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Seth Sentry – Simple Game (My Fan Made Music Video)

Music, Music Video

I made this for a University Project that asked us to “remediate” an existing piece of media, that is remix, mashup and repackage some existing media to make it something altogether different. I decided to add visuals to my favourite track from Melbourne MC Seth Sentry’s debut, “The Waiter Minute EP”,

Being a Uni project we had to watch out for copyright infringement, and so I challenged myself to only use media licensed via an appropriate Creative Commons license.

I together the visuals from two short films shared under a CCBY lisence, and wove together to create an ambiguous yet compelling narrative.:
This Day from James Hollins https://vimeo.com/45214144
Courbes from Indigo Production https://vimeo.com/97409396

Short visuals are also taken from the following shared to Vimeo under a CCBY license:
The Way to Wealth: Bumper from Long Hollow Creative https://vimeo.com/27396128
Canon EOS M Video: New York City from Chad Soriano https://vimeo.com/55604121
3D CGI Watch Designs from John Harwood https://vimeo.com/39727354
Finally stock video footage from https://videos.pexels.com/ is used under a CC0 license

DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar

“I got, I got, I got, I got
Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA
Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA
I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA
I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA”

 

‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ was about the trials and tribulations of African American society. ‘DAMN.’ is about the trials and tribulations of being Kendrick Lamar, the number one rapper in the world.

Every track here has a one word title, all in caps, with a full stop at the end; Kendrick has a point with each one, and he’s keeping that point sharp. Themes of religion are intermixed with experiences in the music industry, along with themes of humanity explored through Kendrick’s experiences.

~~~~~

In the intro skit, ‘BLOOD.’  Kendrick is shot by an old blind woman he tries to help. I imagine the old woman represents the old blind music industry. Kendrick wants to help it find what it has lost; credibility, legitimacy and true talent; but the industry responds kills him.

The next track, ‘DNA.’ , is an exploration of Kendrick’s roots; what lies in his DNA. This is a personal album for Kendrick, we’re exploring his DNA. The song highlights duality, another theme explored throughout the album. Kendrick’s flow here is immaculate, this is Kendrick the rapper at his very best; just two verses, broken by a bridge. No hook, but catchy as hell.

Sampled at the end of ‘BLOOD.’ and during ‘DNA.’ is a Geraldo Rivera Fox News segment criticising Kendrick’s performance of ‘Alright’ at the BET awards. The second verse of the third track, ‘YAH.’ also addresses the segment, where Geraldo claimed that Kendrick is an example of why “hip-hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism”. Geraldo is whitesplaining why young African-Americans cause their own problems, and has no idea what he is talking about. Kendrick’s skill is in portraying the struggles of his community better than anyone. Geraldo and those like him need to shut up and listen.

~~~~~

Kendrick’s relationship to God is explored through his relationship to music and the industry.

In ‘YAH.’  he sees inspiration as God talking to him, expressed as blips on his radar that go, “Yah” (Yahweh).

‘PRIDE.’,  depicts Kendrick’s success distancing him from God, enjoying it gets in the way of being the human he wants to be.

And finally on the track ‘GOD.’ Kendrick explains how the adulation he recieves makes him feel like a God, that everything he does is divine, before reminding himself that he is just a man and what he does is a tribute to the divine.

Each of these songs have very chilled beats with slower, ‘everyday talking’ type rapping, Kendrick uses this style of beat and rapping when he is coming from an internal place on the album.

~~~~~

The three songs that follow ‘YAH.’  explore Kendrick’s relationship with the music industry, and have heavier beats and faster rapping.

‘ELEMENT.’ is Kendrick’s  declaration that he is the best at what he does, and reflects on how the trials he endured took him here.

On ‘FEEL.’ Kendrick explores the isolation his success elicits in him, he dominates an industry he considers toxic and no amount of success can drive away his depression.

He teams up with Rhianna on ‘LOYALTY.’ to explore how it so important and so difficult to surround yourself with loyal people, to the point where loyalty is the most desirable trait in a relationship.

~~~~~


The hardest hitting beat on the album comes directly after the chill of ‘PRIDE.’, and differs both in feel and lyric.

‘HUMBLE.’ is the first single from the album and one of the songs of the year; bound to be near the top of all the year end countdowns.

