WAVES M A G A Z I N E R M N
H V L
Y S G H A A U G H V +
s t a f f
Iman Bright co-director
Jay Sharma co-director
Sarah Burkett co-director
Aissa Gueye photo director
not pictured: Zach Scheinfeld 1
c o n t e n t s
Note From The Directors
Producers on Campus
Dude, Nice Shirt
The Electronic Post-Genre
Jam Bands, Zen Buddhism and the Magic of Improvised Music
Chrome Sparks Concert @ Eclectic photo by: Reta Gasser
Sou t pho h Stati o to b y: Z n @ E a ach Sch rth Hou einf eld se
we like wes With the graduation of our founding directors (Kyle and Mckenzii), we were both anxious and excited to push the magazine to new heights while staying true to the original vision of Waves. That being said, in this issue, we decided to focus on producers currently on campus. At Wesleyan, there are many â€œbedroom producersâ€? that create stellar music but rarely get exposure. We wanted to shed light on this underground community and bring it to the public eye. Although there are many talented producers on campus, unfortunately, we could only feature four. (Check out the next page for a list of some more producers and links to their music) That being said, we are excited to share one-on-one interviews with Rhys, Michael, Faith and Jaime. So without further adieu, we present our third issue: Bedroom Producers. Enjoy! The Directors Iman Bright, Jay Sharma and Sarah Burkett
producers on campus In honor of this issue, we wanted to make a shout out to some producers here on Wesleyanâ€™s campus Check them out
MICHAEL VAUGHAN Facebook.com/skrillamaster
EZRA LITTLEWOOD soundcloud.com/scansmusic
RON JACOBS soundcloud.com/killawitdabeat
BEN MANNING soundcloud.com/ben-manning-4
MIKAH FELDMAN-STEIN soundcloud.com/mikahFSmusic
ERIQ ROBINSON soundcloud.com/eriq-robinson
SAARIM ZAMAN soundcloud.com/saarimz
RHYS LANGSTON PODELL soundcloud.com/rhyslangstonmusic
CORAL FOXWORTH soundcloud.com/fxwrk
KEENAN BURGESS soundcloud.com/xdronesx
JAY SHARMA soundcloud.com/bluelioncub
MILES MCLEOD soundcloud.com/milesmcleod
MATAN KG soundcloud.com/user580050174
LEE WAGONER soundcloud.com/zeffire/sets/best
RYAN GARDNER soundcloud.com/rowe-gardner
ZACHARY KANTOR soundcloud.com/beamsofficial
CALHOUN HICKOX soundcloud.com/doxadoxa
MAX ATKINSON soundcloud.com/auku-rana
WILL FRAKER soundcloud.com/wfraker
NEO SORA soundcloud.com/neosora
JDV pho + and F to b y: R XWRK eta Gas @ Ecle ctic ser
Dude, Nice Shirt.
Kaitlin Chan talks to Zander Porter about his extensive band shirt collection and the role memorabilia plays in our lives. 7
have something to confess. Although I sneered at girls who bought Abbey Road or The Velvet Underground & Nico shirts at “Forever 21” and then failed to remember any songs from either albums, I too, have committed such a cardinal sin. I was 12, and sorting through the bins of clothes in a Chinese equivalent of Goodwill in Wanchai, Hong Kong. I came across a soft black t-shirt with a triangle being hit by a ray of light. In psychedelic bubble letters it said “PINK FLOYD” and the back read “DARK SIDE OF THE MOON TOUR 1973.” I bought it with what little pocket money I had, and wore it just about every weekend. At the time, it never occurred to me that Pink Floyd was a band, or that I should listen to the album whose cover was emblazoned across my torso. I just loved that prism and that rainbow. Now I’m 19, I’ve listened to Dark Side of the Moon, and that shirt no longer fits me. But album covers have remained my obsession. There’s a satisfaction to owning something beautiful that you can hold in your hands, especially if it’s associated with music that means a lot to you. It’s interesting to think that artists go through a careful process of selecting the best visual manifestation of their sound. I suppose this fascination with imagery and music is what led to me to tear out album flyers from magazines and wallpaper my bedroom with them, a habit I realized was ubiquitous when I came to Wes. If there’s anyone whose love for the intersections between graphic design and music rivals mine, it’s Zander Porter, Wesleyan class of ’17. Zander is also an intern writer for the music blog “Consequence of Sound”, and has an iTunes library so varied and beautifully organized it makes me cry a little. He agreed to discuss his band shirt collection with me for Waves. Zander, what do you think of people who wear band shirts simply because they like the design of the shirt?
though. I applaud your efforts. Also, here’s the big question: do you think people will continue buying shirts even if CDs and records fail to sell? I mean, we’re always going to need clothes, right? I think shirts will always sell mainly to two kinds of people: those can afford to buy them who have with a penchant for trendiness and design, and those who are diehard fans of a particular musical group. As long as we’ve still got concerts, I think band shirts will be alright. Why do you think people like physical objects, like shirts, posters and records, when they could just have a completely digitised music collection? There’s something so much more rewarding to owning and showing off a personal, physical collection of music and music memorabilia (and anything at all, really). Those with gargantuan vinyl collections are crazy. And I respect them. (But I’ve never collected vinyl myself.) I agree. There’s something nice about holding something in your hands. It’s like watching a Polaroid develop as opposed to checking the LCD on the back of a digital camera. Also, Have you ever paid a desperate amount of money for a shirt at a show? My introduction to obsession over band shirts was at Indio, CA’s Coachella music festival in spring of 2011. I won’t disclose how much money I spent on many, many shirts for the bands that played there. (Hint: enough to buy everyone from the main cast of Parks & Rec. at least 2, and then maybe a few extra for Mrs. Knope.) And now, for the fun bonus question-what are your favourite album covers? Zonoscope (Cut Copy), A I A: Alien Observer (Grouper), Quarantine (Laurel Halo), and Person Pitch (Panda Bear).
Zander: I appreciate two things (and a third combinational thing) about band shirts: one, that they’re artistic; two, that they’re musical (representing a band); and (three,) that they make presenting oneself to the world about more than just colour palette and “style.” Therefore, mathematically speaking, if someone were to wear a band shirt simply because they like the design of the shirt, I’d approve of that 1/3 of the time. I used to be a real snob about it, but reading what you said makes a lot of sense. There’s no harm in more people appreciating a band, even if it is just for their logo or album cover design. Also, which one of your shirts has the best story behind it? I had a musically near-death experience at a Crystal Castles concert in October of 2012 – bruises, leg rashes, and a sweat ablution were the least of what made buying Alice Glass and Ethan Kahn’s (III) shirt worthwhile. The shirt’s a bit small, Waves Magazine
South Station @ Earth House photo by: Zach Scheinfeld
@ BuHo photo by: Zach Scheinfeld
Hail Seitan @ Art House photo by: Zach Scheinfeld
The Electronic Post-Genre
he music world transformed radically in 1980 with the advent of a miniature but powerful drum machine, the Roland TR-808. Drum machines had begun to spread throughout the music scene, especially with the presence of the rivaling Linn LM-1, released in the same year. The TR-808 (also known as “808”) received poor reception upon release, primarily because it was an analog synthesizer; the LM-1 and most others were digital, meaning they could replicate real sounds using recorded samples. Digital synthesizers are essentially computers, so often offer more versatility than analog machines; the 808, an example of the latter, could not mimic the exact sounds of a true-to-life drum set. Instead, it created sounds internally, using analog circuitry. To the commercial audience of the early 1980s, this somewhat limiting capability didn’t meld with the quickly advancing technology of digital instrumentation. But the 808 didn’t fall into the depths of synth abyss. After several years, it started to move back into the spotlight through the hip-hop scene. It was relatively cheap (one fourth the cost of the Linn LM-1) and featured an extremely deep bass frequency for the resonating kick drum. The Beastie Boys’ album “Licensed To Ill” featured a prominent 808 backing beat for most of the album, which led to a revitalization of the 808 across multiple genres. It gained traction among the R&B crowd when Marvin Gaye underscored his hit “Sexual Healing” with distinct 808 hi-hat and clap sounds.
