Rapchat: Now YOU Can Join the Underground Rap Scene

Here at WRVU, we’re all about the underground music scene, whether we’re introducing you to fresh new songs or interviewing artists who may not even be college graduates yet (in fact, my show is entirely the latter). Recently, though, I discovered an app that is destined turn the entire Vanderbilt campus into amateur rappers. It’s called Rapchat, and it’s the long-awaited messiah of the Vanderbilt rap scene.

Drake consults with his ego before sending a diss Rapchat to Kendrick Lamar, Diddy, and Big Sean.
Drake consults with his ego before sending a diss Rapchat to Kendrick Lamar, Diddy, and Big Sean.

The app is simple and very easy to use. All you have to do is pick one of the pre-packaged beats (there are a few dozen from which to choose), hold the phone to your ear, press record, and spit some dope lines into the mic. Then you send your killer freestyle to your friends, who are connected to you via Facebook. The beats are actually not a total joke–it seems the developers crowdsourced them from Soundcloud beatmakers, and indeed you can check out the Soundcloud page of each of the beats’ creators. It’s a brilliant symbiotic relationship that provides Rapchat with its production and the beatmakers with an audience for their material.

Deep down inside, everyone wants to be a rapper, and I’m no exception. I started from the bottom of Rapchat over winter break and the rhymes have been flowing ever since. I make them everywhere; honestly, it’s hardly more obnoxious to rap into your phone than it is to take a shameless Snapchat in public, and will become less so as Rapchat inevitably takes over, following in the mythical footsteps of Yik Yak, Tinder, and Instagram. Of course, however, the most creative juices come out in the bathroom, where Rapchat becomes Crapchat.

Much of my fraternity now uses the app, and I’m proud to say that our brotherhood has never been tighter. The ability to instantly compose a diss track and send it to the entire chapter means that no one can really rise above the rest. We will come up as a crew or not at all, and if anyone breaks the code, they will certainly be cut down to size by some of our more caustic tongues: C-Flow, Blumin’ Onion, etc. Today you might not know these names, but tomorrow they will be the next A$AP collective, busting out thirty second nuggets of lyrical gold and shooting up the universal musical consciousness of the country.

The future of the Vanderbilt music scene--and college rap game everywhere.
The future of the Vanderbilt music scene–and college rap game everywhere.

The real beauty of Rapchat, though, is that none of your rapt listeners can tell if you’ve freestyled your lines or if they were meticulously prepared. I find that leaving this particular mystery unsolved builds up my intimidating aura more effectively; it leaves my audience with the force of my words ringing in their ears, bouncing around their brains, bamboozled by my dope rhymes with no choice but to assume that I invented them on the spot. Of course, I am sure to maintain a healthy distance between myself and any haters for the time being; I don’t yet feel as though I could take down Supa Hot Fire in verbal combat, and he is naturally the standard to which any good rapper must hold him or herself.

Anyways, the moral of the story is that I’ve been fighting to expand the Vanderbilt music scene since the fall of 2012, and now the tool by which this will happen finally exists. I want everyone reading this to download Rapchat and tell their friends to do the same. With any luck, Vanderbilt will soon be not only the happiest campus in the country, but also the dopest.

Nine Years Later, System of a Down Still “Mezmerizes” Me

System of a Down managed to capture the zeitgeist of American anti-war sentiment in 2005 with their shocking hit album Mezmerize.
System of a Down managed to capture the zeitgeist of American anti-war sentiment in 2005 with their shocking hit album Mezmerize.

It may be surprising to see a retrospective of a nine-year-old nu metal album on this blog, particularly from a writer who has vented at length about the overall lack of quality of mid-2000s popular music.  Then again, everything about System of a Down’s music, from the band’s ability to mash together disparate and seemingly irreconcilable influences to their shocking success on the mainstream airwaves, is a bit surprising.  System’s landmark 2005 album Mezmerize happened to be on my mind as I put together a discussion for my psychology class, and revisiting it as I worked resulted in three dominant trains of thought, none of which dealt with my homework: 1) nostalgia for the days when my biggest concern was whose backyard trampoline the neighborhood kids would be hitting up after school, 2) amazement at how irresistibly fun the eleven songs are, and 3) wonder at System’s ability to somehow maintain this fun amidst livid, highly caustic lyrics and guitar riffs.  In conjunction, these concurrent streams of consciousness brought me to the crucial question: how the hell did a band like System of a Down hijack the popular music consciousness?

I think the answer boils down to two factors: perfect timing and the group’s ability to infuse its thrashing songs with elements that made them palatable to mainstream listeners.

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Shake It Off or Take It Off (of Spotify): Interpreting Taylor Swift’s Bold Move

Taylor may have swiftly changed the game when it comes to the future of streaming music.
Taylor may have swiftly changed the game when it comes to the future of streaming music.

