Feature by Brianna Gilmore, Christopher Patino,
Yasmine Hassan, Tia Forsman
Early this year came the twentieth anniversary of a debut album that launched the career of one of music’s most innovative, free-spirited, and visionary artists: Erykah Badu. Her music, an exciting blend of soul and contemporary R&B, helped spawn what came to be known as the neo-soul genre. And soon, on April 29th, the queen of neo-soul, Ms. Badu herself, will grace Brown’s campus for the annual Spring Weekend Concert.
The debut album in question, Baduizm, brought the world its first taste of the hypnotic spell that is Erykah Badu’s music. Badu introduced her unique style with this debut, but more importantly, she introduced her –izm, her truth. In an interview Rachel Stuart of “Planet Groove”, Badu said:“Badu is my last name, ‘izm’ is what should get you high and Baduizm [is] the things that get me high. Lighting a candle, loving life, knowing myself, knowing my creator, loving them both... Using my melanin. Using my power to get to where I need to go to do the creator’s work—that’s what I’m here for.”
Badu operates on a rare frequency. Her songs center on her blackness and her womanhood, her spirituality, and her progressive and often subversive politics. Her music reveals her unique perception of the world through a use of creative metaphors or sometimes a quick and funny line that cuts straight to her point. And with the way she’s been known to push boundaries and take artistic risks in her work, many consider her a visionary.
Beyond Baduizm, Badu has produced a variety of albums and mixtapes bent on sharing her light and power with the world. Her works include a live album and a two-part project titled New Amerykah, among several others. More recently, in 2015, Badu released a mixtape, But You Caint Use My Phone, that speaks about love in the digital age. With references to past songs such as “Tyrone” and “Telephone Man,” Badu incorporates her past work into this new project, breathing new life into old words. Pitchfork calls Badu’s work on But You Caint Use My Phone as “off-the-cuff, but steeped in wisdom”, which is a more than accurate description of Badu and her music. In much of her work Badu casually drops knowledge with a sureness that will immediately convince you of the truth in her –izm, and this most recent mixtape proves no exception.
Two years after the fact, many will be familiar with “Cel U Lar Device”, Badu’s cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Badu’s cover takes a twist on Drake’s song, slowing it down as the singer makes it her own. Other standouts from this mixtape (hand-selected by yours truly) include “Phone Down” and “Hello.”
To get more of a sense of Badu’s music, check out B-Side’s playlist of some of her best tracks or catch her at the Spring Weekend Concert, April 29th, and experience her –izm for yourself.
On April 28th, Jeffery Williams, more famously known by his stage name Young Thug, will headline the first day of Spring Weekend. While most popularly known for hit songs like “Best Friend,” “Lifestyle,” and the Travis Scott-featuring “Pick up the Phone,” Thug has an extensive catalog of high-energy records that showcase his unique rapping style over Atlanta’s signature trap production. While his high-pitched, auto-tuned raps and gender-defying wardrobe have made him a polarizing figure in hip-hop fan circles, he has earned himself the attention of hip-hop’s elite; Thug was featured on Kanye West’s “Highlights” from his latest album, and appeared twice on Drake’s latest project.
In 2014, Young Thug released two of his break out singles, “Stoner” and “Danny Glover.” Among his cult fans, these records have gone on to become classics. Both records feature signature Atlanta trap production from super producers Dun Deal (known for Migos’s “Hannah Montana”) and Southside (known for Future’s “Fuck Up Some Commas”) while also showcasing Young Thug’s unique vocal style.
Then in 2015, Young Thug released his commercial debut project Barter 6 and released the first two installments of his “Slime Season” mixtape series. Thug’s biggest hitto date, “Lifestyle,” a collaboration with fellow Atlanta rapper Rich Homie Quan was released on Birdman’s Rich Gang The Tour: Part 1 compilation. Thug also showcased his crossover abilities on Jamie XX’s “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” dropping two overtly sexual and ridiculously catchy verses over the indie-electro producer’s stunning backdrop.
