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Happy 80th Birthday to Martha Reeves!

(July 18, 2021) We’re wishing a very Happy Birthday to the great Martha Reeves, born July 18, 1041

While throughout the 60s Diana Ross was the highest profile female singing star at Motown and was the major recipient of Berry Gordy’s marketing efforts and personal affection, Martha Reeves was the other female anchor, an underrated performer who fronted a number of the label’s biggest songs and ultimately became perhaps the most revered of the Motown stars in the Motor City. While Ross charmed with her seductive, slight soprano voice, Reeves showed a whole lotta church in her interpretations, belting out a series of memorable uptempo hits like she was singing joyous praises to God.

Born in Eufaula, Alabama and raised in Detroit as the daughter of Ruby and Elijah Reeves, Martha spent her childhood singing in church and became somewhat of a local sensation while she attended Detroit’s Northeastern High School. Along with friends Annette Beard and Rosalind Holmes, Reeves formed the Del-Phis, later renamed the Vels. They encountered Motown VP William “Mickey” Stevenson at a local nightclub and he invited them to audition at Motown’s Grand Boulevard headquarters. The visit landed the Vels a minor contract on Motown’s Mel-O-Dy Records division and provided Reeves with a secretarial position at the label.

Rap legend Biz Markie dies at age 57

(July 16, 2021) We are sad to report tonight that legendary rapper Biz Markie has died at age 57. Markie’s manager, Jenni Izumi issued the following statement to USA TODAY: “It is with profound sadness that we announce, this evening, with his wife Tara by his side, Hip Hop pioneer Biz Markie peacefully passed away. We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time,”

We reported last year that Markie, born Marcel Theo Hall, was hospitalized for several weeks for complications related to his Type 2 diabetes. He had previously lost 140 pounds in an attempt to improve his health.

Markie had a string of hits in the late 80s and early 90s, highlighted by hit top ten smash, the comical “Just A Friend,” which sampled the 1968 Freddie Scott hit “You Got What I Need.” Another sample, on his 1991 hit “Alone Again,” resulted in a successful lawsuit by 1970s pop singer Gilbert O’Sullivan, who hadn’t approved the use of portions of his #1 hit “Alone Again (Naturally). The result of that case changed the landscape for use of pop samples in hip hop music.

While his biggest hits were behind him by the beginning of the new millennium, Markie stayed in the spotlight with television and movie appearances – everything from Spongebob Squarepants to Men in Black II – and his “Just A Friend” was honored by VH1 as one of the 100 Greatest Hip-Hop songs.

We send our condolences to the family and friends of Biz Markie.

Carl Thomas, Dave Hollister and Donell Jones Form New R&B Supergroup

(July 12, 2021) Seasoned vocalists Carl Thomas, Dave Hollister, and Donell Jones have formed a new R&B supergroup: The Chi.

The recent announcement of R&B brotherhood arrived on Jones’ official Instagram Saturday (July 10), with the confident caption reading, “Yesssss it’s happening! The level of music and songwriting will be impeccable and you already know the voices! It’s only right for us to come together and represent Chicago and R&B to the fullest.”

All hailing from the Windy City, each respective gent has had successful solo careers over the last two decades. In February, Jones released an album titled 100% Free, charged with the lead single “Karma (Payback).” He teased about releasing another album this year.

Thomas celebrated the 20th anniversary of his debut album Emotional last spring. Rated R&B spoke exclusively to Thomas about creating the classic, along with other collaborators, including Gordon Chambers, Mario Winans, Ron Lawrence, and Sharissa Dawes. He re-recorded two songs from the album and also teased an EP about dogs to us.

Meanwhile, Hollister released his last album, The Manuscript, in 2016. He’s also appeared on albums from Leela James and Angie Stone.

There has been no official release date on The Chi’s first single or project.

New Edition signs with Creative Artist Agency

(July 9, 2021) Creative Artists Agency announced that it has signed all six members of New Edition: Ronnie DeVoe, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill. The company will represent the group in all areas worldwide, including touring, theatre, literature, TV/film, production, composing and others.

Since 1984, the group has released six studio albums and multiple solo efforts and won several Soul Train and American Music Awards and the BET Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017 BET produced a three-part 2017 biopic titled “The New Edition Story,” which aired over three consecutive nights and drew 29 million total viewers, according to the announcement. The group plans a U.S. arena tour next year, along with a residency in Las Vegas.