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Band/Artist Profile

Hopscotch Profile: Leila Abdul-Rauf

Hailing from San Francisco, composer and general badass Leila Abdul-Rauf has been making and performing music, namely metal, for nearly her entire life. Her previous endeavors in the metal scene include the bands Saros and The Bastard Noise, and she remains active in Hammers of Misfortune, Vastum, and Ionophore.  While she is most widely known for her vocals, she is a true multi-instrumentalist, honing her abilities on the guitar, trumpet, piano, and synth, just to name a few.

But her latest solo album, Insomnia, is unlike her past work. She foregoes her signature doom  metal sound and instead opts for something more cerebral. There are no vocals, save for some haunting, ethereal wailing. Instead, the listener can relax and focus on the weaving of brass, piano for an unsettling, otherworldly sound.  It vaguely resembles Ionophore’s latest album Sinister Pools, or something Godspeed You! Black Emperor might think up after a handful of benzos. Drawing parallels between Insomnia and anything else proves difficult because Abdul-Rauf has created something poignant, introspective, and uniquely brilliant – an atmosphere all her own. It’s something personal and gorgeous without being pretentious. Definitely worth a listen.

 During Hopscotch, catch Leila Abdul-Rauf with Nathan A. Verrill at 11 PM on September 10th in Nash Hall.

 Listen to Insomnia HERE.

-DJ Case Sensitive 

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Band/Artist Profile

Hopscotch Artist Profile: Erykah Badu

Grammy Award winner Erykah Badu will headline Red Hat Amphitheater as a part of this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival. Badu is an R&B/soul artist, and all of her albums distinctly represent pop culture and human relationships from the time periods in which they were created. Her sound has morphed over time, but Badu has maintained her mellow storytelling style throughout her career. Her first album, Baduizm, has been her most popular. Baduizm is a relaxing listen, but it’s just as expressive as her subsequent releases. The album reflects on independence and love, with excellent vocals and instrumentation. Demonstrating her versatility, Badu has collaborated with André 3000, The Roots, Janelle Monáe, Lil Wayne, and Tyler, the Creator. Badu’s two New Amerykah albums possess the most variety in tempo and style, with some fully R&B songs and others more focused on electronic musicality and vocal experimentation. After rewriting Drake’s “Hotline Bling” in a track titled “Cel U Lar Device,” Badu recorded and released a full-length mixtape in late 2015. The album, But You Caint Use My Phone, fluidly blends Badu’s own vocal stylings and humor into a concise history of cell phone-themed songs.

Alongside her twenty years of musical releases, Badu is also an activist for people of color and women. She runs the charity Beautiful Love Incorporated Non Profit Development, which promotes the arts in inner-city areas. Most recently, Badu has committed to donating proceeds from her performances to test rape kits which were discovered in storage of the Detroit Police Department.

But You Caint Use My Phone is available on Spotify and iTunes. Erykah Badu performs at 8 pm on Friday, September 9 at Red Hat. The full Hopscotch schedule is available here.

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Band/Artist Profile

Artist Profile: Godspeed You! Black Emperor

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From their debut album in 1997 to their latest release this year, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have managed to keep it interesting while staying true to their post-rock roots. With tracks averaging fifteen minutes, every song is like album in itself, each heavy with crescendos of cymbals and aching guitars. In essence, they sound like the grandfathers of bands such as Explosions in the Sky, or have at least paved a way for music of the same nature. The name comes directly from the title of a 1976 Japanese documentary about a group of motorcyclists dubbed the Black Emperors.

Originally a trio from Montreal, Canada, the band’s roster of members peaked and dipped as local musicians joined and dropped. GY!BE stabilized as a band of nine after the release of 1996’s F#A#Infinity. The precision and grace that goes into building each album is immediately apparent upon first listen. Their latest album, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is emotional, stunning, and almost overwhelming. Their live performances are something incredible, turning each album into a unique aural and visual experience. GY!BE are the kind of band whose hands you’ll want to shake after a live set.  

Don’t miss this Canadian cult favorite on Thursday at City Plaza!

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Band/Artist Profile

Future Island 1000 Artist Profile: Danny Brown

Danny Brown is hip hop’s most interesting character to date. Not since Busta Rhymez has a rap artist straddled the lines of so many genres and embodied a persona that is so out of this world. Wearing black skinny jeans, studded leather jackets, and rocking a mohawk/flat top with green tips, he looks more like a punk rocker than a rap artist. However, Danny’s lyrics are the most authentic raps that the genre has seen in years. He rhymes about the streets of his hometown Detroit, but not in the braggadocious, semi-romanticizing way that we’ve become accustomed to in rap music. Brown’s lyrics are captivatingly introspective, often painting an ugly picture of what the impoverished landscape of Detroit looks like, many times in a way that’s downright scary.

He burst out onto the scene in 2010 with his first album The Hybrid after years of mixtape obscurity. Hybrid got him the following he needed to release his second album XXX which dropped on his 30th birthday. XXX was praised by nearly every music publication in circulation as the best rap album of 2011. With influences of old school hip hop, grime, drum and bass, indie rock, and more, XXX solidified Danny’s place as the music industry’s new mad man. He followed up XXX with Old in 2013, which boasted production from a wide array of producers who don’t have anything to do with mainstream hip hop (Purity Ring is one of them). He turned this eccentric trip into a billboard topping success that has cemented him into the conversation as one of the most creative rappers on the scene right now.

Personally I’m excited to see DB take the stage in Carrboro on Sunday. The last time he was in the area was at Cat’s Cradle last April and he tore the house down. Going through hits from Hybrid to Old, he had everyone in attendance singing along to the point that he took a break to let the crowd sing his songs for him. He obviously likes us here in NC after his last visit, so I’m expecting him to show the crowd at Future Islands 1000 some major love with an amazing set.

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Festival Coverage

Artist Profile: Priests

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If you’ve been to Hopscotch before, you know that sometimes the best shows are the ones you weren’t planning to go to. The bands whose names your eyes skipped over when perusing the schedule, simply due to unfamiliarity.

Washington DC’s Priests probably don’t care if you have no idea who they are. In the 80’s, DC gave rise to a legendary punk scene – but that doesn’t matter because Priests’ members (vocalist Katie Alice Greer and hip-name band mates Daniele Daniele and G. L. Jaguar) weren’t born yet.

Priests are a relatively new band, with only a few releases since 2012, most notably a full length release this summer, ominously titled Bodies and Control and Money and Power. While punk bands are a dime a dozen these days, and at times the genre can seem played out, Priests have gained some well-deserved attention for their energetic live shows and their politically charged lyrics.

Bodies clocks in at less than 20 minutes but it doesn’t let up once. That’s the same kind of overt energy and in-your-face attitude that you can expect from a Priests live show. Greer takes the stage like a woman possessed (is there an exorcism joke in here somewhere?) while her band mates contort and exhort their respective instruments with an eerily focused intensity. Punk done well is a visceral, raw, crazy experience, and Priests will surely deliver when they play at Deep South on Friday.

-Meggs Benedict