[[Sound Off]] #Grime4Corbyn

by Jamie Forrester

How Grime launched a political youth revolution

Politicians have long been disregarded as liars, cheats and waste men on the streets amongst a large portion of the disengaged youth. However, one unassuming man and his politics would be about to change the political and musical landscape side by side with some of the biggest Grime stars.

UK general election 2017 poll of polls. Source: FT

When Theresa May called a snap general election many feared the worst for a Labour led Jeremy Corbyn and the future that would be bestowed upon his party. Throughout most of 2017 the Conservatives had a gap of anywhere between nine and twenty points in the polls, and many thought should Mrs May call a snap general election the embarrassing defeat that the Labour party would suffer would be enough to split the opposition. 

Mrs May and the Conservative led government alongside the “polling experts” would make one catastrophic mistake however and that was to count out the Youth Movement that was starting. With a political imbalance and a disregard for the many over the few we seen over a quarter of a million under-25 register to vote on the last day possible. Whilst many thought that this would not see a huge change in regards to the overall vote the political juggernauts were once again disregarding and further inspiring a movement in those that politics had long forgotten. 

The question you might be asking yourself is where does the Grime industry feature in all this? Well, through artists such as JME, Stormzy, Novelist and Lowkey, Labour – a party for the many – had a platform to be able to spread their message through a new medium. All over Twitter we saw #Grime4Corbyn trending and a political movement that no-one could have imagined became an overnight reality. 

How could Grime the epitome of anti-establishment suddenly become the beacon of hope to a political party who were all but down and out in the 11th round? Well the answer is that despite it appearing anti-establishment it isn’t, grime is a culture and it talks about the issues facing the men and women living on the streets and in the estates. Grime has always been about the many and giving a voice to those who have for so long been voiceless. But why Jeremy Corbyn? Why not previous leaders such as Ed Miliband? Well the answer is simple: In Jeremy Corbyn the country had the potential to have a true left of centre government and way of thinking, Corbyn was exiled to being nothing more than a backbencher many disregarded and forgot about until his sudden and climactic rise in 2015 (sound familiar?), yet he has never wavered from his political beliefs since his election to parliament in 1983. Whether it be him challenging Margaret Thatcher on the privatisation of public services or fighting his own party for their part of the War in Iraq, he stuck by his morals and beliefs much like grime music has never wavered from its beliefs and messages.

The Grime Industry as a whole got behind the Corbyn led opposition and wanted to play their part in change and to help inspire men and women like themselves to get involved. Now you know why they wanted to play their part but much like the political forecasters of 2017 you want to know how they were going to achieve the message they are preaching right?

Grime4Corbyn gigs started popping up in places such as Tottenham, Brighton and Dalston. In marginal seats such as Croydon posters started to appear with Stormzy plastered on them saying “The Tories hold Croydon by 165 votes (that’s literally it) even your dad’s got more facebook friends. Stromzy says VOTE LABOUR”. AJ Tracey would feature in a Labour Party campaign video explaining exactly why he would be voting for them and why you should be too.

For far too many years Labour had been pushing for the young voter in all the wrong ways, instead of inspiring them through alternative means they are engaged with they were too busy wasting money on statues of a flawed centralist manifesto further distancing themselves from those they would come to rely on so heavily. Meetings between artists such as JME and Jeremy Corbyn took place and JME would go on to tweet “I met @jeremycorbyn today, and explained why bare of us don’t vote.” These people were so distant but by talking through the right channels means more of us would vote. 

Through the voices of these artists who a large portion of young uninspired voters looked to for guidance and who’s music gave purpose even when hope was gone. Labour had tapped into a well that had long been cemented up. On June 9th the decision Theresa May and her Government had made to call a snap general election would turn out to be one of the biggest mistakes in UK political history. What once was a majority led Conservative Government would be no more and despite forecasts right after polling stations shut believing this would do nothing but grow the majority they already had the youth movement had struck and ensured that the beginning of something very special was taking place.

Drawing of Jeremy Corbyn holding a speaker

#Grime4Corbyn was more than just a fad but instead it was the beginning of a political movement that to this day is still going on. The campaign spurned new hope for those who had long given up, it helped to spread a message of tolerance, love and togetherness and how it can help achieve anything and most importantly it showed the power that those who were disregarded have and that it does not have to be bestowed upon you by anyone it is simply your god given right. The movement showed that those who had been exiled to the underground with their music not only could become mainstream chart toppers but they could also help to foil the plans to keep them underground and suffering politically. Despite Jeremy Corbyn not winning the election in 2017 it inspired new hope amongst the youth and has helped to create a movement and relationship between Grime music and a better society that helps the many not the few

[[SOUND OFF]] THE EXTRAORDINARY RISE OF LEWIS CAPALDI

By Hannah Sly

Where did Lewis Capaldi come from?

A year ago, he was relatively unknown. Fast forward to the present, the Scottish singer-songwriter possesses the glowing fame that is equal to a multitude of established artists who, unlike Capaldi, have spent years building and later maintaining as they attempt to stay relevant in a rather volatile industry.

Capaldi’s meteoric rise into the public consciousness is surely one of the most extraordinary in recent times.

