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I don’t know where history stands on Bloc Party. I was so sure by now there’d be the big revisit of their first album, 2005’s Silent Alarm, or at the very least they’d headline one of the big music festivals where–like with The Killers–everyone could pretend they were totally into them the whole time. No such thing has occurred: you won’t even hear “Banquet” on a movie trailer anymore. It could be that nobody really cared about this band. Not that they weren’t liked but just that nobody cared. I don’t even know why I care.

I revisited the album on a whim; in my current depressive and borderline suicidal state I did what I always do and reached for the warm, history-rewriting hands of nostalgia. Nostalgia can be euphoric in small doses for a person like me, who is always miserable or at least prone to misery. It says “hey remember when you were young and thought you were miserable, those were actually your best days.” I was in high school when Silent Alarm came out; I discovered it through a Simpsons message board I was a member of. “Banquet” was also a pretty big song around that time but for me it’s dull and easy. “Like Eating Glass” was the better single and perfect way to start the album; overflowing with controlled chaos and emotion.

I don’t really believe in the idea of “not knowing how good you have it”. It’s dismissive of very real problems that affect humans of any age. If you’re a kid prone to depression like I was it shouldn’t be treated as a phase; the kinda beautiful (but still dangerous) thing about nostalgia though is that it skips the everyday drudgery and just gives you the “best of” moments of your youth where there’s no barking from the dogs, no smog and momma cooks the breakfast with no hog. This allows you to find the comfortable pockets to build a home in. I don’t remember too many details about that time but I remember the music I listened to, including Bloc Party, and I remember getting lost in them and finding safety where there was none in my actual life. Plus the songs are really good: “This Modern Love”, “So Here We Are” and “Blue Light” are still the soundtrack to the low budget indie romance in my head. “Pioneers” is exhilarating and “Positive Tension” is still a goofy song but in a lovable way.

I really can’t fathom why there isn’t a bunch of millennial internet blog fawning over them. And I don’t mean in the easy clickbait retrospective way that every band, artist and album will eventually receive from eager writers that need quick ideas for content to produce for their media site of choice (yes that’s a subtweet but mostly at myself); I mean an actual, critical reevaluation. Kele Okereke’s unmistakable voice and emotionally vulnerable writing could be touching, thrilling and cheeky; dependent on what the song asked for. He wasn’t an amazing singer but his voice had a rhythm and groove to it that fit with the drum and bass heavy sound of the music. They were the rock band I would’ve wanted to be in when I was 16 –making the early “emotional club banger” before it became a true concept. But this is just what I feel and–to go back to the state of internet retrospectives– whatever argument I make in favor of you remembering or revisiting this great album is primarily based on my own emotional ties more than some reasoned argument about where it stands against the other albums like it around that time such as Is This It? or Turn On The Bright Lights. Most of the nostalgia writing on the internet is based on this same thing, a bunch of adults remembering the things that made them happy as kids and churning out a quick thousand words on it. I get it –who doesn’t want to believe a personal favorite means something more important to the culture. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it though. In my darkest mental moments, I turned to a 11 year old album most people probably forgot about and found a brief moment of solace. When the things you love stand your own personal test of time can be more important than anything.

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When Harry Met Sally, starring Drake

One a car ride from Toronto to New York, Drake and Sally get into a discussion about whether or not men and women can be friends. Sally insists that they can, while Drake maintains that they can’t, stating “all my let’s just be friends are friends I don’t have anymore”. Years later, while still maintaining these attitudes, they inadvertently end up sleeping together, which causes a rift in their friendship. Afterwards, Sally moves on with another guy and Drake passive aggressively writes about her and uses her voicemail messages in songs.

You’ve Got Mail, starring Drake

Drake has a contentious relationship with a young woman who spends all her time going to LIV after church on Sundays even though she’s a good girl and he knows it. Unbeknownst to him, they begin an intense internet romance. When he finds out that this new beau is his rival he realizes that it is his mission to save her from herself by calling her out in his music.

