Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ohtwo Emcees Faust + Xavya & Beat-maker BYSON Speak On Illuminated Paths Debut 'SESSION ONE' (The Witzard Interview)

"C'est la vie, c'est la vie. N****s better know that we never comin' weak. Ohtwo comin', but we a group of three... plus, one more—that's BYSON on the beat," Xavya tactfully rhymes on "Intro" from Ohtwo's BYSON-produced Session One. Ohtwo consists of emcees Faust AKA Old Man Faust, Thrilla, and Xavya, as well as producer and beat-maker BYSON. BYSON, as well as Ohtwo, is signed to Florida-based label Illuminated Paths (IP) run by Josh Rogers AKA Broken Machine Films Presents... I've been in touch will Mr. Rogers since IP released PASSAGE's March 2017 album, WORKED ON/RE-WORKED ON. PASSAGE's ULTIMATE WORKED ON BUNDLE and WORKED ON LIVE CASSETTE MIXTAPE featured appearances from Skyrider, Emceein' Eye, theclosing, Eze Jackson, Height Keech, and Hemlock Ernst AKA Future Islands' Sam Herring. Illuminated Paths have released a whopping 68+ genre-blending releases since the onslaught of 2017 and Ohtwo's Session One is amongst the latest—although, a whopping seven albums/EP's have been uploaded since Ohtwo's Nov. 27 release. Ohtwo's Session One, to my well-trained ear, at least, has sonic undertones evocative of Chance The Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, The Roots, and Jurassic 5 emcee Chali 2na; lest we forget, slightly more "cartoonish" fare, such as Jaylib, MADVILLAINY, and Quasimoto. I recently got in touch with Ohtwo producer BYSON, through Illuminated Oaths founder Josh Rogers, who, in turn, got me in contact with emcees Faust & Xavya. I'm happy to present to you: a Session One-centric interview with Ohtwo's BYSON, Faust, and Xavya. Session One is currently available in both digital album and cassette formats from Illuminated Paths' Bandcamp.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Your Hip-Hop Hanukkah Host

I. Prior to Ohtwo's Session One, you (BYSON) previously released 季節 (The Season) [SPECIAL EDITION], REFRESH, SUSHI BEATS, and Central Florida - Nowhere on Illuminated Paths; but how and why exactly did you fellas decide on IP to issue Session One?

BYSON: It was mostly because Illuminated Paths has always done a great job with my work in the past and does an awesome job supporting the local scene. I wanted to make sure that this project was subject to the same support that I've had for all this time.

Xavya: Yeah, a lot of the release/distribution "discussion" was already pretty much decided, when we were starting the project.

II. How did Ohtwo's members (Faust, Thrilla & Xavya) initially come to meet BYSON and decide to bring him into the fold as part of the group on the production end for Session One?

BYSON: I met Faust at an event I played at The Geek Easy. Sputnik Yuri, who booked me that night, came up to me mid-set and was like, "yo, my friend over here was wondering if he could freestyle; is that cool?" and I was like, "sure, why not." He did an awesome freestyle over my beat, "sticky rice" and afterwards, I told him we should work together. We exchanged numbers and a week or so later (I think) we organized a recording session. On the day he was going to come out, he texted me and was like, "hey, I’m gonna bring a friend; is that cool?" and I said, "sure." When he pulled up, he actually had two people with him: Xavya & Thrilla. That night, they mainly freestyled and I knew this could be something pretty cool.

Faust: We linked when my friend, who puts together DJ events in Orlando, invited me out to one of his nights and BYSON happened to be playing there. We were introduced and [BYSON] was told I rap, so he asked me to freestyle some over the last of his set. I think we sort of naturally said, "we should record" and we set something up. The day of, I asked, "can I bring a friend?" and I showed up with Thrilla & Xavya. The three of us had been rapping together in parking lots and backyards for a few weeks prior, but Ohtwo really started [right] then and there.

Xavya: I remember being at work the day Faust told me, "we're making a Rap album," which was dope as Hell, for sure. From the jump, BYSON has pretty much, been in the fold for [the] conception of Session One. Anyone remember when it was "Mushroom Cashmere?"

III. Would any of you mind speaking a bit about Ohtwo's recent Grumpskulls Photography & Sputnik Yuri/Nate Yelle-directed video for "Oh Baby?" It is a fun-loving, interestingly-formatted video!

BYSON: Yeah, I'll just start by giving a shout-out to Lucky Straws Boba Tea of Winter Garden. Binh & Amanda are the owners there and they're amazing; they've been allowing me to sit and their shop and produce music for years now and they let us use the shop in the video for hours, after closing time. The video itself is awesome. I didn’t have that much [of] a part in the creation of it, other than the Lucky Straws Boba aspect. Yuri, Nate, Faust, Thrilla, and Xavya did an awesome job with the whole thing.

Faust: A total race against time. I was surprised at how the people helping us came through. Shouts to Grumpskulls, Sputnik, Nate, and the rest.

Xavya: That whole process was really fun. BYSON had the boba [bubble] tea shop idea for a while, so it went over pretty smoothly. A lot of the other shots around town were more impromptu, which was dope, as well.

IV. What were your typical beat-creation, rhyme-writing, hook-assembling, recording, mixing, mastering, etc. processes like behind Session One?

BYSON: We had lots of workflow changes throughout production, but the one we settled on in the end is that I'll just make a bunch of beats and send them over to the guys. They'll hit me up and say what beats they want to work with and then, we'll pull all the stems into Ableton and start recording vocals. I both arrange and mix in Ableton, but I produce with my MPC Live. For mastering, a good family friend of mine, Nick [Gardiakos], did all the mastering, which saved Session One, in my opinion, because my master of the album sounded terrible, lmao.

Faust: A lot of problem-solving; we built "sound booths" in bathrooms and bedrooms out of anything we thought would work, at the time. If it sounded good, we kept it and kept moving. For most of the recording months, Xavya and I were roommates and the three of us rappers were around each other constantly. It was a process of gassing each other up with ideas, drumming on tables, and writing bars to what BYSON sent us, before showing up to the studio to create something and then, we would start all over again, after each session. We all wrote a lot, but practically every decent hook that stuck was formed on-the-spot with collaborative ideas. After a while, it was polishing tracks that we already laid down to sound the way we wanted them to.

Xavya: We made "La Cienega" and "Farrah" the second time we met up. Those were probably easiest ones, in retrospect. A lot of the hooks were on-the-spot, except for the title track and "Whatta Day" was originally a song I wrote that turned into that lil' refrain ("oh man, oh man.") The verse for "Summer" was spoken-word piece I would do live along with "Xavya Talks." Throughout all of the changes and what not, the one thing that stayed consistent was the exact sound we were all going for. The recording process was a learning experience in itself, but I'm glad that we figured it all out AND made the album we wanted. Faust and I had talked to a couple of audio engineers and studio folk, only to realize that they [were] going to wash out a lot of the rawness in the vocals.

V. What might you likely cite as some of your greatest sources of individual and group inspiration and influence, while recording Ohtwo's Session One?

BYSON: I'm sure the other guys are sick and tired of me mentioning [Enter The Wu-Tang] 36 Chambers. That album, and Wu-Tang Clan as a group, is my Bible, when it comes to the organizational, recording, and business aspects of this group. I would constantly listen to that album and think, "how did they record this?," "what would their workflow be?," and "what was going through RZA's mind, when producing this?" Other than that album, I know that we drew inspiration from Injury Reserve, MADVILLAINY, Lil' Ugly Mane, Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, Wiki, Nujabes, and a bunch more artists, throughout the production of the album.

Xavya: Personally, [Ghostface Killah's] Bulletproof Wallets, 2009-10 Nicki Minaj verses, Nxworries' YES LAWD! and definitely, Frank Ocean's Blond(e). MADVILLAINY was the album I know BYSON had in mind, during the mixing and mastering.

VI. There really seems to be a strong Asian influence on "Oh Baby" and the entirety of Session One; where do you suppose that comes from and who exactly can be attributed with bringing that element to the table?

BYSON: I've had a pretty strong Asian (specifically Japanese) influence on my music, for a while now and that just sort of bled over into the Ohtwo project. I listen to a lot of Japanese music from artists like Tatsuro Yamashita, Mariya Takeuchi, Hiroshi Sato, Creepy Nuts, and Nujabes, which all influence my music in many ways. "Oh Baby," itself, contains a Chinese Bossa Nova sample that I found and as soon as I heard the strings on it, I knew I had to chop up the sample for Ohtwo. There's actually another track that we scrapped that had another Chinese sample, as well as samples from the [1993] film Iron Monkey and the 1997 anime for Berserk, which is one of my favorite pieces of Japanese animation and one of my favorite stories of all time. "So Far" contains a pitched-up Japanese Bossa Nova sample and "Get Gone" has a sample from a Japanese piano trio, if I remember correctly—might be wrong on that one, since it's one of the oldest beats on the project!

Xavya: Haha you don't have to look too far into BYSON's production to know that he has lots respect for Japanese culture—Anime, art, etc. It honestly, didn't factor in too much for me, until I was watching the "Oh Baby" music video.

VII. Whats next for the Ohtwo Session One album roll-out? When can we expect to hear "Sessions Two, Three, Four," and so on and so forth? (haha)

BYSON: As for what's next for Session One, we have a remix tape in-the-works and we’re also planning a special signed edition to be sold, at some point. As for Session Two, its on hold, at the moment, but will be made one day. In the meantime, we have a couple ideas that we're ready to work on and I'm taking a more deliberate Bossa Nova route, in terms of production, for the next tape, so stay tuned for that. It shouldn't be too long before more Ohtwo music is out there!

Faust: Hopefully, another video, but we are coming quick with new music... maybe even albums and other projects. However, the namesake, "Session Two," won't be made for a long time.

Xavya: There is more Ohtwo to come, for sure! Session Two anytime soon? Nope.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

WONDERFUL NOISE PRODUCTIONS Presents: Leonard Charles & Guilty Simpson Join Forces for "Breaking Over You" (The Witzard Premier)

"I have a She's So Rad EP I am working on, dreamy Shoegaze stuff. I have a Leonard Charles Modern Funk [album] with a Lo-Fi Disco tint full-length record that is nearly complete, a Basement Funk record that will feature Wildchild, Guilty Simpson, Declaime [AKA Dudley Perkins], Team Dynamite, and Georgia Anne Muldrow, and then, I still have a few things up my sleeve... but I gotta stay focused on these records, for now. I am easily distracted by amazing music and stupid plans!" Jeremy Toy AKA Leonard Charles replied when asked what he had planned following Basement Donuts. Basement Donuts is, of course, Toy's 2016 album-length debut as alter-ego "Leonard Charles;" a Basement/Modern Funk album recorded in his basement as a 31-track tribute to Stones Throw/Instrumental Hip-Hop pioneer, producer, and rapper James "J Dilla" Yancey. During our interview prep ahead of our November 2016 The Witzard interview, Leonard Chrales casually mentioned he met Dilla affiliate and frequent collaborator Guilty Simpson prior to the June-Feb. 2016 release of Basement Donuts on HIT+RUN/WONDERFUL NOISE. Early in 2015, Simpson was in Auckland, New Zealand for a short tour with DETROIT'S SON collaborator, Katalyst. As Leonard Charles tells it, Guilty soon stopped by the studio to lay down a verse for one of his own productions and casually played him an early draft of Basement Donuts. Guilty dug what Leonard had cooked up and gave it his stamp-of-approval because it was such an original interpretation of Dilla's beloved record.

Here's what Leonard Charles had to say about the making-of "Breaking Over You:" "With "Breaking Over You," I wanted to make something that sounded "Lo-Fi" enough to work as a follow up to Basement Donuts, but also have an air of "Hi-Fi" to it. It's a raw track that expresses the raw feeling of relationships. Guilty [Simpson] really came through with this one and I feel like the end result is a balanced, going in-and-out of love track that anyone can relate to. Guilty and I are currently cooking up some new material that I can't wait to get out on wax!"

Now, Leonard Charles has returned with Guilty's aforementioned "verse on one of [his] own songs," which has now been officially titled "Breaking Over You." It's tagged on WONDERFUL NOISE's Soundcloud as simply #Leonard Charles, #Guilty Simpson, #Wonderful Noise, #New Zealand, and #Detroit. "Breaking Over You" is a bit hard to quantize genre-wise, but it's dripping with sonic allusions to Basement/Modern Funk, Disco, Neo-Soul, Hip-Hop, G-Funk, and Electronic music. "Breaking Over You" is the first collaboration between Leonard Charles & Guilty Simpson, ahead of what I hear will be a "real raw and aggressive" collaborative 7-inch EP. Guilty recorded his verse over Jeremy Toy's Soul/Funk-oozing instrumental the last time he visited New Zealand, which was also when he initially heard the "Ruff Draft" (pun intended!) of Basement Donuts; "girl, it's true—I'm breaking over you. Ooh-woah, it's true, I'm breaking over you," Leonard Charles seductively whispers over his G-Funk-reminiscent self-produced beat.

Right around the 2-minute mark, Guilty Simpson abruptly bellows, "DON'T LEAVE! LISTEN..." before launching into his ruthlessly affectionate mid-song verse, which starts with: "we fuss and fight. We can't even break up right. Just say you hate me, but stayin' the night. Heart's sore from all the ache. How much more can ya take?" Leonard Charles & Guilty Simpson's "Breaking Over You" is premiering right here and now at The Witzard and will soon be released on 7-inch on Japanese-based imprint WONDERFUL NOISE, as skillfully mastered and lathe-cut by Dave Cooley at Elysian Masters. Stay tuned to The Witzard, as further "Breaking Over You" 7-inch release details emerge. Shout-out to Adi Dick for the dope "BREAKING OVER YOU" promotional artwork; head on over to dribble to check out more of his artwork, as well as recent musical output at both Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Cap City Ent. Founder, DJ & Ray Strife Producer iLL-Omega Returns with Hip-Hop-askewing Instrumental Album KING (Aspire Higher)

"The process on making the album pretty much was made during a tough and stressful time this year. It's crazy that this album has a chill vibe, when I was going through crazy sh*t, personally. I was inspired by J Dilla's Donuts, Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. and Lo-Fi Hip-Hop music—which I have been listening to [heavily] this year," Trenton-based DJ and producer Darnell "iLL-Omega" Storey wrote within a recent email. I rarely listen to Rap these days, so this was my "f**k you" to typical-sounding beats and albums," iLL-Omega continued. Just about four months ago, iLL-Omega unleashed his proper solo "debut," Omegatron, which ran right here at The Witzard along with his Beat-maker Bedrock column. Darnell Storey has previously released material with fellow New Jersian Ray Strife and his DKFG crew, Rocky, Alien, Kahlil Ali, and A Mankind Complex with Trino, as well as signees on his Cap City Ent. imprint.

Since Omegatron, iLL-Omega has released "Ash" (DeltaGoon Remix) as an Aspire Higher Tune Tuesday Exclusive and a DJ mix set entitled "Supernova." Now, iLL-Omega is back with his proper album-length follow-up to Omegatron, KING which was released in conjunction with Aspire Higher; "hailing from South Jersey/Philly, we are bringing you some of the most unique and talented up-and-coming Experimental bass producers, artists, painters, and creators on the East Coast," Aspire Higher's Soundcloud reads. As iLL-Omega wrote within his recent emails to The Witzard, KING is a very unique album for a Hip-Hop produce to release, drawing inspiration and direct influence from Donuts and Kendrick Lamar's now-reversed DAMN. as well as both Dance and World music. It's truly a unique genre-askewing, largely (anti-)Hip-Hop album. iLL-Omega is currently available to stream and download on Aspire Higher's Soundcloud and is slated for a wider physical re-release with alt. artwork in 2018. iLL-Omega and partner-in-rhyme Ray Strife are currently preparing their album-length collaborative follow-up to this year's Preface: I Will Never Be Beautiful EP entitled Go for The Gusto for a 2018 release, as well.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Jumbled Unwraps 15 Festive Beats & Rhymes Just In Time for Christmas with Merry Christmess comp. (Harford & Reckord Tapes)

Merry Christmess exudes a frantic sense of fluidity, similar in nature to that of my personal favorite Hip-Hop-minded Christmas comp. Peanut Butter Wolf Presents: BADD SANTA - A Stones Throw Records Xmas. After initially pitching a batch of holiday-themed beats to an East Coast-based crew of emcees to no avail, John "Jumbled" Bachman, unfortunately, aborted his then-untitled Christmas EP for a planned 2016 release. Now, nearly a year later, Jumbled is back with his fully-realized 15-track Merry Christmess comp. Following The Ghost of Len Bias EP with MGNTK. emcee UllNevaNo and THE INSULT with long-time friend and emcee Dwell (as Bully Preston) Merry Christmess is Jumbled's third proper release of 2017. While Merry Christmess is, in fact, Jumbled's first beat-minded Christmas release, John Bachman's Indie Rock/Power-Pop band, Soft Peaks actually issued a 2013 cover of The Kinks' raucous "Father Christmas." Merry Christmess features contributions from frequent Jumbled collaborators Dot Com Intelligence and JBerd, as well as new-comers ALYX Ryon, Che Rock, The Hell Hole Store emcee Darko The Super, and fellow educator/emcee Reason hailing from Pittsburgh.

Dually functioning as both a conventional beat tape and a vocal-led album, Merry Christmess effortlessly switches back-and-forth between Christmas jingle-sampling instrumentals and emcee-helmed tracks. I would have to say my personal favorites are Reason's "Just Another Holiday" and ALYX Ryon's "Chestnuts," both contributions from extremely talented East Coast emcees I hadn't heard of prior to Merry Christmess. Jumbled's Merry Christmess additionally features a John Bachman-designed album cover, which is a particularly festive re-creation of a shot from inside Nirvana's Bleach (1989) CD booklet; @NapalmDef even Tweeted, "Hey @KristNovoselic, I drew you as a deer -- hope that's cool," of course, aimed at Nirvana's long-time bassist and founding member Krist Novoselic, days prior to release. Merry Christmess is now available to stream, download, or add onto your holiday playlist from Jumbled's Bandcamp page on a Name-Your-Price basis. Word on the street is Jumbled's currently working on a "Bmore Club"-stylized EP to be released at some point during 2018.

"I like Christmas and Christmas songs, but I'm also tired of hearing the same ones (or covers of the same ones) over and over again. These beats were created for a collaboration that never came to fruition, so I sat on them for a year; most are pretty simple—but all were sampled from Christmas songs. In Fall of 2017, I reached out to many artists and a few responded and sent me some great tracks." 🎄

- John Bachman (Jumbled)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

ALASKA & Lang Vo Join Forces with The Witzard for Part III of WORDS HURT's SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS Roll-out (The Witzard Interview)

Tim Baker (@alaska_ATOMS) and Lang Vo (@langkimvo) are two aging "Rap Dads," I believe, I met on Twitter about a year or so ago. Both Lang & Tim had note-worthy Hip-Hop careers during the late 1990's to early 2000's and then, took periods of self-imposed sabbaticals to get married, have kids, and do other things Rap Dads do. Now, ALASKA & Lang Vo are back in full-force and collaborating as WORDS HURT. Lang met Tim around 2014-15 when the Def Jux vet enlisted the former's skills behind the boards to properly mix his then-latest project, OutKast-remixing ALKAST. ALASKA also had a verse on "Impulse Control" alongside emcee Elsphinx from Lang Vo...Is Just An A**hole. Not long after, Lang hi-jacked Tim's acapellas to make his own remix collection entitled ALKAST:REMIXES, which would soon become the first official WORDS HURT release. What we have here, is the third part in a 3-pronged initiative—a collaboration between The Witzard & WORDS HURT—coinciding with the release of ALASKA & Lang Vo's latest collaborative album, SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS. Part I was The Witzard Premier of WORDS HURT's first single, "World's Worst Life Coach," as well as the SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS album announcement; Part II was The Witzard Premier of "OFF INTO THE DISTANCE" from the SOUL MUSIC album sessions with Lang Vo's Beat-maker Bedrock; and now, Part III is an exclusive, all-encompassing interview with both ALASKA & Lang Vo. SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS is now available to stream or download on WORDS HURT's Bandcamp page.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Music Writer with "Dad Jokes"

I. You guys first "met" after Lang mixed ALASKA's ALKAST project and soon after, remixed it as ALKAST:REMIXES, correct? But what initially made you decide to run with this whole 90's Hip-Hop-evoking WORDS HURT aesthetic?

ALASKA: Honestly, it wasn’t really something I ever thought about: what it sounds like or any era, really. I think it probably comes across that way because those were formative years for both of us. We are Hella old. It is also when we came up; at least, for me. So, there is something ingrained in the approach, I think. We didn’t intend to make an album that sounds like it’s from a certain era. I don’t know if I see the 1990's in it. It mostly just sounds like what is going on in my head.

Lang Kim Vo: I think we used to talk [through] Twitter for a few years, before that happened, share music, and stuff back-and-forth, while [we] were working. Stuff like that. He even Blocked me, at one point haha. I saw Hangar 18 a few times when they came [through] the Ohio area back in the day, but we never met face-to-face. I don't really feel like we made a 90's-type of album. It definitely has that Boom-Bap, but really we just wanted to make an album that jammed hard and was fun to listen to with subs in your car.

II. How has WORDS HURT's overall sound and aesthetic changed and progressed between 2016's F**k That Pretty Boy Sh*t and SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS?

ALASKA: More than anything, we are more comfortable in who we are and how we create. The first two projects, were us figuring out who we were and what our sound is. Towards the end of F**k That Pretty Boy Sh*t, I think we started to find that groove and fall into who we are as a group. With SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS, there is a lot less [filler] and it is a more raw form of what we do. There isn’t any fear or hesitation left, it is un-distilled us.

Lang: I think, this time around, we were mostly dealing with fresh-ish material, on both ends. We actually made a whole EP and were going to release it for fun, but scrapped it and started over and made SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS. We are still going to release that EP for free soon. On my part, I tried not to go over board with sounds. Didn't make too many switch-ups and didn't make any interludes. I wanted it to have that vibe from like the late 80's, where it was just the producer and the rapper and that was it. And it all still banged and had a message.

III. What are WORDS HURT's typical writing, producing, recording, mixing, mastering, etc. processes like? You two have never actually met on real life, correct?

ALASKA: That’s correct. We have never met in-person. Lang is in Texas and I am in New York and we both have families. So, time is a commodity. My wife’s job takes her to Austin a few times a year, so I may piggy-back on her trip one time and go hang out with Lang and convince him to try beer. As for our process, we take the long way around. I usually grab other artists instrumentals I am enjoying [and] write to them. This time around, there was a lot of slow beats; I was feeling stuff like 2 Chainz's "4 AM" and Rick Ross' "[Santorini] Greece." I loved the mood and space to let the lines hover. So, I record everything over the other instrumentals then send them all to Lang and catch up on TV. Then, Lang makes original beats based off whatever feeling the words give him. He sends those back to me and I re-record my vocals to make them fit his idea. Then, I start cutting out verses and songs that don’t work or don’t serve the song/album. Lang mixes and masters. Then, we give it to the world.

Lang: No, not officially haha. Sometimes, I watch him sleep from outside his window, but that's just because I heart him so much. Our "typical" is like no other. Especially, for Rap music. He writes and records demos over other music he is feeling. Then, I take that demo and make a beat skeleton over what I feel over his words and then, he takes that and re-records to match the energy of the energy I was feeling for the energy he was feeling from the vibe he got from the beat he wrote to haha.

IV. How did you initially come up with the title "SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS" and what exactly is it meant to evoke to the common listener and Hip-Hop fan?

ALASKA: A lot of what I write addresses the hypocrisy of us Americans. Especially, us self-proclaimed Lefty Progressive types. So, F**k That Pretty Boy Sh*t was all about consumer culture and how people directly place individual value on the things they consume. I find it disgusting. You can’t have conversations with people without it turning into where they are eating these days; or what f**king podcast to listen to or which TV show they consumer; which over-priced designer they buy. There is nothing interesting there. It is all value on material. With SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS, I have been rather disgusted by our smug know-it-all patronizing discourse. The virtue signally... the showing our a** for some Likes or Retweets... the know-it-all nature of who we have become as a society. We have no soul. So, I felt that this was really my attempt to pour out my soul and frustrations for these soulless pricks. I guess, my hope is that the few people that hear this album might, at least, take a moment to think about how they interact with the world and whether or not they are actually making things better or showing out. That was what I have been wrestling with throughout the process. Most times, these songs are me wrestling with the behavior I exhibit that disgusts me in others. In a way, it is my therapy.

Lang: I let Tim name everything haha. Also, I don't think he writes for Hip-Hop fans or the common listener. I don't think anything is themed for music, in general. It's mostly about living life and all the sh*t that comes with it.

V. Now, I know you two aren't exactly new to The Rap Game, but where do you draw your greatest sources of inspiration and influence from these days?

