Thursday, April 30, 2015

WSPC PLAYLIST APRIL 2015

April 1, 2015
"Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)" performed by Styx
"Only A Fool Would Say That" performed by Steely Dan
"Fooled Again (I Don't Like It)" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"She's A Fool" performed by Lesley Gore
"Foolish Little Girl" performed by The Shirelles
"The Fool On The Hill" performed by The Beatles
"Fools In Love" performed by Joe Jackson
"What A Fool Believes" performed by The Doobie Brothers
"Runnin' Out Of Fools" performed by Neko Case
"Fool, Fool, Fool" performed by The Clovers

"Money And Corruption/I'm Your Man" performed by The Kinks
"What Artie Knows" performed by Planet P. Project
"A Song For Assata" performed by Common
"The Mole From The Ministry" performed by The Dukes Of Stratosphear
"Damned For All Time/Blood Money" from "Jesus Christ Superstar"

April 2, 2015

WSPC FEATURED ARTIST: JONI MITCHELL
"I Had A King"
"People's Parties/Same Situation"
"This Flight Tonight"
"Dreamland"
"Morning Morgantown"

"Ankles" performed by Georgia Anne Muldrow-WSPC PREMIERE

"Country Down" performed by Beck
"St. Petersburg" performed by Supergrass
"The Last Supper" from "Jesus Christ Superstar"

April 3, 2015
"Passion" performed by Peter Gabriel
"Could We Start Again, Please?" from the film "Jesus Christ Superstar"
"Hear Me Lord" performed by George Harrison

"Sunburst Finish" performed by Utopia
"me Yesterday//Corded" performed by Flying Lotus
"How Much A Dollar Cost" performed by Kendrick Lamar-WSPC PREMIERE
"Right Where It Belongs" performed by Nine Inch Nails
"Little Church" performed by Miles Davis
"Evangelion/We'll Die" performed by Thundercat
"Judas' Death" from "Jesus Christ Superstar"

April 4, 2015
"Pride (In The Name Of Love)" performed by U2
"Abraham, Martin and John" performed by Dion
"The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead" performed by XTC

"I Am The Blues" performed by Muddy Waters
"Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up" performed by LCD Soundsysem
"Mirror Man" performed by The Human League
"Jive Talkin'" performed by The Bee Gees
"Don't Stop Me Now" performed by Queen

April 5, 2015
"'Cause I'm A Man" performed by Tame Impala-WSPC PREMIERE
"A Dream That We All Share" performed by The Lilac Time
"Gethsemane" from "Jesus Christ Superstar"

"The Resurrection" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Resurrection" performed by Terence Trent D'Arby
"I Am The Resurrection" performed by The Stone Roses

"April 5th" performed by Talk Talk

April 6, 2015
"**** Jungle Law" performed by Love And Rockets
"I Wish You Were Here" performed by Simple Minds
"Private Life" performed by The Pretenders
"I'm In Love With A German Film Star" performed by The Passions
"Aeroplane" performed by The Psychedelic Furs
"Yeah Man' performed by Northside

April 7, 2015
"Election Day" performed by Arcadia
"Electioneering" performed by Radiohead
"Capital G" performed by Nine Inch Nails
"All You Fascists" performed by Billy Bragg & Wilco
"Politician" performed by Cream

"Old Hat" performed by Van Hunt-WSPC PREMIERE

April 8, 2015
"Night And Day" performed by Billie Holiday
"Wanders To You" performed by Howard Jones
"Edge Of The Ocean" performed by Ivy
"Dirty Trip" performed by Air
"One Of These Days" performed by Pink Floyd

"Private Revolution" performed by World Party
"Panic" performed by The Smiths

"Going For The One" performed by Yes
"Warning" performed by Green Day
"Keys" from "Passing Strange"
"The Ghost At Number One" performed by Jellyfish
"Peaches En Regalia" performed by Frank Zappa

April 9, 2015
"You Already Know" performed by Arcade Fire
"Best Friend" performed by The (English) Beat
"Overkill" performed by Men At Work
"Goin' Down" performed by The Monkees
"Rhinestone Eyes" performed by Gorillaz

April 10, 2015
"Punch And Judy" performed by XTC
"Territories" performed by Rush
"Hanging By A Thread" performed by Mike and the Mechanics
"Volcano Girls" performed by Veruca Salt
"Only Happy When It Rains" performed by Garbage
"Where Do I Begin" performed by The Chemical Brothers

"Cruel" performed by Prefab Sprout
"Feelin'" performed by Q-Tip
"Charlie" performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Harbor Lights" performed by The Steve Miller Band
"Cruel" performed by Thomas Dolby

April 11, 2015

HAPPY 2ND BIRTHDAY TO SYNESTHESIA
Frankie Knuckles Boiler Room DJ Set
Johnny Marr Glastonbury Set 2013

April 12, 2015
"Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)" performed by Talking Heads
"The Thief" performed by Can
"Masoko Tanga" performed by The Police
"You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby" performed by Kirsty MacColl
"Losing My Edge" performed by LCD Soundsystem

HAPPY 75TH BIRTHDAY TO HERBIE HANCOCK
"King Cobra"
"You'll Know When You Get There"
"I Have A Dream"

April 13, 2015
"Fisticated" performed by Dam Funk
"Fallin'" performed by Madlib
"Midnight In A Perfect World" performed by DJ Shadow
"Hare Krishna" performed by Thievery Corporation
"Gigantes" performed by Tortoise

April 14, 2015

TRIBUTE TO PERCY SLEDGE R.I.P. 
"Warm And Tender Love"
"Out Of Left Field"
"Sudden Stop"
"Take Time To Know Her"
"Just Out Of Reach Of My Two Empty Arms"
"Cover Me"
"When A Man Loves A Woman"

"Half A Person" performed by The Smiths
"Girl In A Million" performed by The Dream Academy
"Day Is Done" performed by Nick Drake
"At The End Of The Day" performed by Nick Mason and Rick Fenn
"Flying Junk" performed by 10cc
"Celluloid Heroes" performed by The Kinks
"I've Seen That Movie Too" performed by Elton John
"Driving" performed by Everything But The Girl

April 15, 2015
"Taxman" performed by The Beatles
"Money, Money, Money" performed by ABBA
"Me And The I.R.S." performed by Johnny Paycheck
"For The Love Of Money" performed by The O'Jays
"Bills, Bills, Bills" performed by Destiny's Child
"Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent" performed by Gwen Guthrie
"I'm Broke" performed by Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears

"The Chemicals" performed by Garbage-WSPC PREMIERE

"Down To The Wire" performed by Neil Young
"Black Mud" performed by The Black Keys
"3 Birds" performed by The Dead Weather
"Forever Lost" performed by The Magic Numbers
"Fireflies" performed by Rhett Miller and Rachel Yamagata
"Small Time Blues" performed by Pete Drodge and Elaine Summers

April 16, 2015
"Rock And Roll With Me" performed by David Bowie
"The Everlasting Gaze" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Too Much Information" performed by The Police
"Malibu" performed by Hole
"Why Can't I?" performed by Liz Phair
"Tango In The Night" performed by Fleetwood Mac

April 17, 2015
"Feel Too Good" performed by Utopia
"Feels So Good" performed by Chuck Mangione
"Feels So Good" performed by Van Halen

"Come Again" performed by General Public
"Girlfriend" performed by Phoenix
"Damaged Goods" performed by Gang Of Four
"Open Your Eyes" performed by Lords Of The New Church
"The Pitchman" performed by Saga

April 18, 2015

RECORD STORE DAY
"I Love My Label" performed by Nick Lowe
"Stack-A-Records" performed by Tom Tall
"My Turntable" performed by Ben Lee
"I Need That Record" performed by The Tweeds
"Why Independent Record Stores Fail" performed by Marah
"Gonna Get Some Records" performed by Sandy Selsie
"Hit Single" performed by Joe Jackson
"B-Side Baby" performed by Adam Ant
"Records And Tea" performed by The Chefs
"Spiral" performed by XTC

HAPPY 72ND BIRTHDAY TO CLYDE STUBBLEFIELD
"Funk Thing"

"Let, Let Me In" performed by De La Soul
"777-9311" performed by The Time
"Ghetto Life" performed by Rick James
"After Hours" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
"Rumble In The Jungle" performed by The Fugees with A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes
"Rain" performed by Divine Styler

April 19, 2015
"Let's  Take It To The Stage" performed by Funkadelic
"The Millionaire Waltz" performed by Queen
"Sound Of Silver" performed by LCD Soundsystem
"Change" (extended version) performed by Tears For Fears
"ABC' performed by The Jackson 5

April 20, 2015
"Zoo Station" performed by U2
"Bittersweet Me" performed by R.E.M.
"The Passenger" performed by Iggy Pop
"Brand New Toy" performed by Paul Weller
"Speed Of Sound" performed by Coldplay

April 21, 2015
"So Far To Go" performed by J Dilla with Common and D'Angelo
"Walk With You" performed by Ringo Starr with Paul McCartney
"As Hard As It Is" performed by Fine Young Cannibals
"Mrs. Bartolozzi" performed by Kate Bush
"Private Investigations" performed by Dire Straits

"God It" performed by De La Soul with Nas-WSPC PREMIERE

"Reckoner" performed by Robert Glasper-WSPC PREMIERE
"A Punchup At A Wedding" performed by Radiohead
"Glass And The Ghost Children" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers.../...In That Quiet Earth/Afterglow" performed by Genesis
"Do I Wait?" performed by Ryan Adams

April 22, 2015

EARTH DAY
"Global Nation" performed by Todd Rundgren-WSPC PREMIERE
"O Green World" performed by  Gorillaz
"Song For A Dying Planet" performed by Joe Walsh
"Don't Go Near The Water" performed by Johnny Cash
"To Live Forever" performed by Planet P. Project
"Message From The Country' performed by The Move
"Whale Song" performed by Pearl Jam
"Barrel Of Pain (Half-Life)" performed by Graham Nash
"Fresh Air" performed by Quicksilver Messenger Service
"Garden Song' performed by Pete Seeger

April 23, 2015
"Darkroom" performed by Paul McCartney
"Size Of Sorrow" performed by Tears For Fears
"Auditorium" performed by Mos Def featuring Slick Rick
"Is This Love" performed by Bilal
"I Don't Believe In You" performed by Talk Talk

"Waiting Such A Long Time" performed by World Party-WSPC PREMIERE

"Ashes Of American Flags" performed by Wilco
"I Don't Remember" performed by Peter Gabriel
"Lucky Number" performed by Lene Lovich
"Spellbound" performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees
"Praying To The Aliens" performed by Gary Numan
"Cellphone's Dead" performed by Beck

April 24, 2015
"Bonny" (acoustic version) performed by Prefab Sprout
"Amazing Journey" performed by The Who from the film "Tommy"
"Ode To Joy" performed by Walter Carlos

"Lotus And The Jondy" performed by Thundercat
"Dream" performed by Mahavishu Orchestra
"Yaphet" performed by Miles Davis
"Naima" performed by Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin
"Sleep Sweepers" performed by Flying Lotus

April 25, 2015
"Pulled Up" performed by Talking Heads
"Madonna Of The Wasps" performed by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
"Every Kinda People" performed by Robert Palmer
"English Roses" performed by The Pretenders
"Tunnels" performed by Modern Mod-WSPC PREMIERE
"I Can See For Miles" performed by Modern Mod LIVE at Der Rathskeller 4-24-15

"All That" performed by Carly Rae Jepsen-WSPC PREMIERE
"Gigolos Get Lonely Too" performed by The Time
"You Saved Me" performed by Gary Clark Jr.
"Spaceship Coupe" performed by Justin Timberlake
"If You Can't Say No" performed by Lenny Kravitz

April 26, 2015
"Don't Pass Me By" performed by The Beatles
"High Roller" performed by Cheap Trick
"Blue Hotel" (live at the BBC 2007) performed by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
"Sunday Afternoon" (live at KRCW studios) performed by Rachael Yamagata
"River Road" performed by Nancy Wilson
"Ether Song" performed by Turin Brakes

"Worldwide Epiphany" live 2015-performed by Todd Rundgren-WSPC PREMIERE

"New Song" performed by The Who
"Who You Are" performed by Tears For Fears
"Siberian Breaks" performed by MGMT
"How Does It Make You Feel?" performed by Air
"The Lamia" performed by Genesis
"A Letter To Elise" performed by The Cure
"Come To Mama" performed by Pete Townshend

April 27, 2015
"2 Minutes With The Hendrix Strat" performed by Dweezil Zappa-WSPC PREMIERE

"The Disappointed" performed by XTC
"This Whole World" performed by The Beach Boys
"Coppertone Blues" performed by Pete Ham
"Meadows" performed by Joe Walsh
"Late In The Day" performed by Supergrass

April 28, 2015
"Strangers" performed by The Kinks
"Do It Again" performed by Matthew Sweet
"Metanoia" performed by MGMT
"Oh, My Love" performed by The Cold And Lovely
"Come In From The Cold" performed by Joni Mitchell

April 29, 2015
"E=MC2" performed by Big Audio Dynamite
"The Crying Scene" performed by Aztec Camera
"Shy Boy" performed by Bananarama
"Only The Lonely" performed by The Motels
"Down The Wrong Way" performed by Chrissie Hynde

"Baltimore" performed by Nina Simone

April 30, 2015
"Freedom" performed by Jimi Hendrix
"Free Me" performed by Roger Daltrey
"Bring On The Lucie (Freda People)" performed by John Lennon
"I'm Set Free" performed by The Velvet Underground
"Freedom Fighters" performed by Utopia

"Disciples" performed by Tame Impala-WSPC PREMIERE
"Fractured III" performed by Ace Frehley
"Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)" performed by Stevie Wonder

