Archive for the ‘Concerts’ Category

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Auto-tune Rap is Automatic Crap

October 23, 2008

As a straight-edge suburban white guy who just started getting into rap and hip-hop over the past two years, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. Now, thanks to Sirius radio, I think I have a pretty good grasp on the current state of hip-hop. I can now pick out artists and songs that I like and dislike, but more importantly, I’m breaking it down and learning what is is about these songs that I like or don’t like. One major pet peeve for me and major trend lately is the use and overuse of auto-tune.

Li’l Wayne is probably the best example of overusing the auto-tune. That’s like his signature sound, and I’m here to tell you that his signature sound is complete shit. Auto-tune has its respectable applications in music recording. When used in moderation, it does exactly what the name implies; it takes your already decent singing and just subtly fixes all the pitch imperfections. Now if you crank it to 11, you get the dramatic electronic voice effect with bubbly steps between notes. It sounded awful when Cher did it back in ’98 and it sounds even worse today.

It’s unfortunate that todays rappers have to resort to gimmicky audio tricks to make themselves stand out. Li’l Wayne, T-pain, even Kanye West is starting to use it. You might not even notice it enough to give a damn, especially when the the effect is applied to the whole song. But take the all-star ensemble track “Swagger Like Us” and it’s easy to pick out the weakest link. I love the M.I.A. sample, I love the verses by Kanye and Jay-Z, but as soon as Li’l wayne starts slurring his way through elctronic auto-tune world, I’m ready to change the station. The reason artists like Jay-Z and Kanye command such respect and staying power is because they have obvious raw talent. They’re more than a catch phrase or gimmick effect. Hearing Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” was a total disappointment. The hook is there, it’s definitely a catchy song and it’s nice that he’s doing some singing as a break from the rapping, but he’s smart enough and talented enough to pull it off without the auto-tune. Instead, he overdoes it and the song is ruined.

I can only hope this is a short-lived trend and we will grow out of it soon. The only good thing I can see is that, with the current hip-hop scene so watered down with terrible music, it will leave room for some truly talented artists to rise up and blow us away. I like what I’m hearing from Lupe Fiasco, and I think eminem is coming back at just the right time. Now we just need a new Outkast album and we’ll be set.

In other news, Matisyahu and Flobots are coming to Philadelphia next week. You might scoff at the orthodox Jewish reggae rapper and the kids behind “Handlebars” after I just ranted about gimmicks, but they’re both amazing. I’m looking forward to some real positive, danceable tunes. If you have not heard Matisyahu’s “Live at Stubb’s” album or Flobots debut “Fight With Tools”, do yourself a favor and start downloading today.

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Live Philly Hip-Hop Tonight!

November 26, 2007

So I joined a hip-hop/alternative band recently. I’m playing guitar, Dave G is on drums, and DuPont Menage is on the mic with Dave 2 adding backup. We’ve only played together as a group twice now, but tonight will be our first performance out in the wild. Every Monday night, the World Cafe Live hosts a Philly Rising open mic competition sponsored by Discmakers. We’re just playing 2 songs tonight, but it should be a good time. It’s been 2 years since I last performed with a band, and already it feels good to jam again. Dave G’s got good jazz-funk sensibilities on the drums, but knows how to kick up the rock when the time comes. DuPont’s lyrics are smart, creative, and focused. My guitar playing is a little rusty, and I don’t have 5 other instruments and distortion covering up my inadequacies, but it’s sounding good. So if you’re in Philadelphia tonight around 9:00pm, come to the World Cafe Live at 31st and Walnut to hear our groove in Serenading The Culture.

Philly Rising

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The Police Concert!

July 20, 2007

Last night was epic. The Police came to Philadelphia, delivering 100% on the anticipation that had been building since I got my tickets 3 months ago. As soon as Stewart Copeland hit the gong to start their set, the stadium erupted with this energy that turned everyone into screaming 16-year old girls. Not many bands can reunite 20 years after they were the biggest band in the world and play a show with the same energy, heart, and creative enthusiasm as these three. My favorite tracks of the night were “Walking on the Moon”, “Can’t Stand Losing You” which included a few rounds of “Reggatta de Blanc” in the middle, and “So Lonely”. They played 2 encores, ending on a high energy punk song,”Next to You”. The sound, the lights, the energy, everything was spectacular. This was the kind of show you brag about witnessing for years to come. And I’ve been to some brag-worthy shows; DEVO, The Ramones, Woodstock 99, but this one may have just taken the number one spot on my brag list. Who will take the throne next? Nobody, that’s who.

The Police