7/31/09 9:58:53 AM
7/21/09 3:37:49 PM
7/21/09 3:39:05 PM
7/18/09 11:36:12 AM
7/18/09 11:36:46 AM
7/18/09 11:45:10 AM
7/18/09 11:45:29 AM
GUTS Summer 2009 Issue: One Fifty Eight
BLOCKBUSTERS KID CUDI :: 40 Our guest editor tells what it takes to get to the top— retail, recession and all. MEL D. COLE :: 46 Photographic evidence from Cudi’s favorite nightlife stalker. DUB CLUB :: 50 Jamaican roots style is alive and well and living in Los Angeles. ELECTRIC DAISY CARNIVAL :: 54 How SoCal rave culture got it’s groove back.
photo: Caesar Sebastian
DRUMS OF DEATH :: 70 MACCABEES :: 71 NOSAJ THING :: 72 EBONY BONES :: 74
URB 6 | URB.com
158 7/30/09 11:09:36 AM
3/17/09 12:57:20 PM
Summer 2009 Issue: One Fifty Eight URB
DIATRIBE : 12 Letter from the editor, Joshua Glazer GUEST EDITOR : 16 Kid Cudi’s road trip that almost was EVENTS : 18 URB goes out
CAPACITY 20 22 23 24 26 28 29 30 32 34 36
DJ Game Clash Troublemaker’s African Adventure MGMT coloring book URB guide to convertable cars East Side fashion rebels Mos Def MP3 style Video director Radical Friends Project Lutz photos save kids The all new MP3 by Busdriver Major Lazer gets translated 25 Years of DMC with A-Trak, DJ Craze and Scratch Perverts 38 Ratatat rule Melbourne
LEAD REVIEW 63 Amanda Blank looking for love CD REVIEWS 64 Cage, Felix da Housecat, Amazing Baby, LTJ Bukem, Simian Mobile Disco + more SINGLES 68 Hercules & Love Affair INSTUDIO 76 LCD Soundsystem’s Hollywood Hideaway INSTUDIO 78 Ape School’s magical musical machines
photo: Mel D. Cole
PARTING SHOT 80 Living In My Headphones by James Lavell
URB 8 | URB.COM
7/30/09 11:11:45 AM
7/18/09 11:47:42 AM
PRESIDENT + Creative director Raymond Leon Roker Editor-IN-CHIEF + Content director Joshua Glazer DESIGN By pure/ROKER & rivasgrafix MARKET Editor Jolie Nguyen
CONTRIBUTING Editor Michael Vazquez AUTOMOTIVE Editor Mark Flintoft ( email@example.com )
MGMT TEM LCD SOUNDSYS K AMANDA BLAN A-TRAK DJ CRAZE& L.A.
Phonics Charlie Amter, Landon Antonetti, Lisa Ariganello, Busdriver, Alex Chapman, Myisha Cherry, Jamel Corbett, Jorge Cuellar, Daiana Feuer, Adam Figman, Mark Flintoft, Paul Glanting, Travis Hayden, Maria Holland, Steve “Flash” Juon, Som Khamsaysoury, Jason Kordich, James Lavell, David Ma, Ali MacLean, Doug Mahoney, Lauren Mooney, Jason Parham, Thomas Quinlan, Areti Sakellaris, Dennis Sebayan, James Shahan, Celeste Tabora, Richard Thomas, Elliot Townsend, Dan Vidal, Aylin Zafar
S INVADE 90,000 RAVER
GUEST EDITOR KID CUDI HFU!NPSF!A!VSC/DPN
Images Kristin Burns, Curran Clark, Mel D. Cole, Todd Cooper, Peter Drier, Huy Doan, Dina Goldstein, Ferry Gouw, michael ivankay, Phil Knott, Lester Lawenko, Pamela Lin, Raymond Roker, Drew “Rukes” Ressler, A. Scott Rosenthal, Caesar Sebastian, Benny Valentine Advertising + Marketing
323.315.1701 ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
7/31/09 9:56:03 AM
cover photography by : Phil Knott www.philknott.com/
publisher Raymond Leon Roker Media Sales + Business Development Amy Grabisch ( email@example.com )
styling by: Michelle Ten/Missfit Styles www.missfitstyles.com
Midwest sales Michael Sanders, Graffiti Group ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) interactive SALES Blackrock Digital ( email@example.com )
Transportation by: Zipcar www.zipcar.com
Operations National Distribution Curtis Circulation Company Printed in the U.S.A. Big Kid INTERNS: David Bond, Jason Chang, Alex Chapman, Jamel Corbett, Sabrina Dunn, Adam Figman, Elizabeth Lopez, Doug Mahoney, Areti Sakellaris, Elliot Townsend, Blair Tripp FOUNDERS Raymond Leon Roker + Mark Bankins
Maria Holland is a Los Angeles-based writer and artist. In this issue’s essay, “LA Gear,” she exposes Lala Land’s independent fashion scene and the retailers who help it thrive. When she’s not writing for URB, Maria spends her time trying to find a 30 Rock episode she hasn’t seen yet and attempting to craft the perfect deviled egg.
Contact NativeSon Media, Inc. 8484 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 560 Beverly Hills, CA 90211 VOICE | 323.848.7100
Born and bred in Mississippi, Todd Cooper is now a decade deep in Oregon working as a photographer, graphic designer and illustrator. His work has appeared in The Surfer’s Path, In These Times and E (Environmental) Magazine. He has contributed images to Diplo, Jamie Lidell, Lyrics Born, The Pack, Cherine Anderson, SPIN Earth and now URB (check out his illustration of Cudi and Plain Pat’s road trip p. 16). And don’t forget to hit ’im up at www.jasontoddcooper.com
Advertising + Business | firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial | email@example.com Web | www.urb.com
Since Day One: Moms (and Dixie) Recognition: Doris Payer, Phylicia Fant, Emile, Plain Pat, O’Neal Rowe, Christina Izzo, Trevor Seamon, Sarah Avrin, Hilary Villa, Dana Meyerson, Danna Hawley, Alex Greenberg, Kim Smith, Alexandra Baker, Leeor Brown, Matt Cash, Steve Martin, Matt Alibadi, JR Robinson, Celeste Tabora, Sean Patrick, Bela Canhoto, Sioux Z, Rich “Gimp Finger” Thomas
Words We Manifest
Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved on this, our Earth. NO (zero) portion of this magazine and its contents may be reproduced without the consent of NativeSon Media, Inc.
URB is a conversation about music, ideas and culture. Our aim is to celebrate a tribal past while embracing our techno future. This is a manifesto of (our) music and life. It’s like that so say it loud... Pillage the future before it exploits you, homeboy. Word is always bond.
