New American Songbook

"In 20 years of listening to hip hop, its music and stories have never left me unchallenged or unchanged. Throughout its history—from Kool Herc to KRS and beyond—hip hop has told the story of America through the styles of noir, memoir, jazz and rhythm and blues, comic books and blockbuster action movies. It is everything we say we are, and those things we maintain we are not. This is the new American Songbook." - KMUW commentator, Zack Gingrich-Gaylord  

New American Songbook can be heard on alternate Mondays, or through iTunes.

Best Hip Hop Of 2018 | NAS

Dec 31, 2018

Scrolling through the end of year “best of” lists is a great reminder of how much music I don’t listen to--the lists could just as easily be titled “music you missed”. It’s easy to become insecure-- the absence of familiar names on the list could indicate your once cool and edgy tastes becoming irrelevant. Worse, unfamiliarity with the current fashion in music could be a symptom of ossifying preferences: not just becoming out of touch, but becoming set in ways.

New American Songbook: 'The Miseducation Of Eunice Waymon'

Dec 17, 2018

Those close to me know that I am not a fan of the sequel or, even worse, the series, and that I consider the contemporary franchising of narrative a cultural malady of the same sort as the uselessly iterative paintings of Thomas Kincaid, or the entirety of the Oriental Trading Company catalog. It’s just capitalist overproduction and we’d be far better without it.

New American Songbook: Mick Jenkins' 'Pieces Of A Man'

Dec 3, 2018

Chicago emcee Mick Jenkins has been at the top of my favorite list since his debut release, "Water[s]." He’s a highly competent rapper and musician, but more importantly, he’s a fantastic writer. His latest release, called "Pieces of a Man," is maybe his most literary composition. He takes the title from a Gil-Scott Heron piece and, in case you didn’t catch that association, he includes two skits of spoken word work, complete with a backing jazz band, just to make it a little more obvious.

Vince Staples, 'FM!' | NAS

Nov 19, 2018

The new album from Vince Staples, ‘FM!’, picks up pretty much where he left off three albums ago with ‘Summertime ‘06’. Back then, summer was a malevolent season, at times even Lovecraftian--the heat of the season was an alien occupation, inspiring desperate acts. On ‘FM!’, a kind of truce has been achieved. Summertime and its corresponding themes aren’t quite as hostile, and while Staples’ narrative continues to brilliantly interweave abject tragedy with humor and moments of credible humanity, he seems like he’s having a little more fun, even if qualified.

New American Songbook: 'The Hate U Give' Falls Short

Nov 5, 2018

The debut novel from Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give, takes its title from an extemporaneous monologue delivered by rap icon Tupac Shakur. In it, he expands his interpretation of gangsta rap’s main trope: the criminal and revolutionary identity he calls ‘thug life’. As he sees it, thug life is a response to the inherent racism and classism of American politics and culture. The novel explores this concept over the course of the plot, which centers on a police shooting witnessed by the protagonist, a young black woman named Starr.

Hip Hop From A Different Angle | NAS

Oct 22, 2018

The Chicago emcee Noname says that she writes lullaby raps, but maybe that’s a Midwest-humble way of saying that her music is deadly, just at a lower volume. Her first album, Telefone, played like a summer afternoon hanging out with your best friend; on Room 25, her recently-released follow up album, much of the sound has stayed consistent, but the tone is more grim and sharply political in parts.

NAS | 'Black Star' At Twenty

Oct 8, 2018

Twenty years ago, Talib Kweli and Mos Def released ‘Black Star’, an album that was as much monumental celebration of everything hip hop as it was a signal achievement of an era on its way out. That era, the Golden Age of hip hop, gets dated from the late eighties to the mid to late nineties, and was a time of incredible diversity in hip hop: gangsta rap aired alongside conscious hip hop; Outkast had a couple of hit songs, but so did the Fresh Prince. There seemed to be room for everybody.

The philosopher Timothy Morton has observed that poetic imagery, like light, is delivered in discrete, quantized packets, one after the other after the other. There are convenient coincidences along with this: our eyes see at a certain number of frames per second, our ears can only hear so much at any given moment. There are both limitations to our perception of reality, and to the communication of reality itself.

New American Songbook: Nu Africa

Sep 10, 2018

The West, and America specifically, has a long-standing problem of confusing the vast and diverse continent of Africa for a homogeneous country called Africa. There are, of course, reasons for this, many of them racist, but some are more literary. African American narrative has often used “Africa” as a device to indicate and imagine both an inspirational past and aspirational future, and in hip hop there are many notable examples of this: Nas’ “If I Ruled the World”, for one, and more recently, the fantastic 2017 track from southern rapper CyHi the Prynce called “Nu Africa.”

New American Songbook | Brand Expansion

Aug 27, 2018

The emcee Action Bronson recently released a cookbook — I can’t say the real title in polite company, but let’s just say that it’s the less kid-friendly version of “Holy moly, that’s delicious.” While Bronson makes his figurative bread and butter in music, a large part of his persona as an emcee is regaling his audience with as many tales of his culinary exploits as with other similarly Bacchanalian pursuits.