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Forget Jay; The Real Surprise Cameo in Lemonade was Ibeyi

When Lemonade first dropped, everyone freaked out that Jay-Z and Beyoncé might be on the rocks. The focus shifted from…

When Lemonade first dropped, everyone freaked out that Jay-Z and Beyoncé might be on the rocks. The focus shifted from the cultural implications of Lemonade as a work of art to an all-out witch hunt for “Becky with the good hair.” People largely ignored the nods to African-diasporic traditions and instead scrutinized Beyoncé’s personal life and the superficial significance of the lyrics. There were hundreds, if not, thousands of memes featuring Jay-Z, Rachel Roy spiked in popularity, and the tabloids even talked about Rita Ora for a hot second. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why is no one talking about Ibeyi?”

​Ibeyi is a musical duo from Paris made up of Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz. They are the daughters of famous Cuban conga player Angá Diaz and have been playing music together since they were kids. However, their first (and only) album came out just last year. Ibeyi is not well-known. They won’t be found on the Billboard top 100, nor do they have any best-selling albums in Apple music. So, why, of all people, would Beyoncé choose to have Ibeyi make an appearance in Lemonade? My guess is that she saw in them the same thing I did: a mystifying ability to showcase and personify their culture.

​The two sisters are descendants of the Yoruba people of Nigeria brought over to Cuba during the African Diaspora. They own this in their music and aesthetic. Beyoncé’s decision to showcase their natural beauty in Lemonade was a nod to her own ancestral heritage and an acknowledgment of black diversity. Ibeyi is in the video for the same reason Yoruba artist Laolu Senbanjo’s work was featured: she wanted to highlight issues of African-Diaspora seldom talked about in mainstream media.

The Lemonade feature brought the hip hop scene a gift by introducing Ibeyi to her fan base. Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz are doing something revolutionary in their music. They fuse together acapella Yoruba chants, indie electronic beats, modern jazz overlays, and hip-hop and R&B influences to create a unique sound. The hip-hop influences are undeniable. Their rendition of “Better in Tune with the Infinite” by Jay Electronica is evidence of this, and taking a look at Naomi’s Spotify playlist you will see names like The Notorious B.I.G., Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, and Joey Bada$$ to name a few. Not only are they inspired by the Hip Hop we know and love, but very much like these artists, Ibeyi pulls inspiration from their roots. They are, in effect, an indie group with Hip Hop soul who puts their culture on display for all to see.

So why do I say they are the real surprise cameo of Lemonade? For one, it was completely unexpected. Ibeyi is not a big music name quite yet, and a working relationship with Beyoncé is huge. But also, to see Yoruba culture and the African diaspora so overtly represented in mainstream pop culture is a much bigger surprise than Jay-Z appearing on any screen.

Aline is an up-and-coming journalist from the greater NYC area currently getting her Master’s in Journalism at Syracuse University. She grew up in Elizabeth, NJ where a mix of Hip Hop and Latino music fills the streets and went to UNC where she studied linguistic anthropology, was a resident singer-songwriter, and became a student activist. It would be easier to pick something she isn’t interested in than to name all the things she is, but she will say that reading and discovering new music hold a special place in her heart.
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“My Dear Melancholy” is Bone-Chillingly Beautiful

Judging from the dark subject matter that has typified Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye’s catalogue to date–which includes rampant drug abuse,…

Judging from the dark subject matter that has typified Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye’s catalogue to date–which includes rampant drug abuse, his struggles as a homeless young-adult, and suicidal thoughts–few could have guessed that it would be his short stint with a former Disney Channel star that would leave him at his lowest. The Starboy crooner leaves little to speculation on his latest commercial release, My Dear Melancholy, a succinct six-song EP inarguably based on the fallout after his recent fling with pop star Selena Gomez. 

While The Weeknd’s anguish seems genuine and makes you feel for the guy, it’s impossible to ignore the glaring irony in his recent complaints, one, given Gomez’ goody-two-shoes persona, and even more so given the overtly misogynistic lyrics that Tesfaye is so well known for. Here are a few in case you need a reminder (no pun intended):

From the track “Party Monster” off of Starboy: “Woke up by a girl I don’t even know her name.”

From the smash hit “The Hills” off of the 2015 release Beauty Behind the Madness: “I only call you when it’s half past five, the only time I’d ever call you mine.”

Later on the same track, “I just fucked two bitches ‘fore I saw you.” 

Lastly, on the track “Reminder,” also off of Starboy: “When I travel ’round the globe, make a couple mil’ a show, and I come back to my city, I fuck every girl I know.” 

With that being said, musically, My Dear Melancholy is bone-chillingly beautiful. The Weeknd returns to his dark and cavernous House of Balloons roots on the project while still maintaining his newfound pop sensibilities. Rattling bass, slow, driving percussion, and subtle, haunting synths and keys cproductions. The production on most of My Dear Melancholy leaves room for Tesfaye’s vocals to take the driver’s seat, unlike that of the brighter and grandiose Starboy. From a lyrical standpoint, the EP is peppered with moving, weighty bars:

Off of “Wasted Times:” “I don’t wanna wake up if you ain’t laying next to me.”

Off of “Call Out My Name,” the opener: “I almost cut a piece of myself for your life,” a reference to Gomez’ recent search for a kidney donor

Tesfaye saves the best for last, providing the most melodically beautiful and lyrically clever portion of the EP on the closing track “Privilege,” as he repeats in a despondent, Vocoder-enhanced tone: “I got two red pills, to take the blues away.”

