Justin Timberlake Should Have Never Performed at Super Bowl LII

Justin Timberlake Should Have Never Performed at Super Bowl LII

You never want to be upstaged.

Justin Timberlake was selling entertainment. The NFL was selling drama.

Once upon a time the game was lousy, it was about the commercials and then the halftime performance. As for new groundbreaking commercials, that paradigm is dead. Steve Jobs and Apple established it, a few others rode on the coattails, and then it was done. Kinda like Radiohead's In Rainbows promotion and release; once you've seen the trick it can't be repeated. Kinda like SNL. It pushed the envelope 40 years ago, with its original cast, when we all lived in a monoculture and television was safe, but now almost no one gets the references, there are no punchlines and the only ones who care are in the mainstream media trumpeting efforts the rest of us don't care about.

That's the story of today: how the younger generations have broken free of the constructs of the older and the older just don't get it, despite convincing themselves how hip they are by using iPhone X's and driving Teslas. Just ask them how to use Snapchat, which is already passé. As for Instagram, which they're bragging on, they don't know it's cooler to have a private account. Argue with me all you want but never has the older generation been so out of touch with the younger one since the generation gap back in the '60s, only now the baby boomers are holding the wrong end of the stick.

As for football itself, when the right-wing establishment paper of record says that millennials don't care, then you know it's spiraling down. It's oldsters who are cheap, who don't want to pay; youngsters know everything costs, and if they want it, they pony up, otherwise, they ignore it.

So you've got a 37-year-old Justin Timberlake trying to sell tickets and a new album. What you must focus on here is his age. You think he's young, whereas he's a married over-the-hill dad selling a formula that dried up years ago. Pop is dead. Better off to have a hip-hop act. But that would offend too many viewers. But that's what art does—it makes you feel uncomfortable, makes you question your preconceptions, makes you wonder if it's you or them.

In this case it was definitely Justin Timberlake. If you thought his performance was significant you must be a young 'un who never lived in an era where music drove the culture as opposed to being a sideshow. Timberlake was a highly rehearsed cheerleader, but the last I checked none of the sideline jumpers has ever become famous. He ran around on a field populated by coached "fans" and it was noisy and raucous and if this is your idea of entertainment, so be it. If you want to go to the show and jump around and feel good, so be it. We all need an escape, but the truth is we live in challenging times and he or she who speaks to this wins in the end. Those who play it safe ultimately lose out. This ain't sports, this is art.

And when art is done right there is drama. That's why you listen, to uncork feelings, to follow the story. There was no story in JT's performance other than "I'm cute, I'm rich, LET'S CELEBRATE!"

I'm not in such a celebratory mood, most of our country is not. That's how we got into this mess. Trump appealed to the left out, and so did Bernie, but Hillary and the establishment refused to believe times have changed. But I know this is true. Which means no matter how much you said you liked JT's performance, I'm sticking to my belief that it was meaningless, other than the Prince interlude—especially when they overlaid the "symbol" atop Minneapolis. That had gravitas. But it also served as a reminder of how Prince always came to kill and did. Anybody who followed him had to live up to him, and so far no one has.

So it was a great game. With a great story. Backup quarterback defeats the big bad Brady. Belichick doesn't smile. It's almost unbelievable. But when done right, that's what sport delivers, it's a metaphor for life.

Too often this has not happened in the Super Bowl. But this year it did. It made Justin Timberlake look small. Like our entire music business. The GRAMMYs, the institutions, they're all in peril.

What makes hip-hop work is it's not beholden to any of it. Radio, major labels, press—it can succeed as a result of its own culture. Not so different from when classic rock triumphed in the first place. Hit? What is that?

Last I checked choreography has nothing to do with music. Just because they danced on MTV that does not mean your record is worth listening to.

Justin Timberlake should never have done this show. But his manager couldn't turn down the offer, to be in front of all those people, to sell tickets. And that's where music resides, in the marketing era. Where salesmanship eclipses art. Go to the show if you want to. Drink your tequila, shake your booty, but when you come home I'm gonna ask you what it was all about. And you're gonna say "a good time."

But music used to be more than that.

By Bob Lefsetz. Reprinted with permission from The Lefsetz Letter, subscribe via Lefsetz.com.


Meet Lando Chill, Mello Music Group’s “Most Different” Talent (Interview)

Meet Lando Chill, Mello Music Group’s “Most Different” Talent (Interview)

Lando Chill doesn’t like boundaries. You can see it in his painted nails and tattered Chicago Bulls jerseys. You can feel it in his music, the kind you might find if someone left a steaming gumbo of rap, funk, folk, and soul to congeal in the middle of Four Corners. His latest EP, māyā. maia. mayu, released on February 2, is no exception, a body of work that the Chicago-raised talent hopes will help him and producer The Lasso break through the internet’s glass ceiling.

