Prescription Addiction : Hip Hop’s dependence on drugs

Features, Uncategorized

Music and drugs have long since had a close and interlinked relationship. From early drinking songs harking back to viking times, to hippies prancing around a field with faces full of hair and heads full of acid, drugs have always played a vital role in the development and influence of music. It may be unclear whether the drugs came first and caused the music, or if the drugs just made the music better to listen to, but their prevalence in music survives till today.

Each genre and subculture has its drug of choice, for the Hippie’s it was Cannabis and LSD, for the Mods it was Amphetamine’s, and for the ravers it was MDMA, the trap scene is no different. Ever since the creation of the genre both listeners and the artists themselves use drugs ranging from weed and cocaine, to prescription pills and codeine. Obviously those that do take these substances have their personal reasons for doing so, but the similarities in usage among the community begs the question as to why these certain substances are used, and what their involvement is in the composition of the music.

The recent death of emo trap artist Lil Peep has caused many to ask ‘how far is too far’, in relation to the use of narcotics in music. The rapper, famous for his use of substances in his personal life as well as his music, was found dead in his tour bus on the 15th of November this year after a suspected overdose from the prescription pill Xanax. The drug played a huge role in his music, and was referenced in many of his songs, in ‘Praying to the sky’, he says: “I hear voices in my head, they tellin’ me to call it quits. I found some Xanax in my bed, I took that shit, went back to sleep”.

Trap originated as a Atlantan slang reference to the place used for drug deals, often referred to as a trap house. Notable for having very little furniture and home comforts save for a place to sit and a place to sniff, snort, or roll various questionable substances off or on. The term was soon integrated into southern hip hop, with artists such as Outkast, Ghetto Mafia, and Cool Breeze referencing the term and the lifestyle in their music.

The widespread growth of Hip Hop during the 90s and 00s meant the term was vastly used and was soon attributed to the rising genre of Hip Hop that described and often glorified the drug dealing lifestyle in their music. An individual often noted as one of the forebears of trap was T.I.. Who in an interview in December 2012 stated “before I came in the game, it was Lil Jon, Outkast, Goodie Mob, okay so you had crunk music and you had Organized Noise. There was no such thing as trap music, I created that, I created that. I coined the term.” Whilst T.I.’s claim over the genre may sound somewhat dubious, his influence in the sound of trap laid the foundations for the signature sound that has become synonymous with the genre ever since. Expanding on the sound of artists like T.I., producer Lex Luger created the signature sound of Trap that most artists still use today, his use of heavy 808 drum machine sounds and synthesisers became the background to some of the most popular tracks in Trap.

Hip Hop’s long standing relationship with narcotics is something of a controversial one, with many concerned about the glorification of the use and abuse of these substances in the lyrics having an adverse affect on the impressionable children listening to the music. However in recent years the number of references has increased dramatically compared to at the birth of Hip Hop. A study performed at the University of California noted that during the last two decades positive portrayals of drugs, and references, have had a sixfold increase from 11 percent to 69 percent. Not only are artists talking about drugs more nowadays, but they also appear to be taking more. Through the rise of social media platforms artists can let the world know what they’re taking, and how much they’re taking. Minutes before his death Lili Peep shared a video to his Instagram followers of him dropping six of what appears to be Xanax pills into his mouth. A prominent feature of trap music videos are joints hanging out of rappers mouths, whilst THC laden clouds of smoke hang around them like a bad smell, or a nice smell, depending on your preference.

Drug influence in the lyrical side of Trap is obvious and plain to see, however it exists in the music too. The long slurred words and mumbling commonly heard from artists most likely originated from the rappers drinking lean, a drink also referred to as sizzurp, concocted from a mixture of codeine, sprite, and a boiled candy. Due to codeine being an opiate derived from opium, from which heroin is derived from, it has the effect of turning the user into a well educated chimp, albeit a very relaxed and well educated chimp. Whilst this mumble style of rapping most likely evolved as a result of the use of lean, or as a result of becoming brain dead from the use of lean, it has now become style in itself, with people copying it purely because they like the sound. Musically the melodies and rhythms of Trap followed the sound of artists vocals, incorporating almost rolling or droning synth sounds, often with a very heavy bassline. The drum beats are the only feature that remains untouched by the drug filled haze of trap artists, the 808 style retains the same legendary status in Trap as it does in Hip Hop.

