The Listening Magazine’s Favorite Artists of 2013

Favorite Artists of 2013

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…

Well, this isn’t entirely true. In reality, your parents are somewhere attempting to shatter the world record for the least amount of noise made while wrapping presents. Your younger siblings are probably huddled around the family room television watching The Grinch, waiting to catch the elusive Saint Nick and deliver his snicker doodles alongside his glass of milk. For fear of being annoyed by the young ones, your relatives are poking around every room other than the guest room in search of nothing in particular. And you? Well, you could’ve been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with us. And we appreciate that. To show you how thankful we are, The Listening presents our list of our favorite artists of the year 2013. Whether you are looking for your latest music fix, grasping for midnight-hour stocking stuffer ideas, or biding your time until the gifts are unwrapped, we’ve got you covered.

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The Rap Up: Week of June 11, 2012

This Week In Music:
The line up for the annual Lollapalooza Festival was announced this week. Set to take place in Grant Park, Illinois from August 3-5, this year’s festival will be headlined by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Black Keys, Black Sabbath, and Jack White. Other acts include The Weeknd, Passion Pit, Frank Ocean, Wale, Florence & The Machine, Justice, J. Cole, Santigold, Childish Gambino, and many more. Lollapalooza is celebrating 20 years of successful festivals, and hope to make this year’s show the best yet.
In more controversial news, Chris Brown and Drake were apparently involved in an altercation at a night club in New York. The artists and their entourages were both in different areas of the V.I.P. section of the club. Although there are several accounts of what caused the disruption, many speculate that it was rooted in the pre-existing tension between the two artists concerning their relationships with pop singer Rihanna. The two entourages came to blows, with bottles even being thrown amongst the groups. Considerable damage was done to the club, and a handful of people were left with serious injuries (not including the gash on Brown’s chin). No arrests were made at the scene, as neither artist was present when police responded to an emergency call.
This week also saw several noteworthy releases. R&B singer Frank Ocean released “Pyramids”, which is apparently the first offering from his new project channel ORANGE. Alternative band Passion Pit drop their sophomore album’s second single, “I’ll Be Alright”. Singer Usher also released his heavily-anticipated seventh album, Looking 4 Myself. Also, Brooklyn emcee Joey Bada$$’s long-awaited mixtape 1999 came out to widespread internet acclaim. Rounding off the week, Kansas rapper XV released Popular Culture, his latest project.

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The Genesis of “Exodus”: The History Between Lil Wayne & Pusha T

