Funk has lost a legend. Last week, Junie Morrison passed away at the age of 62.
A founding member of Ohio Players and later the musical director for Parliament-Funkadelic, Morrison was a pivotal force behind both 70s funk and modern hip hop movements. Artists like A Tribe Called Quest, J Dilla, De La Soul, and The Roots have all sampled his work. “He was very appreciated,” wrote Solange. “He was the ‘Super Spirit’ indeed.” (You can read Solange’s full post here. Her 2015 song “Junie” was inspired by the late musician.)
Morrison’s mark on music is clear. His contributions on Ohio Players’ “Funky Worm” and Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove” helped drive both bands toward later successes. In the heavily-sampled “Funky Worm”, Morrison performs his famous Granny voice and worm synth. The storyline, a conversation between Granny and Clarence, is two and a half minutes of disgusting funk and humorous strangeness. It’s so rad.
In addition to his 80s work with P-Funk, Morrison also produced multiple solo albums under several aliases. He continued to write and perform into the 2000s with his own record label, Juniefunk. In 1997, Junie Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of P-Funk.
Rest in peace, Junie. We’re grooving for you.
“What I mean to say is that the essence of the funk has always had a tendency to speak of bringing people together.”
Khalid continues to build up hype for his debut album American Teen, premiering the title track “American Teen” on Beats 1 Radio early Wednesday. This release comes just two weeks after he dropped “Shot Down”. On “American Teen”, Khalid glides over glossy piano chords and synth-flavored drums, singing about being a youth in America. The song overall is solid, but doesn’t stand out in comparison to singles like “Location” and “Coaster”.
A week before his album is set to drop, Khalid has already released seven of the fifteen songs on the album. Has he given his audience too much of a preview of his debut album? Will the lack of new songs on American Teen leave it feeling lackluster and disappointing as a complete work? We’ll know by next Friday; until then, check out Khalid’s music here, listen to “American Teen” here, and check out the album cover below.
Almost a year after the release of their last album Painting With, Animal Collective returns with an accompanying EP. Appropriately titled The Painters, it continues in the sounds of Painting With of fast-paced, dizzying psychedelic pop.
Opening track title “Kinda Bonkers” accurately reflects the general state of the music with the array of odd samples and lyrics present. It kicks the EP off with a catchy and fun tune, and a classic display of the band’s upbeat positivity in the chorus “Don’t you feel me, feel your heart shine?/Unity of all kind, unity of all kind.”
“Peacemaker” briefly slows the pace as one of the slower songs from this era, featuring the alternating vocal technique found on many songs from Painting With. Although probably the weakest of the EP’s tracks, it provides a refreshing contrast with the rest of the release with it’s more relaxing and atmospheric approach. “Goalkeeper,” meanwhile, stands out as one of the catchiest songs present despite seeming to jump all over the place at breackneck speed. Closer “Jimmy Mack” ends the EP on a very strong note. Originally a hit for Martha and the Vandellas back in the 60s, the band has perfectly adapted it to their more psychedelic style and made it their own with an impassioned performance from Avey Tare.
Overall The Painters makes for a solid continuation of their sound from the preceding album, with it’s colorful and energetic sound. Singers Avey Tare and Panda Bear both give engaging vocal performances with their trade-offs and harmonizing. Although their spot on the EP may lead some to dismiss these songs as rejects, they easily stand up against many of the songs from the album.
PSA for all you dance and disco lovers: last month, Tuxedo quietly released new EP Fux with the Tux. The sharply-dressed duo of soul singer Mayer Hawthorne and Seattle hip hop producer Jake One seems to be riding the wave of 70s/80s revival in pop music. Many artists like Daft Punk and Bruno Marks have struck a balance between retro and fresh, and I think you’ll find that Tuxedo also fits into this category quite nicely. As with many throwback artists, Tuxedo’s long list of influences includes artists like Chic and Cameo, in addition to boogie, hip hop, and electronic music.
Fux with the Tux packs plenty of funk in only 10 minutes. The EP kicks off with its title track, jumping straight into a catchy beat and groovy synths. This song plays off of vocals from both Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One. Although a bit repetitive, it’s still a well-done cross between old-school funk and newer hip hop.
