Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail
It’s 2013. And in 2013, artists are trying their hardest to come up with new and innovative ways to release records. Kind of like a few years back, when Radiohead tried releasing their record on their own with a pay-what-you-will model, now pop musicians are trying all kinds of kooky app-related and smartphone-based marketing ploys. Try to hate the game if you want, but it’s probably going to be an uphill battle, and, really, can you hate the player? During Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Mr. Carter unleashed a whopper of a commercial (it’s practically a mini-documentary at three minutes in length) for his next banger, which’ll be available on June 24 to Samsung Galaxy phones via an app obtainable through Google Play, with a proper street date of July 4.
Aside from all of that capitalistic commercial business, the music sounds pretty hype. And no wonder: He recruited some of the biggest producers and some of his best friends, it seems, to get in on it. Rick Rubin’s here; so’s Timbaland, Pharrell, obviously—and Swizz Beatz. “Pretty much the album is about this duality of how do you navigate your way through this whole thing? Through success and failures and all this and remain yourself?” Jay asks. “We don’t have any rules. The internet’s like the Wild West, and we need to write the new rules.” Some of these beats and vibes sound super-fresh, and it’s actually pretty sweet watching Jay dialogue with the producers, tweaking and playing with sounds.
Drizzy’s Touring with Miguel and Future
In anticipation of his forthcoming Nothing Was the Same, Drake has announced a 41-stop national tour to support the new LP, and he’s dragging Miguel and Future along with him the whole way. BONUS! At this point, Miguel might be the more compelling performer on the tour, at least from our perspective. From commercial radio’s viewpoint? This is a big get. Drake’s never gonna shake my image of him in a wheelchair on Degrassi, while Miguel’s soulfulness knows no bounds. They’ll touch down at Wells Fargo on Saturday, Oct. 19, but tickets go on sale this Saturday, June 22, at 10am.
He’s shared the singles “Started From The Bottom” (62.5 million views in five months), and there’s a low-key, low-budget video for “5AM in Toronto,” but other than that, there aren’t a ton of details about the mysteriously-to-be-released new LP. It’ll certainly be out before the tour. See, we’re not so sure Drake’s got what it takes to last nearly as long as Jay has, but as confirmed by Drizzy’s appearance at Made in America last summer, it is confirmed that Philadelphia goes bizzonkers for the 26-year-old Canuck. So tickets’ll no doubt move quickly, and it might actually behoove you to snatch some up this weekend.
Alas, working at a restaurant prevented a full take-in of the Roots Picnic’s entire lineup. For a show that starts right at noon, with the Roots and Naughty By Nature closing out the night by taking the stage at 8:30pm, it’s a small wonder if any Picnic attendees took in all 16 sets. No wonder the Festival Pier felt relatively empty until hordes of concert-goers started streaming in as we left during Grimes’ 4:05pm set. Here are some things we saw, heard and learned on Saturday.
1. Being my first Picnic, the day started off a little rocky because I went to the Penn’s Landing Festival Pier—the wrong one. Strange how they’re basically titled the same thing but are miles apart. I felt better knowing that I wasn’t the only confused one; some teenagers with Joey Bada$$ t-shirts on were directed by Pier staff to go down to the light and take a right. As I hustled north on my bike to try to catch Lushlife’s set, I noticed a steady stream of obvious migrators from Old City along Columbus Avenue.
2. In a pretty bonehead move, I didn’t look closely enough at the fact that there was a main stage and a tent and that they’d switch back and forth. Smart move. Just didn’t read the fine print. So I was pretty bummed to miss what Lushlife did in the tent as I arrived about halfway through his set and strolled around looking for the best line for a hot dog. IDIOT.
3. Robert Glasper Experiment was the first Main Stage act, and it was, well, a little weird. Funky, no doubt, and inspired by great R&B and soul like Stevie Wonder, plus a little Prince and our own Bilal. But what I couldn’t get over was that pretty much every note sang was fed through a vocoder, making everything feel a little mechanical. They did a twist on “No Church in the Wild” and that was chill, even if every time I hear it now, I think of Dodge Darts in the desert.
4. Thank goodness I got a text from a friend that Trinidad James was poppin’ off in the tent. My girl and I hauled ass and pushed our way in just in time to catch “All Gold Everything.” The tent was a pretty uncomfortable situation. There were a couple of two-door-wide entrance/exits, and the doors weren’t even tied open, so people coming in and out had to hold doors open as a courtesy for the stream of folks coming and going. Then you got inside, and it felt like you could cut the air with a butter knife. Sticky, sweaty and hot TJ fans were feeling him, though, shouting out every single word to his hit (including the very easily crowd-participatory “woo!”). But “All Gold” was basically all he had. The air was let out of his set afterwards, and it was time to get the hell out of there.
5. Damn, it was hot. I had on SPF 60 and still got a serious burn on my shoulders. And as the day went on, everyone started to look a little like zombies; zombies who wanted refreshments and vended goods. Man, those lines were LONG. I waited 10 minutes to spend $12 on a hot dog and a bottle of water. I indulged in a glass of white wine, but for $8.50, you got a basically XXL thimble. Beers were upwards of $13. Later on, around 3:30pm, when all I wanted was a cola, the lines looked unbearable. Must’ve been a 30-minute wait, minimum.
6. How to Dress Well was a huge disappointment, to be frank. I love his records, but live, he just wasn’t doin’ it for me (even though he covered Janet Jackson’s “Again”). He didn’t really play any of his singles, and halfway through, I stared to think, Alright, let’s get Solange up there.
7. I planted it by one of the only trees in the facility and stayed in half-shade for an hour or two so that I could have a good spot to take in Solange. That girl was the highlight of my day. She turned it out and looked re-fucking-diculously cute. She dances. She had braids to flip around. Her guitarist was new and so enthusiastically miming funk. Her background singers kind of looked like her. She did a handful of songs from the excellent True EP, including “Some Things Just Never Seem to Fucking Work” and closed out her set with “Losing You.” She threw in “Stillness is the Groove,” a Dirty Projectors track, that she did all dubby and soulful. The crowd was eating out of her hand.
8. At this point, the space was swelling and filling up. The heat was getting to me, and I started judging style. There were, as expected, some very questionable fashions—a mix of “Put some more clothes on!” and “Jesus, why are you wearing pleather metallic leggings?!” Made In America was the same. Feeling our age, my girlfriend and I said “These kids are bold. We were more conservative teenagers.” To be 30+ at an outdoor pop festival is one weird mind-fuck.
9. Grimes was just plain bizarre. She had dancers, which was cool, but her just bugging out behind a couple knob-twisty keyboards, flipping her insane hair around and mean-mugging like there was no tomorrow was lost on just about everybody. Even fans. The first synth runs of “Oblivion” came on, and the crowd got excited, including yours truly, but then it turned into some weird remixed version, almost unrecognizable. I guess I’m just much more of a fan of her recorded work and won’t try that hard to make it to any future shows.
10. I texted for a report of the rest of the night from a friend and, here, anonymously, you get her texts: “Gary Clark was phenomenal, Macklemore was great even though his fans are annoying as shit, and the Roots were great, but fucking TEDIOUS. They kept breaking up their set with this dude scatting and doing improvisational jazz. BORING. Naughty By Nature KILLED. Just as good as ever. They didn’t even look like they’d aged.” There you have it.
A little bee dropped this gem onto mah Facebooks earlier this week, and I wasn’t ready for this jelly. Oddly, “Bubble Butt” was far and away my favorite track on the mediocre sophomore follow-up, Free The Universe, a limp effort compared to the instant classic Guns Don’t Kill People … Lazers Do. Well, the fourth single just dropped from it, and it’s the album’s saving grace (Spin agrees): the Bruno Mars, Tyga and Mystic joint “Bubble Butt”—and it’s got a video. Holy hell, does it have a video.
