Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Witzard World Premier: LULU LEWIS (Dylan Hundley & Pablo Martin)'s $24 Harlem Punk "ALL JUST PRETENDING" Video [-feat. Jay "J-Zone" Mumford, William X. Harvey & Clay Russell]

"$24 spent on what exactly?" I somewhat feverishly quipped, to which Lulu Lewis guitarist and co-founder Pablo Martin readily replied, "two skull masks and a party gun with a flag that says BANG!!!... the rest, Dylan [Hundley] did on an iPhone... and iMovie, some public domain footage, and the rest, we did [with] the band at Bill Harvey's place. We put a sheet and lights on the back and did shadows... pretty simple" via text. Let me back up and provide a little added context here: I've recently been in touch with J-Zone's resident studio engineer and The Du-Rites bandmate Pablo Martin, who graciously agreed to let me premier his band, Lulu Lewis' latest video-single, "All Just Pretending" here at The Witzard. He attests, and I wholeheartedly believe him, but it's still a little hard to believe, that their self-shot black-and-white "All Just Pretending" video only cost a measly $24 to fund and produce! "I think that's the major achievement of the [videos] we do... "Dig Beat" was 0 dollars and we spent 25 on this one," Martin excitedly continued. "All Just Pretending" has an inherently lush, B-movie quality to it, as well as well as a rather unique 1960's Lounge Music-esque vibe reminiscent of Amy Winehouse meets Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson.

Lulu Lewis is just Pablo Martin's latest band (in addition to The Du-Rites, PABLO, and Tom Tom Club) formed in 2015 along with actress, producer, visual artist, and song-writer Dylan Hundley; part-time guest musicians additionally include drummers Jay "J-Zone" Mumford and Julius Solo, guitarist and bass player Bill Harvey, bassist Hannah Morehead, and background vocalist Clay Russell. "We do what we like to call "Harlem Punk"—our soulful Punk version from Pablo's beloved hood. We took the name Lulu Lewis from a grave at Trinity Cemetery in Harlem, so we have a respectful relationship with death," Pablo Martin wrote within a recent email describing Lulu Lewis' seemingly organic formation. Martin records and self-produces all of Lulu's compositions, which ultimately aim to combine multiple mediums with music and video elements as the foundation. It appears as though Dylan Hundley, Martin & company have an as-yet-unannounced full-length in-the-works, as they currently have four completed songs uploaded to their Soundcloud, in addition to "another Du-Rites snippet video" ahead of their temporarily shelved pre-album 7-inch and a forthcoming single from PABLO, of which Side B "will be [mixed] within a week or so."

Travis Barker's "Misfits" & "Cudi The Kid" Collaborator & Super-producer Steve Aoki Unleashes Glitch-filled Blink-182 "Bored to Death" Remix (Rolling Stone Exclusive)

Let me first just preface this by saying: THIS WILL NOT BE A SUBJECTIVE PIECE... I've been a die-hard Blink-182 fan for as long as I can remember and I believe their Enema of The State (1999) and utterly hilarious live album, The Mark, Tom & Travis Show: The Enema Strikes Back (2000) were amongst my first CD's nestled within my barren Walkman CD wallet, alongside Alanis Morissette's Red Hot Chili Peppers-assisted Jagged Little Pill and Mariah Carey's Daydream (which I believe featured her Ol' Dirty B*stard-helmed "Fantasy" Bad Boy Remix). It always felt as though a Blink-182 or Blink-related side project like Box Car Racer, Transplants, Angels & Airwaves, (+44), short-lived Hip-Hop super-group Expen$ive Taste, etc. released an album almost every summer from 8th grade all the way through my college years; a sentiment that even rings true for the reunited California Pop-Punk band's latest Neighborhoods (2011) and appropriately titled Tom DeLonge-less California. Now, it depends who you ask, but following a brief 2009-15 stint back with long-time bandmates Mark Hoppus & Travis Barker, DeLonge either quit or was fired from Blink-182 between their Christmas 2012 Dogs Eating Dogs EP and California, which now features newly-added guitarist and vocalist Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio fame. I'll be the first to admit, California is a surprisingly great Blink album—far better than anything myself or anyone else had likely ever expected, especially after their self-titled "final" album (2003) and lackluster phoned-in Neighborhoods.

"So stoked to have Steve [Aoki]'s remix of "Bored to Death" released to the world. We've been talking for a couple of years about collaborating on a track together and all of our schedules finally aligned. He came to the studio we were recording California in for a couple of days, bounced some ideas back and forth, and he took the song back to his studio and worked his magic there. I really dig what he did with the track, took it to a whole different place. He's at the top of his game and we're proud to have a song in his arsenal. Steve is one of the most talented and hardest working artists I know, and approaches everything with a sense of joy and excitement. Cake me," Blink-182 frontman and bassist Mark Hoppus recently revealed to Rolling Stone. Aoki's "Bored to Death" Remix is only the second Blink-related remix I've ever come across in all my years on fandom; second only to James Guthrie's 2004 Down maxi-single-featured remix of "I Miss You," as well as "Feelin' This" (Hemsworth Sees Aliens Too Version). Steve Aoki had previously worked with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker & Kid Cudi on "Cudi The Kid" and Barker's own Give The Drummer Some single, "Misfits." "I have played drums on some of his past remixes, and we have done live TV together as well. Any chance I can get to play with one of my brothers or have him remix something I have worked on, I am all for it. When "Bored to Death" came out, it just seemed like the next natural thing for us to do together," Barker told Rolling Stone. "BLINK-182 "BORED TO DEATH" (STEVE AOKI REMIX) OUT NOW LIMITED EDITION VINYL PRE-ORDER AVAILABLE STEVEAOKISHOP.COM," reads a note plastered across the screen at the end of "Bored to Death;" however, at the time of publication Wednesday morning, no vinyl pre-order is currently available anywhere on Aoki's site.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Blu & Fa†e Instruct Hip-Hop Heads to Open Their Optics to Optimism On Long-awaited Versis & Dolphin-assisted Single, "Otionography" (EveryDejaVu)