Pretty Woman, starring Drake

Drake falls in love with a stripper he met at Magic City. This one pretty much writes itself.

Notting Hill, starring Drake

Drake plays a humble bookstore owner who falls in love with a Barbados pop star and finds it difficult to stay in her life because he keeps cramping her style.

Garden State, starring Drake

Drake is very sad, so Natalie Portman introduces him to Skepta music and dancehall in order to change his life. It doesn’t really make him feel better but at least he got some ideas for how his next album should sound.

Knocked Up, starring Drake

After a raucous night at 1 Oak ending in sexual relations, Drake finds out that his one night stand is pregnant and tries to prove his worth as father material despite his erratic schedule and  the fact that he lives in a home with an unnecessary amount of hangers on, R&B singers and random niggas he doesn’t even know. Despite her wanting to feel comfortable raising a baby with him and walking around naked in his kitchen without running into some stranger, Drake insists that that’s not the life he’s living. Will these crazy kids figure it out? who knows.

Jerry Maguire, starring Drake

Actually this one is exactly the same.

 

2015 BET Awards - Show

At the End of The Sellout, Paul Beatty’s merciless satire of the intersection between black culture and America, there’s a moment when the main character stands up in a room full of other black people and poses the question: what exactly is “our” thing?”

For much of 2015 we’ve seen a surplus of rappers grapple with their identity. From how they look at themselves to how they look at their people to what fame has meant to their lives within this context; the music has been a reflection of the internal conflict these artists face.

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is the most obvious example of this. Both for its obvious uses of symbolism to talk about fame and for its explicit college textbook insight on Blackness. Kendrick’s purposefully uncomfortable, erratic record finds him jumbling guilt and success and the concept of duty. “What does Kendrick Lamar represent” is a question that weighs heavily on his mind and it’s a question he is constantly working through. A song like “The Blacker The Berry” rages against systemic racism before confronting intercommunity violence by veering dangerously close if not right into respectability. And yet, you have a song like “Alright” that promotes the idea that no matter how bad it gets for black people in America, we will survive. It’s our “We Shall Overcome” and its usage in protests and parties signify such. Kendrick uses the desolate environment from which he came and his newfound fame as a springboard to express his turmoil, much in the same way that Vince Staples does in his major label debut: Summertime ‘06. But where Kendrick is ultimately motivated by religious faith and hope, Vince comes off mostly jaded and hardened; choosing to personify the various characters spiraling towards the same dead end that is urban plight.

On the album’s most melancholy track “Summertime”, Vince laments: “my teacher told us we was slaves, my momma told us we were kings/I don’t know who to listen to, I guess we’re somewhere in between”. These are lines that pierce the heart and get to the root at the tug of war between what blackness means to society and how black people have to counterbalance it. There is no benevolent God in Vince’s world. The moral arc of the universe bends towards chaos and Vince expresses an acceptance in this fact while still chasing after any beauty that may be left. Instead of hope, Vince gives you the stories of dealers, crackheads, gangsters and those who mourn to remind you that there are people living in ruin that deserve to be heard. There’s survivor’s guilt in these raps much as in the same way there’s survivor’s guilt hidden passed the decadence and thrill in most trap music. Maybe the biggest example of this in 2015 is found in Future’s music.

