For 10 days, Grantland staff writer Rembert Browne is at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, collecting stories while trying not to die.
Schoolboy Q is having a phenomenal time in Austin.
As the second most famous member of the Kendrick Lamar–led Top Dawg Entertainment crew, Q had a great deal to celebrate on Wednesday, with a headlining position at SXSW staple THE FADER FORT Presented by Converse and then a cameo across the street at the Spotify Live compound to crash Kendrick's headlining set.
Beyond rapping, one of the hallmarks of Schoolboy's appeal (along with one of the reasons I didn't mind seeing him twice in less than three hours) is that he'll say anything and do anything and, more often than not, people will enjoy it.
No, Kendrick didn't get the Janet Jackson cameo he so rightly desired, but this clip is certainly still worth your time, at the very least as a chance to bask in the warm glory that is Kendrick's extended victory lap: This is either the third or fourth single (depending on if you count "The Recipe," which ended up being relegated to bonus cut status) off Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, and how can you be mad at one of the best albums of last year seeing this kind of long-lasting action? Also, this is a really good chance to reexamine the wondrously complete Drake-iness of Drake's verse: advocacy for improved relationship communication? Poems about "fun sex"? Sundresses?! Perfect.
Look: This past SNL might not be one for the books or anything, but it beat the daylights out of the previous one, so let’s just drink to that for now. Adam Levine co-hosted with a set of cue cards that — when they weren’t being reflected in windows during a Catfish parody or casting distracting shadows while Train and Maroon 5 faced off — sent the script waltzing across the limpid pools of Levine’s eyes as he read (a fellow Grantlander called it “Phelpsian”). That’s OK with me, though, because the energy was up and the material was pretty decent. I was sort of into it! Do you disagree? You probably disagree. But see here: “The Sopranos Diaries” could have been written in Swahili and I still would have laughed at Moynihan’s teenage Tony and Armisen’s Paulie Walnuts (even though I’d probably have cast him as Silvio Dante).
K-Pop tasted world-conquering glory in 2012, but it was bittersweet: Instead of one of the genre's many meticulously manicured supergroups, it was Psy, a portly second-stringer, who won hearts and minds. That means K-Pop's got some unfinished business to take care of — namely, breaking one of Korea's top names in America. And seeing the exactitude with which the industry whips its subjects into shape, there's no telling what kind of repercussions are on hand for the subjects if this fails; I believe a sort of modern-day musician's version of a debtor's prison is not out of the question. On that note: How are you feeling about Girls' Generation's latest? It's got about 19 songs jammed into one, which is nice; also, according to the subtitled version, the lyrics feature the phrase "deep eyes like a scarred beast."
Do you love Sosa? Have you been thinking about you? Are you concerned we might die young? Have we got a podcast for you! Live from Grantland's Los Angeles studio, Chris Ryan and I — along with special guest Rembert Browne — broke down the year in music, mourning the dead (albums, rock and roll) and toasting the living (R&B, Swedish Svengalis, Rihanna's travel agent). All your favorites (or at least ours) are included: Kendrick Lamar, Twin Shadow, Miguel, Japandroids, Fiona & Frank, not Mumford & Sons. It's been fun, 2012! But seriously: After next week, we are never, ever getting back together. (I'll see myself out, thanks.)
One of the best songs of the year gets a video, and it's a "Sky's the Limit" kind of deal: Jessie and her producer go about recording hot music, rocking hot shows, and eating white-bread-and-mayonnaise sandwiches, but it's actually microscopic little tiny moppet stand-ins, doing their best to look like they know where the "on" switch for the Korg is. The music biz is a tough bitch, kids. Don't you go growing up too fast.
OK, yes, there is some call for skepticism here: the release date for A$AP Rocky's official major label debut, LONG.LIVE.A$AP, has already been pushed back twice (first it was September 11th, then it was Halloween); also, it's a high-priority rap album, and therefore practically obligated to get us all excited and then not show up to the party. But Rocky didn't just Tweet out the date and expect us to mark the X on our calendars in pen. He went to the trouble of showing up on BET last night to announce the new date, and even provided firm details as to this thing's existence.
Earl, still rapping like he'd take the time to jot notes on distinctive cornices, even if he were being chased down a suburban Maryland street by a rabid panther. Oh, and please go ahead and listen to new Mr. Sweatshirt material, but just know that your opinion doesn't really matter, because the kid from Third Rock From the Sun has already tweeted his support. (If you to click on that tweet, be aware, Looper spoilers might follow).
