Brandon Soderberg

writer

Biography

  • Roach Gigz

    Roach Gigz and Iamsu! Spit Hot Fire on 'It's Lit'

    Bay Area rapper Roach Gigz acts as a kind of bridge between the rubbery rap of the the hyphy movement, and the more moody, minimalism of ratchet, or function music, which is slowly but surely taking over the radio right now. Roach's anthemic raps are catchy and he's an expert at sketching out a simple effective image in a way that's just askew enough to still be captivating. Listen here to the weird thrill in his voice as he describes something as simple as driving down the street in a new car. Guest Iamsu! sneaks in with a typically tossed off yet compelling and confident verse. He swirls his nice guy voice around the instrumental, becoming more in concert with the drums as he goes along.

  • Trayvon Martin

    Back to the Grill Again: Trayvon Martin in the Court of Public Opinion

    Within days of Trayvon Martin's killing at the hands of neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman, the 17-year-old's story became, in part, a story about how he looked and what he was wearing. This continued during George Zimmerman's trial, which ended on Saturday with Zimmerman being acquitted of murder, as well as manslaughter. Martin had been reduced to a handful of anecdotal sketches: He was wearing a hoodie; he was suspended from school for smoking marijuana; he posed for a photo sporting a grill and trying to look tough for the camera.

  • Asaad

    Rap's Most Slept-On Releases of 2013's Second Quarter

    Asaad - Cold Blue Highlights: “27,” “Next Megabus,” “Burn Tha Church/Family” RIYL: Earl Sweatshirt, Grande Marshall, Mike Leigh's Naked Nothing about this Philadelphia rapper makes sense: He's an awkward street-level spitter (in the mode of Meek Mill), who does a pretty sturdy Auto-Tune robot whine (in the key of Future), and has one of hip-hop's most virulent PR-killing, self-destructive streaks (see, the Tupac-banging-Biggie cover of his single “Boss Status”; plus his ongoing one-sided feud with Pusha T). And this cobbled-together, multiple-personality rap album has a Tim & Eric-esque cover and some of the most squishy boom-bap splat production going right now. Despite Asaad's publicity-grabby moves, his penchant for searing insight and unsentimental honesty isn't there to shock at all. It seems like it's all that's keeping him from going over the edge.

  • Doley Bernays

    Hear Doley Bernays' Devastating 'Till We Fall'

    Bronx rapper Doley Bernays, like so many of New York's savvy MCs right now, remains true to the city's teeth-gritting spitting tradition while also embracing styles from the outside world. On "Till We Fall," he somberly delivers real-talk honesty ("And I ain't saying sell drugs, but I'm saying it's faster/ And I ain't saying use guns, but I'm saying they'll back up"), but tempers it with a bigger-than-his-block worldview that finds a sliver of hope in acknowledging just how screwed up things are ("More shooters than doctors," he raps, frustrated).Produced by MP Williams of ReeLife (co-producer of A$AP Rocky's "Ghetto Symphony"), the maudlin beat waddles along. Half-inspirational, half-desperate piano and skittering, gut-punching drums capture the complexities of hustling.

  • Rap Songs of the Week: Jay-Z Resigns Himself to the Reality of Miley Cyrus Twerking

    Rap Songs of the Week: Jay-Z Resigns Himself to the Reality of Miley Cyrus Twerking

    Jay-Z "Somewhereinamerica"This track has the hoppity-hop-honk horns of Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" and the polite piano-plink-plonk of Kanye West's Adam Levine of Maroon 5 collaboration "Heard 'Em Say," and Jay-Z isn't so much rapping here as he is talking pretty fast. Yet, it's still one of the most inspired tracks on Magna Carta Holy Grail. Mostly because it ends with Jay declaring, "Somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is twerking," on some absurdist alt-lit poetry-type shit. Some are reading it as a "diss" to Miley, but it seems more like Jay-Z, after a laundry list of his successes (implicitly symbolic of the possibilities any disenfranchised American could attain), shrugging because, nevertheless, the child of a mullet-rockin' country goofball from the '90s is a cos-playing rap-video stripper on YouTube.

  • Jay-Z: More Revealing as Tweeter or Rapper?

    Jay-Z: More Revealing as Tweeter or Rapper?

    On Tuesday, Jay-Z took to Twitter to answer questions from fans.

  • 'Kilt II' Deluxe Cover Art

    Hear Iamsu!'s Minimalist Monster 'Designer'

    Rappers and producers tend to heap a lot of praise on themselves: "best rapper alive," "G.O.A.T.," more Steve Jobs-ian ones like "visionary," and, in the case of Kanye West well, "a God." That's all part of the game. But Richmond, California's Iamsu!, a soulful sonic architect of ratchet music, has perhaps landed on the most apt descriptor of his strange take on immaculately produced, for-the-club hip-hop: designer."Designer," a statement of purpose for sure, takes '80s anime-style orchestration, pairs it with druggy effects, and then adds a lurching, stop-start style of rapping that proves just how aware 'Su is of every change-up in his beat. And he delivers head down, humble knowledge that so many of his rapping peers forget to include: "Raised in the Rich where you don't make it out / But if you believe that, then won't make it out."For a little while, Iamsu!

  • 'Run the Jewels' Cover Art

    Rap Release of the Week: Killer Mike & El-P's 'Run the Jewels'

    Run the Jewels, the new one from Killer Mike and El-P, may lack the ambition of Mike's R.A.P. Music (which flat-out gunned  for No. 1-noise-rap-classic It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back), but that's probably a good thing. Mike's realer-than-real-talk rapping and El-P's "What would a P.K. Dick novel sound like?"-like production remain, but the goal is something less cohesive and more raw-nerve fun: Two guys trading verses, trying to think of mean-mugging couplets and terse declarations about how fucked-up everything is, over inward-gazing Carpenter-drenched electronica.

  • Charlie Wilson at the BET Awards

    Charlie Wilson Scoops the Youth-Oriented BET Awards

    The highlight of last night's BET Awards was not Kendrick Lamar deservedly winning a whole bunch of awards, or even Erykah Badu assisting an even-better-than-the-album version of Kendrick Lamar's “Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe.” No, it was 60-year-old Charlie Wilson receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, then performing with Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, and Snoop Dogg — all of whom seemed appropriately negligible while bobbing and weaving around Wilson's full-bodied performance: “You Are” (Wilson's 2010 song from Just Charlie), “Beautiful” (his 2002 collaboration with Pharrell and Snoop), “Signs” (another Snoop track that also featured Timberlake), “You Dropped a Bomb On Me,” the most well-known hit from his former group the Gap Band, plus another Gap Band hit, “Outstanding.”Those big-deal rap and R&B stars backing him up seemed less there to keep people interested in some old

  • Kanye West / Photo by Getty Images

    Is 'Yeezus' the Tipping Point for Rap Misogyny?

    Kanye West's latest, Yeezus, was supposed to be his statement-making, punk-infused noise-rap record: A rousing, leather jacket-sporting, Saturday Night Live appearance premiered the incendiary "Black Skinhead" and a fascinating New York Times interview (in which Kanye reminded readers of his connection to dead prez), seemingly prepped listeners for a burst of realer-than-real talk from a wildly popular rapper without a whole lot to lose at this point.Instead, Yeezus is a relentless spleen-vent against the women in his life — the women he's fucked or wanted to fuck or who fucked him over or lied to him or whatever, that's occasionally provocative thanks to political asides that West has done more with more nuance and humor in the past. Frankly, even calling Yeezus (particularly it's lumpier second half) a "spleen vent" mischaracterizes its wounded bro rage.

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