ALASKA: I mostly find it in the world around us. There is so much sh*t going on and so much stimulus that there is an endless trove of ideas and content to pull from. I don’t listen to music the same way I used to. Now, I tend to listen more as background, while my brain is going 100 miles a minute. I appreciate dope sh*t, but I guess, I’m at an age where I don’t really need it anymore. There are other things that fill the space that was once dedicated to music. Now, I mostly listen to hear what people are doing and the kinds of techniques they use and the directions that things are going in. I try to draw influence from that, on the musical front.

Lang: When I'm working on a Rap album, I generally don't listen to any Rap music. When I get down to mixing and mastering, I can't listen to ANY music because that process kind of burns you out hardcore. I think now that we are older, we don't draw from much other, than the era that shaped us and the ability to not care anymore. Plus, Tim [ALASKA] is open and honest, when things are or aren't working. So, the influence these days is just us being old fat dads that need a place to vent.

VI. Unlike your previous collaborative releases, why did you fellas decide to go with absolutely NO guest features for SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS?

ALASKA: I think it goes back to the earlier answer; we know who and what we are now. Honestly, I don’t see WORDS HURT ever having another guest appearance. I think of this in some way, as a sacred space. I think it is my most personal form of musical expression and that being the case, I don’t want it to have other voices. Plus, Eric B. & Rakim never had any guests. I’m not putting us on any level close to them, but I like being aspirational about WORDS HURT haha.

Lang: My favorite albums are just one producer and the singer or rapper or group or whatever. It makes for a nice, focused sound. No one really knows how to make an album, these days. No one has the confidence to just co-sign themselves.

VII. Can you please talk a bit about "OFF INTO THE DISTANCE" (recently premiered at The Witzard) which isn't appearing on SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS, but does stem from the same sessions? Thanks again for letting us run the premier!

ALASKA: We recorded about 13 songs, I think. "OFF INTO THE DISTANCE" was one of the three that didn’t make the cut. For a while, it was one of my favorites, but it just didn’t fit anywhere. We ended up with a few other songs that had a similar vibe and it was muddying up the waters. So, we had to pull it. It’s one of our rules: if it doesn’t serve the album, it has to go. Doesn’t matter how good it is. That’s what happened with "Florescent Lights" [AKA "This Is Where I Leave You"] with Hemlock Ernst on F**k That Pretty Boy Sh*t. It’s a great song. It just didn’t have a home anywhere on the album.

Lang: I think that song is one of the first songs I started on. And by the time the album started taking shape and I made "Godhead," "OFF INTO THE DISTANCE" just didn't have the same vibe, but we still liked the song a lot... but you know... when something has to go, it has to go.

VIII. Aside from the previously-released singles, what else do you guys have planned for the album's roll-out (later this month?) Any current plans to meet up in real life to film a proper WORDS HURT music video or anyone of that nature?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: WORDS HURT surprise-released SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS Saturday 11/16 ahead of its planned Tuesday 11/28 wide release.]

ALASKA: We are going to drop one more song. We are still figuring out which one it is. From there, we will just put it out and be done with it. Lang and I have this same thing and I think it’s common with a lot of artists: once it’s released to the world, we probably won’t listen again for a good year and the,n revisit it from time to time. No point dwelling on the past, right?

Lang: We have been talking about how to make a video for a few years. We are just 2,800 miles apart hahaha. One day, we will meet up and eat and stuff our fat faces with food. We want to get T-shirts and tapes going soon. And then, the album we be hitting all digital platforms in December.

IX. What's the current status of your long-awaited solo "debut," He's The PJ, I'm ALASKA produced by PJ Katz? It's coming out on Pig Food Records sometime next year, right?

ALASKA: That’s the plan. We hope to drop it this Spring. It is an album I wrote back in 2011 and recorded in 2012. I’ve been dying for it to come out. We finally get to unleash it on the world. PJ did a phenomenal job with the beats and this one has guest appearances galore: Elsphinx, GGDT, Gorilla Tao, Moses Rockwell, and ATOMS.

X. Do you have any current arrangements to record new music with you fellow Atoms Family members? I know you briefly reunited with Cryptic-One & Windnbreeze as ATOMS for SANDS & Demo'd in 2014 leading up to 2015 documentary, Adult Rappers; plus, you Cryptic are currently wrapping up your on-going IT 2017 Singles series.

ALASKA: Outside of the IT songs, no real plans. Windnbreeze and I have been discussing working on some songs, but we tend to have those discussions and then, life gets in the way. I found with working with ATOMS it really is best, if it happens organically. Otherwise, it just ends up with everyone pissed off.

XI. What are you currently working on to be released post-SOUL MUSIC FOR THE SOULLESS, Lang? I know you've previously mentioned a second REINFORCED STEEL album with Kwamizzle, as well as a new solo album.

Lang: I just talked to Kwamizzle about [REINFORCED STEEL II] last night. We will be starting that this month. We already have maybe three songs started. My solo thing will be, whatever music and art friends I have that will sing or rap on my music hahaha. It's not fully-formed yet in my head. Everybody is willing to help an old friend out.

