Just because I was neglectful of posting in 2011, doesn’t mean I forgot how to operate my iPod and stereo. Lists for my 25 favorite songs and albums are below, but they can just as easily be looked at as ONE list of 50; the few times an artist lands on both, it’s not for the same project. You’ll see. Oh, and full discloser: they’re in no particular order, and I’m sure I missed some. Rar!
TOP 25 SONGS
Phonte ft. Evidence & Big K.R.I.T, “The Life Of Kings” Florence + The Machine, “Take Care” Drake cover Meek Mill, “I’ma Boss” The Weeknd, “The Zone” Beth Ditto, “I Wrote The Book” Pusha T, “My God” Goapele, “Play” Jay-Z & Kanye West, “No Church In The Wild” Robyn, “Call Your Girlfriend” Future, “Tony Montana” Pitbull ft. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, Nayer, “Give Me Everything” Kelly Rowland, “Motivation” St. Vincent, “Surgeon” Maffew Ragazino, “City of God” Britney Spears, “Til The World Ends” J. Cole ft. Missy Elliott, “Nobody’s Perfect” A$AP Rocky, “Peso” Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris, “We Found Love” 2 Chainz, “Spend It” fun. ft. Janelle Monae, “We Are Young” M83, “Midnight City” Adele, “Rolling In The Deep” Lil Wayne ft. Drake, “She Will” tUnE-yArDs, “Gangsta” Beyonce, “Party”
TOP 25 ALBUMS
Plan B, The Defamation of Strickland Banks James Blake, James Blake Gary Clark Jr., The Bright Lights EP Florence + The Machine, Ceremonials Young Jeezy, TM103 PJ Harvey, Let England Shake Charles Bradley, No Time For Dreaming The Weeknd, House of Balloons Cold War Kids,Mine Is Yours French Montana,Coke Boys 2 Lykke Li,Wounded Rhymes Big K.R.I.T.,Return of 4eva Friendly Fires,Pala SBTRKT,SBTRKT Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire,Lost In Translation Frank Ocean,nostalgiaULTRA Katy B.,Katy On A Mission Meek Mill,Dreamchasers Bon Iver,Bon Iver Lloyd,King of Hearts Lady Gaga,Born This Way Common,The Dreamer/The Believer Random Axe,Random Axe The Head and The Heart, The Head And The Heart Drake, Take Care
The newPusha track needs no introduction. He’s got the gift. I just hope that his unrecognized greatness really does come to an end… as soon as humanly possible. Cold War Kids are a band that I’ve admired for a few years now, and even though this latest album is safe, dumbed-down, and hyper-reverby/mainstream-sounding, I still kind of love it. Front man Nathan Willett is sort of giving me George Michael vocals, too… something I don’t mind at all. Like Pusha, the California indie group wants to blow up on a whole new level, and can we really blame them? “Mine Is Yours” isn’t even the most incredible song on the album (that also shares the song’s title), but this Passion Pit remix knocks… l’chaim, boys.
It may not be for everyone, but the vocal in Charles Bradley’s music is so gritty and sincere that I literally could not ignore it when I saw the video. But I was confused… why hadn’t I heard of this guy? After a rough fifty years on planet Earth, Bradley began re-pursuing a dream he had as a young man, and set out to be an entertainer. After being discovered in Bed-Stuy impersonating James Brown, he was quickly signed to Daptone- his alchemy clearly fostering areal all-American Cinderella story.
After totally sleeping on Theophilus London for some time now,I’m forced to hang my head in shame.Some of you reading this might scoff at my lateness, but for others (I’m hoping!), that might be a new name to you. On “Flying Overseas,” Solange is on the hook, and the cadence within his flow is simultaneously smooth and punctuated. Even though the EP sounds somewhat Cudi-ish with its stoner-charm delivery, his raps and style are still wavy on their own. And yes, I still say “wavy”… #FreeMaxB. Next up, you might be wondering why the hell Ke$ha ison this list. Because!: I literally HATED her music until I heard this song. Not only did Andre 3K lace it by blessing her with a verse, but hearing “Sleazy” in its entirety made me realize that I would have actually liked the song on its own. (I believe this is called ignorance.) Frightening, I know, but the lyrics honestly sound like some shit I would say! If you take yourself , your image, and your possessions that seriously, I probably will want to stab myself in the eye shortly after making your acquaintance. But to each their own. In any event, Complex was right- Ke$ha’s kind of a rapper. And, all jokes aside, can we discuss her savage lyrical content? The beat’s so phat it’s gonna make her come?MY GOD.
I first saw The Civil Wars on an episode of Leno a month or so ago, and I was compelled to look them up immediately after the performance ended. Something about their sound on “Barton Hollow” was just so fetching, and the eery video does the song justice. When they showed up in my office for an impromptu performance this past week, I was blissfully surprised, and their blended voices summoned a noteworthy crowd of listeners. Next on the list, and far from The Civil Wars‘ melodic and haunting folk sound is the powerful vocal from Beth Ditto - over electro beats - on her new project with UK production geniuses, Simian Mobile Disco. While new music from Gossip, the group she’s the frontwoman of, is coming soon, this EP project serves up four strong dance songs that were inspired by Aaliyah and Grace Jones, two of Ditto’s heroines. (The more you know… ting!)
The jury is still out on the next artist on the Podzilla list. Tyler, The Creator, member of Odd Future, aka OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) is a scrupulous, respectful and distinguished young man from California. No, he’s not… I kid. He’s actually the brash “leader” of an LA-based crew of hip hop skaters, pandering shock and awe to the industry, one crazy bar at a time. The thing is, he and his pals can actually rap. Odd Future definitely presents strange visuals and does their share of ski-mask wearing and punk-like jumping around, but the music is not based on spectacle alone. (Did you see him eat a bug and then throw it up in the “Yonkers” video above?!) Instantly reminding me of Gravediggaz, their menacing content is sure to scuff your sensibilities, and while I don’t claim to be a specialist in hardcore hip hop/metal hybrid acts, I’ve seen people compare them to artists like Necro and Non Phixon. All of that aside though, these young LA kids have already secured themselves a deal on XL Records, an indie label that houses super-reputable artists like Vampire Weekend, The White Stripes, Friendly Fires, and Adele. And if you were watching Fallon the other night, yeah… that was Tyler jumping on Jimmy’s back.
Speaking of phenoms, UK artist Jessie J is making some big dents in the charts overseas. Managing to fend off heavy hitters like Bruno and Gaga, the sultry songstress initially got her start by writing for some of America’s biggest pop stars. She’s only 22, and in case the hyper-trendy visuals from her first video (“Do It Like a Dude”) spawned any doubt in your mind, this acoustic version of the song shows she’s got some real vocal chops. Fabolous’ “single” off of There Is No Competition 2is last on this Podzilla playlist, and be clear: even though it’s not super-new, I’m including it because I underestimated its reach. Yes, Amber Rose is in the video, but that’s neither here nor there - I always love Fab’s punchline prowess first. A few weeks ago when I was out with my Cut Copy, Ratatat, Hercules & Love Affair girlfriends, they LOST THEIR FUCKING MINDS when “You Be Killin’ Em” came on. Granted, we were having cocktails and already engaged in a healthy dance party, but their flowey blouses could barely keep up with what sonic treats the Brooklyn rapper was bestowing upon us. Somewhat surprised, I looked at their sassy two step, and was like “oh.” I’m an asshole, though- shame on me! It’s 2011, and everyone likes rap music… even mixtape tracks. But then I also remembered how versatile my girls are. Lest I forget the words of Phonte that often serve as my mantra: You’re so well-rounded, no wonder you’re in my circle.
Oh, and speaking of Brooklyn rappers, the liberation of Saigon’sGreatest Story Never Told is something that we should ALL be celebrating. Just hearing him talk about the journey to the album’s release is intense… so if you’re a fan, do what I did: watch the clip, read the articles, help put an end to unrecognized greatness, and go spend $10 on the man’s livelihood. He deserves it more than most.
Lissie’s pretty special. Her voice will remind you of Adele or Stevie Nicks or Cyndi Lauper one minute, then she’ll shriek like Karen O (or, like Grace Potter) the next, all while presenting this folky, down-to-earth, less-dysfunctional Crystal Bowersox “look.” Her tequila habit suits her too… but like the potent Mexican spirit, Lissie’s music is an acquired taste. Top to bottom, it was her album as a complete work that won me over. She has something for everyone- the writing is sincere and, sonically-speaking, the songs pull in elements that you may not expect. And as far as I can tell, she’s not really being anyone but herself. I feel that. Personal favorite might be “In Sleep,” a little ditty about her having recurring dreams- dreams that feature cameos from her male object of desire. Oh, but don’t worry, that’s never happened to me. Promise.