Last year, Thug continued to make waves with the release of his final Slime Season mixtape. The highly anticipated lead single from the mixtape, “With Them,” was premiered at Kanye West’s “Yeezy Season 3” event in Madison Square garden. He also released the mixtape I’m Up, and followed it up with the critically-acclaimed Jeffery. On this project, Thug experimented with different musical and vocal styles, particularly by bringing in elements of dance hall and including instrumentals from younger, less-established producers.
Currently, Young Thug is working on new music, which many believe will lead to his debut album Hy!£UN35 (pronounced high tunes). Thug recently appeared on the new Calvin Harris single “Heatstroke” alongside Ariana Grande, and Pharrell.
It takes a special sort of artist to perform as one of Spring Weekend’s most anticipated acts, as well as share her thoughts on “spirituality, feminism, and race” in a sold-out Women’s History Series talk at the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center. But Destiny Frasqueri is just that sort of artist.
Frasqueri has adopted a number of monikers over the course of her career. These days, she is best known under the guise of the high-energy, don’t-give-a-fuck persona Princess Nokia, but it is impossible to understand the thought and artistry behind Princess Nokia without first understanding her personal background and complex past.
Destiny’s identity is a whirlwind of intersections and contradictions. A proud Afro-Nuyorican who spent her adolescence drifting between Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side, she’s both self-proclaimed New York tough kid and classic Boricua shorty, unapologetically punk tomboy and traditional Caribbean woman--a person who fully embraces all of her hard and soft edges, and who is equally grounded in and inspired by her roots, her ideals, her favorite comic books, and the “cinematic landscapes” of her native New York. Having lost her mother to HIV/AIDS at the age of ten, she was forced to deal with an abusive household after becoming a product of the foster care system. Before running away to the Lower East Side at the age of sixteen, it was the surrounding queer communities who helped raise her; she became a “club kid,” go-go dancing, attending vogueing competitions, and wholly immersing herself in the local underground creative scene.
This time spent in the Lower East Side, explains Frasqueri, is what catalyzed her career as Princess Nokia--and as a “legitimate” musician. Before the era of Princess Nokia, she was just Destiny, and subsequently, Wavy Spice, an artist who would infrequently post tracks on SoundCloud. Mostly, though, she would revel in the freedom of playing underground, “high-powered punk shows... performing, making people feel good, [and] singing songs that people [couldn’t] get online.” Her first track, “Destiny” (recorded 2010, released 2012), only gained modest popularity online, but it read like a prophecy. “I'm doing shit so legit it’s beyond you / My characteristic spit, I’ll admit it’s beyond you / My shit is X-Men, I'm a mutant you can’t see me / blowing up the masses like the invention of the TV”
Shortly after, she would release a second track, titled “Bitch I’m Posh.” With its lush, metallic synth piano and backdrop of classic house percussion, as well as her “posh” voice spitting lines replete with QTPOC slang, the track clearly harkens to her roots in the queer club scene. Faced with the international recognition that followed, Frasqueri then felt the pressure to create a record in lieu of her usual, experimental approach to music. Soon followed tracks like “YAYA” (a dedication to her indigenous roots, its title meaning “Great Spirit” in Taino) and “Versace Hottie” (which serves Azealia Banks vibes, but without the mess that is Azealia Banks).
Within a month of “Versace Hottie,” Frasqueri reimagined herself as “supernatural hood fairy” Princess Nokia. First came “Nokia”, a nod to “ghetto girls”, early 2000s butterfly-clips-and-glitter aesthetics, and Japanese pop culture. (Who else could get away with sampling Utada Hikaru’s “My Sanctuary” from Kingdom Hearts and singing “Konnichiwa / Me llamo Nokia / y me gusta Pokemon” in the same song?) Then was “Dragons,” a track inspired by her fascination with the relationship between Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo of Game of Thrones, but accompanied by a standalone video love story made of arcade game kisses and quotidian bedroom scenes. With the release of mixtapes ‘Metallic Butterfly’ and ‘Honeysuckle,’ as well as her first EP ‘1992’, her discography expanded to include irreverent, attitude-packed hits “TOMBOY” and “KITANA,” for which she has gained widespread notoriety.