"Yeah, we had worked multiple times in the past on some of my projects and other songs that never gotten released. We had just finished working on the original "Cosmophobia" on a project I did with a guy named Arella Rocket (we have a continuation of that song, "Cosmophobia (Revisited)" on this project). He really dug the vibe and type of instrumental, so we talked about a doing and project and here we are now," Blu collaborator Fa†e recently told The Witzard within an exclusive emailed statement; Fa†e had previously hand-crafted productions for Blu including "The Last Stop," "Summer/Winter," "3 Feet Higher," an unofficial "The Clean Hand" Remix, and the aforementioned "Cosmophobia." Fa†e seemingly alluded to the project, then titled Blu & Fa†e Present: Open Your Optics to Optimism, as early as February 2016 during a published interview with San Diego CityBeat. Blu's proper follow-up to his latest Nottz-produced Titans In The Flesh EP will arrive this upcoming September 28th and is currently available for pre-order on EveryDejaVu's own Bandcamp page in a wide array of digital, 12-inch vinyl, T-shirt, and cassette bundles.

"I sent [Blu] a bunch of beats in the same style, and we started creating. It was a very fluid and creative process; we took our time with it and are very happy with the results. It's been more than a year in-the-works and we're just excited for everyone to hear [Open Your Optics to Optimism] in full," Fa†e commented on his recent collaborative works with Blu, a plentiful working relationship which loosely dates as far back as his self-described "ambient chillwave dusty hip-hop" album The Night Bus Home (2013). "On Open Your Optics to Optimism, LA's Blu and producer Fa†e buckle into a DeLorean, cruising back to a time before time in order that they might gain the knowledge necessary to exude such a genuine optimism. Blu outlines Earth's history and then dives within it... culminating in a personal transcendence outside both space and time," Blu & Fa†e continued within a statement released to EveryDejaVu. Their first proper preview lifted from Open Your Optics to Optimism, "Otionography" showcases additional rhymes penned by fellow LA emcee Versis and a silky smooth "we are water by nature, so our physical came to be" hook crooned by Dolphin, all of which is expertly inter-woven through a glitched-out Electronic-tinged Fa†e beat.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Mobbs Announce Fourth Album PIFFLE!, 24/09/2016 Northampton Release Show & "Pale & Interesting" Beer (Dirty Water Records)

"The Mobbs are a trio of English gentlemen whose urbane and well-bred appearance lies in stark contrast to the ferocious intensity of the rocket-fueled sonic blasts of their guitar-based rave ups... Being aware that these gentlemen are planning to [kick] your ar*e and leave you for dead in a Northampton gutter is one thing; their brilliance is that they do it in such a way you can't help but pour them a gin and run them a bath first," reads a fragmented chunk of a wonderfully well-written mynewsdesk press release I recently received from London-based Dirty Water Records. Drawing assorted influence from both sides of "the pond" across nearly four decades-worth of Punk Rock, The Mobbs, at times, evoke The Clash, Black Flag, mid-90's Ska revivalists Rancid, and Celtic-Punk forefathers themselves, Flogging Molly; Joe B. Humbled, The Bishop & Cheadle have somehow still managed to craft a unique sub-genre best described as "Punk Rock for Gentlemen" "Garage Punk for Boys" or "refined (yet edgy) 20-something Punk Rock gentlemen approaching 30," much like myself. Dirty Water Records announced earlier today that The Mobbs will triumphantly release their long-awaited fourth album, PIFFLE! (their first with bassist The Bishop) this upcoming September 24th—they've planned a record release show at The Pomfret Arms Northampton 24/09/2016 at 9:00pm, wherein Hart Family Brewers Wellingborough will unveil The Mobbs' very own PIFFLE! "Pale & Interesting" beer. The Mobbs have additionally booked two "GIGS" following their PIFFLE! record release show: Saturday 1st October at The Railway Tavern, Southend and Saturday 8th October at Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton.

While The Mobbs' "Pale & Interesting" press release features a slew of great photographs and one mere music video, somewhat unfortunately, "Jolly Good" lifted from their 2011 BBREX album, IT'S... THE MOBB, it appears that no new music has been let loose yet to coincide with PIFFLE!'s Thursday afternoon release announcement. However, rollicking, yet extremely tasteful, music video presentations for "Jolly Good" and fellow IT'S... THE MOBB album tracks "Old Square" and "Better The Devil You Know." Nearly 7-8 months ago, The Mobbs & Dirty Water quietly and might I add, very inconspicuously, uploaded two separate long-form videos titled "The Mobbs at Bassy Club, Berlin - 2016" (clocking in at a whopping 46:15) and "The Mobbs - Mojo Degradation"—further sub-titled, "Live at The Lamplighter Northampton, The Mobbs Christmas Party with The Snakeman 3. "Mojo Degradation" from the new album coming soon!" So, there we have it, although we currently have an album pre-order, 24/09/2016 record release show, and PIFFLE!-themed beer, we're still lacking a proper tracklist and virtually, any further release details. But along with their latest on-site PIFFLE! CD pre-order, The Mobbs did manage to divulge this juicy lit'le nugget of information: "The Mobbs latest album contains 14 more tracks to tingle your brain! PIFFLE! is being released in collaboration with Dirty Water Records!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lushlife, Zilla Rocca & "Weirdo Rock God-head" R. Stevie Moore Unleash The Avalanches-inspired "Earl Sweatshirt, Give Me a Hug" (Knickerbocker Thuggery Comb-over?)

"This is a loosie joint that I put together this month (sort of celebrating my birthday) with Weirdo Rock God-head R. Stevie Moore on the hook; to that effect, I produced an Avalanches-inspired instrumental and we're spitting rhymes that lament and celebrate being grown-up Rap dudes," rapper-producer Raj Haldar, better known as Lushlife, recently told me within an email concerning his latest Soundcloud release, "Earl Sweatshirt, Give Me a Hug." "I actually knew R. Stevie Moore when I was a kid—he worked at the record store where I would go every day and spend my lunch money on records. Never really knew he was like a lo-fi God or later, would be huge inspiration to dudes like Ariel Pink. We got to talking a while back and decided to flip this joint together," Lushlife tellingly continued. Haldar then recruited fellow Philly-bred emcee, Anything I Touch, I Bruise master-remixer, recent Rap Booklets curator, and part-time Passion of The Weiss contributor Zilla Rocca to join himself and the self-described "#1 Veteran Progressive Popster." Rocca's fellow Passion of The Weiss scribe Chris Daly, who had the distinguished honor of premiering "Earl Sweatshirt, Give Me a Hug," went as far as to deem it "the absolute best titled track of the year." Daly goes on to describe Lushlife, Zilla Rocca & R. Stevie Moore's surprisingly great concoction as "Lushlife schools the youth about what it takes to make it, dropping such knowledge... over a lush Soul sample and refined kick drums." Lushlife is scheduled to hit the road on a quick 10-date joint tour with Blackalicious, which spans from September 27th to October 13th.

R. Stevie Moore has self-released a staggering 400+ cassette, CD-R, and digital-only genre label-eschewing albums since 1968, as well as countless mailed-in collaborations with Half Japanese frontman Jed Fair, Dr. Dog, Ariel Pink, MGMT, Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, The Vaccines, and magician-comedian Penn Jillette. "Earl Sweatshirt, Give Me a Hug"'s central sample backbone, in fact, was culled from Moore's 2015 Bandcamp-released album, Knickerboxer Thuggery Comb-over. Lushlife's most recent output is his 2016 Western Vinyl-released album, Ritualize recorded with Philly/Brooklyn-based "lo-fi House music" trio CSLSX (pronounced "casual sex"), which features the likes of Killer Mike, Marissa Nadler, Freeway, and RJD2. "Earl Sweatshirt, Give Me a Hug" is the second off-kilter Hip-Hop track uploaded to lushlifemedia's Soundcloud page within a week's-time—the first being a jarring instrumental cover of My Bloody Valentine's "When You Sleep." It seems to have all started with a fateful 2015 Passion of The Weiss piece wherein "Zilla [Rocca interviewed] Lushlife about focusing on the fans and not the hype, working with Camp Lo, his new album, Ritualize, and more..." Zilla's most recent remix project, Anything I Touch, I Bruise Vol. 2: The Superior Foes of Zilla Rocca, was released on a name-your-price basis earlier this month; additionally, he tells me he's currently "sitting on 2 full-length Rap albums that will probably drop in Fall/Winter [2016-17]."

Monday, August 22, 2016

3 Feet High & RISING: LA Singer-songwriter Otis English Unveils Ben Folds & Fall Out Boy-evoking "Young Kids, Old Love" (Crooked Paintings EP)

"I remember writing this song after hearing like five love songs back-to-back on the radio that were all about "staying young forever" or "never wanting to grow up." It was my first time realizing how unnatural that idea felt to me. I wanted to write a song that said, "f*ck that; let's grow old and learn together and become better with age." Nobody wants to just come out and say how sh*tty being 20 and broke is, so [I'll] do it," Los Angeles singer-songwriter Otis English recently told IMPOSE on the heels of his WHAMS-produced debut single, "Young Kids, Old Love." KLUTCH, within an emailed press release, went as far as to compare English to New Hampshire-bred singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne and buzz-worthy English Electro-Pop band The 1975; although, I would more so compare "Young Kids, Old Love" to the likes of piano-aided Pop-Rockers Fall Out Boy, Andrew McMahon's long-abandoned project Jack's Mannequin, Swedish hit-making super-group Miike Snow, and Alt. Rock forefathers Ben Folds Five. "Otis [English's] upbringing was far from ordinary: his history reads more like a chain of mishaps and tragedies than it does the upbringing of a songwriter. From accidentally burning down his childhood home to watching his father's health drastically deteriorate while living out of his car, Otis doesn't glaze over the negative and the challenging parts of life," English's rather colorful KLUTCH press release continues. While Otis English readies his "cinematic, catchy, inspired, [yet] unapologetically gritty" debut EP for Crooked Paintings, "Young Kids, Old Love" has somehow already managed to rise to #3 (or maybe even higher, by now) on Hype Machine's digi-charts, as well as reaching #20 on Spotify's Global Viral 50 chart, which as Otis himself fittingly proclaimed "is pretty gosh dang cool!"

Sunday, August 21, 2016






Saturday, August 20, 2016

Living Colour Recruit Black Thought, Chuck D, Pharoahe Monch, Prodigal Sun & Kyle Mansa for September 9th Biggie "Who Shot Ya?" Andre Betts Remix (MIXTAPE EP)

"It's very eerily current because of the horrible things that have been going on with gun violence and various shootings... We're still in process even as we speak and I don't want to really talk too much about who's in 'cause that's still kind of fluid. But it's going to happen in 2016 for sure and there's a couple of folks who have approached us, so we're going to see what the final tally's going to be. But the things I've heard so far are really, really powerful, really fiery verses, and some of the writers are responding directly [to] what happened in St. Paul, what's happening in Baton Rouge. There's a bit of that in the mix, as well as other conversations" long-time Living Colour guitarist and bandleader Vernon Reid candidly revealed to Billboard last month, in light of this year's all-too frequent police and civilian shooting epidemic. Living Colour have since recruited producer Andre Betts, Prophets of Rage emcee Chuck D, Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch, Prodigal Sunn, Kyle Mansa, and a squad of as-yet-unannounced talented producers and emcees to take part in their forthcoming Biggie "Who Shot Ya?" (re)Mixtape EP. It seems like a somewhat odd choice, at first, to include The Roots emcee Black Thought—as The Roots and Biggie had a somewhat notorious (No Big Pun intended) quasi-beef all stemming from an apparently unplanned Biggie look-alike within their 1996 "What They Do" music video, a misconstrued "beef" which was unfortunately, never squashed prior to Biggie's untimely death.

