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Rap Finesse

It's not about what you say, but how you say it

There are two types of music people. Ones who care about the lyrics and ones who care about the sound. Ya, you can be for both, but you’re also for one. I’m about the sound. Even with rap, it’s not so much about what they say, but how they say it.

I was listening to a Del a few years back and in one of his tracks I always thought he was saying “phonetical finesse.” Turns out he wasn’t, but those two words since have summed up what I love so much about hip-hop: wordplay.

Rap Finesse is a special playlist because a lot of the artists on here (towards the bottom) are the reason I started caring about underground, independent, and locally-known music. There wouldn’t be a Silence Nogood without ’em.

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Majestic collected

Curating Majestic Casual's almost 2,000 songs

What I respect so much about Majestic Casual is their focus on curation. Unlike editorial outlets like Pitchfork, it’s not about music news or witty reviews. It’s about finding what’s next in music.

Never before have I gone through another curator’s full catalog. It took about 10 days to go through all 1,932 tracks (and counting) on Majestic Casual’s YouTube channel and another week to whittle it down to 130 selected. Mind you, I only spent a minute or so on each track initially, which still comes out to over 32 hours of listening. Not including the hours it took to refine them down.

I was shooting to playlist less than 6% of their total catalog but ended up with just under 7%. And it wasn’t easy. I never realized how many tracks Majestic put on my radar over the years. Not to mention the ones I swiped up in the last few weeks, which are about 44% of this list. They promote a variety of music styles and are going beyond simply curating music.

Majestic is going on tour in the US over the next few weeks – I’ll be at the SF show. They’ve released a print and online journal. They’ve got merch, a record label, and are doing more with video and photography. There is one thing though they need help with.

It’s not just about promoting music partnerships. Uploads and even closer relationships Majestic has with artists are the bedrock from which they’ve become so successful – something we lack – but shouldn’t be the entire game. There is so much more good music out there that fits Majestic’s aesthetic and deserves to be in their collection, uploaded or not.

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Four on the Floor

Dance with some soul

I love and hate house music most. With anything taken mainstream, we’re all bombarded with bloodsuckers making a buck off of it, but beneath all that is an underground of creators making something fresh. My favorite, like all other things in life, is with soul.

And even in this soulful house playlist, there are many different styles. From horizontal disco to deep house, there are so many shades of sexuality, and it’s only gettin better.

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Late Night

When you wanna relax

Not only do I listen to music actively more than passively, but it’s usually for a purpose. I constantly think about how the song playing fits in with the rest of the music I collect. And how I conceptualize it as a whole.

I’ve created about a half dozen playlists for relaxing. They’re all primarily beat-driven, but I think they’re even more jazz inspired. Quite a few people have taken issue with me classifying these playlists as jazz, but I hear the inspiration more than ever.

I’d go as far to say many jazz legends would appreciate it, if not be actively involved in creating this beat culture if they were here today. The variance and experimentation these beats makers play around with deserves respect.

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Loose Control

The grooviest dance party

I love to dance, but rarely do so at live shows. If any of these tracks are playing though, it’s a different story. Loose Control is the collection of music I love to dance to most. At least contemporarily speaking.

Most of this list is funk-inspired, but we’ve got the best in all of dance here: disco, house, electro, and hip hop. Anything that grooves. And Anderson .Paak and Kaytranada groove most. They’re over-represented here. I just can’t help myself.

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Up to Nogood

Breaking barriers is sexy

Between trap and future bass is something special. Not only is it some of the sexiest music out right now, but pushes the edges of music more than any other. Pop is catching up to it, hip hop is there, but its depth still goes unrecognized. And that’s where the problem with playlisting it comes in.

More than any other, this Up to Nogood playlist is reliant on YouTube Music & SoundCloud. Apple Music and Spotify just don’t have the catalog. Not even half.

One thing Spotify does do best is discovery. Digging through music has changed from listening to thousands of songs on my SoundCloud stream to find something fresh down to hundreds with what Spotify recommends. Automation has a long way to go in really helping me out, but Spotify is leading it.

