Damon Albarn's credits are legion. He's the frontman of Blur, the British band who created a giant catalog of forward-thinking guitar pop and one enduring, stadium-rattling jock jam. He's the vocalist and principal songwriter of Gorillaz, the animated supergroup who managed to give the iPod a little street cred. He led Bobby Womack out of long career stall and into 21st century cool, co-producing the soul legend's left-field comeback album, The Bravest Man in the Universe, in 2012.
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Lil Bibby is a 19-year-old from Chicago with one mixtape, a high-profile co-sign and big dreams. In an interview during SXSW in Austin, Texas, Bibby says since he released Free Crack last year, he's felt a change in the way people relate to him and it's affected his songs. "I'm talking about the transition: I was Brandon and then Bibby," he says. "I'm gettin' people acting different." Ali Shaheed Muhammad steps in to offer some advice from a veteran's perspective.
Argentine singer-songwriter Federico Aubele uses his dark, husky voice to produce a specific effect in the three songs he performs at this Tiny Desk Concert: Together, they jell into one impressionistic midtempo ballad.
A voice like Aubele's could be restrictive: His lower register seems to always reflect something dark and lonely. Think of your favorite bottom-scraping vocalist and the lyrics he or she interprets.
This is simply astonishing. Watch twenty seconds and you'll be sucked into the world of Usman Riaz, an immensely talented 23-year-old Pakistani musician who will change your perception of how a guitar can sound and be played. What's more remarkable is that this Berklee College of Music whiz kid learned much of his dazzling guitar technique by watching YouTube videos at 16. He also learned what he calls "parlor tricks," like body percussion and harmonica. But the classically trained pianist also used the Internet to learn how to write and conduct orchestra pieces and make films.
Texas native Gina Chavez did not come to music early on. When she was 18, she went to a country-blues show in Austin to hear singer Toni Price. It was after that she decided she wanted to learn how to play guitar. So she turned to her dad.
GINA CHAVEZ: You know, I said, hey, dad, don't you have a guitar in the closet? He pulls it out and turns out it's a 1954 Martin, which people who know things about guitars are, you know, they start drooling all over themselves.
CORNISH: A year later, she started writing her own songs.
Jeremiah Jae and Oliver the 2nd are cousins who grew up in Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively. Already from a musical family — Oliver's father, Phil Perry, is a smooth jazz R&B singer and Jeremiah's played keys with Miles Davis and produced a few of his records — they have formed Black Jungle Squad, a collective of relatives and close friends. "Taking it back to the days when there was a lot more crews in hip-hop," says Jeremiah. "Like Native Tongues or Boogie Down Productions. Just the vibe of different people coming together and making stuff."