Sometimes you just have to play the waiting game. Bronx born rapper Mickey Factz has been on the scene since 2006 when he dropped his ‘In Search of N.E.RD.’ mixtape, but his debut album ‘The Achievement’ won’t see the light of day until February 2014.
But Mickey hasn’t been sitting around doing nothing. He’s been building his rep in the intervening period with a succession of mixtapes, singles, guest spots and live shows. He’s now heading out on tour with Lupe Fiasco, a just reward for his hard work and something that will only boost his rapidly rising profile ahead of the album’s release.
In light of his protracted effort to get his debut record out, the name makes perfect sense. Most of us would give up on a task if we thought it was going to take more than half an hour. Sticking at it for eight years is undeniably an achievement.
“I want people to walk away saying Mickey Factz is an incredible storyteller and lyricist,” he told Page 31. “I want to be placed in the place where they say ‘okay, this kid is really serious, for real.’ Because I really put my all into it not just lyrically, but sonically as well.”
It’s something he’s pulled off with ‘Zen’. It’s a far cry from some of the more pop influenced hip-hop currently doing the rounds, with cavernous bass drum hits driving a sparse and atmospheric production. It’s accessible too, circling around a strong hook that quickly gets lodged in the brain. It all points to ‘The Achievement’ eventually living up to its name. The best things come to those who wait.
My word, golden-voiced singer and fancy hat wearer Bruno Mars is feeling saucy. His latest track is barely underway before he confesses to be full of liquor (with a cocaine kicker). Not long after that he gets to an impressively gnarly chorus that contains the instantly immortal line ‘You and me baby, making love like gorillas’. Just let the mental image sink in. We’ll wait.
Anthropologically speaking, we think he might have picked the wrong ape. Gorillas, for all their imposing size, are actually pretty sedate lovers. Living in large family groups with a dominant male means that their breeding habits are quite relaxed. He should probably have gone with chimpanzees. Those guys really like to get their freak on. We suppose it is harder to rhyme chimpanzee with anything though, so maybe he was onto something.
These issues are addressed in a pretty good interview Mars recently gave to GQ. Quizzed as to what he thought making love like a gorilla would be like, he responded “What does that sound like to you? Come on, you’re a grown man. You’ve been there. Why are you making me feel like I’m the only one in the room? What is this, 1933? We can’t talk about this? I’ll give you some videotapes.”
After being confronted with the boring reality of the gorilla’s bedroom habits, he was forced to concede, “I didn’t know that. You’re kind of ruining my thought of the song. Let me think it’s an awesome song. Next time I write a song, I’ll make sure to do all the proper research. You know, when you say ‘locked out of heaven,’ I don’t know if they actually have locks….”
At least he has a sense of humour about all this. In any case, ‘Gorilla’ certainly succeeds in its stated goal of being a big-ass raunchy pop-rock song. A gently soulful opening gives way to soaring chorus that you could you could set your watch by. Let’s forgive his lack of naturalistic veracity and enjoy the ride. He’s a pop star, not Sir David Attenborough.
On paper, a collaboration between flame-haired, Sussex born Ed Sheeran and Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco might seem a little unlikely. However, peer behind the showbiz curtain and it all starts to make sense.
“We have the same A&R in America and…he just gave me about seven beats and said write choruses to all of these beats,” Sheeran told Press Party “Lupe loved one of them and is going to hop on it. I’m a massive Lupe Fiasco fan, so it’s cool.”
So there you have it. In the end, the decision to hook up seems to have made good sense. Fiasco is generally a bit more socially conscious than many of his hip-hop peers, famously once dubbing President Obama as the ‘biggest terrorist in America’. Whatever you make of a statement like that, it’s a refreshing change from the empty celebration of conspicuous consumption that often dominates modern rap. He’s clearly not that hung up on being the biggest badass in the game so teaming up with a pasty, acoustic guitar slinging Brit seems like less of a jump.
In practice, ‘Old School Love’ works pretty well. Sheeran’s nakedly emotional hook gels well with Fiasco’s wistfully nostalgic remembrances of a rap scene that seems positively idyllic compared to today’s bombastic, gaudy hip-hop landscape.
The track is the first release from Lupe’s new album ‘Tetsuo and Youth’, a title that may be inspired by absolutely bonkers Japanese tech-horror movie ‘Tetsuo: The Iron Man’ and it’s even more bat-shit crazy sequel ‘Tetsuo II: Body Hammer’. (Seriously, check those movies out if you always thought David Cronenberg’s films were a bit too warm and fuzzy). It’s too early to say if the album will reflect the film’s themes, but let’s hope there’s at least one track about a man slowly metamorphosing into walking pile of scrap metal.
