Category Archives: UNCUT

Calling on the Culture: Let’s Hold Future Accountable

BY VIKASH DASS

Future
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

All rap empires must come to an end. This truth might be that of a bitter pill to swallow for rap fans still clinging on to the spitting superheroes of yesterday, but it’s a cyclical motif that makes itself evident era by era. In 2016, Future not only finds himself at the top of the rap game, but he also finds himself at such a height where onlookers can’t help but clamour more frequently about his eventual demise. When will it no longer be cool to like Future? It might seem like a pessimistic view, but it’s truly just logical. Human nature and common sense work in tandem to tell us that when something blows up really fast, it runs the risk of expiring and evaporating from culture just as quickly.

In October of 2014, Future pivoted from verging on pop-stardom with a lukewarm debut and a failing relationship with beloved pop songstress Ciara to becoming a rap entity that embraced his flaws in both facets. If you had chose to write Future off based on his flat-footed, sing-songy debut, Honest, you now had to endure Future’s creative direction 180° in Monster, featuring obscure synth arrangements, deafening drum patterns, and monotonous, yet infectious hooks and verses from the same guy. Similarly, if you found yourself to be a critic of sorts re: Future’s personal life, you were gifted with Future not only using the savagery of his alleged infidelity as ammunition and inspiration in his raps, but you were also exposed to Future’s audacious move to emotionally mourn and retrospectively reflect in particular tracks about the same relationship he allegedly ruined. And, you had to admit you were moved by it.

Future went on to release poignant art and cultivate the entirety of hip-hop culture in 2015 with this groupie-fucking, lean-drinking, pill-popping savage image to the universe through a series of mixtape releases starting with the aforementioned Metro Boomin produced Monster, followed by the Zaytoven helmed Beast Mode and the DJ Esco tribute project of sorts, 56 Nights. Of course, Future’s year was punctuated by his stellar album release DS2, and then his victory lap with comrade and frequent collaborator Drake in What A Time To Be Alive. Once you really sit down and spell out all his releases and think about the impact each and every one of them have had, you realize that Future as launched himself on such a dominant run in releasing five projects all in the span of one year.

Not only does this effectively bend the supposed notion of over saturation in music and how too much quantity will only dilute your art, but it restored power to the random mixtape, and placed the final nail in the coffin to the traditional project-rollout. With such a dominant year now in the books for Future, the hardest part, of course, is remaining consistent. Future’s latest release and first offering of 2016, Purple Reign, does just that just by virtue of it being another batch of new Future music, but it fails to really offer any real ante-upping or innovation in the process.

However, with recent developments, the real issue at hand with Future’s music really has nothing to do specifically with his latest tape at all. Sitting down with the popular French video-interview channel Clique, Future explained to the host that the drug-abuse and lifestyle his entire career is based around is facetious and is really an act. As the interviewer prodded as to why he would rap about a lifestyle he doesn’t actually live, Future went on to explain, “Because I feel like that’s the number one thing everybody likes to talk about…It’s the number one seller.”

After watching this interview and pretending like this wasn’t a big deal, I honestly found that listening to Future’s sob-stories about falling down the wormholes of addiction and the pain that comes with it much less compelling. And how could I not? This is the same guy who was constantly chanting things like “Drownin’ in actavais, suicide” or “I’m an addict and I can’t even hide it”—bars that at one point were perceived as brave and transparent, but now are just convincing modes of applying this genius marketing scheme. In fact, Future’s breakout tape that thrusted him into being the supreme tastemaker in hip-hop was Monster, sporting incessant bars glorifying his drug-induced lifestyle and his absolute savagery. Yet, in the same interview with Clique, Future says the following: “When I did Monster, I was sober.”

So, in summary, not only is Future preying on the very real disease of addiction as inspiration for his ‘shtick’ and his entire marketing scheme, but he’s also admitted to this very fact, and is facing no repercussions or any dialogue at all from peers, gatekeepers, and most major publications.

This confirms a few things. One, it supports the very real truth that most music publications today carry themselves as a brand first before being a source of honest journalism. As Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) put it to Noisey writer Slava Patsuk regarding his infamous 1.6 rating from music giant Pitchfork, he said, “Pitchfork helped me a lot. There’s no way I can make something worse than that. It would be impossible. But I’m not worried about them because they’re a brand, and I didn’t fit their brand. If I worked for Pitchfork, I wouldn’t give myself a 9.0 either. They’re a brand; they sell tickets to a show they put on every year. They’re not going to give a 1.6 to someone who can be at their show and sell tickets.”

Of course, Pitchfork is also a publication that has reviewed 10 Future projects, and the lowest score they’ve given to a Future project is a 6.9 for his Streetz Calling mixtape released in 2011 (Side note: every Future project they’ve ever reviewed has gotten a higher score than Gambino’s magnum opus, Because the Internet. Hmm.) Sites that are constantly praising Future’s accomplishments and even embellishing his successes have now fallen completely silent following the revelation that Future’s music is based on lifestyle he does not live. Why? Because if they were to speak out, it would hurt their brand and their credibility. Why would they attempt to hold Future accountable if they’ve already established him as a huge part of their respective brands?

Complex, similarly, is constantly publishing pieces praising Future’s successes and specifically highlighting his incredible run in 2015. This piece in particular sees writer Justin Charity proclaiming Future as the best rapper alive, highlighting his raw vulnerability as Future’s greatest strength. But if Future’s narratives and stories told within his music are entirely fabricated, is that still being vulnerable? No. It’s the same thing as if Macklemore were to music about being this street dude or dealing drugs with incredible emotional contexts, and then admitting he doesn’t actually live that life at all. He’d get ripped apart for being disingenuous in seconds, not praised for being ‘vulnerable’ when he doesn’t actually live what he’s rapping.

Secondly, it poses a greater contradiction within the music industry about content and what is and isn’t “too far”. Tyler, The Creator has been banned from the United Kingdom and Australia as recently as last year, with the powers that be citing Tyler’s misogynistic and rape-glorifying lyrics he wrote six years ago when he was trying to be a creative 18-year old artist writing music from the perspective of psychopaths and serial killers. Tyler’s music of this nature did not incite or move his audience to participate or condone these acts in themselves, and Tyler hasn’t made music touching on these subjects in years.

Future, on the other hand, is very actively preying on and promoting a lifestyle that genuinely ruins lives and harms people, because, as he puts it himself, “It’s the number one seller”. Yet, when he steps out and says things like this acknowledging this hoax and this lifestyle that doesn’t really represent him, nobody in this culture wants to even bat an eyelash, let alone hold him accountable? Isn’t hip-hop supposed to be the realest and rawest genre of music? Since when did truth and honesty in music become irrelevant?

Of course, fabrication in music and especially hip-hop is not a new concept. But with the position Future holds within the culture right now, it’s hard to not be discouraged with this new context. Future’s music had always glorified drug use, but it was also always seen as safe under the circumstances that he was being real, and his transparency about his drug abuse is less of a glorification and more of just a reality. But it’s hard to be as invested in this character now that’s confirmed to be completely fictional. This is not a call to bring down all things Future. It’s simply a call to start a conversation that major music brands are apparently too cowardice to engage in. It’s easy for writers who sit behind their laptop screens to dismiss this or act like they’ve known this the whole time, but the truth is, they don’t brush shoulders with youth who are actually poisoning themselves and using Future’s music as inspiration and the bar for all things ‘lit’ or ‘cool’.

Not only are there mass amounts of Future fans who believe him, there’s also a large portion of youth who use his lyrics as social media captions and his songs as the soundtrack to their own lean-drinking and xan-poppin’ lifestyles, meaning that these same kids who used Future’s music as a medium to relate and aspire now have to comprehend that it’s all in the name of marketing. To bring it back to Future’s most recent output of music, his brand new mixtape Purple Reign is truly the first instance of Future treading water. Not only is it sonically monotonous, it’s thematically dry as ever with Future still pushing the same (and, fictional) character traits song after song after song. Sure, the music still slaps, but how long is that going to be enough?

Don’t Let Judd Apatow Fool You, the Super Bowl’s Halftime Show Booking of Coldplay is its Best in Years

BY DAN GARCIA

Courtesy of Getty Images

Ever since Judd Apatow’s “40 Year Old Virgin”, where Paul Rudd’s character told Seth Rogen’s, “you know how I know you’re gay? You like Coldplay”, it has been uncool to be a Coldplay fan. And as crazy as it sounds, and while no one should every denial the cultural influence that the comedic genius Judd Apatow has on society, that small joke has almost single handedly made it lame to like Coldplay. As a result, given today’s reports that Chris Martin and company will be headlining the NFL’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, everyone on your Twitter and Facebook feed has gone nuts! Year-by-year, the Superbowl is criticized for it’s relatively safe and underwhelming choices for the Halftime Show, and while fans this year are probably more upset than ever, they are wrong.

On the surface, given the unwarranted hate that they get, Coldplay seems like another bust for what could be an epic performance on America’s most watched event. Hell, the highlight of Katy Perry’s performance last year was a meme that came from a guy in a Shark suit who couldn’t dance along to Perry’s colorful performance. Why no Drake? Why no Kanye West? Why no Adele, even? Those are valid questions, but don’t sleep on Coldplay!

A few years ago, I was offered a free ticket to see Coldplay at the United Center in Chicago. Because I had no other plans, because the ticket was free, because I wasn’t driving, I decided to go (note that I was not a Coldplay fan). To me, when I heard “Coldplay” I instantly thought of that hilarious one liner from “40 Year Old Virgin”, I didn’t think, “great entertainers”. Going into the performance, for no rational reasons at all, I expected not to enjoy myself.

Boy was I wrong! In the past year alone, having the opportunity to see some great live performers up close and personal in the photo pit, I’ve seen amazing sets from Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future, Neil Young and many many more. Not knowing the exact number, I’ve probably seen 200+ concerts in the past couple years alone. However, still Coldplay’s performance from the 300 level of the UC stands out as one of the best concerts I have ever seen. The performance had unmatched energy from everyone on stage and an entertaining set-up and light show that has been replicated by many since. At this time especially, artists did not put a lot of money back into their performances, and for this reason Coldplay’s performance that night was well ahead of its time. I could write 1,000 words on what made that performance stand out, but I will spare you too many spoilers from what you will see in 2016.

Reminder, I am not a Coldplay fan, not then and still not now. That is no disrespect to Chris Martin, rather there are just so many artists and bands I can regularly listen to and their sound generally isn’t my go-to sound. But I can’t deny their stage presence, their live performances, the energy they put into those live performances, and in general their ability to craft a more than memorable show.

Hit me up if I am wrong, but I bet Coldplay’s performance at this year’s Super Bowl will leave a ton of people surprised and will gain them a whole new fan base. You heard it here first…

UNCUT | Snoop Dogg Is The Most Intolerant Person In Rap

BY DAN GARCIA

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

Can someone tell me why an artist like Kanye West is hated by the majority of America for not having false modesty (or cocky as some people would rather word it) but Snoop Dogg gets a pass for being the biggest sexist and homophobic person in rap? Not only is Snoop Dogg not generally hated by the public but you never hear of Snoop Dogg losing sponsorships or facing other consequences for the things he does and says.

Continue reading UNCUT | Snoop Dogg Is The Most Intolerant Person In Rap

UNCUT | Tyler, the Creator Appropriates White Power Symbol for Gay Pride Tee

BY WILL LAMPEY

via Entertainment Weekly

Taking a page out of his good friend Kanye West’s book, Tyler the Creator has decided to alter the meaning of a negative symbol (similar to the use of the confederate flag in Yeezus merch). For a tee shirt in his Spring/Summer collection of his clothing brand Golf Wang, Tyler dresses the white power symbol in rainbow colors and surrounds it with the phrase “Golf Pride World Wide”.

