Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rhymefest: Why I’m Running For City Council

When Hip Hop first started, it was a local movement of artistic expression and social commentary. Hip Hop artists and lovers challenged the status quo by scratching records, tagging buildings and defying gravity.
Those who had been ignored and forgotten grabbed the microphone, hopped on (and sometimes off) stage and ushered in what would become a global, billion dollar industry. The debate over content has been an ongoing one, as has the debate on the role that hip hop artists and businessmen should or shout not have in addressing social ills. 
When Hip Hop first started out in the early eighties, there was a generational divide between the youth who were consumed with the culture and their parents and grandparents who were still clinging to ballads and funk. Fast forward twenty years and those children who once crowded the playgrounds around boom boxes are now parents and grandparents.
Some of the artists who were young back then, are now in their forties and fifties. Members of the “Hip Hop Generation” are now entrepreneurs and both blue and white collar professionals. We’re practicing law, administering surgery and teaching and researching. We’re making money, making babies and some of us are making trouble but one thing we are not doing on a large scale is making policy and many of us are not voting.
Many rappers have foundations and should be commended for the positive work they are doing through those foundations around the country. Throughout my career I’ve lended my name, my work and my money to countless foundations in order to help various causes but after the lights went out and the crowd disappeared, I wasn’t quite sure what would be done with my contribution.
Despite living all around the world, I always manage return home to Chicago and it seems to get worse. People are unemployed, children are killing each other and there is an overall sense of doom and despair. My neighborhood which is located in Chicago’s 20th Ward has 30,000 registered voters and a little over 7,000 came out to vote in the last aldermanic election. That means about 23,000 people are not engaged and because of that our community is often ignored and not taken seriously. 
All politics is local and if we are to improve our social and economic ills, we have to return to the “village” concept. While it may be a foreign concept to many, my grandmother speaks about a day when neighbors were familiar with each other, people supported businesses within their local communities and people came together to solve problems rather than working alone; isolated. There is no shortage of social welfare programs. There is no shortage of people who are disappointed and frustrated with their lives as they stand. But there is a shortage of rappers and high-profile people returning to their neighborhoods to help make them better.
It is time for hip-hop to be used as a tool, rather than a weapon. When I walk the streets of my hood, MOST young men, when asked what they do with their free time or what they want to be when they grow up respond by saying either hoop or spit (basketball or rap).  
When I announced my candidacy for Alderman of the 20th Ward on Thursday, October 22, from a small business, I did so because I know that hip hop has the power to transform and unify.
We have the power to educate people, especially shorties on how to make their lives better. We have the power to build bridges between those who do not have money and those who do. We have the power to use our fearlessness and our strength to literally transform the hood – one block, one child, one family at a time. 
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25 Best Horror Films of All Time (NSFW)


When it comes to horror movies, opinions are like ax holes: Nearly everybody's got one.
So went straight to the experts for this frightful film roundup. Since 1979, horror magazine Fangoria has waltzed on the bleeding edge of the genre, dedicating itself to coverage and criticism of gore, splatter and exploitation films and the people that make them.
Just in time for Halloween, we asked four of Fangoria's savants of slash — Editor-in-Chief Chris Alexander, Managing Editor Michael Gingold, Director of Marketing Bekah McKendry and Contributing Editor Sam Zimmerman — to spill their guts on the top 25 horror films of all time.
(NSFW alert: Some photos in this gallery are not safe for work.)

Freaks (1932)

Chris Alexander: Disturbing one-of-a-kind creeper that also effectively killed director Tod Browning's career.
Michael Gingold: Let's see someone try to remake this one today.
Bekah McKendry: One of the first cinematic examples of the antihero, and a concept that was way ahead of its time. Plus, the dinner scene reminds me of most Fango staff meetings!
Sam Zimmerman: Aside from the generally disturbing qualities this film has throughout, the sheer out-of-controlness of the end reveal makes my life better.


The Wolf Man (1941)

Chris Alexander: Lon Chaney Jr. hunts for blood on the moors in Universal's emotionally sophisticated shocker.
Michael Gingold: The movie that made the full moon what it is today.
Bekah McKendry: Dracula and the Invisible Man were always so educated and classy. You could picture the Wolf Man in a seedy bar slamming Rum Runners before jumping on his Harley. Chaney played the transformation brilliantly and laid the groundwork for many great werewolves to come.
Sam Zimmerman: My personal preference of the Universal classics. It's a beautiful, tragic story, plus werewolves will forever be the most boss of monsters.


House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Chris Alexander: The king of the gimmick flick, William Castle, teams up with the Prince of Ham, Vincent Price, in this creepy haunted-house classic.
Michael Gingold: Quintessential Castle … watch out for floating skeletons!
Bekah McKendry: The P.T. Barnum of the film world brings you flying skeletons, an overly dramatic Price and a cinematic experience that is campy yet pure brilliance.
Sam Zimmerman: I truly love that in Castle's universe, it's completely normal and even a bit of demented fun that married couples are forever out to kill each other. The only other horror film I smile at as much is Creepshow.


Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Chris Alexander: George Franju's epic mad-scientist drama still has the power to turn stomachs.
Michael Gingold: Proof that black and white can shock you just as powerfully as color.
Sam Zimmerman: An early indicator that the French were up to no good when it came to frights. It's incredible.
Bekah McKendry: Like the also-French Grand Guignol, it has been the subject of a long-running debate about whether it is exploitive horror or artistic genius. This film unquestionably shows that horror can be art.

ROSEMARY'S BABY, Mia Farrow, 1968

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Chris Alexander: The movie that put Polish director Roman Polanski on the U.S. map is nothing short of a masterpiece, with a waifish Mia Farrow carrying Satan's spawn to term.
Michael Gingold: Sometimes, the devil you know is worse ...
Bekah McKendry: One of the best examples of a postmodern horror movie. The horror just keeps on rolling after the film ends. Plus, it is a beautifully subconscious commentary on the 1960s' sexual revolution and control of the female body.
Sam Zimmerman: So much of horror relies upon your own emotional connection to the characters. Rosemary is without a doubt one of the sweetest, most well-meaning and adorable protagonists in horror history. Watching what should be a tremendously happy time in her life become a monstrous plague on her body and psyche, via Polanski's expertise with dread, kills me every time.


The Exorcist (1973)

Chris Alexander: What more can be said about this theological thriller other than it continues to be one of the most terrifying films ever made?
Michael Gingold: A movie that can still turn heads nearly four decades later.
Bekah McKendry: This film turned Linda Blair into a horror starlet, and for Washington, D.C., natives (like myself), it turned a long set of stairs into a horror mecca.
Sam Zimmerman: Few times have I ever been flat-out horrified at a film. Captain Howdy's terrible powder-white face is one of them.


