If you had told the DJs at KCMU 25-plus years ago, as they listened to the debut album by the New Jersey rapper known as Queen Latifah, that in 2015 her name would the second thing suggested by Google when you type in “Queen” (just under “Queen Elizabeth”), they would have said “what’s Google?” But then if you’d explained the Internet, and search engines, and the dominance of a particular search engine and the way it was able to incorporate the searching habits of people around the globe to constantly update and tailor its results, I imagine they would have been surprised and impressed. (But probably pretty suspicious, too; I mean, how do you know all this, back in 1989?)
Of course there are other things you could mention, too – a long and multiply-awarded career in music, film, and television, or even just the feat of remaining culturally relevant all those years. I don’t know about you, but this sentiment is still as relevant as when it was printed (and then written in pen) on this album cover: All hail the queen! (Oh and look, it’s another accidentally timely blog post from yours truly! Turns out Queen Latifah stars as Bessie Smith in a brand new HBO biopic about the legendary blues singer. Fantastic news! Now to find a friend with HBO…)
“Queen raps + rules. Great production… easy to edit red dot as it is in the intro. M.”
“One of the finest rap LPs of ’89. Funkyshit!”
“Rap folks ’bout as bad as metal folks when it comes to ‘Thanks’ in the LP credits. By the way, not an H disc.”
“Why not? Feeling threatened by the Queen?”
“Rap being a genre rife with misogyny, it’s always refreshing to hear a woman rapper who doesn’t pander to male fantasies. Neither a sex kitten (like L’Trimm) or a Tough Mama (like MC Lyte), Latifah is simply a creative, intelligent woman. Played this after Aretha’s Lady Soul LP at home, and the Queen of Rap doesn’t lose anything in the comparison. Not a weak cut here – play up.”
“She looks like Eartha Kitt in that get-up.”
“Bow Down to the Queen.”
“All hail the queen. Play – good stuff.”
“Stand-outs: ‘Dance for Me‘; ‘Queen of Royal Badness‘; and, of course, ‘Ladies First.'”
“Ah-la-ti-do-au-lat-latte-latte-FWAH. Gimme some coffee skillet.” [I have no idea what this means. Anyone?]
There are very few artists who can pull off what Stephin Merritt did this night at Benaroya Hall: a 26-song set with the song titles performed alphabetically, from A (“Andrew in Drag”) to Z (“Zombie Boy”). Songs were culled from his extensive catalog of not only his most well-known project, The Magnetic Fields, but also The 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, and The Gothic Archies.
Opening the show was local legend Calvin Johnson, no stranger to multiple projects himself. Johnson’s set bounced around from his solo work (“Angels Can Be So Cruel”) to some Hive Dwellers songs (“Streets of Olympia Town,” “Messed Up and Ramblin”) and even a Selector Dub Narcotic number. He tried to explain his different aliases to the audience. “You’ve heard of Clark Kent, right?” he deadpanned, whipping off his own dark-framed eyeglasses. He then began an acapella rap, which included my new favorite line, “I’m the kinda guy who says, who let the dogs back in?”
photo by Shervin Lainez
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Waitress” by Hop Along from the 2015 album Painted Shut on Saddle Creek.
Hop Along – Waitress (MP3)
United Kingdom | 2015 | 107 minutes | Alexander Dunn
May 23 | 9:30PM | SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 25 | 1:00PM | Neptune Theatre
Distortion. The beats of the world-converting, endlessly genre-inventing, generation-banging Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer were never, ever meant to duplicate those of real drummers. The voice of their sounds was distortion. As Mike D. and Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys say near the end of the documentary 808, about the oft used instrument and showing as part of the Seattle International Film Festival‘s Face the Music series, the electrically-charged blips of sound memory encasing drum blasts, percussion drops, and odd smacks are as steeped in hip-hop (and now pop) history as rock and roll distortion is intrinsically punk. As the damaged fuzzy knots of guitar chords invented punk rock, the jolting smack-and-decay of the 808 provided us rap. And rap’s prominence activated electro, house, and probably hundreds of post-hip hop genres since the machine’s invention.
