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The Key Studio Sessions: Reef the Lost Cauze

The first time I encountered legendary Philly MC Reef the Lost Cauze, it felt like a whirlwind. The year was 2010, the occasion was an album release party for producer Dumhi’s latest project The Jungle at the ultra-hip Slingluff Gallery in Fishtown. The celebration was in full swing when Reef arrived, right on cue, just in time to cup the microphone and spit fire on “Lions” and “Philly Cousins.” He paced the gallery with intensity, worked the crowd as they sipped their craft beer bottles, and then as quickly as he appeared, he was gone.

If that formidable first impression was not enough, the second time was even more intense. It was two years later, early on in my tenure at WXPN, and a group of us was set up in the studio filming a collaborative Key Studio Session with local hip-hop bog Philadelphia Music Magazine. A live band provided the backing for Reef and his friend and rap scene contemporary Ethel Cee; Reef had never played with a band before, was incredibly hype over their energy, and poured everything he had into a gutting performance of “This Is My Life” that left the entire room breathless.

Later on, in an interview with PMM’s DJ AfroDJiak, Reef gave some context for the gripping nature of his performances.    Continue reading →

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Philly / NYC groove collective Sofra returns with a new single, “Mostly Nowhere”

Sofra | illustration by Oli Knowles | courtesy of the artist

It’s been about a year since we were introduced to the Philly / NYC collective Sofra, a thirteen-member ensemble fusing jazz, funk, hip-hop, and soul under the musical direction of keyboardist Derin Caglar, a local native. Among those working with him are drummer Noah Silvestry (an occasional photographer for The Key) as well as MC Sterling Duns of the Hardwork Movement crew. Continue reading →

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PUP find community in a sick, sad world on “Kids” from new Morbid Stuff LP

PUP | photo by Vanessa Heins | courtesy of the artist

We last saw Toronto punk four-piece PUP headline a packed and sweaty Union Transfer on the heels of their acclaimed The Dream Is Over LP, and in the intervening years, the world has become an increasingly weirder and more alienating place. But in these times, community is even more important than ever, which seems to be the theme of the band’s new single “Kids.”
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ILL DOOTS and friends will celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Roots’ Things Fall Apart at World Cafe Live

The Roots’ Things Fall Apart | via Okayplayer

Philadelphia hip-hop heroes The Roots broke new ground on February 23, 1999, with the release of their album Things Fall Apart. It was the album that produced their highest-charting Billboard hit at that point (“You Got Me”), it was the album that solidified their tastemaker status (the record introduced names like Eve and Jill Scott to wide audiences), and it was an album born of the intense creativity of the Soulquarian music community (featuring collabs with D’Angelo, Common, Erykah Badu, and Mos Def).

Twenty years later, this February 23, a new generation of Philly hip-hop peers will pay tribute to this landmark record with a show downstairs at World Cafe Live. Continue reading →

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Strand of Oaks is ready to transform on “Weird Ways” from new Eraserland LP

Strand of Oaks | photo by Alysse Gafkajen | courtesy of the artist
Strand of Oaks | photo by Alysse Gafkajen | courtesy of the artist

There’s an air of finality in the opening notes of Strand of Oaks‘ new single “Weird Ways,” as frontman Tim Showalter very plainly and directly sings “I don’t feel it anymore.”

Set to warm, close-mic’d acoustic guitar, with his robust baritone upfront in the mix, this is the intimate and vulnerable Showalter we hear once a year at the Boot & Saddle Winter Classic; it’s the Showalter of back-catalog songs like “Kill Dragon” and “Sister Evangeline.” And it’s a Showalter who, as he was writing, clearly felt out of place with the direction his music traveled versus the direction the music world was heading.

“The scene isn’t my scene anymore.”

This is the way that Strand of Oaks’ just-announced sixth album Eraserland begins, and a glance over song titles like “Final Fires” — or knowing the song “Keys” from his live set, where he sings “we should just run away” to his wife Sue — seem to paint a picture of somebody ready to move on.

But then a snare drum downbeat kicks in. And the realization hits — we’re not going anywhere just yet. Continue reading →

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Meek Mill is the SNL musical guest on January 26th

Meek Mill at Made In America | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Though the folks over at Saturday Night Live are offering this season’s first clunker of a musical guest this coming weekend — the generic dude rock band everyone loves to hate, Greta Van Fleet — they’ve redeemed themselves today by announcing the January 26th musical guest: Philly rapper Meek Mill.

On the heels of his Championships LP, released in December, Meek is making his debut on the late night sketch comedy show; that week’s host is Glaswegian actor James McAvoy, who stars in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, out January 18th.  Continue reading →

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Gary Clark Jr. takes on racism in middle America on his powerful “This Land” video

Gary Clark Jr. at Made In America | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Gary Clark Jr. at Made In America | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

Blues rocker Gary Clark Jr. has announced that his forthcoming album This Land on will be released on March 1, and ahead of the release he’s shared a powerful video for the title track. Lyrically, Clark uses “This Land” to illustrate how inextricably tied the personal and political can be, using autobiographical details of his rural Texas upbringing, a place he describes as “right in the middle of Trump country.” Continue reading →

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The Revivalists are a knockout alongside American Authors at The Met

The Revivalists | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

New Orleans natives The Revivalists played hit after hit for all their Philly friends at the still-new Metropolitan Opera House Saturday night. Supported by Boston’s American Authors, known for their hit “Best Day Of My Life” a couple years back, both bands brought a mostly seated crowd to their feet for the whole night. Featuring a cover of The Killers’ iconic “Mr. Brightside” and several just-released tracks, American Authors continuously thanked The Revivalists for including them on this tour after they played a show together early last year. The catchy pop-rock songs and engaging frontman made for the perfect opener. Continue reading →