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TEST SPIN: Danny Brown — Atrocity Exhibition

Right off the bat, I want to let you know that I’m not going to review this new record, Atrocity Exhibition by the Detroit rapper Danny Brown, objectively. Danny Brown is my favorite rapper of all time, I’m disposed to review this record positively, and it’d be dishonest to pretend otherwise. I also want to let you know that even though Danny Brown is a great, great rapper, he’s also extremely transgressive and sometimes difficult to listen to; his music is so weird that it inspires obsessive love in some while alienating many more. Accordingly, Atrocity Exhibition is as uncompromising and bizarre as it is brilliant. Danny raps in a nasal, high-pitched squeal that mimics the effects of stimulant abuse, and his music is dissonant, arrhythmic and stressful.

COURTESY OF NETFLIX

A still from Netflix's new original series The Getdown, directed by Baz Luhrmann.

STANTON | On Hip-Hop and Nostalgia

Nostalgia — that seemingly endless pool of artistic inspiration — motivates at least half (by my less-than-scientific calculation) of this year’s major pop culture moments, from Netflix’s Stranger Things all the way to Frank Ocean’s Blond(e). As source material, it’s a tricky beast, at its best capable of drawing on shared memories to remind us what made something great in the first place. At its worst, though, nostalgia invites a kitschy reimagining of the past that too often morphs into revisionist history. Perhaps nowhere is this division more hotly debated than in the realm of hip-hop, a former subculture whose influence now runs far beyond its original parameters, sparking important questions as to how it should continue to evolve while remaining true to its roots. “No one alive can name me one rapper that was bigger than the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC or Spice Girls was in the 90s and mean it,” asserted rapper Vince Staples in a recent interview with Noisey.

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TEST SPIN: Frank Ocean — Blonde

I have a difficult time describing Frank Ocean’s music. Perhaps it’s a surreal introspection of the most morose and neurotic reactions to something tragic, like the loss of love and the painful journey that follows it. Maybe it’s a conceptual project of youthful hope and fervor in a world that is far less than ideal. Maybe it’s just sad. Regardless, Ocean’s new album Blonde is brilliant.

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TEST SPIN: The Avalanches — Wildflower

The last time The Avalanches released a full-length album, George W. Bush was just elected president, the internet was still in its infancy compared to the totalizing social presence it ballooned into in the mid-naughties and Sept. 11 hadn’t happened yet. Since I Left You, the group’s debut, is as danceable as it is radical in form. The Avalanches methodically overlaid 3,500 samples to create a funky, rich album that is easily playable at a party, yet also deeply rewarding to listen to while alone. Released initially to moderate success in their native Australia, the album has since grown internationally to be revered as among the sharpest examples of contemporary plunderphonics, a genre of samples-based music.

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TEST SPIN: Drake — Views

Drake has become the kind of generational figure that comes along once or twice a decade in pop music. Part of why he’s pulled it off is because, like Johnny Cash or a young Jay-Z, he communicates exclusively in a relatable, easy-to-understand way. Given a few seconds of a Drake song, the listener can identify that it’s Drake, decide if they relate to what he’s saying and make up their mind about it. He has mastered personal musings that seem like grand statements, journal entries aimed at a crowd. He kicks off Views with another one of them: “All of my let’s-just-be-friends are friends I don’t have anymore,” on “Keep The Family Close.” If this sentiment seems familiar, it might be because you’ve heard versions of it all over his past few albums. Don’t expect much innovation on Views, since it sticks to the themes that Drake has turned into a cottage industry: failed relationships, wistful nostalgia and the occasional chest-thumping taunt.

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Young and Reckless: Young Thug Fails to Impress at Barton

Young Thug might be notorious for his unique style of incoherent rapping, but he certainly falls flat as a performer. Over 3,300 people came out to Sunday night’s show at Barton Hall expecting a hype concert from the rapper. Slightly disappointed from the Urban Outfitters artist selections for this year’s Slope Day, Young Thug’s arrival was highly anticipated by many Cornell students who hoped to turn prelim season into Slime Season. Young Thug’s eccentric personality certainly produced some moments of humor amongst the group of Ivy League students. As a cannabis enthusiast, Thugger entertained the crowd with questions like “how many of y’all smoke weed?” His styrofoam cup posse served as his background dancers throughout the show as Thugger performed smoker anthems like “Hookah” and “Stoner.”

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JONES | On Being a White Rap Fan

I’m going to do my best here to avoid a Macklemore “White Privilege II” situation in which, while attempting to address a complex issue of race and privilege, I end up positioning myself as a 100-percent enlightened and understanding communicator, one who can “translate” the concerns of African Americans to white audiences. I really like rap. This wasn’t always the case. During junior high, I liked classic rock and indie rock that sounded like classic rock. I actually remember worrying back then about how I listened to an overwhelming majority of white artists.

JONES | Listen to My Friend Evan

I have a friend named Evan whose rapper name is Dough Boi and he makes music and you should check it out on SoundCloud. I realize how unappealing that sounds. My reaction to people on social media or YouTube hawking their “fire mixtapes” and begging “please just give me a chance” always inspires a mix of disdain and embarrassment in me. The only music I ever listen to is either critically lauded or at least signed to a record label. Evan is the only exception.

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SOSNICK | ‘I Love Kanye’: Reviewing The Life of Pablo Reviews

It seems like it’s impossible to browse the Internet without reading something new about Kanye West. Whether it’s about Kanye’s reluctance to release his music for normal sale, the extent to which he’s a Cosby apologist, his extravagant Madison Square Garden show driven by tunes pumped through a simple aux cord or pleas for billionaires to drop their current philanthropic projects in order to fund his creative muses, nearly every website, news outlet and social media platform is scrambling to get a piece of the Kanye pie. (Clearly The Sun is no exception.) In this shitstorm of hype and speculation, it’s easy to forget that the at the hurricane’s eye is a landmark album, The Life of Pablo. Naturally, The Life of Pablo was quite divisive, with it being alternately hailed as another revolutionary record from Mr. West and decried as a self-absorbed, misogynist debacle. Realistically, it’s both of these things and everything in between.