Young Thug VS Jean-Michel Basquiat

In the 1980’s, a young, African American painter emerged onto the New York art scene. Jean-Michel Basquiat was one of the brightest, and most unique, artists in all of America. He took the expressionist style of the Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and combined it with tribal African and street art that reflected his urban surroundings and the plight of the African American community. 

Since Basquiat’s 1998 death, his art has grown increasingly popular among hip hop artists. Both Jay Z and Swizz Beats are known Basquiat collectors, and he has been referenced in verses by hip hop heavyweights Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Rick Ross, Danny Brown, J. Cole, and A$AP Rocky. 

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Does Young Thug appear in this Basquiat painting that was made years before his birth?

This reoccurring homage continues in the music video for the Young Thug/Freddie Gibbs/A$AP Ferg collaboration, “Old English.” Well before this video came out, this track blew my mind. Three great verses linked together by one thick chain of a hook. A$AP Ferg especially shines with one of his best verses to date. He tells a narrative of a young, hispanic girl who turns to selling Molly as ends to support her sick mother, along with the rest of her family.

But getting back the video, it’s not too difficult to see the Basquiat connection. The crude line work and the bright colors harken back to Basquiat’s work – his signature crown even makes an appearance. This sort of gritty depiction expertly juxtaposes with the trap instrumentals and dark lyrics on street life.

I think this is why Basquiat’s art resonates in hip hop. Artists like like-minded artists. Basquiat, like Jay-Z or Young Thug, was born with nothing and worked his way to notoriety in a system that fought against him. His art reflects a story that too many African Americans live themselves. One encompassed by poverty, drugs, violence, and systematic suppression. Out of this struggle however, comes wonderful art and music. These artists reflect their surroundings in their art and hopefully, educate their audiences on the circumstances they and so many have experienced.

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POP POV: Iggy Pop VS Edward Hopper

This idea has long been in the works; two pieces of art – one song, one painting – compared in theme, feeling, style, etc. Studying art is a huge passion of mine, and so often a piece of music and a painting speak to me in similar ways. Even our name “The Vinyl Warhol” came about as a combination of love for music and art history.

For my inaugural juxtaposition, I’ve selected Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” a brilliant cut off his 1977 solo album Lust for Life, and American realist Edward Hopper’s 1942 masterpiece, NighthawksEnjoy.

I have always enjoyed the city. Even in such an immense crossing of commuters, there is always a certain singular personality to its madness, thousands – maybe millions – of distinct lives, all unaccompanied in a sea of swirling energy. This theme flows throughout both pieces, playing off of that isolated soul.

In “The Passenger,” that soul travels – presumably by bus – through the city, viewing its “ripped backside” as if looking through a television screen. Pop narrates this transit in a low gristle. His cadence creates tone. We see the passing glow of streetlamps, the distinct urban aura. It’s cold. The sky is hollow.

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As we coast through the sleeping city in “The Passenger,” our transporter passes by a dinner. Inside, the characters of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks sit behind similar glass. This snapshot scene – the viewer peaking into this solemn metropolitan life – mirrors Pop’s croons. Hopper often captured city-goers in his work, but rarely were any of his subjects interacting with each other. The separation created between these mannequin-like forms is haunting. They sit under a bright artificial light, stark against the building’s green colors.

Although the big city brings promise of bustling nightlife, it too is the place where we can feel most alone. Pop and Hopper both knew this, and they each shared their own isolated experiences in two remarkable pieces of work.

Why Joyce Manor Matters.

I could say Torrance, CA punk quartet Joyce Manor played a tireless set at BackBooth Tuesday night, full of quick, bombastic blasts of energy from throughout their catalog, because all of that is 100% true. But, I think that would be short-changing Joyce Manor, because most punk shows are of a similar design. What truly hit me, what I actually walked away from the show with, was much, much more important. Enjoy.

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“IF being violent at a show is something you think you’re entitled to, then – FUCK YOU!”

Amongst all loud, angst-ridden, and brilliant music that spilled out of BackBooth, this quote shined as the crux of the evening. Almost instantaneously, Joyce Manor lead vocalist and guitarist, Barry Johnson changed the night’s climate from a great punk show to one of great social importance.

Earlier in the evening, my photographer Karina explained to me that the band had started a conversation on Twitter about violence at punk shows, and how many fans, unintentionally or not, hurt others by hurling their bodies into the crowd. The band had warned their fans about the possibly-violent act of stage diving – in particular, the number of women hurt by much larger men at shows – and although there was an incredible support for the band’s stance, many “punk purist” have bashed the band for their views.

But seriously, fuck those people. I applaud Joyce Manor for their words on Twitter, and am even more impressed that in the moment, they would fearlessly defend and criticize their own fans, because they feel so strongly about them. But I shouldn’t have to praise Joyce Manor. Because its members are not declaring themselves activists and protesters, they simply expect all of their fans, regardless of gender, to respect each other. An opinion that should go without saying, but for some reason, has been ignored for decades.

In the early-90’s, Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna spoke similar unabashed criticism towards the same kind of violence that Joyce Manor did Tuesday night. Sadly however, it seems punk fans have forgotten Hanna’s words. Johnson’s spirited PSA did evoke a strong cheer from the audience, but during the very next song, I witnessed a fan jump from the back of the audience onto the heads unsuspecting concert-goers. The young man then attempted to reach the band by crawling on the skulls of others. I believe Johnson too took notice of this.

