Five female emerging artists you need to hear

Billie Eilish, Sigird, Sampa the Great, Mabel & Jessie ReyezWritten by Krystal Beez //

Get ready to discover your new favorite artist.


1. BILLIE EILISH

Billie Eilish

Who: Billie O’Connell

Origin: Los Angeles, California

What she’s about: Better known by her stage name Billie Eilish, LA’s Billie O’Connell is our youngest emerging artist this month. At only the age of 15, she’s releasing the kind of music that ethereal, dark pop dreams are made of. Her debut single “Ocean Eyes” was released in 2015. Eilish collaborated with her brother on the track, and it’s a beautifully arranged and highly impressive debut. Her voice just seems to float in the air as the chorus comes in: “No fair / You really know how to make me cry when you give me those ocean eyes / I’m scared / I’ve never fallen from quite this high falling into your ocean eyes”. Though Eilish had been a part of the LA Children’s Choir, her initial focus was dance. We’re so glad that this rising star decided to explore recording. Her latest song “Bored ” comes from the Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why” soundtrack. And don’t forget to check out Marian Hill’s sultry “Bellyache” remix, too.

File next to: Lorde. Lapsley. AURORA.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


2. SIGRID

Sigrid

Who: Sigird Solbaak Raabe

Origin: Alesund, Norway

What she’s about: Our next emerging artist young’n is Sigrid, a 20-year-old from a small town in Norway. Her debut single “Don’t Kill My Vibe ” is about the time she was put in a writing session with middle-aged men. Spoiler alert: they killed her vibe. The single was released in February and was immediately named “Hottest Record in the World” on BBC Radio 1. In the few short months since then, Sigrid has released her debut EP, and Gryffin remixed “Don’t Kill My Vibe“. One thing that I love about Sigrid, and what I think sets her apart from others is the fact that even with big production, each song is piano-based and focused on the songwriting. This aspect might be due to being influenced by Joni Mitchell along with Chet Baker when she was young. Make sure to pop on Sigrid’s live and acoustic versions to really hear those lyrics and that big voice. You’ll want to keep an eye on this one.

File next to: MO. Lorde. Jessie Reyez.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


3. SAMPA THE GREAT

Sampa the Great

Who: Sampa Tembo

Origin: Zambia, South Africa

What she’s about: Born in Zambia, raised in Botswana and currently residing in Australia, Sampa the Great is a modern poet. Her lyrics contain political and societal themes, while her debut release The Great Mixtape is an inspiring and accomplished piece of work. With tracks like “Female” and “Blue Boss ” and a tour in support of Kendrick Lamar, it’s easy to see why Sampa is about to the next big thing. Last month, the urban poet unleashsed HERoes Act 2, a three-track EP for Red Bull Sound Select featuring British songstress Estelle. So, if you need a new hip-hop artist in your life, go listen to Sampa’s EP. It’s beautifully produced and uplifting with poetic lyrics. Plus, Estelle is on each track so what’s not to love? Furthermore, check out her feel-good collaboration “For Good” with Remi. You won’t be disappointed.

File next to: Lauryn Hill. Ray BLK. Remi.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


4. MABEL

Mabel

Who: Mabel McVey

Origin: London, United Kingdom

What she’s about: Despite having quite famous parents (Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey), Mabel is beginning to make a name for herself. She spent a large portion of her childhood in London before moving to Stockholm at the age of 15. It was there that she undertook a three-year course at Rytmus (where Robyn and Tove Lo also attended). But it wasn’t until she came back to London that she felt free to create her specialized R&B sound that’s 90’s-influenced with London beats. Mabel first stepped onto the scene in 2015 with “Know Me Better” before her second single “My Boy My Town” caught the attention of Annie Mac and was remixed by Shura. The following year, she was nominated for the BBC Music Sound of 2016 poll. Get familiar with the name and check out the latest track from her Bedroom EP below because we expect Mabel’s debut album to be the stuff 90’s R&B dreams are made of.

File next to: RAY BLK. Bibi Bourelly. NAO.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


5. JESSIE REYEZ

Jessie Reyez

Who: Jessica Reyez

Origin: Toronto, Canada

What she’s about: Reyez first garnered attention in 2014 for her collaborative track with King Louie entitled “Living in the Sky”. From there, Reyez was approached for her songwriting and vocal talents by the likes of Diplo, Chance the Rapper and Babyface. Last month, she released her debut EP Kiddo. The great thing about Reyez is not only how she blends pop, hip-hop and R&B influences, but also her honest and at times, intense storytelling ability. Reyez dives deep into the story about her cheating ex like on “Figures” and what it’s like dealing with sexism in the music industry as she explains on her latest single “Gatekeeper”, which even she created a short film for. You definitely don’t want to miss her SF debut at The Rickshaw Stop this June.

File next to: Bibi Bourelly. Sigrid. Melanie Martinez.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


Who is your favorite emerging artist? Let us know in the comments section below!

Nick Murphy shows he’s the new-and-improved version of Chet Faker to close out 30 Days in LA

Nick MurphyBy Josh Herwitt //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker) //
The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles
November 30th, 2016 //

When Nick Murphy dropped his debut LP Built on Glass (read our review here) under the alias “Chet Faker” in 2014, the Australian singer-songwriter was relatively unknown outside of his home country.

Sure, his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” reached No. 1 on the Hype Machine charts and made an appearance in a Super Bowl commercial, but Murphy’s popularity had been mostly confined to the land Down Under, with a list of accolades including “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” at the Australian Independent Records Awards and “Best Independent Release” at the Rolling Stone Australia Awards.

Built on Glass changed all of that, paving the way for Murphy to sell out shows in major U.S. markets, including two in LA at The Roxy Theatre (read our review here). With the 12-track album boasting three singles — one of them being “Talk Is Cheap”, which shot all the way to No. 1 in the 2014 Triple J Hottest 100 countdown — the Melbourne native was quickly headed for mainstream status.

Since then, he has made an appearance on “Ellen” and this year headlined music festivals up and down California, including CRSSD Festival (see more photos here) as well as Lighting in a Bottle (read our festival review here), where he reaffirmed that moving to a full live band was one of the best career moves he has made. In fact, ever since his set on the main stage at FYF Fest (read our festival review here) in 2015, Murphy has taken his live show up a few notches.

The Theatre at Ace Hotel


The Theatre at Ace Hotel

But that was a different person; Chet Faker is now a man of the past. Nearly two months ago, Murphy made the announcement on Twitter, revealing that “there’s an evolution happening and I wanted to let you know where it’s going.” It was his way of telling us that he no longer wanted to hide behind the moniker he spun off in reference to famous jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. From here on out, his real name would be attached to his music. And as cheesy and cliché as it might be for a musician to change their identity for artistic reasons, Nick Murphy — the one who sold out another show in LA last Wednesday — is an extension of Chet Faker more than anything else. Call him Chet Faker, Nick Murphy or whatever name you want — it doesn’t change the fact that the 28-year-old Aussie always pours his heart and soul out when he’s onstage.

At The Theatre at Ace Hotel, the gorgeously ornate, Spanish Gothic-style movie house built in 1927 and owned by United Artists, Murphy put a stamp on Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA, which after only three years is becoming a November staple for the city’s booming music scene. From opening night with Sampha at the Palace Theatre to Murphy’s series finale just a few blocks down Broadway, Red Bull continues to seemingly outdo themselves year after year with a month full of shows featuring top-notch talent at an affordable rate (all tickets were $15 or less before taxes and fees).

But unlike many of the series’ other shows, Murphy didn’t just hit the stage for an hour and call it a night. Instead, his 90-minute set extended past midnight as he dove into newer cuts — “Bend”, “Stop Me (Stop You)” and “Fear Less” — from his forthcoming sophomore studio album (release date TBA) and played older hits like “1998” and “Gold” off of Built on Glass. There were also guest appearances by Marcus Marr, the English DJ/producer whom Murphy worked with on last year’s collaborative EP Work, and Dave Harrington, the Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist who is best known for being one half of the now-on-hiatus electronic music duo Darkside that includes Nicolas Jaar. Murphy might be filling seats thanks to his uniquely soulful voice, but it’s his propensity to surprise that keeps them filled at bigger venues each and every time he performs in LA.

Murphy’s music, both new and old, can be difficult to describe. It’s equal parts electronic, rock and soul, a hybridization that accessibly encompasses all three genres. And while his latest material follows along a similar sonic path, Murphy continues to prove that he isn’t afraid to take risks with his honest, heartfelt songwriting. So, who really needs Chet Faker when you got Nick Murphy now anyway?

Lucky to be alive, YG is celebrating life to the fullest

YGBy Joseph Gray //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: YG //
The Wiltern – Los Angeles
November 29th, 2016 //

“They knew the code to my gate. That was awkward. Answer this: I got a million dollars. Who shot me?”

Before asking the million-dollar question, YG was wheeled onto the stage at The Wiltern in a stretcher covered by the haunting sounds of the real-life news reports from the night a bullet from an unknown assailant pierced his hip during a recording-studio shooting last year. The pitch-black building became illuminated with surgeons on an LED screen as we re-lived the “operation” on the Compton rapper. Nevertheless, YG assured the crowd this wouldn’t be a somber affair, rapping through paranoia toward the heavens with the brash resiliency and expanding maturation that’s led him to one of rap’s most improbable rises.

Did YG’s homies set him up? Was it the guy he knocked out during a past fight? Did a girl he was sleeping with tell her boyfriend about YG’s studio hideout due to fear? All of these still unanswered questions flow through the heart of the song “Who Shot Me?” This serves as the vivid crux of YG’s sophomore LP Still Brazy (released in June) and the opener for arguably the biggest name of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA series.

“Damn, I ain’t know it was gon’ happen like this … But I guess God has some other plans for me. ‘Cause that shit ain’t stop me,” recalls YG at the end of the song.

It was a thankful and brazen declaration extremely fitting for the 26-year-old who is still driving at top speed but maneuvering in directions many didn’t imagine. YG (born Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson) wasn’t expected to be here, let alone serve as the driving force in the resurgence of gangsta rap. It’s not too often that a major debut album comes 4-5 years after a breakout single, but such was the case for YG after the playfully crass “Toot It and Boot It” came and went without much of a follow-up from Def Jam. However, YG leaned on the same things he used to charm a horde of anxious fans drenched in red attire to match their favorite Blood rapper: self-awareness, survival and a new-age, authentic look into LA’s culture, with equal celebrations for the lucky-to-get-by days and champagne-spilling nights making for something we can all relate and party to.

This concoction, tied to an undeniably formidable rapper-producer connection with LA native DJ Mustard, helped form YG’s 2014 debut My Krazy Life that was a half-decade/lifetime in the making. A first-class concept album that offered some perspective to those who were unable to avoid gang life’s abyss, YG picked up where Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar left off with his own views on the “Hub City,” which has become a global name in the process.

YG

With his mind-bending suspicions briefly on hold, YG jumped back into the now-welcomed madness that proceeded it. He treated the crowd to the gigantic “BPT” before confessing — like all of us spectators — “I Just Wanna Party”, the standout track from My Krazy Life that features Top Dawg Entertainment’s ScHoolBoy Q and Jay Rock. While neither TDE member was in the house, that didn’t put a damper on the night’s energy or YG’s willingness to visit Bompton for as long as possible.

Playing to the Bloods’ longstanding vernacular — replacing C’s with B’s — that he has made mainstream, YG then went into “Bicken Back Being Bool”, showcasing how he can turn a robbery on an average day into something we can all boogie to. YG may never be mistaken for the world’s greatest lyricist, but he has a knack for sharp storytelling — something even the secret service had to take notice of during this past election season.

An ever-present voice and face of the streets, YG isn’t taking anything lightly. Police brutality and racial injustice are getting the same relentless attention that his escapades with women previously would, and that’s something the U.S. government can attest to.

This narrative was highlighted by “FDT”, the anti-Donald Trump anthem featuring LA rapper Nipsey Hussle that has grown even more relevant after this year’s U.S. presidential election. The secret service forced some slight edits to the record after some calls to Def Jam threatened its release, but that certainly hasn’t stopped YG’s momentum.

For evidence, look no further than his roaring hometown concertgoers at The Wiltern. This contingent included several who were randomly plucked from the audience — even the ones whom YG joked looked “like they work at Facebook” — to take turns beating a Donald Trump piñata before Bay Area rapper G-Eazy surprisingly appeared to rap his verse on the remix.

If extended album delays, a near-death experience and government censorship can’t stop YG, I don’t know what can. And neither does he.