"Important Safety Instructions (Mutations 2)" performed by Vernon Reid
"The Garden" performed by Cut Chemist
"If It Wasn't For You" performed by Handsome Boy Modeling School featuring De La Soul
"What About Me?" performed by Snarky Puppy
"Peace" performed by Miles Davis

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NOW PLAYING IN THE SAVAGE JUKEBOX APRIL 2015

"JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR"
Released September 1970
"good kid, m.A.A.d. city: a short film"
KENDRICK LAMAR
Released October 22, 2012
"WAVELENGTH"
TANGERINE DREAM
Released 1984
"PLAYLAND"
JOHNNY MARR
Released October 6, 2014
"LCD SOUNDSYSTEM"
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
Released January 24, 2005
"PASSING STRANGE"
ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING
Released July 15, 2008
"DRAMA"
YES
Released August 18, 1980 
"LOUDER THAN BOMBS"
THE SMITHS
Released March 30, 1987
"APOCALYPSE"
THUNDERCAT
Released July 9, 2013
"THIS IS HAPPENING"
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
Released May 17, 2010
"BROTHERS"
THE BLACK KEYS
Released May 18, 2010
"DIAMOND DOGS"
DAVID BOWIE
Released May 24, 1974
"MACHINA/the machines of God"
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
Released February 29, 2000
"COMMONWEALTH"
SLOAN
Released September 9, 2014
"REMAIN IN LIGHT"
TALKING HEADS
Released October 8, 1980
"SOUNDS OF SILVER"
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
Released March 20, 2007
"TROUBLE MAN"
MARVIN GAYE
Released December 8, 1972
"ELEMENTAL" 
TEARS FOR FEARS 
Released June 7, 1993
"EVERYBODY LOVES A HAPPY ENDING" 
TEARS FOR FEARS 
Released September 14, 2004
"THE QUEEN IS DEAD"
THE SMITHS
Released June 16, 1986
"FEAR OF MUSIC"
TALKING HEADS
Released August 3, 1979
"TOMCATS SCREAMING OUTSIDE"
ROLAND ORZABAL
Released September 11, 2001
"CONGRATULATIONS"
MGMT
Released April 13, 2010

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

RECORD STORE DAY AT B-SIDE RECORDS FEATURING POST SOCIAL: APRIL 18, 2015

"The arts are the most elaborate and most precise social network ever invented, but if it's going to work properly, you have to get out of the house sometimes and show who you are and what you love. You have to go to shows and galleries and bookstores, you have to ask for what you want out loud...So maybe we need those record-store guys; maybe the reason so many of them are still around is that, without them, the whole system grinds to a halt. If you own all the music ever recorded in the entire history of the world, then who are you? Those people queuing outside their local independent on Record Store Day want to be known."
-NICK HORNBY

What a glorious day it was!

It was a late morning/early afternoon filled with abundant sunshine and a temperature of just under 70 degrees and it felt and looked as if the entire city of Madison, WI was outdoors. Around the State Capitol building, the annual Farmer's Market began its season bringing droves upon droves of citizens to walk the circular path around the Capitol Square for all manner of culinary delights. Upon entering a coffee establishment plus the wonderful Marigold Kitchen to pick up some brunch, my friends at both locations all felt the shock to their respective systems after dealing with the full onslaught of customers returning in full force after a quiet winter and early spring season.

Traffic was bumper to bumper and yet, smiles were everywhere to be seen. For me, and before I ventured to that aforementioned coffee establishment and Marigold Kitchen, I knew that I had to make a pit stop at B-Side Records to pay my respects for this year's edition of Record Store Day. In addition,  B-Side proprietor Steve Manley had previously informed me that both Modern Mod and Post Social would be performing LIVE and for FREE just a stone's throw away from the store at the small Peace Park on State Street.
Ahhhh...Record Store Day, the annual event where music fans and collectors actually queue up outside record stores before fully opening for the day for the opportunity to band together in the community of music fandom...and yes, to also see if they can get their hands upon those specially released items that are of small quantity and exclusive to that specific day only. 

Yes, there are those who feel that the event has become something disingenuous, a day that really does not serve independent record stores and music fans accordingly and honestly. Perhaps, there is some validity to those sentiments and maybe, as one article suggested, Record Store Day should eventually become a monthly event, therefore, keeping the spotlight upon independent records stores for the full year instead of just one day. But no matter to any of the criticism. When I walked into B-Side and saw it packed with people all perusing the stacks of vinyl and CDs, it just made my heart smile, as all I saw was a celebration of music and the community that loves this unique sense of discovery and connection.
As for the added attractions of Modern Mod and Post Social, well, traffic was so bumper to bumper that I missed Modern Mod's performance entirely--something that would normally make me growl profusely--but all was indeed not lost whatsoever as I approached Peace Park to the textured, intricate yet raucous sounds that were unmistakably from Post Social. While it was close to the conclusion of their set, I was so thrilled to finally be able to see this band in action, the band that has surprised me so much and had created my "go-to" album ever since I purchased it in late December 2014.
And there they were, lead singer/guitarist Mitch Deitz, singer Siv Earley, bassist Sam Galligan, guitarist/singer Shannon Connor and drummer Brendan Manley, performing live and loudly to a healthy crowd that had gathered to observe (and to also fill their guitar case with monetary tokens of appreciation).
As with their debut self-titled album, I continued to be so very impressed with the band as they exuded such a seasoned cohesiveness that merged terrifically with their youthful exuberance and unabashed joy. Deitz, who was all smiles, made for a most confidant frontman,whether addressing the audience, singing powerfully into the mic or leaping off the Peace Park stones like a true rock star hero. Earley, also cut a captivating presence as she vibrantly danced along during some song's complex, instrumental passages but most certainly through her shining vocals. Where she sounded ghostly upon the album, Earley exuded some palpable force which ensured that she stood confidently and melodically while singing alongside Deitz.
In contrast to the more mobile energy presented by Mitch Deitz and Siv Earley, Shannon Connor cut a more reticent and almost brooding figure that belied the inventive and often stinging guitar leads that burst outwards into the audience like fireworks.
Additionally, Sam Galligan appeared as a more stoic figure, whose quiet stature worked in contrast to the propulsive and fluid melodicism of his bass playing. In a subtle way, I couldn't help but to wonder if his stage presence essentially makes him Post Social's version of The Who's late, great bassist John Entwistle. (I wonder what he'd say to that comparison...)
Finally, I turn my attention towards Brendan Manley, whose Father owns B-Side Records, and who also introduced me to the music of both Post Social and Modern Mod in the first place. Unquestionably packing a wallop, Manley's drumming is clean, crisp, precise, and filled with an athleticism and speed that propels the music skillfully. During one selection, which I have been informed is a newer composition (the band reportedly writes new material consistently and I really hope they record this one down the road), I am unsure how or when Manley was able to go from holding two sticks to play the snare and ride cymbal, to holding a shaker in one hand while still pummeling the snare, then go back to two sticks and again return to the shaker so seemingly effortlessly and without missing a beat.
While I only caught three songs from the band, including the vast "Something In The Water" from the album, an untitled instrumental plus the aforementioned new song, it was precisely what I had wanted to see for several months now and it only made me anxious to witness and experience a complete set. Post Social are definitely the real deal!

Now it was time for me to officially introduce myself and I immediately ventured over to Brendan Manley, who so kindly embraced me as I extended my hand out to him. "You're our biggest fan!" he said to me, smiling warmly from ear to ear, while standing and extending himself to his full, great height. And after meeting the remaining band members, all of whom were equally warm as well as openly gracious and genuine, I was just happy to have the opportunity to express to them face-to-face just how much I love their album, how excited and proud I am for them and how much I await to hear new material from them.
Which then leads me to this lovely young lady pictured above. Dear readers and listeners, this is Emily Massey, lead singer and guitarist for Modern Mod. After the Post Social set, Massey walked around outside of B-Side with a box of FREE vinyl 45 singles of her band, to which she was greeted by quite a number of willing takers, including myself. After introducing myself, we spoke briefly, again with me giving her some well deserved praise regarding her band's terrific album, as well as promising her that I would definitely see Modern Mod live this summer. Massey practically gushed in appreciation and even moreso when she explained to me how the members of both bands are indeed great friends who thoroughly enjoy being able to play together...something she feels they have not been able to do as much as she would love.

This is the spirit that has adorned Record Store Day each and every year that I have been able to make a brief pilgrimage and witness the enthusiasm, eagerness and passion that always ensures that music itself it treated as it should be treated: as a legitimate art form that deserves to be celebrated, nurtured and even nourished. It is with my most sincerest thanks that I extend to B-Side Records, plus Madson's very own Mad City Music Exchange, Strictly Discs and Sugar Shack for remaining steadfast during a period when the independent record stores have grown more obsolete and survival is tenuous.

Yet, in a recent interview given to the local and free Madison weekly newspaper the Isthmus, Steve Manley proclaimed that the resurgence in vinyl is what has truly saved B-Side Records from extinction. In fact, the survival of our independent record stores is due to the effort and essence of community and solidarity. From the store owners to the music fans to the musicians and round and around again, we all contribute to this experience and trust me, if you haven't ventured to one of your local record stores recently, I insist that you just stop in sometime and just browse and allow yourself to become inspired to support a local business, which in turn supports an art form that truly demands attention these days. You just may be surprised!
HAPPY RECORD STORE DAY 2015!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

HAPPY 2ND BIRTHDAY TO SYNESTHESIA-ASK THE DJ: THE MUSIC LOVER'S QUESTIONNAIRE

On April 11, 2013, Synesthesia entered the world as a sister blogsite to my already established blogsite Savage Cinema. But unlike that site, which is solely devoted to movies, Synesthesia is exclusively devoted to the celebration of music.

Today, Synesthesia reaches its 2nd birthday and to celebrate, I decided that it would be fun to produce a questionnaire similar to one I put together for Savage Cinema last year. It is strange, though, as I am essentially interviewing myself but it has been fun t write and maybe, through this edition, you'll have the chance to learn a little bit more about me...especially as you have clearly been waiting so very long to get a peek a the DJ in the broadcast booth (ha ha).

What is your earliest musical memory?
Music was always a part of my household growing up, from the radio to the records that my parents' played. In fact, if you could see the collections that both my Mother and Father have amassed during their respective youths (lots of jazz, soul, showtunes, Barbara Streisand, Motown and some surprises like albums by Chicago and War), you could easily see the connections to my life.

I have been told several times by my parents that when I was a baby, Side Two of The Beatles' "Abbey Road" would always calm me down when I was crying. My Father also told me that he used to hold and dance with me to The Delfonics' "(Didn't I) Blow Your Mind?" Obviously, these are two stories that I cannot remember due to being just so young. But...I do remember vividly my being so in love with Seals And Crofts' song "Summer Breeze" (which I actually wrote all about in the very first month of Synesthesia's existence). What I really think is especially significant was listening to Side One of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" album, which featured the tracks "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding," "Candle In The Wind" and "Bennie And The Jets." I remember sitting on the couch and holding the album jacket, looking at all of the liner notes, illustrations and lyrics, creating very literal mental images as the songs went along. To go with that, I remember my cousin Susan during a visit just staring at me as I was singing along to "Bennie And The Jets," without the lyrics in hand, and she said to me in awe, "How do you know every word to this song?" I just shrugged my shoulders. I didn't know. I was four or five years old. I loved it and I was just tuned in.

What was the first album you ever heard?
Well...as a piggyback to that first question, I guess I would say "Abbey Road" even though I wasn't aware of it. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" would be a close second even though I didn't know that there was more than Side One at that time. Susan was the one to show me how to turn the record over for Side Two. And since, Elton John's album is in fact a double album, she showed me the other record that had Sides Three and Four.

What are your pivotal childhood music listening experiences?
In addition to the radio and records albums, when I was a kid the 8-Track format was widespread. My family had a case of 8-Tracks that we would take with us for long road trips to Kentucky. That's where I heard a lot of Jackson 5 outside of my home, for instance. As I got a little older (8-10 years old), we had the soundtracks to "Grease," "Saturday Night Fever" and the film version of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" on 8-Track and I listened to those CONSTANTLY, (as Susan said to me regarding "Sgt. Pepper"). We also had Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" and The Eagles "Greatest Hits 1971-1975" on 8-Track as well. I think what was so interesting about that format to listen to is that I really had no idea of what the true album sequence actually was for so many of those albums, especially Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. So, I would have to imagine what could possibly be the beginning, middle and end for those and was so surprised to discover what the running sequence really was quite far in the future.  

Once I really began listening to music more and more at home (probably around that same age--somewhere around 7 or 8), I loved just having the vinyl out and I really loved sitting in this one big chair with those giant headphones strapped to my head. It was like being inside of the music itself. . I would stare at the album jackets and liner notes and just...listen and dream. In particular was Stevie Wonder's "Songs In The Key Of Life," (which we also had on 8-Track), a double album that also contained a 4 track EP and a GIANT lyric/liner note booklet. I would have that just sprawled on the carpet as I listened. I think those times formulated my perceptions of the album existing as a work of art, where the cover, liner notes and entire presentation worked in conjunction with the music creating a full, immersive experience. It is something that keeps my purchasing physical copies of new albums and something that I feel is lost in the digital era when music is reduced to an electronic file. Yes, I do download as well but it is just not the same by a long shot.

Which artists did you love growing up?
Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and The Jackson 5 as you could tell from above. But I was particularly in love with KISS, Peter Frampton, Queen and I really loved Electric Light Orchestra (I was obsessed with Sides Three and Four of their "Out Of The Blue" double album). Queen and E.L.O. had albums I checked out from my school library over and over and over again.

