Photos from the Detroit ‘ManMade’ Album Release Concert…

Check out some of the visuals from that epic night in Detroit… Saturday June 29, 2013.

Photos by
Tefari K. Stevenson-Howard
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bygbaby/sets/72157634413800702

Studio Campfire Stories: The ‘SunStorm’ Edition – “All Is Well With Love” and “MakeLuv2Me”

11. All Is Well With Love (feat. Chantae Cann)
Before I even begin this story, just understand that there is always one… No matter what album you work on, there is always one joint that is just a pain in the ass to complete. Welp, ladies and gentlemen… Allow me to introduce you all to one of my most beloved tracks, “All Is Well With Love!”

I recorded the original chord progression for this song at the tail end of 2009, it was a couple of days after Christmas to be exact… December 28th, 2009 (I’m great with numbers and dates, what can I say). Upon hearing it and talking about it, the first idea that Phonte and I had was having someone sing the joint in a different language – in this case, Portuguese. Phonte threw a couple of names my way that I wasn’t quite familiar with, but in trusting his judgment I was like, “I’m widdit.” It turns out that a couple months later he discovered that he had a direct contact with one of the artists that we wanted to sing on the song. We reached out to the artist’s assistant who responded by saying that she was swamped and would not be able to record the song… BUT, they wanted a copy of the song to listen to. Ummm…. that would be a “hell” and a “no.” Not too long after that, another female vocalist was suggested to us and… uhhhh, quite simply just did not work out…. A month and a half later, a musical friend of Phonte’s suggested we check into a friend of hers who she thought would be perfect for the song. Phonte hit me up, told me about her and sent me an mp3 of her work and her vocal ability was absolutely ridiculous… she was saingin’ that damn song… in Spanish. We were both impressed and ended up reaching out to her via email. A few days went by, and there was no response at all and finally after a week, we pretty much considered that attempt to be a wash. A good friend of mine and talented vocalist suggested that I try his vocal coach – a jazz vocalist who he said occasionally sings in different languages. He put us in contact via the good ole message inbox on Facebook… Once again, a few days went by…. a week…. two weeks and I heard nothing back. So if my math is correct, that would make FOUR failed female vocalist attempts!! Y’all exhausted yet? Now at this point, we were damn near close to putting the APB out on Twitter like, “Who sings or know someone who can saing in Portuguese?!” Not sure what would have happened as a result, but we were at our wits end. The song was truly in jeopardy of either getting scrapped or just absolutely reworked into something totally different. Just when we thought it was the end of road in regards to finding vocalists, up steps Atlanta-based Chantae Cann. Phonte hit me up one day and told me about her and sent me an accompanying .mp3 so that I could hear what she sounded like. I opened the inbox to find the Jaspecs joint “Find My Way To Love” from their The Polkadotted Stripe album. Now I was familiar with Jaspects as my brova Asheru had worked with them in the past… But I did not know who Chantae was, until I double clicked that mp3……

That VOICE…. It was so different… commanding, full …and sexy. It was exactly what we needed for this joint (tentatively titled “6/4” because that is the time signature it’s written in… Matter of fact, there are some stores online who actually have this song listed as just that, “6/4”). But this time, I made sure not to fall too much in love with her voice just yet… she still had to agree to sing first! Phonte spoke to her and locked in a date for studio time…THAT’S when I started to get hyped up about it.

Since the vocalist was put in place, I had to rework the music piece. The problem I encountered was that for WHATEVER reason I did not record the original composition to a metronome or a click-track – meaning: I recorded it “free form,” which means my speed or tempo could have easily swayed fairly noticeably in some spots. So when I sent the track to my brovah Biscuit to record his live drums on, he had no luck in synching it up for his recording. Therefore, he had to record them “free form” as well. The first draft he did, he didn’t even let me hear… but the second time around, the drums were craziness. I was so excited about how good the drums sounded that I damn near forgot the direction we were trying to take the song into. So I had to re-record my key and bass parts all over again AND write a brand new hook… something that was more definitive and a tad bit stronger than the original draft. So one night after a long day of teaching and a four-hour rehearsal with Ab, I went home tired as all hell and re-recorded my parts… to a METRONOME this time (*applause*). I sent it on through to Phonte and he recorded a reference with the scratch vocals and we finally had a song!!!

Now for the fun part…

Someone put Phonte up on this Brazilian-jazz player who would be able to take the song that was written in English and translate it to Portuguese so that Chantae could sing it. Perfect!…. Well… Perfection on paper, I guess. Phonte was in correspondence with the gentleman via email and phone. He agreed to be a part of the process and received the lyrics typed out in an email along with the rough joint in English as an attachment… A couple of days went by with no response. He was reminded of the tight deadline that we were working with. Well, his response was that ‘love poems’ take time and should not be rushed…. But the song had already been written and referenced in English to be translated. We could understand if there were parts of the song that could not directly translate and would therefore throw off the cadence of the original lyrics, but at this rate, we felt that our only option was to abandon the original idea of recording the song in Portuguese altogether. So Chantae got into the studio with Phonte and held it DOWN – I don’t give a damn if the song was sung in English, Portuguese, German, or French…. She would have put out quality work in any circumstance. Once the vocals were laid, it was just a matter of getting the remaining players on the same page to complete the song, which at this point was the easy part. My man, “Biscuit” Bynum laid the drums (on TWO separate occasions), the horn and flutes were laid soon after (which Phonte did those arrangements), then the congas…and lastly the acoustic guitars were recorded by Omar Hunter-El. And dammit, we were FINALLY FINISHED.

This joint was actually the last song completed for the entire album, which made it even more of an accomplishment… Because “All Is Well With Love” ALMOST never happened.

12. MakeLuv2Me (feat. Monica Blaire)
Ahhhhh, the closer. The history behind the MUSIC of this track is involved enough for a blog series of its own… Please allow me to break that part down first (the condensed version) and then I’ll get into how it developed into what it ultimately became.

There was a time between 2005 through about 2008 where I spent a significant amount of valuable time working on an album with a female vocalist (no names) whose project never saw the light of day. There were no features on the album, just me on the music and she on vocals. As a matter of fact, this album was completed… I’m talking mixed AND mastered. The only thing that needed to be done was the artwork. But due to… well, I don’t know exactly WHAT it was due to. All I know is that in the summer of 2008, I started getting calls from her brand new manager (after we had been in direct contact for three years) saying that she didn’t want to put the album out anymore. Hmmm… Interesting. This particular music originally served as a remix for the unreleased album… Reason being, with one more song to finish for the album to be completed, the artist expressed to me that she wasn’t able to write anymore material… and we needed a strong closer for the project. So I ended up taking her vocals from another song on the album, started and completed the remix process and the next thing you know, we had a finished project. The vocal portion only covered about 3 minutes and I took the remaining 7.5 minutes as an opportunity to put my own personal musical ‘stamp’ on the song… yes, I wanted to ‘show off’ again (see the “Flight of the Blackbyrd” story). It seemed to have worked out nicely… BUT, things have their proper places in life and happen for reasons much bigger than our own reasoning… THIS song is a perfect example.

So after completely scrapping the aforementioned project and hitting the “mute” button on all vocal tracks in the Pro Tools sessions, there was one session in particular that I kept in mind for my next solo project… I had to keep that 10 minute joint for myself!!

But who the hell would I get to write to and MURDER a 10 minute track?!……..

….I’ve known Monica Blaire since maybe 2004 or 2005 – always been good people to me… and supportive (I can actually remember her buying Re:Definition from me at a show back in ’05 when it came out). I can even remember playing keys behind her once in late 2005 at Alvin’s (I think I still have a few pics from that show too). After I moved to the East Coast, we reconnected via Waajeed and PPP when we started performing with them in March of 2009. And I’ll say this about Blaire… If you ever meet her, she’s such a sweetheart. She’s a genuinely free-spirited, ole happy ass love-to-laugh type of person who is even pretty shy at times. NOW, if you have ever had the pleasure of witnessing her take over a stage?… That shy shit goes out the window, QUICKLY. The stage transforms her into something serious… she is a dynamic performer, someone who you can’t never seem to keep your eyes off of. Once we reconnected, we talked about working together on something… at that point I couldn’t put my finger on what we would do yet. BUT, I knew it wouldn’t be too hard putting something together with her because she is a multi-dimensional artist whose creativity can carry her in so many different directions. Knowledgeable about her passion for performing and understanding her natural ability to pull the listener into any song she does was what provoked me ask her to record this particular joint last summer. I remember telling her about the style of the song and warning her that it is in fact, over TEN minutes long…. I received the ‘O.K.’ and soon after, I emailed her the full instrumental….

Then in August of 2009, I was on the elevator going down, about to leave the apartment to head out to a midnight rehearsal. I received Blaire’s text while on the elevator….

Yo, just sent the joint FINALLY!! Lemme know what ya think…


As soon as my elevator TOUCHED the ground floor, I hit the button next to “15” and went RIGHT back upstairs to my apartment so that I could listen to this song as I was HIGHLY anticipating what she recorded… I damn near powerwalked to the apartment, opened my email and loaded the song up. What I heard come through those speakers was EXACTLY what I envisioned for the music. The joint was SEXY… From the lyrics, to her vocal presence, to the delivery…. all the way down to the reverb placed on her vocals. I KNEW we had something because first of all, when was the last time you heard a 10 minute slow grinding sexy song? This song was definitely ten-minutes for a REASON. Secondly, in the era of ‘slow’ songs that either a.) all sound like hip-hop joints or b.) contain straight-to-the-point-leaving-nothing-to-be-desired-type lyrics where the artists will simply tell you through the duration of the track, “I wanna fuck ya girrrrr-huuuurrrrrrl!” – even the title became significant with the use of the word “love.” I mean, who falls in love anymore? And the fact that she recorded to ALL 10 minutes of this song showed me how much of a pure artist Blaire is. She took my challenge, found her place, and completely conquered it… with intention AND purpose.

Zo! – SunStorm (2010) FULL Album Credits

ZoSunStormCoverArt

Zo!
SunStorm

PURCHASE ALBUM
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01. Greater Than The Sun featuring Phonte
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals recorded and mixed by Khrysis
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and the Chopp Shopp, Durham, NC

02. Greatest Weapon Of All Time featuring Sy Smith
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Sy Smith for Sybersong Publishing (ASCAP)
Vocals Arranged and Produced by Sy Smith
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Grant Nochols
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and Rumbo Studios, Winnetka, CA

03. Say How You Feel featuring Phonte & Carlitta Durand
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP) and Carlitta Durand for Durand Music Group (ASCAP)
Vocals by Phonte & Carlitta Durand
All Instruments by Zo!
Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

04. For Leslie
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
All Instruments by Zo!
Flute by Claudia Hayden
Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

05. Be Your Man featuring Darien Brockington
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Darien Brockington for Neidar Music Group (ASCAP) and Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Darien Brockington
Background Vocals by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Guitar Solo by Chris Boerner
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

06. Free Your Mind featuring Lady Alma
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by A-Drenaline for Sopo Publishing (ASCAP)
Vocals by Lady Alma
Background Vocals by The Lady Alma Choral Ensemble (Lady Alma & Preston Branch)
Vocals Recorded by Roscoe “Plug-In”Murphy
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Focus…
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and WHODUNIT Studios, Philadelphia, PA

07. SunStorm featuring YahZarah
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP) and YahZarah for She’s A Ladybug (ASCAP)
Vocals by YahZarah
Additional Vocals by Phonte, Darien Brockington & Jesse Boykins III
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

08. If I Could Tell You No featuring Jesse Boykins III
Produced by Zo! and Phonte for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music/+FE Music LLC
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Jesse Boykins III
All Instruments by Zo!
Trumpet by Stan Graham
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

09. This Could Be The Night featuring Eric Roberson, Darien Brockington & Rapper Big Pooh
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Eric Roberson for Blue Erro Soul/EMI Music Publishing (ASCAP), Darien Brockington for Neidar Music Group (ASCAP), Thomas Jones for Big Pooh Music (ASCAP) & Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Eric Roberson, Darien Brockington & Rapper Big Pooh
Jive Talk by Scorpeze of Windimoto
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

10. Flight Of The Blackbyrd featuring Phonte
Produced by Zo! and Phonte for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music/+FE Music LLC
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Phonte
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Trumpet by Stan Graham
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

11. All Is Well With Love featuring Chantae Cann
Produced by Zo! and Phonte for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music/+FE Music LLC
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Chantae Cann
Keys, Bass Guitar, and Cabasa by Zo!
Flugelhorn by Al Strong IV
Flute by Tim Smith
Trombone by Andrew Kleindienst
Congas and Wind Chimes by Brevan Hampden
Maracas and Additional Percussion by El Tigallo
Acoustic Guitar by Omar Hunter-El
Wood and Skins by “Biscuit” Bynum
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Phonte
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

12. MakeLuv2Me featuring Monica Blaire
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by B. White for Vera’s Daughter (ASCAP)
Vocals by Monica Blaire
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Shaphan “Maestro” Williams
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and Silent Riot Studios, Oak Park, MI

Mastered by Soiree Records

© 2010 Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive, LLC/+FE Music, LLC

‘SunStorm’ OFFICIAL Cover Art, Tracklisting, and Details!! – 07.27.10

Well people…. Here are the OFFICIAL cover art, tracklisting and details about the album. I. AM. EXCITED…..!!!!!!!!

“SunStorm” is the latest album from Detroit-area born, DC-area based producer/multi-instrumentalist Zo!

Best known for his 2008 collaboration with Phonte on the cult classic “Zo and Tigallo Love the 80’s” as well as his work on The Foreign Exchange’s Grammy-nominated LP, “Leave It All Behind,” ‘SunStorm” is an extensive 12-track set that shows the ever-expanding range and depth of Zo! and the entire Foreign Exchange Music family.

Indie soul siren and American Idol vocalist Sy Smith serves up a slice of 70’s soul on the breezy “Greatest Weapon Of All Time,” and Lady Alma, a Philly veteran and stalwart of the UK house scene, takes it to the dance floor on the frenetic “Free Your Mind.” The album’s lead single, “This Could Be The Night,” features Darien Brockington, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Eric Roberson, and Rapper Big Pooh of Little Brother over a thumping two-step groove specifically intended for the ‘steppers’ of Zo’s native Detroit. Another highlight is the Phonte-assisted “Flight Of The Blackbyrd,” Zo’s heartfelt homage to the 70’s jazz/funk fusion of The Mizell Bros. and George Duke.

Tracklisting
01. Greater Than The Sun feat. Phonte

02. Greatest Weapon Of All Time feat. Sy Smith

03. Say How You Feel feat. Carlitta Durand & Phonte

04. For Leslie

05. Be Your Man feat. Darien Brockington

06. Free Your Mind feat. Lady Alma

07. SunStorm feat. YahZarah

08. If I Could Tell You No feat. Jesse Boykins III

09. This Could Be The Night feat. Eric Roberson, Darien Brockington & Rapper Big Pooh

10. Flight Of The Blackbyrd feat. Phonte

11. All Is Well With Love feat. Chantae Cann

12. Make Luv 2 Me feat. Monica Blaire

New Album "SunStorm" …Arriving on July 27, 2010

I’m working hard y’all… A couple more mixes, tweaks, additions, and listens to go to make my new baby SunStorm complete. I have a completion deadline of next week and a release date of… July 27, 2010.

Even more exciting for me is the number of talented artists who took time out of their busy schedules and bring forth some top shelf performances to the album. I mean, these kats came through as if they were recording for their OWN albums… I can’t even begin to speak on how blessed I am – I just hope that I was able to inspire them with my creations as they do with their vocal abilities.

Now, exactly who are these artists you ask? ….Well, some of my favorite vocalists, including: Sy Smith, Eric Roberson, YahZarah, Darien Brockington, Lady Alma, Monica Blaire, Jesse Boykins III, Carlitta Durand, my brotha Phonte and a special appearance by Rapper Big Pooh. Hell, it’s a treat for me as a music fan to see all of this talent on one album, much less the fact that it is my own…. Be prepared… (I’m having to tell myself the same thing) July the 27th will be a huge day and I’m looking forward to sharing the music and celebrating with you all…

Zo! – SunStorm
07.27.10

Monica Blaire Records for ‘SunStorm’…

So I was on the way to a midnight rehearsal earlier tonight and happened to get a text message from Monica Blaire saying: “I just sent the joint!” I was on the way down to the first floor and upon arrival, I STAYED on the elevator, punched in my floor number and ventured right back up to my spot so I could open that email and retrieve this newly recorded song.

Blaire and I at our show performing with PPP in Chicago

Before I let ch’all know what I put my ears on, let me tell y’all one damn thing… Blaire is like a younger sister to me – a younger sister who happens to be talented as all hell, but you’ll never hear that from her. If you have not seen her perform live, you’re only cheating yourself…trust me. It was only right that we work together on SOMETHING soon. With all that said, I checked my inbox and listened to the joint and heard Blaire going IN on music that I composed… From what I heard, I think I just received the song that will be closing SunStorm.

With PPP In Chicago @ The Shrine – 07.02.09

Well… Hit the airport for our 45 minute flight to Chicago and got to O’Hare and found a limo pulling up for us. Oh word? We were in there taking pictures like we’ve never been anywhere before… Gotta enjoy yourself right? Hahahahaha.

Anyway, we pulled up to the hotel, checked in… got grub, and hit the soundcheck. The check was long as hell, but once they got the sound locked in, it was a wrap and it was sounding good. Toward the end, in walks Muhsinah and fellow ELs member SlimKat78 to set up and check as they were scheduled to go on before us.

We had a looong time of waiting around at the hotel before we were to return to the spot to perform, so I got a workout and a pre-show meal in before we had to jet up. Once we got to the Shrine, we were informed that the place was pretty much packed out, which is ALWAYS good news. Now, once the show started…it went smoothly, until the end when they cut our set a song short because the club was about to close in 10 minutes. Can you say horrible time management? Damn man, it didn’t feel good to leave the crowd hanging like that. On top of that, the after the show piece when I like to get out there, mingle, say ‘what up’ to everybody who came out was eliminated as security was wanting everybody to leave immediately. It was confusion… but a great show once again.

On the Road With PPP in Detroit @ CityFest – 07.01.09

Our West Coast trip in March wasn’t enough… Waajeed, Coultrain, Monica Blaire, Sydney Driver, and myself had to get back up again and roll through a couple more spots before it was all said and done. The first stop this time around was the spot where three of us call home, Detroit where we played at CityFest opening for De La Soul on the main stage.

Because of the early flight, I stayed up all night (surprise, surprise) and arrived at BWI Airport at about 4am. Delta was obviously having problems checking folks in, because despite the fact that I was there 2 hours prior to take off, by the time I got checked in, went through security, and got to the gate it was 5:50am …my flight left at 6am.


Once I landed in The D, Moms came to scoop from the airport and I got home and passed out on the couch. When I finally woke up, I checked outside and made sure I said a prayer for the bad weather to hold off until we played… Well, the weather held off during soundcheck, that was no problem. But soon after that, it started to POUR. We were scheduled to go on at 7pm and because of the downpour, the people got outta there for a minute. The rain held off for a little while once we did get on stage and the soundman had us sounding real good up there. The rain started to come back down in the middle of us playing “Stay With Me.” The thing that got me was, once the rain came back…the people stayed – how ’bout that?! I think that said a whole lot about the crowd and support group that we have back home, kats hung with us out there and I am very appreciative of that. Moms, Pops and my younger sister came out… popped open the umbrellas and enjoyed themselves – even took pictures for me. After the show, my family came back to the trailer and kicked it for a little while with the entire group, the brotha Maestro of Silent Riot stopped through, along with Mudd of 5 Ela. Everybody was just crackin’ jokes, talkin’ shiff and having a good time.

I ended up rolling to Champps with the family to get fat and have some drainks, in which I had two… We closed the night out by laughing at Shaq & Cedric the Entertainer’s Comedy special, which was HILARIOUS.

On to Chicago….!