I hate trends. Trends in music, fashion, beauty, TV … it’s just not my thing. I learned my lesson with trends years ago (remember velour Juicy sweatsuits and Sidekicks? Terrible.) and now I’ve found that I’m better off remaining true to my individuality and not following behind something because it’s popular. More than my dislike of trends, is my disdain for the avalanche effect they cause. Often times, people rally behind a trend uninformed, dragging other ignorant supporters with them. Before you know it, the crazy train is so long and out of control it’s hard to tell where or how it even originated. Example? Hollywood’s obsession with telling the “Black Story.”
Within the past couple of years, Hollywood has had a resurgence in the trend of telling African American history through slavery or Jim Crow inspired struggle films and casting Black actors in self-deprecating roles. I started to notice the trend with 2011’s ever-popular “The Help.” “The Help” captivated audiences with it’s telling of life in the Jim Crow South. The film’s success included Oscar nominations for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, followed by ample magazine covers, interviews and media coverage; thus, starting the snowball effect of Hollywood’s interest in African American history with Black actors and actresses portraying the less than glamorous side of their heritage. Since “The Help,” Hollywood continues to capitalize on that specific culture with studios releasing “Django,” “The Butler,” and most recently “12 Years a Slave.”
Most of the aforementioned films have received rave reviews, but when you have to emotionally prepare yourself for the language, visuals and subject matter of a film, I think it’s time to dial back on the period pieces. We get it - African Americans have a rough history, but for many Black people having to hear depictions or see reenactments of their background over and over again, it becomes insensitive. Hollywood has OD’d on slavery/struggle films and should spark a new trend du jour in telling Black history. Black people were more than maids and field slaves; they also have made a wealth of advancements and achievements not only for their culture, but for American culture as a whole. But I guess those stories are not trendy enough for Hollywood.
I never thought I’d say this but the 1990’s fashion brand FUBU had it right ... with it’s focus on creating things “For Us, By Us.” If history is going to be told, no one can tell a story better than the person who lived it. When it comes to Black history, Black people should be the ones telling the story - the WHOLE story. Thanks to innovators like director Spike Lee or Howard Johnson, who’s publishing house highlights the achievements of Black people through their publications Ebony and Jet, is the true Black story told. Past and present, African Americans are a forward -moving people and that cannot be ignored. Recently, cable network BET (Black Entertainment Television) had a presentation honoring not just the achievements of Black people, but specifically of Black women titled, “Black Girls ROCK!” The showcase was a whirlwind of positivity displaying just how multi-dimensional Black culture truly is.
It’s high time Hollywood takes an interest in the constructive side of Black history - for heaven’s sake, the leader of the free world is a Black man. There is a whole spectrum of colorful, rich stories from African American history. If the accurate and real portrayal of Black heritage is to be told by Hollywood, the least they can do is their research.
How do you feel about the trend in Jim Crow/slavery themed movies? Tell us in the comments below.
DJ Lady Sha isn’t afraid to throw off the yoke of tradition in favor of the road less traveled. She is a genre-defying trailblazer in the male-dominated world of DJ-ing. Originally set on a course to study medicine at UC Berkely, Sha bucked medical school for a life of turntables and dance floors -- and she hasn’t looked back. She is an award-winning, globe-trotting entrepreneur whose diligently cultivated and eclectic sets helped her to become the first female to win the Winter Music Conference DJ Spin-off (2008). Although based in Los Angeles, Sha’s drive and spinning prowess has taken her the world wide to New York, Miami, Jamaica, and South Africa, where in 2004 she was the first woman to spin live on South African air waves. I got the chance to chat with Lady Sha after she DJ’ed the Made Woman 2 Year event:
Lady Sha: Always, thanks to my Mom and Dad! Whether waking us up with music on weekend mornings or playing it in the car, we were always listening to something. Back then it was a mix of my mom’s favorites from Persian music to Elton John, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, etc... or my Dad’s choice – anything on KCRW.
Lady Sha: I love such a huge range of music from pop to underground, hip hop to dance music, and even country jams that I don’t consider anything a guilty pleasure. Most days I’m digging through hundreds of new and old mp3’s to see what I want to include in my sets, so when I have time to listen to music for pleasure, I just go with whatever I’m in the mood for at that time. On my runs, I like to listen to hip hop and dance music for example. In the car after a long night, I like to listen to KCRW late-night or a country station, something completely different than what I was just playing at an event for four hours.
Lady Sha: I didn’t even know I WAS interested in DJ-ing a little over a decade ago. While I was at UC Berkeley as an undergrad studying Pre-Med & Anthropology, my neighbor happened to be DJ Phatrick. He asked me to sit in on one of his DJ courses on campus. At first I told him I was too busy – not only with school, but with my hobbies as a guitarist, singer, and member of the UC Berkeley Poetry Slam team. With his convincing though, I sat in on his class and fell in love from that moment on. Two weeks after the course ended I bought my own turntables.
Lady Sha: I think the most valuable advice I can give is to have clear focus on where you’d like to go, make sure your entrepreneurial signature is creative and original -- or improving upon what already exists -- and have a phenomenal work ethic to achieve your vision.
Lady Sha: DJ-ing more frequently and working around the clock to showcase my style and abilities at gigs and with mix CDs, my mark slowly became increasingly noticeable and present in Los Angeles. Now to expand that to the world...
Lady Sha: The pioneers of hip hop and dj-ing were male and to quote the film Miss Representation, “you can't be what you can't see”, so I think it took some time for females to break into dj-ing. I hear about so many more females DJ-ing now than 10 years ago. There’s a snowball effect of more and more females entering the industry and finally evening out the playing field!
Lady Sha: I’ve had a ton of fun at DJ gigs in New York, Miami, Rome, Vegas, and San Francisco as well as in countries such as South Africa and Jamaica. However, nothing is as amazing as a popping dance floor in LA filled with the intense energy of my friends and people that have danced to my sets over the years.
Lady Sha: Not only do musical tastes differ in club scenes around the world, but also from club to club here in LA and from night to night in each venue. One night you may have a hip hop crowd, another night a dance music crowd, and on another night, a crowd that wants to go on a genre-hopping journey with the DJ of the night.
Lady Sha: My absolute favorite thing to do when I DJ is to play for a crowd that will let me take them on a ride through different genres from hip hop to trap, dubstep, dance music, indie-rock, and hip hop and R&B jams from the 80s and 90s. I’m not happy having to stick to any one genre.
Lady Sha: Show Me Love – Robin S. The only variable is what I pair before and after the song that affect the impact the song has on the crowd.
Since her new and improved website launches in early November, it’s easy to stay up to date on all of DJ Lady Sha’s happenings including daily updates on her performance schedule and new videos and mixes. But in the meantime to get your fix, you can check out Sha on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran are The Singer & The Songwriter. The duo’s California-folk whimsy updates the swinging sounds of the gypsy jazz of the 1930s and ‘40s; a style that even in its heyday marched to its own beat, so to speak. Garcia’s sultry and booming jazz vocals are the anchor of the duo. A choir singer from a young age, it’s no wonder where Garcia learned to develop her standout voice. I first stumbled upon the duo at the modest 2nd Annual Make Music LA event in Silverlake earlier this summer. The acoustic event was little more than a rug to stand on for the would-be troubadours of the day. It was difficult to hear the day’s acts above the careening shopping carts and murmurs of the Friday afternoon weekend seekers; but Rachel Garcia was not only heard -- she put an exclamation point on the day with her richly textured voice.
As independent musicians in this niche genre, it’s fitting then that The Singer and The Songwriter display a special kind of moxie and are charting their own course without the backing of a major label. "There are a lot of unknowns and fear in being an independent artist, but the other side of the coin is the creative freedom [...] I get to choose who I want to be, what I want to sing and how I want to present myself. The effect that this freedom has is you learn to trust and rely on yourself and your band mate." Garcia and her partner in crime,“Songwriter” and guitarist, Thu Tran began playing together in 2009 in San Francisco. After, a move to Los Angeles the duo hit their stride and have spent the last two years writing and recording. The Singer and The Songwriter are now primed to release their first full-length album, What A Difference A Melody Makes. Just recently the outfit launched their Kickstarter campaign in an effort to put the finishing touches on their LP. The ingenuity and creativity of The Singer and The Songwriter are what enable the duo to carve out a path distinctly and charmingly their own.
The wildcard that also makes The Singer and The Songwriter one to watch in the folk scene is the album’s producer, Charlie Stavish. Stavish has worked on albums for bands such as Imagine Dragons, Foster The People, and The Joy Formidable. With a delicate hand to polish off the album, The Singer and The Songwriter could be ready to breathe new life into LA’s folk scene.
One thing that is good about the end of summer is saying goodbye to dull summer programing and hello to new hit programs and to the return of our favorite TV shows. So go ahead and set the DVR, here are the shows that we can’t wait to watch.
If you are missing a great crime/drama/thriller in your TV lineup, The Blacklist should be at the top of your list. Fans of Persons of Interest, 24 and The Silence of the Lambs will enjoy Emmy award winner James Spader as Raymond Reddington, one of the most wanted men in America. He strikes a deal with the FBI to catch elusive criminals and will only work with one small-time agent,, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). Fans will enjoy fast-paced thrills and Spader’s psychological exploration of each case, as well as uncovering his own agenda.
Another thriller we are adding to our must-watch list is suspense thriller Hostages, coming to CBS in September. The show centers around Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette), a surgeon who is scheduled to operate on the President. But when a FBI agent kidnaps her family to force her to kill the president, she holds the nation and her family’s lives in her hands.
Fans of The Avengers have a reason to rejoice: Agent Coulson is alive and well and is on a mission to save the world (again). Joss Whedon brings this mega-blockbuster to TV as Coulson (Clark Gregg) and puts together a top-secret team of super agents to help save the world from intergalactic threats. Sci-fi and fantasy fans will be eager to see Whedon’s latest TV series and comic book buffs will be eager to see a favorite series brought to life.
One of our favorite comedies, ABC’s Modern Family, is coming back for its 5th season and promises to bring the laughs and warm hearts all over again. The family experiences new changes as Manny (Rico Rodriguez) and Luke (Nolan Gould) head to high school, Cam (Eric Stonestreet) adjusts to his job as a teacher and Claire (Julie Bowen) tries to reenter the workforce.
ABC’s hit show Scandal returns for what promises to be a sizzling 3rd season. Show creator Shonda Rhimes has hinted that the new season may pick up right where it left off, after a huge plot twist and reveal in the season two finale where viewers find out that Rowan (Joe Morton), leader of black ops team B613 is actually Olivia’s (Kerry Washington) father. Fans will be treated to nail-biting turns as Olivia continues to deal with a media frenzy after being outed as President Grant’s (Tony Goldwyn) mistress and delve into who leaked the news.
ABC is adding another real world meets fantasy show to its lineup with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, a spinoff of their hit show Once Upon a Time (which we will also be watching). The original show includes some of our favorite fairy tale characters with a twist and places them in modern times. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is based on Alice in Wonderland characters (obviously) and includes favorites like Alice (Sophie Lowe), the White Rabbit (John Lithgrow) and the Queen of Hearts (Barbara Hershey). Fans will also see even more favorite characters from other stories like Jafar (Naveen Andrews) from Aladdin.
After a season of heartbreak and shocking surprises (Andrea!), hit show The Walking Dead returns to AMC in October for its fourth season with a whole new set of problems and new cast members to fall in love with. The official season four 4 trailer shows walkers piling up on the prison and hints at a possible mole in the group. Fans of the show will enjoy learning more of the backstory behind fan favorite character Michonne (Danai Gurira) and plenty of screentime for Daryl (Norman Reedus).
