Best Male Hip-Hop Artist/Group – Black Milk
If his newest release, Album of the Year, doesn't give you any indication as to how huge Black Milk is getting these days, then maybe you need to seek out one of his many shows. His production skills are some of the best around; and when you pair that with incredible lyricism and a commanding stage presence, you get one hell of a performer. Whether it's performing for his adoring fans overseas or repping for his hometown, Black Milk shows time after time why he's one of the greats.
Best Female Hip-Hop Artist/Group – Invincible
It may have been hard to come by a strong female presence in the hip-hop game years ago, but these days it's the ladies that have been putting in some serious work. Invincible is one such female rapper that Detroit is blessed to call one of its own. Not only is her lyricism created out of sheer genius, but her work towards a social revolution far surpasses any expectations people had for her. Intelligent, kind and a trailblazer, from the creation of her own label, Emergence, to her activism, peer influence and solid catalog, Invincible is a role model for an entire city.
Best Jazz Band – Jesse Palter Quartet
Having sang in public since age 5, Jesse Palter's velvety voice has carried her into the public's adoring eye for the majority of her life. In her college years, Palter's ambition inspired the University of Michigan to extend its Jazz Program to include Vocal Studies. From there, Palter collaborated with various local jazz players and released in 2006 the quartet's first album Beginning to See the Light. In '06, '07 and '08, Palter was honored with the Outstanding Jazz Vocalist Award at the Detroit Music Awards. The Jesse Palter Quartet continues with traditional and contemporary approaches to jazz on a national and international basis.
Best Rock Band – Tyvek
If their walls could talk, they would surely mention the word "punk" at least 342 times. These Detroiters have a sound that transcends time and takes listeners back to a time when the Motor City was a haven for violent guitars and the volume set to 11. With songs that rarely see three minutes in length, Tyvek are masters of packing a lot of taste in the small morsels that make up their music.
Best Indie Band – Lightning Love
Lightning Love – a sugar sweet electro-pop trio out of Ypsilanti – not to be confused with a 1923 film featuring the joyously obese, Oliver Hardy. With an emphasis on electric keyboard and female vocals, Lightning Love is similar to an electrified version of Candy Land, but with friendship problems. Their songs are so catchy that people of all musical backgrounds seem to enjoy Lightning Love's candy-coated melodies and angst-filled lyrics – so sweet, they'll rot your teeth out.
Best Band – Prussia
After only one listen to Prussia's EP Four For Attention, you get the sense you are not listening to some local band that performs for friends on the weekend. Music blogs have trouble pinning these Michiganders to a certain sound, but their appeal is widespread and definitely growing. Prussia will be playing their brand of chamber folk pop rock to CMW in March (think SXSW, but cold and Canadian) and garnering even more attention. With goals of bringing a new and interesting sound to your headphones, Prussia's latest full-length will be out later this summer. Entitled Poor English, a couple of tracks can be heard on their bandcamp page. Good luck not tapping your toes (or dancing in your bedrooms, like we did) to "What Am I Gonna Tell Your Mom?" Needless to say, there are many who are looking forward to seeing what Prussia's latest writing sessions will produce.
Best Live Performance – Child Bite
Child Bite is Ferndale's equivalent of a super-group. With pieces of some of the best bands the area has produced, Child Bite knows what they are doing. Their experience and camaraderie leads to an intensely fun show. Blending genres in their own unique way, catch them next at the Blowout or on their next massive tour that include shows with Detroit's Best Band, Prussia. Ear orgasm anyone?
Best Dressed Band – Conspiracy of Owls
While we are sure Conspiracy of Owls aren't buying off any Somerset racks and probably won't be making Joan Rivers list of best dressed musicians, we do things differently in the Motor City. Their effortless style somehow transports fans back to a day when their mom's whitewashed jeans were way too tight and her hair way too big. Fortunately, Conspiracy of Owls' music is just as rad as their clothes. Their debut self-entitled album was released last year, but the sounds emanating from it could have been from 30 years ago and you would be none the wiser. C of O's debut is filled to the rafters with flowy synthesizers and sprawling guitars. The boys will soon be taking their talents to Austin for some showcase SXSW performances.
