Introducing: The Rotation

Music is one of our favorite topics to discuss here, so we’re rolling out an Apple Music playlist series called the Rotation, where we compile new and relevant songs to listen to occasionally spliced in with underground favorites and artists who just need more shine in general. The first playlist is a warmup jumper. Nothing totally uncomfortable or out of the ordinary. It’s encouraged to put this playlist on shuffle. Also included in this post are our March Madness Soundcloud playlists, which will eventually turn into the Soundcloud Rotation playlist series once April rolls around. Listen, share and enjoy. If you have any artists you want to make a case for to be in the next installment of the Rotation, let us know. Or better yet, write about them. The Rotation: 1 features songs from Frank Ocean, Kendrick, Wizkid, and Playboi Carti among others. You can find the Apple Music playlist here and March Madness 1-3 are available below. Follow our Soundcloud for continuous updates here.

Road Trips with Mom: A musical Odyssey

by Gabi Watkins

Over spring break I visited Florida with my mom and younger siblings. During the 42 total hours on the road I listened to a lot of NPR and classic rock. From epic ballads about love gone wrong to ventures of sex and drugs, the era of Rock ‘n Roll was a defining and crucial point in the evolution of music. Throughout my car ride I heard some songs that stuck out to me not only as a fan of this genre, but as a music lover in general:

Part 1: “Paradise By the Dashboard Light”

Michael Lee Aday, better known by his stage name, Meat Loaf, started his musical career in high school through theater productions. After graduation he made his way to Los Angeles where he formed his first band “Meat Loaf Soul”. The band opened for various artists including Janis Joplin, the Who and The Grateful Dead.

Meat Loaf then went on to record for Motown Records, where he released his debut album, Stoney & Meatloaf in September 1971. Despite the album’s moderate success, he was unhappy with Motown and left shortly after to audition for various parts in musical theater. It was during one of these auditions he met his future collaborator Jim Steinman. He had success in the theater, starring in the production of Hair on Broadway and earning a part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

All the while he was working with Steinman on creating his second album and left theater in 1974 to pursue his music career exclusively. In 1977 he signed with Cleveland International Records and had his big break that October with his sophomore album and claim to fame, Bat Out of Hell.

Bat Out of Hell contains some of the most revolutionary and iconic tracks of the 1970s. Composer, Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf brought together aspects of hard rock, pop and spoken word lyrics, tied together by one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s key elements – sex.

 

“Paradise By the Dashboard Light” highlights the album; a three part, eight minute long epic, telling the tale of high school sweethearts about to take their relationship to a physical level in a car. Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley embody the suspense and desire of young lovers at the beginning of the song, with Meat Loaf proudly proclaiming “we’re gonna go all the way tonight”.

The first part then cuts to a metaphoric play-by-play done by New York Yankees’ shortstop, Phil Rizzuto. This transition is part of what makes this song so iconic as listeners feel the excitement resounding through commentary as the player reaches first base, is nearly thrown out at second, steals third base and sprints for home plate leaving Rizzuto to proclaim, “Holy Cow I think he’s gonna make it!”

Foley then stops the run short, making it clear that she won’t go any further until she knows they’ll be together forever. The male and female vocals intertwine as Meat Loaf pleads with her to let him ‘sleep on it’, promising to tell her in the morning. After their banter makes it clear that she needs confirmation now, he gives into frustration and reassures her that, “I’ll love you ‘til the end of time”.

The song ends with an ironic twist as Meat Loaf exclaims, “now I’m waiting for the end of time, to hurry up and arrive”. Despite the relationship turning bitter and the couple clearly not being able to stand each other, they keep their vows to stay together and reminisce of their first time, remembering how the spark that was once there is now but a distant memory.

The well thought out story line and sarcastic undertones portrayed in these lyrics mash together with an experimental pop-funk tune and the heavy guitar that this era is known for. The song itself peaked at 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the album has sold over 43 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling records of all time.