J.J. Abrams is keeping busy. Between Star Trek and the upcoming Star Wars mega franchises, he is producing another sci-fi meets cop drama Almost Human for FOX. Fans of his previous sci-fi/fantasy/mystery dramas Fringe and LOST will enjoy the themes and premises in the show as well as the traditional elements of a cop drama brought to a whole new level. Almost Human explores LAPD officers who are paired with highly advanced androids. Be prepared to experience the differences between human intuition and computer logic and to explore your feelings about technologically advanced robocops.
What shows will you be watching this fall? Leave your comments below or tweet us your thoughts on fall hits @madewomanmag!
1999 seems like just yesterday -- until I’m reminded that it was, in fact, fourteen years ago. Fourteen! The Thong Song was a whole high schooler ago. Remember how huge Sisqo was and how he was going to be the biggest R&B star, well, probably forever (obvi)? I vividly remember watching his MTV “Making the Video”...yes, fourteen years ago. Sigh. Well, things didn’t quite turn out like either of us planned it, did it Sisqo, old buddy? So that got me thinking -- what black hole do all our favorite artists of yesteryear get sucked into when they violently tumble from the Billboard charts? And what on earth are they up to these days? Let us explore the goings on of five of the biggest names from different genres -- that you haven’t heard of since middle school graduation.
Hootie & the Blowfish were ubiquitous in the 1990s. They were nearly synonymous with adult contemporary rock at the time. There were those guys that did the theme song for “Friends” -- and there was Hootie and the Blowfish. That was it. But what happened to Hootie and all his Blowfish -- or should I say Darius Rucker and his bandmates? Well the band’s drummer, Jim Sonefeld battled his demons with alcohol and is now a Christian artist. Rucker himself also did an about face, though not as a Christian artist. Rucker has been releasing country albums for the last handful of years. He cautiously promises that Hootie and the Blowfish will be back though one day. A new album is something, he’s certain, the future will hold -- though reunion dates have yet to be set.
I was obsessed with Gangsta’s Paradise in sixth grade when it came out. Coolio was, in fact, the coolest. But then Coolio and his Medusa-like braids vanished faster than the Greek lady-monster could turn onlookers to stone. More recently, Coolio has been using ‘90s nostalgia to stage a career comeback for himself in reality television. With appearances in Ultimate Big Brother, Wife Swap, and the UK game show Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (how did you not DVR this one?), Coolio has quickly become the Ryan Seacrest of bad reality TV.
Remember them? You know, that band made up of initials from the 1990s? They talked about liking girls who wore Abercrombie & Fitch. LFO were the poor girl’s 98 Degrees, who were really the poor girl’s ‘NSYNC so....yeah. Okay, let’s try this to jog your memory: lead singer Rich Cronin at one point dated Jennifer Love Hewitt and penned their song Girl on TV for her. Well, not surprisingly, LFO ran its short-lived course and the band went its separate ways. The band did reunite for a ‘90s nostalgia tour featuring other pop bands of the day, in 2009. These days, “Lyte Funky One” Brad Fischetti is a vocal pro-life advocate in Florida. Lead singer Cronin was unfortunately diagnosed with Leukemia and succumbed to his illness in 2010.
We mentioned a few weeks back how much we’d enjoy seeing a Dru Hill resurgence, but do you ever wonder what happened to its shooting star, Sisqo? Sisqo shot to fame faster than you can snap a thong with the summer anthem of 1999 that was every mother’s favorite song to hear their 9 year-old sing, Thong Song. His initial album, Unleash the Dragon was such a success that Sisqo decided to make a Dragon trilogy. Sadly, he was actually the only one who wanted more. To temper the sting of being out of the spotlight, Sisqo took part in Celebrity Big Brother in 2010. His purported third album of the trilogy, the ironically titled, Last Dragon, was slated for release in 2012, but has yet to see the light of day. As of the beginning of this year the album was again rumored to be coming out this summer...but now here we are now almost in September and the only Dragons I've seen this summer belong to Khalessi.
