There’s nothing worse than watching your favourite artist, slowly edge away from the music you once fell in love with, only to become another cardboard cut-out of every other fame-chasing, self-indulged industry puppet looking to make a name for themselves. But to what extent does signing to a major label really impact on this transition? Continue reading
At a time when a ridiculous number of dance crazes are sweeping across our airwaves and popular music is, once again, being invaded by the second coming of boybands, there’s often the need to seriously question the state of UK music. However, very occasionally an artist comes along which changes everything and provides hope that good music and art will eventually prevail; enter CAS… Continue reading
September 2012: Grime Round-Up
Welcome to the September 2012 monthly Grime Round-up, the place where you can catch up on all of the biggest happenings in the grime scene over the previous few weeks.
There have been plenty of new tracks, mixtapes, rumours and gossip over the past month, so we’ll start at the top of the month. In early September, we were greeted with Wiley‘s ‘Can You Hear Me’, the follow-up to his number one hit ‘Heatwave’.
In a bold, but commendable move, he invited Boy Better Know brothers Skepta and JME to feature on this infectious new single Granted, the track isn’t as grimey as some might have hoped but, nonetheless, with three grime veterans featured, it can only be a good thing, right?
And on the subject of Wiley, September also saw the Godfather of Grime finally receive some acknowledgement from friend (turned foe) Dizzee Rascal. Wiley has, on multiple occasions, quite publicly attempted to contact Dizzee since their falling out in the mid noughties, with both sides sending out indirect – and some more blatant - jabs at each other over the last seven years.
However, after his recent chart success, it seems like Dizzee may be slightly warming to the idea of conversing with his former pal. Wiley sent out a Tweet on September 13th that read “Big up Dizzee Rascal.” Subsequently, a fan goaded Dizzee to express his thoughts on the Tweet. Admittedly, it’s hardly a dinner date. But hopefully the pair can finally resolve their issues and head back to the studio to do what we know they can do best: Grime!
Towards the end of the month, some very exciting Lord of the Mics info began to be released – with artists such as Blay, Hecki, Drifter, Pressure, M.I.K, and even Lord of the Mics’ frontman, Jammer, all heating up Hype Sessions and sending for their respective opponents. Meanwhile, Family Tree’s Kozzie and Merky Ace began a heated Twitter row over seemingly nothing, ending with both MCs calling to be matched up in the dungeon at Lord of the Mics 4.
It’s not yet clear whether this is all hot air, but a Kozzie vs. Merky Ace battle would certainly make for an interesting watch, wouldn’t it? Other September highlights include Maxsta’s sick new follow-up single to ‘I Wanna Rock’ — the gully sounding ‘Pop Off’ — as well as Royal T’s sublime new 13-track grime masterpiece, ‘Rinse Presents: Royal T’; an absolute must-have for any grime fan in 2012.
via MTV Wrap Up
Today marks one year since the death of one of the most iconic artists in recent memory; Amy Winehouse. After a night of drinking, the ‘Rehab’ star was found dead at her Camden home on July 23 of last year. Prior to her passing, Amy finally looked settled and ready to get her life back on track after a rather turbulent period in her personal life. Despite successfully managing to get herself clean from drugs, it was alcohol poisoning which ultimately led to her tragic death at the tender age of just 27…
A year on from her passing and her warm presence can still be felt. With the release of her posthumous album ‘Lioness: Hidden Treasures’ at the back end of last year, her music has continued to frequently appear in the charts, radio playlists and feature on music channels across the world. Recently appearing on ‘Cherry Wine’ — a cut from the new album of good friend and collaborator, Nas – Amy’s vocals were a true reminder of what an amazing talent she really was.
For a career which spawned a mere two albums, she managed to achieve a considerable amount more than many artists would dream of conquering in a lifetime. Selling millions of records (with an added 1.7 million sold since her passing), touring the world over and winning over the hearts and minds of all whom came in contact with her and her music; she certainly managed to come a long way from her humble beginnings in the smoke-filled clubs of Camden, that’s for sure.
Following her death, the singer’s family have sought to set up the Amy Winehouse Foundation in her memory. The foundation has been working hard over the past ten months to support charitable activities in the UK and abroad which help provide support and care for young people who find themselves at a disadvantage financially, through ill health or suffering from an addiction. Almost a year since its formation and the foundation has managed to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities to receive the crucial financial backing they so desperately need. A positive and generous way of keeping her name alive, wouldn’t you agree?
