“I don’t think we would have the same chance in this city if we went to any other school or formed in any other way. It had to be Wesleyan.”
Forget MGMT. Amanda Who? Das What? Wesleyan’s biggest hype band is The Rooks, a six-piece R&B/indie-soul band made up of a group of friends and members of the Classes of 2011 and 2012. The majority of them have settled in New York City after graduating, and since then, the band has released a handful of singles and now – finally – their debut studio EP, Something You Can Take. The album, now on Bandcamp for your free download enjoyment, is a must-hear for anyone who has a taste for classic rhythm and blues, hip-hop, indie rock, or really has ears at all. And, if you’re in the NYC area this Friday, June 21, The Rooks will be playing Fat Baby at 10 PM, so you can experience them live.
I had the opportunity to sit down for a Google Hangout with The Rooks frontman/lead singer Garth Taylor ’12 and drummer Nate Mondschein ’12 to talk about their new album, the forming of the band, the support of the Wesleyan community, and the difficulties of labeling a music style.
“Whoa!!! This music is…*phew*… this music is awesome! I can’t believe I’m seeing … oh my god … I can’t believe I’m seeing Le1f live. Wow, it’s really hot in here. Anyone else really hot? Ya? Got some gum? I gotta chew something…”
That was a sample of what was being said during the Le1f concert last Wednesday at Eclectic. That’s alright, though. It was wayyyyy too hot, drunk students kept stomping the wires out of their sockets, and many couldn’t get in because it was at a constant capacity, but I haven’t seen drug-addled Wes kids get that sweaty and downright grimy since — well, since I was lucky enough to get on the rink early for Kendrick. It’s been too long.
Ever since last year, music review/hipster rant/legitimate journalism website Pitchfork has been all over Le1f aka Khalif Diouf ’11. They gave a solid review to his 2012 mixtape Dark York, saying “there’s a lot of fun to be had listening to Diouf take on rap taboos with a glint of mischief.” Because, of course, no conversation can be had without somewherementioning Le1f’s sexualpreferences. And, yes, those sort of themes and jokes pop up throughout his videos and mixtapes, but underneath all of the discussion about “queer rap” are some high-quality club-ready tracks— and more and more, that’s becoming the focus of all this hype.
Le1f, receiving much loveand coveragefrom this blog, just dropped another mixtape, and not surprisingly, the Internet is all over it. Fly Zoneis 13 tracks produced by 13 different producers, but Le1f is always the star of the show. “Spa Day” feels like Le1f is having the most fun, and he dodges in and out of quick, sharp-tongued rapping, even slipping in a “mazel tov.” On “Coins,” he laughs, messes with rhythms, and drops references to the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sex Pistols. But throughout Fly Zone, Le1f and his lyrics are in charge: “My jokes are funny, but my money’s not.”
After the jump, read a few critics’ words on the mixtape, and then listen to the whole thing yourself—Fly Zone is streaming on Soundcloud and free to download.
Also, click past the jump for my five favorite Le1f-related gifs.
Lest you worry that we haven’t posted enough recently about rising hip hop sensation Le1f/Khalif Diouf ’11 (note: wehave), here’s something to tide you over. The giftastic rapper behind “Wut” and “Soda” recently popped up on Pitchfork.tv, chatting about some of his influences (Wesleyan Pride Alert: “Heems is someone that inspires me a lot in terms of performance, and Das Racist”) and the vision he has for his wildly theatrical live performances:
“If someone was coming to see me, I would tell them to expect a really visceral, cathartic performance that is rap music. It’s a rap show that—I don’t want to say spiritual, but I’m trying to be very intense and honest and guttural. When I’m onstage and I realize people aren’t moving, it does force me to go really crazy. I have to find some rage.”
Filmed during CMJ, the interview also finds Le1f talking about his lyrics. “A lot of people say you can’t understand the words, and often I kind of don’t care,” he admits. “But one of the drawbacks of that is maybe people don’t understand the message. So it’s nice to have my dancers basically blessing the audience with holy water.” That theme also seems prevalent in the “Soda” video. Because it’s about, like, liquid and stuff.
Le1f (Khalif Diouf ’11) just released a music video for “Soda,” a track off his new EP Liquid. After garnering high praise last spring for his Dark York mixtape and releasing his booty-shaking debut video for “Wut,” Le1f made some music with NYC-based long time collaborator Boody. BNR describes the new EP as “a story of the natural becoming unnatural – of purity assimilating into baseness– a story of the submerged rising up, just to sink again into something new,” whatever that means (it’s moisture-themed).
