Aromanticism: Moses Sumney

My relationship with love is murky. I can swear- and I have sworn- that I’ve felt it, but I really don’t trust myself on this anymore. I know that I’ve used the word when I shouldn’t have. I also know there times I should have used it but I didn’t. Have I lived life long enough to understand what it really is? Probably not. Even then, what is it really? I have all these questions to which there can be no definite answer.

Instead, what I want is the conviction that comes with lovelessness. I want my walls dark and cold and more importantly, I want to be okay with that.

Aromanticism—the incapacity or unwillingness to reciprocate romantic feelings or love

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Moses Sumney’s debut Aromanticism is active in its embrace of despair. Love is mandatory and we are all expected to be at some stage of it. Falling into it, falling out of it, searching for it or running away from it.

On “Don’t bother calling”, Moses knows enough about love to know that he can’t do it. He sees it and he feels it but he doesn’t want it. It’s honest and necessary. Better to not be loved than to be strung along. Even when you’re the one doing the stringing.

You need a solid, but I’m made of liquid
Trust in me, I am the son of the sea
And I’ll call you when I feel finally free

Through the lenses of gloom, Moses paints a relationship. He describes a love that is grotesque and bare. Undesirable to him and him alone.

Through the walls of Jericho
Lies a heart of stone
With you, half the battle
Is proving that we’re at war

Moses’s sullen voice is the soul of every song with every instrument rising and falling on his command. It is breathy and atmospheric and the production value is underplayed. The bass section stars Thundercat and Ludwig Göransson, the producer responsible for most of Childish Gambino’s albums.

Like Moses, we should ignore all the formalities that come with love. Love doesn’t have to be a cat and mouse game. Say what you want from the outset. Make it easier for everyone.

I’m not tryna go to bed with you
I just wanna make out in my car

“Doomed” plays like a dirge. Moses believes in love but he doesn’t feel it. Will he be punished for this? He asks himself. In not feeling love, is he doomed?

If lovelessness is godlessness
Will you cast me to the wayside?

Moses isn’t doomed. To quote Buddha, no one saves us but ourselves. It could be faith or it could be self-love but there’s enough in you to keep you sane. If you don’t know what that is for you then talk to someone.

 

 

 

“And if you couldn’t be loved, the next best thing was to be let alone.”
-L.M Montgomery

Image: NY Times

Rated: 4.2/ 5

Why Jamhuri Jam Sessions is changing the Kenyan music scene

Today’s post is brought to you by the ever charismatic, ever entertaining music junkie herself, Joy Ruguru.

 

Who’s that chic? I asked my events buddy as we sat in the dark auditorium listening to the bird on stage. She’s Achieng, he whispered back. Hmm, how do you know her?
“Kwani you don’t watch Jamhuri Festival?”

As soon as I settled home that night after the Mufasa poetry event, I went straight to my laptop. Typed ‘you’ and Google did the rest. There, I finally found my answer.

Since then in mid-2016, I spent a few minutes every other day on the Jamhuri Festival YouTube channel. Waiting for me were familiar Kenyan artists like H_art The Band, and Fena Gitu who was doing her thing tho. Bensoul was even singing on his own before Masheesha happened.

So this was the famous online music series called Jamhuri Jam Sessions. With already 2 ‘volumes’ and almost 20 episodes, there was a lot to see. The deal? A talented Kenyan artist performed an African song cover followed by their original song. Not on a wide stage like Achieng though, but in a tiny room that resembled a studio. Sometimes you’d also find a Sauti Sol member deftly playing his guitar with his Fancy Fingers.

I was even convinced Jamhuri Festival was his brainchild.

 

May the real founder please stand up. It was only this year that I met Tom Olang’o, a Nairobi-based bass player – who’s only 23! As the name suggests, he started Jamhuri Festival as an event back in August 2015. That night, both old and new Kenyan artists came together to perform to the youthful crowd at Alliance Francaise Garden. They went through a Kenyan musical journey traversing the last two decades – complete with electrifying performances from Mr. Lenny to Le Band.

 

I know, where were we?

 

But let’s go back a bit further. If you still remember your Kiswahili from school, jamhuri is the African word for republic. Tom and his friends wanted to give Kenyan artists the freedom and independence to express themselves through music. A platform to create and share their talents. So far, they’ve done this through community block parties, and even free creative clinics for upcoming artists.

Oh, and you hear about Twice Upon Yesterday – an event held by Third Hand Music that featured a host of other Nu Nairobi acts? Jamhuri Festival was there too.

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Their most recent collaboration is a yummy one – with Nyama Mama restaurant at Delta Towers in Westlands, Nairobi. You may have seen a video of Steph Kapela singing with kitenge cushions lying lazily in the background. Yup, our artists have upgraded from a tiny sitting room to the open seating space of the swanky new restaurant in town. But that’s not even the best part.

Every Wednesday night, Jamhuri Festival hosts a local artist or band to perform there in what is dubbed Mama’s Jamhuri Sessions. Free event by the way. This where you meet all the cool cats you only knew of their existence from the YouTube channel, either performing or supporting a fellow artist. Basically, it’s a gathering of music lovers. For example, did you know Phy is one petite lady? Kinda like Arianna: small body, grand voice.

In the urban crowd, you will always spot the tall and dark bass player, who looks nothing like 23. He usually has this cool denim jacket on with the colorful Jamhuri Festival logo plastered on the back; you wish he could bless you with one. But since you’re humble, you sit down and enjoy a cold drink or the gourmet version of your favorite Kenyan meal. And take it down with a glass of fresh Nu Nairobi music.

Okay, enough talk from me. Since you came here to watch videos, here are 5 of the best Jamhuri Jam Sessions to satisfy your curiosity (it wasn’t easy to narrow it down by the way). These fiery voices warmed my heart, proof that Kenyan music is golden. Don’t believe me?

Let’s see.

Wendy with the catchy songs. Slay, queen:

 

Introducing your next three favorite boys in town (after H_art The Band that is):

 

It was 2017 when the Kenyan Trapper went Spanish guitar on us:

 

Get your tissues ready, guys. I mean girls:

 

And of course, Ach13ng:

 

I know what you’re asking yourself… how do I get to watch these guys perform live? Well, Kemunto already slew the Nyama Mama stage and snatched my heart at the same time. I (and someone else I know here) cannot wait for Ayrosh’s turn. Yeah, Folk Fusion wasn’t enough new school mugithi for 2017.

With this post, I now give you the power to discover your new favorite Kenyan acts every week on Jamhuri Jam Sessions. Since I know all you cool cats are on Instagram, follow Jamhuri Festival to know the next Nyama Mama star. Because who knows, it might just be Achieng.

Cover Image: 1,2

For more writing that breathes into your soul, visit The Music Junkie. You can also catch her on The Music Junkies on USIU Radio from 12-2p.m.

Freudian: Daniel Caesar

Two songs came out in 2016 that didn’t receive the airplay they deserved until later this year. These two songs are now certified classics. Songs you will play a month from now, on your wedding day and to your kids on long road trips.

Goldlink – Crew

Daniel Caesar – Get You

Once ‘Get You’ hit, Daniel Caesar’s shot to fame was bright and meteoric. When his first EP (Praise Break, 2014) came out, it was ranked number 19 on Rolling Stone’s Top Twenty R&B albums of 2014. I felt very left out. He’s been on his grind for three years but we’re only listening to him now? That’s the price artists pay for stardom. No-one cares how good you are until you have your first hit. Coincidentally, Goldlink.

