Imagine announcing you're pregnant and getting about 50 of the exact same congratulatory cards in the mail on the same day. That happened to Mike Myers, only on local TV in essentially every town in America. Moral of the story: Mix it up a little, TV producers. There are plenty of Austin Powers quotes to go around.
Every fall, New York City is bombarded with a number of things, from fallen leaves to bed bugs and rent hikes. Another mainstay is the CMJ Music Marathon, which began on October 15 and officially wraps on the 19th.
In the landscape of festivals, it's closer to a SXSW than a Coachella, as events occur in venues throughout the boroughs. There's no way to see everything, or even most things, so it becomes a week of stumbling upon shows, missing others, and actually attending pre-planned events. Or avoiding the behemoth altogether. I did not avoid the behemoth.
This week's Songs of the Week is dedicated to CMJ: the best from the sets I made, those I missed, those I'm planning on seeing, and those I ultimately will never see.
Origin: Los Angeles via Washington, D.C.
140 Characters on Ideal Setting for Listening to This Song in Your Normal Life:
Where music can be blasted, preferably when you have a task that must be completed, like intense dusting --> rest of album is evolved Zhané.
In the 11 years that I've been faithfully listening to Pusha T, not once did I think he'd ever become one of our brightest stars. There have been glimpses of it for a long time — many of which have contributed to his lengthy career — but I never thought they'd be anything beyond that.
But I never knew why. The talent has always been there. The Clipse albums Lord Willin' and Hell Hath No Fury are both important rap records. And during this era, he continued to deliver above-average verses that separated him from much of the pack and occasionally even from his brother/fellow Clipsian, Malice.
Nobody says "movie magic" anymore because it is not 1955, but corny or not, that is basically the subject of the first 30 minutes of this week's pod. Andy and I were starstruck, slack-jawed, and overjoyed upon viewing Alfonso Cuarón's space disaster, Gravity. It's the best 3-D movie ever (shout-out to Unobtainium), and easily one of the best films of the year. We talked George, Sandra, the fact that you must see this movie in theaters, how more movies should be like that, and whether it matters that this movie, one that gets so many things so right, apparently gets the science of outer space so wrong (spoiler: It doesn't matter).
We came crashing back to Earth with a discussion about the disappointing third season of Homeland. We mourned for Dana and speculated about where Peter Quinn shops. Hey, it beats actually talking about Homeland.
On Tuesday, Pusha T will release his first proper solo album, My Name Is My Name. I write this with a reasonable expectation that the record will actually be out tomorrow, though you can never take release dates for granted when it comes to anything involving Pusha T. Delays have long been the enemy of his discography. (For instance, the first single off My Name, the Future-starring “Pain,” dropped a year ago this week.) I know it’s unlikely that every single semitruck delivering copies of My Name to record stores arrived unexpectedly in a ditch filled with CD-eating zombies, or that all digital copies have been mistakenly deleted and replaced with files from Sting’s The Last Ship. But with Pusha T, it’s not completely impossible.
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."
In case you missed it, Lost co-creator/showrunner/apologist/explainer Damon Lindelof loves Breaking Bad. He wrote a Heisenberg = Batman piece for Vulture last week, and now he has taken to The Hollywood Reporter to talk about how he's ready, post-BrBa, to stop discussing the divisive/awful/pretty OK (no? just me?) end of Lost. "I'm sick of myself for continuing to beat this particular drum, so I can't imagine how sick of it you are. If it's unpleasant and exhausting for me to keep defending the Lost finale, aren't you getting tired of hating it? And so … I, like Walter White, want out. To be free. And to grant you the same." Then he offers a deal: You, the Lost haters, acknowledge that Lindelof knows your feelings ("I will think about your dissatisfaction always and forever"); in turn, he'll "finally stop talking about it."
The video below is for a track called "King Push." It comes to us off Pusha-T's My Name Is My Name, which is Pusha's first-ever solo album, a release for which a lot of people have been waiting a long time. And so the mere existence of "King Push" is a notable enough development. But what makes this particular MNIMN track noteworthy is that this track was produced by Kanye West and Joaquin Phoenix.
Ebony Oshunrinde's life is different now. Two months ago, she was a 16-year-old Ontario, Canada, native about to complete 11th grade. Today she has a production credit on a Jay-Z album. Oshunrinde's is the most humanizing story born of Jay-Z's new phone-album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. It's also a microcosm of contemporary rap superstardom's machinery.
Her circumstances are extraordinary, but her story is common: After making the acquaintance of the rapper Travi$ Scott, Oshunrinde, who goes by Wondagurl professionally, passed him a beat tape with a heavy reggae influence, citing "Blocka," his recent song with Pusha T and Popcaan, as an inspiration. This sort of transaction happens all the time. Hustle is the muscle of hip-hop; for strength, lift, flex, repeat. But this connection was particularly serendipitous. Of late, Scott has entered a rarified atmosphere. The 21-year-old Houston MC's name appears in the liner notes of Kanye West's Yeezus (he's signed as a producer to Ye's G.O.O.D. Music imprint), he released an EP — the spectacularly titled Owl Pharaoh — for T.I.'s Grand Hustle label, and his bombastic sound has subtly infected an older generation of rappers, from Pusha to Kanye to Tip to Jay-Z. (The moody atmosphere of this recent song sure sounds familiar.) After listening to Wondagurl's tape, Scott passed one of her beats, built around a sample of Sizzla's "Solid as a Rock," to Jay during the recording of Magna Carta. Once in hand, the accomplished mixer and producer Mike Dean layered a wobbling synth track on the watery Sizzla sample, Jay-Z recorded his Scott Boras–bashing vocals, and "Crown" was crafted.
