Featured

MODERN MUSIC AND MORALITY: THE CONTROVERSY OF CONSUMER EMPOWERMENT

Written by: Natalya Davies        Updated: 17/10/2018

 

Should We Be More Mindful of the Music We Listen to in the Modern Age?

 

Since the debatably controversial movement tested by Spotify regarding hate content and hateful conduct, it appears that the whole industry has been sitting on the uprooted issue of morality – including me. However, just by taking a slight glance at the impact of previous movements in the history of music, it is clear to see that this moral panic is nothing new.

spot

Mostly the same arguments that are being tested now were also debated in the wake of 1950’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, 70’s Punk, and even the short-lived era of 90’s Grunge. The awareness of music’s ability to reflect our personal qualities, doubled with its potential to influence young minds, is a burden that our modern society carries – one which technology only seems to be complicating, further.

While there is an evident issue of artists securing extreme ‘cult-like‘ power among young audiences through doubling as influential social media figures, the controversy of consumer empowerment in the streaming age seems to be relatively uncharted territory.

In a New York Times podcast discussing late rapper XXXTentacion, Noisey journalist Lawrence Burney introduces this argument, suggesting that the direct role that listeners now possess in the financial success of an artist should lead to more mindful decisions of the music we indulge in. On the subject, he says:

“I really had to arrive at a moment where I realised that even listening to the music, because of how it works now with streaming, is… I’m putting money directly in these people’s pockets […] so I had to come to terms with the fact that, no, I just can’t listen… because if I am listening, I’m supporting. […] every time you hit play, maybe you’re only putting 5 cents in their pocket… but it accumulates”

xxxt

In consideration of this perspective, let’s take the time to ask ourselves this: should we be more mindful of the music we listen to in the modern age?

While it is commendable to actively remove yourself from a current trend, deciding that the bigger picture must be addressed, it can be much more complicated than a simple yes or no. When surveying a number of individuals on the matter, it became apparent that there was an inconceivable range of varying opinions, all valid in their own way.

When posed with this question, a contributor suggested that each case is inevitably different and therefore, must be approached and judged completely separately. It is highly likely that the offence and scenario will vary, as well as the level of repentance displayed, therefore, it can seem unfair to place all artists involved with hateful conduct or hate content under one umbrella. Most importantly, it also depends on the degree of what you, the consumer, decide you can look past and what you cannot.

On the other hand, many that were for Burney’s argument testified that choosing to listen to a controversial artist allows them to thrive, undeservedly. As Burney perfectly established, listening means supporting, and as artists are now paid per play, it seems that many feel they are personally contributing to their financial success – or even the victory of a potential offender.

While this is a very interesting prospect, the next question which only seems natural to explore is: How much of an impact do we really have?

Is the power really in the hands of the consumer?

Spotify operate under what can be described as a ‘parimutuel payment system‘; or in simpler terms, a system whereby subscription fees and other revenue streams are combined before royalties are paid out to artists. This also means that the more popular artists of a given time period will earn a large percentage of this figurative ‘money pool’.

This may seem quite apparent, so allow me to support my point with a simple example: Not long ago, CDs were a booming musical format and to obtain them, you would most likely visit a record store, online or offline. Let’s say I visit and purchase “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” by Drake, I pay approximately £9.99 of my money in return for a physical product by an artist of my choice.

 

“In a way, it could be suggested that if you are investing into companies like Spotify, then you are supporting its entire catalogue.”

 

Now, because of this tangible element, the purchase of a CD is much more simple than the streaming world. In this make-belief instance, my money was collected for Drake, and Drake is exactly what I received in return. However, with streaming services, you pay for an entire catalogue of music, which in turn, is what you receive. However, as a result of this “money pool” your money is not just going into the pockets of the artists you are listening to, but also getting paid out to the most popular artists of that period.

So with this illustration in mind, I will reiterate the prior question: Is the power really in the hands of the consumer?

My assumption is no.

