Tuesday, January 23, 2018

UncleRussie Assembles Dragon Ball Z-themed Trunks EP. Featuring Beats from Jumbled, Drew Scott, TEK.LUN & Action Bastard (self-released)



Baltimore-based producer and beat-maker UncleRussie describes his latest EP as "the follow-up to The Bulma Tape series, the Trunks EP. sequences and highlights various timelines of Trunks Brief - Past, Present & Future(?)" He's of course, referring to 2016's The Bulma Tape and The Bulma Tape: Side B from last year, a Hip-Hop/Anime trilogy, which will likely close with Trunks EP. successor #TheBulmaTape3. UncleRussie's Trunks EP. takes inspiration, as well as direct samples, and influence from Dragon Ball Z's "Future" Trunks, Androids, and Cell Sagas. UncleRussie single-handedly edited, arranged, and produced his Trunks EP. with assists throughout from beat-making buddies Action Bastard, Benjamin Banger, Bito Sureiya, Drew Scott, Jumbled, TEK.LUN, Swellthy, and UncleRussie himself. Trunks EP. features three sparse, yet fitting vocal assists from emcees Dot Com Intelligence, ONLY AKA @GwapSinatra, and El Hippie Moonbear on hidden/bonus track, "Jewel #6." I have to admit, my only exposure to Anime growing up was Pokemon and various Spider-Man mangas, but without knowing much about Dragon Ball Z, I still really enjoyed UncleRussie's Trunks EP.! The Bulma Tape, The Bulma Tape: Side B, and Trunks EP., as well as the rest of UncleRussie's discography, are currently able to stream and download on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and like-minded digital platforms. Feel free to scroll down for a slightly more well-informed and in-depth Trunks EP./Dragon Ball Z breakdown from UncleRussie himself.


"So, the Trunks EP. is a recent installment of two previous releases, The Bulma Tape and The Bulma Tape: Side B. The concept was, initially, a fan appreciation project; like, an ode to Dragon Ball Z, specifically, Bulma Briefs. In my opinion, she's been a integral part of the series and plays a large part in moving the story forward. Trunks is the product of her and another character, Vegeta. The show, itself, is broken down into sagas. This tape takes different pages throughout several [sagas] to make a complete story. Trunks, basically, lives in a timeline where Androids have destroyed most of humanity and several fighters that were initially defenders of The Earth, including his friend and mentor, Gohan—son of show mascot and most recognizable Anime character, Goku. The tape starts from a period when Trunks is recovering from a recent battle with The Androids that ultimately, kills Gohan, which then, forces him to go back in time to warn the fighters of the present of what's coming. From there, various parts of the "Future" Trunks, Androids, and Cell Sagas are sampled and spliced between the tracks to give it a storybook narrative. It's important to note that The Bulma Tapes, basically, sets all these events in motion (i.e.: "Future" Trunks, Prologue, The Death of Gohan, etc.) This was supposed to be the third and final project in the "Bulma" series. Overall, it's a musical ode to two characters that I favor and are the most intriguing, in my opinion. They, being Trunks and Bulma, essentially, do what the powered-up good guys couldn't do in a last-minute effort to change the projectory of the world and [effectively], save it from [extinction]."

- UncleRussie (@PeaceRussie)

Friday, January 19, 2018

British TV Director Ed Tracy Speaks FALLING ON YOUR ARSE IN 1999 Mixtape Recorded with Actor/Emcee Tom Hardy (The Witzard Interview)


"I raided the music vaults! Made in a bedroom [in] 1999, these mixtapes were never really finished. Lyrics written/performed by Tom Hardy. Music written/produced by me..." @EdwardTracy recently Tweeted. Ed Tracy is a London-based writer, creator, director, and "humble TV bloke" who's previously worked on Fonejacker, Facejacker, Banksy's Walled Off Hotel film, short film CAPTCHA, animated sitcom Sticky, and music videos for both Dizzee Rascal and Swet Shop Boys emcee/actor Riz Ahmed. Tracy's 1990's DJ-producer alias was "Eddie Too Tall" and he actually, worked with none other than BAFTA Award-winning actor Tom Hardy—then, known as rising emcee Tommy No.1. Yes, we're, in fact, talking about critically-acclaimed Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Taboo, and Venom actor Tom Hardy. Ed Tracy quietly uploaded Tommy No.1 + Eddie Too Tall's unfinished 1999 mixtape, FALLING ON YOUR ARSE IN 1999 to little fanfare in early January 2018. It wasn't until he uploaded the 18-track album to a sub-reddit entitled 'r/hiphopheads [FRESH] Tom Hardy's unfinished album from 1999 finally found it's way online. But is it any good?' as u/edwardtracy that Noisey first picked up on it and Tommy No.1 + Eddie Too Tall nearly "broke The Internet." Thursday afternoon, while delving into FALLING ON YOUR ARSE IN 1999, on a whim, I decided to reach out to Ed Tracy, who, to my surprise, soon wrote back and agreed to "recall the good old bad old days," as he put it, for the all-inclusive interview you now see transcribed below. Tommy No.1 + Eddie Too Tall's FALLING ON YOUR ARSE IN 1999 is now available to stream on TomHardyDotOrg’s Soundcloud page, ladies and gents!


Sincerely,

Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz (@SharpCheddar856)
Your Friendly Neighborhood Web-slingin' Writer


I. What do you currently do professionally, Eddie "Too Tall" Tracy?

People call me Ed, I've not been called Eddie "Too Tall" for a while haha! These days, I work in television and I named my production company Too Tall productions, so something of that survived. Recent work has been producing a pilot for an animated sitcom on the BBC. It is called Sticky and it co-stars Tom Hardy. If you're in The States, then, I'm afraid you can't watch it... yet. Clips of it are online. Hopefully, we'll get to make a series. It was great fun to make and it got a good reception. Plus, some great press, including glowing reviews from The Guardian and Heat magazine. Tom was a fan of the previous show that I co-created, called Fonejacker and Facejacker. He was up for getting involved somehow in a comedy project together. I was already developing Sticky, so that was the perfect excuse to work together. I've known that Tom can do funny voices since the days of us making the album together; the "Rusty Sheriff's Badge" and "Dr. Livingstoned" tracks on the album show a glimpse of that humour.

II. How did you first meet Tom Hardy, and what made you two decide to start recording together as "Tommy No.1 + Eddie Too Tall?"

I met him through a very dear friend. I used to DJ and make Jungle tracks. Tom asked me to make Hip-Hop, of which I was also a huge fan.


III. Nearly 20 years later, what made you decide to finally unleash Tommy No.1 + Eddie Too Tall's FALLING ON YOUR ARSE IN 1999? Did you consult with or reach out to Tom Hardy prior to releasing the collection?

Last year, Tom asked me whether I still had the album kicking about in the loft. Lo and behold, here it is in all its rawness, just as it sounded then. He'll be pleased with the reception it's had, so far.

IV. What exactly did you two intend to do with these tracks upon initially recording them back in 1999? I recently read within a 2011 BBC newsbeat feature that Tom Hardy "had a recording deal as a rapper at the age of 15."

We made music and also, messed around making short films. I think we inspired each other to make stuff. Back then, we were offered a record deal on the basis of this album, but Tom's agent said, "no, don't do music. Do acting." Terrible advice! Look where he is now?!


V. What ever ended up happening to Tommy No.1 + Eddie Too Tall? Are there currently any plans for a 2018 "Reunion Tour?"

I made a joke that we’d do some Vegas dates, if it the mixtape did well. But truthfully, I never saw this release as anything more that finally letting this project see the light of day. There was never a question of us "putting the band back together." The positive response has been great.

VI. How exactly did you and Tom go about writing, recording, producing, mixing, mastering, etc. the songs now collected on FALLING ON YOUR ARSE IN 1999? Your Too-Tall Bandcamp page explains these mixtapes were "made in a bedroom in 1999" and were admittedly, "never really finished."

We made the album in my bedroom with no mixer or any fancy kit. A dusty old Atari ST, running an AKAI sampler, plus two Technics SL-1200 decks. All the vocals were recorded on a hand-held tape dictaphone. No over-dubs or editing. Tom had a click track for timing, but that was it. He had to get it in one take. Raw production techniques! The AKAI sampler allowed 1 minute's-worth of sample time per track, so if you wanted a new sample (including Tom's vocals,) you'd often have to sacrifice another clip. Everything got boiled down. The samples were all off records or VHS tapes. No added effects.


