Archives for posts with tag: Kendrick Lamar

Jhene-Aiko-I-AM-in-Love

 

The most recent quote on Jhene Aiko’s Tumblr reads, “Sunshine all the time makes a desert.” This arab proverb is perfect for Aiko’s attitude towards life and music. To paraphrase from a past interview she’s said, “I just believe in progressing through life..I really take things that most people would see as negative as motivation..tradegy etc., those are the things that make me even more motivated and inspired.” It can be easy for some to hear her music, her voice and instantly be drifting away in a kind of bliss. But there is darkness, and complexity within the beauty.

Jhene is about a year older than me, a Pisces, born March 16th 1988 (raised in LA). While I was trading Pokemon cards and playing video games in 2002 (Jhene was probably doing that too:)), she was getting her music career started, contributing vocals to past R&B group B2K. It was fun to realize I had heard her voice way back then and not noticed. You can spot Aiko in their video for “Uh Huh” (my favorite of theirs).

 

She toured with them for a bit, and took a break from the music industry for several years. During this time, she had a daughter and had a record label meeting that would influence the future creation of the Sailing Souls Mixtape, Sail Out EP and upcoming debut album Souled Out. She was told the classic tale, that you need to sell yourself if you want to get somewhere in the business. A play on words would change “sell” to “sail”, and that attitude of freedom and artistic integrity would fuel her future work.

 

I admire her energy and perspective on the world within and around her. She doesn’t believe in setbacks and takes each moment good or bad, as energy for her music. It’s that roll with the punches feel that’s helped give her this angelic, as well as raw presentation as an artist and person. In her Sailing Souls mixtape (Prod. by K. Roosevelt, Fistcuffs, J.LBS, Bei Maejor and Tae Beast), the relationship songs are all about one particular, unnamed person. The audience has a window into her life, and that vulnerability and honesty has connected with a massive and diverse group of individuals. That mixtape’s had over a quarter of a million downloads, and features Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, Gucci Mane, Lite, H.O.P.E., Roosevelt and Kanye West.

Her productions on that mixtape were smooth demonstrations of R&B, soul and pop, some of my favorites being “Stranger”, “Hoe Feat. Miguel & Gucci Mane”, “Real Now”, “Higher” and “Space Jam.”

 

 

Jhene lost her brother Miyagi to cancer in July 2012. She wrote “For My Brother” solely for her dying sibling, and he passed away shortly after hearing it. That fall, “3:16 AM” was released as a single from Sail Out.

In 2013 she was featured on Drake’s “From Time” off his marvelous Nothing Was The Same album, was involved in a car crash with her daughter (who was thankfully unharmed) and released her Sail Out EP (Prod. by Fistcuffs and No I.D., via Def Jam and Artium) in November. With each release, from the mixtape to this EP I hear a mighty evolution that further puts Aiko in her own creative space. It’s refreshing, organic music, that doesn’t sound anything like current mainstream cheese. The same labels that brought Sail Out are now prepping Jhene’s debut album, Souled Out (out May 2014). I’m itchin’ to hear where she takes us next.

* You can catch Jhene Aiko at Coachella 2014 *

 

Jhene Aiko – Facebook Twitter Tumblr Soundcloud

– Jimi Jaxon

References: Jhene Aiko Interview – The Truth With Elliott Wilson, Wikipedia, Jhene Aiko Interview With Manny Norte

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Kendrick_Lamar_25.11.2012

Many of you out there have followed Kendrick Lamar and his T.D.E./Black Hippy crew for a long time. I started hearing his name very recently, picked up his sophomore album good kid, m.A.A.d city, and have worked my way backwards through his discography. Last night I listened through his debut album, Section.80 for the first time and it’s fantastic. Released in 2011 via Top Dawg Entertainment, Kendrick’s debut was celebrated across the board, with positive reviews from Pitchfork, XXL and Complex Magazine who crowned it the 7th best album of 2011. On top of that, artists such as Pharrell Williams, Lil Wayne, and even Lady Gaga praised the release. The most enduring comment came from Snoop Dogg, who called  Kendrick Lamar “the new king of the West Coast”.

 

Section.80 is a very complete idea, but after hearing where he went in 2012 with good kid, m.A.A.d city, that idea was one piece of a much more massive vision. His demonstration of vulnerability, thoughtfulness and gritty real-life topics in this new album are wrapped around a vast array of sounds, lyrical styles and vocal techniques. This package of songs greatly expands on his previous productions, and the more I listen to good kid, m.A.A.d city, the more I understand it as a masterful concept album.

Kendrick Lamar grew up in Compton, California, an area that became famous for the gangster rap of N.W.A., Snoop Dogg and 2Pac to name a few. This new form of hip-hop reflected the harsh urban environment these rappers found themselves in; often focusing on crime, violence, racism, sex, substance abuse, homophobia, misogyny and materialism among other topics. The lifestyle and music gave Compton international attention, but over time it came to represent a mostly negative perception of the west coast. Enter Kendrick Lamar, whose words and beats show his appreciation of where he comes from, as well as a progressive intention to represent a broader perspective. In his words, “You know Compton..You don’t hear no artists from Compton showing vulnerability. You always hear about the person pulling the trigger. You never hear about the one in from of it.”. The perspective of the victim, those trapped within a broken system with few opportunities runs through Lamar’s music in a very real way. In good kid, m.A.A.d city, he lays out his upbringing for all to see. It feels almost wrong to break up this album, showing only certain songs, but I want to give a snapshot of Kendrick Lamar’s versatility and encourage a full listen to see his concept fully come to life.

 

 

 

An area that really stands out to me are the vocalist elements; the singing, both pitch-shifted and not, the harmonies and the layering of voices in good kid, m.A.A.d city. In “Backseat Freestyle”, “m.A.A.d city (feat. MC Eiht)”, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” and “Real (feat. Anna Wise of SonnyMoon)” you hear vocal pieces that are very distinct and forward thinking.

 

Dr. Dre was a main figure in helping to bring West Coast rap to the world. He helped Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent and The Game rise to prominence. Most recently, he’s focused his attention on Kendrick Lamar. After hearing Lamar’s 2010 mixtape Overly Dedicated he got in touch with him, and that encounter developed into a nurturing relationship. It must be surreal to have a childhood hero like Dr. Dre come down to your level, recognize your vision and encourage you to continue. Dr. Dre’s label Aftermath Entertainment co-released good kid, m.A.A.d city along with Top Dawg Entertainment and Interscope Records. He appears on “Compton” and “The Recipe”, and worked as an executive produce and mixing engineer. 

 

I’m so impressed by the work of Kendrick Lamar, his honest analysis of himself and the world around him is refreshing. I can’t wait to hear what he shares with us next. 

– Jimi Jaxon