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My 2011 Pazz & Jop Ballot

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  • 1. G-Side, The One…Cohesive
  • 2. Holy Ghost!, Holy Ghost!
  • 3. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
  • 4. Cities Aviv, Digital Lows
  • 5. Clams Casino, Instrumental Mixtape
  • 6. Danny Brown, XXX
  • 7. Oneohtrix Point Never, Replica
  • 8. Jay-Z & Kanye West, Watch The Throne
  • 9. Ponytail, Do Whatever You Want All The Time
  • 10. Don Trip & Starlio, Step Brothers


  • 1. Real Estate, “It’s Real”
  • 2. Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, “Zan With That Lean”
  • 3. Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris, “We Found Love”
  • 4. Patrick Stump, “Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)”
  • 5. DJ Khaled ft. Drake, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne, “I’m On One”
  • 6. Future Islands, “Balance”
  • 7. Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass”
  • 8. Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx, “I’ll Take Care Of U”
  • 9. Miguel, “Sure Thing”
  • 10. Nite Jewel, “It Goes Through Your Head”

Written by Brandon

January 18th, 2012 at 3:45 am

Posted in 2011, Village Voice

Village Voice, Sound Of The City: “The Curious 21st-Century Decline Of Hype Williams.”

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Something about how sucky Hype Williams has been for like a whole decade now, with a focus on the disastrous videos for “All Of The Lights” and “6 Foot 7 Foot” via this making-of footage for Hype’s never-finished version of M.I.A.’s “XXXO.”

On Friday, a link to three-minute making-of video for a scrapped, Hype Williams-helmed clip of “XXXO” appeared on M.I.A.’s twitter. The footage shows M.I.A and a small group of dancers (including Beyoncé choreographer Jonté) painted head-to-toe and gyrating to the song’s hissing, whirling beat. There’s also a tiger. And there’s M.I.A. wearing side-slit leggings and Timberlands and looking really awesome in one scene, and in a metallic, skeletal chest plate thingy looking very uncomfortable in another…

Written by Brandon

May 4th, 2011 at 3:56 am

Village Voice, Sound Of The City: Interview with Clams Casino

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My interview with everybody’s favorite ambient rap producer Clams Casino is up on Village Voice’s blog. Not surprisingly, he isn’t listening to Dolphins Into The Future or anything, but like, taking the manipulated soul of Heatmakerz and Kanye and going even further with it. If you haven’t checked out his mixtape yet, please do. Clams Casino Instrumentals Mixtape > Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972.

​Clams Casino is the producer behind some of Lil B’s trippiest and, therefore, #BASED-est beats, from “I’m God” to “Motivation.” Until the release of his self-titled instrumentals mixtape last week, his name was known to only the most devoted scourers of Internet rap. But thanks to the tape’s mysterious, very un-hip-hop design (a black and white marble image), his wonky producer name, and the beats themselves — moaning, fractured, noisy things that sound as much like Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972 as they do rap instrumentals — the 23-year-old North Jersey-based producer is enjoying a wider profile. Earlier this week, we met up with Clammy Clams at a Mexican spot near his house in Nutley to talk about his spaced-out, hypnagogic hip-hop, which just might bring you to tears, it’s so beautiful…

Written by Brandon

March 17th, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Village Voice: “Diddy Goes Back to the Basement”

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So yeah, I interviewed Diddy about his ridiculously awesome dance album, Last Train To Paris. We mostly talked about Loose Ends and Abel Ferrara’s King Of New York.

Diddy doesn’t need to make an album like Last Train to Paris. OK: Diddy doesn’t need to do anything, but in particular, no one was looking to the guy for an electro-influenced, house-tinged, avant-r&b concept album about heartbreak. “I wasn’t trying to be vulnerable for the sake of shock, or for the sake of people admiring my vulnerability,” he notes over the phone, one week before the album’s release. Instead, his goal was “to just tell the truth.” On the intro track, backed by progressive house bleeps and bloops, Diddy introduces the record’s harsh conceit: “Love is a motherfucker…”

Written by Brandon

December 15th, 2010 at 3:19 am

Posted in Village Voice

Village Voice: “AraabMuzik, MPC Hero”

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My piece on AraabMuzik is up. Most people reading this are already familiar with my ongoing “dark dance music” thesis, so a lot of what I said in there isn’t exactly new, but mixing my bullshit with some stuff straight from AraabMuzik’s mouth is nice. Lots of people like me are talking this guy up now but I still don’t think he’s getting credit for just how well, on some other shit he is. Also, the live performances really are ridiculous. One of the most amazing shows I’ve ever attended. If he performs anywhere near you, go!

Abraham Orellana, a/k/a AraabMuzik, stands outside a nightclub in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s late October, just a few days after his much-discussed performance at Santos’ Party House in Manhattan, and he’s ready to step on yet another stage and deliver yet another rousing performance on his MPC-2500 drum machine. The 21-year-old producer, known to Harlem rap enthusiasts as the mastermind behind Diplomats reunion track “Salute,” seemingly speaks only in topic sentences: “I’m an innovator,” he declares, with no affect whatsoever, staring from behind his sunglasses. (It’s been dark for a few hours now.) “I don’t even have a name for what I do.”

