Some flashes of what I see in my head while I listen to the latest album from D/A/D, the alter ego of musician Zach Robinson:
Off-world beaches, endless highways, intergalactic Testarossas, the intro shots to a buddy cop show set on Mars in the year 2044, the sounds of futuristic youth, teenage love separated by lightyears, a seen-it-all detective a la Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon hits the snooze button from his shitty little apartment on the 578th floor of some tenement in Titan City, a gang of gene freaks pool their cash for a couple low-grade resequencers, a blogger rewords every cyberpunk trope from the 1980s.
Erm…ignore that last one.
D/A/D’s music is part of the ever-growing synthwave and outrun electro genres, and is one of the OG projects that helped define the style. Aiming to recapture the background sounds of the 80s themselves, it’s a zeitgeist movement more concerned with bringing a snapshot of that decade into the present rather than sounding like a New Order redux.
Robinson’s latest output came out last July on the consistently impressive Rosso Corsa label and, and is still winning over new fans.
What’s up, Zach? The Construct came out last year on Rosso Corsa, but you’ve been making this style of music for a minute now. When did you start, and how?
I’ve been writing as D/A/D for a little over 5 years now, but The Construct is only my second release and first full length. It all started back in my dorm room freshman year where I spent my days lurking Myspace pages of Kavinsky, College, all the Valerie Collective and Rosso Corsa dudes. I guess those are called the MySpace years in the synthwave-verse, haha. I was writing material for about a year before I released any of it. Rosso Corsa contacted me after the release of my EP Super Motives (via Myspace message, duh) and from then it took me a good 3 years to finish up a full album for them to release. Thanks for being patient, RC!
I feel that people and groups like Valerie Collective, College, and Kavisnky, while obviously having enjoyed a fanbase prior, got craaaaazy publicity when Drive came out in 2011. Do you think that boost has helped fuel the massive amounts of outrun electro and synthwave that’s been coming out in the last two years? Bringing in newcomers and the like? What was your reaction to the film when it debuted?
Dude, I fucking FREAKED when I saw Drive. My cousin saw it before me and I remember him saying, “You’re gonna love this movie, it’s SO 80s.” I get that a lot from people but I had no idea going into the theater that the artists who inspired D/A/D would be providing the soundtrack. The most amazing thing about it was that it worked so well, which I don’t think was a surprise to anyone in the synthwave community. This music is often overlooked because of it’s cheeze factor or it’s passe aesthetics and whatnot, but when it comes down to it the genre is incredibly emotional and thrives off imagery. Refn was able to see to that and he took a risk, which I think we can all agree paid off.
And yes, Drive has definitely fueled a new wave of producers, sounds, and fans in the field. Whether one thinks that’s necesarrilly a good thing is still up for debate, haha. I dig it though, I just hate prefacing the description of my music with “It’s kind of like Drive” because it mostly isn’t, it’s just relatable.
What’s your kit like? I’d imagine a lot of synthesizers, obviously. Do you do a lot of live instrumentation when you play a show? I feel like visuals are highly conducive to music like this, as well. Do you work in anything like that during a performance?
My best kept secret is that D/A/D is mostly soft synths. I use a ton of ’80s synth emulators and I spend a ton of time hybridizing, tweaking, and exploring synth sounds until it fits my style. I listen to my old EP and get pissed off because too much of it sounds like straight out of the box Logic, which bothers me a ton. Hardware wise I have a Roland JX3P which was big on the album, as well as a Korg Poly800 and of course I have all my guitar stuff. Next thing I release though (whenever that is, I don’t know) will have some more hardware on it.
When I’m playing live, I generally have a MIDI keyboard and then the Roland + my guitar and amp and I recently started using a keytar which I have no idea why it took me so long to get on that. Such a blast.
I’ve done shows with visuals a few times but I’ve never really spent the time to design a personal visual set that goes along with the show. I’ve recently started working with an insanely talented visual artist, Zara Ruckus, who did visuals for my album relase show. Here are some GIFs she made from the show. Her style worked so well, I only I could have seen it!
Aside from all that MySpace lurking back in the day, what else informed your direction? There’s some obvious tropes in the scene already. Hyper expensive exotic cars, Miami beach, LA, space, John Hughes movies, teen horror flicks. There’s that huge 80s influence, but not necessarily the big hair and shoulder pad aesthetic.
