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BLK JKS Best of the Decade Artist Survey

Mpumelelo Mcata

Dec 17, 2009 Web Exclusive
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Under the Radar’s Best of the Decade/Year-End Issue features our Best of the Decade Artist Survey. For Under the Radar’s 7th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the last decade and asked them for a list of their best albums of the decade. Some of the surveys didn’t make it in the issue and some answers from surveys that did make it in the issue had to be trimmed for space. Those surveys and answers are posted on our website. Pick up our Best of the Decade/Year-End Issue to read surveys from Camera Obscura, The Dodos, El Perro Del Mar, Final Fantasy, The Hidden Cameras, The Horrors, The Invisible, Ladytron, Sondre Lerche, Jamie Lidell, Loney Dear, Los Campesinos!, Mew, Midlake, Okkervil River, Stars, Telekinesis, The Twilight Sad, and Vivian Girls.

Mpumelelo Mcata


Top Ten Albums of the Decade

1. Björk: Vespertine—OK, music is not a competition even if the so-called success of programs like Idols would have us believe. But Björk is definitely at least always on a different level, pushing forward the art giving space, spawning, arguably, M.I.A, Joanna Newsom, Santigold, and things like The Knife, etc. This is her most solid album in my opinion, it felt even more personal/honest, almost human. I mean, I didn’t know she could give like that. (Wasn’t this the period when things were weird with Tricky?)

2. Radiohead: Kid A—Duh right? Everybody was waiting after OK Computer, waiting, like for an important phone call or a bus or something like the Christians for Jesus as the song goes, and then, bam!!!!! Cheeky re-definition.

3. Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill—Yes, this lady did a lot for the way women feel/felt about themselves and the world around them on a street kind of real life level—especially women of color. Not to say she wasn’t shaking up dudes, too—true soul, true hip-hop (think Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Amy Winehouse, Alicia keys, Beyonce etc.).

4. Madvillain: Madvillainy—Absolutely brilliant, this record restored my faith in hip-hop when I didn’t even know I had lost it. This record is way strong and mad influential. (I guess I could have said Kool Keith/Dr. Octagon, The Roots, and so on crazy like Lil Wayne, but something other altogether was/is afoot with Doom.)

5. The Avalanches: Since I Left You—This reintroduced cutting sampling DJ-ing as a pure musical form in the most beautiful way for me. Genius. I was listening to DJ Shadow and Squarepusher, so on at the time, drifting from traditional hip-hop or electronic music in general, including dance, but this record was so much fun—like J Dilla’s Donuts, amazing.

6. The Mars Volta: De-loused in the Comatorium—This came with heart in mouth balls out bulldozing iron fist hammering zap signs at the mediocre state of modern rock, with zero posing and indie cool/coffee table blah blah blah.

7. Midnite: Jah Grid—I hadn’t listened to reggae seriously in a while—I mean, the most vital time for it was really Bob Marley and the Wailers, and I wasn’t really around for that. I’ve always admired that kind of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Chuck D, kind of talent for social commentary, so one would lean on, say Linton Kwesi Johnson or Mutabaruka, etc., and everything else was plain cool or fun but not necessarily profound. But this, man these dudes, tough contenders for best band in the world for me in my generation. Also powerful in this regard, Thee Silver Mr. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band.

8. Daft Punk: Discovery—A dance album that worked as an “album” this way—so rare. Changeling. Like Mathew Herbert’s Bodily Functions and so on, I could listen to this in the same sitting as Bon Ivers’ For Emma, Forever Ago, that good. Ah, French electro romance is upon us, then there was more. Also on the faceless band thing, Gorillaz was a close contender for this spot.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever to Tell—Not since Sonic Youth’s JC on the album Dirty has a band been so sexy, sad, powerful, pure. For me one of the hottest records to come from that New York kind of zeitgeist—TV on the Radio, The Strokes, Interpol, and so on.

10. Moses: Taiwa Molelekwa—Genes and spirits: Genius, Google him. To be who he is/was in the hard South African Jazz scene, you have to be really, really good and he was unbelievable, which meant so much to the youth of our country. The brother was cutting records with the top Kwaito stars at the same time—such a forward thinker and then the way he died, damn. (Club 27). Makes me think warm thoughts, some obscure, about all the African greats all at once from giants like Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Stimela and Ray Phiri, Fela Kuti to Mulatu Astatke, and the recent attention on the exportation of young sounds from all over the world into the Western scene, à la Buraka Som Sistema, Janka Nabay, Amadou & Mariam, K’naan, Staff Benda Bilili, Tinariwen, DJ Mujava and Simphiwe Dana, etc.—we need more African youth, or just so-called Third World perspective out there on the worldwide scene.

What was the high point of the last decade for you, personally?

Starting a band. Our first real rehearsal was the ultimate high point.

What was the low point of the last decade for you, personally?

The passing of my older sister and always sort of wondering what she would make of all this.

What are your hopes and plans for the next decade?

To keep producing art, to build a family, through art, to be healthy that way.

Which artist and their music do you think most defines the last decade and why?

Well, the contributions of all the artists listed are priceless in this regard, and of course there are many more, and I have a lot of respect for them—and anyone creating still in this day and age something fresh—because we seem to be in a real tundra culturally, this decade certainly can’t be defined the same way the ’90s, ’80s, ’70s, ’60s could be, we’re all grown up as a race and there is so much going on—oh the information age.

Which musical trend or scene from the last decade do you feel was most overrated/overhyped? Which one was most underrated/under-hyped?

Well pop, if anything at all and jazz, I guess, has been overlooked a great deal, but man, things are happening. (That’s just the way it is.)

Do you think what is considered “indie rock” is different than it was when the decade started? With the commercial strides made in the past decade, how do you think the definition of “indie” rock has changed?

Lines have been crossed incredibly and that’s good, the 2000s are definitely all about it, so most labels seem weird now—thank the aliens for the Internet. The gentrification of “popular” music is collapsing slowly.

What big issues and challenges do you foresee musicians and the music industry facing in the next decade?

I don’t know, we seem to have worked out the Internet sales and piracy dilemma somewhat, which was the biggest threat, but now that the novelty is gone, I believe people want to get the physical copy or product of artists they like in their hands; vinyl is still way romantic, not to mention the quality of sound.

Which political and societal change/development from the last decade most concerns you? Which one most gives you hope?

The fall of the Twin Towers, the way they fell and why they fell and what has come from that is of great concern—concerns me, and I’m sure all of us—and something about it all gives me some strange extra belief in the beauty of the human spirit.

What are your thoughts on President Obama’s job performance thus far?

The man has inherited a nice one, but it’s a fixer-upper, and it’s not easy to see any progress through the rubble at the moment—he went in with a plan and good intentions, but some things were too far gone, that’s just the nature of the beast. The positive here is in a time when it may all be falling apart, what appears to be the right man is at the helm.

What are your thoughts on the healthcare debate and what would your preferred eventual outcome be?

Free healthcare is the goal, let’s get there, because at the end of the day you can’t just let somebody die when you can prevent or heal. So all the debating has to do with this is dealing with the how, and that’s tough in a capitalist society, seeing as everyone wants to protect their profits. What madness.

Which global issue (or issue within your own country) would you most like to see resolved by 2020?

In my country—poverty, but I guess that’s in most places in the world. And the climate stuff ASAP.

How do you think you’ll describe the last decade to your children, grandchildren, or other young people in the future?

This was the time when man actualized.

What was your life like in January 2000 and how has your life most changed since then?

I was looking for something else/more other than to study, get a job, get married, and die. I believed I had found it inside myself and needed to manifest it, so I was spending a lot of time doing mostly nothing, just so I could listen.

How are you most like your parents? How are you least like them?

I think I’m a fairly well balanced between them personality wise—I’m safe, a safe bet like my mom and radical like my dad, on the other hand.

What were some of your favorites of the last decade in terms of movies, TV shows (which ones did you watch most religiously), books, comic books, websites/blogs, and video games?

This is a really hard question for me, tried to answer it last, but my mind keeps flooding, and I think I’m out of time—all apologies.

Which technological advancement from the last decade are you most surprised that you previously lived without?

The cell phone.

Where (which city) and how did you celebrate December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000? Did you make any preparations for the Y2K threat? Do you already have plans for New Year’s Eve 2009?

I’m hoping I’ll be in London this year, but we’ll see. I was in South Africa, Johannesburg for 1999 with my mom, dad, little sister, and older sister, waiting for the world to end. Take a wild guess where I’m going to be in 2012.

Name five things that you’d put in a time capsule to represent this decade, one to be opened in a 100 years.

iPhone (in all its glory apps, Internet, and all), a mummified Michael Jackson with tons of his memorabilia (plus albums, including Jackson Five stuff, covers, and remixes), the Toyota Prius, McDonalds’ Angus Burger, and an organic smoothie from like Sainsbury or Whole Foods. What more does one need to explain the situation? Oh and some Alek Wek pictures.

If you could be God for a day, what would you do?

I’d be too busy to intervene in any happenings on Earth for sure, mainly because I’d be preoccupied with the question that has been confounding me all this time, which is: they give me praise as the creator—the all knowing energy, alpha, and omega—but who made me?

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

That’s private.

If you could live in alternate reality/universe, what would you like that reality to be like? (For example, a world where JFK was never assassinated or one where Hitler was assassinated before WWII.)

I kind of like the world as it is. The grass is always greener, isn’t it?

If you could travel in time and visit your 10-year-old self, what would you tell them about your future?

Same thing I told myself then—you’re different yes, but it’s OK and everything is going to be fine.

Which conspiracy theory do you most believe?

All that stuff about the Masons and reptiles and the CIA and all that, but it doesn’t bother me either way, because at the end of the day we all get born, we’re just kids at play, nobody runs/rules the world.

What’s the biggest goal for your life that you have yet to realize?

Having a baby.

When you were a child, which fictional character did you most want to be and would you still want to be them?

The Phantom and, yes.

If you could visit the world of one classic video game, which one would you visit and why?

Street Fighter—to go see about Chung Li.

Given the exceptional variety and innovation represented by the albums that have been released over the last ten years, do you think the 2000s will be remembered as one of the most vibrant eras in the history of music?

Maybe as the era that put together for the first time so well everything we had learnt up to this point.

Do you have any other thoughts about the current state of the world or the state of the music industry?

Yeah, what’s with the war?



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February 4th 2010


Masters Badges
February 18th 2010

These artist are truly an inspiration to me. I have grown up on the streets of Jamaica and everyone has always been telling me I can’t make it. I have read so many inspirational stories about people rising up to success so I think I just need to stick to it.

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November 13th 2010

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Custom Essays
April 2nd 2011

Same thing I told myself then—you’re different yes, but it’s OK and everything is going to be fine.

Mono symptoms
December 20th 2011

These musicians makes the life so soothing. I just go with the flow whenever I hear such things. Too good.

mono symptoms
March 6th 2012

this is awesome. Best of decades is very nice.

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April 10th 2012

These artists are true inspiration for me as well. I hear the songs of these artists pretty much. Thanks for observing about these great singing artists.

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April 10th 2012

These artists are true inspiration for me as well. I hear the songs of these artists pretty much. Thanks for observing about these great singing artists.