New This Week: Benjamin Franklin by Snail Mail

By Tim Smith

Snail Mail is easily one of my favorite bands, and what I have loved so much about them is their simplicity. On Habit and Lush (Snail Mail’s debut EP and album, respectively), the group perfected their crisp, yet jangly, garage rock sound. It’s what got me into them: crunchy loud guitar (usually in some open tuning), clean bass and drums to back it up, and Jordan’s piercing and personal lyrics. Their new track, Benjamin Franklin, however, is a complete departure from their trademark sound. The song starts with bouncy drums and a poppy baseline, and we don’t even hear Jordan’s guitar until two minutes in. For the first time in a Snail Mail track, synths take the place of lead guitar to create the melody. There’s something distinctively different about Jordan’s vocals too, as she employs a lower, more breathy and raspy sound. I really like the new sound, but I think it’s for the betterment of her vocal health. If you watch her live shows just before covid, Jordan’s voice seems depleted – it seems like her past vocal style just wasn’t sustainable.

When I first heard this track, I was a little confused. It wasn’t what I expected, but as I listen to it more the song is growing on me. I miss their old sound, but I feel like this is a necessary change for them. Snail Mail had gone three years without releasing new music, and I always worried that if they made a third album without changing their sound that it would stifle their progression. I think its stupid to expect an artist to never push their own norms – and its clear that Snail Mail has had plenty of personal growth these past three years. Lindsey Jordan admits on this song (and later in an interview) that she checked herself into rehab in 2020 and Ray Brown, the drummer, started doing more solo work. Snail Mail’s new sound is indicative of the necessary maturation the group went through over the last three years.

Check out Benjamin Franklin. See what you think. Don’t let me tell you what to do! Snail Mail’s album, Valentine, will be out November 5th on Matador Records

Artist Spotlight : Xavier Wulf

By Oliviero Zanalda

Every so often, an artist or group of artists will emerge and immediately cause an impact, becoming widely acknowledged by the public as influential. While certain artists have been fully credited for their music and influence, as they should be, many artists haven’t received the full recognition they should get. This series is meant to highlight artists that haven’t been fully credited for their experimentation, artistic capabilities, and influence on music. 

Xavier Wulf is by far one of my favorite artists of the past decade. The Memphis born, LA based rapper is one of the pioneers (along with Bones, Chris Travis, and Black Smurf) of the dark, underground Memphis rap scene that created the “trap-metal” subgenre of hip hop. Some of the most notable current mainstream artists include $uicideboy$, City Morgue, 6ix9ine (in sound, not persona), and XXXTentacion. This sub-genre utilizes loud, often vulgar, and in-your-face lyrics, dark trap production, and reckless personas that aren’t focused on money and fame like many mainstream trap artists. In its birth in the early 2010s, trap-metal was highlighted by its rejection of the mainstream and its embrace of skate and BMX culture. While many of these artists have changed and conformed to current trap standards, Xavier Wulf has always been the self-proclaimed king of the underground, which we hear in “Request Refused”, where he states, “I’m an underground king and I ain’t gonna drop the belt”, and that’s why he has such a loyal fan base. 

Biography and Early Career

Xavier Wulf, whose real name is Xavier Beard, was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1992. He started rapping in his late teens around 2011, originally going by the name Ethelwulf as a part of the rap group RaiderKlan, which included rappers such as Spaceghostpurrp and Denzel Curry. He released his debut mixtape The Wolf Gang’s Rodolphe in March of 2012, before leaving RaiderKlan to pursue a solo career. RaiderKlan’s importance can’t be understated as they were one of the first rap groups to exclusively release music through free streaming services, being cited as early pioneers of the 2016 Soundcloud movement. Wulf’s early work was heavily inspired by Memphis legends Three-Six Mafia with absurdly violent lyrics and rudimentary production (listen to “Who the F**k is You” and “Help Yo Self” for early examples of Wulf’s solo work). It wasn’t until the release of Blood Shore Season 1 in 2014 that Wulf started to develop the sound that he’s so well known for. His breakthrough mixtape Blood Shore Season 2, released the same year as the first mixtape in the series included “Psycho Pass”, which blew up on the now non-existent social media app, Vine. This is how I was introduced to his work. 

