Ah, Drake. Love him or hate him—Toronto’s hero is the only rapper that can truly change the game with a mixtape. The self-proclaimed 6 God recently partnered with Fader and Sprite for an in-depth interview series.
In the Obey Your Thirst documentary, Aubrey speaks on his hometown pride, the equalizing nature of internet culture, striving to be a multi-dimensional artist, and his take on industry competition.
“I’m not worried about these other rappers, I’m not competing with those guys,” he says in the insightful interview, “I already know their hand, I know their move. I study everything. I’m worried about the kid that’s sitting in his house that wants to be better than me and all those guys. That’s who I’m competing with.”
Can’t wait to hear what rhymes with bacchius.
LA-founded and operated Hellfyre Club epitomizes the saying, “You are the company that you keep,” a mantra that holds true within the realms of hip-hop and the street culture associated with it; to be loosely translated, the idea goes hand-in-hand with the ghetto rule-of-thumb stating that “Fate chooses your friends, you choose your family.” Founded and streamlined by Nocando, he surrounded himself with individually like-minded cats that had a niche for writing rhymes over beats in a way that enticed a contextually unfamiliar vernacular that was stylistically familiar at the same damn time. Enter Open Mike Eagle, native Chicagoan, Hellfyre Club member and proud indie rapper. Upon today’s release of his most recent LP, “Dark Comedy,” Open Mike Eagle held it down in the rap game for nearly 20 years – living somewhere between hip-hop’s realms of gangster rap and the eclectic hip-hop that Hellfyre Club has built their foundation off of. We sat down with Open Mike Eagle to talk about what it means to be an indie rapper, the changes in hip-hop and why he should stop reading articles about himself.
LA CANVAS: How’s life?
Open Mike Eagle: Life is treating me well, I’m just sleepy most of the time and I have to come up with a better way to strategize sleep. I take my son to school in the morning, no matter what happens the night before; I had a show in San Bernadino last night and didn’t get home until 3am and he got up early today for whatever reason so I’m operating on about a third of my brain capacity right now. *laughs* But that’s almost typical, and that’s kind of weird to me.
LAC: Well, we only use about 10% of our brain don’t we?
OME: Yeah, but I’m at about a third of that ten, so I’m more like at three right now. *laughs* So guess what I’m going to do after this? Take a big, fat, juicy nap.
LAC: Your album “Dark Comedy” just came out. What are some of the concepts that went into the album, what are some of the stories behind it?
OME: So many stories, man, each song is a different story by itself. I spend a lot of time crafting each song – there’s 13 songs on the album and each ones comes from a really different place. I was probably in a very different mind state for most of them.
LAC: I mean, I figure with a title like “Dark Comedy,” I’d assume it’s some heavy content.
OME: There’s some heavy stuff and there’s light stuff, but there’s also making light of the heavy, vice versa and the juxtaposition of those things. I think there’s where I live: in that space in between what’s serious and what’s not serious because people ask me sometimes if a song is serious or if it’s a joke, and sometimes I don’t know because I think it can be both.
LAC: Because life is like that – all different shades of gray.
OME: Exactlly; and most of the time the things I enjoy from other people’s art are things along that line too. So, I didn’t really answer your question, but truthfully its because I don’t know how.
LAC: So to pick your brain further, what’s the creative process for when you’re writing your music?
OME: The beat that I love is asking me something, and I have to figure out what it’s asking. And then I play it over and over and over again until it reveals itself to me on how I should talk or what I should say, and the songs develop from there pretty much. If it’s a good song, I’ll get a pretty clear picture and then just start writing. Sometimes I’ll write starting from the first bar to the end, other times there’s a lot of note-taking and going back to craft it.
LAC: Do you ever read what bloggers or journalists say about your work?
OME: I do, but I think I do it too much.
LAC: Does it ever get to your head?
OME: It does because my ego is very sensitive, but it’s also very large. And that’s because I’m an American male and I rap for a living. Those things are very tough on an ego — that’s like weight-lifting for a cast iron ego and so I do want to know what people are saying, but even when its good it’s not good the right way or it’s never perfect. I should just stop *laughs*
LAC: I always imagined it’s hard for artists to present this body of work and then have someone come out of left field, who doesn’t know you’re coming from, and just interrogate it, whether the resulting critique is good or bad.
OME: What makes it worse is that a lot of times they think they know where I’m coming from. If you as a writer are going to present your interpretation of something is at least state within that’s it’s just a mere interpretation – it’s not the ending definition of anything. There are some songs on this album where I have a hard time dissecting where I was coming from when I wrote it. Some of them are two years old, so the distance between where I was when I was writing it and now where I’m talking about it is very far away – and that’s me talking about my own project, let alone some writer from some publication to interpret it.
LAC: What was your reaction to being called an “indie rapper”? I know with some folks, it might strike a nerve or some kind.
OME: I loved it. I love indie rap. That’s the nicest thing someone could call me, really – there’s a lot of worse ways to describe what we do. I enjoy indie rap as a concept because it’s like how rock music has all these different kinds of rock; you got rockabilly, hog, punk, art rock and there’s just these so many different ways within that genre for artists to express themselves. Ultimately, I think a lot of what me and my friends do is trying to establish that same reality within rap so that we’re not bound by the expectations of one kind of rap music or one kind of rapper, which tends to happen because the media only shows rappers shown on larger media outlets.
LAC: If we’re talking about hip-hop today, who’s really out there dominating mainstream rap? You have TDE and Kendrick Lamar, and then you have like Tyler the Creator and Odd Future.
OME: But even those two, those are better than what has been around for a long time, which was straight up gangster rap, but there a few new voices now, which is cool, but again, it’s just a few. Our angle is closer to that but it’s more unique and more vulnerable. Tyler is kind of shocking a lot of the time, which is his thing. Kendrick is doing his own thing, and I really have nothing bad to say about either of them, but compared to them, what my friends and I (in Hellfyre Club) do are just a lot more open, less macho-man type stuff, you know?
LAC: I mean, you guys are constantly being described a crew that’s “super left-field.”
OME: Which is weird because Nocando is not weird at all. He’s the normal-est rapper I hang around. He listens to a lot of stuff that I can’t listen to because his ear is to the street. So it’s interesting that he gets lumped into that – I mean, I know I’m more left field, and the thing that’s common between us is that I know we’re both vulnerable, but I really don’t think he’s weird or left-field at all.
LAC: You started your rap career mostly associated with a few different crews (Thirsty Fish, Swim Team, Project Blowed) when did you start doing more solo work?
OME: When I was in college I started writing solo songs because I didn’t have a crew back then. Then when I moved out here, I was in Thirsty Fish, then we started the Swim Team, which was a bigger outfit. Somewhere between doing all the collaborations with those two, whenver we got together to hash out ideas for Thirsty Fish — trying to figure out our common bond, even though we were all really different – when I’d go home and do my solo stuff, I’d be super into it. I think I started to find my voice through collaboration – I would start to learn the difference between me and my friends in how we approached things. When I wanted to work on my solo stuff, I could just indulge in this voice that I’m not often able to inject into that situation. When we were making our first record in 2008 (with Thirsty Fish) I was working around a lot of my solo material in that time. I had an EP beforehand but at that point in 2008 I started working on songs for albums.
LAC: How does that dynamic work? You’re talking about you’re able to find your voice among working with so many different people, but to backtrack, how do you put out a single album or project when there’s so many moving parts?
