Some Songs Considered #004 – K.A.A.N., Fever Ray, A$AP Rocky
Welcome to Some Songs Considered, a column that recognizes they can’t all be zingers and truly appreciates the ones that are.
by Bryce Rudow
K.A.A.N. is one of the most talented rappers I have heard in years, but even that high praise is doing him a disservice. He’s not just some future product of the hype machine, he’s one of those people that will make you fall in love with music all over again.
I first stumbled upon him a few weeks ago when Jia Tolentino of Jezebel included “Concealed the outro” in her subscribe-worthy Tiny Bitch Tapes series, and it was love at first play. Within seconds, I was Googling “K.A.A.N. rapper,” only to find barely a whisper of him on the blogosphere. Within hours, he had replied to my DM with his email address.
I ended up sending him about two handfuls worth of questions that ranged from the necessary#, to the cliche, to the (hopefully) introspective. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of answers, as I told him to be as long or short-winded as he like, but when I got his reply a day later, it was in the unexpected form of one, long paragraph.
At first I was taken back by the daunting task of reading this manifesto, but as I read the first few lines, I couldn’t pull myself away from my screen. The unabashed earnestness of his answers took me off guard, but it gripped me too. When I reached the end, I immediately scrolled up and read it again. This was what music was all about. This was what the power of music could and should be used for.
In fact, it moved me so much that I am proud to announce that any money Patronized to this article will go straight from me to Brandon. Musicians at his level are in the same boat as writers, and he deserves to capitalize on this amazing mixtape he put out. Think of it like a Pay What You Want, you Radiohead fans.
(This has been edited for clarity)
I am from Columbia Maryland. I don’t associate with the DMV or Baltimore scene honestly. I’m not ashamed to be from the area. I just don’t know a ton of artist from this area. The majority of artists that I personally know are from either Howard County, or just Maryland in general. It’s funny because in this area, artists don’t really support each other. It’s a lot of fake support or people just doing things for a look cause they’re thirsty for attention and recognition. I personally know a few dope, positive individuals like my friend Juice. He’s a rapper out of Baltimore. My boy Kojo, and Nezaman are out of Annapolis. My friend Faiz who shoots my videos is also a really dope rapper. He’s going to be in the next video I’m putting out called “Wings.” Honestly those are the only rappers that I’ve met that haven’t had that crab in the barrel mentality.
I’ve been writing for three years, and I’ve been consistently recording for the past two years. When I was in elementary school, my parents put my younger brother and I in before and after-school care. I used to freestyle with my friend Justin. It was simple kid shit. He would sit there with a baseball bat or a stick or whatever he could get his hands on and start banging on the concrete, and I would start free-styling off the top. I didn’t have many friends growing up, so I was always alone. I would just sit in my room and freestyle all day. It was pretty much all I had to do with time cause I was always in the house.
There wasn’t a point were I realized I could rap. Like there wasn’t some lightbulb going off in my head like this is what I’m meant to do. I was extremely self conscious and insecure so other than my friend Justin, I wasn’t free-styling for the few kids I knew. It was just something I did cause I was bored, and extremely lonely.
I do rap fast, but honestly I didn’t listen to much fast rap growing up. I really didn’t like it. The rappers with a faster cadence that I liked were early Jay Z, Big L, early Eminem, and Das EFX. In terms of my voice and style, that has been something that I’ve actively worked at. When I first started writing I was listening to a ton of Currensy, so everything I was writing, and recording sounded like a knock off Currensy, and a bad one at that. After those first few recording sessions i realized that I had to take making music serious, and find my own style, and voice. I took a little less than a year off from recording to work on my writing, and just listened to Tupac non stop. I had bought every one of his albums by the time I was ten, so I knew all of his material. Listening to that made me want to tell my own story, and be as original as possible. His music was the only thing at that time that inspired me to want to make music that could stand out.
Honestly the biggest inspiration for my music is the dysfunctionality of my family and my home life, growing up and currently. The only artist that ever Inspired me to write music that is personal, and from my heart is Tupac. His were the only lyrics I felt when I listened. I may have related to Eminem’s lyrics, or Biggie’s lyrics, but I literally would feel Tupac’s music and lyrics when I listened to it. It’s difficult to describe, but when I first started listening to his music, I would play it over, and over, and over. It was the greatest shit in the world to me. His image was a smaller black man saying what ever he wanted. He was honest. It just seemed like he really didn’t care about people’s opinions. I’m only 5’6 or so, and back then I was even tinier. So as a small black kid with no real friends I felt the shit he was saying. I felt connected to him, and his message. Even though he was deceased by the time I was five. I still felt the music none the less.
