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Soundcheck: Usher Releases 'Looking 4 Myself'

Usher released his long-awaited follow-up to the über successful Raymond vs. Raymond today with an unexpected new sound. Though many critics call Usher’s seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, one of his strongest ever; the project left me looking for my money back.

The 14-track album features tracks from Rico Love, Will.I.Am, Jim Jonsin, Max Martin, and Diplo among others.  It also features cameos from Rick Ross, ASAP Rocky, and Pharell. While his first single, Climax is currently at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B Songs chart, it has failed to win me over since its release last month.

I can respect and actually applaud an artist who isn’t afraid to push boundaries and challenge preconceptions, but I think Usher has taken this reinvention a bit too far.  What many critics are praising as ˜groundbreaking’ and ˜genre-crossing’ really just sounds retro and recycled to me.  The lines between innovation and replication have blurred, and I’m left with an album that feels like a cross between pop hits from the late 1980s and *NSYNC circa 2001 on their No Strings Attached tour.  (more…)

The Age Of The Internet Rapper

It’s no secret that the Internet is a crucial tool to any artist in the twenty-first century. Not only does the web give artists an easy way to let the public hear their music, but it also gives them a direct line of communication with platforms like Twitter and Facebook. And in no musical community is the Internet more important than in hip hop. The emergence of mixtape culture has prompted rappers to release countless tracks for free online to build buzz and make a name for themselves. The ease in which artists can release tracks, and the speed at which these tracks can go viral, gives the web the ability to create superstars overnight.

ASAP Rocky

For example, take one of the newest Internet rap phenomenons, ASAP Rocky. After releasing just a handful of songs at the end of the summer, he signed a $3 million deal with Sony/RCA. That’s a lot of money for an unproven rapper who’s new to the scene. Although he did release the solid free mixtape LiveLoveA$AP right after signing the deal, there’s no way to tell if he will be able to deliver on the hype when he releases his major label debut. Did Sony/RCA jump the gun and sign him before he was ready?

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