Social media and Mailing List
I discovered rock music the same way a lot of other kids did in 1992: Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. The song had been out a year and hit big in ’92. With that song I became a card carrying member of the 120 Minutes/Alternative Nation contingent aka Generation X (which i wasn’t old enough to be apart of actually). I devoured all of the Nirvana clone bands and other acts to emerge from the new alternative movement. The alternative nation had its own sound, language, and style. A counterculture to their parents counterculture of the 60’s and 70’s. The movement was about angst, social issues, depression, drug use, and flannel (I engaged in none of those things at the time but I enjoyed the music immensely).
While there was great music during this movement their wasn’t much musical diversity represented commercially. The alternative nation sound was quite homogenous in its style and themes (adults don’t get it and they suck). Radio stations found the format they were comfortable with (loud/quiet/loud/quiet) and embraced bands that helped create the alternative rock format for radio. Once the mainstream media began to analyze the culture, more light was placed on the artists that fulfilled the long hair/doc martens/heroin addict stereotype. The sound, style, and approach was dictated within the group and reinforced via mainstream media “What’s wrong with these kids??” pieces.
As I go through my mental record shelf of albums from the last 10 years that I’d like to feature in the event series, I’m not only alarmed by the lack of classic albums in R&B, but how stagnant and complacent the genre has become. There have been a few R&B artists and albums of note in the last decade, while in Rock and Hip Hop there have been significantly more. In the last ten years there have been major movements, fragmentations, and developments within Rock and Hip Hop while in R&B few. What’s missing is a progressive spirit within the mainstream and underground where contemporary R&B artists challenge modern conventions ultimately creating their own paradigm like generations past have. Music has always worked this way where each generation tinkers with and changes the previous generation’s model. A crucial example being the late 70’s early 80’s where the invention of the drum machine challenged artists to adapt to a new technology that inevitably changed music production. This change bought an updated approach to R&B where a new generation would have a sound and style that signified their youth as previous generations had (acoustic to electric instrument, Motown, etc).
Who were the trailblazing artists of the last ten years that not only defined R&B, but influenced music as a whole? The few successful acts pushing the envelope in the last 10 years did so with moderate attention compared to contemporaries in other genres. This argument pertains to both the mainstream and underground where innovation has been lacking. In the mainstream there was a super producer hangover with producers doing their best impression of The Neptunes/Timberland production or artists going directly to the source (unfortunately both production teams are past their prime). The prevailing influence of Hip-Hop is involved as well (good and bad which we will cover). In the underground most R&B artists have recycled J dilla style beat after J dilla style beat and rehashed the same themes of the last ten years. Underground fans have contributed by forgetting what drove them to progressive music in the first place by supporting recycled music and shunning innovation by established artists. If your criticism of Erykah Badu’s “New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)” is “its not Baduizm,” then you are part of the problem. The genre has also had no “Kanye West” transcendent artist who challenged artistic expression within a larger commercial framework. What there has been is the death of the R&B album, short lived singles, unrealized potential, record company bungling, disappearances, tired production, wtf’s, and luke warm fanfare. Continue reading
Photography: Shannon Sturgis (link)
Thanks to everyone that came out last night for Classics Party #1: Aquemini. The night started off calm with people filing into No Malice Palace where they mingled and and enjoyed a 42BELOW cocktail and Pabst Blue Ribbon. DJ Ayres played a beautiful array of southern rap classics early in the evening getting the crowd ready for what became a emotion filled dance party with EVERYONE singing along to tracks from Aquemini as well as other southern “I can’t believe I forgot about this song but now I’m dancing my ass off” tracks.
I’d like to thank everyone that helped in putting the event together, the people that attended, DJ Ayres, No Malice Palace, and of course Outkast. Pictures below…
With Classics Party #1: Aquemini quickly approaching our DJ for the event, DJ Ayres has put together a magnificent mixtape inspired by the sounds of “Aquemini” era Outkast and their crew The Dungeon Family. This mix is a perfect example of what were looking to say and accomplish here at Classics Party. It connects the dots and tells the musical story of artists that paved the way for a seminal album such as Aquemini and spotlights artists that were contemporaries of Outkast during that time.
Jam on the mix and we’ll see you on thursday
When I decided to begin this project the first album that came to my mind was Aquemini by Outkast. No album challenged me more around the time when I decided that music was really THAT important to me. Not only was it a challenge but I didn’t like it. It was just weird for 1998. There were no soul samples and boom bap drum breaks like the traditional east coast rap that I was listening to at the time. They had live instrumentation on a lot of the tracks and…gasp…a harmonica solo on the first single. These songs were even different then the ones on the previous album ATLiens. How could they screw up a proven winning formula (pimps, ho’s, players, and Cadillac’s)? I couldn’t tell if there had been a actual conscious decision to change the style up or wether these guys were doing drugs only aliens had access to. The album stood out in’98 because of the live instruments, spiritual/astrology themes, rappers singing (now every rapper sings even if they can’t sing), and a member who decided to get weirder and weirder by each album. “Why is he wearing football padding and multiple color frizzy pants?” No one could explain any of it to me. Then my rap bible and I think everyone else’s at the time “The Source” gave the album 5 Mics (when 5 mics was credible) and then we were all really confused. What I didn’t see as a kid and immature appraiser of art was that Outkast was creating their own paradigm and never looking back.
Classics Party Presents: A Celebration of Aquemini by Outkast
With DJ Ayres
9/30/10 | Thursday | 8pm – 11pm
No Malice Palace