When this song dropped online last week, it created an immediate buzz. Some didn’t like it for sound quality issues, while others simply loved the union that may have been long overdue. First the song, and now the video for Janelle Monáe and Erykah Badu’s “Q.U.E.E.N.”, showing and proving that talent is too good to be museum pieces.
It should be obvious at this point: when it comes to the output of Tyler, The Creator and a good amount of Odd Future’s work, you are either a fan or someone who thinks they are everything that is wrong about the bad side of today’s hip-hop. I happen to be a fan because I find Tyler’s work to be amazing. He can pull off the dumb role well but also shows intelligence not only in his lyrics and flows, but how he produces the tracks. This isn’t someone who plays “connect the dots, la la la la la” and says here, this is my album, deal with it. There is some sense of control with what he executes, and there is definitely a master plan in how these songs are presented, as one can hear with his new album, Wolf (Odd Future/Sony).
Is this album, as one reviewer put it, part of a trilogy and if so, is this third part the finale? It depends if you want to consider it part three or part two, because his Bastard debut may have been him laying out seeds but let’s not get too deep on this. In terms of Wolf on its own merits, Tyler remains Tyler but he also isn’t afraid of talking to himself in the form of a self-exam, as if he’s seeing a psychiatrist. However, there are more self-developed characters and one can either call this an extension of his family or a lunatic who has yet to run deeper. I love it, because his recording studio/facility/garage/closet is whatever he wants it to be, and he is having fun. Even with guests like Pharrell and Erykah Badu, nothing is taken away from knowing whose album this is. It’s part of the Tyler, The Creator compound, and he is an equal opportunity offender, if you wish to focus on all of the bashing he does towards certain groups of people.
If we are to talk about lyrical growth within the crude humor and jokes, there is a sense that there is someone growing up in front of our ears and eyes. He may not show it in an obvious manner, but some of the songs are deep and there I say touching. Someone might say “whoa John, that is a bit too much for you to say about Tyler, it’s as if you’re trying to say he’s worthy of something. He ain’t worthy of my…” and that’s when I come in and say yes, he is worthy of anyone’s time if they are willing to take a serious listen, not only to the barrage of lyrics that he throws out, but also his production. There’s still a bit of that funky minimalism, but these songs are nicely arranged. There’s thought put into all of it, and it should not be ignored. When I was listening, I had felt that he is this generation’s The RZA. Someone else on a music board had said the same thing, and while that might be considered ludicrous by some, that’s fine. But I hear what I hear, and while he could easily be 100% conscious, Tyler wants to have fun and will do so for the sake of having fun. He is a part of a business that can pull down people, and Wolf shows that he continues to be hungry and will eat anything that comes in his way. Tyler is isn’t afraid to unveil that nerd and geek, and maybe that’s what draws some listeners in. At the same time, there’s that confident bravado that may make some go “aah, it’s a bit of a game, and I’m going to not participate, but watch from afar to see how far he takes it.” Tyler is taking it to where he wants to, and he’s very much keeping it…Tyler. Wolf is just an entry into a room full of fun bags. Have a squeeze.
Erykah Badu fans may want to check this out, a new mix of different mixes and remixes of her work, organized by BamaLoveSoul. The mix is called Y’all Feel That: Erykah Badu Remixes, Flips & Covers Vol. 2, which of course means yes, there is a Vol. 1 to check out. BamaLoveSoul had made a request for people to create remixes, and they received a lot of responses. These are considered to be some of the best. Here’s the track listing:
JBmBeatz – Texas Tea (The Badu Medley)
Beat Attic – Incense & Brandy
School of Rock – Apple Tree
Soldier (simon S Remix)
Soldier (Gudina’s I Can’t Believe It’s NOt BUtter Flip)
Love of My Life (Jack Smith Remix)
Bag Lady (Salah Ananse Transatlantic Soul Mix)
Southern Girl (Opolopo remix)
Southern Girl (Moonshine Remix)
oriJanus – 21 Feet Tall
The Light (Cornbread Remix)
Real Thing (Marvel Remix)
Warren Xclnce x Ohforeal! – Tmrrw x Ystrdy
Robert Glasper – Afro Blue (AnuTheGIANT Remix) feat Erykah Badu
Robert Glasper – Afro Blue (9th Wonder’s Blue Light Basement Remix) feat Phonte
Honey (Souled Remix)
Cleva (Captain Planet Remix)
I Want Moombah (J Boogie 12″ Edit)
Sometimes (Manmademusic More ooft Edit)
Drama (Manuel Riccardi Deep mix)
Window Seat (Boddhi Satva Ancestral Soul Remix)
In LOve With U (Steva’s Basement Mix)
Bump (Soul1LDN Classic Remix)
Next Lifetime (Deluxepusher Dub)
Tyrone (Ain’t My Style) (The Main Ingredient Remix)
Bjork vs Badu – Come to Me / Bag Lady
Bare Beats + Stray Dog – Kiss Me On My Neck
On & On (Sid Mercutio Cover)
Jchu – No Love
BamaLoveSoul is making it available as a pay-what-you-want deal so if you really like it, make a donation by clicking the player below, or heading here.
