My girl Jessy aka Celia Inside aka total babe pal from NYC (and my first real-life internet friend) has some new tunes on the way AND has just released a really fun cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” produced by Kid Jimi. Listen above to her buttery, pretty, is-this-B-on-the-radio-yet voice and read about what she’s been up to while recording her new r&b album “Overtime” coming out next year!!!
It’s soulful, cool, sometimes playful + fun, a little edgy… and lighter than my previous work in a wonderful and necessary way, haha. The music has definitely shifted more into hip-hop and R&B territory — that’s where I feel most natural. It’s still full of harmonies and left turns, though. Overall, I think it shows some very different sides of me as a person and artist. It’s hot!
Is “Overtime” a departure from your last Celia Inside release?
It is in that it’s less emotionally heavy and more beat-driven. It’s less wanna-be alt-rock music, lol. I was really married to the idea of making indie rock music on my first EP, Remodel…. That had a lot to do with my environment and the people around me back when I was living in College Town, USA. I think I was trying to appeal to a scene more than honoring my own musical inclinations. Some really cool stuff came out of that creative time and I’ll always love Remodel, but the music I’m making now is the most exciting for me yet. And I think it’s the most exciting, period! These songs are coming out so nice!
What was the inspo?
The inspiration for the music is a big mix of my life here in NYC and the people who fill it every day; working + living in different parts of the city and experiencing the different cultures, clash of cultures and gentrification all of that entails; rediscovering my love for hip-hop and also parts of myself that kind of got buried during my college+ years… a lot of stuff. Figuring out what kind of grown up I can and want to be! (A #crazysexycool one, obvi)
What has changed since your last EP “Remodel”?
Oh, what *hasn’t* changed!? Haha, almost two years ago, I decided to up & move to New York — it seemed to be where I needed to go — and my life has changed a ton. I’ve made friends, found work I can appreciate doing, moved around, fell in love with someone amazing!…. I’ve learned and experienced so much in such a short time.
All of these things affect the music and how I approach all things Celia Inside. Then, I’m more inspired, motivated, and happy than ever and can’t wait to release and share more as I move forward — this time, with a real plan, and a lot more experience + vision.
Are there any challenges to recording in NYC like noise or 5 roommates?
Omg, yes. Both of those things, actually — haha. I literally lived with five roommates for a little while! It wasn’t as ridiculous as I thought it might be, though (and it made for some fun + diverse parties). Yeah, noise is always a challenge here but I do my best with what I have and there are ways to work around it.
Are you playing any shows for this release?
That’s the goal, but I’m more focused on recording and building up my online presence right now. I’ve literally met all of my collaborators via the internet! And my next major release will be an EP that won’t be out for a little while. Lots of singles/covers here & there first.
I’m still figuring out what kind of live performance would suit me and these songs best. It’s exciting to enter this new realm of possibilities, though, and check out different kinds of equipment, which is totally new to me. I want to make sure my singing/harmonies are a strong component of my life set along with the beats to these songs.
Anything else interesting about the new tunes?
This is my C.I. era — I rap, I sing, I make beats, I produce; I’m doing a lot of things I used to just experiment with but never really gave my full focus (and confidence) to. I’m making music for myself now and the music reflects that. I’m a better producer now than ever and only getting better. In the words of Fiona Apple, “here’s coming a better version of me!…”
If you follow the Minneapolis music scene, you’ve probably seen Polaroid pics of shows and parties shot by Serene Supreme. She’s the IT girl photographer of the music scene and she’s amazing. She shot Sarah and I last weekend for our music project DENNIS. Check out the post here and take a look around her website because she has some really cool shots of a ton of talented artists.
We wanted to include the t-shirts and sweatshirts that I hand paint with glitter on my bedroom floor and sell on our website. They started out as theme shirts for our last album “Don’t Fall in Love,” but the fun just didn’t stop. We kept creating more beyond the original “YUCK” shirts and went on to make “BARF,” “WORST,” and a new one “U.F. FAUX.” Take a look at our website here and see if any fit your fly ass style.
I do not watch shows like The Voice or American Idol. I think they are lame. I’m all for entertainment and shit, capitalism is whatever, but the false hope that these shows instill in the thousands of forgettable people who are featured season after season makes me sick.
It’s true that SOME people have come out of singing competitions like American Idol with a successful singing career. Kelly Clarkson had a good run. That bald guy from American Idol is doing okay I guess. Clay Aiken was on an episode of 30 Rock once. Out of the 13 seasons of American Idol, Carrie Underwood is by far the most successful. But that’s 13 seasons and only 4 people that are only kinda-maybe culturally relevant today.
As for “The Voice”, I can’t even tell you one person who has had mainstream success. That’s because it’s a pretty transparent vehicle to launch the stagnant careers of its already famous, millionaire coaches.
Exhibit A: Gwen Stefani’s new single “Baby Don’t Lie”
As you may or may not know, Gwen Stefani is a coach on the current season of “The Voice.” Which is weird, right? Because she hasn’t been relevant in the music industry since her solo albums in the mid 2000s. Sure, No Doubt tried to come back in 2012 with their album “Push and Shove” but it didn’t really land anywhere mainstream.
