Nina Sky, For VNDL
It hardly seems like a decade has passed since identical twins Nicole and Natalie Albino popped onto the scene as Nina Sky. “Move Ya Body,” the April 2004 debut release by the duo, was an easy hit, swiftly rising among the Billboard pack with its reggaeton and dancehall influences. The single, which topped out the Billboard Hot 100 at number four, is a brilliantly packaged pop song with a veritably catchy refrain, a simple lyrical structure and the club-ready Coolie Dance riddim sample that saw its first ray of mainstream notoriety with Sean Paul’s 2003 “Feel Alright.”
The duo’s 2004 self-titled debut, however,  would be the only album released under their contract with Universal. The six years that came and went in between Nina Sky’s first album and their 2010 EP The Other Side brought a lot of changes – not only for Natalie and Nicole, who ditched their label and went independent – but also for music.
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Nina Sky, For VNDL

It hardly seems like a decade has passed since identical twins Nicole and Natalie Albino popped onto the scene as Nina Sky. “Move Ya Body,” the April 2004 debut release by the duo, was an easy hit, swiftly rising among the Billboard pack with its reggaeton and dancehall influences. The single, which topped out the Billboard Hot 100 at number four, is a brilliantly packaged pop song with a veritably catchy refrain, a simple lyrical structure and the club-ready Coolie Dance riddim sample that saw its first ray of mainstream notoriety with Sean Paul’s 2003 “Feel Alright.”

The duo’s 2004 self-titled debut, however,  would be the only album released under their contract with Universal. The six years that came and went in between Nina Sky’s first album and their 2010 EP The Other Side brought a lot of changes – not only for Natalie and Nicole, who ditched their label and went independent – but also for music.

Read the Interview

Charli XCX, For VNDL 
For 21-year-old Charlotte Aitchison, better known simply as Charli XCX, music is all about the moment. It’s about the carefree event wof letting your body take the wheel of the creative process; turning down the volume of the mind and giving perception free rein.
In a music world so seemingly consumed with meaning and semantics, it can be difficult to relinquish the control of a scrupulous mind; but, Charli XCX is unabashed about it – perfectionism for Charli is getting lost in the music, fucking any need for a process, and letting the creation flow. 
It may seem like an easy feat for a pop artist to eschew some imperative for meticulous song making, but Charli XCX knows what she’s doing. And, she has ever since she started trekking around the London warehouse scene DJing at the budding age of 14. Charli XCX occupies this small space between club bangers and emotion, between aggression and femininity. In a way, Charli’s success helps prove that top 40 joints and club rotations can, indeed, be powerful and mysterious, and embody complex soundscapes.

With an eclectic style that blends together glam, goth, nu-wave, ethereal, among other sounds, Charli XCX adds a certain whimsy to the pop game. She keeps fans and critics alike on their toes as she encapsulates both a postmodern and bygone pop sound. And, while, today, pop seems to be more disparaging than self-affirming in many realms, Charli boldly proclaims herself a part of pop.
As Charli XCX gears up for a whirlwind 2014, with a new album coming out in early summer – and a bevy of singles leading up to its release, including the already-out “SuperLove” – VNDL chatted with the pop songstress about her journey from teenaged DJ to Atlantic Records- signed pop star, the influences behind her heterogeneous sound and visuals, how feminism and aggression commingle in her music, and more.
Read the Interview

Charli XCX, For VNDL 

For 21-year-old Charlotte Aitchison, better known simply as Charli XCX, music is all about the moment. It’s about the carefree event wof letting your body take the wheel of the creative process; turning down the volume of the mind and giving perception free rein.

In a music world so seemingly consumed with meaning and semantics, it can be difficult to relinquish the control of a scrupulous mind; but, Charli XCX is unabashed about it – perfectionism for Charli is getting lost in the music, fucking any need for a process, and letting the creation flow. 

It may seem like an easy feat for a pop artist to eschew some imperative for meticulous song making, but Charli XCX knows what she’s doing. And, she has ever since she started trekking around the London warehouse scene DJing at the budding age of 14. Charli XCX occupies this small space between club bangers and emotion, between aggression and femininity. In a way, Charli’s success helps prove that top 40 joints and club rotations can, indeed, be powerful and mysterious, and embody complex soundscapes.

With an eclectic style that blends together glam, goth, nu-wave, ethereal, among other sounds, Charli XCX adds a certain whimsy to the pop game. She keeps fans and critics alike on their toes as she encapsulates both a postmodern and bygone pop sound. And, while, today, pop seems to be more disparaging than self-affirming in many realms, Charli boldly proclaims herself a part of pop.

As Charli XCX gears up for a whirlwind 2014, with a new album coming out in early summer – and a bevy of singles leading up to its release, including the already-out “SuperLove” – VNDL chatted with the pop songstress about her journey from teenaged DJ to Atlantic Records- signed pop star, the influences behind her heterogeneous sound and visuals, how feminism and aggression commingle in her music, and more.

Read the Interview

Janine & The Mixtape, For VNDL
There’s a story beneath the surface of us all – the languish of a darkened past and the lust to relinquish its hold on us. For New Zealand songstress Janine and the Mixtape, this triumphal surrendering of a disquieting history comes in the form of her debut extended play Dark Mind.
“This is holding hands with a Dark Mind,” Janine warns in the first line to her debut mixtape.
“Don’t let your palms get sweaty.” It’s an open invitation to take part on a five-track odyssey marked by moments of grim hope and inner- turmoil, but encapsulated by a recognizable moxie – a fortitude to not only confront things that happened to her, but to share them with the world.
With a celestial, yet enrapturing voice that commands every verse, hook and refrain, Janine transports you to her zone, using roomy vocals and an eclectic mix of R&B, hip-hop, experimental and downtempo elements to assert both a riddance of the past and optimism for the future. “And, though my mind won’t be the same, I’m still around,” Janine proclaims at the end of the EP’s titular track.
Just a couple days before the artist’s return to her native New Zealand, VNDL met up with Janine at her Bushwick, Brooklyn pad, where she opened up about the story and process behind Dark Mind, her year-long tenure in New York, and what lies ahead as she treks home to start her newest journey.
Read the Interview

Janine & The Mixtape, For VNDL

There’s a story beneath the surface of us all – the languish of a darkened past and the lust to relinquish its hold on us. For New Zealand songstress Janine and the Mixtape, this triumphal surrendering of a disquieting history comes in the form of her debut extended play Dark Mind.

“This is holding hands with a Dark Mind,” Janine warns in the first line to her debut mixtape.

“Don’t let your palms get sweaty.” It’s an open invitation to take part on a five-track odyssey marked by moments of grim hope and inner- turmoil, but encapsulated by a recognizable moxie – a fortitude to not only confront things that happened to her, but to share them with the world.

With a celestial, yet enrapturing voice that commands every verse, hook and refrain, Janine transports you to her zone, using roomy vocals and an eclectic mix of R&B, hip-hop, experimental and downtempo elements to assert both a riddance of the past and optimism for the future. “And, though my mind won’t be the same, I’m still around,” Janine proclaims at the end of the EP’s titular track.

Just a couple days before the artist’s return to her native New Zealand, VNDL met up with Janine at her Bushwick, Brooklyn pad, where she opened up about the story and process behind Dark Mind, her year-long tenure in New York, and what lies ahead as she treks home to start her newest journey.

Read the Interview

Jenny Hval, For VNDL
The audiovisual space can be both a complexing and complicit environment for artists. The relationships and contradictions of the body and the voice, performance and feeling lend themselves to a splendid convolution of an artist’s exhibition and her inner emotions. 
Working within the mediated space of reality television, cinema and more, musician and artist Jenny Hval investigates the invasive nature of our eyes on the human spectacle – particularly, the body and, especially, the face. Hval’s newest album Innocence Is Kinky takes these themes out of sight and into the aural space by creating imagery through voice. 
VNDL caught up with Hval after her recent trip to New York to learn more about her new album, to dive into her process and to get a better sense of the meanings and contexts behind her latest projects. 
Read the Interview

Jenny Hval, For VNDL

The audiovisual space can be both a complexing and complicit environment for artists. The relationships and contradictions of the body and the voice, performance and feeling lend themselves to a splendid convolution of an artist’s exhibition and her inner emotions. 

Working within the mediated space of reality television, cinema and more, musician and artist Jenny Hval investigates the invasive nature of our eyes on the human spectacle – particularly, the body and, especially, the face. Hval’s newest album Innocence Is Kinky takes these themes out of sight and into the aural space by creating imagery through voice. 

VNDL caught up with Hval after her recent trip to New York to learn more about her new album, to dive into her process and to get a better sense of the meanings and contexts behind her latest projects. 

Read the Interview

Rob Bailey & The Hustle Sound, For VNDL
So, with such divergent styles, how did Rob Bailey and the Hustle Standard come about?
Charley Hustle: Rob and I met in tenth grade or something like that. We’ve just always been friends and we’ve always collaborated on
stuff, all sorts of projects. I’ve always helped him out by giving him music for videos he’s doing; and, he always helped me out with design for different things. We’ve always been sort of creative together and a few years ago
I started doing the Hustle Sound projects and Rob was like, “Hey man, we should do a song together.” So, we did “Work, Hustle, Kill”. And, [it] got its own sort of viral exposure. We didn’t really expect it; we didn’t even have the song for sale – it came from a video that rob put out. So, I was like, I guess we should do a Hustle Standard EP together.
Rob Bailey: We have two completely different styles. But, it’s when we meet in the middle that we come out with something very interesting. How it works so well together, I have no idea. I think we’re both just willing to sort of meet each other there. If I were a little bit more hardheaded I might lean towards the hardcore sound; but, we both know that there’s this fantastic middle ground where we’re both sort of experimenting. We’re not looking for a hit – we just go in the studio and it ends up sounding however we want it to sound. We’ve always blended well together.
Read the Interview

Rob Bailey & The Hustle Sound, For VNDL

So, with such divergent styles, how did Rob Bailey and the Hustle Standard come about?

Charley Hustle: Rob and I met in tenth grade or something like that. We’ve just always been friends and we’ve always collaborated on

stuff, all sorts of projects. I’ve always helped him out by giving him music for videos he’s doing; and, he always helped me out with design for different things. We’ve always been sort of creative together and a few years ago

I started doing the Hustle Sound projects and Rob was like, “Hey man, we should do a song together.” So, we did “Work, Hustle, Kill”. And, [it] got its own sort of viral exposure. We didn’t really expect it; we didn’t even have the song for sale – it came from a video that rob put out. So, I was like, I guess we should do a Hustle Standard EP together.