Setlist:
Who Shot Me?
BPT
I Just Wanna Party
Word Is Bond (with Slim 400)
Twist My Fingaz
Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)
My N***a
Toot it and Boot It
Left, Right
Don’t Tell ‘Em (Jeremih tease)
Why You Always Hatin’?
Who Do You Love?
Still Brazy
FDT (with G-Eazy)

Jhené Aiko turns a hometown show at Avalon into her own living room party

Jhené AikoBy Joseph Gray //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: Jhené Aiko //
Avalon Hollywood – Los Angeles
November 21st, 2016 //

Jhené Aiko really, really, really didn’t want to leave her home.

A rare, chilly breeze hawked through LA, but it wasn’t that or the pre-Thanksgiving traffic preventing the alluring Ladera Heights singer-songwriter from avoiding La Brea Ave. or the 101 freeway. Most of the city’s residents would empathize with either headache, but when you’re enjoying an ambiance-filled dwelling with a harp, cello, drums, stylish candles and feathery smoke all while being surrounded by some of your closest friends on a bunch of plush couches and bean bags, it becomes even more understandable.

Lucky for Aiko (and more importantly for us as spectators), Red Bull Sound Select decided to double their duties as a temporary moving company. Ever the gracious host, she was more than agreeable to the modification, welcoming her new hometown friends to a cozy world decorated with special guests and blue party cups of engaging melodies for a living room “jam” that will not be soon forgotten.

While much of Red Bull Sound Select’s annual 30 Days in LA series focuses on providing a platform for up-and-coming artists, Hollywood’s historic and spacious club Avalon offered a whole different feel for the fully formed Aiko. With tie-dyed merchandise of Aiko’s face being sold inside and self-embroidered shirts being hustled outside, the show felt surprisingly big, unforeseen only because Aiko’s music — delicate, sly and often vulnerable — is not what you would imagine ringing throughout the multilevel venue that routinely hosts DJs with frenetic and flashy light shows to entertain raging partygoers. On this night though, it was perfect.

Jhené Aiko

Slipping to the front of her foggy living room a little after 10 p.m. to excited screams, Aiko tucked away any of those doubts into a satiny topcoat while also keeping her footing atop slow-dripping piano keys. Kicking things off with “New Balance”, she patiently explored unexpected love on the fan-favorite opener that she was pushed to release in August by TWENTY88 collaborator and G.O.O.D. Music rapper Big Sean.

It’s been said that it’s not a true house party until the arrival of unexpected guests. There are those you turn the music down for before escorting out and those whom you hand the mic to in order to keep things going, and Aiko opted for the latter in sticking with the theme of the night. Big Sean, the Detroit emcee and second half to her conceptual relationship, joined his rumored real-life beau as the two traded pleasant yearnings, playful remarks, embraces and back-and-forth vibes during their onstage collaboration that was highlighted by “On the Way” from Aiko’s self-titled studio album, which was released earlier this year.

Despite her soothing and beautifully gentle voice, Aiko’s music is not just seeped in ballads of love found or love lost. Sex, infidelity, drugs, encouragement, motherhood and more subjects fuse together to produce a great sense of relatability to her audience, which she played to by having intimate and good-natured conversations with the audience during her hour-long set. The evening was capped off with more fun in the form of R&B singer Omarion’s “Post to Be” featuring Aiko and Grammy winner Chris Brown, who emerged onstage with his signature pizzazz for a slowed-down acoustic version of the platinum smash.

This, like the rest of Aiko’s performance, was backed by a badass band, as each member took turns soloing to keep the good energy flowing all night. Between standout songs “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestlye)”, “The Worst” and “The Vapors” (which Long Beach rapper Vince Staples joined her for) from her Sail Out EP and its LP predecessor Souled Out, her living room party also became a lesson in welcoming the complex rewards and penalties of susceptibility.

Jhené Aiko with Big Sean


Jhené Aiko with Big Sean

“Maybe I have made mistakes and been through my fair share of pain. But all in all, it’s been OK, I’ve lived well,” Aiko sang, flashing a slight smile that matched the evening’s appreciative vibe over “Eternal Sunshine”.

Nevertheless, prior to kicking us out, Aiko wanted to make sure we got home safely.

“I stay up all night for you, I’m a trooper. Call and request, I pick up, pull up quick as Uber,” said Aiko, turning the aggressive line from her recently released and sensual single “Maniac” into a PSA for concertgoers to make sure they find a safe way to get home.

And before we left, Aiko gave out gift bags in the form of song requests from the crowd as she morphed into an old-school lounge singer. Stepping back into the cold air before hopping into an Uber, my driver asked me where I was coming from.

“The coolest house party I’ve been to in a while,” I told him.

Setlist:
New Balance
Living Room Flow
Déjà Vu (TWENTY88 cover) (with Big Sean)
On the Way (TWENTY88 cover) (with Big Sean)
Comfort Inn Ending
W.A.Y.S.
Eternal Sunshine
Bed Peace
WTH
Vapors (with Vince Staples)
Drunk Texting / Post to Be / Drunk Texting Breakdown (with Chris Brown)
Maniac
The Worst

Encore:
Space Jam

After touring with Sia, AlunaGeorge have never been more well-suited to succeed than now

AlunaGeorgeBy Josh Herwitt //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: AlunaGeorge with Xavier Omär //
Belasco Theater – Los Angeles
November 22nd, 2016 //

If you haven’t heard of AlunaGeorge, there’s a good chance you’ve probably heard them on the radio and just didn’t know. But it probably wasn’t one of their own songs that you heard. Nope, it was more than likely from another English electronic duo by the name of Disclosure.

For plenty, Disclosure’s 2013 hit “White Noise” off their debut LP Settle was the first exposure they had to the namesake of vocalist/songwriter Aluna Francis and producer/instrumentalist George Reid. And though their very first single “You Know You Like It” reached as high as No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 thanks in part to DJ Snake’s remix for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” boosting the song’s popularity, AlunaGeorge had yet to have a bonafide pop song in their arsenal until brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence enlisted Francis’ pipes a few years ago.

Since then, Francis and Reid together have released two full-length albums, including most recently I Remember as the follow-up to 2013’s initial offering Body Music. While their latest studio effort sees them expanding horizons with some guest spots — something they didn’t endeavor on Body Music — from New Orleans-born rapper Pell, Chinese-American electronic musician/singer ZHU and Jamaican dancehall emcee Popcaan on lead single “I’m in Control”, the loudest roar from the healthy crowd at LA’s Belasco Theater last Tuesday came when they dropped the popular Disclosure track toward the middle of their hour-long performance.

AlunaGeorge

Despite the show being scheduled right before a holiday weekend, it was still billed as one of the premier events for Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA series this month and rightfully so. AlunaGeorge, in fact, were coming off their most important string of dates having served as one of two opening acts (the other being Miguel) on the North American leg of Sia’s 2016 arena tour. So, after gracing the stage at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl this fall, Francis and Reid had no reason to be intimidated by the Belasco’s main theater room. If anything, it only gave them the freedom to showcase some of their songs under a new and different light.

As we reached the midway point of their set with back-to-back singles from I Remember (the title track and “My Blood”), AlunaGeorge entered unchartered territory as they welcomed Pell and a three-piece brass band onstage to help them perform “Full Swing” live for the first time. It was a fitting way to wrap up a tour after months and months of both festival dates and club gigs all around the world, stretching the scope of electronic music with merely an element or two of surprise sprinkled into the equation. Because on this night, whether many attendees had heard of them or not, AlunaGeorge did everything they could to help them not forget.

Setlist:
Mediator
Your Drums, Your Love
I’m in Control
Automatic (ZHU cover)
White Noise (Disclosure cover)
My Blood
I Remember
Full Swing (with Pell) (with brass section)
Heartbreak Horizon (with brass section)
Not Above Love (with brass section)
Hold Your Head High
Mean What I Mean
You Know You Like It

With dignity and grace, Pusha T stays true to himself

Pusha TBy Joseph Gray //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: Pusha T with Boogie //
Belasco Theater – Los Angeles
November 16th, 2016 //

“Thinking back on it, it really was all a set up. You were setting me up to be the solo artist I never saw myself as.”

This week, G.O.O.D. Music President and rapper Pusha T (born Terrence LeVarr Thornton) graciously reflected on his life of six years ago, when he was summoned to Hawaii for six months as part of label founder Kanye West’s brain trust of inspiration. The outcome of the famed recording sessions and basketball games became My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West’s fifth studio album that brilliantly pits the Grammy winner’s defiant indestructibility against his haunting burdens as he returned from self-imposed deportation stemming from his infamous acceptance-speech interruption at the MTV Video Music Awards.