One thing none of them have are analytics for playlisters. One of the most crucial things in making a better playlist. 8tracks is actually the only one I know that does.

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BURN DISCO · Build House

The playlist war between music services continue

Last year we showed our condolences for the day disco died at Comiskey Park in 1979, but with the burning of disco came the rise of house music. More than any other genre, I’ve gotten criticism for my love of disco house, but that’ll never diminish my love for it. If anything, I like it a little more.

We’ve decided to turn that playlist, BURN DISCO, into something more ongoing and inclusive. We’ve been collecting disco playlists since 2012 and before. From Frisco Disco to Lazer Disco to Horizontal Disco and Disco is to Dance, we’ve wrapped them up into one until we break them in two again.

BURN DISCO is on the four major music services, but as explained better in the previous article, not all music services are made equal. Especially in catalog. YouTube and SoundCloud have a much more expansive catalog than Spotify and Apple, which BURN DISCO exemplifies. Spotify and Apple only have about half the songs YouTube and SoundCloud do and it’s only going to get worse with the next playlist.

Special shout out to Flamingosis and his flamboyance. Y’all keep disco alive.

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What’s the Music Streaming Service for Playlisters

Plus the next step in how we playlist, featuring our best soul songs

Back in 2014 Trent Reznor put out a video envisioning Beats Music, now Apple Music, as the game changer in deciding what song comes next. It sure as hell inspired me and helped to get where music discovery is today, but Spotify is leading that now, most famously with RapCaviar.

Tuma Basa – creator of RapCaviar, now at YouTube Music – recently talked at DJ Jazzy Jeff’s Playlist Retreat about how we need to recognize curation as a form of art. Too many music services are hung up on breaking the next big thing. Let the playlisters, djs, and other curators figure that out. Figure out the curators first.

SoundCloud has been my pick for playlisting music ever since they introduced the feature, but they’ve been losing listeners, so I thought it was about time to spread my efforts elsewhere. Spotify’s doing it right when it comes to their product and promotion. They’ve got all the major label music and seem to be winning with playlisting & discovery. But it turns out half the music I love isn’t on Spotify, so it’s gonna have to take more than just that to replace SoundCloud, if at all.

YouTube Music doesn’t have every song SoundCloud has, but I’m sure they have much more. They haven’t quite established themselves yet, but with Lyor Cohen, Tuma Basa, and all the other talent I’ll follow when I find them, my (subscription) money is on YouTube Music. And Spotify too for now.

Apple Music has the same problem as Spotify with catalog, but their potential is in live with retail stores in the most highly trafficked places around the world. Initiatives like “Today at Apple” that are bringing people together around creativity & entrepreneurship can be the game changer Apple Music needs to differentiate themselves from Spotify & YouTube Music. Especially if they utilize a platform like Beats 1 to democratize the global spotlight for all kinds of artists, including playlisters, online and off.

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with Soul

There's nothing better than singers with soul

As this bitch of a year comes to a close, there isn’t anything better than soulful singers to give it some grace. I haven’t put together a soul singers playlist for about a year, so there’s a lot of musicians to cover (72!)

In our last Lip Service playlist, it had soul, but no women. I think it’s as important as ever to show appreciation to the women you love, and I love these musician. Or I’m sure I would if I knew them.

This one’s for the woman I do, Lizzzz.

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Rock Show

Jam with guitars or something like it

Serious question. Listen to the playlist. Would you consider it rock music? 1-10. Now rate how much you like the tracks. 1-10. I hope at least the second number is higher than the first. Let me know.

It may not be traditional rock, but all the tracks have some tie in, loosely. The list starts with blues & alternative, gets into indie & soul, and ends on electronic. Most of the tracks have a catchy guitar melody and unfortunately all male vocalists, except one. Ninet, the only one I’ve seen live.

We tried to address a similar problem with female producers and currently trying to find women who can rap. If I ever get enough rock on my list, I hope can bring awareness with that too.

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