I have a friend that regularly says, “Everyday is a school day.” Learning about various histories, cultures and steadily building an understanding of both the lineage and breadth of the many genres of music are amongst my favourite ways to pass time. What initially began as a nostalgic return to Grandmaster Flash’s ‘White Lines’, I decided to expand my hip hop repertoire. Days later, serendipity intervened and I was asked, along with more informed writers, to talk about the resurgence of West Coast Hip Hop. Focusing primarily on the new wave of artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, the Creator, YG, but also acknowledging the respect and appreciation amongst the current generation for the fore fathers, N.W.A. and 2Pac. My passion and excitement for hip hop was instant and effortless. There’s a burning desire for address and consciousness, especially in Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics that educate and arrest his audiences. While there are serious issues mentioned in some of these songs, humour and theatricality are abundant in hip hop, making it a well rounded, constantly refreshing and surprising genre.
At the recent VH1 Hip Hop Honours, Black Lives Matter co-founder, Alicia Garza opened the awards with an address that included this lasting explanation of the movement which is “grounded in black people’s dignity, justice and freedom. It’s about love, not violence.” I think the same can be appropriated to the meaning and importance of hip hop. It’s an outlet for learning and betterment, teaching us to allow ourselves to feel free to live and love openly and without caution.
ScHoolboy Q – ‘Black THougHts’ (Interscope Records / Top Dawg Entertainment)
ScHoolboy Q released Blank Face, his most accomplished album to date, at the beginning of the month and to coincide with this collection of songs and stories, the West Coast rapper is working on a video series, now in its third instalment with, ‘Black THougHts.’ Directed by Jack Begert and Dave Free of tHe little Homies, ScHoolboy is on trial and facing jail but in a wonderfully filtered, cinematic way. In his lawyer’s office the sobering realisation of his probable confinement overtakes his home and the morning rituals he would usually relish, such as seeing his daughter go to school on the bus. This vision is scuppered however, when the school bus transforms into a prison bus. It seems as though ScHoolboy Q is in a really positive and flourishing time with his music and creativity. I’ll definitely be tuning in for the next part to see what is in store for Quincy Matthew Hanley in this fictitious journey.
YG – ‘Still Brazy’ (Def Jam Records)
The very first thing that popped into my head as I watched YG spray “This Shit is Crazy”, adding colour to an otherwise clinical surrounding, was the strangely satisfying opening credits of the 1990s Nikelodeon series, Clarissa Explains All. This is the magic and majesty of YG, he can create an image so effortlessly and makes his audience feel like they’re on the same wave length as him. He makes himself accessible, relatable and fun to watch. YG heralds the classically infectious g-funk beats, arrangements and lyrical content throughout his faultless album, Still Brazy. An album, producing songs that would have stood out amongst N.W.A and Tupac Shakur’s, respective reigns of the 1990s. However, it should be clarified that YG’s distinct nostalgia for that sound is not a relapse or reliance of the successes of the past, more-so a respectful nod to the musical heritage that has given him a voice for the present and future generations of music lovers and makers.
Dizzy Wright – ‘They Know Why’ (Movin Records)
Take a minute to think about how you spent your most productive 24 hour period, this week. Perhaps you finally reached the summit of the mountainous pile of clothes accumulating at the base of your wardrobe, the one you’ve attempted to scale and downsize for months. Maybe you simply got around to sending a few letters and parcels for friends living far away that were beginning to gather dust on your desk. Simple things, but meaningful small victories for you to accomplish. Las Vegas-raised rapper, Dizzy Wright wrote, mixed, filmed and edited the video for this latest single, ‘They Know Why’, in 24 hours. Wright was spurred by the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in the United States recently, to capture his anger and frustration at the people who are, in his opinion, engaged in treating black people with injustice and hatred. ‘They Know Why’ is an immensely political song, “Donald Trump ain’t no different to Hitler”, and the imagery used throughout the short video is arresting, impactful and incredibly powerful.
Metronomy – ‘Night Owl’ (Because Music)
Murders that result in crash test dummy cadavers, plastic brains, the grim reaper with his arm around a beautiful blonde in the back of a vintage soft top car all to the backdrop of a hazily, sun soaked desert setting complete with palm trees, a ubiquitous symbol of contrived cool. Sounds about right for the premise of the latest Metronomy single, ‘Night Owl.’ Frontman, Joe Mount has claimed, in recent interviews, that his approach to writing Metronomy’s freshly released fifth album, Summer ’08, was polar to previous works because he was less concerned with making music to gain mainstream status. Instead, he chose to stay loyal to his musical quirks, which seem to have trickled in this more than obscure video.
Hilary Woods – ‘Sabbath’ (Independent)
I saw Hilary Woods perform material from her forthcoming EP, Heartbox, released tomorrow, at the start of the summer. Everything about her set was exceptional. The Dublin musician, with bassist foundations, continues to venture into the dark ambiance of eery piano and synth lines combined with an alluring and nose-crinkling hefty drum that is impossible not to throw a fist in the air rhythmically to. This week, Woods set her second single from this record, ‘Sabbath’, an achingly lovely melancholic melody out into the wild, both to listen to and watch. The video extends six minutes matching the landscape of the musical arrangements gloriously. An ethereal introduction is visually realised with Woods hugging crops in a field, a scene which remains a constant anchor as the sound and vision matures and intensifies. This is definitely a triumphant time for Hilary Woods. Read State’s recent interview here.
Notable Mention… Drawn to music….
The National Feat. Låpsley – ‘Bad Stuff Happens in the Bathroom’
I’m not one to get excited by news coming from The National, who are coincidentally closing Longitude in Dublin tonight. I did, however, capture a yelp in my hand after it fell from my mouth when I stumbled upon a headline announcing a collaboration, of sorts, between The National and Bob’s Burgers, the hilarious animated series that has increased burger cravings worldwide. ‘Bad Stuff Happens in the Bathroom’, appeared on Behind Bob’s Burgers, an online accompaniment to the series, and Matt Berninger has never looked better with his trousers down as he dons Bob’s ubiquitous apron. Berninger’s non-emotive vocals are perfectly cast in this recreation of Bob and, Louise Belcher’s duet, which originally featured in the 100th episode of the show, English singer, Låpsley provides an equally deadpan performance. This was a very clever career choice on The National’s behalf as it dispelled the notions that non-fans (me) had that they were the musical equivalent to beige.