Hiphoptronica

Hip hop and electro are, technically speaking, two different genres of music. But every year (hell, every day) they get a little bit closer together. Maybe it’s too early to apply a name to the synthesis of these two styles (and, please god, I hope somebody invents a better name for it than the intentionally tacky title of this blog post.) But there’s no denying that they’re starting to overlap. I know this isn’t exactly a new idea. Genres always overlap, and defining a genre is always tricky. Still, the distinction between hip hop and electro is growing increasingly blurred.

Neon Turntables

It’s easy to see why the two styles go hand-in-hand. DJs need vocals, and lifting the vocal track off a well-known rap song is both a) easier than recording good-quality vocals and b) a surefire way to get the dancefloor excited by playing something people recognize (assuming they like the original song.) Seriously, how many times have we heard Rick Ross’s “everday I’m hustlin'” sampled in an electronic song? It’s often easier to build off the popularity of another track. The production of hip hop has become more elecctronic, too. Making a rap beat involves the same software as making an electronic song. And both styles often use the typical “two turntables and a microphone (and a laptop)” for performance.

Hip Hop Production Electronic Equipment

But is hip hop is becoming more electronic, or is electronic music becoming more, ahem, “hip hoppy?” Niether. Both genres are becoming more like the other. That’s what makes it so interesting. Two different styles are both moving toward the same sound. A popular electro song can become a rap beat, like in the case of Kanye West’s “Stronger”. Or a rap song can be sampled and turned into something more danceable, like the MSTRKRFT remix we just posted about.

Listen to the Wiz Khalifa track below. It uses that old Alice DeeJay song “Better Off Alone” as the basis for a rap beat. Then listen to an old Bloody Beetroots song that uses Public Enemy vocals. The rap-electro synthesis can happen both ways. As always, leave any thoughts or comments you have.

 

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Wiz Khalifa – Say Yeah


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Bloody Beetroots – Public Enemy


The Proxy and Beetroots Wreck The Reality of Music

There is a range of musical taste in which things tend to stay within the reaches of what we tend to consider “normal.” This range typically spans a great deal of territory, beginning on the leftmost side at “soft” and “gentle”– an ambiance typified by artists like Sigur Ros and The Album Leaf–and progresses to the right, all the while becoming louder and heavier, until it culminates at a point where many people (generally those above a certain cutoff age) see fit to classify it simply as “noise.”

Now this scale is one that composers and producers try with all their might to fit in to, largely due to the fact that each point on the scale has its own respective crowd (or if you will, “scene”) which it corresponds to, and that making music to please a certain “scene” is a surefire way to pull a hit out of the hat. As such, this electronic world with which we associate ourselves is full of remixes and collaborations who’s authors’ styles balance each other nicely, and cause the final result to rest neatly within the scale of acceptance.

The Bloody Beetroots

Let’s say the scale is a pretty boring one, and goes from 1 to 10. That puts a few of the most eminent acts at the moment (to name a very small number of them) at:

  • Kid Sister: 5
  • Rusko: 8
  • Dj Mehdi: 5
  • Boys Noize: 9
  • Miike Snow: 3
  • Royksopp: 4
  • MSTRKRFT: 8
  • Soulwax: 7
  • Simian Mobile Disco: 7
  • The Bloody Beetroots: 9
  • Tiga: 6

Now, when these guys decide to remix each other or work together, they usually tend to be pretty complimentary styles. Let’s take a look:

Simian Mobile Disco & Kid Sister – Pro Nails
Heavier electronic combined with milder, peppier hip hop
Result: 6

Boys Noize and Tiga – Move My Body
Tiga track with a solid beat, given the Boys Noize treating yields a pretty heavy mix.
Result: 9

Rusko & Kid Sister – Pro Nails
Kid Sister earns some wild dubstep bass.
Result: A grimy 7

Miike Snow & DJ Mehdi – Burial
Mehdi’s househop links up with a mellow pop tune.
Result:4

