Monday, September 25, 2017

Avant-Hip-Hop Rapper-producer BRZOWSKI Unveils Dark, Twisted 80HRTZ, C $ Burns & Chryso-produced Album ENMITYVILLE (The Witzard Interview)

"BRZOWSKI is a touring Post-Rap artist hailing from the icy wastes of New England. This road-worn vocalist has been regarded as a standard-bearer for Avant-Hip-Hop since his first release in 2001. Always prescient, often verbose, never for the faint-of-heart," reads BRZOWSKI ("BRZO" for short)'s Bandcamp Bio. He's done over 1,000 live performances, released three critically-acclaimed albums, four mixtapes, five EP's, and two 7-inch singles, as well countless featured appearances with a who's-who of seasoned Indie Hip-Hop vets. BRZOWSKI has been steadily touring with a wide array of projects since 1993 and has logged road hours in support of Atmosphere, Astronautalis, billy woods, Brother Ali, Busdriver, Cage, Ceschi, Doug E. Fresh, El-P, The Gaslamp Killer, MURS, Open Mike Eagle, Sage Francis, solo, and Uncommon Nasa. BRZO initially emailed me back in July, praising my recent published works with Height Keech, E. Grizzly, and Lt Headtrip, with a pre-release copy of his then-upcoming new album, ENMITYVILLE—his first 100% tried and true "solo" album since 2012. ENMITYVILLE showcases production work from 80HRTZ, C $ Burns, Chryso, and BRZOWSKI himself and overall, sounds like an imagined dark, twisted multi-layered collaboration between Beastie Boys and Nine Inch Nails with skeletal song-writing from Johnny Cash. BRZOWSKI's ENMITYVILLE was unleashed into the terribly unsuspecting masses a couple weeks ago, Friday, September 8th; he and I recently conducted a brief, yet extremely thorough interview via email. It's presented in full, unedited form down below the break and BRZOWSKI's ENMITYVILLE is now available wherever fine Underground Hip-Hop records are sold.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Hip-Hop Purveyor & Taste-maker

I. What were the writing, recording, production, etc. processes like for your latest solo album, ENMITYVILLE? To what extent, if any, were your fellow Vinyl Cape group members and affiliates involved?

I'm your garden-variety beat hoarder. Over the past three years, when I'd heard a beat from C $ Burns or 80HRTZ, I would ask for the stems or sit down with Burns to do a little re-arrangement and then, sit on it until the proper inspiration or theme strikes me. I'll usually write a song all in one day, edit it a few days later, and then, record it with a few other tunes several weeks after that. The song then goes into one of three piles: the "BRZOWSKI" solo-project pile, the "Vinyl Cape" pile, or the "collaborations/compilation songs/singles/mixtape pile." For this album, C $ Burns produced three tracks, but did post-production, plus mixing and mastering on every g**damn song. I don't trust anyone else to touch my "finished" art, these days. He and I have an artistic and philosophical connection and we trust each other unquestioningly. We've made over 100 songs together, at this point. Adding effects and layers, EQ'ing sounds with precision, all the hair-splitting. The mixing and mastering process alone was eight weeks of us sitting in a room saying: "let's turn that snare down 0.2 decibels (dB)... down another 0.2dB... no, def up 0.3dB"—we take this sort of detail dead-serious.

Mo Niklz dedicated some great scratching to "Leave It All Behind," which is one of the most psychologically hefty tracks on the album. I've toured with Mo about five times and he is one of the most lovable humans I know. His skills as a DJ are precise—I get his files for a track and they barely need a nudge. That's the sign of someone who takes pride in their craft. His work on the [Vinyl Cape] album was immaculate and I'll be harassing him for more "zigga-zigga" in the future. In addition to the OG Mo, my good comrade Jane Boxall (an amazing drummer and full-patch VC member) joined us for our brief run on Northeast release parties. Jane is an accomplished drummer and percussionist (she tours the Western-world playing solo marimba) and I'm so glad she could join us on these gigs on the drumkit. She's one of my favorite humans I've ever toured with. Positive, unflappable, and inspirational. She's taught me UK slang and calls me on my (minor) sh*t, when nobody else would find it necessary. We're doing some Vermont gigs together this Fall. She's all over the Vinyl Cape album and I'm stoked to work with her in the future. Vinyl Cape is a coven of some of my favorite humans.

II. How do you generally craft your beats. BRZOWSKI? Do you prefer to use samples or live instrumentation, interpolation, etc?

