Sep 3 2014

Bonnaroo 2014: Day 2 (Feat. Sam Smith, Janelle Monae, Kanye West, Disclosure)

Bonnaroo 2014

Together with approximately 80,000 other people we headed to Manchester, TN to witness this year’s edition of Bonnaroo. With great vibes and amazing music on display throughout the 4 days it is clear that Bonnaroo isn’t outdone by any of the other global festivals.

 Sam Smith

2014 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival - Day 2

With a 2pm set, UK’s Sam Smith kicked off Day 2 of ‘Roo properly. In the last year, this contralto has exploded onto the music scene – specifically across the pond and into the States. His absolutely gorgeous vocals have taken him very far in the last year, and hearing them live is truly hypnotizing. Smith played mostly slower tunes as the crowd slowly but surely gravitated to the power of his sound. He waited until the middle of his set to perform the upbeat “Money On My Mind” and let the true magnetism draw the thousands nearer. Despite everyone wanting Disclosure to come on stage for a few of the collaborations the duo has with him, Smith performed a solo acoustic version of “Latch,” instead.

Janelle Monae

2014 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival - Day 2

Taking over the What Stage on Friday afternoon Janelle Monae, accompanied by her fantastic band and dancers, put on one of the more elaborate performances at Bonnaroo. It is a truly rare sight to see full blown choreography on the farm – it’s just not that kind of festival – and yet, Monae owned her audience, captivating the crowd with not only her high energy, but with her soaring vocals. The best moments were crowd-pleasers “Dance Apocalyptic” and “Tightrope” which had everyone dancing in the grass, and wishing she had a few more uptempo tracks.

Kanye West


For those that don’t know the story behind this controversial show, allow me to briefly enlighten you, as I learned the real story from Kanye West himself while he ranted on stage in between long stretches of silence and hit songs. Back in 2008 Kanye was slotted to play a 2am set at Bonnaroo, and didn’t go on until about 5am – apparently this was because Phish ran over their set by about 2 hours, and there wasn’t enough time to set up all of Kanye‘s pyrotechnics that he refused to perform without. According to him festival-goers even vandalized his equipment in the interim before he took the stage.

Needless to say Bonnaroovians were outraged, and despite our main slogan being “Radiate Positivity,” most have additionally adopted the slogan “Fuck Kanye” – and the whole community is aware of how hard it has stuck.

Joining the stage at exactly 10pm on the nose, Kanye began his set by angrily growling a few choice Yeezus tracks into the microphone while wearing a gold mesh chain face mask. After his first of many pontifications, he went directly into “Power” with the all-too-appropriate lyrics “screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it, I guess every superhero need his theme music.” The show was a bizarre roller coaster of emotions – some boo-ing, some cheering, some chants of the aforementioned abhorrent phrase, and some people like me who were singing along loudly. You can’t deny West‘s ability to turn a crowd around that quickly. Highlights included “Jesus Walks,” “Blood On The Leaves,” “All Falls Down,” “Heartless,” and his verse on Jay-Z‘s “Run This Town.”

As I have been saying for years, in the simplest words, Kanye is brilliantly out of his mind.



We’re all here for the music, and it was nice to take a break from the talking and get back to the dancing with Disclosure. The electronic duo gave us the epic dance night that Friday nights at ‘Roo are supposed to be. Playing out “When A Fire Starts To Burn” along with the incessant teasing of “Stimulation” the audience was overwhelmed by endless clever beats to move to. The day came full circle, as the boys introduced Sam Smith to join them for their final song of the night, “Latch.” It was expected, extremely worth the wait, and naturally the perfect way to close out their set.

Note: I did catch South Africans Die Antwoord, which was genuinely scary. The dude was essentially yelling obscenities into the microphones while the chick squeaked out a very high-pitched echoing of obscenities. I rarely leave shows because of the actual music… sad to say, this was one of those moments.

