How To Live Creatively (Even If You’re Not)

Do you find yourself unable to express yourself artistically, but have always had a profound appreciation for all things art? Here are some tips to living creatively, even when you think you’re not artistically inclined in the slightest.

Have you ever wanted to create something of your own? Have you ever wanted to escape reality through an aesthetically pleasing outlet but just felt that you had no way of doing so for the lack of creative ability? Have you ever wished you could live life like your favorite musicians, artists, and celebrities? Have you ever wanted to say that you are living creatively?

We have all been in those slumps when the going gets tough in college, especially during four-day weeks that end up accumulating so much more work and activities and commitments than a regular, full week of school!

Well, luckily for you, there is an upside, and that is that you don’t have to always inherit an innate skill in art or some form of inventiveness when it comes to living creatively. You do not have to be the next Salvador Dali or the next Kendrick Lamar to lead a creative life! All it takes is a little change in perspective and a step in a new direction. Here are some tips to get the imagination warmed up and the artistic vibes flowing, because art truly comes in forms and kinds of all mediums. That is what is so great about it!

1. Take a new course, something different and out there.

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You can never go wrong when it comes to experimenting and trying something new. Creativity does not have to mean a paintbrush and canvas or an instrument and a tune, art can simply be taking the initiative to try something new and to become passionate about it. You could try to take that Global Documentary course you were dying to take or a language course or even a course on Fairy Tales or Sci-Fi.

2. Get more active in the social media world and add value to the posts you write or the images you post.

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Instagram

Try out different editing apps and search up quotes that inspire you. Look for artists (musicians, visual artists, photographers, fashionistas, etc.) that influence you. Post a picture of you and your friend somewhere totally cool in your town or drop a line that means a lot to you. Share yourself in a way you would want others to hear and see you.

3. Try out a new recipe.

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A great way to spend time with friends and get a little creative is by cooking/baking. It is always adds an element of fun and experimentation. Pretend to be a food critic of your own masterpiece and enjoy the break from the crazy work surrounding you in your everyday life. (Plus, you finally take the time to feed yourself– I know college students are very bad about getting those important meals of the day.)

4. Go on an adventure!

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No one really thinks about traveling or exploring as art, but if you really, truly grasp it, you are experiencing a form of art. You are appreciating the culture, the city, the people, and the food, even if it is just your college home town or what not, just doing something daring and different to inform you of something novel is one way to living creatively. You are willing to step out of the boundaries and venture out into the world– wanderlust.

5. Pick up a new hobby.

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God knows, college is filled with an extensive array of activities right in front of you to take advantage of– so, do so! For instance, some universities offer spin classes, dance classes, ping pong classes, or aerial acrobatics, or you may be more into the music scene and want to go to some open mic nights or jazz sessions at a local coffee shop in your area, or you may enjoy writing more and start your own blog, or you may want to pick up a camera and learn how to do” light painting;”whatever the case may be, you should absolutely be open to reaching out and becoming an active member of something unique that will mean a lot to you. Plus, hobbies are great creative stimulators.

6. Search up new trends and give it a try.

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Once again, staying out of the lines is always a wonderful way to express yourself and your passions and to show that you really care about art and its ever-changing trends. Plus, it gives you a new sense of purpose and motivation when you have a goal to try something new. Try a new hairstyle, a new look, a new sport, or a new genre of music. Update that Spotify playlist to what is being recently discovered or give that hat look a try for the first time.

8. Carry a journal.

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No, I am not saying you need to have a creative bone in your body to be a writer or a journalist. Sometimes, it is just the simple act of taking out that pen and paper and writing a word or two down, a phrase, a saying, a mantra, or even a doodle! Just step away from the phone and let those creative rants loose!

9. Finally, “look at your life like it’s a work of art,” and “eat with your eyes.”

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A blog post on Astral & Opal by Vanessa Hudgens made an amazing point, that “we eat every single day, so sometimes we forget that food is art as well.” And this is so true! You would be surprised if you realized that life itself is an art. It is. Look back at memories, together they construct a short film in your head, they create bloopers, and they formulate a scrapbook. Look at the present and notice all the amazing people around you and the value they add to your life through their own experiences, stories, and passions. What is it that makes you energized, fascinated, alive? Appreciate the food you eat, the yoga you practice, the places you see, the music you hear, the dreams you dream, etc etc. There is always something that drives us, a powerful force of instant passion–creativity at its finest. It is fantastic when you feel best about yourself, the things you do, and the people you love. That is when you know you are doing something right, you are living creatively, in your own way.

So, never feel like you are not creative or never will be, because there are a multitude of ways you can get inspired and be considered creative– you just have to find your platform, your space, your tick, your outlet.

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Def Jam’s Jahkoy Releases New Track “Odd Future”

In the ever-growing genre of Contemporary R&B, there is a particular artist who has made a place for himself among the big leagues of Def Jam, and his name is Jahkoy.

Jahkoy Palmer (known simply by his stage name Jahkoy) was named by Billboard as an “Artist To Watch” in 2016, and it is impressive that he has been recognized among the extreme competition in new music and sound that enters the industry each day.

