circus. Although their debut album will not be released until 2014, they have already released “Gone” as a single and have been performing at various venues all year.

Based on several  live performances I’ve seen via YouTube, the band has a blues rock vibe to them. Allison’s voice and the fact that she is fronting band is reminiscent of Janis Joplin. Her performances of  songs such as “Stand Up” and “Guns in Your Hands” bring out the best of her voice.

Another remarkable thing about Halo Circus is that thanks to Allison Iraheta, they are bilingual. A couple of the songs I’ve seen live or heard have been sung in both English and Spanish. For instance,  the song “Gone” and its Spanish counterpart “Yo Me Voy”.  This is great because she will have a diverse fan base and hopefully inspire other Spanish-speaking girls.

Hopefully, the album will not disappoint and we will get at least one more single released before it comes out. I’m personally hoping that Iraheta does another duet with Adam Lambert too.

Written by Serena Zola

December 17, 2013 at 1:05 PM

My Expectations for Angel Haze’s Debut Album Dirty Gold

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Angel Haze
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Warning: Some of the songs on this blog post contain explicit content

Recently, it was announced that Dirty Gold, the debut album of upcoming rapper and singer Angel Haze, will be released in a month and a half.

When I first read this, I was thinking that the album would be out by Christmas. To my dismay, when I looked up the official release date, it was in January.

Luckily, Angel Haze has been releasing a series of freestyles and covers on Soundcloud in a project called “30 Gold”. There will be thirty tracks total. Most of the songs are free to download from the site.

Based on the covers as well as some of Angel Haze’s mixtapes, here is what I expect from Dirty Gold:

  1. Confessional and empowering raps (or ballads) similar to Haze’s cover of Mackelmore’s “Same Love” and Haze’s original song “Smiles N Hearts”
  2. R & B songs similar to Haze’s cover of Erykah Badu’s “Love of My Life”On her cover, Haze sings and raps.
  3. Acoustic songs similar to Haze’s cover of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” and Haze’s most recent cover of One Republic’s “Counting Stars”
  4. Upbeat dance tracks similar to Haze’s cover of John Newman’s “Love Me Again”

Bonus: A personal hope is that Angel Haze raps to piano like she does in her original songs “Smile” and “Heart”.

As you can hear, Angel Haze is a diverse musician. According to a recent interview in Rolling Stone, Haze summed up Dirty Gold as “Dealing with the tough stuff to get better and be worth something.” Here’s hoping Dirty Gold is worth the value of Angel Haze’s talent.

Written by Serena Zola

November 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Album Review: The Electric Lady by Janelle Monáe

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The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae

Source: Wikipedia

The Electric Lady is Monáe’s follow-up to 2010’s The Arch Android. It is the fourth and fifth chapters of the futuristic sci-fi saga Metropolis. Guest on the album include Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, Solange, and Esperanza Spalding.  While this album has a more urban sound than the previous installment, it still manages to showcase Monáe’s skill as a vocalist, lyricist, and producer.

The most notable thing about the album is its sound. While it is still eclectic somewhat, it is mostly soul, funk, jazz, and R& B. While it may polarize fans of her idiosyncratic sound, it will also gain Monáe fans. A notable track with a Motown girl-group throwback sound is “Dance Apocalyptic”.

In addition to Monáe’s sound being centered, her lyrics are more focused on one thing: love. Tracks such as “Q.U.E.E.N.” “Electric Lady”, and “Ghetto Woman” focus on empowering women with self-love, while songs such as “PrimeTime”, and “Dorothy Danridge Eyes” focus on love for someone else. Other songs such as “Victory” and “What an Experience” focus on loving life overall.

While the thoughts on different aspects of love are interesting, a disappointing factor is the lack of the original concept in the lyrics. Unlike on the previous album, there is barely any mention of Monáe’s alter-ego Cindy Merryweather and her lover Sir Greendown. If Monáe was going for a more plain approach, then fine. However, those who are following the saga of Metropolis may feel a bit confused.

Finally,  Monáe’s vocals are much richer on this album than her previous one. Maybe it is because she is doing genres best suited for her voice, but Monáe is reminiscent of  Diana Ross and Erykah Badu. Some of best songs vocally are “Givin Em What They Love” and “Look Into My Eyes”.

This album is great for contemporary urban music fans. If you couldn’t get into  Janelle Monáe before, then feel free to give her another chance.

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Written by Serena Zola

September 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Musician Spotlight: Janelle Monáe

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Janelle Monae

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Anybody ever become a fan of a musician right when they are about to release a new album? That is the case with me.

Out of curiosity, I read a recent interview about Janelle Monáe in TIME magazine. Soon, she will be releasing her second album The Electric Lady.

A sentence about her eclectic sound and a timeline that featured her influences caught my attention. However, the misleading subheading about her being an R & B innovator made me wary  because I don’t like much R & B. With somewhat low expectations, I decided to check out Monáe’s first album The ArchAndroid.

According to another interview I read, The Arch Android is a concept album set in a futuristic sci-fi world called Metropolis. There, an android named Cindi Mayweather is sent to free  the citizens from the Great Divide, a society that suppresses freedom and love. Furthermore, this album is the second and third part of the story, the first having been released on the EP Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase. Of course, the fourth and fifth part will be released on The Electric Lady. There are seven parts total.

