Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Witzard Presents: A Transmission from The Diabolical Doctor Strange of The Guerilla Godz Universe (or "origins of the guerilla godz music")

The Diabolical Doctor Strange

"Solomon Strange AKA The Diabolical Doctor Strange is a Incandescent man, originally from the planet Qutan. He was working on The Space Program, as an astronaut going through various tests, when a freak accident happened and he was electrocuted and exposed to a new form of technology called Estonic Energy, which can re-animate the dead with soundwaves. He must feed from electronic resources to stay alive and can manipulate electricity. He fled his home planet and now, moves from dimension to dimension consuming electronic energy in a bid to find a source which will keep him alive forever. In his journey from from universe to universe he has collected an army of celestial beings; they are called The Guerilla Godz."


"THE DOOM BROTHERZ AKA THE MAN IN THE MASK & Solomon Strange are criminals trapped in a vast prison discovered by Citadelian scientists, where they are able to see and hear all destruction since the beginning of time within the universe; prisoners of The Zone have been known to escape and bring Earth's heroes against them. THE MAN IN THE MASK comes from a planet in an alternative reality, where he became mad with destruction. His home planet is a hot planet with reptilian-type beings, who are a sinister, cunning, [and] untrustworthy. He was tormented for his weak, kind nature, as a youth by everyone, even his own parents and family. This drove him mad to the point [of] insanity. He believes everyone in The Universe, and even alternate dimensions, are like this, so he has [taken] it upon himself to cleanse it."

Tainted Wizdom

"Tainted Wizdom are Lay Low & Unknown Mizery. They are from a planet of people with god-like abilities; some controlling thunder, some rain and water. They ruled The Galaxy a billion years ago, until they were banished by The Timeless Ones. They then, developed a blade that absorbed stellar energy and when worn, allowed them the ability to develop virtually any technological device or mechanism, limited only by their imagination. Lay Low was a noble warrior, he was Guardian Knight of The Treasury. His only task: not to touch The Blade of The Fallen, drawn by its powers and intrigue, one night he opens the vault to to remove the Blade and examine it, upon touching it, he is possessed by its power and the souls which dwell in it. Unknown Mizery is an entity that a Black Abbot and his people used to console in quests for ancient magical, esoteric, and medicinal knowledge. He is Supreme Lord [Emperor] of The Interstellar."

Ari Yuseff & Ab Soul Jah

"Ari Yuseff & Ab Soul Jah are from Exor. It is the home-world of The Exorian race. They are represented by a pair of Exorian metas named The Unimaginables; the two are hereditary protectors of their planet. "The Ten Elements of The Universe" is the name given [to] their group. Each pair possesses elemental powers including fire, love, vapors, plants, sound, metal, [and] shadows. Ari Yuseff, they say, is hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years old, but ever-growing in power and strength, due to the fact he is a [deity] and is empowered by the faith and praise of The Nuwabu. Ab Soul Jah [is a] warrior born on the planet Venus; home of a civilization very similar to The Mayans called The Mayah, said to possess the power of the great Jaguar God "Akbal" (translated as "Night.") The Jaguar God of The Underworld, The Mayah believed he was the shape The Sun took at night. Akbals powers are control of fire and flight."

- The Diabolical Doctor Strange (Guerilla Godz)

The Diabolical Doctor Strange AKA Doctor Strange AKA Solomon Strange AKA Solomon Caine and his crew, Guerilla Godz have release a multitude of projects under various names, aliases, and group names including, but not limited to Magic Theatre Volume Two, Unmask The Phantom, and The Mystery of The Phantom Flames, as well as 2017 fan favorites doctor strange and friends—which placed on Elmattic's annual best hip hop of mmxvii hit-list—and December 22nd-released The Friday Night Philosopher. Doctor Strange himself has said that both "doctor strange and friends and and The Friday Night Philosopher are showcase albums for The Guerilla Godz Universe" with the latter including selections from internal groups Tainted Wizdom and THE DOOM BROTHERZ, as well as Mic Gerononomo, O.C. & Lord Finesse, Prodigy, S.I.L.E.N.T. W.A.R. WESTSIDEDOOM, and various "mixtape-esque" Doctor Strange instrumentals and skits artfully inter-spliced throughout.

