A sort of a disclaimer here: I’ve known Yoko Ono for many years, or at least had the pleasure of interviewing her several times, as I have her son Sean. I like both of them very much. I’ve checked them out on different levels, tried to cut through any of the potential typical self-self-self-hyping showbiz bullshit or what have you, and they passed the tests with flying colors. They are real people, with good hearts and minds. (You’ll just have to trust me on that.) Thus my understanding of and sympathy for Yoko Ono colors my critical soul a little bit, I don’t mind saying it. I want to approve and feel enthusiasm about her music; this means I’m open to it. And I do feel that Ono’s latest and, one hopes, not final record,Warzone — a collection of 13 songs from her past work, spanning 1970-2009 — is the best album of her career. It is deep, and moving, unlike anything I’ve heard in a long time, and perhaps never have heard before. [Read more…]
One perhaps unusual compliment we ought to pay to Jon Hassell’s new Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume 1) is that, like all of his music, one grows impatient having to write about it while listening to it. This music — which I want to never end when I put it on — is too seductive to be looking at a computer screen while trying to come to terms with its intriguing charms. [Read more…]
As a way of potentially creating something genuinely new, or at least surprising, the time-honored but perhaps neglected artistic scheme of melding or juxtaposing multiple dissimilar aesthetic beliefs or conceptual visions in order to birth a third entity, independent of its parents’ genetics, might be the best way to describe the resonant thrills encoded within the grooves of Wajatta’s debut album. [Read more…]
Kendrick Lamar recently made history as the first non-jazz, non-classical music artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for music, for 2017’s DAMN. Immediately it was a polarizing move. Many felt it promptly elevated Lamar’s status to “Greatest Of All Time,” catapulting him into a cohort that includes the likes of Nas and Jay-Z. Some questioned the authenticity of the win; was it a consolation prize of sorts, after Kendrick lost the 2017 album of the year Grammy and also best rap album of the year several times in the past? In a similar vein, was it an attempt to appease the #OscarsSoWhite set by giving the award to a Black hip-hop artist, the first ever. Was it also an appeal to hip-hop loving youth (as hip-hop recently surpassed rock ‘n’ roll – another Black American creation – as the most listened to genre in the United States), many of whom had no idea there even was a Pulitzer Prize for music? Or was it a well-deserved award given to a deserving artist, one of the most critically acclaimed of the last decade (so acclaimed, in fact, that some argue that DAMN. isn’t even Lamar’s best album to date, wondering why the award didn’t go to 2015’sTo Pimp A Butterfly instead)? [Read more…]
The music of The Doors seems to find its place in every era since the band’s stirring debut first appeared fifty years ago. Spawned in the era of Vietnam, revolution and technological innovation, The Doors dived into a dark, literary well that is timeless and always relevant. Jim Morrison alone introduced a manic onstage persona that has influenced every rock genre to emerge since the 60s. He was Dionysus meets Rimbaud, hedonistic jester meets feverish wordsmith. Because the band was fronted by a figure who viewed himself foremost as a poet — the rare rock star who even wrote fan letters to literary scholars — their music endures much the same way the edgiest of classical literature still finds devotees. [Read more…]
One line on 4:44, the 13th solo album by rapper Jay-Z, implores listeners to “Stop me when I stop telling the truth.” If that’s the case, you can’t stop this album for its entire 34 minutes. Featuring some of his most introspective and lyrical wordplay since 2007’s American Gangster, 4:44 is essentially a comeback record after a series of projects that were commercially successful but weren’t particularly critically well-received by reviewers or fans. It finds the 47-year-old drug dealer-turned-rapper-turned-multi-millionaire businessman at a crossroads of sorts, reflecting on his choices thus far and laying out the motivations for the directions he’s going in next; each of the ten tracks weave the musings of the man Shawn Carter against the rap mogul Jay-Z and back again. [Read more…]
May God Bless Your Hustle [full length]
Cracked Actor (Live, Los Angeles ’74)
Sweet Thing/Candidate (Live, Los Angeles ’74)
In honor and in celebration of Cracked Actor, the new live release from David Bowie’s infamously depraved yet musically stellar ’74 tour (the new album narrows in on one evening, his September 5th show at Los Angeles’ Universal Amphitheater, which I had the blearied pleasure of attending!), Riot Material scratched up a BBC documentary from that same tour, titled Cracked Actor: A Film About David Bowie. The 1975 film, viewable below, is directed by Alan Yentob.
A Tribe Called Quest just dropped their first album in 18 years, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Released mere days after the Great Debacle of 2016, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service is remarkably, if not thrillingly present tense. Wholly animate in both sound and vision, it is a record that is also uniquely relevant — as much for being in essential response to the angst and rancor of the day as it is for inspiring, as good art tends to do, a requisite spark that might yet ignite conscientious action in the days and months ahead.
Theirs, with this exceptional release, is the resounding shot of this new cycle, and it is one which heralds little quarter. Straight-in they reject a presidential promise that unblushingly assures “all you Black folks, you must go / all you Mexicans, you must go / all you poor folks, you must go / Muslims and gays…” The vitriol, borne high on foul national sentiments, amounts to a kind-of maniacal voodoo, to use their image, and they counter the venom with their own dream serum of living in a world inclusive of all, one without division “no matter the skin tone, culture or time zone.” We are long on a grim horizon from there, but in the storm that is surely in approach, “young leaders will rise / in the eyes of despair and adversity.”
Whatever Will Be