How I Discovered Him

When I discovered Xavier Wulf, I was a moody 7th grader in late 2015, the era of hoverboards, Fetty Wap, and Vine. I was coming off a three year long Eminem phase and I was searching for rappers who broke the lyricism mold that I had become so accustomed to. When I first heard “Psycho Pass”, I only heard seven seconds of the song, which was only the beat drop, but I was immediately hooked. The song’s repetitive, submarine-radar-like beeping accompanied by the rapid 808s and slow bass, which are all introduced separately, counter Wulf’s pugnacious voice and lyrics. His lyrics in this song are simple and almost as aggressive as his delivery, with the topics consisting of infidelity, smoking weed, ridding himself of his opponents by any means necessary, and burning incense for some reason. One of the best parts of the song is when Wulf says, “I’m standing on a boat finna set the damn sail/I burn incense because my brain likes the smell/She get a whiff and thought that it was a spell/I ain’t say, ‘Come,’ but she at the hotel” which he spits right before the aggressive beat drop where the production finally matches his energy. I continued to listen to the rest of Blood Shore Season 2, which is widely considered as his best project by critics and fans alike. Following the success of the mixtape, he continued to drop similar two Tundra Boy Season projects and Project X, which includes the song “Akina Speed Star”, another breakthrough song for Wulf which includes an intro sampled from the anime Initial D.

 

Anime

Another aspect that sets Wulf apart from many rappers of the genre is his love of anime. In many of his songs, including “Akina Speed Star”, he references anime characters and settings. In “Tis the Season” he states, “Princess Mononoke chiefing chee out with Chiyoko”, Princess Mononoke is a reference to the 1997 anime Princess Mononoke from anime legend Hayao Miyazaki and Chiyoko is from the 1998 anime Akira, which is also referenced in the title “Akira Speed Star”. On “Tokyo Drift”, he remixes the Japanese hip hop group, Teriyaki Boyz iconic song “テリヤキ・ボーイズ TOKYO DRIFT (FAST & FURIOUS)”. These days, the fusion of hip hop and anime is common in the industry as Rappers have adopted the Japanese art style to design album covers, merch, music videos, and public persona. Rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s Instagram bio makes the controversial claim that he’s “Asian on the inside”. In 2018, Kanye West claimed that Akira “is not only the greatest animation achievement in history, the subject matter is so relevant to the current state of the world” on Twitter. Some fans even claimed that his outfit at the first Donda listening event was inspired by the film. What Xavier Wulf does differently from these artists is how he is (relatively) subtle about his passion for Japanese culture. He doesn’t have wrapped cars like Uzi and doesn’t go on rants about anime on Twitter like Kanye, but instead makes references to characters in his music and collaborates with Japanese artists (listen to “Riding Shotgun in Japan”, Xavier Wulf’s collaboration with Japanese rapper KOHH). His merchandise doesn’t contain anime characters and most of his album covers lack any reference to his love for anime. I appreciate this because I think that the way Lil Uzi uses anime is borderline cultural appropriation, a theme that I’ve noticed is emerging in hip hop.

Fashion and Public Persona

Another aspect that makes him stand out from other rappers is his taste in fashion. Wulf and his collaborators often choose dark clothing and baggy hoodies over designer pieces and overwhelming chains. While Wulf’s main focus is hip hop, he also collaborates with many independent clothing designers and owns his own brand, Hollowsquad. His concerts are as loud and aggressive as his music, reminiscent of underground punk-rock concerts with mosh pits, stage diving, and injuries being a common theme at most of them. His ability to create this kind of energy without assistance from technology is astounding, with reporter Boom from The Knockturnal declaring, “his energy is felt like an atomic bomb with the wave of excitement that passed through the crowd the entire show. No major light show, no pyrotechnics, or star-studded surprises”. Wulf is also known for his passion for refurbished cars, with his BMW E46 m3 making several appearances at his car meet ups around southern California. He recently refurbished another BMW m3 and seems to be working on another BMW. Before becoming a passionate gearhead, Wulf was a BMX enthusiast, however, his keenness for the sport has faded away in the past few years.

Collaborators and Next Steps

Wulf isn’t known for collaborating with bigger rappers, with his most mainstream collaborations being a 2016 feature on Lil Peep’s “drive by” and a 2017 feature on “F**k a Swisher” by Smokepurpp. Wulf’s main collaborators include Bones, Eddy Baker, idontknowjeffery, and, until recently, Chris Travis. What all these rappers have in common is that they hail from East Memphis and blew up around the same time, which is probably why Wulf chooses to collaborate with them instead of branching out. He’s released two mixtapes with Bones, a mixtape with idontknowjeffery, and countless features including the same array of East Memphis rappers. What’s next for Wulf is up in the air as the last project he released, Rude Dog, wasn’t received well by fans. This was due to the fact that he swapped his iconic, aggressive delivery for a lazier flow with mundane lyrics over mediocre production. Since then he’s only dropped a few singles and hinted at Blood Shore Season 3 but hasn’t followed up on the project since. Xavier Wulf’s been in the game for about 10 years and has been dropping projects relatively consistently since he began, so I don’t blame him for wanting to take a break if that’s his plan. If the next project is the third installment in the Blood Shore series, I’m excited to see whether or not he ditches this new flow for his classic delivery. Regardless of this, Xavier Wulf’s impact on hip hop won’t be forgotten. As the genre continues to evolve, his influence will adapt with it and always allow for an alternative sub-genre that one can look for when seeking a harder, darker sound than what mainstream trap can provide.

Recommended Albums:

Blood Shore Season 2

Project X

Tundra Boy Season 2

East Memphis Maniac

Brace

Recommended Songs:

Video of Xavier Wulf performing his 2015 song “Fort Woe”:

Interview with Xavier Wulf from 2014:

Concert Review: flipturn and Haiva Ru

By Margalit Goldberg

As we walked down the stairs to meet our Uber, I remembered to ask everyone if they had their vaccine card. Being on campus, it’s not something we all thought to carry around, but in the era of mid/post-pandemic live music, most venues are requiring proof of vaccination- including The Black Sheep. As we waited in line to enter the venue and had our IDs and vaccine cards checked, I scanned the crowd and it seemed like flipturn and Haiva Ru was drawing in an eclectic crowd.

By the time the Haiva Ru came on stage, the venue was only about three rows full, but the excitement and energy from the crowd could be felt nonetheless. Having only listened to about three of Haiva Ru’s songs beforehand, I didn’t have many expectations. But right off the bat, the difference between her live sound and studio sound was apparent. She sounds much pop-ier in her discography which includes her album released in 2021, Bloom Baby Bloom, but on stage her performance leaned more towards the gritty Nashville roots of her music.

Haiva Ru’s lead guitarist, Noah Rubin, killed it – playing everything from dreamy, synth-like progressions to gnarlier licks. Strangely, I don’t think he made a single facial expression, and the most movement we saw was a slight head bop. Devon Vonbalson,  stolen from flipturn, backed them up with high-energy pop-punk drums. The band was very much supporting lead singer Allie Merrill, which she made clear when she introduced them as her band.

Haiva Ru played both the electric and acoustic guitar slowing her set down in the middle to play “Wildflowers”, an emotional song about the loss of her sister and the destructive wildfires that plagued her hometown Santa Barbara. She ended her set with “Work It On Out,” which she was proud to mention was just used in an Abercrombie and Fitch commercial, which was very fitting given the track’s poppy sound. Also worth noting that Allie makes Christian pop music under the name Allie Page. Do with that what you will.