Rob Bailey: We have two completely different styles. But, it’s when we meet in the middle that we come out with something very interesting. How it works so well together, I have no idea. I think we’re both just willing to sort of meet each other there. If I were a little bit more hardheaded I might lean towards the hardcore sound; but, we both know that there’s this fantastic middle ground where we’re both sort of experimenting. We’re not looking for a hit – we just go in the studio and it ends up sounding however we want it to sound. We’ve always blended well together.

Read the Interview

Time Spent, For VNDL
In today’s convoluted hip-hop world of Ableton loops and ‘90s samples, it’s not often you come across someone trying to strip down rap music. But, for two Maryland Institute College of Art grads, that’s exactly their mission. Now, don’t get it twisted, 24-year-old Ronin Wood and 23-year-old Matthew Thompson love a good banger. But, as Thompson puts it, “What does Waka Flocka sound like with no beat?”
Ripping away the bass, hi-hat and snare exposes fundamental elements of hip-hop that, today, seems to lie more in the minutia of the genre than its essence – its rhyme and lyric. With a janky VHS camcorder, a barely working editing VCR and a simple desire to shoot a music video for friend and Virginia-based rapper Zaiah Burke, Thompson and Wood started their website Time Spent.
“Really any idea that is presented, I’m like – how can I apply that to hip hop? That’s just my basic go to,” Wood said during a recent chat with the duo at Gallow Green in Chelsea.  For the past two years, Wood and Thompson scoured about for fresh talent, featuring promising rap acts like RAPDRAGONS and Abdu Ali out of the studio, off the stage, and packaged in the nostalgic graininess of analog videotape.
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The site and its philosophy are pretty simple, no hooks, tracks or beats, and no footage splicing, just the rap artist and his rhyme. Time Spent gets up-and-coming rappers to share their skill, not emulate; and create instead of duplicating – that’s why Thompson and Wood have rappers perform original verses for the camera rather than prerecorded pieces or simple freestyles.
“I hate the aesthetic of [rap videos]. Visually connecting what they’re saying and what they’re doing; there’s just not a lot there. I wanted to be really hypercritical,” Thompson said.
“So, we started putting together some rules – no adding a beat, no cutting the camera. There’s nothing there to really help the artist at all; it’s a very, very raw presentation”.
But, it’s not only the rappers who step up to bat. Thompson, the pair’s filmmaker is equipped only with a clunky analog camcorder ­– no lighting crews or boom operators (most of the time).
“If we shot this on an HD camera, we wouldn’t be honest to the rappers,” Wood said. “We’re asking the rappers to not have a chorus, to not have a hook, to not have music accompaniment, we’re limiting them. People on each side need to have a challenge.”
From shoot to site, the process involves a somewhat cumbersome series of steps, involving transferring footage from tape decks to iMacs back to tapes, punching a VCR with a screwdriver (allegedly, while listening to dubstep), plugging in typography and more, all in real time.
The analog process gives each of Time Spent’s videos unique flaws and blemishes that, coupled with the unadulterated rhyme of the rappers, construct a truly raw aesthetic.
“There’s no video control at all. It’s really enjoyable to come across some of the flaws of the camera,” Thompson said. “Sometimes we’ll pan the camera across and it’ll expose to the background and the person rapping will become just a complete silhouette Allowing those mistakes to happen only adds to the purpose of using [analog].”
Wood and Thompson recently ditched Baltimore for the Big Apple. And, from Time Spent’s first gallery show at Bushwick’s Wayfarer Gallery in July to shooting New York’s veritable rap empress Mykki Blanco, it’s gone from 10 to 60 mph in the past couple of months for the Time Spent crew.
“Moving to New York, everything was just skyrocketing, like meeting Abdu [Ali], getting [Fat] Tony. And, then we got a live event in a gallery,” Thompson said. “The [owner] sat down and watched every single one of our videos and was like, ‘this is poetry, this is beautiful.’”
“We [were] showing these videos in a gallery, which showed our opinion of them, which is that they’re art, they’re performance,” Wood said.
And, while Wood and Thompson hold firm on Time Spent’s philosophy, sometimes a little leniency is in order, especially when it’s Mykki rocking “David Blaine Bitches” for the Time Spent camera outside a Lower East Side McDonald’s. Unlike Time Spent’s previous lot of rappers, there were lights and a boom op on duty for Blanco. But, still, the aesthetic stuck.
“Mykki, being the diva that she is, was super into the idea; but, [she] wanted to make it her own, so she had a chorus,” Thompson said.
“Mykki challenged our format. Mykki brought us something that we never had before, which was, ‘I want a music video, but I don’t want any music and I want to remind people that I’m a sick-ass MC,’” Wood said.
 Check out more on Time Spent at their WEBSITE. 

Time Spent, For VNDL

In today’s convoluted hip-hop world of Ableton loops and ‘90s samples, it’s not often you come across someone trying to strip down rap music. But, for two Maryland Institute College of Art grads, that’s exactly their mission. Now, don’t get it twisted, 24-year-old Ronin Wood and 23-year-old Matthew Thompson love a good banger. But, as Thompson puts it, “What does Waka Flocka sound like with no beat?”