Haha they are indeed tropes for a reason, all of that stuff is definitely inspirational to me and the scene. Space is a big one for me though, science fiction in particular, retro-science in particular particular. You know, old school visions of the future and the like and I’m reaching back to ’50s stuff too. A lot of these artists’ main goal is to sound as authentically ’80s as possible, and when they succeed it’s fucking awesome. My approach is definitely to sound authentic, but I’m catering a ton of other influences from different styles and decades and aesthetics. I love metal, I love classical music, I love ambient, why not try to mix all of those together?
The production is a big part of it as well. I mean, you can’t compare ’80s production to anything, it’s a beast. Writing these tracks are hands down the greatest lessons in production for me.
You’re gonna have to forgive me for my poor memory, but I think the first time I read about you was a blurb on last.fm that went something like “Zach Robinson is a musician at X University and is studying Y. At night he performs as D/A/D.” Do you remember a description like that, or am I going crazy? Either way, it also brings up another question. Are you a classically or otherwise professionally trained musician? The way that blurb read, it made it seem like D/A/D started out as a side-project. If that’s the case, do you feel like it has transcended that status?
I just wrote a tweet a few days ago asking if it’s kosher for me to update my last.fm myself or does someone else have to do it. It’s quite outdated. I should do that now…
I know which description you’re talking about, it was written by my friend Blake who goes by Baron von Luxxury. I think it was on one of the first blog posts about D/A/D and someone adopted it to last.fm. Anyways, I’m semi-classically trained. I studied music composition at Northwestern in Chicago and that’s where I gained most of my classical chops. But leading up to those years, I was mostly a rock and roll child with overgrown long hair and a stupid amount of classic rock graphic tees.
As much as I love D/A/D and as much as it’s become a part of my identity as a person and as a musician, it’s always been somewhat of a side project in my life. I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to write music for film/video games/etc, and for a long time I’ve put everything into making that happen and I’ve needed to make sacrifices. D/A/D unfortunately becomes a victim of that sacrifice sometimes. I never thought this project would get the recognition that it ended up getting, but more than anything as a composer my goal and my passion is to make people feel. If D/A/D is the vehicle that gets them there, then I’m happy and I’d want to continue writing.
Got any favorite game soundtracks? Any in particular that made you realize, “Yes, Zach Robinson will be credited at the end of Mega Man XVI one day. This will happen.”
Surprisingly some of my favorite game soundtracks are from the past few years. The ones I always reference are Garry Schyman’s Bioshock and Billy Elm and Woody Jackson’s Red Dead Redemption scores. Both are incredibly immersive, beautifully written and arranged works of music. Seriously set a new standard in my opinion. The Mass Effect scores as well.
For old school stuff the list will be too long but included would be Mighty Morphin Power Rangers The Movie: The Game, Snowboard Kids, Pokemon Red/Blue, of course Final Fantasy VII, and if you couldn’t tell from the “Orion Beach” video, Wave Race 64!
I also love some of the in-house old school video game bands like Konami’s Kukeiha Club and the Sega Sound Team Band. Amazing fusion-y stuff. There should be more in-house game bands that just have the freedom to write whatever!
Speaking of game soundtracks, how do you feel about the Amiga demoscene? I feel like that stuff is one of the best untapped resources of the weird late-80s and early-90s. In fact, the video that just dropped for your track “Orion Beach” definitely conjures up some demoscene memories. Was there any intent behind that, or just coincidence? I know if something like that would’ve dropped at a demoscene convention in 1991, minds would’ve exploded.
To be honest, I’m not as super familiar with the content from all the Amiga stuff but I do know a little about that scene. I’m speaking on behalf of the brilliant director/animator of “Orion Beach” Campbell Logan, but I’m pretty sure early Amiga material was a source of inspiration for him. This was much more of a film for Campbell than a music video for me. He was inspired by the song and I let him roll with what his imagination told him to do. I agree with you though, minds definitely would have exploded back in ’91, but I hope they’re still exploding now! Mine did at least, haha.
Most, if not all, of the synthwave albums I’ve listened to strive to tell a story. Whether it’s a space opera by Tommy, or a non-stop, high-speed chase by Lazerhawk. Do you always have a grand scheme in your head before you set out to make a track, or even an entire album? Is there a planning stage? Anything you write out?