Of her most recent artistic transformation, Frasqueri says, “As Princess Nokia I can project the multi-dimensional aspects of myself that I could not express with the name Wavy Spice. I can venture into any realm of music or character of my choosing without confusion. I’m making worldly music that will talk to all kinds of people: Banjee girls in Harlem, teen brides in the Middle East, gay boys in East Asia. Labels no longer matter. My new music is cosmic and three dimensional, and it will really speak of who Princess Nokia is. Princess Nokia is sound. It is progression. It is all that I am.”
But despite the commercial success of her records, her live shows cling tightly to the independent spirit and “New York flavor” that has shaped her. As the first set of the first Spring Weekend to actively prioritize female artists of color, she will certainly bring those street-smart vibes of progression and multi-dimensionality that she describes.
Her live presence is distinct; it’s high energy and aggressive, but also deeply considerate, protective, and steeped in personal narrative. She rides the line between expressing her self-purportedly sweet, caring nature and her constructed identity of a tough, urban woman--her reputation for insistently bringing women and femme fans to the front of rowdy crowds only exemplifies this interplay. Though it’s unclear as to whether she’ll prioritize her newest tracks or her Wavy Spice sleeper hits, her set will certainly make for an unforgettable opening to an unforgettable weekend.
Amongst a line-up of strong female talents this Spring Weekend, LA’s Clementine Creevy and her group Cherry Glazerr are bound to bring all the raunchy, raw rock n’ roll your heart could ever desire. Mix together the raw guitar sounds of Sonic Youth, dynamic style of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, and honest lyrics of Girlpool and you might get something pretty close to Cherry Glazerr. If you’re new to the group’s tunes, the best place to start is their recently released full-length album Apocalipstick. As you might guess from the title, the album packs a powerful punch as it tackles issues of women’s rights, strength, and independence. In the opening track, “Told You I’d Be with the Guys,” Creevy sings “I was a lone wolf / I thought I lost my pack / where are my ladies?” The song resolves with a strong build up of heavy power chords and Creevy standing in solidarity with other women as they try to find their own space in a male-dominated world. “Now I see the beauty/ it’s necessary/ to give a lady love.”
Cherry Glazerr’s mature sound and snarky--sometimes hilarious--lyrics might suggest that Creevy and her bandmates have been making music together for ages, but the current trio has gone through several iterations. On top of that, Creevy is still in high school. How’s that for precocious? Creevy began making music when she was 15 under the name Clembutt and soon caught the eye of Burger Records. After signing with Burger, Creevy and three other bandmates wrote and recorded Cherry Glazerr’s first album Haxel Princess, which has much more of a garage-band sound. Slower guitar licks and slurred lyrics created an apathetic attitude that gave the group their ‘we-don’t-take-ourselves-too-seriously’ aesthetic.
Now a bit more evolved, Cherry Glazerr is Creevy, Tabor Allen (drums), and Sasami Ashworth (synth). They are now signed to Secretly Canadian Records and have worked with big-name creatives--namely Joe Chiccarelli, who has worked with artists like Frank Zappa, The White Stripes, and The Strokes. Hedi Slimane, the creative director of the fashion company Saint Laurent, even took an interest in Cherry Glazerr’s sound back in 2014 when he asked them to write a song for a runway show. The group came up with “Had Ten Dollaz,” an eerie punk song with catchy bass-lines and perfectly simple lyrics. Today, the group still carries the laid-back aesthetic of their first album Haxel Princess but have injected their sound with fiery ferocity.
So what is Cherry Glazerr going to bring to the Main Green this Spring Weekend? Well, the short answer is simple: badassery. But for the longer answer: a refreshing dose of rock n’ roll that is both brutally honest and blissfully bold. Expect infectious guitar riffs to run through your head all night, along with an undeniable urge to dismantle the patriarchy. But if that amount of empowerment isn’t your thing, fear not; the group’s setlist will likely also include songs on a range of topics including a “Nuclear Bomb,” “Lucid Dreams,” “Grilled Cheese,” and even “Moon Dust.” Whether it’s their their humor, energy, or laid-back hipster aesthetic, Cherry Glazerr has so much to throw at us this Spring Weekend and you will not regret a single second spent dancing to their tunes.