But wait! Today (October 27) she just released a new solo single called “Baby Don’t Lie,” while she is currently serving as a coach on “The Voice.” What a coincidence. Where does she find the time?! I mean, when’s a better time to try and restart your music career than when you’ve been hired to “coach” a “singing competition” on network television?
Exhibit B: Rotating judges on “The Voice” and subsequent releases
Christina Aguilera? Dead career. Usher? Pretty sure dead career, but maybe I’m just not aware of his phantom hits somewhere. Cee Lo Green? “Fuck You” was cool 4 years ago. Shakira? Released a song with Rihanna called “Can’t Remember to Forget You” in between her season 4 and season 6 coaching duties.
Don’t even get me started on Maroon 5. (PLZ for the love of god stop howling at the moon on the radio) I don’t even know what a Blake Shelton is so I won’t go there.
In addition to using the show to promote their own music careers, the fact that the coaches actually perform on “The Voice” chaps me to the core of my chapable human parts. It’s not about you, famous people. JESUS.
Take this video, for example, of Gwen Stefani performing her biggest solo hit ever “Hollaback Girl” on “The Voice.” I love Gwen Stefani, really. But she is not a singer that I would regard as being able to give anyone a whole lot of singing tips. Especially when the song she chooses to perform on the singing competition show is one where she is talk-singing over backing vocals. Which is totally fine, I ain’t no vocal performance snob. But it’s a singing competition show. The point of it is singing well, not getting by with what ya got. That’s called real life.
Exhibit C: The music industry has been wearing sweatpants in its mom’s basement for over a decade
Look, we all know the music industry struggles everyday to make money. Small artists definitely struggle, and big artists struggle to make millions off of their music, not including the 7 perfumes they launched this year and a fucking clothing line at Kmart.
Blame it on Napster, blame it on people not respecting time-based art, blame it on the rain. Probably blame it on MTV somehow too.
Let’s not be idealistic idiots. Money is fun. These coaching gigs pay a fuckton of money, so I understand why someone would want to be a coach on a huge show like “The Voice.” They not only get a sick paycheck but they also get to promote their brand. Neat. But taking advantage of these idiot nobody singers (I say with love!) trying to make it big in a show that will never make them big is fucking rude.
Let’s get real: most of these nobody singers are not going to have a singing career after their stints on “The Voice.” They are used as props to fuel viewer engagement and promote the artists telling them they’re “great” and they “love what ur doing” and “ur gonna b a star.” As sickly entertaining as it is to watch people’s dreams get crushed on shows like these, can’t we find another way to promote music on primetime TV that doesn’t involve monetizing false hope in the hearts of starving singers?
I first heard of Vacation Dad through a friend named Elliot (who plays in killer MPLS band Dial-Up). I was immediately blown away by the imagery of the name Vacation Dad: the zinc nose sunblock, the sunglasses with the string hanging around his neck, the Hawaiian shirts that smell vaguely of old cologne and corn dogs. I have probably thought about the name “Vacation Dad” 2 or 3 times a year for the past 3 years, yet I’ve never managed to get on top of my local show shit together enough to make a performance of this elusive name genius. 2014 goals: get a real job, clean the basement, see Vacation Dad live. Until then, feast on the Vacation Dad interview that had me fangirling.
1. Your name is so brilliant. How did you come up with Vacation Dad?
mmmmm its kinda hard to pin down. i first heard the term when my friend pat told me to stop being such a vacation dad. i think i had told him to put on some sunscreen. but the project started when i was laid off and just hanging out in my bathrobe and recording when i wasn’t on tour. so i kind of became this ridiculous, slightly embarrassing but mostly fun party animal. vacation dad seemed to fit pretty good.
2. If your music could be described as an animal, which animal would it be and why?
it’d be probably be some kind of psychedelic snake that flies. can’t say why, thats just what came to mind.
3. What projects are you working on right now?
well, i run MJ MJ Records and am a main organizer of FMLY FEST MPLS so right now i don’t have much time for VD. but i swear to god i’m going to finish something soon as i can (its been like a year and a half since i released anything). i’m working on a concept album called “AFTERLIFE”. it’s a funky odyssey of sorts – a psychedelic journey that takes you from your death through the afterlife and eventually into the heavenly bliss of absolute nothingness. its also going to be a fully interactive video game.
4. Who would you rather have play “Dad” in the family comedy feature film “Vacation Dad”: John Candy or Dan Aykroyd?
dan akroyd for sure. honestly i never thought john candy was all that funny, he just tends to be in funny movies. like a better version of david spade.
5. How does a song come to you?
usually starts with a beat, then a groove, then the hook. i dont fuck with words.
6. What is one international city you’re dying to play a live show in?
i’d really like to go back to nicosia, cyprus. i played there a couple years ago and it was just the best fucking thing. kinda want to tour hawaii too. or anything tropical, i’m not picky.
7. What’s next for Vacation Dad?
i’ve got a show coming up at 7th street with hundred waters, fort wilson riot and har-di-har (which is a fucking insane-o bill) otherwise just trying to get FMLY Fest together, then hunkering down to finish AFTERLIFE. probs not gonna go on tour again till i finish it.
