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Posts Tagged ‘MTV

The Early Favorite for “Mixtape of the Year” Has Arrived

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If the album art at left seems vaguely familiar to you, that’s because you’ve seen it before. 

The newest mixtape from D.C. native Wale (probably the best rapper the general public somehow still doesn’t yet know about) is indeed an homage to his favorite TV show, Seinfeld — the original show about nothing.

The only thing wrong with Wale’s logic is that his mixtape is actually about something. A lot of somethings, even. He tackles one tough topic after the next on The Mixtape About Nothing, (racism, the music industry, love, growing up, artistic integrity to name a few) which should come as no surprise considering that before turning his attention to music full-time Wale played football at Virginia State. So just don’t call him a backpack rapper — cuz he ain’t one. But don’t call him a thug either, cuz Wale is about as far from a brainless thug as you’ll ever find in the rap game.

And that’s part of what’s great about Wale. You can’t pin him down as a “type,” paint him into a single-genre corner, or put him in a record company box. He’s too smart for that shit, and far too versatile (both lyrically and stylistically) to ever be defined as just one type of MC. Yeah he wears tight jeans and neon Nikes, but he’s still a street struggler who fought his way to record deals with Mark Ronson and Interscope. And sure he may call a girl “bitch” and his boys “nigga,” but that doesn’t mean he thinks “Obama” is some country in Africa either.

In a musical era where marketing and branding seem to come before beats and rhymes, most rappers are turned into virtual caricatures of themselves by providing (and encouraging) a specific self-image for their audience to hold on to…..

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Quick Hits: Day26 – Day26

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So typically we use the “Quick Hits” format for newly acquired music that we like and feel like sharing with others or just generally talking about. But I need to flip the script a little bit, even if only just for today.

I’ve written extensively about artists that I like — or at least whose music I find to be new or interesting or meaningful — in almost every post thus far. I didn’t want to contribute too much to the ever-snarky “this sucks” culture of today, which seems particularly prominent when it comes to blog culture. But I gotta say something about Day26 and their debut album, the cleverly titled, Day26:

This sucks.

I mean honestly, this was supposed to be the next R&B super-group, which Diddy (whom I grew up with, like, and admire) and MTV spent years crafting — holding auditions all over the country and synthesizing the thousands of hopefuls and wannabes into the five men you see sitting before you who already look dressed for their own funeral. And yet, I found myself listening to the album and thinking, Seriously? This is it? This is the best Diddy could come up with? With all of America as his talent pool. And on top of all that, Diddy, you decide to saddle them with this absurd name, Day26 (no spaces, please). Why, man, why?

I was really looking forward to having a good, old-school, all-male R&B group that could really sing again. Well you can forget that idea. If you were waitin’, it ain’t here yet. Forget about the next New Edition, the next Jodeci, or the next Boyz II Men. Day26 is maybe the next All-4-One — maybe (come on, “I Swear” was a great song) — but they aren’t even the next 112. (Who had some really legitimate shit, by the way: “Only You,” “Cupid,” “It’s Over Now,” “Peaches & Cream,” “Dance With Me,” etc.). The passion and charisma just isn’t there with these dudes.

And the bitch of it is, Day26 has probably had more advantages in releasing their first album than any group in R&B history, accept for maybe Diddy’s other “Making the” band, female “super-group,” Danity Kane. Between the insane amount of near-constant publicity from four seasons of MTV’s Making the Band show, and album production almost exclusively by top-flight producers (Bryan-Michael Cox, Danja, and The Hitmen), it’s no wonder that Day26 debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart — anything less would have been serious under achievement considering the coattails on which they’re riding.

Despite the hot initial album sales, the group’s first single, “Got Me Going,” hasn’t exactly been a smashing success, peaking at number seventy-nine on Billboard’s Hot 100, and number thirty on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop chart. This could be due to the fact that, like the group itself, the song is just pretty damn lame. It seems entirely possible that what Day26 is truly suffering from is over-design, over-production, over-coaching, and over-exposure. In other words, the build up was so extreme, there was simply no way the ends could justify the means.

