Micah: Paul Simon is my favorite songwriter of all time. From his folk work with Art in the 60’s, to his singer-songwriter rock and roll in the 70’s, to his explorations into foreign rhythms and sounds in the 80’s, to his missteps in the 90’s, and to his rebirth in 2006, Paul Simon has set a new standard for longevity amongst his contemporaries, a list which includes Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Neil Young.
Hip-hop is a genre caught in a crisis of identity, an art perpetually torn between an unquenchable thirst for swagger and age-old truisms like keep it real and don’t front. Rap demands self-assured confidence, but it also demands honesty, and striking a balance between these two poles is perhaps the single greatest challenge there is. Still, there are artists hard at work doing just that. Serengeti is one of those artists. To figure out how he’s doing it, we might start with the following question:
Who is the “I” in a rap song? And as a follow up: does that “I” have to be real?
Micah: I have been waiting for this album for a long time. Acid Rap came out three years ago, and Surf felt more like a Social Experiment album featuring Chance than the other way around. I’ve been missing that positive, bouncy, gospel-tinged raps from the fiercely independent Chance the Rapper. Since he got on the map, Chance has reinvested his momentum back into the musicians that helped him create his music, the city he lived in, and his sonic foundation.
It’s been a privilege watching Chance the Rapper ascend to claim his godhead. Since 2013, he’s gone from earnest-eyed tripper to outspoken family man on his journey towards becoming hip-hop’s presiding minister. What hasn’t changed is his indomitable optimism. It sustains an auditory space like the holistic bubble of an acid trip, a memory of summer, or a hymn’s harmonies emulating the divided unity of the holy trinity. It’s a feeling that comes across as a confidence in his cadences, offset by a vocal vulnerability and a lyrical honesty that has the miraculous effect of shielding him from all sin. But he would probably tell you that it’s called faith.
Henry: I haven’t listened to much James Blake to be honest, though I’ve heard his music around and generally liked it. That being said, I have to be in a certain kind of mood to listen to him. His slow, atmospheric style has a kind of pensive melancholy to it, which can either be nice or sorta depressing. I do like how smooth this whole album is, almost entirely devoid of sharp, high frequencies, save for rim-shot snares and crisp hi-hats here and there, which cut through the swelling harmonies to carry this thing along.
The story of addiction always involves a chase, so it’s no surprise that Open Mike Eagle & Paul White’s new video for “Admitting the Endorphin Addiction” features just that. What is of interest here is not so much the chase itself as the thing being chased: a high that looks like the mesmerizing smile of Isis Avalos. Open Mike Eagle plays himself, again unsurprisingly, since the song is from his latest album, titled Hella Personal Film Festival.
“I didn’t ask for this!” growls a hysterical Andrew Lincoln in a monologue sampled on the intro of Doc ILLingsworth’s latest release, which takes its name from the line in question. In the original context, Lincoln plays Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead. The lines are from a pivotal scene where he outright takes control of the group of survivors. “Let’s get one thing straight,” he says, his tone now grim. “You’re staying? This isn’t a democracy anymore.”
Louis C.K. may have the most emotive brow of all time. It scrunches and wrinkles as he listens. He sighs. Sometimes a smile plays across his lips. Sometime his face falls. Sometimes he weeps, holding his head in his hands. In his latest series, Horace and Pete, he stars as a chronically sad bar owner, Horace Wittel, alongside a fantastically manic Steve Buscemi as Pete Wittel, his brother/cousin and co-owner of the bar. The confused familial relationship of the duo is just the tip of an iceberg that extends deep into the history of televised drama and the subconscious of a uniquely American dysfunctionality.
Micah: I used to hate Drake. A lot. I’m a total bandwagon Drake fan. I used to hate Drake in the same way I hated Lil’ Wayne when he was in everyone’s face ten years ago. At the time Wayne was dropping endless mixtapes and features and it was way too much for me. Later when I heard he had signed a Canadian singer who was writing for him and making songs like “The Motto” I was not stoked.
Have you ever dreamed that you were wide awake, or gone through a day feeling as though you might actually be sleeping? That’s kinda what it’s like listening to Wake Up, the debut release from Toothbone, a project springing forth from the mind of multi-instrumentalist Dan Rossi.