Creative Media

1/4 | April

Today I want to share with you some of my favourites from the first quarter of the year.
Listen

Songs:

Impatient” by Jeremih is the better of Late Nights’ two best singles. The album was quietly released in 2015 without much fanfare but this song is a gem. “Impatient” makes me see Jeremih in a new light, he is a true Rn’B artiste not just a pop hybrid. The song is a slow jam: Jeremih’s voice is smooth– he oftentimes drops into deep sensual whispers making you float– his voice brings back a R. Kelly’s “Your Body’s Calling” vibe from the 90’s. Ty Dolla $ign is here too with a line about lotion that is the funniest thing to me. THIS is my 2AM song.

Without You” by Lana del Rey is the song said to have inspired Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.” Taken from her best album in my opinion, Born to Die, the song has a grand operatic, orchestral feel that swallows you and abandons you at the same time making you understand the pitfalls of love. It is synth heavy but it’s also a dreamy 1950’s love song only with lyrics like, “Though you’re so dope/ Your love is deadly.” This a fusion that Del Rey is well known for. I am not a fan of her music, all her songs sound the same to me, but sometimes, once in a while, I get caught in the hippie web and go searching for new music and it so happens that I ended up finding something worthwhile this time. Unlike some people though I don’t copy what I find (ahem, ahem).

Album

Intro by Dexta Daps. Can I tell you how happy I am to see that Jamaican artistes are taking album releases seriously? 12 free songs, 12 hits, 2 features: 1 with Alaine and the other with Daps’ protege Blakkman. ⅓ of the album is for baby making (parental advisory, strong language), but the rest go from songs about innocent and tortured romance like in, “Love Again” and “Be Good”; to a Lovers Rock Reggae song so clean the Jamaica Tourist Board should use it for ad coverage (“Love Vacation”); to a celebration of life and blessings in,“I’m Blessed,” “Superhero” and “Toast,” and finally to a brutal dissection of ghetto life in, “Coke” and “Grow Rough.” Few talking points: “Owner” is Rn’B fire. The Gospel used in “I’m Blessed” is mad overlooked, it is straight out of Chance the Rapper’s hand manual. “Coke” with the “Stranger in Moscow” guitar notes told me that this album was going to go places. “Only U” holds me down for reasons that I can’t explain. “Toast” is now my anthem and lastly, the video graphics for the album makes the collection even more beautiful. One word for Intro: versatile. A great start for the young don.

Watch
The Night Of.

John Turturro and Riz Ahmed in a scene from season 1 of The Night Of, 2016 (photo credit: HBO).

The Night Of

An 8-part HBO miniseries that came out last year detailing the worst night of a young Pakistani’s life and the trial that followed. A college student, Naz has a hazy night with a mysterious girl, wakes up to find her dead, and is then arrested for her murder. The Night Of is as much a coming of age story as it is a mystery; in prison Naz meets Freddy (Omar from The Wire) who breaks and molds him into a man. (BTW, I just finished watching season 4 of The Wire and I tell no lies when I say that the show has my heart entirely. My soul kryptonite. Swear.) At home, the series shows the realistic and unglamorous struggles of a family of colour with a son in prison, how important money is but also how invaluable integrity can be. His lawyer, John steals the show though. He manages to be funny and pity worthy in a single shift and his season finale speech… the man needs an Emmy nod.  

Youtube

The Nerdwriter and kaptainkristian

Two channels that round up interesting media in a visually appealing way. Whether it be music, artistes, comic origins, politics or culture, each channel produces content with precise details that comes from keen observations. You are educated and entertained at the same time like with Nerdwriter’s analysis of Michael Mann’s style and story execution in my favourite movie of all time, Heat as well as his explanation of how to examine art (mad helpful). There is also stuff like kaptainkristains praise of Childish Gambino’s confluence of talents and how necessary this is for his type of art while he also informs his subscribers about the comic origins of Bugs Bunny. Enlightening and fascinating. I wished I learned this much in school.

Bring the Pain and Killin’ Them Softly

So I decide to watch a stand up comedy show once per week because I think comedians are the smartest people on the planet. I go back and skim through specials I watched when I was younger until I find Dave Chappelle. He’s signed that $60mil deal with Netflix and is in the news a lot so I say let’s go back to the year 2000. Let’s go back to back to Killin’ Them Softly… then to Bring the Pain. If you watch/rewatch Killin’ you will see Chappelle’s undoubted influence by Chris Rock’s 1996 Bring the Pain which changed the game, Rock turned black anger into entertainment gold. It is probably the best comedy show I’ve seen to date; Rock is  jumpy and well-rehearsed but also observant and timeless for this (I haven’t seen Pryor yet so this may change). Both shows are poignant and sadly still accurate today. Rock’s Back People vs Niggas, “Who’s more racist: black people or white people? Black people. You know why? Because black people hate black people, too.” is something which everybody still uses today. Chappelle’s delivery is more relaxed and you are fooled into thinking he’s telling you an off hand story but his analysis of what white vs. black people can get away with, male and female relationships and America’s deep seeded racism are deeply thought out and blurs the line between fact and fiction. And, if nothing else, you will love his, “white people voice,” there is nothing else like it. Watching a special a week is the best thing I ever did for myself in recent memory.