VII. What types of projects are you currently working on, Ed that fans can expect to see released this year?

In terms of music, I still like to keep my eye in, or ear, I should say. I sometimes [compose] music for TV projects I work on. I recently released a new album of tracks, some of which I originally made for Tom—so, that's going back some time. But since Tom is off being a movie star, I've been making tracks with another rapper. He used to go by the name of "Gatsby," but had to change his name to Gats Bigga Vel because some reality star chump stole his name. Happens. "Gatsby, "as I still call him, is the real deal; an East London (E5) rapper born and bred. One track called "Come to East" made a pretty big impact. It ranked Top 5 on the UK's TV channel called Channel U one year, which for us, was a big deal. This year, we released an album of all the tracks we've ever done together. It's called Super Alpha Number One and it's on Apple Music, Spotify, etc. Perhaps you can hear the DNA of the Tommy No 1 tracks in there somewhere?


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Baltimore Musician, Multi-instrumentalist & Music Writer Al Shipley Returns with Synth-Pop-laden Western Blot EP Too 30 (self-released)



Al Shipley is a Baltimore area musician and multi-instrumentalist, as well as a well-respected music writer, who, over the years, has written for Rolling Stone, The FADER, Stereogum, SPIN, Complex, and Pitchfork, just to name a few. Shipley has been sporadically playing shows and self-releasing music as Western Blot for about five years now; his releases include "Button Masher" b​/​w "Child of Divorce," "The Power Let Me Down," and "Sore Winners," all of which ended up re-appearing on Western Blot's 2016 debut full-length, Muscle Memory. Prior to forming Western Blot, Al Shipley played drums in a variety of Baltimore bands and says he simply started Western Blot "as an outlet for writing songs with synths." His records generally, showcase the vocal talents of Baltimore's finest frontmen and women; for example, Western Blot's latest release, Too 30 EP features 20ooo's Lizzy Greif on opener "Still Catch Myself" and Scott Siskind of Vinny Vegas on "Limited Edition." I have to admit, Too 30 EP is my first exposure to both Western Blot and Al Shipley and man, is it an interesting, genre-spanning 11-minute listen! Western Blot's Too 30 EP was recorded at Mobtown Studios last years, which was, unfortunately, gearing up to close its doors; Al Shipley quickly booked some studio time and recorded his Too 30 EP, as well as songs for an upcoming 2018 album.


Lizzy Greif-led "Still Catch Myself" is a somber, slow-building listen that reminds me of fellow Baltimorean Flock of Dimes (Jenn Wasner,) as well as Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 2004 single, "Maps." Al Shipley takes the lead on title track, "Too 30," is a synth-laden jam about coming to grips with being in your 30's. It's instantly evocative of early 2000's Dance/Pop-Punk such as LCD Soundsystem, Franz Ferdinand, The Faint, and The Bravery. Scott Siskind-helmed "Limited Edition" features a muttled guitar riff/drum stomp reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Dani California" and synth squalls in the vein of Joy Division/New Order and Depeche Mode. EP closer "Ill Afford" steps into Prog-Rock territory, while keeping one foot firmly planted in Synth-Pop. Al Shipley's characteristically frenzied vocal delivery is evocative of Talking Heads' frontman David Byrne, Gary Numan, and again, LCD Soundstystem founder James Murphy. It has an underlying tone reminiscent of Noise-Rock darlings Lightning Bolt mixed with a layer of steel drums, which makes for quite the interesting, inventive listen. Western Blot's proper Muscle Memory follow-up will also feature Too 30 EP closer "Ill Afford." Western Blot's Too 30 EP is currently available to stream or download on their Bandcamp, along with the entirety of their aforementioned discography.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Adam Lempel Unveils Second Single "Run (Disconnected)" from Friso Hoekstra-produced "STILL LIFE" Follow-up Jinx (Bandcamp)



