Lorraine Ali

Stories by Lorraine Ali

  • Down With Dancehall

    Just as middle America was growing comfortable with hip-hop speak--"Wass up?"--along comes a new linguistic challenge: Jamaican dancehall. Today you can hear this Caribbean club music, a hard-edged and party-heavy offspring of reggae that used to be confined to the "world music" ghetto, alongside Nelly and Kelly on urban radio, MTV and BET. Most hip-hop fans under 25 can now recite the chorus of Sean Paul's "Gimme the Light"--though they may still be able to hum only along with the verses. ( "Them got the goody goody/One thing me haffi tell me/Dutty got the woody woody.") "Dere's a lot of speech we use dat Americans don't get right off," says Paul, "but hip-hop been usin' urban slang and people in Japan and Germany still listen to Wu-Tang Clan, even though dey cannot understand. It just took years to prove itself. Dat's what's happenin' wit' dancehall now."You don't have to look far to find its influence on the American Top 40. Recent singles by Missy Elliott, Janet Jackson and No...
  • Choosing Virginity

    A New Attitude: Fewer Teenagers Are Having Sex. As Parents And Politicians Debate The Merits Of Abstinence Programs, Here's What The Kids Have To Say.
  • She Still Believes

    If Whitney Houston hadn't confessed all to Diane Sawyer Wednesday night on ABC, surely television's biggest diva drama this week would have been Mariah Carey deconstructing her own 2001 "meltdown" for Matt Lauer on Tuesday on NBC.The 32-year-old singer downplayed rumors that she'd had a nervous breakdown by explaining that it was exhaustion--not depression, suicidal thoughts or insanity--that led her mom to call 911 in a panic that summer. Carey has talked in other interviews about further pressures, too: a flop film debut, a fizzled relationship with Latin singer Luis Miguel, the unfortunate release date (9-11-01) of her album "Glitter" and the ensuing nasty break up with her new label, EMI (after a previous nasty break up with Columbia, run by her old hubby, Tommy Mottola). But hey, she pulled through. The confident and calm Carey demystified all, letting the air out of each balloon of gossip.Of course, Houston was still the winner of the week's Tragedy and Tears prize. The singer...
  • Songs In The Key Of Tlc

    An army of 1,500 fans have blocked traffic in New York's already-jammed Times Square. The crowd, many of whom wear a painted black line under their left eye, don't seem to mind the incessant honking and dirty looks from cabdrivers. They are transfixed by the premiere of TLC's new video, "Girl Talk," playing on the outdoor JumboTron. On screen, Rozonda (Chilli) Thomas and Tionne (T-Boz) Watkins do what comes naturally to TLC--bust fluid dance moves in baggy pants and T's, sing lines like "thinking you got powers like Austin but you're more like Mini Me" and size up a parade of ultrahunky men as if they were questionable market produce. The crowd pops and sways to the beat, though it's clear to everyone there's one major element missing: TLC's tempestuous third member, Lisa (Left-Eye) Lopes. The 30-year-old singer, who wore a trademark swath of black under her left eye, died six months ago in a car crash in Honduras. TLC had recorded more than half the songs for their new album, "3D,"...
  • Aerobics For Anarchists

    It's 11 on Saturday inside the legendary New York punk club CBGB. That's a.m., not p.m. And there's no band in sight. The hulking man with the blue mohawk and tattoo isn't confused about the time of day--he's there for a workout. As in exercise. He takes one last gulp of his Bloody Mary, stubs out his cigarette on the bar floor and heads for an empty space in front of the stage. Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" blasts through the PA system. The unlikely participant pulls off his sweat shirt, raises his arms and dips into a deep stretch a la Jane Fonda. Punk Rock Aerobics has begun.For the next 90 minutes the tattooed giant, two instructors and 21 other seemingly hung-over students will do moves called the Skank, the Teenage Kix and the Air Guitar. They'll use bricks for weights and even form a mosh pit at the high end of the cardio pump, all to the music of Black Flag, the Stooges and the Sex Pistols. Never will a J. Lo dance tune or a perky instructor's command of "work...
  • Newsmakers

