Grammy Lessons

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She is the Modern Day Michael Jackson. The greatest living live performer. With nearly 200 million albums sold as a solo artist, and a member of Destiny’s Child, this girl’s claim of running the world is a valid one. Consistently ranked by TIME as one of the most influential people in the world. A myriad of Billboard accomplishments, a plethora of BET, AMA , MTV, and Grammy award nominations, and victories. King Bey is the epitome of musical royalty, and we would be foolish not to Bow Down. Nonetheless, there has been a great injustice that we need fixed this February. Beyoncé does not need any committee, writer, or critic to solidify her as the reigning monarch of music, because the people have already elected her as such. Personally, I have a disdain for awards, because I believe no “expert” really has the right to tell anyone they are good enough or just simply inadequate. Self-confidence, self-appreciation should be all that really matters. But, sometimes the principle outweighs your own perspective, and no matter what these artists or I say they dream of winning awards, they all think back to singing in their mirrors, constructing crazy costumes, and practicing acceptance speeches. Awards are meaningful, and valued as a showing of great appreciation. Yes, Beyoncé has over 60 Grammy nominations, and 20 wins, but the committee has done her a great disservice by never awarding her Album of the Year. The 59th Annual Grammy Awards Ceremony, needs to right this wrong and formally crown the King. Wins in the urban contemporary category, and pop categories are all cool, but the biggest award needs to go to music’s biggest artist this year.

Beyoncé’s groundbreaking visual album Beyoncé, was a fiery, honest masterpiece that dealt with insecurities after giving birth, sexuality, and conveyed the empowerment of women. She received unwarranted criticism for exploring her sexuality, because we unfortunately live in a society that thinks this is a bad idea for women to do. Can you believe that? Songs like “Drunk in Love” and “Partition” were attacked, because people did not think Beyoncé should explore the sexual nature of her monogamous love. However, fans and critics alike had an affinity for the album, it became her 5th number one album, which made her the first woman to have her first 5 albums debut at number 1. Beyoncé was the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes store, it had a succinct message, impeccable imagery attached to it, and don’t forget it was a surprise, all of this commercial success with not one bit of promotion. Then came the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. Could you ever forget that February night? We all sat assured. Beyoncé was a no brainer for Album of the Year. This was her moment. This was Jordan finally beating the Pistons. This was LeBron in 2011: “about damn time.” The Queen was finally about to win the ring she had coveted her whole career. But then the academy shocked us all, and didn’t put the ring on it.

Many of us felt Kanye’s disbelief, as he infamously almost interrupted Beck. Morning Phase was an incredible composition, filled with great instrumentation. Yet, if you’re an honest person you know damn well, you thought Beyoncè would win. Hell, even Beck thought Beyoncè would win. We were all left looking for answers. Was it her race? Her sex? Both? Were voters just split between Sam Smith and Beyoncè? We may never know, but I’m sure we all know the real answer.

Fast forward to February 2016. The world was out-of-order, until Beyoncé put everyone in the proper “Formation.” 

Beysus had rose again, championing her blackness, jabbing at her haters. empowering women. She showed she was proud of her family’s physical characteristics, which are characteristics usually condemned, or not perceived to be beautiful by society. Beyoncé let the world know though, that she views them as aesthetic feats of perfection. The imagery in this video drew attention to instances of police brutality that have plagued America since it’s inception. They called her anti-cop, and racist, but she had achieved her goal and caused “all of that conversation.”  They accused her of jumping on the black girls rock bandwagon, but Bey “Been on” y’all don’t remember them all black girl bands?  Moreover though, we knew an album would follow, and in April we got what stands as her magnum opus Lemonade.

Maybe the problem with Beyoncé was that it was a little commercialized: a few too many tracks were designed for the radio. Lemonade is the older, bolder, stronger sister to Beyoncé. Far from a radio album, although “Sorry” is quite infectious and one can’t help but sing a long. It is Not just a feminist album, but a black feminist album, a journey of empowering yourself through inadequacy, insecurity, and infidelity. She was able to convey the feelings of so many black women dealing with a society that reinforces this idea of them not being good enough yet, she was able to empower them by advocating for them to be unapologetic, telling them winners don’t quit on themselves, frequently flipping gender roles: taking her man shopping, blessing him with a ride on her helicopter, and letting them know that it’s possible for you and your husband to both be a black Bill Gates. Lemonade is a rebellion against insidious traditional views of patriarchy, race, and gender roles: it told everyone black was still beautiful, women don’t have to be dependent on men, and its nothing wrong with them putting their goals first.

I’ll admit it, as the leader of the HovHive, it was tough for me to listen to Lemonade. I felt it was blasphemous, and Bey would agree, as she constantly attacked the God Mc’s God complex on “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Maybe he did cheat (jay would never) maybe it was them taking advantage of the rumors about their marriage failing. We may never know, but we do know that this is her best work, and should be labeled as the best work of 2016. Adele’s album was great, and had some record-breaking sales, but universally it lacked artistically. Views  did not live up to the hype, but a million in a week cannot be ignored. Purpose gave Bieber his best first-week sales and is a personal favorite of mine, but it was not met with critical acclaim. Thus, victory for Beyoncé in the most coveted category is way overdue. The academy can be inconsistent at times, but they claim that commercial performance and the actual art are the most important aspects in picking album of the year. Lemonade was universally one of the highest rated albums of 2016:  Rolling Stone, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly,  The Guardian,  Digital Spy, The Independent, The Associated Press, The New York Times (Jon Pareles list), Los Angeles Times (Mikael Wood list),  Pop Matters, Pretty Much Amazing,  Idolator, Stereogum, Complex, Consequence of Sound, and Wired ranked it number 1 for 20016. It sold nearly 700,000 in the first week with no genuine promotion: we had no idea what Lemonade was when Beyoncê posted about it, and streaming represents a large part of the music consumption market, but this album only streamed on Tidal, so doing nearly 700k is an amazing feat. Her claim to win Album of the Year is a flawless one, and the academy must finally do the right thing.

Regarded as a diva, a deity, and hopefully the winner of the album of the year award at the 59th Annual Grammys; Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.

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Artists to look for in 2017

This year started with more shenanigans and not enough music for me but I am still optimistic for the rest of the year. I think there are some artists new and old who are gearing up for a big year in music.

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I’d like to start with this kid who goes by the name of Kyle. Just an underground rapper with a sound ready for the mainstream. If you’ve heard of him, you know that unique sounding voice he has. Kyle almost sounds like the dork in junior high who was really cool and really funny when you got to know him. He works the sound well. He’s made some of my favorite songs of 2016 with “Remember Me?” featuring Chance The Rapper, as well as “It’s Lit” featuring IAMSU, just to name a few. I highly recommend his two best bodies of work in my opinion, which I believe to be “Smyle” and the “Beautiful Loser” project he created in 2013. If you enjoy rap artistry mixed with a blend of schoolyard playfulness, you’ll love Kyle and songs such as “@foundbae” and “iSpy” where the rapper seems to poke fun at a few rappers who remained nameless with the eyebrow raising line stating “They can’t see the vision boy, they must be out of focus. That’s a real hot album homie, I wonder who wrote it. Oh, Sh*t!”. Kyle definitely has my vote for one of the XXL freshman of the year.

image2Whether it be Joyner Lucas’ based on a true story masterpieces like “Ross Capicchioni”, or his lyrical onslaught with rap legend, Busta Rhymes entitled “Jumanji”, the Worcester native Lucas is a Hip-Hop purest’s dream in the new era. He’s truly a talented wordsmith. Once settled in to Joyner’s no holds barred style of rapping, just minutes into one of his tracks you’ll truly notice that he’s not only a really good rapper but a student of the genre. The way he pieces rhymes together reminds you of a number of the better rap artists in history such as Tech N9ne, Eminem, or Nas. Lucas is not only explicit with his words but he is on an above average level in regards to creativity. Joyner Lucas is one of the best storytellers in Hip-Hop today and I stand by that. You would too if you’ve heard “Happy Birthday”, a tale about fatherhood and infidelity. Joyner Lucas just inked a deal last September with Atlantic Records. We shall see if a debut album is to follow. Trust me when I tell you Joyner Lucas is one of the most lyrically inclined rap artists you may have not heard of yet.

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“You have a way with words. Your silence is a curse”. Kehlani’s “Advice” record alone has me ready for her debut album SweetSexySavage. Kehlani is lowkey killing the R&B/Pop scene and I mean that in a good way. Gangsta is a smash-hit record and not just because it was apart of the Suicide Squad soundtrack. The song is really, really good. Something about her reminds me of the American version of Lily Allen. Maybe it’s the fact that on top of her unique sound, she seems extremely down to earth but almost always seems like she’s living in the moment as if she’s not even here; as if she doesn’t belong to this world. I’m under the impression that her music stems from her deepest thoughts on almost every track. Never a wasted word or breath when listening to a Kehlani track. Bottomline, be on the lookout for anything Kehlani, if you want to feel something especially if you’re born in the 90s, female or male. In my best hippy voice, She’s good for the soul bro.

