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Interview With MJ Interview With MJ

Artist Spotlight

Interview With MJ

Exclusive Interview With MJ, a soulful yet determined up-and-coming rapper out of Houston, TX creating to shift the game in Hip Hop. Born in Redondo Beach, CA while raised in Pensacola, FL, MJ has been around both worlds enough to craft her own.  She began creating music in 2011 after being inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kidd, Madd City.” She relocated to Houston in 2016 to further pursue her musical aspirations. She aims for her major breakthrough while taking on a new approach in the female Hip Hop genre. Her lyricism is exciting yet deep and introspective. Her flow is smooth as silk yet can be as lit as a fire. She has released her most recent single, “DREAMS”, featuring the sultry vocals of singer Breana Marin.

Where are you based?
Currently, I’m in Houston, TX
How long have you been making music?
Been creating music since 2011.
What genre would you consider your music to be?
Hip-Hop and Rap.
What inspired you to pursue a career in music?
In college, I was struggling with what I wanted to do with my new adult life. Music and writing had been in my life on and off since I was 8 years old. There were unique artists coming out that we’re changing the game to one more of substance and lyricism mixed in with a little crazy. There were emotions I wanted to express through art. I love music. I was obsessed with it and I wanted to become a creator myself. So here we are.
What are your biggest musical influences?
Growing up in terms of female influences I loved Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot. Missy in particular produced, wrote, and spit her own work which till this day I greatly admire. In college and beyond my three main artists who helped influence me were Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Childish Gambino.
Are you signed to a label or are you an independent artist?
Independent Artist.
What have been the biggest challenges in your music career?
The biggest challenges have been obtaining the knowledge and resources in order to elevate my career to the next level. I am an independent artist which means I don’t have the millions of dollars invested from a label. Nearly everything I’ve done I’ve had to do from scratch while still surviving. I’ve slept on couches and nearly been homeless a few times. But it has allowed me to grow stronger in my abilities and to steady my ship.
How many songs or albums have you released to date?
I’ve released an EP and six singles along with a mixtape from 2016. In addition, I’ve released several freestyles and have done some work with other artists.
Can you tell us a few things about your latest release?
Definitely! “DREAMS” was produced by Dreamlife, who recently did some work on Summer Walker’s “Still Over It”. I’ve gotten to chat with him and he is an extremely talented English producer. The hook is sung by Breana Marin, who is an extremely talented and beautiful R&B singer. I wrote my lyrics for the song this past summer after having to overcome several trials in my life. It is a deep song that I feel is one if not my best works so far.
Any plans for new music or upcoming projects we should know about?
“DREAMS” will have a music video on my official YouTube channel so stay tuned! I am currently working on creating more visual content in order to expand my reach and for my fanbase to see more of me as an artist and human. I have several new songs in the works as well. So again, stay tuned!

Natalie is a journalism major with a focus on Entertainment and Music who aspires to become a Content Creator For Honk Magazine. Eventually, she wants to be the Publisher or Editor-in-Chief of a major Publishing House. She loves helping people find their voice and passion for writing and journalism, and she can always be found with coffee in hand, editing another article.

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Artist Spotlight

The Curse of KK Hammond Redux on “Heart Shaped Box” by Nirvana

The Curse of KK Hammond’s acoustic blues cover of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” transforms the grunge anthem into a haunting, deeply emotive blues piece. This reinterpretation brings out new dimensions and textures from the original, demonstrating the versatility and depth of both the song and the blues genre.

KK Hammond, known for her sweet, soulful voice and masterful guitar work, brings a raw, visceral quality to “Heart Shaped Box” that aligns with the blues tradition of expressing pain, longing, and raw emotion. Her acoustic approach strips the song down to its emotional core, allowing the lyrics and melody to stand out in stark relief against the minimalist instrumental backdrop.

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The original “Heart Shaped Box” by Nirvana, penned by Kurt Cobain, is a complex mix of dark, introspective lyrics and the signature grunge sound of the early ’90s. Its themes of confusion, pain, and disillusionment resonate with the existential angst and rebellion characteristic of Nirvana’s music. KK Hammond’s cover transforms these elements into a blues narrative, emphasizing the song’s emotional depth and introspective qualities.

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By choosing an acoustic blues style, Hammond highlights the song’s lyrical content, allowing listeners to focus on the storytelling aspect of the music. The blues, with its emphasis on personal expression and emotional authenticity, provides a fitting framework for exploring the song’s themes of love, control, and suffering. Hammond’s vocal delivery, characterized by a blend of strength and vulnerability, adds a new layer of meaning to the lyrics, making the song’s message even more poignant.

The use of traditional blues instrumentation, such as the acoustic guitar, further enhances the song’s emotive power. The guitar work in Hammond’s cover is both delicate and deliberate, with each note and chord progression adding to the overall mood of introspection and sorrow. This musical arrangement, coupled with Hammond’s vocal performance, creates a version of “Heart Shaped Box” that feels both timeless and deeply personal.

