My name is Evan Vogel. I'm a 22 year old College student attending UW-Milwaukee. I am majoring in Journalism but my passion is Hip-Hop. I write my own songs and poems and just genuinely love the art form. Contact me on Facebook, Twitter or my blog if you want to get to know me or just want to find some new music! Peace and Love.
It is anybody’s guess every year when it comes to asking which artists will be at Summerfest. In the past they’ve thrown out enough curveballs to leave anyone excited. From The Rolling Stones and Kendrick Lamar last year to Outkast and the Dave Mathews Band the year prior, it has always been one of the best festivals when it comes to representing all genres and tastes. Spanning 11-days and boasting over 800 bands and artists, you’d be ignorant to think there would be nothing there for you.Tickets are extremely reasonable typically and even better if you buy them early. I know it is a bit soon to know for sure if your favorite band is going to be there this year and if the rest of the lineup warrants you forking over your credit card digits online, but we are expecting a pretty good show this year. To perhaps help assist you in your decision, we have put together a list consisting of 10 of our top guesses for who may be walking out onto those stages this Summer.
IshDARR has been making some stellar moves within the music industry ever since his debut mixtape, Old Soul Young Spirit, dropped last Spring. The Milwaukee rapper enjoyed a healthy amount of recognition on ‘Best of 2015’ lists by the time the year was out and shows no sign of slowing down. His video for ‘Too Bad’ was like a flare being shot about the dark, cloudy and saturated market of music. With undeniable charisma and no shortage of stories to tell, he brings in 2016 with a brand new track, ‘Time Shawty’ produced by Baltimore native, Millz Douglas. The track has IshDARR harmonizing over some signature hi-hat rattles and pianos about the lack of time his new found success has afforded him, least of all for women.
Before he gave Jay Z the ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ instrumental or practically handing Justin Timberlake Grammys, he was wiping the grime away from hip-hop productions, leaving behind clean, crisp instrumentals that rappers and R&B singers were jumping at like hot cakes. His success and that of his instrumentals can be quantified by the 19 tracks that, at least when compiled in physical form, represent his debut album, Tim’s Bio: Life From Da Basement. This project, among others at around the same time (namely, Missy Elliott’s, Supa Dupa Fly), symbolized an alteration in the course that music was traveling.
“You gotta change too.” These are the words that find themselves at the forefront of Kanye West’s cohort Allan Kingdom’s, Northern Lights project, even before the ‘Intro’. And change he does. This project is loaded with vibey vocalization and production to the point where each track has Kingdom wearing a different hat. From being trapped in his feelings with sentiment to transferring a high level of funky confidence through sound waves show that Kingdom isn’t letting anyone hold him back, least of all himself. It takes both that high level of confidence and an even higher level of originality to make it as an artist in an age where everyone with a computer and a pulse thinks they have a shot.
The originality is what makes Northern Lights, perhaps the most exciting and promising release of 2016 so far. Simply put, very few artists are as hard as Kingdom to pinpoint. Song after song I found myself wondering where he would tether ideas together and how they would sound. In the end, he really didn’t; and it didn’t matter. His vocals and delivery style are likely unlike any other artist you’ve listened too. His style is well realized here by his collaborators who are lending a hand all over this project. Executively produced by Plain Pat and featuring the creative minds of Jared Evan and long-time hometown collaborator, Ryan Olsen.
Heavy synth elements travel a path established by artists like Kid Cudi and Future yet the rest of the album is drowning in classic and experimental elements that draw influence from Chance The Rapper and aspects of Kanye West’s entire catalog. The weightlessness of distant piano keys is introduced to trappy hi-hats and chest collapsing bass all combine to amazing effect on ‘Fables’. He transitions from heartfelt to aggressive when he hits listeners with bars about the oppression of originality placed on artists in ‘Monkey See’.
Kingdom uses poetic rhetoric to keep his thoughts in the form of meaningful sentences that consistently vary in cadence and flow, making each song its own. Tracks like ‘Monkey See’ and ‘Interruption’ hit a rhythm that chops like an onion on Top Chef while songs like the title track and ‘Disconnect’ skip smoothly as though his words are a stone being cast over a calm lake. Those metaphors I just used help show how hard it is to predict Kingdom’s versatility and it is just that, that gives me hope for where he can take his sound.
