Madame Groove & The Manhattan Mob officially released Black & Blue at Auntie Mae's Parlor on September 28th to a large and supportive crowd. According to Madame Groove, Black & Blue has a number of meanings, from black representing hip hop and blue representing R&B, to the infamous dress which many saw as white and gold, to the culmination of feeling beat up by life over the last several years. The album is a showcase of Madame Groove's range and proficiency in music production, engineering, songwriting, instrumentation and vocal talent as well as her ability to feature other artists and to build on the work of other producers. Regulars at MHK shows will recognize several names in the liner notes, as Black & Blue features plenty of star power with well known instrumentalists Dr. Wayne Goins (guitar), Michael T. Brown (bass), Robert F. Rodriguez (drums), Kenny Retzlaff (guitar) and her own brother Benjamin Stephens (drums) all lending their talents on various tracks. Also lending lyrical talents are Skeem, Hersh, Rello and Kizzy. Groove herself played bass, guitar, and keys on various tracks as well as vocals throughout the album.
It is a convincing invitation to collaborate for anyone wanting to make great hip hop and R&B music. The average listener might find it odd that the first track of the album, which is also the title track, has no vocals. However, when I asked about her reasoning, the answer was obvious. The track is there for other producers and DJs to sample. In fact, if you are an aspiring artist, you might listen extra closely to that track and the final on the album, titled "Lament", as well as the other beats up on the Manhattan Mob Beats website. You could win free studio time by leasing a beat and entering the songwriting contest before the November 30th deadline. For details go to: www.manhattanmobbeats.com/contest
My own personal favorite track on the album is "We Came Up". Which reminded me of time spent listening to Motown and Oldies in the car with my dad long before I ever had to worry about much of anything. Featured on that track is Kizzy who hails from Boston and who Madame Groove describes as "enlightening", and "present, even off the cuff" (when free-styling). Some other personal favorites are The Anthem, Enough, and Rich. There are a lot of meaningful lyrics on this album, which is necessary for any music if I am going to listen more than a few times.
Overall, Madame Groove lives up to her name in this album, putting together some incredibly groovy tracks. With most of the songs being down tempo, I consider it an album for lounging on rainy days, but it would also be excellent for building strength to face life's difficulties. Check it out on Spotify (see embedded above) and let me know which track is your favorite in the comments below!