Anyway, Daniel hasn’t stopped working hard.

His debut album Freudian is a sonical landscape of love and heartbreak intertwined like lovers on Insecure. On ‘Best Part’, his duet with H.E.R, aided by softly-strung guitars, hands inch closer to each other, stares grow deeper, the shade under the tree is warmer.

You’re my water when I’m stuck in the desert
You’re the Tylenol I take when my head hurts
You’re the sunshine on my life

‘Hold Me Down’ takes gospel and turns it into a PartyNextDoor interlude. Kirk Franklin into Tiller.

The rest of the album plays like a live concert. Songs flow into each other sounding better together than apart.

‘Loose’ plays out like intimate backstage practice. On the last half of the song, he performs the introduction to ‘We find love’ and it sounds like unrequited love. Sad, harsh, beautiful. When the song begins, this turns this into a rally cry. Breakups suck but it isn’t the end. We rise and we fall. The end is not the end.

You don’t love me anymore
Let’s see how you like this song

He still want to be loved though. He still wants it to all mean something.

Ever since the day that I met you
My world’s been spinning out of control
I just need you to hold

On ‘Blessed’, Daniel is a junkie at the knees of love. I may not be good for you but I can’t live without you.

It’s the way that you pray
Prey on my insecurities

Daniel takes his gospel roots and, hand in hand with an actual gospel choir, redefines soul in 2017.

This album will be a classic. Quote me.

 

Here’s a really nice piano cover. I hope it makes your day a little brighter:

 Image: Billboard

Rated: 4.4 /5

 

Good for you: Aminé

Anna Mae

Amino

Amen

Aminay

STFU

Aminé, born Adam Aminé Daniels, is a child of Eritrean and Ethiopian immigrants, tired of people mispronouncing his name.

When the triple-platinum song “Caroline” came out, no-one knew what to say. Here’s this guy with an unnecessary number of bananas in his video, with weirder ad-libs than a Migos feature, and, again, a weird sounding name. A combination of all these factors, and amazing hair, took him to number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart (on Jan 7 2017, which was my birthday!)

His album, Good For You, is every bit as Aminé we had come to expect and more. Every song sounds as if it was recorded in the ambience of yellow walls and banana-centric fruit salads. It’s alternative hip hop and dancehall combined in ways Drake wouldn’t dare to try.

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New rappers these days have oddly similar tendencies. As soon as any gets their first few hit singles, the main topic on their debut album becomes the “started from the bottom now we’re here” story (see: Post Malone).  This bothers me because becoming great is a process and a debut album is nothing but the beginning. When Drake recorded ‘Started from the Bottom’, he already had two platinum albums. Aminé, unlike his freshmen in his class, pours his honest soul into his first attempt.

The album starts off with an amazing intro featuring the underrated Ty Dolla Sign. Despite sharing the stage with this acclaimed artist, Amine steps to the front and carries the song with his charisma and never-before-seen flow.

When recording the song “Yellow”, Aminé heard that Nelly was in the next studio and fangirled his way in. He asked him to come into his studio and this bright ray of sunshine was born:

Flyest under the sea, I’m gettin’ Krabby Patties (true)
Dukes gave me juice so this beat feel like it’s caffeine
Dreadlock nigga so my hair is pretty nappy (woo)

On “Hero”, he takes a stand on the mispronunciation of his name. He’s made it this far, the least we could do is know what é is.

Respect, that’s all I ask for
My feelings feel too

The sun sinks and dawn sets on the second half of his album, with songs espousing mellow evenings with the family and his verses becoming harder and clearer. On the song ‘Sunday’, he takes an existential step back and looks at his life through the lenses of fame:

And she left me at the house
She left me at the house
Religious but I’m lazy
Naked like a nudist
Fruity Loops and Stanley Kubrick
Peanut butter jelly
Cousin bumping Makaveli
Sipping Stellas with my fellas
Bumping nothing but Fela Kuti

On the cut “Turfs”, Aminé channels his inner Frank Ocean and gives us a narrative about throwing yourself at life:

I look around and I see nothing in my neighborhood
Not satisfied, don’t think I’ll ever wanna stay for good
Packed up my bags, told Mom and Dad I’ve gotta go, go
And once I do, they’ll finally see the inner me

When he speaks of what comes after, it isn’t the rags to riches stories that we’re sick off. It’s clarity and honesty and confusion:

Livin’ in LA for the weather, I FaceTime mom when I miss her
I got some homies that’ll never leave my hometown
When I pull up to the corner, it smell like Miley Cyrus
I told ’em I don’t smoke, they say “Boy, you fuckin’ wildin'”

The album feature list grows longer with contributions from Charlie Wilson (!!!), the auspicious Kehlani and Migos number-two, Offset.

Listening to this project, I’d say Aminé is happy with his life. Someday, he’s going to be Kanye but today, he can afford to buy his sister Supreme and that’s a heck of a start.

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Rated: 4.1/ 5

Image: Pigeons and Planes

 

Flower Boy: Tyler the Creator

We’re all secretly depraved on the inside.

One of my favorite songs from Tyler the Creator is ‘She’. In it, this guy likes this girl and, as in most songs, he tries to pursue her. Unlike most songs however, Tyler details the lengths he is wiling to go. The bridge goes like this:

One, two, you’re the girl that I want
Three, four, five, six, seven, shit

Eight is the bullets if you say no after all this
And I just couldn’t take it, you’re so motherfuckin’ gorgeous
Gorgeous, baby you’re gorgeous

I just wanna drag your lifeless body to the forest
And fornicate with it but that’s because I’m in love with you, cunt

It’s depraved. But somehow, it’s sweet. Tyler does this masterfully. He walks the thin line between romance and necrophilia. Death and love. In his new album, it’s the same Tyler. Just this time instead of death and fornication, we get Scum Fuck and Flower Boy.

This album is Tyler’s existential crisis. This time, though, instead of being worried about his mental wellbeing (or being disgusted by it), we can empathize. Not all of us want to kill and romantically subdue our crushes, but we all feel lonely.

I need love, do you got some I could borrow?

I find this particularly profound because Tyler was the founder of Odd Future. To the uneducated, Odd Future was the rap group that gave us: Frank Ocean, The Internet, Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy, Domo Genesis and many other artists. Basically, Tyler once had very many friends. Now he’s alone? I mean, in the video below he was literally surrounded by his squad. I’ll go into the intricacies of Odd Future in another article.

This is something we can relate to. Haven’t we all at one point been in a situation that’s vastly different to the one you’re in now? I mean, how many high school ‘friends’ have you kept in touch with?

On the song “Foreword”, we get Tyler’s self-doubt:

How many cars can I buy ’til I run out of drive?
How much drive can I have ’til I run out of road?
How much road can they pave ’til they run out of land?
How much land can there be until I run in the ocean?

Life is absurd and nothing really matters,  so what’s the point of it all?

And if I drown and don’t come back
Who’s gonna know? (Baby, then I’ll know)

We get to see a sweeter side of Tyler free from rape-filled undertones. It’s pretty nice for a change.

Wonder if you look both ways
When you cross my mind, I said, I said

On this cut, Tyler proves his talents as a producer. The production value on cuts like “I ain’t got time” and “Who Dat Boy” are amazing. Further, the features are the best 2017 has offered so far. Jaden Smith, Kali Uchis, Lil Wayne, Steve Lacy, A$AP Rocky, Estelle and Frank Ocean? Step back and bow down please.