His autotuned croons of love on ‘I Feel Ya’ take a backseat to his more forward and mobile depictions of life at the moment. But, there is no doubting the talent and fearlessness that is contained within the man behind this project. Some may argue that his lane-switching from style to style screams a longing for finding himself but I would argue that this project shows a Kingdom who has almost fully come into his own. Rather than uncertainty, his experiment alludes to a confidence and comfort that is entirely audible in the 13 tracks contained within the most interesting project of the year so far.
Relentless experimentation and the subzero breath of spacious lyrics proved to be more than most people were ready for in the late 70’s. The late David Bowie is definitely one of music’s greatest evolutionists, having created over 26 albums worth of content during his time as a practicing musician. He was no stranger to experimentation and was the last person to be afraid of it or how its final yield would be received by mass audiences. His 1977 album Low is the perfect testament to this fact. It was created at a time in Bowie’s life where he was trying to kick his addictive habit of that powdery-white nose candy so prevalent at the time; cocaine. His movement from L.A. to Berlin was perhaps his biggest ally in accomplishing this feat.
The move triggered the dawn of a new creative process within Bowie, who was clearly battling a ton of emotional stressors. The result was a two-sided project that encompassed 11-tracks of music that would go on to change the process of musical production forever. The stark and distorted guitar on album opener, ‘Speed Of Life’ doesn’t even begin to prepare listeners for what is to come. The fantastic effect put on the drums throughout much of the album, noticed on ‘Breaking Glass’ has itself become a staple in modern popular music.
His approach to this album was to keep vocals brief and distant on most tracks, letting the sonics of the instruments have their room to stretch and be absorbed. What lyrics there are, create a sense of longing and forge a path for new discoveries to be made. Each sentence seems to be a fracture of a larger idea and therefore showcase Bowie’s new sense of intrigue and adventurousness. He seems to feel isolated within his newly sober self and is able to take in the little things in life with much more vigor on ‘Sound and Vision’.
“And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision,
Drifting into my solitude
Over my head.”
He ventures from funky croons on tracks like that to the interestingly soulful and catchy delivery of ‘Be My Wife’. Here his message is more organized and yet the piano and energetic guitar chords make his marital grab for another chance seem frantic and uncertain. Sounds continue to overlap and create entire shifts in mood throughout the album, especially noticeable in the second side of the project (tracks 8-11). Being that they are almost entirely void of lyrics, the instrumentals bear a ton of weight, and they manage to hold this weight with unwavering finesse. Even without words they speak to the listeners the same way a movie’s soundtrack can say more than the dialogue ever does.
It is experimentation at its most adventurous and refined. Low is the perfect example of a project that was released years before people could even begin to predict or understand the massive ripple effect it would have on forthcoming generations. I doubt even Bowie or Brian Eno, the producer behind the beautifully ambient soundscapes, had any idea the inspirational shift in music they would be causing years down the road. Simply put, the music on Low didn’t just break the ground, it shattered it into thousands of pieces that became the grains of sand nearly every subsequent musician has walked over.
By now you have probably seen, or at least heard about, Netflix’s new series Making A Murderer, which follows the trial and conviction of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was wrongfully convicted of rape and sent away to prison for 18 years before he was exonerated by DNA evidence, only to find himself as Manitowoc County’s primary suspect of the murder of Teresa Halbach, less than two years after his release and all while Avery had an on-going multi-million dollar lawsuit against the County. The documentary focuses on themes of corruption, lack of justice, exploitation, inequality and while it is more than entertaining, the sad truth is that it centers around potentially three people losing their lives and liberty, two of which are a direct result of the very real problems in our criminal justice system.
Regardless of the guilt or innocence of Steven Avery, Making a Murder brings to light some especially troubling practices by law enforcement, which should cause us all to doubt certain aspects of our nation’s justice system. As anyone who has seen the documentary will tell you, one of these questionable practices is best demonstrated by the treatment of Brendan Dassey, a soft spoken and (then) 16-year-old boy with a 73 IQ who many believe was coerced into a bogus confession by the police. Throughout the investigation Brendan was often questioned without the presence of an attorney or parent/guardian, the legal representation he was provided was often unethical and incompetent, and if what he confessed was somehow true, the State still had no physical evidence against Dassey and convicted two people for the murder of Halbach under two completely different theories, different locations, different causes of death, etc… The filmed interrogations of this poor boy, who doesn’t know the different between a foot and a yard, are some of the scariest minutes of television you’ll watch, that even the most terrifying horror film can’t compare to.
