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 

 

 

 

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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]

 

Album review: Title Fight’s “Hyperview”

By Caitlyn Morral

[Image courtesy of whatrecords.co.uk]

American punk rock band Title Fight has recently released their latest album Hyperview this past week. As the fourth addition to their discography, Hyperview is definitely a different take than previous records. After a listen or two, it is easy to say that Title Fight has changed up their style a bit with Hyperview.

Unlike some of their past records, such as The Last Thing You Forget and Shed, Hyperview has a softer element of sound to it. While the vocals may hit some heavy notes and there is still a fair amount of drums and guitar strumming to give it the punk rock appeal, it is safe to say that there is a definite sense of calmness to these tracks. With an alternative take and a sounds similar to that of The Smiths, Title Fight brings about a sound that is indifferent to any other albums that they have released in the past.

The lyrics are also more in-depth. For instance, in “Liar’s Love”, entails a bit of loneliness in its words. one verse reads: “Ostracized, a loss of pride/There’s only shadows on my side/Lessons learned: no one’s concern/Lends itself to wounds that won’t/repair with time”. Essentially, the song depicts a person a soul that feels empty and alone. Some other tracks, including “Murder Your Memory”, are written in the same manner with “Murder your memory/Let it suffocate/Reduce/Circle back to sorry days/Like a bird of prey/subdue”.

While the majority of the tracks are very similar in the rhythms and tempos, they all generally sound alike. However, there are also few less upbeat tunes, such as “Dizzy”and “Your Pain Is Mine Now”. As for the remainder of Hyperview, there is definitely a heavy grunge aspect. The record has traces of something that either blink-182 or Nirvana may have released in their day.

This 90s sound carries over into “Chlorine” especially, which is also the first music video that the band released to this album prior to its release. The video illustrates a distraught, middle-aged man waking up on an isolated boat in the middle of the ocean. Disheveled and confused, he jumps off of the boat with a suitcase in hand, only to find himself waking up in the same bed and repeating the pattern over and over again. The man is unaware as to why he cannot take his own life, until the ending reveals that a pair of peculiar divers had been saving him each time.

Overall, Title Fight has done in excellent job with Hyperview. The new styles incorporated into the music and the heavy lyrics coincide to create the ultimate listening experience. No matter what type of mood you’re in, Hyperview brings about a mellow style to any atmosphere.

Review: Kid Ink’s Full Speed

By Sean Lynch 

[Image courtesy of albumjams.com]

Kid Ink has come back in full force after the release of his second studio album My Own Lane. After My Own Lane came out to rave reviews, Ink looked to continuing his success through the release of Full Speed, and is continuing his transition from Rap to a R&B/Dance Rap style. The album is charged with animated beats and energy unmatched by few other albums.

The album is stacked with a ton of featured artists including R.Kelly, Migos, Trey Songz and Chris Brown. Ink built up his reputation with his last album so he utilized it by building this star-studded ensemble for Full Speed. This strong supporting ensemble helps out Ink by making the album stronger than it actually is because without the help, the album would not be the same.

”What it Feels Like” is an energetic and vibrant song that thrives on blaring trumpets and the drum machine in its background beat. For a track without any featured artists, Ink includes some of his better vocals on the track because it is not auto-tuned and it shows off his natural voice.

“Body Language” is another song that is animated through its beat. Ink has some of his better lyrics on this album, and it shows in this song. Usher actually takes over most of the singing duties in “Body Language” and does a great job keeping the energy going. Other songs that are worth a listen include “Dolo,” “Hotel” and “Every City We Go”. “Hotel” is definitely made better with the use of Chris Brown. Coming off a Grammy nomination for best R&B song for “New Flame”, Brown shows why he is going to continue his success in 2015 with his soft but powerful vocals leading “Hotel” forward.

Full Speed is a very dance oriented album. The bouncy beats and catchy hooks will keep you dancing all day. Kid Ink gets more credibility than he deserves on the album because of the strong group of collaborators that he built up on, but Ink still has some great raps within the album. If you are looking for something to really get your party going, then you would really enjoy this album.