An abundance of artists behind nostalgic one-hit wonders have defined a year musically, but subsequently failed to sustain that momentum. After their brief encounter of fame, they disappear completely from the popular culture radar – never to be seen again.

There’s been plenty of comparable male singer-songwriters who have failed to replicate Capaldi’s prolonged level of eminence. For example, take Jake Bugg and Tom Odell – both achieved number one albums in the UK but gradually faded from the public eye soon after.

This could prove somewhat controversial, but let’s face it, Capaldi’s music is rather monotonous and repetitive. Don’t take my pessimistic word for it, his debut album, conveniently named Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent, received mediocre reviews following its release in May. NME gave it a disheartening two stars, the Guardian three. Despite admiration for Capaldi’s powerful voice, lead singles and impressive song-writing skills, all reviews echoed similar sentiments – why is there such a huge disparity between his music and online persona? NME’s review expressed bewilderment that “such a charismatic star could make a record so lacking in personality”. After listening to all 12 songs chronologically, you can see why they came to this conclusion. A steady stream of heartbreak ballads with similar sounding backing tracks…

Having said that, the critics are the minority here. Capaldi’s album reached number one in the UK and stayed there for six whole weeks. If that’s not enough, his debut became the fastest-selling album of 2019, opening on 89,506 sales in week one, surpassing established artist Ariana Grande who previously held the title. His UK and Ireland tour sold out in 10 minutes – making Capaldi the first artist in history to sell-out an arena tour before the release of a debut album. Impressive.

How was this swift success possible? How has he managed to swerve the one-hit wonder territory and make history so early in his career? Two things spring to mind – his humour and social media.   

In an age dominated by oversharing, memes and ‘stan’ culture, Capaldi, a millennial, clearly capitalises on this contemporary trend. Almost everything he does professionally is intertwined with his social media platforms. 

For instance, when Noel Gallagher made unpleasant remarks about Capaldi in an interview, he retaliated not by condemning his words, but by exploiting the dispute. For context, Gallagher branded Capaldi “Chewbacca”, advised him to enjoy his 15 minutes of fame, and called Scotland a “third world country”. In true Capaldi style, he walked on stage at the TRNSMT festival holding the Scottish flag, wearing a Chewbacca mask

He then changed his Twitter name to ‘Chewis Capaldi’ and picture to Chewbacca. At Glastonbury, he walked on stage wearing a shirt with Gallagher’s face inside a love heart, before singing his hit song ‘Someone You Loved’ to an army of fans.

Naturally, the photographs posted online afterwards received substantial engagement

Instead of customary ‘please buy my album!’ posts, Capaldi uses witty images and self-deprecating humour to promote his work, thus attracting a wider audience via the power of online sharing. He’s not afraid to be himself – amusing not only his fanbase, but those who happen to stumble upon his online platforms unintentionally. In an era of unattainable perfectionism, it’s refreshing to see a celebrity embracing authenticity over falsity.

Even when he teams up with branded sponsorships, Capaldi’s still genuine. 

After formulating a continuing narrative on social media that he’s finding it difficult to ‘find love’, he joined with Tinder to produce billboards using various comical images taken directly from his social media pages – posing unconventionally, wearing his famous novelty sunglasses. Capaldi also tapped into the bizarre popularity of Greggs on Twitter and used his popular humour in the real world to promote his new album on a London Underground billboard – embracing Capaldi-esque terms like “Scottish Beyoncé” and “finally famous”. He knows he’s equally notable for his both music and online persona. 

Capaldi refuses to engage in any contentious political chit-chat. His lyrics are free from edgy statements and his social media is crammed with unflattering selfies rather than his views on Brexit. 

Capaldi joins the long list of contemporary British, casual, guitar-holding male singer-songwriters who have “exceptional voices and wilfully unexceptional images that entrench an impression of authenticity”. Ed Sheeran… George Ezra… artists who could easily walk into a university lecture and blend in effortlessly. Two decades ago, appearance was everything – for both men and women. 

This has faded somewhat. Well, for men…

The ‘authentic’ singer-songwriter trend has failed to prosper among female artists. How can women embrace authenticity when the industry expects them to look perfect? Capaldi himself said that female artists would “come up against more media scrutiny” if they were to dress casually, share unfiltered selfies and post slapstick humour.

 

Nonetheless, we emphasise social media as the sole source for Capaldi’s rapid rise to fame. How true is this really? He still had to sing in deserted pubs and support other successful music artists beforehand. Not all is what it seems.

Essentially, to be a celebrity, people need to like you – no matter the superiority of your voice. The extraordinary thing about Capaldi is that his entire brand has been built, and continues to exist, online. He’s a part singer-songwriter, part social media star; #relatable in an era whereby #relatability is a hugely saleable commodity

With a new decade on the horizon, expect to see an array of new artists imitating Lewis Capaldi. It’s certainly worked for him.  

[[SOUND OFF]] XXXTentacion: Better off (Dying)?

By Nico Drysdale

Late, influential, yet heavily problematic and controversial artist, Jahseh Onfroy, otherwise professionally known as ‘XXXTentacion’, provokes thought as to whether he will be deeply mourned or his demise will be favoured.

As news spread online within mere minutes of the shooting and murder of young, Floridian hip-hop artist Jahseh Onfroy on June 18th 2018, fans and celebrities alike paid respectful tributes to the 20-year-old’s sudden death. “I never told you how much you inspired me when you were here”, tweeted Kanye West and, “You were a true artist, one of the most fucking talented of our time”, Blink-182 drummer, Travis Barker expressed​.​ Simultaneously, antagonistic reactions, an onslaught of unconcerned, unsympathetic memes and criticism, directed towards those who failed to actively condemn Onfroy, flooded social media.

Kanye West Instagram  ​tribute ​to XXXTentacion
American hip-hop artist Kanye West, pays tribute to XXXTentacion and expresses his sorrowful thoughts concerning the late rapper’s death

Was this an insensitive and unwarranted reaction? Or perhaps justified and comical?

Known for his quick succession from underground SoundCloud Rap fame to mainstream success, (with hits such as ‘​Look At Me!​’ ​​hitting US billboard charts,​​earning him a $10 million record deal for his third album); it was established that the allure and rapid reputation of the 20-year-old’s career, was popularised by and depressingly coincided with, the myriad of unsettling crimes charged against him (particularly those regarding domestic violence towards his girlfriend at the time: Geneva Ayala).​​ Google Trends data ​visualises how ‘XXXTentacion’ was minimally searched before October 2016, when the alleged abuse occurred, and how after this release of news, searches for his name dramatically increased.

XXXTentacion has been found dead in Miami’ meme
XXXTentacion has been found dead in Miami’ meme instantly circulated​ ​social media after his death.

XXXTentacion’s notorious relationship with crime began in 2014 with gun possession charges, escalating in 2016 when he was arrested and charged with “robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and home invasion”, consequently violating the ​house arrest ​agreement​ ​prior to trial on ​these charges​.​ Three months later, ​he was charged with “aggravated battery of a pregnant victim, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering”​.

Pleading not guilty in court, as well as denying charges across interviews, the rapper ​laughed off ​domestic abuse allegations ​in a “profanity-strewn tirade” on social media calling the charges “fabricated”, pledging to “champion for women’s rights” through donating $100,000 to domestic violence prevention programmes. Complex magazine repeatedly questioned XXXTentacion’s representative for details regarding the proposed charitable donation, but no evidence of payment was ever actually provided.

Although domestic violence charges were ​discharged​ after Onfroy’s death, this is NOT the same as being found not guilty and is debted to his untimely demise. In fact, there is a plethora of concrete, public information suggesting that the late, controversial XXXTentacion was, to all intents and purposes, an abusive, misogynistic, active anti-feminist and all-round violent criminal.

Articles discuss the troubled tendencies, insecurities and woes of Onfroy, emphasising the conditions of his financially unstable upbringing, drug-addled, traumatic ​childhood​ and his personal struggles with mental health. These themes are ​prevalent​ within his music; a combination of hip-hop and depressive emo that are traced around “mental illness, suicide, extreme misogyny and a prevailing feeling of numbness” that reflects “​a life lived with disregard for humanity, both other people’s and his own”​. His involvement with SoundCloud Rap highlighted a new wave of artists “whose music embodied a disconnect with societal norms, embraced internet culture” and drug use – specifically Xanax. He subsequently gained and influenced a following of cult-esque, devout listeners whose struggles align closely with his, consequently inspiring and sparking a sense of belonging within those who could relate to his music; generating the problematic and ignorant idea that this excuses his criminal actions.

Fans rushed to defend Onfroy after he pleaded not guilty in regards to the horrific, violent domestic abuse charges against him, in turn, prompting a new narrative that painted his ​“accuser as a liar”. However, the alarming accusations, which ​Pitchfork​ described in harrowing detail in 2017, paint Onfroy as a repulsive, repeated psychological and physical abuser that inflicted a “grim pattern of routine abuse”, on his said girlfriend at the time, highlighting the blatant toxicity of himself and his fanbase.

Furthering this, ​Pitchfork​ also produced a transcript from a 27-minute recording of Onfroy detailing and confessing to unnamed acquaintances, to multiple crimes, including the physical violence he inflicted on his ex-girlfriend and other individuals. XXXTentacion’s public response consisted of a series of disturbing videos he posted on Instagram, threatening to “domestically abuse y’all little sisters’ pussy from the back” to anybody that called him “a domestic abuser”.

Disgustingly, the Floridian rapper’s incarceration only seemed to propel his ever-growing celebrity forward rather than hinder it; landing him a ​reported​ $6 million record contract with Capitol Records after Ayala’s deposition was publicly released in 2017. From threatening to murder her and their unborn child, proceeding to brutally beat her until her eyes were leaking blood, forcing her to pick between two grill utensils because he was going to “​insert​ one of them in her vagina”; XXXTentacion frankly shows his true colours and raises fundamental questions about the “​separation of art from the actions of those who create it”.