OME: It got to be difficult, to be honest. By the time we got to our second album, I think all of us had kind of matured more in terms of our own individual aesthetic so it became harder to find a place to meet on all concepts or directions because I think we all came into it as solo acts first. With three people it got to be agreeing on a beat was difficult, and agreeing on a concept was difficult, and agreeing on how the hook should be got difficult to the order or how the verses should be broken up. There’s so many phases to have to agree on, but there are some groups that have done it for years and I can admire that.
LAC: What do you have planned for the rest of 2014?
OME: I have some spot dates for now, but no tour booked yet. I have a show here and there, I’m doing the Hop Scotch Festival in September, a show in New York City later in the year. We just did a Hellfyre Club tour, which was great, with some hopes of another one next year. But we’ll see. I’m starting a podcast that I’m excited about, which is still in the works.
*WERK IT OUT, OME.
Last Friday, eclectic beat masters Prefuse 73, Falty DL and Nosaj Thing encapsulated and transported the Echoplex’s sonic youth into unearthly dimensions with each of their uniquely branded electronica. The OG of the three — Guillermo Scott Heren aka Prefuse 73 — was the center piece of the triple-act, smoothing out the transition from Falty DL’s dancey, high-energy production to Nosaj Thing’s more spacey version of the type of electronic beats that Prefuse began to explore back in the early 2000’s. Though only in his early 30’s, Prefuse’s subsequent amount of experience and knowledge came from his start in the biz as a teenager, and by the looks of it, he has no intentions of slowing down — especially with the help of some echinacea. Check out the interview below to see how Prefuse survives climate change and taking his music to the grave.
LAC: How’s life?
Guillermo: It’s good, just started this tour yesterday in San Francisco and that was good. It’s a short tour – maybe only seven or eight shows – but we’re going all over the place; we’re like flip-flopping climate wise. It’s crazy, we went from like negative-ten degrees wind chill to San Francisco that was beautiful, like 50 degrees or something and then down here where there’s like, humid heat. Then we’re headed out to Portland which is colder, and from there we hit like Texas which is hot then back to progressively freezing — Chicago, Toronto, New York. And that’s all within ten days so I’m definitely gonna be sick when I get back home (to New York.)
LAC: But I mean, you’ve been going to tours all these years, I would think you’d have a method to surviving the climate madness.
G: Well yeah, you just have to push through it and be positive. But like you said, over the years, you learn how to deal with it and take of yourself. Like, don’t eat a lot of junk, cause that’s what I learned in the past is that over the course of touring, bad diet and stress can totally weigh you down, at least it did for me. I don’t even drink too much anymore when I’m on tour, or smoke weed. As you get older, you get smarter about that type of stuff.
LAC: Tour Survival 101 with Prefuse. (laughs)
G: Yeah, it’s gotten to a point where I make sure I have like, Echinacea and all these preventative medicines with me. And I always Yelp the hotels we stay in so we don’t catch bed bugs, cause those are always a bitch to deal with.
LAC: And here I’m thinking tour life is awesome.
G: I mean, it’s awesome for the 21-year-old that’s never been out of the country. I used to just deal with all the shit that comes with touring, but now I feel like I’m kind of a prude cause I’m always double-checking everything and make sure shit is right; I didn’t use to be like that, I used to just roll with the punches and be sick all the time. I think I’m this way now because I’ve been doing this for half my life and it’s all just habitual now.
LAC: So what do you have going on for 2014, following this really condensed tour?
G: I’m working on a new record and doing a lot of collaborations for my own label. There’s a lot of work right now, and I’m kind of swamped, so the timing for this tour is throwing me off a bit, but this lineup is so sick that’s it’s worth doing. I mean, the tour is only ten days, but when you really think about it, ten days in the studio is priceless because you just don’t know what crazy shit could happen – maybe even three out of the ten days something magical could happen. So when you sacrifice that time to do something, you question it but at the same time it’s like, how often do you get to tour with your homies, with a crew where the vision is similar even though the music is different.
LAC: Over the years, you’ve gone under all these different aliases that aligned with a particular project. Should we anticipate a new alias with this new record?
G: Probably. That’s the way my mind works – I always make aliases. Not to be like, ‘oh, let me over saturate the market with an alias,’ but more like to not be me, so that it’s not to be confused with Prefuse 73 or any other alias I have. It’s just like freedom from the project because aliases should come from a complete idea of concept. You’re just trying to separate from what people are used to – it’s not like a gimmick. You’re doing something with the exact same total amount of passion – you’re excited about it, and aliases are cool because it’s new. You know, you have an idea and you think you can build an album around it and that people will like it, so let me call it something – anything, whatever’s in front of you – and that’s kind of how it happened. So right now I’m in Prefuse 73-mode production-wise but in that process, I could just turn the knob the right way to make an alias happen.
LAC: Has Prefuse 73 always been your center “alias”?
G: Yeah, because I think it’s been the most digest-able stuff I make. Savath and Savalas was really mellow instrumental music, there’s only a certain amount of people that are into that: it had Spanish vocals laced onto it, so (I knew) in the US that wasn’t going to pop off. At the same time Prefuse was the one marketed the most because it aligned a lot better with the other stuff coming out of Warp (Records.) I kept on doing the aliases because I loved making music, I didn’t really care about racking up a whole bunch of dough off of the side projects I had, I just had ideas and wanted to share them. For me, I didn’t make music because I wanted to make millions; I feel like if I were to do that, it would go against my own personal integrity as a musician, and I try to stick to my guns when it comes to the integral part.
LAC: I feel like that’s a standard crossroad any musician comes across: either you get lucky by being able to make your music, hit a target audience and that pops off, or you sell your soul to make millions.
G: You gotta make that decision going into it. I started at a time when I was lucky, I was in the right frame of mind for doing it, I was in front of a lot of people where there maybe remotely five guys that were making the same sounds that I was and that went on for like four years. There wasn’t really anyone for me to compete with, no one for me to really tour with like this – Four Tet may have been the closest one for me to tour with, but even then it was still very different from the stuff I was making.
LAC: Because your music is more hip-hop based.
My shit is so deficit of attention, so many ways for me to play it because I always like to change it up and it comes from a distinct ‘I-grew-up-on-hip-hop’ background, no matter how weird it gets, it still has that similar hip-hop beat. You’re talking about a kid that figured out to work an MPC in a really primitive era, who had a day job at a studio making prehistoric trap beats that hated making them, and out of that Prefuse was born — making trap in Atlanta before even Outkast was blowing up. I hated it, but it was something I had to get experience and learn from. It was what drove me to do something weird.
LAC: How was all that received?
G: I grew up with a whole bunch ‘hip-hop purists’ who hated it. I would play my stuff for my friends and they literally told me that they hated it, so I had to learn how to eat shit for about two years until I got a (record) deal. Nobody was feeling it, but I knew I had to keep at it, I knew it was going to work because it was coming out of me naturally, like it wasn’t contrived. People were so set on this standard formula for a hip-hop beat where you were only supposed to have like 16 bars, a hook, a kick and snare – the weirdest you could get was looping a sample lyric. So what I did was like some obscure part of a sample – like the air in between the rhymes – and make a whole song out of that. I wanted to obliterate this whole system of making a beat and turning into music and letting it mesh – that became the goal for me.
LAC: Do you ever think about what role you’ve played in this whole mashing-up-of-the-genres movement that’s been going on?
