“Has anyone seen Kanye lately? I haven’t heard him piss off the world in like a week so I’m starting to worry.” – Tweeted by me on May 16 at 3:59 p.m.
Not 30 minutes later, at 4:28 p.m., this tweet from Rap-Up.com popped onto my Twitter feed, “‘I ain’t kissing nobody’s motherfuckin’ babies. I drop your baby and you sue me’ – Kanye West”
Like many other Kanye West fans, this is what I’ve had to deal with for the last 10 or so years of his solo career. Whether this soon-to-be father is ranting about not being a celebrity and holding random people’s children, drunkenly yelling at pretty white girls at award shows, freaking out Mike Myers on live television or impregnating the bumper sticker on the Bentley of pop-culture, Kim Kardashian, it’s been hard for Yeezy fans to deal with how “cray” Kanye has been since he was thrust into the public eye.
But with his near-brilliant performances of “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” on SNL recently (songs from his forthcoming album, Yeezus, due this coming Tuesday), all of Kanye's followers were reminded that Kanye is a lot like your drunken uncle at Christmas.
Sure, it was embarrassing when he threw up on your sister’s gifts halfway through his tirade about “Obama phones” and how the commie teachers at the university you recently graduated from are ruining America’s youth. But after a long clean up session and your mom stops crying, you open up the card that he gave you before his seventh Scotch and the contents inside contain a joint, $300 and a note stating, “Don’t spend it on drugs,” then you’re immediately reminded of why you loved him in the first place.
So no matter what outlandish behavior Kanye comes up with next, I think we all need to be reminded that the “cray” that has inspired Kanye’s less attractive moments is the same “cray” that has been the driving force in creating some of the most genius and interesting songs in Hip Hop of the last decade.
14. “Drive Slow (feat. GLC & Paul Wall)”; Late Registration – As the laidback beat puts the listener in a trance, Kanye paints a vivid picture of a summer spent driving around with his friend/mentor Mali; blasting his demo tape, looking for girls and desperately trying to grow up too quickly. Even though Kanye displays his great storytelling ability on this song, the real accomplishment here is that West found a way to make Paul Wall’s feature not sound ridiculously out of place, which is a feat in and of itself.
13. “Say You Will”; 808’s & Heartbreak – 2008 was a weird year for Kanye. Hell, 2008 was a weird year for all of us. But his unabashed openness (as you’ll see with the rest of this list) about his lady troubles is what makes this a song stick out. The only downside of this track? It gave Drake the green light to be all open and overly emotional on all his records, so thanks a lot, Kanye!
12. “Drunk and Hot Girls”; Graduation – A lot of people don’t care for this song, which is understandable because it’s not one of Ye’s deeper cuts. What this song does do, however, is give a perfectly, comical description of how one-night stands go. Plus, the song ends in him getting this girl pregnant, which brings to mind that slap-in-the-face reality check that every man and woman has the morning after a random sexual encounter (“Oh my god, not only did I overdraw my account at White Castles last night but is this the person that’s going to ruin my life for the next 18 years and nine months?!?”).
11. “Bittersweet”; Graduation – This is the first time Kanye blatantly admits he is in the wrong on a track. Sure, the first half of the cut makes him seem like a total asshole (wanting to drunkenly “shake the shit out of” his girl), but it makes his soul-spilling at the end all the sweeter.
10. “Addiction”; Late Registration – What’s your addiction? Is it money, girls, weed? Kanye has been afflicted by not one, but all three. But hey, that’s what makes this cut great. There is no catharsis or happy ending about how he found his will power and conquered his many ailments. But instead, we get a track about how, no matter what happens, no matter how hard he tries, his will power will always lose to the bad parts of his life, because they are just too damn good to resist – which is something everyone can relate to.
9. “Everything I Am”; Graduation – He’ll never be picture perfect like Beyonce (no one will, ever) or rock some mink boots in the summer time like Will.I.Am (no one should, not even Will.I.Am), but what Kanye can do is spit some harsh truths about public criticism and Chicago violence over a soothing beat. So please, keep talking shit about him at barber shops if this is going to be the outcome.
8. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”; Graduation – Kanye addresses a few of his crazy outbursts on the first verse of this track (including the whole “President Bush doesn’t care about black people, right Mike Myers?” incident) and handles it with a precision and poise. He admits that the scrutiny and pressure of fame has changed his behavior, but he doesn’t know how to be himself (slightly crazy) without being criticized by the media. Can any of us understand that feeling? No. Does it sound like a bullshit excuse? Yeah. But hey, at least he knows he has a behavioral problem. Admitting it is the first step.
7. “Spaceship (feat. GLC & Consequence)”; The College Dropout – Anyone who has had a shitty job (service industry, retail) would be lying if they hadn’t felt violent urges towards overzealous mangers who take their jobs too seriously. Lucky for us, we can live vicariously through Kanye on this joint instead of becoming the next viral sensation on worldstarhiphop.com.
6. “Jesus Walks”; The College Dropout – This song came out right when I got confirmed, which, as any of you were raised Catholic will know, is also the same time you stop going to church. It made me feel good to listen to Kanye, like his brand of socially conscious, Christ-loving jams were the sole key to my salvation and the only thing that could outweigh my deeply engrained Catholic guilt. Plus, who else could make a club banger about Jesus? Nobody but Yeezus.
5. “All Falls Down”; The College Dropout – Does anyone else remember when Kanye was the self-conscious outsider of the Rap game? You probably don’t, hell, I don’t even know if Kanye remembers. You’d think Kanye’s egotisical façade he has concocted in place of his old persona would force him to listen to his own music more. But, alas, I fear that this Kanye is dead and gone, much like the career of that cute girl from Clueless that was in the music video.
4. “Roses”; Late Registration – “You know the best medicine go to people that’s paid/If Magic Johnson got a cure for A.I.D.S./And all the broke muthafuckers past away/You tellin’ me if my grandma was in the N.B.A./Right now she'd be ok?/But since she was just a secretary/Working for the church/For thirty five years/Things s’posed to stop right here?”
Kanye makes you feel the pain, anger and confusion of his family as they sit at the bedside of his dying grandmother on this track. I cry literally every time I hear this song come on, but I’m emotionally unstable. Then again, I’m pretty sure if you don’t at least slightly tear up; you don’t know what love is or your mom didn’t hug you enough as a child.
3. “Blame Game (feat. John Legend & Chris Rock); My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – This track is almost “Bittersweet” in reverse because it’s West whose emotions are constantly toyed with by his love interest as she lies about seeing another man. Although this song is mostly serious (especially heavy during the beautiful done Chloe Mitchell poem) it ends hilariously as Chris Rock is revealed as the “mister” (male version of mistress?), reaping the benefits her apparent education at “Kanye West School of How to Wear Some Fucking Jimmy Chu’s”
2. “Through The Wire”; The College Dropout – If you ever question Kanye’s dedication to the craft, go back and listen his first single, “Through the Wire”. Done only two weeks after a car crash that almost took his life, Kanye hit the studio and rapped with his jaw wired-shut. Nowadays, Nicki Minaj can’t even show up to her set at Summer Jam 2012 because radio personality, Peter Rosenberg, dissed her Katy Perry rip-off, “Starships.” So next time you want to diss Kanye, just remember, despite his flaws, he’s one of the only popular artist’s keeping the spirit of hip-hop alive.
1.“Runaway (feat. Pusha T)”; My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – He pleads without being pathetic. He’s unflinchingly honest without being cliché. But most of all, he’s artistically progressive without losing his knack for pop sensibility. The beat is one of the most simplistic of his career, but never once feels repetitive or overdone by the end of this 7-minute-and-49-second journey. From top to bottom this has to be considered Kanye’s masterpiece, but who knows, he’s outdone himself before.
Other Notables: “Heard ‘Em Say”, “The Glory”, “We Don’t Care”
Tonight, dynamic Northern Kentucky group Kenny Peck & the Smoky Jack Band will celebrate the release of their new album, Country Jack, at the Thompson House in Newport.
