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BrownxRISD

SW 2019 Preview: Daniel Caesar

Jennifer Katz

Image Courtesy of Daniel Caesar, Illustrations by Liana Chaplain

Preview by Jennifer Katz

All the way back in September 2018, Brown Concert Agency (BCA) booked the first artist for Spring Weekend 2019 — 24-year-old R&B artist Ashton Simmonds, better known by his stage-name, Daniel Caesar. BCA’s Andy Rickert ‘21, detailed the group’s selection process, “We looked at all the artists that were in his price range and he made the most sense in the most literal way. His music is really good and I think a lot of people were surprised that we were even able to book him — some people’s reactions were like how did you get him?”

Growing up in the lonely suburbs of Oshawa, Ontario, Caesar was raised by immigrants from Jamaica and Barbados. His father, Norwill Simmonds was a gospel singer with a number of critically-lauded albums. This religious influence in his upbringing lead to the birth of Caesar’s musical career. Growing up singing in the Seventh-day Adventist church choirs with his three brothers, Caesar’s gospel background was bound to play a role in his sound. Since then, Caesar has distanced himself from the church. In an interview with Q Magazine, he said, “I felt the holy spirit move when there’s music, so for me that’s God.”

Caesar’s gospel-infused music, coupled with his honeyed voice and introspective lyrics, has promoted his rapid success in the world of R&B. Caesar admitted in an interview with ID Magazine, “That's something that I figured out at a real young age, that I could make people cry with my music.” One thing’s for sure — tears will undoubtedly be shed by audience members during his performance.

In 2014, Caesar was expelled from his predominantly white, Christian, private high school for a minor marijuana-related infraction, and finished his last year of high school being home-schooled. Though his parents were supportive, some friction emerged between Caesar and them, motivating him to distance himself from his childhood household. After graduating at 17, he left home for Toronto with a dream to pursue a career in music and the fervor to do anything it took to make it there.

After working grueling late-night dishwashing shift, weeks of couch surfing, and at least one night spent on a bench in Trinity Bellwoods Park, Caesar released his first EP, Praise Break, in the fall of 2014. Produced by Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans, a duo that’s worked for the likes of Eminem and Drake, the 7-song EP, which includes the single “Violet,” follows Caesar as he navigates the feelings of his first love.

After dropping two more EPs, Birds of Paradise and Pilgrim’s Paradise, the release of his debut album, Freudian, in August 2017 earned him two Grammy nominations: best R&B album and best R&B performance for album single “Get You” featuring Kali Uchis. The album was released with Golden Child Recordings, a DIY record label he founded with the help of Burnett and Evans. With the help of these collaborators, Caesar was able to achieve widespread success without the support of a major label — and that’s not because other labels weren’t interested. “Why would I want to give my baby, my creation, this thing I made over to [a label] when we don’t have the same values?” he told Now Magazine. “As soon as you sign, you give over your ideas, your potential, to somebody else to do how they see fit. You’re no longer the big boss.” Resisting a corporate deal and continuing to have massive success as an independent artist is a huge accomplishment that exemplifies Caesar’s raw talent and dedicated work ethic.  “We sat through a lot of pleasant label meetings,” he says in an interview with Billboard, “but none of them reflected the value we placed on our work.”

When asked, Andy Rickert described Caesar’s music as “very nostalgic and very tender, which is definitely an interesting headliner vibe, because I think some people kind of expected a more lit thing, but I think Brown students can also appreciate tenderness every now and then, in moderation.” In response to backlash on BCA’s choice of Caesar instead of a more upbeat and high energy headliner, Rickert said, “We book artists with respect to the time slot that they’re in. So we wouldn’t have had Daniel Caesar in the same slot that Aminé is in, because that’s Friday night, which is a different energy from Saturday during the afternoon.”

“I think what’s interesting to me about Daniel Caesar,” Rickert says, “is that he’s definitely not a musician with a cult of personality around him. I don’t think people listen to Daniel Caesar for Daniel Caesar, I think they listen to him because they like the music, which is different from a lot of artists, such as Mitski, for example. People get super excited about Mitski because she has this whole persona and social media and narrative that people really get into.”

In fact, up until the night that the Spring Weekend Lineup was released, Caesar had avoided drama, steering clear of the public eye. Hours after BCA announced that Caesar would be a headliner, he posted a controversial video on Instagram live, making drunken statements defending Instagram personality, YesJulz, who has been accused of making racially insensitive comments directed towards black women in particular. In his video, he questioned why “we [black people] are being so mean to white people right now” and continued to rant about the problem with black people being too sensitive. He was immediately criticized for his comments.

Rickert was highly disappointed to hear the statements that Caesar made, but noted that they didn’t know this before booking him. “We as BCA care a lot about what artists say,” he continued, “We pay a lot of attention to that when we’re booking artists, and we didn’t know that at the time. There are artists that we’ve looked at that the things that they say and the people they’ve hurt is a deciding factor against bringing them into the space. We try to look at these things before bringing artists.”