Flipturn took the stage and immediately their dynamic and carefree chemistry was illuminated. They’ve been together since 2015 when they formed as a high school band in their small town of Fernandina Beach, Florida and you can see the closeness and communication they’ve been able to create in the way they bounce around together on stage. The lead singer, Dillon, and lead guitarist, Tristan Duncan, begin almost every song face-to-face staring each other in the eyes. Then they burst into dancing and headbanging, bringing the energy in the venue even higher. Looking around, a good chunk of the crowd knew the words to every song, which is a testament to their growing fan base.

Despite their high energy stage presence, they hinted that the tour had begun to wear them out. When Dillon introduced the band they included the rubber chicken that they had bought and brought with them to each show. In a moment of honesty and slight desperation, Dillon explained that to break away from the monotony of touring they started an Instagram account for the rubber chicken. Upon request from the band themselves, here is a link to follow along on Jalapeno the tour chicken’s journey, and peek into the slight delirium that touring can cause.

Flipturn played two unreleased singles from their soon-to-be-released first full-length studio album, “Playground” and “Space Cowboy.” “Playground” kept with their feel-good indie rock vibe, but “Space Cowboy” gave a peek into the evolution of their sound that I’m hoping to see in their upcoming release. The track still had lively guitar riffs but it slowed down into something reminiscent of dream-pop, a step in a new direction for flipturn.

The encore was the most fun part of the night as the band and the audience used up the last of their weekend energy to chant the lyrics to Chicago, shouting the loudest during the line “I get high in Colorado.” Dillon came off the stage to mosh with the crowd and it became clear that the band would have the same energy no matter what size venue they play. They are all doing what they love and putting on a great show while they do it.

While waiting for flipturn to set up, I was able to snag the very last tour shirt and after the show, I talked to the band and had them sign it. They kept their carefree attitude off the stage and were all clearly excited to interact with their fans.  If you ever get a chance to see flipturn live don’t pass it up, but for now you can check out their Live at Sugarshack Sessions EP to feel the aura of a live performance.

Greensky Bluegrass with Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real

by Max Brown

It’s August 7th of this year, and I’m standing in a crowd with some of my closest friends, unconsciously swaying while the sounds of dobro, banjo, and mandolin wash over me. I close my eyes, but behind my eyelids I can still make out the soft blue lights from the stage. I’m at Salmonfest, a music festival in my home state of Alaska, and Greensky Bluegrass is rocking my world for the first time.

Cut to September 17th, just over a month after my first exposure to the group, and I’m on my way to see the band again, but this time for my very first concert at Red Rocks Ampitheatre and with four brand new friends. I’d never been to Red Rocks before that night. I’d seen photos, heard stories, even listened to and watched recordings of live shows there. But I knew none of that would come close to attending a concert there in person, and I was beyond excited for the opportunity.

Walking into the venue, what was immediately striking was the energy. Everyone was excited to be there, and the feeling was totally infectious. I spotted several folks wearing Grateful Dead apparel, and while I’ve never actually been to a Dead show, I imagine the vibe would be quite similar—smiling and laughing folks everywhere you looked.

Opening for the show that night was Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, and they were already playing as we made our way through the crowd, listening to Nelson crooning to the bustling masses that were settling into the stands. Nelson’s voice is both piercing and soothing—while playing “Just Outside of Austin,” his voice rolled over the crowds and seemed to emanate from around the sandstone lining the venue, singing affectionately of his family’s ranch in Luck, Texas. When the band played their most popular tune, “Find Yourself,” absolutely every member of the crowd was singing along, and my friends and I were no different.