Words by Jabes


Jun 1 2014

SXSW 2014 – Day 1 (Feat. Misun, Tokyo Police Club, Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar & Ryan Hemsworth)

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Cougar Microbes headed to Austin, TX to experience SXSW 2014 in all it’s glory. Over the course of 4 days we witnessed some phenomenal performances in venues all around town covering every genre and sub-genre imaginable. As we had anticipated in our festival preview piece some of the biggest highlights came from those artists we weren’t expecting.

This is how it went…

Misun SXSW

Misun -B3SCI Presents: SXSW Day Party @ Red Eyed Fly

After unofficially kicking off our festival experience the previous night with a mariachi band playing Beatles covers we were well and truly ready to start SXSW 2014 and what better way to do so than Misun‘s blend of sleepy electronica and chilled R&B. The trio hailing from LA by way of DC definitely got heads nodding and in front woman Misun Wojcik they possess an authentic star in the making.


Tokyo Police Club – B3SCI Presents: SXSW Day Party @ Red Eyed Fly

After an effective hunt for food we returned to the Red Eyed Fly to catch Tokyo Police Club. With the sun shining bright the Canadian outfit’s alternative pop anthems rose above creating a feel good vibe that transferred to a receptive audience who crowded around the stage. Peppering their set with songs from their most recent release ‘Forcefield‘ you would be hard pressed to find a more contagious band to dance along to.

SXSW Schoolboy Q (

Schoolboy Q – ACL Live at the Moody Theatre

A swift bike ride over to The Moody Theatre meant we arrived just in time to catch two of the acts we were most anticipating back to back. First up was Schoolboy Q who warranted a bizarre guerilla marketing campaign by Top Dawg Entertainment outside the venue involving scantily clad women in balaclavas handing out masks.

Once inside we were a little disappointed to have been assigned tickets in the seated area but this subsided very quickly as the Los Angeles native hit the stage like a man possessed. Almost immediately the venue began smelling like an Amsterdam coffee shop and the audience reacted to every word Q spat from the stage. Largely playing material from his recently released ‘Oxymoron” album the rapper lending authenticity to the rappers prickly persona. A particularly angry rendition of “Gangsta” was stellar all but this didn’t deter him from scolding the audience if he felt they weren’t responding to his liking. While stomping off stage his exclamation that he was off “to see Kanye and Jay-Z perform” could have been interpreted as a slight to label mate Kendrick Lamar but after such a superb set we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

SXSW Kendrick Lamar (

Kendrick Lamar – ACL Live at the Moody Theatre

So far the day had been a steady crescendo of one amazing performance after the next, but to catch Kendrick Lamar in the flesh was one of our most anticipated moments. ‘Good Kid, M.a.a.D City‘ is one of those albums that grows better with each listen and deserves a spot in this decades best releases.

The Compton MC hit the stage in fairly unassuming fashion sporting a grey camouflaged jacket and beanie hat but there was no doubting of his superstar status. With the audience in a near frenzy screaming every word back he easily settled into his comfort zone playing each track expertly while leading his fans in a succession of highlights. Tracks like “The Art Of Peer Pressure” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” came through in particular bombastic fashion demonstrating a great dynamic between the rapper and his crowd. Never looking out of place on the huge stage regardless of whether he rapping acapella or leading his fansinto yet another epic singalong. With his music soaked in our collective minds there were gonna be very few acts throughout this week who could reach the level of this amazing performance.

SXSW Ryan Hemsworth (

Ryan Hemsworth – Lustre Pearl Presented By Soundcloud

We end a glorious first day of SXSW Music with up and coming Canadian DJ Ryan Hemsworth offering his excellent hybrid hip hop, R&B and dance sound. Mixing familiar hits with little known tracks in seamless fashion allowed him to get the crowd on his side from the get go and he didn’t lose them until the end. Despite his young age Ryan is almost a SXSW veteran by now and it shows with a confident performance soaked with an endless succession of potential earworms.