Spotify fleetingly blacklisted the rapper’s music from playlists, (a widely criticised action) in 2018 for flouting the regulations of their hate content and hateful conduct policy, due to the string of violent allegations against him. Sadly, the streaming service reinstalled his music when his publicist questioned why the actions of other artists who had been accused of similar offenses had not undergone the same treatment. Similar controversy was sparked when a posthumous collaboration between XXXTentacion and likewise SoundCloud Rap artist Lil Peep was ​created​, despite Lil Peep explicitly ​rejecting​ XXXTentacion for his abuse of women when he was alive.

Deeply mourned or a welcomed demise?

No doubt the 20-year-old’s music influenced an incredibly devout fanbase; but was this without harm? His cult-like following spoke to listeners who’s struggles aligned with his; inspiring those who similarly shared a disconnect with societal norms, generating toxicity to the extent that they would purposefully ignore his frequent and violent criminal convictions. NO amount of talent or recognition can erase the psychological and physical trauma the internet ‘sadboi’ inflicted on several individual’s lives; when you actively chose to expose yourself to the works of an abuser, you are amplifying indelible suffering, in turn silencing victim’s voices, further enabling repeated patterns of abuse. This will be Jahseh Onfrony’s true legacy.

[[Sound off]] “Is Beyoncé the most contradictory feminist of the 21st century?”

by Paige Lockwell

“Is Beyoncé the most contradictory feminist of the 21st century?”

Beyoncé! One of our most iconic artists of female empowerment right?! Wrong.

The ‘Who Run the World’ star discusses her feminist essay “Gender Equality is a Myth!” by preaching that “unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change”, but does she really know what she’s talking about?

Many have been sceptical after her British Vogue interview in 2013, after defining the word feminist to “be very extreme”, and stating she was “a modern-day feminist” instead.

Yet three years later during her ‘Flawless’ tour in 2016 she states this ‘iconic’ feminist sign was “not for propaganda or to proclaim to the world that I’m a feminist, but to give clarity to the true meaning”, but does she really know the true meaning herself?

Beyoncé has been repeatedly vocal on her views through her co-funded campaign ‘Chime for Change’, and her clothing brand ‘Ivy Park’ as she states that, “I am mentally strong, and I wanted to create a brand that made other women feel the same way”. 

Although not everyone is feeling these ‘amazing’ effects of the brand, including the young girls being exploited in Sri Lanka, who are treated like slaves earning only 44p an hour to create the clothing brand in a sweatshop.  

The worker . . . machinist we spoke to said there was little opportunity to escape poverty

Beyoncé’s spokesperson stated– “Ivy Park has a rigorous ethical trading programme” and they are “proud of our efforts in terms of factory inspections and audits”. 

So maybe not empowerment for ‘all’ women then. But can her music be any better? 

Image result for upgrade u

In her earlier works, the notorious “B-Day” (2006) album didn’t really reveal this hyper ‘feminist’ message either. Upgrade U was an iconic hit but didn’t display the most pleasing lyrics, “You need a real woman in your life/Taking care home and still fly” doesn’t really scream independent female more like domesticated housewife. 

The lyrics don’t seem to get any better “When you in the big meetings for the mills/Take me just to compliment the deals”, completely objectifies women, but then attempts to reel it back by saying she’ll “split the bill” so I guess that makes it all ok! 

The final lyric “Ladies that’s a good luck believe me” acts as this odd message of guidance for women, when really it sounds like more repression than empowerment. But the past is in the past right? Well… 

Her ‘Beyoncé’ (2013) album is another whirlwind of conflicting messages. Her third track ‘Drunk in Love’ refences the distressing scene from Tina Turner’s biopic ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ (1993), through the lyrics “I’m Ike, Turner, turn up…Now eat the cake, Anna Mae/I said eat the cake”, which shows Anne Mae (Tina Turner) being brutally force-fed cake by her abusive husband Ike Turner. So why on earth would you ‘claim’ you’re a feminist yet glamourise and celebrate such an awful man? 

It gets worse, her track “Partition” is the most contradictory and confusing song yet. The obscure seedy video basically shows Beyoncé as a stripper wearing nothing but her underwear performing in-front of Jay Z for his entertainment, with multiple women. If that doesn’t scream objectification I don’t know what does.

The repetitive chorus “I just want to be the girl you like”, referring to Jay Z as “daddy” accompanied with her odd sexual ‘performance’ acts as this sort of weird desperation for Jay Z’s attention which just looks and sounds bizarre. 

To make it worse the ending lyrics spoken in French “Men think that feminists hate sex but it’s an exciting and natural activity that women love”, is just the weirdest part of it all, she claims she is a feminist yet is nothing more than a sex object having to seductively perform for a man’s entertainment, doesn’t really scream feminist to me.

To top it all off the repetitive derogatory chant “bow-down bitches” on iconic song ‘Flawless’ is just the icing on the cake, is this really as Jon Pareles calls it a “pro-feminist” album or just a mixture of really confusing messages? 

Image result for lemonade gif beyonce

Maybe 2016 was a bit better? Think again. Visual album ‘Lemonade’ might have been the worst out of all 3. Her hate fuelled album revealed some pretty vicious lyrics like “Today I regret the night I put that ring on”, as well as instructing her “ladies” to put their “middle fingers up…wave it in his face tell him, boy bye” on iconic hit ‘Sorry’ with reference to the Jay Z cheating scandal which happened a few years back.