G: I leave it up to other people to give me those decorations. I’ll listen though, and see what labels they place upon me, like how they say I invited this genre or whatever, but I’m just whatever about it. There are people in Miami that were hating on me, saying like I’ll never be the best or there are dudes that are way ill-er than me, but I’m not even trying to be the best, I’m just trying to come up with some fresh shit. I recognize that for some of these new producers, I might have taken some weight in a journalistic sense because I was doing these pressing interviews where hip-hop outlets back in the day were saying shit like I’m degrading the role of the MC, and I never understood where that came from because I have the same respect for the MC as much as I do the beat. So I took all these overcomplicated, dead serious shit back in the day and I was able to take all those harsh vibes away from the dudes that do it now; they don’t have to deal with that today. Anybody can make an album, put it on the internet and as long as it’s good, they can pop off and enjoy their life and success, but they don’t have to answer up to a lot of people that I had to, which is a bunch of people that were only listening to two records at a time back then.
LAC: Do you think these new cats look to you as a uhh… I don’t want to say pioneer, because that makes you sound old.
G: Everything makes me sound old. People will call me out like, ‘he’s been in the game for 17 years,’ and I’m just like, “Damn.” Somebody tracked my whole discography all the way back to the records I don’t want anyone to hear. I mean, I’ve been making music since I was 16, but when they call me out like that it makes me sound like, I’m 80. (laughs) I don’t have problems interacting with Nosaj Thing, and I’m not on my death bed, so I don’t understand.
LAC: I would think it’s a respect thing.
G: I would hope so, unless someone’s trying to play me and be like, ‘this old motherfucker.’ I mean, I grew up listening to jazz records from my mom so I see everything from a jazz musician’s perspective – none of those dudes quit, they died making music. These guys died in their 60s-70s-80s, and not to place one over the other, but they weren’t mapping out their careers to call it quits once they make a ton of money. They were making music because they wanted to make music for as long as they could. It seems like everyone I followed in that jazz era just suffered as musicians – they had really high points and really low points and this never stopped them and that’s kind of how I came into it. And when I think about these jazz dudes, they took it to the grave. That’s how I’m going to go out, no matter what I’m making. This shit I’m making is always going to be relevant to me; it’s what I started making, it’s going to be what I’m making no matter what aliases I go under.
It’s no secret that we’re still blasting Beyoncè’s album and watching her videos every chance we get, but we may have a new girl fighting for our attention. Singer slash emcee Angel Haze took to the mic to give us another cover of an already good song and well, made it perfect. Taking the playfulness of one of the best songs on Bey’s album, Drunk in Love, Haze switches up lyrics, sings the chorus perfectly, and gives a better version of Jay’s verse – she decides against the misogyny. She may have just took over our headphones and our hearts.
We’ve had our eye on him since his guest verses on both Le1f’s mixtapes. Since then, the internet prophets predicted his impending solo effort. Dozens of 11:11’s later, came My Crew – the self-produced first single off DonChristian Jones’ inaugural mixtape The Wayfarer brought to us by cult-favorite label Greedhead, came with a clever video to boot , proving to be worth the wait. Jones is a painter/musician/Wesleyan grad/beat-maker/renaissance man who recently performed at MoMA PS1 and at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he was also involved with the “Blues for Smoke” exhibition in 2013. It should also be noted that DonChristian is a babe of epic proportions, so when we got the chance to make awkward small talk with him, LAC Carpe Diem’d. Enjoy:
So, what’s up?
Just got home from work. Gonna eat this here Chinese food and work on this record.
Can we get you something to drink?
I’m good. I got an ice tea.
Favorite thing to look at?
Right now? The TLC biopic.
Rock, paper, or scissors?
Do anything last night?
Watched American Horror Story at my friend Pedro’s…that show stresses me out.
How late did you stay up?
I’m up late every night.
Meals or snacks?
Meals. Big, bad-for-you meals.
Do you sit down in the shower?
I really don’t.
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party? Have to be alive.
Melvin Van Peebles, Erykah Badu, Jim Jones, my Dad.
Your biggest fan?
If life could resemble any film… any film score?
The John Adams score for Io Sono L’amore.
Who would you commission to take/paint/draw your portrait?
Blue or black ink?
Cotton or wool socks?
Wool for winter
When was the last time you really froke out at someone?
These two cops that pulled me off of a train in Brooklyn and told me they saw me hop the turnstile. Proved to them I had an unlimited metro card, but they made me late for work nonetheless.
What was the first thing you said aloud this morning?
Are you listening to music right now?
Yung Lean and Kelela.
Your dream collaboration?
Where and when can we catch your next show?
December 28th, Brooklyn Bowl, Le1f’s Camp & Street Kwanzaa Party. We’ve been dreaming about this party for years now. Should be really great. Live performances all night, and many special guests. Oh, I’m also opening for him in Australia before that, so come down, yeah.
If we gave you $50, what would you buy?
I won’t say…
Last 3 Google searches?
1. Ian Isiah “Freak You down” video
2. Tek “Buddy Gyal”
3. Mark Twain
What are you doing later?
Finishing a mural
Can we come?
Oh, and you can check out his new Yung Lean remix here.
photos: Becky McNeel
Lucky us. Kevin Celestin, aka Montreal beatsmith, Kaytranada, is in LA for two shows this week for his No Peer Pressure tour featuring Groundislava and Jerome LOL (though his LA shows will open with Morri$ and Colta), and we managed to sneak in some couch-time conversations. We spoke a bit about his up-coming tour in the US, genre-labeing, Drizzy Drake and bodybuilding babes.
LA CANVAS: I actually didn’t know English wasn’t your first language. That’s what Will (Kaytra’s manager) told me just now.
Well yeah, I’m from Montreal so I speak French. But we throw some English words in there, kind of like slang I guess.
LAC: So you just came off of an Australia tour with Ryan Hemsworth, and this is your first American solo tour. Is there a difference between the Australian crowd and the US crowd?
Yeah, the Australians go hard, they’re a lot rowdier, but I think that’s because most of them seem younger. I haven’t been to all of America yet but when I was in New York, I could tell that they weren’t really feeling it; I mean, they were dancing and all, but they weren’t going hard. I know LA goes hard though, LA gets down.
LAC: How was the tour kick-off in San Jose?
San Jose was cool, there was this girl dancing all over the stage, she was twerking and all that. It was crazy, I wasn’t expecting all that (laughs)
I mean, to hear or read something like that, it’s crazy, if not reassuring. The track was even featured on HotNewHipHop and they put the word “hot” in front it; and I was just surprised the track was even featured on a hip-hop blog. Something like that though, it definitely tells you that you’ve made it though, hearing that type of shit.
LAC: The “At All” video, though – that was nuts with the buff ass girls. Who came up with that idea?
The one who came up with video idea was my friend, Martin Pariseau. He called me about the idea of the bodybuilding women and me hanging with them and doing weird shit. I wasn’t really down with it at first, but I don’t know, when we were at the shoot, I knew it was going to be a big thing so I did it.
LAC: Was being carried weird?
Not really. I mean, we’ve all been carried when we were kids so, it ain’t that weird. But I couldn’t stop laughing.
LAC: Yeah, I bet. Just the imagery of it all was like, “What the hell?” I was diggin’ your jersey.
Yeah, that was the point of it all; and yeah, I was diggin’ it too, I wished the jersey was mine.