The “Soda” video was directed by Sam Jones ’10(who also directed“Wut”) and Ben Bernstein ’10 produced it. Highlights include slow-mos of Le1f’s soda being poured into people’s mouths and the crazy early-aughts outfits including these plastic and denim crop tops:
Listen to previews of the tracks on Liquid after the jump:
It’s official: Wesleyan’s ownLe1fis da bomb diggity and he’s got ya moms feelin’ him.
New York’s pioneering queer-rap personality went byKhalif Diouf ’11at Wesleyan and drew heated acclaim last spring for hisDark York mixtape, which FADER called “one of the most provocative rap releases so far this year.” This week, Le1f dropped his debut video, and it’s probably the most outrageously booty-shaking YouTube spot this side of Big Freedia’s “Y’all Get Back Now.”
Highlights include shots of the bold rapper swinging from the ceiling like a bat, spitting speed rhymes from the lap of a Picachu-masked stranger, and shaking his scantily clad booty in many directions. (Not coincidentally, Le1f opened up for the Booty Queen herself in Eclectic last April.) Directed by Sam Jones ’10and produced by Josh Koenig ’09 (and featuring a few other alums along the way), the video has clear viral potential, but the track’s no slacker on its own, offering up an infectious horn-honk of a groove that stutters lightly over Le1f’s grimy drum claps and deep-voiced chant of a hook.
Das Racist member and Wesleyan alum Victor Vasquez ’06 has been grinding hard out in the Bay. His latest project, a solo album (or mixtape—both descriptors have been used interchangeably) entitled 51, came out yesterday on the Mishka/Greedhead/Veehead conglomerate.
Composed entirely in Oakland, 51 combines Vasquez’s distinctive penchant for esoteric, associative wordplay and racial commentary with the Bay area flavor of producers and rappers such as Amaze 88 and Main Attraktionz. 51 feels like a fulfillment of the experimental (if spare and slightly inaccessible) vision of Kool A.D.’s January mixtape, The Palm Wine Drinkard—it doesn’t upset the Greedhead model that we’ve come to expect over the last few months, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to that rapidly expanding catalogue of fresh hip-hop, which also includes LE1F’s (Khalif Diouf ’11) masterful debut mixtape Dark York. You’d do well to cop both releases while they’re hot n’ free. ‘Tis riiiiight.
Y’all better stop all this foolishness, cuz Eclectic’s tryna shake.
Remember in February when Sissy Bounce queen diva Big Freedia descended on ye olde Wes? When the New Orleans star forever changed the state of booty-poppin’ on campus with her bounce workshop, when she set Eclectic Haus aflame with her moves and basically made College Row look just like the scene in her masterful “Y’all Get Back Now” video (directed by Bob Weisz ’07 and Josh Ente ’08)?
Well, no. I don’t. Health issues came up, and Big Freedia had to postpone on the day of the show. (“She got the gastro,” claims anonymous commenter #1.) (Remember when gastro was a thing?) I cried myself to sleep and wondered if I would ever get to attend a booty-shaking workshop by the queen of booty-shaking. This time, it’s for real, and recentlyacclaimed Eclectic alum LE1F (Khalif Diouf ’11) is opening the show. Dylan Bostick ’13 has more:
One of, if not the central figure in New Orleans Sissy Bounce, Big Freedia has become famous for putting on some of the wildest dance parties and bringing bounce to the rest of the world. At 8:45, Freedia will also lead a lecture on New Orleans Bounce Music as well as a hands-on booty-shaking workshop.
LE1F: Pre-released tracks from his mixtape Dark York have received critical acclaim by Pitchfork, the Fader, and more, and now the day after his mixtape release, Le1f is coming back to Wesleyan!
Legendary hip-hop producer AraabMUZIK and Wesleyan Alumn LE1F (Khalif Diouf ’11) are coming to Eclectic on Friday, February 3rd. AraabMUZIK has worked with dipset members Cam’ron, Duke Da God, and Hell Rell. He’s also made beats for Young Jeezy, Ludacris, Cassidy, Gucci Man, Young Dro, and Fabolous. His latest album, Electronic Dream, has received extremely positive reviews, earning the “Best New Music” label from Pitchfork and praised by FACT magazine.
Tickets are $5. Buy them or at Usdan on Monday. Due to occupancy restrictions, tickets will sell out. Event is presented by Eclectic and Ujamaa. [TICKETS ARE NOW SOLD OUT.]
Online: Facebook, AuralWes, Last.fm When: February 3rd, 2011 Where: Eclectic House (200 High St) Contact: channa@wes