Internet radio sets you on the path to discovery

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | November 30, 2017


ELI WATSON/ CC BY 2.0 Rapper Earl Sweatshirt co-hosts a Red Bull Radio show with Knxwledge.

There are few things better than finding new, good music. There is something adventurous, exciting and even daring about listening to an artist or song you haven’t heard before. But how does one find new music?

Usually doing so takes time. Whether you’re clicking through a deep rabbit hole of YouTube suggestions, digging around obscure SoundCloud pages or actually rifling through crates at a record store, you’re spending precious time you may not always have.

Sometimes it is easier to go about finding new music the old way — through DJs and curators. Here are a few of my favorite online resources that provide consistent, quality recs.

Soulection Radio mixes are some of the best collections of music out there. Soulection is a record label with some exceptional artists. Their roster includes talented new age producers like Monte Booker, Sam Gellaitry, and J. Robb. Besides the albums their artists produce and release, Soulection is primarily known for its weekly signature radio show.

The show is spearheaded by the owner of the label, Joe Kay. Soulection has a fairly broad style, encompassing a wide array of genres, though there is an emphasis on music with a heavy low-end, groovy drums and sample chopping. Great artists like Kaytranada, Sango and esta. were all featured on the show early in their careers.

The broadcasts are two hours long, with dozens upon dozens of great tracks back to back. Sometimes, the two hours are broken up by guest mixes and interviews with artists.

I have only one problem with Soulection: There is a pervading and tangible arrogance that permeates all aspects of the label. The tagline itself – “The Sound of Tomorrow” – is a prime example of their pretension.

Joe Kay, while a truly good DJ and curator, is almost unbearably full of himself and somehow manages to turn every interview from being about the artist to being about himself. This is a minor issue, but it is definitely something that can be annoying.

Sometimes the name of a show says more than any description of it can. Such is the case with “Stay Inside” with Earl Sweatshirt and Knxwledge.

Underground producer Knxlwedge teams up with master rapper Earl to create heavy mixes perfectly tailored to late nights spent inside.

The shows are lo-fi, grimy and gritty. The usual track selections include dark, menacing New York rap records, heavily chopped and altered vocals over lush loops and an R&B or soul track here and there.

Overall the tone is dark and introspective; this is music that you listen to in silence in a shuttered, hazy room. The tempo is slow and meandering, silence is used to great effect.

These mixes don’t make much sense during summer, when you feel the overwhelming urge to enjoy the outside world. But with the coming onslaught of winter, these mixes will feel far more fitting.

Earl and Knxlwedge barely talk, only chiming in occasionally with nonsensical comments or some random quick banter. When they do speak, it is hilarious and fits with the music perfectly.

Sometimes they’ll plaster their voices with heavy reverb or distortion and mumble gibberish before getting back to the music. I highly recommend these mixes to anyone who enjoys hip-hop.

There is a lot of music played here that is underrated and underappreciated. Artists like Ka, Roc Marciano and Westside Gunn are all prominently featured.

blonded RADIO has the most diverse mixes of the bunch. This is Frank Ocean’s Beats 1 radio set. It is hosted by Vegyn, a London-based producer and frequent Ocean collaborator, London-based DJ Roof Access and Federico Aliprandi, an Italian car enthusiast.

The song selections for each episode are wildly diverse, ranging from beautiful Gospel arrangements, to Latin and Italian music and back to hip-hop, jazz and pop.

Take the second episode, for example: The playlist starts with “St. Martin de Porres,” a gorgeous, eerie, religious piece, and somehow transitions to indie pop, then bouncy tracks from Thundercat, J Dilla and UGK, before finally ending up at Frank’s worldwide release of “Chanel” — quite a lot of leaps without feeling at all disjointed or discordant. These radio mixes are a great insight into inspirations of one of the most talented contemporary artists. It is also a great opportunity to hear selections that you may otherwise have never discovered.

The crew at blonded never fail to make a mix with exciting transitions, unexpected track selections and some hilarious, interesting skits.

Youtube music channels are usually kitschy and cheap. There are a lot of things that are wrong with them. Most prominent is the persistent use of scantily clad female models as thumbnails in order to garner views. Second, there is an overindulgence in subscribing to an aesthetic which further cheapens the product.

With those two combined, I usually feel guilty checking out any of those channels. Majestic Casual suffers slightly from both of those ailments but not to the same dirty extent that other channels do.

The thing that separates Majestic from a lot of the other channels is both the consistent quality of the content and the diversity of the selections.

While other curators will bear down on a certain mood/genre, Majestic somehow consistently features great tracks from EDM all the way to hip hop. Phenomenal artists like Snakehips, Kaytranada and Mura Masa have gotten massive boosts from having their work being featured on Majestic. 

Every once and awhile, Majestic will share and promote a song that is off the mark and kitschy, but the ratio of duds to consistently good tracks is almost ridiculously low.

There are dozens of artists who I have discovered through just hitting shuffle on the thousands of videos Majestic has put out. Most of the music featured there is off-kilter and at least somewhat unique ­— you wouldn’t expect to hear most of it on the radio.

Take, for example, Swell’s “I’m Sorry (feat. Shiloh),” a song solely composed of a vocal sample and some unique sound design. The rattling electronic drums are backed by sliding synths and a heavy sub, while the vocal sample is distorted and pitched wildly — all of this works perfectly to fit the groove. It is a gem like this that you can only find on Majestic.

Finding a great music curator almost feels like striking oil, they can provide you with an almost endless list of tracks to check out.

This abundance does mitigate some of the enjoyment of naturally discovering artists; there isn’t that same sense of ownership.

Nonetheless, there is nothing more calming than tossing on the playlist of a curator you vibe with and letting the new music flow. Sometimes it can be nice to let go of the reigns and let yourself be driven along a journey that you have no control over.

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