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Billboard

The Toronto-born musician brings a new element of music to the studio table and his past hit songs “Still In Love” and “Hold Your Hand” made a huge hit in 2015, having been played on rotation on such artists’ individual Beats 1 radio stations as, Zane, Elton John, Pharrell, and Drake! He has also caught the attention of numerous media platforms such as PitchforkComplexThe Fader and NYLON.
His music is considered to be a multitude of genres put together, creating the perfect cocktail of sounds and vibes. Jahkoy himself, claimed that his music could be best defined as “bipolar.” And that it is. From the layering of beats, tunes, vocals, rhythms, and instruments, he creates a robust sound that is just the right amount of chill, while also being dramatic.

The dynamic artist uses the sweet sounds of synthesizers and beats to create typical electronica sounds, like those produced by Cashmere Cat, MNEK, and SZA. He then blends that with the aesthetic appeal of rhythm found in R&B, constructing the feeling of the ebb and flow of tunes, much like artists Mack Wilds, Kevin Garrett, and Jarryd James. He then mashes the concoction with a touch of unique, echo-ey pop vocals. His voice is reminiscent of Justin Bieber, yet with a more serene, seductive R&B aura about it.
He sings in his single “Hold Your Hand”:

“Can we get to know each other
More than we already do
The crazy thing about forever
Is that I only believe in it with you”

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Billboard

His music is catchy and contagious. Tempting enough to take a seat and just lay back to think about life.

In Jahkoy’s recent release, “Odd Future,” produced by Wondagurl and Nova, he implements a different take on the structure of the song from the rest of his past works. In this piece, the instrumentals are slowed down, more chaotic, and more layered. The ability to distinguish the sounds are blurred and his voice emulates the same melancholy falsetto as that of The Weeknd accompanied by the backdrop of bold dance club-like beats. It is then disrupted here and there by the striking sounds of snares and the rawness of the rap bridge. It is a very unique piece of work compared to his past releases and fits very well amongst the artists that Def Jam manages and promotes.

To hear it, take a listen here:

 

Fans of his were ecstatic for the new drop, blowing up his twitter page:

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@jahkoy retweet.

At 11-years old, Jahkoy had decided to start rapping under the name Raheem, a name that had been given to him by his father’s side of the family. He then realized, that in order to be noticed, he would need a much more unique sounding name, and so he chose to go with one that was less known among the music community, his birth name, Jahkoy. He began making music since then, with single after single. In the fall of 2013, his debut project, Dying To Live Forever, presented the new flare that he hoped to bring to the Contemporary R&B world. He uploaded his work on Soundcloud and the rest was history.

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Universal Music Group

In hopes of reaching out to an audience outside of his hometown, Jahkoy made it his mission to go to Hollywood, and soon after he did. The now 20-year old lives in Los Angeles working on a potential publishing deal with 1916 Management. He knew that moving to California was the write move for his career. He told Tania Peralta, of online publication Noisey, that he wished to be in a closer vicinity to “all these artists, producers, and songwriters many up-and-coming rappers and singers” and “if I’m in the Universal office or studio in LA there’s a chance I can run into Kendrick, I can run into Chris Brown and I can mainly run into them because everyone is just here. There’s just a lot more opportunities.”

This statement proved true when he was offered the chance to work with a Grammy Camp that 1916 Management put together. Jahkoy is now in the studios with producers and songwriters that were a part of the Grammy’s and works on potential records for certain artists, more specifically with Talay Riley (who has done significant work for artists such as Chris Brown and Austin Mahone).

Jahkoy continues to build new styles to his sound and works alongside notable people in the industry to help him climb the ladder to success. There is no doubt that the collaborations he has implemented in his compilations have helped him in the music domain. His delicate lyrics blended with R&B and dance, have featured voices like Mecca Kalani and Willow Smith. He has also been a part of a collective called 1234, which includes Willow and Jaden Smith and many more talented creatives.

He will be performing in the amazing line-up for the Firefly Festival this summer!

Jahkoy sang it himself in his song “Still In Love”:

“It’s alright
It’s okay
To try and hide your feelings today
Been around
Been away
But I won’t let it stay the same”

He certainly won’t let it stay the same with the momentum he is gaining in the music world, and many look forward to seeing what is in store for him in the new year of 2016 and what he is to produce in the future. He is an artist with a lot of potential and passion that is going to add to the musical community.

To hear more of his music, check out this link to his Soundcloud (you can also find him on Spotify) below and be sure to follow him on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and his Official Website.

Alessia Cara: Live at Brighton Music Hall

Last Friday night, chart-topping R&B/pop artist, Alessia Cara, gave an amazing performance at Boston’s intimate concert venue, Brighton Music Hall.

written by: Arzu Kir and Neelu Mohaghegh

Upon arriving to the venue, the atmosphere was filled with high-energy and anticipation for the three opening artists. These musicians all held a different style in their sounds, making the next performer just as unique as the last.  Collectively, they all contributed to creating an overall dynamic experience by introducing different genres to the audience.

The first to take the stage was the promiscuous and bold singer, Leaf. This woman knew how to pump up the crowd with her stage presence, complete with her two back-up dancers and their erotic choreography.

 

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Leaf.