    One Nation, Under 'Jackass'Johnny Knoxville would like to make an apology. Naturally, the man is delighted that his masterwork, "Jackass: The Movie"--an 80-minute highlight reel of some of the most outrageous stunts, pranks and assaults on personal hygiene ever recorded--raked in a shocking $22 million in its opening weekend. He is, of course, proud to have the most popular movie in America. But... "Oh, my goodness, when I think of all those poor filmmakers who spent so much time and tens of millions of dollars on their movies--and our stinker was No. 1?" Knoxville shakes his head. "That is so wrong."Finally, something Knoxville and his howling detractors can agree upon. After all, "Jackass: The Movie" is only a movie in the loosest sense. There is no plot, just one grosser-than-gross gimmick after another. Knoxville is the star, but in name only. The best gags belong to his crew of longtime pals, most notably Chris Pontius, who loves dancing naked in public; Steve-O, who enjoys...
  • Cries From The Heart

    It's Nirvana's Moment Again With A 'New' Hit--And A Raw, Revealing Book Of The Late Kurt Cobain's Diaries. An Exclusive Excerpt.
  • Hip-Hop's Hope

    Hip-hop was once referred to as "the CNN of the streets."The idea was that rappers like Public Enemy, and later Tupac Shakur, told the story of disenfranchised urban kids-from the grim realities of ghetto life to the bass-heavy boom of house parties. They exposed a world that was often misrepresented by Hollywood and ignored by top 40 radio. In other words, they were bringing you the news no one else could deliver.Today the urban genre has more in common with the Home Shopping Network than CNN. Its stars, like Ashanti, offer nonstop displays of diamonds and designer clothes and rap incessantly about getting more of them. The brilliant lyricism of the day? The refrain of Nelly's recent hit says it all: "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes." Welcome to hip-hop, 2002. Like so many revolutionary genres before it, rap had to forsake its credibility to finally dominate the charts.But just below the surface of all that billion-dollar ice, there is hope. "What we do is...
  • The Baghdad I Knew

    It was like a scene from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," except with Arabs. Dozens of my dark-eyed relations were gathered in my uncle Ibrahim's front yard to celebrate yet another Ali marriage. They skewer-cooked fish, argued politics and kicked a soccer ball around in the 125-degree Baghdad summer heat. It was 1976; I was 11 years old and had never been to Iraq; my dad had immigrated to Los Angeles before I was born. The kids treated my sister and me like novelty items--they couldn't stop fighting over us. My feisty cousin Afrah threw a Sadoon Jaber record onto the ancient player and the girls tried to teach us how to "dance like the Arab." We shook our skinny kid hips, never quite catching the beat. My sister then popped her own Elton John cassette into a clunky tape player we'd lugged all the way from L.A. and shimmied like Cher to "Crocodile Rock." They laughed so hard someone actually spit up a date. That's how I want to remember Baghdad.Last week President Bush's speech at the...
  • All About Eve

    The Souvenirs of Hollywood shop is packed with gawking tourists, but the owner knows they aren't there to buy the James Dean coffee cup or the Marilyn With Skirt in Air clock. Eve, rap's First Lady and Hollywood's up-and-coming star, is posing for a photo shoot just outside on Hollywood Boulevard, and his shop front provides the best view. "Please move," he pleads. "You're blocking the merchandise." But they're busy snapping photos of Eve (a.k.a. Eve Jihan Jeffers) in her blue blazer, white tank top and the tight miniskirt she keeps tugging down for modesty's sake. One old-time fan shouts from the crowd: "Hey, Eve! You lookin' like a supersta' now!"A year ago most of these people had no idea who Eve was. She had yet to play Vin Diesel's slick promoter in this summer's blockbuster "XXX," wasn't even close to landing a prominent role in Ice Cube's film "Barbershop" (which opens Sept. 13), and was only just gaining recognition for the crossover hit single "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" with No...
  • The Tunes You Can't Refuse

