Last week Sarah and I watched Kanye West’s performance on SNL. I have to admit, there is something about Kanye West. You have to admit that he is a fascinating individual, even if you don’t like his music. I love the sound of his earlier work, but I never thought much of his lyrics. Watching his performance of Ultralight Beam, I started to wonder if I should give a second look.
Reddit seemed to be full of memes questioning why everyone suddenly loved Kanye West after years of using him for parody fodder and internet ridicule. Apparently others heard Life of Pablo and had a moment similar to mine.
But then I noticed something else. Kanye West seemed to be losing his mind on Twitter. I don’t know much about Kanye personally, but I do know he was once introduced on a stage as one of the owners of Tidal, a competitor music subscription service introduced by Jay Z, and a variety of other music artists including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Daft Punk, Jack White, Madonna, Arcade Fire, Alicia Keys, Usher, Chris Martin, Calvin Harris, deadmau5, Jason Aldean and J. Cole.
Being an artist is strange. It’s difficult to explain or talk about. Especially for the local, struggling artist. Not all struggling artists are depressed or even upset by the way. I’d say something cliche like, “We knew what we were signing up for,” except for the fact we never really signed up for anything. It’s just who we are.
If you put it down on paper, it wouldn’t make sense. Like being a farmer, if anyone knew how much work it took for so little payoff, they would immediately scrutinize (or even criticize) with the all-too-familiar, “Why do you do this again?” In fact, we have these conversations with our families and friends all the time. And sure, sometimes it’s a downer, but only if we let it be. Usually, we’re pretty excited about our ideas and plans, even if they don’t seem to make sense to most of the people around us.
I still remember it well. My friends and I would quickly eat our lunches in the middle school cafeteria. I would gobble down my PB&J and slug my juice box while my buddies polished off their square pizza slices, milk cartons, and tater tots. We were growing boys, so we had to eat fast, but we had other things in mind than our development. As soon as we were finished, we would start banging out a rhythm with our empty food containers and trays, including a “boom, boom, slap” with our hands on the top of the rollaway lunch tables. We were trying to get the same feel we got when we blasted our music at home after school and on the weekends. Little did we know that we were just continuing a musical tradition that has gone on for centuries and perhaps eons.
Turning everyday objects into musical instruments was actually the trigger behind most of the American musical styles that emerged in the 20th century. In poor black communities, especially, West African musical traditions paired with segregated schools barring musical education or the availability of instruments made people go for the DIY route instead. This is certainly not something unique to West African cultures. It’s clear that humans all over the world are at least three things: social, cultural, and musical. Bluegrass would never exist if not for the Scots-Irish.
Many of us were able to locate, save up, and buy the many instruments that we enjoy playing. We also have the ability to learn most musical styles fairly easily and cheaply. This was not the case, however, for the musicians in poor black communities during the 20th century. Little did they know that they would be starting a set of American musical styles that have gone on to dominate music worldwide. Continue reading Invention… the Mother of Music
I have a memory like a steel trap. OK, so maybe I forget to buy dog food or milk, but when it comes to life events, I remember them as if it was yesterday. Its like I have a reel in my head that decides to play my life back to me in the strangest times.
It’s both a blessing and a curse. I can remember the way my girlfriend smelled four years ago when we snuck around Western Kentucky University’s campus drawing on the buildings with sidewalk chalk on our first date. But on the flip side, it also makes me nostalgic for times that honestly weren’t that great.
Ten years ago, I was a 17-year-old emo kid. I had shaggy hair and dressed like Chris Carraba from Dashboard’s unplugged DVD. I was a complete jackass. I used to go to Brothers Pizza in Owensboro, KY every weekend to watch local bands play. That is where I saw Why They Came and Stellar Kin play for the first time. I fell in love with local indie music.
I have probably seen Why They Came play 15-20 times. My shitty high school band opened for Stellar Kin once. We were terrible and loose; they were tight and terrific. No one was there. It was one of my favorite shows I have ever played. Ten years later, I spent a week in a van with Brandon Miles from Stellar Kin and Andy Barnett from Why They Came. We went on a Songwriters Tour (see pictures on Twitter and Instagram), just to see if it was a viable option for artists of our (non-existent) caliber. For the most part, it was. Continue reading Small Town Lifers
Contributed by Jon Gore (frontman for Re-Education Camp). Their latest release, PsyOp’s Boombox, is available on iTunes. Watch their music video for “Lesson Four: Five Enemies” at the bottom of the page!
Something old, something new, something true… It’s a little strange being the only representative of a genre on a record label. In many ways, I feel surrounded by my contemporaries and friends, who are singer-songwriters, indie rock and folk artists. In other ways, it’s a bit of a “black sheep” identity to call myself the hip hop artist of Bad Apple Records. This is mostly because hip hop is definitely not recognized as well as the aforementioned genres as a respectable art form, or even “real music” at all. Luckily, I have not encountered this sentiment by anyone at Bad Apple. Maybe because we’re all misfits in our own way, hence the name of the label, right?
Instead of hostility or disgust, there’s been more of a cautious curiosity with what Zack and I bring with Re-Education Camp, and it’s understandable. As the most popular genre on the planet, hip hop takes a variety of forms and they aren’t always creative or well done. When someone tells me they “rap” or “do hip hop,” I’m cautiously curious, too. Sometimes I’m very pleasantly surprised and sometimes I’m horrified. It’s difficult to know who will represent the genre well, so let Doc clear up a few things to help you categorize some of the things you hear from me and others. Continue reading Being True School
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