What’s beef? Apparently, beef is when emcees address one another through subliminal disses and indiscreet tweets. For those who have been paying attention to hip hop news lately, rappers Lil Wayne and Pusha T have officially heated up the summer by sparking the latest case of rap beef. Each of the artists has released songs aimed at the other in the past, and it seems as though a large-scaled back and forth is on the horizon. However, the beef itself is nothing new. The issues between the two artists, while never becoming a headline, have existed for several years now. Seeing as though a lyrical battle is sure to ensue, it’s appropriate that The Listening Magazine takes you back in time to detail the origins of Lil Wayne versus Pusha T.
The history between Lil Wayne and Pusha T was not always filled with tension between the two artists. In fact, the artists and their affiliates worked together on multiple occasions. In 2002, Pusha T and his brother Malice (known collectively as Clipse) released their debut studio album Lord Willin’ on the Star Trak record label. The lead single from that album, “Grindin’”, became a hit and was the song that allowed the group to break through into the mainstream. Fans of the Clipse’s first album know that the remix of this classic record features none other than Lil Wayne and Cash Money counterpart Birdman. In the same year, Birdman (then known as Baby the #1 Stunna) released his debut album as a solo artist. The Clipse were featured on “What Happened To That Boy”, one of the album’s singles. At this point in time, it seemed as though both camps supported one another thoroughly and were on good terms.
Now fast forward to 2006. Lil Wayne is the self-proclaimed “best rapper alive” and Clipse are gearing up to release their long-awaited and oft-delayed sophomore album Hell Hath No Fury. At this time in his career, Wayne began to shift his style in terms of his music and his image. One of these changes was the addition of BAPE, a clothing line which the Clipse (as well as producer Pharrell Williams) were infamous for wearing, to his wardrobe. Wayne can be seen wearing BAPE apparrel on the cover of Vibe Magazine, as well as in his video for “Hustler Musik”. Coincidentally (or maybe not so much), the first single from Hell Hath No Fury was titled “Mr. Me Too” and was centered on people who copy the styles of others. In an interview with Complex Magazine, Wayne stated that he felt the Clipse single was about him and proceeded to attack the group and their affiliates. This marked the beginning of the tension between the two parties.
In the next couple years, the Clipse would go on to talk about the beef in interviews with radio stations and publications to express their views. This expression later found its way onto records. On the Re-Up Gang‘s We Got It For Cheap Volume 3 (2008), Pusha rapped “Lil’ nigga flows, but his metaphors boring, don’t make me turn daddy’s little girl to orphan, that would mean I’d have to kill Baby like abortion”. At this juncture, the group had clearly thrown shots at Wayne and Cash Money Records. However, with the Cash Money label experiencing tremendous amounts of success, the shots went largely unanswered and the Clipse went on to eventually disown the beef entirely.
In 2011, the issues between the two artists began to bubble back to the surface once again. While Pusha T went as far as to congratulate Wayne on being freed after his prison stint in Riker’s Island, he took issue with Wayne’s protégé, Drake. As quiet as it’s kept, Drake has thrown some subliminal shots of his own towards people close to Pusha. The Canadian emcee hinted in an interview that Kanye West and Jay-Z‘s Watch The Throne album was a concept that Wayne and he came up with first. Also, Drake rapped “the throne is for the taking” on DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One”, possibly referring to Kanye and Jay. Now a member of Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label, Pusha has appeared to respond with countless subliminal shots in a myriad of tracks he’s released since 2011 (including “Don’t F**k With Me”, in which Pusha raps “the swag don’t match the sweaters”). An admitted Clipse fan, Drake has yet to engage with Pusha to this point.
Pusha’s most recent subliminal attack came this week is in the form of “Exodus 23:1”, which is supposedly a single from his upcoming G.O.O.D. Music debut. The song features lyrics, some more specifically catered than others, which are directed at the Young Money conglomerate (including Drake and affiliate The Weeknd). Appearing to be fed up with Pusha’s attacks, Lil Wayne tweeted “F*k Pusha T and anybody that love em” from his @LilTunechi account on Thursday. The tweet would eventually become the opening line in “Goulish”, a song aimed at the younger half of the Clipse. Malice, Pusha’s partner in rhyme, tweeted that he was unconcerned about anyone that had problems with his younger brother. Likewise, Pusha’s label mate Kid Cudi tweeted that he loved Pusha T, and welcomed any oncoming controversy.
With the storied beef between Lil Wayne and Pusha T approaching its presumed climax, there are several questions hip hop fans are anxious to have answered. Will Pusha respond to Wayne’s attack? Will Drake engage in the confrontation? With affiliated parties involving themselves, will this become Young Money versus G.O.O.D. Music? Or will the beef simply die out on a whimper? Whatever the case, this feud is sure to have fans on the edges of their seats in anticipation of what is to come. From the looks of it, it’s going to be a cruel summer…

The Rap Up: Week of February 13, 2012

Weee’re baaack! This week in music:
Iconic vocalist Whitney Houston passed away on Saturday, February 11th at the age of 48. CNN reported that the famed singer was found dead by her bodyguard in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Houston’s passing came as a complete shock to the world, and comes on the heels of the deaths of African-American music icons Etta James and Don Cornelius. Houston sold over 170 million albums and singles over the span of her career, and touched the lives of countless fans around the world. With her passing on the eve of the Grammy Awards, it was expected that the show would be altered in order to honor the fallen legend.
The 54th Annual Grammy Awards took place on Sunday, February 12 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The awards were hosted by LL Cool J, marking the show’s first official host in seven years. The show featured performances from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Chris Brown, and Jennifer Hudson. The biggest winners of the night included Adele (6)., Foo Fighters (5), and Kanye West (4). Tributes were given for fallen icons Whitney Houston and Etta James, both of whom had passed away within the last month.

News:
First pictures of Jay-Z & Beyonce’s daughter Blue Ivy hit the internet
Bonnaroo Festival releases its lineup for 2012
Nicki Minaj, Mary J. Blige set to perform for NBA All-Star Game
Cee-Lo announces the return of Goodie Mob; new solo effort
Common ends lyrical feud with Drake

Releases:
V-Day releases from Raheem DeVaughn, Usher, Damian Marley, Yelawolf, etc.
Nicki Minaj releases new single “Starships” from her forthcoming album
Former White Stripes front man Jack White drops video for his solo album’s lead single
Chris Brown releases self-directed video for new lead single “Turn The Music Up”
Childish Gambino gives CAMP’s second single, “Heartbeat”, the visual treatment

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…