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January 23, 2014 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 3B

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 3B

It's make-it or
break-it time for
DJ Mustard

Jeff Nichols: a great
American filmmaker

The firsttimeteverheard
a DJ Mustard beat was,
like most hip-hop fans,
on Tyga's 2010 mixtape, Well Done
2. On my first listen of the tape, a
certain song titled "Rack City"
immediately caught my atten-
tion. It wasn't Tyga's hilariously
vulgar lines
or whisper-
like delivery
that got me.
Instead, it
was that
beat. You
know what
I'm talk-
ing about. JACKSON
synths,thesparsesnaps,the chants
over the chorus and that bass, oh
yeah. More than anything, it was
that bass. The first time I turned
the song on in my overpriced
studio-quality headphones I
ripped them off as soon as the bass
dropped because I thought my
eardrums were going to explode.
Honestly, I had never heard any-
thing like it. Clearly, America felt
the same way, as "Rack City" shot
to number seven on the Billboard
chart and earned Tyga a double-
platinum plaque. But what I kept
coming back to was that chant of
"Mustard on the beat, ho!" right
before the beat dropped. I needed
to know who this was. I needed to
hear more.
Fast-forward four years, and
DJ Mustard, whose real name is
(I swear) Dijon, is one of the big-
gest producers in hip-hop today.
He's had five more tracks place
in the Billboard Rap chart's top
20, and while he hasn't replicated
the success of "Rack City," DJ
Mustard has established himself
as a required contribution to any
major label rap release. Inaddition
to frequent collaborators Tyga,
YG and Ty Dolla Sign, Mustard
has worked with Drake (featured
on YG's "Who Do You Love"),
R. Kelly ("Spend That"), Young
Jeezy ("R.I.P.," "My Nigga"), 2
Chainz ("I'm Different"), T-Pain
("Up Down"), and even will.i.am
("Feelin' Myself"). And this past
November, Mustard revealed
that he had signed on Jay-Z's Roc
Nation label as an artist - not just
as a producer - and that he plans
to release a studio album soon.

Woah. Jay-Z doesn't just sign
anybody. This is a big deal. But, as
hip-hop history shows, DJ Mus-
tard isn't the first producer to
appear out of nowhere and change
the sound of contemporary rap.
The real question with Mustard
will be his staying power. Though
his beats are catchy and incredibly
fun to listen to, there isn't much
variation in the sound: you've
got a simple synth or piano line,
speaker-shattering bass and usu-
ally some combination of snaps,
chants and chimes. That's fine
and all, but DJ Mustard has just as
much of a chance of becoming the
next Lex Luger as he does the next
Timbaland. In fact, if we're going
to predict what might happen
to Mustard, Lex Luger is a great
place to start.
Luger, if you don't know, was
the 19-year-old wonder-kid who,
in 2010, with two records - Waka
Flocka Flame's "Hard in da Paint"
and Rick Ross's "B.M.F." - effec-
tively changed the entire sound
of rap music in a way that only Dr.
Dre, Kanye West and The Nep-
tunes had before. Luger got so
big that Kanye and Jay-Z, two of
the biggest rap artists of all time,
actually recruited him to produce
the first single off of their highly
anticipated collaboration album,
Watch the Throne. He went on and
produced for Tyga, Snoop Dogg,
Game, Meek Mill and Juicy J. And
then as suddenly as he had taken
over, Lex Luger became irrel-
evant. His beats were swallowed
up and spit back out by copycat
producers, and though he was still
given credit for his genre-chang-
ing trap music sound, he was no
longer needed on the boards.
In my opinion, there are two
main reasons why Luger flopped,
after such a hot start. First: terri-
ble management. Signed to Gucci
Mane's 1087 Brick Squad label,
Luger was managed by Waka
Flocka's mother, Debra Antney,
an unproven manager who was
partly responsible for Waka's
success, but also had significant
falling-outs with Gucci Mane and,
more notably, ayoung Nicki Minaj.
Instead of capitalizing on Luger's
success, it seems like Antney's
plan was just to flood the market
with Luger product. He was giv-
ing beats to anybody. I think if I
had released a mixtape in 2011, I
could've landed a Lex Luger beat.

Elite producers do not throw
beats around to just anyone, and
by doing so Luger made his craft
completely worthless.
Second, Luger didn't develop
or associate with any talent that
really represented his sound.
Every producer that has longev-
ity today has or has had a working
relationship with at least one art-
ist. Dr. Dre had Snoop Dogg and
Eminem, Kanye and Just Blaze
had Jay-Z, Pharrell and the Nep-
tunes had Clipse and Timbaland
had Missy Elliott. Through their
signature artists, these producers
were able to focus their sound and
truly define the music of a specific
area, whether it was Los Angeles,
New York, Detroit or Virginia.
Luger didn't have this. Yes, Rick
Ross and Waka were early sup-
porters, but Luger was unable to
maintain his presence because he
had no one to consistently spread
it. Here's where DJ Mustard is dif-
Dijon is leading
a new West
Coast sound.
As "ratchet" and seemingly
brainless as his music tends to
be, DJ Mustard is managing his
career absolutely right. When his
buzz started to grow, he didn't
rush off and sign with the first
bidder. Instead, he bided his time
until the best possible deal came
along (hello, Jay-Z). More impor-
tantly, there is hope for Mustard's
longevity because, like the greats
that came before him, he is genu-
inely shaping the entire sound of
West Coast music right now. Up-
and-coming stars like YG and Ty
Dolla Sign have been produced
by Mustard from the start, and as
they've grown, he has too. Long
story short, Mustard is in con-
trol. Now it's up to him to prove
that he's more than the guy with
only the heavy bass and twerking
anthems, and if he plays it right,
you might just hear "Mustard
on the beat, ho!" in a thank-you
speech atnext year's Grammys.
Howard is getting turnt. To join
him, e-mail jackhow@umich.edu.

Daily Arts Writer
Acclaimed writer-director
Jeff Nichols grew up in suburban
Arkansas and I grew up a Michi-
gan kid, but we know the same
people. We know country people.
The kind of people who work
with their hands, who never
knew privilege, whose children
bear their values. They are a peo-
ple ofsuchenormous pridethatto
insult them threatens their entire
existence. They belong to a nos-
talgic America of small towns, of
broken buildings and fields laid in
row - that is beyond all possibil-
ity of returning to.
I talk about the experiences
I share with the people Nich-
ols creates in his characters,
however few or many, because
it possesses me to argue why he
is one of the most essential, and
poignant, American filmmak-
ers today. At 35 years old, he has
three films under his belt: "Shot-
gun Stories," "Take Shelter" and
his best known work yet, last
year's "Mud." All three films
carry themselves with a mini-
malist style - taciturn yet bold,
crafted with minimal artifice by
way of camera movement - and
each year Nichols's films pass
without recognition from audi-
ences and the Academy.
Nichols is currently filming
his first studio film, a sci-fi chase
film called "Midnight Special." I
think people should care. Here's
Before penning a single
screenplay, Nichols, a son of the
South, was thinking of writing
a short story about mobsters in
New York. His father suggested
to him that he write about a place
to which he's privy and others are
ignorant - Arkansas.
The characters that populate
his films are not redneck carica-
tures. Nichols doesn't view them
as an outsider would - with sat-
ire and condescension. Each of
his scenes are visually textured
to such detail that a single frame
of the inside of a river-house or
family ranch gives you a good
idea of what lives these charac-
ters lead, and then he surprises
you. He develops them further.
He carries a special sensitivity
for these characters, their plights
and to their relationships with
one another.
Nichols's film casts, which
have included regular collabo-
rator Michael Shannon ("Man
of Steel") and Jessica Chastain
("Zero Dark Thirty"), simply slip
into the manners of their char-
acters - a testament not only to
their acting chops, but also to
howgood his scripts are. The dia-
lect and inflections of speech are
so natural that they speak to our
own childhood memories. When
a boy in "Mud" tells his best
friend, "Let's go hard-on," I had
a funny realization. I thought:
Damn, I haven't heard that in a
In "Shotgun Stories," two
brothers, fully grown, sitting
on a street curb reflect on their
town. One of them spits and says
if he owned the town, he'd tear

