Unforgettable, Vol. 15: Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill

Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI

Where we left off at Danger Mouse’s fusion of two absolutes – black and white – we delve further into the foggy haze of the future by looking back at where it all began; for this generation, we emanated as products of irony with one hand in our pocket searching for a jagged little pill to cure the confusion. Music is the most wonderful of all drugs; amidst the plethora of genres, artists, tracks, and tribulations Alanis Morissette’s album stands out as the Raggedy Ann within the proverbial valley of the dolls.

The 1995 culture-defining album Jagged Little Pill still stands as the most angst-ridden-apathetic, yet understated-articulate anthem for those on the fringe of Gen X and Gen Why Care? The tone, the timbre, the subdued style, and subjective substance flow as effortlessly through the recording as any given listener no doubt flowed through their bleak, semi-charmed life.

The only way to get through such a gray existence is to live through it and learn what you can in the meantime. “You Learn” rhythmically trudges along repetitiously like any given soldier plodding along a warpath, from seventies Vietnam to the 21st century Twietnam, the lyrics trek through the track as the anthemic voice in the back of any disillusioned youth’s head en route through battleground life:

I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah. I, recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone; I certainly do. Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill). It feels so good (swimming in your stomach). Wait until the dust settles. You bleed you learn, you scream you learn. You live you learn; you lose you learn.

It’s all about the little things, making the most of the mundane, if only for the sake of making something out of nothing – “life is plain; no pain, no gain, if I could I would resurrect: kurt. cobain.” *snap* *snap*

Alanis exudes a sense of beautiful contradiction. She’s starkly pure and clean, but worn and weathered. She’s bitten, but not broken. She’s bitter, but sweet. Her sound is folksy, but soulful and universally appealing. There are multitudes of layers within the simple acoustics. The sound lulls the listener into a deceptive state of passivity, while the sentiment strikes with the force of a lost lover’s scorn.

I want you to know… that I’m ha ppy for you. I, wish nothing but – the best, for, you both.

“You Oughta Know” is the Canadian “Not Gon’ Cry” meets Waiting to Exhale Angela Bassett meets 10 Things I Hate About You Julia Stiles meets criminal-minded Fiona Apple meets Betty Friedan meets the grit-flinging female to which Al Green awoke one Southern morning: it’s the fury against which Hell can nary hold a flame – it’s knocking at Uncle Joey’s door and it’s everywhere you look.

And every time you speak her name, does she know how you told me you’d hold me until you died, til you died? But you’re still alive…

… likely not by choice.

Unforgettable, Vol. 14: DJ Danger Mouse – The Grey Album

Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI, Uncategorized

Venturing out of the kaleidoscopic jungle fever pitch of M.I.A.’s Arular we find ourselves at the concrete crossroads between Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects and London’s Abbey Road with DJ Danger Mouse’s brilliant return to basics, the masterful Jay-Z versus The Beatles mash-up, The Grey Album. The Grey Album is a cataclysmic crux of two epic absolutes: The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album with the rhapsodic rodent at the helm. Burton blurs the lines and illuminates the bonds between good and d’evils to create a gritty grey area – platinum records sans the shine.

The Grey Album is a cultural reflection and blueprint. It is a hybrid of two artistic absolutes: Jay-Z’s Black Album as the pitch black to which he faded – the close to a career, the retirement, the sendoff, the assumed end; The Beatles’ White Album as their rebirth – the first album after the death of their manager Brian Epstein, and the first album on their own record label Apple – donning a pure white album cover with nothing but “The BEATLES” in black. The mash-up flips the roles and sees Hov’s requiem lyrics as a renaissance.

HIP HOP REMIX Countdown: #7 – The Neptunes

Soundtrek, TGRI, Uncategorized

The Imperial Skateboard P and Chad Hugo – better known as The Neptunes – are undoubtedly two of hip-hop’s paramount producers. If Kelis’ milkshake brought the boys to the yard, The Neptunes’ ice creams brought the billionaire boys club to the block with their signature intergalactic sound.

Pharrell paved the way for the futuristic funk stranglehold on the past decade’s mainstream sound. Tag-teaming with Hugo, Williams blended satellite synth and subwoofer shaking bass in a way that created songs that were not mere remixes, but fused genres to remake the entire Top 40. They took pop from bland bubblegum to bombastic boom, and took rap/hip-hop from the cold hard underground and into the blinding light.

