Prince – In My Own Words

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No. Just no. I’m still in shock. I feel like my childhood, the essence of who I am is fading away. He’s always supposed to be there because he was always there. Prince was not supposed to get old. Prince was not supposed to die because he was our icon our real life superhero.  He was a living legend and now he is just a legend… one of the greatest.

I remember hearing his music when I was a child. Controversy and 1999 where two of my favorite songs even though I had no idea who he was and what he was singing about. It was Purple Rain that etched Prince into my psyche. The movie and the album still have an effect on me in ways that are hard for me to describe.

The When Doves Cry video was so crazy to me. I was like 10 years old watching images that I couldn’t make sense of. But what stuck out to me more than anything was the conflict between the parents, which were scenes from the movie. That stuck with me so much that I knew that I had to eventually see it. The words would stick in my head…

Maybe I’m just like my father too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied

Even at that age I thought, this man knows me. I had to see Purple Rain because it was rated R and there was nudity in it. Of course, I got the hands-covering-my-eyes treatment (I vowed to see it again when I hit 18) but I just loved the movie. It made me want to be a rock and roll star. It made me want to pick up a guitar and lead a band on a fictional stage in the Bronx. I dreamed about it so much that it gave me my first attempts at writing songs.

Of course, real life set in and that didn’t last long but I never forgot that feeling. It wasn’t until about four year later in High School, when I started really hanging out with my cousin that I realized how much music Prince had. That was the year of the Batman. A dream come true of a real batman movie and the musical soundtrack from the living legend. Since then, our music choices were forever linked between house music, hip hop, and Prince.

All his songs resonate with me because in each stage of my adult life has meant interpreting them differently. Listing them is so hard to do because there’s so many. Listening to them is so hard because there are so many.

So many songs that speak to me, that pull at the heart strings about love had, lost, and never will be. Prince will always be that musical superhero with his own emblem accompanied with cape and cane. He championed our causes and we thought him to be immortal because of it. Superhero and Icons never die right?

I just can’t believe he’s gone. This cannot have really happened. I still hope that is one big hoax to show the record companies that they will never own him. But alas…

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
‘Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You’re on your own
And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor…

Rest in Peace to Artist Formally known as… no.

Rest in Peace to Artist World Renown as…
The Beautiful One.
The Revolution.
The Symbol.

Prince.

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Midnight Marauder

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Gone too soon. Pfife was 45 years old (which is about 4 years older than me) and it leaves me wondering about life. We take so many things for granted as if we believe that as long as we can stay way from bullets, vehicular accidents, and places where natural disasters are prominent, then maybe we can reach a nice old age. But, if we learn nothing about the passing of Pfife then what are we really doing with ourselves?

Hip Hop, to me, represents my youth.  It was a time of baggy jeans and eight ball jackets. Before the beef between east and west, there was something pure about Hip Hop. The only warfare to be had in this musical genre was a verbal one. The only thing that separated true emcees was the length of a microphone chord and true skill.

The beauty of early 90’s Hip Hop was that you could be anyone. There were no millionaires in this game. There were no producers jumping in trying to grab the spotlight. There were no athletes nor former actors rapping. What there was were emcees who paid their dues and if they were good enough we heard them on radio.

When Low End Theory came out, there was a sense from everyone who heard it that we may just be listening to one of the greatest albums ever. But when Midnight Marauders came out we all knew we were blessed.

Every generation has that one group that defines them in certain ways and the best way I can describe A Tribe Called Quest is that they are to me what Earth, Wind, and Fire is to the generation behind me. Pfife was the soul of ATCQ and losing him hurts in the same way it hurts to lose Maurice White. Of course Maurice lived to 75 and performed for many years. We will never get a chance to see the 5 foot assassin again.

I connect with Pfife because, to me, he seemed out of place in the game. He fit perfectly into ATCQ but I got the sense that he did what he wanted to do which made him slightly off center. I loved that about him because he had a keen sense of self that no one was going to take away. His flow was crazy and he told stories with his verses that were both hilarious and real.