Black activist, DeRay Mckesson, troubled by Caesar’s statements, met with him and tweeted after their conversation, “it is clear that he’s learning & growing re:understanding *systemic* racism & has more work to do. & he has begun to do that work.”

Growth and exploration are major themes in Caesar’s discography and we can only wait to see how his contemplative journey to self-realization and understanding will play out.

SW 2019 Preview: Mitski

Marie Lachance

Photo Courtesy of Mitski, Illustrations by Liana Chaplain

Preview by Marie Lachance

Listen to Be the Cowboy here

“Mitski is totally subverting her genre by being a woman of color in indie rock.” That’s one reason why Brown Concert Agency (BCA) selected the American-Japanese musician to perform at Spring Weekend, according to BCA member Alex Westfall. “She’s a total trailblazing pop artist, and other people are following in her path,” Alex explained, viscerally excited. It’s hard to disagree: Mitski songs have a tendency to resonate and stick with you like gum on your shoes. The combination of her gut wrenching narratives and vibrant, funky melodies are magnetic, especially for young people, struggling with their identity and place within the world. Alex feels like Mitski resonates with her because “her songs are about these very in-between spaces of identity, which a lot of people at Brown – or people our age in general – have a lot to think about. So many of us feel stuck in the middle, and she brings that to light so beautifully.” Mitski gives us the vocabulary to express ourselves in ways we didn’t know were possible.

Despite some uninformed grumblings around campus, Mistki is not simply another Pitchfork accredited artist your pretentious-indie-soft-boy friend is trying to get you to listen to. I firmly believe that Mitski is, and should be, representative of the bright future of pop music. One of my friends put it simply: “She just has that rare talent so many people try and fail to emulate.”

*****

Illustration courtesy of B-SIDE’S own Marie Lachance!

Illustration courtesy of B-SIDE’S own Marie Lachance!

*****

Mitski Miyawaki is a 28-year-old musician from pretty much everywhere. Although she was born in Japan, she grew up moving from place to place, as her father’s job demanded. In an interview with Pitchfork, Mitski admitted that she “didn’t even make friends because I knew it would be goodbye in a year. Everyone else just thought I was different in weird.” In an unstable world, Mitski clung to the stability of her music -- as a way to define her herself, for herself only.

It wasn’t until Miyawaki went to college (at Hunter and SUNY Purchase in New York)  that she recorded and self-released her first and second albums. However, her third studio album, Bury Me at Makeout Creek, released in 2014, began her long journey to mainstream recognition. Mitski’s voice cuts clean throughout the entire album, her lyrics intimate and resilient. On “First Love / Late Spring,” Mitski heartbreakingly sings:

“And I was so young / When I behaved / Twenty five / Yet now I find / I’ve grown into / A tall child.”

The entire album beams with uncertainty and isolation, and strikes me as the poetic confession of a broken heart. Ridden with fuzzy guitars and impulsive vocals, Bury Me at Makeout Creek is possibly Mitski’s most passionate and least cohesive album to date. In an interview with Fader, she admitted that she “didn’t have resources, but I made it happen, and I used whatever was around me to try to express myself.” The result is as tear-jerking as it is furious, and that potent combination is what has made Mitski’s fans stick by her side.

But by her fourth studio album, Puberty 2, released in 2016, Mitski says she had “figured out what to do.” When asked what had changed within these years to make this album even more successful, Mitski plainly replied, “I was touring more, doing more press – just learning how to be a working musician.” Puberty 2 is filled with salient narrative. Pitchfork described each song as containing “its own universe, with Mitski as both its queen and sole resident.” Although it carries over themes of isolation and love, or more commonly the lack of love, Mitski emerges as powerful as ever. The most popular song on the album, “Best American Girl,” deals with the in-between-spaces that I spoke with Alex about, and explores what it means and feels like to not ever feel American enough. She wails, longingly, “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me / But I do, I think I do.” Grappling with self-love and respect, identity and confusion, and a world that demands to put you into one box or the other, Mitski rises above and gives her fans more questions than answers.

Mitski’s fifth album, Be The Cowboy, has been her most-popular album to date, rising to #3 on the U.S. Indie Rock charts. The album is feminine in the truest sense of the word. Not soft and pink and precious, but feminine, in Mitski’s words, “in the violent sense.” In an interview with The Guardian, Mitski describes the feminine undertones of the album as “desiring, but not being able to define your desire, wanting a power but being powerless and blaming it on yourself, or just hurting yourself as a way to let out the aggression in you. It’s a lot of pent-up anger or desire without a socially acceptable outlet.” This album is the catharsis that many women need and relate to, especially in such turbulent times. Even the name of the album signals at something many women want but can’t have: The ability to put aside our identities and be a demanding, reckless, aimless cowboy. Mitski says she fantasizes about obtaining this much freedom and power: “I can make it on my own. I ride into town. I miss seeing that swaggering cowboy onstage. I miss being mesmerized by that, and I thought, ‘Well, I should just be that cowboy that I want to see onstage.’ I’m just going to be the thing that mesmerizes me.”

On Be The Cowboy, Mitski proves herself to be a masterful storyteller. The album opens on “Geyser,” a fatalistic cry to her one true love: Her music career. She sings of her tumultuous relationship with herself and her career, crooning,

“And hear the harmony / Only when it’s hurting me / It’s not real, It’s not real / It’s not real enough.”

Yet, soon enough, Mitski has transformed into an exhausted housewife on “Me and My Husband,” who is just “In the corner, taking up space.” Although the song is near-gimmicky in its use of show tune and pop elements, Mitski is getting at an idea that is quite terrifying – the feeling that no matter how hard she tries, she will always be living in a man’s world, taking up a man’s space, judged by a man’s standards. As she “steals a few breaths from the world for a minute,” the song becomes increasingly less gimmicky, and more reflective on the society we inhabit and perpetuate. “Nobody” is Mitski's most popular song to date, with over 13 million streams on Spotify. It is a perfect pop song, with bright, glorious disco elements and melodies that force you to get up and dance. In it, she takes on yet another role of a lonely and desperate woman who just “needs someone to kiss.” Just give Mitski one stupid kiss and she’ll be alright, she tells us. The entire album is flooded with pop and disco, stories and personas, feminine guilt and internalized pain. For me, it’s close to perfect.

*****

Photo courtesy of    @willemschalekamp    on Instagram, taken at the Amsterdam show

Photo courtesy of @willemschalekamp on Instagram, taken at the Amsterdam show

*****

Mitski has also been working with choreographer Monica Mirabile to put on a “more involved show.” Rather than playing an instrument on stage, which Mistki believes had become a “crutch” for her, she expresses herself through movement on stage. In an interview with Billboard, she admitted that she doesn’t “have any experience in dance, and [she’s] actually very shy and scared of being looked at, and so much could go horribly awry.” When I asked one of my friends who had seen Mitski this fall in Boston what her movement was like, she replied “Her performance itself was very methodical in the sense that she’d walk across the stage back and forth over and over and also had things she almost used as props repeatedly and it worked!” Another described the same performance as “hauntingly beautiful and viscerally moving. It didn’t put me in my feelings, it threw me in them.”

*****

Photo courtesy of Mitski (@mitskileaks) on Instagram

Photo courtesy of Mitski (@mitskileaks) on Instagram

*****

Full disclosure: I am a HUGE Mitski fan. On Christmas day, I was clicking through my social media feed and saw photos of Mitski with pop artist Empress Of and rising indie-synth goddess Sasami on the beach in California. For some reason, these pictures immediately made me emotional. I looked at them together, dancing in the water with their pants cuffed up, and I viscerally felt their talent, love, and support. This is the future of indie, this is the future of pop. In a space that has for so long been dominated by sad, scrawny white men and their guitars, there is a bright and pink horizon. These are beautiful and strong women of color who love and support and dance with each other. They hold space to tell compelling stories about their lives and identities with each other. They are overflowing with talent, and they are helping one another bubble to the top together. I have no doubt that when Mitski graces the green this Spring Weekend, you will be emotionally moved as well.

SW 2019 Preview: Aminé

JD Calvelli

Photo Courtesy of Aminé, Illustrations by Liana Chaplain

Preview by JD Calvelli

The first return on a Google search for “amine” is a Wikipedia page describing amine groups in chemistry. Apparently, an amine is a derivative of ammonia, and perhaps the most well known amine is the amino acid, the so called building block of proteins.

In a more direct attempt to find Aminé’s music, one might naturally follow up that search with “best amine.” Ever helpful Google would ‘auto correct’ their search and display results for “best anime.” Now, not amino acids, but pages of works of Japanese animation are displayed instead of Aminé’s music.

Finally, when searching for “amine rapper,” Google proudly displays the playful goofball himself: tall and lanky, with large, expressive eyes, sporting a toothy smile, and never without his characteristic freeform dreadlocks.

It’s no surprise that people also tend to confuse the pronunciation of ‘Aminé’ with ‘amino’ or ‘anime.’But, once a listener finally gets the chance to engage with his music, Aminé’s (actually pronounced ah-MEE-nay) artistic intrepidity is impossible to confound.

Adam Aminé Daniel was born to immigrant parents in Portland, Oregon. Both from Ethiopia, his mother worked for a post office, and his father as a teacher and translator. He grew up hearing Amharic, the traditional language of Ethiopia, and listening to everything from John Mayer to traditional Ethiopian music over the airwaves at home.