Aside from, or in addition to, his musical output, SOLOMON CAINE has been quietly uploading self-made music videos and eerie clips to vimeo since about 2010-11; "I first got hipped to the UK homie Solomon Strange a few years back, when I caught wind of his weird visuals mixed with production that [were] circulating on The Internet and if you know me, I love film, so this was right up my alley," Skeme Richards (@hotpeasandbutta) recently wrote within a doctor strange and friends-centric post on his site, Nostalgia King. Guerilla Godz's latest release, Solomon Strange Presents: The Friday Night Philosopher is currently available to stream or download on Bandcamp with 100% "hand-recorded and printed cassettes" coming very soon.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Long Island Lyricist AllOne Morphs "30 Poems In 30 Days" Submissions Into CRIMINAL Podcast-inspired Dusty Dossiers EP (The Witzard Interview)

"Last night in Nashville, I received the strangest compliment after the show. A young lady came up to me and said, "I don't even really like MUSIC, but enjoy what you do." I laughed and then, asked, "what DO you like to listen to, then?" "Mostly podcasts," she said. As a massive music nerd, even I have my mostly-podcast seasons. Today's Fake Four FREECEMBER EP by AllOne brings us the best of both worlds. AllOne re-interprets four True-Crime stories throughout a hyper-rhyming EP produced by Dope KNife (detailed booklet included for those who download,)" Fake Four Inc. co-founder Ceschi Ramos enthusiastically wrote on Facebook nearly two weeks ago. Prior to Ceschi's post, I honestly, had never heard of Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo before hearing his Dusty Dossiers EP and boy, was I in for a treat! I've always been a fan of CSI:/murder mystery-type shows and have consistently had somewhat of an interest in podcasts, which only seems to increase, the older I get.

AllOne's Dusty Dossiers is, indeed, just that: the perfect, unforced union of Hip-Hop, True-Crime tales, and podcasts. Dusty Dossiers EP kinda has an underlying crime-solving Hip-Hop vibe similar to that of Career Crooks emcee and producer Zilla Rocca's "Noir-Hop" sub-genre. Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo was kind enough to write me, via email, after Ceschi Ramos instructed me to "hit him up" on Facebook. AllOne and I have been messaging back-and-forth for a couple weeks now and I'm proud to present to you an all-encompassing, introspective Dusty Dossiers-centric interview. Happy holidays to all and if you enjoy what you hear here, head on over to Fake Four Inc.'s Bandcamp to ch-check out their series of FREECEMBER 2017 releases. You can earn more about self-described "writer-rapper-poet-singer-traveler-bookworm" AllOne and his Indie-Folk band, Almost Elijah, at his own personal Bandcamp page.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Murder Mystery/Hip-Hop Enthusiast

I. How exactly did the initial idea behind your Dusty Dossiers EP come to fruition?

I had the idea of doing an EP with that title for a year or so with a film-noir vibe and an all-narrative theme, but hadn't written much other than this song "The Case of Sydney Barringer," at the time, a song that ended up on my album I've Been Thinking... In April of 2017, I had done a month-long poem-a-day project for National Poetry Writing Month, adapting episodes of a podcast called CRIMINAL each day in various styles and forms. In September, when Dope KNife sent me the Folder of beats and asked if I wanted to make something with them, when I heard the nature of them—that Jazzy, dark, and occasionally, sinister tone they set—it occurred to me that I could use some of the more fitting or favorite pieces from my 30 poems in 30 days project and adapt them to interact with Dope KNife's production [work] more closely. When I was in the midst of that adaptation, I thought back to the name "Dusty Dossiers" I had written in a notebook somewhere and felt it was time to put that title to use.

II. How closely did you work with the CRIMINAL podcast crew when assembling your Dusty Dossiers EP? It's directly based off their True-Crime podcast episodes, correct?

While the songs are meticulously-detailed accounts and references to the shockingly real events presented in episodes of the CRIMINAL podcast, the only interaction I had throughout both the month-long poetry project and the invention of this [extended play] was that I had listened to each episode that corresponded to a song I was writing easily 10-20 times and took extensive notes on what feelings or themes and facts to include throughout the lyrics of the songs. I'd been tagging the CRIMINAL folks in just about everything I did online in conjunction with these two adaptation projects, but they're really busy people, so I wasn't miffed when they were silent. I again, emailed the CRIMINAL folks directly a few weeks before wrapping up the EP this winter to tell them about the album and also, to respectfully ask permission to sample their podcast intermittently in the songs, as I'd envisioned. I must have caught one of the producers at the right time because she responded quickly and was very enthusiastic about the idea and encouraged me wholeheartedly to use the clips however I liked. That was a fun little thrill for me, as I'm obviously, a big fan of their program and it felt nice to have their sanction, as well. Many thanks to them and their inspirational story-telling!

