1. Future - Turn On The Lights
The thing that always struck me the most about “Turn On The Lights” was how earnest it is. Despite being encased in a glossy, thunderous shell, the core of the song reminds me of a ’50s teen love ballad. It’s a simple pursuit, looking for the perfect girl, looking for the perfect beat. Future found both here. A supple, elegiac classical-sounding composition of alien harpsichord, Mike WiLL Made It took over the world this year with a balance of Lex Luger’s low frequency theatrics and his own slithery, melodic style, harkening back to the late 90s cold war between Timbaland and the Neptunes. It’s at once brash and patient, a defensive boxer exhausting his furious opponent only to knock out his lights in the 12th round. The video should’ve had a ballerina pole dancing.
When was the last time you heard a hit song this vulnerable? In a genre predicated on bombast, he sounds shy about what he can provide. If he gets her number (if!), Future openly admits he “can’t wait to dial it.” It’s not a foregone conclusion that he’ll get the girl. “When we get together, we make magic and it’s ours” could be heard as a double entendre coming from a guy who does market research for his songs at Magic City but it’s still an uncommonly genuine sentiment.
"She a hood girl but she a good girl" is so much better than "a lady in the street but a freak in the bed", isn’t it? In some ways, the world is getting worse. Some musicians adhere to their most base instincts, take advantage of each other, submit to selfish greed and dehumanize and debase their fans. But there are still things that are pure in this world. Future reminds me of that.
2. Usher - Climax
When this song first came out, I was instantly skeptical. I had people over and we gathered around the Soundcloud and played it over and over, trying to parse what we were listening to. I was nervous because I assumed it was a crass, commercial attempt at co-opting post-dubstep affectations by the only guy from that circuit with Usher’s number. But then I kept listening and realized the depth of this composition. The swirling strings, the little synth bass fragments that gurgle up sporadically, that tantric tension that never totally resolves. It’s in this hybrid where the future truly resides.
And then there’s the performance itself, which revealed itself to me much later. I watched Usher perform this song on Saturday Night Live, a notoriously unforgiving stage. Usher was transfixing, totally nailing the song in full balladeer glory. By the time it was SXSW season, my band friends and I had been playing it constantly on our different routes to Texas, leading to many impromptu on and off stage singalongs when we got back together. None of us could actually sing it but we tried. A lot. “Climax” invents a universe where the impossible is made to sound attainable by the common voice and therein lies the proudest hope of the pop song.
3. Jeremih - 773 LOVE
Like plunging into a frozen lake, Mike WiLL Made It’s glacial, sumptuous synths initially give way to a bass filter to introduce the exploratory Jeremih, an uncommon vocalist who skirts the line between rapping and singing at almost every turn. Jeremih is a man whose backing vocals take up physical space and create rhythmic patterns that are more interesting than the primary takes of his contemporaries. “Okay, girl, I’m not him, put it down” sounds like good advice for anyone listening to anybody else sing this year.
His words float vertically across the beat like a rhythmic gymnast’s sash. It’s subtle but you can hear the tail end of a rotary phone ring at the end of the first chorus. I like to think The Girl heard him recording and called him up before the song was finished. It’s that persuasive.
4. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz - Mercy
Despite featuring three other vocalists and four people sharing production credit, “Mercy” is still all about Kanye and his true ambition behind assembling his crew. They’re there to represent the multitude of ways he perceives himself, avatars for the different facets of his persona.
Pusha T represents street credibility, something Kanye has been obsessed with for his whole career. Big Sean shares a certain resemblance stylistically to early Kanye, elastic and just happy to be there enough to let West hover over like half of his verse like tracing paper. 2 Chainz is the larger-than-life outsized personality that Kanye has always considered himself to be, stealing the song (and almost the whole year) with his thriller of a verse, the only rapper here in his natural habitat. A totally out of place techno beat appears, possibly highlighting the arrival of a particularly egotistical rapper but they never show up to rap over it.
