Monthly Archives: July 2011

One on One with Diggy Simmons

By Tamara Jenkins

He’s the son of a Hip-Hop Legend, nephew to a Hip-Hop mogul and now Diggy Simmons is venturing into the family business and coming into his own.

Already a proven lyricist with two successful mixtapes under his belt, The First Flight (2009) and Airborne (2010), a nomination for MTV’s “Hottest Breakthrough MC Of 2010″and a member of  XXL Magazine’s prestigious 2011 Freshman Class, there’s no question about his longevity in music.

Currently on tour as part of the BET’s106 & Park Presents: Closer to My Dreams Tour, Simmons took time from his busy schedule to speak with UnRated Urban Magazine during a promotional appearance at PHLI Sneaker Boutique in Hyde Park, IL.

You’re working on your debut CD right now, what’s the title?

Diggy Simmons: I can’t say yet, but the title is definitely perfect for where I’m at right now and how people see me and how I’m feeling with my career in general. It‘s going to be out soon.

Who have you worked with on the CD?

Diggy Simmons:  I can’t say.

Who are you’re influences in music?

Diggy Simmons:  I have so many especially in other genres but I’ll stick to Hip Hop like Jay-Z, definitely musically of course and the way he’s taken himself as an artist to businessman and entrepreneur to CEO and Kanye (West) of course too creatively he always raises the bar with what he does and takes risks and Lupe (Fiasco) is another person, he’s out of Chi-Town is someone that I look up to as an influence and like a big brother to me as well.

Will people be surprised by the sound of the CD?

Diggy Simmons: Definitely, without a doubt. That’s what I’ve been telling people in interviews that there just going to be shocked, it’s so amazing and I’m so excited. Like, unbiased, besides the fact that its mine, its incredible and I can’t wait to share it with everybody.

Is there a lot of pressure considering you come from a very successful family?

Diggy Simmons:  People ask that, but not really, not at all I just really do me and I’m just an independent person and I’m my own individual. So not really.

What was it like having your life filmed during Run’s House?

Diggy Simmons: It was something you got use to.

Would you ever do your own reality show?

Diggy Simmons: No, probably not.

You’re a fashion plate; do you have any aspirations to become a designer?

Diggy Simmons: Definitely, definitely my own clothing line and I also have my own sneaker line, Chivalrous Culture and you can find it online at

Do you have any plans to go into acting?

Diggy Simmons:  That can happen, I’ve always been interested in that and I use to do a little bit of acting.

What’s the best advice someone has given you before you started in the music industry?

Diggy Simmons:  Something that I always remembered even now is that just do you because sometimes what people say can get under your skin and you can’t let it.

How do you parents feel about you getting into the music industry?

Diggy Simmons:  Their just proud and support what I do and their happy for me.

Black Rob Stays True to Streets on Game Tested, Streets Approved

By David Whitely

Rating: Borderline of 2.5 and 3 out of 5

Black Rob returns to the music scene with his follow up to The Black Rob Report (2005) with Game Tested Streets Approved (2011).  His first album released with independent label Duck Down Music, Game Tested Streets Approved, brings the gritty, hood rhymes that Black Rob is known for.  This album stays true to the Harlem born MC’s street persona with records like “Boiling Water,” and “Up North.”  Rob does keep it radio friendly with the cuts, “Sand to the Beach,” and the lead single “Celebration.”  This LP can definitely be played in any hood despite its large NY influence because it appeals to the struggles, situations, aspirations, and lifestyle of a traditional street dude.  Could he be the “comeback kid” of 2011?  Not likely.  Despite a few bright spots and the records previously mentioned, this album probably won’t make your “top rated” playlist on your itunes.    

            With “Boiling Water,” BR comes on strong and very boastful over a continuous, rising baseline.  This track demonstrates the NY native’s confidence and refusal to come in anything but the number one spot when he spits, “Second place the first loser, I ain’t use to losing//Beef in the hood I’m staying ’cause I ain’t use to moving.”  He also shows his dedication and commitment to obtain that number one spot in depicting a scruffy bearded Rob whose more focused on being the best than a growing beard when he says, “I could spit something hard or something soothing//Grind so hard my beard be growing like Rick Rubin.”  His confidence in his abilities goes even stronger during the chorus where he rhymes, “I spit it hotter than boiling water//Bet I make the next episode of Law&Order.”  But despite the first few bars and the chorus, this track is lukewarm at best.  For the most part, there aren’t any parts in the song that necessarily stand out, or even make you want to hit the rewind button to hear it again.  He doesn’t quite kill anything on this record, so hopes for making it on to “Law&Order” for this, aren’t realized.