Read
Lily's letter.

Lily’s Letter to President Obama which The President answered (image credit: The White House).

The New York Times article, “To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation.”

The article details a journalist’s interaction with The White House team which dealt with the letters that President Obama received daily. “President Obama was the first to come up with a deliberate and explicit practice of 10 letters every day.” 10. No less, no more. But more important than the number was the order, the journalist noted of the lady who did this job, ”She could set the president up with a letter from someone gushing about the Affordable Care Act and then another from someone on the margin whose life was made worse because of it [and]… “Sometimes on Friday, particularly on Friday, we’ll end with one that’s like, ‘Hey, I like the way you tie your tie.’ ” She called that a chaser.” There is also a small interview with the man himself in which you learn the process by which some of the letters are answered. The article is fascinating, you get to see a select few yourself, and you get to understand the love and the hate that the American population has for The Obamas vs. other administrations. It’s a lengthy read (took me 3 days to finish while I read it on and off) but well worth it.


The Bullsh!t Award (inspired by A Girl With Something To Say )

Bruh, I ain’t heard “shETHER” or “Another One” since “No Frauds” was released in March. YYYYYY? Couple of facts first: “shETHER” is on the top 10 diss tracks of all time list but Remy killed herself with “Another One.” Nicki disrespected the Rap culture by 1. not responding until she felt like it and then 2. by responding with sh!t. All 3 songs she released, 3 of them don’t add up to 1 when compared to “shETHER” but Hollywood just proves without fail, that fame trumps talent mo’ time. #ImAFanOfTheArtNotTheArtiste and so Nicki Minaj and her fans get The Bullsh!t Award for the quarter.


Honourable Mentions

The movie Hush. It’s the new thing in seems: creating home invasion movies with a disabled victim. A deaf woman is tormented in her home by a sadistic killer. Hush is the yin to Don’t Breathe’s yang. If this film does nothing for you, it should at least teach you the power of your own weaknesses #walkingparadox and that is a good thing.

Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” by Wet and “Focus” by H.E.R. “Focus” speaks for itself, it is a dreamy, soft Rn’B track that merges the presence and voice of Bryson Teller and Kehlani to help create the mysterious artiste’s sound. Beautiful and sultry but not new. “Don’t Wanna…” is the best single from Wet’s 2015 EP Don’t You. The song is just under 3 minutes but it feels like you move in slow motion, like this is what forever feels like. With both songs, you listen and feel textures, moods and everything else that Indie and Rn’B music ought to give you. Listen to both with headphones for the full ‘pressed effect.

Etel Williams and Hanna vs. GrangePolitics is a messy business. In the recent UWI Mona Student Guild elections one of the candidates was disqualified from the race and the dark underbelly of The Guild’s role at the university reared its head. The Guild has a responsibility to protect, inform and represent the student polution yet the response to the disqualification was lacklustre and pitiful. The Guild pretty much threw Etel under the bus as if he was the first to breach the very vague rule in the  constitution; offered a poor explanation to the students as to why he was disqualified– they instead chose to cast full blame somewhere else– and then moved on with business as usual. Once more it is proved to me that The UWI Guild is more ornamental than functional.

And then this month Lisa Hanna aired The Culture Minister, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Granges’ dirty laundry without hard, concrete evidence (rookie move) in parliament showing that even in one of the highest offices in the country women just can’t keep petty cat-fighting alone. Well done to both student and government representatives, Jamaica’s moving along nicely as a political force thanks to the both of you.

[cover art by: Thomas C. Fedro]


 

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Creative Media

2016 Year in Review | My Favourites: Music

Today I want to share with you some favourites from my playlist this year:

New Artistes

Roy WOODS

I accidentally happened upon Woods sometime last year only because I was listening to a Drake playlist. “Drama“. “Drama” was the song changed my life. I found out that there was this whole hazy, moody, harsher Rn’B that his 2015 EP Exis exudes. There are songs like “Jealousy” and “Get You Good” that give a laid-back feeling that is popular now a days but songs like “Gwan Big Up Urself” throw in mellowed Jamaican slangs and pronunciation to give his work some energy. His debut album Waking at Dawn is less special to me though because his sound is less distinctive from the broodiness and sometimes sleepiness of a Tyson Briller, PARTYNEXTDOOR or a Majid Jordan but Woods is still only 20 (the youngest artiste to be signed to OVO BTW), experimentation is a necessary thing. However, I hope that he knows his uniqueness before he loses it in this new Alternative Rn’B crowd.

roy-woods-2016-shady-sardonixCanadian artiste Roy Woods, 2016 (image source).