The illicit nature of drug use and dealing means that anyone connected to it is often viewed as a criminal. In this day and age of Hollywood crime films, the glorification of crime gives these criminals an often hero like quality, the Trap scene is one that plays on this greatly, the artists that talk about their dealing with narcotics become protagonists to their huge cohorts of fans who believe that they can do no wrong. This may be largely damaging to culture, especially to young fans that will often attempt to mimic their idols, however one could argue that rebellious idols are always going to be admired, and if it isn’t these artists it could be something much worse.
There is an over abundance of drug culture in Trap, without which Trap would not be able to exist in the form that it does today.

 

Words by Jamie Raybould

 

Edited by George Kennedy

Taylor Swift Is Dead, Marketing Genius?

Features, Industry News, Uncategorized

Resurrection: So, it’s the 18th of August 2017, and there is a black out of all of Taylor Swifts social media accounts – no Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, there is no sign of any previous albums, singles, tours or promotion. Even her official website was greeted with a blackout. All gone. Is the old Taylor dead?

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As you may well be aware, Taylor Swift started teasing fans on her social media accounts just 3 days after the blackout with 10 second cryptic reptile videos, building the images up daily, to eventually form a snake. Next thing we know there is a single dropping, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ on the 24th August, with the now infamous lyric ‘’I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now” “Why?” “Oh, ’cause she’s dead!’’ Alongside this, and her single ‘Ready For It’ there are constant reminders in her music videos of a resurrection of a new Taylor. But what is this all for? Is Taylor Swift just following the same marketing model of ‘Good Girl-Gone Bad’ as so many artists have done before her? (Rihanna, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears) to name a few, or is the death of the ‘old Taylor’ and resurrection of the ‘New Taylor’ just marketing genius? Her fans who would have idolised her as a country star are now young women, growing up and changing alongside her which makes her more relatable than the teenage country star she once was.

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This quote from Diane Pecknold sums up on whether she thinks this marketing campaign will be a success:

“Whether Swift’s new persona will be a marketing success remains to be seen, but as the eight-ball fortune teller would say, signs point to yes. Her career was built t on her ability to reach a teen girl audience the country music industry had previously overlooked. Like her, those girls are now young women, and they’re not likely to be alienated by a persona that, for all its callousness, represents a kind of femininity geared toward survival in hostile circumstances. In any case, Swift and Big Machine have the cultural power to put across even a mediocre record and the economic resources to withstand one that is only very successful rather than a global juggernaut. The new Taylor will probably be just fine.” – Diane Pecknold is associate professor and Chair, Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Louisville.

The Rise of the Visual Album

Features, Industry News, Uncategorized

Over the past several years streaming sites such as Spotify have become increasingly popular generating a lot of different types of publicity for musicians and their music, meaning that the art of a simple video that would previously be shown on MTV or  YouTube are starting to look slightly outdated as the public are debatably more focused on streaming the music rather than watching a short clip alongside it. This in turn leaves the artists with a creative outlet where they can create a much longer visual film that works alongside their music yet is also filled with dialogue and artist/ emotional imagery to help us understand their work to a better extent. With the lack of emphasis on the previous short music clip, the artists and its creative team can worry less about fitting all that content into a 3 minute clip and instead make a more intricate piece of work that has more considered visuals and considered extended spacing between visuals.

Within 2017 alone we’ve seen the release of many visual albums and EPs such as Fergie’s release of ‘Double Dutchess’ on the 22nd of September, with each track on the album going hand in hand with a clean cut/edgy video generating a lot of interesting publicity around her new releases.  Another interesting release this year was from ‘All American Rejects’ with their EP on the 7th of July, with one combined extended film of the two tracks entitled ‘Sweat’ and ‘Close Your Eyes’. This extended film was successful in the way that it relates to many people in terms of finding their true identity through exploring different genders as well as coming to the harsh reality that some people only want to associate themselves with you to benefit themselves and not to form a true and valid friendship. The lead vocalist Tyson Ritter stated “to me ‘Sweat’ was a little deeper than what it sounded like and I wanted to make sure that we had a visual that exemplified that”. The realistic visuals and characters Ritter played within the film put a very personal touch to the extended film. The concept of the visual album is crucial as a marketing tool in the development of the musician as an artist and a valid extension of their meaningful lyricism to help the fan identity and relate to their icons in a more in-depth way.

Words: Sophia Day

Take a Walk On The Wild Side: Berlin, Techno and Sex Cages

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I must have sussed what was happening when the clothes went into the bags; exposing bare flesh intertwined with leather (my oh my where did the leather begin and the skin end?) and arseless chaps. 

Or maybe it was the nebulous “Gentlemen’s Club” sign with stated clearly that no photos were to be taken, no drugs and the less clothes the better. Could it have been when I discovered, initially to my delight, that entry was only €10 and  did not consist of an interrogation but a mere gesture to just go in. Hmm…way too easy” I thought.  Or perhaps it was even earlier than that, when I saw the queue consisted of only men.  Huh. No, it was definitely the clothes going into the bags where I felt the realisation of what exactly what happening here land on me like a tonne of bricks.

 

Context: I’m in Berlin for a trip with my classmates to explore the city which can be safely called one of the cultural hubs of Europe. Especially when it comes to music; I mean Bowie wouldn’t live here if all there was was Aldi and Currywurst. While the scene has evolved with the changing landscape of Germany (WW2-Cold War-Reunification), it is now celebrated for its thriving techno scene and its infamous clubs. From the stories you hear-and so much of it is stories and rumors, “I heard from a friend of a friend” kinda stuff as not many people from middle-class England have really experienced it firsthand- the clubs in Berlin are debauched and drenched in excess with no rules or restriction (I should stress the importance of these clubs also being safe spaces though, free from harassment) harking back to the days of Studio 54 and The Hacienda. It sounded amazing. These clubs are not grounded in any form of reality but hey who wants to live in the real world right now? They are also notorious for being impossible to get into  which made the prospect of what was actually inside exciting and exclusive- a completely unique experience in a generation of dull, generic clubs. Berghain is the most acclaimed (for it’s state-of-the-art sound system and the caliber of DJ’s it attracts) and mysterious with its extremely strict door policy and elusive doorman, Sven.  It has been the subject of games, T-shirts, conspiracy theories, many an article/blog post regarding how to get in and what exactly happens once you get there. It is a full blown phenomenon. So, being a lover of club culture of dance music for many years (If I had to go back to any time period? Second/third Summer Of Love- 1988/1989) I could not leave Berlin without even at least attempting it.

And I really tried. I dress all in black and casual clothing. I learnt conversational German and bullshitted that I wanted to see some DJ I had never heard of- “Ich bin hier, um Sammy Dee zu sehen” (“I’m here to see Sammy Dee”-I might start a course in how to speak German for Berghain hopefuls). I was hyped and ready, with every event in my teenage years preparing me for this. I heard about the long wait to get in, so I decided to get there slightly earlier. It’s not hard to find the building, it’s vast and looming. It looks where they filmed Texas Chainsaw Massacre having the appearance of an ominous industry estate. However, I actually liked the look and the vibe it gave off. It had character and reminded me of English warehouse raves.  So yes it was not difficult to find Berghain,  but it was difficult to find the right fucking entrance. Due to the fact of there being absolutely no one out front, not even one person waiting for when it opened, I assumed that what definitely looked like the entrance was in fact not. And where I saw an actual queue must instead be it. I knew it didn’t seem right. I thought Google Maps had lead me to the wrong place but alas it once again informed me that I had “reached my destination”.

So the bags. Everyone was in a different state of undress;  some completely naked, some just in pants or leather , some just topless and the rest? Just dazed and confused (I’m the rest by the way). I mean, of course I went shirtless as well. I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself and if everyone else is doing it, you do slightly want to join in. Did I consider just leaving then and there? It was the easy route and would have been understandable. But two things: I had paid €10 so I sure as hell wasn’t going to leave without getting some kind of experience to validate it (I’m a poor student remember). The second thing was I’ve always wanted to truly live life to a visceral level, taking every opportunity I get rather than regret a youth wasted. It has I guess sometimes lead me to the wrong places or left me with no money (missing my flight to Spain for Benicassim festival this summer was an example; there were many signs that it wasn’t meant to be but I ploughed ahead anyway) but I believe one day I will view it as 100% worthwhile. Anyway, it could be life-altering. It could be great. Or at least a funny story. Well, least I got that. So I went into the literally dark unknown.

I remember reading a TripAdvisor review in which a clearly very straight man accidentally walked into sex-club section of Berghain. It was described in such comically over-the-top detail that it seemed too ludicrous to actually be real.

Everything he said was true. The first thing you notice is the smell of heat and sweat clinging to the air, as well as how truly dark it is inside. The outside mechanical aesthetic continued; with water pipes and intimidating architecture being reminiscent of a Village People music video or  an S&M version of the Crystal Maze . Walking around at first, it felt way too surreal to process and so far away from my black and white adolescence. What would the people I grew up with on Canvey Island think of this?

