Yesterday, BYT released its Fall Music Guide, your musical Bible for the next few months, aggregated by some of DC’s best music critics including DC Music Download’s crew, Chris Naoum of Listen Local First, BYT’s finest writers, and even me. Read it here, and since it’s 13,000 words and has a lot of stuff, I’ll keep this week’s column erring on the side of brevity.
Quick housecleaning stuff though:
– follow the Tunes You Should Know In 2014 playlist on Spotify
– start reading The Daily Banter if you don’t already because knowledge is power
– follow me on Twitter so I can charge more when doing freelancing gigs (social media networks are apparently also power)
- Diamond District – “First Step” and “Lost Cause”
I wrote about Diamond District for said Fall Music Guide, but they need to be included everywhere they can.
For those unaware, in 2009, this trio comprised of DC talents XO, yU and Oddisee released a nostalgic, boom-bap style hip-hop album called In The Ruff that boasted strong lyrical content and a diversion back to a more simple hip-hop sound in terms of instrumentation and which helped put its members on the map. As Oddissee says in a recent interview: “Not in a negative way, but hip-hop at that point was becoming extremely progressive and experimental, which is a great thing, but it left a void to create a record that was retro. The direction of hip-hop itself was going in such a drastically different direction, it created a curiosity to listen to [Ruff].”
Since 2009, however, the members of Diamond District have been content to release binders of solo material (I’m currently still enjoying Oddisee’s 2011 album Rock Creek Park and yU’s The EARN). But this fall they have come together once more, and DC is all the better for it. The new album, called March On Washington, is set for release on October 14th via Mello Music Group (a record label that needs to learn how to design a navigable Bandcamp page). The album was already gaining press steam when its first single “First Step” was released last month, but yesterday they released “Lost Cause” via a premiere and interview with Village Voice, explaining its unique-for-the-group sound by saying, “Even though it’s familiar with our sounds, it’s a little bit outside the range of what people would usually expect from us. We chose this track because of content matter and to display some diversity from us.”
Given the fact that they are no longer standing out with boom-bap beats and conscious lyrical content, it might be important they flex that diversity. It’s only been five years since 2009, but in hip-hop years that feels like a lifetime ago. In that same interview, Oddisee says, “Even on a mainstream level on a major label, there’s so many artists that are a lot more lyrically savvy, where that element of metaphor and poetry has found itself back into music. There weren’t a lot of examples of that at that time, but now there’s so many. I’m really interested myself to see how this record will be perceived by current listeners.”
Me too, though I’d be shocked not to see a thirsty-for-a-star DC hip-hop scene line up right behind them if their album lives up to expectations. I do, however, have a slight bone to pick with Diamond District…
WHY IS THIS GETTING PREMIERED IN VILLAGE VOICE INSTEAD OF A DC PAPER/WEBSITE! ODDISEE MAY HAVE MOVED TO NYC BUT YOU’RE CALLED DIAMOND DISTRICT NOT DIAMOND BIG APPLE!
In that same Village Fucking Voice interview, Oddissee says, “I guess I’m at the point where a city affecting my thought process was already formed within me. It doesn’t hurt, also, that the majority of the people I encounter and establish close relationships with in New York happen to be from the D.C./Maryland/Virginia metropolitan area. There’s three people in my house right now, two from Prince George’s County and one from a neighboring county. There’s a lot of us up here; we have a strong community. You don’t really lose it.”
But DC lost him, and until we as a city start holding on to our homegrown talent, we are always going to be considered minor leagues.
Uncool, Diamond District. I expect an awesome album release party here in the confines of the District of Columbia (and no, The Fillmore in Silver Spring doesn’t count).
- Kendrick Lamar – “i”
Yesterday, Kendrick took over pop-culture news cycles by releasing the debut single from his highly-anticipated sophomore album, one bound by the rules of logic to follow the ghetto masterpiece of good kid m.A.A.d city, a hard act to top.
Fortunately for Kendrick, he’s the most talented rapper in the world, he’s smart as a whip, and he’s confident enough in himself to know that that is all that matters. It’s why he can make his album art the most blatant attempt at gang unity since the Clinton administration, it’s why he can throw a self-aggrandizing voice-over in at the beginning, and most importantly it’s why he can release a single that will cause half his fan base to immediately renounce him with decries of Andre 3000 and Gym Class Heroes and selling out while the other half of his fan base is immediately celebrating him with praises of Outkast and the Isley Brothers and branching out.
But not a lot of people are looking at this context. Some things I’d like us all to remember when thinking about this song:
- This is the same guy person behind good kid m.A.A.d city, an album that actually understood what it meant to be an album.
- It was only a little over a year ago that he established himself as THE next big rapper thanks to THE verse on Big Sean’s “Control”
- He followed that donnybrook call with this minute and a half destruction of a BET Cypher verse.
- He not only showed that he could play nice at the Grammys while letting the masses flip out that Macklemore stole his award, he turned what could have been a “smile for the cameras” cash grab into a demonstration that he could make Imagine Fucking Dragons a badass backing band.
- He has Eminem and Dr. Dre behind him, two people that understand how to make a splash and how to manage a brand.
So now, with that in mind, we can better contextualize the fact that:
- This song isn’t what any of us expected, but we shouldn’t go crazy over it
- The Isley Brothers and Kendrick Lamar fit surprisingly well together
- Positivity in hip-hop shouldn’t be this shocking to people
- There are still some dark moments and lines in this song (I see you 4th verse), so let’s not go too crazy
- Kendrick’s technical proficiency is silly good
- This is one song that is going to be tucked away in the narrative of an entire album, so let’s not go too crazy
Kendrick is the best.
- Champagne Fever – “Cheerios”
I like to think of myself as the Music Blogging Sherlock because I have the cheekbones of Benedict Cumberbach but also because there’s nothing I love more than digging through Google trying to figure out details about some previously-unknown band or trying to unmask some hipster anonymous bedroom producer (does anyone remember the B I G S L E E P/The 1975 naming mystery of 2012 I cracked?). And it was in that vein that I spent the past week or so scouring the interwebz trying to figure out what a few video clips posted around some of my favorite digital music avenues were all about. They all had one thing in common: Cheerios. It was weird but intriguing.
Well, it turns out they were teasers to a music video for rising DC act Champagne Fever‘s song “Cheerios”, and after reaching out to the group, we’re PREMIERING THE VIDEO HERE! Yep, enjoy this cinematic investigation into what happens when Cheerios invade a house show soundtracked by bit of Brett-like synth pop wonder. As Champagne Fever describes it, “We jerry-rigged all the electronics in the house to go poltergeist. We invited DJ Prada, bought a trunk full of Cheerios, and just partied all night.”
And it’s that kind of fuck-it attitude that separates Champagne Fever from some of their more light-hearted contemporaries. I mean, the hook to this song starts with “Cocaine with your cheerios/still in last night’s pantyhose.” Let’s see Furniteur or Who Needs A Pulse pull that line off.
However, to be fair, not a lot of acts have the kind of professional resume that Doug Walters, half of Champagne Fever, has. His face might not be familiar yet, but he’s worked with everyone from DJ Khaled to personal favorite Tiny Victories to DC’s own U.S Royalty, and he’s one of those guys who is somehow involved in a million other things at once. Now that he’s focused his energy on one, pop-heavy project though, it might be a good time to start paying attention to him and Champagne Fever.
YOU SAW IT HERE FIRST!