Monday, 21 January 2013

Music of 2012, which you can’t miss in 2013

This past year was full of new music, some good and some bad. A lot of artists stood out and were recognised for their talent, whilst others were quietly applauded and truly deserved more lime-light than awarded. I have taken the opportunity to list a few musicians who, in my opinion, were outstanding, but they didn’t necessarily get the recognition they deserved.

Maverick Sabre - Lonely are the Brave

To start us off is the album which I believe to be an album for the ages. It is Maverick Sabre’s “Lonely are the Brave”. As an artist, Maverick Sabre is extremely versatile and has really shown his lyrical ability. He has tracks for the radio which are universal to everyone such as “No One” and also some profound tracks about his life and about his observations of the world which I think shows real talent. My personal favourites are “Shooting star”, “I Need” and “Open my Eyes”.  Nowadays, it is rare to find musicians who can bridge the gap of commercial music as well as sending out meaningful messages. Maverick is definitely underrated, and I would like to see him go to great heights this year. The album isn’t expensive; £5 for an album which I’ve had on repeat for about a month is good value for money. My only regret is not getting the deluxe version where he has included covers he has done of timely classics like “Georgia on my mind” and “Fairytale of New York”. He also collaborated with recently signed rapper K Koke to create a track which was phenomenal. If you haven’t heard of him, get to listening!

Dumbfoundead - Take the Stares

His name says it all; literally, he will leave you dumbfounded. I’ve been listening to Dumfoundead for about a year now and he is one of the most talented rappers who isn’t signed. His flow is typical of the street battlers who have honed their skills annihilating other MC’s. Even if you’re not into rap battles, there’s a pretty awesome video of him knocking out his opponent who pushes him during a battle, not condoning violence or anything though! His flow and lyrical content is so far beyond what I’ve heard from many other rappers who are signed that I’m sure he could wipe the floor with a lot of them. His current album, “Take the Stares” has some impressive tracks such as “Korean Jesus” and “My Word”. It is the way he can switch from upbeat party music to a tune which is deep and thought provoking. I personally really liked the “DFD” album which came out in 2011 with tracks like “Cell Phone” and “No More Sunny Days”. For a more chilled out vibe listen to “Be Right back” with Andrew Garcia and also “Cool and Calm”. Aside from his albums he is always releasing free tracks, so subscribe to him on YouTube for further examples of his talent and other Wizdumb (you’ll get this spelling mistake after you subscribe to him). This guy definitely needs some more recognition for his extraordinary ability so get supporting people! 

George the Poet - Commentaries on Life (Not the actual title, but if he wants to use this for an upcoming album that’s cool)

Next up, a guy who is home-grown talent:  None other than George the Poet! I heard about this artist way back in 2011 when he didn’t have a lot of YouTube videos up, but you better believe I had on repeat all the ones that were there. In 2012 he was working hard and did some amazing collaborations with an equally talented artist who goes by the name of Emmanuel Stanleys. These videos were featured on Link Up TV and are filled with some of the best knowledge, storytelling and delivery I’ve heard in a long while. Because the main basis is poetry, it’s very different to acoustic rap, but it’s the closest comparison. George’s intellect and his perception of the world are clearly evident in the work that he produces. Some of his poems have such strong messages and the argument so clear, that they probably are better suited to a House of Commons debate rather than a YouTube video. There are very few people who can truly express themselves through a passion. His lyrics are something a lot of young Londoners can relate to, and his messages have the power to alter perceptions on the culture we are part of and the actions we accept as “normal”. If you haven’t seen his take on “YOLO”, you should check it out as he really puts into words how a lot of us at The GradStop felt the term YOLO should be expressed and experienced. George doesn’t have an album out yet, but as soon as he does you better believe we at The GradStop will be supporting it to the fullest. Hopefully he continues with his emphatic messages into 2013 and can gain the recognition he really deserves.

Lowkey - Soundtrack to the Struggle 

This past year one of the most amazing, if not the greatest British MC and political commentator, left the scene. I have to admit, I was not aware of Lowkey’s music until just before his departure from the music scene. In that short period I managed to listen to every single one of his albums and was continually impressed with his delivery and content. He obviously has a higher agenda of making the world and his listeners more educated about the real problems in our society. From simply watching a news interview to his fire in the booth with Charlie Sloth, you can tell he really believes in a higher cause and his efforts to write thought provoking, educated and hard hitting lyrics are not simply for his personal gain. On that note I was genuinely upset that he decided to leave the game because I felt he had such a positive effect on all of his listeners and definitely exposed some truths many of us didn’t know. I feel like music is his gift and his ability to share the important messages we miss, is something which the industry really needed. Nonetheless, I’m sure he debated this decision with a level head and made the right choice for himself. If he reads this, we here at The GradStop just want to say thank you to him for serving a higher purpose then his own fame. If you haven’t heard of him yet, go and check out his music. Some of my personal favourites are “Too Much” Ft. Shadia Mansour, “Hand on your Gun” and “Soundtrack to the Struggle” ft. Movado. Actually, scratch that, the whole Soundtrack to the Struggle Album!

Aloe Blacc - Good Things 

Haven’t heard soul like this since the Motown days! This guy is immense, and he can even sing in Spanish (check out his rendition of John Legend’s “Ordinary people”). His first track “I Need a Dollar” was an international hit, but he has a vast array of music which has not yet been appreciated but I have no doubt it will be. Such tunes like “Mama Hold my Hand” and “Green Lights” really can connect with anyone and everyone. Just keep an open mind, you probably haven’t heard anything like this guy in a while, but he is definitely a one to watch in the next few years! Check out some of his YouTube videos of the song “You make my smile”, I challenge you not to smile at the musical ability of this man.

