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Chester Bennington: An Honest Voice of Pain and Anger for a Generation

After the shocking news of Chester Bennington’s suicide broke on Thursday afternoon, many of the tributes from fellow artists and fans had one thing in common.

A Thousand Suns got me through a horribly dark time,” Joss Whedon wrote, referencing Linkin Park‘s 2010 album.

“Linkin Park means a lot of things to a lot of people…definitely means a lot to me,” Lupe Fiasco tweeted. “[Chester’s] words and vibes helped me in my own dark times.”

Machine Gun Kelly, who had been tapped to open for Linkin Park on tour later this summer, called Bennington “a voice for those who wanted to scream out” in an Instagram post. “You were that for me since [I was] 11 years old,” he added.

At the dawn of the new millennium, Linkin Park was part of a new youth revolution, and Bennington’s voice was its blaring trumpet. Both his delivery and lyrics melded earnest vulnerability with unhinged anger. Songs like “In the End” and “Crawling” have him violently shifting between those moods, tenderly delivering declarations of defeat before rage bubbled up through his throat for vein-popping screams of angst.

For the young people who stumbled upon Bennington’s fits of sadness of rage when Linkin Park first broke, he embodied their repressed pain that could not be expressed or released or even understood. Once they dug deeper beyond the anger, they found passionate expressions of desperation, hopelessness and fear. He spent his career being honest and upfront about his struggles with depression, addiction and trauma, specifically from being sexually abused as a child.

In songs like the visceral “One Step Closer,” those bearing similar demons to Bennington found a defiant mirror image. “Everything you say to me takes me one step closer to the edge, and I’m about to break,” he howls into the atmosphere, delivering frustration as only a then-24-year-old could.

Though Hybrid Theory was released in 2000, it broke in 2001 and became the biggest album of that year. The late Nineties found angst heroes in rising stars like Eminem and Limp Bizkit and veterans like Nine Inch Nails, but the national taste was being dominated by a Disney-fied bubblegum pop movement, led by boy bands and budding divas in their late teens. For Linkin Park to break through and outsell more family-friendly acts like ‘N Sync and Britney Spears meant that the market needed a mainstream icon that also reflected increasingly blurred lines of genre with a rock edge. 

As nu-metal blazed on, they re-wrote its possibility. The genre’s Limp Bizkit-fueled machismo became less potent with how nimbly Bennington’s voice would play off of Mike Shinoda’s subtle yet effective rapping. They embraced electronic music in a way that complemented their musicianship rather than overpowered it. All the while, it was the vulnerability between the screams, heavy riffs and icy tones that set Linkin Park a step ahead.

Even as he got older and more successful, Bennington served as a primary example of how mental illness is a daily, lifelong struggle and unpacked his pain in more complex, mature ways up through his final album with Linkin Park, this year’s One More Light. In an interview with Music Choice earlier this year, he described his mind as a “bad neighborhood, and I should not going walking alone.” For a conversation with The Mirror, in what is claimed to be his final interview, Bennington seemed to find a light at the end of the tunnel, seeing the creation of his last LP album as “therapeutic”

For many, listening to Linkin Park is like recalling a memory of survival, further adding to the tragedy and circumstances of how Bennington’s life came to an end. He offered catharsis to those who wished they could scream like him, the same type of catharsis he felt listening to bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden as a teenager. Bennington would go on to front STP after Scott Weiland was fired in 2013, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. With Linkin Park, Bennington got to tour with Chris Cornell back in 2008 and even sang “Hunger Strike,” the Temple of the Dog hit, with his hero on stage.

In the same way Bennington’s fans lost their own light that had inspired them during their youth, Bennington witnessed the tragically young deaths of Weiland and Cornell, the latter of whom had been a close friend of his for years and whose birthday would have been on the same day Bennington took his own life.

“Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one,” Bennington wrote in an open letter following Cornell’s own suicide, his words echoing much of what his listeners over the years heard in Linkin Park songs like “Numb” and “Heavy.” “I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.”

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Linkin Park: Chester Bennington’s ‘Absence Leaves a Void That Can Never Be Filled’

Linkin Park issued a statement in memory of Chester Bennington, four days after the death of their lead singer.

Penned as a letter to Bennington, the band discuss their “grief and denial” following Bennington’s death while also reminiscing about their time with the singer and the music they made together.