Hugo and Williams’ discography jumps off the New Jack Swing kick of the early 90s where they worked with heavyhitters like Mike E, Teddy Riley, Blackstreet, Wreckx N’ Effect, and SWV. Their sound transitioned into the bass-driven vibe of mid-to-late 90s where they set the tone for the urban contemporary landscape, collaborating with rap royalty past and present: Noreaga, Total, Ma$e, The LOX, Puffy, and protege duo Clipse. One of the finest gutterfunk mixes of the era was ODB’s “Got Your Money” featuring The Neptunes first lady, Kelis.

HIP HOP REMIX Countdown: #9 – Mary J Blige

Soundtrek, TGRI, Uncategorized

Mary J. Blige is the undeniable Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Her voice is the ingrained remix to a male dominated genre: she is the soul to hip-hop. Before Badu, Jill Scott, Floetry, and the crop of neo-soul crooners came along to balance out the scales, MJB was all we needed. In a career spanning two decades, when Blige blesses a track it remixes the whole genre. As with any true artist, to follow MJB’s discography and collaborations is to see a portfolio of snapshots capturing the urban identity exactly as it was within any brownstone and on any block.

Mary J. Blige is an artist whose artistry supersedes the remix. Yes, the remix of “You Remind Me” featuring Nice and Smooth is solid, but when she blesses a hip hop recording with her voice, the track approaches the stratosphere. In fact, the synergy of many of Mary’s collaborations with hip hop’s finest have, and continue to be a standard for what remixers attempt but in many cases fall short of creating, and in one special case, is the sound none will ever encapsulate.

Unforgettable, Vol. 13: M.I.A. – “Arular”

Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI, Uncategorized


Where we left off with the sonic schizophrenia of Kenna’s face, we now delve into M.I.A.’s socially schizophonic scape. Maya Arulpragasam came onto the scene in 2005 with her debut, Arular. M.I.A. mirrors the past – leading by sample – and marks the future. From sound to sentiment to style, she lays the groundwork for the new underground of which she spoke in NME

In people’s hard drives and their brains, it just hasn’t been outputted yet. We need a digital moshpit like we’ve never seen, harder than how people were doing it in the punk era. We need that energy, but digitally. It’s coming.

On the brink of her third album, and apparent rebirth, it’s important to see that we still have the same M.I.A. – with the same perspective – in a different package.

Arular came out when I was a freshman in college, and – in conjunction with the urban landscape of Manhattan as my backdrop – was instrumental in my musical maturation. Just as New York is a microcosm of the world, so Arular was a concentrated synthesis of sounds and global societies. Just as I was cementing my identity as a world citizen, so M.I.A. was constructing our cultural identity.

M.I.A.’s eponymous track – “Untitled” – marks her signature as much as ours: a general in the midst – and at the helm – of a lost generation. More so than most, Arulpragasam embodies this era: missing in action – we may not know where we are or what we’re doing, but we’re doing it big. Arular is that electronic indigenous sound of an era on the cusp of tradition and innovation. As M.I.A lays down her blueprint electronic to lead a tribe in the midst of unparalleled transition, so Arular reflects that ambiguity in being born free.

Unforgettable, Vol. 12: Kenna – Make Sure They See My Face

Soundtrek, TGRI

GLADWELL: Welcome to Blink Radio. I’m Malcolm Gladwell and we’re here with Kenna who’s just about to unveil his newest work on the masses. Hello Kenna.
KENNA: Hello Gladwell.

Where Lupe Fiasco took a grip on reality and let his cool set the pace, Kenna Zemedkun pushed his mind to a fever pitch and made sure the world saw his face. Make Sure They See My Face is sonic schizophrenia. Kenna runs the gamut of sounds, styles, and sentiment in this psychotic masterpiece expressing the brilliance in bi-polarity.

Make Sure is a true catharsis, Kenna literally explodes onto the album with “Daylight,” a track best described as a sonic corona crowning an eclipse. The beats are bombastic funk; there’s synth riding along with acoustics, stratospheric effects alongside static bass, but it makes sense. From the ground up he takes solace in the places where most artists steer clear: the crazy. The only structure here is stream-of-consciousness, but with that he lets go and lets the listener into his mind – no matter how mad it may seem.

