During a time period where the older generations and the younger generation’s music tastes fuse together as well as oil and water does, it is rare to find any kind of music where these two generations can join together in musical harmony. When the Gorillaz came out with their single “Stylo” in 2010, the funky bass line, the deliciously airy vocals from Damon Albarn coupled with Bobby Womack’s soulful bellows captured people from all generations. This is one song that the people from the old school and the alternative-loving new school can pump up in their speakers and thoroughly enjoy.
Bobby Womack’s The Bravest Man in the Universe picks up where “Stylo” left off, featuring mostly productions from none other than the Gorillaz member and founder Damon Albarn. As soon as the album starts an abrasive electronic starts with a pounding amount of bass for “Jubilee (Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around”. As soon as Bobby Womack begins his signature bellow, you know that this is not your average R&B album. “Nothin’ Can Save Ya” further proves this notion when the smooth beat collides with Womack’s brilliant voice. The slight vocal distortion mixed with Fatmoumata Diawara’s soothing voice puts this song in a new genre that I can only describe as “alien jazz”.
The pace of the album gains speed during the track “Love Is Gonna Lift You Up.” During this one you may start off nodding your head to the poppy beat, but by the end you will be full on dancing to the infectious melody. In the standout track “Whatever Happened to the Times”, the drums kick in, imitating the sound of a heartbeat when the pulsating synthesizers add on to create an even more depressingly sinister sound. Womack’s heartbroken wails ask the question “Whatever happened to the good times?”
The album continues on with a gloomy piano riddled track called “Dayglo Reflection”, featuring the vintage croon of songstress Lana Del Rey. Del Rey’s 1950’s edge balances off of Womack’s heavy blues influenced sound to make some sort of musical time capsule that is so refreshing, you will have to play it again just to relive the moment. The Bravest Man in the Universe comes to a close with the epic title track. Acoustic guitar, unrelenting bass and a violin blend together with Bobby Womack to make a musical fusion that can only be marveled at. Bobby Womack’s rise from the ashes is now complete as the album ends with him going above and beyond what was expected from him.
The Bravest Man in the Universe collides effortlessly with the past and the present to create something that different generations can bond over.
Usher has been known to reinvent his sound time and time again, and evolve with the sounds of the ever-changing music industry. Usher began experimenting with dance music with tracks like “O.M.G”, “DJ Got Us Falling In Love” and a collaboration with David Guetta. Looking For Myself is his seventh studio album, and it is evident that he is digging deeper into exploration of the dance music genre with productions from EDM kings, Diplo and Swedish House Mafia. Although the album is heavily dance music infused, he still stays close to his R&B roots with some of the tracks on the album.
Usher starts off the album by continuing where his single “O.M.G” left off by collaborating with Will.I.Am again, this time singing on his electro-hop beat. The beat is straight bass with no chaser, and provides a fitting platform for Usher to further explore the world of EDM. Diplo slows things down with sexy electrifying beats that mesh perfectly and showcase the fact that Usher hasn’t lost his vocal range that made people fall in love with him.
With the dubstep craze taking flight into the depths of the mainstream, it comes as no surprise that the Danja produced “I Care 4 U” appears on the album. Dubstep heads might find this irritating, but Usher fans will probably find this new sound refreshing. “Lemme See” brings some hard hitting hip hop flair with Usher crooning accompanied with Rick Ross spitting a gruff verse Usher also sticks his foot in and tests the indie waters with “Looking 4 Myself”, collaborating with Empire of the Sun member, Luke Steele. Usher shows that he knows the right dance producers to work with by using Swedish House Mafia produced track “Numb”. Where some artists fall short and come with a generic “dance” sound by using over-used producers, Swedish House Mafia brings the richness to the track and match perfectly with Usher’s soulful voice to create an uplifting piece that everyone can appreciate.
Artists who want to maintain longevity in the industry should take some lessons from Usher. As long as Usher continues to reinvent himself as the industry continues to reinvent itself, Usher will always remain relevant. He proves this once again with Looking 4 Myself.
