Four Tet's Kieran Hebden has kept vinyl buyers busy over the past year with a steady stream of releases on his Text Records label. In just the past few months, he's put out two new Four Tet 12-inches, "Jupiters"/"Ocoras," "128 Harps," plus a third collaboration with Burial, the single-sided "Nova," which followed 2009's joint effort "Moth"/"Wolf Cub" and last year's "Ego"/"Mirror," featuring Burial and Thom Yorke.
Today, Hebden unveiled the next Text release on his SoundCloud account: "Bird Songs," a percussive, broken-beat techno jam credited to an artist known simply as Percussions. Whoever Percussions is, all signs point to Hebden's involvement: Both the title and chirpy sound effects recall Four Tet's "Conference of the Birds" DJ mix from April, and the deconstructed tribal rhythms have Hebden's fingerprints all over them. Consider, too, that Four Tet's FabricLife 59 contained an unreleased Percussions track called "Percussions One," with Hebden credited as writer and producer. However, given Hebden's fondness for collaboration, it's possible that there's another artist involved; it's not hard to imagine Text artist Juk Juk having a hand in the track's 2-steppy groove. The B-side's "Rabbit Songs," meanwhile, is an unusual cross between buoyant dub techno and clattery sticks-and-stones percussion; it sounds a little like a three-way cross between Basic Channel, Peverelist, and Steve Reich's "Clapping Music."
The EP is slated to be out "very soon," and for the moment, it looks like it'll be vinyl-only: Neither song is included in the track listing for Pink, a collection of recent Text sides and previously unheard Four Tet material to be released digitally on August 20.
With '90s nostalgia in full swing it's no wonder MTV's bringing back its iconic fashion news show, House of Style — what's more emblematic of the era than alpha supermodel (ponder that) Cindy Crawford flossing mole and mane while frolicking backstage and spot-interviewing her cohorts, Naomi, Linda, and Yasmin. Not only will the show get a revamp, due October 9 with an as-yet-to-be-named new host, but MTV has unleashed a trove of deep cuts from the original show. Here's a clip from an early episode in which Crawford calls her ratted, vaguely Lady Miss Kier flip hairdo "a little funky".
In an era when New York was at its most culturally vibrant and artistically important since the Warhol days, House of Style captured the inextricable confluence of fashion and music central to the scene. In case you don't remember episode one, for instance: Salt 'n' Pepa do a spring style shoot, magazine editors like Spy's Graydon Carter and Sassy's Jane Pratt talk shop (the phrase "Fame is one of almost 500 magazines launched last year" is uttered), and Winona Ryder shows up in a white wedding dress, the inverse of the sullen, goth-informed Beetlejuice chic she made her own. Of course, House of Style didn't really hit its stride until it got its style advice spot with designer Todd Oldham, the mensch who brought us Parker Posey in iconic leopard and crimson and me personally some really intense red crushed velvet trousers that I could never totally pull off even though it was 1996.
But with Oldham doing high-end Home and Crawford back in the catwalk game (we don't talk about all those other hosts, Amber Valletta excluded), who will take the reigns of the new version? The host is currently under wraps, but it's safe to say it's not Alexa Chung. We might lean Agyness Deyn, newly out as 29, if she weren't currently tied up with the London theater. The most Cindy model currently working is Karlie Kloss, who's smart and charismatic and would be perfect, except that she might be a tad busy being neu-Cindy and starring in every issue of Vogue. Jourdan Dunn? Joan Smalls? CHRISTY TURLINGTON?! For the Oldham slot, Zac Posen could be the host's new counterpart, although if he wants to assume that throne, homie might have to loosen up.
Until then, please prepare yourself by watching the most '90s video of all time: a procession of the Supermodels on the catwalk for Gianni Versace's S/S '92 line, set to a song by Living Colour. Bonus points if you spot the now-vintage legacy pieces MIA recently wore to Versace couture. RIP Gianni.
