The life of first-year parents is far from filled with movies. Once an easy rainy day recourse, kids turn movies into a special occasion replete with military-grade logistical planning and a financial outlay that leads you to use words like “investment.” As such, I’m going into Sunday’s Oscars a bit blind.
For my Oscar prep crash course, The Roots come to the rescue.
And, for those of you interested in taking an unfair advantage into your Oscars betting pool, Nate Silver seeks to put some science to the whole gig here.
In today’s inherently social music landscape, a metric more important than how many times a song has been replayed is the number of times that it has been reinterpreted. While replays grow a song’s popularity within a given fan base, reinterpretations branch a song out into an entirely new audiences. The impact of replays is linear, while reinterpretations are exponential.
I’ve written previously about how the reverberations of reinterpretations helped propel Adele. And now the same seems to be happening with Bruce Springsteen.
Most notable is this selection from John Legend and The Roots, who are establishing quite a track record of collaborative covers.
And a far stranger (and much less musically successful) example comes from a Canadian DJ who thought it might be fun to meld The Boss with the Bawse (Springsteen and Rick Ross). As with all failed mash-ups, the result is intellectually interesting but ultimately unlistenable once the novelty wears off. But the very creation of it placed Springsteen on nearly every rap blog of note.
“When I introduce you, I’m gonna say, “This is a friend of mine.” That means you’re a connected guy. Now if I said instead, “this is a friend of ours” that would mean you a made guy. A Capiche?”
As Donnie Brasco might attest, it takes some serious confidence to vouch for artists in the age of the mp3.
It’s easy to tweet away your love for an ephemeral three-minute song. It’s slightly harder to endorse an album, but anyone can do a background check on forty-five minutes of music. But it’s another thing entirely to endorse an artist. You’re saying that the song that they might release in two year’s time when they’re going through their White Album phase is going to rock. You’re saying that their tweets are always going to be funny, or at least make sense, or at least be funny when sung by Josh Groban. You’re sticking your neck out.
But I’m quite confident in saying in suggesting that The Roots and Common are friends of ours.
Thirteen albums in, The Roots are still giving lessons on what craftsmanship, intellect, and ambition can mean in hip-hop. Here’s one over several great tracks off of their most recent album undun, a concept album that is sort of like an episode of The Wire, told musically and in reverse.
This year also marked a new release from Bill O’Reilly’s favorite rapper/poet, Common. You’d think if O’Reilly had bothered to have an intern listen to a song like this, he would have chosen a target he could have actually have tackled.
In a move that seems custom designed to flaunt every commercial trend in the music industry, The Roots have announced that their upcoming album will be an “existential retelling” of the short life of Redford Stephens (don’t feel bad, nobody else knows who that is either).
Elaborating on the concept, Questlove said this in a recent interview:
“At this point in our career we’d like for our work to have a unifying theme, and an experiential quality. As a DJ, I am the King of playlists, but I don’t want our albums to feel like a playlist or a mixtape for that matter. We want to tell stories that work within the album format and we want the stories to be nuanced and useful to people. undun is the story of this kid who becomes criminal, but he wasn’t born criminal. He’s not the nouveau exotic primitive bug-eyed gunrunner like Tupac’s character Bishop in “Juice”… he’s actually thoughtful and is neither victim nor hero. Just some kid who begins to order his world in a way that makes the most sense to him at a given moment… At the end of the day… isn’t that what we all do?”
“Make My” is the first single to drop, and it is a return to the thickly textured songwriting that is the hallmark of hip hop’s best band (live or otherwise).