As someone who doesn’t really follow sports, the Super Bowl kind of snuck up on me this year. And while you’re all getting ready to gorge on chicken wrapped in bacon (yum) and cheering for your favorite team, I’ll be looking forward to one thing, and one thing only: a series of concerts by Foo Fighters, The Roots, and Imagine Dragons which will be streamed live via RollingStone.com. The Roots will kick things off tomorrow night with a program dubbed “The Roots Present Hip-Hop NYC,” featuring appearances by Run-DMC, Busta Rhymes, and more. Friday will bring Imagine Dragons to the stage at 12 a.m. EST, and Saturday belongs to the Foo Fighters.
Perhaps the coolest part of all of this, besides the actual streaming, is that the performances will be taking place on an aircraft carrier stationed in the Hudson River. Check it all out beginning at 11pm EST tomorrow night.
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Not too long ago, Niño Lobos (translation: Wolf Boys) were just two guys, delivering tortillas by night and taking college courses by day. But then they decided to start a band. Now, like Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf, they’ve become something fierce. The Boise band’s youthful blend of hip hop and electro pop claws into your brain with hooks upon hooks. Hey Girl has got a fat funk bass line, stabs of reverb guitars and some serious girl problems. She got me like Stiffler in ˜American Pie’ / Scratch me up like Wolverine. But it’s Taking Over Stereos that could be and should be a monster hit. Part dance rock, part hip hop, the track is a free-flowing, adrenaline-fueled blowout. Over a compressed, percolating beat the duo name-checks anyone from Cypress Hill and Jonah Hill to Lupe Fiasco, Mr. T, Gorillaz, Run-DMC and more. If Niño Lobos keep dropping tracks like this one, some of those dudes will be name-checking them.
Hip hop groups have long had a major impact on the evolution of the genre. The Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Run DMC were some of the earlier influences later followed by the Wu Tang Clan, NWA and A Tribe Called Quest”just to name a few. But what is it about certain groups that we find so appealing? Some collaborating emcees have the ability to feed off of and compliment each other to create something that’s bigger than themselves.
Take a look at Wu Tang, for example: they have nine members (if you include ODB) with nine distinctive personalities, and each with a distinctly different flow, voice and lyrical style. What’s impressive is how, when combined, they still have one distinctive Wu Tang sound that is not defined by any single member¦ and of course their amazing depth of talent. Some of them have launched successful solo careers as well, but none have come close to surpassing the combined Wu Tang Clan clout. They do, however, frequently feature one another on their solo albums.
That being said, we’ve compiled a playlist for you that highlights some hip hop groups here at OurStage. These tracks all feature multiple rappers, so pay attention to their contrasting styles and let us know what you think!
Life as the daughter of a Pentecostal minister may be many things, but carefree usually isn’t one of them. DC pop vocalist and Jamerican Odelia Muir knows this all too well. After her father caught her singing Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds as a child, he condemned her taste in worldly music. Undeterred, Muir began expanding her musical horizons, listening to anyone from Jimmy Cliff to Anita Baker, Madonna, Bon Jovi and Run DMC. Her appreciation for both the sacred and profane can be heard in her light-handed songcraft that works reggae, soul and pop into soft and supple grooves. Rock Wit Me may sound like the name of a club banger, but the goal here is to wind your body like karma sutra, not beat up the beat. The ballad You steps back into the ˜80s, with a bubbling beat and retro sequencers, while Only For A Little Bit takes a simple strummed guitar and organic percussion and creates a breezy melody where Muir can showcase her island patois. When it comes to music, the singer is most certainly a global citizen. Thank God for worldly music.
In addition to breakout internet stars like The Astronomical Kid (14-year-old Brooklynite Brian Bradley), two other youngsters are taking the music industry by storm: Willow Smith (the 9-year-old daughter of Will and Jada Smith) and Daniel “Diggy” Simmons (the 15-year-old son of Rev Run). Though it’s hard to ignore the argument of nepotism with regard to Willow and Diggy’s meteoric rise to fame, there’s no question they are capitalizing on their genetic gifts and tenacious talent to launch their solo careers at an age when most kids are still thinking about a driver’s permit, or in Willow’s case, riding the big rides.
While young starlets are not a new trend”(think Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez) both Willow and Diggy have bypassed the typical Disney-tinged, tween idol approach and gone straight to the big leagues. Neither of their singles, Diggy’s “Oh Yeah” with labelmate Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell or Willow’s “Whip My Hair” scream teeny bopper kid” pop. Instead, both hold court with the hottest hits on the pop charts, giving their older counterparts a run for their money (and likely an award or two).
Diggy signed with Atlantic Records in March of this year after his debut mixtape, The First Flight, hit his blog in December 2009, garnering critical acclaim most notably for freestyling over Nas’ track “Made You Look.”
He also inked a deal to rep AT&T in a national TV ad campaign, proving his star power is strong enough to hawk expensive PDA’s to adults rather than lunchboxes and notebooks to kids. Diggy’s latest mixtape, Airborne, released through Atlantic in September seems to serve as a tasty teaser while he continues working on his debut full length album.
