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Fresh Music: Mark Ronson

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Years ago, on East Village Radio, Mark Ronson's Authentic Sh** radio show, he featured a guest who had just gotten tatted up and said she was quite lightheaded from blood-loss. Ronson asked her to sing anyway, so she grabbed the mic and proceeded to belt out an acoustic marvel. She may not have been in her own top form, but no one listening would have noticed, as she left those in the studio, as well as the many who listened to the archive of the show, floored. Her name was Amy Winehouse, and at that point, the only song that was circulating was "Rehab," which was more than enough to garner attention. Years later, Winehouse may be just as recognizable for her off-stage antics as her undeniable talent, but her album was enough to force the industry to take notice of Ronson, who won two Grammy Awards in 2008 for his work on the Winehouse album, which was a retro masterpiece.

The rolling basslines, blaring Dap Kings horns, and trumped-up snares that became synonymous with Ronson's production repertoire aided a newfangled interest in neo-soul. He was not the first to reinterpret soul music, but his work on his second studio album, Version, and on the albums he produced for Brit-Pop stars Winehouse and Lily Allen certified his ability to make hits with a throwback sensibility.

Ronson was born into stardom. Son of Ann Dexter-Jones, a well-known socialite who later married Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones, Ronson is also kin to Samantha and Charlotte who are public figures in their own rights.  But Ronson did not simply rest on his laurels and expect things to come easily. He developed a following as DJ by taking risks.  Today's club-goers would never flinch to hear 80s, Baltimore Club, and hip-hop in the same 1/2 hour. But many years ago, New York City's biggest and most exclusive night clubs did not play hip-hop music at all. Ronson was among the first to break hip-hop records, along with funk and soul tracks, into the chi-chi metropolitan discos. A-listers and Ford models were vibing to Ronson's sets, which included Jay-Z and Mobb Deep tracks, and his reputation soared. In fact, Jay-Z has only officially collaborated on and hosted one mixtape--the Fade to Black Mixtape with Mark.

With two albums of albums curated and produced by Ronson that seemed to revel in the funk and soul sound he'd helped to revitalize, his third studio album, Record Collection under the name the Business International seems to make a departure from his signature sound. Fast-forwarding from the 60s Stax Records sound to a medley of references that seems appropriate to the genre-free landscape of today's pop music--the new project mixes New Wave, hip-hop, indie rock, trance, and more. The lead single, "Bang, Bang, Bang" features Q-Tip and MNDR over a staccato synth (see Kanye's "Flashing Lights") that sprawls into a bridge that breaks the mold of today's more rote pop music structure. "Lose it (in the End)" features Ghostface Killah and frequent-collaborator Alex Greenwald over a track that is one part spaghetti-Western, one part James Brown, and another part Electric Prunes.



Ronson is not only a celebrity DJ, record producer, and recording artist. He recently collaborated with Gucci on a line of sneakers as well. As a younger and emerging DJ, he appeared in a Tommy Hilfiger jeans ad on the 1s and 2s with Aaliyah, marking the start of a series of fashion appearances and eventually landed him the British GQ title as Most Fashionable Male for 2009, edging out Guy Ritchie and Tom Ford. So while trekking the globe playing parties for the likes of Bono may be exciting enough for many, Ronson's iternerary now includes playing to packed houses with his band and gladhanding at trans-continental Gucci pop-up releases for sneakers he's helped design. And while his latest album has leaped ahead to the 80s for inspiration, his style and sensibility is undeniably influential and 100% contemporary.