On the newest version of the Nialler9 Podcast dropping today, we talk new music tracks, the best new album of the week in the form of the Black Panther soundtrack, we chat to Wyvern Lingo about their album and historic male entitlement in the arts, we look at the shortlist for the Choice Music Prize Irish album of the year and relive Kendrick Lamar’s visit to Dublin’s 3Arena.
Conversation is between myself and Ellen Fitzpatrick who also edited and produced the podcast. We hope you enjoy it and do leave us feedback here, on socials and iTunes.
Curated artist soundtracks are a relatively new concept in the world of OST with Lorde the most notable high-profile artist to “curate” the third Hunger Games soundtrack. That release served as a nice tie-in in music marketing for a mainstream movie.
For Marvel’s Black Panther soundtrack though, the Marvel studio and the film’s director Ryan Coogler turned to Kendrick Lamar, the conscious rapper who blazes through the mainstream despite the tag.
Lamar curates this 14-track album, along with Top Dawg CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith and it feels less an artist marketing and movie tie-in and more a collection of art that uses Black Panther’s black superhero and African heritage themes as an inspirational starting point for a companion piece.
The resulting soundtrack has more in common with Drake’s More Life “playlist”, a loose conceptual collection of music, drawing from the film and an array of musicians and singers excelling in their field. The list of contributors are Kanye-level eyebrow-raising. Among the TDE artists like Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, SZA and there are appearances from Future, Jorja Smith, SZA, Anderson Paak, James Blake, Zacari, SOB x RBE, Khalid, Vince Staples, Travis Scott, 2Chainz and The Weeknd.
Also worth noting, as the film is primarily a marquee African American film, that there are South African musicians including vocalist Sjava singing in Zulu and South African house music star Babes Wodumo so it has some cross-cultural collabs that tie into the movie’s themes of African territory and a culturally-rich Atlantis-style forgotten city with a black population.
Kendrick curated and produced the album with TDE in-house producer Sounwave but there’s also production contributions from BADBADNOTGOOD, Frank Dukes, Mike WiLL Made It, Doc McKinney, and Cardo.
Kendrick serves as the album’s executive artist. He’s credited on five tracks but appears on nearly every track backing up the performer or taking lead.
There are clear highlights in the Vince Staples low-end-riding hi-octane ‘Opps’ with Kendrick, Vince Staples and Yugen Blakrok working the beat. ‘Kings Dead’ with JAy Rock, Future and James Blake is elevated by Lamar’s “Red Light/Green Light” outro and Schoolboy Q rises to Lamar’s “are we on ten yet? I live on ten!” jibe with the line on ‘X’ “Not even Kendrick can Humble Me.”
Elsewhere, English R&B singer Jorja Smith adds to the texture and draws parallels to her appearance on Drake’s More Life cut ‘Get It Together’ on ‘I Am’.
It’s not a consistent album but it is a wholly captivating one. Anderson .Paak and James Blake feel a shoehorned into ‘Bloody Waters’; The Weeknd parachutes his own Starboy style into the end of the album on what sounds like a closing credits by numbers number, designed to grab mainstream ears and while I do like ‘All of The Stars’ with SZA’s star turn on the hook, it does stand in stark contrast to the rest of the Black Panther tracks in its pure pop sensibilities.
What ties the soundtrack together is Kendrick’s and lyrical sensibilities exploring the black identity. I can’t imagine more than a handful of these songs appearing in the film itself which would certainly make for an interesting superhero movie watch but there’s enough parallels between the film and Kendrick and his collaborators that this doesn’t feel like just a tie-in, more a considered cultural response, with nods to the film’s plot dotted among its lyrics.
More than a Marvel movie tie-in, Black Panther is a gold standard film soundtrack essentially released through Disney with the best rapper in the world doing it on his and his collaborators own terms.
Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz and Saudi – ‘X’
“Are you on ten yet?,” Kendrick asks on this Black Panther soundtrack highlight, goading and amping up his fellow MCs Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz and Saudi until they are at full hype and Schoolboy drops the line ‘Not even Kendrick can humble me’. It’s one of many highlights from the soundtrack curated by Kendrick that is way better than it has any right to be.
Half Waif – Keep it Out
Massachusetts-born Irish/Swiss singer-songwriter Nandi Rose Plunkett or Half Waif will be releasing her new album Lavender on April 27th. ‘Keep it Out’ is about “the evolution of the self in a relationship: the maintenance of autonomy in the midst of a process of coupling, ageing, and decay.” –
The video was directed by Celina Carney and choreographed by 2nd Best Dance Company. She supports Iron & Wine in the Helix this Valentine’s Night in Dublin.
