There is no mystery in music anymore.
I‘ve been trying to find a scapegoat to blame for this. Most notably, I’d like to blame KISS for taking off their make-up in ’83, unveiling the Demon and Star Child as just a couple of goofy-looking New Yorkers dressed up like extras from a Dokken video.
But as much as I’d love to blame KISS for taking the mystery out of music (Gene Simmons ruins most things so it was a good guess), the problem really lies with the internet and the digital age we are consumed by. (Thanks, Al Gore!) When was the last time you went on Google and couldn’t find what you were looking for? With a few easy clicks, you can find answers to some of life’s most important questions like, "Who was the second guy from Wham?" (Andrew Ridgeley) and was Liam Neeson actually on an episode of Miami Vice (yes, he was).
But even with the constant flow of status updates, tweets and information that has caught Americans in this perpetual technology loop, over the last five months there has been one artist that has captured some sense of anonymity in the music industry. That artist is Captain Murphy.
For those of you who don’t know who Captain Murphy is, don’t worry. No one does.
When Captain Murphy burst onto the scene with his impressive verse on Flying Lotus’ Adult Swim single, “Between Friends," the music media and Hip Hop heads alike immediately got a raging hard-on for the guy. His use of voice modulation and his style, which carries the complexities of MF DOOM’s flow with just a hint of the silly attitude of Tyler, The Creator, caused a sea of speculation about his identity and spawned more gossip than when Honey Boo Boo Child gets pregnant before her My Super Sweet 16 special.
After the release of “Between Friends,” Murphy has intermittently dropped singles over the last couple months, turning the internet into his own personal Gotham City (Murphy playing the part of the Dark Knight) and leaving every music journalist and tons of Hip Hop fans trying to figure out who the hell is playing Bruce Wayne.
Now, Captain Murphy has dropped his mix tape, Duality, which takes the listener on a 35-minute Psychedelic Hip Hop excursion into the mind of a cult leader and has only heightened the anxiety attacks over his true identity.
But what’s the point?
Can we, journalist and fans, just relish in the secrecy of this up and coming artist without freaking the fuck out about it? I know that our job as journalists is to report information that people want/need to know, but I didn’t think obsessing over people who just want to make music and making their lives more difficult was in the job description.
The perfect example is last year’s music industry enigma, Earl Sweatshirt.
When the music media received news that Earl Sweatshirt, the most mysterious figure of the then-exploding Odd Future gang, was nowhere to be found, they began foaming at the mouth. The “Free Earl” campaign and the lack of knowledge of his whereabouts were covered by everyone from bottom feeder music blogs to The New York Times. But while Earl wasn’t even in the country (he was allegedly located at a troubled boy’s camp in Samoa), America was getting their rocks off on glorifying him as Hip Hop’s second coming and propelling him into stardom and fame before he was even old enough to vote.
Sweatshirt tackles this invasion of privacy on his latest single “Chum,” when he spits, “Tolerance for boundaries, I know you happy now/Craven and these Complex fuck niggas done track me down/Just to be the guys that did it, like I like attention/Not the type where niggas trying to get a raise at my expense/Supposed to be grateful, right, like thanks so much you made my life/Harder and the ties between my mom and I strained and tightened/Even more than they were before all of this shit/Been back a week and I already feel like calling it quits.”
It’s a shame that our insatiable infatuation with artists has been pushed to the point where we force young creators like Sweatshirt (and, to an extent, the seemingly fragile mainstream crossover star Frank Ocean) to want to give up on their budding careers, but what if the consequences were more severe? Sure, this constant media intrusion could push Earl to quit rapping and that would be a terrible loss of potential in the Rap game. But what if instead of quitting, this media malpractice pushed him to the bottle and drugs like Amy Winehouse or even a shotgun like Kurt Cobain?
On a smaller scale, it’s the same kind of information-driven OCD that makes people sign off of Facebook only to almost simultaneously check the Facebook app on their phones. Many of us now have an endless need to be in the know.
But in more serious cases, it’s the kind of obsessive behavior that caused fans like Michael Abram to break into George Harrison’s house and stab him in ’99, caused Mark Chapman to shoot John Lennon in Manhattan in ’80 or Nathan Gale to shoot “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott in that Columbus nightclub in ’04.