After giving a stunning performance, Craig Stickland took the stage with his acoustic guitar and vocals. He brought a sound that resembled a mix of Train and a higher-pitched Hozier. Needless to say, he shocked the crowd with his emphatic, passion-filled voice.

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Craig Stickland.

The last opener was Kevin Garrett, a Brooklyn-based musician well-known among the R&B/Contemporary world.  Garret introduced a different vibe to the crowd— one that slowed things down. His particular sound conveyed melancholy emotions so strong that it had the girls in the crowd screaming out their adoration.

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Kevin Garrett.

Several moments passed and the stage was finally set for the night’s anticipated headliner. The lights went out as screams filled the air, and Alessia Cara confidently strode onto the stage for her first stop of her U.S. tour. Dressed in a casual manner of a simple black shirt and black jeans, her style directly displayed her instant laid-back and relatable charisma.

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Alessia Cara.

Her setlist covered her entire debut album, Know-It-AlI, released in November 2015, along with two well-known covers. The crowd, filled with diverse people of all ages, proved their dedication by engaging with the young artist throughout the night. Cara mutually engaged with her audience by separating the physical and emotional distance between her and her fans, keeping the spirit of the concert alive.

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Alessia Cara.

Halfway through, she addressed the Boston crowd as the “loudest crowd yet.” Her constant humbled remarks to her fans showed how appreciative and modest she was about the journey she faced to get to where she is now. She also made a point to introduce her entire band, giving the recognition they deserved for their collaborative efforts.

Cara also introduced two of her more profound songs with special introductions. For her ballad “River of Tears,” she urged the crowd to put away their phones and to simply experience the moment with her. For her ballad “Scars to Your Beautiful,” she touched upon her views on body image. She emphasized that people in today’s society “decide what beauty should be” and vocalized how she’s opposed to it.

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Alessia Cara.

Right before she sang her last song of the night, she made sure to take a picture of the crowd from her yellow polaroid, capturing the moment forever.

As part of her encore performance, she gave the crowd a treat by singing The Neighbourhood’s hit, “Sweater Weather.” The concert officially ended, and she left the crowd wanting more. The crowd was a lively sea of smiles, reluctant to leave the night.

For Alessia Cara, 2015 was not only her break-out year, but a year filled with incredible success. With constant radio play of her debut single “Here,” which recently became #1 on the Billboard charts, her presence in the music industry grew rapidly.  To hear the music that touched many, check out her album here:

 

Chance the Rapper Announces Third Mixtape!

Everyone’s favorite Chicago-born Hip hop/R&B/Soul artist has been making artistic feats one after another from his “Family Matters” Tour to his newest song “Somewhere in Paradise” feat. Jeremih and R. Kelly, and now his recently announced and anticipated third mixtape!

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The Fader.

There is no stopping this man with wings whose music soars to new heights. Chance the Rapper is truly a man of his craft who experiments and evolves his sound with each release. Along with his fantastic orchestral crew, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment.

Chance the Rapper’s music has been deemed innovative, unique, and inspiring. Of course, no one expects less from the musician as he recently displayed a teaser of his newest album to come through two 9-second clips on Snapchat.

Chance most definitely built hype for this new project with the first two singles – “Angels” feat. Saba and “Somewhere in Paradise” that he first previewed while on his tour.

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Instagram account @chancetherapper.

The young 22-year old creative last created a mixtape in 2013, Acid Rap. Since then, he had not done much in releasing another record, but that did not stop him from living a dynamic and fulfilling lifestyle. His daughter was born and he became a father, he toured constantly, and he released his latest single with The Social Experiment on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Besides the Snapchat sneak peeks, Chance was also a musical guest this past showing of Saturday Night Live where he also hinted about his third mixtape there and on his Twitter account!

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Twitter account @chancetherapper.

 

On Instagram, the star stood next to a crowd of musical gods, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Usher. In the picture, he even announces and hashtags the potential title for the third mixtape… Angels!

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Looks like Chance is going to start the new year off right with this new mixtape! Be sure to stay on the lookout for the release date!

Colton Faull, of online Hip hop and Alternative music new publication, Pigeons and Planes, was able to retrieve Chance’s snaps  teasing two of his songs to be.

Update: The snaps have recently been taken down for copyright reasons, but what do you think? Will the mixtape be called Angels? Will it be yet another masterpiece? :

Weekly Hip Hop Ciphers in Downtown Boston Subways

If you happen to be walking underground in the MBTA stations of Downtown Crossing between Washington Street and Winter Street of Boston on Sundays around 3-6 pm, you might hear the deep intonations, fast-paced beats, and fantastic lyrics of the innovative hip hop community, Wreck Shop Movement’s Subway Cipher.

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Boston.com

Yes, under the very streets that we walk upon each day, lies a whole world of people trying to influence and inspire through their passion to spit fire and recite their own thoughts and opinions in poetic and melodic form. All of this performance is free for your eyes and ears to discover, see, and listen to.

