The Listening Magazine Presents #MonthlyMix: February 2014

Monthly Mix 14.02

The #MonthlyMix is back for the first time! The Listening Magazine has put together a mix of the best songs to come out in the past month for the Listeners’ convenience. This month’s mix features Beyonce’s latest smash hit, the latest video release from Justin Bieber, Major Lazer featuring man-of-the-hour Pharrell, popular rock outfit St. Vincent, the return of Kelis, a special gift from De La Soul, and a lot more. #iamLISTENING, are you?

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The Feature: Drake, The Makings Of A Mogul

Drake

For half of a decade, Drake has been a mainstay in regards to the hottest names in the music industry. In a generation loaded with flash-in-the-pan artists, the Toronto-bred emcee’s perennial popularity is an astounding achievement, and a testament to his star power. Drake’s extended period of success has largely been due to the combination of his unique sound, his charisma and connection with his listeners, the establishment of his own brand, and his ventures outside of the music industry. Drake possesses a rare blend of qualities which have made him a household name and provide him the potential to be much more. 2014 will be the year that Drake solidifies his spot amongst the hierarchy of the music industry’s elite. Continue reading

The Rap Up: Week of December 30, 2013

Rap Up

The Week In Music:
Late last week, hip hop artist Doe B. was shot and killed in Alabama at Centennial Hill Bar & Grill. An Alabama native and emcee signed to T.I.’s Hustle Gang label, Doe B. was one of eight people in total who were victims of the gunfire at Centennial (six others were wounded, one other person was killed). This week, Doe (born Glenn Thomas) and his unfortunate killing have made the news once again as a suspect has been arrested after turning himself in, and faces two counts of capital murder. Thomas’ killing is one of several unfortunate incidents of its kind which have occurred in recent times, and serves as a reminder that the hip hop community still has issues that need solutions. Thomas was a mere 22 years old.
For the third week in a row, Beyoncé’s self-titled visual album claimed the top spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart. After releasing an additional video last week, it seems as though the R&B queen has an unstoppable momentum attached to her at the moment. It will be interesting to see how Beyoncé’s latest controversy with NASA over the sampling of The Challenger space shuttle tragedy (which resulted in the deaths of seven astronauts in 1986 and is sampled on “XO” from the new album) will affect her stock in the near future.
Finally, international artist MIA announced that she is no longer involved with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation management. After signing with the management team in mid-2012, her Matangi album was all but shelved until about a month ago. The split comes after a noted rift between the two entities, as MIA has previously alluded to both abandoning her team and needing Kickstarter in the future. It will be interesting to see where the multi-faceted artist’s career goes from here, with her number one dance/electronic album Matangi recently released and her being under new management.

The News:
Justin Timberlake sold the most albums in 2013, while Robin Thicke had the biggest hit
KISS to play first ever outdoor hockey game in LA’s Dodger Stadium
New cryptocurrency named after Kanye West set to launch
Eve and billionaire fashion designer Maximillion Cooper now engaged
New Bruce Springsteen album High Hopes arrives early on Amazon

Alicia Keys and Blackberry no longer partners in business

The Tunes:
Drake – “Trophies”
A$AP Ferg – “Hood Pope” (Video)
Timothy Bloom – “Stand In The Way (Of My Love)”
Nicki Minaj – “Boss A** B****” (Remix) (ft. PTAF)
Vampire Weekend – “Step” Remix (ft. Heems & Despot of Das Racist & Danny Brown)
Audio Push – “Tis The Season” (ft. Joey Bada$$) (Video)
Angel Haze – Dirty Gold (Album)

The Charts:
Hot 100: Eminem – “The Monster” (ft. Rihanna)
Radio: Eminem – “The Monster” (ft. Rihanna)
Digital: Pitbull – “Timber” (ft. Ke$ha)*
200: Beyoncé – Beyoncé
R&B/Hip Hop: Beyoncé – Beyoncé
Rock: Lorde – Pure Heroine
Independent: Garth Brooks – Blame It On My Roots