There was no grand scheme for The Construct but I had some benchmarks for the album I wanted to accomplish. I knew I wanted the album to start out with a prelude, something classical-inspired to set the scene. I knew there should be an ambient interlude halfway through the album, and I knew the album should end with material similar in tone and could easily lead into the first track if the album was on loop. I’m a sucker for that shit. Everything in between those benchmarks I worked with placing after the songs were written. There didn’t use to be a planning stage for D/A/D writing but now I’ve begun to utilize a system. It’s the only way I get things down now. I sketch when I compose other styles, even when I’m writing music for a band I’m in, but I never sketched with D/A/D for some reason. Especially with D/A/D, it helps me to work with imaginary visuals and stories, so to answer your question, there is a somewhat of a grand scheme for each song but not necessarily for an album. I do have some big ideas for D/A/D in the future though that will take A LOT of planning…
*takes a deep breath* To me, the barrier of entry for composing a synthwave track, or an outrun track, has less to do with hardware or software, and way, way more to do with imagination. The same could be argued for most genres, but there’s such a soundtrack quality to the music coming out of this scene that strory-telling and a high degree of empathy, that ability to really capture and define an emotion, seems paramount. I messaged a kid living in Thailand who put out a killer track, and when I asked him about his setup, he told me it was just a laptop with Ableton and some tiny speakers. He also said making a track takes him about 100 hours, but he loves it. How about you?
I totally agree with you, and I think that goes with most genres of music too. Who cares how a composer/producer writes a composition, what elements, planning, gear he/she uses to get it done as long as it’s solid work. Those are the best kinds of pieces. I know people like this kid in Thailand you spoke to who just work off their laptop using a piano roll in Live and I know people whose rooms are slathered in synthesizers and that’s all they use. It’s all about your creation process as an artist and if you are happy with the end product. If you feel like hardware will step up your sound, then fuck yeah go for it, or vice versa. I know that my limitations on hardware hasn’t stopped me from creating music I love but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like or appreciate using hardware. I just work with that I have, and I always have my imagination. Jesus, that was fucking corny…play some 80s music behind that as you read it.
But yeah, also it takes me for-fucking-ever to finish a track too. I’m still working on figuring out my D/A/D writing process. You’d think after 5 years I would have somewhat put it together but I guess not!
Any advice for would-be synthwave virtuosos out there? Any canonical movies, shows or games they should be watching and playing for inspiration?
Like what you like. Don’t let the taste makers force you into a corner and be open to exploring everything. That being said, here’s the top of my must read/watch/play list:
William S. Gibson’s Neuromancer
Speaking of canonical movies that speak from that era, I gotta ask you your feelings on the new Robocop. No judgement will be passed, I just gotta know.
I’m not that pumped for it, but I’m gonna see it. I have zero expectations. Felt the same way about Dredd and that movie was dope.
Does D/A/D stand for anything? Are we allowed to make up our own meaning?
It originally didn’t stand for anything. At one point before I was Googleable, I changed it to “Day After Discovery” for a little bit but then I said fuck that. D/A/D feels right. Plus its Googleable now!! Kind of. Also, it’s pronounced DEE-AY-DEE by the way, not “dad”
A secret informant told me that you might be playing a show here in New York soon. Care to comment? Maybe a little of what to expect?
Trust me, when I can make it out there I will. My job is pretty demanding out here in LA but I’m always trying to make it out to NYC. Mishka will be the first to find out, I promise.
You can grab D/A/D’s latest album, The Construct, over at Rosso Corsa’s bandcamp page for a mere $7 (that’s less than the price of the three Red Bulls you chug to get through your day), and check out a ton of other tracks over at SoundCloud. Don’t forget to give shouts and love notes to @80sDAD over on Twitter, too.
So you already know about our first SXSW 2014 event, VIBES. If you haven’t already RSVP’d, get on that! If you’ve already got that part down and are ready to get hype, or if you’re not fortunate enough to come sweat it out in Austin with us, hip-hop industry veteran Green Lantern has stepped up to deliver the next Keep Watch mix featuring the best tracks from half the lineup. Notable components include Green Lantern’s own marching-band-goes-trap-anthem “Know About Me” co-produced by Valentino Khan and featuring Iggy Azalea (note: I am a long-time Iggy fan but this is definitely the best track she’s been on in a while so…get with it) as well as Mishka favorite Young Thug on “Jack Tripper” with PeeWee Longway produced by Low Pros, the collaborative project of A-Trak and Lex Luger. We shed a tear of joy at the middle when Trouble & Bass brethren Docta Jeep‘s Vortex came in, followed by a sick rework of “Still Tippin” by Intermodal. If you’re into the deeper shit, HARD godfather Destructo‘s remix of Henry Fong’s “Stand Up” is essential, and if you were unaware of Jessie Andrews‘ other talents- “You Won’t Forget Tonight” is a nice disco-y number to get you acquainted. Actually, every track on this is pretty awesome so just listen to the whole thing.