Hudson Mohawke’s involvement represents West’s reputation for tastemaking (“Most rappers taste level ain’t at my waist level”) which emphasizes Kanye’s greatest and most important role: curator. Seeing connections that other people don’t see and engineering collaborations that other people wouldn’t consider are the true signs of his genius, one of the things he has in common with his idol Michael Jackson. Another one of those things is making hits.
5. Yo Gotti - I Got Dat Sack
"I Got Dat Sack" first leaked late 2011 but was released on January 10th (The Mixtape) and only really caught fire later in the year with everybody jumping on it and regional US radio play. Drumma Drama’s beat is all robot rhythm, methodically, mechanically percussive in a way that makes an already hype track even more menacing. The panning crashes, that Halloween synth, that creeping Lex Luger sound effect that no one uses anymore, the chants, the delay on the rolling trap hats that makes them sound like the ghost of 2012 radio. This shit seriously bangs, requiring some monster raps. Yo Gotti delivers.
A relentless, pummeling performance that sounds like it was recorded on a jail payphone, Yo Gotti describes his club supremacy. He doesn’t get searched by security. He doesn’t wait in line. He’ll beat you up for your girlfriend. He’s “standing on the couches, throwing signs in the club.” He’s “a nice guy, buying bitches liquor in this bitch.” “I sell dope, I fuck hoes and make songs ‘bout the shit” is the 2012 “we eat fish, toss salads and make rap ballads.” It’s irresistible SMH rap where everything is a hook and the actual hook sounds one with the verses. He says the word “Tupac” and the whole song suddenly lights up like stepping on a collectible item in a video game. Racks, racks, sacks, sacks, racks, sacks, sacks. Racks. Sacks.
6. Kendrick Lamar - Backseat Freestyle
Rock the bells? Does he ever. First time I heard this was on tour in Detroit. I was geeking out over the BBC radio rip that dropped initially and played it over and over as DJ Co-op and I drove around looking at the Heidelberg Project and abandoned buildings. It was fitting. Even the rip was self-destructing, precisely at the part where he turns into a monster. It got transmogrified by the internet, the section was so raw that it seemed like cyberspace was trying to protect me from hearing it.
The best thing about Kendrick is his attention to detail. How “And I run it” turns into “That’s ironic” on the amazing “Cartoon & Cereal”. How he says he’s “2 blocks, 250 feet and six steps away” from Sherane’s door instead of saying “I’m close.” With this song, the detail is in the depth. This is a performance showcase, sure, he blacks the fuck out. And with Hit-Boy’s help, this song even works in the club. But in the context of the album, it represents rapping with your friends in the back of the van, the thrill of flowing for the sake of hearing what it sounds like, a nursery rhyme of youthful abandon. After all, only a kid would say “Damn, I got bitches!” like this, like he’s surprised, like he’s asking himself a question.
7. Jai Paul - Jasmine
You ever think about how this dude makes this shit? He’s definitely got a heart murmur. When he goes to the dance (does he?), he probably sees a different cartoon skull at the sound of each polished Swedish kick drum, frantic to jump back on the tube and get back to marching to his own drummer. There is a Dilla parallel to the looseness and humanity of his programming but what do you say about the randomness of events? The structure (or lack thereof)? How is this music classified? Or should I just say, Wot Do U Call It?
Fearless and singular, I can’t really discern a word in “Jasmine” other than the title but I’ve been helplessly mumbling along all year, hypnotized by the claps, the depth of his layering, the drop outs. For a song that was originally labelled as a demo, it’s endlessly replayable. Jai Paul, harbinger for the future of pop. Don’t change a thing.
8. Miguel - Adorn
It’s always exciting when my mainstream and more abstract tastes find a way to converge. Formerly regular-seeming R&B singer starts looking more like Prince, makes Marvin Gaye tribute that sounds more like the “Sexual Healing” demos than the final version, gets played on the radio all day every day in the US. My kinda story.
An already compact song, “Adorn” used to not have a bridge. Now that it does, I’m happier but more so about a realization I’ve gleaned. Without a bridge, the song seemed more “mixtape”. That transitional section brings everything home. When I heard the new version before the album came out, I had a good feeling. But I was pleasantly surprised to see this track blow up the way it did.
9. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Closer
Club music is often simple in construction but evocative in not just its emotional range but also in the depth and specificity of emotion. Mike Skinner absolutely nailed growing up club. High off the excitement of expanding personal freedom, he made music that sang to that sentiment perfectly, conjuring the setting of his stories with the beats he told them over. So too does Orlando Higginbottom aka the unfortunately named Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.
"Closer" is a typically skippy UK garage track with all the bells and whistles you’d expect but it’s the mood that makes it special. Translucent blue and chopped, it’s over 6 minutes long but feels more like dancing for awhile and suddenly realizing it’s 6 AM, which is American for "desperation o’clock" and European for "time to go out". When the real vocals appear halfway through, clawing up into the world out of a manhole, a lonely "stressed out" voice searching for the pleasure of reconciliation says "take my hand and tell me it’s all good." It ends with what sounds like either a grime MC chatting on pirate radio or the guy outside trying to give you a flyer for the next rave.
10. Mystikal - Hit Me
"What the fuck was that?" Seriously. Great question, Mystikal. Like where did this come from? A performance that only he could’ve done that is simultaneously reminiscent of several other people. Helen and Judy didn’t know what they were in for. Welcome to the carnival, where bass drums are "pumping like elephant feet", where "bitches" is a letter in the alphabet that Mystikal immediately apologizes for using. Talk about rehabilitated. There’s a part where he sounds like he’s talking to himself, grumbling about some "fuckin’ losers." He’s been having conversations with himself for over 6 years, no reason to stop now.
It’s easy to pin a redemption narrative to this song, considering the unimaginable, horrible things he did to go to jail. That said, he seems to be summoning the spirits of sinning singers before him: James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry. “Say it proud, I’m black and I’m loud" holds a huge difference; he’s proud of being loud. It’s the sound of a preternaturally excitable guy being as loud as he wants to be for the first time in years.
Ab-Soul - Terrorist Threats (ft. Danny Brown and Jhene Aiko)
Ace Hood - We On
Antwon - Living Every Dream (Prod. Pictureplane)
Arca - DOEP
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - Symphony Of The Nymph
Azaelia Banks - Luxury
Bei Maejor - EnterLude
Big K.R.I.T. - I Got This
BJ The Chicago Kid - His Pain (ft. Kendrick Lamar)
Brandy - Do You Know What You Have
Bobby Womack - Please Forgive My Heart
Burial - Kindred
Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe
Chairlift - Ghost Tonight
Chief Keef - I Don’t Like (ft. Lil Reese)
Chris Cohen - Caller No. 99
Cooly G - Come Into My Room
Danny Brown - Change
Daphni - Ye Ye
Dean Blunt - The Narcissist (ft. Inga Copeland)
Death Grips - Hacker
DJ Drama - My Moment (ft. 2 Chainz, Meek Mill & Jeremih)
Dom Kennedy - My Type Of Party Remix (ft. Tyga & Juicy J)
Dorrough Music - Maury Show (ft. Lil Duval & Yung Nation)
DVA - Where I Belong
Evian Christ - Go Girl
Evy Jane - Sayso
Four Tet - Locked
Frank Ocean - Pink Matter (ft. Andre 3000)
Freck Billionaire - I Ain’t Lyin (ft. Meek Mill)
Freddie Gibbs - Bout It Bout It (ft. Kirko Bangz)
Future - Itchin
Future - Same Damn Time
G.O.O.D Music (Kanye West, Jay-Z & Big Sean) - Clique
Girl Unit - Ensemble (Club Mix)
Grimes - Genesis
Gucci Mane - Get Lost (ft. Birdman)
Gucci Mane - Plain Jane Remix (ft. Rocko & T.I.)
Gunplay - Bible On The Dash
Heems - Bad, Bad, Bad
Jadakiss - Dope Boy (ft. Styles P)
Jam City - The Nite Life (ft. Main Attrakionz)
Jeremih - Rated R (The Masterpiece)
Jessie Ware - Running (Disclosure Remix)
Juicy J - Bands A Make Her Dance
Kanye West - Cold (ft. DJ Khaled)
Karneef - Bring You Back
Kendrick Lamar - Cartoon & Cereal (ft. Gunplay)
Kendrick Lamar - The Recipe (ft. Dr. Dre)
Kevin Cossom - Love Thru The Speaker
Kindness - That’s Alright
King Louie & Jeremih - Val Venis (Remix)
Le1f - Wut
Liars - WIXIW
Lil B - I Own Swag
Lloyd Banks - Jackpot
LV - Spitting Cobra (ft. Okmalumkoolkat)
Mac DeMarco - Ode To Viceroy
Major Lazer - Get Free (ft. Amber from Dirty Projectors)
Meek Mill - Amen (ft. Drake & Jeremih)
Melody’s Echo Chamber - I Follow You
Miguel - Arch & Point
Mouse On Tha Track - Hand Rub
Mykki Blanco - Join My Militia (Nas Gave Me A Perm) (Prod. Arca)
Nas - The Don
Nicki Minaj - Beez In The Trap (ft. 2 Chainz)
Omarion - M.I.A (ft. Wale)
Phedre - Aphrodite
Renny Wilson - Could’ve It Been Me?
Rick Ross - Sixteen (ft. Andre 3000)
Rick Ross - Stay Schemin’ (ft. Drake & French Montana)
Rihanna - Loveeeee Song (ft. Future)
Rittz - Paradise (ft. Nikkiya)
ScHoolboy Q - Blessed (ft. Kendrick Lamar)
Swizz Beatz - Street Knock (ft. ASAP Rocky)
Tame Impala - Apocalypse Dreams
Teengirl Fantasy - Do It (ft. Romanthony)
THEESatisfaction - QueenS
Theophilus London - Crew York (Prod. Lunice)
TNGHT - Higher Ground
TOPS - Double Vision
Trey Songz - Playin’ Hard
Ty Dolla Sign - My Cabana
Wale & Meek Mill - Actin’ Up (ft. French Montana)
Wiley - Step 4 Freestyle
Wiz Khalifa - Morocco
Wiz Khalifa - Brainstorm
Wooh Da Kid (ft. Fetti Gang) - Laid Down
Young Scooter - Colombia
2 Chainz - No Lie (ft. Drake)
Top 10 Albums of 2012
1. Future - Pluto
2. Tame Impala - Lonerism
3. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.a.a.d city
4. Jeremih - Late Nights With Jeremih
5. Wiz Khalifa - Taylor Allderdice
6. Liars - WIXIW
7. Mac DeMarco - 2
8. TOPS - Tender Opposites
9. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
10. Karneef - In Error
Best Reissue: Cleaners From Venus remastersTweet @1 year ago with 8 notes
i’m in new york right now. i’ve spent a lot of time here over the years, i feel intimately connected to this city. my grandma is from here, my sister lives in new jersey just outside of the city. when i was younger and my family would do karaoke during holidays, my signature tune was “new york, new york” by frank sinatra. most of my heroes (nas, langston hughes, grace jones, david byrne, john starks) made names for themselves here
my dad grew up in port chester, new york and spent most of his life in brooklyn. i’d visit him during the summer and listen to hot 97 in the car and freak out to tracks that would never be played on the radio in edmonton, presented with a frenetic sense of repetition by people like dj clue, dj envy and funkmaster flex
this is how i first heard “grindin” by the clipse, for example. imagine being 16 and hearing that alien rhythm and those perfect rhymes (“legend in two games like i’m pee wee kirkland” / “as if i was slick rick, my aim is still an issue”) for the first time OVER THE RADIO. i still feel that excitement when i hear flex drop bombs on a song for the first time and it’s this kind of pageantry that keeps rap radio vital
hanging out with a friend of mine in town, she mentioned that the thing she wanted most at her next apartment was a balcony, like the one i have at my place in montreal. what is a balcony if not a gateway to the outside world, an extremity reaching towards the city?