I’ve never had a problem being personal in my music. All the stuff I’ve put on line even from the beginning were about personal issues. Before I took a break to focus on writing better, it wasn’t. It was materialistic and average cause at that time I thought well shit if this is what every one is listening to, then I’ll try and make music like that. When I tried it, it never felt natural. I didn’t have alot of money or nice things. I didn’t have a girlfriend or a bunch of girls I was fucking around with, shit I had a hard enough time trying not to painfully awkward in public. I just realized that if this is what I want to do I had to be honest with my self and write the stuff that I didn’t tell people. All the stuff I kept on the inside I had to, and still have to write about it. That’s the only way to make a real connection with people and get their support for your entire career, if you are fortunate enough to have a career in music.
Abstract Art was just a mix tape honestly. I didn’t have any goals for the release. I just don’t think the music I make is heard, or liked by that many people, so I really take all of that goal, and there’s a reason why I make this type of song or this kind of project out of the equation. I honestly do this shit for myself. Its the only thing that I’ve stayed dedicated to. It’s the only thing that I’ve ever done where I’m good at it. If people take something positive away from it, feels connected to, or gets through some shit from my music then dope, but if not then it is what is. I make music for my sanity. I have communication issues so in my real life I don’t convey the way I feel about things to people, so music is the only way to get this shit off my chest, and put it in an outlet. I don’t think anything’s going to come from my music. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but from the position I’m in I don’t see how its possible to attain anything from the type of music I make.
I don’t really have a vision for my personal or musical future. Music is helping me at this moment, and its something that I am passionate about. It makes me feel good about my self, and happy right now, but if I wake up tomorrow, and it no longer makes me happy then I’ll stop. I just genuinely want to be happy in life because I wasn’t happy growing up, or now for that matter. I’m really just trying to attain some sense of normalcy, and happiness because its extremely draining being unhappy, miserable, and depressed everyday, especially when I think about the fact that I’m still breathing, I have a roof over my head, and I’m employed. Those are all things to be grateful for because they’re are a lot of people that have none of those things.
I don’t really think about where I’m at in terms of progression. People have this perception that x amounts of views or plays means you automatically get this and that, but its not like that. I still live with my parents. I still wake up everyday at 5am and go to work. I was on unemployment for the past four months because I was laid off from my landscaping job. I just recently became employed again, so even though I put out “KAANCEPTS” it doesn’t mean anything in reality. I’m still in the same position I was in when I put the video out.
I also feel like people don’t really want real honest genuine hip hop. They say they do, but they don’t really. People want catchy shit to party to, and easily digestible music. In my opinion no one wants to think. They don’t want thoughtful meaningful music, because you normally cant dance to a song where the artist is speaking about depression and suicidal thoughts or suicidal tendencies. I feel like people see those types of songs as something for a specific mood, and not something that should be in heavy rotation, but that’s the only kind of music I listen to. I really only like true lyricists. Tupac, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, Iggy and the Stooges, John Lennon, Eddy Vedder, like those are true lyricists. They would say things that could touch your soul if you let it. Nowadays I’ll hear shit like Young Thug’s trash, Rae Shrummard’s trash, but those are the kind of artist that are in heavy rotation on the radio. The same nigga saying fuck Young Thug is the same nigga nodding to his shit in a club, and he’ll tell you “Well I only fuck with it for the beat.” People just want something to complain, and be hypocritical about. I feel like its human nature. It’s like when people complain about the government, and you ask them did they vote and they say no. Why are you complaining when you control whats going on around you? Music’s no different. You can’t complain about music being trash when we are the ones supporting these so called artists that are killing music. We go to their shows, we listen to their songs on the radio, we buy their merch and follow them on social media sites. We talk about them daily and keep them relevant. If people realized the power that they have over what’s presented to them as entertainment, music, and entertainment period, would be more engaging, educational, and entertaining in my opinion.
I don’t have any plans for the future other doing what makes me happy. If it’s music, cool; if it’s not music, cool. I’m honestly just trying to keep it together man. Appreciate you taking time to ask me questions. Thanks for being interested in my story, and I hope I’ve answered your questions, and didn’t get off topic too much.
Give this kid money, please.
Fever Ray – “If I Had A Heart”
by Charles Bramesco
“If I Had a Heart” is all about making an entrance. Way back in 2008, Karin Dreijer Andersson selected it as the first single in promotion of her first album operating under the Fever Ray moniker (an album on which “If I Had a Heart” occupies the side-one, track-one spot). She needed to distinguish herself and prove that she had more to offer than her work with her brother Olof as The Knife. In all honesty, there’s not a huge difference between Andersson’s music under the separate banners of Fever Ray and The Knife — both acts find Andersson mutating her voice into grotesque new forms, privileging texture over melody, and creating an atmosphere of markedly unnatural, frightening unfamiliarity. Which is the real miracle of “If I Had a Heart”; Andersson exudes enough menace counterbalanced with otherworldly beauty to make this song feel like the very first time.
French-Canadian wunderkind filmmaker Xavier Dolan knows a thing or two about making an entrance, premiering his debut film I Killed My Mother at the Cannes Film Festival at the ripe age of 19. He returned to Cannes in 2012 with his third feature, the insanely audacious two-and-a-half-hour transgender melodrama Laurence Anyways. It’s in that film that “If I Had a Heart” finally achieves its true potential.
“If I Had a Heart” has been favored by post-production music supervisors since the song’s release, soundtracking everything from the opening credit sequence of Vikings to Jesse Pinkman’s long slide into self-loathing and depravity on Breaking Bad. But Dolan was the only one to recognize the song’s promise as an introductory theme and replicate the gobsmacking freshness the single held when loosed on an unsuspecting public by the mysterious Fever Ray.
Laurence, the eponymous character who begins the film by accepting his need to transition into life as a woman, doesn’t even rear her head until the sequence’s final moments, and even then, it’s only a hint. The scene draws its power from what it withholds more than what it gives, finding more suspense in the suggestive reaction shots of scandalized passersby than in a straight-on reveal of Laurence in her trademark ‘80s-appropriate power suit. The song’s lyrical content doesn’t quite sync up with the tone of the scene; the consuming evil referenced in the opening lines, “This will never end / cause I want more / more / give me more / give me more” certainly doesn’t refer to Laurence. Even so, the moment is still a perfect juxtaposition of sound and image, heralding the arrival of a bold, unafraid presence. That can be anyone from a transgender woman bursting out of the closet, to a precocious filmmaker asserting himself as a major talent of world cinema, to a batsoid electronic musician announcing the creation of a new, inhuman sound.
Why I’m Looking Forward to A$AP Rocky’s Next Album
by Julian Kimble
I’ve always been drawn to A$AP Rocky’s dark sound. “Purple Swag” and “Peso” were cool, but the song that instantly made me a fan was “Palace,” the opener from his debut mixtape, Live.Love.A$AP. It begins with Rocky’s aggressive confidence before he unexpectedly breaks out into the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony flow halfway through the song. His latest release, “Everyday,” isn’t an exact parallel (although it does feature a similarly aggressive change of pace halfway through the song), but it also flexes what’s become the Harlem native’s trademark eccentricity.
The song’s roster of talent is the initial attention-grabber. Before even listening, I tried to imagine how Rocky would mesh with Rod fucking Stewart and Miguel over Mark Ronson production. Upon hearing the smoky sample of Stewart’s “In a Broken Dream,” I was instantly sold — mainly due the poignancy of Stewart’s lyrics:
Every day I spend my time
Drinkin’ wine, feelin’ fine
Waitin’ here to find the sign
That I can understand
Yes I am
Considering the year that A$AP Rocky’s had, the sample is spot-on. In January, his best friend—and the A$AP Mob’s central nervous system—A$AP Yams died at the of 26. There’s been a hole in the collective since Yams’ passing, but a more significant vacancy in Rocky as a person. What’s more, Rocky’s father also died in late 2012, just weeks before the release of his debut album. Between his arrogant Harlemite boasts, the vulnerability seeps out: “And only God can judge me, and he don’t like no ugly”; “Yeah, I’m a piece of shit/I know, I plead the fifth.”
Music is therapeutic, and it’s the conduit Rocky’s using to cope with the loss of loved ones. Miguel recites Stewart’s lyrics, replacing “That I can understand” with “That I should take it slow,” and the organ in the background adds a haunting undercurrent to the song. All of the new music Rocky has released (“Multiply,” “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2,” and “M’s”) varies sonically, but “Everyday” indicates that his upcoming At.Lost.Last.A$AP album will find the 26-year-old reflecting on his own mortality.
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