What feels like an eternity ago, when COVID-19 was a distant viral illness beginning to spread throughout Asia, when Harry and Meghan’s decision to step down from royal duties ‘split the nation’, when we were all left realing from the heartbraking scenes of the Australian bushfires, before many other tragic events, including the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter; new music was released, which was a brief respite from the tsunami of bad news and conflicts brought in with the start of a new decade, 2020. Whilst it’s not hard to understate that there are more important things in life than music, music can provide an escape from reality, and provide an outlet to release negative emotions, as well as provide joy and something to look forward to, especially in times such as these. Little did we know, that January was just the start of things to come, and these albums are fresh from the context of now, providing a brief respite as they did then, and now.
Like many, I’ve been following the news of the shocking and appaling murder of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by police in Minneapolis, USA. The consequential outrage of his killing has not only sparked protests there, but spread to other cities in the United States too and across the world, with demostrations in Auckland, Berlin, London, and more. George Floyd’s death, and the circumstances surrounding it, is one of many examples of police brutality and racism towards the black community in America. As things began to boil up over the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breanna Taylor in Louisevill, and the consequent investigation (or the lack of), things have now boiled over to the point where enough is enough, and things need to change. The worldwide response shows that this sort of racist behaviour isn’t just succluded to America, the insututional day-to-day injustices and the things we don’t see, are happening all over.
It was August 3rd, 1995. The second annual Source Awards was taking place, at the Madison Square Garden’s Paramount Theater in New York. The events that night would change the course of hip-hop forever. At the time, Tupac had been shot and was sequestered in jail, with a bitter rivalry between the East Coast and the West Coast reaching a boiling point. This boiled over at the Awards ceremony, with Suge Knight, of Death Row Records (West Coast), taunting his rival Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs, of Bad Boy Records (East Coast), onstage. The nature of the attack didn’t go down well, and the night descended into a tit-for-tat between the rival areas, with Snoop Dogg confronting the crowd after getting abuse, and Diddy throwing shots back at Suge by saying, “I live in the East, and I’m gonna die in the East.” The rivalry ballooned into violence and ultimately culminated in the deaths of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G, a year later.
At just 20 years old, Dave has established himself as one of the UK’s finest talents. His debut album ‘PSYCHODRAMA’ has arrived too much anticipation, a culmination of his succesful EP’s ‘Six Paths’ and ‘Game Over’, a co-sign from Drake, who remixed his track ‘Wanna Know’, and an Ivor Novello Award for his single ‘Question Time‘. It’s been a steady trajectory to this point, and one that the London-born artist has seemed to take in his stride. Every collaboration, move and performance, perfectly timed, fluttering with mainstream attention whilst keeping his steely lyricism and feet firmly grounded. He hasn’t forgotten his childhood growing up in estates, his friends who have been and gone, the tales of sorrow and life pitfalls, Dave raps about it all. An unflinching look into his life and the people in it, society and politics, ‘PSYCHODRAMA’ is a great album, and just the beginning for this extremely talented artist.
Little Simz continues to show her enormous talent on her third full-length album ‘GREY Area’. The diverse subject matters, musical styles and the fantastic tempo of the album, switching from the ferocious ‘Venom’ – a full-throttle attack on how women are treated in a male dominated hip-hop scene, over a breathtaking trip-hop beat, to the beautiful and subtle sounds of ‘Pressure’, which is a politically motivated track on recent events in London, and life in an inner-city. It’s an album that is perfectly timed too, at 35 minutes it allows for the topics to be unravelled and the talents of Simz to bear fruit, but without the pace ever feeling like it’s slowing down or reaching a lull. Like a perfectly timed jab to the face, ‘GREY Area’ is an album that demands your attention, in a world where that is hard to attain.
The annual Brit Awards takes over The O2, London next Wednesday 20th February, and here’s my lowdown on who’s been nominated and for what, who’s due to be performing on the night, and a look into some of the artists to watch out for, with my pick for each award.
Since 2008, National Public Radio have hosted an online live music series called ‘Tiny Desk Concerts’. Featuring artists from all genres, the show has starred musicians such as Chance The Rapper, Sampha and Cigarettes After Sex, to name a few. The format continues to routinely deliver, allowing artists to perform a few of their favourite tracks in an intimate office enviroment. After watching Jorja Smith‘s mesmerising performance in her latest Tiny Desk Concert, I decided to pick out five of my favourite sets from recent months.
Kanye West & Kid Cudi – Kids See Ghosts
Whatever your opinion of Kanye West is, you can’t deny that he has made some great music. The enigmatic figure, love him or hate him, loathe his manipulation of the media and outspoken personality, his relationship with Kim Kardashian, he’s an artist who has consistently released good music, whilst pushing boundaries and often changing perspectives. On ‘Kids See Ghosts’ he is joined by long-term collaborator Kid Cudi, who like Kanye is returning to music after battling depression.
In my quest to learn the Spanish language I have often turned to music to help me. This has mostly been a futile attempt, but has led me to discovering many great bands and artists. Beyond the well-known stars such as Shakira, Daddy Yankee, Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin and Alejandro Sanz, there’s a vibrant and well-supported scene with some absoloute gems to be found. Whether it’s to aid your learning, or simply for your own enjoyment, the Spanish-speaking music scene has a variety of styles and genres to tickle your fancy. From indie-rock to Spanish trap, here’s a list of 10 artists that you need to know right now: