Kanye's Grammy ban, moody R&B and favorite March singles
This week, the guys talk about Kanye West being held accountable and highlight some of their favorite March releases.
On the latest episode of the podcast, we reviewed Lil Durk’s 7220 and Benny the Butcher’s Tana Talk 4.
Both of these artists have vastly different rap styles, but there is an authenticity and rawness that comes across in their music that we really appreciated. Find links to the episode below.
Meanwhile, this week in the newsletter:
Nnamdi argues for and against Kanye’s Grammy performance ban
Noah writes about two EPs that piqued his interest in moody R&B
Avery highlights four of his favorite singles released in March
Rap Reviews: 7220 by Lil Durk & Tana Talk 4 by Benny the Butcher
An Argument For and Against Kanye’s Grammy Performance Ban
An Argument For: An Institution Holds “Yeezus” accountable
Many of Kanye West’s aliases…Yeezus, Yezos, Yandhi… speak to the power he feels he holds over the broader public. As omni-present as Jesus, as wealthy as Jeff Bezos, and as influential as Gandhi. I theorize that Kanye’s self-inflated ego, and perception that he’s above man, is largely why he feels he can get away with borderline-abusive behavior on the value of his name alone.
When he received backlash for co-releasing a music video depicting the kidnapping and decapitation of Pete Davidson, he stood his ground on Instagram. “I feel already compromised that I have to justify my expression,” he wrote. When comedian D.L. Hughley became among the first public figures to compare Kanye’s behavior to that of a stalker, Kanye told him “God does not like you.” When comedian and Grammy’s host Trevor Noah made an astute observation, highlighting that Kanye’s behavior was in fact harassment, West interpolated a gospel song with a racial slur (and got his Instagram account suspended in the process). It wasn’t necessarily that what Hughley or Noah said was wrong - I don’t even think Kanye believes that. I suspect that for him, it was more so the nerve of these mortal men to publicly challenge the sanity or rationale of *thee* Kanye West.
There’s not a single man, apart from maybe Jay Z, that has shown an ability to force Kanye into humble acknowledgement of his mistakes. The Hughley-Noah debacle – which could almost be summed up as a “good cop, bad cop approach” considering Noah’s wish to “counsel not cancel” the rapper – makes that more than clear. But, an institution might be able to provide a worthy consequence — especially one as lauded as the Recording Academy. Kanye, despite his frequent defamation of the Grammys, likely appreciated the five nominations he received this year – including for Album of the Year. The Academy’s decision to rescind his invitation to perform, hits Kanye where it hurts the most – he’s being denied the ability to share his art with the rest of the world. It’s effectively silencing a man who loves nothing more than to scream loudly at anyone who will listen. It’s nice to see an institution finally step up to the plate and use its power to *try* to do good and take a stance against abusive behavior.
An Argument Against: The Grammy’s still want Kanye… just on a leash
By the time the Recording Academy nixed Kanye’s performance, he had for weeks threatened Pete Davidson, made private family matters public, and inadvertently revealed the location of his family’s home and daughter’s school. It was more than a month after Kanye made the first of many posts that could’ve been deemed “concerning.” But nothing happened. For much of Kanye’s social media outburst, both media publications and institutions treated it as online fodder – placing the spectacle’s entertainment value over the clear risk it posed.
Kanye for weeks, months and years now has non-consensually depicted women in the nude (and dead), made offensive remarks about slavery, and delivered several outright offensive rants. None of these have ever led to any public backlash from the Recording Academy. In fact, throughout most of these years Kanye continued to be nominated for – and win – Grammys. It was only when Kanye directly came for this year’s host – who in the rapper’s defense, made a sharp critique of his behavior – did the Academy act. And therein lies the problem. If this is an attempt to show the broader music industry that music’s most esteemed institution will no longer tolerate the blatant harassment and abuse of women – beautiful! But, if this is just an attempt to punish Kanye for threatening the award show’s host…well that feels a bit unfair.
Trevor Noah had every right to make Kanye the topic of his show amid his concerning behavior. But, the South African host likely expected a response from Ye. And while I don’t support Kanye’s message or use of slurs – he had the right to respond. Something feels off about this particular incident serving as the catalyst for his performance cancellation – especially when the Academy is still inviting him to the award show itself. I imagine that feels like a slap in the face. “You can come…but on our terms…and we’re going to try to ensure you don’t get a mic in your hand.”
So which one of these two sides is right? I’m not sure. Kanye’s behavior warranted a consequence – and this feels sufficient. I just urge the Recording Academy to be more clear in its rationale here. Because there is an argument to be made that canceling his performance while preserving the invite feels like a PR stunt within itself.
Y’all hear about this?