Knife Party is the brain child of electro-rock band Pendulum members, Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen. The Australian duo brings the bass with this collaborative effort. Knife Party has elements of multiple genres in EDM, never staying in a box and bringing plenty of variety. Their four track EP, appropriately titled Rage Valley brings something different to the table in each track that is sure to have people fill up dance floors and rage all over the world.
The EP blasts off straight into an intergalactic force field with the title track “Rage Valley.” Knife Party wastes no time getting the party started with a face paced electro beat accelerating into a huge burst of abrasive EDM fireworks surging through your ears. The best part about Knife Party is that although they have an extremely boisterous sound, their tracks still manage to be melodic and never seem to just become noise. Things get down and dirty with “Centipede”, which begins with a monotone man dropping some nature facts about the centipede before being bombarded by synthesizer and enough bass to rattle foundations if played at the right volume.
A reggae beat coupled with some fitting vocals start off “Bonfire”, when the track quickly builds up into a burst of some bass and then slows down for a little bit of dub. Knife Party switches things up in “Sleaze”, where they decide to go with a feisty Moombahton beat instead of their usual bass heavy tracks. Rage Valley is a nonstop dance party that will have festival goers go crazy when Knife Party plays these tracks during their live sets. The best thing to do is to follow Knife Party’s instructions on this one: “Until they kick us out, people move your feet.”
When Scissor Sisters announced their fourth studio album Magic Hour, fans rejoiced. When it was announced that they would be collaborating with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Calvin Harris, Azealia Banks and Diplo the anticipation grew to ultimate proportions. Finally the album dropped and the people are unfortunately left feeling unappeased.
The album opens up on a familiar note with “Baby Come Home” their signature disco sound coupled with a steady beat that can only be described as groovy. “Inevitable” starts off with Pharrell William’s melodic beat, complete with a hypnotizing keyboards and a hint of percussion, is a great pair with the Beegees-esque vocals of Scissor Sisters. The biggest surprise of the album was the fact that “Only the Horses”, was one of the most forgettable tracks considering that it was a Calvin Harris production. This collaboration had the opportunity to be epic, but it ended up just falling through the cracks.
Things start to pick up pace again during “Let’s Have a Kiki”, an underground vogueing anthem where someone tells a story about the misfortunes that they have had on their way to a party. The track “Shady Love” features new comer raptress, Azealia Banks. This track sounds all over the place, similar to Azealia’s breakout track “212”. Unlike “212”, the rapping, singing, and noise combination really didn’t mend together as effortlessly as the latter track did.
This album seems to be missing the intensity that Scissor Sisters are so known for. Rather than making you want to cover yourself in glitter and bust a move on the dance floor, most of the tracks just make you want to sway around while holding up a lighter. The emphasis on ballads in Magic Hour isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it might be disappointing to some fans who were expecting some colorful dance tracks while still maintaining their vintage feel.
Finding someone who exudes musical talent while still embracing originality is so rare to find these days, that a person like this is close to being a mythical creature. Reigning from the South Side of Chicago, Shahidah Omar is one of these mythical creatures as she brings a whole different sound to the music industry that showcases her classical training in opera while mashing together a rock sound with R&B and Hip Hop tones. Shahidah will be showcasing her eclectic style for the second year at Bonnaroo in June.
MVRemix had the opportunity to discuss her debut album Freedom, her upcoming set at Bonnaroo, and her influences.
What do you miss most about Chicago?
I grew up there and there were a lot of us, nine siblings. So, I just miss the camaraderie there. It’s a little different here on the west coast because; a lot of people are just spread out. Mostly, everyone is just here for entertainment. Chicago feels like home. You can talk to people on the street all day and it’s a lot closer together. You get around and you get more stuff there
In June you’ll be heading over to Tennessee for your second year at Bonnaroo. How are you feeling about that?
What! [laughs] I am so super duper excited about that. Last year we did two stages, and this year I think we’re going to do a stage and they’re going to add two other ones for us. Bonnaroo is like Woodstock. There is a lot of people! Have you been? Yes, I have been. It’s a lot of fun, it’s pretty intense!
