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Verna Francis: A London Diva

Singing, dancing, acting, and all that jazz–Verna Francis can do it. From playing Miss Sherman for two years in a West End production of Fame to giving Nathan Haines’ “Earth Is the Place” its distinctive vocal flair, Francis’ talent is as big and broad as her rich voice. Her range and emotive delivery make her sound like a house or broken beat cousin of Whitney Houston or Chaka Khan. Read more » 

Mars Volta vs. Jaga Jazzist: Boiling Points

Although they hail from relatively opposite ends of the earth, The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Hollywood, CA) and Jaga Jazzist’s Lars Horntveth (Oslo, Norway) share quite a bit in common. Both are highly esteemed musicians, fronting genre-shredding outfits that offer up elaborate and cerebral musical explorations. Both released debut solo efforts last year–Omar’s A Manual Dexterity, Volume 1 and Horntveth’s Pooka–and are following suit with their respective bands in 2005. Read more » 

I Wayne Teaches More Love

At the end of 2004 a new voice exploded onto the roots reggae scene. The voice had an unworldly vocal timbre and sagacious, bitingly conscious turns of phrase that made you listen with your soul. The voice belonged to 24-year-old Jamaican singer I Wayne, whose consecutive singles “Can’t Satisfy Her” and “Living In Love” were the most astounding debut the reggae world has seen in decades.

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Roots Manuva: Rolling Deep

Thank Dizzee and The Streets–now that the pressure’s off Roots Manuva to save the soul of UK hip-hop, he’s gone Awfully Deep and come back with his strongest album yet. Fresh off a UK tour with M.I.A. and his eight-piece band The Manuvadelics, the man born Rodney Smith talked with XLR8R after lights out at his Waterloo, London studio.

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Jeff Samuel: Swing in That Minimal Thing

The schaffel swing that has infected minimal techno first broke out in Germany, but you’ll also find it in the bouncing funk of Seattle’s Jeff Samuel, who brings a distinctly upbeat swing to minimal techno’s dour outlook. But he’s not just biting the latest style from Europe–back in his native Cleveland, Samuel hit the techno parties that shaped the sound he displays on numerous 12” singles and the new Poker Flat Volume Four compilation. Read more » 

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