It goes without saying that the Hollywood Prospectus podcast maintains a healthy East Coast bias — no matter where Chris and I call home, we’ll always have an unshakable affection for weather, Herr’s potato chips, and neck beards. But young rapper Kendrick Lamar has shaken up all our allegiances. We spent the first part of today’s pod discussing his great new album good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2:30), and our colleague Sean Fennessey’s insightful celebration of it, and the inherent differences between Kendrick’s thoughtful, complicated rap and the straight-up goon music propagated by Gucci Mane, who also released a record this week.
From there we digressed into thoughts on A$AP Rocky, MC Eiht, and Chris’s high school bad luck in baseball and at local movie theaters. We went back and forth on the highly exciting/high-risk bombshell on this week’s Homeland (21:40) and finished up with some raves for the return of Happy Endings (30:45), for our money the best comedy on TV. Just don’t tell Bodie — the one from The Wire or the one from Point Break.
Driving around L.A., your mind wanders. A life spent on the East Coast and an adulthood tucked into New York’s rolling steel transportation boxes can make you forget what music is capable of in a car. Rap from the West Coast — rider music — reminds you of this more than anything. Kendrick Lamar has been reminding me lately. His major-label debut, good kid, m.a.a.d. city, is out today and it is as worthy a successor to Doggystyle or All Eyez on Me or Quik Is the Name or 93 Till Infinity as anything in decades. But Kendrick Lamar has little in common with his forebears, almost no resemblance to his heroes, and not a single thing shared with his contemporaries. Like Marvin Hamlisch meets Marvin Hagler meets Marvin the Martian, Lamar is an interstellar traveler prone to fits of rage. His voice rises and dives down, melodically punching through tracks, then transforming into something pinched and nerdy, only to morph again into a roaring growl. On “Gimme the Loot,” the Notorious B.I.G. famously rapped in the voice of two characters — one his gruff baritone, the other a yelping accomplice. Kendrick does him five or six better, modulating his voice into bends and twists, pulling his vocal cords like taffy across verses and bridges. He is several people at once, anguished and joyful and vicious. (Watch him contort his voice on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last month.) Good kid is a technical wonder, and the best-rapped album you’re liable to hear this year. And that’s not even the reason you should listen to it.
Yesterday, with minimal advance warning ("NEW SHIT IN 5 MINUTES"), the first single from Rocky's upcoming major-label debut, LongLiveASAP, was sprung. And while not everyone was a fan, at least not right away — Tyler the Creator tweeted "So Funny When Someone Releases A new Song With The Same 4 People That We Expected To Be On It With The Same Shitty 'Trap' Beat Hahaha," and I don't think he meant those "ha"s genuinely — this thing's got major radio potential. Of course, there are some built-in encumbrances to that end: When you do hear it on the radio, it'll sound like everyone's taking an awkwardly long breath before saying "problem."
WhatsAnAvailableName: "Better then that stupid song about walking." fnormality : "'Take A Walk' was not stupid! It made me nod my head & dance."
By the way, I will now and forever more give my opinion on everything as being "Better than that stupid song about walking." How was The Dark Knight Rises? "Better than that stupid song about walking." How was the chorizo in your breakfast burrito? "Better than that stupid song about walking." How was your walk? "Better than that stupid song about walking." Etc.
Nineteen-year-old Brit would-be pop-star Charli XCX dropped a new single and a new mixtape, Heartbreaks and Earthquakes, this week. This track has a spoken-word bridge in which Charli reveals just how much "you" mean to her — "I’m drinking love potion when I’m next to you," etc. — which feels very '90s, which is comforting. I welcome her potential future radio domination.
Yesterday, Kendrick Lamar — the extravagantly talented L.A. rapper pegged as the next great hope of West Coast hip-hop — dropped his first official single, “The Recipe.” It comes after a string of killer semi-official releases on which Kendrick flashed his potent blend of stripped-down candidness, even-keeled commentary, conflicted party proclivities, and undeniable rap chops. For right now, though, it’s just that last one that concerns us.
A double dose of Diplo this week. First, check out “Express Yourself,” a solo track from the man of a million tastes that stars New Orleans bounce don Nicky Da B. Weirdly, unlike Lady Gaga's “Born This Way,” “Express Yourself” does not rip off Madonna's “Express Yourself.” Rather, it rips off Madonna's “La Isla Bonita.” Actually, it rips off A Tribe Called Quest's “Bonita Applebum.” Actually, it rips off the original design for Nelly's Apple Bottom Jeans. Actually, just listen to it.