The Heart Wants What It Wants

By Amber Williams

Selena Gomez released her new video “The Heart Wants What It Wants” last Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. What’s not surprising about the video is that it is about Justin Bieber and the vulnerable state she is now in after their most recent falling out. Gomez and Bieber’s on-and-off relationship has been happening for about four years, and there’s no question that it is time for Gomez to let go of what they had in the past.

The video starts with a dramatic monologue confessing how their relationship does have ups and downs that are uncontrollable. “But then you make me feel crazy because you make me feel like it’s my fault. I was in pain,” cries the heartbroken singer. The signs are there through the lyrics. Gomez knows that Bieber messes with her head and that there are times where she wants to leave, but her feelings for him are overbearing. As she tried to justify this “relationship,” it is clear that she doesn’t plan to let go of the Biebs anytime soon. There are too many good memories, and bad, for her to say goodbye. But, sometimes, goodbye can be what is best.

One noticeable aspect of the video is the filter and the shots of the scenes. The black and white is no coincidence, as they are comparing to the Jelena pictures on Gomez’s Instagram. For example, the club scenes and cuddle sessions have been posted a few times on both accounts. Therefore, it will be assume that this video is a way for Gomez to reach out to Bieber to show him either the good memories he’ll miss with her; or to show him that he has shatter her into pieces.

To watch the video, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij_0p_6qTssb and be the judge on what do you think will happen next with these love birds.

Azealia Banks — “Broke with Expensive Taste”

By Bryce Spadafora @bryce_spadafora

Azealia Banks surprised fans and critics when she released her debut album Broke with Expensive Taste on Thursday. Following a trend set by artist Beyoncé Knowles last year, Banks released the album with little promotion and without giving her fans a set release date.

While Broke with Expensive Taste may be Azealia Banks’ debut album, she is no stranger to the spotlight. In 2011, Banks released “212,” a sharp and edgy track that proved Banks was capable when it came to good lyrics. The following year, Banks released her EP 1991 along with the 18-track witch-hop mixtape Fantasea. Both projects received amazing reviews from music critics; however, just when it seemed Banks was becoming an unstoppable force in the rap industry, she took a brief hiatus.

In 2012, Banks confidently announced that the album Broke with Expensive Taste would be released in the fall of 2013. Critics started to question whether or not Banks would deliver when the anticipated release date was pushed to January 2014 and again as far as March 2014.

Banks blamed the multiple delays on her record label Universal Music Group.

In January, Banks took to Twitter stating, “I’m tired of having to consult a group of old white guys about my black girl craft…I’m literally begging to be dropped from Universal.”

Tension between Banks and Universal escalated to the point that, by March, she threatened to leak the album on April 15th. It wasn’t until July that Universal finally dropped Banks for good.

Fortunately for Banks, Broke with Expensive Taste proves that it was worth the wait.

The album features several singles that loyal fans will recognize. There’s the iconic “212,” a track full of confident, assertive lyrics and a sample from Belgian DJ Lazy Jay’s “Float My Boat.” The witch-hop single “Yung Rapunxel” is featured on the track list, too.  Also included is the recently released trap hit “Heavy Metal and Reflective” as well as an older track of Banks’ titled “BBD.”

The album features new tracks that are on par with Banks’ previous work. One of these is “Ice Princess.” Banks is known for her confidence – two factors that come to play throughout the track. Lyrics like “Competition I’m a beat it so relentless / I’m a be legendary when I end this” along with a cut from Morgan Page’s “In the Air” complement each other flawlessly. The result is a chilly and cutting flow that demonstrates Banks’ ruthlessness in the rap game.

The only downside to Broke with Expensive Taste is the track “Nude Beach a Go-Go.” It’s fun, beached themed lyrics are a radical departure from previous tracks. It breaks up the trap heavy album and even seems a bit over the top. Overall, it feels like a bad parody of a Beach Boys song. Banks is capable of far greater work, but she missed the mark with this one.

One bad track doesn’t ruin an album, though. Whether you’re a die-hard Azealia Banks fan or have never heard of her before, there’s bound to be at least one track on Broke with Expensive Taste that you will be rapping to yourself daily. Azealia Banks had found her place in the rap industry; after this album, she doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon.