Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Career Crooks & Wrecking Crew Emcee Zilla Rocca Unleashes El Malito & Margel The Sophant-assisted "Lemon Drop" Stand-alone Single (produced by Matt "Schadillac" Schad)



"It's a song I always loved, but I could never figure where to place it, in terms of albums and such. I've performed it a few times and it always did well... I kind of Kanye'd the hook and had variations of it done by El Malito & Margel The Sophant, before I put it together the way it is now. I just wanted it... to be great because the beat is crazy and the story/concept is heavily indebted to this book, The Song Is You by Megan Abbott," Wrecking Crew & Career Crooks emcee Zilla Rocca wrote, via text Monday night, concerning his latest stand-alone single. "Lemon Drop" was released in a similar fashion to Zilla's recent influx of 90's Golden Age Hip-Hop-evoking Noir-Hop loosies: "98 Avirex Flow" and Ghostface Killah & Raekwon-flipping "Faster Blade Redux," which was fittingly premiered right here at The Witzard. Zilla Rocca further explained that it's his "goal to drop one song a month for 2017 and maybe compile them all" into an album-length mixtape or compilation at year's end. Julie Miller at The Key WXPN, who premiered "Lemon Drop," further recounted that it "draws its story from a 2007 crime novel, itself inspired by the infamous 1947 Black Dahlia murder in Hollywood. Creating his signature air of nostalgia, Zilla pulls us into a seedy world of high-stakes gambling, dim street corners, and femme fatales with smoky production and vivid, classic pulp fiction imagery." Zilla Rocca drew inspiration from Abbott's The Song Is You, his own unique Noir-Hop aesthetic, and references an imagined "Lost Boyz or Q-Tip song from the late 90's" when describing Austin-bred producer Schadillac's hand-crafted beat for "Lemon Drop."


Aside from his own efforts, Zilla has recently submitted remixes for CURTA's "Rap Trope Questionnaire" (here at The Witzard) and Iceberg Theory's "Scienta Sacra," as well as dusting off Nas "Hate Me Now"-flipping "Alive & Paid" for inclusion within recently folded World Around Records' final label-spanning We Are World Around (Vol. 6) Bandcamp compilation; with Zilla's help, and nearly the assistance of nearly everyone at the label, I was fortunate enough to assemble a rather expansive 2-part World Around Records send-off, chronicling Dr. Quandary, Hump Jones & Louis Mackey's storied history, as well as fielding and then, assembling submissions from nearly all of the involved rappers, producers, and label affiliates. Zilla and fellow Philly-based producer buddy Small Professor are currently gearing up to unleash their long-awaited "debut" full-length, Good Luck with That as Career Crooks. I know they've very recently inked a deal with Canadian Hip-Hop label URBNET to unleash Good Luck with That upon the terribly unsuspecting world this upcoming spring and I hear there might be some sort of Career Crooks mixtape/EP pre-release before then; in any case, Zilla Rocca & Small Professor's "Least Important, Most Important" is available for your listening pleasure above, as well as Sin Will Find You: The Collected Works of Zilla Rocca & Small Professor, available from Wrecking Crew's Bandcamp on an extremely reasonable Name-Your-Price basis.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

3 Feet High & Rising: Leeds-based Krrum Let Loose Hot Chip, Kanye, Thom Yorke, Bon Iver & Justice-inspired "Moon" from Forthcoming Summer 2017 EP (37 Adventures/+1 Records)



"Equal parts ethereal and infectious, "Moon" is a smoothly assured return from Krrum, with its early Metronomy or Hot Chip-inspired electronics enveloping a song which fundamentally deals, they say, "with the ritual of wanting to pursue a relationship with someone, but not wanting to jump the gun and ruin it. It's an uncomfortable place to be because you have no control and you're probably gonna mess it all up, like you always do,'" Krrum frontman Alex Carrie wrote within a recent Golightly Media press release. Krrum was founded by "spectacularly-bearded lead producer and song-writer Alex Carrie" around 2010 and sees to have recently morphed into a fully-fleshed out band, as their Facebook page repeatedly states, "Krrum is a band." It appears as though Krrum is often rounded out by lead vocalist and song-writer Harrison Warke—whom Carrie met while studying production at Leeds College of Music"Morphine" harmony vocalist and song-writer Curtis Thewlis-Johns, and potentially, a fourth currently unspecified member. Krrum recently listed their genre-spanning influences as James Blake, Clams Casino, Destiny's Child, MellowHype, Bon Iver, Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), Jai Paul, Father John Misty, Chemical Brothers, The Life of Peder producer Lido, ScHoolboy Q, Kid Cudi's "Rock" group WZRD, Caribou, and Radiohead on a recent NOTION Magazine-assembled mixtape.


Krrum's past releases include 2016 Evil Twin EP, which showcased "Morphine" and Complex-premiered "Evil Twin," Annie Mac presented "Blessing In a Black Dress," their aforementioned NOTION Magazine-complied mixtape, and a series of non-album (or EP) singles released in the past seven or so months: "Still Love," "Hard On You," a cover of Flume's "Never Be Like You," and now, "Moon." Its companion press release denotes that "Moon" "further refines this underlying passion for traditional song-writing; on one hand, confessional artists like Justin Vernon and Thom Yorke (and on the other, the beats of Kanye or the grooves of Justice.)" Krrum released "Moon" yesterday, March 23rd, on 37 Adventures/+1 Records, like their previous singles, all of which will likely be packaged on a forthcoming EP currently scheduled to be unveiled this summer. "Moon" is currently available for streaming on Soundcloud, Spotify, etc. and was accompanied by Solay Elibol-filmed, Krrum directed and produced DIY lyric video starring Millie Malir. It appears as though BIG THINGS are currently happening for Alex Carrie and his Krrum bandmates and I'm happy I'm just now first discovering them on the heels of "Moon" and their forthcoming Summer 2017 EP! For anyone who may not have previously heard of Krrum, I would likely best equate it to something along the lines of Passion Pit's 2008 Chunk of Change EP, Clams Casino's Instrumentals I-II mixtapes (2011-12), or maybe even TV On The Radio's critically-acclaimed Jazz/Art-Rock and Doo-Wop-inspired 2004 debut, Desperate Youth, Blood-thirsty Babes.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Providence, Rhode Island Emcee Spocka Summa Unleashes Last Child-produced The Progression 001 EP & Companion THE LIVE WIRE Issue 001 Comic Book (self-released, Summer88)



Michael J. Collins (MJC) is the founder of FilthyBroke Recordings and an extremely talented mixing and mastering engineer I've recently crossed paths with; Collins has had a hand in a number of releases I've covered here at The Witzard in recent weeks, including Walter Gross' Black Box Tapes-released VESTIGE and CURTA's forthcoming CLICK BAIT EP, as well as FilthyBroke's own Library Lunch: A Benefit Compilation for Anti-Bullying. Michael messaged me Wednesday morning with a private press stream to Providence, RI emcee Spocka Summa's then-unreleased The Progression 001 EP, which he fittingly called a "gift" to help me "get ahead of some of the press." Spocka Summa further detailed that "The Progression is Part 001 of a 3-part series of EP's. Entirely produced by my close friend Last Child; this first installment serves as an intro to two upcoming bigger projects. The Progression is the journey of myself and my thoughts about our world an The Internet. People are tied into social media now, more [than] ever. We are literally becoming robots mentally and metaphorically." Spocka Summa told me the main thing he drew stylistic influence from were the visuals; "we created a scene or scenario and made music that went along with it. Kinda like a backwards process." The Progression 001 EP spans six Last Child-produced tracks, which almost have an Electro-tinged Hip-Hop feel and seamlessly transitions into a companion 6-page comic book titled THE LIVE WIRE (issue 001.) Spocka Summa's 001 EP actually stems from his 2014 Last Child-produced stand-alone track, "The Progression" from his 3,000 Volts: Live Wire mixtape. "I liked the record so much and the idea of it, I decided to turn it into a project," Spocka continued. The Progression 001 EP is now available to stream and download from Spocka Summa's Bandcamp, Soundcloud, etc. pages and parts 002-003 should be expected to surface later this year.