Subscriptions/Change of Address SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE $16.95 FOR ONE YEAR • SINGLE COPY PRICE IS $4.99 Please send change of addresses or inquiries about your subscription to:
Combining his passion for electronic music, art and imaging, Caesar Sebastian epitomizes a new breed of photography that reveals the naked truths of the new generation. Caesar’s current work reflects a passion for visual senses and an eclectic creativity of design that could only be the by-product of modern times. He currently attends the Art Center College of Design with a major in Photography and Imaging. Caesar was one of four photogs URB sent to cover Electric Daisy Carnival. www.caesarsebastian.com
URB Magazine P.O. Box 469079 Escondido, CA 92046-9079 760.291.1563
Always shakin’ her rump, never missin’ a beat, this lil mamasita from Gardena, California is bringing heat to her hustle. It’s no surprise that she is one of URB’s top interns with an artistic, humorous nature that reflects her charming, expressive persona. When she’s not starring on the diamond for her co-ed softball team, she’s armed with her camera looking for a moment to capture. Far from shy, this social butterfly isn’t afraid to spark up a conversation with you. www.myspace.com/lizvivirlife
OR E-MAIL firstname.lastname@example.org
email@example.com OR VISIT www.urb.com
Beats you to the /core
Made By Lost Angels Printed In The United States
URB 10 | URB.com
7/31/09 10:05:01 AM
THE DEBUT SOLO ALBUM FROM FORMER JURASSIC 5 MC
THE DEBUT SOLO ALBUM FROM JURASSIC 5 MC Featuring: TALIB KWELI • ANTHONY HAMILTON • DAMIAN MARLEY • ELZHI Featuring: DAMIAN MARLEY • STEPHEN MARLEY • ANTHONY HAMILTON STEPHEN MARLEY • BEENIE MAN & MORE TALIB KWELI • ELZHI • BEENIE MAN & OTHERS
www.deconrecords.com www.deconrecords.com www.nevernotfresh.com
I STORES NOW NINSTORES NOW
THE DEBUTLO ALBUM FROM FORMER JURASSIC 5 MC
ALSO AVAILABLE ONJurrasic DECON 88-KeysKWELI • ANTHONY Evidence 5• DAMIAN Aceyalone Featuring: TALIB HAMILTON MARLEY • ELZHI ALSO AVAILABLE ON DECON RECORDS STEPHENEvidence MARLEY • BEENIE MAN 88-Keys Jurassic 5 & MORE Aceyalone
IN STORES NOW
THE DEATH OF ADAM www.deconrecords.com
THE DEATH OF ADAM
J5 DELUX RE-ISSUE
J5 DELUX RE-ISSUE
ACEYALONE & THE LONELY ONES
ACEYALONE & THE LONELY ONES
7/18/09 11:52:33 AM
/M`OT @TQ /^e_`MX 9Q`T[P [Z `[a^ `TU_ _aYYQ^& !"%
!% ! %
:Qc E[^W /U`e
4[a_Q [R .XaQ_ 9Q`^[\[XU_ 3abQ^ZYQZ` CQN_`Q^ 4MXX @TQM`^Q [R 8UbUZS -^`_ 4[a_Q [R .XaQ_ >MYÂ²_ 4QMP >Qb[Xa`U[Z 4[a_Q [R .XaQ_ @MNQ^ZMOXQ 4[a_Q [R .XaQ_ 4[a_Q [R .XaQ_ 8M F[ZM >[_M 4[a_Q [R .XaQ_ 4[a_Q [R .XaQ _ 9M^]aQQ
"% BMZO[abQ ^
% ?MX` 8MWQ /U`e
>UMX`[ @TQM`^Q 4[a_Q [R .XaQ_ >[_QXMZP CM9a @TQM`^Q
/[YY[P[^Q @TQ CTU_WQe :UST`OXaN
1MSXQ_ /XaN 2U^_` -bQZaQ 4[a_Q [R .XaQ_ @TQ <MSQMZ` .QMaY[Z` /XaN .QXXe A\ @.9a^^Me @TQM`Q^ 1Y\U^Q 1bQZ`_ /QZ`Q^ 3^MZP .MXX^[[Y
7/18/09 1:31:42 PM
More music than one mere magazine can hold! URB has many ways you can get the word every day of the year. Sign up for our social media platforms and get constant updates on everything you need to know about the latest in music, culture and style. Plus special content you won’t ﬁnd on all those other music sites.
Get up-to-the-second notiﬁcations on all of URB’s news, reviews and point of views—140 characters at a time.
Become a fan of URB Magazine and get instant notiﬁcations of contests, parties and more.
YOUTUBE URB SOCIAL MEDIA Walk like an Egyptian with the Ebony Bones plush doll.
Watch URB’s exclusive videos from across the nation— backstage, on the street, and in the crowd.
URB 14 | URB.COM
7/29/09 7:09:33 PM
Respect 2-Full Page-URB.indd 1 UR157_RANE1.indd 19
5/11/08 9:34:17 AM 3/24/09 10:40:10 AM
GUEST EDITOR KID CUDI
Illustration by TODD COOPER
When we called Kid Cudi and asked him to be the first ever Guest Editor of URB Magazine, the 25-year old MC had plenty of ideas. But the first concept was easy—load up the car and head out on a stoner roadtrip with his best pal Plain Pat. And what did Cudi need for this adventure? Just some Budweisers (“cause I’m an all-American kinda guy”), CDs by Sebastian Tellier and MGMT (pg. 22), a couple of Dutchmasters and a nice bag of indica-dominant weed, “for the body high.” Of course, then Cudi started to blow the fuck up and there was no getting the days off to drive the Cali coast—violating all sorts of DUI laws along the way. He also wasn’t able to go to Australian to catch another of his favorite bands, Ratatat (pg. 35). Nor could we get a hold of Jordana Brewster, Melonie Diaz or Megan Fox for (ahem) interviews. But we’re not worried about the Kid. With his album dropping this fall, we’re sure he’ll have plenty of Entourage moments with lots of lovely ladies. And we made this illustration of Cudi and Pat on the road. Oh what might have been. URB 16 | URB.com
7/21/09 8:25:14 PM
7/18/09 1:18:25 PM
photos by Lester Lawenko
Beestings & No s ebleeds
photos by Peter Drier (1-3) and Moodswing360 (4-5)
ULT R A R E CO R DS M O O DS W I N G 3 6 0 @ G A N S E VO O RT WMC
photos by Raymond L. Roker
URB 18 | URB.com
7/21/09 8:39:07 PM
photos by Linus Shentu (2,4,5,6) and Shadowscene (1,3,4)
INDIOASIS 2009 Indio, CA
URB discovered paradise a mere mile from the Coachella music festival We don’t like to brag, but when it comes to Coachella, we here at URB like to consider ourselves experts. So when we decided to throw our first ever daytime party echoing distance from the Polo Grounds, we knew we’d have to bring the heat (pun intended). First we secured the amazing Serano Ranch, with their stables of thoroughbred horses and acres of grass. Then we got our friends at Onitsuka Tiger to invite all their rock star pals. Imeem handled the interviews while Vitamin Water kept everyone cool. Thanks to Tino’s Vodka, Alize, Asahi and Colt 45 for the cool buzz, Cafe Bustelo for the pick me up, Coconut Bliss and Green Truck for keeping everyone fed, TheGoodLife.com and Sustainable Living Carnival for the vibes, The Kuttingroom for the good looks, Pantech for the cool gadgets, Notorious DVD, TuneUp Media and Music Dealers for the support, and of course our awesome co-promoters who beat the heat to make the party fly—Sean Patrick, Jesse Lee and Eddie Cruz. URB.com | 19
7/21/09 8:40:09 PM
MIX MASTER MIKE TAKES THE LEAD IN NUMARK POWERED SCRATCH GAME
Ever since forming the Invisibl Skratch Piklz with DJ Q-Bert in 1989, Mix Master Mike has been one of the world’s preeminent wax masters—winning world championships and performing live and on record with the Beastie Boys. The Bay Area turntablist’s next project is a DJ game that strives to mirrors the experience behind the decks. Utilizing realtime audio scrubbing and controls by DJ gear manufacturer Numark, Scratch: Ultimate DJ is so close to the real thing, it could train the next generation of superstars.