Instead, the hip-hop noisenik’s ears are wide open, and he rolls whatever he hears into a one-of-a-kind mix of skittering hi-hats, sucking treble, and high-BPM assault. “I listen to everything,” he continues, phrasing that as a simple fact rather than a boast. “Everything from, like, Spanish songs all the way to rock and techno and trance. I just bunch it all up into one and come with something that’s not out yet.” Like “Salute,” a darker take on Jersey Shore rave-up music. Or “Let’s Talk,” from Duke Da God’s new Dipset compilation The D.I.P. Agenda, which turns the Alan Parsons Project’s “Let’s Talk About Me” into amphetamine-addled hip-hop. Or “Cuffin,” a standout from Dipset boss Cam’ron’s September album Heat in Here, built around an ominous squeak of synths, horror-flick atmospherics, and dense ’90s-hip-hop drums…

Written by Brandon

December 1st, 2010 at 6:14 am

Posted in Village Voice

Village Voice, Sound of the City: Interview with Phonte Coleman of The Foreign Exchange


My interview with Phonte of The Foreign Exchange for Sound of the City is up. The guy’s a quote-machine so there’s plenty of interesting, engaging stuff about r&b, maturing, etc. in there. If you haven’t checked out Authenticity, F.E’s new record, you really should. It’s easily one of the best records of the year.

When Phonte Coleman, the singing, songwriting half of r&b duo the Foreign Exchange (the other half is producer/multi-instrumentalist Nicolay Rook), talks about the group’s new album Authenticity, he’s close to apologetic. That’s because unlike 2008’s Leave It All Behind, the group’s Grammy-nominated celebration of love’s up-and-down complexities, this new one is an extended, depressive suite about wizened contentment and well, existential dread. Authenticity is purposefully one-note: spare, frosty electronic soul about how much damned work it is to be in a relationship. We met up with Phonte last week in Raleigh, North Carolina, to discuss the record as the Foreign Exchange prepared for their two CMJ shows this Saturday: A free one at the Union Square Best Buy at 2:30 p.m. and then a 7 p.m. performance at BB King’s…

Written by Brandon

October 20th, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Village Voice, Sound of the City: “Country Rap 2: The Gulf States”


Here’s a discussion with Bertolain Elysee, one of the curators of the “Country Rap 2″ film event which kicks-off this weekend at the Maysles Cinema. In addition to all the films, G-Side will be performing this Saturday night. If you’re in the area, I’d strongly encourage you to check it out.

The Maysles Institute’s documentary film series “Country Rap 2: The Gulf States” and its accompanying program “Katrina: Five Years Later”–both opening this weekend–tie the rich spirit and deep history of Southern hip-hop to recent tragedies like Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. Films about Miami bass (2 Live Crew: Banned in the U.S.A), bounce (Ya Heard Me?), Southern rap (Dirty States Of America, The Carter), Delta blues (The Land Where Blues Began), and New Orleans jazz (Jazz Parades) stand alongside histories of the Black Panther Party (Lowndes County Freedom Party) and the Miami University football team (The U). Alabama up-and-comers G-Side will perform at the venue on Saturday. (And all of this in New York City, a/k/a the town that booed OJ Da Juiceman!) Via e-mail, we spoke to co-curator Bertolain Elysee about the event’s expansive intentions, why libertarians should love 2 Live Crew’s Luke, and Lil Wayne and Lil Boosie’s particular kind of political activism.

Written by Brandon

August 20th, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Village Voice, Sound of the City: “So Just How Homophobic Is Rap In 2010?”


Things I couldn’t find a place for in this article….Z-Ro’s “no discrimination” verse from “T.H.U.G” that mentions “lesbians and gay men.” The last verse of Pimp C’s “Shattered Dreams” where he tells gay people, “do your thing, because can’t no man tell you what’s wrong or right.” Also that Lil Wayne, like Tupac before him, dresses in a kind of “drag-king” style clearly swiped from the working-class lesbians of his city (incidentally, Tupac’s from Baltimore, the home of out Club vocalist Miss Tony). The write-up’s stronger for not having those tangents, but they’re worth mentioning I think. Not to play a “name your favorite anti-homophobia reference in rap” game but to totally play, “name your favorite anti-homophobia reference in rap,” what are yours? I’ve long had the idea to do a “gay week” on this blog that really break down the many direct and sideways contributions the gay community’s provided for hip-hop. May still do it one day. Yeah, the article’s below as usual:

The familiar conceit of this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine article “Sissy Bounce: New Orleans’s Gender-Bending Rap,” goes something like this: There are some gay rappers in New Orleans. Rap’s usually really homophobic. That’s crazy, huh? Contrasting the apparently enlightened attitude of New Orleans bounce with mainstream hip-hop’s homophobia in order to wrap a chin-scratching, Times-friendly thesis around a rowdy, obscene style of Southern dance music is probably good for the genre’s visibility. And the assertion that rap is gay-unfriendly is so well proven by now that the piece’s writer, Jonathan Dee, doesn’t even deign to provide any examples to support it. Fair enough: hip-hop’s track record, when it comes to addressing homosexuality, is abysmal. But do we really know for a fact that rap remains completely unenlightened, circa 2010?