“To sell music, you either need to bridge a gap or stay in a lane,” Lando tells me over the phone. “I think that’s why [the music] hasn't broken the way it deserves to.”

For Lando, an inability to break through hasn’t been for a lack of trying. A bout of depression during college in Arizona led the artist, born Lance Washington, to songwriting, and to rap, all thanks to a handy roommate. This led to Michael Tolle, an AZ resident and the head of Mello Music Group, who saw an ad for one of his shows in the local paper. An impromptu meetup would follow, which resulted in Chill signing a two-album deal with the highly-respected indie label.

2015’s For Mark, Your Son, penned for a father who died of a heart attack when Lando was four, has tinges of gospel and folk steeped in familiar boom bap courtesy of Duncan “D-Funk” Odea and David “Jetlag” Manin. It was a bold personal statement, but by the time the chilling closer “Coroner” comes to an end, it’s obvious that Chill was ready to expand his sound. Shortly after finishing Mark, he met The Lasso.

A lo-fi producer and former talent buyer from Detroit, The Lasso took a chance when he and his wife moved to Tucson, AZ. “Literally days after moving to Tucson in 2015, I went to a show and saw Lance perform, along with a bunch of my soon-to-be favorite beat makers: b3nbi, rnd1, csd,” Lasso told me via email. “I had been looking to start a project with a vocalist who could spit and sing; an MC who used their voice like an instrument. Lucky for me I found Lance instantly after an almost spontaneous 1800-mile move. I DM'd him that night and said he’s gotta let me work with him.”

The Lasso’s eclectic mesh of styles turned out to be just what Lando was looking for.

“I’m a wary person who doesn’t like to work with too many people, [but] there's something about his music and the knowledge and joy he brings and how comfy he makes me feel and when I wanna try new things,” Lasso added. “It’s important to me for the relationship and to make the music extremely palatable to how society wants to hear it. We wanna stretch around that tape line. He’s a godsend and it’s very symbiotic.”

Symbiotic is the perfect word. The Lasso proved to be the perfect sonic foil for Lando, putting his live arrangement skills to use on follow-up EP Madera Canyon. Last year’s sprawling sophomore LP, The Boy Who Spoke To The Wind, however, is where the traditionalist gloves came off and things got good and weird. Inspired by Paulo Cohelo’s The Alchemist, Wind is Chill’s journey of self-discovery and an affirmation of Blackness set to instrumentals that owe as much to Björk as they do to Madlib.

Their latest, the six-track māyā. maia. mayu, is being marketed as a neo-soul album, another left turn in a partnership built on trust. Mostly written last summer after a breakup and subsequent new love, it’s warm and intimate but no less liberal in its genre wanderlust. Even as Lando lets loose some of his most poetic lyrics yet (“The bruises heal / I’m an onion, let the critics peel / Feel it in they cerebellums / And still they fuck with Funyuns, ain’t no tellin’”), this is a love story at heart; certainly enamored of other people (his girlfriend sings on just about every song and shot the cover art), but even more for self. The grass-scented dreamscape of “yo love” gleams with unrequited love (“I know you’re never gonna need me but I’m addicted to your love”), the object of Lando’s affections focused on her “corner office lover.” He decides that loving himself is more important.

Lando chalks up this decision to “going through heartbreak and a realization that it’s important to love yourself before anyone else,” as well as an understanding that there’s only so much one can give before nothing remains, but also mentions that it was spurned by an act of violence. One of the handful of producers who worked on The Boy Who Spoke To The Wind was accused of sexually assaulting one of Lando's close friends shortly after the album was released last year. “It happened right before the #MeToo movement, and there was a difference in dialogue now vs. then,” he mentions in reference to the hundreds of victims who have come forward about sexual assaults in the media industry since last year. “Talking shit about the survivor and not validating her agency.”

Lando would call this person out on Facebook but he cowardly skipped town, leaving their clique in a state of disrepair. Lando saw this as an opportunity for men to do some hard soul-searching.

“We as men like to be comfortable and not to be challenged, but we need to challenge ourselves and challenge our music,” Lando says. “I’m lucky enough to be able to work with amazing people but to be challenged to grow through trials and tribulations. I think all of us, aside from the abuser, used this as a building block toward positivity and accountability. I hope that’s reflected through my music, more subtly than explicitly. With a call-out, there has to be a call-in.”