“Special” rolls in with more prominent percussion than the previous track. I love the bass in this song, and the vocal harmonies are a great highlight. If you liked Bruno Mars’ “Chunky", you’ll like this one. (I would also make the claim that “Special” is perhaps a classier(?) take on Mars’ message in “Chunky”.)
In its final song, the EP winds down with smooth slow jam “July”. The horns in the chorus are a great touch, and the background female vocals nicely accent Mayer Hawthorne’s crooning words.
Tuxedo is expected to release a full-length album later this year. Keep an eye out.
I saw Noname perform at The Crocodile this past Wednesday. Ravyn Lenae opened for her, and needless to say they were both incredible. I had been anticipating this concert for quite some time now (I ordered the tickets in November), and the night had finally arrived.
First things first, I had also bought meet and greet tickets for my lovely girlfriend in an effort to blow Valentine’s Day out of the water. For the most part I think it was a success. She was excited to meet Noname, as was I, of course. Unfortunately, we both had different reactions to talking to her in person. She was so nervous that her mind started racing, asking Noname-whose real name is Fatima-question after question. This was a godsend, because I was so nervous that my mind drew a blank and stood there sheepishly, only mustering the courage to introduce myself and say “yes” a few times.
After a photo op with Fatima, it was time for the concert. Unbeknownst to me, there was an act before Ravyn Lenae. Local Seattle rappers Nyles Davis and Mo Money got the show started, but not exactly as I had expected. Noname and Ravyn Lenae’s musical styles both exude peacefulness and don’t try to be in your face. Davis and Mo Money were both accurate reflections of what rap is becoming: repetitive lyrics over bass-heavy beats. Their music reminded me a lot of Lil Uzi Vert, my least favorite rapper in the game right now. Mo Money also got really sweaty and it was flying everywhere, so that didn’t help his set improve.
Finally, the time came for the actual concert to start, and Ravyn Lenae came out. And let me tell ya, her voice was jaw dropping. I knew it was good when I listened to her music on Spotify, but it was probably even better live. Each song she performed had multiple vocal inflections where she would change the note while she belted out a single word or sound. My previously hefty expectations had been exceeded somehow and I was witnessing an angel on stage.
Lenae also took the time to explain the meaning behind each song before she performed it. I had listened through her Moon Shoes EP multiple times, but had never taken the time to thoroughly listen to it and pull the meaning from each song. I found myself listening much more intently, trying to connect the lyrics to the explanation she had given just a few minutes earlier. Also, she put the mic in front of my girlfriend to sing a part of a song, but evidently the pressure was overwhelming and she could only sing for a split second before laughing it off. To be fair, I would’ve done the exact same thing, and Ravyn probably would’ve gotten the whole crowd to make fun of me because I can’t sing as well as her. That may have been why she did it in the first place.
Lenae’s set ended after about 45 minutes and it was time for the headliner, Noname. Her debut album Telefone was one of my favorite albums of last year. It was meaningful, perfectly produced, and it introduced me to a female rapper that I actually enjoyed (sorry not sorry Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea). Noname’s band was the first to come on stage, performing a few minutes of smooth instrumentals before Noname came out to open with “All I Need”. To my relief, she sounded exactly like she did on Telefone. The live band was a great addition; Davis, Mo Money, and Lenae all performed over recordings of the instrumentals to their songs (Davis actually rapped over recordings of his songs with the rap recorded too, so he didn’t have to work as hard). Noname performed Telefone in its entirety, as well as her verses for Mick Jenkins’ “Comfortable” and Chance the Rapper’s “Lost”. Ravyn Lenae joined her on stage and they performed “Forever” together, which was easily the best moment of the night. Noname’s discography still has some growing to do, because she ran out of music to perform after half an hour. Despite the short set, Noname was excellent on stage and had the audience captivated the whole time.
The concert as a whole was great. The surprise openers got the concert off on a sour note, but Ravyn Lenae and Noname more than made up for the openers’ slip-ups. Both either performed exactly as in their recordings or far beyond what I had expected. Once they expand their discography there will only be more demand for them to go on tour again, and I look forward to when that day comes. Check out each artist’s music below.