In the wake of his death, I feel that reminder in the back of my head that I need to visit the doctor on the regular. Even though I’ve lost 20 pounds and cut down on sugar and became a vegetarian, I cannot rest on my laurels. As men, we think that we will always be alright and maybe that twinge of pain in our joints will eventually go away. We don’t want to think about colonoscopies or testicular cancer. We don’t want to think about arthritis or diabetes because we are not that old right?

We are never to young to not see the doctor. We are never too old to learn that we could have done something about our health. If there is one thing I will take from this is that I need to do a better job of taking care of me.

Sigh. I always hoped for the possibility of get one more album from A Tribe Called Quest. I was hoping to get one more song where Pfife kicks it on point.

All we can do is count our blessing and listen to the masterpieces. Rest in Peace, Malik.

Hanging Upside Down: The Music

IMG_9259Music is very prevalent in Hanging Upside Down. While it’s difficult to convey to the reader the type of musical feel you want for a novel, I would like to think that I captured the feeling of Louis through the types of music he happens to listen to as the story goes on.

I didn’t go into this the book thinking that I needed to have a soundtrack. In fact, there are parts of the book that were originally written without it. However, it was during the editing and drafting phases that I decided to add music as another layer to the story. I wanted to have something happening in the background. I’m a believer that many things are always happening in the background a story that may not seem relevant at first glance but in upon further thought makes total sense.

So here is a list of songs that appear in the book. If by some act of God there is a movie to come from this story these would be that basis of a soundtrack. Songs with the asterisk weren’t described in detail in the book but since there are scenes in the book that do have music these songs would accompany them. Also, this is the relative order the songs occur in the novel.

Award Tour –  A Tribe Called Quest*
Las Cosas Pequeñas – Prince Royce*
Adicto A Tu Piel – Frankie Negrón*
Vivir Mi Vida – Marc Anthony
Hell Of A Life – Kanye West*
Beat it – Michael Jackson
No Le Pege A La Negra – El Gran Combo*
Started from the Bottom – Drake*
Partition – Beyoncé*
Twice My Age – Shabba Ranks & Krystal
You Dont Love Me (No, No, No) – Dawn Penn
Picadillo – Cal Tjader and Eddie Palmieri
El Cuarto De Tula – Buena Vista Social Club
N.Y. State Of Mind – Nas
Brand New Me – Alicia Keys*
Get Lucky – Daft Punk/Pharrell Williams

I’m smiling because these songs help tell the story. I played each one of these as I added them to this list and I must say that if this was really made available to purchase, I would be down to get it. All of them have certain meaning and while not all the songs listed appear exactly in the text, if you were to play these after reading the novel, you will see that they fit.

The one thing that makes me proud is that my intention was to show that despite what is happening in his life, I wanted the reader to know that Louis is very much a Latino who had a love for different types of music. I did think about going a little overboard to show how much of a geek he was by listening to Star Wars soundtracks but it just didn’t fit with the flow of the novel.

As I write the second novel, I have already taken into account how important music is to the characters I’m trying to portray. I would only assume from here on out everything I write with have it’s own soundtrack.

Don’t Think about Elephants. (N*ggas in Paris Mix)

 

Let me get this straight. They name the song N*ggas in Paris and you get mad at a white person for saying N*ggas in Paris? Really? I suppose I could say that I blame Gwen Paltrow for saying the word..or typing the EXACT  title of the song, but why should I? Jay Z and Kanye named the song!

You all know that white people are the largest group of people who buy rap music? So when artists are saying those words they are repeated over and over again. There are mixed messages being sent. We say don’t use the word but we are going to use it all the time? I say “we” because unless “we” stop the community from using the word it will never leave the consciousness of this society.

What pisses me off is that I love this song, I just hate the title. But, let me guess what some people will say. It is the artist discretion to name the song. Really? So the label and the production company have no say at all in any of this? Ha, I bet they didn’t it either. Some executive (who very well could have been Jay Z) thought naming this song N*ggas in Paris would be a great idea! The title is inappropriate and everyone knows it, but you know what? It is provocative, it gets the people going!

However, we are going to get mad when some white person names the song. We are going to say to everyone that the word should never be used by white people ever. HA! If I told you to stop thinking about Elephants, what are you thinking about? This is exactly my point. There is no way that you can get people to stop saying the N word when you have people making money off the word. That is what hip hop has been doing for decades and people are buying it up. More importantly, white people are buying it.

