1. J-Zone & Pablo Martin - The Du-Rites LP (Old Maid Entertainment/Ilegalia Records)
"Can you dig it? If so, get a plate of neckbones, beans, and rice and put on your Old Spice. The Du-Rites are here to pour some fried fish grease on your kale salad. They’ll out-Funk you so bad, you’ll give up the Funk and start making ballads. Rollin' with Soul like a 1979 Cadillac when you step on the gas. Groovin' so hard, they’ll knock the boogie man on his a**,” writes Neighborhood Wino & Music Connoisseur Pimpin' Polyester Pete on the LP's reverse sleeve. The Du-Rites LP is currently available digitally, with politically-charged bonus track "Moving to The Moon," on either J-Zone's personal or The Du-Rites Bandcamp profiles or on sunset orange wax from Old Maid Entertainment/Ilegalia Records in conjunction with Redefinition Records. "Ever order a kale salad and discover a neckbone in it? That’s Funk! Ever write a love letter on a chicken grease-stained napkin? That’s Funk!..."
2. Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love! (Glassnote Records)
3. The Men - Devil Music (We Are The Men Records)
4. Júníus Meyvant - Floating Harmonies (Record Records)
5. Run The Jewels - RTJ3 * (Mass Appeal Records)
6. Smoove & Turrell - Crown Posada (Jalapeno Records)
7. Sulu & Excelsior - Eddie Romero (self-released)
8. ECHO BEDS - NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH (Temporal Decompression/Black Box Tapes)
9. my trippin' mojo - Edda's Garden (Resistant Mindz)
10. Leonard Charles - Basement Donuts (HIT+RUN)
11. Jenova 7 & Eddie Shinn - A Cosmic Safari (Cold Busted)
12. Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered. (Top Dawg Ent.)
13. Hayden Calnin - Cut Love Pt. I-II (Woodlyn Records)
14. The Mobbs - PIFFLE! (Dirty Water Records)
15. The Olympians - The Olympians (Daptone Records)
* which honestly, sits at #5 simply because I haven't really had enough time to sit with RTJ3 since Christmas Eve... Jaime & Mike at their absolute best!
EP's (EXTENDED PLAYS)
1. Jaubi - The Deconstructed Ego (Astigmatic Records)
"Jaubi is a collective of musicians hailing from Lahore, Pakistan who aim to create whatever sounds good and whatever feels good. The emphasis is on amalgamating different musical styles such as Indian Classical music, Jazz, and Hip-Hop into short musical pieces," guitar and kalimba player Ali Riaz Baqar wrote within a recent emailed statement. Jaubi (جو بھی) is an urdu word, which roughly translates to "whatever;" a sentiment that has directly influenced their band mantra of "creating whatever sounds good and whatever feels good." I recently stumbled upon Jaubi while researching for a then as-yet-unpublished interview with Basement Donuts mastermind and She's So Rad frotnman Jeremy Toy...
2. Jumbled - I wish it was longer & Action Shots (Harford & Reckord)
3. Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman - Lice 2: Still Buggin' (Stones Throw)
4. EMANON (Aloe Blacc & Exile) - Dystopia Double EP (Dirty Science)
5. Paternoster - Remixes & Versions (Heart Working Class/HHV.DE)
6. Pat Van Dyke - RE: Crates 001 (Open Crates)
7. JOHNNY! - JOHNNY! 3x7" Collection (Now-Again)
8. HARAM - شو بتشوف؟ "What Do You See?" (TOXIC STATE RECORDS)
9. Jackson Whalan - Souled Out (Adapted Records)
10. Satin Cowboy & The Seven Deadly Sins - Love & Loss (self-released)
1. Me2 - STEAL THIS MIXTAPE (Fool's Gold Records)
"What I love about [STEAL] THIS MIXTAPE is that it's a bridge from the mash-ups that we all loved 10 years ago to the modern style of production. Josh [Young] basically grabbed ANY genre of music an threw it all into his blender and what came out is all consistent," Fool's Gold Records founder @atrak ecstatically wrote about self-described "beast known as @yehme2" during a lengthy Monday afternoon Instagram post. One half of Chicago-based Hip-Hop and EDM-influenced DJ duo FLOSSTRADAMUS supposedly challenged himself to staggering "beat-a-day challenge that would quickly morph into Me2," which eventually morphed into the 33-track of a genre-less mega-album that is his System of a Down-referencing STEAL THIS MIXTAPE...
2. Darko The Super - Put Down The Candy & Let The Little Boy Go! (U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART)
3. Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions - PUZZLE (Astigmatic Records)
4. Mahatma Crowley - iLLMAGIC [PROJECT 2] (Akashic Vibrations Records)
5. BLKrKRT - Okinato Black (U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART)
While all of the 30 albums, EP's, and mixtapes contained within this very list are all worthy of repeated listens, I kinda just figured in an effort to keep this streamline and brief... I wouldn't clutter the body of the aforementioned lists with a bunch of links for each release; however, I would like to make it a point to remind you within this very space that I've published countless features, write-ups, profiles, and oftentimes, even in-depth interviews with many of the ranked artists including (get ready for some serious links): anti-rapper, producer, and The Du-Rites drummer J-Zone, The Men frontman Mark Perro, Smoove & Turrell melody-maker John Turrell, Sulu & Excelsior multi-instrumentalist and emcee Steve Mallorca, Space Funk revivalists Jenova 7 & Eddie Shinn, The Mobbs frontman Joe B. Humbled, The Olympians mastermind Toby Pazner, Dilla-interpolating Basement Funk pioneer Leonard Charles, "teacher, husband, beat-maker, and dish washer" John "Jumbled" Bachman, Paternoster re-issue "cultural and business liaison" Stephan Szillus, Frank Zappa-esque rapper-producer Darko The Super, Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions pianist and emcee Marek Pędziwiatr, Occult Rap pioneer Mahatma Crowley, Jersey City drummer and producer Pat Van Dyke, and Chamber Rap-evoking producer BLKrKRT. I would additionally like to send a special thanks to my friend, colleague, and Flea Market Funk Founder DJ Presige for exposing me to tons of Soulful, downright Funky music this past year! Happy holidays, have a safe and Happy New Year, and I'll see all of you in 2017! Thanks for yet another great year here at The Witzard!
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
The Witzard's Best of 2016 Countdown: A Genre-defying List of 30 Albums, EP's & Mixtapes Worth Re-visiting (or Ch-checking Out) Before 2017
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Yasiin Bey & Ferrari Sheppard Unleash 1 of 3 Final Albums, Dec. 99th; Perform "Seaside Panic Room/N.A.W." with ?uestlove On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (AWGE/A Country Called Earth)
"Dark bodies, bright crest, the kings grew nervous.Yasiin Bey & Ferrari Sheppard (collectively known as Dec. 99th) wrote within a mysterious statement concerning the recent delay of their self-titled debut album; Dec. 99th—one of three final albums Bey has planned before his 2017 retirement from music and acting—was scheduled for a December 9th release exclusively on TIDAL, however, it never dropped, as expected and was finally unleashed earlier this week nearly two weeks late on December 21st. The Artist Formerly Known As Mos Def and writer turned producer Ferrari Sheppard have slowly been leaking out music as Dec. 99th for the past year or so... but I first remember seeing Sheppard's name attached to Yasiin Bey's A Country Called Earth-released Electric Wire Hustle remix "Marigolds (Chaser)" back in Summer 2015 when my girlfriend and I were travelling across Poland. If you'll remember correctly, that following January, Bey was stranded in South Africa for allegedly trying to leave with a fraudulent "world passport," an issue which was only solved and ratified as recently as November 22nd following a proper apology to the Government of South Africa. Although Dante Smith and his family lived in Cape Town from 2013 onward, he has since been deemed an "undesirable person" and will hereby not be granted re-entry to South Africa. Yasiin Bey has remained sporadically (in)active since his last album as Mos Def, 2009's The Ecstatic—having released nearly two albums-worth of remixes, covers playlists, features, etc. including everyone from A$AP Rocky to DOOM, as well as a few non-album solo singles.