XII. Would you care to briefly talk about your relationship with Atlanta emcee Alim Wade? I remember you saying he hooked you up with one-time Das Racist emcee Kool A.D. & Mr. Muthaf***in" eXquire, which led to "RAIDERS FREESTYLE" being placed on 2016's PARADIZA INFINITI. Damn, man!

Lang: He was another Twitter buddy I had. Super-nice guy. We somewhat of a falling out, but we have made up I think haha. But he knew El-P and did a mixtape thing on El-P beats I really liked and told him one day, he and I could make a really cool album together. We never did, but it would have been great hahaha. Maybe one day. Alim is friends with Victor [Kool A.D.] and talked to all these rappers and he always would tell everyone to check my beats all the time. So, they circulated around for a few years and found a home with Tim [ALASKA] haha. I think KOOL & KASS have a bunch of my stuff that may one day pop up.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Chopped Herring Records Announces Re-release of Shylow's PLEASE LISTEN TO MY DEMOS LP with "2 Super-dope Previously Unleaked Demos" (Freshly-fried Interview)

Chopped Herring Records is a UK-based boutique label that's been releasing and re-issuing limited press vinyl since 2000. They've previously issued releases from Action Bronson, The Cenobites (Kool Keith & Godfather Don,) The Juggaknots, Masta Ace, Meyhem Lauren & Buckwild, Prince Paul, Shaz Illyork, and Your Old Droog. Chopped Herring's start-up story was recently profiled within a 2016 Bandcamp Daily piece entitled Digging Up Rap History: The Story of Chopped Herring Records. Just yesterday, Chopped Herring unveiled their latest limited release: Shylow's Please Listen to My Demos (LP) 12-inch. Shylow AKA Jay Khan is one half of Canadian Hip-Hop duo, First Division and over the course of his storied career, has shared the stage with the likes of Cage, Yakballz, Ill Bill, Aceyalone, Boot Camp Click, Mr. Lif, Camu Tao, Red Clay, and Jedi Mind Tricks. Chopped Herring Records have now partnered with Shylow to effectively re-release his Second Side Productions-pressed Please Listen to My Demos, which was originally meant as a promotional tool to drum up publicity for his 2002 Moment of Clarity 12-inch. 100 cassette tapes were pressed up and passed out around 2000 and Shylow soon after, uploaded an MP3 version to YouTube, which quickly became an instant hit amongst crate-diggers and Hip-Hop heads alike. Please Listen to My Demos LP is currently available in a limited run of 350 copies—the first 120 on blue/silver mixed-color vinyl and 230 on standard black vinyl—from Chopped Herring Records. Along with Please Listen to My Demos, Chopped Herring uploaded a 16-minute mix entitled "Please Listen to My Demos LP Snippets," as well as "short, but sweet interview" with the man on the mic, Shylow, which can be read in full down below the break. Chopped Herring Records additionally warned their next release will be announced this Thursday, December 7th.

"Welcome back, fish headz!!! To start off the December/January cycle, we have this sick mid to late 90's project from Canadian emcee and producer Shylow AKA one half of the excellent First Division crew. Cats will know this from YouTube, no doubt, as only 100 cassettes were ever made in 2000; then, the project was leaked on the ['Tube] by our man. For this project on Herring, Shylow collected all the original 4/8-track tapes together, along with the original tape deck model and he re-recorded and re-mastered them for the crispiest sound possible. Included are 2 super-dope, previously unleaked demos from the same time period. This makes for a SOLID LP of 90's, Canadian [Indie] madness. Check this short, but sweet interview with the man like Shylow >>>

I. Where did you grow up, man?

No one specific place unfortunately. I moved around a lot as a kid. I guess, you could say Durham Region because those are the cities I've spent most of my life in other than the one year that I lived in Thunder Bay, which was back in 1992-93.

II. What are your earliest memories of the culture?

I'd have to say the day I bought my first cassette back in '84. it was a tape called Breakdance by K-Tel. One side had a full Rap instructional on how to break by Alex & The City Crew and the other side had joints like Herbie Hancock "Rockit" and "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels of Steel." Nobody I knew as a kid really listened to music like I did, so I was kinda on my own, when it came to hunting down information, until I'd say around 4th grade. That's when cats in school started hooking me up with mixtapes and what not. Up until that point, it was just whatever I heard on the radio, which wasn't much, unfortunately.

III. When did you first grab a mic?

If I'm not mistaken, it was at a Christmas assembly in 9th grade. I'd already been writing for a few years, but that was the first time I'd ever held a mic and rocked in front of a crowd. I [distinctly] remember forgetting my lyrics and launching into a freestyle to save my a**. Thankfully, everyone in the [gymnasium] was too busy going nuts that they didn't notice my f**k up, hahaha.

IV. When/where did you first record?

My homie James Stang discovered me at a battle in Ajax where I came in second place to Nigel of The Pocket Dwellers. He approached me and asked if I wanted to come [through] to his studio to record some joints. That was back in like, '95-96, I believe. I've never had copies of those joints all these years and just recently, he dug them up in his archives and sent them to me. [It] was so strange hearing them after 20 years. I was like, "whoa, is this really me?" Crazy!