I first met Alex Kauffman through a friend I studied abroad with in Brazil back in 2008. That friend referred to him as “kauffy” if I remember correctly. It was 2009 and we walked into the certifiably dude apartment. I imagine it was full of furniture probably salvaged from street corners that was peppered with bowls of dried mystery food sitting abandoned in forgotten corners of the Como apartment. Maybe I’m making all that up, but dudes are dudes so it’s probably true. Anyways, I’m pretty sure there was a guitar in his hands, or at least guitar hero. Either way, he is here now with a handful of albums under his belt with his group Dichotomy. They just released their second full-length album Subterranean (that you can pick up here). Check out what 1/3 of the group Alex “Kauffy” Kauffman has to say about the songwriting process, Valleyfair and Mars.
1. How did Dichotomy get started?
Joe Laurin and I were roommates in Dinkytown a few years ago. I had a guitar and a violin, he had a keyboard. We just messed around for fun, but we did it every day to the point where we started to learn how to use blues scales and improvise. We eventually learned how to produce our own multi-track recordings, and then eventually got confident enough in them that we made them public and released them online. We started to figure out how to book shows for ourselves, and we’ve been a live act ever since. We joined up with Nick Shvetzoff about a year ago, he was the perfect compliment to what we already had going on. Joe and I were always able to play together really well, but we always had to plan out the backing track beforehand and that was a bit stifling. Nick can control and improvise percussion and other sounds along with Joe and I, so every piece of the band is interactive with one another live. It’s exciting to have reached that point.
2. What is your songwriting process like?
It can be different each time, and we are always coming across new starting points. It used to be a lot of recording a part, sitting back and listening to it, and then going back in and adding another part and then repeat. But a lot of it comes out of our jams too. We jam to get ideas and riffs out, and then we can hone in and build an actual track around the good bits. After the “meat” of a track is recorded/sequenced, we’ll usually just listen to it for a good week or two to see if there is anything screaming at us that is supposed to happen, or not. We are really quick putting out new ideas to start something but are pretty slow and deliberate when it comes to actually finishing the track and finalizing it.
3. If you could go to Valleyfair with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Jimi Hendrix. It would be fun to see what he’s like riding a roller coaster.
4. You just released your second full length album “Subterranean”. How has your sound mutated since the “Blue Flame EP”?
It’s changed a lot but it’s also kind of come back around again. With the early EPs, we had more of a harsh, urgent sound. Occasional vocals. It was more guitar driven at the beginning. Heavy beats. Then we started adding a lot more violin and piano, and it started becoming much more like modern classical music. Longer pieces with key changes and lots of parts and sections. Still dark most of the time, but slower and more drawn out. That was where we were at when we recorded “Nocturnal”. Since we’ve been playing with Nick and adding more synth and electric violin, it has shifted back more towards an urgent and heavy “live” sound. Sometimes it’s simple, sometimes more complicated, but there is an energy to the rhythm. There is much more of a live feel to it now than there was before.
5. I know it’s hard to choose between one of your latest sonic babies, but what’s your favorite song from “Subterranean” and why?
That’s tough…I’d have to say Tony Montana is my favorite as of right now. It has a good balance of catchy and weird. It’s has a nice melody to it, but at the same time you are never quite sure when the the loud and harsh sounds are going to lash out at you next.
6. What does the future hold for Dichotomy?
We want to try to play live as much as we can. In the cities or elsewhere, whatever we can get going. We’d like to make at least a couple more videos for the “Subterranean” album. As far as new music, we always have new stuff cooking, but we’re going to be doing more singles and EPs for the time being. We’ve spent a lot of the last couple years working on full albums so we are ready to change it up.
7. Would you rather compose a song alone on Mars or with a glass of whiskey with Frank Sinatra?
Alone on Mars all the way. I’m more into spacey shit these days. I like making music in solitude AND with a view, so that pretty well covers both. I would have loved to jam with Sinatra, but he notoriously hated loud rock music, so he probably wouldn’t want to get down with us, since we are more or less an extension of that. Maybe not though. Just an educated guess.
If you’re tryinna get yo’ friction on, then you need to pay attention to False Teeth, a self-described hip hop/electric indie rock duo slash total QTs from Minneapolis. The duo is a pair of names you may have seen before at shows around town or somewhere on the Inter Web: Bobby Phisher of Bobby Phisher and Matt Sandstedt from I, Colossus and Jon Jones. Their debut album, Grapefruit, is coming out May 20th via Polkadot Mayhem. This is what they have to say about butts, Pokemon-inspired songs and one little know legend of Ja Rule.
1. How did you all meet and decide to form a band called False Teeth?
we bonded over a similar appreciation for riddick movies and cinnibon flavored pinnacle vodka.
2. Describe the sound of your new False Teeth album using 3 emojis.
shrimp, top hat, pizza (Editor’s note: 🍤🎩🍕)
3. What is band practice like?
A lot of butt jokes and pointing. Also coffee. Because of everyones weird schedule we usually practice in the mornings on friday. Pre-gaming beforehand.
