As Donald Trump continues his preparation for taking over leadership of the free world, there is at least one cause he'll be reminded of that many would like to remain not free. The Recording Academy, the organization that runs the Grammys, has written a letter to the president-elect urging him to protect music copyright laws at all costs when he steps into office. It's signed by Nile Rodgers and producer Rodney Jerkins (a.k.a. Darkchild), along with many others, in the latest of many attempts on behalf of the music industry to get the government's attention. Earlier this year, the RIAA and several dozens of musicians — including Taylor Swift — signed a separate letter to Congress asking it to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They've taken particular umbrage with YouTube's long history of using loopholes to avoid proper compensation to artists. It appears the music biz is now betting on Trump — himself a master of taking advantage of loopholes — to now use his authority to "support the music economy" by appealing to his business senses: "This is an important moment to ensure the continued viability of music as one of America’s greatest exports and as an integral part of the American innovation story," the Academy writes.
Shia LaBeouf Made a Diss Track for You (and Drake, and Hot 97, and Vin Diesel, and Everyone, Really)By Dee Lockett
There comes a time in every young man's life where he must air out all grievances in freestyle rap format, record it on his iPhone, and email it to Charlamagne tha God. Or maybe that's just Shia LaBeouf? For some reason, this morning LaBeouf sent Power 105.1 a full four-minute diss track with instructions to be played on air, which, obviously, they did. There's a real method to the madness here: Earlier this month, Shia went on live radio on Sway in the Morning, freestyled for his life, and did not do so bad, you know, for someone who is not a rapper. But just the surreality of it all (and maybe a little jealousy) prompted fellow white non-rapper, Hot 97's Peter Rosenberg, to drop a parody freestyle. It's all very NYU dorm-room rap battle circa 2004.
By Dee Lockett
Just as Pusha T was on the front lines of the election for much of the year, campaigning with and for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, he was close to her side the night it all came crashing down. In a reflective new Complex cover story, Pusha T shares what it was like learning that Donald Trump would be America's next president from inside the Clinton headquarters, after a long fight against that future. "As the evening went on, you could feel the energy shift — we were extremely disheartened. I just thought it said so much about America," he remembers thinking. "I just didn’t understand how he could speak so ill to so many different groups of people and they still find a way to support him. The [support from] white women was a bit much for me. I thought that said a lot. The blatant disrespect to that group in particular, over and over again throughout the campaign — the people who voted for him did not care." He's especially wary of how Trump's America will continue to permit detrimental harm against minorities: "Trump is trying to extend the lifeline of and expand upon white privilege. The racism in America — it’s no longer hidden. They don't feel the need to hide anymore, because your president didn’t hide it in any capacity."
Last night, J. Cole confirmed the release of his new surprise album, 4 Your Eyez Only, next week with a surprise documentary, Eyez. It’s 40 minutes long and packed with footage of him recording his new album (and playing basketball), but there’s about six minutes of the film rap fans will want to pay close attention to. At one point, J. Cole appears to preview two new songs, “False Prophets” and another untitled one. Both are no-holds-barred diatribes on the state of rap, with each seeming to take aim at (at least) two particular rappers apparently at fault. Of course there are no names dropped, though the popular and easy read on “False Prophets” so far is that it’s largely about Kanye West. “Ego in charge of every move, he’s a star / And we can’t look away due to the days that he caught our hearts / He’s fallin’ apart, but we deny it,” Cole raps. And later: “When he tell us he a genius but it’s clearer lately / It’s been hard for him to look into the mirror lately / There was a time when this nigga was my hero / Maybe that’s the reason why his fall from grace is hard to take.”
Putting the context of Kanye often declaring himself a genius and his recent hospitalization into perspective, it might seem like those painfully honest bars are meant for Kanye. (Cole has been known to write about his idols and letdowns, though it used to be the other way around.) There’s also a shot at ghostwriting, which could be directed at just about anyone. But it’s wise to remember that Kanye and Cole have what’s generally appeared to be a decent rapport, sometimes co-producing songs together (like on Pusha T’s newest album). If there has been some seismic rift in their relationship or a change in the way Cole perceives Kanye now, his words aren’t so much a traditional diss as they are a heavy sigh.