1. DAVID GUETTA FEAT. SKYLAR GREY “SHOT ME DOWN” (PARTY FAVOR REMIX)
2. GLADIATOR “ASSEMBLY LINE”
3. A-Trak & Lex Luger Ft. Young Thug & PeeWee Longway “JACK TRIPPER”
4. BLASTERJAXX “MYSTICA” (LOUDPVCK REMIX)
5. MAYHEM X ANTISERIUM “HUSTLE”
6. GREEN LANTERN X VALENTINO KHAN X IGGY AZALEA “KNOW ABOUT ME”
7. JUST A GENT “STARS BEYOND” (VINDATA EDIT)
8. MOSIS “YOU AND ME” (TWO FRESH REMIX)
9. DOCTOR JEEP “VORTEX”
10. MIKE JONES & SLIM THUG “STILL TIPPIN” (INTERMODAL REMIX)
11. HENRY FONG “STAND UP” (DESTRUCTO REMIX)
12. JESSIE ANDREWS “YOU WON’T FORGET TONIGHT”
13. JAI PAUL “JASMINE” (PAPER DIAMOND REMIX)
Australia has been BRINGING it in the music industry lately, and RÜFÜS DU SOL is no exception. Tomorrow night, CYP2 brings you an evening of funky dance vibes, and we’ve got a pair of tickets for you. Peep @mishka_LA on Instagram to enter. P.S. – winner gets a hat from…US! Lemaitre is a Norwegian group with sounds reminiscent of Phoenix/Passion Pit, but like…better. Gavin Turek has sang on LA producer extraordinaire Tokimonsta’s tracks, and has released her own disco-esque tunes with of course, her beautiful vocals. LA Girlfriend also features really amazing female vocals and almost has a really shoegaze feel. Regardless, if you’re not familiar, get familiar, and come hang out at the Echoplex.
Saturday, March 8
1154 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
Are you going to SXSW? It seems like everyone and their mother will be in attendance, so I’ll assume you said yes to the last question. And yes, we’ve talked about this event already. But here’s another friendly reminder with more cool music videos to make you grab your red pen and scribble this event into your underwater dog calendar.
The homies Steady Leanin’ and Ghost Pizza have linked up with yours truly (see our cool logo at the bottom?) for a Lean Pizza showcase. Doing it proper on a Friday. Do I have your attention yet? Here’s the rundown of artists:
Chicago rapper ZMoney will be gracing the stage, hopefully playing his two newest tracks, “DBM” and “I Can’t Stop” as well as his hit singles like “Regular” and “Everything.” Also, if you didn’t know, ZMoney owns and runs his own restaurant in Chicago. Respect.
Joey Fatts and A$ton Matthews will be gracing the Lean Pizza stage taking you to the West Coast for a bit. Blunts and bandanas may or may not be handed to everyone during their two dynamic sets. Enough bass to make you forget your girl’s name.
Mike G of Odd Future was most recently added to the list. Everyone is hoping that Left Brain swings through so the two can perform this gem:
So many artists to name, we don’t have the power for hundreds of videos, but LISTEN HERE: Yung Gleesh is about to go crazy at this shit. I know you know the words to that. G-Side are coming back JUST FOR YOU. Did you hear the new “25 Lighters”? Goddamn right you did. Michael Christmas is the artist I just started getting into and I can’t stop listening to this song. That video is hilarious. It’ll be crazy on stage. Little Pain is going to make every thug in the crowd, every single one that has his arms crossed looking serious, Little Pain will make them cry. I’ll be bouncing and shaking my head. Western Tink and Beautiful Lou will remind you that you’re in Texas. “Short Texas Jr.” is my shit. Pepperboy, Aaron Cohen, ABGOHARD , all bloglin favorites. You already know what it is. Don’t expect anything less than excellence. Kari Faux, Dark Sister, LaJIT, AND music by bemyfriend? What more could you ask for? Plenty of showcases throughout SXSW that look to impress and entertain, and Lean Pizza is definitely one to throw into the mix of freshness going down in Austin. Anything can happen on a Friday night.
