How a small D.C. record label became a hotbed of modern Ethiopian sounds


“In its first two years, D.C.-based record label 1432 R has stood out for its ethos and its ear, but also for a more curious reason. Even though 1432 R takes its name from a District street address, its catalogue is dominated by music from more than 7,000 miles away — Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Launched in summer 2014, 1432 R has released nine records, almost all featuring Addis Ababa-based producers Mikael Seifu and Endeguena Mulu; one is by Ethiopian American co-founder Dawit Eklund. Their music seamlessly brings together house music grooves, the stutter of U.K. garage, an uneasy electronic ambience, and — perhaps most notably — Ethiopian folk music.”

Read more in the Washington Post.

The pure and joyous uplift of Chance the Rapper


“He’s only 23, but Chance the Rapper has already outgrown his moniker. After breaking through with his instant-classic “Acid Rap” mix tape in 2013, Chance dabbled in band-leading on last year’s “Surf,” an album credited to collaborators Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment. But it is “Coloring Book,” a mix tape he released in May, on which Chance has found his true — or at least next — calling: spiritual leader of a gospel-rap revival.”

Read more in the Washington Post.

Danny Brown hits a vicious new high on his psychedelic cocaine saga Atrocity Exhibition


“When Danny Brown announced the title of his fourth album, Atrocity Exhibition, commentators were quick to connect the dots to two other works with the same name: the opening track of Joy Division’s 1980 album Closer and J.G. Ballard’s surreal 1970 story collection. While Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition has a touch of the Burroughs-esque stream-of-consciousness and non-linearity which Ballard experimented with in his book, the Joy Division song is more instructive.

Brown finds an analogue with Ian Curtis, who sang obliquely of his mental turmoil on ‘Atrocity Exhibition’: “Asylums with doors open wide / Where people had paid to see inside / For entertainment they watch his body twist / Behind his eyes he says, ‘I still exist.’” The song finds Curtis both encouraging and castigating audiences who saw him as a sideshow, echoed decades later in Brown’s experience of being framed as rap’s hedonist-in-chief: some of Joy Division’s audience were gawking at Curtis’ epileptic fits in the same way that Brown’s fans have fetishized his drug use and abuse.”

Read more at FACT Magazine.

Farm Aid weaves blues-country-rock tapestry at Jiffy Lube


“There were plenty of paper cowboys in attendance on Saturday — people donning the hats, boots and denim of country-western dress-up — but most were good ol’ boys (and girls) dressed for a moderate September day, lounging in a sea of captain’s chairs and picnic blankets. Most opted for T-shirts dedicated to musicians, college sports and the American flag, but there was also a smattering of political messages, befitting the final stretch of the 2016 election: a Donald Trump shirt here, a Bernie Sanders shirt there, and even a few Ronald Reagan shirts.

But by wearing a Reagan shirt to Farm Aid, one is perhaps missing the point. The concert was born of the farm crisis that accelerated during the Reagan years; weeks after the first Farm Aid, Neil Young took out a full-page ad in USA Today that asked the president, “Will the family farm in America die as a result of your administration?”

That kind of disconnect was an undercurrent of the festival. Concertgoers sang along to John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” and rocked out to Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” but did they understand that those songs are sarcastic critiques about the death of the American dream, not rah-rah anthems about patriotism? When Young told the crowd that Farm Aid is a “revolution” wherein we “let the Earth bring us all together,” were they getting the message? Environmentally, perhaps not — at least judging by the empty beer cans and cigarette butts that littered the lawn.”

Read more in the Washington Post.

Atlanta: How Donald Glover got his groove back with rap’s first “sadcom”


“We are in the era of Peak TV. In 2015, a staggering 419 scripted shows aired on television and streaming services (that number is expected to go up by the end of 2016), and amid all the zombies and thrones and scandals and strange things, there are now even a few shows about hip-hop…

These shows have so far either relied on soap opera tropes (Empire) or stylized nostalgia (The Get Down looks back to the late 70s; The Breaks to the early ‘90s). Missing, until now, was a show that says something about the contemporary moment in both hip-hop and society at-large, and one that fits nicely alongside the best of what Peak TV has to offer.

FX’s Atlanta is that show. Created and starring Donald Glover, who moonlights as rapper Childish Gambino, the series follows the struggles of Earnest “Earn” Marks (Glover) as he manages the rap career of his cousin Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry) in the titular city, while simultaneously trying to raise his daughter and woo her mother Vanessa (Zazie Beetz). More than its logline, Atlanta is the type of comedy-drama (or “sadcom”) that is elevating the art of television.”

Read more at FACT Magazine.

Can Sofar Sounds Bring Intimacy Back to Live Music?


No matter how transcendent a concert at 9:30 Club, Rock & Roll Hotel, or U Street Music Hall, the live music experience is plagued by the same distractions: overtalking conversationalists, smart phone documentarians, boisterous drink-orderers. But while this may feel like another problem with the New D.C., it’s probably universal. “No matter if you’re in Jakarta, Melbourne, or Chicago, it’s the same issues,” Rafe Offer concurs. “Live music has become background noise.”

Read more in the Washington City Paper.

Springsteen at Nationals Park: Could there be anything more American?


“On Thursday night at Nationals Park, a brief storm had passed, leaving the sky a deep burnt umber. A few thousand people covered the outfield, with tens of thousands more in the stands, a home run away from the stage. And just before 8 o’clock, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band opened their set with “New York City Serenade.” The Boss playing a baseball stadium in the last days of summer: Could there be anything more American?”

Read more in the Washington Post.