Following up last year’s Naked Jack, which explored various forms of Pop/Rock, Country Jack focuses on the Country and Folk sides of Peck's schizo musical personality. Steeped in a vintage Roots style (and peppered with engaging lyrics that range from bittersweet to comedic), the new album includes some top-shelf local players, including Harold Kennedy, Bob Nyswonger, Lisa Biales, Marcos Sastre and Jeff Roberts, as well as a few musicians from Nashville, Tenn.
Peck grew up in Dixie Heights, Ky., and was drawn to the regional sounds of Bluegrass and Folk. Peck started writing and publishing songs in high school and college, before heading off to serve in Vietnam. Peck moved to San Diego after he was discharged and kicked off his music career with the original Smoky Jack Band in the early ’70s. From there, Peck played in various duos, including a comedy/musical act with his wife called The Special K. Peck settled in Greater Cincinnati in 1989 and continued writing and recording music. Naked Jack was his first album release in a dozen years.
Tonight's release party starts at 7 p.m. The $15 cover charge also includes a copy of the new album on CD.
Read more about Peck and find details on his releases at smokyjackband.com.
Cincinnati Noise Pop trio Vacation had the first sampling of its forthcoming sophomore LP debuted by Spin.com today. The messy but blissfully melodic track "Pyro Hippies" is set for the band's Candy Waves album, scheduled for release on June 18 through New Jersey-based label, Don Giovanni Records.
Vacation features singer/drummer Jerome Westerkamp (former singer/guitarist for The Read), guitarist/singer Peyton Copes and bassist/singer Evan Wolff (both formerly of Till Plains).
The road-tested trio will play a couple of shows in July and then do three weeks on the road starting in early September.
"Vacation" is starting to sound downright ironic given the busy bees Westerkamp and Copes have been lately. Besides Vacation, the pair is also 2/3 of the much-buzzed about trio Tweens, self-described as a "Nasty Doo Woppy band." The group — which mines a vein similar to Vacation, but with a female vocalist — has been garnering big attention from both music fans and the industry. Tweens recently opened for The Breeders when the "Alt" legends played a tour warm-up show at Southgate House Revival in Newport in advance of their global jaunt celebrating the 20th anniversary of the seminal Last Splash record. It must've gone well — Tweens were chosen to open for The Breeders in Washington D.C., Philly and New York City in early May.
Look for a profile of Tweens in the May 1 edition of CityBeat. In the meantime, check out "Rattle&Rollin," which the esteemed U.K. label Fat Cat showcased on its website a couple of weeks ago.
Local Pop Rock crew Mixtapes' first track from their forthcoming full-length Ordinary Silence premiered today on The A.V. Club, The Onion's non-parody (yet still often funny) arts and entertainment website.
The little hyper-catchy slice of melodic heaven "Elevator Days" will be featured on Mixtapes new album, Ordinary Silence, which is scheduled for release on June 25 through California-based independent label, No Sleep Records. If radio had a brain, this tune would be a radio smash. But, well, you know …
Singer/guitarist/songwriter Ryan Rockwell says "Elevator Days" is "a song about being so stuck that short of running away or crying you feel hopeless,” says Rockwell. “It's a song about realizing that every day I judge everyone around me and never realizing I'm the one that needs to change. 90 percent of our problems with other people i think are actually ourselves, it can be an awful realization, and also a necessary one.”
Click here to listen to the track or check out the YouTube version below. If you pre-order the new album, you'll receive an automatic download of "Elevator Days."
The 14-track album was recorded with Eric Tuffendsam at Moonlight Studios in Fairfield, just like Mixtapes' debut release, Even on the Worst Nights, which came out just last year. The band is gearing up for a massive cross-country tour starting in May, which will culminate with a couple of weeks on the Vans Warped Tour. Mixtapes is slated to appear at the Warped Tour stop at Riverbend in Cincinnati on July 30.
Click here to read our interview with Rockwell from last summer.
Eclectic Cincinnati Reggae crew The Cliftones — one of the best Reggae outfits in the region — will be celebrating the release of their latest single, "Hold Steady," this Saturday with a show at Northside club Mayday. DJ Mowgli will also perform. Advanced tickets are available now for $7 here. The first 100 people through the door will receive a free download card giving access to the single.
