Guilty Pleasures: Week Four Playlist

By Meghan Hall

Staff Writer

This weekend, listen to a playlist filled with guilty pleasures from the 80s. Ranging from rock classic, “Livin’ On a Prayer,” to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” there’s a song in there for everyone to enjoy and feel nostalgic about.

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Stress Relief: Week Three Playlist

By Meghan Hall

Contributing Writer

As the semester picks up, so does the amount of homework. With all the responsibilities and pressure coming, listen to this playlist when it seems like stress is getting the better of you.

Mac Miller: One of the Best Artists in the Game

By Meghan Hall

Contributing Writer

“RIP Mac Miller.” The sentence feels too hard to write, too surreal to be a phrase floating around on my Twitter timeline. Mac Miller really was one of those artists that grew with you and became part of life through good times and bad.

A wordsmith with his lyrics, Miller’s career truly took off at age 18 with his fourth mixtape, K.I.D.S.After the record put him on the map, his hip hop career soared, creating insightful, thought-provoking records that proved his ability to relate to an audience that stuck with him all the way through his latest release, Swimming.

His fanbase looked forward to the relatable, transparent records he produced. Showing his roots, his outlooks on life and his struggles, he bared his soul to a world that accepted it. Never ingenuine, always pushing forward, Miller’s music became better with time.

Unlike many artists, Miller’s need to succeed persevered and furthered his need to produce meaningful sound that would garner positive reactions and reviews. As we grew up, Miller grew with us, becoming more refined and always pushing to be the artist he’d dreamed of as a young Pittsburgh teen. The 2018 release Swimming proved Miller’s prowess. Leaps and bounds ahead of his initial albums, Swimming was a culmination of the untapped potential Miller had saved, yet he still relied on his roots.

Miller’s fanbase fell in love not only with his clever, eclectic music, but his reputation as the “nice guy” in an industry filled with iconic artists whose songs were a façade for their poor attitudes. Mac Miller was real. He was candid, open with his struggles, humble. He was human—the game now is filled with artists who enjoy the status of being “untouchable.” Miller never looked for that. Sure, his initial climb to fame was riddled with a bit of glory-seeking, but whose isn’t? Once Miller made it to the top, he stayed there gracefully, recognizing that all that he had could just as easily be taken away.

The fear of losing his status never seemed to bother him, though. His 2011 single “Donald Trump” was one of his top hits, one of his signature claims to fame. However, that didn’t stop him from voicing his opinions on Trump’s presidency. Recognizing the hatred and divide that Trump has caused this country, Miller shared his thoughts on the Trump administration without hesitation and without fear of what would come next. Miller easily could’ve lost some of his fanbase to the comments, but the thing about Miller was that candor came first.

Collaborating with countless other powerful artists inside the hip hop sphere, Mac Miller became a name that any rap fan knew, and knew well. Sure, not everyone liked Mac Miller’s tunes, and not everyone understood the important impact Miller had on the hip hop industry, but there was never a shortage of respect for Mac Miller.

When we remember Mac Miller, it’s hard to get over the fact that his life was cut short by drugs. Mac Miller fans, fellow rappers, music critics and casual hip hop listeners alike mourn his death and lament the fact that his enormous potential was severed so early.

But more than Miller’s drug addiction, it’s important to realize that in less than ten years, he changed the music industry forever. It’s important to remember the smile that persisted through the hard times. It’s important to recall the way he treated the world—with respect and love.

So today, I mourn Mac Miller. But I look forward to the recognition of his contribution to this world, in terms of music, and in terms of humanity. And so, although it still seems surreal to type these words… Rest in Peace, Mac. We’ll miss you.

Alt-pop singer Amir Miles embraces and rejects the come up

By Josh Svetz

Uncensored version published on https://wsbufm.com/

Amir Miles believes he’s the next great pop star. This thought doesn’t come from a point of arrogance; he just knows that to survive in the ever-evolving music industry, you must believe you’re up next.

“In the local scene, I’m no Jimmy Wopo or Hardo, but I’m not a no-name,” Miles said. “I’m just confident in my abilities and my team.”

Miles, 22, is just one of many hopeful musicians trying to catch their big break in the business.

The Pittsburgh singer has already hit several milestones. In the past two years, the alternative-pop singer opened for GZA, Oddisee and Migos just to name a few. He also reached over 800,000 plays on Spotify for his song “Bad Habits.” And on June 6th, he’ll finally get to open for a singer that’s much closer to his music scene than a Migos when he warms up the crowd for Kali Uchis at Stage AE.

But to get to the come up, Miles had to make a lot of mistakes.

Born in Chicago and raised by a single mom, Miles moved to Virginia at age 11 where he began to take interest in music, forming a band with his friends in junior high school for simple reasons.

“We thought it’d be sick to play shows and get girls,” Miles said. “That’s what you expect to happen when you’re a kid.”

What came from that experience would act as the building block to his career in music. Miles played bass guitar and eventually transitioned into vocal work. The band itself disbanded after a year, but he continued to play bass and sing on his own. He started by playing covers of songs he knew, gravitating to rock and R&B music. But after not wanting to be a “copycat,” he started to play chords and make his own lyrics, changing his inflections and words depending on what the melody sounded like.

While the building block to his career laid in place, Miles didn’t believe he could make it as a musician. He originally attended Pittsburgh University to learn business and economics. He figured that getting into the world of music marketing or being the band manager would give him a good chance to get involved with the industry.

Fate had other plans.

His freshman year, he won a rap battle contest along with his resident assistant, Tory Hains, securing an opportunity to open for Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco. He then started to make songs like “On a Dime” and the musician bug bit him fully.

“People were just f****** with it,” Miles said. “And I enjoyed making it. I was set—I’m going to be a musician.”

As he continued to grow as an artist, his grades slipped. He felt misery every time he went to class. School just didn’t feel like the right path. So, he dropped out.

Returning home to Virginia, he struggled in the job market. After receiving two consecutive pink slips, Miles found a home at Zara, a retail company that he described as a European H&M. There, he met his current producer Nxfce (pronounced ‘no face’) and nothing would ever be the same.

Nxfce and Miles talked music regularly on the job, but Nxfce had reservations about working with Miles until he showed him his music. The first studio session, Miles said they didn’t get anywhere. The second studio session, they made “Bad Habits,” Miles’ most popular song to date and a turning point in his career.

Soon after, he returned to Pittsburgh because of the youthfulness of the city and already having a fan base intact.

Originally, he mirrored acts like the Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Miguel. Now, with Nxfce’s more dance-infused and rhythmic beats, he began to cultivate his own sound.

Trying to describe Miles’ sound would give even the greatest music critic problems.

At times, he brings an energy and vigor reminiscent of Michael Jackson. Not to say he matches the king of pop, but when listening to the opening of “Neon//Love,” it’s hard to not hear the inflection of late ‘80s MJ. On “Fade” he sounds like a more exuberant and upbeat Chet Faker. On “Bad Habits,” he inflects the soul of a Sampha, with the vivacious catchiness of “Can’t Feel My Face” Weeknd. No matter what track you play though, he keeps an atmospheric and sexy vibe intact, reminiscent of Ginuwine and Usher.

All these comparisons have one thing in common: it’s music that makes people move. It just so happens that Miles’ biggest concern when he makes music is if it makes people move or not. He used Drake as an example.

“People hear ‘God’s Plan’ and they’re willing to give themselves up (to the song),” Miles said. “They sing, dance, act a fool, because they know the song. They trust the song. They know where it’s going.”

While he may not be Drake, Miles’ recognizes that the buzz he’s obtained from projects like Faceless has made people more comfortable with his music. In turn, he’s starting to get the action he desires from the crowd — dancing.

“That’s what I get most excited about before I go on stage,” Miles said. “Watching people bop, jump, get rowdy. That’s what I love about making music.”

Of course, he’d be the first to tell you that there’s a love/hate relationship with the live show, especially as an opening act.