I, personally, prefer starting with a striking or moody sample and then, build synthetic drums and keys around it, topped off with guitar and bass guitar played live. I prefer to have at least two organic elements played live in a song to be sure the human hand is in there somewhere toward the end of the process. No matter how precise or sanitary the buffing of the beat may end up being. Vocals would be recorded next. Scratches and other folks playing instruments would be the last piece added. And then, I call up C $ Burns and we boil it.

III. Do you have any current plans to make any music videos, 7-inch singles, or anything else of that nature to accompany ENMITYVILLE during its release roll-out?

Yes, I have two videos in the can presently; one directed by Jake Ripley, the other by Jason Knightly of Lucky Hand Studio—both hyper-talented Mainers. Both videos have lo-fi affectations by design. The video with Jake is for "Contemporary Cynic" and it's a humorous interpretation of an exceedingly bleak indictment of contemporary life. "Leave It All Behind" is... well... it paints a direct picture in relation to the song. I don't want to say much more than that just yet. Both videos roll out this Fall and perhaps a third video solidifying come this Winter. Spot shows this Fall in ME, KS, TX, VT, and RI with a proper touring cycle of several US regions and Western Europe in 2018. Milled Pavement Records does not plan to do a vinyl or cassette version, but I'm certainly open to a limited-run, if approached by another label, whom I dig.

IV. What would you likely cite as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while writing and recording ENMITYVILLE?

I had a long string of dead-end-type employment situations, where I felt totally trapped in a hand-to-mouth world and once I had clawed ever-so-slightly out of that existence, I wanted to distill those feelings of isolation and powerlessness, juxtaposed against a backdrop of the current sociopolitical climate here and abroad. I had a lot of space in my life back then because so many activities that happened outside of my apartment/studio were not responsibly accessible. So, I read voraciously on art history, geo-politics, Marxism, and more... and the influence certainly, reared it's head here. The parallel topic discussed throughout is the devaluation of art. Art still has a transformative power, but it seems to have been superseded by easily digestible kitsch at every turn. Hip-Hop (Indie and otherwise) in particular tends to come off as some obscene parody of a once-rich counter-culture, now steeped in spectacle. I wanted to challenge that disturbing development at every turn-lyrics, beats, artwork, etc.

V. How would you say your overall rhyming style and sound has grown and progressed since your last proper full-length, 2011's A Fitful Sleep?

It's been a glacial, interesting evolution over the past five years. Between solo outings, I did a 7-inch, mixtape, and album with Vinyl Cape—which was primarily, very arrhythmic and non-rhyming flows to the backdrop of Doomy/Sub-Jazzy-Experimental Metal—a Noise-laden/Industrial EP with Fake Four's DJ Halo, 40-odd features, which were primarily "bars" for other people's projects, and a full-blown unapologetic Rap-Metal-Dub-circa-'99 record with the French homies, D-FAZ. Between that and 15 or so tours across the same time-span, I arrived at a well-seasoned place when writing rhymes for this new record, when at last, that was the primary task at hand. I wanted to slow down the delivery and lessen the syllable-cramming. I love rapping fast, triplets, and lyrical-torrent style spitting. I love "choppers" from California, "chewers" from the UK, and the "Cambridge-sound" coming out of the Abstract Rap cats in the Boston Metro area, circa 1998-2004 (Komadose, Logic Based, Lost Channel, etc.) but I wanted to SLOW DOWN. I wanted people to actually hear and understand the lyrics that I had written, edited, re-written, and then, spit, whilst the "Record" button was pushed. I feel like I have some weighty material to be unpacked, via this album and I did not want to risk being misquoted or misunderstood. This is primarily, the same reasoning behind the fact that this album features zilch Rap features; it had been so long since I spoke solely for myself via record, that it would have been disingenuous to have a grip of guests on the album. Next time I venture out into the public sphere under my own pyrrhic flag, a grip of my friends will be with me... but it just did not seem appropriate, this spin around.

VI. How did you come to get involved with "Gingerbread Hag" from Uncommon Nasa's latest album, Written at Night? Now, are you able to divulge any particular information about its recently-filmed music video accompaniment?

Uncommon Nasa and I have been good friends since around 2012 or so... my memory is not precise here, as we've done so much work together, in the meantime. Mo Niklz and I rolled with Nasa on his very first tour and now, he's a road animal. The bug bit him hard and I love watching that enthusiasm grow. I think he and I have toured together two or three times since. Nasa and I have about four collaborative songs in the can for a future project—no hard timeline there, it's ready when it feels complete and our solo schedules align... we're BOTH control freaks and we respect that about each other—and Nasa thought it would be an effective way to introduce our musical pairing on his primarily collaborative album. He sent me a left-field concept and an Avant-garde beat, C $ Burns got on the guitar, and we made a strange little beast of a Literary Rap song. The ["Gingerbread Hag"] video was shot in Portland, ME a few weeks ago, directed by Duncecap of The Karma Kids NYC... it's rather involved, as we are drawing visual influence and flow from the [Grimms' Fairy] Tale, as well as our lyrical bent concerning it. I haven't seen the roughs yet, but I expect it will be out late October. I've been impressed by the preliminary shots I've seen.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Carl Kavorkian Unleashes Brooding MANIKINETER Single "Cocoon" from Upcoming Mannequin Eater EP Follow-up EP2/TBA (Cult Member Music)

Carl Kavorkian makes some of the most ferocious, experimental Noise-Rap music I've ever heard and (not) surprisingly, he's one of the nicest, most hospitable people I've ever met working in "the music industry." Case in point: my buddy Omarey and I went into South Philly one Friday night back in June for The Sh*thawks, Felipe Pupo, MANIK|NETER, Planet 88, and King Ani Mal's show at The Pharmacy. We grabbed a pizza back in Jersey and were pretty much on time for the show, although, Felipe Pupo frontman and show organizer Erik "E." Grizzly was messaging me on the way in; Erik mentioned he thought the set times were running a bit earlier than expected and Carl Kavorkian's MANIK|NETER was likely going on early. Now, while I was excited for all five bands on the bill, I was most excited to see MANIK|NETER and was looking forward to seeing his infamous executioner's mask-covered set! Once Omarey and I got into South Philly, we soon found parking near the venue and started walking to The Pharmacy. After an unexpected 10-block detour, we ended up at the venue a little later than expected and needless to say, we unfortunately missed Carl Kavorkian's opening MANIK|NETER set and made it just in time for Felipe Pupo. Not only did we get to hang out with E. Grizzly and Carl—who graciously insisted on paying my $5 cover charge—we even bumped into Quinn AKA Riff Quantum from Darko The Super-affiliated THE STATIC BROTHERS.

MANIK|NETER's premier Mannequin Eater EP has been characteristically described by Carl Kavorkian himself with these four simple, yet incredibly fitting, words: "Loud. Abrasive. Mental. Music." I would describe MANIK|NETER's unique Noise-Rap style as the hypothetical missing linkage between Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park, and Aggro-Rap group Death Grips. Kavorkian has described his latest side-project as being strongly influenced and inspired by like-minded Noise-makers Sleep Beggar, Noise Lock, STATIC BROTHERS, Moor Mother, and Death Grips. I think it would be fair to say Carl Kavorkian has always been a little more "left-field" and "Experimental," even dating as far back as his 2002 debut Earbleeders, which is even tagged on Bandcamp as "progressive hip-hop," "alternative hip-hop," and "noise rap." Carl Kavorkian has either cooked up music with or performed alongside the likes of DOOM, Kool Keith, Tame One, Pumpkinhead, PackFM, Masai Bey, Breez Evahflowin', and MC Paul Barman. In addition to his standard canon of albums, Carl Kavorkian has released volumes 1-3.14 of Uglyass Music containing remixes, left-overs, alternate cuts, etc. from throughout his discography. Just this past week, Kavorkian quietly unleashed the first single from MANIK|NETER's upcoming TBA AKA EP2; "Cocoon" is now available on Cult Member Music's Bandcamp page on a Name-Your-Price basis, as well as his previous Mannequin Eater EP. MANIK|NETER's next shows will be tomorrow night, Saturday Sept. 23rd at Lancaster AVenue Autonomous (LAVA) Space with Downtrodder, Spirits & Disappearances and October 28-29th at Century Bar for Noise-centric festival, Oktober Hexfest. Tickets are currently still available for both events.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"1 Part Indian, 1.5 Part Black & 1.5 Part White" LA-based Hip-Hop/R&B Collective no suits Speak On VIRGIN EP (The Witzard Interview & Playlist)

"no suits started in kindergarten, when Max Pierro and Sajan Sanghvi met on the first day of class. Pierro told Sanghvi shortly into their friendship "when we grow up, we gotta be entrepreneurs and never wear a suit to work." That single statement grew into a philosophy and continued to spread to this day and hence, became the label of their music group they began in 2014. Pierro & Sanghvi forged ahead to release their first single, a remix of ODESZA's "Say My Name." Shortly after, they recruited drummer/bassist Ed Hill, who was taking college classes with Pierro and had a similar passion for early Hip-Hop and shared the no suits' philosophy. The trio went on to release a slew of hit singles, namely "Strawberry Wine" ft. Aubren Elaine & Matt Capone, "Escape Reality" ft. Aubren Elaine, and a remix of Major Lazer's "Be Together" ft. Wild Belle.

Proceeding to execute their vision to push the boundaries of modern Electronic sound and in anticipation for their Virgin EP in early 2017, the group then brought on guitarist, Reed Hallums, who also took classes with Ed and [Max] Pierro, bonded over Tame Impala, and shared the group's philosophy. Hallums had already made a guitar appearance on "Escape Realty" ft. Aubren Elaine. The band is now crafting a character, taking influence from the tones of Daft Punk, as well as inspiration from vintage heroes like, Jimi Hendrix. They like to classify themselves as "the new guys who like the old sh*t." no suits is about not being a cog in a machine, not making the same music everyone else does, and of course, not wearing suits. They will continue to spread this philosophy with their music and beyond," reads no suits' now-infamous okayplayer-coined "4 Virgins make an EP" press release.

I. Your press bio notes that "no suits started in kindergarten when Max Pierro and Sajan Sanghvi met on the first day of class" and soon vowed to "never wear a suit to work;" although, how did you two come to meet Ed Hill and Reed Hallums to form No Suits' current incarnation?

Max met Edward about a year into college and they started jamming together. Max, Edward, and Sajan all began making records together and Edward joined no suits. Reed made his first appearance on the track "Escape Reality" (ft. Aubren Elaine.) The four all started jamming regularly and Reed officially joined the group prior to the release of their Virgin EP.

II. What were some of your greatest sources of influence and inspiration while recording no suits' VIRGIN EP? I pick up notes of No I.D. & James Fauntleroy's Cocaine 80's, Chance The Rapper, Gorillaz, and even Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys!

Chance The Rapper, Gorillaz [Damon Albarn]'s vocals, and Jimi Hendrix's guitar solos.

III. What were the typical writing and recording processes behind no suits' VIRGIN EP like... were any beats or ideas pre-recorded or was it mostly improvised and recorded live in-studio?

The answer really varies on the song; for "Man In Tie Dye," we had that one in-the-works for over a year. "Queens" came together quick after a session with our friends Danny Dwyer and Jackii. Usually, we lay down the foundation of the tracks pretty quick and the intricacies of each song really come together in the mixing process.

IV. How would you say no suits' sound has grown and progressed since your 2015-16 Soundcloud singles and latest VIRGIN EP?

We've definitely grown a more authentic sound since our original slew of Soundcloud singles. We are taking a lot more risks in the production process and utilizing our live instruments more. Virgin had a very pure sound and our next EP will be a lot more sophisticated and sexual, if you will.

V. Now, I know you guys have $5 VIRGIN EP CD's available upon request, but what's next for no suits? Any live dates, more EP's, a full-length planned, etc?

We are currently working on our next EP, which should be done later in 2017. Meanwhile, we are working on a bunch of [collaborations] with other artists and [actively working on our live performance.

no suits Playlist:

01. Steve Lacy - "Dark Red"
02. Abhi The Nomad - "Sex n' Drugs" (feat. Harrison Sands & Copper King)
03. D'Angelo & The Vanguard - "Really Love"
04. 4 Non Blondes - "What's Up"
05. Jungle - "Drops"
06. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - "Can't Keep Checking My Phone"

07. Jimi Hendrix - "Crosstown Traffic"
08. Portugal Man - "So Young"
09. Jean Tonique - "Lit Up" ft. Dirty Radio
10. Pink Floyd ...
11. Led Zeppelin ...
12. Bob Moses - "Before I Fall"
13. Travi$ Scott - "Goosebumps"

14. Kendrick Lamar - "YAH."
15. Cigarettes After Sex - "Sunsetz"
16. Daft Punk - "Something About Us"
17. Danny Dwyer - "wifey, girlfriend, and mistress"
18. Jackii ...
19. OutKast - "SpottieOttieDopaliscious"

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sapwood & Bear Faces Frontman Jason Brown Unveils Hardcore-minded Ear Nail with Blistering Anti-Establishment "Head of State" (self-released)

It was Winter 2013 and "Thrift Shop" was still rapidly rising through the ranks of Billboard's Hot 100 chart. I'll never forget the first time I met Jason Brown, it was up in the Shop Rite break room and said, "what's up, Macklemore?" I don't think it was in a particularly nice way, but regardless, we still became friends. I worked as a baker and Jason was checker at the front-end registers and eventually, worked his way back to frozen foods department. I soon learned about Jason's rapping alter-ego, "Jason Brownies" and he, knowing I ran an online music publication, was constantly passing me CD-R mixtapes and hand-made cassette tapes of his musical musings. He eventually hung up his "2 turntables and a microphone" in exchange for fuzzed out Garage Rock guitars and lush Indie Rock-minded melodies and formed solo projects/bands Bear Faces and Sapwood, which both still appear to be active, in one form or another. Bear Faces recorded and released four EP's between 2015-2017 with their latest, Impulse Control, being released as recently as February 3, 2017.

Sapwood, on the other hand, feverishly recorded and self-released a staggering five full-length albums and two EP's—Does Anything Last? quietly released on September 10th—all recorded at Brown's home studio, The Shed. Sapwood's Bandcamp page additionally includes a string of pre-Sapwood releases simply attributed to "Jason Brown." Sometime in-between these various releases with a rotating cast of friends and players, Jason Brown unleashed a #RARE Shop Rite-only beat CD-R as "Hood Vermin," a short-lived DOOM/Viktor Vaughn-esque production alias and two mini-albums from his Experimental band, Todo Rosa. Now, it's a number of years later and I work for a local county government office and Jason stocks bread amidst the shelves of Shop Rite and other local vendors; we still stay in touch, frequently talk music, and go diggin' for records once in a while. Jason Brown formed his latest solo venture, Ear Nail, in light of recent events going down in Washington and unfortunately, across The Nation. Ear Nail draws stylistic influence and inspiration from Black Flag, The Misfits, Iggy & The Stooges, and Minor Threat/Fugazi, as well as predecessors Bear Faces and Sapwood, naturally. Ear Nail's roaring debut single, "Head of State," is currently available to stream on Bandcamp and an EP is currently in-the-works. I'll just let Jason Brownies take it from here...

"'Ear Nail" was some dumb joke from that 1,000 Ways to Die In The West movie. My dad said I should name my band that and I was [like] "holy sh*t, that actually would be cool!" I've been listening to nothing but Black Flag (Greg Ginn is an animal on guitar and he is my spirit animal) and The Stooges' Fun House album lately. Stuff like Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys, too. I wrote some songs that are anti-Trump, anti-nazi, and anti-cop a while ago and thought that "Ear Nail" sounds like a Punk enough name to carry out that message; so, I finally recorded "Head of State" and it came out exactly the way I wanted it to. "Head of State" is about wanting Trump's head on a stake. I played and recorded all the instruments on my 4-track machine and had my friends do backing vocals. I'm working on some new songs [this week]. I'll probably make three or four more songs to add to that and call it the Head of State EP or something."

- Jason Brown (Ear Nail)

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Witzard Premier: Jack Topht's "Come On Nike" Lyric Video from We Can't Go Back Now: The Cold Rhymes Collection (EDITED BY COOL GUY BRY)

"recorded in like 2008 by mr. ski-mask on 1-inch analog tape at the electric pumpkin patch studio on the east side of buffalo. lindsey did guitar, I did drums, and me and ski-mask did synths. I wrote the song before I had a band in 2000," Jack Topht AKA Jack Toft AKA Jack Topht with The Vegetables AKA Little Cake n Jack Toft AKA Lindsey & Jack Toft AKA TEENWOLF AND JACK TOFT wrote within a recent email exchange regarding "Come On Nike." His rather unique style has been self-described as "Kool Keith meets Crass" and has often been labelled Awesome Rap, Folk-Rap, Americana Grime, Grunge-Funk, Grunge Rap Punk/Ska, "kooky, riveting Rap, wild freak Anti-Folk Noise/Free Jazz" (Little Cake n Jack Toft,) and "part rapper, part performance artist, part comedian/motivational speaker." Jack Topht's largely genre-less style has been compared to the likes of Bob Dylan, Minutemen frontman D. Boon, Kool Keith, Le Tigre, Jonathan Richman, Das Racist, and Ween. I would personally liken Jack Topht's output to a somehow, even more lo-fi version of Pavement with a dash of Darko The Super.

"nypirg was calling nike headquarters in the lobby of [university at buffalo] and encouraging students to complain about their sweatshop labor practices. my comedian-mentor, velvet al, came up with the punchline that their sh*t should be cheaper, since they don't pay their workers much. I worked that into a song. eventually, I had a band I could do the song with—always a staple of lindsey and my band from 2005-2010," Jack Topht continued. Now, friend and Jack Toft super-fan Height Keech has pain-stakingly assembled a comprehensive, 22-track collection entitled We Can't Go Back Now: The Cold Rhymes Collection, culling tracks from 20 albums and endless tour-only CD-R's released over the course of the last decade. We Can't Go Back Now: The Cold Rhymes Collection is now available for pre-order from Cold Rhymes Records/Awesome Rap ahead of its Monday, Sept. 25th release. Cold Rhymes' recently assembled videos for both "TADPOLE" and The Witzard-premiered "Come On Nike" were edited together by Cool Guy Bry AKA mister from Passalacqua.

"We Can't Go Back Now: The Cold Rhymes Collection is a retrospective of Jack Topht's immense catalog. I've been a fan of Jack's music since our respective tours crossed paths at a Charlottesville, VA house show in 2011. That night, he gave me copies of RAP DRUMS, Goofy Tunes, and Songs of Love, Spleen & Tenderness. His songs went all over the place. Some songs made me laugh ("Awkward Interactions at Yer Favorite Band's Show,") and some songs freaked me out ("Big Disappointment.") The common thread was that they all had a strange, poignant twist and he seemed relentless and fearless in taking that "strange twist to the highest peak." Despite his wild styles, he's been anything but a reclusive, outsider artist. He’s toured the country year after year with the tenacity of a Hardcore band. Unlike that Hardcore band, there's no Jack Topht genre or Jack Topht scene for him to safely navigate. I've seen him ruffle feathers at local Hip-Hop open mic nights and Punk shows around the country. I've also seen him convert suspicious strangers into rabid fans with one set. Jack has self-released 20 albums over the last decade; some solo and some with frequent collaborators Lindsey, Little Cake, and TEENWOLF. These are my favorite songs off all those albums re-mastered. I hope this little tape is just the beginning of people taking a second look at what Jack [Topht] does."

- Height Keech (Cold Rhymes Records)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Already Dead VII Comp. Features The Hell Hole Store's Beastie Boys Cover "Brass Flunky" & Day Tripper-produced Darko The Super Loosie "I'm Only In It for The Money" (No Sleep 'til Baltimore)

No Sleep 'til Baltimore was a tribute/benefit show held at The Ottobar in Baltimore back on Friday, July 7th. It was billed as a "benefit to help local musician adopt" with "local musician" being producer John Bachman (Jumbled) and his wife Rachel. Not only was No Sleep 'til Baltimore a fundraiser to help The Bachmans earn money for their adoption, it was dually billed as a tribute to the Beastie Boys' monumental Rick Rubin-produced 1986 Def Jam debut, Licensed to Ill. Berko Lover did a rendition of "Girls," GUY GRAMS performed a roaring rendition of "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)" MC Bravado & S.U. The Clique covered "No Sleep 'til Brooklyn," Drew Scott & Vans_Westly did "Hold It Now, Hit It" with a little help from Jumbled himself, The Hell Hole Store covered "Brass Monkey," and much, much more. By all accounts, No Sleep 'til Baltimore was a great success and now, nearly two months later, John & Rachel Bachman have welcomed a beautiful adopted baby girl into their lives. While it remains unknown if all of the participating artists recorded studio versions of their various Licensed to Ill tracks, The Hell Hole Store without a doubt recorded a 2017 version of their "Brass Monkey" cover, now re-titled "Brass Flunky." It appears within Already Dead Tapes & Records' recent 28-track Already Dead VII comp. alongside the likes of MGNTK. emcee UllNevaNo, Totally Boring, Hypocrite In a Hippy Crypt, About a Million, and The Grow Fangs. Already Dead VII additionally showcases a choice cut from Darko The Super entitled "I'm Only In it for The Money" produced by The Difference Machine emcee and "spiritual advisor" Day Tripper. Darko graciously provided detailed statements on "Brass Flunky" and The Mothers of Invention-referencing "I'm Only In It for The Money," which can both be read down below the break.

"Jumbled [John Bachman] from Baltimore invited me and ialive to perform at a Licensed to Ill tribute/benefit show to help him and his wife adopt, which we were super excited about. Then, we realized how hard it was to perform the song we chose, "Brass Monkey." Eventually, ialive found the sample they used and whipped up a Hell Hole version and we wrote and recorded our verses. Then, the next day, tried to perform them in Baltimore at The Ottobar. It didn't go to well, but it sure was a fun evening and now, just a few months later, Jumbled and his lovely wife are the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl. You can find this track on Already Dead Tapes' latest compilation."