"The Progression is Part 001 of a 3-part series of EP's. Entirely produced by my close friend Last Child; this first installment serves as an intro to two upcoming bigger projects. The Progression is the journey of myself and my thoughts about our world an The Internet. People are tied into social media now, more [than] ever. We are literally becoming robots mentally and metaphorically. So, the project starts on the audible side with music and then, after the sixth song, it transitions into a comic book also available on the website. It is a battle between staying an individual and trying not to become a robot. How can we progress with [technology] without becoming fully absorbed by it? A question I always ask my audience is: what is life without progression?"

- Spocka Summa on The Progression 001 EP


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

DIY Punk-influenced Skate Hip-Hop Jumbled Affiliate Cody Jones (Formerly Still Born Identity) Unleashes Joey Smooth-produced "The Last Working Dinosaur" [Surface Level Records]



"'The Last Working Dinosaur" is the first single by Cody Jones (formerly Stillborn Identity) from his upcoming project, Out with The Old, In With The New. Follow Your Heart & You’ll End Up Alone. Cody had been listening to a lot of Serengeti, at the time and was drawn to the idea of his writing not being confined by events and thoughts that were literally true. The theme of the track is inspired by his working relationship with his dad, who he saw doing everything a very "old school" way at Northgate Auto Body, the garage he [has] owned and worked in for the last 30 years," Cody Jones wrote within a recent press release. I first met Cody Jones (then still Stillborn Identity) through beatsmith John "Jumbled" Bachman, like many Baltimore and Philly area rappers and producers I've worked with over the course of the last year or so; "should've stayed in school—maybe been a journalist or blogger, but now I'm runnin' outta space like an alien jogger. And I gotta change my Rap name, if I wanna be a father (I am a father)," Jones tactfully rhymes on "Ineita Break" from Jumbled's [I wish it was longer]. I didn't exactly realize it then, but listening back to "Ineita Break" today in preparation for this very article, I know realize that he was making a clever allusion to his name change from Stillborn Identity to Cody Jones, likely because he was about to become a father. Cody told me he hard a hard time coming up with a new rapper name for his 29-year-old self and simply went with his government name because he "was tired of branding himself so many different ways between Stillborn Identity, The Throw Away Days, Internet Skateboards, Pitt Stop Booking, etc."


Cody Jones' Bandcamp page fittingly describes his music as "underground DIY Punk-influenced Skate Hip-Hop." He has an effortless, almost conversational, rhyming style akin to fellow Pennsylvanian Asher Roth, Homeboy Sandman, or even Paul's Boutique-era Beastie Boys, at times. "Cody saw his dad's work habits prehistoric in comparison to most other shops and so, "The Last Working Dinosaur" was born. On a car ride home from work one day while freestyling over a beat CD, the song pretty much wrote itself; inspired and exaggerated by true events. Originally, the song was recorded over a song that was released in 2013, but eventually, Joey Smooth (who also recorded the track) remixed it with some funky synths and heavy-duty bass lines. Jones' perfectly short and sweet statement continued. Cody Jones' first proper body of work since last summer's STLBRNcollabamonth2015, "The Last Working Dinosaur," is currently available to stream or download on his personal Bandcamp page; the aforementioned digi-single contains the dirty—available for FREE download, clean edit, Joey Smooth instrumental, and a cappella versions of "The Last Working Dinosaur" for an extremely reasonable $3.00 or more price tag. If you dig what you hear here, make sure to keep an eye and an ear out for Stillborn Identity's first proper project as Cody Jones: Out with The Old, In with The New. Follow Your Heart & You'll End Up Alone, which will be released at a currently unspecified date.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Baltimore "Talk Singer" Height Keech Waxes Poetic On Forthcoming MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN, Justin Barnes-directed "Trust No Blues" & STRANGE LOOKS Bonus EP Chuck Berry Medley (The Witzard Interview)


"Most of my favorites from 2016 have been from friends! ialive & Darko The Super from Philadelphia released a project called [Hell Hole] Store, which I picked up on tape. Height Keech from Baltimore has ventured off in a new direction on his Unending Blaze Vol. 1 EP. Local emcee and songstress Anna Notte put out her second EP and used one my of my favorite beats I’ve ever made called "Ppl Are Mean..." Baltimore "teacher, husband, beat-maker & dish washer" John "Jumbled" Bachman wrote within our 2016 published interview. I had simply asked Bachman to name a few of his personal favorite Hip-Hop releases from the past 6-8 months, but little did I know, I would eventually end up working with nearly ALL of the artists he had mentioned (besides Kanye) and countless Baltimore area friends, affiliates, and associates. Height Keech appeared on "Lamplight" from Jumbled's then just-released [I wish it was longer] album along with the likes of UllNevaNo, Berko Lover, Cody Jones (formerly Stillborn Identity), Dwell & salk. Bito Sureiya, Bigelow Riders, and infamous emcee Izaac aka Mick Boche. Since Unending Blaze Vol. 1 EP, Height briefly toured behind EP1 of a planned 3-part series, but soon realized his slightly overzealous Unending Blaze EP trilogy idea wasn't exactly making the same dent in people's minds, as initially intended.

"I believed in the music completely and I was wishing I had a way to release it that was as thorough and exciting as the music itself. I asked myself what would be the best possible way of releasing a record. Then, I decided to just wipe the slate clean and start doing all of those things, no matter how long it took or what kind of sacrifice it took to get it going," Height Keech revealed within a recent statement sent to The Witzard. Unending Blaze Vol. 1-3 EP's were essentially re-envisioned and tactfully morphed into Height's anxiously-anticipated eleventh album, MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN, which will effectively be released Tuesday, April 25th on his own Cold Rhymes Records. Please feel free to scroll down and thoroughly enjoy a rather comprehensive conversation I recently had with self-proclaimed "talk singer" Height Keech; sonically peppered with Height's latest Justin Barnes-directed "Trust No Blues" and Malt Disney-presented "Mind Moves The Mountain," as well as a Boom-Bap-leaning medley/mash-up of recently passed Rock "N" Roll pioneer Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock" & "County Line" recorded with Kate Ferencz from his MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN pre-order bonus EP, which I'm happy to be premiering within this very write-up!


Sincerely,

Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
On The Keys of Steel


I. Your website's About section reads: "I'm Height Keech. I'm a rapper/talk singer from Baltimore, Maryland..." what exactly is a "talk singer" and how does this phrase relate to your critically-acclaimed 2015 album, Talk Singer?

You know when singers skip the singing part and just talk the song to you? I arrived at a place where I was doing the same thing, skipping the Rap and just talking. At some point, writing a 16-bar Rap verse started to feel like a rote/played-out activity. The album Talk Singer is all based around these very un-Rap moments. I want to opt out of the show-and-prove part of Rap. I know how to rap and I know how to make beats and I want to use those tools to express, not to impress. Everybody knows that a rapper is supposed to rap, but a "talk singer" can do anything because it’s just a term I made up.


II. You and I have talked rather extensively about the connection between Unending Blaze Vol. 1 EP and its since abandoned 2-part EP follow-up and your upcoming album, MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN; however, would you care to briefly explain the storied relationship between the two projects to my readers?

The idea was to put out three EP's and eventually, partner with a label to re-release all the songs as a full-length. Last March, I was sitting alone in a motel room with the flu. I had the realization that no one is ever going to swoop in and help me with this project. I started thinking about what kind of help I would want (a vinyl pressing, tight videos that [would] come out promptly, etc.) I realized I could basically do all of that on my own and that I’d be better off for it. I decided to let all hopes of getting any major help for this project (or with any project) blow away and just figure out how to get exactly what I [wanted] on my own.


