issue. Issue 2.0
SKYZOO Brooklyn lyrical heavyweight Skyzoo graciously chatted while on-set about his new project with Apollo Brown, his career, ghostwriting, and more.
So long 2016, it’s been a [f*@ked up] slice!
016 was a crazy year; I feel like we’ve all been through a lot together. There’s been this crazy US election that’s seeming brought out the ugly in many, created more uncertainty than comfort and effectively divided a nation. We also took some huge losses, like Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, who had been battling with diabetes and kidney failure for years, and iconic singer Prince. There was also Shawty Lo, who died in a car accident; or course, that’s sadly just the tip of the iceberg. However, as a writer, I’ve been happy to take in lots of amazing music this year. It’s been a great year for the culture. Sadat X’s Agua, Pete Rock and Smoke Dza’s Don’t Smoke Rock, School Boy Q’s Blankface, and—obviously—Tribe’s bitter-sweet final album [amongst others], all gave me a great listening moments that I was happy to share with my readers, both here at AAHH, and with my followers who read my
work on XXL Magazine’s site. I also have to give a special shout out to my team; AAHH had a great year. With superstars like Wyclef, Skyzoo, Atmosphere (and countless others) gracing the site, our internship program, and all of the great indie discoveries we’ve made, I couldn’t be happier or prouder of the tremendous growth we’ve had in 2016. I can say with absolute certainty that the upcoming year will be just as big—fuck it, BIGGER. Bless up to all of our lovely readers for riding with us; we’ll keep bringing that realness. What I’ve put together here is—at its core—a collection of my personal writing for AAHH. It’s the most memorable moments and finds of my 365. My fave interviews, some of my newest reviews, and a few features I was humbled to write. So sit back relax, and enjoy my [personal] 2016 roundup. (rileywallacewrites.com)
Adrian Younge has had an amazing year. From dropping his new wholly electronic album to composing the soundtrack for Luke Cage, alonside Ali Shaeed Muhammed.
BEST OF ‘16 2016 was a big year--I’ve gone through the archives and pulled out some of the interviews and editoriall work that I’m the most proud of.
+ MUCH MORE!
HOODIES & SHIRTS AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY AT:
DRAMATIC STATIC Alicia Key’s new album is everything. First off, excuse the unintentional pun in the title. Now, there’s always been this hip-hop edge to Alicia Keys that I’ve loved; she has this beauty and grace about her, but her gorgeous vocals have a certain soulfulness to it that’s hard to fake. Since she dropped “Fallen,” with a visual that followed the corn-rowed singer visiting her boyfriend in jail, the NYC songstress has been making an exuberant blend of both motivational
and love songs from the perspective of the underdog — that so happens also to appeal to the struggling dreamer in all of us. For day one fans, she’s grown up — but so have we; I remember bumping her debut album in my Discman while wearing a Durag and an oversized throwback jersey. She’s now a mother, wife, and actress amongst other things. But no matter how much things change, she never seems to forget where she came from or lose the fundamental elements that birthed her musical nucleus in the first place. That could not have been exemplified any better on Here, her highly anticipated new record that hit Apple Music this morning. The album begins with a spoken-word piece, followed by “The Gospel,” an energetic piano driven record that stems from her upbringing in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan; “…in my tenement, listening to the hook — ‘Change gon come,’ spirit of Sam Cook.” From here, without wavering too far from the aura of openness she creates, she explores a multitude of themes. They range from addiction (“Illusion of Bliss”), women’s rights (“Girl Can’t Be Herself”), to being a step parent on the A$AP Rockyassisted “Blended Family,” which we saw a few weeks ago. Two standout records — for me — were “Pawn It All,” which floats themes of giving it all up and starting anew, and the über jazzy hip-hop infused “She Don’t
Really Care.” The latter uses not only the classic “Bonita Applubum” break, and Nas’s iconic Q-Tip produced “One Love,” but also gives a subtle nod to UTFO’s “Roxanne Roxanne” with her intro chant of “oh yeah, oh yeah.” Alicia Keys made headlines over the past months for not wearing makeup, which is bananas. She’s a beautiful girl — with or without it. This sentiment, is a not so subtle commentary on the constraints the media and society place on women. “Girl Can’t Be Herself” discusses how her heart breaks seeing girls who can’t truly be themselves; “Who says I should conceal what I’m made of — maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem.” The album ends with “Holy War,” a heartfelt call to “love somebody instead of polishing the bombs of holy war.” The euphemism is used to describe the [racial, sexual, religious] segregation we as people have ultimately constructed. She questions near the song’s end, “what if love was holy, and war was obscene.” This record is an important one, and I honestly see it as Alicia Keys emitting a brand of truth, emotion, and power that is reminiscent of artists like Nina Simone. Here is a beautiful album, and a breath of fresh air. Thank you, Alicia.
JOE’S LAST STAND
Joe is bowing out with his final album. Joe has always been–in my humble opinion — consistent as a singer. From his New Jack Swing soaked debut album, to his slew of incredibly notable guest features, to his constant club and radio presence at the turn of the century; he has yet to disappoint me as a listener and has had the fortune of being part of records that keep ringing after all these years. An example was his classic chorus on his 1997 song “Don’t Want To Be A Player” off of the Booty Call OST that became the iconic hook on the remix to Big Punisher’s platinum-selling [mainstream] debut single, “Still Not
A Player.” Or how about his collaborations with G-Unit, or the early 2000s club staple “Stutter?” I digress, though. He’s had so many solo hits over the years, amassed numerous Grammy nominations, murdered the charts [in his day], and has sold millions upon million of records. Since 2008, he’s been releasing independent albums, and just last week, he greeted fans with what Gucci Mane describes as his last album on their radio-ready collaboration, “Happy Hour.” #MYNAMEISJOETHOMAS is Joe’s 12th studio album, and — if it’s true — a wonderful way to cap off an incredible 23-year career in the game. Joe’s distinctive vocals don’t at all disappoint on this record. There’s a little of everything here. The aforementioned Gucci joint, “Don’t Lock
Me Out,” the contemporary “Can’t Run From Love,” and the disco-tinged “Celebrate You” are up-tempo records that could quickly become playlist candy for DJs. There’s also records like “So I Can Have You Back,” which has Joe singing to the ‘one who got away,’ or “Love Centric,” which is reminiscent of R.Kelly’s “Turn Back The Hand Of Time.” He also has two dope covers to round out the album, a take on Al Green’s Kanye sampled “A Little Tenderness” (“Our Anthem”) and Adele’s hit record, “Hello.” Overall, it’s a solid R&B album from a singer who’s been nothing but consistent for over two decades. Worth a listen for anyone who’s ever considered themselves even a moderate fan of the singer.
THE GRAND FINALE ATCQ’s long-awaited album is a breath of fresh air. Listening to the newest Tribe Called Album is a strange experience. I liken it to the final episode of Fresh Prince. ATCQ have always seemed like the most amazing, compelling, innovative and revered novel in its genre that just happened to have the last few chapters ripped out; that was the case, until early this morning. Following and emotional re-connection, a handful of performances and an undeniable demand from longtime fans, We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service finally hit [digital] shelves. It is the first focused studio album from the quartet since 1998’s The Love Movement and unfortunately, following the heartbreaking loss of Phife, their final collective effort. When discussion of a possibility of an album first floated following their handful of festival appearances, Phife was quoted as saying, “Man, we was only 18–19 when we first got started. [When] We broke up we were still like 28. Now we are 35-36. It’d be real different being in the studio. It would be real interesting to see where Q-Tip is. It would all be on a much higher level.” His instinct was correct—We Got It From Here is a smorgasbord of
production sensibility that pushes the musicality of the overall product. It seems to appeal more to a Midnight Marauders frame of mind than the darker ‘Umma’ sound that the group explored on The Love Movement. The project feels like a family reunion, with the original crew (including Jarobi) on deck, as well Consequence and Busta Rhymes. It’s a combination of political, socially conscious content blended in with some of the lovable sucker emcee squashing bars we grew to love back in their heyday. There are a few guest spots, though. Outkast and Tribe may not have gotten it together to do their joint album, but we do get an Andre 3000 siting. On “Kids,” 3 Stacks laments “Kids don’t you know that all this shit is fantasy?” Meanwhile, Tip and Cons speak from a kid’s perspective while dropping gems on them, it’s a cool concept. And that’s not all; Anderson Paak pops up on “Movin Backwards.” Phife and Kendrick Lamar team up for “Conrad Tokyo,” which is an incredible song, and Talib Kweli and Kanye West appear on “Killing Season.” It’s hip-hop history all over this album—no collaborations are out of place. While the project delivers everything fans have been dreaming about—and more—there are a few moments that resonated especially well with me. Phife’s verse on “Black Spasmodic” which kicks off with “Who want it with the Trini Gladiator…” and the cohesive chemistry on “Dis Generation” have all
the elements I’ve always loved about Tribe over the years. The album doesn’t pretend that Phife is still here, though. Much like the lauded D.I.T.C album that dropped almost two-decade ago, there is a ‘tribute’ of sorts to their fallen comrade, “Lost Somebody.” It all comes down to “The Donald,” the album’s final record. Phife asserts his status, calling out any emcee who believe they can beat him in a battle. The record is built around him and almost puts me in mind of classic 80s jams where the crew talked about how dope their DJ was (see “Jam Master Jay” or “I Wanna Rock“). As Busta chants “Phife Dawg” for the last time, the curtains close on a chapter of hip-hop that will never actually be duplicated. To round back to my original “Fresh Prince” allusion, it feels like the final scene after Will and Carlton hug for the last time—a final goodbye. The album is a wonderful way to honor Phife’s memory for generations to come while giving longtime fans, like me, one last ride on the vibe bus. I have been a fan of Tribe since I was (literally) a child and their music has stuck with me throughout my adult life. They’re my Beatles, in a sense. So as much as my initial listen gave me feels, it’s quickly going to become a staple in my collection. I can’t wait until my pre-order vinyl comes. Farewell, Phife—and salute to the whole circle. “Linden Blvd., represent, represent.”
