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Evan Monroe, otherwise known as M.C. Martin, is a seventeen-year-old rapper from Altadena, California. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a writing workshop this summer, and I conducted a short interview with the hip-hop artist. The interview and a brief review of his music is to follow.
MK: What do you hope to accomplish with your music? Do you have a specific goal or image in mind when you create?
EM: I hope to inspire. I think that music has two purposes: one is to entertain, and the other is to inspire. For me, music is rhythmic self-expression. I want my music to bring people together and transcend boundaries that may seem insurmountable. I hope to be an adequate vessel for the power of music and to continue to enjoy myself while doing it. So far, things are looking nice.
MK: That’s a very important goal—it’s present in your music, too. When you write songs with the aim of bringing different types of people in mind, where do you look for inspiration? What do you like to rap about?
EM: Every day life, my own experiences, the people I meet, and the places I go inspire me. Right now, I’m going through a period where music has been an avenue through which I can express the more mundane aspects of life. Even with rappers like Childish Gambino and Chance the Rapper, I’ve found that there isn’t much out there for suburban kids to identify with—it’s my goal to write about what’s honest and what’s real. I also draw inspiration from things I enjoy, like anime. I feel like songwriting, and writing in general, should always be unique to the songwriter’s experience in some way. Obscure anime references have become one of my favorite elements to include in my lyrics and to the people who can understand and appreciate them.
MK: Yeah, I totally get that. The more ordinary aspects of everyday life sometimes make more honest pieces. Can we expect any upcoming albums, EP’s, or mixtapes from you soon?
EM: I am currently working on my first EP. I’ve thrown a few ideas around, but I’m waiting on a title until the specific tracks come into focus. I’m planning on releasing it on SoundCloud before the end of 2014, so it’s on the horizon.
MK: Have you undergone any experiences critical to your development as a songwriter, ones that may potentially influence your upcoming music and your EP?
EM: One of the songs closest to my heart that I’ve written is “Words.” It’s centered around three of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, all of whom inspire me daily. The track dealt with various social issues I’m passionate about, such as the stigma that exists within the African-American community that suggests that it is rare to be highly accomplished in educational fields and still be black. Performing that song live for an audience at Flintridge Prep’s Junior Parent Dinner was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.
Monroe’s music is refreshingly different—he raps to reflect a greater concern for the social and political divides that separate people. His lyrics center around racism, double standards, and gender inequality, among other important issues. Monroe also writes about ordinary occurrences, with honest lyrics that are interested in more than just a happy ending or pleasure. I had the chance to watch him perform at the workshop, and he’s really wonderful to watch live. We will have a feature on his upcoming EP when it’s released!
@2 months ago with 1 note
Hey, everyone! A quick update: unfortunately, our old Facebook page got hacked into ( :( ), but we have a new page up and running! Missing TNC’s latest updates? Head on over to Facebook and like us now! Our page is linked here.@3 months ago
CJ Trillo, one of TNC’s beloved hip-hop artists, will be releasing his anticipated mixtape, “Undrafted,” later this month. We are so excited about this upcoming release; as one of TNC’s first artists, his work resonates with the vision of the site and the hope that we have for the future of music.
Trillo’s work displays a great sense of musicality and self-awareness. I love his music not only for how smooth and catchy it is, but also for its emotional content. Listening to CJ Trillo, I am so, so glad that he is a representative of hip-hop and rap. He covers a wide variety of important topics, from family to struggling identity, childhood to self-discovery. Listen to his lyrics and their personality and substance become very, very clear.
His song “The Trillos,” which can be streamed from his page on the site, is truly a work of art. It’s a poignant, visceral piece in which he describes his tumultuous family relationships and comes to a realization of the hope in the broken. Songs like this are what art is about—creating an emotional connection with listeners, sharing a story, forming an irreplaceable bond between the artist and their audience.
I took part in and listened to a discussion with the people in my writing workshop over what makes poetry, poetry. Before pencil and paper, there were songs, music, spoken word poems. Poetry is paying homage to language itself; it’s creating a connection with the reader. Art is all about connection and sharing your own voice, and Trillo is truly an artist.