Mashup artists often try to highlight just how derivative pop music can be (ahem), but sometimes, the songs they create can give stars a nudge in the right direction. Enter this latest take from the guy who did that Adele/Britney Spears mashup last year, a "Call Me Maybe"/"California King Bed" mix that demonstrates that Rihanna and Carly Rae Jepsen should be collaborating on a ballad, and should be doing it very, very soon (via Perez Hilton).
Think this is a slowed-down version of "Call Me Maybe"? Fun fact: the rendition that's lodged itself in every top-40 rotation block in the country (as well as your brain) is actually a sped-up version: Jepsen and cowriter Tavish Crowe originally wrote it as a folk song, which matches "King Bed" by RiRi's melancholy perfectly. Myriad differences in disposition be damned — both Jepsen and Rihanna are signed to labels owned by Universal Music Group (Interscope and Def Jam, respectively), so professionally speaking, it could happen! (May we suggest an award show performance?) Listen below:
Let's face it, when it comes to male musicians, who's really making it happen, style-wise? I choose to look to one person in particular for inspiration — that man is Seal.
That's right, Seal. I don't know what he's been doing musically since "Kiss From A Rose", but it's irrelevant anyway. The man has exquisite taste in clothing, which is reason enough for him to remain in the pop-culture sphere — he could never sing another song again and I'd still want to see him around, getting out of cars with his kids or hot-stepping the red carpet in sunglasses. Every time I see a new picture of him out and about, I'm amazed at his choices, from the designers he follows to the garments themselves. He makes nearly every outfit come to life, forcing
extravagantly dreary fabrics into human action. It's one thing to see these pieces in a store or on the web, soullessly modeled or laid flat against a table; it's another to see Seal infuse
them with life. Here are some of his best recent looks.
If I were wearing that much Carol Christian Poell, I'd be smirking, too! From the eye-catching leather jacket (Poell's leather has that instantly identifiable, melty shine) to the bone-colored boots, Seal makes an event called "BUTTER" almost seem like a holy gathering.
More CCP! It's been said that it is impossible to ignore Poell's presence while wearing one of his pieces, and looking at that giant gray slab flapping across Seal's chest drives that point home. I
would've never opted for a fringey, velvety scarf to go along with it, but that's why he's Seal and I'm some guy sitting at home.
Even his casual gear reeks of thoughtful composition and intent. I think those jeans are CCP (sensing a theme here?), the coat is most likely Rick Owens, and through his goofy, fun-loving pose, I'm
starting to seriously consider wearing sneakers in public.
Last but not least, here's Seal rocking all black with a textural silhouette so weird and exciting that Kanye will probably copy it in 2015. He's got tapered jeans that resemble blacktop, gnarly CCP boots (most likely), a coat with nice drape and that same red scarf (actually let's just assume that he own a dozen of those scarves, all identical). The man knows how to make clothes seem like more than a life necessity, but rather a mood, a sentiment, a question; sing softly and may your leather forever be hammered, object-dyed and rubber-dipped, Seal.
America hasn't produced many viable electronic-music scenes in the past decade or so — that is, local or regional communities with their own sound, like Chicago house or Detroit techno in the 1980s and 1990s. There are some, sure, but not really to the extent that the rest of the world has served up localized interpretations of a specific sound. But maybe there's a silver lining there. Isolation can also breed creativity, and even in an era when the internet has supposedly made place irrelevant, distance from cultural hubs can lead to productive misinterpretations. In the past few weeks, I've been struck by a number of albums by American artists that use certain canonical styles of techno as jumping-off points for more idiosyncratic investigations. Here are three of them, along with records from Seattle and Portland that move outwards from there.