I’m sure by now you’ve all heard the news: Taylor Swift has removed all of her music from Spotify.  As in, everything.  Not just 1989.  The only track you can find that even features Swift is “Safe and Sound,” her collaboration with The Civil Wars.  Go now and listen while you still can, before we have all been forsaken by the great blond goddess of our musical age.

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Remembering Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon

On October 21, 1995, Shannon Hoon (second from left) died of a cocaine overdose.  He was 28.
On October 21, 1995, Shannon Hoon (second from left) died of a cocaine overdose. He was 28.

On this day nineteen years ago, four of Blind Melon’s five members woke up expecting to play a show that night at Tipitina’s in New Orleans.  The fifth, lead vocalist and chief songwriter Shannon Hoon, never awoke.  He had died of a cocaine overdose at age 28.  Today, to honor Hoon’s memory, I’d like to take a look at Blind Melon, a terribly under-appreciated member of the grunge pantheon.

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Local Acts Shine at Exit/In–Monday, October 6, 2014

Joel Levi headlined Soundstamp's local music showcase at Exit/In on Monday night.
Joel Levi headlined Soundstamp’s local music showcase at Exit/In on Monday night.

Exit/In is one of Nashville’s most famous and beloved venues.  One look above the bar at the wall of artists who have performed on its stage is enough to send the tingles of history down your spine.  Monday night, though, Exit/In’s legendary stage was devoted to three local acts: Joel Levi, James and the Wild Spirit, and Vanderbilt’s own Kid Freud.  The trio of bands, though quite different in genre and style, combined to put on one hell of a show.

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Periphery @Exit/In Tonight #MetalIsMusicToo

Periphery will be melting faces at Exit/In (not Rand) tonight.  Doors open at 7pm.
Periphery will be melting faces at Exit/In (not Rand) tonight. Doors open at 7pm.

For those of you there on that fateful afternoon in Rand almost two years ago, you remember it as one of the oddest sensory juxtapositions in your Vanderbilt career.

It was, at first, an ordinary lunch hour for the students in our campus dining hall.  Some were studying, their laptops and notebooks strewn about, taking up four-person tables all by themselves.  Others were casually munching on their Randwiches and “gourmet” Chef James meals and chatting with friends.  Many were multitasking.

Then, the music started.  At first, it was just a rush of distortion in the background, barely registering in ears so unaccustomed to hearing it.  But it soon became clear that this was no mere technical accident.  The speakers in Rand were playing metal–replete with screams and growls of vocals and guitars and lacking any consistent melody or rhythm.

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The Evolution of Matisyahu

Matisyahu, mid-2000s (top) and 2014 (bottom).

Today, Vanderbilt will host its most esteemed musical visitor, excluding Rites and Quake, since Billy Joel (and Michael Pollack) captivated a sold-out Langford Auditorium almost two years ago.  Matisyahu burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s, delivering a powerful reggae sound laced with traces of rock, hip-hop, and his trademark Judaism-inspired lyrics.  It was a wonder to behold him commanding the stage in traditional Hasidic dress, complete with yarmulke and full beard, while performing in a style that broke the mold of Jewish orthodoxy and tradition.  We listened in awe as “King Without a Crown” leapt to #28 on the Billboard Top 100, easily the highest a song with explicitly Jewish lyrics has ever charted.  We sang along to the powerful “One Day,” which was remixed with new verses by Akon.  And then those of us outside the reggae community allowed Matisyahu to slip from our consciousness.

The Matisyahu who will be walking around West End today looks far different from the Matisyahu of ten years ago.  Gone is the beard, as is the yarmulke–he wears a clean-shaven look topped by a mop of graying hair.  The music, while it still contains Judaism at its heart, has become more secular and more diverse in style, reflecting the man’s continuing spiritual journey.  But Matisyahu is as active as ever, having released his fifth studio album Akeda in June and touring extensively in support of the LP.  In light of this metamorphosis, let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights of Matisyahu’s decade-long career.

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Kid Freud: A Rising Vandy Band

Kid Freud, formed five months ago, is poised for a successful 2014-2015 campaign.
Kid Freud, formed five months ago, is poised for a successful 2014-2015 campaign.

It’s rare that you find a prodigious band coming out of Vanderbilt.  Vampire Weekend met at Columbia and Tom Schulz met his Boston bandmates at MIT, but here the music scene centers around singer-songwriters—Belmont produces the bands, they say.

With Kid Freud, though, Vanderbilt may have these rock titans’ future equals on its hands.

Despite forming only four months ago, the three-piece outfit is taking its place at the head of the burgeoning music community on West End, regularly packing venues like The End and fresh off earning the opportunity to open Rites of Spring after winning the festival’s Battle of the Bands.

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