“Our hearts are broken. The shockwaves of grief and denial are still sweeping through our family as we come to grips with what has happened,” Linkin Park wrote.

“You touched so many lives, maybe even more than you realized. In the past few days, we’ve seen an outpouring of love and support, both public and private, from around the world. [Bennington’s wife] Talinda and the family appreciate it, and want the world to know that you were the best husband, son, and father; the family will never be whole without you.”

Linkin Park continued, “Talking with you about the years ahead together, your excitement was infectious. Your absence leaves a void that can never be filled—a boisterous, funny, ambitious, creative, kind, generous voice in the room is missing. We’re trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place. You fearlessly put them on display, and in doing so, brought us together and taught us to be more human. You had the biggest heart, and managed to wear it on your sleeve.”

In the aftermath of Bennington’s death, Linkin Park canceled their One More Light World Tour and provided contact information for suicide prevention groups on their website. In Monday’s statement, the band admitted that the future of the band following Bennington’s death is unclear.

“Our love for making and performing music is inextinguishable. While we don’t know what path our future may take, we know that each of our lives was made better by you,” the band wrote. “Thank you for that gift. We love you, and miss you so much.”

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Hear Puff Daddy’s ‘Watcha Gon’ Do’ With Rick Ross, Notorious B.I.G.

Puff Daddy teams with Rick Ross and the late Notorious B.I.G. on “Watcha Gon’ Do,” which the mogul debuted during his guest DJ spot Saturday on Apple Music’s OVO Radio.

Taking its title from its warped sample of Inner Circle (“Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?”), Puff Daddy and Rick Ross trade verses where both rappers gloat about their business acumen – “Girl, you know I’m hard to get a hold or contact/ Probably overseas with business owners and all that/ Flights to Minnesota with dinner over a contract,” Diddy says – or their lavish wealth.

The track concludes with an obscure – but not unreleased – verse from the Notorious B.I.G., as the late rapper’s contribution to the LOX’s 1996 cut “You’ll See” is recycled here; the words “You’ll see” are interlaced throughout “Watcha Gon’ Do,” including the outro.

In addition to the original version, Puff Daddy also dropped a “Dre Day” version of “Watcha Gon’ Do” that replaces the EPMD and Steve Miller Band-sampling beat and substitutes it with Dr. Dre’s classic “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” backing track.

It’s unclear if either version of “Watcha Gon’ Do” is destined for Puff Daddy’s rumored No Way Out 2, the sequel to his breakout 1997 LP.

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Keith Richards: Rolling Stones Back in Studio ‘Very Shortly’

Keith Richards teased that the Rolling Stones are headed back to the recording studio “very shortly” to record new music, following the release of their 2016 blues covers LP, Blue & Lonesome.

In the latest installment of his fan Q&A web series “Ask Keith Richards,” the guitarist said the band will soon be “cutting some new stuff and considering where to take it next,” alluding to their first album of original material since 2005’s A Bigger Bang. He also added that the success of Blue & Lonesome “caught us a little bit by surprise,” which raises the potential of the “inevitable volume two.”

“I don’t think we’re going to sucker into that straight away,” he said. “But then it wouldn’t take a twist of the arm to do some more of that. It’s such fun to record, and there’s plenty more where that came from. I just think the Stones have used it as a boost to their energy and viability in this day and age and see what we can come up with next.”

Earlier in July, British rapper/grime artist Skepta posted an Instagram photo of himself with Mick Jagger in the studio, though he didn’t specify what they were recording.

In September, the Rolling Stones will release a new book-DVD package, Rolling Stones on Air in the Sixties, that collects the group’s radio and TV performances from the decade. 

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Inside Panorama Fest’s Groundbreaking Virtual-Reality Experience

Some summer music festivals toss in virtual-reality booths as an afterthought, entertaining fans coming down from fist-pumping DJ sets. But Panorama, kicking off Friday at New York’s Randall’s Island, makes cutting-edge technology the star of the show, almost as prominent as headliners Frank Ocean, Solange and Nine Inch Nails. “If you are going to create a VR experience at a festival, it absolutely must be a communal one,” says Justin Bolognino, founder and chief experience officer of Meta, which designs the Lab, a Panorama centerpiece since the festival debuted last year. “Tech is never going to replace emotion and storytelling.”

The Lab, an on-site museum displaying New York sound and light (and even smell) artists, centers on a 90-foot, 360-degree, 220-seat dome theater showing 3D films; fans waiting in line experience a virtual-reality “reflective labyrinth” guiding them from darkness to light. Artist Android Jones, who has displayed his work at Burning Man and Dead and Co. concerts, creates what Bolognino calls a “transformational VR world,” in which fans make their own artistic holograms together, using computers and video-game controllers. After approaching 35 New York studios to submit work earlier this year, the Lab’s curators chose six cosmic installations, including “Boolean Planet,” by artist Future Wife, which contains “a monolithic sphere … slicing through celestial veils.”

Sponsored by HP computers, the Lab is the most elaborate concert-business plunge into VR to date, although artists such as 2 Chainz (who recently released a “Virtual Trap House” for those with Samsung headsets), Björk, Childish Gambino and others have dabbled in the medium. “It’s not some add-on,” Bolognino says. “It’s absolutely a foundational part of the core DNA.” Last year, before unveiling attractions such as artist Emilie Baltz’ Cotton Candy Theremin, a mash-up of art, sound and dessert, Paul Tollett, the Coachella promoter who also puts on Panorama, said: “People are going to see that and think, ‘I want to see that each year.'”

Although no artist or festival has gone as all-in on tech and VR as Panorama, many in the concert business have bet big on virtual reality – top promoter Live Nation and top label Universal Music have invested in startups NextVR and VRLive. Some are skeptical: “It’s a bit George Orwell science fiction,” says Jake Berry, U2’s longtime production director. “Either it’s complete bullshit, or it’s going to come true.” But Bolognino notes that promoter AEG, which oversees Panorama, has significantly increased spending on the Lab this year. “Economics are relative,” he says. “Our goal, ultimately, is to shake you into your core, so you can transcend yourself. … We’re trying to do something absolutely extraordinary. And doing something extraordinary is not cheap.”

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Pussy Riot to Launch Experimental Theater Project ‘Inside Pussy Riot’

Pussy Riot is teaming with London theater company Les Enfants Terribles to produce a “political theatre experience” called Inside Pussy Riot, which chronicles the Russian feminist punk band’s arrest and imprisonment following a 2012 performance inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

The group’s Nadya Tolokonnikova, who co-created the project, will participate in a selection of shows during the limited six-week run this fall at an as-yet-undetermined London venue. Pussy Riot and Les Enfants Terribles created a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production, with the ultimate goal of £60 000 ($78,213).

Campaign pledgers can earn rewards like “Straight Outta Vagina” (which includes a ticket to see the play and an invitation to participate in the project’s social media campaign) and “Kremlin Stooge” (a signed Pussy Riot original print). 

In a statement about Inside Pussy Riot, Tolokonnikova said the piece will transport audiences from the original February 21st, 2012 performance of anti-Putin song “Punk Prayer” to their trial and prison cells.

“We’re going to recreate Russian courtrooms, a real Russian labour colony, solitary confinement cells, priests who shout about banning abortions and many more absurd, but real-life things that exist in Russia today,” she said. “The audience will actually get the chance to re-live each one of these experiences themselves in London, learning what it means to be a political opponent in Russia today. We’ll take you on a journey from the cathedral altar deep into the vaults of the Kremlin itself. Hopefully, this is a journey that you’ll only have to make once in your life.”

“In order to ensure [the play’s] launch, we need to pre-fund this high-tech production – and fast,” she added. “All the money raised will be spent on the gallery space, the set design, employing actors and staff for the show’s six week run and making those rooms in London look exactly like solitary confinement cells in the Russian prison I did my time in.”

In a video trailer on the Kickstarter site, Les Enfants Terribles’ artistic director Oliver Lansley and producer James Seager said it was a “no-brainer” to create the play. “We really wanted to get involved, and we thought it was an important for us to tell and for people in London to hear,” they added.

Les Enfants Terribles is best known for a string of acclaimed productions – including the Olivier-nominated Alice’s Adventures Underground – that incorporate live music, props and puppetry.

Last year, Tolokonnikova joined Peter Gabriel, Johnny Depp, Tom Morello and other musicians for the Voice Project’s “Imprisoned for Art” campaign, which raises awareness and funds to support free expression. 