GLADWELL: Without being too aggressive, and after hearing a little bit of what you’re doing on this euphonious ride, you seem a little all over the place. Is there a reason for that?
KENNA: Well, that’s a good question. I… think maybe I’ve just been a little… schizophrenic.

Make Sure is Blink Radio. Though it is Kenna’s second album, it is his phonic first impression. From one blink to the next Zemedkun gives a track-by-track, beat-by-beat snapshot of his artistic identity; and for every blink, there is a sonic boom.

Thinkpieces, Vol. 1: Lady Gaga

Leitgeist Zeitgeist, Pop Culture, TGRI

March 28: 1,767 years ago today De Pascha Computus commemorated the Nativity, birth of a man – son of God – who brought mankind from the darkness of sin; today, we commemorate the birth of a woman – deity of Pop – who brought a generation from the dark ages of social oblivion. On this day, ancient Romans celebrated the production of the Sun and the Moon; today, we celebrate the personification of The Fame and The Monster. In the midst of a generation described as Godless, artificial, celebrity-obsessed, and lost, emerges a renaissance artist who gave you freedom in the music – found your Jesus, and your Kubrick. Happy Birthday Lady Gaga.


Unforgettable, Vol. 11: Lupe Fiasco – “The Cool”

Politics, Pop Culture, Soundtrek

Whatever it was that N.E.R.D. was in search of: Lupe Fiasco found with his 2007 release The Cool. What is Cool? Cool is a living contradiction. Lupe doesn’t avoid the nature of Cool – he clutches to it like an insomniac to the other side of the pillow. This album lives The Cool through and through.

“They thought it was cool to burn crosses on your front lawn as they hung you from trees in your backyard. They thought it was cool to leave you thirsty and stranded, Katrina! He thought it was cool to carry a gun in his classroom and open fire, Virginia Tech, Columbine – Stop the violence! They thought it was cool to tear down the projects and put up million dollar condos, Gentrification. They think it’s cool to stand on the block hiding product in their socks to make quick dime bag dollars. They think it’s cool to ride down on you in blue and white unmarked cars busting you upside your head. Freeze… ‘Cause the problem is we think it’s cool too. Check your ingredients before you overdose, on The Cool…”

Unforgettable, Vol. 10: N.E.R.D. – In Search Of…

Pop Culture, Soundtrek

The “Unforgettable” project takes a look at the key and important albums that have come to define the alternative experience. With the deluge of music in the present era, these “unforgettable” and ultra-important gems are lost in the undertow.

“No one ever really dies… You believe that? Well, if not – for you – it’s almost over now.”

Where we left off with Justice’s French futuristic opera, we pick up with the album that almost was an electronic “eh,” but instead became a funk-infused flashback that found more in searching than most others did in attaining.

Pharrell “the Imperial Skateboard P” Williams, Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley, better known as N.E.R.D., while on the brink of The Neptunes’ next-level stranglehold on Western radio, retreated to Europe to release their highly anticipated debut album as a trio. Then, as modern lore has it, they recorded the original as an electronic album, decided it was trash (read: American Top 40 Treasure), went back in the studio to record the album with live instruments, and shipped it as a proper international release.

In 2010, in the spirit of moving on to the next one: I say we all embark on a similar search.

Unforgettable, Vol. 9: Justice – †

Pop Culture, Soundtrek

justice technicross

At a time when nothing was sacred, everything real was artificial, and “America” was the culprit: we found freedom in the music – we found our Jesus and our Kubrick. Justice’s 2007 release Cross was the literal presentation of Arcade Fire’s standout album; the neon bible was authentic synth soul. The French came to the rescue again – via Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay – in a musical Yankee liberation movement. Cross was the 21st Century Lady Liberty, a shining beacon of hope for the sonically stranded stateside souls. Before Justice, it was just us brother – lonely.

When something falls out of place, take your time and put it back… to the start we go as Cross opens with “Genesis.” This is the kind of track that takes you back to confession, kneel before the turntable altar: because Justice is taking you to Church – not merely metaphysical, but a complete out-of-body spiritual experience.