Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kanye West Has My Heart (and this is why)

A lot of people don't like Kanye West, and I have been wanting to write about his 'unpopularity' for a long time. Of course his over all record sales would indicate that he isn't exactly 'unpopular', but there seems to be this general consensus that Kanye West is a narcissistic 'jack-ass'.  

I often feel that when people say they don't like Kanye West, they are confusing their thoughts about his ego, with their opinion of his work as an MC and producer. This is an artist that has a very vast, and dignified catalog of work that extends way beyond his career as an MC. I have always believed that Kanye West is a great artist,  I just never felt compelled to write about it until I saw his show at Barclay's on Wednesday night. 

In this day an age, fans have a lot of access to their favorite celebrity's personal thoughts and lives. When it comes to an artist that is as unfiltered and outspoken as Kanye West, we seem to experience more of his intense personality, instead of his music.  Maybe Kanye is a crazy egomaniac,  but how and why should his overwhelming personality negate the integrity of his work? In my opinion, 'Yeezus' is one of the best albums to be released in 2013, and anyone that has taken the time to really listen to the album would probably agree that Kanye was not trying to make a "hit record", he (with the help of Rick Rubin) created a strong, honest, controversial and expressive work of art.  Kanye West is an artist, in the truest sense of the word. He is passionate, emotional, obsessive, self absorbed, conflicted and all different types of fucked up. But, would people start liking him more if he didn't reveal his true nature? Now that we have all of these social media platforms, I'm starting to think that 'rockstars' are being encouraged to withhold themselves and behave more like politicians. I sometimes wonder,  if it was MY generation that destroyed the raw and iconic "rock star", in favor of the well mannered, groomed and polished "pop star"?  Imagine if artists like Kurt Cobain, James Brown or Jerry Lee Lewis (to name a few) showcased their personal thoughts and lives on twitter, instagram, FB etc. Would we still love them for their incredible work as artists, or would we judge them for their  erratic, anguished, abusive and disturbing personalities and lifestyles? 

The bottom line is, I really don't care if (or that) Kanye West is a total douche bag.

I don't care that Kanye was mean to some girl at the VMAs. I don't care if he is or isn't  a good baby daddy. I don't care about the fact that he brags about his accomplishments. I don't care that he goes off on his crazy rants. What I DO care about is how I remember exactly where I was in 2002 when I first heard Talib Kweli's 'Get By'. I remember every detail of the experience because I had never heard ANYTHING like it.  I care about how I use to make sure that I played 'Jesus Walks' in it's entirety (before it blew up).  The song has a really slow start but it also has such an intense build up, and there would be no point in playing it at all if people didn't experience it's crazy climatic bridge. I care about the "ohhs" I hear when I occasionally drop 'Bonnie and Clyde'. I care that after 10 years,  Kanye West can still blow me away with a sick track like 'Black Skinheads'. I care about the fact that he used the MPC 2000xl as a live instrument in the performance of one of his songs, and then went on a rant about the significance of the MPC 2000. I care about the fact that out of all the up and coming wannabes, Kanye asked A TRIBE CALLED QUEST to open for him at the Barclay center, and then went out of his way to express his love for the group.

The show on Wednesday, was not the first time I have attended a Kanye West concert, but it was by far the best performance of his that I have ever seen. It was theatrical and dramatic, and the crowd was also treated to one of his famous rants. I suppose this is my way of expressing that I do deeply appreciate Kanye West, and I am always finding myself defending this admiration. From now I suppose, I'll just refer people to this blog post;)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Truth About The 90s

My use of the term "the 90s" in this particular post is a double entendre: it is in reference to the actual decade, and any song that has a BPM in the 90s. BPM stands for Beats Per Minute and it is the "pace of music measured by the number of beats occurring in 60 seconds" (web definition).   The majority of house, techno and current hip-hop songs have high BPMs ranging from 120-140.  The majority of hip-hop from the 1990s however, have an average of about 90 BPM, which is obviously much slower than today's 'dance' music.  It almost seems that at some point over the past 10-15 years, mainstream (hip-hop/club music) producers started to believe that music with low BPMs were not dance-able, so they started to crank up the speed. Well, some of the strongest and most respected club records of my generation have BPMs in the 90s, and this music is VERY dance-able.

Most top selling R&B artists today (Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown and Beyonce) have released several techno "dance" records.  Before the 2000s however, the very thought of SWV, D'Angelo, Montell Jordan or Mary J. Blige releasing a techno song, would have been crazy.

"Crazy in love" and "single ladies" are two of Beyonce's biggest club anthems and both songs have BPMs in the 90s. These songs are significantly slower than some of her other singles including "sweet dreams" and "Girls rule the world" but "crazy in love" and "single ladies" were significantly more popular on the dance floor (and on the charts). Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" is his strongest solo club anthem from the past decade, and the BPM is actually below 90, it's at about 87. "Tom Ford" on the other hand has a BPM of 145, and even though it is still (kind of) a club anthem, 'Empire State of Mind' has outsold and 'outcharted' 'Tom Ford' by a landslide.

The biggest and most popular club anthems of my youth include songs by Biggie Smalls, A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock, Mary J. Blige, Pharcyde etc. Just about every club song from this particular style and era has a BPM in the mid to low 90s and people have never stopped dancing to these songs. If anything, people credit 90s hip-hop as the "golden era" and maybe, just MAYBE a slower, smoother BPM has something to do with what's missing in today's "club music".  People LOVE 90s hip-hop and people CAN dance to a BPM in the 90s, there is a lot more to "dance music" than those hyped up techno records. The 90s are awesome and I think it's just a matter of time before the style of 90s hip-hop and R&B go retro-chic in pop music, and will make its way back into the clubs again.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is "Tyler the Creator"Just Another Douche Bag?

So just about everyone (who's opinion I respect) thinks that Tyler the Creator of Odd Future is just an asshole, and there is nothing respectable about him. I, however am having difficulty being so quick to come to that same conclusion. I think that Tyler actually has every intent of being depicted and viewed as a total douche bag, but I also believe he is really smart, and all of his bullshit feels like a prelude to something much deeper.  For example he continually uses the word "faggot".  In interviews Tyler is unapologetic as he admits to the use of the word, and doesn't seem to have any intention of stopping. At the same time, when his fellow group member, and good friend Frank Ocean "came out" to the public, he was one of the first people to publicly express his support. I do realize that being a supportive friend to a gay man does not make it ok to be disrespectful towards the LGBQT community, but in this particular case, I am wondering if Tyler's use of the word 'faggot' is actually satirical, and apart of a much bigger statement. Maybe I'm giving this 22 year old MC way too much credit, and to be honest I've become a little obsessed with trying to understand him. What exactly is Tyler the Creator's agenda? Does he even have an agenda or is he just completely insane?

Earlier this week in an interview at the youtube awards, Tyler completely trashed youtube. It was slightly reminiscent of Fiona Apple's notorious rant at the 1997 VMAs. The difference however, was that unlike Fiona, Tyler seemed to be very clear and in control of his statement, a statement that was relatively credible, and unlike Fiona, we all know that youtube will not be receiving a public apology from Tyler.  Furthermore, Tyler was not drunk, because he doesn't drink, smoke or do any drugs.

Last month as Tyler was being interviewed by Ron Howard during the Made in America concert, he went off on how there were so many "niggers"  in the crowd (yes 'ers' not 'az'), and how it was scary. He was obviously being facetious, and his point was probably the fact that most of these large outdoor concerts primarily book white artists, instead of  black artists due to the fear of drawing a very large black crowd.  It also seemed that Tyler was trying to make Ron Howard completely uncomfortable, which was not cool but a friend did point out to me recently that Ron Howard has never had a strong black role or lead in any of his films.

To be honest, I don't like Tyler the Creator or Oddfuture's music (except for Frank Ocean), but Tyler does have my attention, and I can't say the same for any other 22 year old artist.  I suppose it would be easier to believe that he is just another bad influence, but I think that is exactly what he expects us to believe. So I suppose time will tell whether or not Tyler actually has something substantial to contribute to this world, or is he just wasting our time with his rants and anti-politically correct slurs.

Here is his interview about the Youtube awards.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Prime Time For the Celebrity Chefs

There are several reasons why people hire me to DJ,  but it's very rare when someone will hire me for my background in classic hip-hop. A gig I had a couple of weeks ago was one of those rare nights. I DJd an after party for the food and wine festival in New York.   I mentioned this gig in my last post and I have been wanting to write something about it but because of some technical issues, the majority of the recording of my set got clipped. (I was maxed out on the mixer all night, the party was so hot I had to pump it up as hard and as high as I could!!) I did take the time today however to listen to the whole mix and I did find a little chunk of 20ish minutes that is audible.

Now let me clarify that I probably got hired for a few reasons, but when I started my set with house and some 80s, the host came up to me and said "please start doing what YOU do".  I knew exactly what he meant because I DJd the same party last year. He wanted me to start playing that fresh good ole fashion hip-hop of the 90s and early 2000s.  I hardly ever get asked to play that stuff anymore, if anything I'm always looking for ways to sneak it in.

Now the moment and I mean the MOMENT I started to play some hip-hop the room was on crack. People just got down and dirty but these were not just ordinary people. They were some of the most sophisticated, accomplished and well known chefs in the world. From Michelin stars to food network stars, the creme de la creme of the culinary arts. It was really surprising and awesome. They didn't want to hear Rihanna or Britney, they wanted MOP and Mobb Deep! Just like last year, tt was ON and it was HARD but above all it was a true joy and privilege to share a similar passion with a lot of people that I deeply respect.

Below is a photo of me and  Giada, she crashed the DJ booth for a minute for a brief DJ lesson.

Giada DeLaurentiis