NOTE: Some of the imagery in this video, which includes shots of a nude woman, may not be for all audiences, so to be safe, this is NSFW. They’re not allowing websites to embed it, so click the image below which will take you to the video at Vimeo.com.
Flaming Lips have a new collaboration album coming out called The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends (Warner Bros.), where they are joined with a number of different artists, including Ke$ha, Lightning Bolt, and Yoko Ono, but what has gained a lot of attention in the last few days is a video for their collaboration with Erykah Badu, a cover of Robert Flack‘s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. The song is Badu entering the Flaming Lips’ adventurous musical world, as if her natural and organic self decided to explore their acid and mushroom tinged soundscapes. But there has been a controversy not for the song, but for the video that was directed by Lips frontman Wayne Coyne.
If you have seen the videos Coyne has done in the last 20 years, you’ll know that he can be trippy. In this case, it seems that Badu agreed to do the video with him with a few ideas and expressed between her and Coyne. However, an alleged “rough” version of the video was placed on Pitchfork and Badu was livid about what she saw. She had claimed that she did not approve of this version of the video, even though it was presented as a “raw cut”. Badu accused Coyne of being “self serving”. You can see the views of both Badu and Coyne in an article written at Okayplayer. For a few hours, the video was removed from YouTube and Vimeo, but before it was, it lead to a lot of people discussing it in forums and in social media. It has also lead to countless videos on YouTube where people recorded their first viewing of the video, treating it as if if it was the music video equivalent of 2 Girls, 1 Cup. I initially missed it because I felt I would eventually see the video by the weekend, and when it was removed, I questioned “was it really that bad?”
I knew that what considered controversial was a nude woman that people assumed was Badu herself. Rather, it was Badu’s sister, Nayrok. As for the imagery… well take a look first if you haven’t seen it and then come back here.
Then there’s shots of Nayrok being covered in a white liquid. One might go “oh, yet more objectification of a black woman being fetishized by a white man”. In other words, “a sexual object”. It can be seen that way if you want to see it that way, and with some of this white liquid shown dripping slowly, you could see it as softcore porn, a twisted bukkake shot. Or you could see it in a humorous way and look at the white liquid as sugar frosting, the ingredients for a glazed doughnut. Sounds weird? By the time it reaches this point in the video, coming up with the idea of this representing the doughnut is probably the least weird thing you can visualize. Or if you twist its possible meaning again, you can see the white liquid as something sexual, if not sensual. First kiss, first touch, first smell, first… orgasm? The first time ever I saw your face post coitus? Pre-creation? Post-creation? Procreation?
Is this video controversial because it’s meant to be oppressive? Is it meant to be offensive? Or is it truly noting more than expression through abstract imagery that can mean anything that you want to see in it, but can also mean absolutely nothing. The video is not violent in anyway, but red liquid often brings visions of blood, or at least in a violent society that we tend to think is heavily promoted by news items of the day, we immediately see negativity. It could be positive. Then again, it can mean absolutely nothing.
Perhaps this dispute between Badu and Coyne is complete hype and another means of promotion, nothing more than a way to promote a unique Roberta Flack cover, and the Flaming Lips forthcoming album. There are going to be people who will see this video and go “wow, how can a song so beautiful get treated with a video that is shameful?” But is it really shameful, or shameless? Or is it just images? Beauty is just as mind in the mind of the beholder as is ugliness.
Perhaps this is the end result of what Badu mentioned a few years ago, the idea of “groupthink”. There is indeed other perspectives if you wish to look at other directions or paths, but if you are stuck in believing that this is video has one meaning, you’re going to discard other interpretations? Of course, that’s up for debate too.
I had posted a note to Coyne and Badu on Twitter that I didn’t expect a reply to, but I had basically said that if Badu did indeed object to it, why not have her create her own video, her own interpretation of the song. I ended by saying the video could be called “conflict of vision, unity in sound”, as a way to say that she objected to this edit of the video and the way it was presented, and since this was a collaborative song, one would be able to see her vision of their song.
Nonetheless, you can see it and think for yourself.