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Pusha T. King Push. The guy makes me want to sell drugs. I know that’s horrible but it’s just the truth. Don’t think we don’t see the growth Pusha T. The real fans can hear the growth and how “Blowbama” is evolving with his sound. If you haven’t heard “Circles” featuring Desiigner you’ll see what I mean. The production is fantastic and Pusha is immaculate. His verses compliment Desiigner’s contributions so well. Can’t lie, I’m not sure what Desiigner is saying in Circles but I’m not sure if I want too. I think sometimes the songs sound better when you don’t know what these kids are saying, let’s be honest. Think about it. Panda started becoming unbearable to listen too the more we came to understand what the boy was actually saying. I digress. Pusha T is sounding great on these new tracks as of late. This may be an unpopular opinion, but Thirdstory’s “G Train” song is made whole with Pusha’s verse. An extremely unique verse might I add about the relationships between women and rappers, basketball players, football players, etc. I want to hear those new bodies of work you promised us Pusha. It’s safe to say whether Pusha T’s product of choice is drugs or rap music, he’ll keep the fiends begging for more.

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Last but most certainly not least is Jay Z. I just want one more album. Just one more. I just want to hear braggadocios rap done right one more time. I want to know how you feel about the state of affairs in America and where you think we are heading. I want you to take one more jab at Drake just for kicks and giggles. Subliminal your fans to death and leave us in suspense about what’s to come next like you used to back when Marv and I were in high school, where we’d converse around the lunch table about how slick you were with the words. I just want to be inside the mind of the greatest rapper ever once again. Then I want you to run for president. Is that too much to ask?

Kan-Men?

I’m so appalled. Spalding ball, balding Donald Trump taking dollars from y’all. Wise words from a once decent man? From afar it seems like we’ve come a long way from the man who once coined those lyrics on the classic album entitled My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. According to our 45th president Donald Trump, the rapper and he are now great friends. The question is what seems to have changed from Kanye’s initial statement, deeming Trump to be a thief, to now being a person of “great” companionship.

 

Trump as Time's Person of the Year

 

Sometimes we give celebrities too much credit and not nearly enough credit for being the flawed human beings that we all are. Donald Trump is often referred to as a “master of the media”, a man with the ability to bring out the uncut truths in people. We have all heard Kanye be referred to as a “musical genius”. When celebrities contradict themselves these days, we often run to the comments sections and our outlet media of preference to attempt to decode what is “really happening”. The bottomline is we give celebrities like Kanye West and Donald Trump too much credit for being intellectual when in all actuality, they are just plain and simply two walking contradictions who just so happen to be a match made in heaven for the entertainment world that are these United States.

Sure, Kanye West may very well be a musical genius but he doesn’t have nearly as much grasp on his own mind that his fans seem to believe they have on it. Kanye’s musical talents will not be brought into question here. What is in question is how genuine his newly expressed political thoughts are. Kanye West claims that it is important to have a direct line of communication with the new upcoming president in order to express concerns about today’s social issues including bullying and other multicultural issues.

New Flash! These issues aren’t new. These issues have been here for decades. Why is it so important now for Kanye to speak with Donald Trump about these issues when for the past 8 years we’ve had a multicultural president who’s wife happens to be FROM THE CITY OF CHICAGO. Maybe it’s because….

Kanye West hasn’t met with a public official in Chicago or any sort of representation of government from/for the state of Illinois to speak on the violence in Chicago. He hasn’t aligned himself with a governor, senator, congressman, nothing like that at all. The fact of the matter is Kanye West didn’t go to the Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump to speak about multicultural issues and violence in Chicago. He went to the Trump Tower to take pictures with Donald Trump in order to stroke his own ego.

Ego! That brings us to Donald Trump, the “master of the media”. You might ask why would Donald Trump meet with Kanye West. Simple and plainly, while Kanye used Trump for his own personal ego, Trump used Kanye like he’d use anyone else from any other culture who would be low enough to speak with him. It’s all for exposure. Trump isn’t a master of anything. Maybe he will be soon but as far as right now, he’s just a racial issue exploiting instigator. Race is and has been the hottest issue in this nation for as long as anyone can remember. Trump doesn’t care for America as a whole. Not nearly as much as he cares for becoming the biggest name in American history and if people like Kanye West are willing to assist in helping the misinformed get lead down a dark path of regression then so be it. Trump used his voters just like he used Kanye West. An empty promise of if you side with Trump you too can become better; better than every other country, better than every other race, better as a person by putting more money in your pocket. Trump took advantage of the American people, including Kanye West because of their own ignorance and naiveté. Some don’t understand how difficult governing is and the others don’t care. They only care about what standing with Donald Trump can do for them and how it makes them feel superior. We’ll all soon find out that not only did Google and radio lie to us (Kanye’s words) but so did our future president and beloved musical genius. Wake up Mr. West.

I Hate the New Kanye?

To say 2016 was an up and down year for Mr. West may be an understatement. He released the critically acclaimed The Life of Pablo which was only exclusive to Tidal initially, but still managed to stream over a quarter of a million times when it was. He released a few different versions of the evasive Yeezys which always seem to set the sneaker community ablaze, and we all know people who would sell their souls just to grab a pair. Everything seemed to be great in the world of arguably the most controversial entertainer alive: He had a number one album, his fashion influence grew, he and the Kardashian clan were seemingly more successful than ever before. Kanye sprinkled in a Twitter rant here and there, but come on! For Kanye, thats just the norm. So when did it start to go downhill for Mr. West?

On October 2nd his wife the notorious Kim Kardashian was reportedly robbed at gunpoint. Some believed it was a hoax: many said, “well here goes Kris Jenner stirring her sick, twisted plot of controversy for viewership.” Others were anxious and worried. Swarms of followers sent prayers to the modern day Marilyn Monroe. People are still pretty undecided on whether Kim was robbed or not. It was after this though, that things seemed to take a turn for Mr. West, as he shockingly called out his Big Brother.

After turning up, Kanye then went and turned all the way up! He attacked the Carters, Zuckerberg, the radio, and subsequently cancelled the rest of his tour and was checked into the hospital.

The funniest thing about this is first he wanted Jay-z to come and visit: a mere phone call angered Pablo. However, in this rant he begs Hov to just call him. But I digress, many of us act as if this outlandish behavior is coming from some new person. Rumors of mental illness swirled, the usual illuminati theorist used these rants as solid proof. But, isn’t this new Kanye, the our kids never played Kanye, the spazz on Jay Kanye, just like the old Kanye? Remember when Dave Chapelle told us about his first time meeting the GOAT of getting everyone tight?

Next, let us look at Rocafella co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke, and Dj Vlad discuss how Kanye has always been…well, Kanye!

We’ve even heard Jay say Kanye has always been like this in his interview with The Breakfast Club. The fact that we think we’re meeting some new Kanye is just comical. We also forget Kanye has spoken out at a plethora of different award shows. He has made just about every award show producer anxious, and or held them hostage, because they know his face means ratings, but his voice means repercussions. Kanye has always been the outlandish, flamboyant, boisterous, insane, sophisticated, paradoxical, dynamic genius we have come to love. Can any of us name one genius that ain’t crazy?

This conflict with Jay-z was a long time coming. Many were unaware of the friction, but they just didn’t read the signs. Kanye and Jay hadn’t been working together as much as they normally did: no Jay feature on Yeezus or Pablo, and no Kanye production work on MCHG. I get it, sometimes the sounds don’t match, nothing may have been suitable for Jay on Pablo or the angry, aggravated, polarizing Yeezus. Jay clearly went in another direction sonically for Magna Carta, but still three albums and zero features? I could divide! That’s zero. None! If we were to ask Kanye “what’s up with you and Jay man are ya’ll ok man?” A “yup” would surely be a dubious reply.The two reportedly almost came to blows during their Watch the Throne tour, and quite frankly there have always been reports that Jay just finds Kanye to be annoying as hell. This tension has been getting tighter and tighter for years, so its really nothing new if you’ve been paying attention.

Since her birth Jay has tried to shield his daughter from headlines, and the Carters do not like stories about them they have not started or cannot control. So, by dragging Blue and Bey into these headlines Yeezus may never walk side by side with his idol Jay-Hova again. We may never get Watch the Throne II, Mr.West has burned that bridge with Jay, and scorched “the Throne.” I expect some great music to come out of the trouble Kanye has been having though, because this same formula laid the foundation for his magnum opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kanye West is again the abomination of Obama’s nation, and as this nation looks at him with disdain in it’s eyes he will again rise to the occasion, and fight to win back America’s heart. Controversy, pain, loss, contempt, and grief beget great art for the man with 21 Grammy awards and counting. We may never know what Kanye West will say next, but I guarantee you it will parallel his past.