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The stars of MusicFest

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Nina Sky

While we haven't heard much from these twins since "Move Your Body" was one of 2004's hottest summer jams, this pair knows how to keep heads bouncin' and booties shakin'. Nina Sky is best at straight-up club tracks, and if the duo's debut album was any indication, they love making them. Bring an extra pair of All Stars. You'll be dancing so much your soles won't be able to take it anymore.

--- Evan Parker Pierce

Jagged Edge

Jagged Edge is the sound of "Let's Get Married." Jagged Edge is the sound of "Where the Party At?" Jagged Edge is the sound of harmonious emotions that'll make you both propose to your girl, then watch her shake that ass... in that order.

Jagged Edge, the quartet originally signed to Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Recordings, has put out four solid LPs since its debut in 1998. The group's latest work, Hard, was not really that, as the love songs trump the booty shake by a landslide. It's Jagged's most complete work to date, and I think the Atlanta-based group is well on its way to leaving a permanent mark on the Urban Adult Contemporary music scene.

--- jaythreeoh

112

The way the music industry is these days, coming from The A-Town (better known as Atlanta, Georgia) is almost a guarantee for an group's career to blow. Well, the quartet known as 112 can attest to that.

Starting on Sean "P. Diddy" Combs's Bad Boy Records with the most-larger-than-life MC, the Notorious B.I.G., on your debut single will put you in the spotlight. But 112's harmonies and style of song-making kept the group on point for three platinum-plus-selling albums. The latest LP, One Twelve: Pleasure & Pain, is on track to keep up with the rest of the bunch. Their knack for putting out hit singles every time out has continued with the No. 1 single, "U Already Know."

--- jaythreeoh

Ciara

Dubbed the First Lady of "Crunk & B" by the Architect of Crunk, Lil John, Ciara represents the sexier side of a rough but almost minimalist sound that has taken over airwaves across the country. Crunk & B is the new New Jack City, teaching all the kids to dance funky. Ciara fronts a strong, sexual woman, but we have yet to see her carry a song by herself --- every hit features another big name with her, from Petey Pablo on "Goodies" to Ludacris on "Oh" to her several Missy Elliott projects. Look for Ciara to take over her own songs when she flies solo, or we could be watching yet another summertime hip-hop diva fade into the sunset.

--- Evan Parker Pierce

Boyz II Men

Despite label hopping and group-member dropping, the music of Boyz II Men is still gonna ring bells at wedding receptions and on romantic nights. They are still touring, scoring, and showing these new jacks how it's done.

Even though they haven't had an album out in more than three years or a big hit since the late '90s, their signature harmony is unprecedented. And, their live shows are what has and will keep this group's name around for many years.

The departure of Michael "Bass" McCary from the group, making them a trio, has not taken away from their fanbase. The multimillion-selling group will continue to stay in the record books with No. 1 singles, plenty of awards and accolades, and hardcore fan base in tow.

--- jaythreeoh

Fatty Koo

Fatty Koo calls itself a collective from Columbus, Ohio. The band came together in that city's arts festival. Its press kit emphasizes its varied cultural and musical backgrounds, but somehow those cultural differences are lost in a music-by-committee approach that has produced one generic single called "Bounce (Theme Song)," picked up as commercial music for the NBA. The group also did a song for the Yu-Gi-Oh soundtrack, which must be where it got its name.

--- Evan Parker Pierce

Raheem DeVaughn

Thank the music gods for sending Raheem DeVaughn. This most refreshing take on soul music from Beltsville, Maryland, brings you back to the days of old when singers would not just sing --- they would sang! DeVaughn's tunes take you back to when you would feel the passion in a musician's voice through lyrics that impacted and compelled you with substance.

His on-point falsetto combine with both sensual and socially conscious lyrics over a guitar-driven soundtrack, making for a well-rounded debut LP, The Love Experience. Officially released late last month, Raheem DeVaughn has just begun to lay the foundation for real music to be heard in these modern times.

--- jaythreeoh

Faith Evans

As the First Lady of one of the hip-hop world's first multimedia mega-franchises, Bad Boy Entertainment, Faith Evans has had her share of fame and fortune. But as her deceased husband, the Notorious B.I.G., once said, "More money, more problems."

Such was the case for Evans; early in her career her name was caught up in a whirlwind of sensational headlines. She has, however, tried her best to leave much of that in her past.

Faith's fourth LP, The First Lady, was released earlier this year on Capital Records. Sean "P. Diddy" Combs allowed her out of her contract with Bad Boy, and her becoming the sole r&b artist on an unrelated label was probably the best way for her to get the shine on her talent. Evans says of The First Lady: "You might not hear her speaking, but she always seems to handle everything with a certain dignity."

--- jaythreeoh

In This Guide...

    Soularized

    slowFlow’s jaythreeoh helps us sift MusicFest’s crunk, r&b, and hip-hop
    slowFlow’s jaythreeoh helps us sift MusicFest’s crunk, r&b, and hip-hop

    Light the candles

    Brian McKnight is not who you think he is.

    Young soul

    There's a soul consistency to John Legend's musical brew, but his lyrics run from family man to pimp, from doomed to saved. "I'm certain there's someone who doesn't approve of what I'm doing at my church," he says.

    Common grounded

    Music artist Common says he's come a long way since "drinking 40 ounces, talking about getting girls --- you know, raw hip-hop." "But, when you go through these experiences as a man," he says, "you evolve.

    Everyday people

    Just your regular superstar everyman: Lyfe Jennings is out of jail and on your radio.

    The lowdown

    Rochester MusicFest 2005 is Saturday and Sunday, July 16 and 17, in Genesee Valley Park, 1 to 8:30 p.m. both days, rain or shine.

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