    It's just past midnight, the mafia feast is in full swing and I'm playing a game in my head called Who's the Boss? It's not easy to focus while distracted by the smell of roast sausages, the taste of sweet white wine and the sight of a portly man in a tweed cap busting out the accordion. There are 35 guests to choose from at this gathering in the rugged Aspromonte range of southern Italy. They've come to celebrate one of three possible things: someone sprung from jail, a newly "made" man or the end of a longstanding vendetta. Then again, it could be a mock feast thrown for journalists in town to report on malavita music: mafia folk tunes written by jailed "family" members, played during traditional feasts--and taboo throughout the rest of Italy. My guide, Francesco Sbano--a native Calabrian, "family" friend and coproducer of a new malavita CD, "La Musica della Mafia"--never explains which joyous event we're celebrating, nor does he identify the other people seated at the long wood...
  • Daybreak In A Concrete Sky

    You might expect Beth Orton to be quiet, withdrawn, maybe even a little spacey in person. Her new album, "Daybreaker," is full of beautiful washes of melancholy, blue vocals and simple lyrics that convey the most abstract of emotions. The electronic effects are subtle and muted. But no. Bounding into a Manhattan juice bar comes a six-foot-tall gal in a bright red vintage sweater, her hair a mess, doing Britney impressions. "I've always been a big fat showoff," says Orton, 31. "I'm not Mrs. Humble Pie. 'Hi! It's Me! Britney Orton!' " She gives a perfect teen-queen head snap.Orton didn't plan on taking off as a singer-songwriter, let alone becoming a critics' fave. After all, her 1996 debut, "Trailer Park," appealed to an audience that no one knew existed. Her fans were a fusion of rave kid and '60s folk revivalist--they listened both to Prodigy and to Joni Mitchell. "I used to think I was going to be a comedian, but I ended up being this miserablist," says the British-born Orton,...
  • It Looks Marvelous

    You knew it had to happen: the kitschy-cool '70s revival is finally... well, history. Now peg-leg jeans and pre-ripped T shirts are making their way up from ultrahip clubs in New York City to malls near you, and so is the new-wave music and old-school hip-hop behind the look. Madonna, Moby and No Doubt incorporated the early synthesized sounds of the '80s on their last albums--Madonna actually remembers the '80s--and new bands like OK Go have debut CDs steeped in the sounds of the Reagan years.Most telling of all, Rhino Records has just released "Like Omigod! The 80's Pop Culture Box (Totally)": seven CDs packaged in black vinyl with Day-Glo lettering. Not just such songs as "Bette Davis Eyes," "Valley Girl" and "White Lines," but bits of aural memorabilia--the "Hill Street Blues" theme, Billy Crystal's "You look marvelous" routine, a dismal speech on trickle-down economics by the Gipper himself. And a how-to chart of '80s club moves, from the King Tut ("hands in, knees out") to the...
  • Lazy-Hazy-Jay-Z Days Of Summer

    It's hot, it's muggy and you feel fat in a bathing suit. Yes, summer is here and with it comes the onslaught of bad sunburns and bands on tour. While the former can be easily dealt with by slathering oneself in aloe vera, the latter is a different story.Picking the right shows on which to spend hard-earned cash takes careful consideration. Our hip, vigilant NEWSWEEK summer interns, Curtis Harris and Vanessa Juares, compiled a quick list of approximately 50 pop, rap and rock tours that have just hit the road-or will do so this summer. The names range from Ja Rule to Jewel, Mark Anthony to Aerosmith, Alicia Keys to Elvis Costello.I combed through the dense list, asking myself the following questions: Is this show worth the humiliation of having your Diesel jeans/cargo shorts/leisure suit (I love Neil Diamond) patted down during security checks at the door? Would I brave jammed parking lots and sweaty packs of woo-hooing college dudes (yes, Dave Matthews Band is touring this summer)...
  • A Magazine Of Their Own

    It was easy to spot Tayyibah Taylor at a recent journalism conference in Chicago. A gorgeous woman in a silky headwrap, she was clutching a copy of Azizah magazine to her chest like a guard concealing jewels from marauding thieves. "I don't want to give it up," joked Taylor, the magazine's publisher, financier and editor in chief. "I brought over 100 copies and this is all I have left."There is growing curiosity around Azizah (meaning "dear, strong and noble"), the first and only American magazine for Muslim women. The glossy quarterly caters to a multiethnic readership--Taylor is an African-American from Trinidad; the creative director Marlina Soerakoesoemah is Indonesian; writers are of all nationalities--and offers smart stories on everything from birth control to surviving 9-11 backlash. Azizah also features profiles on professional Muslim women and tips on fashion, recipes ("There's Nothing Quite Like Rice") and gardening. "For centuries Muslim women have been defined by Muslim...
  • Wilco: The Little Band That Could

    Wilco is one of those bands that major labels refer to as a "credibility act." As in, they're respected by serious artists and discerning listeners, but too complex musically to make money for the record company. But now that the music business is run by five conglomerates and credibility is no longer in demand, acts like Wilco have become financial soft spots rather than tokens of cool cachet.What a surprise it must have been to the band's former label, Reprise, when the Wilco album it rejected, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," broke into Billboard's top 15 last week. The Chicago band is now enjoying its highest chart debut ever. "There's a bit of a rock-and-roll swindle going on," says Wilco's singer and guitarist Jeff Tweedy, 34, who's been called the best songwriter of his generation. His band is now signed to Nonesuch, which, like Reprise, is owned by AOL Time Warner. "The parent company paid for a record, gave it away, then bought it back again. Maybe I shouldn't draw attention to that...
  • Where There's A Wilco

    Wilco's had a wild year. First, the Chicago band finished what they felt was their best record yet--only to have it rejected by their record label.Then the group left the label, Reprise, and published "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," their fourth CD, on their own Web site. A few months later, the group signed to Nonesuch Records, which put the record in stores. Then, despite the fact that the CD already had been available on the Web, it still hit No. 13 on the Billboard 200 last week, making it Wilco's most commercially successful album ever.Up until now, the band's always flown under the radar, rarely getting radio play and certainly never appearing on MTV. But Wilco and its core songwriter, Jeff Tweedy, have been heroes of the independent rock world since the college radio boom of the 1990s, which gave the band a loyal underground following. Critics stuck with them even after they morphed from an alternative country band in the vein of Gram Parsons to an experimental pop group a la Brian...
  • Music: Singing Outside The Box

    Danielle Howle is a singer-songwriter for those who cringe at the thought of listening to one more doe-eyed gal (or guy) with a guitar. The South Carolinian, a lean and wiry guitarist who often sports ratty pigtails onstage, free-associates between songs in one of those impossible Southern drawls you'd attribute to a Eudora Welty character: "I had two '70s Camaros. They was sweet--eight cylinders. Those things can git up and stomp!" On her new record, "Skorborealis," she's just as entertaining when singing about "Big Puffy Girl Handwriting" or "Karaoke": "It brought us together, and now it's tearing us apart/ I've always loved you sugar, but that machine has got your heart."The 33-year-old is a respected oddball on the folk and punk fringe and a celebrated curiosity in the world beyond. Howle's received accolades in The New York Times, opened for Bob Dylan and been called a "melodic, nimble being" by Ani DiFranco. But the eccentric singer still prefers to fly under the radar. She's...
  • Newsmakers

