Bridging the gap between the fine and the less refined

Posts tagged “hip hop

UPDATED Kanye West x Picasso: “808’s and Heartbreaks”/Blue Period Comparison

“Woman With Crossed Arms”

We all have moments in life when things begin to look grim. Most of us, thankfully, find a way to handle these taxing situations. Some people drink, others buy a pet or a new car. There are certain individuals that choose to turn this negative energy into something creative. This can be said of artist such as Kanye West and Picasso. Both men were able to transform their sorrow into art and this shared motivation is what links them. Most specifically in 2008, Kanye West released “808′s & Heartbreak” to mixed reviews. These reviews spawned from West’s use of a tool called “auto-tune” to alter his voice to be more melodic. The album has dominant themes of sadness, heartbreak and vanity. It is grounded on these dynamics that Kanye West’s album can be connected to Picasso’s Blue Period (1901-1904).

The connection exist through emotion. The entire “808′s” album is full of West mourning the loss of his love and recovering from the damage she inflicted as well as the torment of the death of his mother. In regards to Picasso, he was mourning the death of a friend, which is why his color palette changed. So due to the traumatic experiences that had recently occurred in their lives, both artist were changing their palettes. In the case of West he was using darker chords and Auto-Tune instead of more up-tempo tunes. Picasso’s color palette was Cezannian and fauvism inspired, meaning that it was colorful and drastically changed to a palette where the majority of the colors are variations of blue.

During a conversation with NJ-based artist, Luca Molnar, she 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 instability which hindered them from creating in their usual manner. For example Kanye West recorded his album in Hawaii, instead of on the mainland as he is accustomed to, because that was the only place he could find peace*.

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 actual 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)

The connection extends beyond this to how 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. Similarly, West on his next album, which was 2010′s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, has music videos that use red as the central color i.e. “Runaway” and “All of the Lights”, has a George Condo album artwork that features a vivid, fauvist inspired red background and also 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.

*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?.

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George Condo x Kanye West

Existence is recognition. Things do not exist until they are observed.”-Jack Kerouac

Image

Many hip-hop fans have seen George Condo’s works on Kanye West’s 2010 release “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Together Kanye West and George Condo are branded a new era of pop art for Generation-Y.

Condo’s style could be branded as surrealism or cubism or heavily grounded in the classical tradition but does this all mean that it is something entirely new instead? The human mind is able to process things by using the connections they have already established, in this case it is recognized artistic movements. So even for an art connoisseur who is accustomed to ushering in new waves, the idea of something entirely new is hard to digest because we haven’t developed the artistic enzymes to do so. Therefore I may say that it has elements of this and that and indeed his work may have some already familiar components, but understand George Condo is ushering in a new wave of fine art which is really the less “refined”. (All of which will be saved for a later discussion)

How is George Condo surrealistic? If you look at how Condo uses space in his portraits of his “podular” beings, there is a very jarring contrast between the background and the foreground. This subject, being this very non-human creature, is portrayed in a very human fashion. This allows the viewer to better grasp this entirely new species. All of these creatures possessing extremely exaggerated features including swollen cheeks, extra mouths and very large ears and noses. This all being SUR-real as in above or beyond real. George Condo has observed a new world and a new species in his mind and has brought that thought out into this world. And now it is indeed real to us all too.

The very controversial cover of Kanye West’s album follows along within the realm of Condo’s SURreal work. It was banned by Target for its “suggestive” subject matter. Condo said this in reference to the issue,

The superimposition of people’s perceptions on a cartoon is shocking. What’s happening in their minds should be banned. Not the painting.-George Condo

Trill.

I can understand why Mr. West teamed up with Condo. These two men have made an art of vocalizing, through music and fine art respectively, the treasures in their own vaults. They both share the talent of making what it real to only them in their minds, real to the other 3 billion of us.

But if you ask me, he stole that iconic coral for the “MBDTF” cover from Matisse. They say though that good artist borrow but the best artist steal.

Further Reading (or actually viewing): “Condo Painting” currently streaming on Netflix.


Video

J. Cole-“Sideline Story”

FINALLY the visuals to my favorite song. As was mentioned in a previous post, you can find an in depth explanation for the lyrics here.

Enjoy!


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.


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.


Match-Up: NostalgiaULTRA x So Far Gone

They both sing (one more so than the other). Both are signed to major labels. Both are highly regarded in their own respective realms but Drake and Frank Ocean are two very different individuals.

But this is not about each artist. This is about their mixtapes.

For starters Frank Ocean’s 2011 release, “NostalgiaULTRA“, and Drake’s 2009 release, “So Far Gone”, were each the catalyst that catapulted each musician to relative prominence. Frank had previously released a 64-song mixtape and Drake had several projects before “So Far Gone” but there was something special about these ventures that was different.

I went into detail about “So Far Gone” in a previous post.  Here.

What made each mixtape flourish is a similarity between the two. Each mixtape was within the avant-garde of that time. Before “So Far Gone” rappers weren’t singing their torribles away through sincere compositions that were almost monologue-like. The entire NostalgiaULTRA work is Frank Ocean’s most inner feelings on what it is like to be young, alone and heart broken in Southern California. See Frank Ocean’s American Wedding. Each artist seems so mortal, so human, so vulnerable which allowed listeners to really connect to something more basic. Hurt & struggle.

People being able to recognize the beauty in both of these works allows them to recognize the beauty in their own humanity.

The level of youth in both works is immense. These are works that could have only been created by kids under 23. Because they talk about the pressures of being young and in the industry and finding your place within it all and yet being able to maintain a normal life. Both have a particularly hard time doing it. Both are incredibly emotional unstable but they have both recognized it and are trying to improve themselves. See Houstatlantavegas.

SAMPLES. Sweet Baby Jesus.

It is wasn’t the innate authenticity that made these mixtapes then it was the diverse samples. From Frank Ocean, he used the Eagles, Coldplay and MGMT. From Drake, we can hear Santogold, The Isley Brothers and Lykke Li. They each brought in artist who are largely unknown to the typical hip-hop crowd.

There are differences:

Drake is hip-hop quite simply but don’t you dare call Frank Ocean R&B to his face. He’d probably bite your finger off. Frank has made it a point to say that he is not R&B. And if you listen to NostalgiaULTRA you might agree with his assertion. Listen to Strawberry Swing (which features a Coldplay sample) and one might think he’s soft rock. Listen to Novacane and one might think he’s a singing version of Jimi Hendrix. He’s pretty much everywhere. He bends genres not to say that Drake doesn’t. The guy did bring “good singing” to rap.

Finally and quite simply NostalgiaULTRA was just Frank. No features. Nothing. Just Frank singing and drinking his sorrows away. And exposing his humanity for the world to sympathize with and understand and connect to. So Far Gone was polluted with features which is cool but it can hold you back from reaching your deepest emotional depths.

Lastly NostalgiaULTRA gave me a sense of hope that So Far Gone did not. Drake exposed the problems of youth and living too fast but didn’t state a solution to it. Frankie did that. Listen to We All Try. (it’s okay to cry by the way)

I still believe in man. A wise one asked me why. Because I don’t believe we’re wicked.  I know that we sin but I do believe we try.- Frank Ocean

So when it comes down to it. Frank Ocean wins this bout. I’m so proud of you, Frank.

Check this BBC interview here. (the picture below is also him)