The Creative Mind

Finally, there’s proof.  Something I always felt I saw happening.  Something many people have commented on in various ways, perceiving, but not quite able to articulate.  Probably part of the reason why a lot of films are starting to feel redundant, why the music is so repetitive, why you probably can’t name four contemporary pioneers of visual art right now…

Creative intelligence is dropping.

I got this article from Newsweek that states that creative intelligence has been steadily dropping year by year since 1990.

Intelligence can be marked in various ways.  Some have emotional intelligence, meaning they can perceive emotions well or how to manipulate the emotions of others around them.  Some have a spatial intelligence, which would make them a great architect or artist.  Some have academic intelligence.  Some are creatively intelligent, meaning they are good at taking one thing and creating something new or improving it.  It could mean a whole range of things.  For all these kinds of intelligence there is usually some kind of test that is associated.  We most know of IQ tests or SATs.  Well then there’s the Torrance test.  The article goes into some detail on the test and so forth, but here are the most striking parts of what the article says about the decline of creativity over the years…

…there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.

The age-old belief that the arts have a special claim to creativity is unfounded. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly…

A large part of the reason why I created this site is because I wanted to use the arts as a way of communicating the idea of “creative intelligence”.  It’s my belief that in order to be a great artist/entertainer, you have to have some kind of creative intelligence in order to move what you’re doing forward.  Of course, there are plenty of musicians who can play instruments, but do not have the creativity to improvise a piece.  Many people who are artists can copy a picture, but probably can’t create something out of their own head without a direct reference in front of them.  But that’s what, to me, means they are not ARTISTS in the sense of it being their path of life.  The life of a person who produces a product based on their creativity.

Leonardo to Picasso.  Stravinsky to Stevie.  Hitchcock to Spielberg.  Some of these folks have an ability to take a medium to the next level.  That’s the kind of thinking I am talking about.  Someone that can take one piece of an idea (like the Torrance test does in it’s drawing section) and being able to expand on it to create something different.  It’s a quality of leadership.  It’s problem solving.

So when we hear music, see movies, or other things that make you say “I’ve seen that before” and we feel that it’s copying something else, it’s probably because the person behind it was not entirely creatively intelligent.  But the folks who have a deep following and fan base, that have set the trends, that have changed the game, were creatively intelligent.  Kanye West.  Heath Ledger.  You name it.  They take the art to the next level that inspire us.  They are leaders.

It’s not enough for a person to get a mic, pro tools, and a computer program to make beats, and then call yourself a music artist.  Sure you can do it, or imitate others.  But come up with something on your own, that’s honest, and catches fire like Prince?  That takes another level of thinking.

I’ve seen a lot of people suddenly take up cameras and call themselves photographers.  People who jump in front of that camera and call themselves models. Folks who buy the cheapest Flip Mino and want to make music videos.   But compare the work of an amateur to that of the creative intelligent person with the natural knack and learned skill?  You can’t compete.

So before someone jumps up and calls themselves an artist, I ask, are they creative? And as the article says you don’t  necessarily have to be in the arts.  A business person can be creative.  Anyone can use a creative mind in any field, it’s just that we usually recognize efforts of creativity in musicians and storytellers.

And who are the culprits when it comes to the fall of creative intelligence?  Well we can definitely point toward the American school system.  We measure achievement by how well you can do on academic tests.  Your grade is reflection of your ability to learn. But plenty of people in leadership positions didn’t do well in school.  Along with that, how many of us learn how to create the solutions to problems?  We learn the process and get the answer.  But how often are we asked to create the process itself?

And furthermore, we have a society that doesn’t really reward creative thinking…at least, not until the thought has been proven to work.  Imagine someone coming up with the idea for an iPhone in 1978?  A computer, a camera, AND a phone all in one?  Yeah right.  How is that going to happen?  We doubt imaginations that don’t seem immediately practical.  A seed of doubt can kill an idea.  So we place a lot of doubt on “out the box” thinkers.  So then they also doubt their own intelligence.  But the ones that truly believe in their idea, and prove others wrong?  We praise them later, especially once they make millions of dollars.