With this payment system in place, the consumer’s money is invested wherever necessary, meaning that you most likely are contributing toward the success of an artist you may be abstaining from, to honour your own moral boundaries. So, in a way, it could be suggested that if you are investing into companies like Spotify, then you are supporting its entire catalogue.

The only way to be truly removed from this is to opt out of streaming altogether.

Recognise this as an extreme vantage point, an opportunity for me to be the devil’s advocate. My point does not place the responsibility of a controversial artist’s financial success on any one but the artist itself, and their team, however, it is simply some food for thought for those that enjoy speculation.

 

“With great power comes great responsibility”

 

Now this leads me to my final question, one which I feel we all should take the time reflect upon: Do we have the right to make a moral judgement towards media figures?

This is such a broad question, but its importance should not be underestimated. While I plan to further explore the subject of celebrities and moral obligations at a later date, it has to be expressed that the high expectations entrusted upon them must be a weighty burden to bear; one which many do not wish to carry or even have the option to opt out of.

logic1

My belief is that no one really has the right to make a moral judgement on the occurrences of another’s life, despite it being a large part of human nature to do so. Yes, it is wise to evaluate your personal morals in conjunction with the entertainment that you are indulging in, but it is important to recognise that no one ever really knows the full extent of a story; particularly when it is circulated by press who may have their own preconceptions.

As the famous saying goes: “with great power comes great responsibility“, therefore, you could suggest that, yes, the access model that has spurred the rise of consumer empowerment in the music industry does require greater responsibility from the behalf of each individual consumer. However, if you are comfortable with listening to any and all music, simply for its enjoyment factor, then that too is completely plausible – that is the beauty of morality.

 

 

KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH ABSOLUTELY AUDIO!

FACEBOOK – www.facebook.com/absolutelyaudio

INSTAGRAM – @absolutelyaudio

Releasing new music or a new project? Email aamusicblog2017@gmail.com or contact via instagram @ABSOLUTELYAUDIO for review/article enquiries. More information is available via the contact button on the homepage.

Featured

RAP RADAR: 10 UK RAPPERS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT…

Updated: 23/08/17          Written by: Natalya Davies

Since the breakthrough of Grime into the UK mainstream’s consciousness around 2016, the nation’s rap scene has flourished into something very exciting for music lovers. This breakthrough made way for an appreciation of the drill, dancehall and afrobeat fusions of artists like J Hus, Yxng Bane and IAMDDB, making UK music a serious contender globally.

As a homage to this recent success, I wanted to spend some time putting together a collective of my favourite UK rap talents across a number of different genres, however, I wanted to use my platform to do this differently.

We all know that the AJ Traceys and Giggs’ are HOT on the music scene, so picking artists like this would make for a completely predictable listing; despite their worthiness to be entitled the hottest UK rappers of the modern day. No, for this piece, I wanted to challenge myself to feature only artists with under 100k monthly listens on Spotify* so that I could truly showcase the underground kings and queens that you may be missing out on!

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 rappers you need to know about…

 

10. NOVELIST

Related image

Monthly Listens: 28,000*

For Fans of: Asco, Ambush Buzzworl, Youngs Teflon

First in the list, but last in my ranking is Novelist, a 19 year old MC and producer who has certainly put his stamp on Grime culture in London. Through features with the likes of Skepta, Kanye West and Tom Misch, he is rapidly proving his versatility and potential despite being such a young artist.

“So, if Novelist has worked with the greats, why is he so under-the-radar?” – you may ask. Well, this is likely the result of his devotion to the underground rap scene, assuring that a traditional route (not dominated by social media strategies and D2C marketing) is the way he wants to keep things. Who can blame him?

Recommended track: 10/10

9. JAM BAXTER

Image result for jam baxter

Monthly Listens: 46,000*

For Fans of: Fliptrix, Verb T, Dabbla

If you’re looking for something truly underrated, Jam Baxter’s poetically cryptic and mysterious lyrics versed with atmospheric Hip Hop beats and dark imagery makes for a very interesting mixture – indeed.

“Excellent Donut” featuring Ed Scissor was the track that originally brought my attention to the rapper, its alluring layers yet minimal structure are bound to instantly hold you captive.