The Wicker Man (1973)

Chris Alexander: Gothic, earthy and weird thriller that combines sex, paganism, mystery and black humor to grand effect. Builds to one of the most alarming climaxes ever.
Michael Gingold: This unique cult item keeps the horror tantalizingly just off screen for most of the running time, before winding up with one of the scariest finales ever. And who knew Christopher Lee has such a great singing voice?
Bekah McKendry: A religion that promotes naked musical dance numbers and wild orgies. Where do I sign up?
Sam Zimmerman: Wait, we're not talking about the Nicolas Cage version?


The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Chris Alexander: Gritty, filthy and blackly funny, Tobe Hooper's savage shocker is like hell itself unleashed on-screen.
Michael Gingold: Perhaps the most notorious horror title in film history.
Bekah McKendry: There were no grand settings or lavish costumes. Instead, the putrid visual aesthetic of this film oozes off the screen, making it a horror classic.
Sam Zimmerman: This was probably the first film in which it was hammered home to me that not everything evil happens at night.


Jaws (1975)

Chris Alexander: Steven Spielberg's nerve-shredding adventure sees a monstrous shark terrorizing a small New England town. Even after multiple viewings, this one still maintains its primal power to manipulate an audience.
Michael Gingold: Watch it once for the shark, watch it twice for Spielberg's best-ever work with actors.
Bekah McKendry: To this day, I cannot swim in any ocean, lake or oversized bathtub without recalling this movie.
Sam Zimmerman: The Fango team just called me "Son of Hooper" last week.


Carrie (1976)

Chris Alexander: Sad, stylish and shocking Brian De Palma-directed melodrama improves upon Stephen King's novel and offers a revelatory performance by Sissy Spacek as a tormented teen cursed with telekinesis. Moving Pino Donnagio score and a head-spinning last reel (and final shot!).
Michael Gingold: Thanks to King and De Palma, countless people don't feel so bad about how their own proms went.
Bekah McKendry: This movie offered a shockingly real depiction of what it is like for girls to come of age in sexually repressive environments ... minus the telekinesis, which, if I had possessed it during my teen years, I would have used to mentally smack up bitches left and right.
Sam Zimmerman: I've always been oddly attracted and emotionally drawn to tales of damaged female protagonists, and that can probably be traced back to my extreme love of this film. (P.S. You should see its contemporary spiritual soul mate, May, starring Angela Bettis and directed by Lucky McKee. It's marvelous.)


Suspiria (1977)

Chris Alexander: Italian director Dario Argento's designer horror show is like a blood-spattered, feature-length rock video, full of sound, fury, style and gore.
Michael Gingold: Argento's most popular film and greatest visual feast grabs you by the throat and shakes you for 90-odd minutes ... and makes you love it.
Bekah McKendry: This was honestly one of the films that pushed me to study and write about horror instead of just being a die-hard fan. The visuals and sound in this film are a feast for the senses.
Sam Zimmerman: While it may not be your favorite Argento (I would say it's mine), it's probably the best introduction into his wild, colorful and often nonsensical universe, one with an absolutely killer soundtrack and that remains eerie, creepy and very affecting.


Halloween (1978)

Chris Alexander: The first big American body-count movie put John Carpenter on the map and birthed a wave of stalk-and-slash exploitation. But very little blood is spilled on-screen here, and the picture is a testament to Carpenter's fluid style and intense electronic music.
Michael Gingold: The movie that scared the life out of me at an impressionable age and set me on the path I'm still following today. Would that Michael Myers would go after those responsible for all the awful sequels and rip-offs.
Bekah McKendry: Would I be tarred and feathered if I professed my extreme love of Halloween III: Season of the Witch?
Sam Zimmerman: The juxtaposition during P.J. Soles' death should be enough to justify this film as the classic that it is. Thankfully though, the rest of Halloween is just as great.


Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Chris Alexander: The Gone With the Wind of zombie films, George A. Romero's epic, explicit tale of the living-dead apocalypse gets better with age, featuring revolting gore, multidimensional characters, action, humor and full-blooded horror. Often imitated, rarely duplicated.
Michael Gingold: The most conspicuous consumption ever seen on a movie screen, and one of the few films in history to singlehandedly create an entire genre.
Sam Zimmerman: That one zombie's flannel is on point.
Bekah McKendry: Even during a zombie apocalypse, the mall is packed!


Phantasm (1979)

Chris Alexander: Wes Craven may have streamlined the concept, but Don Coscarelli got there first, blurring dreams and reality in a tale of a Tall Man, haunted graveyards and brain-shredding silver spheres.
Michael Gingold: The first R-rated horror film I ever saw in a theater still creeps me out today. Do you have the (silver) balls to sit through this one without flinching?
Bekah McKendry: I have read countless internet debates on whether or not this is actually a good movie or just really overhyped. Yes, it is a good f'n movie!
Sam Zimmerman: I'll never forget the first time I saw Phantasm and its peek into the other dimension/world, and I realized how much I love horror films that are completely unafraid of having scope and being bat-shit crazy.


Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Chris Alexander: Gruesome, depressing, exploitative and unforgettable Italian epic that is as wrenching as it is indefensible. Fans of cute furry animals, turtles — and humanity — should probably avoid this one at all costs.
Michael Gingold: Sorry, I can't get behind this one. Yes, it has a place in the halls of notoriety, but killing real animals on-screen is a kind of horror I can't stomach.
Bekah McKendry: A depraved piece of video nasty that will forever be used to test horror chops and stomach control.
Sam Zimmerman: This film has been blown out of proportion as a sort of rite of passage for gore and shock-hungry horror fans. While no doubt very disturbing, it holds a lot more value than that. It's genuinely scary, has haunting music and what's probably my favorite last line of any movie.


An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Chris Alexander: A towering horror film laced with genuine humor and charm, John Landis' wolf-man reimagining is pretty much a perfect movie, goosed by Rick Baker's alarming man-to-monster FX.
Michael Gingold: Any movie that gave horror an extra foot in the door at the Oscars deserves its place in genre history.
Bekah McKendry: Awesome! Awesome! Kicks ass! Awesome!
Sam Zimmerman: American Werewolf is my favorite movie of all time. It contains the best transformation scene, is a shining example of horror/comedy that hasn't been surpassed, the werewolf design and attacks are frightening and intense and the comedy is naturalistic and witty. It's just all-around perfect. I shit you not.


The Beyond (1981)

Chris Alexander: Italian horror masterpiece driven by abstract gore, atmosphere and throbbing music.
Michael Gingold: So hypnotically stylish and memorably gruesome, it doesn't have to make sense.
Sam Zimmerman: In every zombie movie ever, the main character comes across an undead child and, for at least one whole minute, wrestles with his emotions about the necessity and moral ethics of destroying one so young. In The Beyond, David Warbeck blows the brains out of that evil little ginger without a second-guess, and it results in one of the best head shots of all time. The Beyond rules.
Bekah McKendry: Sam, why you gotta bring gingers into it, punk? Anyway, The Beyond is like a bottomless bottle of acid slowly being poured on your brain. Wait, I think that scene is in the movie.


The Evil Dead (1983)

Chris Alexander: Sam Raimi rubbed dimes together and made horror history with this ballistic shocker of demonic possession and relentless gore.
Michael Gingold: Even the camerawork is scary in Raimi's DIY horror classic.
Bekah McKendry: This film is often glossed over as casual horror fans leap at Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, but true horror fans know the roots, and that it takes the solid foundation of this film to continue the brilliance in the sequels.
Sam Zimmerman: Truthfully, I prefer Evil Dead II, but the overarching influence of Raimi's original is not to be ignored. It's full of style, originality and nasty fun.


Videodrome (1983)

Chris Alexander: David Cronenberg refines his body-horror obsessions, making deft observations about technology, voyeurism and, of course, sex in this paranoid masterpiece.
Michael Gingold: An ahead-of-its-time flop when first released; happily, fans and critics have caught up with Cronenberg's horrific study of monstrous media in the years since. Can we get the Jersey Shore and Real Housewives people cast in these TV shows?
Bekah McKendry: I don't quite know what exactly is going on or how many things symbolically looked like vaginas, but the film is a great commentary on new technologies, fear and the original reality television.
Sam Zimmerman: Cronenberg is a force of nature, a director who constantly uses genre to intelligently and excitingly work through a whole mess of issues, taboos and fears. Videodrome is one of many stunning examples of such. The Criterion Collection thinks so too.


A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Chris Alexander: The movie that first gave us Freddy Krueger is also one of the key pictures in the slasher canon, filled with dark, surreal imagery and explosive murders.
Michael Gingold: Remember when Freddy was genuinely frightening? If not, time for a refresher.
Bekah McKendry: This was Freddy back when Freddy was still scary and not the fourth Stooge. My little preteen heart was broken when Johnny Depp was reduced to a giant fountain of blood.
Sam Zimmerman: Despite its many sequels, A Nightmare on Elm Street is very much one of a kind. Its uniqueness and scares still hold up (thanks to the master, Wes Craven), and if you try and tell me you aren't bothered by Tina's body-bag appearance in the school hallway, you're full of it.


The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Chris Alexander: Part send-up, part irreverent punk-rock rip-off, all balls-out horror film, Dan O'Bannon's cracked explosion of brain-eating corpse mayhem is really scary and really funny. Great soundtrack album featuring The Cramps, The Damned and Roky Erickson, among others.
Michael Gingold: A bracing blast of humor added to the classic George A. Romero zombie mythos. Yeah, we wanna paaaaartyyyyyyy!!
Bekah McKendry: A literal interpretation of the phrase "punk's not dead," and Trash is still the hottest zombie ever.
Sam Zimmerman: It doesn't get radder than this. Up the punx!


Angel Heart (1987)

Chris Alexander: Alan Parker's grafting of supernatural horror onto a grubby film-noir framework is haunting, hypnotic and offers a young Mickey Rourke at the peak of his powers.
Michael Gingold: Rourke in his prime, Lisa Bonet in her ... uh ... prime, and Robert De Niro as "Louis Cypher" (nudge nudge) add up to one spooky detective story.
Bekah McKendry: One of the best voodoo movies. It received a huge amount of controversy for the sexy showcasing of Cosby kid Bonet, but the film stands on its own with its gorgeous tone, stellar acting and endlessly twisting plot, plus a very unusual role for De Niro, who can eat a hardboiled egg like no one else.
Sam Zimmerman: Noir and horror have always been kindred spirits, and very successfully become a beautiful pair in this very weird and kind of off-putting (in a good way) film. (Bonus: For another noir mashup that will quite simply blow your mind, it would behoove you to see Alex Proyas' Dark City.)


Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Chris Alexander: Funny and charming U.K. romp was an instant classic upon release and manages to straddle the comedy and horror realms smashingly.
Michael Gingold: Yes, it's one of the funniest zombie films ever — but it's also, in its odd way, one of the most moving.
Bekah McKendry: Expanding on the style set up in their hit show Spaced, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright create an endearing movie that loves horror films just as much as it spoofs them.
Sam Zimmerman: Billed as a parody, but containing way too much heart, story, character and love for its homages to be lumped in with the likes of other spoof-oriented films, Shaun of the Dead is actually the best horror/comedy since American Werewolf, and every bit of hype about it is completely true.


Inside (2007)

Chris Alexander: Malevolent French melodrama goes for the throat ... and the womb. Pregnant women should never, ever watch this violent, relentless shocker.
Michael Gingold: French horror became a cause célèbre in the late 2000s, and this example deservedly won the highest praise for truly intense, gory chills. (Check out the harrowing French/Canadian co-production Martyrs, too — if you think you can handle it.)
Bekah McKendry: As soon I get pregnant, I'll be removing all scissors from my house. This film disturbed the hell out of me and has gone down as one of the scariest films I've ever seen (and I watch a lot of really freaky shit).
Sam Zimmerman: While there have been plenty of winners, no horror movie in the 2000s excited me more than Inside (except maybe House of the Devil). It's a marriage of horrifying atmosphere, insane and shocking violence and what should go down as one of the top villains in horror history (Béatrice Dalle is that out of control).


Let the Right One In (2009)

Chris Alexander: Lyrical Scandinavian vampire drama is as much a coming-of-age story as it is contemporary Gothic thriller. The remake ain't bad either.
Michael Gingold: A little boy, a little vampire girl, a movie that's decidedly not for kids. For adults, it's one of the best evocations of childhood fears and fantasies ever.
Bekah McKendry: It contains the one element that always makes horror films more terrifying: freaky children. But the film showcases them in a beautifully Gothic fairy tale.
Sam Zimmerman: There's been so much written about this film with a ton more eloquence than I can employ, so I will just say that, yes, it is that great and beautiful of a picture.
-Jon Snyder

Exclusive Interview with Thee Tom Hardy

Interview by: Medik

Wassup Tom Hardy? Thanks for taking the time out with iStandardProducers to share with our community First off, in one sentence describe your music.
No doubt, thank you for the shine. It’s hard to describe my music in just one sentence but lemme try… “Music that jams, excites, and entertains, that the average joe can relate to.”
You started off making music with your band-mates, Thee Band Geeks. Introduce us to your production team and describe the dynamic when you guys get together to create?
Before we even formally started Thee Band Geeks it was me & my homie Brad from the Geeks, plus his cousins, they had a group called Guess?Who. I did records with them and they taught me how to rap and carry myself on a record. Thee Band Geeks, I knew them all from elementary and middle school. And then we went on to play in the marching band together in high school. There are four members of Thee Band Geeks outside of myself: Brad Brown, Great Scott, Pro-Pat & Reck Mason. The chemistry is just there because its not like you have to set up studio time and make records in a set amount of time. These are the people I kick it with on a regular basis so its like we just hang out, smoke, party do whatever and whenever we get the urge to make a record we just do, and it comes together organically.
Do you produce or play and instrument as well?
A little bit. I played tuba in high school (laughs). But on the production side, I contribute to some of Thee Band Geeks beats. What I mostly do is drum programming and chopping samples. We’ve got 4 beats on my new tape, and I did one called “True Talent” by myself, that one was all me. And then I worked on this other record called “Isnt That Swell,” I did the drums on there. But mostly I try and focus on the vocal aspect of the music. The other Band Geeks are super-talented, not to mention 9th Wonder, and the Soul Council, and all the other dope producers I work with, so there’s really no reason for me to focus on beats. Down the line I’d like to get better and be able to do a whole project over my own beats.
You and 9th Wonder worked together for a few years developing your craft before you got to the masses. What was your experience like growing as an artist with 9th as your mentor?
It’s been wild. At first I thought 9th didnt really fuck with my music. I had to adapt without compromising myself, to make things fit and become a more polished MC, and someone that he could really work with. It took a lot of time, and a lot of watching other people and seeing how they did it, how they carried themselves and it took a lot of patience. 9th is really dedicated to helping new artists so he showed a lot of love and put in a lot of work to help me get to where I’m at today, and hopefully further.
You have a penchant for delivering clever and eclectic rhymes which some may describe as unique. With the excess of competition, what is your strategy for separating yourself from everyone else in the bucket?
I really don’t go into it with a strategy. I just try and make the best music I can, and write the best rhymes I can and say them in the flyest way possible. I’m definitely trying to carve out a lane for myself and separate myself from everybody else, but I’m also a fan of some of the newer rappers, so we collaborate and make records that showcase everybody’s strengths. My labelmates at JAMLA & The Academy are so dope that I just feel like I have to keep up with what they’re doing (laughs). But as far as having a unique style, I honestly think I do have that, and I’m glad that people are picking up on it. The last thing I want to be is boring.
There have been a few leaks but when are we going to get to hear ‘Secret Of Thee Green Magic’?
We’re finally getting ready to release it on October 20th. It’s gonna be available through my website ( <> ) and through That’s a Web site that’s shown me a lot of love and they’re dedicated to helping me reach more people. And with the type of music we made for the tape I think it’ll go pretty far.
You have a lot of features lined up (Donnis, Skyzoo, Yelawolf and others) on this next project. What is your approach to working with other artists and what has been your most memorable collaboration thus far?
Just to get it straight I only work with artists that I am fans of. All of the collaborations I’ve got on Green Magic, they’re on there because I wanted them to be. I reach out to different people for different types of songs and only pick people who can add something to the song. I think it’s important not to just do songs with people because you think their name will get you some shine. I have some bigger names on my mixtape but they are people that I listen to, and people that fuck with my music.
Do you have a 2-5 year plan mapped out? Care to share?
Man I’m taking it day-by-day. But in the next 5 years I want to be earning a good living off of making the music I want to make. If I can support myself and a family of my own one day, just by being an MC, that will be perfect.
Any plugs/shoutouts?
I want to shout out 9th Wonder and It’s A Wonderful World Music Group, Thee Band Geeks, Eddie Blackmon and ASORE Management, and anybody that’s supported my music and shown me love. Hit me up on twitter @TheeTomHardy. Peace.

Nicki Minaj feat. Eminem – Roman’s Revenge (Prod. Swizz Beatz) [CDQ]

@NickiMinaj and @Eminem collide on this highly anticipated collab featured on Roman Zolanksi’s debut album Pink Friday which hits stores Nov 22nd. Shouts to Swizz on the production!
 Download Link

Diddy - Last Train To Paris Mixing Session. 12.14.2010

With the release of his upcoming album Last Train to Paris approaching on December 14, P. Diddy has been spending time in the studio with mix engineer Jaycen Joshua putting the finishing touches on the record. Check out this short clip from the studio session he posted recently on his youtube.
About Jaycen Joshua
Jaycen Joshua is one of the fastest rising mix engineers in the music industry, with a Grammy win (2008 Mary J Blige, Best Contemporary R&B Album) and two nominations under his belt and over thirty Top 20 and #1 singles on the R&B and Hop 100 charts. Records like Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”, Jamie Foxx’s “Blame it”, Justin Bieber’s entire My World album, The Dream’sLove King and Love & Money albums, Diddy’s Last Train to Paris album and many more, show Jaycen’s commitment to his work and his craft, and his diversity in the cultural landscape that music offers.
“Jaycen helps to bring my music alive. His ideas continue to push the boundaries of the sonic landscape in music.” Tricky Stewart
“All the greats are technically and sonic wise, really, really good. But I think like a producer. I try to enhance and expand on every record. Bring out it’s full potential. I want my client’s to feel they can’t do records without me”, says Joshua.
“I don’t come to Jaycen just because he can twist a knob or compress a kick,” says Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. “I come to him for his ideas…his taste. I trust him.” – Coming soon!

Behind the Scenes with Transformers 3 in downtown Chicago

Entertainment Tonight goes behind-the-scenes at Transformers 3 shoot earlier this summer in Chicago.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stealing Makes Bands Like The National Possible

image from The National took a different route to success than many popular acts. Fans who love music knew about them, but the mainstream consumer did not. A key ingredient to their success, they say, is that fans shared their music with each other. In the video below, they quicky dispell the notion of selling out and argue that they are in the industry to make money. Therefore, whatever pays the bills, they do. Hear more about the rise of The National:

Crowdsourced Art Fuels The Johnny Cash Project

image from The Johnny Cash Project is an online collective art project that utilizes crowdsourced art to produce a video for Johnny Cash‘s “Ain’t No Grave”, his final studio recording. The goal of the project is to create a moving, ever evolving homage to their beloved musical icon.  Thus far, they have done an amazing job and as new people discover and contribute to the project, the video will continue to transform and grow. Take a look below:


See How Much Indie Artists Make vs. Label Artists

image from The great divide between the take-home pay of indie and label artists is real. One artist took the time to figure out how wide the gap is. They make an interesting contention that it is important to support the artists themselves and their music, and not the major label hierarchy. If their math is correct, it is a rather disheartening comparison on one end and a reason for hope on the other. See the graphic below:


Top 10 Things To Expect From LimeWire Shutdown

image from Attention people of the year 2000.  At long last, and to no surprise to anyone, your beloved Limewire has been deemed illegal and shut down by the friendly folks at the RIAA.  Don't panic, we've been through this before.
Here are ten things to expect in your near future:
  1. Nothing will change.  At least, not at first.  Depending on your version, Limewire will likely continue to function largely as normal.
  2. New versions of Limewire will appear.  These will contain exciting enhancements, more typically called viruses, trojans, rootkits, spyware, and other general malware.
  3. The Limewire experience will slowly degrade.  Download speeds will decrease, spam will increase, the selection will worsen, and everything will slowly fall apart without the oversight of Limewire, Inc.
  4. You will give up and start looking for alternatives.  You'll eventually have one virus or spammy download too many and you'll conclude that even free is too expensive for what you're getting.
  5. You'll dabble with free streaming.  You'll discover a wide range of online radio stations such as Pandora, Spotify, and  For a while, you'll put your pirate days behind you.
  6. You'll discover BitTorrent.  Eventually the limited selection and restricted experience of free streaming will frustrate you, and you'll realize that in the past decade while you were using Limewire, vastly superior pirate tools have become commonplace, and you'll regret not switching years ago.
  7. You will continue not buying music.  Whatever reason you didn't a decade ago, that reason is still true today, and will likely remain true, forever.
  8. Piracy will gradually, inexorably increase.  Limewire's "one file at a time" design is obsolete given that available bandwidth has increased substantially while file sizes have remained constant.  Current-generation pirate tools don't bother with individual files, and you'll find you prefer to steal entire albums, discographies, or genre archives all at once.
  9. The music industry squanders yet another opportunity.  Nothing meaningful changes for anybody, and nobody really benefits from Limewire shuttering, but there is now one fewer party even bothering with a pretense of legality, and thus one fewer partner to help with any attempt at genuine reform.
  10. Limewire's new service never launches, or is DOA.  It's not their fault, they'll try really hard.  But nothing has fundamentally changed since they opted not to license music then, so there's no particular reason why they should suddenly succeed now.
So fear not.  In a year, you'll have forgotten all about Limewire, and will be safely using superior pirate tools that hide your activity better, download files faster, and have a much more comprehensive selection.
Limewire will forever retain a hallowed spot in pirate lore, but the future is so much more exciting than the past.  Do not mourn, rejoice!
Doubtful, but maybe the music industry will catch up with reality and start offering a serious alternative to piracy.  But alas, probably not, and as always, there's no reason to wait.
-David Barrett

2 New Google Features Could Help Artists Find Fans

image from Google has introduced two new location based features that offer opportunites for musicans building a fan base in their home town, as well as those on tour. The first, Place Search, was designed to make it easier to find local businesses along with maps and reviews, but it also could make it easier for fans to find the kind of music they like.
A search for "bluegrass + Roanoke, Virginia" might bring up shows at the wonderful Kirk Avenue Music Hall, but Google's Place Search should help improve and streamile results. If Google were to add the results of a fan's Facebook pals to results as Bing has, search results could get even more powerful.
The other new Google feature called Boost, is a new type of ad for local businesses that musicians can us to their advantage. Boost ads show up when users search for local businesses appearing as sponsored links in search results and Google Maps.  Having an ad for a band's show or new release placed, for example, next to serarch results for a top live music spot could prove an effective way to reach out to new fans.
-Bruce Houghton

The Effectiveness Of Email Marketing Campaigns

image from Email marketing plays a key role in direct-to-fan campaigns. Below is a demonstration of why it's an important aspect of any marketing initiative and how other businesses are using email to reach their customers. The methods of determining success vary, but so do the reasons why people will open your email in the first place. Take a look below:
Why Email Marketing Is Still In Vogue

How Artists Can Get Feedback On Their Music

You know your song is great, but is it a hit? Will it inspire listeners to share it with their friends, hand over their email address, or maybe even open their wallets? You need feedback from average music fans who have nothing to lose by being honest.

Want feedback on your music? Brian Hazard tests out Soundout, a music service that compares your song to 50,000 others from major and indie labels to tell you how good your track is. The service has a guaranteed 95% accuracy, but Brian Hazard reveals that there may be some flaws in the service since it only analyzes the first 60 seconds of a song. In addition, SoundOut may not be a good fit for artists in niche genres. For other genres, artists may find the detailed feedback helpful. “While I have some reservations about their methodology, SoundOut is the fastest way I know of to get an unbiased opinion from a large sample of listeners. Use it wisely!"

SoundOut compares your song to 50,000 others from both major labels and indies. They promise to tell you how good your track is with guaranteed 95% accuracy (I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what that means). Starting at $40, they compile the results of 80 reviews into an easy-to-read PDF report. Top rated artists are considered for additional publishing and promotional opportunities.
The head of business development invited me to try out the service for free with three 24-hour “Express Reports” (a $150 value). I used the feedback from my Jango focus group to select the best and worst tracks I recorded for my last album, along with my personal favorite, an 8-minute progressive house epic. You can download all three of my PDF reports here.

Summary of Results

I can describe the results in one word: brutal. None of the songs are deemed worthy of being album tracks, much less singles. In the most important metric, Market Potential, my best song received a 54%, my worst 39%, and my favorite a pathetic 20%. Those numbers stand in stark contrast to my stats at Jango, for reasons I’ll explain in a bit.

Despite the huge swing in percentages, the track ratings only vary from 4.7 to 5.9, which implies Market Potential scores of 47% to 59%. For better or for worse, those scores are weighted using “computational forensic linguistic technology and other proprietary SoundOut techniques.” Even the track rating score is weighted! I would love to see a raw average of the 80 reviewers’ 0-10 point ratings, because I don’t trust the algorithms. The verbal smokescreen used to describe them doesn’t exactly inspire confidence (isn’t any numerical analysis “computational”?).
Perhaps to soften the blow, the bottom of the page lists three songs by well known artists in the same genre that have similar market potential. Translation: your songs suck, but so do these others by major label acts you look up to. Curiously, two of the same songs are listed on my 39% and 20% reports, which casts further doubt on the underlying algorithms.

Detailed Feedback

I found the Detailed Feedback page to be the most useful. It tells you who liked your song based on age group and gender. I don’t know exactly what “like” translates to on a 10-point scale, but it makes sense that 25-34 year-olds rate my retro 80’s song higher than 16-24 year-olds, since the former were actually around back then.

The track positioning chart maps your song relative to 1,000 others in the genre, based on rating and consensus of opinion. It’s a clean and intuitive representation of how your song stacks up to the competition. Still, it would be nice to know what criteria (if any) was used to select those 1,000 tracks.

Review Analysis

The Review Analysis section is utterly useless. The elements listed change from song to song. The only element that was consistently judged excellent is guitar, which is quite generous considering there’s no guitar in any of my songs.
The actual reviews are no better or worse than the comments on my Jango profile. They ranged from overly enthusiastic (“THIS SONG WAS GREAT I REALLY LIKED IT IT HAD A GOOD BEAT TO IT I MY HAVE TO DOWNLOAD IT MYSLEF”) to passive aggressive (“this song wasn’t as bad as it could be”). At the very least, the reviews prove there are real people behind the numbers.
Unfortunately for me, they don’t appear to be fans of electronic music. Not a single reviewer mentioned an electronic act. Instead of the usual comparisons to The Postal Service, Owl City, and Depeche Mode, I got Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston(!), and Alan Parsons Project.

Scouting for Fame and Fortune

As puzzling as the mention of guitar in the review analysis was, it was a comment about my “20% song” that convinced me to review the review process. It said “the lack of vocals is a shame.” Those seven words reveal a key flaw in their methodology: reviewers only have to listen to the first 60 seconds of your song.
If you’re considering giving SoundOut a whirl, I highly recommend trying your hand as a scout on their sister site, Slicethepie. In just five minutes, you too can be one of the “real music fans and consumers” reviewing songs for SoundOut. You’ll start well below the minimum wage at $0.02 per review, but topperformers can level up to $0.20 a pop.
Hitting the play button starts the 60 second countdown until you can start typing your review. If you don’t come up with at least a couple quality sentences, it nags you to try harder. The elements in each track are not explicitly rated. Instead, the text of each review is analyzed, as evidenced by the scolding I received when one of my reviews was rejected:
“A review of the track would be good! You haven’t mentioned any of our expected musical terms - please try again…”
I didn’t appreciate the sarcasm after composing what I considered to be a very insightful review mentioning the production and drums - both of which are scored elements. This buggy behavior may explain my stellar air guitar scores. Perhaps my reviewers wrote “it would be NICE to hear some GUITAR” and the algorithm mistakenly connected the two words.
Even though I only selected electronic genres when I created my profile, I heard everything from mainstream rock/pop to hip hop, country, and metal. Reviewers are not matched to songs by genre. Everyone reviews everything, which opens us all up to Whitney Houston comparisons.


Can you tell if a song is great by listening to the first minute? No, but you can tell if it’s a hit.
If you operate in a niche genre, searching for your 1000 true fans, SoundOut may not be a good fit. For example, my best song doesn’t pay off until you hear the lyrical twist in the last chorus, and my “20% song” doesn’t have vocals for the first two minutes. With that in mind, how useful is a comprehensive analysis of the first 60 seconds? Less useful still when the data comes from reviewers who aren’t fluent in the genre.
While I have some reservations about their methodology, SoundOut is the fastest way I know of to get an unbiased opinion from a large sample of listeners. Use it wisely!

Can Internet Marketing Techniques Sell Music?

image from While music is my first love, I actually currently make more money as a website geek and, to a lesser extent, a writer. So I know how Internet marketing “squeeze pages” work, and how to write and build them.
Meanwhile, I have been going on my merry way making music but not exactly setting the Interwebs on fire.
Then, recently, I was casually watching a music marketing video (by Greg Rollett) and was immediately very familiar with the marketing model he was describing – and that’s when I had my giant D'OH! moment.
Basically Greg was advising musicians to use the very same squeeze page techniques that I get paid to implement for others.
It’s so obvious but I just never thought for one minute to try and use these techniques to sell and give away more of my music.
So I decided to roll out some classic Internet marketing techniques to see if it increased the consumption of my music.  
The Classic Internet Marketing Model
Here’s how your typical online marketing system works:
  • Drive leads (otherwise known as people) to your squeeze page.
  • Use effective sales copy to get their name and email address in exchange for a freebie
  • Send the freebie to their inbox
  • After that the barrage of emails begins. The clever marketers will start by offering you some further free value, before starting to slip in the hard sell.
  • Once a prospect buys something cheap, you then target them to buy increasingly expensive products.
For the purposes of this experiment, I am simplifying this model. In my case the strategy is as such:
  1. Send people to the squeeze page
  2. Get them to opt-in to get their free music download
  3. Send them a little bit more free stuff, like Youtube links, more free music downloads, maybe a short e-book or something.
  4. Then hit them to buy a CD or download of something totally new
  5. Send them some more free stuff
  6. Ask for a second purchase, can be of something old, seeing as *cough* this abounds.
Might not sound all that groundbreaking but contained within that little plan is a LOT of work.
For example: the squeeze page...
Firstly, I had a look at my existing website and knew straight away that I needed to build a new one. Why? Because squeeze pages by design have one single focus – getting visitors to fill in the opt-in form.
Next I needed a third party digital goods transaction and delivery provider that would enable me to allow some free downloads as well as easily hook into my mailing list management program. I eventually settled on DPD ( who provide you with the ability to sell or give away up to 10 digital products for a monthly payment of US$5 and have great integration with various mailing list management providers.
And so the page is up and working: [pictured right]
Here’s a list of things I plan to do next:
  • Improve the look of the page
  • Improve the copy (words)
  • Add a video to the page for those who don’t like to read
  • Construct a sequence of auto-responder emails offering both paid and free content (music)
  • Get as many links to the page as possible (social media, article marketing, online advertising)
  • Send people who dig my live shows to the site
  • Website optimization via A/B split testing
And that’s just the start; there is so much you can do – website optimization via A/B split testing anyone?
One thing I did already was stick the button up the top of a very stripped –down version of my MySpace page – – it will be interesting to see if that converts.
Fishing for Fans in the Great Sea of Content
Classic Internet marketing is not usually the kind of thing that musicians tend to consider appropriate for promoting their art. Yet to me, giving it a go makes perfect sense because getting more Facebook “likes” or YouTube views is one thing, and an important thing, but it’s not a sale.
Look at it this way: Once you send someone to look at your YouTube video – then what?
Mostly, after looking at your video for a bit, people just drift back off into an endless sea of content. Sometimes they spread the word for you, but then what? Not much, that’s what.
The thing that is inherently flawed about the way musicians in general (myself included) approach the whole music business palaver is that they only really expect to ever start making money once they are getting hundreds of thousands, if not millions of YouTube views and Facebook “likes”.
If your average small businessman had to get the attention of millions of people just to start making some $1 sales, forget it! They wouldn’t bother. Most small businesses survive due to their ability to make a decent wad of cash out of a manageable amount of customers.
For most musicians, the music-dollar is stuck under a big, heavy, inverted pyramid. How are they going to get the cash unstuck and into their pocket?? Possibly by putting some tried and tested Internet marketing techniques to work for them. The jury is out but I can report that I have had some encouraging results already. I’ll let you know how I go in a few months.
-Seamus Anthony

Video: Music Looks A Lot Less Like Water Everyday

image from The notion of making music like water is appealing. People have freely distributed water in their kitchen; yet will pay a premium for water in a bottle. It has been argued both for and against that, this is where the music is heading, a model where it feels like free and can be bought in forms that are more expensive. Why do people by bottled water anyway? By the looks of it, however, the reasons that they do have little to do with the way music works. This talk is a compelling look at how bottled water is sold to us and the ways we have been convinced to fear tap water. Here's a look at why people buy bottled water:

Seth Godin: Why Artists Think It's Safer To Fail Small

image from Seth Godin gives a speech on how artists sabotage their work. They follow the pattern and attempt to fail small. Why? Their lizard brain tells them to; it's the resistance. The thing that tells them to make it so they don't end up a failure, starving, or worse, dead. At the last minute, most artists will take a half step back and take that compelling elements out of their music because it's safer to fail small. The resistance causes them to compromise truly great music and settle for an album that's good enough.