When Greensky Bluegrass came on, the sun had completely set, and the only light around came from the stage and from the Denver city lights that were the backdrop of the event. The setting for the show was completely psychedelic. The stage flashed green, blue, and purple, and the band appeared as colorful silhouettes until a spotlight shone on whoever was blowing minds with a solo. I couldn’t help but feel as if this was the kind of show Red Rocks was made for—driving, lively bluegrass music and a strikingly beautiful venue amplified each other effortlessly.

Throughout the whole show, dancing was simply required. Slower song, faster song, absolutely blazing song, it didn’t matter. Whatever they were playing, all the music made you want to do was move. Even the event staff couldn’t help themselves from dancing with the crowd. With such a rocking, roll the windows down and feel the wind in your hair kind of feeling in so many of their songs, I had to keep reminding myself I was listening to a bluegrass band. Standout songs included “What You Need,” a loping tune with some fantastic solos from dobro player Anders Beck and mandolin player Paul Hoffman, and the group’s rendition of “Atlantic City,” a timeless classic made new with a bluegrass twist.

My favorite tune of the show came right at the end of the night—the band came out for an encore and played a brand-new song from Hoffman called “Grow Together.” Energetic and vibrant, it was a perfect song to end the night and send the crowd on their way home.

My first time at Red Rocks Ampitheatre (now my favorite venue I’ve been to), my first time seeing Lukas Nelson, and my second time seeing Greensky Bluegrass—a night I won’t forget any time soon.

Greensky Bluegrass’s new album, “Stress Dreams,” is available starting 1/21/2022.

The SoCC DJs’ Best Albums of 2020

Here are some of the SoCC DJs’ favorite albums of 2020 year in no particular order:

Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition- Your Old Droog

I was introduced to Your Old Droog by a close friend of mine that often shares with me notable Jewish artists. YOD excels when it comes to storytelling, lyricism (especially in freestyle), and samples. Remaining completely independent, Your Old Droog tells his own story as a Soviet Ukrainian born Jew growing up in Brooklyn, which is undoubtedly unique. The samples on this album give a real soviet feel, utilizing staticky classical Russian samples and featuring instruments like the oboe or the accordion. He even raps some whole verses in Russian which is just so exciting to hear. This album was recorded starting in isolation back in March, and serves as another monument to YOD’s storytelling of his unorthodox and marginalized upbringing. Any fans of New York classics like NAS or MF DOOM could easily get down with a record like this. My favorite tracks on the album would be “Malchishka Krutoy” and “Babushka III”. – Nic Santucci (Tucci)

Bonny Light Horseman- Bonny Light Horseman

Practically every song on the album is a cover/ reworking/ uses a motif from folk songs ( mostly Celtic, Appalachian, and Gospels ). BLH is a trio- Anaïs Mitchell, Eric Johnson(Fruit Bats), and Josh Kaufman. I really only listened to them for Anaïs though… she performs most of the vocals for the album and sounds HEAVENLY n COOL. Fave song: “The Roving”. Anaïs takes this Celtic folk song and changes the lyrics a little and then suddenly it’s my queer anthem of the year?? 2nd place: “Bonny Light Horseman” bc of Napoleon. Basically this album is some good folk music. P.S. Anaïs wrote a FOLK OPERA, “Hadestown”. 👀👀👀 -Lauren

Punisher- Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher reminds me of a large, old, and most-likely haunted mansion perched on the edge of a cliff. Each room in the house is complete with its own ancient, hand-painted peeling wallpaper and skeletons in the closet to match. These rooms are the songs on Punisher— songs with hauntingly specific, but relatable, lyrics and mesmerizing, almost apocalyptic music. Bridgers blends musical and lyrical motifs alike together to paint a picture of an escapist and welcoming wasteland. The album and its journey through Bridgers’ psyche left me disoriented in a way I kind of enjoyed. It made me want to cozy up, light a fire, and stay with Phoebe in her haunted house for a little longer. – Jane Harris (DJ Harris Bueller)

