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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Beautiful is rarely something that’s said about records these days. Flying Lotus’s Until The Quiet Comes is beautiful. From beginning to end, Quiet is a force that provides the swiftest kick in the most delicate manner. The fourth album from Mr. Steven Ellison a.k.a Flying Lotus, Quiet is bass-heavy, melodic, whimsical and intimate; it’s an album packed with ideas and, with guest vocals from Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu, full of soul. If you haven’t already, make sure to grab a copy of Until The Quiet Comes. Easily a contender for album of the year and proof that only good things can come when you attend the school of J Dilla.

Over time, as I’ve watched society slowly try to cave in on itself, I’ve thought more and more about “Parable Of The Sower”. The gripping apocalyptic novel by Octavia Butler follows life in a futuristic, codeless hellscape through the eyes of a 16 year old black girl named Lauren. The book follows her day to day life in a world of ever increasing uncertainty; where none are sure whether today will be their last, and whatever innocence remains in the lives of her and the other children are slowly being shredded away. What really makes Sower worthwhile is how it handles the major themes of life that we grapple with daily: survival, strength, love, sex, family and, at the forefront, religion. Butler’s ruminations through the eyes of a young girl are engrossing, chilling and poetic–and the book itself is a magnetic deconstruction of the “comfortable” society built for us. Personally, I’ve thought about this book a lot as I’ve watched the world slowly eat itself, bit by bit, each day; finding the story it lays out even scarier. If you’re interested in finding a new book to read, this is definitely one to add to the list.

Why? has always been an interesting band. Johnathan “Yoni” Wolf’s blend of melodic harmonies and endearingly rough rap styles have made them intriguing and addictive but overtime, as the amateur scruffiness of their younger days have be scuffed and shined over time, it’s become much harder to embrace them. That’s not to say their latest album Mumps, etc. isn’t good, just moreso stating that it’s not what it could be. 2008’s Alopecia was an instant obsession; blasted on repeat for that entire summer. The next release, 2009’s Eskimo Snow, wasn’t the best follow-up but it grew on me and I respected its focus on songmanship. Now after a small hiatus, Why? returned with a solid EP and album, that continues on that path of crafting great pop songs. Commendable and definitely worthwhile, Yoni’s just as great with words as ever, but his raps are what’s truly missed. He, and maybe everyone else, may not think so but his rap skill was just as intricate and engaging as anyone else’s; without them being a strong factor it feels incomplete.

It’s been raining all weekend. Which means, I’ve been listening to R&B all weekend. From the old to the new, I’ve been blasting the best harmonies, rhythms and just feel-good vibes into my ears through this dreary chill-fest happening everyday for the past 3 days. For the sake of this excerpt, I’ll stick to just talking about the new music:

Solange “Losing You” 

Everyone told me this was good, so naturally I went in highly skeptical—arms crossed and all. I’m currently on my 15th listen (seriously, this song is so good). I’ve always liked Solange for the simple fact that she never tried to be her sister; she’s always tried to have her own style. Well damn it if her style isn’t mine as well, the song is just fun, infectious and makes you want to dance around while the video, despite treading the boundaries of some manic pixie dream girl-level quirk, is just so addictive to watch over and over again. This is easily my song of the moment.

Rihanna & Beyonce

I think I gained a whole new appreciation for these two over the weekend; they’ve easily made some of the best music over the years that they’ve been on top. Rihanna making the marriage between electronic/dance music and pop look better than anyone else has been able to and Queen B does what she does best: make music that lasts lifetimes—I mean between songs like “countdown”, “dance for you”, “naughty girl”, “single ladies” and “irreplaceable”, she can go from singlehandedly saving your relationship to ending it in seconds. (That’s a skill.)

Miguel “Kaleidoscope Dream”

Miguel’s sophomore album, Kaleidoscope Dream, debuted this past week and—as a fan of true R&B music—I have to hand it to the guy, he made a great record. It’s definitely one that will be in rotation for a while with me. While I found his first release to be decent, I only enjoyed it in a guilty pleasure sense. I’m happy to say that this time around I can admit to liking the album with no shame, it’s that enjoyable.

