YOU remember how impeccable J.Cole’s 2014 Forest Hill’s Drive was. I think he was also shocked with how good that album came out. I think Solange Knowles felt the same way after making A Seat At The Table.
But the difference between the two artists, is that Cole tried by all means to steer away from anything remotely similar to like F.H.D when he made 4 Your Eyez Only. Beyoncé’s younger sister on the other hand, attempted to make another Seat At The Table-or at least a more esoteric version, with When I Get Home-but failed.
The album lands on the ear as an incomplete project because of the annoying number of interludes. As soon as I tried to engage with a track, it abruptly ended. It’s like she made the album based on research by scientists, about the short attention span of today’s youth. Over 10 tracks are less than three minutes, not to suggest a great song is defined by its duration, but one gets a sense that Solange didn’t have an idea of what to do. Instead, she horrendously used Seat At The Table as a template.
This album lacks direction and makes me wonder how much of a contribution she had in her previous album. The legendary Raphael Saadiq was the executive producer of the project, along other producers and musicians who’ve been in the game for decades. When I Get Home seems like Solange’s way of being young and hip, to be more appealing to the youth. Some of this album’s producers include Metro Boomin, Dev Hynes and has contributions from Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt.
Sonically this album isn’t far off Seat At The Table, but it’s short of a solid theme and cohesiveness. It’s the kinda project that makes the producer look bad. But having shat on the album, I admit there are some enjoyable ditties on the project like Way to The Show and Down with the Clique. True to its name, Dreamy was quite dreamy and airy, I didn’t mind repeating the song. These are tracks that didn’t hit me at first go, but with time, I got into their vibe-if the album was a stand-up comedy special, I’d have to watch it again for those few jokes I had to nit-pick for laughs.
Time (Is) is the only track that hit, from the word go. I enjoyed it, especially the switch of the beat later in the song, where Sampha’s backing vocals give it so much body.
Most artists have a bad album in their career, but I didn’t expect Solange to deliver it right after A Seat At The Table. That I’ve mentioned her previous album countless times on this review tells you that When I Get Home ain’t that ayoba.
EVER found yourself genuinely delighted that someone is happy, despite your opinion of the reason for their happiness?
Like how an attractive damsel would be overjoyed by shedding some kilos, you’d obviously acknowledge her achievement of reaching a personal goal, but in the back of your head know that she doesn’t need the number on a scale to validate her beauty.
That’s how I felt Monday morning, watching highlights from the 91st Academy Awards. It was when legendary film director, producer and writer Spike Lee went to accept his first ever Oscar award for his recent film, BlacKkKlansman.
One of the best films ever to be made, Do The Right Thing, which Spike wrote, directed and produced in 1989 was snubbed by the Academy awards. Earlier this month, speaking to The Washington Post Spike was quoted saying “This is not in any way disrespectful to the Academy, but after Do The Right Thing, I just said ‘you know, whatever award it is, I’m not going to let myself be in a position where I feel I have to have my work validated.”
That quote alone lets us into the pain Spike felt from the 1990 Oscar Awards. On the other side of coin, his elation on Sunday night’s ceremony demonstrates how much the award means to him. And accepted the award with a moving speech.
I have not watched BlacKkKlansman, so I can’t say if Spike deserved the award for that particular movie. But on Tuesday morning I posted on Facebook that Spike is too great to be excited by an Oscar. Without trying to throw shade at the irrepressible director, the point I was merely trying to convey was that great artists don’t need to be certified by the academy institution to sanction their prominence. Especially black artists.
But what stood out for me, was how most of the young creatives on the social site, liked, agreed, loved and even shared the post.
I get why Spike was hurt by Do The Right Thing‘s loss, and why 30 years later, he jumped on Samuel Jackson’s arms like a lil kid, in accepting his award. Think about it, Spike was 32 years-old when the awards that celebrate cinematic excellence took place in 1990, and they had been taking place for more than 60 years. So you can imagine the clout, prestige and significance of a recognition from the Academy to a filmmaker born in the 1950s.
Not to suggest today’s young creatives don’t appreciate or yearn even, for industry recognition. There’s disinterest and distrust towards “honours” from industry gatekeepers. In music and film.
I was my mother’s one year-old sweetheart when Malcom X (also directed by Spike) was in cinemas. I watched the film years later and was astonished to find out that Denzel Washington, who played the US political activist, didn’t take the Best actor award in the 1993 Oscars. Why would I trust them, if they dismally failed to celebrate Denzel’s finest piece of acting?
