Brandon Soderberg



  • Ariana Grande

    Ariana Grande's 'Yours Truly': A Sweet, Sweet Fantasy of '90s-Indebted Hip-Hop and R&B

    Pop singer Ariana Grande is Broadway-brewed and Nickelodeon-trained. She has her eyes set on Mariah's melismatic throne and possesses an ear that can reconcile 2013 radio rap tics with a retromaniacal streak, channeling it all into a tween-leaning, family-friendly pop sensibility. Her debut, Yours Truly — which sold more than 200,000 copies its first week out, and has yielded a Top Ten single with "The Way" — is one of the most assured albums of the year."Baby I," the second single, has this moment when its Michelle Branch-meets-disco strings swirl in the background, and then lunge forward in concert with Grande's vocals. She deepens her voice and buzzes, "But every time I try to say it / Words, they only complicate it." All that assonance!

  • Riff Raff

    Rap Songs of the Week: Riff Raff Riffs on Drake's 'Started From the Bottom' Child-Star Privilege

    2 Chainz ft. Sunni Patterson & Chrisette Michelle, "Black Unicorn"In which 2 Chainz — you know, that guy formerly known as Tity Boi, who once told Nicki Minaj he was going to "put it in [her] kidney" — attempts an ambitious, Kanye-esque sociopolitical epic that's secretly just about how awesome he is, which is what Kanye's ambitious sociopolitical epics are ultimately about, too. New Orleans spoken-word artist Sunni Patterson introduces the track, giving "Black Unicorn" its poetic-in-another-context-but-here-just-silly title; 2 Chainz then quotes Martin Luther King's "Free at last" (or maybe Kanye's "Your titties, let them out, free at last" from "I'm in It," or maybe both) to celebrate that time he wriggled out of Disturbing tha Peace's major-label stranglehold back in the 2000s.

  • J-Zone

    J-Zone's 'Peter Pan Syndrome': The Grumpy-Old-Man Rap You Need in Your Life

    In 2011, cult rapper J-Zone put out a nervy memoir called Root for the Villain: Rap, Bullshit, and a Celebration of Failure. The refreshing, rant-like book arrived four years after his last album, To Love a Hooker, and brought him back into the conversation after what was, for all intents and purposes, a rap retirement — not of the Jay Z hype-building kind, but the nail-in-the-coffin sort, because that shit just wasn't working for him anymore. Hip-hop had changed, and he isn't interested in changing.

  • Gucci Mane in happier (read: pre-ice-cream-cone-tattoo) days

    Gucci Mane's Twitter Rant Is a Cry For Help

    Over the past three days, Gucci Mane's Twitter account twisted from a typical rapper's account — full of retweets and bursts of promotion, presumably not even updated by the Atlanta rapper himself — to an endless stream of strangely punctuated messages that are all over the place as they air out grievances, fire cheap shots at supposedly fake rappers who've betrayed him, and deliver plenty of gossip-mongering details about his former record labels and managers, for those mired in hip-hop-business minutiae.But yesterday, Gucci went nuclear.

  • ForteBowie

    Hear ForteBowie's Retrofuturistic 'Vice Haus Deluxe'

    Atlanta's ForteBowie ends the intro to his new mixtape Vice Haus Deluxe (a widescreen version of February's Vice Haus EP) with a special message from Peaches, someone whom Southern rap aficionados will recall from the intro track on OutKast's first album, Southernplayalisticcadillacmusik. A gulping Navajo Joe-esque beat rises and falls on top of Forte's pentecostal delivery, as he moves from a trapper mumble not unlike recent tourmate Trinidad James to a Killer Mike-esque rumbling double-time, then simmers down for a crooned, chipmunk soul. And then, Peaches talks up the track, acknowledging her years of silence, and doubling down on her appreciation for this young rapper: “I don't just be getting on anybody's shit, I ain't been inspired to get on nobody's record until I heard yours.

  • Schwarz

    Schwarz and Mabson Abuse the '90s on 'Real Trap Shit Mix Vol 1: Ratchet Muthaz (1992-2002)'

    Earlier this week, Baltimore's Schwarz and Los Angeles's Kyle Mabson released this nutty mix of trap- and twerk-tinged adjustments to ubiquitous '90s hits by Third Eye Blind, Filter, the Cranberries, Vanessa Carlton, Natalie Imbruglia, Sixpence None the Richer, and Natalie Merchant. Rubbery trap-claps augment Dolores O'Riordan's "doot doo doo doo" chant from "Ode to My Family"; meanwhile, pretty much every infamous DJ drop makes an appearance at some point: Juicy J's "Play me some pimpin', man"; the "Maybach Music" lady; gunshots, air raid sirens, and that goofy white dude grunting out, "Real trap shit," even. It's all here. When Third Eye Blind's somber anti-suicide song "Jumper" moves to its maudlin, march-like breakdown, Mabson throws those bed-squeak sounds from Trillville's "Some Cut" (and, more recently, Wale's "Bad") underneath, and you know what, man?

  • Th cover art for Pusha T's 'My Name Is My Name'

    In Defense of DONDA, and Pusha T's Barcode Art

    Last week, Pusha T unveiled the cover art for his upcoming album My Name Is My Name. Designed by the Kanye West-affiliated art agency DONDA, it's just a giant barcode over a white background. The alternate art is a stark, high-contrast black-and-white image of Pusha T staring up into the sky, his dreadlocks and baseball cap distorting his near-silhouette.This sort of anti-artwork artwork follows the path forged by the presentation for Kanye West's Yeezus: essentially, an unadorned plastic CD case sealed with a red sticker and a barcode on the back.

  • Stream Tony Gardner and Ro1up's Blissed Out 'Layover in Atlanta'

    Stream Tony Gardner and Ro1up's Blissed Out 'Layover in Atlanta'

    Tony Gardner is best known for handing numerous beats over to Brick Squad secret weapon, Ice Burgandy. Last year's mixtape Rhythm & Burgandy was almost entirely produced by Gardner, and highlighted the Atlanta beatmaker's wily style while affording Burgandy, a snarling, Compton cult rapper, a more sensitive side. A playful embrace of oft-used samples (The Isleys' "Footsteps in the Dark" on Ice's "Fuck Da Police"; Luniz's "I Got Five On It" on "5 On It") sent through the narcotic fog of rap as it sounds right now defines Gardner's sound, though he also lets in just a little bit of the snapping trap sound more commonly associated with Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, and others.Layover In Atlanta is a collaborative EP with producer Ro1Up, mixing tender soul samples with calloused 808s, and finds Gardner mostly rapping, though he assists in producing a few tracks, as well.

  • Nine Inch Nails at the Troubadour, Los Angeles, September 3, 2013

    Trent Reznor Channels Timbaland (and Nelly Furtado) on Nine Inch Nails' 'Satellite'

    C4 ft. Rome Fortune, "Don't Wanna Be a Star"Along with Childish Major, Atlanta producer C4 is pushing "New ATL" sounds past their breaking point, with splintered, liquid beats that do a whole bunch of things at once, but never entirely leave the core sound of regional trap, snap, and country rap behind. On this weird one from the new mixtape Decoded (brought to you by Don Cannon), a Raymond Scott-like sequencer blips around a half-hearted dubstep wub (a sweep through the past 50 years of electronic music in a few seconds), until it all collapses into an operatic trap track with DJ-Mustard-does-dub-reggae percussion echoing in the background. It's pretty insane, and fitting for guest-star Rome Fortune, a conversational rapper who finds the pocket of these perplexing beats somehow.

  • Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus

    Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus Further Terrorize the Zeitgeist With 'Twerk'

    And now, on the heels of Miley Cyrus' harrowing MTV Video Music Awards performance, comes "Twerk," her new single with Justin Bieber and Lil Twist, a Lil Wayne underling and non-entity. Here, Cyrus approximates a 'tude culled from swaggering female rap ("I came up in this party, time to twerk!") while Bieber sings club-dude platitudes, but it's more a sketch of a song than a fully formed track.

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