The Way Of Things – First Kick At The Ball

The first episode of The Way Of Things was a triumph in itself; a distillation of no only my personal music history, but an introduction to the whole idea of this marvelous show and yes, it is god-damn marvelous. This began a year-long crusade for local bands, extremity, and the abolition of the notion of the guilty pleasure.

It also marked the beginning of a shift in my depression, my view of myself as a person of worth, and an untold amount of shit happening behind the scenes that I won’t mention here.

Review: A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Back in 1985 two friends from Queens chose to make new rap by unconventional means. Yes, A Tribe Called Quest were unlike other rappers, they had conscience and class and sly beats like hammers, with Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White, they would lay down the line for what would be new life, for the art of Hip Hop had begun to evolve then, while reporting the problems it would try to solve them.

Positivity compounded in the Native Tongues with De La Soul, Black Sheep and Jungle Brothers as one, they took Hip Hop to places it had never been, and gave hope to all the people who were tired of the scene. In 1990 it would come to pass, their first album would drop and it would move some ass, and by “The Low End Theory” in ’91, with their legendary status only just begun, they could have no idea in 20 16 what a new ‘Quest’ record could possibly mean to those raised on Lil’ Wayne, Eminem and Drake, or what direction that the record could possibly take. As it turned out the album would go number one; after all this time they’re still tons of fun, the flows were just as deft and the beats still flex, even Enough!! (which ruminates on the trials of sex).

Opener “The Space Program” is a storm of layers, taking immediate charge and answering your prayers, a reinvigorated Tribe for the present day, fluid thoughts moving fast with their rhyme display that doesn’t seem to have diminished with the passage of time, Q-Tipall on the off beat, tougher than crime; a precedent set in production and sound and boy, do Quest like to throw the beats around. There’s an approach that reminds me of Robert Johnson, once he was done with riffs, he decided to toss them. Just bits they needed remain on track, and as the record progressed I thought they’d dial it back, but ATCQ know just what to do, not dallying or fannying, just smashing through. Tracks like “We The People” and “Whatever Will Be” would give Gil Scott Heron a smile or three, as their depiction of the life of people of colour paints a very dim view of how we see each other; how the media wants a black man to be a criminal, an idiot, a cheat, nothing covert or subliminal, how the way white America looks at its own is something that humanity can’t possibly condone. The Killing Season shows how the country sees veterans, or how someone’s only crime can be possession of melanin, which in this day and age shouldn’t be at all, as we’re all born human, after all.

Review: Miley Cyrus – Bangerz

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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As a hate figure for the easily outraged, Destiny Hope Cyrus has excelled.

Number 1 album and singles on both sides of the pond, with every foul husk in the slavering, morbid tabloid press baying for her every utterance. Many are asking what price this has all come at; the twerking, the drugs, the dressing in half a condom – to the outsider, she is a free-wheeling, miasmic firework, no longer tethered to the everyday.

This unyielding shamelessness manifests on Bangerz. Discomforting in the extreme for those who pine for the days of Hannah Montana, Bangerz is a harrowing litany of borderline sadism and genuine heartache; a schizophrenic, skeletal hydra, putting the lions’ share of weight on two opposing styles. Why this defiantly minimal record required 12 producers is beyond me – even more baffling are the 35 writers credited with its creation. 35!

Opener ‘dore You is a grand piece. Sweeping, elegant even, pointedly equipped with a simple, two part harmony, auto-tuned to illicit maximum emotional yield. This rather morose piece sets a dark, painful tone to the album; following track and recent single We Can’t Stop sounds as though it is seen through the eyes of the party-goer who’s been partying too long. With a slower pace than is common for the style, it is the regretful dawn, when everyone is burnt out, cursing their sniffing and headaches.

Unlike Ke$ha, whose records ooze brazen raunch and carefree energy, Cyrus’ party numbers sound like a girl trying very hard to upset The Man. SMS(Bangerz), Love Money Party and the idiotic half-country of 4×4 are shudderingly embarrassing, our protagonists’ truly moronic lyricism giving glorified corner-thug Nelly a run for his money.

The more balladeering work, the pinnacle of which being Wrecking Ball, is much stronger. My Darlin’ and Drive are strong tracks, and though that slow-motion kick seems to permeate everything, Cyrus’ wounded, straining voice soars in these powerful frames. She sounds believable and angry, not pitiful and young.

At the album’s midway point is a track called #Getitright, the most uncomfortable, desperate song in history. Framed in the context of the painful, one-sided relationships, derided public metamorphosis and punitive partying elsewhere on the album, this song paints the common picture of a girl trying to be something for a boy, being taken for granted and pushed to one side. Echoed in part on the I’ve-been-through-the-mill of Someone Else, what seems to radiate from this experience is genuine teenage pain, rather than a marketing team pulling heart strings.

Bangerz is a record that makes me sad. Not because it’s the product of increasingly dignity-crushing music engine, but because it’s a tough record to listen to. Taken as a commentary on the life of the artist at its core, Cyrus is a scared little girl, trying to be a woman, with as much pressure on her to deliver and satisfy her investors and hangers-on as anyone else.

Truth be told, this album is far too long; pruning some of the worst material, it would be a heartfelt, modern album with some dance on it. As it is, this is two distinct creations – the child in agony and her brave-face alter – scrabbling for space on one disc. I honestly believe there is scope for Cyrus to advance and be valid, but she needs to be mature rather than just sounding it.

Miss Cyrus, in case you’re reading – give in for a bit. Stop trying to be a dominant, sexual woman and let yourself grow into a person first. Too many are lost because they believe they knew better, and were found wanting. Learn from those who went before.