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First Impression: Kenrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterlfy”

pimp

‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ album cover.

Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ was released a week early a couple days ago. I finally managed to give it a listen for the first time last night. I started listening to it at around 10pm. I was still listening to it when I fell asleep sometime after 2am. A whole 4 hours later. I listened to a couple more times when I got up in the morning and have been listening to it most of today. That I gave it a couple of spins on first contact is testament of how immersive the listening experience has been so far. So is the fact that I have voraciously read up on anything related to the album in between listens. That I am sitting here writing about it also speaks to how much the album has hijacked my attention and titillated my curiosity. However, this is not a review per se. But more an attempt to unpack and process some of the initial feelings I had listening to the album in the last 24 hours.

This is one is going to be a doozy.

Even after the repeated rotation I can’t seem to make up my mind (yet) how I feel about this album. I know it is special and I really appreciate its musicality. I just can’t figure out if I love it. But I do know I want to love it, badly. I am also sure that is it a great piece of art. It’s cinematic in its scope and shares the same unfathomable complexity of some of the books I have felt compelled to re-read. ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ is a demanding and at times challenging listen. And I can’t stop listening to it. And therein lays its genius and appeal for me. With each listen I find myself trying to dig deeper so I can catch every reference, idea and emotion. I’m still hearing new stuff and I’m sure I’ll continue to discover new things weeks from now. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is an album to contemplate and examine as much as it is a groovy album with beautiful musicality. And for me that was as intriguing as it was contradictory. Which I suspect is what Kendrick was trying to go for, especially when you consider the album title itself.

‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is a really evocative title. Not just for an album, but any work of art. Period. The writer in me loves the contradictory nature of that statement. There is so much imagery packed into it. The title seems more literary than anything, and the album seems to fall into this discussion of life and the ills of both success and blackness. Kendrick himself has alluded to it being a play on ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ a novel by Harper Lee that deals with racial inequality and is considered a modern American classic. Kendrick himself has stated that he believes ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ will be taught in university course in the future. No pressure there, I guess.

‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is an album that is as multi-layered as it is richly textured. Musically, contextually and lyrically. It is as colourful as it is monochromatic. It hijacks your attention 80 minutes at a time. Sonically I love the direction that Kendrick went on this album. I found the jazzy and funk influences refreshing. Although from the get go I did pick a sombre and at times melancholic vibe which is an interesting juxtaposition to the funky beats. There are also parts of the album where Hip Hop meets neo soul. And even some spoken word. Admittedly these parts can feel a bit pretentious, if not cheesy. And I can see that putting of those who want that hip-hip, it don’t stop.  But in the bigger picture of the album, it works. T

Contextually and lyrically ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is a lot to process. Even as a black person I found the ‘politics of blackness’ of it confrontational and overwhelming in parts. Although I suspect that might have to do with different nuances of my personal African experience and the wider African-American experience. Kendrick though makes a strong case for the universality of the broader black experience with his comparisons of the Xhosa-Zulu conflict with that of the Blood and Crips gangs of LA in the fantastically belligerent ‘The Blacker The Berry’ which had been released as a single prior to the album release. The ‘politics of blackness” is not the entire focus of the album though. Throughout the album you are can pick up more universal themes like dealing with societal pressure, being lost  and consumed by the situation you’ve been put into, finding yourself and achieving self-fulfilment. Like I said before, this is a layered album. And I am looking forwarding to peeling back those layers over the next couple of weeks.

The highlights so far….

‘Alright’ is the early stand out track for me. Mostly because it has such a positive vibe to it. ‘How Much Does A Dollar Cost?’ is also such an introspective song and resonates the most of all the songs on the album. Finally the interview with Tupac and the explanation of the title knocked me off my feet.

Consider this butterfly pimped.

One more thing ….

‘This dick ain’t freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee …..’

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Culture Vulture

 

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Sam Smith: A Really Soulful Dude. I’m A Fan.

Unrequited love is a hell of a muse.

Just ask Adele. And Frank Ocean. And Sam Smith. Who? Sam Smith. Sam Smith is one of the latest in an impressive production line of soul singers that have come out of the UK in the last couple of years. Could it be all that tea and crumpets? Oh the fish and chips perhaps? Whatever it is I am just glad they are putting the soul back into our radios. Shouts to Emeli Sandé.

Personally I think Sam Smith owned the Queen of R&B herself Mary J Blige on ‘Stay With Me’ duet. I actually prefer his solo version to be honest.

 

Sam Smith’s voice is sublime. You feel it before you hear it. And that’s just about as soulful as it gets. When I found out he was a 22 year old white guy I was even more impressed by the soulful inflections in his voice because traditionally the most soulful singers have tended to be black. And Sam Smith is just as soulful as any other cats out there. Fact. His voice speaks for itself. Admittedly I only caught onto his music a few weeks ago. But as soon as I heard his beautifully soulful voice on the radio I fell in love with his music. At the time I had no idea who the artist was. Where is Shazam when you need it? Sigh. It would be a few days before I would finally found out that the man behind the voice was none other Sam Smith. And the song that had initially piqued my interest? His latest single ‘Leave Your Lover’ of his debut album the ‘‘In The Lonely Hour’.

 

Since then I have made it my mission to listen to this young soul impresario’s music. And as I embarked on this journey I become more and more of a fan. Songs like ‘Money On Mind’, ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘Nirvana’ reminded of how of an old soul I actually am. That even in this increasingly digital world I am an analogue at heart. There is a certain warmth and humanity in Sam Smith’s voice that is so refreshing especially when juxtaposed against most of the mainstream vapid ‘music’. This is something that he addressed in a recent interview with The Fader magazine when he said;

‘I want to make the music that’s not there anymore. I’m so passionate about the singing voice. I genuinely feel like there’s a snobbery in the industry where people feel like playing an instrument makes you a better songwriter or musician. What I’m trying to do actually with my album is show that it’s my voice that’s leading. It’s my voice that’s the instrument. It’s hard, it’s difficult—I watch artists around me that have 200 fans waiting outside of hotels and venues for them and they can’t sing.’

Outside of his music I also dug a little into the story of the man behind the voice. And the first thing I picked up on was the parallels between some aspects of his story and that of Frank Ocean, another soulful singer whose music I absolutely adore. Like Frank Ocean before him the inspiration for Sam Smith’s Album ‘In The Lonely Hour’ was drawn from love gone wrong. Unrequited love to be specific. And for both artists the person who they loved was a man. It seems men are quite the muses when it comes to this thing called unrequited love. Shouts to Adele.

In some instances both Sam Smith and Frank Ocean’s music is confessional and serves as a platform for them to ‘come out’ per se. ‘Leave Your Lover’ is to Sam Smith what ‘Bad Religion’ was to Frank Ocean. As a listener whilst I have never been in love with a man, I have experienced unrequited love. I think everyone who has ever opened themselves up to love has at some point. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or charming you are. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight. At some point we have all loved someone who hasn’t necessarily loved us back. Life.

And that’s the beauty of art. Our experiences don’t have to be identical. They just have to resonate. Therein lays the magic in Sam Smith’s music. It resonates. It tugs at your heartstrings. It moves you. And if you are lucky enough it makes you more appreciative of the love that you currently have in your life. In the same cover story for The Fader magazine Sam Smith had this to say about the inspiration behind his album.

‘In the Lonely Hour’ is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back. I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before. I’ve felt the bad things. And what’s a more powerful emotion: pain or happiness?

What’s a more powerful emotion; pain or happiness? That is a very good question. One that I will leave you to marinate on whilst I continue marinating on Sam Smith’s music.

 

You can read the full The Fader cover story on Sam Smith in which he opens up about his life and love here.