We expect nothing less than amazing from “Undrafted,” and will keep y’all posted when it officially comes out. I know I’ve probably said this over and over again, but give his music a second listen, and really listen to his lyrics. You’ll find a lot of hidden gems. Check out his music here.@3 months ago with 1 note
The newest addition to the TNC family, Kayla Rix, brings a new dimension of soul and jazz to the singer-songwriter group. I was so pleased to discover that another singer-songwriter would be added to the site, and listening to her music only confirmed and heightened my joy. She can adapt and vary her voice to nicely complement the song she is singing/covering—it can go from a sweet softness to a fierce soulfulness in seconds.
Rix’s voice has a distinct quality in that it is soft but powerful. She takes pop songs and gives them soul. It almost seems like she is singing from a fourth dimension, from a different room. There’s something very Elena Torra-esque (the lead singer of Daughter) about her voice in that a listener feels like they are hearing it from somewhere distant, somewhere else. You would totally want her singing Ben Howard’s “Only Love” the moment you meet the love of your life.
The quality of being able to give a listener an escape is very, very powerful. She has a stunning consistency in her voice, but at the same time her voice sounds like the fluttering of a butterfly or the way lavender might taste. Vague metaphors aside, her cover of “Skinny Love” is a wonderful match for her sound—she has a Birdy feel, as well. (And come on, who doesn’t love Birdy?) She covers both Birdy and Christina Aguilera, a testament to the range of her voice and sound. Check out her music here.@3 months ago
Tora are synthesizing electronic with indie rock in a way that makes a listener reconsider what they had thought “indie” encompassed. They skillfully blend electronic with the indie feel that dominates the contemporary music world (I thought of Sufjan Stevens, Daughter, etc.), which is what makes their sound so special. Typically, people associate indie with acoustic, with The Shins. Tora aren’t just soothing voices and guitars. Their song “Captivate” is a perfect example of this new, tight synthesis of electronic and indie. Their music is redefining indie, and, although the genre is so broad, listeners expand their definitions of the genre, which is something incredible. Listening to them, I also realized that chillwave is, like, awesome.
I’ve noticed that it has become increasingly difficult to pinpoint an artist by a genre. Music has developed so that artists have the freedom to incorporate electronic elements into their respective genres, and the results are pretty incredible. However, this also makes it harder to set definitions around genre, and it makes the circles a little wider. The sense of immediate terror you feel when someone asks, “So, what type of music are you into?” isn’t completely unfounded.
In a different sense, though, these novel lack of definition is liberating to artists of all types. A combination of advancing technology, redefining limitations, and continual exploration has really made the music world the literal world it is. And it is limitless.
Anyway, be sure to check out Tora’s music here.@4 months ago
Djing started out as necessity rather than passion. As a college freshman in need of money, I took what money I had left to purchase turntables instead of working in dining services. After a Summer of practice, a career as a college party DJ quickly came about. That quickly turned into the formation of a rap group with buddies Mikey Mike (producer of “Jump” on Rihanna’s Unapologetic album) and Pat Gannon (of Rappers Anonymous and The Lyrical Collective). College ended, I moved to Boston, met up with Charlie Gimber of TheChuckness.com and started helping with his blog hustle. That turned into opening for shows headlined by Capital Cities, RAC, The Knocks, St. Lucia, Penguin Prison, Viceroy, Carousel and more. That same hustle is continuing today via the production of weekly Sunday Vibes for TheChuckness as well as the recording of various seasonal mixes. Hopefully, there is much more in store.
DJ B-Rob’s mixes are tight, in every sense of the word. He seamlessly incorporates his own beats into his music, and each piece contains so many different sounds, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint what he encompasses. His music is limitless—in his “Porch Project Vol. II (Memorial Day Edition),” the track starts with a remix of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” before transitioning to rap and later, an R&B sound. Although this doesn’t sound possible through my description, listening to his music, it becomes evident that the way he experiments with his music is very, very unique and effortless-sounding.
I wish I were able to describe his music better, but in cases like this, his music speaks for itself. There is so much diversity in his pieces that any listener is bound to like him. Listen to his music here.@5 months ago
A singer-songwriter based in London, Cameron was born into a musical family in Hong Kong. He was brought up playing classical piano and violin from a young age. At 15 he began songwriting and taught himself the guitar as well as how to sing, and by his late teens was performing in bands and venues around London. Heavily influenced by artists such as Paolo Nutini, John Mayer, Eric Clapton, Mumford and Sons, and Matt Corby, Cameron’s songs are introspecting and poetic and fall under the folk-pop genre.
Cameron Douglas consistently matches the incredible quality of the singer-songwriters of the site. I loved listening to his music—his sound has a distinct folk feel to it. As stated in his bio, listeners can definitely hear the Mayer and Mumford influences, among others, through his voice in a unique fusion and a refreshing twist on folk music. I was reminded of Angus and Julia Stone, and they’re awesome. I don’t think folk receives nearly as much credit as it deserves, and Cameron really does the genre justice.
His acoustic covers exude a certain gentleness that doesn’t exist in the original versions. (Just go listen to his “Riptide” cover.) He has a knack for words that allows his lyrics to flow so smoothly, which are as poetic as they are catchy. I’ve listened to his original “Lisbon Love” a few times, and it only gets better. Check out his music here.@5 months ago with 2 notes
London-born TNC artist Cynikal hopes to inspire an evolution of sound through his music, whose synthesis of hip-hop and rap vibes distinguish him in the British music scene. TNC founder Amber Park conducted an interview with the artist, who discusses his influences, aspirations, and extensive history with music and sound.
AP: Tell us a little about Cynikal.
C: I’m a pensive character with a meticulous attention to details across all facets of life. But I suppose people know me best as a rapper/producer.
AP: We appreciate you as both of those things. As to your rapping identity, what exactly was your first experience in music?
C: My earliest memories are banging pots and pans in the kitchen when I was about 2, busking outside a shopping mall on my guitar when I was 3, and getting my first keyboard when I was 4. Rap-wise, I fell in love with hip-hop when I was 13 and began writing lyrics almost immediately, becoming a producer not long after.
AP: It’s both impressive and amazing that you realized and pursued your dream at such a young age. What were/are some of your influences as you developed (and continue to develop) as an artist?
C: Life, really. I love information, and I feel we limit ourselves sometimes when it comes to using our five senses. I don’t think a musician has to be inspired by only music, just as a photographer doesn’t have to be inspired by only images. With creativity, there’s a lot of cross-pollination when it comes to influence - I may find sources in sports, food, film, and books. The world is there to be absorbed, and I aim to channel that into audio.
AP: I completely agree—all great art is derived from human experience. In terms of where you are now, do you think you still have a lot more to achieve?
C: Of course. I’m a fierce competitor, and if I created music for anyone, it would be for myself. I have to push myself in every facet of life that I apply myself to - whether it be education, sports, or music - so naturally when it comes to my profession, I’m going to use the same ethos. When I look back on my achievements, I think “that’s cool, but not cool enough.” That’s just me.
AP: What else do you hope to achieve with your music?
Over time my goals and expectations have not really shifted too much. My current path may be different than the one I had mapped out when I was 13, for sure, but I still want to have an impact on peoples lives that will stay with them forever, much like how Michael Jackson, Tupac, and Eminem affected me.
AP: Exactly—emotional and creative impact is what TNC aims to inspire. Here’s a broader question: the British music scene has been very prominent over the last few years. Why do you think that’s so?
C: Dance culture here is huge, it’s always been that way. But, for a small period of time, the demand for it disappeared. We seem to have re-entered an era where dance is the dominant soundscape with bands like Rudimental and Disclosure—we’re back on the map. Sprinkle that with our healthy tradition of singer/songwriters such as Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard, and all of a sudden we have re-emerged as a global powerhouse.
AP: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
C: Honestly, I don’t know. The options are so great it would be hard to narrow it down to a precise direction. I’ll still be making music, but I’d like to apply my skills to other creative fields too - film, fashion and brand development. It would be a shame to limit myself to being just a musical entity, because my passions lie further afield from just one aspect of the arts.
AP: One last question: why do you think people should listen to Cynikal?
C: I think they would enjoy what I have to offer. My music is for those who like to expand their views - atmospheric yet conscious. I think about how I can offer an experience beyond the stereo domain, and I think if listeners are prepared to journey into something that transcends the barrier of the speakers (especially when playing live), I’d love to have more people on the train.
Cynikal’s music, including his latest EP “Toby,” can be found on the site. Interested in what he has to offer? Check him out here.@2 months ago
JOY. is the project of 17 year old singer/producer Olivia McCarthy from Brisbane, Australia. She produced her first single ‘Captured’ herself with the help of Alfio Alivuzza & Tim Commandeur (Panama).
Sorry I’ve been MIA, lovelies! I just spent the best two weeks of my life (thus far) at the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop, and I am so ready to be back and blogging about wonderful music!
JOY is a wonderful new twist on singing/songwriting. Her music, influenced by electronic, adds another dimension to the typical singer-songwriter vibe listeners are used to. Her songs are smooth, relaxing, and absolutely lovely to listen to.
One thing I love about McCarthy is that her music really emphasizes the quality of her voice—it has the lightness of Elena Tonra of Daughter (I know I keep comparing artists to her, but I only mean it with the utmost delight!). She focuses on a few main lyrics and ideas that are really imprinted into a listener’s mind. Although we only have two of her songs up on the site, I keep listening to “Captured” over and over again. The lines “I thought that I was broken…I thought that you were different” recur throughout the song, and combined with the gentle violence of her voice, a listener can understand the essence of the emotions behind the song through the simplicity of the lyrics and sound. Listening to JOY truly is lovely. Why are all of our Australian artists so amazing?! One of my good friends at Kenyon was Australian, and she was an amazing writer and person. Australians, tell me your secrets. Listen to JOY here.@2 months ago with 1 note
Mint Dealers are from the North Shore in Sydney, Australia, and its members are Alexander Perry and Lach Mackay.
Although I am not very knowledgeable in the incredibly diverse genres of electronic or trap, I am glad TNC has groups like Mint Dealers to introduce new listeners to what the genre encompasses. These two are up-and-coming DJ’s and musicians, having performed in the major clubs in Sydney. Later this year, they will be playing a the 2014 Eastern University Games Ceremony, and like so many artists on the site, they are redefining the borders of electronic music.
Their remixes (wonderfully named “Minty Edits”) are super tight—they have covered Flume, The White Stripes, Eminem, and countless other music icons. They describe their style as progressive house and Melbourne bounce, and their mixes are lovely in that they don’t attack the listener. They’re subtly infectious, and they find a carefully crafted balance between loud and soft and variations on tempos. Their “April Mix” would turn any situation into a perpetual party.
Love their name as much as I do? Listen to their music here.@3 months ago
We have shared our love for Alta-D before. Now, we’re praising him for achieving something musically that has us very excited—a remix of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” one of the smoothest I have yet to hear.
We tend to be naturally reluctant when the words “Stevie Wonder” and “remix” come together, simply because Wonder was a legend. His work is so distinct, it is difficult to remix his music into something original without entirely botching the song. I am very pleased to say that Alta-D, through adding the lighthearted electronic beats and woodwinds that are characteristic of his style, really made the song his own by adding another dimension to it. The intro reminded me of his work in “CPark,” which, if you haven’t listened to it, is this crazy mix of jazz and rap that you should probably go listen to right now.
Wonder loved messing with the electronic, synthetic stuff of his time—he layered his sounds in a way that didn’t detract from his iconic voice. Alta-D added a stronger downbeat to the song, speeding the tempo and adding lighter, higher instruments than Wonder’s electric guitar, giving the remix a much more upbeat feel. While Wonder’s original radiates class and novelty (it is a piece I would love to tap dance to), Alta-D revitalized it in a certain sense by speeding up the song. He added a lighthearted, pop feel to a very soulful song. I can see it as a great remix for parties, so mad props to him for bringing a classic to a new venue and audience.
The song is currently featured on The New Company’s homepage, but you can also listen to it here.@4 months ago with 2 notes
Misogyny has been growing increasingly present in music and its subtle oppression is making its way into our memories as a catchy beat in disguise. Since forever, the music industry has been propagating the notion that, for women in music to be successful, they must be physically attractive and over-sexualized. If a female artist is not conventionally attractive or less promiscuous than she is expected to be, she is considered dull or boring. The same applies, and is unfortunately very prevalent, in real life: if a girl wears too little and shows off her body, she’s a “slut,” but if she covers it up, she’s a “prude.” The inherent paradox of being a girl is something the music industry has jumped to exploit by portraying women as objects — since girls struggle enough with the patriarchal values telling them contradictory things about who they are, the music industry distributes the idea that women’s purpose should be to bring pleasure to men.
Music instills misogynistic values into listeners’ mindsets, without us even realizing it. How many times have we seen music videos with multiple women dancing around half-naked, and how many of them do you actually remember as individuals? Women are constantly made replaceable objects in the way they are portrayed, often intended to emphasize the superiority of a man.
I know this has been chewed over and spit out and argued a billion times, but Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is an archetypical example of the horrific way women are portrayed. Throughout the song, you hear him half-whisper in this creepy, totally nonconsensual way that he knows a girl “wants it.” Not only is this contributing to rape culture and the notion that women should be submissive to men, but it also gives girls the idea that that’s what they should want. Several women are parading around him, and he is made the glorified persona while these women are there to add a visual aesthetic, to enhance Thicke’s power in the video, and to propagate the idea that women are animals, that male dominance is “sexy.” The most terrifying part of this song’s release? How popular it became, and how so many people dismissed its disgusting values for the fact that it had a catchy beat. This song was played everywhere. Girls danced along to it without realizing that its very nature is what prevents them from being considered individuals.
Lily Allen’s most recent single, “Hard Out Here,” definitely stirred audiences into realizing the terribleness of the industry’s female exploitation. Views on her single are controversial, but one thing is certain: listeners felt very uncomfortable watching the video. Why? Because she blatantly illustrated how, when roles are reversed, people are able to see how wrong the objectification and sexualization is. The industry’s subtlety in promoting misogynistic values is what has made it so successful, and Allen’s undisguised portrayal of the standards to which women are set allowed people to realize that it is very, very wrong—unfortunately, it took a very frank parody to get such an important message across.
Artists like Beyoncé, who try to break the mold set for women, allow us to see the fragility of the patriarchal values that the industry has worked so hard to uphold. Bey may dress with as little or as much clothing as other artists, but she distinguishes herself in the way she views herself. She has decided to set herself as a role model and a feminist (which everybody should be). And people will criticize her for the typical “oh, but the way she dresses contradicts her message,” which is a belief we all need to dispel and eliminate. The way a woman dresses has nothing to do with her self-respect or the quality of her humanity.
Although Beyoncé has served as an inspiration for millions of girls and advocates some pretty breakthrough feminist ideologies, the industry still reaps the monetary benefits and uses them to reinstate even more misogynistic artists and values. Beyoncé’s label undoubtedly makes a ton of money—just look at her popularity. Unfortunately, since so much money returns to the industry, they can use that to produce other music, to present more artists like Thicke as the new hip thing. The industry is the monster and the machine, and we need to counter its widespread influence by changing our own personal convictions.
Women are portrayed as animalistic, seductive, vehicles for men’s pleasure. In lyrics and videos, audiences are constantly bombarded with images of what women should aspire to be in order to be desirable to men. I think it’s time for the audience to fight back.@4 months ago with 1 note
I’m a storyteller, global nomad and modern troubadour, sometimes called indie-folk singer-songwriter, or even professional musician (when trying to impress people in suits).
My songs are about the deeper journeys we all experience as humans trying to make sense of this life we have been given, this minuscule drop in the ocean which still feels so incredibly precious to us.
Besides his awesome and unconventional first-person biography (third-person bios are so much less personal, seriously), Nate Maingard’s music is as relaxing as it is knee-knockingly acoustic. I LOVE the folk artists that have been added to the site recently, and Nate is no exception. While not traditionally folk, his music is a nice blend of folk and indie. His sound is a little like that of Bright Eyes, and everybody likes Bright Eyes. As a singer-songwriter, his voice could be the poster of indie.
It becomes immediately recognizable that he tells stories through his songs. “Barefoot Romance” and “Thinking of a Starfish” are a couple of his song titles. He forms a connect with his audience, even through the glory of the Internet. Especially through the glory of the Internet. Seriously, check out his music here.@5 months ago with 1 note