4. You’re releasing an album called “Grapefruit” soon. What’s the weirdest song on your album?
“Red Barrels Explode” forsure. The hook is in 7/4 time and theres a lot of pokemon involved. We wanted to make a song about tweaking out on video games and in that fashion we had to make it really weird.
5. If you had to pick one artist to collab with from NOW THATS WHAT I CALL MUSIC 10, who would it be and why?
Ja Rule. Anyone that has beef with fiddy cent is a friend of ours. Ja rule is a rare breed of person who has done nothing but try to better the lives of people around him. Whether it be through his music his acting or hamster-esq smile Ja is for the people. He really revolutionized the way we think about all white furniture in music videos as well. Taking a step back though we see thats just the tip of the ice-berg. In 2003 he donated 1.3 Billion dollars to Doritos in hopes they would continue the # dimensional line of snacks, unfortunately they declined his request and left him bankrupt. With no where to turn, young Ja was faced with a choice, turn back the only snack that had ever truly trusted or pick up the mic and try again. So a year later in 2004 against all odds Ja Rule got back on the reins and released Sprite Remix soft drink to much critical acclaim. To this day Ja Rule has sold more soft drinks then any other musical artist known to man.
6. If you could have one celebrity star in a music video for a song off of “Grapefruit”, who would it be and why?
Rick Moranis. He is the key master. False Teeth is the Gate Keeper.
7. What is your wildest dream for False Teeth?
Guns and Ammo Magazine Front Cover. Also, this is not exclusive to False Teeth but it is our dream to live in a world where avocados never go bad.
Isobel Trigger is a synth pop band from Victoria, British Columbia. Recently freaking out over their first radio airplay on a station up north, they have secured a bunch of festival gigs this summer and are well on their way to taking over that friendly country above the good ol’ U.S. of A. Check out what they have to say about doughnut holes, Craigslist, and Hot Hot Heat.
1. How did you guys start as a band?
Felicia: Brett (our guitarist) and I met in music school and we met Ariel and Kyle through online dating for bands (aka craigstlist)!
Ariel: Yeah, I remember walking into some weird warehouse that was their jam space for my audition, in a really industrial area of town. It was totally sketchy but obviously worth it in the end!
2. What’s your favorite snack during band practice?
Ariel: Tim bits (that’s doughnut holes for you Americans out there) and/or sushi!
Felicia: It’s not uncommon for one of us to be late and call to take dinner orders from the others. I like sushi because it’s light and easy to sing after eating… and… well… who doesn’t like doughnuts?
3. Tell me about your upcoming EP Nocturnal. Exactly how cosmically awesome will it be?
Felicia: Well, we are aiming for astronomically awesome, as in shooting for the moon, literally (you’ll have to watch our video for Tiger Shark to get that joke). We plan on releasing a video for each song and you can expect lots of gritty synth, creative dance beats and unique vocals on top of our usual dirty guitar and funky bass.
Ariel: We are very excited to birth our EP baby into the world.
4. I don’t know anything about Victoria, BC. What’s the music scene like there?
Felicia: Victoria is the beautiful capitol city of BC! Actually it’s great here and the music scene is booming! We have so many music festivals it’s hard to keep track! Rifflandia, Tall Tree Festival, Rock The Shores and many more.
Ariel: It’s really amazing because the city is big enough that there are so many festivals and great events and no shortage of talent, but small enough that the music scene is really a community.
5. What has been the coolest moment of your music career so far?
Felicia: So far this year (young as it may be) has been our busiest and we’re thrilled with the momentum we’re gaining. If I had to pinpoint it to a moment, I’d have to say hearing our songs on a major radio station (The Zone 91.3) has got to be the highlight. The coolest DAY was when we found out that we were Zone Band of the Month, playing Tall Tree and the Royal Theater, all on the same day.
Ariel: On that day I cried and had to be put in an isolation chamber. Then I was ready to rock.
Felicia: *Some facts may be exaggerated #dramaqueen
6. Hot Hot Heat or The New Pornographers and why?
Ariel: Hot Hot Heat duh because they’re from Victoria!
Felicia: Hot Hot Heat! Because they’re also from Victoria and they really know how to bring it live. Not that The New Pornographers don’t, but we’ve got a soft spot for the Heat’s quirk-rock ways and Steve Bays with his awesome fro and big energy.
7. Which pop star has had the most influence over your sound?
Felicia: Currently I would have to say our “band favorite band” is Metric. We just think they’re the coolest and even though we all have different musical influences, when it comes to picking an album to listen to on road trips together, Metric gets the winning vote.
Ariel: Does Metric count as a “pop star” though? I’m going to have to go ahead and say Justin Timberlake for this one, since I think that N*Sync are the bomb, and I think that we are really in sync with each other.
Felicia: *facepalm … but JT is my hero, can’t lie.
Oh Gaga. I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s a growing trend by former Little Monsters, but I have been fully uninspired by everything she’s put out related to ARTPOP. Let’s examine why the fuck she’s falling out of weird pop star grace, starting with her latest album release.