            The record “Celebration,” brings out that feel good music for everyone in the hood, from the lil shorties playing double dutch, to the grandmas sitting on park benches.  The lead single for the album does Black Rob justice in his ability to paint a picture and create good music.  Here he depicts a usual summer in the hood with basketball tournaments, cookouts, “neighbor hood pools to keep cool,” handheld fans, etc.  The beat drops with a very soulful sound that BR spits to with perfection in showing what summer life in NYC is all about.  An example of this is when he spits, “All the shorties jump roping, hydrants open, laughing joking//Lemonade, Puerto Rican/Dominican day parades, is fun for all ages.”  With this song, Black Rob tells everyone to go out and enjoy the weather and summer life of NYC.

            “Up North” shines light on BR’s experiences when he was locked up.  He rhymes about the changes in people once they get “up north,” from tough guys to singing queens.  He spits, “I seen the roughest niggas call the cops up north//You a tough guy, why you ain’t pop up north?”  He depicts what its really like up north and how life really changes.  From gang life, to visitors, etc, its BR shows that its a different beast up north.

            Despite its numbing beats, BR does a decent job in providing some tracks that will grab the listener with his content after the second listen.  Ultimately, this LP is not a game changer, but is worth a listen.        


Wants To Be More Than White Irish Drinkers

By Wendy Simmons

What can push you to further yourself when you are surrounded by unambitious people? That’s what Brian, the sensitive artist, must face in White Irish Drinkers

Directed by John Gray and starring Nick Thurston as Brian and Geoff Wigdor as his rambunctious older brother Danny, we see the story of two youngNew Yorkmen that must live their lives the way they see fit. Coming from an abusive home, this strain takes a different toll on each. One is content but knows that there is more for him, but he may be too afraid to go for it. The other takes out his frustration with crime; but later it’s revealed that he had dreams but was also too fearful to try. What do you expect from two people that were never pushed to do more than live day to day?

The brothers face love, betrayal, abuse and degradation. This is not an easy life for them…but is life ever really easy?

Growing up Danny was Brian’s protector. Although there was constant struggle between them as men, they were truly devoted to their brotherhood.  Which also causes a dilemma for Brian…should he choose loyalty over morality? Should he choose happiness over contentment?

This multiple festival award winning film was very well acted. It was emotional and surprising. A wrap up gave an understanding to how a person’s experience, and lack thereof, can determine their situation.

The performances were outstanding and little known Thurston and Wigdor should be commended for giving such ordinary characters so much life.

A definite must see!

I give it $$$ ½


2011 Vail Soul Music Fest

For the second annual Vail Soul Music Fest – happening August 19-20-21, 2011 at Vail, Colorado’s Ford Amphitheater – four-time Grammy nominee Ledisi, soul royalty Lalah Hathaway, and genre-bending Cuban singer-songwriter Alex Cuba top the bill during three days and two nights of music. Additional artists include British slam-champion poet and Floetry co-founder Natalie “The Floacist” Stewart, soul revival golden boy Ryan Shaw, and – back by popular demand – mighty R&B singer Liv Warfield, among many others.

Anticipated by those in the know as the only-of-its-kind in the state of Colorado, Vail Soul Music Fest offers a hand-picked mix of emerging and established artists – from the greatest R&B legends to ballad hit-makers to conscious hip-hop to neo soul artists from around the world. Vail Soul Music Fest is the face of the modern, multicultural soul revival. Vail Soul Music Fest is bringing the story of soul music back to the people, and it feels oh so good.

Indeed, Soul music’s stories of heart, truth, and transparency are more universal now than ever before. In this spirit, Vail Soul Music Fest is more than just a music event; it’s the ultimate soul experience. In addition to some of the best performers in the genre, Vail Soul Music Fest features three days and two nights of soulful cultural experiences.