LAC: When you listen to your tracks, you can hear the hip-hop, R&B, soul and disco influences in your background. Given that, is it weird to be labeled as an electronic artist/producer?
I mean it is weird because I don’t like to label myself as an electronic DJ because I’m always pulling from other genres, cause that’s what I listen to. I listen to hip-hop, R&B, a lot of old disco and that transfers to my music. Even the… I don’t want to call it trap, but I use a lot of that downbeat hip-hop bass, and I just don’t think the electronic label fits it. Nowadays it’s like, how can you tell my music is hip-hop? By the BPM? It’s so hard to slap any one genre onto music because we’re pulling influences from all these other different places, you can’t just place it into one bubble.
LAC: What have been the major differences since signing with Huh, What & Where (HW&W) Recordings? Has being a part of that helped you creatively?
It’s been cool. I mean, since I signed with them, I still stayed in my own lane, just doing my own thing. The label used to be just about instrumental beats, and even then I still want creative control over my music. But they’re the homies and they’ve helped get my name and music out, and then I get to do cool shit with them, like Boiler Room. So overall, it’s been cool, it’s been great.
LAC: I was browsing through your SoundCloud and saw some tracks under “The Celestics.” Is that like, a side project, or something you started prior to being a solo producer?
Yeah, it’s a hip-hop group I was working with, it was actually the first project I was doing, and it just never popped off cause we weren’t really working at it. Instead of recording or working on tracks, we’d just fuck around or be lazy or whatever. It was me and my brother, Louie P, he was the rapper and I was the producer – I was still Kaytradamus then and just making hip-hop beats. I didn’t want to associate Kaytranada (the solo producer) with the group, I just wanted to be the producer and have the music solely stand as The Celestics. But yeah, it was something that we were trying to do, and I want to keep working at it; we already have a few tracks out, “Charles Barkley,” and “Kill,” that are getting some recognition, so it’s something that I want to keep pursuing.
LAC: Was it hard to keep working on The Celestics while you yourself were getting recognition for your solo tracks?
I mean, yeah that was definitely part of it. Like when I started releasing tracks on my SoundCloud and people were feeling it, and I was getting a shit-ton of likes on it, and recognition from blogs, it was like I said before, it’s like you see you’ve made it or that you were doing something right. When “If” popped off, that was when things really started to escalate and it was like, I’m being more successful at this than with The Celestics so…
LAC: I mean, at that point, it seems like you had no choice but to run with it.
LAC: I was actually going to ask you about the name change. Did changing the name from “Kaytradamus” to “Kaytranada” happen because of your success as a producer and a drift from The Celestics?
It was kind of part of it, but at the time, it was when I was still doing more “trap” beats and that also was when Flosstradmus was coming out too, and I didn’t want it to look like I was biting off them or anything like that. I was already hearing shit from my friends on Twitter like, “Who the fuck you think you are?” or “Why you biting off Floss?” and I just didn’t want to deal with that shit. I actually prefer to just be called “Kaytra,” but it’s too late to change it now at this point (laughs). But yeah, Kaytranada is more of a random name.
LAC: Going off your Twitter point, I saw a while back when (Drake’s) “Nothing Was the Same” first came out that you Tweeted that he could’ve done better musically. What would you have done with the album? Does that mean we’re going to get some Drake edits in the near future?
I mean.. I don’t know. I’m not disrespecting Drake in any way, but I just think that musically he really could have done better. Like, his team did hit me up for some beats but they wound up not using them (for NWTS). If they did though, I can guarantee that that would’ve been a classic ass album. I mean, he could hit up any underground artist – whether that be me, Sango, Star Slinger, whoever – and that would be classic.
LAC: Who would you want to collabo with in the future? Near-future or even big dream-status? I’m sure you have a long list.
Oh man… yeah, I have a fat list. I mean, I’ve done a bunch of Erykah Badu edits, a ton of Janet edits, so I’d love to work with them or other people that have remixed their tracks too. The tracks I want to do, I don’t really want or need any big time names on them, I’d just want to work with people that have that sound that I like.. like, I absolutely have to have a neo-soul singer on my tracks, maybe a rapper… but definitely a neo-soul singer.
LAC: Who are you listening to right now?
I listen to so much shit, man… really though I listen to a lot of old school disco and funk, mostly underground stuff. In a general sense I listen to a lot of underground music, especially hip-hop, disco, funk. A lot of 90’s R&B too, obviously. I love Janet.
LAC: So what should we expect for 2014?
Oh, I don’t know… I mean, I will say this: I’m definitely working towards releasing an album. It might be released in 2014, it might be released 2015, I don’t know, depends on if I’m feeling it or if I get into the right creative groove within the next year. But, we got some big things planned out, some collabos and projects that I don’t think people are ready for; I really don’t think y’all are ready for it.
Catch Kaytranada at Los Globos this Thursday, cop your tickets while you still can right here.
Move over Snoop, we know you’re a D-O-Double-G, but the triple Double-OG’s aren’t going anywhere just yet.
LA-based label Delicious Vinyl originated in the late 1980s, by signing two of LA’s finest pre-gangsta rap hip-hop acts to their roster, legend Tone Loc and Young MC. Throughout the years, DV was known for signing acts that have become pioneers and forerunners for their respective genres — acts like The Pharcyde, The Born Jamericans, The Brand New Heavies and the Masters of Reality, just to name a few.
But fast forward a couple years and the label’s evolution transcended into territories that were just on the cusp of making it big – DV’s Rick Ross (not to be confused by one Miami security guard) was one of the first in LA to delve into the world of electronic music before it made its mainstream explosion in the city of angels.
Founder Mike Ross and all his cohorts were capable of recognizing what was up and coming with music, acting with some kind of musical wizardy for knowing what people were going to eat up next as far as genres go.
True to form, DV is nowhere near falling off the grid. In recent years, the label/record store began to host “DVTV Sessions,” weekly events where they would bring in a guest DJ to spin at the shop, while streaming it live on ustream.
The idea here is not only to keep up with the hottest artists in the game right now, but to also take over in a new role as a pseudo-online radio station – highlighting top DJs and artists to music lovers not only in LA, but all over the blog-o-sphere while establishing an online presence.
55 Sessions-deep and a soon to be released season 1 wrap-up on the way, the DVTV Sessions have been highly successful in that its brought in a whole range of acts – from Beat Junkies godfather Rhettmatic to new kids on the block like Soulection and Falcons.
Delicious Vinyl TV: A Day With (G)uards | Video Cred: Asato Lida
Delicious Vinyl TV Session #54: My Hollow Drum Take Over | Video Cred: Asato Lida
Delicious Vinyl TV Session #53: Nanna B. | Video Cred: Asato Lida
East of downtown, just crossing over the 4th St. bridge, is a warehouse complex of art studio lofts. In one of the smaller, tucked away and yet-to-be-completed sound studios sits Lost Midas a.k.a Jason Trikakis. He’s working on his craft – music making – which began when he was just 6 years old.
While considered a “beatmaker” by association, the term simplifies a more complex talent – a natural ability to create intricate, atmospheric compositions. He interplays chords, building a sound that’s poetically whimsical – relying heavily on a well-constructed melody laying over one of his freestyled drum patterns. This sophisticated approach comes from his obsession with Jazz and Classical music, which as a multi-instrumentalist he is trained to play. His recent EP Memory Flux leans on bubbly head-bobbing beat arrangements pierced by Lost Midas’ own golden touch of dreamy, melodic, electronic soundscapes.