ARTPOP is a disaster
There are a handful of great songs on the album like “Aura”, “G.U.Y.”, “Venus” and “Applause”. But there are some REAL terrible things on this album, like “Jewels and Drugs” and “MANiCURE”, which both haunt the shit out of me. Sometimes I’ll just wake up with a riff from “MANiCURE” in my head and I am instantly annoyed. That song is a goddamn leper in her catalog, but she apparently loves it because she just put a part of it in her “short film” of a music video for “G.U.Y.” UGH.
The G.U.Y. ARTPOP Film
I can’t even deal with this. It was boring! The most frustrating part is that I don’t even know why exactly. Maybe it’s because half the themes are very apparent (fallen angel, industry folks who luv money) and half the themes are WTF but not in a fun way (housewives, Andy Cohen). The fact that she is calling this a film is absurd. I hate to be the kind of fan or person that’s like “why can’t you just release a music video?” but for real girl. Has she never considered that doing something insanely simple would actually be shocking for her brand instead of constantly releasing awkward try-hard grandiosity?
Beyonce’s surprise album and music videos are what Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP should have been if she was actually on the cutting edge of the commercial music scene. ARTPOP was supposed to be a next level game-changer in pop music because that’s what she told us it was going to be. ARTPOP then had a lackluster release, AND on top of that, Beyonce released one of the most exciting pop events of all time a month after AP was supposed to blow our minds. Yikes. Ouch. One more example of LG talking herself up and not being able to deliver. And then this ARTPOP “film” release? Girl, if you’re gonna release something and call it a film, plz make sure it’s actually a film and not just a bunch of pretty ideas that you puked onto a dream board and call cinema.
More than ANYTHING, it just really pisses me off watching rich musicians bitch about the music industry. POOR YOU WITH ALL YOUR MONEY AND NOTORIETY AND FAME. I’m an independent artist and it’s a struggle, but it’s even more infuriating watching big time stars complain about all the people who work for them. I don’t fucking care one bit about the specific woes of famous rich people because life and art are hard for everyone, but not everyone has the world stage and power that they do. While every other artist and person mostly has to worry about paying rent or putting food on the table, Lady Gaga is complaining to the world that her record label wanted her to put out better music and how dare they question her genius. EYE. ROLL.
Lady Gaga’s music isn’t that great
Her visuals are always fantastic, but she straight up doesn’t make interesting music. I’m not saying it’s bad because I really like some of her shit. It is standard in the culture of pop music albums to have a few songs that are killer as fuck, and then the rest of the album is full of B-sides. But the fact that she talks herself up so much, talked ARTPOP up to be this fucking grandiose marriage of ART + POP only sets herself up for more criticism because she can never deliver.
Every time I feel let down by what Lady Gaga claims to be and what she actually is, I think to myself (and out loud nearly every Saturday morning to my roommate) what is she such a great artist at? Really? Sure, she dresses in weird outfits and is a really, really great live performer. But if you just take the recorded albums which she claims is her main raison d’être, they are fucking infuriating. Here’s why:
Gaga’s music isn’t that weird or interesting. If you’re gonna sit there in a fucking teflon-inspired mock duck hammock skirt and tell us for like 5 years that you’re the weirdest and best bitch on the block, then fucking deliver. “MANiCURE” is one of the worst songs I’ve heard in my entire life. The second half of The Fame is terrible. Her country-inspired songs, her weird foray into show tune-esque songs like “Hair” and her embarrassing attempts to mix rock and EDM like “Electric Chapel” on Born This Way are all amazing examples of the grandiose mediocrity I’ve begun to associate with her.
All of Gaga’s albums have a few good pop songs, but so does every other pop album that has ever been released throughout the history of man. It’s no secret that huge pop genre releases have historically spent most of their money on the couple of big hit singles, leaving the rest of the album to sound like the producer had only 20 minutes in between jerking off and eating a boring sandwich to compose a track (for reference, any of Britney’s first few albums, Backstreet Boys, Xtina, Shakira, Rihanna, One Direction, etc). Gaga’s “other” songs aren’t that bad, but they’re not as great as she would have us believe.
Quotes like this about her latest album: “To make ARTPOP there must be an exchange between two auras: one from the sphere of ART, and the other from the sphere of POP.” Bitch what are you even talking about. This isn’t even a question of her being on another intellectual level and the masses having a hard time understanding. This shit just doesn’t make sense. Like, thanks for the definition of a compound word. America really needed that explanation.
Her obsession with the fashion and performance art world
You know what, it’s great that she likes fashion and performance art so much, honestly. But when she spends so much time in those worlds, she neglects her “first passion”–music. It’s like, that’s nice honey. You go scream in a forest. You do you. And then come back and be our Mother Monster plz.
It’s really neat that she’s modeling in a campaign for Versace, and that she hung out with Marina Abromivic and learned some performance art shit. But what she doesn’t realize is that all of that other malarky is negatively affecting her music career because she’s not spending the time on it that she used to (The Fame Monster was brilliant. Where that brilliance at?). And also, don’t continually ask or expect your music fans to be super engaged with all of your mediums. Please please please express yourself in any way you see fit, but pop music fans are pretty much just lookin’ for some feel good dance hits to get drunk to from people who describe themselves as pop stars. I’m not saying that no pop star can change the game, but there have to be less seemingly desperate ways to do so.