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On the Charts: Jay-Z’s ‘4:44’ Number One Again

Jay-Z notched his second consecutive week atop the Billboard 200 as the rapper’s 4:44 sold 87,000 total copies in its second week of chart eligibility.

4:44 easily held onto Number One in a week where the album faced very little competition in terms of new releases: French Montana’s Jungle Rules was the lone new release this week to crack the Top 10, finishing at Number Three and 52,000 total copies, of which only 16,000 were traditional sales, Billboard reports.

The rest of the Top 10 was all returnees, with Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. leading the way at Number Two; since Lamar’s latest LP was released in mid-April, 14 weeks ago, Damn. hasn’t dropped lower than Number Three on the Billboard 200.

All five albums in the Top Five were hip-hop releases as DJ Khaled’s Grateful claimed Number Four and 21 Savage’s Issa Album dropped to Number Five.

Ed Sheeran’s Divide, Imagine Dragons’ Evolve and the Moana soundtrack grabbed Numbers Six, Seven and Eight, respectively. The week’s only other surprise was the return of Khalid’s American Teen, which crept back into the Top 10 at Number Nine, where it peaked upon its release in March. Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic rounded out the Top 10.

4:44’s time atop the Billboard 200 throne should end next week as Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life, Meek Mill’s Wins & Losses, Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy, the Descendants 2 soundtrack and renewed interest in the Linkin Park catalog following the death of singer Chester Bennington should shake up next week’s charts.

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Linkin Park Cancel Tour After Chester Bennington’s Death

Linkin Park officially canceled their upcoming tour in the wake of the death of their singer Chester Bennington.

“We are incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of Chester Bennington,” Live Nation, the tour’s promoter, said in a statement Friday. “The Linkin Park One More Light North American Tour has been canceled and refunds are available at point of purchase. Our thoughts go out to all those affected.”

The band has not released an official statement following Bennington’s death by suicide Thursday.

Linkin Park, who recently wrapped a European tour, were scheduled to begin a North American leg in support of their chart-topping new LP One More Light starting June 27th in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The North American trek was scheduled to conclude October 22nd with a concert at Los Angeles’ Staples Center.

Along the way, Linkin Park were set to perform two more dates on their co-headlining tour with Blink-182, the “Welcome to Blinkin Park” tour, on July 28th in Flushing, New York and July 30th in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Those two shows appear to remain on schedule but without Linkin Park.

On Twitter, Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker paid tribute to Bennington in a pair of tweets.

“Absolutely heartbroken. I’ll cherish every time we hung out or rocked a stage together. Condolences & prayers to all. So sad,” Barker wrote.

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Steve Aoki Talks His Hip-Hop Collaboration Album, ‘Kolony’

For his fourth album, Steve Aoki, one of EDM’s great showmen, has teamed with some of the biggest names in hip-hop. On Kolony, he abandons the trademark electro-house pulse of his Neon Future albums, instead diving into a booming and colorful trap-centric sound alongside modern stars like Migos, Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz, Lil Yachty and more. Rolling Stone caught up with Aoki to talk about the Kolony project, working with rap’s newest generation and how the worlds of EDM and hip-hop continue to bridge.

When did you first come across hip-hop?
Even before I got into hardcore and punk, which really was the first time that music became my lifestyle. A big moment for me, even before then, the first album where I sat down and wrote every lyric to every song. It was Eazy E’s Eazy-Duz-It and N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton. I was in elementary school and it was this world that was the complete opposite of mine.

When you were listening to those early cassettes, what about the music was speaking to you?
You could visualize the stories – whether they’re true or not – they’re storytellers and you can imagine the scenario. It’s something about the imaginative process of living in their world, and you put yourself there and you live vicariously through those stories. 

What was the original idea that started Kolony?
I’d have to lend that to working with Lil Uzi Vert, we were in the studio together for a week. Generally speaking, before Kolony, I’d have beats already done, entire records done and artists would vibe with the record. But when I was the studio with Uzi I was like, ‘Listen to this fucking record, listen to this drop, this is dope,’ but that’s not what got him in the booth. My process changed in that session, because it wasn’t about the big drop, because it wasn’t about the EDM. It was about finding a section to allow him to be [himself]. My job in the studio was to give him that landscape; I’m going to give you a color palette and I’m gonna give you space that so you can be creative. 

