Finding the Poetry in Hip-Hop

Categories: Essay, New Yorkers

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Homeboy Sandman | Photo by Lauren Jaslow
By the time I began studying English and creative writing at NYU, I had already started to identify myself as a poet. I lived and breathed poetry; it was the only way I could compute and make sense of my surroundings. Simultaneously, I was also an EDM head, before electronic music had become so wildly and widely popular again, and before EDM was really a term. But I was sick of the scene and asked my roommate to give me some new music. "Here," she said, "Why don't you give this a listen." She handed me a copy of Homeboy Sandman's album Actual Factual Pterodactyl.

See also: Homeboy Sandman Assembles New York Avengers


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Jean Grae Presents An Instructional Album For Adults

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Jean Grae in Life With Jeannie

Being an adult is very hard for very many people. Jean Grae knows this and has written a handy eleven-track musical commentary on it titled That's Not How You Do That: An Instructional Album For Adults. It opens with the scatted observation, "That's not how you do that/ How about you fuckin' grow up?" and also includes the righteous call to arms "A Handle Means PULL" and "Use Your Fucking Headphones." You should stop whatever fuckery you're indulging in at the moment and go and procure it now.

While you do that, here's Jean answering a bunch of questions based on the contents of her new album. (Warning: Includes talk of kale salad, L train subway stress, and waitstaff interactions.)

See also: Jean Grae Picks Christmas Sweaters For Talib Kweli, Sean Price and Pharoahe Monch


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Laura Stevenson Embraces Don Giovanni's Family Affair

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This weekend, the Music Hall of Williamsburg will play host to a family reunion of sorts as Don Giovanni Records takes over the venue to showcase its artists. The Brooklyn-based label is unusual in that its roster is one big bear hug of a multi-faceted musical love fest, a collection of independent artists that check off a handful of genres as they challenge and re-work their definition of the word on every release they put out with Don Giovanni. Thy name of the game is "acceptance" in that regard, in that Don Giovanni banks on the personalities of the bands it supports, and encourages them to write and record their music as opposed to rejecting submissions and tailoring their artistic identities.

See also: Don Giovanni Keeps the Jersey-Punk Dream Alive

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New York City's Best Sound Guys Sound Off

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Photo: Adam Macchia
In this week's music feature, we followed two of New York City's most revered sound guys--Kenny Lienhardt of the Bowery Ballroom and Rob Sutton of The Knitting Factory--and they were incredibly good sports when it came to showing us the ropes while dishing out some of the more infamous stories of their all-seeing and all-hearing careers. Over the course of a few beers and a clocked-in shift or two, tons of ground was covered and countless absurd anecdotes were shared: Fishing with Bon Iver, New York's vital need for hip-hop sound engineering, and that time a venue caught on fire in the middle of a sold-out Cake show were some of the tidbits dropped on the record, and though they couldn't make it into print, these are some details that further support the fact that these guys are the unsung heroes of New York music. (And now we all know how big sound guys are on details.)

See also: The Top 15 Things That Annoy the Crap Out of Your Local Sound Guy

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Masta Ace on Disposable Arts Getting the Deluxe Treatment

Categories: New Yorkers

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Courtesy of Below System
Masta Ace
This week, Masta Ace's Disposable Arts, one of the most treasured rap albums of the 2000s, finally gets a long-awaited deluxe reissue treatment that brings us the out-of-print classic along with a documentary on its making featuring new interviews with all of the parties involved. One of rap's all time greatest comeback stories, the former Juice Crew member hadn't released an album in over a half-decade, but then, in October of 2001 dropped, a groundbreaking album that was part-memoir/ part-manifesto that, in the words of writer Andrew Noz, "sonned a whole generation of back-packers." To celebrate the occasion, we spoke to Masta Ace about the making of the album and how he feels about it today.

See also: Five NYC Rappers Who Deserve To Be In XXL's 2013 Freshman Class Issue

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Devendra Banhart: "I'm Not An Entertainer"

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Ana Kras
Devendra Banhart really, really wants you to dance.