Living Colour's Vernon Reid continued:

"Our version of “Who Shot Ya?” was initially an organic outgrowth of pure fandom for the work of the brilliant Christopher Wallace [Biggie]. Corey [Glover] would frequently sing the song during soundcheck, so we worked it up. But tragically, Biggie’s question has taken on new and urgent significance over the last year. The amount of people who die on a daily basis because of gun violence is unacceptable in a civilized society. The disproportionate use of deadly force in communities of color is equally unacceptable in a civilized society. It inspired the idea to reach out to some of the most provocative voices in Hip-Hop to invite them to add their words to the track. We all feel paralyzed as to how we can meaningfully effect change, but at the least, we can keep our voices raised in solidarity and not let this plight fade into the background until it happens again."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Musically, It’s As If Johnny Ramone Joined The Strokes:" Canadian's The Alpacas Unleash "Wax" from The Best Is Behind You (Willow Music)

"The Alpacas are Nick Harper, Greg Lee, Brett Garner, and Brent Lee: a four-piece Rock "N" Roll band from Barrie, Ontario. The Alpacas aim to write honest, hooky, and heavy tunes that strike a balance between raw and refined. The Alpacas' live show is loud and quiet, fast and slow, tidy and unkempt—but above all, The Alpacas look to create some good time vibes and entertain an audience," reads a fragmented chunk of Canadian Pop-Punks The Alpacas' on-site Willow Music band bio. "Born in the year of the Horse, Greg Lee can sing like a bird and scream like a wildcat from Northern Ontario. Brett was naturally gifted with the calloused fingers of a sea-faring gentleman. His leathery paws give him the ability to produce very low frequencies on the bass guitar. Nick's timing is impeccable, he’s never been late his entire life. Some drummers practice to metronomes, but metronomes practice to Nick Harper’s drumming. At the tender age of 11, Brent Lee lost his ability to see far distances. No longer able to watch re-runs of Full House, he abandoned television and turned his attention to the family guitar," continues The Alpacas' rather fictitious, yet utterly hilarious, formation story. Its members readily cite The Who, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, The Strokes, [Death from Above 1979], Nirvana, Queens of The Stone Age, Jack White-fronted The Raconteurs, The Rolling Stones, and Ryan Adams amongst their greatest sources of personal influence.

"Musically, it's as if Johnny Ramone [The Ramones] joined The Strokes as a third guitarist. Lyrically, it's also inspired by the song "Left of The Dial" by The Replacements from their 1985 album, Tim," read a particularly intriguing cold-sent email I miraculously received a couple days ago titled, "Listen Now: Wax." I would liken The Alpacas' latest single, "Wax" to something along the lines of a sonic hybrid of their fellow early 2000's Canadian Pop-Punk brethren Simple Plan and Sum 41 mixed with Take Off Your Pants & Jacket-era Blink-182 melded with the nostalgic 1950's greaser aesthetic of New Jersey's own The Gaslight Anthem. "Wax" is merely the first in a series of planned singles, music videos, etc. expected to roll-out ahead of The Alpacas' Kevin Dietz (Nelly Furtado, Placebo, The Cranberries, Alexisonfire)-produced The Best Is Behind You, which will be released world-wide on Willow Music October 14th. It may be a little bit too early to tell, but The Best Is Behind You may very well feature a handful of Alpacas compositions influenced by additional "Artist [They] Also Like" Attack In Black, Black Sabbath, The Black Keys, Black Flag, Frank Black, and one-time Paul Simon collaborators Ladysmith Black Mambazo... Ahead of their long-awaited Willow Music debut, The Alpacas have graciously made their entire 10-song discography on their Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages, including (but limited to) The Alpacas EP, Good Luck EP, "Mezzanine," and their latest piece of "Wax" for your streaming pleasure and general enjoyment!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Root for The Villain: Rap, Bullsh*t & A Celebration of Failure... Behind "The One's & Two's" with Rapper, Producer, The Du-Rites Drummer & Jack of All Trades J-Zone (The Witzard Interview)

Self-described husband, dad, crate-digger, beard cultivator, and Flea Market Funk founder DJ Prestige heroically recounted "Bug Juice" as "pure Funk with no option on Soundcloud for the Funk genre, this may be the record that makes them put Funk in there, seriously. This instrumental is heavy, and J-Zone's drum break towards the end solidifies this as one of our faves of 2016." J-Zone & Pablo Martin are currently holed up in the studio readying their "Bug JUice" 7-inch EP for September with a full-length album to likely follow as soon as October or November. J-Zone's own on-site biography additionally notes that he's currently "also preparing for the roll out of SuperBlack," yet another super-group formed with the likes of legendary De La Soul-affiliated producer Prince Paul and American TV producer, filmmaker, writer, and The White Mandingos member Sacha Jenkins. "Um, I pretty much think of myself as like a jack of all trades, but master of none—that's my tagline; I mean, I'm not a master producer, I'm not a master emcee, I'm not a master writer, I'm not a master drummer, I'm not a master DJ, I'm not a master musician, engineer, etc." J-Zone lamented during the introduction to a rather self-loathing Fish-N-Grits Promo. Below, I've included a comprehensive 12-question interview I was lucky enough to coordinate with J-Zone himself over the past couple weeks via email; it effortlessly spans everything from his 2009-13 self-imposed sabbatical to working with luminaries Biz Markie & Broken Bells to his newly-formed genre label-eschewing groups, The Du-Rites and Prince Paul-assisted SuperBlack. So, feel free to kick back, put on a vinyl (preferably Fish-N-Grits), and enjoy my latest interview with one of Hip-Hop's most original rapper-producers... Jay "J-Zone" Mumford!!!


Matt Horowitz
The Witzard "Senior Editor"

I. While Fish-N-Grits is a wonderfully-assembled Hip-Hop album unto itself, I would almost prefer to classify it as tongue-in-cheek “anti-Hip-Hop” album, which seems like a fitting classification; however, with that said, who would you likely say are a few of your current favorite rappers (or even producers) who you believe could effectively help save and resurrect Hip-Hop as a whole?

I don’t believe Hip-Hop needs to be "saved or resurrected;" there’s good music and bad music like it’s always been, it’s just more marketing and branding-based now, which gives us a lopsided perception of what’s out there. There’s plenty great music flying below the radar, but half the people have the "if a tree falls in the forest" mentality about it and the other half find it easier to listen to the same music they’ve been listening to for 25 years and complain, rather than seek out new stuff they may like. There’s great music out now, but it takes more effort than ever to bring it to people’s attention, so most of us blow it off. Most of my critiques aren’t so much about music, but all the crap that goes along with it. If you want to make sample-based, Boom-Bap Hip-Hop with a 4 BPM tempo range—fine, but adhere to those values in the present time, instead of trying to bring back 90's or worrying about who samples from what source. If you want to be a modernized Trap/dope boy, that’s fine as well—but you can do it without acting like some blog or bottom rung artist slot at SXSW will really make a difference or that the blue verified check [verified on Twitter] by your name makes you artistically legit. Just let the music speak for itself without all the codes and rules.

II. How would you say your 2009-13 retirement and Peter Pan Syndrome-aided resurgence ultimately affected your latest and first true solo album (excluding Lunch Breaks and Backyard Breaks) since 2013, Fish-N-Grits?

When I was away from music, I had completely lost passion for it. It was a dark place. When I decided to come back to music, I promised myself I’d only do things that are a step [in] the direction I want to go and never do anything that took the joy out of music for me. Fish-N-Grits represents everything I wanted to do with my artistry, as far as Hip-Hop goes. I want to expand into Funk and other genres as a musician and composer, but I need to get there gradually, so I made an effort to emphasize the musicianship more with the newer albums. Lyrically, I think I was pigeon-holed as a novelty act early in my career because of the comedic approach, so I wanted to add some more serious stuff to show my range and balance out the humor, which will always be there. As a working musician, I have to do things I don’t enjoy to make a living at times [and] that’s just a given reality all artists have to accept. But at this point, I have my limits because the money isn’t everything. My biggest thing is refusing to go backwards. I don’t tour or perform any of my older material—I actually don’t perform live as a rapper at all. Can’t freestyle worth a sh*t, don’t have a head full of unreleased rhymes on stash, don’t really consider myself an emcee; I make Rap records for cathartic purposes and no other reason whatsoever. Where I am as a rapper is as far as I want to go and I make no bones about it. The instrumentation and production side is my primary focus, so I have to be careful about what I put out there because going backwards will create more expectations for me to revisit what I’ve already done and wasn’t happy doing anymore. My Wikipedia [page] still says “rapper” as my primary occupation—I haven’t done a rap show in nine years! I’d be homeless, if that were true.

III. Would you care to further, albeit briefly within the confines of this space, describe your work with Biz Markie, Broken Bells, DJ Premier, Danger Mouse, The Lonely Island, and Pete Rock?—which were mentioned within your self-penned Bio, yet not fully explained.

Danger Mouse is a long-time friend. We met in 2000 when he worked in a record store in Athens, GA. He recorded his Ghetto Pop Life album with Jemini in my basement and I rapped on a song. In recent years, I remixed two of his Broken Bells tunes and played drums for him on a few tracks—one of which ended up on Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate album. He introduced me to The Lonely Island and I produced “Santana DVX” (featuring E-40) on their Incredibad album. I produced the 2003 single “Chinese Food” for Biz Markie. As for Pete [Rock], I did some scratches and mixing for his album My Own Worst Enemy with Ed O.G. I opened for DJ Premier as a DJ a few times, most recently at the Soundset Festival.

IV. You’ve said yourself that “The Du-Rites [is] probably the closest to what [you] aspired to in [your] Funk-drenched 80’s childhood;” and with that said, what do you have in store for the terribly unsuspecting world? How did you come to form a band with your long-time mastering engineer and Tom Tom Club guitarist, Pablo Martin?

Just some nasty Instrumental Funk! It’s a niche market, but that’s always been where my heart is. I just never had the resources or the right mind and skill sets til now. When I first started playing drums, Pablo called me to sit in with his band, PABLO, because the drummer wasn’t showing up. They were patient with me as I learned my instrument and how to play with other musicians, instead of just jamming [alone] in my basement. I eventually became the drummer in that band, but for a moment, the rest of the band was busy with stuff and both Pablo and I had other side projects that were kind of dragging. The PABLO band is more like Rock, so Pablo and I decided to make a pure Funk project on our own. That became The Du-Rites and it’s ironic that it’s coming out before all the other projects and is actually getting really good feedback. It was initially inspired by restlessness and a desire to "Funk out."

V. Now, I know that you’ve released subtly Macklemore-bashing “WHITE PRIVILEGE” and “Secondhand Gunsmoke” (Your Old Droog RMX), but what’s next for your group SuperBlack with legendary producer Prince Paul and TV producer-writer Sacha Jenkins? What ever ended up happening to your seemingly abandoned SUPERBLACK RACE MUSIC MIXTAPE PT. 1?

The SuperBlack “WHITE PRIVILEGE” track was recorded in 2014. It had nothing to do with Macklemore. It had just been sitting for so long and when he dropped his song, we figured if we didn’t drop ours then, there wouldn’t be a better time later. That was just timing and opportunity. The album was completed late 2014, but all the conflicting schedules and deciding how and where to release it has slowed things down. It will come out on Mass Appeal Records in 2017. The [RACE MUSIC MIXTAPE PT. 1] will drop sometime later this year most likely, but I don’t know when.

VI. Stereogum Senior Editor Tom Breihan recently described Fish-N-Grits as an album consisting of “painstakingly assembled Breakbeat-Funk instrumentals [wherein] J-Zone had to record the drums and bass parts himself, then chop them up the ways he wanted...” would you care to further explain this rather tedious, yet incredibly effective process?

For the vocal songs, I looped myself playing drums like I would a record because you can’t have drum solos and sh*t going on when I’m trying to tell a story with vocals. But on all the instrumentals, I was playing drums live all the way through because that’s how Funk records were made in 1969. Leave the mistakes in and everything.

I’d have the basic music tracks sequenced with no drums in the MPC-2000, dump it into ProTools and start adding stuff over it like bass lines, etc. Then I’d create and rehearse the entire drum track in my head, set my metronome to whatever the tempo was, and record. Then, I’d slide the whole drum track back over the music and the song structure would fit what was going on with the music because I played it to fit what the sequence of the song. It was a weird process, but I got used to it. Sometimes I’d just play drums live over the music, if the feel and swing were something that a click was too sterile for and I wanted some raw spontaneity.

VII. What were some of your initial inspirations and sources of influence behind your often Hip-Hop-lauding brand of “Comedy Rap?’ I myself, sense similarities to your SuperBlack band mate Prince Paul’s Negroes On Ice album from a few years back, which he recorded with his similarly-minded son, DJ P. Forreal.

Of course [Prince] Paul himself was a huge influence, but also Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney, and other folks of that ilk. A lot of it just came from everyday life, though.

VIII. What can you tell me about your “Robbin’ Brooklyn Hipster Chicks” collaborator Swagmaster Bacon? When can we likely expect to hear his debut on your Old Maid Entertainment imprint?

He doesn’t say much and doesn’t like much. He’s only made two songs. It won’t be a good fit for Old Maid, though. Mo’ Pork Enterprises, a subsidiary of Old Maid, will be a better fit. They may want to get behind a Bacon EP.

IX. “Half these tunes from my limited edition 7-inch series (all of which are out-of-print now) and half are unreleased,” reads Fish-N-Grits’ liner notes... what can you tell me about the overall formatting, concept, or lack thereof concerning your latest album, J-Zone?

I just wanted to take everything I do and everything that inspires me and throw it in a blender: Funk, beats, drums, humor, social commentary, storytelling, live instrumentation, bizarre samples, family, hatred of the music business, satire, alter-egos, and other artists I respect. Fish-N-Grits and Peter Pan Syndrome both show the full range of what I’m about. I don’t think any of my other albums really accomplished that.

X. How did you initially end up getting involved with The Fresh Dressed film score and The Stretch & Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives documentary film score, as well?

Fresh Dressed was through [SuperBlack band mate] Sacha Jenkins. The Stretch & Bobbito thing was through my long-time friend, DJ Eli Escobar. Eli and I went to college together. We had a radio show together and we’d play each other beat tapes and stuff. He composed the music, but needed that sampled drum sound without sampling, so he had me come in and re-play all the break-beats that were sampled. I’ve known Stretch and Bob for ages, too. Bobbito and I have worked together on numerous endeavors from music to basketball, so it was a good fit all around.

XI. Would you care to briefly describe the premise behind your first published book, 2011’s Root for The Villain: Rap, Bullsh*t & A Celebration of Failure? Do you currently have any immediate plans to write and publish a proper follow-up?

I was just in a bitter place about my experiences in the music business, at the time and felt my story would be more relevant to the average musician than say Jay Z’s or LL Cool J’s. All the dark sh*t and disappointment, but also the small victories and unique experiences. Music bios are enjoyable to read because we love the artists, but they’ve always felt milquetoast and out-of-touch. I wanted to write a book about a story that’s all too common, but never documented, and leave all the gory details in there. I was able to get past the bitterness, have a laugh, see the book do pretty well and get back to music because of it. It served its purpose and there are no plans for a follow-up, at the moment.

XII. And now, for a question submitted by fellow fan and beat-maker, John Bachman (Jumbled): “You’ve collated with a lot of great emcees—who else would you like to work with? Someone who would sound great over your beats (who could really be anyone)!!!"

Definitely Suga Free. That guy is the best.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Zilla Rocca & The Shadow Boxers Unveil Marvel-ous "Noir-Hop" Anything I Touch, I Bruise Vol. 2: The Superior Foes of Zilla Rocca (Remix Comp.)

"Grab my remixes of every dope-a** rapper I've met in the past eight years at I remix songs for the challenge; to outdo the original or make something new out of the established piece of art," @ZillaRocca wrote on his rather lively Twitter page upon the release of his latest, and might I add, wonderfully-titled, Anything I Touch, I Bruise Vol. 2: The Superior Foes of Zilla Rocca. However, oddly enough, I first stumbled upon Rocca about two weeks ago, whilst searching for a little background information concerning one of my all-time favorite Hip-Hop albums, Mos Def & Black Jack Johnson's genre-rattling The New Danger (2004). I eventually unearthed a March 2015 ZILLA-penned Passion of The Weiss piece titled, Rework The Angles: Mos Def The New Danger; "The New Danger was dark, scattered, and bizarre. It was also 75 minutes long [and showcases] Mos Def The Soulful Vocalist was mashed next to Mos Def The Pantera Enthusiast next to Mos Def The Under-rated Street Philosopher" is an example of one of Zilla Rocca's perfectly passionate, insightful, and painfully honest New Danger critiques and thoughtful partial tracklist re-arrangement. Rocca is a "bottle breaker, corner store crusher, dime store detective, pulp fiction sage, comic book kingpin, Noir-Hop creator" by his own submission. @zillarocca's Facebook page lists his greatest personal and stylistic influences as "Ghostface [Killah], Camp-Lo, Tom Waits, Aesop Rock, André 3000, cLOUDDEAD, Halfcast, John Lennon, El-P, David Axelrod, David Lynch, Raymond Chandler, Ed Brubaker, Raekwon, Roc Marciano, Mos Def, Dashiell Hammett, [and] Megan Abbot."

Zilla Rocca's latest remix compilation, Anything I Touch, I Bruise Vol. 2: The Superior Foes of Zilla Rocca, and his third since his last proper Noir-Hop album—No Vacation for Murder was unleashed on the Noir-Hop originator's own Three Dollar Pistol Bandcamp page last week, wherein "all rappers appear courtesy of friendship, good booze, and mutual respect." Anything I Touch, I Bruise Vol. 2 plays out like a 1990's Wu-Tang Clan-esque Mafioso Rap album, or better yet, "Noir-Hop," assisted by notorious rhyming goons like Guilty Simpson, Small Professor, Mega-Ran, Red Pill, former Wrecking Crew partners-in-crime Curly Castro & PremRock, and a couple of Zilla Rocca & The Shadow Boxers' own No Vacation for Murder (2015) compositions. The Shadow Boxers are, by Zilla's own submission, "a revolving collective" of characters and long-time fiends including (but not limited to) producer Blurry Drones, Has-Lo, Floodwatch, Decon emcee Roc Marciano, Curly Castro, and Geechi Suede of Camp-Lo fame; "this stuff is forged in the violent South Philly crime scene..." Not withstanding, or maybe because of, his burgeoning career as a rapper-producer, Zilla Rocca has recently penned a handful of incredibly well-written Retrospective and Rework The Angles think-pieces for Passion of The Weiss centered around Common, Nas, Jay Z, "Respek"ing Fat Joe, Lushlife, Sean Price, his aforementioned Mos Def piece, and countless others. Zilla Rocca recently informed me via email that he's currently "sitting on two [completed] full-length rap albums," which he says will tentatively drop this upcoming fall/winter season.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Roots Affiliate Sugar Tongue Slim, Butta-N-Bizkit & DJ Schoolie V Are Ready to Put The "Fun" Back In Funk with "On The Floor"-featuring Let's Make Some Music EP (self-released)

Los Angeles by way of Philly Hip-Hop group NAC (formerly The NAC) have previously written, produced, and recorded music alongside the likes of The Roots, RJD2, John Legend & Ludacis, Ciara, Miguel, TLC, The Money-Makin' Jam Boys, and Ne-Yo; NAC "is musically, somewhere [in] between Hip-Hop, Electronic Soul, and good time Southern Crunk" and consists of Roots-affiliated emcee Sugar Tongue Slim (STS) and producers-musicians Butta, Bizkit, and DJ Schoolie V. NAC's self-released 7-track debut EP, Let's Make Some Music, was unleashed upon the unsuspecting world this past Friday, August 5th and was preceded by dance floor-ready singles "I Ain't Got It," "On The Floor," and Mass Appeal-premiered "Flashlight." When asked, what's your main mission aimed at newfound fans with your Let's Make Some Music EP? NAC members Bizkit, STS, and Butta respectively replied: "NAC is here to bring the fun and the Funk to the game!.. We are HERe to introduce ourselves to the world—it's just the beginning... We are here to make ya dance." If you like what you've heard so far, and how could anyone with a pulse NOT find "On The Floor" utterly infectious, head on over to HipHopDX or The NAC's own personal Soundcloud page to download a complimentary copy of Let's Make Some Music EP; with that said, if you would like to learn a little bit more about the inter-workings of the band, click right here to read a brief, yet comprehensive 5-question interview I conducted with NAC on the heels of "I Ain't Got It." It wouldn't hurt to keep a close eye and ear on @nac4music's various social media handles in the coming weeks, as I've been told we can expect "some really cool" Let's Make Some Music EP Remixes including an array of unnamed special guests, a few more music videos, and a schedule of shows to tentatively take place within the next couple months!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Broken Bells & Your Old Droog Producer-drummer J-Zone Readies The Du-Rites Funk-laden "Bug Juice" 7-inch EP with Tom Tom Club Guitarist Pablo Martin (Flea Market Funk)

"The Du-Rites finally drop a full song to check out. "Bug Juice" now on Soundcloud (who are a bunch of squares a bunch of squares and simps for not having a "Funk" option in their genre drop[-down] menu, but "Trap" is available). To hear: my website link in bio - newest post or 7-inch single later next month; album late Fall," multi-instrumentalist and Hip-Hop producer Jay "J-Zone" Mumford wrote within a recent aptly-titled @jzonedontig Instagram post. Still hot on the heels of his latest solo album, Fish-n-Grits, which is made up of a gaggle of limited edition vinyl-only 7-inch releases dating as far back as 2014 and new material, J-Zone has readied "probably the closest to what [he] aspired to in my Funk-drenched 80's childhood" in the form of a newly-minted 2-man Funk band, fittingly titled The Du-Rites. J-Zone is currently preparing a 7-inch Funk instrumental EP with his long-time engineer and revered Tom Tom Club guitarist, Pablo Martin; according to The Du-Rites' Soundcloud description, Martin plays lead and rhythm guitars, bass guitar, and synthesizer, while J-Zone mans drums, organ, bass guitar, turntables, and "hand percussion instruments that require little skill."

Self-described husband, dad, crate-digger, beard cultivator, and Flea Market Funk founder DJ Prestige heroically recounted "Bug Juice" as "pure Funk with no option on Soundcloud for the Funk genre, this may be the record that makes them put Funk in there, seriously. This instrumental is heavy, and J-Zone's drum break towards the end solidifies this as one of our faves of 2016." J-Zone & Pablo Martin are currently holed up in the studio readying their "Bug Juice" 7-inch EP for September with a full-length album to likely follow as soon as October or November. J-Zone's own on-site biography additionally notes that he's currently "also preparing for the roll out of SuperBlack," yet another super-group formed with the likes of legendary De La Soul-affiliated producer Prince Paul and American TV producer, filmmaker, writer, and The White Mandingos member Sacha Jenkins. "Um, I pretty much think of myself as like a jack of all trades, but master of none— that's my tagline; I mean, I'm not a master producer, I'm not a master emcee, I'm not a master writer, I'm not a master drummer, I'm not a master DJ, I'm not a master musician, engineer, etc." J-Zone lamented during the introduction to a rather self-loathing Fish-N-Grits promo uploaded to his wonderfully-titled personal YouTube channel, The Onion Ring Pimp (which I personally vote as the title for his forthcoming eighth studio album).

