Bridging the gap between the fine and the less refined

Archive for March, 2012

Hip-Hop at Music Festivals


As the weather starts to heat up, the US music festival season commences. This list is extensive and includes music goers staples like southern California’s Coachella, Tennessee’s Bonnarooo, New York’s Summer Stage and of course Austin’s SXSW.

As of late though, the has been a wave of change amongst the population of performers. In recent years the number of urban acts at these music festivals have increased threefold. These festivals which used to be preserved for your typical indy-rock band are not inviting acts like Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean to their roster.

But to be honest it is not really that far of a jump. While most people would find it difficult to understand what The Weeknd and Bon Iver have in common, besides the fact that they are both slated to perform at this year’s Coachella in Indio, CA, but they both began with a self-built fan base. Neither had the power of a major record label to push them out into the public but rather they worked solely on word-of-mouth and footwork. So instead of having guitars like Bon Iver, The Weeknd had a turntable.

Anyone noticing my reoccurring theme of linking seemingly distinct things together? good.

And fans are really eating this up! I mean they must be if the festival producers keep giving these acts a set. 

It really speaks volumes of the direction that music of the youth is currently taking. There is a strong push in the direction of eliminating genre boundaries because at the end of the day, music is music. For example if you ask Frank Ocean, he considers himself bluegrass. Who even knows what The Weeknd or Bon Iver are. Or Santigold for that matter and Kanye West does even want to be hip-hop. 

So the moral to the story is this: buy your tickets, skip work/class and I’ll meet you in space for the first interplanetary jam session.

Rock on!



Why Hip-Hop Needs: N.E.R.D.

So you know Pharrell Williams but not N.E.R.D.? You’re joking. It’s okay though because I’m here to help you out.

N.E.R.D. stands for No one ever really dies. The group is composed of Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley. They got together in 2001 blah blah blah….enough history. Time for the meat of the matter.

SO why does hip-hop need N.E.R.D.? Well if you have to ask then you must’ve not ever heard their music before.

I find them to be the bridge between hip-hop, rock and afro-punk. (yes afro-punk is real, there’s even a festival every year in NYC to celebrate it). Pharrell and Chad are known to most people in the hip-hop realm as the Neptunes. Two of the most respected producers currently active. These guys are essentially production geniuses. So what N.E.R.D. does for them is to provide an alternative outlet that is just THEIR music. It is not music that they are making for other artist but rather it is purely their artistry and the fact that they choose to express themselves in this manner versus any other way, i.e. gangsta rap, funk, soul music, speaks volumes.

Hip-hop needs them because they add diversity to the genre that few people are managing to be as successfully. Certainly they are more successful, sales wise at least, when they produce verses making their own music but its not about monetary success. It’s about self-expression and they are doing it freely and only because it is what they want to do.

Hip-hop is full of artist who are doing things because they believe it will bring them monetary success. And what they are doing may not necessarily be what is truly inside them to do. But in the case of N.E.R.D., I have faith that they are only creating this type of music on their volition. Hip-hop needs more artist like this. People who are doing what they want to do because they want to do it and for that reason alone.

The diversity aspect is also incredibly important because without diversity, hip-hop will no longer be dynamic and simply deflate. We need artist that balance everything out.

It’s that simple.

So if you haven’t listened before, you can check their website here. FYI “Seeing Sounds” is my favorite album of theirs. Cra-zay production.

Talk about a good time. Get excited about your life.

Kanye West x Picasso: 808’s & Heartbreak x Blue Period Comparison

“Woman With Crossed Arms” -Pablo Picasso

UPDATE: Read the updated post here!



Due to the positive response of previous hip-hop/modern art post, I am continuing with a more in depth comparison.

While trying to precisely connect musician with painter, many things came to mind ranging from Janelle Monae to Cee-Lo Green and finally to Kanye West. Kanye West is a great candidate for artistic comparison because he is more in touch with his spiritual side than many other rappers. And it is the spirit that usually inspires artist. My original plan was to connect his 30-minute “Runaway” film to Picasso’s rose period. This being because both ooze the color red. But Picasso’s rose period was not quite as rosey as I expected. When I then thought of Picasso’s blue period, I immediately knew that this was equivalent to Kanye West’s 2008 “808’s & Heartbreak” album.

Upon listening to the album, I honestly see the images Kanye describes in black-and-white, as if his lost love took away the “color” from his life. It is not as simple as saying that Kanye West feels “blue” on this album thus it’s like Picasso’s blue period. The end. No! Incorrect! It is a bit more complex than that.

It is connected through emotion. The entire “808’s” album is full of Kanye mourning the loss of his love and recovering from the damage she inflicted (she must feel really bad about herself right now) as well as the death of his mother. And in the case of Picasso, he was mourning the death of a friend, which is why his color palette changed. In a way both artist were changing their palettes. In the case of Kanye he was using darker beats and Auto-Tune instead of more up-tempo tunes. Picasso’s color palette was Cezannian and fauvism inspired, meaning that it was colorful to a palette where the majority of the colors are variations of blue.

Is it starting to come together?

My conversation with NJ-based artist, Luca Molnar, brought to my attention how these bodies of work were also created out of artist who were forced to create in unknown ways due to their emotion unstability hindering from creating in their usual manner. For example Kanye West recorded his album in Hawaii because that was the only place he could find peace.


TANGENT ALERT: If you read the previous post where I correlate Kanye West to my favorite painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, you will know what I have already established as the connecting threads. Another one is that Kanye found solace in Hawaii. The same can be said about Basquiat. It has been said that Hawaii was the only place where he did not use drugs. Interesante, aye?.

back to our regularly scheduled programming>>>>>

Luca was also able to connect “Heartless” with Picasso’s “Woman with Crossed Arms”. She mentioned that it was more than the center of both pieces being a woman but rather it is the sentiment that connects them. They both embody a feeling of sadness but “Heartless” is primarily about actually heartbreak and is more animated (literally and figuratively) while “Woman With Crossed Arms” personifies a more general sense of sadness and depression that is underlying in “Heartless”

(In the video he even literally turns blue. His wardrobe on the onset features a brightly color sweater but by the end of the video his attire changes to a monochromatic palette of silvers and gray. While the women are all depicted in vivid colors)

It even connects as the artist evolved out of this stage. After this 2-3 year blue period, Picasso immediately moves into his rose period where red is the dominant color. The exact same thing happens to Kanye. His next album was 2010’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” which, as I previously stated, not only has music videos that use red as the central color but the sound of the album is a deep rouge.

Go listen and see what color you visualize the sound of the album to be?

In all, these are both the kings of their respective realm. So next time you hear Kanye’s music, make sure you see it too.


Kanye West “Power” from “Runaway Film”

Art in motion and in sound

Claw Money Millionaires

As of late, I can honestly admit that I have neglected my passion for graffiti and so now es la hora to nurture it! And it’s a woman.

Girl power. Shout of to the Spice Girls.

Claw Money. You never heard of it, aye?

Claudia Gold is a Queens born graffiti artist who is now based out of LA. And let me tell you, she is a very special lady indeed. Back in the 80’s and 90’s (when few people had yet taken the time to understand graffiti as an art form) Claudia was bombing walls, trains and buses with her now iconic claw.

Through a serious of events, Claudia began moving her action from the streets to the fashion house. Now she is without a doubt, one of the most influential female designers in the urban realm.

And it is truly the “claw” that personifies her clothing line. The claw symbolizes a fierceness and the unsurrendering, relentless nature of who Claudia Gold, and all women for that matter, is.

Get it? CLAU…dia, CLAW. Nifty, huh?


Women are particularly attracted to this because who doesn’t want to be known as powerful, passionate and even ferocious? That was rhetorical….

You will see moderations of the claw ranging from how it is pictured here as a candle to brass knuckles to ice cream cones. Subtly dangerous.

According to the Claw Money website, the likes of MIA, Santigold, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna have been known to sport the line.

What struck me most about Claudia was a tweet she posted in the recent past saying, “Pay me in paint”. This gesture is paying homage to her roots which is graffiti. I can respect a woman who never forgets.

I will continue to wear my brass knuckle claw earrings proudly!

Why Hip-Hop needs: The Cool Kids

This is the first part of the “Why Hip-Hop Needs” Series. This will features elements that hip-hop needs to stay the dynamic genre that it currently is.

So to begin, I’ll start with something that is near and dear to my heart, The Cool Kids.

A brief history: Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks, the former being from Detriot and the latter from Chicago, linked up and released the first album “The Bake Sale” in 2008. Then, due to a contract gone wrong, had to wait until 2011 when they released their second album “When Fish Ride Bicycles” independently. Straight up, these guys are dope.

But getting to the point, why are they important?

Well remember back to the golden age of hip-hop when kids where still skipping school and breakdancing on the subways? With boomboxes listening to Rakim? Well this is the feeling that these guys replicate. Chuck and Mikey are literally like the cool kids in school (pun intended) that would make beats in their basements afterschool and would DJ all the house parties. This is exactly what hip-hop needs right now.

Rappers are starting to get too serious and we, the consumers, need something that doesn’t talk about dealing drugs and fuckin’ bitches (i.e. 90% of rappers from Atlanta). But rather just two young guys having clean fun…well maybe with certain herbal substances.

Whether people don’t want to admit it or don’t release it, these guys were precursors to Odd Future. This is especially true in their spirit of youthfulness. Just some kids having fun (everyone just has different types of fun but I digress).

I appreciate them. In fact I have seen them three times and even met them when I was 17. Check out their “Black Mags” video from back in the day.

Peace and love.

The Resurgence of Versace in Hip-Hop

I told myself that I would try and stay away from the style aspect of hip-hop but there is something on that needs to be recognized. Also this is the best time to do it since the 15th anniversary of the death of the Notorious B.I.G. (who I can faithfully credit for bringing Versace into hip-hop. Donatella herself even acknowledged this) is coming up this week. The resurgence of Versace in hip-hop. Now I’m not talking about simple, classic Versace suits. NO that would be too easy. I’m talking about rappers wearing those Tony Montana inspired brightly colored, patterned silk shirts. I have also seen more and more musicians wearing the designers sunglasses too.

Now I must admit that when I saw their line with H&M, I was incredibly turned off.

Tacky is not even the word.

But it is truly their classic pieces that have been Versace’s salvation. Let’s look at who did it best.

It all started with Biggie in 1996 in the “Hypnotize” video. Frankly this man made it cool for big guys to rock the brand. An obvious descendent of this trend is Rick Ross. I would post a picture of this within the post but it is too obscene you can see for yourself here or watch the “I’m On One” video here.


(from left to right) Don C, Drake, Tyga

Now this guy is probably my favorite when it comes to who wore it best.

In terms of sunglasses Big Sean definitely wins. I have seen both Tyga and Soulja Boy in recent videos wearing Versace sunglasses. Check the “Rack City” video here.

I like the idea. Versace is a premier Italian fashion house and the fact that these rappers recognize this and are, in a way, paying homage to their Versace wearing forefather is beautiful. Respect.

Don’t call it a comeback.

*** did a great (fuller) history of Versace in hip-hop. Take a look.