At school, however, his unique upbringing and perspective led him, unwillingly, to become the outsider amongst his peers. In a conversation with the New York Times, Aminé reflected on how, at his predominantly white middle school, he “got called the n-word” and often faced significant and blatant discrimination. But, once he joined the more integrated Benson Polytechnic High School, he started to find his community and his passion. He began his music career making ‘diss tracks’ on rival high schools. He did it “for fun,” but started to take it “more seriously once [he] realized that [it] made him happy.” His music started as playful, jocular, and fun, and those qualities continue to define his music to the present day.

At Portland State University, Aminé studied marketing as a backup plan, if for no other reason than to sneak his way into the marketing building late at night to have a quiet place to work on his demos. Perhaps he also wanted to escape from the self described, “super depressing” atmosphere of suburban white Portland. So, to that end, he left his home in Portland every summer to hit New York City. Why stay in Portland to experience “hidden racism” on the daily, when he could be one step closer to his dreams in the Big Apple? He took on whatever opportunity he could, and although he found himself in places like the offices of media outlet Complex and record label Def Jam, he still, after every summer, always ended up back in Portland.

Battling bouts of depression fueled by this uncertainty about his choices in pursuit of his passion, he met Josh Hickman back at Portland State University, who would become an crucial contributor and pseudo-manager to Aminé’s early career. Together they released a mixtape entitled Genuine Thoughts, Aminé’s first album entitled Odyssey to Me, and his first extended play entitled En Vogue. Portland Monthly specifically praised Odyssey to Me’s sonic and conceptual ambition, mixing “confessional slow-burners” with “explicit sex jams.” The work ties this sonic variety together with a narrative throughline reminiscent of English director Richard Ayoade’s 2010 film Submarine, one of Aminé’s favorites. Unfortunately, since Aminé joined up with New York City manager Justin Lehmann, the works have been expunged from the internet, and as such have become incredibly challenging to find.

His first major project under Lehmann, his second album Calling Brio, hearkens back to his multiethnic upbringing and influence. “La Danse” prominently features dancehall inspired drum breaks. “YeYe” combines elements of future bounce with world samples. “Rage / Peace” offers more traditional dark trap elements like strong kicks and punchy 808s, before using a standout bridge in Patois to transition into a jazz-rap-esque outro. “Zzzz” might be the perfect encapsulation of the entire album: a shaker and tom heavy, percussive modern take on the classic “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” The work solidifies his style, which, subversively, seems to be marked by his versatility as an artist: his inability to be tied down to any particular style, and his ability to draw from multiple influences.

His first commercial success, “Caroline,” and the album from which it comes, Good For You, further demonstrate Aminé’s ability to wear different sonic hats. “Caroline,” has garnered almost 250 million views on Youtube and is certified quadruple platinum according to the RIAA. It features “wubby” chord synths underlied by a relatively traditional drum kit pattern, driven by Aminé’s goofy, light lyrics that keep it firmly planted in one’s mind after just a single listen. Its success, coupled with his impressive early discography, earned him a spot in the XXL Freshman class of 2017.

On Good For You in general, Aminé trades the worldly focus of Calling Brio for a new vibe: this time a kind of pastel pop rap. The album’s music overwhelmingly reflects this style. On “Spice Girl,” for example, Aminé whimsically raps, while accompanied by a jumpy flute, about his perfect woman: any member from the pop supergroup The Spice Girls. Even the album’s cover, which prominently displays Aminé sitting on a blue toilet, reading “The Good For You Post” in front of a pastel yellow background, seems to underscore this theme. But, under the surface still lies a serious subcurrent. The song “Turf” presents down to earth lyrics that examine what Aminé left behind on his path to stardom, over muted and melancholy guitar licks. The equal presence of both the bubbly and the restrained makes both elements all the more potent, and further demonstrates Aminé’s intrepid artistic crafting, even if he might be most known for his levity and, idiosyncratically, his bananas.

Aminé’s courageousness extends beyond his music; he’s no stranger to using his art for the political. In his very first television performance, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he performed “Caroline” initially with his usual level of jocularity, accompanied by an orchestral suite, backup singers and his signature bananas. However, when the time came to deliver his third verse, the entire mood of the stage shifted as Aminé delivered a substitute verse in intense opposition to the newly elected President Donald Trump.

Aminé emphatically ended the verse with: “You can never make America great again / All you ever did was make this country hate again.”

But, even prior to even releasing Good For You, Aminé was no stranger to taking up the political. His earlier single “REDMERCEDES” is, on the surface, about simply being the new owner a red Mercedes, Although this might seem like reductive modern rap braggadocio, the song’s music video, in which Aminé is portrayed in whiteface, paints the entire song in a new light, namely as a poignant critique of modern performative blackness and racial stereotyping. Put simply, as he told The Los Angeles times regarding his art, “[He] can't just sit here and shuck and jive for people. [he has] to say something.”

Ultimately though, and most impressively, Aminé eschews labels entirely so as to keep the emphasis on his music. Aminé is an incredible personality unafraid to be unabashedly himself. He excels in whatever musical style he chooses to approach, whether it’s on the world-inspired Calling Brio, the populist rap of Good For You, or the more modern, standard, banger based ONEPOINTFIVE, his most recent full project. He is bold enough to make poignant political statements, while simultaneously being bold enough to keep the focus on his art as opposed to his views.
Regardless of what he attempts, his work remains cohesive because Aminé himself lies at its core every time; the lanky, expressive eyed, dreadlock sporting, banana obsessed goofball whose only real pet peeve, it seems, is misrepresentation of his name.

SW 2019 Preview: Yaeji

Seth Israel

Photo Courtesy of Micaiah Carter, Illustrations by Liana Chaplain

Preview by Seth Israel

In a recent instagram post, user @kraejiyaeji posted a series of photos with the caption that reads: “CHOOSE YOUR YAEJI 👾: sleepy yaeji 😴, fish yaeji 🐠, post-it yaeji ✏️, banchan yaeji 🌶, dj yaeji 🎛, toilet yaeji 💩, party yaeji 🗯.” I’d argue that there are more—a lot more “yaejis:” “producer yaeji,” “vocalist yaeji,” “rapper yaeji,” “visual artist yaeji,” “superstar yaeji,” etc, etc, etc. It really doesn’t end. Yaeji is a polymath in every sense of the word: she seems equally as comfortable performing in front of sold out crowds around the world as she does hosting a Boiler Room DJ event where visitors could simultaneously eat curry and dance to house music. Taking a large role in designing her own visuals and hand-printing her own merch, Yaeji is a DIY expert. She recently opened her own personal studio, where she and her friends can hang out, make music, or do whatever they please. She designed the posters that outline her forthcoming world tour, where, among Providence, RI, she’ll be hitting the rest of North America, Europe, the UK, as well as her first tour throughout Asia. She was recently featured in SSENSE, rocking fit after fit. Is there anything Yaeji can’t do?

Regardless of whether you’ve never heard one of her songs or you know her entire discography like the back of your hand, Yaeji’s music and energy is guaranteed to get you moving on the green. Her music can’t be dropped into a single category. Drawing elements from house, hip-hop, rap, and R&B, Yaeji’s sound is the summation of its parts—a lot like Yaeji herself. Born in Queens, NY as Kathy Yaeji Lee to her South Korea parents, Yaeji repatriated to South Korea, where she learned English and Korean in high school. Returning to the US, Yaeji found a home at Carnegie Mellon University, spending time at the university’s radio station where she began to curate her refined taste for electronic music.

Finding her way back to New York via her current residence in Brooklyn, Yaeji injected herself into the NY music scene, jumping out with her self-titled EP yaeji in 2017, an uncommonly well-crafted debut project featuring hits from front to back that began to define her unique sonic presence, a blend of cool, subdued vocals layered over punchy, head-bouncing house beats. You’ll quickly find that with experiences in Korea and America, Yaeji can slip between English and Korean as easily as she can build a beat behind a mixing board. At 19 minutes, yaeji is an easy listen. Each track is as strong as the next: “Noonside” features bubbly synth stabs and exclusively Korean lyrics; “New York 93” is a stripped-down, spaced-out track, as Yaeji drops down to a whisper and relies on minimal percussion and synth plucks to make for a fire track; “Feel It Out” goes into house-mode, with a thumping kick-drum as Yaeji bounces between Korean and English, channeling her rap delivery; with a higher tempo and infectious beat, “Guap” is a crowd-pleaser; and the EP rounds out with “Full of It,” possibly the strongest feature on the album. Looping a single lyric, “Distant like ignorance / resistance, full of it,” it’s a mesmerizing track that blends Yaeji’s subdued coolness and palpable energy present in all of her work.

Later in 2017, Yaeji came back with another five-track EP, sensibly titled EP2. With her sophomore project, Yaeji took more risks, building on her already-impressive aptitude for crafting hits, as the EP features two standout tracks, “drink i’m sippin on” and “raingurl,” both of which have gained Yaeji international acclaim. “raingurl” features her ability to build her presence over the course of a track, an ability she has both on the production side as well as when she’s in DJ mode. At the snap of her fingers, Yaeji brings the track from a pulsating club-shaker back down to level one. The music video is an overload of the senses (in a good way). The NY-native bounces around what looks like an abandoned warehouse-factory-building through artificial fog and a rainbow of lights coming from every direction. At the hook (“Make it rain girl make it rain”), Yaeji is dancing with an umbrella overhead, surrounded by a mob of individuals dressed in white and feeling the music, much like the crowds at her shows (minus the all white attire). The visual component of “drink i’m sippin on” is reflective of the track’s relatively bold essence as Yaeji gets back to her roots, rapping and biking through Koreatown in NYC, surrounded by her friends in grungy, graffiti-streaked alleyways. EP2 is capped off by Yaeji’s rendition of Drake’s “Passionfruit.” The remix is perfectly Yaeji, equal parts luscious vocal melodies and contagious beats. While it’s her take on Drake’s song, it really feels like Yaeji, something that’s tough to do when covering another artist.