Ripping away the bass, hi-hat and snare exposes fundamental elements of hip-hop that, today, seems to lie more in the minutia of the genre than its essence – its rhyme and lyric. With a janky VHS camcorder, a barely working editing VCR and a simple desire to shoot a music video for friend and Virginia-based rapper Zaiah Burke, Thompson and Wood started their website Time Spent.

“Really any idea that is presented, I’m like – how can I apply that to hip hop? That’s just my basic go to,” Wood said during a recent chat with the duo at Gallow Green in Chelsea.  For the past two years, Wood and Thompson scoured about for fresh talent, featuring promising rap acts like RAPDRAGONS and Abdu Ali out of the studio, off the stage, and packaged in the nostalgic graininess of analog videotape.

Read More

(Source: vndlmag.com)

Kid Karate, For VNDL
With muscle-drenched, unrelenting percussion and vocals that oscillate between mid-range bellows to indulgent howls, Irish rock duo Kid Karate may not be for the faint of heart. But, then again, Kid Karate’s adrenaline-escalating and dynamically primal sound may just be what the doctor ordered. The Dublin-bred pair tangle together noises from across the rock continuum, with influences from bands like The Black Keys, The White Stripes and Talking Heads, to create an electric and convulsive sound.
Drummer Steven Gannon and guitarist/vocalist Kevin Breen aren’t modest in the studio. Their newest EP release Lights Out, which found its way across the Atlantic in July, is a four-track rumble of wonderfully frenetic, high-octane loudness that’ll probably make you feel like you just shot up some epinephrine. But, not to worry, the high you’ll get from listening to Kid Karate’s debut release isn’t one you can OD on. The EP, which clocks in at just under 15 minutes, is a non-stop amalgamation of post-hardcore and post-punk tones that commingle well with the band’s use of robust electronic and synth sounds.
Read the Interview

Kid Karate, For VNDL

With muscle-drenched, unrelenting percussion and vocals that oscillate between mid-range bellows to indulgent howls, Irish rock duo Kid Karate may not be for the faint of heart. But, then again, Kid Karate’s adrenaline-escalating and dynamically primal sound may just be what the doctor ordered. The Dublin-bred pair tangle together noises from across the rock continuum, with influences from bands like The Black Keys, The White Stripes and Talking Heads, to create an electric and convulsive sound.

Drummer Steven Gannon and guitarist/vocalist Kevin Breen aren’t modest in the studio. Their newest EP release Lights Out, which found its way across the Atlantic in July, is a four-track rumble of wonderfully frenetic, high-octane loudness that’ll probably make you feel like you just shot up some epinephrine. But, not to worry, the high you’ll get from listening to Kid Karate’s debut release isn’t one you can OD on. The EP, which clocks in at just under 15 minutes, is a non-stop amalgamation of post-hardcore and post-punk tones that commingle well with the band’s use of robust electronic and synth sounds.

Read the Interview

Tim Fite, For VNDL
Tim Fite’s a pretty interesting dude. I mean who else can peer into the social psyche and delve into the world’s ills with boyish illustrations of a drug-filled, approval-seeking feline or voyeuristic, nympho bunnies going at it in a Midtown Manhattan storefront? For Fite, humor and mirth act as a vehicle, transporting the mind to a wonderland of enchanting whimsy, all while keeping intact the heftiness of life and our connections to nature. 
 “If you can’t make yourself laugh, you’re not going to make anyone else laugh,” Fite told me. But, what’s more, if you can’t enjoy just how gnarly and fucked up the world can be sometimes, what’s the point in living it? Fite infuses his music and art with a totality of human emotion to bring to light life’s complexities, blending a witty and youthful sensibility with themes of social decay, from anti-consumerism to gun violence.
Read the Interview

Tim Fite, For VNDL

Tim Fite’s a pretty interesting dude. I mean who else can peer into the social psyche and delve into the world’s ills with boyish illustrations of a drug-filled, approval-seeking feline or voyeuristic, nympho bunnies going at it in a Midtown Manhattan storefront? For Fite, humor and mirth act as a vehicle, transporting the mind to a wonderland of enchanting whimsy, all while keeping intact the heftiness of life and our connections to nature.

 If you can’t make yourself laugh, you’re not going to make anyone else laugh,” Fite told me. But, what’s more, if you can’t enjoy just how gnarly and fucked up the world can be sometimes, what’s the point in living it? Fite infuses his music and art with a totality of human emotion to bring to light life’s complexities, blending a witty and youthful sensibility with themes of social decay, from anti-consumerism to gun violence.

