Yesterday, Jay-Z's streaming music service Tidal was launched. The press event featured over a dozen celebrity musicians as signing "owners" of the service (each reportedly received 3% equity in exchange for exclusive content), and, by some accounts, was a bit awkward and content-free. At $19.99, the subscription plan is double the cost of competing services like Spotify, and no "freemium" plan is offered. The justification is two-fold: 1. Artists should be compensated fairly for streaming; and 2. The service's high-fidelity, lossless streaming is far superior to the current standard (320 kbps AAC, as Spotify and Rdio currently provide.) You can take an online blind test between 320 kbps AAC and Tidal's lossless streaming, to see if you have the "equipment and ears" for lossless music. Is there really a noticeable difference, or is this snake oil? Will the artist-forward approach change the conversation and ingrained habits of streaming music listeners? Is Tidal a sort of streaming for the 1% rather than for struggling independent musicians? Is it a walled garden for artists at the expense of fans? Or is this all simply a great vertical move for Jay-Z's Roc Nation label? So many questions.
Over 50 years ago, The Beatles arrived in New York for their first US visit, but what if ....
Having departed Heathrow on the 7th February 1964, John Lennon, in a playful mood, ordered the pilot to divert the plane via the Bermuda Triangle. Newly declassified documents reveal that Pan Am Flight 101 disappeared from US radar screens shortly after midday, local time. At great expense we have obtained – from reliable Russian mafia sources – an MP3 copy of the black box recorder of that ill-fated Boeing 707. This indicates that as far as those aboard the plane knew, after experiencing severe cyclonic turbulence over the Atlantic Ocean, they re-routed towards New York, believing themselves to have narrowly avoided aeronautical disaster. But on arriving at JFK airport, they were stunned to learn that they had arrived in the year 1994.That's the premise of An Adventure To Pepperland Through Rhyme & Space, a two-hour ill-trippy musical adventure with golden era hip-hop musicians, from P.E. to Spoonie Gee, Tha Liks to Hieroglyphics and Large Professor to Salt n Pepa, courtesy of Tom Caruna, also the artist behind Enter the Magical Mystery Chamber (previously, and still online)
U2's thirteenth studio album Songs Of Innocence was released for free download via iTunes this week (with surprisingly good reviews and some naysayers). And of course, some controversy about how it was distributed... But it's been 5 1/2 years since the release of their last album. What on earth have they been up in the meantime? [more inside]
"Saying "Hey, I like Kim" isn't as inspiring to people as us getting married. And anyone that's in a relationship knows that in order to get to the point to get married and then to be married and to then carry on, it needs that work put into it. Right now, people look at it and it's like, "Wow, that's inspiring." Meaning that love is infectious. You know, God is infectious—God flowing through us and us being little-baby creators and shit. But His energy and His love and what He wants us to have as people and the way He wants us to love each other, that is infectious. Like they said in Step Brothers: Never lose your dinosaur. This is the ultimate example of a person never losing his dinosaur. Meaning that even as I grew in cultural awareness and respect and was put higher in the class system in some way for being this musician, I never lost my dinosaur." GQ interviews Kanye West. [more inside]
The Case for CDs -- as CD sales continue to plummet, Grantland's Steven Hyden takes a "glass-half-full perspective" on those numbers, discusses format nostalgia, and the five types of albums that justify the continued existence of CDs. [more inside]
The Complex City Guide has a bit of information on 15 possible headquarters for the Illuminati, but it's a slideshow with limited information, and there's a lot of information out there, so let's get into it. [more inside]
Don't fight it. It's the year of the oral history. If there hasn't yet been an oral history on your favorite pop culture phenomenon, it won't be long. In the meantime, for your reading pleasure, how about starting with an oral history of Captain Marvel: The Series? Or perhaps you'd rather read about The Telluride Bluegrass Festival? If your taste runs more toward technology, check out an oral history of Apple design. More reading inside! [more inside]
"For the record, I think Tattoo You is a much better album than Magna Carta … Holy Grail, and that Samsung makes a much better product than Jovan." (Steven Hyden for Grantland)
Classic Albums is a rock and pop documentary series, broadcast and on DVD, starting with The Making of Sgt. Pepper. There were 38 more albums covered, plus five more in the Netherlands... [more inside]
Do you know what Nicki Minaj slowed down is? Nicki Minaj slowed down is Jay-Z, that's what (SLYT, lyrics are NSFW). [more inside]
A tale of science gone mad, global conspiracies, and the dangers of hubris. Drake, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye, Weezy, Birdman, Noah Shebib, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj in: Hottest Chick in the Game, a comic by Sean T. Collins, and Andrew White.
