Danny Brown

WILDFLOWERS AND AVALANCHES
July 12, 2016 2:48 pm

When Jay-Z and Kanye credited Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield as featured artists on Watch The Throne tracks that their original songs were sampled on, it was a surprising move. Once Robin Thicke lost his case against Marvin Gaye’s estate, nobody knew whether to celebrate Thicke getting some semblance of cosmic retribution for being Robin Thicke, or be upset about the implications this decision had about sampling music going forward. It’s lead to a string of artists attributing pre-emptive credits, either as a hat tip to another artist for influencing them, or simply as a way to avoid a lawsuit altogether. Needless to say, sampling music is the hardest it’s ever been. So how could a group like The Avalanches be expected to thrive in such a climate?

As a group who became an integral part to implementing some much needed structure into the style of Plunderphonics, The Avalanches unearthed so much previously unactualized beauty in creating a cohesive song built solely around borrowed seconds from a myriad of others. While militaristic shouting over sloppily looped guitars and Casey Kasem swearing repeatedly certainly makes for an interesting listen, there’s not much deeper substance in what was happening here.

These early works of John Oswald and Negativland were rough drafts to an idea that became more robust with The Avalanches providing a fresher set of eyes. Hip-Hop undoubtedly played a huge part in this. Just listen to The Avalanches REAL first release, El Producto. They try being the Beastie Boys, and… it’s not their finest work.

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After their failed foray as straight-up rappers, Since I Left You harnessed the genre’s production style being able to create this infrastructure as a means to assist rappers in creating these timeless melodies through sampling. The Avalanches simply took it one step further by completely by passing the rapper idea altogether.

But considering the steep prices of royalties and the newfound hoops producers are using to have them jump through, it seemed as though a followup to The Avalanches’ classic 2000 release, Since I Left You, would either be impossible to pull off, or a diluted facsimile to what listeners initially fell in love with.

Thankfully, it took less than 45 seconds of listening to “Because I’m Me” to see that this will not be a problem. Because in addition to the beautiful jubilance radiating from each trumpet blast and guitar riff, they also wisely recruited rap duo Camp Lo to contribute verses on the track, a recurring new element to help differentiate Wildflower from its long shadow casting predecessor.

Each artist is utilized in a way perfectly befitted to their skillet. Danny Brown and MF Doom (another plunderphonics pioneer) go hogwild on the album’s lead single “Frankie Sinatra.” Biz Markie makes such a weird and irreverent idea work so well on “The Noisy Eater,” a song that rivals “Fronteir Psychiatrist” in its beautifully arranged oddball comedy. And Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi contributes a more reserved charm to “If I Was A Folkstar.”  

Not only does “Folkstar” mark Wildflower’s most charmingly somber moment, it’s evidence to show how much the indie world has embraced Hip-Hop and sampling culture since The Avalanches gave us Since I Left You nearly two decades ago. Artists like Chaz, Bradford Cox and the entire Animal Collective contingent have thrived by digging for something new to loop.

Everybody’s caught up to what The Avalanches did so well all those years ago. But the way Wildflower is able to span all the subgenres that have sprouted up since then speaks to how adept they are at being able to navigate each and every new road. Although “Folksinger” is the most blatant example of this, the beautiful “Sunshine” shows this pivot in a subtler light when they elongate her holding onto the ‘iiiii’ note when singing the word “Sunshine” to a degree that would be right at home on a Tim & Eric sketch. But instead of it being some repetitive gag, it gets used as another layer that is used to sing over and it’s absolutely perfect.

THE PHILANTHROPIC POETRY OF NAS
June 30, 2016 1:26 pm

Who’s World is This? (The World is Yours The World is Yours) It’s Mine It’s Mine It’s Mine, Who’s World is This?

This year, the world clearly belongs to Nas. Everyone else is just living in it.

Nasir Jones–better known by his stage name Nas–is consistently ranked among the top rappers of all time. He’s been spitting bricks about social justice for minorities and growing up in the Queensbridge housing projects since he dropped his 1994 Illmatic, an essential hip-hop classic. Since then seven of his records have been certified platinum–he is an undisputed master, an urban poet laureate.

Even Harvard University can’t deny his profound impact on culture.

In 2013, Nas forged a partnership with the Ivy League School, thus establishing the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship with the broad intention of funding scholars and artists who demonstrate exceptional creative ability in the arts, in connection with Hip Hop. Now I know what your thinking–Harvard?! But hip-hop is less than 50 years old, has introduced sampling to the general collective conscious, and has been a key factor in not only enabling people of all backgrounds to think critically about society, but also acting as a tool for minorities to offer a strong sense of community and an expression of life through the eyes of the silenced. The Hip Hop Archive & Research Institute and the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute will utilize the fellowship to bring in hip hop talent, fund projects, and allow the next generation of underprivileged poets to reach the pinnacle of academic achievement. It doesn’t stop there. In addition to helping pave the way for the next generation of hip-hop talent, Nas also wants to shake up the white and male-dominated tech sphere.

Nas isn’t alone in his assertion that Silicon Vally doesn’t have a diverse enough workplace–especially when you factor in that California is also one of the most diverse states in the country. Even Google admitted they needed to work on diversity when they released this report a few years ago. Then in 2014, the Internet services giant, along with Nas and software mainstay Microsoft, began collaboratively funding an initiative by The General Assembly (GA). The New York-based vocational program specializes in providing scholarships to underrepresented African Americans, Latinos and women that want to persuit a career in software engineering and web design. Pretty cool stuff Nas.

If you’re still unimpressed, Nas isn’t done giving back quite yet either. Nas will be hosting a free music festival for you New Yorkers this summer! In collaboration with his own Mass Appeal Magazine, Live At The BBQ will feature Ty Dolla $ign, DJ Shadow, Danny Brown, and Machine Gun Kelly.