It’s wild to think that, after more than a decade in the industry, Pusha T is releasing his first official debut album. The ultra-talented rapper first partnered with Malice in the group Clipse, which released several classic albums. After Clipse and Pusha’s other group, Re-Up Gang, split up, Pusha signed to Kanye West’s label, and has been prominently featured on many singles in the past three years while also putting out mediocre mixtapes. Many who know him now aren’t familiar with his rich history as one of the most brutal rappers of the century, and only know him as that random rapper who shows up on a bunch of West’s tracks to deliver half-decent verses. My Name Is My Name will change all of that.
Pusha has a reputation for boastful, hard-hitting raps that frequently mention his former days as a drug dealer. He lives up to that throughout My Name Is My Name, delivering fiery verses that often take shots at other rappers — Drake especially. Pusha brags that he doesn’t “sing hooks” on the manic opener “King Push.” On the wonderful “Suicide,” which features slippery production by Pharrell Williams, Pusha explains that he “built mine off fed time and dope lines. You caught steam off headlines and co-signs.” What’s great about these attacks is that Pusha backs them up throughout the record.
The rapper thrives when playing the villain, and he gets the chance to rhyme over sinister and lurking beats by West and Hudson Mohawke, among others. There are plenty of guest rappers here, as Pusha outshines label mates 2 Chainz and Big Sean, pushes Rick Ross to actually try on a verse and holds his own with the equally hungry Kendrick Lamar. The only guest stars that don’t really fit in are Kelly Rowland and Chris Brown, who show up in an attempt to help Pusha craft radio-friendly tracks. Pusha loses some of his edge on those songs, and they falter in comparison to standouts like “Nosetalgia” and “Numbers On the Boards.”
My Name Is My Name is an exceptionally strong rap album that serves as a true return to form for Pusha. There are a few filler tracks, but as a whole, this is one of the better rap albums of the year — a true showcase of what a great traditional hip-hop record can sound like. Best of all, it serves a reminder of who Pusha is — not the rapper of the past three years who sounds like he was phoning it in, but the fiery hothead who made some of the best rap albums of the last 15 years. My Name Is My Name serves as another fine entry into his rich career.
The two artists who undeniably garnered the most attention preceding the 54th annual Grammy Awards were triumphantly Adele and tragically Whitney Houston, each of them indelibly gifted with standout voices of their generation. Between the award announcements and performances, the attention seemed to bounce between Adele’s success and Houston’s untimely death. As predicted, Adele swept up six awards including Record of the Year and Album of the Year for her album “21.” With almost every performance came an artist’s impromptu dedication to Houston, ultimately leading to singer Jennifer Hudson’s chilling tribute performance.
Backed by a full orchestra, Bruce Springsteen kicked off Grammy night with enthusiastic kicks from underneath his electric guitar. In the audience, Paul McCartney clapped along to the Boss and the E Street Band’s latest single, “We Take Care of Our Own.”
Host L.L Cool J followed up with a prayer to honor Whitney Houston, who passed away Feb. 11, a day before the show, at age 48. The audience—from Katy Perry to Faith Hill and Tony Bennett—bowed their heads as L.L. Cool J finished with, “Whitney, we will always love you.”
Nominated for six Grammy awards this year, Bruno Mars performed “Runaway Baby,” from his album Doo-Wops and Hooligans. Mars synchronized costumes and choreography with his band, looping dapper in a gold blazer as he slid into the splits mid-song, never once missing a beat or his key.
Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt joined country and R&B forces on shortened yet soulful version “Sunday Kind of Love” in tribute to another lost artist this past year, Etta James.
As expected, the award for Pop Solo Performance went to Adele for “Someone Like You,” despite competing against pop mega-forces Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Pink. In her acceptance speech, Adele said that the song changed her life. With this win and a classic look of voluminous curls and red lips, Adele proved not all pop hits are the result of sugar-coated dance beats and scantily-clad songstresses.