We have an opportunity to change this "gotta know now!" behavior with Captain Murphy. Here’s my proposal — every copy of Captain Murphy’s first album should include a prescription for Xanax and Prozac (maybe even a spliff or two for our friends out in Colorado). Maybe that would allow everyone to enjoy the music without having a mental breakdown about who is making it.
In the end, if Murphy doesn’t want us to know his identity, then we don’t need to know his identity. So unless the Captain is 2Pac revitalizing his career under this new alias, let’s all just keep calm and enjoy the mystery. While it lasts.
UPDATE: Aaaaand that didn't last too long. No more mysteries! Captain Murphy was revealed to be Flying Lotus (details here).
At the City & Colour concert at Bogart's a while back, I watched as a woman in the front row texted her way through both of the great opening acts. I glanced around and discovered that she wasn’t the only one. I figured everyone would surely stop when Dallas Green and the rest of C&C took to the stage. Three songs in and the crowd was still lit up by glowing phones.
Everywhere I looked people were texting, tweeting, facebooking or recording the night away. Often, both members of a couple would be recording the same song. As if the iPhone 12 inches to the left might just capture something different from theirs. I watched as a group of friends passed around a cell phone with a message from another friend who, I assume, wasn’t present (or maybe they were just three feet over). Meanwhile, the band played on.
This left me disappointed in humanity.
AN OPEN LETTER to the four million members of the National Rifle Association:
Dear fellow citizen,
The NRA released a statement yesterday on your behalf expressing that you all are “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” by the news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Yes, we all are.
For years you have willingly given your money to an organization that has largely ignored pleas from policemen across our country to limit access to assault weapons and armor piercing ammunition.
You have spent countless millions of dollars silencing and vilifying voices that, while supportive of gun ownership, were calling for moderation in the distribution of weapons that could be used for mass destruction of human life, including the gun used by Friday’s killer that shot one first grader 11 times. And 19 other first grade children. And 6 adults in the space of a few minutes…
When previous heartbroken victims of gun violence who lost children or spouses tried to speak out to hopefully help prevent others from suffering similar unspeakable loss, you rallied for your rights, and gave the suffering no quarter.
For years you have marketed the idea to the citizens of this country that the US government is a potential enemy bent on harming its own citizens, and the only way we could all be safe was if we each purchased a private arsenal of weapons.
While you are reportedly “shocked, saddened and heartbroken,” how many of your members after Friday’s shooting have changed their profile pictures to images of guns, or tweeted messages like “I’m buying a gun the day after Christmas. Join me! #NRAlifelongmember” How many of your members boasted last Friday that they were going to take their kids to a firing range?
You continue to lobby in support of all of us carrying concealed weapons into schools, day care centers, movie theaters, and public squares. You argue that if only we could all walk around packing heat, our society could be safer and more peaceful. You lobby for wider “stand your ground” laws, so we can all load up and take the law into our own hands and play judge and jury (and God?) in the heat of the moment.
The members among you who call themselves Christian often bemoan the fact that “God has been removed from our schools” and yet those very members ignore the direct teachings of Jesus as recorded in Scripture that call upon all followers of Christ to work to break the cycle of violence and not return evil for evil.
Too many of us have stood by silently while you’ve played the part of the playground bully in our public discourse, and distorted our constitution for profit. While we as a nation have improved upon the vision of our “founding fathers” to end slavery in this country, to allow women the right to vote, and to outlaw hate crimes, you cling rigidly to a few words written when the right to bear arms referred to a single shot muzzle loading rifle.
Your voice has been powerful and strident, and too many of us have remained silent in our disbelief of what we were hearing from you. Our silence has been deadly.
If you are indeed “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” consider the part (if you are able and willing to join the rest of us in searching our souls) your organization has played when it comes to last Friday’s shooting. Consider the fear that your organization markets. Consider the bitter fruit of your labors that we must all taste.
And please consider asking forgiveness, changing your ways, and offering whatever healing you are capable of to the hurting in Newtown, Connecticut, as opposed to condoning responding to violence with still ever more violence, ad nauseum.
Unless you can do your part (along with the rest of us), and change in response to Friday’s tragedy, there will be still worse to come.
I live on a small farm in Ohio, own two guns (and my own business) and have family members who are big game hunters. I am rethinking my responsibility as a citizen of this country. We all are. I invite you to do the same.
You’re holding your big press conference tomorrow. We’ll be listening. But I am confident that many millions of us will no longer be silent.