A boy drew a gun, and then sold the portrait. And then used the cash to heat the stove at the palace.
Soon. Very soon,"
Ferrari Sheppard accompanied Yasiin Bey (billed simply as "Dec. 99th") on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this past Thursday night-Friday in what I believe to have been his first network television appearance since performing either The New Danger's "Close Edge" or Kanye's "Two Words" on Chappelle's Show around 2003-06. It appears as though Bey & Sheppard's dimly-lit and rather sparse Fallon performance of "Seaside Panic Room/N.A.W." was assisted by a side stage-seated drummer, which I personally believe, very well could have been The Tonight Show bandleader ?uestlove, especially considering Mos Def-helmed Black Star and The Roots' 1990's-early 2000's Soulquarians connection. While his Dec. 99th output thus far, appears to be a slight departure from his previous work as Mos Def (full disclosure: The New Danger is without a doubt one of my "desert island" albums), it's great to see Yasiin Bey back in full form, safely back in the states, and back in the public eye once again! I have yet to hear the majority of Dec. 99th's debut album, mainly because I absolutely refuse to sign up for a "free" TIDAL subscription, but judging by singles "Local Time," "N.A.W." "Seaside Panic Room," and "Tall Sleeves," it appears to be a slightly more subdued, half-sung half rapped André 3000-esque effort, which by all means, is far from a bad thing!
It's largely unclear as to when exactly, but Bey himself declared that he's indeed "retiring this year  for real," but will still appear within two films, one including director Stev Elam's The Disconnected, which he committed to prior to announcing his retirement. Upon his return to Brooklyn, Yasiin Bey & Ferrari Sheppard have announced the existence of two more as-yet-unreleased albums in addition to Dec. 99th: long-rumored Mannie Fresh-produced As Promised (previously titled OMFGODBKNOLA) and one final Bey solo album, Negus In Natural Person, which may or may not be his long-completed G.O.O.D. Music album that supposedly rendered close friend and label head Kanye speechless. "I’m moving onto other things, still being creative. You know, definitely fashion, textiles, and just art. Whatever I can create that’s beautiful and useful—that’s what I wanna do," Yasiin Bey enthusiastically revealed within a recent Facebook Live video update. He's playing a sting of "farewell" shows, all of which will be live streamed on TIDAL, at DC's John F. Kennedy Center December 31-January 2nd and two shows at London's O2 Forum Kentish Town January 26-27th. And as Run-DMC once rhymed all too well: "so, open your eyes, lend us an ear... we want to say, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!"
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
The Witzard Premier: Mahatma Crowley & The Beholder's Trinity Unveil Part 1 of THE BEHOLDER'S MARK's Forthcoming 7-part Series, "AYAHUASCA" (Akashic Vibrations Records)
"In my early life, I forced break-throughs in danger to myself. I left these methods behind after realizing that everything I needed for self-discovery was already within me. I purged the facets of my being by compartmentalizing them into these living representations: The Beholder's Trinity. I needed to know who I was in order to understand who I could be. "AYAHUASCA" is my journey of self-understanding. It is my absolution. It is my sacred ritual," Occult Rap originator Mahatma Crowley wrote within a recent statement. "AYAHUASCA" is the first part of a seven-part "visual story that will play out over the course of 2017" to accompany Crowley's 2015 debut, THE BEHOLDER'S MARK [PROJECT 1] and its recently unveiled follow-up, iLLMAGIC [PROJECT 2]. I'm ecstatic to be premiering "AYAHUASCA" today, here at The Witzard, on December 22nd, The Winter Equinox—as was iLLMAGIC released on The Autumnal Equinox, September 21st. Even the self-described "Occult Rapper"'s chosen nom de plum is a clever contradiction unto itself; a Marilyn Manson-esque amalgamation of Mahatma Gandhi and Aleister Crowley. For those who have yet to hear any of Mahatma Crowley's output, I would almost best compare it to something in-between DMX's unique brand of grizzled, often bark-delivered early 2000's Hip-Hop and Death Grips' Hardcore Punk-inspired Noise-Rap (which I affectionately like to refer to as "Aggro-Rap"). Let's just say: "AYAHUASCA" may not exactly be what you might have grown to expect from your typical Hip-Hop video! #BEHOLDTHEMARK
"Sonically, Young Thug and Danny Brown were very impactful for me. There’s no one else executing experimentation in such a refined way. Vocally, you know it’s them as soon as they show up on a song—I think that’s so important today. They bring such a strong energy to their work and innovate on structure itself. Lyrically, Tomas Kalnoky of Streetlight Manifesto and Jay Electronica have been inspiring. I heard Act I: Eternal Sunshine (the pledge) in 2008 and it really busted my head open... I knew then that when recording with my friends in a basement, I wanted to shift from talking about things I didn’t do and didn’t have, to saying something that actually mattered. Overall, without hearing Chance The Rapper, without Acid Rap, I never would have dropped public-facing tracks, simple as that. I would bump that album and people would ask me if he’s serious. I knew I wanted to illicit the same emotion in others: divisiveness," Mahatma Crowley insightfully replied when asked to detail some of the greatest influences on his Occult Rap sound within a featured interview right here at The Witzard. THE BEHOLDER'S MARK [PROJECT 1] and iLLMAGIC [PROJECT 2] are currently available for downloading and streaming purposes. Mahatma Crowley's next release, [PROJECT 3] is expected to be unveiled sometime during 2017. Merry Christmas, ghouls & gals!!!
Monday, December 19, 2016
Peanut Butter Lovesicle Frontman Timmy Miller Lets Loose Queens of The Stone Age & Them Crooked Vultures-influenced Solo Track, "Confess" (The 303 Construct)
"Happy Friday people! Here is my newest track from 303 Construct, "Confess." It's a real toe-tapper and I hope you enjoy it nice and loud while you're... struttin' around on a FRIDAY!" Peanut Butter Lovesicle frontman Timmy Miller wrote within a rather tongue-in-cheek Facebook post this past Friday, December 16th. While his main band hasn't released any music since 2014's similarly-minded "Dragon Disease" (Miller and cousin Jake D'Arc released their Milky 22's EP back in 2015), sirtimmy-1 has slowly been leaking out nearly an album's-worth of material on his personal Soundcloud page over the course of the past two months or so; said project, The 303 Construct, will consist of 11 tracks and is set to explore a wide array of vocal styles, uncharted genres, and new-found instruments all played by Miller himself. "This one just has an awesome verse groove that goes into a much heavier chorus. Simple song, but I love the contrast between verse and chorus. I think they compliment one another in a very interesting way. It started with the heavy synth part you hear in the intro and I just started jamming to it on the drums. I've been listening to Queens of The Stone Age (QOTSA) lately and the unison bends I do on the guitar remind me of something [released by] Them Crooked Vultures or QOTSA," Timmy Miller wrote within a recent email detailing the creation and recording of "Confess."