I suppose you probably get the idea by now. The results are usually within reason; That is, two differing styles and melded together to yield a new tune that falls somewhere else within reason on the scale. I must however, encourage a large amount of weight to be placed on the word “usually”, for due to an event not dissimilar to what I expect the apocalypse to feel like, the laws of reason and logic by which I had previously lived my life were beaten (and in particular, kicked) into nonexistence.

the proxy

What happened you ask? I suppose you could say curiosity got the best of the cat; That is, the disco world finally grew tired of the predictable results of combining two different points on the scale, and decided to see what would happen not only when two very similar parts were combined, but pushing insanity even further, to see what would happen when two artists, both of whom are nearly bursting off the top end of the scale already, combine their power. The result:

The Proxy (nearly a perfect ten himself) & The Bloody Beetroots

The Proxy & The Bloody Beetroots

Never before in my life have I encountered the kind of anger and abrasive noise. Naturally, the track entitled “Who Are You” (though I would have deemed it more appropriate to call it “What Are You”) cannot be contained within the boundaries of our precious scale, but seeing as the track is so deafening so as to pose the potential risk of opening a rift in the space time continuum, to analyze just how far off the end it travels would be reckless foolishness.

Get your ear plugs ready.

Proxy – Who are You (The Bloody Beetroots Remix)

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SMASH YOUR STEREO | Who Are You (The Bloody Beetroots Remix) – Proxy from WeHeartHouse on Vimeo.

Learning to Share

I was always told that peer-to-peer filesharing was going to kill the music industry. How could a band make music for a living if their songs would be swapped for free around college dorm rooms? They wouldn’t, or so the thinking went. The business model of music couldn’t handle filesharing. Peer-to-peer trading of music was unsustainable. Metallica and Dr. Dre even sued Napster over some leaked MP3s. That lawsuit was almost ten years ago. And look what’s happened since then: more people are sharing more music in more parts of the world. Internet connections have gotten faster, too, which means higher quality music and quicker downloads. First generation iPods held 5GB of music. Now iPods come with 160GB of storage (or, if you prefer, 32GB and the ability to make phone calls.) Hardly seems like the end of music some predicted.

 

Napster

So we were wrong (or Metallica, Dr. Dre and music company executives were wrong.) People haven’t stopped filesharing. And while a few unlucky ones have been prosecuted for copyright violation, most downloaders have no complications finding music on the Internet. The problem with those predictions from ten years ago is that the “music industry” is very different from the “music album industry.” The first term is often used incorrectly to refer to the second. The “music album industry” is essentially album sales. And it’s true that fewer people buy CDs today than they used to (and probably rip those CDs onto their computers anyway.) But the music industry is a lot more layered and expansive that just albums. It includes album sales, but it also includes things like t-shirts, concerts, licensing for movies, journalism, even ringtones. People spend less money on albums than they used to. But do they spend less money on music?

I can’t find any conclusive or reliable data, but it seems highly unlikely. Music lovers still go to concerts. They still wear their favorite band’s t-shirts. Simply put, they still listen to music, even if they aren’t buying albums. P2P may be killing off the music album industry, but the music industry is thriving. I’d actually argue that the music industry is thriving because of filesharing. It’s especially true in the electronic music world. Filesharing fuels creation and performance. I love the fact that my favorite DJ spins songs from his favorite DJ. I hear new music that I otherwise might have missed, he gets another potential fan. The nature of creation is collaborative. Art inspires art. Sharing music makes us both better off.

sharing (1)

I can already sense a few readers squirming in their chairs, eager to take a different stance: if an artist stops making money, he or she will stop making music. Those readers are right to a degree: you can’t eat a great remix. Money counts for something. There’s obviously some baseline level of income a musician needs to survive. But I’d like to make two observations. First, it’s not necessarily true that today’s musicians make any less money than those of ten years ago. They might make less money from album sales, but musicians have income coming in from all over– merchandising, licensing, concert ticket sales. The overall effect is ambiguous. If an illegal download leads to one less album sold, but one more concert ticket purchased, who wins? It’s hard to make a concrete statement about income. Second, artists don’t become artists to make a lot of money. I know that’s more of an existential argument (and something I might examine more closely in another post), but it’s an important point. Even if modern musicians make less money, they don’t seem to be making any less music. It’s always tricky when art intersects with commerce. But surely everyone agrees that new music is being created today in spite of (or maybe because of) the ability to download music for free. The music industry is changing, but it isn’t dying.

Station X

Here’s a perfect example of someone who benefits from filesharing. Ten years ago, his music probably never would have made it to my ears. I first heard about Station X through his killer Does it Offend You, Yeah? remix (see below.) From what I can gather, he’s a producer from the UK with  an affection for dressing up like a cardboard robot. His songs have a nice mix of synthesized trance crescendos that rise and fall before the chorus. But he uses those sounds in a way that doesn’t scream overplayed 1994 techno. Simply put, his songs sound “epic.” Give them a listen below and, as usual, let us know what you think in the replies.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Dawn of the Dead (Station X Mix)

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Black Bikini Alpha – Nightmare (Station X Mix)

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The Snowy World of Miike Snow

Little did you know, Miike Snow is not, in fact, the name of an individual, and though they do, in fact, meet the criteria that most would find suitable to deem them a “band,” I feel that labeling them as such would only serve to strip them of the audible colors that truly define them. See, the double ‘i’ says it all (and for those of you who are new to the name, go ahead, recheck it for the repeated letter you missed last time); Rather than existing as the result of a sticky keyboard (as was the case in The Faint‘s “Fasciinatiion,” for example), I feel that this particular repeated character could only have been added in an attempt to exemplify the beautifully unique, yet masterfully disguised subtleties that let this Norwegian collective stand apart from the rest of the world. And yes, I am aware of how needlessly confusing my language is, but before you give up on me, (as it would be among the truest of shames to let the tunes below go unheard) let me explain.

Miike Snow

I think it’s fair to say that the blogosphere thrives on what we like to call electronic music. The mere fact that you’re reading this text surely attests to that. However, what isn’t fair is that because of the relentless use of the word “dance” as a synonym for “electronic” we’ve all but closed our minds to the notion that electronic music might otherwise be home to an entire world of sub genre’s, many of which do not impose the “all songs must start with a minimum eight bars of empty drums to allow for conduciveness to dj’ing” rule. In such a scene, it’s often quite easy to forget that everything from Beck, to RJD2, to Justin Timberlake could be considered electronic by the truest definition of the word, and while I do agree that such artists would, in most cases, struggle to fit in among the eighties revival hipsters of our time, closing our minds to everything lacking a four on the floor beet is an undeniable mistake, and it is this mistake that Miike Snow succeeds in bringing to the attention our surprisingly stubborn scene. Where the flow chart documenting the mentality of all too many modern electronic artist starts at “make music,” and proceeds onward to, “make edited dj version of that music” –> “spin this version at gig” –> “chicks like me,” Miike Snow‘s version both starts and stops at “make music,” a philosophy which is embodied by a peculiar reluctance to tour, or even show their faces.

Like I said, they threw in the extra “i” on purpose; That is, much in the way that the name has a subtle, but noticeable difference to it, the music they put forth has a certain meaning and beauty to it that often requires more than a quick listen to fully grasp. However, once one knows it’s there, its impossible to forget.

Miike Snow – Animal

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Miike Snow – A Horse Is Not a Home

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Miike Snow – In Search Of

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For Those Insatiable Appetites

Despite what it would seem, I do realize there are indeed times that seem to scream for the energy of a packed dance floor, and I suppose it would be rather cruel to leave the winged creatures of the night with nowhere to fly, so rather then leave you to hit your head on the ceiling, I figure I should probably include a couple of the more energy draining heavy hitters as of late. I should advise you to be careful, however: with the wondrously attractive melodies of Miike Snow, as well as the power consuming tunes to follow at your disposal, there’s a good chance you might forget that food is also a necessity for life. It’d be a shame to end up like that World of Warcraft kid now…

Simian Mobile Disco – Audacity of Huge

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George Lenton – Cold Rocker

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