‘Don’t Smoke Rock’ Is Crack [Pun Intended] I was actual sworn to secrecy about the existence of the much hyped Don’t Smoke Rock all the way back in January, 2016. However, I wasn’t provided with any preview content, so I had to wait it out with the townspeople for this gleaming piece of New York street art. I use the word art purposely– and unapologetically — as this project is drenched in organic dopeness that can’t be bought. Like most of the best collaborative producer/MC projects we’ve heard over the past decade, this all stemmed from a song that worked so well the two (Smoke Dza and Pete Rock) decided to see how deep the rabbit hole goes; spoiler, it goes deep [pause]. What it’s culminated into is a thirteen-song ride on the East Coast
side of things with a cast of guests that commands respect. From MMG capo Ricky Rozay and Detroit bar-god Royce Da 5’9 to Dza’s fellow Harlemite Cam’Ron. Of course, those are amongst a host of others. The intro sets it up as a stark contrast the gentrified [Harlem, New York] of today. Rather, it’s a reflection of the gritty streets that were visualized through street-tales by fallen greats like Big L. Production wise, Pete Rock sounds as hungry as he did when he dropped PeteStrumentals back in 2001 — he looks refreshed and refocused. Two of my highlights remain the singles that dropped with the preorder, “Limitless” with Dave East and
“Milestone” featuring Jada, Styles, and BJ The Chicago Kid. There was also a certain level of dopeness hearing Wale over PR production on “Show Off.” If you’ve been sleeping on the Kush God, this project is the epitome of what the five fingers said to the face — a yank at the collar and an assertion of dominance. He understandably has more to gain from this pairing, even if the sonic-marriage seems leveled out. He’s managed to awake a sleepy giant who produced a monster record from intro to soulful outro; I’d be shocked if this album wasn’t considered a careerhighlight, even years from now. “New York City, make some noise for your sounds.”
Interview With Skyzoo Quality. Consistency. Hip-hop. The name Skyzoo may be one you’ve heard spoken in many circles over the years — and rightfully so. While only momentarily popping his head into the mainstream, this lyricist’s lyricist and notorious ghostwriter has managed to tour the world, drop seven LPs — five of which have charted — and work with A-list celebrities and musicians, from John Legend to Spike Lee. One of the things I’ve always loved about him is his ear for beats. He works with a very specific circle on his solo projects, and has also branched off and worked exclusively with a handful of them on more focused output, like !llmind, 9th Wonder, and — most recently — Apollo Brown. What keeps Skyzoo focused? “For me, it’s just making music that I’m proud of; [music] that when I look back on it — whether I look back on it tomorrow or five or ten years from now — I’m still proud of it,” he says without hesitation. It’s this pride in his work that resonates with listeners who have been following the BK rhymer since The Salvation dropped. His upcoming LP, The Easy Truth is no different. A collaboration with Apollo Brown, who most recently collaborated with west coast artist Ras Kass, the project is one he’s particularly
proud of; “Everything worked out perfectly [with this album].” While one set of the video for the project’s lead single “Couple A Dollars,” featuring Joell Ortiz, Skyzoo took some time out to chat with us about his career, how The Easy Truth stacks up to his other albums, and much more. What keeps you making music that’s so true to hip hop and so underground? What’s your inspiration? For me, it’s just about being able to make the music that I can be proud of no matter how far along the clock is. I always want to be able to look in the mirror and be proud of what I made. I never want to have those moments where I look back and say, ‘Dang. I did that. I’ve got to take that on the chin.’ I never want to do that. Has there ever been pressure for you to conform or change your sound at all? I think there’s pressure for all artists, especially in the beginning when you’re trying to get your foot in the door. It becomes, ‘Well you know if you just did this, it could go this way, or that way,’ and I think that all artists, myself
included, go through that. But I’m one to march to the beat of my own drum because I’ve always been a leader, not a follower. My entire life — even as a kid — I’ve always been the leader of the pack. So I’m going to do what I want to do, and what I feel makes sense to me regardless; whether right or wrong I’ll live with the decisions I make and be able to say, ‘You know what, I did that because it was me. I can accept that; I can respect that, I can take that because it was me.’ So there’s been pressure at times. There’s no pressure now – I think as artists you may put pressure on yourself, because you may turn on the TV or radio, or open up a magazine, and want to be in a certain position, but I’ve been in all those positions, and still am. I’m cool. I’m ‘underground’, but I ghostwrite for some of the biggest artists on the radio, so I’m cool. I’ve got all those mainstream guys that everybody’s going to at MSG and Staples or whatever to perform, those guys are on my phone. I’m respected by all those guys — it’s a blessing to be able to say that. I’m respected and revered and loved by all those guys, and I help a lot of those guys out when it comes to music.
So right now you’re shooting a video, and it’s the first single off of The Easy Truth. On your Facebook, I know you said you went to Detroit and made some songs, but you didn’t give a lot of details, so how did it originally come about? Well, the way it all came together, Apollo Brown and myself have been real cool for years. We probably met around ’07 or something, and we’ve been cool for years in the industry. You know when you get in the industry, it’s like going to work every day, you make work friends. So we became real cool and real tight, and toured together back in 2014, and we’ve done records together. He has songs with my friends, he had a song with Barrel Brothers, so we had done work together, but here and there, and the fans seeing that wanted more than that. So to get to the base of the question, it started on Twitter, because after all those little things I mentioned, the fans on Twitter were like, ‘You guys gotta do a whole joint, a whole project for real.’ And the tweets got so loud, like ‘Apollo Brown, you gotta do a whole album with Skyzoo’, and vice verse and Apollo Brown texted me one day and said, ‘I know you see these tweets. We might have to do this.’ So I said, ‘You know what, you right. We’re both fans of each other’s music, let’s put the time aside and do it,’ and that’s how it came about. One thing I think is cool about you too is, you’re really into collaboration albums. Aside from your projects, like you worked with 9th Wonder – so what’s next? Do you have an on running list of producers or artist that you’re interested in doing an entire project with? There are definitely producers that I still want to work with, and it sounds weird, because I’ve been fortunate enough to work with so many great producers. But, there’s always somebody who’s super dope who I haven’t had the chance to work with, or even if I worked with them, I haven’t done a whole project, yet. I don’t know who would be next, because I’m not super focused on that at the moment, I’m ex-
cited about The Easy Truth; however, with me doing those types of projects, it’s always to do something in between solo albums coming out, and I’m big on having a project come out every year. We live in a space where you’ve got to stay active and be in people’s minds, whether you’re mainstream, underground, or in between like me. Whatever it may be, you’ve got to be active, and I’m into putting out a project every year. I don’t want to put out a solo album every year, because if I do that, I feel like the whole story I’m telling as far as the duration of my catalog, may seem rushed or watered, so I find ways to do things in between. So if I put out Salvation in 2009, then in 2010 I’ll put out Live from the Tape Deck with !llmind. If I put out a mixtape after that, then I’ll put out A Dream Deferred. If I put out an EP after that, then I’ll put out Music for My Friends. That’s just that it is for me, and this is another piece in the catalog, but the good thing about when I take that approach, it doesn’t alter or change the quality. Some people say, ‘Oh, Imma just throw this project together really quick and keep it moving.’ I don’t believe in that at all, because I know everything that’s put out, it’s going to last forever. Recently you did a project for Reasonable Doubt, and you did “Friend Or Foe Part 3.” Do you want to talk a little bit about that, how it came about, and being from Brooklyn, maybe how important Jay-Z is to you as an artist? Well just starting with that, Jay-Z is top two for me of all time, easily top five as far as MCs. My favourite MCs ever are Jay-Z and Mos Def, neck and neck regarding how strongly I feel about them. For me to sit here and not say that Jay-Z inspired me would be a bold faced lie. Jay-Z has inspired me tremendously as an MC, as a writer, the way I approach songs and music, not trying to be like him, but learning from what he’s put out there. Just like playing ball, Kobe learned from Mike, it’s just like playing ball, LeBron learned from Mike, it’s the same thing. I grew up a Jay fan and still am, even being in the industry, so with all of that,
the influence, and him carrying the baton for Brooklyn, and being all that, definitely means a ton to me. As far as the song, Genius came up with the idea 100%. I never thought about it; I never had any intentions of redoing “Friend or Foe.” They were like, ‘We got this idea, and we don’t know too many people who could pull this off, but you can. What would you think about Friend or Foe Part 3., you’re the son of the guy who got killed in “Friend or Foe Part 2.” I loved it, but my big thing was, I didn’t want people to think it was coming off as a Jay-Z diss. So, as a writer, I had to blatantly make sure I was not Skyzoo in the record. I had to point out all these vast differences, the kid is 20 years old, I’m far from 20, I’m 33, the kid is from Compton, I’m from St. James, so it was all these different things that I had to make sure I pointed out in the song, so people could say, ‘He’s not rapping as Skyzoo.’ It was a ton of fun, it was a blast, and I was curious to see what the response was going to be, if people were going to catch it, or be like ‘Yo, Skyzoo is dissing Jay-Z’, but 100% across the board, everybody caught it. They were like, ‘This is amazing, this is creative, this is super dope, nobody’s doing this type of stuff no more.’ What are your thoughts on some of the new cats that care coming up and the new sound in hip hop? I think we’re in a climate where if you don’t like what’s going on over here, you can just go across the street and get what’s over there. It’s a lot of that. With the internet you can go online – you can listen to the radio, or turn off the radio and go online and find more than what’s on the radio. So I think overall, the climate is dope because they’re so many options, not because, necessarily what’s mainstream or being pumped out there has changed for the better. Some of it has, but it’s really about the fact that there’s so much music to pick from, you can find something that’s dope. There’s tons of it.
When it comes to not writing your rhymes, what’s your thoughts on that? Like the whole Drizzy not writing his raps? There’re two schools of thought, because for one, it’s lucrative for people to not write their shit for you… For me, yeah. What do you think about it, though? Well for me, like I said I’m a ghostwriter, I write raps for other people all the time. So, on one hand, I love it, that’s more business for me, but on the other hand I think what people misconstrued with the whole situation is, some of the earliest hip-hop records, the first hiphop record, Rapper’s Delight, was written by somebody else. So it’s a tricky thing, because there’s nothing wrong with having a ghostwriter. I think the confusion comes in with the fans where they’re made to believe that say ‘artist X’ is believed to be an amazing MC and lyricist, genre changer, somebody to carry the flag and change the culture, and is going to be one of the greatest ever; when you find out that guy doesn’t write, that’s when it’s a problem.
The fact that guys like Diddy, Timberland, different people like that don’t write, people don’t have a problem with that, because they don’t look to those guys to be all-time great lyricists, they look to them for great records. They look to those guys for all the things they’ve done throughout their careers as far as their catalog, music that stood the test of time. You don’t look at Timberland or some of these people and say, ‘He’s one of the greatest lyricists ever.’ So the fact that they don’t write, it’s okay, nobody cares, it’s enjoying the music. But when you have artists who promote themselves as one of the best, the greatest ever, top ten/top five at the moment, those guys are supposed to be able to write, so when you find out they don’t write, that’s when the alarms go off, that’s the part that the people on the outside looking in didn’t really understand. When you find out Santa Claus isn’t real, it’s like ‘wow’, and I think that’s what it comes down to. Here’s a question that might be hard for you. If I said, ‘Skyzoo, could you stack your projects into your top three
projects’ what would you say? That’s incredibly tough. Music for my Friends is one of the three, The Easy Truth is up there, I’m excited about it, Salvation for sure, and Theo vs. JJ was such a favorite moment of mine, Ode to Reasonable Doubt, and I’ve already hit five, I’ve broken through the ceiling. As far as my solo efforts, Music for my Friends resonated with me so much, because it was exactly how I saw it. I don’t put a project out unless it’s what I want it to be, but with this one, I just envisioned being 13/14 years old, and how I would tell these stories from that place, while not being that age. I feel like for me personally, what I saw for myself, I hit it right on the mark. Salvation is the first one, and it tipped my whole life. Theo vs. JJ – it’s tough to answer that question well. Is ‘The Easy Truth’ one of your best projects? You happy about it? Excited? Yeah. Everything worked out perfectly with it, and the good thing about being able to collab is a meeting of the minds. If it’s someone you don’t know, people can tell, but if it’s someone who
It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot: DMX’s Debut Turns 18 In their latest Great Hip-Hop Debates podcast, XXL’s EIC Vanessa Satten, Jack Thriller, Dj Suss One, and Torae, debated whether younger heads needed to be schooled on the history of the culture. It was mostly in direct response to a recent controversy surrounding a tweet referring to Nas as Esco, which young-Twitter immediately jumped all over, accusing XXL of making an error [infuriating older heads in the process]. One of the great takeaways, though, was that we need to take the initiative to teach younger generations about the history of the culture, when at all possible. Well, today is the 18th anniversary of DMX’s debut album, It’s Dark and He’ll Is Hot, and rather than merely pointing it out, I felt it necessary to be part of the solution and discuss why the album matters. Today DMX is a shell of his former self; unfortunately, most 90’s babies missed D in his heyday, so they may not understand why he gets a consecutive pass from the hip-hop community.
ed the beef between Canibus and LL [more on that another time]. So, when It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot hit the streets, hot on the heels of the single, “Get At Me Dog,” people lost their minds. What Jeezy had (regarding an aura of authenticity) when he first dropped, X had in over-abundance. He was a hyper example of NYC’s gritty streets, circa the early 90s (think Onyx Bacdafucup) mixed with this inexplicable [because I’m a guy] appeal that had females open. The record was a product of the good old days of Def Jam, when über meticulous attention was paid to creating full bodies of work. The album was personal, aggressive, insightful, and catchy. Records like “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” and “Get At Me Dog” become anthems in the big apple, and nationwide.
Allow me to break it down.
Records that have always stuck out to me were “How’s It Goin’ Down”, a record that sees D essentially letting go of a relationship with a married/taken woman, and “Damian,” where D sells his soul to the devil in exchange for success — a storyline he picked up on subsequent albums.
By the time May, 1998, rolled around, buzz for DMX’s impending full-length album was at a fever-pitch. He’d made some serious noise dropping 16’s on some massive records the year before, namely Ma$e’s Debut album, Harlem World, LOX’s debut, Money Power Respect. Not to mention, his verse on LL Cool J’s “1,2,3,4” — the song that start-
The album sold over 200k in its first week, and two years later, was certified 4x platinum. A mere seven months later (within the same calendar year), he released his follow-up album, which also reached 4x platinum status. He became the first rap artist to have two number-one albums within one calendar year. It may be hard for younger
heads to grasp how large DMX was, but numbers don’t lie. And those numbers are insane. He helped usher in names like Eve, Swizz Beats, and a host of others; and, was an inspiration to countless artists. I’m not even going to get into “Belly,” and his other movie roles, or his other albums. But, DMX’s place in (hip-hop) history is well deserved. He still packs shows, though, and as of late, seems to be on a more positive path. It’s been well publicized that his issues with drugs and alcohol have been a dark cloud over his career — and more importantly his life — for a better part of the last decade. Listening to this album as I write, 18 years after first pumping it in my blue Sony Walkman during the summer of 1998, takes me right back to that time in my life. It’s true that much of the love D still gets is due to the nostalgic value of his classic catalog; however, the album is timeless. It more than holds up — and stacks up — today, just as well as it did when it first dropped. I still get the same feeling as I listen to “How It’s Goin’ Down,” reminiscing about an era that seems like yesterday, but is a lifetime ago. If you’ve never indulged, give the album a spin. If you’re a real head, re-indulge. All hail the Dark Man. [Dark Bark] … What the deal?
BEST of â€˜16
Soulful Goon Music A Q&A With Harlem Singer Tim Vocals
There has always been a fair share of R&B “bad boys,” for lack of a better term. By that, I mean singers who, well, have more of an edge to them than other singers. I’m not talking about Chris Brown-esque antics either, I’m talking singers like Aaron Hall for example, or (probably a better example) The late Nate Dogg, who crooned about the ghetto lifestyle, and had an unmistakable aura of authenticity that made him a star (even if he did lack actual battle scars). I recently came across a new singer by the name of Tim Vocals when perusing WorldStar, and was an instant fan. Over the infamous White Iverson instrumental, Tim initially came off – content wise – like Uncle Murda, mixed with a more soulful/ hungry Usher. Dope right? I explored his catalogue of music, including his Live From Harlem mixtape, and found more than a handful of gems, like the bassy drug dealer anthem, Harlem NYC, and numerous “goon remixes,” like his recent take on Weeknd’s The Hills, titled The Pills. Tim came up on the mean streets of Harlem, and went through his share of real-life experiences, spending some years in and out of jail before putting the streets into the rear view, and hitting the ground running in the industry. You can hear this authenticity in his music, which adds to his brand and makes his voice so relatable throughout neighbourhoods nationwide. To fully understand what I mean, just watch some of his early vids where he’s singing in building lobby’s back on the block; he lived that life. His team is solid, and he’s working with the likes of Harry Fraud, Nino Man, Smoke DZA and more, so evidently Tim is on a serious come-up – and someone you should keep an eye/ear on. Tim was kind enough to hop on a call with me to chat about his new album, R.N.B, which is available now, and more. Check the Q&A below. Be sure to grab Tim’s R.N.B album on I-Tunes ASAP – or stream it on Spotify. How did you get into music? Oh man, that’s a good question. I got into music listening to my older sisters and brothers play music in the house all the time – and certain things stuck
more than others. I was always into rap but when I heard R&B, it became something I had to get into. So I got my first tape player and headphones, and then I just started emulating what I heard. Bam, here I am today. How big of an influence is hip-hop on your R&B? Because you’re R&B but its more street… Yeah, I was gifted with a voice, but I have a rapper mentality. I think what’s influenced me as far as R&B, are singers like Jodeci, Chris Brown, Usher, Donell Jones , but the rap — I grew up listening to LL. Going back to the old school, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane; I listened to a whole lot of rap music to hear what’s going on. That’s how I fell in love with rap and music period. But, I don’t think I have a genre. I don’t think that anything that I’m doing right now has a set stage. I just love music right now. I’m making music that makes me feel good. As far as my R.N.B album, I was going through things in my life at the time – and I just wrote about it. That’s basically what it is right now. I’m loving music again. Tell me a little bit about your current project, who you are working with and the process of putting it together. I’m working with a label called Next; it’s an independent label. The Orchard is pushing it out – I’m pretty sure everybody knows what Orchard is. My feature artists, well, there’s a couple of people, like Smoke DZA, my son Dash… I’ve worked with a lot of people to get here. It was a smooth process. I’ve got another project in mind that is going to be real heavy; I just wanted to get this out there and get my feet wet. Alright, so who are some people that you’d like to work with in the industry? Number one would be like Drake, Miguel — I’d like to work with Bryson Tiller right now, too. I’d like to work with a lot of people. How important is authenticity in your music? I think that the more I see, the more I feel, and the more I write while things
are fresh – at the time – the better the music (depending on what mode I’m in). If I’m in a deep mode at the time, I can write about anything. But, those feelings at the time, that energy, that’s what I’m going to give off. If I’m around good vibes, the music is going to show it. If I’m around bad things, it’s going to reflect too. What are you currently working on right now? I’ve got something in the works with Harry Fraud; we’re doing a little EP you know what I’m saying? That wasn’t supposed to be told, but I said it anyway — you know me. I also have another album I’m working on – but that one is something I’m going to do with other people. I’ve got a couple of things you know what I’m saying? So, you write for other people as well? Yes, I do. But the other people I write for are underground artists. Do you find that to be a therapeutic process? Are they all similar artists to you? You know, I go into it unbiased to everything. I just write. I think of it as a therapeutic process at the same time, but I just love music from the beat, to the writing, to the actual singing – and references or whatever it is. I love it. That Black Washington joint was the catchiest shit ever. You need to know that! I appreciate that. I don’t even pay attention to stuff like that when I’m around friends. I’ll just be listening to everybody else. I don’t even listen to myself much. I listen to everybody else. Yeah, it’s weird; some people are the complete opposite. I talk to some artists that say, “I only listen to my music,” like Wayne. I think it was in an interview someone asked him what he thought of the new Nicki album (when Nicki and Drake first dropped their albums), and he admitted that he didn’t listen to the album all the way through. He’d ever heard them because he only listens to his own shit 24/7.
their albums), and he admitted that he didn’t listen to the album all the way through. He’d ever heard them because he only listens to his own shit 24/7. That’s dope for him. It’s crazy for a Libra because I’m a Libra too, we usually show the love. But I don’t know. I’m always listening to somebody else. I like to hear new sounds and new people with their ideas and how they want to express it through music. I’m always for that.
Do you have any other artists in your crew that you’re working with? Is it just you as Tim Vocals or is there a team we should be looking out for? I got a team in mind, but I don’t think I’m going to present them just yet because everything is in the works. But, I’ve got a person I’ve been working with. We’re about to go back and do what we’ve got to do. We’re about to make that shit happen again. Tim, do you have any last words or
anything else you’d like to leave our blog with? Yo, just be on the look out for some fire, man. I appreciate anybody and any blogger or anybody that wants to interview me. I think that what I’ve got to say is very important. Yeah, as he said, honestly, I appreciate everybody that wants to know my story and what’s going on with me.
BEST of â€˜16
Gavlyn: Only Five Feet Tall Rising High As Hell
26-year-old LA-based rapper Gavlyn has it factor that’s so prevalent it’s impossible to ignore. She’s been on my radar since she dropped From The Art four year ago, and she has yet to disappoint. Debuting around the same time that Kreayshawn and her White Girl Mob were rising to notoriety, Gav went left, and set herself apart as an artist by building her sound around a 90’s hiphop aesthetic, which went over well – as you imagine. Her confident, (sort of) deep, distinctive voice – and actual bars – have earned her a massive following, and millions of YouTube spins. She’s dropped four albums and has rocked six international tours, gracing stages with royalty in the game, like WuTang Clan for example; all this before the age of 26. With her latest album, Make Up For Your Break Up available for purchase worldwide, her upcoming European tour with her homegirl Reverie this April, and her imprint – Peach House – in effect, she shows no signs of slowing down her momentum. She was kind enough to take some time out to do a quick Q&A for AAHIPHOP – see below. Be sure to cop Make Up For Your Break Up today! How did you get involved in hip-hop (originally)? The way I got involved with hip-hop originally was – obviously – being a fan of it, and growing up listening to it. I was also around cyphers as a kid and just hopped in jokingly and fell in love
with it. You truly do seem like an “old soul” – can you explain how you initially gravitated toward your sound? I have a lot of siblings that put me onto old school hip hop, and parents that introduced me to old school music in general. Not to mention, I always used to steal their CDs as a kid.
in life, such as a break-up, bad fight, or struggles in general, she tends to wear more makeup to cover up her emotions and how she feels. What advantages do you see staying independent? Have you had any interest from majors thus far?
Who were some of your influences as you were starting out?
One of the biggest advantages of being independent is being able to be your own creative director. I have had interest from majors, but none that have sold me yet.
My influences starting out were Jean Grae, Typical Cats, Little Brother, 9th Wonder, Guru, Dj Quick, Sugarfree, Snoop Dogg, and Helta Skelta.
You’re so young, but you have such an impressive catalogue thus far…what’s next for Gavlyn? What are your career goals?
There is so much growth from your first two albums to Modest Confidence. It seemed as though you/it had a different vibe (sonically). Was that something that was intentional, or was it more organic?
What’s next for me is to define my lane and to be a voice for the young people in my generation because they haven’t had the pleasures that 90’s kids like myself have had to learn from the OG’s of my time. I want to be able to teach kids what real music is, as opposed to all the watered down stuff that’s out right now that they are unfortunately learning from.
My growth was a little bit of both. It was intentional to show people the new direction that I was trying to go, but it was also organic trying to show people where my mind was at the time and what I was going through in my life. Tell me about Make Up For Your Break Up – what was the concept behind the album? Was it the product of a breakup? The meaning behind the album is whenever women go through things
What projects do you have in the works for 2016? I’m working on a project right now with DJ Hoppa called ‘Why Wait’, which is basically about not waiting to make things happen for yourself. Other than that, I have a European tour in April 2016 with Reverie. Lastly, some tours in the States that will be coming up. So stay tuned for that!
Ghetto D: 20 Years Later The undisputed entrepreneur and southern legend Master P — who ironically started his career on the west coast — was already riding high by the time that 1997 rolled around. His label No Limit, which evolved from a record store he had owned/operated in Richmond, California, was a magazine mainstay, booking out two pages at a time. He also scored a few regional hits alongside his brothers C-Murder and Silk The Shocker, collectively known as TRU, and had some notoriety after the release of his fifth solo endeavour, Ice Cream Man. It was with the release of the infamous Ghetto D, though, that the whole continent caught on to what the NO transplant was up to. Fuelled by the double-platinum lead single, “Make Em’ Say Ughh,” the album was a game changer for not only P but his entire
roster, which grew to its climax a few short years later. The album was a rough, rugged, raw walk through [southern] inner-city life. From the title track, which included a vivid step-by-step manual on how to be a cocaine distributor, to the dramatic allusions to the rap industry as a form of reformation for drug dealers on “I’m A Rider.” Then, there was the heartfelt [lyrical] tears for the fallen on the project’s second biggest single, “I Miss My Homies,” which was largely inspired by the death of his brother, Kevin. There were a few thug-love attempts — those were, however, overshadowed by bassy funk-laced rider music that became the soundtrack of the southern massive. Following the album’s success, the label saw solo efforts by many of its core
artists, like Silk and Mystikal, push millions of units. P was even able to score Snoop Dogg during the weird limbo period after he left Death Row. In fact, that album stands as the highest selling from the imprint. The turn of the millennium saw the mighty tank sustain some heavy damage — from the loss of major artists, the indefinite incarceration of C-Murder, and a decline in record sales. P eventually sold the catalogue and has since tried to reclaim his brand’s glory days a few times — to varying degrees of success. His son has sold millions of records, and appeared on television, and P himself still has a fortune of over $300 million to keep him warm at night. For fans of the rapper during the heydey of his iconic label, his music will always have a place in our hearts.
way possible. Herc changed the game, of course, but — most important to this conversation — a young (street) rapper who was then known as A1 Coke, or Coco, grabbed the mic and changed the world. Amidst playfully calling out his homies, using an echo chamber, he dropped the following: “There is not a man that can’t be thrown, A horse that can’t be rode A bull that can’t be stopped, There is not a disco that I Coke La Rock can’t rock.” Just like that, the first rap infected the crowd and quickly spread and took on a life of its own. Coke, shortly after Kool Herc was stabbed a party some years later, walked away from rap. A move, he said at the time, was partly to let some of the younger cats have a chance at wearing the crown. Unfortunately, Coke came up in an era that pre-dates a constant documenting of experiences. Thus, we’re left only with stories and beautifully preserved digital copies of 1970’s and 80’s party fliers.
No Idols: A Lesson To Be Learned From Coke La Rock
Hip-hop, in it’s current iteration, comes — and goes — in waves. The waves all have catalysts (like Drake, Kid Cudi, or younger drill gods like Keef, Santana, and Dirk), and set the stage for a tsunami of similarity. Rappers, influenced by other rappers, borrow flows which influence other rappers; you see where I’m going. The cycle continues until one brave soul goes against the grain and challenges the norm, setting off another chain reaction. It’s hard to imagine fully an artist without a direct influence or at least a point of reference. Well, perhaps you haven’t heard of Coke La Rock, widely accepted to be the first rapper ever to touch a mic. History shows that at the infamous 1973 party that DJ Kool Herc threw for his sister Cindy, hip-hop was born, in every
Is there a point or lesson to this? Yes. Coke La Rock often describes what he did that night as just having fun with his friends. He had no preconceived notions of fame, no desire to sign a deal — he didn’t even have rhymes written. He didn’t record any records! It was improvisational, organic, and i spiring. It was, quite literally, the purest example of hip-hop ever. The lesson is that artists need to take some time to listen to their inner voice, and find a way to materialize that into their music. Music doesn’t have to be a jumble of influences outside of your experience. As well, genuine admiration for an artist doesn’t have to lead directly to similar music. Stop trying so hard to fit in, and work harder at standing out. Listen to your heart — it will tell you if you’re truly in this game for the right reason. If Coke La Rock can do it, you can to! Stop biting!
