In 2008, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired, declared that “free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero.” Although Anderson cites artists of various styles, in no genre is “free” more prevalent than hip-hop. Mixtapes, which don’t directly generate any money for rappers, have become just as important to hip-hop stars as studio releases—if not more so.
Hip-hop has always been a regional art. Seminal groups such as Run DMC of Hollis, Queens and N.W.A. of Compton represented their neighborhoods with songs chronicling local troubles and lifestyles. But in the early 1990s, rap’s focus shifted and hip-hop crews began forming record labels to better promote their own music. All of a sudden, the West Coast had Suge Knight’s Death Row Records, which included the likes of Tupac and Snoop Dogg, while the East had Puffy’s Bad Boy label, which centered on Notorious B.I.G.
Originally a side project of the production duo The Neptunes, N*E*R*D gained notoriety for blending beat-making prowess with heavy rock influences. Over their last four albums, however, the band has gravitated away from rock and toward a more danceable sound.
As the primary producer for the Minneapolis-based alternative hip-hop crew Doomtree, Lazerbeak has been responsible for the bass-heavy beats heard behind rappers P.O.S., Dessa, and Sims. With hip-hop credentials like these, and Doomtree’s reputation for aggressive, punk rock- infused hip-hop, you might expect Lazerbeak’s first solo album, to be filled with club hits.
What do you get when you put a charismatic female singer in front of a three-piece punk outfit that sounds like the bastard child of the Pixies and Blondie? The Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Well, sure. But also the New Brunswick, N.J.-based Screaming Females.