I’d argue that there isn’t anyone in music who had a more eventful year than Future. For Future, his 2015 started in October 2014 with the release of his Monster mixtape; a tape that saw him backtrack from that pop direction of his last album Honest and return to a grimier, street aesthetic while still maintaining just as much vulnerability. “Throw Away” is a breakup song in the truest sense: full of anger, defensiveness, passion and tears. It’s at one moment completely ridiculous (“fucking these hoes mean too damn much to you”) and the next extremely open-hearted (“if loving me in public ain’t safe, you can take my love and hide it”). “Codeine Crazy” is just textbook depression: an open admission to taking drugs to feel better about life. Future followed Monster up with 2 more great mixtapes (Beast Mode and 56 Nights) that follow this same trajectory before releasing his 3rd album, Dirty Sprite 2. DS2 is one long sad party: the musical embodiment of being in the coolest place imaginable: bottles popping, money being thrown around and beautiful people everywhere and yet still feeling like shit because you realize you’re still empty inside. What separates Future the most from the other artists mentioned in this essay is that his feelings are rarely explicit. They come out in fragments and bursts during songs that on the face feel like party records or drug glorification. When Future raps that he’s “an addict and I can’t even hide it”, it’s nothing short of a cry for help hidden in your favorite chest pumping, turn up song. This is even more apparent in his collab record with Drake, What A Time To Be Alive. Both rappers more often than not, seem to be recording two different albums.

Future isn’t even hiding his depression most of the time here: going from heartbreak and sadness in “Digital Dash” to survivor’s remorse in “Live From The Gutter”. WATTBA is not a great record but it is an interesting one full of more pain that was probably expected from casual fans of Future (and from the album title itself). A fun activity that many people who are charged with writing about music seem to be engaging in is the contrasting of Drake and Future as the story between an opportunistic, vain sycophant (Drake) and a nihilistic, pure street rapper (Future) but these labels are unfair to both men. Drake has spent an entire career wearing his heart on his sleeve for better or for worse. Regardless of whether or not you think the music is good, Drake is an artist who expresses everything about himself. He’s an open book: we know when he’s in love, when his heart aches, when he’s being passive aggressive or condescending and when he’s just committing to the “business of rap” in order to sell himself as a product.

Drake’s album/mixtape If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late didn’t signify a change so much as it allowed Drake to fully embrace the Jay Z lying inside him. Full of calculated bangers, cockiness and joie de vivre, the album felt different from Drake’s previous work in that it focused less on emotions and more on the moment. That’s not to say it’s completely devoid of insight, one of the best lines of the whole record comes from “You & the 6”, a personal conversation between him and his mother, where he raps “I used to get teased for being black and now I’m here and I’m not black enough”. There’s always been an inherent whiff of this attitude in the criticisms levied at Drake, whether it’s about his persona, his musical acumen or his brand. Drake’s blackness for whatever reason (be it how he carries himself or his racial makeup) is allowed to be dissected and, at least for this year, Drake has addressed it at many points in his music this year. Drake may be Disney at this point but it seems silly to pretend he’s never exposed his soul for his audience.

For my money, the best exploration of blackness in terms of fame and inner torment was made by Earl Sweatshirt. Earl’s third album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, picks up where Doris left off: exploring a celebrity that Earl never asked for and resents while trying to figure out what kind of person he wants to be. I Don’t Like Shit is filled with the ghosts of personal demons floating throughout. It is everything that To Pimp A Butterfly is without the pretense or the theatrics; punch your soul music over punch your face beats. Earl is the most fascinating person in rap to me because he seems to openly hate being a rapper while loving rap. His music is guarded and purposely uninviting in order for him to feel comfortable enough to actually share himself.  Celebrity is hell and for a black artist, it can feel even more intolerable; if there was a theme amongst many rappers in 2015 it was that music could allow for a way to cope in this prison. More important to that blackness, these artists proved that the question of what “our thing” is is more prescient than ever.

Bosco – Boy

Initially, my impression when committing to listening to this record was that I was in store for more whispery Alt-R&B tumblr music. In some ways that’s what this is but the saving grace is that Bosco has a really good voice that is used in really effective ways most of the time on this record. That’s always been the saving grace for these sorts of records: you can pack with all the neat sound effects and echoes you want, but it always comes down to whether or not the voice of the singer can make a big enough impression on the listener. More than that, my biggest issue with this genre is that it is not nearly interesting enough to get away with being all attitude/image with very little introspection if any at all. The songs are all good and in the end that wins out over any cynicism I have about the style of music; my hope is that as she releases more music, we get more of an idea of the singer is behind the persona.