 
 

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I’m The Man (You Can Tell Everybody)

I think it was the late great Bob Marley that once said that “the thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain”. I don’t think there has ever been a more eloquent observation in regards to the power of music and its impact on the human spirit. The very best of music lifts your spirit. As a long time lover of words some of my favourite songs bear great lyrics as their hallmark. That being said if there is one thing that moves me more than words it’s when those words are sung beautifully over a soulful beat. The very best of music pulls at my heart strings. It tells a story. Sometimes it’s my story. And other times it just allows me to live vicariously through the experiences of others. The very best of songs feel like they were sung by that one person who gets you. That person you don’t have to explain or justify yourself to. They just get you. It inspires you to be better, to love and accept yourself and your story not matter how ugly that story is.

 

All this rings true when I listen to Aloe Blacc’s (famous for the ‘I Need A Dollar’ theme song to the short lived How To Make It In America TV series) breakthrough single ‘The Man’ of his Lift Your Spirit Album. Some music aficionado’s might also recognise his vocals on another more recent track, Avicii’s hit dance song ‘Wake Me Up” which (unfortunately) he wasn’t credited for.

 

I know that a song is good when I wish that I had written it and find myself doing renditions of it every other morning during my showers. In those moments I imagine myself on stage belting out the lyrics and the crowd loving every bit of it … Allow. What I love most about ‘The Man is that it reminds of the person that I am. On the song “The Man” Aloe Blacc radiates unflappable self-assurance and the song’s lyrics sound powerful without drowning in conceit. It moves me viscerally and it makes me fall in love with myself and my story all over again. It’s a beautiful reminder of where I have been and where I am going. It resonates with the dreamer, believer and achiever in me.

 

Over the Easter break I have deliberately made an effort to spend time doing things that I love that I haven’t really got to do because you know…life. I have tried to just be still in the moment. I have avoided retreating to nostalgia or fretting about tomorrow. I have just embraced the present. The now. I have had more time to just sit and do nothing but listen to the radio most of the day without any distractions. And to read a book. Something that I haven’t done so far this year. Over the last couple of days I started and finished reading “Samarkand” by Amin Maalouf. It such a captivating story that is grand in scope, piercing in its insights and poetic in its tragedy. It left me ticking and tense and wanting to tell someone else to read it, so there you go I highly recommend it. ( You can thank me later). During the last few days I haven’t run or written. I have just sat, listened to and watched the world around me, offline.

I have remembered how much I love music and how influential it has been in shaping into the person that I am today. For better or worse. For me the music that resonates is the music that triggers my excitable cells and endocrine systems. Music that makes me happy, introspective and can be a quick relief to all my worries and stresses. Music that lifts my spirits. And that is what Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” is doing for me this morning.

Whilst reading a profile Of Aloe Blacc earlier I came across this quote from him that I absolutely love that I want to share today.

Blacc who was a straight-A student who won a scholarship to the University of Southern California to study communications and linguistic psychology. “It’s kind of a nerdy interest,” he says. “It helps me to continue whetting my blade as a thinker.I don’t play the new app of the week on my phone, I play with words. I put them together in little puzzles and see how they make me feel and then do this projection puzzle to the rest of the world and ask how they will make other people feel – Aloe Blacc

I still haven’t gotten around to listening to the full album Lift Your Spirit yet but I am sure I will get around to it soon enough.
If you are interested you can read the full profile of the man of the moment in this The Guardian (UK) article in which he drops quite a few quotable gems. Aloe Blacc: The Man of the moment here

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Culture Vulture

 

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Mbira: The Music Of Zimbabwe

Religion, language and music are some of the key ingredients that make up most cultures in the world. It is easy for us to associate or identify cultures with any of these markers. A language can give you a window into the speaker’s culture in the same way that the music of the culture serves to market the culture to the rest of the world. Shona music was and is so much more than what Westerners associate with “music”. The “traditional” music of Zimbabwe reveals our forefather’s spiritual beliefs, their modes of expression, patterns of communication and forms of entertainment, in as much as present day contemporary music reveals a lot about our present lives and past experiences. For example, traditional Shona songs were a medium of instruction through which young boys and girls were taught the values and expectations of adulthood. All social relationships were sealed, bonded and regulated through songs. Through songs, a daughter-in-law would express her bitterness against a horrible mother-in-law, a bitter wife against a greedy husband, and the whole community would protest against an unjust chief, hence there is a tradition of Shona protest songs. There were songs to praise, urge, ridicule and reprimand. Most means of communication in the pre-literate and oral African societies were musical in one way or another.

