Music

The Epic

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Jazz is a mercurial form of music. Separated from the mainstream by the stamp of “abstract obscurity”, it remains constantly changing and shifting.

Change is generated from the music’s roots in African-American life and culture. It lives and breathes in cities and communities, so it moves alongside all our social lives, loves and struggles.

Jazz follows the contours of struggle, both for freedom and from racism and oppression. It is linked to the struggle of classes.

So when changes start to happen within society generally, this emerges in the music.

Algiers

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Politics and rock music have made for uneasy bedfellows in recent years, but some headway has been made recently with the likes of US rockers The Last Internationale and down-at-heel poets Sleaford Mods putting anti-austerity and anti-capitalist ideas at the heart of their music.

Algiers is the latest addition to this groundswell of politically aware groups. A trio originally from Atlanta, Georgia, their debut album is loaded with everything from enhanced gospel hectoring to blood-boiling electronic noise.

To Pimp a Butterfly

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It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything from Kendrick Lamar. Before checking out this new album I took a step back to listen again to the Black Hippy Mixtape and Good Kid In A m.A.A.d City. Both are brilliant collections of work representing where he came from and the guy he wanted to be.

Music in Exile

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For anyone who has been lucky enough to see Songhoy Blues live, it seemed impossible that the band had no record deal — their sound is so accomplished. For sure, they stand on the shoulders of giants. It sent a shiver down the spine when at their recent Hackney show lead singer Aliou Toure introduced one song saying, “This is for our father…Ali Farka Toure.”

Black Messiah/The London Sessions

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I’ve been a fan of Mary J Blige, the Queen of Hip Hop Soul, ever since What’s The 411? came out in 1992 and so was eagerly awaiting her latest album, The London Sessions. It promised something a little bit different from the Grammy Award winning singer. Then D’Angelo dropped his new album Black Messiah with virtually no warning. I’ve waited 14 years for this to come out, ever since his acclaimed 2000 album, Voodoo. Sorry, Mary!

Run the Jewels 2

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Run the Jewels 2 is not the sort of album you often find reviewed in these pages.

It is one of the most highly anticipated hip hop albums of the year and on the whole it does not disappoint. But a word of warning is necessary.

It is definitely not for the faint hearted, both in its production and its lyrical content. In terms of the production it is layered, very detailed, aggressive and eerie. Much the same can be said of its lyrical content.

Midtown 120 Blues

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DJ Sprinkles, Re-issue out now

Terre Thaemlitz goes by the name DJ Sprinkles, the name she uses on the album. She is a multimedia producer who owns her own record label, she writes journals and books, she talks about her politics, being gay, queerness, transgenderism, pan-sexuality (she also goes by he sometimes) and considers herself to be a left wing activist.

Her politics are central to her music. People will listen to this album and understand the music in various ways, but this only adds to the enjoyment.

A History of Hardcore, Jungle, Drum & Bass 1991-97

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Suburban Base Records, box set out now on CD or download

The title of this excellent release is somewhat overstated. Suburban Base was arguably the most prolific and iconic label of hardcore and jungle music (though less so drum & bass).

There are many genre classics on this collection, but it would be impossible on three CDs to come even close to capturing hardcore and jungle's wonderfully chaotic, punk-like DIY approach.

When will we be paid for the work we've done?

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A band leader reveals how musicians are exploited and kept down by capitalism and the celebrity system.

I have been a professional musician for 20 years, running bands in Perth, Sidney, Liverpool, Manchester and London. The "inner city scene" is basically the same everywhere in the UK. Musicians on the "original showcase circuit" don't get paid. The carrot is "exposure" as sold by "promoters".

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