 

Janine And The Mixtape – XXEP

I didn’t care for the last JATM record: it was fine enough but wasn’t anything that stood out in any real way. I found much more satisfaction in this one. XXEP feels more fully fleshed out and worked on. The sound is reminiscent of 90s-early 00s R&B/pop and her earnestness is endearing in a way that tugs at the emotional teenager inside of you. I don’t know that I can ever get behind a tender, love ballad version of DMX’s “Up In Here” but aside from that jarring moment, this is a small, lovely record that’s easy to get through and embrace.

 

Grace – Memo

This is a really traditional soul record in a lot of ways. Grace has a powerful voice that she belts out to full power and versatility with a production aesthetic that is junkier, busier and, in a lot of ways, outdated for what is popular in the genre now. Yet it works for what it is: Grace is a really good singer bringing a matter-of-fact confidence and attitude about womanhood and sex to old school aesthetics. It’s a “Love & Hip-Hop” soundtrack of a EP and, yes, I mean that in a very good way. There’s something freeing about a blunt singer like Grace and as comforting as the music is here, I’d be interested in hearing if there are other more original sounds that can work in her favor.

 

Rico Love – Turn The Lights On

I did not think this record would be good at all. Maybe that’s unfair to Rico Love–who’s made good music for other good artists–but my expectations were considerably low after being either disappointed or turned off by every single he’s released (ugh, let’s all forget “Bitches Be Like”). Needless to say, I was presently surprised by it. Another case of a strong songwriter making mainstream R&B that isn’t hopelessly shallow or derivative. This record is passionate, lust-filled and introspective in a way I wasn’t prepared for and it triumphs because of it.

 

Miss Ester Dean – Self-Titled

This was my favorite of the R&B records I listened to for this post. It’s twice the “Love & Hip-hop”-esque ruminations on relationships and sex that Grace’s record was. Dean is confrontational, aggressive and self-assured even when she’s lifting the curtain on personal insecurity. It sounds like every rap record being played in clubs and parties at the moment but they suit her. It feels akin to Dream’s latest EP from April in both tone and sound; Dean’s voice has strength and character–you want to go along with the ride she’s taking you on. I even liked the Mustard produced one… mostly. SN: I hope records like this will signal the start of Keyshiacore because music influenced by Keyshia Cole would be a great thing.

 

MNEK – Small Talk

This is my second favorite of the group. This is also sort of a cheat because MNEK is more in line with Dance music and homages to the 90’s Techno-wave then it is with R&B, MNEK sings with all the character and conviction of a kid who grew up listening to Boys II Men records. The songs ooze the musicality of a Luther Vandross but over the synth keyboard and bass of songs that sound like funkier versions “Like The Desert Miss The Rain”. In a lot of ways, it’s most reminiscent of the Whitney Houston record “It’s Not Right, But It’s Ok” or last year’s MJB record. More than anything else, it’s a good record that makes people who don’t like dancing want to dance. It’s either the soundtrack to start the party or the one that ends it, just dependent on how you feel that night.

 

Very few artists are as good at dismissing fame as Earl Sweatshirt. He spent the prime years of Odd Future’s unlikely ascent in a therapeutic retreat school for at-risk boys because he kept fucking up at home. He was unable to enjoy the success of the crew as well as his own personal success after the release of his first album Earl in 2010. In a 2013 interview with GQ, Earl talked about life in the skill and the hopelessness that he felt for that first year and how ultimately, he had to work his issues out from within:

After that year happened, I convinced myself that home wasn’t real, that it was a figment of my imagination – that I was going to die there. Because as far as I was concerned, I was like, “What the fuck can you show me of home?” When I closed my eyes and opened them, all I see is the palm trees.”