Following his somewhat unexpected return to the public eye with a suitably weird Twitter account earlier this year, everybody’s favourite purple-hued, Jehovah-witnessing, thumbnail-sized sex tornado continues his comeback with ‘Breakfast Can Wait’. Previous new release ‘Screwdriver’ saw Prince indulging his rockier side, albeit with customary nookie-focused lyrics like ‘I’m your driver/You’re my screw’. His latest track sees him turning his attention to humanitarian issues, delivering a harrowing examination of the Syrian refugee crisis. Nah, just kidding. ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ is – of course – all about Prince getting his rocks off.
Over a libidinous funk groove, the Purple One tells his current bed partner that there’s no rush to head off for an Egg MacMuffin, at least not while there is sweet, sticky love to be made. Unsurprisingly, it’s heavy on the food/sex metaphors, with plenty of talk of ‘hotcakes smothered in honey’. Just think of the mess that would make on the sheets.
It may not be vintage Prince, but ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ shows that the Casanova from Minnesota still has some pretty serious chops. He may be playing up to his omnisexual loverman image, but at least he’s having fun with it. That the track can even survive the introduction of a squeaky, Alvin and the Chipmunks-inspired vocal around the three-minute mark is testament to its essential likability. May Prince continue to miss his meals for a long time to come.
Coming straight up from the mean streets (street?) of Mullumbimby, Australia, Iggy Azalea is quickly carving her own controversial niche in the rap game. For some, a statuesque blonde from Oz who not only raps, but does so in an accent that’s much more Atlanta than Adelaide is a step too far. There are some good points to be made about white appropriation of black culture, but the level of venom that has met Azalea has been pretty impressive. There hasn’t been this much fuss in the hip-hop community since Sir Mix-a-Lot revealed that he we really into waif-like women.
Anyway, it seems that Iggy herself isn’t overly concerned by questions of her origins and authenticity. “The Rolling Stones go to America, play ‘black’ blues music, and nobody has a fucking issue with it or thinks it’s weird,” she told Complex. “But here we are, 50 years later, in the 21st century, and people are like, ‘This is so weird that you’re white, from another country, and you like black music.’ Why is it not weird for Keith Richards or Mick Jagger, but it’s so weird and taboo for me? Do you think a kid liking my music is gonna make rap music some other thing, or that all of a sudden nobody’s gonna like Scarface?”
And if Iggy’s offhand willingness to compare herself to The Rolling Stones betrays a certain self-confidence, it’s something that’s reflected in ‘Change Your Life’. It’s a big, brassy pop-rap tune of the type that has recently served Nicki Minaj so well. There’s no doubt that Iggy has an able flow and a sure-footed knack with a big chorus. She’s also knows the power of a good video. Following the twerk-tastic video for previous track ‘Work’, this one should prove even more popular with one-handed YouTube users everywhere.
Dutch brothers Sjoerd and Wouter Janssen – otherwise know as the considerably easier to spell Showtek – have taken a meandering path through the dance music landscape. Starting out in techno, they wandered into dubstep before settling on their current sound – something they describe as ‘progressive electro with a hard heart’.
They’re still happy to fiddle with the formula though. Starting out with a rousing reggae vocal from Sonny Wilson, ‘Booyah’ takes a while to heat up. The delayed release pays big dividends. Once the bass finally drops it sounds absolutely massive. Booyah indeed. The elevation of ‘Booyah’ to one of the most talked about tunes currently in circulation, is a testament to the power of trusting your instincts.
“We produced the track, and we finished it, and we were loving it,” Sjoerd told Joonbug. “Especially the strong bass in the break—we were loving it. And everyone was like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool! But no one’s gonna play it because it’s too difficult.’ I was like, ‘Fuck difficult, I’ll do what I love and see what happens.’ Now it’s being played on BBC 1 Radio like three times a day. Yesterday it was track of the day. And it was the most Googled song in England. So just follow your heart, follow your passion, fuck the rules. And if it’s being picked up by the radio, you make it easier for the radio but for the rest, we stick to our own plan.”
If you’re looking for proof that history runs in a constant cycle of repetition, music and pop culture is excellent place to start. We’ve recently been going through a radical reliving of the 80s. Once the decade that fashion forgot, lithe young hipsters who were too young to remember it the first time around have been mining its synth-fueled depths to craft the sounds and styles of today. The same thing happened to disco in the 90s. Basically, after about 20 years, popular culture becomes due for its inevitable rebirth and reappraisal.
Right on cue, here come Chase & Status with ‘Count On Me’, a track that couldn’t be any more early-90s unless it was being introduced on Top of the Pops by Mr Blobby between performances by Sunscreem and Opus III (ask your Dad). Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. With its tinkly house pianos, rattling breakbeats and hands in the air choruses, it makes a compelling argument in favour of rave-based nostalgia.
From their early days as drum and bass DJs, Chase and Status have risen to become one of the biggest dance acts on the circuit. This has brought some pretty big changes, something that’ had an impact on their latest album, ‘Brand New Machine’.