Olivia O’BRIEN

So I’ve realized that it’s okay if I cannot describe what connects with me so deeply and so easily to someone or in this case to music. Olivia O’brien embodies this current enigma. There is something in her voice that is so vulnerable- even when she sings electro pop- and also closed off in that teenage way that we see but never like this. Say you sing Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” in a down tempo, striped version, how is it possible that you make the song your own? Remember James Arthur and that raw dangerousness that we first heard  in his voice? She has hints of that to me except more contained and angsty. Mainstream music now has a distance, bored style to express the pain of loss and love but O’Brien’s sadness is real, I hear this in her original version of “i hate you, i love you” and “Find What You’re Looking For (my current obsession),” and it is a little scary too, I mean, she only just turned 18.

New Rappers

Young M.A

Her sexuality definitely made her stand out to me but it wasn’t even that really, it wasn’t even “OOOUUU” either, it was her interview on The Breakfast Club that made me stand up, relisten to “OOOUUU” and put her in my subconscious- you know waiting for her to give me something that really made me go crazy-  then “EAT“came out I had to listen to other things she’d done. DJ Envy was right when he sad she has a presence, a realness about her, you hear it in her bars. She is a breath of fresh air to the rap scene, she puts a new flare in the hustle songs- tired of hearing about Nicki’s ‘assets’ and the ménage lines she puts in every song and Future’s side pieces and Rick Ross’ and Khaled’s plane trips and designers. To me M.A brings back the harshneess, the hardness of street rap, that still fits into mainstream but without the excessive candy coloured pop hybrid thing going on these days. It makes me even happier that a female, a gay female too, is doing this for the music.

Desiigner

I believe that “Panda” is one of those rare Hip-Hop songs that will last decades because of the double time flow, the way the song turns, how it feels like a freestyle but especially because of how cryptic the lyrics are. In certain songs Desiigner does sound like Future but I never listened to Future (mainly because I don’t like him as a person and the bragging in his songs never really appealed to me) so it doesn’t really bother me anyway. But generally Desiigner voice seems to have more energy, just like his performances, he is like  a race car rearing to go at the starting blocks. Unfortunately, his mixtape, New English is a copycat of Future’s style but “Tiimmy Turner” and “Panda,” his two biggest songs, are not and they prove that if Desiigner keeps on working on songs like those he will eventually find a formula to create his one lane.

Artistes

Dexta DAPS, Alkaline and Vybz KARTEL         

Dexta Daps did an interview with OnStage last year and Winford Williams basically told him that he already had a catalogue of songs to live on for his entire life as an artiste. Lets recap he’s done: “7/11,””Jealous Ova,” “Chinese Jordan,” “Pretty Nicky,” “Shabba Mada Pot” and this year, “Coolest Summer,” all in the span of two years. While listening to him I realize that Daps is unique because he is both a singer and a deejay and both a gangster and a gyalis. I see I recipe for success. (wo-wo-wo-wooo-wo.) The only person to surpass Daps this year with content, quality and consistency is Vybz Kartel. King of the Dancehall only had three good songs to me, but it was the releases that came after, an ad campaign for versatility, that made me sit up and listen: “Real Youth,”  “Summer ‘16,” “Best Place Pon Earth,” “Miracle” and “Electric” all in different ways confirm the genius that is Vybz Kartel. I remember being in second form in high school when the world saw the meteoric rise of the Gaza Nation in 2009/2010. This year Alkaline brought back that excitement more than 5 years later. The last 9 songs on his Vevo channel have made Dancehall  billboards this year, the cult following, similar to the Gaza/Gully loyalty of the past, says Alkaline has something special. But it was not obvious to me until I heard “Afterall” two months ago then I finally understood that Dancehall really has a new prince and he’s not too far away from the crown either.

Albums

4 Your Eyes Only J. COLE  The dude that went platinum with no features. As Rap activists go I see J. Cole as a softer version of Kendrick Lamar. Self-aware, critical of society, honest and desperate for change. There are so many lines that get you from this album: a line in the titular track teaches, “real ni**as don’t speak when the got beef with you” and I find that the whole album is dedicated to teaching, breaking down what it means to be a man. “Deja Vu,” (“damn intricate soft lips, soft voice… she f**k with small town ni**as, I got bigger dreams”) and “Folding Clothes” hit me to ma soul because Cole raps about the beauty in simpler things. Racism comes up on “Neighbours” in a not so obvious way on the hardest beat of the album (my mums bobs her head while listening to this, I’m not sure she even hears the lyrics) which is a lot different from how Lamar would play it. The core of the album comes from both parts of “She’s Mine” which are soo beautiful to me, “I’ve fallen in love for the first time/ I wanna cry and I ain’t even tryna fight it…” This is my favorite album of the year. 

Life of Pablo Kanye WEST No matter how psychotic Kanye West is, he is still one of the dopest rappers and producers in history to me. I loved the Gospel used to begin the album (“Ultralight Beam” is the best album opening song I’ve ever heard in my life) but the most creative song by far is, “I love Kanye,” “What if Kanye made a song about Kanye/Called ‘I Miss the Old Kanye?’/Man that’d be so Kanye.” Only Kanye could go from reverent to superego in one album and the whole album is like that too. He goes up and down in tempo and tone as well as how much of soul he chooses to express (for example, “Real Friends,” is that about Jay Z tho?– and “Father Stretch My Hands Part 2”). However, the winners of the album go to the guests. All of Kanye’s features are staples to me. I cannot hear “High Life” without Thugga Thugga, I cannot hear “Waves” without BOOM BOOM and I cannot hear “Fade” without Ty Dolla $ign… that’s a big deal.

22, A Million Bon IVER Ain’t gonna lie, I heard my first Bon Iver song from Twilight: New Moon– “Roslyn.” (*hangs head in shame* I was young OK. I wasn’t strong enough back then, I was a sheep.) The special thing about music like this- Indie Folk- is that it’s atmospheric. “10 dEATh bREasT” for example blends so many things together, you hear Jazz and a little Country with electronic sounds that all feed off each other. There is the near yodelling in “29 #Strafford APTS” that made me nearly tear up,  “715 CREEKS”  is barely intelligible but even in an automated voice I still feel a misery that comes with unrequited love, the melancholy Gospel in “00000 Million” is beautiful… all I could think while listening was, The Beatles meets Daft Punk with a softer otherworldly edge. 22, A million is your childhood, your disturbances,  your softest, prettiest, lightest emotions heard on the darkest night. I listened and I didn’t hear songs, I felt emotions. This is a magnificent album.

j-cole-4-your-eyez-only-album-2016-shady-sardonixJ. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only, 2016 (image source).

 You Want It Darker Leonard COHEN Orchestral albums could never hold me steady; I do not listen classical music. And even though this is a classical album, it coaxes me into it. There are African drums, Spanish guitars and Gospel overtones along with the regular violins and pianos. You Want it Darker is a spoken word album. Cohen speaks in rhythm over beautiful instrumentals (almost like Sam Hunt’s, “Break Up In A Small Town” or “Take Your Time” but not really). Plus Cohen’s voice is like Marlon Brando’s: slow, unsettling and grim. Cohen sings about things I cannot relate to like losing love, sobering up to old age, – I mean he is 82- but listening to him is like watching a melodramatic classic Hollywood film, no one can relate to these people but it’s still fascinating to watch anyway, right?

Honourable Mentions 

Views by Drake for infusing African and Caribbean vibes into his moody world of relationships and celebrity paranoia. Unfortunately, the topics he sings about are things I’ve already heard from Drake and the large amount of singing I could do without. 

Lemonade by Beyonce because of how fiercely personal and honest her work is. She is not playing the pop game like everybody else: she drops albums whenever she wants, does no interviews and sings about things nobody has ever sang about. But personally I am not a scorned wife so I couldn’t really relate to Lemonade that much and plus I’m still waiting on the third consecutive album (remember Off The Wall to Thriller to Bad?) to make Queen Bey an undeniable living legend like the late great, right now she is only a three-quarters there. 

The artiste Tory LANEZ because he is an amalgamation of every underground alternative Rn’B artiste in the last five years and that’s great but somehow he still doesn’t have his own sound.

The artistes Jahmiel and Shenseea for showing that there are talented and creative young people- Jahmiel is 24, Shenseea just turned 20- who want to inject new life into Reggae and Dancehall. Every Jahmiel song is an anthem, a song for upliftment that comes from a place of truth without the washed-up lines about badmind that too many of these songs have today. With “Loodie” Shenseea is breaking the glass ceiling that female Dancehall artistes use as an excuse to put out mediocre songs- the one exception is Spice- because Shenseea has great management, branding and substance (I mean, did you hear that freestyle on Nightly Fix last month? Girl’s here to stay).

[cover art by: Eric Zener]

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