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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Let’s suppose that I had been born in 1962 as opposed to in 1992. Then, in 1987, I would have been about 25 years old. This 25 year old version of me would have then made his way to the room shown in the music video for “Teardrops” by Womack & Womack, which is one of the freshest settings I’ve seen. Linda Womack, daughter of Sam Cooke, has the style that so many people try to emulate these days—she’s got the denim jacket, the shades, the lightwash jeans, and the snarl when she sings. Cecil Womack, her husband and Bobby’s brother, sits down with a denim vest, equally cool sunglasses, ripped jeans, an open shirt, and a beard to pull the whole look together. The backup vocalists and musicians are a multiracial bunch, all dressed in similarly fashioned 80s attire. I would pay a lot of money to be part of that team. Seriously, when they leave the studio, they probably look very cool walking down the street together.

Moreover, this song is incredible. What we get here is something that feels musically timeless and hard to peg in a certain genre. It’s not just 80s pop, since it has such a soulful quality (and pedigree), but, then again, it’s clearly a dance track (especially if you get the 12″ extended version). The lyrics of the song are sad, as she sings about being reminded of an ex-lover, but the song isn’t tragic. It has the emotion needed to truly draw listeners in, but Linda doesn’t hang on her words, choosing not to dwell on the thoughts she expresses. In a sense, most pop songs are either about love or loss, and this is definitely a track about loss, but its groove offsets its gloom, making it profoundly easy to listen to over and over again. No element of the composition, apart from maybe the bass and drums at the beginning ever seem like too much—we have backup vocals when appropriate and subtle guitar and keyboard parts. Everything is balanced perfectly. None of the things that often annoy listeners are present on the track. There’s no guitar solo, no overly-dramatic singing, and no breakdown that changes the vibe of the song. Form beginning to end, the track is a charmer.

Also, this is my favorite type of music video, since it attempts to show how the song was created. Although there’s nothing that exciting in the video, we get to know the artists in their natural habitat, a recording studio. It’s not some contrived live concert setting where the original track is stil played, nor is it some ridiculous portrayal of the song’s themes in narrative form. It’s just Linda and Cecil, Womack & Womack being themselves and doing their thing. Now, let’s suppose that Linda and Cecil had a son, and that son was me. Then I would be a significantly cooler person that I am now—it’s just genetics.

Oh, there are some cover versions of this song by The xx and Joss Stone, among others. They’re worth checking out after you listen to the original until the end of time.

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hudson-mohawke-butterSo, it turns out that the Hudson Mohawke song called “FUSE” that I currently have on heavy rotation (i.e. play loudly every time I return to my room) is not, in fact, anything new. I downloaded it last week, but HudMo released it in 2009, back when I was listening to things like Weezy’s “Ice Cream Paint Job”, Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and, you know, a lot of things that were not Hudson Mohawke’s Butter. Really, HudMo did a Fader mix before I knew what Fader mixes are.

We can argue over whether my taste was more sophisticated then or now—in my opinion, it’s more sophisticated now, but that may just be because I’d like to think that I’ve progressed since I was 16. Anyway, the point is that, with regard to Hudson Mohawke, I definitely arrived very late to the party. In my defense, Hudson Mohawke has only recently risen to real prominence in the last couple of years, as he produced some songs on Cruel Summer and formed TNGHT with Lunice. Still, as someone who follows music, I should have downloaded some of his music before 2012, which is really when I figured out who he is. I should mention that Michael, another author of this blog, learned about HudMo’s beats long before me.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that I arrived late to a party, For instance, I’m really just starting to like Kendrick Lamar. I was about six monts late in liking A$AP Rocky’s Live.Love.A$AP. And I still don’t really like any part of Odd Future. This is probably because I stubbornly listen to 80s music and other not-new things most of the time because, really, I can’t compete with those other bloggers and professional listeners. I really just need to get a job where people send me all the new music, especially with Google Reader scheduled to be shut down in July.

Nevertheless, with the Internet that way it is, there’s at least as much (likely more) old music available as new tracks, and it’s not hard to find. Ask me how hard it is to find an obscure alternate version of a song by The Cure. My answer: not hard. Was it hard to find “FUSE” on the Internet? No. Therefore, am I not smart to wait 3-5 years after its release before getting into ‘new’ music? It’s just so much easier. I get to do some digging as opposed to just refreshing my Google Reader until something interesting pops up.

You can expect me to write about quasi-obscure songs by Spoon or Creedence Clearwater Revival because, for me, it’s way easier than trying to say something novel about really new music. Yes, I’ll try to jump on a new track occasionally, but I’ll leave most of that to the professionals. Also, the more you dig through old tracks, the more you realize how little new music actually has an original sound. Listen to “Fuse” and then listen to “BasedWorld” by Ryan Hemsworth. Stylistically, they’re quite similar, but the former was released in 2009 while the latter popped up on the blogs in 2013. I love Ryan Hemsworth, and I want more music like this to exist, but the point is that his sound isn’t entirely original. This is great for listeners, because it means that we can get tons of new music that sounds fresh like Hemsworth just by doing some Googling. Of course, I now feel special for identifying that “BasedWorld” is a lot like “FUSE” from 2009, but there’s probably someone out there who said that “FUSE” was a lot like _____ released four years earlier. Cheers to that person. Send me the link.

But yeah, I heard the new Daft Punk single within two hours of its release. We out here.

For me, before there was “Bugatti”, “Good Kush & Alcohol”, “I’m Different”, or “No Hands” (or really anything by Waka and 2 Chainz), I drove around my hometown listening to “Ice Cream Paint Job” off Yeezy’s No Ceilings mixtape. We’re talking 2009 here. Yes, all ignorant rappers owe a debt to Cam’ron for elevating the whole ignorant rap genre, but for kids like me born between 1990 and 1993, “Ice Cream Paint Job” was maybe our first encounter with ignorance. We were juniors in high school. We were bored. We didn’t care what it was really like on the streets. We just wanted hip hop to make us feel hyped.

The genius of Lil Wayne on this track is his ability to rap for over three minutes and avoid any deeper meaning. Seriously, I read the RapGenius page for this song learned nothing new. The track is explicit in every sense of the word—it’s intensely vulgar and, at least for a person of my generation, his verses are exceedingly clear. Of course, like most rap, Lil Wayne makes many pop culture references, but most are fairly mainstream, e.g. Tomb Raider, Degree stick, Michael Phelps, or the Alps. “Ice Cream Paint Job” isn’t about life in the bad part of New Orleans, and it’s not even about a car with an ‘ice cream paint job”, unlike the orignal track by Dorrough. Lil Wayne is just “all over this ice cream beat like sprinkles”, which is actually a perfect example of his lyricism here. We know the title of the song, and we know what sprinkles are. That’s it. It really is.

Once my brain is fully developed, maybe I’ll feel the same connection with GZA’s Liquid Swords or Nas’ Illmatic that I feel with “Ice Cream Paint Job”, but that seems unlikely. GZA and Nas are for your mind. Ignorant rap is for your soul. We listen to it when you want to avoid deep feelings, when we want to feel shallow. Ignorant rap glosses over the underlying social processes the fuel the rampant consumerism, violence, and vulgarity of hip hop—it is emblematic, not explanatory. It’s useless to criticize these rappers, since they simply don’t care. They’ve accrued the ability to grace a beat with a sense of cool just by calling a song their own and speaking over it. For these rappers, it’s maybe not about the money or the girls, as their verses might lead you to believe. It may just be about how we allow them to get up on the mic and say almost anything. It’s wordplay, not gunplay.

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Hey, how ya doin? It is almost summer 2013! School’s horrible clutch on your life is about to be relinquished and you can finally get the much-needed break you so rightfully have earned over the last 9 months. Imagine a time when you’re finally rid of the dreaded classroom setting and enjoying the freedom and relaxation of summer. Summers that are going to be spent outside, frying in the heat of an Earth that is becoming more unbearable by the day thanks to our good ol’ pal Global Warming, and basking in the freedom of nothingness as you stare blankly at the walls of your bedroom for way too long and start freaking yourself out. Summers that are going to be spent angrily reloading Xbox Live on Halo 4 for the umpteenth time and chasing tail at the local soda parlor. Sounds awesome right? It definitely will be! But for the majority of students, the journey to the academic finish line comes with one final gut check: final examinations. As we approach the final weeks before stress and studying reaches an all time boiling point, I invite you to indulge in a little slice of summer vacation come early in the form of “How Ya Doin?” by UK pop group, Little Mix.

Little Mix is a British four-piece girl pop group that was formed in 2011 exclusively for the eighth series of The X factor. They became the first group to win in the program’s eight-year history and followed the success by signing to United States record company Columbia Records. They have been dubbed the NEXT Spice Girls by the Pop Gods, which is high praise for any recording artist, given the Spice Girls reign of success (terror) on the global record scale, but it is praise rightfully earned as they have garnered quite a presence in the UK pop scene.

