Best Songs of 2014 So Far

We’ve had plenty of great songs and albums released already this year. Here’s 9 of my favorites, leave a comment with yours below.

9. Pharrell – Hunter

After dominating a lot of last year’s air play with ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Get Lucky’, Pharrell released his much anticipated follow up to 2006’s In My Mind, G I R L. ‘Hunter’ is as funky as we’ve heard Pharrell in a while.

8. Sage Francis – Dead Man’s Float

Enigmatic, independent artist Sage Francis released his self-analyzing album Copper Gone in June on Strange Famous Records. This song perfectly encapsulates the tone of the album with its dreary bass line, haunting chorus and excellently crafted verses.

7. Isaiah Rashad – Shot You Down

Shot You Down is song that would give you the impression that Isaiah Rashad has been rapping for years, but it is actually from his debut mixtape, Clivia Demo. His flow needed no time to mature and his delivery has the passion and energy that rap music has been missing for years.

6. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

This title track from his new album is just yet another example of the genius of Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz). The high pitched looped violin is a beautiful addition to his insightful lyrics about the modern world.

5. Ghostface Killah & BADBADNOTGOOD – 6 Degrees featuring Danny Brown

This unlikely collaboration for Lex Records came out of nowhere at the end of May. Both Ghostface Killah and Danny Brown sound as venomous as ever over the jazz trio’s Wu Tang-esque production.

4. Schoolboy Q – Gangsta

Beginning with Schoolboy Q’s daughter proclaiming “fuck rap, my daddy a gangsta”, this track is, in my opinion, the hardest song released this year. The production is just as menacing as the lyrics which give a vivid impression of gang life in Los Angeles.

3. Wu Tang Clan – Keep Watch

The first single from their soon to be released, A Better Tomorrow, at first raised some issues with feuding member Raekwon. He believed that the production was mediocre and that it isn’t “part of our plan”. However, even he couldn’t deny the raw lyricism of the song. The production, handled by Mathematics, is a perfect example of how I think Wu Tang will sound in 2014.

2. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Deeper

From Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s collaborative album, Piñata, Deeper is a great example of a rapper and producer both at the top of their game. It was hard to choose just one song from the album, but this one also comes with a cinematic music video that is a must see.

1. The Roots – When the People Cheer

Black Thought and Modesty Lycan’s tales of debauchery in the verses gives an excellent impression of the characters on The Roots’ concept album …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin. The production by the group is of it’s usual incredibly high quality and is one of those songs that truly has the ability to make you “float like a cloud that you blow in the air”. Take a look a the stop motion lyric video.

Pusha T, The Button Factory 9/6/14

After splitting with longtime collaborator and brother, No Malice, Pusha T signed with Kanye West’s label G.O.O.D Music to release his album, My Name Is My Name. For a while it looked like Pusha could fade into into hip hop obscurity, but after the hype surrounding MNIMN and Kanye proclaiming to the world that ‘everything is Pusha T’, his solo career took off more than many expected. You would think that he would feel on top of the world with his new found relevance which can be very hard to acquire in the genre, but his performance feels lacklustre and uninspired.

Supporting act, Simi Crowns played an excellent set with his backing band. The passion and energy he has is unmatched by the main act, as he bounds from side to side of the stage. It’s not often that you can say the local support act puts on a better show and is a better performer than the main attraction, but this is definitely the case tonight. Even long after Pusha’s set, the name Simi Crowns is resounding through the building as the crowd make their way out.

To say that Pusha T’s entire set was terrible may be an overstatement. There is no denying the power of G.O.O.D Music collaborative songs such as New God Flow and Don’t Like to keep the crowd happy. However, when you only have a minute long verse on these tracks and don’t play at least one other person’s verse, then it can leave you feeling cheated. Hearing about 1 minute of Mercy simply doesn’t cut it, considering it gets one of the biggest responses of the night. Even during hit single, Numbers On The Board it feels like Pusha is just going through the motions.

A quick run through Clipse’ classic Grindin and it is over before you know it. It’s safe to say that almost all hip hop shows only last an hour, but rarely does it feel like the hour drags by. There is something missing from the show and in my opinion it is passion. If he had seemed genuinely happy to be there, or hadn’t had been on tour for so long then maybe you would be wondering what song you might hear next, instead of when the next bus home is.

Top 5 Music Documentaries

We can learn a lot about our favorite musicians from the interviews and Youtube videos, but a well crafted documentary shows us how these people live their life on a day to day basis. A good documentary can completely change your previous opinion of an artist and here are my 5 favorites which have managed to do so.

5. Backstage

Backstage is a documentary which details the trials & tribulations of 2000’s Hard Knock Life Tour, featuring Jay Z, DMX, Method Man & Redman, Ja Rule & Beanie Sigel. In many ways it is former co-owner of Roc A Fella Records, Damon Dash who is the star as we get an in depth look at the problems that can arise for a manager when running one of the biggest hip hop tours of all time.

4. Some Kind Of Monster

The 2004 documentary about heavy metal icons Metallica delves into the problems they encountered while recording comeback record St Anger. Trips to rehab and massive egos delayed the release of the album for years which led to inner turmoil for the three piece, who were already without a full time bass player. The no holds barred style of filming means we get a glimpse into the arguements, reconciliations & group therapy sessions of a band that at the time had been recording for over 20 years.

3. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest

Directed by actor and long time fan, Michael Rapaport, Beats, Rhymes & Life provides insight to what led to the demise of A Tribe Called Quest. Internal arguments, Phife Dawg’s diabetes & Q-Tip’s appraent need to control every move they make as a group are just some of the things touched on in this documentary. It features interviews with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Mos Def & Questlove, all of whom were greatly influenced by the music of Tribe.

2. Searching For Sugar Man

This documentary follows the journey of two South Africans as they attempt to find out what exactly happened to elusive & mysterious musician Sixto Rodriguez after his disappeance in the 1970’s. After wading through the rumors & myths surrounding the musician, Stephen Segerman and Craig Strydom finally locate and inform him of the massive fan base he had unknowingly acquired in South Africa. It is a heart warming, tear jerking story about a man who gave up a chance at fame to provide for his family.

1. Rock The Bells

This documentary is about the first ever Rock The Bells festival and the reuniting of Wu Tang Clan on it’s stage. It is so good that I already wrote a full article about it. Check it out here: https://whatyouregoingtosee.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/a-long-way-from-the-shell-tops-and-the-bells-that-l-rocked/