Here we are again, at the end of another eventful year. Seven billion people now populate the earth. Osama bin Laden is dead. I finally got a job. While tempted to continue on in an elegant display of glittering generalities and positive platitudes, I will simply shortcut to the basic point of this blog- I listened the shit out of some music, and will now encapsulate them in blog form.
If you’ve never heard of dubstep, listen to this before proceeding:
Someone treated me to a similar assault of electronic perversion earlier this month. At the end of the song, I was cradling in the corner with my thumb in my mouth, praying that his speakers would stop screaming at me. What was that sound? How could one call it music? Nevertheless, my ears begged for another listen, and with one small leap of faith, buying Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, I had thrown myself into this new sonic frenzy they call dubstep, so much so that I went to my first concert ever. Dubstep was able to pervade my daily life in ways that my previous bouts with standard electronica had failed to do, mostly because of this genre’s break-neck intensity.
Yes, it is an obnoxious genre to listen to at certain times, but even the names of the chief artists alone should let you know that this isn’t for easy listening. It is punk music for our digital age; a blast of raw, filthy bass intelligible only to us no-good, snot nosed, “first world” vandals.
Of course, as this is a DJ-driven genre it warrants a bit of trial-and-error in order to find a handful of songs that are good (especially since a billion dubstep songs are released daily). My loyalties lie with Skrillex and Knife Party, and are good starting points for those willing to dig deep. Listen to dubstep in your car first. This genre is not meant solely for headnodding.
Section.80 is one of the most creative hip hop albums to have come out in the new millenium. Like every other album you can think of, they don’t qualify. Not only is this album replete with tender, jazz and electronic-infused beats and the best lyricism to be had from any New School MC, but the topics he discusses are much appreciated. Not many artists can produce a song describing the plight of women, simply because they never wanted to or the fact that the references to the opposite sex in any previous work is lathered with misogyny. And not many artists can be honest about our generation’s runaway zeitgeist with copious amounts drugs, sex, and ignorance without being shunned. It was not my favorite album of the year- it wasn’t even an album that particularly wowed me at first, but it was the album that earned my deepest respect.
Hmm… where do I begin…
WTT was not horrific to me. Nor was it the great collection of bangers it was purported to be. The mass hysteria that cocooned this album from the beginning of the year until its release date was so thick, I could not help to think that this could have been the best hip hop album to ever grace my ears. Sadly what I was given was one great song (Otis), two OK songs (Gotta Have It, Murder to Excellence), and an absurdly ornate album cover. That left about nine songs worth of dead weight which made me almost incensed as to the amount of time and effort that these men had worked on for what felt like forever. My solemn postulation is that this album was a way to release the under-cooked morsels from the expensive MBDTF recording sessions, which explains the wide and inconsistent array of beats they rapped on. Kanye was competent, but let’s be real- Jay-Z has fallen off.
FAV TRACK- Otis
Many critics wrongfully relegated this as a free mixtape. No one painstakingly crafts 21 songs, complete with Southern home-cooked beats and front porch poetry delivered with such a majestic drawl and deserves this sort of insult. Return of 4eva is, at least to me, a Southern renaissance album; a body of work that truly represents the willpower and regional tendencies of the Third Coast. I have to admit, the length of this album is a bit much, but the majority of these songs got massive rotation. King Remembered In Time.
This album came into my life strictly by impulse, on a boring May day and after a couple clicks on Amazon. Folk music had not been even my slightest interest up until then. And yet I found myself overwhelmed with such heavy emotion half an hour in. Helplessness Blues is a ponderous look into what we strive to make of our lives, of how every little fold and contour on the road of existence is just as important as the giant banks and curves. The instrumentation is so lush and organic, truly a gift for any acoustic lover. And let’s not even get into the angelic vocal harmonies this band is capable of; they put Destiny’s Child to shame. I love this album.
Casual will kill your favorite rapper in a rap battle, then shit on his corpse with another smokin’ hot 16. His album The Hierophant is truly only defined as dope, and the opening song alone qualifies that a thousand times over. What I admire so much about Casual is how dense his lyrics are compared to his colloquial, slack-jawed delivery. Not to seem mean, but he kinda sounds like that bum under the freeway you see on Saturdays, but I think that that underestimation simply adds power to his poetry. Fiend of Hip Hop is such a glorious track; when the beat comes in man… finito.
If there was ever a hip hop genre defined as nerdcore, this would be the best example. Don’t get me wrong though, Milo is not a pasty, socially-challenged introvert… well not to an extreme. I dug this album because he was so honest about his interests compared to the average self-conscious nerd person his age, and he didn’t feel obligated to whine about it a la Childish Gambino (seriously, he’s a good comic, but his music is an amalgam of sexual assault and an unnerving lack of prozac). The beats fit his demeanor quite well, basically composed of electronic landscapes cut into looping beats. Milo is more hardcore than Soulja Boy, IMO.
For an album that is filled to the brim with drug abuse, overt misogyny and a near-psychopathic view on life, it seems odd that this is one of my favorite albums of the year. Danny Brown somehow managed to turn his horrible bout with drugs and his self-proclaimed rockstar life into comedy blacker than obsidian, with a voice that also embodies that off-kilter atmosphere. His lyrics literally slobber over you with their out-of-left-field references and hyperbolic exaggerations (the song “I Will” is so insanely gross…) Danny Brown is just as wise and thoughtful as he is reckless.
Phooey. For a long time I held the notion that concerts did not hold as much value as recorded music. Yeah, I get to see one of my favorite artists in person, but it would be loud, crowded, and something crazy could happen. But little did I know that that was the whole point!
I bought my tickets about a month ago out of the blue after my good friend tipped me on Skrillex coming to Houston for the first time. So I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should go?” After all, dubstep was my newest discovery which I had started listening to back in April, and Skrillex was the first artist that I had sort of clung to in order to understand that “this nonsense that sounds like transformers screaming” could actually be music, not to talk of good music.
I immediately caved in and found tickets for the insanely low price of 20 bucks online. In the process, I found out that the show was also led by three other artists, Nadastrom, Foreign Beggars, and 12th Planet (the US’s first black dubstep artist?). Big Boss Skrizzle was at the very end of the list, so it was pretty clear that some of these dudes would bomb, or at least give half-assed shows due to the fact that they were holdovers. But I waited patiently and focused on my studies like a good boy should (and because there was nothing else to do but wait.)
September 29, 2011. The Day Of. It’s raining, it’s humid, and I’m on the 59 freeway forcing myself to enjoy Big Sean on the radio. I eventually tuned him out. Me and my buddy, who was pissed because his date dropped at the last minute, headed to Verizon Theatre. What a site! There were regular guys, crazy guys with mohawks and gauges, the other black guy, scantily clad girls, scantily clad girls dressed in neon toilet paper, scantily clad girls who were scantily clad, and girls who didn’t want to get molested by wearing actual clothes. Sure, why should most people wouldn’t complain, but it seemed a bit excessive.
The security guards were slowing patting people and taking stubs and the placed thumped softly from the glorious bass. It was a small ampitheatre with the usual no seats on the ground floor. We waited outside for another dude we knew to take up the free ticket, but we went inside to check out Nadastrom. They specialize in moombahton, which is basically chill salsa-infused electronica… and the scene was in deed chill. They were doing their thing, just giving the scant few people who gathered in front of them something to swallow while they waited for greater fare.
At 8:15pm Foreign Beggars came on, and the place got a bit more hype because they rap over dub. And hey, they’re two British rappers. I actually enjoyed them quite a bit since I began to anticipate seeing them, and their song with Skrillex is dope. Overall their set was fun to watch, but not as epic because most of the people were still waiting outside to get in, and the theatre was only a bit fuller than the previous set. I went out to wait, then lost track of time and went back in for 12th Planet.
This is how I knew I was in for some grade-A shit. A gang of white people were steady rockin’ to the glorious sounds manifested by this skinny black guy from L.A. America the Beautiful. His set was really good; he was so hands-on with the crowd with his numerous “put your hands up” calls, and he loved to stand on the DJ stand and dance a bit. The dub was so diverse, ranging from remixes of well-known songs to a really great Wocka Flocka and Mike Jones mix, and even to some of his new stuff that he hadn’t begun to sell yet.
Oh, yeah, and during his set I was offered my first joint. I was pissed because the idiot was already blowing what smelled like Paris Hilton’s breath in the air and then he wanted me to partake. I got my Nancy Reagan on and just said no.
By the time 12th Planet was done, my body was already aching a bit from the awkward dancing that has to be done from having 4 inches on any side to move around and not trying to step on people’s feet. My right foot was also giving me hell, and I had to stand in a weird way. Me and my buddy tried out best to get to the front, but that place was packed like sardines at that point. It was so hot from all of the bodily activity (and the smoke), and would only get hotter. Eventually the large black barrier was removed to reveal an odd geometric display with a DJ stand jutting out of it:
Of course he hadn’t come out yet. But when he did people lost their composure. I was more subdued because I was already tired, but I was glad to finally make it to that point. Such showmanship this man has. He only said like ten words the whole time, ranging from his greeting to the very rare “put your hands in the air.” The set began, and it was heavy drop after heavy drop after heavy drop after heavy drop after… you get the point. And it was such a weird thing to behold, having such wonderful sounds bless my ears and reverberating through the ground AND MY BODY, and immediately forgetting that I had pain and rocking out.
After a while, I completely forgot that Skrillex was there. I forgot that I was at the Verizon Theatre at whatever late time it was. I forgot I was even dancing. I was just furiously moving with the music, a modern caveman lost in the sounds of his new tribal drum. I finally came to after how long, and every time a new drop would come, I would go back to that state. Who knew headbanging was fun? And who knew you could dougie to dubstep? Not me until now. And the people around me were doing the same, not giving a care about who was around them or whose toes they might break while jumping around, they just did it.
His set was incredible. He used a lietmotiv effect which basically meant that he would play as many songs as he wanted but then end up splicing each one back to the same one song. And he even had dubstep versions of Biggie’s Hypnotize and the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back!
It was killer, the amount of knowledge and experience I received in one night. Life does have its ups and downs, but sometimes a moment arises where no one knows what’s going on, but what IS going on is the best thing to have happened to them. At least in a long while. And how friggin’ cool was it that he had smoked a whole cigarette by the end of his set, put a new one in, and just bounced without a word?
The music was still going, although it was winding down, but there’s something to be said about an artist who can give the crowd exactly what they want and not pander too much to holding their hand. By the time that the theatre was turned out, maybe 12:20, my whole body was aching, especially my neck, and I had a major headache. But I loved it, because there was a good purpose behind my discomfort. I finally got home and went to bed, my ears still buzzing from that.
And I swear I was creating imaginary dubstep in my head. Really good dubstep.
If you have never been to a concert, regardless of genre, please go. Do not listen to skepticism like I have in the past and miss out on something phenomenal.
WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WHIRRRRRRR WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB WHIRRRRRRR WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOB
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