“Sometimes it sucks,” Miles said. “Yeah, you get to open for these great acts and be like, ‘Yo, I’m a part of the show, I’m a part of the experience.’ But, you’re usually performing for people that don’t know who you are, don’t know what you’re about, don’t care what you’re about and don’t want to learn what you’re about in 30 minutes. They just want to see the main act.”

Miles said he believes this mindset has spread due to the internet.

“I feel like in the ‘90s and ‘00s, people were more artistically curious at live shows because that’s how you found new music,” Miles said. “But now you find music on Spotify, so if you go to a show and haven’t heard the opener’s music on Spotify or SoundCloud, you’re less likely to care about their music.”

But Miles’ biggest concern comes from capitalizing during the come up. He knows he has buzz now and reflects on how people are watching him. Before the come up, he could do whatever the hell he wanted. Now, he has labels making decisions about distributing his music, concert venues considering if they should book him and most of all, people waiting for him to fail.

“It’s do or die,” Miles said. “The next singles have to hit, because if not, then there’s stagnation and that’s the kiss of death in the music industry.”

Again, Miles said the internet has changed the time window. The turnover rate due to social media has become so fast that you need to find a way to stay relevant. Otherwise, people forget you exist.

That’s just the double-edged sword of the modern music industry powered by what’s shareable and viral.

Miles obsesses over music. He soundtracks his life with Gus Dapperton and Rex Orange County. He sings when he gets ready to go out. Hell, even as he’s brushing his teeth, he’s working on his craft.

His conversation topics always include music. One minute he’ll talk about the intricacies of Migos, explaining what creates the draw to the triplet flow. Another he’ll dive into the mystery of Frank Ocean and why his aesthetic matches his art.

The unwind period for Miles comes from watching anime and being around people. He has a complex of wanting to be liked but doesn’t work hard to please. Genuinely, he just wants a good energy and for people to enjoy themselves.

In his dingy, lowly-lit apartment Miles plays Madden as he reflects on his career. He’s using the Seahawks, his favorite Madden team. In the time we’ve talked, he’s won one game but lost the other off a two-point conversion against the New England Patriots, of course.

Unlike the Seahawks though, he sees the end zone.

He’s planning to move out to Los Angeles next year to push his music more and work with other artists. He also plans to write for record labels. Going to LA may lead to one of his biggest fears: fame.

“I’m worried about turning into a commodity,” Miles said. “I don’t want to lose myself. I’ve seen enough people crack. One slip up and people pounce. They’re waiting for you to fail.”

He also worries about his relationships if he indeed becomes famous.

“They’re not going to be natural,” Miles said. “They’ll always be skewed, and people have agendas. Like, do they f*** with me for my music, for me? Do they want something? Do they truly just want to connect? That’s always going to be in the back of my mind now.”

Miles still has a way to go before reaching that point, but it still scares him. He’s not in the business for the money or the fame, or even the girls. He just wants the experience few will ever know.

“When I’m on my death bed and I think about where my life went, I’ll be able to say it went everywhere,” Miles said. ”I’m here for the adventure. I want my life to be a f****** movie.”

Check out Miles at Stage AE June 6th when he opens for Kali Uchis. Tickets are available here: https://www1.ticketmaster.com/kali-uchis-pittsburgh-pennsylvania-06-06-2018/event/1600546DDA6EB60E 

 

 

 

Adele says “Hello” with first new song in three years

By Liam McGurl

On Friday, Adele said “Hello” to another No. 1 spot on iTunes with her tear-jerking new single.

While the 27-year-old singer isn’t set to release her newest album, 25, until Nov. 20, fans got a sneak peek of the album with the single “Hello,” and its accompanying music video of epic proportions.

The sepia-filtered video, directed by Xavier Dolan, opens with a frazzled Adele trying to find cell service, as she stands in the middle of a forest windstorm.  After closing her flip phone, Adele makes her way into an old country home, where the windows are coated in dust and the furniture shrouded in dirty sheets.  