Chris Brown made his Grammy comeback with three nominations after a three-year absence following the release of violent images of his assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. His signature pop-and-lock dance moves dominated his song “Turn Up the Music” against a technicolor stage that times flashes of rainbow colors and skyline images perfectly as each beat dropped. With this performance, Chris Brown reminded the audience of his stage presence as he pleased the crowd with his dance moves despite his likely lip-syncing and court record of violence against women.
The clementine-clad Fergie and Marc Anthony presented the award for Best Rap Performance. Nominees include Jay-Z and Kanye West for “Otis,” Drake and Nicki Minaj for “Moment 4 Lyfe,” and Chris Brown featuring Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne for “Look at Me Now.” Watch The Throne’s Jay-Z and West won, though they unfortunately were not in attendance to accept the award. Perhaps there was another event substantially cooler and more worthy of the rap stars’ attendance?
In typical Grammy fashion of pairing performers with clearly different sounds, the unexpected duo of Rihanna and Coldplay performed together. Rihanna slithered on the ground to her hit “We Found Love,” tossing her newly blonde locks as the song’s signature techno dance beat kicked in. As her song ended, the camera cut to Chris Martin of Coldplay on an acoustic guitar playing “Princess of China" when Rihanna joined him after only a few lyrics. After a quick duet, Martin raced to stage where the rest of Coldplay was waiting to perform hit single, “Paradise.” The performance didn’t prove to be an authentic collaboration but rightfully gave two of this year’s biggest acts much-deserved stage time on music’s biggest night.
The Foo Fighters in all their bearded glory beat out rock cult favorites Radiohead, Coldplay, The Decemberists and Mumford & Sons for Best Rock Performance. The band’s winning single, “Walk,” comes from album, Wasting Light, which was recorded on tape in the garage of lead singer Dave Grohl’s garage. Grohl marks the first winner of the night to be cut off by the show’s outro music as he screamed out, “Rock 'n' Roll.”
In celebration of The Beach Boys reunion, Maroon 5 performed the California band’s classic, “Surfer Girl.” Foster The People was up next with even more well-known Beach Boys’ staple, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Finally, The Beach Boys swung slowly along as they sung “Good Vibrations” which ended with a standing ovation by the audience and smiles all round.
It seems that only a legend is worthy of presenting another legend. Stevie Wonder introduced Paul McCartney, who crooned “My Valentine” in front of a full orchestra which included the sorrowful yet sweet strings of a classical guitar.
Surprisingly not dressed in her usual sequins, Taylor Swift took the stage in a modest boho dress. With a bango slung around her shoulders, Swift sang a lackluster version of her single “Mean.” She winked and smirked through the “I told you so” lyrics, reminding her audience that despite her poor track record as a live performer, she’s unbearably charming.
Song of the Year nominations included “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons, “All of the Lights” by Kanye West and Rihanna,“Grenade” by Bruno Mars, “Holocene” by Bon Iver and “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele. Not surprisingly enough, Adele happily skipped up the stage hand-in-hand with the song’s producer Paul Epworth to accept the award.
However, in a surprising turn of events, country’s girl-next-door Taylor Swift did not crush her country competition for Best Country Album. It was instead Lady Antebellum who won for Best Country Album with Own The Night.
Adele’s much-anticipated performance lived up to the hype as she crooned a hauntingly beautiful rendition of her song “Rolling In The Deep,” which won Song of the Year earlier in the night. With each second of her performance, from the acapella beginning to the bridge she belted out, Adele continued to outdo herself, clearly showing the world that she’s not the next big thing; she has already arrived.
Country stars The Band Perry and Blake Shelton honored Glen Campbell. Their performances pleasantly primed the stage for the true star, Glen Campbell, who proudly sang “Rhinestone Cowboy” while the audience clapped and sang along.
Jazz legend Tony Bennett sang alongside a refreshingly less-country version of Carrie Underwood’s voice that swapped southern twang for fluid jazz harmonies on “It Had To Be You.”