III. How does MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN differ from your previous albums–either because of how it may have been written, recorded, etc. or even how the final product ended up turning out?

This is my first self-produced sample-based album. I was the main producer on some of my past albums, (Bed of Seeds, ROCK AND ROLL, Talk Singer), but those were based around me playing live instruments and reverse-engineering it into beats. It’s taken a long time for me to come into my own as a sample-based beat-maker. Since I started making stuff in the 90’s, I’ve been surrounded by hyper-talented beat-makers. (Mickey Free, Shields, Jones.) I’ve been working toward doing my own thing as a beat-maker forever, but I knew I couldn’t half-step. I’ve spent the last couple years pushing to make beats that would be more right than anything anyone else could provide.

IV. What is the significance behind MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN's lead single, "Dead Rider Ride On," which was recently premiered over at Stereogum? It really seems like one Hell of a mission statement/album lead-off track!

When I wrote that, I was thinking about determination and resolve. A lot of my songs tell you to keep going and keep pushing in the face of apathy or hopelessness. That’s because that’s what you have to do, to keep functioning and creating as a small-time working musician. That’s what your life is about, and what you end up thinking about, being in the thick of it.


V. What can you tell me about the concepts behind the two music videos MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN has recently spawned, "Mind Moves The Mountain" and freshly debuted "Trust No Blues?"

"Mind Moves The Mountain" was directed by Malt Disney. He’s done several videos for a Buffalo rapper named Jack Toft, which is how I came to love his style. We didn’t come up with a plan or anything... my only stipulation was that I didn’t want to act in the video. It was basically just about getting out of the way and letting my man do his thing. "Trust No Blues" is by Justin Barnes. He’s a great friend and frequent collaborator. As we’ve worked on videos over the years, we’ve often talked about how we [could] do music videos that aren’t really "music videos" in the traditional sense. This one feels more like an art installation to me. I think he knocked it out of the park.


VI. Would you care to briefly describe your typical beat-making process for MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN? It really has a great overall feel, which at times, evokes Atmosphere, Johnny Cash, and even French Electro-Dance band Justice!

My strategy is to do a lot of listening. I know beat-makers that can look at a record cover and listen to 10 seconds of the first song and basically, ascertain what kind of samples will be on it and where they are, in a matter of minutes. I think that’s amazing, but I try to take the opposite approach; where I listen to things carefully from beginning to end. It’s good for me, in that I end up getting turned on to a lot of music I wouldn’t really get to soak in, if I was just needle-dropping. Once I find samples and loops that I like, the goal is to try to do something that’s transcendent with them, in some way. I usually find that’s there’s 20 things I could do to flesh out out the beat (adding elements, chopping up the sample in a crazy way, etc.) but there’s one thing I have to do, without which the sample is just a sample and not a real "beat." It’s all about finding out what that one thing is going to be and doing it!


VII. While reading through the Bandcamp-listed liner notes for MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN, I noticed various contributions from Detroit emcee Mister, Mickey Free (from Chappelle's Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories: Prince sketch?), Jen Tydings, Emily Slaughter, Brandon Lackey, and Eddie Logix. How did all of these talented artists come to get involved in your latest album and what were their assorted contributions?

Mister comes from an excellent Detroit group called Passalacqua. He’s had a banner year as a solo artist, knocking out thorough [collaborations] with people all over the country; from Mega Powers in Detroit to OT Ray Vizza in Little Rock to little old me in Baltimore. He has the lone guest-spot on the album. Brandon Lackey, Eddie Logix, and Mickey Free recorded the vocals. Mickey Free (no relation to Prince's man) mixed the album. He’s been one of my main partners for all my musical endeavors, since we were kids. Emily Slaughter is a good friend, with whom I’ve collaborated on many of my albums. She was part of a great Baltimore Rap group called AK Slaughter. Jen Tydings is a pro-singer/theatre person. She came in and knocked out all the singing parts in one go.


VIII. I recently noticed on your MIND MOVES THE MOUNTAIN Bandcamp page that "VINYL [PRE-ORDERS COME] WITH A DOWNLOAD CODE FOR THE TOP-SECRET STRANGE LOOKS BONUS EP;" would you care to divulge any particular information concerning this mysterious release?

STRANGE LOOKS is a three-song EP I put together as a bonus for anyone that forked over this hard-earned cash to buy the vinyl. I originally intended those three songs to be on the record, but it didn't work out, for timing reasons. The EP features collaborations with two amazing artists... Kate Ferencz and :3lON (Elon.) Kate and I do a medley/mash-up of Chuck Berry covers.


IX. You previously mentioned you and Kate Ferencz did a medley/mash-up of Chuck Berry covers for your STRANGE LOOKS EP, which I'm proud to be premiering here at The Witzard! What initially inspired yourself and Kate to record and effectively mash-up "Let It Rock" & "County Line?" What does it mean to you to have released such a fitting cover (today) in light of Chuck Berry's recent passing?

Thank you for thinking of this. That song was meant as an exclusive bonus for people who pre-ordered the new vinyl, but I feel like it’s only right to make it public now. The thing about the great early Rock "N" Roll is that everything that sets your soul on fire about modern music is all there... the simplicity and the mystery and the insane passion. Everyone that came along since, put their own twist on it, but anyone doing something meaningful with popular music is doing their version of [Chuck Berry's] "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man," if you ask me. I think casual music listeners might assume Chuck Berry had a few great songs and that he was just a guy that came up with a certain sound that caught on in a big way—as is sort of suggested in the movie Back to The Future. If you really dig into his history (I recommend the Chess Records Box Set), you’ll hear an inventive musician with a deep catalog of extremely crucial music. As much as his lyrics hammered home the idea of Rock "N" Roll as a new craze, his songs have the ghosts of R&B, Country, Jazz, and Blues in them. It’s really soul-stirring to take it all in and to reflect on how it all came to be.

X. Although I had only started hearing the name rather recently, it appears as though your 2014 album, Versus The Continental MC's was labelled as "Cold Rhymes 004." When and why did you decide to start your own label imprint with Cold Rhymes Records?

I started using that name when I put out my 2012 album, ROCK AND ROLL. Since then, it’s just been a name on the back of my self-released albums. This year, Cold Rhymes [Records] will turn into an actual label that puts out a roster of different acts.


XI. How has your Height Zone World podcast positively affected or inspired your recent albums? Do you have any immediate plans to collaborate with any of the rappers, producers, bands, etc. you've previously interviewed for your podcast?

Every single interview has been an interesting and inspiring experience. Things people say on the podcast stick with me and end up informing my approach to music or to life in general. It’s a great thing that’s come into my life and I try not to take it for granted.


XII. When can we expect to hear some new material from Shark Tank, your Hip-Hop group formed along with Grand Buffet's Lord Grunge and B-Rich? Is there anything planned, currently in-the-works, or nearing release?

Yes! The fourth Shark Tank album will be the next release on Cold Rhymes. Our mission this time was to steer away from the extremely zany/inside joke territory explored on our last album [Don't F**k with Us] and come with an concise album of straight heat.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

UNPOLISHED, UNHYPE, UNSOBER & UNRAP: Doc Savior & Heavy Rev Compile "Recipe for Never Sleep Playlist" In Conjunction with Mahatma Crowley-assisted Album (Akashic Vibrations Records)


Mahatma Crowley, a friend and frequent collaborator here at The Witzard, messaged me an MP3 of "KAYFABE" a few weeks ago from a then unnamed mystery artist he had recently taken under his wing and signed to his Akashic Vibrations Records. I guess the best way I could even begin to attempt to describe Doc Savior and in-house producer Heavy Rev's unique output would be to try to imagine what Kendrick Lamar might sound like, if he were rhyming over an album full of samples culled from Black Flag's first album with frontman Henry Rollins, 1981's Damaged. Crowley generally unleashes new musical projects on various seasonal solstices and Doc Savior & Heavy Rev's Never Sleep is no different—released today, march 20th on the Spring (Vernal) Equinox. Mahatma Crowley served as Creative Director on Doc & Rev's Never Sleep, which was assembled and recorded 100% independently with Crowley coming in after its completion to handle branding and promotion. It appears as though Mahatma Crowley, Doc Savior, and Heavy Rev are planning to collaborate on a number of as-yet-unannounced future projects. Lest we forget, I recently had the unique opportunity to premier Crowley's latest iLLMAGIC [PROJECT 2] mixtape right here at The Witzard, published along with a comprehensive interview conducted with the Occult Rap pioneer himself. As previously mentioned, Never Sleep is now available for your mass consumption and general bemusement, accompanied by a playlist chock-full of sources of influence and inspiration we're calling "Recipe for Never Sleep" compiled by partners-in-crime Doc Savior & Heavy Rev. Enjoy, ghouls & gals!


"Doc Savior and I connected in early 2016. He showed a deep respect for my music and I immediately checked out Doc & Heavy Rev's Crusade Cult. Our paths run parallel in the same direction. We each had our own focus, but knew eventually, we would form an unholy union. Now, is the time. I'm proud to give Never Sleep my stamp-of-approval, literally; The Beholder's Mark is on the cover. Our fates have become inextricably tied. Never Sleep contains our first collaboration. Doc & Rev both have contributions to my upcoming [PROJECT 3]. More is sure to come with time. I am Crusade Cult. Doc & Rev carry The Mark of The Beholder. We are Akashic Vibrations Records. All is one, one is all. The unholy union is sealed with the blood of those in this circle. Expect us or expect to get run over. #BEHOLDTHEMARK"

- Mahatma Crowley
Never Sleep Creative Director


I. Tyler The Creator - "Radicals"


Doc Savior: In the forming of the forming of the Crusade [Cult] sound, a lot of different music was going into it. We wanted to make something that was our own sound and go at it sort of loosely. In the beginning years, two emcees really stuck out to me, when I was trying to nail down how I wanted to approach this and they are Vinnie Paz and Tyler The Creator. Think what you want about Tyler now, [but] the guy is wildly talented, but when Rev first showed me the song "Radicals" off the GOBLIN album, I said, "I f**king love this." We were super tired of Conscious Hip-Hop and despite the fact that the issues that more message-driven groups are worth talking about and dealing with, we were just sick of hearing about it and wanted to write music that just says, "f**k it, we don’t care." The hook to "Radicals" is, "kill people, burn sh*t, f**k school" and I popped for it mercilessly. I heard it and a light just when on that said, "oh sh*t! I can literally just write whatever I want!"

Heavy Rev: Tyler opened my mind up to saying, "f**k it, do whatever you want" and if it sounds good to you, then, you are being true to yourself. Even if people don’t vibe on your music, they can still appreciate the fact that you did your own thing.

II. Vinnie Paz & Ill Bill – "Devils Rebels" [-feat. Crypt The Warchild]


Doc Savior: Vinnie Paz with Jedi Mind Tricks and Army of The Pharaohs, dude! Rev and I would just have too much to say about him. No doubt, one of the most influential people to both of us and I personally credit him for helping me find my own voice. Don’t get me started; easily, one of the most important emcees to me [in] my lifetime. While I was writing Never Sleep, I was listening heavily to Ill Bill & Vinnie Paz's Heavy Metal Kings. I can never get tired of that record. Especially, when I was writing Track #3 on Never Sleep, "All God Killers." It is impossible to hide how influential those dudes really are to me!

Heavy Rev: Vinnie Paz is one of the prominent guys to really combine the gritty side of both Punk and Hip-Hop genres. We listen to both genres [to no] end, so why not combine them? Paz did it and saw a lot of success over it, plus, it cemented him as his own emcee with his own style that up until recently, no one was really on.

III. Captain Murphy – Duality (full album)


Rev and I both agree that Crusade Cult would not be the thing it is today without Captain Murphy's Duality album. If you are not hip, watch the whole video on YouTube. Nothing even comes close! It is the perfect mixed-media album and Rev and I have sat down and watched the entire 30-minute video together more times than I can count.

IV. Run-D.M.C. – "King of Rock"


Run-D.M.C. is perhaps, the most personally important Hip-Hop group to me. On top of being legends, they were the group that my dad played over and over in the car every day [when] I was young. The self-titled album was the first record I ever bought in my life. Rev and I both agree that the track, "King of Rock" was so important in the blending of Rock music and Hip-Hop culture, if they hadn’t reached out like that, there [would be] no Punk/Hip-Hop Crusade Cult.

V. Dead Kennedys – "Holiday In Cambodia"


When I started writing Never Sleep, I knew that there was a lot of hate combined with a lot of humor that I personally needed to get out, but still wanted there to be some charm to the lyrics. Thinking about this, I listened heavily to the Dead Kennedys' Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. Jello Biafra’s satire was so important to me in developing a sense of humor with Never Sleep. It pushed me in the direction of writing these songs and lyrics that are so overly-aggressive and obscene and ridiculous that you would have to be pretty dense to not realize that most of this is a work. DK, mad important to my writing!

VI. Mahatma Crowley – "Glass Half-Empty"


There are a lot of musicians and groups I can say helped inspire the Never Sleep album, but there is one man who was not only an influence, but was also a direct part of all of this; Crowley is someone I genuinely just can’t compare to anyone. Not only is his flow absolutely unique, but his mind for music and the future is just unparalleled to anyone I've ever known. iLLMAGIC dropped months ago now and I still listen to "Glass Half-Empty" at least once a week. When we first started talking, I was just happy to talk to someone who understood the niche of Occult Hip-Hop, now it is a friendship that I cherish and am beyond proud to wear The Beholder's Mark. We both knew we had separate paths that were heading in the same direction. Crowley has it all in wit, composure, and focus and it translates directly into his music. This album would not be what it is without him.

VII. The Acacia Strain - "JFC"


While Rev and I were talking about the sound we wanted to have for Never Sleep, there is one song I listened to over and over and that is "JFC" by The Acacia Strain. This band is so heavy and so p*ssed and when that song comes on and I hear, "I am the end of the world," I just start head-banging uncontrollably. That was when we really decided to start incorporating the Hardcore and Punk music that we grew up with and loved into something we could call our own.

VIII. Craig Xen – "Isis"


I have nothing really deep to say about this track, other than, Rev and I banged this sh*t heavy. A lot of people that hear Never Sleep might think the lyrics are a little blunt or lazy, but I know myself and I know that I love bold, short statements and I wanted every line to be a punch in the face. So, if you think our music is minimalist, don’t even try [listening to] this track.

IX. Cattle Decapitation – "The Gardeners of Eden"


One album that will forever be in my Top 5 of all time is Cattle Decapitation's The Harvest Floor. I cannot put this album over enough. These dudes write some really brutal music that frequently explores the theme of total human extinction; not a far stretch from what we’re talking about. One of the most talented bands of all time! When this album dropped, I sat and read the lyric book front to back on repeat and when it came time to start writing Never Sleep, I sat and read it all over again.

X. Morning Glory – "Gimme Heroine"


I don’t know how much it really played into influencing our album, but while we were recording, Morning Glory's The Whole World Is Watching album was on every single day for me.

*** So, without really any explanation, these are some other tracks that were listened to heavily, while writing Never Sleep (BONUS TRACKS) ***

XI. Toxic Narcotic – "People Suck"
XII. System of a Down – "B.Y.O.B."
XIII. Operation Ivy – "Room Without a Window"
XIV. Dr. Dre – "Let Me Ride" [-feat. Jewell & Snoop Doggy Dogg]




Friday, March 17, 2017

Jonti Recruits The Internet's Kid-Genius Steve Lacy, Midnight Mutant Moses "Mohi" MacRae, Jo Ling, James Domeyko & Jack Prest for, "Scrood" First Single In Over 5 Years (Stones Throw)



"The "Scrood" video was directed by @captainearwax [Daniel 'O Toole]. He makes videos similarly to how I make music, by meshing together analog and digital layers to create a certain feeling or mood; in contrast to my other videos, which are more straight-forward narrative-based. It was a super fun process and I'm blessed that we got to do this," @jontidanimals wrote within a heart-felt March 16th Instagram post. "Scrood" is Jonti's first proper single in over five years and his first piece of original material since submitting beats for "BARBELL," "Laguna," and "Turkuoise," which appeared on long-time friend and collaborator Hodgy's 2016 Columbia/Odd Future Records debut, Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide. I've spoken with Jonti pretty regularly over the years passed since his last album-length mixtape, Sine & Moon (2012) and I know's been diligently working on this as-yet-untitled Stones Throw album, in a number of permutations, for roughly the past 3-5 years—and from the sounds of it, I think this piece of work is going to far surpass his previous collection of material!


"'Scrood" was born out of a late night jam with Steve Lacy in Los Angeles last June... when I took it home, I envisioned a story to go with it of a man walking through a burning city to get to this person he loves. Which is a metaphor, saying that even though it feels like the world is falling apart, I'm still going to try do my best and soldier forward with love," Jonti further revealed within a statement published on Stones Throw. "Scrood" features guitar, bass and vocal work from The Internet's 17-year-old (or arguably, 19-year-old) "rising kid-genius" Steve Lacy, as well as drum work from Moses "Mohi" MacRae, violin and strings from "one-person orchestra" Jo Ling, violinist James Domeyko, and mixing done by Jack Prest. Although a solid release date has yet to be announced, it appears as though Jonti's proper Sine & Moon follow-up is now, only imminent and will be issued by Stones Throw and Australian Indie record label, artist management team, touring agency, and music publisher Future Classic. Jonti apparently formed a new collective, Midnight Mutants, around Sept. 2016, which I'm lead to believe, with a bit of Instagram diggin' and detective work, includes fellow Australian musicians Steve "Bassgod" Adler, Mohi, Daniel "Bus Vipers" Ahern, Antonia Gauci, and an additional unspecified member, all of whom Jonti deemed his "music brothers" and further revealed "play a big part [in his] next record, too."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lushlife Unleashes First "New" Grizzly Bear Song In Some 5 Years with "Foreground" for Ever-evolving A SONG A DAY KEEPS THE PAIN AWAY Benefit Comp. (Rough Trade Publishing)



"When I was asked to contribute to Rough Trade Publishing's A Song A Day to Keep The Pain Away (#SADRTP) benefit project, covering Grizzly Bear's outstanding album cut, "Foreground" somehow felt like the right starting point; in the moment, I was reacting to the Trump Administration's Muslim Ban, projecting a song about a relationship falling apart onto man and country," one-time Das Racist affiliate and frequent Heems collaborator Lushlife wrote within a recent statement. "Foreground" was released on Day #74 of a planned 90-day initiative by Rough Trade Publishing, which they vehemently attest aims to "help a little with the pain and perhaps, even inspire you. We hope so. We all need to be doing whatever we can to make 2017 a better tomorrow." Previous prescribers to their A Song A Day Keeps The Pain Away benefit comp. include Sondre Lerche, Nada Surf, King Khan, A Place to Bury Strangers, Superchunk, awesomely-named Prism Tats, Juliana Hatfield, and countless talented artists. "Foreground" originally appeared within Grizzly Bears critically-acclaimed 2009 Warp Records album, Veckatimest; although, they've been relatively quiet since its 2012 follow-up Shields, it appears as though frontman Ed Droste and Grizzly Bear bandmates Daniel Rossen, Christopher Bear, and Chris Taylor are currently hard at work writing and recording their long-awaited fifth studio album for imminent release.


Lushlife is certainly no stranger to recording and releasing inventive genre-spanning covers, as he has currently re-worked or expertly interpolated the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Billy Idol+French-Italian Horror film, French Coldwave pioneers Asylum Party, R. Stevie Moore with fellow Philadelphian Zilla Rocca, and Kanye & The Beach Boys for a fittingly-titled 2005 mash-up album, West Sounds. "As the administration's anti-immigrant policies predictably set ablaze a rash of hate crimes against Indian-Americans and other minorities (a topic I recently wrote an op-ed about in the Washington Post), the track's book-ending rhymes about xenophobia and nationalism took on a heightened urgency. Ultimately though, my goal was to re-interpret Grizzly Bear's plaintive joint with buoyant marching drums and fizzy Pop synths to emote something hopeful for these bleak times," Rough Trade Publishing's recent press release continued. Lushlife's like-minded MY IDOLS ARE DEAD + MY ENEMIES ARE IN POWER mixtape was unleashed upon the terribly dumbfounded world on the eve of Donald Trump's presidency with 100% of proceeds earned being donated to the ACLU. I was lucky enough to personally speak with Raj Haldar (Lushlife) and publish a comprehensive 5-question Idols + Enemies-centric interview right here at The Witzard!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Run It Back: Revisiting STATIC BROTHERS' Blood-curdling 2016 "Glitch-Hop/Noise-Rap" OBSTETRIC TRASH EP & Career Retrospective (U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART)



Static Brothers' Facebook Story fittingly describes their unique style of music as "bizarro spaced out drone trip-hop based out of Philadelphia, PA" and later, labels their Genre as "DIY GRIT-HOP NOISE-RAP" or "Blackhole Shoegaze Noise-Rap." Joe Hughes (DJ DM) and emcees A Dead Fox & Riff Quantum founded Static Brothers back around 2009-10 while attending college together and spent a few years conceptualizing what the group should be and collectively taking part in freestyle sessions, verse-writing, and brainstorming; Static Brothers' first official show as "a trisecting Noise-form" was in 2011 when JE Double F booked them for an Illogic show in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A Dead Fox parted ways with the group sometime between 2015-17, although, he still appears on their latest release, OBSTETRIC TRASH EP. Static Brothers quietly released their 2013 debut Ro6o6i6le on New Jersey-based "records, tapes, and 'zines" label Quone City Press. Static Brothers then unleashed their second release, OBSTETRIC TRASH EP, on fellow Philadelphian Darko The Super's U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART (UDDTBA) label towards the end of July 2016. Will Mellor of HIVELORDS recorded, mixed, and mastered OBSTETRIC TRASH in its entirety.


"Considering our style and sound, Will's expertise from recording numerous Metal and Punk bands from the Philadelphia area was valuable in capturing the intensity of our music," Static Brothers wrote within a recent Twitter-sent statement. Riff Quantum & DJ DM readily list Dälek, Death Grips, El-P, and Aesop Rock as sources of influence, as well as Philly-based "Queer Thrash Punk" band +HIRS+, JE Double F, and Baltimore spitter Height Keech. OBSTETRIC TRASH EP is currently available from UDDTBA's Bandcamp page in either digital download or pink cassette formats, both priced at $5.00 or more. Ro6o6i6le is currently available for FREE download at Static-Brothers.com by simply clicking on the "music" tab, as well as well as "a sweet old, old rough track hidden on the page" (a few new live recordings are coming to the site soon). Static Brothers are tentatively planning to release OBSTETRIC TRASH EP's follow-up this upcoming summer, as well as a 360° VR animated video that should be coming soon. Riff Quantum & DJ DM recently submitted a Noise-Rap track, titled "electorate onset," for a 35-track Noise for Hire comp. assembled by Jackson, New Jersey's own Noise enthusiast Nergali Erinyes/Shadow Figures. It appears as though OBSTETRIC TRASH EP is likely the best and arguably, most fully-formed place to start, but it seems Static Brothers have been diligently concocting infectious Noise-Rap long before Death Grips made it a bit more commercially accessible and garnered wide-spread acclaim!


