“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”
Music Saturday: There's a clinic on modern Psych Rock music at the Southgate House as three disparate practitioners team up for a 9:30 p.m., all-ages show. Headliners The Black Angels touch on the Velvet Underground brand of psychedelia, with droning hypnotics, as well as later artists like Spacemen 3 and Jesus and Mary Chain. D.C.'s Dead Meadow have been working their brand of hard-rocking trippiness for the past 13 years, while L.A.'s Spindrift make soundtracks for desert vision quests, influenced by the likes of The Doors, Hawkwind and Electronic music pioneer, Bruce Haack. The band's cinematic sound has been used to soundtrack several film projects (including the Tarantino-produced Hell Ride), and, this spring, the group released Classic Soundtracks Volume 1, featuring 14 themes from various scores, which were made into short films by various directors, touching on everything from Bollywood to film noir (the films, music videos and trailers from the project have been screened to a national audience on the IFC network). Check out a few examples from Spindrift's soundtracks project below. Tickets for tonight's show are $18 at the door.
Music Tonight: Ohio musical pioneers Rocket From the Tombs perform at the Southgate House with local greats Buffalo Killers and SS-20. Formed in 1974 in Northern Ohio, the pre-Punk legends might not get the credit of some of Punk's other earliest engineers, from New York and the U.K, but their importance in shaping the music (and the New Wave/Alterntaive/Indie music that followed) cannot be overstated. Like many great artists (Van Gogh, Poe, Kafka, etc.), RFTT weren't appreciated in their time, something not surprising considering they existed for only about a year and never released a lick of music. The band's split spawned two other wildly important bands — Dead Boys, featuring Stiv Bators and TFTT's Cheetah Chrome, and Pere Ubu with RFTT's David Thomas and Peter Laughner (who passed away in 1977). Both "new" (and distinctively different) bands took some Rocket tunes with them — Dead Boys claimed songs like "Ain't It Fun" and "Sonic Reducer," while Pere Ubu took with them "Final Solution" and "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" — all "Punk" classics. In the ’00s, RFTT compiled live and archival recordings so the band would finally have something in the record stores and, in the process, reconnected and, in 2009, the band convened to record its official "debut album" nearly 35 years after originally forming. Read Steven Rosen's interview with frontman (and Art Rock icon) David Thomas for this week's CityBeat here. Showtime tonight is 9 p.m. and admission is $15. Click below to listen to Rocket From the Tombs' rendition of "Sonic Reducer."
Local RCA Records recording artists Walk the Moon surprised fans today by announcing that they have teamed with video service VEVO to premiere its new, self-titled album, which hits stores this coming Tuesday. The album is being premiered as a "series of officially unofficial videos, hand-made, band-made by yours truly without a film crew or a budget."
Check out the full Walk the Moon album below (in playlist form).
Up-and-coming underground rapper Chris Webby performs tonight at downtown club Play. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $20 at the door. The show is open to all ages. Guests include GMB, Nynewest and hosts DJ Scholar and DJ Drowsy.
Webby is a Connecticut native (he has it tattooed on his chest; I'd move to Ohio if I were going to do that) who started rapping before high school and began to draw crowds at freestyle battles and with his popular mixtapes releases. Webby's built huge buzz in independent Hip Hop circles and has so far resisted signing a record deal. Click here to check out his mixtapes and other releases.
Webby recently tweeted that he's just recently boarded his plane to Cincy. "PLAY in Cincinnati is about to get real weird tonight," he added.
• Utah rockers The Used blast into Bogart's tonight. The 7:30 p.m. show is all ages and includes openers Stars In Stereo. Tickets are $25.
The Used's energized Post Hardcore style is sparked by vocalist Bert McCracken, whose stage antics are an unpredictable throwback to Rock & Roll's more dangerous frontmen (Iggy, etc.). The Used's latest album, Vulnerable, came out earlier this spring on Hopeless Records. The album hit No. 1 on the Top Independent Albums chart when released and made it to No. 8 on the Billboard 200.
Here's the video for The Used's single "I Come Alive."
• The song of legendary drummer Ginger Baker, Kofi, is bringing his Cream tribute band to Covington tonight for an 8 p.m., all-ages show at the Madison Theater. Kofi Baker formed Kofi Baker's Cream Experience after catching the Cream reunion in 2005 and deciding he'd like to pick up where the originals left off. In the Clapton role is Tony Spinner, a Rock/Blues singer and guitarist who was a member of Toto in the ’00s. Playing bass is another talented musician, Ric Fierabracci, who has performed with the likes of Chick Corea, Shakira and Yanni.
Kofi made his first live appearance when he was 6, playing with his pops on BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975. Here he is rocking with the Cream Experience in more recent years.
• MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine has a free show tonight headlined by Canadian Electro Pop group Parallels. Showtime is 10 p.m. and like-minded locals Skeleton Hands also perform.
