By Geoffrey Rowlands
How many hip hop acts would cite artists such as The Killers, Sigur Ros and The Beach Boys as major influences on their work? This is one of the many factors which separate ILoveMakonnen from the average rapper.
Sadly, legal problems are something the man born Makonnen Sheran does have in common with so many other exponents of the hip hop genre. Although he is understandably reluctant to discuss what was a terrible episode in his life, the juvenile Makonnen accidentally shot and killed his closest friend.
A sympathetic judge imposed a sentence of house arrest followed by four years of probation. But this was when Makonnen’s life changed. Instead of joining the air force, he used his period of domestic incarceration to make music.
“I’d make beats on my keyboard and record everything into my computer,” explained 25-year-old Makonnen. “At that time, I was more interested in creating music than rapping. I hoped someone else would rap over my beats. Young Jeezy was the artist I always wanted to work with.
“I uploaded my stuff on to MySpace and actually got to communicate online with a lot of other young artists. Adele was among them but Jeezy wasn’t so I started thinking I should make my own raps. That’s how I first began to move away from making beats to performing raps.”
After he was freed from house arrest, Makonnen decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps by enrolling in cosmetology school.
“I was the only guy there. My mother had worked in the beauty business for over 30 years. She said a lot of women would enjoy having their nails and faces worked on by a guy rather than another woman so she thought I could do well as a beautician.”
Makonnen didn’t give up on his music though. He joined a collective named Phantom Posse. His work with them led to a meeting with producer Mike Williams, better known as Mike WiLL Made It.
“He’d heard my own stuff and my stuff with Phantom Posse. Everyone in Atlanta knew Mike WiLL but I’d never actually seen him. I thought he’d been in music all his life and would be well into his 30s so I was surprised to find he was around my own age.
“This was early in 2012. He had all kinds of ideas for my music but got really busy with other things so we didn’t hook up again until July of last year.
“I recorded some stuff with Mike but he introduced me to other producers such as Metro Boomin’, Sonny Digital and 808 Mafia. Through these, I met DJ Spinz and Dun Deal. Everybody thought my stuff was cool and wanted to work with me.”
Drake was another artist who shared those thoughts. Tracks such I Don’t Sell Molly No More, Sarah, Whip It and Tonight had established Makonnen as a rising star. But it was Club Goin’ Up On A Tuesday which particularly caught Drake’s attention.
“He contacted my producer, Sonny Digital, to ask permission to remix the song. There was no way I’d refuse someone like Drake. I felt honoured that he was interested in my stuff. Drake also added a verse of his own to the remix. He put it online and it went viral.”
This response led to Makonnen being signed to Drake’s OVO record label. The song, now retitled simply as Tuesday and credited to ILoveMakonnen featuring Drake, was released as Makonnen’s official debut single.
“A lot of good things have happened in a short time. My probation ended, I signed my record deal and had a massive hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
“I’ll never forget what happened to my friend. I know it wasn’t my fault but I’ve suffered awful bouts of depression since that night. There have been many times when I’ve seriously thought about killing myself. But my life has turned around. It was Thanksgiving a few weeks ago. I know I have a lot to be thankful for.”
Rome Fortune is one of the other Atlanta rappers with whom Makonnen collaborated before finding fame. They joined forces on FriendsMaybe, the second single taken from Rome’s latest mixtape, “Small VVorld.”
All 11 tracks can be heard and downloaded free of charge at (no www.) soundcloud.com/romefortune
The initial posting of the entire mixtape cannot be downloaded but scroll down the webpage to find the individual tracks which are freely available.
The same is true for almost every song posted on Rome’s SoundCloud page. If you enjoy his work, more than 50 tracks can be downloaded for free.
The X Factor winner’s single is almost always certain to be the Christmas number one in Britain. This year, it was thought Band Aid 30’s charity song, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, might return to top spot. But it now seems there is a third contender in the shape of Mark Ronson’s comeback single, Uptown Funk.
The first track taken from “Uptown Special,” Mark’s forthcoming fourth album, Uptown Funk is a collaboration with Bruno Mars. It has already hit the top ten on Billboard’s Hot 100 but was not scheduled for release in Britain until early next year.
Ironically, the issue date was moved forward in response to Fleur East’s performance of Uptown Funk on the X Factor semi-final. So much money has poured on it to become the Christmas number one that some British bookmakers have suspended betting on the song.
Judge for yourself if the punters confidence is justified by viewing the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPf0YbXqDm0
London-based alternative indie quartet Hawk have gradually evolved around lead singer Julie Hawk. She began performing four years ago as a solo artist on the folk music scene. Guitarist Matt Harris joined her in 2012 and they spent a year playing on the acoustic circuit.
Wanting to develop a more abrasive edge to their sound, Julie and Matt recruited bassist Chris Handsley and drummer Sam Campbell. But they also wanted to retain the delicacy of their acoustic roots.
Critics agree that this is precisely what they have been able to achieve. The balance is clearly heard in Hawk’s recently released latest single, “Hush.” The official video is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=90R9Xj3B4nc
If you would like to add the song to your collection, it can be downloaded for free from (no www.) soundcloud.com/hawk_official
Some of the band’s other songs posted here are also offered for free download.
The Poet/Years & Years
James Bay has capped the best year of his musical life by being named as recipient of the BRIT Awards Critics’ Choice prize.
Voted for by a range of music industry experts, the award is only open to acts who will release their debut album during the following year. James follows a line of artists such as Emeli Sande, Jessie J, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith and Adele all of whom became hugely successful.
Nominated alongside James were spoken word artist George The Poet and electro-pop trio Years & Years.
George, real nume George Mpanga, began rapping when he was 15. Now 23, he switched to performing spoken word poetry while studying at Cambridge University.
Years & Years have been together since 2010. They enjoyed a UK top ten hit earlier this year as the featured artist on The Magician’s Sunlight and reached number 22 with their own track, Desire. The Sunlight video is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFXlWfzW9Uo while Desire can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nJCF01b510
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