In case you weren’t sure, a “cipher” is a secret or disguised way of writing, almost as if you are speaking in code. Wreck Shop Movement’s Subway Cipher was established last year by a man named Justice Born, on Easter Sunday, and its mission is to gather rappers, poets and appreciators from all ends of the city of Boston area every Sunday afternoon at the Downtown Crossing T stop. The collective hopes to empower, inform, and educate the people of the Hip Hop culture, and being in such a millennial and collegiate town, I think that will not be a problem for them. They wish to give back to the community through their passions, which is a call to action any one should wish to aspire to do as well.

Perry Eaton of boston.com writes that here, “some of Boston’s best Hip hop comes alive every Sunday…at a T stop.” And he is most certainly right.

Whether it be through the hustling of freestyle rap verses or the cool and cunning nature of the rhymes and actual knowledge behind the forceful, compelling, and dominant words of these echoing voices.
Can you just imagine how exhilarating it must feel to have a circle of people all with similar interests, but all coming from different perspectives and backgrounds?

Here are two videos of the squad in action:

 

Born, the founder, explains that the reasoning behind the name “Wreck Shop” Movement is because it actually represents an acronym, and that is “When Raw Elements Combine Kinetically, Start Helping Other People.” These people from this community of creatives, are artists executing their craft for the world to see. From DJs to producers to poets to song-writers and to every-day intellectuals, they support one another in this circle of the underground.
Born stated that:

the ultimate goal is to inspire,” and that “Hip-hop is originally a movement for the people, and we’re trying to bring it back to that. It’s why we come to a subway station that’s heavily concentrated with people.

The larger the crowd, the more recognition. They may use technology to film and upload their videos out through the internet, and they may hide within the confines of the underground world, but when they are standing there in that very moment, they are displaying a show of talents face-to-face. One look around the circle and this mission becomes clear of bringing all ages, genders, and backgrounds. You could find older rappers singing about their growth and development over the years, you may hear a multi-lingual rapper, you may hear a man who teaches sign language in schools actually voice his emotions, and you may hear odes to children and loved ones.
Eaton was able to interview several regulars of the Subway Cipher crew and here is what they had to say about their experiences and why this place is significant to them:

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Estee Nack, 31, of Lynn. PC: Perry Eaton, Boston.com

“The cipher is something that we do to connect. It’s something that people have been doing since before it was a rap thing. As far as hip-hop is concerned, the cipher is where we gather to kick our rhymes, to share our minds with each other. But this is folk. Hip-hop is the last true form of American folk music. It’s something that’s organic, natural in speech, you can just start doing it.”

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Big Brother Sadi, 40, of Lynn. PC: Perry Eaton, Boston.com

“Hip-hop is a way of life, man. It’s a culture. It’s the music, the style of dressing, the dancing, the art. There’s a lot of things that you can’t express any other way. Every day we listen to music, we have conversations, we dress a certain way. We do all of those things to communicate through hip-hop.”

 

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Justice Born (Founder), 33, of Lynn. PC: Perry Eaton, Boston.com

“One time there was a blind man who passed by the cipher, and he looked like he was just trying to pass through to get wherever he was going. I was telling people to stand back and give him some room, but he was actually looking to reach onto someone and say, ‘Hey, are you guys going to be here long?’ The guy ended up leaving and came back with a box of Boston Creme doughnuts. He gave them to us and said, ‘These are for you, you guys are Boston’s cream of the crop.’ So he stuck around and gravitated towards this random cellist, and so the cellist came over and asked if he could strum some chords over the beat that we were playing. Next thing you know, he comes over and joins that cipher, too. That was probably one of the most beautiful things we’ve seen here.”

 

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Mama G, 51, of Beverly. PC: Perry Eaton, Boston.com

“I think the biggest misconception about hip-hop is that it’s all about negativity. There’s a lot of people who perform a lot of socially conscious hip-hop. That’s why I’ve decided to step out and do it recently. I’ve been writing my whole life, but I never really had enough of a purpose to do it. Now my mission is to share my message. It’s beautiful, what’s going on here. It’s about unity and bringing the community together.”

 

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Michelle La Poetica, 39, of Boston. PC: Perry Eaton, Boston.com

“Maya Angelou said, and I don’t remember it verbatim, ‘You’ll forget a person’s face, you’ll forget their name, but you’ll never forget how they made you feel.’ As a poet, my aim is to touch people, and make them see the world through my eyes–feel my pain, feel my struggle. Look at this beautiful circle–you see different colors, different sizes, different genres, different genders, and everyone has something about them to share.”

 

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Mr. PSA, 32, of the North Shore area. PC: Perry Eaton, Boston.com

“Wreck Shop has been my family for years. Everyone’s heard the phrase, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.’ Well this is the perfect place to never judge a book by its cover. I’ve seen Santas hop in the cipher before! There’s a kid over there right now rapping who’s 16 years old. I’m homeless right now so weeks have been a bit crazy for me– figuring out what I’m going to eat, where I’m going to sleep. So this for me is like church. Everything in the outside world is muckery compared to when I can come here and just put all of those problems in a bag and toss it to the side for a little while.”