Tyler also penned an open letter to subscribers of his GOLF Media app in order to explain the meaning and creation of the shirt. He says that he wants fans to know what they are purchasing.

Many are anticipating a reaction -if there will be one- from GLAAD. The anti-defamation organization has previously spoken out against Tyler, specifically when he won the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist in 2011. On their official blog, Tyler was berated and painted as a homophobe for his use of slurs, though he had repeatedly explained that his intentions were not to hurt LGBT people when he used them. A quote from GLAAD’s Senior Director of Programs said that “given Tyler’s history of such remarks, viewers and potential sponsors should refrain from honoring homophobia and in the future look to a more deserving artist.” In other words, he didn’t deserve the award in their eyes. GLAAD blog writer Matt Kane also suggested that Tyler should have never been nominated- not because of the quality of his video, but because of his language.

This ordeal of miscommunication and finger pointing brings a much bigger question to the table: Should artists be questioned and accused for their art? And where is the line drawn between hate speech and free speech? Or better yet, sensationalism vs. combating prejudice in the media. In a 2013 interview at a New York radio station, Kanye West made a comment that “black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people. Black people don’t have the same connections as oil people.” Is that a generalization? Yes. But according to the Anti-Defamation League, this was “classic anti-Semitism”. Though it may not have been the best thing to say, it’s definitley not anti-semitism, which is defined as a “hatred of Jewish people” by Merriam-Webster. The statement from the ADL seems less like a group standing up against hatred and more like nitpicking in order to continue the bad guy trope that keeps websites like TMZ in business.

Read Tyler’s letter below and check out the rest of his Golf Wang collection here.

via Noisey

Will Lampley really liked Cherry Bomb. Follow him @willcDPR.

UNCUT: Rolling Stones Guitarist Ronnie Wood’s Glastonbury Comments on Kanye West are Racist

Uncut
BY DAN GARCIA

I was always on the Rolling Stones side of the Beatles vs. Stones debate… until today. Speaking with the U.K.’s Daily Mirror, Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood thinks it’s “bloody ridiculous” that Kanye West is headlining Glastonbury and to be honest, it came off “bloody racist.” Talking in response to a recent online petition, that gathered thousands of signatures to remove Kanye from Glastonbury’s lineup, Wood said “It’s bloody ridiculous that Kanye is the headline act this year. It pisses me off so I try not to think about it too much.” Wood supported tried to support his comments by saying:

Continue reading UNCUT: Rolling Stones Guitarist Ronnie Wood’s Glastonbury Comments on Kanye West are Racist

UNCUT | Pharrell’s ‘i am OTHER’ Label Needs to Drop Snoop Dogg, Like It’s Hot

BY DAN GARCIA

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

If you haven’t heard, Pharrell has signed Snoop Dogg to his i am OTHER record label, for the release of Snoop Dogg’s next album. The ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ collaborators have been friends for many years and this deal marks a major step in their work together. However, while the two are both legends in the hip-hop world, given the turn Snoop has taken in the past few years, at the core this is not a good look for Pharrell.

Continue reading UNCUT | Pharrell’s ‘i am OTHER’ Label Needs to Drop Snoop Dogg, Like It’s Hot

UNCUT | Why Kendrick Lamar’s “i” is the Most Important Single of 2014

BY VIKASH DASS
“If Pirus and Crips all got along…”

In the year 2014, Kendrick Lamar as an artist has not only transcended today’s standards, but he has transcended the legendary expectations of old and new. After all, he had an absolutely stellar discography and reputation in the hip-hop universe—before he released his debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city. good kid was everything we didn’t know we wanted to hear from Kendrick Lamar; stories from his childhood we didn’t know existed, one of the most cohesive concept albums in modern history, and impeccable technical skill all the way through. And then, there was the message. Kendrick Lamar has always been about the message. When I first stumbled upon Kendrick Lamar in 2010, something became quickly apparent—Kendrick Lamar does not release music without  a definitive purpose.

Not only is he currently rap’s greatest “rapper”, he’s rap’s greatest tactician. Now, I don’t just mean this as every record he releases has dual meanings, extended metaphors, and numerous entendres—most rap records can reach for those claims in our era. The fact of the matter is that Kendrick Lamar’s records, especially his album records/singles are songs that are cunning and deliberate in meaning, release, and promotion, and actually affect culture in more ways than one. A retrospective glance back at his 2011 independent album Section.80 will show and prove this, as “A.D.H.D.” and “HiiiPoWeR” were not only the singles chosen for that record, but they are easily the most culturally advanced, profound, and important records on the album. Skip a year ahead, and you will find the first single for his debut studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city was a song called “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, which when released, left a lot of people scratching their heads after the first listen. A repetitive, pitched down hook ripping words from popular, vapid club records (“drank”, “faded”) while the most audible words heard throughout the entire song are “First you get a swimming pool full of liquor, then you dive in it/Pool full of liquor, then you dive in it”.

But, the more we listened to that track and started to decipher and metabolize his words, it became very clear that the song was not another hollow club record, it was a satirical play on the club records glorifying alcohol and all of it’s friends, while ultimately confessing and outlining the dark perils and pitfalls of alcoholism and peer pressure. In the album context, it is Kendrick’s character’s way to relieve himself of the stress invoked by the storyline, and in the album version of the song, he addresses those by his side watching him suffer from alcohol abuse with the words Don’t you feel bad?/I probably sleep And never ever wake up/Never ever wake up, never ever wake up/In God I trust, but just when I thought I had enough” followed by the most critical piece of good kid’s narrative—Dave getting shot and killed. It is these layers upon layers of depth and significance that is important to keep imprinted in one’s mind upon the release of a new Kendrick Lamar record. He has proven time and time again that he is out to affect and alter culture, and use his voice and his stories to provide a message worth hearing about, no matter how polarizing it might be. Yet, it seems a good percentage of the internet and the general public forgot about this earned respect when Kendrick Lamar dropped his new single, “i” last week.

A funky Isley Brothers sample? A weird, skin-itching inflection throughout the whole song? A hook that literally just says, “I love myself”?!

Well, yes. Yeah. Pretty much. These are all factual, well-based observations about “i”. But I think the part being missed here, once again, is the message. Kendrick Lamar didn’t even stick to his own formula. He didn’t offer a satirical, witty jab at a social issue. He simplistically, genuinely, and elegantly offered his take on a completely global, introspective issue much more important than anything else: love. Kendrick Lamar says himself on good kid, m.A.A.d city’s “Real”, “But what love got to do with it when you don’t love yourself?”. This might be a very simple concept, but how many people really assess and evaluate a bar like that? The masses are much more likely to focus on and admire the “shock value” in that he mentioned a bunch of relevant rappers and how he wants to murder them and take their fans in 2013, but judging by the polarized response to this record, they will overlook and scoff at Kendrick Lamar worshipping and living by the ideology that before love and affection ever spreads anywhere to anyone or anything, it breeds inside of yourself first. It may not seem like it, but “I love myself” is a powerful statement. It bleeds and exudes confidence, affection, positivity, and optimism, all things that you would never expect to be uttered from the mouth of a human who is a product of one of the most stressful, unfortunate, dark environments in America. No, really. A kid from Compton, California who’s last album revolved around his real life accounts of trying to stay himself and innately positive around gang-violence, prejudice, misogyny, death, and religion just released a record  about loving himself.

But, after all, it is still a Kendrick Lamar record. After first listen, it is once again apparent that there is still another dimension to this groovy, feel good record. Underneath him boldly yelling “I love myself!” on the record, he shrewdly says “The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs/But it can do what it want whenever it want, I don’t mind” and, “He said I gotta get up, life is more that suicide/One day at a time, sun gon’ shine”. With context, this song becomes less of the rap version of Pharrell’s “Happy”, and more of a darker-tinged record that almost sounds like talking somebody down from the ledge. Kendrick almost seems like he’s quoting what somebody once said to him, and he repeats this idea on the final verse of the song as he confesses “I’ve been dealing with depression ever since an adolescent/Duckin’ every other blessin’, I can never see the message”. These fragments of context are vital to fully digesting this record for what it is, as it becomes very clear that Kendrick Lamar is in fact not just making a feel-good pop anthem, but making a positive street-mantra bred out of his own past experiences and tribulations with self-hate and sorrow, likely due to his lifestyle and the constraints of his environment. He is repeating and enforcing the fact that loving himself is not an action of arrogance or conceit, but it is an action of survival—it becomes glaringly evident that if he didn’t love himself, no one else would.

But why in this fashion? Well, let’s break this down a little bit. From a perspective outside of Kendrick wanting to be influential and culturally important and yadda yadda, it also serves as a perfect set for whatever spike he is currently crafting in the studio. Think about it. What was Kendrick’s last large, talked about record he was involved with?

Now, releasing an album following something like that, or even choosing to not release a single similar to “Control” is a difficult task for more reasons than one. For instance, take into account the average hip-hop consumer’s expectations for a Kendrick Lamar album following a record like that. It really starts to craft a box around Kendrick’s creative freedom and control to release his uncompromised art, because of his posture and position in the industry, as the last thing everyone remembers him saying was crowing himself the king of both coasts, comparing himself to the dead greats, and “dissing” everyone’s favourite rappers. “i”, then, stands as a pivot for Kendrick, to shift the listener’s perception of what could come next from him. I think “i” is polarizing by design. “i” is something that makes you think about what you are hearing before bobbing your head and is meant to be poppy and upbeat, because absorbing the message from a record concealed to be something else is a much more effective approach than just blatantly addressing self-confidence and love in a generic sense. Kendrick says himself on the song, “Give my story to the children and a lesson they can read” making it clear that the intention of the record is to be polarizing and easily listenable to make the delivery as simple as the message itself: “I love myself.”

This message, and the fact that it is being expressed the way it is by someone like Kendrick Lamar in a hip-hop single in 2014 is not only extremely important for music, but it is imperative for the advancement of culture in general, and for the youth and the the masses alike to really soak in this message. After releasing globally appealing records and earning a large platform and respect in the industry, it takes a certain breed of artist to take the microphone and just purely innovate and aim to radically change the sonic landscapes and the mental barriers of the masses instead of doing what got them there in the first place. Kendrick Lamar has dislocated every allegiance and expectation of being a “lyrical” or “conscious” rapper and instead has chosen to follow his mother’s advice given to him on good kid, m.A.A.d city, as she advises him,

If I don’t hear from you by tomorrow, I hope you come back and learn from your mistakes. Come back a man, tell your story to these black and brown kids in Compton. Let ’em know you was just like them, but you still rose from that dark place of violence, becoming a positive person. But when you do make it, give back with your words of encouragement, and that’s the best way to give back. To your city…”

However, Kendrick has eclipsed just speaking to his city—the whole world is listening. And with as many ears as a hip-hop artist could ask for in this day and age, Kendrick Lamar decided to  break his long silence by stepping up and saying “I love myself”. And it was one of the best things to happen to music in 2014.

UNCUT | Kanye West is the Greatest Rapper of All Time

BY DAN GARCIA

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

I am about to make the unpopular argument, that even Kanye himself will not say, as it would multiply his cocky arrogant reputation ten fold.  In this piece, and The Early Registration’s first ‘Making The Case’ feature, I will make the argument that Kanye West is the greatest rapper of all time.

Continue reading UNCUT | Kanye West is the Greatest Rapper of All Time