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Music News: Chuck Berry, SoundCloud, Kendrick Lamar


Unexpected releases, surprise announcements, the loss of giants - this week the music news kept coming. And here with the latest, NPR music editors Jacob Ganz. Hey there, Jacob.


CORNISH: And a new friend, Andrew Flanagan. Welcome, Andrew.


CORNISH: So I want to run quickly through some of the headlines, number one being that the legendary guitarist Chuck Berry passed away last Saturday at the age of 90, and yet we have some news. Jacob?

GANZ: Yeah. He put out new music this week. This was not one of those things where his estate repackaged music that had been sort of floating in the ether. Chuck Berry had been recording a new album - it's going to be called "Chuck" - for 35 years. He put his last album out in 1979.

The new album is scheduled to come out in June, and they just happened to announce it the week after he died. We actually got a new song called, "Big Boys" this week.


CHUCK BERRY: (Singing) When I was just a little boy like you, I wanted to do things the big boys do. Wherever they went, you know they wouldn't let me go. And I got suspicious. And I wanted to know.

CORNISH: So I want to move on to some business news. Andrew, I hear there's some stuff going down with SoundCloud.

FLANAGAN: Yes. This is a Berlin-based music streaming company started about 10 years ago. This week, they secured a $70 million debt deal which will keep them afloat at least through the end of the year.

GANZ: SoundCloud is one of those websites that most people know it for being the place where musicians, DJs, bedroom musicians - that's where those people are going to emerge. SoundCloud has a massive number of users partly because it's free. How many does it have?

FLANAGAN: Hundred-seventy-five million a month.

GANZ: If SoundCloud disappears, it's really a disaster for people who want to put their own music out on the Internet.

CORNISH: And one more headline this time about Bob Dylan who somehow, Jacob Ganz, still manages to make news.

GANZ: Bob Dylan is making news and making music, although not his own music. For the third time in the past few years, Bob Dylan is about to put out an album of standards of songs from the 1940s and '50s. As he's done - those times as well - he's given an interview to an unexpected source. The last time it was AARP The Magazine. This time it was - can't believe they got this scoop - bobdylan.com.

CORNISH: Scooped - we've been scooped by bobdylan.com

GANZ: How did they land the interview? The interview was conducted by a reputable journalist, Bill Flanagan. And it's a fantastic interview. If you actually had questions about why Dylan is not writing new material, this interview has actual answers.

CORNISH: All right, I want to dig into some reporting you did, Andrew, this week which is kind of like mystery/hoax/dip into the world of records and vinyl, right? What happened?

FLANAGAN: Me and Jacob got an email a couple of weeks ago from a site called Discogs, which is what vinyl collectors use to kind of trade and sell rare pieces of vinyl. And they said that someone had broken the record for the most expensive album sold on the site by $3,000.

GANZ: The record that they broke, by the way, was somebody bought a copy of Prince's Black Album, which is long rumored lost - very, very rare - last year for $15,000. The new record had supposedly sold for $18,000.

FLANAGAN: Yeah. So this week, I started digging into this guy, Bill Yeager. No one has ever heard of him. And the deeper I dug, the stranger the story got. I found this network of resellers of Billy Yeager ephemera...

GANZ: Guitars and albums and surfboards.

FLANAGAN: A surfboard for $15,000 on eBay.

GANZ: A guitar for $300,000 that he played in a movie once, apparently.

CORNISH: So, quote, unquote, someone was selling memorabilia from basically a "huckster?"

FLANAGAN: A complete unknown...

GANZ: Yeah, definitely not Billy Yeager himself.

FLANAGAN: No, of course not. The more I dug, the more it seemed that this sale was from him to him and - get this strange type of publicity that he's been seeking his entire life.

CORNISH: Jacob, when you think about, like, kind of - we always joke about fetishism around albums and records. I mean, what is kind of like the takeaway from this story?

GANZ: This guy was able to use the Internet in a completely unexpected way. Like, the way you think people use the Internet is to upload themselves playing guitar amazingly on YouTube.

This guy, as good as he might possibly be, is far more interested in infamy than he is in fame and the chase of pulling the wool over people's eyes. He's a huckster. He's a charlatan. The fact that you can do that on the Internet as well as you can anywhere else is just sort of like part of the long story of people in the music industry doing crazy things I think.

CORNISH: All right, well, the kicker this week - new music from somebody who has earned their success - right? - Kendrick Lamar.

GANZ: Kendrick Lamar is the most acclaimed rapper of his generation. He's the guy that everybody looks to to set the bar in hip hop right now. Kendrick Lamar at 11 o'clock Thursday night put out a new song. It's called "The Heart Part 4." It seems to suggest in the song that he's going to put out a new album in a couple of weeks on April 7th. It also takes shots at unnamed phony rappers and also President Trump.

CORNISH: NPR music editors Jacob Ganz and Andrew Flanagan, thanks so much for coming in.

GANZ: You're welcome.

FLANAGAN: Thank you.


KENDRICK LAMAR: (Rapping) Don't tell a lie on me. I won't tell a truth about you. Don't tell a lie on me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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