"OBSTETRIC TRASH [EP] was constructed over the course of a few years, experimenting and evaluating new songs during live performances. Songs were added, dropped, or edited depending on how effective we felt they performed live, with the final tracklist ultimately floating to the top over time. Using this approach, we felt it was appropriate to record live, in order to obtain a sound as close to the live performance as possible. Tracks such as "We Made You" and "Wet Photophores" are built from scratch, so there are certain nuances to those tracks that are different each time they are performed, which was a challenge when recording versions to be set in stone.

On OBSTETRIC TRASH, we experimented with different compositions to create interesting song structures. Rap songs don't have to always be four minutes long with three verses and two hooks in between... When you have a lot of material that you're really hyped about, your first instinct can be to play all of it for 40 minutes or longer because you want everyone to hear how awesome all of it is, but this can actually be counterproductive. Recently, our intention has been to pack as much into 15-17 minutes as possible, rip the crowds faces off, and then, leave them wanting more, which we feel has been a successful approach, so far."

- Riff Quantum & DJ DM (Static Brothers)

"Samurai Banana talks about a new co-worker and his weird relationship with Hip-Hop, then plays a stacked line-up of that dope sh!t... PLAYING TRACKS BY: Elucid, Lushlife, Moka Only, Kid Koala, [Static Brothers,] Graves 33 & Diógenes, and more."

Monday, March 13, 2017

Philly Noir-Hop Rapper-producer Zilla Rocca Re-contextualizes & Remixes CURTA's "Rap Trope Questionnaire" & CLICK BAIT EP Announcement (The Witzard Premier)



"'Rap Trope Questionnaire" is kind of a round-about way of talking about being manic depressive, but from the perspective of someone inhabiting an arena where that sort of behavior is welcomed and even encouraged. It is like an asset in some ways to be able to turn the personality up to 150%, even if it is "blindness to kick bliss in the shin and put my emotional win on display again" (yuck, quoting [myself] feels gross!)" CURTA emcee Jake recently wrote within an emailed statement. CURTA was formed in Colorado a number of years ago because, as Jake puts it, he simply "wanted to make music that was not beholden to prior ideas of what a "band" should be;" often labeling themselves as a Glitch-Hop or Art-Rap group, CURTA and in-house producer 4Digit readily cite Pavement, Coil, Saul Williams, and Pere Ubu as immediate sources of influence and inspiration. Zilla Rocca, a close friend and frequent collaborator here at The Witzard, emailed me and asked me if I would be interested in premiering a remix he recently concocted for some buddies, which ended up being CURTA & 4Digit. "I was supposed to do a show in Philly with CURTA as Career Crooks with Small [Professor], but things came up and we couldn't do it. So, as a consolation, I asked them if I could remix one of their songs. They passed along "Rap Trope Questionnaire" and I just listened to the a capella for a while. Usually, I hear a song I like and know how to approach the remix—it's typically a contrast to the original in some way. With the CURTA joint, I didn't want to hear the song; just wanted the BPM, so I could just have an original idea for the composition, rather than reacting to a song," Zilla Rocca revealed within his own emailed statement.


I'm very proud to present, without further ado: the world premier of Philly Noir-Hop rapper-producer Zilla Rocca's "Rap Trope Questionnaire" remix right here at The Witzard. "Rap Trope Questionnaire" originally appeared within CURTA's last full-length release, 2015-release Replica and was "re-contextualized" from a sparse, yet aggressive Nine Inch Nails-leaning Boom-Bap affair into an even more stripped down drum and piano-led composition reminiscent of Def Jam/American Recordings founder Rick Rubin's unique brand of reduced Hip-Hop. "The reason this remix is cool, is I feel that it brings out a vulnerability in the vocals that I didn't really notice in the original version. This is a song about some rather direction-less, arguably unimportant identity questions... So, I like that that kind of sing-songy, almost sad aspect has been given light with the remix and the piano he used. Because these questions do hold some weight for me as CURTA. Also, in sticking with the manic aspect of the lyrics, I dig the way he flips it into a whole different beat about halfway through. Good sh*t, Zilla!" CURTA commented on Zilla Rocca's remix. CURTA has announced an entirely 4Digit-produced EP fittingly titled CLICK BAIT, which will be released on FilthyBroke Recordings and French-based Hello LA on April 1st and is currently available for pre-order. It will showcase six unique Glitch-Hop tracks and features two lone features from Serengetti alter ego Kenny Dennis and Offal King with mastering handled by MANMADEMADMAN; while Zilla Rocca and partner-in-crime Small Professor, on the other hand, announced they've inked a deal with Canadian Hip-Hop imprint URBNET to release their long-rumored joint album as Career Crooks, Good Luck with That.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Witzard Premier: Mega Ran's Fresh Kils & DJ DN3-produced Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live EP On 20th Anniversary of Biggie's Death (Plus "Lyrically..." Music Video & Exclusive Interview)


"20 years to the day of the tragic murder of rapper The Notorious B.I.G. Mega Ran offers this heartfelt creative tribute to the man they called Biggie. Ran and producers Fresh Kils & DJ DN3 cleverly re-sample 10 classic B.I.G. bangers, adding new lyrics and perspective to the sounds of the legendary emcee. Narrated by Ran's childhood friend, Notorious R.A.N. revisits the feeling, the rhymes, and the charm of the fallen Hip-Hop hero, while continuing Mega Ran's track record of quality releases," reads an emailed press release sent along with Mega Ran's Biggie tribute mixtape, Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live. As Ran (formerly Random) states, he's releasing Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live today on March 9, 2017—the 20th anniversary of Christopher "Biggie" Wallace's tragic murder—with little to no prior press. I believe I first worked with Mega Ran, then still Random aka Mega Ran, around the time of his 2010 video game-sampling album, Forever Famicom, which was produced by our mutual friend and acquaintance K-Murdock. I recently reached back out to Mega Ran, who's currently travelling on the coast-to-coast Beavis & Butt-head-referencing MC LARS & MEGA RAN EXPERIENCE 2017 Tour, on a whim and he told me about two currently in-the-works EP's and a then as-yet-unannounced Notorious B.I.G. tribute project.

He's managed to keep the latter a pretty tight-lipped, under wraps project until today—previously only reaching out in two similar-minded fan club email and Facebook calls-to-action proclaiming: "MY NEXT ALBUM NEEDS A TITLE. I'm working on a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. It's coming out March 9, 20 years to the date of his tragic (and still unsolved) murder. But it needs a title! Are you a bad enough dude to try?" So, with all that said and without further ado, I'm proud to present Mega Ran's Fresh Kils & DJ DN3-produced Biggie tribute, Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live... along with a comprehensive interview with the video game and wrestling-loving emcee himself, as well as an Odin Magana-directed music video for EP stand-out "Lyrically;" "I hit 20 different thrift stores to find the sweater and hit the lab with Biggie on the brain. It's an honor to be able to create and be inspired by greatness," as Mega Ran perfectly put it within a recent email exchange. Enjoy and please, feel free to pick Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live from Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, etc. and keep an eye and ear out for more heat and cold hard rhymes from Mega Ran!


Sincerely,

Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Your Hip-Hop Hooray Hey... Ho-host



I. "[Mega] Ran and producers Fresh Kils & DJ DN3 cleverly re-sample 10 classic B.I.G. bangers, adding new lyrics and perspective to the sounds of the legendary emcee," reads part of your Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live press release. What exactly inspired you to record and release a Biggie-centric album 20 years to the day of the tragic murder of the notorious rapper?

I'm big on dates and their significance... every project I've put out has been connected to an important date in my life. On March 9, 1997, I was 20 years old, living my life, and anxiously awaiting B.I.G.'s new album [Life After Death] and ready for him to change the game. Then, tragedy struck. So, this is a day that is one [of] the top five days for me—one that I won't ever forget. He was and is a huge inspiration for me, so I wanted to make a tasteful, fun tribute to my favorite emcee.


II. What was the typical process for writing and recording your Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live compositions? Did you and producers Fresh Kils & DJ DN3 largely sample Biggie's tracks or the originals he and his producers once sampled?

We did a little of both. Kils and DN3 are both true [crate-]diggers, so for that reason, no one wanted to directly sample or just re-play existing Biggie loops; we wanted to freak them in a new way, but make sure that people could still recognize where it came from. So, we re-listened to all the original tracks, then broke them apart, re-building them from the ground up, and then, added our own flavor on top of them.


III. What does The Notorious B.I.G. mean to you and can you remember the first time you ever heard his music? Dare I ask you to select a favorite Biggie album or track?

B.I.G.'s music has always touched me in a special way. I think it was "Party & Bullsh*t" from the Who's The Man? Soundtrack. My ears instantly perked up when I heard the track, his super-flow and distinctive delivery; been scrambling since then to get more!

Man, too many favorites to name. He was one of the few emcees that could tell a story just as well as he could rip emcees up. Any song was always captivating.


IV. Would you care to briefly talk about the cleverly spliced-together "Donald Trump put fear in your heart... F**k up the party before it even start" portion of "Got a Story to Tell?" How did you and your producers come up with that clever little nugget and what type of message or call-to-action do you ideally, intend for it to deliver?

MAN! My jaw hit the floor when I heard that. The expert scratching on the album is handled by Fresh Kils' homies Uncle Fester & The Crate Crusaders. The latter did that one and it couldn't have been more precise; that wasn't even something my brain could have come up with; that was just excellent!

As far as a message, I just wanted the whole song to capture how absolutely astounded I was from the results of the election... nothing against anyone, just in the support of human decency, I was stunned. I just knew he couldn't win. So, to wake up the next morning and realize that it wasn't all a dream, to paraphrase B.I.G. I knew that I could find a way to make this into a song. While researching for this, I came across "Story to Tell" and realized that would be the best way. As a teacher, I would try to get my students to become more expressive in writing by asking them, "if you were talking to a space alien about this, would he be able to understand?" B.I.G. was great at that, probably one of the most expressive and thorough story-teller Hip-Hop has ever known.


V. What was the hardest part about meticulously re-visiting and re-working a collection of your Biggie favorites like "10 Crack Commandments," "Big Poppa," "Kick In The Door," and Pudgee's Notorious B.I.G. & Lord Tariq-featuring "Think Big" (also sampled by Pusha T & Timbaland)? Did you ever feel oddly close to Biggie while re-working his tracks?

The hardest part is walking the line... the line between tribute and original work. As an emcee you want to showcase your own skill set and tailor a situation to your own, but when creating a tribute work, you have to maintain the original spirit and intention of the artist you're drawing inspiration from. That was hard, mainly because I wanted to avoid profanity and really explicit themes and Biggie was full of those haha. But that was his charm, he could tell the most amazing story and have you not even noticing that the record was full of swears and you wouldn't even care. I just wanted to make something B.I.G. and Mrs. Wallace would be proud to listen to.


VI. Its press release states that Notorious R.A.N. is narrated by one of your childhood friends; would you care to reveal who said friend is and why you chose to recruit him or her, in particular, to narrate your latest release?

My homie James aka JC. He was there when I first heard B.I.G; he cut school with me to go and get Ready to Die from the record store... the dude I called when I heard B.I.G. was murdered. I felt like because he was so connected to pretty much every Biggie moment I have—he was the best guy to do it. B.I.G. was all about putting the homies on, with Junior M.A.F.I.A. and in so many of his lines... so, I wanted to do what he would do... hold it down and give the homies a moment to shine and this was the perfect opportunity. JC is a great spokesman and rep for the old block and just as big of a Biggie fan as I am, so it just fit... Spread love, it's the Brooklyn way!


VII. How do you feel about Biggie & Dilla's seemingly unfinished collaborative tracks "Dangerous MC's/The Ugliest" and okayplayer-premiered "Kick In The Door" (J Dilla Remix) being out there in the ether and spread across Internet Hip-Hop forums like wildfire?

I'm not a big fan of putting out or spreading songs from artists that are no longer with us, after their death... it just seems strange. We don't know if Dilla or B.I.G. wanted those out and for that reason, I can't fully enjoy it. I wish they were both here to give us all the clearance to rock those tracks, but it's all love—I'm sure that's all it is. People can't get enough.


VIII. Would you care to name a few of your favorite Biggie "deep cuts" (not included within Notorious R.A.N.)? Please, briefly explain why exactly you selected each.

Mostly guest verses... I was that guy who had to have everything Biggie appeared on, even wrote on. Loved the track "The Points" on the Panther soundtrack, his verse on Shaq's "[You] Can't Stop The Reign," so much stuff. Before Ready to Die, I copped The Best of [Notorious B.I.G.] tape that Mister Cee dropped and remember there being so many gems on that album that I had to go and dig for. Most of them used such blatant huge samples that I didn't have the budget to even thinking about re-producing, but there's so many; as dope as he was, B.I.G. managed to bust out his best stuff on remixes and guest spots, which made you have to collect them all.


IX. I'm just gonna go out on a limb here and assume Biggie is your all-time favorite rapper, but if you ever had the opportunity, who else's material would you like to highlight and re-work across an album/EP in a similar fashion to Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live?

Of course! Man, if [I] ever were to do something like this with another artist, I feel like it would be Guru/Gang Starr. Guru is probably the reason I started rapping. I'd love to explore my favorite Gang Starr tracks and work on a tribute to him and DJ Premier, maybe one day.


X. In addition to Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live, what else are you currently working on and prepping for release? Do you have any immediate plans to hit the studio and record anything with your current touring partner, MC Lars?

Yes, touring with with Lars is always fun. We're working on some new tracks for a literature-themed LP and we've been playing pieces of them live and it's been getting great reactions. Can't wait to put that out this Fall sometime. Also, working on some more wrestling-themed tracks for Mat Mania 2 with Lynx Kinetic and much more.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"High Desert Crunch Meets City Life Punch" On Clutchy Hopkins & Fat Albert Einstein's Visionary Folk-Funk Instrumental Hip-Hop Album, high desert low tide (Aural Tradition Records)



"Clutchy Hopkins is the son of a Motown recording engineer. As a young man, Clutchy traveled the globe exploring exotic music, rhythms, and mysticism. He worked at recording studios in Bombay to Cairo and studied musical techniques of the Cahuilla Indians, Rinzai Zen monks in Japan, and Tribal drummers in Ethiopia. Returning to the US in the 90's, Clutchy worked as a session musician on obscure Funk and Jazz records; he was rumored to have collaborated with Moondog," reads the introductory paragraph of Clutchy Hopkins' Facebook-published Biography. Hopkins, by his own submission, "is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, covered in tape hiss, and deep-fried in a pot of melted Funk" and the story goes that although he recorded music throughout his travels over the years, his music only first saw a wider release as recently as 2005. The Life of Clutchy Hopkins was likely culled from "a crate of reel-to-reel tapes discovered amid boxes of old, home-made musical instruments and electronics at a flea market outside Los Angeles" and seemingly cleared for release on Crate Digler by Clutchy's daughter, Kelly Hopkins.