"The unison bends have the song a totally different vibe, which helped in complimenting how much heavier the chorus is than the verse parts. The lyrics and vocal style on this song are probably my favorite out of all the songs I've done for this 303 Construct. There's truth behind them, I think. This idea that our current generation have a habit of getting sucked into our technology, phones in particular, and away from what's actually going on around us. I was stoked messing around with the chorus. I took a lot of different vocal approaches to it, but nothing struck me as something great. The more I listened to it, the more I envisioned someone in church having an intense spiritual vision; arms up, eyes closed, and just feeling it! Hence the "Oh Lord! I feel it now, I get it now...'" Miller continued. Timmy Miller is currently readying the 11th and final track yet to be released from The 303 Construct, "Stronger Than The Wall," which he plans to upload within a matter of days. He tells me he then plans to go back in and re-mix a few tracks over Christmas break and unveil a "New Year's 303 Construct official release." However, until then, Tracks #1-10 from The 303 Construct, which draw stylistic influence from everyone from Anderson.Paak to QOTSA, are currently available for your unlimited streaming pleasure on Timmy Miller's personal Soundcloud page.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Pat Van Dyke, Melinda Camille, DJ MentPlus & Friends RE: Crate Bob James' Jazz-Fusion Classic "Nautilus" & The Bee Gees' "Love You Inside & Out" (Open Crates 45 #001)
"After the release of Technicolor HI-FI, the fellas from Open Crates approached me about recording some music to launch a series of 7-inch vinyl releases that would feature remixes, re-works, and edits of existing music... essentially, a series of "bootlegs" or "white labels." I'd been anxious to take a stab at recording re-interpretations of songs that had influenced me over the years, so I was keen to make it happen," self-described drummer, producer, and band leader Pat Van Dyke (PVD) wrote within a recently emailed statement. PVD has once again teamed up with his "It's Alright" collaborators Melinda Camille & David Stolarz, as well as bassist Josh David, DJ MentPlus, and horn players Bryan Beninghove, Ted Chubb & Peter Lin to collectively unveil Open Crates' premier edition of their RE: Crates 45 series. "A few months passed and we had a show at Brooklyn Museum performing music from the Modern Vintage LP that I had released earlier that year with John Robinson. Shabaam Sahdeeq, El Da Sensei, and Homeboy Sandman were in the building, so we let the three veteran emcees loose on the Bob James classic "Nautilus." Steve [Selector] from Open Crates was in the audience and immediately after the show, asked about recording it for the series. A song like "Nautilus" that is so ingrained in the DNA of Hip-Hop—while also a defining recording from the Jazz Fusion years of CTI Records—seemed like a perfect fit to launch the RE: Crates series," PVD enthusiastically continued. Nothing is confirmed, but I would seriously LOVE to hear an RE: Crates 001 "Nautilus" Remix complete with Homeboy Sandman, El Da Sensei, and Shabaam Sahdeeq and I can confirm that I put a bug in Open Crates & PVD's ears to get it rollin'!
While Who Sampled lists the top five most popular Hip-Hop tracks sampling Bob James' 1974 Jazz-Fusion composition "Nautilus" (out of a whopping 280 songs) as Slick Rick's "Children's Story," Ghostface Killah's Raekwon & Cappadonna-assisted "Daytona 500," Eric B. & Rakim's "Follow The Leader," Main Source's Nas-backed "Live at The Barbeque," and Run-DMC's "Beats to The Rhyme;" RE: Crates 001's B-side, a Melinda Camille-helmed cover of The Bee Gees' "Love You Inside Out" only has 18 samples submitted to Who Sampled including tracks released by the likes of Hip-Hop & R&B heavyweights Jay-Z & R. Kelly, Snoop Dogg, The Game, Brian McKnight, and Foxy Brown. Columbia.edu additionally notes that The Bee Gees recorded a special prank version of "Love You Inside Out" for their manager, Robert Stigwood "with the alternate line "backwards and forwards with my c**k hanging out" (instead of "with my heart hanging out") just to see if he was paying attention. He was..." Pat Van Dyke further details that "Melinda Camille and I were already in the studio recording new music (coming soon), so it seemed like the right move to cut an instrumental version, as well as the vocal version with Melinda that ended up landing the B-side spot on the record. Veteran beat-maker, DJ, producer, and [Open Crates] Crew; DJ MentPlus was the final piece of the puzzle, providing the cuts for both tracks. Expect more releases in the RE: Crates series very soon!" Pat Van Dyke's Bob James & The Bee Gees re-interpreting RE: Crates 001 7-inch is currently available for purchase from his PVDMusic Bandcamp page for an incredibly cheap $10 USD or more, as well as $5 digital download, released on Jersey City-based Open Crates Records.
Friday, December 16, 2016
Antonio "ANTWON" Williams Teams Up with Deafheaven Guitarist Kerry McCoy for "Changes" from Emo-Rap 25TH ST. SESSIONS Split 7-inch (Ghost Ramp)
"Kerry [McCoy] and I met at the last Caltrain stop in San Francisco, summer of 2012. Somewhat later on while working on Double Ecstasy, I asked Kerry to come in and make something for the record. He did and this became "Changes." Kerry said he had the riff forever in his head. My man Lars Stalfors helped us out overseeing and the rest was [history]," Antonio "ANTWON" Williams wrote within a recent "Changes"-premiering Noisey piece. ANTWON and Deafheaven guitarist Kerry McCoy previously collaborated on a live rendition of "(In) Dark Denim" from the album of the same name for a Converse Rubber Tracks: Ready, Set back in June 2013. Guitar Planet asked McCoy to name an artist whose music he loves that might come as a surprise to their readers, to which he responded, "we listen to a lot of Rap, which isn't really a surprising thing to anyone in my group of friends, but this seems to surprise a lot of people who like [Deafheaven's] music."
Deafheaven's latest ANTI- released album, New Bermuda (2015) was quite fittingly described by Rolling Stone as, a "boundary-pushing blend of Black Metal, Shoegaze, and Post-Rock" while ANTWON on the other hand, has been making a unique brand of Glitchy, Punk-influenced Biggie-informed Hip-Hop; "Changes," however, has a slightly more Emo-leaning sound... think maybe something along the lines of Classixx & T-Pain's Smiths-referencing "Whatever I Want" or Dashboard Confessional meets Lil' Wayne. "Antonio Williams // Kerry McCoy collaborate on 2 really unique tracks. Pressing very limited CREAM COLORED VINYL," Wavves frontman Nathan Williams' imprint, Ghost Ramp wrote on their web-store earlier this week, upon 25TH ST. SESSIONS sudden announcement. Prior to 25TH ST. SESSIONS' split 7-inch reveal, both ANTWON and Kerry McCoy released albums in recent months: Williams' Anticon-released Double Ecstasy EP and ANTI- unleashed Deafheaven's latest critically-acclaimed "Blackgaze" album, New Bermuda.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
DJ Cummerbund Lets Loose Foo Fighters-approved "Freaktender:" Latest Volume of His Ever-evolving Rhonda Garbanzo Multi-media Experience (Rick James mash-up)
"Hi Matt... thanks for your interest in my work. While now is not the time to reveal everything, basically, the majority of my mash-ups that I've done connect to each other on several levels and tell a large, arcing story centered around the pursuit of pleasure, knowledge, and overall happiness in one's life. I've been dropping hints (Easter eggs) in each (starting from the "Uptown Funk" Macho Mix) that are pretty much impossible to find, unless you know what you're looking for, which I'll end up giving clues for at a later date... Twaddle.