When it comes to traditional Shona culture, the music most associated with the culture is Mbira music. Mbira music has been contemporarised by artists such Ambuya Stella Chiweshe and the late Chiwoniso Maraire. Both artists have travelled and toured the world playing the Mbira. Traditionally only men played the Mbira in Shona society. Women were not allowed to play the Mbira. It is a testament to the dynamic nature of culture then two of the more well known Mbira artists today are women. Some Zimbabwean electric bands also infuse the Mbira into their music. Today the Mbira is a positive symbol of cultural identity for most Zimbabweans.

Mbira refers to the name of both the instrument and the music. The Mbira instrument is a hand held piano like instrument with the keys being made of metal. Mbira the genre is mystical music which has been played for over a thousand years by certain tribes of the Shona people. The Shona form the vast majority of the population of Zimbabwe. Mbira pervades all aspects of Shona culture, both sacred and secular. Its most important function is as a “telephone to the spirits”, used to contact both deceased ancestors and tribal guardians, at all-night bira (pl. mapira) ceremonies. At these ceremonies, vadzimu, including midzimu (spirits of family ancestors), mhondoro (spirits of deceased chiefs) and makombwe (the most powerful guardian spirits of the Shona), give guidance on family and community matters and exert power over weather and health.

Mbira

The Mbira is a positive symbol of cultural identity for most Zimbabweans.

Mbira is required to bring rain during drought, stop rain during floods, and bring clouds when crops are burned by the sun. Mbira is used to chase away harmful spirits, and to cure illnesses with or without a n’anga (traditional diviner/herbalist). Mbira is included in celebrations of all kinds, including weddings, installation of new chiefs, and, more recently, government events such as independence day and international conferences.
Mbira is also required at death ceremonies, and is played for a week following a chief’s death before the community is informed of his passing. At the guva ceremony, approximately one year after a person’s physical death, mbira is used to welcome that individual’s spirit back to the community.
In previous centuries, court musicians played mbira for Shona kings and their diviners. Although the mbira was originally used in a limited number of Shona areas, today it is popular throughout Zimbabwe. Mbira is desired for the general qualities it imparts: peaceful mind and strong life force.

You can listen to Chiwoniso Maraire’s ‘Ancient Voices’ to understand what i am talking about  here  

During the colonial era the traditional role of music as a medium of instruction was replaced by the introduction of a formal education system which was closely linked to the new Christian religion. The introduction of the Christian religion on the other hand changed the people’s religious songs and ritual music. Recognising the close relationship between the people’s religion and music, Christian missionaries, ensured a fast decline in traditional culture and religion. Missionaries castigated the use of the Mbira instrument in church ceremonies and dismissed it as unholy and heathen. Christian converts were usually forbidden to play traditional musical instruments. The Mbira and the drum which had carried the tradition of the Shona people’s music for a long time were dismissed as unholy.

It is fitting then that in the fight for independence (known as the Chimurenga) music played an important part in the struggle. Popular and traditional songs with hidden meaning; helped galvanize mass opinion; spirit mediums were leaders in the war against white privilege. After decades of denigration by some Africans who had lost faith in traditional culture, The mbira becomes a positive symbol of cultural identity. And today it is enjoying a new lease of life at the forefront of Shona music and culture.

 

I will sign off with some beautiful words from Zimbababwean Mbira Queen  Ambuya Stella Chiweshe as she plays the Mbira and shares her insights on the spirituality and materialism of the Shona in 21st century. Enjoy.

