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M.I.A., Busta Rhymes, Tierra Whack and more will join Lauryn Hill at Festival Pier next month

Busta Rhymes | photo by John Vettese for WXPN // M.I.A. | still from video // Tierra Whack | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

When iconic singer/rapper Ms. Lauryn Hill announced her upcoming tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of her debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, it seemed too good to be true. She’ll be playing the classic album in full, but if that isn’t reason enough to attend, we now know the opening acts for the Philly stop on the tour, happening at Festival Pier on July 13.

Two well-loved and long-running rappers are lined up for the show — Busta Rhymes, who recently appeared at the Firefly Music Festival for the second consecutive year, and M.I.A., whose last album was 2016’s AIM. Also in the mix is reggae artist Jo Mersa Marley (who just happens to be the grandson of Bob Marley). But perhaps the most exciting part of this announcement is the addition of a local act — Philly-based hip hop artist Tierra Whack. She released a new visual album, Whack World, last month, and recently appeared at Roots Picnic and Firefly. Continue reading →

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Wave-making M.I.A. induces chaos despite a modest crowd at Tower Theater

Back when Rihanna was still a bubbly pop star and Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana, there was another female rebel emerging on the scene, completely changing the game – and that was M.I.A. Emerging in 2004 with Piracy Funds Terrorism, an underground mixtape collaboratin with Diplo, M.I.A. really broke with the release of the stellar Arular in 2005. Before her, there was no female bridging the gap between rap, electronic and worldly beats, and a decade and a slew of controversial moves later, the British-Sri Lankan rapper is still here making waves.

On Friday evening M.I.A. made a stop at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby in support of her most recent album, Matangi. With some musical flops in recent years, I was hesitant about what the show would bring, especially given the thin crowd who showed up (to put it politely). Despite this, the Tower’s standing-room general admission area filled up nicely, and the energy in the room increased dramatically as M.I.A.’s start time drew closer, the mixed crowd of young fans chanting her name incessantly. Head to toe in a neon orange solid-colored sweatsuit, with hood up and shades on, M.I.A entered the stage, sat down at a table facing the crowd, and all hell broke loose.

With a lighting set-up nothing short of epileptic, and two dancers by her side all night, M.I.A. opened with the politically fueled track “The Message” off of Matangi. To my utter delight, the set was a fair mix of new and old music, the old including “U.R.A.Q.T” and “Amazon” from the 2005’s Arular, as well as “Bamboo Banga” and concluding with the easy crowd favorite “Paper Planes” from 2007’s Kala. The crowd reached major heights with the performance of “Y.A.L.A.”, a track from Matangi and a heavy favorite from the album, which is also featured on a Nissan commerical. M.I.A. was clearly vibing off of the energy of the room, who had all pushed up as close to the stage as humanly possible, shown when she invited all girls on stage for mixes of “Bad Girls” and “Born Free.”

The young, selfie-loving crowd provided palpable energy, and 38 year-old Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam matched it with power and flare, even stage diving into the center of the pit to everyone’s rampant delight. Despite the show ending by 10:30 p.m., it could have been the wee hours of the morning. All in all, no matter who or how many she’s performing for, M.I.A.’s still got it.

Below, check out a roundup of some of the best Instagrams from the show. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: M.I.A. at Tower Theater, Gliss at Kung Fu Necktie, Woods at Boot and Saddle, and more

Photo via facebook.com/miauk
Photo via facebook.com/miauk

Tonight, M.I.A. graces the Tower Theater stage and fans (old and new) should, as always, expect a little bit of everything from the singer-songwriter’s genre-bending music. On her latest album Matangi, it’s clear that her sound is still a hybrid of electronic, pop, hip-hop and world music. Best known for her 2007 platinum hit “Paper Planes”, M.I.A. isn’t a traditional singer or rapper; she’s crafted a style that’s somewhere in between and it’s infectious. Watch “Y.A.L.A.” below and get tickets here

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The Week Ahead: Speedy Ortiz, RFA, Ellen Siberian Tiger, Travis Scott and more

via Epic Records
Travis Scott’s Astroworld | courtesy of the artist

From Speedy Ortiz’s final run of shows in support of Twerp Verse to Travis Scott’s hotly anticipated Astroworld tour stop at Wells Fargo Center, rock and roll from RFA, folk from Kaia Kater, and our House Key Showcase with Ellen Siberian Tiger and more, there’s a lot for you to take in all around the scene this week. Here are 20 concerts to see in the next seven days.  Continue reading →

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Scenes from Ms. Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation anniversary concert at Festival Pier

Lauryn Hill | photo by Senia Lopez | senialopez.photography

Singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on tour this summer, and her July 13th stop at The Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing featured not only a full set of songs from the iconic album, but also a stacked roster of guests to open the show.

Below, check out scenes from the concert — including performances from Tierra WhackJo Mersa MarleyBusta Rhymes and M.I.A..
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20 albums you shouldn’t overlook in 2017

20 albums you shouldn’t overlook in 2017

The more of your life you spend consuming music, the more you realize an essential truth: the records deemed “the best” in any sort of ranking system — whether it be year-end lists or the Grammys — are not necessarily the ones you should be listening to.

Or not the only ones, rather. An as I said last year, the stuff everyone agrees on is a mere starting point. So while we brought you The Key’s top 15 albums of 2017 earlier this month, today we encourage you to dig deeper and further explore the spectrum of compelling music that was released this year. For this list, we highlight critics’ favorites from The Key’s staff of contributors; albums that topped individual lists but did not crack our overall top 15.

From the life-affirming punk rock of Amanda X to the eviscerating metal of Converge, the defiant electro rock of Fever Ray to the compellingly personal rap of Ruby Ibarra, our writers and photographers make their case for those albums: why they moved them, why they impressed them, why they loved them and why they’re important for you to listen to in 2017. Read (and listen) on for The Key’s roundup of 20 albums you should not overlook in 2017. –John Vettese
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Now Hear This: New songs from New Pornographers, Six Organs of Admittance, Lydia Ainsworth, Soulwax and more

new pornographers
The New Pornographers | photo by Jenny Jimenez | courtesy of the artist

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

Happy Spring! Are we allowed to be happy it’s Spring? While it feels like we’re still a long way from Summer jam season proper – Calvin Harris notwithstanding – the contenders are already starting to get in line. So far I’m liking Lorde, Lana, and Charli XCX’s bubbly one-off with Mura Masa, or maybe something from hnew oer super-fizzy PC Music-abetted mixtape – I’ll admit that I have yet to fully contend with last month’s highest-profile, er, “playlist” (shut up, Drake!) though I hear there may be some keepers there too.

Meanwhile, over on the indie side of the fence, we’ve already got a solid backlog of Spring-ready melodies to sift through as we round the bend on the first quarter of 2017. With worthy new efforts from Spoon, The Magnetic Fields, The Shins and (soon) New Pornographers (see below) joining Jens Lekman and, sure, the Flaming Lips, it’s been a busy couple of months for indie-pop lovers of a certain vintage, with plenty of opportunities for nostalgic reminiscence. (You’ll have to forgive me a few slight indulgences along our way.)

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Le1f will bring Riot Boi to Union Transfer in April

Le1f | Photo courtesy of the artist
Le1f | Photo courtesy of the artist

New York hip hop artist Le1f has announced a tour in support of last year’s debut Riot Boi with a stop at Union Transfer on April 13th. The much-anticipated LP came after Khalif Diouf released a string of popular mixtapes and EPs, giving a louder voice to his politically- and socially-minded songs that were inspired by artists like M.I.A.

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