This particular song deals with a portion of the story involving a young woman named Rhonda Garbanzo (hence, the usage of The Beach Boys' hit... couldn't find many songs with the name "Rhonda" in it) that finds herself close to death (hence, "Stairway [to Heaven]") after many years of abusing her body and ultimately, her soul. She is promiscuous, a severe alcoholic, and manipulates others—hence, the usage of "The Pretender" and "Super Freak." I can't reveal yet her role in the overall story, but it is significant, as she gets wrapped up in the schemes of an equally toxic individual... a hunky sailor named Charles Murphy Pebblesby. This worked perfectly with the Rick James/Chapelle's Show skit footage. Almost like it was meant to be," DJ Cummerbund wrote within a rather detailed statement sent to The Witzard by way of his handler, J. Gary Gildersleeve.
It all started one fateful day, earlier this week, when Foo Fighters shared DJ Cummerbund's "Freaktender" on their official Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages accompanied by nothing more than the exclamation, "F**K YES;" as a matter of fact, it seems as though DJ Cummerbund's Rick James, Foo Fighters, The Beach Boys & Led Zeppelin-featuring "Freaktender" (Foo Fighters' "The Pretender" + Rick James' 1981 hit "Super Freak") was quietly uploaded to his personal YouTube page at some point on Saturday, December 10th and has since received 87,250 views and counting. When asked to briefly describe his typical audio-video mash-up creation process, DJ Cummerbund (through Gildersleeve) further detailed: "from a technical standpoint, I start with the audio and get it to a point where the song is about 70% mapped out. At that point, I start vibing and meditating on the video, which in turn, breeds new ideas that ultimately, get worked into the audio." Mr. Cummerbund then said at that point, he generally finishes "by trying to figure out how much of Randy "Macho Man" Savage is necessary to tie things together to the overall story, which in the case of this song, was not much." It appears as though "Freaktender" is merely just the latest piece in an ever-evolving sight and sound mashing-up narrative, which even his closest confidant and handler J. Gary Gildersleeve isn't fully aware of just yet; "there is apparently a lot more to the overall story... much of which I don't understand... though, I'm "not supposed to yet." DJ Cummerbund's previously released arcs within his ever-evolving storyline include (but is not limited to) Rush & Kelis-fusing "YYMilk," Rick Astley & Bon Iver-melding "Never Holocene You Up," evil clown-infested "Stacy's Mom Pt. 2," "The Sound of Smash Mouth," Barenaked Ladies, DMX & "Talk Dirty to Me"-juxtaposing "Chickity China," Queen+David Bowie & Nicki Minaj-delivered "Under Starships," and his utterly hilarious Levi's Jeans-
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Jackson Whalan Unleashes De La Soul, Homeboy Sandman & Hiatus Kaiyote-influenced Funk/Glitch-Hop Souled Out EP... Just In Time for The Holidays (Adapted Records)
"A heartfelt tribute to and reflection of his upbringing in music, Jackson Whalan unleashes the Souled Out EP, out now on Adapted Records. Drawing on contributions from Jackson's own childhood friends and numerous talented contemporaries from The Berkshires, Souled Out explores a lush array of Hip-Hop sounds, not only through Jackson's multiple-flow lyricism, but with toasty-warm live instrumentation and arrangement. The result is a listening experience that bears full start-to-finish attention on a fine sound system—a fine departure into a side of Hip-Hop unique to Jackson Whalan," read a recent press release sent from Australian-based Adapted Records. Jackson Whalan is a lyricist and producer intent on "bringing a soulful blend of Hip-Hop & Electronic music with intentional rap, freestyle, and live instrumentation." Whalan lists his greatest sources of influence as Golden Era Hip-Hop emcees like De La Soul, The Fugees, Nas, and Eminem, as well as current artists such as Anderson.Paak, Homeboy Sandman, and Boston Jazz-Funk revivalists Lettuce; "in my life, I push myself to listen to as many forms of music as I can find: the Future-Jazz sounds of Hiatus Kaiyote or the legendary songs of Bob Dylan," Jackson Whalan wrote within a Souled Out EP-centric email. I have to admit though, when I first clicked play on Souled Out EP intro "Bad Yet," it instantly reminded me of Asher Roth's (un)surprisingly phenomenal Kids These Days-assisted, Jazz-minded Pabst & Jazz mixtape (2011).
"This release is especially close to my heart because I was able to feature Dominik Omega on the title track, ["Souled Out"]. Dominik Omega is the person who introduced me to Hip-Hop and taught me how to rap when I was like 11 years old. 14 years later, this feels like a full-circle experience; collaborating with the one who was there at the foundations of my path as a lyricist and producer, reuniting on a song finally, at a point in my life where I am really coming into my own as an artist," Jackson Whalan humbly continued. Souled Out EP features many of Jackson's friends and close collaborators including Ian Evans' production, keys, lyrics, and melodic programming on "Bad Yet," "Whale," and "Two Weeks Notice;" his "Home Again" collaborator Jules Jenssen on production duties, vocals, and Moog Sub37 on "Souled Out;" guest vocalists Tonio Sagan, Sam Laiz & Caitlyn Duby, saxophonist Tyler Gasek, electric guitar player Fran Cathcart, omnichord player Camille Breslin, and bassist and back-up vocalist Brian Ross appear throughout Souled Out EP's five eclectic compositions. "All praises are due to the close friends who played instruments and had vocal features on the EP, to SubStation Studio for providing studio time, and to all of those artists who have sent shivers through [my spine] with powerful styles and ideas. My favorite artists are my friends," Jackson Whalan wrote in closing. Jackson Whalan's latest Souled Out EP is currently available for purchase and streaming from Adapted Records' Bandcamp page for $7 AUD or more... just in time for the holidays!
Monday, December 12, 2016
Portland Guitarist & Producer Teddy Presberg Teams with Garett Brennan & LeClare Stevenson for pigWar's J Dilla, Rod Stewart & Led Zeppelin-influenced Full-length (Outright Music)
"We’re mashing up classic 60/70’s Soul grooves with the 80’s Synth-aesthetic of guys like Lucio Battisti and the heavy guitar riffs found in Modern Rock by guys like Jack White... There’s an incredible throwback thing happening in Soul music right now. We love that sound, and we’re hugely inspired by it, but we want to take people to the edge. The edge is where new meaning emerges, new perspective; the weird stuff," Portland-based pigWar guitarist and producer Teddy Presberg detailed within a recent Outright Music statement. Presberg, along with core pigWar members frontman Garett Brennan and keyboard-bassist LeClare Stevenson, craft a unique blend of Hard R&B and spaced-out Psychedelic Soul that's equally informed by traditional 1970's Soul-Funk, as well as J Dilla, Led Zeppelin, Teddy Pendergrass, Rod Stewart-helmed The Faces, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Lee "Scratch" Perry. Prior to pigWar's January 2015 inception, Teddy Presberg spear-headed a wide array of genre-spanning collectives including (but not limited to) DoveDriver, FU*K MONSTER, The Resistance Organ Trio, Soul Rub, and Broken Hearts Club, as well as his critically-acclaimed Ropeadope Records-issued solo debut, Blueprint of Soul (2007). Teddy Presberg has released more than 12 albums since Blueprint of Soul and actively collaborates on several different musical side-projects scattered all across the country. "pigWar has also made a unique pact with their fans in that the lyrical content of their music can only pull from the tenants of Soul & Rock: sex, heartbreak, and justice!"