Lisa Loeb was the adorkable manic pixie dream girl for slightly awkward, mostly nerdy guys everywhere, before "manic pixie dream girl" was even a term. With her black framed glasses, petite stature, and coquettish affect, Loeb made weepy sentimentalists of teens and twenty-somethings everywhere with her acoustic guitar. If you saw Reality Bites, or listened to the radio in the ‘90s you probably remember her smash hit, Stay (I Missed You). Loeb fell off the map as the ‘90s progressed despite her continued stream of album releases. In 2006 she resurfaced -- looking unchanged from 1994 with her signature eyewear -- to take part in her own reality show, Number 1 Single, wherein she searched for love in the big city. Loeb has since married, had two children, released children’s music, and earlier this year put out her first adult album since 2004, entitled No Fairy Tale.
Twitter is great for a lot of things besides talking to yourself publicly – it’s also good for staying up-to-date on the latest craziness celebrities are putting out into the universe, seeing what topics are trending in different cities around the world, networking with contacts in your industry (or at least trying to), etc. My personal favorite use for Twitter, though, is getting a few laughs every day. I’ve made it my personal mission to seek out the funniest people on Twitter, because let’s face it: every last one of us could use a little more comedy in our lives. I started by following stand-up comedians and comedy writers, and then I took a look at the people they found funny enough to retweet and follow. Benefit from my extensive research, and make sure you follow these consistently hilarious people.
There’s a reason Rob Delaney tops basically every “best of” list for Twitter. Rob is a stand-up comedian and writer who managed to get famous through Twitter.
Michael Ian Black is an actor and comedian. You might recognize him from Wet Hot American Summer or his semi-recent stand-up special on Comedy Central.
Alison Agosti is a comedy writer and sketch performer at Upright Citizens Brigade in LA. But I only know of her from her ridiculous Twitter feed.
Chrissy Teigen is a model who loves to eat (yes, apparently they exist). She’s also engaged to John Legend, smart, and goddamn funny.
Charlene de Guzman frequently composes her tweets as if she’s writing a story. She’s a master of dark, wry humor.
Lauren Caltagirone is Twitter verified, but I can’t figure out what her claim to fame is. My research shows she works in TV and writes....? Whatever it is, she’s a riot. She takes the personality of a crazy cat lady desperate for a boyfriend, and she is a master.
Julius Sharpe is a writer for Family Guy. I can pretty much end my description there.
Alex Baze is a head writer for SNL’s Weekend Update. The end.
Epic. This is the one word that encompasses the experience of Fruitvale Station. This film grips its audience from the beginning and is so well developed and directed that it is almost unfathomable that it is a directorial debut and shot on a relatively low budget. As you are pulled into the story by the incredible realism, it almost haunts you to realize that Fruitvale station is based on a true story: A true story that grabbed national headlines and showed America the ugly realities and dangers of racism.
Fruitvale Station chronicles the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant’s life which came to a tragic end on January 1, 2009. Grant, who was 23 years old at the time of his death, is portrayed by actor Michael B. Jordan and Jordan does not fall short in his memorable portrayal. Ryan Coogler wrote and directed the film and at the age of 23, crafting a beautiful screenplay that focuses on Oscar Grant for the person he was, including his flaws. Coogler does not shy away from Oscar’s difficulties with the law and his struggles to achieve more for not only his only life, but the life of his 5 year old daughter Tatiana. Coogler also reminds the audience from the beginning that everything we watch leads up to that inevitable moment on the BART platform. A moment which has been viewed on Youtube millions of times around the world: when Oscar Grant is fatally shot by BART police officer Johannes Meserle. You can’t hide from what is going to happen and as you start to root for Oscar’s flawed but determined character you can’t help but be reminded of the futility of it all.