Gymnast: In Motion — The elegant movements and athletic prowess of five twirling trampolinists are captured in photographer Steve Harries’ new short film. Performing up to 7.5 meters in the air—shot from a tall camera tower beneath a rig suspending the set, mirrors and lights from the ceiling—bodies were broken up into fragmented forms and motions by a bank of six mirrors. Contrast that with No Church in the Wild, the Jay Z & Kanye West collaboration filmed by Romain Gavras. A message of hope to anyone who feels society needs to change direction, or a furious extended urban battle scene?
Before hip-hop beefs, there were response records, also known as answer songs, usually replies to well-known songs. There are a few key eras: blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s, including a number of responses to "Work With Me, Annie" (1954), recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, with answers including "Annie had a Baby," and "The Wallflower" by Etta James; and Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" (1953), with a quick response by Louis Innis and Charlie Gore, made a mere week after the original was released, and Rufus Thomas' "Bear Cat" (1953), Sun Records' first hit. Country, rock & roll, doo-wop and pop music picked up where the blues left off, with most activity in the 1950s to 60s. Two examples from this era are "Are You Lonesome To-night" and "Who Put The Bomp," and responses to both. The most well known from the next decade was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974), a response to Neil Young's "Southern Man" (1970) and "Alabama" (1972). Until the 2000s, no answer songs had charted as high as the original hits. That changed with Frankee's "F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)" (2004), a response to Eamon's "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" (2003), which was the first answer song to reach number 1 in the UK. Six years later and across the pond, Katy Perry's "California Gurls" was a response to "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z. It was the first answer song to reach No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100. More Responses inside. [more inside]
In the last decade, no organ of music criticism has wielded as much influence as Pitchfork. It is the only publication, online or print, that can have a decisive effect on a musician or band’s career.... [W]hatever attracts people to Pitchfork, it isn’t the writing. Even writers who admire the site’s reviews almost always feel obliged to describe the prose as “uneven,” and that’s charitable. Pitchfork has a very specific scoring system that grades albums on a scale from 0.0 to 10.0, and that accounts for some of the site’s appeal, but it can’t just be the scores.... How has Pitchfork succeeded where so many other websites and magazines have not? And why is that success depressing? A lengthy history and review of Pitchfork [Media], from an inexpensive online alternative to a music zine, to "indie" music kingmaker, and thoughts on pop music (criticism). [more inside]
Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration Watch the Throne, as reviewed by Ghostface Killah. Words: they are not minced.
If you're Jay Z, you have an Empire State of Mind. If you're Darth Vader? Best appreciated by watching the videos in order.
Hip Hop Zelda. It's a booty call from Hyrule, a love letter in rhyme to your childhood featuring some of the best independent and mainstream Hip Hop artists. MF Doom, Edan and Aesop Rock get tossed together with Dr. Dre, Common, and Jay Z in this surprisingly compelling mashup of old Legend of Zelda tunes. If the TriForce Rules Everything Around You, hit up the link above to stream the album, or download it for free here. [more inside]
Current.com's Daily Fix has named their Top 5 Free MixTapes of 2008. At number five is Black Milk's Elec. Number four is Wale's mixtape about Seinfeld (seriously). Number three is The Hood Internet vs. Chicago. Number two is Charles Hamilton's Crash Landed. Number one is a tie between Lil Wayne's The Draught is Over Part Six and some Kanye remixes called Sky High. Bonus mixtape not from the list: Jaydiohead - JayZ and Radiohead... in the same songs... I like 'em all
Jaydiohead, an album of Radiohead and Jay-Z mashups by Minty Fresh Beats Warning: goofy-looking dude's myspace. [more inside]
Jay-Z wanted the guitar to look like a big, goofy prop (in Gallagher's formulation, after all, guitars aren't instruments so much as membership cards); he wanted to mistreat the melody, not coddle it; and he couldn't be bothered to remember lyrics that, when you think about it, sound sort of flubbed to begin with. By butchering the cover, Jay-Z weaponized it.
The Slack Album The Slack Album is the latest (for the next ten minutes) in a slew of Jay-Z Black Album remixes and mash-ups. In this case, the Black Album is melded track-for-track with samples taken from Pavement's 1991 lo-fi / indie classic Slanted and Enchanted.
Jay-Z + Weezer = Jay-Zeezer. I then read a New York Times article about a web site called "The Jay-Z Construction Set" which compiled all of the materials you needed to remix your own version of Jay-Z. It had the acappella version of the Black album, Dangermouse's Grey Album, sample beats, and various remixes that other DJ's had already made. I fired up Shareaza, my file-sharing weapon of choice, and dreamed of internet stardom. [via mymarkup.net - webblogg] [more inside]