Katy Perry vs. Lady Gaga
It was a really sad day when I finally had to admit to myself that Katy Perry is a far superior pop star to Lady Gaga. LG was quoted at SXSW saying that:
“I don’t know what the f–k-all I have to do with Katy Perry. Our music is so completely different. I couldn’t be more different, really. I really don’t fit in pop music in a way, but I came through it and I’d like to think I changed it in some way so you can feel like you don’t have to fit into a mold.”
Lady Gaga’s music is different from Katy Perry’s in that on the whole, KP makes really solid pop music and Lady Gaga makes slightly less good pop music. I don’t even want to like Katy Perry, but shit, you can’t knock her pop songs because she works with solid producers and songwriters. Lady Gaga may be way more involved in the production and songwriting process, which is definitely respectable, but does she really make better pop music because of it? LG comes off as a bratty shit head most of the time who complains that people don’t get her art or that she alone is held to ridiculous standards in the world of pop music.
“I’m sorry I didn’t sell a million records the first week. I have before…..When it comes to me, everyone forgets where the music industry is now. You come see me and it’s like you’re time-warped to the 70s.”
There are so many things annoying about this, but above all it’s the fact that she’s blaming the state of the music industry on her shitty album not selling. Lame. Taylor Swift, Adele, Katy Perry, and alllll of her other contemporaries have fine album sales. And does anyone really still hold artists to album sales standards from the turn of the millennium? I know I don’t. I don’t even care. I just want a good album.
ARTPOP part deux (plz god no!)
What is EVEN MORE frustrating than everything I’ve posted above is that the ARTPOP era is not over. She’s planning a second act to ARTPOP that might actually be good because lucky for her, expectations are already low.
All in all: yes it may be hard to live up to pop perfection standards in the music industry, but nobody is forcing you, Lady Gaga, huge millionaire and world star, to stay in that industry. Nobody is forcing you to be a shit head in interviews and talk up your art like it’s a direct line to God. Do what you want with your body, girl, but PLZ if you continue to want to be a “pop star”, put out a cohesive album that can live up to the ridiculous standards you’ve put on yourself as being some kind of ethereal high priestess of ART and POP. Us lil monsters just wanna dance to some cool tunes from you, and maybe see some cool outfits and fun videos in the process. But if you can’t handle the simplicity of that, then I don’t know where our future together lies. Breakups are tough, but time heals all.
I first met Illab (government name Jake Stone) in 2007. I was living with four other people in a complete shithole apartment in the Marcy Park neighborhood during my sophomore year of college. We threw parties three nights a week and let people ash their cigarettes wherever because it didn’t matter/fuck the man/19 year olds are disgusting excuses for human beings. Anyways, two of the people I shared rent with were high school friends of Illab’s. Many a cold winter night we found ourselves drunk off of Karkov and kitchen dancing to the musical stylings of Britney Spears’ “Blackout”. It was fuckin’ magical.
I still remember standing in the kitchen and talking to Illab about what I think was his first ever EP The Ramen Cookbook. My first thought was “that title makes me hungry, what’s 4 dinner” and my second thought was “that’s really cool he makes music”. Years later, Illab has still been stomping ground at rap battles and on his own releases Spare Change and It’s All Been Said Before, the latter of which was produced by Dimitry Killstorm, who’s album Whittier Alliance with Hapduzn was a huge hit in 2013. Illab’s latest album, Good Life, Life’s Good, Worth Livingis coming out this year, so I decided I better ask him some fun questions before he gets so famous that Kanye offers to watch his cute ass dog while he’s on a world tour.
1. How long have you been spittin’ mad game and sonically blowin’ up minds?
First of all the way you word these questions amazing. I started rapping when I was 15. It started with just dumb freestyles, and evolved into recording. I actually still record with the first person I ever worked with, my friend Tim Rodine. We recorded on a five dollar mic, and a program my friend stole from a juvenile work house. Over the years we’ve built quite the studio. I also came up in the wake of 8 Mile. My friends still text me to this day when they are watching it. For the record I think Eminem lost to Lotto in the 2nd round. At that time everywhere I would go people wanted to battle. I just happened to be better at it than most of them.
Without getting too off topic I feel I had a very “traditional” introduction to hip hop. Nowadays I feel it’s straight to making videos, and recording which is also making the younger generation more talented, they have access to a lot more outlets. These kids coming out are so damn polished. This will make me feel old but back then it was more [about] who could freestyle, and we would shut whole house parties up while battling.
Long story short, [it’s been] a little over ten years. I’ve only been decent for the past 3 years. Kind of got sidetracked.