We sat down with Lost Midas for a small chat about his history, musical approach and what to expect in the near future.
LA CANVAS: Ok, so where are you from?
LOST MIDAS: Boston. I moved to L.A. summer of 2011.
LAC: Why to LA?
LM: That’s a good question. It was kind of impulsive. I was playing in bands on the east coast and my dream was always to be a rock star. As a matter fact, not to say that I got close, but I got a taste of that experience. In a band called The Press Project. We were a live seven-piece R&B Jazz ensemble. Our third or fourth gig ever was opening for The Roots. So things took off quick. At that age I thought this is how it’s always going to be until I realized there were seven people cooking in a small kitchen. We played Bonnaroo in 2008 and it was a steady decline after that.
LAC: If you were in Boston why not just move to New York?
I was going to move to New York but what stopped me was a pretty cool sequel of events. This girl I used to date, her best friend was dating Austin Peralta. Through her and Austin I went to New York to a Brainfeeder event. FlyLo, Teebs, Strangeloop, Thundercat, and a couple others were on the bill. I had to check it out. Producing to me was new and I was being influenced by these guys. I was sick and tired of being in bands with unreliable people. I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet the Brainfeeder crew and I did. Coincidentally, I happened to sign up for a Logic Pro certification course in LA held the next day. I was flying to LA and so was Brainfeeder, and that same night they were playing at Low End. They saw me and they were like “what the f—-“. That night left a huge impression on me and I decided to move to LA.
LAC: Where does the name Lost Midas come from?
LM: I played in a cover band and between songs and as often is the case, patrons will shout out names of artist they wanted to hear. One guy shouted Paul Simon, but our lead singer heard Lost Midas. He says back on the mic, “Who’s Lost Midas?!” It became a bit of an inside joke within the band.
LAC: How did you get connected to your record label Tru Thoughts?
LM: Well, my buddy Roland who does artwork for a lot of musicians, him and I are pretty close friends. He has been successful in the graphic design world and some of the artists he has designed for have been on the Tru Thoughts label. He connected me with Jasmine (Label Manager) via e-mail. She heard my tracks through Soundcloud. Two weeks later we met in Silverlake and she offered me a deal on the spot, just like that.
LAC: What’s your creative process? How do you begin to put together a song?
LM: What does it for me is having… nice chords. Nice harmony. Rhythm comes later which comes contrary to what some might believe because I’ve been a drummer for over 20 years. The drums are the hardest for me. I love harmony and I love melody. I love “harmonic deception.” That’s what I think I’m good at, coming up with interesting chord changes. I don’t consider myself a beatmaker or part of the beat scene. I might be a little bit of an outsider because I might be one of those few cats in that genre that write bridges. Now, the reason why I need chord changes is that when I work as a drummer in a band my part is a reaction to the chords, so when I’m composing I don’t want to start with the drums. First, it has to have that Lost Midas harmonic thing going on.
LAC: Do you think you’ve found that Lost Midas sound?
LM: I know it when I’m there but I don’t know the path to get there.
LAC: What are you listening to right now?
LM: Banks – Warm Water (Snakeships remix). It is absolutely beautiful. It’s so good I well up at the corner of my eye blasting it on my way to work. You can tell [Snakehips are] not just producer kids, they’re musicians. There is a difference. My staple though, Jazz and Classical. That is my heart and my soul.
LAC: When will the album come out?
LM: We’re thinking March-April 2014.
LAC: And the new EP?
November 18th in the UK and 19th in the US, and the single Dance Monkey on the 16th of October.
Listen and purchase Lost Midas’ recently released EP Memory Flux on Tru Thoughts here.
Left to Right: The men of Caveman: Jeff Berall (sitting), Stefan Marolachakis, Matthew Iwanusa, Sam Hopkins(sitting) and Jimmy Carbonetti.
Every artist or band or family needs a place to retreat: a cave-like shelter where they can create, dream, philosophize, and drift away from the burdens of reality. Virginia Woolf called it a “Room of one’s own.” For Hemingway, it was any bar that had a desk to write on and a bar with flowing alcohol. The Stones loved the South of France and their farms in England. In LA, artists tuck into caverns in Silverlake or look-outs in the canyons.
For the NYC band Caveman, it’s only appropriate to have a cave of their own . . . and it’s Jimmy’s Guitar Shop on Orchard. To get there, you’ve gotta go through the slim doorways of the hip clothing store By Robert James, past the tailors suits, up the winding stairs to the second floor – a long, vertical room filled with sawdust and smoke, where Jimmy Carbonetti – Caveman’s guitarist and handy guitar carver, chisels away at wood, while vinyl spins in the corner and, outside basic indications of “day” vs. “night”, time generally flies free. One of such days, we joined the band, sat around, snapped some shots, and asked the lead singer Matt Iwanusa a couple questions.
LAC: What’s an average day like at Jimmy’s guitar shop for Caveman?
Matthew Iwanusa: Well I guess it’s different for all of us. Jimmy’s usually working on a guitar. Our buddy Mas Hino is as well. We mostly listen to records and chat about life. Some cool people come in to drop off guitars for repair or just to hang and we take it from there.
LAC: How did you decide to record your latest album (self-titled) up in Matt’s grandma’s barn in New Hampshire? Why escape to nature? Did grandma help with the recording process?
MI: We actually didn’t record the record there. We went up to Jimmy’s grandmothers house for just a weekend trip and jammed in a barn. It was really fun.
LAC: Heard you jammed all in the dark. Who first proposed that?
MI: We all like to set a vibe when we record. Getting the lights right has a lot to do with that. You can focus on the music and imagine weird things.
LAC: Who is the girl in “In the city, she came around at the right time?” And how did you come to cast Julia Stiles in your video?
MI: It’s more about who you meet when you are feeling depressed about past relationships. People come into your life for the right reasons and the right time.
LAC: Would you say most of your songs on this most recent album are love songs. Or lost love songs?
MI: Yes. Definitely.
LAC: Your first album, CocoBeware, was said to be an allusion to art – and rhymes with a name of a pro wrestler. Why did you guys choose to have a self-titled album this time around? Is this a statement of you guys reaching a new level of seriousness about your music?
MI: It felt like us right when we finished it. We were being extremely honest and had done so much together for 2 years, so it felt right to name it after us.
LAC: You’re are headed to LA in September. Where do you crash while you are here?
MI: Last time we stayed at the Standard. But we got a lot of friends out there. It’s fun to stay with them and catch up.
LAC: Any go-to fast food joints you hit up?
MI : Well, we obviously go to In-N-Out. But we’re open to anything.
LAC: Do you feel like a stranger when you come here? Too much wide open space and strip malls compared to NYC?
MI: LA has always been good to us. I never feel like a stranger.
LAC: Name your ideal friends-start-a-festival line-up.
War on Drugs
Har Mar Superstar
Pure Bathing Culture
And the French Kicks Reunite.
LAC: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened onstage with you?
MI: I sang the opening of a song out of tune. Jeff’s bass fell off and made a huge noise before our set at ACL. Stefan fell off the stage during a set in LA.
LAC: What’s Caveman’s current motto?
Chris Alfaro, a.k.a. Free The Robots, is a producer and musician based out of Santa Ana, Orange County but has long been associated with the “beat scene” community of Los Angeles. With his fusion of jazz, psych, electronic and hip-hop, Alfaro’s productions are a refreshing change of pace for the underground hip-hop scene. We speak to the humble beat-smith about his roots in Orange County, and the story behind his self-released LP, ‘The Balance.’