Austin Cesear, Cruise Forever (Public Information)
Launched last year by an employee of the British Library Sound Archive (and a freelancer at Bleep, Warp Records' retail arm),
London's Public Information label is dedicated to outer-limits electronica, roughly speaking; releases so far have encompassed archival recordings from the electronic-music pioneer F.C. Judd and the cracked dub of Bristol's Ekoplekz. For its latest release, the label looks west, to San Francisco's Austin Cesear, and comes up with its closest approximation of "club music" yet, without losing touch with its experimental roots. Cesear's palette sounds a lot like the hissing, lo-fi sonics favored by Actress; on the more beat-oriented tracks, like "The Groove," it sounds less like techno than an approximation of techno, if that makes sense — like he's built a scale model of a classic form using spare parts and scrap metal. I'm often reminded of the glancing accents and backmasked chug of M:I:5's Maßstab 1:5, released in 1997 on Profan, the predecessor to Kompakt. But it's not all so tentative: "The Beast," appropriately titled, has more in common with Ben Klock or Marcel Dettmann's seismic Berghain sound. (In terms of pure functionalism, however, it could do with a heavier kick.) "Peralta Place" is a broken-down drum session slowed to an ominous 90 beats per minute and evoking the dread-filled frug of recent Modern Love releases. The remaining half of the album is taken up with beatless forays into stretched-out bell tones and sped-up tape warble, foggy as the hills of Cesear's hometown.
Portable Sunsets, Mercy (Magical Properties)
San Francisco's Peter Segerstrom is nothing if not in tune with the zeitgeist, starting with his alias: Portable Sunsets, a name so perfectly attuned to indie culture's pastoral Instagram obsessions that one suspects it came straight from the Witch House / Chill Wave Name Generator. Naturally, there are triangles on the cover of Mercy, his debut album, although the artist's characterization of his own website as containing "a bunch of faded jpgs and flickering gifs" suggests that he's not unaware of how hackneyed such a fixation with pastel pixels has become. Outwardly, Mercy isn't outwardly a startlingly sophisticated album; shuttling between ruminative techno and limpid ambient interludes, it makes do with the bare necessities — stripped-back drum programming, quietly evolving synthesizers, some appropriately moody vocals to give it an emotional center. But it pulls you in. Songs like "California" and "Clone Opera" remind me of the San Francisco duo Broker/Dealer's all-hardware live sets of the early 2000s; you can also hear an echo of Los Angeles' Tin Man running through Portable Sunsets' downcast electro-pop. It's not surprisingly to learn that the Field recently tapped him as his opening act for a San Francisco gig.
Darling Farah, Body (Civil Music)Darling Farah (Kamau Baaqi) has the kind of backstory you don't see every day in electronic music: Born and raised in Detroit, he moved to the United Arab Emirates when he was 16, and formed his musical worldview while living in an insular expat community outside Dubai. His first releases had the slightly scattered feel of an artist who liked a lot of different things — Akufen, James Blake, U.K. garage, dub techno — and hadn't quite figured out how to reconcile them. His debut album is much more focused. Keeping the more aggressive swing of his earlier work at bay, it sticks largely to more straightforward, four-to-the-floor pulses; between the downbeats, though, things get slipperier. You can guess that he's been listening to a lot of Shed and Basic Channel; the album's toughest cut, "Curse," has the sullen attitude of Blawan's percussive piledrivers. "I wanted a more refined sound," Baaqi told Resident Advisor earlier this year, describing how he moved beyond his more erratic early experiments. He's found it.
Raica, Dose (Further Records)
Seattle's Further Records is the rare label to straddle the club-music and noise scenes. Its catalog includes left-field techno from Donato Dozzy and John Daly, a 1972 live recording by Conrad Schnitzler, lo-fi hip-hop from the Bay Area's Aybee, and patchouli-tinted new age from Nuel. Many of Further's releases are cassettes; vinyl LPs come in gorgeous, screen-printed sleeves, generously inked — handling them is as much a tactile as a visual experience. For the label's latest release, it turns to co-founder Chloe Harris, a.k.a. Raica, who uses an array of hardware synthesizers — Doepfer Dark Energy and Dark Time, Waldorf Pulse and Waldorf Q — plus "samples and love" to create abstracted soundscapes that incorporate elements of 1970s computer music along with echoes of Cabaret Voltaire and early Warp and Rephlex. For the most part, it's dark, viscous stuff; it makes sense that music like this would come from Seattle (and from a label run by a pair of self-described stoners, at that). But once you penetrate the surface, unexpected rays of light emerge, and the music's sluggishness gives way to a mercurial flutter.