Read the Interview

Dillon Cooper, For VNDL
Twenty-year-old rapper Dillon Cooper may still be climbing the ranks as one of New York’s freshest up-and-comers, but the Brooklyn MC knows where he’s going. Resolute in his mission to conquer the rap world, Cooper’s style and rhyme elicit vibes from rap’s proverbial pool of swagger. But, don’t let the dope threads and blunt-passing deceive you, Cooper’s got depth that goes far beyond the flashy world of the hypebeasts, and as one of rap’s rising stars, he’s not afraid to add a little substance back to the hip-hop game.
On much of his debut mixtape Cozmik (named after his late friend, professional inline skater Brian “Cozmik” Scott), Cooper follows in the footsteps of a very East Coast hip-hop pedigree, with swift rhymes backed by horn- and saxophone-heavy tracks that harken back to the smooth flavor of A Tribe Called Quest-era New York. Cooper’s unwrought style brings together clever lyricism and mid-tempo sampling, eschewing heavy production and layering for a decidedly ‘90s rap sound in tracks like “The Best” or “Every Day Life.”
[[MORE]]

Dillon Cooper, For VNDL

Twenty-year-old rapper Dillon Cooper may still be climbing the ranks as one of New York’s freshest up-and-comers, but the Brooklyn MC knows where he’s going. Resolute in his mission to conquer the rap world, Cooper’s style and rhyme elicit vibes from rap’s proverbial pool of swagger. But, don’t let the dope threads and blunt-passing deceive you, Cooper’s got depth that goes far beyond the flashy world of the hypebeasts, and as one of rap’s rising stars, he’s not afraid to add a little substance back to the hip-hop game.

On much of his debut mixtape Cozmik (named after his late friend, professional inline skater Brian “Cozmik” Scott), Cooper follows in the footsteps of a very East Coast hip-hop pedigree, with swift rhymes backed by horn- and saxophone-heavy tracks that harken back to the smooth flavor of A Tribe Called Quest-era New York. Cooper’s unwrought style brings together clever lyricism and mid-tempo sampling, eschewing heavy production and layering for a decidedly ‘90s rap sound in tracks like “The Best” or “Every Day Life.”

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(Source: issuu.com)

Tea Leigh, For VNDL
When I first stumbled upon Tea Leigh in November 2012, I knew she was talented. The first time I saw Leigh live her voice satiated my ears with an emotion-filled rawness. The pain and passion, sorrow and bliss that washed over every lyric, verse and measure reverberated through the room. Aerial and atmospheric, Tea Leigh’s vocal approach and musical technique dazes the senses by diving into the depths of the human pathos, bringing to the surface feelings of affection, empathy, grief and desire, with a sublime and ethereal delicacy.
With every artist, comes technique. And, for Leigh, an allegiance to a lo-fi, stripped and unadulterated sound encapsulates her art form, allowing Leigh’s voice to shine over understated, yet integral sets of melodies. As Leigh works on her yet-to-be-titled, debut LP under London-based Zap Records, Leigh’s music stays true to her own form, with tracks recorded to tape to preserve the artistry of an ungarnished sound.  
Read the Interview

Tea Leigh, For VNDL

When I first stumbled upon Tea Leigh in November 2012, I knew she was talented. The first time I saw Leigh live her voice satiated my ears with an emotion-filled rawness. The pain and passion, sorrow and bliss that washed over every lyric, verse and measure reverberated through the room. Aerial and atmospheric, Tea Leigh’s vocal approach and musical technique dazes the senses by diving into the depths of the human pathos, bringing to the surface feelings of affection, empathy, grief and desire, with a sublime and ethereal delicacy.

With every artist, comes technique. And, for Leigh, an allegiance to a lo-fi, stripped and unadulterated sound encapsulates her art form, allowing Leigh’s voice to shine over understated, yet integral sets of melodies. As Leigh works on her yet-to-be-titled, debut LP under London-based Zap Records, Leigh’s music stays true to her own form, with tracks recorded to tape to preserve the artistry of an ungarnished sound.  

Read the Interview

Abdu Ali, For BYT
Making my way up to Bushwick in a rigged up gypsy cap, I was pretty sure of what to expect. Abdu Ali, Baltimore rapper and Facebook friend of unknown origin, is easy to cubbyhole into some pseudo-niche group of neo-queer rap acts alongside Mykki Blanco, House of Ladosha, Zebra Katz, among others.
Equal parts performance artist and lyricist, the comparisons are convenient. And, as I hopped out the taxi off Knickerbocker to meet up with Ali, who’d been staying with a friend while he was in New York, I thought I knew the storyline – a played act of defiant brashness in the form of ‘banjee’ queen realness. I was wrong.
No mistakes here, Abdu Ali slays. His music is high-velocity, a constant 90 miles per hour. And, his performances are pretty much like taking an Adderall one after the other, all while drinking a Red Bull vodka and losing your mind. But, audacity takes talent; and, from the looks of it, Abdu got it.
While his music is sensational, Abdu himself is pretty innocuous. He greeted me at the door in a black, body-long jersey knit t-shirt, taking me back up to his friend’s second-floor apartment, offering me some tea before I sat down.
“I’m more self-conscious than I’ve ever been in my life – the whole music thing and putting yourself out there all the time,” Ali said about five minutes into our chat. “Everything you do represents you – and [I am] as transparent as possible.
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Abdu Ali, a regular face in middle school theatre and community fashion shows, is hardly new to the stage, however. But, that stage is getting bigger as the spotlight turns to the Baltimore rapper, whose dope inaugural mixtape INVICTOS got him a shout-out as one of 2013’s “Most Slept-On” rappers by Spin magazine.
But, it may be time to wake up because Abdu isn’t playing around with 2013, with the upcoming release of his second project Push and Slide. “[It’ll] be that next level type shit,” Ali said.