Singer and multi-instrumentalist Adam Lempel recently moved back to New York, after living abroad in Amsterdam, while attending Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (HKU) for his Masters in Music Design. Lempel has now, returned to his "old stomping grounds" on The East Coast wherein he previously spent a solid decade in Baltimore's DIY Indie Rock scene as part of WEEKENDS, Winks, and his own band, Adam Lempel & The Heartbeats. Since 2012, Adam Lempel has released an EP and an album with The Heartbeats, yet another album as "Adam Lempel & The Casiobeats," and a 2016 solo album entitled "STILL LIFE." I talk to Adam from time to time—we actually, met once at a (likely) 2011 Surfer Blood/WEEKENDS show at First Unitarian Church—and I know, he's been working on a proper follow-up to "STILL LIFE" for a couple years now. Said album, now titled Jinx, will likely be released at some point during 2018. Adam Lempel recorded Jinx with HKU classmate and producer Friso Hoesktra; most of the album's songs were "constructed in a computer," a stark contrast to Lempel's previous more lo-fi material.


"Run (Disconnected)" is the second released single from Jinx following recent lead-off single, "Let's Be Real." "Run (Disconnected)" a stylistic switch from its more mellow, stripped down predecessor and lyrically, "Run (Disconnected)" and "Let's Be Real" couldn't be more different: "Run" is seemingly about breaking away from all the technology mentioned within "Let's Be Real" and, I paraphrase, "throwing it against the wall." Adam Lempel recently told me, via email, '"Run (Disconnected)" is about fantasizing about breaking free from our screens, but at the same time, getting lost in a virtual world that looks and feels more and more real, but is still fundamentally, disconnected from regular old reality." "Run (Disconnected)" was, like the entirety of Jinx, produced by Friso Hoekstra with mixing and mastering from Wessel Oltheten, background vocals by Lindsay Carone, drums by Tcheser Holmes, and original painting by Adam Lempel himself. Stay tuned to The Witzard for further release details pertaining to Adam Lempel's Jinx.


"So, "Run (Disconnected)" is the second release off of my upcoming release, Jinx. I worked closely with producer Friso Hoekstra, a classmate of mine at The Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (HKU) and it was kind of an International effort. The drummer, Tcheser Holmes, played on the track in New York—recorded at Gravesend Studios at The Silent Barn with Ava Luna's Carlos Hernandez engineering. I met him at a holiday party at The Bowery Poetry Club one night; I heard him drumming, I could swear it was a recording 'cause it sounded so tight. I really fell in love with the sound of his playing and his groove. My friend, the visual artist Lindsay Carone, provides harmony and sings along. She has an excellent natural ear for harmony and can just come up with these amazing 3-part harmonies on-the-spot. It's really a gift and a talent that I don't possess. The song was mixed [and mastered] by Wessel Oltheten, who was my mixing teacher at HKU. He's truly a master at balancing a lot of different elements and making it sound clean and powerful. He literally, wrote a textbook on mixing that will be out in English shortly (right now, it's only in Dutch.) Also, my long-time friend, Jared Hiller, who plays in the band Operator Music Band, made a special guitar pedal that I use throughout the recording. It gives the guitar it's crazy and unique sound. He has a guitar pedal effects company called L0/Rez based in Greenpoint and we were actually, in our first band together, called Elementary Playground, circa 2002-2004, when we were in high school."

- Adam Lempel

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

ElectroBluesSociety Resurrect 2006 Roscoe Chenier "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" Acapella for Digital-only Re-release (Black & Tan Records)



ElectroBluesSociety are a Dutch-based "Organic Dance music" duo mixing electronics with raw, vintage live Blues-based sounds; self-described as "two guys and a bunch of junk with a broad taste and an open mind. Together, they are mixing modern technologies with 30+ years of live stage experience." ElectroBluesSociety (EBS) consists of drummer and bassist Jasper Mortier and guitarist and Black & Tan Records owner Jan Mittendorp. Mortier has worked with the likes of Paul Oscher, Preston Shannon, "Sax" Gordon Beadle, Philip Walker, and Boo Boo Davis, while Mittendorp has toured extensively across Europe & The US with artists such as Percy Strother, Smokey Wilson, Boo Boo Davis, Erskine Oglesby, and Roscoe Chenier. Jan Mittendorp personally, worked with American R&B singer and guitarist Roscoe Chenier for nearly 20 years and released two of his critically-acclaimed albums—Roscoe Style (1998) and Waiting for My Tomorrow (2006)—on Black & Tan Records. Chenier's rendition of traditional Gospel hymn, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" was originally released on Waiting for My Tomorrow in sparse, stripped-down acapella form.


