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Music News and Interviews

Vince Staples and the Vicarious Life of the Hip-Hop Fan

With the proliferation of cameras, satellites and other technologies that collect biometric data, it is easier than ever to track the location and behavioral patterns of individuals. The internet has made it possible for millions of people to spy on each other at will through social media and applications like Google Earth. This is the premise for the music video by rapper Vince Staples.

This video was produced as though we are watching through Google Street view, with some shots being stills and others containing movement. It takes place in “Norfy”, California, which is Vince’s nickname for his hometown of northern Long Beach. The camera follows Vince as he passes by other residents who are seen doing a variety of activities. In the end of the video, it is revealed that a teenager identified as “Lucas” has been watching these events unfold from his computer screen – when his name is called, he quickly closes his laptop and leaves the frame.

There are some details about Lucas that shed some light on the intersection of race, class, and the vicarious life of the hip-hop fan. Lucas is portrayed as a teenage white male; based on his room we might assume he is somewhere in the upper-middle class, and based on the “Free Kodak” poster on his wall we can deduce he is a hip-hop fan. Vince Staples knows his audience quite well – though hip-hop is one of the most diverse genres of music, people like Lucas make up a considerable chunk of its demographic. When a genre of music that is rooted in the struggle of an oppressed people is consumed by those who have not experienced that struggle, it becomes commodified as entertainment.

There is an irony in us watching someone watch someone else. To this end, I think “FUN!” serves as a criticism of not only Lucas, but the viewers themselves. After all, are we not spying on Vince as well?

– DJ Mango

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Music News and Interviews

My Concert Experiences

Before COVID, one of my favorite activities was seeing bands live. Now that I’m quarantining at home, I’m reflecting on my previous concert experiences. I made this TikTok to rate my different show experiences. I’ve also included a little bit more detail below in case you’re curious.

Mitski: 7/10

I gave this concert a 7/10 because the concert was incredibly cool. Mitski had just put out her third album, “Bury Me At Makeout Creek.” The songs she performed were emotional and it was a great show.

Mac Demarco: 3/10

This show was pretty decent, but while crowd-surfing, Mac Demarco kicked my Dad in the face and knocked off his glasses, which was not great.

Wavves: 1/10

This show was definitely not my favorite, the sound was really off and the band sounded a lot different live. I still enjoy their music but probably wouldn’t see the band live again.

Neutral Milk Hotel: 9/10

This show was part of NMH’s last tour. I really love the band, and their album “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” is a quintessential indie favorite. A truly unforgettable experience.

Cults: 10/10

This was one of my first concerts and one of my best. It was at a venue in Charlotte during Halloween and I was lucky enough to be able to meet the band afterward.

Hope you enjoyed my video and description, let me know if you want to see a part two!

– Miranda

*Disclaimer: these are my own views and experiences, and don’t reflect the views of the WKNC station as a whole.*

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Music News and Interviews

DJ Mango’s Vinyl Collection

Hey everyone! Between quarantine keeping everyone at home and moving into a new apartment, I’ve quite a lot of time to arrange my personal space. With so many records gathering dust in the corner of my room, I figured I would put some of my favorites on display! 

Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Touted as the world’s first “infinitely looping” album, Nonagon Infinity consists of 9 tracks that seamlessly transition into each other, with the last looping into the first. On top of that it’s a fantastic, proggy psych-rock album with a metal twist. Plus, it’s got a really neat green and black pressing!

Plastic Beach by Gorillaz

This project finds the fictional members of Gorillaz on a tiny island made of plastic, the furthest point from any other landmass in the world, where Murdoc produced the album. It also features some of their best hits like “Stylo”, “On Melancholy Hill” and “Some Kind of Nature”.

Reign in Blood by Slayer

Celebrated as one of the most influential thrash metal albums of all time, Slayer laid the groundwork for generations to come with Reign in Blood. The first Slayer song I ever heard was “Raining Blood” when I played Guitar Hero 3 when I was 12.