Did you play games growing up and were you exceptionally good at any particular one? My favorite video game system would have to be the Atari 2600. I loved Combat, Airsea Battle and Kaboom. I was un-fadable at those games.
Do you feel this game will bring more popularity to DJ’s and allow for the masses to realize how much time is put into becoming successful at the craft? Yeah for sure. I won’t be surprised if the game spawns a whole new generation of DJs.
What is your role in the creation of the game? My role is to make sure every aspect of the game is as close to the actual thing. With Scratch, we want players to have an authentic experience.
How similar is the feel to an actual turntable? Very similar, but in a very compact version. The buttons are real MPC drum pads and the turntable is an actual CDJ wheel, so Numark didn’t cut any corners with the technology.
Did you ever imagine you’d be consulting on video games when you were honing your skills? No , I never imagined it at all. I’ve always done it for the love. I’m very blessed and have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the position I’m in. Do you think this game will enhance the skills of future DJ’s and if so how? Yes I think it will. It will definitely help practice hand eye coordination as well as timing.
Can we expect to hear any new music from you on the video game? Yes , you will definitely hear a track. What is your skill level on the game? I would say I’m at about a medium level. Not super good, but not super bad. I’m working on it. Do you think this game has the potential to become a world phenomenon like Guitar Hero? I have no doubts .
Grandmaster Flash joins the DJ Hero army DJs are the kings of promotion, so who better to represent Activision’s latest venture than the world’s most famous hip-hop jock, Grandmaster Flash. Sitting on a couch holding the DJ Hero turntable controller in his hand, the 51-year-old DJ get’s emotional over the new game. “I’m on a high today!” he proclaims. “I’ve walked this creative walk with the company for over a year.” He goes on to explain that he originally thought Activision wanted to meet with him to license some of his music. Once the dudes introduced themselves as the creators of Guitar Hero he had suspicions something else was up. Featuring DJ Shadow, DJ AM, Z-Trip, Jay-Z, Eminem and the voice of Flash himself‚ Flash sees himself and DJ Hero as “the town crier‚“ for what it means to be hip-hop. Today marks the day that Flash finally sees how everything turned out after a year and a half of secret correspondences and clandestine meetings.
For originators like Flash, DJ Hero is more than just a new paycheck. It represents a mainstream acknowledgement that has been slowly building, but not yet realized, for over three decades. “This is extremely huge for me—the beatings and all that my father did—it kind of makes it worth it now,” he says looking skyward. “I’m talking to you
dad, looks what’s going on here! “This is something I took a love and a risk for many decades ago,” he continues, coming back to Earth. “Now it’s getting ready to go to corporate America in a huge way—this means so much. I can correct the history, for every DJ on the planet, corporately we matter now. Let’s go, shit is on for real, for real.”
URB 20 | URB.com
7/21/09 8:28:22 PM
7/18/09 1:20:22 PM
AFRICAHOT by TROUBLEMAKER
In May, I headed to Nairobi, Kenya with HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) for a trip of a lifetime. We were there to bring our artistic abilities and knowledge to the locals, share with them, and work with them.
Sunday, May 24th Arrive in Kenya around 5am. Total travel time was something like 30 hours. Start driving with the HOPE team and start to realize where I am. The the pollution is pretty bad, and they burn everything off into the atmosphere because of a lack of recycling and trash disposal. While we are getting all the negatives out of the way, there are limited sidewalks, traffic signs and signals, and traffic itself is the worst I’ve ever seen. Our house is on the high end of society, but even running water is interesting, and getting the right temperature in the shower is sometimes a struggle. We go to an animal orphanage where they rescue endangered wildlife and animals left behind by game hunters. I get to pet a cheetah! Monday, May 25th Andi (HOPE founder), Niles (photographer/ videographer) and I headed to Metro FM for an interview. They ask to hold our passports at the front desk and explain that in the event of a military coup, the radio is the first place to get raided, so I kindly obliged cause I’m one of the good guys. Later, we go to Ghetto Radio, which is the underground station in Nairobi. Everywhere I go I’m giving folks my upcoming album. DJ Zaq immediately recognizes Naptron and Phoenix Orion who guest on the CD. He knew them from the Wake Up Show Freestyles with Supernatural. Small world. We talk about hip-hop the whole trip. After all the radio business we dine on Nairobi’s version of a taco. Let me tell you, naan-like tortillas, goat meat, and duck sauce do not equate a taco, WTF... or as we say WTA (What the Africa)! Tuesday, May 26th Head over to Sawa Sawa for singer/actress Renee Wilson’s acting workshop. Everyone in Nairobi is yearning to create and learn. After the workshop, I meet up with a couple Dutch DJs and we go to a studio to meet a few local ragga MC and singers. Super raw talent. I’m looking forward to working with them. Wednesday, May 27th Renee and I are up on Homeboyz Radio, a commercial station. We promoted the upcoming Sawa Sawa Festival and are put on the spot about our musical taste. I had to tell ’em about the new De La Soul record, even though they wanted me to ride for the typical [mainstream] BS.
After the interview, I teach a Serato class at the Homeboyz DJ Academy. It’s incredibly fun and no one wants to stop, but it’s late and time to eat dinner. Carnivore is the restaurant everyone has been talking about. Crazy meat on skewers. There’s a white flag on the table and when you throw it down, that means you are done and to stop bringing more meat. The best of the night were the lamb and ostrich balls.
Thursday, May 28th We headed to the Go Down, an artistic community for dancers, fine artists, musicians and more. I purchased some of their work. One is by a new artist who is from the slums and says it’s the first painting he’s ever sold. I also record vocals for a track I am working on with Renee. Juliani is the biggest and most respected MC in Kenya and his new protégé is Franco, another kid from the
slums who had never recorded before. It took us a little bit to get Franco to open up, but once we got him in the pocket, it was ill. Friday, May 29th Opening Day of Sawa Sawa Festival. We all rise early for the press conference that I’m more than nervous about. There is Al Queda bomb threats on two of the embassies in the city. That is some real talk. That night, Renee and others performs at the opening night VIP party. A couple of our crewmembers get their cameras stolen, which was unfortunate. Nairobi is more than poor as a nation. People have to do what they feel is necessary to survive. It doesn’t make it right, but if that is the worst that happens to any of us. I’m not mad. Hell, I’ve been held up at gunpoint in LA. Saturday, May 30th Sawa Sawa Festival Day 2 is officially “Africa hot.” I perform outside on the balcony of the Sarakasi Dome. It’s a rough start since the sound is not working from the jump, but once it’s worked out it’s was super dope. There’s a huge circle of folks dancing (which come to find out Kenyans don’t do in these environments.) There are also a few ladies dropping it like no other. Kenyan backsides battle Brazilians for best in the world. After I finish and climb down the handmade ladder, I’m mobbed by kids and new fans asking for stuff. Drop a ton of stickers on them, as well as CDs and tee shirts. I’m big in Kenya! Sunday, May 31th Last day of Sawa Sawa and my last day in Nairobi. Spend the whole day chillin with all my new friends and listening to all the local music. There is so much talent in Kenya, and all styles of music. Everyone is all smiles.
Download Troublemaker HOPE Podcast@ URB.com/hope
URB 22 | URB.com
7/23/09 8:45:01 PM
Matt Stotland and Casey Cohen, aka the braintrust behind the Yellow Bird Project charity t-shirts (www.yellowbirdproject.com), give us an exclusive page from The Indie Rock Coloring Book, designed by Mancunian artist Andy J. Miller and over a dozen bands, including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Andrew Bird, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. MGMT inspired a Yellow Submarine-esque playhouse for you to get psychedelic on. Send us pics so we can post them at URB.com.
7/21/09 9:41:51 PM
TOP LESS What better way to hit the highway this summer than in a roadster with the wind in your hair and the sunshine on your face? From baller to beach bum, we’ve assembled a guide to convertibles in every price range.
A. Budget? What’s a budget?
You’re a hip-hop mogul having a good year. Maybe you’ve sold your share in a beverage company to Coca-Cola? You could go for a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe or even a Maybach Landaulet, but in your world everyone already has one. For you, the brand new, ultra rare Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport ($2.05 million) is a good “investment” with a 253MPH top speed (224 with the top down.) It’s exquisitely handcrafted, drives like nothing else on the road, and thanks to its 1001 Horsepower 16 cylinder engine, the paparazzi won’t catch you—ever.
B. I’ve got burn...
You hung on to your Wall Street gig and even got a bonus! Problem is, you see a Porsche, Ferrari or AMG Mercedes in every driveway in the Hamptons. Check the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider ($241,000). Only 100 of these beauties are coming to the US. It might not handle as well as some other exotics, but fuu-ck it’s gorgeous. PS: If government took your bonus back, pick up an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster, a steal at only $130,400.
C. I’m Obama rich.
For the small business owner. Obama considers you rich, but your ragtop needs to come in under six figures. There are lots of really cool vehicles in your price range—from Corvettes to Mercedes SLs—but there’s only one car we’d choose: the BMW M3 ($66,500.) It looks sharp, has a brilliantly engineered three piece folding hardtop and boasts peerless driving dynamics.
I’ve got some money to spend.
Frankly, there’s a lot of crap in your price range, like the Pontiac G6. You could go with a TT, Boxter or base model 3-Series, but we’d recommend you save four grand and buy the top of the line BMW 135ic ($40,150). The looks are polarizing, but you get a 300 Horsepower twin turbo 6 cylinder engine and that legendary BMW handling.
D/E. Money’s pretty tight!
The cheapest convertible in the US is the Smart Fortwo Cabriolet ($16,990) and it’s not bad if you live in a city. For a bit more fun, the Mazda MX-5 (formerly Miata,) is the only convertible that gives you the choice of either a retractable hardtop or an old school cloth top. The soft top starts at only $21,750 which, while basic, is incredibly entertaining to steer down a back road.
F. I can’t splash out on a convertible. Avis and Budget offer their Cool Car and Street Fleet programs. If you happen to be in the LA area, Budget of Beverly Hills offers an incredible range of ragtops, right up to the Ferrari F430. Another alternative is a car sharing program like Zipcar which offers the Mini Convertible and Ford Mustang at very reasonable rates, especially when you consider they include gas. by Mark Flintoft
URB 24 | URB.com
7/24/09 10:15:51 AM
Featuring Santigold, Lykke Li, Spank Rock, and Chuck Inglish from the Cool Kids with production by diplo and switch YEAH YEAH YEAHS AND with MATT AND KIM AVAILABLE 8.4 ON TOUR WITH THE myspace.com/amandablank downtownmusic.com UR158_DOWNTOWN.indd 25
7/18/09 1:22:20 PM
LA GEAR Reasonable Retail for a Recession-Proof Town By Maria Holland Photography by Huy Doan
On a recent episode of 60 Minutes, one that anyone devoted to the ever-sly sarcasm of Gawker probably knows all about, was a profile on the singularly icy editrix that is Anna Wintour. Its intent was to bolster interest in Vogue, the fashion bible that has been rapidly dwindling in ad pages. The segment was replete with every Wintour cliché: Her royal highness sitting stoically at fashion week—signature shades envisaged, a faceless assistant dropping something on her desk in a scene that mimics The Devil Wears Prada and a vignette in which Wintour is checking out “it boy” designer Alexander Wang’s latest collection. Wintour says to Wang, as he is showing her a simple body-hugging mini-dress, retailing at $1,200, “It’s very reasonable.” This is a remarkable statement. Wintour’s words are very much reflective of the archaic mind set of an industry that, due to an inability to humble itself, is taking a slow, and brutal beating. The change that’s happened since last year’s Wall Street fiasco has been unprecedented in it’s reshaping of the spending habits of virtually all individuals, including the average fashionista. But the economic downturn has produced a truly creative movement for those who have been in the trenches of the apparel industry all along, sacrificing fame for art. More specifically in Los Angeles, several retail outlets are using this moment to redefine the relationship between design and affordability. By keeping production small and ideas big, independent
designers and the stores they work with are presenting a new price model for fans of fashion and a new attainability for cutting edge designs. Last summer, when a group of my fashion industry pals began disappearing to build mysterious installations at some place called “New High Mart,” I became intrigued. A couple of months later, I was obsessed with the teeny store on the edge of town, bartering in fringe fashion and independent design. Observed in person, New High Mart is a room with a few dangling pieces of clothing placed around, a rack here, some jewelry there. But in concept, and as demonstrated on their more expansive website, NHM is a place enthusiastic about representing everyone from well-know locals Grey Ant and Brian Lichtenberg to obscure Mexican duos like Marvin y Quetzal. “The East Side” has been long a place for destroying the stereotypes of everything known as “so LA”—celebrity culture, Ed Hardy, Rodeo Drive, etc. The several mile expanse off Sunset Blvd between Hollywood and Downtown is punctuated repeatedly by unique music venues, wine bars, vegan restaurants, and mid-century architecture. So it is no surprise that boutiques like Jason Gillis’ Chinatown store, Welcome Hunters, specializing in dramatic street-wear (think vivid prints and oversized tunics) can be found nestled within this emerging art enclave. Between the kitsch of fake oriental-style buildings and trinket stores, Gillis’ space boasts being the only U.S. stockist of unknown labels, like Finnish designer Daniel
Palillo. As Gillis says, location is key to the success of his business. “We’re near the galleries and we have a scene happening down here. I think if we were on the West Side…” he pauses, “it seems like a lot of stores over there are leaving, moving, going out of business.” Part of the concept behind Welcome Hunters, like New High Mart, is to feature rotating installations by resident designers, of which Palillo is the first. The collaboration, Gillis insists, has been fruitful thus far. “He’s definitely one of our best sellers, super fun, easy-to-wear,” and blowing up, thanks to the unique exposure he’s received. The revolution for cheaper, quality apparel has been long coming. It is no coincidence that the same country that introduced us to efficiently packed home furnishings, Ikea, and the world’s safest family vehicles, Volvo, is now brandishing their swords at America’s shopping mall culture by invading near every corner of every major city with multi-story, apparel palaces called H&M. Long revered for their lifestyle ethos of practicality, functionality and affordability, Gillis believes that the culture model the Swedes perfected some while ago is now becoming relevant to the American consumer goods market. That is why he and Raymond Tseng, proprietor of another Chinatown mainstay, Lion’s Den, launched a concept pop-up appropriately titled “Choose Chinatown”. The space currently houses the full Spring/ Summer ’09 collection of ultra-hip Swedish brand Cheap Monday. Says Gillis, “They’re an example
URB 26 | URB.com
7/23/09 9:03:10 PM
The economic downturn has produced a truly creative movement for those who have been in the trenches of the apparel industry all along. Cheap Monday. Says Gillis, “They’re an example of a company and a label that’s pretty big at this point, but, they still have tons of credibility and still do really interesting design.” Having first made their mark in the States several years ago, the line has come to be known for its chic durable denim, its re-take on closet staples, and its saturated color pallets. Most importantly about the brand, as is indicative of its name and as Gillis points out, their “prices are right.” On a lot just two miles west of Chinatown, lies Echo Park’s Iko Iko, another concept space, who’s owner, Kristen Dickson, works in altering fixed notions of apparel retail by offering everything from Ikebana workshops to art produced with real human hair in addition to her own custom-made line, Rowena Sartin. On Iko Iko’s concept Dickson says, “I want it to be a little more expansive than just ‘a store.’ I think a lot of stores are changing their formula. A lot of stores are doing design events. A lot of spaces are incorporating art into the line-up too, which makes sense.” The reformulation of fashion retail, it seems, is working well. Only in existence for a year and a half, New High Mart began this summer by closing up its Chinatown flagship in favor of
reopening in Los Feliz, where larger retail space will accommodate for the growing legions of High Mart devotees, who worship fashion but shun the idea that its attainment has to come with a whopping price tag. New High Mart’s price points almost never range above $500 for even the most cutting edge, most complex pieces. The same is true of Welcome Hunters and Iko Iko, although, both spaces stock equally conceptual designs and do believe that in some instances you have to retail for more to cover the cost of a truly wellmade item. Just like their West Side counterparts, Opening Ceremony, Scout, Barney’s Co-Op, the East Side community of stores bring a high level of imagination when it comes to the curating product for the tirelessly hip, but never ever do they acquiesce to the culture of exorbitant mark-up. “I would feel weird buying a dress for a thousand dollars right now,” explains Dickson. “That just doesn’t seem responsible. I always look at it as ‘What would I be able to afford?’ and ‘What would I want to pay for something?’ That’s really included in my pricing system.”
