Monday, 31 December 2012

My 2012

This year has been a pretty cool year ya na. Very interesting stuff occurred. Plenty things I will never experience again in my whole entire lifetime. (This post is a thought train written for the older me to look back on. Hopefully it isn't too rambley.)

My five fave moments in the order they happened:

1. Top of the year I had a debate on Jump Off's YouTube channel about the origins of grime. Basically saying our scenes are not an American imitation. Hip hop DJ Snips was my opposition. Judging by the comments I was right... We both knew we weren't really arguing on that big a difference, but ultimately, I was right. My maiden appearance on YouTube.

2. Funnily enough, not long after the above debate came out, I got the opportunity to interview Wiley who gave me my favourite interview of the year. The Godfather of grime and I spoke about how dancehall shaped both him as an artist, as well as grime's foundations. Wiley has never and probably will never do an interview like it. Also is a pre-cursor to the singles he released - chart-topper "Heatwave" and "Can You Hear Me? (Ay ya ya ya) both have a strong Caribbean influence. Thanks to the good folks over at Large Up x Okayplayer for the opportunity. You can read that here and the bonus material.

(Also, put out a video with Sean Paul and his ex-manager talking about why he focuses on the ladies in songs. Both explain why he went from deeper songs with a message to girls and parties. Hit over 1k views surprises me 'cos I don't remember promoting it much.

This is in brackets because it shouldn't be here, but I only realised that after writing it. For that, I can't be bothered to delete it. Time is life.)

3. I appeared on two big pirate stations too. Deja Vu were one of the dons in the days when pirates were the boss. Before babylon tried to force everyone down the digital road. Joe Grime had me on there doing dancehall debates on various talking points. Really had a lot of fun doing that. I was also on the now legal Rinse FM via The Heatwave playing interviews with Damian Marley and Mr. Vegas (neither are available to listen to I'm afraid), then inviting me on to do a live interview with TOK's Bay-C on Carnival morning. Never felt so nervous. Slight exaggeration, but you get my point.

4. Was asked to write for the Guardian newspaper. Big personal achievement for me as it's a proper paper I respect. If I could have written for any newspaper, it'd have been that. Wanted to write for them for a long time, so to be asked to recommend some artists in the run up to Jamaica's 50th independence was a big feeling. The article was posted online and printed in the G2 supplement. Will be framed in due course. Any fan of reggae will know it's almost impossible to find an article without mentioning homophobia or some other thing written by people that don't actually listen to it. 'Twas also quoted on the Jamaica Observer website.

5. Oh yeah, a little bit more about the Damian Marley interview. So in 2010 I said the people I most want to interview are Vybz Kartel, Mavado, Shaggy, Sean Paul and Damian Marley. Vybz Kartel & Mavado represent the best of the hardcore artists in my generation. Shaggy & Sean Paul the most successful commercial artists and Damian Marley is up there as one of my faves, plus the best Marley son to me. And Bob Marley is the greatest ever. Interviewed Mavado and Kartel later in 2010, Sean Paul and Shaggy in 2011, then Damian Marley this year ahead of his two sold-out dates at the indigo2 for Jamaica 50 celebrations. Another life goal completed.

Those are my five highlights for the year in that lane.

My five fave blog posts were:

1. Jamaica 50 tribute. Series of posts on how "independent" Jamaica gave back to "Mother England" via Jamaican music infecting UK music from pop to most underground homegrown scenes from the 60s til now.

2. "So, Marvin Sparks, what effect will Afrobeats have on Bashment?" - Pretty self-explanatory.

3. Starboy Nathan exits XFactor at judges houses - basically, input on the discussion about Nathan being in a better position now than he was before. Quite a few industry dons rated this like a&r's, managers and DJs from the mainstream world which was pretty cool.

4. Diwali riddim appreciation - I wrote about arguably the most successful dancehall composition ever. Ran down the impact it had on dancehall to crossover appeal spawning 6 chart singles. Definitely one of my favourite riddims ever.

5. Sir David Rodigan leaves Kiss FM due to marginalisation of reggae music - a piece on the general shafting of specialist music across the FM dial.

Blog "Bashment Vibes" thought I was interesting enough to interview. Who'da thought it?! That was another first. Big up to them! Had fun chatting away. Feel sorry for them because the interview was ridiculously long due to my trouble keeping answers short. You can check that out here.

Others include going on tour across England with great people. Too much fun was had. Also went to Scotland and Wales for shows. And flew to Mallorca Rocks for a fun time.

The biggest isn't music related. Watching Usain Bolt win the 100m Olympic gold in the stadium with my flag and man dem is definitely an unforgettable occasion. Give Jah the praise for that. Paralympics was also a great day. In fact, the whole month was special. Jamaican 50th Independence, Puma Yard, Jamaica House and London in general. Big up Team GB too.

Hope you all had a fun and memorable 2012. If not, don't worry, the past is the past. Try to make 2013 as memorable as possible. Only you can determine whether you enjoy it. Big up everyone lucky enough to make it this far. Rest peacefully to the ones that didn't.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

What I learned about X-Factor this year

Yeah, I'm blogging about X-Factor. Normal service will resume on Monday. Just had to get this out there.

For previous series' I sat on Twitter during X-Factor copying and pasting tweets for a series of posts for TweeteReviews. However, this year I didn't. The tweets weren't as funny as previous years, mainly because the contestants weren't as interesting. No Misha B, Cher Lloyd, devil woman, big chin chick, JEdward etc. I've been able to actually take in opinions now.

First off I think people take the show way too seriously. I stopped being outraged from the first week when judges kept joke act Rylan in. Louis chose to save the chick, before changing his mind to save Rylan, then when Dermot asked him to repeat his answer he said "I wanna take it to deadlock". The only reason I felt outraged is due to the flip-flop blatant fishy movements by Louis.

That was the last time I felt any outrage. Think that was the first week of live shows.

1. I think the perception of the show being a "singing show" is stupid. If real-life politics (Government and that) isn't about policies, how can X-Factor be about singing? The same people that say they have doubts about voting for Ed Milliband because "He doesn't seem like a leader" or liking Barack because he has swagger, aren't likely to vote for a singer because they can sing. Even in the real world of music, there are many singers we believe are great singer but don't make interesting songs. I'll come on to that in a second.

2. We don't judge X-Factor contestants the same way we do artists in the real world. Singing covers is never easy because we always compare to the original and they're restrictive in how you flex your own muscles. Even "proper singers" fail covers and they're pretty restrictive unlike original songs for obvious reasons. Imagine your favourite artist had to sing a different cover each week for like 9 weeks straight. Not everyone of the established and our favourite acts will succeed. Most top-sellers stay in a familiar lane, so it's cool when numerous similar singles roll out over a period of months. When it's 9/10 weeks straight under a microscope is boring or predictable.

3. And related to that, it's difficult to tell who has the X-Factor on X-Factor. It's a myth. If you can't tell that after 9 series', then boy...

One Direction were pretty well-rated on the show, but how many of us saw them conquering the world in such dominant fashion? They finished third remember. Runner-up Rebecca Ferguson from the same series was dubbed "boring" yet shifted 500k albums this year. "Annoying" Cher Lloyd, placed 4th, managed to score a top ten hit in America. Never saw that coming. Shaky-legged 2009 runner-up Olly Murs is still here 3 years later. In fact, he has number 1 single and album as I write this and performs in arenas. Never saw that on the show.

Leona Lewis is probably the most popular act ever on X-Factor and while she has done pretty well (two albums sold well, this one? Well...), it hasn't been future legend status as many of us anticipated. Alexandra Burke is another popular winner, yet runners up JLS had a much more successful career. In fact, who even likes Alex Burke anymore? Her second album flopped tremendously. I'm sure most reading thought they (Leona and Alexandra) had the X-Factor.

And I can categorically tell you that some of the best-selling artists in the UK and some of our favourite artists would not win the X-Factor. It really is just a TV show. Not a great deal can be determined from it. Songs made after the show are how you can tell. There are a lot of myths in the music business, mainly around image and PR stuff, but even in 2012, the song matching the image is the X-Factor. 

4. Lastly, the biggest lesson I've learned is people that consume American hip hop and r&b live in a warped world. Never, ever take their opinions on pop stars seriously. They'll comment on who hasn't got what it takes to be a pop star on a Saturday, then not know the material by the genuine pop star performing on the Sunday.. If you proudly admit not listening to top 40 radio or even knowing what's number 1 in the pop charts, how you meant to critique pop star potential in the same breath?

This is the reason everyone but me and a few were surprised at Ella's early departure. I predicted it three weeks in advance. And on that note, Jahmene mi seh!

(Bonus: the reason Tulisa's album failed is because she doesn't have the X-Factor. She did for the first song that reflected her rebellious youth. The other songs didn't match the feisty, rebellious image we have of her at all. She should have taken a leaf out of Pink and Kelly Clarkson's book instead of sticking with her "urban roots")