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Hip Hop and sensationalism are no longer distant cousins. They’re basically siblings in the new millennium. To be totally honest, interest in the genre has been waning more than ever in recent years. So what’s the best way to try breathing some new life into a form of music that’s losing steam? Simple. Attach more dramatic intrigue to it. The evidence can be found throughout the way the music media covers, portrays and perceives Hip Hop, from the most gossip-laden Hip Hop music blog, website or tabloid to the ratchetness found in Hip Hop reality TV, the greatest example being Love & Hip Hop.
But this isn’t to say that artists and the art form don’t shoulder some of the blame, the latest example coming from SXSW this past week when Odd Future front man and emcee Tyler The Creator was accused of inciting a “riot” at his performance only 24 hours after a fatal accident outside of another of his performances at the annual Austin, TX music festival. Now…do the two events honestly have anything to do with one another? Nope. Was the first incident a tragedy and should we lift the families of the people that lost their lives as they go through what might be an extremely traumatic time? Absolutely. But have both parties, in this case Tyler and the music and news media covering him and his performances, have to take some of the blame on this one.
On one hand, beyond what we’ve been told by news outlets, Hip Hop and otherwise, we can’t fully surmise what happened with the auto accident outside of Tyler’s concert on Thursday, March 14. And Tyler had little to no knowledge of or control over what was happening in that instance. Therefore, connecting the two events in news reports can be seen as a bit irresponsible. The truth is, we know why it was done. It’s a matter of the news media business model. Whatever is going to get the most views and garner the most traffic is what will get written about, posted and shared. And many of us in this business know that very well. But it’s still an unfortunate that, in this instance, two events that were both unsavory and unfortunate, yet still had little to nothing to do with one another, got connected for the purposes of reporting a news story.
But on the other hand, can we really say that Tyler helped his cause at all by his actions on the video released by TMZ showing him inciting fans to push their way into a venue past security? Not in the least. Many of us know Tyler The Creator to be a willing participant ruckus and a sensationalist in just about everything he does, seeking continuously to go against the grain. But did he potentially take things a little too far this time? Yup. Never do we as music fans and workers want to see anyone hurt, injured or even have the potential for it. And when it does happen, it’s a drag to report and talk about it. Hell, I have a niece back in my hometown of Detroit that actually called me the day of the incident to see if I was ok because she thought I was back down at SXSW since I went last year.
Overall, both Tyler The Creator and the news media have to be held accountable, the first for potentially endangering the lives of festival goers, and the second for trying to use two unrelated incidents for the purposes of gaining traffic. And though we probably can’t expect that either actually WILL be held accountable, at least we can try to take a lesson from both incidents and try to do better in the future. As a music journalist that loves what I do, my only hope is that both of them, and all of us involved in this thing called the music business, actually WILL take the time to try doing better.
So here we are again: another few months/years has passed and there’s been yet another sighting of the elusive, reclusive Jay Electronica at this year’s SXSW down in good ole’ Austin. I guess by now we have to get used to the fact (if we haven’t already, and who among us hasn’t) that Jay Elec pretty much makes and releases music on his own terms, by his own clock, and abiding by his own rules. And not in the whole “Hashtag New Rules” sense that his boss Jay Z continues to harp on. Or by dropping a surprise album using the power and influence of a rabid, almost disturbingly dedicated fan base of a Beyonce. Or by continuing to bend, shift, shape and challenge the rules of what Hip Hop can be per the influence of a Kanye West. Although in a certain sense, Jay Electronica seems to use elements from ALL of those examples to make his music remain kinda relevant.
The latest song released by surprise by the New Orleans emcee, in conjunction with a few sightings of him this past week in Texas, is “Better In Tune w/The Infinite”. Not one for simple, easily digestible songs where the actual meaning and purpose can be identified right from the jump, Jay instead uses a piano heavy, world-weary piece of classical music-influenced production to lay some of his emotional cards out on the table.
We don’t get much of a sense of what he’s been doing or if he’s been working on an actual album, but in reality, we’re probably not supposed to. “Better In Tune…” seems like it’s just Electronica getting some things off his chest through self expression and emotional lyricism. Truthfully, if you listen closely enough, it’s a song that’s very subtle and somber, but also psychologically mind-blowing. Couple all of these elements with the raspy, longing voice of LaTonya Givens and you’ve got an easy musical recipe for some serious food for thought.
In the end, there’s once again no indication of whether a full-fledged project from Jay is on the way that fans have been longing for. And per usual, those fans probably shouldn’t hold their breath. We should all just be satisfied that Mr. Electronica has been gracious enough to share this beautiful and haunting piece of Hip Hop with us.
On March 15th, I got a chance to witness history as 63 year-old newcomer Charles Bradley blessed the SXSW stage at the Austin Convention Center. Sure, I had heard about Charles Bradley online for several months leading into SXSW, but I had no idea how powerful his live show was. “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” and The Menahan Street Band ran through songs like “How Long,” “The World Is Going Up and Flames” and my personal favorite “Why Is It So Hard.” Watching Charles Bradley perform was like seeing one of the greats like Otis Redding or James Brown perform. Stay tuned for his latest album “Victim of Love” which will be released on April 12th via Dunham Records….
The annual music festival season usually doesn’t get kicked off until the public has had a substantial dose of news about SXSW, arguably the biggest and (not arguably) the most influential music festival/conference/trade show/street fair in the country. 2013 was no exception, as downtown Austin, Texas and it’s outlying areas served as one huge chef’s stew of as many music artists, genres, events and seminars that one can think of.
This year, I was lucky enough to attend on behalf of this very website to cover some of the main activities. Did lots and lots of networking and talking, business card giving and receiving, demo and mixtape taking, venue hopping, and a whole lot of walking. Met tons of up-and-coming artists from many spots around the map (Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Georgia, New York, California, and even some places abroad, as expected). Here are just a few of the overall highlights from this years’ SXSW:
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
PANEL DISCUSSIONS50 Years of The Beatles
Black Women in Rock
How Indie Labels Survived the Record Biz Apocalypse
Breaking Barriers: The Climate of Music in Latin America
Raise Your Fists: Music Meets Activism
Music Festivals Powered by Tech Innovation
ARTIST SHOWCASE PERFORMANCES
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Sir Michael Rocks
Gary Clark, Jr.
Trae the Truth
The Kid Daytona
And just for good measure, here are a few observations from a first time attendee that took some very good advice on how to prepare for the madness that can ensue from SXSW, but that can be tamed if you’re prepared:
CARGO SHORTS AND A BAG ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND.No, they’re not all that fashionable, but some excellent advice I took was to take comfort over fashion, and I went ahead and added convenience to that mix. You’re going to get LOTS of free stuff, from CDs to maps and pocket guides to other freebies; so compartmentalized clothing can never hurt.
TALK TO EVERYONE.The truth is, there’s so much going on in Austin for SXSW that you never know who you could be talking to. Be courteous, receptive and open as much as you can muster. True, you’ll be tired, a bit dehydrated and mainly looking for your next music venue, but take the time and make an effort. This is the music and entertainment BUSINESS after all, and realizing a great opportunity could be a just sentence away.
CURIOSITY IS EVERYTHING.Whether your goal is simply to discover new music, find out about the latest tech innovations, do some solid networking, or begin making a name for yourself in the business, it’s vital to be open-minded and flexible. This may sound pretty obvious, but the truth is some folks still don’t get it. Mix it up a bit! There’s Hip Hop, folk music, electronica, indie rock, hard metal, business seminars, panel discussions, poster shows, tech displays and so much more all going on at once. Don’t try to get to everything, but don’t stay sectioned off either.
GET SNACKS.There is plenty of local fare going on all around you, from restaurants to street vendors to food trucks, but you don’t want to spend all your hard earned cash up. So stocking up on little nibblers before you head to Austin isn’t such a bad idea. Nutri-grain bars and almonds work pretty well.
WHATEVER YOU DO…LEARN!
SXSW has become the pinnacle of music festivals, the one after which pretty much all other conferences are trying to model theirs. But more than that, it’s an educational experience. You’ll do a lot of talking and selling of yourself and your skills, but you’ll also have to take the time to shut up, look, listen and observe. That sometimes gets lost, and this is too good an opportunity for that to happen.