The Bonus Track:
Meek Mill & 2 Chainz Give Back, Chance The Rapper Gets His

Album Review: The Weeknd – “Echoes Of Silence”

Rhythm and blues sensation The Weeknd has done it again. For the third time in 2011, singer Abel Tesfaye has released a nine track album for free download on the internet. The newest of these albums, titled Echoes Of Silence, is the final installment of the Canadian artist’s “Balloon Trilogy” (Echoes Of Silence was preceded by the projects House Of Balloons and Thursday). The series has made Tesfaye one of the year’s most acclaimed newcomers, and Echoes will only serve to add to his massive buzz.
Echoes Of Silence is filled with content that fans of The Weeknd have grown to expect from him. Tales of drug use, alcohol abuse, sexual escapades, and relationships with women are a few of the themes which Tesfaye chooses to focus his songwriting prowess on. The writer shows that he has not lost a step after crafting two solid projects this year prior to this one. On his last project (Thursday), Tesfaye used his abilities to pen a strong storyline reminiscent of a concept album. The first album of the trilogy (House Of Balloons) showcased Tesfaye’s ability to write memorable, monumental music en route to crafting one of the year’s most impacting records. Echoes showcases the sweet spot which Tesfaye has found with his writing, as he is able to find a balance between the two ends of the spectrum. The writing which made the songs on Balloons so memorable was not up to par on Thursday. On the flipside, Thursday was able to convey a story arc in a better fashion than Balloons did. Tesfaye begins to put it all together on Echoes, creating a few loose story arcs while crafting monumental records that fans will remember.
These vividly detailed stories are told over the simultaneously lush and lo-fi backdrops provided by producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo. The cold keys, pounding 808s and kick drums, strong synths, and reverberations form a very atmospheric sound in which the listener can become engulfed. These productions are a part of a sound which has become extremely popular this year in R&B (largely due to the success and acclaim of House Of Balloons), and provide the perfect framing for the intricate images painted by Tesfaye’s high-pitched, sultry vocals. While Echoes sees the production team creating the atmospheric instrumentals they have become known for, there are some obvious additions to the instrumentation and influences in comparison to the first two projects. McKinney and Illangelo find a way to stretch their sound without compromising it, a tremendous feat in itself. For instance, the opener “D.D.” sees Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” flipped as the production team covers the record while making it their own. Tracks like “Outside” and “Same Old Song” show influence from what seem to be oriental music genres, with the strong use of gongs and other traditionally Asian instruments. The album’s single “Initiation” is a testament to the engineering of the album, as Tesfaye’s altered vocals constantly fluctuate from high pitches to low ones creating a very interesting and distinct sound for the track. “Montreal” is reminiscent of the mellow production heard on a Sade album, while “The Fall” gives producer Clams Casino a chance to put his own twist onto The Weeknd’s sound. Echoes shows new found expansion and variety within the patented sound, which gives fans hope for more innovative work in the future.
Simply put, Echoes Of Silence exemplifies growth. Tesfaye’s writing is maturing and coming together quite nicely, as he is able to tell stories using monumental, memorable records. McKinney and Illangelo have expanded their patented sound, a feat which should not be overlooked. While Tesfaye is the main attraction, the production is just as important to the success of The Weeknd. Any properly executed innovation should be welcomed with open arms, as it increases the ability to keep the music fresh (nobody wants to hear redundant music). While the project doesn’t finish as strongly as it starts, the overall body of work is tremendous and none of these records are bad or skip worthy. Now that the trilogy is over, it will be interesting to see what the next move is for this talented team of people. Whatever that move is, the world is sure to be anticipating it. And rightfully so.

Pros: +Tesfaye’s songwriting skills are coming together nicely
+A new take on a similar sound
+Collaboration with outside entities (Clams Casino)
+Favorites: “D.D.”, “Outside”, “Initiation”, and “Same Old Song”

Lows: –Although none of the songs are bad, the project doesn’t finish as strong as it starts
Dislikes: N/A

Rating: 4.5/5