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Music for the College Soul: WHY?

“Have you ever heard the band WHY?” “Uhh what? The band is called what? WHY?”…(listen, listen, listen) “Oh right! Yea I guess I know the band”… recognizing at first that ONE song every college student knows, Black Friday.

This was the humorous conversation that ensued between my boyfriend and I driving down the road, windows down, music blasting.

Ahh yes. The infamous Jewish white rapper, Yoni Wolf. What a name, right? Although considered to be a folky, indie rock band, there’s no denying the fundamental nature of rap taking place. And rap executed quite well if I do say so myself.

Yoni enters the stage, black curly hair adrift his head, wearing…what is that, a cut off with a cat face on the front? I guess I couldn’t expect anything less from the front man. He stalks back and forth across the stage eyes at his feet, as he spits out the lyrics to crowd favorites like, The Vowels and These Few Presidents. I have to give him credit for being the only performer to push aside the drapery that separates famous band from civilian. He was very friendly to the crowd, even at one point falling in, to be photographed by his keyboardist for his very own “wall of photos.”

My favorite of all the albums released has to be Alopecia, which was what was primarily focused on when I saw them live in Ithaca only a couple of weeks ago.As the third, full-length studio album, WHY? Released this astounding hit in 2008 by Anticon. Anticon is an independent record label based out of L.A that is usually associated with hip-hop… which is why, WHY? has gotten this style tacked onto their genre category. Apparently the band had asked fans to submit pictures of their palms for the album’s artwork. I had of course only learned of this after seeing the show and wondering why so many kids kept putting their hands in the air palms flat out facing the thumping gang as the lyrics “but God put a song on my palm that you can’t read” faded across the cramped venue.

Yoni’s inner monologue reveals buried layers, which hides below every man. This guys got too much to say, thankfully always in a witty line of attack. Looking beneath the crudeness and humor, you can’t listen to the lyrics of this album and not have them mean something to you. He pours it all out on the table, sometimes, uncomfortably so, like in Good Friday, “the kind of things I won’t admit to my head shrinker not even in a whisper to my own little sister.” The album begins with one of the best openers to an album I’ve heard in a while. Vowels part 2 could not deliver a more perfect head-banging drumbeat paired with the steady clapping which rings in our ears at the end of each count. These Few Presidents’ beating bass and low frequencies records a sincere heartfelt consideration: “Even though I haven’t seen you in years, yours is a funeral I’d fly to from anywhere.” Every time I hear this, I always liked to reflect on who those people would be for me.

Yoni’s monotone murmuring voice is what I feel has made him famous, and rightfully so. The nasally sung vocals are effective. The band has found great success with their sound, even though it has been a hard group to categorize. Each song is a riddle worth solving, and a rhythm worth swaying to. The band remains esoterically manageable.  

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