Hopefully this small bit of information helps out if you plan to attend in 2014. And if so, it can’t hurt to start planning now. So get to it. I know I am!
View the full music lineup: SXSW SCHEDULE. Also check out XXL’s List of Must See Rappers at SXSW & Set Times. Below are some more industry events/concerts courtesy of my email inbox (Don’t miss the Bout that Life show on Friday!):
South by Southwest will get a dose of purple rain. Samsung exclusively confirmed with Mashable that Prince will perform at its March 16 closing party.
“Having Prince in Austin at his first SXSW show will truly be a one night only experience that our Samsung Galaxy owners and friends will remember for years to come,” Todd Pendleton, Samsung’s chief marketing officer, told us.
While the private Saturday night show will wrap up Samsung’s heavy #TheNextBigThing tech and entertainment presence at SXSW, it will be tied to its TecTile Wall initiative in which owners of NFC-enabled Galaxy devices could tap tiles to unlock rewards.
Samsung will choose 250 TecTile Wall participants to attend the intimate show.
To win tickets, Download the Galaxy Experience App in the Google Play store and unlock all 11 rewards, including free pizza and cupcakes!
Download the app at the Google play store:
Though the SXSW music festival in Austin has been an annual extravaganza for 27 years, there has only been a strong hip-hop influence within the last 6 years or so. Prior to that, much of the festival’s genre representation was catered towards classic rock, country, folk, blues, and soul music. That’s not difficult to understand considering hip-hop itself wasn’t as popular and influential a genre until possibly a decade ago or so.
Predominately the festival was geared to the rising stars in alternative, indie-rock, folk, blues, alternative, and indie-pop sectors of music. However, 2008-’09 saw a huge influx of hip-hop unlike anything the festival had seen before.
I attended in 2009 and was lucky to witness promising hip-hop acts such as B.O.B, Charles Hamilton, U-N-I, Mickey Factz, Blue & Exile, Asher Roth, & Wiz Khalifa. Several established artists made an appearance that year such as Pete Rock, Bun B, Reflection Eternal, Zion-I, 8Ball & MJG, Eyedea & Abilities, Freeway & Jake One, Sage Francis, Killer Mike, and many more. The 2009 SXSW music festival must have sparked a fire that has been burning uncontrollably since then because every year not only has the festival grown to immense proportions but the hip-hop element has seemed to exponentially multiply.
It seems Austin, Tx has become the “place-to-be” for the up and coming stars in the hip-hop community. I saw and met Mike Posner, Chiddy Bang, Freedie Gibbs & Pill, Grynch, Grieves, Macklemore, Curren$y, and many more in 2010. An experience that inspired me to get back to the studio and record after laying dormant for several months.
The 2012 music festival was the biggest yet for the hip-hop presence at SXSW with major performances by Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Slaughterhouse and appearances by Eminem and Kanye west. MGK won his MTVU woodie award during this years festival and the next wave of rap superstars such as 2Chainz, A$ap Rocky, Kendrick Lamar & B.I.G K.R.I.T all had major showcases.
In fact there was so much hip-hop going on the entire week, I had a hard time keeping up, with my unofficial showcases and peer performances. The major headlining acts of SXSW 2013 have yet to be announced but I can only imagine from the past three years alone, what we have in store for us come January when more showcases will be revealed. If you are a die-hard hip-hop fan and have yet to hit the spectacular, now-worldwide attraction, I suggest you mark your calendars for March 8-17 because this one is sure to be one for the record books.
For the past 25+ years the SxSw music/film festival in Austin Texas has become one of the largest entertainment events in the world. Every year for nearly ten days during the second week of march, the city of Austin receives close to 50,000 extra people who attend the festival. There are three parts of the SxSw experience; the Interactive, Film, and Music which all attract a vast array of entertainment enthusiasts from around the world.
SxSw interactive and Film festivals usally kick off the event on the second friday of March and last for 5 days. SxSw Interactive is geared towards those in the tech world and showcases presentations from some of the brightest minds in the industry. There are several networking events hosted by industry leaders that showcase the best new digital works, video games, and innovative ideas offered by the international community.