Galore- Oklou

it’s just soooOo delicious -Augie Voss

Miss Anthropocene- Grimes

Miss Anthropocene – a double entendre on “misanthropy” and our ecological Anthropocene – is a self-produced concept album about a malevolent goddess who personifies climate change; each song is a different embodiment of human extinction. Picture a dark fairy with augmentations, and you have the Grimes vibe. Bubblegum princess meets Cyberpunk 2077. It’s pop, rock, and techno, in one sound; bold, brash, and reaaaaally gay. This album followed me everywhere. In March, staying up late at night swaddled in my high school sweats, 4ÆM teleported me back to rave nights in crowded queer spaces. September had me reflecting on revolutionaries. When it comes down to it, Grimes fits a handful of artists, by my criteria, who carry substantial enough weight in pop-culture by their wildly eccentric and otherworldly projects while actively rejecting conformist notions. These rebels have never asked for a space in influence; they make some for themselves. Miss Anthropocene’s concept cemented enough ideas, including pop music’s inevitable evolution into today’s “experimental,” to write an actual essay expanding on tomorrow’s role in art. Jonathan Lee, if you’re reading this, thanks for responding to eight pages on cyborgian feminist futurism. For all these reasons and more, Grimes completely captured my 2020. Her self-published Spotify biography states 2020 is the year of “her final earth album.” This might be a dramatized retirement announcement of quitting music to raise her and Elon’s child. I think the phrase is meant as a bold foreshadowing of her next level. As the reigning queen of the SpaceX – Tesla empire, Grimes very well could pioneer music in the cosmos. And I hope she does. Honorable Mention to Arca’s “KiCk i.”

-Joseph Raiti (DJ LuvIt)

Flower of Devotion- Dehd

I thought that the overall mood of the album captured my 2020 experience, where at surface level, the upbeat guitar and twang of Emily Kempf’s voice felt jovial- maybe to the point of mania. But the lyrics that are mainly centered on lonliness and disconnect is something that I definitely related to. I also appreciated the bands development towards a very unique sound that I hope we hear more of in 2021. -Emily Faulks

PLAYLIST: Plague Songs:Then & Now

by Lauren Hough

*ALERT this playlist is wholly historically inaccurate.

I just found out Bardcore is a thing. You’re welcome.

I’ve spent a lot of this Covidian time becoming wrapped up and bound and obsessed with fantastical worlds, and those which pay homage to some sort of 20-21st century interpretation of medieval imagery. I started reading fantasy books again. And listening to music with HARPS and DULCIMERS and good good acoustic guitar. I like thinking about the parallels which exist between the imaginings and sounds of the last 60 years and the late medieval era. Which brings me to this playlist- Plague Songs: Then & Now

Here’s my bundle of medieval sounding songs for y’all. It has songs that were actually written in the Medieval/Baroque periods and songs which arrive in the land of medieval psych and folksy stuff. This playlist features a lot of Hildegard Von Bingen (because she’s my life inspiration), but also music from 1960s esoteric artists like The Incredible String Band and Judee Sill, and some contemporary songs from artists Sally Anne Morgan and Richard Dawson.

Farewell! Enjoy!

Playlist ID: Man wearing cloak and mask holds up a large sword, standing near fire.

PC: Naomi Ablao, Model: Jonah Branch

Tank and the Bangas announce new album, “Friend Goals”

New Orleans-based band Tank and the Bangas have been blending together funk, gospel, spoken word, and hip hop since 2011. After winning NPR’s Tiny Desk concert in 2017, they accelerated to stardom and received universal praise for their 2019 album Green Balloon. That album, along with the reputation they’ve established for their extraordinary live performances, landed them a Grammy nomination for “Best New Artist.”

Now, the world is anxiously awaiting their next project: an EP called Friend Goals, to be released on November 20th. In a virtual press conference, the band shared some details about the upcoming album.