Fight The Power (Again): We Need A Next-Gen Revolution Hip-hop was an unquenchable flame — and once it’s commercial appeal was fully embraced and realized, it became big business; unfortunately, this came at the cost of substance. Today, we’re seeing a rise in documented [police] violence, horrific social injustice, and a political crossroad more stark than we’ve ever experienced. Yet, some of the culture’s biggest and brightest voices have marbles in their mouths, and would rather pander to commercial radio than risk ostracizing their industry status, and overly lavish lifestyles. When we [AAHIPHOP] recently polled out Twitter followers, 75% felt that these artists had a responsibility to use their platforms for the greater good — to speak out about what’s happening and influence discussion/ change. I don’t want to create that illusion that there aren’t revolutionary voices, though. Killer Mike, for example, is stepping out from behind the mic, and encouraging the black community to
support their own [businesses], and strengthen unity at an individual level. As well, many artists, have openly supported movements like #BlackLivesMatter and poured millions into charities that support many notable causes. I’m just wondering when we’ll see 30 of the highest selling artists get together on record to provide clear [unbiased] direction and leadership, together — unified. Think Tidal, but with a far less self-serving mantra than how much money artists receive from album streams. Openly supporting popular movements and hashtags on Twitter or wearing [social activist] shirts is one thing, but organizing a million people to assemble and peacefully demonstrate is another. I’m nothing thinking macro like “Fuck Trump,” I’m thinking larger scale, like a let’s challenge a system that would force a vote for a lesser of two evils rather than strong candidates — free of questionable/objectionable actions or thinking. Instead of “Fuck The Police,” how about, let’s celebrate and support the good of-
ficers who work hard to protect their communities and put themselves at risk daily to provide for their families, not unlike firefighters or soldiers. Let’s topple those who think the opposite, and work to build up and elect regional and municipal officials who will prosecute “bad officers” to the fullest extent of the law — and finally bring justice to families who have suffered unimaginable loss. Unbiased, unfiltered; an educated unity that can lead everyone to a greater good. Hip-hop can do that! Hip-hop HAS done that. This time [in history] is ripe for the next generation to make a mark so cultural significant that a quasi-jaded head like me will write about it thirty years from now — and call for similar social accountability from artists that are prevalent in that era. Let’s smarten up, get together, and organize. Let’s do this.
BEST of â€˜16
Actress Lian Amado Talks Tupac Biopic
The hip-hop community is buzzing about the release of the long-fabled Tupac biopic, All Eyes On Me. Like most of the world, we’ve been following the movie’s progress — and actual existence — through scattered Instagram pics that showed signs of, if nothing else, fantastic casting. One confirmed actress I found particularly exciting was the gorgeous Lian Toni Amado, who announced to the world via Instagram that she’d been cast in as the role of “The Voice Of NYC,” Angie Martinez. Many may, or may not, be aware of her infamous interview with Pac at the height of the East/ West drama; however, only 12 minutes was ever released, with the remaining hour and forty-eight minutes staying in the vault. The casting of Lian was not only incredibly well-done, but it signified the overall care, and level of detail that the film had in store for us. Last week’s release of an official theatrical trailer has me more excited than ever to see the movie. Lian, while busy packing for a trip to Miami, was kind enough to chat with me about her time on set, how she landed the role, and more. Check out the interview below. How did you get into acting? I’ve only been doing it seriously for a couple of years. I started out just doing for fun. I had done a music video
for an international artist from Australia and – long story short – I ended up getting an acting coach, and she helped set me in the right direction. This acting coach trains a lot of great music artists who convert into acting. After that, I took it seriously. I started to think I could do this as a real job. Up onto this point, everything I worked on has been film and a lot of it has been independent; like, I’ve had a film in Cannes, so I got to go to France for that. This is definitely like my biggest thing so far. How did you originally audition for the role? It’s funny; I was going through something [personally] and had just stepped away from acting for like a month at that point. And two of my actor friends — at different times — had sent me the breakdown for the role and they’re like, “You should audition for Angie.” But I was just like, “No, I’m working. I am good right now.” And then once my agent had sent it to me, I kind felt like I had to try. She sent it to me, and I put my (audition) on tape — she sent it to me like 1:00 pm on a Friday night, and I was supposed to have it in by like 3:00 pm. So, I only had a few hours to work on it. Saturday morning, my agent called me and asked if I could be in Atlanta by Monday for a callback. After the call back I didn’t hear anything for almost two months. I went into the callback and auditioned for Carl Franklin, who was the second director that was on board. The next day a press release comes out that he had dropped out of the film. So I was like, “Well, there goes my audition.” I felt like I came to Atlanta for nothing. So this was like maybe mid-November, it was around Thanksgiving. It was almost the middle of January when I got the call from the office that I was their first option and asking if I would take the part. So, what was the experience like? I loved playing her. I have a really, really, really big passion for music; if I
could sing, I would have been a singer. When I was younger, I interned at Def Jam as well as at some other big music companies. I’m really into music. So any project that involves music and film is like a dream. Like, Selena. That type of movie. When I got the part, I remember thinking “This is what JLo felt like when she booked Selena.” Usually, anytime I book anything, or I’m working on stuff, it’s always stressful. But I didn’t feel like that with this character; I learned so much. I played young Angie, so I played her back in the 90s when the whole East Coast/ West Coast thing was going on. So I was young at that point, I didn’t know how serious it was. So, while doing my research, there was a lot of things that I learned that I didn’t even know happened. I didn’t know about the drama that happened at the Source Awards in ’95. It felt right. I just remember sitting on set and then getting into the wardrobe; it just…felt really good. Good to play her. Playing her was like a dream. Did you connect with her or did you talk to her before you like played the role? Not before. She didn’t know that she was in the film. I had sent her flowers just to introduce myself a couple of months ago, because I was like talking to a friend and it’s like, “It’s weird, you’re playing somebody who’s alive — maybe you should like to introduce yourself.” So just sent her flowers to introduce myself, and she went on the air and talked about how she didn’t even know that she was in the film. But, she’s setting up an interview, cause she was all like, “I want to know who you are, what’s happening, and what I’m doing in the film.” She has no idea. So I didn’t meet her yet, but I will soon. Have you seen any cuts of the film yet? I saw some when I was there. It was cool cause when I was on set, one of Pac’s uncles was there. They were playing some of the scenes from the Black Panthers movement.
I didn’t know much about the whole movement, so I had to do my homework. It was strong, though. Danai Gurira –the actress playing Afeni Shakur was on set the same time as me. I was watching the scenes that she was in, and they looked amazing. I don’t want to give too much away. Yeah, I got to see some of the stuff on set, and it all was really good. Even seeing the actors on set dressed as who they are, it was real. The more you start seeing pictures, and even when I saw you in costume on Instagram, it hints at how deep into the story (the film) gets, which is exciting! They show everything. A lot of (the film)has to do with his life, his upbringing — so it’s not just his music career. The hope is that it does for Pac what Straight Out of Compton did for NWA, which was put a whole new generation onto his legacy. My part is towards the end of the movie, once he was full blown, but I felt the same way. Angie is a legend herself; she’s classic. She reminds me of that era — and on top of that — she has all but 12 minutes of her (epic) interview with Pac that she never released. So she’s a really big part of the story. I feel like she might know more about Pac and anybody. And I know her book just came out, and she put some stuff out about the interview that she has yet to release. He put out so much out to her. So yeah, I feel the same way. It’s cool. It just adds a classic piece of history to have her in it. The hope is that it does for Pac what Straight Out of Compton did for NWA, which was put a whole new generation onto his legacy. I agree. I feel like even when I watched Straight Out of Compton, being from the East Coast, I didn’t know all the West Coast stuff, so I learned a lot watching that film. I’m assuming every Tupac album will be number one on iTunes after the film’s release. So, what’s next for you?
I’m working on a play, but I can’t say a lot about it. But I’m working on a play that’s going to happen sometime in late 2017, and it has to do with the hip-hop culture. But, it’s just in the beginning stages. Besides that, just staying in the same hustle that I was in before — just auditioning. After I had got
home (from doing All Eyes On Me), I was like on a high for like a month, and then I was like, “Okay, I have to get back to where I was at right before all of this.” So we’re just grinding. I just came back; I was in LA for pilot season. I’m just in the same hustle as before, ready for whatever is next.
BEST of ‘16
From Panda To Infinite: Interview With UK Producer Menace
Some producers work their whole lives hoping to reach their opus; their signature beat that puts them in the history books alongside the production elite. Pete Rock’s opus will always be the iconic “T.R.O.Y.,” for example. Some younger producers, like RunWay Star and Young Chop, who produced “Teach Me How to Dougie,” and Chief Keef’s seminal hit “Don’t Like,” respectively, have been lucky enough to sit behind huge, culture shifting records that have helped to propel their careers. It would be impossible to argue, though, that young Menace (a 22-year-old from Birmingham, UK) hasn’t bested them all. In fact, he’s dramatically shifted the sound of 2016 and produced one of the biggest records in years. He has over a decade of production under his belt, and his Youtube/Instagram accounts give us a look into his all-in, relentless production regime. It wasn’t until he sold the beat “Panda” to a US rapper named Desiigner for $200, that both their lives changed — forever. From hitting over 121 million plays on You-Tube, to being used by Yeezy on his critically acclaimed Life Of Pablo, the song is literally everywhere.