LAC: How has living in Orange County (Santa Ana specifically) influenced your work?
FTR: As frustrating as it was growing up around the various ‘burbs of OC, settling in the city of Santa Ana provided a balance for me creatively and productively. Entertaining enough, but generally secluded from distraction, the vibe of this neighborhood keeps me level headed. It’s a very small downtown where everyone knows everyone. Life here is relatively simple. I love it just for what it is, and accept what it’s not. For everything else I go elsewhere.
LAC: You are part owner in a restaurant/bar in Santa Ana called The Crosby. What role has that played in your development and growth as a musician?
FTR: The two different lives I live somehow compliment each other. Aside from being an artist myself, at The Crosby, I step behind the scenes to manage a whole different world of responsibilities, giving others the stage. I stay inspired from the bookings alone, and my growth as a musician has a lot to do with being there night after night. We have some of the greatest talent in the world sharing our stage week after week. That energy at The Crosby makes it impossible for me to stay creatively stagnant.
LAC: Has running a business taught you anything valuable as an artist?
FTR: We’ve been open over 5 years now, and the whole experience taught me the importance of balance, confidence and humility. I find myself constantly in very opposite situations back to back. One night I’ll be somewhere in Europe enjoying my last evening after a mind-blowing world tour, only to come back home to host, and bus tables… clean the toilet, if I have to, and jump behind the bar when needed. It’s a challenge, but I’ve accepted the fact that both endeavors need 100% of my attention, and as a leader, there’s no room for complaint. Staying active while maintaining balance is crucial. It keeps me proud of what I do, and positive when approaching my craft.
LAC: If you weren’t involved in the Crosby, do you think you’d still be living in OC?
FTR: There are tons of places I’ve been around the world that I could see my self living in for awhile; and I probably would. I’ve always been a natural wanderer, and admirer of different culture, but home is home… LA and OC is where my family is. Between the two is where I would be regardless of The Crosby.
LAC: Are there artists in OC that we in LA should be keeping an eye out for?
FTR: Truth be told, no one really just reps OC… unless you’re into the psych, garage, punk world; in which case, Burger Records runs it in OC. When it comes to hip hop, and beats, the LA, OC, IE, SD scene has a very loose border. Family is spread and united no matter where they are these days. Some labels/ collectives worth checking out are Soulection, HW&W, Team Supreme, My Hollow Drum, Tar, Leaving Records, etc. Check the lineups and listen.
LAC: Is there a story behind your LP? What’s the meaning behind the title, ‘The Balance’?
FTR: ‘The Balance’ is the musical diary of all the chaos that made up my life during the recording process. After the release of my debut, ‘Ctrl Alt Delete,’ and the opening of the The Crosby, too many things started happening at the same time. I won’t go into detail, but it was a major struggle. Maintaining my sense of creativity, touring, owning/operating a restaurant, relationships and my overall lifestyle does not lend itself to idle times. With so many moving parts, balance is what I strive for, and this album tells the story. The overall tone of the album pulls back from the chaos because this record was mainly inspired from my times of solitude… on the train, or a plane… walking around foreign cities with my headphones on… at a random bar somewhere with strangers and language barriers… In meditation, or out in the ocean, paddling into the waves.. this is where i shut everything off to create balance in my life.
LAC: How has your sound progressed since your LP ‘Prototype’?
FTR: That was 2004; the beginning of Free the Robots. I felt creatively liberated for the first time in my life, and I wanted to do everything all at once. I was young, much less experienced, with a scatterbrain full of random ideas that never really made sense together. These days, I have a little bit more than a blank canvas. My daily experiences give me with much to work with, and I’m able to channel my energy, creating a more cohesive flow of sounds with every release. Ultimately, I have much more of a story to tell.
LAC: Why did you decide to self-release this LP?
FTR: I wanted to go back to my DIY roots, from when I first started making music. I’ve always respected people like Ian MacKaye, and others, who did their own thing. They inspired the self-release of ‘The Prototype’ and the first ‘FTR EP,’ which was a huge eye opener for me. I put it out there with no expectation or plan, and an audience organically spread worldwide through word of mouth. Something I’m very grateful for; ‘Til now, people are constantly discovering and supporting what I do, and what I did back in the day. The DIY approach just feels right. Being part of every little bit from the creative process, to coming up with creative ways to put it out there is gratifying to me. My music is a very personal thing, and so is connecting with my audience. We live in different times now and I feel like the tools to connect us directly with the people are becoming more and more available; just have to put in work. It’s also gives me the freedom to work with good friends whom I source out to for things i’d need. In the end we help each other. The power of community is strong, the people are always ready, and my music will have a way of reaching my audience, if not now, then later.
LAC: You’re often associated with the “beat scene” but how would you really describe your sound?
FTR: Some of my most important shows were at the Low End Theory, which is pretty much the home where the beat scene exploded in LA. The Low End family has always played a major role in my career as Free the Robots, constantly supporting what I do; that “beat scene” association is inevitable. To me, it’s more of a community than a definitive sound, and I am honored to be a part of it. Some songs I make may be recognizable as ‘beats,’ while others have more of a straightforward approach, using traditional instrumentation and pop progressions (verse, chorus, bridge). Whatever stamp people put on it, is their own version. To me, it’s just my moods expressed and recorded.
LAC: I saw in another interview that one of your biggest influences is DJ Shadow. Did you go to his show a couple weeks back at the Observatory?
FTR: I couldn’t make it to his show at the Observatory, but I was able to play with him at the Low End Theory (San Francisco). It was a huge experience for me to finally meet the man behind the record that inspired my career. He stayed on stage with me for my entire set, and personally gave me props at the end. It was an honor, and a great feeling to see how music goes full circle.
LAC: Why do you think it is that you gravitate toward an analog sound?
I came from an era of digging; aspiring to make hip hop beats. Jazz, psychedelic rock, soul, dub, obscure stuff were always my focus when finding samples. The act of even finding samples got me listening to different music, and that analog sound is what hooked me. New music technology and picking up different keyboards added more electronics to my sound, but I still have to maintain a bit of analog dirt with my music.
LAC: What’s next on the horizon?
FTR: I’m currently working on some new sounds for a tape release on Leaving Records… also some Psych stuff for TAR; a new LA based collective you’ll be hearing of soon… Some vocal/beat collaborations with Nekochan out of France… also more stuff with Jessie Jones. And other things I can’t really talk about right now. Stay tuned though.
In the last year electronic music producer Michael Graham, otherwise known as Falcons, has consistently been releasing a steady flow of “genreless” bootlegs and singles, which have rapidly given the young LA producer some major online popularity and support from the likes of Diplo, Ryan Hemsworth, RL Grime and Djemba Djemba. Although he uses some elements of trendy internet genres, to simply categorize him as just another SoundCloud-famous music maker would be unfair. Falcons is a versatile producer with a strong sense of structure. He manages to seamlessly blend various subcategories of bass music within a single song, creating explosive club-ready tracks packed with a widely dynamic range of sounds and styles. The up-and-comer has already performed at notable venues and events such as Boiler Room, Low End Theory and Red Bull Music Academy’s This City Belongs to Me.
We managed to get Falcons to take a break from Ableton and answer a few questions for us.
