Rap for a Reason: A Conversation with Shadower

Shadower is a Nashville-based rapper who released his single "Bully Me" last Tuesday.  All proceeds from the single will go to charity.
Shadower is a Nashville-based hip-hop artist who released his single “Bully Me” last Tuesday. All proceeds from the single will go to charity.

It’s safe to say that regardless of whether or not you think Kendrick Lamar got robbed at the Grammys, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis accounted for a significant shift in the scope of issues dealt with in mainstream rap music.  Into a culture dominated by the elegant hedonism of Kanye West and Jay-Z was infused a dose of reality–”fifty dollars for a t-shirt” (or, as famously offered by Yeezy, $120) is beyond the fiscal considerations of most Americans and shouldn’t be a standard to which ordinary folks are held.  The challenges that The Heist issued to the industry’s status quo opened up lines of dialogue that had been confined to the independent outskirts for much of the past decade, particularly regarding the materialistic, misogynistic, and heteronormative culture that has dominated mainstream rap.

In this rapidly changing paradigm, any social issue can be captured and crystallized into a song with the potential to move millions of affected listeners and inspire the unaffected to take corrective action.  With his new single “Bully Me,” Nashville hip-hop artist Shadower attempts to take the serious issue of childhood and adolescent bullying and preach empathy as the cure.

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T-Bone Burnett and the Americana Film Soundtrack

On the Friday before spring break, I had the pleasure of seeing the Vanderbilt Core Choir perform their home concert that began their week long tour to Florida.  The front end of the program was a typical classical repertoire, featuring works from Bach, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.  Via short sets focusing on international pieces and original compositions by choir members and friends, there was a gradual transition into what I found to be an absolutely stunning performance of Americana songs at the tail end of the program.  There was a complete change in atmosphere of the concert, and it was in no way related to the quality of the music going up for some strange reason.  The performance level was stunning throughout; in the roots set, it was just like the music stopped being a performance and began to be a warm and welcoming conversation.  It focused strongly on spirituals, arrangements of songs by The Wailin’ Jennys to highlight some of the ensemble’s remarkable sopranos and altos, and a selection for the male vocalists to shine on that happens to be one of my current favorite songs.    This was an adapted arrangement of Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac’s recording of “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” for the 2013 Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis (you can listen to a recording of the choir’s men performing the selection above).  The film follows a week in the life of Llewyn Davis, a fictional folk artist in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s struggling to make it by, providing a dreary reminder to the audience that for every Bob Dylan or Joan Baez success that came from this vibrant folk movement there were countless careers that failed to start.  Again and again in this dismal setting, the film’s music shines through, punctuated by performances from Oscar Isaac in his titular role.  The man that put that soundtrack together was T-Bone Burnett.

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Would you like some Irish with that?: Kodaline w/ LP

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It has been on my bucket list since the beginning of my first semester – watch an awesome show at the Exit/In. That may be redundant, considering the bands that come to the venue are more likely than not, extremely talented. Some of them have been lucky enough to have their names written on a large wall behind the bar or on the grand mural outside the front door. Well, I would argue that the show I went to, Kodaline with the fantastic opener LP, should be put up next on that wall of fame.

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Live Every Week Like it’s Snark Week

http://www.chicagonow.com/lists-that-actually-matter/2013/08/work-hard-play-hard-snarky-puppys-michael-league-on-freedom-dedication/
http://www.chicagonow.com/

Earlier this week, Nashville was lucky enough to host one of the most innovative and creative bands in the business right now. Combining elements of jazz, electronica, rock, and everything in between, Snarky Puppy attracted probably one of the most demographically diverse crowds I have ever seen at a concert. It was amazing to see this band have such a crowd equally invested into their music, and taking a closer look at their work will show you how this was possible.

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Resurfacing A Forgotten Love

Apple_iPod_Mini

The other day, as I stumbled upon some old photos of myself deep in the crevices of my computer files, I started reflecting on my middle school self. I was, of course, rocking the typical emo/pop punk kid uniform of as much pink and black  as possible and sporting thick, black etnies in most of the photos. In a few pictures, I’m seen with a metallic blue iPod mini on hand.  So, the other day, I started thinking about the bands I was listening to back in 2006 and thought I’d give you all a recap of my ultimate favorites at the time. Hopefully some of you can relate.

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No, the Other LA

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Neutral Milk Hotel

What comes to mind when you think of music from Louisiana? For most, probably not a whole lot. You may be aware of New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz, or the Southern Louisiana favorites of zydeco and Cajun music if you are especially shrewd. Although it is true that these genres have a huge impact on the musical culture of Louisiana, there are a surprising number of artists that do not adhere to these more “typical” Louisiana genres and can hold their own against bands and artists across the nation. I find out more and more about the rich and diverse music scene in my own backyard all the time, and just recently I was informed by a Louisiana musician and friend that many of the members of Neutral Milk Hotel, who just recently sold out the Ryman, are in fact from the quaint town of Ruston, LA. Just to give you all a little taste of what I am talking about, I have compiled a list of five artists/bands that I think give insight into a different spice that Louisiana offers.

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