I will put this out here now. Yes. There was guys having sex everywhere. Literally no place was unstained. Bathrooms were full of men sitting down by the sinks, waiting. Taking a wee seemed more like a spectator sport here. Elsewhere, if you were fortunate enough, you could find swing like contractions so you can have extra fun while you noshed off a randomer. Where the real action happened, for those for which this was not their first time at the rodeo, was what I christened the sex cage. Why you ask? Well, it literally was a cage full of guys having sex. While it was dim in the club, most areas were vaguely lit but the sex cage was in almost complete darkness. Guys were either strapped to the wall or just bent over a sofa while Chuck, Tom and Larry had a go. I, through no fault of my own, ended up in there at one point and this was the only time I felt my arse groped (I’m still not sure if I’m relieved or offended about this). No one was forceful or coercive. To be honest, due to how young I probably looked (I was definitely the youngest person in there which made the whole thing even more overwhelming), people left me alone. I just walked around in circles taking it all in. As in I went into sensory overload. I just couldn’t believe this was actually happening; it felt like I was on a film set for the new 50 Shades. There was techno music, somewhere. The dance floor was the only place where everyone was at the very least slightly clothed, in leather of course. A techno remix of Kelis’s Milkshake played for what felt like an eternity, taunting me.

 I finally conclude I had seen enough. I must have been there for about an hour and half but trust me when I said it flew by. But ha it was silly to think it would be that easy to leave. I find myself attempting to find the exit, only to find more guys having a sex. Oh, it must be this little hole in the wall-oh wait nope there’s a penis there. I can see where Ikea got the layout for their shops now. There was a marker I made in my head so I had an idea where I was- ‘Tissue Mountain’ (don’t ask) which I kept ending up back at. I didn’t have the courage to ask where the exit was so I just hoped I would eventually stumble into it and not something else. I did eventually find it, only to be told I had to get some kind of receipt that proved I had paid to go in. I literally had a number written on my fleshy shoulder (that was so I could get my clothes back after) but nope I had to go back in again. Once I finally received proof of my ordeal from the bar, I left and never looked back.

Well in all seriousness, I was shaken up at the time. I identify as bisexual, but this is only something I have become truly comfortable with this year. Instead of dipping my toe in the water, I just decided to belly flop off the top diving board. I wasn’t ready. I can’t say I wouldn’t go back. I was in awe of the absolute empanication these men displayed; they really didn’t give a shit. With such a toxic past with regards to discrimination (not far from Germany is a country where people are being killed for something that is as natural as their eye colour) and AIDS, it was weirdly hopeful and heartening to see these men taking complete ownership of their sexuality. But, it was just too much too soon. However, I definitely recommend all men experience it at least once in their life – it must throw up some interesting questions.

So, I just wanted some techno and I couldn’t even afford to go into the actual Berghain non-sex section now. It was alright though, I truly saw the side of Berlin that everyone raves about and what can I say? It’s a lot of fun.

Words: Will Craigie

Top 10 must-see acts at Electric Castle Festival 2017!

Features, News, Uncategorized

Electric Castle is a five day Festival in Romania, inside the walls of a 15th Century castle. Encouraging great music, great food and booze from prices as low as just $2. Summarising what you can imagine to be a great summer atmosphere.

Each year the Festival announces a handful of some of the best acts. This year the line up includes a of variety of music genres from some of the most must-see artists.

Starting on Wednesday 12th-16th July, the 24 hour music policy Festival is destined to give you a great experience.

Furthermore, here are the TOP 10 ACTS NOT TO MISS at this year’s Electric Castle Festival:

  1. Deadmau5: Deadmau5 will be headlining the festival, bringing to you a collaboration of urban house tracks that you just simply cannot miss.
  2. Slaves: Kent based duet, Slaves, are a charismatic act full of everlasting energy and are certain to give you that ‘feel good’ adrenaline rush for your upcoming weekend.
  3. Alt- J: Originally formed in Leeds, the indie trio have gone from strength to strength. Dabbling in indie rock and folk, the sweet Alt-J are definitely ones to see at this year’s Electric Castle Festival.
  4. Franz Ferdinand: Scottish four-piece Franz Ferdinand, are a indie pop group who in 2004 published their earworm track ‘Take Me Out.’
  5. House Of Pain: Hip Hop legends House of Pain, are back in the music scene and will be making an appearance  at Electric Castle this year.
  6. Duke Demont: Duke Demont, another house inspired DJ that you can’t miss at Electric Castle Festival this year. In 2013 he released ‘Need You 100%’ which reached over 150 thousand likes on YouTube. He has since released a number of house bangers.
  7. Eats Everything: Showcasing fun, psychedelic dance music, Eats Everything are at the forefront of transcendent beats and are definitely an act you want to see at Electric Castle this year.
  8. Zedd: Solo musician, Zedd, will be kicking off  day one at Electric Castle alongside Slaves, Moderat and many more. Playing his set at the main stage at 12:30am.
  9. DJ Sneak: In the words of DJ Sneak he is happy to present you with heavy “house music all night long!”
  10. Nero: Finishing off with Nero. Those in which are Famously known for their futuristic and unique music videos and are essentially the heart of dubstep. If you’re like myself and are a fan of electronic or drum and bass then Nero are 100% a must-see act for you this year at Electric Castle.

 

Make sure to like/ follow the Festival on social media:

Electric Castle Festival Facebook

Electric Castle Festival Twitter

Electric Castle Festival Instagram

Words by Laviea Thomas

 

[FEATURE] MEDIA BRAWL – WHEN WILL IT END?

Features

We’ve all seen the stories, paparazzi becoming aggressive in order to get their stories and all in the name of money. Following celebrities endlessly and provoking them until they lash out. This is something that is a known tactic for the paparazzi to use because these stories will sell and everyone wants to hear news of a celebrity behaving badly. In recent events we’ve seen Louis Tomlinson, a former One Direction member being involved in a physical altercation with one photographer at an Los Angeles airport due to the photographer refusing to stop taking pictures of his girlfriend Eleanor Calder after he declined Tomlinsons request to stop and give them privacy. During this one on one drama,Calder was in another brawl with two unidentified females, Tomlinson then saw this and tried to separate the women and is heard to have shouted ‘What the hell is going on’.

ImageThe public have seemed to have come emotionally immune to these stories as they happen all the time. Seeing viral videos with the infamous ‘TMZ’ watermark in the corner is something that crops up on social media almost weekly, many viewers jumping to comment on who was in the wrong during these Celebrity – Paparazzi showdowns. Paparazzi have built themselves a reputation within the media as being aggressive and have done nothing to change this, instead they have embraced this label, showing everyone that they will go to great lengths in order to get their story.

Tomlinson is clearly not the only one to be involved in such altercations, there have been many celebrities before him who have been targeted. Back in 2013, Paparazzi were a little too eager to get photos of Justin Bieber leaving his London hotel. There was an altercation of words, with one paparazzo member shouting ‘Go the fuck back to America you moron’, and with this remark being heard, Bieber was filmed jumping from the car, being held back by his security, giving that particular man a piece of his mind. This isn’t his first altercation with paparazzi and undoubtedly not his last.

A well documented paparazzi incident was in fact Britneys Spears’ ‘Meltdown’ back in 2007. Paparazzi captured the footage and photographs of Spears shaving her head and then trashing a car. The paparazzi presence was making her more upset, causing her to them attack a paparazzo (who in a weird turn of events, is auctioning off the umbrella, and willing to give half the money to a charity of Britneys choice). News reports surrounding this incident did mention that the paparazzi knew that something wasn’t right, yet still continued to pursue the story. This is one of the most famous moments captured by the paparazzi and can still be considered ‘relevant’ 10 years later.

Is there a line between lashing out and self defense? Why is it different for a celebrity to defend themselves than a regular person? Stories can become minipulated by the press in order to sell more copies with no regard to personal feelings, and the effect of the press’ aggressive behaviour can take it’s toll on musicians, this is something that needs to change.

Words by Jasmine Greggory

[FEATURE] FROM HYPE WILLIAMS TO BABYFATHER: THE FORM DEFYING ART OF DEAN BLUNT

Features, Uncategorized

It must have been frustrating following the career of Hype Williams. With memory of life prior to the internet feeling increasingly foggy, any fact which isn’t a quick Wiki search away begins to be treated with the utmost contempt. How dare you not divulge accurate information? What do you mean you’ve joined the nation of Islam? How the fuck did you both meet watching Oasis at Knebworth?

Details of the project’s inception are shrouded in mystery; supposedly an art relay project, each incarnation taking hold of the helm for five years. This particular manifestation was domineered by the elusive artists Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland, although neither of those names turned out to be genuine. To this day the backgrounds of both artists remain relatively unknown, with just fragments of dubious claims emerging – such as Dean Blunt actually being an ex-boxer.