The artist line-up for Vail Soul Music Fest is as follows:

Friday, August 19
Lalah Hathaway
Alex Cuba
Natalie Stewart
Lee England Jr.

Saturday, August 20
Ryan Shaw
Liv Warfield
Chaz Shepherd

Sunday, August 21
“Fan Appreciation Day” with artist meet & greets, free activities and experiences, free music events throughout town, and more.
Additional performers to be announced.

Tickets available at or at / 1-866-461-6556. Local Vail Residents can purchase through the Ford Amphitheater Box Office

Ticket Pricing:
Early Bird 2 Day Tickets On-Sale Now (through July 31st)
Early Bird Two Day Tickets are $45.00 General Admission, $75.00 Reserved,
$145.00 VIP

Single Day Advance Tickets (available August 1 – 18)
Single Day Tickets are $25 General Admission, $40 Reserved, $75 VIP

Day of Show Single Day Tickets are $30 General Admission, $45 Reserved, $80 VIP
while supplies last.

For more information, visit


Femme Fatale Tour Showcases Rejuvenated Spears

By Anthony Kuzminski

I’m not sure if any celebrity has had more written about them in the last decade besides Britney Spears; some good-some bad all of it fascinating in some fashion. However, as a result, many have had a hard time separating the performer from the celebrity. People look at her and see tabloid headlines and lip-synching and often have a hard time looking beyond. That in itself is a shame because while she doesn’t have the same grasp on the music media as she did with her first few albums, her recorded output in recent years shows growth. I was ready to write her off a few years ago, but with each album she has continued to penetrate the pop landscape and as her Femme Fatale tour rolled into Chicago, both Spears and the Chicago crowd was ready for lift-off.

Spears last toured in 2009 and while the staging was in-the-round with a series of extraordinary staging, it felt bitter and icy. Spears looked disengaged from the proceedings and it felt as if they had taken her out of a box right before show time. Despite what some reviewers have posted about her current tour, it features a rejuvenated Spears in a show that provoked the crowd in all the right spots.

 As a screen split in two on the main stage, Britney Spears appeared on a platform with her lead single from Femme Fatale “Hold It Against Me”. Dressed in a silver outfit that continued to reveal more and more with every chorus, Spears was in her element. “Up N’ Down”, dressed in white private investigator dance of “3” and “Piece of Me”, which found Spears flying on a platform from the front of the stage towards the back before she disappeared into a trap door on the main stage. The whole show featured gimmicks galore yet the crowd never seemed let down from it as it never left room for hesitation. Last tour, the stage was a exceptional in-the-round creation whereas this time, it was a 180-degree stage with a large extensive platform that went more than halfway onto the floor. While not providing as many stunning viewpoints as the 360-stage did, she had enough props and commitment to make it meaningful and never losing the crowd’s interest.

Dispersed with several noir-like video segments, they proved to be time for Spears and her dancers to change outfits. The second portion of the show proved to be among the evenings most entertaining with the thumping “Big Fat Bass” which found Spears in a red skirt almost rapping the one-dimensional, but gripping beat further escalating the tension between her performance the crowd. A car pulled up to the front of the stage, as the ten background dancers were in dazzling colors (looking like extras in a live action Aladdin remake).

Colorful costumes aside, the beattastic song is a sure fire hit and should be a future single. The incessant percussion beat and its catching chorus found every single soul on their feet cheering along. Spears, who has taken career cues from Madonna, leaned the set heavily on material from Femme Fatale. While on paper this would appear to be imprudent, it showcased the album vividly and featured its strengths. “How I Roll” I had overlooked on my initial listens of the record but the performance will be etched in my mind for a while to come. Lace and Leather” (from 2008’s Circus) found Spears pulling a male fan from the crowd who she danced and teased with a leg wrap around the back of his head for and the car drove back to the main stage. “If U Seek Amy” had a 1950’s swing style to it compared to the poppish quality on the studio cut. It was another pleasant surprise of the evening as the arrangements were not cut and paste renditions from the records.

 “Gimme More” rippled throughout the arena with Britney’s spoken declaration (“It’s Britney…bitch”). Vintage hits “I’m A Slave For You”, “Baby, One More Time” (in biker gear) and “Boys” (with the dancers mimicking snakes) all filled the nostalgia crave. A pair of perfectly chosen covers worked beautifully within the set; Rhianna’s “S&M” and Madonna’s “Burning Up”. On the Madonna cover (all the way back from 1982) found spears riding a larger-than-life guitar like it was a bull. However, it was the newer material that resonated strongest and evoked the largest roars of the audience. “I Wanna Go” along with the evening’s finale of “Till the World Ends” found the crowd in a manic state or nirvana. Amidst pyrotechnics and 15,000 dancing fans (mostly female) Spears disappeared beneath the stage as a shower of pyrotechnics draped the stage.

Is the show well produced and executed? You bet. It may be too rehearsed for some, but it’s perfectly suited for troubled time and for those who want to dance their worries away. The Femme Fatale tour is a step up from her Circus jaunt two years ago. It features Britney Spears much more animated and invigorated on the stage. The 90-minute show may not go down as a epic tour de force live performance; it serves its purpose perfectly. More than anything, the crowd ate it up and danced like a clock was counting down to the apocalypse without a worry in the world and ultimately, that’s the greatest gift pop music can ever give us.

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicagobased writer. His daily writings can be read at http:/ He can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com ( and can be followed on twitter at

Photos by Dan Locke

DJ Jazzy Jeff and Ayah Present ‘Back for More’

DJ Jazzy Jeff and Ayah release Back for More today.  The duo is giving away a collection of soulful tunes to fans for free download.  This 13-track project is sure to have music lovers grooving for the rest of the summer and beyond.

DJ Jazzy Jeff, along with contributions from well-known producers James Poyser, Pete Kuzma and Demien DeSandies, has created an experience that music lovers have long awaited. Yet, those not as well versed in the genre will appreciate these soulful treats just the same. We are already familiar with the success of Jeff’s past work with heavy-hitters Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild and Floetry.  And his work with theTorontosongbird, Ayah, will be no exception.

Ayah, who is a success in her own right, has already garnered a grass roots fan base of her own with the release of her last two projects, Problem Woman and 4:15.  And her most recent release of the When it Comes to You single and short film is continuing to make headway.  Having worked with respected MCs like Freeway, Mac Miller, Elzhi and Skyzoo, Ayah is no stranger to hip-hop either.  This makes Jeff’s jazzy production and classic hip-hop sound the perfect complement for Ayah’s full and melodic vocals.

With Back for More, fans should expect nothing less than greatness from soul music’s hottest new collaborators.  Notable tracks on the project include the soulful tune, Make It Last and title track, Back for More, with its feel good party vibe.  Listeners will also witness Ayah’s versatility in the already popular single, Notorious.  Ayah unveils her inner b-girl and lyrical flair in this hip-hop banger.  Back for More also features appearances from Sugar Tongue Slim (STS) and Toronto’s own Tona.

To download Back for More, please visit:

Clear Channel Stations Present the Largest Concert Event in Radio

Clear Channel Radio announced the iHeartRadio Music Festival, a two-day music event hosted by Ryan Seacrest that will mark the biggest live concert festival in radio history.  

The extraordinary line-up will include: Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Steven Tyler, The Black Eyed Peas, Kenny Chesney, Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood, Jane’s Addiction, Nicki Minaj, John Mayer, David Guetta, Rascal Flatts, Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson, Sublime with Rome and special performances from Usher and Sting, with more to be announced.

This diverse array of the greatest names in music will appear on one stage at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on two consecutive nights, September 23 and 24, to celebrate the official launch of the New iHeartRadio, Clear Channel’s free, industry-leading digital radio product that will combine its more than 750 broadcast radio and digital-only stations from 150 cities with the ability to create custom stations, delivering listeners everything they want all in one fully integrated service.    

Live audio and video streams of the iHeartRadio Music Festival will be available online, via mobile devices at and across all of Clear Channel’s radio station websites. Throughout the summer-long promotion hundreds of listeners will win a dream trip to Vegas to converge with thousands of fans across the country and experience this one-of-a-kind, two-day festival at the legendary MGM Grand inLas Vegas.  Promotion of the event kicked off with a simultaneous roadblock announcement by all 850 Clear Channel Radio stations nationwide, their websites and iHeartRadio, providing instant awareness and showcasing a new vehicle for announcing news and products to an unprecedented number ofU.S. consumers.  

