Big Ups: Power Trip Pick Their Favorite Bands on Bandcamp

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Power Trip by Renate Winter

Perhaps the most chaotic, deranged, fear-for-your-damn-life concert I attended in 2016 was a Power Trip show. Maybe it was frontman Riley Gale’s tortured screams, Chris Ulsh’s hyper-speed drumming, or the band’s dueling guitars and their doomsday-siren squeals, but the Texas thrashers transformed an audience of otherwise well-adjusted punks and metalheads into a force of nature, hell-bent on a destructive path that would make a Florida hurricane seem like a spring breeze. To put things more succinctly: people lose their fucking shit at Power Trip shows.

Despite this, it’s important to Ulsh that Power Trip performances remain welcoming to everybody. “I think you can still dance and mosh and be respectful of the people around you,” he says. “It’s just a matter of audience members realizing the space they take up. I find some people like being ignorant for the sake of being ignorant at shows and I think that’s the stupidest fucking thing.” Just as impressive as Power Trip’s vicious live show is their ability to capture this energy in the studio, as evidenced by Nightmare Logic, their second LP on Southern Lord Records.

When you tour as relentlessly as Power Trip, discovering new bands on the road is inevitable. Ulsh, who also shreds his guitar and throat in the excellent Mammoth Grinder, employs several other methods to finf new music. “There are certain record labels that I follow,” he explains. “Especially for metal stuff. I’ll subscribe to newsletters and stuff like that. I just think that that’s the easiest way for me.” Ulsh kept it fresh when tasked with picking his favorite Bandcamp artists, choosing acts he had recently listened to or saw live.

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Album of the Day: Oddisee, “The Iceberg”

Oddisee, a Maryland native and Brooklyn transplant, has been one of the country’s top independent hip-hop producers for more than half a decade, amassing a sizeable fan base out of the rap nostalgists and beatheads attracted to his mellow, expansive instrumentals. But his new record marks a first; the rapping on The Iceberg—fluid, dynamic and above all, thoughtful—finally matches the pull and urgency of his production. In the past, a solemn chorus of horns and bass, like the one on Iceberg opener “Digging Deep,” may have outstripped the lyrical overlay. Here, though, the music provides a backdrop for Oddisee to explain the album’s premise: Our actions are only comprehensible once you understand the circumstances that have shaped our respective characters.

The Iceberg zeroes in on those circumstances, while serving up another selection of near-perfect beats. On the clear standout, “You Grew Up,” one verse traces the divergent paths of Oddisee and a white friend who grows up to become a murderous police officer; another examines a man whose self-loathing leads him to radical Islam. Oddisee offers a complex portrait of both men, and his storytelling is complemented by sharp lyrical asides. The producer places himself under the microscope as well: The go-go beat on “NNGE” affords him an opportunity to return to his D.C. roots, while on “Rain Dance,” he explains how his ambitions as a musician confounded his Sudanese father. The parental pressure led him to focus on his finances.

Oddisee’s focus on the business of his art led him to analyze the weaknesses of independent hip-hop as a whole. In an interview with Passion of the Weiss last summer, he explained his takeaways—“We rap about rapping, we chastise, we preach, we live in the past”—and said that he had challenged himself to do better. He’s succeeded in that regard. The Iceberg uses dynamic narratives to (mostly) avoid the sanctimony that has stained the genre, pairing Odd’s always-reliable board work with a new commitment to lyrical exploration.

Jonah Bromwich

W. Kamau Bell Wants to Make “‘Sesame Street’ for Grownups”

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Photos by John Nowak

W. Kamau Bell is a powerhouse—an excellent standup who brings up potentially difficult subjects with grace, wit, and intelligence. He’s a TV host; audiences first became familiar with him on FX’s Totally Biased, and he now hosts the CNN show United Shades Of America, the second season of which is slated to air starting in April. He does radio as well: he hosts the talk show Kamau Right Now! on San Francisco’s KALW, and has a podcast with his pal Hari Kondabolu called Politically Re-Active. And he’s now an author, as well.

Given his busy schedule, it was a treat for us to speak with him as he tours colleges in the wake of Trump’s inauguration. He had a good deal to say on free speech, as well as how it feels to be labeled a ‘political comedian’ and the historical role of politics in comedy.

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A Near-Death Experience Influenced Jonwayne’s New Album

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On May 25, 2014, Jonwayne woke up in the middle of the night with a burning sensation in his throat. He was drunk and couldn’t breathe. “I scrambled in the dark to reach the sink in my hotel room,” the rapper-producer wrote in a searing open letter he posted to Facebook. “I drank from the faucet and the burning subsided. I turned the lights on. My bed was covered in vomit. I sat in the nearest chair in silence, then I cried.”

Wayne has a crippling fear of flying, so much so that he couldn’t get on a plane unless he was sedated or had been drinking. He’d recently returned from a two-month stint in Europe and was slated to fly back to the continent soon after. Wayne felt like he was suffocating when he woke up that night. It could’ve been his last day alive. “What I gathered is that I was asphyxiating on my own vomit,” Wayne told journalist Max Bell in a new, self-released interview book. “And if I hadn’t woken up I would’ve died.”

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The Rock ‘n’ Soul of Olivier St. Louis 

Oliver St Louis

D.C.-born, Berlin-based singer/producer Olivier St. Louis (formerly Olivier Daysoul) has made a name for himself through his collaborations with renowned electronic music producers like Onra and Hudson Mohawke, as well as through his role as a member of Oddisee’s tight live band, Good Company. In that context his latest, Ever Since The Fall, represents something of a stylistic departure.. Packed with dark, electrifying tones, and St. Louis’s bold, sanctified vocals, Ever Since the Fall is a majestic collection of polished, elegant guitar rock that’s deeply informed by the blues. During rehearsals in preparation for his U.S. tour with Oddisee, we spoke with St. Louis about his newest project and the art of infusing new songs with the spirit of old traditions.

So, could you give a little insight into your background and how you got into music?

Sure. My mother’s Haitian and my father’s Cameroonian. I was born and raised in Washington D.C until the age of 10. Then, I spent the rest of my formative years—up to the age of 18—studying in England at a boarding school. Although I came from a family that prided itself on education first, there was a great appreciation for music. We have a few opera singers and some classically-trained pianists in the family. Although it was mostly classical, there [was sometimes] soul, jazz, and funk often playing in the background at home. My mother was a big fan of Anita Baker, Marvin Gaye, and The Brothers Johnson. So I was influenced by music very early on. I didn’t really consider music as a career, however until I was at university. A random meeting with someone on the bus, while en route to returning a mic to record some demos, introduced me to a whole music scene in D.C. that I wasn’t entirely aware of at the time. Everything branched off from there.

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