Bon Iver beat out The Band Perry, Skrillex, J.Cole and even Nicki Minaj who had an undeniably explosive year for new artist. He humbly accepted the award, tipping his theoretical hat to the musicians who have yet to be discovered.
In honor of the tragic death of Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, who just a couple nights ago was praising Houston’s voice on “Piers Morgan Tonight,” took the stage. Hudson stood under a spotlight while she delivered an impressive (though not quite on par with Houston’s) version of “I Will Always Love You.” Considering the obviously short notice of this performance and Hudson’s chilling rendition, you have to wonder if this is a song she’s dreamed of performing since she was a little girl.
Deadmau5, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, David Guetta and Foo Fighters attempted to rouse the crowd with what the Grammy’s had been calling a “dance party” preceding the performance. David Guetta’s electronic beats slunk up and down as background music for Chris Brown and Lil Wayne in a haphazard performance that lacked cohesion. Strobe lights and smoke distracted from a performance that the show could’ve done without. As it turns out, a Deadmau5 and Foo Fighters collaboration make for a pretty abysmal performance.
Looking fresh in a tuxedo, rapper Drake teases us with an introduction of his “good friend” Nicki Minaj, instead of a performance of his own. It’s quite obvious through Minaj’s typical clothing style, that she strives to be different than your average pop or hip hop star, so her bizarre acting and rapping hybrid performance doesn’t come as much of a surprise. After rap lyrics littered with the word “bitch,” she sampled the Christmas carol, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” resulting in an odd performance that left the audience cheering but completely confused nonetheless.
The Band Perry presented the Record of the Year to Adele, sharing the same attitude as the rest of the audience with a simple, understated, “No surprise, 'Rolling in the Deep!'” At this point, does it even really matter who else was nominated?
Adele pulls off a six-for-six clean sweep with tears in her eyes as she accepts the final award of the night, Album of the Year. Despite a runny nose and a little voice cracking, she maintains a level of class and grace that other pop stars can only dream of having. “It has been the most life-changing year,” she sobs. And that is perhaps the understatement of the night.
San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker says he suffered a scratched retina on one of his eyes during a New York City nightclub brawl involving singer Chris Brown and members of hip-hop star Drake’s entourage.
Parker, wearing dark sunglasses, described the incident Friday in Paris during a news conference posted on YouTube. He said he expects to be sidelined for about a week while the French team prepares for the Summer Olympics.
Parker said he was wearing a “therapeutic” contact lens and had to go to an emergency room for treatment after arriving in Paris.
Parker said: “I was with my friend, Chris Brown, and me and my friends took some punches, so I’ll be missing the start of the French team, because I can’t do anything for a week except keep the lens in and then take drops.”
Police said Brown, his girlfriend and his bodyguard were among several people injured during the bottle-hurling fight early Thursday at W.i.P in SoHo.
Parker said “they started throwing bottles everywhere. I don’t know what happened. At first it was OK, but then it started getting worse, and when the plane landed it was really hurting, so I went straight to the ER.”
The Spurs declined to comment.
Waterloo Records employee Pablo Wilder organizes albums on the shelves while the store prepares for Record Store Day. Record Store Day, celebrated on the third Saturday of April, was created in 2007 and draws the support of music lovers around the nation.
Skateboarders have Go Skateboarding Day, comic book aficionados have Free Comic Book Day and record connoisseurs have Record Store Day. Record Store Day, an internationally celebrated event that occurs on the third Saturday of April each year, has been drawing support from record-lovers since its inception in 2007.
“[Record Store Day] is all about maintaining a sense of independence,” said online record seller Tosin. “It helps out the small man against large conglomerates.”
Tosin’s record website, The Screw Shop, originally started selling southern and Texas hip-hop back in 1997, when he moved to Austin from New Orleans.
