Author: William Ruben Helms

I’m a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in The New York Press, New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog, Ins&Outs Magazine, The Noise Beneath the Apple, Glide Magazine, The Whiskey Dregs Magazine and others.

New Video: The Vibrant Visuals for Up-and-Coming Danish Pop Artist Ea Kaya’s Latest Single “Remedy”

Born Christine Kiberg, Ea Kaya is an up-and-coming Copenhagen, Denmark pop artist, who amassed 1 million YouTube views by the time she turned 15. Kiberg continued to hone her craft with stints in a soul and funk band and an electro pop project before deciding to go solo. And with the release of her debut single “Don’t Complicate It,” the up-and-coming Danish pop artist garnered praise and attention from the likes of Red Bull, Scandipop, Soundvenue, The Line of Best Fit, as well as comparisons to internationally recognized Scandinavian pop artists such as Tove Lo, MØ, Zara Larsson and others. 

Kiberg’s latest single “Remedy” is a slickly produced, radio friendly pop confection that features stuttering drum programming, boom bap beats, sharp, arpeggiated synths and an infectious ear worm of a hook paired with Kiberg’s self-assured and sultry vocals in a woozy, lovesick song that focuses on a toxic and co-dependent love — but with a startlingly unadulterated honesty, as the song’s narrator openly admits that she’s tied into a dysfunctional and fucked up relationship. As Kilberg explains in press notes, “‘Remedy’ is a song about toxic love. In a relationship, it’s rare that both parties want each other equally. As soon as you start catching feelings for someone, you can’t help but get a little addicted. If you’re down, he’s able to make you forget your problems for a little while and he becomes a remedy to your dark sides. It’s risky though, because if he finds out, he might take advantage of the power he has over you…”

The recently released video employs the use of vibrant colors in several different settings — a track and field course, a commuter train, the woods, a sunlit studio, a brightly colored mural as a juxtaposition to the aching nature of the song’s lyrics. 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Statik Selektah Teams Up with The Lox on the Boom Bap-Era Inspired Single “But You Don’t Hear Me Tho”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of the past five years or so, you’ve come across a handful of posts mentioning or featuring Statik Selektah, a Boston, MA-born, New York-based DJ, producer, radio producer and founder of ShowOff Records, who’s also one-half of hip-hop duo 1982 with frequent collaborator Termanology.  And as you may recall, the Boston-born, New York-based producer, born Patrik Baril, much like anyone who’s involved in music, was introduced to music at a very young age; in fact, he can trace the origins of his own musical career to when he began experimenting with his parents’ eight-track tape deck, cassette recorders and turntables. By middle school, Baril had begun DJ’ing school functions, but as the story goes, Baril became truly inspired to be a producer and turntabilist after hearing DJ Premier and Funkmaster Flex on Hot 97.

As a high schooler, Baril, named himself DJ Statik — the Selektah came much later, after he had heard a local reggae artist say it — and began doing radio at Phillips Exeter Academy‘s radio station, WPEA, and where he also occasionally DJ’ed some of the Afro-Latino Society Parties. He began to DJ clubs and private clubs throughout New England; however, by 2000, Baril had returned to Boston, where he pursued an audio production degree at the New England Institute of Art. Around that time, Baril began releasing a mixtape series titled “Spell My Name Right,” which he then followed several years later by creating ShowOff Marketing, which eventually had Reebok, G-Unit Records, Virgin Records, Capitol Records and Puff Daddy‘s Vote or Die Campaign as clients, before spinning off into a label, which released Termanology’s Out the Gate and Baril’s 2007 debut Spell My Name Right.

Since the release of his 2007 debut, Statik Selektah has released 7 more albums including his 2010 breakthrough 100 Proof: The Hangover, an effort that eventually reached #37 on Billboard‘s Heatseekers Chart, and has produced and collaborated with an incredibly diverse list of artists including Freeway, Strong Arm Steady and others. Statik Selektah’s eighth, full-length album, the aptly titled 8 was released yesterday — December 8, 2017, which may be rather auspicious — through his own ShowOff Records, and the album has the renowned producer 

Statik Selektah’s eighth full-length album, aptly titled 8 is slated for an auspicious December 8, 2017 release through his own ShowOff Records, and the album finds the renowned producer collaborating with a who’s who’s list of contemporary hip-hop including 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Action Bronson, Wale, G. Eazy  Joey Bada$$, PnB Rock, the late Sean Price and others. Album singles like the Pete Rock-like“No. 8,” a collaboration with Conway, Westside Gunn and frequent collaborator, the aformentioned Termanology and the neo-soul-inspired “Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed,” a collaboration with  a backing band consisting of Brady Watt (bass), a member of The Lesson and DJ Premier’s backing band, Cas Weinbren (keys) Utril Rhaburn (horns),  Enisa (vocals), G. Eazy and Joey Bada$$  further cemented Baril as one of contemporary hip-hop’s best producers. 

The album’s latest single “But You Don’t Hear Me Tho” is collaboration with The Lox and Mtune featuring golden era-inspired production consisting of a looped sample of twinkling keys, blasts of horn and tweeter and woofer rocking, boom bap beats, and the old school-like production is roomy enough for the members of The Lox (Styles P., Jadakiss and Sheek Louch) to trade bars reminiscing about what hip-hop has -meant to them as people and artists, while making pointed commentary on the fickleness of the industry. Along with that, each emcee seems thankful that they’ve managed to survive the trails and tribulations they’ve faced but underneath the surface is a rather profound question of where they’d be without their love affair with hip-hop. 

Directed by Najee Evans, the video features the renowned producer with his adorable daughter, as he takes her to his favorite record store to crate dig but perhaps more important, the video is a revelatory flashback on his career, featuring cameos from Joey Bada$$, DJ Premier, Lord Finesse, Buckwild, Westside Gunn, Conway, as well as footage of The Lox. 

New Video: Everest, Psycho Realm’s Sick Jacken, and Rhyme Syndicate’s Divine Styler Team Up on Gritty, Boom Bap-Inspired Single

WARPORN Industries is an art/hip-hop collective comprised of Everlast, Psycho Realm’s Sick Jacken and Rhyme Syndicate’s Divine Styler and the trio’s latest single “A Day In The Life” off their debut mixtape Warporn features the trio rhyming about balancing the difficulties of improving oneself and the conflicts of brotherhood while on the come up. And they do so over an old school/golden age hip-hop-influenced production featuring tweeter and woofer rocking, boom bap beats, a looped horn solo and some explosive scratching. As the trio’s Divine Styler says in press notes . . . “We must go through it, to get it.” 

Directed by Chad A. Marshall, the gritty and recently released video focuses on the difficult decisions between loyalty and getting yours, of the struggle between the call of the street and of your art, and so on. 

New Video: The Surreal and Lysergic Visuals for Jesse Medina’s Woozy Collaboration with Kool Keith

Jesse Medina is an up-and-coming San Jose, CA-born, Bay Area-based emcee whose life experience has helped influence him and his sound. Growing up, he moved from place to place and was raised by various family members in different socioeconomic situations and different environments, frequently hanging out with skaters, stoners, hippies, punk rockers and others, and as a result he has an incredibly unique style. Medina’s latest single, which was released through Granjer Records, “Chasin’ Franklin” features the up-and-coming Bay Area-based emcee collaborating with the renowned and legendary Kool Keith, as the duo trade bars over a slurring and sloshing Mr. Aeks production comprised of layers of bleating horns, sputtering boom bap beats.

Unsurprisingly, the drunkenly slurring track is specifically meant to be a celebration of excess and hedonism as both emcees make copious references to drinking, drug use, womanizing and misbehaving, as well as the prerequisite braggadocio about how dope they are as emcees; but what makes the track wild to me, is that both emcees trade menacing and surrealistic verses, full of left-field, complex inner and outer rhyme schemes, with each emcee weaving their verses within the mix like two wobbling and tumbling drunks.

Directed by Matt Posada of Film Block Productions is a hazily lysergic video, rooted around lines like “Acid trippin,’ fuckin’ in the kitchen,” featuring some bizarre, yet sensual imagery and a guest appearance by Kool Keith’s alter ego, Dr. Octagon.   

New Audio: Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 Team Up with The Legendary Carlos Santana on a Funky and Powerful New Single

Lagos, Nigeria-born and-raised multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and singer/songwriter Seun Kuti is the youngest son of the legendary and controversial Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. And as the story goes when Seun was nine, he expressed a desire to perform with his father — and within a short time, Seun started performing with his father’s backing band Egypt 80. Much like his older brother, Femi, Seun Kuti has followed the political and social ethos of his late father, continuing to push their father’s pro-Black, pan-African/pan-African Diaspora, anti-colonialist, sociopolitical messages to wider, international audiences. Oddly enough, during Fela’s life, he was in many ways the bane of the Nigerian political establishment, as he bravely called out the hypocrisy, inequality, inequity, corruption and brutality that they and their fellow countrymen faced on a daily basis — while pointing out that corruption and brutality is always the same.

However, with increasing international attention on both Fela and his sons over the past 20 years, the Kutis have managed to walk a careful tightrope of siding with the little guy and courageous speaking truth to power at all costs, including risk of life and limb while also becoming unofficial ambassadors to Nigeria, their proud and beautiful people and their culture. Around the time, I started this site, I caught Femi Kuti and Positive Force at Irving Plaza and there was a proud contingency of Nigerians, who spoke of Femi and his father with proud, reverential terms, at one point referring to Femi as “Professor!” “Speak Professor, Speak!” They would exclaim whenever Femi would say something that resonated with them. In some way, I was reminded of how older Jamaicans speak of Bob Marley.

Fela died in 1997 when Femi was 35 and Seun was just 14. Almost immediately upon his father’s death, Seun took over the frontperson duties of his father’s legendary backing band, a band that features members of his father’s backing bands Afrika ’70 and Egypt 80 — many of whom were with Fela, when he was speaking out about the Nigerian government at a time, when doing so could mean risking jail, brutal beatings an/or death. And interestingly enough, Seun’s 2008 debut effort Many Things was produced by Martin Meissonnier, who produced two of Fela’s albums.

Now, as you may know live, Seun Kuti has developed a reputation for sets being a fair mix of his own original material, along with covers of his father’s material, and because his father rarely (if ever) performed songs he recorded in the studio live, Seun covering his father’s material is often seen as an opportunity for fans to hear songs like “Water Get No Enemy,” “Shuffering and Shmiling,” “Colonial Mentality” and “Army Arrangement” live — and with a dynamism that rivals that of his late father.

Seun Kuti’s fourth album with Egypt 80, Black Times is slated for a March 2, 2018 release through British label Strut Records, and the new album reportedly finds Seun and company honoring the revolutionaries who have come and gone before while being a much needed rallying cry for the torchbearers to come. And to further emphasize that theme, the album finds Seun and the legendary Egypt 80 collaborating with a list of acclaimed musicians and artists, including Carlos Santana and Robert Glasper, among others. As Seun Kuti explains in press notes, “Black Times is a true reflection of my political and social beliefs. It is an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together. The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg.”

The funky yet blistering album title track and first single “Black Times” features the imitable guitar work of Carlos Santana in a song that’s meant to shine a black light on society, exposing its rot, immorality and hypocrisy while pointing out the need for Black folk all over the world to band together and demand justice and inequality for all people. But beyond that it suggests that everyone needs to take a serious look at themselves and their world in order to truly begin to change it — and while it may be hard work, it’s necessary work to make the world better.

New Video: The Psychedelic Visuals for Hebdo’s 70s Rock Channeling “Go Back Home”

Joseph Hebdo is a Columbus OH-born and based singer/songwriter and producer, known by mononym Hebdo, who with the release of four EPs and two full-length albums has developed a reputation for an adventurous defiance of easy categorization although sonically, he has generally specialized in a rather anachronistic sound, influenced by Paul McCartney, Dr. Dog, Beck, Andrew Bird and others, complete with layered vocals, incredibly catchy choruses and a deliberate attention to craft. Unsurprisingly, his songwriting process initially begins in solitude, building songs in the studio and experimenting endlessly before brining in backing musicians to flesh out the material and add finishing touches — i.e., overdubs, additional tracking and the like. However, his latest single “Go Back Home” was recorded with a full-band in a single session at 3 Elliot Studio and the single finds the Columbus, OH-based singer/songwriter and his backing band sounding as though they were taking cues from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, The Band and Neil Young with the material walking a tightrope between folk, AM rock, southern rock, complete with a loose, jam-band like vibe and an impressive guitar solo.

Adding to the anachronistic vibes, the recently released video pairs 70s-inspired animation with slickly, shot live footage evoking travel in a variety of forms that’s adds a trippy sensibility to the proceedings. 
 
 

New Video: The Mournful Sounds and Visuals of TR/ST’s “Destroyer”

The Toronto, ON-based JOVM mainstay Robert Alfons, best known for his industrial pop recording project TR/ST has released two critically and commercially successful, full-length albums — his self-titled debut received praise from Vice, Pitchfork and The Guardian, as well as a  Juno Award nomination. Joyland, Alfons’ sophomore effort was a major chance in sonic direction, with the material being much more pop orientated and radio friendly sound while possessing a club friendly, muscular thump. And as you may recall, after a lengthy world tour to support Joyland, Alfons managed to write and record a series of singles, including the menacing,  Snap!’s “Rhythm Is A Dancer”-like “Slug,” which I wrote about several years ago. 

Interestingly, the renowned Toronto-based producer and electronic music artist will be releasing his highly-anticipated third, full-length effort, which is slated for release sometime in 2018 and will feature the previously released single “Bicep.” His latest single finds the renowned Canadian producer pairing organic instrumentation — here being, piano, drums and horn (albeit, what sounds like a horn sample) with a slick and lush electronic production featuring thumping beats, samples and looping machines and a soaring hook over which Alfons contributes his mournful and aching baritone. 

Directed by Justin Tyler Close and famed choreographer Ryan Heffington, the recently released video for “Destroyer,” features Heffington in his first starring role, as an intense man, who’s barely holding it together as we’re introduced to him intently walking towards the camera and running elsewhere, before seeing him expressively dancing in a number of different locales in and around the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles. At one point, he runs into a man with motorcycle helmet, who he paralyzes with mere words — sticks and stones may break your bones, and words may kill you, too. Influenced by detailed conversations between each collaborator have influenced a rather symbolic set of visuals based around a desperate, last ditch effort to save a failing relationship. Heffington’s movement manage to express joy remembered, self-reflection, turmoil, ache and longing, further emphasizing the song’s overall vibe.  

Comprised of  Amber Lane-Mcivor, Jake Blythe and Oliver Lamb, the Manchester, UK-based electro pop trio Ambiere have received attention from the blogosphere and BBC Introducing over the past year for a sound that’s drawn comparisons to the likes of Portishead and The xx among others. Building upon a breakthrough year and a growing profile, the Manchester-based electro pop act’s latest single “I See Faces” finds the act pairing strummed, electric guitar and Lane-Mcivor’s gorgeous and soulful vocals with a lush and effortlessly slick production consisting of arpeggiated and shimmering synths, propulsive yet stuttering beats and a soaring hook. And while their latest single manages to simultaneously be both radio and club friendly, their sound — to my ears at least — reminds me of Ways We Separate and Escapements-era Beacon, as the British trio manages to evoke similar, lingering ghosts.

 

 

Late last month, I wrote about Kalli Ma, an up-and coming, London-based electro pop production and artist duo, who with the release of their debut single  “Promises,,” quickly received attention across the UK and elsewhere, as the single revealed that the duo’s signature sound has been largely inspired by  techno, minimal wave and post punk. And as you may recall, their latest single “High Shot” found the duo employing both analog and digital synthesizers in a propulsive and kaleidoscopic, club banger, reminiscent of Soft Metals‘ Lenses, Factory Floor, Simian Mobile Disco, The Chemical Brothers and others, complete with layers of arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and a sinuous and sultrily sung hook.

Building upon the buzz they’ve received across the UK and elsewhere, the duo enlisted British producer Bird of Paradise to remix the song and while retaining the propulsive, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and arpeggiated synths and sultry hook of the original, the remix turns the song into an industrial house-leaning track full of the enormous clang and clatter of Kraftwerk’s “Metal on Metal” while expanding the song’s motorik-like groove and adding some cosmic ray bursts to the proceedings.