China’s ‘ban’ on hip-hop evidences music’s cultural permeability [Editorial]

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Hip Hop

Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff of Migos collectively brimmed with anticipation on January 26, 2017. Culture, the Atlanta hip hop trio’s second studio album, was scheduled to drop at midnight — a follow up to 2016’s EP, 3 Way.

Its two lead singles, “Bad and Boujee” and “T-Shirt,” had catalyzed just the heavy anticipation for its release that Migos had sought: “Bad and Boujee” ascended to viral status, going quadruple platinum, while “T-Shirt” went double platinum. Their collaborative labor in the studio was poised to pay off, and the music industry was not only watching—it was attentively listening.

Culture predictably earned Platinum certification after crossing the sale point of more than one-million units. Come the beginning of 2018, the outfit found themselves among the nominees for “Best Rap Album” at the Grammy’s 60th iteration.

Migos released Culture II around the same time as their Grammy nomination. Like its predecessor, this new sequel of an LP was swiftly and hungrily consumed by their fan base, who’d been impatiently awaiting it since its announcement. The play count on Culture II must rest somewhere in the millions by now, and that number will have grown by the time a reader of this editorial reaches its end.

Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff  sit atop a musical empire of their own making, and yet, their broad repertoire would rank entirely as “tasteless, vulgar, and obscene” in today’s Chinese media landscape given its hip-hop classification.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT) — the country’s main media regulator—released four new “Don’t” media restrictions on January 19. Television networks are expected to abide by the newly published rules: “1. Absolutely do not use actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble, 2. Absolutely do not use actors who are tasteless, vulgar, and obscene, 3. Absolutely do not use actors whose ideological level is low and have no class, and 4. Absolutely do not use actors with stains, scandals, and problematic moral integrity.”

The SAPPRFT’s promulgation of these stringent media rules “specifically requires that programs should not feature actors with tattoos [or depict] hip-hop culture, sub-culture (non-mainstream culture) and dispirited culture (decadent culture),” according to Chinese news source, Sina.

Across the Pacific, hip-hop accounted for a quarter of all music consumption in the United States in 2017, surpassing rock music to become the largest musical genre in the country for the first time in history.

Hip-hop’s rise to become the most popular genre of music for the first time last year speaks not only to the genre’s longevity in the context of the US music industry, but additionally to its continuing cultural and economic prominence. An underground musical movement of the mid-1970s, the genre originated in the Bronx in New York City as a recreational outlet that married elements of MCing, DJing, spoken verse, and break dancing. It offered a vocal platform for the block party artists that identified and used it as a vehicle of expression.

While hip-hop rides a wave of unprecedented centrality to the commercial American music market, it is duly an important, and perhaps a lesser known fact that this music remains only in a nascent stage in China. This germinal state of Chinese hip-hop that renders it vulnerable to the SAPPRFT’s newly imposed media rules. In fact, it’s almost as though these rules err on the nationalist side, seeking shut out a subculture with international roots. Hip-hop has not yet received the opportunity to become a cornerstone of musical commerce in the Chinese market, and is thus more susceptible to heavy restrictions — if not total attempted eradication.

The SAPPRFT’s limitations on the Chinese media’s portrayal of hip-hop will only further thwart the genre’s ability to gain a substantial market presence, being that hip-hop and its accompanying subculture is being written out of the Chinese media by the media’s chief regulators. “Hip-hop’s prospects in China seem dim after Chinese rappers [known by the stage names “PG One” and “GAI”] removed from TV shows,” posited a headline from the state-facilitated tabloid, Global Times. Global Times would go on to identify hip-hop as a “tool for people to vent their anger, misery, [and] complaints.” Another national news agency, Xinhua, stated that PG One “does not deserve the stage,” further remarking that “we [China] should say ‘no’ to whoever provides a platform for low-taste content.” PG One’s music has since been removed from a number of online Chinese music websites.