Golden Retriever, Occupied with the Unspoken (Thrill Jockey)
There aren't nearly enough clarinets in contemporary electronic-music contexts (unless we're talking about electro-swing, which, just, no). Enter Portland, Oregon's Golden Retriever, who source their shimmering drone fantasias from modular synthesizer and bass clarinet. The way they use the latter, you might not even realize that it's in there; it was more prominent on the duo's 2010 album Canonic Horizon (Root Strata), whereas on their new LP, Golden Retriever (Thrill Jockey), it slinks almost unnoticed through thickets of oscillating tone. The overall effect is somewhere between a reedier Emeralds and a more lyrical Oskar Sala.
Pre-order the album, and get a free 8-ounce bag of Stumptown Coffee's Costa Rica Montes de Oro beans (Golden Retriever's Jonathan Sielaff works for the roaster and visited the Costa Rican plantation in 2010). You couldn't get much more quintessentially Portland if you put a bird on it.
Whenever a new and underwhelming song from or featuring Dr. Dre appears and it hurts to hear, just close your eyes, drown out his goofy-ass ghostwritten grunts, and imagine an alternate rap history for the once legendary, now totally coasting producer. One where the G-funk visionary got rid of his ego, didn't spend the past two years or so contriving a big, fancy Detox comeback that'll never happen, and instead, stared down that mound of money he's got because of those stupid headphones, saw it as a nice nest egg, linked up with those Black Hippy fellas for real, and knocked out a Kendrick and company-filled follow-up to Chronic 2001, on some low-stakes, high quality Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 type shit. Screw it, give it away for free, even!
But no, we get a clunky verse on a new Rick Ross track that's trying very, very hard to be an event. Though, Rap Genius did call it "An epic, Jake One-produced anthem, featuring two of hip-hop’s historic kings, Jay-Z and Dr. Dre, along with Ross, an upcoming king in rap history." The highlight because it's a low light is probably when Dre plugs his headphones and then does it again, a move almost as egregious as Bawse pimping God Forgives, I Don't at the end of his clueless verse on Nas' "Accident Murderers" (speaking of an aging guy doing it right, Life Is Good's uses of the idyllic past to deal with the bittersweet present is inspired).
Ross babbles plenty of nonsense, as usual, though he sells his ability to appropriate someone else's reality pretty well. He paints with a broad, struggle rap brush ("The homie whipping' chickens in his momma's kitchen / On the mission, said he get it for his son's tuition"), does a cute "nudge nudge wink wink" label shout-out and call back to the mighty D.R.E.'s shilling ("We should listen to this track in my Maybach"), and ends with an icky request that'll make you want to turn the song off: "Come and suck a dick for a millionaire." Oh, boy.
That leaves it all up to Jay-Z to save this non-starter, and he puts in quite the effort. He raps twice as long as his fellow, far too comfortable "kings," lets the beat breathe at the beginning, in part buying time, but also exposing Jake One's production as both a stalwart soul-beat wailer and a lumpy, stoner synth wanderer, and keeps on going, even after the beat has stopped. It's almost like he heard the other verses and knew he had to throw out every skill he's got to rescue this thing. The real trick here though, is that unlike Dre and Ross, who do their best to come off untouchable, Jay weaves in a few boasts about his daughter and buying drapes that ground this thing in something like reality, which is preferable to Dre toiling in nostalgia, and Ross' Sosa-from-Scarface cosplay.
Jay's verse is off-the-dome and it shows. Mid-verse, he even says, "You ain't gotta keep this Khaled, it's just a freestyle,” which kind of lets the cat out of the bag when it comes to the dearth of quality control going on in big-name rap right now, doesn't it? However, this freestyle has a tentative quality that injects this feeble, wannabe regal turd of a single with a little bit of humanity. Towards the end, when there's no longer a beat to guide him, you can hear Jay stumbling, in a charming, flawed way, lobbing out a memory, "Used to shop at TJ Maxx back in '83," then adding, with some hesitation, "I don't even know if it was open then,” and finally, "I ain't know Oprah then." He also makes some zany car noises. It isn't good, but it's evidence of a living breathing person — not a guarded caricature — behind those groaners.
The nominations for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, announced earlier today, contained a few surprises — the dominance of Mad Men and Modern Family was not one of them. Of course, Mad Men genuinely earned its favoritism (17 nominations) — the series, which wrapped its fifth season in May, has gotten better and better, whereas Modern Family never recaptured the perfection of its debut. The writing seems to have plunged along with Sofia Vergara’s neckline — likely the result of tension between showrunners Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd — and hastened into generic, repetitive territory that will probably be continually rewarded for its generic, repetitive humor.
Either way, it was great to see some other deserving shows considered this year. We were very pleased that Girls got a nod for best comedy series. The HBO show caught some flack for its whiff of privilege and lack of diversity, a criticism creator Lena Dunham took on the chin, but it was a welcome, refreshing, witty, often awkwardly hilarious approach to young adulthood and friendship and city-living, as well as an impressive vision from someone so young (26-year-old Dunham is also the producer, writer, and star). Though its chances are slim against 30 Rock, Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, Girls has our vote. (Parks and Recreation was notably absent, a disappointing snub.)
Dunham's best actress nod, while not objectionable, was less of a given, and that category — presumably Two and a Half Men creator Lee Aronsohn's least favorite given his complaints of "labia saturation" earlier this year — is intimidating with competition: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Melissa McCarthy, and Edie Falco. And though New Girl was largely propped up by talented newcomers — especially the earnest meme-machine Max Greenfield as Schmidt, nominated for his supporting role — Zoey Deschanel did inhabit her charmingly irritating character with ease — almost as if she came by Jess naturally — so, yes, she's here too.
Speaking of Louis-Dreyfus, Veep's nomination felt unexpected because the show didn't generate a lot of conversation, but Louis-Dreyfus's neurotic, bumbling, insecure vice president, Selena Meyer, was totally entertaining, and the series had many vivid, vulgar, blink-and-miss-it one-liners (the scene where one character complains that he has been left "standing here like a fucking meerkat" remains my favorite among them). Did Veep's presence explain Enlightened's absence? Perhaps the fact that Mike White's HBO show barely qualified as a comedy hurt its chances, but it's a weird, oddly affecting, at times totally depressing story of a woman (Laura Dern) in the throes of a very relatable midlife crisis. The self-awareness that Dern's character lacks, the audience doesn't, which made for some writhingly uncomfortable scenes, and it's a pity that it earned so little acknowledgment.
This year looks pretty similar to last in terms of best drama, although CBS's dependable procedural, The Good Wife, isn't here. But the show's biggest success is in its casting and Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Christine Baranski, Martha Plimpton, Michael J. Fox and Dylan Baker are representing. And it remains the most formidable category. Mad Men obviously wouldn't be undeserving, but that's true of most the shows nominated. AMC's Breaking Bad has delivered such a fabulously taut four seasons, Game of Thrones has brought to life a complex (and ribald) world, and Boardwalk Empire…well, we stopped watching that, so we're not sure, but like GoT, the series killed off a major character, and that's an admirably bold move. Anyway, these are all superior shows, and though Homeland is the dark horse among them, it was equally propelling and well-acted (Claire Danes might have finally found a new iconic role, as well as the Emmy she never got for My So-Called Life).
American Horror Story picked up more nominations than anyone expected, including for acting, art direction, and casting, and House was finally ignored, making it a largely cable-based competition, as that's where the talent (if not always the audience) flocks. If certain series don't sweep, September 23 could be a very entertaining showdown between worthy competitors, which is more than we can say for the Oscars in recent years. It will be a challenge to decide who and what to root for.
Apparently, director Christopher Nolan never got the memo that the third installment in a franchise is supposed to be the party killer. Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand went so thoroughly off the rails, both franchises hit reboot for The Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men: First Class. But Nolan claimed he had a trilogy in mind from the get-go, and The Dark Knight Rises not only proves he clearly had a specific story he wanted to tell, it also cements this franchise as, hands down, one of the best movie trilogies of all time.