By: Alex Lee
Thus, the drum machine spread between genres, uniting styles that hadn’t previously experienced such overlap. For the next twenty years or so, into the 2000s, the 808 and its derivative sounds played a role in nearly every style, appearing over and over throughout hip-hop, rap, rock, house, dubstep, and most others. This narrow set of drum sounds allowed artists to cross over between genres in an attempt to create a more encompassing music scene; however, since most beats were coming from the same source, a sonic homogeneity surfaced: everything began to sound similar. Cue up the next phase of electronic music, or, as I like to call it, the “Post-Genre.” This development is not exclusive to electronic music; other genres obviously continued to produce traditional works, as well as progressive and avant-garde versions of their own style. Nevertheless, what has happened to electronic music, especially with regard to rhythmic sounds, has been drastic, and can be traced directly using the sounds of the past. The “Post-Genre” is an all-encompassing term (again, one not acknowledged by any authority) for the subgenres of electronic music that have formed linearly out of more traditional styles, and which feature a fresh take on its former uniformity. Obvious examples include post-dubstep and post-house. Other prefixes include avant-garde-, nu-, etc., and often, generic terms like electronica or house may be applied.
One of the first prominent examples of a “Post-Genre” artist was James Blake. He essentially paved the way for a form of music that most didn’t even know could exist. Though his productions were often deemed “post-dubstep,” his music also forayed into several new stylistic niches that no one had touched before. His early releases—especially his track “CMYK”—feature a combination of syncopated percussive patterns, fluctuating synth sounds, R&B-esque vocal samples, and even Blake’s own, albeit pitch-shifted, vocals. His first album transformed these elements into something much more unique than his early EPs. Blake incorporated more of his classical piano training and his true voice (including his exceptional vibrato) into the mix, and gave each more room by creating a sparser arrangement of instrumentation. The result of this masterpiece was the creation of a brand new style that nevertheless involved recognizable sounds and devices. At its heart, the “Post-Genre” is all about reappropriation and deconstruction. Each sound used is a recycled element of more traditional electronic styles. Consider the electronic handclap: what was once a recognizable, standardized replacement for the snare drum, now has diverged into three distinct forms: First, the clap has remained tonally similar, but has been manipulated temporally. While the clap is generally expected to hit on the third beat of the measure, where the snare
goes, artists like Kelela, Slava, and Machinedrum weave the clap ubiquitously and erratically into a dense rhythmic field that becomes both chaotic and immersive. The clap has also been manipulated tonally: a prime example is Nicolas Jaar’s “Colomb,” in which the clap is slowed down just enough to sound like a series of flip cups landing in perfect sequence. On the other side of the spectrum, James Blake and Mount Kimbie (another British post-dubstep outfit), and those who followed in their footsteps, took the clap sound and tightened it, raising it in pitch and speed, so that it no longer resembled a clap or a snare, but something much more real and commonplace. The notion of “commonplace” rhythmic creations is another instance of electronic deconstruction. The sound of drums has been reduced to its most basic form. Sometimes the only rhythm might be a series of bleeps and bloops, or distorted 808 sounds, or even the electronic interpretation of a pin drop, drenched in reverb and delay. The result is, again, a complex field of total obfuscation. Each sound is minimal and insignificant, yet the way these pitter-patters complement one another lends the song a living, fluctuating pulse. (One of my favorite artists to experiment with this is Galimatias—check out Young Chimera EP for the full experience). In this way, the original sounds of the 808 are reappropriated and deconstructed to create a more immersive and complex backdrop.
Another central aspect of the electronic genre is the vocal sample. It isn’t a form of percussion exactly; however, the way it is manipulated still renders it a flexible piece in the arsenal of rhythms. A vocal phrase, lyric, or melody—often one of R&B origin—will be spliced, looped, and deconstructed to become a part of the rhythm section. At the same time, it provides melodic movement to the song when the synthesizers might not be enough. Two artists at the top of their sampling game are Burial (the post-dubstep predecessor) and The Field (the supreme loop-master); however, excepting the work of those who have mastered the technique, the trend of this vocal experimentation sheds light on a reoccurring homogeneity within the genre. Each one of these distinct sounds—the clap, the commonplace, the vocal sample—is interesting in itself, and has come to represent an entire musical culture. But just as occurred from the 1980s into the 2000s, when the 808 nearly became the tedious norm, the same is happening today. The 808 turned into a classic because it was both hip and cheap. Today, the number of “bedroom” or “laptop” artists is immense—the accessibility of the genre has produced a wave of musicians who utilize the same, exact set of sounds and techniques. The genre is bogged down by the constant influx of one electronic artist after the other. So, the only way for anyone to gain traction in the industry, and to garner any sort of recognition, is to do something different. Check out the list of notable tracks for examples of those departing from the standard (as well as those I have already mentioned). I believe these artists represent the future of electronic music. This is a genre that thrives on reinvention, and it might just need a breath of new life. Waves Magazine
Notable Tracks James Blake Unluck Mount Kimbie Ruby Acid Pauli La Voz Tan Tierna Machinedrum Gunshotta The Field Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime Sbtrkt Never Never Burial Archangel Nicholas Jaar Problem with the Sun Burial (“Archangel”) Four Tet (“Parallel Jalebi”) Volume III
Sky Bars Rehearsal photo by: Aissa Gueye
tâ€™s not enough to just rap anymore. More and more rappers/producers are beginning to emerge, and they are dominating the underground due to their ability to produce a sound that is truly unique to them. Rhys Langston Podell is one of these new faces, and has absolutely created a sound unique to him. Speaking on the power of the human consciousness and the dishonesty of the government, his work is much different from the usual themes of misogyny and gluttony that so many people are accustomed to associating with rap music. And we love it.
By: Michael Lyn
R H Y S
So Rhys. Who are you? What are you about? Who am I, what am I about… Rhys Langston Podell, usually just go by Rhys Langston when it comes to my music. Sophomore at Wesleyan. Got into music producing while I was here, actually, so where I’m at is kind of due to… no, is largely due to this environment. Coming here, I didn’t have a lot of lyrics or a lot of beats, so I kind of got to where I am out of necessity. I just wanted to make my work more cohesive and I was like – Hey! I’ll try and produce for myself. So yeah, I’m pretty new to the music thing. I started writing lyrics really the summer before I came here, and I got this keyboard the August before the first day of school. I tried it out and I’ve been doing it ever since. I definitely pool from hiphop, but I’ve always been about music that’s as strong in the personality behind it as the music itself. So you have your roots in slam poetry, correct? Yeah I’d say so. I’d say writing in general. Hip-Hop and Rap was the best way to immediately translate my love of words into music. Because that’s how I really got into music… I wanted some way to express my words differently. I’ve always rapped as a hobby. I remember when I was like 8 years old, I used to loop verses on Garage Band, on my mom’s old laptop. So embarrassing. But yeah, slam poetry definitely. I started writing slam poetry the summer before I came here. I do consider myself first and foremost a writer though, before all else. Word. Listening to your music, you don’t really stick to the basic rap subject matter. What kind of things do you rap about instead? What themes are really prevalent in your music? I definitely draw upon the tradition of political rap. One of the first pieces I wrote that I actually still consider one of my best is this slam called “Peace and Calamity”. It’s just bars, lyrics, and writing about how I perceive the current state of the world. It was a way to channel my adolescent angst I have with the political system that’s set up right now. A lot of times I think I just write about the position I’m personally in. I guess we can segway into you last project. Can you talk more about where you came up with the idea? What inspired you? What you were trying to achieve? Yeah, it was all spontaneous. I started making music an I told myself “I’m gonna do it” and it just happened. I’d been working on different song lyrics for a while. One of the songs I had written June 2012 and recorded it February 2013. It was really finding the best things I’d done combined with my cravings at the moment. I find that my best work comes out when I don’t think about it so much. Sometimes I’ll write a line or phrase, then step back and come back to it like “Oh, that’s what I meant!” and keep going with it. My stepdad, who I’m very lucky to have, took care of the mixing and mastering. He’s a film composer and is someone who mentors me. It was a godsend that someone I was already close to was able to mentor me and help me get off my feet at the same time… in terms of music. But like I said earlier, it all came spontaneously. I think that the main thing was that I kind of just had a (continued on page 19)
feeling and I went with it. Dealing with questions about race, politics… even the politics of the music itself. I made a video for my song Calculus Johnson, it uses a lot of technically coded language. I think what breaks out for me in that song is that I use the imagery and the words of music to express political and historical content. It’s a song primarily about where the music is now, where the people are now, and about where hip-hop is now.
Word. Totally switching gears here, so you said your stepdad does all your mixing and mastering which begs the question- do you come from a musical family? Yeah. My stepdad is a film composer and he’s always pretty busy, but always finds time to help me out. He mixed my newest single and I got it mastered by someone else… just to get a different feel. But in terms of musical background in my family, well in terms of bloodline at least, not so much. My brother was self-taught and plays drums in a few punk bands. He’s played music from the time he was 13 to now at 25. My mom had a professional acting career and left the business for many reasons. Even though that’s not musical I still think that it contributes to my ‘artistic-ness’. My dad was also an actor and didn’t know he could sing until he started taking lessons to try and make it on Broadway, which he did, and was in the original production of “Sunset Boulevard”. I think in some ways its just in my blood. My mom’s family is from New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, and I feel like since there’s such a strong musical culture there it must have made an impact on where I am now. Before I started producing I was just hearing things in my head and I was like, either I’m crazy or I gotta start making music. But yeah, I don’t know. I think sometimes talents come out of nowhere.
So what are you working on right now? Any big projects coming up? Yeah. I was working over the summer with my stepdad and produced a track. I was working a lot so I wasn’t able to put out a wide volume of work but, I released a single and I’m releasing a video along with it which will be my second video. It’s different from my last video in that instead of being attached on an EP its kind of just… itself. My friend Kaitano Santos made the artwork so if he reads this here he’ll be happy to know that I gave him a shout out. I found myself now gravitating more towards making beats- though I still have a strong desire to write. Right now I’m working on a lot of
Haha alright. So who are some of your musical influences? It’s kind of funny because I wrote about this just in a letter to myself. I got into music because of the look of the artist, in terms of being into artists like Living Colour and TV on the Radio because they were so defiant in a genre that really didn’t have them as its face. Let me just not be civil about this and say that they’re so visibly black in a genre that has been made white by the media. You know, Rock and Roll and stuff like that. So I found myself gravitating towards that because I was thinking about questions of identity very early. I found myself realizing that I actually liked them for their music. And that has always kept constant - liking an artist’s approach to their music as much as their music itself. I can’t really hear it in my music but funk-metal bands like Living Color and 24/7 Spies, bands that really aren’t even contemporary anymore. Also Talib Kweli, who is obviously a storied MC; Saul Williams, who definitely has the spoken word/hip-hop/rock vibe; Follow For Now, another defunct black funk metal band from the 90s… artists like that who make a certain type of music because they want to make that certain type of music and not because anybody is expecting them to. Nas of course, Nas is the one. I’ve always liked Nas, I think his multiple personalities are amazing and they’re something that hip-hop definitely needs.
beats. Even working 40 hours a week over the summer I made 20 or so beats and finished 10-12 of them. I don’t have anything definitive for them yet - I have new sounds I’m trying to incorporate, and definitely make it as much about the music as about the words. My last project was very word heavy and I think that the music wasn’t at that same level as the words. So this time I’m just going to be focused on the music. I think I’m in a good place right now, gradually progressing while keeping steady with my lyrical content.
What other collaborations are you involved with? Well actually later today I have band practice with my band, who is yet to be named, and it’s like a jazz-rap band. Think The Roots. Sounds pretty sweet. Who’s in it? Justin Friedman ’16 is our guitarist and militant leader; Riley Loftus ’16 is on the drums; Derrick Holman ’16 as the self proclaimed “xylophone-playing hipster”, I don’t get it but whatever; Will Spicer ’17 on the bass; Adam Rochelle ’17 on the keyboards. They’re just great musicians and they
make Derrick and I sound really good. They have such a good chemistry and musicality about them. I’m also affiliated with RAW and its subsidiaries. We’re constantly creating stuffI’m currently making a beat for the duo of Ari and Aryan. It’s gonna be nice, a real hard-hittin’ feel good anthem. And that’s pretty much it. I’m trying not to stretch myself too thin this year. Last year I went ham- I was in WESlam, band, working with other people, and this year I’m trying to just focus on a couple projects. Cause I’m also writing fiction, I got a little somethin’ I’m working on. Won’t call it a novel, because that’s pretentious, so I guess I’ll just call it a story. Waves Magazine
So what is your end goal with this music stuff? Are you trying to make it a career? Is it just a hobby? Somewhere in between? I would definitely want to make it a career. At this point, I understand that with the Internet age, a lot of it gets saturated. That’s why I’m not releasing any big projects, just because the Internet is so saturated and I’d rather just keep my work on hold and show it to my friends. I feel like now though, especially with how much I’ve grown already, I just want to see where I want to go. I feel like by the time I leave this school I might be ready to step into a “scene”, if you will. But I’m also very ADD with my art - I wanna draw sometimes, I wanna write sometimes - so I’m trying to delegate everything and see if I just want to do music. I like talking to others because it helps me to gain perspective, because I’m out of my mind in a way. I’m not inside my head and I can see it’s only been 13 months since I’ve been producing stuff. So I’m excited to keep growing and I really feel like I have an advantage here because I don’t have a real “job” and I can focus on my craft.
What classes have you taken at Wes that have helped you with your music? I think I’ve pooled from a lot of the social science classes I’ve taken. I mean I rap a lot about politics and history’s relevance now. I took this one class, “Excavating America” with Sarah Croucher. It was interesting just to see how space, and the study of space, and time, and how all that intersects. I got my ass kicked in “Encounter of the Atlantic World”. That was a hard class for me because, I don’t know, I guess I was just kind of stupid at that point (first semester freshman year), but it was cool, I’m always interested in Atlantic history, just knowing my own family’s personal history is very Atlantic, and it’s so fascinating to explore the echoes of time and how they manifest themselves now. Studio art also - it allowed me to really see how sometimes I can push through when I feel like I can’t create anymore. There were a lot of times when I felt like I couldn’t go any further with what I was doing - like I couldn’t draw anything, I couldn’t think about what else there was to do. It helped me really notice that I can really push through and create something. That first time won’t also be that masterpiece that you’re trying to create - I’m not about trying to write a verse in 15 minutes. Sometimes there are many takes you have to do throughout the process.
Any last thoughts/Shout outs? The creators, Mom and Pops. The step creators, stepmoms and stepdads. My brother, he’s a nutcase but has inspired me to expand on my musical interests, definitely. Word to my four friends in LA, along with all you other people out there. Shout out to all my people at Freedom of Speech Thursdays, Speakeasy open mic, Da poetry lounge out on Fairfax, Fearless Fridays open mic, Less is More collective, thanks for the help on my video.
N A :A by
self-proclaimed highly self-critical electronic music composer, Vaughan has yet to publicly share much of his work, though he does have a Soundcloud under the name M. Vaughan. His musical projects include songs ranging from jokey, pop-inspired parodies to more serious house and dance music songs. Needless to say, Vaughanâ€™s original work and remixes are best heard blaring from large speakers so keep your eyes peeled for his next DJ set. By: Reta Gasser
Recount your musical history, that’s what I want to hear. Okay. Shit, son. Well, I used to be in a rock band in high school. So cliché right? I was into your generic right of passage Wesleyan shit like Arcade Fire. I was always into Peter Bjorn and John, that slightly poppy stuff, stuff that’s fun and catchy and groove-able. It always had to have a groove. And so I was in this rock band in high school…
What instrument did you play? I played guitar. I have played guitar for like six, seven years but I stopped as soon as I picked up my laptop and started composing there. So, I remember going to practice one day and having a song in my head and trying to teach it to my band and they just—this is going to sound kinda douchey— but they just couldn’t do it. They couldn’t replicate the sounds I was hearing. They weren’t good enough in a respect or they weren’t lining up with my vision. So I was like fuck this, I am going to go write this song on my computer and come back to you guys in a couple days. I wrote the song and it wasn’t what I had in my mind, but then that made me think about how I don’t need a band. Sounds kinda lonely but I don’t need a band, I just have my laptop. I can make music there and it can be exactly what I’m imagining in my head once I get to that point as a musician. So yeah I left the band circa 2011 when I graduated high school. Then I started promoting for clubs in high school. I was like seventeen and I worked for like Avicii shows or DJ Tiesto like big name EDM (Electronic Dance Music).
What would you do…? Like walk around school…? No, I just had a guest list and if you came on my guest list you got in for reduced entry or free sometimes. So I was literally the slimiest of the slime balls. I’d just walk around school and be like “Yo, you guys trying to go clubbing this weekend? Cuz it’s like college night on Tuesday, reduced entry, two for one drinks”. And it was just shit like that.
You did that on your high school campus? Yeah. And I mean it wasn’t even a campus, it was a public high school. It was just me walking up to people and being like “Yo you want to go to the club?”. It was weird. I did catch the bug for dance music though.
Did Avicii give you the bug? Sadly enough, yes. It’s not even the music so much as the reactions on your friends’ faces when you’re hearing it and how they get. It’s this positive feedback loop when they’re just getting super psyched and dancing and you’re looking at them getting super psyched and then you become happy yourself. It’s like porn. It’s like hardcore porn, house music. It’s a secret nobody wants to say but everybody likes dance music. It was a bug overcoming my high school.
Did you start making your own stuff first or did you start with remixes? I just did my first remix two months ago The Kimbra one right? That’s your most played on your Soundcloud, why is that? It has ten times as many plays as anything else. I know. Well, that one I actually had a talk with Thomas (Klepatz ’16). I am my harshest critic and I never want to put my music out there online because I never think its good enough because I am always scrutinizing it and he was like “Dude, it sounds fucking professional just send it out to people”. And I was like, “Alright I am going to try a little experiment I am going to try sending it off to everybody”. This blog in London, “The House of Disco”, picked up the track. It was so cool because they’re like the only blog I look at religiously. They put it up and it has about 125 likes on Facebook, which is a big deal for
Detroit techno, I don’t know if anybody knows this but there’s this guy, Kyle Hall, a 20 year old producer from Detroit who makes really grimy stuff, all analog synthesizers that are just plugged into one another and they make this deliberately distorted, fucked up sound. There’s this guy, MK, I really like and Jaques Greene. Four Tet’s pretty cool. You know Darkside? I went to their private show in New York and that was fuckin’ awesome. They had just printed the record that day and it was a test press. Nicholas Jaar has only tweeted twice and one of his tweets was, “Hey come to 55 Court St., we’re going to be playing the record later tonight.” Me, Zack Kantor ’15 and like 50 other people in this room with Nicholas Jaar and Dave Harrington of Darkside. That’s so cool. That album has really exploded and even permeated outside of the “house music bubble”, appealing to people who listen to anything. Absolutely. It’s not even house music. It’s not even dance music really. I mean you can dance to it but it sounds like Pink Floyd. It’s brilliant really. Yeah he’s in a similar life position as you and I are. He just graduated from college and has managed to cultivate an incredible name for himself. Yeah, he’s really forward thinking. In his BBC mix he plays thirty minutes of classical music and he plays a ten-minute excerpt from an interview with some guy. It’s like he’s a sound artist more than an electronic musician or DJ. Yeah. The first track on his Darkside album is what like twelve minutes long?
me. I was really excited and honored, really. It hit me right here (touches his heart). And all the shit I had done before really wasn’t of the same caliber. I always feel like I need other people to, not necessarily approve of my music, but I need a professional ear to tell me that it’s good. I worked at a music studio over the past summer called District Sound Lab in DC and my boss was an audio engineer. I would send him my tracks and he would mix them down for me. I thought, that’s what everybody does and everybody has to go through a mix engineer in order to have a finished song and then I said “fuck it on this one”. I am going to do it all myself; that was the only time I had gotten praise from a blog. So lets talk a little bit about your influences. You talked a little bit about your early influences, but can you say more about currently what is influencing you? I listen to a lot of dance music from the UK. I’m just a house music head. That’s all I listen to these days. I’ve been getting into 23 Waves Magazine
Yeah, he just doesn’t give a fuck and its great. Somebody needs to be doing that; it really keeps a fresh perspective...Outside of dance music I would say that Animal Collective is absolutely my favorite band. Merriweather Post is absolutely I think the best album of all time. Period. I don’t like the Beatles and I always get flack for saying that but I just don’t get it. I mean they just came at the right time. At least that’s how I feel. Yeah they did, that’s true they’re historically significant. You can study them as a product of history and who’s come before them. The leap that they made is way bigger than everyone else. But in terms of just sheer… Yeah, just sitting down and saying, “I’m gonna put on the White album” Exactly, I don’t know how many people still do that these days. Well, you know, fuck it, a lot of people do. I think a lot of people do. We are in a place that really distorts what America or the general public is actually listening to… I think that is very true. It’s such a social statement, what you listen to. That’s one of the first questions I ask people. I don’t like to define myself by what I listen to but I like to get an idea about who people are by what they listen to. And if someone Volume III