Abdu’s INVICTOS is an 11-track jolt of high-fidelity experimental beats and raw, elaborate verses deconstructed into appetizing riffs and ass-shaking melodies. After a quick listen, it’s easy to feel the influence of Baltimore’s break-beat club music with its pleasantly choppy structure and truncated notes. It’s fiery, catchy, and will probably find itself on repeat.
But, getting your name out isn’t just putting out newsworthy mixtapes, Ali says.  An artist can only truly prove himself on stage, according to Ali.
“I realized how important it is for a little queen out of Baltimore to tour,” Ali said. “It’s like guerilla marketing.”
“That’s why I give Mykki Blanco mad respects. Soon as she got her little exposure, she hit the ground running as far as touring. A lot of the artists I look up to, as far as them being relevant, it’s because of how many shows they do. “
Abdu Ali’s about that city-after-city hustle life, making his way around the East Coast circuit. And, with growing fan bases from the DMV to New York, Ali is already a familiar face in the Baltimore rap scene, and he’s bound to become a common sight among the spectacle of New York’s downtown world.
Abdu recently took his act to Austin, where he joined the bill for SXSW’s GayByGayGay event, alongside artists like Light Asylum and LE1F.

“Performing [at GayByGayGay] was empowering,” Abdu said.
“Anything can become real trendy, but certain things like GayByGayGay – it’s all about the intentions, because it is about empowering queer artists and giving them a huge platform to say, like, ‘here we are’ or ‘fuck you, we’re gonna do us’.”
And, a big ‘fuck you’ indeed, as queer rappers converge on hip-hop culture with newfound venom, ditching camp (in some fashions) for an equally anti-conventional, yet bolder realness.
“Something was right in the water,” Ali said.
“…In the cosmic universe where you have gay rappers who aren’t campy, too stereotypical. And, they can actually really rap. They’re musically talented artists who can step up and be among straight rappers.”
On being a gay rapper, Abdu doesn’t feel pigeonholed, but he understands the typecast: “They don’t do it with straight people – you have your A$AP Rocky, and then you have your Tyler the Creator.”
“I use gay terms and stuff a lot,” Abdu admits. “But, I won’t let it make me some kind of ‘cunt-y queen’ [artist].”
Snap queen realness or not, there’s an openness to performing, particularly as a black, gay artist, that can lend itself to both individual expression and vulnerability.
And, among today’s lot of queer rappers – many of whom being equally defined by their performance art as they are by their hip-hop chops – it can be difficult not to be seen as a novelty act.
“I don’t think people really understand, being a performer is the most vulnerable thing that anybody could do,” Ali mentioned.
Abdu also had a few words to say on Mykki Blanco’s swift rise to popularity: “More so than anybody, she has to be careful about what she does. It can stop being about her talent and start being about who she is. “
Whether or not Abdu’s trajectory follows a similar flight plan as Mykki’s is somewhere in the cards. “I don’t necessarily care about mainstream success; if it comes, it comes,” Ali said.
But, what’s fact is that Abdu Ali has a knack for making sick tracks and rousing club crowds. So, you can keep snoozing, or head down to Baltimore to check out Abdu in the flesh at the Broom Factory Factory this Friday.
Abdu Ali’s INVICTOS mixtape is available for download on Soundcloud.
Top photo credit: RaRah

Abdu Ali, For BYT

Making my way up to Bushwick in a rigged up gypsy cap, I was pretty sure of what to expect. Abdu Ali, Baltimore rapper and Facebook friend of unknown origin, is easy to cubbyhole into some pseudo-niche group of neo-queer rap acts alongside Mykki Blanco, House of Ladosha, Zebra Katz, among others.

Equal parts performance artist and lyricist, the comparisons are convenient. And, as I hopped out the taxi off Knickerbocker to meet up with Ali, who’d been staying with a friend while he was in New York, I thought I knew the storyline – a played act of defiant brashness in the form of ‘banjee’ queen realness. I was wrong.

No mistakes here, Abdu Ali slays. His music is high-velocity, a constant 90 miles per hour. And, his performances are pretty much like taking an Adderall one after the other, all while drinking a Red Bull vodka and losing your mind. But, audacity takes talent; and, from the looks of it, Abdu got it.

While his music is sensational, Abdu himself is pretty innocuous. He greeted me at the door in a black, body-long jersey knit t-shirt, taking me back up to his friend’s second-floor apartment, offering me some tea before I sat down.

“I’m more self-conscious than I’ve ever been in my life – the whole music thing and putting yourself out there all the time,” Ali said about five minutes into our chat. “Everything you do represents you – and [I am] as transparent as possible.

Read More

(Source: nyc.brightestyoungthings.com)

Mykki Blanco at Bowery Ballroom, 2 Apr., For BYT
Oh, Mykki. You sure do know how to throw a party. And, quite a party it was Tuesday night at the Bowery Ballroom as Blanco celebrated her birthday by working the stage in front of a jam-packed, and equally wilded out, crowd.
DJ Rizzla started off the night with a high-energy set, equal parts bass-dropping EDM and hip-hop. As the crowd packed up, the hyphey was tangible – people’s Red Bull vodkas were definitely kicking in, not to mention the affable gaggle of rolling lesbians who greeted my friend and I with a solid set of hugs and a rolled cigarette.