To my very pleasant surprise, I ended up liking almost every track on ArchAndroid. TIME magazine was wrong to call Monáe an R&B innovator, because she is a music innovator period. For the first time, I heard some meta-genre songs. One of my favorite tracks, “Say You’ll Go” has a soul sound, yet also features the piano music of Claude Debussy.  Other sounds on the album include jazz, pop, funk, R&B, and rock. Another thing that impressed me about the album was its lyrics, which were beautiful, empowering, and sometimes funny.

Other things that impress me about Monáe are her vocals, live performances, and music videos. When it comes to her vocals, they are either soulful, silly, or high-powered depending on the song. One of her best songs vocally is “Come Alive (The War of The Roses)”. Her voice is pretty high-powered on this song, sounding exactly like an electric guitar’s high note.  Also, the live version of this song is even better than the album version because you get to see Monáe have fun with the song and interact with the audience.

Last but not least, the music videos. Although I’ve only seen the music videos done for ArchAndroid (there are some for the upcoming album and the EP mentioned earlier), I consider her to be just as creative as Michael Jackson. Of the two videos I’ve seen, “Cold War” is my favorite because it is so simple and yet so moving. The other music video “Tightrope” is a fun and somewhat serious video that illustrates part of the story of Metropolis.

To be sure, Janelle Monáe is definitely of my favorite musicians now. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work.

Written by Serena Zola

September 6, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Album Review: Don’t Look Down by Skylar Grey

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Skylar Grey, Don't Look Down

Source: Wikipedia
Warning: Explicit Content

A few years ago, a singer named Holly Brook decided to come out with a better sound after collaborating with others. After a personal retreat to a cabin in the woods, that girl is now back as Skylar Grey.

One of the best things about this album are Skylar Grey’s vocals. She has a soft, silvery voice that can be entertainingly scary or sweet. They shine the best on songs without heavy instrumentation.  In this case, they are  “Final Warning”, “Wear Me Out”,”and “White Suburban”.

A decent thing about the album is its content. While most of the songs are about love, some aren’t typical. For instance, “Final Warning” is a song about a love turned deadly.  “Shit Man” is about an unexpected pregnancy between a young couple. Furthermore, “Sunshine” and “Religion” are two good songs of hope.

Despite these gems, the main subject of love is tiring after a while. In fact, it makes Grey appear more generic than she actually is. If the album had included certain tracks that had not made the album, the lyrics would have been more impressive.

When it comes to the most unattractive feature of the album, it is the heavy instrumentation mentioned earlier. While it is understood that Grey is going for a hip hop and pop sound, some of the hip-hop instrumentation and possible auto-tuning diminishes the quality of songs like “Pulse” and “Religion”.

Overall, the album wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible either. I recommend the album for people who like hip-hop or pop music.

Related Post: Musician Spotlight: Skylar Grey (AKA Holly Brook)-Updated 7/27/2013

Written by Serena Zola

July 27, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Musician Spotlight: Skylar Grey (AKA Holly Brook)

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In 2006, Holly Brook released her debut album Like Blood, Like Honey. Seven years later, Holly Brook is back as Skylar Grey and has released three singles from her upcoming 2013 album Don’t Look Down.

This past weekend, my cousin introduced me to Skylar Grey by saying she had a beautiful voice. I immediately went to YouTube and looked her up and clicked on the music video for the song “Invisible”, which was the second single released from Don’t Look Down.

The first thing I thought after I saw the video was, “My cousin was right, this girl can sing.” The second was, “Did I just hear pop vocals and lyrics supported by a hip-hop beat? How cool!” I went back to the original YouTube page that I searched Skylar Grey on to look at the music video underneath called “C’mon Let Me Ride”. It was hilarious and reminiscent of P!nk’s “Stupid Girls” music video (though not in a copycat way). I thought “Who is this deep yet cheeky woman?”  and immediately googled Skylar Grey.

Upon doing this and viewing her discography, I listened to Like Blood, Like Honey via YouTube and wasn’t too impressed. The vocals were great, but the music and lyrics was too depressing. If you are a Tori Amos fan, then you will like the album.

Moving back to Don’t Look Down,  I saw the music video for the first released single “Dance Without You” and was creeped out in a good way. To me, the song and the music video represented Skylar Grey’s transition. She has gone from being just another Tori Amos via Holly Brook to finding her own sound as Skylar Grey.

Impressed by the songs and videos from Don’t Look Down, I wanted more of Skylar Grey. Looking at her discography on her wiki page, I realized I had overlooked the EPs. After doing some research and realizing that the ones released in 2005 and 2010 were Holly Brook work, I checked out The Buried Sessions of Skylar Grey on YouTube.

It is this EP that truly represents Skylar Grey’s potential. As it turns out, she co-wrote the choruses to two hip-hop hits (“Love the Way You Lie” and “Coming Home”) and wrote two beautiful original demos, These demos appear on Buried Sessions . Finally, “Words”, the final track on the EP  is a lovely original song by Skylar.

To sum things up, the released songs and music videos from Don’t Look Down and the EP The Buried Sessions of Skylar Grey have made me a Skylar Grey fan. Looking forward to the rest of Don’t Look Down and more awesomeness.

UPDATE (7/27/2013): When I originally typed this,  the demo of “Love the Way You Lie” was on The Buried Sessions of Skylar Grey. Since then, it has been removed from the EP and is no longer available for purchase.

Here is the demo version of “Love the Way You Lie” performed live in a hotel room


Written by Serena Zola

January 29, 2013 at 12:18 PM

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