“Panda” just recently reached platinum status [since original publication it’s gone 3x platinum], which is mind blowing if you consider it didn’t even have an official video until this week. Menace’s stroke of luck has put him in a position to not only work with names like Lil’ Wayne but also led to him signing a lucrative production deal with Stellar Songs. The US-based company has collaborated with artists ranging from Beyonce, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Ne-Yo to Michael Jackson, Mary J Blige and Elton John [no big deal]. He also, until recently, had a part-time job. He’s now working fulltime on his music, and shopping for a new crib — crazy.
your favourite so far?
ing on another project shortly.
Right now, I would say T-Pain; he just incorporated so many different musical elements into it. I mean, of course, there’s been some great remixes, like Meek Mill, and Lil’Kim, but I give T-Pain that respect. He destroyed Panda. Desiigner made the song what it is, but I think if the original was T-Pain, the song might have done just as well.
How wild is that? You two have this weird bond now…
Menace was recently kind enough to chat with me about how his life has changed, how he connected with Desiigner, and more. He’s a super humble kid — it’ll be amazing to see where he goes from here.
Are they all asking for a “Panda” type beat? [laughs]
Tell us a little more about yourself. I’m from the UK obviously, Manchester. I started producing beats at the age of 12; I’m 22 now, so I’ve been at it for ten years. I used to have a parttime job before all of this happened. I’m now proudly doing music full-time, since signing a production deal with Stellar Songs. How did you originally get in contact with Desiigner? Someone in his circle bought the beat. I used to have a beat store up. Maybe a month after he bought it, he hit me up on Twitter, and was like, “you need to check this out, this is fire.” Everyone was saying it had potential [in the comments], but when I heard it, I knew it was going to be huge.
Have you had any artists reach out to you since the track exploded? Right now I’m working with Lil’Wayne, French Montana, and Partynextdoor — so lots of projects on the go.
Exactly, they heard the production, and everyone wants the Panda type beat now. That’s the new sound of 2016. Well, I hope it is. That’s what I’ve been sending them. Wayne and French Montana are quite versatile, though. How has your personal life changed — are you still at home? Yeah, I’m still living with my family right now — but, I’m looking for a new home. It’s crazy the opportunities that are popping up. It is mind bending to go from living with your family to even consider purchasing property in the UK at the age of 22… It’s all about using the opportunity. It’s like a disease, to be honest. In a good way. It just kind of spread everywhere and took over. If it kept spreading, we’d probably see endless remixes.
What was your reaction to the (almost) overnight popularity of the song?
It’s interesting to think, though, that Desiigner is going through the same thing right now!
I didn’t even really understand how it just blew up all of a sudden, which obviously is a good thing. But, it just felt like one day it was uploaded, and the next it exploded.
We both started from the bottom — and now we’re here.
There has been an ungodly amount of remixes to the song. What has been
Have you two met in person? We haven’t — we’ve been in contact, though, and we’re planning to get together soon. We’re planning on work-
We do. It’s hard to process because, first of all, it was fast — lightening fast. I didn’t expect that I’d be sitting behind the biggest single of 2016. Just luck I guess, or maybe I was destined for greatness. It’s kind of like DJ Mustard. Everyone started hearing his stuff, and were like “I want that, I want that.” That’s kind of what happened to me, just on a much bigger scale. It is; I mean, some producers will (and have) worked their whole lives, and will never have a song as culturally relevant as “Panda.” I keep asking myself, how did I break through the competition, and make it right through to the top? Do you remember making “Panda?” What was going through your head? To be honest, somebody commented on my Instagram video, where I was in the process of making the beat — I was in the process of making “Panda.” That was 2014. I forget I had even made that video. I knew I had something special, though. What do you think is the biggest thing producers do wrong? They make music, but don’t know how to market music. They don’t know — or consider — the age group and demographic the beat is for. They just make beats and hope people hop on it. So where do you go from here? The next singles I’m working on are going to be even bigger than “Panda” — that’s what I’m hoping. I have to see this as a stepping stone. Keep the momentum up and carry on. Let’s see what 2016 has in store for me. I’m looking forward to it.
BEST of â€˜16
Art Is Life: Interview With Shelah Marie
Maybe it’s because I’m a father of two wonderful daughters, but I find myself relating verbatim to Nas’s “Daughters.” Whenever I see women being negatively or unfairly portrayed in the media in any way, I see my daughters, and my heart breaks a little. This was the case when I started seeing the [extremely surface] fashion in which some outlets were shining light on Ace Hood’s girlfriend, the lovely Shelah Marie. She’s a yoga loving, theater performer that’s easy on the eyes — no question. But she’s also a well educated, articulate, and creative soul, who’s used theater as a philanthropic tool to create positive change in the world. Definitely, more than just “Ace’s Bae.” I decided to reach out to Shelah and learn a little more about her background in the arts, her work, and her relationship. Tell me a little bit about yourself. I’m an actress, a playwright, and a meditation enthusiast. I focus on selflove in no matter what avenue I’m using. Right now I’m focusing on planning the #curvyandcurly conscious tour for summer 2017. Maybe tell me a little bit about that [#curvyandcurly]. How did it come together? Well, It began when I was just starting to get (Instagram) followers beyond people that I already knew. I was like, “What — people that don’t know me want to follow me, why?” You know, so I started to think, “Okay, I should make a hashtag that resonates with me so that everything can be in one place.” I just thought of something that was true for me; I was curvy and curly, and that’s how the hashtag started. I began to notice that it seemed to draw people in. Women appeared to be drawn to it as a support system for body love, and men were drawn to it because — well — they love curly and curvy women. I mean, mean who doesn’t? Something that is interesting about you [that seems overlooked] is that you’re insanely well educated — and you’re deep in the theater community. How did you get involved?
I started acting when I was in high school. At that time, l worked at TGIF Fridays. This agent came for lunch there one day, and she saw me and she was like, “You should be modeling.” Long story short, she became my first manager, and I started booking every single thing I went on an audition for. I didn’t have any training at that point, and decided I wanted to hone this tool and make it work for me. So I have a bachelors degree in theater from Florida University, and I also have a master’s in performance studies from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. With that education I transitioned into teaching artists training, which means I’m an artist first, an educator second. So I use the skills that I learned from the theater – from acting to developing other skills – with people both in school and outside of school.
make their lives better.
I’ve also written and produced plays that have traveled throughout the country. I’ve performed on TV; I’ve performed on film, and in many theaters in New York City. So acting is something that I love to do, and I’m looking forward to manifesting that more here in South Florida which is like a whole new world to me.
I just finished working with inner city girls that were kind of on the edge; I used theatrical tools to develop self-esteem and self-love. So I do not teach acting.
Tell me a little more about the teaching work you do. Regarding teaching work, I was very lucky. New York has a high standard of education in general and especially arts education, and I worked for one of the biggest and oldest theaters for children and families in the country called The New Victory Theatre. While I was there, I gained a lot of skills. They trained us all the time; they gave us workshops and professional development. Inside of the school, I worked from eight through 12. I’m wasn’t a full-time teacher so I could push in and out of the school. I could do workshops for four weeks, three months, or even one-off workshops. In New York, my curriculum was surrounding a work of art or a live performance. But now what I do is I work with all kinds of groups. I work with homeless groups, I work with the elderly, and I work with young people. And I work with them to use skills learned from theater to
How do you do that? One of the things I used to do is audition prep for young people that were going to audition for programs, like a theater program for example. What I found in doing that, is that I don’t like teaching acting. I do not like teaching drama skills for performance. I do not like what it does to people, like for example; I was working with a girl, and I thought she was great — and she works hard. We were like three months in and then she doesn’t get into the school, all of a sudden she feels like a failure. I didn’t want to be associated with that. So what I do is I use skills and tools in the theater, for example, communication, eye contact, and being present, and I use all of that to teach life skills.
That’s really interesting. Thank you, I love it. I live and breathe it. It’s a really interesting approach; it’s more like using theater as therapy. One of the things that I was going to do was drama therapy — and I do it in a weird way. I’m not a certified drama therapist, but a lot of my work looks like drama therapy for sure. Explain to me how your sustainability theater workshops came together. I haven’t done one in years. But the sustainable theater workshops is something that I created following my first trip to Haiti; I’ve since been to Haiti four times. First time I went, though, I was shocked. I was teaching kindergarten at this time in Harlem, and while I was in Haiti, I was teaching five-year-olds that were working so that their families could afford for them to go to school. I was affected by that. I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that five-year-olds in one place
get so much privilege and then fiveyear-olds in another place are working all day. With that, I was like, “Let me see which tools and skills I have that I can bring into areas where they don’t have them.” What the workshops did was use theater help the children to tell their stories as a form of therapy. I held the Sustainable Theatre Workshop in Haiti first, then I did it in Jamaica, Senegal, and I did it in conjunction with the United Nations here in New York City. It’s about giving a group of young people the skills to create their work of art. Is it something that you think you are going to do again in the future? I am going to do it again in the future, it just needs reworking in my mind, because I found that it wasn’t sustainable. There’s something about it at the core that I think needs to be revisited, and that’s why I haven’t done it again. Because I can’t do anything, I don’t feel totally passionate about. Like everything I do, I have to believe in it 1000%. Which is fair – makes for a better product, right? Right, exactly. I’m not here to bullshit anybody; you know what I mean? So tell me about you and Ace – you’re the new hip-hop “it” couple. Really? That’s a huge compliment, thank you. How did you guys meet? Oh, we met on Instagram. Every time I say this, I think of the fact that like when I first got an interview about this — and I was like, “What do I say to this?” I called him, and I was like, “Ace should I make up a story about how we met?” He was like, “No, you should tell the truth.” We were just following each other for a long time, and commenting back and forth and, you know, it was a year full of that kind of stuff. I was like, “Why is this guy following me?” I’m thinking that I’m not his type; I’m not on that – you know, if you think of every rapper’s type, I’m not that type. So I didn’t think any-
thing of it.
I was living in NYC at that time, and he was visiting, and my friends dared me to write him. I said, “No way, I’m not going to write him, because it does not go down in the DM — he’ll obviously think I’m a thot.” You know what I’m saying, right? I am not about that life. Anyways, they broke me down, and I wrote him, and that was it. I think we met up the next day, and there hasn’t been a single day that we haven’t talked since.
It’s so funny too because that’s one of their talking points. Look at Omarion; they were trying to explain to us that it can enhance us as artists – I was like, “It’s the exception, but that’s not the rule.”
A lot of hip-hop industry couples end up on TV. Do you guys see yourselves being on Love and Hip-Hop, or that kind of thing?
And guess what? It makes a difference. It makes a difference because now do you listen to his music as readily? Like Stevie J; he lost all his credibility. But Omarion and his girl, they had a very good team. Like they had a very good balance of visibility and private life — and they came out pretty good. But I think just like I said, the exception is not the rule.I just don’t want to put myself in that. I don’t want to be a reality star; I know I’m better than that. No shade to any reality star, just for me.
We were already approached by Love and Hip-Hop a few times, and we have both decided against reality TV. We don’t want to be a reality couple. We don’t want to be identified as reality stars; we want our work to speak for us. Ace is an artist at the core. He does care about fame, he does care about money, but really, he cares about his music, and he wants to be known as an artist. I feel the same way. So no reality for us, as it stands now. Unless the face of reality just completely changes out of nowhere. I mean, where it is now, no. And I don’t want people in our fucking business, to tell you the truth. I feel like I’m a little bit of a shit show now and then, and I don’t want people judging me. I don’t want people in my relationship, you know. I just think it’s too much access. I don’t want to say it can destroy you, but it can destroy you. Everybody in America can think you’re an asshole because of the way the show makes you look, right? Exactly, and then the thing that I’ve learned is that one-minute people can love you, and the next minute people can hate you, and you just never know when it’s going to be. You can never predict it. And I don’t want to get too wrapped up in that. Because It could twist in the drop of a dime, you never know.
What it can do is completely change your perception of how you look at those people. I mean, LHH Hollywood made Soulja Boy look like an asshole — as a legit bad person.
And then if you try to do other things they’d be like “oh yeah, you’re that reality star.” I don’t want to be a reality star; I know I’m better than that. No shade to any reality star, just for me. Exactly, and I’m like, “No.” I mean like even now, it’s a challenge for me not to be on some Instagram model shit. I don’t even know what that is. I’m not a model. I’m not an Instagram model; It’s hard when people want to put you in one box and keep you there — in anything. I mean, that’s part of why I wanted to interview you too. Because when I started looking you up, you do a lot of things, but I saw articles like, “Ace Hood’s Bae, Top Ten Sexy Photos on Instagram.” I thought that downplayed you as a person… I hated that. Let me tell you; I cried the first time I saw it. I was like, “Come on guys!”
I mean look, LHH has been notorious for that. Where someone steps out and tries to do something and it just
XXL did something, Bossip did something a while back, a few other ones,
but I mean, that’s what they do. It was a bit tough in the beginning when you have your whole family, and all of your extended friends, and everybody watching you and reading those articles, but you know…it’s much easier. What’s your favorite Ace Hood song? I like “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” because I’m a theater person, and I think that song is so theatrical. I just love it; it’s dramatic. Then I love “All The Way G,” because he’s honest throughout that song — and he addresses a lot of things that he would never talk about. To me, that song marked his transition to being able to articulate himself more in his music. On a personal level, what are you working on right now? I’m working on the Curvy, Curly, Concious tour for 2017; we are going to go to six different cities over the summer of 2017. We’re trying to decide the cities right now, and we’re getting funded together. So that’s one of the things that I’m working on right now. And then I’m also writing a one-woman show because my creative side is something that I haven’t been nurturing as much lately, and I need it. So I’ve been writing, it’s been a few months. I write every day –I’m in the process. Do you have anything else you want to leave the interview with? I think no matter what you do, no matter how you do it, I think people should find ways to love themselves — and each other — more, and just be more positive. I see a lot of it happening on my social media, and Ace’s social media, and if I can leave anything, it would be that.
20 Years Strong: A Conversation With Slug of Atmosphere
It’s hard to talk about the combination of staying consistent and longevity in the game without mentioning Atmosphere — the duo of Ant and Slug. Since the onset of their 1997 debut they’ve lived life on wax, rarely deviating from the transparent realness that their fan base has come to both love and respect. From love, loss, and drugs, to marriage and children, it’s been a journey that’s weathered multiple eras of hip-hop. “I try to use the word ‘fortunate,’ because I don’t believe in luck,” says Slug when discussing how they’ve managed to stay active and relevant after all these years. “[some artists over 40] have created empires for themselves; artists like me, who are doing this more at an independent haven’t created anything like that I could fall back on,” Slug humbly explains. One could point to his indie label Rhymesayers as an exit strategy, though. Since 1995 (when it was founded), the label has amassed a who’s who catalog of underground hip-hop, from Aesop Rock and Brother Ali to Abstract Rude and MF Doom. “I stand behind all the projects,” Slug explains, “these guys are all my friends that I have genuine love for — people I trust to take care of my kids.” Now, at 44 years of age and two-decades-deep, Atmosphere have released their eleventh studio album, Fishing Blues. We were lucky enough to sit down with Slug who told us about the album, where the name came from, and more. Check the interview below, and — if you haven’t already — grab the album today!
of my contemporaries are breaking. Obviously, on the mainstream side of things you have artists who are in their 40s who are doing this, but they kind of created empires for themselves so they could do this at a pace that fits whatever else they are doing in life or business. Whereas you got artists like me, who are doing this more at an independent level who haven’t created anything like that I could fall back on. So at the end of the day, to be able to do this still at 44 and push forward; that is the challenge, that is the puzzle, that is the part that motivates me and it is the part that I enjoy. I guess that’s one angle; the other angle is that I enjoy communicating my thoughts, my ideas, and my opinions, you know what I’m saying? When I was younger, I just wanted to be an adult “MC.” Now, after 20 years, it’s way more than that. I appreciate that people will take a minute to check [my thoughts] on what it is that I’m dealing with. And with that, I feel, comes the responsibility of kind of covering it with my moral code and the life that I live by. At the end of the day, it’s all the same shit that had be inspired at the age of 20 but just an evolved version of those things, you know what I’m saying? The validation that comes with it, then there’s money… I like the money that comes with it, you know what I mean? There’s so many things that I can do with these resources. I’m able to take these resources to use them not to just reinforce my code but also to position friends of mine or artists that I care about to also reinforce their codes, you know what I mean?
So, after 20+ years as an artist in the game, what keeps you going? What makes you keep doing it?
Looking at the latest album, ‘Fishing Blues,’ what does the title mean? What was the catalyst behind its creation process?
On one hand, I don’t really know how to do anything else. And when I say that — I mean I obviously know how to do other things — but the challenge of this and the puzzle solving involved in doing this, it calls to me, you know what I’m saying? At this point, like you said after 20 years, that itself has become a new puzzle. When I was 16, there was no such thing as a 44-year-old rapper. Now that I’m 44, this is new ground that me and some
You know, the title was a joke. Originally, we had a different title for the record. We had completed the album and we were going out to take photos for what became the cover of the album and the photos on the inside. While we were out taking photos, we were at this lake in my city called Lake Nokomis there was a stack of canoes sitting next to the lake, and I was like “take a picture of those canoes and use it for B-roll.” On one of the ca-
noes, there were some stickers that said ‘B.B. King Fishing Blues’; Ant and I were like “oh s*** that’s tight — that should be the name of the record.” We said it jokingly, and it took us about two minutes to realize that we weren’t joking. It couldn’t say B.B. King’s Fishing Blues because that might be a little too ‘meta’ for some people. You know, so we just cut it down to just the ‘Fishing Blues’ part, and it was after that that we realized there’s a hell of a lot of fishing references on this f***** record. It didn’t even really strike me; we had this one song called “Fishing” — that was the joint with Grouch — then we had like six or seven songs that had at least references to fishing in it. I hadn’t put it all together until we change the name. What is fishing if you break it down? Fishing is a metaphor for a lot of different s*** and truthfully all those metaphors apply to our life especially the concept of going out to catch food for your family or fishing for compliments. All artists do that for validation. And then just fishing as a leisure activity, I mean at my age making music with Anthony is a leisure activity; it just so happens to also provide the sustenance I need, you know what I mean? It’s interesting because over 20 years your music has had some changes — but you’ve also had some life changes. You’ve grown, you’re married, and you have children. Yeah, sure, just like all people, I mean, as you grow you change. I mean, I challenge anybody to be the same person at 40 that you were at 20 . We all grow and change, hopefully, and if you don’t, you’re f****** up. With me as a parent, when I talk to my daughter about the things that I did in the past or my stories, whatever, I can always change things or control it. I mean, you’ve been doing it for 20 years, right? And you’re 40. Your twenties and thirties are immortalized online, how do you introduce that to your kid? Have you done that? All of my children are familiar with my music. Obviously my younger ones are not breaking the music down, like taking apart the lyrics; they hear the chorus or pick out a certain line they like
and thankfully, so far, they have been free of cursing. But the oldest one, Jacob, he’s 22 right now. He actually grew with me; as my career grew, he grew so he was neck-and-neck with it. And yes, I was never really shielding him from the life that I was living. He was very in tune with me and basically he saw me go through all this stuff that immortalized me. Technically, if I had never even immortalized that s*** on tracks, I was a young parent. I had a young kid that would have seen that stuff up close even if it wasn’t on tracks. He was still present for it, similar to me and my father. I was there for my dad’s ups and downs, and I watched my dad go through all the drama he went through, and it wasn’t so much – my dad didn’t make records about it; he just lived it. My kid watched me live it. As far as my younger children, they didn’t see me live that, they showed up after I had already lived it and I had time to figure it out. Hopefully, when
they look back on it, on Daddy’s old records, they’ll be able to see how life works both the positives and the negatives. I’m not the kind of dude that’s going to try to hide anything from my life, you know, I would like to be around and available to explain it to them so there’s a reason for it so there’s not just this mad negativity or crazy parties without some consequences for decision making. A lot of kinds of music that we listen to is inconsequential, you know what I’m saying? We listen to this music and we don’t think about the consequences for the stories being told. The party was the party and we got “lit” and we had a good time then we went home the next day we did it again, you know. That’s cool, but a lot of it is missing the part where they explain to you the consequences of pulling a gun or the consequences of doing that cocaine. I want to be the father that deals with and talks about the effects of that s***.
At the end of the day what do you think makes your brand so strong? Man, I don’t want to be a dick, but I would just say its timing, dude. I was at the right place at the right time and was fortunate, you know what I mean? And I met hella artists who can rap better than me. I do believe that it’s all circumstantial. I got put into this position by the Universe more so than by anything else than what I did. Here’s what I did: I stuck to my guns. I’m one of the artists that do what I do instead of necessarily fitting into any movement or any scene. That’s not saying that it will necessarily work for everyone – if I knew the answer to the question you are asking I would package it and I would sell it. Because there is no real answer – honestly — it’s just dumb luck. But, I try to stay away from the word luck, though. I try to use the word “fortunate” though, because I don’t believe in luck.
Refined Mind â€” The Music Of Adrian Younge
There is truly something special about Adrian Younge’s music. The methodical, upper echelon, level of quality and attention to detail in his unique blend of the late 60s to early 70s sound is a standard that not many musicians these days can live up to. I first became deeply immersed in his work after stumbling across Something About April back in 2012 and have been an avid listener from that point forward. For any crate digging sample freak, his music is a no-brainer — a stark departure from the direction that contemporary urban mainstream music has taken. With all it’s vintage aesthetic, though, it comes off as fresh and new. Music that’s meant to be experienced. He rose to notoriety in many hiphop circles after he collaborated with Ghostface Killah for the first of two installments of Twelve Reasons To Die, put in work on Jigga’s MCHG [on the song “Picasso Baby], and was the sample bank used by Primo for the Royce 5’9 collaborative project PRhyme. Not to mention his work on Kendrick Lamar’s “untitled 06.” The crossover into hip-hop — and his work alongside Ali Shaheed Muhammad of ATCQ on his label Linear Labs — has grown his very focused and adoring fan base. Adrian has more than established himself, and as such, has decided to take a leap with his latest project, The Electronique Void: Black Noise. “I wanted to make an electronic album that [actually] is an electronic album. There was a time when you heard the concept of electronic music, and you didn’t think of the notion of EDM. It’s not EDM; this is straight electronic music, but it’s electronic music recorded in the way our pioneers did it, using the same kind of equipment and techniques, so it sounds different.” Adrian took some time out to chat with us about The Electronique Void: Black Noise, his creative process, his label, his record store, and much more. Check out the interview below, and be sure to grab the album for yourself. Also — he and Ali Shaheed Muhammad scored Marvel’s “Luke Cage,” so now you know!
Let’s talk about the new album — it’s quite different than your other work, what made you explore this new avenue? Well, I’ve always wanted to do an electronic album. The thing is, I had to wait for the right time because I had to establish who I am first. I’m a composer/producer that loves cinematic music from the late 60s early 70s, more particularly from the period of ’68 to ’73. So this has been brewing in me for a while, and I just finally said you know what, it’s time to go in. So I’m hanging out with NoID a lot — that’s one of my good friends — and he was just rekindling my affinity with analog synthesizers, and I just said you know what? It’s time now. I’ve got to do this project. So I hooked up with one of my good friends who’s also in my band, and he’s like a mentor to me, Jack Waterson, to put this together. I said, ‘Handle the dialogue, this is the concept, and I’ll handle the music.’ So he controlled the discourse — the dialogue. It’s a dark, twisted story where we’re explaining that love is a concept, it’s not something that’s finite. You can’t determine all its variables, but you know it’s there. So, it’s a story about ‘how to love.’ How do you come up with the concepts for your albums? A lot of times it’s more of a precognitive, intuitive thinking type of mindset, where I know I want to do another project and then something just jumps in my head that just inspires me so much that it inspires music. I make music with parameters and limitations, meaning I like to create boundaries I have to stay within and make something within those boundaries. So for example on this album, I didn’t play any bass guitar, no piano — everything was analog synth. No horns, no flutes, and the only thing as far as an organic instrument is a drum set, and I’m singing into a vocoder while I play. So those are the only two love elements, so I wanted to prove to myself that I could make an album not relying on my key instruments. Your music is very meticulous, and it has an intense thought process be-
hind it. It also has a particular type of sound. So what drives that? Do you have a lot of influences? Well for me, all my influences come from old records. I tell people I don’t listen to new music. New music to me is old records I haven’t heard. So that’s where all my influences come from, and the thing is that today, people don’t pay attention to detail as much as they used to, and my fan base is a very intelligent fan base. It’s arguably academic. My fan base needs a little more, so I like to cater to those kinds of people because that’s the kind of person that I am. So there’re people out there that think the music of the past was great, but that’s gone because people don’t make music like that anymore, but it’s just not true. You can decide not to cut any corners, and just basically take a stance that you’re not going to defer to recording in a way that takes away from yourself. A lot of people want to use pro tools and all that, which is great, but for what I do you have to use tape, you have to use real instruments. There’s a lot of musicians out there that want to do what I do, but they don’t want to put in the work and spend the money to get a great, classic analog sound to make more music. So all of this pushes me, because when I hear people that appreciate what I do, like yourself, it’s my inspiration. I always tell people I make music for the audience in my head, and when other people like my music, it’s very pleasing, inspiring, and motivating, because I feel as though what I’m doing is something that is meant for a select few. Since the vast majority of people like top 40, and I hate top forty. So my inspiration comes from the recognition I get from like-minded individuals, and also my mission to always try to outdo myself. Personally, I like to collect vinyl, and I’m into vintage music. I got into it because I like the elements and samples of [hip-hop] records — do you maybe see yourself as being a bridge to vintage music or old jazz? Absolutely. Just as hip-hop serves as a conduit to the past and culture, I want
to act as a conduit to the past for our culture, as well as younger people searching. So hip-hop introduced us to The Breaks, and I want to introduce people to The Breaks and hip-hop, so I look to serve as a conduit to the past. I’d love to know your role in the PRhyme album. Because it’s produced by Premier, but you brought all the samples and little elements. Could you maybe explain how that works? Premo sampled my entire catalog to make PRhyme, and this was Royce da 5’9’s idea because at that time Premo knew of me, but he didn’t want to limit himself to sampling one person. A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it is to make a full album sampling one person. He started on one track, and he went to the next, and he went to the next, and he got into a real rhythm, and just really made classics, and to me, it was an honor because having Premo sample my music makes my music better. It makes me listen to my music in a different way, so it’s special for me. And I love Premo, and I love Royce. Those are my really good friends. Can you tell me a little bit about Linear Labs, and the ideology behind it, and some of the artists that are a part of it? Linear Labs is a label that I run, and it serves as a record label that addresses the desires of the tailored mind. People that want something more bespoke. It’s more of a handmade arti-
san approach to the crafting of music, so everything on Linear Labs is all on tape, all live instruments, and recorded in the way that they would have done yesterday, but with a modern sentiment. I’m never the kind of guy that wants to merely rehash old music, I always want to something that when you hear it, there’s something fresh about it, and that’s the mantra of Linear Labs. So, on Linear Labs we have an artist, Loren Oden, that’s going to be releasing a solo album pretty soon. We have Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest, him and I are releasing an album called The Midnight Hour next year. And it’s just a bunch of different artists, but it’s more so a boutique outlet for stuff that I like. You own a record store as well, right? Yeah, the record store is called The Artform Studio, and it’s a record store and hair salon that is owned and operated by myself and my wife. Right now we’ve moved locations, so we’re down for about two months, then we’ll be back open in Los Angeles. That’s incredible. I can only imagine that you have amazing records there. With your music and your taste in music… Oh yeah, dude. It’s great. And as well, something I found interesting on your Wikipedia page is that you’re an entertainment law professor.
Yeah, I did that for three years, and then when music took over my life I didn’t have time. So I don’t do that anymore, but that’s definitely on my resume. The model that’s on your Something About April II cover, Logan Melissa, has the coolest Instagram ever. What’s your relationship with her? She’s been a good friend for a while. Wax Poetics approached me and said, ‘You need to check this girl out. She’d probably be a good candidate for your record cover.’ Because she was going to start writing for them – she’s breathtaking, but she’s very smart, too. We met, and we just hit it off. She’s like an extension of myself as far as visually, because she gets everything I want to do. Anything you’d like to leave us with? I wanted to make an electronic album that [ is] is an electronic album. There was a time when you heard the concept of electronic music, and you didn’t think of the notion of EDM. It’s not EDM; this is straight electronic music, but it’s electronic music recorded in the way our pioneers did it, using the same kind of equipment and techniques, so it sounds different. I want it to be a piece that hopefully becomes a classic.