On this album, Tyler mentions topics or subjects that allude to his sexuality. Articles across the interwebs have come down on this and so far, Tyler hasn’t said much. I try not to fan the flames because someone’s sexuality isn’t click bait. If Tyler really has come out, then I’m really happy for him. The closet is cold and dark and KFC charges for deliveries. If he’s trolling us then we’re probably used to it.

Lyrics: Genius

Rated: 4.2/ 5

Depression and Music

We don’t take artists as seriously as we should.

Creating music is a process that, ideally, should come from within. This is why rappers get so much shade if they are found or suspected to be using ghost writers. It’s considered wrong because music should be an artist’s impression of their own life. If someone wrote for you the words that we, as listeners, take to be true, it feels like actual betrayal. Kendrick spoke about peer pressure and we take all of his Compton adventures to be true and solid. If we find out, years from now, that he never wrote what we actually listen to then he would lose his value and standing as an artist.

As a wide exception to this, we give artists creative freedom. You can lie and give us all the bullshit you want as long as they are your lies and it is your bullshit.  Artists can bend and will their reality as they please because that’s what being an artist means. It means being creative and telling us ordinary things in a meaningful and poignant way. There’s a very thin line between being honest and creative and letting someone else be honest and creative for you. This is what we demand from our artists. That they give us truths as long as these truths are from them. Not ghost written.

This artistic independence means that, a lot of the time, we don’t take artists as seriously as we should. Music, as myself and Chia have written about, is background noise to us these days. We don’t sit and listen to music, we vibe to it. What this means is that we end up listening to the music and not the artist. We miss their cries for help because that drop after the second verse was insane. We vibe but we don’t empathize.

Joy Division was an alternative band formed in England in 1976. Their lead singer was Ian Curtis, a soulful singer with a very gritty voice. They achieved a moderate amount of success in the late 70’s. On 18th May 1980, Ian Curtis committed suicide. Thing is, his lyrics were dark. To quote his wife after his death ‘His lyrics were dark. So very dark.’ His bandmates knew this. Because of the opaque banner that is ‘creative license’ we take these words and shove them under the carpet. We vibe but we don’t empathize. I mean, if this is not a cry for help then what is?

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Chester Bennington, the lead singer for Linkin Park, died a week ago.

I may have appreciated the artistic works of Prince and Michael Jackson and mourned for them when they did, but I didn’t grow up with them. I didn’t feel their deaths the same way that my parents did. They were not part of the culture I adore, they were only idols to it. But I grew up with Chester. At 13, I knew every Linkin Park song from every Linkin Park album that existed, I shit you not. Through their music, my angst and frustrations with the absurdity of life had a voice. Their music was loud and filled with pain but it warmed my growing soul. But, just like Tyler the Creator’s coming out, all the signs were there.

Somewhere I belong (2003) Meteora

I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long
(Erase all the pain till it’s gone)
I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong

Easier to Run (2003) Meteora

It’s easier to run
Replacing this pain with something numb
It’s so much easier to go
Than face all this pain here all alone

Crawling (2000) Hybrid Theory

Crawling in my skin
These wounds they will not heal
Fear is how I fall
Confusing what is real

I’m not saying we should overanalyze everything we hear because our favorite artist is going to kill themselves. Sometimes people don’t mean what they say and that’s fine. What I’m saying is that we should listen. Show compassion. Realise that creative license is just that. James Bond has a license to kill but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a alcoholic womanising gun-toting murderer.

If you have or know a person going through something and expressing themselves in whatever creative manner they choose, reach out. Life’s a bitch and then you die but friends are friends and you will miss them when they are gone.

I started this blog to appreciate artists while I could. Chester, I’m sorry it took me this long. I hope you find peace.

When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
Don’t resent me and, when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest

Outlet: Mr. Lu

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We are privileged to live in an age so grand. Life today is spectacular and this we take for granted. Sure, some of us claim that we were supposed to be born in the 50’s. Or 70’s music is where it’s at. That literature isn’t the same as it was with Hemingway and Fitzgerald. But I promise you that none of them could pull out their phone and call an Uber (or Taxify as we prefer these days). If you wanted to order food, you would literally need to go to a restaurant and get it there. It’s maddening, isn’t it?

Now, people conduct whole orchestra’s from the space of their bedrooms. If Mozart or Beethoven were born today, they would be on Soundcloud making fire beats. If you think about it though, we really don’t need them here. We already have Mr Lu, and boy aren’t his concerto’s amazing.

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The phrase ‘musical expression’, if taken literally, means to express one’s self through music. Artists are at their most creative when they have something to express. Think of Eminem’s “Stan”. Or Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga”. These artists needed to put their thoughts and emotions out there. Sure, one of them got arrested for it, but they created something incredible in the process.

This project is Mr Lu through musical expression. Full Moons was an awakening and Outlet is his catharsis. We did an interview with him for his upcoming project and this is what he had to say:

1. I’m assuming you weren’t baptized Mr. Lu?
_Well, funny story about my name is that my dad used to call me Mr Lu instead of Luther. I never used to like it when he called me that (and him too) at that time. Kinda grew in me, I guess. 😂

2. What drove you to start producing?
_I was rapping way before I got into production. I honestly just love the whole process of making a song. Greats like George Benson, Roy Ayers, Fela, just to mention a few, they lead me to see things differently from the way they played keys to their drums and very distinct percussion wmd just generally my love for the music. I was always so inspired to work with sound and make music off anything. I dream to lead a Japanese orchestra one day. They’re amazing. (I have a song in my forthcoming tape inspired by that)

3. What was your first piece of gear?
_It was a Novation midi keyboard with 49 keys. Boii I was excited! I still have it to date. I also have an Akai MPD18, which is what I use for my drums.

4. What’s your current set up?
_We call it “The BlueRoom.” It’s in a secret location but you can sure bet there’s always fire brewing. 😉

4. Do you have a process? Or do you let the canvas do the painting?
_I pretty much usually go with how I feel at the moment. I always surprise myself.

5. Your top 5 producers of all time.
_Not in order!
Tyler The Creator, J.robb, Plainpat, Matt Martians & Kid Cudi!

6. Tell us about Slinkky.
_Slinkky is my rap alter ego. Originally I used to rap which is what led me to being a Producer. Slinkky is a name that came to me in high school, during physics class. The teacher was teaching on slinky springs so it caught on and stuck. I loved it.

7. When did you realize you were starting to blow? And has this changed you in any way?
_I can say 2016 is when I was really out there I began making beats ’round 2015. This year has already been so dope! Playlist 2 was a movie! Shout out Camille Storm for that one. Looking forward to the future. Grateful for the far I’ve come really. I can’t say I’ve changed but it has def opened many new doors for me.

8. It’s been almost a year since Full Moons. Any new projects in the works?
_I’m currently working on a tape called OUT(let) which is about just ‘letting it all out’. Kinda like a “vent” tape where different artists come together and articulate different stories. There’s something for everyone. I have personally also rapped in the project, bringing in some old songs with fire-er beats and a few remixes. I open up about a lot so, let’s cry together when it’s time to cry, lol. I had a good time making this all in all.