The Chinese Republic’s crusade on hip-hop as duly a genre and kind of culture that is “low-taste” in nature arises out of the state’s desire to regulate pop culture, a primary source of influence for youth in China and elsewhere. The SAPPRFT’s media rules that target the development and potential success of Chinese hip-hop seek to control, contain, and homogenize the pop cultural experience in China, as the genre “threatens” to become as substantial an element of pop culture there as it has in the US. On a more basic level,  “pop culture” classification briefly set aside, the SAPPRFT’s movement against hip-hop portrayal in the Chinese media represents a dangerous model of cultural construction, in which a culture is crafted and defined by its forced limitations.

Yet, as hip-hop flirts with Chinese media censorship its power becomes increasingly clear. The title “hip-hop” bespeaks a musical personality that has resonated in both the US and in China. Hip-hop’s subjection to such stringent regulation only evidences that the genre has traveled internationally, arrived, and exhibited its allure on Chinese ground in a sort of musical cross-pollination that evinces its pervasive quality.

Diplo serves up an hour of hip-hop heat in new ‘Give & Go’ mixtape

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Diplo

Diplo recently added his two cents to the NBA’s All Star weekend, dropping off an hourlong basketball-themed mixtape, Give & Go. Following a recent stylistic shift with DRAM on “Look Back,” the Mad Decent head revisits his firmly planted hip-hop roots, coming through with a souped-up ode to America’s most popular genre.

The new mix rounds together a rhyming highlight reel that includes cuts from Lil Uzi Vert, Drake, Kodak Black, N.E.R.D., Rae Sremmurd, Vince Staples and more. Rifling through the rap crate in honor of the annual weekend NBA festivities, LeBlonde James aka the Moombahton Malone laces up a mix packed with the top trending selects of the moment along with a handful of crossover remixes to glue it all together.

Kendrick Lamar, Baauer, Travis Scott, and Skrillex all make appearances in the new Give & Go mixtape, and with Diplo’s hiatus from solo work nearing an end with his impending California EP, perhaps fans can expect a heavy hip-hop motif on the upcoming release. Until then, enjoy this new 30-track roundup from EDM’s Flairry Bird.

 

Getter and Nick Colletti drop off the ultimate hot boxing anthem ‘Cruisin’

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getter suh

Getter has donned his Terror Reid moniker to roll up a hazy new hip-hop cut, “Cruisin,” with his Instagram-famous comedian buddy Nick Colletti, and damned if it isn’t tasty. A total recall to hip-hop’s golden moment of the late 90s and early 2000s, the track is equipped with the familiar scratchy bounce of Cam’Ron and Juelz Santana’s “Hey Ma,” and piano chords emulating Biggie Small’s postmortem “1970 Something,” all wrapped up in tongue-in-cheek rhymes about blunts and sandwiches as the “suhh dudes” swap loose verses.

One can’t help but smile and bop along with the track’s goofy, simple hook, “Oh, here we go, head out the window, beats banging in the stereo, ayy” and imagine themselves doing the exact same thing.

“Crusin,” out now via Getter’s Shred Collective, isn’t groundbreaking work by any means, but it’s the perfect for a drive and a toke — so turn this one up, roll the windows down, and smoke ’em if you got ’em.

 

Watch Drake drop stacks in new video for ‘God’s Plan’

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drake-video-gods-plan-dancing-astro

If Drake doesn’t make you smile, you’re either a hater or a psychopath. Fact.

The man has grown his brand to define a culture that surpasses the confines of hip-hop, and now he’s delivered on what he claims to be “the most important thing [he’s] ever done in [his] career” with the new music video for his dominating new single “God’s Plan.” The track is an enjoyable return to vintage Drake’s mister-steal-your-girl flow, but the real show stopper is the hit’s new video feature, which finds the OVO helmer spreading the love… and wealth, dropping the video’s entire $1 million production budget on a handful of life-changing good deeds. And damnit if it isn’t the most heartwarming thing on the Internet right now.

“The budget for this video was $996,631.90. We gave it all away. Don’t tell the label,” reads the feature’s title card.

The new “God’s Plan” video comes complete with Drizzy’s characteristically beaming smile and dad-cool dance moves, while he goes around purchasing people’s groceries, funding a University of Miami student’s education with a $50,000 scholarship, suprising total strangers with chunky wads of cash and impromptu shopping sprees. Instead of another big budget rap video, good guy Drake drops off an inspiring piece of content to match his latest sonic product that’s undoubtedly bound to make your day.

Lil Wayne surprises fans with future bass feature, ‘Til She Lose Her Voice’

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lil wayne

One of America’s most well known rappers, Lil Wayne established his fame via infectious features on single after single during the late aughts. His own highly impressive and extensive discography includes twelve studio albums, two EPs, and twenty-five mixtapes.

Although he is one of the most versatile rappers in the game, Lil Wayne has never before experimented with dance music. However, after teaming up with DJ Spin and Whiiite, Lil Wayne proves he can spit bars over just about anything.

DJ Spin and Whiiite have produced a vibrant original titled, “Til She Lose Her Voice,” and Lil Wayne has made a shocking cameo on the future bass track. With glowing, oscillating synths, easy flowing beats, and enthralling builds, DJ Spin and Whiiite engineer a stunning sound that Lil Wayne effortlessly raps over, creating a blissful combination of dance elements with hip-hop.

With his latest feature, dance music and hip-hop fans alike will eagerly awai more from the genre-bending rapper.

Dillon Francis delivers first single from new moombahton album, ‘Ven’

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Dillon Francis Coachella

The people pled, and Dillon Francis delivered.

The producer has officially begun to deliver on his promise of a new moombahton album with the release of its lead single “Ven,” featuring Puerto Rican songwriter Arcangel and Dominican rapper Quimico Ultra Mega.

The album is expected to be chock full of culture-blurring collaborations, with Francis actively traveling over the last year to find the most authentic supporting cast possible for his sophomore LP.

In a note to fans accompanying his first release of 2018, Francis explains,

“For the last 18 months I’ve been spending most of my time between shows at the studio. My goal was to have fun, inspire myself, and make something amazing, so when I got time in the studio I focused on making moombahton records. I asked Toy Selectah to help me source some vocals and we got into an amazing rhythm and I kept writing songs. We went to NY, Miami, Dominican Republic and Mexico City to work and it was some of the most incredible experiences ever. So here’s the first song off my upcoming album…”

Clocking in at the moombah tempo sweet spot, “Ven” drips and drops at 108 beats per minute, roping in heavy hip-hop influences, and carried by sharp hi-hat flurries and sinister Spanish spits from Francis’ Latin co-stars. Last year the “Hello There” producer regained creative control of his music when he parted ways with Columbia Records and we’ve now seen the first fruits of Dillon’s labor.

TIL: Tom Hardy actually has bars? Actor’s rap mixtape from 1999 surfaces

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Every now and then, the internet proves to be more than…just the single most defining feature of modern society.

Among the endless collection of memes and trolls, occasionally the online experience does procure some decent finds — like troves of unreleased Skrillex cuts, or this shamelessly iconic Daft Punk fan. This time, the internet has bestowed us with one such gift: Tom Hardy’s rap mixtape from 1999. Yes, Bane raps, and it easily could have been roast-ready nonsense. That would have been fine. However instead, it actually kind of goes — and that’s what makes Falling On Your Arse In 1999 such a treasure.

The mixtape was quietly uploaded to Bandcamp and shared on Reddit in early January, featuring 18 unreleased tracks from Tommy No 1 and produced by Eddie Too Tall, better known as British director and writer Ed Tracy. Each distorted, sample-riddled rap cut is a quintessential slice of lo-fi hip-hop’s golden era from the early 90’s, and the whole collection is now available to stream.

Back in 2011, Hardy told BBC in an interview that he was signed in the 90’s, and that he recorded “loads of material,” despite “not being very good.” We’re still parsing through FOYA 1999, but for now, we’ll agree to disagree.