Her third track “Don’t Hurt Yourself” refers to how she’d “Bounce to the next d***” if it ever happened again, as well as stating “Tonight I’m fucking up all your shit boy”, and “keep your money/I got my own”. Here, you would think this represents Beyoncé as this self-reliant, liberated female who isn’t controlled by any man, right? 

Well the album was exclusively only pre-released on Jay Z’s music streaming site “Tidal” which earned him over 1.2 million user sign-ups, earning him roughly 12 million US Dollars within the first week, but remember she’s still an independent female!

Even Consequence of Sound fell for this hyper-feminist nonsense by branding the album as “Beyoncé fully coming into her own: wise, accomplished, and in defence of herself” even though she is completely controlled by her husband, even when releasing an album about how much she despises him. The irony…  

The only celebrity to realise this feminist propaganda was ‘212’ singer Azealia Banks, as she called her out for her ‘poacher’ like behaviour towards women. Savage!

Image result for everything is love

To make things even more bizarre her most recent album reverted to this strange cultivated image of a maternal housewife, as she changes her name to ‘Mrs Carter’ in her “Everything is Love” album in 2018, accompanied with Jay Z. 

Beyoncé’s lyrics on their track ‘Heard About Us’– “why these bitches so mad for/They don’t want Yoncé on their door” and the repetitive chorus “put your hoes in their place/Bitch stay in your lane doesn’t really reinforce this ‘women supporting women’ idea she attempted to ram down our throat in her previous album. 

Rolling Stone branded the album by saying it “splendidly celebrates their family dynasty”, yet Jay Z’s lyrics on track ‘Apes***’- “you need me, I don’t need you”, sounds more like a family affair than a ‘dynasty’. Ironically this probably the only lyric out of all her albums that spoke some home truths.  

Who runs the world? Girls! Men according to Beyoncé.

Bibliography:


[[Sound off]] J. Cole – Biblical, boring, or both?

by Khairul Raimi Hamzah

Not too long ago, anyone associating themselves with rap or hip hop in general was seen as rebellious, without morals, black, or trying to be black. However, times have changed and what used to be considered a “subculture” or “counterculture” is now, popular mainstream music. And like every era of hip hop, there are always MC’s who reign over the rest.

This particular generation of rappers has (debatably) 3 kings of rap. Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and J. Cole. While the other two artists are practically loved by most hip hop fans, not many are fond of J. Cole’s music, including his newly released album titled K.O.D.

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Jermaine Lamarr Cole was born on January 28th 1985 and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina. While he grew up lacking a lot of things, two things he didn’t lack were talent and hardship, which most of us know, are recipes for a great MC. He’s regarded as the Nas of this generation. ​Nick Genovese of America Magazine went as far as to call him the “Modern-day St. Augustine“​. Now, we know he’s got what it takes to be at the top but he just raps about women, money, and drugs like everybody else in the rap game, right? Not quite.

Most rappers early in their careers (Cole included) rap about these things in a derogatory term. It’s just how it’s been for so long with people being less sensitive towards certain social issues. Social justice warriors, the feminist movement and gender equality weren’t a big thing at the time.

When it comes to women, Cole talks about finding “the one” or first loves and staying faithful. He also talks quite a bit about his experiences growing up with a single mother in tracks like “​Apparently​” from his 3rd album and “​Once an Addict (Interlude)​” from the latest one.

He doesn’t flaunt his own cash either. Instead, he talks about black people unable to earn a living or reach their highest potential due to the education system. In his track “​BRACKETS​”, he touches on how we don’t know if money donated these days actually reach their intended destination. And in “​ATM​”, he says

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“Count it up, count it. Can’t take it when you die, but you can’t live without it”​​.

Paired with the visuals of his video, he claims that people are willing to sacrifice anything in return for bigger cheques. The majority of his music speaks about the experiences in his life be it with relationships, the black community or drugs. He’s known for being the rapper to go “multi-platinum without any features”. So why then, do people still not pick up what he’s putting down?

If you scroll through social media, online threads and the like, you’d see that the most common critique he gets is that he’s “boring”. But how can that be? A multi-platinum album selling artist… boring? If you’ve ever listened to a J. Cole song (subjectively), you’d know why people say that.

Unlike Kung Fu Kenny (Kendrick) and Drizzy (Drake) who have distinct voices, Cole has a more laid back and chill tone. He’s not as lyrically skilled as Kendrick, nor does he have catchy punchlines like Drake. But does that mean he’s not as good? Well, to be frank, every king has his own way of ruling over the rap game.

Murs from HipHopDX came up with a theory called the “​3 Lane Theory​”. In contemporary hip hop, there is the “Pop” lane, dominated by Drake, the “Hip pop” lane, dominated by Kendrick, and finally the “Hip hop” lane by the man in question, J. Cole.

