After watching Cherry Bomb: The Documentary a couple weeks ago, I was really inspired by Tyler the Creator's creative vision behind his 2015 album and the artists that collaborated with him on it. In the film, director Mikey Alfred captures the recording process, which includes how Lil Wayne and Kayne West came up with their verses on "Smuckers." Lil Wayne's views on Tyler and how they worked together in the studio are definitely worth watching. In the segment, the rapper echoes the overarching theme from the his 2011 single featuring Bruno Mars and delivers the following words of wisdom:
“Work hard. Be somebody. Be something more than what you see in the mirror. Let the world be your mirror. Don’t let them judge you 'cause the mirror can’t judge you. You judge what you see in the mirror.”
Watch the video below to hear this advice from the legend himself!
Have you ever wondered what songs embody the spirit of summer, sunshine, and freedom? À la Boys Like Girls' "Thunder" jam back in middle school? Out of my own curiosity, I've asked the people closest to me about their seasonal favorites. Throughout the next couple of months, I'll be compiling a playlist of my friends' songs of the summer, which you can follow here on Spotify.
I'm more than happy to share Karis' pick: "call the police" by LCD Soundsystem. Here's why she chose this song in particular!
Hailing all the way from Australia, Yeo Choong, better known as Yeo, has been creating music as a songwriter and producer since 2006 with his album Trouble Being Yourself. After stumbling upon Yeo's live performances on triple j's Like a Version live video series, his talent displaying his superb keytar skills and awe-inspiring vocal range blew me away. He recently came out with a single called "Amy," a signature electronic pop tune that is a celebration of vulnerability.
Yeo's unique style and one of his cheeky retweets prompted me to learn more about him. I reached out to Yeo and he was incredibly open about answering these questions regarding being a PoC in the music industry. Here's what he had to say about his experience as an Asian Australian artist and his upcoming LP Desire Path that will be released this August 18th.
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never listened to your music before?
It's pop music. There's a dark DIY edge to it, but it's essentially still pop.
Tell me about your experience growing up and your heritage. How would you describe your family and your upbringing as a whole?
I'm an only child born in Brisbane, Australia. My mother and father speak Hokkien and relocated here from Malaysia. My childhood is something I look upon fondly as there was much love within our small family, and when we met similar families, bonding with them was a special experience. We were a church-going family so at least kindness and acceptance was a default value, but as I got older I realised that prejudice ran deep (and often unspoken) despite my environment. There were many social obstacles to overcome throughout my education like bullying, ostracism, stereotyping etc. As a kid, these things made me want to be white, but now I'm wholeheartedly proud of my culture - to the point where I am very sad when I think about the parts of it that are lost to me. My connection to my extended family is fragmented, and I can no longer speak Hokkien. I can understand it, but barely.
What was your parents’ reaction when you told them that you wanted to pursue music?
My father's only response was to ask me to work for him in the church. No thanks. My mother wished I had chosen a career with a steadier income. Becoming a pharmacist would've made her very happy back then. However, a decade later into my career and she's come around after seeing my dedication to music.
What types of challenges have you encountered because of your ethnicity? Have you experienced any struggles to combat any Asian stereotypes in your career?
Small things I brush off, like dumb comments on the internet about the "unexpectedness" of my vocal tone or skin colour. If you upscale the setting and look at a professional environment, my feelings grow stronger to be parallel with the nearly imperceptible bias held by peers and industry gatekeepers - a lot I've recognised only in subtext; hardly ever explicit. Despite my healthy self-confidence and track record, my work is often passed-over in favour of that by white artists. If I'm wrong, I'll be the first to admit it, but it shits me that key industry figures don't give us more chances on festival stages, TV screens or large music media websites. It drives me up the wall when we don't "tick the right boxes" for career opportunities. I'm frustrated that so many key industry figures are white in the first place. The biggest challenge I've overcome is actually accepting racism as a part of everyday life and getting on with improving my work. I suspect many people don't get that far.
As an Asian-Australian artist, do you feel any pressure to conform to what’s trending at the top of the music charts in the United States?
Nope. What we do may be similar to what's trending, and I certainly take influence voluntarily since I'm a fan of some commercial pop, but there's no pressure. If anyone succumbs to such pressure, I'd say they're approaching music-making the wrong way.
Do you have any commentary on diversity in the music industry in Australia?