Beats of the Antonov
(Directed by Hajooj Kuka, Sudan, 2014)
Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 6:30 PM – SIFF Cinema Uptown
Friday, May 22, 2015 at 4:00 PM – AMC Pacific Place 11
[ director in attendance at both screenings ]
Despite being a film about music, Beats of the Antonov opens with eerie silence, followed by the foreboding sound of an airplane engine. Over the past couple of years, Sudan has been divided by an ugly civil war. Refugees from the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains areas have gathered in makeshift camps. You hear the bombs drop, but then, out of nowhere, you hear laughter. They have to laugh, to cope with the stress of it all. And they have to dance and play music, to celebrate their survival, and keep their spirits up.
It’s become a corny film cliché, but Beats of the Antonov truly does capture the “triumph of the human spirit.” These people have lost family members, their homes, their food, yet they still scrape up what they can to create music. A cluster of bottlecaps becomes a tambourine. A plastic bucket serves as a drum. I don’t even know what that guy was using to make that stringed instrument called a “rebaba.” A plate? Plastic pipes? Nylon fabric for the strings? They don’t even need these instruments: the residents clap their hands and stomp their feet to create their own rhythms, singing out in unison.
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole is “Cryin For A Love” by Warm Soda from the 2015 album Symbolic Dream on Castle Face.
Warm Soda – Cryin For A Love (MP3)
Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll
USA | 2015 | 106 minutes | John Pirozzi
May 23 | 2:15PM | Renton IKEA Performing Arts Festival
June 2 | 3:15PM | SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 3 | 3:00PM | SIFF Cinema Uptown
A stunningly told and peerlessly edited documentary about the Phnom Penh-based pop music scene of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten is lush with gorgeous sights and sounds, live performances and dance scenes, cover artwork and terrific stories. It’s a perfect addition to the Seattle International Film Festival‘s Face the Music series’ dark, tantalizing and exotic themes. (Read more about that here.)
It’s an especially exciting week for new releases. Beloved Portland duo The Helio Sequence release their sixth self-titled album. KEXP Music Director Don Yates describes it as “another impeccably crafted set of atmospheric pop-rock with shimmering guitars, ethereal synths, hazy vocals, soaring harmonies and sparkling song hooks.”
Keep an eye out for 20-year-old Las Vegas artist Shamir. Yates describes his debut as “a masterful blend of R&B, funk, house, disco, hip hop, post-punk and electro-pop, featuring a variety of bright, sharply crafted songs with often-sparse accompaniment that puts a spotlight on his elastic, androgynous vocals and intimate lyrics.” Hot Chip return with “another smartly crafted set of hook-filled electro-pop inflected with funk, R&B, disco, house, post-punk, prog and other styles. The first Hot Chip album to be recorded live in the studio, Why Make Sense? sports a natural sound combining bright analog synths, sleek guitars and propulsive rhythms with Alexis Taylor’s vulnerable crooning and heartfelt lyrics.” Beth Jeans Houghton debuts her new project Du Blonde: “While her previous album released under her own name was orchestral avant-pop, the debut full-length from her new project is a more primal blend of brooding, bluesy rock a la PJ Harvey with wistful glam-pop and stately piano-driven ballads. Produced by Jim Sclavunos of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, the album features a muscular rock sound to hammer home Houghton’s often-cutting lyrics attacking misogyny.”
Thee Oh Sees release yet another new one, “another first-rate, adventurous blend of raw garage-rock, mind-bending psych-rock and a bit of acoustic folk-rock.” The latest from Ceremony (which we debuted last week here) “finds them continuing to move away from their hardcore punk roots and straight towards brooding, Joy Division-style post-punk with astringent guitars, rubbery bass lines, gloomy baritone vocals and dark lyrics of a busted relationship.” Scroll down and check out the rest of this week’s awesome offerings: