“Hope my mistakes don’t make less of a man / But lately it feel like them shits really can” opens 6lack’s second studio album East Atlanta Love Letter. The introspection and lack of self-trust are motifs littered throughout the record creating the perfect winter sound of sorrow and loneliness. Despite the title, the record is not a tribute to his city but falls into the classic struggle with a famed life, mixed with 6lack’s newfound responsibility as a father (that’s his one-year-old daughter on the cover). While the post-fame depression is not a new theme, 6lack’s newest record is more than a humble-brag but a door into his fears. The bleak, pessimistic opening lines provide an accurate entrance to the artist’s anxiety in his new environment. Rather than an homage to his city, 6lack created a track list of love letters to what he’s lost or will soon.
When a friend first recommended 6lack to me, she called gave him all the emotional pain of the Weeknd’s early mixtapes with more of a hip-hop edge. Sonically, there is no doubt of the early Weeknd’s influence; reverb-drenched piano keys, the lilt of the synth washes, as well as the strict, heavy low-end percussion. However, that is where the comparison ends. Where the Weeknd became polished and poppy, 6lack thrives in murkiness. Unlike the lights and grandiosity of the Weeknd’s drug-fueled universe, we stay with 6lack in his hotel room—sometimes we even hide in a closet alongside him.
The entire album sounds otherworldly and dark and is locked in 6lack’s own narrative. The first half of the album is especially haunting, rooted in chilling songs like “Loaded Gun” and “Unfair”. 6lack spits his sorrowful lines without any humor; he is to be taken seriously or not at all. While the album teeters on monotonal, the interspersing of more upbeat songs like “Switch” and “Sorry” keep the listener grooving.
“Loaded Gun” out of all the songs best captures 6lacks’ ethos. While it opens with 6lack’s new life hopping from groupie to groupie, enjoying fame, the chorus returns to 6lack’s never-ending introspection. “All I’m ever askin’ for is time / I just needed time to clear my mind / When I want is already mine” Even in the pleasures of excess, 6lack still fears his mortality and want to create. He worries that the fame takes away from his ability to produce and discusses pulling away. He ends the song by discussing his daughter, citing her for his growth. The theme of balancing newfound responsibility and all the new pleasures open to him is seen throughout the album as 6lack tries to grow from his first studio album.
Future’s feature on the title track maintains the murkiness and haunted-synth wash.
While at first blush one must wonder how Future would sound over the sonnet-esque melancholic beat, his crooning suits the innocence of the track. J. Cole, however, probably had the best feature on the album. “Pretty Little Fears” is one of the more optimistic songs on the record; it captures the moment in a relationship when both parties come forward to discuss their vulnerabilities and fears. Cole’s voice is dipped an octave lower than usual, grounding his wounded verse. It becomes a beautiful, honest, down-to-earth love song.
“Seasons” is undoubtedly the most hopeful track. At this point, it is safe to say the combing of Khalid’s bright voice with 6lack’s dark is an amazing combination. Their collabs are infallible and that remains true on this album. The happiness does not outweigh the bleakness of the beat and 6lack still sounds untrusting of the happy mood, but as the second-to-last track, the listener can believe that 6lack is in a better place than he started. The journey through his depression is not solved but doesn’t end on a totally morose note.
The use of voicemails to tie together albums has been used over and over again and sometimes the lecturing gets tiring. 6lack’s album is not above this trope, but the use of a female voicemail talking down cheating grants listener’s both a humorful break as well as true wisdom about toxic masculinity and the difficulties between men and women relating to one another. She offers a completely oppositional point of view to 6lack’s emotional femme-fatales.
While the album rises from the depths of mysterious sorrow, not unlike an ode by John Keats, it grows more complex and upbeat in the second part. The careful organization keeps the album from droning or becoming dishonest in its melancholia. When the album ends with a love-song to his fans, there is a bit of emptiness inside that 6lack has made us remember. The hopeful aspects of the album remain drenched in pessimism and anxiety, but things could get better in a few months. As winter brings out the loneliest of feelings and gray fills the skies, East Atlanta Love Letter is perfect listening for the cold.
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East Atlanta Love Letter Album Review; Image Credits: @6lack on Instagram
Future released three mixtapes in a five month period: Monster, Beast Mode and 56 Nights. Beast Mode 2 dropped shortly after the last release with little warning.
Beast Mode 2 is only nine songs and 32 minutes long, but it is filled with a variety of moods. Hate the Real Me highlights Futures struggles with substance abuse and fame, while Doh Doh provides a more upbeat song that glorifies the power of having money.
The album hinted several times that Future is gearing up for another mass release of music in the near future. Both critics and fans eagerly await what his new music will bring to the Hip-Hop/Rap industry as the industry itself seems to be changing every day.
Read the full article at Noisey
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Photo courtesy of Timeout
This year, the MTV Video Music Awards found its way back to New York City, but instead of using Radio City Music Hall as its classic venue, the show took place at Madison Square Garden for the first time. In recent years, the VMAs has not had a traditional host and this year was no different. Comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele were in character as social media mavens (because if you know anything at all, you know the best place to watch an award show is on Twitter) but none of their antics, most of which were impossible to follow, seemed to connect with the audience. Other stand-in hosts included MTV’s own Nicole Byer from Girl Code, comedian Jay Pharoah with his great impressions throughout the show, and lastly DJ Khaled, who kept the energy going with his signature catchphrases.
Rihanna was this year’s recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award and she did something different then all the recipients before her and treated us to four different themed performances throughout the show, each showcasing a different style of music she has perfected. She opened the show with a medley of her hits from her pop era. Dressed in light pink from head to toe, she sang “Only Girl In The World,” “We Found Love,” and “Where Have You Been.” Her second performance of the night was a tribute to her culture and homeland in which she brought a traditional Caribbean bashment party to the stage performing all her reggae influenced hits such as, “Rude Boy,” “What’s My Name,” and her recent hit “Work.” Later in the show, she performed her more mellow party records “Pour It Up,” “B*tch Better Have My Money,” and her latest single from ANTI, “Needed Me.” She ended things off with her crowd favorite ballads, “Stay,” a slowed down version of “Diamonds,” and her next single “Love on The Brain,” fully taking in the opportunity to show how much her vocals have grown since she was first introduced to us in 2005. To end things off with a bang, Drake presented Rihanna with her award, giving a speech that sounded more like a love letter. He expressed, “I’ve loved Rihanna since I was 22 years old.” He also so spoke on what makes Rihanna a great artist: “She succeeds by doing something that no one in this industry does by just being herself.” After a sweet embrace between the two, Rihanna expressed her excitement by showing love to her country of Barbados, her friends, family, and fans and her disbelief that at only 28 years old she is lucky enough to accept such an award.
Now as we all know, MTV always keeps us on our toes with surprise antics and this year it came in the form of Kanye West taking to the stage to talk about whatever it is he wanted. He walked out to his song “Famous” which contains the infamous line that has reignited the Kanye vs. Taylor Swift beef and stood as the crowd chanted “Yeezy.” Highlights from his six and a half minute “speech” include saying “I see you Amber,” to his famous ex girlfriend Amber Rose, expressing his hope to win video of the year but it being okay if he lost to Beyoncé, shouting out his wife Kim Kardashian West, and finally debuting his new video for his song “Fade.” The video is a performance piece starring singer Teyana Taylor in what could almost be a tribute to Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. In true Kanye fashion, he has to leave us somewhat bewildered as the video ends with Taylor becoming a cat woman, with her fiancé Iman Shumpert of the championship winning NBA team the Cleveland Cavaliers and their 8-month old daughter “Junie” surrounded by sheep.
In addition to winning eight of the 11 Video Music Awards she was nominated for, and passing Madonna for acquiring the most VMAs ever, Beyoncé completely turned the stage into her own personal concert with a full on recreation of her visual album Lemonade. She eased us in starting with her song “Pray You Catch Me” and followed up with “Hold Up” carrying her signature baseball bat from the video and smacking the camera to the floor. She continued with “Sorry” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” throwing on a fur coat and aggressively performing as flames and sparks surrounded her. She closed her performance with “Formation” filling the stage with an army of female dancers and ending in the formation of the symbol for woman.
Britney Spears also returned to the VMA stage to perform her new single “Make Me” featuring G- Eazy. This performance was her first performance on MTV in almost 10 years since the cringeworthy performance of “Gimme More” at the VMAs in 2007. Other performers included Nick Jonas who performed his new song “Bacon” with Ty Dolla $ign and Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj who gave a lackluster performance of “Side to Side” off Grande’s album Dangerous Woman. Newbies to the VMA stage, The Chainsmokers and Halsey performed their number one hit “Closer” and rapper Future gave an excellent performance of his hit song “F*ck Up Some Commas.”
Seemingly missing from the VMA stage this year was any form of Rock or Alternative music. It seemed to be a show for only the “who’s who” in pop culture right now. Also many of the awards were not given out on camera. Those lucky enough to take the stage to give speeches were DNCE for Best New Artist, Fifth Harmony for Best Collaboration, and Beyonce for Video of the Year and Best Female Video. Drake also won for best hip-hop video but missed his chance at an acceptance speech because he was “stuck in traffic.”
Our U.S. Olympians Michael Phelps and “Final Five” gymnasts Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman (minus Gabby Douglas, who was absent due to an injury) were lucky enough to take the stage and introduce some of the musicians for the night. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte was also there in spirit as Jimmy Fallon impersonated him in a platinum blonde wig while singing Justin Biebers “Sorry.”
All in all, the VMAs did not disappoint. What they lacked in variety and a host they made up for in electrifying performances and a who’s who of celebrity presenters. For a complete list of VMA winners, and video clips head over to MTV.
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MTV Video Music Awards Recap: Featured image courtesy of MTV
The music industry is in a bit of a whirlwind lately. Or some sort of self-imploding time bomb. Take your pick of metaphors, but it can be a complicated subject to follow closely and understand. This weekly column will aim to synthesise that news and make it more digestible for you. In an attempt to not completely bore you with lawsuits and corporate rumors, we’ll mix in some celebrity news and the latests updates from the music charts. Let us know what you want to see here in the comments.
Drake vs. Meek Mill
If you haven’t heard about this Meek Mill vs Drake dispute by now, you obviously haven’t been around a water cooler or say looked at the Internet lately.
Here’s the quick breakdown. Meek Mill, a rapper who prior to the success of his latest album was probably more well-known as the fiance to Nicki Minaj, called out Drake (is it fair to assume we all know who Drake is by now?) for using a ghostwriter during the two artists’ collaboration on “R.I.C.O.” A good ol’ fashioned rap battle broke out from there. Drake dropped the diss track “Charged Up” in response to Mill’s accusations, which is more of a warning shot before the storm to come. Without a response from Mill, Drake drops another diss track “Back To Back Freestyle,” putting Mill down 2-0. Mill responded Friday with his own diss track, which was received less than warmly, mostly because people can’t tell what he’s even saying. All the while, Nicki is most unpleased to see her future husband fighting with her “Anaconda” lap dance friend. At this point, I’m expecting Taylor Swift and Nicki to collab on their own response to the whole affair.
This notion of ghostwriting and public rivalries is nothing new. Artists have been battling since the dawn of blues, when guitarists would go back and forth on stage attempting to out shred the other one and prove their virtuosity. Fans love fighting over who’s better as much as the artists themselves do: Beatles vs. Rolling Stones, Notorious B.I.G. vs. Tupac, Ramones vs. The Sex Pistols. These arguments are as old as rock ‘n’ roll itself and fuel our interest with music.
Ghostwriting isn’t by any means a new phenomena in hip hop either, with its history in popularity dating back to “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang. Of course, an artist’s reputation will be placed in higher regard if they solely write their own lyrics, or elicit the help of credited writers, but plenty of reputable artists have used ghostwriters and will probably continue to. The sheer volume of music high-profile artists are expected to put out these days almost always requires some outside help. It would be nice, however, to see those lyricists get some sort of credit for their work, even if it’s only pay-to-hire. Maybe this outing can destigmatize the whole ordeal.
Writers play an important role, but the flip side of the coin is who is performing the written material, and when it comes to that, I think Drake has Mill beat. In the mean time, at least we’re getting some new tunes out of it.
Music Business News
The “Happy Birthday” song could be made free to use
30 Rock fans may remember an exasperated Liz Lemon trying to stop everyone in the studio from singing “Happy Birthday to You,” in fear that it’ll cost too much to air live. This is a classic Hollywood joke because it’s true. Warner/ Chappell, the publishing group with ownership over the song, is reported to make $2 million a year off the song. However, a filmmaker is disputing Warner Music Group’s right to the song, which could make it free for use in media. Liz Lemon would certainly appreciate it.
Pandora loses legal battle for lower royalty rates
This week, Pandora lost a legal battle against the performance rights organization BMI that would have allowed the popular Internet radio service to pay a smaller royalty rate to BMI and its catalog of artists. This can be kind of complicated, but it’s really pretty simple. Terrestrial radio stations (the stuff you play in your car on traditional FM and AM stations) pay a lower royalty rate than Pandora does to stream its radio service to your phone or computer. Pandora feels it should pay the same rate as most terrestrial radio stations (1.7%). There are plenty of opinions out there about who is in the right on this argument, but for now, all you need to know is Pandora won against the other PRO ASCAP earlier this year and now appears to be losing against BMI. It’s likely Pandora will appeal.
Spain’s music economy is rebounding thanks to streaming services
For the first time, more revenue was generated for the Spanish music industry from digital sources including Spotify and YouTube, marking another victory for streaming music advocates who see these apps and others like them as the future of the industry.
Apple Music hits reported 10 million subscribers in less than a month
If you haven’t tried out Apple Music yet, you’re out of the 10 million club. The new music streaming service is off to a good start, but the real test begins when these initial three-month free trials expire. How many of the early adopters will stick around as the $9.99/month price tag rolls in?
Surprisingly, the biggest news this week comes from the trending charts. Twitter blew up with Drake vs. Meek Mill news and that’s reflected in the charts as Drake’s “Charged Up” slips into a debut spot at No. 3 on the Twitter Top Tracks Chart and as of Sunday night popped up to No. 1 on the Trending 140. It’s still too soon to tell if the charts can declare us a winner in this on-going feud, but Meek Mill’s response track “Wanna Know” didn’t see nearly as much traction on the real-time updated feed. Maybe these Twitter charts will actually be good for analysis after all.
The other big chart news came from none other than One Direction. The newly reformed four-piece band dropped a surprise single “Drag Me Down,” which sounds like the boys back in form — catchy guitar riffs, solid songwriting, and of course, those voices. Looks like the ever popular group will continue on without its bad boy Zayne.
The Hot 100 remain relatively steady with OMI’s “Cheerleader” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” taking the first two slots. “Watch Me” by Silento shot up two positions from last week to take the No. 3 spot. Three big critically acclaimed albums saw their way into the top 10 of Billboard’s Top 200: Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free at No. 6, Tame Impala’s Currents at No. 4, and Future’s DS2 debuting at No. 1. Be sure to check out all three of those fantastic albums.
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This Week In Music News: Drake vs. Meek Mill Image courtesy of stereochampions.com
R&B diva Ciara celebrates baby shower with celebrity BFF’s Kim Kardashian and Lala Anthony on Saturday, and all four ladies looked absolutely radiant. There was so much baby excitement that all the gals posted pics from the bash on their Instagram accounts. 28 year old Ciara was glowing in an embroidered Naeem Khan white dress, with her hair down, while Kim K showed her sexy side in a white cutout dress with one sultry leg slit up the left side. She tweeted “Celebrating @Ciara’s baby shower today with @lala#mommymemories,” on her Twitter account and seemed overly excited for her celebrity bestie.
Spoiler Alert: Although Ciara and rapper fiance Future haven’t yet revealed the sex of their future bundle of joy, a couple photos from the party seems to give it away.In one shot, you can see a cake with a blue baby carriage and ribbon on it, and in another Ciara reveals that LaLa gave her a pair of sneakers made for a boy. So to all you inquiring fans out there expect a swagged out baby boy from this musical couple.
All Images Courtesy of (toofab.com)