But I think the first bands, such as they wee, that I was ever obsessed with happened to be...The Monkees!! Yup. My cousin Adam (Susan's younger brother) introduced me to the television show when I was may be 6 years old. I loved it at first sight and the music sent me into orbit. I remember one time when Adam was visiting my house and he happened to have a Monkees Greatest Hits album with him and I listened to it all day. When it was time for him to go back to his house, he, of course, had to take the album with him and I flew into the worst crying tantrum!! I could not understand why he could not just eave the album with me as we saw each other all of the time. Why couldn't I just have it for a little while longer? Why did he have to take it away? Maybe I thought that if he left, I would never get to hear it ever again or something but I was devastated to no end.

What was the first album you purchased with your own money?
I don't remember but I would guess that it was a Beatles album.

How often did you purchase albums?
Once I began purchasing albums with my allowance money, I bought them as often as I was able, maybe once or twice a month or something like that. But, that is where my love of record stores began as I am truly unable to tell you how many hours I spent just wandering, looking, listening, exploring, discovering and then, planning my next purchase. By the time I was 15, I had fallen head over heels for this beautiful college girl who worked in my high school library. I got myself a job in the same library just to solely be around her. When I received my first paycheck, I was honestly surprised. I mean--the reality of being paid NEVER occurred to me as I just wanted to see this beautiful girl and pine away. When I given my first paycheck, and after I had gotten over the initial shock, I thought to myself, "Now I can get more records!!" So, with my paycheck and allowance, I then began buying records and cassettes all of the time.

What was your first concert?
Quite possibly The Jackson 5! It was "in-the-round" at the Mill Run Theater.

Who else have you seen in concert?
Aside from The Jackson 5, who I saw when I was very young, I didn't really see any concerts while in high school as my very strict parents had serious concerns over the con cert drug culture (a la "Almost Famous").But beginning since my first year of college, I have seen Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, They Might Be Giants, Living Colour, Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, Lenny Kravitz, Love and Rockets (where The Pixies opened for them), Tina Turner, Lindsey Buckingham (twice), Cheap Trick, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (twice), The Budweiser Superfest featuring Jesse Johnson, New Edition (surprisingly terrific) and Kool and the Gang, Everything But The Girl (twice), Tame Impala, Zappa Plays Zappa, Todd Rundgren (three times), The Roches, Fountains Of Wayne, Garbage and Miles Davis (three times--the third time was when I actually met the man himself and shook his hand).

Very soon, I will be seeing George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars (in May) and World Party (in June).

What was the best concert?
I honestly do not know. But, I will say that when I saw Rush in 1987 on the "Hold Your Fire" tour, I was seated on a side of the auditorium where I was completely unable to see the movie screen the band had displayed over them showing images here and there. Their performance was so Herculean that it didn't matter that I could not see this extra content that was weaved into the show. It was further confirmation that Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and my hero, Neil Peart were (and remain) three of the best musicians on the planet!

What was the worst?
I am happy to say that I have never seen a bad show. I would say that the one show that I was perhaps disappointed in was Sting's "...Nothing Like The Sun" tour in 1987. There was just no spontaneity musically for me. Everything just sounded like the album and I just wanted him and the band to stretch out. I felt that if it was going to be so reverential, then I could have stayed back in my dorm room and listened to the album. The one spontaneous moment was when Sting was called away from the stage and returned a few moments later and announced to the audience, "Well, it seems as if I have just won a Grammy!" That was fun to see!

What's your favorite album?
The Beatles' "Abbey Road." Forever and always.

What are your desert island albums?
In addition to "Abbey Road"? Well...let's see...

Elton John "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"
Stevie Wonder "Songs In The Key Of Life" and "Innervisions"
Pink Floyd "The Wall"
Todd Rundgren "Something/Anything?," "Todd" and "Initiation"
Prince "1999" and "Sign O' The Times"
Tangerine Dream "Thief"
The Beatles "The Beatles" (a.k.a. "The White Album") and "Revolver"
Genesis "Duke" and "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway"
The Smashing Pumpkins "Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness"
The Who "Tommy" and "Who's Next"
Joni Mitchell "Heijira"
Planet P. Project "Pink World"
The Jimi Hendrix Experience "Electric Ladyland"
Fleetwood Mac "Future Games" and "Tusk"
DJ Shadow "Endtroducing..."
Ryan Adams "Gold" and "Love Is Hell"
Frank Zappa "One Size Fits All"
J Dilla "Donuts"
JAMES BROWN "Star Time" boxed set

I'd better stop here or the whole collection will go with me! And as you may have noticed, quite a number of these albums are double albums...I just LOVE the double album format more than most.

What's your favorite song?
I couldn't even begin to pick one.

What song makes you happiest?
For me, the music of The Beatles is the greatest I have ever heard. But, you know, what makes me smile more than anything are expertly executed backing harmony vocals. I could get lost in "oohs' and "aaaahs" forever.

What song makes you cry?
Hmmm...songs don't really affect me in that way. Yes, sad songs do make me feel sad, but I'm not really one that is driven to tears that way. I will say that it seems that as I have gotten older, my nerve endings feel more...exposed, I guess, at times, and I will sometimes feel something behind my eyes reacting to what I am hearing. I think Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should've Come Over," Aimee Mann's "Deathly" and even the song "Gethsemane" from "Jesus Christ Superstar" are three examples of songs that have disarmed me emotionally and can produce the waterworks.

What are your listening preferences now compared to when you were growing up?
I was so musically narrow when I was a kid. In early childhood, my home played all sorts of genres but mostly leaned towards R&B and soul and with some jazz and gospel thrown into the mix. Rock music naturally chose me when I was very young. It is something that can never be explained. By the time I began learning how to play drums, I was solely listening to rock music (although now I truly understand that playing jazz has got to be the most difficult way for any drummers to play) and partially out of my preferences and mostly, by wanting to fit in with my peers, I rejected so much music and established some ridiculous boundaries for what "real music" and wasn't. But like Jedi Master Yoda explained to young Skywalker, and I am paraphrasing, I had to unlearn everything that I had learned.

So, now (and even though I don't care for country music, that death metal kind of stuff and no gangsta rap), I really feel that there are only two kinds of music: good and bad. While rock and roll remains the dominant genre for me, I'll listen to mostly anything.

Who is your favorite band/artist?
As I have always expressed to you, my musical "Holy Trinity" consists of The Beatles, Prince and Todd Rundgren.

Who do you feel is underrated?
Aside from Todd Rundgren? Unquestionably, and despite their presence in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, I feel that Genesis remains one of the most under-rated bands ever. Even at the height of their fame in the id 1980's, they were always a band that I had to defend and even now, I really don't feel that they have ever received their full due as being world class songwriters and composers, as well as singers and some of the finest musicians we have had. Aside from Peter Gabriel's well deserved acclaim, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and especially, Phil Collins, who I feel has demonstrated over and again that he has been one of rock's finest singers and undisputedly one of rock's BEST drummers, they have all received short shrift.

What do you love about playing the drums?
Just being able to hit something and make a canon's worth of sound is AMAZING! Beyond that, I really love it when I am able to get myself loosened up enough and I can just lose myself in the drums. I don't have my old drum set with me. It is currently sitting underneath the basement stairs in my parent's Chicago home. I would really love to have one of those electronic kits, where you could have headphones and an arsenal of pre-programmed sounds to mess around with. When a certain box store had those for sale and available to play in the store, I would purposefully make trips to just go and bash around. So...if anyone wishes to give Synesthesia a birthday present...

What do you love about being a DJ?
I feel that has been detailed at length on this site in several places but I will quickly say that it allows me to feel creative by taking the autobiographical nature of the music I love and being able to re-contextualize it all into what is hopefully a fun listening experience for other people. I just want to play what I love and maybe it's something you love as well or something you will or could love too. What else is this entire blogsite but a tribute to being a DJ as I am still playing out the fantasy while celebrating the time I was a DJ in college as well as the recent "WLHA Resurrection/Reunion Weekends" events I have been involved with (and will hopefully again this July).

What troubles you about the current state of music?
I keep saying that music has been devalued. The album is not seen as art and even songwriting has become devalued as well. There is just too terribly much out there, from genre to genre, that is completely interchangeable, homogeneous, toothless, derivative, over-produced and without personality. Music has become social wallpaper and does not exist as the form of art that people could be passionate about as the listening experience is not the same as it was. With all of the noise of life and electronic wizardry that keeps jockeying for our attention, people don't seem to just want to take the time and actually listen anymore. I told one young friend that the listening was once the event and it just isn't anymore.

What aspect of the music experience from your childhood do you miss?
I miss the sense of discovery and invention that artists had. Don't get me wrong. There s still great music and there will always be great music being made like the latest albums from D'Angelo and Kendrick Lamar or Tame Impala. And then, I cannot say enough about Post Social and Modern Mod, as those two bands really give me hope for the future because they are just so earnest, engaged, and enthusiastic about being able to make music. But there was quite the lengthy period of time, from the 1950's-the mid 1990's, when it seemed that anything was possible and now, so much of music is just derivative of all that has come before. It's like people aren't trying and I miss that fascination. But the fan community, especially through social media has also made it difficult for artists as they don't seem to wish for their "favorite artists" to grow, develop and change. But look, how boring it would be if Prince just kept making "Purple Rain" over and again. Just imagine The Beatles if the public didn't allow them to grow. Pretty awful, huh?

Have you ever damaged a friendship, or thought twice about a relationship, because you disagreed with the other person's musical taste?
No. Of course not. To each their own. But....there have been times when I have internally paused when seeing something in someone's collection that completely clashes with my personal likes.

What music have you dreamed about?
All of it!!!

And with that, HAPPY 2ND BIRTHDAY to SYNESTHESIA. May the needle always finds its groove and THANK YOU to all of you who have helped me be being so supportive along the way.

Friday, April 3, 2015

FROM PEASANT TO PRINCE TO KING: "TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY" KENDRICK LAMAR

"TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY"
KENDRICK LAMAR

Executive Producers: Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith and Dr. Dre
Released March 16, 2015

Questlove, your challenge for artists and musicians to push themselves to become the voices of the times in which we live has been met and then some!

Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly" is far and away the best album released so far in 2015. Furthermore, it is easily one of the very best albums that I have heard in, perhaps, the last five years! It is a work of pulverizing force, staggering complexity, stunning audaciousness and an astonishing clarity of musical and artistic vision. It is the work of an artist established enough to have the clout to create and release something of this nature but also from an artist young enough, and therefore hungry enough, to firmly understand that fame is fleeting and that if one is to strike, the time is NOW!

At this time, I have heard the album in full only three times and the experience of listening to it has been nothing less than profound. "To Pimp A Butterfly" is a dark, dense, and powerfully demanding work which is designed to be listened to in full, which makes the work the complete antithesis of most of what is being currently released. It confronts, forces and challenges its listeners from beginning to end to think hard and harshly about the complexities and conundrums of Black America, and for Black listeners especially, the album contains the juxtapositions we hold within ourselves simply by existing in America in the first place. If D'Angelo and the Vanguard's "Black Messiah" (released December 15, 2014) threw down the gauntlet, then Kendrick Lamar has picked it up and has refused to let go of it until every sweat drenched idea, concept and lyric has been sharpened to their most piercing points, relinquished from his spirit and therefore, released out into the world in this 79 minute magnum opus, which miraculously does not feel the least bit over-stuffed or purely self-indulgent. "To Pimp A Butterfly" is less of an album and more of a manifesto.

Now, at this time, I must make the admission to you that before listening to this album, my knowledge of Kendrick Lamar and his music has been less than scant. I knew who he was and had seen him on television at one time or another but if asked to name a song title, I would not have been able to tell you even one, for that is how little Lamar was on my personal music radar. Yes, I knew that his previous album "good kid, m.A.A.d. City" (released October 22, 2012), was critically acclaimed as well as a top seller but even so, and especially due to my own personal conflicts with the hip-hop genre, I remained skeptical feeling that Kendrick Lamar would in essence be just another representative of everything that is, and has been, wrong with hip hop during its extended arrested development, which for my money has been enduring for nearly 25 years now. I just could not take one more album where a Black artist would regurgitate destructive materialistic and violent fantasies all to the endless cadences of "nigger" plus all manner of profanities over and again and not only would we in the Black community continue to support such material, White audiences would support it even moreso, thus continuing to construct a mass misconception about who Black Americans actually are as real, three dimensional human beings. To pimp a butterfly indeed...

But, last summer, I did hear Lamar's calling card for this new album, which existed in the form of "i," a joyous ode to Black self-acceptance fueled by a sample of The Isley Brothers' "That Lady." It was striking enough to be true...sort of like hearing an updated version of JAMES BROWN's "Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud," because it had truly been far too long since I had heard a message this overt on such a large scale. My curiosity was piqued.

What really sold me on pursuing the new album in its entirety was the second single, the rampaging "The Blacker The Berry," where Lamar breathlessly and with growling fury attacks White supremacy, negative Black stereotype images and perceptions but also carries a striking vulnerability and punishing self-criticism. In a song where Lamar introduces himself as "the biggest hypocrite of 2015," he intones with seething rage, "I'm African-American, I'm African...My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide/You hate me, don't you?/You hate my people, your plan it to terminate my culture...You sabotage my community, makin' a killin'/You made me a killer, emancipation of a real nigga." But by the song's conclusion, and as promised within his own self-description, he presents a probing question to no one else but himself with the following: "So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?/When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?"

With that track, I was sold.

Making a play off the title of Harper Lee's iconic novel To Kill A Mockingbird and adorned with a disturbing cover image depicting a legion of young Black men armed with cash and liquor (and Kendrick Lamar  himself is shown holding a baby) partying on the White House lawn while also over the body of a dead White judge, Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly" is a exploration of African-American identity in the 21st century that is simultaneously societal, cultural and piercingly individualistic.