"After spending five years steeped in the St. Louis Jazz & Soul scene, collaborating, and touring heavily with organ player LeClare Stevenson, the two decided to move back to Portland to launch a new project. When they landed in Portland and fired up their Experimental organ trio project DoveDriver, they sought out an unlikely vocalist and song-writer to tighten that sound and launch pigWar: Garett Brennan," pigWar's Album Release One-Sheet continued. While it's largely unclear who else took part in DoveDriver's self-titled October 2015 released EP, it seemed to serve as a solid jumping-off point for pigWar's imminent formation—their 2-part debut release, Make Love Vol. I-II, was actually let loose prior to DoveDriver's 5-track EP. pigWar's just-released self-titled album was co-produced by Teddy Presberg & The Monophonics and was recorded in Nov. 2015 at Transistor Sound Studios following a set of particularly rambunctious gigs at their favorite San Francisco venue, The Boom Boom Room. pigWar's current studio line-up is rounded out by drummer Dave Coniglio, trumpet player Josh Thomas, Reid Neuman on sax, "vibes" from Kelly Finnigan, and backing vocals from Angie Fritz and Tony Ozier. Arietta "Mz. Etta" Ward sings lead vocals on pigWar-2 track "Sweet Thang," as does Nick Savage (in lieu of Garett Brennan) on "Wait a Bit More." pigWar's self-titled album is currently available to stream, download, or purchase on CD from teddypresberg's aptly-titled "music for dancers and lovers of life" Bandcamp.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions' Grand Piano Player & Emcee Marek Pędziwiatr "Waxes Poetic" On M.E.D.-assisted PUZZLE Mixtape, Gil-Scott Heron's Influence & Dave Cooley-mastered Repetitions (The Witzard Interview)
Music really is a powerful entity that connects people across the world every day, as cliché as it sounds. Case in point: I think I first discovered Donuts-flipping Kiwi Basement Funk pioneer Jeremy Toy, who records as Leonard Charles, whilst scrolling through live screen-printing crate diggers HIT+RUN's Instagram page. Leonard Charles' phenomenal Basement Donuts, in turn, pointed me in the direction of Indian Classical band Jaubi's Stones Throw-highlighted "Time: Donut of The Heart" cover... now, are you still with me? Jaubi recently re-released their The Deconstructed Ego EP on Poland & London-based Astigmatic Records and the Hip-Hop and Jazz-melding collective spotlighted within this very piece, Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions (EABS), are their Astigmatic Records label mates! "The first single from the album Repetitions is the song, "Waltzing Beyond," which was first released on vinyl by Columbia Records in Germany, thanks to the influence of Joachim Berendt... Krzysztof Komeda composed "Waltzing Beyond," originally a poem written by Polish Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz titled "Piosenka o końcu świata" (read: "The Song On The Day The World Ends")," Astigmatic Records wrote within their recent English-translated "Waltzing Beyond" press packet. EABS are an eclectic 9-member group based out of Wrocław, Poland, which according to pianist, keyboard player, singer, and emcee Marek Pędziwiatr, has morphed over the years from a loose club-minded jam session "event" into a full-fledged, actively recording and ever-evolving band. I was lucky enough to get into Marek's head, as I have with Leonard Charles and Jaubi's guitarist and kalimba player Ali Riaz Baqar, for a comprehensive 10-question interview, which spans everything from legendary poet and Hip-Hop forefather Gil Scott-Heron to Donuts & MADVILLAINY mastering engineer Dave Cooley and just about everything else in-between; so, without further ado, please feel free to sit back, relax, and enjoy my recent conversation with Electro-Acoustic Beat Session's own Marek Pędziwiatr, my fellow crate-diggers!
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Greenhorn Jazzcat & Funkateer
I. Would you care to go through the members of Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions and briefly detail each members’ role within the band?
To be honest, there are nine members (out of which, seven are musicians). First of all, let me introduce [Sebastian Jóźwiak], who is our spiritual link, friend, and manager. When we believe, he believes twice as much. Bartek Oles is our sound engineer; he is always with us, because without him, we don’t sound like Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions (EABS). Spisek "Piotr Skorupski" Jednego is one of the EABS [founders], DJ, and beat-maker. He is responsible for cuts, samples, and percussion. Marcin "Raq" Rak is a drummer; he brings the fire to our music. Pawel "Wuja" Stachowiak is a bad cat from the small town of Mosina; he plays bass. Jakub Kurek is [our] trumpet player; he’s a friendly, humble, hippie guy... but onstage... [he's an] ANIMAL! Next, Olaf Wegier. He plays tenor sax; believe [it] or not, it’s hard to find such a soulful sax player in Poland. Last but not least, me, Marek Pędziwiatr. I play grand piano, keyboards, sing, and rap. I also create compositions and arrangements for the band.
II. How does "Waltzing Beyond" fit into the overall narrative of your upcoming album, Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda)? Who exactly was Krzysztof Komeda, for those who may not know?
"Waltzing Beyond" is the composition originally inspired by Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz's poem, "The Song On The Day The World Ends." Here is an excerpt:
And those who were waiting for thunder and lightning,
And those who were expecting signs and archangels’ trumpets,
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits the rose,
As long as children are born rosy,
Nobody believes it is happening now.
Though the poem was written in 1944, it reminds me of Gil Scott-Heron’s [1970 poem and song,] "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." This is a proof of how this idea wanders through the generations. Now, we are here; constantly existing in schemes, which control our thinking. Therefore, we are unable to go BEYOND the circle of information. This thought is also the key to the entire album. If I had to describe this album in keywords: knowledge, love, togetherness, war, and peace. Krzysztof Komeda is the heritage of Polish & World Jazz. He created a perfect blend of Jazz language and Slavic Soul. That is why we feel so emotional with his craft. We feel connected. Speaking of Polish Jazz, we can distinguish two [distinct] eras: before and after Krzysztof Komeda.
III. How did you initially get in touch with Donuts & MADVILLAINY mastering engineer Dave Cooley, who mastered your recent single, “Waltzing Beyond?
As far as [mixing was] concerned, we put to the test three separate engineers, who worked on raw tracks of "Waltzing Beyond." The winner was Paweł Bartnik from Heavyweight.pro. Thus, we decided to pick someone who [would] take care of mastering. We were hesitating between Daddy Kev and Dave Cooley. Mainly, because they dealt with the ultimate sound of albums we love (e.g. Yesterday's New Quintet, The Heliocentrics, etc.) Eventually, we chose Dave Cooley, who knew from the beginning what he [wanted] to do with it. How did we get in touch? Some time ago, Dave did mastering of a 7-inch dedicated to J Dilla called 100206 EP by Galus. Galus is our friend. When we asked him about Dave, he suggested that it might be perfect for what we [wanted] to achieve. Later, we got Dave’s contact from Egon of Now-Again. Ultimately, Dave Cooley will master whole Repetitions album.
IV. What’s next for Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions? When exactly do you plan to release your PUZZLE Mixtape follow-up, Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda)?
Cassette PUZZLE Mixtape closed a period of jams at the club. EABS turned into a band and after five years of playing together, we were able to go to the studio and record our debut album. Repetitions is costing us a lot of work. What is more, it requires meeting a fairly large number of people, which is why this project takes time. Although we are living in the digital world, here [in Poland,] the work process is quite analog. We hope that we will be ready with this material in the beginning of March 2017.
V. What were some of your greatest influences during the recording sessions and creation of your PUZZLE Mixtape and Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda)?