A powerful declaration set to wide-ranging and rich stadium sounds while not forgetting hip-hop’s basement essentials, West’s album also served as the perfect opportunity for the younger of the Thornton brothers — who together formed the rap duo Clipse — to share his brash, relentless talents with the world.

This opportunity and eventual partnership has not gone forgotten on Pusha T, who, prior to posting an open letter on Instagram to West (now reportedly in the hospital after cutting his latest tour short) on the six-year anniversary of MBDTF, took the stage at the Belasco Theater last Wednesday night as part of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA series with a similar graciousness as the headlining act he’d never imagined he would be.

“It’s always love when I come to LA. LA was always riding with me,” said Thornton, the veteran Virginia Beach-raised lyricist who unconventionally showed up earlier than we expected. Following Compton emcee Boogie’s warm hometown vibes, Pusha — with his signature braids, ad-libbing snarl, sweat pants and panther-embroidered jean jacket — proceeded to get comfortable and get to it.

Pusha T

There were no illuminated, floating stages to hover above a raucous mosh pit like West exhibited on his Saint Pablo tour. No maniacal dances or broads in Atlanta like rapper Desiigner frequently flaunts. No special guests like you’d often find at Big Sean’s shows. Unlike some of his labelmates, Pusha T opted to deliver us a PSA instead of a surprise, sending a reminder that this is what rappers are supposed to look like.

Not in the vein of the get-off-my-lawn emcees who shun everything that sounds different from their era, Pusha has embraced being a rapper’s rapper, refusing to deviate from the ease that he displays in combining vivid storytelling with a cloak of brazen confidence — an attribute new UFC two-division champion Conor McGregor would likely approve of. The performance proved to be a double-edged sword because while the Pusha T fan in me gladly recited witty rhyme after witty rhyme, the casual fan looking for big thrills may have been underwhelmed.

Fortunately, the larger percentage of concertgoers fell in line with the former, scrunching their faces in approval as President Pusha ran through “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets”, “M.P.A.” and more from his sophomore solo LP King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude. The show’s early highlights came during “Numbers on the Board” and “Nosetalgia”, the head-nodding, boom-bap standouts from his debut standalone album that showcase Pusha at his very best.

“20-plus years of selling Johnson & Johnson. I started out as a baby-face monster. No wonder there’s diaper rash on my conscience,” rapped Thornton, giving his LA fans the metaphorical opener they had been waiting for. This preceded the all-encompassing highlight when he took time for a brief Clipse homage with the classic “Grindin'” and the Future and Pharrell-assisted “Move That Dope” before turning his attention to the “toast for the douchebags” that changed his life.

While refusing to sing as the recognizable piano keys grew louder, the crowd happily obliged in assuming West’s echoing duties before Pusha joined the party, rapping the standout verse on “Runaway” that he acquired by being as greedy to work as he was thankful. Promising that new albums from him and the rest of label were on the way, Pusha, if anything, made it clear on this night that his appetite for more will not be diminishing anytime soon.

Isaiah Rashad makes a statement at Echoplex while giving fans a lesson in reverse psychology

Isaiah RashadBy Joseph Gray //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: Laneway Presents Isaiah Rashad with Mansionair, Sampa the Great //
Echoplex – Los Angeles
November 14th, 2016 //

Isaiah Rashad is a liar. On the surface that sounds absurd, considering how unregretful the Chattanooga, Tenn., emcee is about wearing his desires, anxiety and near self-demise on his sleeves. Hundreds of restless LA-area residents who were at Echoplex last Monday can vouch for my improbable story, though they’d also probably say how happy they were to be duped by the Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) member.

On this night, as part of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA series, Rashad, TDE’s talented outlier, was originally scheduled to arrive onstage around 10:20 p.m. Yet, nearly an hour later, fidgety concertgoers were still jockeying for position in the darkened Echoplex tucked under an overpass not far from downtown LA.

With liquid courage taking over one attendee as he attempted to start altercations during anxious “Zaywop” (Rashad’s nickname) chants for the 25-year-old, there was a brief reprieve coming in the form of Mansionair, a Sydney-based band that mixed exceptional vocals with sweet electro-soul, culminating in a cool surprise as they brought out a full choir to perform with them for the first time ever. Despite the well-liked appetizer that came after Sampa the Great’s passionate set, the apprehension for more was palpable until Rashad’s DJ emerged, signaling it was almost time for the real fun to begin.

And when it did, Rashad torpedoed onto stage and turned the restlessness in the room on its head with “Smile”, the apropos homecoming banger he released after years of uncertainty that followed his 2014 EP Cilvia Demo. It was fitting because prior to his reemergence, which was sparked by the song, Rashad admitted to being addicted to Xanax and alcohol, and it almost led to him being dropped from his West Coast record label on several occasions.

Isaiah Rashad

From his issues with substance abuse to the tears he shed while listening to Kid Cudi’s music and his open-book thoughts on the humanizing of mental-health issues, Rashad’s journey from being the contemplative unknown in superstar Kendrick Lamar’s crew to a complete artist deserving of your attention has been steeped in honesty.

One song down and beads of sweat already dripping down his face, Rashad nevertheless promised that despite the frenzy that Sampa the Great and Mansionair created, his show in support of his latest release The Sun’s Tirade wouldn’t be too crazy. That, though, couldn’t have been more of a lie.

Manipulating fans of all ages with a nimble flow that was heightened to match the crowd’s energy, Rashad excitedly took us to the same place where his reflections have led him during his two-year hiatus. And not to be outdone by a couple of surprises, but he brought out rapper Hugh Augustine for “Tity and Dolla” before he really took things up another level.

The latter revelation came in the form of songstress SZA, Rashad’s TDE labelmate who assisted, danced and caused a near trampling of excited women near the stage as the two bounced smiles off each other while performing “Stuck in the Mud”. Folks were more than appeased at this point, but the good vibes kept on coming.

Isaiah Rashad

“Wop! 4r Da Squaw, dog?! Where’s 4r Da Squaw?!”

One spectator in the audience let me move in front of him to photograph Rashad with the promise that I’d switch spots during “4r Da Squaw”, a shared album favorite about growth which was repeatedly requested after Rashad finished each song. Considering it’s more of a slower-paced song, I wasn’t sure the young fan would get his wish during Rashad’s hour-long set, but soon after the guest appearances by Augustine and SZA, I made good on my promise when “4r Da Squaw” finally came on.

Even though Lamar was not in attendance on this night, Rashad let the crowd fill in for the Grammy winner during his rapid-fire guest spot on “Wat’s Wrong”. And when Lamar’s verse got to the part about his desires to vandalize President-elect Donald Trump’s headquarters, the left-leaning crowd erupted as expected.

Moving the focus toward a vote all could agree on, Rashad called for his groovy single “Free Lunch” to christen his feel-good show. Soon after, more “Zaywop!” chants would resume, this time beckoning Rashad to return for an encore, but when they eventually went unanswered, fans dispersed knowing their patience was still well worth the wait.

Setlist:
Smile
Brenda
Soliloquy
Cilvia Demo
R.I.P. Kevin Miller
Tity & Dolla (with Hugh Augustine)
Heavenly Father
Rope // Rosegold
Menthol
Nelly
Stuck in the Mud
Ronnie Drake (with SZA)
Warm Winds (with SZA)
4r Da Squaw
Find a Topic (Homies Begged)
A Lot
Wat’s Wrong
Free Lunch
Park
m.A.A.d. city (Kendrick Lamar cover)

Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins pours his heart and soul out during his latest stop through LA

Mick JenkinsBy Joseph Gray //

Mick Jenkins with Smino //
Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles
October 4th, 2016 //

Mick Jenkins does not have all the answers, nor does he pretend to. However, in the midst of America’s political revitalization that grows more and more volatile in a presidential election year surrounded by several recent instances of police brutality, the Chicago rapper does offer some healing — an elixir comprised of reflection, faith-based actions and a soundtrack that puts an emphasis on love. And the pot boils over into something not to be ignored.

Even if it’s only for the time and that moment, the good vibes are undeniable. The 25-year-old Jenkins showed this liberation off at LA’s Bootleg Theater last Tuesday while on his “A Quest for Love” tour, which is doubling as a victory lap for his well-constructed, critically acclaimed album The Healing Component, during the latest installment of Red Bull’s Sound Select series. While the intimate settings of the series that’s curated by the popular energy drink are often accompanied with baking temperatures, last Monday provided a different but suitable cool.