On Record Store Day, record collectors can choose from over 300 different exclusive releases, ranging from hip-hop and soul, to rock and punk. Some releases feature groups Animal Collective, Childish Gambino, Coldplay and M83. “There’s so many thing to choose from,” said Waterloo manager Martin Coultter. “And all of these releases and other deals, are only available on Record Store Day.” Concerts also take place on Record Store Day--indie-rockers Portugal. The Man will be performing at Fords, NJ record store Vintage Vinyl, while hip-hop artist Gift of Gab will have a set at Berkeley, CA’s Rasputin Music and DVDs store.
For Record Store Day, Waterloo will be bringing in alternative rock act Garbage. The group will be doing a meet-and-greet for those who purchase the band’s exclusive 7”, or who pre-purchased their upcoming album, Not Your Kind Of People.
Waterloo is not the only store participating in the festivities. Musicmania, Antone’s, Trailer Space and Friends Of Sound, will also be contributing to Saturday’s events. With each store offering something different, Record Store Day encourages attendees to be a part of the Record Store Day Crawl.
“What you do is present your receipt from any of the stores participating in Record Store Day, and you get a discount from store to store,” said Musicmania manager Bernard Vesek.
Vesek said he’s excited for Record Store Day because of how supportive it is of local artists and keeping record stores alive. It’s not an easy task--throughout the years multiple record shops have closed in Austin, like Encore Records and Backspin Records. Even nearby towns like San Marco’s Sundance Records, have closed after being open for over 35 years.
“We’re competing with the big chains” Vesek said. Along with the pressures of battling chains like that of Best Buy and Target, independent record stores also have to battle against digital downloads, and music piracy.
Although independent record stores face tough times, Vesek is glad that, with the resurgence of vinyl, a younger generation are seeking out vinyl releases.
“We do record conventions here [in Austin], and the youth have taken it up,” Vesek said. “It’s nice to have a 12 by 12 record in your hands, that comes with a sound much warmer than what you get through a regular download.”
St. Edwards psych and advertising major Jacob Torres enjoys going out and searching for vinyl. Torres enjoys vinyl records for their nostalgic value, and often discovers hard-to-find releases at Waterloo, End of an Ear and various thrift stores.
“When I collect [vinyl], it’s like I’m collecting little pieces of history,” Torres said. “For example, I can put on Getz/Gilberto, the best selling album of 1964, and just imagine the original listeners, sitting in their living rooms enjoying it, unaware that their record would find its way into my living room 60 years later.”
Record Store Day continues to keep the art and spirit of music alive. It lends a helping hand to those searching for exclusive releases, or maybe even those who are just looking for classic, one-of-a-kind vinyls.
“That’s the great thing about collecting vinyl,” Torres said. “To hold on to ephemera, and know that they have seen so many days, and have survived crazy advances in technology. It’s mind-blowing.”
Chris Brown performs during the 54th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 in Los Angeles.
Amid the glory of Adele’s wins, the return of her astounding voice from surgery and the solemn rememberance of Whitney Houston’s recent death during Sunday night’s Grammys, there was something a bit disturbing about the show. It wasn’t Nicki Minaj’s ridiculous performance — though, if there was a jump-the-shark moment, Nicki’s performance was it — nor the fact that Skrillex has inexplicably become accepted by the mainstream with three Grammy wins.
No, it was Chris Brown’s performance.
Everything was, as per usual, spot on in terms of his performance. He showed panache in his dance moves. He almost kept the impression of impassioned singing while lip-synching songs off his latest album, F.A.M.E. What was so off-putting about the performance was what it signaled about the Grammys and the music industry in general: an organization so willing to welcome back Brown, almost three years to the day after he violently beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna.
A performer should not so gloriously be given the stage after such high-profile abuse, let alone one with a felony count. It’s fine to recognize Brown by bestowing award nominations (it would not be the first or the last time the Grammys rewarded subpar music), but giving him five minutes of unadulterated performance time shows an acceptance of Brown, of his conscious actions and choices.