It’s her covers, though, that have garnered the most of the attention so far. Gaga’s “Bad Romance” is impressive, especially since she mur-diddly-urd-ers the breakdown at the end (the last two minutes, specifically).
And then there’s Cudi’s“Pursuit of Happiness” (a popular YouTube clip that was eventized for me at Webster Hall in-person last week)… she makes that work too. Bra-less, and in hippy jeans. Seeing the crowd reaction at the show, it was clear that people discovered her from that clip, and you should too:
Speaking of Cudder, Man on the Moon II blew me away. Almost twice as long as his first album, and the songs are just as good- if not better. This conversation is very 2010, but to everyone who dislikes his music because he’s “not an MC,” to you I say: GTFOH. If you don’t think he’s an MC, stop judging him on MC standards. Most of us can’t even agree on top five and top ten lists, or who had the better verse on a song. Let’s not add Cudi to this mix, please. He’s in his own lane- just let him drive. Who are you, Judy!? He doesn’t need to be labeled or categorized. In fact, a few weeks ago, Boz asked me how I’d classify Cudi’s music. We looked at each other in silence for about 15 seconds, and I was like, “I don’t even know.” Hybrid-electro-hip hop? What I DO know is that I want him to put a verse on Plan B’s“Stay Too Long.”Immediately. It would be perfect, oui?
I always love a US/UK collabo though. Makes sense that I geeked out for Florence Welch joining Drake on stage for a mini MTV reunion, singing Alicia Keys’ hook for “Fireworks”in London. When she effortless transitioned in and out of “Cosmic Love” and Drake peed his pants? Yeah, that was my favorite moment. But I’m a sucker for those Brits…
Adele’s another one. Two years older, she got the memo that more upbeat songs will keep listeners of her slightly-snoozy-but-beautiful ballads awake more often. “Rolling in the Deep” is the perfect example of that… forcing me to nod my head along when I first heard it over the Summer, and keeping my attention through album release. Supplementing it with a solid video never hurts either. And Jamie xx’s Remix was genius.
Tinie Tempah’s “Pass Out” caught my ears off first listen too, and “Miami To Ibiza” (with Swedish House Mafia) makes me want to have a dance party… in Miami or Ibiza. Neither aren’t even necessarily the best songs on the album, Disc-Overy, that is getting released in the US in May. Like Plan B, this UK rapper isn’t afraid to dabble in hybridity with his electro-pop sound (paging Flo Rida!). Is the lyricism mind-blowing? No. But the songs are solid, and I’m not-so-secretly hoping that a British rapper can break in the States.
Heidi and Audrina, eat your heart out. But let’s be honest… with a Swedish House Mafia collabo, you can’t really go wrong. See: Pharrell with them on “One (I Wanna Know Your Name)” – one of my favorite songs from last year.
They’re not British, but I had the opportunity to see Two Door Cinema Club perform recently, an Irish band who seems to have addictive, melancholy euro-pop down pat. Their video for “What You Know”(not to be confused with T.I.’s masterpiece,) is catchy too!
Like Cudi, another “should have mentioned in 2010, but I wasn’t blogging then, so I’m doing it now instead” artist is Kings of Leon. Come Around Sundown didn’t make some of the fancy “Best of” lists that get posted at the end of the year, but it undoubtedly made mine. There’s something so naturally carnal about their sound, and, despite what you may think, it’s not JUST because they’re hot. What shocked me the most? “Back Down South” and “Pickup Truck” are arguably the most Country-sounding songs on the album, and suprisingly, they’re the tracks that my ear can’t get enough of. I like twangy reverb now?! Maybe I picked up some sort of Southern bug down at ACL back in October? Either way, I gotta go back.
On his debut album, UK artist Plan B was strictly an MC. This time, however, he took an about-face and is now sharing his once-reluctant, Motown-nodding, soulful voice with the world. Discovering him back in August, I was actually late; he’s signed to WMG’s UK label 679 Records, and Ben “Plan B” Drew was 2010’s #1 artist in the UK. Going 3X platinum and fetching two EMA and three BRIT Award nominations, it’s clear he’s doing big tings… in Europe.
Once I became more familiar with his background and the second album’s concept, my level of enchantment grew ten fold. Transitioning so smoothly from rapid spitting to classy, suit-clad crooning… and he’s actually MORE successful? How can that be?