Jan 12 2014

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2013: Chance The Rapper – ‘Acid Rap’

Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap (Albums of 2013)

Taking over from Kendrick Lamar as this year’s biggest rap breakthrough Chance The Rapper offered up one of 2013’s most exciting albums while seemingly ignoring everything that was “hot” around him. The samples retain an old school quality that allows for Chances upbeat verses to shine.

All of the hype is warranted. All of the praise is deserved. Chance the Rapper, not Kanye, put out the best rap album by a Chicagoan this year. No knocks to Ye as he still made my list, but what Chance did with this thing must be applauded. The cohesiveness of the album, matched with its stellar production and features, and Chance’s originality in his tortured crooning and wacky sing-rapping is one of the best things that happened in 2013 musically. It’s acts like this that are ensuring that new rappers in 2014 and beyond cannot expect to be taken seriously, unless they’re willing to bring something seriously great to the table” – Daniel Benny 

“‘Acid Rap’ was this young rapper’s second self-released mix tape and it put Chance in the spotlight for being the next rapper to watch. The album is surpassingly upbeat which is always refreshing in a genre that is dominated by put-downs. Acid rap was released right before summer and it” – Robin Petering



Jan 9 2014

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2013: Run The Jewels – ‘Run The Jewels’

Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels (albums of 2013)

When El-P and Killer Mike combine there is very little than they can do wrong. The eponymous ‘Run The Jewels‘ album was released for free online and seemed like the total antithesis to the previous year’s big Kanye/Jay-Z‘s ‘Watch The Throne‘ collab  proving that if you had any hip-hop aspirations you should have probably sat 2013 out. Case in hand the video for their ‘A Christmas Fucking Miracle.

In a year that saw high profile releases from Kanye, Jay-Z, J. Cole, Drake, Earl, & Tyler & more, it’s El-P & Killer Mike who outclassed them. 10 Tracks of straight bangers, each one as lively as the last, filled with tough-talk, brash call outs of the status quo, and beats that make me have to give hip hop producer of the year honors to El-P for the second straight year“. – Daniel Benny

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2013



Jan 9 2014

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2013: Kanye West – ‘Yeezus’

Kanye West Yeezus (albums of 2013)

Love him or hate him Kanye West succeeded in simultaneously being the most talked about and the most outspoken artist in 2013. While many of us were eager for a follow up to 2010’s brilliant ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy no one fully expected the barrage that is ‘Yeezus‘.

We’ve waxed lyrical about it and we’ve compared his record to other Kardashian romancer Lamar Odom but here is why the Cougar team loved it.

If there was a land where an artist’s talent was to equal his/her ego, Kanye West would most certainly be the King. The self ­proclaimed ‘creative genius’ once again tops my list of best albums of the year, and with the humbly named ‘Yeezus‘ proves that you can copulate with a Kardashian and name your child as a direction yet still remain on top. Yeezus‘ is completely different from his previous work, and from anything that had previously been done, yes I mean by ANYONE. It perfectly represents him though:  angry on ‘New Slaves‘ and ‘Black Skinhead’.  Extravagant, pioneering, grandiloquent on ‘ I am a God‘, and yes, even funny. This album also proves that he can mix genres like no other, but also bring people together like no other merging electronic music, hip hop, rock, jazz and punk gathering genius from all around the world including the best of the french electronic scene (Daft Punk, Brodinski, Gesaffelstein), Brit DJ/producer Hudson Mohawke and his collaborative project TNGHT, and contributions from indie darling Justin Vernon and R&B hard hitters like Uncle Charlie Wilson and Frank Ocean” – Olivia

“‘Yeezus‘ mighty “On Sight” kicks off the album with the angry Kanye beats we knew he was about to lash out at us at any moment. About a minute in everything comes to a halt with an angelic sample of Holy Name of Mary Choral Family singing “Oh, he gives us what we need. It may not be what we want.” Perfectly summing up Kanye‘s understanding of why he believes he was put on this earth, and that he truly considers himself to be a God of music.

