“Surviving in Hell”: Right, but where is hell located?

Guest post by Derek Pardue In my recent book for the 33 1/3 series on the iconic 1997 recording of the rap group Racionais MCs, I mention several places in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. I include little maps for reference, as I weave together short stories inspired by the album and my experience in the city. Clearly, “hell” for Racionais is located in the precarious urban periphery and that “surviving” requires storytelling and making noise. It is also clear that the survival stories spread out across the city…

Sounding Okinawa

Guest post by Henry Johnson The Okinawan soundscape is distinct from other parts of Japan in many ways. Blending the sounds of its cultural heritage and popular culture, and often foregrounded within a touristic gaze, urban centres such as Naha and Koza sound Okinawa through live and mediated performance, as well as through much imagery that helps show the importance of music for the prefecture. Okinawa’s characteristic live houses mix food and music to offer an entertainment setting that produces emblematic Okinawan sounds to an audience eager to consume local…

Nenes to Nenez 30 Years On

In 2021, Nenez (using their recent romanized name with a “z” instead of a “s”) celebrated their 30th anniversary with the release of the indies album, Gajumaru. Founded in 1991, the group has seen a number of line-up changes, with three of the current quartet joining in 2019. The ever changing line-ups are comparable with groups such as the American all-women trio, The Three Degrees, which dates from 1963 and is a brand that continues to this day. Indeed,
brand Nenez (or Nēnēzu, to use the transliteration of their Okinawan name) has gone through several phases that have transitioned from a world music act of the 1990s to live-house entertainment in their most recent guise.

Sam Cooke In Action: Don’t get caught in the oldies trap!

Macbeth, of course, is a literary oldie. It’s an oldie that still informs our world. Vaulting ambition and all. I mention Macbeth and the idea of relevant oldies for a reason. Sam Cooke is often dogged by the oldies label. Oldies are a genre, right? You hear “Wooly Bully” and “At the Hop” and, yes, Cooke’s “You Send Me,” on the oldies station in the car, and all seems right with the world. These songs are where they should be. You’re having a nice Sunday drive with the windows down in early autumn.

Becoming a Voracious Listener with Sam Cooke

Guest post by Colin Fleming Take the Sam Cooke path and be a VL (Voracious Listener)—it will serve you well in every aspect of life. Hello 33 1/3-ians! I’m back for guest blog entry number two, with this dossier of supplementary Sam Cooke materials. Let’s get to it! Do you remember the age you were when you first got into a given artist or work of art that you care about a lot? I bet you probably do. And you can pinpoint what it meant to you at that moment.…

The ArchAndroid: The extended interview with Wendy Morgan

Janelle Monáe’s work has never been confined to only one medium. She is a singer and musician first, of course, but the stories she tells have always worked best as joint musical and visual projects, where their grand scope can best shine. It’s with Dirty Computer and its accompanying visual album that this impulse fully materializes, but even with The ArchAndroid music videos were an important addition to the Cindi Mayweather story. For that reason, speaking to music video director Wendy Morgan felt like a crucial part of researching a…

The ArchAndroid: The extended interview with Kevin Barnes

With so much of The ArchAndroid coming out of Janelle Monáe’s own Wondaland Arts Society, there’s one song, “Make the Bus,” that stands out as a little bit different. The song is the brainchild of Kevin Barnes, founder of the indie pop band Of Montreal, and a free-wheeling ode to the creative partnership that existed between Of Montreal and Monáe’s inner circle in the lead up to The ArchAndroid’s release. 

The ArchAndroid: The posthuman, the utopia, the conclusion

ALYSSA FAVREAU, AUTHOR OF JANELLE MONÁE’S THE ARCHANDROID, ON THE POSTHUMAN SUBJECT One of my favorite things about this book is that it gave me the opportunity to put The ArchAndroid into conversation with a wide range of ideas and thinkers. The album is not only a musical masterpiece, it also lends itself very well to being read like a work of literature. In the book, I talk about how Monáe’s persona, Cindi Mayweather, is a perfect example of the cyborg as conceptualized by Donna Haraway in her “Cyborg Manifesto,”…

The ArchAndroid: Cindi Mayweather before The ArchAndroid

ALYSSA FAVREAU, AUTHOR OF JANELLE MONÁE’S THE ARCHANDROID, ON WHAT INSPIRED HER 33 1/3 It was Cindi’s story that first fascinated me. I loved Janelle Monáe, of course, loved her music and style, and the obvious passion she brought to everything she touched. But it was Cindi Mayweather—the runaway android, the citizen of twenty-eighth-century Metropolis, the cybersoul superstar, the messianic ArchAndroid—who really got to me, stayed with me, and made me want to write a book about her. The story of Cindi Mayweather, sprawling as it does across several albums,…