My Top 10 Electronic/Dance tracks of 2017

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Like most of the UIC Radio DJs and music lovers in general, I’ve been compiling my end of year lists. Because my interest is mainly in electronic and dance music,  I’ve decided to focus my list on the best tracks of 2017. The past year has been huge for electronic music. Techno continued it’s current wave of popularity, with new voices both refining and warping the genre into new directions. Lo-Fi house died and then came back, club music got deconstructed and rebuilt into a noisy mess, and push for more representation from female, queer, and POC DJ’s helped bring new voices to the table. Here’s what I took away as the best of the year:

10. DJ Boring-Goodbye Michael

This little wonder of a remix is only number 10 because it’s technically a release from the the late hours of 2016. Created in the wake of George Michael’s passing last December, DJ Boring takes the late singer-songwriter’s 2003 track “Amazing” and downgrades it for the lo-fi house generation. The result is a remix that improves upon its source materiel by letting Michael’s melodic genius shine through the distorted bass and tape hiss.

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TREVIEW: Why Lady Gaga’s “The Cure” is the Most Depressing Song of the Year

“Treview” is a spontaneous and grossly-titled series in which I, Trev, review new tracks or artists that spark a greater conversation outside the music itself. Whether it’s titillating controversy, an impact on culture, or a shift in the musical landscape, these songs are more than meets the ear.


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Make no mistake: I was very disappointed with the direction of Joanne, and while I frequently sweated through my intense CrossFit workouts light cardio to the multi-culture appropriating ARTPOP, I recognize it to be largely a flop as well. News of Gaga returning to more standard pop fare was exciting. After periods of jazz and faux folk, I, like many, desperately longed for some new, certified Gaga bangers. It’s revelation to absolutely no one that Lady Gaga hasn’t been as musically or culturally relevant since 2009, when she released her goth-pop masterpiece The Fame Monster EP. Meat dresses, #1 hits, anatomical controversies; Gaga was on top of the world, sparkler ti***es and all. Her weird, theatrical impact on pop music continues to this day. This is why listening to her latest single, The Cure, is so sad. Gone are the sonic risks, the sexual ambiguity, the Ra ra-ah-ah Roma roma-mas. Every aspect of her identity on this track has been weathered and dismantled, removed board by board until all we’re left with is Scheiße.

The Cure is a song that is sure to be void of radio failure, but is also totally void of herself. Even at her lowest, most celestial-centric moments, Gaga could still be counted on to be one thing: Gaga. Where some nauseatingly tried to cash in on civil rights movements in an act of marketing expediency, Gaga championed the LGBT community in her songs with a true and tangible compassion reciprocated to the fans that offered her support when she was no more than a club act with some buzz. Where most album covers are focus-group-honed, inoffensive squares of current trends, Gaga’s are a clusterf*** mashup of motorcycle-meets-maiden. Now, she has abandoned her signature anthemic sincerity and advocacy, replacing them with a hollow dance-hall track indistinguishable from the entirety of current Top 40 convention, complete with cover art that features, presumably, the best result of a photo shoot who’s rank insipidness challenges its very songsake and a background of grey that borders on sardonic. Remove the vocals, and it’d be virtually impossible to tell that this is a project of Mother Monster’s at all. One can’t help but wonder how much of it even is.

With The Cure, modern pop’s true queen has handed in her crown for generic sounds and guaranteed sales.

I’m sure I’ll still find myself casually listening along, that is, if I can ever move past the fact that this is simply the least-Gaga Gaga song that’s ever been released. Having been a fan since I too was one of the many closeted, little monsters in a small town, listening for a source of identity and freedom (The Fame was the first album I purchased in its entirety), this admittedly cuts deeper for me than it probably should or does for most. It’s understandable for her to be fatigued after several attempts, and years, of trying to be true-to-self have, for the most part, not paid off critically or commercially. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with wanting your work to be appreciated. Perhaps this is the start of an era with a subsequent EP or album that will redeem it. Maybe this will just be a one-off Coachella gift. I have to admit, the initial seconds of the song gave me post-Joanne hope. Lady Gaga heading back to dance territory, or even dance-hall for that matter, is certainly something welcomed by myself and fans worldwide. This is to say as long as it’s her dance territory. As long as it’s not this. With The Cure, modern pop’s true queen has handed in her crown for generic sounds and guaranteed sales. Little Monsters everywhere are asking themselves: “Where’s mom?” I feel sad listening to this. I feel sad for Lady Gaga.

Listen to the song and cry along with me here:


Trev Richards is host of the weekly talk program Trev on UIC Radio; Live, Wednesdays 8:30 – 10:30 PM Central Time. Follow/listen on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and SoundCloud

I Had Fun At A Club

As many of my friends could testify, I am not the clubbing type. In fact, I’m the totally lame stay at home and read a book or grab food with a friend when I have the time to type. However, I’ve had friendships where their prime past time was jumping around or grinding about at clubs, and therefore I have been to my fair share of them.

And you may have guessed correctly…I’ve always hated it. Maybe I wasn’t as drunk as everyone there or maybe everyone could sense that I didn’t belong, but it has always been uncomfortable and awkward, not to mention equally as annoying being felt around by some dude probably 20 years older than me. Gross exaggeration, but also probably not.

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The thing is I love to dance too. I’m not very good at it, and often my friends will tell me after, “you were a little too into it back there” or “what was that”, which probably paints a pretty good picture of how great I look out there. Regardless, I really do enjoy dancing, although often weirdly and eccentric, and yet the club has never been a place I felt good at.

This weekend, however, a large sum of my friends made a trip down to U of I where we danced and sang more in one weekend than I have this entire school year. It was truly one of the funnest weekends I’ve had in a really long time, and a lot of it was spent at a club. The music felt like it was remixed all to the same beat and the song selection in general could have been a whole lot better, but that didn’t seem to stop us from laying it all out on the dance floor.

This had everything to do with the people I was with, which were some of the goofiest most fun-loving people I know, and I accredit such an excellent weekend all to them. They even made a sticky, loud, and hot-mess of a bar a great success. And so, I conclude, that almost anything can be made positive or negative by the people you surround yourself with and your attitude. This has been your Motivational Monday. See you at the clubs.

Stepping Into Hip-Hop

I’m still struggling to make my blog about something. I love music as equally as the next blogger, but there’s already so many blogs dedicated to that and they’re much better at talking about the topic of music than I ever will be. I like science and random factoids and knowledge bits that you can either apply to your life or just feel enriched by. But that doesn’t seem like a good fit for UIC Radio. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ll find my special radio voice, but for now I’ll follow on the same trend of sharing bits and pieces of my life…

Tonight I did something new. Tonight I went to a hip-hop class lead by one of my friends. It’s something that I don’t think I would have ever done, regardless of knowing the person who was teaching. I’d be too embarrassed of looking foolish or messing up or questioning why I was there at all because I’d probably think I look like garbage. But for awhile now I’ve been harboring the strange desire to dance, any kind of dance. Maybe it’s because I’ve missed skating and feeling that creative connection with my body, but it’s also been the desire to be more confident in myself.

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For some time now, it’s becoming more and more apparent how reserved and timid I am, and how unwilling I am to make a mistake in fear of looking poorly in front of others. That hasn’t gone away, and it won’t after one hip-hop class, but I’m glad that this desire has become strong enough for me to do something about it. I’m already thinking about finding classes on my own and trying different styles. There’s so much that I feel I’ve kept hidden and it’s about time that it surfaced.

I’m so thankful for my friend Ziba and how enthusiastic and inviting she is of others. She’s got a talent of making people feel comfortable and to just be themselves. I’m looking forward to this next month of hip-hop, and what’s looking like a step in the right direction of getting myself out of the rut I’ve been in.

Branko’s Club Atlas World Tour and Interview

Branko's Club Atlas World Tour

Electronic Dance music producer/DJ, Branko, by way of Lisbon Portugal, gives fans and the world a multi dimensional experience with Club Atlas. For your ears, he brings the album Club Atlas. For your eyes, a documentary web series powered by Red Bull Music Academy “Atlas Unfolded.” And last but not least, for your body, to move on the dance floor the “Club Atlas World Tour.” Let’s take a minute to talk about the massively collaborative project and all things Atlas. The album carries 10 tracks, a collective of collaborations with over 20 artists. Recorded in 5 weeks, in 5 different cities… Amsterdam, New York, Lisbon, Sao Paulo, and Cape Town. With tracks like Atlas, Eventually, and Out Of Sight, Club Atlas gives you a dope fusion of cultural sounds like no other. “Atlas Unfolded”, Red Bull Music Academy and Branko takes you along, from the streets to the studio, documenting the production of Club Atlas. And for the world tour, Branko hits up 12 cities in 13 days. With an album, web series and world tour, Club Atlas is not only a triple threat… but a movement!

I got the chance to speak with Branko on everything Atlas, check it below.

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B Roc – Where did it all begin? What got you started in to DJing?
Branko – First I started producing, creating beats on my fathers computer. And I think it’s an obvious transition to go from making beats in to DJing. Then people would ask me to DJ at their parties, back in my hometown Libson. It started picking up and things kept evolving. In 2006 I did this project called Som Sistema, and that was like the first thing that made me get out of the city and travel around the world and do a bunch of shows. And then came the concept, that we take the music we grew up listening to, and the idea of creating Atlas and the web series came to me. It was just like organic steps… and evolution.

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B Roc – How do you feel about the tour?
Branko – This is the first time I did a tour in the states, by myself. I wish I had more time to spend with each stop in each city. It’s exciting to play my music for the people… give them a little something different while their on the dance floor.

B Roc – What do you hope fans get from your music?
Branko – I hope the music makes them happy.. or they get what they essentially need from it. But I also look at it as a celebration of diversity. Bringing different music, from different cultures together. I traveled in 5 different cities and recorded it all in 5 weeks. And there’s a big group of people, who all contributed to this album. I kind of see it like… geographical coordinates… like each collaboration, is a celebration of showing how you can put 2 things together and create something new and different.

B Roc – What advice would you give to aspiring DJ’s?
Branko – I feel like, with my music, I’m an aggregator of different scenes around the world. Scenes that are seen as maybe more marginal… or like Belle Funk in Brazil, to Angola South African House. I feel like I’m in the middle of all these things. My advice… get to know your music! So much of our entertainment content is dictated by the same people, and by the same cities, that have created the industry for such a long time. But I think now… with the internet… it put everything on the same level.  Different cultures, different music, is now made more accessible… making it easier for artists to get out there. When I was growing up, I remember watching TV in english! Not understanding a word of it. But it’s all about vibes! What language, is of no matter. You need to find what works, and what is cool for you.

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B Roc – What was one of you most memorable moments during the production of the album?
Branko – I love creating music… that’s usually when I find my special moments. The week I got to spend in Cape Town… just collaborating with different people was really special. It was definitely my favorite, most memorable moment.

B Roc – What is something, you can not leave Chicago without?
Branko – Pizza! I have to have the pizza from Chicago, before I leave. (laughs) …I’m trying to figure out right now, how I’m gonna get some before I go.

Thanks for ROCKIN wit me!!! Roc4Chi_City
IG @rockwitb_roc @4chi_cityradio

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PHENOM AND THE YOUTH SPEAK ABOUT LYRIC FEST

Lyric Mentoring Program has an awesome eight day festival, Lyric Fest, thrown annually for the city of Chicago youth. The festival begins the first week of summer break for CPS students. Basketball tournaments, comedy night, dance off, open mic, theater night, family night and more assemble for the ever-growing festival. These kids are abundantly talented, and under the direction of both spoken word artists and emcees K Love and Phenom, will be sure to go far!  Got a chance to ask the youth about their thoughts and views on the fest, and really happy to share… check it below!

