State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Author - Steve K

Local Rapper Twain Debuts "Award Shows"

Twain, a former PSU student from Philadelphia, is gearing up to release his third mixtape Impractical Approach via Truth Records. Recently, he dropped “Award Shows” as a preview for the upcoming project. On “Award Shows,” Twain raps about his visions of fame and respect over a HUGE, soulful beat. You can download this track for FREE from Twain’s SoundCloud if, like me, you get the urge to bump this with your windows down this summer.

Grab Twain’s last mixtape, Genesis, here or preview it below. Follow him on Twitter for updates on the release of Impractical Approach.

Beautiful Hip Hop Instrumentals: The Perfect Study Music

Yep. Finals week.

If you want some calming background music for studying – stuff that won’t distract your mind but also won’t put it to sleep – check out this YouTube playlist below. It contains 25 instrumentals from some of my favorite hip hop producers. The beats are jazzy, relaxing, warm, and most importantly, lyric-free, so your mind can focus fully on the words in front of you. Hopefully you’ll find yourself nodding along instead of dozing off. Enjoy!

The playlist features tracks from Clams Casino, Vanilla, Madlib, XXYYXX, Sabzi, Dan the Automator, and more.

Movin' On Showcase: MGMT

While “Kids” and “Time To Pretend” have been your go-to summer anthems since high school, and you’re known to get freaky every time “Electric Feel” comes on, are you completely prepared for MGMT to headline this year’s Movin’ On festival? If so, you’re lying. If not, then you’re with the rest of the normal world, who are still trying to wrap their heads around the music presented by this enigmatic duo.

In all seriousness, MGMT coming to Penn State is a pretty momentous event. They were propelled into fame with their 2007 debut, Oracular Spectacular, and have since become one of the most fascinating new acts in music. One part synthpop, one part space-rock, and two parts psychedelic, MGMT formed in 2002 by Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, as an electronic act called The Management while the two attended Wesleyan University. Their 2005 EP Time To Pretend contained early versions of “Kids” and “Time To Pretend” as well as other electronic-only tracks, garnering the band just enough attention to get signed to a major label. Shortly after, they took on a rock format, added some more band members to their lineup, and recorded the hugely successful Oracular Spectacular.

It’s at this point where MGMT fans start to get a little divided. Of Oracular Spectacular‘s ten tracks, three of them are catchy, radio-friendly pop songs, while the rest of the record drifts toward spacey, psychedelic pieces that break the confines of contemporary indie rock. Despite confusion from some listeners who may have been lured in by “Kids,” MGMT still received widespread acclaim for their debut effort. Songs like “Weekend Wars” and “The Youth” were mildly popular and fit well with the themes of the album, and Oracular was eventually named Best Album of 2008 by NME and 18th best of the decade by Rolling Stone.

The band’s sophomore LP Congratulations was a bold departure from any preconceived expectations of MGMT, abandoning the pop formats in exchange for an even trippier and erratic sound. They experimented with styles from all different corners of rock, while still remaining genuine and heartfelt in their execution. Containing some of the most wildly-structured and yet mesmerizing songs I’ve ever heard, the magic of Congratulations really starts sinking in after multiple listens. MGMT’s take on psychedelic rock has been compared to The Beatles, David Bowie, and Led Zeppelin, but these connections really only exist in flashes throughout Congratulations. Songs like “Flash Delirium,” “Brian Eno,” and “Siberian Breaks” are convoluted, winding voyages filled with ambitious textures and nonsensical lyrics; making Congratulations quite an uncannily enjoyable release.

But that’s the beauty of MGMT; listening to their music is kind of like running through a carnival funhouse. You never know what’s around the corner, or what will come next, especially as we await their mysterious third release sometime this summer. So what to expect for the Movin’ On festival? MGMT’s adventurous and energetic presence will definitely put on a phenomenal performance. We’ll hear all of the jams that made them famous, but also a lot of deeper cuts as well, so start getting familiar with those now (if you haven’t)! One thing is for sure: MGMT never takes anything too seriously, so we’re all in for a fun time. Their set is at 9:30 PM THIS FRIDAY!

Check out some of their songs below, but first, watch this short clip in order to better understand MGMT:

Album Review: Kid Cudi – Indicud

On his last hip hop album, The Legend Of Mr. Rager, we heard Kid Cudi cry out, “When did I become a ghost?” Now it seems as though he’s more ghostlike than ever on his latest project Indicud, taking on many different forms while keeping his dark, smokey presence throughout.

Perhaps the most significant change on Indicud is the all-encompassing role Kid Cudi plays, morphing between rapper and producer on the album’s 18-track run. In a manner similar to Dr. Dre on 2001, which Kid Cudi directly acknowledged, he creates a world entirely of his own, personally conveying all of his moods and attitudes at this particular time.

The downfall though, is that Cudi’s production skills aren’t quite mature enough to fully embody the spirit of his songwriting. We’ve seen the incredible potential that Scott Mescudi has an artist, which in the past has shined brightest on songs produced by someone with a more refined palette. I’m not saying Kid Cudi can’t hold his own on this record; some of the beats he created are absolutely unreal. But it seems like he only has so many crusty synth chords, icy stabs, and self-taught guitar licks in his repertoire that some of those elements end up compounding – instead of distinguishing – his tracks.

That aside, the album most definitely provides a journey for listeners. It’s essentially a manifestation of Cudi’s complete freedom and independence, having departed from G.O.O.D. Music prior to Indicud‘s release. You sense that Kid Cudi feels completely comfortable with where he’s at in his career, and more importantly who he is (even if he is just dark and eerie at his core). Those refreshing vibes are what make this album an enjoyable listen on the whole.

Most of the ghostlike lethargy actually occurs in the first half of this album. The opening instrumental builds hype, only to lead into the awkward and clunky “Unf***wittable.” Following is “Just What I Am,” one of the best tracks on the album, with such a simple but infectious beat and the aural verses from Cudi and the always-smooth King Chip. But the next three, “Young Lady,” “King Wizard,” and “Immortal” seem to blend together in a dissonant blur. Even though we hear Kid Cudi’s powerful pipes on “Immortal,” it still feels uninspired/repetitive from a musical standpoint.

The energy picks up on “Solo Dolo Part II” featuring Kendrick Lamar, which builds on the Kid Cudi motto “I don’t need nobody.” Probably the catchiest song comes next, “Girls,” which is little more than a fun sing-along. On the next two highlights, Cudi officially takes the back seat and lets two other artists ride the beat: first is Haim (an all-female indie act) on the non-rap track “Red Eye,” and then RZA of Wu-Tang, who spits straight fire on the minimal “Beez.” The hands-down best track on this album is “Brothers” featuring Cudi, King Chip, and A$AP Rocky. The three MC’s trade smooth verses on another goofy yet memorable beat, making this a track you can throw on during a chill sesh or a party (something beloved about Cudi’s music). The last two standouts for me are “Lord Of The Sad And Lonely,” which is yet another perfect epithet for Scott Mescudi, and “Cold Blooded” which kind of sounds like a darker, drug-infused version of Will Smith’s “Miami.” Cudi’s personal, cathartic verses are alive and well on these last few tracks.

At the end of the day, I still have nothing but admiration for an artist like Cudi. He’s championed independence and individuality since his first tape, A Kid Named Cudi, showing us all the highs and lows he’s experienced in life. While Indicud contains a lot of forgettables, I really did find a lot of gems on it as well. Some of these songs will be timeless staples for any jam playlist, while the album as a whole serves as another spacey, cerebral journey – which I guess makes it like any of Kid Cudi’s projects, but just packaged a little differently.

Stream it below via Spotify and pick it up on iTunes.

Empire Of The Sun Release New Single "Alive"

Empire Of The Sun, the larger-than-life electronic duo from Australia, just dropped a cut off their forthcoming album Ice On The Dune. “Alive” is more of an anthemic, upbeat tune; not nearly as goofy as some of the other stuff these guys have released. The chanted chorus, along with a driving beat, makes me wonder whether this will be the big summer jam we’ve all been waiting for. Check it out below, along with the trailer for Ice On The Dune to be released sometime in June. If you’re not familiar with Empire Of The Sun’s… uhm, theatricality, the trailer provides a glimpse of whatever weirdness they have in store.

Local Rapper Chewi Drops New Mixtape – L.I.S.T.E.N.

The third offical project, L.I.S.T.E.N. (Leave It So The Energy’s Noticed), from Penn State rapper Chewi recently hit Datpiff. Chewi takes on a new producer (RBZ) and a new sound with this mixtape, showing growth from his past projects but also staying in touch with his cerebral style of rapping. All 8 tracks have a deep, spacey vibe running throughout, making L.I.S.T.E.N. a great tape for kicking back and zoning out.

The first two tracks feature a low-intensity but engaging beat, letting Chewi’s flow take the front seat right off the bat. His rhymes continue into “SubWOOFer” and “Smoke House” which are as close as Chewi gets to a college banger on this tape. Another standout is the title track “Leave.It.So.The.Energy’s.Noticed,” which closes the tape doing what its name suggests. Chewi has for sure made a great move with this project, showcasing his talent and range as an artist. I’m a big fan of his attitude towards hip-hop, stating “My life is my influence,” in an interview State in The Real did with him when he was just starting out. Rather than take my word for it, let this mixtape do the talking and keep supporting Penn State music!

Steam L.I.S.T.E.N. below. Snag it from Datpiff. Lyrics on RapGenius. Follow @chewtunes on Twitter.