Post Malone Album Review: Stoney

by Joe Mitchell

stoney

Post Malone, a 21 year old rapper from Grapevine, Texas whose birth name is Austin Richard Post, released his first debut studio album Stoney early last month.The album features artists such as Justin Bieber, Kehlani, Quavo and 2 Chainz. Malone first gained national recognition in the rap game in 2015 with his hit single “White Iverson” and shortly after signed a record deal with Republic Records. Between his first hit single White Iverson and his debut album he also released a mixtape called “August 26th” which also gained popularity quickly. Austin’s recent album, “Stoney”, is in my opinion one of the best debut album’s I have ever heard. There are very few albums that I listen to once and am attached to automatically. This is one of those few. It’s exactly what Post Malone needed to be respected from other top-notch rappers and gain popularity from a large Hip-Hop audience. Not only though is this album a solid album through and through but also each song is unique and it’s not strictly Hip Hop material. Malone mixes in some soft rock, RnB style beats and hooks that make the album really attractive to a lot of different people. Every one of the songs on this album I genuinely love listening to and not skipping over when they come on shuffle. There are songs such as “Feeling Whitney” on the album that feature an acoustic guitar sound and don’t appear to be related to Hip Hop at all but are great songs. There are also songs on the album such as “Congratulations” which feature Quavo that do have a solid Hip Hop foundation behind them. “Déjà vu” is a song on the album that features Justin Bieber that gives a mainstream pop RnB feel that sounds great and sill fits perfectly with the rest of the album. The variety on this album is what I believe makes this album special and gives it the edge to consider this a great album instead of just a good album. I would 100% recommended this album to anyone and encourage not only fans of Hip Hop to listen to this album but also fans of all different kinds of genres.

post-malone-apology

Album Review: Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’

by Jacob McKay

kid-cudi-passion-pain-demon-slayin-album-cover

This album is probably something I shouldn’t be allowed to write about because of my stance when it comes to how I feel about it’s creator. Kid Cudi has been an instrumental part of my upbringing, and he’s been a musical fixture in the lives of most people I surround myself with. I remember the first time I heard Day N’ Nite. I had a connection to that song before I realized that so much of it was just like me. All of Cudi’s work comes from a place of such deep feeling and emotion that he raised the bar for the level of emotion I expect out of what I listen to. That’s how I gauge music, the amount of feeling it’s able to illicit. Cudi has made albums that do that beautifully,The Man on the Moon albums probably best so. With his brief foray into WZRD he was still able to produce a song that I return to every so often because of it’s palpable emotional content, “Teleport 2 Me”. Cudi’s last album showed an artist who lost his way to much of the outskirts of his fanbase. I was troubled by the last project. It spoke of an artist very much lost in the miasma of his own mind. Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven was not a masterpiece by any means, I think that has to be acknowledged to appreciate this new work. It was experimental though, and people didn’t give it enough credit for that. Cudi did a brave thing there. And I think he knew that most people wouldn’t understand it, but I think he made it for himself, or at least where he was at the time. The title track off of that album is the lone bright spot for me, and a track that I listened to almost every single day last year when I was going through my own issues. Cudi communicated hope, and the immense effort it takes at times to wake up every morning and simply smile. Even at his most unfocused he’s still capable of connecting, and this new album is a much more focused effort to connect. Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ isn’t a happy album, as the title should suggest. It fits. It is an incredible journey through the mind of a genius, who even at his darkest points is still immensely relatable. The second song on the album, “Swim in the Light”, sets the tone for the project. The repeated refrain is, “You can try and numb the pain but it’ll never go away”.

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Not a happy place to start from, but a fitting one for the subject matter. The majority of this album was assumed to be finished before Cudi’s short stint in rehab, and you get a darkly beautiful sense of where his mind was at. That second song contains such rich instrumentation that you immediately get lost, and thats when the album takes you for a ride. Cudi’s hums are all over this thing, and in the best way. He uses the hum to help his lyrics convey the appropriate feeling, almost as if it’s additional instrumentation. This album also showcases some of Cudi’s best collaborative work ever, in my opinion. “By Design” featuring Andre 3000 is an upbeat turn that helps balance out the more brooding tracks at the front of the album. The beat is incredible and 3 stacks absolutely rips it, and the hook and bridge are incredibly catchy. ” When you think too much you’re removing what’s moving,” Andre croons. “Rose Golden”, which some were surprised to learn features Willow Smith, features incredibly powerful harmony on the hook from both artists. Jaden Smith also does background vocals on “Kitchen,” which may be my second favorite song on the album. The Smiths are huge fans of Cudi, as is most of the teenage population that thinks outside of every box in the way that those two do. My personal connection to this album peaks with “Does it”, a solo track in the middle of the project. Cudi goes in about how he feels unrecognized and under appreciated by the industry and by people as a whole for doing, “music, TV, and movies”, but the point of the song isn’t to simply complain about that. It’s a self-affirmation anthem over a beautiful instrumental backdrop, with a healthy dose of Cudi hums. For anybody who has realized they have some level of talent, but has struggled with confidence, this is your song on this project. Cudi “Does It”, and his confidence emanates from the song. It’s infectious, and proves once again how he expertly communicates feeling through his music. The Passion is most evident here, as well as the demon slaying. The pain is evident too, and it’s amazing how accurate the name of this album is for the songs that comprise it. The darkness in this album is necessary. It’s been a dark year, for many, especially for Scott Mescudi. His personal darkness is relatable on another level, when there seems to be a cloud over a generation. Cudi’s heart and soul are in this one. It’s impossible to do it justice in my own words. This is an album I thought about simply not reviewing because of that. I’ve sat on my hands all week just absorbing myself in it. It’s beautiful and some of it cuts so deep that it hurts. But it feels so good by the time you’re done. It’s like crying and then realizing that you needed it. It’s not important to rank this on any list, whether it’s his best albums of all time, or even the best albums this year. This album, for me, is a master stroke of somebody who knows he holds a very unique sonic brush. Nobody sounds like Kid Cudi. Still. Even after all these years. And he’s still providing new twists to a sound entirely his own. I guess, one could say, he just does it.