Parallels has drawn comparisons to New Order and singer Holly Dodson has been likened to singer Kate Bush and Madonna. The band was formed in 2008 by Dodson and Cameron Findlay, the former drummers for popular electronicists Crystal Castles.
Parallels sophomore full-length, XII, is due out June 26. Here's a clip for the band's song "Ultralight."
Click her for more music events around town tonight.
Music Tonight: Popular Detroit Psychobilly/Punkabilly/Powerbilly trio The Koffin Kats hot-rod it into Newport for a show at the Southgate House. While the band, which formed in 2003, has done the Psychobilly schtick, writing songs with Horror and Sci Fi themes, the Kats' more "real life" songs have always been around and, over the years, become more dominant in KK sets and on albums. That should be especially evident on the upcoming Our Way & The Highway, due in mid-January, which reflects what singer/bassist Zac Victor told CityBeat was a general move towards a "Bruce Springsteen approach more than a Dracula approach" and even more reflective of their broad musical influences. Read the entire interview with Victor at citybeat.com, then catch the band tonight at SGH with Dr. Bombay, The Returners, Vice Tricks and Switchblade Syndicate. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 ($13 for those ages 18-20). Below, check out the great, swoony track (anybody else hear some Smiths in there?) "The Bottle Called" from last year's "split album" with 12 Step Rebels called From Our Hands to Yours (it will also be on the new album).
On this day in 1975, pioneering singer/actress/dancer/civil rights activist/spy Josephine Baker passed away at the age of 68. She died just a few days after a retrospective performance at the Bobino in Paris celebrating her 50 years in show biz. Jackie O, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier funded the show and opening night featured a celebrity-studded audience that included everyone from Mick Jagger to Sophia Loren. Baker's body was discovered four days later, reportedly surrounded by newspapers featuring glowing reviews of her performance.
At her funeral, she became the first American woman to garner full French military honors, one of many "firsts" involving Baker. She was the first black woman to star in a major film, the first to demand (and get) integrated audiences at her concerts and the first to become a global superstar. She fought for civil rights in America (offered a chance to lead it after MLK's assassination, she declined for fear of also being killed) and, before that, helped France (her adopted homeland) in World War II, for which she received numerous honors. Baker was also reportedly a bi-sexual who had serious relationships with both men and women in her lifetime, adding some spicy mystique to her life story.
She got her start as a vaudeville dancer at 15 and eventually became one of the highest paid chorus girls on the planet. In the mid ’20s she did burlesque shows in Paris and around Europe, well-known for her trademark banana-skirt and, later, her pet cheetah Chiquita, who would join her on stage (and, reportedly, terrorize the orchestra). Baker was considered a "muse" for artists from Pablo Picasso and Christian Dior to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, who once said she was "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw."
Baker's life has been the source of several films, musicals, plays and books. On screen and stage, she's been portrayed by the likes of Lynn Whitfield, Diana Ross, Keri Hilson and Beyonce, who sported Baker's banana costume during a 2006 performance (see below) and, in her "Naughty Girl" video, she again paid tribute by dancing in a giant champagne glass.
Baker released several albums in the early ’50s for Columbia and Mercury. Here she is performing her biggest hit (in France), "J'ai Deux Amours."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Hound Dog Taylor, Tiny Tim, Nick Hexum and Vince Gill.
Music Saturday: This weeks' CityBeat cover stars The Kentucky Struts have reached the end of their yearlong recording/art project, The Year of the Horse. After releasing one track online from the album each month in 2011, as well as showcasing a corresponding, horse-themed piece of art commissioned to accompany the song, the Roots/Country/Rock band will have copies of the full release available at Saturday's release party at Newport's Southgate House. The visual artists featured on the project are a mix of local and national artists, including Joshua Black Wilkins (also an acclaimed singer/songwriter), Rob Warnick, Karen Heyl, Matthew Shleton and Julie Hill. Some proceeds from the release show (featuring openers The Sundresses), as well as profits from prints of the artwork, will be donated to the Kentucky-based horse rescue organization, Speak Up For Horses. Click here and here for more on the project (and to look at some of the amazing art pieces). Below, take a gander at the pre-launch video, which explains the ambitious venture.
Music Tonight: Hailing from the same Tulsa, Okla., suburb (Broken Arrow) as singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth, Saturday Night Live comedian (and South Park writer) Bill Hader and Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Warren Spahn, singer/songwriter JD McPherson's upbringing found him youthfully exploring the music of Nirvana and The Stooges right alongside Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly, a signal of things to come. Today, McPherson (now based in the Chicago area) is making a name for himself with songs that reflect the influence of Rock & Roll's breakout period. McPherson performs tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The free show also features an appearance by like-minded locals (although with a bit more of a Honky Tonk stride) Straw Boss. Showtime is 9 p.m. Check out this potential Northside anthem, "North Side Gal," and dig McPherson's incredibly soulful and authentic ’50s vibe: