Like Shyne and Gucci Mane before her, Lauryn Hill has now recorded some bangers from prison. With her release (after a three-month stint stemming from tax-evasion charges) imminent, Hill gives us some new music, and a statement: "'Consumerism' is part of some material I was trying to finish before I had to come in. We did our best to eek [sic] out a mix via verbal and emailed direction, thanks to the crew of surrogate ears on the other side. Letters From Exile is material written from a certain space, in a certain place. I felt the need to discuss the underlying socio-political, cultural paradigm as I saw it. I haven't been able to watch the news too much recently, so I'm not hip on everything going on. But inspiration of this sort is a kind of news in and of itself, and often times contains an urgency that precedes what happens. I couldn't imagine it not being relevant. Messages like these I imagine find their audience, or their audience finds them, like water seeking it's [sic] level."
"If Odd Future does blow up, this appearance will be mentioned (“the first time that a national ... ” blah blah blah) in every bio of the band forever." - Amos Barshad, 2/17/11
Amos is an oracle.
It's a performance that, some two years later, is still culturally relevant. The Odd Future collective's first nationally televised performance, "Sandwitches" by Tyler, The Creator and Hodgy Beats, backed by the Roots, on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
We're now waist-deep in awards season, and the Grantland staff would like to take this opportunity to remind all the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Collar nominees out there that should they have to step up to that podium and take that mic on national television, they owe it to themselves to study up beforehand and see how the pros handle it. Here are our favorite awards show acceptance (and unacceptance) speeches from all corners of the entertainment world.
There’s something about the quiet ones. In R&B, it’s not the brash who you need to keep an eye on — they do all the work for you. Marvin Gaye. Sam Cooke. Luther Vandross. D’Angelo. They danced quietly. Despite his broad smile and honeysuckle voice, Gaye was as tortured as any popular artist ever — read David Ritz’s essential biography Divided Soul if you want to learn about his abusive childhood, his psychosexual demons, his divorces, his pained love, his murder at the hands of his father. Cooke was murdered, too, after years of scorn from the church that raised him for turning to secular music. The butter-soft Luther Vandross famously withheld from public conversation about his sexuality and was occasionally attacked as a coward. At one point, D’Angelo was one of the world’s purest specimens, Adonis-like and gifted with the voice of an amnesiac angel. He’s spent the last decade in the wind, negotiating his fame, physique, and place in music. He’s back now. It’s an interesting time for him to return, because he has company.
The logical successor to the Quiet One mantle is Frank Ocean, the R&B singer-songwriter and writer-for-hire who emerged from Odd Future’s snarling alien spore like a winged dove, a splash of light in a pile of slop and anarchic terror. His membership is by design, a salve to the mayhem. Fourteen months ago, he released Nostalgia, Ultra, a slithering, earnest mixtape hybrid compiling songs he’d recorded for his in-limbo Def Jam debut, as well as cheekily straight reinterpretations of songs by Coldplay, MGMT, and the Eagles(!). It sampled Nicole Kidman’s weed-induced speech from Eyes Wide Shut about the paradox of gender, love, and sex. It was the most interesting thing that happened in R&B that year, but mostly because it came out of nowhere, revealing a guy so in control of his progressive commercial R&B shtick, he almost seemed like the product of intelligent design — a splice of DNA from a blogger test tube. “Feeling like Adam when he first found out this existed,” he sang on “Nature Feels.” That about summed it up.
For the record, Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator is no longer directing some little piddling podunk music videos. Oh, no, no, no: Mr. The Creator is now directing short films. The new clip for "Sam Is Dead," a track off the recent group album OF Tape Vol. 2, comes complete with its own throwback poster heralding the footage as "A Film by Wolf Haley," which is what Tyler calls himself when he's directing stuff.
The singer, occasional rapper, and eldest member of hip-hop angst collective Odd Future (OFWGKTA), Frank Ocean, released a song this past Friday, titled "Pyramids," from his highly anticipated debut album Channel Orange.
A few things about this song:
It's very clever. So clever, in fact, that all of the following are referenced, alluded to, or explicitly stated in the lyrics: Cleopatra, Mark Antony, the Pyramids, Samson, Isis, the skin complexion and controversial ancestral history of Egyptians, mummification, the Battle of Actium, Adam and Eve, Ra, The Luxor Las Vegas, pimps, prostitutes, and motel rooms with only VHS players.