This sort of pushing away of reality informed a lot of Earl’s follow-up record Doris, and now, his latest record: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. I Don’t Like Shit is very good, very small record that feels very labored over, obsessed about, planned thoroughly but still rushed through. It’s a special kind of underground hip-hop that somehow accidentally got thrusted into the limelight. The first three times I listened to it, I felt yanked into its embrace only to be let go before I had a chance to fully get comfortable. In some ways, this is probably the intention: what made Doris so great (and so underappreciated) is it diverted away from the shock-Rap of Earl that brought so much attention to him and Odd Future in general, and instead made an insular, abandoned-basement grimey, rap album full of self-loathing, introspection and blasé attitudes towards fame.

I Don’t Like Shit doubles down on this while showing a growth in his writing and production (Earl produced all but one song under the pseudonym randomblackdude). Earl seems to be diving into this zone of purely idiosyncratic rap music that feels hopeless and depressing on the surface, but is always undercut with a irreverent attitude towards everything including his own sadness. I don’t find this album as bleak as others have claimed. There is a lot of the record that is about the loss of his grandmother and a recent breakup, but it does stand as more proof that Earl would rather make rap music for himself than for anyone else –even his own friends.

The music feels closed-off and uninviting: the rambles of a young man annoyingly navigating through fame like it’s rush hour at the train station. I think Earl Sweatshirt is the most fascinating rapper to me at the moment because he genuinely seems to resent the popularity he’s gotten and looks at maintaining it as a burden: “they the reason that the traffic on the browser quick, and they the reason that the paper in your trouser’s thick”, he raps on “Mantra”.

It’s not any real disdain but a feeling of weariness at having to always be on whenever he’s in public. The introvertedness of the record almost works in inverse relationship with his responsibilities as a public figure, and allow him the opportunity to pick at his own psyche and make sense of the things around him. He also seems to find the whole experience dull and unfulfilling. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside could be evaluated as both serious depression or just jaded eye-glazing at a shallow industry; for sure, it’s the musings of a young man looking for home.

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This morning, Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover dropped a new mixtape hosted by Gangsta Grillz/DJ Drama titled Stone Mountain. It’s… not horrible, but it’s also not very good. From the opening line “I had a dream I ran Atlanta” to the jacking of popular beats to songs like “Money Baby”, “Move That Dope” and “Go DJ” , it’s another exercise in Gambino trying too hard to prove something. Some of the songs sound good, some don’t, DJ Drama feels awkward and shoved in and at no point do you believe in anything being said on this record.

I’m a fan of Childish Gambino. I enjoyed Camp when damn near nobody else in the music blogosphere did. I thought Royalty was strong even if that tape also felt false at times. I think that Because The Internet was the strongest record of Gambino’s career. The production was elite and ambitious, the raps weren’t groundbreaking but the music felt soulful and personal. Despite this, the album felt too neat and incomplete; once again I was left with the feeling that I often feel after listening to every Gambino record, “he’s getting better but he’s still not there.”

Childish Gambino is a rapper that seems permanently on the cusp of puberty. He gives you enough flashes to believe that there’s a great musician hiding there but those flashes come out inconsistently enough to ever really enjoy him as an artist. The last song on BTI, “The Biggest Troll”, includes Gambino in a moment of quivering, naked emotion whispers “I don’t know who I am anymore” and it’s an easy thing to believe when all of his songs reveal that same truth.

One of the things that drew me to Gambino was his lost and depressed rap persona. As a lost depressed adult myself, I could appreciate someone who reminded me of my own feelings. I saw myself in him but, the one thing that acted as a deterrence for me has been how in flux he always seems on record. As an artist, if you can only accomplish one thing I would hope that thing is knowledge of self. More than not knowing who he is, Gambino doesn’t seem to know who he wants to be. It’s clear from his tweets and his interviews that he cares a lot about what people think of him and it bothers him the way people question his blackness. These are understandable concerns but at a certain point if you let everyone else tell you who to be you’ll become nothing.

I listened to Gambino’s Kauai EP. I enjoyed it for the most part even though a couple of the songs were a bit soggy. Gambino feels the most at home when he’s singing. You can hear his vulnerability and bare soul, while his raps feel like a mask put on to make himself more comfortable around other people. I’d like to here the vulnerable Gambino more: it’s a shame that he feels the need to posture and present himself as tougher than he is. It’s understandable though–rap was built on that sort of posturing–not everyone is believable at it though.