Part of that subtle expression can be found in the project's title. “māyā” is Nepalese for love, “maia” is Maori for courage, and “mayu” is Japanese for truth. All three are embodied across the EP's six tracks. The maudlin “sad luv” sees the second wind of a long-distance relationship on the verge of collapse over twinkles and muted drums. They reconcile and realize that “we deserve the Earth that we left behind” as their love heads to the stars on closer “maya.” Like the best soul, it’s smooth by virtue of knowing how to navigate the bruises.

Four projects deep into a burgeoning career, Lando is confident that his time for recognition is coming. At 26, he’s the youngest member on Team Mello and the one who didn’t have a cult following before signing on the dotted line. He’s determined to leave his own mark. “I think once people realize it’s not just Oddisee and Mike Eagle, we’ll get the respect we deserve,” he says. “[The Lasso and I are] are too good to be forgotten about. It’s the most different music on the label. You gotta live with it and sit with it to be able to get down with it.”

Lando relishes the opportunity to play music live for those who can’t afford tickets to shows, in environments where “I have old white folks singing with Black kids.” If māyā. maia. mayu is any indication, his days of obscurity are numbered.


Prince the Rapper, an Absurdly Detailed Investigation

Prince the Rapper, an Absurdly Detailed Investigation

Prince Rogers Nelson is known as one of music’s greatest guitarists, singers, songwriters, producers, and performers. He never made it as a rapper. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Around the late '80s, Prince began to work rap into his music. The results were, to put it kindly, mixed. But it’s a part of his body of work that shouldn’t be ignored.

So here it is, an absurdly detailed investigation of Prince’s trials and tribulations as a rapper.

The '80s: Prince dabbles in rap before writing off an entire genre

Prince started rapping—kind of—in 1982 on tracks like “Irresistible Bitch” and “All the Critics Love U in New York,” but it wasn’t until 1987 that he got serious. “Housequake” from Sign O' the Times is unmistakably a rap song, with pitch-shifted vocals, no less. Was Prince blazing the path for Auto-Tune rappers? Well, not exactly.

The song that best sums up Prince’s then-opinion of a burgeoning rap scene is “Dead On It,” from the canceled but widely bootlegged The Black Album, which saw a promo release that same year (and an official release wouldn't come until 1994). The song is essentially a diss track aimed at every single rapper, like Kendrick’s verse on “Control,” only instead of singling anyone out by name, Prince tried to ether the very concept of rapping.

Choice lyrics include: “See the rapper's problem usually stems from being tone deaf / Pack the house then try to sing / There won't be no one left.”

Clearly, Prince was not thrilled with this whole newfangled rap thing. But since he famously did everything in his power to cancel the release of The Black Album, perhaps he knew that this anti-rap stance was ill-advised. Either way, Prince changed his tune a few years later, taking steps to learn the ropes of rap, and to become more self-consciously “hard.”

The Early '90s: Prince starts to take rap seriously and hires a full-time MC

Though he had dissed the entire genre just a few years earlier, Prince knew hip-hop was here to stay by the early '90s, and he knew he had to address it in order to stay relevant. His solution was to a) start frequently rapping himself and b) add a full-time MC to his band. Neither of these things went particularly well.

Anthony Mosley, known by most as Tony M., was an extra in Purple Rain, who hung around long enough to join Prince’s post-Revolution ensemble, The New Power Generation, as a backing dancer. At some point, Tony showcased his rapping skills for Prince, who must have thought, “Hell yes, this is just what my music needs.” Most fans disagreed.

Nobody wants a Tony M. comeback more than me, but the truth is, he just wasn’t good enough to be so heavily involved in Prince’s music. Prince was Prince. He needed to work with musicians on or near his level of artistry, like Sheila E. or The Time. Prince could have called Rakim, Run-D.M.C., Chuck D, or any prolific early '90s rapper if he wanted to take his music in a hip-hop direction. Instead, nearly half of the tracks on 1991's Diamonds and Pearls featured Tony M.

Here are a few standouts:

“Gett Off” was actually a big hit, thanks largely to an incredibly addictive flute riff. Neither Prince nor Tony rap more than a few bars each, but the Purple One still finds time to drop this clanger: “Lay your pretty body against a parking meter / Strip your dress down / Like I was strippin' a Peter Paul's Almond Joy.”

One of the endless B-sides from “Gett Off,” “Gangster Glam” features forgettable verses from Tony M. with Prince as the hook man. The record is more notable for its video, which sees Prince wearing what can only be described as a mankini.

On “Jughead,” a record that is universally derided as one of Prince’s worst, Tony attempts to describe a new dance known as, wait for it, “the jughead,” which I assume nobody ever actually tried.

