Tag Archives: FACT

How Kingdom turned “happy accidents” into ecstatic collaborations on Tears In The Club

Tears in the Club is – if anything – an evocative album title. Are those tears of joy, an outpouring of emotion in a safe space; a state of ecstasy, chemically assisted or not? Or are they tears of pain, when that safe space becomes violent and dangerous, or when those substances turn our body chemistry sour? That duality has long been key to Kingdom’s music, where pneumatic beats and metallic synths coalesce into icy soundscapes shattered by sultry R&B vocals. Depending on his mood, he’s been able to push his tracks either towards agony or ecstasy: hearing ‘Stalker Ha’ at the peak hour is a drastically darker experience than hearing the Kelela-assisted ‘Bank Head’.”

Read more at FACT Magazine.

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.

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.

Meet Alexandria and Ethereal, the Aaliyah and Timbaland of Atlanta’s Awful Records


“I’ve been trying to interview Alexandria and Ethereal since coming across Rebirth while researching Awful Records in the fall of 2014. But scheduling Skype time when the pair are working in the studio proved difficult – it made more sense to do the interview when we were all in Atlanta.

I met them at a quaint bungalow on a tree-lined street in a quiet, residential area of Atlanta’s East Lake neighborhood. Along with Ethereal and Alexandria, the house is home to Awful founder Father and “Awful Madre” Dash Romero (“Everybody else camps out,” Ethereal adds). It’s the latest in a long line of Awful group houses, and it’s exactly what you’d expect: cluttered and unkempt like a frat house, a handful of people come and go and weights and Chick-fil-A bags are scattered about. It’s the type of place that hosts house parties on weekends, but as the unofficial headquarters of Awful, it’s also where some of the best rap and R&B is made. We head to Ethereal’s bedroom studio to finally get Alexandria’s story.”

Read more at FACT Magazine.

Sinjin Hawke and Zora Jones on Fractal Fantasy, “utopian futures” and working with Kanye


“If you look at all the greatest artistic and technical achievements in the world, they’re usually driven by one mind,” says Sinjin Hawke. “With Zora [Jones] and I, we have a dual-mind – we’re almost the same person.”

That “dual-mind” was in full effect when I spoke with Hawke and Jones via Skype from their Barcelona home, especially since they often finish each other’s sentences. But even though the co-founders of Fractal Fantasy – the creative platform that houses their audio-visual work – are romantic partners in addition to creative ones, it’s not a rom-com cliché. It’s more like a never-ending relay race of information – a race that has taken them from mashing-up their club constructions with film snippets to launching an interactive audio-visual platform to (in Hawke’s case) collaborating on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. When I mention a clutch of Hawke’s bootlegs that surfaced in 2011, the pair laugh at how long ago that was. “A lot has happened since then,” says Hawke, who doesn’t feel like five years have passed. “But when I look back at how much stuff has been done, it makes sense.”

Read more at FACT Magazine.

YG steps up his rap game and steps out of the shadow of DJ Mustard on the ferocious Still Brazy


“On June 12, 2015, YG was shot in the hip at a Los Angeles recording studio. The injury was not life-threatening; he was treated and released on June 13. Hard at work on what would become Still Brazy, YG hit the studio and recorded ‘Who Shot Me’ later that day. The story is a familiar one for rap fans, immediately bringing to mind the November 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur at Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan, the incident that spawned Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Who Shot Ya’ and Shakur’s ‘Hit ‘Em Up’.

But while those songs added fuel to the fire of the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry, YG isn’t waging war against other rappers or an entire coast. He’s turned his focus inward to tell the next episode of his story: If YG’s My Krazy Life is the chronicle of a day-in-the-life of a Compton gangbanger, Still Brazy is its aftermath (no pun intended). The album is also the latest evolution of the man that, in terms of staying true to a traditional West Coast sound, has defined this decade of California rap more than anyone – even Kendrick Lamar.”

Read more at FACT Magazine.

Clams Casino hits jackpot: The cloud-rap creator on Mortal Kombat and copycat producers


After a few quiet years, Clams Casino is returning with his grandest artistic statement yet. The producer born Michael Volpe emerged at the turn of the decade, producing breakthrough tracks for Lil B, A$AP Rocky and Main Attrakionz, and his lo-fi style – with its moody melodies, faraway vocal samples, and massive, in-the-red drums – came to define the sound known as “cloud rap” and make him an underground star in his own right. His trio of Instrumentals mixtapes remain required listening for fans of hip-hop, electronic music and all points in between, and he’s gone on to produce tracks for The Weeknd, FKA twigs, Vince Staples and other. But those collaborations have been increasingly rare recently, with his output seemingly limited to a handful of songs per year.

Thankfully, it was worth the wait. On July 15, Clams Casino will release 32 Levels, his debut album and first proper body of work since 2011’s Rainforest EP. The record (which takes its title from seminal Clams-produced Lil B track ‘I’m God’) charts his development from crafter of mixtape cuts to producer on major labels’ speed-dials. As Lil B collaborations give way to songs with singers like Kelela and Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring, the album tells the story of Clams’ creative growth. This is very much by design. “The sequence of it is really important to me, and that’s the only way it really works,” he says via Skype from his New Jersey home. “With the range of music and the different types of artists – the whole scope of it is so wide – it needs to be organized in a certain way.”

Read more at FACT Magazine.

Ariana Grande and Fifth Harmony take Scandinavia’s mighty pop empires into battle


“Max Martin needs no introduction. The 45-year-old Swede has maintained an iron grip on the pop charts since the turn of the century, churning out everything from ‘…Baby One More Time’ and ‘I Want It That Way’ to ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘Can’t Feel My Face’. His songs are saturated with hooks, combining the catchiest parts of Swedish dance-pop, arena rock, ‘90s R&B and millennial electronic music to define the sound of modern pop.

But Martin is not the only Scandinavian hitmaker ruling the charts from behind the scenes: for the last decade, Norwegian production duo Stargate has had dozens of top 10 singles, working from a similar formula as Martin but forging songs more apt for R&B-influenced singers like Rihanna, Ne-yo and Beyoncé. In the last few years you’ve heard Martin’s productions – think the hits of Taylor Swift’s 1989 – on the radio, in commercials and in stadiums; you’re more likely to hear Stargate’s work – including Tinashe’s ‘All Hands On Deck’ and Ty Dolla $ign’s ‘Drop That Kitty’ – in the club. And their different production styles are all over Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman and Fifth Harmony’s 7/27, albums that tell us plenty about both acts – and the state of pop music in 2016.”

Read more in FACT Magazine.

Chance The Rapper is on an ultralight beam on the gospel-influenced Coloring Book


“On Kanye West’s ‘Ultralight Beam’, Chance The Rapper boasts, “I made ‘Sunday Candy’, I’m never going to hell / I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail.” The lyric and the song set the tone for Chance’s first solo project since his 2013 breakthrough Acid Rap, Coloring Book, a mixtape that focuses the rap-meets-gospel aspirations of The Life of Pablo into a ray of sunshine that illuminates concerns both worldly and heavenly.

On last year’s Surf, Chance subsumed himself into the Social Experiment, trying his best to step out of the spotlight, highlight his collaborators and be a bandleader. It was a pleasant experiment, but those hoping for a proper follow-up to Acid Rap were probably disappointed; Surf belongs to the collective, not Chance.

Thankfully, even as he’s brought in more collaborators than ever, balancing legendary (Kanye, Lil Wayne), contemporary (Future, Jeremih) and compatriot (Towkio, Saba, his cousin Nicole) without losing focus. His voice and personality are so strong that even when Justin Bieber does a bridge and Jay Electronica drops a verse, both are treated like NBD afterthoughts. There is no doubt that Coloring Book is Chance’s record.”

Read more in FACT Magazine.

Lemonade: The hidden meanings buried in Beyoncé’s filmic journey through grief


“If Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled album was the proof-of-concept for the “surprise visual album”, then Lemonade is its apex. That last effort felt like an anthology of music videos. Not Lemonade, premiered in full on HBO on Saturday night. A sophisticated hour-long art film that uses movements and motifs, not just tracks on an album, its breadth and depth see it surpass similar pop soundtrack films like Kanye West’s Runaway and Lana Del Rey’s Tropico, which now seem quaint in comparison. Lemonade is in a league of its own.

It’s a hero’s journey through grief. If her self-titled album was micro – a personal exploration of feminism, career and self – then Lemonade is macro – an exploration of those themes across time and place. And while the album is stunning on its own, it’s in visual form that Lemonade truly comes to life.”

Read more at FACT Magazine.