9. XPRSV Radio 002?
_I know I said this too many times but, it’s coming! From episode 2, everything will be smooth. New episodes gon’ be out every month oh.

10. What does the future look like for Mr. Lu?
_I don’t know for sure but I’m always ready for whatever comes my way. Call me a blender, cause you know, life gives you lemons and… (comedy kinda looks like a plan btw, lol!)

11. Other than music, what else do you do?
_I am a graphic designer. I take black tea, I have it all the time. I also kinda shoot and edit videos. I can make people laugh (and cry too).

I have a huje jazz collection (of samples I’ve used). Maybe one day I’ll throw that listening party where guys come dressed retro. (is it retro or retro?)

12. The glasses. Gimmick or medical condition?
_Incase you want to know anything about Gimmicks ask BNRD Mars. 😂 “Eye have eye problem.” (see what I did there?) I have both for my eye sight AND for gimmicks.

13. Any upcoming performances?
_Not any, at least not yet. 😉
Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud(Mr Lu), Soundcloud(Slinkky), Instagram, Youtube.

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Images: Jones Waihenya; Chris Macharia

Ctrl: SZA

SZA (pronounced Sizza) is a normal girl and this is what makes her unique.

When we look at most female artists, we give them this dignified reverence. Lana Del Rey is the 50’s incarnate, Rihanna is queen and Beyonce, a deity. These artists live and exemplify this lifestyle. Rihanna walks out of her home and the world comes to a stop. Beyonce has twins and there’s a new royal family. We will love Lana when she’s no longer Young and Beautiful. These things are a given. But SZA? She’s perfectly ordinary.

That is my greatest fear
That if, if I lost control
Or did not have control, things would just, you know
I would be… fatal

On Supermodel (produced and co-written by Pharrell) she says:

I could be your supermodel if you believe
If you see it in me, see it in me, see it in me

SZA doesn’t want a Vogue cover. These aren’t the things to sate her insecurities. All she wants is for the person she loves and cares for to see her for what she could be. She’s been fucked with and left alone but all she needs is for that to be seen. It is painful and it is sad but it’s true.

In a way, aren’t we all like this? Our life’s achievements are never for the entire world. Just for the one person we do them for. When this one person doesn’t recognise them, then it hurts.

On Doves in the Wind, she wields her sexuality like a weapon. On his verse,Kendrick says:

Niggas’ll lose they mind for it
Wine for it, dine for it—pussy

We all know guys that have gone to extreme lengths for sex. At the same time, we know guys that disappear as soon as they get some. This isn’t cool and SZA doesn’t vibe with that. We should all be more like Forrest Gump, she says. Girls deserve the whole box of chocolates.

Again, all SZA wants is acceptance from the person she loves. On Drew Barrymore she gives us the best verse on the entire album:

I’m sorry I’m not more attractive
I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike
I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night
I’m sorry I’m not your baby mama
I’m sorry you got karma comin’ to you
Collect and soak in it right

Don’t change a thing SZA. He doesn’t deserve you anyway.

The Weekend is the reflection of relationships in the 21st century. Side chick is as common and acceptable a phrase as avocado toast.

You’re like 9 to 5, I’m the weekend is now the default Instagram caption for 2017.

 

On Broken Clocks, SZA summarises the entire album in a verse:

All I got is these broken clocks
I ain’t got no time
Just burning daylight
Still love and it’s still love, and it’s still love
It’s still love, still love (still lovin’), still love
It’s still love but it’s still love

Nothin’ but love for you (nothin’ but)
Nothin’ but love (nothin’ but)
Nothin’ but love

She knows she’s imperfect. She knows she has her flaws. This doesn’t stop her from loving and loving hard because despite everything this is the one thing she has. Pure unrequited unending love.

She gets cheated on. She’s insecure about her body and she doesn’t understand why anyone won’t love her.

SZA is us and we are SZA.

 

PS: In Supermodel she says:

Let me tell you a secret
I been secretly banging your homeboy

Apparently she hadn’t already told her ex-boyfriend this. Does it get more savage?

Image: Hypebeast

Rated: 4.6 / 5

It Was a Good Day: An Analysis

Nostalgia.

I heard this song, a song I haven’t heard since I was on the streets of San Andreas years ago. People say that rap is ultimately a form of poetry and I think this song is a clear example of that. I looked for breakdowns of it online to no avail and thus, here we have Ice Cube’s “It was a good day”: The analysis. It shall be split into three parts: The song, the story and it’s conclusion.

We see Ice Cube, the story teller, with a simple premise. What is a good day? By analysing this, I aim to find out if Ice Cube’s definition of a “good day” is an ideal, or a convoluted daydream.

 

The Song

Play this:

Ten seconds into the song, it’s pretty obvious. The music itself feels calm. It seeps into one ear and out the other. It feels. It draws and pulls back. This, literally, could soundtrack a good day.

 

The Story

Ice Cube is a certified MC. People that judge him off his film career undervalue this tremendously. He wrote half of N.W.A’s seminal Straight Outta Compton. His debut album, after leaving N.W.A, was certified platinum two months in. Snoop Dogg named him in the top three rappers of all time (then again Snoop himself was number three). His skill as a rapper as undeniable.

First, listen to the song. Second, watch the video. Since you probably haven’t done any of these two things, I’ll break down the themes in the song highlighting what, Ice Cube believes, makes a good day.

i. Peace

Peace, in a conventional sense, refers to a state of democracy, financial stability, a lack of war. Ice Cube, at the time of the song, is a young adult. These issues, while being important, do not directly affect his life in South Central Los Angeles. Thus, the peace he refers to is literal. Quiet. Calm. Serenity. A good breakfast.

No barking from the dog, no smog
And Momma cooked a breakfast with no hog

I got my grub on, but didn’t pig out

To Ice Cube, peace also refers to assurance. The life he lives isn’t 8 – 5. There is no distinct start nor distinct finish. His life is an unending game of Russian roulette. Will he be shot today? Or tomorrow? Peace to him is as simple as going back home alive.

Thinkin’, “Will I live another 24?”

ii. Friendship

This song is the 90’s equivalent of a daily vlog. If Ice Cube was an introvert, he’d shoot videos of his dog and tell us his thoughts on the new Attack on Titan episodes. However, what we can conclude from the song is that he is far from one. To him, meeting with friends is an essential part of a good day. He plays basketball with them, gambles at 12 in the morning, and they watching mindless television.

Called up the homies and I’m askin’ y’all
“Which park are y’all playin’ basketball?”
Get me on the court and I’m trouble

iii. Rush

From a personal perspective, I never want to leave home because everything outside it is unfamiliar. Driving to the mall risks panic attacks, forgotten wallets and no money to pay parking. I’m still not one for Cheap Thrills.

From Ice Cube’s perspective, an adrenaline rush is the perfect espresso to start your day with. Being still brings to satisfaction. He drives drunk, runs an intersection, anything to get his blood pumping. Do I condone this? No. But to Ice Cube, this is an important part of a good day.

Drunk as hell, but no throwin’ up
Half way home and my pager still blowin’ up

iv. Pride

The underlying theme of this song is pride. Ice Cube never explicitly mentions it but inklings of it can be found throughout the song.

He wins money gambling. The joy doesn’t come from getting paid but besting his friends.

I picked up the cash flow
Then we played bones, and I’m yellin’: “Domino!”

During a vivid, and if I may say articulately, described sexual encounter, Ice Cube makes it pretty clear of what he prides himself in.