I heard Starlito is stopping by just to listen to the madness. I heard pizza will be thrown from the rafters and lean will be poured on the front row on some SeaWorld shit. I heard a bunch of rappers are yelling at their managers on Twitter about having to perform at other showcases and not being able to crowdsurf at this party. It’s all love.
RSVP here. Spots are filling up. See me on the inside wearing shades and a bathing suit.
This Sunday is the finale to HBO’s True Detective. For those who watch the show, this possibly means finding out who (what) the Yellow King is, who really killed Dora Lange, and how Pizzolatto and Fukunaga are going to top their now-legendary six minute continuous take. For those who do not watch the show, it means your friends will soon stop bothering you with their endless, obsessive “theories” about the show’s plot.
There’s a lot to love about the series, including its charismatic and passionate cast, refreshingly intelligent scripting, the narrative’s muddily fragmented structure, and a brilliantly ominous sense of tone. But one of the more pleasant features of the show has been the extent to which it’s brought so-called “weird fiction” into the mainstream consciousness.
If you follow the show, you’ve likely come across the well-retweeted piece by Michael M. Hughes, a novelist and all-around paranormal aficionado, called “The One Literary Reference You Must Know to Appreciate True Detective.” In it, Hughes draws out and highlights the show’s multiple references to the work of Robert W. Chambers, a literary antecedent to H.P. Lovecraft and, by extension, of modern American horror itself.
I won’t rehash what Hughes says, because he says it well. But I will bring to your attention another incredible detective story that is full of references to weird fiction: Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’s underrated graphic novella The Courtyard (2003) and its controversial sequel, Neonomicon (2010), both published by high-quality indie publisher Avatar Press.
Moore’s story bears a lot of similarities to True Detective. The Courtyard follows an undercover FBI agent named Aldo Sax as he investigates a string of grisly ritualized murders. The killings are clearly connected, but in a way that no one can discern. Like True Detective’s Rust Cohle, Sax is an alienated recluse obsessed with finding connections and pouring over files. Bnly instead of an alcoholic nihilist prone to soliloquy, Sax is a bitter and acrimonious misanthrope. His boss describes him as a “smug little Nazi.”
Through application of “Anomaly Theory,” Sax is led to a goth hangout in Redhook, where bands named “The Yellow Sign” and “The Uthar Cats” perform, each named after short stories by Chambers and Lovecraft, respectively. He ends up seeking out an obscure drug named Aklo, sold by only one man: Johnny Carcosa. He shares his namesake with True Detective’s mysterious location where “there’s all these, like, old stones out in the woods, people go to, like, worship…there’s just so much good killin’ down there.”
Parallel literary references like this pepper the show and the comics throughout. But that’s not the only reason to read them. The Courtyard and Neonomicon combine to form some of the most shocking and innovative work Alan Moore has ever produced. It’s no exaggeration to say that in these six issues, Moore and Burrows push the boundaries of what the graphic storytelling form is capable of.
You may be familiar with Jacen Burrows’s art if you read Garth Ennis’s ultraviolent zombie epic Crossed, but he triumphs as a comic book artist here. Moore is known for saddling his artists with endlessly detailed scripts, but the formal perfection and exactitude of Burrows’ work still blows my mind. His sense of proportion and attention to detail is second to none, and he draws with schematic realism that renders moments of horror deeply unsettling when they unexpectedly hit.
Burrows excels at sequential storytelling particularly through his use of repetitive rectangular panelization, which gives the reader a cohesive and intelligible sense of perspective throughout. With very few exceptions, The Courtyard uses two symmetrical vertical panels per page. Similarly, almost every one of Neonomicon’s pages are divided into four horizontal strips of equal size. Even when he deviates from the established pattern, geometric shapes within the panels often line up perfectly with the grid (see e.g. Neonomicon #1, page 2; Neonomicon #3 page 8). I absolutely adore this kind of formalism.
I unfortunately can’t go into too many specifics about what Moore and Burrows really accomplish without spoilers, but I can tell you to look out for certain key motifs. Be on the lookout for hidden panels within the main panels, and consider how these relate to disruptions in the story’s internal reality. You’ll see it happen clearly at the end of The Courtyard #2 as Sax leaves Carcosa’s apartment. These also function as a comment on the paradoxical ontology of 2-dimensional space.