Now, nearly 12 years after its initial release, Black & Tan Records have properly re-released "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" with a newly-orchestrated backing track arranged by EBS to accompany Roscoe Chenier, who, unfortunately, passed away in 2013. Jan Mittendorp said, in an exclusive statement sent to The Witzard, "Jasper and I and both terrible singers (to put it mildly) but [on the other hand], we love Blues and Roots music, mainly because of the vocals." Mittendorp enthusiastically continued: "so, instead of doing some bad singing ourselves, we prefer to use something good that is already existing. We have some more projects coming up, where we use new vocal recordings of guest singers that we invited for a recording sessions." ElectroBluesSociety's "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" personally, reminds me of Jamie xx's 2011 full-album remix of Gil Scott-Heron's 2010 return-to-form I'm New Here, fittingly re-titled We're New Here. "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" has been released as a digital-only single on Black & Tan Records, now available on Apple Music, Deezer, Soundcloud, Spotify, and similar like-minded digital retailers.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Vic Spencer & UK Producer SonnyJim Join Forces for Spenser: For Hire-inspired Spencer FOR HIGHER On Daupe! (The Witzard Interview)


"Two emcees: one from Chicago’s gritty East Side and the other, from Birmingham, UK. I became a fan of Chicago’s Vic Spencer around 2015, soon after his The Cost of Victory album dropped. I heard his unique voice, delivery, and wit and I knew this guy was special. In 2016, his album The Ghost of Living, produced by one of my all-time favorite producers, BIG GHOST, dropped and was Vic’s best album yet and one of my Top 5 favorite albums of 2016. I became a casual fan of the UK’s SonnyJim a few years ago, soon after his How to Tame Lions? (2014) album dropped, but it was his Mud In My Malbec album that made me a big fan of the emcee-producer and was also, one of my Top 5 favorite albums of 2016. Now, two years later, the two artists—who both put out two of the best albums of 2016—decided to collaborate on an album titled Spencer FOR HIGHER, based off a Mystery TV series from the 1980's called Spenser: For Hire. Maybe it was fate that these two talented artists separated by thousands of miles of ocean came together to make a possible classic album... or maybe not, but after hearing this album, all I can say is, it was a match made in Hip-Hop Heaven."

- Penned By: Nick Gauder (@fadeawaybarber)


I. @SharpCheddar856: How was Spencer FOR HIGHER inspired by 1985-88 Mystery TV series Spenser: For Hire?

@VicSpencer: Back in the day watching the show, as a shorty I thought that it was cool that a guy with my last name was hired to kill. Sort of like my Rap career.

II. SC: How did you and SonnyJim first meet and ultimately, decide to record Spencer FOR HIGHER together?

VS: It was a Tweet that set this collaboration up. Someone spoke it to existence. We never met, just emails.


III. SC: Spencer FOR HIGHER's tracks were all recorded separately and sent via email, then?

VS: Yes.

IV. SC: When did you learn SonnyJim would be rapping "alongside" you on a few of Spencer FOR HIGHER's tracks?

VS: After the production was made after he sent beats and I got all the ones that I wanted to use, he picked three that he'd like to rap on and it was a wrap.


V. SC: Awesome! Spencer FOR HIGHER really has a nice, well-rounded sound reminiscent of rapper-producer albums like Champion Sound, MADVILLAINY, Blue Chips 1-2, etc. What were some of your greatest sources of personal inspiration and influence, while recording Spencer FOR HIGHER?

VS: Me and my homies smoking; that's all it took. I mean, literally, once, I got all the beats in April 2017, it was just me and my homies mobbing to the studio together.

VI. SC: Wow, so this whole Spencer FOR HIGHER project was produced, written, mixed, mastered, and released in less than a year!? Damn, that's amazing, Vic!

VS: I work like that. It took less that a year to complete my last album, The Ghost of Living with BIG GHOST. Once I A&R the beat process, the rest is history.


VII. SC: Speaking of BIG GHOST—How did he get involved to remix "SauceMANIA" co-starring Chris Crack?

VS: BIG GHOST was in the back seat of this project. I asked him to sequence it, before we start putting in samples from the show. Then, I said, "it’s only right, as one of my spirit animals of freedom of speech, that he’d be involved in-the-flesh. House Shoes, Ironside Hex, and BIG GHOST are my spirit animals. They speak their minds and I love that.

VIII. SC: "...this Spencer for Higher, though. I really wish [Sean] P could hear this sh*t in-the-flesh. We’d be on the phone right now laughing at the name of the songs. He’d be like, "how the f**k you get [Ironside] Hex on a song called "Hex Hawkings??'" And he’d scream at "Nia Long's Weed Stash;"' what do you think Sean Price would think of Spencer FOR HIGHER?

VS: He’d be calling every morning about who he’s played it for and cracking jokes on some of the bars hahaha. He was hilarious like that. He always praised me on record turn-arounds and picking beats. He’d be dissecting this album like crazy.


IX. SC: I recall you releasing a similarly-named IKAZ-produced project called Spence Ethic in 2012. How has your overall sound, lyrical approach, style, etc. grown since Spence Ethic?

VS: It’s my most commercial album. Yeah, that’s cool. But Spence Ethic is commercially cool. It had artists on there like Lance Skiiiwalker—his name was "Johnny Rocket," before the TDE ordeal—and it helped me get an audience in France, but that’s about it. It was Sean P's second best album of mine. His first was Rapping Bastard in 2014. But now? That sh*t's trash.

X. SC: I know you and Sean Price appeared together a number of times on ILLA Ghee-assisted "Jungle Gym" from The Cost of Victory and "Metal Beard" from Sean's posthumous Stevie Wonder-inspired album, Songs In The Key of Price... but how did you two initially meet?

VS: Another Twitter meet. I spammed one of my songs to him from Spence Ethic and he happened to like it and the rest was history.


XI. SC: What's the story behind "Primal Rage" co-starring Quelle Chris? How were you able to get Quelle Chris involved? In my opinion, it's one of the most flawless, natural-sounding and fun listens on Spencer FOR HIGHER!

VS: Me and Quelle [Chris] have been fans of each other work for quite some time, now. He’s in the field of realness. So, I always wanted to work with him; we started our work journey with the St. Gregory album. He produced the "Gone Fishin' [Pt. 1-3]" trilogy from that album. He has that strong Rap voice, such as myself. I believe in working with people that works as hard as me. Me and Quelle are one in the same.

XII. SC: Dope, man! Now, how much of an influence did Spenser: For Hire have on the overall sound, theme, and making-of Spencer FOR HIGHER?

VS: My career has been [through] some wars, so it’s just me coming for the kill to reign supreme on those who counted me out. They wanted Spenser dead on the show. Critics call me "old" and [say] I should "fall over and croak in a Rap game full of young boys." I’m still here. I’m [gonna] kill the game and get high, while doing so.


XIII. SC: Hell yes! I have to admit, I've heard a handful of your projects over the years and Spencer FOR HIGHER is by far my favorite! How did you and SonnyJim decide to ultimately, link up with Daupe! for Spencer FOR HIGHER's release? It will be released this upcoming Monday, Jan. 15th on limited edition vinyl and cassette, correct?

VS: Daupe! did some previous work for us, individually, so it was only right. They [were] hooked on the idea, prior to it being done.

XIV. SC: Now, with Spencer FOR HIGHER's release soon-impending, what else do you currently have planned for release throughout 2018?

VS: I got a few albums to select from. I’m just [gonna] be ready to drop 'em, when it’s time. New Chris Spencer album and working on my solo album, which I’m like, 50 songs into it.


XV. SC: Wow, a 50-song solo album!? Can't wait to hear your future releases!

VS: Nah, not 50 songs. I just recorded that number to choose from. Gonna be like 14 songs.

XVI. SC: Thank you for your time and willingness to answer my questions, Vic! Record and tape collectors can pick up copies of Vic Spencer & SonnyJim's Spencer FOR HIGHER, when it goes on sale at Daupe!'s Bandcamp this upcoming Monday, January 15th at 4pm "LONDON TIME."

