Chairman Mao's love for Leonard Cohen, Pacman and Peso in North Korea, William Onyeabor remixed and more in our weekly look at music


Clyde Lawrence Band: Say My Name feat. Gracie Lawrence

NYC native Clyde Lawrence had written music for soundtracks like “Miss Congeniality” and “Music & Lyrics” before even turning 15, but more recently, the multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter took on Destiny’s Child’s 2000 classic “Say My Name” and showcased his band’s musicianship on their respective instruments. A barefoot Jonathan Koh takes the wah-wah guitar licks hidden in the original and magnifies them in this rendition, setting the stage for Gracie’s (Lawrence’s younger sibling, who made her Broadway debut in the play Brighton Beach Memoirs) fiery vocals. This low-key cover was a break from the perfectly mastered tunes that we stream all day on Spotify; it’s refreshing to hear young, raw talent play out in the chillest of environments. Check out Lawrence’s album Homesick to hear his original songs.


Pacman and Peso: Escape to North Korea

Every now and again a story comes along that is truly stranger than fiction. This week DC’s aspiring rappers, Pacman and Peso, released their music video for “Escape to North Korea” which was shot on location in the heavily guarded totalitarian state. The duo funded their project on Kickstarter, which in turn connected them with local fan Ramsey Aburdene who eventually became their manager. Under the guise of a sightseeing tour, the duo shot their video around Pyongyang, flying under the radar. The frigid temperatures, oversized statues of King Jong-un and unsuspecting North Koreans make this a video worth watching. Not to mention that the concept alone is enough for even the most jaded music fan.


Leonard Cohen: Songs of Leonard Cohen

This week’s PrivateJam comes from Red Bull Music Academy’s resident DJ, record collector and go-to music historian Jefferson Mao—aka Chairman Mao. With Mao’s encyclopedic knowledge of hip-hop and impressive interviewing skills with the likes of Dåm-Funk and DJ Premier, we were curious to know what Mao listens to when away from the decks. “I’m absolutely not any kind of authority on Leonard Cohen,” he says, “but this album [Songs of Leonard Cohen]—his debut from 1967—is something that I’ll always go back to whenever I’m feeling contemplative. Musically, there’s an edginess and sparseness to it that, combined with his gentle half-sung half-spoken delivery (and some of the starker imagery of his ‘Free Love’-era lyrics), manages the trick of sounding both intimate and unsettling to me; almost like a lullaby that you’re unsure will soothe you or give you nightmares.”


William Onyeabor: Body and Soul (Justin Strauss and Bryan Mette remix)

Our knowledge of William Onyeabor is due to a chance suggestion from Rough Trade director Nigel House at the opening of the Brooklyn location. We heeded his advice and have been hooked on Onyeabor’s distinct vibe ever since. The Nigerian musician’s sound hits you over the head with funky dance-inducing beats, spiritual synths and simplified lyrics crooning the truth. Much of Onyeabor’s identity remains a mystery, but crate-diggers have been fans for years, and 2013 saw Luaka Bop finally bring his songs to the (curious) masses. As a primer, listen to this subtle remix of “Body and Soul” from DJs Justin Strauss and Bryan Mette.


Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Shame

This week the internet was blessed with a rare and insightful interview by Dazed Digital with reclusive master producer Madlib. Towards the end—after we learn about everything from Madlib’s personal endeavor to consume and collect the world’s music, his knack for conspiracy theories, the potential for a Madvillain follow-up and his plans to burn all his unreleased music just before death—the music video for “Shame” caught our eyes and ears. The gully track by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib features a characteristically strong beat and visual lyrics—a solid collaboration to say the least. Check the lengthy interview for a better idea of how the reclusive’s mind really ticks.

ListenUp is a Cool Hunting series published every Sunday that takes a deeper look at the music we tweeted about that week. Often we’ll include a musician or notable fan’s surprising personal interests—#PrivateJam exposes their musical guilty pleasure.