But the single most mind-fucking moment I have ever experienced in a comic happens at the end of Neonomicon #1. You’ll know it when you see it. What Moore and Burrows pull off in this sequence has never really been done before or since, and would have been completely impossible to execute in film or literature. I find these comics important for that reason: because they show what comics can do that no other storytelling medium can.
(For a Room 237-esque analysis that goes far beyond anything I’m willing to attempt, check out clips here and here. But don’t watch them until you’ve read. They reveal key moments that you’ll never understand if you don’t experience them yourself first.)
In 2012, Neonomicon was the first-ever recipient of Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel. But perhaps the highest honor bestowed on Neonomicon wasn’t a formal award at all, but rather the fact that it’s been banned by at least one public library. I was happy to see the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund stand up for the comic and the creators’ Free Expression rights.
However, that’s not to say I was surprised. The book is as relentlessly obscene and offensive as it is astute, literary, and formalistically innovative. It doesn’t belong in the hands of children, or weak-minded adults for that matter. That’s the highest compliment one can give it.
Both The Courtyard and Neonomicon were collected into a TPB available from Avatar Press. It’s a must-have for anyone who likes cosmic horror, obscure literary references, or gratuitous sex and violence. Otherwise, it will be a serviceable palliative when you go through True Detective withdrawal next week.
Back in January, Chicago rapper/all caps tweeter ShowYouSuck dropped the first visuals from his DudeBro EP. The video, “80s Boobs”, shows our polka-dot personality with an American flag backdrop, talking about 30-year-old titties. Don’t worry, when the boobs come out, they’re blurred, so you can watch this at work.
In February, ShowYouSuck dropped the music video for “Flip Phone” off of his OMPP4: Slice After Death mixtape. This might be his best track, with production by Thelonious Martin, and a fine blend of animation and reality to create a perfect music video narrative. “She got a ratchet ass flip phone.”
Most recently, in March, the second video from the DudeBro EP dropped. From blurred boobs to animated storytelling to “Make-Out King”, which features claymation swag. ShowYouSuck becomes a skeleton and production from Javelin and The Hood Internet keep the party going. “Gettin’ freaky on a Friday.” This makes me want to watch Paranorman again for the 60th time. The three videos ShowYouSuck dropped in three months have created a fine trifecta of art formats. How many rap videos do you know that use claymation? Dude is doing it differently than most. Take note.
Black Zheep unleashes the “Giant Ants” video featuring Buffa7o & Butch Dawson, from his recent Mishka release Refugee. With a beat that’s generally unsettling and moody, plus images of ants devouring various insects, it’s probably not the best shit to watch while eating lunch, but you’re all children of the internet, so at this point in life you can all eat through autopsy footage. The song is an old school mic-passing track, where dudes jump on for some bars, launch theoretical threats, stories of addicts and dealers, and boasts before hopping off, for the next dude to do the same. Not entirely sure whether “giant ants” are a metaphor for fried addicts, or a metaphor for dudes swarming on the track, either way, all that footage of hundreds of ants swarming will leave you scratching like a dope fiend.
Refugee is out now on Мишка Records.
Meet Amin Williams better known as Slim Rogers. He’s a hip-hop artist coming out of the upstate NY area. He is also the co founder and CEO of Money Mxbbin Records a group of up and coming artists; Free$PLizy, Wiz Mack, A$TON Martin Khardigan Jenkinz -who are showcasing their talents with various solo projects and collaborations.
As of late, Slim is staying busy with the whole MMR family. Khardigan Jenkinz and Slim are set to release a joined EP project sometime in the spring. Slim’s most recent track collaboration with Chicago’s DJ Hustlenomics is a testament to why he is known as the King of Medusas so keep watch for the artist’s newest visual work on March 23. In in the meantime check out his “King of Medusa” single and his previous project Triangles-X-Pyramids.
How do you spend your Saturday? I usually link up with my bros, pitch in to buy a couple of kegs, and then we feed the streets. It’s awesome, but I’m sure Baer Grylls is spending that same Saturday doing something more adventurous than anybody I know would. He’s probably out surviving in some arctic tundra drinking his piss to make it through the week. That doesn’t really sound so amazing but I’m sure you get the picture. This is why I’m going to redirect this narrative back to Jay Wirth and his newest visual for “BAERGRYLLS”. The Pennsylvania emcee drops bars to remind the listeners that this rap game is like a lifelong season of “Man vs. Wild”. This career path will leave you in the Jungle to fend for yourself.
