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February 26, 2014 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-02-26

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Spirit o f Motown
captured in
Detroit museum

When will bucket hats die?!
Schoolboy shoots
fior TDE crown

L.A. rapper releases
DailyArts Writer
The long-awaited major label
debut from West Coast rapper
Schoolboy Q paints a comprehen-
sive picture of
the Los Angeles B+
gang scene, yet
the album falls O)ymoron
short of meet-
ing its lofty SchoolboyQ
expectations. Ttp aag
Oxymoron isEteptawgn
the first studio Enlertainment
album released
by Top Dawg Entertainment
since the 2012 release of good
kid, m.A.A.d city by labelmate
Kendrick Lamar. Schoolboy Q is
the logical successor to Lamar,
the second-in-command at one
of the most in-demand labels in
rap. His latest full-length effort
falls short of the high standard
set by Lamar3 last album" but is
a worthwhile listen in its own
Schoolboy Q draws on his own
life experiences to weave togeth-
er a vivid tapestry of street life,
with tales of drug dealing and
human temptation. Q attempts
to balance hood-friendly bangers
with more introspective, per-
sonal confessions. Oxymoron
reaches its highest points when

Q turns inward, ruminating on
religion, morality and drug use.
His narrative-driven songs are
interspersed with snippets of his
young daughter's voice, which
juxtaposes his criminal lifestyle
with his good intentions for his
family. It's a compelling portrait
of a conflicted man attempting to
find his place in this world.
Q is at his best when he shares
his inner psyche over the course
of Oxymoron's 15 tracks. Songs
like "Prescription-Oxymoron"
and "Blind Threats" are obvious
standouts that are thoughtful
meditations on life. Creative sto-
rytelling strengthens "His and
Her Fiend," which features Q
rapping from the perspective of
an Oxycontin pill. Other tracks
showcase Schoolboy Q's versa-
tility, as he switches his point of
view from that of a drug dealer
and pimp to that of a nurturing
Oxymoron features industry
heavyweights behind the pro-
duction and as featured guests.
A-listers like Lamar, 2 Chainz
and Raekwon deliver stellar guest
verses,"ad beats are provided
by hitmakers like Pharrell, The
Alchemist and Mike Will Made
It. Despite this star-studded cast
of characters, Oxymoron does not
deliver top-shelf results. School-
boy Q's rhyme schemes often
feel simplistic and border on
redundancy in many songs. The
Pharrell-produced track, "Los
Awesome," sees Q's voice over-
powered by the beat's thumping

Unfortunately, the album has
too many lowpoints to make it a
consistently rewarding listen. At
his best, Schoolboy Q is one of the
most entertaining rappers in the
game, but Oxymoron has far too
many clunkers. Despite energetic
bangers like "Break the Bank"
and "Man of the Year," the album
is plaguedby filler. A tighter track
list would dramatically improve
the Oxymoron listening experi-
ence, as the album loses steam as
it goes along. The last two songs
are among the weakest on the
album; removing those tracks,
in addition to the dull "Hoover
Street" and the lackluster "Stu-
dio," would make Oxymoron one
of the best rap albums of the last
several years. As it stands, how-
ever, the finished product is still a
solid release, just not the modern-
day classic Q made it out to be.
It's not Schoolboy Q's fault
that Oxymoron will draw inevi-
table comparisons to good kid,
m.A.A.d city, which also fea-
tured a conflicted young man
describing life in Los Angeles.
Schoolboy Q hascreated a very
good rap album, but he wants to
be considered as one of the best.
On "Break the Bank," Q raps "tell
Kendrick move from the throne
/ I came for it." Oxymoron won't
convince anyone that Schoolboy
Q is a bigger star than Lamar, but
it is a promising release from an
entertaining rapper, and another
worthwhile offering from Top
Dawg Entertainment.

arvin Gaye, Ste-
vie Wonder, The
Supremes, The
Temptations, Diana Ross,
The Jackson 5 - all of these
artists came
together to
create one
of Detroit's
The Motown
Motown PAIGE
Records was PFLEGER
founded by
Barry Gordy
in 1959, in the midst of racial
tumult in the city of Detroit.
Falling between the race riots
of 1943 and the riots of 1967, the
creation of Motown infiltrated
the white-dominated omusic
industry with a soulful pop
Berry Gordy started off open2
ing a record shop dedicated to
jazz music in 1953, and it soon
closed due to lack of a market.
After opening Motown Records,
he hired unemployed jazz musi-
cians from the area to form his
in-house band, the Funk Broth-
ers. Gordy's business model was
made to replicate the assembly
line process Ford had adopted
for making cars, but Gordy
used it to crank out hits. His
idea was that an African Amer-
ican kid off the streets could
walk into the Hitsville U.S.A.
offices as an unknown, and
emerge from the other side a
In the early days, the beauty
of Motown music wasn't being
seen - it was merely being lis-
tened to. As Gordy developed
the Motown sound, he pur-
posefully shielded the race
of the performers from radio
disc jockeys and other poten-
tial markets for the music to
prevent racism holding the
music back. Gordy carried this
out was by hiding the identity
of the artists on the record's
album cover art, as most of
Motown's earlier albums dis-
played a variation of geomet-
ric patterns as opposed to
the faces of the performers.
It wasn't until the musicians
gained popularity among a
young white audience that
Gordy allowed the artists to
be revealed as African Ameri-
cans, and the Motown sound
grew into a dynasty - one of
the most successful African
American owned and run busi-
nesses of the time.
Today, the immense history
of the evolution of Motown
can be seen in full in one place:
Hitsville U.S.A., Motown's

first headquarters on West
Grand Boulevard in Detroit.
The white building sits back
on a grassy lawn with a mas-
sive sign stuck in it that reads
"Motown Museum." Its win-
dow frames and doors are
painted blue, and a sign spans
the length of the house says
Hitsville U.S.A. in cursive let-
ters. Upstairs are Barry Gordy's
old living quarters, and down-
stairs is the infamous Studio
A. Right next to the studio is a
candy machine that still holds
Stevie Wonder's favorite candy
bar, a Baby Ruth, in it's cus-
tosuary spot fourth from the
right so Wonder always knew
where to find it.
The house was converted
into a museum in 1985 after
Motown had moved to Los
Angeles. Esther Gordy, Berry's
sister, woke up one morning,
looked out the window and saw
people lined up on her lawn,
snapping pictures of the place
where Motown began. She
called up her husband in L.A.
and told him, "I think we made
history, and we didn't even
know it." The conversion from
house to museum was easy -
leave everything exactly as it
was, including a Kool-Aid mug
on the kitchen counter and
Wonder's favorite candy bar.
It's joined to a brick house next
door, formerly the publishing
office, which is now home to
hundreds of Motown artifacts,
among them photos, records,
one of Michael Jackson's fedo-
ras and his white studded right
hand glove that he wore the
first time he performed the
For Detroit native Anto-
nio Dandridge, the Motown
dynasty has shaped the entirety
of his life. When he was three
years old, Dandridge told his
mom he wanted to sing, and not
only that - he wanted to sing
Motown music.
"The way the Motown sing-
ers made me feel was the way
that I wanted to make my audi-
ence feel when I performed,"
Dandridge said. "It's a great
story to tell, because they didn't
have anything, and they made
something out of nothing."
Dandridge began visiting the
museum when he was seven
and has gone consistently ever
since. He followed through on
his word and traveled around
the globe singing Motown
music. When he returned three
years ago, Dandridge became
a museum docent and changed
the style of the tours through
the Motown Museum -- he
began singing Motown songs

and dancing Motown dances,
turning the tour into a full out
performance that became one
of the many things that draw
people from around the world
to the West Grand Boulevard
"I really love working there.
I love Motown," Dandridge
said. "To see people come out
and some cry, some laugh, some
thank you for taking them down
memory lane. All of the mem-
bers that work there, all of the
staff, all have a passion for
Motown and really have a pas-
sion for the music. That's what
makes it really enjoyable to
work there. We dance, and we
sing, and we have a lot of fun."
A world map in the front
hall of the museum boasts
an immense number of pins,
placed by visitors from all over
- France, England, Egypt, and
more. Tens of thousands of peo-
ple flock to the museum each
year, and in the summer months
the line wraps around the block
with people waiting to see the
home of The Motown sound.
West Grand
Blvd. museum
keeps Hitsville,
USA alive.
Though Dandridge is moving
on from Detroit, he isn't leaving
Motown behind; he'll be per-
forming in a Motown show on
Carnival Cruise ships touring
around the Caribbean islands.
Motown has been the catalyst
that has directed his life, and
the impact is reciprocal - the
Museum has been impacted by
his presence and the time he
has given back to it can be seen
through the songs sung by tour
guides into the echo chamber
upstairs or when people dance
to The Temptations in Studio
"It's a part of American Cul-
ture. It's a part of the songs
of Motown; it's the soundtrack
of the '60s, '70s, '80s, and even
now. It really shaped people.
Music is a universal language,
and that's what Motown really
gave. A lot of people go back to
Motown music because it makes
them laugh. It makes them cry.
It had a lot of emotion. People
should come to learn about it."
Pfleger is jamming out to
Stevie Wonder. To join her,
e-mail pspleg@umich.edu.

'Americans' grows in season two

DailyArts Writer
For great TV dramas, the sec-
ond season ideally takes the ideas
the show planted in season one
and builds upon
them. Season
two increases
the depth of the The
show's world
and characters Amercans
while maintain- Season 2
ing its ongoing Premiere
story. If season
one is the estab- Wednesday
lishment of the at 10 p.m.
story, season FX
two is where
shit gets real.
The second season of "The Ameri-
cans" does just this, taking the
story from season one and increas-
ing the potential consequences of
the characters' actions, as well as
deepening the audience's under-
standing of them.
"The Americans" follows Eliza-
beth (Keri Russell, "Felicity") and
Peter Jennings (Matthew Rhys,
"Brothers & Sisters"), a team of
spies who work for the KGB during
the 1980s, posing as husband and
wife outside of Washington DC. It
portrays the balance of their mis-
sions and their family. There is also
Stan Beemen (Noah Emmerich,
"The Walking Dead"), the Jen-
nings' neighbor and an FBI Agent
who is working to take down the
KGB's operations in America.
The increasing depth of the
content plays out most in Peter
and Elizabeth's storyline. As they
invest more and more in their
operations, including the involve-
ment of their children (without the


"That guy looks like Zach Something from 'Nevermind."'

kids knowledge), their missions
get more interesting. This is the
best material for the actors to work
with, as they are forced to show
a deep mix of emotions - worry,
fear - while never losing a straight
The second season expands
the presence of the Jenning's two
children, and this is a good thing
for the show. Over the last several
years, television has had a prob-
lem with teenage characters being
whiny and annoying. Paige Jen-
nings (newcomer Holly Taylor)
verges on becoming the stereo-
typical "annoying teenage charac-
ter" as she starts to investigate her
parents. She never crosses the line,
but the writers might if they're not
"The Americans" succeeds
by increasing the involvement of
Agent Beeman and his mistress/
source in the KGB Nina (Annet
Mahendru, "Escape from Tomor-
row"). Season one ended with Nina
being forced to turn on Beeman
and report on his actions to the
KGB. What results is an intriguing
double cross, with Beeman falling
deeper in love with Nina and Nina
losing feelings for him. Mahendru

is successful at being more than a
pretty face, and watching her play
Nina's deception is what makes
this arc interesting.
The show's biggest problem
is also one of its strengths. "The
Americans" takes itself seri-
ously, almost to a fault. Some
of the scenes in the first half of
each episode are very dry. While
they're usually captivating, filled
with great dialogue and character
moments, when the dialogue isn't
there, the episode quickly becomes
Much of the "The Americans"
's success depends on the strength
of its cast. Russell, Rhys and Emm-
erich exhibit an extremely high
level of acting difficulty, as each
of their characters has many com-
plex layers (certain aspects of their
characters are visible at different
As the show's writers contin-
ue to increase the stakes for the
characters, andas the actors add
more layers to their performances,
things look to keep on getting bet-
ter. Despite a few dry scenes in its
season premiere, "The Americans"
remains one of the most fascinat-
ing dramas on television.

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