 

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Culture Vulture

 

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Love In The Future

Love is a hell of a muse. It’s definitely doing wonders for John Legend’s music. Granted he has always been a soulful dude but his latest offering “Love In The Future” has to arguably be his best work to date. It’s not just his voice, or even his musicality that brings it home for me. It’s how effortlessly he sets about sharing the core of who he is. For me this has always been the essence of all the great art that has managed to leave an indelible mark on my soul. It is something that as a writer I try to emulate in my own writing, albeit with varying degrees of success. On this album John Legend is encouragingly vulnerable and he displays an emotional intelligence that makes this album special, even more so when set against the backdrop of most popular R&B/soul music today. It embodies all the characteristics of grown and sexy music. It’s a breath of fresh air.

The album’s title gives a pretty accurate indicator of the album’s direction. As the album starts he sings on the title track “It’s a new year for love in the future, not the love I lost …no” On a personal level this is probably the most important message on the whole album. When I first listened to the album it made me sit up and pay attention. It sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album. John Legend had this to say about it “The title kind of embraces where I’m heading in life, It’s the beginning of something new. It’s also the end.”

In the past I have always taken issue with most R&B/soul by male artists. This is because the majority of the time the songs are bout pining for lost love, asking for forgiveness or instead they offer a play by play account of how they intend to sex some women silly. This grates me not because I can’t relate, I can, but I always felt it was too dominant a narrative in soul music. And that is why I love “Love In The Future”. It’s a celebration of love infused with an anticipation and optimism of how that love is going to grow. It promotes stability and maturity in love and relationships.

Essentially the album plays out as a sort of love letter presumably to his then fiancé (and now wife) Chrissy Teigen. It unfolds like a concept album, speaking to the love they will grow into in the future. Each song either extols the graces of a woman or endorses the endurance of relationships. The album as a whole is sure to soften even the most cynical and jaded of hearts. It’s not cheesy in the way most pop and R&B albums tend to be. There is an authenticity and vulnerability that’s relatable and real. And the standout track for me is the piano heavy ballad ‘All Of Me’.

‘All Of Me’ is such a beautifully written and mature love song. It is without a shadow of doubt the most thoughtful, introspective, sensual, vulnerable and honest song I have listened to all year. Lyrically it bears all the hallmarks of all the songs that stay with me long after it will has been exhausted by radio. The music I return to whenever I retreat to nostalgia. The music that inspires me to moonwalk with my muse.It is a timeless. In recent memory with exception of Frank Ocean’s last offering ‘Channel Orange’ the music that has resonated with me that way has been mostly the rap music of the likes of Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole . So even though I caught on to the album later than most people, I still appreciate it just as much and I am grateful to John Legend for bringing back the soul into my playlist.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Why I am Breaking Up With Kanye’s Ego

If you ask most people who know me to tell you something about me, I’m willing to wager that most people would probably mention something about me being either a Manchester United fan or a Kanye West fan. Both have shaped different stages of my life in one way or the other. With Kanye I am not just a fan of the music but also a fan of his story. A story about turning a near fatal car crash into the catalyst for his biggest triumph – a brilliant career in music. I am drawn to his passion, drive and self belief.  It is a self belief and confidence that (most of the time) balances delicately on the edge of the egoistic. Kanye’s confidence in himself and his abilities is often misconstrued as arrogance, but that’s only if you look on the surface. When I listened intimately to his lyrics I heard a charming and playful braggadocio.

Kanye not only made me believe I could touch the sky, but the story he shared on ‘Last Call’ , on his College Dropout album, is one of the most inspiring stories the dreamer in me repeatedly runs back to when the going gets tough. In the College Dropout Kanye came across as the relatable confident underdog with a stubborn determination to make his dreams a reality no matter how ludicrous they might have appeared to those around him. He believed in himself more than anyone else believed in him. Kanye taught me not only to believe in myself, but to trust myself and also showed me the importance of passion and hard work when it comes to achieving your goals.

The College Dropout is still my personal favourite particularly for its timing and the nostalgia high it takes me on every time I listen to it. The release of the College Dropout also coincided with the start of my twenties and rather ironically the beginning of my university (college) education.  It was the perfect soundtrack for that part of my life. A time in my life I was actively and desperately seeking for something to relate to. It spoke eloquently to what and who I wanted to be. I related more to Kanye’s  story than I had ever with any other artist prior.

