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Jada Nycole Ellise: “Old Redford”

The latest single from emerging artist Jada Nycole Ellise manages to evoke many things at once — texture, taste and history. Born in the Motor City but based in the A (“Detroit made, ATL saved,” she says), she also has a penchant for poetic language. This gives us lines ranging from the playful wink of “It’s that sugar in your grits that made your girl real thicc” to the depth and power of “This that Deep South rooted / This that Georgia Alabama bloodline / Took lemon and lime and made / Sweet of the days when / This was just promise land.”

Her delivery includes jazzy, direct, soulful-in-the-vein-of-’90s-R&B elements (especially D’Angelo, whom you’ll hear as an influence on this track). 

A 2014 graduate of the Detroit School of the Arts — the high school the late Aaliyah attended — Ellise competed in the Detroit Jazz Festival’s Youth Vocal Competition and was named runner-up. She attended Spelman for college, majoring in music and thinking that she might want to teach. Eventually performing exerted its gravitational pull. 

She has already gone through a few transformations, previously working under the stage name qtz (short for “quartz”) before switching back to her full name in 2019. Ellise purposefully crafts the stripped-down, simplified style of her songs to create an intimacy with her audience — as if she’s sitting down to share her creative process with you one-on-one, on a Saturday morning with a warm caffeinated beverage in hand. In fact, her self-produced debut album, Temporary Colors, released in June 2020, features a tune called “Green Tea.”

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Buckhead Shaman: “Get the Lotion”

Released just a few days ago, this low-key, tongue-in-cheek pop experiment comes to us from the multifaceted Buckhead Shaman, the brainchild of musician Tyler Hobbs. What’s great about it is that it continues the tradition of modern-day music paying homage to, and continuing the work of, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. We hear multiple instruments and sound effects, including plain ol’ breathing (Hobbs’ “Psycho” has a direct refrain from Wilson’s “Love and Mercy”). The closest equivalents from modern music might be MGMT or Animal Collective, the latter of which was already mostly a Wilson tribute band.

Hobbs has talked about the name that references one of Atlanta’s most polarizing neighborhoods. In a recent interview, he explained that he intended it as “an online persona delivering facetious health, wellness and spiritual guidance.” But as he began to make music, he continued “poking fun at Buckhead’s consumerism and pseudo-spiritual residents obsessed with their health.”

“Get the Lotion” is the first single from his third album, the upcoming The Janitor, his third album. It features a deadpan delivery, wry lyrics about a “fantasy beach day gone awry” and a worried but whimsical throwback psychedelic ‘70s vibe. For more on Hobbs, check out his appearance on Adult Swim’s Karaoke Doke show hosted by Stephanie Lennox.

 

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Kris Kross: “Jump” (performed live on In Living Color)

At the end of March 1992, almost exactly 29 years ago, Kris Kross released its album Totally Krossed Out. And while many events from ‘90s pop culture are being revisited these days, it’s fitting to look back for our Vintage Track of the Week at just how extraordinary this phenomenon was.

A 19-year-old Jermaine Dupri discovered the preteen duo at Greenbriar Mall. As he put it in a 2020 social-media post, he was “driven by a spirit of adventure and a criminal level of optimism.” He also realized that Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith, barely out of elementary school, had a confidence and spark he thought might turn into performing chops. “Dupri’s vision was simple: a kid rap group,” the Los Angeles Times said. “But it was the execution of ‘Jump,’ and most of their debut, that was brilliant. He tightly weaved oft-sampled funk standards . . .  over innocuous rhymes he penned.”

The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for 21 weeks. At 12 and 13 years old, the Chrisses had hit it big and soon landed a spot on tour with Michael Jackson, a bit troubling to think about now. 

A few amazing things about this clip: The two apparently didn’t know how to rap until Dupri coached them, so it’s insanely impressive to realize that we’re seeing the appearance of seasoned pros after less than a year of rehearsal. (Look for Fly Girl J Lo jumping animatedly in the background.)

Kelly died in an Atlanta hospital on May 1, 2013, at age 34, after being found unresponsive at his home following a drug overdose. It sounds like he had struggled to overcome addiction for a while.

The duo had reunited just months earlier to perform together for the first time in years to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the So So Def label. As Washington Post columnist Rahiel Tesfamariam said of this lightning-in-a-bottle moment, noting that in many ways hip-hop prodigies gave us a refreshing dose of “kids being kids” while impacting the industry in ways we only now realize. “Through a ‘90s kid-rap group, we, as Black youth, were not only given a piece of hip-hop history that was uniquely our own, we were given something that smelled like our culture’s teen spirit.”

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