Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Video: Joey Bada$$ - HardKnock

Joey Bada$$ is an up and coming Brooklyn rapper with an old school bent.  His new mixtape '1999' came out this week with this clip, and it's encased in 90's boom-bap rap production courtesy of in-house producer Chuck Strangers.  Instead of being a distant homage, Joey immerses himself in the dusty samples and knocking drums, which are by and large pretty tight.  His lyrics are proto-typically New York, with their specificity of details and philosophical musings, all of which are delivered through a tightly wound rasp of a voice.

By the way, the dude is only 17.

Video: Wonder Girls - Like This

Bit late with this one, but better late than never!  This is a pretty irresistible track, with the squelchy synths and old school drum loops.  The Wonder Girls adopt a more aggressive vocal to match the hard-knocking drum line and it pays off, recalling the pro-female R&B of early 90's groups like En Vogue and later Destiny's Child.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Video: JJ Project - Bounce

JB and Jr from JJ Project throw everything at the wall with this track, a heady rush of Hip-Hop, Hard Rock and high-energy dance that somehow blends without ever jarring from style to another.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Essay: Spotify and it’s affect on the music industry

 It’s alarmingly simple, making you wonder why it wasn’t available at the turn of the century, the time when Napster was striking fear into the hearts of chart-topping musicians everywhere.

So what’s changed?  The technology is easier to develop these days, but the technology was always there.  If Napster and the progeny that’s replaced it over the last 12 years could put together an easy to navigate, unlimited database of music for almost anyone to use, then why could the record companies do the same.

In defence of the record companies (in terms of business only), they were suddenly being asked why they couldn’t work together to make music cheaper and more accessible.  Obviously this costs money and time, and what if you got it wrong?  Record companies had for too long been accustomed to the same business model, which bred an inability and aversity to change. 

When Napster came along, they had no idea what to do, so they sued everyone.

Spotify is the creation of a business that is not a record company, and this is both sad and good.  It’s sad that the record companies couldn’t have created this technology years ago, but good in that the paradigm has shifted to allow new platforms to emerge.  These companies and their music innovations are young, their built upon a spirit of innovation, where risk is paramount and the rewards are few, except for those that succeed.

Maybe Spotify will go the way of many IT start-ups and be gone within a few years, it’s very possible.  Maybe they won’t, maybe their enthusiasm for creation, and their passion for new IT, creates an industry of innovation that launches us into a rich era of music culture.

With the major job losses falling at Fairfax this week, the idea of companies as connected to their audience has become more and more important.  Fail to interact with the people that use your products, and you might miss the fact that no-ones using your products at all until it’s too late (hello newspapers).

Music consumers will need to be a reflection of the record companies, if record companies are to survive.  Record companies need to change industry standards like the Iphone did, and give us new ways to interact with music (like Spotify has), and then they might just start to win us back.

In my mind, they’ve got a lot of making up to do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Essay: Real Hip-Hop, is that still a thing?

Depending on who you talk to, either Hot 97 DJ Peter Rosenberg or Nicki Minaj stirred up a controversy this week over what is real Hip-Hop and more importantly, is it worth pulling out of a concert for.

Here’s what happened.

  • The annual Hot 97 Summer Jam was held in New Jersey over the weekend with 55,000 people attending
  • DJ Peter Rosenberg told the crowd that ‘I know some of y’all are waiting to hear ‘Starships’, but I want to talk those who are here for real Hip-Hop’, insinuating that Minaj was not Hip-Hop.
  • DJ Funkmaster Flex backed that up, strangely while he was playing Chris Brown and Rihanna’s ‘Birthday Cake’, which is not a Hip-Hop track.
  • Minaj, supposedly under direction from Lil Wayne, pulled out of the concert.
  • Minaj called in to Hot 97 and had an extremely unenlightening argument with Funkmaster Flex that lasted for 45 minutes.

There are no winners here.  Certainly the large portion of the crowd who were expecting to see a Nicki Minaj set were pissed off, and were those who came to see Drake or Lil Wayne (who also did not perform).
Flex and Rosenberg both came off as backwards thinking Hip-Hop purists who apparently didn’t realise that a lot didn’t come to the concert to listen to purely Hip-Hop.
Minaj looks foolish for packing it in under the advice of Wayne (or was it his ‘daddy’ Birdman pulling the strings?).
Flex came off like a bully in his radio interview, barely giving Minaj time to talk.

That’s what happened and everyone looks bad, but how did it come about?  What is real Hip-Hop, and why isn’t Minaj allowed to be a part of it?

The Hip-Hop Rosenberg and Flex are talking about is exactly the type of Hip-Hop that Minaj makes.  However, she also makes bland, repetitive radio hits (and the awesome Superbass), and the Hot 97 DJ’s don’t take kindly to artists playing bland, repetitive radio hits at the Summer Jam. 

Look, Minaj isn’t the only Hip-Hop artist to make crappy commercial tracks in search of sales.  In this era of smaller sales, listeners are expecting a wider variety of sounds, and being straight-up Hip-Hop just don’t pay like it used to.

Besides, everyone’s done it, even gutter MC’s like Jay-Z and Nas have made dodgy commercial tracks. 

The fact Nicki has had more success with her pop tracks than her Hip-Hop tracks probably didn't help, but that is more of a reflection of the music landscape than Nicki’s abilities as an MC (which are considerable).

Can you define real Hip-Hop?  Yes, you can, even in today’s world.  Unfortunately, when Hot 97 books Nicki Minaj, she’s singing ‘Starships’ at her show.  Hot 97 knew that upfront, and shouldn’t get pissed about it after they booked her (though I’m sure the DJ’s had nothing to do with the booking).

Here’s the deal – don’t slag off a performer your employers have booked for your show, even if it is over a crap pop song.  You have your radio show, your DJ nights, but you don’t own that crowd, and I’m sure they would tell you if you asked.

So is Minaj Hip-Hop?  Yes.  Is she Pop?  Yes.  It just depends on the track. 

She doesn’t represent the four elements, but neither does Jay-Z or Kanye.  Respect the past, enjoy the old records, then embrace the present and enjoy the new ones.

Jay-Z put it best… “On to the next one, on to the next one”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stream: Justice - Lands (A-Trak Remix)

Turn up the speakers on this one, it will rattle skulls, bones and whatever else you've got going on inside your body.  A-Traks lays down some serious reverb and battle-ready bass on the already-staunch Justice album cut. Strap in.

Justice - Lands (A-Trak Remix)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Video: Killer Mike feat. T.I. and Bun B - Big Beast

R.A.P. Music is Killer Mike's outstanding new album, and 'Big Beast' is the Southern rap banger that opens it.  The guest stats are legends in their own right, and the monstrous beat by El-P ensures they all have to come out with guns firing.  They did and it's done.

Video: Lil B and two Breakdancers dance to Bach, Choreographed by Benjamin Milipied

Classical Classic.

Friday, June 1, 2012