In the past week, brothers Jeff and Eric Rosenthal of sketch comedy duo ItsTheReal have released a DJ Drama–hosted mixtape, Urbane Outfitters, with the likes of Hannibal Buress, Bun B, Maino, Lil Jon, and Freeway; been written up in a variety of outlets, from the New York Times to Billboard to Fast Company; and retweeted Macklemore nine times. To close out their week, they're doing our Songs of the Week, because it's the final step in "making it."
N.O.R.E. ft. 2 Chainz, French Montana, and Pusha T, "Tadow"
Jeff Rosenthal: These are the things that go “tadow” for French Montana: his chopper, her ass, his money, and his bling. I don’t know if it’s a sound or an adjective or a combonomatopoeia, but it’s certainly something I’m adding to my everyday-speak.
Rembert Browne: Why aren't you guys in the N.O.R.E./P.A.P.I. video for "Built Pyramids”?
WFMU The Best Show's Tom Scharpling directs, and provides a perfectly bare-bones pop-up video kind of vibe — until the narrator's spiraling personal life gets in the way. Now this is how you make awesome videos on a budget of $17, Baked Lays mini bags, and a camera you borrowed from your cousin Ricky. Oh, and the track's a killer, too.
In a late-week, holiday-hangover episode of the Hollywood Prospectus Podcast, Andy Greenwald and I get together to talk about how we spent our (brief) summer vacations. I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man (2:40), along with most of America, while Andy checked out a special screening of the '90s indie cult classic Kicking and Screaming (12:00) (not the Will Ferrell soccer one). Both of these cinematic experiences are discussed in depth, with much mirth and reverie.
We then checked the pulse on Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom (20:20), wondering whether Alison Pill has ever been drunk in real life or if Dev Patel could have ever imagined things could have gotten worse after The Last Airbender. We also discussed the world of music (and what a world it is), praising the holy verses of Pusha T and Kanye West on the new G.O.O.D. Music track, "New God Flow," (29:20) and taking in Frank Ocean's personal revelations (36:26). There was also a bit of talk about Andy's excellent Fourth of July Spotify playlist and the role '90s indie rock band Velocity Girl played in my brief stint as a high school film auteur. Ask about me.
We wrapped it all up with some Double Down Book Club. This week's author is British spy-novel-master John le Carré (45:40); we heaped praise on his masterpiece Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as well as some lesser-known works, The Tailor of Panama and Absolute Friends. Check it out: The podcast fireworks have only just begun.
A question on the occasion of the 13th or 14th time I've listened to Chief Keef's "I Don't Like (Remix)" today: Is anybody better at co-optation through collaboration than Kanye West?
Chief Keef is a previously superunknown, dreadlocked 16-year-old rapper from Chicago's South Side. Earlier this year, he became a viral fascination after a video of a very, very excited young man in a wood-paneled rec room celebrating Keef's release from jail on weapons charges became a hit on Worldstarhiphop.com. Keef was big among local high school kids, but he seemed to have no connections whatsoever, even on the regional level; in a hip-hop moment where even upstart blog-rap types like A$AP Rocky seem to arrive pre-assimilated, with label/media/fashion cosigns in place, that appearance of total aesthetic purity goes a long way. So did the detail that Keef has managed to blow up despite still being under house arrest at his grandmother's home, which is also the kind of hook that gets the attention of editors at outlets not normally known for commissioning long-form profiles of newish rappers (call it the Earl Sweatshirt Exemption).
Pusha T feat. Tyler the Creator, Hodgy Beats, and Liva Don, “Ooh”
This song is a billion times better than “Trouble On My Mind,” the last track on which Tyler and Pusha got together, and that is due in large part to Odd Future afterthought Hodgy Beats, whose dope opening verse shouts out both The Most Dangerous Game and Watchmen." Meanwhile, Push turns in his second-greatest reference to opera. (The first is from here, obviously: “Riding Chevys give us room to reload choppers / Gourmet beef, servin’ niggas filet Oscar / so many bitches screamin’, we should promote operas.”) That dude is great at rapping.
DOOM feat. Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, “Retarded Fren”
When official word came down that underground rap’s king weirdo DOOM was actually teaming up with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood (for a track on Complex, Lex Records’ 10th Anniversary compilation), it was tough not to geek out a little bit. Which means the end result — a perfectly adequate DOOM track for which Yorkey and Greeny provide a beat that sounds like the score for a chase scene in a stylized neo-noir movie — is, through no fault of its own, just a touch disappointing. But what were we expecting? For Thom to throw down some bars? The best part is when DOOM shouts out the Lex anniversary show he’s playing with Ghostface tomorrow. That plug will age well.