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Who do you regard as some of the most important figures in our culture, and why? Well while you think of the answer, here's some of mine: 

How Diddy and Bad Boy infiltrated and conquered pop culture in the 2000s

A year prior to the release of the tone-setting "Special Delivery," the Gregorian calendar simultaneously reached a new century, decade, and golden age of transforming technology and progressive points of view. This important time shift seemed to be the bookend for Bad Boy Records to most critics. With the death of the empire's grandmaster talent The Notorious B.I.G. three years prior—and the aftermath being an onslaught of "he's turning hip-hop into a commercial pop joke" condemnations directed
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From DeFord Bailey to Ray Charles to Solange: The Long Lineage of Black Artists Making Country Music Pop

As a genre stemming from an alchemy of blues and folk, country music has a storied history in Black art spaces. Despite this presence often being erased, cast away, or discredited, from the 1920s to 2019, Black artists have been the one’s pioneering and preserving country music, and that impact can be seen through its traverse influence over art from across genres and generations.

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Charting Black Excellence | Revisiting Toni Braxton's "countless bops" because Beyoncé said so

Usually when Beyoncé does a digital drop on any social platform, it’s like no other and you feel obligated to listen. On Halloween 2017, Bey took the internet by storm by recreating a few iconic and cult-favorite looks from Lil’ Kim. This past Halloween Eve, Instagram timelines were blessed by the singer dressing as one of her other idols: Toni Braxton. According to the artist who most hail as “Queen Bey,” Braxton is “one of our talented legends (who serves) countless bops.”

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How Amerie's '4AM' EPs recall Prince's 'Purple Rain' soundtrack

One of the perks of listening to any solid music project—in the case, Amerie’s double-disced 4AM EPs—is pinpointing possible influences. On the first of the EPs, 4AM Mulholland, that eureka moment of tracing back happens during the three-track stretch starting with “The Wall,” followed by the EP’s titular track, and ending with “A Heart’s For The Breaking.” It’s at the heavy dosage of electric guitar in “The Wall,” the concept of driving around to find love (with a hint of 80s new wave noir) on “Mulholland,” and the etherealness existing on “A Heart’s For The Breaking” that rings truest to the vibes of Prince’s Purple Rain.

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Beyoncé and JAY-Z's 'On The Run II Tour' stop in Vancouver was full of lessons

For the past 11 days, I embarked on my first journey through the west coast of the U.S. Since the Carters announced their "On The Run II Tour," I had the bright idea to see them outside of my home base of New York City. Recently, I developed a new hobby of attending concerts in different cities because I was somewhat tired of the same event humdrum the Big Apple had to offer. I thought Vancouver would be the perfect location to witness the royal American music couple, while simultaneously immersing myself in foreign culture. What originally had been an excuse to finally vacation in Canada expanded into a more grand musical journey.

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Why Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz's "Uproar" is a meaningful single for the culture

Cue up the Diddy voice 'cause, “let’s go!!!” That’s just how fire Lil Wayne’s “Uproar” is. Coming in at the fourth track of his Tha Carter V, “Uproar” stands ready to rumble. It’s a warning and (simultaneous) call-to-arms to the haters of Weezy—or his doubters, if you will—as he continuously asks throughout the track “What the fuck though? Where the love go?” Simply put, “Uproar” has the potential to be an anthem tailored for the streets.

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Revisiting how T.I.'s 'Paper Trail' made him the kingpin of the mainstream

On September 30, 2008, the world would receive T.I.’s sixth studio album, Paper Trail. While serving a house arrest and awaiting his one-year sentence (after pleading guilty to possessing illegal firearms as a previously convicted felon), T.I. crafted the lyrics and album's concept. Of course, Paper Trail would mark a brief going-away party of sorts, but it also solidified Clifford Harris as the King of Trap he claimed to be since his second album, 2003’s Trap Muzik.

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Charting Black Excellence | Cardi B's three No. 1's & her genuine love for female hip-hop

Exactly a year ago (Sept. 24), Cardi B's debut lead single "Bodak Yellow" reached No. 1 on the Hot 100. It had been 19 years since a woman earned that accomplishment by herself, without guests, standing on her own grounds. Now, Cardi B has three No. 1 singles thanks to Maroon 5's "Girls Like You." Through earning these accomplishments, here's how she paid homage to the women in rap that preceeded her reign.

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Revisiting how Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' era set the pop industry standard

What had also become evident from Thriller, thanks to the executive-producing genius of Quincy Jones, is how each song managed to balance on a fine line of pop choruses and lyrical structuring with R&B-fueled instrumentation and sub-genres. In an internet-breaking interview with Vulture earlier this year, Jones mused about working with Michael Jackson, making some shocking accusations about the singer’s work ethic, but also mentioning something that could explain why Thriller stood out from the rest.

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On the dreamlike production and songwriting of Pharrell, as exhibited in "R.E.M."

Prior to the release of Ariana Grande’s Sweetener on August 17, one of the album’s central tracks was already at the top of online discussions. It had slowly trickled out that Beyoncé had once recorded a version of Ari's “R.E.M.,” instead titling it “Wake Up,” for her self-titled surprise opus in 2013, originally intending for the album to be doo-wop centric. Holding her own candle to Queen Bey’s, Grande also executes her version with her own magical touch. Through this, Pharrell alchemised a case of a song being good no matter whose hands it ends up in, thanks to strong producing and songwriting.

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7 arguments for why each Beyoncé album could be her best

Dangerously In Love was a debut effort coming from someone who was hungry to captivate the masses with an aptitude for slaying. You could tell by the moment she arrived hanging upside down from a ceiling to perform "Baby Boy" at the 2003 VMAs. Or when she shimmied alongside Prince at the 2004 Grammys—a rite of passage for those deemed talented enough by the Purple One. Beyoncé made performing look effortless, and in the process she trademarked her signature, grandiose stage presence which matche

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Revisiting Brandy's 'Never Say Never' 20 years later

In a few transformational years leading up to 1998, Missy Elliott and Timbaland framed contemporary R&B's formula of electronic bass beats underscoring witty feminist lyricism, birthing the subgenre of Electro-Hop&B. Singles from the all female-ensemble Waiting To Exhale soundtrack signaled how quiet storm R&B had been a viable candidate in the higher rungs of pop charts and adult contemporary radio.

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Revisiting Beyoncé's "Crazy In Love" 15 years later

On May 18, 2003, it didn’t take long for music listeners to hear the brassy gogo-funk horns at the start of “Crazy In Love” to know that Beyoncé had her first solo hit on her hands. What was even more impressive about the Rich Harrison-produced track—at a runtime of 3 minutes and 56 seconds—is how it established Queen Bey as the dominating entity we know her as today, making for a larger impression as a debut statement.

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Revisiting Aaliyah’s Strangest Song, An Homage to Soap Villain Erica Kane | Pitchfork

Thirty-eight years ago today (January 16, 1979), Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn. Nine years earlier to the day, the biggest diva the soap opera world has ever known made her debut, when Susan Lucci joined the cast of ABC’s “All My Children” as Erica Kane. The connection between the divas runs deeper than the same birthday. On the remastered edition of Aaliyah’s final album, 2001’s Aaliyah, as well as her posthumous greatest hits compilation, *I Care 4 U *(2002), appears a peculiar bonus track title...

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From Aretha Franklin to Beyonce, 50 Lyrics Celebrating Female Empowerment

What does it mean to be an empowered woman in 2017? Whether it's a punch line delivered by today's biggest powerhouses and newcomers or the gritty bars of the game-changing female MCs of hip-hop, every artist can agree that it's harder for a woman to make it in the industry while balancing everyday life. For these hip-hop and R&B entertainers, each act has delivered lyrics that challenge the notions of how women should conduct themselves in society while striving to be her own independent woman. Here are the Top 50.

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Nelly Furtado's 'The Ride' May Be the Most Slept-On Release of 2017: Critic's Take

Over the weekend at a karaoke bar in the southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a couple got up to sing Nelly Furtado and Timbaland's "Promiscuous." After they finished their sentimental moment, I turned to a friend and asked, "Did you know she just released an album at the end of last month?" "Wait... What? No way! What has Nelly Furtado been doing?" It wasn't the first time I received that type of reaction. In fact, it's been universal for the past few weeks since the pop star released her sixth studio album, The Ride.

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