After two EPs, a slew of singles, and a number of music videos, Yaeji came back in 2018 with “One More,” one of her most dynamic productions to date. The post about all the “yaejis”? Those are stills from the music video for “One More,” where you can find Yaeji on the toilet, chilling in bed, mixing a song, and dancing in the club. The track? A Yaeji instant-classic. With all of this incredible work under her belt, Yaeji has established herself as one of the leading producers, DJs, and performers in the world. For similar music, see Peggy Gou, SASSY 009, or Channel Tres, to name a few. It’s hard to say exactly what Yaeji’s set on Brown University’s main green will look like until the time comes, but expect singing, rapping, insane DJ skills, tons of energy, getting really sweaty, and of course, the one and only Yaeji.


SW 2019 Preview: Kari Faux

Ciara Keegan

Photo Courtesy of Hypebae, Illustrations by Liana Chaplain

Profile by Ciara Keegan

As soon as I found out about the Spring Weekend lineup, I knew exactly which earrings I would wear. If you are worried about why the lineup didn’t lead you to your own fashion-fueled prophecy, have no fear. Usually, I do not experience vivid revelations about which accessories to wear before I attend concerts. However, almost a year and a half ago, I was lucky enough to attend the concert of one of my favorite musical artists, Kari Faux. When she was announced to be performing at Spring Weekend I was immediately brought back to my conversation with her after her impressive set, when the style icon herself, complimented my red earrings. By all logic, her performance at Brown clearly means I must wear these earrings once again.

Now did I just spend a whole paragraph bragging about how one of the Spring Weekend artists complimented my earrings once, under the guise of an “artist preview”? Perhaps, but compliment or no compliment (let’s be clear, there most definitely was a compliment, but this has no influence on my opinions of her as an artist), having seen Kari Faux perform live last year, I would advise all concert goers to make sure they arrive for her set. While most attention is usually paid to the headliners, missing out on the array of talent BCA is bringing to campus this year would be a TRAGIC mistake. Faux’s discography reveals her range of talent and includes the upbeat witty raps her listeners have come to expect as well as the more emotional and soul-infused tunes she has released recently.

Faux, a musical force in and of herself, has collaborated with various prominent hip hop artists including Donald Glover (Childish Gambino), Isaiah Rashad and members of The Internet. Her songs have also been featured on the popular HBO series Insecure not one, not two, but three times.

Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, Faux first gained widespread attention in 2014 with her release of the single “No Small Talk” which was soon picked up and remixed by Glover. Faux released her first full length studio album in 2016. The album title, Lost En Los Angeles, is the namesake of the second song on the record and nods to Faux’s self-proclaimed rap style ("country as fuck") as well as her experience of moving out of Arkansas and into the big city for her career. Listeners can expect from this album some of Kari Faux’s more up-beat 90s hip-hop inspired tracks. For first time listeners, I would recommend the tracks “Supplier” and “Nada”.

Faux returned to her home in Arkansas to write and produce the 7-song EP Primary, which she released in 2017. “Gotta Know”, the stand-out second track of the record, was created in collaboration with the synth-pop producer Jerry Paper. The mellow instrumentals and male vocal hook complement Faux’s witty lines to create a satisfying laid-back sound. In 2018, Kari Faux released the single, “Color Theory” featuring fellow emerging neo-soul artist Leven Kali. One of my favorite songs from Kari Faux so far, the light-hearted track is grounded by a heavy synth base while Faux moves in and out of rapping to join Leven Kali’s singing of the chorus.

Taking inspiration from the artists she listened to in her youth, including Missy Elliot and Destiny’s Child, Faux provides a unique and strong voice within the growing number of contemporary outspoken female voices in hip-hop. That being said, Faux has been critical of the tendency for female hip-hop artists to be siloed and compared to other women in hip hop. One of her biggest influences, especially in her earlier work, has been Gucci Mane, identifying her own flow with his style during the late 2000s. She also takes inspiration from other rappers including Chuck Inglish, Chip the Ripper, and Curren$y, who is featured in her most recent project which was released in early March titled, CRY 4 HELP. While this 5-song EP takes a somber turn from her previous music, it maintains her unmistakable style and is perhaps her best work to date. With this series of tracks, Faux seems to have settled into her sound and is more honest than ever. With a more soul-inspired approach, every track holds its own while openly reflecting upon her own journey through frustration and trauma. I would recommend listeners play the whole EP through in one sitting.

