Oakland-based True Vibe Records will reach a new milestone when it soon releases its newest and hottest album yet, titled ¡Mucho Mas! Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry. This will be the third in a series of CDs, following the highly acclaimed Paradise Presents Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry and Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry—Phaze 2. The title of this exciting 14-track project hints that many of these original songs have a Latin influence, along with fusion of Jazz Funk, R&B, Conscious Hip Hop, and Spoken Word. Jazz Funk Hip HoPoetry has developed immensely as a new genre of music since it’s inception when producer Bill Jackson recruited Bay Area poet laureate/ slam poetry icon/ spoken word artist Paradise (who coined the name of this music) to collaborate.
A multi-ethnic line up of top flight Greater San Francisco Bay Area artists affiliated with the non-profit organization Urban Voices Collective were recruited to contribute their musical gifts to create this unique album. They came from Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Richmond, San Leandro, San Jose, Danville, Gilroy, and beyond with their creative juices overflowing with talent.
The red hot new on the scene Salvadorian MC named Kalizay is featured on the initial track with her sexy, sultry “Mucha Alegria,” a cut that takes you on a mellow Latin hip hop ride describing fun times in Chicano culture. This bilingual hip hop artist lures listeners with her smooth style conveying subtle messages in English and Spanish about honesty and personal integrity in relationships, assuring that “I never lie to my sisters or the opposite sex.” This song also pays tribute to Mexican-American heroes such as farm labor leaders Delores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, and Heisman Trophy winner from Stanford University/ former star Oakland Raider Super Bowl MVP quarterback Jim Plunkett. The lovely, talented Chayla Gibson-Smith sets the tone for this slow, dreamy groove with her soothing vocal in the opening. Kalizay and up and coming pop singer Xavier Toscano render sizzling hot romantic monologues in Spanish at the end. The album includes two versions of this song: an extended version and a radio edit version.
Get out of your seat and get ready to rock as the tempo picks up, with veteran classic soul vocalist Rufus Wonder leading a cadre of many artists in a call to action on “Uncle Sam’s Goin’ Broke.” Over the lively hard-driving beat, blues/rock-style guitar and bass, and hard-accenting horns, this social protest song reveals snippets of life that reflect causes or have become the result of our challenging U.S. economy. The tension lightens though as a series of brief humorous monologues by Bill Jackson, distinctive bass vocalist Rick Alexander, Brianii Savage, Rufus Wonder, and Dave McClellan add comedic relief.
Bay Area spoken word legend Paradise shares some pearls of wisdom and provocative Afro-centric thoughts at the end, advising African Americans to “Occupy Black Wall Street!” The collective singing voices of Rufus Wonder, Brianii Savage, Bill Jackson, Denice Carrasco, Rick Alexander, April Dawn, Dave McClellan, and Yolanda Davis along with a monster saxophone solo towards the end by Ben Ball and Paradise's spoken word make this track an unforgettable treat. This song also has an extended and radio edit version.
The pulsating beat and funky slap bass line on the album’s third track make you swear during the intro that it’s a typical dance jam. And even though it is danceable, “He-Done-Ism” is a song that depicts desperate people who become heavily addicted to the sinister underworld of alcohol abuse, hard drugs pornography, prostitution, and gambling. Sultry vocals by singers Brianii Savage, April Dawn, Denice Carrasco, and Yolanda Davis kick it off with a chorus steeped in soul followed by the dreamy suggestive chant “I wanna feel goooood.” Then without being overly preachy or moralistic, Bay Area hip hop star D Labrie the “EOG” (East Oakland’s Greatest and known in Bay Area show biz as Mr. Network—also a representative of Hip Hop Congress, a non-profit organization very influential with young people) takes charge and runs it down, telling a story about life on the streets and getting caught up in self-destructive situations before seeing the light and finding peace of mind in recovery from addictions.
The album’s fourth track, titled “Give It All U Got!” is a phenomenal trailblazing cut that promises to thrill listeners with its unique dazzling mix of Afro-Cuban/ Latin Jazz, R&B, Funk, Conscious Hip Hop, and Spoken Word. Sassy, sexy Brooklyn, New York native Brianii Savage (of mixed Puerto Rican/ African American/ Jewish ethnicity) leads a dynamic call and response opening to a brand new version this fast, upbeat, inspirational song, encouraging people to live life to the fullest. Lovely and talented vocalists Denice Carrasco, April Dawn, and Yolanda Davis pave the way for lead vocalist Bill Jackson to take this groove to new heights while master percussionist Bill Norwood is the driving force. Listeners get a special treat when bilingual MC Kalizay uses her exotic style and smooth flow in both Spanish and English to prompt them to pursue their dreams and aspirations. She also praises “my brothers for breakin’ the cycle of stereo-typin’.” Then the party continues as slam poetry icon Paradise captures your imagination with his lofty visions of a “cultural world fair in Oakland” and a “United States of Africa.” To take it on home, accomplished pianist Ben Ball (who plays many other instruments too) takes over with an incredible solo.
Elegant songstress extraordinaire Shavone Pickett, premiere Bay Area female hip hop star Keldamuzik, and virtuouso alto and soprano sax man Ben Ball are featured on “Bold and Beautiful,” a tribute to strong and beautiful women in general and strong and beautiful black women in particular. The late Tina Floyd sets the stage for this piece with her engaging background vocals. This album showcases a new version of this original song, taking it to a higher spiritual level. This piece represents the best example of fusing Jazz, Funk, R&B, and Conscious Hip Hop. Lyrics were written by Shavone Pickett and Keldamuzik, the music was composed by Bill Jackson, and Bill Norwood plays percussion.
For lack of a better word, this album has a “secret weapon” which is also the only instrumental on it. The classy Latin Jazz cut titled “Afro-Cuban Sax Brothers” features master musician Ben Ball playing brilliant solos on alto sax, piano, and soprano sax respectively. Producer Bill Jackson composed this piece as a tribute to saxophone players Ben Ball and Melvin Bell (also affectionately called “Mellow”), who are life-long close friends, former classmates, and graduates of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Distinguished percussionist Bill Norwood once again assumes the role as the driving force behind this piece, which is reminiscent of many classic Latin Jazz tracks using strings and background horns. Not only is this song is great for listening, but it also makes you want to get up out of your seat and dance.
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Other outstanding tracks on this album include spoken word pieces “Cocoa Venus” and “Ain’t Yo’ Mama Black” by Paradise, “Let’s Take a Ride” by Chicano spoken word/ conscious hip hop artist Big Dan, the sultry and romantic “Connections” by spoken word artist/ vocalist Raquel Ramsey (a friend and high school, college classmate of Ben Ball, who plays tenor sax on this one), “Social Emergency” by gifted Chicana spoken word artist Alejandra Mojica, and the somewhat humorous “Playaz Blues” featuring vocalist Rufus Wonder, hip hop artists D Labrie and Vendetta, with Chayla Gibson-Smith and Rick Alexander adding humorous monologues in the mix. Chayla Gibson-Smith, Shavone Pickett, and Doreen Ruffin's provocative conversation set it off. This song is a parody about the life of an aging player.
The earlier mentioned “Let’s Take a Ride” represents dynamic spoken word at its best and is partially an autobiographical piece about the early troubled life of Big Dan living in the barrios and ghettos of Oakland before turning his life around to graduate from the distinguished University of California at Berkeley.
Special recognition goes to professional recording studio engineer “Smilin’ James” Heyser", who did a monumental job of recording, mixing, and mastering the tracks. Special commendation also goes to talented graphic artist Earl Bickham, who designed the artwork for the album.