Young artists don’t trust these institutions. After winning his Grammy last month, Drake gave an acceptance speech that displayed the power that today’s artists have taken from these ceremonies. “We play in an opinion-based sport, not a factual based sport. It’s not the NBA where at the end of the year you’re holding the trophy, because you made the right decision or won the games. Look, if there’s people who have regular jobs coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows. You don’t need this right here. I promise you, you already won.”
Poignant words from the Canadian rapper on the Grammy stage, basically giving the prestigious music awards a polite middle-finger. And this by the way, is from an artist who a few years ago gave away his own Grammy awards on Instagram to artists who he thought were snubbed.
Social media has allowed artists direct access to their fans. Artists are continuously on the receiving end of affirmation from their followers, reminding them of the real impact their art has. Do The Right Thing grossed over $30 million in cinemas, with a budget of less than $10 million. I wonder how Spike would look at that snub, had the movie came out during the prevalence of social media. The validation that comes with seeing people from around the world, celebrating your work would have some effect on your view on awards. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, said he appreciated how 2018’s big movie was appreciated by the audience.
While celebrating the Grammy wins of Cardi B, Jay Rock and Anderson.Paak on Twitter, J.Cole mentioned how this moment for them, is bigger than the awards could say.
Of course there are senior citizens in Hollywood who’ve had this thinking long before, like Woody Allen who has never accepted awards from the Academy. “The whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgement of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don’t,” said the dodge old man.
I personally don’t have an issue with awards per se, it’s people running these bodies that I have gripe with. Black creatives are always chasing to be recognised by Caucasian-led institutions.
Someone made a point on my post on Facebook that Spike was also celebrating the milestone because of the tireless work he’s done as an activist for the inclusion of black people in Hollywood. I honestly believe it’s through the work done by people such Spike, that Black Panther and even Jordan Peele’s Get Out won Oscars. It’s through the noise he’s been making.
That’s good and all, but do we still need to be making noise about not being appreciated by white people? why should we fight for inclusion into institutions created by Caucasians ? Our generation doesn’t want to live out its blackness through white norms.
“EVERBODY likes it raw,” said J.I.D unintendedly eluding to copulation, while answering a question about his new album DiCaprio 2.
J.I.D was speaking in Rosebank, Johannesburg at Universal Music where the listening session of his album was held on Friday night.
J.I.D released the first DiCaprio in 2015. The name of the EP was an ode to his favourite actor Leonardo DiCaprio, because they both had been putting out quality work in their respective fields, but not receiving acknowledgement for it.
“I was like wow, he doesn’t have an Oscar [award] he’s one of the greatest, and he’s putting out quality work. So this time around, I got a record deal, know what I’m sayin’…due to all the hard work I was putting in. I got a deal, he got his Oscar and I’m like this is perfect timing,” J.I.D said.
The rapper whose real name is Destin Route, said there isn’t going be another DiCaprio album, despite his fondness for the Titanic actor. But what has Leonardo DiCaprio said about his name and legacy being celebrated in this manner by a rapper he doesn’t even know? Not much.
The only time Leo found out about J.I.D and his project, was briefly through Q.Tip when the Dreamville artist was at Tip’s house just three weeks ago to play him DiCaprio 2. Q.Tip sent Leo a video of himself and J.I.D, telling the actor about the young rapper and his project. “Leo texts back in 30 seconds ‘oh thanks Ima check it out when it comes out, but fuck that, are you coming to my party?’ he was talking to Q.Tip -he just changed subjects real fast, so I got a few words from Leo, he knows I’m alive,” said J.I.D which had the whole room in amusement.
The trailer of the 14 track album was shown on the night, prior delving into the actual music. It was an intimate setting, with a manageable audience, who had opportunity to ask the J.I.D anything- the rapper even had time to take photos and have a moment with each of his fans after the listening session. The producer of Never, Underwear and some of J.I.D’s bangers, Christo was stationed behind the sound desk, playing each song on the album.
Most of us in the audience had already heard songs like Working Out, 151 Rum and Off Deez, in the months leading up to the release.
Explaining the track 151 Rum, J.I.D said the intro of the song was partly inspired by a doccie on mind control he watched recently “…it’s literally 20 tracks of me, my homies and home girls literally saying stuff that I want you to hear, I don’t know if you can hear it, but it sounds like a crowd chatter. What I learnt through the documentary, is that all that stuff feeds into your psyche.”
At first listen, the album goes in like a thong, with the trademark bass from Atlanta and with enough bop to accommodate J.I.D’s flow. The second track on the album, Slick Talk had everyone in the room at Universal Music in a craze, especially J.I.D’s second verse where he raps: This the type of shit that have niggas in beef, Dat slick talk followed by some stick talk then sleep, Pissed off, I done took my fifth loss this week, Big dog, I can scratch that shit off like flees, I got a lot of shit to say, but I’ma keep my list short, I know a lotta your favourites not gon’fuck with this part, When I’m done, please know that I was trying to diss y’all, ‘Cause if this is competition, then I’m setting this bar, In my city, who’s with me? I’m in my own lane Jack, Nigga said “J.I.D so flame, I propane rap” I’m from East Atlanta like Gucci and Travis Porter, But my story is similar to the hare and the tortoise
As he did before playing any track off the album, he broke down the story behind it. From the audience’s reaction, you would’ve guessed all types of drugs were being freely given out like candy after he explained what Off da Zoinkys is about. Zoinkys represent drugs, whichever your preference. The joint is a sample from a Rick Ross track, 3 Kings Feat. Dr. Dre and Jay-Z.
Y’all niggas need to lay off the drugs, Some of y’all need to lay off the dope, My niggas getting it straight off the boat, Pure cut, put it straight to your nose, I ain’t nosy, but I know what I know, Mr. Know it all, oh here he go I’m the GOAT, I never go with the flow, Throwing shots boy, blow for blow, I’m the nigga that kick the do’ with the dough
There was a brief unfeigned moment of sadness when J.I.D said Mac Miller was the one who arranged Skrawberries, which was produced by J.Cole, with Masego on the horns. The love song features BJ The Chicago Kid and was supposed to have a verse from Mac-after listening to it, I couldn’t resist the thought of Mac’s hoarse voice on the beat. The album has a fair number of features, some which are unexpected. Like Hot Box with Joey Bada$$ and Mehtod Man- you’d swear all three are native New Yorkers in how J.I.D doesn’t spit like a kat from Atlanta.
J.I.D was in the country for a week, spending some time in Cape Town and at the Kruger National Park. He cried immediately after landing from his flight from China. But what stood out was his sense of black pride and his soul’s satisfaction with being on the continent for the first time. “My whole message is about black plight bro, it’s about being a descendent slave…”
“I cry like a little baby bro, facts. Just because it was so beautiful, I didn’t expect this shit to look like this; they don’t teach us this shit in school, they don’t tell us about how beautiful this is, they only give us the negative. I’m not opposed to anything, I’m just super pro black. I fuck with all races, the minorities and the majorities, but at the same time I’m about this shit right here (pointing to his skin).”
DiCaprio 2 officially came out yesterday, a day after J.I.D performed at an event in Joburg, which Masego was supposed to headline too but was stranded in Europe.
I’m one of those people who, whenever I have a new clothing item, I wear it out. Chances are, I’ll be in this new piece whenever you see me. Maybe it’s an addictive personality I have, or I plainly do not have a big enough collection in my closet.
I’m like that with music too.
Whenever I have a strong connection with a song, it never leaves my playlist as my favourite clothes never depart my body. I just liked the Tribe joint on the new Bas album, Milky Way. On the track he features his boss, J.Cole.
It’s this love song, which celebrates their partners, that hasn’t allowed the chance for other tracks on my playlist. The song is my definition of a feel-good Hip Hop joint, the hook is catchy, the beat has sufficient bounce and the rappers are in pocket.
This is Bas’s third album, after his 2016 release Too High to Riot. Singed under Cole’s Dreamville Company, Bas is part of stable of ill new-age emcees led by Cole. He isn’t the best lyricist as J.I.D or Cozz, but Bas can make good music. Feel good music.
The Queens, New York native is in a good place in life and that’s the general feel of the album. It’s celebratory and affectionate. I can’t say there’s great improvement or growth from the previous album. But like his previous work, there are songs with definite replay value. The similarities between the albums is frighteningly palpable.
One of my favourites, Barack Obama Special could fit well on his previous project. The tone of his voice, sounds good on sad, laid back music.
The rapper sounds apprehensive as he has self-introspection on Barack Obama Special, talking about his successes and the challenges he goes through as an artist in the industry, taking care of his family and his boys and all that comes with where he is, in life right now.
His flow is monotonous, which limits him to doing other things with his voice. Also, I get the sense that he’s a bit of a lazy writer or just economical with his bars. But it’s bothersome because you never quite get enough of who he is on his tracks. On Tribe, I think he should’ve spit another verse after Cole.
For a Sudanese young black person, born in Paris, raised in Queens, who was addicted to drugs and now is touring the world from rapping-I expect more colourful stories from him. That’s the growth I felt this album lacked. Gets to a point where it sounds like interlude music. A stronger Bas on the raps and storytelling, could be the equivalent of an Isaiah Rashad.
What Bas did differently in this project though, is his beat selection or just the incorporation of House or up tempo beats on some tracks. Not being a House fan, you can’t begin to imagine my irritation, brought by those few tracks. I was livid when Spaceships + Rockets came on. I thought someone sneaked in and added shit to my playlist. But annoying as it was, I think Moe Monks and MOma+Guy vocals are killer dope.
His choice of features was spot on. Stablemate Ari Lennox on Icarus was just fresh as the air in the early hours of the morning on the song. A$AP Ferg is killing the features this season, he seems to serve his purpose on every track he’s on and does so on Boca Raton.
The album is a good listen, but I will stop frequently jamming it like I do with wearing my newly found clothing item, when it doesn’t excite anymore. But I will definitely go back to it once in a while.
Every living human being has a soul. In each of us, there’s a something viewed as immortal and defining of our character and who we are. Now what I’m curious about, is whether we as society still think white people do not have soul?
All my life, I’ve observed the rhetoric that white people are lacking when it comes to soul. In the arts and even in sport. I grew up understanding that a white soccer player could not have the same rhythm and be pleasing to watch on the field as Doctor Khumalo or Steve Lekoelea. Yes, they played the beautiful game with more than just there’s limbs but also with soul.
The idea of black people being the gatekeepers of soulfulness stems from the 1950s in the US. Because of artists such Aretha Franklin, who recently demised, James Brown and Sam Cook whose music was highly emotive and equally spiritual. Soulful artists have the conviction of Gospel and the suave and agony of Rhythm and Blues. Most of their voices were moulded at a church somewhere. Incorporated with soul-food, you get a vivid idea that soul and black culture go hand-in-hand. Abo darkie are the archetypal of soul. But in the last few years we’ve seen a growing number Caucasians who have soul.
Tom Misch, JFK, Jamie Isaac, Mac Miller and Jordan Rakei- who will be performing at this year’s DSTV Delicious Festival- are talented artists changing the status quo. J.Cole touched on this in his track Fire Squad.
History repeats itself and thats just how it goes
Same way that these rappers always bite each others flows
Same thing that my nigga Elvis did with Rock n Roll
Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and then Macklemore
While silly niggas argue over who gone snatch the crown
Look around my nigga white people have snatched the sound
This year I’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down
Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile
I’m just playin’, but all good jokes contain true shit
These are heavy lyrics by Cole which were misunderstood by the public when the song came out. But it leads one to the question, are white people truly snatching black culture? I believe as black people we don’t mind, when other races immerse themselves in our various and interesting cultures-we’re too sharing to be that petty.
What irks us most, is someone who does not give credit to those who created the culture which they love because it has given them so much. Black people want and need to be acknowledged for the great that they are.
It’s no secret that Elvis Presley was the counterfeit King of Rock ’n’ Roll while the original King was Chuck Berry and that Eminem is a great rapper but his whiteness has been a huge contributor to his success. It’s no problem when someone of Em’s stature gets love and recognition, but it was disappointing when someone who makes gibberish as Macklemore won a Hip Hop Grammy award instead of Kendrick Lamar.
But it was inevitable that things would be like this, since the world is getting smaller and is free of segregation, apartheid and other wack laws which made it difficult for people all over the world to exchange cultures. Should we as black people take offense that other races immerse themselves in black culture? Not at all, we should take pride in it. A case in point is South African music legend Johnny Clegg who made great Mbaqanga music, but could never be compared to one of the gods of the genre Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens. The latter were a collective of a black king and queens who made music for everyone but never, not for one second, lost touch with their blackness. They owned it…and were still cool with Mr Clegg enjoying some of it too.
The likes of RJ Benjamin and Kid Fonque are known for their inclination to music with soul, which people of their own race don’t often appreciate as darkies do. RJ Benjamin has proved time and time again with his albums, production and the people he’s worked with that he’s a soulful kat whose name you wouldn’t find on a line-up, next to Kurt Darren and Steve Hofmeyr. While Kid Fonque’s show alone, on 5FM would sit well on afropolitan radio station Kaya FM because it’s not limited to the generic electro sound that’s synonymous with white fellas and girls. But his House music is soul satisfying, not just focused on burning my calories on the dance floor.
I know black people who’ll say white people can have all the soul they want, including our dance moves, if they give us all their wealth. Fortunately things aren’t that simple. We cannot and should not sell ourselves, instead we should own our culture, share it with the rest of the world whilst finding ways to preserve it so that it doesn’t get gentrified and become something we can barely recognise.