He explains that the “Pop” lane is for selling records targeted to the mass where it’s catchy and people will bump in the clubs. The “Hip pop” lane has the same intent as the “Pop” lane but also has a message the MC’s trying to push out. Lastly, the “Hip hop” lane is for MC’s trying to deliver a message without caring whether it sells. And that’s exactly what Cole does.

Yes, his voice may not be the most recognized, yes maybe his beats aren’t the most iconic, and yes maybe his lyrics aren’t as deep as Kendrick’s but what he excels at is storytelling. He even said on “​False Prophets​”

“My highest moments come from tellin’ all the saddest stories I’ve seen in my life, I be fiendin’ to write Songs that raise the hair on my arms.​​”

Essentially, what he’s doing is weaving truth into his music. Those who’ve been through the same struggles will resonate with his music. With his immaculate songwriting, he’s able to paint a picture with sound and still be capable of writing “fire” lines like

“so ahead of my time, even when I rhyme about the future I be reminiscing”
“The problem with this game is this weak sea of rappers. I’m the answer on the low, I’m a cheat sheet for rappers.”
“​​I recognize that life is a dream, and I dream lucid.”

In his song “​1985 (Intro to “The Fall Off”)​”, he targets the younger generation of rappers typically known as “Mumble Rappers”. He gives them advice from the standpoint of someone who’s considered one of the greats. However, these “Mumble Rappers” didn’t like what he had to say. So, in line with Cole’s message of spreading positivity and love, he sat down with Lil Pump, one of the “Mumblers” who had beef with him, to talk it out. At the end of it all, both rappers had a mutual respect for each other.

The main objective of this album is to break the “small town mentality” and to bring to light certain issues he sees in the community. Sure, a lot of the things Cole says may be considered preachy, but love him or hate him, you can’t deny that he stands atop this current generation of rappers. One thing’s for certain, Cole looks hungry for more and this album, is only the beginning.

You might like… Soul Music: Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

I regularly post links to some related BBC shows that touch on the material we cover on the module or material that we don’t always have time to go into enough depth with. Here we have a celebration of the like of Martin Luther King in the 50th anniversary year of his death from Radio 4’s Great Lives series.

BBC Radio 4 Soul Music

You can stream the show here or you can download an mp3 here.

Show notes below:

Actor Clarke Peters narrates a special edition of Soul Music marking fifty years since the assassination of the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King on April 4th 1968.

“If in doubt, pray and sing” an activist recalls how music was used as part of Dr King’s non-violent resistance movement.

This edition of Soul Music tells the stories of the songs behind the Civil Rights Movement including the spirituals and freedom songs that were integral to the struggle. In the 19th century, music became a tool for protest and resistance among the enslaved peoples of the American South. The programme hears the stories behind some of the most popular anthems and Freedom Songs that were later used as part of the civil resistance movement that eventually led to voting rights and desegregation. From Swing Low Sweet Chariot and We Shall Overcome to Amazing Grace, Strange Fruit and A Change Is Gonna Come, witnesses to and participants in the Civil Rights Movement recall how songs were such a vital part of the story.

Producer: Maggie Ayre.

You might like… Great Lives: Miles Davis

Every now and then the BBC Great Lives series pushes out a musical cracker. Here we have Adrian Utley of trip-hop/electronica act, Portishead, explaining why Mr Davis is the one of the greatest jazz musicians to ever graced this planet.BBC Radio 4 - Great Lives - Miles Davis

You can get stream the show here or download the show as an mp3 here. Below are the show notes:

Miles Davis – trumpeter, composer, bandleader – is championed by Adrian Utley of Portishead.

“He’s always been really important in my life, right from early on when my dad used to play him. It was part of the atmosphere of our house.”

From the early years with Charlie Parker and on via Kind of Blue to playing in front of 600,000 hippies on the Isle of Wight, Miles Davis was a musician who never stood still. “Always listen for what you can leave out,” he used to say, and Portishead’s seminal nineties album Dummy seems to have taken advice from the man. According to Adrian Utley, “The darkness and the sense of space is the thing that I have assimilated from Miles … he’s in my DNA.”

With Richard Williams, author of The Blue Moment: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music,.

Presented by a sceptical Matthew Parris, and produced by an enthusiastic Miles Warde.

You Might Like… Soul Music: ‘Redemption Song’

I’ve often found this BBC Radio 4 series to be a little bit hit or miss with regards to their episodes and their focus but there are some gems hidden away that you deserve to listen to. The episode below is from Series 25 and tackles the late Bob Marley classic ‘Redemption Song’ – one of the singer’s last (and finest) songs from the Uprising album. It features some heart-wrenching accounts of the song and its meanings that fans have attached

You can stream the show here  and you can download the mp3 here.

BBC Radio 4 Soul Music
Click the image to download the MP3 from bbc.co.uk

Show notes

“If you’ve never heard of Bob Marley then you must be living under a rock” – Neville Garrick, Bob Marley’s Art Director and friend.

At the time he wrote ‘Redemption Song’, circa 1979, Bob Marley had been diagnosed with the cancer in his toe that later took his life. It is considered one of his greatest works and continues to inspire generations of Marley fans across the world.