Since first appearing on the Instrumental Hip-Hop/Folk-Funk scene around 2005, the question has often been raised, "who is Clutchy Hopkins?" and many investigative journalists, like myself, have hypothesized that Clutchy Hopkins' true identity may, in fact, be that of producers and multi-instrumentalists like Madlib, Cut Chemist, DJ Shadow, Money Mark, Beastie Boy Mike D, DJ Nu-Mark, Danger Mouse, Beck, DOOM, or frequent Clutchy collaborators like Shawn Lee, Lord Kenjamin, or Fat Albert Einstein. I, myself, tend to tend to believe that Clutchy Hopkins' true identity is either that of frequent pseudonym-using producer Cut Chemist, Madlib, or recent collaborator Chris "Fat Albert Einstein" Vagnoni—case in point, WHO IS CLUTCHY HOPKINS? SIGHTING NO. 9: "yeah, so, I met Clutchy... like, at this show... this random, like small show down in Arizona and um, he went by Chris Hopkins or somethin' like that" recounts an aspiring young producer-DJ at about 2-minutes into Ubiquity Records' Walking [Sdrawkcab]-promoting Clutchy Hopkins - Northwest Sightings (2008) documentary-style video. CHRIS HOPKINS?!!!??!


"Clutchy & Fatty... High desert crunch meets city life punch for this collaborative project in sound. Instrumental elements of Soul, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Rock, and more resonate throughout the record. Acoustic and electric instrumentation set the tone and in their individual [styles]; Clutchy & Fatty navigate your journey through Psych-Folk caverns of cactus dust to bloodshot rust-covered marine layer Funk. It is distinctive, original, and fresh, paying homage to the past, present, and future. Visionary Folk-Funk," reads a rather vague album description attached to Clutchy Hopkins & Fat Albert Einstein (or "Clutchy N' Fatty")'s Bandcamp page. Their collaborative album, high desert low tide, was quietly released last Friday, March 3rd on Aural Tradition Records and Crate Digler Publishing. It's Clutchy's first widely available collection of music since his 2010 Ubiquity Records album, The Story Teller and The Life of Eugene Harrington—a record effectively released by an artist with a pseudonym under a different pseudonym—released on NOECHO Records in June of the same year. high desert low tide's sessions likely date back to about 2009 and showcase the talents of a wide array of Clutchy N' Fatty's friends and players including: Brendan Willard on tenor and baritone sax, cellist Peter Jacobson, Estin Lipscomb on guitar, organ and banjo uke(?), and flutist Juice Brock. high desert low tide was mixed by Fat Albert Einstein and mastered by Benjamin Tierney, who has previously provided instrumentation, production, or engineering/mixing assistance on records by De La Soul, DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist, The Gaslamp Killer, Kamasi Washington, Sa-Ra producer Shafiq Husayn, and Vox Populi! & Pacific 231 (presented by Cut Chemist). high desert low tide is now currently available for streaming and purchase in a number of formats ranging from standard or limited edition signed vinyl to cassette, CD, and digital download on Clutchy & Fatty's newly-launched Bandcamp page.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Walter Gross - VESTIGE Cassette: The Witzard Album Review & WG Selects His Current Favorite Music, Books & Films, Etc. Playlist (Black Box Tapes/Alpha Pup Records)



"Walter Gross is truly a one of a kind artist, iconoclast and a master of many mediums. He is mainly known for his experimental audio soundscapes, which inhabit a space between Dustbowl Folk re-appropriations, walls of noise, sludgy Trap, Rap, and Prog-Rock. It's easy to throw a bunch of catchphrases together and make a bio seem compelling, but Walter truly walks these lines with grace and originality. Beyond being a music-maker, he is a film director and visual artist. His videos are obsessive collages and unlike so many who utilizes "found art," he brings these pieces to life and creates stunning and unique pieces with them," Black Box Tapes label head and Socially Conscious rapper-producer Tim "sole" Holland wrote within a recent BIO on Walter Gross' Bandcamp. Gross is a Baltimore transplant now living in Berlin, who has been making his own unique slightly Hip-Hop-leaning music and frantic video collages since about 2007. "VESTIGE was born out of a cathartic pain-staking process of stripping away my identity, exiting America, surviving Europe, creating in less than ideal circumstances with the least amount of resources I've ever had; while spending the most amount of time on any record, while subsequently losing all the source material in my MPC just a week before completion," Walter Gross wrote within a statement on Bandcamp. His latest release, VESTIGE was entirely written, produced, and mixed by Gross himself with mastering done by Michael J. Collins at FilthyBroke Recordings and a lone feature from SMALL BUT HARD-signed Experimental violinist Kathy Alberici (credited on VESTIGE as "Bocca al Lupo").


Walter Gross constructed and recorded VESTIGE from the ground up, creating everything from scratch and then, meticulously sampling himself... there is, however, one noticeable lone sample: Nicki Minaj's ferocious, hard-as-nails verse from "Who's Ya Best MC?" from her 2008 Young Money mixtape, Sucka Free, which Gross says was simply "an old freestyle from youtube, [it] was sort of a happy accident I threw on there just because." Nicki can be heard spittin' nearly 26 bars beneath Walter Gross' murky, almost eerily subdued production work on "Window" and even though it feels a bit out of place at first, totally works! I think the best way to ultimately describe VESTIGE and Gross' expansive body of work is that it sounds like Trent Reznor & Dr. Dre's fabled collaborative album/EP they may or may not have recorded together around the same time as Nine Inch Nails' Industrial Rock and Hip-Hop-melding 1999 double-album, The Fragile. VESTIGE is currently available for purchase for between $10-11 on either limited edition (to 100) Black Box Tapes/Alpha Pup Records cassette or digital download from Walter Gross' Bandcamp page, along with a plethora of unique, genuinely genre-less musical creations. Walter was kind enough to assemble a multi-media playlist of sorts containing his current favorite music, books, films, etc. which you can peruse through down below! Ideally, you should be able to download VESTIGE and read, watch, or listen along with the mixed media WG listed below and see if you can connect the dots yourself!



MUSIC:

(I) The Savage Young Taterbug - Shadow of Marlboro Man

I've been a huge fan of Iowa bred-weirdo Taterbug for some years now. He was making this super-dusty Lo-fi "Pop" music that was beautiful, but this latest album of his from 2016 takes it to a supreme other lovely. He looks like he just crawled out of the corn fields and the music lives up to the crusty mystique. Highly recommended!

(II) Abul Mogard - Works

Apparently, this fella retired from a life of factory work in Serbia and started making ambient synthesizer music. It is an amazing piece full of dark beauty and wonder. I especially enjoy listening to this over and over, while I'm reading in Turkish cafes in Berlin.

(III) Black Pus/Oozing Wound - Thrill Jockey Split 12-inch

This is just great Rock "N" Roll. I love the Oozing Wound stuff—its dirty riffs, nasty drums, and all feels.


BOOKS:

(I) Paracelsus & The Substance of His Teaching - Franz Hartmann

A great summary of the 16th century rogue physician/polymath. Very fascinating and his approach to learning is quite inspirational.

(II) The Fourth Way - P.D. Ouspensky

A concise introduction to the teachings of the Greek/Armenia 20th century mystic, G.I. Gurdjieff. It has really helped me sort [out] my own dumb brain and very useful to anyone interested in getting out of themselves and directing your mind appropriately in this crazy f**king world.

(III) Meditations - Marcus Aurelius

This is a collection from a Roman Emperor's journals; he was a stoic philosopher and it inter-twines nicely with The Fourth Way. Also, very helpful and conducive to cultivating a noble approach to everyday life.


MOVIES:

(I) Manchester By The Sea
Written & Directed By: Kenneth Lonergan


This movie is essentially flawless. Solid writing, great acting, beautiful music; was very nice to see in an empty theatre on a rainy gray day.

(II) The Fits
Directed By: Anna Rose Holmer


Simple, poetic, magical film-making—particularly for a debut.


ENTERTAINMENT:


(I) Rick Alverson

If you've ever heard or seen Neil Hamburger (aka Gregg Turkington) then, you'll appreciate this bleak portrayal of a small-time comedian clawing his way through an American dystopia, just doing his thing. I loved it and related to it in a lot of ways. It's also super well-done and effecting.

- Lists Compiled By: Walter Gross