cassie, she of “me & u” and the 2011 mile end haircut, is poised to take her corner back. “balcony”, produced by rico love, is an exercise in vibe where cassie sings about having sex on a balcony in plain view of times square tourists, a grand gesture belied by the subtlety of her vocal
the jeezy guest verses are opportunities to rap about the aforementioned haircut, visualize fogged up windows and add a specific, unmistakeable instrument (his voice) to love’s composition, a mostly ornamental use of his talents on a song that would be less memorable without him (think kanye re-purposing his laugh for “can’t tell me nothing”)
the beat has similar atmosphere to mike will’s interstellar instrumental for the jeezy/future hendrix vehicle “way too gone” sans drums, making it another paean to 2012 A.D. (after drake). call it “cassie’s balcony”. if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere…Tweet @1 year ago with 3 notes
"HYPE MAN" VIDEO SHOOT
yo TORONTO/HAMILTON people
i am shooting a music video for “HYPE MAN” this wednesday/thursday nov. 14/15 and i need extras, primarily for the THURSDAY. it will require your time for the early afternoon. it takes place in hamilton but there will be shuttles to and from toronto if necessary. if you’re interested, send your phone number and a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimmie Bo Horne: The Last Days Of Disco
By Roland Pemberton (AKA Cadence Weapon)
We often view disco (and the time period it comes from) through a blurred lens. We can glean a semblance of knowledge from archival footage, soundboard recordings of Frankie Knuckles’s Paradise Garage DJ sets, photos of event flyers and big-budget biopics based on oral histories from unreliable sources. And yet, one cannot truly synthesize the in-person, full-body sensation of seeing Bianca Jagger ride into Studio 54 on a white pony, knowing you’re about to chemically erase all recognition of the best night of your life.
This same lack of recall has punished the underground pillars of this temporarily mainstream institution, a genre whose most prominent dance craze was fittingly called “the Hustle.” Starting his music career in 1967 on the legendary Miami dance label TK Records, Jimmie “Bo” Horne’s sonic DNA can be found in the primordial goo that spawned not just disco but also precedent styles such as house and techno.He discovered the first incarnation of chart-topping pop disco superstars KC And The Sunshine Band, whose leader Harry Wayne Casey would later produce him as well. Horne’s biggest solo hit was 1978’s “Dance Across The Floor,” a Blaxploitation horn stomper that loosened up into roller disco boogie. Anchored by Horne’s breathless exhortations to “dance across the floor!” and “do it!”, “Floor” would be beamed across America as groove fodder on both American Bandstand and Soul Train, garnering double gold sales.
The same year brought “Spank”, a sumptuous slab of gritty piano funk with a mellifluous bassline that skewed more Larry Levan than Nicky Siano. Written for Horne by the late horn player and songwriter Ronald L. Smith, the lyrics on “Spank” appeal to the central conceit of the disco nightclub: “Let’s make love from my heart / When we do, it’s really hard to part / Combine our minds this time,” begs Horne, campaigning for a deeper connection than the superficiality and social norms provided by the straight world.
To date, “Spank” has been sampled by at least 18 artists of many different stripes. This is a credit to the original song but also brings into question our contemporary system of artistic tribute. Horne’s music has been used as foundational clay (with or without compensation) by a diverse groupof artists including Public Enemy, Vanilla Ice, Cee-Lo Green and Christina Aguiliera. DJ Falcon, a French touch producer renowned for his work with Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter as Together, had a club hit with his hard-headed filter house repurposing of the bridge from “Spank” called “First.”
We are engaged in this modern method of exhuming the ghosts of a specific recording session, gripping the breath and detail of an instance to capture its essence within the frame of new work. This leaves Jimmie “Bo” Horne alone with the one thing we can’t forcibly extract: his memories. How many of those he’s willing (or able) to share with us now is up to him.
Jimmie Bo Horne plays the Église POP Little Burgundy on September 22. Full details here.
At the symposium in convo with Cadence Weapon Sept 21 5:30pm Quartiers POP: Full details here.Tweet @1 year ago with 2 notes