Pulled out the jammy and killed the punani
And my dick runs deep, so deep
So deep put her ass to sleep

That night he drives home crossfaded through the clear streets of LA. Be it hallucinatory or his ego projecting through, he sees this in the night sky:

Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp
And it read “Ice Cube’s a Pimp”

v. Safety

Ice Cube is a certified gangsta. Not just a gangster. But a gangsta. He wouldn’t hesitate to kill anyone that got in his way. That’s the life he lives. But underneath all this gang rivalry and false bravado rappers use to reinforce their ego’s, Ice Cube is human. Violence is a necessary evil in his life. Not a source of pride and joy. As much as he prides himself in being the hardcore gangsta that he is, he still craves the normalcy that we all do.

In the briefest yet most iconic line of this song, he says:

Today I didn’t even have to use my AK
I gotta say, it was a good day

 

The Conclusion

The actual date is disputed. People say that Ice Cube’s good day was on January 20 1992, others argue it on November 30 1998. People have analysed this and speculated using every possible detail from the song. From the weather to what time Fatburger closes. But I think we’re missing the point here. The song isn’t supposed to be about some grand public holiday that we as rap fans can appreciate. The song is an ideal. It’s what Ice Cube inspired for a good day to is. In 2015, 23 years later, he tells us that the song isn’t a journal entry. It’s totally fictional. The life Ice Cube lived meant he had to use his AK everyday. Underneath it’s warm tones and catchy lines this is a song about the life Ice Cube wished he could live. And its as simple as hanging with his friends, playing basketball and being intimate with his girlfriend.

Does Ice Cube describe your idea of a good day?

 

Ps: After writing this I realized that something similar was talked about in the movie “Dope” so this it totally not plagiarism. Great movie, by the way.

Memoirs of the Reaper: Azizi Gibson

Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine is about Ariana Grande. It’s sickly sweet and full of cliche’s that work endearingly well. It’s an album to make love too. Now, take the same basic concept. Remove the muse, add multiple muses. Remove “love” and replace it with every variation of the word “sex”. That’s the album to fuck to. Aptly titled, Memoirs of the Reaper.

Sex isn’t a topic unfamiliar to rap music. In fact, you could say it comes right beneath wealth and genitalia size in terms of popularity. However, the manner in which it is addressed is largely similar. The focus isn’t on the act but on the number of ‘conquests’. If you think about it though, that isn’t a big deal. Rappers are relatively well to do individuals and thus, in this cruel world of ours, can get as many sexual partners as they like. What’s special is when a rapper can make it seem. . well. . special.

On the song “Lost”, he raps about his main one in a meal of sides.

Lost in the daze but still I always end up close to you

“Nintendo King” is a song about a contrived, yet really interesting, version of Strip Mario. It’s weirder than it sounds:

For every game that’s lost, we going to make you take a bump
If you land on Bowser, then you take them panties off
If you land on Boo, better take that bra off
If you win the battle game, you can put it back on
But until then you gone have to keep it off

“Freak” is a millennial ode to one night stands. That being, with one person.

Not the girl of my dreams but my freak

“Protein Shake” is for every girl on that daily squat grind. It’s a change in tone. More appreciative of women in general as compared to one central figure.

You got that Kim K booty organic

You making way more money than these bastards

“Sex Message” is the ultimate culmination of all these songs. I swear sensuality has never been better expressed. I would quote the best lines but I’d have to write the entire song and I’d ruin it for all of you.

The album isn’t entirely about sex. There are multiple anime references (Sailor Moon!) and the production value is super clean. The sex part just happens to be the best part.

When I said “special” I didn’t mean any particularly romantic encounters. I meant intimacy that was different. Or expressed differently. That’s why I referenced Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine. He takes a central character and breaks them down piece by piece in ten songs. Azizi does the same thing but with fewer songs and more characters. Is it more romantic? No. Is it nastier? Yes.

Pick one.

Rated: 3.7 / 5

Lyrics: Genius

 

The Art of Making Playlists

Some decades or so ago, playlists were special. There were no DM’s to slide into. No gawky 3am texts. No virtual L’s. You sat down and made a mixtape. A compilation of songs that you believe will convey an intended message. You like someone? Then let Stevie Wonder get it on. You’re horribly depressed and would like someone to know? The Cure would do fine. Someone got a whip and wants to flex on the way to the club? Then let Wu-Tang spot you. We should bring this back. Why? Read on.

Playlists have variety. You can make them as flexible as possible. Albums are journeys. They have intro’s and outro’s. They ebb and flow. Flicker and flame. Playlists take advantage of this. They don’t need to have a start and finish. It can be hype all the way through. You don’t have to put the whole of Future, just ‘mask off’. You don’t have to put all the (20) songs off Views, just ‘Grammy’.

At the same time, playlists can be journeys. They can plot out memories the same way a movie does. The song that was playing at Java when you walked up to her. The first song he told you he liked. Something off the soundtrack you heard the first time you Netflix and chilled.  The road trip song that you both loved. The song you heard on your way home after the break up. 

A playlist doesn’t have to be for someone else. It could be entirely yours. The songs that make you happy when your sad. The songs that make you sad when you’re already sad and want to keep spiraling further down. The songs that you play when you’re around people to seem cool. Your guilty pleasures. Top 40 hits. It’s all yours to decide.

Some standard playlist rules:

  1. Keep it short. No matter how much we love you we are not going to sit through 30 of your favourite songs.
  2. Genre shifts should be relativly stable. While hip hop and rnb mash relatively well there are limits.
  3. Personalize it. Give it a name. Change the album art. Make it uniquely you.

So today, make someone a playlist. It could be for your mum, your crush, an old friend, a new one, it’s entirely up to you. Just make sure it’s from the heart, and free from any Hannah Baker references.

P.s: I’ll make you one if you ask nicely.

For Lack of a Better Playlist | 002

Meka Mungai – Indie Girl ft Slinkky (prod Mr. Lu)


Lo-fi hip hop is angelic. It feels warm and flows beautifully. It isn’t a 6am church service or sanctification behind a metaphorical body and soul.  No-one captures this like Mr. Lu does.

On their second collaboration, Meka and Mr. Lu take a step back and give us a glimpse into their creative mindset. Graced by Slinkyy’s mellow flow and lifted by Meka’s delicate touch, the concerted path of these artists continues. Please give us an EP.

 

Jessie Reyez – Blue Ribbon (prod. Tim Suby )

The bipolar Alexia Cara. Straight up crazy on “Shutter Island“. Heart-wrenching on “Figures“. And now, bass-shattering on “Blue Ribbon”.

On it she warns:

But I’m cute if you don’t fuck around
I’m nice if you don’t fuck around

Whoever you are, you better be listening.

 

SZA – Love Galore ft. Travis Scott

SZA doesn’t just put out music. She gifts it to us. We are at her mercy. And with this present, it feels like Christmas.

The first lady of TDE, in conjunction with Travis Scott, give us unbridled honesty. Over an sober beat we’re given desperation and heartbreak. He left you. Stopped picking your calls. It wasn’t anything more than a summer fling. So in the end. Fuck him. You’re better than he is, and:

Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me?
Why you bother me when you know you got a woman?

You do you SZA. You do you.

