By Geoffrey Rowlands
The bizarre behaviour of Kanye West has rightly attracted much criticism over the years. But there can be no doubting his willingness to give talented young artists their opportunity to find success in the music business.
Following in the footsteps of rappers such as Vic Mensa and Big Sean, Kanye’s latest protege is 18-year-old Sidney Selby, better known as Desiigner.
A native of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood, Desiigner is the grandson of a highly respected blues musician also named Sidney Selby. His grandfather toured with acts such as The Isley Brothers and The Drifters. He also released several albums under the name of Guitar Crusher.
“I didn’t spend all that much time around my grandfather as I was growing up,” Desiigner recalled. “But he was still a big influence on me. His love of music was so strong that I felt motivated to work on my own stuff every time I talked with him.
“I used to sing in the choir at school. Music was just in me. I’d listen to everybody, not just a particular group of artists, so you could say I was influenced by everyone. I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have done during my lessons at school. I was always thinking about music.”
Desiigner’s initial output was posted on SoundCloud.
“I was 14 when I recorded my first song. It was called Jackie Chan. I did another song called Danny DeVito. I guess I had a thing about people I saw in the movies.”
Another significant event happened to Desiigner at 14. He was shot.
“I was another person in the wrong place at the wrong time. I always wanted to use my music as a means to get my family out of Bed-Stuy. I could have got out in a box. Getting shot made me that much more determined to make it in music.”
Desiigner is his second musical moniker. Sidney’s first releases were under Designer Royel. But his sister persuaded him to drop Royel, which is his middle name, and add a second i to Designer.
“She thought the weird spelling was more likely to get me noticed. I always believed I’d be noticed through my music but I liked the name so I was happy to give it a try.”
His smash hit single, Panda, took quite some time to finish.
“It all started back in Bed-Stuy. There were a bunch of us guys just chillin’ and everybody had beats going on. They all knew I could rap and make hooks so I kept getting asked to put something on the different beats.
“My man Menace played a beat and it was like something special happened. I started freestyling over the beat and realised we really had something. I kept working on it over the next few days and had what I thought would be the finished song in about a week. I’d play it and perform it but I still kept working on it. I finally finished the song about 18 months later.”
He expected to sell Panda to an established artist.
“It was my manager, Zana Ray, who said I had to take it on myself. I thought I might do the hook and let some well-known dude do the rap. But Zana realised Panda could be the song that made me.”
Kanye West stepped in after one of his A&R people heard Panda on Desiigner’s SoundCloud page.
“He wanted to use the Panda hook on Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2, one of the tracks on his new album. I did what he wanted and Kanye was impressed enough to sign me to his G.O.O.D. Music label. He also put me on another album track, Freestyle 4.”
If a guest spot on Kanye’s chart-topping album, “ The Life Of Pablo,” wasn’t good enough, the commercial release of Panda has seen the song become a world-wide smash and hit pole position on Billboard’s Hot 100.
The one fly in Desiigner’s ointment is the continual comparison with Future.
“I’d prefer it if critics talked about me as the original Desiigner rather than making the comparisons with Future. But I’ve got no problems with Future. He is a great artist and I enjoy his music. I may be number one on the singles chart but his last two albums have topped the Billboard 200. That’s where I want to be.”
If the death of Prince was totally unexpected, the same cannot be said for his domination of the UK singles and album charts.
It is beyond reason why fans who almost certainly already have the records insist on buying the work of a recently deceased artist. British fans are not alone in this pursuit. His death was announced on the last day of the tracking week for listings on the Billboard 200. Yet immediate purchases made by Prince’s American fans took three of his albums into the top six with “The Very Best of Prince” at number one and “Purple Rain” in second spot.
This success gave Prince his fifth US chart-topping album and his first to hit number one since “3121” in 2006.
The Big Moon
English retro-rock quartet The Big Moon have been described as London’s coolest new guitar-wielding girl gang.
Their self-produced songs and energetic stage shows soon saw critics label the girls as ones to watch. Last year’s breakout track, Eureka Moment, was followed by further critical acclaim for their singles, Sucker, The Road and Nothing Without You. All four songs can be heard at (no www.) soundcloud.com/commoonicate
Official videos were made for their last three singles. They are available to view at www.youtube.com/channel/UC02iDva0dKpiqLUPQJR0ETA
Also here is the recently released video for their latest single, Cupid.
Now signed to Fiction Records, The Big Moon’s debut album should be out later this year.
Also now part of the Fiction Records family are Reading-based foursome The Amazons.
“Maybe we should swap names with The Big Moon,” laughed singer Matt Thomson. “The original Amazons were women warriors in Greek mythology. We took the name because we couldn’t be much more different from them.”
2015 was a big year for the band with performances at several major music festivals and a support slot on The Kooks’ European concert tour. Their reputation was built upon songs such as Something in the Water, Millions (The Party), Ultraviolet and Junk Food Forever.
Official videos were made for the latter two songs. These can be accessed from www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7MxmSATRDjEZWNQVYT16UitfwPKUKh8Y
Also here is the video for their new single, Stay With Me.
Lonely The Brave
Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Deftones are musical influences quoted by Cambridge-based alternative rock quintet Lonely The Brave.
The band have been around since 2008 when they self-released their debut EP, “For An Exit Light.” Further EPs followed before a deal was signed with Columbia Records which saw Lonely The Brave issue their first album, “The Day’s War,” in 2014. Positive reviews led on to chart success with the album reaching number 14 in Britain.
The follow-up, “Things Will Matter,” is set for release on May 20. It can be pre-ordered in three different packages at (no www.) lonelythebrave.com/
Official videos have been made for Black Mire, Radar and What If You Fall In, the three songs so far released from the new album. Along with older promos, they are available to view at www.youtube.com/user/LonelythebraveVEVO/videos
Every song on “The Day’s War,” including the “Victory Edition” bonus tracks, can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA2CG6WWcsg&list=PLQGzzFWTK7eWLwoSt2D1gLngSp7n8C6IL
Mumford & Sons
English folk-rock band Mumford & Sons will issue a five-song EP, “Johannesburg,” on June 17.
The tracks were written and recorded over a two-day period in February at the studios of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. They are a collaboration between the band and prominent African artists Baaba Maal, Beatenberg and The Very Best.
A video trailer for the EP, including footage from the band’s tour of South Africa, is posted at www.mumfordandsons.com
Pre-release orders for the EP can also be made here.
The lead single, There Will Be Time, features Senegalese singer Baaba Maal. A live performance of the song is the latest of many postings at www.youtube.com/user/MumfordAndSonsVEVO/videos
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