Best Solo Artist – Jessica Hernandez
Upon looking at Jessica Hernandez, with her coy smile, raven hair and small stature – as people have said time and time again – it's hard to reason such a strong voice coming from within this tiny creature. Taking on a decidedly different sound that Detroit is used to hearing, Hernandez and her new backing band the Deltas captivate their audience, making new fans out of casual listeners on a daily basis. Her old-time sound mixed with a big band quality – that has much emphasis on instrumentation – makes Hernandez an easy pick for this years best solo artist.
Best Local Songwriter – Josh Epstein/Daniel Zott
True, the winner lists two names – but how could we not include both masterminds behind the world's (exaggeration) new favorite band? So, we're sorry fellas, but it's a tie! Their debut EP Horsepower embodies the many feelings of love, making all who listen to it feel tingly, loved and euphoric. Lighthearted in nature and simple in subject, Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott's lyrics are emotional without making you want to burst into tears and smart enough to endear them to the entire country.
Best DJ – Godfather
In this day and age, DJ Godfather is a name well known in Detroit (and most likely around the country). From his early days making ghettotech booty music – inspired from Miami, created for Detroit – to his continued work in the electronic genre with the likes of Disco Fries, DJ Serafin and DJ Exchange. These days, Godfather has his own iPhone app, multiple labels, countess downloads and more gigs you can shake a stick at – luckily for us, Detroit is still the only place he'd ever want to call home.
Best Folk Artist – Chris Bathgate
Michigan has a rich history when it comes to folk music. From Sufjan to Frontier Ruckus, we love the stuff. Chris Bathgate is carrying the torch now. His soft voice takes no prisoners with its warmth, and wins the rest over with understated guitars. Bathgate has a highly anticipated full-length album releasing in late April. The Ann Arborite's place as a favorite will surely be solidified in our collective folk-loving hearts.
Best Blues Artist – Mystery Train
Do you want to impress that too-cool-for-school girl over in the corner? Let it slip that you have really been digging Mystery Train featuring Jim McCarty. While he leaves the body blows to Darren, McCarty and Mystery Train know how to lay 'em out with the guitar. The blues ain't for everybody all the time, but Mystery Train is your go-to band when it is. World-famous and hardly known, YouTube them next time you're feelin' down.
Best Cover Band – Mega '80s
How long has the Mega '80s been performing? Since the '80s? Not quite, but they're so good at performing and re-creating all our favorite tunes from that time period that one can't help but think it to be true. Calling the Magic Bag their home pretty much every Saturday night, The Mega '80s encourage everyone to slip on their leg warmers, zip up their fanny packs and gear up for one extremely good time.
Best World Music Group – Will Sessions
Without a doubt, Will Sessions is one of the funkiest bands in Detroit. Whether you're a connoisseur of music theory, or looking to get drunk and dance your ass off, Will Sessions has something to offer any fan – even old-school vinyl 45s. Having formed in 2007 as a solo project, Will Sessions gained numerous band members – most of which are alumni from Wayne State's Jazz Program – and collaborated with their diverse styles and talents to form one versatile music group. Will Sessions is among Detroit's most successful and popular bands, having collaborated with myriad of artists including: Mayer Hawthorn, Monica Blaire, Phat Kat, Black Milk, Slum Village, Ricky Calloway, Billy Love, 14 KT – and becoming mainstays at Funk Night with D.J. Frank Raines. Our hat goes off to the members of Will Sessions, for keeping funk alive and funkafied in the Motor City.
Best Hard Rock Band – Octopus
Members of Octopus congregated as a pseudo supergroup of Detroit musicians – they rock hard, but not too hard. Octopus continues to support the Detroit rock scene, having spawned from various popular groups of the past. Some of you may recognize Octopus' lead guitarist, Joe Frezza, as a former member of Detroit's wacky rock band, Electric Six – lead vocalist, Masha Marijeh, former member of the Dead String Brothers – bassist, Dale Wilson, front man of Four Hour Friends – and drummer, Kenny Tudrick, who also drums for Detroit Cobras.