 

Lou Phelps – What time is it ft. Innanet James (prod. Kaytranada)

Sampling is an art form. Its greatness, however, varies with time. 6 years ago, Otis Redding on the titular Watch the Throne “OTIS” was spectacular. Today, we don’t want familiarity. The more obscure the better. Listen to Kaytranada and I promise you shall jam whether or not you know who his sampling.

On this Lou Phelps fronted track, the funk hits hard. You don’t want to get up and move. Just bop your head and feel. Kaytra’s got you. And Lou makes certain of that.

 

Muthoni Drummer Queen – Kama Kawaida (manch!ld flip)

Local music is changing and leading this revolution is none other than the queen herself. By her side we have Kagwe, Mayonde and Fena Gitu. If any of these names are unfamiliar to you then keep up or get left behind.

The original track is delightfully catchy and is mastered perfectly, something our industry greatly needed. Manch!ld’s version, though, flips the entire song on its head. It’s hits but restrains itself masterfully. He took 2014 era trap, told it to sit down, and be humble. It’s a welcome reinterpretation of the song and we wouldn’t say no to more.

 

Here’s the complete playlist:

 

 

 

An Introduction to Hiatus Kaiyote

The best music is made by those that love it. For you to make something, and for it to be good, you have to appreciate what has come before. Appreciating it isn’t just having good taste. It’s using this taste to make something better. It isn’t copying someone’s homework and rephrasing everything they’ve said. It’s learning from them. Hiatus Kaiyote brings this out marvellously.

In 2011, Paul Bender (bassist of Hiatus Kaiyote) saw future lead singer, Nai Palm, perform at a concert in Melbourne. The two collaborated a year later after realising the brand of music they both wanted to make. After finding two more members (Perrin Moss and Simon Mavin), Hiatus Kaiyote emerged in all their Australian wonder.

Their music is termed as future soul. They themselves prefer “Multi-dimensional, Polyrhythmic gangster shit.” I pick the latter.

Their first album, Tawk Tomahawk, made waves. Everyone from Erykah Badu to Prince to Questlove was tweeting about it. In fact, in a later reissue, Q-tip did an entire verse. The band was then noticed by Salaam Remi, the former manager of Amy Winehouse. I mean, if each of these occurrences aren’t good omens then I don’t know what are.

Only with their second album, Choose your weapon, did the band hit their stride. Tawk Tomahawk was good, but it felt like the band was just getting to know each other. What they were comfortable with. Who they were drawing inspiration from. Who there target audience was. On Choose your weapon, they decided not to care. The album is an 18 song, 70 minute epic, compared to their debut which ran for 30 minutes. Here, they flex their creative muscles. We get everything from soaring bass lines to owl screeches. The album is ethereal. It’s beautiful. Untainted. Miraculous. Unabashedly celestial. They have no limits. Their music is a melting point of everything beautiful in music. Soul. Funk. Rhythm.

They’re the most underground mainstream band there is. Too few have actually heard of them, but they’re probably on your playlist right now. Anderson .Paak samples them on “Without you.” Nai Palm’s voice soars on Drake’s “Free smoke” and if this isn’t enough already they’re on Kendrick’s DAMN. This is the CV every artist clamours for.

When asked to explain what their name means, Nai Palm says:

“Kaiyote” is not a word. It’s a made up word, but it kind of sounds like peyote and coyote – it’s a word that involved the listeners creativity as to how they perceive it. So it reminds you of things but it’s nothing specific. When I looked it up on online it was like a bird appreciation society around the world, so for me that was a great omen, because I’m a bird lady. A hiatus is essentially a pause, it’s a moment in time. So, to me, a hiatus is taking a pause in your life to take in your surroundings, have a full panoramic view of your experiences and absorbing, and “kaiyote” is expressing them in a way involves the listeners creativity.

This sentiment explains their music just as well. You don’t look to their lyrics for meaning. You sit back and let them take you wherever you want to be taken. For me, this is my hangover music. My Sunny Sunday music. My background music. It can be the drug you need or the music you trip to.

They’ve given you the canvas. Now paint.

 

ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$: Joey Bada$$

If To Pimp a Butterfly is an art gallery showcasing the plight of the African American, then ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ (AABA) is a bare-fisted, profanity riddled, tear gas filled protest.

To every soul that harkens to an age where hip hop was “real” and “pure”, Joey Bada$$ came like the messiah. Considering that his hometown, Brooklyn, gave us Jesus himself, Notorious B.I.G. To many, he came not to save our souls from immortal sin, but to put the rap back in hip hop.

B4.DA.$$ is an undeniable classic. Think about it. Like all classics: It was underrated for an unbelievably long time, it came from (at the time) a relatively unknown rapper and the production value is insane (J Dilla, Hit-boy, The Roots). If you think about albums that got the same treatment, you’d have Control System, Acid Rap, Too High to Riot, among many others. The question is, does the same apply to AABA?

Joey is as patriotic as it gets. This shines through in AABA. It’s a protest album in the strongest sense of the word. The system is rotten. You could lose your life if you look at an officer the wrong way. So, like Green Days American Idiot, he decided to do something about it.

In the land of the free, it’s full of free loaders

Leave us dead in the street to be their organ donors
They disorganized my people, made us all loners

Still got the last names of our slave owners

If Brooklyn had a national anthem, it would be “Land of the Free”. If North America had a national anthem (which it does but I choose to ignore) it would be AABA. The album itself is masterful. Joey’s lyricism ebbs and flows beautifully, Kirk Knights beats hit hard and swift. Most of the tracks, surprisingly enough, feel like cuts off of Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Hard and legitimate rap music. Very reflective of 90’s hip hop, but not in a way thats pandering. As Kendrick once put it, in fact:

Everybody want to talk about who this and who that
Who the realest and who wack, or who white or who black

Critics want to mention that they miss when hip hop was rappin’
Motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mike’d be platinum

Some tracks don’t feel as cohesive as the rest of the album. “Devastated” for example. But, strangely enough, Joey justifies it. He says:

a lot of people were thrown off by the two smoke screens I put out before called “Devastated” and “Front and Center.” I like those records. But to me, they were more like bait music. People gotta understand, when you’re an artist, you got your core. Then I look at it like there is many rings around that. Like circles.

Does this make the album a classic? I honestly don’t know.

Does this make the album good? Most definitely.

Image: Album art

Rated: 4.2 / 5

For the Love of Crate Digging: Pt I

We all listen to music in various ways. Few still buy CD’s. Vinyl’s are a thing again. Music streaming is at an all time high. And the pirates among us still sail the seas. If you’re still on that waptrick/tubidy vibe then much love to you as well. In the end, we’re all listening to the same music.

These days though, artists find other ways to put their music out there. The conventional single/album format is slowly being usurped. There’s something beautiful about it..