Recommended track: For A Limited Time Only

 

8. BARNEY ARTIST

Image result for barney artist

Monthly Listens: 80,000*

For Fans of: Loyle Carner, Alfa Mist, Chris McClenney

Barney Artist, from East London, is different to anything else featured on this list – a very special addition, in fact. If you are a fan of  Hip Hop, chill vibes and relaxing soul beats, then look no more, Barney is exactly what you have been looking for.

After numerous collaborations with Neo-Soul royalty Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei and Alfa Mist, Barney is quickly becoming one to know within this scene.

Recommended track: I’m Going to Tell You

 

7. NADIA ROSE

Image result for nadia rose

Monthly Listens: 98,000*

For Fans of: Stefflon Don, Lady Leshurr, Yungen

One thing that is apparent in the behaviour of young rappers is the need to be daring  and harness a confidence that is indestructible, however, with Nadia Rose, this captivating swagger is so convincingly natural. Rose, who also happens to be the cousin of Stormzy, has a striking dexterity in the rap game, similar to the likes of Lady Leshurr.

If you want a taste of this addictive prowess, simply head over to her video for “Stations” where you can see her rapping on train tracks – without permission!

Recommended track: Skwod

 

6. MAXSTA

Image result for maxsta

Monthly Listens: 48,000*

For Fans of: Ghetts, P Money, D Double E

Despite being a rather underground artist, Maxsta is a well renowned and experienced name in the Grime scene – however, his position says nothing about his talent; simply that he is unwilling to compromise his sound to appeal to a larger audience.

His music perfectly encompasses the brutal essence of Grime, in a way that is extremely authentic. For anyone that is even merely interested in UK rap, Maxsta is a must-listen.

Recommended track: Guns and Roses

5. REEKO SQUEEZE

Image result for reeko squeeze

Monthly Listens: 39,000*

For Fans of: Recky, SL, Harlem Spartans

Originally a member of popular Drill crew ‘Section Boyz’, Reeko Squeeze is a UK rapper that is proving to be one to watch over the next year. Despite finessing the ego and hard edge that is essential in the rapper aesthetic, Reeko possesses a likeability and drive that is likely to win you over, even if the music is not for you.

This infectious drive is sprinkled throughout Reeko’s tracks, mixed with a boyish cockiness, making for an unforgettable combination.

Recommended track: Diablo

 

4. REEKZ MB

Image result for REEKZ MB

Monthly Listens: 48,000*

For Fans of: AJ Tracey, Abra Cadabra, MoStack

Reekz MB is another truly underground artist, his music often shedding light on the harsh reality of growing up as a young black male in the nation’s capital – without filter. There is an undeniable aggression to Reekz’ style accompanied atop hypnotic drill beats, making him a great listen for those that are big fans of the underground rap scene.

With Drill groups like Harlem Spartans and 67 dominating London’s South-side, it is likely that this is not the last that you will hear of rappers like Reekz.

Recommended track: Blueprint

3. SUSPECT

Image result for suspect still loading

Monthly Listens: 86,000*

For Fans of: Avelino, Fredo, Skepta

Labelled an “underground king” by many,  Suspect isn’t your average UK rapper. Not one interested in the fame and fortune that haunts so many younger rappers, Suspect is truly here to establish himself as a serious artist – making music worthy of respect and high regard.

You don’t need to do your research to learn this, however, a quick listen to his albums “Loading” (2017) and “Still Loading” (2018) will tell you this about the rapper. There is an evident natural aggression yet certainty to his sound, similar to the likes of Skepta, projecting the “no messing” attitude which has captured the attention of American audiences.

Recommended track: One Way

 

2. DOUBLE S

Related image

Monthly Listens: 33,000*

For Fans of: Ghetts, JME, Black the Ripper

Double S is another one of these incredible talents that successfully manages to slip under the radar – making him more stylishly distant than underrated. However, despite being somewhat isolated from the public eye, the London MC’s monthly listen count reflects nothing on the gems that are waiting to be discovered in debut album “Double Vision” (2017).

