“The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.” (High Fidelity)
Over the past few weeks, one of my work projects has me thinking about playlists a lot: about how they can capture a mood perfectly, about how they can change your mood more effectively than almost anything else, and how they indeed are a very subtle art.
As the first of what might become a regular feature of this blog, I’m going to share a playlist. This one seeks to capture the feeling of the song title that wraps it up: one Sunday morning.
Here’s the screen shot of the songs and artists; below is a link that will take you to the music itself (technology willing). Enjoy.
Well before Drake and the Frank Oceans of the world made it common practice, J. Cole upturned the music industry marketing machine. His mixtapes made him famous before he was promoted; his commercial appeal ascendant before you could even purchase … Continue reading →
“If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me. Have you read the YouTube comments lately? ‘Man, that’s gay’ gets dropped on the daily. We become so numb to what we’re saying.”
Hip-hop and homophobia have been intertwined for so long that it started to go the way of your uncle’s off-color humor. Nobody ever defended it, but fewer and fewer ever bothered to criticize it. Whenever words cut the wrong way, everyone would just look down for a minute, cough lightly, and wait for Aunt Sally to pass the potatoes.
Tonight’s Grammys might evidence that this conversation is shifting. Instead of a contrite Eminem looking to over-compensate with Elton John, this evening will showcase Frank Ocean: a superstar who genuinely speaks and sings about his sexuality.
Meanwhile, the most talked-about artist not on stage tonight is rising to stardom by taking the industry to task.
As foreseen in his lyrics, the YouTube comments for Macklemore’s song evidence a fan base that still struggles with its ingrained behavior. But after years of soft coughs and silence, the conversation itself is promising.
With all the internet-melting hysteria over Justin’s return to music after a six-year hiatus, less publicized and less intentional was an Outkast sort-of reunion.
When recording Channel Orange, Frank Ocean intended Outkast to appear on his track “Pink Matter.” However, Outkast’s estrangement prevailed and only Andre 3000 appeared on the track… until now. With this remix, and Big Boi’s addition to it, we have the closest thing we’re going to get to a new Outkast track.
Rather than re-discovering my gym membership or resolving to read something longer than a Tweet in 2013, I’ve decided to come back here. The year ahead is going to have more music in it, so I invite you all back to see where this takes us.
First up is a fitting farewell to the holiday season. There a few out there more adept with atmospherics than The xx, and they prove this out once again with– of all things– a Wham! cover.
New parents might not make it out to the movies that often, but you can’t take away our soundtracks. In traditional Tarantino style, even the out takes from the soundtrack are amazing. Given Frank Ocean’s meteoric rise in 2012 (predicted well in advance on this blog, ahem ahem), this song is a perfect bridge to the year to come.
The arc of Frank Ocean’s career efficiently evidences two big ways in which the record industry is being turned upside down.
For almost two years now, Frank Ocean has been releasing popular music, including a fully realized album that should have been considered for record of the year, an early career retrospective that gave music insiders material to debate for months, and a steady diet of exciting singles.
The only wrinkle in all of the above is that, to date, you haven’t been able to pay for Frank Ocean’s music… even if you wanted to do so. For an industry that blames everyone but themselves for the collapse of record sales, here’s a quick tip: if you want to sell music, figure out a way to offer it for sale.
But the bigger turn of events came when Frank Ocean took to Tumblr and wrote the following.
Frank Ocean’s career lives between R&B and rap: minefields of machismo and misogyny where the only defense offered for derogatory language toward gays is the sheer number of times the offending words are used.
So, as he makes the turn into the full fold of the commercial record business, Frank Ocean does so having upturned much of what the industry has been. He looks out at all of us from the The New York Times knowing he has done it on his terms. Along with excitement for his music that I have held for 18 months, I now add respect for him as a person.
Many of today’s top rappers face a peculiar and quite recent dilemma. When you rocket to fame by way of free mixtapes, how do you top yourself once you start actually trying to charge people for your music?
As the word cloud of this site will attest, there have been few artists of late that I have followed as closely as I have J. Cole. With his mixtape The Warm Up, Cole gave me hope that perhaps writing had finally returned to rap. And I was far from alone. One the merits of one song alone, he was signed to Jay-Z’s label and superstardom seemed not only certain but imminent.
And then, we waited. And waited some more. 18 months of eternity after his breakthrough mixtape, J. Cole finally released his first commercial album and the resulting product was… well, commercial. All of the studio support and star cameos were mustered to chase the obvious archetypes of “successful” songs, and my favorite few songs were those carried over directly from the mixtape. And the new song that I thought held the greatest promise wasn’t even included– but I have it here to share with you in an unfinished form: promise of what can be from this artist.
With his first official album already behind him, the expectations for Drake’s second were Throne-like. And, for different reasons, I was equally disappointed by his album as well. However, this track with Rihanna stands out not only as the best on the album but as one of the best of any album of this past year.
As he presumably prepares for his first commercial album, Frank Ocean will face the same test. With the full support of the music industry machine, will he be able to better the album that he released in defiance of this same industry? I guess we’ll find out soon enough, but in the interim here is yet another captivating new track from him to start off the new year.