Lately, we’ve been ridin’ this down-home Folk/Americana/Indie wave in the Queen City music scene. Jake Speed. Wonky Tonk. Frontier Folk Nebraska. Wussy. Fairmount Girls. Gul'durnit, we love ‘em!
Maybe it’s our hospitable river-town tendency to have a big, open heart for such middle American tunesmithery. Maybe it started with our love for the Ass Ponys and their AltCountry ways back in the ‘90s. Who knows?
Nothin’ wrong with any of this, mind you. But I’d like to take a moment on this here blog to clue you into a small contingent of freaky, confrontational local bands from the past that were the furthest thing imaginable from such comparatively downright friendly musical acts.
“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”
Besides baseball, there are two things that I associate with GABP and the Reds — beer and music. Well, maybe there are three. Losing in the playoffs has seemingly snuck itself in there in the last week or so.
Whatever, I don’t want to talk about it.
Ever since I was a kid, my favorite baseball players' personalities have always matched their walk-on batting intros. (Adam Dunn’s intro, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica, was badass, unless he struck out afterward, which was often the case.)
But as I got older and was able to drink at the games (legally anyway), I began to notice a trend in my beer buying regiment. I was buying more booze in the bottom-half of the innings than in the top-half and I had no idea why. But after some deliberation (a couple more beers), I finally figured it out. It was this team’s batting intros that drove me to the stands to go broke on $9 beers (thanks, guys!)
So, in lieu of thinking about my bank account, or the fact that we made history being the only team ever up 2-0 in a series and still, somehow, some way, found a way to lose three straight at home, here is a list of the Reds' starters walk-on songs, rated on a scale of how many beers it takes for me to enjoy them. Even though no amount of booze will ease the pain of that Game 5 loss, maybe making fun of these guys' music preferences will.
• Zack Cozart: “Too Close” – Alex Clare:
Alex Clare’s DupPop single “Too Close” (best known for soundtracking an Internet Explorer commercial) has risen on the pop charts at the same rate as Zack Cozart’s batting average over the past season. Coincidence? I think not.
But really, Zack? This is your walk-on song? This is what gets you pumped up? I mean, for God’s sake, the lyrics don’t make any sense. “I feel like I am just too close to love you”? It would make much more sense if the lyrics were, “I feel like I’m too just too drunk to do you.” That would be a song I could connect with.
Rating: 8 beers.
• Drew Stubbs: “Breakin’ a Sweat” – Skrillex and The Doors
There is no excuse for this. The whole thing sounds like Netzero fucked Jim Morrison and it’s just not OK. I honestly think this may be half the reason why Stubbs’ hitting had been so atrocious over the last season. Really though, if I had to hear this screeching dial-tone noise ringing throughout GABP every time I went up to bat, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate either.
Rating: 20 beers. Alcohol poisoning sounds better than this song.
• Brandon Phillips: “Turn Up” – 2 Chainz; “Turn On The Lights” – Future; “Everythang” – Young Jeezy; “Pop That” – French Montana; “Bandz a Make Her Dance” – Juicy J
All right, DatDude, what the hell? I understand wanting to switch it up during the game and maybe having two or even three songs tops. But five? In most games you don’t even get to the plate five times!
It’s OK, though. It’s worth it just to see all the old white people get uncomfortable when there is some Rap music blowing through the speakers at GAB.
Rating: 2 beers.
• Joey Votto: “Paint it Black” – The Rolling Stones
I like to picture Joey Votto sitting at home alone, crying, listening to this song and asking, “Why do I have to do everything?!?”
Seriously though, when you hear that thumping drum beat in the beginning of the song, you know fear strikes the heart of any opposing pitcher having to face Votto-matic.
Rating: Zero beers. No alcohol needed for this one.
• Ryan Ludwick: “Brass Monkey” – The Beastie Boys
While Phillips' newer Rap joints are a little too hood for the white people in the crowd, this is something they can relate, too. I wish Ludwick could bat twice in the order, not only because he’s a great hitter, but so I can see the drunk 40-something in front of me gyrate and giggle some more when this song comes on.
Rating: 2 beers. It’s a fantastic song but it is about drinking, so it only seems right to have a little bit of a buzz.