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Action Bronson, Mark Ronson & The Black Keys Frontman Dan Auerbach Reinvigorate Fabled Genre-blending Jericho EP Sessions with "Standing In The Rain" (Suicide Squad Soundtrack)

“We went out to LA with [Action Bronson] last month—me, him, Alchemist, and Sean [Mahon] recorded an entire EP of material under the name Jericho. Jericho may be a project that we drop, that’s really under-the-table, no one knows about that yet. Jericho may just be like a multi-genre, no label EP that may cross genres from Hip-Hop to Electro to 80's Pop. We may bridge the gap with that actually, because some of the stuff we recorded for that, one of the songs sounds like a late 80's Smokey Robinson record and sh*t. And then, there’s some Surf Rock on there that sounds like The Beach Boys and Bronson’s rhyming on it," Party Supplies multi-instrumentalist Justin Nealis revealed to HipHopDX way back in January 2014. Nealis, at the time, proclaimed that he aspired to be "like The Black Keys; they blew up in Rock and had a few Rock records out and then, they went on and used that leverage to call up Raekwon on that BlakRoc sh*t." Party Supplies handled production on frequent collaborator and self-proclaimed "America's #1 Rap Singer" Action Bronson's Blue Chips 1-2 mixtapes, as well as the majority of his VICE Records debut, Mr. Wonderful—essentially, doing exactly the opposite of what The Black Keys did around 2008-09, prior to their critically-acclaimed 2010 breakout album, Brothers. Not only has chef turned sharp-tongued emcee Bronson quickly risen to become one of Hip-Hop's most talented wordsmiths, he's garnered wide-spread acclaimed for his... not one, but two VICELAND network shows: F*ck, That's Delicious and recently-launched Ancient Aliens with Action Bronson & Friends.

Action Bronson's latest non-Blue Chips 7,000 endeavor, "Standing In The Rain," be it a left-over from those fabled and indefinitely shelved Jericho EP sessions, was recorded along with Black Keys and The Arcs frontman Dan Auerbach and revered Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, and Bruno Mars super-producer Mark Ronson. "I just couldn't believe that Dan [Auerbach], like, was just so cool and was like, 'do you mind singing this old Oran "Juice" Jones song that you've never heard?' But when I finally got it back, I was like, 'this is cool,'" Ronson ecstatically told Beats 1 Radio DJ Zane Lowe Tuesday afternoon, upon "Standing In The Rain"'s triumphant Apple Music world premier. It sounds as though Bronson & Ronson's Dan Auerbach-assisted hybrid Hip-Hop/Blues-Rock fusion track was partially recorded during the sessions for both Mr. Wonderful and "Uptown Funk"-birthing Uptown Special with "the boys from Brooklyn that play on all [Ronson's] records" (presumably his Daptone Records players). Lowe's wonderfully described "motley crew of geniuses'" Oran "Juice" Jones-sampling composition was resurrected for DC's anti-hero blockbuster, Suicide Squad, which will hit theatres this upcoming Friday, August 5th along with its star-studded companion soundtrack. Action Bronson & Mark Ronson previously collaborated on Mr. Wonderful's "Baby Blue," Billy Joel-sampling "Brand New Car," and a remix of chart-topping hit, "Uptown Funk;" Dan Auerbach, along with his long-time Black Keys band mate Patrick Carney, previously recorded aforementioned emcee-assisted BlakRoc (2009), as well as RZA's The Man with The Iron Fists-housed "The Baddest Man Alive," and Freddie Gibbs' Pulled Over By The Cops posse cut, "Oil Money." Let's seriously hope "Standing In The Rain" isn't merely the first genre-blending fruit of Bronson, Ronson, and Auerbach's labors!!!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Warpaint Unleash Dancey "New Song" from Forthcoming Björk, Kendrick Lamar & OutKast-inspired Album, Heads Up (Rough Trade Records)

"We’ve always had this really jammy, high-energy live show compared to some of our records. We all love to dance. We didn’t want to take away from the emotion or the core feeling of what our band is all about—which I don’t even think we could take out if we wanted, because it is who we are—but we wanted to bump the speed up and have a little bit more fun," Warpaint vocalist and guitarist Emily Kokal explained within a statement concerning their self-titled album follow-up, Heads Up. Since releasing critically-acclaimed Warpaint (2014), Jenny Lee Lindberg quietly released a 2015 solo album right on!, as jennylee; Theresa Wayman issued material as BOSS on producer Mr. Dan's Speedy Wunderground imprint; drummer Stella Mozgawa played on Kurt Vile's 2015 efforts, b'lieve i'm goin down... and Spotify Sessions EP; Kokal worked alongside NIN affiliate Saul Williams on his politically-charged "Burundi," as well as "Wishing Song" recorded with Paul Bergmann. While we're on the topic of off-kilter collaborations: Run The Jewels rapper-producer and apparent Warpaint super-fan El-P contributed a staggering pseudo-12" remix of "Disco//Very" B-side, "Keep It Healthy."

Jenny Lee Lindberg described Heads Up as "[sounding] like a mature version of Warpaint," while Consequence of Sound referred to the album as "an eclectic collection" drawing stylistic influence from Björk, Janet Jackson, Kendrick Lamar, and OutKast. Monday morning, amidst rumblings of Frank Ocean's mythical Cure-referencing Boys Don't Cry, Warpaint unveiled their latest "New Song" ahead of Heads Up, which will be released in a number of formats on Rough Trade Records this upcoming September 23rd; with that said, I would liken Warpaint's aptly-titled "New Song" to the sugary sweet brand of Indie-Pop Rock produced by family band HAIM, whose trademark lush three-part vocal harmonies are evocative of Warpaint's often musical revolving door of 2-4-part vocal harmonies. "I feel really proud of what we made—almost surprised and shocked. When we were making it, I was like, "I wonder what this is going to sound like? How’s this going to come together?" I love the way that it came together so nicely," Lindberg gushed about the group's long-awaited Jacob Bercovici-produced Heads Up.