One year later, Prince and the NPG released the unpronounceable Love Symbol album. Again, Tony M. had a part to play here, though he was far less prominent than on Diamonds and Pearls. Prince continued to develop his own rapping, but with mixed results.

One of Prince’s best forays into rap is “Sexy MF.” His bars are hilariously cheesy in the best way, but in all honesty, he sounded like a badass at the time. Tony M. doesn’t suit this beat as well as Prince, but his verse does lend some vocal variety to the song.

“The Flow” may be titled like a Seinfeld episode, but this is not Mixtape About Nothing material. Prince was better suited to ride a track with the smoothness of “Sexy MF,” but here his flow is too choppy. Tony also references “The Jughead,” which is unforgivable.

“Love 2 the 9’s” is a great soul song, that is, until Tony M. bursts in at the last minute like the Kool-Aid Man.

The entire Tony M. era of the New Power Generation saw Prince court rap fans with his style as well as his music. Tony M.’s dance group, The Game Boyz, brought street dancing to NPG stage shows, and Prince began to sing into a microphone shaped like a gun. (If you take this symbolism too literally, Prince was shooting himself in the face by trying his hand at rap.)

Tony M. only had three features on 1992’s Love Symbol, but that doesn’t mean Prince was starting to lose interest in his rapping services. In 1993, under the New Power Generation banner, Prince released one of the least known albums in his insane discography, with Tony M. providing lead vocals on almost every track. It was called—and I am not making this up—Goldnigga.

Goldnigga was credited solely to The New Power Generation, but it was Prince who produced all 16 tracks on the LP. Prince had been trying to become more “gangsta” for years, but Goldnigga was created all in good fun, a mixture of blaxploitation and of-the-times hip-hop. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t very good.

Recording an entire album as a lead artist should have given Tony M. the motivation to improve as an MC, but despite mixing up his flow and cadence on a handful of tracks, the results were mostly uninspired.

The album reaches its high point on track number seven, “Black M.F. in the House,” where Tony takes on the role of an incensed black patron being denied service by racist proprietors. The highlight, however, is Prince’s guest verse, delivered in the guise of a racist, white Southerner. It’s hilarious and satirical. At this point, it’s clear Prince realized that he could have fun with rap, and use it to spread an important anti-racist message.

Sadly, Prince decided to take a step back from rap after the release, going as far as to fire Tony M. from the band.

The Late '90s and Beyond: Prince waves goodbye to rap but stays in touch

Goldnigga was Prince getting rap out of his system—almost. He had one more full-on rap cut in him: the opening track on 1995's The Gold Experience, “P Control.” Prince’s flow is actually great; it’s like “Sexy MF,” but smoother. Dubious lyrics aside (the “P” stands for pussy), the song is a good listen if you don’t take it too seriously.

As the years went by, Prince would use rap the same way a drummer uses a cowbell: it was at his disposal but he didn’t feel the need to always employ it. In 1999, he finally worked with a professional rapper, Chuck D of Public Enemy. Then he featured on a Common track. Then Q-Tip featured on one of his tracks. But by this time, Prince was already years removed from rapping himself.

Despite Prince’s strange relationship with rap, it’s not surprising that he would become such a huge influence on so many of hip-hop’s biggest players. Prince’s otherworldly imagery was famously important to OutKast, and André 3000 in particular. Questlove is one of Prince’s biggest fans. Prince’s androgynous style and outlandish fashion sense have inspired swathes of rappers, particularly Young Thug. And finally, Prince’s willingness to challenge his record label has inspired countless rappers turned businessmen, most notably JAY-Z, to take control of their careers.

Prince may never have made it as a rapper but his mostly under-the-radar contributions to hip-hop have undeniably shaped careers and influenced sounds. Most importantly, though, we were blessed with these immortal lines: "From the heart of Minnesota / Here come the Purple Yoda."

For that alone, we should be thankful.

Editor's Note: In the interest of keeping things absurdly detailed, we also must mention "Pope," which was released in 1993 around the same time as Goldnigga—aka, the period Prince began to come into his own as a rapper. And it showed. I have no idea what "a loop is a loop is a loop" really means, but it sounds deep.


Free Seminar: The 3 Things All Successful DJ/Producers Know (That You Don’t)

Reality check: Nobody succeeds as a DJ/producer until they figure out what’s really important – and it’s almost impossible to guess the three secrets to succeeding ahead of time. That’s why most producers end up having to work them out for themselves – often through many years of trial and error. But there is another … Continued

The post Free Seminar: The 3 Things All Successful DJ/Producers Know (That You Don’t) appeared first on Digital DJ Tips.

Drake’s “God’s Plan” & “Diplomatic Immunity” Generated Combined $850,000 in Song Revenue Last Week

Drake’s “God’s Plan” & “Diplomatic Immunity” Generated Combined $850,000 in Song Revenue Last Week

Drake reclaimed two positions on the Billboard Hot 100 this past week, becoming the first act to twice debut two songs in the top 10 simultaneously. "God's Plan"—co-produced by Noah “40” Shebib, Yung Exclusive, Boi-1da and Cardo—entered the chart at No. 1, while "Diplomatic Immunity," co-produced by Nick Brongers and Boi-1da, entered at No. 7. 

While not quite as impressive as tying The Beatles as only the second act with at least 20 Hot 100 top 10s in a single decade, the Toronto hitmaker racked in an obscene amount of revenue this past week from the two records combined.

For the week ending January 25, "God's Plan" generated a total of $622,260, of which $115,991 is from 127,463 digital sales and $506,269 is from 68,982,814 on-demand streams, while "Diplomatic Immunity" generated an additional $228,907 in revenue, of which $35,297 is from 38,788 digital sales and $193,610 is from 25,748,037 on-demand streams.

Together, the two records generated $851,167 in song revenue, which combined is more than seven of the top nine earning songs from the previous week (Ed Sheeran's "Perfect," Post Malone's "rockstar," Camila Cabello's "Havana," Bruno Mars and Cardi B's "Finesse (Remix)," G-Eazy's "No Limit," Cardi B's "Bartier Cardi," and Malone's "I Fall Apart.")

It's important to keep in mind that, while Drake won't personally be pocketing $851,167 in song revenue from streaming and sales between January 19 through January 25, based on industry standards, he should bring home somewhere in the neighborhood of $340,000. For two songs. In one week.

God's plan is really working out well for Aubrey.


How Old is the Average Hot 100-Charting Rapper Right Now? (Not Old)

How Old is the Average Hot 100-Charting Rapper Right Now? (Not Old)

Hip-hop knows no age, but if this week's Billboard Hot 100 is any indication of "mainstream" rap success, the genre is indeed a sport for the youth.

In total, 28 rap acts appear at least once as the lead artist on the chart dated February 3, 2018, with an average age of 26.6 years and a median age of 28.

Eminem, 45, is the oldest rap act on the Hot 100, clocking in at No. 34 with the Ed Sheeran-assisted "River," while Lil Pump, 17, is the youngest rap act on the chart, thanks to "Gucci Gang" holding strong at No. 17 after tumbling six spots week-over-week.

In 2016, Billboard analyzed six complete decades of data to determine the average age of every solo artist to reach No. 1 on Hot 100. By decade, the averages were fairly consistent, with a low of 26.8 in the 2010s and a high of 30.8 in the 1980s. Overall, the average age of a lead artist to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100 over its first 60 years was 28.5. (Note: These numbers were compiled regardless of the genre.)

While the average age of a Hot 100-charting rap act is currently 26.6 years, if we were to remove the two greatest outliers—Eminem and Plies—that number would drop down to 25.3 years, which is more than three full years younger than the average age of a No. 1 hitmaker regardless of genre over the past six decades.

Based on our brief analysis, three reasonable conclusions can be formed:

  1. Becoming a "career artist"—instead of plateauing as a "moment artist"—will greatly increase the likelihood of success past the age of 30.
  2. The "sweet spot" entry point on the chart is roughly 25 years of age. This means that, for artists who are younger than 25 with aspirations of Billboard success, you still have time. Take some.
  3. Plies has a greater following than any one of us could have ever imagined.

Here is a complete breakdown of all 28 acts by age:

40s (2)

45 Eminem ("River")
41 Plies ("Rock")

30s (6)

37 Gucci Mane ("I Get The Bag")
34 Macklemore ("Good Old Days")
33 French Montana ("Unforgettable")
32 Jay Rock ("King's Dead")
31 Drake ("God's Plan," "Diplomatic Immunity")
30 Kendrick Lamar ("LOVE.," "All The Stars")

20s (16)

29 A$AP Ferg ("Plain Jane")
28 Logic ("1-800-273-8255")
28 G-Eazy ("No Limit," "Him & I")
26 NF ("Let You Down," "No Name")
26 Quavo ("MotorSport," "Stir Fry," "Ice Tray")  
26 Offset ("MotorSport," "Ric Flair Drip," "Stir Fry") 
25 21 Savage ("Bank Account")
25 Cardi B ("Bartier Cardi," "Bodak Yellow")
24 Famous Dex ("Pick It Up")
23 Takeoff ("MotorSport," "Stir Fry")  
23 Lil Uzi Vert ("The Way Life Goes")
23 Lil Baby ("My Dawg")
22 Post Malone ("rockstar," "I Fall Apart," "Candy Paint")
21 6ix9ine ("Gummo," "Keke," "Kooda") 
21 Lil Xan ("Betrayed")
20 Kodak Black ("Roll In Peace," "Codeine Dreaming")

Teens (4)

19 Lil Skies ("Nowadays," "Red Roses")
18 YoungBoy Never Broke Again ("Outside Today," "No Smoke")
18 YBN Nahmir ("Rubbin Off The Paint")
17 Lil Pump ("Gucci Gang")


Joey Bada$$ Finds Freedom on Prince-Inspired “Thugz Cry”: Listen

Joey Bada$$ Finds Freedom on Prince-Inspired “Thugz Cry”: Listen

Joey Bada$$ is searching for freedom.

On his latest offering, "Thugz Cry," the Brooklyn rapper and Pro Era head honcho pays homage to Prince’s “When Doves Cry” while also flexing his singing chops. The earthy timbre of his voice adds a tinge of understandable desperation as he sings, “I just wanna be free,” with eyes-closed, mic-gripping conviction.

Joey’s hurting soul makes its way into the raps, too; the first verse bottoms out nicely under the weight of his delivery while the second is the MC in tip-top form, spitting political bars like a madman.

Bada$$, who debuted the live version of "Thugz Cry" earlier this month on Australia’s Triple J radio station, originally intended to place the record on his sophomore album, ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, but when he could not get the Prince sample cleared, he was forced to temporarily backburner it. A real shame, because “Thugz Cry”—produced by 1-900 and NasteeLuvzYou—evidences Joey Bada$$ to be true master of fusing melody with the grittiness of New York hip-hop.


Rich Brian ‘Amen’ 1 Listen Album Review

Rich Brian ‘Amen’ 1 Listen Album Review

The path to forgiveness begins with an apology. Acceptance isn’t guaranteed or promised, but the process of being forgiven doesn’t start without owning up to your impudence.

Rich Chigga becoming Rich Brian isn’t some grand expression of regret. I don’t expect his decision to change his stage name to band-aid the problematic parts of his viral arrival. What should be acknowledged is how the outrage he caused wasn’t simply undermined and wheelbarrowed into the recycling bin like hate spam; it actually reached Brian Imanuel. The decision to change his name was a sign of maturity, an artist who'd rather be taken seriously than see a potential future buried underneath juvenile ignorance.

Can Rich Brian become a star? Perhaps. Without shock value to create attention, and the controversy of his name removed from the equation, the music and videos take center stage. Does he have songs absent of insolence able to receive the viral presence of “Dat $tick?” Uncertain. Not having the answers, however, is what adds a layer of interest to his music.

If he’s no longer a parody of Southern trap rappers, who is Rich Brian? Once you strip away the name, guns, fanny pack, and attitude, he’s just another 18-year-old kid on the cusp of being bigger than his dreams or fading away before the next surprise Beyoncé album.

Amen, Rich Brian’s debut project—he refuses to call it an album—will set the precedence of his 2018, and quite possibly his entire career in music.  

Following our traditional 1-Listen review rules, I must listen to Amen from start to finish without stopping, editing, rewinding, or fast-forwarding. Everything I write will be based on my gut reaction.

1. "Amen"

The bassline is wobbling harder than Lil Bow Wow's shoulders doing the Harlem Shake. For a brief moment, I had flashbacks to Mike WiLL’s “DNA.” Not as crazy, not even close, but hard-hitting out the gate. Flow is Migos-esque, not as fast, but he’s in their pocket. Brian has a nice vocal texture. Perfect for rap. A free-flowing intro. The percussion sounds like milk bottles being clung together. “I don’t need no education internet my favorite teacher.” I felt this on a spiritual level. There are some personal rhymes here, but you can tell he’s obviously still in the teenage adolescent stage of self-reflection. Production is nice, though.

2. "Cold"

The build-up reminds me of Luigi's Mansion. Ominous and weird. Drums have a nice leg drop. I'm liking this much better than the intro. Smooth. Mentioned his dad as the call for wisdom, and cabs for his alcoholic nights. A role model. The loneliness reminds me of a less problematic Tyler. “Cold” is a nice vibe. The beat just exploded into a wide range of colors, rainbow chords and stark drums. Lovely breakdown. “I don’t take drugs, I just take naps.” Ha. The flow is laser sharp here. Impressive. He mentions never using triplet flows because he's not a Migo, hahaha very aware of critics. “Cold” should’ve been the album opener. I’m a bit more excited now. He has an idea of what he wants his sound to be and the bars aren’t bad, just youthful. Brian is telling his truth and I’m enjoying it.

