Album Review: Noir by Smino

by dj saratonin

It is almost impossible to not distinguish rapper and singer Smino’s voice in a sea of mixed harmonies and sounds. Following his debut album blkswn, Smino collaborated with various other artists, one of which included Noname. What led me to discovering his music was his track Ace on Noname’s album Room 25. What initially drew me into listening to the rapper was the uniqueness his voice held throughout the track. Through his ability to rhyme almost anything and falsetto-like singing voice layered with various harmonies, Smino creates cleverly mixed tracks with influences from reggae, soul, and funk.

That’s why I was very excited to find out that his second studio album Noir had just released two weeks ago. The first song on the album I listened to was Fenty Sex. Admittedly, the title drew me in and surely enough I was listening to Smino singing about his fruits of labor and the captivating girl that assisted him. He continues to ode to this girl with the seamless transition to the next song on the album BAM 2x. I was surprised to look at my phone and see that the song had changed, however Smino never fails to entice you with his beats going hard alongside his synchronized harmonies and reggae-inspired instrumentals.

When I glanced at the tracklist I was also very excited to listen to his track MF Groove, where singer Ravyn Lenae accompanies Smino in his telling of personal confliction. We’ve seen Smino and Ravyn Lenae collaborate before as they are part of the same music collective Zero Fatigue along with various other artists. This song and its slow, dreamy layering of Ravyn and Smino’s vocals assures us that they are an incredible duo capable of taking you to another realm. Ravyn’s angelic voice compliments Smino’s falsetto-like voice amazingly without overwhelming you with high-tones and pitches. They are definitely a pair that I hope to see more of in the future.

Noir is an album that you can enjoy in a room full of people or when you feel like taking moments to really appreciate different aspects of music production. The combination of Smino’s vocals and production is one that can put you in a trance. He holds this ability to rhyme anything, making him this fun artist that you can put on anywhere. You have the opportunity to listen to each individual sound but also appreciate it as a whole, as each sound uniquely contributes to what makes Smino respectively one of the most stylized and unique new artists you can listen to today.  

On Assignment: Illenium at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

by Nicholas Yung

With the ever growing popularity of electronic dance music around the world, Illenium has left a lasting mark on this enormous community. Since 2008, Nicholas Miller has worked tirelessly on perfecting his sound and craft, releasing two studio albums and a plethora of other smaller projects. Performing as a headliner at large festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival and Coachella, his work has not gone unnoticed by the mainstream media. Along with appearing on festivals, he also announces a solo tour after every release of a large project. While his last official album Awake released in 2017, this hasn’t stopped him from visiting the city he grew up in, San Francisco.

The first two openers he chose for Saturday at Bill Graham were Fairlane and William Black. They fit the euphoric and light theme of the night quite nicely and it was surprising to see how well they managed to keep the crowd engaged. While both are solid producers in the future bass genre, they were clearly outshined by the performance of Said the Sky B2B Dabin. Both Said the Sky and Dabin produce music that incorporates future bass and melodic dubstep, so their set acted almost as a preview of what to expect from Illenium. They played their popular songs such as Run Away and Rush Over Me while also throwing in a surprising heavy drop out of nowhere. Overall, it was a very cohesive set that was clearly thought out and relatively diverse.

Like all electronic concerts, the production and sound progressively got better throughout the night. Flames, sparks, streamers, and lasers were all present by the time Illenium came on, making for a wild and powerful experience.

It was an extremely packed room by the time he came on, with hundreds of people even on the balcony area. There is a reason Illenium is one of the top producers right now, and it was all very apparent once he touched the deck. He had the most diverse set of the night playing genres from house all the way to glitch with smart and interesting transitions to accompany them. The most interesting part of his performance was Said the Sky on piano and two other people were on percussion, making for a more expressive set than just the typical mixing. One minor gripe that some may find is that his set was almost the same as his set at Electric Daisy Carnival. With that being said, if you have not seen him before, it really is something special and unique.

On Assignment: The Case for Bhad Bhabie

by Alden Tackett, edited by dj saratonin

 There was a small crowd of people avoiding the rain beneath small overhangs at The Catalyst on November 28th. Bhad Bhabie, also known as Danielle Bregoli was getting ready to perform that night solo after the cancellation of the other headlining act, rapper Lil Yachty who collaborated on her song “Gucci Flip Flops.” As I waited for the doors to open, I caught snippets of the conversations around me. There were murmurs of disbelief and excitement. To some, the concert seemed like a novelty – the ability to see a social media star in person. Bhad Bhabie achieved stardom before she made her first song. Her appearance on the Dr. Phil show is what initially launched her into the limelight. However, as she explains on the song Bhad Bhabie Story (Outro) from her debut mixtape “15”, her goal was never to become famous. In fact, her overnight rise to stardom happened while she was on a rehabilitory ranch, completely disconnected from the Internet. Only after she returned did she see the meteoric rise in her social media numbers. Her rebellious, uncaring attitude sparked something important in the Generation Z kids who spread the TV clips like wildfire.

In the venue, there was no shortage of hype for the main act. Her appearance was teased for a good two hours after the doors opened, and the crowd erupted in cheers every time the DJ asked “Who’s ready to see Bhad Bhabie tonight?”As the clock hit 10 pm, Danielle’s personal DJ Asia Shabazz took the stage playing three songs as a solo set before determining that the crowd was hyphy enough for Bhad Bhabie to come out. The crowd erupted in excitement at the sight of the star as the chorus of the song Juice (feat. YG) boomed through the speakers. She continued the concert with other hits from her mixtape, including Yung and Bhad (feat. City Girls)Geek’d (feat. Lil Baby), as well as her debut single These Heaux. About halfway through the show she paid a tribute expressing her sorrow over the death of controversial rapper XXXTentacion, covering his songs SAD! and Look at Me. 

She then continued the show with other hits from her tape, including Count It (feat. $hirak), in which she tossed counterfeit USD with her face on it into the crowd. The crowd’s hype culminated as she played Gucci Flip Flops (feat. Lil Yachty), pausing to take a selfie video from a fan’s phone and interact with a few other people on the barricade. She brought the crowd back down from a roar, and I was honored to be one of the people picked out from the crowd that she said “hi bich” to before erupting into the eponymous single “Hi Bich”, a timeless classic as well as a personal favorite. Her posse left the stage, in which they soon returned with a reprise of “Gucci Flip Flops” before exiting the stage for the last time.

This is where I want to begin my case for Bhad Bhabie. During the weeks leading up to concert, I told several people about my plans to attend. There was a mixed reaction, to say the least. A few shared envy at the opportunity, but most laughed in disbelief. I found that most people still think of her as Danielle Bregoli, the rebellious young girl who made a spectacle of herself on television. However, I can say that after listening to her mixtape and seeing her in concert, I see a tremendous amount of growth from the Bhad Bhabie who achieved viral stardom over two years ago.

Danielle Bregoli was not born with a silver spoon by any means. On her mixtape, she explains the absence of her father and how he tried to create problems for her after she got popular, about how she struggled to make money and provide for her family, and how she even witnessed a murder at the solitary rehabilitation camp she went to. These references all appear in the song Bhad Bhabie Story (Outro), in which she tells the story of her rise to stardom and ending with her recording “Hi Bich”, moving to Los Angeles, and getting a record deal. The other songs on her mixtape feature wildly different themes. Many are filled with proclamations of wealth, confidence, apathy towards her haters, as well as her readiness to fight anyone threatening her and her career. Bhad Bhabie was able to cultivate a large fanbase which supports her to this day, and it’s easy to see why. She’s confident, charismatic, funny, and unapologetic. She’s also extremely talented. Partway through her set at the Catalyst, she had her DJ cut the backing track, and started rapping a monologue very quickly. It’s hard for me to say if this was freestyled or pre-prepared, but it was nevertheless impressive.

On the outro to her 15 mixtape, Bhad Bhabie says that she had 500,000 followers when she first logged into instagram after her initial rise to stardom. Now she’s sitting pretty at over 15.7 million. There’s no doubt in my mind that this continual rise in popularity is due to her relentless attitude and total apathy towards other people’s ideas of her. She refused to let others’ negative opinions get in the way of her career, and I’m sure she will continue to do so. She has yet to tease another mixtape or hint at a debut album, but she recently did a feature with fellow popstar Charli XCX, so I’m sure there’s more to come. I had a great time at the concert and I’m extremely excited to see what’s next for Bhad Bhabie.


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A Brief Introduction to Jazz Funk

by Max Green

Historically listeners would have to pick up a good old record, or even a concert ticket to listen to the absolutely groovy sounds of artists like Art Blakey or Herbie Hancock. But in today’s age all you have to do is click on a video that looks mildly interesting and you can be taken down a surreal lane of discovering a new band or genre. There are obviously many pro’s and con’s for each of these approaches to discovering music, however one thing is for certain: Jazz and Funk transcend generations and any form of discovering the genre. 

I compiled a playlist of songs on Youtube, for two reasons. First off, Ryo Fukui is nowhere to be found on Spotify. Secondly, all but one of these absolute bangers was brought to me by our lord and savior Youtube Autoplay. Ironically, almost any aging jazzhead would scoff at this generations digital consumption of sounds.

This is a chronological playlist of Jazz and Funk from the late 50’s to the present is intended to introduce y’all to some Jazz/Funk.

Through the years these Funky juxtapositions of chord progressions and solo’s have stuck to our culture. In fact, many of these beats inform, or are downright recycled in some of the Hip Hop we all know and -hopefully- love. So, I implore you to dawn your preferred brand of headphones and dig your teeth into a rough sixty minutes of smooth and ever engaging Jazz and Funk.