were to ask me right now, what do you listen to? I would be like fuck, let’s go in here (goes into iTunes library), let’s look. So yeah, rock music, electronic music, a lot of dance music that’s like (air quotes) underground dance music is what you would call it. That’s the shit I listen to. I kinda like dark stuff too. How do you feel about the music scene at Wesleyan? A broad question, but address your thoughts on how easy it is for an artist to play shows or release their stuff and have it be heard. I think Novelty Daughter’s (Faith Harding ‘14) great success is testament to the fact that if you just care enough, and you put yourself out there, and you really want it, you can do it. I feel like everywhere I go, if I’m at Eclectic on a Friday night or Art house or wherever, she’s playing a set. She’s like everywhere and I hadn’t heard of her up until this year. So I think if you really want it, you just send an email to someone. Honestly, , one of the biggest parts of the Wesleyan music scene is having a connection somewhere like at Eclectic or Psi U, knowing someone there so you can play a show. It’s very similar to the real world in that aspect. As far as the rock bands go, like, they’re aiight, they’re okay. I can’t remember the last time I heard a Wesleyan rock band and been like, “this is siiick”. To generalize, I feel like a lot of people in these groups aren’t planning on necessarily making a living off their music or whatever. At least that is what I assume for the most part at a liberal arts school. Yeah, it’s a hobby for most people. I wrestle with that all the time. I mean I don’t think it’s a hobby. I literally spend three hours a day composing music. Whether it’s stupid joke songs or dance songs. I feel like it’s kind of an addiction. Dance music feels more like an addiction than other kinds of music because of the manner in which you produce it. If you’re a laptop producer, you’re in your room on your laptop. The whole production process is isolating. I guess it depends on who you are but it leaves room for less musical socialization than for example a band would. That’s the part I don’t like about it. I am actually trying to buy hardware equipment now so I don’t have to look at a screen and I can sample like birds chirping and elements of the real world to feel like there’s a soul in there instead of me just clicking buttons on my keyboard. So what are your plans for the future? Not necessarily after college but are you working on anything that you’re really excited about right now? So I have two veins: my serious shit and my joke shit. Is the “We Have Sex Boys” bridging those two or…. No, (laughs), not at all. You know how that started? We were walking back from Weswings on a Friday night and we go, “You guys, we can’t drink yet, we can only start drinking at like 8:30 or 9, so what’re we gonna do?” So give us one hour and were going to make a song by the end of that hour. And that’s how the We Have Sex Boys got started. And here I’m going to play you “Ratchet 420” the new song from my pop side project, #krazy Waves Magazine
(plays me the song) That sounds like the Rebecca Black, “Friday” of dance music to me. Oh yeah yeah, that’s exactly what were going for. As far as your previous question about serious music, I’ve thought very seriously about dropping out of Wesleyan and going to a music trade school and just like fucking it all. Every night I go home and am reading Aristotle and I just really don’t give a fuck about Aristotle. I would much rather learn about how to input MIDI into my audio interface or some shit like that. It’s kind of tormenting honestly. I know you always liked electronic music but when was this, for lack of a better word, “fire ignited inside you”. I feel like you’re so much more passionate about it than you used to be. I played my first show this summer in New York by hounding
people and once I tasted any success whatsoever… I’m not saying I‘m successful; I played at a bar on a Monday night. But the fact that I had any success made me want more success so much more. I’d say over the past summer since being in New York. I feel like electronic music is my Adderall. I’m always just kinda tweaky because of it and I wanna just mellow out on it and settle into a groove. I feel like I’m on the cusp of that right now. Like of finding out what kind of stuff you want to make? Yeah, like where I belong on the spectrum of music. Do I want to make down-tempo chill wave or dance music? I think it’s probably dance music.
f you haven’t heard of Faith Harding ‘14, you soon will. Hailing from LA, she makes music under the name Novelty Daughter and sounds like no one you’ve heard before. Her unique style of minimalist production overlaid with subtle vocal textures is soothing and refreshing—you won’t want to miss her next show. By: Jay Sharma
How did you get into making music? I started when I was really young. I’ve always sung since an early age. I was in a lot of choirs when I was younger. I had taken piano lessons since I was five, and I had this teacher who taught a lot of theory. By the time I was like 15 or 16 I had a good basis for learning other instruments like guitar and bass guitar, and I started writing with the knowledge I had, and I continued singing. When I got to college I started joining some bands and stuff like that. I didn’t start doing electronic music until last year, probably around second semester junior year. And a lot of that time was taken up by learning how to do it, you know, it was kind of like half making the music and half stopping and figuring out how to actually make it. I’ve only started feeling like I can sit down and make something pretty recently, like only in the past few months have I not needed any outside help to finish a song. What motivated you to make the shift to electronic music? When I used to play live a lot, especially by myself I would just have a guitar and sing, and one thing that really frustrated me about that was not having good backing percussion to work off of. I also like working alone, just because there’s a lot of possibility without anyone to negotiate with; it’s just your own ideas. So I had to figure out a way to get a better sense of rhythm for what I was doing and also keep working by myself, which I wanted to do. So it seemed to me that moving into electronic music was the best thing to do. Also, going to a lot of Brainfeeder showcases in LA a few years ago brought to my knowledge a scene I didn’t know about. That really inspired me and I started to realize that doing that was a possibility. So I’ve listened to your self-titled EP a good amount, and your style strikes me as very unique. I haven’t heard much music that combines minimal electronic production with these intricate, soulful vocal textures. Is that a style you had in mind? Or is that just what ended up happening when you started making electronic music? Before I started getting into electronic music, the thing I liked the most as a singer was when I moved away from classical music and started doing a lot of jazz standards; I would play and sing along to them. I always really liked soul music and Jazz. So when I started making electronic music, I used it as a support for my singing, mainly. So yeah, that’s kind of just the way that it developed. It was this very organic meeting of these two different influences that were important to me. I definitely had some notion that that’s what I wanted to do—I knew I wanted things to be melodic. I always had a vague idea of what I wanted but I didn’t try to be too strict because that often means that I don’t get anything done.
Do you have any particularly notable influences that inform your music?
releasing so it was nice to have people who you can ask for advice and who generally support you.
Yeah, one of my biggest vocal influences is Sarah Vaughn, a Jazz singer from the 40’s and 50’s. She’s cool because she plays her voice like an instrument, and she’s really good at improvising and scatting. That’s something I think is really important. I never want to be singing just because that’s what you do…I want to consider it as a part of the instrumentation. Like I said before, everybody on the Brainfeeder label was such a huge influence on me. I had a lot of people that I was really in to, it’s just changed a lot over time. When I was in high school I went through everything, I went from the 20’s to the 80’s finding everything I could, but I don’t think there’s anyone that’s been there all these years influencing me. There’s just so much. It’s very rare that I’ll hear something and think, “I want to sound exactly like that”.
What led up to this release?