Friday, January 12, 2018

We Are The Karma Kids Founder & LNYCHPIN Curator Lt Headtrip Assembles Beat-maker Bedrock #14 (Original Artwork By: @UnibrowDuck)


Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past few months or recently awoke from a coma—we're terribly sorry for 2017!—Beat-maker Bedrock (BMB) is a new, recurring column here at The Witzard; initially, the brainchild of Baltimore-based beatsmith John "Jumbled" Bachman, BMB simply asks beat-makers and aspiring producers to highlight 3-5 of their personal favorite albums, which, early on, helped shape their overall sound and style. I'm proud to present to you our first Beat-maker Bedrock column 2018 and 14th overall features a playlist selected and meticulously arranged by New York-based rapper-producer and We Are The Karma Kids founder Lt Headtrip—or just "Headtrip" for production work. Following his critically-acclaimed 2017 album, Comedy of The Filtbeast, Lt Headtrip teamed up with The GreenHouse Studio/Backwoodz Studioz producer and engineer to curate LNYCHPIN; described on Bandcamp as "a full-length collaborative album featuring 16 emcees and 7 producers, all from NYC-based labels and crews, including Karma Kids, Reservoir Sound, Backwoodz Studioz, Uncommon [Records], and Smoker's Cough." LNYCHPIN's self-titled 14-track album features a wide array of talented New York emcees and producers including rappers MF Hater, Shape, Duncecap, SKECH185 (War Church & Tomorrow Kings,) Uncommon Nasa, Gruff Lion, Teddy Faley, Lt Headtrip, billy woods, Warren Britt, PremRock, Hype Wonder, MC Eleven, Googie, BIG BREAKFAST, DJ Zesto, GDP, Blastmaster Baker, Creature (RebelMatic,) BALD AFRO, and beat-makers Teddy Faley, Willie Green, Samurai Banana, Uncommon Nasa, Headtrip with Blastmaster Baker, Jeff Markey, and A.M. Breakups. It's also worth mentioning that this month's Beat-maker Bedrock features original artwork designed by freelance graphic designer and illustrator @UnibrowDuck.


I. Primus - Pork Soda (1993)

"I snapped a copy of Pork Soda into my Sony Walkman with ESP in 7th grade, a year after I began learning Sonic Foundry Acid Pro, my first DAW [digital audio workstation]. I was mostly experimenting, making joke songs, and Techno remixes, at that point, while trying to convince my friends to start a Weezer cover band, but I listened to Primus nearly every day on the bus to and from school. Primus' clunky, dissonant sound was unlike anything I'd heard before. The band works together to reject music theory and generate a completely unique sound. It reminded me of obese, sickly demons stomping about aimlessly through a wasteland I’ve been dying to explore.

It wasn’t until early high school that I revisited the album, asking my bass guitar instructor, Gerry, how Les Claypool generated such harsh, spastic patterns with his guitar. Gerry, surprised I was exposed to Primus at such a young age, taught me a few techniques, changing my understanding of the bass' capabilities. Within weeks, I recorded my first original, non-sample-based song using my guitar, followed by some rambling, Claypool-esque vocals. This may have been my first serious "Rap song."

On my latest album, Comedy of The Filthbeast, I replaced most of the drum hits with [Tim "Herb" Alexander's] from this album and a few from other Primus records. It helped bring consistency to the production—I created the beats for this album over the course of the last decade and sampled various breaks. I also thought it would be a fair nod to a band whose idiosyncratic, dissonant, clunky tone helped shape my sound."


II. Aesop Rock - Float (2000)

"Later on, my sophomore year of high school, a friend passed along two mix CD's of Aesop Rock's early work. Some tracks were from Appleseed (1999) and Music for Earthworms (1997) [but] most were from Float. Aesop's lyricism stood out to me at first, but the beats quickly became a focal point. Blockhead seamlessly blends samples from all over the world, tying them together with fat, basic Hip-Hop drums. I was intrigued by how grim he could make a listless flute sample appear or how haunting his string loops sounded. His use of stand-up bass and cello samples attracted the bassist in me, as well. I recall searching for music students' senior theses in order to find untouched, solo, orchestral samples, and connecting my VCR to my computer’s input to steal obscure scores from movies set in different countries. Without Float, I may have never dived headfirst into world music and orchestral samples.

Another aspect of Blockhead's production that influenced my style was his attention to drum patterns. Instead of letting a break ride throughout the song, he seemed to intentionally lay each drum by hand; going back later, after Aesop laid his vocals, to fit them together. While simple, the patterns are subtly ever-changing, allowing them to feel fluid."


