Message from Montie

Hip Hop Archives

Shane Sparks choreography best on 'SYTYCD,' Sparks arrested for child molestation charges

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Getty Images, courtesy of ChicagoTribune.com

Throughout this entire season of "So You Think You Can Dance," I've noticed that the judges have been very skeptical about the hip hop choreographers and the selections the choreographers are giving to the dancers. Dave Scott was accused of giving Ashleigh Di Lello and Legacy Perez a vampire hip hop routine that was not challenging enough for their stage in the competition. Choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon were told the routine they gave Ellenore Scott and Legacy Perez as hip hop aliens was a little too strange and the masks were distracting. I agreed with both judges and understood their discontent with some of the dance routines.

 

The reality is that nobody was creating harder and more challenging routines in hip hop choreography than Shane Sparks. I think the judges were spoiled by him, but when he stopped being a judge on "So You Think You Can Dance" and left for "America's Best Dance Crew," they were left with a lull. He'd re-appeared and disappeared the past couple seasons but never as a regular judge. And even when he created a dance routine, it was unfortunately not performed by one of the original dancers--Ashleigh Di Lello because of a shoulder injury and Shane Sparks' assistant did a mediocre job of dancing with "So You Think You Can Dance?" winner, Russell Ferguson.

 

Lil' C spends too much time trying to use vocabulary I don't remotely believe he uses in his everyday conversation, so it always bugs me to see him on the panel although his krumping routines are okay. I actually do like most of Tabitha and Napoleon's routines, but none of them had the funk that Shane Sparks was bringing.

 

But judging from today's TMZ report, it looks like Shane Sparks may be unavailable for a pretty long time for both "America's Best Dance Crew" and "So You Think You Can Dance?"

 

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Fame or fortune, paparazzi blues and filty rich, which do you choose?

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Last week I read an October 2009 interview with Jay-Z in XXL Magazine, and the reporter asked him what did he think was more important, fortune or fame. That question has been running through my mind ever since. I've found that when a lot of celebrities reach a certain level of fame, they realize it's not all its cracked up to be.

 

Some celebs spend a month's salary on one day's lunch alone.

 Paparazzi is following celebs around on trips and getting their camera flashes broken by celebs like Kanye West who just aren't having it. Britney Spears was stalked by paparazzi when they tried to take photos of her in an ambulance. Michael Jackson voiced his displeasure with paparazzi doing things as scandalous as putting cameras under toilets and him having to run from paparazzi all the time. Nine photographers were arrested and charged with manslaughter for the death of Princess Diana because of invasion of privacy and allegedly helping to lead to her Mercedes car crash, although according to Washington Post, the charges were thrown out in 2002. Beyonce and Jay-Z went on a vacation last month in Croatia and were followed around every step of the way until bodyguards pushed the paparazzi away.

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Forget "Death of Auto-Tune," let's kill gangsta rap glorifying

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Part 1: The Vocoder vs. Auto-Tune

 

Roger & Zapp were using vocoders to create "Computer Love" in 1983. Everybody was dancing to Tupac Shakur and Dre's vocoder chorus to "California Love" in 1996. In Cher's 2003 hit single "Believe," she tried out a vocoder as well. Blackstreet played around with computer singing in "Deep" from their 2003 album "Level II."  And then came Auto-Tune, which is frequently confused with a vocoder because of the computer melody, but it's not the same recording utility and the voice doesn't sound the same. XXLMag.com does confirm that Auto-Tune "uses a form of vocoding to achieve its process" though and uses Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am song "Impatient" as an example of the difference between the vocoder and Auto-Tune.

 

By now anybody who is a fan of hip hop and rap knows that T-Pain made Auto-Tune far more popular than it had been decades before after he released 2005 songs like "I'm Sprung" and "I'm N Luv (Wit a Stripper)" from his "Rappa Ternt Sanga" album and then with 2007 songs like "Bartender" and "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')" from his "Epiphany" album.