3. "Occupied"

Taking a second to appreciate the cover, very icy. Vintage frames are back. OK, back to the song. I'm loving the knock. My gut tells me this could be a banger but I also didn’t eat breakfast so that could be the growl of starvation. “Occupied” is music on the pulse, a RapCaviar add. Infectious, you just have to bounce. Hoping the flow gets a bit more inventive as the album progresses. Is this the hook? I’m not sure if I’ve heard any hooks yet. Everything has been short. He just threatened his runner if he doesn’t have his Chick-fil-A; look at what America is doing to young Brian. What I referred to previously was indeed the hook, even though he delivers everything once and moves on instead of making the listener chant along. Maybe he’s not a fan of repetition.

4. "Introvert" ft. Joji

A change in tempo. A nice curveball. Keys are ambient. Drums are hard. Harder than juveniles convicted of shoplifting. He’s singing. Singing. Joji? The voice is too mellow to be Brian. I’m not in love with the album’s songwriting. I do like the bounce of this beat, even though it’s more mellow than energetic. I’ve walked through graveyards after dark with more life than what I’m hearing from this hook. The second verse is smooth. He has a nice melodic suaveness. With a better singer, this song could’ve really popped. I like its sugary, Rice Krispies Treats pop sound but a song this sweet is supposed to get stuck between molars like a popcorn hull and it completely fails to do so.

5. "Attention" ft. Offset

I'm looking forward to this one. Slow buildup. So many of his piano loops sound like they were ripped from video games. I almost punched my laptop screen with the way these drums just came in. Warning: this song will encourage you to move as if a thousand fire ants have crawled down your pants. It’s the only reasonable reaction. Brian’s verse is pretty exhilarating. He knew doing a trap song with Offset meant cranking things up a level. This has to be the first trap song where the rapper brags to their mom that all their meals are culinary. All his brags are adorable. Offset! Woo! This is synchronized swimming. Someone bring out the body bag. Offset and Rich are more in sync than my iPhone and iTunes account. I wish this was a Migos song featuring Brian; Takeoff would’ve gone full rocketship. Off killed, though. He deserves acknowledgment from Obama for working Fonzworth Bentley's name into his flow. Good song. Bad hook.

6. "Glow Like Dat"

Hmm. This is interesting. It sounds like a sunflower playing the guitar underneath a pale moonlight. Melodic Brian is back with the vibes. “Glow Like Dat” does what “Introvert” failed to do. His pop songs are kid bops, no pun. The soundtrack to another teen movie. I can envision young ladies loving this record with the windows down. I wouldn’t mind a cheesy teenage movie staring Rich Brian directed by Kevin Abstract. The keys are filling me with the love of a thousand grandparents. Good song. Probably the best-constructed song of the album thus far. Gives a perfect sound to his personality and style.

7. "Trespass"

Hahaha. This beat is a hot potato. The snare is hotter than a bowl of chili peppers dipped in hot sauce. Why isn’t Rick Ross on this!? T.I. should be on here talking about the trap being back jumping. How did such a trap banger not enter Gucci’s inbox? Brian sounds good, but he’s not doing this beat justice! Wait! He’s finally off the launching pad and soaring. Right after bragging about wearing perfume the whole energy amplifies. Ric Flair would howl a WOO to the moon if he heard this beat. Not bad, Brian.

8. "Flight"

The strangest beat on the album so far. Unconventional. The loop is so strange. It sounds like trying to moonwalk forward, or tap dancing with your fingers, or ordering pancakes at Waffle House. It sounds wrong, the kind of strange that you spend your entire life trying to avoid. Singing Brian doesn’t sound terrible. There’s a little bounce. But this one is shaping up to be a hard pass. The first certain skip. What the hell is that sound? My skin is crawling far away from this song. Did he say he worked with Pharrell on his first session? That’s a stunt.

9. "See Me"

Lush. I like it. It feels like I’m riding on the back of a motorcycle in the year 3500. I remember this was released as a single. It reminds me of Baka Not Nice's flow on the first verse, but the singing and production really tie this one together as a good package of pop. He has a knack for building songs, fleshing out ideas. Another RapCaviar banger. Any song that could be big on the playlist but might not make it to radio is officially deemed RapCaviar banger. This is my current favorite.

10. "Enemies"

I wonder who Rich Brian considers an enemy? Again, a real lush buildup. I'm not feeling this one. He’s trying far too hard. His attempts at making trap in his image haven’t sounded generic until now. Hm. This sounds familiar. Sample? Maybe… Production is giving me strong déjà vu. He’s been on a nice anti-drug kick. Just dismissed molly. Skipping this one. Brian, my friend, I’m not believing you ever feel in the position that a case could be caught. I’m just not.

11. "Kitty"

I pray this isn’t a song about what I think this song is about. Don’t be cliché. Wait. Storytelling. This is interesting. Very hyphy. Wait! This is hard. What bartender is selling this child liquor? Jesus, I’m getting old. Dang. The hook is horrendous. And it’s a story about a girl. But I like this change of pace. Very saucy. Nice swing. Nice bang. The storytelling of him having sex is... jarring. I don’t know why rappers believe we care about their nightcaps. Brian is rapping about losing his virginity while “Bump & Grind” plays. Dang. You ever wonder what music the next generation will have sex to? Daniel Caesar? PND? IceJJFish? What just happened? Wait for the plot twist…

12. "Little Prince" ft. NIKI

Hahaha. Man. The kids are going to love this album. More Jolly Rancher pop. The production sounds how Adventure Time looks―bright, the kind of color kids are drawn to. Is this meant to be the crossover radio record? Maybe. NIKI has a nice voice. Sounds like marshmallows and chocolate syrup have replaced her human vocal chords. “Little Prince” is pretty boring, but also cute in a nauseating way. But I’m old. What causes my stomach to turn is the music that will make someone’s day. Not mad at it. Won’t play it again, but not mad. [Editor's Note: Yoh is 26. He is not old.

13. "Chaos"

Rich Brian loves to talk about women and sex, but that’s a pretty common trope with rappers. The beat is rather alien. Martian synths. The drums could’ve been a bit more ambitious. Hahaha, oh god. The Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson line almost made me give up on this entire review. I’m glad every song is short. This has been amusing, to say the least.

14. "Arizona" ft. AUGUST 08

A guest singer. I'm getting a very uplifting vibe from the chords and this vocalist. Not bad, AUGUST. I hear the soulfulness. I'm not in love so far, but I’m feeling the warmth. Nice Jodeci line. He’s killing this verse. I like this verse a lot. Step Brothers reference. A couple of these bars are really hitting. A nice SZA nod. After Brian, I’m liking “Arizona” so much more. Holy shit what just happened. A scream. A beat switch. Fast flow. Very synthy. He’s going OFF. He’s going to run out of breath. Getting heavy Tyler vibes. I wouldn’t mind if Tyler gave beats to Brian. They would be an ill combination. Man. I was just getting into the first half before this sudden shift. It was well done. Nice, nice. Two voices. Talking about the series finale of The Office. Wait. HAHAHA. He just lied about the ending of The Office. This kid is sick and twisted hahaha.

Rich Brain’s Amen is an amusing debut. The project sounds like a teenager in the age of social media. He keeps things short; no song ever feels as if it’s trying your patience or testing your attention span.

Amen is a reminder that hip-hop is the world’s biggest genre, filled with trap aesthetics and present-day lyricism. Brian borrows the sounds made famous by the Metro Boomins and the Migos and adds his touch, tastefully illustrating the life he knows over mostly aggressive, thunderous backdrops. When he leans harder into the synthy Skittles pop, he still retains a certain naturalness. Despite having such a heavy voice, the lighter music is a great contrast to his trap-influenced music.

Unapologetically, Brian makes kids bops―the kind of music crafted for a younger demographic. Not a necessarily a flaw, he’s a kid himself. Somewhere a Disney executive is depressed for not discovering the kid five years ago. With that said, the immaturity of his music is made up by a powerful voice, and he has an excellent texture for hip-hop and a knack for crafting saccharine production. He knows what works, sticking to familiar formulas without crossing into blatant copying. 

Amen isn’t without its shortcomings—there are cringe-worthy lyrics and uninspired hooks—but these issues can be ironed out with growth and further development. Rich Brian is making music that’s capable of fitting in with the present. He is on the pulse, able to fit into playlists filled with trap rap and melodic pop. With some work, he can become the kind of artist that doesn’t just fit in but is able to stand out.

By Yoh, aka Rich Yoh, aka @Yoh31


Friday Five: Would You Rather Spin Cool Or Commercial Music?

In this week’s Friday Five, we’re leading with an article from Mixmag on why DJs today should know how to navigate the line between style and substance. We’ve also got pieces from Pitchfork, Soundfly, BBC Newsbeat and Billboard. Have a great weekend ahead! Walking The Fine Line Between Cool & Commerical Music – Are you a … Continued

The post Friday Five: Would You Rather Spin Cool Or Commercial Music? appeared first on Digital DJ Tips.

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