“There’s a lot of people involved, and it’s become a bit of machine,” Will ‘Status’ Kennard told GQ. “One of the angles of the album title, ‘Brand New Machine’, was this idea that we’ve gone from two guys driving up and down the M1 in my mum’s bad 306, doing gigs for £200 – and feeling chuffed – to this travelling entourage. Two tour buses, three trucks, a team of 50. Our live shows have a reputation for being quite full on; a big light show, a lot of visuals. There’s God knows how many vocalists, and we try to create a band environment on stage. Then just let the carnage ensue. They’re always bonkers.”
On a final note, ‘Count on Me’ lists Radio 1 DJ and professional New Zealander Zane Lowe as one of its co-writers. That can’t do its airplay chances any harm.
Credit to Dizzee Rascal for having the courage of his convictions. Calling a song ‘Something Really Bad’ presents an almost irresistible open goal for snarky reviewers in search of an easy put down. And that’s before you get to the fact that it features the divisive presence of former Black Eyed Pea and punctuation abuser Will.i.am. Anyone bemoaning Dizzee’s inexorable move into the mainstream has plenty of ammunition to work with here.
But you get the feeling that Dizzee doesn’t really care. He’s making pop records now, records that sound good in the club and on the radio. If he wants to involve the swag-loving fashion marionette and host of The Voice, that’s his business.
In any case, Dizzee’s metamorphosis from grimy street kid to chart-worrying party anthem supplier hasn’t come at the expense of all the things that made him interesting in the early days. ‘Something Really Bad’ displays plenty of Dizzee’s lyrical dexterity amid the Technicolor synth squelches and dancefloor crescendos. It’s something we can expect more of on his new fifth album, informatively titled ‘The Fifth’. His goal now is to make something that spans genres and defies easy categorisation.
“The aim was to make a real uplifting album that shows where I’m at right now, and what works really well live across all genres,” he told Digital Spy. “I think I’ve done that. I wanted to improve vocally and as a lyricist, and I’ve definitely done that with my flow. When people talk about genre, I don’t know what they mean. Is it a certain type of sound? Because I make all different types of music. Let’s just say that to make it easier. I do whatever.”
Forming from the ashes of songwriter Dan Steers’ previous band The Quails, These Reigning Days have their sights firmly set on stadium-straddling world domination. They’re currently working on their debut album with producer Yoad Nevo, a veteran of chart-bothering superstars like Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran and Girls Aloud. It shows. ‘Too Late’ is a resoundingly anthemic wedge of electro-tinged pop rock, machine tooled for big stages and bigger crowds. Kicking off with Echo and the Bunnymen flavoured rattly bass and reverb drenched guitars, the track wastes little time getting to its big booming chorus.
The song has actually been knocking round for a while, even topping the Italian MTV chart after These Reigning Days supported the mighty Bon Jovi at the San Siro stadium. That ‘Too Late’ is starting to attract fresh attention is a just reward for a band that seems to be happy to put in the hours on the road to Success Town.
“We rehearse every single day and we are writing and working our asses off,” Dan told Female First. “Some other bands seem to think that it should happen to them more if they write and they should be more successful. I can’t stress enough you can think that you are the best in the world but if you just take a step out you realise that there is always more work that you can do and there are always more changes you can make to be better. I’m never happy creatively I think, as there are always better lyrics to be written and better tunes to be made – the only way you can tell is when you play in front of an audience to see their reaction.”
With its looping female vocals and smooth soul samples, ‘Bound 2’ stands out from the stripped down, angular tracks that make up the bulk of ‘Yeezus’. But if the song isn’t quite as confrontational as some of its album compatriots, at least Kanye can still be relied on to keep things crazy.
Witness this nugget from his recent interview with Radio 1’s Zane Lowe: “I’ve reached a point in my life where my Truman Show boat has hit the painting,” he told the overly enthusiastic DJ. “And I’ve got to a point that Michael Jackson did not break down. I have reached the glass ceiling. As a creative person, as a celebrity. When I say that, it means, I want to do product, I am a product person. Not just clothing, but water bottle design, architecture, everything, you know, that you could think about. And I’ve been at it for 10 years, and I look around, and I say, wait a second, there’s no one in this space that looks like me, and if they are, they’re quiet as fuck. So that means, wait a second, now we’re seriously, like, in a civil rights movement.”
As usual for Kanye, it’s a basically reasonable point – that the higher echelons of society are still overwhelmingly white – dressed up in a glittering garb of overweening ego and misplaced self-confidence. Why shouldn’t he be an architect? We imagine the many people who have spent their lives learning how to design buildings that don’t fall down when someone slams a door too hard might have a few ideas. (Side note – a TV programme that featured Kanye being parachuted into different jobs for which he is wholly unqualified – NASA engineer, heart surgeon, monumental mason – would surely be a massive hit.)
But that’s Kanye. He’s already told us that he’s both God and the Black Jesus. We should just accept his omnicompetence and bow down to our new water bottle-designing rap overlord.