it down. The other is learning
to count cards for his son's sake.
He bears a vast shotgun scar on
his back that the film implies his
father gave him. He listens to his
brother, then dryly replies: "We
don't own shit." There's a raw-
ness to this movie, Nichols's first,
that you will see better refined
in his later work. But to see his
ideas in such bald and pure style
is an experience worth a viewing.
(Not to mention some masterful
There's an uncertainty in all
his protagonists, manifested by
their conflict with the past. In
"Take Shelter," Curtis LaForche
is having nightmares. He wakes
in sweat, wets the bed and later,
develops hallucinations in the
middle of the day, a plot devel-
opment made all the more reso-
nant and meaningful when it's
revealed to us that his mother
was schizophrenic and could not
raise him herself. He's scared
and most of all, ashamed. For
he may have failed, after all this
time of burying the past, mak-
ing the right decisions, to be the
man he could've been.
This is the root of all Nich-
ols's work: cold-sweated nights,
despair, a loss of will, stoicism,
and finally and against all reason,
triumph. Upon arriving home
late one night, Curtis and his
wife watch their daughter, who
is deaf, sleep. He says, "I still take
off my boots so I don't wake her
up." This is an early scene and
we understand his family is what
will sustain him through the ter-
rible things to come.
This is not the salient vision
of America that we've seen these
past few years. The depravity
and excess of "The Wolf of Wall
Street," though that film has its
own virtues, is nowhere to be
found. If the American Dream
is the ability to imagine a better
future, the dream of Nichols's
films is humble. It's grounded;
it's blue-collar. I think we will
always draw on the American
Pastoral, or at least our vision
of it, for a groundedness in the
American Dream - however
corny and over-generalized that
Where a certain class of people
seems to have all the freedom
in the world, Nichols's families,
the people he knows, struggle.
They want only to prosper. They
derive no satisfaction in status
(or mountains of quaaludes).
They want to escape, but even if
offered the chance I doubt they
would make that decision rashly.
Too many memories, too much
pain to leave behind.
The nostalgic glow carries
through each scene in 2013's
"Mud," Nichols's coming-of-
age story. Widescreen is used to
wondrous effect. We zip evenly
over the waters of the Mississippi
and ahead - the Gulf. The world
splits open in vast fields of blue,
and you feel weightless.
In one scene a father takes out
his son on morning errands, and
the camera follows the boy's side-
long gaze at the townies. As we
watch, we reflect on how much
envy fills the boy - the exoticism

of a townie, the modernity of it -
and this camera shot grows even
more powerful when it's repeated
a second time at the film's end.
We then reflect on how much he
will miss those times with his
father. And it happens naturally.
He's a writer's director. In his
words: "I would consider myself
a better writer than I am a direc-
tor, simply because I get to try it
Nichols understands coun-
try narratives with a passionate
human interest, but he also has
his artistic ambitions. "Mud" is
rife with literary echoes from
the likes of Harper Lee, Mark
Twain, William Faulkner and
more. Nichols concerns himself
with the ghosts of the past and
because he's an American - a
forward-looking people - the
From "Midnight
Special" to
The hero's name is Mud (Mat-
thew McConaughey, "Dallas
Buyers Club"). Call Mud symbol-
ic. To me, he represents not only
the redemptive grace in the film's
story, but also in the future and
direction of Nichols's career.
Mud has a craggy smile, a
chipped front tooth like a rat, and
wears a white shirt like a uni-
form. He has antiquated supersti-
tions. Though daubed in dirt and
sweat like some changeling from
the swamp, he loses none of his
easy manner. Beneath the scrag-
gle, at once an outlaw and a saint,
is a desire for redemption. You
hear a lot of broken, not-going-
anywhere stories in small towns
that are dying. Mud restores a
sense of indomitability and opti-
mism - of faith in the future.
Now I return to "Take Shel-
ter," to Curtis. One night he's
driving his family home, he stops
on the highway shoulder and gets
out in the black of night to watch
a powerful lightning storm etch
across the sky, lightingthe clouds
then darkening, and the long,
jagged bolts stabbing outward as
though dueling. Curtis wonders
aloud, "Is anyone seeing this?"
He needs someone to believe in
him, because he may no longer
believe in himself. That's when
I recognized my father in this
character. His films are filled
with nostalgia and portentous
dread and despair. It's uncer-
tain where we go, and we need a
heroes like Mud.
As the months go by and we
near Nichols's next release,
"Midnight Special," I'd like to
think Nichols is too humble to
be sucked into delusion, that he
won'tbuy into his own hype, that
he'll always make decisionsabased
on his artistry. And come next
year - this summer - whenever
they finish shooting - I'd like to
think I won't be the only person
in the theater, thinking, "Is any-
one seeing this?"






"Why do you want to be"
a lobby boy?" asks Gustave.
H. "Who wouldn't, at the
Grand Buda-
pest, sir?"
replies Zero
Moustafa. 1TeGramd
Thus begins
famous Budapest
concierge Hotel
Gustave H's Studio Babelsburg
of Moustafa,
and the offi-
cial trailer
for Wes Anderson's latest
film, set to release this March.
Fans of the auteur will imme-
diately recognize the iconic
production design and cine-
matography: brightly colored,
symmetrical and squared
within the frame. The brilliant
pink Grand Hotel itself looks
like a postcard, occupying
that special Anderson niche
between reality and whimsy.
It's a perfect setting for the

adventures of a philandering
concierge and his trusty lobby
boy, as they tangle with amys-
terious murder and the theft
of a priceless painting.
The last portion of the
trailer displays the indubitable
pantheon of star talent that
Anderson recruited for this
film. Ralph Fiennes stars as,
Gustave H along with new-
comer Tony Revolori who
plays Moustafa. The support-
ing cast includes Harvey Keit-

el, Lea Seydoux, Jude Law and
Saoirse Ronan, Anderson film
veterans Bill Murray, Adrien
Brody, Jason Schwartzman,
Willem DaFoe, Owen Wilson,
Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum
and Edward Norton, and
even more ... whew! Prepare
for humor served dry and
star-studded. Seriously, who
wouldn't enjoy a stay at Wes
Anderson's Grand Budapest

Beck's latest single "Blue
Moon," is an early release
from his next album Morn-
ing Phase due
out in Febru- C
ary. Beck is
notorious for BlUe Moon
ing with var- Beck
ious genres, Mom+ Pop
and "Blue
Moon" seems
to foreshadow an acous-
tic/folk-inspired album to
The song starts off slowly
with some picking on an
acoustic guitar and accom-
panying beats on the tom-
toms, with Beck following
shortly after. He solemnly
muses that he's "so tired
of being alone," setting
the tone for the rest of the
tune. The drums are hard
to notice, as the tom-toms
blend in with Beck's low
pitch and are overpowered

by the g'uitar and sparse
bass so that the snare seems
to be the only recogniz-
able contribution from the
drums throughout the cho-
rus. The song also features
tambourine and maracas,
and in combination with
staccato acoustic guitar
picking, gives off a folky

On the whole, "Blue
Moon," is a mellow tune, but
isn't necessarily stripped
down. While it's a laid back
track with a simplistic bass
line and no climax to speak
of, Beck's smooth, harrow-
ing voice and calming back-
ing vocals give satisfaction
to a lonely listener.




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