It is hard to deny the allure of much of The Weeknd’s work, regardless of lyrical content, due to the singer’s angelic voice and cutting-edge production. On My Dear Melancholy, Tesfaye achieves success from both a melodic and lyrical standpoint, substituting (for the most part) tales of apathetic sexual encounters for raw, vulnerable descriptions of his recent struggle with heartbreak. The Weeknd has finally found the middle ground between his groundbreaking, alt-R&B House of Balloons project and the poppy, Funk-infused Starboy. Lastly, to those Weeknd Stans worried about the Toronto star returning to normalcy, the singer explains on “Privilege:” 

“And I’ma fuck the pain away, and I know I’ll be okay…But I’ma drink the pain away, I’ll be back to my old ways.” 

Not to worry people; the Abel we’ve come to know, and love isn’t going anywhere.

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Cardi B’s Debut Album “Invasion of Privacy” Is Out Now

It’s almost a week since Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy dropped. Her fans, the Bardi Gang, are more than…

It’s almost a week since Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy dropped. Her fans, the Bardi Gang, are more than pleased with the LP, which has aldo managed to make those who weren’t fans, into new ones..

“I like proving niggas wrong, I do what they say I can’t,” raps Cardi B on “I Like It”

I can’t think of an artist that has had as bomb a breakout year as Cardi B has. She gave us the summer 2017 hit, “Bodak Yellow,” and since then, she’s been on the Billboard charts back to back (to back). The last ten months have been especially great to her, let alone this week. After releasing Invasion of Privacy, Cardi revealed her pregnancy with rapper Offset on “Saturday Night Live”; also, she was the first person ever to co-host The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Invasion of Privacy is an upfront look into Cardi’s everyday life. She’s confident, vulnerable and full of witty remarks. Laced into 13 tracks, the newly minted Quality Control management signee made anthems for the rest of the year. “Get Up 10” sets the bar for what’s to come on the project. Inspired by Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” intro, Cardi’s version is also broken into two parts about her ascension to the riches from the rags.

As well, the album includes “Bartier Cardi” with 21 savage, which recently earned platinum certification, and is still doing numbers.

 

Cardi B money moves on this album show her versatility. She dabbles into the trap sound with “Drip” featuring the Migos, shows her confidence and positive vibes on “Best Life” featuring Chance the Rapper, and gets very personal with “Be Careful,” a track addressing an unfaithful partner/boyfriend. Cardi is not the one to mess with!

Social media pundit-turned reality TV star-turned rapper is a way of saying that this girl from the Bronx, is made of grind and determination. You don’t have to like her music, the way she talks, or her persona, but you have to respect her hustle. She came from the bottom and executed her way to the top.

Listen to Cardi B’s debut album below.

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Scottie Jax Is Prepping Posthumous LP To Drop In 2100

This man is intent on leaving a legacy.

You may not have heard of rapper/producer Scottie Jax, but he’s been on and cracking for the better part of the last decade. His first solo mixtape Plan For Tomorrow (from 2009) was hosted by the illustrious DJ Lazy K and featured verses from some of the game’s most respected: French Montana, Max B, Styles P of the mighty D-Block, and the late Fatal Hussein of the Outlawz. He’s since released numerous projects, beats tapes, and — shit — even a videogame last year entitled Ohio Hustler.

But, Scotty is intent on leaving a legacy.

The largely self-produced artist has a new album in the works, entitled Future History; mysteriously (and cryptically), he refers to is as the “Scottie Jax album you will never hear.” He notes in his release details that it’s set to release in the year 2100. “I feel that it’s not about the person who leaves the legacy, but the legacy itself,” he writes. “I will no longer be living, so the least I can try to do is make the world a better place than it was when I was living on it.” There is no word on the platform he will choose for this LP — as there’s no telling if they will still be around. We can only hope he drops the LP long before that.

In the meantime (the very long meantime) you can check out a large portion of his catalog via Soundcloud.

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Kaiju The Unconquerable Returns With Ultraman Visual

Kaiju The Unconquerable is an alumnus of my #indiespotlight series from last year when he released “Episode 6″—a dope mini-movie…

Kaiju The Unconquerable is an alumnus of my #indiespotlight series from last year when he released “Episode 6″—a dope mini-movie that anyone into Anime/comics/ninja type shit should revisit. He just sent “Episode 7: Ultraman” my way, and it’s fantastic.

Related: #IndieSpotlight: Kaiju The Unconquerable Releases New Short Film

This time around, the story centers on Zenith, a 27-year-old Ultraman stationed in the US. He became an Ultraman after his father attempted to tamper with the gene and ultimately ended up dying in an attempt to distill and use its power. Fast forward; Zenith is the only one with this power (on this side of the world), and—in the course of the six-minute mini film fights a deadly alien, lighting up the NYC skyline in the process.

 
It’s, literally as rad as it sounds. From his Ultraman arms and mask—which are insanely cool—to his Ultraman letterman jacket, which I would kill for, the visual is engaging, not unlike his past material. He also directed it, which needs to be acknowledged.

Much like his previous work, which I discussed before, Kaiju’s image and music play off of each other but don’t depend on each other, at all. DOOM is DOOM, that’s his character. This song, for example, is a really dope song as a stand-alone; if you were to listen to just the song, you might take Ultraman as a metaphor–among many others in the lyrically dense track–and rock with it.

The video is what makes it literal. “Ultraman” is a really (really) good song, I can’t stress that enough. Kaiju may come across as niche if you peruse through his catalog, but he’s extremely accessible.

Recommend content—really sit with this one. Early!

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