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When Charles Bradley sings “Victim of Love,” the title track on his latest album, he makes the emotional point—about his affection for a woman who may never return to him—very clear, stretching out the word “victim” to multiple syllables. The gritty-voiced singer has earned his right to cry. Abandoned by his mother at eight months, spending his teenage years sleeping in New York City subway cars, and later discovering that his brother was murdered, Bradley has survived some deep, dark hard times. But thanks in part to his sister taking him to see the Godfather of Soul at the Apollo Theater, Bradley has also found an outlet for his pain. Singing first with a broom as a mic, Bradley later graduated to clubs, and did a James Brown–influenced act at night while working as a cook by day. He was discovered by the R&B revivalists at Daptone Records, which (with affiliated label Dunham) has released two confessional and critically acclaimed albums from Bradley. Recent tracks now include a dash of hope, demonstrating what perseverance and a little love can accomplish.
At some point, orchestra directors got it into their heads that the way to attract younger audiences was to perform collaborative concerts with hip, youthful bands like Aerosmith, Scorpions, and Styx. Cut them some slack for being a bit behind; it’s the thought that counts. They may not save classical music, but classical-rock collaborations are by now a permanent fixture, providing a money-making niche for both symphonic pops programming and pop stars with symphonic pretentions. And it's nice to see the trend expanding beyond the confines of dinosaur rock. Composer/director Liza Figueroa Kravinsky has her own uniquely local spin on classical crossover with the Go-Go Symphony, which she founded last year. With 20 members, it’s more of an ensemble than full orchestra, so they rely on the Capital City Symphony to provide a string section—given their focus, it’s no surprise they are heavier on brass and percussion. She says they've been well received so far by both classical and go-go crowds, though their biggest test will be this Friday, when they open for Trouble Funk. In the longer term, much like The Roots, they’re hopeful calling themselves a symphonic orchestra will be a way to sneak go-go into venues in which it’s been banned for "security reasons." Figueroa Kravinsky spoke with Arts Desk in preparation for tomorrow’s 9:30 Club show.
An online place you can call “home” You probably feel like you have a ton of “sites” online. You’re on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and handfuls of other places you barely remember creating an account for. Yep, you’re out there. And so is everyone else. Their profiles and feeds look just like yours, because you signed up for the same service, were given the same general design/settings options, and you all follow the same rules and guidelines, because you’re part of a community. And that’s totally cool. Services like that are integral to a musician’s success these days, and they’re absolutely useful and beneficial. But what these services are NOT is something that is wholly yours, and maybe more importantly, something you’ve taken the time to create, maintain, and take pride in. And that matters. A lot. Why you need to have your own band website Ask anyone who writes about music, books bands, or works in the “industry.” Sure, you might not be completely written off if you don’t have your own site, but you’re going to be taken much more seriously if you do, and you’re going to build a bigger email list, see more social traction, and get more gigs. Here’s why: * Having your own site makes you look professional. It shows that you put in the extra effort and are taking your career (or at least your music) seriously. * People want a one-stop destination. If I’m checking out a new band, I hit their website first. It’s the easiest way to get a quick overview of what they’re about, where else they’re active (through links to social sites), and to sign up for a mailing list if I’m feeling intrigued enough. * You are at the center of the experience. Along those same lines, a standalone website is really the only place a band or artist can effectively display their “brand.” Other sites may let you mess around with color schemes and other elements, but your own site is the only place where people can get the full experience of you and your work. * Your own site gives you total control, meaning you never have to worry about whether or not people are actually seeing your updates, or if they’re getting lost in the shuffle. Anything you post will be right there until you don’t want them to be. * Social media platforms come and go. While website styles may change, having your own site isn’t going to go out of style. I tried to tell this to the tons of bands who pressed up their CDs a few years back with their Myspace URL on them, but they wouldn’t listen. Think they’re still updating that page? Nah. Think they might still have those CDs for sale? Probably. What do you think? Do you have your own site? If so, how has it helped you? Don’t have your own site? Why not? Let us know in the comments! Create a professional musician website in minutes with HostBaby. Try it FREE for 30 days!
A recent post on MusicThinkTank by Lukas Camenzind takes a look at what made the song “Thrift Shop” by CD Baby artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis such a huge success, selling over 7 million copies (one of the best-selling singles in years). The article is called “How to Score the Next BIG Hit.” Check out the full article for all the details, but I’ll summarize his main points below. 1. Don’t be married to your first single — “Thrift Shop” was the 5th single off the album The Heist. Once it blew up, listeners went back and gave new life to those older singles. As Lukas says: “Release and promote a series of individual songs. And: If it’s not a hit, switch. Don’t keep pushing a song that’s not getting any traction on its own. Keep releasing new songs until one catches on.” 2. Be different — “Thrift Shop” goes against many hip-hop grains. It’s memorable, in part, because it does surprising things within and with the confines of a genre. So, don’t try to sound like someone else. Be yourself. 3. Have fun, and lots of it — Do you remember the first time you heard “Thrift Shop?” Probably put a smile on your face, because there’s humor in the lyrics and production. And we love to share funny things online. 4. Get anthemic — As Lukas says: “Thrift Shop is not just a song – it’s an anthem. Why? Because the song is a symbol that captures the ACTUAL cultural phenomenon of the cash-strapped hipster (by choice or not), on the hunt for vintage clothes.” What current cultural phenomenon is missing an anthem? Write it! 5. Have visuals, will travel — The lyrics are visually evocative, thus providing the perfect setup for an accompanying music video — which has now been viewed on YouTube almost half a BILLION times. So the lesson here is simple: make great videos.
