It’s been an amazing few years writing content on this site, but it’s time to take it to the next level. Beginning this week, I’ll be blasting out a brief email (and may come back here to post some deep dives into artists) with a simple format:
four emerging songs + an artist spotlight
I’m constantly asked about the best songs / artists that haven’t hit mainstream yet. This letter will be the forum to expose those artists, and share content around the world.
HiFadility has released another Track from his Queens EP, an edit of SWV’s Weak, which follows his remix of Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y. Looking to commemorate the voice of woman of color in popular culture and bridge generations by bringing back old 90s favorites with new sounds, The Queens has been a very exciting project thus far, and we can’t wait until we get to hear it in full.
At first, this track has a very hard exterior, with lead singer Coko’s strong voice and a shell of synthesizer sounds, but it is worth the listen as it breaks way into smooth droplet sounds and wonderful warm and floaty piano chords that ushers in the trap high hats. The high hats creates another genre flip in the track, creating a hard hitting booty bouncing feel. Perhaps the hard sonic exterior of this track that gives way to the warm melty sound is a metaphor for the overwhelming force of love that gives way into an appreciation HiFadility mentioned in his statement that he released with the track. HiFadility definitely gave a new meaning to the New Jack Swing genre, a very contemporary blend of hip hop/trap and R&B.
The composer stated when he released the track:
SWV’s classic single WEAK was begging to be remade. The message of: Love being a force that sometimes knocks us out…not because of spite or anger, but sometimes because of the overwhelming sensation of a bond. I’ve been feeling like that lately. Super emotional about the world and all the things happening…this was my way of saying sorry for the griminess and yet thank you so much for accepting my growth and development. To Peace. To Love. To Prosperity for All.
Be sure to check out this track on HiFadility’s soundcloud, and follow him on his social media (facebook, twitter, tumblr) for more updates regarding new music releases or his events in Boston and NYC.
Recently, HiFadility released a new track, U.N.I.T.Y., a flip of the classic Queen Latifah humanist anthem. We have posted about HiFadility several times over the past couple of years, and we are always excited about new releases because of the unique sound. In a very pleasant way, you never know what to expect! In this track, it’s really interesting how this production retains the 90s boom bap sound, and at the same time blends the echo-y 808s and stuttering high hats of trap and a jazzy sound.
HiFadility keeps Queen Latifah’s vocals, continuing his sonic tradition of including spoken thoughts on social equality from notable figures. We saw a lot of this on his earlier works Where The Soul Lies (2012) and C’est La Vie (2012), so it’s interesting to hear how artists evolve their sound and production. Continue reading →
It’s a little late for a Case of the Monday’s post, but I have to say that I’m a new fan of Courtney Barnett, who performed at the SXSW festival this year. The artist just dropped her new album today, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Her lyrics are incredible, intricate, thought-provoking…and just downright good story telling. Even better, she released the album through her own label Milk Records through indie stalwart Mom + Pop.
One of songs garnering a lot of attention on the album is “Depreston.” Pitchfork writes:
“Depreston” is Barnett’s somber tale of house-hunting in the suburbs of Melbourne, a sad neighborhood with few cafés and visible crime, heavy with an emptiness you can feel in this spacious, mid-tempo music. The song is rooted in a dilemma of all artists—that of finding a cheap place to live on the outskirts, of embracing domestic self-reliance and just brewing your own coffee—but it winds its way into a poignant ballad of memory, death and growing.”
I’m also a huge fan of Avant Gardner, a song from her last EP, and “an autobiographical account of trying to turn a life around through gardening, only to be foiled by a severe allergic reaction.”
For reference, born in Sydney but raised in remote Tasmania, Barnett started playing guitar at 10 and was in several bands before settling in Melbourne, where she enrolled in art school and eventually took a job at a shoe store. “I was good at it but started hating myself,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘This is f—ed corporate shit, selling overpriced shoes to kids who saved up their pocket money.’ ”
In other words, Barnett is the artist that really doesn’t care what others think..which ironically, will probably make people care about her more.
my friend is hosting an awesome event series titled Art We All (Human) at 3:15 pm EST today (update: it will be hosted every week). Details below. Email email@example.com if you’d like the location
Art We All (Human) is an inter-genre collective of millenial artists looking to use the power of artistic expression to activate social change and challenge the status quo. In a salon setting, artists meet to discuss and deconstruct notions of power and privilege, and then use collective energy to create fluid, conscious art.
Rules of Engagement
Open minds build movements
No bigotry, no hatred, no subversive power plays. We are all here to make something beautiful, and can only do that in a space where we all feel free.
YOUR truth, not THE truth
This is space where vulnerability and honesty are inextricable from the final product. Speak your truth to the extent that you are comfortable, but please don’t take it upon yourself to make that normative.
Embrace the Awkward
We will always open our space to new voices. Embrace the awkward conversations, talk to the new guy – everyone in the space has a gift to give.
This is a project centered on the creative commons. The work we do is the product/journey of the collective, and we will always come back to the commons as a locus of self. So, be self-aware and self-interested but never self-ish. If one of us wins, we all will – this is not about a profit margin.
By the people, for the people, of the people
The art will always speak to whatever moves those in the room, but the responsibility of the collective will always be to the community.
Do you have any questions after this?
Is it too wishy-washy?
How it Works
a) 15 artists are invited at random, from a larger cohort of 30-45 artists
Every quarter, there will be a larger, open session with an open mic component
c) Each session will have a theme, all participants will be advised of it before the session in an invitation email
d) Each session will have a different facilitator from the group – keeps it honest/non-hierarchical (first few will be me, once we have a reliable amount of people involved I will hand it over)
[is this naïve? Should I retain control? Very anti-hierarchical spaces but it needs to work, every time]
e) Each session will be documented in some way – photographer, visual artist, videographer, writer etc (appointed in the email)
Each session will last three hours, comprised of the following
Free thought exercise (20 minutes)
All attendees will be asked to provide a statement around the theme (can be a line of song, small picture, actual line, line of poetry, whatever) – theme will be put up on the board and the other items will surround it (20 minutes)
Introductions (15 minutes)
Name, craft of choice
Updates + Theme (55 minutes)
Participants update the group on current projects/projects from the last session
Space for participants to vocalize what they’re looking for in the space
Participants can talk about their feelings on the theme/issues that have come up with existing projects in a group setting
Studio Session (1 hour)
Break away from the group into individual/studio sessions (people can do what they want, work together in groups from the last time)
The Come-Down (30 minutes)
Take someone’s initial thought/experience from the beginning and use it to express where you are now.
Follow up email called the After Thought (circulated a few days after the meeting)
Provide the dropbox link to the group (will contain whatever the documentarian has chosen to create to honor the session)
Provide a dope quote/video/picture to the group
Provide the contact list for everyone in attendance so attendees can follow up if needed
Allow participants to opt-in a referral (invite someone to come to the next one)
There’s quite a bit to say about the Grammys this year, but it’s Monday, so let’s just try to make it through the day.
This week’s Case of the Monday song is inspired by Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney’s collaborative performance at the Grammys. Whether you loved or hated Rihanna’s cake dress at the Grammys, we can at least all thank God she still has talent.
‘FourFiveSeconds’ is a creative song – bared down to the vocals, and only supported by a few guitars that strum a riff as opposed to a melody. It’s the type of song however, that if you first heard it on the radio (i.e. without visuals), you might think to yourself…”yea, it’s an ok song.” Rather, it’s Rihanna’s passion during the performance that takes it to the next level. I mean seriously, she’s moving around as if she really is about to explode, which isn’t what would be implied by the simple musical backdrop. The world loves the song, as shown by it racking up ~19 million views on YouTube in just 6 days (!). Passion does go a long way in music.
Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m just tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
By the way, it is Monday, so unfortunately, we have four days til Friday. But it’s ok, we can only move up from here.
Happy 2015 everyone! New year, new beginnings means…
we will all try to lose weight for a few days before giving up.
BUT it also means new music. If you’re like me, you’re tired of playing the same songs on Spotify to cure your “sickness.” And you’re hoping for something fresh, because seriously, you don’t really want to be like Kanye. SO hip-hop junkies, music fest addicts, anti-Grammy category advocates, people who appreciate realness, and really just love to hear everything before the world does (*takes deep breath*) will ALL love this list of top 10 artists to watch in 2015:
“If Sia, Miley, and Rihanna had a vocal baby, Kat Dahlia’s voice would be it”
It’s been a long road for Kat Dahlia and her fans, but after two years of anticipation, her album MyGarden will finally be released on January 13, 2015. A pseudocyst found on her vocal cord was the reason Dahlia was forced to take a musical hiatus, cancelling her first US headlining tour, a series of club dates in key cities on the East Coast, and delaying the spring 2014 release of her album. Since then however, she’s fully recovered, and notably, has penned every song on the album (including one in Spanish) with the exception of “Crazy”. If you want to hop on the bandwagon before everyone else, check out her music videos “Gangsta” (below) and “Crazy.” And take a listen to her album which was just released to be streamed on NPR yesterday (you’re welcome).
Raury is an 18-year old Atlanta native whose music has been compared with the likes of Andre 3000, Bon Iver and Kid Cudi. He dropped his debut project Indigo Child at the end of August, and has already impressed Kanye West. Similar to an artist like Lorde, his sound doesn’t exactly fit into a genre. And quite frankly, that’s what makes him interesting. While some of his lyrics still encompass the marks of a teenager with room to grow, 2015 could be a year he breaks out into the mainstream.
I’ve been waiting, I’ve been sitting thinking ’bout this situation / Like I’m MLK, I’m speaking out against the segregation
I can make it through the gate and open it for all my brethren / I don’t mean to ruffle feathers, n*ggas talkin’, b*tches hatin’
Contemplatin’ every single move you make and study you / Ready boo, n*ggas go through Earth and Hell and Heaven for a story based on Raury / Far important tryin’ to force me to a category
Chet Faker is one of those artists that makes you wonder if the Grammy’s should get rid of music categories altogether. He’s a 22 year old Australian that hails from a set of parents who had different tastes in music, which ultimately shaped his own. “My mum was listening to a lot of Motown…” he describes in one interview, “I think that’s where I got my love for a good hook, a good soul hook…and then my dad would listen to the chilled out Ibiza CDs; all that super down tempo female vocal kind of stuff.” While his real name is Nick Murphy, Chet says his stage name is an ode to Chet Baker and the mood of music he used to play. So who knows what we’re dealing with here…a Motown-EDM infused genre? Either way, it’s fascinating, and his “No Diggity” cover truly speaks to the changing times. He’s popular in Australia, but let’s see if he gains some traction in the US in 2015.
HiFadility is an artist that you must watch out for in 2015. He’s a classically trained jazz pianist whose projects blend the genres of electronic and hip hop that oftentimes, will paint a landscape in your head that you can’t describe to someone else. Unsurprisingly, his accolades are countless, from winning Boston’s Next Hot Music Producer Competition in March 2014, to displaying his avant garde jazz and hip hop sound at the Museum of African American history in 2014 for a standing ovation. What makes him especially exciting this year however, is the new project he is set to release in March titled “The Queens”. I’ll let the music speak for itself rather than go into details about the meaning here, but trust, it will be worth listening to.
In about a week Tink will celebrate her 20th birthday, and the Chicago-hailed singer/rapper/songwriter will have a lot to toast about. She recently released her second mixtape, Winter’s Diary 2 and has a Timbaland-produced album on the way. In fact, Timbaland compares Tink to Lauryn Hill, and while that remains to be seen she does seem like the real deal. In an interview last year, the artist voiced her opinion on hip-hop: “People expect us, female rappers, to just talk about bullshit [or] sex. People stereotype female rappers a whole lot. They expect us to talk a certain way, to look a certain way [and] dress a certain way. And I’m not with that. When you listen to my songs you hear messages and real stories.” Keep it real Tink, we’re watching.
This one seems a bit ironic to write since many blogs featured Sampha as an artist to watch in 2014. While his popularity has risen from his feature on Drake’s songs (“Too Much” and “The Motion”), along with SBTRKT’s songs “Temporary View” and “Wonder Where We Land,” it seems the world is still waiting for him to make it big. His last EP titled Dual was released in 2013, and it’ll be interesting to see what he has to offer this year – will he become the breakout artist we’re hoping for, or choose to stay on the sidelines and feature on other songs? Only time will tell.
P. Reign is another Drake-derivative (admit it, it’s a thing), with many new fans hopping on his bandwagon after hearing the song “DnF,” which features Drake & Future. The Canadian-born artist is due to turn 29 in January, but has a long road ahead of him if he can continue the momentum. He dropped a much anticipated EP in September of this year, and so far fans seem to love him. Doesn’t hurt that his second most popular song “Realest in the City” features up-and-coming artist PARTYNEXTDOOR (yes, another Drake-derivative).
Let’s go way underground for a second, and step into the world of Alina Baraz, a 21 year old Cleveland native. Baraz dropped out of college and re-located to LA to pursue her career in music (why not go all out right?). Aspiring artists should take note: Baraz was discovered by Danish producer Galimatias via SoundCloud after creating the song titled “Drift” over one of his productions. Since then, they’ve released Make You Feel and are expected to release an EP Urban Flora this fall. Her music reminds me of a dream-like sequence, a Michelangelo painting, or as her EP cover suggests – a work of art.
Raw, soulful, truth. Just a few words that will come to mind when you take a listen Brika’s beautiful voice and powerful lyricism. She’s been featured on this site before for her song ‘Options,’ but she deserves another go around here after the release of her EP Voice Memos in December 2014 (remember those things you used to leave on your iPhone…or maybe still do?). Point blank, much like Sam Smith, Brika could sing “blah blah blah” and it would still sound relatable.
Zhu was one of the fastest emerging artists of 2014, but with his debut album set to hit next year, we think he deserves a spot in 2015’s rising stars. His marketing campaign has been genius, to be frank. He prefers anonymity, and while his identity is now known, he continues to perform in the shadows and let his music speak for itself. In just one year Zhu has had a hit single in 10 territories, a US deal with Columbia Records and a booking at HARD Day of the Dead directly preceding Deadmau5. With the soaring popularity of live music shows, especially in the summertime, Zhu is in the perfect spot to sell some records.
Hope you’ve found some hidden gems in this list. If you want to follow what I’m listening to, check me out on soundcloud.
Taylor Swift is annoying. There’s no denying it. She looks shocked every time she accepts her umpteenth award, and her face shows up on the big screen at award shows more than the person who’s hosting it. But there’s no denying one simple fact:
She is single-handedly dominating the music industry.
Yes, Taylor Swift, not Beyonce. And you can’t hate…
..nor should you
In their latest cover story, Businessweek analyzes just how much she is dominating the industry right now, and there are a few lines in there that made me understand why she’s always juggling so many awards…
1. Swift’s new album, called 1989, sold 1.29 million copies in its first week. That was 22 percent of all album sales in the U.S.
2. 1989 sales represent the largest sales week for a record since Eminem’s The Eminem Show in 2002, and the biggest release in the past two years by far, topping Beyoncé, Coldplay, and Lady Gaga.
3. Before 1989, this year’s biggest album was Coldplay’s Ghost Story, which has sold a TOTAL of 737,000 since its release in May
4. Spotify is on track to pay Swift $6M in 2014 (this is a lot considering they pay a fraction of a penny per song)
5. sales of CDs for the first half of 2014 were 56M, that’s down from 681M in sales in 2002 (remember the streaming age article?)
And if all of this doesn’t phase you, take a look at Billboard right now. Swift claims two of the top 5 spots on the Hot 100. Shake it Off dropped from #1 to #3 as she beat her own hit with Blank Space (jumped from #13 to #1 post the AMAs).
Taylor Swift may just be the best digital sales artist of all time.
Sittin’ in the morning sun I’ll be sittin’ when the evening comes Watching the ships roll in Then I watch them roll away again, yeah
I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay Wastin’ time
I love Otis Redding’s ‘Dock of the Bay,’ and after getting it stuck in my head after Scandal last week, I decided to look at the history behind it….
The song was written three days before Redding died in a plane crash on a rainy, foggy night in 1967. It was released in January 1968 and became his only single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and the first posthumous number-one single in US chart history (first to reach #1 after the death of an artist) . Along with his death, the record label that he helped build saw its demise as well (albeit seven years later).
That label, Stax Records, was not only a big competitor of Motown’s, but also encompassed both blacks & whites at a time when the racial divide was growing wider and wider in American society. Between 1960 and 1975, Stax had 167 Top 100 pop hits and established the careers of Redding, Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Booker T & the MG’s and Wilson Pickett. Nevertheless, the label failed to gain rights to Redding’s discography, which instead belonged to Atlantic Records. Regarding “Dock of the Bay”, which was released so soon after Redding’s death, his guitarist Steve Cropper recalled:
We got a call from Atlantic saying, “We’ve got to rush something out. What have you got?” And I immediately said, “We need to put our hit out.”
‘They hadn’t even found Otis’s body yet.’
Cropper threw himself into completing Dock Of The Bay. He added electric guitar, seagulls, and the sound of waves.
‘Trying to work on something like that, when you don’t even know where one of your closest friends is, is difficult.’
‘Everybody was walking around staring at their feet for two months after that,’ says Stax musician Marvell Thomas.
‘There was true sadness at that place. Stax was usually a happy, peppy place, there was conversations in the hallways and songwriters over here and a demo going – that all stopped.’