Robert Glasper has been one of the more adventurous jazz artists in the last 5 years, managing to get a hold of a hip-hop following for his recreations of Dilla-productions while showing how much of a renaissance man he can be with some of his works. Black Radio (Blue Note) was gaining attention months before it was released, as people were discovering who would be sitting in on this album. It was a bevy of guests, and one by one, the names were being dropped. Was Glasper wanting to be more accessible, or simply widening his pallet? Nothing wrong with either, but it was the music people were either to hear.
Black Radio could be a statement. This is a collection of all new material with The Robert Glasper Experiment collaborating with a number of soul vocalists and a few rappers to show what “black radio” is all about. However, if one were to turn to the average black radio station in 2012, you might not hear any of these artists. Perhaps that’s the point. The album is a throwback to the soul of the mid to late 70′s and early 80′s, back when music felt like family and the people involved were loved and respected as aunties, uncles, and grandparents. You respected your elders, you never raised a hand or voice, and much of that family vibe was carried on by some but ignored or passed off as non-essential. As soul music changed into something else, it remained hidden but was always. It manifested itself with a new name, but the neo-soul pushed by the media was nothing more than the old soul, and being old was not looked upon. But it had to be neo, be it new or neon, and sadly, going back to a soulful and funky vibe would eventually divide people into thinking modern R&B was what the music was all about, while everything else was “jazz”, code word for “old people music”. If you want me to be blunt, consider this music of the old people.
When you hear people like Erykah Badu, Ledisi, KING, Me’Shell NdegeOcello, and Lalah Hathaway, you are hearing some damn good soul. In this context, you also tend to hear the roots of this music, which is very much in the jazz tradition. You hear the warmth and sexiness of some of these tracks, but that leans to gospel too, the feel good jubilation that is very much about spirituality and a relief that one has made it through one more day. Musiq and Chrisette Michele duet in “Ah Yeah”, but the vocalist who literally steals this album is someone that I was not fond of when I bought his debut album. In fact, I put it on eBay right after I bought it. Over the years, I’ve changed my mind and now get into what he’s doing. That singer is Bilal, and he has two songs to his name, “Letter To Hermione” and “Always Shine”, the latter featuring Lupe Fiasco.
The music is perfect for a Sunday afternoon picnic, but as I had stated in my brief comment about it on Twitter, one wants to hear this with scented oils and a pitcher of water on the nightstand, it’s that type of album. You can dance, you can slow dance, you can relax and celebrate this with friends, or you can get nude and turn off all the lights, but it’s an album that is meant to be listened to as a whole, first and foremost. The album was once celebrated as an invitation to the party, if not an emotion or mood, and this is a party you wish you did not have to leave.
The album ends with a smooth and luxurious cover of Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and as a longtime Nirvana fan, I wondered how they were going to do this. Glasper does a brilliant job. As for its placement here, it might be a statement in itself. More than likely, whatever the state of black radio is in 2012, this album will probably be ignored. It might be heard on a few smooth jazz radio stations, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Nirvana cover received the most attention. It should, as the arrangement might startle those who are used to the original’s solidarity for individuality, but Black Radio is very much in the same vein. As the last verse in the song states:
“and I forget just why I taste
oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it’s hard to find
oh well, whatever, nevermind”
Has soul and jazz been tossed off and forgotten, in a “eh, nevermind, who cares” manner? The song originally ended with Kurt Cobain singing “a denial”, and in a way, is black radio in 2012 in denial of the true strengths and power of the music. Yes, this music very much can make you and I smile, and when you turn on the radio, sometimes it’s so hard to find. Fuck it, nevermind, it’s not here. As distant as Nirvana may be to soul, funk, and jazz, the moment you isolate any musical and lyrical reference without its costume, you realize how distant the music has become from… itself?
It’s something to ponder, but maybe if one really needs to find the good stuff, then Robert Glasper is offering people a chance to tune into his network. Black radio once served the community, and perhaps
The term “Black radio” was something that was never meant to exclude non-blacks from listening to the airwaves. It’s music, commentary, news, and programming was created and targeted to a specific audience that was excluded by white-owned radio stations, and done as a way to say “we have been more than capable of creating our own entertainment, we’d also like to cater to our audiences as well, but everyone is free to listen.” However, what was defined as “black radio” started to change in the 1970′s as big companies wanted to own that influence so that they could make their own influences under the guise of “black radio”. It was in 1987 when Public Enemy‘s Chuck D said “radio stations, I question their blackness, they call themselves black, well let’s see if they’ll play this”. It was all money and politics, and 25 years later, things are far worse, especially with the state of radio.
