New No. 1: Macklemore accomplishes range, quality and success with debut album

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Ten thousand hours later, it looks like hip-hop artist Macklemore has found his success.

The smooth-spoken Seattle wordsmith debuted his first full-length in October at No. 1 on iTunes and No. 2 on Billboard in the US.

His album, The Heist, made in conjunction with longtime producer Ryan Lewis, is a medley of sunny sounds contrasted by sobering lyrics that border on profound before going back to the simple sensibilities of, say, thrift shopping.

The video for the platinum single “Thrift Shop”, featuring vintage fur coats and a Delorian, has racked up more than 44 million views on YouTube.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis create a sound that brings up immediate similarities to notable white hip-hop acts Atmosphere and Brother Ali. The collection of 15 tracks lean in all directions: some toward pop and R&B, others toward rap and introspective rock. There is clear influence from underground spoken-word king Saul Williams, who Macklemore cites as influence in a chat with Interview Magazine.

The style of music has been labeled socially conscious hip-hop: lyrics struggle through recovery and trying to make it, but take a break on easier listening like “Gold.”

Wide-ranging in accessibility, The Heist blends everything that is popular in music right now: Drake fans will appreciate the chorus in “Neon Cathedral”, while Rhianna listeners could be easily drawn to the upbeat “Can’t Hold Us.”

Everything else is expert MCing layered with incredible array of musicianship, from horns to banjo to lots of meaningful piano.

Get it while it’s white hot—you won’t regret it.

Girl Talk: Sounds for the ADD generation

GIRL TALK aka Gregg Gillis brought his larger-than-life dance party persona to the Pomona Fox Theater Saturday night.

And I was there for the all-night rager.

Mixing the likes of hip-hop legends like Notorious B.I.G. to teen pop melodies from Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears, Gregg Gillis and his plastic-wrapped Panasonic Toughbook can really move a crowd.

The Pittsburg native, whose hometown mayor named an official day after him, is every bit rockstar and just as much geek.

He spends hours carefully crafting his now infamous mashups, only to come on stage in a sweatshirt and headband with a laptop  as his only instrument.

And while that keeps costs low on that front, Gillis reportedly goes through three computers a year. I’ve had one computer for more than three years.

By the end of the night, Gillis has stripped down from sweatsuit to nothing but pants, with a head of long brown hair drenched in sweat due to excessive rocking out behind his computer screen (thus the plastic wrap). Well, that and the 20 fans he brings on stage to dance with him for the full hour-and-a-half long set.

But the glorified “DJ” knows how to put on a show. And if you’re one man and a laptop playing to a sold-out crowd of at least a couple thousand, you damn well should.

There were toilet paper shooters, giant balloons and blow ups, a stellar neon LED light show, plus lots and lots of confetti.

The music rarely stopped, beats thumping behind blends of the Beastie Boys to Outkast, Journey and Rhianna; changing fast enough to give your parents a seizure.

Surprisingly, for an “artist” who makes his living mixing other people’s music to make his own, he has yet to be sued.

And Gillis has used more than 300 different samples on his last two albums, “All Day” and “Feed The Animals”.

This from a former biomedical engineer who quit his day job to sell-out dance parties across the country.

Girl Talk was featured in a New York Times Magazine cover story a few months back and has been featured as one of the Times’ Nifty 50. Read more about him here and check out an interview here.

You can download Girl Talk’s latest album free HERE and see a list of all the samples used HERE.

Videos below from the performance. Enjoy!

You really can sample anything…

The art of “sampling” in modern music has quickly become a theme of the ’00s.

I’m a little late in the game to report that, but the craze is nowhere near dying out.

For those of you who don’t know, sampling is a technique many hip-hop artists and DJs use where they “borrow” a cut of one song and reuse the portion, often looping or repeating it, then throwing a new beat behind it or making a brand new song out of many samples.

Artists (if you can call them that…though I would!) like Girl Talk and The Hood Internet have made names for themselves strictly by cutting and pasting bits and pieces of other people’s songs and creating a new one. It’s modern music recycling and it’s nothing new. Remixes have been around for generations.

But for rappers and hip-hop artists, many rely on samples to create the background to their lyrics. Which is cool, I guess, but not so cool for the enforcing of copyright laws.

Nonetheless, I’m always amazed by the choice of songs artists end up sampling.

One of my least favorite recent examples is the poor, poor use of Imogen Heap’s song “Hide and Seek” by Jason Derulo, who made his own rap hit out of it and called it “Whatcha Say.” [Shudders]

Something not so bad, and shockingly good?

An artist known as DraMatik sampling “Sleeping?” by The Swell Season. Rapping over mushy, moody singer songwriter ballads? Interesting. Awesome. Check it out below if you didn’t already up top!