This is not me saying that white people shouldn’t be buying this because I don’t believe that. I am one to believe that music tends to bring together rather than divide. Many rappers can sell out shows in Japan and do quite well in the foreign market. The problem is…they are spreading the word. So what is going to happen? Everyone will be thinking about the one word we don’t want them to say. No one really talks about it or brings that word into context. I would be surprised if the young black youth really knows the true meaning of the word.

The word should not be used period, but you cannot seriously be upset when the title of a popular song has the N word. Want to blame someone? First look into the mirror and ask yourself if you ever say it. If you do, then you are part of the problem. If you don’t then it is your job to tell others, no matter who it is, not to say the word and why. But, with pop culture glorifying this word…it will always be the elephant in the room.

Heavy D: He Had is own Thang

When I talk about my love for hip hop, I often say that the artist that really made me start buying albums was Rakim. The first CD that I ever bought with my own money was Redman’s debut. But, the first cassette that I every owned was Heavy D and the Boyz: Big Tyme. Sure, I rocked Big Daddy Kane with my cousin who bout 12 inch vinyl records. I would also listen to my brother tapes as well so I was always into hip hop, but Heavy D represented something to me.

When I was a sophomore in High School I had very few friends. I felt like I was the smallest kid in all of Saint Raymond’s High School for Boys. I lived in Riverdale at the time because years earlier, my mother decided to move me to yet another section in the Bronx. I did not care for this place, I was in the whitest neighborhood I have every seen up to that point. The commute was something I had to get used to. I had to find my way from Castle Hill Ave all the way to Riverdale. This meant taking three buses.

I ended up making friends with kids from my school who lived in Washington Heights that took the exact route I did. Some were even seniors that I ended up hanging out with. But, despite this, I was relatively unhappy. I couldn’t speak to girls and I was just this short nerdy kid trying to find his way. Then one of my buddies asked me if I liked Heavy D. Of course I did, who wouldn’t like The Overweight Lover? So he gave me his cassette. Maybe he lent it to me and I just never gave it back…but I still have it.

I listened to Big Tyme everyday on my walkman. As I look back at it now, this was the first album that I listened to from start to finish. Not one bad song. He set the bar for me when it came to buying future albums. I remember how listening to this album got me through the days where school was hard in a time where my parents fought over me and their failing marriage. More importantly, I found it hard to fit in and I remember a particular line from his song “We Got Our Thang“: Don’t be down with everyone, let ’em all be down with you. This one line made me rethink many things in my life. I realized that I shouldnt have to fit in. I should just be me and let people deal with it.

Heavy D became a huge part of my High School life through this album. First, Big Tyme itself is a classic. Every track stands alone, but I absolutely love the song, “Somebody for Me“. This was another song that just spoke to me because he raps about how hard it was to find the one for him. It seemed to hold true to me for so many years. He was trying to find someone who loved him for who he is and I appreciated that. I remember some girl telling a friend of mine in high school that I would be cute if I had an earring and a mustache and got rid of the nerdy glasses. I was ready to get my ear pierced! But, my brother told me that I should not have to fix my appearance for anyone. A woman needs to like you for who you are now. It made me think of that song.

Let me not to forget that he indeed a pioneer of the industry. The collaboration on Somebody for Me was with Al B Sure and at the time Hip Hop/R&B songs were rare. When I was in college he has this song with called “Dem No Worry We” with Supercat that was crazy! Dancehall was just becoming a sensation when that came out and I am pretty sure he was the first or one of the first Hip Hop artist to be on a Dancehall track. He moved to television with appearances on Its A Different World. He maintained relevance within the industry by continuously dropping albums in the 90’s. However, I think because he was not the gangsta/pimp type, he was not getting the airplay or the credit he was due.

When I think about the tapes that I made in college to listen to, I think about all the people who I put along side him. Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest,  EPMD, Jungle Brothers, Big Daddy Kane, and that is just to name a few. Heavy D died way too young. We joke about when we are all old and they will have the legends of hip hop performances like you see in those old Motown shows..who would actually look good performing? Well, Heavy D would have. He would have rocked it with songs that are timeless. He was never negative. He never used the N-word. He was always about being positive to women and the community. We not only lost a music legend, we lost a humanitarian.