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In essence, The Curse of KK Hammond’s cover of “Heart Shaped Box” showcases the enduring relevance of Nirvana’s music while also celebrating the expressive possibilities of the blues. It serves as a reminder of the transformative power of musical reinterpretation, proving that songs can evolve and find new life in different genres and through different artists’ visions. Hammond’s version not only pays homage to Nirvana but also stands as a testament to her own artistry and the emotional depth of the blues.

–Elliot Mancini

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Artist Spotlight

An In-Depth Dive into Sun King Rising’s “One More Story to Tell”

“One More Story to Tell” is a track by Sun King Rising that weaves a tapestry of narrative and emotion through its lyrics. The song is characterized by its poetic storytelling, rich imagery, and the evocation of deep emotions. It unfolds with the air of a secret being whispered on the wind, setting a tone of mystery and anticipation from the outset.

The song lyrically explores themes of storytelling, seduction, and the power of narratives. It begins with the imagery of secrets and lies, suggesting a narrative that is as alluring as it is dubious. The singer positions themselves as a storyteller with tales to tell beneath the lights, stories that are compelling enough to capture hearts and minds. The lyrics paint a picture of a world where painted ladies, paladins, and sweet thrills blur the lines between reality and fantasy, all aimed at winning over the object of the singer’s desire.

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The primary themes of “One More Story to Tell” include the art of storytelling, the pursuit of love, and the transformative power of narrative. There’s a sense of both allure and deceit in how stories are told to seduce or captivate someone. The mood is one of intrigue and sensuality, with an underlying current of longing and desire.

Imagery plays a crucial role in establishing this mood, with references to “silken webs,” “painted ladies,” and “laughing dolls in boiler ties.” These vivid descriptions create a tapestry that is both enchanting and slightly ominous, reflecting the dual nature of storytelling as both a form of art and manipulation.

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John Blangero, as the lead vocalist of Sun King Rising, brings a unique and compelling voice to “One More Story to Tell,” which is critical in conveying the song’s depth of emotion and narrative intricacy. His vocal delivery is key to drawing listeners into the story, embodying the themes of seduction, storytelling, and the blurred lines between reality and fantasy. Blangero’s voice, characterized by its richness, emotional range, and ability to convey complex emotions, serves as the perfect medium through which the song’s tales are told.

His vocal performance likely combines elements of power and subtlety, using dynamic changes, tonal shifts, and expressive phrasing to reflect the song’s lyrical content. The ability to evoke the imagery of “silken webs,” “painted ladies,” and “laughing dolls in boiler ties” through vocal expression alone is no small feat, requiring a deep understanding of the song’s narrative and emotional landscape. Blangero’s voice acts as the narrator’s tool, seducing the listener, much like the storyteller seduces their audience within the lyrics.

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In songs that explore themes as complex and nuanced as those in “One More Story to Tell,” the lead vocal’s role transcends mere performance. It becomes an act of storytelling in itself, with each note and inflection adding layers to the narrative. Blangero’s ability to infuse each line with a sense of longing, mystery, and desire helps to fully realize the song’s artistic vision, making the listener feel as though they are part of the story being unfolded.

Steve Schuffert’s contribution on the guitar adds a profound layer of musicality to the track. His ability to weave intricate melodies and harmonies likely enhances the song’s emotive power, providing a sonic backdrop that complements its lyrical depth. Guitar work, especially in a song that delves into storytelling and emotion, can elevate the narrative, making the stories and themes more resonant.

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The bass lines played by George Elliott are crucial in grounding the song, offering a rhythmic foundation that supports the narrative flow. Bass guitar can add depth and warmth to a track, enriching its emotional texture and driving the song’s momentum. Elliott’s performance likely contributes to the overall mood and feel of the song, underpinning the storytelling with a solid musical base.

George Perilli’s drumming provides the heartbeat of the song, setting its pace and dynamically accentuating its emotional highs and lows. The role of drums in such a track is not just rhythmic but also expressive, adding tension, release, and emphasis where the narrative calls for it. Perilli’s expertise would be key in bringing energy and vitality to the song, helping to convey its themes and emotions through rhythm.

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The addition of backing vocals from Stevee Wellons, Joy Brown, and Bernice Wilkerson adds a layer of richness and harmony to the song, enhancing its emotional resonance and depth. Backing vocals can amplify the mood of a track, offering a counterpoint to the lead vocals and enriching the song’s texture. Their contribution likely brings a sense of warmth and inclusivity to the narrative, enveloping the listener in the story being told.

The production and engineering team behind the song play a crucial role in shaping its final sound. Ace Acker’s production vision and David Granati’s engineering skills ensure that the song’s complex layers of vocals, instruments, and emotions are captured, mixed, and presented in a way that best serves the narrative and artistic intent. The choice of studio and the technical expertise of the team are essential in translating the song’s thematic richness into a compelling auditory experience.

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The collective expertise and artistry of these musicians and professionals contribute to the song’s ability to captivate and move its audience, making “One More Story to Tell” a memorable and impactful piece.

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