Vibes were in place when Ms. Mykki herself trekked out from back stage to greet the crowd with a special performance by LE1F, who performed a couple songs, including “Wut,” all while sashaying about the stage, rocking some dope-looking blonde Shirley Temple curly-cues.
Soon after, badass Bronx MC Maluca Mala jumped on stage to slay a few verses from her mixtape Chinese Food, which, with its M.I.A.-esque tribal beats and Latin sound, scorched the energetic, three-drinks-in crowd. But, the night was just ramping up, and after some waiting and a few refreshment refills, the birthday girl took the mic.
[[MORE]]Adorned with a black satin bra and a translucent clamshell bodice situation, Mykki went in, hammering out much of her Cosmic Angel mixtape with immaculate rawness. Everyone clamored around the stage to get a close peek at the performance artist herself as Blanco started kneeling into crowd, touching heads and even, at one point, wrapping herself up (quite elegantly I may add) in the velour stage curtains.

Mykki finished up with “Kingpinning (Ice Cold)” and the ultimate crowd-pleaser “Wavvy,” which, expectedly, turned the already raged out crowd (myself included) into satiated maniacs for about three minutes.
The crowd was, indeed, feeling Wavvy when the rapper invited us on stage, to the chagrin of the venue’s security, who lost the fight as we pried our way on stage to get an up-close encounter with the birthday girl.
“You guys are amazing; I love you all,” Mykki shouted repeatedly as she hugged and posed for photos with fans.
I hardly knew that I’d be going to a Mykki Blanco birthday when I copped my tickets for the performance a couple months ago. But, if Tuesday night is a harbinger of the future, I know what I’m doing next April 2.

Mykki Blanco at Bowery Ballroom, 2 Apr., For BYT

Oh, Mykki. You sure do know how to throw a party. And, quite a party it was Tuesday night at the Bowery Ballroom as Blanco celebrated her birthday by working the stage in front of a jam-packed, and equally wilded out, crowd.

DJ Rizzla started off the night with a high-energy set, equal parts bass-dropping EDM and hip-hop. As the crowd packed up, the hyphey was tangible – people’s Red Bull vodkas were definitely kicking in, not to mention the affable gaggle of rolling lesbians who greeted my friend and I with a solid set of hugs and a rolled cigarette.

Vibes were in place when Ms. Mykki herself trekked out from back stage to greet the crowd with a special performance by LE1F, who performed a couple songs, including “Wut,” all while sashaying about the stage, rocking some dope-looking blonde Shirley Temple curly-cues.

Soon after, badass Bronx MC Maluca Mala jumped on stage to slay a few verses from her mixtape Chinese Food, which, with its M.I.A.-esque tribal beats and Latin sound, scorched the energetic, three-drinks-in crowd. But, the night was just ramping up, and after some waiting and a few refreshment refills, the birthday girl took the mic.

Read More

(Source: nyc.brightestyoungthings.com)

Robin Thicke, For The Root
R&B crooner Robin Thicke knows how to grab headlines. The artist’s candor about his very active sex life with his wife, actress Paula Patton, spiced up the Web in December 2011, when he opened up to Essence.com. And in February the 35-year-old soul singer jumped back into the spotlight after getting caught lighting up a joint in his parked Escalade near New York City’s Madison Square Park.
But in between getting busted and talking about his talents in the bedroom, Thicke continues to do what he does best: infatuating his mostly female fans with his R&B falsetto.  
The title track of Thicke’s latest album, Love After War, hit the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop top 20 chart last year. He’s also springing his way onto the small screen, as a guest mentor on NBC’s hit The Voice and as a co-judge on ABC’s upcoming singing competition Duets, premiering this summer.
Thicke sat down with me after a performance in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night and opened up about his marriage to Patton, the new love of his life — their 2-year-old son — and his real thoughts on black women’s dating options.
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You took a year off before jumping back into the studio for Love After War. What did you learn?
I learned what true compassion and patience is about. You think you’re a man, or you think you’re grown, until you have a child and you have to see what a woman goes through when she has a baby — and how it changes her body, [it] changes her mindset. I had to kick into gear because I love nobody more than my wife in this world. It was actually wonderful for me. Julian has changed everything — every move I make, I know that it will affect him, his growth and his happiness.
Your wife has had cameos in two of your music videos. How does the love between you two translate on-screen? 
Have you seen my wife? It’s very easy. She’s very easy to love. She is the epitome of sunshine. Being around her on-screen is like looking into the eyes of the only woman I’ve truly felt that way about. So it’s very easy to find chemistry with her, and I think everybody has chemistry with her. She’s that kind of person — she can create chemistry with anyone.
During a December 2011 Essence.com interview, you said that there are plenty of great black men out there for black women, in comparison with “only a few good white men.” Are black men more understanding of black women?
Everyone needs someone that makes them happy. [The writer] was trying to make it seem like, if black women have a problem with black men, what are [they] supposed to do? Are [they] supposed to just go and find white men? And I was like, there are millions of great black men out there. You’ve got to start changing yourself first, is what I was trying to say — like, if you’re always complaining about the partners you keep running around with, maybe you’re not making the right decisions.
In light of that, what would you say to black women everywhere?
Take care of yourself first. Make yourself happy first, and wear lingerie whenever you can.

Robin Thicke, For The Root

R&B crooner Robin Thicke knows how to grab headlines. The artist’s candor about his very active sex life with his wife, actress Paula Patton, spiced up the Web in December 2011, when he opened up to Essence.com. And in February the 35-year-old soul singer jumped back into the spotlight after getting caught lighting up a joint in his parked Escalade near New York City’s Madison Square Park.

