Brandon Soderberg



  • 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.

  • Roc Marciano

    Roc Marciano: New York Indie-Rap Grinder Comes Full Circle

    Who: "In the past few years, I just been focusing more on solo stuff," Roc Marciano modestly explains, delivering something of an understatement. The Long Island rapper kicked around for about a decade before finally releasing his debut, Marcberg, in 2010. By simply surviving, Marciano became a link back to New York hip-hop's head-busting past and also something of a rookie, keeping the sound alive. "I came into the game around '99-2000, with Busta Rhymes," Marciano recalls, adding, "I got my first deal in 2000, I think?" From Flipmode Squad to tough-minded trio the U.N.

  • Mr. MFN eXquire. 'Power and Passion EP' (Universal Republic)

    Get rid of New York hip-hop's well-worn mean-mugging, keep the working-class misogyny and homophobia, then quadruple its quirk quotient — a little five-percenter paranoia, plenty of closed-circuit world-building, some unabashed geek love of comic books and pro wrestling — and you're left with Mr. MFN eXquire. Yes, the man formerly known as Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire inexplicably signed to Universal in March on the strength of the 2011 mixtape Lost in Translation, a decidedly uncommercial effort with song titles such as "Cockmeat Sandwich" and "LoveSponge.” Its best song, "Huzzah," an ode to drunk driving, was a truly inspired celebration of '90s throwback rap that stole a beat from art-damaged weirdo-hero, Necro.Unlike Lost In Translation's curatorial Def Jux beat-jacking, eXquire's major-label debut EP allows the rapper to create his own dystopic world from scratch.

  • Deadmau5, '>album title goes here<' (mau5trap/Ultra)

    Deadmau5, the Toronto EDM producer and slyly self-confessed we-just-press-"play" DJ, doesn't arrange and append disparate sounds and genres to conjure up the shock of the new like, say, Skrillex, this generation’s po-mo Fatboy Slim. Nor is he unabashedly enthralled with the hokey healing powers of towering synths and beats like David Guetta, that dreamboat messiah of the Electric Daisy Carnival. No, instead, the man born Joel Thomas Zimmerman is often maddeningly, sometimes impressively, down-the-middle.Snarkily, too. His latest full-length is called >album title goes here<, which continues a tradition of similarly smarmy, one-quarter-amusing names like Random Album Title and For Lack of a Better Name. The giant mouse head he wears onstage lacks the immersive properties of Daft Punk's robot helmets, which were carefully designed to sell their Logan's Run-as-a-rave world-building.


    Before dubstep became an Americanized behemoth, it was British, bass-heavy, flirted with ambient atmosphere, and took its sweet time with build-ups and breakdowns. This was all best exemplified by Burial's 2007 album Archangel, which coated doleful dubstep in rainy synths and foggy drums. He emphasized the dub more than the step, and, like Lee "Scratch" Perry, picked up good vibes music and dropped it into more menacing territory. When an AnCo show oscillates wildly between fun and fear, it owes a bit to this mysterious U.K. producer. Back to the Centipedia glossary NEXT: Can


    A North Carolina kid with an acute ear for East Coast boom-bap, a stuffy traditionalist who bounced Pete Rock's analog precision into a cheapo computer program Fruity Loops — producer 9th Wonder thrives on contradictions. His beats gain much of their power from a hypnotic tension: robotic loops interacting with warm, glowing grooves of old soul. It's that pressure that built the first two Little Brother albums, Jay-Z's "Threat," Destiny's Child's "Girl," and much more — and this battle is no different than the avant-motorik vs. jam-band binaries that keep AnCo's peculiar pulse going. Back to the Centipedia glossary NEXT: Alice Deejay – "Better Off Alone"

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