Oh my god, it is the best experience for a musician. The best experience, I can’t even explain how amazing that feeling is to have all those different people coming out to see you. There is all different kinds of people who love music and that is all that they are there for. Its frickin’ awesome. It’s amazing. So excited.
Do you like performing at festivals or in intimate venues better?
I prefer festivals honestly because it’s more people and you get all different kinds of energy. I love the outdoor festivals more so, because it’s out and it’s freeing. But, I do love the intimate shows. They’re sweet and people really get to know you better. You get to act a fool at the music festivals! [laughs] It’s a totally different experience.
How do you usually prepare yourself for a big music festival?
Well, right now I’m in LA and some of my band members are in New York, and some are here in LA So, when I’m here on the West Coast…and I have a place in New York too…but when I’m here in the west coast, I’m in the studio all the time, and I’m rehearsing at this spot around here. There is this place here, the best rehearsal spot ever. I rehearse there all the time without my band just to get myself moving. Then I bring the band together. I’m going to New York this Sunday and I’m going to meet my whole band. Some of us are coming from LA and New York, we’re going to rehearse there. So, the whole process is fun.
I read an in interview that you did previously that you tried R&B and hip hop, but that you weren’t happy doing that and that you prefer rock music. What is it about rock music that makes you happy?
Freedom. The name of the album is Freedom, but freedom seriously. I’m not just saying that because we are having this interview. It is really freeing for me. R&B and Hip Hop, that is what they expect you to do as an African American woman. They expect you to be in that box. So, when you are able to do something different and people are actually accepting it as something different. They’re accepting it as that and you’re actually being that…I prefer that. So, with rock music the live element is different. I play a little bit of guitar and percussion. It feels more freeing. I love R&B and Hip Hop, but it’s one of those boxes that I don’t feel like I have to be in. However, I do like to mix the sounds together at times.
What are some rock influences that you have?
I love The Cranberries, Radiohead…I’m really into Metallica and hard music like that. I do love the softer side of alternative music, and Radiohead is one of my favorite bands like I said. Bjork, Peter Gabriel is one of my favorites. Um…the list can be like…Sting! I love Sting. U2! They’re all amazing for different reasons.
Radiohead is going to be at Bonnaroo, are you going to check them out there?
Yes! [laughs] I cannot wait to go and see Radiohead, I’m like we’re going to stay the whole time this year. I didn’t get to be there last year. We’re going to see all the bands while we’re there. So, yes!
So, your debut album Freedom is the most unique album that I have heard in a while. The whole album could literally be made into a rock opera. When I listened to it, it was really theatrical. Have you ever considered making it into a rock opera?
Yes. Thank you so much! I really appreciate that compliment. Absolutely, I mean I’ve never thought about doing it in a theater aspect, but that’s pretty cool actually. [laughs] We do call it a rock opera sometimes because when I’m performing it live, I actually do a little bit more opera than what is on the album itself. So we go from straight rock to opera. One of the songs is like a rap/rock Opera song on there. But yea, I haven’t thought about that. That’s pretty good, I’m going to have to look into that deeper.
What track on Freedom means the most to you?
Means the most…I think “People of the World.” For “People of the World”, I wish that for “People of the World” that the musicality of it came out on the album like it does live. Like with all those crazy live instruments it turns the songs sideways and you really get to hear the lyrics in it. “People of the World” for me is an album song, so I don’t know how it would be looked at as a single. But, for an amazing album song, it’s my favorite because it’s talking about what is happening in the world in general. From all different aspects. From being judged by your color to wanting to unite to watching people with illnesses and spending money. It’s very political, but at the same time it’s real. It’s so real. Its from different aspects all over the world, that’s why it’s called “People of the World”, that’s my definite favorite song on the album, as far as connection-wise.
If there was a movie made about your life, what actress would you want to play you? That’s a good question…I don’t know! Oh god, I never would have thought of that. That’s a good question. Who do I think to play me? I really don’t know! I can’t think of anybody. I might have to think about that a little deeper. I can’t think of anyone to play me. That was a good question, I’m going to have to think about that.
Any last words for your fans?