I’ve dealt with depression for most of my life. It’s a disease that seeps inside of you and takes over; you begin to believe that everything you are is wrong and negative and you cling to anything that will confirm the opposite. Everything I’ve read about and listened to from Gambino tells me that he’s cling to an idea of him being something worthwhile–anything but himself. As an artist, my hope is that he can get a better grip of who he is and make music that feels full and engaging. As his BTI tour has proven, he’s a huge artist with a huge fanbase. He doesn’t need me or any other blogger to tell him how to be. Despite that, I can see him and hear his music and know his truth. He’s still looking for himself as an artist and until he embraces this fact, he’ll always be in flux. At the end of Camp he talks about how he never got off the bus, maybe it’s time for him to make that first step out.

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Chicago is probably my favorite city to look at. Every time I’ve been here, I’ve spent my time taking in scenic views of the city: from the tall buildings and waterfronts to the graffiti-stained, rusty buildings and grimy side streets. It’s Friday morning and I’m on my way to my hotel to freshen up and meet up with my friends before the annual Pitchfork Music festival gets started. This is my second striaght year going to Pitchfork with the same group of friends that I’ve known for at least 4 years through an internet message board and it’s the first time that I’ll actually get to spend all my time here with them.

The day starts with drinking–because of course–and some waffle breakfast tacos (by the way, Taco Bell needs to desperately get on this) and then we finally make our way into Union Green Park to catch the bands for the day. Friday wasn’t my favorite really; I was really only excited for Bjork to get all weird and didn’t much care about anyone else that day. Joanna Newsom was lovely despite the fact that I was way too far away to really enjoy her harp-jamming and subtle and angelic vocals (it says a lot that she could command a crowd of hot, sweaty and intoxicated kids doing this by the way). Meanwhile my friend Katie was still stuck trying to find her appeal or why someone who looks 14 could get so many males to call her hot. Also, I guess it was cool hearing Savages play what sounded like the same song for 45 minutes–at the very least, it’s a good song. For me though,  it was all about Bjork and she didn’t disappoint. Armed with a giant squishie ball helmet and a groovy alien choir backing her up, she put on a great set of noise that people like me somehow think of as music. Of all the sets this weekend, hers was the most technically impressive (M.I..A. was a close second); she had lights and funky screen projections and was all prepared to dazzle until Sharknado showed up to wreak havoc on Chicago and cut her set off early. Afterwards, we braved that hellrain to get to an aftershow featuring Classixx and Chromatics in order to dance ourselves dry and listen to some dreamy dance music. I’m running on almost 48 hours without sleep and still drinking so I’m trying to keep moving and dancing in order to not pass out on the dancefloor (and if you think I’ve never fallen asleep in a club before, you’re sorely mistaken). By the time I made it back to the room I was half-asleep, my feet hurt and at some point me and three people shared a pizza at 2 in the morning: it was a good day.

Saturday was a new day, I’d gotten about 5 hours sleep and I was ready to get the day started and see two of my favorite acts: Solange and Belle & Sebastian. But first we checked out Ryan Hemsworth’s set to dance to hip-hop mashups and donkey kong beats. I’ve never been big on Hemsworth:his mixes are pretty good but I’m not crazy for his original stuff. Still, it is pretty cool that a kid who looks like a castoff from Laguna Beach is playing 3 6 mafia over a Lyfe Jenning’s beat. He also won us over by calling himself Asher Roth and saying to check him out on Datpiff. After that it was on to my mission of getting front and center for Solange and possibly getting a chance to ask her for marriage or at the very least getting to be in her presence long enough to have some of her coolness rub off on me. And she did not disappoint: with a fall of Afro-centric jumpsuit and dance moves that could fit in a Morris Day set, she made the world perfect for 45 minutes. Swoon city. Before long, it was time for me and all my internet friends to get ready for Belle & Sebastian, a band that holds a special place in most of our hearts and also a band that surprisingly put on a really fun, lively set to dance and sing-along to. I wasn’t expect some of these songs to work live as good as they did and singing along to If You’re Feeling Sinister was probably a highlight that it nowhere near as lame as it may seem. That night, we all went to a bar to drink, shoot the shit, drink more, play connect four, sing the Friends theme song with strangers, eat Mcdonalds at 2 am, feel shitty about eating McDonalds at 2 am and then when everyone else had crashed, the few of us that still had energy left made the trek to Millenium Park to watch the sunrise. Easily a top 10 day of my lifetime.