The film focuses on Oscar’s relationships with his family members, in particular his mother (played by actress Octavia Spencer), his girlfriend Sophina, (played by actress Melodie Diaz) and his young daughter Tatiana, whom he affectionately calls “T.” Viewers of Fruitvale Station are able to see not just the humanity in Oscar Grant, but are also treated to what feels like an authentic tour of life in Oakland, CA. Coogler captures everything from the bay area music and dances, to the characters’ distinct bay area accents and lingo. He cuts no corners: everything is as real as it feels. Long shots and slow pacing help to create tension and a moody vibe as you travel along with Oscar. With a minimal but powerful musical score, the audience sees a young black man trying to right his wrongs and fighting his own demons. Coogler does what is almost impossible: he paints a portrait of a person that we can all identify with in some way, and we want to see succeed in life. Fruitvale Station takes us on an emotional journey that not only gets you to ponder your own ideas about racism and stereotypes, but paints a special portrait of a young man that lost his life too soon, and in its own way gives Oscar Grant the chance to tell his story.
Soul artist Raquel Rodriguez is a Los Angeles native with a penchant for emotional vocal runs, a bright, driving style that will get your blood pumping, and for just being one of the ‘guys’. Rodriguez’s influences are a collection of both old and new school soul - from Sarah Vaughan to Adele -- and you can hear elements spanning the decades in all of her music. She blends the best of decades past with a modern surge. And with a seldom-seen-these-days six-piece ensemble, The Big Guys, backing her, Raquel has moved swiftly from self-titled EP in 2012 to debut LP release. An entrepreneur in her own right taking command of her career, Raquel is spirited woman with a mission to get her music out to the world. After recently releasing her first LP, Miss Me, on June 21, Raquel can take a moment to relish in her accomplishment. But just a moment, because there is no doubt that Raquel has plans to check a lot more off her to do list.
Soul music has always been a huge part of my life. My mom would only play good music while my brothers and I were growing up. In my teen years I definitely gravitated to the pop/hip-hop stuff, but as I got older I found myself going back to my roots. I started to mimic the sounds I used to love and wrote about things that were important to me.
Destiny. [Laughs] Seriously though, I met all of the (Big) guys pretty much through school. Whether it was because we had a class together or just a mutual friend, I met all of them through USC. It took me awhile to find "my band," but now that I have, I'm so grateful. These guys are what make the music what it is and they're all like family to me.
Tough question, but if I have to choose one, definitely Sarah Vaughan. I love Billie Holiday’s vibe and soul, but Sarah Vaughan has got the voice! Man, I remember when my voice teacher at USC had me transcribe one of Sarah's solos for homework, and after that I just went on a SV craze. She's dope! I definitely learned a lot from her just listening to different albums.
Change is inevitable, and whether it's good or bad, it's going to happen. I think a lot of things contributed to what mainstream music is now. Technology, politics, location, life, whatever it may be, it's all taken part in what music is today. I love that Soul music is coming back because I honestly believe that it's healthy for people. It's called Soul music for a reason.
It's awesome! Most of the time it's so easy because I grew up with two older brothers, so I'm used to having boys around. I'm definitely a little bit of a tomboy sometimes. The only thing that's tough about it is that I find myself starting to act like them a little too much. I'm pretty sure I burp louder than any of them.
The album is called "Miss Me," and it has that old school vibe. A lot of music today is so produced, which can also be cool, but we didn't want that for this album. Sam, who plays drums on the album, produced the whole thing and wrote a lot of the music, so he wanted to make sure that we recorded it right. We spent A LOT of time making sure things sounded exactly the way we wanted them to, all while keeping in mind that this record is being pressed to vinyl.
The [Raquel Rodriguez] EP was a lot more "calm" in a way, and the recording/production process was MUCH different than what I expected. The EP was made up of songs that I had written when I was younger and I wanted evidence of that. I've grown as a singer, songwriter, musician, performer, basically just as an artist all around, and I think "Miss Me" is definitely a good example of that.
Andrew Scheps was AWESOME! We learned so much from him in the one day we spent recording with him. He gave us so much advice and he was so knowledgeable and passionate about what he was doing. Definitely a huge inspiration. If you don't know what he looks like, just imagine a tall, powerful wizard with a long beard and that's him.
I dream more about playing in places that I've never been before. I want to travel all over the world in whatever venue that'll have me.
Listen to Raquel’s latest album and check out her site here.
It’s officially “Yeezy Season,” and two weeks after the album dropped, the internet is still buzzing about Yeezus, Kanye’s sixth studio album. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts, selling 327,000 in the first week -- without any marketing.
With so much buzz around the record, I was eager to give it a listen. In a June interview with the New York Times, while discussing his legacy, Kanye said, "I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z."
As a product designer who dabbles in music production, I’ve always respected Ye’s work as a producer and an artist. And with Kanye putting himself on the same level of cultural significance as Steve Jobs and Jay-Z, I was excited to see what he’s been working on this year in his Paris loft.
Upon first listen, I was immediately drawn in by the album’s sonic quality. As a combination of hip-hop, punk, rock, new wave, and soul, the production is minimal and deconstructed, yet driving and powerful. Filled with heavy industrial-sounding drums, the entire album sounds like you’re watching Kanye work in a dark European steel factory. It’s as if Kanye is trying to position himself as the Dieter Rams of Hip-Hop. Sonically, as always, Kanye excels behind the boards.
But almost just as immediately, the listener gets assaulted by Kanye’s aggressive delivery and boorish lyrics. Kanye has always carried a chip on his shoulder, and now that chip feels like a boulder that he’s looking to throw at anyone who’s ever gotten in his way. Knowing his history, one might expect this type of bravado from such a highly-anticipated Kanye album. But on Yeezus, Kanye doesn’t just lyrically push the envelope. He unapologetically tears it in half.
The album is raw and indecorous, and there are many uncomfortable moments throughout. Songs like “I Am A God” reminds us of Kanye’s overarching confidence that dances on the borders of extreme arrogance and narcissism. And I’ll spare you many of the details, but on songs like “I’m In It,” lyrics like “I put my fist in her like a civil rights sign,” are sure to make many think twice about playing this record at their next dinner party.
There are a few highlights on Yeezus. As mentioned earlier, the musical backdrop is so vivid, the album sounds like you’re watching a piece directed by Ridley Scott. “New Slaves” offers an interesting perspective on how materialism and consumerism is the new form of slavery that has afflicted our current culture. And through Kanye’s masterful sampling work, “Blood on the Leaves” references the historically important work of Nina Simone’s cover of Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit - a chilling song about lynchings and racial tension in Jim Crow America.
But in the same song, Kanye successfully sabotages the significance of Strange Fruit by comparing the civil rights struggle of 20th century America to the challenge of attending a NBA basketball game with both your wife and your mistress: “Now you sittin' courtside, wifey on the other side. Gotta keep 'em separated, I call that apartheid.” One could argue that such a juxtaposition is artistic. But considering the context of all of the historical references, the comparison feels brash and distastefully insensitive.
In the June New York Times article, Kanye said that from hanging out with conscious hip-hop artists like Dead Prez earlier in his career and learning how to make “raps with a message” that he has “a responsibility at all times.” He then said, “I am in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, great activist-type artists.”
If Kanye thinks he’s in step with the lineage of Heron, and if he is really working to fill the shoes of Steve Jobs, he has some serious soul searching to do. Before his death, in reflecting on the success of Apple, Jobs gave us some of the keys to Apple’s success. He said, “The reason Apple resonates with people is that there is a deep current of humanity in our innovation,” and how you “really make a contribution and add to the legacy of those who went before...(is by building) a company that will stand for something a generation or two from now.”
However, there’s not much humanity in Yeezus. Yes, Kanye continues to make artistic strides as a producer, and his skills to make great musical compositions are obvious. But because he tries to differentiate himself so starkly, he seems to be becoming dangerously out of touch with his audience and the legacy that he so greatly desires to be a part of. The misogynistic lyrics don’t sound like they come from a man who loves women like his late mother, Donda. And they don’t sound like they come from a man who protects women, or one who vowed just days before the birth of his daughter that he “would do anything to protect (his) child or (his) child’s mother.”
Some might say that his frustration is directed at the corporate executives that he seems to be battling with behind closed office doors, and that the tone of Yeezus is him expressing his anger towards the system. What Kanye may not realize is that the real casualties of this war are his fans, his album sales, and his brand.
In the same New York Times interview, in typical Kanye fashion, he compared himself to Michael Jordan. Kanye has never shied away from comparing himself to the greats. But he’s getting in his own way. I’m afraid that he’s not becoming the Michael Jordan of Hip-Hop; he looks to be turning into the Dennis Rodman. And at this point, Yeezus appears to more resemble a grotesque painting from Goya than a Jean-Léon Gérôme masterpiece.
Sharon and Ozzy. Chris Brown and Rihanna. Katy Perry and John Mayer. Something is in the air but it certainly isn’t love. The music world is uncoupling at a staggering rate. With these couples heading for the door, we couldn’t help but put together a comforting list of the Top 5 Best Breakup Songs. Whether breakups make you want to seek isolation in a dark room for a good cry over a carton of Ben & Jerry’s, or they make you so angry you could throw some sh*%, we have the best of both worlds right here.
Money. Success. Both are notorious relationship-killers. You can kiss your sponge of an ex goodbye with this Fitz and the Tantrums tune playing as your own personal soundtrack. With a sound that masterfully marries Motown and new wave, lead singer, Michael Fitzpatrick, warns, “Don’t come back anytime / I’ve already had your kind / this is your pay back, moneygrabber. Don’t come back anytime / you’ve already run me dry / this is your pay back, moneygrabber.” Oozing with soul and an unforgettable melody, the heat from this track is palpable. Let Fitz and the Tantrums show your ex the door the way you had always wanted.
Fleetwood Mac’s album Rumors is a veritable vinyl pu pu platter of break-up songs. The 1977 album was the soundtrack for the divorce of members John and Christine McVie, for the breakups of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, and for one succession from the band. All of this added up to a lot of broken hearts and one of the most critically lauded records of the latter half of the century. From “Dreams” to “Songbird,” the album is rife with breakup songs to choose from. Buckingham penned the track “Go Your Own Way” about the dissolution of his relationship with Nicks. While thoughtful and honest, the song comes up just short of sentimental, and is his final emotional and driving release of Nicks. Quality time with this seventies classic rock anthem will get you through some tough times.
When you’re really angry, you may as well just come out and say it. Radio edits aside, there is no way to hide from the title of this Cee Lo summer groove. “F**K You” might just be the most uplifting song about a breakup you will ever find. If any song can help you dance your way out of your post-breakup funk, it’s this one. If your ex is too caught up in the superficial to see what a catch you really are, then maybe it’s time to make like Cee Lo and say...uh, “goodbye.”
Before Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, and Fiona Apple, came Alanis Morissette, serving as the creator of the “woman with a bone to pick” genre. Jagged Little Pill was 1995’s open letter to double-crossing men from Morissette. Power, anger, and biting language was - in the music scene - foreign coming from a woman at that time. The brash Morissette burst onto the scene with more than just irony. I still remember the day I found out Jagged Little Pill’s most potent track, “You Oughta Know”, was about Morissette’s soured romance with everyone’s favorite Uncle Joey - Dave Collier. I never watched Full House the same way again.
Regardless of mood, music is the soundtrack to our lives. Few singers or songwriters have the emotional vulnerability or resonance of Amy Winehouse. In her songs, much like in her life, she was not afraid to paint an honest, and sometimes unpleasant, portrait. “Love is a Losing Game” is a beautiful, heart-wrenching love song drenched in melancholia. Its arching string arrangements are breathtaking. At only 2:49 in length, this brutally honest look at love and loss is epic. This track comes off her Black to Black album, which chronicles her turbulent relationship with not-quite-then-husband Blake Fielder-Civil, and is thus stacked with breakup songs. If you’re looking for a good cry, however, look no further than this timeless song from a timeless voice. No one understands your pain quite like Amy Winehouse did.