That brings us to our latest interview at The Early Registration. While we are primarily a music publication, we can’t ignore what’s going on in the world around us, even if it’s totally outside the world of music. One thing that’s so great about music is that it relates to everything, whether it’s through an artist lyrics or backstory, or whether the music world intersects with another form of entertainment in an interesting way. So when we learned that Brad Dassey, Brendan Dassey’s half-brother, was a Christian rapper and DJ/producer, who from time-to-time talks about his family and his “Dassey” name in his music, we were more than interested in reaching out. We had our writer Evan Vogel chat with Dassey to talk about Making a Murderer, his music, and where it all intersects.
Give us a little background on yourself?
I grew up in Manitowoc. I was actually born in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. I lived there for 2 years as a baby, then my parents decided to move to Manitowoc. I lived in Manitowoc about 19 years of my life. Currently living in the Oshkosh, Wisconsin area as a computer repair technician and aspiring photographer, music composer, Christian rapper.
What were your early influences as far as music go?
As far as music goes, I believe music is a universal language that can speak happy or sad. Honestly, feelings can be portrayed with music and it’s a great gift from God. Some of my early influences really range from U2, Coldplay, TobyMac, Eminem, 2 Pac, just any song, group that portrays a good beat, good influence and message. Another big influence is my grandmother, Marlene. She taught me about chords.
What inspired you to start creating your own?
What really inspired me to create music was just experimentation, along with my grandmother. One day I just fell into it. Back then, I’ve always had beats and melodies in my head and felt I had to act them out on desks, tables, etc.
What sort of topics do you look to cover being a Christian rap artist?
First and foremost, Christian means, Christ like. So the messages in my music should and will portray any encouraging thing that Christ would follow as far as messages in the Bible go. If I can convey Christ like messages with a good, positive beat, then I think people will engage in the music.
Is your passion for music what led you to being a radio DJ for some time?
What led me to become a radio DJ is my passion to be funny and engaging with people. My voice is also a dead giveaway. I believe my voice is great for radio as people have told me many times.
What are some of your experiences creating and spreading word of your music?
The thing to realize when it comes to anything is, we need time to breathe, refresh and refocus. Sometimes I make music for awhile, then take breaks in between to reflect on what I’ve just done. So as far as making music goes, it’s not really every second of every day.
On “Making a Murderer”
Have you seen all of “Making A Murderer”?
I have seen it. I saw it the first night it came out. I waited up till 2 AM till it launched, caught about half of the first episode and went to bed. Woke up the next day and binge watched the entire thing.
Since its release has your music gained any popularity?
It wasn’t until I really started speaking out that people have been adding me left and right on Facebook, messaging me millions of things and they stumbled upon my music. I’ve seen my website traffic sky rocket somewhat, but it’s only less than 300 hits per day thus far. Either way, one person at a time is all that matters. If someone believes the music to be good and really enjoy it, they’ll tell others.
I also heard you released a song titled, ‘Labeled’, about how you get judged because of your relation to Steven Avery. In what ways have you noticed your life change because of this connection?
‘Labeled’ was actually a YouTube video that I posted years ago explaining how I was being judged for having the Dassey name and whatnot. I felt it was more of a backlash video to explain to people that I’m really not a bad guy. A song soon then came out called, ‘So You Wanna Judge Me.’ I put my feelings and anger into that song and out came something positive and also helps other people stand firm as well.
On Losing His Job Because of His Last Name
You lost a position you held at a radio station over this whole case, correct? What was behind that and can you tell me more about how it all unfolded?
Yes I did. I was going by the name of, DJ Dassey back then. It was an old high school name and I just used it as an on air name for radio as well. Back then, when the news director found out I was related to Brendan as a half brother, things got weird at the station. The news director was unplugging network cables and trying to sabotage the station and point the finger at me to get fired. A sales representative friend of mine who worked for that station at the time, caught him in the act and reported it. He lost his job, but then soon thereafter, I lost mine as well. The station felt since I was using Dassey as a name on air, it would harm their reputation because of the case. I tried to sue the station for damages, but lawyers told me it wasn’t one of the original classes of discrimination, so I didn’t get far other than collecting a small amount of unemployment benefits.