But in between getting busted and talking about his talents in the bedroom, Thicke continues to do what he does best: infatuating his mostly female fans with his R&B falsetto.  

The title track of Thicke’s latest album, Love After War, hit the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop top 20 chart last year. He’s also springing his way onto the small screen, as a guest mentor on NBC’s hit The Voice and as a co-judge on ABC’s upcoming singing competition Duets, premiering this summer.

Thicke sat down with me after a performance in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night and opened up about his marriage to Patton, the new love of his life — their 2-year-old son — and his real thoughts on black women’s dating options.

Read More

(Source: theroot.com)

Coming Soon: Abdu Ali
Keep posted for my interview with Abdu Ali, a Baltimore rapper, performance artist, and one of the doppest new acts hitting the high-fidelity, ballroom, downtown, ‘banjee' rap scene. 

Coming Soon: Abdu Ali

Keep posted for my interview with Abdu Ali, a Baltimore rapper, performance artist, and one of the doppest new acts hitting the high-fidelity, ballroom, downtown, ‘banjee' rap scene. 

Ira Sachs Interview: ‘Keep the Lights On’
The first scene in Ira Sachs’ latest film, Keep the Lights On, explains it all. Danish documentarian Erik (Thure Lindhardt) fumbles through potential hookups on a gay phone-sex line, masking himself with a tone of masculinity in hopes of finding that night’s acquaintance.
This lack of self-acceptance drives the film. Erik remains so fixated with everything that isn’t his true self as he walks through 1997’s Chelsea en route to his nightly screw. Little does the viewer know he’s about to find his match.
After Erik meets book publishing agent Paul (Zachary Booth), relations ensue and Paul warns Erik not to get his hopes up since, lo and behold, Paul has a girl. Well, the clock strikes 1998, and Paul and Erik are lovingly together, sharing souls and a meth pipe.
Romance in its rawest and most addictive form takes center stage in Keep the Lights On. Director Ira Sachs sets out to paint a picture of the mortal nature of intimacy and love: its ebbs and flows, its odd and morose strength, and, ultimately, its prosaic and fizzling finish. Sachs’ allegiance to authenticity drives scene after scene in Keep the Lights On. With a sort-of convicted abandon, it shatters any promise of fairytale love, replacing it with an escaping realism in which angst and addiction run the show, often to the viewer’s chagrin.
[[MORE]]
“As a storyteller, I’m interested in characters and how they live, how they suffer, how they love,” Sachs told BYT.  “It’s how I tell stories; [I] try to be as authentic as possible with the struggles and the joy of the characters.”
But, with each nugget of reality comes a moment of joy. Between the spats and the heartbreak, there’s this pulsating sense of, “that’s me,” or at least, “that could have been me.” The film may not raise your pulse or get you in the mood for roughing it up on some sex line; that’s because it doesn’t have to.
It’s not long into the film before we realize addiction is one of its major themes. But, crucially, Sachs turns addiction on its head.  Addiction in   Keep the Lights On goes beyond drugs and sex: it’s the addiction to romance and of intimacy, so that even the most straight-edged monogamist knows what it feels like to be an addict.
“The film is about the dynamic of a relationship over time, the traps and dangers of intimacy,” Sachs says. “But, there’s something very universal about kind of the dynamic between these two characters.”
On being a ‘gay film’, Sachs says his latest is undoubtedly not: “I made a film Forty Shades of Blue about a Russian woman living in Memphis. No one claimed I made a ‘Russian woman film,’” Sachs said.
But, nevertheless, Keep the Lights On has a particular resonance with the postmodern gay whose existence is defined by equal parts acceptance and secrecy. Sachs unravels the most confined moments of gay life for all to see.
“I really hope the film will encourage a certain conversation about what we [gays] do. In between what we ‘say we do,’” Sachs said. “From work on the way home, the kind-of quiet pockets of time that we hold for ourselves and often in secrecy…”

Ira Sachs Interview: ‘Keep the Lights On’

The first scene in Ira Sachs’ latest film, Keep the Lights On, explains it all. Danish documentarian Erik (Thure Lindhardt) fumbles through potential hookups on a gay phone-sex line, masking himself with a tone of masculinity in hopes of finding that night’s acquaintance.

This lack of self-acceptance drives the film. Erik remains so fixated with everything that isn’t his true self as he walks through 1997’s Chelsea en route to his nightly screw. Little does the viewer know he’s about to find his match.

After Erik meets book publishing agent Paul (Zachary Booth), relations ensue and Paul warns Erik not to get his hopes up since, lo and behold, Paul has a girl. Well, the clock strikes 1998, and Paul and Erik are lovingly together, sharing souls and a meth pipe.

Romance in its rawest and most addictive form takes center stage in Keep the Lights On. Director Ira Sachs sets out to paint a picture of the mortal nature of intimacy and love: its ebbs and flows, its odd and morose strength, and, ultimately, its prosaic and fizzling finish. Sachs’ allegiance to authenticity drives scene after scene in Keep the Lights On. With a sort-of convicted abandon, it shatters any promise of fairytale love, replacing it with an escaping realism in which angst and addiction run the show, often to the viewer’s chagrin.

Read More

(Source: brightestyoungthings.com)