Friday, 21 June 2013

James Gandolfini/Tony Soprano Tribute (1961-2013)

The news that James Gandolfini passed away earlier this week at the young age of 51 shook the acting world and many of those outside it. For me and many others, Gandolfini will always be remembered as Tony Soprano, a character that undoubtedly changed television in ground-breaking drama The Sopranos from 1999 to 2007.

In the role Gandolfini was one of the very first actors of his generation to bring cinema quality performance to the silver screen and revolutionize the world of television, paving the way for the outstanding standard of shows we see today in Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, Mad Men and many more. Without him the show couldn't have functioned and without the show we'd surely be watching a very different TV screen these days.

Aside from television acting Gandolfini was cast in films such as Zero Dark Thirty, Killing Them Softly, and True Romance, but his Emmy award winning performance* as the troubled New Jersey mob boss will always outshine the rest.

R.I.P to a true acting legend who will be sadly missed but never forgotten.

The following video is not my own work. It is a fan made tribute by Michael Mariano which perfectly summarizes the character of Tony and makes for emotional viewing following this tragic news. Warning: Contains spoilers if you haven't seen The Sopranos.

*(Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series 2000, 2001, 2003)

''Yeezus'' Kanye West - A Review

There's never a dull moment with Kanye West. Just five years ago it seemed that the Chicago bred rap star had hit somewhat of a crisis point following the release of the controversial, mostly misinterpreted 808's & Heartbreak which failed to gain the universal acclaim from critics and fans that his previous college trilogy had acquired. And while since it's gained notable recognition in hindsight for it's role in producing modern acts like Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and Drake, the end of 2008 saw West strike a confused, disappointed and bitter figure, which he expressed through a number of incidents in bizarre fashion, the most obvious of which is the now infamous stage hijacking of poor Taylor Swift at the VMA's in September 2009.

Ever since Kanye seems to be a man on a mission, blasting his critics and proving the doubters wrong in 2010 with one of the finest album releases of the century (and arguably his finest) in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a record which simultaneously blended and perfected the sound of Late Registration, Graduation and 808's to devastating effect. This was followed with the braggadocio double effort Watch The Throne in 2011 with fellow rap superstar Jay-Z and Cruel Summer last year which saw West overseeing the talent he helped to create for his own label G.O.O.D Music.

That's a pretty busy 3 years, and the announcement that Ye was to become Kim Kardashian's baby daddy just a short while ago would have led many to believe that the rapper deserved some kind a of break away from the industry, time to settle down and begin family life perhaps. But there's never a dull moment with Kanye West.

Enlisting the services of Guy Manuel De Homem-Christo & Thomas Bangalter, Justin Vernon and Frank Ocean among others, West has once again created a very special record and the like of which only he is capable of in modern music. We kick off with a hard hitting mission statement in the form of  ''On Sight'', as we're told ''Yeezy season approaching... Too many hoes in this house of sin/Real nigga back in the house again'' over a hardcore electronic beat provided by Daft Punk that shocks the senses into waking up and preparing for what's ahead.

What's ahead are ''Black Skinhead'' and ''I Am A God'' which continue the electro rap mindfuck of the intro in the loudest and most unapologetic manner Ye and Daft Punk can manage, the latter in particular standing out for its egomaniacal rant, much in the same vein as ''Power'' on Dark Fantasy. From here we are introduced to man of the moment and another West prodigy in Frank Ocean as ''New Slaves'' tricks you into following a simpler beat before exploding into life in it's glorious second half, with Ocean delivering his trademark falsetto beauty over a rising, triumphant background making for possibly the finest moment on the entire album.

If it sounds like a lot to take in just four tracks, it certainly is and the album begins to pace itself afterwards, allowing the listener to take a welcome breath and recuperate for the rest of the short running time. ''Hold My Liquor'' and ''Blood On The Leaves'' feature the welcome addition of Justin Vernon as the pace drops, but while it's not quite as frantic, the latter half is just as outstanding, with the sonic majesty of each track reigning over the entire album all the way to its soothing close on ''Bound 2'' after just 40 minutes, and so Yeezus concludes, leaving us both exhausted and wanting more.

What is there to say about such an overwhelming experience in such a short length of time? If you were to compare this to any other Kanye album it'd probably be Graduation, but this is West at his heaviest, darkest and most extreme. Personnel wise Ye seems to have stuck close to many of the cast that made Dark Fantasy such a success, but perhaps the most impressive thing about Yeezus and its predecessor is the fact that West surrounds himself with such outstanding talent yet manages to retain the record as his own show entirely, bypassing some of the biggest names in music seemingly with his sheer presence and holier than thou attitude. But then again, if we're talking about big names, can you think of any more significant since the turn of the century than Kanye West?

Ultimately, there's a sea of modern rap artists who at some time or another will state their own claim to the throne but when Kanye has his own John Lennon moment and declares himself bigger than Jesus, the entire community stops and stares, maybe because just like the Beatles icon before him there is something decidedly messiah like about Kanye West in the context of modern music.


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Danny Brown at The Sugar Club (17/06/13) - A Review

''This ain't a rap concert. This is a party with all of my friends, and we just listening to some songs we all like.''

Danny Brown makes this welcome announcement to a wildly receptive crowd as he takes to the stage in The Sugar Club around the 10pm mark last night, and the sentiment seems to hold true throughout the night as the eternally eccentric rapper makes a point of using the intimacy of this small Irish venue to his full advantage. The same crowd that remained seated and stationary during Irish rapper Rob Kelly's enjoyable opening set (and his final show before retirement) move quickly to the front and centre when Brown appears, leaving every last seat empty as they clamour around the Detroit star, who responds with a series of high fives for those in the front row and beyond.

Brown opens his set with a number of covers; 'Jealousy' by The Purist, 'Toxic' by Childish Gambino and best of all, 'Black Brad Pitt' by Evil Nine, but in reality if you weren't aware of the original artists you'd never be able to tell these songs weren't written by Brown himself, who delivers them in his trademark gritty style, bouncing around the stage and making the audience jump manically at the same time. The young audience seem near possessed by their artist, who makes a point of directly addressing the crowd in between songs, forming a bond that lasts the entirety of the set by giving us excellent quotes such as: ''I wish I was down there with you instead of up here working. I'm jealous as a motherfucker right now.''

From the early covers Brown phases into his own work, delivering favourites from hit 2011 album XXX  like 'I Will', 'Radio Song', 'Bruiser Brigade' and 'Lie4' that inject excess adrenaline into the already pumping room, and perhaps the biggest element in Brown's success is the fact that he is quite obviously enjoying it himself, feeding off the crowd and transferring his own energy into theirs, nearly to the point that the division between onstage and offstage is non existent. As the set finishes up Brown opts for a series of sing along songs in the form of 'Monopoly' and 'Blunt After Blunt', the latter marking the absolute high point of the night as entire room seems to partake in the delivery of the chorus, defining the interactive style of a Danny Brown concert going experience.

Leaving the stage, Brown still makes sure to reach as many fans as possible as they outstretch arms in attempt to greet him, and there is truly a sense of disappointment that time is up when the lights come on, although the entire crowd have been left exhausted by a speedy hardcore set that couldn't have let a single audience member down. I was aware of Brown's live reputation before the gig (the stories of oral sex onstage and Brown's tendency to join the crowd on the floor), but it's hard not be incredibly impressed by the whole experience which involves fans quite unlike anything I've seen before. The intimacy and romance of The Sugar Club was a blessing and combined with Brown's unique style to perfection, providing Irish fanswith a real treat last night.

If you're any kind of self respecting hip-hop/rap fan, make it your business to see Danny Brown while you still can on such a low-key scale; you will not be disappointed.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Earl Sweatshirt's ''Doris'' Set For July Release

Finally, it looks like we've gotten a rough release date for Earl Sweatshirt's long awaited second album. Doris will be dropped at the ''end of July'' according to the man himself, who recently told MTV the news.

The Odd Future rapper stated: “I’m wrapping everything up so it’s coming out in July, I can’t wait for this shit to come out already so I can finally exhale.”
It's been a long time coming with lead single ''Chum'' first released way back in November, while ''Whoa'' dropped this March, both to rave reviews from fans and critics alike. It seems like Doris is shaping up to be one of the biggest rap albums of the year with guest appearances from Tyler The Creator, Frank Ocean and plenty of other OFWGKTA members confirmed as well as others including Mac Miller and Pharrell Williams. Let's hope that the highly anticipated album lives up to the hype.