• Todd Frazier: “Come Fly With Me”/ “Fly Me To The Moon” – Frank Sinatra
Todd Frazier is a class act. His intro songs were chosen because they remind him of his grandparents (seriously dude — is there a bad bone in your body?). But honestly, who better than Old Blue Eyes to bring out the classiest Red since Sean Casey?
Rating: Zero beers. Maybe a “Daniels on ice, two fingers” though, in salute to Sinatra.
• Jay Bruce: “Everything I Do” – Timeflies
I don’t know who these guys are, but based on the 15-30 second judgment made when I heard it every time Bruce came up to bat, I’m not a fan. (Sidenote: I’m going to blame this song on that pop-fly he had in the ninth inning of Game 5. Thanks a lot, Timeflies — you ruined the season!)
Rating: 5 beers.
• Ryan Hannigan: “The Show Goes On” – Lupe Fiasco
I applaud Hannigan for throwing up a Lupe song as his walk-on. It’s cool that he listens to some good Hip Hop. But this song was quite possibly the worst choice he could have made. The sample of Modest Mouse’s “Float On” alone makes me want the “show” to stop and never go on again.
Rating: 5 beers.
• Scott Rolen: “Viva La Vida” – Coldplay
This might be the weirdest choice on the whole list. When you see Scott Rolen up to bat, he just looks pissed off. Like he’s Liam Neeson and the ball he’s about to smash just took his daughter and sold her into the sex trade.
But then you hear his walk-on music and it’s freakin’ Coldplay? I was expecting some AC/DC, even some Motorhead, but Coldplay? I would go on, maybe even make a “You know how I know you’re gay?” joke — but honestly I’m afraid of this guy. Even if he does listen to Coldplay.
Rating: 4 beers. After about four large drafts I’d be singing along. It’s just got that Pop-chant chorus that I can’t resist when intoxicated.
I wasn’t going to do any pitchers but this one was too hard to resist …
• Mike Leake: “Some Nights” – Fun
You know what would be fun, Mike? If “Some Nights” you’d stop choking and pitch to your full potential.
Rating: 6 beers.
(While we know up-to-bat music is irrelevant in Major League Baseball and cannot actually be blamed for the Reds blowing it in the playoffs, we'll offer our suggestions for new walk-on music this coming spring. Look for it in about six months. Leave your own suggestions in the comments.)
As CityBeat’s Assistant Music Editor for the past three months, I’m the person behind most of the music listings—those microscopic items printed in the middle of the newspaper every week. With the assistance of Real Actual Music Editor Mike Breen and a crazy little interface called Zipscene, I make them appear there and on the Web site.
This morning I was in the car listening to the radio, growing restless with NPR’s downer economic news. I decided to check in on the Pop music world and surfed between a couple of Top 40 stations. I stopped on “Love Lockdown,” the new single from Kanye West.
It’s a pretty interesting and unique track, with some great beats and killer melodies. But the most noticeable aspect of the recording is the sound of Kanye’s voice. And that sound is anything but unique in today’s mainstream music.
There have been an increasing number of examples — especially in the past decade — of conservative politicians using songs in their campaigns by artists who do not want their music used in that way. Recently, a member of Survivor who owns the copyright for the Rocky III anthem, "Eye of the Tiger," asked Newt Gingrich to stop using the song at rallies (the problem being that not only is the song being used in public, but it also ends up soundtracking YouTube clips from the same rally and lives on eternally on the web). Likewise, British Funk/Rock band The Heavy freaked when Newt's people blared their "How You Like Me Now?" hit to rile up supporters.
It almost seems like these occurrences happen on a weekly basis now. Usually, when asked to cease use, the politicians' campaigns comply immediately. But, with it happening so frequently, wouldn't a campaign manager be a little more aware of the music they're deciding to co-opt? And if a campaign refuses, are there really any legal ramifications?
What are your favorite memories from the Southgate House?
On Monday night/Tuesday morning this week, as news that the popular Newport music venue would cease to exist (in its current state, at least) leaked out, I watched a steady stream of comments on Facebook respond to the news with a mix of stunned disbelief and sad nostalgia, as fans of the club shared some of their best stories and memories.
Many people were quite emotional, and I wondered why I wasn't having similar feelings. Since the late ’80s, I had been a frequent visitor to the club, and, over the entire span of my 20 years writing about music in Greater Cincinnati, I have consistently covered events at the venue. I was not totally unmoved by the sudden announcement, but I certainly wasn't as shaken as others appeared to be.