The Start of Something New

Welcome to the first 97 Demo Newsletter!

The podcast just wasn’t enough for all of our takes.

Each week, each member of the 97 Demo (Nnamdi, Noah and Avery) will use this newsletter as an opportunity to offer perspectives about the music industry.

Sometimes, we have thoughts about things that happen throughout the week that don’t make it into the podcast. Other times, we may want to expand on a topic or discussion we started during the podcast.

Regardless, we see this newsletter as another outlet to talk about something we all love: music.

Clip of the week:

EP.57 - Lizzo & Mental Health in Music

Call it the WizKid effect?

Nnamdi, @NnamEgwuon

When Drake enlisted Nigerian-icon Wizkid to feature on his 2016 single “One Dance,” history was made. In addition to the song topping the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 non-consecutive weeks, it became the second-longest reigning number 1 in the UK at 15 weeks, setting a new benchmark for rappers, but more specifically Nigerian acts to aspire to. Wizkid, at that moment, became the highest-charting Nigerian act in at least two countries, ever. But the moment, in my view, was soured by the banality of Wizkid’s feature -- limited to background vocals often mistaken as another element of production rather than a full-fledged assist. He got the chart credit, but not the respect that should have come with having one of the most commercially successful songs in history. 

5 years later, “Essence” feels suited to be the single that finally solidifies Wizkid’s place in the American mainstream. His collaboration with Nigerian-act Tems just attained gold certification in the United States. Upon its release, it became the first song by a Nigerian lead to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. A feature with Justin Bieber, despite my mixed impressions of it, propelled digital sales and streams of the song and drove it to the top 20 of America’s signature chart. Wizkid is quite literally in unprecedented territory, hitting and setting benchmarks that his fellow Nigerian contemporaries Davido and Burna Boy**, despite their massive global fanbases, have yet to meet in the United States.

Nielsen Music/MRC Data’s midyear report of music industry trends found that afro-beat has become an increasingly popular genre among American consumers (shockingly most popular in the South and among white people). Wizkid’s recent feats have no doubt played a part in boosting the wider genre and creating a path that other African musicians will no doubt be able to follow.

** No shade to Davido or Burna Boy, I got love for them too.


Y’all hear about this?

Eminem’s music was better when he did drugs and that’s okay

Noah, @noahamcgee_

In episode 57, my co-host Nnamdi cited that fans of Eminem’s music have said that his music was a lot better when he was doing drugs. I happen to be one of those fans. 

Between 1999 and 2002, Slim Shady was on a run that few artists, let alone rappers have ever been on. The albums he released in that span, “Slim Shady LP,” “The Marshall Mathers LP,” and “The Eminem Show,” were met with critical and commercial acclaim. Those three albums are among the most popular and best albums to ever be released in rap. Although his next album, “Encore” was received with commercial success, it took a noticeable dip in quality and was not nearly the critical darling that the three previous albums were. Then, Eminem disappeared. Largely because of his addiction to prescription drugs. In an interview with Vibe Magazine in 2009, the rapper admits, “if I was to give you a number of Vicodin I would actually take in a day? Anywhere between 10 to 20. Valium, Ambien, the numbers got so high I don't even know what I was taking."

Of course, he eventually returned after five years. Releasing “Relapse” in 2009 and “Recovery” in 2010. Both of which were inspired by his journey to becoming sober.

If you’re a fan of rap you know the rest of Eminem’s story up to this point, he continued to make and put out music, even releasing an album as recent as last year. But many rap fans, including myself, have felt that the music Eminem has released since becoming sober, (April 22nd, 2008) is not nearly as good as the music he was making when he was addicted to drugs. 

I confidently stand behind that statement. In his earlier work, Eminem’s rapping was vicious, unpredictable, and outlandish. It’s the main reason I fell in love with his music. His cadence, delivery, lyrics and flow were unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was real, which is what made Eminem such an appealing artist. His music after that was still good at certain points. But it sounded less erratic, less unpredictable, “poppier” and that is music that just did not appeal to me as much. Whether or not that is any correlation with his drug addiction I can’t speak to it.

But what I can speak to is that although it’s important that I enjoy Eminem’s music, it is even more important than the man himself is alive and well. Fans so often think that everything is about them. We are so selfish that all we care about is if the music is good or not. When the most important thing is that the person making the music is doing well because if they’re not doing well, they could end up being gone, and then there’s no music to hate or love. So even though Eminem may never tap into the “early Slim Shady” that was high on drugs and wanted to kill anything that was moving; he has tapped into a healthier version of himself, and that is something I can live with.

Now on the 97 Demo Mix:

New songs from: Boldy James, Denzel Curry, Tiwa Savage, Bleachers, Navy Blue

Gen Z’s new favorite popstar

Avery, @AveryDalal

Late 90s and early 2000s kids can surely recall at some point in their lives being told that they have too short of attention spans, and they can’t focus on anything longer than a few seconds.

Well, no artist currently embodies that more than PinkPantheress, who between seven songs, only six of which are solo, has a whopping 10 minutes and 30 seconds of total music on Spotify. Off of these 7 songs, she has become quite popular among the subsection of Gen Z that avidly consumes TikTok.

According to Google, PinkPantheress is a 20-year-old singer/songwriter/producer whose songs went viral after she uploaded them to TikTok. She was then signed to Parlophone and Elektra records. Since then her singles “Pain” and “Just for Me” have peaked in the top 40 of the UK Singles Chart. Her music is what I can only describe as hyper pop and alternative pop (with a fun Michael Jackson instrumental in there for good measure).

Her ascent to me is so stunning not just because of how little music she currently has out, but also because of the medium she’s utilizing. We have spoken a lot on our podcast about how musicians and artists are gaining followings because of TikTok, but this feels so different because she did it natively from the platform.

Most other songs on TikTok get big because creators will clip moments from them and those moments will become a viral dance trend or part of a larger trend. PinkPantheress is uploading minute-and-a-half long songs to the platform where the whole song becomes the trend. It’s so fascinating.

This honestly feels like when SoundCloud became the central place for newer artists to upload their music and hope it would get discovered there. Maybe this is the natural evolution of that. It’s definitely something worth keeping an eye on.

For now, though, I’m gonna keep streaming all 10 mins and 30 seconds of her music because it is insanely catchy. I can’t wait for more.

Tweet of the week:

Coming up on the 97 Demo Podcast: A review of ‘Solar Power’ by Lorde