I can go into a whole rant on the industries (i.e. film, music, television, radio, etc) that take “creative” works and market them.  Contrary to popular belief, people aren’t dumb.  It may take a while for others to catch on, but when they notice a remade film disguised as being “new”, a song that follows the exact same format as another one, people begin to catch on.  And when they notice their pockets being drained by nothing but the same product, that’s when the pirating happens.  And yes, the industry wants things “proven” to work, so they tell artists to copy the creative minds.  It’s a very interesting cycle that happens in every business, but we treat it with a different regard when it comes to art.  We think of art as needing to have some kind of unique mind behind it.  I don’t care if my socks are the exact same, but the art I enjoy?  Some of it needs to be original and unique to me.

It’s no wonder that a lot of younger people now are listening to older music.  They feel the creativity and honesty in it.  People are going back to older things trying to figure out where to go next.  Leadership is dropping.  A lot of people sense it happening.

I saw this video a while ago and couldn’t wait for the right post to put it up.  I think you all should check out the WHOLE LECTURE HERE.

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My Drake review on NPR

Thanks to great blessings and great people in my life, I made it on to National Public Radio’s program “All Things Considered”.

If you’ve never heard All Things Considered, I really advise it.  Listen to NPR at any rate because they have very informative news.  They also play some great music on there.   In LA it’s KCRW.   Please be sure to catch the homie Anthony Valadez on that station.  If you’re ever looking for something new and thought provoking, NPR’s got it.  That’s the kinda radio I’m talkin about! I’m also really happy that the lady said my name correctly :-)

Anyway, today is national “Drake Album Release Day”.  Everyone has an opinion on him and the album.  As my good friend put it, Drake has been hailed by all and put up for the Coronation.

Here’s my review of the album on KCRW, that you can hear and download, or check it out here.  Transcript below…

Aubrey Drake Graham has been hailed as Hip Hop’s newest Golden Child.

YOU may know him as Jimmy Brooks, the basketball star from Degrassi High: The Next Generation — a popular Canadian teen drama.

Goodbye Jimmy hello DRAKE  — the actor turned rapper.

It usually works the other way, think Will Smith, Mos Def, 50 Cent — but, Drake’s a different breed of emcee.

He’s half Jewish, half Black and grew up in an upper-middle class Toronto neighborhood.

If you listen to top 40 radio, you most definitely heard his blow out hit last year  ”Best I Ever Had” — off the mixtape, So Far Gone.

So Far Gone was re-released as an EP and became the fifth best selling album of 2009, unheard of for a mixtape.

Drake instantly garnered a huge fan base and was signed to Lil Wayne’s label — Young Money Entertainment.

His debut album — Thank Me Later — has been highly anticipated by hip-hop heads world wide.

So when it was leaked on the internet a couple of weeks ago, there was a mad rush to download it.

The album starts with Fireworks featuring Alicia Keys, a bittersweet toast to Drake’s rapid climb to fame.

The whole album has a lot of dreamy melodies and electric synths and its down tempo pace keeps up until the 4th track, and current radio single, Over —

A bragadocious rap about living life without a care and makin’ money, with a few witty punch-lines to boot.

Drake rhymes with Jay Z on Light Up — the two address the stresses of the music industry, haters, and yes, the hard knock life of being famous…

And the album ends with Thank Me Now produced by Timbaland — Drake’s most insightful and lyrically consistent song.

He raps about his musical idols being rivals, the harsh reality that fame can go at any time, saying — “In case another chance never comes around, you can thank me now.”

Drake’s — Thank Me LATER —  is a simple Pop/Hip Hop album.

For an emcee who’s buzz was so powerful for the last year and a half — the overall product is… well — pretty weak.