LHM – Musica Latina

I will never have the type of music collection that my father has but I try my best with the limited knowledge that I have. When I originally thought about writing yesterday’s blog, I was more thinking about the picture above. I love listening to Musica Latina, which is clearly not limited to Salsa.

I often find myself searching for music that I grew up with while trying to keep in touch with music that is current. The jury is out on which is more difficult for me. I am often reminded that I live in Syracuse in which diverse music gets lost somewhere.

However, as the above picture shows, I am have a pretty decent playlist. The unfortunate thing is that I lost a lot of data and a few songs when my PC laptop died earlier this year. That has not stopped people from asking me to create CDs for them. I have put together some pretty decent playlists together of Latin Jazz, Afro Cuban Jazz, Salsa, and sometimes Merengue. I do have some Reggaeton but that is something that I cannot get used to.

I am a fan of the old school Salsa. I like the big band sound which is why I have a serious appreciation for Jazz and Classical Music. People laugh at me because I love musical scores from movies like Inception and Star Trek (as only two examples) but it has so much to do with the composition and way all instruments come together to sound so amazing.

Of course, I would be remiss to not mention how much I love the drums and the Afro-Caribbean sounds of Musica Latina as a whole. There are several songs above that I could point out as something so groove inspiring that dancing in my seat while listening to it at work is an absolute must.

Even though I do love live music. I have no problem settling for my ever growing music collection. I make it a habit that when I visit my dad in Florida to jack some of his CDs and copy them on my iTunes. More importantly, he as this device that allows him to create a cd from his vinyl collection. I may have to convince him to let me copy a few (like 20 or so) CDs to add to my collection.

Can I get a Wu-Tang?

Today is the Wu-Tang Concert that I am going to. I have made this event pretty well known on Twitter and on my personal Facebook page. I am very excited to go because this is the first time I am attending a concert outside of Syracuse in a very long time.

I do not express my love for hip hop nearly as much as I should on this blog. I consider myself a fan of older hip hop than of it’s current version. But, there are some individuals and groups that I would pay to see over and over again. Clearly, Wu-Tang Clan falls into this category. I find it funny because I love their music but I do not look like the typical hip hop fan in my opinion. People joke and call me professor (especially with my new glasses) but I quickly remind people that I grew up in the Bronx, where hip hop started.

I will always say that I feel privileged enough to be around when a culture was born. Even though I was really young when this whole thing started, I still saw how the world of  music change around me. I make fun of my brother because he is seven years my elder and I can remember the funky clothes he used to wear while carrying that boom box he got on his 15th birthday. The hip hop culture is something that was always a  subject that the both of use could relate to, even when things were not going well.

I feel that Wu-Tang Clan represents everything I wanted in Hip Hop at the time. The beats were crazy and the lyrics were sick. Since I used to watch Kung Fu flicks when I was in a kid, it only made the entire experience more enjoyable. I can remember back in my college days that my roommate and I would go back in fourth blasting CDs. He would blast The Notorious B.I.G (before his CD came out…) and I would pump Wu-Tang’s first album. It never got old and we loved every minute of it. This is also a time when you can buy an album and love the majority of songs on it. I find that to rare these days in any genre.

There was something about this group back in the 90’s, when I was in college, that represented a sense of freedom to me. I was away from my parents and I was loving life in the best way I could. Now, almost twenty years later, I can say that I almost feel the same way. I can go to this concert as my last act of freedom in 2010 and to usher in 2011 as a free single man that can do whatever he pleases.

The one thing I will try not to do is to not be too critical of the venue or the show in the technical aspect. The worst part about being an event planner and working so may concerts is that someone like myself be can critical of the staff. I will try my best to just enjoy the show!