What’s the difference between working with EDM producers and working with rappers?
The issue producers have with working with artists, they come in there with fully produced songs so they don’t even allow a vocalist to come in there, so what I learned is that I don’t do that anymore. Especially for artists where I want to give them the lead. I’m the director and you’re my lead actor in this film. That kind of relationship needs to be understood and I can apply the colors and extras to make Aoki.

What were the last songs and collaborations that came together for the album?
Sonny Digital and “Thank You Very Much,” which is the closing song on the album. It’s a song I don’t play in my sets because it’s very introspective and it isn’t a very heavy drop record. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album. I think the most interesting part of the record is that Sonny Digital is singing. It’s exciting because I wanna be the artist to help break out Sonny as a vocalist, ’cause his singing and how he wrote was bone-chilling, it was incredible. I’m happy that this song can hopefully break him out as a vocalist, like when Kanye came out rapping.

Do you have any particular artists you’d love to work with for this particular project?
Rae Sremmurd, been in the study with Jimmi, trying to find time to get in the studio with Swae and get our track down. Ayo and Teo, I brought them out [for the Kolony release party], cause I remixed “Rolex.” I love those kids. They brought their dancers and they were going nuts on stage. It was insane.

On Kolony you’re working with artists from Mase to Lil Uzi Vert, what do you think about the difference in this upcoming generation of rappers? Do you think they’re a bit more open to work with EDM producers, because ten years ago an album like this probably wouldn’t happen.
100%. This album was largely based on relationships and friends. Most of these artists, you can’t just call their manager and do a song with these artists, because you have to develop a relationship, ’cause most of these artists already have their favorite producers, they have their own albums to attend to. If they’re going to do a feature it’ll be with their friend or someone that they really respect. I cultivated great friendships with a lot of these artists that I’m proud to say led to the completion of the album. 

Younger EDM producers often say, ‘I don’t think too much about genre.’ Do you think much about working with this kind of EDM producer or that kind of rapper?
I get why young producers don’t want to be compartmentalized. I’m an EDM guy there is no doubt about that, I’m not saying I’m not. But at the end of the day I’m just a producer and I’m constantly shifting my gears, whether the critics liked it or not I don’t care. … All I care about is making the best music I can in the room. Hopefully the idea is to forge a whole new lane, because that is what is happening nowadays, because now artists are literally creating their own subculture. One artist can create and another can join then it’s a full blown ecosystem, a healthy ecosystem around a sound, a squeak, a dance, it’s insane.

Why do you feel the worlds of EDM and rap are coming together more freely?
I think the most important thing is that it doesn’t matter what genre of music you’re from. Energy is by far the most important element that surpasses trends, surpasses trends, cultures, genres, styles. That’s why when you see Uzi or Travis Scott wilding the fuck out and people going apeshit and it feels like a punk show or a hardcore show or an EDM big-banging drop show. That’s the energy people are attracted to. When a hip-hop artist goes hard at EDC everyone wants to be a part of that. It might not be your shtick or sound, but you can do something that can be a part of that.

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Billy Joel to Guest DJ, Reflect on Every Beatles Album on Sirius XM

Billy Joel will reflect on every song on every Beatles album as part of the singer’s stint as a guest DJ on SiriusXM’s new Beatles Channel.

“Just like you, I love the Beatles,” Joel said in a statement. “I still think that they were the best band that ever was. And I’m going to go through their albums and talk about some of the songs that have stayed with me the rest of my life.”

The first installment of the guest DJ session, which airs July 21st at 5 p.m. on the Beatles Channel, finds Joel going track-by-track on the Beatles’ first two Capitol-released American LPs, Meet the Beatles and The Beatles’ Second Album.

As evidenced by the below clip, wherein Joel reminisces about “This Boy” and school dances, the singer also performs parts of some tracks on the piano: 

Joel has performed upwards of 25 Beatles songs live over the course of his career. Most recently, he debuted his rendition of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” to mark the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

“Revisiting The Beatles’ album collection through the eyes of a musical icon is a rare treat, and we are honored to do this with Billy,” President and Chief Content Officer of SiriusXM Scott Greenstein said in a statement. “This series will feel like you’re sitting down with Billy at home listening to tracks on every Beatles album together, and hearing Billy’s rendition of pieces of some songs. The Beatles in the hands and words of Billy Joel is truly something special for our listeners.”

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