Everything is redundant musically and lyrically.

Drake’s not a risk taker —  but at least he doesn’t pretend to be someone he’s not.

Drake raps about what he knows — the pressures of celebrity life — but not convincingly enough for us to feel him or feel FOR him.

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Is TV the new Radio?

Sometime earlier this year, I was at a bar with some friends.  I met a guy who’s an A&R for Justin Timberlake’s label.  We exchanged emails.  A few days later he sent me an invitation to a performance by one of the label’s artists, a singer by the name of Matt Morris.  I figured he was a brand new artist, just got signed.  Someone fresh on the roster making his rotations, and setting himself on the map.

About a week later, I was talking to the homegirl @Bellametaphor.  She asked me, “Have you heard of this guy Matt Morris?  He’s a singer on Justin Timberlake’s label…” and she sent a YouTube link to his videos.  I asked her how she heard of him?  She replied “Oh, I saw him on Ellen today.”

Then last week I see that both Ellen and Letterman have started their own record labels!

I started wondering: is TV the new radio?

We can trace this all through American Idol, America’s Got Talent, America’s Best Dance Crew.  All that.  I’ve looked at commercials on YouTube and see people ask “What song is that playing in the background? Where can I find it?”  It’s as if people are lookin at television for quality music.

A while ago when I did my R&B Stock posts, I talked about Janelle Monae, asking “Why hasn’t she made any television appearances?”  Well soon after that, within a week she was on just about every late night television program performing, including this knockout performance on Letterman.  Maybe this is how she got to be #17 on the Billboard charts with little other promo and just her fan base.  21,000 copies sold in a week.  Not bad at all for an indie artist.   I can’t tell if the numbers would have been higher if she had been performing on shows before the album dropped, but it could surely have sparked more discussions around the water coolers and school grounds for anticipation

“Yo did you see that girl Janelle Monae last night?  When is her album coming out!?  I want it!”

But still, why would anyone like Letterman, a man who’s been a staple of late night television for about 28 years, want to have a record label?  How is it that people like Jimmy Fallon are so regarded because of the music acts they choose to have on?  Are they better filters than radio?

There was a point where being on the radio meant that you were either the next hot thing that the label’s discovered, or that the American public was going to decide on what the next hot thing was going to be.  Of course labels got their tie in, pay for play and all that.  So now, we have a situation where just about every station plays what’s “hot”, which is really whatever the label gives them.  And whether the listener likes it or not, it will be in heavy rotation throughout the day, everyday.  This pretty much seems to be a national issue.  All my friends across the US have complained about hearing the same songs over and over.  And for every song that gets heavy rotation on radio, you see heavy music video rotation, and then the clubs play it ad-nauseam.  Within a month you can get sick of a song and you want something new again.

Well of course the public somewhat supports the cycle, partly because they don’t really know what their other options are, or don’t have the time or patience to go searching.  So what’s the next best filter?  Television.  You have American Idol where people can vote on the next star (which usually ends up being a dud after the show), and you have your late night television programs.  They almost have to be sure to get good performing acts because if the person is bad, then you end up switching the channel.  Now I’m sure there’s politics involved in being on television, but for an indie artist like Janelle Monae to break through and capture such a wide audience at once!?  That’s HUGE!  Imagine if some of the other great indie groups could work their way in like that?  But of course, Janelle does have the brand of Bad Boy backing her, so there’s no doubt that politics and credibility have to be established.  But who else is going to filter that?

Just a few weeks ago I was at the post office and saw Ellen’s face on a poster for stamps that donate to PeTA.  Then when I get home she’s on a huge billboard for VitaminWater.  She has a hit daytime show that may only rival Oprah.  Letterman really doesn’t do anything else besides his show, but he makes over $30 million a year.  How could either of them be successful in an industry that is losing sales every year!?

Well it’s pretty simple…they’re the few people that the American public trusts.  And even if the music industry isn’t doing well right now, their television shows are doing great.  They will hardly have to invest much to get a return.  And their hold of trust ensures that they will be more successful at selling music than a faceless record company.

Ellen is the new host on American Idol.  How much easier is it for her to filter in acts!?  And her first artist, Greyson Chance.  A 6th grader from Edmon, Oklahoma.  He can play piano.  He can sing.  He has stage presence.  He could pretty much trump Justin Bieber.  He already has nearly 25million views on YouTube.   That’s pretty much certified platinum the week of release.  He’s gonna hit the studio, appear on Ellen with new songs (hopefully they’ll be good), he’ll tour, do more shows, and sell out the gate.  He’s good.  I can’t be mad at that investment!

As for Letterman, he’s signed a Pop-Punk band called Runner Runner.  Basically it’s a boy band.  I see them doin well with teens, and probably overseas.  But with Letterman’s backing, I’m sure they will sell well also.  They sound pretty polished up.  Not my type, but I can easily see them on a lot of soundtracks, like the Twilight films.  If they have a few hits under their belt, they could be the next version of Maroon 5 of sorts…ohh well what do you know!  Here they are doin “She Will be Loved” by Maroon 5!

But let’s not fool ourselves too much here.  These labels aren’t completely the sole ventures of Ellen and Letterman, they are partnerships with big labels.  Ellen with Warner Bros, and Letterman with Capitol Records.  I wonder who approached whom first?  The hosts to start a new venture that they felt was an untapped resource, or the labels who knew they needed faces people trusted?

In any case, radio is on the brink of disaster.  The Internet and technology really has nothing to do with it.  It’s because they have failed at doin their job at securing the public’s trust and giving variety.  It’s easy to see that they only care about advertising and getting money.  Payola has been clearly exposed repeatedly to the point where the public now knows that being on the radio really doesn’t mean anything anymore.  As it is, television has become very redundant with reality shows. I only hope it doesn’t become the same cycle as radio, where every show runs the same music act to secure viewers.  I wouldn’t put it past them though.

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Interview- Ndugu Chancler (Part II)

The interview with Ndugu Chancler continues as we delve more into his thoughts on the current state of music and how much difference there is between now and the past.  These gems are probably my favorite part of the whole session.

Part 4

-The secret behind the classic records

– Why he doesn’t listen to radio

Part 5

– The change in the  music industry

Part 6

– Sampling and the new music makers

– The loss of music education

– How you can find him/what he’s working on

– Words of advice

You can find Ndugu on Myspace

And on Facebook

You may even catch one of his classes at the USC Thornton School of Music

The album, Ndugu Chancler: Old Friends, Live, will be coming soon.

BONUS!

Watch Ndugu play and speak on the secret to his success

And!

3 Legends: Patrice Rushen, Stanley Clarke, & Ndugu get down…

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Interview- Anthony Valadez

He's the man!I have a friend that invited me to Zanzibar in Santa Monica where Anthony spins every Friday.  It didn’t take me but about 10minutes to know he was DOPE.  I also caught his show on KCRW.  There’s no denying his music taste.

Last September my friend especially wanted to go check him out because 2 of our friends, one of whom is a DJ, had nothing but good things to say about his talent.  The DJ homegirl said:

“He changed the way I listened to music.”

It was easy enough to see why she said that.

This was a great interview.  The more he talked the more I wanted to keep talking to him.

Part 1

-How he fell in love with music.

-Paul Robeson, Michel Gondry, Michael Jackson, & Hulk Hogan.

-How he started making beats.

-The DJ scene in LA & his job as a DJ.

Part 2

-Projects he’s completed & working on.

-Where you can find him.

-Words of advice.

Be sure to check out his blog at:  http://anthonyvaladez.com

Late Monday nights 12-3am on KCRW!

Click the pic and download a  sample mix of his album Audio/Visual:

Sampler

Sampler

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