It’s Kendrick telling all those who are constantly trying to take his place at the top of the hip-hop heap, that he got to where he is by being humble, and now he’s arrived, he doesn’t need to be humble, they do.

He takes aim at the frauds perpetuated by the media and the industry, recounts his own story and demands his due respect.

Everything works in this song: the beat is infectious, Kendrick’s flow and wordplay are as awesome, and the hook, simply “Bitch be humble, Sit down” repeated ad nauseam, works as it shouldn’t.

~~~~~

The following two tracks, ‘LUST.’ and ‘LOVE.’ explore two contrasting sides of human relationships.

‘LUST.’ depicts using short term satisfaction to drive away the monotony of the everyday as ultimately a waste of one’s time and effort.

‘LOVE.’ explores a deeper relationship, most probably the one with his fiance Whitney Alford, that reveals the flaws in his character and offers opportunity for growth and a connection with the divine.

Once again the music and rap flow contrasts, heavy, fast and chaotic on ‘LUST.’, slow, genuine and chilled on ‘LOVE.’

~~~~~

The remaining three songs use stories from Kendrick’s life to demonstrate definitive human themes.

‘XXX.’ recounts the death of a friend’s son and his inability to offer forgiveness, lusting for revenge. It’s about how love can make us do the most terrible things.

‘FEAR’. explores Kendrick’s relationship with fear throughout life. At seven, fear of getting in trouble and experiencing his mother’s wrath. At 17, fear of a gang-related death. At 27 he fear of not being good enough as a rapper, having his inspiration dry up and opportunity pass him by.

The final track, ‘DUCKWORTH.’, explores coincidence through the curious tale of how an act of self-preservation by his father towards his eventual label boss not only may have saved his father’s life and ensured he steered Kendrick away from gangs, but also ensured there was someone to start the label than catapulted Kendrick’s career.

~~~~~

In ‘DAMN.’ Kendrick Lamar has created yet another Hip-Hop masterpiece. It’s a personal record that proves Kendrick is one of the best, not only of his generation, but of all time. It’s a lesson to every other rapper in the game of how hip-hop is done right.

Humanz – Gorillaz

“The sky’s falling baby, Drop that ass ‘fore it crash”

Everyone’s favourite Blur front man is back with his band of animated primates.

It’s been seven years since the last proper Gorillaz album, 2010’s ‘Plastic Beach’ (although there was a studio album released for free to fans on Christmas that year, a singles compilation in 2011 and a promotional single with Andre 3000 and James Murphy in 2012).

For a while there it looked like it might not happen, but Noodles, 2D, Murdoc and Russel have returned with a Double Album, Humanz, and as always they’ve brought a bunch of famous friends along.

Humanz isn’t as immediately catching as 2005’s Demon Days, and isn’t likely to be quite as successful, but it did impress on me enough to warrant subsequent listens, and as I listened I started to get what Damon and his all-star collaborators have created.

Vince Staples guests on the opening track; the bouncy dance number, Ascension, and the hook reveals the theme of this album, “The sky’s falling, baby Drop that ass ‘fore it crash”, it’s all gonna be over soon,  let’s party while we can. They call it a party album for the end of the world.

It’s catchy alt-pop with a message that isn’t immediately apparent, but is no less powerful; a concept album that tells the story of the decline of humanity, but leaves with a message of hope.

We’re taken on a journey from humanities loss of connection (‘Strobelite’ and ‘Saturn Barz’) and control (‘Submission’ and ‘Charger’), finding reprieve, as so many of us do, in a Nightclub (‘Andromeda’) before we explore humanities effort to distract itself, through the Internet (‘Busted and Blue’ ) and consumerism (‘Carnival’), finally falling to despair (‘Let Me Out’). The first track released from the album, ‘Hallelujah Money’ is a slow gospel inspired track worshiping Humanities new God, the dollar. The album then turns a corner and turns up the energy with the intensely positive ‘We’ve Got the Power’. ‘Out of Body’ finds the connection humanity has been missing on the dance floor, whilst ‘Ticker Tape’ eschews the advantage and risks of our technological drive. The final track, ‘Circle of Friendz’ offers humanity a way out of their peril, through maintaining and finding strength in a close circle of friends.

Musically, the album is far more varied than previous releases, highlighted by the sudden transition from the slow, haunting “Hallelujah Money’ to the high energy positivity of ‘We Got The Power’. Gorillaz are representing the dualistic nature of our current society. On the one hand we are richer and more capable than any point in history, whilst on the other we are destroying our planet at an alarming rate.  The melancholy Daman Albarns puts into his voice when singing as 2D, contrasted with the powerful vocalists that helped make this album, forthing highlights this duality.

Highlights on the album for me include the motown style party jam ‘Strobelite’ with Peven Everrett, the chilled out electronica of ‘Andromeda’ and Grace Jones’ commanding vocals over the driving synth rock of ‘Charger’.

De La Soul, who featured on Gorillaz biggest hit, the classic ‘Feel Good Inc’, return for the manic boom bap of ‘Moments’. This track is all over the place, De La Soul rap about sexual conquest, whilst 2D sings of race issues, but somehow it works, maybe because it’s all over the place.

When I first heard ‘Hallelujah Money’ I was worried. Sure, the sentiment was spot on, but it is just so very unGorillaz, but on this album it fits perfect, especially transitioning to ‘We Got the Power’.


My favourite song on the album though, would have to be “Saturnz Barz (Spirit House)” featuring Popcaan. It’s a wonderfully clean, catchy Gorillaz song inspired by reggae roots of the creators.

Humanz is a protest against the current state of American and world politics, but it does it without getting angry. ‘Aint nobody going to kill their vibe.

I don’t think it’s Gorillaz best album (I give ‘Demon Days’ that honor), but I’d say it’s their most mature. I’d put it around about on par with the raw energy of their 2001 self-titled debut, and above ‘Plastic Beach’.

Humanz tells the tail of our times. Informing the listener whilst remaining as detached as possible, it remains hopeful, but realistic. It keeps moving, so as not to get bogged down in the emotion of it all, all the while keeping the listener moving.

The Music Industry and the Internet: Losing Control, Finding Innovation

Why Copyright Doesn’t Work on the Internet

The copyright legislation we have today originated with the Berne Convention, an International copyright agreement drafted by the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale (International Literary and Art Association) first ratified in 1886; it’s been extended and altered, but the principles are the same.

Berne gave creators certain exclusive rights over their work, most notably the right to reproduce and broadcast. It was seen as essential that authors were able to control the production and distribution of their works, and at the time it was possible because producing records and printing books required expensive equipment, and the right to broadcast on air was regulated.  The centralised nature of production and distribution made it controllable.

Representative bodies took responsibility for control of production and distribution, and from them a copyright industry was born that became influential and lucrative, attracting the interest of the corporate sector, who bought the rights to authors works and began to take control of the industry.

The industry lobbied and pressured governments and legislation was enacted that looked after the interests of a few individuals who controlled the copyright industry, artists’ and the public’s interests were second to corporate stakeholders[1].

The centralised control of the industry held our collective creative works ransom, and then along came the Internet.

The Internet was created as a collaborative space and was therefore made open, distributed and multi-platform[2], this is the principle of Net Neutrality, meaning that all data on the Internet is created equal.

Many believe it is this principle that is responsible for the Internet’s success, in the words of Internet founding father Vint Cerf:

“By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle…, the Internet has created a platform for innovation” -Vint Cerf in a letter to Congress on Net Nuetrality.