Weeknd - Trilogy

The second big act out this year was the Weeknd.  I’ve been listening to his stuff since the summer of 2011 when he had released a few tracks like “Wicked Games” and “The Birds” both of which were great tunes. He has only come to the main stage this year however, performing at the Wireless festival and also releasing his aptly named triple album, “The Trilogy” based of his three 2011 mixtapes. I’ve listened to most of this album and have come to the conclusion that this guy might just be the  new Ginuwine. His unique sound and flow sets him apart from a lot of other RnB artists we’ve heard from and also the beats he uses are somewhat different to what I’ve heard before. But my comparison to Ginuwine lies in the fact that, having listened to the vast majority of his album, it seems like all these tunes were made for baby making. Anyone who doesn’t think so needs a lesson in sexual innuendos. Some of my favourite tracks have been “Material Girl” and “Love Through Her”. Guys if you don’t have this album and are planning to get laid soon, go buy this. And girls, I probably don’t have to sell it to you because most of you will love it already. Aside from the main selling points, he’s also an incredibly talented artist and song writer so I think it’s worthwhile supporting in whatever form you can. The only thing that shocked me was the fact that he put out a triple album, I’m not a PR or marketing genius but it seems like any second album which he may bring out is going to have a lot to live up to top this one. Another one of my favourite tracks from 2012 is “Remember me” a track the Weeknd featured on with Wiz Khalifa. I haven’t yet bought this album but will be looking to buy it soon.

Ben Howard - Every Kingdom

This guy really exploded onto the music scene. From appearing on Jools Holland to sell out concerts, he has made some major waves in the past year. His whole album was played on repeat for near enough a week in my house and I haven’t stopped listening to some of my favourites like “Old Pine” and “The Wolves”. He has a distinct voice which compliments his guitar skills emphatically. His music is perfect for pretty much any setting you can think of. If you haven’t heard of him yet, check him out.

And there you have it, a small selection of some of the artists to watch this coming year. All these people truly possess a talent which they have honed and struggled to create for our entertainment, and for that, they should be recognised and supported. Some you may like and others you may not, but approach each one with an open mind and feel free to leave comments below on what you think! 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Keep it Playful

    I kicked off the New Year by attending a Gracie Jiu Jitsu seminar with one of the premier practitioners of our art in my opinion: Ryron Gracie. As the eldest son of Rorion Gracie, he has had the responsibility of carrying the flame of Gracie jiu jitsu throughout his life. Whilst in London on Winter vacation, he was kind enough to take time out and train with us down at London Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

(I don't own this video, Copyright of Gracie Academy) 

I was truly excited for this seminar as his calm nature is something I believe can only be gained through intense and thorough commitment and study of one’s passion. What he is being quickly recognised for is the “keepitplayful” movement. Some love it, others hate it but one thing is for sure, very few understand it. And rightly so, something with as much value as this philosophy cant truly be understood at first glance. Ryron himself is quite candid that this is something he has been working on for a number of years and something which is a concentration of Grandmaster Helio Gracie’s lessons. Ryron kept the seminar pretty basic with moves most of us white belts could handle but the intricacy of the small details really let the true nature of Gracie Jiu Jitsu shine. In a few simple steps Ryron was able to show us how to improve both our offence and defensive positions with relatively little energy exertion. Of course, throughout he spoke to us about how to keep it playful and was extremely willing to engage in open discussion with anyone, about points they felt were weak or were contradictory. Nonetheless, he followed up each of his points with evidence which I really enjoyed. The biggest turning point of the evening for me came when he started speaking about not panicking. He said over and over, give and arm, give your back, much to the bewilderment of many of us in the room not least to say some of the more advanced guys who have competed in competition. But the context in which he was saying it was that in training, if you truly have no ego, it’s the best time to figure out what sort of dire situation you can get into and still be ok. The philosophy had two discernible parts in my opinion:

        1. Train for the worst and learn how to stay safe in the worst position.
        2. Stay calm and assess the situation before making and drastic moves.

It’s an extremely deep philosophy which I feel applies not only to rolling on the mat but in the wider respect to life itself. I mean, we all train for something. Whether you’re swimming or fighting, you train so that you can react properly in the worst situations. So why is it then wrong to purposely put yourself in bad positions in training so that you learn how to adapt quicker to the worst possible scenario and still stay safe. I feel this philosophy can be adopted to pretty much any activity in life. With Jiu Jitsu and fighting in mind, imagine you are a white belt who encounters a skilled ground opponent. If you’ve been training to give an arm or give the back but have also learnt the escapes, even if a more experienced guy gets you in this bad situation you’ll have more chance of escaping.

Ryron’s overall message I believe was to do the right thing at the right time based on careful observation; you can push and push at the same door a hundred times but it won’t open if you have to pull it.

Overall I took a lot away from the seminar and it was a true honour to share the mat with such a genuine practitioner of the art, aswell as my team mates from London Gracie Jiu Jitsu and also the guys from Dartford BJJ. Thanks to Jaime for hosting the seminar down at London Gracie Jiu Jitsu, great place to train and learn. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Hello World

    So I heard this 'blogging' thing is what people who are having amazing life experiences (or lack thereof) tend to end up doing. Well, I've been around for about 20 odd years and feel like I’m finally just waking up to life now - so I’m searching for like minded people in an attempt to discuss some pretty cool ideas (…I think...I hope) which you probably won’t have come across in your typical lecture. We (will) cover everything from music to martyrdom (if possible), and hopefully learn a lot along the way! Show your support if you like it, let us know if you don’t (professional trolls, this might be something you want to jump on). Main thing is - Get Involved!

P.S. Aspiring writers welcome!