LAC: How old are you and where did you go grow up?
FALCONS: 26. Grew up in the south—my mom’s in Texas, dad’s in Oklahoma. Also lived in Vancouver, Canada for five years. So pretty much a North American transplant.
LAC: What brought you to LA?
FALCONS: An enormous gust of wind.
LAC: What led you into producing?
FALCONS: I was a dancer (house and b-boying) for 12 years, so music was always something I felt passionately about, but I didn’t really take production seriously until I got injured and needed a musical outlet. I also was super excited by all the cool, new genreless music popping up around the internet, but felt like something was missing. 😉
LAC: Did moving around influence your sound?
FALCONS: That’s a great question. I think it did inevitably from experiences and inspiration, but the root of my sound is still very Southern, very sticky.
LAC: Who are your early influences?
FALCONS: Timbaland, Pete Rock, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Organized Noize, Mannie Fresh and DJ Screw.
LAC: What are you listening to at the moment?
FALCONS: Basically just THE 2k14 BASS ALL-STAR STARTING LINEUP lol; Sango, Kaytranada, Dom$olo, Cabo Blanco, Arnold, Lil Texas, CZ, Yung Satan, DJ Hoodboi, Djemba Djemba, Colta, TwoFresh, Penthouse Penthouse and Carmack.
LAC: If you could work with anyone, who would it be?
FALCONS: I think the obvious answer would be Missy Elliot and/or TImbaland . . . but really, I want to just sit in with people like Mannie Fresh and see the magic happen.
LAC: On any given day, where can we find you?
FALCONS: On the stoop in front of my place in Echo Park, drinking an iced coffee from the Thai donut shop by the crib (shoutout Angeleno’s Donuts, #turnup). Then back into my music cave.
LAC: So are you staying in LA?
FALCONS: I don’t plan my moves usually, but I can say that for now LA is working great for me, and as more of the homies move here, it’s just seeming better and better every day.
LAC: What can we expect soon from you?
FALCONS: EP of original tracks with HuhWhat&Where records, a steady flow of bootlegs as always, and lots of fun mixes. I’m doing one for SSENSE fashion site in the next few days, then Vice’s music site, Noisey.
LAC: Where are you spinning next?
FALCONS: Toronto, Austin, Vancouver and New York in the next little bit . . . never been to the east coast so I am very exciiiited. In LA, I just got a residency spot every Sunday for a new daytime party called Daylight at ATX 3245 Casitas Ave. It’s somewhere in between the party vibes of the Do-Over and the open mindedness of Low End Theory. It’s sort of a Low End spin-off that Nocando and some of our homies started. Hosted by DumbFounded. Definitely the new spot for Sundays.
Azizi Gibson will be releasing a new mixtape on June 15th named after the classic anime film Ghost in The Shell. The 1995 movie which is set in the distant future after we have all become globally interconnected, where cyberpunks are hacking into networking systems for their own gain in a setting which might’ve eerily described 2013. Although Azizi Gibson is no “cyberpunk,” the globetrotting rapper could easily be described as a modern-day punk, going against mainstream hip-hop conventions – he’s the young self-boasting MC newly signed to the famously unconventional electronic label, Brainfeeder.
Though the streets of L.A. may differ from the fantasy world of Ghost in the Shell, the mixtape’s songs resonate with us, providing the perfect set of summer jams to cruise to. We certainly would have no issues with Gibson hacking his way into our iTunes. Read below as we chat about Gibson’s roots, influences, and how he got into hip-hop.
Your bio on Alpha Pup starts with “Azizi Gibson doesn’t have a home,” can you elaborate?
Well, I was born in Frankfurt Germany but not because my family was living there. I’m a military brat, and my dad was stationed in Zaire, Africa. The hospitals over there were dirty, so they flew to Germany to have me. Then we flew back to Zaire. I lived in Africa for a little while. Then I moved to Thailand and then to Singapore, then back to Thailand. I moved to Cambodia for a little bit, and finally I moved to America by the time I was almost 11 (years old).
Where in America did you move to?
I moved to Maryland. I was moving around a lot in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area.
So where did you find hip-hop? Did you find it abroad or over here?
I found it over there. I was just hearing what my sisters and brother were listening to. We didn’t really get a lot of rap on television, so we got a lot of mainstream stuff like Eminem. But Slim Shady was one of the biggest influences that made me want to become a rapper, even though I was already a fan of Outkast and The Pharcyde. And because there wasn’t a lot of rap, rock music was accepted overseas and MTV would play Linkin Park. The rapper from Linkin Park, the freestyler – I forget his name, also made want to freestyle. He’s the one that got me into freestyling.
What brought you to L.A.?
I was living in Maryland, I was doing my music, I had a little fan base but nothing to be proud of or speak about, I just knew my music was tight but I just didn’t have a way to get it out there. Honestly, I took a chance… I moved over here praying and hoping. I just never thought of anything else but doing music. I was like “shoot, California might happen. It has better opportunities.”
And it kind of worked out. I ended up meeting Flying Lotus randomly at a gym. I was living in this building, sleeping on a couch, and I went down to the gym one day, I saw Flying Lotus – told him I was a fan. He gave me his e-mail address but it didn’t work. It wasn’t a fake e-mail, it was just full.
Then I got laid off from my job and the same day I had brought everyone a CD copy of my mixtape, some people didn’t show up so I had some extras. Later I was at the gym, saw Flying Lotus, and I was like “Hey man, I tried to e-mail you, I think your email is full, here – take this mixtape.”
Apparently he listened to it right after he left the gym. I got on my twitter and he shouts me out. He DMs me to kick it with him. The day after I gave him my mixtape we were playing video games at his place. We built a relationship over three months. I’m was going to his shows and these dope events. He then wrote me an e-mail and said, “Let’s make it happen.” I had a Brainfeeder contract.
Did Flying Lotus influence you to sound west coast?
People say I sound “west coast,” but I don’t understand what that means. I’m not from here at all. I just love the lifestyle. People say I have an “LA Swagger,” I don’t know what that means! It’s a cool compliment though. Maybe California and him have influenced me a lot, because I’m definitely more laid back. I don’t try to worry too much. I don’t like the stress.
I think Flying Lotus inspired me the most, before and after I signed. I was just a big fan. He’s an African American producer that made really dope stuff, and I related to him immediately because I’m a producer myself.
You don’t collaborate with a lot of people, is there anyone you would love to collaborate with?
I would collaborate with anyone, but I just feel like you got do you first. I would love to do a song with Danny Brown, Schoolboy, or A$AP Rocky, but I don’t want to do a song with them first and then I’d be the guy who made it because I did that one big song with A-Trak. It’s cool and all, but then people would think you’re trying to hop-on just to get further.
I notice you follow Bjork on twitter, is there anyone else you listen to that we might find surprising?
I love Little Dragon, Gorillaz is still my favorite band, I’m listening to The Strokes, and I’m a super-duper Thundercat fan.
What’s the meaning behind the title Ghost in the Shell?
Well the reason why it’s called Ghost in The Shell is because the first anime that I ever watched was Ghost in The Shell. It was shown to me by my father. We were in Thailand, he told me to watch it. I got into it and It got me into animation.
Ghost in The Shell is my first solo mixtape on my favorite label. It’s me introducing myself to the world so that people who are into anime, who are into this type of music – this is kind of me saying to them “here, this is me getting you started.”
Do you think you’re going to be staying in L.A?
