RATING: 9/10 CHET BAKERS
I've spoken on my blog numerous times about how we, as music fans, tend to put ourselves in boxes. We limit what we listen to, because we feel that we won't like it, or that's not "real music" or that the music is what older people listen to, not what young people listen to, or any other number of excuses we give. At the end of the day, though, that's all they are: excuses.
We're making up excuses to explain why we don't listen to more types of music. Sometimes, the music just genuinely does nothing for you, and there's nothing wrong with that. Other times, sadly, race plays into the factoring of why someone may not listen to a genre such as Rap music. Sometimes the reasoning is sound and understandable, other times not so much.
I bring this up because I discovered an artist recently that just blew me away. So creative, so original so undeniably cool that I was kind of mad that I had not heard her before. Her name is Dessy Di Lauro, and she's one of these artists that really need to be seen and heard to be appreciated. Just telling you what she does, I don't think would do her justice, and as I've tried to explain her music to people before, I think I end up doing more to dissuade them from hearing her than I am helping. Because she's kinda indescribable.
MORE AFTER THE BREAK:
The closest comparison I would have for her would be Janelle Monae. When I saw her video (above) I immediately thought of Janelle, who I adore. Someone who is incredibly gifted, talented and creatively original. Someone who has carved her own path instead of doing what everyone else is doing. She's not trying to be the next Beyonce, she's trying to be the first Janelle.
Likewise, Di Lauro is doing her damndest to be the first Dessy Di Lauro. Listening to her album, "This is Neo Ragtime", while there are elements that hearken back to other songs you may have heard (while listening to "Mysterious" I will suddenly recall listening to Blu Cantrell's "Oops Hit Em Up Style"), she is most definitely, and undeniably unique and a standout talent.
Not sure if that's the best way of putting it, but while a lot of the album is decidedly not what you would typically hear on the bought and paid for radio stations (did I say that out loud?), a few tracks such as "Loved" and "Never Existed", definitely have a more mainstream type ballad vibe to it, which I could see being embraced by some of the more "purist" types, which in turn may introduce them to the album and maybe get them open minded enough to take in the rest of the album.
I've long lamented that today's mainstream music is seriously lacking. With risk of making myself seem out of touch and "old", I remember back in the 90's that music just seemed better all around. I suppose every generation has a specific era that they look to and point to and say "that's when it was good!" and for me the 90's was it. That era was so damn good when it came to not only hip hop/R&B, but also pop music too. There were a lot of one hit wonders, as there always are, but those hits were memorable and when I listen to them I just feel great and find myself smiling a lot. There was a substance to a lot of the music that you heard, not just the nonsensical materialism, although there was definitely a bit of that too.
Today's music, at least the stuff you hear on the radio, rarely has that ability. There are exceptions, such as Daft Punk's "Get Lucky", but so much of today sounds like everything else. So many of these female singers sound very similar to each other that I really can't tell them apart often. Same with the male singers. Perhaps if I listened to today's mainstream music more, I'd be able to differentiate, but it just doesn't speak to me for the most part.
That's why I love indie music because so much of the truly innovative artists are going at it via the indie route without the backing of multi-billion dollar labels. There's terrible indie artists too, mind you, but it seems 90% of the time when I come across someone just really mind blowingly great that I haven't heard before, those artists are independent artists.
And that's how I've reacted to Dessy Di Lauro's album, "This is Neo Ragtime". I didn't know what to expect, to be honest, when I first found a copy of this floating around on the internet. I gave it a listen though, and was really impressed. So impressed I promptly went and ordered a physical copy of the CD so as to support this truly original and embodiment of cool that is "Neo Ragtime".
While I had not heard of Di Lauro before, she was apparently blowing up, and had just had one of her songs "Jump N' Jivin'", featured in promos for the 2013 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.
Her music is, as I said, kinda hard to describe. The title gives away the major inspiration, as "Ragtime" was a musical style, prominently piano based, from the late 1800's through the early 1900's. It's had several revivals, of sorts, throughout the years such as in the 40's and 50's, and then a major one in the 1970's as the musical "Ragtime" was released, but today, sadly, a lot of music fans have never heard of it. Or if they have, they just don't know the name.
While there is some brilliant ragtime and ragtime related recordings out there, including Treemonisha, and has inspired many popular artists over the years, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of attention to it anymore, and I think many music fans would be hard pressed to see how music they listen to may be inspired by Ragtime. Much like how many hip hop fans today would never listen to Classical music and would be hesitant to connect how it could have anything to do with hip hop, and yet many hip hop artists have sampled Classical music in their songs, many of which are popular with those very same fans. Nas sampled Carmina Buruna on his track "Hate Me Now". Coolio sampled Pachelbel's "Canon in D" for his song "C U When U Get There", and of course Robin Thicke sampled Beethoven's 5th for "When I Get You Alone".
hip hop tracks out there that sample or utilize aspects of Ragtime music with their songs. It all goes back to busting out of that box that you find yourself in. Don't limit what you can experience, because you can miss out on some truly amazing music. And this, definitely, is one of those truly amazing musical experiences that you should not miss out on.