But Diggy was well known to the American public before his recent success. The budding rapper, designer, blogger and entrepreneur first arrived in our living rooms at tender age of 10 when his family’s hit reality show, Run’s House, aired on MTV in 2005. It’s not a stretch to see the musical prodigy (progeny) exploring a career in music considering his dad is legendary DJ, Rev. Run of Run DMC and his uncle Russell, heads up Def Jam”though Diggy claims no help from his dad or uncle in getting the deal with Atlantic. Diggy’s siblings including brother Jo Jo and older sisters, Angela and Vanes (from Rev. Run’s first marriage to Valerie Vaughn) also carved their own careers from the success of the show”launching, in Jo Jo’s case, a music career, while the sisters opted to start a shoe line, acting roles and star in their own MTV spin-off, Daddy’s Girls.
Willow Smith, on the other hand has been in the public eye seemingly from infancy, both as a style icon and as the daughter of one of the most compelling couples in Hollywood. Willow began her acting career at age 8 alongside mom, Jada Pinkett-Smith in Madagascar 2 before showing off her musical talents with her simultaneously kid-friendly and adult smash single, “Whip My Hair.” Shortly after the single was leaked online in September, Willow signed with Roc Nation where label President, Jay-Z compared her to a young Michael Jackson. The single has been so successful legions of young fans (and adults too) began making their own videos to the addictive tune. Willow’s official video for the track, which was directed by Ray Kay (Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga) and debuted on BET earlier this week, features some serious moves, guest appearances and one messy paint fight.
Rumors of a duet between Diggy and Willow seem inevitable. For the moment, we’ll just have to enjoy their musical (and marketing) genius individually.
Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.
Q: If a Tweet falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
A: Who cares.
Why debate philosophical malarkey while Justin Bieber is out there hogging 3% of our Twitter servers, and Lady Gaga gets to be the belle of the MTV ball by wearing a meat dress?
The point is, marketing methods that were formerly described as DIY (social media, shock frocks) are being deployed by artists who don’t need to focus on frugality, and that makes the playing field that much more crowded for unsigned acts. What’s an indie band to do to get attention on a budget? Kick out the jams.
The latest marketing trend is… music. Yes, the actual music. Bands seem to be crafting and curating songs for maximum rock ˜n’ roll attention. That could mean anything from writing novelty lyrics (meme mentions, news-du-jour references, sentimental stalker ditties) to strategically chosen cover songs. One blog suggests doing away with a song’s bridge to get more chorus-verse-chorus pop power. Tribute songs about the Double Rainbow dude are charting on iTunes, we swear. Apparently, there’s a little Weird Al Yankovich in most every burgeoning beat group.
Now, all to often, I’ll see an artist puttering around in something like Twitter, diligently tweeting into a fan-less void, lamented Mike, author of a recent post at the blog GarageSpin. Making a splash in the music industry requires a lot of hype, and a lot of artistry. Hype drives awareness. Great music creates fans.
The indie rock/jazz duo Pomplamoose has built buzz by putting its unique musical stamp on covers of pop staples. Multi-instrumentalists Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn are not known for playing live, but Pomplamoose has garnered a huge fanbase on their YouTube channel, about 3.8 million as of October 2010.
Join 5.3 million others and check out Pomplamoose’s cover of Lady Gaga’s Telephone on YouTube . The band’s take on the Michael Jackson classic Beat It and Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson are also crowd pleasers.
Cover songs are popular for a reason ” familiarity attracts fans of the original work, and can breed new fans, says Mike at the blog Garagespin. If you can produce a creative spin or meme from an existing popular concept or creative work, you may attract attention and fans. Perhaps this explains burgeoning indie rockers, The Beatles‘ rush to cover Gaga’s “Telephone” as well.
Whether you’re Joan Jett, Run DMC, Franz Ferdinand, Johnny Cash or a member of Glee‘s New Directions, it helps to know the basic decision chart you will need to plot out to master the perfect cover song. There are no right or wrong answers, of course. Do you choose a crowd pleaser or an under-appreciated gem that your group can own? Pick a song you truly love or one that you loathe for fun? Perform it by-the-numbers or give it a full makeover? Another option to consider: whether the song’s lyrics, artist or any other element have special relevance now or to some event in the near future.
Up and coming Detroit duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott) have gotten a bit of attention for their moody and thoughtful cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” OK, so they also perform in dorky NASCAR-style jumpsuits plastered with the logos of Cheerios, Lysol, Hamburger Helper and other brand sponsors, but sometimes a band likes to make an ironic lowbrow fashion statement to contrast with its arty intellectual music.
Take that, Gaga!
[Editor’s Note: Check out these great covers by OurStage artists! ]
Becky Ebenkamp is a pop cultural anthropologist and former West Coast Bureau Chief for Adweek Media. Becky has a radio show called Bubblegum & Other Delights that airs 7 to 9 PM PST every other Tuesday on www.killradio.org