The Internet is not conducive to centralised control and so copyright, as it has traditionally been applied, is incompatible with the online environment.

Social media further complicates the situation, as we share and remix copyrighted works with little concern for copyright legislation, which is infringed on so regularly that prosecution is impossible.

In Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig explains that social media has created its own distinct economy, a social economy, where reputation is valued higher than dollars and attributing a source is enough to satisfy copyright.

A remix culture has been born through social media that encourages the creation of derivative works and sees it as tribute to the original works, if copyright is imposed in this environment it could supress a creative surge:

“Why should it be that just when technology is most encouraging of creativity, the law should be most restrictive?” – Lawrence Lessig in ‘Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy’

The Origins of Music on the Internet

At the turn of the 21st century, as the Internet became a media platform, the music industry epitomised centralised control. Five major labels possessed up to 90% of the market, colluding to maximise their profits by artificially inflating CD prices.

In ‘How Music Got Free’ Stephen Witt tells the story of mp3, an audio compression codec designed by the Fraunhofer Institute, that had missed out on MPEG certification for streaming audio to the technically inferior, but corporate sponsored, mp2 format.

Fraunhofer repackaged mp3 as a new generation music format, creating a DOS-based shareware encoder, L3Enc, and a prototype mp3 player to help market it. They met with a representative from major label BMG, but the music industry, making huge profits off CDs, did not want change.

Fraunhofer had given up on mp3 when downloads of L3Enc suddenly spiked, they discovered that the codec was being used to create unlicensed copies of copyrighted popular music and distribute them online.

As respecters of copyright, Fraunhofer objected to this use of their technology and went to the RIAA with a newly created copy-protectable version of mp3, informing them of the breach and offering a solution.

They were told the industry did not believe in electronically distributing music, and the record industry’s fate was sealed.

In 1999 the peer-to-peer file sharing app Napster, brought pirated mp3 music to the mainstream, and record sales began a long decline.

The RIAA sued Napster, and as it was centrally controlled by a
server which mapped peers it was able to be stopped, and in July 2000, unable to comply with legal requirements, Napster ceased operation, but peer-to-peer file sharing had just begun.

Peer-to-peer file sharing continues to this day; Napster led to Grokster, which led to Kazaa, which led to Bit Torrent, which is decentralised , open source and particularly good at sharing pirated material; proving impossible to stop.

The record industry was devastated, suffering fifteen straight years of revenue decline and a drop in sales of $11.63 billion.

When called on to innovate, the RIAA and the major labels resisted change. They sued everyone they could: file sharers, network operators, websites, software companies[3]; two of the majors didn’t survive, and now three major labels control 60% of the industry.

Innovation From the Edges

The failure of the major labels to alter their approach to the new environment created an opportunity for Independent artists who were willing to innovate.

Independent songstress Amanda Palmer has been hugely successful on social media and outlines why in her memoir, ‘The Art of Asking’.

Amanda takes an open and candid approach to social media; instead of seeking to project a calculated image, she presents herself genuinely, engages regularly, converses with fans and approaches interactions with a mixture of vulnerability and enthusiasm.

She also involves fans on social media; she regularly announces on Twitter that she’ll be putting on a surprise “ninja-gig” in a public place, she regularly thanks fans and constantly responds to their comments, and she also makes requests of fans on Twitter, be it a hot meal before a show, a musician to jam with or a place to stay (she couchsurfed an entire tour earlier in her career, getting a peak into the home lives of her fans).

Amanda claims that artists have a tendency to devalue their work, and by packaging and putting a price tag on it, they insulate themselves from the vulnerability it takes to put out work with the trust that it will be valuable enough to the public for them to respond to a request for support in making more. Commodifying art inherently devalues it:

“Giving away free content, for me, was about the value of the music becoming the connection itself.” – Amanda Palmer

Amanda’s approach is very successful for her; in 2012 she created one of the most successful music Kickstarter campaigns ever, asking for a hundred thousand dollars to create an album and art book and tour, she raised $1.2 million; and she has nearly 12,000 patrons on the Patreon site who give her over $40,000 every time she releases media to them.

Amanda is a wonderful example of the success that can be achieved online with an open and innovative approach.

Streaming Back to the Top

Streaming music services have created a new era for music online, slowly eroding piracy, it fell by 6% last year (and interestingly, pirates have also moved towards streaming, with streaming of pirated content more popular than p2p), and returning the industry to growth, the music industry has undergone two consecutive years of positive revenue movement since 2014.

The major labels have seen an opportunity here and are exploiting it; the revenue distribution methods naturally favour them and they have increased their share by acquiring stakes in the most popular services. Some believe it may return the major labels to industry domination.

Streaming music services create an environment similar to the traditional media environment, existing in an isolated content network that has control as a feature, no wonder the majors are drawn to it.

The control that streaming music gives the majors is isolated, and not centralised like that of traditional media. It also does nothing for their standing in the social economy that is becoming increasingly important in the current media environment, in fact, in the current environment, if they engage in similar anti-competitive behaviours to what they did in the 90s, they may irreparably damage their social capital.

The Internet has forever altered the music industry, invalidating the centralised control that copyright gave it, and whilst there may be hope that streaming media services can usher back that control, it will only ever give it isolated control, because on the Internet control is never central, there is always room for innovation from the edges.