The Rap Up: Week of January 23, 2012

We might be two days late, but not two dollars short. This week in music:
Madonna has been named as the headliner for the upcoming NFL Super Bowl on February 5th. The iconic pop star will perform at halftime when the surging New York Giants match up against the perennial powerhouse New England Patriots. Madonna has recruited a host of fellow musicians to perform alongside her, including Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., and Cee-Lo Green. Madonna also has several tricks up her sleeve, which have intentionally been kept under wraps. Those who like surprises should feel inclined to tune into what is sure to be one of the more exciting halftime shows in recent memory.
In other news, Rihanna has become the first female artist to reach two billion views on music video website VEVO. With numerous hit records such as “Man Down”, “Rude Boy”, and “What’s My Name”, the female pop sensation has experienced a huge amount of internet and digital success in addition to her success on the airways. Considering the fact that the music industry is moving into a more digital environment, Rihanna’s achievements are remarkable and should be applauded.
Finally, rap super group Slaughterhouse has announced a release date and title for their sophomore studio album. The LP, entitled Welcome to: Our House, will be released on May 15th. The album will be the group’s first since signing with Shady Records in early 2011, and it will be executively produced by label founder Eminem. In order to promote for the album, the skilled lyrical conglomerate will embark on a two month tour. The tour will begin in March and end in May prior to the release of the album. Now that they are being backed by Eminem and the Shady Records brand, it will be exciting to see what the group can do in a mainstream spotlight.

News:
D’Angelo performs for the first time in 12 years
Stones Throw Records reveals the Stones Throw Digital Discography
Kid Cudi releases track listing for upcoming WZRD album

Releases:
Bruce Springsteen releases “We Take Care Of Our Own”, single from Wrecking Ball
Up-and-coming songstress Elle Varner releases Conversational Lush mixtape
Rock duo Sleigh Bells drops a video for their new single “Comeback Kids”
NY emcee Saigon releases the third installment of his Warning Shots mixtape series
Mixtapes: Chip Tha Ripper, Young Buck, Emilio Rojas, Rockie Fresh, Lyriciss
Wichita rapper XV drops a video for “Batteries”, his Trae the Truth-assisted single
New artist Yuna releases the Pharrell-produced single from her forthcoming album

The Rap Up: January 20, 2012

This week in music:
If you visited sites such as Wikipedia or Google on Wednesday, you noticed the protests of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The proposed act (which was scheduled to be voted upon next week) would essentially give the U.S. Attorney General the power to cut ad dollars and search engine indexing while censoring the internet tremendously in the process. Seeing as the internet is a huge part of the music industry today, it is imperative that we are all knowledgeable on the subject and fight to protect our first amendment right to freedom of speech. The protest was tremendously successful, as it seemingly swayed many House voters into opposition of the bill and postponed the voting process.
Legendary songstress Etta James passed away Friday morning at the age of 73. The sultry blues vocalist died of complications due to leukemia, which she was diagnosed with in 2010. Known most for her song “At Last”, she will be remembered along with the countless others who we have lost recently. Kings Of Leon drummer Nathan Followill commented, “RIP Etta James, one of the greatest voices of all time,” a sentiment we can all agree with. James was survived by her husband and two sons, who were at her bedside when she passed.
The Paid Dues Independent Hip Hop Festival announced its lineup of artists for 2012 on Thursday. Hosted by LA artist MURS, the seventh annual Paid Dues festival will take place on April 7th at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA. The show will be headlined by the legendary group Wu-Tang Clan, who will be joined by other teeming groups such as Odd Future, Living Legends, Hieroglyphics, and Dipset. Also among the fray are Kendrick Lamar and DJ Quik. This year’s show is stacked and should live up to the quality we have come to expect from the festival.

News:
Brandy and Monica announce the release date of their new duet “It All Belongs To Me”
The Mars Volta announces new album, Nocturniquet, to be released March 27th
Odd Future announces March 20th release date for debut album
Barack Obama shouts out Janelle Monae during speech; calls her “incredibly talented”
Kid Cudi and Dot Da Genius push back WZRD album to February 28th

Releases:
Santigold drops “Big Mouth”, lead single from her Master Of My Make Believer album
Estelle releases a video for “Thank You”, a single from her forthcoming All Of Me album
Dizzee Rascal reissues his 2003 Mercury Prize award-winning debut Boy In Da Corner
De La Soul returns without Maseo to release new music as duo First Serve
Compton emcee Schoolboy Q releases his debut album Habits & Contradictions
K’Naan enlists Nas‘ help for the lead single from his More Beautiful Than Silence EP
Big K.R.I.T. drops a collaboration with 8Ball & MJG; gives release date for 4evaNaDay
Theophilus London drops “Last Night (LVRS Anthem)”, single for Lovers Holiday II
North Carolina female emcee Rapsody releases “ABC” music video

Vignettes: Favorite Acts Of 2011

As we look back on the controversy-riddled year that was 2011, there is one thing we should all be able to agree on: it was a great year for music. Fans have been given an astounding amount of good music from the year’s outset, and that fact is sure to put a smile on the face of any listener. With that being said, we would like to give our two cents on our favorite acts of a year which has seen talented artists such as Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino, and Adele make huge waves in the industry. Here are The Listening Magazine’s favorite acts of the year.

