‘Fuck you mean you need it?/ Fuck you mean you RSVPed?/ I don’t need a reason’ Ashnikko fires back at the retort women often get to be ‘asking for’ unwanted sexual advances through their choice of clothes. No holds barred, she spits out ‘his castration would be nice’, and the extremity and radical of her lyrics continues through the rest of her repertoire, creating both a humorous and empowering feel.
In my first year of university, I had the pleasure to live on Prince of Wales Road in Norwich, one of the most dangerous roads in Norfolk and one of England’s worst drinking areas in terms of late-night violence. While it might not have been for everyone, I honestly loved the feeling of being at the heart of the city’s nightlife and counted myself week in week out as one of the thousands of club-goers descending onto the strip. For me, nightclubs are a way to relive stress, relax and enjoy yourself alongside scores of friends and strangers, and represent a sort of coming together of people of all different backgrounds to lose yourself in the dance.
By Chris Jarvis
Yes, yes, we all know that 2016 has been an unmitigated cluster-fuck, with rising fascism, worsening humanitarian crises and intensifying conflict. In moments of darkness, many of us turn to the arts world – especially music – for comfort, for release, for explanation. With David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, George Martin, Phife Dawg, Erik Petersen, Leonard Cohen, Nick Menza, Greg Lake, Sharon Jones, and too many others all having passed away, many have found music to have also fallen on dark times.
That notwithstanding, 2016 has been a year of some undeniably and uniquely brilliant music too, especially music that espouses messages of a better world, of political analysis, of radical alternatives. Here are the 20 best of those radical releases from the past year.
The Nobel Prize for Literature is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated and respected arts prizes in the calendar year. Previous winners include Harold Pinter, V.S. Naipaul and Toni Morrison – all of whom have gone on to achieve worldwide and commercial success. This year’s prize was awarded to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, who – surprisingly – only ever wrote one novel. The Blonde on Blonde singer was awarded the honour over rumoured nominees Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Haruki Murakami.‘Having created new poetic expressions within the American songbook tradition’, Dylan’s surrealist, stream-of-consciousness protest lyrics have been given the Nobel stamp of approval – but what impact does this have on our understanding of this increasingly popular form?
by Mike Vinti
This weekend saw the start of Euro 2016, every European’s second favourite quadrennial football tournament. As I write, football fans of every stripe have descended on France and the op-ed writers of every political persuasion are spending their time priming think-pieces about what the clashes between England fans and the French police say about the EU referendum. However, the arrival of not-quite-the World Cup 2K16 also brings with it a chance to break away from eye-ball gauging mundanity of the referendum – to instead talk about, you guessed it, the relationship between music and football.
Football and music have always been locked in something of a confusing relationship. As someone who doesn’t really watch Football but listens to a lot of music, catching snippets of fan-made chants, usually through Facebook videos, has been my main access to the culture surrounding Britain’s favourite sport. The more attention I’ve paid to how the two interact, the more I’ve come to realise that music plays a huge, often vital role in the world of football.
by Mike Vinti
The last week or so has seen the release of two of the most anticipated projects in recent musical history; Skepta’s fourth album Konnichiwa and Chance the Rapper’s third mixtape Coloring Book.
With both MCs having made a name for themselves over the past couple of years as being pioneers in their respective fields of rap music, the release of their full length efforts has served to cement their reputations and effectively crown them as kings of their respective sides of the Atlantic. However, while both projects are excellent musically speaking, what’s most interesting about the hype surrounding both Chance and Skepta is that they’re both totally independent artists.
I have a strange memory of Christina Aguilera performing Genie in a Bottle on Top of the Pops and my dad asking if I liked her songs. Strange, because it’s so unremarkable to be kept inside my head. At this stage I her career, she had made her big break, and soon enough I was listening to her album, with hits such as What a Girls Wants and Come On Over (All I Want Is You). Yet, it was three years later, when she released what I will always think of as her best album: Stripped.
I was having a hard time at school, and listening to this album was the very definition of empowering. I had been pushed out of a friendship group during a time where looking back, I honestly believe I was depressed, and this escalated to the extent where I felt I was a target for lots of different groups at school. I did make some new friends, and remember connecting with one of them through a shared love of this album. This was before we had learnt to talk about why it is that Beautiful holds so much resonance with us, but fourteen years later and we are still friends, now sharing a love of bell hooks.
by Mike Vinti
2015 has been a pretty incredible year for music, especially that of a socially conscious political nature. Kendrick Lamar cemented his position as the year’s GOAT (Great of All Time for you non-rap-nerds out there) with To Pimp a Butterfly, Sleaford Mods gave a voice to the victims of austerity with their acerbic, bassline backed rants and grime blew up so fast that half the teenagers in the country switched from Hypebeast to Road Man in the space of a month. As it’s the time of year where every goddamn publication lists their top 10, 20, 50, 100 etc. albums we figured we’d run through the year’s best moments, in no particular order, with a special end of year Radical Playlist.
by Mike Vinti
Flying Lotus, alongside Shabbaz Palaces and Thundercat, released their first single on Monday of new project WOKE. Featuring George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic, it’s a typically psyched out, funk laden cut, overflowing with strange samples and squelching synth lines.
Since the release of You’re Dead! last October, Flying Lotus’s profile has been growing. No longer merely the preserve of open-minded hip hop heads, he’s broken out to become a critical darling and gained lucrative mass appeal, having produced tracks on Kendrick Lamar’s latest LP To Pimp a Butterfly. Flying Lotus is also the founder, and head of, record label Brainfeeder, a collective of musicians from around the world specialising in experimental electronic music and hip hop, with a heavy jazz influence.
