entertainment, music

Are we nearly there yet? or, Sampha’s potential

This weekend’s ear worm was Valentine by Jessie Ware ft Sampha, via the album Devotion.

I’m only just beginning to allow myself to listen to Jessie’s music. The ubiquitous and shouty marketing around her album release put me off completely without even having heard a single track. Sorry Jessie, I think your music is really interesting, however, let’s talk about Sampha.

Sampha. Talented no doubt, but in my [humble] opinion he has not yet arrived, though his EP, Dual (Young Turks) did mid-2013. The intro, Demons, lacks clarity. The voicemail message is more worry/menace than the accompanying track which is educated and light. The juxtaposition makes uneasy listening. How I wanted it to be a bold statement, to have more bite, to push the point…

This is my problem, having ‘learnt’ the voice before the name, first on SBTRKT’s Hold on and then Jessie’s Valentine, I had prepared myself for the yearning vocals, my Sampha feeling; harmony woven with distress.

I’m in agreement with Mario Cotto that Without is the standout track, with what I want to call an allegro giusto drum track, that trains the listeners pulse to its beat – this is the stuff!

The rest of the EP makes O.K. listening. Here is a producer and an artist exploring his capabilities and with a grand toolbox and bags of creative potential. I hope his next outing really nails it. I’m actively willing him to, harness the potential, get the emotional, creative and popular balance just right. He deserves not just success but also longevity.

Sampha isn’t one to know just yet but is definitely one to watch!

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entertainment, music, social comment

The Strange Exploits of Kanye West

Poetry and music have always been in constant and sometimes symbiotic evolution. It seems that all pioneering expressions of human existence are incorporated into the mainstream and refined until the resemble the banality which necessitated their existence. Kudos to Kanye, he endeavours, with every creative step he takes, to refute and escape that inevitability. Kanye West. If you don’t know who he is, well, don’t worry, try this. (explicit content in linked videos folks…)

Seeing the papers explode into life about the ‘new bound 2 video‘, two main themes in the British press struck me as a little disingenuous. Firstly, that he appears to be simulating sex with his fiancĂ© Kim Kardashian on a motorbike. This is a woman whose infamy is rooted in a sex tape. They have a child. The obviously have sex. They are both exhibitionists. Do we need to explore this any further.

Secondly, it seems that whenever Kanye makes a creative display, he ends up in the papers, with a lots of ‘crazy’ being written in his direction. This is business as normal for Kimye. They get paid.

Let’s go back to the scene of the crime. The original video for the song is stylistic. Sharp angles, period, reminiscent of monochrome. The man- finds-fallen-angel story fits perfectly. Forget the anachronistic lyrics (a West speciality alongside the other classic West sampling of 70s soul track) and you have what fans would call a good song with a catchy riff. It’s all just too pretty, too normal, to mainstream artistic. Too boring? What better way to up your record sales, spotify royalties and profile of your celebrity business than to get every broadsheet and tabloid in the lands writing something about you. Good or bad. Does it matter?

When The College Dropout (his first album) first appeared, swathes of middle class kids for the first time identified with a mainstream hip hop artist. TCD, gave voice to mundane middle class problems: keeping up with the Jones, self-esteem issues, college, faith, family; all to tunes catchy enough to wave your vodka and red bull around to with DJ Tim Westwood in Fabric on a Thursday night. This isn’t grass roots rap, or traditional ‘bitches and hoes’ these are bonafide bourgeoisie problems. And what success Kanye had with that. The trouble is, he refused to conform. He refused to be subsumed into the mainstream, trolling out album after album the like. Instead, he went ‘crazy’.

But is he really crazy.

It seems that as much as the social commentators love to point and stare, Kanye doesn’t care and for good reason; he makes a lot of money and does what he enjoys most – which appears to be producing records that challenge the listener (I didn’t say you have to like it) and grandstanding – promoting his own special brand of creativity. He succeeds, to the tune of millions in this. From across the pond, it appears to be the fulfillment of the American dream. Is this not success?

We are all proper middle class hypocrites. All to happy to be scandalised, moan and pronounce on the sanity of people who already live in La La Land, but really, if no one cares, he’s not relevant and it’s so crae crae then what’s all the fuss about?

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