V. How did the [Please Listen to My] Demos project come about?

Back when we were getting ready to drop the Moment of Clarity 12-inch, my dude Beatsmith and I were brain-storming of a way to get the word out and came up with the idea of putting together a collection of unreleased demos and mixtape skits to give out for free. We pressed up 100 cassettes (half were clear and the other, half translucent blue,) handed those out, and leaked the MP3 version on the 'net shortly after that. Can't tell you how many times I've been asked about that sh*t, over the years. It's a blessing that heads felt it like that.

VI. Who do you consider to be your greatest influence hip-hop wise?

DJ Premier, hands down, the greatest Hip-Hop producer of all time. I ain't even gonna say "in my opinion." I'mma just say FACTS, hahahah. Nah, but seriously, there hasn't been anyone in the game who's music has affected me like his. He's the epitome of real Hip-Hop. Everything about him and what he's accomplished has inspired me to no end. On top of all that, he's one of the coolest and most authentic individuals I've ever met. Can't say enough good things about the legend.

VII. Did you have any older cats around you growing up who put you on to production, rhyming and scratching?

Absolutely. I credit Tekniq, Nigel of The Pocket Dwellers and G Knight as my emcee mentors. All three of those dudes helped me take things to the next level in different areas. While Nigel and G both helped sharpen my freestyle skills, Tek taught me so much about the science of rhyming, patterns, syllable structure, etc. On the production tip, all credit goes to Tekniq for showing me the ropes. The time I spent in the studio with him bangin' out on the [Akai] S-950 was invaluable. As for scratching goes, I taught myself for the most part by watching videos on Rap City and just studying the music, but I definitely picked some things up from my DJ homies and I still do. A lot of the more difficult scratches that I've learned came from watching my homie BeatWyze. Dude's just as ill on the cuts as he is with the beats, trust me.

VIII. Any local acts you grew up listening to?

Oh man, of course. Maestro Fresh Wes, Kish, K-4ce, Dream Warriors, Michie Mee, B-Kool, Frank Morell, Split Personality, and Frankenstein, Saukrates. There's more, for sure, but those are the artists who's music comes to mind immediately."

Monday, December 4, 2017

Brian Fallon & The Howling Weather Return with "Forget Me Not" Performance Clip from Upcoming Album SLEEPWALKERS (Island Records)

I'll never forget seeing The Gaslight Anthem at The Mann Center's Skyline Stage in South Philly on a warm September 2014 night with my then-girlfriend Caroline. It was one of the first 10 dates of a 40-date jaunt across North America and Europe behind their latest album, Get Hurt, which little did we know, at the time, would be Gaslight Anthem's final run before their 2015 indefinite hiatus. I don't believe we caught Against Me! but we did catch Jimmy Eat World's phenomenal career-spanning set; to this day, I still recount how Gaslight's set was and still is one my favorite performances I've ever seen—I previously caught a portion of their set at Metallica's ill-fated 2012 Orion Music + More Festival—especially, since drummer Benny Horowitz had an unexpected "family emergency" and Against Me!'s Atom Willard learned the entire set in a matter of mere hours. It was a rather riveting, increasingly charismatic 20-song set from The Gaslight Anthem & Atom Willard, evenly split between electric and acoustic musical accompaniment. Now, it's nearly four years later and The Gaslight Anthem are still on their indefinite hiatus and it honestly, doesn't look like they'll be re-forming anytime soon, but you never know. Brian Fallon is currently gearing up to release his second album in so many years, SLEEPWALKERS to be released February 9th, 2018 on Island Records, while guitarist Alex Rosamilia is playing with his Metal band SERVITUDE and drummer Benny Horowitz recently formed WAX BOTTLES and quietly released a self-titled 6-song Bandcamp EP.

Rosamilia and touring guitarist Ian Perkins (The Horrible Crowes) as well as Catherine Popper (Molly & The Zombies) make up Fallon's backing band, recently dubbed The Howling Weather. "SLEEPWALKERS sees Brian Fallon once again, pushing timeless Rock "N" Roll into the modern era, recasting British Invasion Rock, first generation UK Punk, and American Pop and Soul into a near irresistible sound he's dubbed with a nod and a wink towards The Who as "Heavy R&B,'" reads Fallon's recent BIG HASSLE press release. SLEEPWALKERS was recorded earlier this year at New Orleans' Parlor Recording Studio with GRAMMY Award-winning producer and song-writer Ted Hutt, who previously helmed "the boards" on Gaslight Anthem's 2008 commercial breakthrough, The '59 Sound. "Forget Me Not" is the first single from Brian Fallon & The Howling Weather's SLEEPWALKERS and it wholeheartedly embodies Fallon's self-described "Heavy R&B"/Heartland Rock-evoking sound. "I was thinking how every song doesn't have to be so serious," Brian Fallon says; "it can just be fun. It can just be a song that I would want to play live. "Forget Me Not" came out in just a couple of minutes and actually, ended up being pretty serious—it seems, my subconscious had other plans." Physical copies of SLEEPWALKERS are now exclusively available for pre-order from Brian Fallon's Official Store, as well as tickets for Brian Fallon & The Howling Weather's 48-date, cross-continental North American/European 2018 tour.