Tank and the Bangas’ upcoming album, Friend Goals

When asked to describe the album in three words, the band agreed it’s “friendly, featureful, and fantastic.” Tariana “Tank” Ball, the lead singer, added “It’s got a sexy lil vibe to it… It’s sure to keep you moving.”

The new album features contributions from Duckwrth, CHIKA, and PJ Morton, among others. “The reason it’s called Friend Goals is because it’s a collaboration with all of our friends,” Tank said. She especially loves the “creative funness that you get when you hear somebody else’s unique, fresh voice on your project.”

Tank described one of the songs on the new album, “TSA,” as “an essential New Orleans song that everybody could bump” and recalls having “so much fun” creating that song with the band’s three other collaborators: Joshua Johnson, and Norman Spence, and Albert Allenback. The band viewed quarantine as a welcome break from touring. “It’s hard to be on the road constantly… so we needed this time at home to create,” said Tank, adding “We got our covid tests so we could create with each other!”

Photo credit: Jamelle Tate

The album’s lead single, “Self Care,” is a bouncy, trilling song; driven by a bass-heavy beat. The lyrics detail the joys of what you can get away with while spending so much time alone in quarantine. The song features Jaime Woods, a vocalist known for her work with Chance the Rapper, who sings “put a dress on, maybe less on / take a bath for no reason” and later announces “boutta make some bacon then I’ll roll one / so fun.”

In addition to writing songs for the new album, the band members have been making time for their own self care practices. “Self-care for me this quarantine, personally, has been having time to step back and take a look at the type of person I am. You know, refuel spiritually,” said Norman, “It’s important, and I was neglecting it.”

Tank and the Bangas have been hard at work on themselves and on their music this quarantine, and they can’t wait to share their new songs. Allenback said “This is some of the best recorded stuff we’ve ever made. It captures us in a really fantastic way. Our spirit’s really there.”

Watch the music video for “Self Care” below:

NEW PLAYLIST: reflections on deflections, avoidance, navigating the shitstorm

By Maeve Goodrich

Is this playlist a direct manifestation of my Covid consciousness? YES. Warmest of welcomes.

If you’re in the market for some delightful tunes with which to harmonize whilst screaming into the void, I’ve got some great news: this playlist. This playlist is the news. Woooo. A fun little compilation reflecting (and deflecting) the feelings of undistilled rage and melancholy that have so kindly accompanied this shitstorm of a year. Attempts at peace, laughter, and comfort are also documented here, mostly because they say a diverse diet is a healthy one. There’s a song all about hummus, for f–k’s sake. Existential dread is best served with snacks. Cheers. VOTE AND STUFF

Carmen DeLeon’s single “Volverás” is one you don’t want to miss

Image courtesy of Universal Music

The 19-year old Venezuelan reggaeton singer is a voice for today’s young people, advocating for self-love and authenticity with catchy melodies and silky-smooth vocals. “Volverás” is one of those songs you can’t listen to just once—before you know it, it’s on your driving, cooking, homework, and shower playlists (not that I would know).

Carmen says the track, her first to be released via Capitol Records, is about taking care of yourself and choosing to be surrounded by people who support you. 

Negative people will come along “and sometimes because you don’t want to be alone, you let them be there… But it’s better to be alone than in bad company,” she explained, during a virtual press conference with Universal Music’s °1824 creative team. “You have to love yourself before you love someone else… not only in love but in friendship.”

“Volverás” is a collaboration with Tainy, the Puerto Rican producer responsible for Cardi B’s “I Like It” as well as numerous hits from reggaeton superstars like Bad Bunny and J Balvin. In an industry dominated by men, Carmen said she’s determined to keep making bilingual bops and inspiring young, Latinx female artists to join her in taking over the scene. She’s already making waves and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Watch the video here.

Duckwrth on New Album “SuperGood”

Duckwrth, image courtesy of Universal Music

Following the August 21 release of his album SuperGood, rapper and multimedia artist Duckwrth joined Universal Music’s °1824 team to talk creative process, musical inspiration, growing up in LA, and more.

