Tag Archives: Kanye West

Visually Oriented: The Lost Art of Commissioned Album Artwork

-Emily Fraysse

On November 22, 2010, hip-hop artist Kanye West released his fifth album titled, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a collection of different musical components like baroque and soul with underlying themes of excess, celebrity, ego, race, drinking, drug use, and consumer culture. What gained a lot of attention, however, was the artwork album artwork. Kanye announced on Twitter that not long before it was released, the album had been rejected by major chain stores because of the graphic artwork.

The portrait, by George Condo, shows Kanye being straddled by an armless winged female. Both are nude. Condo’s Picasso-meets-Looney-Tunes style artwork was described by the New York Times as, “tasty, erudite stuff, freaky but classy, a Mixmaster version of old master, with a big glop of Pop tossed in.”

After the album came out, Condo announced that Kanye wanted a cover image that was risky and would be banned. He eventually created eight or nine different paintings for the album including a disfigured portrait of Kanye and a painting of a crown and sword in a grassy landscape. A second cover was made featuring a ballerina, which at the last second Kanye changed it to a photograph of a ballerina instead.

On the completely opposite end of the album-artwork spectrum lies a lonely, weary traveler by the name John Mayer. After disappearing from the public eye for about two years due to the surgical removal of a granuloma near his vocal cords, he returned with a brand new album and a brand new look. The fifth album for the singer/songwriter, Born and Raised, was his shot at redemption. And, he succeeded. On May 22, 2012, he released his folk and county rock album with an exquisitely designed cover. The recording companies Sony Music and Columbia Records had commissioned David A. Smith to design the cover at the beginning of 2012. Although they never met in person, Mayer and Smith talked regularly via Skype and on phone in order to get the exact look that Mayer was looking for. Smith specializes in traditional, ornamental reverse glass signs and decorated silver and gilded mirrors.

The handcrafted piece was first drawn out separately before vectoring and finishing it in Photoshop in only twenty-eight days. Smith documented the process and success of his work on his website and later in a video.

Both of these artists, Kanye West and John Mayer, did something that not many artists do these days: commission artwork. In John Mayer’s commission, people are claiming that he revived a type of lost art that is slowly coming back into popularity. These special commissions can add a certain uniqueness, beauty, and distinction for artists today.

Flux Playlist: Happy Mother's Day!

-Flux Blog Staff

It’s Mother’s day, which means it time for us to pay tribute to that special lady who made it all possible. After all of the years of bedtime stories and crust-less PB&J’s, it’s our turn to call up our mom’s and let them know just how much they mean to us. So we here at the Flux blog decided to pay tribute to our mothers the best way we know how: a playlist. So sit back and enjoy these songs that remind us about the lady who always knows best.


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Mike

  • Hey Mama -Kanye West
  • Mama, I’m Coming Home -Ozzy Osbourne
  • Mother’s Little Helper -The Rolling Stones
  • Mother -Roger Waters

Jamie

  • The Best Day -Taylor Swift
  • Mama Said -The Shirelles
  • What a Wonderful World -Louis Armstrong
  • You’ll Be in My Heart -Phil Collins

Sam

  • Mama -The Lonely Island
  • Stacy’s Mom -Fountains of Wayne
  • I Hope You Dance -Leanae Womack
  • That’s All Right (Mama) -Elvis Presley

Jessica

  • Song for Mama -Boys II Men
  • I’ll Be There -Mac Miller
  • In My Daughter’s Eyes -Martina McBride

Diana

  • Dear Mama -2pac
  • Pumpkin Soup -Kate Nash
  • I Turn to You -Christina Aguilera

Tamara

  • Daughters -John Mayer
  • My Wish -Rascal Flatts
  • Sweet Child O’ Mine -Guns N’ Roses

Flux Playlist: Get Pumped!

-Flux Blog Staff

It’s finally here. The one week of the term that we dread above all others: dead week. With the winter term finally coming to an end, it can be easy for students to get sidetracked with plans on how they will spend their Spring breaks. But before we can sell back our books and work on our tans, we must survive the deadlines and finals that come along with dead week. We here at the Flux blog understand it can sometimes be hard to find motivation to study when promises of sunny weather are just around the corner, so we thought we would put a playlist to get people pumped up and motivate them through the next couple of weeks. So grab your books, find a nice spot in the library and check out our pump up playlist!


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Mike

  • Purexed -P.O.S.
  • Blue Orchid -The White Stripes
  • POWER -Kanye West

Diana

  • You and I -Medina (Deadmau5 Remix)
  • House Party -Meek Mill ft. Young Chris
  • We R Who We R -Ke$ha

Sam

  • We Will Rock You -Queen
  • When They Come for Me -Linkin Park
  • Click Click Boom -Saliva

Whitney

  • Superbad -James Brown
  • Fancy -Drake ft. Swizz Beats
  • Can’t Tell Me Nothing -Kanye West

Jessica

  • Hell’s Bells -AC/DC
  • Howlin’ for You -The Black Keys
  • Shutterbug -Big Boi ft. Cutty

Callie

  • Viva la Vida -Coldplay
  • Don’t Stop Believin’ -Journey
  • Waking Up in Vegas -Katy Perry

Tamara

  • Cinema -Benny Benassi (Skrillex Remix)
  • Sunshine -David Guetta
  • Jump on Stage -Girl Talk

Flux Playlist: It's a Celebration!

-Flux Blog Staff

If you are reading this blog post, congratulations! You have officially survived finals week! Now that you’ve turned in all of your papers and sold back all of your books, there’s only one thing left to do: Celebrate! This week, the Flux bloggers wanted to give you a playlist to help get your celebrations off on the right foot. So grab some friends, forget everything you learned this term and most importantly, enjoy your winter break!


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Mike:

  • One More Time -Daft Punk
  • DARE -Gorillaz
  • Going On -Gnarls Barkley

Hannah:

  • Moves Like Jagger -Maroon 5

Tamara:

  • Marry the Night -Lady Gaga
  • Call it What you Want -Foster the People
  • You Da One -Rihanna

Lizzy:

  • Sexy and I Know it -LMFAO
  • No Hands -Waka Flocka
  • You Make Me Feel -Cobra Starship

Jasmine:

  • Night of Your Life -David Guetta
  • Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay -Big Sean
  • H.A.M. -Jay-Z & Kanye West

Sam:

  • Caribou Lou -Tech N9ne
  • Boombox – The Lonely Island
  • Line & Sinker -Billy Talent

Waiting for the Grammys

-Mike Munoz

When the nominees for the 2012 annual Grammy Awards were released Wednesday night, my mind was bursting with questions. How many Grammys will Adele win? Will we actually get the Van Halen reunion we were promised? How the hell did Bruno Mars get six nominations? Here are some of the nominations that caught my attention Wednesday night.

Disappointing Album of the Year Nominees

Last year’s nominations for Album of the Year proved the Grammys were taking a step in the right direction. Nominees ranged from rapper Eminem to country-pop group Lady Antebellum, and Arcade Fire broke through as the first indie band to win the award. This year’s nominations, however, proved they took five steps back. The category contains only two realistic competitors in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Adele’s 21 (sorry Foo Fighters).  I’m not quite sure how Bruno Mars and Rihanna got thrown into the mix, and I know I’m not the only one asking, where’s Kanye?

Remembering Amy Winehouse

There’s no question that there will be some sort of memorial for soul singer Amy Winehouse, and it will probably come during the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award. Winehouse collaborated with jazz icon Tony Bennett for his album Duets II, where the two sing a rendition of “Body and Soul” that will give you chills. The song is one of Winehouse’s last known recordings before her untimely death and will most likely win the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Too Much Dubstep

I’m just going to flat out say it. I hate dubstep. I hate the noises, I hate the concerts and most importantly of all, I hate Skrillex. This year, Skrillex was nominated for five Grammys, including Best New Artist. If you ask me, that’s five nominations too many. I know dubstep has gained a huge following over the last couple of years. But for those of us who aren’t 13-year-olds wandering through a rave in our underwear, dubstep is just plain annoying. But maybe I’m being too hard on Skrillex. I mean, she seems like a pretty nice person.

Kanye vs Kanye for Best Rap Album

It’s seems pretty obvious that the odds are in Kanye West’s favor to win this year’s Grammy for Best Rap Album. The only question is, which one of his albums will win? West and Jay-Z prove to be a lethal combination in Watch the Throne; an entire album dedicated to the glamorous lives of West and Jay-Z. However, West’s solo album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has proved to be his masterpiece, with featured artists ranging from Nicki Minaj to Justin Vernon. I was stunned to see Dark Twisted Fantasy left off the ballot for Album of the Year, and I’d be really surprised if it didn’t win the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

Photo taken from billboard.com

 

When the nominees for the 2012 annual Grammy Awards were released Wednesday night, my mind was bursting with questions. How many Grammys will Adele win? Will we actually get the Van Halen reunion we were promised? How the hell did Bruno Mars get six nominations? Here are some of the nominations that caught my attention Wednesday night.

Album of the Year Nominees

Last year’s nominations for Album of the Year proved the Grammys were taking a step in the right direction. Nominees ranged from rapper Eminem to country-pop group Lady Antebellum, and Arcade Fire broke through as the first indie band to win the award. This year’s nominations, however, proved they took five steps back. The category contains only two realistic competitors in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Adele’s 21 (sorry Foo Fighters). I’m not quite sure how Bruno Mars and Rihanna got thrown into the mix, and I know I’m not the only one asking, where’s Kanye?

Remembering Amy Winehouse

There’s no question that there will be some sort of memorial for soul singer Amy Winehouse, and it will probably come during the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award. Winehouse collaborated with jazz icon Tony Bennett for his album Duets II, where the two sing a rendition of “Body and Soul” that will give you chills. The song is one of Winehouse’s last known recordings before her untimely death and will most likely win the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Too Much Dubstep

I’m just going to flat out say it. I hate dubstep. I hate the noises, I hate the concerts and most importantly of all, I hate Skrillex. This year, Skrillex was nominated for five Grammys, including Best New Artist. If you ask me, that’s five nominations too many. I know dubstep has gained a huge following over the last couple of years. But for those of us who aren’t 13-year-olds wandering through a rave in our underwear, dubstep is just plain annoying. But maybe I’m being too hard on Skrillex. I mean, she seems like a pretty nice person.

Kanye vs Kanye for Best Rap Album

It’s seems pretty obvious that the odds are in Kanye West’s favor to win this year’s Grammy for Best Rap Album. The only question is, which one of his albums will win? West and Jay-Z prove to be a lethal combination in Watch the Throne; an entire album dedicated to the glamorous lives of West and Jay-Z. However, West’s solo album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has proved to be his masterpiece, with featured artists ranging from Nicki Minaj to Justin Vernon. I was stunned to see Dark Twisted Fantasy left off the ballot for Album of the Year, and I’d be really surprised if it didn’t win the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

Weekly Flux Playlist: Remix Edition

-Flux Blog Staff

Grab your headphones, because it’s that time of the week for the Weekly Flux Playlist! This week, the Flux bloggers will be sharing some of their favorite remixes with you. Now we know nothing beats the original. But these remixes come pretty darn close!


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Mike:

  • Good Morning (Kickdrums Remix) -Kanye West
  • Electric Feel (Justice Remix) -MGMT
  • D.A.N.C.E. (MSTRKRFT Remix) -Justice

Jasmine:

  • Motivation (Remix) -Kelly Rowland ft Busta Rhymes, Trey Songz
  • Everyone Nose (Remix) -N.E.R.D. ft Kanye West
  • Cracks (Flux Pavillion Remix) -Freestylers

Hannah:

  • Mercy (Remix) -Duffy ft The Game
  • Ignition (Remix) -R. Kelly
  • Day N Night (Crookers Remix) -Kid Cudi

Tamara:

  • Til The World Ends (Remix) -Britney Spears ft Nicki Minaj and Kesha
  • Hide and Seek (Roksonix Dubstep Remix) -Imogen Heap
  • Bad Romance (Skrillex Remix) -Lady Gaga

Lizzy:

  • Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix) -Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Can’t Believe It (Remix) -T-pain ft. Justin Timberlake
  • Drop it Low (Remix) -Chris Brown, Ester Dean and Lil Wayne

Sam:

  • Birthright (Birthwrong Remix) -Celldweller
  • Ievas Polka (Basshunter Remix) -Loituma
  • Propane Nightmares (Celldweller Remix) -Pendulum

The Followed

-Jacob O’Gara

Steven Holmes of England will never be the same again. No matter what he does with the rest of his life—become Prime Minister; invent some new device; kill somebody—there will always be that footnote: “Possessed the only Twitter account followed by Kanye West.” When Kanye West decided, finally, to enter the Twitterverse at the tail-end of July, he racked up close to 100,000 followers in around six hours, and for a couple days he followed no one. It made sense, and went perfectly with the cash-splurging egomaniac persona his Tweets were helping to foster; Kanye West doesn’t follow anybody. Then, one day in August, that zero number became one. In a matter of seconds, Kanye transformed Steven Holmes from a regular guy whose Twitter bio reads “BOOM” to an Internet phenomenon with journalists beating a path to his door.

For Holmes, being followed by the biggest hip-hop star of the past decade is more of a curse than a blessing. His Twitter account’s been flooded with direct messages, new followers, and requests from the press for interviews. At first, he was more than slightly bewildered by his sudden fame by association: “This has been completely surreal and I really have no desire for this attention i’m [sic] just a normal person.” Then he posted, “I won’t be speaking to anybody else, surprisingly not everyone wants to be famous. That’s all I’m saying – peace out x.” “Peace out x,” indeed.

With all this attention, Holmes could have asked for anything: a contract with a record label (perhaps Kanye’s), a book deal, a judging gig on American Idol. Instead, all he asked for was that his pleas for privacy be taken seriously. Of course, as it is for most who unwittingly get caught in the glare of the spotlight, he could have had anything in the world, except for what he wanted.

Kanye West is now more than just a rap superstar, the Louis Vuitton Don; he’s the most important person in the life of one common man. Three Grammy Awards weren’t enough. He laid down the gauntlet for all other self-proclaimed rap kingpins to go through. If this isn’t the best publicity ever for his upcoming album, I don’t know what is.

Thanks to advancing technology that links all of us ever more closely together, and thanks to the changed nature of stardom, Holmes’s odyssey from normal to celebrity will become more and more familiar. Mutato nomine, et de te fabula narratur. Change only the name, and the story is about you.

The Tears Of A Clown: Gucci Mane’s Pleas For Love

– Jacob O’Gara

A rapper’s swagger is as important to him as his microphone and gold chain. However, if you scratch beneath that layer, inevitably you’ll find squirming insecurity and self-consciousness.

In the case of Li’l Wayne, who has transplanted the slithering rock-star formula to hip-hop, you’d have to scratch for a while. Jay-Z’s swagger comes from surviving and rising from his hustler days; Kanye West tells us he’s “Amazing” as a way to convince himself, and his Good Music protégé Kid Cudi wears vulnerability on his sleeve, which is a kind of swagger in itself.

Gucci Mane is different.

He’s got the swagger of a playground bully, a bully who picks on the other kids because he got picked on, and because negative attention is better than no attention at all. But don’t let that make you think Gucci Mane, born Radric Davis, is some kind of weakling; in 2005, he was charged with murder (he was acquitted), something he references again and again in his lyrics.

But underneath his battle-hardened grizzly exterior is a teddy bear. In the song “My Chain,” Gucci asks, “Don’t you like my chain?”

Of course, Gucci Mane is following a long line of rappers who have bragged about and extolled the value of their chains, but he is the first (to my knowledge) to express a concern for validity from the listener. He is pretty sure his chain is above all others, but do you like it?

Gucci may be a blinged-out alleged murderer, but he has feelings too.

“Freaky Gurl,” perhaps Gucci’s most famous track (coming from the Hard to Kill mixtape along with “My Chain”), contains a similar plea for praise and validity. In the first verse, he inquires the listener/unseen female companion, “Don’t you think I’m handsome?”

In the hip-hop world, that question is never asked; a Li’l Wayne knows for damn sure he’s handsome, even a more introspective Kanye West does. Maybe that’s part of their swagger, that they just know they’re handsome.

Maybe they’re afraid that if they asked, the answer would be “No.” Either way, Gucci Mane is the only rapper out there with the balls (or self-consciousness) to ask such questions.

Hip-hop is a genre that, by its very nature, rejects introspection, even though it is populated by head cases fraught with anxiety masquerading as strutting peacocks. And of all the peacocks, Gucci Mane is the goofiest one.

He looks goofy and sounds goofy when he raps goofy verses. He is hip-hop’s court jester, a pompous, vainglorious, perhaps murderous clown juggling with tears in his eyes.

Far from causing you to shrink away in terror, Gucci’s mush-mouthed pleas make you just want to give the guy a hug.

Kanye West: The Black Elton John

– Jacob O’Gara

At the risk of sounding pompously contrarian, I’m going to express a sentiment that verges on sacrilegious: Kanye West should get out of the rap game. Meaning he should stop rapping; if by “rap game” one gathers that I mean the genre of hip-hop as whole, then no, he should stay.

He started out as a producer wunderkind—working under Jay-Z and producing one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, The Blueprint, for him—and that’s where he should have stayed. The College Dropout and parts of Late Registration were great, but they’ve been overshadowed by the tepid Graduation and West’s cringe-inducing work as a featured artist.

Besides some creative rhyming, what has Kanye West as a featured artist given hip-hop, other than sophomoric junk like “You should go to school, Bueller”?

Not much.

Unless you consider half-hearted and half-baked lines like the one just cited (from his verse on Drake’s “Forever” posse cut); in that case, he has given us a lot.

It seems as if he used up all his creativity and passion on his first two albums, and now he’s operating as a hip-hop hack, just as P. Diddy operated in the late 1990s, dropping in on other artists’ tracks, outshining them with his star power, and then delivering some milquetoast verses. Fortunately for him, and for us, there is some hope for West’s career: his foray into pop music, 808s & Heartbreak.

With this album, the zeal and imagination that electrified his first two is on full display, though West uses those energies in a different direction. Dealing with themes like death and heartbreak, West constructed probably his most technically masterful album; every beat is chiller than a gold chain on an Eskimo, and the much-criticized “singing with Auto-Tune” technique just straight works with the subject matter.

808s & Heartbreaks is an experimental album gone horribly right, a bona fide pop album that elevated West from hip-hop king to full-fledged pop music superstar. Of course, the only recourse West had was to self-immolate in a verbal wildfire of inane and vapid lyrics.

West can save his career by following the path 808s & Heartbreak shined a light on: become the black Elton John. Besides demonstrating the ability to pull off outlandish and flashy garb, like Sir John, West has shown us that he is capable of writing and performing pop ballads, those kind of songs that aren’t really hip-hop or electronica or whatever; they belong in that nebulous category of music known as “pop.”

In that realm, he can spare us from lyrical travesties and spare himself from further humiliation. He can expand what it means to be a pop star, making it more “street,” in other words. He can break down barriers and transcend the genre of hip-hop. His ego’s too big not to let a chance like that pass by.