As is to be expected, Kanye West has been a huge force in music in the past year. West released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to critical acclaim in late 2010. As is the case with most fourth quarter releases, Dark Twisted Fantasy’s true value was recognized in the year following its release. The levels of quality and replayability remain high for the album, and the sound influenced a large amount of subsequent projects. Also, West’s collaboration with hip hop mogul Jay-Z entitled Watch The Throne has made a tremendous impact on music this year. While the project is not a grand opus for either artist, Watch The Throne is an enjoyable, adventurous album which provides touches of socioeconomic commentary while simultaneously bringing the essential element of fun back to rapping. Hell, whenever you can perform a song nine times in a row at a sold outStaplesCenter and have fans going crazy each time, you’re doing something right.

Mississippiemcee Big K.R.I.T. has proven that 2010 was no fluke. Following his rise to fame last year (which included the release of a critically acclaimed free album and a contract with Def Jam), K.R.I.T. went on to do more great things in 2011. He began the year by being named one of the freshmen of the year by XXL Magazine, a title which is coveted heavily by up and coming rap artists. He went on to release Return Of 4Eva, another free album to follow up his 2010 effort K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Return Of 4Eva was arguably met with more acclaim than Wuz Here, ending up on the year-end lists of several notable publications. If 2011 was any indication, K.R.I.T. will continue to make outstanding music for many years to come, shattering southern rap stereotypes in the process.

K.R.I.T.’s fellow XXL freshman class member Kendrick Lamar is the voice of Generation Y. The Compton, California emcee released one of the best albums of the year this summer in Section 80, a project which speaks heavily on many of the socioeconomic issues plaguing those of use growing up in the internet age. Beyond his astounding lyrical abilities, what makes Kendrick special is his message. Section 80 has a highly political context, and tells stories which resonate with listeners from all walks of life. This makes Kendrick’s music relatable to a very wide audience, which will hopefully allow his message to spread even further in years to come.

2011 is also the year we fell in love with J*DaVeY, a Los Angeles music duo consisting of vocalist Jack Davey and producer Brook D’Leau. While the tandem has not had a large amount of mainstream success, they have a highly supportive fan base which has grown substantially in 2011. After being unable to release a project in 2010, the duo released the Evil Christian Cop: The Great Mistapes EP in early 2011 to much critical acclaim. The EP showed a distinct growth in the genre-bending sound of the group, and sparked a summer tour which included bookings around the country and internationally. Tapping into the strength which is their dynamic live performances, the pair used this tour to promote their long-awaited debut studio album New Designer Drug. The oft-delayed album was finally released in November to largely favorable reviews. With the monkey finally off of their backs, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for J*DaVeY.

Another act which was a highlight of the summer is rock band Elevator Fight. The band is based inPhiladelphia and is led by vocalist Zoë Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet. The group consists of Kravitz and band mates Joe Baldacci (drums), Dominic Angelella (guitar), Khari Mateen (guitar), Nick Bockrath (guitar), and Rick Friedrich (keys). They have been together since 2009, releasing songs here and there and performing at several notable festivals such as The Roots Picnic and South By Southwest. The group’s sound is lo-fi and psychedelic, and while they have yet to release an actual project, the live shows serve as a tremendously energetic showcase for the music. From first hand experience, it is very captivating to see the small songstress tossing back beer as she leads the group in a raging performance. That moment grabs a hold of you effortlessly.

Detroitemcee Danny Brown is another up-and-coming artist who has made great strides in 2011. After signing to label Fool’s Gold, Brown dropped one of the best releases of the year with his free album XXX. In commemoration of turning 30 years old, the project showcases Brown’s free-flowing lyricism and eccentric delivery. Everything about his style is highly unique and original, which gives him huge potential for success in the industry. Brown is also associated with producers (the most notable being Black Milk, with whom he released an EP this year) that provide back drops which fit his style perfectly. Brown has traveled a rough path for numerous years, and it is satisfying to see his recent success in the music business.

Last, but certainly not least, The Weeknd has crash landed onto the scene and made a huge impact on the industry. Singer Abel Tesfaye released a trilogy of free albums (House Of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes Of Silence) that have made his rise to stardom one of the fastest in recent memory. Tesfaye, along with producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo, has created a distinctly lush and atmospheric sound that is influencing the R&B genre before our eyes. The strong songwriting, atmospheric soundscapes, and detailed story arcs give The Weeknd the total package and provide an excellent experience for listeners. It seems as though Tesfaye is poised for tremendous success in the near future, with plans to re-release the “Balloon Trilogy” in a re-mastered retail form during the coming year.

We at The Listening Magazine have thoroughly enjoyed the music brought to us during the year 2011, and are extremely excited for what 2012 has to offer. We will surely be listening…