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New Music

Check out Jay Steele’s latest single “For Tha Love”

‘For The Love’ is a joyous record that takes hip hop and gives it an alternative makeover. Standing apart from the crowd just a bit, Jay Steele does his own thing in the modern era of the genre with tracks that include hints of jazz, maturity and a heavy dose of originality. Despite living with severe fibromyalgia, which he details on his song “What I Can Do,” Jay thrives in his music. Wanting to bring back the days of golden age greats like De La Soul A Tribe Called Quest, and Big Daddy Kane, Steele is doing what he can to provide nostaligia wrapped in modern joy.

He married a compassionate special ed. teacher like the ones who helped him when he struggled so immensely early in life, and he made the music he wanted to hear in the world. After being diagnosed with a serious medical condition, he joined the ranks of the disabled musicians around the globe who didn’t let their disability stop them from bringing their art to life. After 20 years and 8 albums of having his music fueled in large part by disdain, anger, and disgust; this album is powered purely by love.

Eschewing celebrity, status, and ego, Jay Steele has expressed that his primary purpose now is making people happy with his music, which is especially epitomized in the lyrics of his song “Spreadin Joy.”

“I’ve seen the laughter, the smiles, the dancing, and the joy that my music has sparked in people,” Jay explains. “I feel like that’s worth more than any amount of money, and my goal now is to spread that joy to those who would appreciate it.”

The album’s positive vibes emanate resolutely right from the first two tracks. “Givin Thanks,” a “Juicy” by Biggie Smalls like autobiographical and jubilant tune, precedes the aforementioned song.

There is an unabashed emphasis on “For Tha Love” of taking the art of rhyme back to the foundation, which is evident in lyrics like, “Conscious raiser – orator – hip hop culture preservator – graffiti – breakin’ – rap – and DJ demonstrator,” which can be found on “Tha Rhyme Conductor.”

The project’s artwork resoundingly reflects this as well with graffiti on the front cover drawn by renowned graffiti artist “MindGem.” Then there is the graffiti on the back cover (of his name and album title) drawn by Jay himself, who is also a long time visual artist.

The beats on this album are very unique and diverse, or in the words of Abstrack Recording Studio engineer Jeff Mulligan, who worked on the project, “Nothin’ on here sounds the same.” Listeners will find a wide array of instrumentation ranging from mesmerizing keyboards, powerful orchestral notes, smooth electric piano, and mysterious and dramatic strings.

“Musical Family” may stand out the most, however, because it amounts to what may be the first mother and son collaboration in hip hop history. On this one, Jay raps over a violin played by his mom, who was Philadelphia All-City Orchestra in high school.

“We produced the beat together,” Jay says. “My mom came to the studio and played a violin rendition of a beat idea that I beatboxed for her.” Ultimately though, an alternative beat presented itself.

“My mom didn’t want to stop playing and kept improvising different sounds with her violin,” Jay recalls. Then, as his mom tells it, “This place kept inspiring me to make all these mystical beats!” She ended up playing one that really piqued Jay’s interest and imagination, and from over 30 minutes of music, Jay selected a spectacular 3 second segment and looped it, and the familial collaboration was conceived.

Another beat that stands out for its eclectic originality is the Silent NRG produced “Global NRG.” This beat was brewed in Hong Kong, and the sounds of the region, including the 2,500 year old zheng string instrument, are inextricable.

Steele’s style showcases a proliferation of alliteration and sublime, tightly intertwined, timed rhymes combined with a mountain of metaphors. His vocals transmit in a raspier fashion half of the time, which has drawn comparisons to Nas. In tandem with his standard tone, the resulting vocal variety makes for a sonically dynamic contrast.

Jay’s customary voice projects very deep, powerful, and smooth in a manner evoking iconic emcees like Big Daddy Kane, Parrish Smith (of EPMD), Doctor Dre, and The Fresh Prince. In fact, some may find “Givin Thanks” to be reminiscent of the timeless classic hit “Summertime,” with Jay espousing meaningful, grateful, and highly relatable lyrics with smooth flavor like that of Will Smith himself.

Of course, when it comes to lyricism, “Tha Rhyme Conductor” again must be discussed. With its crazy combination of crafty puns and metaphors, combined with a myriad of creatively placed, high voltage, cinematic sound effects, this concoction could certainly be described as electrifying. Listening to the lyrics, it’s clear that this type of effect is the intent. “I feel like I was able to summon up all of my creativity, and energy, and to unleash it on this one,” Jay recounts.

Steele’s writing has been catapulted by love, which is abundantly apparent in “No Better Present,” a romantic love song capable of conjuring memories of classic raps like “The Lover in You” by Big Daddy Kane and Method Man’s “You’re All I Need.” The continuity ensues with “Rap Appreciation,” which is a nostalgic love letter to hip-hop itself. It could be construed as a happier version of Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.”