There will be an unusual spike in births in about nine months. Am I saying this song might cause pregnancy? No. I'm saying this song definitely causes pregnancy.
This song is very good. Regardless of the genre, it's one of the better sung songs I've heard in quite some time.
All of these aspects of "Pyramids" are important as far as its staying power, but none of them are what stood out the most. What did?
The two big stories from last night's Odd Future show at the Hammerstein Ballroom were the return of 18-year-old Earl Sweatshirt, and Frank Ocean, Coldplay's new opening act, showing up to take part in the Golf Wang festivities. While there's no denying their appearances at the gig were important, I left that teenage-angst-and-Axe Body Spray-filled space speechless over the performance given by Tyler, The Creator. Since Day 1, he's been the most visible member of the crew, but not once did I ever think of him as anything more than just the most popular one. Never had I really associated him with the label "front man," because that's a term rarely used when describing rap acts. After last night, however, there's no denying the accuracy of that label.
Out on March 20: OF Tape Vol. 2, the latest release from the Odd Future collective. Out right now: the music video for “NY (Ned Flander),” the second single from that album. The clip is, as per OF convention, a disturbing few minutes: while lounging in what appears to be a Breaking Bad-style meth den, Hodgy Beats, as an old man, eats a sub sandwich in gross fashion; then Tyler, the Creator, as an old man-baby, gets a gross bath. (Also: “Now I have famous friends who like coke in their drugs.”) No fast cuts here: The video lingers and trails on every shot, really letting you soak in the narcotics-abuse-based tooth decay. Tyler directed the clip, and has spent some quality time congratulating himself for that fact, via alter ego name, on Twitter: “WOLF HALEYS 8TH VIDEO. TONIGHT. ALL BEFORE 21. 8 MUSIC VIDEOS DIRECTED BY 20. GOOD JOB WOLF HAY.” Good job, Wolf Hay? Yeah, I guess, good job, Wolf Hay. Alternately, if you're looking for something a bit more mild-mannered this afternoon: might I suggest the latter-day work of Monica and Brandy?
When the Los Angeles hip-hop collective Odd Future first started making noise, early last year — way before front man Tyler, the Creator (pictured above) won an MTV VMA award — one of its most intriguing members was the teenager Earl Sweatshirt. And that's because he wasn't around. While his mixtape Earl, a short but lyrically exceptional collection, was available for download, he himself was somewhere. Tyler wouldn't quite explain where Earl was, only to say that he was being held against his will, and that the whole crew wanted him back soon.
At the start of this year, no one knew about Frank Ocean. Then in February his mix tape Nostalgia, Ultra started getting passed around like HPV (one in two people got that joint). As winter turned to spring, we started to get a face to put to the name (née Christopher Breaux). In June, we got the first official video for “Novacane”, which teased as much as it satisfied. The Watch The Throne co-sign made it official: We have a rising star on our hands. And today we get the video for the second single, “Swim Good."
Russell Crowe has officially joined the Les Misérables movie, playing Javert opposite Hugh Jackman, who’s starring as Jean Valjean. The King’s Speech's Tom Hooper is directing and William Nicholson wrote the screenplay. Safe to say this is the best thing that’s happened to him this year, after that time he hung out with Kanye and Jay-Z in Australia, of course. Grade: A- [Deadline]
HBO has given Aaron Sorkin’s cable-news drama — currently untitled, though formerly known as More As the Story Develops — a series pickup. Jeff Daniels stars as the possibly Keith Olbermann-y anchor; Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel, and Sam Waterston are somehow all in this as well. Following Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, this will be Sorkin’s third TV show about a TV show. Why don't Sorkin and TV shows about TV shows get a freakin’ room already? Grade: A [HR]
Earlier this year, the music world was batting its eyes and doing embarrassing pelvic grind moves to the music of the new darlings of R&B. Frank Ocean of Odd Future fame dropped his gem Nostalgia, Ultra in February. A few weeks later, the Weeknd (born Abel Tesfaye) made everyone peel their panties off with the first installment of his mixtape trilogy House of Balloons. Some were like, "Oooh, don’t look now, y’all, but this might be The Next Generation of R&B." From the primordial ooze of Twitter the term PBR&B (nice one!) was coined. Some of the young traditional-minded connoisseurs of the genre were like, "I don’t know about all that hipster R&B, but it’s good music."