There were makeovers, do-overs, and -- following what would be threelively hours of deft mimicry -- precisely eleven leftovers at the firstannual Hip Hop Karaoke Championship Friday night (Jan. 25). NYC'sHighline Ballroom played host to the event as some of hip-hop's finest,judges Prince Paul, of Handsome Boy Modeling Boy fame and current Baby Elephant constituent, DJ and video director Ralph McDaniels, and Black Sheep's Dres, provided plenty of colorful commentary. Atstake was a thousand dollars, awarded to the eventual winner, Chef; atheart, the event was a swooning night of revived hip-hop classics.Camille, who began the night rapping to Jay-Z's "Public ServiceAnnouncement," played the part of innocent karaoke virgin to itspunfunctory and inevitable first-round exit.
Amid the rehabs, rivalries, and youthful sproutings that characterize current R&B, this Grammy-winning singer/pianist has remained an untainted, immutable force. And on her melodically powerful third studio album, she matures into the matriarch of her genre. As I Am is less influenced by '70s soul than previous efforts, but more invested in melisma, vulnerability, and sour relationships ("Teenage Love Affair"). On the dreamy lullaby "Like You'll Never See Me Again," she ponders whether she'll be appreciated after a lover stops calling her name. Musically, at least, Keys has nothing to worry about -- with her ever-improving songwriting (especially on the soaring ballad "No One"), she'll be revered for years to come. Now Hear This: Alicia Keys - "Like You'll Never See Me Again" WINDOWS MEDIA BUY: iTunesAmazon