The music speaks for itself. Flowingin chronological order, each song on the second LP (being released here in May) is part of a story wherein Drew plays superstar singer Strickland Banks, accused of a rape he didn’t commit and sentenced to serve five years in prison. I’m a fan of the songs on their own, but the six corresponding videos from his sophomore album (and tale of woe), The Defamation of Stickland Banks, are below, and unlike most music that crosses my path, I feel obligated to share them. Each video is VERY well done, enhancing the listening experience with a detailed visual narrative that boasts HBO-esque character development.
I wouldn’t normally do this, but I’m going to ask you to START AT THE END, with the story’s sixth and last video (so far). At this point, Plan B’s character Strickland has already slept with a groupie (who then accuses him of raping her), and he has now been arrested, prosecuted, found guilty and imprisoned. After being repeatedly attacked in jail, he’s just killed a fellow prisoner in self defense and is explaining what happened. The song is super-intense on it’s own, but paired with a goose bump-rendering (and internationally critically-acclaimed) video, you’ll immediately get a sense of the story’s power. And for those of us with song-A.D.D., I strongly suggest you watch the entire video. It won’t be hard to do though, and once you get a taste, you’ll want to see how Strickland got there in the first place. Go ahead, get laced.
VIDEO #1:“Writing’s On The Wall (Live at Cafe de Paris)” Establishing the Strickland Banks character as a popular singer who is having relationship trouble.
VIDEO #2: “Stay Too Long” Strickland performs and parties the night away before meeting the obsessed fan who later accuses him of rape.
VIDEO #3:“Love Goes Down” While performing at a Top of the Pops show, Strickland is arrested - with his girlfriend in tow.
VIDEO #4: “She Said” On trial for the rape, Strickland Banks recounts his story and proclaims his innocence.
VIDEO #5: “The Recluse” Getting increasingly depressed and introverted in prison, Strickland fully retreats into a dark place.
Success rates of UK MCs isn’t terribly high on this side of the pond. But maybe that’s why Plan B decided to flip the script and literally refer to a, forgive the pun, singing PLAN B. He clearly has a talented voice, something that The Streets, Dizzee Rascal and even Tinie Tempah can’t really match. But will he break over here? I’m not sure. The least I can do is spread the word.
At his live show last week at Bowery, Plan B impressed me in the flesh. Performing alongside a solid band, he killed his own tunes, covered some Motown classics, and even brought out his beatboxing opener (Faith SFX) to perform some dubstep remixes. SICK, and appealing to my hybrid-loving heart, they transition from “Stand By Me” to “Ain’t No Sunshine” to “Kiss From a Rose” to “Forgot About Dre.” Watch it HERE.
Is it safe to say that most of us who listen to the constant influx of newer music have become a bit cynical? I think so. In a consumer-geared, hyper-marketed, need-to-turn-a-profit-for-survival era of music, we too often see the artists on the chopping block for lacking creativity. But Plan B actually gets me excited- showcasing a hip hop/soul/rock/funk hybridity that WORKS, all while delivering cinematic visual accompaniment. His rapped verses don’t take away from the soul vocals either- their details compliment and enhance the album’s story, and when he crosses over into a more aggressive, (for lack of a better term) metal-ish, Beastie Boys flow, I only nod harder.
And what about the other songs on The Defamation of Stickland Banks that don’t have videos yet? They only make the story’s character development richer. Mix that with his critical portrayal of a failed justice system, likely Jay-Z references, and surprising sex appeal when transitioning from hoodies to suits… and you’ve got yourself a fan.
Would you believe me if I told you that THESE people below
were standing around, watching footage of THIS?:
Where are they? A communal porn-viewing center?! Kind of, but no. It’s an art gallery.
The woman in the video stills is Andrea Fraser, a performance artist whose work first caught my attention about eight years ago. In this particular film, shyly dubbed “Untitled,”Fraser wanted to explore the relationship between the artist and the art collector.
As ”Untitled” begins, Fraser enters a hotel room, her hair swept fetchingly to one side. The setting is standard-issue Hip Hotel: the videotape was filmed, using a single overhead camera, in a room Fraser identified as being at the Royalton Hotel in Manhattan, owned by Ian Schrager. The artist is carrying two glasses, white wine in her left hand and what looks like a highball in her right. The collector enters, and then begins a filmed seduction whose detailed contractual terms were worked out in advance by the artist’s gallery. Among the requirements for participation in ”Untitled” were that the artist’s potential collaborator be heterosexual, unmarried and, of course, willing to underwrite the transaction.