Virginia artist SK blew some fresh air into the column this week. The rapper, producer, and songwriter delivered a simple, crisp new video for “M.O.J.O” from his promising Rock N’ Roll Voodoo mixtape. Like the rest of the project, "M.O.J.O" is produced by SK, who easily rides an infectious beat heavy with 808s. The song begins with a horn-heavy sample over synths; there’s also another sample in the background that’s reminiscent of an old BET commercial. SK opens the song aggressively: "Now I ain’t never been a coke dealer/But that don’t mean I ain’t never peddled dope, nigga/Between them black and white keys I found hope, nigga."
While Montgomery County is planning a “Task Force on the Night Time Economy” to study ways to reinvigorate its music and after-hours scenes, Prince George’s County has quietly become the best place to see live music outside of D.C.—without organizing a single committee meeting to serve that goal. The county’s liquor board has shut down establishments linked to violence, but the venues that remain offer a diverse, vital set of options. The large Hyattsville nightclub Cococabana has been booking a who’s-who in Latin entertainment, from the reggaeton of Zion & Lennox to the salsa music of El Gran Combo. In rock, DJs at the University of Maryland’s WMUC have been busy booking indie-pop gigs at a house in College Park called The Cottage. The intimate Harmony Hall in Fort Washington has featured old-school soul from the likes of local girl group The Jewels. The Crossroads in Bladensburg offers reggae dancehall, while go-go lives at the Tradewinds in Temple Hills and other spots. Not impressed by D.C.’s live music scene? Try crossing the city’s eastern bo
In the classroom of DMV hip-hop, Shy Glizzy began as a disruptive presence. He was all about Twitter beef, excited to make enemies and plant flags. By the December release of his mixtape, Fxck Rap, Glizzy had cultivated a fanbase of fiercely loyal young kids, who now trumpet their fandom with T-shirts emblazoned with “Glizzy Gang.” It’s easy to understand his popularity: Fxck Rap is amoral, paranoid, and deeply aware of the threats that lurk close by. Glizzy raps about his Uncle Stu’s cocaine problem, his run-ins with violence, and his bad behavior at school (he claims to have been booted from four D.C. schools and one in Maryland). Throughout the tape’s lean 12 tracks, his choruses take the shape of simple and frequently downcast slogans, and the beats are from obscure dudes—Nard N B, AllSteezy, Rico Beats, Mayo, Basement Beatz—that paint a haunting backdrop for Glizzy’s autobiographical blues and toasts to binge balling. Beneath it all, there’s a ring of desperation: Glizzy’s father was murdered at 19, and Glizzy recently turned 20.
At his core, Wale is a DMV hip-hop outsider—born to Nigerian parents and schooled in Maryland, he was a good kid raised on big-budget rap albums from the late ’90s. But he was never high-fashion enough for the jet setters, and packaged into Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group, he’s the least threatening member this side of Omarion. With Folarin, Wale loses the sulking attitude of recent work and opens up about his major-label gaffes, calling himself “a poet that adjusted poorly to cameras.” That line is rapped on the soul-sampling, Jake One–produced “Limitless,” which exemplifies one of many moments on the 21-track tape where Wale finds his pace and utterly destroys. (His spoken-word, for-the-ladies bullshit is relegated to only one song, “Bad.”) On the Rick Ross–assisted “The Show,” Wale’s cool, raspy vocals sound the best that they ever have; he’s come a long way since his 2008 breakthrough, The Mixtape About Nothing. With “Get Me Doe,” Wale’s 2Chainz and Beat Billionaire collabo, he pens Maryland a veritable get-up, stand-up anthem. By the time he calls himself the “voice of the city” on the tape-closing “Never Never Freestyle,” it’s difficult to disagree. —Ramon Ramirez
An outcry is being heard in the D.C. Facebook Community over Wale’s comments during a recent interview on MTV’s Rap Fix Live. Shout out to Crank Brothers for bringing this to my attention! This is what people are saying: “SMH!!! Thank you Wale for diggin a deeper hole for GoGo. With the platform that he has and represents, he is in a position where whatever he said is a stampage. Music is never violent. Yes…the meeting place for violence is at the gogo but saying gogo is violent on an international TV station (MtV) is reckless and disrespectful. That’s like dialing 911 and telling the police you rob banks. Now they got u in a scope not trustin your every move. Crazy how he forgot his “first hit” was a gogo song and sec was too. had to share this fam..” Crank Brothers ”That was straight self hate, or selfishness. It seems he was so busy trying to be hip and have some knd of swag, that he wasnt thinking intellegentlly enough to know the damage that speach caused a whole genre of