Where Marvel's The Avengers was a fun, upbeat popcorn movie blast, Dark Knight Rises is a complex, emotional counterpoint that has no qualms about moth-balling the main hero's costume for most of the movie (it also has the goods to make you barely notice that fact). Picking up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Rises finds Gotham enjoying a period of relative peace. The Batman — whom people still blame for the death of former D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) — has disappeared, and billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) lives like a Howard Hughes-esque hermit in his sprawling mansion. When word begins to spread that a new threat is gathering in the sewers of Gotham — a hulking, masked behemoth named Bane (Tom Hardy) who runs his organization more like a cult than a criminal gang — Wayne is forced to dust off his cape and cowl. Along the way, he runs into a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) who seems to enjoy chaos as much as Wayne does law and order.
That's only the set-up, of course, but what follows is an epic, multi-storyline thriller that manages to give great moments to old friends (Michael Caine's loyal butler Alfred, Morgan Freeman's sly Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucius Fox, and Gary Oldman's true-blue lawman Jim Gordon) while introducing new faces (Marion Cotillard's Wayne Enterprises executive Miranda Tate, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's golden-hearted police office John Blake) and taking the time to flesh them out so that they're vital to the story. This is no mean feat when dealing with a movie that's trying to say and do so much — including making an unapologetic Occupy Wall Street analogy that dispenses with subtlety. And just when you think the threads are going to lose you, Nolan brings it all back (sometimes a little too conveniently) with a monster payoff.
The greatest trick Nolan pulled here is making you wonder how Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning Joker would have fit into this story at all. Rises brings the events started in Batman Begins full circle in a variety of clever ways that only a complete jerk would spoil for you, and you're left thinking that the Joker was merely a detour — a crazed, oddly magnetic, and incredibly memorable one, sure — in a much larger story. Given the impact the role had when Dark Knight was released, the fact that you don't miss the character is truly remarkable — and Nolan was helped by Hardy, who makes Bane almost as compelling a villain, but in a much different way. Covered with a mask and obfuscated by a growly, Darth Vader voice, Bane is worlds away from the grinning, preening Clown Prince of Crime. But Hardy's physical presence leaves a mark, and every time he's onscreen you feel the appropriate levels of dread. This is not the Bane we saw in 1996's Batman and Robin — a lumbering, idiotic manchild. This is a man who is every bit Batman's intellectual match and, just maybe, his physical superior.
A nod should go out to the rest of the cast as well. Nolan gets great performances across the board, even from the oft-maligned Hathaway. Selina (the word "Catwoman" is never uttered once, thankfully) may have a few clunky lines, but Hathaway plays her as a perfect match for Batman. Just as Bruce teeters between his various identities ("playboy Bruce," "Batman," the "real" Bruce), so Selina seems at war between her theatrical cat burglar persona, her stone-cold crook persona, and the genuinely wounded Selina. And to top things off, Michael Caine delivers a whopper of a speech that almost — we said almost, dammit — moved us to tears.
But the heart and soul of the franchise remains Bale, who supplies Wayne with an emotional weight that makes his trials seem consequential. This is not a super-powered hero who can punch a giant alien space slug and not even scrape a knuckle. Batman suffers. Bale shows you every bit of Wayne's agony, and the intense strain being a nocturnal vigilante has taken on him. And we don't often feel compelled to mention a film's score, but at one point (again, no spoilers), the story, Bale's performance, and Hans Zimmer's music coalesce into a moment as uplifting as anything in Rocky, and there's nary a cape in site. It's truly a triumphant moment in a movie filled with triumphant moments, as well as some great twists. If you can avoid any and all spoilers going in, you will be rewarded with some monumental, unexpected treats. Nolan has wrapped up his Batman story in grand style, with a movie that's scary and downbeat and rousing and action-packed all at once. You simply have to see this. End of story.
