Started From the Waldorf School: The Teenage Performances of 8 Superstar Rappers

Last week, a video of a teenage Kanye West performing at New York City’s Fat Beats record store hit the Internet, an unlikely gem the store’s former manager found while converting old Hi8 videotapes to DVD. And now, a beautifully titled song by a 16-year-old Eminem — “Pooh Butt Day” — has also emerged from the Internet’s depths, a surprisingly upbeat foot-tapper from an artist known for anger and darkness. … Read More

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The 25 Best Rock Movies Ever Made

Next Tuesday, the Criterion Collection will release an all-new, stunningly restored, and just plain wonderful Blu-ray version of A Hard Day’s Night, the classic Beatles musical comedy that, wouldn’t you know it, also turns 50 years old this summer. To mark the release of that acclaimed rocker (and the theatrical unveiling of the thus-far less-acclaimed Four Seasons biopic Jersey Boys), we decided to round up the best rock movies of all time — no concert films and no documentaries, but narrative films where popular music plays a vital… Read More

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The Evolution of the Mental Hospital in Music Videos, From Björk and ‘N Sync to JJ

Swedish pop duo JJ recently released the video for their single “All White Everything.” The film is set in a mental institution, and director Olivia Kastebring imagines lead singer Elin Kastlander as a patient in a fittingly all-white environment, the footage intercut with a white-sequined contortionist who looks like the ghost of Pickle Surprise. From the powder on the floor to the patients’ white eyeliner to the contortionist’s costume, all surfaces in the video evoke the texture, colorlessness, and the emotional erasure of Xanax. The video wavers, from shot to shot, between being beautiful, unintentionally silly, and utterly disturbing in its aestheticization of the mental hospital setting. But it certainly isn’t the first music video to do so. Much like da club, da mental hospital has pervaded music videos for decades, most notably in the 1990s. … Read More

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The Eminem Show: Music’s Greatest Ongoing Reality Saga

There was a moment in the early 2000s when the release of a new Eminem single felt like a bona fide cultural event. Everyone would know the words to tracks like “My Name Is” or “The Real Slim Shady,” but that moment has passed. Sure, there’s a decent number of people who still wait on every new release, a core of diehard fans who’ll invade your comment section and tell you that Em is the greatest rapper in the world if you dare to suggest otherwise. As far as a connection with the general public goes, though, Eminem’s moment has passed. But still the Eminem show goes on — and Mother’s Day brought a new episode, a song and music video titled “Headlights,” intended as an apology to his mom, Debbie. … Read More

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Austin City Limits Fest Announces Lineup: Pearl Jam, Outkast, Beck, Eminem

A late-season but solid festival, Austin City Limits announced its 2014 lineup this morning. The main headliners are very… Read More

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10 Classic Album Covers Seen on Google Street View

For diehard music fans, visiting the exact location where your favorite album cover was shot is a necessary pilgrimage (this is true of even non-diehards: surely not every tourist who’s crossed Abbey Road with a long stride and a purpose has actually obsessively listened to the record). But thanks to Google and The Guardian, you no longer have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars trekking to one particular set of geographic coordinates. Now, you can see these famous places from comfort of your own computer screen. As part of The Guardian’s Google Street View series, their “Street View Specialist” has pinpointed the exact locations immortalized on classic album covers, then set them against each other like poetic little windows into the past. … Read More

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The 10 Most Overrated Albums of 2013

It’s end-of-year list-making time, and right on cue, the first bunch of Best-of-2013 lists are starting to appear on various blogs and in magazines. And, as ever, there’s a certain orthodoxy about them, a pattern whereby you see the same record appear on list after list, and find yourself scratching your head and saying, “But, wait, that album sucked!” Well, if it’s any consolation, it’s not just you. Here are ten records to which your correspondent has had the same reaction — albums that seem to have gotten universal love despite being at best flawed and at worst… Read More

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Why Is It So Important for Eminem to Keep Using the Word “Faggot”?

You already know what I’m going to say, don’t you? Marshall Mathers, 41 this year, gave an interview to Rolling Stone this week, wherein he spoke about the controversy surrounding his repeated use of homophobic language in his recent single “Rap God.” To the surprise of precisely no one, Eminem was unrepentant about the whole thing, arguing that hey, he’s not homophobic, and he doesn’t mean the word “faggot” badly, and if people are offended, well, that’s their problem.
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The Best and Worst of Last Night’s ‘SNL’ with Kerry Washington

SNL wants you to know they messed up. The lack of diversity amongst the cast was addressed in last night’s cold open — due to the appearance of Kerry Washington, who not only contributed a great energy to the episode, but also played Michelle Obama for the first time since 2007 (when Maya Rudolph took on the role of the First Lady). SNL has always been Captain Obvious when it comes to their African-American hosts. Race is always at the forefront of the sketches — if not in subject, then in terms of which players the writers feature (last night was the most we’ll probably see of Jay Pharoah all season). It’s usually uncomfortable, heavy-handed (someone is patting themselves on the back for inviting Eminem and Al Sharpton to last night’s show), and unfortunately, nothing ever changes. But hey, SNL is great at underlining the show’s limited scope. There will be umpteen more episodes of Kenan Thompson in drag, featuring four of the six new cast members (all male and white) hogging the spotlight, and exhausting jokes about women being hormonal and crazy. If last night’s semi-lame cold opener actually leads to something, we’ll be surprised — but we’d like to believe that SNL will one day join the real world and expand its horizons. … Read More

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The 10 Albums You Need to Hear in November

It’s getting toward the end of the year, which in the music industry means two things: big commercial releases and a precipitous drop-off in quality as the “festive” season draws closer. It’s not all bad, though. In amongst the stocking stuffers and superfluous best-ofs, there are still some quality releases, and as we do at the start of every month, we’ve pored over the release schedules to pick out ten of the… Read More

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