I totally get that. There’s a big difference between hearing someone and having that inform what you’re doing as opposed to trying to emulate their style. Yeah, exactly. But, I would say that at the time that I’m writing a song I will be really into one particular song, and in the moment that I’m writing, that song will influence what I’m writing. But that is also constantly changing. What is your songwriting/beat-making process? Do you have a particular way you approach writing? Usually the instrumentation comes first. Usually there will be one element that I really like and I’ll try to build from there. I don’t usually come up with the vocal melody first. That’s happened like once in my life when I was 16 and it never happened again. There’s something that I really like about having a backing track and being able to work with my voice given that background. It’s a cool challenge. It’s good ear training too cause I have to come up with something without a keyboard. Kind of like jamming over your own voice. Yeah, exactly. Then comes the structure and the question of how I make this a full song—What’s going to repeat, am I going to put a bridge in here and stuff like that. Then lastly, I have to make it not sound terrible, which is a huge challenge in electronic music, like 70 % of the battle. Usually when I’m doing that some new elements will come in. So your self-titled EP was released under Stereocure. What role did they play in making the album? The people who formed Stereocure are really good childhood friends of mine. I met them in LA halfway through high school. We were all very passionate about music, and we had this idea to create a more official organization to facilitate our music and support each other. I made a lot of this album in LA this summer. I did a lot of the writing at school, but then I got home and it was time to finish it and polish it up. There are a lot of people on the label who helped me with that, people who are very knowledgeable about production. The founders of Stereocure did a lot of promotion for the EP. It serves as this platform to give everything a push forward so you feel like you have a base on which to be releasing things. This was the first big thing I was Waves Magazine
Once Stereocure formed and I became an artist on the label, I thought I should release something. When the label first started I was still doing singer songwriter stuff, and I did one live session for them. Then I decided I wanted to do something else, and this was a great opportunity to do that. I started with a single, and after that I thought I was ready to do an EP. I wasn’t ready to release a full length, but I definitely wanted to make something bigger. I’ve released songs before on Soundcloud and stuff, but I felt like it was time to do something more. What are your plans going forward? I’m not quite sure. I’m planning in the long run to release a fulllength album. I have a few new songs I wrote this semester, and I’m not quite sure what to do with them because one of them samples Amy Whinehouse. Now that a lot of the people on Stereocure are trying to start monetizing, it’s a little difficult to figure out what to do with this without getting in trouble. I’m trying to write as much as I can while still being in school, which is really hard. Hopefully over winter break I’ll have more time to write. I’m doing some collabs with people on Stereocure right now. For the next few months I think its going to be less playing live and more staying in and making new material. I don’t want to just keep playing the same stuff over and over again. I want to come back with new stuff and keep the live set fresh. What advice do you have for a musician with a lot of time left at Wesleyan? When I got here I just immediately started playing as much as I could. If you really want to be playing a lot at Wesleyan, just play a lot. Then you kind of garner this reputation of, “oh, that’s that person who’s always playing”. People are looking for people to play at their shows and open for people they book, so if they have an image of you as someone who has been playing a lot, they’re more likely to approach you. So definitely I would say play a lot, find like-minded people whose work you like, and talk to them, build...I don’t want to say a network, that sounds so networky… just make a good amount of friends in the music scene. You’ll have a lot of likeminded friends and it’s really nice to have a web of support. You can really have a community that keeps you active if that’s what you want. In terms of being at Wesleyan, the most important thing is to keep doing stuff and don’t stop playing.
â€™m here with Jaime De Venecia â€˜15, AKA JDV plus. Hailing from Manila, this producer makes soulful, down-tempo electronic music, perfect for relaxing and kicking back.
By: Jay Sharma
You just released an 11-track album titled Weight. Tell me a little bit about the album. The initial idea for the album came over winter break of my sophomore year. I had made 6 or 7 songs on Ableton, none ever with vocals, but I felt at that point that I wanted to work on a long term, bigger project. I began doing conceptual work on it in January. So you were just making single tracks before? Yeah, at that point I had only been using Ableton for about a year. For several months I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing at all—the learning curve was so steep. Once I learned to tweak with sounds and put melodies together it became a lot easier. I had just been making songs, testing new things out, pushing the boundaries with sounds and styles. After a while I wanted to work on a full, long-term thing. Did you have a specific vision for the album? I wouldn’t say I had a specific vision. It was more just a clear idea of the general vibe and emotion I wanted to create with the whole thing. A lot of the shaping of the vision came from these little things I had written, and I had to take those and think about them in the context of a larger entity.
What would you say your influences are? Its often hard for me to distinguish between music that I just enjoy listening to versus music that actually inspires me. If I had to come up with a definition for “influences” it would be music that has actually informed your own creation of music rather than something you just enjoy. Pink Floyd has been one of my favorite bands since middle school. Also I listened to a lot of Elliot Smith when I was younger. His songwriting is painful to hear, its truly beautiful. Aside from those long-term influences, definitely Explosions in the Sky, I really love their melodies. Also Groundislava, he’s just an amazing producer. Radiohead has also played a huge influence on my experience of music. I love Enter The Wu Tang by the Wu Tang Clan. That’s funny, Wu Tang is definitely one of my bigger influences as well, just the way they use rhythm. Yeah, the cadence and the recitation, just everything about it. It really is good rap music. I mean, none of my music sounds anything like theirs, but they’ve definitely influenced me. I’d put Enter The Wu Tang in my top 3 albums of all time, possibly top 2. What would your #1 be? Hm, that’s tough. My top three are Enter the Wu Tang, You’re a Woman I’m a Machine by Death from Above 1979. I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to them, but its almost punk-y. I listened to a lot of that throughout my youth. And then Kid A by Radiohead, it really is an amazing album. It completely changed the direction they were going. That’s always a telling question, but also super hard to answer. Yeah, definitely. Oh, I forgot to mention The Weeknd’s
House of Balloons, that mixtape in particular. I got into that pretty late in the game, but listening to that mixtape changed my life in some ways. It changed my understanding of what an artist can do. How did you do most of the recording on the album? Did you use many samples? My work on the album was very staggered, that’s just the way I work. I tend to work really hard in very small chunks spread out over time. For recording the vocals, I bought this microphone with some of the money I earned last year and I played around with how it sounds. I really like the sound, its clean and nice to work with. I actually recorded the vocals within two weeks of the release. It just took me so long to get around to record them and finish writing the lyrics. I recorded everything in the practice rooms in the CFA a couple of nights before fall break, then over the break I mixed and mastered them to the best of my ability and then finally put the album out. To answer your samples question, actually the only samples on the album are the Japanese vocals on tracks 5 and 10.
I was actually going to ask you about that. I really liked it as a sound. I also liked how you started the album with the sound of a door opening and ended it with a door closing. Thanks for noticing those details man. I’m really glad you mentioned those samples in the context of it being a sound. That really was a last minute decision of mine to include those samples. For the longest time I wanted to include samples from the movie, The unbearable lightness of being, that also was a huge influence on the creation of the album. I keep forgetting influences don’t always have to be music, like I read that book in high school and it really changed my perception of things. At the last minute I changed my mind when I recalled this documentary I’ve seen about this forest in Japan where people commit suicide, it’s a really poignant documentary. I just love the guy who is the central character; I found his voice really soothing—just the pure sound of his voice was really relaxing. And there’s something about the Japanese language that I really love, I don’t understand it, but it really is a nice sounding language. I thought about his voice, and knew I had to put it in. Also the message he’s saying is one of positivity and coexistence, it’s awesome.
What do you see yourself doing going forward? It’s a good question. I’m feeling the contentedness of having released an album, but at the same time I’m glad to be putting this project away. Its something I’ve been working on for a while. There were times I couldn’t find inspiration and started losing faith, but now that it’s done my brain is fresh and my thoughts are fresh. I want to take a new direction with my music. I want to practice more sampling. It’s so much fun—it’s really a craft in itself, another way of construction. In the coming months I want to make some upbeat stuff, some songs you could dance to. I’ve never really tried to do that. I mean, what’s better than listening to music and dancing? What advice do you have for a musician with a lot of time left at Wesleyan? Just listen to as much music as possible. That goes without saying—its how you draw inspiration and get new ideas. It’s the same thing with reading and writing, or watching films and making them; any sort of art really. If you want to make stuff that you like, you just have to expose yourself to as much as possible. Also, keep working at your music, regardless of how frustrating it may be. There are going to be those times when you can’t come up with anything, or can’t figure shit out, but eventually it gets easier and as you gain more experience it gets better.