III. El-P - Fantastic Damage (2002)

"After listening to Aesop [Rock] & Blockhead's work to date, I investigated the rest of Def Jux. Fantastic Damage was the first album I heard from El-P, and I was immediately entranced by the intricacy of his songs; it seemed he obsessed over every tiny sound, attempting to reflect his own paranoid, scattered mind in his instrumentation. His sound was also entirely new to me—I heard little attempt to appear normal or fit within confines of other Hip-Hop. [Fantastic Damage] was the first time I was moved by a rapper who wrote his own songs entirely, from composition to lyricism. This allowed him to create an entire universe on his own, getting unapologetically lost in the details.

The layer of grit covering his synth-based production initially attracted me. Most producers who worked outside of samples sounded too clean for my teenage angst. The staggered, distorted kick drums that begin the record are an excellent thesis statement to the album's jarring, unforgiving tone. I remember waking up to this album every day for a few months using the CD player/alarm clock I won at a high school dance and accidentally, associating the album with the dread of waking up after a couple hours' rest to go to school all day. I'm certain this dread isn’t far from the feeling El-P intended to evoke.

El-P's snare placement in songs like "Deep Space 9mm" taught me to let my drums out of the downbeat/upbeat pattern I’d already grown accustomed to. While I was fascinated by the complexity of his percussion, I also learned the beauty of simplicity from songs like "Dr. Hellno & The Praying Mantus." This track reminds me of his production on [Company Flow's] Funcrusher Plus (1997) which I discovered a few months after listening to [Fantastic Damamage] and reinforced El-P’s influence on my style."


IV. Dr. Dre - The Chronic (1992)

"Once I arrived at college in New York, I met Samurai Banana, whose production style continues to challenge my own. He played artists for me I would had never given the time, including Dr. Dre. Initially, I freestyled over 2001 (1999) instrumentals, while he cut, but it wasn't until my sophomore year that I began to study The Chronic. My friend Sara, who I would eventually marry, bought me two tapes at a yard sale: Count Basie - The Gold Collection (Digital Dejavu) and The Chronic. After years of focusing on angry, raw music, I began to value Funk and it’s positive groove. It helped that Dre and his rotating cast of emcees play the roles of ruthless, unapologetic gangsters, but overall, I was focusing on the production. Although, the speakers in my '87 Nissan Sentra were barely louder than the cracked exhaust system, I bumped that tape every day for two years straight.

Dre's production taught me the merit of Funk. I hadn't considered delving into that realm, spending much of my childhood railing against the groove. Once I accepted this, a whole new world opened up to me. I traced his sound back through Parliament-Funkadelic, to James Brown and his contemporaries, back to pre-Funk Blues, such as Leadbelly. After exploring these realms, I re-visited the music that helped mold my style and found traces of it at every turn.

Today, I keep an open ear. Most of my current influences are my peers and colleagues. There’s an abundance of talent fighting to be heard right now and we live in a time, where finding it is possible. I try to absorb, when I’m not creating and tune everything out, once I begin writing because after all, the unique nature of these influences is the most inspiring aspect of their art."


"Lt Headtrip—head of Queens-based Hip-Hop collective, We Are The Karma Kids—is a intentional lyricist, an electric performer, and a master of linguistics. Also a seasoned producer, he sheds the "military ranking," when dealing strictly with beats and composition. His recently released opus, Comedy of The Filthbeast, spotlights his musical prowess on every track. This is (Lt) Headtrip's Beat-maker Bedrock."

You can find examples of Headtrip's production throughout The Karma Kids' discography at: we are the karma kids.

Albums Entirely Produced By Headtrip:
Lt Headtrip - Comedy of The Filthbeast (2017)
Gruff Lion - death or evolution (2015)

Albums Partially Produced By Headtrip:
Various Artists - LNYCHPIN (2017)
bluelight + Lt Headtrip - TVNNELS (2017)
MC Eleven & The Karma Kids - Kombinations (2016)
Googie - 'Tis What 'Tis (2016)
BALD AFRO - BALD AFRO (2015)
Webtrip - Webtrip (2013)
Lt Headtrip - Raw Dog (2011)
Lt Headtrip - Keep Out of The Attic (2011)