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Photo Courtesy of twitter.com

Jeff Turner
SENIOR STAFF WRITER

Kendrick Lamar hit the ground running in 2012 with his major studio debut, “good kid, M.A.A.D. city.” It was magnificent—a vivacious, dark narrative with immersive music. Beats were of top tier, and the emotion was clear. It would be hard not to think that Lamar has not participated in some form of a poetry slam or has had some other experience with the medium; because he has never been careless, even with his first album, which while good, pales in comparison to his studio work.

DAMN. is a seamless fusion of bouncy party rap and immersive narrative storytelling. It’s hard to compare it to “To Pimp a Butterfly” or “Good kid, M.A.A.D. city” as they all rank on par. This is not to say all three albums sound the same, but rather that Lamar has such a strong grasp on the medium that he is able to deliver greatness consistently.

The producers on DAMN. are star studded, including people who have worked with Adele, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Also, helping produce the album are singer James Blake and legendary hip-hop producer The Alchemist. The beats are strong throughout, with each almost certain to draw the attention and adoration of repeat listeners.

“DNA,” one of the stronger songs off the album, focuses on Lamar’s lashing out against those who see him as a cultural poison—people who will not show their hatred for his blackness, but it will remain sub-tle. The usage of samples from Fox News commentators was clever and incisive. Lamar doesn’t play with people trying to pick a fight. The song fundamentally addresses his background, talking about all the bad places he’s been and how even though that’s always going to be a part of him. That doesn’t mean he gets to be stepped upon and dubbed a “thug.”

Speaking of nobody ever getting to step on Lamar, there’s the lead single off DAMN, “Humble.” It is possibly intended as a diss towards Big Sean, with Kendrick sampling lines from Sean in the song. Big Sean, to refresh, is the guy responsible for “Ass.” That video. Him beefing with Kendrick? He’s going to need a bigger boat.

Another strong song off the album is “Lust,” which is about the lust for a breakthrough and an escape. Lamar does not offer an easy answer, instead getting into the eyes of a person stuck like this. Something interesting is how often Lamr goes after Trump. It wasn’t last week when Joey Bada$$ dropped his own political anthem, and now Lamar is getting vocal. It is obvious as this continues, that the truly talented hip-hop musicians are going to become more vocal about this. It’s an interesting turn in the tides, a movement like this has never truly grown in the medium. It’s likely to be to its benefit.

DAMN. is not a great surprise to those who had already been acquainted with Kendrick, and no surprise for people who had been listening to him since Section.80. Sometimes everyone agrees an artist is good because they are.

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Photo Courtesy of billboard.com

Jeff Turner
SENIOR STAFF WRITER

The talent of Joey Bada$$ was immediate with his first EP back in 2012. His single “Waves” reads like a declaration—an announcement of his presence and of things to come. He started out as a teenager, and in the past five years he’s been on the scene he has only grown and evolved.

His latest album, “Good Morning AmeriKKKa” is his most biting and provocative work to date. It’s heavily political, although still easy to bump in the background. Bada$$ (or Jo-Vaughn Scott) is exploring activism and shows a great deal of promise, a Tupac or an Ice Cube for the Trump era.

While not every track on “All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$” is heavily political, everything on the album is above all else, meant to track his growth. Almost akin to a journal. “Devastated” is a celebration of his critical following and his steady ascendance to becoming one of the best rappers of his generation.

It’s an anthem of triumph, with lines like “Hopin’ I don’t let it get all in my head I don’t need the money just to say that I’m rich” Scott is playing with the common expectation people have for rappers, where they are obsessed with money and other material possessions. He is sincerely pleased with the success he is seeing and the way his life is going, and loves what he is doing now.

Although a lot of time is spent on Scott’s evolution as an artist, to focus on that entirely does the album a disservice. There is a core to “All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$” that intends to tear into the current political climate and white supremacy. It is not necessarily a nuanced take, but it is coming from the perspective of a black man living in a generation of people who are combating a new face of discrimination. In “For My People,” he focuses in on these struggles.There are some lines like, “They don’t want to see you fly, they just want to shoot your wings,” he refers to the excuses that come up in white culture for what black people suffer.

The music reflects on hindsight such as when it turned out that Darren Wilson really did mean that Michael Brown harm, and had racist intent. Barring that, they continue to put the facts together.

People are too keen to neglect the black community when in turmoil, despite having placed them there to begin with.
The beats are great; smooth and beautiful, with Scott reteaming with some of his Pro-Era producers, as well as hip-hop veteran Statik Selektah. The album does not overstay its welcome, with the length feeling appropriate.

Joey Bada$$ is taking the mic to provide a voice for a group who needs it at this point in history. He has yet to peak, but he continues to show steady improvement. He is one of the most exciting artists in hip-hop right now, and one that is worth continued examination. His lyricism can be dissected on multiple tiers, it’s the best kind of hip-hop, bordering on poetry. The album is a must listen for this summer.

