Review: To Pimp a Butterfly

As an artist, I am inspired by good art…period. Music, painting, dance, etc., you name it.

In the 21st century, good art seems harder to come by. The era of the ‘hit record’ has all but gone away, and often times, music seems more cookie cutter than ever. Personally, it’s difficult for me to really enjoy it if it doesn’t speak to my heart.

Introducing Kendrick Lamar.

Kendrick-lamar-1360479601

Now I understand that this is a non-typical review for me. Kendrick Lamar is obviously not a gospel recording artist, and the content of his music is not always something that I would be cool with my daughter listening to.

But I was honestly attracted to his music for one reason…I could feel it. There was something about it that made me feel his heart and his passion…for his city, the friends left behind and the regrets that followed his rise to fame.

So I bought “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
The edited version.

To Pimp a Butterfly is a sprawling mix of funk and jazz with tons of emotion sprinkled throughout. Kendrick Lamar is obviously very passionate about Compton, and in this album he displays a very obvious conflict of interest between his family and friends back home, and the myriad opportunities presented by his success in the music industry. The most popular single, “Alright”, speaks directly to the complicated relationship of young black men and law enforcement from the eyes of the former. It’s a controversial point of view, but let’s face it. The story needs to be heard.

Kendrick’s ability to use lyrics to bring the listener into the story is exceptional.

Which brings me to the real point I wanted to get to.

I often wonder if my music comes across in a way that someone can understand and feel deep in their inner man. I keep wondering what would happen if all music from the body of Christ had a similar impact.

Can I be very honest?

I’ve gotten discouraged sometimes when I’m looking for music to edify my spirit, and when I turn on the radio, I hear the same old cliches with the same old format, seemingly copied and pasted together with the hit record format. The ‘artist’ side of me gets frustrated, because I truly believe that the Lord created music as an art form and gives us gifts to use it, not just for hit records, but so that our music can change the world.

Now I’m not here to worship Kendrick Lamar or even personally condone every single lyric, but I admire the dude. I admire anyone who takes something they’ve been gifted with, pushes creative boundaries with it, and uses it to the best of their ability and ultimately for the good of their community.

Shouldn’t we do the same with our own gifts?

As a consideration for all readers, I am not necessarily encouraging you to buy this album or any music that might be offensive to you. I’d encourage you to do whatever you feel is okay and right for you. The point of this review is merely to challenge musicians and artists like myself to dig deeper with our own craft. Thank you.

Music that Impacted My Life (Part II)

In my latest installment in this ‘series’, I want to bring to light a CD that changed the way I saw Christian and Gospel music forever.

Israel & New Breed – Live From Another Level

The first time I heard it…wow; it was just a new sound to my ears.

Keep in mind, I was a young college student, fresh off of my first experience of the Holy Spirit. I had not heard much music that really resonated within my own heart…I mean, at church I was often entertained, but never really compelled to personally internalize the lyrics sung.

Move in stage right, Israel and New Breed.

It just felt like the lyrics came straight from some one’s heart, directed toward God’s heart. The music was fresh and truly worshipful. Each song held its own, but flowed seamlessly to the next. I LOVE the sound of heartfelt worship.

Still a classic in my eyes, and a heavy influence on my own style in piano.

(My favorite song is embedded above…”Friend of God.” I still love it.)

Humble Beast is Getting it In.

Humble Beast

Seriously, guys. Please check out Humble Beast.

I’m still scratching my head wondering why such a talented record label would give away such great music for free.

They go by the principle “Freely Received, Freely Given”. Now of course, you can buy their albums from iTunes, but you can totally download them for free as well.

At first glance, I wondered if this was a good ‘business move’. Then I realized the heart with which these guys are operating.

And it has seriously inspired me.

Take a listen to their music, and please consider supporting them with a monetary gift. It’s so worth it.

Here’s one of my favorites right now…from a group called Beautiful Eulogy: “An Open Letter to Whoever’s Listening.”

SNS: “Get By” Chords!

broken_piano





Ahhhhhh!

Ok, so maybe you don’t have my issue.  Maybe you’re one of the ones who were made to take lessons from the age of 4, who can play all manner of runs and scales at 900 bpm with perfect accuracy.

My issue is this.  I have been playing for 6 years and, in that time, I have developed a ‘sound’.  I praise the Lord for that sound.

