In the Spotlight: Max Hasan, College Music Correspondent, NextGen Journal

Three major musical buzzwords have emerged this summer among students: Moombahton, Tumblr, and Mac.  The first is a genre.  The second is a social network.  The third is an increasingly popular performer.

Max Hasan, NextGen Journal’s college music correspondent, regularly tracks the trends, people, and platforms impacting all-things music– especially within the underground and student scenes.  The Boston University freshman economics major also writes about what he calls “GOOD MUSIC” on his blog The Collab Projekt .

In a recent Q&A, Hasan discussed who and what is currently hot– and not– among the musical genres, groups, and tools most enjoyed by students.  He also offers advice to student journalists interested in covering the music scene.

Max Hasan, NextGen Journal's music guru, is a Boston University freshman.

What’s been an especially explosive musical trend so far this summer?

Moombahton is a genre that was unofficially invented by Dave Nada, a DJ based in Washington D.C.  It’s existed for roughly a year now but really has been skyrocketing in popularity.  It borrows several ideas from other genres, including bass, dutch house, fidget, and reggaeton.  The name is derived from a track by Dutch house star Afrojack called “Moombah”.

Mad Decent , a record label and blog run by Philadelphia-based Diplo, played a huge role in catapulting the genre within the electronic music spotlight.  “Blow Your Head” is a mix album that Mad Decent regularly releases in volumes, each featuring several artists from a single genre.  For example, “Blow Your Head Volume 1″ was dubstep themed, and was released last November– just around the time of dubstep’s peak in popularity in North America.  “Blow Your Head Volume 2,” featuring Moombahton artists, dropped in late May.  It has been invaluable in shedding light on the emerging genre.  Because of the sudden surge in popularity of the genre and subsequent feature in the “Blow Your Head” mix, Moombahton has sometimes been hailed as the “new dubstep.”

Additionally, SoundCloud has been a huge tool for electronic musicians of all kinds, especially Moombahton artists. The music social networking site has a genre-tagging element for its tracks, which Moombahton artists have been utilizing to spread their tracks and put their genre out there

Away from top-40 pop, what are the songs of the summer among students?

“Family First” by Pittsburgh-native Mac Miller , featuring veteran New York City rapper Talib Kweli, can definitely be found on many college kids’ playlists this summer.  The track was dropped after Miller hit 500,000 Twitter followers.  He has pledged to release a new track every time he gets 100,000 new followers.  Being a white, 19-year-old kid from Pittsburgh straight out of high school and showing a lot of love to his fans via Twitter, he has really gotten students to relate to him.  Undoubtedly, a big part of his recent success can be attributed to the fact that kids with snapbacks and graphic tees across the U.S. see a little of themselves in Miller.

Separately, “Novacane” by Odd Future member Frank Ocean has been climbing the charts like crazy.  The reason for its summer success can be attributed to two reasons: Odd Future’s surging popularity via social media and Ocean’s decision to host a unique and provocative music video via Vimeo.  Bon Iver’s “Calgary” has also been seen on many college students’ iPods.  Bon Iver, an indie-folk musician, recently pulled a Thoreau and secluded himself in the woods to write what many consider to be his masterpiece.  The self-titled album was released a few weeks ago and was given a 9.5 by Pitchfork (who are notorious for being very tough critics and hard raters).  The track– and technically the whole album– is very experimental, kind of throwing the conventional song structure out the window.  Bon Iver’s haunting voice is dominant throughout many of the tracks and anyone who listens to it really has a strange emotional connection with the album.  I know many people who claim that the song “Calgary” gives them goosebumps every time they listen to it.

The homepage of Hasan's music blog, The Collab Projekt.

What performers or groups are having a particularly poor summer or have fallen out of favor with the student set?

One artist I especially notice dropping out of favor is Kaskade.  Kaskade rode on DeadMau5’s tailcoats of fame as they released several collaborations in 2010. Last year, he was among the headliners at festivals like Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival.  Nowadays, college kids wouldn’t even blink an eye if he was featured on an electronic music blog.