What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye

A true classic in every sense of the word. In some ways, I think the times we live in are similar to the times Marvin lived through, such as the Vietnam War and the Watts Riots of 1965. The message of universal love in the face of injustice is just as important today as it was in 1971, when this album was released.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel

After hearing this album for the first time, I was shocked to find it was released in 1998. To my ears, its sound is indicative of the 2000’s indie scene, only it came out the decade before. The album’s surreal lyrics and unique aesthetics lead to the immense cult following it now has.

Madvillainy by Madvillain

2004’s Madvillainy found emcee MF DOOM and producer Madlib at the height of their both creativity and evil powers. The result was one of the most unique and influential alternative hip-hop albums of all time.

Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

This album marked a tonal shift for Amy Winehouse: she traded the jazz/neo-soul sensibilities of 2003’s Frank for the doo-wop and classic soul found on Back to Black. It received praise for its dark portrayal of heartbreak and it is always in my rotation.

An Awesome Wave by Alt-J

Alt-J’s 2012 debut is an album that has defined my life since it was released. It’s a project that I find myself coming back to time and time again. Favorites include “Tessellate”, “Breezeblocks” and “Taro”.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill

This album is considered one of the greatest albums of all time by some, and for good reason. It effortlessly blends hip-hop, neo-soul, reggae, R&B, and soul while exploring themes of love, loss and faith. If you haven’t heard it yet (you’ve had 22 years to do so), please do yourself a favor and put it on. Fans of any genre can find something to love in this album.

That’s all! Do you collect vinyl? If so, what are some favorites from your collection?

– DJ Mango

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Music News and Interviews

JPEGMAFIA, Abdu Ali and Gender Nonconformity in Hip-Hop

JPEGMAFIA on the cover of his 2019 release All My Heroes Are Cornballs
Abdu Ali on the cover of their album Fiyah!!!

It is no secret that hip-hop values masculinity. The most popular rappers – even those who are not men – display traditionally masculine traits such as self-reliance, power, and aggressiveness (note I am not saying these traits are necessarily masculine, however, in a historical sense they have been presented as such). However, where there is an established norm there will undoubtedly be resistance to that norm. In this post, I will be exploring two artists who challenge the established norms of gender within the hip-hop genre.

Since his rise to popularity after the release of Veteran in 2018, JPEGMAFIA has become a favorite for hip-hop bloggers (whom he has no shortage of choice words for). People like to praise his experimental production choices and confrontational lyrics, but I don’t see many talking about the defiance of gender norms within his music. Nowhere is this more apparent than his 2019 release All My Heroes Are Cornballs. Though he makes some of the most aggressive music I’ve ever heard, Peggy appears notably vulnerable on this album. From wearing flowy silk clothing on the album’s cover to adopting a feminine persona in songs like “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot” and “Thot Tactics”, JPEGMAFIA has shown he is unconcerned with traditional constructions of masculinity.

JPEGMAFIA collaborator Abdu Ali is similarly unconcerned with gender conventions. As an unapologetically black and queer artist, they embody the masculine and feminine in a way that is both captivating and memorable. I had the privilege of seeing them live when they opened for Peggy at his 2019 A Tribute to Buttermilk Jesus show in New York. Their stage presence was unmatched – at one point, I remember they entered the crowd and had us all sit down before screaming at the top of our lungs. It was a truly visceral experience.

There you have it. This was by no means an exhaustive list of artists defying gender norms in hip-hop, only a few that I find the most exciting. The fact that even mainstream artists – such as Tyler, the Creator, Young Thug, Princess Nokia, and Lil Uzi Vert – are exploring these themes seems indicative of a shift in the culture, and who knows? Maybe one day we will see the dismantling of gender norms in hip-hop once and for all.

– DJ Mango

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Music News and Interviews

Chip’s Guide to Surf Music

King of the Surf Guitar

Quarantine crazies got you down? Do you need a break? A getaway from the humdrum of everyday, normal life? Well here at WKNC we can’t offer you that, but we can offer some great music for when you finally do.

Surf music has always had a special place in my heart. It first arose in California in the early 60s, pioneered by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones. Their music was mostly instrumental with heavily reverbed guitar riffs, made to mimic the sounds of waves crashing on the beach. It is truly a visually descriptive style of music, perfect for transporting your mind to memories of summer. No matter where I am or what time of year it is, those upbeat melodies take me back to visions of cruising down a beach road. Top down, sun in my eyes, the wind rolls through my hair as I hear the waves crash onto white sand beaches. This is a feeling that comes with only a few artists, and I would like to share them here in an attempt to give you the same feeling that I hold so dear.

Miserlou, King of the Surf Guitar, Let’s Go Trippin’ by Dick Dale
Starting off the list hot and heavy, we have the three best songs ever made by Dick Dale. The fast paced intro to Miserlou emulates the chaos felt when a wave takes control of your surfboard as you first drop down. However, the next two songs are much more lighthearted. The female background chorus in King of the Surf Guitar chimes in perfectly with the strong riffs of guitar made throughout the song. Finally, the bouncy melody of Let’s Go Trippin’ is a perfect representative of the fun, upbeat style of Dick Dale’s music style.

Catamaran, Sandy, Ferus Gallery, Don’t You Forget It by Allah-Las
Allah-Las is a fairly old band that’s been producing pretty solid beach music for a while now. Theirs is much more relaxing and laid back than that of the early 60s style while still bringing that same summer feeling. Ferus Gallery is completely instrumental and probably the most reflective of their style of music, however the background harmonies on Catamaran and Sandy are unmatched.

 
Sol Del Sur (EP) by Surf Room
This EP by the band Surf Room represents a good transition of the surf music genre to surf rock, which is a little heavier but still captures the same energy given off by surf music. Sol Del Sur has a great rhythm and is by far my favorite song on the EP, however Summer’s Here is another great representation of the lighthearted, fun kind of music that makes up surf rock. 

Other great honorable mentions: Surf Rider (LP Version) by The Lively Ones, California Sun by The Rivieras, He’s a Doll by The Honey’s, Golden Earrings by The Hunters, and Bustin’ Surfboards by The Tornadoes.

-Chip 

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Music News and Interviews

Let’s Find Something New!

I have a horrible habit of listening to the same songs over and over again. I find some songs I like, I put them on a playlist, and I don’t look for new music for weeks. Working as a DJ for WKNC has helped to break me out of this habit a bit more, but with the help of the 2020 quarantine summer, I fell back into the same pattern of repetition. As March, April, May, June, and July all seemed to blend together into one insanely long month, I found that my playlist, which was very fittingly titled “doing nothing,” was not helping me feel productive or creative.

I was slowly growing out of my taste for rap and R&B after finding more of an interest in classic rock and the blues, but the comfort of my old music kept me from venturing into the depths of Spotify to find something new. You know when you watch the same episodes of a TV show or movie, even though you’ve seen them a thousand times, just to decompress? A similar phenomenon was happening to me and my music.

It’s easy to stay with the same music we listened to as teenagers, for these sounds have helped build our identities. We all have (hopefully) grown and changed since high school, but sometimes our music taste stays stuck in the past. Though this is not necessarily a bad thing, I think it’s important to keep discovering music and other new things we like as we get older. I love revisiting “AM” by the Arctic Monkeys every once in a while to get a rush of middle school nostalgia just as much as the next person, but I’m glad that I’ve moved onto new horizons.

It can be overwhelming and time-consuming to dive into Spotify blindly in search of new tunes, but the feeling of emerging victorious with a few new songs that bring you joy is a lovely feeling. Another strategy I like to use is going to the thrift store and finding a vinyl with the coolest record sleeve I can find. Asking a friend to make you a playlist is also a great way of finding new music, as well as listening to WKNC!

– DJ butter

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Music News and Interviews

Some of WKNC’s Top Adds recently!

Hello everyone who browses our blog,

I’m Buzz, and when I’m not DJing my own personal sets, I’m working as the Daytime Music Director. What this means is that I choose songs that play on-air at WKNC when a live DJ isn’t in to play their own music. I specifically choose songs to play during our Daytime segments, which are indie/alternative rock.

Here’s some artists and tracks I’ve added recently.

The Beths- If you don’t listen to The Beths, what are you doing? They’re so good. This song has been stuck in my head a lot recently. RIYL Charly Bliss, illuminati hotties, eating ice cream outside during summer, the like.

