Category Archives: Music

Take a Chance with Lil Chano

FernandaMorote, Staff Reporter

Chance the Rapper: you probably didn’t even know this name last year. This rapper has seen an explosion in popularity since the release of his third mixtape, “Coloring Book.” Since music has always been an integral part of Chance’s life, he has always dreamt of winning a Grammy. Here’s the catch: Chance is a strong believer of free art and has never charged anyone for his music, releasing three completely free, streaming mixtapes. Until this year, it was impossible for any artist to win a Grammy without putting an album on the market for consumer purchase. On Feb. 12, 2017, Chancelor Bennett, a young man from 79th Street in the urban city of Chicago, smashed every expectation of the impossible.  

Born son of a politician, Chancelor Bennett was expected to follow his father and was ridiculed when he proclaimed his dream of becoming a rapper. He released his first mixtape, “10 Day,” a year after he was suspended from high school for 10 days due to illegal possession of marijuana on campus. Even at 18 years old, Chance the Rapper used rap as an outlet to express emotion and to make statements instead of bragging and “stunting” like other rappers. This mixtape had local success and placed him in Complex magazine’s “10 New Chicago Rappers to Watch Out For.”

During the time between the release of his first and second mixtape, Chance featured in “They Don’t Like Me,” a track on Childish Gambino’s sixth mixtape and joined him on his 2012 tour where he gained more popularity. His second mixtape, Acid Rap, was critically acclaimed on Metacritic, and he gained even more popularity. His greatest jump in his fanbase; however, occurred upon the release of Chance’s third mixtape, “Coloring Book,” which features famous artists including Kanye West, Francis and the Lights, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz and Justin Bieber.

It was this mixtape’s popularity, content and performance which earned Chance the Rapper three Grammys this year. His mixtape won the prize, “Best Rap Album,” a controversial topic he discusses at length in “Coloring Book.”

Now, Chance is beginning to enter the political world, working with Chicago Governor Bruce Rauner to provide funding to Chicago Public Schools (CPS). He, along with Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, Pusha T, Common, Janelle Monáe, Ludacris, J. Cole, Wale and DJ Khaled, met with former President Barack Obama in April 2016  to discuss the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, which has the purpose of “[connecting] young people to mentoring, support networks and the skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way into the middle class.”

Chance the Rapper’s fans admire him for his political efforts aside from his musical and lyrical genius, and they are looking forward to his many accomplishments to come.

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Building Up For Bonnaroo

RodrigoMorote

The season for music festivals is arriving. One of the biggest music festivals every year is the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Since 2002, Great State Park in Tennessee has hosted this music festival with bands performing in genres ranging from Bluegrass to EDM and everything in between.  Big names like The Police, Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more make appearances every year. Headliners at Bonnaroo 2016 are yet to be specified but major names include: Pearl Jam, LCD Soundsystem, Dead and Company— the new collaboration featuring members of the Grateful Dead and John Mayer, Ween, M83, Tame Impala, HAIM, Vince Staples, Miguel, Father John Misty, Death Cab For Cutie, CHVRCHES and Tyler, the Creator. Many students at Chattahoochee High School are eager to attend the festival, but it is rather expensive.

Danielle St. Amand (SR) shares her plans for this summer: “Bonnaroo has a payment plan which requires you to pay money every month to pay for your ticket. So I’m going with some friends and we’re going to find creative ways to earn money for our trip.” Fortunately, since Bonnaroo tickets range from $350 – $700, there is a useful payment plan starting Apr. 1 which allows you to pay off your ticket over a span of three months or more. St. Amand plans to work and “set a separate account for Spring Break and Bonnaroo.” She also describes an additional form of paying for a ticket. She explains, “You can work at Bonnaroo and get a free ticket. It can be before the concert, during the concert or after the concert. It might be trash duty though, so I don’t know if that’s worth it.”

Last year, the headliners at Bonnaroo were Billy Joel, the Black Keys, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar and Mumford and Sons. Natalie Sadler (SR), who attended last year’s music festival, went up to the Tennessee park with Hadley Voorhees (SR), in a decorated Bonnaroo-themed vehicle. She said her favorite performers at the festival were Mumford and Sons, along with twenty øne piløts and Florence and the Machine. Sadler doesn’t suggest the decorated car because of her experience with a suspicious police officer who stopped the two on their way to the festival. She compares the Bonnaroo atmosphere to being on a different planet: “You’re just surrounded by positivity. Everybody’s so nice there. You can talk to a complete stranger, and you’ll immediately become best friends.” Since it is a four-day music festival, many people camp out right there in the park. For camping, Sadler advises for those spending a lot of time in the park to use easy up tents and other things to block out the sun and to stay hydrated.

Bonnaroo is a memorable festival and will hopefully continue to uphold its reputation as one of the best concerts of the summer.

Lana Del Rey: Honeymoon

RodrigoMorote

     After her successful “Endless Summer” tour sparked by her third studio album “Ultraviolence,” the fairly recent trip hop artist Lana Del Rey hit the recording studio a fourth time to release her newest contribution to this surprisingly popular psychedelic pop genre. “Honeymoon” was released Sept. 18, 2015 among other albums by the Front Bottoms and Mac Miller.

     I had a bad first impression going into the album because of the single “Honeymoon.” It just seemed too depressingly nostalgic and slow. I needed more beat. I know some of you could just listen to Lana read a few selections from a dictionary, but I, a less die-hard fan, need something to bob my head to. Then I came upon “High By the Beach” and loved it. It’s slightly less upbeat than I hoped, but it’s Lana, and I honestly didn’t expect anything more than what I got.

     Like every good album, “Honeymoon” has its highs and lows; however, the quality never wavers. The album starts off with the self-titled song in which her ethereal voice is slowly introduced playing over a soft orchestra. The beginning of the album has a very “trippy California hipster” vibe. Lana references pink flamingos in “Music To Watch Boys To,” and David Bowie’s famous lyrics in “Space Oddity.” These allusions all add to the previously described vibe. Then the album hits one of its highest points in the “High By the Beach” where the drum machine makes a highly anticipated guest appearance. After this song, the drums stay and the rest of the album is head-bobbing material. “Freak” and “Art Deco” are less upbeat than “High By the Beach,” but they’re fast enough to keep the listener awake.

     She flipped the switch and tried something new with “Burnt Norton.” I’d never heard spoken word as a track on any album by any artist. So I was shocked when she read a poem for the eighth track on “Honeymoon.” She reads T.S. Eliot’s modernist poem “Burnt Norton,” but I’m not really sure of the significance of it. However, the lines she shares about time and eternity really fit in with the mood of the melancholy album. “Salvatore” and “The Blackest Day” both describe the desperation of both unrequited and undesired love by showing off her amazing vocal range. In “24”, this young artist tests the limits of her range and impresses the audience with a voice crack near the end, which was perfectly suited for the moment. For the last song on the album, Lana gets rid of the drums again and slows it down in “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” It is a slightly abrupt ending, but it leaves the listener wanting more and almost hints at a theme for her next album.

     So the overview: All the songs on “Honeymoon” are good except “Honeymoon” itself. It’s captivating, but it takes effort to see its worth. The album should have been named something else like “Don’t Worry It Gets Better After the First One.” But now that I have been engaged in the album in its entirety, it’s incredibly soothing and I crave it when I’m not listening. Congratulations to Lana for releasing yet another incredible album which is sure to be a hit among her fans and will definitely help her gain more. Hopefully we’ll see her performing the new songs in Atlanta soon.

The Age of the Producer

DallasShook – Editor in Chief
NeelSwamy – Features Editor

It doesn’t matter what genre of music you listen to, there is always someone behind the sounds you love. Someone other than the name you see in bright lights, someone deserving much more credit than they actually receive. These people, the producers, are especially prevalent in the hip-hop and pop genres, where individual artists reign, rather than groups or bands. These producers have recently started making their names more well-known, becoming the artist rather than the background name: it’s about time.

Producers have recently begun the tradition of “tagging” their beats, something almost all hip-hop listeners recognize, but aren’t aware of. “Tagging” a beat means that the producer puts a short audio clip, or “tag,” into their beat, most frequently before the artist comes in so that listeners can recognize who produced it. For example, one of the top new producers in hip-hop, London on da Track, has a simple – but extremely catchy – tag that states “We Got London on da Track” before the beat drops. Other extremely popular tags are “Metro Boomwin want some more,” which belongs to Atlanta’s 21-year-old super-producer Metro Boomin and “Mike Will Made It” by one of the world’s biggest producers, Mike Will Made It. Some tags are less obvious than simply saying the producer’s name with a catchy voice. DJ Spinz has a tag that sounds like a young child saying “Ay-Ohhh” before he comes in, something many people don’t recognize to be a tag. Even less obvious, Atlanta’s superstar producer Lex Luger uses a tag that can easily be mistaken for a transition in the beat, but it’s exclusive to him.

