GLADWELL: Welcome to Blink Radio. I’m Malcolm Gladwell and we’re here with Kenna who’s just about to unveil his newest work on the masses. Hello Kenna.
KENNA: Hello Gladwell.
Where Lupe Fiasco took a grip on reality and let his cool set the pace, Kenna Zemedkun pushed his mind to a fever pitch and made sure the world saw his face. Make Sure They See My Face is sonic schizophrenia. Kenna runs the gamut of sounds, styles, and sentiment in this psychotic masterpiece expressing the brilliance in bi-polarity.
Continue reading Unforgettable, Vol. 12: Kenna – Make Sure They See My Face
Where we left off with the sonic schizophrenia of Kenna’s face, we now delve into M.I.A.’s socially schizophonic scape. Maya Arulpragasam came onto the scene in 2005 with her debut, Arular. M.I.A. mirrors the past – leading by sample – and marks the future. From sound to sentiment to style, she lays the groundwork for the new underground of which she spoke in NME
In people’s hard drives and their brains, it just hasn’t been outputted yet. We need a digital moshpit like we’ve never seen, harder than how people were doing it in the punk era. We need that energy, but digitally. It’s coming.
On the brink of her third album, and a superficial rebirth, it’s important to see that we still have the same M.I.A. – with the same perspective – in a different package.
Arular came out when I was a freshman in college, and – in conjunction with the urban landscape of Manhattan as my backdrop – was instrumental in my musical maturation. Just as New York is a microcosm of the world, so Arular was a concentrated synthesis of sounds and global societies. Just as I was cementing my identity as a world citizen, so M.I.A. was constructing our cultural identity.
Continue reading Unforgettable, Vol. 13: M.I.A. – Arular
Venturing out of the kaleidoscopic jungle fever pitch of M.I.A.’s Arular we find ourselves at the concrete crossroads between Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects and London’s Abbey Road with DJ Danger Mouse’s brilliant return to basics, the masterful Jay-Z versus Beatles mash-up, The Grey Album. The Grey Album is a cataclysmic crux of two epic absolutes: The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album with the rhapsodic rodent at the helm. Burton blurs the lines and illuminates the bonds between good and d’evils to create a gritty grey area – platinum records sans the shine.
The Grey Album is a cultural reflection and blueprint. It is a hybrid of two artistic absolutes: Jay-Z’s Black Album as the pitch black to which he faded – the close to a career, the retirement, the sendoff, the assumed end; The Beatles’ White Album as their rebirth – the first album after the death of their manager Brian Epstein, and the first album on their own record label Apple – donning a pure white album cover with nothing but “The BEATLES” in black. The mash-up flips the roles and sees Hov’s requiem lyrics as a renaissance.
Continue reading Unforgettable, Vol. 14: DJ Danger Mouse – The Grey Album
In 1998 Lauryn Hill released a cultural landmark – one part enemy of the state, one part love story – which entirely rewrote the curriculum for hip-hop on the brink of a new millennium. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is H.E.R. story – of hip-hop and its truest personification. Lauryn recorded The Miseducation to resurrect a genre, a culture, an artist, and a girl headed towards commodification.
“Lost Ones” comes in right after roll call, on the heels of a visibly absent – but always present – Hill. This is the anthem. This is L. Boogie’s freestyle to introduce her voice and her vantage. Here we hear Lauryn literally taking it to the streets, and revisiting hip-hop’s roots: the battle. She is not battling any other one MC, she is battling them all – and the modern concept of what it means to be an MC. She knocks out her bio in 4 lines or less: “It’s funny how money change a situation, miscommunication leads to complication; my emancipation don’t fit your equation, I was on the humble, you – on every station.” Who knew that ten years from then: she would be the exile that turned on the industry in the face of the corporate stranglehold on creative expression, she would be seen as a misunderstood genius whose public persona would be miscommunicated as “crazy,” whose post-success emancipation didn’t quite fit the conventional mold, and who would inevitably – beyond the crazy – seem quite content with herself working the unplugged circuit while hip-hop superstars dominated the auto-tuned airwaves? She did – here.
Continue reading Unforgettable, Vol. 17: Lauryn Hill – “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill painted a music scene reflective of urban culture on the brink of a new millennium; eleven years later we – as a culture and creative class – have evolved and devolved from that reality. We have since found our souls in the synthetic, and were given our new sonic aesthetic with an anthemic 2009 soundtrack of our virtual reality.
Enter La Roux. La Roux is music that reaches beyond sound, into the mood and mindset of an apathetically passionate generation. Literally, “La Roux” is founded upon adamant ambiguity, fusing the masculine “Le Roux” and the feminine “Le Rousse” to mean “The Red-Headed One.” “That One” would be none other than the Annie Lennox-esque frontwoman Elly Jackson. Jackson’s pale features beneath a fiery red coif depict brilliantly the sonic aesthetic of a colourless coloured culture.
Continue reading Unforgettable, Vol. 18: La Roux – La Roux
2007 climaxed the greatest American tale since The Civil War, and Britney Spears’ Blackout was our living soundtrack. Just as Spears was our blue-eyed child of misfortune, Blackout is the requiem of our American Dream. Britney was an ideal created in our own image. Our image, our perception of our self worth, in the past decade was dependent upon fame and false status. Then, more than ever, our identities were aligned with iconographies: Britney was our Miss American Dream, and in 2007 we saw her strip away her white gown.
At our darkest hour, our brightest supernova wanted nothing more than to go that extra mile for us. We created a monster mistress, a pop iconography reflecting our wildest and greatest desires – embodying our most visceral conquests. She was the broken kingdom, and on behalf of her mortal peers she sacrificed herself for our entertainment. She was our gladiator; our samurai on a kamikaze mission to kill that very system which produced her. Even with her back against the wall she was our central focus; how something so perfect could be so not – and how such reckless power could destroy our most divine wind. We watched her spiral through insanity, as cameras flashed her dancing deliriously to music only she could hear. Even though we led her to this position of mania, she gave us permission to send her on a suicide mission: before the flashing lights, she was to touch the sky, and nosedive in a sacrificial spectacle fit for a fallen empire. She gave more when she had nothing to give – because we asked for it; because the same guys who told us that she was the most valuable dream, told her that her value relied on our affirmation – she Merrill Lynched our Pop selves. Her punishment was her penance, and as much hers as it is ours. The opening is the standing reminder that even after she fades, the irremovable, unstoppable, perpetuating danja remains.
Continue reading Unforgettable, Vol. 19: Britney Spears – Blackout
Joshua Paul Davis emerged from the blackout – heroically from the shadows – to redefine an art form, resurrect a genre, and reflect the essence of a culture with his debut album, Endtroducing. The 1996 release told the tale that in 2010 portrays modern hip-hop’s epic poem on record. DJ Shadow laid the foundation for hip-hop from the ground up, producing the first album entirely constructed from samples. As he creates the aural masterpiece, he allows the past to dictate the future – grabbing clips from vintage movie reels, and television shows, blending them with layered instrumentals from aged vinyl recordings – and in doing so introduces the world to his own sound, but more so the identity of an urban creative class on the cusp of social impact.
Davis begins the journey putting his best foot forward – fusing no less than seven separate soundbites and a fifteen second funk jam session – to take the veil off the silhouette and bring the DJ into the light. An unknown narrator echoes “producing…” over chilling piano scales, as the story begins and Joshua sets the stage from a single grain. In the midst of an industry cheapening musical quality in the face of quantity – rationing and rehashing masterful tracks of old like a 20th century European crusade through Africa – Shadow reminds us that there is an art to the sample; and for a genre founded upon the collage of collaboration, Davis crafts a montage original in its new fusion of old fragments.
Continue reading Unforgettable, Vol. 20: DJ Shadow – Endtroducing…