Last night's Vince Staples show was very challenging to shoot. The California rapper had an incredible light show behind him, but almost no light was cast on Vince himself. This made him really hard to auto-focus at times, so instead I focused on grabbing the most interesting figures that his shadows made.
Last weekend was an emotionally brutal one, as I came home from a bluegrass festival early to find out that my beloved cat's kidneys were failing quickly.
After some deliberation, we made the choice to put him down on Sunday. I cried a lot.
I pulled out the old pen and pad and summed up my thoughts here; the piece is about entering adulthood and riding the rollercoaster of post-college life with a furry friend.
I want to say thanks to the hundreds of people who reached out in person and through texts and social media to share their condolences. It was beautiful to see how many people liked Cheese the Cat.
I miss you, buddy.
Soundset 2016 was full of opportunities for beautiful imagery. Check out my shots from the photo pits and elsewhere around the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
I've always wanted to photograph the skate park that's just a block west of my house. Here is a small gallery of some cool dudes who tore it up on a quiet Sunday.
I'll skip the contextual introduction and dive right in. The production here mostly stands out to me as very, very good, and there's no doubt that there are many elements on TLOP that remind fans of past Kanye records. I always saw him as a production genius who had just enough clever lines to get by; in 2016, I think he does more curating of his production rather than working hands-on. That's been basically confirmed after the liner notes came out and detailed his co-producing tracks with young prodigies like Metro Boomin, Southside, Hudson Mohawke. Hell, he blatantly borrowed Menace's "Panda" beat on Pt. 2, with some minor adjustments from Plain Pat... I didn't like that move. In all, there were 99 co-writers on TLOP as counted by the blog Pigeons and Planes; for someone who once was known for their production, that's pretty lame on Kanye's part, IMO.
Lyrics? Ye fluctuates between some pretty bad stream-of-consciousness stuff (Freestyle 4 is atrocious) and some lines that make you miss his old records (Real Friends in particular; FML sounds pleasantly 808s-like and Parties in LA would fit right in on Dark Fantasy). I've read some theories online about there being distinct "acts" on this album, shifts in mood; I don't buy that. Skimming Yeezy's tweets from the month of February would tell you that he had almost no strategy when it comes to this track listing. Each prior record in his discography had a theme that was at least somewhat evident. I've listened to TLOP for two weeks now, and I still can't figure out any kind of message other than his usual decadence and an even more magnified obsession with sex, especially in the first half. The second half of this album is really good and helps me forget about some of the earlier clumsy, look-at-me stuff.
Make no mistake, I truly enjoy Ultralight Beam, Pt. 2 (even if it is a blatant rip-off), Feedback, FML, Real Friends, Wolves, Parties in LA and Fade. That's 8 songs out of 18, and when I count 30 Hours, Highlights, Waves and Facts (without the generic Southside beat) as above average, you've got a solid 11 tracks and a nice little record. That's why I took the liberty of deleting Low Lights, Freestyle 4, I Love Kanye and Silver Surfer for an almost objective improvement of this album.
But it wasn't hard for me to decide immediately that Kanye has gone too far with his try-hard lyrics. I'm not even somebody who gets easily offended, but it's almost unbelievable that his remarks towards Taylor and Ray J made a major release. His "Go-Pro" and "Bleached Asshole" lines definitely go down as some of his worst ever. Big Ghostface did a hilarious review this week where he hits the point on the head: these lyrics are downright awful at times, and he would benefit from hiring his old ghostwriters back. If any other artist had this many BAD lines on their album, I'd never listen to them again. But here I am, a Kanye fanboy for over 11 years, feeling conflicted.
The most offensive/bizarre part of all the vulgarity is his language towards women, especially towards Taylor and Kim. I'm not a particular fan of either woman, but to call them both bitches (especially the mother of his children?) is pretty awful. Did Kim approve these lines? It's to the point where they downright ruin Famous and Highlights for me. He tweeted that he was going to fix Wolves... why not go back and take out the misogynist slurs?
Several people have told me that they think Kanye is suffering from either a mental illness or antidepressant withdrawal. I don't think they're far off... his behavior on Twitter has been reckless and certainly damaging, in my opinion. TLOP is also highly frantic and jarring at parts, so mental illness would make sense (you'd almost have to be insane to include a worthless voice mail from Max B on an album that's not even called 'Waves' anymore). Maybe it's because he knows he has owned hip-hop since 2004. Maybe it's the influence of the Kardashian family element. Regardless, I am in the camp of people who believe that this album could have been really special with another month or two of refinement, with some ghostwriters and without the extreme misogyny.
I consider TLOP a flawed 7/10. I removed four tracks to improve the version that's on my phone, and I'm about to add the old Wolves back in.
Favorites: FML, Real Friends, Parties in LA, Feedback, Ultralight Beam
Disliked: Freestyle 4, Lowlights, Silver Surfer
Pros: Production that is lush and beautiful at times as well as nuanced and hard-hitting. Features like Chance and Kendrick Lamar that provide actually good lyrics.
Cons: Kanye's worst and most offensive lyrics of his career, a few pointless interludes, a lack of cohesion.
I didn’t have a real feel for the long-suffering nature of the Wolves until I began working there in 2011. I’ll never forget coming up to the office after hard losses and looking around at my coworkers, like, “damn, when is this going to stop?”
When Flip Saunders traded Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins in the summer of 2014, I finally felt like things were turning around. The Wolves had just acquired the best prospect in 10 years for a player whom they weren’t going to retain. I couldn’t believe that Flip pulled it off, and for a while afterwards, seeing Wiggins in Wolves gear was still a shock. Flip played hardball, stuck to his guns and came out with a franchise cornerstone.
The following year was difficult, but encouraging. LaVine became a highlight-reel darling and showed flashes of harnessing his extreme potential. Shabazz became a high-motor fan-favorite. The Wolves positioned themselves to pick Karl-Anthony Towns, a frighteningly coordinated big man whose ceiling seems limitless. The team almost could not look better on paper in terms of youthful potential.
I’ve barely spoken to Flip, so I won’t act like I knew him as a person. But he had a magnetic personality on Dan Barreiro’s Friday Funkadelic show. His honesty was extremely refreshing, especially after dealing with Kahn’s secretive nature for five years. The chemistry and camaraderie between Flip and Barreiro was tangible, and I am looking forward, in a way, to the undoubtedly thoughtful and articulated (and teary) on-air eulogy that Dan will assumedly deliver at some point.
The writing is now on the wall, and I hope more than ANYTHING that this is what’s coming: the Wolves will grow together and reach their potential, finally. Wiggins and/or Towns will become a superstar. LaVine, Shabazz, Dieng, Rubio will all be pieces. However far they get, the man who helped bring Minnesota the 2004 WCF run will again be remembered for resurrecting Timberwolves hoops. And teary tributes, videos on the megatron, and eventually a statue will all come.
Notes from The Shape of Design by frank chimero (MCAD reading assignment):
- The relationship between form and purpose – How and Why – is symbiotic. But despite this link, Why is usually neglected, because How is more easily framed. It is easier to recognize failures of technique than those of strategy or purpose, and simpler to ask “How do I paint this tree?” than to answer “Why does this painting need a tree in it?”
- Creative people commonly lament about being “blocked,” perpetually stuck and unable to produce work when necessary. Blocks spring from the imbalanced relationship of How and Why: either we have an idea, but lack the skills to execute; or we have skills, but lack a message, idea, or purpose for the work.
- The Shakers have a proverb that says, “Do not make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both, do not hesitate to make it beautiful.”
- My work was flat, because it was missing the spark that comes from creating something you believe in for someone you care about. This is the source of the highest craft, because an affection for the audience produces the care necessary to make the work well.
- When we build, we take bits of others’ work and fuse them to our own choices to see if alchemy occurs.
- I find the best way to gain momentum is to think of the worst possible way to tackle the project. Quality may be elusive, but stupidity is always easily accessible; absurdity is fine, maybe even desired.
- All design work seems to have three common traits: there is a message to the work, the tone of that message, and the format that the work takes.
- “No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be….This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our everyman must take on a science fictional way of thinking.”
— Issac Asimov
I have a confession... I have a real soft spot for some simple, dirty rap. And ever since I saw Bones' unique aesthetic for the first time, I wanted to see him live.
After some DMing back and forth with Bones' brother/manager, I managed to slip backstage at his June 18th show and position myself for some good angles. There was just one problem... the venue was so humid, so steamy, that the viewfinder fogged up and I couldn't see a thing through my DSLR. I ended up tuning my manual settings through trial and error, and essentially shooting blind.
I still got some good shots; I like the grimy, imperfect qualities of some of the photos. I threw some Nik filters on some of the more crisp shots as well. On to the next, bigger show.
Every once in a while, I'll come across something that I just HAVE to photograph.
Luckily I had my Canon with me when I was watching the St. Paul Johnson/Simley section semifinals last weekend. I saw little "Boo" refereeing up and down the floor and saw a great opportunity for a Northstar Hoops feature/gallery piece.
Click here to see the full gallery and to read more about this unique four-year-old.
First of all, welcome to my blog. Squarespace is a really fun system, and I'm glad to be putting this site together with tons of customization at my fingertips.
I needed something to kick off my first blog post, so why not turn the clock back to 2011 when I was on my third day of the job at the Minnesota Timberwolves? Rookie mistake: I missed the beginning of the media availability with Rick Adelman, but around the 0:24 mark I slide in the back and pretend like I'm listening. Stealth.