    Bill Clinton wants to be the next Oprah? When it comes to our 42d president, almost anything seems plausible. Just not this. It's time to separate fact from fiction about Clinton's meeting last week with NBC. Fact: Clinton did meet with NBC top dogs Andrew Lack and Jeff Zucker. He also met previously with CBS's Leslie Moonves and, Newsmakers has learned, with Disney/ABC's Michael Eisner. But all that stuff about a daytime talk show is nonsense. Clinton would be interested, says a close associate, only in a serious, "Charlie Rose"-style show or a handful of prime-time specials--and even those options seem unlikely to pan out. Also false: the $50 million price tag Clinton supposedly dangled for his services. Money was never discussed, says the associate. (Not like the guy needs it: as NEWSWEEK reported in its April 8 issue, Clinton's annual speaking income is $10 million to $15 million, and he's received $100 million in promotional and TV offers since leaving office.) Here's the...
  • Great White Male

    It's 9 a.m.--an ungodly hour for pop stars--but Moby's been up for ages. He's padding around his spare, downtown Manhattan loft, throwing out junk mail, cleaning perishables out of the fridge, bagging up the trash and readying for a promotional tour for his new album. Moby's last outing, "Play," was an international smash, but Moby has not exactly mastered the role of pop royalty. His luggage for the next three months is a measly daypack, the kind school kids use to stuff their PE shoes in while Mom is yelling at them to hurry. He has no team of handlers in the loft to, well, handle things. Instead, he's so jittery and distracted he can't even finish his bowl of bran flakes. When a car finally pulls up outside to take him to his first radio interview, Moby slings the bag earnestly over one shoulder, adjusts his thick-rimmed glasses and tromps out the door with trash bag in hand: "Okey-dokey, let's go."Exactly how an awkward little man like Moby (a.k.a. Richard Melville Hall, a true...
  • About A (Brilliant) Boy

    "About a Boy" is a film based on a Nick Hornby book about the unlikely bond between a cranky bachelor and, of course, a boy. It's witty, great in spots, and stars Hugh Grant. Or so I've heard. I haven't actually seen the film.I've so fallen in love with "About a Boy's" original soundtrack that I'm afraid to see a press screening of the movie, which will hit theaters May 17. I fear that the film may have the same effect a so-so video has on a brilliant song. You know how it goes. You form an intimate bond with a piece of music, only to have it squashed by absurd images that torment you like a reoccurring rash each time you hear the song. (Think of Wayne, Garth & Co. singing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in a Pacer.)The beauty of "About a Boy's" original soundtrack is that the listener does not have to see the film to become totally engrossed in the music. The score's style is somewhere between that of Burt Bacharach and Fatboy Slim, and strung together with quirk and flare. It's...
  • Laughter's New Profile

    Profiling. Detainment. Hate crimes. It's no fun being an Arab-American now--unless you also happen to be a comedian. "I went to the airport check-in counter," says Egyptian-American comic Ahmed Ahmed to a packed room at L.A.'s Comedy Store. "The lady behind the counter asked if I packed my bags myself. I said yes--and they arrested me." The audience titters nervously. But by the time he gets to his first Osama joke--"The only virgin he'll get in the afterlife is Janet Reno"--they're giving up the big laughs. For the next two hours at the Sun-set Strip club, Palestinian-American Aron Kader, Iranian-American Maz Jobrani and Armenian-American Sam Tripoli riff on their cultures while the mainly white and Hispanic crowd eats it up. Ahmed says they couldn't get arrested before 9-11. To which Jobrani jokes, "It's easy now."The Western and the Muslim worlds may seem more alienated than ever, but there's a growing demand for humor that bridges the gap. The Comedy Store's "Arabian Knights"...
  • Newsmakers

