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Hardwork Movement cover Kanye’s Life Of Pablo track “30 Hours”

Hardwork Movement
Hardwork Movement | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Kanye West‘s The Life Of Pablo has been a lot of things: a mystery, a “living breathing changing creative expression”, a flop, a hit, a steal, and most of all, a zeitgeist defining moment in current music. According to Stereogum, its on its way to be the first #1 album that made almost no money. No one knows if West knows what he is doing, but he is definitely succeeding.

Hardwork Movement, the Philly hip-hop collective, have released their cover of the TLOP highlight “30 Hours.” Their take, which comes along with their own version of the cover art, faithfully takes the instrumental to new heights with verses from the Hardwork MC’s. Continue reading →

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Philly rapper Zilla Rocca does his best Kanye impression, interpreting “Wolves” from The Life of Pablo

Zilla Rocca | Photo by Laura Lynn Photography
Zilla Rocca | Photo by Laura Lynn Photography

As you may have heard, Kanye West is still tweaking his newest album, The Life of Pablo. He recently tweeted that the record is “a living breathing changing creative creative expression,” and he’s sticking to his word: just two days ago, he updated “Wolves,” adding contributions from both Vic Mensa and Sia. Such is the advantage of never releasing a physical copy of your record, it seems.

Meanwhile, back in Philly, DJ and rapper Zilla Rocca have been working on their own edits of “Wolves.” The MC just released his new version of the track, “The Wolf of Wolf Street.” Continue reading →

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The Dans bring on Graham Nash, talk HBO’s Vinyl & Kanye in new episode of The Dan and Dan podcast

Graham Nash | Photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com
Graham Nash | Photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com

Dan and Dan (XPN’s Reed and the Inquier’s DeLuca) have released episode 26 of their Dan and Dan Podcast, which features producer Mike Vasilikos interviewing folk hero Graham Nash.

Vasilikos spoke to Nash while he was in Philly to perform at World Cafe Live and XPN’s Free At Noon. Nash, who is now 74, spoke about his time with The Hollies and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, his book Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life, his upcoming record This Path Tonight, and much more. Continue reading →

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While we’re waiting for Kanye West to finish The Life of Pablo, here’s what I heard at the Philly preview Thursday night

Kanye West | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Kanye West | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Rapper / producer / nascent fashion designer Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 event was part conceptual art piece, part fashion premiere, part album listening party for his much anticipated 7th solo album The Life of Pablo – which, as of this writing, is still being finalized. The event Thursday gave us a taste, though, and it was simultaneously screened live in several cities around the world via Jay-Z’s TIDAL media streaming service.

And after a day of running errands, I braved the frigid February air Thursday night and made my way to the University 6 Theater (fka The Rave) in West Philly for the Philly edition of Yeezy.

After showing a pair of ushers at the front door a print out of my ticket, I stood in a long line of Penn students and casual hipster kids before having my ticket checked and verified again before taking a seat in the theater.

Pulling out a notepad and pen a dude sitting next to me asked “You taking notes?” with a smirk.

For the first 10 or 15 minutes sitting in this dark theater, I could see the image of two giant platforms elevated above the floor of Madison Square Garden, blanketed by large sheets. The whole scene looked still, dark, grey and lunar. For a fleeting moment I wondered if Kanye had trolled us all. Maybe we had all been tricked? Maybe this was it? A bunch of people, sitting in dark theaters staring at these dumb looking monolithic structures with no album to be heard until the official release date. Continue reading →

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Marian Hill covered Kanye and it’s awesome

Marian Hill | Photo courtesy of the artist
Marian Hill | Photo courtesy of the artist

Marian Hill, the electro-pop duo composed of Philly natives Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd, just released their latest EP, Sway, last month. 

The duo has now tested their talents on their first cover: a steamy rendition of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown” from the 2008 album 808’s & Heartbreak.

Gongol’s sultry vocals shine through on the cover, a stripped-down, slower version with airy techno beats. Continue reading →

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Scariest set in the city? A look at Eastern State Penitentiary’s most famous videos

The Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl" video features Joe Jack Talcum singing in the Rotunda as Rodney Anonymous walking around the cellblocks of ESP reading a newspaper
The Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl” video features Joe Jack Talcum singing in the Rotunda as Rodney Anonymous walking around the cellblocks of ESP reading a newspaper

Most Philadelphians are familiar with Fairmount’s massive landmark Eastern State Penitentiary. The looming structure, which closed in 1971 after 142 years as a prison, reopened in 1994 for guided tours, and has since become a destination for thrill-seekers during Bastille Day and Halloween season. However, beyond the zombie-fied chaos, the space itself offers an amazing backdrop for, well, anything.  We decided to look back at a few ways musicians and other visual artists have used ESP over the last few decades. Continue reading →

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Made in America day one blasts off with Kanye West, The National, J Cole, Mayer Hawthorne and more

Kanye West | Photo by John Vettese
Kanye West at Made in America | Photo by John Vettese

This year’s Made in America festival kicked off yesterday with an exhilarating lineup of performers along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The day spanned 11 hours and a spectrum of genres, from the discofied openers in Cherub to the hardcore punk / metal of Glassjaw; EDM hitmaker Baauer to funky fresh hiphop vet Big Daddy Kane; sweet soul grooves from Mayer Hawthorne to an explosive set from The National. And of course, the man of the hour was Kanye West, whose closing 90-minute performance was at peak energy throughout. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Sameer Rao’s Top 5 Musical Gut-Punches of 2013

Photo courtesy of Sean Agnew
Photo courtesy of Sean Agnew

Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, contributing writer Sameer Rao talks about songs that make you feel.

For those who are true monsters, hardened against moments that expose you for the vulnerable and fragile human that you really are, please stop reading here.

For the rest of us, we occasionally crack at the wail of a guitar, the cry of a love-lorn singer, or the naked clarity of a synthline (or, more often, all of the above). I call these moments “gut-punches” – musical cues that can stop you in your tracks or make you uncontrollably sob in the middle of a friend’s Christmas party, screaming “It’s just so beautiful!” as you wipe your snot-encrusted nose with that ugly sweater you bought just for that occasion.

Moments like this confirm why music in the age of digital reproduction can still be powerful and transcendent, and I masochistically yearn for them with every new record I listen to. Fortunately, we had a bunch of great ones this year. I’ll try not to stain my shirt as I run down the list of 2013’s Top 5 Musical Gut-Punches.

5. Little Big League – “Tokyo Drift” from These are Good People

The exemplary debut full-length from Philly’s own Little Big League is filled with moments that compel you to scream out for jilted love, but this song was a personal stand-out. It’s a song that evolved in texture throughout live performances from the past two years, blending classic shoegaze and 90s melodic rock into a volatile cocktail that threatens to overflow through the song’s delay-heavy bridge. Just when you think you’ll punch a hole in the drywall, squeals of feedback withdraw into singer Michelle Zauner’s haunting and understated soprano before the song gracefully shimmers into thin air. You’re left coming to terms with your own power, or your shattered hand in the drywall – either way, you’re still grateful to be alive.

Continue reading →