SNL Takes A Chance

After forty years of hosting some of the biggest names in music history, a true anomaly occurred last Saturday at Saturday Night Live. For the first time ever, SNL hosted an unsigned artist as their musical guest of the night. Unsurprisingly that artist just so happens to be one of the biggest names in music these days: Chance The Rapper.

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Since releasing his debut album, Acid Rap, in 2013, Chance The Rapper has become infamous for his anti-label approach to the music industry. Though the Rapper is not featured on streaming services like Spotify or Pandora, he is perhaps Hip Hop’s hottest new star. Speaking to Billboard in 2014, Chance gleefully remarked, “I can do whatever I want…I can do whatever videos I want, I can play whatever shows I want, I can release when I want, talk how I want, freely about any subject.”

This is of course not the case for many signed artists. For instance, in 2007, pop singer Kelly Clarkson and then-Sony-BMG head Clive Davis publicly clashed over the direction of Clarkson’s album, My December. Though Davis wanted Clarkson to work with Pop-hitmakers, Clarkson stood her ground and came out with an edgy rock-oriented album. Though the outcome was what Clarkson wanted, along the way she had to deal with bureaucratic obstacles, galore.  Davis literally told her, she was a “shitty writer” and she should “shut up and sing”.

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Perhaps Chance’s success is routed in the fact that he has no Clive Davis breathing down his neck for more releases. In my opinion, the authenticity and originality Chance projects are what makes him such an attractive artist. The unsigned approach simply allows that attitude to shine. Nonetheless, it is truly encouraging that an artist with no label ties is able to come to fruition on such a large scale. To tie this into my continuing series of hip hop-related happenings, my first thought (and hope) is that this could be the start of a new generation of hip hop–one without any de facto industry obligations to be signed. If this is the case, what could come next? Artists who were previously too intimidated by domineering labels could look at Chance’s model and try to emulate it. I think it’s a great sign for hip hop and music, overall.

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Year in Review: Top 10 Albums

As part of the “Year in Review” series, I’ve compiled my top 10 albums of 2013.

Whilst many artists don’t like these lists, it is usually because they aren’t in them.

I urge you to have a listen to the ‘key tracks’ if you haven’t heard them before, and if you’re feeling super crazy, comment with your top 10 below!

Here we go…

10. Palma Violets – 180
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This raw, punk debut from English band Palma Violets captures a sound that matches their energetic, booze filled live shows. They definitely deserve the attention NME and Rolling Stone paid them this year.
Key Track: Best of Friends

9. Childish Gambino – Because the Internet
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I’ve only had about a week to sit on this one and I really dig it. If you want the full experience of Childish ‘Troy from Community’ Gambino’s playful and extremely clever music, read the screenplay that accompanies it. It’s epic.
Key Track: 3005

8. Foals – Holy Fire
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With their third album, Foals produced a tight and hard hitting sound, they smoked less Weed during the recording of this album and it shows.
Key Track: Inhaler

7. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
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These lads from Sydney managed to break overseas as well as tearing the Australian scene apart with their psychedelic/dance sound. They’ve got a big future ahead of them; after all, Noel Gallagher proclaimed that ‘the future of the galaxy depends on this album.’
Key Track: Come Save Me

6. Arctic Monkeys – AM
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Arctic Monkeys are a band that has matured aesthetically and musically in their now 11 year history. AM still has the grit from their early days with an almost funkier vibe, accompanied by some smooth falsetto from drummer Matt Helders.
Key Track: Do I Wanna Know?

5. Disclosure – Settle
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In my opinion, this UK dance duo should have won the Mercury Prize over James Blake. This debut album will get any party started.
Key Track: When a fire Starts to Burn

4. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
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Technically classified a mixtape, not an album. Chance is an unsigned artist from Chicago. For more information, have a read of this phenomenally written piece.
Key Track: Favourite Song

3. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II
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This New Zealand band brought out this sun soaked album in the prime of the Australian Summer, the psychedelic pop infused guitar lines and vocal melodies made this an awesome album that not enough people know about.
Key Track: So Good at Being In Trouble

2. Kanye West – Yeezus
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It is quite hard to deny that Kanye is a genius. This album polarised fans and is a hectic 10 track epic. Have a look at this recent graphic published in the New York Times.
Key Track: Bound 2

1. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
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If you haven’t heard Get Lucky the lead single of the RAM, I congratulate you. Even if Get Lucky were not on this album, it would still be a phenomenal throwback to the 70’s from the French duo that was marketed ridiculously well and in my opinion, lived up to the hype.
Key Track: Doin’ It Right

Honourable mentions:
Wavves – Afraid of Heights
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Don’t agree with my choices? Don’t bicker and mumble to yourself. COMMENT BELOW.

Unreal and Unsigned.

If you haven’t already, meet unsigned artist Chance The Rapper –

I couldn’t believe what I was listening to when I legally downloaded Chance The Rapper’s mixtape Acid Rap in May this year. The fact that such a polished product, with quality beats and raps, featuring some of the best talents in the business, was free came as quite a surprise.

Offering free music got me thinking about the direction the music industry is going at the moment. It is quite a contentious issue; international industry and music news magazine Billboard describes it as a ‘Black Hole’ in music. Should artists just give up on selling music?

Ironically, Acid Rap managed to peak at 63 on the Billboard charts, selling over 1000 copies. I would love to have been in the room when Chance and his management realised they were being completely screwed. They had no idea how it happened. The whole concept of a mixtape is that it is a free product. He took it in his stride as his lawyers attempted to stop the illegal selling of his album, stating, “This shows that there’s a strong appetite for Chance in the marketplace, how often does a bootleg hit a Billboard chart?”

When asked why he released it for free, Chance replied,

“What’s an album these days, anyways? ‘Cause I didn’t sell it, does that mean it’s not an official release? So I might not ever drop a for-sale project. Maybe I’ll just make my money touring.”

This new model for making it as an artist in the digital age seems to be the common trend. Initially a free record, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by electronic producer Skrillex went on to win two Grammy Awards. The notion of making less profit money wise but gaining social currency and brand awareness is becoming increasingly popular and is what Chance is asserting.

In a recent interview Rolling Stone Magazine Chance proclaimed,

“there’s no reason to sign with a record label,” and that the “music is a dead industry.”

As a twenty-year-old unsigned, up and coming artist, it takes some guts to have this attitude. Check out the whole interview here.

Not to say that I’m a hip hop guru but I thing I have listened to enough music to differentiate between the likes of Drake who is has a lot of power and money fueling each of his projects and Chance. Chance has a large creative team of producers and guest rappers who collaborate with him. Here’s a sweet a look into how the tracks on Acid Rap were made.

He carries himself like any twenty year old would in his position, it seems like the people in the industry find it refreshing. He has found a formula to break the industry with his product, fans and market, taking his rise to fame one humble step at a time.

At the end of last month, Chance announced his “Social Experiments” tour that will travel to over 30 cities in America. With no revenue from record sales, his sole income comes from touring and merchandise.

I wonder if this time next year, Chance The Rapper will still be unsigned. Let’s hope so.

By Carl Pires.