Jenkins followed St. Louis native Smino, the neighboring rapper in Chicago’s Zero Fatigue crew. Smino mixed melodic harmonies, clever wordplay and playful fun, the latter of which culminated in an entertaining moment where he danced to classic records in an ode to his city’s artists like Grammy winner Nelly. With more than enough reason to dive into Smino’s catalog after the show, Jenkins was ready to get to the meat and potatoes of his crusade.

Sneaking onstage without a grand introduction but with a live band intact, Jenkins charmed by using his signature deep-and-stern voice to power the crowd through his waters of truth and purpose. Yet, this was not an hour-long set where everything relied simply on prophetic words. The diverse and sold-out crowd came unhinged several times to big sounds, notably during “Jazz”, a standout from Jenkins’ 2014 mixtape The Water(s) — a precursor then and last week to his latest LP that highlights the positives of humanity over the blues we often learn about from local news coverage.

Mick Jenkins

While he suggested that we “drink more water” during his performance, Jenkins continually refreshed the audience with a jug of feel-good material from THC. From the warm “Spread Love” to the darker, more hypnotic “Daniels Bloom”, Jenkins used his lyrical sword to cut through faith, violence and race toward a light, which at the very least, was different.

“Don’t let the struggle make your heart harder,” Jenkins rapped. “Sip the truth, spit the truth. That’s the smart water.”

With all the love, passion and consciousness in the room, Jenkins was still down for a riotous goodbye — this coming in the form of “Social Network (Gang)” by Chicago hip-hop collective Hurt Everybody that he’s featured on — where he motivated one last frenzy before a surprise stage dive.

After these small moves toward promoting love, Jenkins asked us at the end of the night to let him know if a difference was truly felt. Amid smiles, a room full of energy and avid chants for an encore taking place, it appeared he got his answer.

Stormzy shows no fear in his LA debut at The Echo

StormzyPhotos by Brian Doyle // Written by Joseph Gray //

Stormzy with Lizzo, Kauf //
The Echo – Los Angeles
March 23rd, 2016 //

As big-eyed with appreciation as he was when his authoritative voice and frenzied intensity were being applied, Stormzy (born Michael Omari), the towering South London emcee, took his headlining tour to The Echo for its Los Angeles debut last Wednesday night. In a city often defined for its laid-back demeanor, such indifference was absent from the packed room as the budding sensation of grime, UK’s darker fusion of garage, hip-hop and dancehall, performed under the venue’s dim lights after alternative hip-hop artist Lizzo and LA electronic duo Kauf kicked things off.

A fiery congregation chanted lyric after lyric from Stormzy’s catalog before he even took the stage as part of Red Bull’s Sound Select series. Once Stormzy did, wrapped in a grey adidas sweat suit and camera flash, he elevated an energized crew that was full of life, flexing his muscle for hundreds of jumping spectators with thunderous tracks like “Standard” before briefly slowing the tempo during “10 Minutes”, a determined and sharp memo about what sets him apart from his rapping counterparts over the soulful score of The Game’s “100”.

However, that break in tempo would be short-lived, as the fourth quarter of his hour-long set introduced his huge, pulsating freestyle anthems. A now-shirtless Stormzy, fully entrenched in sweat and his element, madly ran through catchy fan favorites like “Know Me From” and “Shut Up”. How can you be better than Stormzy? In roaring unison with his supporters, new and old, he simply told his doubters to “shut up!” — fearless advice from the 22-year-old that is becoming harder to ignore with each one of his successful tour stops across the U.S.

Holy Fuck showcase new material at The Roxy

Holy Fuck #7By Josh Herwitt //

Holy Fuck //
The Roxy Theatre – West Hollywood, CA
May 22nd, 2014 //

Canadian electronic outfit Holy Fuck played their first LA show in quite a while, headlining the latest installment of Red Bull’s Sound Select series. Despite its most recent studio album Latin coming out more than four years ago, the Toronto quartet unleashed a handful of new songs during its hour-long set at The Roxy Theatre. Josh Herwitt dropped by the renowned Sunset Strip venue last week to take it all in.