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LOCAL

“WE NEEDED A BIGGER SOUNDSCAPE TO EXPRESS WHAT WE WANTED TO EXPRESS.”

BEAT

{BY KIMBERLY OLSEN}

How does a Pittsburgh R&B artist go from performing at a suburban Moose Lodge to being featured in an award-winning film? Landon Thomas can tell you. In 2014, Thomas, 23, received an email from former Shadow Lounge owner Justin Strong saying there was a movie being filmed locally that was looking for new artists. So, with the pluck that has defined the early stages of his music career, Thomas sent the producers some songs. “They didn’t pick any of the songs. They actually looked me up, found the song that they wanted,” says Thomas, “and then made me go and re-edit it so there were no cuss words.” The song is an R&B ballad, “LSD” (for love, sex, drugs), and the movie is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which, like Thomas, has Pittsburgh roots; not only was it filmed here, it’s set here, too. The film won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The intersection of film and music has framed much of Thomas’ experience. He says he learned how to sing by watching the TV movie The Temptations (which was filmed a few blocks from where Thomas lives in East Liberty). A large influence of his is Usher, who was also featured in a film, Poetic Justice, before making it big. And Thomas even had a stint in film school, experience that comes in handy when making music videos for Vevo. Thomas grew up listening to his parents’ music — Prince, Tupac, N.W.A. — on his front porch in Braddock and credits his mom, also a singer, for his vocal talent. How does she feel about some of his more risqué lyrics? “I have a 1-yearold daughter. She knows what I’ve been doing,” he says, laughing. While he pursues his music career, Thomas works full time and runs a production company, LIE Productions, which he started with friends, “people who I know will work diligently with me.” He hopes to plan an all-R&B show by October. Will he be making any Moose Lodge appearances soon? Maybe. As an artist, says Thomas, “You have to be willing to perform anywhere. The moment you start taking yourself too seriously is the moment it stops being fun.” INFO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM

LANDON THOMAS with M. TOMLIN, HENDY and more 7 p.m. Thu., Aug 27. Most Wanted Fine Art, 5015 Penn Ave., Garfield. $10-15. 412-328-4737 or www.mostwantedfineart.com NEWS

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Landon Thomas {PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK PALMER}

SOUND TRACKING

DEEP CUTS {BY ALEX GORDON}

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{PHOTO COURTESY OF B+}

Blackalicious: DJ Chief Xcel (left) and Gift of Gab

LACKALICIOUS IS reliable. That

much is clear from the first couple of songs on Imani Vol. 1, the new album from the veteran hip-hop duo and their first since 2005. DJ Chief Xcel’s beats are as meticulously layered, soulful and satisfying as they’ve ever been, and Gift of Gab’s unmatched talent for speed, honesty and clarity in his lyricism has only gotten stronger. Spend a few minutes with the single “The Blow Up” to learn this firsthand. Over its 20-plus year career, Blackalicious has consistently produced progressive, challenging hip hop. It’s old-school stuff, rooted in pre-digital DJ culture, but somehow the relevance doesn’t waver (even Daniel Radcliffe is a fan, as he proved on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon). Like the duo’s first three records, Imani Vol. 1 is futuristic and retro, political and personal, and really, really fun to listen to. But Imani also marks new territory for Blackalicious. The album, due out

Sept. 18, is a self-released, crowd-funded affair to be spread over three volumes and released over the next few years. City Paper spoke with DJ Chief Xcel on the phone from South Carolina during a day off to ask what’s changed, what’s new, and the crate-digger’s prerequisite Jerry’s Records question.

fans who’ve supported us through all this time. You get everything digitally at the drop of a dime, but those physical things that you can get, those things that are personalized by us, those things are really, really special. You know? And me being a record collector, I’m always looking for things that are sought after. So it became an opportunity to do that.

BLACKALICIOUS

WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS PROJECT THAT INSPIRED YOU GUYS TO RELEASE IT IN THREE VOLUMES? We had amassed so much material. It’s very difficult to tell the whole story without certain songs, certain songs are key. We needed a bigger soundscape to express what we wanted to express. We didn’t wanna make it a triple CD or just a release with 48 songs, ya know?

WITH NEW BREED BRASS BAND, GEORGE HOLLOW, FORTIFIED PHONETIX 8 p.m. Sun., Aug. 30. The Altar Bar, 1620 Penn Ave., Strip District. $20. All ages. 412-206-9719 or www.thealtarbar.com

IMANI VOL. 1 IS YOUR FIRST ALBUM TO BE SELF-RELEASED AND FUNDED THROUGH A PLEDGEMUSIC CROWD-FUNDING CAMPAIGN. WHY THE CHANGE? With the Pledge thing, we really wanted to be able to give something special to the

WHAT DEFINES VOLUME 1? I’ve never been the type to really put a definition on things. One of the things CONTINUES ON PG. 37

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Profile for Pittsburgh City Paper

August 26, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 34

August 26, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 34