Madeline Kinney- For those of you that like the more chill, slow indie stuff in the vein of Big Thief and Phoebe Bridgers. Check out this song.

Fontaines D.C.- I only recently jumped on the hype train for these guys, and dang I was missing out so much. This is the coolest song I’ve heard recently. RIYL Ought’s song “Beautiful Blue Sky,” which is also a super cool song.

IDLES- Grounds. Definitely my favorite of the three singles they’ve released so far from their upcoming album, Ultra Mono, out late September. Y’all know I’ll be adding a ton of stuff from that new album. RIYL the song above (I have gotten so obsessed with all this new (post?-)post-punk stuff recently), pretending your a British person in the 1980s fighting against inequality or something like that.

Dream Nails- Vagina Police. I actually hadn’t ever heard of this group until like, a day ago, when I was getting a ton of emails about it. Good stuff. RIYL if you like punk songs that are under two minutes long, and local Triangle punk legends The Muslims and BANGZZZ. 

I hope you found your next favorite band on this list!

-Buzz

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Music News and Interviews

Bossa Nova Delights

If you tune in to 88.1 on Tuesdays right before noon, you may hear the sweet sounds of Stan Getz, João Gilberto, or Antônio Carlos Jobim. I like to end my show on WKNC with a sendoff from one of my favorite genres: bossa nova.

Bossa nova literally translates to “new wave” in Portuguese. Mostly stemming from Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s and 60s, it is a fusion of samba and jazz. The genre is recognized by its steady beats, classical guitar, and light percussion. Popular among the young, growing Brazilian middle class, it gained notability through João Gilberto and his 1958 single “Chega de Saudade,” composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim. The two would later go on to collaborate on several more albums, all laying the foundations for making bossa nova an international genre. Jobim also worked with saxophonist Stan Getz on their most notable album “Getz/Gilberto,” which contains one of the most popular songs of all time, “The Girl from Ipanema.”

Bossa nova also has a really fascinating political history. Under a new military dictatorship in the 1960s, bossa nova was slowly censored and eventually banned. Bossa nova lyrics, which typically focus on light topics such as love and Brazilian beaches, were seen as unfit for the times and therefore left in the past. Out of this social unrest, musicians formed new styles of music that better reflected the feelings of the Brazilian people, most specifically the working classes, based on the sounds of bossa nova, modern rock, and traditional Brazilian music. Some of these include tropicalia and música popular brasileira.

My mom’s side of the family is Brazilian, so I grew up listening to bossa nova. I have fond memories of my grandpa teaching me how to dance while we listened to “Aquarela do Brasil.” It is a comforting sound and something I consider part of my own cultural heritage. If you’re interested in listening, here are some classics for easy listening:

1. Insensatez – Stan Getz & Luiz Bonfá
2. Roda-Viva – Chico Buarque
3. Mas, Que Nada! – Jorge Ben
4. Carta Ao Tom 74 – Vincius de Moraes, Toquinho, & Quarteto Em Cy
5. O Grande Amor – Stan Getz & João Gilberto Quintet
6. Corcovado – Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim, & João Gilberto
7. Aquarela do Brasil – João Gilberto
8. The Girl from Ipanema – Stan Getz & João Gilberto
9. Chove Chuva – Jorge Ben
10. Chega de Saudade – João Gilberto

All sources for this blog can be found here, here, and here.

Feliz escuta!

DJ butter

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Music News and Interviews

Creativity in Quarantine

Quarantine got you down? Join the club.

We’re all dealing with our newfound solitude differently. Some make sourdough, some go on long walks, some spend hours in front of their Zoom camera, trying to stay undistracted during online classes (me).

As a designer and artist, I’ve found it really hard to stay motivated over these past five months. I have had crazy bursts of creativity where I’ll spend all day working on a piece, followed by weeks of not even wanting to pick up my sketchbook. Considering freelancing has been my only source of income this summer, it’s been stressful to keep up a consistent schedule amidst feelings of impending virus doom.