Like the band's previously released single — "Hard Ground," released in January — The Cliftones once again have some legendary ears/mixing fingers involved with "Hold Steady." "Hard Ground" was mixed in D.C. by Jim Fox, who has worked with icons like Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs, Barrington Levy and Culture. For "Hold Steady," DJ Prophecy (known for work with Bassnectar and Glitch Mob) handled the mixing, while Dub legend Scientist handled mastering duties.
Here's the exclusive stream of "Hold Steady":
Detroit producers/Electro musicians Ryan Spencer and Adam Pressley formed its new project Jamaican Queens last year, following the demise of their previous band, Prussia. The pair bonded over a mutual love for Hip Hop production, something that would find itself central to Jamaican Queens winding sound. Together less than a year, the twosome's single "Kids Get Away" introduced the newcomers with a sound that blends EDM, Hip Hop sounds and rhythms and a somewhat psychedelic brand of Indie Pop.
The band calls its music "Trap Pop," a reference to the Trap style of Hip Hop that is something of a successor to the old Southern Crunk style. Still, you won't mistake Jamaican Queens' music for T.I.'s — JQ's unpredictable, fluttering style recalls MGMT's last two albums had the Electronic aspects of their music been more prominent.
Jamaican Queens' first full-length, Wormfood, is due in February and was mixed by Christopher Lazlo Koltay, a former Cincinnati musician who has been enjoying a successful engineering/production career in Detroit the past several years, working with artists like The Dirtbombs and Akron/Family. Here's the song that has garnered the band the most attention so far, "Kids Get Away."
Well before social media made it easier to connect directly to fans, veteran Cincinnati music legends Over the Rhine were already whispering in their fans’ ears via regular notes on the band website, written intimately and poetically by OTR’s Linford Detweiler (mostly). The direct, worded contact fit well with Detweiler and wife Karin Bergquist’s mystical, emotionally resonant music, which has earned the group a dedicated fan base that spans the globe.
Along with a series of excellent albums and mesmerizing live shows across the country and beyond, the couple’s fan-friendliness and fairly consistent engagement no doubt helped not only build that fan base, but also maintain it.
The tight bond between OTR (which has put out albums on its well distributed Great Speckled Dog label since 2007) and its fans was tested in 2010 when Detweiler and Bergquist came to them with a proposition.
Before sites like Kickstarter or PledgeMusic became the hugely popular resources for artists to “crowd-fund” projects that they are today, Over the Rhine (as well as a few others) was a step ahead of the trend, allowing fans to pre-order the album and kick in additional funds for bonus perks. The experiment worked incredibly well and the band ended up with a nice budget to record (with Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry, no less) the exquisite full-length, The Long Surrender, one of the group’s best (and best reviewed) albums to date, which ended up on many “Best of 2011” lists late last year.
The Long Surrender campaign was so successful — at least partially due to the members’ way of making fans feel like they are a part of the resultant records — OTR has returned to its fans for assistance, this time so they can record and release two new albums by the end of 2013.
In a letter on OTR’s website, Detweiler explains the two albums, the material for which has been crafted over the past few years. One of the albums is tentatively titled The Farm and will feature songs written about the couple’s past several years living in an old farmhouse in Highland County, Ohio. The duo even plans on hosting a live performance of the songs on their inspirational property to celebrate the release.
The other project is a new holiday album, Blood Oranges in the Snow. The album will be OTR’s third holiday release, following 1996’s The Darkest Night of the Year and 2006’s Snow Angels. Not your typical Christmas-classics toss-off LP, OTR’s holiday releases, as Detweiler writes, “(hopefully) capture some of the reality of a beautiful — but often conflicted and even heartbreaking — time of year.”
For more on how to donate, click here. There you’ll also find the different tiers and perks, which include everything from digital bonus tracks, a “thank you” in the album artwork and signed posters to a private house concert, admission to any OTR concert through 2014 and … a tree, to be planted on the twosome’s farm and dedicated to the contributor.
Potential donors will have a chance to be swayed by Over the Rhine’s sublime sounds this Saturday, as the group returns to the Taft Theatre to perform many of their holiday tunes (and other songs). This year's event is being billed as “An Acoustic Christmas Concert.” The concert begins at 8 p.m. with opener Lucy Wainwright Roche. Tickets are $37.50 (via ticketmaster.com) or $42.50 at the door.