Dark and Twisted Fantasy

Original Art for “My Dark and Twisted Fantasy”
“have you lost your mind tell me what you think, we’ve crossed the line…”

It is funny how music can dictate a person’s mood and actions. One of the things that really gets me excited about my trips to NYC is the music. I am not saying that I never get to hear new music in Syracuse, but it is just not the same. The radio stations are not up to par. I wont even mention the lack of a Latino Station here. Sure, you can look it up and see that Syracuse does have one, but it is 3 days a week with limited hours. Not to offend those who work hard to keep Nosotros Radio Inc up and running, but that is not enough.

My expectations on how things should be are consistently not met while living here. I think that there is a level of complacency, apathy, and pure mediocrity that fosters the type of thinking that people of color are simply satisfied with the status quo that is Syracuse living. It is sad that Rochester has a better handle on the Latino culture considering that Syracuse is a place you will likely hear more about in the national media.

“…no more drugs for me pussy and religion is all I need…”

So just think about how a person like me can even find any type  of comfort when it comes to new music. I am fortunate that these college students usually have their fingers on the pulse of the entertainment industry so when there is a dance party or anything related to that, I will hear the music I may be missing. But, lets be real, I am not going to hear everything and sometimes I need to lose myself in music.

This is where Kanye West comes in. It is rare to hear an album like My Dark and Twisted Fantasy. Too many times there are artists (if you can call them that) that drop albums that are just rushed or the production is lackluster. You can hear 1or 2 songs that are radio worthy and then the rest ends up buried behind the rest of the song on the iTunes playlist. Yeezy’s latest gave me that escape that I needed. I feel like he kicked open what this Winter’s music will be like.

It just so happened that listening to My Dark and Twisted Fantasy coincided with my Thanksgiving trip. Those hours driving to see family was spent listening to what Kanye has to offer. I feel that this is a more mature artist we are dealing with. I was already a fan of his single “Runaway”; I even considered that to be my anthem actually. Then I loved the short film as well, which pretty much has all the music you will hear on this album….but it still does not prepare you for the sheer artistry of it all.

“…grab my hand, baby we’ll live a hell of a life!”

Let us take away songs like, Runaway, Power, and Monster, since they have all been out before this album dropped. In fact, let’s just say those three songs may not even be the best songs on this album. I would submit to you that Hell of a Life, Gorgeous, Devil in a New Dress, So Appalled, and Blame Game could all be playing right now as his latest single. I remember thinking that nothing could really compare to Nas: Illamtic or Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers), but this may have matched those classics.

Look, I do not write about an album if I really wasn’t feeling it. I know that some people view Kanye as the asshole who did something very wrong to Taylor Swift (and if you ask me, I think should thank him for giving her a boost in record sales) or they view him as the man who offended George W. Bush by saying he doesn’t like white people. In either case, he is an artist who has taken his craft to another level…again.

This is why I need to continue to do what I do with all the honesty and brash that makes me who I am. I find a certain amount of freedom in this incarnation of his music that I am able to focus on what I want to do…

“cause the same people that tried to black ball me forgot about 2 things, my black balls”

Salsa Lessons?

My appreciation of music has been increasing more by the day. During my drive down to New York City I listened to a playlist that I created that morning. I usually put together songs that are upbeat combined with new songs and old favorites. I never stick to one genre as it. So in a particular playlist of mine you can hear house music, hip hop, rock, and bachata.

I had a feeling that I should bring my laptop just in case. I find myself in situations where no one has good music and it seems to be left up to me to provide music. But, I decided to leave the laptop behind anyway and just deal with the music I had in my iPhone. The funny thing is that I do not use my ipod much anymore although it is fully updated with all my current music. I think I need to look into doing that more because my music appreciation skills were needed at the family barbecue.

My mother and aunt, who live together, have the old school salsa hits. I have no issue with this because I LOVE the old school salsa. The problem is that this is they have blaring from a Radio/CD player. That is just no bueno because after 12 tracks we need to hear the CD all over again. So, one of my cousins brings her Bose iPod player and rocks out her music. But, still this is just not good enough for me (although I really do love her – in case she reads this lol). Toward the end of the night I decided to use my iPhone to blare my collection in which I am so proud of!

Which got me thinking that night, as I downed my endless bottles of Corona, I really need to take Salsa lessons. I mean, I am ok, but I could be better. I realized that dancing is yet another thing that has suffered over the years because of my lack of confidence. To be perfectly honest, I would rather dance any form of Latino music before I do hip hop, R&B, or house music.

