We did the homework so you don’t have to. Check back each week for the scoop on bands you can’t miss at Pitchfork and Lollapalooza this year.
It’s amazing what kind of talent you can find just perusing the internet. We’ve all heard fairytales about how massive celebrities like Justin Bieber, Soulja Boy, Arctic Monkeys and others were discovered on Myspace or YouTube.While one of those sites is now basically defunct, and the other is filled with cooking vlogs, there still are many outlets for new artists to be heard, one of the most popular being Soundcloud.
Neo-soul singer Solana Rowe (SZA) is one of the new generation of internet pseudo-celebrities. Born in St. Louis and raised in Mapleton, New Jersey, SZA combines a number of styles in her unique and varied catalogue of music, much of which can be found online. Prior to being signed to Kendrick Lamar and Co.’s Top Dawg Entertainment label, she selfreleased two EPs on Soundcloud – “Just SZA” and “See.SZA.Run.” With a versatile voice that switches lanes between soulful crooning and laid-back trip-hop riffing, SZA appears poised for greater reknown in the coming months.
Working with a wide range of producers, SZA’s style runs the gamut from soul or R&B slow jams, to what blogging types might classify as “chillwave,” witch house” or any other number of invented subgenres. She takes musical influence from Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, but says she was never inspired to become a musician from other musicians. In interviews, SZA has stated that she sees herself as more of an artist in general, taking cues from filmmakers (Spike Lee, Wes Anderson), and even “gymnasts, ice skaters, saxophonists,” and anyone who makes art. SZA is a unique talent, and if you can will yourself out of bed for her early set, you’ll be glad you did.
Also known by his legal name DevontÃ© “Dev” Hynes, Blood Orange is a New Yorkbased producer of trippy, strung-out synth jams that harken back to the days of Studio 54 or the effervescent Chicago house scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Hynes is a big fan of the two-step pulse, which will keep you grooving and getting down in Grant Park whether you like it or not.
As a musician, Hynes has popped up all over the place since 2007, when he released his debut “Falling Off the Lavender Bridge,” produced by Bright Eyes collaborator Mike Mogis. Another prolific online musician, he has a wealth of EPs and unofficial releases, including an entire album of Green Day covers for some reason. He has worked on the Saturday Night Live film “MacGruber,” and also co-written or produced for Brittany Spears and up-andcomer Sky Ferreira. Perhaps his biggest break came from opening for Florence and the Machine.
Blood Orange is one of many bands at Lolla this year that seem to have made the jump from playing Ptichfork last year. It’s been a crazy year for Hynes since his performance at Pitchfork, one that has brought on a fair share of both triumph and tragedy. In November of 2013, he appeared on the cover of The Fader magazine, and was tapped to score James Franco’s teenage f***-up film “Palo Alto.” An otherwise stellar year for Hynes was marred in December, when he announced that his NYC apartment had caught fire and destroyed much of his equipment and records, and even took the life of his dog.
Taking it in stride, Blood Orange has been making a name for themselves on the festival circuit, having already played Coachella earlier this year. Hynes’ dashing brand of groovy electronica is sure to be a hit under the Lolla sun as well. Be on the lookout for Hynes on more soundtracks and radio playlists for a long time to come.
Run the Jewels
Another addition to the list of acts that made enough noise at Pitchfork last year to be bumped up to the big leagues this year, Run the Jewels is a relatively new collaboration featuring undergroundturned- somewhat-famous rappers Killer Mike and El-P.
Both have their own extensive histories and unique sounds, but their relationship began in earnest when El-P produced Killer Mike’s acclaimed album “R.A.P. Music” in 2012. The two artists cultivated what seemed to be a very productive friendship, and in the next year began recording the project that now is getting undivided attention. Their self-titled debut was released almost out of nowhere last spring, available as a free digital download. The album’s style is seemingly a bit of clever backlash at the kind of self-congratulating, designer-brand-flaunting rap that has flooded the airwaves in recent years. The duo rhyme over hard-hitting trap beats with inventive, fast-paced flows and a sharktooth-sharp wit. The conspicuous consumption and ironic braggidocio of the rap artists of today.
El-P and Killer Mike talk a big game, but they are both very self-aware and conscientious, and it shows in their music as well as their performances. Last year at Pitchfork, Killer Mike broke into tears between songs, describing his time growing up impoverished in Atlanta, pleading with the crowd to respect everyone, and “talk to your neighbors,” in an effort to stem the tide against gang violence. In a city as crime-ridden as Chicago, his words certainly did not fall on deaf ears, and despite their joking demeanor on album, Run the Jewels is about more than that.
El-P has plenty of backstory of his own, starting out as a producer for some of the most revered underground hip-hop acts of the early-2000s renaissance in New York City. While you may not have heard of Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock or Company Flow, if you consider yourself a true hiphop head, you should study up on these groups.