By David Marchese
In Hidden Figures, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, and Octavia Spencer play three heretofore unsung black female NASA mathematicians instrumental to America’s victory in the Space Race. Pop star Pharrell Williams pulled double duty on the film, co-producing and writing the score — a blend of stirring, gospel-inflected orchestral passages; bluesy rhythm; and contemporary melody — with composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. Adoring friends and frequent collaborators, Zimmer and Williams spoke with New York about that challenge.
There are three certainties in this world: death, taxes, and DJ Earworm’s annual United States of Pop music-video mashup. The Leonardo Da Vinci of song- and video-stitching has once again brought you the year’s biggest hits all wrapped up in one slick package, with pride of placement heavily favoring top-40 monsters like the Weeknd, Justin Timberlake, Flo Rida, and Bruno Mars. But the clear big winner is Vulture’s August bracket Song of the Summer winner “This Is What You Came For,” by Rihanna and Calvin Harris (and Nils Sjoberg, née Taylor Swift), which provides the foundation beat for the whole mix. If you need us, we’ll just be here curating the best of what pop culture has to offer for you. Happy listening.
Taylor Swift’s No. 1 Fan on Going to Taylor’s Apartment, the Kanye Controversy, and What He Hopes Her Next Album Will Sound LikeBy Jackson McHenry
Among the innumerable hordes of fans who buy Taylor Swift’s albums, fill her stadium shows, memorize the lyrics to her songs, and mimic the antics of her Instagram posse, Tyler Conroy stands out. Not just because he’s met the singer three times, gone to 19 of her shows, and gotten the word fearless tattooed on his left foot, but because he won the chance to be the honorary author, or as he puts it, "yearbook president," of Taylor Swift: This Is Our Song, a massive coffee-table book of Swift profiles, music reviews, essays, fan art, and even crossword puzzles, put out by Simon & Schuster on October 24, the ten-year anniversary of the release of her first album. To better understand the intense devotion behind the project, Vulture reached out to Conroy to talk about what drew him to Swift's music and message; how Swifties make sense of the narrative around her, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian; and most important of all, what he thinks her next album might sound like.
Don't knock it until you try it. Country legend Loretta Lynn — still crooning at 84 — might've eschewed a particular herbal refreshment in the past for personal reasons, but she's now taking a one-way ticket to Tokin' Town U.S.A owing to an escalating eye condition. And her verdict on her first marijuana experience? Meh. "I got glaucoma and they gave me one of these cigarettes," she told People. "I took one smoke off of it and it hit me right here in the chest. I like to have died! Glaucoma is just going to have to take over." Lynn, delightful as ever, continued to vent her frustrations about the concept of physical activity: "I ain’t going to do no exercise! I hate exercise!” Willie would be so proud.
If Britney Spears Survived 2007, Somehow We’ll Make It Through This First Look at Her Lifetime BiopicBy Dee Lockett
Britney Spears, pop princess and international treasure, is getting her very own Lifetime biopic, much to her chagrin. (She's denied any and all involvement with the movie.) While we're not saying her life story should be made into an Oscar-worthy cinematic experience starring Reese Witherspoon, we only ask that the Britney haters out there take a gander at these first-look photos and consider: Is anyone truly deserving of this much insult? The film stars Australian actress Natasha Bassett as some version of Britney Spears we hardly recognize, plus a who's who of newcomers in all the supporting roles of Brit's life — Justin Timberlake, Kevin Federline, that dude she married for a couple days, etc. Not feeling guilty enough? Consider that tomorrow is Britney's 35th birthday and these photos are Lifetime's only present.
If you're in the market for even more Trump burns from boss ladies — thanks for spearheading the quest against the "demagoguing bag of candy corn," Samantha Bee — Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon has some sharp words for the new president-elect. "I don't want to have to deal with blonde Kardashians for the next four years," Gordon told Bedford & Bowery. "The Kardashians were annoying enough and now the blonde version is upon us." Trump himself, Gordon observed, deserves to be bundled with the Kardashians since he's a product of "the whole reality TV mentality," just like them. "His TV show is what made him into a brand name and gave him the confidence to run for president," she said. "Reality TV viewing has set up these weird models of regressive behavior, or arrested behavior, that’s taken us back to the playground of: 'If you don’t want to be a loser, you're with me.' It's like people want to associate themselves or relate to people who they think are winners, even in this weird way. And I think obviously Trump has appealed to them." So with that logic, Kourtney 2020, then?
Raise your gun and chain, Run the Jewels are coming to welcome 2017 in style. El-P and Killer Mike have announced that RTJ3, the sequel to two of the greatest rap albums of this decade, will finally arrive on January 13 completely for free, as always. It'll feature Danny Brown, Tunde Adebimpe, Kamasi Washington, Boots, and more. And with that news comes an early Christmas present: their new song, "Legend Has It." Legend has it this horn-y rager features El-P rapping "I got a unicorn horn for a ..." well, you know. Your favorite "murderous pair" previously dropped "Talk to Me" and the one-off post-election remedy "2100." Close your eyes and count to fuck yes.
In the wake of the Tennessee wildfires that have devastated the towns surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains, killing a least seven people, hometown hero Dolly Parton has come to the rescue. On Wednesday, Parton announced she'll be donating $1,000 every month for six months to the families who've lost their homes in the fires. The relief aid will come via her Dollywood Foundation, which was personally affected by the fires when her theme park Dollywood had to be evacuated earlier this week. “I have always believed that charity begins at home," Parton said in a statement. Her foundation is also accepting donations from the public, and you do not want to let Dolly down!
Party like it's 1984 in Manchester. Warner UK is releasing a previously unknown demo version of "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side" from the Smiths' 1986 album The Queen Is Dead. The single will be exclusively released on seven-inch vinyl, with the accompanying B-side being an alternate version of "Rubber Ring," which appeared on the band's 1987 compilation album Louder Than Bombs. A release date, per Morrissey's fan website True to You, has yet to be announced, although you can see the Moz-designed vinyl cover now. Just don't begin thinking wishfully about a reunion — Johnny Marr recently said that he believes any hope on that front has "run its course." But who knows? There might be a light (to reunite!) that never goes out.
Here we go again: It appears J. Cole might close out yet another year with a surprise album. A new album, 4 Your Eyez Only, has popped up for pre-order on iTunes with an expected release date of December 9, two years to the day that J. Cole last surprise-dropped an album. It'll reportedly have ten tracks, but that's the only detail we know so far; a representative for J. Cole could neither confirm nor deny the album's existence to Vulture. 2014's 2014 Forest Hills Drive famously went platinum with no features (you know the meme) and became the biggest-selling rap album of that year in just under a month. In the ultimate troll, this album will have ten songs all featuring Kendrick Lamar and will go diamond. You heard it here first.
Ruin as many family vacations as you can between now and the end of January, scalpers who employ ticket bots. After that, it's on to the next grift. As of February 2017, the use of ticketing purchasing software, already illegal in New York State, is now punishable with jail time. Championed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Senator Chuck Schumer, and anyone who's tried to buy a ticket to anything, only to immediately find the show sold out and StubHub flooded with jacked-up prices, the bill (S.8123/A.10713) creates a "class A misdemeanor for using ticket bots, maintaining an interest in or control of 'bots,' and reselling tickets knowingly obtained with ticket bots." The punishment can include both fines and imprisonment. As Governor Cuomo said upon signing the bill on Monday, "These unscrupulous speculators and their underhanded tactics have manipulated the marketplace and often leave New Yorkers and visitors alike with little choice but to buy tickets on the secondary market at an exorbitant mark-up. It’s predatory, it’s wrong and, with this legislation, we are taking an important step towards restoring fairness and equity back to this multi-billion dollar industry.” Now let's be clear: You probably still aren't getting in to see Hamilton, but at least if you do, you won't have to sell your home and/or family in order to snag tickets.
Just over a week after being checked in to the UCLA Medical Center for a “medical emergency,” Kanye West is finally heading home, according to TMZ. The rapper was reportedly meant to be released earlier this week, but his departure was pushed back to ensure he was fully stable before leaving. It is not known what type of ongoing treatment, if any, West will receive, but for now he is home with Kim Kardashian and their children.
In a quest to make absolutely no one feel special, Bob Dylan has bailed on the president of the United States, too. White House officials announced in a statement that Dylan was just straight up not attending President Obama's meet and greet with the American Nobel Prize winners on Wednesday: "Unfortunately, Bob Dylan will not be at the White House today. So everyone can relax.” That means even you, Mr. President, who we can only assume has spent restless nights wondering if he, too, would get stood up by Dylan once more. Turns out, just as Dylan didn't care about attending the actual Nobel Prize ceremony, he probably cares even less about meeting the president again if it's not for another Presidential Medal of Freedom. (But, hey, at least he didn't keep Obama waiting by the phone to cancel their date.) Was it something Obama said — calling Dylan one of his "favorite poets," perhaps? The heart wonders.
When electronic-disco duo Justice push their broken-down, mud-covered convertible into a desert repair shop in the music video for "Fire," they find every human on Earth's fantasy mechanic, Susan Sarandon. While it's unclear how Sarandon fixes their car — she mainly seems to be welding something else entirely and the guys are the ones getting all nice and sudsy as they wash the vehicle manually — she does end up taking over the wheel and going for a spin. Probably the right move, considering her history of driving a similar ride while wearing a white shirt in Thelma & Louise. Luckily for Justice, there's no Grand Canyon this time around. Also, there's a white robot who looks both vintage and futuristic, like something out of the Jetsons, roaming around, because why not?
Want to attempt to drink and drive in Kensington, Canada? (That's a trick question. Never attempt to drink and drive anywhere, people.) The police force of the small town on Prince Edward Island wants to, as Chad Kroeger once famously crooned, remind you of what you really are — a law-abiding citizen who will happily take an Uber home after one too many whiskeys. Because if you don't, the arresting officer will gladly handcuff you, read you your rights, and blare some classic Nickelback tunes in the patrol car on the way to jail as punishment. In a widely circulated post on the exceedingly cheeky Kensington Police Service's Facebook page, the town outlined that anyone caught drunk driving during the holiday season would receive the gravelly wrath of Kroeger & Co.
In the latest chapter of a feud that has stood the test of time, U-God is suing Wu-Tang Clan again. TMZ reports that the original Wu member has filed a lawsuit against RZA and the Clan for unpaid royalties amounting to $2.5 million. U-God claims he's partly responsible for at least 170 Wu-Tang tracks spanning 12 albums — including the elusive record Martin Shkreli paid $2 million to keep mostly to himself — but hasn't been paid for his work in the last six years. On top of that, U-God says he was contractually expected to receive two payments per year for Wu-Tang merchandising profits, but hasn't seen his share. His lawsuit specifically takes aim at Wu-Tang leader RZA and RZA's brother Mitchell "Divine" Diggs, calling out their abuse of power and allegedly conspiring to cut U-God out of Wu-Tang's earnings. Of course, this isn't U-God's first beef with RZA: Back in 2004, U-God briefly quit the group and compared RZA to the devil; in 2008, U-God first sued RZA and the Wu for — you guessed it — unpaid royalties. Though as U-God most recently said about their longtime battles: It's nothing personal, "just business."
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