With collaborations from Grime heavyweights JME and Wiley, “Double Vision” is a release fueled with the fastest lyrical flows and an infectious bravado, making this a release which should be on the radar of all grime fans.

Recommended track: Secret

 

1. KNUCKS

Image result for knucks rapper

Monthly Listens: 95,000*

For Fans of: Big Tobz, KwolleM, Yung Fume

For an avid music fan, I appreciate nothing more than an artist striving to infuse their own unique flavour into their work, and this much can be said for North-West London rapper Knucks. If his witty yet staggeringly suave nature isn’t enough to have you hooked, then his self-produced soul infused beats should surely do the trick.

Despite releasing a rather typical ‘Afrobeat’-inspired track “Hooper” featuring Not3s, Knucks is one of very few UK rappers that can not be defined – quite similar to rap’s lovable rogue, Dave. Knucks does not limit himself to certain styles and beats, instead, his experimental nature makes for some of the most interesting sounds currently circulating the London scene.

Recommended track: Vows

 

 

KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH ABSOLUTELY AUDIO!

FACEBOOK – www.facebook.com/absolutelyaudio

INSTAGRAM – @absolutelyaudio

Releasing new music or a new project? Email aamusicblog2017@gmail.com or contact via instagram @ABSOLUTELYAUDIO for review/article enquiries. More information is available via the contact button on the homepage.

 

CELEBRATING… DAVID BOWIE (1947-2016)

Image result for aladdin sane

Of all the music and great artists that I have come across in my lifetime, David Bowie is completely one-of-a-kind. Vulnerable yet confident, intriguing, mysterious, inspiring, unique… genius.

I was always aware of Bowie’s presence and impact in music, however, it wasn’t until I was sixteen years of age that I became curious to know what really made one of the most influential musicians of all time. Little did I know that this newfound curiosity was going to pay off as one of the biggest learning curves of my musical journey.

At the time I was in the middle of writing a dissertation for a performance course that I was taking which delved into the subject of ‘Does image and attitude detract from the importance of music?’. As the rather musically narrow-minded teen that I once was, my answer prior to any research on the subject would have been yes, image and attitude does detract from the importance of music.

My reasoning behind this thought process was that publicity seen in magazines, newspapers and social media from the likes of Justin Bieber or similar figures completely takes the attention away from what is truly important, the music. However, I soon realised that maybe, just maybe, modern mainstream genres were not the best cases to be generalising and drawing conclusions from.

That is when, in much desperation, I stumbled across the documentary ‘Sound and Vision’ which touched on the particularly colourful career of Bowie and the many personas that he undertook. In just under an hour and a half, it seems, my mind was exposed to something so much more meaningful than what you see in the tabloids. Something extremely special.

Related image

What I’m really trying to say here is that, in discovering Bowie my faith in music and artists was renewed. Just that slight bit of research into his career and creations made me realize that there is a total other world out there beyond the mainstream and those that try to reject the mainstream.

There is no agenda. It is all simply about artistry.

After all, David Bowie is and was all about the beauty of art; the incorporation of various creative mediums in order to convey something truly unique and compelling. It was never about strategically utilizing a striking image like that of Ziggy Stardust in order to shock or gain the attention of the public. The image was the music and the music was the image; two components that were not sold separately but only come as the whole package.

It also wasn’t about being cool, either.

Because let’s face it, Bowie was never cool (which ultimately made him a superior level of cool).

It was all about portraying these alien alter egos in a way in which the average person could understand and relate to -in a truly unforgettable fashion. It’s this truly unforgettable, stellar, unique, and enigmatic fashion which stole the hearts of us all and which provides the kind of immortality that only the most spectacular beings could ever achieve.

Rest in peace, Starman.

Image result for david bowie

My Top Picks…

    1. Let’s Dance (Let’s Dance – 1983)
    2. Life On Mars (Hunky Dory – 1971)
    3. Oh! You Pretty Things (Hunky Dory – 1971)
    4. Starman (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – 1972)
    5. Cracked Actor (Aladdin Sane – 1973)