And the Grammys don’t arbitrarily choose performances. Everything on the show is calculated for maximum impact (see the cluster that was The Beach Boys, Foster the People and Maroon 5 performing together), and to put Brown on stage in the vicinity of Rihanna and during a time that is so strongly associated with the incident could be construed as insidious, if not simply tone deaf.
And simply tone deaf and ignorant is maybe what the producers of the show are as evidenced by some of they comments they’ve made. The executive producer of the Grammys said in an ABC Radio the morning of Sunday’s show said, “If you’ll note, he [Brown] has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”
If nothing else, the performance and the Grammys’ support of it is especially jarring when you consider just how lackluster Brown’s music is. From the beginning, he released mediocre pop-R&B. And all he has to do is continue to do so and somehow he gains back the support of fans all over as evidenced by the swoons of many female fans on Twitter?
But maybe that’s just the way things work in pop music now: accepting and even praising the lowest common denominator, with no questions asked of one’s character or talent. Brown’s performance at the Grammys and the awards show circuit in general is but a symptom of the genre’s slow decline.
Printed on, Tuesday February 14, 2012 as: Brown sings despite assault convic-
(Photo Courtes of Drake)
When Drake made his hip-hop debut last year with Thank Me Later, critics were skeptical of the Young Money R&B crooner. Exchanging his teenage persona, Jimmy Brooks, from the Canada-based television show “Degrassi” for a life of luxury and grandeur, Drake became an instant love-or-hate figure in mainstream hip-hop, solidifying himself among a new wave of R&B songwriters like that of Frank Ocean, Trey Songz and Chris Brown.
Thank Me Later was impressive in that behind the more conventional themes of hip-hop music (power, sexual prowess and fame), there was a vulnerability to Drake.
There were narratives of loneliness, the burdens of success and the ambivalence that comes when accommodating to a musician’s lifestyle. Take Care continues where its predecessor left off but shows Drake in a more refined and improved demeanor.
Opener “Over My Dead Body” flourishes with airy, soulful keys from guest contributor Chantal Kreviazuk, while Drake’s conversation-like rapping style provides an introspective story about the expectations placed upon him.
The title song oozes with dance club bass thumps, upbeat piano and staccato drums produced by The xx’s Jamie Smith. Samples from the recently deceased spoken-word soulman Gil Scott-Heron accompanies Smith’s vibrant production, while guest vocalist Rihanna acts as Drake’s cupid by responding to his desires of love and affection.
Take Care is an improvement from Thank Me Later: in deciding between rapper and singer, Drake chooses the latter for most of the album, which lends itself to the album’s overall lush and alluring production. His songwriting has become deeper and reflective. There are moments of arrogance, sadness and tenderness, all of which Drake manipulates in various ways.
“Marvin’s Room” and its drunk-dial narrative is one of many examples of how Drake’s self-pity can be strangely beautiful. “Fuck that n---- that you love so bad, I know you still think about the times we had,” Drake says with a delivery marked with bitterness and anger. It is Drake’s tell-all approach to his music that makes it so captivating.
His half-Jay-Z, half-Kid Cudi persona highlights a constant, internal battle to be recognized and accept that recognition.
Although the album is dominantly gloomy, guests like label mate Nicki Minaj, hip-hop don Rick Ross and king of groove Stevie Wonder help lighten up the album. “Villa on the water with the wonderful views, only fat n---- in the sauna with Jews,” may go down as one of Ross’ most hilarious freestyles as he provides a lighthearted chuckle on “Lord Knows.”
Drake’s second album is embodied in this lyrical line from “Doing It Wrong”: “We live in a generation of not being in love.” Similar to fellow hopeless romantic Lykke Li, Drake’s sadness is a blessing. It allows Drake to reveal what remains dormant in his psyche, resulting in revelations that serve as a constant reminder of the pains of unrequited love.
Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: Drake incorporates slew of guest musicians, relies on singing over rapping in 'Take Care'