For about a year, acclaimed director/ Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Science of Sleep) had a peculiar offer on his website: for $99.95, one could get a personalized watercolor portrait by the director with the purchase of his music video collection DVD. You could’ve sent the director just about anything (movie blog FilmDrunk sent in a photo of a transvestite), and you’d get it back in impressionistic strokes. Granted, it may have taken a half year to actually come in the mail, but he’s a busy guy, and it was well worth it (mine is above).
Unfortunately, the offer is currently out of stock, but it’s been resurrected from hiatus in the past. In the meantime, you can check Gondry’s “portraits of the week” in his Flickr photo stream.
Since her 2005 debut album, Victim of Truth, nu-soul songstress Nneka has been compared to Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and a whole host of other passionate R&B, reggae and hip-hop heavyweights. After its release, Truth garnered critical acclaim overseas, eventually being named by The Times (UK) as one of 2006’s most “criminally overlooked albums” stating it “as good as The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Having yet to make her stamp in the States, Nneka made her U.S. debut this past November at Joe’s Pub in New York City and is now currently touring the country in support of her first American release, Concrete Jungle, which came out out on 2 February.
Born and raised in the Delta region of Nigeria, Nneka moved to Germany at the age of 19 to study anthropology and to pursue a career in singing.
Los Angeles stripe aficionados Nancy FullForce put out a great boxing-themed video for the song “Rock n Rola” late last year. Frontman Jasten King and his band put out my favorite kind of music—heavy on the guitars, the eyeliner and the charisma. The fact that they are gorgeous should not hinder your appreciation of their music. Don’t hate them because they’re beautiful. Love them because even Guitar Hero 5 can’t deny the rock assault they bring. Check out their MySpace page.
Check out the new music video for Erykah Badu’s newest single, “Jump Up in the Air (Stay There)” featuring the self-proclaimed “best rapper alive” Lil Wayne. Accompanied by a deep shade of purple, this psychedelic video presents a kaleidoscope vision of Badu and Weezy. It is truly a sight. Surprisingly, this song will not appear on Erykah’s upcoming album, New Amerykah Part II: Return of Ankh.
People place a log of baggage and lazy description in the word “old school” in hip-hop. It’s a way to insult someone’s credibility, make a crude comparison or simply use free hand for “the way I imagine my youth”. I prefer to emphasize old school as the feeing you get when an MC does something spectacular from what falsely appears to be simplicity. Ra the MC Ra the MC has a double dutching tongue and fierce, self-assured charisma that emanates from the quick upper cuts of her flow. While the sample in “Lost Ones” is from Lauren Hill’s song of the same name, the reconstruction here conceives the song in curt knots of piano and percussion that booms and clatters, less backdrop and more of an announcement of Ra’s prowess. So few female MCs can manage to pull off hard feminity without resorting to overt violence, myna-masculinity or the suggestion of sexual accessibility. Ra brushes off roles with vison and earned bombast: she’s all defense and verbal ratatat layed out in checkmate architecture.
I admit that I have a weakness for the neighborhood tour video, a beautiful reminder that the best video interpretations of a song are those that engage with its context, its era, its scene, its source of passion. In this scan and span movements of the video there’s more life, verve, and sync with the song than there would be on a shoot filled with Aston Martins, champagne bottles and women synced in ass shake. Perhaps I’d rather have fantasies that simply magnify the real rather than simulate the discredited fantasies of money and the regal isolation of fame. In hip-hop, confidence can quickly morph into the despotism of the narcissist (Diagnosis: Kanye). Ra brims with seductive energy that doesn’t have to be amped up or tricked out in futuristic hooker garb. It’s hard to find easy touchstones for the way she shifts from hard dense lyrical cuts into easy, torn open, singing. A few obvious trendsetters come to mind: Bahamadia’s zen frame of phrase, Rah Digga’s weaponized delivery and even Jean Grae’s cagey intellectual poetry. This D.C. up and comer has few peers to stand in the way of her becoming a defining force among the new faces of hip-hop.