Kid Cudi is another artist who has been getting a lot less attention relative to his history.  He recently dropped a rock song with The Knux but otherwise hasn’t really been releasing that much material.  Yet, he does have his Wizard LP on queue to drop soon.  The LP is rumored to be a rock album, rather than his usual hip-hop. Additionally, his album “A Man Named Scott” is slated to drop sometime this summer as well.  So Cudi may be in a trough regarding his popularity among students as rappers like J. Cole, Odd Future, Mac Miller, and Theophilus London steal his flame, but once those two projects drop Cudi will be back and very much at the forefront of college music.

Beyond Spotify, which is still being rolled out in the U.S., what digital tool has been influencing music most this summer?

Twitter is great for the quick updates and blurbs, but Tumblr is a unique instrument. Tumblr, unlike Facebook or Twitter, has a very specific audience.  Tumblr users are there because they have some affinity with arts, photography, music, fashion, weed culture or tattoos.  Hence, Tumblr thrives with teenagers to early twentysomethings who are affiliated with contemporary youth subcultures.  Tumblr’s reblog button (which can be used for any post) and dashboard (which features these posts on followers’ homescreens via live updates) have been extremely valuable to artists trying to spread information. Because of this unique reblog-dashboard combination, post views/likes increase exponentially.  A group can post anything up and all their followers can see this post on their dashboard.  They can then choose to reblog this, which would show the respective post on all of their followers’ dashboards.  It is such an incredible tool for spreading information.

What’s your advice for students interested in following in your footsteps and writing about all-things music?

 

People listen to music for a myriad of reasons.  Music, like all art, is a subjective experience– what results is entirely up to the listener and the context.  Heavy Metal may be cacophonic noise to one person and angelic harmonies to another.  If you’re looking to start writing about music, make sure you know what your approach and purpose is.  All writing has a purpose and the topic of music is no exception.  Some write about music to share with others, others write about music as a critique, and still others write about music reflectively in a more personal way.

As someone with a radio show and music blog, my intent is to share music with others, and if you share this vision, I have great news for you!  You’re living in the age of digital media.  Thirty years ago, you would have to pour blood, sweat, and tears just to gather enough music for yourself, let alone to share with others. Whereas a casette tape held 12 songs, a hard drive of the same size today can store more than 20,000.  There are plenty of resources for the sharing, promotion, and writing about music available today and it’s never been easier or cheaper to start.

But these new media have their drawbacks as well.  Music blogging is not immune to the law of economics.  As supply goes up, demand will go down. There is beginning to be overcrowding in the music blogging realm.

What print and online outlets should students be following to stay abreast of the latest industry news and reviews?

Again, I can’t stress how much digital media has changed the music industry.  Never before have you been able to “follow” your favorite artists on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and SoundCloud.  Following artists directly on these sites is probably where I get 70 percent of my music and music news.  Tons of artists love tweeting or SoundClouding free samples of their music so it’s definitely a great tool to have.

There are also plenty of music discovery sites like RCRDLBL, We Are Hunted, and Hype-M, which are all great tools to use to stay updated.  Additionally, there are of course an absurd amount of music blogs in existence.  It can be difficult to choose which ones to follow and it’ll take a little looking around.  Some of the ones that I follow personally include Gorilla vs Bear, Mostly Junk Food, Earmilk, Pigeons and Planes, and PMA.

What are the advantages of being a student or just younger when writing and reporting on the music scene?

As a student and younger guy in general, I’ve definitely seen it to my advantage when approaching artists for interviews.  (this all depends on the music scene, obviously the electronic music scene will have younger artists.)  A few months back, Designer Drugs and Mustard Pimp held a show at the Middle East, a grungy venue in Cambridge, Mass.  I had a press pass since I was photographing the show.  I noticed I was probably the youngest kid there, or at least much closer to the age of the DJs than any of the other reporters and photographers.  Around the middle of the show, a kid from Mustard Pimp’s posse tapped me on the shoulder and motioned to come into the dressing room.  When I got inside, he gave me some insider info on the going-ons of the growing electro scene.  Also, since he was the groups’ hype-man, he offered me some pointers on concert photography.  When I asked him why he singled me out, he told me it was because I looked like a guy he could trust.

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One Response to “In the Spotlight: Max Hasan, College Music Correspondent, NextGen Journal”
  1. Loan says:

    great interview. Im jammin Frank Ocean right now!!

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