Almost Famous 6/30/2010

I work in Center City Philadelphia, and every day I step out to lunch with a few of my peers who also work in the tightly packed city blocks. The culture of the city is truly amazing, and it sparks a lot of great conversations. We happen to meet up, noonish each day, at the corner of 15th and JFK, where Love Park is located. Each day, a new band/artist is performing in the park, and yesterday I couldn’t help but stare and listen as we walked through the park on our way to lunch.

I just picked up In $ecurities’ guitar last week from his spot in Philly, since he’s chasing dreams in NYC, in my mission to teach myself how to play guitar. Let me tell you, it’s no walk in the (Love) park. These amateur artists who struggle to gain an audience often have a great deal of talent. You have to have some sort of X-factor if you want to make it big today. I mean, what else could explain the success of The Spice Girls (hot), Marky Mark (hot, jk), and Sisqo (I can’t explain this).

It’s a shame that so many artists are overlooked. I know of many who take time to perfect their talents, until their music is easily excellent. There is good and bad to the ultra-industrialization of music biz. So, I decided to take some inspiration from a recurring column titled Unsigned Hype from The Source, and drop a few artists I thought were worth listening to who may not be so main stream. I’ll try to do this twice a month or so. Almost Famous.

NUMBER 1

Who: Bo Burnham

What: This kid hasn’t even reached 20 yet, and he has clearly got talent, along with the capacity to entertain. His first album, Bo Fo Sho was released by Comedy Central Records (I guess you can’t take CC Records seriously as far as music talent goes) June of 2008. A year later, he dropped his second, self-titled EP, and saw Internet stardom. This kid has talent beyond music; he is hilarious. If you don’t watch Comedy Central’s Stand-up Showdown (I don’t), you wouldn’t know that he finished number two overall.

Why: You should listen to this kid, especially if you are in high-school or college, because he maintains his youthful honestly with absolute talent—think Eminem, but funnier and less irreverent. Actually, his lyrics could easily be argued as being offensive, but you have to appreciate the satire he brings to the table. And he is unafraid to talk about gender, race, politics, whatever.

Similar Artists: Eminem, George Watsky (I had the pleasure of meeting Watsky, amazing poetic flow, but unfortunately little-known as well)

Sample: Check out I’m Bo Yo. These lyrics are offensive, you’ve been warned; as Bo would say, “That’s right, consider yourself warned, I’m offensive and creative like handicapped porn.” Enjoy.

NUMBER 2

Who: Johnson Barnes aka “Blu”

What: This artist out of LA is little known, but has gained some respect in the underground scene. He has worked as a hype man for artists such as Emanon (Exile produced Blu’s first album) and Slum Village. Blu actually signed with an LA independent label, Sound in Color, over both Interscope and Deathrow, a track most artists would not follow. Check out his debut album, Below the Heavens when you get a chance, which he is best-known for, although he has released a few afterwards. Also, look out for Blu on a few tracks from The Roots recently-dropped album How I Got Over.

Why: If you like The Roots, or Common, or claim to be a fan of “Real Hip-Hop,” you gotta hear Blu out. In fact, he cites Common as his main musical influence.

Similar Artists: Lupe, Common, The Roots

Sample: The Day, from the new Roots album. He raps the first verse

NUMBER 3

Who: Lissie Maurus aka Lissie

What: I’d like to change it up with artist number 3. I think a problem with a lot of kids today is the lack of diversification with the music they listen to, especially college kids. So here is an artist that I heard about from two sources—an old friend from back home, as well as another music blog I often check out that’s run by a friend of mine–Moochanogi. Lissie is a country/folk/rock artist out of Illinois signed with Columbia. Just last Monday, she released her debut album with Columbia, Catching a Tiger.

Why: She is melodious, emotional, talented and has huge star potential. Compelling voice, just listen.

Similar Artists: Hard to determine, since I’m not too familiar with the genre. Some of her material reminds me of Cheryl Crow’s country rock style, but there is much more to Maurus.

Sample: First, her single from Catching a Tiger, titled “In Sleep.” Next, a cover of Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.”

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