The New iHeartRadio will deliver to users the nation’s most popular broadcast radio stations as well as the ability to create custom stations with even more songs, more control than the leading custom radio station services and with no commercials through the end of the year, offering listeners everything they want digitally in one fully integrated service – free.

Details on how to purchase the exclusive pre-sale tickets for the iHeartRadio Music Festival are available at beginning July 11 at 8:15 a.m. ET.  Tickets will also be available to the general public for purchase beginning July 16 at 1:00 p.m. ET by visiting and entering keyword “Vegas.” The iHeartRadio Music Festival is a Clear Channel Entertainment Production.  For more information visit


Comedy Movie Star Chris Tucker Announces Comedy Tour

Armed with a trademarked style, incomparable delivery, impeccable comedic timing and a signature voice, actor and comedian Chris Tucker is set to embark on an 18 date national stand-up comedy tour.  The tour kicks off on August 19th in Long Beach, California.  Tickets go on sale beginning July 15th at 10:00 am at and

Early in his stand-up career, Tucker gained a reputation as one of the leading comics on the Los Angelescomedy circuit and was invited to participate in hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam on HBO, where he became a frequent performer.  As a high energy actor, Tucker paired up with one of rap’s greatest, Ice Cube, in the 1995 cult classic, Friday.  As “Smokey” in Friday, Tucker utilized his keen sense of comedy and acting while developing a signature screen persona that would garner international fame and recognition.  He then gave a remarkable performance alongside veteran actor Lorenz Tate in Dead Presidents and landed co-starring roles in such memorable films as Money Talks, with actor Charlie Sheen; The Fifth Element with action hero Bruce Willis; and Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown .

Additional ticket and tour information can be found at and

August 19  Terrace Theater Long Beach, CA  
August 20  Comerica Theatre Phoenix, AZ  
September 2    Borgata Events Center Atlantic City, NJ  
September 3  Palace Theatre Albany Albany, NY  
September 4  NYCB Theatre at Westbury Westbury, NY  
September 9  Shea’s Performing Arts Center Buffalo, NY  
September 10  Citi Wang Theatre Boston, MA  
September 16  Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL  
September 23  UNO Lakefront Arena New Orleans, LA  
September 24  The Fillmore Miami Beach  Miami, FL        
September 30  Murat Theatre Indianapolis, IN  
October 1  Fox Theatre Detroit, MI  
October 7  DAR Constitution Hall Washington, DC  
October 14  Verizon Wireless Theater Houston, TX  
October 21  Paramount Theatre Seattle, WA  
October 22  Sacramento Auditorium Sacramento, CA  
November 25  Civic Theatre San Diego, CA  
November 26  Paramount Theatre Oakland, CA  

Slurpee® MixMaker Concert Hits Lincoln Hall With Gym Class Heroes

7-Eleven, Inc. is mixing up the 2011 Summer of Slurpee® with a mash-up of cool cups, cold concoctions and sold-out concerts that are proving to be hot, hot, hot. Not only is 7-Eleven encouraging Slurpee flavor-mixing with its ingenious MixMaker dual-chambered cup and valve straw, the retailer is mixing up the Slurpee summer season with its popular MixMaker Summer Concert Series. The third in the series features Gym Class Heroes, appearing July 25 at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall.

Tickets for the Chicagoconcert are $7.11 and go on sale Friday, July 8, at noon on the Lincoln Hall website ( Slurpee Rewards points also can be cashed in for free concert tickets at, while they last. Tickets for the all-ages, general admission concert will be held at will-call, which is actually a list of names at the door. Photo ID is required to verify age and ticket purchase.

Gym Class Heroes will take a break from the 2011 Vans Warped Tour to bring their musical talents to the MixMaker concert in the WindyCity. The alternative hip-hop band will release The Papercut Chronicles II this fall, its first album since frontman Travie McCoy’s solo album Lazarus, which featured the smash hit “Billionaire.”  “Stereo Hearts,” the first single from The Papercut Chronicles II, was recently featured on the NBC series “The Voice,” and is available now at all digital retailers.  We are the In Crowd, a pop-punk band fromNew York, will open the show.