 

However, there is a misconception that T-Pain uses Auto-Tune on every single, which isn't true for hit songs like 2005's "Church" and in parts of 2008's "Can't Believe It" from his "Thr33Ringz" album. At WGCI's Big Jam 2008, T-Pain also sang "Can't Believe It" live without Auto-Tune and sounded just about the same. However, there's no question that T-Pain's biggest hits were those using Auto-Tune, and other artists like Kanye West, Soulja Boy, Lil' Wayne and R. Kelly took notice.

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Chicago celebrates the UniverSoul Circus coming to Chitown

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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I used to say I didn't like the circus. Clowns freak me out. The threatening sound of whips make me think of animal cruelty. And circus music reminds me of horror flicks. My family has dragged me to quite a few circuses in my younger years (specifically my mother who has a bit of an obsession with elephants, and no, she's not a Delta Sigma Theta member). But I'd never been to the UniverSoul Circus before, and after leaving there tonight during opening night, Sept. 23, I can never say I don't like circuses again. The term "soul" is an understatement. UniverSoul Circus brings the funk, the rhythm, the heart and the love of music to the most outstanding circus I've ever seen in my life.

 

UniverSoul Circus was founded by Baltimore, Maryland native Cedric Walker. According to UniverSoulCircus.com, Walker and his brother Frank enjoyed circuses since they were little. Walker had an obvious love for the music industry considering he became a producer and stage manager for R&B group the Commodores, a promoter for the Jackson 5, organized a rap music tour called the Fresh Festival with rappers Run DMC, Salt n' Pepa and the Fat Boys, and he helped produce gospel plays "Wicked Ways" and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."

 

And in 1994, Walker blended his love for music and the circus to create the family friendly UniverSoul Circus. Sixteen years later and it's still a hit.

 

Gallery sneak peek (38 images):

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Jay-Z's "The Blueprint 3" is the blueprint of what a hip hop CD should be

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Jay-Z "The Blueprint 3"

In the October 2009 issue of XXL Magazine, the reporter asked cover story artist Jay-Z what was more important--fortune or fame. What I wondered while listening to Jay-Z's latest CD was what hip hop lovers felt was more important--beats or lyrics. When I was really young, I was listening to lyricists like MC Lyte, Grandmaster Flash, Whodini and Queen Latifah. Then somewhere along the line beats started outweighing lyrics, and I could juke to some of the most degrading songs if the beat was hot (ex. Ying Yang Twin's "Get Low [The Whisper Song]"). But what I've learned throughout the years is that the older I get, the more important lyrics become to me, and Jay-Z is one of the few artists that can bring quality lyrics to danceable beats and please both audiences.

 

As the saying goes, with age comes wisdom, and every time Jay-Z puts out a CD like his latest, "The Blueprint 3," it gets that much better and has that much more growth. There are those who believe that rapping is a young man's game. I disagree. I believe hip hop is a lyrical man's game. I'd choose a Rakim or Ice Cube CD over the latest dance craze hard knock thug life CD. I prefer soulful conscious hip hop like that of my favorite rapper Mos Def, who is younger than all three but obviously could care less about saying what's "cool" or "hard" to say. I'm bored with the thought of hip hop artists thinking "we need to get back to the hood." No, we need to get back to what's good.

 

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Q-Tip releases 'Kamaal the Abstract,' 10 'vivrant' songs

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Q-Tip's new CD, "Kamaal the Abstract"

There are very few artists who can have the beautiful mix of funk, jazz, blues, and hip hop all laced into one album, but hip hop artist Q-Tip manages to do it every time. It wasn't until I completed my weekly check of AOL's Music Listening Party that I saw his new CD, "Kamaal the Abstract" released Tuesday, Sept. 15. The only two people I know who come this close to being able to get away with successfully blending so many genres together is hip hop group Outkast and Mos Def. There are so many hip hop artists who are scared to branch out past the norm or give me the same old recycled lyrics about one of three subjects: haters, being rich, or how rough it is in the hood. Frankly, I'm bored with most hip hop.

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