If you opt to check out any Day26 tracks, I’d go with “I’m The Reason,” a percussion-driven joint reminiscent of Destiny’s Child’s “Lose My Breath,” or “Since You’ve Been Gone,” an unsatisfying attempt at the standard “Oh baby I miss you so much but now I’ve changed” R&B ballad.

But I don’t particularly recommend it.

– Jonathan

Day26 Official MySpace

Sam Sparro – Complex or Confused? (Part II of II)

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(If you haven’t read last week’s post, “Sam Sparro – Complex or Confused? Part I of II,” click here to backtrack to it before reading Part II below).

First let me start by apologizing for taking so long to get you guys Part II of the Sam Sparro story.

Frankly, I blame the drugs.

(And Hillary Clinton).

That being said, buckle up for the longest post of all time. But I’m throwing in links to all the songs, as well as a few pictures to make up for it. Okay, here we go………

So I realize that giving up Sparro’s excellent first single, “Black and Gold,” as an introduction to his music is a little like having sex on the first date — I gave up the goods without making you work for them. But as is often the case after people have sex on the first date, I wasn’t merely placated or satisfied by hearing “Black and Gold,” rather my appetite was whetted, and I was left wanting more. (Um, more Sam Sparro, that is). If anything, “Black and Gold” succeeded in roping me into the house of mirrors that is Sam Sparro. Now, I was trapped.

But how does the rest of his first album hold up in comparison to its lead single? Does it pale or do the other tracks back it up? Exactly what kind of music does this kid make anyway? And what of the God references? Was “Black and Gold” a one shot deal that just happened to be about Sparro’s search for God? Or would I discover the world’s first “Electro-soul spoof-disco-pop mixed with religious-funk-house” album, with lyrics wrought with religious references and questions at every turn? Because while I like to consider myself as having an eclectic and wide-ranging musical taste — and with apologies to the elder Mr. Falson — Christian Rock just isn’t among my preferred genres, nor do I plan on making it one.

Well the truth is, Sparro’s self-titled album is, not surprisingly, much like he is — it’s a true reflection of himself. Not an exact reflection, that isn’t what I mean. But an honest reflection, a real one. Shrouded in mixed signals yet entirely open to interpretation. Questioning, yes, but only in his authoritative and ever-urgent voice. Bouncing from one genre to another, with only ambiguous connections in between. Serious and introspective in one moment, then bubbly and ridiculous in the next. A God-fearing man of faith who also happens to smoke mad weed. Maybe. Who hides his pain behind fun, friendly, and sometimes silly dance tracks. In other words, Sam Sparro the album and Sam Sparro the man are both, well…..consistently inconsistent. Complex and confusing. Unsurprisingly surprising. (Now how’s that for confusion?)

But that isn’t to say there’s no meat left on the album’s bones after “Black and Gold.” True, it is quite easily the best track on Sparro’s album — I’ll tell you that right up front. But that’s largely due to its accessibility. The track just somehow works, and you don’t even have to think about why. And though three different listeners might put “Black and Gold” in three different genres of music, none of the three would find themselves saying, “What the fuck am I listening to?”

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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: April 18th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. X – Nausea

I just ate a few tacos, so I figured I would pull out my anthem that I sing when I’m nauseous-Nausea. Along with bands like the Germs, X was part of the first wave of punk that found LA. Both those bands, as well as previously featured FEAR all were a big part of “The Decline of Western Civilization.” X had a real edge, but a lot of their stuff had plenty leftovers of New Wave dropped in. This is off their first album, Los Angeles, produced by the Door’s Ray Manzarek.

2. Bad Religion – White Trash (2nd Generation)

I was just having a discussion with a friend about the LA punkers- Bad Religion. Among kids our age, they’re most known for their poppy punk anthems that they’ve been putting out the past ten years on KROQ. It’s hard for many to believe that these guys were part of the first Hardcore movement in the states. But after examining their name and their iconic logo it’s no surprise. Their first album “How Could Hell Be Any Worse” was classic hardcore. Too bad they followed the album with “Into the Unknown”, a crappy prog-rock record that absolutely destroyed their punk cred. They came back afterwards, with “Back to the Known” in a form that is more recognizable now, but the hardcore was all gone. If you want to talk to the band, check out a UCLA Life Science lecture where you’ll find the lead singer teaching!

3. The Mae Shi – Run To Your Grave

Full of changing and unique DIY lighting, as well as frequent costume changes, these guys are great to see live. But their great on tape too. These guys’ run as a small time LA Smell band is on it’s last legs. I’m pretty certain they’re about to blow up at any moment. After featuring albums with 30 or so spastic 30 sec to 1 min explosions, they’ve settled down to more chewable 2-3 min songs. Their newest album “Hlllyh”, should be hitting the radio at any time. Going between 80’s 8 bit keyboards, chanting sing alongs, a little punk, and great chorus’s, it should be no wonder why they’ll do great everywhere. This song is catchy as hell, and already has a great video. My only question is, how are people going to receive their lyrics? After seeing them a bunch live, I’m pretty certain they’re being satirical, but we’ll see how everybody else receives it

Jonathan’s Picks

1. The Game – Big Dreams

I gotta come clean. I’m an East Coast guy. New York born and bred. Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas — those were my guys growing up. Sure I liked ‘Pac, Dre, and Snoop, and I even respected ’em. But they just never held the same water with me. After ‘Pac passed, Dre stopped making albums, and Snoop signed with Master P’s No Limit Records, West Coast Hip Hop was dead. (My apologies to Xzibit, but you don’t count in this category). But in 2004, my (forced) move to Los Angeles coincided almost perfectly with the arrival of a young, brash, fast-rising West Coast rapper called The Game. Ever since I heard The Documentary in 2005, I have anxiously anticipated his every release, and Doctor’s Advocate did not disappoint. In fact it merely succeeded in raising the bar to an unthinkable level for a sophomore album. The Game and Lil Wayne are by far the two most exciting and interesting young rappers in today’s hip hop community, each with a legitimate chance to become a legend in his own right, and eventually achieve O.G. status. “Big Dreams” is the first single from The Game’s upcoming album, L.A.X., which is due out this June. I can’t even pretend I’m not excited.

2. Rick Ross – The Boss

Since I’m being honest this week, I admit that after Rick Ross’ (undeniably hot, but semi-ridiculous) debut single, “Hustlin”” was released in 2006, I thought that would surely be the last we heard of the always meticulously unshaven drug dealer-turned rapper. Yet another “One Hit Wonder” going by the wayside, drifting quietly out into the waters of the Port of Miami. But clearly, I was very wrong. Ross struck Gold with his first album, and is aiming even higher on his second, the recently released and succinctly titled, Trilla, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, beating out both Snoop Dogg’s Ego Trippin’ and Fat Joe’s (aptly titled) Elephant in the Room. That’s serious business, as Ross took out two hip hop vets in one week. Though I wasn’t grabbed by Trilla’s first single, “Speedin'” featuring R. Kelly, I simply cannot get enough of Ross’ second single off the new album, “The Boss,” featuring T-Pain, and produced by Los Angeles-based hitmaker, Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem. I like bumpin’ this one as loud as possible, and I suggest you do the same.

3. Day26 – Got Me Going

Who the hell is Day26, you ask? Well that’s an excellent and fair question, since chances are they will never be very important or well known. Day26 is the newly formed R&B group from Diddy and his Bad Boy Records imprint, which came together on the fourth try, uh…I mean fourth season, of MTV’s Making the Band. It seems like it took a lot longer than that. (Note: Sorry to interrupt, but is that not the worst name for an R&B group you’ve ever heard? I really can’t think of anything worse. Day26?? It’s inane). Anyway, despite the awful name, and the overwrought production of the band itself, Day26 and its self-titled debut album hit the top of the Billboard 200 chart in its first week of sales. Wow. Okay then. “Got Me Going” is their first single off the album, and come to think of it, it’s their first single off anything at all. Are they any good? Well, you be the judge of that.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Jimmy Martin – Sophronie

Jimmy Martin was the king. He said so, and not too many people disagreed (well, maybe Bill Monroe). Martin was one of those larger than life types and this song showcases his rhinestone-suited swagger even as he sings about heartbreak and loneliness. That’s one of the beauties of bluegrass music: when it’s sad it’s still so fast that you’d never know it. Off of the Monroe tree, Martin played bluegrass right and is a great introduction for anyone not familiar with the genre.

