Here’s an awesome band and some clips from our trip to Bali.
Check out Natalie Mormer’s article Bad Luck in Bali to hear more about our wild adventure.
by Katie Sorino
I do realize this is a huge statement. However- I am pretty good at noticing an artist when I see one. Kendrick Lamar, 27 year old who hails from Compton, California is just that. Kendrick wasn’t always the big name rapper you see today. He started to receive recognition back in 2010, and in 2011 he released Section.80 his first independent album exclusively through iTunes. That album raised a lot of attention and became one of the top digital hip hop releases of the year. Although Kendrick wasn’t signed to a major label yet he had a large following on the internet and was already working with big name artists such as Dr.Dre, Drake, Eminem, and Lil Wayne.
Finally Kendrick signed with Aftermath and Interscope Records in 2012. That same year, in October, his major-label “good kid m.A.A.d city” was released. Two Top 40 hits stemmed from that album including “Swimming Pools (Drank) “and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” That album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, was later certified platinum, and earned him a total of seven Grammy nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. That itself is pretty impressive. But let’s jump to the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. Kendrick won Best Rap Performance and Best Rap song for his single “i.” In March of 2015 he released his third album “To Pimp a Butterfly” which has already received TONS of buzz for his lyrical content and the ideas behind the album.
“good kid m.A.A.d city” was about Kendrick’s life growing up in Compton. He never had it easy, definitely hung out with the wrong crowd, and was wrapped up in a girl named Sherane. He grew up in the projects, often times slept in cars, and did drugs. He could’ve ended up like any other male in Compton, in a gang, in jail, or worse…dead. He probably should have went to jail. But he found poetry, and in many ways that saved him. It was an outlet- a way for him to express himself so he did not resort to drugs or violence. “good kid m.A.A.d city” is undoubtedly one of my favorite albums of all time, and without a doubt my favorite thematic album (followed by American Idiot by Green Day.) I like albums with a message or a purpose and “good kid m.A.A.d city” portrays one. But, Kendrick’s third album “To Pimp a Butterfly” portrays a totally different message.
There have been many different theories as to what the album is about and also controversy surrounding some of the tracks on the album itself. Supposedly the album is an “interview” between the members of Black Hippy (which include Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, and Ab Soul) had with late hip hop icon- Tupac Shakur. He even “resurrects” Tupac in the last track on the album called “Mortal Man.” But Kendrick wanted him to play an even bigger role on his sophomore album. In fact the album was rumored to be titled “To Pimp A Caterpillar- 2.P.A.C” He wound up changing it to butterfly to “show the brightness of life.”
One of the more controversial tracks on the album is called “The Blacker The Berry” and talks about the oppression Kendrick has faced as a young, black male. Featured below are some lyrics from the first verse, and as you can see, Kendrick does not hold back.
“”I’m African-American, I’m African. I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village. Pardon my residence, came from the bottom of mankind. My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide. You hate me don’t you? You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture. You’re fuckin evil and I want you to recognize I’ma proud monkey.
As an artist, you should not hold back. Your lyrics should mean something, and be different. So many rappers now talk about pussy, money, weed strippers…things that don’t even matter. I never got that. You have so much power to do good…and some rappers put out lyrics like “All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe” and “she my trap queen.” Not to discredit rappers like 2Chainz, or the song “Trap Queen”…because those songs are fun…if you are in the basement of a frat house pounding Natty’s. But if I want something with lyrical value- I’m going to listen to someone like Kendrick Lamar…or Kanye West.
Like Kendrick Lamar, I have always been a huge fan of Kanye. In fact, much of their lives are very similar. Kanye has had a HUGE career and he’s still climbing to the top. Both Kanye and Kendrick are innovators. I know what you’re thinking- Kanye is a huge asshole. He is. But he is smart.
Kanye is a producer, a fashion designer, a song writer, a performer, and an artist. In addition to all of his titles and being married to Kim Kardashian and being North West’s father, Kayne has still managed to win 21 Grammy’s, has sold more than 21 million albums, and has had over 66 million digital downloads of his songs. However Kanye West was not always popular. He attended art school for one semester in the late 90’s but eventually dropped out. He was not taken seriously by record executives who primarily saw him as a producer. It wasn’t until 2002 that he was signed to Roc-A-Fella records and in 2004 his album College Dropout was released. That album put Kanye on the map. I still listen to that album all the time. “Jesus Walks” and “Through the Wire” are still two of my favorite songs to date. Those two songs are entirely different in content but both incredibly meaningful if you take a close look at the lyrics. “Jesus Walks” was the fourth single released from the “College Dropout” album and producers were worried that a song with such declaration to faith would not make it on the radio. But it did and was incredibly successful. With lyrics such as
“We at war with terrorism, racism, but most of all we at war with ourselves (Jesus Walks.) God show me the way because the Devil’s tryin’ to break me down”
And, “To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers (Jesus walks for them) To the victims of welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah(Jesus walks for them)”
Kanye is trying to let everyone know that God loves them for who they are, regardless of the kind of life they live. That is not only a great message, but those kind of lyrics appeal to a larger demographic, including some who may not even listen to rap music.
Kendrick uses this same approach. He talks about controversial but also meaningful topics in his music and attaches it to a sick beat. He wants to appeal to a wide audience, just like Kanye has done over the last decade. Kendrick and Kayne both want to appeal to the young African-American male that is struggling to make ends meet and maybe selling drugs just so he can help his family eat at night. But, both artists also want to appeal to the rich white girl and her friends who are looking for something fun to listen to while they drive to the club on a Saturday night in a shiny SUV.
It will be interesting to watch Kendrick Lamar grow over the next few years just as I have watched Kanye grow. He is not the same artist he was when he released his first album. His sound and style has changed over the years. Kanye is now even working with legends such as Paul McCartney-in turn striking curiosity amongst older generations. Kendrick would be smart to do the same. He has grown slightly from “good kid m.A.A.d city” to “To Pimp A Butterfly” but I have a feeling he is going to grow even more musically and expand himself to other artistic outlets such as Kanye has. Maybe Kendrick’s next move will be immersing himself into the fashion world, or the art world. Or maybe he will stick to strictly creating and producing music. Whatever his next move is, it’s going to be big.
In my opinion, being featured on the cover of Rolling Stone is when you KNOW you have made it. It is the Vogue of the music world. Kanye was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone in 2006 after his second album, “Late Registration”, dropped. Kendrick Lamar was recently featured on the cover of Rolling Stone after his second album dropped. Another coincidence? I think not. Kendrick is about to explode, and no one is ready for the mark he is going to leave on the music industry. He is going to be the next Kayne West.
During my year and a half spent in Australia, I compiled a playlist of songs from just before getting on the plane there up until leaving. Some of these songs have a story behind them, some just have the right vibe, or an essence of nostalgia. Some are just plain ol’ cheesy, and some I just felt like putting on the playlist because I can. My experience in Australia has been the most amazing adventure, and these songs are all a part of my journey. I’ve been adding songs all along the way, and here is my finalised playlist.
Leaving On A Jet Plane – Slightly Stoopid
The summer before I came to Australia, I was crashing at my best friend Alyssa’s apartment in order to work and save money before traveling. Alyssa had told me to listen to the original Leaving On a Jet Plane by John Denver because she said it reminded her of me because I was leaving and she was going to miss me. The song is about going away for a while as the lyrics say, “I am leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.” I think any traveler feels this way when saying goodbye. The first lines of the song perfectly describe that anxious, lonely feeling when you’re just about to head out, and this is exactly how I felt when I had to leave Alyssa’s. “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standin’ here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye, but the dawn is breakin’, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waitin’, he’s blowin’ his horn, already I’m so lonesome, I could die.”
When I heard the Slightly Stoopid version, I was even more hooked due to the relaxed and tropical feel of Slightly Stoopid’s interpretation, as opposed to the depth and sadness of the original. It was obviously sad that I was leaving, but exciting to be heading to a beautiful new place. I listened to this song nonstop on my way to Australia– before leaving, in the airport, on the plane, during my layover in LA, and of course, when I arrived in Australia as well. Alyssa was always there for me throughout my entire experience abroad, and she even traveled all the way to Brisbane to visit me during her spring break, so this song is really important to me because of her.
Australia – The Shins
The title is literally Australia, so I couldn’t not put this in my playlist. But there’s actually a lot more to the song than just that. The lyrics are a bit contrasting to the upbeat melody, as it seems to be about going through the motions and not enjoying life to the fullest, for example in the lines, “Faced with the dodo’s conundrum, I felt like I could just fly, but nothing happened every time I’d try.” However, the opposing happy, fast-paced melody seems to work as an inspiration to keep going and to free yourself from the boring day to day motions. As he ends the song with the line, “Watching the lantern dim, starved of oxygen/So give me your hand and let’s jump out the window,” it shows the narrator finally breaking away from the life he hasn’t been enjoying. Coming to Australia has been this change for me to break away and have fun in a place I’ve never been able to experience before. Sometimes it was hard being in a new place with new people but after I was able to break out of my shell, I realized how much better everything can be, and how sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side, but you’ll never know until you put yourself out there.
Mango Tree – Angus and Julia Stone
First off, it’s written by Australian artists, Angus and Julia Stone. I listened to it a few times with an Australian boy I had a crush on for a while. I also listened to it a lot during my first trip to North Stradbroke Island. It’s got a really nice, comforting vibe to it. Whenever I hear it, it brings back really fond memories and a longing for Australia.
Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
My first semester, I tried to go surfing for the first time during Arcadia’s free excursion to North Stradbroke Island. The whole weekend was incredible, but I’ll always remember the last day of the trip when we went surfing. I was pretty bad at it but I still gave it a few attempts. I eventually was able to get up on my knees at least, but I wasn’t able to stand on the board. Regardless, it was such a fun time. While everyone else was showing off, I was mostly just paddling around on my board and singing this song to myself, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”
While this song will always remind me of that first attempt at surfing, it also sums up my entire experience abroad. Even if things go don’t go your way or work out as planned, just keep going and keep trying. This song always reminds me to keep my chin up and that nothing can never keep me down.
Hackensack – Fountains of Wayne
My hometown is a city known as Hackensack, New Jersey. Whenever I was feeling homesick, I would listen to this song. The line “If you ever get back to Hackensack, I’ll be here for you,” always reminded me that I had people waiting for me back home, who would still be there for me once I returned. You should always remember where you come from, but for now, I was in Australia and I didn’t want to worry about missing out on anything back home. This song would comfort me that I would return eventually. Now that I’m back, I’ve been able to reconnect with all my friends and family. It’s almost like I never left, except now I get laughed at for saying Aussie slang like “How ya goin?” and “No worries, mate.”
The City – The 1975
I’ve never lived in a big city before, and I always drove everywhere I went. I used to listen to this song a lot on the bus, and almost always while walking home from QUT over the Goodwill Bridge. On my walks home, I would always admire the view and acknowledge just how beautiful the city is. The lyrics, “If you wanna find love then you know where the city is” will always remind me of Brisbane and reflecting on those lovely walks home.
Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
This has been one of my favourite songs in the world since I was younger. I hadn’t heard it in ages, but when I came to Australia I started hearing it all the time again, even at clubs. I looked it up and apparently the single was massively popular in Aussie. I became really good friends with another girl from Arcadia, Michelle, who also studied here my first semester. We listened to it all the time together and used to joke that we are musical soulmates because we have such similar taste in music. It might also be that we like to go for those grungy, skater type guys and bonded over that as well. Regardless, this song reminds me of the good times we had, especially at Ric’s in the Valley. We’re all just a bunch of kids figuring ourselves out in another country. “I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby like you.”