Cassius – age 20 – @CASSIUS_TAE 
With the program and the fest, it gives us a chance to meet different artists. And it feels good to meet artists that share the same love for the music and the culture, that you do! Even deeper than that, it gives me a platform to express myself. I go to school at Central Michigan, and I perform there. But, I feel so proud, when I come home to perform in front of my people.. my city! It just means so much more to be able to do that… it’s really important to me!

E.M.S – Lyric program is very family oriented and they help to push local artists to grow and get better artistically. They inspire creativity, and strongly encourage you to be an individual! Encouraging older kids to be leaders and mentors to younger kids. It’s a safe place to be on a Tuesday night, and whenever they hold events for us.

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Poit – age 19 – I like that the Lyric program attracts different people, from different backgrounds. It’s a great place to meet people of all ages, and to bring friends and family. I like that they teach us about stage presence and they put a strong emphasis on appropriateness while performing. They really push us to be better and to do better.

Gen-LaDen – age 10 – I like coming to Lyric, to learn and to be here with my friends and family. We do  lot of creative things, we perform, we dance and all kinds of stuff. The fest was a lot of fun, and I have a lot of fun when I’m here!

Justin – age 18 – IG @flyboi_doe
The freestyle battles, poet slams are my favorite. I love to see artists and poets express themselves. I travel, and I like to meet artists from New York and LA, and we meet up and incorporate different styles, and play around with different sounds. It’s good to see everyone come together as one… a lot of love here.

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Taj Mxxoy – age 21 – IG @tajmxxoy21
I’ve met a lot of great artists and mad a lot of friends. I went to college and saw a lot of talent, and they put on a good show. It just reminded me of all the things they teach us here at Lyric. I like that they give us a stage, exposure, an opportunity to shine! I really like it and you can tell they put a lot of work in to it… I really appreciate what they do… it’s a great organization.

Lo-Kee The Emcee – age 21 – @LoKeeTheEmcee
I have been coming to Lyric for years! I go away to school in Dallas, Texas… and no matter what, I always come back during my holiday break. I enjoy the fest, I enjoy the program… I mean, it’s like family! For this open mic, we are here celebrating the life of our homie Syfa The Beast. And for the fact that they dedicated a day to this young soul that we have lost… it means the world to me! It really touches my soul! I love the fact that Lyric is here, bringing people together, the Hip Hop, the youth! I mean, I know people on the outside, looking in, thinkin we’re no good and always getting in to trouble. But look at us man! We here! We are here celebrating! There’s no fighting, no gang-bangin, no violence! We are all here spreading love, celebrating each other, our talents, and enjoying ourselves.

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PHENOM – @PHENOM18 
The Lyric Fest has been going on for 3 years now, and every year it gets bigger and better. Once the school year is over, many kids are left with nothing to do… no outlet for social development. We are reaching out to the youth and giving them sooo many things to do!! We have the basketball tournament with big kids, and little kids. We have comedy night with BET comedians! We offer so much, so that they can’t be at home bored with nothing to do. This is an event for your friends, your family, for everybody to come together and enjoy. It’s different from other festivals because, its held in different venues, different areas of the city. So we get to the kids on the west side, the south side, and the north side. And it’s a great platform for young developing artists to get exposure. We pay homage to those who have lost their lives to gun violence. Hadiya Pendleton, Demario Bailey… we name each night after them and tonight is Syfa The Beast. We pull together money from donations and even our own money to make this festival happen. It’s sooo important that they have something to do, to help them grow and stay out of trouble. They look forward to it every year, and we love what we do!

Thanks for ROCKIN wit me!!! Roc4Chi_City
IG @rockwitb_roc @4chi_cityradio
Log on to uicradio.org Sunday nights 6-8pm 
4 Chi City Radio Hosted by B Roc

Wanna know more about Phenom?… click here
K Love feature coming soon… stay posted!

@Lyricmentoring
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