Archive For The “Music” Category

The Sun, The Moon And A String Quartet: Kronos Plays Live To The Solar Eclipse

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The Sun, The Moon And A String Quartet: Kronos Plays Live To The Solar Eclipse
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Preparation for Monday’s solar eclipse has focused on safe viewing techniques: Don’t forget to don those special “eclipse glasses.” But you also may want to insert earbuds, because the ever-intrepid Kronos Quartet will be making music with the sun in real time as the eclipse unfolds. You can stream it live on this page on Monday, Aug. 21, beginning at 12:15 p.m. EDT.

Wayne Grim, a composer based at the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s science museum, has devised a way to turn what is essentially a silent viewing event into a musical one as well. He calls it the “sonification” of the eclipse.

At the sun’s core, subatomic particles smash into each other. Grim plans to soak up the resulting nuclear fusion and turn it into notes. Photons from the fusion, captured by telescopes in Casper, Wyo., are converted to pixels. Those are sent back into space and relayed via satellite to the Exploratorium, where Kronos is on stage. Grim’s special software recasts each pixel’s digital fingerprint into unique tones. Kronos will perform with the sounds of the sun, adapting as the eclipse comes and goes.

Score for composer Wayne Grim’s “sonification” of Monday’s solar eclipse.

Wayne Grim/Wayne Grim

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Wayne Grim/Wayne Grim

Grim has pre-baked part of the music, organizing samples from the quartet into a colorful score with 23 cells that looks more like a collage than your standard staff notation. There aren’t any specific instructions; it’s a kind of road map to follow as the eclipse proceeds.

This is Grim’s initial collaboration with Kronos, but it isn’t his first time with “sonification.” He created musical evocations of the 2012 transit of Venus and last year’s total solar eclipse in Micronesia.

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Spotify Removes Racist Music In Response To Charlottesville

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Spotify Removes Racist Music In Response To Charlottesville

Virginia State Police in Charlottesville, Va., on Sunday, the day after a “Unite the Right” rally ended in violence and the death of a 32-year-old woman.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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Spotify and other streaming services have begun removing white supremacist content from their platforms, as websites and musicians alike scramble to distance themselves from the white nationalist movement.

In a statement on Wednesday, Spotify blamed the labels and distributors that supply music to its database but said “material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us. Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention.”

Tidal, the streaming service partially owned by Jay-Z, seems to be following suit. Two “hate bands” NPR found on the platform on Tuesday had been removed as of Thursday morning.

The existence of racist music on music platforms isn’t a new phenomenon. Nearly three years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out to Apple and the iTunes Store that they were selling, and thereby profiting from, openly racist, neo-fascist musicians, like the hardcore band Skrewdriver.

In March 2015, the SPLC published a follow-up to its iTunes report that specifically addressed the fact that other digital platforms — most notably, Spotify and Amazon — were continuing to sell such music.

Swift rebuke of racist content wasn’t limited to listening platforms. Country music website Wide Open Country took the unorthodox step of publishing an editorialdirected at any racist readers, after a roundup of country musicians’ reactions to the events in Charlottesville, Va., drew polarizing criticism on social media.

Matt Alpert, the website’s managing editor, wrote, “I want to make something very clear to everyone who follows us and reads this site: Wide Open Country vehemently opposes any form of racism. We stand firmly against any type of hatred, bigotry and especially any Nazi scum.”

“I felt compelled to say something,” Alpert told NPR. “With this particular thing that happened in Charlottesville, we wanted to be clear about how we felt about that and where we stand. Seeing those comments, and seeing them rise to the top [of the post] … it felt like we needed to say something.”

Writing on Facebook Wednesday, country music royalty Rosanne Cash took aim at a “self-proclaimed neo-Nazi” who was photographed wearing a T-shirt with Johnny Cash’s face on it. “We were sickened by the association,” she wrote, going on to point out that her father’s “pacifism and inclusive patriotism were two of his most defining characteristics.”

Facebook also took steps this week to make it harder for racist fans to share photos like the one featuring Johnny Cash. The social network drew its own line in the sand, removing the profile pages of Christopher Cantwell, a fascist activist who promotes overthrowing the U.S. government according to the SPLC. Cantwell, who was profiled by Vice while in Charlottesville, says on video that “we’re not nonviolent; we’ll f****** kill these people if we have to.”

Facebook’s terms prohibit posting content it classifies as “hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” The dominance of Facebook’s platform helped to legitimize voices like Cantwell’s through proximity to more legitimate news sources within people’s feeds, a problem it says it is working to fix.