I’m curious to see what she’ll perform this Spring Weekend. I’m expecting some of her more up-beat earlier songs—while I hope she allows us to hear live some of her more recent tracks, Spring Weekend’s wild energy might not be how she intended to perform this more intimate and self-reflective EP. Either way, it’s going to be well worth your time—and I’m ready for it. Be sure to check out the B-side playlist to prepare!


A Conversation with Kingsley Ejiogu-Dike

Caitlin McCartney

Image Courtesy of Fizzle

Interview by Caitlin McCartney

I sat down with Kingsley earlier this year to discuss his music, creating both as an individual artist and as a part of the sophomore band Fizzle. He is planning on releasing his own work sometime this spring so keep an eye out for some exciting new music!

How has your year been musically?

It's been pretty interesting because right now, since I'm a football player, it's the most hectic time of the year with the way our rehearsal is scheduled. So last year was more of, I would write something, come into rehearsal, and practice how it sounds and see what I have to change and just trying to get the sound right. Now the only way I'm hearing the band play is either the recordings or I'm not hearing them at all. So I have to adjust my sound and my lyrics based on more instinct and my knowledge of the band itself.

Do you feel like the band is on the same page or is it hard to make sure your voice is heard since you cannot be present at rehearsals?

No, I think the good thing about Fizzle is that you do not have to ever force anything. If you feel something, you let it be known and we are very good at addressing those things. Any suggestion I make they definitely take into consideration and whether they implement it or not is how the band feels about it as a whole. Musically, they all respect what I do and what I have to say about it.

How did you get into music and Fizzle?

Before college, music was one of those things where I was always interested in but I never really focused on. So I would always write things and make these little songs, but I would keep it to myself and my inner friend group. When I got to college I met my roommate Ray Jackson who is one of those kids who is very open about everything— whether it was socially, emotionally, artistically, and he is very expressive about it. Through him, I learned to share things that I had if I wanted to share it. So I got into music a lot more. He's the one who introduced me to Fizzle because he was a part of the original core group before it got bigger. He would be practicing a song in the room and I started rapping to it and he asked to me to come to a rehearsal. I showed the group what I had and they all loved it. I started writing for them and that was about it.

What is your writing process like?

So what I realized is that I can't force it. I'm not the type to take a 3 hour block and say I'm going to write music. Honestly, a lot of the things I write are more trial-and-error. I will be free-styling over a beat I like while I'm chilling and I might say a few things and write it down. It may not work, but I know that I'll want to use it further down the line. Other times, I'll put my phone on record and then keep going until I find something I like. Mostly it's just random things in everyday life; whatever I'm thinking or experiencing at the time. Different things will come in that I think are funny or clever or I think is very intellectual where if I say it once you'll just say I said a sentence but if you think about it again and you would say like "Oh that's kinda crazy".

Do you a specific goal with your music?

Yeah. With Fizzle I just want us to expand and to understand where we want to be as a band. For me personally, I also want to be a recording artist, so I'm working on some stuff. I'm in the lab right now, so I'm planning on having a lot of stuff out this spring with some other kids I've been working with.

What are some of your biggest inspirations?

You can ask any of my friends or people who know me and they would say that Meek Mill is probably my biggest inspiration as an artist. Even though I don't see him as the best rapper, he is my favorite because what he is saying and how he represents and how he delivers that just resonates with me. Just with the things that I've been through in my life and any emotion for me, there is usually some sort of Meek Mill song that can represent that .

Do you have a favorite piece, your own or not, that you love rapping or performing to?

“Young Kings” by Meek Mill. One of the things is that I love my friends and I'm very loyal and I want all of us to succeed as individuals and as a group. So “Young Kings” is one of those songs that's about not worrying about fame but growth as an individual and surrounding yourself with people with that same mindset.

Any advice you have for people who are starting out with music or trying to form groups?

When it comes to being a musician and artist, it's really easy to think that it is a far-fetch idea, but in reality, I've seen people come from the ground up and be successful. If you want to do it, then do it. If you want to start a group, find people who love the idea of creating something and you'll be fine.

And for individual artists, what is the first step you recommend taking?

Definitely getting your name out there and gathering some type of following. I want people to listen to my music and understand what I'm trying to say. I think that's my biggest thing, just connecting people to my music so they can hear the music itself.

Andrew's Thoughts on the 2019 Spring Weekend Lineup

Andrew Javens

Image Courtesy of Brown Concert Agency, Joey Han, and Facebook.