music. He didn’t even answer the question? That was like someone asking you “how’s the family” and you start talking about your crazy cousin. The host asked him to promote GoGo music, and he blew it!! Sometimes we give the wrong people the spotlight and the mic.” Ignatius Mason “Wow!! That was very disappointing! My Unc must be turning in his grave!!!” Fase Miller “If it wasn’t for Go-Go he would be a bigger NOBODY!!! #BammaAss#” MsQue Asifudidntno “He didn’t have to put the negative out there. How can go-go move forward if National artists r saying it is violent? If I wasn’t familiar with the genre I wouldn’t invite bands anywhere smh” Jason MrHollywood West “Yeah he blew that! He was given an opportunity to educate folks on gogo but he didn’t rep well at all.” N’Diya Pinkney “How disrespectful smh and Wale wow” Desmond Decker Aka Young D ”Wale Lost My Respect!!! He Must Of Forgot Where He Came From!!” LaSha Burks ” Wow!!!! …But go-go has come a long way. A lot of well known, famous artists have used our sound. Look at Beyonce’s crazy in love record. Ameri’s record Salt n pepa. Go-go has surpassed even Wale’s career. Talking bout violence stunts the growth of go-go. Get outta here. Smh” Ladie Love Melifonwu “Right, I heard a countdown of the ten top joints that put rap on like, “Rock The Bells, and five had the go-go swing, think Salt-n-Peppa, think E.U… Slim a bamma.” Faheem A. Khabeer Check out the interview for yourself!!! http://thesnsnightlife.com/2013/03/d-c-cries-out-over-wales-negative-comments-to-mtv-about-go-go-music/
Here’s the long-standing perception of D.C. hip hop: Rappers who aren’t in the spotlight tend to hate on the ones getting attention. As a result, those poised to break out of the nation’s capital never really get the city’s full support. Instead, they’re nitpicked for “not being D.C. enough” or the music doesn’t incorporate the homegrown sound — go-go — the way it should. Wale‘s familiar with this. His first mainstream single “Chillin’” shouted out D.C. and its surrounding counties, but was ultimately chastised for its Lady Gaga feature and watery pop sound. His second single, “Pretty Girls,” was an evocative nod to go-go music, but Wale came under fire for choosing mostly light-skinned women for the video. Still, Wale was poised to put the nation’s capital on the rap map and solidify it as the next go-to place for underground hip-hop. Sure, the city had a handful of MCs with star potential, but Wale was thought to have it all: impressive wordplay, spins on local radio, and a cosign from British tastemaker/producer Mark Ronson, who signed the rapper to his Allido record label in 2007. The following year, Wale’s Seinfeld-themed Mixtape About Nothing and 2009’s Back to the Feature heightened anticipation for his forthcoming major label debut Attention Deficit, which found him sharing space with everyone from Jazmine Sullivan and Rihanna, to rappers Gucci Mane and Bun B. Wale’s success was supposed to open the floodgates for record execs to come looking for other great D.C. rappers to sign. But when Deficit tanked, Wale’s attitude tanked along with it. On his subsequent mixtape, More About Nothing, he tried to explain the album’s flop: “My shit was submarine-like, under-shipped/ Look at what I’m up against, scrutiny, criticism, everybody judgin’ off a single I ain’t even pick.” Fair enough. So maybe that explains Wale’s personality shift for Ambition, his 2011 album and first release as a member of Rick Ross’ boutique Maybach Music Group. While Attention Deficit sought to pacify wide swaths of fans, Ambition played like the glossy ramblings of a man struggling to comprehend his newfound fame. On it, Wale was more self-congratulatory than usual and naysayers were shrugged off as “haters.” It’s a motif that would characterize his online persona, whether he engaged in Twitter fights with Amanda Diva or Osama bin Laden’s former mistress. That made Wale tough to cheer for, although you could understand his cantankerous approach. Folks wrote him off after the Deficit debacle; aligned with the likes of Rick Ross, he wanted to rub it in our faces a little. On Folarin, Wale’s late-2012 mixtape, he finally sounds comfortable in his skin. On its 20 songs, he shows flashes of his former self: the guy who could breeze through double entendres so quickly that you needed a few playbacks to absorb the meaning. And Wale’s finally achieved the “ambition” he sought previously, as this mixtape boasts some big names for a free project: Trinidad James infuses “Flat Out” with his polarizing blend of ratchet rap; Scarface helps Wale recall better days on “Limitless.” He’s discussing topics that hold weight, like his public school upbringing and the gritty side of D.C. He shouts out Bowie State University and Georgetown. Elsewhere on Folarin, Wale acknowledges his inadequate recent output, atoning for it with a heavier soundtrack that better accentuates his potential. .