III. What did the various creative and recording processes behind Dusty Dossiers entail and how did you decide on Experimental Hip-Hop imprint Fake Four Inc. to release it?

To start, I was lucky enough to share the stage with Ceschi in 2015, when he came through Long Island on a tour; I set something up with him, played a fantastic show and resulting from this, we became friends out of a mutual artistic and personal respect. We kept in touch and I caught a handful of his shows in [Connecticut] and he made it out to events of mine, when [he] could. At the beginning of this year, he was gracious enough to invite me to do an EP for FREECEMBER. Fake Four Inc. is full of independent and expressive intent and celebrates the wide variety of ways in which exploratory artists experiment through various genres to create weird and great work. I applaud Ceschi and his cohorts for that and really value those intentions myself, so I think it's a great fit. I think the Fake Four Inc. demographic, while necessarily diverse, is probably perfectly in sync with my work, so I'm grateful to have such an appropriate platform that is as understandably respected as it is!

I initially had another idea in mind, when he asked me to make something for the label, but once Dope KNife sent me these beats over, I felt I needed to shelf the other project and pursue this, as I had a flash of inspiration. As I said, I already had the 30 meticulously-researched-but-hastily-written pieces for the National Poetry Month experiment, so when I listened to the instrumentals, I had to go back to that material and decide which writings I wanted to move forward with. With each concept and project, come a different set of "rules" or guidelines we creators subconsciously or deliberately set out to work within or meet; I didn't want to rely almost at all on puns or referential wordplay because it didn't feel appropriate or authentic for the dark non-fiction story-telling, so any wordplay had to be purely phonetic and lingual. The closest I come to a reference is in "Open Case:" "in the bathroom tub, Chuck tapped the blood like Dracula," but I'm alright with it since, it is such a widely-known literary reference and wouldn't alienate anyone. It's also accurate.

Another "guideline" was that I also wanted each song on the project to have a different approach and song-structure. For instance: "Jolly Jane" has a very dense and flowing rapping-based chorus, which is also a chorus, which opens the song. "Angie" is a straight-through set of lyrics with no choruses to interrupt the flow of the narrative. "Finding Sarah & Phillip" is a verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, but the choruses are more chant-based with repeated lines, where the latter two lines answer the first two lines with subtly-altered language in the choruses to play the different characters' perspectives represented in the chorus—Terri Knight in the first chorus, and Stephanie Dietrich in the second chorus—and "Open Case" is a melodic chorus that repeats 4 times, where I sing harmonies. The song is also comprised of three shorter verses (12 bars, 8 bars, and another 12 bars) that tell the initial mystery and then, a final giant 32-bar verse that tells the story of the couple, Hugh & Martha, who obsessively solve the case described in the first three verses and wraps up that story, as they came to decide it was solved.

As I said, I did a lot of listening to the [CRIMINAL] podcasts and note-taking on specific names, locations, characters, and scenarios that I wanted to include. I listened to a lot of Jazz, watched some Noir films, thought back to my experiences reading Dashiell Hammett, and did a bit of listening to the Jazzier story-songs of Tom Waits, as well. As for choosing the stories to get into? "Jolly Jane," "Angie," and "Open Case" were already written in a more rhythmic and rhyme-pattern way and "Finding Sarah & Phillip" was a spoken-word poem I wrote; it required the most re-working and I saved that for last, intimidated by the hastiness of the instrumental I used for that, not sure how I wanted to approach it. The least altered (not at all) piece was "Final Exit," which is the (SPOILER ALERT:) bonus track spoken-word piece about Fran, a self-described "exit guide." This was attractive to me because I really love that poem and its visceral nature, but also I was encouraged because both having a bonus track AND including a spoken-word poem on an album were unprecedented things for me. "Jolly Jane" and "Angie" were meticulous re-writes with structural changes. "Open Case," due to the immensity and complex nature of that story, took me the longest to write and figure out how it was going to go. I spent a day just writing the chorus, went into the studio and recorded that, did a demo of the lyrics I had, at the time, and then, went back and just wrote with the instrumental and chorus in place. Lots of hours spent nerding out with crazy scribbles of paper and notebooks at the library. My friend Frank [Bones] recorded me and we were actually, pretty expeditious with that. It only took a handful of sessions to get everything figured out, as far as tracking and mixing.

IV. Aside from (or in addition to) CRIMINAL's podcasts, what else might you site as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while recording Dusty Dossiers EP?

There weren't a ton of musical influences on it, as I said, I tried to think more about the film-noir style of story-telling and aesthetic, as well as listening to a bit of Tom Waits to get an good feel for how some people are telling these sort of stories or successfully embodying these stories and "selling them." One thing I can say, also, was Kristoff Krane's Kairos - Part One project, only in that, he very bravely moves rapidly throughout a lot of different cadences rather brilliantly. It encouraged me to keep with my desire to do that, rhythmically, I always enjoy experimenting and I that project's unabashed creative display of Kristoff's juggling of deliveries was a reminder to just stay to true ideas like that and that being engaging in your inventive pursuits of what you feel personally interesting is probably more rewarding, than being more easily accepted, which has always been a mantra of mine.

V. How do you personally think Dusty Dossiers compares against/compliments Fake Four's previous and still-upcoming FREECEMBER releases: Anonymous Inc.'s BETA 1 EP and Oscar Goldman's Prevoid EP?

* EDITOR'S NOTE: Fake Four Inc. FREECEMBER Release #4 AKA OneWerd's phenominal Alive EP was also uploaded since this interview's initial conduction! *

I think the DIY, sort of off-kilter Hip-Hop and left-field musical excursions are the similarities in the FREECEMBER line-ups. the Beta 1 EP is all live music with elements of Jazz, Fusion, Prog, and so on, it feels like b-sides from WHY? practice sessions and is very dope. So, Dusty Dossiers is much more traditionally Hip-Hop-sounding than that project I think and is a little more refined recording-quality wise and more focused in theme. It's also more reserved/grounded than those wonderful experimental tidbits the Ramos Brothers offer in that Anonymous Inc. project. In relation to Oscar Goldman's fun and introspective Prevoid EP, I think he's a lot more loose and free-wheeling on that EP. His content is more personal generally, his presentation is more casual often, so I got more of a feeling of being there LIVE during the sessions in Prevoid EP, with Oscar Goldman "talking" to ME. Dusty Dossiers is more pedantic and dense than Prevoid EP and I think even in the darker moments like on "Youngins," you get a feeling of the relatable charm and openness that you can enjoy. Dusty Dossiers, a mystery-themed project, is almost a mystery in itself, requiring people to really listen and discern the stories. Each of the projects in this series is so diverse and I think that is the beauty of a label like Fake Four; the commonality, being a tenuous connection and deep-rooted respect for Hip-Hop, obsessively creative brains making things, and a desire to explore the depths of ourselves, as well as the possibly unseen areas of musical expression and pave new paths creatively.

VI. Do you have any particular releases planned for 2018? Maybe even some type of audio-video content to accompany Dusty Dossiers?

Over the years, I'm slowly learning not to talk about what I'm planning too much ahead of time because schedules inevitably, get derailed or other projects come up and take precedence. However, I plan on releasing several epic music projects, either independently (as I have mostly done) or continuing association and assistance with Fake Four Inc. or Dope Sandwich Records & Tapes or thus-far-unseen entities. I have a lot of different projects nearing completion: an EP with my Folk band, Almost Elijah called Halcyon Wonders that I'd like to record and release, an Experimental narrative AllOne album I've been working on for a few years now called Rapologues that every year I say I will release, but time invariably escapes me, as burdens and obstacles encumber me. The aforementioned original project I intended on doing for FREECEMBER, an EP tentatively called "Armor," was generously crowd-funded through GoFundMe this summer and so, I owe it to everyone's faith in me to put this project out, as soon as possible. Dusty Dossiers just became immediately obviously the better choice, at the time, and although, I struggled with shelving the "Armor EP" because I owed it to people who literally invested in me to release it, I think they also trust my vision and want the best for and from me, as supporters, so I had to do what felt right for me. I'm definitely thinking about how to do various degrees of video content to compliment and further express the themes and vibes of Dusty Dossiers, so it's certainly a goal of mine to release something very soon.

Friday, December 22, 2017

"Stocking Stuffers & Festive Freebies" Featuring donwill, Drtysoap, EPIC BEARD MEN, The Ologist + Sulu & Excelsior (2017 Holiday Break-down)

Let's just get right into it: it's that special time of year where everyone readily flaunts their holiday cheer for everyone to hear! Jingle Bell Rocks! director and Christmas record collector Mitchell Kezin (@mabooshi) curated an especially festive mix full of Alt. Christmas songs, Hanukkah hymns, and obscure holiday jams entitled Mitchell's 'SOUL SISTA' Holiday Mix for The Witzard. Thanks again to Mitchell for sharing his special brand of holiday cheer and a very special thanks goes out to The Ologiest AKA JD at Common Good Records—his old imprint, When Crates Create combined with Analog Burners. In addition to my personal 2017 holiday favorite, Jumbled's Christmas comp. Merry Christmess, there has been quite the influx of festive musical cheer spread by your favorite musicians, emcees, and producers just in time for your last-minute shopping and wrapping sessions. Now, without further ado, I'm proud to present to you: The Witzard's 2017 holiday break-down fittingly entitled, Stocking Stuffers & Festive Freebies! Merry Christmas to all, Happy New Year, Happy Kwanzaa, and "a Festivus for the rest of us!" Shout-out to Steve "Sulu" Mallorca of Sulu & Excelsior for sprucing up a particularly festive December 2016 P.I.C. show flyer for this very occasion!

"These are songs that I performed at Tracy & Heben's Kwanzaa Specatacular (Another Round Podcast). They are TRAP KWANZAA CAROLS because why doesn't Kwanzaa have any cool songs? Black people are too musical to not have ANY Kwanzaa music out there in the field, so I'm just doing my part to rectify that. Merry Kwanzaa," donwill declared. Tanya Morgan emcee and producer donwill's TRAP KWANZAA CAROLS EP is now available for streaming and FREE download from his Bandcamp.

"Everybody that knows me knows that I'm a sucker for Christmas music. Hell, I've made two Christmas beat tapes. Last year, after I dropped my Santa Plays It Wrong [Part I-II] record, I got an email from Drtysoap about using a track as the lead-off to a Christmas mix. As soon as I heard it, I knew we had to put it on tape, so we built this summer and he doubled the length. And it's crazy! A 60-mixtape including 30 Christmas tracks not suitable for your grannie's cookie decorating party. The mix covers a wide span of off-the-radar holiday-based Hip-Hop instrumentals and songs; tracks from producers including The Ologist (that's me!) I.N.T. Mndsgn, Lakim, Tall Black Guy, Suff Daddy, and more. Tell Charlie Brown "sorry" and put away that Vince Guaraldi [A Charlie Brown Christmas] soundtrack this year. MERRY CHRITHMITH," The Ologist proclaimed, via email.

"EPIC BEARD MEN (the SAGE FRANCIS + B. DOLAN super-duo) are spreading their special brand of cheer this season by declaring "WAR ON CHRISTMAS." May this free single help you de-stress and be blessed during these holidays of high-anxiety. Check out the new [EPIC BEARD MEN] merch items at and stay tuned to their social media channels to stay up-to-date on all the new music and tour dates we've got planned for 2018... 20 demos have already been recorded for the EBM project and shows are already being booked. Expect a lot of brand new material and tireless touring in 2018 to support the album. Until then, just remember that it’s the beard on the inside that matters," EPIC BEARD MEN exclaimed.

"Gifts Under the Tree is a live recording of a beat set I did this past Saturday, 12/18 at a producer event that I started with two friends in Norfolk [Virginia] called @_thanksforlistening (Thanks for Listening.) The whole concept of the event is to focus on the producer community and a place where we can build the culture. So, we do a couple of showcases and then, an open beat cypher, where anybody can come and play beats—off a phone, laptop, beat machine, whatever. December was the third event and I did a showcase of all Christmas beats. Five are from past projects and five are new ones I made this month. It will be available as a free download on our Bandcamp through New Year's Day," The Ologist further detailed, concerning his latest Christmas release.

"Right before Thanksgiving, I was telling my better half, Mrs. Sulu, about a musical and lyrical idea I had for a Sulu & Excelsior Christmas song. I wanted to play with the words "under" and "over" and I had the opening lines and a hint of a melody, but that was it. So, I was doubtful I'd actually follow through with completing this song. However, Mrs. Sulu, really dug what she heard and unbeknownst to me, started writing away. One day in the middle of work, she texted me an entire draft of a song, starting with my opening and then going off into a whole beautiful place. After that, I forced myself to sit and hammer out some chords and the rest of the melody and ended up building the beat and the music shortly thereafter.

With some tweaks to the lyrics to fit the music and of some quick Sulu rhymes, "THE OVER UNDER" was nearly complete. The final touches came when I recorded the horns and Excelsior crew members, DJ Mas threw on some fine cuts and Joel "Bernard O'Reilly" a nice bass coda for the Carnaval-style ending. Music has always been the gift that has kept on giving to me, so I'm really happy to be able to pass it on just in time for the holidays... so, have the happiest of holidays and hope this song can be a part of your merriment and hopefully, induce some booty-shaking, in the process. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," Steve "Sulu" Mallorca cheerfully shouted.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jingle Bell Rocks! Director & Producer Mitchell Kezin Curates Mitchell's 'SOUL SISTA' Holiday Mix for The Witzard (Exclusive Mix)

Mitchell Kezin is a self-described Canadian "gentle giant, crate-digger, and filmmaker" whose award-winning film, Jingle Bell Rocks! toured the international festival circuit in 2014, including The Beefeater IN-EDIT Music Documentary Film Festival held in Barcelona, Spain. Jingle Bell Rocks! was then, acquired by Brooklyn-based Oscilloscope Labs—founded by the late, great Beastie Boy Adam "MCA" Yauch—and released theatrically in over 50 cities across the USA and can now be found on Amazon Prime, iTunes, VUDU, and like-minded streaming services and on DVD through Oscilloscope. Mitchell's current film, BUT FOR NOW: The Music & Mojo of Bob Dorough about the Bebop/Jazz legend and Schoolhouse Rock! creator is currently in-production.

Jingle Bell Rocks! thoroughly examines the slightly obsessive habits and tendencies of avid Christmas CD, vinyl record, and cassette tape collectors. Jingle Bell Rocks! follows Mitchell Kezin, as he seeks out the 12 best, most original, alternative, and under-appreciated Christmas songs ever recorded; with Mitchell as our titular merry misfit, his film seeks out to find the SOUL of Christmas music and features interviews with Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons of Run-D.M.C. The Flaming Lips' charismatic frontman Wayne Coyne, cult film director and Alt. Christmas music enthusiast John Waters, "Blue Xmas" vocalist Bob Dorough, and self-declared "Calypso King of The World," The Mighty Sparrow.

Throughout the film, additional screen-stealing voices include former Def Jam director of publicity Bill Adler, DJ and musicologist Dr. Demento, Soul legend Clarence Carter, and many more merry misfits, who confront the Christmas music mainstream, re-inventing the seasonal soundtrack for the 21st Century. I've been personally speaking with Mitchell Kezin (@mabooshi) via Twitter, over the course of the last week or so, after he asked me for suggestions on seasonally-appropriate "Alt. Hanukkah" songs; I then, asked Mitchell if he might be interested in compiling one of his infamous mitchell's merrymixes AKA merrymixes, which he's been assembling and gift-giving since about 1990, for publication right here on The Witzard.

Mitchell Kezin's custom-made Mitchell's 'SOUL SISTA' Holiday Mix for The Witzard features 16 strategically organized tracks-worth of Hanukkah songs, festive holiday ditties, and a gaggle of Alt. Christmas classics. It spotlights obscure selections from the likes of Alex Boye' feat. Genesis Choir, Barenaked Ladies, Donnie Iris & The Cruisers, AKIM & The Teddy Vann Production Company, The Soul-Saints Orchestra AKA The Poets of Rhythm, and The Mighty Sparrow, as well as a previously unreleased live Hanukkah recording from El Vez "The Thin Brown Duke." Lastly, a very special shout-out goes to The Ologist AKA J.D. at Common Good Records for graciously sequencing Mitchell's 'SOUL SISTA' Holiday Mix for The Witzard into one continuous, cohesive track at the very last-minute!

Mitchell's 'SOUL SISTA' Holiday Mix for The Witzard

0​1. "Soul Santa" - Brook Benton

02. "The Little Drummer Boy"​​ - The Soulful Strings​

​03. "Christmas Is" (2006 Digital Re-master) - Lou Rawls

04. "Little Drummer Boy" (African Tribal Version) - Alex Boye' feat. Genesis Choir

05. "We Free Kings" - Roland Kirk ​

​06. "Monologue/Dreidel Song" - El Vez LIVE from The Triple Door
* previously unreleased recording from Jingle Bell Rocks!