Labels Strangle Startups More Than Music Pirates

image from public-domain.zorger.comThe RIAA thinks that LimeWire should not be proud of their service, because they broke the law. They go on to say that services that flout the law do not deserve a place in today's music marketplace where "hundreds of existing, accessible, innovative legal sites offer users their favorite music at affordable prices — sometimes even free." Following this assertion, the RIAA notes that there are now "more than 11 million legal tracks online and more than 400 licensed music services today." This all sounds well and good, but like always, the RIAA still seems to be forgetting something.
The only reason any of these music services offer anything of any value to fans is that after more than a decade of fighting the web hand over fist, the record labels finally thought it was time to complete with piracy in a meaningful way. Had there been no music piracy than there would've been no digital culture for the RIAA to brag about, all fans would have online is a music experience that's vaguely better than going to a store and buying a CD. To this day, that's about all we have. Fans don't have a music service that's better than piracy because that would actually better than buying a CD; a move that the labels are still tiptoeing around. I agree with the RIAA in the respect that in order for a legal marketplace to thrive that there needs to be a level playing field, but firstly, that will never happen. Music sites will always have to compete with piracy and innovate in ways that create comparable experiences. Legal music services appear to be suffocated more at the hands of the record labels themselves than by the cut-throat, nasty pirates.
Why are there so few music sites for the RIAA to boast about? Is it because the "illegal services" like The Pirate Bay and LimeWire "conspired" against the legitimate music market or is it because the labels worked against the market themselves? If illegal sites didn't exist, the playing field would be level for the major labels and not the fans. Right now, Spotify wants to enter the US music market. They want to create an experience that's better than piracy and give fans a service that reflects the way they consume music. Why has that service not launched yet? I have not read a single report that says they are having trouble competing against the illegal music sites and that fans aren't willing to use it. Instead, all reports indicate that Spotify is locked into label negotiations and will have to pay large upfront sums before they are allowed to enter the US.
That is to say nothing about the sad, sad state of music startups themselves.
According to The NPD Group, consumer awareness of services like MOG (and likely Rdio too) is at a mere 2 percent. Sure, due to the social behaviors and norms that file sharing services promote, fans have become increasingly unwilling to pay for music and the proposition that legal sites make is monthly payments. This is a barrier. The greatest barrier, however, seems to be that fans don't know services like MOG exist. Also, because these sites have been neutered in their true potential, mostly to due label intervention, they fail to captivate any interest.
I have a different proposition. Fans will pay for legal services that compensate creators for their music the day that they actually align themselves with the state of music consumption now and are able to create services that revolutionize the digital music sector rather than attempting to preserve the brick-and-mortar and plastic disc based business model. The current music consumption system is still broken, quit pretending that it isn't. There's still much that needs updating.
"Services that flout the law do not deserve a place in today’s music marketplace where hundreds of existing, accessible, innovative legal sites offer users their favorite music at affordable prices – sometimes even free. 
There are now more than 11 million legal tracks online and more than 400 licensed music services today. A few of these legal sites can be found on our website or on the music community website Music United, not to mention audio or video streaming sites like Pandora, MOG, Vevo and Rdio.
In order for the legitimate marketplace to thrive, there needs to be a level playing field where illegal sites are held accountable and do not suffocate innovative, legal services whose business plans include compensating creators for their music.  That’s why the recent injunction represents a significant step in the bright future of digital music.
-Kyle Brelin

5 Ways Artists Disappear Almost Completely Online (And Purposely Hide Themselves From Google...)

For new artists, any discussion of a band name is likely coupled with a domain name search to make sure the URL is available, since they are constantly being told how to have an effective online presence. But there is an interesting phenomenon emerging: in a world where all information is a click away, some artists are choosing to be deliberately difficult to find on the Internet.
Ingroups and outgroups have existed as long as, well, culture. Or possibly earlier. And music has always seemed to be particularly susceptible to the distinction, as evidenced by the preponderance of hipster music jokes. So perhaps it's no surprise that artists are taking advantages of Internet-age quirks to narrow their fanbase. Here are a few example strategies:
  1. Have a nondescript name: I've long thought that the band The The had the most perfectly unGoogleable name, but since they pre-date the Internet and are deservedly well-loved, typing 'the the' into Google does, in fact, give you their official website as well as many ancillary sites (although note that the sixth hit is a typo in NASA's Image of the Day). But even for a post-Google band, having a generic name as a route to obscurity can be a dangerous strategy, as success makes you easier and easier to find. When I first started listening to The National, it was almost impossible to find their website unless you knew ahead of time that the URL was, after an early song--it's now the first hit. (Of course, The National weren't actually trying to be obscure.)
  2. Hide behind special characters: GL▲SS †33†H. ℑ⊇◊⊆ℜ. ///▲▲▲\\\ are all real bands. Certain genres—darkwave, witch house, and drag (any distinction between the three is rather lost on me, I admit)—commonly use Unicode in their band names. Guardian Music speculates that use of symbols rather than alphanumerics for witch house artists, together with GIF-heavy sites and locked pages, are all about creating an ingroup, in which "only the youngest and the most enthusiastic will be bothered to seek them out by reading the right blogs."
  3. Be mistaken for porn: Type 'teen' into Google, and hit space. You're now in whitescreen territory, where Google Instant leaves you on your own to fill out the rest, rather than offering up suggestions. This has been exploited by bands Teen Girl Fantasy, Teen Porn, and Free Nude Celebs to make themselves less findable on Google. I'm personally waiting for a bands with names that consist of a word from the Google blacklist followed by something difficult to spell, like 'Squirt Syzygy' (yes, 'squirt' is on the blacklist).
  4. Don't put searchable info online: A few weeks ago, I went to a concert at the Whitehaus, a Boston art-house and informal music venue. I remembered where it was, but I wanted the street address to punch into my phone for directions. I could find neither the address nor any information about the show online. For a moment, I thought I was delusional—then I remembered that the flyer for the show had been hand-drawn, scanned and uploaded (and therefore the contents weren't indexable or searchable) and I had been pointed to it by a friend. And I wound up digging the street address out of an e-mail from another friend. Whitehaus has a specific reason to be unfindable by the casually interested—it is a private residence, after all—but this also ensured that the attendees were limited to a small ingroup, largely people with personal connections to their community.
  5. Don't be online at all: Somewhere, there is a community of loosely-connected high school kids, making music in their basements, recording it with their parents' dusty disused Technics double-cassette decks, and sharing it with their friends. And we'll never know about them, at least not until one of those kids becomes the next Mountain Goats.
Other strategies? A (now-defunct) band went by the name "404 Not Found." Another option would be to name your band with a misspelling of another well-known band, like 'Metalica,' which is guaranteed to get you lost in the metadata. If you have other suggestions for ways to hide on the Internet, feel free to leave them in the comments.
-Deb Chachra

Brands Are The New DJ For Indie Artists

image from More and more, brands are partnering with indie musicians. In this video, indie artist AM and David Deal, VP of Marketing for Razorfish talk about how brands can partner with upcoming artists and how Razorfish works with AM. Deal thinks that brands are the new DJ for indie artists. Do you agree?

Wiz Khalifa talks Drake, J Cole, Taylor Gang, New Album, Pharell, and more!

Hard Knock Tv's Nick Huff Barili caught up with Wiz Khalifa to talk about New Album including working with Snoop and wanting to work with Pharrell, turning down tour with Drake, and more. Video stars off with Wiz showing off his martial arts skills and smoking out in preparation for interview. Once the interview gets going he tells Nick why he thinks Atlantic is going to be a better fit that Warner Bros for him, what Taylor Gang means, how he sees J Cole, Wale and others as his peers, listening to music out side the Hip Hop genre like Angela Bofill and Animal Collective, how he meet Curren$y (Jets), how him and Yelawolf kick it during the tour. Wiz also shares what his next tattoo is going to be.
Taylor Gang or be poor and vote republican!
Make sure you check out more with Wiz at
Best Of Hard Knock TV: Wiz Khalifa on working with Snoop, Diddy jumping on Stage, Tour Stories 

Ryan Leslie Interview

Ryan Leslie may not quite be a household name -- yet. But that's definitely not for lack of effort.
Mr. Leslie is the type of person who epitomizes the term "over-achieving multi-tasker." Not only is he a music producer, having crafted songs for Beyonce, Britney Spears and New Edition, among others, but he also is a songwriter and a recording artist himself.

Burgeoning Music Mogul

And if all that weren't enough, he also heads his own global marketing and media company, NextSelection Lifestyle Group and already has an up-and-coming, rising young performer under his wing, a singer by the name of Cassie.
The burgeoning music mogul says he doesn't feel burdened however, by wearing so many hats -- artist, performer, songwriter, producer, etc.

Filling Numerous Roles

"I think that they go hand-in-hand," he said of the various roles he fills. "I would not be complete if I didn't do all of them. I've always been a multi-tasker."
In his quest for mogul-dom, one thing that's been a tremendous help to Leslie and his company has been the Internet, specifically Upon discovering the young singer Cassie and securing a demo deal with Tommy Mottola, Leslie created Cassie's MySpace page to showcase her music, and within just three weeks, she was a top 10 MySpace artist. Right around this time, terrestrial radio stations began receiving requests for her hit single "Me & You."

Bidding War

This popularity sparked a bidding war between major record labels, and eventually led to Cassie signing with Bad Boy Entertainment, through Leslie's Next Selection imprint. Her debut album, originally scheduled for release in January 2007, was pushed up five months to August of '06.
Leslie says he discovered Cassie out and about in New York.
"I had just come off doing a lot of work with Usher and I was inspired," he explains. "I happened to be at a New York hot spot and saw her with her girlfriends. They knew all the words to every hot record that's out."
Leslie says that he then struck up a conversation and got to know her before eventually managing to coax the singer into working with him.

Internet Promotion

Later came the MySpace promotion, which Leslie gives a lot of the credit for to one of his friends/business partners.
"A lot of the credit goes to Rasheed Richmond," Leslie said of Next Selection's online marketing partner. "He actually told me about MySpace, and he did a lot of the promotional work."
And the MySpace revolution isn't the only Internet project that Leslie's taken part in.
On his company's website, he posts an interactive daily video blog, in existence since January, where he gives viewers a taste of what daily life is like in the music business. Industry parties, TV appearances, hanging out with beautiful women -- it's there for all to see.
"Blogging is something that allows us to document life," Leslie said. "When you look at a lot of successful films, books, a lot of them relate to the experiences of others," and the video blog is a way for him to connect with the masses. "There have been other video blogs, but this one's a first of its kind from a music standpoint," he said.
It's a huge commitment," he said of the video blog. "It takes six, seven hours a day to produce a video blog."
But he's not done yet -- far from it.

Future Goals

"My next goal is to turn the music industry on it's head," he said. "I'm looking forward to creating a new paradigm. I'm looking to change the way artists get paid -- and it has nothing to do with retail CDs in stores. And this is far from what Prince has done," he said, referring to the online music store,, that Prince opened in 2004.
Exactly what "this" is, however; Leslie won't say. All he does is promise that he'll reveal more details once the project is closer to fruition.

The Future of the Industry

When asked for predictions about the future of the music industry, however, he inadvertently teases what he and his collaborators may be working on. He says that due to the digital music revolution of the past few years, physical compact discs of music will eventually become go the way of the eight-track tape and become obsolete.
"In five or 10 years, we won't need CDs at all," he said.
In addition all the other things he's good at, Leslie was something of an over-achiever scholastically, as well. In 1998, at the still-tender age of 19, he graduated from Harvard University -- yes, that Harvard -- with a degree in government, and concentrations in macro-economics and political science. He was also the Orator for the graduating class, and encouraged his classmates to follow their dreams.
"I come from very humble beginnings," he said. "It's all about doing something that inspires people.

Humble Beginnings

Leslie grew up a Salvation Army brat and lived in cities all across the US -- Atlanta, Nashville and San Francisco, among others -- and even spent time in Belgium. However, he's settled in, for at least for the immediate future, in the Harlem area of New York.
"I chose to live in Harlem because I'm trying to bring a musical renaissance back to Harlem. I literally am," he said, displaying the bravado and confidence that's brought him so far this early in life.

His Own Music

As for his own recording career Leslie, who's affectionately referred to as R-Les by his fans, says that he's "always working on an album of my own. Just doing everything organically." Meaning, he's taking his time and allowing things to come together naturally, rather than rush the project. A few songs can be heard on his MySpace page. One features the rapper Fabolous and another track, "Just Right," featuring Snoop Dogg, will soon be streamed right here on's R&B site.

Undiscovered, Unheralded Talent

Even though he's worked with the likes of Beyonce, Britney Spears, Donell Jones, and many more, Leslie says he's more excited about all the new, undiscovered talent out there.
"Every artist (he's so far worked with) has brought something new to the table. I respect all the current stars. But the one I'm most excited about is Cassie."
Who has he been most impressed by?
"Some of the most interesting people I've had a chance to meet are actually outside the music industry. People who are real go-getters."

Diverse Musical Tastes

His production talents have blessed artists of various musical genres, including pop, R&B, dancehall and even gospel. And while in college he even sang four-part harmony with a jazz group.
So, as you might expect, when asked about what type of music he prefers -- either personally or professionally -- Leslie said he's open-minded. "I don't have a genre-specific favorite. I like music that inspires, and inspires me. I like pop, because it's popular he said. But a number of things fall under pop, whether it's Maroon 5, whether it's Britney Spears, or whether it's Cassie."
-Mark Edward Nero