2. If a rainforest animal could describe the spirit of your music, which animal would it be and why?
I think 90 percent of rappers would be like “I’m a tiger yo,” then do one of those cute lil rapper noises that makes them appear tough. I’m going to have to go with a Howler Monkey. They are known for their deep calls that they do. I’ve been told that my voice is my strongest attribute musically. I would agree with that. Some people will say I’m dope, some will say average, some may even say I’m weak. One thing thats for sure is you can definitely tell it’s me on a song by my voice. My spirit animal is a Howler monkey. Repping it.
3. You have a new album coming out. Take us on a short stroll through the album.
I do have a album coming out. Fun fact: I actually finished this album a year and a half ago. Then I moved my friend out to LA. We had lunch on the Santa Monica pier where I saw Lenny Hoops, a street corner performer who seemed to be scaring the tourists. But damn, dude was putting his soul into it. No audience, just belting original songs about random topics. Here I was acting bitter about music; it wasn’t fun anymore. I made the decision to scrap my whole album at that moment. Music needs to be something I enjoy otherwise I have no business rapping. Started over [and] Good Life, Life’s Good, Worth Living came from that. In my opinion it’s my best work by far. It’s a taste of projects to come. I got a lot of my friends on the album so that makes me happy.
4. If you were struck by lightning, what song would you want playing during the ambulance ride?
First off when something bad happens I try to make light of it. I wanted to keep it modern, otherwise it would be that one song where they chant “it’s electric”. I dig this song alot though. Good vibes, flashing lights, drugs, and surrounded by strangers. Sounds like plenty of parties I’ve been to.
5. Your dog is so fucking cute. Do you have any plans to sample his bark? If not, can we collab on a song where we sample dog barks and become the coolest people alive?
Can I start this out by saying my dog is the shit. I love that dude, my whole day is planned around making sure he is good. Up until our recent twitter conversation I had no plans to sample his bark. I definitely want to be one of the coolest people on earth. If sampling his bark and doing a song with you will make that happen, let’s run game. We could even ask Existing Trend to get in the mix with his dogs as well. The sky’s the limit really.
6. We met because you used to party at my house in 2007 when all I played was Britney’s “Blackout” album. Who is your favorite female pop star and why?
And for the rest of my life I will always associate Britney and iPod boomboxes with you. I’d give anything to live one of those weekends again. So much fun. Right now I’m really digging Lana Del Rey. That’s probably the cool thing to say, but I love her voice and her slight hint of sarcasm in the songs she writes. If I have to pick from the elite female pop singers it would be Beyonce or Rihanna. They are both amazing performers. It says something about a artist when you can feel their energy through a tv screen. Locally my favorite pop group is yours, DENNIS. Over the years I feel like I’ve watched you find your identity when it comes to music, and it will be fun to watch where it takes you. (editor’s note: thank u and BRB blushing 4 ever)
7. Who is your greatest non-musical inspiration to your art and why?
I can’t pick one so all of my friends and family. By far. I consider myself very fortunate to be surrounded by these people in my life. My siblings all have beautiful familes, I have a wide variety of friends that come from all walks of life. I’ve watched people battle cancer, poverty, troubled childhoods, and still smile. They are a bunch of goddamn soldiers to be honest. Most of these people have no clue how amazing they are. 90 percent of what I write is inspired by them in some way, shape or form. I strive to mirror the company that I keep when speaking about being a good human.
Meet Christopher Michael Jensen, a Twin Cities rapper here to tell you about his favorite three male-named actor, his musical evolution and the grossest thing that’s ever happened to him on a stage.
1. Why did you start making music?
I started really getting into hip hop when I was 13 back in 2000 around the time Napster first came out and my 17-year-old brother was playing a lot of hip hop around me. He was kind of doing some silly rap stuff with his friends, and then I just kind of started writing silly rap stuff, too, just for fun, I guess. Then my brother installed this music program on our family’s computer called ACID that his friend had where you could make beats with pre-existing loop packages. Once I started messing around with that, I started recording songs with our home computer mic. I rapped in front of people for the first time live when I was in 8th grade at my brother’s SnoDaze high school talent show with him and his friends. I just sort of stuck with it, and after a couple years started taking it more seriously. I made a handful of homemade albums. This whole time, too, I just kept digging more and more into hip hop with my brother, buying and downloading all of the classic albums, exploring the underground, going to shows, and learning about the history of the culture. I just became obsessed with it more and more as time went on, so it only made sense that that would become my main thing. It allowed me to express anything I wanted to, so that was really big for me. It seemed like you could do anything with the sound of the music and beats, too, which felt really freeing and exciting to me. The possibilities with hip hop I thought were limitless.
2. If you could be any other three male named celebrity (Johnathan Taylor Thomas, Neil Patrick Harris, etc.), who would it be and why?
Hmmm. I actually Googled three-named male celebrities because I couldn’t think of a lot off the top of my head. Then I came across James Earl Jones and Billy Dee Williams. Star Wars is probably my favorite movie series of all time, so it seems only fitting that I should probably be one of them. Lando Calrissian’s cool, but Darth Vader is sort of the most epic villain of all time, so maybe James Earl Jones. On the other hand, Lando ended up being the one responsible for destroying the second Death Star, which in turn saved most of the main iconic characters from getting blown up on Endor’s second moon, so I would be a pretty big hero in the mythology of Star Wars if I was Billy Dee Williams. Then again, Vader killed Emperor Palpatine, which ended the Galactic Empire, so maybe that was a bigger deal. Alright, James Earl Jones. Yeah, let’s go with him.