The music itself became notorious for its post-modern bricolage; steeped in irony, with the line between fact and fiction, sample and composition, utterly blurred. Loosely associated with the post-hypnagogic underground, Hype Williams filtered the history of electronic music, movie dialogue, and long forgotten pop through a stubbornly lo-fi, crackled facade, adding dub dynamics and pitch shifted vocal trickery. The sound – like their persona – consistently evaded clarity, revelling in the distortion of perception. As Chal Raven noted whilst writing for Dummy back in 2012, “No amount of quasi-academic scrutiny can reveal the “answers” to Hype Williams. The music is its own armour.”

It’s a curious contradiction; the elusive nature of Hype Williams seemed to run against a vital internet mantra – ‘share everything’ – yet conversely, so much of the groups identity seemed utterly dependent upon digital culture. From crediting the artwork of their album Black Is Beautiful to Danny Dyer, to releasing an output of such gargantuan size that it would put Mark E Smith to shame. This hyper exposure to culture – as well as a hyper production of their own – makes them a quintessential embodiment of the digital avant-garde. With an over-saturation of music within our daily lives, what unavoidably emerges is a state of demystification. In the case of Hype Williams, the duo managed to re-achieve a sense of mystique through relentless dishonesty.

Prior to the release of their two most widely available albums – under the Hype Williams moniker – the duo had already forged one of the most potent articulations of their sound. 2010’s Untitled comes across as if it were formed from an impromptu jam session, the track Untitled 4 building steadily around a central trudging drum procession, with a seasick drone growing increasingly erratic. Meanwhile the albums opener, Untitled 1, miraculously achieves a kind of vitally modern, ambient pyschedelia; an ambience that stems from the manic bombardment of endless information.

They followed Untitled with two more full lengths as Hype Williams, though neither were truly able to achieve a similarly bizarre concoction. Both 2010s What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, and Star Gettin’ Real and 2011s One Nation felt largely lost within a foggy miasma, unable to take a truly worthwhile form. In 2012 However, the duo released the album Black is Beautiful, under the names Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland. Though Black is Beautiful shares much of the woozy demo-esque sound that defined both One Nation and What Happens When…, where the album differs is its altogether bolder feel. The project in no way harnesses or tames the ardent experimentalism, but manages to make it all the more impressionable. The misshapen, battered footwork of 12; the garbled flow of 9, which sits atop a kaleidoscopic Casio jam, sounding simultaneously cheap and cosmic; or the LCD laced digi-dub of 10, with Copeland seemingly attempting a ritualistic incantation, whilst wildly mutating synths screech and wheeze in the background. 

Black is Beautiful marked the dissolution of Hype Williams, and the emergence of Dean Blunt as solo auteur. On his mixtape The Narcissist – later re-released as The Narcissist II, with alterations on the tracks – Blunt’s baritone first truly emerges, largely becoming the musics foreground. The Narcissist II and his 2013 debut album, The Redeemer, offer dual perspectives on the same destructive relationship; one in the midst of the carnage (Narcissist) whilst the other delivers some form of reflection (Redeemer).
Both The Narcissist II and The Redeemer have been compared to a play or soap opera, with The Narcissist II being flat out cinematic – journo cliche, I know. It provides a voyeuristic scurrying through various dimly lit city flats, conjuring images of couples bellowing at each other, whilst lower floor neighbours screech in dismay at chaos unfolding above. The music of The Narcissist II is a sludging, beaten ‘n’ bruised R&B. A kind of knackered soul persists, the genre worn thin and drained of euphoria, a narcotic induced hysteria taking its place. Documenting the bitter demise of a relationship, The Narcissist II is relentlessly pessimistic. A dour, rain drenched account of modern romance, identifying the point at which extreme passion teeters over towards acts of jealous violence. Despite the turmoil and anguish seeping out of each faulty synth stab and shattered vocal, in the title track we find a song destined to achieve classic status. The devastating interplay between Copeland and Blunt; its melodicism submerged in an ocean of tape hiss; a symphony of sirens ebbing in and out of this deeply unflattering private affair.
The Redeemer may very way be Blunt’s greatest achievement to date – an album spoken of in hushed tones among certain circles. Throughout, Blunt deceptively adopts the role of dishevelled crooner. A semi-competent mimicry of the heartbroken troubadour, his voice overreaching and cracking at regular intervals, it being impossible to discern between yet another sly divergent tactic and feelings of genuine heartache. The Redeemer may toy with the confessional singer songwriter archetype, but its fragmented – wholly disjointed – narrative stubbornly evades any cliches associated with “the breakup album”, able to inject absurdist humour within deep spats of lethargic depression.
Despite The Redeemer’s title – obviously suggesting a shift in morals or desire for personal growth – surface level perception has never really been at the height of Dean’s goals. There are unavoidable questions that demand positing. Is this relationship genuine? If so, what about his account? Blunt is as much playing with the form (breakup/emotionally redemptive album) as he is attempting to find emotional catharsis through his art. The Redeemer – though equally open to melodrama – is a more solemn affair than The Narcissist II, the instrumentation stripped bare, Blunt’s voice withering to a hazy drool.
 