Duckwrth has been a refreshing, unique voice in the rap scene since the 2015 release of his project Nowhere. Recent tours alongside Billie Eilish, Louis The Child, and EarthGang have put Duckwrth on the map—equipped with a tenacity and artistic toolbox rare of upcoming artists, it’s clear that he’s only going up from here. Duckwrth’s musical versatility is vast, enabling a diverse but still cohesive sound with gritty, heartfelt, story-driven lyricism atop a mixture of bass-heavy hip-hop beats and 70s inspired dance grooves. 

SuperGood is comprised mostly of the latter, full of dreamy, buoyant melodies and funky drum riffs. The 16-track span is an upbeat, playful, and honest exploration of experiencing new love—the insecurities, the eagerness to show off a little, and the excitement of the unknown. 

“It’s a rhythm project. So I want people to dance, to groove, to bop, to move,” Duckwrth said. The album was written in January, when Covid-19 was barely a blip on the radar. At the time he was excited for a new year, but as the world went on lockdown the album’s sound and story greeted a new reality—one that arguably needed it even more.

“It’s already its own affirmation, like when you press play it’s supposed to make you feel super good,” he said. “I feel like it came right on time, where people need to feel the best that they can at this moment.”

Duckwrth explained that the project is like “the yin and yang” to THE FALLING MAN, his 2019 EP, which delves into the character of a king who “falls to his demise because he doesn’t know love.” SuperGood, on the other hand, is all about love and what it feels like to meet someone special.

“A lot of it has to do with me taking this girl out on a date. Going to different venues, and like also different fantasies and ideas that I have of her before we actually go on the date… it’s like a story, as if you were watching a Netflix show,” he said. “It’s a story to take you away from your current situation.”

Beyond the love story, Duckwrth explained that SuperGood draws inspiration from the music and aesthetics of the 70s. 

“Such eclectic style… the music was so colorful and the album covers were so beautiful, you know, so I kind of wanted to tap into that,” Duckwrth said.

“I really feel like the 70s, especially for black people, was a time of celebration. We just came out of civil rights, and black people started to gain certain freedoms… you know, it was a celebration. So within that, when black people start going back to who they are, and their original essence, a bit of magic happens.”

For Duckwrth, growing up in Los Angeles during the 90s and 2000s was beautiful, but difficult. 

“It’s always sunny, the beach is always crackin’… it’s kind of like its own little weird utopia, but on the same flip side, it was a lot of trauma,” he said. 

“Diamonds come from, you know, the roughest type of situation. So I think by being raised specifically in south-central Los Angeles it gave me a backbone—so when I deal with corporate America, I don’t take no bullshit, you know, because I learned to survive duckin’ bullets… it just taught me all the methods I needed to get the things I need to get as an artist, as a man, as a businessman.”

Growing up, he always knew creativity to be part of his DNA—and central to his future, too. When he was young, a stranger approached him at church and told him he had a calling; the message has stuck with him since.

Duckwrth’s knack for blending musical styles comes from his eclectic taste. In the studio, he said, he’s most inspired by the feelings and chord progressions of soul, gospel, and jazz. On stage, however, it’s a different story.

“When I perform, it’s strictly punk. Like thrasher, hardcore. That’s my shit… they just perform with such a conviction, you know, and it riles people up and get’s the fire started.” 

As Duckwrth sets his sights on the future, and starts working on the next album, he said authenticity and self-love have become a priority—especially during the pandemic.

“It’s been a it’s been a really crazy year. So it’s like, I don’t think my artistry needed as much love as my human did.”

 “I feel like there’s a way to portray a healthy artist, and that’s through just being true to yourself, you know, and I think that’s how you make the best music,” Duckwrth said. “And that’s the music that lasts… that’s the music that becomes people’s favorite albums.”