Kev Blaze's Smoke N Blaze is now out of major-label limbo. An internet sensation, the disc will now be an independent release but will receive some major exposure.
The Cleveland singer-producer-rapper signed to EMI's Imperial label in fall 2007. Soon after, the label went through major corporate restructuring, which left the future uncertain for its entire urban roster. Blaze's manager, the California-based Ryan "Blue" Posen, says the contract had an escape clause, which returned the album to the artist's control when the release stalled.
Between signing and splitting, Blaze released the single "Watch How I Do This" as a remix featuring Krayzie Bone. The song has sold more than 9,000 copies. It caught the ear of Lucas "Fred" Cruikshank, a helium-voiced motormouth whose homemade videos have gone viral. When Fred used the song in a clip, both the music and video turned heads.
Fred's clip caught the eyes of the producers of iCarly, a hit Nickelodeon show about a young teen who hosts a web television show. The iCarly team asked Fred for a music video, but he didn't have one ready.
Fred reached out to Blaze, who had already tapped Cleveland director Ken Bray (who's worked with Brainz Davis and Audiblethread) to film the song's long-delayed video. Blaze then recut the song, replacing Bone's rap with a verse by Fred. Fred visited Cleveland to shoot a video with Blaze, filming in Solon and Tower City. It's scheduled to hit YouTube in early October. Fred's iCarly episode is slated to air in February 2009.
"The work Fred has done for this project has boosted my visibility in the marketplace to an audience that buys music," says Blaze. "[He] has made me comfortable that I can sell records without big-label support, just like he's made it big with no major studio or TV support."
The album will be released October 6 via Posen's Blue Image Entertainment, with both the Bone and Fred versions of "Watch." Blaze will host a CD-release party on Saturday, October 4, at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd.).
¥ Akron's House Popes will release their long-gestating second album, Geography, on Saturday, September 6, at Musica (51 E. Market St. - new address, same location). The jammy alt-folk-funk supercombo recorded the disc between May 2006 and February 2008 at EmCat Studio, with Jer Herring (formerly of Dink, currently of Full Wave Rectifier) engineering.
"The Geography theme emerged as the songs developed," explains singer-guitarist-mandolinist-writer-professor Michael Graham. "And we realized that so many of them were about American places or made reference to particular locales - Texas, Mississippi, Memphis, Milwaukee, Tennessee. A couple are about other places too, like Iraq and London."
¥ The Suede Brothers have recorded five new tracks at Suma Studios with James Gang producer Paul Hamann. Two of the tunes Ð "Pleaser" and an untitled one - are staples of the band's live set. Drummer Kevin Naughton says songs will be available digitally soon, and the band may release them as a 7" vinyl single. "We hope these will set a new standard for this band, especially compared to the first album," says Naughton. "They've been cooking in the oven for a while now, and it's about time we serve them up with as much Frank's Red Hot as possible."