Speaking of PUZZLE Mixtape, the main influence [was] dreams. We payed tribute to Rap, Soul, and Jazz artists playing their music. Finally, we ended up with them on stage (e.g. Jeru The Damaja). That’s it! While working on Repetitions, we had to focus more on concept than on styles. That is why while preparing arrangements, I studied film dialogues, poems, and all the contents that had to do with Komeda’s musical material. I was definitely inspired by David Axelrod, Gil Scott-Heron, [John] Coltrane, and The Last Poets. However, in some places, it’s hard to define what style is it... it’s just music!
VI. How did you get your band name and where does its inspiration come from? It kinda reminds me of Madlib’s one-man “band,” The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble!
Initially, Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions was an "event." There were many jam sessions in Wrocław, but we realized that there was no room for soulful vibe. So, we found our home: PUZZLE Club. After some time, we realized that actually, we are not an "event," we are the band. Finally, we decided to quit switching hosts with other players, as in jam sessions. We play Electronic and Acoustic instruments, we love Beat music, our concerts are like spiritual Sessions—we love to share magic with people and we love Madlib, as well.
VII. What was the typical recording process like for your PUZZLE Mixtape? Were you ever in the same studio as its featured emcees, like Stones Throw’s M.E.D. and Brooklyn's own Jeru The Damaja?
There was no studio recording. Everything was recorded live on stage—no gimmicks. With most of our [all-]star guests, we met on soundcheck to skip through the songs. Then, the gig was full of unexpected situations. It was so exciting! We got used to these situations and loved to have fun with them.
VIII. I know your PUZZLE Mixtape was released on limited edition cassette tape and FREE digital download, via Astigmatic Records, but do you have any current plans to press it up on vinyl? Will Repetitions become available in a wide array of formats, as well?
PUZZLE Mixtape will remain as it is: cassette and digital. We agreed with our guests, we spend this material without profit, only to promote EABS and to close our old period of jam sessions. Unfortunately, vinyl is a very expensive media, so we could not afford pressing vinyls to give it away for FREE. However, the situation with Repetitions is completely different; it is a conceptual studio album. Here, we act in accordance with the heirs of Krzysztof Komeda and all copyrights. The album will be released on double vinyl, CD, and digital.
IX. Would you care to briefly speak on “Thank You, Dilla (Fall In Love),” “Medley,” “Sh*t Is Real,” and "Każdy Ponad Każdym (Redux)” from your Soundcloud-compiled PUZZLE Sessions (2011-14)?
These pieces document our explorations through the world of soulful music. All are live recordings. "Thank You, [Dilla]" is the [tribute] to "The Funkiest" J Dilla. I remember this session: there [were] six horn players on stage, each playing solo. It was a song with no ending... beautiful. "Medley" is a [tribute] to Common and Bob James. I love the way this song is blooming. "Sh*t Is Real" is dedicated to all true Hip-Hop heads; those who remember Fat Joe Da Gangsta know what I’m talking about. "Każdy Ponad Każdym" is our interpretation of the Polish Rap classic by Sokol. This magical recording comes from a very special concert, which was the tribute to White House (legendary Polish producers).
X. It’s nearly that time of year wherein many publications, myself included, will start compiling Best of 2016 and year-end lists; with that said, which releases from the past 12-18 months might you likely include on such a list… any favorite Hip-Hop releases, in particular?
There’s a lot going on, especially in Jazz. And maybe it’s more about phenomena than particular releases. [Robert] Glasper, Austin Peralta, Flying Lotus & Co. Kamasi Washington... and the whole LA scene. There is Kendrick, who [pairs] Hip-Hop and Jazz in a futuristic way. Look at the UK scene—they [have] Yussef Kamaal!
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
3 Feet High & Rising: London-based African-Spanish Guitarist Gutxi Bibang Evokes Jimi Hendrix & The Clash On Socially Conscious Solo Single, "System of a Gun" (Oskar Recordings)
"'System of a Gun" is basically about government corruption; I wrote the song with my girlfriend, who's also in the band, after reading the news. The song reflects today's politics and concerns—especially for the youth of multi-culturalism," London-based African-Spanish Rock "N" Roll revivalist Gutxi Bibang wrote within an exclusive statement sent to The Witzard. He then, went on to quote his own lyrics: "Little by little / Got to get away / A leader on the search to kill today / Dystopia over-runs the ocean / The sand ain't washing up / System on the gun / Gotta serve and obey / The truth only strays / Plague of the system [dysfunction] / Cannot sway / Explain to me 'cause I don't know / Just how could you be so cold." Bibang recorded "System of a Gun," and likely an entire album's-worth of material, along with his American girlfriend Tabatha Beu on bass and fellow London-based drummer Gary Lee; "with his distinctive manner and impeccable style, Gutxi Bibang exudes charisma—not just a reminder of when Rock was a socio-cultural force for change in the 1960's and 70's, but a glimpse into the music’s global future," reads a press release from his self-described "French Indie label" Oskar Recordings.
It quite honestly, wouldn't be too much of a stretch to compare Gutxi Bibang to similarly-minded guitar-wielding revolutionary Jimi Hendrix—a man with nothing more than his guitar, his socially conscious beliefs, and his model girlfriend carving a path of his own that hasn't been even remotely replicated... until now! Gutxi Bibang lists his greatest sources of influence as "Bowie, Lou Reed, Björk, The Doors, and Roy Ayers" and further details that he's recorded a EP in LA that he and Oskar Recordings are planning to sporadically release as stand-alone singles. "And I already have a full album ready to be recorded sometime in the future," Bibang continued. Gutxi Bibang, Tabatha Beu & Garry Lee recently emerged from the studio to play a few dates ahead of year's end: Thursday, November 24th at London's The Finsbury, Tuesday, November 29th at London's Nambucca, and last night's December 6th show at New York's own Communion Showcase at Rockwood Music Hall. Earlier this morning, Jonathan & Pete from Oskar Recordings sent over Gutxi, Tabitha & Gary's fittingly sparse, grainy anti-establishment Laura Martinova-directed "System of a Gun" music video, which was seemingly filmed one afternoon in their apartment. "We believe in the spirit of the 'peace and love revolution...'"
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Darko The Super & U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART Present: BLKrKRT's Chamber Rap & Sakanouye no Tamuramaro-influenced 40th Release, Okinato Black (The Witzard Premier)
"Okinato Black is a reference to Yasuke, or Sakanouye no [Tamuramaro], the legendary African Shogun of early Japanese civilization. He was known to be the paragon of military virtues and regarded as one of the most distinguished Black warriors of antiquity, yet still, he is largely unknown. The project is a response to the resurgence of Chamber Rap beats, popularized by Wu-Tang [Clan], the proliferation of Experimental Hip-Hop producers using the legendary Roland SP-404, and my own fascination with the anime Samurai Champloo. The intention was to never limit the source or genre of samples, but through the usage, obtain a cohesion in sound," Texas-based Experimental Hip-Hop producer Phil Ford aka BLKrKRT (Blacker Karat) wrote within a recent emailed statement. Ford has fittingly self-described his unique sound as "Post-Dilla Hip-Hop Instrumental" and lists J Dilla, Madlib, KAN KICK, No I.D. Public Enemy, Prefuse 73, S1, and Boogie Down Productions amongst his greatest sources of influence. Okinato Black, which I'm proud to be premiering here today at The Witzard, will be released on Philly rapper-producer Darko The Super's eclectic U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART imprint and will quickly become BLKrKRT's whopping 40th Bandcamp release; one of three final releases before Phil Ford plans to retire from music altogether and embark on a new venture into the world of fashion design. "I met Phil during the early Soundcloud days. He actually remixed a lot of my very early Rap projects; I used a lot of his beats throughout the years. He’s an incredible producer! I asked him if he’d like to do a release with the label recently and he sent over Okinato Black right away," Darko The Super explained.