With "Golden Girls," the lead-off track on Mala, which dropped on Nonesuch Records this week, he implores the listener to do just that: Banhart hypnotically chants "Get on the dance floor" as the flames from a steady burn of strings and crashing cymbals lick at your heels. The song may last a grand total of a minute and a half, but the message carries over the course of the album as Banhart's trademark eccentricity pops through flamenco guitar strains, synth deluges, sultry ballads and minimalist love songs that stun with their lyrical impact and instrumental simplicity. Surprisingly, Banhart doesn't think that Mala's repertoire, despite this rhythmic call to arms, will have people up out of their chairs when he starts to tour behind it.

See also: Devendra Banhart and R. Kelly, 'Maturing'

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"Harlem is the Mecca of the World!": Bodega BAMZ Introduces His Latin Trap Movement

Categories: New Yorkers

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Bodega Bamz
"I'm from Spanish Harlem and the story has never been told from my 'hood," says Bodega BAMZ, the uptown rapper who's plotting to write his own chapter in hip-hop's history with his Latin trap movement. The cornerstone of BAMZ's come up so far is Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z., the 'Pac-style mixtape he dropped late last year which sees BAMZ's feisty flow complimented by collaborations with A$AP Ferg and the Flatbush Zombies. Ahead of performing at tonight's Open Mic live session at Public Assembly with A$AP Rocky, we caught up with BAMZ to get the scoop on his Harlem heritage, his battle rap days, and his appreciation of Nirvana songs.

See also: A$AP Rocky Lights Up The City

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Robotics, Uploading the Consciouness of the Dead: Ra Ra Riot's Beta Love Don't Play

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Android love, humans vs. computers, artificial intelligence, uploading the subconscious: If Ra Ra Riot was reading up on these hyper-specific topics while writing the songs for their next record, and if these themes worked their way into the fabric of their lyrics, does that make the resulting effort a concept album? According to bassist Mathieu Santos, no: science fiction novels and Ray Kurzweil's theoretical writings have been on the band's reading list since they were touring behind 2010's The Orchard, and the subject matter comes up pretty frequently in practice these days.

See Also:
-The Ten Best Concerts in New York This Week, 1/21/13
-This Weekend! tUnE-YaRdS, Ra Ra Riot, Hot Chip, "Donuts Are Forever," And So Much More


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It Takes A Lot To Get Lucius Down

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Some of Lucius' best shows have been born from the most obnoxious, pain-in-the-ass circumstances, the kind that rear their meddling heads at the most inopportune moment.

Just before playing a sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom a few months ago, one of their cars got towed--with a bunch of gear inside, along with the brand new matching outfits Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe had picked up for the performance--and the intricate lighting design they had configured wouldn't work, either. In April, after playing the Mercury Lounge, they brought the band van back to Ditmas Park for the night, figuring it would be parked on the street for a few hours at most in between the late show and the early sound-check they had the next day. While Laessig and Wolfe were singing in a session that morning, they received a flurry of phone calls from one of their band mates, who had returned to the block the van was parked on only to find it gone.

In both instances, you'd never know that Lucius was dealing with the most stressful logistical headaches a band can face. They didn't panic in the face of major setbacks, both financial and personal: if anything, they took their frustrations, channeled it into their music and let loose with the bombastic effervescence that's become their audio calling card.


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One Night Only: The Velvet Underground Pay Tribute to Nico and Allen Ginsberg

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Tonight, fans of the Velvet Underground will get to see their idols pay tribute to two of their most revered friends and collaborators--just not on the same stage. At Housing Works, Lou Reed will be celebrating the vinyl and digital re-issue of Allen Ginsberg's FIRST BLUES. Across the East River, John Cale will be kicking off his three-night run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with a sold-out tribute to Nico, which will also feature Sharon Van Etten, the Magnetic Fields, and Kim Gordon, among others. Torn on which show you'll hit later? Here's a brief preview of each, along with a few educated guesses as to which songs you'll get to hear Reed and Cale wax poetic on this evening.
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