The album also works as a profound spiritual allegory as we are witness to Lamar's on-going inner struggles between his own sense of hopes, desires, and aspirations as they are realized against the backdrop of the realities within his community of Compton, his home town to which he has reportedly returned and currently lives after his world travels and global success. He battles horrifically with the character of "Lucy" (which I am reading as "Lucifer") as realized through his worst impulses and temptations, as well as a level of self-laceration that is crippling in its honesty and brutally existential. The album's overall narrative unfolds in pieces, as Lamar recites a poem, which is interrupted periodically at key points to introduce the next sequence of songs displaying his (and our) turmoil that exists with trying to attain a sense of societal acceptance when we struggle with loving ourselves.

What initially surprised me about "To Pimp A Butterfly" was how musical it actually is. The album is less hip-hop beat driven yet is given the foundation of funk, soul, and jazz, even to its most avant garde as its bedrock for Lamar to display his narrative, which is often literary as well as cinematic in scope and dexterity, and his astounding performances throughout, which are as elastic as they are harrowing. Lamar has certainly gathered a formidable collective of singers and musicians to assist him in weaving his vision from the likes of singers Lalah Hathaway and the multi-talented Bilal, pianist/keyboardist Robert Glasper, producers/composers Flying Lotus and Sounwave, former Suicidal Tendencies' bassist Thundercat, saxophonist Terrace Martin to even guest appearances by Snoop Dogg (who delivers an eerie Slick Rick influenced verse on "Institutionalized") and the "Maggot Overlord" himself, George Clinton. But rest assured, this is not an album where the guests overwhelm the proceedings (I'm looking at you, Kanye). This is Kendrick Lamar's show first and foremost.

I would say that within the hip hop world, "To Pimp A Butterfly" first made me think of it as being somewhat of an heir of albums like Common's "Electric Circus" (released December 10, 2002), The Roots' "Phrenology" (released November 26, 2002),  Mos Def's "The New Danger" (released October 19, 2004) and especially Erykah Badu's "New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)" (released February 26, 2008). But furthermore, it owes equally as much to The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan, Public Enemy, Richard Pryor, the early "joints" of Spike Lee, to even William Shakespeare. Yes, Lamar's literary gifts and musical artistry are that strong and wide ranging.

"To Pimp A Butterfly" is also an album that is screaming for a lyric booklet, or for that matter, a libretto, as Lamar's writing is defiantly multi-layered and arrives in a hurricane of words, characters and voices that Lamar performs with the dexterity that transcends hip-hop to my ears but catapults him into an acting arena on the level of a Daniel Day-Lewis or Denzel Washington in their respective primes.

The album's first three tracks are staggering enough. "Wesley's Theory," named after the beleaguered and incarcerated for tax evasion actor Wesley Snipes, fades in with a dusty sample of Boris Gardiner's provocatively entitled "Every Nigger Is A Star" and blasts into full funk widescreen (complete with Thundercat's deep burbling liquid bass guitar) that includes an invocation from George Clinton and a warning from Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar performs the dual role of an aspiring rapper unloading his wish list of everything he would buy once he gets signed and that of "Uncle Sam," the representation of the American capitalist structure that makes wealthy African-American figures like Oprah Winfrey a rarity and still more likely to find themselves arrested for tax evasion while their White counterparts who cause financial meltdowns remain free.

"For Free? (Interlude)" is an explosive and verbally violent spoken word piece performed over a blistering free jazz backdrop, where Lamar is at first admonished by two gold diggers (which also may represent America itself--a la "American Woman"--get away from me) and then retaliates in a ferociously agile and rapid fire display that concludes with "Oh America, you bad bitch, I picked cotton that made you rich/Now my dick ain't free!" 

This immediately segues into the Funkadelic influenced "King Kunta," where Lamar vigorously claims the throne that Jay-Z and Kanye West merely boasted about. Lamar floats and stings like Muhammad Ali on this track where he carries the vocal cadences of JAMES BROWN's "The Payback," lays waste to rappers who utilize ghost writers and after an abrupt gunshot snap, a deep voice intones, "By the time you hear the next 'pop,' the funk...shall be within you!!" And then, it majestically is with vocal choruses of "WE WANT THE FUNK!!" and roaring guitar solos.

After the meditations about the corruptions of wealth in the aforementioned "Institutionalized," and the complex "If These Walls Could Talk," which begins as a sexual metaphor but later transforms itself into a more psychological undertaking, "To Pimp A Butterfly" reaches its epic and undeniably harrowing mid-section.

Beginning with the intensely distressing and self-lacerating "u," Lamar takes us through a man-in-the-hotel-room-mirror psychological meltdown and the track also marks the start of a series of performances that are downright acrobatic. Just listen to how Lamar takes the one line "Loving you is complicated," which he repeats possibly 10 times, and how he spirals upwards to reaching a Kanye-esque scream and then taking an instantaneous swan dive into the guttural growl of a demon. His voice simply switches upon a dime. As he emotionally tears himself apart through self-inflicted, guilt ridden vitriol ("Where was your presence, where was your support that you pretend?/You ain't no brother, you ain't no disciple, you ain't no friend/A friend never leave Compton for profit or leave his best friend/Little brother, you promised you'd watch him before they shot him..."), the song musically transforms itself-suite-like, from the avant garde jazz of one section into a new sequence that sounds inebriated. Altering his voice again, this time into something that sounds like a cross between being blind drunk and hysterical crying, Lamar continues his tirade:

"I know your secrets, nigga
Mood swings is frequent, nigga
I know depression is restin' on your heart for two reasons, nigga
I know you and and a couple block boys ain't been speakin', nigga
Y'all damn near beefin', I seen it and you're the reason, nigga
And if this bottle could talk, I cry myself to sleep
Bitch everything is your fault"

For a genre whose currency is based in the endless amounts of bravado, the level of the displayed vulnerability this piercing is just something I really haven't heard to quite this degree in hip-hop--in fact, it sounds more like what you could hear upon a Nine Inch Nails album--and the effect is humanizing as well as theatrical.

And it doesn't stop here...

After "u," the torment continues with the arrival of the Satanic Lucy, who Lamar often voices with a sinister humor, swagger, seductiveness, and even a slight elderly Jamaican lilt. With the poppy Pharrell Williams assisted "Alright," and the keyboard drenched "For Sale? (Interlude)," Lamar is promised by Lucy that if they join forces, "we gon' be alright" in the former and is presented with all manner of promises and temptations in exchange for the purity of the soul in the latter. Even the road to spiritual deliverance is fraught with fears and obstacles, as Lamar is warned, "They say if you scared, go to church/But remember, he knows the Bible too."

Seeking spiritual answers and solace provides more confusion within "Momma," a track that could be read as either Lamar's return to Compton or even a visit to Africa for a sense of deliverance as fame, fortune and world travels have left him spiritually empty. Altering his voice again into the sound of a vaguely robotic and know-it-all child, we hear what is possibly Lamar emulating the simultaneous mocking voices of his community towards him as well as the voices inside of his head.