Has all this “new evidence” brought up in the Netflix documentary had a more positive or negative impact on your life?
I’ve honestly not been following along very well. I’m not exactly sure what the new evidence is at this point. My mind has been spinning in so many directions lately and I just really want to find time to rest and re-coop from everything. So I haven’t been following along to know what that is. I’ve even been contacted by Dr. Phil as well as radio stations for interviews. I declined with Dr. Phil at this time.
Did you/do you believe your brother (Brendan Dassey) is innocent?
Yes, I believe so. Brendan is a shy, quiet kid who wouldn’t harm a fly. There’s no way he did this.
On the Police Coercing a Confession
The documentary seems to point in the direction that Brendan was in fact coerced into confessing to the police.
Brendan clearly wasn’t aware of what was going on. I believe if anything, it was a complete cop out for the police investigators to do what he did. He was misrepresented and was not given a fair crack at defending himself. He honestly should have never said anything unless his mother or lawyer were present, but he was clearly tricked into saying things that I believe to be untrue. There’s no way his story completely adds up to the things he says they did. From reading statements exactly from him, you can tell something is a bit, “off” with his mentality. The police got to his head and I believe he made things up because he thought he was going to go back to school that day. Which clearly didn’t happen.
How the Case Affects His Music/Career
What role did the whole course of this trial and imprisonment have in your music, if any?
The case came out, was big news, then was open and shut real fast in their faces with continued denied appeals over the years. Nothing really big has happened up until now.
Have you thought about how this documentary and a potential new trial for your half-brother and his uncle would affect your career?
I thought about it, but I see mostly the entire world is on our side now, so I’m not afraid to come out of the shadows any longer. I’m not afraid. I believe Brendan if anything, should either be freed, or gain a new trial. The only thing they got on him was a bum confession. No REAL DNA evidence of anything.
Anything else you want to say about your music or the case that I didn’t ask about?
Yes. If people want to reach out to me, please make sure you see the documentary first. If you are going to be rude and cocky to me, I am a real honest human being and will answer the best I can, but I deserve respect just as well as the next person. People who have not seen the documentary are still holding strong to their guilt and believe they both did it and deserve to rot in hell. I can’t speak for Steven, but if you knew my half brother, you would change your answer in a heartbeat. He’s a kind and gentle person. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. I believe it’s not fair to judge someone you really don’t know.
Life to most of us isn’t this glamorous enigma that is glorified and talked about by a large portion of today’s mainstream rappers. Rather, most of us are just trying to live day by day and get through it with our head on our shoulders. It isn’t as easy as the ten-percenters make it look, nor is it as hard as the politicians would like you to believe. This middle ground is classified by a search for relaxation and a thirst for comfort that is quenched by the simple things in life. The Dirty South rap artists of the early 2000’s had this lifestyle locked down. More specifically, artists like Devin The Dude were “Feelin’ fine in my Lacville ‘79”, paying no mind to their outdated whip and rather revelling in the fact that its age was correlated to a lower percentage of car theft.
You could say that Devin The Dude was ‘Just Tryin Ta Live’ — he did. His 2002 album, further cements the MC’s relatability to average individual. His verses span from conversational narratives to smoked-out sing-a-longs. The vibe is constrained to only as far as the mind will let it go. This can’t be better explained than listening to the twangy southern guitars and keys of ‘Doubie Ashtray’ with your eyes closed. The first-world problem of having someone help themselves to your weed becomes an extravagant composition that draws out your inner laziness. Oh and he’s pretty damn funny too, ending the song with an exclamation after finding a different bag of weed he must have misplaced.
This lightheartedness is a constant and a gift for Devin. He tackles issues both big and small with an everready sense of comedy and wit. On, ‘Who’s That Man, Moma’ he steps into the audience’s perspective for a few verses about the image of himself he gives his fans and his power over youthful onlookers who want to be him. It’s equal parts touching and hard to take seriously with the incessant marijuana interjections. The instrumental in comprised of a lax bassy-guitar riffing behind separated snare hits. The beats never reach out of their element, which on the musical periodic table is smack-dab in the middle of laid back, down beat, slow tempoed rhythms. Your head can nod while your eyelids slouch, it easy-listening in every sense.
His voice is manipulated within a small range to sound like an airy, southern wordsmith similar to a young Andre 3000. His stories stress the difficulties living in beneath the stressors of money, drugs and women. Never taking this trio of problems too seriously though, he always seems to cover his situation in a haze of weed smoke and that is enough for him. His understanding of the repetitive lifestyles we lead open our eyes to “the grind”. Doing the same thing over and over isn’t leading to anywhere except tomorrow. Tomorrow is fine but to look any further, he closes the album with the idea that, ‘We have to change our ways’. Conscious all while being not. His lyrics travel from the mundane to the briefly intellectual while consistently showing the prowess behind those smoky emissions.
On Christmas or in the month preceding it, I never thought of Ceelo Green as a musical staple. I solely thought of him as the jazzy, soulful, freak that wore his personality proudly on his sleeve, and for that I respected him. He was never the type of musician I would listen to when I wanted to hear something mellow and definitely not the type of artists you would consider seasonal. That was until 2012. Somewhere, mixed in with all his sexual and dark exuberance is the capacity to make an incredibly cheerful, upbeat….Christmas album. Yes, a Christmas album people, and it is not the slightest bit bad.
The album consists of all of your parents’ favorite Christmas tunes but they are Ceelo-ified for a new era. For the most part, this project/experiment works wonderfully and if it were not for the sheer fact that it is, truly and simply Christmas music at its core, it would be one of the more memorable projects of the year. But it being one of the more memorable, full-length Christmas albums ever is good enough. He starts this musical sleigh-ride with a re-imagining of the Stevie Wonder classic, ‘What Christmas Means To Me’. Ceelo uses his big voice and technology to his advantage. Everything just sounds more like it sits on a much more grand of a scale.
Replacing Doris Day with Christina Aguilera and taking on the role of Dean Martin, Ceelo Green manages to spice up a classic that until hearing this, I had not thought I would ever question the original’s legitimacy. The range occupied by Aguilera and Green are on a whole different level. His renditions consistently hold this power, of forcing you to question your childhood and the holiday music you were subjected to as Ceelo sincerely and beautifully supplicates for you to, ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’. This is quickly followed up by the energetic clatter of drums and piano keys on ‘Run Rudolph Run’. Ceelo’s passionate voice runs over updated Christmas backdrops and it often sounds better than it should for songs that we have all heard more than the voice of our own mother come December 25th.
There isn’t much revolutionary happening here, as it shouldn’t be. It reaches only as far as it likely should and finds a comfortable place around the fireplace between classic and updated. It sounds good and will likely provide people who can’t stand Christmas music a little bit of solace around those who, “Need it damnit!” For the most part, this project evokes a smile and emits good vibes and what more could you want from a Christmas album? If anything, check it out and see if it doesn’t cause you pause when your family asks for Christmas music and passes you the aux this Christmas.
Merry Christmas Ceelo and Merry Christmas to all of you, from all of us here at The Early Registration!
After hearing The-Dream on Pusha T’s new track, ‘M.F.T.R.’, I’ve been on a bit of a Dream kick. So, it only felt right to review what is perhaps his best received album to date, Love King. Having always been known for his audibly salient, lush and expansive productions he only improves on his previous works here. There is honestly no end to the layers that can be heard within each song, yet everything is more meticulously placed than support beams in a skyscraper. Piano notes and diverse synth compositions intertwine without overlapping or overwhelming. The man simply knows how to craft fantastic symphonies of sound. His knowledge extends beyond production and songwriting into territories that are reserved for few individuals.
His musical style is that of giving his biggest influences brash and arrogant makeovers. His music still bears its resemblance to these artists from the Prince-fashioned falsettos and MJ-style shouts to the overtly sexual R. Kelly utterings. The literal manifestation of this occurrence can be heard on ‘Turnt Out’ which features the slow jazzy-elements and some sexually forward falsettos that transition into updated synths and light finger snaps. The-Dream’s roots go deep but his branches spread far, that is to say that he maintains elements of his predecessors but is definitely not stuck in the past; in fact he probably pushed R&B forward a few years with each album.
