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Music Planner: Hip-hop reigns with Mary J. Blige, Lil Wayne, Nas and Chance the Rapper


How did Mary J. Blige transform from the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul into a muse for a new generation of British dance stars?

"I had discovered Disclosure, and they were just amazing to me," Blige said in a recent phone interview. "They reminded me of something that I grew up on, when I was growing up and when I was a kid, and my parents were going out to clubs. The club music that was playing sounded like the club music that Disclosure's doing today. That's what I was focused on. I was just blown away at the fact that, how do these kids even know that?"

Disclosure's work with Blige, including the single F for You and tracks from her latest album The London Sessions, feels very different from classic R&B tracks like Family Affair, No More Drama and Real Love. But they're proof of Blige's effortless ability to sound right at home singing with just about anyone.

Over the past 23 years, Blige has lived up to her regal nickname, expanding her empire into a fragrance line (My Life, originally sold through St. Petersburg's HSN) and acting (she'll play Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, in NBC's upcoming musical The Wiz). But when she performs in Tampa on Sunday, her iconic, Grammy-winning catalog will be the main focus, proving why she's one of the greatest soul voices who ever lived.

Keyshia Cole opens the show at 7 p.m. at the USF Sun Dome, 4202 E Fowler Ave. $50.15 and up. (813) 974-3004.

Look for more of our interview with Blige in Sunday's Latitudes section, or read it now at

SURF'S UP: Chance the Rapper

Come December, you're going to see Chance the Rapper's name on a lot of Top 10 lists. You might even see him all the way at No. 1 — yes, ahead of King Kendrick Lamar. That's how good Surf, Chance's May album with his band Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, actually is. It's brimming with positivity and musicality and so much joie de vivre that you can't help but love it.

The 22-year-old Chicago wunderkind is doing his best to make the music industry bend to his vision — he releases his albums for free, works with eclectic characters (he followed Surf with a mixtape with social media sensation Lil B and is making a song with Stephen Colbert) and is an utterly incendiary live performer, much more James Brown than Rick Ross. Download Surf for free right now on iTunes (and pick up his new single Angels while you're at it) so you can decide where to slot it on your personal year-end Top 10.

Chance's Family Matters Tour, which hits Jannus Live (200 First St. N, St. Petersburg) at 7 p.m. tonight, also features D.R.A.M., Towkio and Metro Boomin, who helmed the recent Drake/Future mixtape What a Time to Be Alive. $35 and up. (727) 565-0550.


They're calling it the H.I.T. (History in Tampa) Music Festival, and if it all comes together, it'll indeed be historic. But we'd be remiss if we didn't emphasize the word if. Not that we have any reason not to take organizers (including popular rap website WorldStarHipHop) at their word, but the lineup for this first-time event on Saturday at the USF Sun Dome seems almost too ambitious to believe.

Atop the card are two bona fide legends, Lil Wayne, above left, and Nas, above right, the latter of whom hasn't headlined a proper Tampa Bay concert in ages. Below them are artists with huge hits (DJ Khaled and All I Do Is Win, Fabolous and Can't Deny It, Waka Flocka Flame and Hard In Da Paint), harder-edged acts with plenty of cred (Yo Gotti, August Alsina, Jim Jones) and up-and-comers who deserve a headlining show of their own (iLoveMakonnen, Tink, Cyhi the Prince).

Will all these artists show up? Can they all possibly fit into one bill? It could be a train wreck, or it could be the hip-hop show of the year. But a lineup this good is worth the gamble. Doors open at 5 p.m., and the show begins at 5:45. $27.75 and up via Ticketmaster. (813) 974-3004.

BATTER UP: Ferg's goes live

Friday brings the first grand experiment in live music at Ferg's Sports Bar in St. Petersburg: a concert by '80s hair-metal relics Warrant, Ratt and L.A. Guns. Will Aqua Net-banging hits like Cherry Pie, Heaven, Round & Round and The Ballad of Jayne play in the redesigned courtyard of Tampa Bay's best baseball bar? We'll find out. Consider this a test run for bigger shows to come, like Blue Oyster Cult (Nov. 13), John Michael Montgomery (Dec. 4), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (Dec. 11), George Clinton (Dec. 31) and Europe (Feb. 3). Tickets to the Warrant show start at $14.95, with VIP balcony admission starting at $49.99. 1320 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 822-4562.

CATCH 'EM WHILE YOU CAN: Damien Rice and Sufjan Stevens

Two of the most achingly poignant singer-songwriters of the past 15 years also happen to be two of the least likely to visit Florida. Amazingly, they're both coming our way this week.

On Friday, you'll have to drive to Orlando to catch Sufjan Stevens at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, but it'll be worth it to hear gorgeous indie-folk gems like Chicago, Casimir Pulaski Day or anything from this year's sparse, lovely Carrie & Lowell. $35 and up. drphillipsc

On Monday, Irish folk singer Damien Rice performs a little closer to home — the Tampa Theatre, to be exact. Ed Sheeran's a massive acolyte (he gives Rice a shout-out on his song You Need Me, I Don't Need You), and warm and vulnerable songs like Cannonball, The Blower's Daughter and Volcano have soundtracked many a modern hipster courtship. $39.50 and up. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Tampa Theatre, 711 N Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 274-8286.

Music Planner: Hip-hop reigns with Mary J. Blige, Lil Wayne, Nas and Chance the Rapper 11/04/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 1:18pm]
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