When Kanye released College Dropout I was at a crossroads with my relationship with Hip Hop. I was feeling disenchanted and disconnected from most of Hip Hop.  As much as I enjoyed listening to 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Trying album it didn’t move me, well except for when I was In Da Club. Kanye’s  College Dropout album saved my relationship with Hip Hop. It was such a soulful and refreshing sound. It was light hearted. It was uplifting. But more significantly it resonated and moved me and the timing couldn’t have been better. Thanks to the College Dropout I fell in love with Hip Hop all over again.

Further releases of Late Registration, Graduation, 808’s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy continued to provide the soundtracks to my twenties. I was not alone in this as most of my friends at that time also related to Kanye’s music in a similar way. So you can imagine my surprise when one of friends messaged me randomly and said “Dude, I think I need to break up with Kanye.” This particular friend might just be a bigger Kanye fan than I am. At some stage he used to style his outfits based on Kanye’s own personal style. That was how far reaching his influence was. So when he said that to me I won’t lie, I was stunned. And then just as quickly I was intrigued. What followed next was in depth discussion in which we both chronicled the influence Kanye has had over our lives over the last decade. How we both have also grown into our own people and how that influences our relationship with Kanye the man and his music.

My friend’s argument was this (and I’m paraphrasing here)

 ”Kanye’s music is still on point, but dude has really become a douchebag. Dude is always angry, complaining and being a diva. Dude rants most of the time now. The thing now is his douchiness  is starting to overshadow  his talent for me. Dude used to be funny, his early albums had a lot of humour and there was a light heartedness and optimism to his music. Now he comes across as super intense, and, he is always wearing his screw face these days. He doesn’t have the class and grace of his big brother (Jay Z). His music has lost its soul. Worse still I don’t think he has anyone on his team telling him when he is being an asshole.”

He also brought up how Kanye went from singing Jesus Walks on College Dropout to him embracing his inner douchebag in Runaway off the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Album as an example of that evolution into a douche. However that was not the tipping point for him. What cemented his decision to ‘break up’ with Kanye is an incident that happened a few weeks ago. Kanye called the New York radio station Hot 97 and ranted about not being on higher up on their hottest Emcee’s in the game in list. He mentioning in that rant that he gave Sway( a presenter) a TV back in the day. He felt you can’t air a dude out like that. He thought it unnecessary and petty.

The more I thought about our discussion the more I found myself reflecting and analyzing not only my relationship with Kanye, but how he has evolved as an artist and a person. This is just my opinion, but I think when his Mum died at the peak of his career something snapped. A part of him died. The albums he has put out since have had darker themes. The light heartedness of his earlier efforts has gone AWOL. His music became more melancholic than melodic.

All through 808’s & Heartbreak and to a lesser extent in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy he was dealing with that pain of loss, his personal demons as well as the fallout from some of his less than flattering and maybe even misguided public outbursts. His genius was that he managed to channel all that angst and upheaval in his life into his music. The end product was a brilliant work of art. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is not only a critically acclaimed album but arguably his best album to date. As fans we gained from his loss. The assumption also was that he was dealing, so it was a win/win right? Well I’m not sure about that, the evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

So what does all this have to with me breaking up with Kanye’s ego? Allow me to explain. As I have grown I have made my own mistakes. Mistakes I have had to be accountable for. I have also had to deal with loss and heartbreak. In the process I have begun to despise ego because of the things it has cost me. Ego has cost me relationships and has at times stunted my personal growth by not allowing me to learn the lessons I needed to. The layers I have added to the person that I am make it difficult for me to continue embracing ego.

