Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist w/ over a decade of experience. Lover of good music, fringe movies, day baseball & chicken shawarma. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
For the past decade I’ve witnessed Big Stat work harder than just about anyone to make his dreams comes true, which is why when I first saw the video for his latest single, “Rocket Fuel,” I had to smile at the appropriateness of some of the scenery. The glowing flames behind Big Stat are a perfect representation of the fire he has inside him, and the way he delivers his rhymes is all the vocal evidence anyone needs to know his desire is real. “Rocket Fuel” is both inspirational, and in your face. It’s like Big Stat’s confronting life head on, and telling it outright that he’s going to make something happen, no matter what the odds are. You gotta love anyone with that kind of heart!
When photographer Kelsey Bennett and fine artist B. Thom Stevenson teamed up they knew they wanted to do something different. That desire turned into the artistic collaborative effort Boregasm, which is running from May 3rd through May 16th at Fig.19 Gallery in NYC. Concurrently, Bennett also has another project, The Honeymoon Phase, running at DKRM Gallery in LA through June 1st.
I caught up with both Bennett and Stevenson at Fig.19 to find out more about their collaboration, and while art was discussed, there was also plenty on 90s pop culture, rebuking sexual advances in Spanish, and lullabies from Naughty By Nature.
Adam Bernard: First of all, I love the Mallrats reference (Boregasm). Kelsey Bennett: Yes, I’m so glad you picked up on that. That was like a childhood obsession. She (Tricia Jones) was the study of the prowess of 90s male sexuality. Me and my sister used to watch that all the time. Jason Lee in that movie... I love him. I was like, yes! B. Thom Stevenson: That’s funny, because that’s a skateboard reference at the same time, because (Lee) was a professional skateboarder. We grew up in that. That’s the 90s. Nothing we do can keep the 90s out of what we do. Kelsey: I feel like no matter what we do there will always be 90s references. It was really funny because a lot of these (pieces), well most of them, Brian used screen printing, and when I was at his studio there was a yin yang he was gonna use and I was like “that’s too 90s.” He was like “who cares, everybody loves the 90s.”
Adam: A yin yang. A little T&C Surf? B. Thom: T&C Surf Designs. That was the best video game ever. It was like the first skateboard game that you could ollie in, and I didn’t figure out you could ollie in that game until like years later. All the characters were like monkeys and tribesman.
Adam: Kelsey, you have this exhibit, Boregasm, in NYC, and The Honeymoon Phase in LA. How are you managing to literally be in two places at once? Kelsey: It’s been a lot of work, but there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than throwing two shows, one east coast, one west coast. It is a lot of running around. I’m doing a lot of the curating for the west coast and the east coast, but collaborating on this has made this so much calmer for me, just the fact that we’ve been doing everything together. This is the first time that I've done a collaborative show in this way, and Brian’s a fine artist. B. Thom: Most of the time. Kelsey: I usually do straight up portraits, so this is my first show that I consider fine art, which is exciting for me.
Adam: With Boregasm being a collaborative effort, what do you feel is the common thread that links all of these images together? B. Thom: I would say duality. Everything has this parallel. I did everything twice on it, she did everything twice... Kelsey: I guess the word I would use is explosiveness. Brian was saying the other day, which I thought was hilarious, that a lot of the images look like something you might see outside of a pharmacy. Remember those weird pictures of a kid being spoon-fed banana pudding, or something? It takes this very normal, mundane (image), and makes it really explosive, and when you have a collaboration, especially between two people like myself and Brian, I think no matter what it’s going to be explosive. We have very scattered minds, but they’re focused. B. Thom: It’s funny the things we choose to focus on, too. The idea of Boregasm is that you do something so many times, over and over and over again, that you start to get used to it. Like me with painting, and her with photography, you get to a point where you’re like “I want to do something different,” and that’s what we did. Kelsey: The collaboration allowed us to go someplace that we wouldn’t individually have gone. B. Thom: I was getting bored in my studio. Kelsey had been getting ready for the show she has in LA, and I was doing the same thing on my end, and this collaboration just enabled us to... Kelsey: Do something so different. Also, something with Boregasm, something that I totally think of, there’s this camaraderie. In high school I was always kind of staring off into space, or thinking of other things that made me really excited, like a project, and I feel like I didn’t relate to a lot of people in high school because they were paying attention. Then I meet Brian, and fellow artists like Brian, and maybe both of us were staring out into space in high school, but we didn’t know each other. We can (now) find each other, and we can make it happen, the things we were thinking about when we were staring off into space, and math was boring.
Adam: You were the worst people to call on in class, and you would be the ones who would always get called on because the teacher would notice you were staring off into space. Kelsey: Definitely. B. Thom: We usually knew the answer. Kelsey: I didn’t know the answer. I had to take Latin. B. Thom: Latin was horrible. I dropped that the first week. I switched to Spanish. Kelsey: All I know is “no mas molesto,” which is like don’t molest me.
Adam: That’s a solid phrase to know in any language. B. Thom: I know “puedo ir el bano.” Kelsey: I know restaurant Spanish.
Adam: Moving back to the art, Kelsey, you’ve described your work as “Super Real Life.” When does real life hit the point where the “super” prefix gets added? Kelsey: When you have regular, mundane, sort of things that could be looked at in a symbolic way, or placed in a dream, or a daydream. I feel like people’s minds don’t think in a linear way, they don’t think in this way of “my checklist of things to do.” The way that people function in the real world, that’s not really how our minds work. We’re thinking of a million things all the time, and I think it’s very dream like. I like to acknowledge that, and honor that, and bring it out in art.
Adam: Finally, you have a famous grandfather, Tony Bennett, and that can have its advantages and its drawbacks. Some doors may open, while at the same time some people may think, oh, this is just so and so’s granddaughter playing around, and not take you seriously. Open doors are kind of boring, so tell me about some of the hurdles you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are today. Kelsey: Basically, how I look at it is I grew up in a world surrounded by art. My grandfather’s a painter and a singer. My uncle had a recording studio in the basement. By the way, he recorded Naughty By Nature’s “O.P.P.”
Adam: Your uncle? Kelsey: Yeah. “O.P.P.,” and Salt N’ Pepa recorded in my basement, and I was a musician and I recorded down there. My dad managed bands, and my parents always had us acknowledge that we are related to an artist, so it feels more like a legacy than anything else, so I never get concerned about people thinking I’m opening doors using a name. B. Thom: And Kelsey is one of the hardest working girls I’ve ever met.
Adam: I need a story about Naughty By Nature in your house. Did Treach rap you to sleep? Kelsey: Of course. Every night.
The streets of New York City can be quite an entertaining place, filled with a wide variety of just about everything imaginable. This edition of Neighborhood Watch: NYC emulates those streets as we have a plethora of musical options for you. We have singer-songwriters like Caleb Hawley, Amy Regan, Linda Draper, and Echo Bloom, all of whom are radically different despite falling under the same genre umbrella. There's also some hip-hop in here from Shinobi Ninja, and some rock from Hey Anna. Leading things off, however, are the wild chiptune stylings of Anamanaguchi. Enjoy!
When Dessa performed in Fairfield, CT, last week, it was at a venue that had seating, which, as anyone who’s been in a sweaty club getting drinks spilled on them all night so they can see their favorite emcee, isn’t typical for hip-hop shows. While a little space is nice, and it’s doubly nice to not wear someone’s beer, seating isn’t necessarily optimal for a genre that involves movement. The Doomtree emcee/singer had a challenge on her hands - motivate the audience to get up and move. By the end of the night that mission was accomplished, as the seats were empty, and the venue was filled with energy.
Dessa’s set list included a mix of favorites from her previous albums, as well as a few songs from her upcoming release, Parts of Speech, which will be available on June 25th. Before the show, I caught up with Dessa to find out more about Parts of Speech, as well as her special relationship with her fans. Dessa also revealed what she feels she still struggles with, and her surprising initial reaction when she first heard Nicki Minaj.
Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with some Billboard singles chart analysis. There’s a lot of great music on the charts right now, including two songs that have embraced the tortoise mentality in their respective climbs, each taking over a year to make the impact that have today. The chart positions I'm using are from the Billboard Hot 100 as it was listed on Billboard.com this past Thursday, and since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
1) Pink w/ Nate Ruess - Just Give Me a Reason
Every once in a while a song comes along that upon first listen you know is destined to be played on “Lite” FM radio stations, and in dental practice waiting rooms, until the end of time. Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” is one of those songs. It doesn’t stray very far from the typical adult-contemporary pop mold, and deals with the kind of relationship issues everyone from eighth graders to old folks can understand on one level or another. Musically it doesn’t get too harsh, and the focus stays on the chorus, which gets stuck in your head very quickly. Every high school kid trying to get a lost love back probably quotes this song in texts to their former significant other. While all of this may seem like I’m saying “Just Give Me a Reason” is a bad song, I’m not. We need songs like this, and it just so happens Pink does them better than anyone else right now. It’s just funny to think this is the same woman who sang “U + Ur Hand.”
23) Selena Gomez - Come & Get It
In today’s pop world Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato are the new Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and while Demi is in her personal wheelhouse belting things out on songs like “Heart Attack,” Selena is at her best when she’s doing songs where her vocals can seamlessly become one with the beat. On “Come & Get It” she achieves this once again. Easily one of the most addictive songs on the radio right now, “Come & Get It” could seemingly be at home being played just about anywhere. It’s a genuinely likable song, and the beat gives the entire thing a unique vibe the likes of which we haven’t heard since the infamous Truth Hurts song Dr. Dre got sued over due to a sampling issue.
36) Emeli Sandé - Next To Me
Emeli Sandé’s “Next To Me” is a song that has taken far too long to work its way up the chart, but hopefully this means it will also have the slowest of descents down it. I first heard “Next To Me” over a year ago, yes over a year ago, and was blown away. The entire world seemed to be blown away by Sandé when she performed at the 2012 Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies. So why has it taken over a year for “Next To Me” to get serious radio airplay (and why do they insist on calling it a “new” song?)? Beats the heck out of me, but at this point let’s just enjoy the fact that something filled with so much heart and soul is in heavy rotation.
41) AWOLNATION - Sail
Much like “Next To Me,” AWOLNATION’s “Sail” has had quite the slow build. This video for the song was released in the fall of 2011, and a portion of the song was featured in a BMW commercial last year, yet not until right now, in the Spring of 2013, has the single started to make an impact on radio. Personally, I’m glad it finally has, because “Sail” is a really great song, and it’s like nothing else on the radio right now. Every time I hear it I get the kind of feeling I had when I first heard Beck’s earlier work. Both artists have a similar way of playing with sound and creating something great out of what others wouldn’t even think to put together. Plus, it makes me want to yell “Sail” at random times during the day. I dare you to play it and not feel the same way!
66) Avril Lavigne - Here’s To Never Growing Up
Here’s your big test, everyone who claims to hate Nickelback. Chad Kroeger has a co-writer credit on his fiance, Avril Lavinge’s, latest, “Here’s To Never Growing Up,” and it’s really obvious where his impact is felt most - the chorus. This makes “Here’s To Never Growing Up” sound like a Nickelback song, and the worst part about it is it works really really well. Avril clearly wrote the verses of “Here’s To Never Growing Up,” and the entire song has her faux rebellious attitude, but man oh man, that chorus is going to get stuck in your head, and you’re going to hate yourself when you find yourself humming it later in the day. For as much as we want to mock them, Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger are a killer combination here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
93) Little Mix - Wings
Does the UK ever get tired of trying to recreate the Spice Girls? Judging by the sudden appearance of Little Mix, I’d say the answer is evidently not. OK, so Little Mix has four, not five, members, but each one is a different “type,” although not quite as radically exaggerated as the original Spice Girls, and the lyrics of “Wings” are straight Girl Power. Their singing isn’t bad, in fact, some of it’s quite good, and the hand claps are pretty great, so you might find yourself turning this up, but at the same time, anyone over a certain age will have the distinct feeling that they’ve heard this before.
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.
Since we’re smack dab in the middle of the NBA playoffs, there couldn’t possibly be a more appropriate song to feature than Silent Knight’s latest, “Craig Sager’s Suit.” Everyone knows about the awful fashion sense of Craig Sager. He occasionally makes you wonder if he buys his clothing off the rack, or arrives at the game immediately after attending a color party. On “Craig Sager’s Suit,” Silent Knight drops a dope line about those suits, and surrounds it with a ton of other dope lines, include a nice homage to the Knicks, and not just the current Knicks, but the 90s Knicks. When you combine great lyrics, Knicks basketball, and, as Walt “Clyde” Frazier once said about his own suits, “fashion gone awry,” I’m all in!
A handful of months ago, New York City dance pop artist Kelsey was playing ping pong with former *NSYNC member Chris Kirkpatrick in his Orlando, FL, home. Games were going on in-between writing and recording sessions, as the two worked on a song, "Liar Liar," for Kelsey's EP, Out Of This World. It was a scene Kelsey says was a little surreal.
"I went to the studio in his house," she remembers, "(He has an) amazing house. Platinum *NSYNC records, Teen Choice Awards, all sorts of cool shit." She admits "I was taking my iPhone out when he wasn't looking, and taking pictures." But after getting a look at the memorabilia, and covertly snapping a few shots of her favorite pieces, the two got down to the business of writing music.
It seems as though my monthly podcast now has a schedule of “whenever I have the time and I feel like it,” which is sure to lead me to a bright future of complete anonymity! As I rocket my way out of the limelight, this edition of The Adam B Experience features eleven new songs, and I discuss everything from a panda’s privates, to dealing with throngs of screaming teenage girls. Enjoy!
Joey Batts & Them - Boom Bap
Toussaint Morrison - Weapon Sex
Majestik Originality w/ Elijah Black & Nicholas Howard - You Can’t
BIG STAT w/ Toussaint - Rocket Fuel
C-Zar Van Gogh - Nobody
Gotham Heights - Wake Up, Now Go To Sleep
Moonshine Burrito (Ciphurphace & Jake Palumbo) - Burrito Revival
Homeboy Sandman - Dag, Philly Too
M-TRI & DJ Leecy T - M-Triumph
Spends Quality - Time Peace
Nostic - Under Pressure (Remix)
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.