Brainfeeder has provided a home not just for Flying Lotus’ pet projects such as WOKE, but for some of the most challenging and boundary pushing artists currently recording. As its founder’s profile grows and grows, now is the perfect time to explore some of the other artists on its roster and their releases over the years.
by Mike Vinti
Between Spotify releasing data showing that hip hop is the most widely listened to genre of music, and the imminent release of Straight Outta Compton: The Movie, rap has been in the news a lot recently. With the spotlight firmly on Dr. Dre & Co., and in light of a fantastic article for Gawker by journalist and MC Dee Barnes, detailing the abuse she faced from the former NWA member and how women were excluded from the movie, questions have begun to be asked about the treatment of women in hip hop.
In many ways these questions are long overdue. As with many other genres, women have been all but erased from the popular narrative of hip hop’s history, and many rappers still use misogynistic language today. The latter of these is the most frequent, and most generalised, complaint levelled against hip hop and rap, and has been since the genre reached mainstream popularity.
by Mike Vinti
Since its inception gangsta rap has been a thorn in the side of the establishment. Brash, violent and loud, its explosion in the late 80s and 90s tore up the rule book of hip hop and reshaped the genre in its own image, introducing the world to the harsh reality of life on the streets of black America. With the cinematic release of ‘Straight Outta Compton’ a week away (August 15th) it only seems fitting to look back at some of gangster rap’s greatest and explore its legacy thirty years on.
Gangsta rap is hip hop’s bratty younger brother, fed on the social conscious rhymes of early hip hop but filled with the anger of a generation excluded from the yuppie party of the eighties. Like punk before it, its church is broad, ranging from the smooth, sun-drenched rhythms of G-Funk, to the hard edged, sample heavy boom bap of Wu Tang Clan. Frequently criticised by those on the left and the right for glorifying violence and misogyny, scapegoated for the prevalence of crime in black communities, and beloved to many a hip hop head, the story of gangsta rap is the story of poverty in America, as relevant to this day as it was back in ’86.
by Mike Vinti
Introducing the Radical Review; a semi-regular feature focusing on one artist or album in depth, getting to grips with the work in question and its politics.
Given the recent tragedies in the US, it seems appropriate to kick things off with California rapper Vince Staples’ debut album Summertime ‘06.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Vine Staples is no stranger to the dark and conflicted oeuvre that Summertime ’06 pedals. Emerging on the scene 4 years ago as a loose affiliate of Odd Future, Vince has always dealt with the harsh reality of life in his hood of Long Beach California (LBC to you Nate Dogg fans out there). His most known track ‘Nate’ deals with his childhood, watching his father hustle, selling drugs and going to prison in order to provide for their family, and much of his other work dwells on the same themes.
by Mike Vinti
Last time round we focused on the explosion of hip hop taking place across the UK, this week we focus on the UK Rap scene’s mainstay: Grime.
Grime initially took off in the early 2000s thanks to pioneering production and vocal stylings of artists like Skepta and Wiley, whose invention of ‘Eski-beat’ birthed grime as we know it. Characterised by double-time rapping and generally sticking around 140 bpm, grime is hip hop’s faster, louder, and often far more hype cousin. Unfortunately, I was eight years old in 2002 and subsequently missed out on a lot of ‘OG’ grime. In better news however, after a lull in which the closest thing to grime you’d find on the radio was Wiley’s rather ill-considered attempts at pop, grime is back. With it comes a wealth of fresh, young, talent, raised on the genre’s roots and unafraid to experiment.
by Mike Vinti
For the past few years, hidden away from the mainstream media, and even much of the music press, British Rap has been flourishing. Rap in the UK comes in two major forms; Grime and UK Hip Hop. The Grime Renaissance of 2014/5 has seen the genre reinvigorated, keeping the best elements of its mid-2000s domination and pushing its boundaries both in terms of lyricism and production. On the UK Hip Hop side of things, labels like High Focus and Blah! Records have been slowly gaining more and more of a following, carving out a fresh faced, DIY oriented scene and shrugging off the ‘crusty’ aspersions that have come with the genre for so long.
Due to the frankly immense volume of rap music coming out the UK right now, this article will be in two halves, each dealing with one side of Britain’s rap world — this week, UK Hip Hop!
by Mike Vinti
Local festival Boom-Bap announced its line-up last week to considerable hype from Facebook’s ‘heads and a somewhat more muted response from the Norwich/ Norfolk public at large. Boom Bap, as the name suggests, is a hip-hop festival — this year it’s taking place in the Suffolk countryside from 5th-7th June. It’s been running for a few years now and is part of an expanding hip-hop and rap scene in Norwich and the surrounding marsh-land between here and Yarmouth. So far they’ve announced Odd Future’s kid wonder Earl Sweatshirt and Skepta collaborating New York group RATKING as headliners, with cult legends Jehru the Damaja and Homeboy Sandman taking high slots on the bill as well. If you were to visit the corner of the internet where rap nerds meet, you’d find thread after thread of discussion and hype surrounding each of these artists, but talk to most people in Norwich or even at the youthful bubble that is the University of East Anglia and they won’t have a clue who you’re talking about.
This is no slight on those people, music is subjective, there’s a lot of it, blah blah blah, but I couldn’t help but wonder why in particular so few people, outside of those who are borderline obsessed, know about Hip-Hop in the UK?