In the eighties, hip-hop was venomous toward gays: think Big Daddy Kane’s “anti-faggot” law from “Pimpin Ain’t Easy”, or Public Enemy’s “The parts don’t fit/Aww, shit” aside from “Meet The G That Killed Me.” In the nineties, rap’s signature was the hard-ass “faggot”-filled vitriol of groups like Wu-Tang and the Lox. Along with today’s lunkheaded leftovers from those two decades, there are still songs like “MC Hammer” off Rick Ross’ Teflon Don, wherein the Boss tells listeners “credit card scams [are] for the faggots.”

Written by Brandon

July 29th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Village Voice, Sound of the City: “In Defense of Chill-wave”


So, I wrote this thing defending Chill-wave, which is this sub-genre I actually care a lot about. If you’ve been reading the stuff I drop here that’s not about hip-hop–and even some of the hip-hop stuff–you’ve surely noticed a slow-rolling thesis/defense of New-Age music and this was a chance to sorta gel those ideas into something. Also, got to have fun dropping references to all the shit there’s really no other place to reference, you know, Mike & the Mechanics, Christopher Cross, and this amazing song you may recall from your childhood. I also couldn’t find a place to fit it into the article, but I encourage y’all to go read Carles of Hipster Runoff’s comments under Pareles’ inciting article. The secret about Carles is he’s one of the best indie music critics around right now.

​”Glo-fi” or “chill-wave”, that sub-sub-sub genre of electronic indie pop, was kind of a big deal at SXSW this year. Well, as big of a deal as something solely focused on trying to sound like Christopher Cross on muscle relaxers can be in 2010 at a constantly internet-streaming, forever re-tweeted music festival. Big enough though that New York Times’ Jon Pareles dropped this awesomely brutal piece about why the scene is well, bullshit.

Pareles critiques chillwave’s formal elements, referring to its fuzzy grooves and gated drums as “annoyingly noncommittal”–”a hedged, hipster imitation of the pop [Chill-wavers are] not brash enough to make [themselves].” In short, chillwave sucks because it retrofits older, better music for younger, more ignorant, stuck-up weirdos and nerds. Sounds like the critique lobbed at every indie trend of the past decade.

Problem is, chillwave is the most interesting and vital, stupid indie trend in a minute, and in attacking it, Pareles fundamentally misreads chillwave’s influences and ignores its heady intentions. ’80s pop is everywhere–the sound chillwavers search out goes way beyond the Billboard charts of “the me decade.” It’s in Atari and Nintendo games. And Tangerine Dream’s sell-out, soundtrack period. CDs on the Wyndham label. And horror movies on VHS. It’s that “Happy Birthday To You” song that played at Chuck E. Cheese because the real “Happy Birthday” song is too expensive to license. Stuff even the most devout ’80s revivalists, from Lady Gaga to jj and everybody in between, wouldn’t deign use to spike their style…

Written by Brandon

March 26th, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Village Voice: “On Richard Christy’s Fun-Metal Opus Charred Walls of the Damned”


So, my article on the first great album of 2010–Charred Walls of the Damned’s self-titled debut–is in the Village Voice this week. CWOTD is drummer Richard Christy’s metal project–you may know Richard Christy as one of the writers on the Howard Stern Show but he’s also a metal veteran, having drummed for bands like Iced Earth and Death. Talking to him was a big deal, as I’m a huge Stern fan and just a big fan of his music and stuff. A lot of things we discussed just didn’t make it into the article due to word-space, but I especially loved a rant he had about how John Carpenter is his favorite songwriter.

After the interview, he was awesome enough to give me a tour of the Stern show studios which is sort of a dream fulfilled since I was eight years old listening to Stern with my dad. In Richard’s office, amongst the metal CDs and porno DVDs was a bunch of Carpenter movie soundtrack LPs. Charred Walls of the Damned came out today. Go get it!

“It’s early in the year, but Richard Christy has already released two masterpieces. First, there’s his epic rearranging of Sarah Palin’s audio book—one of many pre-recorded bits he provides for The Howard Stern Show—wherein the comedian turns Going Rogue into Penthouse Forum, cutting and splicing Palin’s voice so she’s describing an indefatigable orgy that includes, among other things, her inclination to “jerk off a caribou.” But don’t forget Charred Walls of the Damned, the self-titled debut of his new songs-in-the-key-of-Maiden metal supergroup.

The Stern affiliation often outshines Fort Scott, Kansas’s favorite son’s nearly 20 years in the heavy-metal scene—including bygone gigs as drummer for death-metal pioneers Death and the concept-album-obsessed Iced Earth, among many others—but Christy is comfortable with that. “I work on the greatest radio show in the world,” he exclaims. “I get paid to goof around…”

Written by Brandon

February 3rd, 2010 at 2:59 am

Posted in Village Voice