There’s a possible chance I might be moving to New York within the next 60 days. I really don’t have a home so traveling is the best thing to do. I try to meet people and spread my music like a nomad.
Kendrick Lamar has certainly blown up since appearing in our Downtown Issue last May, especially following the hype of his summer hit with Dr. Dre, “The Recipe.” But that was by no means the only jam or big-name cameo from his sophomore album good kid, m.A.A.d city.
The album’s latest single, “Poetic Justice,” features a little help from Kendrick’s friend Drake, who delivers his rhymes via phone from a hotel room, where he sits next to an angelically passed-out-post-coital woman (every man’s fantasy). Meanwhile, Kendrick looks dapper in a square-print button-down as the tragic love story unfolds. Up to you to decide whether the bloody ending is indeed poetic and just.
Robert Raimon Roy is deconstructing modern music. Discovered by Erykah Badu and compared to Andre 3000, Roy’s sound is novel and eclectic, incorporating warped manifestations of hip-hop, jazz, R&B and rock sounds.
Vi: How did Erykah Badu discover you?
Robert: I believe it was in 2005, a while back. My first album/mixtape as a solo artist, titled Dollar Out of 15 Cents, I gave a copy to a friend who was a friend of Erykah Badu’s manager. She wanted to meet me and Paul, her manager, messaged me about possibly working with them for her label, Control Freak Records. I ended up going to Dallas, where she was on tour with Jill Scott and Floetry. I went to a pre-going away party at a theater she owned in Dallas. That’s basically where I got to meet her and talk to her. I geeked out and it pretty much was my first time getting that kind of recognition. Nothing really came of it, but from a motivational standpoint, that was definitely a catalyst which set me on the path that I’m still on.
Vi: For people who’re unfamiliar with you, how would you describe your sound?
Robert: When I first started, the first album I did was a little more straight forward. Kind of underground hip-hop-ish, in the sense that a lot of samples were used. It leaned a little left but it still wasn’t that crazy. The first project we did, we were getting beats from somebody, whereas the second album, me and Lucian Walker produced everything and that’s kind of where the sound got a little more adventurous and experimental, incorporating different influences. It’s not super out there in the sense that a casual listener couldn’t listen to it. It’s not quite Brainfeeder or Warp Records, but it’s really kind of a meta-work, in the sense that I’ve made an album that’s definitely not 12 rap songs in a row. Even though my roots are in hip-hop and r&b, I get bored very easily and I think about what would keep me entertained.
Vi: Who are your creative inspirations? You’re a painter, drawer, etc. so what are some of your other influences?
Robert: I like this artist, Jill Magid. She performs these productions that are kind of difficult to classify. She seduces these impersonal systems of power. For instance, the New York City Transit police project, one of her works that dealt with surveillance cameras. It’s very conceptual. A lot of what she does, she ends up turning into writing. She self-publishes. I also follow a lot of youth culture, even though I’m not that much older, but there’s enough of a gap there. These “Digital Natives”, people who didn’t know the world before the Internet. [Laughs] I’m speaking about them like aliens. The way they share information and their lingo, the way they digest their content online, that’s how you stay current. How you maintain a sense of relevancy. The saddest thing to me is watching some of the people I grew up with looking like dinosaurs. Either you evolve because culture changes, or it progresses without you. Evolve or get out of the way.
Vi: You’re French and Filipino, how does that influence your music/artistry?
Robert: I used to think I was a lot more unique when I lived in Jacksonville, but then I moved out here [to LA] and saw how diverse it was, there’s a lot of ethnic fusion .. a lot of biracial, multiracial people. I’m not quite as unique as I was back home. I had access to realms that exposed me to different socioeconomic backgrounds. I went to a gifted school that was in the hood, there’s that contrast there. Being somebody brown but growing up with a white, French dad, and hearing the things he says. Hearing different view points, and him not necessarily being able to relate… It was just really strange. All those things, figuring out where I fit in. The area I lived in, it’s primarily white and black, it was kind of like redneck versus ghetto. What does that do to someone who doesn’t really fit into any of that?
Vi: Tell us a little bit about your new single, named after yourself…[Laughs] The song itself is kind of a deconstructed take on 90’s hip-hop. I like to do things that are not very in right now, for example, trap is really in at the moment, and I thought it would be more interesting to put something out that was a little nostalgic but still fresh. It’s one thing to dig something up from the past, but if you don’t put your spin on it and make it contemporary then it just comes up as nostalgia. It kind of comes off as purist. There’s a way to reference things. I feel like styles get revived and people treat it like a holy grail of a thing, and it doesn’t progress. All these movements have become very insulated movements that are protected by the people who’ve created them. What I like to do is deconstruct a lot of these things. I used to take my toys apart and put the legs and arms in different places. There are so many places to go. I like to open up another door or portal and say, “hey, you can go over here too”. Invert stereotypes, concepts, cliches…
Vi: How about the video?
Robert: The video, well, it’s a very cliché thing in hip-hop to use your name. There’s a boastful element or bragging that comes along with that. Empowering yourself, creating a new history for yourself. It’s the one ultimate power, and talking about success and women. That’s fine, and I get the mentality that goes behind wanting to do that. Artistically, though, to me, that’s very boring. So what we did with the video, directed by Peter J. Brant, a good friend of mine, we did a video that was like an inversion of that cliché. What if, instead, we create a realm that denies this fundamental right of your ability to create and sculpt your identity? The name you think is yours… what happens if you are denied that ability?
Vi: What can we expect from your show at LA? I hear you’re quite the performer…
Robert: My performances need to come a long way still, I’m very hard on myself. The production value needs work, there’s so much I want to do. But, you’ve got to work with what you got. I’m very energetic, I just try to give a show that I would want to see. I get bored watching people, particularly rap… these are just things that are inherent in the genre itself, it lends itself to karaoke a lot of the time. Especially, these days, they’ll have just the backing track with their own vocals. If you’re going to do a traditional set up, there are other ways you can do it to make it interesting. For example, Buju Banton, he’s incredible. I saw him recently and he literally only had like two backup singers and a track playing, but, he was all over the stage. So energetic, charismatic, super confident. In control, very in control of the situation, of the crowd. That’s what I mean, you don’t need to pull a Kanye West with a 40-piece orchestra, but there’s a way to do it that doesn’t look lazy. For my performances, I like high energy, engaging and interacting with the crowd. Think of it as being like someone who has ADD, I get very bored, so I think of myself as the guy in the crowd.
Vi: I found it really unusual that you’re signed to Dim Mak, a record label founded by Steve Aoki and is mostly electronic in terms of genres. What’s the story?
Robert: There were some legal problems that I had to take care of, I was being courted by several labels when I put out this video “Fur in My Cap”. Kanye put it up on his blog, Hype Machine picked it up, I was building steam and I had made some bad decisions. I pretty much had a legal situation and had to sort that out. By the time that was sorted out, I didn’t have a lot of options left. I knew that I needed to make a record that was gonna come out and not get shelved. At the time I was working full-time at Trader Joe’s and just needed to get out of that situation. Thankfully, it worked out for the best because I took a deal with Dim Mak that afforded me creative control.
Roy’s forthcoming album, Le Tigre Blanc, is slated for release December 11, 2012. You can catch the suited rapper Tuesday night at the Echoplex, along with The Internet (OFWGKTA) and Quadron. Tickets available at: www.ticketfly.com