Continue reading “Adele says “Hello” with first new song in three years”

Kendrick Lamar: “To Pimp A Butterfly” Review

By Joshua Svetz — @Svetz17

[Image courtesy of highsnobiety.com]

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly has not only defied expectations after his last album Good Kid M.A.A.d City, but it may go down as one of the best hip hop albums of all time, and I’m not the only one saying it.

Pitchfork gave it a 9.3 out of 10, Rolling Stone Magazine gave it four and a half stars and Spin Magazine gave it the first 10/10 in over nine years. Even the harshest of critics are singing this albums praise. With that said, dissecting this album is like dissecting a Picasso painting, or trying to dissect why Taylor Swift has so many issues with men – it’s difficult.

To begin, the production is incredible. Kendrick and the TDE team out did themselves this time as the creative hands that touch the album shine through with each producer providing their signature flair. Terrance Martin, Flying Lotus, Dr. Dre and Pharrell Williams are all on point each creating something that challenges the listeners’ preconceived notions of hip hop. By stepping outside the comfort zone using Miles Davis’s style of funk, neo-soul and 70s jazz replacing the typical hip hop beats, typical trap production is tossed to the wayside, a bold move with the overarching popularity of the sound.

To put it bluntly, it’s going to be tough for other rappers to use the beats Kendrick spits on. Of course, genius doesn’t need half-rate impostors to bring it down.

The funk comes about early in the first track “Wesley’s Theory,” where Kendrick introduces the album by making a multiple entendre in the song talking about women, hip hop culture, the rap game, the celebrity lifestyle and much more. The song is centered on a repeating chorus that brings it all together beautifully. Kendrick enlists the help of funk legend George Clinton to give the song even more kick than it already had, and it effectively sets the tone for the ride you are about to go on through the album.

The 16 track masterpiece has way too much content to review in a limited format – honestly, I might write my senior thesis on it – but some of the highlights consist of rhythmic spoken word poetry interludes such as “For Free?,” more double and triple entendres in “These Walls,” conversations with God disguised as a homeless man in “How Much a Dollar Cost,” an awesome feature verse from newcomer Rapsody in “Complexion” and a surprise ending that will jar the listener in “Mortal Man.”

Going into specifics, more time needs to be spent on maybe the most powerful hip hop song emotionally since Eminem’s “Stan,” in “U.” This song shows a moment of weakness. Kendrick hits a rock bottom where he questions his purpose on earth. He fights internally about his desertion of Compton and wonders if he’s lost himself in the celebrity lifestyle.

Simply put, this song hits your heart with a javelin and haunts the psyche as Kendrick’s lyrics create a movie-like scene in your head. Everyone is able to relate, on some level, to this song; however, Kendrick’s feelings are far more intense and exaggerated. It’s a listening experience that is tough to put into words.

In comparison to other artists, you can argue that there are often filler songs that can weaken an album. However, To Pimp a Butterfly doesn’t suffer this fate as all 16 tracks are top-notch quality and only get better with repeat listens. Even the Interludes are excellent, which is not the easiest task.

With all the good mentioned, there is criticism to address. Many people have complained that the album doesn’t contain any “radio hits,” “party music or “low riding music.” To those people I say this: you are missing the point.

This is not an album suited for the average listener. To Pimp a Butterfly requires intensive listening and understanding the complexity of the lyrics. Furthermore, this is about more than the rap game, or music in general, this is about Kendrick’s metamorphosis from a rap star into an activist, a voice of black culture. This is Kendrick essentially taking the step towards fulfilling his self-defined prophecy as one of 2pac’s disciples. You just need to sit down and let Kendrick take you on the journey for 80 full minutes, and you’ll come out a smarter human being.

Overall, years from now, the rap game Mount Rushmore may just have a space carved out for King Kendrick Lamar next to Rakim, Nas and 2pac. Still, for now, it is official, Kendrick Lamar is the king, and it’s extremely doubtful we see anyone take the crown as long as he lives and breathes.

 

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[Image courtesy of karmaloop.com]