Producers are slowly becoming as iconic as the rappers they produce for, thanks to listeners recognizing them by their catchy tags. These tags have slowly grabbed the attention of even the least-attentive listeners, and people have slowly started to listen to music for the skilled producers as well as the rappers. There used to be a time where producers were the sideshow and they stayed behind-the-scenes, but recently the spotlight has been shining their way. For example, at Travi$ Scott’s last concert, producer Metro Boomin was featured as the opening act to the concert, rather than another rapper. The men that have historically played behind-the-scenes roles are now stepping in front of the spotlight. They are now recognized in public. The age of the producer is upon us.

Music Reviews: The Great, The Good and the Bad

GOOD AM

DallasShook – Editor in Chief
PaulBurke – Sports Editor

September has been one of the biggest months in recent memory for hip-hop. Two of the top rappers in the genre surprised their fans with a collaborative “mixtape” (although something that costs money should not be labeled as a mixtape by any means). One of the top young artists in the genre released his first official album, and a receding rapper saved his career with one of his best efforts yet. The future of rap may be heavily influenced by this eventful month. While this month produced mainly amazing music, there were certainly winners and losers of the month.

The Great: Mac Miller – “GO:OD AM”

Mac Miller went into album hibernation for over a year, and made his fans wait for what he had in store. “Worth the wait” is an understatement. “GO:OD AM,” his latest studio album, excelled in every aspect. His single “100 Grandkids,” released weeks before his album officially dropped, has one of the smoothest, most pleasantly surprising beat switch-ups in hip hop today. The complex beat, combined with his edgy, hard hitting rap style, was just a preview of what the album had in store. The album was laced with such a wide variety of hip hop genres from “ROS,” his hip hop ballad discussing love and compassion, to “Brand Name” attacking social issues such as the importance of brands in our society. Awakening from his struggles with addiction and withdrawals, Mac Miller’s “The Weekend” reminds us that with every day the sun comes up and we go on. “GO:OD AM” might not be a perfect album, but it is a nice breath of fresh air, and a work of art coming from the young and talented Mac Miller.

                The Good: Travis Scott – “Rodeo”

“Rodeo” is perhaps the most important release to the future of the rap genre, as Travi$ Scott has the biggest potential out of any rapper that released a tape this month. The Kanye-mentored, Houston native had been making waves throughout music for the past two years, but this release was the first official album from the Grand Hustle/G.O.O.D. Music signee. “Days Before Rodeo,” the lead-up mixtape Scott dropped last year, is perhaps the greatest mixtape I have ever heard. The only downside to Scott’s debut album is that his other efforts had been so stunningly amazing, that the expectations were set too high for the 23-year-old. If it weren’t for expectations, and opinions were solely molded by the music itself, Scott easily would’ve claimed the top spot for the month, but sadly that is not how the music industry works. The album’s most popular single, “Antidote,” is the perfect example of the versatility Travis Scott can bring to any song. Singing an unbelievably catchy melody for the majority of the song, Scott switches up the last minute and attacks the beat with one of his hardest verses on the album. Other standouts are “Oh My Dis Side” – perhaps the best top-to-bottom song on the album, “Impossible” – a psychedelic, eerie singing-based song – and “Apple Pie” – an upbeat song Scott uses to address his mother and his rise to fame. While the album could’ve been much better given Scott’s limitless talent, it is a certain guarantee that Travis Scott is a name to watch for the years to come.

                The Bad: Drake & Future – “What A Time to Be Alive”

Do not believe the hype. This “mixtape” from the two biggest rappers in the world took only six days to make – and it shows. Before I discuss the actual quality of the music, let’s start off by making it clear the entire point of a mixtape is that it’s free. This is one of the oldest traditions in hip-hop, and once again Drake stomps all over it in his all-too-familiar sell-out fashion. Now, as far as the actual music itself, the standouts are “Scholarships,Diamonds Dancing” andJumpman.” The tape disappoints mainly because these two artists are capable of so much more: the choruses come across as cheap and quickly made and the lyrics come across as shallow. Upon first listen, the collaboration seems legendary, but the album fades upon multiple listens. If the two artists had taken perhaps even one month longer, the tape could’ve been one of the best in recent memory. That being said, Drake will certainly redeem himself with his next album, “Views from the 6,” which was (very subtly) delayed from Sept 25 to a late 2015/early 2016 release.

Are Keith Richards and Darlene Love Washed-Up? – A Double Album Review

JosephShin

While browsing through Apple Music this weekend, I was surprised to find new albums by Darlene Love and Keith Richards. These artists being anything but current (they both peaked in the ‘60s), I found great irony in seeing them in the “New Music” section. So the question remains, are these albums worthy of these legends’ names or are they simply throwaway efforts?