The ONLY problem is, that sound has become STAGNANT.

It’s funny…no one else notices at rehearsal on Mondays.  They say,

‘Shaine, don’t be so hard on yourself!’

But I can’t help it.  Participating in worship on the piano was something that the Lord grew in me, and I love to do it…especially since my personality in worship is more on the ‘lowkey’ side.  It allows me to express myself to Him through melodies and musical movements.

But when I can’t play the sounds I hear in my head, it gets frustrating.

For you keyboard players out there…have you ever been at such a place?  What have you done to get beyond it?

On my next post, I’ll cover my journey in moving past this place.  Pray for a brotha!

 

 

 

Music that Impacted My Life (Part I)

For those that don’t know, I am very passionate about music. Not only do I like making music, but I love listening to it. And over the years there have been some songs and albums that impacted my life.

It would be safe and ‘religious’ if I said that it was only Christian music that impacted me, and it would also be a lie!  Yes, I love the Lord and I love worship music, but my musical palate has been shaped by many different sounds since the late 80s/early 90s.  In a series of posts, I will share with you a variety of song styles and genres that have shaped my ears.

#1 – Groove Is In the Heart

Though I didn’t really know the words at 5 year old, the vibe of this song was (and is) hard to forget. The whole feel of the song is fun and borderline weird, but I remember it fondly.  One of several songs that fed the quirky, experimental side of my production efforts.

Tell me what songs have impacted your life.  Be honest.

(featured image derived from commons.wikimedia.com; Author: Alishayan79)

Stop Talking, Do It.

The title says it all, folks.

I read an article from a website for the Gym Jones facility in Utah that made this point…with rather explicit language. I would have posted the link, but I wouldn’t wish to offend anyone. Though I normally opt for ‘cleaner’ fare, I appreciated the honesty and bluntness of the post.

Basically, the point is this: someone out there wants to accomplish something. It could be getting in the right relationship with God…it could be to finally lose weight and be healthy…it could even be to learn an instrument. But you can never seem to do it. Why?

The list of excuses rolls on and on and on.

Could it be that you’re afraid to work hard?

Before you stop reading and think I’m picking on you, just think about it.

Think about your goal. Got it? Good.

Now think about what it will take to reach it. Did a shiver go down your spine? Did you get nervous?

I’ll cut to the chase. Sometimes it takes hard work to reach our goals and realize our desires. But should that stop us? We have one life, and a whole lot of potential. We are fearfully and wonderfully made…our brains and bodies have more potential than we could ever imagine. And you mean to tell me that we still find reasons to fall off the wagon?

Let’s stop talking and just DO it.

This won’t be the last post on this subject. 😉

SNS: He’s the Keyboardist, I’m the Drummer…

Hi all.  I’m Shawn, Shaine’s twin brother.  Like he said in this post, back in our college days we used to do some music stuff…beatmaking, funny rhymes, stuff like that.  Since that time, he’s gone on to form SJMak Music, learn keyboard, and produce for other artists while I have pursued another passion of mine by going the health/fitness route with a personal trainer certification, a health blog and a newspaper column.

In the midst of that, I have always desired to continue to develop myself musically.  There’s something about having a musical talent (drumming in my case) and being able to develop it, even if you don’t plan on going on world tours and stuff.  That’s how I feel and that’s how my brother feels as well.  Yes, I know that I am grown with a wife and a kid, but how far could I take my current drumming skills if I actually practiced?  Have any of my fellow musicians out there felt the same?

Starting when Shaine posted the original post in this series, we both began to make a more concerted effort to listen to songs for the purpose of learning them.  After we listen to them enough, we’re going to start learning them in chunks, and although we are going to try to replicate the songs to some extent, our goal is not simply to be copycats.  Rather, we know that we can learn from folks who are good at their craft, so we plan on adopting techniques that we personally like.

A couple of specific goals I have in this endeavor are to:

  1. Develop hand speed, particularly in my left hand
  2. Develop kick drum foot speed

I know that my lack of speed in my hand and foot is a block to progress for me, so I’m determined to get those right as we learn these songs.  After that, I’m sure I’ll have to move toward additional weak points.

Anyhow, we’re gonna do this thing.  That’s my drum set in the picture, and yes, that’s Batman that you see in there, too.  I like Batman.  Enough said.