For those hardcore fans who just can’t get enough, OTR presents its annual “Holiday Sunday Soiree,” a casual, intimate gathering at St. Elizabeth’s (1757 Mills Ave, Norwood). Tickets are not issued for Sunday’s 3 p.m. get-together; sign up and pay for admission to the event ($20) here and your name will be added to the guest list.
Tonight's allegedly the "busiest bar night of the year," so if you like to hang out at places that are really packed, this is your jam. If you like to hear live music when you go out, you're also in luck, as a lot of the top acts seek out lucrative Wednesday-before-Turkey-Day gigs because of the aforementioned packed-ness.
If you want that live music to be (primarily) original, here are a few recommendations.
• Troy, Ohio-spawned Miss May I (whose singer, Levi Benton, recently moved to Cincinnati) is headlining the Alternative Press tour, which conveniently brings the increasingly popular "Metalcore" band back to their homeland just in time for Thanksgiving. The band's most recent release, At Heart (on Rise Records), came out this summer and was greeted with the best reviews of MMI's career and a No. 32 debut on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
The thrashy, melodic MMI headlines tonight at Bogart's in Corryville on a bill that also features The Ghost Inside, Like Moths to Flames, The Amity Affliction and Glass Cloud. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets to the all-ages show are $20.
Read CityBeat's interview with Benton here then check out Miss May I's most recent music video, for At Heart track "Day By Day."
• Vintage Rock & Roll stylist Chris Isaak makes his way to downtown Cincinnati tonight for an 8 p.m. show at the Taft Theatre. Tickets range from $29.50-$59.50. Isaak's going to have to play the show then hop on a plane quickly — he's slated to perform in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City. (Click here to read CityBeat's full preview of the show.)
Isaak recently issued a live DVD based on his 2011 double-disc release Beyond the Sun (his first for the Vanguard label). The album was a collection of cover songs originally recorded by artists on Memphis' seminal Sun Records (from Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis to Carl Perkins and, of course, Elvis), a fitting tribute given Isaak's similar approach and sound. The new Chris Isaak Live! Beyond the Sun DVD is a concert flick featuring several songs from the Sun album, as well as some of his big hits. Expect to hear a similar set list tonight. Here's an Isaak original from the DVD, "Live It Up."
• The songcraft experts and flawless musicians of veteran Cincy Pop/Rock band The Newbees host an album release party tonight at Newport's Southgate House Revival. The release show was originally intended to be the second show at the new club (brought to you by the owners/operators of the old, beloved Southgate House across from Newport on the Levee) but a late code inspection held the grand opening up for a week. The Newbs are celebrating their LP Modern Vintage, a patchwork of musical styles and mercilessly catchy songs. Click here for a full review of the album.
The Newbees are joined tonight by The Turkeys, Chaselounge, Honey & Houston, Les Whorenettes, Shiny Old Soul, See You in the Funnies, Sundae Drives and Dave Hawkins. Tickets are $12 at the door (or $14 for those ages 18-20). Showtime is 9 p.m. Here's the Beatles-esque new album track "Up All Night":
• There are also plenty of other local original groups performing tonight. Among the highlights: Reggae/Rock crew The Ohms and soulful, rocking power trio Tattered Roots (which is celebrating its one-year anniversary) join together at Stanley's Pub in Columbia Tusculum. … Rootsy rockers Alone at 3 a.m. are playing a freebie at The Comet in Northside with Jacob Tippey and Matt Wood. … Electronic improvisers Skeetones hold down the party at The Mad Frog in Corryville, joined by guests The B.E.A.T. and Bassface. … Two former members of The Greenhornes — Brian Olive and Eric Stein — perform a free show at Northside Tavern with their current bands, The Brian Olive Band and Stein's Grotesque Brooms. … Rocket-fueled Indie/Blues/Roots/Rock trio The Sundresses headline tonight's free offering at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine, joined by Detroit foursome Jeecy and the Jungle. … And two of the city's best modern rockers — Ohio Knife and State Song — perform a free show at Mayday in Northside (see poster above).