For Grammy Award Winning artist John Legend, it’s become an anthem for addressing the criminal justice system of America. ‘Musicians without Borders’ practitioner Ahmed al ‘Azzeh finds the song inspires him to work towards a better life in the Palestinian Territories. For Jamaican Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison, it is a reminder to continue Marley’s call to ‘sing these songs of freedom’ and for Bob Scott, it will forever be heard in memory of his nephew Dominick who lost his life during the 2004 Tsunami.

Featuring interviews with Neville Garrick and Wailers Guitarist Don Kinsley.

Produced by Nicola Humphries.

[[Sound off]]: Love to Love You, Disco.

By Maurice Long

 

Disco is a genre that rarely appears to be taken very seriously and, in the present day, often seems to be disregarded as novelty music that people do not genuinely believe to be of supreme quality. However, during its emergence from the late 1960s to the 1970s, it represented a very important outlet for a lot of people who, away from the dancefloor, were the target of much discrimination at this point in history. As well as this, revisiting a lot of disco music is an enjoyable thing to do because, despite how it sometimes tends to be perceived today, it is a genre that produced a considerable amount of very good music. It went though something a crisis with the ‘Disco Sucks’ campaign and the film Saturday Night Fever, which seemed to ignore so many of the important themes that were at the centre of the disco movement but, through a retrospective look at the disco scene, it is clear that it deserves a lot more respect that people have often been willing to give it.

The origins of disco and its initial popularity are usually traced back to the DJ David Mancuso and his parties at The Loft in New York in the early 1970s. An Alex Petridis article in The Guardian after Mancuso’s death in 2016 says: “The crowd Mancuso’s parties drew were pansexual and racially mixed – about 60% black and 70% gay, according to one estimate – a gathering of ‘the disaffected and disenfranchised’”. This was in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which had empowered communities who had been consistently targeted by police and oppressed for so long and had led to the formation of groups like the Gay Liberation Front. The music and nightlife were important as a means of exercising that liberation and as expression for racially and sexually diverse groups of people. Musically, what Mancuso played was dance music that had its origins in funk, with distinctive basslines and horn sections. These characteristics can be heard in songs like Manu Dibango’s 1972 jazz-funk hit ‘Soul Makossa’

Donna Summer

Grace Jones’ Portfolio

Artists such as Donna Summer and Grace Jones emerged as standout stars of the genre. Particular highlights from their respective discographies include Summer’s 16-minute disco epic ‘Love to Love You Baby’ from 1975 and Jones’s irresistibly funky bass-driven 1977 reworking of Edith Piaf’s ‘La Vie en rose’ from her first album, Portfolio. The sexual liberation that disco fans were enjoying was reflected in the music. The lyrics to ‘Love to Love You Baby’ are punctuated by moans that are clearly there to emphasise the intensity of the sexual experience the song appears to be referencing.

The early years of disco were characterised by freedom and diversity, and also by musical innovation. Nicky Siano, a DJ who opened his club The Gallery in 1973, is acknowledged as the pioneer of various new DJing techniques, such as beatmatching and the use of multiple turntables. As an interview on the Vinyl Factory’s website highlights: “In the history of DJ culture, Nicky Siano’s presence looms large. His club The Gallery was instrumental in forging the disco culture of the 1970s in New York, while his technique on the decks helped further the art of mixing records as we know it.” In terms of the history of dance music as a whole, Siano’s innovation that was central to the disco scene in New York has been very influential.

It was not just in the USA where disco took off. It was also prominent in European popular music. Boney M, made up of four vocalists from the Caribbean but formed in West Germany in 1975, were particularly successful. Musically they had unmistakably disco elements but also took inspiration from reggae. Their live performances were characterised by the energetic dancing and costumes of Bobby Farrell and they enjoyed chart success throughout Europe with singles such as ‘Daddy Cool’ and ‘Sunny’ as well as the uniquely unforgettable 1978 track ‘Rasputin’.

ABBA were also involved with eurodisco and remain one of the most successful bands of all time. The disco tracks that these acts put out may be a bit poppier and perhaps less interesting than the music of Donna Summer and Grace Jones but they are still fun to listen to and the early days of disco were all about people having the freedom to express themselves and have fun in a way that had previously not been so open to them.

The release of 1977’s Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta, brought disco very much into the mainstream. However, what was represented in the film was not a particularly accurate depiction of the disco scene. It centred on white, heteronormative characters and was soundtracked by the Bee Gees. It would be difficult to describe it as a celebration of the racial and sexual inclusivity that was so fundamental to the development of disco music and dancing.

While Saturday Night Fever’s portrayal was perhaps unhelpful for how disco was received, the ‘Disco Sucks’ campaign, started by rock radio DJ Steve Dahl, was to prove more damaging. As a Hadley Meares article for Aeon describes: “Dahl saw disco as slick and inauthentic, and he took to playing popular disco tunes, only to ‘blow ’em up real good’ with sound-effects live on-air.” He had a lot of fans who agreed with him and the movement kept growing. This culminated in the 1979 public demolition of many disco records and subsequent riot at a Chicago White Sox baseball game. Dahl distanced the movement from racism or homophobia but it did involve many young white men who appeared to find the disco scene, which welcomed so many marginalised people, threatening to their notions of constructions of masculinity.

Disco did slow down and the scene became less prominent into the 1980s but it is impossible to deny the influence that it has had on popular music styles since then. It undoubtedly deserves to be loved and appreciated for what it represented, and for the joy and freedom that the music communicated.

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Music mentioned can be found here:

[[Sound-off]] Post-Punk: The Big Bang of Modern Music

By Daniel Holstead

After the dust cloud of the Sex Pistol’s implosion had settled, there was no time for Punk’s eulogy as our dear music culture at the time wasn’t particularly into grieving for the era that has just been and gone. And so with that mentality the music scene had decided that an almost page-one-rewrite was needed for the coming era.

 

Gone was the righteous hegemonic masculinity of punk rock where men were Neanderthals in expressing a deep rooted rage at the establishment and everything it stood for. These punk rockers were unprepared for the likes of Joy Division and the kind of earnestness that Ian Curtis would bring to dark dystopian guitar work and tribal drum beats figuratively exploded the heads of those who once engaged in the slamdancing and spit fights of the mid-to-late 1970s. Where punk had been the liberation of a generation, post-punk was the rising of underground music to a mainstream that needed a new direction.

 

The post-punk moment in music was one which ignored the doctrine of the time before it and raided the pre-punk chest of the whole of prog rock, the androgynous sexuality of Roxy Music and perhaps most importantly balls-to-the-wall all out craziness of Captain Beefheart. While this type of music had been viewed as stale when the likes of The Ramones and The Clash set fire to them in the mid 70s, it was the new pioneers of the Talking Heads and The Cure who found in this the key to a new future. Whether it’s David Byrne reciting Captain Beefheart’s ‘Well’ or getting former Roxy Music member Brian Eno to produce the pivotal post-punk album Remain In Light, it is easy to find the fingerprints of pre-punk all over post-punk.

 

While 1977 had been the year that gave us Never Mind The Bollocks which had become the holy scripture that the Sex Pistol’s brought down from the mountain top of counter-culture, David Bowie and Brian Eno were putting out what Bowie described as “new language” what was particular interesting, about these release in hindsight is how the experimentation of Low and Heroes had been unprecedented.  On one hand it was being described as “alienating” by a Dutch journalist and on the other was being regarded by the New York Times as “a strange crossbreed of Roxy Music, Brian Eno’s own solo albums, Talking Heads and an Indonesian gamelan”.

 

With this response to Bowie’s Low, it is easy to identify how post-punk was melting the minds of a music audience whilst feeding them the conventions of the early 1970s rock music which punk had attempted to erase from the archives of popular culture. While we could of course talk at great lengths about the krautrock influence on David Bowie’s work in Berlin and how he appropriated the sounds of Neu, Can and Kraftwerk for his very western and very large cult following, it is important to accept that David Bowie is to this day being cited by contemporary pop artists such as; Lady Gaga, St. Vincent, Calvin Harris and Lorde and it is this period of work that is time and time again referenced as his greatest imprint on music.

There is also a separate discussion to be had on Brian Eno’s influence on the colourful landscape of modern music.

Eno and U2 as part of the Passengers project (1995)

Whilst Brian Eno began his career as a producer by working on the various cornerstone records of post-punk and new wave, it was from this that he became the master of turning big bands into great bands. When it came to U2, he turned them from the biggest cult post-punk band into THE biggest band of the late 1980s and 1990s. This was evident in the various reinventions in U2’s career that begun Eno-produced The Unforgettable Fire and had continued through until the late nineties. U2 of course also being a product of early post-punk influences courtesy of the sounds of CBGBs with Television and Talking Heads having a large influence on the Irish band along with the dystopian experimental sounds of British bands Joy Division and Wire. Then there is the sequel to U2; Coldplay who enlisted Eno as producer on their Viva La Vida and Mylo Xyloto which spawned a variety of anthemic pop songs that topped worldwide charts. None of this could have possibly happened without Eno’s beginnings as a member of glam rock outfit Roxy Music and the subsequent genre fusing that led to post-punk.

Of course there is the highly influential feminist post-punk bands such as; Au Pairs and The Raincoats who can share the acclaim of heavily influencing nineties alternative rock acts such as; Nirvana and Pixies. It is documented that Kurt Cobain had high praise for The Raincoats and went as far as to listing their self-titled debut in his top 50 albums of all time as well as being credited as being a reason for their mid-nineties reformation. The Raincoats’ amateurish punk sound had been the framework for the sound of Nirvana, not only in its bare bones approach to a defiant rock sound, but in its both personal and often self-celebratory spirit which is reminiscent of the few and far between almost joyous moments of Nirvana’s short career, a key example being ‘Silver’  and ‘Been A Son’.

So while it is only quietly, you will find admission of post-punk’s wide ranging influence on the music of today and a lot of what has transpired since it faded into the early 1980s, once David Bowie’s work with Brian Eno is considered as being a sort of genesis for post-punk and those whom took influence from Low and Heroes in this period, it is easier to find how the roots of post-punk led to a portion of the popular music of today. And perhaps the most key example of this can be found here

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