3. Describe the music scene where you live.
There’s constantly something going on in the music scene in the Twin Cities. If you want to, you can almost always go to a show somewhere every night of the week. The amount of rappers and artists here is ridiculous, too. It’s crazy, because I just happened to be from the same city that has such a rich hip hop history and is really, really renowned all over the country, and even the world, for it’s great hip hop. Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Eyedea, Doomtree, and others really blazed a trail for independent hip hop, and so now this town is sort of a mecca for it. What’s interesting is I think a lot of people who do rap in the scene kind of got into hip hop because of discovering sort of this “alternative” hip hop that Minneapolis is so known for kind of putting on the map, but I was already rapping before I even knew who Atmosphere and Rhymesayers were, so I already had it in my mind that I wanted to be a rapper. Where I was geographically was just lucky. I worked on music and performed at like talent shows and school events throughout high school, but it wasn’t until I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2009 that I was really like “okay, now I can focus all of my attention on really getting out there in the actual scene and doing music full time.” By that point, I was 22 so I knew I had to start busting my ass to make as many connections as possible and really figure out what networking and doing shows in the scene was all about. The first few people I met in the local scene I learned a lot from in terms of kind of how a show is put together, how promotion works, etc. I used to go to a lot of open mics, too. Once I sort of got plugged in a little bit, I spent as much time trying to put all the pieces together. At the end of the summer of 2011 is when I really fell in with a group of people that were extremely passionate about just living hip hop 24/7, hanging out and freestyling, partying with other artists, going to shows together, and it was that family dynamic I found in the music scene that literally changed my whole life. The community in this scene, or at least pockets of it, are really like a family. I’ve seen some ugliness in the scene, too, but any negative experiences I have come across are far outweighed by the tremendous energy that exists in the Twin Cities hip hop scene to just have fun, connect, and make amazing things happen – there’s truly nothing like it. Virtually all of my friends these days are in this community and that has made a tremendous difference in my day to day life. Not to sound pretentious, but I actually have a hard time explaining it to people who are on the outside and don’t live in this world. It’s very, very unique. Hip hop and just music and art in general are like the core of what bind us all together, so we all share that common factor. It’s beautiful.
4. Who is the one artist dead or alive you would want to feature on a track?
There’s a lot of people I love and admire in not just hip hop, but all genres of music. But if I had to pick just one, it would probably be Eminem because he’s my favorite emcee of all time, starting way back from when I first started rapping. I spent years scouring the Internet to literally get MP3’s of every song he ever made or did a guest appearance on, and there’s a LOT of those. I dissected his lyricism and rhymes more than any other rapper growing up, and that’s saying something since I pride myself on the expansiveness of my music library. He is a master rap technician with just an unbelievable ability with words, rhyme patterns, and flows. Plus there’s just so many angles of him as an artist that I love: the darkness, the sense of humor, the ability to make songs with so many different kinds of emotions, the anger, the weirdness…I just adore Eminem. For him to leave the kind of mark he has on hip hop and culture in general is something that I really aspire to do myself in my own way.
5. I know as an artist your favorite song probably changes a lot. But if you had to pick, which of your songs is your favorite right in this moment and why?
We’re talking about my own songs, right? Probably “Tie-Dye Sky.” That’s the one that’s gotten the most attention from people it seems like, and the one that’s been the most visible. That track has a really interesting beat produced by Megan Hamilton that speeds up as it progresses, and then sort of slows down again later, and that’s actually pretty uncommon for a rap song to change tempo like that, so it’s unique in that way. Lyrically, I was able to do a lot of cool things with it in terms of flows and rhyming, and it covers a lot of different feelings and emotions, so it sort of encapsulates a bunch of things about me and my life. It also has a chorus I really like where I get to sing, which is something I like to do a lot in my music in addition to just rapping all the time. I know a lot of people who have been really moved and inspired by that track and its message, too, so that’s really touching to me. I couldn’t be prouder of that whole song honestly, and the video I made for it with Elliot Malcolm blew me away when I first saw the final cut of it. Very dear to me, indeed.
6. What is one common theme throughout your lyrical content?
Trying to find happiness in life when faced with so much depression and feelings of loneliness. Being your own person and really trying to follow your dreams and making them a reality despite the odds and not settling for less than that. That’s something that’s been in my raps pretty much since the beginning, mainly because I try to infuse my own feelings and life experiences into my music a lot of the time, and that’s something I’ve had to wrestle with internally for years and years.
7. What’s the grossest thing that’s ever happened during a live show?
I can’t think of anything TOO gross, but you know what’s just gross in general? Tonsil rocks. You know, those white particles that form in the back of your throat that sometimes you cough up? If you smear them they have like THE most putrid smell, too. There’s been a few times where I’ve been rapping during shows and I get kind of dehydrated and those things get spit up in my mouth and it’s nasty. So there you go. 🙂