If you've ever been to an Odd Future concert you know that the wily group has sparked a sea change in young fashion. Specifically: everyone under the age of 19 dresses like Tyler, the Creator, mucked up in cat tees, tie-dye, shorts, and the ever-present socks (sometimes tube, sometimes graphic patterns), pulled up nigh to the knees. It's a highly specific look, and it's Tyler's through and through — except for maybe Jasper Dolphin, who rocks the same tees-and-knees combo but with the odd basketball short and house shoe thrown in. It's understandable
that kids wanna rock the styles of their idols, even if they themselves aren't disaffected California skateboarders hyped on life and ADD — and OF has created an underground teen movement that's as voraciously worshipped by misfits as fangirls sweat Bieber. And even though Odd Future hawks the illest merch, it was pretty far-fetched that Tyler's dogtown adolescent style and Jasper's weed-on-the-couch vibes would trickle up to the runway... right?
Yeah, no. Shaun Samson, a young LA-born/London-based designer who once apprenticed with Jeremy Scott, showed his Spring 2013 line at London's Fashion East Man show in June and it was ripped almost verbatim from the Tyler/Jasper playbook, give or take a clear tulle cardigan or two. Samson's T-shirts were especially Tyler, with warped pug-faced kitties who'd had their eyes scratched out, basically identical to half the tops in the Golf Wang shop, and OF's assortment of cat-predator hybrids. And his sparkly take on the gym slipper could essentially be a bedazzled version of Jasper's Adidas beach shoes, complete with white sports sock. To be fair, Samson's drawn from his L.A. upbringing before — previous seasons have reinvented cholo style and borrowed Mexican blanket patterns for the runway — and this season is clearly based on LA's slovenly beach bums and weed heads. But the Odd Future influence is unmistakable, and at the very least, it goes to show how the ragtag band of friends has impacted beyond music culture. (They did play an Alexander Wang party last fall, after all.)
This is not the first time a designer's inspiration from a music-muse has gone a bit beyond the pale. Last fall, Jean-Paul Gaultier's couture show paid homage to Amy Winehouse’s beehive and ‘50s roadhouse steez to criticism from her family, while in 2009, MGMT’s highly stylized, psych Lord of the Flies aesthetic was a direct influence on Gucci's spring line that year, despite that it had already been designed by an actual designer (Lizzie Owens, proprietor of the covetable Highland). Clearly fashion and music would be lonely without each other, but sometimes "influence" hovers into side-eye territory.
Life's Quest, the new album from pimp-rap legend 8ball is the kind of rap record I was blabbing about a couple week ago in regards Too $hort's No Trespassing: Don't let these well-crafted, worker-bee rap releases from legacy artists sneak by, unheard! More cohesive, and a bit more radio-friendly than 8ball's March mixtape Premro, Life's Quest arrives around the same time as Nas' Life Is Good, another middle-aged rap album from a golden era veteran. While this newfound maturity and comfort with age marks something of a sea change for Nasty Nas, it has been 8Ball's approach since day one. He has always seemed like a wizened veteran, even on 1993's career-starter with partner-for-life MJG, Comin' Out Hard.
Single "Good Girl Bad Girl" and "Don't Bring Me Down" featuring 2 Chainz and a hypnotic stop-start beat, are low-stakes sex and party jams, respectively. While "Lucky's Theme” is an novelistic piece of hip-hop storytelling, detailing one d-boy's robbery at the hand of two other d-boys. It moves from Donald Goines gritty to a Peckinpah-like tale of revenge ("911 ain't the number to call / I know who done it, I ain't have to involve the laws"), briefly becomes coke-rap fable ("After that I never touched another brick of work / Took it as a sign because it could've been worse"), and yet, it still forces the listener sit in the ugly aftermath of the cruel robbery, which has left the narrator and his girlfriend traumatized. It's classic 8Ball.
Angie Stone guests on the title track, a modest look back at 8ball's life and career (sort of the polar opposite of Nas-gone-Sinatra on Life Is Good's "No Introduction") and following 8ball & MJG's appearance on Live From The Underground's single, "Money On The Floor," Big K.R.I.T. returns the favor, producing and doing the hook on "We Buy Gold." These three need to do an entire album together. I'd love a Big K.R.I.T. x 8Ball & MJG collaborative album like my buddy Chris Weingarten would love a Baroness x Big K.R.I.T. rock-rap collabo, which is to say, very, very much. 8Ball's Life's Quest is out next Tuesday, but you can stream it below, exclusively at SPIN.