kid-cudi-beat-bb11-2016-billboard-650

Album Review: Awaken, My Love!

by Josh Cook

skt2xxhz

I’m in love when we are smoking that la-la-la-la-la.

I’m in love with this album.

As a person who loves Donald Glover and would defend him to my grave, I’ll admit that I’m biased when it comes to his work because of the respect I have for him as an artist. So if you’re looking for an unbiased album review…you’ll never find it.

The album is relatively short, so I’ll keep this sweet.

Even though it’s only 11 songs and 49 minutes, this album is exactly what I wanted to see from Donald. And I don’t mean that I wanted him to not rap. He made what he wanted to make, and it’s art. I mean I love 3005 just as much as the next person…but this album is wildly groovy.

With my own opinion set aside, I’ve heard two things said about this album: 1) “No I haven’t listened to it yet, but I heard it’s fire.” And 2) “Wow the new Gambino is lit! Have you heard it yet?”

Of course I have, and I agree. The album starts with a banger, sprinkles in the feels and smooth jams, and ends with a ballad. That is a recipe for success, and Donald cooked up a special meal for our ears.

Despite not being a typical Gambino album chalked full of banging beats and top-notch clever bars, this album finishes in my top three from him with Royalty and Because the Internet. Personally, I love the sound and the funk vibes, and advise that you give it a listen.

My three favorites from the album are Redbone, Me and Your Mama, and Baby Boy – in no specific order. If you don’t like any of those three, listen to the others—Zombies is also awesome. If you listened through it once and didn’t like it, listen to it again. My experience with all ‘Bino music is that it grows and grows on you.

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If you’re still struggling with your own ego and displeasure that Donald made something besides rap, here’s an article I recommend you read before listening again. à http://www.okayplayer.com/news/how-i-got-over-myself-and-learned-to-love-childish-gambinos-new-album.html

 

So smile when you can.

Keep on your dreams, keep standing tall.

If you are strong you cannot fall.

YG’s Red Friday: A Solid Entry in for the West Coast Banger Bin

by Phil Copeland

With the release of his second full length album in June and the notorious popularity of his single “FDT” (Fuck Donald Trump), Compton rapper YG has never been in the spotlight more than in 2016. Known for his distinctively West Coast gangsta rap laid mostly over DJ Mustard’s catchy, if formulaic, beats, YG’s popularity has risen steadily over the past few years. He’s an artist who manages to get radio playtime without giving any concessions against his stylistically aggressive rapping. Staying true to his roots has caused little shift in his sound over the years – 2012 YG is essentially 2016 YG. But if his new mixtape “Red Friday” is another to judge by, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The release of “Red Friday” was a bit of a mess. Originally scheduled to drop on November 25, the tape was leaked a day early. YG was forced to put it up on major streaming platforms in response to the leak. He has been vocal in blaming his label, Def Jam, for the leak, at one point going on a Twitter tirade and repeatedly tweeting “Fuck Def Jam” to thousands of likes each time. The physical release of the mixtape is even odder, with a limited quantity of 1,400 CDs being sold for $100 each (digital downloads are still normally priced). YG isn’t the first to do this – FDT collaborator and fellow West Coat artist Nipsey Hussle also sold copies of his album for the same price back in 2013 – but it still represents an interesting stand in the debate over buying music.

Of course, the main question from anyone who has yet to listen to “Red Friday” stands: Is it any good? The short answer is yes. If you have appreciated any of YG’s work in the past, this is a must listen. There aren’t a lot of new ideas presented, rather, YG continues to refine his craft and present an extremely polished and listenable work. This is a mixtape more in the sense that it is a short, loose collection of singles, the production is album-level. I’ll break apart different aspects of the tape, but know that this is one of YG’s best outings yet.