(Clockwise from above left): Raymond Tseng @ Lion’s Den in King Stampede tee, Dickies, New Balance sneakers, Jason Gillis @ Welcome Hunters in shirt is by WKND (for Cheap Monday), Wendy Yao @ Ooga Booga in Comme des Garçons shirt, Kristen Dickson @ Iko Iko in vintage dress.
Video Interviews @ URB.com/LAGear URB.com
7/23/09 9:04:10 PM
TWITTER to TEES HELP MOVE MP3s I almost overlooked it. It looked like every other tweet from the twit list scrolling down my desktop. But this one was from darling duo The Raveonettes. I clicked on it: a new song! Twittering free downloads? Was it Christmas? O Frabjous Day! I instantly felt part of their inner circle. I had their unreleased track. They even wanted my thoughts on it! Then I realized each and every one of their followers felt the same way. How genius. More artists are finding ways to work outside the conventional music distribution structure, which is coughing up a death rattle. The Raveonettes, clever foxes that they are, have taken it a step further. I asked frontman, Sune Rose Wagner, about the sweet, tweets: “Obviously the trend towards digital is going to continue. This allows us to write, record and release more often. Last year, we released four EP’s after we put out our full-length album. We could have never done that in the old world.”
Old world, indeed. With laptop studios and instant access through social networking, there’s an ability to get the music to fans during the process of actually making the music. “That is the beauty of Twitter.” Sune continues. “There is an immediacy that you can’t get any other way right now.” Though much of Generation “I want it now” will download until they get carpal tunnel, there is something to be said for tangible goods. Look at the contents of the recently shuttered Virgin Megastores: hoodies, shoelaces, books, magic 8 balls…it was hard to find the music through the merchandise. Marketing gurus understand that a lifestyle can be sold to the consumer instead of just a CD. Skull Candy knew this when they asked Snoop Dogg and Mix Master Mike to create a line of headphones. Snoop is no stranger to putting his name on, well, anything. His dog toys play “Bow wow wow yippie yo yippie yay,” ensuring that canine lovers everywhere will sample a smidgen of his song “Woof.” Mix Master Mike takes distribution a step further by gifting his customers with downloads of his new 4 song EP with every set of his headphones sold. And now, even good old-fashioned fashion is bringing music to the masses. Invisible DJ and LNA clothing have created The Music Tee. Half band t-shirt/half album sleeve, the shirt is a way to tangibly package large format album artwork with the music (via MP3 download link printed on the tag. Premiering the line was a mix-tape tee with songs from artists like The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, Alice Russell, The Silent Years, and Mason Proper. Mos Def followed with his very own shirt for his latest, The Ecstatic. Josh Deutsch, CEO of Downtown
Records, thinks it’s a new way to connect with the fans. “The Music Tee is an exciting way to reach Mos’ audience at non-traditional retail outlets, seamlessly bundling merchandising, album art and music of the highest quality.” And there are more buzz worthy musicians following suit; Santigold and Miike Snow, both from the Downtown Records stable, have signed on to release their upcoming albums as well, which are sure to be collectors items. It’s the new way to satisfy both the music collectors and those who insist: “I want my MP3.” by Ali MacLean photography by Curran Clark
URB 28 | URB.com
7/24/09 12:26:54 PM
FILM THEORY Radical Friends push the music video limits Los Angeles-based director duo Radical Friend takes music videos to a quirky place, blending technology with a playful, magical aesthetic. “It always starts with a song,” says RF’s Julia Grigorian. “Maybe the song is the canvas in a way, because we try to imagine how to do something that would work with whatever we feel from it. We translate the emotion to visual.” Grigorian and her partner/boyfriend Kirby McClure began collaborating as Radical Friend four years ago at Atlanta College of Art. They made their first music video when Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes asked them to direct one for “Requiem For O.M.M.2,” an animation in which a knight wanders through surreal landscapes searching for his sword. Radical Friend’s recent interactive video for Black Moth Super Rainbow’s “Dark Bubbles” off Eating Us is so “radical,” Kanye West even blogged about it. Basically, the viewer at a computer interacts via webcam with BMSR’s singer, Tobacco, jumping in a mystical wonderland. The project took sixty matte paintings created by illustrator Chris Sanchez, based on lighting from time-lapse photography Radical Friend shot in Malibu, combined with footage of Tobacco on a trampoline. Add flash animation and compositing of refractions shot by bouncing light off mirrors, and some insane coding that made it all work. Grigorian continues, “If you use technology right, it allows you to heighten an experience. We’re not techies. The conceptual part is not just to indulge in technology. The video doesn’t start with the medium, it starts with ‘the feel.’” Currently, Radical Friend is working on a video for Yeasayer, and just wrapped a short film for The Christopher Pike Book Club started by Jon Lynn of filmmaking collective Body Holographic. The project showcases 18 filmmakers tasked with creating shorts based on Pike’s ’80s teen horror novels. McClure describes their take on All Into Darkness: “We shot in the swamps and sand that surround Savannah. It’s a loose narrative that details a suburban sacrifice and these kind of surreally fucked up teenagers that oversee it. The band Salem provided the soundtrack, which is very exciting to us.” Grigorian adds, perhaps foretelling Radical Friend’s future, “It’s going to be really crazy…” Daiana Feuer
7/21/09 9:37:53 PM
“My best cousin dropped out of school and spent much of his time struggling with his dependency on drugs and alcohol.”