Wiz Khalifa ft. The Weeknd “Remember You”

Ok technically, this is Wiz’s song but we all know who the star was in this case. R&B crooner/drug enthusiast Abel Tesfaye—better known as the Weeknd—makes this song as infectious as it is and reminds us just how good he can be. We haven’t heard to much from the young artist since he wrapped up the trilogy earlier this year so this was a nice little present for the fans. Not to say Wiz doesn’t do his part to help the song (he does), but I mean come on man, the Weeknd steals this one.

The idea of family is one that has been permeating in my mind a lot lately–for the past year really. I guess that’s what happens when you move away from them to explore life on your own. As I try to figure out things for myself, I realize how much I yearn for the seemingly simplistic days of a world before responsibility and despite how much bad there was in our family, I miss them and yearn to get closer as each day passes. Which brings me to The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson’s de facto family case study. The cracked relationships between family members is nothing new for Anderson–he touched on it in his two previous pictures Bottle Rocket and Rushmore and has touched on it ever since. What makes this one the top-tier, other than specifically being about a fractured family, is it seems to be the most personal. In the commentary for The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson explains that the writing process started when, longtime friend and collaborator, Owen Wilson suggested he write about his parents divorce. Anderson admits he started out that way but as the story progressed it took a life of its own and went into a new direction–although it’s not hard to see that some autobiographical elements are sprinkled throughout.

Now, more than ever, this film resonates with me. With its themes of heartbreak, self-destruction,familial turmoil and peaking at an early age, I watch Anderson’s whimsically gloomy affair with brand new eyes. I watch it and see my own family, not because the events are familiar but because the themes are. From the opening scene with Alec Baldwin’s grizzly deep and straight-laced narration telling the tale of the family from “the house on Archer Avenue” over the organ instrumental of “Hey Jude” to the bittersweet sort-of-happy ending, The Royal Tenenbaums is a candid slice of upper crust Americana that somehow finds semblance with anyone from a dysfunctional setting. Its usage of color, infiltration of obscure pop and punk music of the 60s and 70s, its calculated and meticulous direction and focus–sometimes reminiscent of french films–it’s all standard Andersonian theatrics and it’s a credit to him that, although at times it straddles the line of self-parody, it’s still wonderfully poignant to this day.

Anderson’s expose on rich kid blues and genius families that aren’t so genius, has been standard watch for me since I first saw it on television years ago. It was the movie that introduced me to his filmography, a collection I instantly fell in love with and still love to this day. Anderson’s focus on the relationships made between people, family or otherwise, and the dysfunctions that ensue are unique and artfully rendered. I urge you all to watch it again (or for the first time) along with me this weekend and together we can all search our feelings and curse Wes Anderson for actually making us like Gwyneth Paltrow. (Even if it’s only for two hours.)

So for about a week or so there’s been a new Rihanna track circling the wagon that everyone seems to be sitting on. Now I’ll be frank (no ocean), I don’t dislike Rihanna (shifty eyes)…Okay, I do, but for reasons I don’t have the time to delve into. But unlike my “RiRi-Hater” cohorts who see no good in the self proclaimed Good Girl Gone Bad, the majority of my reasons are comprised of musical quality, or lack thereof. Don’t get me wrong, RiRi has lots of talent, otherwise she wouldn’t be where she is, and so highly celebrated. And while this is Hollywood, where the “real” is harder to find than a g-string on a fat man in a two-door coupe, they don’t tend to hang around fakes too long either (see Milli Vanilli).

For me, it is her talents, at least one in particular, that annoys me. Like the majority of her hits, RiRi seems to have the “catchy track” jones. Whether it was Pon de Replay (when we mixed her up with M.I.A in 05’), S.O.S, Umbrella ella ella (ey ey ey), Don’t Stop The Music…Music, Hard ey ey ey so hard (sorry Jizzle), Rude Boy Boy, S&M, Birthday Cake cake cake cake cake cake cake (not to be confused with 2Chainz’ Bday special) or Diamonds, Rihanna will work the hell out of a catchy tune. This is to be commended because of course you need to move units. Unfortunately for her she’s become so good at it that she’s a Mega star because of it. People overseas and in the states flock to her shows and will beat you down for anything ill thrown her way (Don’t be standing outside my window damnit).