I came to the realization that it’s perfectly okay to feel overwhelmed and unmotivated right now. Staying creative in isolation can act as both a way of coping and a burden. Because of this, I also have enormous respect and appreciation for the artists who ARE producing great work despite the circumstances.

Here are some of the highlights from my quarantine playlist, all released this year:

1. Flatbush Zombies: now, more than ever – EP, Afterlife – Single 

Both of these pieces are amazing reflections of the Black Lives Matter movement. They are incredibly powerful and I 10/10 recommend.

2. EARTHGANG: Powered Up – Single, End of Daze (feat. Spillage Village, Jurdan Bryant, Mereba, & Hollywood JB) – Single

End of Daze is perhaps one of my favorite songs right now. A really stand-out lyric that captures this year in a nutshell is “Mask on, mask off/ face the future/ like high noon.”

3. Khruangbin: Moredechai – Album

Mordechai has given me a break from the craziness of the world and a nice background sound to relax too. They are the ultimate masters of smooth tunes.

4. Orions Belte: 600m per minute – EP

Though only comprised of three songs, they’re all equally tranquil instrumentals played by the same band that released “Joe Frazier” in 2018.

5. Thundercat: It Is What It Is – Album

I would like to say that it is absolutely insane that this album came out four months ago; it feels like two years have gone by since April. Nevertheless, Thundercat is at it again with his bass skills.

6. Mike Moon: Radnotsad – Song from jopippin’s album “Digital Native”, Wild West (feat. Renzo Suburbn)

Mike Moon, Renzo Sububn, and jopippin are all Raleigh locals! Otherwise known as being some of the members of Dotwav Media, their unique rap-punk style is fantastic. Vocalist Mike Moon in particular has a real great sound to his solo work.

 Peace,

DJ butter

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Music News and Interviews

Kanye West Alignment Chart

Are you a Kanye West fan that also likes Dungeons and Dragons? If so, welcome to the club – there’s several of us! Below is my take on 9 Kanye albums according to the DnD alignment system:

Jesus is King (Lawful Good)​: This album represents Kanye at his most (self) righteous. Every year marks the emergence of a new Kanye, and in 2019 he announced he was committed to rapping for God and God only. Perhaps it was an early onset of the manic episode fueling his 2020 presidential run, but I believe his intentions were pure on Jesus is King.

Graduation (Neutral Good)​: On this album, Kanye spends more time celebrating his achievements than criticizing the establishment. For this reason, Graduation is aligned with Good without any leanings towards law nor chaos.

ye (Chaotic Good)​: In my opinion, ye represents Kanye at his most vulnerable, and it is undoubtedly chaotic. This album ranges from the manic highs on “Ghost Town” to introspective lows on “I Thought About Killing You”. All of this paints a vivid picture of Kanye as a highly flawed superstar who, deep down, still has a lot of heart.

Kids See Ghosts (Lawful Neutral)​: With tracks like “Kids See Ghosts” and “Reborn”, KSG is one of Kanye’s most meditative projects, and balances the forces of good and evil.
808s & Heartbreak (True Neutral)​: By far Kanye’s most depressing work. There is no preoccupation with good nor evil, law nor chaos on 808s – just heartbreak.

The Life of Pablo (Chaotic Neutral)​: As the album that Kanye famously released multiple times, it’s easy to see that TLOP is chaotic. It also has a healthy balance of good (“Ultralight Beam”, “Real Friends”) and evil (“Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”, “Freestyle 4”) that cancel out for a neutral alignment.

Watch the Throne (Lawful Evil)​: The power trip that gave us My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is still evident of 2011’s Watch the Throne with Jay-Z. This album is all about being at the top and staying there by any means necessary.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Neutral Evil)​: MBDTF oozes decadence and indulgence. If this album were a period in Roman History, it would be the late period. Songs like “Hell Of A Life” and “POWER” exemplify why this album aligns with Neutral Evil.

Yeezus (Chaotic Evil):​ Yeezus found Kanye at the height of his God complex – case in point: “I Am A God”. Furthermore, the jagged, industrial production throughout lends itself to the chaotic alignment.

That’s it! What do you think of my Kanye West alignment chart? What do you agree with? What would you change?

– DJ Mango