I think this would be a perfect way for me to come back to NYC. I should take these lessons to get really good and just dance my weekends away. Besides, I can dance Bachata and Meringue because quite frankly, they are pretty easy. But, I grew up with Salsa music and I use to love to watch my dad dance and if you give me a few drinks, I think I can come close to emulating him…lol

This is all sparked from my cousin Karen, who has deemed me as her official dance partner. She took lessons and gave me a few pointers and I thought to myself…I need to do this. My brother/cousin has also taken some lessons and I have seen his improvement as well. So I think this will be a good investment of my time and money. I must admit that I kinda thought of getting Salsa lessons as being a little embarrassing since I am Latino and my parents have been dancing for a lot longer than I have been alive.

Yet, I consider the whole notion of me having to know how to dance Salsa in the same way I should know Spanish. My parents never really taught me. I would assume they either thought that I would learn through osmosis or that I simply wasnt interested. I can remember being dragged to dance with my mother or my aunts, but I never once remember being told my foot work was wrong or being shown to do whatever it is I needed to do.

However, I must have picked up something by the time college came around because when La LUCHA did a banquet at Syracuse University and the music came on…I was dancing with a hot chick. So, I must have been doing something right. However, I have seen real Salseros do there thing on the dance floor and I truly cannot mess with those. One day, I hope at least get close enough to dance with any woman.

Music Monday

Clearly I am taking this title from a trending topic on Twitter, but I wanted to expand a bit on some of the music I have been listening to. My musical tastes have been all over the place lately. I have found that in my 30’s, I have not been pinned down to a particular genre of music. Just like in my real life, I tend to be all over the place when it comes to my musical tastes. So my heavy rotation consists of music from different types of artists.

First, let me just talk about Alicia Keys and how I cannot wait for her new album “The Element of Freedom”. Something tells me I will be rocking this album for quite a while. The songs that I have heard from her seem to be right on point. Everything that I have been going through or feel seem to be coming out in her words. Thank goodness that her music came out when they did. If they came out earlier, I think this blog would be even more emotional unstable! Her album drops next week I will definitely be on that.

Let’s talk about Lady Gaga. People have been giving me the side eye when I mention I like her music. They think that because she is so awkward with her shows and performances that she has not talent. That is far from the truth. Her voice is amazing and she plays the piano with a grace that you do not see much these days. Let’s not forget the artists in the past who have looked socially awkward at one time or another but are legends now (i.e Prince and Madonna, too name a few). So, for those who think she is a freak, just know she is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Drake is growing on me. I know that may sound weird, but I feel a certain way about hip hop. I grew up with this music and I have a certain affinity to it. I do not like every artist. I am not a huge fan of Jay Z but I recognize that his album is crazy. I cannot get into 50cent although her is a great business man. What has impressed me about Drake is his flow on the mic. True hip hop people recognize flow when they hear it. It does not bother me he can sing. It actually relieve me because no one wants another Biz Markie singing “You got what I need”.

In terms of my other genres, I think that Muse and Switchfoot are 2 amazing bands that have meanings in their songs that I really enjoy. To me that is what matters, meaning to each song. I want to also say the Frankie Negron is an amazing talent that seems to redefine Salsa music with every song he comes out it. I have seen his stage performance and he has that thing that makes people want to dance.

So with that said here is my heavy rotation list. Enjoy:

  1. Uprising – Muse
  2. Throw It In the Bag – Fabolous Feat. Drake
  3. Whatya Want From Me – Adam Lambert
  4. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
  5. Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart – Alicia Keys
  6. Aditco A Tu Piel – Frankie Negron
  7. Hasta Bajo – Don Omar
  8. Mess of Me – Switchfoot
  9. Sexy Bitch – David Guetta Feat. Akon
  10. Bad Habits – Maxwell
  11. Empire State of Mind – Jay Z Feat. Alicia Keys
  12. I’m Going In – Drake Feat. Lil Wayne & Yong Jeezy
  13. Que Tengo Que Hacer – Omega

I have also started listening to Holiday Music…