“What I Can Do” is yet another very personally revealing and meaningful collection of lyrics. This composition is dedicated to those contending with cases of severe fibromyalgia, as he is. The lyrics depict a bit of what it’s like to experience this disease while offering hope in the form of ideas to help manage it. It ends by revealing that Steele has been a leader of a New Jersey support group for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and he concludes by providing his email address for those who would be interested in receiving a comprehensive list of resources that could be helpful for managing the disabilities/symptoms.

“Peace Not War” features a rare portrait of a rapper acknowledging his own specific character flaws in an effort toward personal growth. This aim imbues ideas in lines like, “Trying to change everybody – everybody but me – what I need is less me – and more humility.” Jay actually intended to put this track on his album “Solid Steele,” which is comprised of material he made between the years 2001-2006. (It should be noted that from 2006-2013 he released 5 albums, including “Music for a Better World,” under the name “Tha Truth,” which have had a global impact in their promotion of human rights.)

“I didn’t think I was physically capable of recording much ever again when I wrote Peace Not War,” Jay acknowledges. “I was just going to put it on “Solid Steele,” but my wife said she thought I should make a whole new album. She said that’s what she wanted, and that’s when I decided to try and do it.”

An additional aspect of note about this album is the exuberant exhibition of echoes. When Jay first began recording at Mulligan’s studio in Deptford, NJ, the engineer was left awestruck. After amassing decades of studio experience he reflected, “I’ve seen a lot of people try to do that [with echoes], but I’ve never heard anyone do it so well.” Subsequently, when Jay asked him to use his equipment to provide an echo, Jeff responded, “I like it better when you do it.” Alas, from that point on Mulligan began referring to Jay as both “The Echo Messiah” and “The Human Echo Machine.” The latter became the title of an interlude that encapsulates their amusement at the fact that Jay ended up performing virtually the entirety of echoes heard on the project without the aid of studio generated echo effects.

Overall, “For Tha Love” harkens back to the days when hip hop was more innovative, fun, and positive, and artists like De La Soul, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Heavy D, and Kid ‘n Play ruled the day. “Rap Appreciation” is a quintessential ode paying tribute to artists like this that really gets to the heart of the idea of keeping these types of vibes alive (and flowing and growing).

Steele began rhyming while residing in Echelon, NJ, not far from his birthplace of Philadelphia. Jay has come a long way since his early days of raps racked with anger and vengeance (assembled after a tumultuous childhood).

Simply put, “For Tha Love” is the culmination of Jay’s trials and tribulations. It exudes the totality of his musical passion, dedication, and versatility.

It is a return to the vibes of yesteryear and a trip back to raps packed with fun, positive, mature, meaningful, and creative content. In the end, it’s music made by and “For Tha Love.”

Categories
New Music

CHRIS JASPER Releases “The Way You Love Me”

A Classic soulful R&B ballad perfect for that slow dance with the one you love. From his forthcoming 17th Solo Album due out this summer…a collection of soulful R&B and Funk!

Chris Jasper is a former member and primary songwriter for the Isley Brothers (1973-1983) and Isley-Jasper-Isley (1984-1987). In 1988, Chris went solo and has released 16 albums of soulful R&B/funk in the same style as his earlier work.

INTRODUCTION

If you are familiar with THE ISLEY BROTHERS, then you know Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, CHRIS JASPER, an integral member of THE ISLEY BROTHERS during the 1970s and 1980s—their gold and platinum years—from the 3+3 (1973) to Between the Sheets (1983) albums. These were the years when THE ISLEY BROTHERS were a self-produced, self-contained group.

If you are familiar with THE ISLEY BROTHERS, then you have heard the music of CHRIS JASPER, who was primarily responsible for writing, arranging and producing all of THE ISLEY BROTHERS music during this time, including such beautiful love songs as “For The Love of You” and “Between the Sheets” and uptempo funk such as “Fight the Power.” His arrangements and instrumentation as a classically-trained musician, and his expertise on the keyboards and synthesizers, are the foundation of the legendary “Isley Brothers Sound.” When the six members of THE ISLEY BROTHERS disbanded in 1984, Marvin and Ernie Isley joined CHRIS JASPER and formed ISLEY-JASPER-ISLEY.

CHRIS JASPER brought his “unique sound” and musical talents to ISLEY-JASPER-ISLEY, and topped the charts singing lead vocals on “Caravan of Love” (1985), a song that was covered by English recording group, the Housemartins, an international #1 pop hit. “Caravan” was also used in commercials as part of a Dodge Caravan advertising campaign. Chris was also awarded a CEBA Award For Excellence for a Miller Brewing Company commercial. The music for that commercial formed the basis for “Brother to Brother” from the “Different Drummer” album, which supported the anti-apartheid struggle going on in South Africa at that time. His music has also been used in radio and television commercials, including “Who’s That Lady” (Swiffer) and “Between The Sheets” (L’Oreal).