"[Day Tripper] sent me this beat back in 2014, that's when I recorded the first verse. Much more recently this year, I found the song going through my hard drive and wrote the second verse and mixed and mastered everything again. I sent it to Josh [Tabbia] at Already Dead and it landed on their latest compilation. "I'm Only In for The Money" was an album idea I ditched; an obvious reference to The Mothers of Invention. I wanted to wear a dress on the cover [of We're Only In It for The Money] just like them, too, which inspired my video for "The Learning Channel.'"

- Darko The Super (The Hell Hole Store)

Mega Ran Discusses His Latest Retrospective Album EXTRA CREDIT & Breaks Down Selections from EXTRA CREDIT: The Inspiration Spotify Playlist (The Witzard Interview)

When we last spoke with Phoenix-based/Philly born and raised rapper, producer, wrestling super-fan, and former teacher Raheem Jarbo AKA Mega Ran, he was preparing to unleash his DJ DN3 & Fresh Kils-produced Biggie tribute, Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live. Ran's since "[taken] on a rigorous touring schedule, [hosted] a wrestling podcast Mat Mania, and [made] high-profile appearances on WWE television" and "returns to release the introspective and enlightening album, EXTRA CREDIT." His latest collection, EXTRA CREDIT—which even I had absolutely NO IDEA about until about 2-3 weeks prior to its release—is effectively a "greatest hits" collection made up of equal parts new tracks, old tracks, and re-imagined versions. Anchored by a few RNDM left-overs, EXTRA CREDIT features production work from K-Murdock (mixing & mastering,) The Rockit Scientist, Charlie Mumbles, ECID, Kaito Kobayashi, RandomBeats & Middle East Modern, DIBIA$E, Wann Sklobi, Yon.Li, D.R.O. and DJ Big Serg; features from fellow emcees and singers Sammus, Ceschi, Jermiside, J-Live, Homeboy Sandman, SisQó, Tina Estes, RND1, and Thaahum feat. Mega Ran, Mr. Miranda & M.P.R.E.S.S; as well as remixes from Willie Green, Emrls, Fingaz, and Scottie Royal. EXTRA CREDIT is now available for streaming or downloading from Mega Ran Music's Bandcamp in either digital or "Limited Edition Singed EXTRA CREDIT CD" with artwork by Daniel Hill and hand-written inscriptions by Mega Ran himself. Please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of EXTRA CREDIT, scroll down, and thoroughly enjoy The Witzard's latest interview with Mega Ran.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Crate-digger Extraordinaire

I. Would you mind going through and breaking down your EXTRA CREDIT tracklist a bit? From what I understand, it sounds like equal parts new tracks, re-recordings of old ones, and remixes.

Indeed it is—we created about 1/3 of it in 2015, while working on RNDM, an album that I was super-proud of. We had some left-over tracks that I didn't know what to do with so then, I sought out remixes and recorded new jams to round out what became EXTRA CREDIT.

II. How exactly did you go about deciding which tracks to effectively re-visit, re-imagine, re-work, remix, and include EXTRA CREDIT?

I asked the people who know; I polled the fans of RNDM, who bought the original album, back me on Patreon, and enjoyed the songs, which songs they'd like to see fleshed out or re-imagined and then, I asked producers to work on those songs. I had at least 4-5 remixes for each song, so the hard part was choosing the best one.

III. How did you manage to get SisQó (of "Thong Song" fame) to sing background vocals on "Church, Pt. 2?"

Amazing, super-long story: SisQó and I are both big-time video game fans. He found out about me on the Kinda Funny [Games] podcast and one day, I was at E3, a game expo in LA, and saw him being interviewed on the red carpet—when he noticed me, he yelled for me to come to him and we met for the first time in the middle of his interview. Startled, I didn't know what to say, but we exchanged information and talked about making music, when a year later, I was back in LA for E3, and my friend Chandra played him "Church," which was brand new, at the time, off her phone. He loved it and almost demanded to be on the remix. That weekend, we recorded "Church, Pt. 2." Nowadays, we play games online against each other more than we talk music, but he's a super down-to-earth cat.

IV. What can you potentially tell me about the creation of EXTRA CREDIT's ECID-produced quasi-"lead single," "Old Enough" with featured guests Sammus & Ceschi?

It came together super-fast. ECID is a great beat-maker and he had sent me three [beats] I really loved (the other two could surface on the next project.) The album was almost done and I'd started writing, after I read the quote "Old Enough to Know Better, Young Enough to Do It Anyway" on one of those silly quote memes and started writing a verse. I knew I wanted others on the song, but I didn't know how available they'd be. I reached out to Ceschi & Sammus and they both delivered stellar verses within a week, which is crazy. It was the last song recorded for EXTRA CREDIT.

V. I know you were a teacher prior to deciding to take up rapping a producing full-time and I noticed Harper Lee-referencing "Mockingbird" included within EXTRA CREDIT; how does your passion for literature and teaching still inform your rapping and production styles?

I love literature and I always try to include something from one of my favorite books into an album, either in title or entire concept. "Mockingbird" was written originally for a scholastic program, but they'd asked for specific changes to wording and scope, until it had become a totally new song and I wasn't fully comfortable with it. So, we decided to keep it as it were, and Jermiside is a consummate pro, who always brings it.

VI. How do you suggest fans approach EXTRA CREDIT and its previously-released counterparts... for example, should new-comers first, fully digest "Church" (2016) before listening to SisQó-aided revision "Church, Pt. 2" or vice versa?

I went back through some notes and I realized that "Church" was a 2017 release. It grew so quickly, becoming my second most popular Spotify single and more, but it's only six months old. To expand on that record the way I wanted to—to reflect on what the idea of "Church" is to someone without religion—I had to literally change the focus of the song halfway through from braggadocio to reflection. Because of changes like that, I would suggest EXTRA CREDIT, listening after RNDM then, our Patreon songs, for sure; then, everyone would know exactly where I stand and nothing should be too surprising. I'm super-proud of how it came together and I think anyone, who is a fan of Mega Ran will find several things they like on the album.

EXTRA CREDIT: The Inspiration (Spotify Playlist Selections)

Here's a few choice selections from as Mega Ran simply put it, "a Spotify playlist of songs I listened to while putting this album together." Ran hand-picked a few of his favorite selections from his EXTRA CREDIT: The Inspiration Spotify playlist and briefly outlined their connection to his latest retrospective album, EXTRA CREDIT.

De La Soul - "En Focus" (1993)

A slept-on album cut on De La's Buhloone Mindstate album, which was so over my 16-year-old head, at the time, and even now. I loved the beats, though and when Pos started his line off with "ichi, ni, san, shi," I searched high and low to translate it ["one, two, three, four"] and that was when I learned my first Japanese and THAT began my fascination with Japanese culture—not the cartoons and toys I'd loved. I used that and the bridge of this song to build "Eyes On Your Own Paper." I knew that J-Live was just as influenced by De La Soul as I was, so it was a perfect fit to top off a great song.

Gnarls Barkley - "Feng Shui" (2006)

"Forgive me, Father; I was forced out of Feng Shui." On a superb album, "Feng Shui" is so short and almost ends, before it can make an impact, but when Cee-Lo spits those words (shoot, this might actually be the last time Cee-Lo raps on a record, ha) it hit me. Using the metaphor of "Feng Shui" and extending it into social, emotional issues, even paralleling it with a dysfunctional relationship, helped me to flesh out the song that became "Form School of Feng Shui." I loved it a lot.

SisQó - "Incomplete" (1999)

This song didn't particularly inspire any one song, but when I did have a moment to build with SisQó, while working on "Church, Pt. 2," he said a lot of things... but what hit me hardest was when he mentioned that no matter how much everyone associates him with the mega-hit "Thong Song," the biggest song he created was actually "Incomplete," a classic R&B ballad. SisQó actually wrote, arranged, and completely conceptualized that song. That made me go back to it and study the words and the notes he hit within it, so that when we got in the lab to make "Church," I knew exactly what he was fully capable of and he truly took over in the studio and made that song POP. That's a session I'll never forget.

Daft Punk - "Something About Us" (2001)

I could have picked 20 different Daft Punk songs to make this playlist, but this one was definitely in mind, when I created "Pursuant Hearts." I feel like this song talked to younger me, who was out breaking hearts, playing games, and doing all kinds of foolishness. I've had this talk with women in the past about it not being the right time or situation, when in reality I'd just had my eyes on someone or something else. The relationship I wrote about in "Pursuant" was one in which the circumstances of how we'd met (a sheer coincidence) had us so convinced that we were meant to be that we both ignored the obvious signs that we were a mismatch.

Malibu Shark Attack - "Internal Organs" (2014)

Tribe One is a masterful lyricist and this song is probably my favorite of his. It's so great for so many reasons, but I love the fact that it juxtaposes probably the two strongest feelings a human can have: love and death. I lost a few people that were close to me during the creation of this album, my Uncle Jim, rapper and friend Thaahum, and Rustin [Luther], bass player for URIZEN, a band I'd toured with for many years. I'm probably not at my best, when conveying loss in songs, so I listen to tracks like this to keep me inspired to 1.) properly grieve and 2.) to maintain creativity and top-tier conceptual stuff, at the same time.