The very best in moody R&B
Two artists, from two very different parts of the world, dropped two EPs in March. It got me thinking about my new favorite sub-genre, moody R&B. It’s relaxing, calming, and makes me want to lay down and stare at the ceiling with some incense burning.
Those EPs are from Orion Sun, a singer from Philadelphia, and Jordan Rakei, a singer from New Zealand. While each sings very differently and has differing production, they both make me feel the same way. This is what made me want to write about the EPs they dropped this month.
Orion Sun’s EP Getaway has a very airy and open production while also being simplistic and bouncy in other spots. It gives her the space to use her own voice as a part of the production. For example, the intro to the project is very airy, open and layered, but the very next track “pressure” has a light simplistic bounce. The next track, “concrete”’ goes even more simplistic with some light drums and a piano. But the key is her voice, it’s very angelic and oftentimes, she’s layering her voice with other inflections of her own voice. It’s super majestic and melodic and it keeps you focused on the sound of her voice for the entirety of the project. All of this is not to suggest that her lyrics are meaningful or substantive, it’s just a testament to how good she sounds over this production, which was entirely created by her.
Jordan Rakei is a fascinating artist, he comes from the same mold as James Blake, they do not sound the same, but there are similarities in their tone and voice. But, Reiki, like Orion Sun, has the uncanny ability to make his voice another instrument. In most cases, the best singers can do so. But unlike Sun, Rakei’s production is less airy and bouncy and seems to focus on instrumentation more. A lot of drums, guitars, piano, violins and horns, but his music is still moody as hell. It also feels a lot “bigger,” like he has an orchestra or band with him. Plus, the emotion that comes across in his music is uncanny. On the title track of Bruises, his latest EP, the emotion in his voice that comes across when he says “save me” in the hook, gives me the chills. Most of the song sounds like this groovy and funky song until he gets to the hook and he just flips the switch. If my Orion Sun makes me want to stare at the ceiling, Rakei makes me want to walk along Lake Michigan in the middle of spring.
Now on the 97 Demo Mix:
Songs from: Benny the Butcher, Lil Durk, Rosalía, Sad & Lucky Daye and more!
My Favorite Singles Of March
Every month, I think we as a group do a good job of highlighting different projects we should listen to and make a good case for why, however, I think some emphasis on the loosies that are put out each month could benefit our loyal fans. So here are some singles that I think are worth listening to that came out this month, if you haven’t already.
OPEN A WINDOW - Rex Orange County
While I’m not the biggest Rex Orange County fan in the world, I can appreciate when he makes a good song, and I can doubly appreciate when he and Tyler, the Creator link up because they always make magic together. It’s striking to me how much creative common ground these two artists can have while operating in different genres. This is a great, vibey song that will make you feel good when listening. It includes a great feature by Tyler, while he and Rex sing over some nice strings and a great bass riff. Rex + Tyler + some strings will always equal perfection to me. (See: Boredom)
Shotgun - Soccer Mommy
On the heels of the announcement of her new album Sometimes, Forever, Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison released Shotgun, a ‘90s alt-rock derivative song that I absolutely love. It’s one of those songs that hides a dour song meaning under upbeat instrumental. In this case, Allison is singing about the danger of falling in love, knowing that it will probably backfire on you. To me, Soccer Mommy is one of the best out right now at recreating ‘90s nostalgia rock, and this song is a great example of that. This song made me very excited for her album and is easily one of the best songs that came out this month.
Hentai - Rosalía
Rosalía put out her album just a week ago, and it was (to me) fantastic. The final single she put out may be my favorite out of the album. “Hentai” is a pretty straightforward pop piano ballad, but it just works so well. Her vocals really shine through on this song written and produced by Pharrell (!!). I also really love the machine gun drums that swell with her voice in the second half of the song. The lyrics turn out to be quite explicit once you realize what she is singing about (obviously if you read the title of the song) and that only adds to the song, as something that sounds so seemingly sweet can ultimately be so shocking and straight-forward. Check this one out if you haven’t, definitely check out the album and definitely check out the awesome music video.
Pool - Still Woozy feat. Remi Wolf
For my final recommendation, we have this very sweet song between two artists that I’m not super familiar with. From what I can grasp, this song is about meeting a friend that you’re really excited about. That may be the easiest thing to relate to ever! It’s really about being your authentic self around someone whose friendship you’re excited for. Such a pure song that includes such cutesy instrumentals, it almost feels like a fever dream to listen to. I really hope we get more music from this duo in the future, because their voices harmonize so well together, and they created such a beautiful song together. I can’t help but love it.
Ep. 83: 7220 by Lil Durk & Tana Talk 4 by Benny the Butcher Reviews
Tweet of the week: