Category: Lady Gaga

Ice-T gets back to hip-hop roots in ‘The Art of Rap’

In the new film ‘Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,’ Ice-T reels in artists like Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Eminem to tell the story of hip-hop’s gritty beginnings.
Ice-T“Look around you,” says Ice-T. “Where are the Bentleys?”

Even amid the pleasantly neutral setting of a Hollywood press day, there’s still one topic that gets the 54-year-old rapper-actor riled up, and it’s not his 12 seasons on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

“In rap, everyone is driving a Bentley and drinking Cristal,” says Ice-T, born Tracy Marrow. “That’s not reality. We have a war, we have a black president, we have people unemployed, we have people losing their homes, we have some pretty serious stuff and music is not reflecting it. It’s like everything is Lady Gaga and life is perfect.”

To remind the public of a time when hip-hop more regularly addressed societal concerns comes Ice-T’s directorial debut, “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.”

The documentary -- out this week -- offers candid interviews with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Grandmaster Caz, Kanye West, Mos Def, Nas, Rakim and many others, probing the masters of the genre on their inspiration. The film stops short, however, of presenting a thesis. Still, Ice-T had a mission: To capture secrets of the craft from as many artists as possible, and remind artists, fans and moguls that rap is more than “money, cars, girls, jewelry or beefs.”

The film is arriving at a time when other hip-hop pioneers are taking a preservationist view toward the genre. In L.A., acclaimed indie artist Murs is staging a six-month-long hip-hop performance series, “Through the Mic,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Superstar Jay-Z has also become a curator of sorts, and is programming a multi-genre, two-day festival in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend.

As one of L.A’s groundbreaking rap pioneers, Ice-T specialized in bringing a moralistic bent to inner-city tales. His 1988 single “Colors,” from the film of the same name, captured the toll L.A. gang life has on a family, and 1992’s “Cop Killer” was a ferocious reaction against the LAPD following the beating of Rodney King.

The latter, recorded with his rock band Body Count, galvanized those who fought for explicit content stickers on albums, and the violence-in-lyrics controversy ultimately led to his split from Warner Bros. Records. His 1993 “Race War” addressed whether any lessons had been learned from the L.A. riots (they had), and now “The Art of Rap” culls stories from many who had a hand in hip-hop’s countercultural beginnings.

Today, Ice-T’s acting and celebrity persona have arguably eclipsed his rap roots. His résumé ranges from the tough 1991 film “New Jack City” to the blithe, unscripted E! series “Ice Loves Coco.” But despite venturing out of the studio and in front of the camera, Ice-T’s plea to return substance to the pop charts isn’t just talk.

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Lady Gaga a target of Indonesia, Thailand and Madonna

Lady Gaga protests in Indonesia

The American pop export known as Lady Gaga keeps running into trouble as she tours Asia. First, she was pegged as a "devil" by Islamic hardliners in Indonesia, where protests and security concerns forced the cancellation of a June 3 concert. Now, the 26-year-old pop star is causing a ruckus for tweeting that she was going to use her time in Thailand to buy a "fake Rolex." 

In the never-ending soap opera that is the life of an international superstar -- one of the globe's few -- Lady Gaga is suddenly pop-culture's safest target. Even Madonna, whose once contentious "Like A Prayer" is today family-friendly halftime show entertainment, is piling it on.

Rehearsal footage surfaced online from Madonna's "MDNA" tour, and it sees Madge mashing up her self-empowerment anthem "Express Yourself" with Lady Gaga's kindred "Born This Way." A sly wink to their thematic and tuneful similarities? Perhaps, yet Madonna and subtlety don't always go hand in hand, and Madonna ends the live rendition with "Hard Candy's" bitter "She's Not Me." Madonna's tour starts Thursday in Tel Aviv, so watch the rehearsal clip on YouTube before it's removed. 

When "Born This Way" was released it was the subject of much back and forth between Team Madonna and Team Lady Gaga, a debate that was already tired last February when Lady Gaga was forced to address it on national television. Little on a tour the size of a Madonna or Lady Gaga is off the cuff, and Madonna has already slammed "Born This Way" as "reductive," so working it into "Express Yourself" seems rather petty, an admission that the song isn't harmless but rather an irritant. 

The only winner in all this is Lady Gaga. It's Gaga's whose Twitter will be stalked in hopes of a response, and it's Gaga whose U.S. tour in 2013 will have blogs like this one wondering if she'll retaliate. For Lady Gaga is in that magical/infuriating moment where all she has to do is write a harmless Tweet and she's inspiring wire stories.

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Elton John, Lady Gaga among pop stars snubbed in Oscar best song category

Click for photos of the top nominees

The consolation for Elton John, Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Chris Cornell, Zooey Deschanel and other superstar pop, rock and country musicians who got snubbed in the best song Academy Award nominations announced Tuesday is that they’re in pretty stellar company.

With just two songs earning nominations —“Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” and “Real in Rio” from “Rio” -- the list of also-rans includes a bounty of heavyweight performers and songwriters.

Yet they didn’t score enough points with Academy voters to make the final nomination list. Voters had 39 songs to sort through this year, for which they were asked to assign a score to each on a scale of 6 to 10 points, after viewing clips from each film that included the eligible song.

FULL COVERAGE: The Oscar nominees

Only songs that received an average of 8.25 points or more could be nominated, with a maximum of five songs in the category, and no more than two songs from the same film.

Among the songs that fell short of that score were two Elton John songs from “Gnomeo and Juliet”: “Love Builds a Garden” and his duet with Lady Gaga, “Hello Hello.” Mary J. Blige’s “Living Proof” from “The Help” and Elvis Costello’s “Sparkling Day” from “One Day” were under consideration, along with Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell’s “The Keeper” from “Machine Gun Preacher,” Deschanel’s “So Long” from “Winnie the Pooh” and Black Eyed Peas member’s “Hot Wings,” also from “Rio.”

One of the most powerful songs to appear in a movie last year was J. Ralph’s “Hell and Back,” sung by Willie Nelson. But because it appeared in a documentary, director Danfung Dennis’ “Hell and Back Again” about the war in Afghanistan, it was a longshot for a nomination.

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Beatles versus the Stones: Who’s better?

Beatles versus the Stones: Who's better? What about MJ versus Prince? These and other pop music debates are settled.

Rolling Stones tribute band Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Beatles tribute band Abbey Road

Friday night at the Brixton South Bay in Redondo Beach, a score was settled. It’s a question that historians have wrestled with, that drunken pub-goers have come to blows over, that has broken up thousands of otherwise happy couples over the last four decades: Which is the better band, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Although the answer to this musical litmus test is obvious to anyone with half a brain (see below for details), two tribute acts, Abbey Road and Jumpin’ Jack Flash, sought to definitively answer this question in a contest of dueling sets made up of formative era-songs of the mid-1960s through their later work. (Considering the stakes, it was surprising that CNN and BBC satellite trucks weren’t stationed outside.)

During the duel on Friday, the four-piece Abbey Road came out as the dark-suited, mop-topped young Beatles and dropped quality renditions of “She Loves You,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” while Jumpin’ Jack Flash delivered the way raunchier — and darker and smarter, catchier and well, better — “Mother’s Little Helper,” “Paint It Black,” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The next night, No Doubt cover band No Duh was on a bill with the Red Not Chili Peppers and 40 Oz. to Freedom, a Sublime tribute act. Below, a few other yin-and-yang couplings that might work well in the future — the preferences of which may or may not serve as a reliable barometer of a person’s musical tastes.

• Biggie or Tupac

Imagine for a moment if the Beatles versus Stones rivalry had turned ugly, and Beatles manager Brian Epstein had been implicated in a hit on Brian Jones that saw Andrew Loog Oldham retaliating by taking out John Lennon: That’s one mythic scenario that’s grown around the beef between Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace and Tupac Shakur, both of whom were murdered at their respective artistic peaks. Biggie’s flow or Tupac’s urgency?

• Prince or Michael Jackson

Although it may not seem so since the late Michael Jackson was enshrined as the King of Pop, in the 1980s the more obsessive of Prince fans cast dispersions on MJ as being a mere pop star, albeit one with a lineage to die for, a couple classic jams, and one amazing Moonwalk. Meanwhile, Prince remains the visionary funk auteur with a commanding artistic vision. A preference for one over the other is telling.

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U2 is tops again in concert and music-sales revenue

The Irish band tops Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga for concert and music-sales revenues.

Demonstrating that there's no substitute for the live concert experience, U2 has once again taken the crown in Calendar's annual Ultimate Top 10, a ranking that combines concert revenue with sales of recorded music.

U2 amassed $160.8 million for 2011, well ahead of runner-up Taylor Swift, whose combined earnings came to $126.8 million. Lady Gaga was the only other act to top $100 million, posting $109.4 million to place third. Country music road warrior Kenny Chesney landed in fourth place with $98.5 million. The year's blockbuster album and singles sales champ, Adele, pulled in at fifth place with $92.8 million, a figure that certainly would have been higher if vocal cord problems hadn't forced her to cancel big chunks of her 2011 tour itinerary.

Figures are drawn from Pollstar's recently published tallies of North American box office revenues and Nielsen SoundScan's tracking of retail music sales in the U.S. The Ultimate Top 10 uses figures from North America because they are tracked more reliably than in many other parts of the world. But most of these musicians pulled in even more than these totals with ever-expanding ancillary income sources such as tour merchandise, product endorsements, video game sales, ring tones and clothing and jewelry lines.

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Adele logs top-selling album and song of 2011

Adele Adele
To the surprise of virtually no one, Adele’s “21” is officially the top-selling album of 2011, with a final tally of 5.82 million copies, while the British soul singer’s single “Rolling in the Deep” was the year’s bestselling song with 5.81 million copies, according to Billboard, based on Nielsen SoundScan's year-end sales report.

Adele’s album has not dropped out of the Top 10 since it entered the chart at No. 1 in February. It is now in its 14th non-consecutive week as the nation’s top-selling album.

Michael Bublé’s latecomer holiday entry “Christmas” was the No. 2 selling album of the year with nearly 2.5 million copies, followed by Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” (2.1 million), Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter IV” (1.9 million) and Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party” (1.6 million).

The remainder of the top 5-selling digital songs behind “Rolling In the Deep” are LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” (5.5 million), Katy Perry’s “E.T.” (4.8 million), Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” (4.1 million) and Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything” (3.9 million).

Industry -wide perhaps the best news in the year-end figures is that album sales increased over the previous year for the first time since 2004, up 1% to 330.6 million units, compared to 326.2 million in 2010. Overall music sales, including albums, singles, music video and digital tracks, increased nearly 7% in 2011 compared to a year earlier.

More from Nielsen SoundScan’s year-end report will be reported in Thursday’s Calendar.


U2, Taylor Swift have highest-grossing concert tours of 2011

The most memorable moments of 2011

Adele to have surgery to treat vocal cord hemorrhage. What is it?

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Adele's performance in February at the 2011 Brit Awards at the O2 Arena in London. Credit: Joel Ryan / Associated Press.

U2, Taylor Swift have highest-grossing concert tours of 2011

U2 has highest-grossing concert tour of 2011. In North America, Taylor Swift is second, followed by Kenny Chesney, Lady Gaga and Bon Jovi.

Taylor Swift, Bono
U2's final spate of shows on its massive “360 Tour” lands as the top-grossing tour of 2011 across North America and throughout the world, according to Pollstar, the concert-industry tracking magazine.

The Irish quartet, which had to postpone a significant chunk of shows that had been scheduled in 2010 when singer Bono injured his back, roared back in 2011, pulling in $156 million from 25 shows in 21 cities in North America. Worldwide the group logged $231.9 million from 34 shows in 26 cities.

U2 was the only act to cross the $100-million mark in North America, but pop-country princess Taylor Swift came close with$97.7 million for her “Speak Now” tour, which visited 59 cities for 80 performances.

PHOTOS: Top 10 concert tours of 2011

The rest of the Top 5 for the continent are country superstar Kenny Chesney, who grossed $84.6 million, Lady Gaga ($63.7 million) and the previous year's touring crown winner Bon Jovi. The New Jersey rock band registered $57.1 million during 34 shows in 27 cities, down from $108.2 million in 2010 racked up during a more intensive year of touring that logged 51 shows in 38 cities.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Elton John ($51.8 million), Sade ($48.6 million), Kanye West and Jay-Z's “The Throne” tour ($48.3 million), Lil Wayne ($44.4 million) and Celine Dion ($41.2 million).
Overall Pollstar's preliminary figures for the Top 25 tours showed total gross ticket revenue of $1.19 billion, down about 4% from the $1.24 billion tallied in 2010 in North America. Worldwide, the figures were nearly identical year to year at $2.1 billion.

“Although the overall dollar volume was down in 2011, the industry fared much better doing fewer shows and taking a more cautious approach in its objectives,” Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni said in a statement issued along with the revenue figures. Pollstar's complete report on the Top 200 tours of the year is scheduled to be released Jan. 5.

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Pop music review: KIIS-FM’s dance-heavy Jingle Ball

This year, the top 40 station put a satin bow on the Europhile club sound, giving dance music fans a shot at raving to the beats of Guetta, Lady Gaga, Taio Cruz and Flo Rida.

In a back row of the Nokia Theatre on Saturday night, a boy of about 6 in a dark purple hoodie took in David Guetta’s No. 1 pop single "Without You" and absolutely raved his face off. The kid knew every move in a glowsticker’s handbook, waving his palms at the yearning build-ups and fist pumping at the Ibiza bliss-outs. He sang every word to the song, and shrieked Guetta’s name when it was done.

Let’s recap how important this is. Dance music’s conquest of American pop is so complete that a child in elementary school can be a Beatles-on-Ed-Sullivan-style fan of a French electronic producer who does not sing live and whose performance is visually incomprehensible to most of his audience. And he was far, far from alone at Nokia.

This year’s KIIS-FM Jingle Ball, perhaps the most reliable round-table of what top 40 is valuing these days, put a satin bow on the Europhile club sound and made it the one present radio fans might be getting in perpetuity. The lineup included four-on-the-floor adherents such as Guetta, pop’s weirdo mother superior Lady Gaga, plus Taio Cruz and Flo Rida. With dance music this pervasive, maybe the DJ software company Serato Audio Research needs to come out with a kids’ version.

PHOTOS: The 2011 KIIS Jingle Ball

One problem was obvious from the beginning -- the show started at 6:45 p.m. If you wanted to catch Nickelodeon’s experiment in boy-band media synergy, Big Time Rush, and the end of Gaga’s set, you were in your chair for 4 1/2 hours. That kind of stage commitment would wear out Springsteen, plus KIIS devoted way too much time to inane DJ yakking with cable-TV celebrities.

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Lady Gaga dismisses longtime creative director Laurieann Gibson

Laurieann Gibson
Lady Gaga and her longtime creative director Laurieann Gibson have parted ways professionally.

After hip-hop gossip site MediaTakeOut reported that the two recently had a “bitter fight,” a source close to Gibson confirmed to Pop & Hiss late Sunday that the choreographer indeed had been dismissed by Gaga.

Their partnership goes back to 2007, when Gaga was a new signee at Interscope Records. Though the singer's vocal ability and musicianship was always there, Gibson has been credited by many with shaping the then-struggling singer into the multiplatinum, Grammy-winning performer of today.

Gibson recalled the pair's initial conversations during an interview with The Times in 2010. “She came to me like, 'I got dropped and I don’t really know if I have it in me to know what I need to do to make my dream come true.' And then she played me her record and I said, 'Listen, I’ve got enough for the both of us, let’s go.’ We started designing her opinion as a live performer and what that would be, what the records would feel like visually. How would 'Just Dance' turn into 'Poker Face,' into 'Bad Romance' — and now the 'Monster Ball' [tour].”

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Lady Gaga to premiere Thanksgiving special on ABC


Lady Gaga doesn’t look like the type to sit down over turkey and all the trimmings, but the singer couldn't resist treating her Little Monsters to her first holiday special.

Gaga will premiere the aptly titled “A Very Gaga Thanksgiving” on ABC. The 90-minute Thanksgiving day special was conceived and directed by the singer and promises to offer a glimpse into her private life.

She will perform eight songs in front of a small audience of close friends and family. Beside the hits, Gaga will perform “The Lady Is a Tramp” with Tony Bennett, “Marry the Night,” “You and I,” “The Edge of Glory” and the holiday classic “White Christmas.” 

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