Jam Bands, Zen Buddhism and the Magic of Improvised Music By: Jay Sharma
he experience of listening to music can be drastically different depending upon the setting. Getting up in the morning and playing music while you get dressed is entirely different from dancing all night at a show—the way you hear the music, the way you perceive the sound itself, depends on where you are and what your mindset is. Playing recorded music alone in your own room is a very one-sided experience; the music has already been created, and you can focus on your own perception of the content, in the way that you would read a book. Going to a show and seeing a band play music in front of you is a much more dynamic experience—the music is happening presently, and in some cases, people dance and respond to the energy that the band is giving off. The band can then respond to the crowd’s energy, and the experience turns into something that everyone—listeners and players—contribute to. Like Kurt Cobain famously said, “music is just a game of catch between the players and crowd”. The idea of music being a “game of catch” really highlights the difference between live and recorded music. With recorded music, there is no band, and the experience is one-sided and predictable. With live music, people come together to create an experience—a chunk of time where the band’s energy and the crowd’s energy are fluctuating and building off of each other. Still though, there are certain live shows where a band will simply give a performance of the music they have recorded in the past, and these shows seem more like the one-sided experience of listening to music in your room; if a band strictly adheres to predetermined song structures, the experience becomes stagnant and predictable, and the intimate relationship between players and listeners crumbles. In this article, I will discuss a type of band that fosters the “game of catch” and creates the most intimate, dynamic, and exciting listening experience possible. These groups are generally referred to as “Jam Bands”. Jam bands are just bands that jam at live shows instead of performing predetermined, memorized songs.
These groups usually do have recorded music, but the only way to really experience their essence is to see them live. Jam bands play their songs in a way that allows them go off on tangents of prolonged improvisation. The main idea of a jamming is that the music is not predetermined; rather, it is being created for the first time right there and then at a show. These bands allow their jams to evolve and transform organically, so as a result, every song and every show is utterly unique. This type of music creates a very special listening experience. The players can fluidly respond to each other’s energy, as well as the energy of the crowd, to create something that is an honest manifestation of the relationship between band members and between band and audience. In this setting, the music is so beautiful, unique, and organic because it will only ever exist in the present moment, the moment of creation. Some classic examples of Jam Bands are The Grateful Dead, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Allman Brothers Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Max Creek, and New Riders of the Purple Sage.
Pictured Below: Consider the Source
The Grateful Dead
I often think about Zen Buddhism when I am seeing a jam band. A central concept in Zen philosophy is living in the present moment. The word Zen is derived from the Sanskrit word, Dhyāna, which translates to “meditative state”. The idea of Zen meditation is to focus on the sensory input you are receiving from the world around you and perceive it without judgment. The sound of a bird chirping should be perceived as the pure sound that it is, free of connection to the image of a bird. Similarly, the physical sensations you feel should be perceived as the pure sensations that they are, and not immediately judged as good or bad, as pain or pleasure. When you begin perceiving the world without judgment, you start to experience the true, raw nature of reality for what it actually is, and the world is no longer distorted by your preconceived notions of it. You can experience the present moment without filters. Being in a Jam band myself, I understand how important it is to be entirely immersed in the present while jamming. The basis of jamming is responding to your fellow band members, communicating with each other via sound, and the only way to do that effectively is to immerse yourself entirely in the present moment. For a band to improvise music at a show, each player must maintain Zen-like focus, and this collective immersion in the music is representative of a very intimate connection between members in the band. When I am at a show seeing a jam band, listening to fresh, improvised jams, I think to myself, “They are having sex through sound”—the intimacy within the band is so apparent. Being conscious of this, I myself become entirely immersed in the music, and the way I dance becomes almost like jamming with the band—my energy organically responds to the energy of the music. When every person in the crowd reaches this Zen-like mindset, the entire show turns into this incredibly dynamic exchange of energy between band members and between band and crowd—with all of it happening in the present moment. This kind of listening experience is so special because the beauty of it will only ever exist as it is happening—there is no recording in existence that can do it justice. Check out some of my favorite jam bands, and make sure to catch them live next time they come around! Waves Magazine
Jam Bands Max Creek [Folk, Rock and Roll] Turkuaz [Power Funk] Consider the Source [Sci-fi Middle Eastern Fusion] Spiritual Rez [Reggae, Ska] Goosepimp Orchestra [Psychedelic Funk] Dopapod [Progressive Funk/Metal]
RA diggs by: Max Friedlich
nless you’ve researched each and every person featured on Waka Flocka Flame’s 2010 debut Flockaveli, you probably aren’t familiar with RA Diggs and his body of work. Diggs (born Ronald Herron) is featured along with frequent collaborator Uncle Murda on a track entitled “Live by the Gun.” Like the majority of rappers featured on Flockaveli (which peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top 100 in 2010), Diggs has maintained a large degree of anonymity. Not by choice or as a result of mismanagement mind you. No. RA Diggs lived by the gun, and if the state of New York has its way, he will die because of it. Ronald Herron was raised in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn during the height of the crack epidemic. He was conceived out of wedlock to two teenagers armed with neither financial security nor cultural capital. Placed onto a talented and gifted track in elementary school, Herron’s life did a 180. While playing cops and robbers, his best friend Nicholas Heyward Jr. was fatally shot by a police officer. The officer asserts he mistook Heyward’s toy gun for a real one. Herron dropped out of school shortly after and began selling crack cocaine to support his mother who had recently been diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer. Early in his twenties, Herron began to work with fellow Brooklyn MC Uncle Murda forming Murda Team. In 2010, with the help of producers DJ Green Lantern and DJ Kayslay, Diggs released his debut mixtape Pray for my Enemies. If you watch the video for Murda Team’s “We Run NY,” Wakka can be seen driv-
ing the MCs around. The authenticity of Herron’s lyrics coupled with a gruff New York flow, which almost reminds one of Nas, resulted in the mixtape receiving some attention including XXL Magazine including it as one of their top 100 mixtapes of 2010. XXL described Pray for My Enemies as “grimey” which is apt but limited. On “Eulogy,” a song whose music video is dedicated to Heron’s grandmother, one cannot help but be moved by Herron’s sense of necessity: “Born out of that, I was forced with a decision: either I’m gon starve or risk going to prison.” Herron is not glorifying his life choices but rather putting them into a broader social context. Later in the video, anguish on his face, sitting on a park bench in the projects, Herron raps: “these niggas is trying and I ain’t tryna go back/ locked in the cage with the roaches and the rats/ security is max, the majority is black/ so is the president but niggas is still trapped.” Herron’s lyrics are political and hard hitting in ways not often seen with rappers of his background and style. Modern hip-hop has an obsession with notions of “making it,” where rappers can spend entire albums talking about all of the things they have. RA Diggs brought something else to the table. His work with Uncle Murda garnered the interest of Jay-Z who at the time was the head of Rock-a-Fella and Def Jam. Herron’s power as a rapper and what would be his major crutch in life derived from the same thing: his authenticity.