Best Local Record Label – Five Three Dial Tone
What do you get when you mix a love of good local music with a hefty dash of nerdosity? Well, Five Three Dial Tone, of course. With acts like Lettercamp, Illy Mack and Satin Peaches, Five Three Dial Tone have the roster to fill your day with solid tuneage. Commitment to branding and getting their releases to the masses (in any format known to man) is certainly behind this label's deserving label of Best ... Label.
Best Local Band Name – Cold Men Young
Let's be honest, when Phenom, Mic Write, Blaksmith and Kopelli cleverly came up with their hip-hop group name, Cold Men Young, they were definitely onto something. Not only does their name catch the eye of non hip-hop fans, but their sound and lyricism reels 'em in and doesn't let go. Clearly taken from former Detroit mayor Colman Young, the fellas say that they plan to do just what he did: Breath new life into the city. So far, so good.
Best Place to Record Your First Album – Ghetto Recorders
Ghetto Recorders Owner and Producer Jim Diamond has recorded a vast array of punk, garage and rock 'n' roll bands since 1996, notably, the White Stripes' first two albums. Their Web site boasts an honest description of the studio, which offers a definitive explanation of a Detroit independent recording studio: without proper heating and cooling, conveniently located in a questionable part of town and "all the amenities of prison." Ghetto Recorders' bare bones studio —stripped-down and raw —is the perfect rock environment for making truly authentic, blue-collar rock music.
Best Club DJ – Nick Haddad
DJ Captn20, aka Nick Haddad, is not only easy on the eyes (ladies), but easy on the ears as he gears up to present you with the best music selection to take you from hump day through Saturday. "DJing to me is a way to escape the monotony of everyday life and to help others do the same. Whether I'm playing for 50 people or 50,000 people (one day ...) [laughs], I know that I have the ability to make people have an amazingly unforgettable experience where they can forget all their problems," says Haddad. Currently holding down residencies from Birmingham to Detroit and cities in between, Haddad can be seen grooving the crowds at Mon Jin Jau (Weds), Bosco (Thurs), Hard Rock Café (Fri), Commune (Fri nights) and V Nightclub at MGM (Sat). And if you just can't get enough of him, check him out on the inter-web at djcaptn20.com and on Twitter, DJCaptn20.
Best Electronic Artist – Kenneth Thomas
Good DJ rule of thumb: If Paul Oakenfold finds you to be talented, chances are you are pretty much one of the best out there. Recently setting his sights on Detroit's own Kenneth Thomas, Oakenfold signed him to his Perfecto label and didn't look back. Starting his career with a residency in the lower level of Clutch Cargos, Thomas moved up and out real quick given his unique, emotional sound and appeal to the masses. He came out with his debut album on NYE this past year and has been on the go ever since.
Best Local Music Video Producer – Anthony Garth
Anthony Garth made his claim to fame with the 2001 music video release of "Hotel Yorba" by the White Stripes. Garth watched his video's MTV debut while working as a bartender at the Magic Stick, and since then Garth has refined his craft of filmmaking. As part of the Royal Oak based representative company for filmmakers, Avalon Films, Garth's recent endeavors include music videos for names like Carrie Underwood, Electric Six and The Sights -- not to mention a slew of commercials.
Best Band You Haven't Heard – Pink Lightning
Pink Lightning's members include a lead guitarist with surfer-style shredding abilities, a solid bass and drums rhythm team, a singer reminiscent of Nick Cave and a man armed with an accordion. As elusive as Pink Lightning may be, it is our hope and ambition here at Real Detroit Weekly to change the fact that very few have heard of this mysterious quintet. For those of you hunting for Pink Lightning, sightings include P.J.'s Lager House and Dally in the Alley.
Best Digital Record Label – Databass/Twilight 76/Secret Remixes
DJ Godfather has been busy lately. Wouldn't you be when you're trying to create an electronic music empire? His numerous record labels, remixes, and projects are enough to keep him busy for years to come. In the mood for some dirty bass and booty music? Databass is where it's at. What about tantalizing electro? Twilight 76 has got you covered. All of his labels' content can be found on Electrobounce.com for pay download.