First, Keith Richards’ “Crosseyed Heart.” Don’t worry. Richards has lost none of his guitar prowess. The entire album is suffused with Richards’ skillful playing, but the novelty of “Crosseyed Heart” lies in its inspiration – as a whole, the album seems to be a love letter to Richards’ musical predecessors. Touches of legends like Muddy Waters, Hank Williams and Chuck Berry can be felt throughout the album. “Trouble,” the lead single, is a particularly memorable song. Indeed, if it were polished up, it could be a Rolling Stones track. Other highlights include “Robbed Blind,” a moody country song and the reggae-influenced “Love Overdue” which has a haunting quality. In this album, Richards proves that he can stand on his own. Doesn’t hurt to have the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” as a backup though. Out of four stars, this album deserves a 3.

“Introducing Darlene Love” is the best that nostalgia can get. Those who aren’t familiar with Love’s name are probably familiar with her hits with famed producer/convicted murderer Phil Spector in the early ‘60s like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” or “He’s A Rebel.” At 74, Love still has the power to sustain a whole album. Songs like “Forbidden Nights” prove this. Her duet “Still Too Soon To Know” with fellow singer Bill Medley is poignant. Famous E-Streeter Stevie Van Zandt takes on Spector’s heavy helm and succeeds in some regards. He loses some of the physicality that made Love’s earlier recordings a joy, but his production works particularly well on the Springsteen-penned “Night Closing In” and his own gospel song “Jesus Is The Rock.” In other spots though, the production comes off as both cheesy and cheap. Perhaps they should break Spector out of jail to give the album some life. In any case, Love’s vocals throughout soar. For that reason, this album gets a 3.

Music For Who’s Sake?

drake-quentin-miller-696x435

DallasShook – Editor in Chief

Think of your favorite song. Your favorite artist. Why does that music speak to you? Is the melody catchy, do the lyrics mean something to you, or is it something else? Currently, it seems that people like music more for the name of the artist than the music itself. Obviously, people will be inclined to enjoy the music their favorite artist releases, but it’s more than just that. It seems that people, teenagers especially, are using music as more of a social tool nowadays, as a way to “fit in.” Does this trend of pretending to enjoy songs hurt the true fans of the musician? Or should it just be ignored, because the whole point of music is how it affects each individual respectively.

Look at J. Cole for example. Cole is an artist who has been fairly popular in hip-hop since his debut album, “Cole World: The Sideline Story,” released back in 2011, but he’s been on most fans’ radars since being the first artist to sign to Jay-Z back in 2009. However, mainstream America didn’t make him their own until his most recent album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” came out at the end of 2014. Cole recently toured off his new album, and he visited Atlanta on Aug. 15. The concert, rather than being a musical gathering for his fans, turned out to be more of a get-together for teenagers that only knew two of Cole’s songs and were looking to party (a more in depth article about this concert can be found here).

Does this new “fan” base surrounding J. Cole affect his “day one” fans? Some feel as if it does. Sam Berman (SR), a long time J. Cole fan, feels as though it hurts the true fans of a musician “when a bunch of people seem to hop on the bandwagon just to be on it, it takes away the validity from the fans. It’s almost like when fake fans cheer for your favorite sports team, it just takes away from the experience when you’re around them.”  Some would argue that fans should enjoy the music regardless, but many true fans feel as though their artist’s work isn’t truly respected when fake fans are introduced.

This summer, hip-hop’s (arguably) biggest star Drake was challenged when a fellow rapper leaked that Drake had someone else make the melodies and lyrics to some of his top songs, a big no-no in the hip-hop culture. Shortly thereafter, “reference tracks” (the original versions of Drake’s songs recorded by his ghostwriter) were released. With the same exact beat, lyrics and melodies, the only thing that differed between the songs was the name of the artist. However, while listening to these songs, it hit me that had these songs been released by the ghostwriter, they wouldn’t have been popular whatsoever. Yes, Drake has a larger fanbase for sure, but the fact that the name of the artist would change the song that much is remarkable. The ghostwriter even sounded very similar to Drake, but something seemed off. I showed the original version of a song to a huge Drake fan and he claimed it “lacked the power of Drake’s presence.”

Whether fans like it or not, the name of the artist matters. Some people will always gravitate toward the “hot” artist, the person being listened to. A popular artist will always gain their fair share of “fake fans”, and this is something the true fans must get used to.