The song I am sharing today, “How Ya Doin?” is a solid representation of what this group has to offer. It features a classic 90’s R&B feel that combines airy synths, a subtle baseline, and a repetitive drum pattern into what can only be referred to as a joyous occasion for a whole three minutes and 34 seconds. There is something to be said about self-righteous girl power pop and chorus singing in unison that I don’t think any man can resist bobbing their head to. Add in a feature from Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot and you find yourself in the midst of one of the most fun pop songs made in any country.

On a day when most blogs are reposting the same Kid Cudi stoner track while rolling up blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt, we, here at TwoHundredAndTen, are proud to be bringing you the reincarnated Spice Girls with the accompanying colorful video and angry YouTube comment section. Music is meant to make you happy, and this song, while maybe getting mad plays from elementary to teenage girls, will induce an eternal happiness that is sure to trump any high that will be brought to you by an infinitesimal green plant. Take heed and say no to drugs! (Just kidding)

Here, we have two black female artists delivering vocal performances over hip hop and R&B beats (with the electronic music aesthetic that we’ve come to expect these days. The basic elements of both albums are very similar, but Cassie gets a lot of help from a supporting cast of fairly famous featured artists and producers, from Jeremih to Rick Ross to Pusha T—on the production side, there is definitely a Young Chop drop on this mixtape. The production on her album, RockaByeBaby, is sparse, and most of its melodic components come from Cassie’s vocals and harmonies. Also, Cassie seems to be listening to The-Dream these days, very much taking to heart his message in “Slow it Down”—there are not real dance tracks on this album, nothing like her hit “King of Hearts”. Standouts from RockaByeBaby include “Sound of Love (ft. Jeremih)” and “Numb (ft. Rick Ross)”. But ultimately, this Cassie album sounds like a lot of slower Rihanna songs. It’s never bad to be compared to an artist as talented and successful as Rihanna, but it does mean that the sound is a bit stale, as Rihanna has been omnipresent on the radio for years now.

The SZA album is a bit weaker vocally, but that has more to do with the lushness of the production. Various producers sprinkle sounds all over this mixtape, from the Fleetwood Mac sample that Felix Snow weaves into “Castles” to the shotgun sound that WNDRBRD includes shortly before the beat comes in on “Aftermath”. S has a much more alternative feel—it has those tracks without much pop appeal in which SZA’s vocals are buried beneath some more experimental production. But four tracks really carry the eight-track mixtape: “Castles”, “Aftermath”, “Ice.Moon”, and “Wings”. These tracks have a lot of depth, both in terms of production and vocal performance. Again, these are just hip hop and R&B beats at the core, but SZA’s producers let her vocals carry the songs for a while before dropping in the beats. The songs benefit from the gradual addition of layers and extra sounds until they reach a climax of depth before fading out.

The two tracks to listen to are “Sound of Love (ft. Jeremih)” by Cassie and “Aftermath (prod. WNDRBRD)” by SZA. A big part of the song selection from the Cassie mixtape is that Jeremih is killing it with the collaborations these days.

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Since the separation of underground music and major labels, dream music collaborations have always been nothing more than hopeful wishes. You’ve always had that favorite underground producer who you wish would do a track with that famous major label rapper, but instead of having your dreams realized you see your favorite rapper churn out another terrible, big label release under the restricted and watchful eye of people who love money more than music.

Luckily, these days, with a great deal of help from the Internet, some fantasy collaborations are finally coming to fruition. Although, with that being said, I don’t think I wanted to see Hudson Mohawke working with Kanye West but I did want to see him making the crossover to major label rap, so Ye will have to do for now. Plus it will be interesting to see how big an already huge sound can get.

Although rap is generally where we wish we’d see some of these more outrageous dreams come true, one of the areas I feel like they would be the most enjoyable is in conglomeration with Rhythm & Blues singers. We’ve already seen how successful it can be with Abel Tesfaye working with Zodiac and Illangelo and just a couple of weeks ago we were treated to another successful collaboration when WeDidIt’s Shlohmo and Def Jam’s R&B heartthrob Jeremih came together to produce “Bo Peep, (Do U Right). San Fransisco based video/music outlet Yours Truly had the two get together and create a song as apart of their “Songs From Scratch” series which had produced some what successful collaborations in the past (Lunice & Angel Haze, Danny Brown & Araabmuzik) but “Bo Peep” is by far the best.