Now maybe I’m the only one that believes this, but once you become a mega-star the pressure should continue to build along with your skills and success. But, I honestly think we get so caught up just jamming along to an otherwise catchy song that we skip over a lot of bad vocals, stale verses, terrible live performances, or we (not so much I, hence the blog) simply don’t care. So then where’s the appreciation for the art? Why do people rip Beyonce (the Queen of the hive) when her performance is slightly less than goddess-like? Why not say Soulja Boy (king of catchy dance tunes) is the best rapper alive? Why didn’t they make Soul Plane 2? Why was D.L Hughley and Cedric on the Original Kings of Comedy and not Martin?? (Yeah I went there #Runteldat)

With this Diamonds track, you know, the one that had to be written after a long and trippy night at K.O.D, hence saying DIAMONDS 39 Times!! (Insert Chief Keef ANY phrase here) It was simply the same formula, same result. It says truly nothing. Or, at least nothing you can’t text. I can just imagine how this went down in the studio… RiRi: Yo…fool I got this hard ass track tho! (thug life) Crew: str8 str8 RiRi: Check it…We shine bright….(laughs and hits the molly) We shine bright like…like..like a diamond ohhhhh shit…Crew: ……str8 str8.

As I looked for a deeper explanation on rapgenius,com I noticed that RiRi has gotten so advanced on the catchy song flow that this track had a PRE Hook, Hook, and Post Hook, which had to take up ¾ of the entire song…where’s the verse space!? #wddda #barbados. You don’t have to try to talk about Slavery, Somalia, Women’s Rights, Education, or the Economy (see what I did there) but if you make a love song, go all the way in. Remember RiRi you’re a mega-star. If we label people mega-stars shouldn’t we get our moneys worth? When Jay-Z or Ye drop an album in comparison with say Young Dro (Best Thang Smokin’ was fie back in 06’), there is a huge difference. The pressure, criticism, detail, skill, everything is heightened due to an appreciation and respect of the artist and music. When RiRi drops an album (she’s done so every year 2005-2012, except 2008’) its like lets hit the club and get ready for a continuation of this album next year, just like last year. Just one huge compilation. Which is fine if you’re trying to make your cash and dash! Just not so much for a mega-star who millions idolize.

And I’m speaking on the masses that hear your singles on the radio. In today’s day and age, you buy an album at your own risk. So if the album is trash, use iTunes album preview. But, for those who for whatever reason can’t and only see you on TV or listen to radio, you have to do better. The game calls for it. RiRi is much better than the Diamonds track, or is she? Cause at the end of the day I’ll probably have all 39 diamonds stuck in my head. Or cubic zirconia, I’m on a budget; either way we’re screwed til’ the next fish line is cast out.

Torch Eberhart is an inspired and highly motivated filmmaker eager to create reflective films that impose a sense of urban culture. The themes of separation and loss are prevalent in his stories due to his inspirations in Japanese Manga and Anime. But his films are not absent from the surreal and imaginary, as Torch believes the ultimate goal of a movie viewer is to escape the threshold of their everyday lives; to venture out and enjoy the real and unreal stories of others. You can check out his site here and you can follow him on twitter here.

Today, October 1st, is Nigerian Independence Day. A day important to me as someone born of Nigerian parents but moreso than that, aday that makes me think of family. This is my 2nd independence day away from home, no big deal other than I miss out on a lot of food, but it does make me think back to being a kid again. A kid who couldn’t care less about my heritage because I was too busy getting teased for it in school. Most of us kids were that way, we didn’t know much about the culture we were in, yet it was still something cherished in our own way, how else can you explain the wistfulness in which I recall those moments. So on this day of independence, I think back to the people who gave me some of the best years of my life. You know, when you’re young your parents tell you that family is all you need; you never really listen to them because when you spend all your time with the same people, you tend not to appreciate them. But they’re right essentially, all you have in this life is your family and the ones close enough to be considered family. So to all o my family, I wish you all a Happy Independence Day.

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