I love my fans, and I’m so appreciative for being accepted for who I am through them. I love their connection with my fans from having fans that like different things. It’s makes it so much more fun knowing that we can connect. I love them! I love the connection and all that cool stuff!
“Just let the beat bump, and I’m gonna make your bodies jump” exclaims Rye Rye in the third track on her debut album Go!Pop!Bang! Rye Rye accomplished this mission to make bodies jump on each track from her long awaited debut. Go! Pop! Bang! initially was supposed to be released in 2009, but due to unforseen circumstances was delayed until this year. Those looking for old songs that started the Rye Rye buzz (such as the Baltimore club track “Bang”), will have to purchase the deluxe edition.
Rye Rye’s in-your-face attitude and lyrics are partnered with production from veteran producers like The Neptunes, RedOne, Bangladesh, Steve Angello, and Rye Rye’s mentor M.I.A. The album starts off with Rye Rye pulling listeners into an ocean of bass with the underground club track “Drop.” By the third track, the album begins to show elements of pop. Rye Rye’s radio play potential comes through in the RedOne produced track “DNA”. The infectious Eurodance beat melded with Rye Rye’s verses and Porcelain Black’s voice could easily shoot up the Billboard charts with the rest of the pop stars of today.
“Crazy Bitch” brings Akon’s hit-making vocals with a light and airy beat that sounds like the musical equivalent of sipping some lemonade on a beach. The chorus could turn some people off with it’s odd chorus where Akon croons that “She’s a craaaazy bitch/That’s why I love her.”
Rye Rye’s ability to adjust to the various styles of production is to be applauded. Her voice goes from vintage bubblegum pop on the upbeat track about a crush on “Boom Boom” to confrontational and arrogant in the Steve Angello produced “Holla Holla.” The percussion heavy track “Shake Twist Drop” has an Outkast sound to it, and features YMCMB member Tyga rattling off a few verses. Rye Rye’s undeniable ability to be able to rock the foundation in underground clubs becomes evident in “Dance” where she mixes Chicago Juke Music with Baltimore flair.
Rye’s debut serves as her busting in the music industry and showing that she definitely deserves a right to be there. Hopefully, people won’t have to wait as long to see what else this Electrohop MC has to offer next.
Humility is a trait that many artists are lacking in this day and age, and it is rarity to find a hip hop artist who has this. Spac3man proves to keep his humility, even with his career becoming a success. Spac3man made the quick transition from hypeman to his labelmates on Sportn’Life Records to a hip hop artist with singles that continue to grow in popularity everyday such as the upbeat tracks “Fly Dena Mufuka” and “L’s Up.” Last year Spac3man was dropping his mixtape Featuristic, and this year is performing on the Maine stage at Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington. MVRemix caught up with Spac3man to talk about his Sasquatch performace, people he wants to work with, and his upcoming tour with the king of mash-ups, Girl Talk.
How are you feeling about your Sasquatch set Sunday?
I don’t really get excited until I’m about to go onstage. I get to the microphone and when I jump up there that is when I’m excited. Overall, I feel blessed about the show.
Are you new to playing the festival scene or have you done some festivals before in the past?
Nah, I’ve done quite a bit of festivals. Not a whole lot, but I’ve done like four festivals. Rockin’ outside… I love rockin’ outside! I like rockin’ inside for the acoustics, but at outside shows I always tend to do a lot of fun songs just because we’re outside.
Are you going to stick around and catch any sets from fellow performers at Sasquatch?
Yep, I’ll be there early enough to catch sets before me. Also, I have a lot of friends that are performing too. So hell yeah, I can’t wait to get there. I’m more a fan than anything when it comes to music… That’s what I feed off of, other artists that be doing there thing.
How was it transitioning from a hype man to your label mates to being a rapper?
I mean it’s cool but for me, it wasn’t something that I was only doing, it was something that got me somewhat seasoned for the stage; to be up there and to be what I wanted to be. I got like 200 credible performers that I’ve always looked at and was like, “Damn, these guys are rockin’.” Then I met up with them and stuff. I knew I didn’t have that on stage, so to be able to hype for them and them to show me what they do, it helped take me to another level.