There are two things that have occurred in recent years that not only made this collaboration happen, but made it work so cohesively. The first is the emergence of DJs as true artists. Djs have obviously been around for years, and have been BEHIND the scenes of every major artist to grace your ears, but never has their presence been felt so strongly as independent, standalone, artists as it is today. And its not just a few talented artists in the UK who have some brilliant minds and are floating in a music cloud above us Americans; its Djs and producers from all over the soundclouds universe who are gaining notoriety. The second and probably most reaching claim I will make is about the current state of R&B. The Weeknd happened, and I realize that it wasn’t just Abel Tesfaye who was incorporating a whole plethora of interesting and new sounds to his crooning, but he did make quite a splash and reopened a somewhat desolate genre that had been recreating some of the same music we had already heard before. Despite your feelings of the pre-Weekdnd R&B landscape, there is no denying that his popularity made it a lot easier to get on Pitchfork and gain popularity by having interesting production and a willingness to experiment a little. 

So yeah, these things made for an artistic atmosphere that would allow for this to work, and an audience that would allow this to succeed, not to mention it just sounds really great. It is obvious that Shlohmo stands alone as an independent artist, and Jeremih an experienced R&B veteran throughout the track. So I think its especially fitting that the song’s artist is titled “Shlohmo & Jeremiah” and not one featuring the other. The two work together masterfully and you can tell the cohesion and chemistry is there. Throughout the track Jeremih’s crooning takes center stage, then backs off a little bit while Shlohmos production takes the spotlight. They are in perfect harmony throughout and that’s what makes it so brilliant. No one oversteps their boundaries, and instead of getting a strictly R&B tune or a strictly electronic track, we get “Shlohmo & Jeremih,” a collaboration in its most pure form. 

Just recently Shlohmo had a performance in San Francisco where Jeremih was the special guest. What other collaboration works out so well that the two then put a show on together? Remember when TNGHT did a show in New York and Kanye West came out and wildly waved his hands and mouthed some lyrics? Yeah, that is the future of these dream collab performances. Either way, I love it. You can watch the creation of the song below as apart of the series, and download the track as well.

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A hungry teenage rapper has emerged on the Internet, rapping years above his age, and drawing his influences from artists who are not named Drake or 2 Chainz, but MF Doom. His subject matter is alarming, and he speaks unabashedly about being unable to hear Jesus “cause the weed loud as Mack trucks,” and about bagging a “fine chick” with “bad tats and an accent.” This content matter is most alarming when coupled with the repetitive boom bap of a beat that sounds like it came from the Golden age of hip-hop and not 2013. You add in the creepy visuals that display snippets of an old movie in a flaxen hue and we have ourselves a bonafied Internet miscreant. To make matters worse, this 15-year-old rapper isn’t alone. He runs with an 11-man crew of producers, mixers, rappers, and filmmakers who started off as a bunch of skaters but are now taking this rap shit seriously.

If this was an excerpt from a 2010 Concerned Mothers blog post, the rest of this article would be dedicated to the collective of rappers who Kills Them All. But this is 2013, and we live in a post-Odd Future world where the reality of artists being able to build and create careers off of the mystery of Tumblr and 2 minute long YouTube clips is a reality. And normally, these sorts of things don’t cause for that much attention to be drawn to them. The resemblance to the LA collective previously mentioned is quite obvious, and the comparisons to be made are just and warranted, and do nothing but diminish the quality of what they’re doing, but Chester Watson and his Nu Age Syndicate actually may be onto something great here.

Chester Watson, the 15 year old rapper who this post is dedicated to, is from St. Louis, and has released three mixtapes so far in his young career. Chester, according to Odd Future Talk has been a member of OFT Forums since 2012 so the influence makes perfect sense, but while he isn’t going to be the next rapper to wear a Sweatshirt, he does bring his own charisma and charm to his music the likes of which are not seen in large quantities today. Also he can rap his ass off. So this is actually something that is worth checking out.

His most recent tape, Phantom, combines an “old school vibe” with “story telling” and a “stoner vibe,” according to the DatPiff description, and it works really well. The beat selection is on point, and features production from Onra, Chuck Inglish, and MF DOOM, as well as others. Checkout the tape here, and watch the cool, retroish video for the lead track and mixtape highlight, “Phantom,” below. Chester and the Nu Age Syndicate are going to be something worth watching in 2013.

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