Article by Andrew Javens

Daniel Caesar

Daniel Caesar, RnB’s resident sadboi, will headline Spring Weekend 2019. To be honest, I initially find him an odd choice to top the characteristically happy, light, and fun weekend. His music is slow, smooth, and seems to derive its value from the intense care and precision of his writing. Slow, smooth, care, and precision: to the extent that Spring Weekend stands as Brown’s annual shrine to decadence and hedonism, Caesar’s work stands opposite to the party. But perhaps I have been missing something. The more I reflect on Caesar’s spot in the lineup, I cannot help but grow excited. Why? Caesar’s work—the smooth instrumentals, vulnerable voice, and painfully honest lyrics—drag us through the mud of our emotion. He drowns us in our own reflection, grinds us over the washboard, and leaves us out to dry in the moonlight. But like a pile of dirty laundry, we come out clean. Our dirt is suspended in the air of the concert, mixed with the smoke, and whisked away by the wind. I earlier found Caesar an odd choice because his music drips through speakers with the heaviness of honey. But I forgot to consider the inherent irony of such mass confrontations with heaviness. That is, when we rummage through our baggage and throw our woes to the wind, we empower ourselves. Though our strength, heavy becomes light. And coming out of Caesar’s set, we will see that weight is relative and honey is sweet.

Aminé

We do not often find an artist as fun as Aminé. The Portland rapper has a special talent for packaging intensely emotional topics in a fun and flirty exterior. And to be honest, that fun and flirty packaging will be much welcomed— by me at least— as a break from the physical, mental, and emotional stress of life at Brown. Aminé’s music roots itself in playfulness. Blurring the line between sincere and insincere, his music gives us the space for our own projections. And by giving us the agency to choose at what level we engage with his work, Aminé gives us the freedom to live true to ourselves and what we need in that moment. It is also obvious that his music is rowdy as hell and will surely be good time to forget.

Mitski

While her earlier work cemented her as the queen of the out-of-tune electric guitar and soft whispy vocals, Mitski has recently turned up the energy. She now even features horns on some tunes, breaking out of her previous mold. She blew up in 2018 after her album Be the Cowboy, expanding her audience beyond only “sad girls with black hair and septum piercings,” (Marian Chudnovsky, iMessage 3/26/19). In the music ether, the sort of nebulous space of what music is, I will say that I like Mitski’s music. Without a doubt, it is enjoyable and cathartic. But it seems to me that the aesthetic her music is born out of has its limits at soft yellow string lights and plushy comforters. Perhaps I am wrong, though. I have always wondered how an artist like Mitski can maintain forward momentum during shows, and I am excited to see her translate her work on to the big stage.

Yaeji

What I find amazing about Yaeji’s work is how she manages to string together common themes that transcend typical boundaries of identity. Blurring genres, cultures, and languages, the Queens-born Korean-American artist has figured out how to connect with audiences from everywhere. Through this, she has been an empowering figure for those of us who exist in the doorway between two rooms, feeling torn between the culture at home and the one of the society around us. Her music, a perfect balance of hiphop, pop, and trance, is also perfect for Spring Weekend. Yaeji has given us the gift of loving who we are, and I cannot wait to see her perform.

Kari Faux

Coming hot off of her 2019 mixtape, Cry 4 Help, Kari Faux brings an energy to the mic that is weirdly calm. She just talks, neither too soft nor too loud, always just enough to hear. And while normally I would see this as a lack of dynamic range, she breaks the rules perfectly. By ignoring traditional use of dynamics, her words have an almost prophetic quality to them; we are just expected to listen to her gospel. But this does not stop at dynamics. Slipping and slipping around the beat, she masterfully controls time, stretching and shrinking it in a way that, again through its calmness, reflects the highest confidence. I am interested in how her style will translate on stage. How does she maintain forward momentum without the use of dynamics? However she does it, I trust her. Calmness is born out of confidence, and we find ourselves dangerously attracted to confidence.

What Cheer? Brigade

True to the Spring Weekend tradition, What Cheer? Brigade will again be opening the weekend. Through their tight lines, clean harmony, and upbeat feel, the 18-member brass band has an incredible ability to keep the party going. Their work draws inspiration from numerous places and cultures. Transitioning seamlessly between klezmer, latin, rock, and other genres, the Providence-based band takes us on a journey around the world. And, they’re local! You do not want to miss their face-melting brass, but be prepared to run face-first into a wall of sound.

Editor’s Note: We have recently been notified that Stefflon Don is being replaced at Spring Weekend by Kamaiyah. Andrew does not have any thoughts on Kamaiyah yet.

A Phone Call with a Brown Alumna: Erin McKeown

Caitlin McCartney

“The thing that happens to women I think, especially in the arts, is where you kinda disappear in this sort of mid-career shadow. There is a narrative of being young and new, and then there's the narrative of being kind of a wizened legend who has somehow survived, and there's no narrative in between and that happens to women in all aspects of the arts.”

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Gigs on the Grass: Photo Recap

B-SIDE Magazine

A look back on our first annual GOTG.

Photo credits to Naomy Pedroza.