Now that Facebook appears to be going the way of Twitter, which has already gone the way of MySpace (in my peon’s mind, at least), I recently started an Instagram page. What the hell, I thought. I make art. Occasionally. I have jpegs of my work. Why not post some to see if anyone out there is deranged enough to actually wire me money for a pencil portrait of an old woman or a pen-and-ink cartoon of me singing karaoke with former Expos great Gary Carter as a xenomorph and Gene Simmons as former NHL backup goalie in perpetuum John Garrett playing for the Elsinore Beers (not a real team). A hundred followed celebrities later, and not a single dime has come my way. The upside? I have generated one juicy news lead. Semi-juicy. OK. Decent.
While Instagramming last week (is “Instagramming” a term?), I came across a candid portrait of two young African-American men standing close to each other. One is smiling. Kinda. The other isn’t. The caption reads, “Blown away by this cats [sic] talent. Check out @LYRICLEVELLE out of Fort Worth Texas. He next. http://lyriclevelle.com/”
I would have continued happily scrolling along –– anything by jermzlee today? what about my girl princessmonstertruck? –– had the source of the post not been Leon Bridges, hot, hip, happening breakout major-label superstar and Fort Worth homeboy Leon Bridges.
Such is the cult of Leon the King.
And the cult of celebrity.
Without hesitation, I clicked on the link that Bridges so thoughtfully provided.
Not bad, I thought. Not bad at all. Le’velle’s website, I mean. As for the music wafting from the page, all tracks from the 20-year-old rapper’s debut recording, September 2015’s Black-EP, they are … well, sure, they’re cool. Of course, they are. They’re in that rapid-fire minimalist style popular in underground hip-hop. (For Fort Worth references, check out Nice Major and Tornup.)
Aaand there ya have it. And here we are.
It all began a couple of years ago, when Facebook started really catching on. A musician who normally would have snail-mailed me his or her one-sheet and a CD (ha! remember them?) began telling their stories themselves via The Social Network. Some of my writer-type colleagues around town embraced the change. Some of these cats still seem to get every single one of their news leads only via social media –– and without proper attribution, which is a tad fraudulent, but I guess saying, “… as Band X posted on Facebook the other day” or “… as Band X Tweeted this afternoon” is tantamount to “The sky is blue, according to Wikipedia.” I still don’t like it. But I guess that by lying back on their beanbags and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, my compatriots are leaving the tasty stories –– the ones that come only from actually being out in the community where the local musicians (and artists and police and thieves) socialize –– to me.
In other words, I was sitting in my office at my desk, my head buried in my phone and my feet firmly on the floor, when I came across that image of Bridges and Le’velle. And I’m glad I followed that link. And that’s about all I have to say about the young upstart’s music. Not because I don’t have an opinion but because at this point –– when a local artist is set to blow up, to transcend my coverage area –– what I say does not matter. Exhibit A: Maren Morris. From the 13-year-old we told you about first nearly a decade ago –– it’s true; when we first wrote about her, MySpace had not even been invented –– the Nashvillean-via-Arlington singer-songwriter has just made her major label debut. So I’m not crazy about her new single. B.F.D. No one cares what I think. Especially Morris. As with so many other cultural artifacts, “My Church” will ultimately be decided upon in the marketplace.
The marketplace is also where the fate of Le’velle –– and that of The Unlikely Candidates and Solo Lucci (see: this week’s Music feature) and every other local-now-national talent on the planet –– will be determined. Including Bridges, but he has already overcome his first obstacle. Coming Home is both a critical and commercial success. But what’s he going to do next? If he is as committed to historical accuracy as his Columbia Records debut seems to suggest, his next effort will be “Dance to the Music”-esque.
Do not misunderstand. Whether or not Le’velle goes big time, we Weekly jackwagons will evaluate his music without bias. We will try to. We will beat back the urge to listen to Le’velle without the monstrous concept of Leon Bridges hovering over our shoulders, breathing heavily, coughing, murmuring. We have to measure each song against that version of the closest ideal song that exists in the collective unconscious. Just like the ideal pencil drawing (which is the same as it was 2,000 years ago) and the ideal figure (perhaps warped beyond recognition since the invention of photography and portable scales). We Weeklyites may entertain a few readers with our responses, but that’s pretty much it. And I’m OK with that. Entertaining readers is our No. 1 goal (“since 1994!”). Are the songs by that guy standing next to Leon in that pic genuinely solid, or is Bridges’ star power influencing our judgment? Are my pencil drawings any good, or by resembling old artwork are they merely redundant? Are the size and shape of me OK, or do I have to look like @maandzz or @davidbeckham, @brangelinaofficial or @danielleksharp, or @suddenlypuppies or @ansonmount, to achieve happiness and success and find love? (Help me get un-addicted to Instagram. Please.)
I don’t know about every other cultural phenomena –– I don’t know about much, actually –– but in music, I think we can fairly say that if you end up standing next to a “He next”-dropping major-label giant for a picture that reaches millions of people, then your music probably doesn’t suck. It may not be great, but it is more than likely proficient enough to penetrate the bubble that seems to insulate the successful artists from the rest of us. But don’t take my word for it.
Le’velle’s next Fort Worth show is Friday, Feb. 19, at The Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge on the Near Southside, opening for Joe Budden. Which may or may not be the name of Joe Biden’s weed-toking rap persona. Tickets are $20-75. Order them now, because they will be gone after this awesome, life-changing, face-melting story appears.
And maybe young buck will smile this time.
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