Diversity is getting better but it's got a long way to go. Bias against PoC is hidden by noise about other important imbalances but that doesn't lessen the effect. I've seen countless acts (note: white and male) bypass hard work and rise to media saturation, only to squander their opportunities with a drug addiction or lack of musical output. I've seen PoC artists discouraged by their parents for not pursuing the security of a traditional career. I've seen statistics on population diversity that don't reflect what I see on funding recipient lists, radio rotation reports and almost every Australian music festival lineup. You talk to any established festival booker or media editor and they'll tell you it's about ticket sales and viewer traffic, which I understand but consider a morally cheap excuse. If you forgive the latter and follow the trail a bit further, where does it end? Consumers. That includes myself and people of every colour in Australia. Yes, we need to raise awareness, but we also need to support each other. All people are guilty of discrimination, but existing as a minority and experiencing it first-hand makes PoC more aware and in a better position to take responsibility for it.
Are there any other PoC musicians, bands, producers, etc. who you’re a fan of and how do they inspire you?
Sure I could talk about Syd or Dean or ?uestlove or Solange or Noname, but I'd like to swing the telescope towards home and point it at Lonelyspeck, Rainbow Chan, Maribelle, Charlie Lim, Sampa The Great, Kimchi Princi, Take Your Time, Vallis Alps, Remi Kolawole, Billy Davis and Froyo. They inspire me by making good music, playing good shows and showing no fear.
What was your creative process while writing your latest song “Amy”?
I actually wrote this song on the piano. Came up with the chorus first, then fleshed out verses by shaping what was initially a free-style improvisation. The first version of Amy had this quick soul clap all the way through, but I found I wasn't happy with the overall dynamics, so I stripped the song to the bare vocal and essentially 'remixed' my own tune the way I would someone else's. With some small re-harmonisations, it turned into the pop enigma that it is now. After showing a few people I was convinced to keep the new version.
Your LP Desire Path comes out later this summer on August 18th. How was your experience making the album and what are your plans in the coming year?
It was quick! I didn't think it was possible, but here we are. The shape of it grew firmer as I wrote more songs, and eventually it was clear that there were two distinct sides to the LP, something which I've done many times before, but never intentionally. I have collaborated on this record more than I have previously, and though I've loved the experience, I would prefer if the volume of administration didn't increase further than what it is now. It's the most money I've ever spent producing a body of work, but this is also the largest my follower-base has ever been so I think it'll be worth it. We're very excited to tour it in Australia after the release, and though the chances of us making it overseas are slowly dwindling, I still have faith.
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives of color?
Stick together, be brave, be honest, and don't let your parents turn you into a norm unless that's what really makes you happy.
Last, but not least, what is your favorite Drake song?
Are you seriously asking me to choose?! Hold On, We're Going Home*
*Actually, perhaps Trophies**
**But maybe, Too Good***
First things first, I'm here for Asahd Khaled's adorable face on every visual! Asahd, DJ Khaled's 7-month-old son and mini mogul, is no stranger to gracing the covers of the producer's projects. Besides being credited as an executive producer, he even makes an appearance on the artwork for Grateful, DJ Khaled's album coming out on June 23rd. Asahd is the true star here! Don't @ me!
After having 24 hours to digest it, "To the Max" itself doesn't quite maximize the potential that both Drake and DJ Khaled have to bring to the table for a summer banger. The single revolves around their mega success and of course, turning up to the max. The chorus samples a garbled rendition of 1Way Frank's "Lit" featuring J $tash, which incessantly repeats "All of my young ni... lit, we lit/My young ni... lit." While the bridge is comprised of another sample of T2 and Jodie Aysha's "Heartbroken," it doesn't add much substance to the song if only to show that Drake is still a massive anglophile at heart since the release of More Life.
Early on in Drake's career, one of his biggest strong suits was his relatable lyrics. And it's sad to say that I can’t relate to any of it in this track. It's no secret that Drake has become a commercial success in the rap game; but as he continues to sit at the top of the music charts, he strays further from the authentic connection he has established with his day one listeners.
In the first verse, Drake goes full fuccboi mode and delivers the following lines:
“I talk grey, I don't keep it white and black
Only say "I love you" just so I can hear it back
Sometimes, other times I'd love to have you back."
Wow, just wow. The cruelty, the inhumanity! The Drake's the type of guy to play mind games with you and still land his way into your heart. I am not surprised by his self-serving manipulation; but from the perspective of being the someone hoping for the "sometimes, other times," it stings to say the least.
Drake is no stranger to casual savagery, though (that's probably why he's my problematic fave). In "Star67" from If You're Reading This It's Too Late, he also alludes to his own vindictive complex.
In these lyrics from "Star67," Drake raps about giving zero fucks, even to a supermodel:
“Shut the fuck up, text from a centerfold, I ain't reply
Let her know I read it though
Voice mail say she ready though.”
When you have the nerve to turn your read receipts on and leave someone on read, that's just a violation of common decency! Our generation is probably the guiltiest of not abiding by any form of texting etiquette, but it's no excuse to act so petty. If Instagram stories were invented in 2015, Drake probably viewed hers that day too. IT'S MACHIAVELLIAN, I TELL YOU!
In "To the Max," he goes on to end the first verse with these less than memorable lines:
"If they pop somebody's chain then we gotta get it back
No discussion to be had, we ain't goin' out like that
Man, we lit."
We get it, Drizzy. You got so many chains they call you Channing Tatum (but no one actually does!!!). And if anyone steals from Future again, they're done for! The second verse is also a redundant warning to snakes trying to come after Champagne Papi that they stand no chance. Drake's vocals came in all right, but I wouldn't sing along to them whole-heartedly.
Don't get me wrong. The song is catchy enough to have it blasting at 80% volume when it comes on the radio, but "To the Max" doesn't have the infectious quality of “For Free” or even “No New Friends." But, you never know. This single might grow on me with time. A couple months from now, you'll probably catch me captioning a Snapchat video of myself with “I don’t know why I’m crying in the club” to this song playing in the background.
For the last 17 years, I’ve had my life mapped out. I was going to do well in high school, graduate, and then study Business Administration at Cal. At least, that’s what my five-year-old self told me in a page out of my Hello Kitty diary. In my rudimentary handwriting, I misspelled it “UC Berkley;” but nonetheless, those words reminding me of my college dream school are still etched onto that light pink paper. Little did I know, even when I came into UC Berkeley as a freshman, I’d do that and then some by pursuing a simultaneous degree in Media Studies. Since I’ve turned that tassel from right to left, I’ve been dealing with the feeling that my life’s been turned upside down.
Flashback to the beginning of the spring semester of my senior year.
My stomach was in knots anytime I had conversations with my friends about facing unemployment and struggling with the recruitment process. When I was experiencing anxiety about the future, I asked some friends who already graduated in a timid whisper, “What’s it like... after this?” Almost as though there would be nothing to look forward to but death on the other side, the void. Allaying my fears, my friends have all told me that “adulting” doesn’t mean that the fun ends, it’s just different. And in semi-comforting, semi-nauseating terms, they said that they still don’t have everything figured out yet.
I really wanted to believe that there would be a happy ending in all this tumult. I’d catch myself craving for an illusion of consistency, so I would order a banana cream pie from Nation’s every time I was stressed. Even in the days leading up to commencement, I thought it would be comforting to watch a movie together. To the chagrin of my friends, we streamed Post Grad, the 2009 movie starring Alexis Bledel, only to sneer at the unrealistic expectations her character Ryden had for life after college. Ryden, who’s basically a carbon copy of Rory Gilmore, thought that she was going to land her dream job at a publishing company right after graduation, only to discover that it’s not so easy. *insert eye roll here* Maybe if we watched the film with rose-tinted glasses, we could have seen the rationale behind why Roger Ebert gave it three stars.
Despite all our millennial cynicism, I’m still searching for a silver lining somewhere out there. I’m back home in Stockton now, continuing the job hunt and winding down after the chaos of moving out and seeing friends move on too. I’ll miss the ease of seeing them while crossing the intersection of Bancroft and Telegraph, randomly at the Taco Bell Cantina, and beside me in class. After the dust has settled, I’ve had time to catch my breath and look back on these last four years of higher education. School isn’t my life anymore, even though it’s everything I’ve ever known. And that’s okay.
Monumental change is a rude awakening at first, but I’m gradually coming to appreciate that life isn’t perfect. Its road map isn’t supposed to be written in Sharpie, but with pencil so you can always make adjustments for those windy turns. This period of uncertainty too shall pass and the next chapter of my life will start soon (I hope!). Graduation doesn’t mean that we stop living and learning. There’s more life, more everything ahead.
For my British Pop Culture class, we went on a field trip to get a tour of the Royal Pavilion and to enjoy high tea there too. King George IV lived here in Brighton and ordered for this lavish palace to be made. George was homies with Beau Brummel, and they both championed the dandy revolution (OMG! TBT TO FRESHMAN YEAR AND ONE OF THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE ENGLISH R1B CLASSES EVER AKA 'THE BONDS OF TASTE' @ Michelle Cabal!). I wish we were allowed to take pictures inside because the interior was so crazy opulent. For example, the dining hall had a dragon's claws holding up this chandelier that weighed one ton! After the tour, we had high tea and it was everything we imagined. There were cute sandwiches, cakes, scones that looked like American biscuits with the works (clotted cream & jam), and tea + cream to go around. Our professor even hooked it up with aluminum (aluminium, i guess?!) foil to take some treats home. Fun fact: This is the second photo I took of Camille sitting across from me because I totally messed up the first shot with my hat.
Today, I didn't have class because we're going on a field trip tomorrow. As soon as I woke up, I knew I wasn't going to leave Northfield. All I did was reheat my penne leftovers in the kitchen, and pretty much that was the only time I left my flat. It's nice to take a break from the outside world for a bit and to retreat into the black hole of Netflix that consumes my free time. I made it to the end of Season 2 of Community, which makes me kinda proud. Earlier this afternoon, I attempted to make plans with someone when they offered me to go to this taxidermy museum with them on Friday (random, I know!), but Michelle, Sey, and I will be in Copenhagen this weekend. I never thought I'd say this, but it's kinda cool that being in Denmark gets me an excuse from social interaction.
It's no secret that I love One Direction. I've been a fan of boy bands for the last 16 years, which I've always been candid about to everyone I've met. But, for a time, I had a phase when I was into, quote, unquote, British indie bands. It definitely had something to do with their accents and tousled hair and general obscurity. In high school, I'd sit in my room for hours watching Burberry acoustic videos on a loop. It was my side schtick when I wasn't entrenched in the scene or fawning over 1D's "Gotta Be You" music video.
Pegasus Bridge is one of my favorite bands of all time, which is one of my most well-kept secrets. They broke up in 2011, but the music they did make in the short span of their existence represented everything I loved during that period of adolescence. I know this sounds very hipster, but one of the main reasons I loved them was that they weren't mainstream (in America, at least). It felt like their songs spoke to me and me alone, so I rarely shared any mention of them to my friends. I was just young and selfish. One of their songs called "Ribena" (just FYI, Ribena is a English soft drink brand) is especially angsty and it goes something like:
"Oh no darling, don't forget that I'm still the same boy. But now I drink coffee, not just Ribena, and I like it, I like it."
There isn't a day that goes by lately that I don't miss being a teenager who would listen to Pegasus Bridge on her hand-me-down iPod nano, thinking she was the coolest girl in Weston Ranch.
Now, I think I'm grappling with the fear that comes with an onslaught of impending change. I'm gearing up for a new phase of life that I've been dreading since my first year of college. Going on interviews for "real" jobs, the grueling touch-and-go period of waiting for good news from employers, deciding whether or not this offer will be the one for me... all of it terrifies me and even though I'm here in England, having the time of my life, it's always there in the back of my mind.
A part of me is yearning for when times were simpler, when I knew all I wanted was to get as far away as possible from Stockton and to go to Cal to study business.
Earlier this afternoon, I found bottles of Ribena at the library cafe, so I bought one of the mango-lime variety. I sipped my Ribena today and thought about how Edward Turner's voice still speaks to me like it did half a decade ago.
Tbh, I didn't think we'd make it back. HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO US! When we left our hotel in Venice, Michelle, Angelique, and I were all prepared for the worst. We had such bad luck with Easy Jet that I'm surprised we finally got back to England. Sadly, the weather was just as gloomy and rainy as we left it. It wasn't long before we were pining for the Italian sunshine we became accustomed to during the weekend. After getting off the Gatwick Express, we had dinner at Pompoko to get our rice fix of the day. As much as we wanted to eventually return to our university, we kept pondering the continental breakfasts, comfy hotel beds, and the copious amounts of gelato stands we left behind in the country we fell in love with during the course of a weekend.
Instead of being stuck in our hotel rooms, Michelle, Angelique, and I went to Verona for the day. First stop: Casa di Giulietta. Juliet's courtyard was swarming with tourists, all of whom were hasty to photograph themselves touching the right boob of her bronze statue for good luck finding true love. I opted not to, which means I'll probably end up forever alone but I'll just take the L. I don't understand why people would cop a feel for that purpose. Didn't they read the play?! She dies!!! If anything, I would think she would bring bad luck. There was graffiti everywhere on the walls of the courtyard as well, all notes from visitors across the globe. It was such a crazy spectacle to behold, but seeing the balcony (albeit for a fictional character) was worth the trip. However, when Taylor Swift's poorly written "Love Story" got stuck in my head and even more couples came in droves, I knew it was time to go.