After appearances at the BB&T and Firefly earlier this summer, Kendrick Lamar is about to make his return to Philly, this time as the just-announced headliner of next month’s Made in America Festival. The festival announced its initial lineup back in June, and with names like Nicki Minaj, Meek Mill and Janelle Monae at the top of the bill, the addition of another extremely high-profile headliner just a few weeks before showtime comes as a bit of a surprise — albeit a very welcome one. Made in America also announced last week that several additional acts, including Pusha T, 6ix9ine and Daniel Caesar, will also appear. Continue reading →
After commanding the stage at Made in America in September, North Carolina MC and hip-hop artist Rapsody has announced a tour that will bring her back to Philly early next month. A frequent collaborator of Kendrick Lamar, Rapsody released her debut solo album Laila’s Wisdom. The artist will support the release with the upcoming “Wisdom is Power” Tour, which kicks off in a few weeks and makes a stop at the Foundry on December 7. Continue reading →
It’s Kendrick Lamar, people. I think that’s all that needs to be said in persuasion of the hip-hop king’s Wells Fargo Center show tonight. Not only will Kendrick be performing his acclaimed album DAMN., he’ll also be joined by a solid lineup of Travis Scott and D.R.A.M..So be there or be square. Check out the latest video release from the album for “ELEMENT” below and get tickets and more information here. Continue reading →
Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2015 incredible. Today, Key contributor Maureen Walsh shares the year’s most life-affirming songs.
2015 has been the year of battling injustices, terrorism, and Trump. Sometimes you need someone to sing you a song that will get you through the insanity. Luckily, a group of artists delivered. Continue reading →
It was a year of powerful records. Of loud guitars and brazen beats, of electronic tapestries and vocal abandon. It was a year of personal introspection and rallying cries for social change. It was a year when music felt inextricably tied to the world around us. When it felt more important than it had in a long time. Like we’ve said before, to narrow 12 months of incredible music down to a “top 15 albums of 2015” list is to exclude dozens of other worthy releases. This year, we had 26 writers and photographers cite a collective 82 albums as their favorites – you can view everybody’s top fives here, and I know fully well that had I asked The Key crew to give me top tens, I’d be easily looking at quadruple the titles. But we’ll go deep when our annual Year-End Mania roundup launches tomorrow. Today we take the long view and explore what rose to the surface of consensus in 2015, from the expressive moments of Kamasi Washington, Joanna Newsom and Jamie xx, to the pop permutations of Carly Rae Jepsen and Grimes , rock and/or roll from Courtney Barnett and Alabama Shakes, Philly representation from The Districts, Waxahatchee and of course, Hop Along‘s incredible breakout LP Painted Shut, which alongside the great Kendrick Lamar rose right to the top of our voting. Let’s recap the year. Continue reading →
The Greek philospoher Plato had this idea he called the “Philosopher King.” Essentially, a philosopher would make an ideal ruler because of their commitment to a vision—to a cause. Tuesday night in Chinatown, I hailed my philosopher king. Clad in black sweatpants and sweatshirt rather than a toga, Kendrick Lamar waxed philosophical writ large, performing his stunning 2015 record To Pimp a Butterfly almost in its entirety. Continue reading →
Okay, number nerds, this is pretty interesting: Spotify this week released a study on “the most musical universities in America,” ranking schools based on amount of music listened overall and number of subscriptions at their student rate. The University of Pennsylvania ranked as the 34th most musical school in the country, and the school-specific breakdown provides an interesting snapshot of the West Philly ivy league institution’s listening habits. Continue reading →
Wondering what could top the work that rapper Kendrick Lamar set a high standard with on his last album, good kid, m.A.A.d city? Then look no further than this new Flying Lotus song, featuring Lamar, “Never Catch Me.” It’s from the forthcoming Flying Lotus album, You’re Dead out October 7th (Warp Records). Continue reading →
Hip-hop superstar Kanye West held high concept court at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night. The tour had been postponed, and several dates were cancelled after a truck accident damaged equipment, but it resumed in Philadelphia to seemingly no problems.
The concert was equal parts performance art and a religiously themed experimental noise rap show. For approximately 2 and 1/2 hours, West was incendiary and powerful, rolling out a solid 28-song set list that mixed all the songs from his recent album, Yeezus, with the hits, four mask changes, and a special appearance by Jesus. The rap firebrand, backed by a three piece “band” (who contributed programming, backing vocals, keyboard and guitar playing), came out on stage after twelve women (his “disciples”) covered in white prayer robes walked in syncopation onto the stage as the noisy intro to “On Sight” began.
The stage show was elaborate. A 60 foot high mountain, which towards the end of the show would erupt with fireworks and blasts of fire, looked over a walkway where West performed for most of the evening (save when he climbed the mountain). Hovering over Mount Kanye was a circular screen where closeups of Kanye and the dancers would be projected with pre-recorded scenes of the sky including rushing clouds, a sunset, and snow. It was a breathtaking visual compliment to the new material.
There was a loose narrative to the evening’s program. It was divided into five sections, Fighting, Rising, Falling, Searching and Finding. With each new chapter, a female robotic voice would blast through the soundsystem, introducing each section while her description was projected in words on the circular screen above the stage. The dancers appeared throughout the evening. They alternated their robes with see-through flesh-toned head-to-toe body suits, walked slowly and at times creepily, reminiscent of the women in the classic Hammer Horror Dracula movies. Most of the time, the choreography felt stiff and forced, did little to give lift to the emotional intensity of West’s performance and got in the way of the song transitions (which could have given the show a quicker pace).
Throughout the show, West donned four masks, singing underneath them. Perhaps he was quietly making a point about identity and perception, however he reflected on his own self-perception and the media’s perception of him. At one point he delivered a rant, but also a soliloquy, about slavery. As the religious iconography continued, there came a corny yet climactic point in the show when White Jesus appeared, walked up to Black Jesus, held his head and – in a bit of overacting – Kanye rose from his knees and took the last mask off his head. The crowd loved the moment, and erupted in near deafening excitement.
While the staging and story arc were innovative and creative, West ultimately doesn’t need these elements of theater to provide the drama or the story line. On his own, sans Mount Kanye and his follower souls, under the spotlight, West provides enough of his own theater. His performance of both the new material, especially on “New Slaves,” “Blood On The Leaves,” “Black Skinhead,” and the closing “Bound 2,” proved why he’s one of the greatest rappers of our time. Some of the older material, like “Mercy,” and “Clique” were throwaways for the fans. Most of the “hits” came towards the end of the show and these underscored West’s importance as a rapper and songwriter.
Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar opened the show with an explosive set of songs from his recent album Good Kid: M.A.A.D. City, backed by an exceptional live band. Two summers ago, few music fans knew about Lamar, and since then his stature in the hip-hop world has grown to dizzying, well-deserved heights. On Saturday, he came to impress, and treated the them half-filled audience to classics from his recent album like “Backseat Freestyle,” “Poetic Justice,” and the poignant, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst.” Continue reading →