"I live in Texas, where Experimental Hip-Hop has always existed, but hadn't always been well respected, going mostly overlooked in favor of artists from the more metropolitan cities and music with a more mainstream appeal... Looking forward to taking the heads of Hip-Hop listeners seeking to see it remain the same... limiting the growth of our new era, [Okinato Black] is a slight departure from my previous works. In attempting to shed a persona, I had unwittingly re-invented one," Ford's email tellingly continued. BLKrKRT says that as he dug further into Yasuke's story, he found many (abstract) parallels between himself and the legendary African Shogun, which run through both his personal life and his discipline, musically. Phil Ford explained that Okinato Black differs from his previous 39 released works since "the focus of [his] work thus far, has been the nature of [his] "chop," or sample usage, now the hallmark of [his] sound" and further went on to compare his approach and sensibility to that of Jackson Pollock. It appears as though Darko The Super and Phil Ford's working relationship dates back as far as May-June 2014, as I recently unearthed two BLKrKRT-produced tracks amidst the Stereopathetic Soulmanure (Beck reference) heap that is Darko's plethora of released music: "President Camacho" and The Buggles-referencing "F*ck The Rap Game (Darko Killed The Radio Star)." BLKrKRT's Okinato Black is currently available for your streaming and downloading pleasures on U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART's respective Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
3 Feet High & Rising: Toxit Members Justin Billinger & Ferry Ridderhof Re-form as Elektrostal; release Daft Punk, Iggy Pop & Justice-influenced Hello world 101 (Vinyl Recording)
"We started out asking ourselves the question, 'if Daft Punk didn’t originate from France, but rather a dank dystopian nightmare of a Moscow suburb, what would that sound like?'" reads the brief, slightly tongue-in-cheek, description included on Amsterdam-based Retro-Future Elecrtonica band Elektrostal's Soundcloud page. Elektrostal consists of self-described "song-writer, agitator & synth whizz" Justin Billinger and "floppy label writer, Atari [engineer], vocals & synth [programmer]" Ferry Ridderhof. Billinger & Ridderhof unleashed their appropriately-titled 7-track debut EP, Hello world 101 on vinyl record and high-quality MP3, FLAC, etc. download as recently as November 11th, 2016; a mere six days later, Elektrostal uploaded a digitized vinyl copy of Hello world 101, which consists of "a 96 Khz 24-bit recording of the vinyl album with a classic Technics SL-1210 turntable." Elektrostal readily list Iggy Pop, Serge Gainsbourg, David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Kate Bush, Depeche Mode, deadmau5, Kavinsky, Giorgio Moroder, Justice, New Order, MGMT, and Neu! amongst their greatest sources of influence—although, I would likely most liken Hello world 101 to Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard's beloved 2003 Electro-Pop project with producer Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel), The Postal Service.
Justin Billinger lists his "main reason for starting Elektrostal" as "so he could eventually buy an Aston Martin" and Ferry Ridderhof's was to "pose with analog gear and ancient tech." It appears as though Ferry Ridderhof & Justin Billinger first collaborated on a 1992 white label 12-inch titled Some Mushrooms Approach EP under the short-lived project name Toxit; "in 2015, Ridderhof and Billinger hooked up once more and re-discovered their mutual passion and fascination for pure, raw Electronic music. Although previously caught up in the music-making process involving mainly laptop computers, they instinctively knew something was missing. With a renewed and fresh vision and using solely their favorite bits of vintage analogue equipment—ranging from boutique stomp-boxes to highly [collectible] Russian synths-on-steroids—they incorporated and blended this into their own [personalized] and methodically structured studio workflow." Elektrostal's Hello World 101 is currently available from their Bandcamp in a number of formats including vinyl LP, digital download, and Technics SL-1210-ripped vinyl MP3's.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Sulu & Excelsior Multi-instrumentalist & Hiphopfunkpunkmamboska Pioneer Steve "Sulu" Mallorca Speaks On Eddie Romero, P.I.C. His "Visual Album," A Tribe Called Quest & "Dam Foo's" Premier (The Witzard Interview)
"One of the running themes in Eddie Romero can be heard in the opening and closing tracks of the album, when I rhyme "shall I croon or shall I spit?" Basically, I wanted to play with the image of an old school crooner, a slow jam king, that all of a sudden, flips his ballad on its ear and starts rhyming all fast and frenetic. On the first single, "Up to You" this idea is in full effect; to me, I feel like the melody is really sweet and romantic, but I wanted to contrast this with a fast and somewhat hectic beat that hits hard and could be equally at home with Big Daddy Kane rhyming over it," Steven "Sulu" Mallorca wrote within a recent statement included along with my previous Sulu & Excelsior write-up. Mallorca's unique sound has been fittingly categorized as "Johnny Mathis meets Mos Def meets Stevie Wonder meets Nat King Cole," which I would almost equate to something along the lines of Mayer Hawthorne meets Eric B. & Rakim; oddly enough, Steve Mallorca's solo debut as Sulu & Excelsior, Eddie Romero was written and recorded in a manner similar to Mayer Hawthorne & The County's largely self-recorded, New-Wop-minded Stones Throw debut, A Strange Arrangement (2009).
"Sulu & Excelsior is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist/rapper/singer Steven E. Mallorca, aka Sulu, who cut his teeth on the NYC independent music scene as a rapper, trumpet player, and song-writer in the eclectic live Alternative Hip-Hop group, P.I.C. Also a working commercial and independent film-maker, Mallorca was in the process of writing songs for a new feature film project, when he decided to develop them further, and this collection of tunes eventually became Sulu & Excelsior's debut album, Eddie Romero." I've been corresponding with Steve Mallorca for the past month or so and now, I'm proud to present a comprehensive 10-question interview with Sulu, as well as premier of "Dam Foo's"—which is the second video unveiled from Eddie Romero and additionally, duals as part II from his record release party-debuted Eddie Romero "visual album;" with that said, feel free to sit back, relax, and enjoy my recent conversation with Steve "Sulu" Mallorca, as well as The Witzard-premiered "Dam Foo's," and stay tuned for more sweet, sweet sounds from Sulu & Excelsior!
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Your Resident Crate-digger
I. What were some of your greatest influences during the writing, recording, and creation processes tied to your recent solo debut, Eddie Romero?
I actually started writing these songs with the intention of using them in a feature film that I wrote. I wanted to have an old school crooner and Doo-Wop type soundtrack to the film. A lot of that is influenced by my dad, and the music that he used to play for us when we grew up—Nat King Cole, The Platters, and Fats Domino. Eventually, the songs started to take on their own life, taking on more of a Soul and Hip-Hop edge and they became Eddie Romero. Over the course of writing and recording, I was listening to a lot of stuff that influenced me in different ways—Nat King Cole, The Beatles, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mathis, J Dilla, Chet Baker, OutKast, Mos Def [Yasiin Bey], Fats Domino, Shuggie Otis, Fats Domino, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys, Janelle Monáe, and Alabama Shakes, to name a few.
II. What was your typical Eddie Romero recording process like and how did it differ from your past work with your group, P.I.C.?
A big difference between recording P.I.C. and Excelsior is that with Sulu & Excelsior, I was the engineer, producer, mixer, and I played everything—did keys, bass, guitar, trumpet, all the vocals, and all the beats. I basically was just working with what I had available. I had already begun to demo out the songs in an old version of GarageBand and was planning on moving everything to Logic for final tracking, but I realized I had futzed with the sounds so much, in that a lot of stuff didn't translate to Logic and I'd have to re-create everything, so I just kept it in GarageBand and finished tracking and mixing there. Having done P.I.C. for so long, I had a good idea of how the recording process worked, so it was just a matter of experimenting and learning more of the technical side. By the time I decided to start "official tracking," I had already been messing around with recording the songs for two years or so and I had a really clear idea of the parts and the overall sound I wanted to achieve. P.I.C. is a much more traditional recording process—our long-time producer and friend Adam Charity will engineer and mix. But pretty much on every P.I.C. album, I was there with Adam for every tracking session and for the mixing and that experience was invaluable going into Excelsior. Also, I was lucky enough to have borrowed some microphones from Adam, as well as a bass guitar from my friend (and DJ for both P.I.C. and Excelsior), DJ Mas. Thanks AC and Mas!
III. We, here at The Witzard, are honored to be premiering your second Eddie Romero single, "Dam Foo's;" would you care to further detail its creation, concept, and how it fits into the overall narrative of your release party-debuted "visual album?"
I'm honored that you're having the video! When I first started to think about the "visual album," I knew I didn't really want any specific plots or storylines and wanted to work more with themes and moods that connected all the videos. This way, all the film-makers that were taking part in the project had some sort of framework in which they could create. Ultimately, I always wanted it to be a collaborative process and "Dam Foo's" really captures that spirit. I knew I wanted to use old public domain footage and Super 8 home movies. So, like a DJ digs in crates for records, I was digging around for footage that fit the mood and themes of Eddie Romero. I found this great car race footage in the desert and thought it fit the mood of "Dam Foo's," where the lyrics are basically about a doomed road trip. Coincidentally, my good friend and the bass player in the live [Sulu &] Excelsior crew, Joel Bernardo was in Arizona, at the time with his brother John. Once I realized this, I shot Joel a text to see if he could film some stuff out there—all of which basically, revolved around Joel wearing white and walking in the desert. And I was floored when I saw what Joel and John shot (with some great help from Joel's daughter). It worked nicely with the found footage, almost like it was from some Grindhouse-type film; from there, I filmed additional footage with the help of a fellow film-maker friend, Jean Baptiste Sankara to wrap up the video.
IV. I know you and I previously spoke about this via email within the past couple weeks, but what's the meaning behind...
A.) your project name, Sulu & Excelsior?
I've been going by "Sulu" since ages ago, when I was 17 and started rapping with folks that would eventually become my first band, P.I.C. (and we're still going strong today). "Sulu" has a whole load of meaning to it, most of it an ode to [Hikaru] Sulu on Star Trek. [As] a Filipino-American kid growing up in the Midwest, it was huge for me, seeing this Asian-American guy on a crazy spaceship, kicking a**! When I started working on this album, I definitely wanted to keep the Sulu name going and in the spirit of Star Trek, I named it Sulu & Excelsior because when Sulu left The Enterprise, he was given command of the USS Excelsior and it was the most bada** ship in the fleet.
B.) Eddie Romero's retro album cover image?
The album cover is actually a picture of my dad and my Uncle Manny, one of my Dad's crew from back in the day. As soon as I saw the picture, I knew I wanted it to be the cover. It just sums up everything about the album—the era, the turntable, the record, and the style.
C.) and the title "Eddie Romero" itself?
The album is named after Eddie Romero, a prolific Filipino film-maker whose filmography spanned multiple genres and decades from the 1950's to the 2000's... from studio films to [Blaxploitation] and campy Horror and Sci-Fi to Political films. They were originally for Filipino audiences, but he found an international audience with his 70's Exploitation films that starred Pam Grier, amongst others, and these films went on to inspire film-makers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. I was researching his work and I realized there were some parallels between the album and his career—for starters, the musical inspirations of my album span basically the same decades of his career. Also, in my album, there's an underlying theme about creative output and being creative, which is something Eddie Romero did for like over half a century.
V. Do you have any current plans to reunite with your fellow band mates from P.I.C. to record a proper Hiphopfunkpunkmamboska follow-up to your Swank/Edge single (2015)?
P.I.C. actually has a show on December 10th, so we're getting ready for that. I'm always writing music, so I've got a backlog of tracks for P.I.C.; our members are kind of split up on different coasts now, so it makes things more difficult to work on new stuff, but we still manage to make it work.
VI. Now, on the heels of Eddie Romero's world-wide release, what else do you currently have planned for its album roll-out? I know you had previously mentioned a Frank Ocean Endless-reminiscent accompanying "visual album."
I knew I wanted a big visual component to this, so a bunch of film-maker friends and I started to create different visuals for different songs; some of which will end up being the "official" music videos [and] some of which would only screen once—at the album release party we had last month. So now, we're in the midst of releasing the videos. We did "Up to You" a couple weeks ago and now, we're doing "Dam Foo's" with you and are totally psyched about that! And there's a whole bunch more that we'll be releasing, so I'm looking forward to sharing all those with the world. I also want to get a bunch of live videos in a studio, like a [Live from] Daryl's House [with Daryl Hall] kinda thing, to show off the live element of Sulu & Excelsior.
VII. I've previously compared it to "Mayer Hawthorne with an added Hip-Hop edge," but how would you attempt to best describe your musical stylings for someone who may have never previously heard your music?
I've been liking this description these days—"a Hip-hop Johnny Mathis." It's kinda summed up in the opening and closing tracks of Eddie Romero, "shall I croon or shall I spit?"
VIII. "Johnny Mathis meets Mos Def meets Stevie Wonder meets Nat King Cole," reads a fragmented chunk of your Sulu & Excelsior Facebook description (Story). Would you care to further explain this quote, the above-listed patties' influence on your music, etc?
If Nat King Cole or Stevie Wonder was behind the piano and doing his thing, then, all of a sudden, a DJ shows up and cuts in a beat... then, Nat or Stevie flip it and start rhyming... that's kinda it!
IX. Let's just say, for argument's sake, you were planning to record and release a slightly more Hip-Hop-minded Sulu & Excelsior Remix album; which producers and emcees would you likely attempt to recruit and why?
I think Q-Tip would do well with my tracks on both the producer and emcee sides. Also, I'm a fan of Oddisee as a producer and emcee, so that'd be cool, too.
X. I'm sure you're beyond pleased with your current Sulu & Excelsior line-up, but if you could form a super-group with any musicians (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?
I kinda envisioned Sulu & Excelsior to sorta operate in different forms: like, there's a big band version of Excelsior, but the songs could also go small with a trio... or maybe with just me on keys and a DJ, or maybe even as a true solo act with me just on the piano. So, back to your question: I don't really have any dream line-up—I'm game for whatever will shed a new light on the melody and rhythms. But if I had to choose, I'd love to do a version of Eddie Romero with Duke Ellington and his big band.
XI. Since we're fast-approaching the end of 2016, what might you likely cite as some of your favorite albums of the year... Hip-Hop albums/mixtapes in particular, if possible?
Anderson.Paak's MALIBU, A Tribe Called Quest's We Got It from Here... [Thank You 4 Your Service], Oddisee's The Odd Tape, and Lando Chill's For Mark, Your Son.