PRINT December 2011

Music: Best of 2011

Venus X

Cover of Ayshay’s Warn U EP (Tri Angle, 2011).

Hatsune Miku hologram performing live in concert, Zepp Tokyo, Odaiba, Japan, March 9, 2010.

1 Hatsune Miku, Live in Tokyo Hatsune Miku is a super-successful sixteen-year-old Japanese female pop star, but she is not human. Developed in 2007 by Crypton Future Media, Hatsune (whose name literally means “future sound”) is a hologram. Appearing as a projection onstage, beside her living, breathing bandmates and before her live fans, she blows my mind. But she also makes me wonder: Where are all the real women in music right now, or is Hatsune just continuing the legacy of empty female vessels in pop music?

2 RØSENKØPF Despiritualized (self-released) I was lucky enough to hear the demo tape for this psychedelic noise goth band at the Death/Traitor factory headquarters in Brooklyn this past summer. It instantly reminded me of Christian Death, one of my favorite bands. On RØSENKØPF’s blog there is a flyer that reads, YOUR IMAGES ARE AS USELESS AS THE WORDS YOU SURROUND THEM WITH. Currently in the studio recording their first seven-inch single, they’ll be putting out a debut full-length album on Wierd Records this spring.

3 Kendrick Lamar, Section.80 (Top Dawg) Straight outta Compton, this twenty-four-year-old will educate a whole new generation about the social ills and politics of our time. He raps about people dealing with the realities of a faulty system in which no one’s needs are met, and in his early mixtapes his attitude is openly militant (something rappers have been afraid to be for way too long now). In 2012, he’ll be touring with Young Money rapper Drake and ASAP Rocky, which could really help set a different tone in mainstream rap.

4 House of LaDosha, “I’m Carrying” A power anthem by one of Brooklyn’s most underrated boy bands, this track openly admits to many kinds of indecency and disrespect. Antonio Blair, who produces and writes all of Ladosha’s songs, is a brilliant female rapper. She follows in the footsteps of Lil’ Kim but also Naomi Campbell—projecting bad attitude in a world where no commercial place for a trans rapper exists. Gay rappers will lead the sexual revolution.

5 “Anonymous: The New Face of Cyber-War” This video interview, released via Al Jazeera earlier this year, is not music per se, but it is one of my favorite sound pieces of 2011. When I remix Anonymous’s computer-vocoded response—a warning to corporate power regarding the coming insurrection—into a set, suddenly the energy in the room becomes crisp and present; people enter the cinema of the moment via the gates of dance and alcohol, candy as medicine.

6 Secreto El Biberon, “Ponte Tu Chaleco Translating to “Put on Your Bulletproof Vest,” the title of this Spanish nightclub hit glosses the story of a Dominican rapper who, denied a US visa, is stuck in the DR, where his enemies want him dead. But this isn’t meant to be a sad thing; by the end of the track, you get that it’s an anthem for all DR rappers and hustlers. Secreto explains that if you don’t have enemies, then you must have been forgotten by fate; it’s a “tragic” story, but flipped as a dance track, the song has become part of the fiber of Dominican street culture and joy in 2011.

7 Nguzunguzu’s Remix of Ayshay’s “Warn-U” (Tri Angle) As the LA-based duo Nguzunguzu, Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda form one of the most talented production/DJ teams coming out of the US today. They represent a global bass sound that boldly crosses languages and genres, as in this remix of Ayshay’s Muslim-trance single.

8 Shabazz Palaces, Black Up (Sub Pop) I listened to Digable Planets as a teenager. I remember their music as a sound track to rebellion, attending New Black Panther Party meetings, searching for my history. So it was a huge surprise to find out that Butterfly of Digable Planets is now recording under the name Shabazz Palaces. A creative manifesto of intergenerational wisdom, Black Up is a full album, an audio story for those like myself searching for music that’s transformative in both production and content.

9 Total Freedom, The Banging Bells of Hell Mixtape LA sound artist and DJ Total Freedom (also known as Ashland Mines) produced this mixtape last year for Halloween, and it became one of the most infamous Internet mixes of 2011. His original spoken word, relayed via an ominous, computer-generated female narrator, is set alongside dark Southern rap—mostly by young women—much of which can no longer be found online, as nearly all of the hosting sites have since been bought out or shut down.

10 Jody Breeze, “The Way I Move” (Ghettophiles) Late last year I received this track by Jody Breeze, a teen juke/ghetto-house producer from Chicago whom I still know very little about. Using lo-fi equipment to sample Sade’s “Cherish the Day” and adding heavy, repetitive bass, Breeze subverted the ghost of early-’90s R&B/soft rock and helped open my mind, as a DJ, to the totally underrated, complex, and critical black musical genre he’s advancing.

Venus X is a Dominican-Ecuadorean DJ and artist based in New York, where in 2009 she began the pioneering rave GHE20G0TH1K. This past fall, she went on tour with Gang Gang Dance; She will be recording both solo and collaborative projects in 2012.