Young Thug VS Jean-Michel Basquiat

In the 1980’s, a young, African American painter emerged onto the New York art scene. Jean-Michel Basquiat was one of the brightest, and most unique, artists in all of America. He took the expressionist style of the Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and combined it with tribal African and street art that reflected his urban surroundings and the plight of the African American community. 

Since Basquiat’s 1998 death, his art has grown increasingly popular among hip hop artists. Both Jay Z and Swizz Beats are known Basquiat collectors, and he has been referenced in verses by hip hop heavyweights Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Rick Ross, Danny Brown, J. Cole, and A$AP Rocky. 

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Does Young Thug appear in this Basquiat painting that was made years before his birth?

This reoccurring homage continues in the music video for the Young Thug/Freddie Gibbs/A$AP Ferg collaboration, “Old English.” Well before this video came out, this track blew my mind. Three great verses linked together by one thick chain of a hook. A$AP Ferg especially shines with one of his best verses to date. He tells a narrative of a young, hispanic girl who turns to selling Molly as ends to support her sick mother, along with the rest of her family.

But getting back the video, it’s not too difficult to see the Basquiat connection. The crude line work and the bright colors harken back to Basquiat’s work – his signature crown even makes an appearance. This sort of gritty depiction expertly juxtaposes with the trap instrumentals and dark lyrics on street life.

I think this is why Basquiat’s art resonates in hip hop. Artists like like-minded artists. Basquiat, like Jay-Z or Young Thug, was born with nothing and worked his way to notoriety in a system that fought against him. His art reflects a story that too many African Americans live themselves. One encompassed by poverty, drugs, violence, and systematic suppression. Out of this struggle however, comes wonderful art and music. These artists reflect their surroundings in their art and hopefully, educate their audiences on the circumstances they and so many have experienced.

POP POV: Iggy Pop VS Edward Hopper

This idea has long been in the works; two pieces of art – one song, one painting – compared in theme, feeling, style, etc. Studying art is a huge passion of mine, and so often a piece of music and a painting speak to me in similar ways. Even our name “The Vinyl Warhol” came about as a combination of love for music and art history.

For my inaugural juxtaposition, I’ve selected Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” a brilliant cut off his 1977 solo album Lust for Life, and American realist Edward Hopper’s 1942 masterpiece, NighthawksEnjoy.

I have always enjoyed the city. Even in such an immense crossing of commuters, there is always a certain singular personality to its madness, thousands – maybe millions – of distinct lives, all unaccompanied in a sea of swirling energy. This theme flows throughout both pieces, playing off of that isolated soul.

In “The Passenger,” that soul travels – presumably by bus – through the city, viewing its “ripped backside” as if looking through a television screen. Pop narrates this transit in a low gristle. His cadence creates tone. We see the passing glow of streetlamps, the distinct urban aura. It’s cold. The sky is hollow.

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As we coast through the sleeping city in “The Passenger,” our transporter passes by a dinner. Inside, the characters of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks sit behind similar glass. This snapshot scene – the viewer peaking into this solemn metropolitan life – mirrors Pop’s croons. Hopper often captured city-goers in his work, but rarely were any of his subjects interacting with each other. The separation created between these mannequin-like forms is haunting. They sit under a bright artificial light, stark against the building’s green colors.

Although the big city brings promise of bustling nightlife, it too is the place where we can feel most alone. Pop and Hopper both knew this, and they each shared their own isolated experiences in two remarkable pieces of work.

POP POV: Kendrick Lamar – “i”

“i” is an important single for Kendrick Lamar. The Compton MC is at crossroads in his career, and our first taste of new music points him in a very specific direction. After the platinum-selling, introspective short-film that was good kid, m.A.A.d. city, many fans began to think of him as a fresh new creative with a strong message. However, his most successful songs are his numerous features, where K. Dot spits braggadocious bars about money, women, and guns. “i,” with its up-lifting chorus and strong stance, shows us he’s headed further down the former road, the road of conscious rap.

Of course, this remains to be seen: good kid, m.A.A.d. city held both deep social meaning and, “I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel Tower, so I can fuck the world for 72 hours.” In context of Lamar’s currently untitled 2014 album, “i” could take on a radically different message, and until we piece together the entire puzzle that is his next work, we can celebrate our own selves with the rap’s brightest genius.

“But what love got to do with it when you don’t love yourself?”

POP POV: Pulling a Beyoncé (Part ‘U’2)

The following are thoughts continuing from a previous article, Pulling a Beyoncé: Why are artists releasing ‘surprise’ albums?” I recommend reading that post before viewing part two, but who the hell am I tell you what to do? Enjoy.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have been invaded. On September 9, a 54-year-old man who refers to himself as Bono sneaked into computer and left something. Bono, along with his cohorts (a 53-year-old man who answers to the name The Edge, a bass player named Adam, and a drummer named Larry), left a steaming pile of Innocence, stamped with a familiar Apple, on every Itunes user’s doorstep. The practical joke in question revolves around the intrusion of U2’s Songs of Innocence in the library of anyone with an Itunes account. U2 released the “surprise” album in conjunction with Apple’s unveiling of the Iphone 6 and Apple Watch. If you’d like to, you can read more up on partnership here.

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Writer’s Note: I understand there are endless blog posts and Internet comments bashing U2. Personally, I have never shared that hateful sentiment; there are many U2 songs I enjoy, and I think they’ve made some very important albums. Go listen to Pop, a commercial failure largely due to the addition of electronica and dance elements, but an album that by today’s standards was completely ahead of its time. This is just one often overlooked landmark in the band’s catalog.

Okay, back to reality. Now, I haven’t listened to Songs of Innocence, so I can’t accurately judge whether or not the music is comparable to dog excrement. But many of the reactions I’ve seen to album’s unexpected, or should I say “surprise,” presence has been less then welcoming, a reception completely opposite from Beyoncé’s “surprise” release. Here are my two possible explanations as to why.

The first is a bit obvious. U2’s “surprise” album was not offered as a gift; it was placed without our notice on our phones and in our computers. Additionally, you may not delete the album. This unwanted placement makes Songs of Innocence another Apple IOS update that everyone hates. It’s like if someone were to come over to your house, and just left something in your bathroom for you to see every time you shit. It’s what I imagine anyone in a popular band feels when someone hands them a demo, “Here’s some free music.” *wink*. It’s obtrusive because you weren’t given a choice.

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Point two. As I mentioned in the former article, music fans adore surprise releases because they feel special. You imagine that the artist had just finished the album and couldn’t wait share it with you. Logic would say the artist stands to lose money with no prior campaign, but money seems like a lesser thought. It feels genuine.

But Songs of Innocence is the complete opposite of that. Apple paid U2 an ungodly, but disclosed, amount of money for the right to releaseThe marketing budget alone was over $100 million! For decades, U2 have been the epitome of corporate rock, and now they’ve chosen to team with the poster child for big business. Therefore, the release of Songs of Innocence comes across as nothing but pandering. From this point on, any semi-popular artist who releases a surprise album will appear a little more calculated, a little phonier. And that’s all I have to say about that.

“I can’t live with or without you.”