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Will Patterson
A&E EDITOR

Clark & Company, a band whose four core members are all University of Nebraska at Omaha sophomores, released its third album, Josephine Had a Dream.

For those who don’t know, Clark & Company is made up of four members, three of which happen to be triplets: Sophie, Simon and Cooper Clark. The fourth member is Cameron Thelander, hence the “company” in Clark & Company.

Sophie plays the keyboard, sings and does the songwriting for the group, while Simon plays drums and other percussion instruments. Cooper plays the acoustic and electric base, and Thelander adds the tenor saxophone that helps give the band it’s unique sound.

The group’s sound is something that is alive and evolving. Since the Clarks began playing, they have witnessed their music go through a series of changes. So-phie said that today the music re-sembles that of the singer-songwriter genre with influences from the world of jazz and blues.

Josephine Had a Dream was officially released with a performance by Clark & Company at Reverb Lounge Friday. The concert gave audience members a live performance by the band and a chance to purchase the latest album.

The latest installment of the Clark & Company album collection features a series of different musicians. Listeners will hear collaborations with several local artists.

“We really wanted to promote this album because I feel like we finally found our sound,” Sophie said. “I think we’ve always had a sound while playing live, but I think this album has really hit home.”

Simon and Sophie partially credit their latest musical development to the opportunity to record at Warehouse Productions in downtown Omaha. With the expertise of Tom Ware, they were able to craft recordings with a more professional edge.

Clark & Company’s latest album is a new adventure for the band.

In addition to making new music, the band has created its first music videos. Currently three lyric videos and three classic style music videos are available online. Currently the songs with music videos are “I’ll Be Fine,” “Something” and “To Rule the World.”

Simon and few friends currently operate an audio and video production company. The production of the band’s first music videos gave him a chance to utilize his knowledge in the matter.

“It’s really cool to be working together and getting to have some creative control,” Simon said.

In addition to Josephine Had a Dream being available online and in CD, Clark & Company will also be selling their latest album on vinyl for the first time.

Those interested in listening to Clark & Company can find their music on SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes and Pandora. The band also maintains active social media and can be found on their website, clarkcoband.com.

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Photo Courtesy of pigeonsandplanes.com

Will Patterson
A&E EDITOR

The performer lineup for the 2017 Maha Music Festival was announced on Thursday, promising an impressive array of established and blossoming performers.

Run the Jewels
This year’s headlining performance is Run the Jewels. The group is made up of the rap duo Killer Mike and El-P, who have been by publications such as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. Maha will be just one of their many performances supporting their latest album “Run the Jewels 3,” which is available for free on their website.

Belle & Sebastian
Up next is Belle & Sebastian. This indie pop band hails from Glasgow, Scotland, and Maha will mark their first performance in Omaha. Belle & Sebastian have nine albums to their name and are expected to release another before the end of this year.

The Faint
A local favorite on this year’s Maha lineup is The Faint. The rock group traces its origins back to Omaha, one of their stops while touring in support of their latest release, Capsule:1999-2016. The album will be featuring a glimpse into The Faint’s past and a look into the future of the Omaha band.

The New Pornographers
This indie rock group formed in Vancouver, Canada in 1999. Since then the New Pornographers have released seven albums and toured North America tirelessly—including sold out shows at the Waiting Room Lounge and Slowdown venues in Omaha.

Sleigh Bells
Sleigh Bells is a pop due from Brooklyn, New York consisting of Alexis Krauss and Derek Edward Miller. Their music features Krauss’ pop vocals paired with Miller’s hard rock style. Their talent has been recognized in publications such as Rolling Stone and Spin Magazine. Sleigh Bell’s latest album, Jessica Rabbit, was self-released last year.

Built to Spill
Formed in 1992, this indie rock group comes from Boise, Idaho. Since forming they have released eight albums, featuring a variety of band members throughout the years. To this day only Doug Martsch, the band’s founder, remains the only original member in Built to Spill.

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Jeff Turner
SENIOR STAFF WRITER

It was a cold and dreary night at the Slowdown this past Tuesday. The Slowdown is easily one of the best venues in Omaha, with a huge pit so people can get up and close, and a balcony for people to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the band, and the reverb when the music is going is unreal.

Plenty of amenities are offered. There’s a pool table, a bar and Galaga (why anyone would pay twenty-seven dollars to go see a band only to go and play Galaga is mystifying but it’s sweet of them to offer). The place was packed to the brim, and it was a trial to maneuver through the crowd. A DJ opened playing remixes of various popular songs. He was good at it, got the energy going and built up the rest of the show.

The opener could have been the headliner. HDBeenDope is a rapper from Brooklyn, who despite having gotten an album produced, can’t seem to break five figures in YouTube views. This is ludicrous. This guy was fantastic at playing to the crowd, and his music was catchy. His sound was as though hip-hop were mixed with a form of thrash, it was an experience. With a fluid flow, and clever rhyming, this guy could be mentioned in the same sentence as some bigger acts like Danny Brown and Childish Gambino. His performance was a demonstration of some of the minds that never break through into the mainstream.

The primary act didn’t disappoint either. Portugal. The Man is an indie rock and psychedelic group who have been mentioned in the same group with acts such as The Black Keys and Cage the Elephant. They didn’t stick to tracks off of their current album, “Woodstock,” they jumped around their entire discography, usually with notifications signifying as much.

Their music videos often play like experimental films, with various images often appearing disconnected and seemingly meaningless. It is akin to a dream, and yet their sound is accessible and ‘pop’-y enough for the average listener to not get too frustrated. They will often play with harder rock, transitioning back to synth, and then into a more surreal sound.

In the hands of less apt musicians, Portugal. The Man’s constant sound transitions would sound unfocused and they would lose people, but members John Gourley, Kyle O’Quin and Zachary Carothers hold the listeners hand and guide them through.

Clear and concise stories guide the music. For example, “Woodstock,” the title track off their most recent album follows a person mourning the loss of their youth and how boring everything is for them now. People get bored with the same, but get to a point where they’re too old to do anything about it-the price of life. The speaker wants to know if this is truly “it,” if this will be all their life will amount to, another boring soul following the same patterns as all those before.

“Woodstock,” as well as all of Portugal. The Man’s discography can be bought online.

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Photo Courtesy of reverblounge.com

Will Patterson
A&E EDITOR

Bad Pop is an indie-rock group stopping by the Reverb Lounge in Omaha as a part of their 5-week tour. The tour follows the release of their single “Bad Pop” from which they draw their name.

The band is a trio of friends who met up in their hometown of Vancouver, Canada. Aaron Klassen plays drums, Catherine Hiltz is the bassist and Chris Connelly is the guitarist. All three contribute to vocals, giving the band a unique sound in each song.

The group has changed dramatically in past years and recently underwent a name change from Hot Panda to Bad Pop. During the group’s time as Hot Panda, they experienced a variety of different sounds and methods.

“It’s a different group of people and the sound is completely different,” Klassen said. “We’ve grown up and it just made sense to do a fresh start.”

Today, the best description for the band’s sound would be a weird form of rock music laced with indie vibes. This style has grown from their years of experience and experimentation.

“We all think we play fairly normal rock n’ roll,” Klassen said. “Then we play if for people and they go ‘That’s weird. You’re weird.’”
A lot of Bad Pop’s newest music gives insight into what growing up feels like for the rock trio. Connelly described his inspiration for much of what he writes as “being a little too old for the party now.”

The creative process used by Bad Pop is a heavy collaboration between all three members. While Connelly works out lyrics, Klassen and Hiltz flesh out rhythms to lay them down on.

“The three of us come from very different music backgrounds,” Klassen said. “We all have different influences.”

This diversity is key in the creation of new songs. Song writing sessions frequently turn into the three members enjoying a jam session with friends.

For those looking to get an idea of what Bad Pop sounds like Connelly recommends people listen to their single “Bad Pop” and their new EP “Other Spooky Is.” These two recordings have different sounds, but share the same genre-defying vibe.

A point of pride for Bad Pop is their emphasis on live music. In a world of edited music, the group strives to provide lively entertainment to those attending their performances.

Bad Pop’s lyrical themes hold a particular relevance to college-age people. With references to the fears of growing older, the songs hit home on the shared experience amongst people who are living on their own for the first time, trying to secure their place in the world.

“I think lyrically it can get down to college students,” Klassen said. “Even a 22-year-old college student can feel older in their mind.”

Bad Pop’s performance at the Reverb Lounge will take place on March 12. Doors open at 8 p.m. with tickets costing $7.

Those interested in hearing more of Bad Pop’s music can check them out on Spotify and social media. Much of their online music is still under the group’s former name, Hot Panda.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenna Hynek’s Instagram

Jessica Wade
OPINION EDITOR

Some people spend years searching for their passion, discovering that one thing that drives them to late nights, early mornings and—in freshman Jenna Hynek’s case—punk rock concerts.

Hynek found her passion while crowded near a stage during a Swingin’ Utters concert. The concert began with 15-20 people in the audience and ended with upwards of 40 peo-ple packed into a small room. Hynek had to battle to keep her spot near the stage.

“Someone’s fist comes flying out of nowhere as I turn to look to my right. I got punched in the face and slammed up against a speaker,” Hynek said. “I looked to see who had just body slammed me, it was a middle-aged man who came flying out of the mosh pit with a mohawk and facial piercings. I ended up losing hearing in my left ear for about four days and at that moment I knew—I had sold my soul to punk rock and music photography.”

Hynek’s love of concert photography evolved from a love of writing. Since a young age she planned to become a writer, and after starting high school, she joined her school’s magazine where she learned to write with a purpose.

“I was around such creative and talented people the last four years of my life that I basically just started trouble shooting pictures at concerts one night just to see how it would work and I fell in love with it,” Hynek said. “Since September I have taken pictures at roughly 16 shows.”

Hynek has always stayed in and around the Omaha area. She stresses how phenomenal the music and arts scene is in Omaha, and that many musicians who got their start in Omaha make it a point to return.

The more recent concerts she’s attended include Jon Bellion and Asking Alexandria, her first metal concert, and her second time getting kicked in the face by a crowd surfer.
“I was in the front row looking in the tiny little viewfinder of my camera when something bumps my back,” Hynek said. “I turn around to look at what it was and it was a crowd surfer right behind me and all of a sudden POP! The surfer’s foot kicks me right in the face and gives me this horrible bloody nose.”

Although she only just discovered her passion for music journalism, and despite occasional hit to the face, Hynek hopes to turn her hobby into a career. She said that music is a big part of her life and no matter how famous the musician or how crazy the crowd, the experience is rewarding.

“I get to be around something that I love and watch other people have the time of their lives on stage while I have mine in the front row with a camera in hand,” Hynek said.

Hynek’s photos can be found on her Instagram @jmhynek.musicphotos.

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Will Patterson
A&E EDITOR

Brandon McDermott, a KVNO reporter and a journalism student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, has forged a path from a childhood shrouded in conflict to a bright future.

“I’ve had a weird life,” McDermott said, “I’m very happy with where I am.”

His life began in a tumultuous family. Father and mother married when he was 3 years old and divorced when he was 5. Both parents never received education past the eighth grade.

McDermott’s childhood education took him to seven elementary schools, four junior high schools and a single high school— Benson. This constant moving was caused by a variety reasons, most involving his parent’s inability to stay out of trouble and hold custody.

These early years were marked by abuse. McDermott’s father was emotionally and physically abusive towards his wife and his children, which ultimately resulted in McDermott’s time in the foster care program, at age 8.

What McDermott describes as the worst days of his life came when he was 13 years old and began with witnessing his father physically assaulting his girlfriend, Kim. During a heated argument, his father pushed Kim down a flight of stairs causing her to sustain an injury to her head. This ultimately resulted in her death ten days later, leaving behind three young children.

When Kim had first been taken to the hospital McDermott’s father had lied to police, saying that she had slipped and fallen down the staircase. He also encouraged his son to participate in the lie.

McDermott kept up the lie for the majority of a 13-hour interrogation. When police presented him the reality of the evidence and implications of a criminal record he told the truth. This would contribute to his father’s arrest and eventual conviction.

In the time following his father’s arrest, McDermott was isolated in the foster care system for a second time. Court orders blocked him from attending school due to the risk of his father being released on bail and trying to abduct him. It was during these long days that he found his fondness of radio, compiling a list of 300 songs he enjoyed.

McDermott recalls thinking during this time, “I could use this for bad, use this to become a statistic. Or I could take this moment in my life and use this to be good and to be the best I can. To show him and the world I’m not my father.”

As many know, the Foster Care program can be difficult place. McDermott had a mixed experience, ranging from lifelong positive impacts to manipulating care-takers. His time in the program ended when his mother proved to the state that she had a home and could raise her children.

McDermott attributes many of the positive impacts in his life to those he met and who helped him at his high school, Benson. During his time in Omaha Public Schools, he was a part of a career program. In this program McDermott explored the career option of broadcast— an experience that would leave a lasting impact on his life.

“Benson made me who I am today,” McDermott said. “I made some of my best friends and met some of the best teachers there.”

Although he graduated on time, McDermott left high school with a 1.68 GPA. This axed most plans for higher education, but he still eventually found a job at Data Transmission Network. Here he climbed up until receiving a decent paying management position.

He left this life to return to the field of broadcasting, which he described as “his first love,” when the opportunity arose to get a position at KVNO. The following success and rise in KVNO spurred McDermott’s desire to obtain a degree, which he is currently in the process of earning.

Readers can hear McDermott’s stories airing on KVNO 90.7 FM during the morning newscats at 6, 7 and 8 a.m.

Brandon McDermott is not the collection of unfortunate things that have happened to him. He is the proof that one’s origin does not define their future.

“I deserved to be a statistic. I deserved to be one of those odds that don’t make it,” McDermott said. “I flew in the face of that and I’ve flown in the face of that my whole life.”

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