Oliver Wang

Oliver Wang is a music writer, scholar, and DJ based in California. Since 1994, he's written on popular music, culture, race, and America for outlets such as NPR, Vibe, Wax Poetics, Scratch, The Village Voice, SF Bay Guardian, and LA Weekly.

Wang begins work as an assistant professor in sociology at Long Beach State this fall; He also hosts the renowned audioblog soul-sides.com. For more information, visit o-dub.com.

4:23pm

Wed June 26, 2013
NPR Story

Chico Mann: Plastic Keys, Blinking Lights And Burbling Beats

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 11:37 am

On his new album, Magical Thinking, Chico Mann uses a host of electronic playthings to craft West African, Latin and 1980s "boogie" rhythms.
Courtesy of the artist

Marcos Garcia took his alter ego Chico Mann not from the 1970s TV series Chico and the Man but from a bit of dialogue in the early-'80s hip-hop film Wild Style. For years, Garcia was best-known as one of the members of the New York Afrobeat ensemble Antibalas. But one day, he began tinkering with his daughter's Casio keyboard, and since then he's only built on his arsenal of electronic playthings.

Read more

1:25pm

Tue June 18, 2013
Music Reviews

Kanye's 'Yeezus' Packs A Bite

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 6:18 pm

Kanye West at his album listening party at Milk Studios last week in New York City.
Shareif Ziyadat FilmMagic

5:13pm

Tue June 4, 2013
Music Reviews

Shuggie Otis: 40 Years Later, Still An 'Inspiration'

Originally published on Wed June 12, 2013 11:25 am

Shuggie Otis' Inspiration Information was first released nearly 40 years ago.
B+ Courtesy of the artist

This isn't the first time Shuggie Otis' masterpiece, Inspiration Information, has been reissued — but that's OK. It's an album that absolutely deserves to be rediscovered every decade or so.

Read more

3:09pm

Wed May 15, 2013
Music Interviews

Laura Mvula's Velvet 'Moon' Is A Revelation

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 9:33 am

Laura Mvula's debut is ambitiously confident, as if she and her band had perfected their sound years ago.
Courtesy of the artist

The very first notes on Laura Mvula's new album feel like a powerful invocation. You're not sure for what, but the moment is awesome — with an emphasis on awe.

Read more

4:14pm

Wed May 8, 2013
Music Reviews

On Two New R&B Albums, An Old Soul Sound That Glows

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 5:55 pm

Charles Bradley was signed by Daptone Records partly because of a James Brown act he used to perform. His new album is Victim of Love.
Darren Bastecky Courtesy of the artist

It's tempting to describe the voices of Charles Bradley and

Read more

6:00pm

Thu March 14, 2013
Music Reviews

Lady: Two Soul Stalwarts Find A New Groove Together

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 8:59 am

R&B singers Nicole Wray and Terri Walker have teamed up as the duo Lady.
Courtesy of the artist

R&B singers Nicole Wray and Terri Walker both had promising starts to their careers more than ten years ago. Wray came up on the Virginia coast under the wing of mentor Missy Elliott. Walker, a Londoner, was classically trained yet released her debut on a Def Jam subsidiary. Both enjoyed early critical success but by decade's end struggled to find a wide audience. Instead, they found each other.

Read more

1:25pm

Mon November 19, 2012
Music

Bill Withers: The Everyman Singer With A Poet's Soul

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 11:38 am

Bill Withers onstage in 1973.
Fin Costello Redferns

Bill Withers' very first single became a breakout hit in 1971. He would go on to record nine albums over the next 14 years, and all of them are now available on a new box set, The Complete Sussex and Columbia Masters.

Read more

2:58pm

Tue September 18, 2012
Music Reviews

Two Attempts To Turn Summer Platinum Into Fall Gold

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 9:47 am

Carly Rae Jepsen and the cover of Kanye West's latest album, Cruel Summer.
Vanessa Heins Courtesy of Universal Music Group

3:51pm

Mon June 4, 2012
Music Reviews

'Personal Space': Relics From Synth Soul's Early Days

Originally published on Mon June 4, 2012 7:44 pm

Electronic soul artist Jeff Phelps with his synthesizers.
Courtesy of the artist

Early synthesizers were supposed to imitate or re-create other existing sounds, but as anyone can tell you, they mostly sounded like synthesizers. That distinctive whine and wheeze captivated all manner of pop artists, from prog-rockers to classical composers to soul musicians. However, back then, synthesizers were so expensive and bulky, you needed a major-label budget and an entire studio wall to install them.

Read more

4:37pm

Tue March 20, 2012
Music Reviews

'The Medium Is The Massage': A Kitchen Sink Of Sound

Artwork for The Medium Is the Massage.
Courtesy of the artist

Few 20th century thinkers predicted the 21st century era of social media and the Internet better than Marshall McLuhan. Beginning in the 1960s, the Toronto-based philosopher and scholar began to theorize about how television and radio were changing society, creating what he termed the "global village."

Read more

3:28pm

Tue February 21, 2012
Music Reviews

A 'Giant Anthology' Of Profile Records, Rap's Early Champion

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 12:59 am

Profile Records never meant to get into the rap game, but the label launched the careers of rap groups like Run-D.M.C.
Frank Micelotta Getty Images

Before the rise of Def Jam as hip-hop's definitive record label, there was Profile, which helped shepherd in some of the genre's early shifts in sound and style. A new two-CD anthology, Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology, chronicles the label's 15-year history and legacy.

Read more

4:07pm

Tue August 9, 2011
Music Reviews

Jay-Z And Kanye West: Stuck In Cruise Control

Kanye West and Jay-Z's highly anticipated collaboration made its debut Tuesday on iTunes.
Daniel Boczarski Getty Images

My favorite part of Watch the Throne, the new joint release by Kanye West and Jay-Z, was waiting for it to come out. With no leaks and no advances, we were all reduced to waiting together, resurrecting the memory of rushing record-store doors the day of release.

Read more