One aspect of his music that I feel may never be topped, is his writing. Maybe it’s a matter of personal preference but I find it phenomenal how he can elicit such strong sexual themes while giving it a slight touch of hyperbolic and aware humor. ‘February Love’ literally has me laughing out loud every time I hear it. From him asking the girl he’s with to check his taxes to verify his financial worth to this line…“I know this may sound stalkerish, but that’s because you are the shit, alright?”, it’s hard to not applaud the man who can make this all sound so right and so good. It is also another example of how ear-catching his production can be, as we hear it build from a monotonous piano to a complex arrangement of sound over a two-minute span of time.
The song length keeps a steady average pace of over four minutes and it is perhaps the best move The-Dream made on this project. Just listen to the production and disagree with me after. Honestly, he gives each song enough room to blossom a few times over. Elements drop out just as soon as you notice a new one and this process is as mentally engaging as a you could possibly ask from music. No two songs sound overly identical, not even ‘Sex Intelligence’ or ‘Sex Intelligent Remix’ which are placed back to back on the tracklist sound like the same song. The-Dream is a synergistic machine. Each song retains intense individuality yet the entire three-album arc of Love/Hate, Love Vs. Money and Love King, can be played in sequence and sound like it was meant to. This level of quality is hard to match; music that is perfectly tuned for radio play, yet daring enough to escape the mainstream’s undercurrent. For music that sounds this good, nearly any lapses in quality can be forgiven.
As listeners, we are given many roles by musicians. Their albums can beg us to come along on a journey through their youth, they can also simply wish for us to indulge through their words, a lifestyle we will never experience. But, so few times have we been invited on an intergalactic adventure by someone that seems convincingly not of this world. We are familiar with most things of this Earth and therefore have a certain image of self we find within most artists we listen to. This relationship is likely lost when we are faced with something we are not familiar with and have little to base our perception off of. The person who handed out the invitation on this space conquest happened to be Kid Cudi on his debut album, Man On The Moon: The End Of Day.
Returning to the topic of familiarity now, that is actually what makes Cudi’s album so intriguing, the sole fact that it is not. We weren’t familiar with the man himself upon the release for this project and he boldly makes his entrance a conceptual one. Opening with an entrance to our protagonists dreams we hear the highly electronic sound construction that carries us through to the philosophical narration by Common which is a nice touch. We slingshot into Cudi’s problems, which are assuredly not related to any females but rather are deep rooted in his family’s less than fortunate history. Distorted guitar chords begin to lift the sound to the outer atmosphere.
From the deeply personal to the profoundly simple on ‘Simple As…’, Cudi explains his humanity through his desires of women and weed over drums an interestingly spacey-sampled voice that is counting and starting the alphabet to reiterate Cudi’s simplicity as a man. The intrigue begins climb as his dreams turn into nightmares, represented by tracks like ‘Solo Dolo’ and ‘Day n’ Nite’ which contain some of the projects most incredible sounds. Pounding drums that hit all the more harshly over light pianos and strings which are all backed by intense distortions. His earnestness and comfort are instantly opposed by loneliness and desperation. By electronically tuning his voice, he adds further to the guise of outer space and it fills this void in his heart and mind with sound.
His verses consist of clandestine thoughts that seem to rumble out of his mouth alongside his “hmmms” and “ooos”. His raps come across as streams of consciousness that don’t always rhyme but are always rhythmically on point. He repeats words and phrases which drive home this idea that we are inside of his dreams, separated from reality. Syllables of his words are stretched with synths and tandem with percussion. Nothing here is ordinary but thoughts and emotions are still tied to Cudi’s lifestyle, ambitions and fears. Past that, anything can happen and this erraticness is what we are hearing when Cudi battles his nightmares and his reality with marijuana and psychedelics.
This journey an optimistically pessimistic one that has Cudi reaching for joy around the darkness, but at least he’s trying. It’s dark, it’s depressing, it’s happy, it’s uplifting and it sounds like almost nothing else out there; but it’s definitely “out there”. A space-out journey through the mind of a conflicted artist sounds semi-typical, but believe me, it’s anything but. Cudi is a stoner with the capacity to put his medicated thoughts into a musical and tonal form, and it works beautifully.
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