When ISLEY-JASPER-ISLEY disbanded (1987), CHRIS JASPER brought his “unique sound” to his own solo projects, topping the charts with “SuperBad,” a song promoting the value of education.  CHRIS JASPER has continued to write songs and produce his own R&B and Gospel music, as well as other artists, for his independent record label, Gold City Records.

CHRIS JASPER’s music has been covered and sampled by hundreds of new and established recording artists, including Whitney Houston, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, Fantasia, Will Smith, Alliyah, Queen Latifah, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Natalie Cole, Jaheim, Kendrick Lamar, and the list goes on and on.  His music has also been used in many movie and television soundtracks.

In 1992, CHRIS JASPER, along with the other members of THE ISLEY BROTHERS, was inducted into the ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME and in 2014, received a GRAMMY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. In 2015, CHRIS JASPER received the German Record Critics Lifetime Achievement Award (“Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik”). In 2016, Chris was awarded the National R&B Society Lifetime Achievement Award. Chris also received the BET Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous ASCAP awards. In 2020, along with the rest of the Isleys, Chris was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

BACKGROUND AND EDUCATION

Chris Jasper was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on December 30, 1951, the youngest of seven siblings. While growing up in Cincinnati, Chris studied classical piano starting at the age of 7 years old. After graduating from high school in Cincinnati, he moved to New York to study music composition at the Juilliard School of Music.

Chris received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in music composition from C.W. Post College in New York, where he studied under noted jazz pianist and composer, Dr. Billy Taylor. He subsequently received a Juris Doctorate degree from Concord University School of Law.

THE JASPER/ISLEY CONNECTION

The Jasper and Isley families lived in the same apartment complex in Cincinnati, Ohio. Chris’s older sister, Elaine, married Rudolph Isley. The three older Isley brothers, Rudolph, O’Kelly and Ronald, formed a vocal trio (“The Isley Brothers”) and relocated to Teaneck, New Jersey.

While temporarily living in New Jersey as a teenager, Chris and the two younger Isley brothers, Marvin and Ernie, formed a band, “The Jazzmen Trio”, that played locally in New Jersey. Chris played keyboards, Ernie played drums and Marvin played the bass. Along with Chris, Ernie and Marvin also attended C.W. Post College in New York. While in college, Chris, Marvin and Ernie played on the older Isley Brothers recordings, including “It’s Your Thing”.

THE ISLEY BROTHERS YEARS

In 1973, Chris, Marvin and Ernie brought the songwriting and musical component to the older brothers vocal trio, making The Isley Brothers, a self-produced, self-contained six-member group. Their debut release as a 6-member band on their CBS-associated label was the 3+3 album.

Chris was the primary songwriter/musician, producer and arranger of The Isley Brothers music from 1973 (“3+3”) through 1983 (“Between the Sheets”), with contributions by younger members Ernie and Marvin Isley. Chris’s arrangements and instrumentation as a classically-trained musician, and his expertise on the keyboards, synthesizers and other instruments, have been credited as the foundation of the legendary “Isley Brothers Sound.” In 1984, the 6-member group disbanded due to internal problems.

ISLEY-JASPER-ISLEY

In 1984, Chris, Marvin and Ernie formed Isley-Jasper-Isley, a self-produced, self-contained trio, with Chris as the lead singer of the group, continuing his role as the primary songwriter/musician, producer and arranger. Isley-Jasper-Isley recorded 3 albums on their CBS-associated label, and earned recognition with their #1 hit, “Caravan of Love”. “Caravan” was covered by English recording group, the Housemartins, who made the song an international #1 hit.

SOLO CAREER

In 1987, Isley-Jasper-Isley disbanded and Chris embarked on a solo career. Chris formed his record label, Gold City Records, and released two albums as a CBS-associated label. His debut single, “Superbad” reached #1 on the R&B charts. Chris has continued to write songs and has released a total of 16 solo albums to date, including 4 urban contemporary gospel CDs, and has produced other artists for his Gold City label. Chris also wrote and produced a track for Chaka Khan’s “CK” album (Make It Last) and produced and arranged a cover of “Harvest For The World” for the Average White Band. Chris is also currently working with his 27-year-old son, Michael, on music scores for original screenplays written by Michael, a writer/musician and attorney. 

In 2019, Chris released his 16th self-contained solo album “For The Love Of You”—a mixture of new renditions of some of the songs that he wrote for the Isley Brothers, and his take on some soul and pop classics. Chris continues to bring that “Isley Brothers sound” he created to music lovers everywhere. His newest release for 2021 is a soulful R&B ballad “The Way You Love Me.”

Chris and his wife of 38 years, Margie, a New York-based attorney and author, live in New York and continue to operate their independent record company, Gold City Records.

DISCOGRAPHY

ISLEY BROTHERS YEARS

3+3 (CBS) 1973

Live It Up (CBS) 1974

The Heat Is On (CBS) 1975

Harvest For The World (CBS) 1976

Go For Your Guns (CBS) 1977

Showdown (CBS) 1978

Winner Takes All (CBS) 1979

Go All The Way (CBS) 1980