Youtube

These days it isn’t uncommon for an artist to put out an entire album on youtube. However, this doesn’t do much for their publicity. Ed Sheeran could put out an entire album on Youtube (which he did) but if we didn’t know who he was then no-one would really care. So, artists find different ways to get their names out there, through Youtube. If you dig deep enough, there’s a treasure trove of amazing artistry that isn’t limited to music videos. Here are a select few:

i. BBC 1/ BBC 1Xtra

This is one of the more well known channels, but to the unfortunate few, you would not believe what you’ve discovered. When an artist releases an album, they tend to visit radio stations to build hype for it. BBC 1 took it a step further and gave these artists a platform to perform some of their songs. They call it the Live Lounge. And, as a bonus, they do covers as well. What’s better than mainstream artists covering other mainstream artists? Here are some of our favorites:

 

Or:

 

And:

 

 

ii. Tiny Desk Concerts

Imagine if every week, your boss scheduled a performance for the office behind his desk. That’d be pretty cool yeah? Well, NPR did that. And they call it the Tiny Desk Concerts. Since the performances are literally behind a desk, artists are forced to be at their most minimal. This means you can’t have an entire backing choir. And, more often than not, the results are beautiful. And, at the same time, literally anyone can perform. Here are our favourites:

 

or:

 

or:

 

and, just for good measure:

 

if you aren’t convinced yet:

 

 

iii. Documentaries (The FADER & Noisey)

When you know about an artists life, you get a different perspective on their music. Wikipedia can only tell us so much. Thankfully, the FADER and Noisey have us covered on that front. They don’t do conventional interviews. Instead, they give us a glimpse into the day to day happenings of a musician. It could be through their tours, or a visit to their mothers home, or just a random trip to the supermarket. Here are our biased picks:

 

or:

 

and:

 

 

iv. Others

Here are some random picks that we thought you’d enjoy too:

 

and my personal favourite:

 

 ( featured image: the vinyl factory )

Vibrations to send: Drake

Drake says that this isn’t an album. Neither is it a mixtape. Instead, he calls it a playlist. And this makes perfect sense.

When Views first came out, the reaction to it was pretty typical. Day 1: everyone was in awe because this is a Drake album and we don’t get very many of those, and Rihanna featured twice. After a while though, we all took off our rose tinted glasses. Views isn’t a bad album, not in the slightest. It just didn’t live up to the expectations we had for it. “Too good”, “Feel no ways” and “Child’s play” shall forever remain classics but for a 20 song tracklist there wasn’t much to it.

And this was the case because, plainly speaking, Drake was trying too hard. Nothing was the same was utterly brilliant, and coming off of that must have been difficult. He had two options. He could redo the same thing and get a good old Jhene feature or completely reinvent his sound at the risk of not appealing to the masses. He did both and this indecision is what did him in. Part of Drake’s charisma is how well he can flit from one genre to another. Have us gyrating to “Control”, crying to “Feel no ways” and trap to “Grammys”. But when you try and do this in one album, it doesn’t come off, well, “Too good.”

Drake wrote this accompaniment to More Life:

FullSizeRender

This is Drake’s philosophy throughout the playlistViews was about proving his versatility More Life is proving his fluidity. Here, it isn’t about sick flows or hard bars. That isn’t the goal. We don’t have a lot of time on this wretched planet so we need to squeeze the life out of every moment. Collaborate with everyone. Fake a South London accent. Sample a damn recorder! More Life is a good time. I feel like Drake called all his friends and put a performance for us. It feels like Drake left all his regrets and worries behind and just had fun.

The songs themselves are no holds barred. Not like sick freestyles or massive beats. Just laid back music someone wrote on a Sunday afternoon. We have “Free Smoke” which samples the ethereal Hiatus Kaiyote and throws more subliminal shots at Kid Cudi. There’s “Passionfruit” which takes tropical house, flips it on its head, and reminds you that “Shape of you” isn’t the end of the genre. “Get it together” brings long-deserved attention to the South African legend that is Black Coffee. All the Giggs features are sewage grimy and I still can’t believe that he sampled a recorder on “Portland”.

“Madiba Riddim” would have to be my favourite. I feel like its the antithesis to “Controlla”. On a dance floor, “Controlla” is bodies gyrating, sweat flowing and sin pumping. “Madiba Riddim” is drunken laughter, bodies close but not touching, happiness pure and untainted. Like I said, this album is a genuine good time. Being a Drake album, the trap obviously has to come through. On “Sacrifices” we have a coherent Young Thug, “Kmt” has Drake on his xxxtentation flow, “Gyalchester” is What a time to be alive nostalgia.

More Life isn’t perfect. It’s too long; some of the features feel more gratuitous that necessary; the Kanye feature isn’t all that. But this isn’t an album and, thus, shouldn’t be analysed as one. It’s a playlist. Playlists tend to be too long, have songs you definitely won’t like but still find a way to accommodate for everyone.

Life is too short to not do the things you would like to do. And, should someone come collecting, at least we can say that Drake lived the life he wanted.

Rating: 3.7 / 5

 

Music and its place in my life

This article is extremely introspective so if that isn’t your jam then check out the rest of our wonderful, much more objective, topics on music.

3 – 5 a.m.

For 3 years of my life, this is when I’d listen to music. In high school, when every snippet of free time was treasure, this was my catharsis. Back then I didn’t have the convenience of an Apple Music subscription or unlimited wifi connectivity. Every week I would, through some way or form, access 350 mb bundles . These were my salvation. Youtube? Nope. Movies? Not really. But music, all the damn way. The pirate bay never had a customer as loyal as me. Every week, with the same limited internet connectivity, I’d scroll through archives of Pitchforks reviews to find what I would be listening to this week. Hate on Pitchfork all you may, but they gave me Because the Internet and I don’t take that lightly. My music exploration was extreme. I was on everything from Bring Me The Horizon to MF DOOM. From Abbey Road to Racine Carrée.

Present day

I don’t have a set time to listen to music. I don’t have two hours in my day that I can allocate to this sole purpose. Or, much rather, I haven’t allocated two hours in my day to music. Has life become busier than it was before? Not in the slightest. I could easily do this but I just haven’t. Now, I have more resources than I’ve ever had before. 350mb is my internet usage in a day. But it doesn’t mean I listen to more music and this I find horribly tragic.

My reasons are fickle. I’m always with other people. In fact, I have playlists on my phone tailored to the people that I may be with that day. Pop for the prep-school girls, trap for the OG’s, afrobeat for the alcoholics and so on and so forth. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy these genres but rather that I’m not listening to these artists or albums for genuine reasons. It’s begrudgingly accommodating for others. It wasn’t always like this. Before, it was like: if you didn’t fuck with my music, leave. Now I’m like a bartender at a music club, serving requests back and forth.

On some days I find clarity. It could be a moment, a person or an album.  When the sky is dark and all I want to listen to is The Dark Side of the Moon. When I meet a person with a genuine appreciation of music and I can play music I actually want to listen to. When I’m on Soundcloud and I find that one gem that I can hold tight. When I first heard Anderson .Paak and Noname. In a sense, I started this blog to pursue that clarity. Writing about music forces you to become more acquainted with the album, the artist and their contemporaries. It makes work of a hobby. It crystallizes this clarity. And I think I’m achieving that. But I’m still a long way off.

So thank you to my loyal readers.

My day ones.

You are the reason I do this.

You are my greater appreciation of music.

 

 

An Inch from Stardom: Big Sean

To succeed in hip hop, like in literature, you need a defining album. Chimamanda had Purple Hibiscus, George Orwell had Animal Farm, and F.Scott Fitzgerald had The Great Gatsby. Is I Decided Big Sean’s masterpiece?

Big Sean has been signed to G.O.O.D music for the last ten years (Doesn’t it make you realise how old you really are?) “Marvin and Chardonnay” came out six years ago. “Beware” came out four years ago. “I Don’t Fuck with you” came out three years ago. This is a vicious cycle that Big Sean is trapped in. Every so often he has a string of brilliant singles that fill the airwaves for months (aren’t you tired of “Moves” already?) and after his album comes out, he fades back into obscurity.