I cover quite a bit of music on the bloglin, but it should be obvious that Chicago hip-hop is the main interest. In my defense, I also cover bluegrass, southern rap, and Moby on the regular. I love Moby. Anyway, here are some random Chicago loosies that I’ve had on repeat. Feel free to leave singles and videos in the comments that maybe I’ve missed.
God – “Chiraq II”
I listen to this song constantly. This whole EP, Before the Bible, is outstanding. “I’m 60 seconds from hell, 30 seconds from jail. I hope I never get caught, but I’m savin’ money for bail.” Look out for God.
Vic Mensa – “Feel That” (Prod. Smoko Ono)
While Vic and Smoko are running through the streets of Europe right now and “Feel That” is looping in my car. Embrace that bass. I feel that. I can imagine this is one of the more hype tracks at the live shows.
Jarred A.G. – “Errands” (Prod. BoatHouse)
Jarred A.G. returns and runs some errands with producer BoatHouse, marking a successful first collaboration for the pair. This track is dark as hell. I want that artwork on my wall.
THEMpeople – “Retrograde” (J. Blake-Refix)
THEMpeople have been dominating my iTunes and this track is one of the many standouts. James Blake operatic harmonies slowed down with plenty of bass and drums and reverb. It’s all about that Soul-Fi.
Mick Jenkins – “Martyrs”
One of the more captivating hip-hop music videos I have ever seen. Featuring production from OnGaud that samples “Strange Fruit” as covered by Carmen McRae. It will have you thinking “strange fruit hanging” all day long. The video speaks mountains. No matter how many times I listen to it, I will never be able to say, “We are not on the same plateau, Chateau de Chenonceau, you just throwin’ shade in my shadow.” My mouth doesn’t move that quickly. Listen closely, especially to the clips of Interview With a Monster. “Hangin’ on for dear life.”
Bonus: Saba – “Secondhand Smoke”
This is the lead single for Saba’s highly anticipated upcoming album, ComfortZone. NoName Gypsy assists on the vocals and Saba runs around the city of Chicago, covered in the smoke of his friends. These lyrics need multiple listens. The reason it is the “bonus” part of this segment is because it just came out, but it’s a perfect blend of Chicago and cosmic traveling. Give your eyes a gift.
If you’re in Chicago and you’re reading this, be sure to check out Saba, Mick Jenkins, and Leather Corduroys (Joey Purp x Kami de Chukwu), all opening for Ty Dolla $ign at Reggie’s on Thursday, March 6. It’s only $3 if you RSVP. No brainer.
I hope you’re familiar with Tree. This week’s Be Kind Rewind is not to be confused with The @MCTREEG EP, which came out recently, but Tree’s 2011 EP, before Tree gained wide attention with his first Sunday School project. Those two Sunday School tapes are next level and I still find myself listening to them, but this EP should not go overlooked. Hear the early stages of Soul Trap.
“Summertime in Chicago” might be my favorite Tree track. Ever. That sample is so perfect. It makes me crave some warmth in the Windy City. “Smokin’ reefer in the hallway” is one hell of an opening line. “What up, trouble? Shoulda named me Trouble. Cause nigga I’m trouble.” I couldn’t pick a favorite song on this project, but “Trouble” would be involved in the conversation. So many good lines. Tree always provides a narrative, like listening to an audio book with some assisted instrumentation.
Despite the troubles and struggles surrounding Tree, he stays positive and optimistic. He samples Chris Martin’s live rendition of “What the world needs now is love, sweet love” and let’s you know Tree cares. “Ridin’ Round” contains a really strong Tree verse and yet another great soul sample. The bass comes in with guest Nemesis’ verse and it gets the room hopping. From hardships and death on “Coldest Winter” to 50 bars of soul trap on “Synagogue.” Damn, Tree is doing it right. The sample on “Synagogue” loops “and when I’m old and grey” over and over and it never gets dull. This EP is certainly something to revisit. Right now.
Also, for infinite street cred, Tree tweeted on February 25th that “I used to work designer retail, clock out in a suit, go hang in the hallways of the #cabrinigreen projects in a suit #soultrap.” The man.