Photo: Gary Miller/FilmMagic
Jay Z Takes On A World Tour At Austin City Limits 2017
Dropping hit tracks from a career stretching all that way back to 1996, the legendary lyricist reminded a packed Austin, Texas, crowd why he is one of the most honored rappers in GRAMMY history
For Jay Z, timing is everything. Throughout his two-decade-long career, his affinity for punctuality has trickled down to his fans, largely due to the extensive timepiece collection he often references, and the titling of his latest album.
Privy to this detail, festivalgoers at Austin City Limits 2017 sprinted across Zilker Park to ensure they did not miss the opening notes of his set, scheduled for 8:15 p.m. But as the official call time passed, it was apparent that for Jay Z fans, patience is a virtue.
At 8:27, the black veil covering the American Express stage dropped, revealing an oversized black balloon animal, shaped like a dog, sculpted by artist Jeff Koons. Shoulders swaying, Jay Z leisurely strolled to center stage, clad in a white T-shirt, black jeans, high-top Nikes, and his signature Roc Nation hat. As he scanned the crowd, a faint smirk appeared.
As the quacking claps of his GRAMMY-winning song "Run This Town" underscored the deafening praise from the crowd, an unspoken pact was made: For the next hour and a half, Shawn "Jay Z" Carter called the shots.
While Shawn Carter may be a man of punctuality, Jay Z lives by his own rules. The two personas battle one another in an internal paradox that plays itself out in the rapper’s latest effort, 4:44, and oozed into his ACL performance.
The Brooklyn, N.Y., native used his set list to take Austinites on a round-trip flight across the world, beginning by lyrically listing his illicit activities in Marcy Projects to boasting about his aristocratic experiences in Paris. Songs of remorse and vulnerability were sprinkled in between his most popular cuts, including the GRAMMY-winning collaboration with Alicia Keys, "Empire State Of Mind."
At Jay’s behest, attendees across the park raised their arms and put their index fingers and thumbs together to form the immortal Roc-A-Fella diamond. Though the dynasty he built with former business partner Dame Dash is no more, Jay Z’s effortless mix of music and business permeated across cultures and prompted fans, some half his age, to commit his lyrics to memory.
"His music grows with him," 21 Savage told GRAMMY.com of Jay Z's ability to stay relevant. "He ain't just rapping about the same thing he was rapping about when he first came out, so that’s what keeps it interesting, because as he grows as a man and does more stuff business-wise, he applies that to the music, so that's why I think he’s been able to grow like that and stay around."
"I told you [in] ‘96 that I came to take this s*, and I did!” Jay emphatically declared during his live rendition of "Heart Of The City."
At the time he originally recorded the track in 2001, the statement might not have been more than bravado. Now, his 21-year-long résumé confirms his spot atop hip-hop's throne. Since the release of his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, in 1996, Jay has garnered 21 GRAMMY wins alongside fourteen No. 1 albums, selling more than 36 million units worldwide. Just days before his highly anticipated album 4:44 was due, he received the title as the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
"I remember when rap was said to be a fad," he wrote on Twitter. "We are now alongside some of the greatest writers in history."
Jay Z's point of view often came from that of a have-not, "from the school of the hard knocks." However, his rock-influenced production of “99 Problems” and emotional tribute to friend and collaborator Chester Bennington proved that his vast catalog resonates with people from all walks of life.
As hundreds of thousands of fans piled out of Zilker Park, phrases of awe pervaded conversations. In years to come, many will study the Jay Z blueprint in the hopes to replicate his savvy and success, while pondering what the key ingredient has been to his 20-plus-year career in the music business.
As he once told Forbes, "The genius thing that we did was we didn't give up."
Universal language: Why humans need music
Learn why music is truly a common language that is key to human development and evolution
There's no doubt music finds a way into nearly every moment of our daily lives, whether it's marking milestones such as a first dance at a wedding, the soundtrack to our favorite movie or singing in the shower for fun. In fact, it's hard to imagine times when we are more than an ear-length away from hearing another song.
But why does music mean so much to us? A powerful form of communication that transcends all barriers — music is our common language, but why?
A composer and educator with a lifelong fascination for music, Adam Ockelford has traced our connection with music back to infants and caregivers. Infants are unable to follow words, but they are developmentally primed to trace patterns in sound, such as through the songs a caretaker sings to them. Therefore, understanding music is intuitive for humans, even at a very young age, and it encourages healthy development.
In addition, there may be another evolutionary purpose for music. Music provides a sense of sameness between humans — if you can copy the sounds someone else makes, you must be an ally. This synergy plays a role in human survival because it evokes empathy and understanding, a lesson we still learn from music in today's culture.
"Music is central to the notion of what it is to be human, and spans cultures, continents and centuries," writes Ockelford. "My music, your music, our music can bind us together as families, as tribes and as societies in a way that nothing else can."
Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images
Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show
Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion
There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.
The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.
This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.
"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."
Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.
Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes
GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program
On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.
Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.
"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."
The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.
"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."
Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images
Mixcloud Signs Warner Music For Subscriptions Remix
There is more to the Mixcloud difference than just electronic dance music, and now the listening service has signed its first major label deal
Among the 1 million curators who have helped build British-based listening service Mixcloud into a destination visited by 17 million listeners each month are GRAMMY winners Erykah Badu, David Byrne, and Tiësto. Limited to streaming-only since its founding in 2008, Mixcloud announced a direct licensing agreement with Warner Music Group this morning, opening the door to offering downloads and new kinds of subscriptions.
Perhaps the standout statistic that describes the Mixcloud difference is that the average length of its user-uploaded programs is 45 minutes. Within the service's general emphasis on DJing, EDM and remix culture, the tendency to drill down and explore narrower listening topics in depth distinguishes the service from competitors such as Spotify or SoundCloud.
Warner Music Group Executive VP for Business Development & Chief Digital Officer Ole Obermann said, "Mixcloud's success is driven by the curiosity and passion of its community, as they engage with new music and rediscover timeless older songs."
Being able to listen to downloads offline seems a natural follow-up to direct licensing deals, but the service hints there's more in store. Mixcloud still hopes to sign indies and the other majors, as its fans have speculated. And with its own proprietary Content ID in place and established relationships with royalty collecting societies, the company has the tech infrastructure to explore new monetization strategies, paying artists and curators in new ways. Launching a new business model for its upcoming approach to paid content and subscriptions is a remix many are anticipating. Not knowing what to expect is part of the excitement.