Gentrification is taking the Music out of Music City

12th and Porter is the latest victim of gentrification in the Gulch.
12th and Porter is the latest victim of gentrification in the Gulch.

Nashville calls itself Music City; it’s the moniker that supposedly separates our home from Charlotte, Minneapolis, and every other up-and-coming metropolis, and it’s a huge part of the reason I chose to come to Vanderbilt. So the news that the locally beloved venue 12th and Porter will be closing its doors at the end of February disturbs me greatly—and if you care about preserving the cultural integrity of Nashville, it should disturb you too.

According to The Tennessean, the property will be redeveloped to “enhance the North Gulch.” If the South Gulch is any indication, that means we’ll see 12th and Porter replaced by luxury condos, a couple boutique clothing stores, and another Bar Louie or an Irish pub. Instead of seeing a great local band or marginally more to check out an established act like Kings of Leon or Neil Young (both have played 12th and Porter), you’ll get to overpay for dinner and drinks at a generic nightspot devoid of personality. This is gentrification at its finest: the conversion of a “run-down” area into an upscale neighborhood through the replacement of its businesses and residents and raising of rent.

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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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