Sunday was probably the only day I wanted to get to the fest early so, naturally, that didn’t happen. Instead I rolled out of bed at 1, grabbed a quick breakfast and went to meet up with everyone and head to the park on what was the busiest day of the festival. I had a debate with a few people about how the R. Kelly set would go with this type of audience. I made the point that there was no way R. Kelly would have a Chicago performance without a typical R. Kelly fanbase showing up in droves and I was mostly right. There in the midst of hipster paradise was what looked like the members of every black person’s family reunion camped out on lawn chairs awaiting Mr. Robert Kelly. I don’t know what racial harmony looks like persay but I imagine that’s the closest we’ll get. It was wonderful. Sunday was probably the most spiritual day of the fest. Between Killer Mike putting on a fun yet conscious show that grappled with faith, the fucked up nature of our country and the violence pervading Chicago. Mike encouraged us all to be decent human beings to each other, which sounds simple but a lot of times simple is what we need the most. I found it especially smart that Killer Mike and El-P used their two separate sets to put on one big show that allowed them to perform their Run The Jewels material–which is a really great record if you didn’t know–but unfortunately, I had to make my way over to the other side of the park to catch Blood Orange who absolutely killed it. Dev Hynes really might just be the new Prince and I’m all for it. R&B is a genre that’s still stuck in a rut musically but slowly it’s making a comeback by pushing it’s sound into different realms and Dev is a big part of that, both with his band and with his production for Solange and Sky Ferreira. Speaking of spiritual, look we can debate the authenticity or musical validity of lil b if you’d like but for me, if nothing else, the music is a lot of fun. Whether it’s genuine or some sort of intense performance art doesn’t really matter much, it’s a misfit kid genuinely enjoying himself making music and taking the time to tell people that they should love each other. That sounds alright to me. Next up was Toro y Moi, who’s actually a whole lot better with a live behind then just behind a keyboard. His show was a fun set to dance around to and enjoy yourself before M.I.A.’s distorted party carnival and R. Kelly’s big close. Speaking of M.I.A., I haven’t been a huge fan for awhile but I’ll give her major props, she puts on one hell of a fun show. The entire crowd was going crazy and she went crazy with them. By the time, She finished with Paper Planes and Bad Girls, it felt like she had the entire festival dancing and singing along.

Ok, so about R. Kelly, look I get that part of this has to do with whatever ironic love he’s gotten from hipsterdom since Trapped In The Closet, Chappelle’s Show and Aziz Ansari jokes, but the thing is 1) He’s actually a really good artist and performer and 2) I’m pretty sure he’s in on it; which is why I had faith he’d put on a really good set. Would there be people who are only there and singing Ignition remix ironically? Sure, but I mean those people obviously don’t have much going on in their lives so why get sour over it. From the moment Kels showed up in all-white and a sparkly T-shirt amongst a choir, I knew this show would be everything. He damn near spent went through the first verse of every song he’s ever done, while also freestyle singing about being hot and needing a towel, performing for 27 years and yes, being a grown ass man. When the set ended with a choir backing him up for I Believe I Can Fly while inflatable doves flew through the sky I knew I was in the right place and I was so happy that I got to share this with my friends before we all made our way back to our respective cities. Thank you Pitchfork and see you next year.

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