Sonically the instrumentation deceptively mimics the more confessional tone, with fake midi strings sitting across various samples, Joanna Robertson adding finger picked guitar work – all building up these seemingly more honest songwriting tropes. What is perhaps most endearing about the project is its scope and ambition relative to its actual technical ability and resources. The desire to say something grand or epic, despite not having the tools at hand – which an acclaimed/famous composer would have access to. This also comes across on the accompanying mixtape/album Stone Island, a release supposedly made entirely in a Russian hotel room. The most breathtaking example would be on track 6, which samples an iconic portion of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, adding almost absurd levels of drama to Blunt’s forlorn narrative.
Despite the acclaim Blunt had achieved by this point, he was dismayed to discover the reach of his art. “I made this stuff so black people would be impressed”, he confided to The Wire, “I didn’t know white people were gonna get in on it. But it’s mostly a bunch of sexless guys that buy my records.” The subject of race has always been a crucial aspect to Dean’s art, but on both 2014’s Black Metal and his work as Babyfather, it became its most prominent topic.
Black Metal was themed around the black appropriation of dead white tropes, with Blunt believing this to be a regressive act, as those who are truly radical should venture into something new and undefined. It may then seem odd to discover that the albums first half is comprised of nothing but white tropes – musically anyway. Chiming, sun-kissed indie; rustic folk explorations; Blunt continuing to develop the string laden balladeer persona; its only when we arrive at the mid section when we start to delve further into genres like dub or hip-hop – although even then they’re given titles like Punk or Country. In regards to his decision behind all this, well… as always with Dean, its difficult to decipher within interviews whether he’s providing helpful context or further blurring the picture. What the album does do is bring in to question a number of key issues young black artists face, issues to do with wider appropriation and pressures to assimilate rather than investigate your own culture. But unlike a thinkpiece or social realist art piece, the album isn’t simply providing a straightforward critique of real world issues, rather exploring these themes in an engulfing surreal environment.
The last two years have found Blunt drifting towards a far more overtly hip hop sound, coming into full fruition on 2016’s “BBF” Hosted By DJ Escrow. More pirate radio transmission than album; mixtape-like in it’s fluctuation in sound; grime beats sit side by side with brutalist noisescapes, whose layers of corrosive static leave a molten mess in their wake. The utterances of DJ Escrow give shards of narrative, a hopeful MC worn down the pressures of inner city life; meanwhile Blunt’s detached flow reveals a thinly veiled rage. The near instrumental Deep – with production aid from Arca – threatens an inevitable combustion; lysergic synths wail, replicating a woozy bent out of shape string section; an oppressive atmosphere, Escrow intersecting with desperate lines, doom laden utterances, a claustrophobic insistence that he’s “in too deep.” His most politically engaged, radical release, “BBF” was considered a novelty endeavour by some; understandable given his reputation as a prankster, but there’s a crucial lesson to be learnt with Blunt… he might sometimes be taking things seriously.
Words by Eden Tizard

[FEATURE] THE DANGERS OF BEING A CELEBRITY

Features

Everybody is a fan in some way. It doesn’t matter who the person is or what they do, we all have our preferred celebrities. But what happens when it inches over the line towards a dangerous obsession?

On the 25th of February, Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco had to move out of his house.

Any average fan of the American rock band knows that Urie loves that house – he’d previously built a home studio in his garage where the entirety of most recent album Death Of A Bachelor was written (and some of it was recorded there, too), and the cover of the album was shot on the roof of the house. It’s very much a large part of Urie’s inspiration, not to mention his image.

