It’s been nuts since September: between ending my first season at Summerstage, bouncing to Puerto Rico in the Fall, Colombia in December, New York for the holidays and most recently spending time in Los Angeles – I am happy to be sticking around the Rotten Apple for awhile.
Reflecting on 2011 was a great exercise and I wanted to reflect on 2012 – even if it’s February! We live in the Internet Age AKA THERE’S TOO MUCH MUSIC BEING MADE – but there isn’t anything like hearing an album or song that puts you in that place: where you want to be better. So thanks for another year!
Song: Sene – The Feel Reel
“They always told me as a Puerto Rican kid from Brooklyn, I needed to sound more like Pun. That shit used to piss me off.” I feel a lot of parallels with Sene. A Puerto Rican raised in the city, he’s a urban mutant. Like me, he moved to California for more than a couple of years, gained a ‘higher‘ perspective (also worked with the prolific LA emcee Blu) and moved back to the city literally to make a scene: a more soulful hip-hop reborn again out of Gotham city. He makes music with fellow artists out of a collective home called “The Clubhouse” somewhere in outer-Brooklyn. Besides his 2012, ‘Brooklynknight‘ (off seminal LA-label, Plug Research), Sene is part of another dope project with partner and fellow Clubhouse-kid, singer Denitia. Together they are Denitia & Sene: he writes the lyrics and she sings them, adding a dope dimension of femininity to the male love experience. We are one. They are one. And I can’t stop listening. Particularly this Sene song – ‘The Feel Reel‘ – was an anthem for me in 2012. I would listen to it to reaffirm why I continue to sacrifice for the art I think is important: “…with all of the fakes, amongst all of the snakes, you gotta ask what’s real.” This is a great profile on Sene on Fuse you should check out, too.
The Internet – Purple Naked Ladies
“She don’t give a fuck, she don’t give a fuck.” OFWGKTA’s Syd Tha Kyd (#SHERO) and Matt Martians put out an album late 2011 which I really absorbed in 2012. You know when you surface hear an album and then life unravels and the songs start to define that very unraveling? Yeah, that’s this album for me. As I am part of Generation N.E.R.D., there’s no mistaken the natural extension of The Neptunes influence on future generations and artists like The Internet. Syd on the cover of LA Weekly was also excellent: Syd The Kid on Odd Future, Sexuality and Why She Hates The Word Lesbian. Again, I guess I’m reflecting on the anthems of 2012 for me and ‘They Say‘ ft Tay Walker was def that: “You were built to be greatness, you can weather the storm…” = righteous. ANTHEM!
CONCERT: Ondatropica @ Lincoln Center
“Ondatrópica prizes the present as much as the past. Mr. Galeano’s band, Frente Cumbiero, was already fusing cumbia with electronics, dub and psychedelia; Mr. Holland’s project, recording a few old cumbias alongside many new songs and hybrids, was thoroughly compatible. The result is the vibrant, multigenerational two-CD album “Ondatrópica” (Soundway)“- NYTimes. Can you say #FUTUREROOTS? What a hot, sweaty, lovely night – one of my favorites of 2012. What’s cool is the night had been in the works for more than a couple of years since I had been in touch with Bill Bragin (Artistic Director) about Quantic. So cool to see the word actually spread onto a cross-generational, transnational stage like that – honoring the most important thing, THE MUSIC. Watch how Ondatropica came to be if you are unfamiliar.
SONG: Bomba Estereo – Bosque
This song represents the evolution of the Bomba Estereo-sound, the sound I fell in love with so much that I risked a lot to be a part of it when I was first having the guts to start conrazon. They put in so much work touring over the last couple of years, convincing audiences everywhere that at the intersection of Colombia’s folk and future lives a dimension which the entire world can feel. And it’s opening doors for so many other exciting Colombian groups with fusion vision living in two worlds of past and future. 2012 saw the release of the much-anticipated “Elegancia Tropical” – when I bumped into band leader and bassist Simon Mejia in Bogota this past December and happy to hear he’s already working on even more new music – bring it! Oh and their shows at Williamsburg Music Hall and Webster Hall were 2012 show highlights too.
Can you say case study? Miguel built his career on his own terms and the fruit blossomed for him this year. Beautiful to watch after seeing him grind away the LA open mic circuit, opening countless national tours while in the major label machine, releasing mixtapes, building his live show and toughening his skin. Dude has vision and the guts to do him. Relentless. My favorites off his ‘Kaleidescope Dream‘ are: ‘Do You…‘, ‘Where’s The Fun In Forever?‘, ‘The Thrill‘, ‘Candles In The Sun‘ (“Aren’t you appalled?“) And I love how he reps being half-Mexican. Here’s him reflecting on his not-so-perfect Spanish with Angie Martinez – TOTALLY RELATE DUDE!
Re-Issue: Ghetto Brothers “Power Fuerza”
Heard this while I was living in Puerto Rico and this song hit me like a ton of bricks: ‘Yo tengo una isla en mi corazon…” The nostalgia…very #FUTUREROOTS. Here’s a bunch of young urban Nuyoricans in 1972 calling out to their people, to their culture, to themselves – to keep it alive. According to Rolling Stone: “The Ghetto Brothers came to be known for their role in creating the Bronx street-party scene that would give rise to hip-hop. However, their own band was something else entirely – a boyish, bilingual, Beatles-crazed vocal group that created their own style of Latin rock before they ever heard about Santana. Around the time of the peace treaty, the band jumped at a local label owner’s invitation to record an album. Long out of print and highly prized by record collectors, Power Fuerza has just been reissued by the Brooklyn label Truth and Soul.” My friend Ed Morales wrote a revealing profile piece for ABC News / Univision that you should read: “The Story of How a Puerto Rican Jew Jump-started Hip-Hop.”
Show: Norah Jones @ Summerstage
The show was so wonderful that it forced me to really sit with her 2012 release “Little Broken Hearts” produced by Danger Mouse. NPR described the album: “it’s a reinvention, but not a radical one.” It’s a heartbreak album; super earnest which didn’t transport me as deeply until I could completely actually relate later in the year (see: “Good Morning“). Lush.
Song: Los Rakas – Magia
Los Rakas + A Harp + Love Raps
Album: Cody Chesnutt “Landing on a Hundred”
If you know me IRL, you know I’ve loved this man ever since I stopped dead in my tracks on 125th street in 2002 when he walked past me in theeeee most bold regal wacky soulman outfit – the actual definition of swag. It was that same year that his raw “Headphone Masterpiece” put him on the map (“…think that I’m a motherfuckin’ musical genius“). 2012 brought the follow-up to that rawness, the polished and vintage-dipped (recorded in analog at Al Green’s home studio in Memphis), “Landing on a Hundred” – partially funded on Kickstarter (#DIY). Lyrics to my favorite track, the soul-goth-jazz-gospel-baroque gut-wrencher, “Don’t Follow Me” and close second, the very relevant and timely, “What Kind Of Cool Will We Think Of Next?“:
“You can follow the wind
Follow your skin
Follow a tree
That follows the sea
Follow the stars
Follow who you are
But whatever you do, don’t follow me”
Mixtape: Zuzuka Poderosa & Kush Arora’s ‘Carioca Bass Mixtape’
Yes I work with Zuzuka. And yes I bump this mixtape still. RCRD LBL hit the nail on the head, “…a thick, 40-minute bootylicious ride put together by Kush Arora. Rooted in bass-heavy baile funk, the tape bangs through global ghetto sounds, from bhangra to soca crunk. Carioca Bass is definitely what Poderosa calls an ‘interracial music baby.’ What does that mean? That it’s time to learn Portuspanglish.” Zuzuka’s ‘Carioca Bass‘ EP is out now on Little Owl Recordings – stream it on FACT Magazine. Another great mixtape in 2012 was DC collective, Maracuyeah’s mixtape.
Album: Alain Clark – Generation Love Revival
When my boy Ben Kane – a talented sound engineer for everyone from D’Angelo to Al Greene to Emily King to Blitz The Ambassador – sends me music, I listen. After coming back from the Netherlands to work with Alain, Ben sent me the album – it was love at first listen. Melodic #truemusic soul for today with a quasi Prince/Bilal-like voice. He taps into a lot of themes I’m dealing with as an adult in 2013 – I FEEL HIM: Stress, Love, Freedom, Confusion, Alienation, Desperation, Partner-Love and Hope For Humanity. I love most songs on the album, but most especially my woman anthem of the year, “Woman Inside You“, “Anything“, “Let Some Air In“, “Generation Love Revival“, “Signal of Distress“, “I Got You On My Mind“, “Bringing Me Love” and “Release It” – yeah, I love this whole album.
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Jazz in hip-hop voice for late-capitalism.
Album: Young Ragga – Ragga Muffin Style
“Ganas gana gone gone far“: because there’s TOO MUCH MUSIC, TOO MUCH MUSIC IS MISSED. Luckily, my boy DJ Nature (whose place I subletted in PR in 2012) produced this album by upstart raggamuffin’ out of San Juan, Puerto Rico – Young Ragga. According to LargeUp, “The album is a refreshing return to the ’80s rub-a-dub era, infused with the lyrical flows and techniques of the present.” I def bumped this loudly from my temporary home in Santurce and it’s FREE – cop that: “Ragga es un lover!“
Video: Las Cafeteras – La Bamba Rebelde
When I met Daniel from LA-based Las Cafeteras last year in New York City, he gave me the demo for what would be their debut and the song which hit me immediately was ‘La Bamba Rebelde.‘ Since then, it’s been dope to watch the group flourish word-of mouth not only in their hometown of LA, but across the country after the release of their, “It’s Time” album: “We always say that we didn’t find the music, the music found us. I think we took it as a way to explore connections to our Mexican heritage and the power of the music to build community, tell stories from our communities, and create a more convivial and communal space” – Las Cafeteras from a thorough profile on KCET where you can begin on the group if you’re not familiar. I love the subsequent video for “La Bamba Rebelde” – to me, it shows the Los Angeles I miss so much – FAMILIA COMUNIDAD FUN HIP-HOP FOLKLORE LOVE AMISTAD. Oh and them crashing the streets of NYC during LAMC 2012 was a highlight. More big things for this group!
Concert: Monsieur Perine @ SOB’s
As part of my #FUTUREROOTS series in 2012, Colombia’s Monsiuer Perine made their NYC-debut: “On a bevy of acoustic instruments – including the ukulele-like charango, guitar, melodica, flute, clarinet, percussion, and upright bass – Monsieur Perine mixes swinging gypsy jazz with a sprinkling of pan-Latin sounds such as son, tango, and samba.” They are classy, virtuosos and bring a flavor unlike anything out there right now. Some footage from the show last year:
Video: Outernational – Todos Somos Ilegales ft. Tom Morello, Chad Smith + Residente Calle 13
Read this in Rolling Stone. Started working with Outernational this year. They did a lot in 2012 and touched a lot more people. They are on a mission and their eyes are on the prize. Until one person is called “illegal”, WE ARE ALL ILLEGAL.
Video: Santigold – Disparate Youth
#SHERO. Nuff said. Her 2012, ‘Master of My Own Make Believe‘ is brilliant and gets replay often. Especially the video for ‘Disparate Youth’ – emotional. Woman. Power.
Band: The Skins
I learned about this band of Brooklyn teenage punk badasses while looking for a dope opening act for an Outernational show. Refreshing as fuck to hear the youth ROCK THE FUCK OUT. Adrian Grenier (of ‘Entourage’) discovered them on his WreckroomTV platform and they’ve been growing every since. They rocked Afropunk in 2012 and held their own.
Album: Curumin – Arrocho
Criminally underrated, Curumin is a virtuoso paving his own sonic lane. He’s super #FUTUREROOTS, and on his 3rd album, Arrocho: ” Curumin has made a delicious modern MPB album, great Brazilian pop heavily tinged with electronica and an international outlook.”
SHORT & SWEET:
Website: Latino Rebels
Concert: ESG’s “Last Show Ever” @ LPR
Song: Zion I ft Goapele – “Life’s Work” (LISTEN)
Video: Junot Diaz on Bill Moyers (WATCH)
Show: DMX at SOB’s (READ)
Video: Xenia Rubinos – Hair Receding (WATCH)
Article: Why Radio Plays The Same 20 Songs (READ)
EP: Azealia Banks – 1991 (READ)
Show: Calle 13 at Prospect Park (LISTEN)
Show: Los Rakas @ Corona Capital in Mexico City (LOOK)
Article: How the Creative Response of Artists & Activists Can Transform the World (READ)
Show: Zuzuka 4/20 show in Bushwick
Show: Blitz the Ambassador @ Roskilde (WATCH)
Article: “Why Calling Obama “Progressive” Ignores His Record (LISTEN)
Band: Bazurto All Stars (LEARN)
Song: “The Road” – A Tribe Called Red (HEAR)
Show: Cultura Profetica in Puerto Rico
Band: Blayer Dujour & The Rockers Galore (HEAR)
Article: 600 Guitarists Play for Dehli Gang-Rape (READ)
Video: Why MTV Doesn’t Play Music Videos Anymore (WATCH)
Show: Ana Tijoux + Rebel Diaz (WATCH)
Article: How Bikini Kill Sparked the Riot Grrrl Movement (READ)
Article: Youth Chronicles: Riot Grrrl Reflections (READ)
Release: Captain Planet’s ‘Mystery Trip Vol. 1‘ (MIX)
Promoters: Maracuyeah in DC (LEARN)
Show: Beatnuts at A3C in Atlanta
Article: How To Live Without Irony (READ)
Show: Santigold @ FADER Fort (WATCH)
Show: Red Hot Chili Peppers @ Lollapalooza:
OTHER AWESOME END OF 2012 LISTS:
Sounds & Colours: http://bit.ly/Wlm8kA
Club Fononograma: http://bit.ly/YApogZ
Paul Dryden: http://spoti.fi/12dKyPa
Eddie Cota for LA Weekly: http://bit.ly/UoelUh
Dos Mundos: http://bit.ly/WVTh4M
KEXP & DJ Chilly: http://bit.ly/S1Uj3C
2012 SNAPSHOT VIA INSTAGRAM (NATICONRAZON):