The Film festival is exactly that; whereas film enthusiasts attend several screenings and networking events that premier some of the most noteworthy film releases. The SxSw music festival has grown immensely over recent years to become one of the most popular series’ of concerts in the world.
The heart and soul of the entire festival began in 1987 and since has grown to showcase over 2,000+ bands from all over the world.
Recent years have seen live performances by Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Big Boi, Snoop Dogg just to name a few. Considering Austin is the live music capitol of the world, there are more than enough venues for music lovers of every type. In order to attend just go to the official website at SxSw.com and get your bracelet in order to catch all the official showcases. Although there are hundreds of unofficial showcases and after-parties to enjoy if you’re willing to take the time to find them. Bands who have a sonicbids account can register to perform.
There are several opportunities to network and promote throughout the entire festival. I’ve had the pleasure of attending and performing during SxSw since 2008 and I can tell you it is everything you can imagine and more.
Luckily I’ve had an opportunity to meet some of my favorite artists throughout that time as well as network with like minds in the industry. If you happen to have a week open in march, I suggest taking a trip down to Austin, Texas and experience one of the most exhilarating multimedia/music festivals in the world.
LiveMusicStage, an online service for broadcasting and monetizing interactive live music events, has brought in two new partners at their second investment round. Evgenia Domnenkova, an experienced management consultant from the UK, and Jaakko Salminen, a longtime software specialist from Finland will bring with them international business development and sales experience enhancing the core competences of the new music startup.
The investment will be especially used to boost product development for new interaction features and sales in the UK where the company?s CMO Jyri Forsstrom is already based.
“Smart money is what we went after and the strategic talent and energy we found in Ms. Domnenkova and Mr. Salminen should prove to be remarkable assets for our company”, says Antti Eronen, CEO of LiveMusicStage.
The service has already gained some traction within the music business, with a Finnish 450-seat rock venue being one of the first companies to broadcast music on the site and with an independent reseller in Japan going after the largely untapped potential of the world?s second-biggest music market. The team has also pitched at the HATCH competition at South By South West in Texas, and MUSIC Techpitch 4.5 plus the Digital Shoreditch Capital day in London to name a few.
For music lovers LiveMusicStage is a virtual music venue where audience can interact with the bands during the live events besides just watching. For venues, festivals and other event organisers it?s a platform for broadcasting and monetizing existing gigs and concerts on the web.
Music festivals in the 21st century are no longer just social gatherings where people come together to hear their favorite bands and solo artists perform. Now, they are havens for up and coming and on-the-verge artists to showcase their skills on a huge stage in front of thousands of people. They are events where music, film, technology and all forms of new media are launched to consumers. Music festivals have taken on a whole new meaning in our new age of social media, networking and instant access to each other.
North by Northeast (or NXNE as it’s more commonly know, much like it’s American cousin, SXSW) is no exception. The festival is now in it’s 18th year – is returning June 11-17 to Toronto and features 650 bands and 7 days of top-shelf music, film, technology and social media fun. A tech geeks heaven. And, I mean that in the nicest way.
This year some of the biggest names in music will be performing at the NXNE Music and Film Festival: The Flaming Lips, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Bad Religion, Of Montreal, Killer Mike, Action Bronson and more. And of course, there will be plenty of bands and artists in attendance that you may not have heard and hopefully you will discover the “next big thing.”
But of course, it’s not just about the music anymore. NXNE Interactive will feature 80 presentations from all kinds of creative professionals on new directions in the creation of social content and the ever-changing DIY approach to media and social networking. Interested patrons can visit the NXNE Interactive Announcement homepage for more information.
Think that’s all? Of course not. What would a music festival of the 21st century be without a film component? At the NXNE Film festival, there will be more than a few films that will have attendees talking, including a gala presentation of a documentary by Jonathan Holiff called “My Father and the Man in Black” about the tumultuous relationship between Johnny Cash and his manager Saul Holiff, the filmmaker’s father. Visit the NXNE Film Festival Announcement page for more information.
NXNE is looking like it’s shaping up to be a giant mash-up of music, media and much-needed information for all. For more information on purchasing wristbands, volunteering and more, visit nxne.com.
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