Production

It’s not a YG song without DJ Mustard beats, and the producer is back with another collection of noticeably melodic backings. Don’t expect much new here: as in earlier tracks, and in most of the work he has produced for other artists, Mustard utilizes low, syncopated bass lines with high synth or xylophone riffs, all in the minor key. Having listened to most of his work before, I found that I was able to predict where the drums would come in, or where the beat would drop out. However, this is the same quality of production that we saw on the album “Still Brazy”, so I was not disappointed.

Flow

A good test of a rapper’s flow is whether you can appreciate their sound without even trying to focus on the lyrics, and all of the tracks on “Red Friday” accomplish this. YG has become an expert at laying his lines perfectly into Mustard’s syncopation. While it all sounds natural, the stylistic bass can sound at odds to an artist who doesn’t know how to utilize it (see: any early 2 Chainz). So YG gets a lot of credit here. The combination of production and flow alone make pretty much all of these tracks bangers, but we’d expect nothing else from a YG release.

Lyrics

Of the seven full-length tracks on this tape, six of them are classic YG gangsta rap material. There’s a lot of variations of “Oh shit, I got a couple million in the bank” and “Pull up like Pac, middle finger out the sunroof” (both of these are actual lines from “I Know”). However, it doesn’t really matter that he says the word “bitch” no less than 54 times in “Down Bitch” (yes, I counted). You’re probably not here for YG’s lyrical prose.

The one exception is the powerfully political final track, “One Time Comin”. It is a diatribe against police brutality, telling the story of getting pulled over as a black man for driving too nice of a car. This is the best song on the mixtape, and still one that you can listen to at a party. The flow, message, and beat come together to create an impressive work.

Overall

While each of the songs on “Red Friday” work on their own, there is little additional to be gained by listening to the tape as a whole. YG had a loose collection of bangers, and he released a loose collection of bangers. Features from RJ, Mitch, and 21 Savage fit well but are nothing to write home about. The mixtape does to exactly what it’s trying to do, and no one really asked for more. Overall, it exceeded my expectations, but didn’t blow them away. YG’s doing what he wants to do, and I’m alright with that.

Grade: B+

4 Essential Songs to Hear Before the Year Ends

by Valerie Buvat de Virginy

White Ferrari

Frank Ocean’s long awaited album, Blonde, quickly made its way up to the number 1 spot on the Billboard 200, with one constant theme; his obsession with cars. Ocean narrates a fantasy in this track, driving with his love in nothing other than a white Ferrari. This song is essential in the message of the whole album to never stop moving forward against any internal battles and melancholic nostalgia.

Listen here:
https://play.spotify.com/track/2LMkwUfqC6S6s6qDVlEuzV

Boyish

The young Minnesota raised group of lads, Hippo Campus, rose to fame with their subliminal angsty hit, “Suicide Saturday” in 2015. Known for their mysterious northwestern soweto and playful guitar riffs, “Boyish” adds an element of youth not yet ventured by Hippo Campus. Lead singer Jake Luppen resembles a sort of alternative James Dean persona with his impressive range that he hits in this song. The heavy use of brass instruments and quick tempo makes this track the perfect teaser for their upcoming album, Landmark, set to release on February 24, 2017. This is one album you do not want to miss, folks.

Listen here:
https://play.spotify.com/track/2mvctjgrevLQn08AUW6jMc

Season 2 Episode 3

On their latest album titled How To Be A Human Being, British group Glass Animals, are back again with their futuristic sound in “Season 2 Episode 3” (no, that’s not a reference to your Netflix binges of Stranger Things). This song personifies the lazy couch potato we all know and somehow turns it into a pretty groovy tune. This entire album is meant to be blasted on a cold, Friday night, but “Season 2 Episode 3” will send you into a trance like state. You won’t be able to turn this song off. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Listen here:
https://play.spotify.com/track/4vcoNCrTtunmJ9q8srpVly

A Change of Heart

 The 1975 shook the music world early this year with their sophomore album, I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. “A Change of Heart” is sort of response track to one of their most well known songs, “Robbers.” With the lyric, “You used to have a face straight out of a magazine. Now you just look like anyone.” frontman Matty Healy is implying how he and his partner have fallen out of love. The pair are passed the “ignorance is bliss” phase of a relationship and are now beginning to see the many flaws of one another, losing their compatibility. This electric and low tempo song is an emotional investment. Not only will this brilliant song will lead you to experience a very personal cathartic moment, but potentially cause you to have a change of heart of your own.

Listen here:

https://play.spotify.com/track/035QPHPAcqApSGMMcogT45