2. Solomon Burke – That’s How I Got To Memphis

Solomon Burke is not related to Jimmy Martin but he is also a king. He performs in a crown, has a scepter, and sits in a throne on stage. The much underappreciated King of Soul released a mindblowingly soulful album (Nashville) in 2006 and this is the first track. Oh, and he’s been doing this for over sixty years, starting as a teenage preacher in Philadelphia, and somehow amassing like thirty kids along the way. When I saw him last year he couldn’t get out of his throne due to his tremendous size and age but still managed to hand out a red rose to every woman in the audience who wanted one, and probably could have bedded any one of them. Truly an amazing man and an amazing song.

3. The Million Dollar Quartet – Just a Little Talk With Jesus

Speaking of kings, Elvis and a few friends recorded this song in an impromptu jam session at Sun Records in 1956. You may have heard of his friends: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Most of the songs are filled with amazing banter and priceless stories like the one about being on the road with some guy named Chuck Berry. This is one of the few songs where the quartet plays uninterrupted. The quality isn’t anything to write home about but, come on, it’s Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash.

Carman’s Picks

Bob Dylan hat trick (been watching hockey highlights on SportsCenter) today from yours truly. Why? Well I’ve been inspired lately after watching Todd Haynes’ excellent I’m Not There for the second time and his recent Pulitzer Prize award. Oh yeah, and coincidentally you can tune in to my radio show this evening from 6-8 PST for a special Bob Dylan marathon at UCLAradio.com for our pledge drive. Give us your money!

1. Bob Dylan – Queen Jane Approximately

Quite possibly my favorite Dylan tune, nothing tops this tune for the sheer amount of vitriol that his drawl exudes in this song. Not even “Positively 4th Street.” It serves as a nice companion piece to “Like A Rolling Stone” on his magnum opus of Highway 61 Revisited. After the indignation and jeering of “Like A Rolling Stone,” he returns to the subject of the song with “Queen Jane Approximately” almost pointing and laughing while saying, “I knew you’d come crawling back.” Whether that “you” was Edie Sedgwick, Joan Baez, or his fans that abandoned him after proclaiming him as Judas, it doesn’t change the song one bit.

2. Bob Dylan – 4th Time Around

I think John Lennon took himself a little too seriously with “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).” So seriously that he got a little upset when Dylan knocked off this little parody of it on his double-album monster of Blonde On Blonde. John, you should’ve been at least honored that he even acknowledged the damn song.

3. Bob Dylan with The Rolling Thunder Revue – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Live)

While I’m not entirely sold on the Rolling Thunder Revue performances of Dylan’s classic songs, this one was a standout to me on the Live 1975 set released in 2002 by Columbia. From a simple protest song came a reinvention of a Dylan classic that the carnival atmosphere of the tour turned into a riot of a performance that perfectly captured the leftover feelings of the conflict in Vietnam that had ended only months before the tour took off. The monstrosity of the conflict still loomed large in the minds of the West, and the anger and shame certainly did not die off.

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Who the F**K is M. Pokora?

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At this point in time, that’s still a good question for most of us. Unless of course you happen to live in France. In which case you already know exactly who this guy is. And you’ve probably seen his nipples. Many times.

Huh?

Okay, let me start by saying it’s not an easy task to find a picture of M. Pokora (né Matthieu Totta, aka Matt Pokora, bka M. Pokora — something about lawsuits — don’t ask, it’s the French) with his shirt on. Kind of like Matthew McConaughey. The guy seems allergic to shirts. Or maybe it’s that shirts are allergic to him. Either way, he’s just that kind of, um, artiste, because what he really is…well, what he really was… is a French pop star. In fact, Pokora even got his pop start in 2003 on a dreadful Euro TV show aptly named, Popstars, which sounds like a gloriously hedonistic mash-up of American Idol and Diddy’s Making the Band: Part 47 on MTV.

In other words, just a level of awesomeness that us Americans cannot even fathom nor comprehend. (Oh well, our loss.)

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