And not surprisingly, they went with Eric Wareheim to helm this one. You got it: That’s Eric of the Tim & Eric duo. He’s responsible for the eye-bugging daggering-full video for “Pon de Floor,” too—now, two of the best videos in their video-heavy YouTube’s presence. Wareheim’s an Owl, guys! Diplo and Wareheim have one twisted, bugged out visionary partnership, and we are not mad.
I’d like to lift this from Stereogum’s Clare Lobenfeld: “The clip features three girls still riding the #seapunk wave, lackadaisically twerking for Tumblr until they’re confronted with a booty-popping she-giant of sorts. The result is bouquet of bountiful butts bouncing along to guest vocals from 2 Chainz, Bruno Mars, Tyga and Mystic. It is absolutely not safe for work, unless bethonged bottoms are OK in your office.” Which is funny, because I went around the office yesterday and tried to get as many people to watch it as possible.
Song of the summer contender!
This is a helpful little breakdown so you can plan your day of hydration and skin protection. Oh, and here’s our little reimagined Roots Picnic that found its way into the paper this week (and online). And big ups to Adam Mazur for the charming illustration he provided. Here’s how my mind works:
With everyone kickin’ back this past weekend, celebrating Memorial Day the best way we know how—by grillin’ and drinkin’ on porches and in Fairmount Park—we couldn’t help wondering what the scene would be like if a few of the slew pegged to turn in sets at the Roots Picnic this weekend were actually the Roots’ guests at a picnic at the Plat. What kind of party would that be? Would it involve cheesesteaks? Answer: Fun, and hopefully not.
- Grimes would bring the metal armor and neon pink hair extensions she used in the outstanding 10 million-viewed video for “Genesis” for shits and giggles. As a Canuck, she’d be a well-behaved guest who was sure to clean up after herself and bring a side dish in some Tupperware. Cole slaw, maybe?
- How To Dress Well’s a toughie, being that Tom Krell’s a pretty low-key and quiet personality. He might bring a small keyboard for R&B jamming’s sake and would obviously be dressed well, perhaps in a modern summer-weight suit.
- Gary Clark Jr. is a Texan, and Texans know how to barbecue. So we’re thinking he’d bring ribs, rub, some sauce and some blues to man the grill. No question he’d bring a guitar to the table to quietly wail out some American sadness.
- Solange would be the belle of the ball, in all likelihood, the tall drink of water a vision before the Schuylkill in a sensible but stylish vintage dress, bearing small bottles of bubbly with straws and a handful of pansies.
- Macklemore and Ryan Lewis would undoubtedly be in thrift store duds, and maybe Mack’d don a spring fur, but one thing’s for sure: His hair game would be tight, fully styled with product and perhaps packing backup in case it got windy.
- Finally, the real party boy would be Trinidad James. He’d bring the kush, we’re pretty sure, or a bong or a blunt or papers or spliff. He’d hopefully sport plenty of gold to shine in the summer sun—ideally, in the form of gold-studded slippers as part of a tricked-out goody bag. And he’d win “Most Likely to Bring Purple Drink.” Hands down.
Sat, June 1. Noon. Sold out. Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, Columbus Blvd. and Spring Garden St. ticketmaster.com
Can the looker from London take down the Child of Destiny?
In Vol. Three of one of our favorite imaginary activities of all time, we’re caging up Kelly Rowland and Charli XCX to see who emerges as the last female standing in heels. Kelendria’s a fitting pick, too, seeing her tag team partner, Beyonce, has emerged victorious over Jill Scott and Rihanna in Volumes One and Two. The chips are pretty stacked against the rookie Charli XCX, but her debut record’s pretty on-trend. At first thought, it seemed like it might be a good idea to mix up the categories, to make it a more interesting match. But upon reflection, these point-bearing categories should determine a fair and deserving victor. The two have back-to-back Philadelphia tour stops (Kelz is at the TLA, and Charli’s at Union Transfer), and word on the street is that they’re planning to squash some beef with a knockdown drag out brawl around midnight right after Charli’s set. Let’s preview who’ll prevail.
There’s pretty much no question about this. Hoodness used here is meant to capture how nasty a diva will get. Sass is paramount in the grading of a pop singer’s divadom. Will she read you? Will she shame with a mere look when you disappoint her? Kelly’s got this one. She’s Atlanta-born, Houston-bred and has been known to associate with some hood-ass dudes: Wiz Khalifa and Pusha T are on her June-expected Talk a Good Game; Lil Wayne and Big Sean are on 2011’s excellent Here I Am. Charli’s essentially just a quirky and fun-loving party girl with an edgy attitude. Doesn’t get you far on this one, little minx.
Kelly: 4 points, Charli: 0 points
Well, Charli’s vocal on the Icona Pop single “I Love It” certainly skyrocketed the hit into the stratosphere. And while True Romance has its moments of beautiful vocal barrages, it’s the production and the vibe that really pulls it into a strong cohesive statement. It’s fun, and fun tracks often don’t require range runs and throat acrobatics. Kelly’s proven herself to be a talented singer in her own way. Each of the Destiny’s Child girls have their own unique talent, but Kelly’s got a nice diversity to her pipes; she can do slow and sultry, confessional (she annihilates it on her brand new “Dirty Laundry”), dance-floor banger or bouncy pop hit. Without much else to go on, looks like Kelz is gonna grab this one, too.
Kelly: 3 points, Charli: 2 points
SALES & SINGLES
Not sure Charli’s got that much steam at this point. She went down hard in Round One but put up a fight in the last. She’s young! She’s inexperienced! She didn’t see this beating coming. Charli’s only 20, but her penned shared “I Love It” is 4x platinum in Australia and just regular ole’ platinum in the USA. Not sure Kelly can say that about any one single, other than a Destiny’s Child number, that’s performed so well. But with four LPs and a hugely successful run with D-Child, Rowland’s beating the London Kitten to a pulp.
Kelly: 4 points, Charli: 1 point
Kelly’s always kind of been in the shadow of Beyonce, which must hurt. Her solo albums have never done the kind of numbers that would establish her as an international star, but fans who know what’s what and are down with her honest R&B soul know the truth: Kelly is fierce. “Commander?” That shit is club gold. But if Charli has anything going for her, it’s youth. Her solo album’s only just begun the journey she’s embarking on, and frankly, she’s got some of that M.I.A. culture-blending savvy that’s gonna take her far. But age has turned out to be Kelly’s strongest weapon. She’s stopped slamming Charli’s head against the mat as she straddles her shoulders, and the ref’s coming over to lift up Ms. Kelendria Rowland’s chiseled arm to end this one before it gets too ugly.
Kelly: 3 points, Charli: 4 points
GRAND TOTAL: Kelly Rowland wins with 14 points; Charli XCX loses with 7 points.
Beyonce – “Grown Woman“
YES! A thousand times yes! It wasn’t too long ago that we were fed this wild card from Bey in the form of “Bow Down/I Been On.” But now we get a proper single from what must be her forthcoming next LP. Word is that she’s been performing this one on her Mrs. Carter World Tour (with a baby in her uterus). But the jangly, house-y production with hiccupy bongos, funny little samples and bouncy beat blips is so damn listenable—as in, over and over and over, beginning to end. Song of the summer contender!
Tricky – False Idols
This man is a genius mixed with a god blended with a madman, and the product is entirely his own—meaning nobody does what Tricky does as well as he does. And this one, out next week but streaming on NPR, is probably his best since Maxinquaye. You read that right. He even riffs on “Makes Me Wanna Die” on the track “Nothing’s Changed.” He employs two lady voices, and the result is tripped-out, sensuous R&B and electronic darkness.
Kelly Rowland – “Dirty Laundry“
Oh, man. This is deep. With little fanfare, Ms. Rowland dropped a Soundcloud link of one sad but honest reflection on some dark times she’s been goin’ through—from the “bittersweet” jealousy she felt over the success of her sister Bey to the domestic abuse she’d been silently enduring. It’s not so often that you get a talented pop star spilling her guts in a less-than-glamorous fashion. When it’s actually a gut-wrenching R&B slow jam, it’s really stunning.
It’s here! The record so many rabid fans have been waiting for, their first since the (some would say) relatively ill-received Human After All (2005). And while we’re willing to throw a little shade on the sorta-boring Panda Bear feature, there’s nothing not fun about the Pharrell spot on “Get Lucky.” It’s on sale today and on Spotify, and we’re really looking forward to settling in with this one.
Busta Rhymes – “#Twerkit“
Yup, I guess this is now officially the thing to do. While it seemed terribly annoying when will.i.am tried to pull this kind of shit, we were converted with the outstanding Miguel guest spot on Mariah’s “#Beautiful.” And hopefully Busta’s back with this one, a pretty hot and weird twisted gem from the Busta camp that harkens back to ol’ school Bus-a-Bus times that’re hard, funky, ‘hood and dance-y. This one’s produced by Pharrell and has a very Major Lazer feel to it. NOT MAD. Let’s do this, summer.
When I lived in Brooklyn, I made it to the Flea once. There were bikes of all shades and colors, cool jewelry (I bought some Erica Weiner stuff), furniture that made me daydream of the budget and apartment I’d one day have, oh and food. And drink. Pretty sure I had a bangin’ pink lemonade. I never thought the spot was so organized that it could up and declare a new location. Like Philly. But on June 2nd, a Sunday, the Brooklyn Flea arrives at the Piazza. The five-year-old successful flea market will have its first weekend in the Jared Kushner-bought Bart Blatstein monstrosity in just a few short weeks.
Kushner’s the husband of Ivanka Trump, and he owns the New York Observer. He’s teamed up with Flea co-founder Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby to bring their model to a Philly space, their first moment of expansion. We’re hoping it’s a continuation of a trend; seems like New York’s finally seeing the beauty of our fair city. In the not-too-distant past we’ve seen stuff like 3rd Ward, SuitSupply, Joe Coffee and, wait, is that Uniglo coming to Philadelphia? Man, it’s awesome.
Here’s the rundown on the Philly Flea: It’s a curated shopping and food experience for your Sunday morning and afternoon in Northern Liberties, and it launches on June 2. There are limited spots, a fee, an application process, and the powers that be pick and choose to achieve a blissful mix of art, furniture, vintage, modern, crafty, handmade, prefab and mad food. (Among the vendors slated are Philadelphia Salvage, Three Potato Four, At Home Modern, Peg & Awl and Forage Haberdashery.) Brooklyn Flea’s been a fertile starting place for dozens of businesses looking to start small, build clientele and create a name for itself before moving into a brick-and-mortar location. No doubt that’ll happen in our Philly locale, and it’s exciting to see which startups will get the green light from the Philly Flea team.
The Piazza’s one weird space. But did you know that it can contain nearly 8,000 people? There’s no other space within a short radius of Center City that can so easily and professionally host such an excellent collection of vending tables and tents. There’ve been maybe a dozen businesses that have come and gone since Blatstein cut some deals for cheap rent in the piazza’s youth, a result of a number of factors, no doubt. Personally, I have no desire to dine at a place like Gunner’s Run (again). But when the Flea’s chosen food vendors populate the Brooklyn Philly Flea, they’ll pretty easily become the most solid eats outside of the dependable Bar Ferdinand and El Camino Real that will neighbor the flea (and benefit handily).
It’s just good all around: New York expanding to Philadelphia, sophistication in the form of curated shopping, a thing to do every weekend and a revitalization of one weird, underused space. Starting in June, you’ve got a good reason to head up, if nothing else for a good place to stroll with a coffee in hand and peruse high-to-low-end goods and art. Plus there’s like a 1000-percent guarantee that some cuties’ll be shoppin’ too.
Also, one quick note about the Flea’s June 2 opener: Since it’s the day after the sure-to-be-bangin’ Roots Picnic, call it the official “Roots Family Post Picnic Brunch,” ’cause according to insiders, Questlove and a slew of other dope local DJ are set to rock the Piazza stage.