07. "Santa's Got a Bag of Soul" - The Soul-Saints Orchestra

08. "Little Miss Super Fly" - AKIM & The Teddy Vann Production Company

09. "Alleluyah Sasa (He Is Born)" - Donnie Iris & The Cruisers

10. "Hanukkah O' Hanukkah" (LIVE) - Barenaked Ladies

11. "Hanukkah Homeboy" - Doc Mo She

12. "Christmas Time Again" - Reuben Anderson

13. "How Can Santa Come to Puerto Rico?" - Ricky Vera with Steve Allen

14. "Post Card to Sparrow" - The Mighty Sparrow

15. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" - Bobby Timmons

16. "Happy New Year" - Mabel Mafuqa

Monday, December 18, 2017

ECID & Louis Dorley Launch New Collaborative Effort TOYFRiEND & Unleash Indie-Pop-minded fullHearty EP (BandHouseRecordClub)

TOYFRiEND is the latest Avant-Garde Indie-Pop project from Hip-Hoppers Jason "ECID" Mckenzie and Louis Dorley AKA louis logic. ECID & Louis Dorley readily liken their inaugural release, fullHearty EP to Indie/Dream-Pop staples Blonde Redhead, Blood Orange, Elliot Smith, Little Dragon, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Beach House, Purity Ring, and Animal Collective/Panda Bear. fullHearty features Louis Dorley on vocals and keys and ECID helming both drums and production duties. Amidst six original Indie-Pop-minded TOYFRiEND compositions, fullHearty additionally features two heavily re-worked cover tunes: Howard Jones' "No One Is to Blame" and "You're The Best (Around)" as performed by Joe Esposito, most recognizably from The Karate Kid (1984.) Prior to TOYFRiEND, ECID self-released his latest critically-acclaimed album, HowToFakeYourOwnDeath and contributed production work to Mega Ran's Ceschi & Sammus-assisted "OLD ENOUGH" from this year's Extra Credit; while Louis Dorley, on the other hand, last released an album entitled Look On The Bright Side (as louislogic) on Fake Four Inc. back in 2013, which was followed by "a collection of rare, exclusive out-take and guest appearance songs ranging from 2004-2013" entitled Old Man Liver in 2014. TOYFRiEND's debut EP fullHearty is now available to stream or download on ECID & Louis Dorley's newly-launched Bandcamp on a "Pay-What-You-Want" basis. From what I hear, Jason ECID & Louis Dorely are currently holed up in their Brooklyn-based Band House already hard at work on TOYFRiEND EP2.

"In the winter of 2014, I had the pleasure of joining my dear friend Louis Dorley on the "Rhyming Gosling Tour." As with most Indie Rap tours, it was filled with its fair share of ridiculous inside jokes, near-mental breakdowns, and "holy sh*t, that was the best night ever!" moments. We bonded over our shared taste in music (especially, outside of Hip-Hop) as well as a desire to explore a new creative frontier outside of our perceived bubbles—at that time, I would have never thought we'd start an Avant-Garde Indie-Pop band and I'd move to NYC... A few months after that tour, when I was back in [Minneapolis] and Lou was in [Brooklyn], we started sending tracks back-and-forth. He'd send me a simple keyboard arrangement (using toy instruments) with some vocals on it, maybe a verse and a hook's-worth. Then, I'd take the .WAV file and treat it like a "sample," start manipulating it, and sequencing drums (mostly derived from found sounds.) After a few emails, it would start to turn into a song. It was such a liberating feeling working on these early tracks. It really felt like we captured something new. Fast-forward to 2017 and we present to you foolHearty, a collection of 6 original songs and 2 covers. Click here to download the debut EP from TOYFRiEND for FREE on Bandcamp. You can also stream foolHearty, via these fine digital platforms: Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon & TIDAL. Follow TOYFRiEND on Facebook."

- Jason ECID (ECID Loves You Blog)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

- John Bachman (Jumbled)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

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

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

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

I. Where did you grow up, man?

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

II. What are your earliest memories of the culture?

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

III. When did you first grab a mic?

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

IV. When/where did you first record?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIII. Any local acts you grew up listening to?

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