Down Under – Men At Work
Isn’t this Australia’s national anthem? I had to put it on the playlist…Nothing describes Australia better than the line, “I said ‘Do you speak-a my language?’ He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”
American Girl – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
When I first came to Australia, I hated standing out for being American. I felt like people would just see me at the bus stop and KNOW I wasn’t Australian, which seems ridiculous now. But even if they did realize I was American, it was nothing to be ashamed of. I learned to embrace who I am and this song with it’s upbeat, rock n roll sound always gave me confidence by reminding me that it’s more than okay to be an American Girl.
Tourist – RAC, Tokyo Police Club
I listened to this song on repeat for the last year and a half. It’s all about being a tourist, finding the right cafes to go to, making small talk with people, “Are we strangers forever or are we strangers for now?” It’s about figuring out a new place. If I could pick one song to listen to my entire trip abroad, it would be this one.
Australia Street – Sticky Fingers
The lyrics describe it all. It’s written by an Australian band who played at Splendour in the Grass (which I had to miss because I was in America, and I can’t even tell you how many times I cried about having to miss this festival.) This song will always remind me of the friendships I had in Australia and the good times we all had.
The Good Good – Snoop Lion
My Australian best friend Grace is one of the most significant people in my journey. I met Grace at the end of my first semester, and by my third semester we became inseparable. She is even coming to visit me in America for Christmas! Grace showed me this song and we listened to it all the time. She is also a musician, and recorded a cover of this song dedicated to me. It has really chill, good vibes and a nice, beachy feel to it which is just perfect for Australia with all it’s breathtaking beaches. The line, “This is the good good, this is what people look all their lives to find” describes my friendship with Grace, as well as the amazing times I had in Australia and the beautiful places I was able to see.
Woodland – Paper Kites
The Paper Kites are a really cool Australian band that I got to see live at The Hi-Fi in West End with my other Arcadia friends Bri and Nat. Bri introduced the band to us, and when we went to their show with her we all got to meet them and get hugs and autographs and posters. This song has relaxing, fun, nature-y vibes making it perfect for hiking and bushwalks, or just a nice, sunny day.
A tout a l’heure – Bibio
I just love this song. I showed it off to all my friends when I first heard it. I listened to it while roaming through the QUT Botanic Gardens one night with my friend Alyssa when she came to visit and a few other friends I made in Australia. (And that night was one to remember.) I would listen to it while traveling, on flights, buses, trains or just walking. It would always cheer me up and calm me down. I like to think of it as my “spirit song.”
Bumpy Ride – The Hoosiers
With it’s upbeat and positive lyrics and melody, this song always keeps me going strong. “It’s gunna be a bumpy ride but it sure beats standing still.” Through the ups and downs of traveling, it’s still the most incredible experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything. From the beginning of my journey, there were obstacles– I was delayed in Newark and missed my connecting flight at LAX, so I was stranded in LA alone for a night. But then the next morning I got to lay by my hotel’s pool and wait until my flight to Brisbane. Later, I dropped my laptop at the airport and cracked the screen, I was freaking out but once I got to Brisbane, my computer was still working. There were many difficulties being abroad– jetlag, missing home, making and losing friends, tons of schoolwork, financial troubles– but through everything, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. The good times made up for the hard times.
It was all part of the experience.
Originally written for my Co-Curricular Learning Certificate
by Brittany Tedesco
One of my favorite things about living in a city is all the diverse and talented (and sometimes, not so talented) street musicians and performers. While it’s nice to toss them a few bucks when they’re exceptionally gifted, I think it’s even more important that these musicians gain some recognition. They probably have more talent than most artists you hear on mainstream radio. All they’re missing is the publicity.
There’s quite a few I’ve noticed around Brisbane. One of my favorites is a cool guy who sits on the corner across the street from a club I frequent a bit too often. But one of the best parts of going there is getting to hear this guy. He will make up raps about you on the spot as you walk by or stop to listen.
(I apologize for the terrible video quality. It was taken drunkenly on an iphone while also dancing, but hey, it’s something…)
This guy deserves to be heard, and so do many others. If you see a cool musician in a city you live in/travel to, send us a short video clip to email@example.com (Please include the city it was taken in, your name, and anything else you’d like to include about the artist, and we’ll share it here on WanderLUST!)