So that’s why I am breaking up with Kanye’s ego. Kanye’s ego is something I have always embraced and it has always enabled my own ego. I have so many of my own experiences to draw from and that has made me more comfortable in my own skin. I am leaning more on my own experiences to define myself more. When I think about the rants and outbursts I see an ugliness the man I aspire to be finds very uncomfortable with. Kanye is still is one of my personal heroes, but his ego can’t be my imaginary friend anymore. Me and his music, we good. I just hope that now that his current girlfriend is pregnant having a kid will renew and reinvigorate him and perhaps fill the void his Mum left as well as bring back some of the soul and jokes back into his music.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Music Is My Religion

Whenever I am getting to know anyone I always have to know what music they are into. It comes as no surprise then that most of my friendships are deeply rooted in shared musical tastes and memories. I’m automatically drawn to people that have the same music taste as me. It’s likely if your music taste is better than mine that I’m probably going to become a bit of a groupie. For real. For me, music is more than just a set of notes put together. Music is soul, passion, feeling, melody, harmony, and beauty. It is complexity. It is simplicity. It is its own. If you have a great taste in music I’ll probably fall in love with you a little bit.

One of my favourite songs from 2012 is ‘Bad Religion’ by Frank Ocean off his Grammy award winning Channel Orange album. Not only is it sonically perfect but it’s one of the rawest, most sincere, honest and well written songs that I listened to last year. ‘Bad Religion’ is a song about unrequited love.  As Frank Ocean sings:

It’s a bad religion to be in love with someone who could never love you. Only a bad religion could have me feeling the way I do about you.’

When I’m not singing obnoxiously and horribly out of key into my clenched fist to it ’Bad religion’ tugs gently at my heart strings. I feel it. When I listen closely to it, trigger’s all sorts of emotional impulses. Listening to music is a uniquely personal experience. As listeners we relate to musicians in a way we rarely do with other types of artists. Hearing it in a car or while rocking headphones is even more intimate.

While I don’t consider myself to be particularly homophobic, if you had asked me before if I would ‘feel’ a song about a man falling in love with a man I probably would have said no. I would have argued that the song wouldn’t resonate because I’ve never fallen in love with a man. But even though I can’t relate to that aspect I love the song because I can feel Frank Ocean’s heart and soul pouring out in that song. The theme of unrequited love also resonates. We have all been there. The song, as all great art is supposed to do moves, inspires, resonates, and reverberates. Feeling it isn’t a political statement or an expression of my level of personal progression. I like it because I like it. Simple as that.

I hadn’t listened to ‘Bad Religion’ in a long time but my iTunes wasn’t having any of that and it shuffled it right back into my ears. Whilst listening to it I was again I found myself focusing on the use of ‘bad religion’ as a metaphor for unrequited love. As is the case with metaphors the religion being referred to here is obviously not the traditional religion i.e.  Your Christianity, Buddhism, Muslim, Hinduism etc. Furthermore Frank Ocean calls unrequited love a bad religion. In the case of traditional religion, adherence to a specific religion often means other religions are regarded bad religions. Religion subsequently becomes a breeding ground for superiority complexes and snob conversations. This has more to do with differences dogma, principles, rules and regulations. What all religion has in common is that that is not the religion the person abides to is a bad religion. As I pondered this I found myself asking myself what is my ‘religion’?

Well for me, it’s music. Music is my religion. How does this work?  I’m the kind of person who appreciates and loves a broad spectrum of music.My taste in music is eclectic. MGMT’s ‘Electric Feel’ is just as dope as any of the 1000’s of Hip Hop songs that make up most of my music library. Same with Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ or James Blake ‘The Wilhelm Scream’. I try not to discriminate because I’ll miss out on too much.

 

This doesn’t always translate into respecting other people’s views and means for listening. In situations where other people’s musical tastes are different to my own I tend to judge their tastes. I am not proud of it. I try not to judge but I can’t help it. It’s hard not to. For example I just don’t get people who are into heavy metal rock. You can’t tell me screaming and making a guitar screech incoherently is good music. Just because you have a bunch of tone deaf ignoramus’s listening and buying it doesn’t make it music … Ya Bish! It probably makes it trash. OK. That was harsh. I apologise. See what music made me do? Two people with vastly different tastes in the same thing can get along. Clearly.

So music is my religion. Clearly. It’s uplifting and encouraging. It can also can be as divisive as regular religion to me.

Anyway. May the record state that I never said anybody was wrong or right. Its religion, we will all find out when we’re dead.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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