Wajeed – Earth
Detroit producer and founder of on his own label Dirt Teck Reck recordsWajeed has been releasing music since 2000. His latest Mother EP will be out on March 16th sees him make his debut on Planet E Communications. ‘Earth’ from the new EP has some upbeat Floating Points-esque jazz vibes and is certainly a floor-filling grove.
Brame and Hamo – Roy Keane
Sligo producers Brame & Hamo bounced back on the music scene with their first release in two years last December, three track Trants EP. Now the duo are back again just two months later with new EP Club Orange on their self-titled label. First track ‘Roy Keane’ is a funky, upbeat and melodically joyous track that will make you do exactly what its lyrics suggest you do and something you can’t imagine Roy Keane doing… dance. The full EP is out on February 19th.
U.S. Girls – Rosebud
American-Canadian musician Meghan Remy records and produces music under art-pop project U.S. Girls. ‘Rosebud’ is the first track from her forthcoming album In a Poem Unlimited that features soothing high tone vocals from Megan on a low key dance production track with an intertwined violin riff throughout. Reminscent of the Italians Do It Better compilations.
Iceage – ‘Catch It’
Iceage are a four-piece band from Copenhagen, Denmark signed to Matador Records that make punk-rock of a darker tone than most. ‘Catch It’ is the band’s first release in four years which features a poetic lyrical delivery from lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt in his typical dingy fashion, chopped up with a contrasting guitar solo for added reflection.
The most essential tracks of the last week handpicked by the Nialler9 team.
Young Fathers – In My View
Young Fathers seem immune anyone outside their clique, operating as a gang who were more interested in offering genuine healing through music that crosses rap, gospel and lo-fi sonics. ‘In My View’ is another idiosyncratic uplifting gem from these outliers, but if there’s anything obvious from their new material, it’s an increasing softness and directness that wasn’t present on their first two records. Their new album Cocoa Sugar is out in March.
The Go! Team – If There’s One Thing You Should Know
The Go! Team are back with a new album Semicircle, which is a return to their exuberant indie jams. And it works. The bandleader Ian Parton travelled across the US and recorded young choirs and brass bands and they add to the genuine schoolyard buzz of the record. ‘ If There’s One Thing You Should Know’ is a giddy highlight from it.
Wyvern Lingo – Maybe It’s My Nature
If you needed further proof that Wyvern Lingo are a band of naunce. They have followed up my Irish song of the year about celebrating the feminine characteristics of a man and vice versa with a song about the reality of monogamous relationships and whether it’s a part of our nature to lust or at least, look to others romantically when you’re in a long-term relationship. A monogamous relationship is often seen as a binary thing and singer Karen Cowley is exploring the buffers of those strict lines – a very nuanced subject for a smooth soul/R&B/indie pop song.
David Kitt – Imagination
Before David Kitt officially releases his album Yous physically, he dropped a four-track EP featuring a track from that and a three new ones. ‘Imagination’ is one of those songs that isn’t just B-side material.
The Golden Filter – End Of Times – Silver Dub
From a dub version of The Golden Filter’s latest EP, this ‘Silver Dub’ version is set up for the dancefloor with an ‘I Feel Love’-style arpeggio synth.
Jay Rock – King’s Dead (with Kendrick Lamar, Future and James Blake)
Kendrick has curated the Marvel Black Panther soundtrack gives us another reason to look forward to its release with this track:
Henry Green – Another Life
An atmospheric pop track from a new Bristol producer who previously featured here with ‘Stay Here’. It’s from his debut album due in March and of the song he says:
“I had a really vivid image/moment in mind when I wrote “Another Light”. I was sat on a silent beach in the early hours of the morning, slightly hazy from the lack of sleep and I wanted to write about the whirlwind of colours and textures, both in the landscape but also in my mind at that moment. So much change had happened in such a short amount of time and I was just reflecting on it all.”
Lone – Temples
Lone releases Ambivert Tools Volume Three, the latest in series of EPs that have been worthy listens.
Rejjie Snow – Egyptian Luvr (feat. Aminé & Dana Williams)
Popular Music, like nigh on everything else, has been dominated with political sentiment in 2017. In a year where issues of race, class and gender were (sometimes painfully) brought to the fore of civic discussion, music has dutifully followed suit.
In fact, much of this year’s popular music can be viewed as a reaction to political stimulus, whether it be civic, social or body. Barring the possibility of a new mega-hit emerging in the rest of December, the year’s most popular song is undoubtedly ‘Despacito’, sung by Luis Fonsi and guest featuring Daddy Yankee.
The Grammy-nominated song, considered by many to be a shoe-in for the award, has continually broken commercial records since it’s original release in January of this year. Perhaps the most relevant broken record of all associated with the sultry Latin smash hit is it claiming the mantle of having the most weeks at the number one spot for a primarily Non-English song.
Considering the recent growth in anti-immigrant sentiment across the political landscape the fact that a loud and proud Latin song became the monster tune that it did speaks volumes about where the political allegiances of the youth lie. Even though it remains only token, it is a sweet gesture none the less.
“Lamar, on the other hand, seems intent on highlighting, criticising and interrogating many of the underlying attitudes and behaviours of the society he exists in.”
Any discussion of popular music in 2017 must include an examination of African-American rap and hip-hop. While ‘Despacito’ may grab all the record consumer numbers, the most influential album of the year must be accredited to DAMN, Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album release. Lamar has always been an artist able to bridge the gap between the conscious and the commercial, yet the release of DAMN has seen his name become synonymous with popular culture while providing some of the rappers most thoroughly provoking and controversial lyrical content.
Most artists seem to grow more conservative upon reaching a certain level of super-stardom. Lamar, on the other hand, seems intent on highlighting, criticising and interrogating many of the underlying attitudes and behaviours of the society he exists in, even if this process is painful for both the artist and the audience.
Most of the lyrical content throughout DAMN focuses in on racial issues. Lamar does also provide commentary on the shortcomings of capitalism and prescribed gender behaviours. It’s hard to imagine such an artist becoming the mainstream and critical tour de force he is without the current political climate motivating his music.
“Considering the recent growth in anti-immigrant sentiment across the political landscape the fact that a loud and proud Latin song became the monster tune that it did speaks volumes about where the political allegiances of the youth lie.”
2017 has also seen many non-traditional forms of rap and rappers emerge into the commercial field. Trap music, also diminutively known as ‘mumble-rap’, has finally reached the top of the Billboard charts after many years of mainstream dismissal. Georgian trio Migos’ second album Culture, released in January and debuting on the top of the Billboard chart, has had a massive part to play in this process.
For many years the West and East coasts of America have held sway over the rap empire, now the emergence of Southern Trap has offered a third voice in the debate. The album reads as a who’s who of Southern trap, with features from Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz and Lil Uzi Vert. It sported three separate charting singles. A very impressive feat from a movement that until this year was considered by many to be hugely unequal to its East and West coast counterparts.
Race was certainly not the only set of politics to dominate popular music in 2017. In a year where the leader of the free world has been caught on tape promoting sexual harassment and countless Hollywood industry leaders have been accused of the same, many pop artists have responded with strong messages of female agency.
“In many ways Cardi B’s ascent to mainstream stardom can be read as running parallel to the growing debate around gender equality”
Next to ‘Despacito’, the most popular song of 2017 is Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow’. In many ways Cardi B’s ascent to mainstream stardom can be read as running parallel to the growing debate around gender equality. Writing and performing from a genre typically populated by males, her dominance in the Billboard chart is in it of itself a challenge to gender norms. So too is the lyrical content of her songs, promoting sexual liberation and a confident body image. It is exactly B’s refusal to reject or even hide her own personal history from her songcraft, even if much of society dictates that she should, that allows her the voice of a 21st century female icon.
When compared to the musings of female pop stars in the 2000s, the messages being emitted from contemporary pop stars such as Cardi B, Beyonce and Adele make it clear just how far the discussion on gender politics has come in such a short space of time.
The fact that Solange Knowles was awarded the Billboard 2017 ’Impact’ award for her stunning third album A Seat At Table is further proof of the matter. An album interwoven with alternative messages of African – American and female empowerment, its nod of approval from the people who run the charts is a large step forward in giving a platform to politically conscious female pop music.
Now that the dust is settling on a tumultuous year, it’s clear that in 2017 music must tap into the every day of the people for it to be popular. Having grown up in a time where pop music consisted of faux-deep sob stories and club bangers it’s nice to know that the political appetites of the common listener have expanded into their taste in music. Now more than ever, people turn toward artists and cultural leaders more so than anyone else to set the example that we all follow. Despite everything else that may be going on in the world, it’s comforting to know that they’re setting the bar so high.
Here’s to another fantastic year in popular music.
Kendrick Lamar is heading on The Damn. Tour in February around Europe for 15 dates that start in Dublin on 7th February in Dublin at the 3Arena and heads to the UK and mainland Europe across the month.
Guest on the tour will be James Blake.
Tickets for Dublin from €62 plus fees go on sale Friday 06 October at 9am via Ticketmaster.ie.
On Friday, Kendrick Lamar dropped his brilliant new album DAMN. On Sunday, King Kenny slayed his Coachella performance. As rumoured there was no second album following the Jesus is risen narrative, but that’s perfectly fine, there’s a lot to unpack with DAMN. as is.
‘DNA’, the album’s most intense cut which is framed by a Fox News anchor Geraldo Riveria reacting to his performance at the BET Awards in 2015, which also appears in the song in the form of the Geraldo sample – “This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”
‘DNA’ is a response to that idea. “I know murder, conviction / Burners, boosters, burglars, ballers, dead, redemption / Scholars, fathers dead with kids / And I wish I was fed forgiveness.”
In the video by Nabil & the little homies and for the song, Don Cheadle represents authority and society as the pair trade bars of the song with Kendrick in handcuffs (and the same Coachella outfit). DNA stands for ‘Dead Nigga Association’ in the video.
Kendrick Lamar’s new album DAMN. was released today and it’s DAMN. good! Dispensing with the sprawling jazz style of To Pimp A Butterfly, DAMN. returns to more established hip-hop sound.
Fears about U2 were going to fit into all of this were unfounded as the track they feature on ‘XXX’ is one of the album’s highlights, a song that puts siren Bomb Squad-style production with a segue into the second half with Bono sounding his most soulful with the rest of the band playing a loose groove – Mullen on drums, Adam Clayton on bass and presumably The Edge (whose credited but hard to determine his role) helping out too.
Badbadnotgood feature on ‘Lust’ (with Kaytranada on uncredited autotuned vocals) and James Blake co-produced track four ‘Element’ , Rihanna sings the hook on ‘Loyalty’ and new singer Zacari features on another Kendrick-sung highlight ‘Love’ which is more electronic pop than anything else.
It’s already been noted by conspiracy-loving fans that the album’s cycle is a full circle and that Kendrick dies in its opening track, potentially meaning (or it’s wishful thinking), that a second album will drop on Easter Sunday – a resurrection. There’s a few reasons for that thinking but it feels unlikely, not impossible though.
DAMN. Production Credits
01 BLOOD. Composer(s): Anthony Tiffith, K. Duckworth, D. Tannenbaum Producer(s): Bekon, Anthony Tiffith
02 DNA. Composer(s): K. Duckworth, M. Williams II Producer(s): Mike WiLL Made-It
03 YAH. Composer(s): D. Natche, Anthony Tiffith, K. Duckworth, M. Spear Producer(s): Anthony Tiffith, DJ Dahi, Bekon, Sounwave
04 ELEMENT. Composer(s): R. Riera, J. Blake, K. Duckworth, M. Spears Producer(s): Bekon, James Blake, Ricci Riera, Sounwave, Tae Beast
05 FEEL. Composer(s): M. Spears, K. Duckworth Producer(s): Sounwave
06 LOYALTY. Featuring: Rihanna Composer(s): K. Duckworth, D. Natche, Anthony Tiffith, M. Spears, T. Martin Producer(s): Terrace Martin, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Anthony Tiffith
07 PRIDE. Composer(s): K. Duckworth, A. Wise, Anthony Tiffith, S. Lacy Producer(s): Bekon, Anthony Tiffith, Steve Lacy
08 HUMBLE. Composer(s): K. Duckworth, A. Hogan, Michael L. Williams II Producer(s): Mike WiLL Made-It
09 LUST. Composer(s): M. Spears, K. Duckworth, C. Hansen, D. Natche, A. Sowinski, M. Tavares L. Whitty Producer(s): Sounwave, DJ Dahi, BadBadNotGood
10 LOVE. Featuring: Zacari Composer(s): Z. Pacaldo, T. Walton, Anthony Tiffith, M. Spears, G. Kurstin, K. Duckworth Producer(s): Sounwave, Teddy Walton, Greg Kurstin, Anthony Tiffith
11 XXX. Featuring: U2 Composer(s): D. Natche, L Mullen, P. Hewson, A. Clayton, K. Duckworth, D. Evans, M. Spears, M. Williams, II, Anthony Tiffith Producer(s): Mike WiLL Made-It, Anthony Tiffith, Bekon, DJ Dahi, Sounwave
12 FEAR. Composer(s): K. Duckworth, D. Maman Producer(s): The Alchemist
13 GOD. Composer(s): M. Spears, R. Riera, D. Tannenbaum, K. Duckworth, D. Natche, R. LaTour, Anthony Tiffith Producer(s): Cardo, Ricci Riera, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Anthony Tiffith, Bekon
14 DUCKWORTH. Composer(s): K. Duckworth, P. Douthit Producer(s): 9th Wonder, Bekon
Thundercat’s Drunk album arrives on Friday and everything we’ve heard from it has a falsetto-lead yacht rock funk vibe to it.
Even this track, the long-awaited collaboration between Kendrick Lamar on Thundercat’s own turf, Kendrick grabs the mic on a languid rhythm and adds some urgency and turns it into a song that sounds like an out-take from To Pimp A Butterfly.
Coachella, one of the biggest drawing music festivals around announced its lineup today and it includes some big names: Radiohead, Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar at the top.
Coachella takes place in Indio, California over two weekends in April: 14th-16th and 21st to 23rd.
Other names of note on the lineup for the festival include The xx, Lorde, Future Islands, Father John Misty, Bon Iver, Roisin Murphy, The Avalanches, Schoolboy Q, Kaytranada, Devandra Banhart and mutherfucking Hans Zimmer.
Danny Brown dropped another track from his forthcoming Atrocity Exhibition, out 30th September on Warp.
‘Really Doe’ is produced by Black Milk and features TDE’s Ab-Soul and Kendrick along with Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt.
“Me and Kendrick always talked about doing stuff, and I had the idea to get K-Dot and Earl together …but first I got me and Ab-Soul. And then one day when I was mixing the album with Ali, K-Dot snuck in and just laced it. I had to be patient and wait on Earl, but it was all worth it you know because hip-hop needs that posse cut. We just wanna make the best possible song cause we know the hype on paper. I know it’s gonna satisfy, my feet is up.”
Atrocity Exhibition also features Petite Noir,Kelela, Cypress Hill’s B-Real with production by Paul White, Evian Christ, The Alchemist and Black Milk.
As a measure of how next level Kendrick Lamar has become in the last two years, last week’s surprise collection of demos unfinished or displaced is better than most artists’ regular albums.
While To Pimp A Butterfly‘s sprawling dense ambition invited much listening and interpretation, untitled unmastered. is unburdened by any grand narrative. Its pleasure is partly derived from its temporary unfinished state.
Lamar has performed two of these songs live on TV shows of late Colbert and Fallon and a verse of one at the Grammys, and those live versions have more urgency and are in a more evolved state than the versions collected here (there are no song titles just ‘untitled’ and a date the song was worked on).
What the album does do in spectacular fashion is quietly underscore the leap that Lamar made on TPAB. That these songs didn’t make it to that song on merit is understandable but the calibre of the songs are up there up there on the same prolific plinth.
The jazz sound of this phase of Lamar’s music is most prominent with Thundercat, Bilal, Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper and Anna Wise contributing. Production comes from varied sources: A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad with Adrian Younge, Mono/Poly and eh, Swizz Beats five-year-old son. SZA and Jay Rock feature. Cee Lo Green provisions the breezy bossa nova ‘untitled 06 l 06.30.2014.’ with a focused hook.
It moves from dystopian blunted jazz to fever dream to interstitial R&B to the sprawling jazz rap that is echoed in demo form later on the collection. ‘untitled 03 l 05.28.2013.’ is the breeziest and most succinct track here with Lamar using the wisdom of racial heritage and culture against a backdrop of music industry taking advantage of talent.
Lamar’s rhymes are as authoritative and explorative as we’ve now come to expect, but they are undiminished by any familiarity or expectation.
For a collection of demos, untitled unmastered. is an unheralded reminder of Kendrick’s next level status and is a reaffirmation of his considerable craft.
Like last week’s Everything Shook song, The song addresses the expectation on females by a male-dominated society. “I know what kind you are / If I say no, I’m a bitch / Say yes I’m a slut,” she sings cheerily on a woozy hip-hop beat. The song calls out those false perceptions that men have of women in public, something, maddeningly happening still in my own city all too regularly.
I’m walking down the street with my hands tied Cause I wore a skirt, you think I’m down to ride You think I wanna fuck cause I comb my hair Cause I’m at the bar next to an open chair Cause I always have to be polite Cause I look you in the eye Cause I grin back, green light Go ahead, give it a try
Wise featured on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. and last week’s newly released untitled unmastered. She’ll release her own EP later this year.