Ansel Elgort releases new track ‘Supernova’

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Ansel Elgort is a man of many talents. Beyond his film debut in the 2013 remake of Carrie, Elgort’s career has since flourished with numerous roles, most notably in The Fault In Our Stars and Baby Driver. In addition to this, he has also had reasonable success as a producer by the name of Ansolo and was a mainstage performer at Ultra Music Festival 2015.

Though his acting career has taken a turn towards superstardom, Elgort still releases music as Ansolo. The most recent addition to his musical portfolio is a hip-hop, trap hybrid track,”Supernova.” The track is pretty basic, combining auditory elements of hip-hop with trap percussion and Elgort’s melancholic vocals.

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Snails finally drops long-awaited ‘Break It Down’ along with wild music video

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Back in 2015, French-Canadian bass maestro Snails was a featured guest on an episode of Skrillex‘s OWSLA Radio residency on Apple Music. Between bouts of friendly banter, the superstar DJs showcased two hours worth of tracks in their personal rotations, even going as far as previewing unreleased selects over the air for each other. One such track from Snails, affectionately nicknamed “Squishy Riddim” by Skrillex, is now finally getting an official release as “Break It Down,” on OWSLA, and while Skrill’s unofficial title didn’t stick, it still gave an accurate representation of what the listener is in for.

While the track hasn’t changed much since its infancy, the final product, which also features Space Laces and Sam King, comes with a striking new music video, serving as the follow up to Snails and Botnek‘s previously released “Waffle House” video. The accompanying feature, by Spanish filmmaker Ernest Desumbila, matches the track’s high octane kick with an animated 80’s-inspired sci-fi thrill ride which perfectly complements Snails’ belly-churning production style.

 

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Flying Lotus releases new track in year end Brainfeeder mix

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A decade ago, Flying Lotus kicked off his independent Brainfeeder record label, where he set out to hone in on the left of center intersections of electronic music and instrumental hip-hop. Since then, the label’s signed experimental artists like Thundercat, The Underachievers, Lapalux, Mr. Oizo, and more.

Moving into 2018, Brainfeeder producer PBDY has released a new collection of Brainfeeder tracks on a new mix, Brainfeeder 2017 ∞ 2018. In it’s SoundCloud description, PBDY’s referred to it as, “A collection of Brainfeeder tracks & rarities as well as a glimpse of what’s to come in 2018.”

The 46-minute mix boasts Brainfeeder exclusives like a Lapalux collaboration with Lousiahhh, as well as work from labelmate Iglooghost, and a few Thundercat remixes. The very last track on the mix is a new instrumental number from the Brainfeeder-boss, Flying Lotus himself, entitled “Quarantine.”

“Quarantine” is a more subdued sound than Flying Lotus’s recent output, specifically the rap-centric You’re Dead! album of 2014, which featured collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Captain Murphy, Snoop Dogg, and more. The instrumentals of the new track shine a light on the endless sonic opportunities and possible avenues for FlyLo’s new record, which he’s recently confirmed he’s currently finishing.

Tracklist:
Locust Toybox – “Kuxir”
Lapalux – “Rotted Arp (feat. Louisahhh)”
Tierra Whack – “Mumbo Jumbo”
Topic – “Sonic Rain”
Iglooghost – “Kodama”
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson – “Kazaru”
Thundercat – “Bus In These Streets (DJ Manny Remix)”
Jameszoo – “Flu (feat. Arthur Verocai) (DJ Manny Remix)”
Louis Cole – “Bank Account”
Thundercat – “Drink Dat Drink Dat (Feat. Wiz Khalifa) (Chopnotslop Remix)”
Lapalux – “Holding On”
Little Snake – “Lilith”
Iglooghost – “Bug Thief”
Locust Toybox – “Godlips”
Ross From Friends – “Crimson”
Thundercat – “Friend Zone”
Louis Cole – “Thinking”
Salami Rose Joe Lewis – “Cool Down”
Iglooghost – “Slow Heal”
Buttress – “We Survived!”
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson – “To Be Continued”
Flying Lotus – “Quarantine”

Compilation Artwork by: Mckay Felt

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