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Best of 2023: Dylan Green's NY Moments

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LFG!! It's time for another NY-centric best-of list in our ongoing series, following kimdollars1's opening salvo and then the Finals/Kieran Press-Reynolds/Ali Rosa-Salas post. Now we welcome Dylan Green, p4ker extraordinaire, real-ass concertgoer (every time I'm out, there Dylan is), and Big Film Person, whose list is 100% them, just the way we like it. Take it away Dylan!


Blue Giant Reaffirmed My Love For Passion & Walking Through NYC

When you get invited to a movie screening at the Universal Music Group building in midtown Manhattan, it’s hard to know what to expect. Will I end up surrounded by a bunch of suits or jaded media folks here to meet a monthly review quota or just showing up somewhere to feel alive? I was tired, probably a little bit burnt out, but excited to spend a night out with my sister Jo, whose friend was the one who secured us spots at this screening of the manga adaptation Blue Giant. As we walked through the doors, I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere. Light purple mood lighting draped over a modest concert hall room with a projector screen towering over a baby grand piano; folks dressed in casual, colorful attire finding their seats while being tempted by the charcuterie board and humongous matcha and earl grey cream puffs at the Kraft table. We sat about two rows back from the screen and makeshift stage, on an L-shaped couch clearly meant to look more comfortable than it actually is, while we people watched and wondered what it was we signed up for.

Full disclosure: I had never heard of Blue Giant before we got this invite. But it’s a 10-volume, 80-chapter manga series created, written, and illustrated by Shinichi Ishizuka about a trio of Japanese college students—the ambitious saxophonist Dai Miyamoto, the talented but rigid pianist Yukinori Sawabe, and the amateur drummer Shunji Tamada—who bond over jazz music and form their own band called, of course, Jass. Structurally, Blue Giant is a shonen manga in the vein of stuff like Dragonball Z, Naruto, or One Piece but instead of revolving around martial arts and fantastical powers, all the tropes of the genre are funneled through the world of live music. This is most apparent in the handful of musical numbers dotted throughout the film, where every note and drum hit is accented with impressionistic fireballs and other wild special effects. And with a score composed by Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara, these scenes are as manic and exciting as any Saiyan battle.

Everyone in the audience was locked in for the entire two-hour runtime. The cheers when the trio finish their first big number were as heartfelt as the gasps when Yukinori is involved in a traffic accident that permanently damages his right hand and the tears that flowed as he joins Dai and Shunji for what will be their last show, playing all of his parts with only one working hand (Hiromi, who was also at the screening, explained that in order to make that scene as authentic as possible, she recorded the piano part for the final song “FIRST NOTE” using only her left hand). With an electric performance from Hiromi and a meet-and-greet with Ishizuka directly after, the screening was an unforgettable experience—even the asshole who walked out with two copies of the complimentary soundtrack vinyl couldn’t ruin the night.

I haven’t stopped thinking about Blue Giant since I saw it. I couldn’t stop talking about it after we stopped off at one of the six different weed stores we passed on our way back to Penn Station for edibles; its jazzy soundtrack was tempting me while I would write about other music. But more than anything, Dai’s pluckish and determined personality—a standard for any shonen protagonist—hits different when he talks about his love for John Coltrane and sax arpeggios. I instantly connected with his passion, the kind I see in the eyes of the creatives I’m lucky to spend my life around, and have been stewing in it ever since. Blue Giant is my favorite movie of 2023 not just because it’s a moving and gorgeously animated ode to jazz music. It reminded me how important it is to be passionate.

defprez Put On My Favorite Rap Show of 2023

Defprez—a rap trio made up of rappers defcee and CRASHprez and producer knowsthetime—have a refreshing binary star chemistry. There’s several moments on It’s Always A Time Like This, their debut album released earlier this year on Closed Sessions, where they’re so in-sync, you’d swear they could finish each other’s sentences if you hand them the mic. It’s in the ways their flows compliment each other on tracks like “Always” and “Wake,” the way they cut slits in their hearts and pour them out on “Cold Wax,” all while knowsthetime serves as anchor with soulful, uptempo beats that run the gamut from standard looped samples to 808s and hi-hats that would equally suit RXKNephew or Young Nudy. Their versatility within the confines of indie rap made Always one of my most revisited projects of the year.

I had the pleasure of seeing all three of them open for Nappy Nina on August 26 in Brooklyn, and all that goodness is only amplified when they’re on a stage together. Their energy was through the roof, especially knowsthetime, who held them down as their DJ and walked away with some of the best adlibs of the night. But it all showed in the way they worked the crowd together. They regularly said bars in unison or finished them for each other, even on their solo songs, and both defcee and CRASH were clearly charged up off the excitement of playing their first show in Brooklyn as a duo. They ran through a good chunk of It’s Always A Time Like This and landed every emotional beat perfectly. I was particularly stunned by their rendition of “Cold Wax,” all the admissions and reflecting on trauma echoing off the walls while the audience fed on it and transferred it back to the stage. Both Rich Jones and Nappy Nina put on amazing sets as well, but it seemed like defprez was the fan favorite of the night. This was the year that I finally got to see Little Brother live, saw Babyface Ray mesmerize a crowd at Webster Hall, and saw Cleo Reed become a star before my eyes. But defprez were live enough to ensure that their show was my favorite I caught this year.

Favorite Post-Concert Moment Of 2023

Timmhotep, Andre Gee, CRASH, defcee, Amber, and I getting Jamaican food off Nostrand Ave and debating our favorite Funk Flex freestyles and battle rappers. Rice & peas never tasted so good <3

Best Album That Dropped After Everyone Finished Their EOY Lists

AKAI SOLO - Verticality///Singularity

Favorite Songs To Walk Around NY To (playlist)


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