To these people of the sect, this is an artistic sanctuary for a musical genre that has taken place in some of the worst parts of cities and some of the most beautiful. It is genre that has taken several forms of sonic sound (of voice and song) and transformed it into a medium all its own, with both dominance and charisma. It is a realm where people feel safe from judgement and can speak out. It is amazing to see the world and how it reacts and implements the entertainment world to make a greater and more connected notion. It only goes to show how the power of music can link livestogether. This is what makes living in a spirited and active city, such as Boston, so incredible.

Here is their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/wreckshopmovement/

 

That’s A Wrap: Top 5 Artists of the Year

Let’s call it a wrap, 2015! We’ve had an extreme year of musical endeavors of epic proportions and now we’re ready to name our Top 5 Artists of the Year!

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Whether it was a genre clash such as EDM and hip-hop, pop, or even indie rock, or if it were sick collaborations of musicians and artists from different sonic domains, such as Justin Bieber and Skrillex, music made an incredible mark on history this year. As the year is coming to an end, we can look back at the artists who have left the biggest impression on our minds, our hearts, and our ears. I’d like to note that there were many incredible album productions and single releases that deserve to be recognized, but as this is only the “Top 5 Artists of the Year” of 2015, there is only so much I can mention. So here it is, based on intensive research of who was the most searched for artist online, most listened to artist on Spotify, and the top reigning artists on the Billboard charts over the course of the year, week by week. If one had to really define what music was like for 2015, it would most likely be “collaborative.” It was a massive year for cooperation and mixing and matching music genres and sounds and vocals together to produce a new sound. Under each artist, I have also attached either a playlist of their newest album or music videos to their biggest hits, or both.

So, here they are– Top 5 Artists of the Year:

1. The Weeknd

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This famous Canadian singer produced by Republic Records, Abel Tesfaye, also known as, The Weeknd, started out as the enigmatic R&B vocalist with a smooth falsetto and a sultry, erotic tone on a few drugs. Not many knew of him, but those who did were devoted to him and his first album Trilogy, which released on November 13th, 2012 . The musician stole hearts and sent out many X and O’s to the crowd in 2015, performing at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival, releasing his album Beauty Behind the Madness, performing at various music award ceremonies and the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, making a hit single for the motion picture of Fifty Shades of Grey, and going on a killer tour. The Weeknd has rightfully made it to the Top 5 not only for his uniqueness, but also for his amazing collaborations on his novel album with many such artists as  Lana Del Ray and Ed Sheeran, two very different genre clashes. He has stuck to his original seductive tunes, but may have toned it down a bit and focused more on the artistry of performance and the sound of his vocals to bring the charisma to his music that the fans adore. The exotic haired-man is able to produce the emotion of being on drugs when actually being sober, is able to bring out the bad in the good, and able to perform a killer showcase with his dance moves and his heightened enthusiasm and energy on stage! His album contained three hit singles that were all at one point in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 chart: “Earned It,” “Can’t Feel My Face,” and “The Hills.” His album is also ranked in the Top 5 Albums of the Year in the U.S. right after Drake’s If You’re Reading This You’re Too Late. The Weeknd is continuing to ameliorate his position in the music world as he builds more recognition and produces more amazing music– can’t wait to see what is to come for the year of 2016.

 

2. Justin Bieber

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I know, I know. You’re thinking– what? How? Well, allow me to say that Skrillex and Diplo deserve the highest of appraisals for their fabrication of what is Justin Bieber’s newest album, Purpose. The album was so well constructed, each single with a catchy tune and an intense emotion and sound behind it, that it was a great challenge against any Bieber haters out there. The album is extremely dynamic and many said that Bieber’s album made their summers with “Where Are Ü Now,” and “What Do You Mean?” Then came along “Sorry,” and the rest was history. Bieber collaborated with so many voices from hip-hop stars like Big Sean, Travi$ Scott, and Nas, to artists and the stars of EDM like Skrillex and Diplo, to alternative singer and songwriters like Halsey. What was so fantastic was that with each artist that Bieber worked with, they stayed true to their sound and genre, and Bieber, instead of sounding like his pop-boy-band self, actually tried to emulate and work with their intonations to make a solid track. His album was so successful that according to news site, Spin, his album made about 522 thousand sales. It is not only the best sales report of Bieber’s musical ventures, but also the “best single-week number posted by any artist this year.” He also performed an incredible set with Skrillex at the Billboard Hot 100 festival this past summer and at the VMAs! Bieber, we’re sorry for your heartbreak, but it made for a great record!

 

3. Drake

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Did you really think we were going to keep our Hotline King out of the Top 5? No chance. Drake hit a new all time high with his new music, with his collaborations with Future, and with a few bumps in the road with Meek Mill. Drake came with his big, big hit, “Hotline Bling,” which has had major listening views for a very long time now–since it was released, but when the music video came out, it blew up even more for its somewhat hilarious nature. Saturday Night Live, as well as, many other media sources cracked some jokes on the music video, but that did not take away from the extreme significance that Drake placed on music for the year. Drake released his own surprise album If You’re Reading This You’re Too Late, and that is what put him at the forefront of the music year. According to Jake Krez, writer for the online hip-hop publication DJ Booth Drake made it to Spotify’s Top Most Streamed Artists of 2015.  His album also made it to the U.S.’s Top 5 Albums of the Year in first place.  It became No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and with ease, scored Drake his fourth chart-topper. The album was able to move 535,000 units in one week! Drake continues to use the power of the 6ix God in his music, the monotonous, almost hopeless emotion behind the vocals that become the hit sensations that they are– that brought you: “Take Care,” “Hold On We’re Going Home,” “Marvin’s Room,” “Crew Love,” “0-100,” and so much more! Drake had the ability to show up in all sorts of singles this year and really made his name one to not forget. With those dance moves, that ensemble, and his musical creations, Drake is the statement of 2015.

 

4. Taylor Swift

5. Halsey

This Canadian 20-year old singer-songwriter, Ashley Frangipaneis, also known as Halsey, is a refreshing, unique voice that has entered the music scene. She brings a different kind of momentum and energy to the table, which is why she makes it to this Top 5 Artists of the Year list. She started out as an internet, Tumblr sensation who then instantly caught someone’s ear, and like wildfire, caught everyone’s attention. Her voice is that kind of raw, emphatic, rebellious incantation that every millennial wishes to march and sing to the tune of. MTV calls her “the reluctantly perfect voice of a generation.” She has now been collaborating with big names like Bieber. Halsey also had the chance to perform in front an incredibly large crowd at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival! She is currently touring with The Weeknd! In addition, Halsey’s album, Badlands, debuts at No. 2 on the new Billboard 200 chart. Astralwerks Records reported that her album launched at No. 1 on the Alternative Albums chart. According to Billboard and Spotify, Badlands holds “the second-biggest debut of 2015 for a female artist’s first full-length album both in units and pure album sales. ” That is extremely impressive! She uses her music as a vehicle to deliver her messages to society about the diversity, the acceptances, the rejections, the wrongs, and the rights. It’s her connectivity and strength that draw the crowd to her music. Her independence and ability to sing as she wishes, really attracts the audience to her authenticity.

*And a quick Honorable Mention goes to…

Alessia Cara

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This girl really deserves serious recognition because she has risen so far at such a young age! At the age of 19, this young lady hit the charts with her song “Here,” and had the chance to sing it out to the crowd at one of Taylor Swift’s concert performances. The powerful and rhythmic melody that this girl brings makes her a force to the music scene of R&B music for females. For many listeners, she hits major chills and exudes killer vibes when she sings. Her voice fills a space and void, and her lyrics resonate with the most significant struggles of adolescence facing adulthood and reality. In an interview conducted by Swift, a hug fan of Cara’s, and by Billboard, they discuss with Cara the debut of her album Know-It-All (released November 13th), and how “Here” came from a real experience Cara had at a lame party. Cara notes, “[i]t’s funny because now I hear that it gets played at parties,” she says. “If you think about it, it’s such a miserable song for a single. But it worked, right?” It definitely did work, and it’s  getting you up there in the music industry fast, girl.*

So, there you have it, your Top 5 of the Year! Look back, listen back, and get ready for a new year of new music in 2016!

[Exclusive] Interview: Russell Elliot is on a Mission

Allow me to introduce you to an R&B singer-songwriter on a mission to deliver a message to speak his mind through his music.

His name is Russell Elliot. This young man has made it his goal to let the millennial generation know that change needs to happen – that people need to be more aware and caring towards feminism and the LGBTQ community. His EP released recently on November 16th of 2015. He could not be more excited, and let me tell you, neither am I!

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His music is astoundingly moving. It is powerful, emphatic, erotic, fluid, and informative. Each song carries through each sound and intonation with a hint of melancholy and willpower. For someone so young, it is refreshing to hear a new sound, a new perspective, for music, but also returning to what the power of music can do as a messenger to others, as a way to relate and connect the world to a single concept or idea for all to share.

I was so honored to be able to interview this undeniably rising star and his inspiring goals and dreams.

Neelu Mohaghegh (NM)Hi Russell!
Russell Elliot (RE): Hi!

NM: It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you (virtually)! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me and Verge! I know it is a very busy and exciting time in your life as you prepare for the release of your EP.
RE: My pleasure.

NM: So let’s get started: first off how are you?
RE: Wow, how polite. I’m well, thanks! Currently getting ready for my fourth show this week. Nice weather, good hair day… no complaints.

NM: What made you want to start creating music?
RE: Heartbreak.

NM: How did you find your sound? How do you define your sound/genre of music? And is there a type of sound you were going for?
RE: I grew up on soul, Motown, and R&B from the 90s/early 2000s. I certainly listen to and have performed other styles of music but R&B/Soul is my default. It’s what comes out when I’m not trying to be anything but myself. As a producer, I’ve always loved texture. That’s where the dusky, minimalist vibe comes from. I like to create a tactile, spatial universe within which my stories can reside.

NM: Now we’ve all heard about your mission, and that is to stop the misogyny in the world and promote Feminism and raise awareness of the Pansexual and LGBTQ population! What is it that struck you to do this—to take on this as your own and to deliver it through music? Who are you trying to reach out to the most?
RE: Before it is anything else, I hope my music is honest. If my stories– and the pansexual, inclusive, feminist, social-justice-minded worldview they are communicated through– make someone feel connected, empowered, or visible, I’m extremely humbled and grateful. What more could a musician ask for than to have his/her music positively impact someone? I hope there’s something for everyone in my music but I think it speaks particularly to people looking for a bit more flex in what can sometimes be a rigid world.