According to her, this piece of performance art captures an act that represents what both artists and collectors want, “not only economically, but in more personal, psychological and affective terms.” But don’t cue up Akon and TheLonely Island just yet.
Truth is, I’ve always loved this piece. Not only is it a form of institutional critique (in this case, criticizing practices in the art world), but it also arouses questions regarding sexual stigma-weaving theminto an already-complicated creative clusterfuck. Is it prostitution? Is it art? Is it pornography? Is she nuts, or is she just trying to prove a valid point in an extremely unconventional manner?Maybe all of the above. And that’s why it’s important. Work like thisincites strong opinions… opinions that people are entitled to have.
Fraser claims that the work is not to be taken literally, insisting that she’s not trying to portray the act of selling art as prostitution. She wants us to instead look at how the art world functions- especially the give and take within its players’ relationships. And as far as that world is concerned, FYI, this video is close to - but very far from - the most outrageous act they’ve ever seen. If you frequent the MoMa or are already familiar with conceptual art, then you know that lots of contemporary artists have also accomplished what Andrea Fraser is attempting.
Like fine art, pop culture also shares the ability to overtly wink in our direction. It just manifests in a more mainstream manner. As a woman (and a fan of hip hop music and culture), I’m always intrigued when assessments of the contemporary female identity emerge from the music and media we consume. Think Kanye’s ballerina and phoenix imagery. Or for more sexually-charged examples, think Miley Cyrus kissing a girl on television. Madonna’scone bra. Laurence Fishburn’s daughter becoming a porn star. Lady Gaga’s(often frowned-upon) hyper-sexual antics. Keri Hilson’s recent air-humping hypocrisy. The hype around lesbian experimentation in Black Swan. Chelsea Handler’s book My Horizontal Life, and it’s take on the modern single woman. Nicki Minaj’s pseudo-bi-sexuality. The Kat Stacks scandal. Pop stars’ inability to wear pants. It’s all around us.
If you’ve read my blog over the years, you already know I’m a big fan of Swedish indie artist, Lykke Li. After taking some time off, Li is returning with her sophomore LP, heartbrokenly named Wounded Rhymes. “Get Some” is the first single, and in true Labyrinth form, the title of this blog post has borrowed lyrics from that very song.
“I’m Your Prostitute; You’re Gon’ Get Some.”
It goes without saying that I think they’re both pretty awesome, but let me ask you: do you think Angela Fraser’s film or Lykke Li’s song is slutty or too over the top? I’m pretty sure I know a handful of people who might read this post or see the Andrea Fraser stills and the Lykke video out of context, and be quick to launch derogatory terms their way. Or better yet, they might ignorantly hashtag them as a “#whore.” THAT, my friends, is a problem. And the fact that the majority of the people within said group are also likely to share my sacred love for hip hop? THAT is why I feel compelled to write about this. And don’t even get me started on the accepted homophobia in hip hop– that’s a whole different post.
Sometimes, however, we get a glimpse of a silver lining amidst this mess. What allows me to stop banging my head against the wall and gives me hope in this often-bleak conversation? When I see someone like @Combat_Jack talking about Kat Stacks as a “tragedy“ instead of JOKE. I’m not defending her actions, but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture here, and Mr. Osse is doing that. Leading by example. Yeah, female identity perception has come a long way over recent decades, but there’s definitely a lot more work to be done.
“For those of us who forgot… this is why there was a women’s movement.”)
“Feminism” is often viewed as a dirty word, but as a concept, it’s one of few that continues to evolve while still holding onto such heavy historical baggage. I honestly don’t even like to use the “F” word, and I definitely know it’s not always good to use in mixed company. What do I mean? Unfortunately, the achievements of strong women are often judged and overshadowed by other women’s human mistakes. If we defend ourselves or try to dismantle the negative generalizations cast upon us (for example: women are catty with one another, a girl without a father will grow up to be promiscuous, all softball players are lesbians…), then we’re often perceived as nagging and branded with the Scarlet “F.” If the patch fits, I guess I’ll wear it- word to Jezebel. But don’t worry, I’m not going to burn my bras… I need ‘em! Instead, I’m just going to salute the ladies out there who are a little more brave than me. The women who make the art that grabs our attention, and force me to take to the streets my laptop.
