Brandon Soderberg



  • Macklemore

    Macklemore on 'SNL': This Guy's Not Going Anywhere

    This season of Saturday Night Live has brought a couple of genuinely compelling performances. There was the usually bugged-out Kendrick Lamar slowing things down for “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and then smooth-jazzing “Poetic Justice;” and Justin Bieber, who is gunning for Justin Timberlake's spot, doing an acoustic version of “As Long as You Love Me,” and “Nothing Like Us” with a futuristic old-timey microphone.

  • The Foreign Exchange

    First Spin: The Foreign Exchange's 'The Last Fall (Focus... +FE Experience Remix)'

    The Foreign Exchange began as an online collaboration between rapper Phonte Coleman and producer Nicolay Rook, then a budding producer in the Netherlands. 2004's Connected was ambitious (check out the Bing Crosby sample on “Let's Move”), though in-the-pocket underground hip-hop project. Since then, though, Nicolay moved to the States and the Foreign Exchange evolved into a brooding art-soul project; alt-R&B before such a thing really was getting any attention. Meanwhile +FE Music, the Foreign Exchange's label has expanded beyond the group, putting out projects from future R&B-er Yahzarah, wizened rapper Median, soul eccentric Zo!, singer-songwriter Jeanne Jolly, and others.

  • Louie V Mob

    No Trivia's Friday Five: Master P's Louie V Mob is Fantasy League Rap Come to Life

    Did you watch Life Is But a Dream, the Beyoncé documentary? Of course you did. Well, there's an interesting sequence of events in which  Beyoncé, who is so famous that she's supposed to start pushing that whole self-made myth, instead addresses the still-ridiculous reality that women make less money than men. Obviously, that affords men way more resources and ways to control how women are presented. Around the same time in the documentary, you get to hear Bey stridently but politely tell her crew that they are fucking up big time. Not long after that, you get footage of choreographer Frank Gaston Jr. freaking out at the dancers for not gluing their hats to their heads to hold them in place. It's a moment of contrast, a subtle one really, that presents someone being cool, calm, and collected, and contrasts it with a moment of candid frustration.

  • Nicki Minaj

    Nicki Minaj on 'American Idol,' Week Six: Minaj vs. Iovine

    Let's just get this out of the way because at this point, the show is in full-on competition mode and these contestants actually kind of matter. Wednesday night's show narrowed the women contestants down to Tina, Kree, Angela, Amber, and Adriana. Thursday night's show gave us these dudes, in the end: Devin, Charlie , Elijah, Curtis, and Paul. Okay, the actually interesting stuff.You really can't underestimate how important Nicki Minaj is for American Idol, this year. She's the only breathing judge, and just when you you thought that fact couldn't become more palpable, Jimmy Iovine entered the picture.

  • Mykki Blanco / Photo by Timothy Saccenti

    Mykki Blanco: New York Rapper Echoes Tricky, Riot Grrrl, and Master P

    Who: Mykki Blanco, real name Michael Quattelbaum, is a fast-rapping MC who reaches the wigged-out heights of Lil Wayne at his mid-2000s creative peak (the manic "Riot"), taps into the chant-rap fury of Atlanta clubs ("Virginia Beach") and does it wearing a wig and women's clothing. "Drag kind of, like, polarizes people's minds," Blanco says, "Once you put that into [a performance], they don't see anything else." Quite simply, "Mykki Blanco" is "a stage name," no different than Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter, or ex-corrections officer William Roberts transforming into coke-rap superhero Rick Ross.Just Another City Kid: On the mixtape Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss, released last month, blazed-out rhymes combine with off-kilter dance production from Sinden, Brenmar, and Gatekeeper with just enough of the snaps, claps, and grind of the radio.

  • Le1f / Photo by Harrison Boyce

    Le1f: New York Rap Deconstructionist Boasts Tricky Skills

    Who: New York rapper/producer Le1f (pronounced "leaf," his birth name is Khalif Diouf), and don't forget the number where the "i" should be, making his name look like it's written out in some hybrid language from outer space. Why? "Because I feel more like an alien than a gay rapper," Le1f jokes, playfully dismissing the "whoa, a gay man makes rap music" articles that got him attention, but also have boxed him in since the release of his debut, Dark York, earlier this year. But, let's get it out of the way: Yes, Le1f is a gay MC.

  • SPIN's Director of the Year Tom Scharpling on 2012's Buzziest Music Videos

    SPIN's Director of the Year Tom Scharpling on 2012's Buzziest Music Videos

     When Tom Scharpling isn't hosting the much-loved, free-form The Best Show on WFMU or interviewing the likes of Fucked Up's Damian Abraham for his Low Times podcast, he's directing charmingly low-key, ingeniously high-concept music videos. If all the former Monk producer-writer did this year was get erstwhile Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard to dress up like a raging reality-show bro — which he did for his "Teardrop Windows" video — then we'd have found a way to bestow a 2012 superlative upon him.

  • Frank Ocean performs at Lollapalooza, August 2012 / Photo by Billy Waters /Retna Ltd./Corbis

    Trend of the Year: Alt R&B

    The sheets of cheers coming from the first seven-or-so makeshift rows at Frank Ocean's Lollapalooza performance this past summer were practically the Beatles at Shea Stadium. It was the closest to an unbridled can't-hold-it-in embrace of a musician by his or her fans that I've ever witnessed. Ocean's nighttime set began with an acoustic cover of Sade's "By Your Side," moved through songs from last year's debut free download Nostalgia, Ultra and then the newly-released channel ORANGE, at his own deliberate pace.

  • Crystal Castles (L to R) Ethan Kath and Alice Glass / Photo by Marc Pannozzo

    Through a Glass, Darkly: A Curious Conversation With Crystal Castles

    Take a look at the cover art for all three of Crystal Castles' self-titled albums and the Toronto duo's progression is clear. 2008's I features a portrait of the band in front of a brick wall, awkwardly posed like the figures in a Robert Longo painting, vocalist Alice Glass in a vintage T-shirt, producer Ethan Kath in a hoodie and leather jacket, both in tight jeans. The image is totally appropriate for the noisy 8-bit provocation inside. Crystal Castles are Nintendo Entertainment System Teenage Riot.II , released in 2010, features an idyllically faded photo of a youthful goth standing in a graveyard near a tombstone that reads "Mother," making explicit the duo's stick-your-face-in-it dread and darkwave influences.

  • Jay-Z and Beyoncé with Barack Obama / Photo by @BarackObama

    President Obama (and Jay-Z) Defeat Hip-Hop Apathy

    The only time I have ever felt afraid at a rap show was when Killer Mike performed at this year's Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina. It wasn't because of some vague but palpable criminal element often present at hip-hop events. And it wasn't the swarthy-bougie frat bros from nearby Chapel Hill using Mike's onstage energy as an excuse to knock some nerds around, either. It was the sentiment sent from the stage after a performance of the song "Reagan" from Mike’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music. He doubled down on these lines: "Ronald Reagan was an actor, not at all a factor / Just an employee of the country's real masters / Just like the Bushes, Clintons, and Obama / Just another talking head telling lies on the teleprompter."Hopscotch's audience, mostly white, caught up in Mike's performance and rhetoric, hooted and hollered and clapped. They were cheering for cynicism.

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