"I know everything
I know everything, know myself
I know morality, spirituality, good and bad health
I know fatality might haunt you
I know everything
I know Compton, I know street shit
I know shit that's conscious
I know everything
I know lawyers, advertisement and sponsors
I know wisdom, I know bad religion, I know good karma
I know everything..."

Until he is confronted with the realization that, "I didn't know shit until the day I came home." Because, let's face it, if Lamar before the fame, fortune and world travels were able to confront himself afterwards, would even he listen to himself? These emotions are explored within "Hood Politics," a song that simultaneously moves backwards in time to the person Lamar was to the present when he is being reminded about was life in Compton actually continues to be, especially in the post-Obama era.

The final third of "To Pimp A Butterfly" charts Lamar's difficult internal reconstruction of the self and spirit although still continuing to be afflicted with what he refers to as "Survivor's Guilt." The odyssey takes a deeply spiritual turn in "How Much A Dollar Cost," in which Lamar, accosted by an old man he assumes to be a vagrant begging for money to purchase crack, refuses to help only to discover the vagrant is in fact God and now has thus lost his place in Heaven over the cost of one dollar. From here, Lamar seems to undergo throes of fully comprehending the meanings of forgiveness, compassion and the need to reject "the evils of Lucy" and the selfish capitalism that has consumed him.

Re-inventing himself as somewhat of a prophet, the album segues into themes of universal acceptance with "Complexion (A Zulu Love)," the war cry against racist society in the aforementioned and rampaging "The Blacker The Berry," and the emphasis of extolling truth over artifice in "You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)." 

"To Pimp A Butterfly" reaches its grand finale with the arrival of "i," which has been reworked from the original single to present a vision where the club stage becomes the pulpit and the conflicted rapper becomes a leader. The song stops midway as a fight breaks out in the crowd. From here, Lamar addresses the crowd by asking, then directing, "How many niggas we done lost?...So we ain't got time to waste time." Then, Lamar goes the furthest yet as he delivers an A Capella verse during which he explores the origin of the word "nigger" and why he utilizes it with such frequency to describe himself and African-Americans.

"Well, this is my explanation straight from Ethiopia
N-E-G-U-S definition: royalty; King royalty, wait-listen
N-E-G-U-S description: Black emperor, King, ruler, now let me finish
The history books overlook the word and hide it
America tried to make it to a house divided
The homies don't recognize we be using it wrong
So I'ma break it down and put my game in the song
N-E-G-U-S say it with me
Or say no more. Black stars can come and get me
Take it from Oprah Winfrey, tell her she right on time
Kendrick Lamar, by far, realist NEGUS alive"

I have to say, that while I am not entirely convinced by this section, I am given enormous pause at the thoughts that have emerged. To think that the history of the language we utilize and therefore inflict upon each other through prejudice, racism, subjugation and even extinction, could be language that contains a completely opposite truth and history that demands to be investigated by all of us.

As I stated earlier in this posting, my ears just ache at having to hear the word "nigger" and its variations on hip-hop albums from artists I truly love. "Nigger" is a word I simply do not use. While it is used within my community, I was raised to never use the word, and to also reject the word as a form of terminology to describe myself because that is not who I, or any of my people, are. African-Americans and therefore people of African heritage and descent are not niggers and it pains me that in 2015, so many us still describe ourselves as such. Now, that being said, please do note that I am not a listener who offends easily. Within works of art, everything--especially the word "nigger" --is all based within context. In film and literature, seeing the context is much easier than in music when often times the word is utilized as a lazy colloquialism. Yes, on "To Pimp A Butterfly" you will hear the work "nigger" as much as you would in a Quentin Tarantino film. But, Lamar always places the word within a context. The context of self-loathing and in the context presented within "i," one where he is desperately trying to inform us that the word we use to enslave ourselves is derived from the word to describe the fullness of our royalty and inherent regalness.

Ascending to the role of leader and the future of the African-American race itself is elucidated upon in the 12 minute final track "Mortal Man," where Lamar wishes to exist on a higher plane as the late Nelson Mandela and how we all should aspire to such great heights. And then, to further cement his journey, also the album's most audacious moment, Lamar imagines himself within a lengthy conversation with the late Tupac Shakur, a moment that could be viewed as paranoid, revelatory or both.

Introspective, local and global, Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly" is a feverishly creative, demonstrably multi-layered musical experience that is not remotely passive and provides listeners with much to discuss, debate and discern. It is incredible to me how Lamar has weaved a narrative that links a deeply personal inner struggle with a cultural one; where inner city neighborhoods have its populace inflicting violence and hatred upon each other while all the while being subjugated by a larger system designed to incarcerate and eradicate. The inner journey necessary to find spiritual deliverance and ascension is paramount to survival yet how is that ascension achieved when we are taught from the beginning in this country to hate ourselves and to understand that as human beings, we are not valued in the same light as our counterparts of other races? Kendrick Lamar's ambition and determination to try and wrestle with such vast concepts and realities is commendable and the artistry in which he has executed his vision, even more so.

I have written a lot about this album as it truly does demand this level of attention and exploration for it is a serious work as we live in serious times. I think we're going to be hearing a lot about this album over the remainder of the year.

And it deserves every single word.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

WSPC SESSION NOTES FOR APRIL 2015: SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RECORD STORE

FROM THE DJ'S STUDIO DESK:

"I believe that the power of the record store to inspire is still alive and well, and that their importance to our next generation of musicians is crucial. Take an afternoon (and some hard earned lawn mowing money) and please support them.

You never know, it may change your life forever, too."
-Dave Grohl 2015 Record Store Day Ambassador

I agree 1000%!!

Yes, dear readers and listeners, it is that time of the year again, a day that I do hold very close to my spirit (even if the specialty released items are just too much for my personal finances to handle). Saturday, April 18th is indeed the day where I sincerely hope that all of you take some time to head out and venture into a local business, in this case, your neighborhood record store, just for nothing else but to bask in the sense of community and discovery that is inherent to an establishment like the record store.

I know that I have expressed to you many times on this site how influential the record store has been for me throughout my life and if any of those words have ever meant a whit to any of you, I sincerely hope that you do take the plunge for yourselves--for those who have never experienced the record store or for those who have not set foot inside of one for a long time. I really believe that for those people, if you could just see the excitement and joy that exists with people responding so powerfully to music--the listening, the seeking and finding and the collecting--the emotions will be palpable to you and completely unlike a more solitary experience of listening to a streaming service.

Pick up an album and feel the weight of the music in your hands. Turn the record jacket over and read the liner notes and song titles or just gaze at the artwork which really does become and feel to be larger than life, especially after years and years of viewing the same items upon small computer screens. Just go inside and talk to people. We're a friendly bunch, trust me. For we just love music and cannot wait to share what we love with others and to be inspired in turn by an excited soul standing right in front of us.

A special day with a powerful sense of purpose to retain human connection and to reclaim the artistic value of something that has been so devalued in recent years. Record Store Day! See what you can find. And when you do find it, remember to...

PLAY LOUD!!!!!