With rumours of an Amy Winehouse hologram in the works, a heap of unreleased music and a back catalogue of timeless hits, it’s safe to say that the memory and voice of Amy Winehouse will not be forgotten any time soon.
Purchase ‘Lioness: Hidden Treasures’ from iTunes here.
To find out more information on the Amy Winehouse Foundation and all of the work they’re involved with click here.
Radio is a vital platform in order for artists to have their music heard and, ultimately, to maximise sales. However, in the ever-changing arena that is the modern music industry – and the array of new avenues of which people choose to go down to listen to and consume new music; is gaining support from mainstream radio really the be all and end all? Continue reading
* A piece I wrote for much-loved Grime blog, Dreamers Row.
via Dreamers Row:
Will a UK MC Ever Fully Translate To An American Audience?
As we begin to move past the abundance of US influenced, low budget ‘ballers’ of the Channel U days and mark our own presence on the global music scene, it’s only right we take a deep look in the mirror and ask ourselves; will a UK MC ever fully crossover in the US?
Firstly, to be clear, by ‘crossover’ I don’t mean sell a million units of a Euro-pop record featuring a sample from a repetitive 80s classic and a hook from an A&R’s latest lab project. I’m talking gaining true respect for your artistry from a significant audience (hold tight, Justin Bieber)
So, what about the need for a formula in today’s unpredictable US market? I mean, I understand the whole “I’ve got to cater for (relevant audience) on my first single to sell the album” argument, but when you’re 6 tracks deep and you’re seriously questioning the true nationality of a British artist on their US debut; something is wrong, very wrong. And then, of course, there’s the “I’m opening doors so it will be easier for those who follow in my footsteps” argument. Yes…well, sorry to break it to you, but Slick Rick received 5 Mics from The Source in ’88; the door isn’t just open, there’s a key under the mat and a sledgehammer in the letterbox just in case.
I don’t know about you, but I think we’re taking these Americans a bit too seriously, aren’t we? I mean, all of these complex strategies, marketing dollars and campaigns, and we still can’t seem to find a young British MC to keep those execs content for a year or two. We’re trying too hard. Afterall, we speak the same language, don’t we? We enjoy the same taste on a lot of levels, right? So where are we going wrong? Isn’t it that we’re just trying too hard to impress that cool, older kid at school – you know, the one with the chain an a bit more dough? I think so.
In every aspect of homegrown British music, the US has always looked to us as the trend-setters; whether it be The Beatles, Mike Skinner or North London’s very own, Adele – the US accepts our music and culture as it is – when it’s not trying too hard to fit in, or being adapted to cater for a market which no longer exists, dreamt up by an out of touch marketing exec. Real emotion and passion resonates with everyone (apart from the 717 million people who watched Justin Bieber’s, ‘Baby’ on YouTube. This is a real figure, try not to weep.)
Now, I understand that to many people reading this, it may come across a tad too critical coming from another bedroom-dwelling blogger putting the world to rights over Dominos pizza and late-night TV. And they’d be totally right. But fuck them; I’m making a point here.
So where does it all go wrong – is it the artist going for gold? The intimidation of being a fish out of water in the US, or simply lack of willingness? We’re often too quick to jump on the heels of the artist that signs a deal and is suddenly claiming, “You can’t put my sound in a box, I don’t believe in genres.” But there’s pressure on the MC as soon as they take their first sip of that sweet Champagne provided by the label to ensure that signature is printed exactly where it should be. All of a sudden, this is a career, and they’re constantly being hounded to find that ‘international sound’ (see Flo-Rida). So seeing there’s such an enlightenment of becoming a professional here at home, being in the US is sure to have a much larger impact upon the way the artist views their own ‘sound.’ However, fitting in with what I previously mentioned, why does there always have to be a target demographic to cater for? Especially as the supposed consumer isn’t gauged accurately, nor accounted for correctly when the industry falsely analyses the habits of the modern-day music consumer. We (yes, I’m speaking for you too) want content day and night, for FREE and we’ll still complain – so are we to blame? Hell no.
Although we (the UK) are behind in many ways, we’re also at an advantage creatively. The entire entertainment industry in the US has been built up over decades, and with that, comes a solid corporate infrastructure which, in turn, culls the freedom of creativity. So with the introduction of social media and the game-changing impact it’s had on almost every aspect of the business, the traditional structure — which is still in place via corporations and institutions throughout the US — is faced with fierce opposition. They are currently in the process of having to unlearn and re-think the age-old methods of finding, creating and selling new music, as are all of us. However, back here in the UK, we were always somewhat behind, and a similar infrastructure was never fully established, leaving us misrepresented on many levels, but in the industry’s negligence, there was also freedom to do as we pleased. So when the new wave of social media hit the UK, we took full advantage and embraced it as a platform, as there really wasn’t many other opportunities or avenues to go down to be heard (other than pirate radio); this allowed us to perfect our own, pure sound (forgetting the hordes of 21st century boy/girl bands and whatnot, of course.) Now, you’re probably thinking “What does this have to do with how well a UK MC is going to do in America?” Well, my point is: UK MCs shouldn’t get caught up in the same bewilderment as corporate America; we know what good music is, don’t let suits dictate your creative pursuits.
Is there any hope? Well, I’d say so. As the world stage points the spotlight away from the latest 2-step dance craze of the moment – and the hipsters collectively shed light on, erm…let me get back to you on that – there’s a window of opportunity that greets the MC bold enough to simply be themselves. The more we chase the proverbial dollar, the more we alienate.
It’s a common occurrence which has been seen over and over again, and if we’re honest, we’ve probably all participated in it once or twice, too; an artist starts to buzz, everyone is hailing them as ‘the next big thing’, their début album is released to critical acclaim, and then…the Sophomore album is released with a multi-million £ campaign, international features, the lot. And then? The people switch. The next thing you hear is “[artist] has sold out!”, “[artist]‘s not like they used to be,” and so on. Ringing any bells? I should hope so.
So, the main questions which surround the debate are: is it us, the public, which aren’t pleased when an artist isn’t fresh out of the box? Or is it that once an artist reaches a level of comfort and success, they’re unable to make their music with the same hunger as when they were on the come up? Let’s discuss…
Naturally, there are major changes within an artist’s lifestyle when they taste mainstream success – whether it be financially, mentally or the strain on their personal relationships – their lives are inevitably altered. And with that, seeing that they are creative individuals, the way in which they approach or portray their life through music is likely to be much different, right?
Granted, none of this is new – music has been highly profitable for decades and some of the best albums were released prior to the artist making them becoming successful. Take Bob Marley for example: Exodus, his ninth studio album, is widely regarded as his best album by many critics – proving that sustaining commercial success, whilst staying true to your artistry is (or was) possible. However, Bob Marley may be a rare exception, and the industry was a thoroughly different arena back then, but Bob certainly stands as a prime example for which to observe commercial success in line with artistic merit.
To bring it back to the present day, who else has consistently walked the tight rope of selling well, but remaining critically-acclaimed? One artist springs to mind: Jay Z. With more consecutive US No. 1′s than Elvis, millions of album’s sold and still being able to remain relevant to a core hip hop audience, Jay is a prime example of an artist which has played the game perfectly.
So, where have some artists gone right, where many have failed? Well…the most important factor is possibly creative control; Jay-Z came into the industry on his own terms. After being unable to secure a record deal, it was himself, Dame Dash and Kareem Burke whom took it upon themselves to form Rocafella records and put out their material themselves. And with that freedom, came a lot of control over how their artistic vision was executed. These early beginnings set the foundation for a career which would be sustained to the present day (and arguably laid a solid blueprint for many to follow, not to mention birthing one of the greatest hip hop albums ever made), so is having full ownership and creative control where many opt not to ‘sell out’?
From a UK perspective, looking at the likes of Dizzee Rascal, for example. Here you have an artist whom released his debut album, Boy In Da Corner, to critical-acclaim of both the streets and the industry (whilst signed to a label), and then went on to form his own successful label of his own (Dirtee Stank). However, it was at this point – where full creative control was at his disposal – that he chose to make music which many of his original, core supporters may have disliked. Leading many to scream ‘sell out!’, but surely this is an artist being real to themselves and making the music they want to make? I mean, there can’t be much in the way of external pressure to compromise the vision, so the argument that an artist solely alters their music through pressure from management, labels and whatnot seem to contradict this argument, surely?
What are your thoughts? Let me know..