And shortly after he moved in, his address was widely circulated around the internet. A short Google search will bring you the information, and some fans have taken that as an invitation to camp outside the Urie house.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the frontman explained that while he appreciates receiving gifts and letters, visits from fans made him feel unsafe in his own home: “Everyone has a right to feel safe […] so I’m taking my family somewhere that might make that a possibility.”

Read the full statement below:

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Urie’s concerns are understandable. If you can’t be safe in your own home, when can you be? And it’s not his fault – unavoidably, one argument that has come to light is that it’s his own fault for being in a band. But what’s wrong with wanting to share your art? I’m not denying that music isn’t about the person behind it. Of course it is, when those people write the music and the lyrics from their experiences. But sometimes, appreciating a musician goes way too far and this is a prime example.

But sometimes, fans don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong. When, exactly, does a admiring a celebrity turn into something more sinister? It’s an idea that’s been tossed around for years, decades, since the very early days of Beatlemania.

Celebrity Worship Syndrome was first properly identified in 2003, with an accompanying scale to identify the severity of the issue:

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These are only the first twenty questions, but they’re pretty harmless. Most people have probably felt like this about a celebrity at some point in their lives, whether it is through admiration or adoration – it’s just that Celebrity Worship Syndrome explains that feeling to the extreme.

 

There are three individual dimensions of Celebrity Worship Syndrome:

 

  1. The entertainment-social dimension. This describes a person who is attracted to a celebrity on the factors of their perceived entertainment skills and to become a social topic among like-minded people.
  1. The intense-personal dimension. This describes a person who has intensive and compulsive feelings about a celebrity.
  1. The borderline-pathological dimension. This describes a person who displays uncontrollable feelings or fantasies about a celebrity.

It is believed that one in three Britons’ celebrity obsession amounts to Celebrity Worship Syndrome – with one in four’s obsession affecting their daily lives. And this figure has more than likely been on the rise. These figures were released fourteen years ago, and the invention of social media platforms has made it easier than ever to cyber stalk celebrities. The likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook has made your average musician’s thoughts accessible to everyone.

A 19-year-old has told the Sydney Morning Herald that it’s easy to find celebrities through their social media posts. “All you have to know is the celebrity and how they use their social media,” Karla Del Rosario said. “You can find hotels and such by looking at the details in the background.”

I, personally, would call this stalking. There is a difference between being a fan of a celebrity, keeping up to date with the latest gossip, going to see their shows, loving their art. There’s a difference between that and waiting for a celebrity at an airport or their home or their hotel.

But where do you draw the line? At what point does being interested in a musician or an actor turn into a mental illness? There’s another mental illness that covers these symptoms: erotomania. And both syndromes are almost constantly prevalent in cases of stalking, but what about the blurred lines? When does keeping up with celebrity news turn into obsessively following every minute of celebrity news?

It doesn’t seem there are any specific case studies on Celebrity Worship Syndrome, but maybe there should be. It’s claimed that there are links between the syndrome and poor mental health, as well as cosmetic surgery and compulsive spending. These all point towards the most common perpetrators being teenage girls – young and impressionable – and it would be, well, not great, but better if those worshipped were role models.

As it goes, the most noticeable and recent figure is Justin Bieber. He’s hardly someone to look up to, especially in the earlier years of his career. Anyone else remember him spitting on fans, pissing in buckets and crashing cars? Just because he made one good album doesn’t immediately erase everything he did. But it’s not just his actions – it’s the actions of his fans. There was a fan-made Twitter campaign: #cut4bieber. The whole trend was based around trying to stop the Canadian singer from doing drugs and was apparently started by well-known troll website 4Chan, but it’s inevitable that some young girls genuinely believed the hashtag and actually self-harmed.

How obsessed do you have to be to hurt yourself for the sake of a celebrity? That has to be beyond the boundaries of mental illness, surely. It’s not healthy – frankly, it’s a little terrifying, considering that these fans don’t even know the person they’re obsessed with. They could be anyone. Take Ian Watkins of Lostprophets, for example.

But can you help the sufferers of Celebrity Worship Syndrome? Is there any way to stop it? There must be a rational part of them that figures it’s not right, that celebrities are human too, that they need boundaries. Individuals like this need to be stopped because not only is it dangerous for the worshipped, it’s also dangerous for the individuals themselves.

The rise of technology and social media is only going to make it easier for people to get obsessed, so is there any ways of curbing it? Or will it just keep growing until it’s too late, until someone takes it too far?

Words by Lucy Wenham