mensah demary’s previous Liner Notes columns for The Butter can be found here.
This past week, I started a new job. And with new jobs come new responsibilities, new people to meet, new expectations, new office politics. Combined, a culture shock occurs, so perhaps I’m reeling from the novelty of my new employment, the drastic, yet thankful (oh so thankful) changes that have come my way. This, I assume, is an explanation for what you’re about to read, assuming you’ll read it all the way through — I’ve learned a lot about reading habits and the Internet.
The biggest news in music, according to me, is the return of Dr. Dre, and whatever this is I’m writing — and you’re reading — must begin here. Dr. Dre has used the release of the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton to finally release his first album in sixteen years, the aptly named Compton.
The album has been positioned as one inspired by the movie, rather than an actual Straight Outta Compton soundtrack. It doesn’t matter—fans who’ve waited over a decade for the fabled Detox album now have the next best thing, assuming they don’t believe Compton is simply Detox re-branded.
I’ve listened to the album a handful of times so far. Dr. Dre quickly reminded me—all of us, maybe—of his beat-making and production skills. I can’t remember the last album I’ve heard that simply sounded this good. The beats are layered and crisp; the drums and bass bang without drowning the melody.
There’s a clarity, a fidelity, to the sixteen tracks on Compton that should force any producer of any skill level to reevaluate the importance of mixing an album. Part swan song (the album is expected to be Dre’s finale) and part love song to the album’s namesake, Compton ensures that 2015 will go down as one of the more memorable years for black music.
Meanwhile, as Dre cements his musical legacy, Meek Mill appears unable to compose a fire tweet, to say nothing of a respectable response to the bludgeoning he received from Drake as the Toronto-based superstar closed out his label’s sixth annual OVO Fest.
There’s little else to say about this rap beef, assuming you know the facts, or at least have a general understanding by now. Drake, newly bearded and swoll, seemed committed to ending Meek Mill’s career with two diss tracks and a PowerPoint presentation featuring memes from the Internet, skewering Meek and rendering him the ass of pop culture’s jokes.
Time will tell if Meek’s career is over — while we wait, we can mourn (or celebrate) the end of EDM. According to Britt Julious in this week’s Chicago (full disclosure: Britt is a favorite music writer of mine), EDM’s absence from this year’s Lollapalooza is, perhaps, a bellwether signaling the decline in popularity for the genre that gave the world Skrillex — a gift no one requested, and one we’re a bit thrilled to return.
I consider myself a nascent fan of electronica, and I’ve come to appreciate its infusion into other sounds — the music of groups like J*DaVeY and Hiatus Kaiyote, for example. That said, I’ve never gotten into EDM. It always seemed like a fad, much like people’s temporary fascination with Big Band and Swing back in 1999-2000.
And if anyone can be accused of temporary fascinations, it’s me and my obsessive nature. When new music comes along, and I like it on any level, the music becomes my “sound” for a length of time—whether a few days or, in the case of Donuts by J Dilla, a few years. Which brings me back to that new job I mentioned in the beginning.
The other day, I read a short story submission under consideration for publication. In it, the writer mentions a French group called La Femme. His description of the band’s stage presence, and their music, intrigued me. I picked up my phone and searched for La Femme on Apple Music. I found their album Psycho Tropical Berlin, the same album mentioned in the story.
I couldn’t resist the title, the album art, or the band describing themselves on their Facebook page as “strange wave, new motown, rock electro bizarre, global groove, witch wave, débile mentale wave.” I don’t know what half of those genres are, but they’re precise descriptions of a style that sounds like surf rock on acid.
Admittedly, their music, with lyrics in French, will make you feel smart for listening, much like Radiohead’s post-Kid A discography. La Femme is my new fascination, and here I will remain until the next attractive sound comes my way. Or until Frank Ocean drops…finally.
mensah demary is editor in chief of Specter Magazine and a columnist for Fourculture Magazine. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Metazen, Little Fiction, PANK, Thought Catalog, and elsewhere. Originally from New Jersey, he currently lives and writes in Brooklyn. Find him on Twitter @mensah4000.