This isn’t to say that Big Sean is a bad rapper. He certainly doesn’t break any top ten lists but his lyricism is occasionally great (See: “Halfway off the Balcony”, “Jump Out the Window”). Plus, his work with Jhené Aiko (See:Twenty88) is remarkably good. The main problem is that he doesn’t have a defining album yet. He doesn’t have that one album that makes an artist great. It’s the album that brings to light how good your music may actually be. For some artists, their debut happens to be their defining album, Kanye’s College Dropout for example. For others, it may come much later in their discography, Anderson .Paak’s Malibu, for example. A defining album doesn’t just make a rapper great. It allows us to forgive them for any musical transgressions they may commit in future. Drake gave us Nothing was the same and for that we’re willing to forgive Views.

A defining album doesn’t even have to be extremely spectacular. Logic’s Under Pressure is a pretty good album, but it isn’t critically acclaimed. Regardless, without it we wouldn’t know about the many other excellent mixtapes he’s put out. Without Good kid, m.a.a.d city we wouldn’t know about Section.80.  Without Coloring Book, many of us wouldn’t know about Acid Rap.

I decided. isn’t going to be Big Sean’s The Blueprint. While this may be unfortunate, once we have Sean’s defining album, I feel like we will appreciate his music much much more. Besides, he has Jhené. What more do you ask from life?

Favourite Tracks:”Light”, “Jump Out the Window”, “Owe me”, “Halfway Off the Balcony”, “Bigger than me”.

i-decided

Rated: 3.2/ 5 

Image: The Early Registration

 

The Burning Sun: Sampha

Process doesn’t feel like an album that was just waiting to happen. It feels inspired. Motivated. Forced, you could even say. Like a journal entry of an event so cataclysmic you absolutely had to write about it. And thankfully, Sampha did.

If you think this is the first time you’ve heard of Sampha, I can absolutely assure you that you have heard of him before. He’s collaborated with Solange on ‘Don’t touch my hair’, with Kanye on ‘Saint Pablo’, Frank Ocean on Endless and Drake on Nothing was the Same. In fact, he achieved vine stardom (when this was still a thing) because of ‘Too much’ off Drake’s Nothing was the same. This isn’t to say that Sampha is some sort of puppet master, ghost writing at the strings of major artist. Sampha’s voice is just honest. Plain and simple. When the rapper is trying to make you understand his struggle, Sampha’s voice is there to highlight everything in bold. Look at Kanye’s second verse from ‘Saint Pablo’:

Cause if I’m up way too much, I’m out of touch
I’m prayin’ a out-of-body experience will happen
So the people can see my light, now it’s not just rappin’
God, I have humbled myself before the court
Drop my ego and confidence was my last resort

Wow. This is Kanye actually being humble. Not to say that he’s the egomaniac he presents himself as, but in one of the few times that he isn’t being a total jackass, he has Sampha holding it down with this:

And you’re lookin’ at the church in the night sky
Wonderin’ whether God’s gonna say hi
Oh, you’re lookin’ at the church in the night sky
And you wonder where is God in your nightlife

In 2014, Sampha lost his mum to cancer. His reaction to it fills the brim of Process and it is utterly heartbreaking. From start to finish, he bares his soul. On ‘Plastic 100c’, through the veil of outer space, he talks about how life can be when everything is changing unbearably fast:

I love those mornings, when the sun’s up
Smoking in the lobby, waiting for my name to pop up, yeah, pop up
Usually I’d run home, and tuck the issue under
Oh, sleeping with my worries, yeah, I didn’t really know what that lump was, my luck

This event hit him hard and still, right up until the end, he never gave up. On ‘Kora Sings’, he says:

A pillow on your face soaking up those tears
Who’s anyone to say you should have no fear?
A mouth full of smoke really made things clear
You’ve been with me since the cradle
You’ve been with me, you’re my angel
Please don’t you disappear

On ‘(No-one knows me) Like the Piano’, he brings the hammer down on everything he’s been feeling in three short verses. It’s a ballad, but not in the conventional sense. Not a husband to a wife or a lover to another, but a boy appreciating what his mother has done for him. From raising him to simply bringing a piano into their home.

There’s a running theme in this album: The burning sun. Sampha’s trying to escape everything that has happened to him. Running like they smell the “blood on me”. But like the burning sun, he can only run so fast, so far. This doesn’t mean he’ll stop running.

Rated: 4.1 / 5

Image: Rolling Stone

Lyrics: Genius

Music heard and music felt

You’ve definitely heard ‘Too Good’ by Drake and Rihanna. It’s a nice song isn’t it? Happy and upbeat. Like ‘Take care‘ but more positive. Well, this is what I thought until I heard this cover by The xx. Under all the glam and tropical house have you realised how this sad this song is?  Here’s the first verse:

Look…I don’t know how to talk to you
I don’t know how to ask you if you’re okay

My friends always feel the need to tell me things
Seems like they’re just happier than us these days

Yeah, these days I don’t know how to talk to you
I don’t know how to be there when you need me
It feels like the only time you see me
Is when you turn your head to the side and look at me differently

I mean, how depressing is this:

Yeah, and last night I think I lost my patience
Last night, I got high as your expectations

If you aren’t too busy singing along, then you probably have realized how bleak it all is. We don’t really listen to music these days. We feel it. I’m no saint. I hadn’t really realized what this song meant and I can probably sing it word for word (can’t we all?).

There’s nothing wrong with feeling music. Lyrics convey meaning and music (instrumentals) conveys emotion. In most of the songs you listen to, the music and lyrics go hand in hand. Feel good music goes with feel good lyrics. But often enough, this isn’t the case. Another example would be The Weeknd’s “Can’t feel my face”. On the face of it, its a feel good song about love and happiness and glamour. It was nominated for a Kids choice award after all. Well, look at the lyrics more closely:

And I know she’ll be the death of me
At least we’ll both be numb
And she’ll always get the best of me
The worst is yet to come

But at least we’ll both be beautiful and stay forever young
This I know, yeah, this I know

And it goes on:

She told me, “don’t worry about it”
She told me, “don’t worry no more”
We both know we can’t go without it
She told me you’ll never be alone, oh, oh, woo

If you weren’t aware already, he’s singing about snorting copious amounts of cocaine. That’s sort of messed up isn’t it? It isn’t a bad song, but the fact that not many people actually realized what it meant is testament to how we listen to music. If a song is catchy we tend to sing along without really understanding what the music means. He talks about this on ‘Reminder’ of his latest album Starboy when he says:

I just won a new award for a kids show
Talking ’bout a face numbing off a bag of blow
I’m like, goddamn bitch I am not a Teen Choice
Goddamn, bitch, I am not a bleach boy

This isn’t often the case. Most music goes beautifully with its lyrics. ‘No Heart’ by 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’ is a dark song with top notch production value, desolate and menacing beats and ghastly lyrics, as all 21 Savage lyrics tend to be. In this instance, the music is partly the reason why the lyrics hit so hard. Murder and debauchery meets broody and gloomy.

That’s why I feel instrumental music doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Without trivializing the entire genre, it’s largely meaningless. It’s all about the feeling conveyed. Trance makes you mellow, classical makes you contemplative, ambient hangs in the background and house makes you jump. But in the realm of pop, the lines blur.

Feel music, but listen to it too.

Image: Howls and Echoes

Lyrics: Genius