An album of mostly heavy synth beats ‘Yeezus‘ holds true to Kanye‘s unique craft. The best display on the album, “Blood on the Leaves” opens with the haunting Nina Simone sample, piquing curiosity only to guide you right back into Yeezy‘s dark underworld. The bottom line: Kanye refuses to let anyone see him as anything other than brilliantly out of his mind“. – Jabes

This dark album was sometimes a challenge, but I mean that as a compliment. It’s gritty production and forceful performances really take you into the head of one of music’s most creative souls. “Black Skinhead” was ferocious but at the same time intriguing. The great use of vocal samples and futuristic synthesizers compliment the danceable yet artistic pieces of rage in this modern masterpiece“. – T.R. Wicks

“Its hard to classify ‘Yeezus‘ as just an album. It is much more than that. Starting with the SNL performances, to the cryptic guerrilla marketing, then the album, then the aftermath… In the previous month, Kanye released the video for “Bound 2” which rapidly went viral in combination with the James Franco/Seth Rogen spoof*. Kanye also went on a morning radio rampage claiming to be the ” No. 1 most impactful artist of our generation” and “Shakespeare in the flesh.” Unfortunately, I think he may be correct. The album lives up to the hype. Its dark. It’s creative. It’s heavy. It’s sexy.

* I have a theory that the spoof was Kanye organized/commissioned. The exact frame-by-frame tribute came out too quickly and was too good. This also wouldn’t be out of Kanye character” – Robin Petering

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2013




Oct 26 2013

No. 1 On Why New Music is More Important Than All

3 AM, slouching further into the pit of my office chair, which begins to feel more like a bag of rocks by hour 5 of my night shift. 3 more hours chatting with Indianstart-up” companies hawking chat button prices. I am the only soul in the office (well at least in my immediate area). Me-time and work-time are converging as I sift through identical blog re-posts, message board threads, and YouTube links for buried treasure. Then, something shines through the dirt, and sucks me into a trance in its glow.

You would not believe the unassuming Jew in my OkCupid profile and me at this point were one in the same, knocking over my chair as I jam, bouncing around the room. This soul that channels the earnest funk of Erykah with the youthful exuberance and flair of Rihanna, with a little something extra, something now. I’m sprung.

Now you might not have gotten down with the video above, but the sentiment still remains. How this new music can feel so familiar, take me further than I’ve ever been, and surprise me in doing so.

You know the vanguard of this attribute. Virtually every Kanye West album, with its promise to be a hodgepodge time capsule of Pop Art. There’s Fiona Apple, who weaves anthems in her own bubble of isolation and self inspired spontaneity. And Flying Lotus, who might be one of the most important doing it on his turf of post-Dilla beat making. The ability to have two feet in different plains, one familiar and one unfamiliar, traversing past border lines set by their predecessors.

You know them by the type of buzz that is generated before an album leaks. It’s not just a symptom of popularity and hype like any old album, it’s those times when critics and writers are stumbling over themselves to decipher meaning from clues, to predict futures, to grasp straws at where they’ll go. One need not peer further back than when this summer and the buzz campaign surrounding ‘Random Access Memories’. And that’s because it’s not just the anticipation of hearing the evolution of a musician, it’s for the oracle of where all the music surrounding it is evolving.

Certainly not all that’s new succeeds, and in fact most hyperbole about new music is drivel, predicated on a need for just that, news. Yet no matter how off base a blogger might be about Drake’s new album (on which my verdict is still out), his risks and successes will permeate throughout the hip hop stratosphere. “Started—“ is a radio staple now, but when it debuted in February, it was noted for its uniqueness among Drake’s catalog. And just like that, a drop of something new is added to the bubbling aftermath that is music.

New music (to me) is an amalgamation of the influences and experiences of the culture and its residing artists, transforming spontaneously. It’s as unpredictable as a hand stretching through the wardrobe to grasp something from a different realm, bringing it back for us to see. These new artists, in a world at fiber optic speeds, feel the urge to bring something fresh to stand out from the herd. And fans of new music, now take pride not just in their knowledge of history, but by their ability to sift through the rubble. To be the one to expand the minds of their social media followers, and gain some hipster brownie points on the side. (I’m guilty as anyone, see podcast). This does breed one negative symptom, a growing disposability of songs. But timeless music never tarnishes, even when its peers do, and even when fewer people are hearing it.

New artists are exciting not just because they are a new riddle to uncover for fans, and possibly a new sound to hear, but because the beginning stages of their careers are so formulate. Early adopters will serve as their core fan base, and their progression after they’ve been given a slice of spotlight will serve as a sign of their intention.

Recently, James Blake made some headlines for remixing his standout track, “Life Round Here” and featuring next to blow rapper Chance the Rapper on it. I was ecstatic, Not only was I not surprised when Chance described his fandom of Blake’s moody electro-epics before they even crossed paths, I felt that this song was already a hip hop track before a rapper graced it. That James Blake meant a great deal to the hip hop community despite being an average homeboy crafting his instrumentals like many others in the bedrooms of Britain and beyond. (See Jazz -Hop Trio’s BadBadNotGood‘s cover of Blake‘s “Limit to your Love“, and Big K.R.I.T‘s use of “Wilhelm Scream” for his “R.E.M“)

And that’s the beauty of new music to me. It’s surprise, its existence between realms, the fact that there are songs that are being recorded right now that even the most senior Pitchfork editor would look fucking stupid trying to categorize. Even amongst all the cookie-cutter, trend chasing, and predictable, there’s jewels, polished or not, that are to be found. And I’m building a mine.


Cougar Microbes début for Daniel Benny /@delajoo




Jul 4 2013

A Cry For Help – ‘Yeezus’ Revisited


Whether you’re a Kanye fan or not, I think we’ve all been evaluating ‘Yeezus‘ in completely the wrong context. Rather than compare the new album to his past work, contemporary hip hop, or even the rest of pop music in general, we should really compare it to Lamar Odom.

As a reminder, here’s what the Kardashians did to Lamar:

2010–11 Lakers MPG 32.2 / FG% .530 / RPG 8.7 / APG 3.0 / PPG 14.4
2011–12 Dallas MPG 20.5 / FG% .352 / RPG 4.2 / APG 1.7 / PPG 6.6

If you watched him play during those years, you could literally see the life force leaking out of his listless body… and that was just Khloe.

Because of an accidental pregnancy, Kanye‘s stuck with Kim, the queen of all parasites.

As a reminder, here’s some of her greatest accomplishments:

Producer Testifies That Kim Kardashian’s Marriage Was Pretty Fake

Kim Kardashian sues Old Navy over lookalike in ads

Even her product endorsements are fraudulent:
Skechers Will Pay $40 Million Over Claims That Its Sneakers Toned Muscles

Of course Kanye West‘s next album was going to be a messy, angry, paranoid, abrasive cry for help… and despite all that, it’s still a very compelling piece of art with many genuinely exciting moments in it.

Compared to Lamar Odom, Kanye West and his music are doing just fine, and that’s a small miracle unto itself, so stop hating. The man is practically bullet proof. He’s like an Evel Knievel with hip hop beats who got swallowed by a whale and not only survived, but shot out of that whale’s vagina doing backflips on a motorcycle made of nothing but chrome and fire.

In other words, he IS a God. ‎#Yeezus


Post by Roger Jao / @fobbyjao



Yeezus - Kanye West


Jul 3 2013

“Let ‘Em Eat Croissants” A Yeezus review by Robin Petering


As a preface, the following review comes from a serious Kanye West fan. If this review seems bias in any way, it’s because it is. ‘Yeezus‘, Kanye’s sixth solo album, is a fantastic album. The beats are complex, the samples are unexpected, the production is immaculate and the lyrical content is histrionic. At first listen, ‘Yeezus‘ feels like the angst-ridden teenage spawn of ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘ and ‘808s and Heartbreak‘ except there aren’t any superstar guest verses (No Jay, no Nicki, and no Rozay) or upbeat radio hits (No Ri-Ri hooks) and only minimal autotune. For long-texrm fans, ‘Yeezus‘ is another piece in West’s epic career trajectory and it delivers. Complete with cryptic guerilla marketing and inescapable internet hype, this album represents Kanye’s continued exploration in melodies, emotion, distortion and genre-crossover.

Yeezus‘ opens with “On sight”. Daft Punk or not, Ye’s MC’ing on this track is the most reminiscent of the early 2000’s. He’s fast paced with goofy lines like “No sports bra let’s keep em bouncin’.” He brings you in quick to “Black Skinhead” which is the album’s standout track. Despite his performance on SNL and the Governor’s Ball, I don’t think anyone was expecting this track to go as hard as it does. Kanye goes off about modern race relations with a goth-drill team and a dirty bass line to support him. The energy of this track is toxic and I’m curious to see if “Black Skin Heads” will take off this summer as a club hit. It may be the needed relief for a scene that is currently being drowned in repetitive trap beats. The album continues at pace and Ye offers meme worthy quips (“Hurry up with my damn croissants!”) and a sense of self-awareness about the role he plays in modern culture. Kanye states that he isn’t interested in ‘turning shit up’. He’d prefer to make his statement about racism, about his chick (and ex-chick), and about his croissants.

Hold My Liquor” is very reminiscent of MBDTF that may be the result of the presence of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon distorted intro. Unfortunately the rhyming found on this track is the type of Kanye rapping that fuels his disbelievers (“Slightly scratch your corolla/Okay I smashed your corolla”). Something new on this album, that we got a taste of with last summer’s “Mercy” (off G.O.O.D. Music collaboration album Cruel Summer), is a blatant reggae influence. I’m a sucker for reggae and hip hop crossover, so the use of reggae samples and artists across multiple tracks got me extra enthusiastic. Although there aren’t any huge names as features, Ye shows Chi-town love for up-and-comers Chief Keef and King L. He also calls up his lackluster progeny Kid Cudi to close out “Guilt Trip”. This track I could live without. Cudi maybe Kanye’s biggest flop yet. I’m not sure why he keeps trying to make that happen. Kanye’s not known for his loyalty (see Damon Dash).

Ye also provides a range of samples. “Blood on the Leaves” opens with a melancholic clip of Nina Simone then sharply drops in with a piece from electronic act TNGHT’s “R U Ready?” with Kanye reinvigorating the aformentioned Trap scene. ‘Yeezus‘ closes out with “Bound 2” which has that high-pitched soul sampling that Kanye is known for. The beat is nostalgic and the track appears to be his shout-out to his baby mama, Kim Kardashian. What ensues is a ‘love song’ that is probably as deep as what Kanye and Kim deserve (“Hey you remember how we first met?/Okay, I don’t remember how we first met.”). He’s a keeper!

All in all, for Kanye fans he delivers on the things we love about him the most: the narcissism, the vulnerability, and the manic episodes. Those same beloved traits also deliver fuel for devoted Kayne-haters and amateur music critics. MBDTF might be better overall (it might be perfect?) but that is not what is important. Kanye West is a trajectory. ‘Yeezus‘ is only one step along a path. In the short term, he gave us a major summer album with some serious bangers. Is Kanye West a god? In the world of hip-hop, probably. Does it matter if people disagree? No, but people will continue to talk, tweet, post their opinions through the summer and then some (which only further perpetuate ‘Yeezus’ godliness).

What I love the most about Kanye and his last four albums, including ‘Yeezus‘, is that he has changed the culture of mainstream hip-hop. No one before him has done what he’s done but many will emulate him. For me personally, Kanye’s ability to successfully release ‘non-traditional’ hip-hop albums pushes the genre in invigorating new directions. Being able to experience ‘Yeezus’ makes me so thankful to be a hip-hop fan living in what could be the golden era of the genre.


Welcome on board Robin Petering / twitter: @monstertrvcks



Yeezus - Kanye West