Girl Talk’s shows have been known to be completely crazy and chaotic are you looking forward to touring with him?
Yeah, I can’t wait to get out there. I’ve watched a few videos online, but I’ve never actually met him in person, but I’ve seen what he do and I respect it. I can’t wait to mash what I do, my type of energy to his type of energy. ‘Cause we have different energies and stuff.
What is the craziest thing that you have seen at one of your shows happen?
Uhh… females showing me their titties. [laughs] I have this song that I only do live that I did with this group called Soda. Pretty much, the song is just about females showing titties, it’s called “Flash”, but they never finished their part, so I was like “Man, I just wanna enjoy this.” Everytime I played it, females were really showing their titties to it. I don’t know… I enjoy it. It’s a fun part for me.
I’m sure you’ll see a lot of them at Girl Talk.
[laughs] Well, it’s all ages though so I don’t know.
How do you usually wind down after a performance?
Ain’t no winding down. [laughs] Ain’t no winding down! We hype until we just sleep!
So you go party?
Nah, we go to eat… something like that. Then most of the time we on some stuff where we go try to find an after party or something you know. So, it’s not always a winding down thing. Vocally I’m winding down, but I’m still having fun.
Let’s talk about your mixtapes…I know you dropped your mixtape Featuristic last year – when is your next one going to drop?
I plan on putting out another one, another Featuristic 2. I have a lot of features. I have a lot of people that I do features with. Some people put the songs out, some people don’t. So, I’m like “Fuck I love that song!” That’s the thing with Featuristic, it’s an extra push for the songs I was on. It’s a way for some of the artists I work with to really be seen. I might put it out right before I put out my EP, because I just want to keep it alive because you know, everyone is excited, so I just want to keep feeding them and keep them happy.
If you had to pick one producer that you could work with, who would it be?
I’m really big on local producers, I’m not really big on finding big producers because I feel like those dudes are… you know what you will get from them. But from a producer that no one really knows. Well, what producer would I like to work with? One producer that I have been wanting to work with for a long time. [pauses] Damn, this is hard as hell [laughs] Can I break it into two people? It would be Timbaland and The Neptunes. Those are like two producers that I always thought, “These dudes are crazy.” If I wanted a crazy beat, I would go with them. If I wanted like an amazing song, I would work with Kanye West on the production because just the progression and the way he produces beats is marvelous. It would be between those three. If I wanted a crazy album, it would be between those three.
You’re from Seattle and some icons came from there like Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. I noticed a little bit of a Hendrix vibe at the beginning of the L’s up video. Who are some icons that inspire you?
I always look at people that… Just hip hop or anything?
I would listen to a lot of gospel and R&B when I was hella young. I don’t know, hella R&B inspires me. What are some icons that inspire me? On some like performance shit, probably Michael Jackson. The passion that he put into it, and every move that he does conveying what he was saying. Being able to vocally say it and mean everything? That was crazy. That’s what I try to do. I wear gloves on stage. It’s a real serious thing for me. Aside from making music, making sure my performance is right is the big thing. I think that Michael Jackson and Busta Rhymes are the cats that I see and I’m like, “I have to rock this shit.” You know what I mean? I can’t come out here and play around. That’s that type of shit that I get from those types of dudes. Micheal Jackson, Busta Rhymes, KRS-One…those type of motherfuckers. They aren’t standing for a wack show.
What is coming up for you in the future?
My EP, Beyond the Stars is actually really different from a lot of those songs that I have now. They have a lot of upbeat energy, but Beyond Stars is a lot of me expressing emotion and bring a different type of energy; a different type of emotional energy. I wanted to create a lot of emotion from me within the people, where if I am talking about this in my life I want you to feel like you are there too. If I say, “Life sucks,” I want you to be thinking at the end of the song, “Life sucks.” Like you know what I mean? I’m not pushing that, but that’s where I am trying to go with it. With this project it is more into my life, and different from what I really do. That’s why I’ve tried to do a lot of upbeat songs around this project, because when they get this project there isn’t going to be a lot of that side of me. You have that now, here is this. You know? All in all, I want people to know I’m a person. Not that I’m a damn juke box.
Any last words?
Yeah, spell my name right S-P-A-C-3-M-A-N. Shit, hella new shit coming and I apologize for the wait. The wait will be worth it. Beyond the Stars coming soon.
A decade ago the hip hop scene was littered with beefs, disagreement and animosity between artists. Fast forward to the present and the hip hop world seems to be coming together in harmony with more and more duo albums and collaborations coming out. Detroit producer Apollo Brown and Brooklyn rapper O.C., have come together in unison and put out the joint album Trophies.
Trophies is sixteen tracks of straight hip hop with no chaser. “Prove Me Wrong” provides vintage bass lines with just enough sounds of the keyboard to create a beat that nestles itself inside of your ear, along with O.C.’s gritty voice spouting off lyrics explaining reasoning behind his tough persona. “Been havin’ a walker since British walkers/ Way before Obama would start to be in office/Lost friends to jail and some dead in a coffin.”
Apollo Brown’s production on “Anotha One” is equivalent to lyrical butter, and serves as O.C.’s ode to his favorite green plant. Where there are plenty of tracks that have a relaxing aura to them, the duo shows that they can bring the heat with hard hitting tracks like the bass-heavy track, Disclaimer.
O.C. shows why no features were needed on Trophies by showing his versatility in his delivery can go from melancholy in the intergalactic track “Angel’s Sing” to soothing in “The Formula,” to downright unapologetic and harsh in “People’s Champ.” Where other artists would need features to create a well-rounded album, O.C. is able to do this all by himself. Seasoned rappers are a thing to cherish.
Although Apollo Brown and O.C. have produced what sounds like a classic, the album can get monotonous at times. Apollo Brown’s loop-heavy style of production does get weary on the ear by the last tracks, but where this may seem like flaw, you will notice that the repetitiveness of the beats will keep your head nodding through the album’s entirety.
OC’s smooth delivery of his lyrics coupled with Apollo Brown’s soulful beats are what makes this album great. Trophies proves to be a two-man show that delivers a treat for the ear drums and the mind. Hopefully, these album collaborations are a trend that is here to stay.
If hip hop is dead then Killer Mike’s R.A.P Music is the undead zombie that has come to remind us all what is used to be and what it could be. R.A.P Music has all of the ingredients of a classic album. It manages to mash the old with the new with such ease that everyone should be looking to this guy to see how to do it right. “This album was created entirely by Jaime and Mike,” explains the rapper at the beginning of the 80’s throwback track “JoJo’s Chillin”. Jaime Meline, also known as Brooklyn based producer El-P handled the production on the entire album, and these two are obviously a match made in musical heaven.
R.A.P Music opens up with an ode to Mike’s hometown (Atlanta) with “Big Beast”, featuring fellow southerners T.I. and Bun B. Although this is the only track with big name features on it, it is probably the weakest one on the album. This proves that Killer Mike doesn’t need a star studded album to produce some high quality content.
Mike shows his affinity for the arts with lyrics like “This is John Gotti painting pictures like Dali / This is Basquiat with a passion like Pac,” in the melancholy life lesson that is “Untitled”. He also shows his versatility in the next song high energy song “Go,” amped up with riffs and plenty of bass.
This album still manages to be fresh while bringing an 80’s flow along with some vivid storytelling that is comparable to Slick Rick’s classic record “Children’s Story”. When the electronic bleeps and gritty video game sounds kick in along with the intense delivery of a story about corrupt cops, you can literally imagine yourself in the bedroom seeing this grisly scene take place.
There are no standout tracks on the album, but that is simply because every single song can stand on its own. There are no fluff pieces, as every track has it’s own important story or lesson that Killer Mike tells in an honest, yet extremely effective way. With El-P’s innovative production and Killer Mike’s vintage Ice Cube-esque delivery, what we have here is pure hip hop genius. Is this possibly the best rap album of 2012? To quote the electro distortion heavy track “Butane”, I’d have to say “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”