Summer Jamtook place last weekend, and I learned quite a few interesting, fun facts while getting my ears destroyed in the photo pit. First of all, either he’s been eating really well, or Juelz’ metabolism isn’t what it used to be… his little pot belly is growing. Gucci Manesweats a lot and Nicki Minaj has solid stage presence (especially considering she was the evening’s MVP, appearing in five other artists’ sets). Vado and Camlike to wear matching pink blouses, lol, and Trey’s act was more corny than sexy to me- but hey, I guess the ladies like him humping air?
My personal favorite lesson from Summer Jam 2010, however, was that Drake makes RIDICULOUS facial expressions while performing… so many, in fact, that I had to dedicate A WHOLE PHOTO ALBUM to them. But before the Drake fans egg my house and smash my camera, I have a very sincere concession to make: Just because many of us were able to catch him looking awkward and mentally-challenged, doesn’t mean that Aubrey didn’t also help serve up some of my favorite shots from the show. He’s clearly both ying and yang.
For complete Flickr albums from each performance, click on the photos or links below, or just go HERE.
Eminem chose Recovery over Relapse 2.Kele from Bloc Party is releasing a solo album (zomg). Courney Love is on stage again. Drake’s making videos that are all the rage. MGMT delivered their sophomore LP to the masses and I need to spend more time with it. Guru’s spirit left his body and passed on. Christina Aguilera’s back, but somewhat missing the mark with that single. And I miss Kanye… a lot.
In high doses, the music keeps coming. I don’t know about y’all, but I can barely keep up…
The Gorillaz album is on the very top my list so far this year, and standout track “Rhinestone Eyes” won’t disappoint you. Miguel may have wowed us with “All I Want Is You” featuring J. Cole, but I can’t stop listening to “Ooh Ahh” off his EP- wait for him to go Maxwell on this one. Rolling Stone saidGrace Potter & The Nocturnals were a band to watch this year, and since their frontwoman vocalist has pipes that are somewhat reminiscent of Janis Joplin’s and Lzzy Hale fromHalestorm, I’m getting on board. Watch the whole video if you can, but if you can’t, start about halfway in at 2:30- something pretty special starts to happen!
If you know me, you know how I feel about Pac Div’s music and -more specifically- (*cough, cough*) Mibbs. Carney is a band that should definitely be on your radar, too: the brothers (singer and guitar) are enchanting in different ways, and the leadoff single is ridiculously catchy. That said, they bite some classic rock favorites of mine so hard that I’m hesitant to fully support them yet, and I fear their carnival-themed shtick might get stale. Speaking of gimmicks, after almost three years of routing for Janelle Monáe and defending her music (and bow-tie), I became exhausted and tapped out. And then the album arrived. Great. Finally. A few people I respect even said that it might be one of the best LPs so far this year. Bold statement? Maybe. Time will tell.
Yes, this Gyptian song has been all over the radio for a while, but I was admittedly loving it off the first listen a few months back (and still lose my mind when it comes on). The video is horrrrrible, but let’s see if it will last long enough to be a “Summer anthem.” Agnes is huuuge in Europe, and it’s just a matter of time until she blows up here and seizes the land of pop. The Black Keys album is solid from top to bottom, so I had no choice but to include them too. Representing for the goons: Vado’s buzz is growing, and with the support of Cam, he’s sure to help Harlem get the traction it’s been missing since the Dipset drama- oy. Cudi being on the hook is an incredible bonus, but I’m told this track was made two years ago. Oh well, it still bangs— Sliiiiiime.
On a side note: A lot of people are uninterested in the Nas/Damian Marley album, but I’ve been patiently waiting for it since the inception of the project. Damian has his father’s magic (something that I was lucky enough to witness first hand and be captivated by the other night at Highline), and Nas is actually spitting again- thank god.
While Kelis is catching a bad wrap for her court-awarded allowance, I’d really like to believe that she was madly in love with Mr. Jones and just got tired of him being a burnout. That shit gets old, and I’m sure she didn’t want Knight to see that his pops was a smoke monster poor role model.
As always, Podzilla is just a smörgåsbord of tracks that I’m nibbling on, so if you press play, I truly hope you enjoy the goods.
Someone recently told me that I’m doing a disservice to my blog by writing these music summary-type posts instead of taking my ideas and penning more focused, long-form pieces. That person is probably right, but I’ve got to admit: inspiration comes and goes. Please bear with me!
For those of you who missed J. Cole at SOBs last night, here’s a clip of him performing his upcoming single, “Who Dat.” Sounds like hybridfire to me. Not that he was at all lackluster a few months back, but after seeing him perform at NYU and the VH1 Hip Hop Honors pre-party, I think it’s safe to say that young Jermaine has polished his presentation a bit. The crowd knew not most, but ALL of the lyrics, and even with all the industry heads in there, the vibe was still more focused on the music — something you don’t see too often in this town!
Feel free to scroll through my photos from the show…
Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer
I make lists of things to write about about, but then I don’t a c t u a l l y write. (Seven or eight unfinished posts are in my queue, and now they’re not even relevant to post anymore!) This foolish delinquency has got to stop. Going through my drafts from the last few months, it looks like I would have blabbed about the music below, so let’s just pretend this never happened…
Chromeo “Night By Night”
He’s like a (successful) male Snookie in the video. In all seriousness though, both the song and video are ill. Don’t skip it.
Young Money “Bedrock”
It’s a radio hit?!? Of course :/ Besides Lloyd (one of the most underrated r&b vocalists out), Nicki Minaj gets the win for being in this camp, does she not? Admittedly, she’s blowing up much more than I expected her to. If you haven’t seen it, James Van Der Beek (aka Dawson) shot footage of Michelle Trachtenberg doing a Nicki verse - a must see.
Vampire Weekend“Giving Up The Gun”
They still sound like Paul Simon to me. And since when did my favorite rapping producer become a tennis judge?! Rza >>>
The Kickdrums“Just A Game”
Not “new” per se, but shout out to Legend for putting me on to their refreshing hybrid sound. It’s needed.
Charlotte Gainsbourg“Heaven Can Wait”
Visually dazzling; my favorite is the hamburger skateboard. And Beck’s not just a cameo- he worked on the project too.
Adam Lambert“Whataya Want From Me”
I don’t watch Idol, but I saw last year’s season finale and thought Adam was the brightest star. I would have been SO in love with him in high school, guyliner and all. File that under #emo.
I posted her their video for“Quicksand” last year, and although this video also came out a while ago, it looks like the song is finally getting some traction. I love her their sound - especially on fave track“Cover My Eyes.”<— I promise you’ll like it.
OK GO“This Too Shall Pass”
No treadmills this time, but their creativity remains. And there’s another one… love!
Big LOL to these cameos! Esso, Donny Goines, Emilio Rojas, Sha Stimuli and RickCaps… ha!
Since I’ve been MIA so long, here’s a little taste of what’s been in my ears…
Broken Bells– another Danger Mouse collaboration project, this time with James Mercer, lead singer of The Shins. I gotta tell you: everything that mouse does, I love. Regretfully, I’ve never blogged about B.o.B, but that doesn’t mean I don’t follow his work and respect it. The fact that J. Cole is also on this track forces me to share the wealth with those of you who may not have listened to it. Same courtesy applies to this Rihanna ditty… my ladies and I (@LAGraves and @Simply_SB) questioned if it was written for a guy, or if it was an intentional track about a lesbian tryst under a candelabra. We later confirmed the latter, paws… (c) @SowmyaK. Really feeling Mumford and Sons ironic folky sound, I’m bummed I missed their show a couple weeks back- nothing but great feedback on them has come my way. Lloyd Banks and Juelz’ dimple served up “Beamer, Benz or Bentley” -a new guilty pleasure for me- and in rare form, Joell Ortiz has blessed us all with a more humble freestyle version re: Nissans, Hondas and Chevies- AMAZING! Mainoremixed it too? SMH. Justin Nozuka’s new project, You I Wind Land and Sea is coming soon. When I saw him perform “Heartless” live last week, I was moved so much, it almost brought me to tears. As for the next song, I’m angry with myself for liking David Guetta and Akon’spolite savagery so much, because in reality, I should hate it. Ugh. Civil Twilight’s “Letters From The Sky” is getting so many TV placements, I can’t keep count anymore. The song is pretty enchanting though, so that kind of response doesn’t surprise me. Lady Sade’s Soldier of Love LP is stupid good and outshines so much of the basura floating around these days- thank god she came back. And you know I had to slip a little Jay Elec-Chanukah into this list (again)… hate him or love him, he’s really rapping, and people are finally responding to the message.
Lastly, in case you’re not familiar with Matt Morris, please do yourself a favor and look into his music. Former Mickey Mouse Club member and (current) Justin Timberlake bff, Matt is signed to Justin’s Tennman Records imprint and sang with JT during the Hope For HaitiNow telethon. He has the voice of an angel, and his energy in person is genuine and indescribably sweet. Almost like he’s *glowing* - for reals.
