Author: Sam Chapman

Local Music In A Global Age

In case you missed the memo, we live in an increasingly globalized world. No realm is safe–least of all music. In a lot of ways, this is a really good thing. The ease with which artists and culture creators can now create and share content, even across thousands of miles, is amazing and unprecedented. East African beats find their way into Caribbean soca, which in turn influences reggaeton and American hip-hop. Of course, globalization has drawbacks as well. The social and political implications are obvious, but the advent of the digital age has triggered seismic shifts in the realm...

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Le1f Live: I Could’ve Whirled Away Into Forever

Writing about live music in late 1980s New York, Kim Gordon once offered the observation that, “People pay to see others believe in themselves.” At the risk of disrespecting one of my greatest heroines, I think Ms. Gordon misses the point a bit. The joy of being an audience member does not lie merely in bearing witness to a performer’s singular charisma. We buy concert tickets, wait in lines in the rain and the sun, cram ourselves into tightly packed, dimly lit rooms full of stale air and cheap beer and weed smoke. We pay these prices and in...

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Three Minutes And Thirty-One Seconds

In music, as in life, beginnings are often the most exciting part. Every song, every album, every concert and performance and dance routine must begin somewhere. It could be the opening guitar riff of Purple Haze, the lazy bass and snare heralding Proud Mary, or Destiny’s Child’s assertion that they don’t think you can handle this. Some beginnings are more exciting than others though. Some music is so entirely hardwired into our emotional memory banks, so thoroughly entwined with our emotional cores, that just hearing the beginning is almost a spiritual experience. And so it was that I found...

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Make It Stop: The Illegitimacy Of The Grammy Awards

I don’t like the Grammys. I’ve known this for years, and I make no secret of it. When an institution bestows an award on the Baha Men but withholds from Patti Smith, Morrisey, Public Enemy, Bjork, Notorious B. I. G., Tupac, and Katy Perry, I have some doubts about legitimacy. Every year I promise myself that I won’t get my hopes up and every year I fail. This year was no exception. Can you blame me? When the list of nominees was released, it all looked so hopeful. Tame Impala! D’Angelo and Kacey Musgraves and Wilco?! And of course,...

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DoNormaal. She Will Explode.

It was 10pm on Saturday night. I got out of my car, waited for my friend to crush her Four Loko can underfoot, and walked into a house show in Fremont. The house was a nondescript two-story outfit that sometimes functions as a DIY venue. It was surrounded by the requisite gaggle of lanky, black-clad, twenty-somethings milling about, smoking, and lounging in the porch light. The performance space was in the basement. It was small and crowded, with black plastic covering the walls and speakers flanking a small corner where the performers would stand and play their beats through...

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Who Will Save Queer Hip-Hop?

There is a moment in the video for Wut, by New York rapper Le1f, that I feel we should discuss. In it, Le1f—understated in a jersey, athletic shorts and a gold chain—perches on the lap of a man. The man is muscular and white, his body coated in oil, his face obscured by a Pikachu mask. He doesn’t move as Le1f ferociously dips and twirls and gyrates on and around him. The man, we are given to understand, is only there as carnal furniture, a throne upon which Le1f may lounge and dance while he spits out verses like:...

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