    A Star's Fall From Grace ...
  • The Crow Must Go On

    Sheryl Crow doesn't seem to mind talking about her recent meltdown, or even joking that she wasn't far behind Mariah Carey when she snapped during the making of her new album, "C'mon, C'mon." The reasons, she says between bites of toast at a cafe in Manhattan, were numerous: a relationship gone bust, the worry of fitting her organic rock into an increasingly commodified pop scene, the fear of turning 40 in a business where the Backstreet Boys are considered, like, totally old."This record just beat me up so badly," says Crow, who hardly looks worse for the wear. She appears rested, even happy, kicking back in a gauzy embroidered shirt that should smell of patchouli but doesn't, and faded bell-bottoms with leather laces crisscrossing up the side seams. "The two years before 40 were a total crash and burn--I was trying to make everything fit together. Things have changed a lot in music. The advice I was getting was, 'Rock is dead, incorporate beats into the record.' So when I write,...
  • Norah Jones Jazzes Things Up

    Just for the record, Alicia Keys is not the only artist of her generation who can play a piano. Twenty-two-year-old Norah Jones may not be winning any Grammys yet, but her Blue Note debut, "Come Away With Me," lifts the talent bar yet another notch for young artists.Her sultry voice glides through a spare rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You," a sweet take of Hank Williams's "Cold Cold Heart" and the songs she writes herself: from country-tinged numbers to surreal, low-fi pop.Thanks to Jones's unique blend, there's now a big buzz around her otherwise humble record. "I don't think this album sounds like a lot of things out there," says Jones, who went from playing tiny clubs last year to Leno this month. "It's simple, and that appeals to people. That's what I like about it anyway."Jones, who grew up in Dallas, has played piano since she was 7. Her father is renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar, but Jones was estranged from him for most of her childhood. She attrib-utes...
  • REVENGE OF THE NERDS

    They put the resounding thump in Britney's "I'm a Slave 4 U," the bounce in Jay-Z's "I Just Wanna Love U" and the only interesting bits in 'N Sync's "Girlfriend." If there's been a new beat or rhythm stuck in your head lately, it's most likely a tune produced, written or tweaked by the Neptunes. Last week five songs by the production duo were simultaneously on Billboard's Hot 100.Their attention-grabbing sound--inspired as much by bleeping videogames as the wall-shaking bass of a house party or the heavy breathing of a prank phone call--has turned former studio dorks Chad (Chase) Hugo and Pharrell Williams into producers du jour. They now work with a roster of artists so diverse it looks like a star-studded Benetton ad: Janet Jackson, No Doubt, Busta Rhymes, Sugar Ray..."We never want to be those people who specialize in a certain style, because once that dies, so do you," says Williams, who started the Neptunes with partner Hugo in the mid-'90s. Williams is on the run, as usual,...
  • Goin? Grammy

    I know I should be more grateful about being invited to the Grammys. There’s thousands of people who’d kill to be in my uncomfortable, four-inch heels with the torturous ankle straps. ...
  • Jackson In The Driver's Seat

    The singer takes the stage at New York's legendary punk club CBGB against a backdrop of graffitied walls and shredded fliers for obscure, long-gone bands. A tattooed, dreadlocked bouncer gets ready, folding his arms forebodingly over a faded T shirt that reads MONEY + DRUGS = WOMEN. But as he turns to face the crowd, it's apparent there'll be no slamming tonight. Instead, men in cowboy hats, women with sprayed, crunchy hairdos and even a few hotties in made in America sweaters raise their Buds in the air and salute Nashville superstar Alan Jackson with a cacophony of farmhand-style shouts. The bouncer rolls his eyes. ...
  • Newsmakers

    Chelsea Goes StraightWhat's Eating Iron Mikeplease'Fear' and Loathing
  • Ballad For Mariah

    She has had more No. 1 songs than any artist working today. In the history of pop music, she's outranked only by Elvis Presley and the Beatles in that category. Her albums have sold 8 million copies each on average. But in today's frenetically paced, financially troubled music business, all Mariah Carey had to do was make one bum CD and those past achievements were easily overlooked. ...