Listen to “Live Forever” below… his album is out now.
I first became aware of Emmanuel Jal’s story when I saw War Child, the film based on his life, at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008. As a former child-soldier-turned-MC who grew up in civil war-torn Sudan, Jal was eventually rescued and able to start a new life, making it a mission to tell his story and raise awareness through music.
Although he wasn’t present at the screening I initially attended, Jal’s strength and sadness were emitted through the screen, forcing me to become emotionally attached to his story. Naturally, when I discovered that he was booked to speak and perform at NYU’s Kimmel Center two months ago, I made it a priority to attend. As expected, hearing him explain the details of his experiences face-to-face felt like nutrition for my soul, and after photographing him speaking and performing, I even had the privilege of asking him a question during the Q&A (more on that another time!)…
Like Emmanuel Jal, “rapper” Bangs is also Sudanese. He, on the other hand, has chosen to go quite a different route. Ladies: if you haven’t seen his video yet, Bangs wants to take us to the movies. He’ll even buy us popcorn…
If you’re not hip to the viral world, you may not know that Bangs’“Take U To Da Movies” video has been an online phenomenon- flying through the internets and landing on many music and culture blogs out there. Not to (further) pick on Bangs, but his video hasn’t received so many online “spins” because he’s especially innovated and talented, it’s received them because people are laughing at him. Just think: it’s a cultural-disconnect train wreck… horrifying and captivating all at the same time. What’s most disconcerting is that Bangs doesn’t even realize he’s the butt of the joke; when the guys at Shade 45 had him as a guest on the All Out Show, poor Bangs had no idea he was being patronized by fake callers phoning-in to tear him apart. The linguistic tragedy that he represents is one that deserves exploring- both to juxtapose with the painful triumph of people like Jal, and to also raise the mirror to our own faces (I’M TALKING TO YOU, RAP FANS). Just look at what Bangs is glorifying?!?
Jewelry. Multiplying. (JK!)
His castle, the movie theater.
And while I’m all for people repping their nationality, the map of Sudan feels a little bit out of place in the video, no?:
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Jal just finished skipping breakfast and lunch for a year to help raise funds for his charity, Gua Africa.
He told us the story about “waiting for aid drop from the sky” - he’s talking about rain.
To be clear, I don’t want to cast judgement here… Bangs can rap about whatever the eff he wants. Music comes in many packages, and I’m sure a lot of people could argue that Emmanuel Jal’s tracks aren’t particularly spectacular (by top MC standards) either. I’m also certain that their backgrounds are extremely different since Bangs now lives in Australia and didn’t grow up murdering his enemies and eating his dead friends for food. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Jal has a body count that he carries around, trying to come to grips with- his close encounters with extreme violence forcing him to be highly-critical of American hip hop’s portrayal of gang culture (as he directly addressed in his song “50 Cent”):
“The ‘50 Cent’ song is kind of like I wanted to call up 50 Cent and just say ‘Who are you?!’ Because you see, my cousin in the U.K., they’re in a little group, they’re calling themselves G-Unit. So they go on the street and beat people up. But when they went to school they stabbed a white boy. 50 Cent is big, he’s huge, he’s like a God, no? I [told my producer I wanted] us to write a song whereby we appreciate his work but at the same time we have to tell him ‘this is the problem.’ So if I speak to him through the music he’s gonna hear it. But the whole song is not meant for him.” -Emmanuel Jal, Rolling Stone
In a recent interview with Aussie outlet 9 News, Bangs said he thinks his music is uplifting for the Sudanese community in Melbourne, which has apparently garnered some not-so-good press lately due to violent incidents. Hey- maybe he is a positive influence! I guess I’m just trying to wrap my mind around the fact that even though they come from the same battered nation, their messages have landed on opposite ends of the hip hop spectrum. Rap and hip hop, ying and yang. Whether or not these guys are even aware of the other’s existence (Bangs is from Sudan’s Muslim North, while EJ is from the Christian South, now living mainly in London), I find it interesting that Bangs doesn’t grasp the irony he embodies by embracing the most foolish of our Western hip hop imagery. My guess is that he probably doesn’t know any better, and we have ourselves to thank for that (*pats back and puts on goon rap*).
More photos from Emmanuel Jal’sNYU performance can be found here.