Later in evening, Johnson delivered another impassioned speech about the guilt he feels when he sees Joyce Manor’s music used as the soundtrack for violent behavior. His sincerity was unquestionable and, despite the electric performance, I believe the issue weighed heavily on his mind throughout the performance. I also believe that if their shows continue to end in injuries, many bands, including Joyce Manor, could lose the drive to tour out of safety for their fans.

And it’s horrible that this issue had to take precedence that night. Joyce Manor put on an incredible show, as did Des Ark and The Exquisites. But as the night closed, I could only think about how the lyrics to the show’s encore, “Leather Jacket,” and how they clearly mirrored some of the fans shouting them.

“In your new leather jacket, you’re somebody else.”

Punk-ass photos by Karina Curto:

POP POV: Pulling a Beyoncé (Part ‘U’2)

The following are thoughts continuing from a previous article, Pulling a Beyoncé: Why are artists releasing ‘surprise’ albums?” I recommend reading that post before viewing part two, but who the hell am I tell you what to do? Enjoy.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have been invaded. On September 9, a 54-year-old man who refers to himself as Bono sneaked into computer and left something. Bono, along with his cohorts (a 53-year-old man who answers to the name The Edge, a bass player named Adam, and a drummer named Larry), left a steaming pile of Innocence, stamped with a familiar Apple, on every Itunes user’s doorstep. The practical joke in question revolves around the intrusion of U2’s Songs of Innocence in the library of anyone with an Itunes account. U2 released the “surprise” album in conjunction with Apple’s unveiling of the Iphone 6 and Apple Watch. If you’d like to, you can read more up on partnership here.

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Writer’s Note: I understand there are endless blog posts and Internet comments bashing U2. Personally, I have never shared that hateful sentiment; there are many U2 songs I enjoy, and I think they’ve made some very important albums. Go listen to Pop, a commercial failure largely due to the addition of electronica and dance elements, but an album that by today’s standards was completely ahead of its time. This is just one often overlooked landmark in the band’s catalog.

Okay, back to reality. Now, I haven’t listened to Songs of Innocence, so I can’t accurately judge whether or not the music is comparable to dog excrement. But many of the reactions I’ve seen to album’s unexpected, or should I say “surprise,” presence has been less then welcoming, a reception completely opposite from Beyoncé’s “surprise” release. Here are my two possible explanations as to why.

The first is a bit obvious. U2’s “surprise” album was not offered as a gift; it was placed without our notice on our phones and in our computers. Additionally, you may not delete the album. This unwanted placement makes Songs of Innocence another Apple IOS update that everyone hates. It’s like if someone were to come over to your house, and just left something in your bathroom for you to see every time you shit. It’s what I imagine anyone in a popular band feels when someone hands them a demo, “Here’s some free music.” *wink*. It’s obtrusive because you weren’t given a choice.

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Point two. As I mentioned in the former article, music fans adore surprise releases because they feel special. You imagine that the artist had just finished the album and couldn’t wait share it with you. Logic would say the artist stands to lose money with no prior campaign, but money seems like a lesser thought. It feels genuine.

But Songs of Innocence is the complete opposite of that. Apple paid U2 an ungodly, but disclosed, amount of money for the right to releaseThe marketing budget alone was over $100 million! For decades, U2 have been the epitome of corporate rock, and now they’ve chosen to team with the poster child for big business. Therefore, the release of Songs of Innocence comes across as nothing but pandering. From this point on, any semi-popular artist who releases a surprise album will appear a little more calculated, a little phonier. And that’s all I have to say about that.

“I can’t live with or without you.” 

POP POV: ‘KISS’ing Rock Goodbye

“The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered.”

Recently, KISS bassist and washed-up rock capitalist Gene Simmons spoke with Esquire on a variety of industry-related topics, most of which he wasn’t qualified to speak on. During The Demon’s ramblings, he muttered the quote above and declared rock music as, “finally dead.” Simmons proceeded to condemn file-sharing – oooo, shocker, he’s upset about money – as the cold-blooded killer, and painted a 15-year-old boy on his computer as the reason for the decline in the music industry.

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Now, although I think anyone who actively listens to modern music would know that the genre is far from dead – artists like Arcade Fire, Tame Impala, Radiohead, Jack White, and Ty Segall are doing just fine – Simmons does bring up an important point. In the past decade, rock music has sharply declined in commercial popularity, losing the smash singles and huge, multi-platinum record sales of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Few FM radio stations play rock music, and ones that do play a genre best described as “butt rock” mixed in with same tired Nirvana singles.

But, my concern isn’t about the lack of rock songs in the Billboard Top 40 or the decline in record sales, because true rock n’ roll has never been about that. My worries stem from the direction I see rock music facing: backwards.

Today, countless bands play music that could be ripped right out of the late-60’s, mid-70’s, or the late-80’s. I’m not branding this music as not good, I’m a huge fan artists like White and Segall, but repeating the past ad nauseam isn’t breaking any new ground. Art needs to continue to move forward or it’s destined to fade away, and condemning new technology and all electronically-based music isn’t smart, because like it or not, it is the future.

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Now, I don’t think rock n’ roll has to embrace this new, trendy music with open arms, or even acknowledge it. Look at Imagine Dragons. Is this what you want? Because I sure don’t. But I do know that the genre needs to stop living solely in the past, and start experimenting with new instruments, sounds, and song structures. This is already being done with bands like My Bloody Valentine, Tame Impala, St. Vincent, and Swans. Artists who are aware of their music’s rich history, but aren’t afraid to twist and shape it into something radically different.

And, I say all this because I would hate to see a world where rock n’ roll is no longer relevant. Currently, rock is fighting a battle its set to lose, because ultimately, the music that strives forward, creates innovative sound, and helps define its own generation, is destined to win.