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BeatRoute Magazine BC Print Edition July 2018

BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise. The paper started in June 2004 and continues to provide a healthy dose of perversity while exercising rock ‘n’ roll ethics. Currently BeatRoute’s AB edition is distributed in Calgary, Edmonton (by S*A*R*G*E), Banff and Canmore. The BC edition is distributed in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo. BeatRoute (AB) Mission PO 23045 Calgary, AB T2S 3A8 E. editor@beatroute.ca BeatRoute (BC) #202 – 2405 E Hastings Vancouver, BC V5K 1Y8 P. 778-888-1120

FILM SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

FILM SORRY TO BOTHER YOU BOOTS RILEY BREAKS GROUND WITH DIRECTORIAL DEBUT PAT MULLEN Sorry To Bother You provides unconventional genre-bending social commentary. Boots Riley might be best known as the frontman for the Oakland-based hip hop group The Coup, but he breaks new ground as an artist with his feature directorial debut Sorry to Bother You. The film stars Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius, who succeeds in his menial telemarketing job when a co-worker (Danny Glover) advises him to woo customers with his “white voice.” The zany political satire was a breakout at Sundance and invites comparison to last year’s Get Out with its genre-bending social commentary. Riley introduces himself as a filmmaker with a fierce counter-cultural punch. Riley, who studied film at San Francisco State University before his recording career, relates to Cassius’s experience working the phones, having been a telemarketer himself. Riley says no particular episode from his telemarking days inspired the film. It was “just being there in the cubicle, feeling the soulkilling feeling that comes from that, and vowing revenge,” he laughs. The film drops Cassius down a rabbit hole throughout his rise up the corporate ladder that includes Armie Hammer as a coke-snorting CEO who mutates African Americans into workhorses complete with snouts and swaying foot-long cocks. It defiantly spits in the face of corporate America. “My success as a hip hop artist has not been a financial one,” admits Riley when asked how his work helps him keep his views on capitalism in check. “It’s been successful in the sense that I’ve been able to keep pushing it out, keep making music, and have people listening to my music.” Riley adds that success can seem relative, since only last year he had his power cut off and could relate to Cassius’s experience being months behind on rent. With that being said, he acknowledges that the system can be advantageous for making music and films like Sorry to Bother You that challenge the status quo. “I don’t think the answer to what this system has wrong with it is something that is changed by individual action,” says Riley. “I don’t have qualms about using the system that exists to get messages to people to organize against it.” Despite being years in the making, Sorry to Bother You is very timely with its anti-capitalist message. Tessa Thompson stars alongside Stanfield as Cassius’s girlfriend Detroit, who moonlights as a human billboard to fund her antiestablishment performance art. Cassius’s success strains their relationship as she tries to open his eyes to the fact that capitalism is just another form of antiblack oppression. The script, written in 2012 and published in 2014, resonates with Trump’s America as the film opens amidst brewing international trade wars. “It would have been relevant in 1986 and, unfortunately, will keep being relevant as long as we have capitalism,” observes Riley. Audiences get a wakeup call as Riley’s hip hop roots inject fiery urban musicality into Cassius’s odyssey. Nothing about the film follows Hollywood convention, least of all the trippy soundtrack by The Coup. The film adds to the conversation for diverse representation as one of two Oaklandshot films to be released this summer. The other, the spoken-word urban musical Blindspotting starring Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs, had a friendly rivalry with Riley’s production competing for personnel and equipment. Riley says it feels good to see the films put Oakland on the world’s screens. “It reminds me of the early nineties when a lot of groups from Oakland were coming out,” he says. “There’s a lot of creative people in that area that need to get a chance to do their thing.” THIS MONTH IN FILM BRENDAN LEE Sorry to Bother You – July 6 When the key to power and success for young black telemarketer Cassius Green is sounding white on the telephone, how far will he go until he’s lost himself? With this fresh comedy, first-time director Boots Ridley puppeteers his own unique take on the surreal in a perfectly off-kilter alternate reality. Eighth Grade – July 13 It’s the bitter end of childhood and the abrupt realization that growing up is the toughest thing we’ll ever do. From acclaimed comedian Bo Burnham comes a look at one of life’s greatest ordeals; we’ve all been there, and however horrible, we’d give it all to go back. With Eighth Grade, Burnham takes us there. Hot Summer Nights – July 27 “I hope you’re good at being hurt.” Timothée Chalamet stars as the quiet, new kid in town for the summer who falls flat-on-his-face in love with a girl named McKayla, all the while flipping weed with her brother, spiraling in and out of any sense of control. Under The Tree – July 6 What starts as a harmless spat between neighbours over an unsightly, shadow-casting tree, escalates and transforms into something much more personal, and far darker. This Icelandic dark-comedy takes the bad-neighbour formula to new heights, a place where pent-up, suburban rage is at long last untethered. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot – July 13 When John Callahan loses the use of his legs in a car accident, he confronts his rooted alcoholism with a stubborn but newfound affinity for drawing cartoons. Adapted from the quasi-memoir, Will the Real John Callahan Please Stand Up?, the film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Jack Black, and an almost unrecognizable Jonah Hill. Hot Summer Nights 26 July 2018

MUSIC REVIEWS Kanye West et al. Wyoming Sessions G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam Recordings In May 2017, it was reported that Kanye West, months removed from his psychiatric hold at The UCLA Medical Center, was working on his new album from a mountain peak in Wyoming. The result of these ‘Wyoming Sessions’ were five individual albums, released on consecutive weeks in May and June. Teyana Taylor’s Keep That Same Energy — the fifth and final fruit from Kanye West’s Wyoming sojourn — was released at the end of June, capping off the exhausting latest saga from G.O.O.D. Music. Like the four previous instalments, K.T.S.E. premiered via livestream and was later uploaded to streaming services. It was the first of the five to deviate from the seven-song formula with its eight tracks. Taylor isn’t the most gripping songwriter, and the influence of Beyonce and Rihanna’s recent albums are unmissable. However, Taylor has as voluptuous a voice as either and, rather than shackling it to obnoxious drums and a litter of hi-hats, West inspired her with acoustic guitars, church piano and ’60s gospel. Rap was expected, yet the collective result is a very fine soul album. West was reportedly still tweaking the album while airborne and en route to K.T.S.E.’s listening party, a similar anecdote to the release of ye. Could you imagine if someone had told you, before this whole kerfuffle, that Teyana Taylor’s album would be better than Kanye’s for that exact same reason? Five weeks, five albums. Pusha T’s DAYTONA, Kanye’s ye and Kids See Ghosts in tandem with Kid Cudi, Nas’s Nasir and Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E., released respectively. At first it seemed like a cool schtick, and maybe in time it will be seen as a triumph — a testament to unbridled creative fervour and the unstoppable urge to be heard on your own terms, whatever they are. It was the type of bold promise expected from the mercurial head of G.O.O.D. Music, though even the most ardent stan cocked his head at the idea of it being fulfilled. For the most part, it was indeed fulfilling. West produced every song (mostly true) and each album was delivered on schedule (kinda true). He played a game of five-card stud with the public and, in some ways, he won. In a lot of other ways, he didn’t win. And fuck has it been exhausting. Conjecture is a waste of precious time. As it stands, the Wyoming Sessions produced a contender for rap album of the year, two good tasters from artists needing a PR boost (K.T.S.E. and Kids See Ghosts), and two mistakes (ye and Nasir) where lessons were hopefully learned from and need not be revisited. The production is uniformly great, which is a commendable achievement at 36 songs and 115 minutes. The only real clunker was K.T.S.E.’s closer, “WTP,” and its excruciating sample. But in at least two of the five albums, West brought out the best in Pusha T and Kid Cudi. There were moments in this adventure that felt like career milestones. It’s important to remember that, regardless of what he preached from his pulpit of bullshit, Kanye West still has a staggering capacity for making music that simply sounds good. DAYTONA is a masterpiece and rap album of the year contender. The skeletal menace of an album solidified Pusha T’s long gestating claim for all-time greatness, and for about a week and a half he was the best rapper alive. Kid Cudi’s legacy as one of the most influential rappers of our era is finally being acknowledged, and Kids See Ghosts was a much-needed injection of recompense to the titular duo’s careers. Plus, Teyana Taylor actually released something. At the same time, West’s grand saga was an overall mess. The live streams were janky and streaming releases were delayed. ye is the worst album of Kanye’s career, and fails to measure up to his past achievements. Scattered throughout all five albums are verses that range from among his best in recent years, and a bunch that vie for worst of his career. Nas’s cachet was called into question, and all excitement for the chimera that was a Kanyeproduced Nas album came and went like a fart in a vacuum. Ambition is the cousin of exhaustion. Since April, when he took to Twitter to start “writing” his “book” of “philosophy,” Kanye and G.O.O.D. Music have been inescapable. The last time a label was as omnipresent, Kendrick Lamar released good kid, m.a.a.d. city. Throughout the end of spring alone, Busdriver, Jay Rock, Freddie Gibbs and Jay-Z & Beyonce all released notably stellar albums. Kamasi Washington’s Heaven and Earth came out, and it’s longer than DAYTONA, ye, KSG, Nasir and K.T.S.E. combined. And in the meantime, both of Drake’s parents have publicly defended their son’s honour. West’s tenure in Wyoming was a labour of anxiety and selfishness, the nucleus of which being his fraught relationship with the media. In theory, it was a noble endeavour — tailor an EP’s worth of beats for associated artists, gifting them an advantage both creatively and commercially — sharing the wealth in a sense. But even on the biggest stage of their life, West manned the spotlight. His production, a virtuosic display of sample manipulation, flirts with the ‘Chop Up The Soul Kanye’ that’s so dearly missed. When we considered West a scrappy wunderkind, all he needed to prove was that he was deserving of his own praise. His stock turned to stardust and now judging him requires careful considerations of mental health, race, economic divide and countless variables. He’s not quite a villain, but he does himself no favours. Kanye West has always expressed himself best through music — it’s when he jumps on camera and spouts reactive flimflam that he ires the mob. We use his music to reconcile Kanye the man with Kanye the idea. Lately, that idea’s become suffocating. It’s time for a breather. • Thomas Johnson • Illustration by James Mackenzie July 2018 27

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