In 2011, you might hear about the term “black Twitter”, which is in many ways a modern interpretation of what “black radio” used to be and represent. Jazz musician Robert Glasper is about to take on the world with a brand new album called Black Radio (Blue Note) and he’s doing it as Robert Glasper Experiment. He’s not along in this, as the album will include Erykah Badu, Me’Shell NdegeOcello, King, Lalah Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, Shafiq Husayn of SA-RA, Musiq Soulchild, Yasiin Bey/Mos Def, and others.
The guests are interesting, but as with any jazz album with its share of collaborators, look at what’s being covered. Badu will be heard in a cover of “Afro Blue”, Bilal shows up in David Bowie‘s “Letter To Hermione”, and Hathaway will be taking on Sade‘s “Cherish The Day”. Some of these artists will perhaps be heard on smooth jazz radio for the first time, one of the few places on mainstream radio where you may here them.
But how about a Nirvana song with a vocoder-treated vocal? You know this is going to irk the shit out of people, but I welcome it. In this case, Casey Benjamin will be singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which may mean it will be the first time the song will be heard on not only Black Radio, but “black radio”. Glasper is questioning their blackness when radio stations call themselves black, but let’s see if they will play this and other songs from the album.
Glasper has been taking his music on some incredible adventures, so it will be interesting to see how fans and “black radio” will welcome this. The album is scheduled for release on February 28th.
Gods’illa have returned with a brand new album. Well, in this case it’s a mix tape, or what they’re calling a “blend tape”, and it’s called CPR. Off the top, the album features a number of intros and interludes from well known MC’s offering their support to the group, and the entire project features Erykah Badu as the “host” of the tape. All of this offers a sense of validity and wisdom to the group and the music, a nice way of saying they’re all showing support for one another but you know what? It’s not needed.
Reason? Gods’illa are good as is, but if the guests throughout the album are a lure for people to check out the group, then the efforts have worked. This may be a mix/blend tape, but it works like what television people call a “resume tape”. In other words, this is the group putting their all into each and every song, and it has the vibe and spontaneity of groups from the mid to late 90′s, but without sounding retro. A lot of people tend to think that anything retro means it sounds “old”, but it’s not so much the sound but the feeling the groups and songs represented. What I hear in CPR is a group calling for a cry for help, a different way of saying how hip-hop has saved many lives and now it’s the people that have to bring that classic feeling of hip-hop back to life.
A lot of these songs remind me of how it felt when “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka”, and I call these guys leaders of that Eshkoshka Movement, in that these guys sound determined, more than willing and able to make music, all while celebrating themselves, each other, and what it means to be a representative of hip-hop. It’s that “rewind factor” that made you want to hear the songs, and song after song, until the entire album was through. Then repeat. Tracks like “Everybody”, “Fine Line”, “You Owe Us”, and “Silent Weeper” each sound like rescue missions, if not mission statements for Gods’illa. It’s almost as if they’re saying “you can like this guy and that guy, and you may like this style of hip-hop and think it’s ill, but the Gods are illa, in more ways than one.”
For new fans, the narrative from Badu is perhaps a way to be formally introduced to the group, as she explains how she was unaware of the group but once she heard their music, she was appreciative of their efforts and became a fan. There’s a reason for that, and you’ll hear it on CPR. The music is not militant in a dead prez sense, but then again it may very well be. Or at least the power of the militancy is heard in the lyrics, the flows, and the production but without being so in-your-face. Then again, maybe that’s what hip-hop needs. Then again, it has always been there, and it’s not so much that hip-hop needs it, but the so called heads who feel what they’re hearing expands their minds when in truth they’re limiting themselves to falsehoods. CPR is an album with hopes and fears in the daily life of guys who aren’t afraid to say what’s on their minds, and that if there are dreams to be reached, you have to do a lot of reality in order to fulfill it. Again, the Eshkoshka Movement, and if you understand what that means, you will find a lot to enjoy about this. If not, but are willing to learn, take the first step towards the ill Gods.
Erykah Badu continues to test limits, be it the convention of the music industry, or her own. Whatever she feels like doing, she’s going to do, and fans are grateful. I voted her album to be the best of 2010, and there’s still very much life in that album, as with any album and/or set of music. A song or collection of songs just doesn’t die because the industry expects for an artist to put out new project on a regular basis so they can earn more money, and Badu has always known this.
The video is a very simple concept, perhaps even a non-concept, but it’s nice to see. I hope Badu is concerning putting together a DVD featuring videos for each song off of New Amerykah Part Two: The Return Of The Ankh. I would welcome it.
Erykah Badu recorded and released what was my favorite album of 2010, and now she has created a video with the help of Flying Lotus for one of my favorite songs on that album. While it may not get as much attention as “Window Seat”, it will definitely make people watch and also look into using Flying Lotus for future video projects.