I’ve been trying to think of something profound to say about 2020 as an introduction to this post, a wrap up of the rest of my month-by-month album reviews of the year, something I started during the first lockdown, and in synergy to how this pandemic has gone; those posts started with much fluster, meandered, and has now come back with renewed enthusiasm, and a new string (strain) to its bow. The new strings in this post are simply a more rushed approach to getting these album reviews done, or simply sharing what albums I enjoyed listening to each month, much like the UK governments approach to getting the Pfizer vaccine approved, or quickly hashing out a last minute trade deal with the EU.
By the time May came around, each month had started to blur into one, and a feeling of doom and gloom lay rife in the air, as everything that we had looked forward to slowly withered away and was being cancelled, or rescheduled for what would be either the first or second time of many more. Completing a Netflix series had become the norm and no longer an accomplishment, and having walked the 5 mile radius surrounding my London flat a good ten times over, it all started to feel like a Deja Vu. New lockdown hobbies and interests started to fade, and the constant battle to stay motivated was a fortnightly crisis. Even new music wasn’t quite hitting the mark, and some of the albums in this post were listened to retrospectively.
Next up in my series ‘Origins of European Hip-Hop’, I’ll take a look at a fragmented and divided hip-hop scene in Germany. Whilst in both France and Italy artists had ideological differences, and both scenes had significant political impacts, no scene in Europe had the kind of political backdrop and contrast of musicians than that in Germany. From Nationalist movements to Turkish rebellion, this post will piece together the development of hip-hop in a country still feeling the effects of the Second World War.
As I continue to take a look back at the dissertation I wrote a few years ago on the developement and impact of hip-hop in Europe, I now move onto my second country, Italy. In the last post I looked into Francophone Rap, a budding hip-hop scene in France, which produced artists such as MC Solaar and IAM, and the film ‘La Haine’. Not too far away though in the Southern regions of Europe, an entirely different hip-hop scene was beginning to emerge, one that would have a big political impact.
Since 2008, National Public Radio have hosted an online live music series called ‘Tiny Desk Concerts’. Featuring artists from all genres, the show has starred musicians such as Chance The Rapper, Sampha and Cigarettes After Sex, to name a few. The format continues to routinely deliver, allowing artists to perform a few of their favourite tracks in an intimate office enviroment. After watching Jorja Smith‘s mesmerising performance in her latest Tiny Desk Concert, I decided to pick out five of my favourite sets from recent months.
Whatever your opinion of Kanye West is, you can’t deny that he has made some great music. The enigmatic figure, love him or hate him, loathe his manipulation of the media and outspoken personality, his relationship with Kim Kardashian, he’s an artist who has consistently released good music, whilst pushing boundaries and often changing perspectives. On ‘Kids See Ghosts’ he is joined by long-term collaborator Kid Cudi, who like Kanye is returning to music after battling depression.
Shows like these are notorious for their crowd interaction, the mosh pits, the lead singer jumping into the crowd, the sweaty fat guy with his top off swinging it above his head, it can be these antics that makes these type of gigs so enjoyable to attend. However, it’s a shame when sometimes a minority of people take there enthusiasm a bit too far and get carried away with it, swinging there bodies all over the place, especially into small girls and people who are clearly not in the mosh pit. Different people enjoy gigs in different ways, some people like to mosh as there expression of enjoyment of the music, and some people just like to enjoy the music. The two should not have to clash, even at a small venue such as Joiners. In spite of this, the raw emotion that was shown by each band on the night is enough to get even the mellowest of guys stirred. The Intimacy of Joiners makes it feel like you’re at one with the band, the audience able to see each emotion on the bands faces – to study/to admire.
Cole returns with his second studio album entitled ‘Born Sinner’ bringing his usual classical hip-hop style and smooth flow. The album was released on June 18th, which just so happened to be the release date for Kanye Wests album ‘Yeezus’, and also Mac Millers new album ‘Watching Movies With The Sound Off.’ Having already reviewed those two albums I can safely say that all three are completely different, in style, lyrical content and also in what audience they are for. ‘Born Sinner’ brings a more linear less experimental hip-hop album to the table, instead focusing on the lyrical content and storytelling side of things, portraying his life in North Carolina and points of views on more traditional beats. The album has a nice relaxed feel about it with Cole having the uncanny ability to paint pictures in your mind, giving off an autobiographical film type of atmosphere. Clever and funny ad-libs (skits) and also freestyles (interludes) feature throughout the album, which breaks up and links the album together really well. In terms of features there’s not too many, and most only feature as a chorus singer, i.e. Miguel, TLC, Amber Coffman, Cole relying on his versatility to keep the album interesting and on point. The only criticism I would have is that the album kind of just stays on the same level and there’s not enough variety in it, but in saying that I think that could just be because there’s no bad tracks on the album, they’re all good. My personal favourites from the album include ‘Power Trip’, ‘Rich Niggaz’ and ‘Let Nas Down.’ The art of story telling and lyricism certainly goes to Cole out of the three and ‘Born Sinner’ is a brilliantly put together piece of work.
June 18th saw three completely different artists go head-to-head, in my opinion ‘Born Sinner’ was the best out of the three, but what’s your opinion, what do you think was the best? The creative and innovative ‘Yeezus’, the classical story telling of ‘Born Sinner’ or the variety and complex lyricism of ‘WMWTSO.’ Let me know your opinion in the comments…