Ronald Herron is currently in a maximum-security facility. He is accused of three murders: Frederick Brooks in 2001, Richard Russo in 2008 and Victor Zapata in 2009. Diggs was allegedly the leader of the Murderous Mad Dog branch of the Bloods. He ran what authorities referred to as “the Gowanus Drug Trade” until his arrest in 2010. What little press Diggs has received is in large part due to the unique role of social media in his case: Diggs was arrested after bragging about one of the killings on Twitter which served as the basis for the issuance of a warrant. From prison, Diggs was able to send violent messages via Twitter for which he was placed in solitary confinement for being a “publicity hound.” In an open letter, Diggs states, “My utilization of the Internet & its social networks is being paraphrased, misquoted, and repeated in the most blatantly corrupt and debased manner to demonize the perception of me.” Diggs asserts that his gangster persona was just that. He puts forth that, “While art often imitates life, and vice-versa, there is a stark line of delineation between reality and entertainment.” The case of RA Diggs raises numerous questions. Why do hip-hop fans demand that someone like Lil’ Wayne be freed for gun charges, which he was clearly guilty of, while one of rap’s rising stars faces execution at the hands
of the State of New York? Doesn’t Herron’s being a victim of his circumstances warrant sympathy? It is hard to fathom the adversity Herron faced in his life. Given the choice between starving along with one’s sick mother and selling illegal drugs, who can say they would absolutely choose the former? In addition, how many rappers would still be working if they could be arrested based on the content of their songs? Whether or not you believe in the death penalty, it is clear that nobody with so much potential and intelligence should have his license to live revoked. So why write this article? I’m struck that fans of a genre of music that so often celebrates a “gangsta” lifestyle have such an ambivalent reaction to its real-life expression. As mentioned, Lil’ Wayne committed a crime and was sentenced to under a year in prison while people cried for him to be freed. RA Diggs, an artist of arguably much greater gift and authenticity, suffers in relative obscurity and may in fact lose his life. My hope is that you’ll read this and pay RA the respect of checking out his music. Maybe you’ll like it, as I do. And maybe you’ll want him to live, as I do. Minimally we will have recognized and heard the man for what he lived for, and quite possibly for what he’ll die.
Poor Remy @ Art House photo by: Zach Scheinfeld
Broo ke C
By Djibril Sall
he first time I heard Brooke Candy’s ‘Das Me’, my body was immediately overwhelmed by her pulsating, gaudy soundscape and her quick, whiplike tongue that gave no quarter to what she perceived as bullshit. Her lyrics painted images of an unapologetic “slut” that reveal her sexual politics of reclamation and someone who is all about destroying the patriarchal double standard that my liberal arts education has trained me to hate--the feminist in me was hyped the fuck out. I was so hyped that I completely ignored her problematic image and proceeded to share her music all over social media and even change my Facebook cover photo (the ultimate form of endearment) to a picture of Brooke Candy in Grime’s “Genesis” video. However, the more YouTube time I spent with Brooke Candy, the more I grew weary and uncomfortable with her seemingly “innovative” persona. Sporting long braids, extravagant multicolored nails, and metallic body suits that are closely related to something a post-apocalyptic warrior princess would wear, Brooke Candy seems less radically creative and more appropriative to me.
Initially, I thought Brooke Candy’s identity to be edgy--existing outside of mainstream consciousness--so she appealed to my radical side. But then, as I began questioning what about her made her seem so crazy, some unsettling social and historical context dawned on me: the braids, long nails, and her use of ebonics are symbols of “ratchetness” ascribed to black women. Additionally, the extremely revealing body suits reminded me of how imperial Europeans would project sexual fantasies onto the bodies of women of color as ways to dehumanize the colonized subjects. Despite her efforts to reclaim the female agency, it seems as if she is doing so largely on the backs of black women. Just like the larger (white) feminist movement (which has been heavily critiqued for excluding minority viewpoints), Brooke Candy is attacking the patriarchy by excluding and offending black voices. Because of this, I feel very uneasy about her appropriative behavior and the problematic mix of over-sexualization because it reinforces the age-old stereotype that women of color (WOC) are sexually promiscuous and are morally inferior to the imperialist European gaze. 39 Waves Magazine Volume III
The fact that Brooke Candy was actually raised in the upper middle class suburb of Agoura Hills as the daughter of the Chief Financial Officer of Hustler magazine and the CEO of Hustler Casino makes the realization that Brooke Candy is complicit in her white privilege very apparent to me--she has choice in her decision to appear, in her own words, as the “hoodrat Drew Barrymore,” and because of daddy’s cash, she always has a safety net to fall back into. However, the reality for poor women of color all across the country is that they rarely have choice in their own portrayal within the mainstream dialogue, and safety nets that allows them that agency are hard to come by. Brooke Candy’s multicolored braids are seen as an integral part of her image. In all of the magazine interviews/articles/blurbs that I have read concerning Brooke, there’s always a mention of her braids. Of course, it’s important to note that within most of those articles, her braids are used as a tool to cement her image as an over-sexual, aggressive rapper to her audience. This is troublesome because even though braids are used as a protective hairstyle, they are ascribed as low class, unprofessional, ratchet, and ugly by the Eurocentric standards of beauty which idealizes the fair, tall, slim, and straight haired Caucasian woman as the pinnacle of female perfection. By donning braids, similarly to what Miley Cyrus did with twerking, Candy is taking something that has ample cultural, historical, and practical significance from its roots and using it as a fashion trend (Google: “Brooke Candy and braids.” There will be numerous links proclaiming how donning braids are now
what Brooke Candy is doing for ages, but when anyone speaks of them, they are rarely mentioned for their feminist contributions. Why is that? Could it be that all of these artists are women of color and society’s narrative tells us that women of color are inherently sexual beings (which, in society’s view, is a bad thing), so the materials they put out regarding sexual agency are automatically dismissed because it is assumed that all they want to do is fuck? If so, then why is Brooke Candy, a white woman sporting braids and rapping in ebonics, given so much credit for trying to smash this patriarchal society by dancing on a pole with a python slithering between her legs and rapping about how she wants to “fuck right now.”? To fully understand why this is problematic, we must look at European (and American) imperialist practices. One of the ways in which European colonizers historically dehumanized their subjects was by projecting sexual promiscuity on the bodies of women of color-- African women were seen as uncivilized and brazenly sexual, often depicted with huge bare breasts; Native American women were always scantily clad and quick to jump into bed with any man they saw; Behind their dainty and graceful appearances, far east Asian women were seductive whores who invited sexual intercourse through glowering eyes; and
“However, the reality for poor women of color all across the country is that they rarely have choice in their own portrayal within the mainstream dialogue, and safety nets that allow them that agency are hard to come by.” fashionable) just so she can seem edgy and outside of the norm. Which, ironically, actually normalizes braids because Brooke Candy, as someone with white upper-middle class socioeconomic status and power, has the power to shift the way in which the white culture views certain things that were once considered inferior and/or underground (again, Google search: “Brooke Candy and braids.” Braids are now seen as fashionable). While some might argue that the normalization of braids/ twerking/ebonics/whatever is being appropriated from the subordinate culture is a good thing, it actually isn’t. It perpetuates the White Savior Complex, by which marginalized groups are denied agency over their own problems. This type of normalization usually doesn’t address the primary problem (public perceptions and historical/social ignorance in this case) and instead places a very skimpy bandaid over a wound that will keep bleeding until it is given the proper care. To compound the issue of appropriation from women of color, Brooke Candy’s image is sexually explicit. Artists like Lil Kim, Trina, Foxxy Brown, Eve, and Missy Elliot have been doing Waves Magazine
just like Princess Jasmine, Arab and Desi women always had their midriffs bared and moved in sensual dances to evoke sexual energies within the men they encountered. On the other, far more pale, hand, European women were chaste, modest, and submissive. And to an extent these stereotypes are still largely perpetuated in our modern society and Brooke Candy’s image furthers these stereotypes. Of course, one could say that these are social constructs but these social constructs have real consequences that hinder women of color within all layers of this white hetero-patriarchal society. If Brooke Candy wants to shatter the patriarchal double standard, she should do so reflecting the place she comes from. But, of course, that would be much harder because there truly is something subversive about a white woman exercising her own sexual agency without scapegoating a marginalized group. Instead, it is easier to boost one group (white women) at the expense of another group (black women), because then at least some semblance of the oppression that allows for rich white male supremacy would still be intact. 40 Volume III
A Day in the Life
S E VAW E N I Z A G A M S
Y A H G H G U A + V
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