In a memo to his staff yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced his company would donate $2 million and double its employees’ donations to human rights groups through Sept. 30. “As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect,” Cook wrote.

Examples of tech’s circling of the wagons in the midst of a racist storm of philosophical shrapnel abound. But the connection between Wide Open Country and Spotify is clear — both are finally saying,We don’t want you here.”

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Overcoats On World Cafe

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Overcoats On World Cafe

Overcoats’ debut album is called Young.

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  • “23”
  • “Hold Me Close”

In this session, we bring you a live session with Overcoats. The duo’s music rests on two voices so perfectly in sync you’d swear they were coming from the same person — or, at least, from people who are related. Or, at least, people who’ve known each other their whole lives.

But none of those things are true for Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell. They met at Wesleyan college and formed a near-instant bond that’s the stuff of sisterhood dreams. Their connection is the centerpiece of their sound as Overcoats, and I’ll tell ya: After spending an afternoon with them in studio, that connection goes way beyond the music.

Overcoats’ debut album is called Young. It’s a coming-of-age record with a twist: The usual loneliness of growing pains is impossible for the band, because no matter what one member is going through, she has a friend locked in musical step.

Hear the complete session in the player above. You can also get a look inside the studio as the duo performs “Hold Me Close” in the VuHaus performance video below.

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VuHaus

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Charles Berry Jr. On World Cafe

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Charles Berry Jr. On World Cafe

Chuck Berry, the subject of discussion in this session with his son Charles Berry Jr.

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“Johnny B Goode” – Chuck Berry is on Top
“My Ding-A-Ling” – The London Chuck Berry Sessions
“Jaguar And Thunderbird” – Chuck berry on Stage
“Wonderful Woman” – Chuck

Most of us know Chuck Berry as a pioneer, if not the pioneer, who defined rock ‘n’ roll. My guest today knew him as dad.

Charles Berry Jr. is here to share memories of growing up watching the elder Berry on TV, joining him on tour in his later years and contributing to what would be his final record, an album called Chuck that was released in June.

Chuck was decades in the making. It’s Berry’s first collection of almost entirely new songs since 1979’s Rockit. Hear our conversation in the player above.

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One Of Music Row's Most Influential Leaders, Jo Walker-Meador, Has Died At 93

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One Of Music Row's Most Influential Leaders, Jo Walker-Meador, Has Died At 93

Jo Walker-Meador and Vince Gill at the Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee in 2015.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMHOF

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Jo Walker-Meador, one of the most important behind-the-scenes advocates of country music, has died. Walker-Meador, who led the Country Music Association as its executive director from 1962 to 1991, died Tuesday night in Nashville at age 93 after suffering a stroke. Her death was announced by the Country Music Association and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Born February 16, 1924 in Orlinda, Tennesee as Edith Josephine Denning and raised on a farm, Walker-Meador began working in 1958 as the first paid employee of the Country Music Association, which hired her as its office manager.

When first hired, Walker-Meador had a very steep learning curve, as she told CountryZone.net in a 2008 interview: “I knew nothing about country music,” she said. “I had never been to the Grand Ole Opry. I’d heard of Minnie Pearl and Roy Accuff, Ernest Tubb and I’d heard of Hank Williams but I didn’t delineate the different types of music… they had a board of directors just been elected several weeks before I was employed. They didn’t want to hire someone who wanted to be a singer or who wanted to be a songwriter, but someone who would be an administrator.”

Within four years, she became CMA’s executive director, after the resignation of the organization’s founding director, Harry Stone.

It’s hard to overestimate the growth of country music as an industry over the course of her tenure, as the Country Music Hall of Fame pointed out in its remembrance: “One year before she took the helm at the CMA, full-time country radio stations numbered fewer than 100 nationwide. By 1995, there were nearly 2,400 such stations.”

During her time leading the organization, the CMA became a country music industry powerhouse and, for other “niche” music genres, an important model for self-advocacy. Those activities included establishing the Country Music Hall of Fame (which launched in 1961), the annual CMA Awards (begun in 1967 and televised nationally beginning the following year), and the CMA Music Festival (originally known as Fan Fair), which was created in 1972.

Walker-Meador was herself elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995.

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Reissued 'Party Of One' Captures Nick Lowe At His Witty, Melodic Best

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Reissued 'Party Of One' Captures Nick Lowe At His Witty, Melodic Best

Six albums the British songwriter recorded between 1982 and 1990 are being reissued in remastered versions. Critic Ken Tucker singles out Party of One as being among Lowe’s finest works.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic Ken Tucker is excited that six albums that the British songwriter and performer Nick Lowe recorded between 1982 and 1990 are being reissued in remastered versions with some previously unreleased tracks. Ken says much of this music has been underrated. And he singles out, in particular, the album “Party Of One” as being among Lowe’s finest works.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “WHAT’S SHAKIN’ ON THE HILL”)

NICK LOWE: (Singing) There’s a cool wind blowing in the sound of happy people at a party given for the gay and debonair. There’s an organ blowing in the breeze for the dancers hid behind the trees. But I ain’t never going to see what’s shaking on the hill.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: In an interview after “Party Of One” had been released, Nick Lowe lamented that the album had, quote, “sold about four copies.” It was very depressing, he said. I can understand his dismay. “Party Of One,” released in 1990, holds up as one of the liveliest and wittiest collections Lowe has ever released, and that’s saying something.

Lowe at his best has a gift for both melodic hooks and clever wordplay that is in full force on a song here such as “All Men Are Liars,” which includes his immortal rhyming of the singer Rick Astley with the word ghastly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “ALL MEN ARE LIARS”)

LOWE: (Singing) All men…

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) All men…

LOWE: (Singing) All men are liars. Their words ain’t worth no more than worn out tires. Hey, girls.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Girls.

LOWE: (Singing) Bring rusty pliers to pull this tooth. All men are liars, and that’s the truth. Well, do you remember Rick Astley? He had a big, fat hit that was ghastly.

TUCKER: Six of Lowe’s 1980s albums have been reissued. In addition to “Party Of One,” they are “Nick the Knife,” “The Abominable Showman,” “Nick Lowe And His Cowboy Outfit,” “The Rose Of England” and “Pinker And Prouder Than Previous.” Each of these has some excellent songs. And I’d put “My Heart Hurts” from “Nick The Knife” on a Nick Lowe best-of.

But for sheer consistency, “Party Of One” is, I assert, equal to his 1978 debut, “Pure Pop For Now People.” There’s a power to “Party Of One’s” rhythms and its novel use of repetition, as in the way Lowe tightens the chorus of “You Got The Look I Like” into a coiled spring.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “YOU GOT THE LOOK I LIKE”)

LOWE: (Singing) You got the style, you’ve got the sense that makes a man race till he’s spent, that makes him twang like a guitar string, you overpowering thing. I go to work, but I’m in late. I can’t think or concentrate. My rapid rise will have to wait. I’m in a pitiful state. You got it. You got it. You got it. You got it. You got it. You got the look I like, baby. You got it. You got it. You got it. You – girl, you got it. Hey, you got the look I like. Help me, baby.

TUCKER: One reason this album sounds so good is that it features what is probably the finest assemblage of musicians Lowe has ever had, including the great drummer Jim Keltner, Ry Cooder and producer Dave Edmunds on guitar, and Paul Carrack on keyboards and some backing vocals. Tight yet loose, this group knows what to do, even when Lowe is dipping into the absurd with nonsense lyrics called “Shting-Shtang.”

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SHTING-SHTANG”)

LOWE: (Singing) Shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang. Well, I made some money, and I’m feeling good. Shting-shtang, shting-shtang. Found a honey, and I think she would. Shting-shtang, shting-shtang. Well, I’m moving up from a great big down. Shting-shtang, shting-shtang. And the way I feel feel like this sound. Shting-shtang, shting-shtang. I’m talking about shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang. Yeah, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang, shting-shtang. Just the other day…

TUCKER: For many years, I drove up to Maine in the summer – a 12-hour ride for which I had accumulated a choice selection of albums on cassette tape to make the journey more jaunty. By the time we got to Maine, my daughters were singing the refrains of “Party Of One” songs like “All Men Are Liars” and “Honeygun,” whose lewd organizing metaphor I was never called upon to explain, thank goodness. This is a testament to Nick Lowe’s ability as a writer of catchy hooks.

But now, years later, I sit more calmly, alone in a chair, and listen to “Party Of One.” And I find myself marveling anew at the emotional directness and bristling intelligence underpinning this superbly enjoyable music.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Yahoo TV. The set of Nick Lowe reissues is on Yep Roc Records. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, our guest will be Eric Lipton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter who covers corporate agendas and government relations. He’s been investigating the extent to which the regulated have become the regulators in the Trump administration. He writes about industry lobbyists who are now in senior positions at many government agencies working to roll back regulations they once fought. I hope you’ll join us.

FRESH AIR’s executive producer is Danny Miller. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Ann Marie Baldonado, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Mooj Zadie and Thea Chaloner. I’m Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIAN LAGE’S “PERSIAN RUG”)

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Jamila Woods And Chance The Rapper Counter Chicago's Narrative With 'LSD'

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Jamila Woods And Chance The Rapper Counter Chicago's Narrative With 'LSD'

Jamila Woods and Chance The Rapper have a new video to counter Chicago’s image as a hotbed of guns and gang violence. The two homegrown artists challenge this one-dimensional caricature of the city with innocent scenes of children, families and loving communities.

“LSD,” from Woods’ newly re-released debut LP HEAVN, distills summertime into backyard barbecues and colorful, reflective moods. An equal amount of love went into the making of the video, which was directed in conjunction with students of Chicago Public Schools. An accompanying making-of-the-video documentary details how students — from the same school system that Chance the Rapper donated $1 million to earlier this year — submitted treatments and worked alongside VAM Studio filmmakers to envision a Chicago of their own telling. The resulting contrast, full of plastic-cup parties, walks by the beach, dreamy selfies and selfless neighbors – and Chance manning the grill – exemplifies what happens when marginalized communities get to shape their own story.

They fill in all the blanks.

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Jury Rules In Favor Of Taylor Swift In Groping Lawsuit

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Jury Rules In Favor Of Taylor Swift In Groping Lawsuit

The jury ruled in favor of the pop superstar on Monday, in a high profile case in which she accused a Denver radio disc jockey of groping her. Swift did not report the incident at the time in 2013.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A jury has ruled in favor of pop superstar Taylor Swift in a high-profile case in Denver. A radio DJ sued Taylor Swift, her mother and her manager for falsely accusing him of assault and getting him fired from his job. Swift countersued for a dollar, saying the DJ put his hand up her skirt and groped her during a photo op. The case got attention from advocates of survivors of sexual assault, who are praising Swift’s frank and unapologetic stand. A language warning here for listeners as we recount some of that testimony.

NPR’s Leila Fadel is outside the court and joins us now from Denver. And, Leila, this seems like a pretty quick verdict from this jury. Remind us the details of this case.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Well, David Mueller, a radio disc jockey here in Denver, was suing Taylor Swift, her mother and her manager for radio, Frank Bell, saying that he was falsely accused of groping Swift, and he lost his job over that. Taylor Swift was dismissed from the case as a defendant on Friday. The judge said there was insufficient evidence that she acted improperly when making that accusation.

So today he lost his case with defendants being her mother and her manager. He was suing for $2.98 million in damages. Meanwhile, the countersuit by Taylor Swift in which she sued Mueller for just $1 for assault and battery, the jury found that she was in fact assaulted and she suffered battery. And she got that $1.

CORNISH: Now, Taylor Swift did take the stand last week. Her testimony was widely recounted in the press. Talk about what she had to say and why it resonated.

FADEL: Yeah, you know, her cross-examination really got the attention of advocates for survivors of sexual assault. And they said that it got their attention because she was unapologetic. She was consistent. And she really refused to be shamed, even at one point looking at the lawyer and said, I’m going to – I refuse to make this about me, that this is not my fault.

You know, she had some pretty strong language during her cross-examination. When it was suggested that Mueller might have touched her somewhere else unintentionally by his lawyer, she said, no, he did not touch my rib. He did not touch my hand. He touched my bare ass. Now, that’s a direct quote. And she used that word several times in court.

In another instance, Mueller’s lawyer asked why she wasn’t critical of her bodyguard for not keeping Mueller away from her. And her answer again was, I’m critical of your client for sticking his hand up my skirt. And that is what advocates looked at, saying she was really refusing to be shamed in court where victims, they say, are often retraumatized.

CORNISH: At the same time, I know that the DJ suing Taylor Swift, the defense, talked about her not reporting this to police.

FADEL: You know, two-thirds of sexual assaults are not reported to police according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. And this was kept quiet. This happened in 2013. A 51-year-old man allegedly groped her under her skirt when she was 23. And he was quietly fired. And that’s why he sued. This came into the limelight because David Mueller sued. And her mother on the stand last week cried about that. She said that she had wanted to not revictimize her daughter.

And that is also a mainstay of the case and what the lawyer said who is representing Taylor Swift, saying that she was being revictimized. And just now after the verdict, he said that today something good happened, that the dollar that she countersued for was symbolic of all victims who have not been able to speak out.

CORNISH: That’s NPR’s Leila Fadel reporting on the case from Denver. Leila, thank you.

FADEL: Thank you.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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At 'Serbia's Woodstock', Female Musicians Are Rare

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At 'Serbia's Woodstock', Female Musicians Are Rare

Hundreds of thousands flock to the Guca Trumpet Festival each year for Balkan brass bands and plum wine. American brass player and fan Eleni Govetas is there.

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Takes One To Know One: Rapper Ugly God Speaks To (And For) Teens

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Takes One To Know One: Rapper Ugly God Speaks To (And For) Teens

Ugly God’s debut album, The Booty Tape, dropped August 4.

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The rapper and producer who calls himself Ugly God was a freshman in college when a freestyle he’d casually recorded in his dorm room started to catch fire on the Internet. Now — a little over a year later — it’s been played 94 million times on SoundCloud — and he’s just released his first full length project, The Booty Tape. The 20-year-old owes his success, in part, to a recent revolution in youth culture that has helped unfiltered teen perspectives go viral.

As The Booty Tape opens, he’s being insulted: “I mean he’s not that attractive and then all he wants to sing about is dumb stuff!” That’s the verdict delivered by a woman whose son hosts a YouTube channel featuring her reactions to currently trending rap videos. Her objections have precedent. Recall Tipper Gore pushing warning stickers for records on Oprah, back in 1990:

“Parents would be alerted when there was graphic material,” Gore explained.

“I don’t know if that helps or hurts. Because I think kids, when they see the label, want it even more,” Oprah responded.

Oprah’s not wrong. The video for Ugly God’s “Water” has, to date, been watched more than 30 million times.

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Ugly God, aka Royce Davison, is as surprised as anybody by his popularity — though he has a theory about where it started.

“I think it was me making these lizard videos,” he says. “I used to make videos of me grabbing lizards and putting them on my nose. And that was so viral. For the longest time, I was just gaining and gaining followers just off that. And then they realized I made music. Viral music, just like those videos. And everything clicked.”

Ugly God has a pretty clear understanding of who’s listening to his music: mostly, it’s young people.

“It’s not s*** children supposed to be listening to,” he says, “but at the same time, I know who my audience is. I know exactly what it is: children. It’s been expanded, but, for the most part, it’s kids.”

Teenagers and kids in their early 20s set the tone on all of the social media platforms that germinate widely shared content. They sift the torrent of media aimed their way and route the imagery and sounds that amuse them, or that they relate to, or whatever just gets stuck in their heads. And the way to every kid’s heart is to choose a lyric — or subject matter — that’s off limits at home.

“It is what it is,” says Ugly God. “It’s just freedom, bro: s*** I never could do, really. It’s part of the art.”

[embedded content]

The art of making catchy music that has the side benefit of irritating parents is something that has been making corporations money for a slick century. But Ugly God has a different end game, and he’s following in some big footsteps to get there — like those of rapper Lil B.

Lil B made his name in the Myspace era, the mid-2000s, and became the improbable hero of young people turned off by a music industry that seemed bloated, and one they felt was taking advantage of them.

“My motto has always been: for the people,” Lil B says. “You can kind of compare what I do in the likeness of the gentleman who founded Wal-Mart. You know, I like to respect the customer.”

Lil B gave his music away for free. He invented a dance that spread from online user-made videos to the NBA. Through his social media, book and occasional university lectures, Lil B spread a message of positivity and self-belief with songs that don’t follow the rules.

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Lil B spoke directly to his peers — and Ugly God is doing the same now. Lil B put out his first song, with a group called The Pack, when he was 16.

“You know, reporting it from a teenager’s perspective early,” he says. “Yeah, I think it’s a powerful time, to talk to the people at that age. I just think, if you want to speak with them, you have to connect with them in some way.”

Ugly God recalls the impact Lil B had on him.

“His words were so inspirational,” Ugly God says. “He’s way smarter than people think.”

Ugly God takes that inspiration and turns it into a critique. In his words, it’s a critique of “everybody: how everybody acts the same, sound the same and look the same — and think the same. It’s weird how everybody wants to impress everybody, so everybody looks the same and acts the same, trying to impress each other. That’s stupid.”

Both Ugly God and Lil B — who’s putting out a tape himself later this month — are encouraging kids to be themselves and build a community around that.

“A community,” says Lil B, “where everybody’s accepted.”

[embedded content]

The foibles of adults are more apparent than ever these days and nobody seems to be above a vulgar joke. If the message teenagers are putting out in the world is to be yourself and love your neighbor, then maybe it’s time we start listening to the children.

Ugly God certainly has. “I was just like one of them,” he says, “and then they just pushed me up like, ‘Handle your business bro. For us.'”

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