NM: What is it about the mission that bothers you the most?
RE: I wish more music was mindful of its impact. I don’t understand artists who use their platform to debase, demean, or exclude groups of people. I’ve never come across a misogynistic or homophobic record and thought, “Yeah, that was necessary.” We can do better. We can communicate more responsibly– more empathetically. I’m trying to do that.

NM: What is one piece of advice you’d give to women out there if you could only present one?
RE: Don’t take no advice from no man.

NM: Is there a girl or special woman in your life?
RE: There are many (I love you, mom).

NM: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
RE: Touring. Dancing. Making love. Selling Records.

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NM: So, I have to know, how do you maintain such beautiful hair?
RE: *hair flip* Girl, you know I stay on that Moroccan Oil hustle.

(Haha, yes, he is too great!)

NM: What was the familial background like– was your family supportive of your music career/efforts?
RE: My family is a beautiful fucking disaster. But one thing they’ve always done right is support my career. From an early age, they helped me learn to run a business. When I was 16 my parents took off work to drive me from DC to Nashville and stayed with me for a week so I could record my first EP. They are proud of what I do and do everything they can to support me. I got really, really lucky in that way.

NM: Why the choice to have foreign voices in the album track list?
RE: Fumando Espero– which I sampled in Around– is a beautiful, famous tango. Imagine a hazy, smoke-filled room. And in that room, you’re pining for a lover. And the bastard may very well drive you insane before you’re ever meaningfully reunited. I love that imagery. I relate to that imagery. Spanish was my first language, so the decision to sample it never felt foreign to me.

NM: What was the influence behind “Around?”
RE: A well-intentioned boy in college who wanted me but didn’t have the courage to do so meaningfully.

NM: For the music video for “Around,” what was it like making the video and seeing the song come to life visually? I am really excited and can’t wait to hear future projects!’
RE: Making the video was a dream. I’ve never met more generous collaborators than director, Zoe Rain & choreographers, Jeff & Rick Kuperman. They got to know my vision for the video better than I did myself. Yes! I’ve already got a few video concepts in mind for a follow up. Stay tuned!

(Here is the music video for the song "Around." Check it out!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaNoqShkHGA

NM: Do you ever wish to try out a different genre?
RE: I grew up playing classical piano which I’m slowly learning again.

NM: Who are you inspired and influenced the most by?
RE: Maya Angelou. Amy Winehouse. Lauryn Hill. Aaliyah. Audrey Hepburn. Poets. Essayists. Painters. Sculptors. Actors. Roxane Gay. Jessica Valenti. Meaghan Garvey. Artists whose creations endure and are timeless. Artists who speak specifically and relevantly to the present moment.

NM:Who would you want to have act as you in a film if someone were to do your documentary?
RE: Viola Davis. That woman is such a rockstar. Actually, add her to that list in the previous question.

NM: What is your favorite place in the world?
RE: I once went hiking in the Tennessee backwoods and bathed in the Cumberland River. I’ll never forget that spot. There’s a café in Paris on St. Germain where I left a piece my heart I’ll retrieve at some point. The Plaza Mayor in Madrid is living, breathing poetry. The Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan feels like home. Truly though, I belong in transit. I’m happiest when I’m traveling, touring, or exploring. I want to belong to all of these places and so many more.

NM: What is the music writing process like for you?
RE: Honestly, I feel pretty incidental to the process. More of a vessel for bringing the song into the world than its author. I usually write very fast, but lately I’ve taken to trying to slow things down and shape thoughts and images more acutely.

NM: Do you have a favorite song you wrote?
RE: Well, I’d tell you but all of the other ones would get jealous.
I’ll say this though: there are some bangers on my next record.

NM: If you could collaborate with anyone right now, which artist would it be?
RE: Kehlani. I’m vibing with her music so severely right now.
NM: (OMG, she is my favorite at the moment and I am so feeling her vibes too! That would honestly be so amazing if you, Russell, collaborated with her!)

NM: Again, thank you SO much for taking the time to speak to me and answer my questions! It truly means a lot, and as a big fan of yours, I want to be able to promote you, your music, and your message!
RE: Thank YOU! This was a blast. Let me know if you need anything further. :)

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Album Artwork for Russell Elliot EP.

What an amazing person. I honestly was enchanted by Russell and his answers. He is a man with extreme charisma and understanding for the world and a keen desire to let his voice and the voices of others be heard. I am so glad I got to speak with Russell and hope to eventually speak with him again soon!

Good luck to him as he begins new adventures and future projects.

You can follow Russell Elliot on Twitter and Instagram. His music is also available on iTunes and Spotify and to stream on Soundcloud.

Interview with Feenixpawl of Eclyspe Records

Who are Aden Forte and Josh Soon? They’re two Australian dudes, two house music DJs, two remixers, two producers, now two record label owners, two Grammy nominees, and they are Feenixpawl!

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Aden Forte and Josh Soon of Feenixpawl and Eclypse Records.

The boys met in 2003 and since then it has been nothing but an electric journey of synths, beats, and music.

I had such an amazing phone call conversation with the guys when I called in for an interview. Immediately when I called and the phone was answered, the kind, energetic, and Australian-accented voice of Josh answered “heyyyy, how are you?!” It was then accompanied by the voice of Aden “hellooooo!” They were an extremely interesting duo as they answered every question I posed with depth and thoughtfulness. You could just tell that they were passionate about their work and are “living the life” at the moment.

They are currently living in Los Angeles, CA, but they are constantly traveling and on the go, and so they do get the chance to go back home a lot.

I had many questions for the musicians, one of which was how did they start getting into this realm of music and consider this a possible career? And what was the process like of starting their own record label-conjoined with the established Wind Up Records, Entertainment, Inc. record label, known for artists such as Strange Talk, Civil Twilight, Five for Fighting, and Tegan and Sara (just to name a few)! Josh answered without pause how at age 17, the two started to learn how to produce and learned from others around them and just messed around. Josh noted that House music was an American creation that had a myriad of percussive sounds and synths, rhythms, and made for the club atmosphere. Later on, the genre kind of expanded into EDM (electronic dance music), which according to Josh and Aden is:

the main force of music in Australia. It has a really strong presence there. There isn’t really a massive hip-hop scene in Australia, and with all of the night clubs, house and EDM were at the forefront.

They said that dance music was mostly inspired by the Europeans who started playing around with sounds and rhythms electronically. When I asked the two where they saw the domain of EDM going, Aden replied that the “bubble is not going to burst,” meaning that EDM is not going anywhere, at least not anytime soon, and in fact, it is growing and gaining even greater recognition, more than ever. They distinguished that EDM has a multitude of subcategories too that build up its core. There is house, there is EDM, there is tropical EDM, trap, and dubstep, and more.

In addition, the process of creating their EDM record label, Eclypse Records, came to them 4 years ago when they did a remix of a Strange Talk, a rock band that is affiliated with Wind Up Records. They were then asked to help the record label develop and EDM division of their company, and so Josh said it just “sort of happened organically.”

I asked them what would be their favorite project so far that they have done, and they had a little trouble at first because there was a lot that they had to be proud of, but if they had to pick, it would probably be their single “Blue Sky,” and in the developing stages of the song, they “knew this was something kind of special.” Their other single that released recently, “Ghosts,” found success on the Billboard Dance Charts! It is Number 17 at the moment and is grammy nominated!

Check out their latest singles here now!

What I found so wonderful about these two and their music careers was that they had a supportive family. Feenixpawl, was a name they constructed out of their middle names: Phoenix and Paul. They wanted something that had meaning to them but was also  word that never existed, hence the the reconstruction of the spelling. In the process of forming Eclypse Records, Josh’s brother, Jason Forte, worked with them and so now it is run by the three gentlemen.  You could tell family is very important for them and it is fantastic to hear that their families were always in favor of the boys’ DJ-ing lives.

I asked them if they could collaborate with anyone who would they want to collaborate with? They gave me a little list of great names:
Florence and the Machine, Stevie Nicks, and Scott Grinds.

Feenixpawl had a lot of great answers for whether they were trying to emulate any particular artists or if they had any influences or have a specific way they approach each song? Josh replied that

we have never done a track that’s the same as the other and that’s the best thing about it. We try not to speak to any formulas and just went with our hearts. Every song we make is always a new experience…

Aden then chimed in and replied “we don’t try to have a sound really…” because they had been working really hard to get to where they are and it took them 10 years, so within that time, there was not really any soul-sound searching, as there was, just creating and producing.

I then decided to ask a question that I love asking musicians and artists who have made it to where they want to be “do you have any advice for the aspiring musician in your genre?”

Without fail, I received a very real and practical answer from Aden that you have to “catch the ear of someone influential.” He then proceeded to say that you really needed to keep the connections you make and build relationships everywhere you go, but on that same note, do not be shoving your material down peoples’ throats because that would just turn them off and irritate them. But of course, Josh said it is also really important to keep your head up in every situation and never give up no matter how many highs and lows you face.

This is advice I really appreciated hearing from these two’s success stories and for someone like me who is infatuated with the love for music.

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So, I had to ask them just because people were buzzing about it so much– What were their thoughts on Justin Bieber’s new sound and would they call it EDM? The two chuckled, as expected, and replied that they think he’s great and the music is fun, but they would not consider him EDM. In fact, they said he is “not EDM, he is just pop music produced by a dance music producer.”

I could not have agreed more with the guys.

I was really excited by the end of this discussion and wanted to talk to them more, but knew that would be exhausting for them haha. I asked them if they would ever tour the U.S. and stop by Boston, and they said they could see it happening in the near future. SO, make sure to check these guys out because you are not going to want to miss them when they stop by your hometown. I want to make a shoutout and say a big thanks to Feenixpawl for taking the time to speak with me, and I hope that I get to one day meet them in person and attend one of their concerts!

Cheers!

Here is where you can find Eclypse Records:

Facebook / Official / Soundcloud

Here is where you can find Feenixpawl:

Facebook / Twitter / Soundcloud