I can personally say that my fascination with modern art with an emphasis on 80’s art comes from a more formal, classroom introduction to modern art. As of late though, I have noticed that I am not the only one with an interest in this era of art. This curiosity can especially be found in urban culture.
Ranging from references to Basquiat on the “Watch the Throne” album to Swizz Beats teaming up with Reebok to create a line inspired by Basquiat. You can watch a video of Swizz art shopping below.
Uh, Picasso was alive he woulda made her
That’s right nigga Mona Lisa can’t fade her
I mean Marilyn Monroe, she’s quite nice
But why all the pretty icons always all white?
Put some colored girls in the MoMA
(for a more detailed list of Basquiat references, you can check this VERY well down list but complex.com here)
But where did all this come from?! Here’s my theory: The musicians that are now making the music we listen to grew up in the 80’s at the height of street art in NY. So what they are doing now is glorifying their heroes. The same way they recently put 90’s Nick shows back on TV because the kids that watching those shows are now in their 20’s, these musicians are bringing back the influences that raised them.
All of this makes me incredibly happy because it is a great example that the heroes of OUR generation draw from a diverse group for inspiration. They are not these one dimensional figures. It also shows that hip-hop/music are not the only things that come from the street but it also brings us this beautiful art that now in the realm of artistic academia. You can conclude the same thing with hip-hop. Originally music critics thought that the genre of hip-hop was just a phase and wouldn’t last but now these hip-hop pioneers are being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
May this be a trend that continues.
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.
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.
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.
So I wanted to try something cool an integrate two worlds that don’t meet enough. Fine art and hip-hop. How you ever thought about what it would be like if your favorite rapper was a painter? It’s ok, I already thought about it for you. Now I am not a modern art expert but I do have a strong general kowledge. Here is it:
Kanye West=Jean-Michel Basquiat
Its an obvious correlation. They are both genius. Both grew up in middle class homes. And both rejected the notion of traditional education. The most striking similarity is how both express their creativity in previously unknown ways i.e. Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak (2009). They are constantly being pressured to be creative and there is sometimes lack of acceptance and certainly the potential for Kanye to collapse under his genius. This is percisely what happened to Basquiat. Truly a gift and a curse.
Frank Ocean=Marcel Duchamp
Its not quite as easy for me to explain this one but Duchamp invented the concept of ready-mades, which is him making ordinary objects in art like an upside down urenal and bicycle wheel. Yes this is real. Frank has essentially done the same thing by taking pure human emotion and making it into art. He has illuminated the idea of being human (humanity) as beautiful.
Nude Deceasing a Staircase
The obvious connection is that both are the godfather’s of their respective realm. Kanye West & Pharrell Williams look to this guy as a mentor and they are each sold millions upon millions of records. While Cezanne of course mentored artist like Picasso & Matisse. Also Cezanne was an impressionist which, by definition, is someone who depicts life as it is. Jay-Z is the same way. His songs are about his life and the struggle of growing up in the projects in Brooklyn and now that he’s rich we get songs like “Niggaz in Paris”. Get it how you live…
The Card Players
to be continued…
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.
Have you ever gone to a show just because a friend invited and you had no idea what you were seeing? But then you realize that you may have stumbled upon a jewel?
This very thing happened to me multiple times. My accidental discoveries include J. Cole, Matt & Kim, Wale, The Foreign Exchange and most recently Tokimonsta. I can’t even imagine my life without these artist.
Tokimonsta, for those who don’t know, is a southern Cali girl turned bomb DJ. And boy does she put on a show. Let’s just say I’d put my money on her before I would on Skrillex…yeah I said it!
She has expanded on her beauty and put skill behind it. She uses tracks ranging from Kanye West to the Weeknd to D’Angelo to Erykah Badu to create her mixes. Talk about variety.
What makes her so special is that she is genuinely good at what she does. There is no gimmick attracting people to her shows. There is no Tokimonsta bandwagon (though I wouldn’t mind personally starting it and yes I am taking shots a someone). The people patronizing her shows have recognized true talent. It takes major skill to get up there and match tempos, beats, bpm’s and smoothly blend/match songs together.
It gets better. Most importantly she uses loads of underground artist in her mixes. You are more likely to hear A$AP Rocky than Chris Brown in her tracks. She puts shine on artist who don’t have the backing of major labels for promotion. And then her original material….more visceral than pop. More hallucinogenic and natural than electronic.
There are certain things in life that make your heart beat and her music is one of them.
(you can take a listen here) Toki Sounds
From one BAB to another, I am truly proud. #teamtoki