URB 30 | URB.com
URB158_PROJECT LUZ_R2.indd 30
7/27/09 10:37:41 AM
SCHOOL PICTURES Project Luz brings the joy of photography to Mexico’s forgotten children
by Jason Parham
Ejido Hermosillo, Mexico is hallowed ground. The pocketsized town, which quietly sits along the U.S.-Mexico border is devilishly affected by immigration nuisances and what seems like a nightmarish metamorphosis. Soaring poverty. A crumbling infrastructure. Incessant crime. Bit by bit, the rural landscape is fading into anonymity. The population stands at a thin 6,300. It is a forgotten city. Often ignored and unmarked even by the escalating drug war currently laying waste to the rest of Mexico. But for Jasmin Lopez, Ejido Hermosillo is her home away from home. “I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but I spent every summer and vacation of my childhood in Ejido Hermosillo,” she says. “It’s where my father’s side of the family resides.” Lopez is exquisitely plain. Strong cheekbones accent her chestnut gaze. By the narrowest of margins she is five feet tall. And when she speaks, her voice sings with pride. Lopez has dogged strength and determination. So when she wanted to give back to the community that had given her so much during her childhood she envisioned Project Luz, a photography workshop for Mexican youth. “I was inspired to start Project Luz in 2007 after hearing about the conditions of my family and the youth of Ejido Hermosillo. My best cousin, who I grew up with and considered a brother, dropped out of school and spent much of his time struggling with his dependency on drugs and alcohol.” She pauses before continuing. “This was very difficult for me to swallow. This is the path that many children in Ejido Hermosillo face.” Lopez currently hosts Project Luz in the mountainous city of Oaxaca, where she also teaches kindergarten. The workshop has also been hosted in Nezahulacoyotl out of the local community center. Lopez hopes to expand Project Luz in Los Angeles in the very near future. But growth like this wasn’t obvious in the beginning. “When we began, there were many obstacles, from obtaining funding, managing volunteers, to gaining community support. I started with a pilot project in April of 2007 to see what the Ejido Hermosillo children were drawn to. We worked with 117 youth that week!” she says, bursting with nostalgia. “The obstacles varied depending on the community. For example, Ejido Hermosillo is much more conservative than Nezahualcoyotl. We were actually aprrehended once because a family saw us taking photos and suspected we were kidnappers. [It took] a ride to the judge to convince them we simply wanted to give local youth the skills we had to offer.” She explains this all while smiling. It is quite remarkable, really. Lopez says she will endure, regardless of occasional hurdles—some more personal than others. She hasn’t spoken to her father since she was 15. “It is an emotional obstacle to return each year and explain to my grandmother and aunts why I am distant, but that I still love them dearly,” she confesses. Even so, she happily admits her greatest reward is seeing the smiling faces on the kids after they share their work with the community. “The kids are amazing! They are all so incredibly dedicated from the start and spend hours with us everyday, even if they are in school,” she says. “Future projects depend on funding, but I am determined to keep this going.” by Jason Parham URB.com
URB158_PROJECT LUZ_R2.indd 31
7/21/09 9:39:31 PM
NANO NOTES The Smart Song will save the music industry—and the world by Busdriver Keeping from citing doomsday scenarios to describe the music industry’s curiously entropic business model is becoming harder and harder as the sound scan numbers cascade. What qualifies as a moderate success to your treasured mega–indie or major label would have been thought laughable just a few years ago. Risk-taking and any glimmer of innovative thinking have been replaced with budget cuts and furloughs. It is only right to say that there is a gargantuan, fire-y ball of space-born astro-death hurtling towards your local music store as we speak. We are all fairly acquainted with this idea. Record stores survive as crumbling fulcrums from some beloved block of pre-history in which hard media, rarities and chin-scratching tastemakers roamed freely. Yet for all the serendipity that allowed, the world could not let them live. Why, you ask? The technology evolved independently of the actual institutions making music. One was bound to suffer. I propose that the overlords of Muzak start anew. Relegate the heaps of unwanted vinyl and compact discs to the antiquities bin and tell the RIAA to lower their battering rams. Remold the landscape by introducing an entirely new format. In addition, change the actual dimensions of content itself. Let’s dethrone the single-serving MP3. Give it a kinetic role rather than have it be merely the unit of exchange. Alone, it has run the risk of cheapening the work that it collectively represents, allowing people to cherry-pick the desired tracks from any given album. In this culture, receding retail revenues have found their root cause. Single-track sales dwarf full-album sales, cutting profits dramatically and dismantling the allure of an uninterrupted album. One of the lone audio file’s key flaws is its finite nature; its inability to adapt. If it is going to chisel away at the idea of our treasured album, it should at least unveil a new facet of the listening experience in exchange. We need some sort of song that actually mirrors the listener. A smart song, if you will. Here is what this smart song will be: a single song presented in any one of dozens of potential mutations based on the preferences of the listener as intuited by the accompanying software. Where a normal song could be broken down into Parts A, B, C, D, etc, a Smart Song has Potential Parts A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, C1, C2…etc. An algorithm determines which version of the song fits the consumer by approximating preferences based on the contents of their iTunes, from a pre-proposed questionnaire geared toward assessing mood and taste or from magical robotic cognition. When the buyers actually play the song, they don’t get the generic Disney radio-readied jingle. They get a version geared to their tastes. Let’s say you go online and buy a track off of the new White Stripes record. Usually your propensity for collecting World music outweighs your leanings
towards guitar shredding and garage rock musings, but you’ve blindly stumbled across this band and are willing to take the plunge. Once the smart song is purchased, its programming registers your leanings and responds accordingly. Along with the alpha version there are, say, 15 other potential versions (acoustic folk, salsa, dance, urban, Middle Eastern and whatever else) from which the song can choose. The West African electric guitar based folk rendition gets selected and now you are jumping for joy, praising this prodigal band for zeroing in on your desires and plucking your heartstrings ever so gently. But who could afford to accommodate such an extravagant bundle for every, if any, song on their releases? Well, an overabundance of crap has long since plagued the strained shelves of retail outlets and this specialized treatment could be seen as a means of trimming down the flabby armed behemoth that is any given new release schedule. Pairing the smart song with new media players, smart phone apps, ad campaigns, breakfast cereals and whatnot will cement its position as the new norm of music consumption. Lesser-than labels who lack the financial fortitude to shell out an entire album’s budget for one ever-changing song will simply fall short and wallow in the muck of their inadequacy. Die, you seldom-visited sub-genre of instructional flamenco guitar music! Throwing money at a problem will never seem so poetically justified as it will with the Smart Song. Albums will become universes and music acts, self-referential variety shows of their own volition. Though 90% of all recording artists will opt not to embrace the expenditure of added content of the Smart Song, we will still trudge on without them. Humanity can live off of a handful of well-manicured, maximized slabs of talent. Busdriver’s latest, Jhelli Bean, is available on vinyl, compact disc and MP3 from Anti-
URB 32 | URB.com
URB158_BUS DRIVER_R1.indd 32
7/24/09 9:29:25 AM
Go to URB.com to experience the evolution
| 33 |
7/21/09 2:49:41 PM
URB 34 | URB.com
7/21/09 9:35:45 PM
READER REPORT with MAJOR LAZER
All the dancehall you need for fighting zombies in this day and age—Major Lazer is a global battle group lead by super-producers Diplo and Switch (“Paper Planes” y’all). But as for the officer himself? URB gave you the chance to find out, and you responded by asking Major Lazer what’s up with BPM, Guinness and kissing Diplo. Here are the answers—direct from Trinidad (along with translation for those who don’t speak no Lazer.) How old is Major Lazer?
Me ole enuff fe know nuh fe ansa dem folly ting deh. I’m old enough to know the answers to these silly questions. Where are you from??
YAAD me born an grow but Brooklyn mi live from bout ‘85 til 2001. Me deya Trinidad now, jus ah cool out an ah run one likkle rum bar/dancehall ting dung ya suh.
I was born and raised in Jamaica, but I lived in Brooklyn from about 1985 till 2001. I live in Trinidad now, just a chill spot and I run a little rum bar/dancehall thing, yessir. How much Guinness ya drink las week?
Bwoy yu know seh a guinness ah day keep di zombi away, mi drink it by de case, cyaan count Boy, you know, they say, “a Guinness a day, keeps the zombies away.” I drink it by the case, can’t count. Who is the most important producer in the 21st century?
King Jammy and Sly and Robbie and dem man de did revolutionize reggae music and dancehall music inna 80s. Tony Kelly and Jeremy Harding an dem yute de run di CD era inna di 90s. Right ya now di new guard ah come up and gwaan wid a ting, man like Serani, Daseca, Left Side and dem yute de...too much name fe call ova de years me nuh waan lef out nuhbaddy fe dem carry feelings, zeen? King Jammy and Sly and Robbie and those guys revolutionized reggae music and dancehall music in the ‘80s. Tony Kelly and Jeremy Harding and the youth ran the CD era in the ‘90s. Right here, now, the new guard has come up and gone with a thing, guys like Serani, Daseca, Left Side and the youth—too many names for me to recall over the years, I don’t want to leave out anybody for them to carry feelings, you see? Kill, boff, marry: house, dubstep, and bloghouse?
Yow mi rate dubstep cah iz a reggae ting still same way, big up Rusko banton mi fren fi life I choose dubstep cause it’s like reggae in a way. Praise Rusko Banton, my friend for life.
Is it true that Major Lazer is personally responsible for climate change?
Bwoy ah tru ting eenuh! Back inna early 90s mi did buck up pon Al Gore an we de smoke some high grade and reason certain ting an mi jus mek de man dem know seh yow, di ting haffi change up, zeen? Den wah day mi see my yute pon dvd ah preach it to di yutes and just tell meself say ‘yes lazer, yu elevate dem.’ Boy, it’s true enough! Back in the early ’90s I bumped into Al Gore and we did smoke some high grade and talked about certain things. I told him that he has to tell them things have to change, you see? Then one day, I see my younger self on the DVD and I preach it to the youth, just telling myself, “Yes, Lazer, you elevate them.” When a mummy comes alive, is it then a zombie?
Certain and certain tings de never really declassify, so me nuh really waan chat too much inna di zombi ting. but dem have ah few book pon amazon dot intanet whe yu cyaan read up an research di ting still. Certain things they never really de-classify, so I don’t really want to chat too much on the zombie thing, but they have a few books on Amazon where you can read up and research the thing still. Who would win in a fight—2 Many DJs and Justice?
Mi nuh really know who ya chat bout, but dung ah trinidad dem say ah ting bout “faster trigger man remain standing”-yu si mi. I don’t really know who you are talking about, but down in Trinidad they have a saying like, “Faster trigger man remain standing.” You understand?
Why Rick Rubin?
Di man ah buss LL. Di man ah buss Beastie Bwois. De man ah buss Chili Peppas. nex question yute, wah yu feel like. The man busted out LL. The man busted out the Beastie Boys. The man busted out Chilli Peppers. Next question, kid. Ask what you feel like.
I love dancehall music, even though I have no idea what dancehall DJs are saying 75% of the time. Does this make me lame or am I just suffering from acute white guilt? If white guilt is the culprit, does that make me lame?
Chaa man nuh watch nutten just keep go ah dance guh lissen dancehall music an hol ah vibes an dem cyaan stop yu. Nuh badda feel like if yuh naw reason wah di selectah dem ah chat bout den yuh naw gwaan wid nutten, big up yuself my yute caz ah fe yu ghetto people naw stop mek music an keep di dancehall ting alive. Zeen?
Yeah, man. Don’t worry about anything, just keep going to dance and listen to dancehall music and hold it down and they can’t stop you. No brother feels like if you have no idea what the DJ is saying that you are at a total loss [not going to gain/win anything]. Praise yourself, kid, cause you ghetto people can’t stop making music and keep the dancehall thing alive. You see? If I actually buy the album... Can I French kiss Diplo?
We sign contrac wit Andy Milonakis seh ah him yu haffi French kiss before yu cyaan talk to Diplo, ah nuh me seh suh, ah management seh suh.
We signed a contract with Andy Milonakis, so you have to French kiss him before you can talk to Diplo, and I don’t say so, my management says so.
I’ve heard good pussy make a man come quick. Is this true even with you, the super tuff, Major Lazer?
Ah wha dat? Mi tink seh ah music man come fe talk bout, chaaa! but mi waan di ooman dem fe know seh mi can position it aaaall niiight laaang. Ah, what’s that? I think that a music man come if it’s talked about, yeah! But I want the woman to know I can do it all night long.
illustration by Ferry Gouw translation by Areti Sakellaris
7/21/09 9:35:57 PM
best of the best 25 YEARS after Disco Mix Club started their annual DJing competition, URB talks to three of the greatest DMC championsâ€”A-Trak, DJ Craze and Tony Vegas.
(Clockwise from top left: A-Trak and Craze 1998, Tony Vegas 1999, Scratch Perverts in action, Scratch Perverts with A-Trak, Craze, Cash Money and Cutmaster Swift
Read the full interview @ URB.com/DMC
By Richard Thomas URB 36 | URB.com
7/23/09 8:03:27 PM
Long before there was DJ Hero, Serato or HypeMachine, in an era known as the “nineties,” the DMC World Championship defined what it meant to be the greatest DJ on earth. What began as a mixing contest in the mid-’80s had evolved into a jaw-dropping display of musicianship, dexterity and concentration as jocks manipulated records, turntables and mixers with the precision of a surgeon and the timing of a star athlete. Propelled by pioneers DJ Qbert and Mix Master Mike, the art of “turntablism” reached its apex by the end of the decade with two names dominating the competition (and accompanying DVD sales.) DJ A-Trak won in 1997 at the age of 15 (the youngest champion in history). The next three years were dominated by DJ Craze, the Miami master whose 1998 routine is repeatedly referred to as the “best six minutes of all time.” Over in the UK, Tony Vegas and his crew, The Scratch Perverts, dominated the team competitions, with members winning both group and individual world titles. A decade later, all of these jocks continue to push the sound of electronic music, DJing across the globe while releasing notable mix CDs, such as the Fabric discs all three have issued in the past 18 months. URB attempted the impossible, getting this group of in-demand turntablist on the phone at the same time. Here’s what we learned:
What’s your best DMC memory? Tony Vegas: The first one that really stuck in my mind and made me think, “Wow I wouldn’t mind some of that” was in ’89 when Aladdin came second in the Worlds, even though everybody with eyes and ears knows that the kid won it by a mile. To me, he was the most inspirational DJ, full-stop. He was the most aggressive battle DJ I’d ever seen. That and Craze’s six minutes in ’98 was probably the best six minutes of all time.
A-Trak: It was always a big deal to come to these battles with an attitude or presence, even if you didn’t take it too seriously. We were aware that to win these battles you had to look the part and visually convince your crowd that you were better than the other guy. I.Emerge is one of the only dudes in recent years who still has that. Kentaro is really dope, too.
A-Trak: My first DMC was ’97, the one that I won. I remember entering the Montreal regionals and thinking, “Let me just try and place top three,” and then I won. I remember Tony Prince, the president of DMC, was at the Canadian finals and asked, “Are you excited to come to Italy next month?” and I said, “I don’t know if I can miss school.” But I pulled some strings and talked to the teachers and went to The Worlds. The French DJs really wanted to win the battle in their country, so Craze and I both felt like the outsiders, which is how we became friends.
A-Trak: You know what? That era from the late ’90s up until 2001, I really feel like we maxed out a lot of what could be done with two records and a mixer. It was like we were on a quest, racking our brains to see what the hell else we could do. We would literally look at the turntable and be like, “Yo, what haven’t we touched yet?”
How do you feel technology has change turntablism? Tony Vegas: The main change I saw was people pressing their own records. It was kids performing a routine at home, editing the best bits together, and cutting their own record. So when they go up, all the transitions in their routine are all on the one bloody record. The hard part used to be getting from one routine to the next. Now it’s all on one bit of wax. Serato can offer the opportunity to do that and then some. The biggest failing in so many DJ’s routines was picking the needle off a record, putting it on another record, hitting the label, and getting the record cued. People’s hands would be flapping around like alcoholics. (Laughs) As long as technology actually advances what already exists, I’m 100% for it. If it mirrors something that exists anyway without taking the ideas any further, then I think it becomes irrelevant. I remember seeing Surkin DJ and he was using Ableton and it was one of the best DJ sets I’ve ever seen. A-Trak: All the people who talk shit about Serato under the pretense that it makes DJing easier clearly haven’t tried it. Serato just sticks a computer between the turntable and the mixer. You still have to mix. The one thing that these technologies have changed is it makes it easier to have access to more music in your sets. But that’s not the technique, that’s just the music that you play. A DJ who sucks on vinyl is a DJ who sucks on Serato is a DJ who sucks on CDJs.
Craze: Hell yeah.
Craze: It’s our fault. Turntabilism is dead! (Laughs) Quote that one. Nah, I’m just kidding. Don’t quote that one... Ever feel like you want to jump back in those DMC battles? Craze: Aww shit. Every time I see a new routine I still feel that, “I wanna go in, I wanna go in, I wanna fuck these guys up!” I still get that shit to this day when I see a new routine. But the thing is, and I joke about this, but I’m fucking 100%-ass real—if somebody has like $20,000 to $40,000 that they’ll put up, I will take time off from everything. I’ll fucking lock myself in a room and I will go in hard! A, you feel the same way? A-Trak: My priority is working towards an album, working on production, and building my record label. But like Craze, if I see a video I’ll still be like, “Man, I could take this dude out.” This is our first love, our first passion. Everything we do is fun, but there’s a certain kind of thrill to being like, “Alright, this afternoon let me block everything off, grab these records, and just see what I come up with.”
the GREATEST MIXES Various Artists Return of the DJ, Volume 1
Craze: (Laughs) I think the DJ that sucks on Serato sucks a little harder because now he’s just playing suckier edits and he’s playing the same shit all the time. With Serato you have so much music. Sometimes I tend to go to the go-to tracks, because you have so much shit you’re just like, “Ugh, fuck it. Lemme just be safe.” When you were using records, you only had that one crate or two to get busy with.
DJ Craze & DJ Klever Scratch Nerds
Who are some of the guys that you both think are pushing the envelope? A-Trak: Netik, Rafik. Who do you think, Craze?
Craze: Vajra was the last one I saw who I thought was crazy in everything—beat juggling, scratching—the creative level. I.Emerge had that—I hate the word— swag. Kinda like, “I’m the bad-ass here. Nobody could fuck with me.” No one has had that kind of gangsta-ness since I.Emerge.
Cut Chemist & DJ Shadow Brainfreeze
Qbert Demolition Pumpkin Squeeze Musik
7/23/09 8:03:50 PM
RATATAT The Corner Hotel, Melbourne Friday May 15, 2009
It is truly hard to know what to expect at a Ratatat show. Like the hodge-podge of their sound, the Brooklyn boys Mike Stroud and Evan “E*vax” Mast seem to attract music lovers from all sorts of neo sub-cultures, including indie rockers, blonde-bombshell club girls, guitar thrashing metal heads, and even Super Nintendo nerds. Melbournites love Ratatat. This is the duo’s fourth trip across the pond in the past few years and this recent show sold out in milliseconds, convincing promoters to add in a second date. On this particularly cold and blustery Friday night, Ratatat was ready to bring down the house for their true Australian fans. Eager dancers inched toward the stage. I felt my rib cage being crushed against the front monitors as the word Ratatat began flashing on that oh-so-seductive projector screen. Stroud and E*vax casually walked onstage, giving the crowd a nod, and broke right into “Shriller,” off their 2008 release LP3, throwing the dance floor into an instant frenzy. It was a perfect start to the set, as the duo infused lullaby hums of a harpsichord and piano, drifting off to the dark side of the moon…that is, until Stroud’s riffs kicked in. The dance floor then overflowed with sweat as youngsters flailed around trying to match up their moves to the staggering beats.
The happy go lucky “Montanita,” off their 2006 release Classics, made the crowd giddy like Rudolph with sleigh bells jingling and slide guitar setting the mood. “Lex” proved that the duo’s second album really is full of classics. The smoke machines kicked up a dusty trance as E*vax worked the keyboard, showing off his producer skills. The projector continued to flash through images of pop culture and nature as Stroud ran around the stage like Axl Rose, shredding his guitar with one leg up on the monitor. In an instant, the experimental electro-rock duo’s sound switched from hair-raising metal solos, to video game-like theme songs, to melodica layered over samples of tablas and hip-hop beats. They didn’t miss a beat. As the two traded bass and guitar, it wasn’t a shock that they were equally as talented on both. This time the electronic drums showed their trip-hop influence throughout “Mirando.” Stroud beat down on the bongos as the track turned into an old-school Atari theme song. Acting as a third member of the band, the projector screen flashed images of fires and war starring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. Video games and Predator: slightly symbolic or simply ironic? “You guys are attractive,” mumbled Stroud before they belted out into a new track with melodica solos and birds floating around on the screen behind them. No Ratatat set would be complete without the roar of the panther, and you know it’s what everyone was waiting for. Finally it came. Stroud and E*vax switched instruments once again as Stroud went back to mastering the Stratocaster for “Wildcat.” What sort of lead guitarist
doesn’t occasionally shred using a Jameson bottle in the midst of taking a sip? The silent Stroud looked up at the crowd for probably the first time in the set and shook his head in awe, as if thinking, “that shit is sick!” Shortly after the deliciously funky encore and a few high-fives, Stroud and E*vax wandered off the stage leaving The Corner full of glossy-eyed music freaks craving more. Luckily, the night didn’t stop there, as the black and white fliers told us: Ratatat DJ set After Party! Off we went into the city to partake in some loveable beats, this time in true club-like fashion. By the time we arrived at Roxanne Parlour, the line was growing down the alley and Stroud and Mast were already on stage. The venues for the evening switched from seedy rock club to seedy electro club, as Ratatat traded in the guitars for decks, synth sounds for old school hip-hop, and Jameson for bottles of beer. The crowd continued to lap it up as these party boys shook the dance floor (literally) into the wee hours. With every ounce of energy danced out of me, I left before I got the chance to hear their infamous Bjork remix. Nonetheless, Ratatat did a pretty damn good job of keeping Melbourne moving throughout the cold night and I went to bed at sunrise dreaming sweet dreams of wildcats and baby birds. Oh, what a night.
By Lisa Ariganello Photography by Benny Valentine
URB 38 | URB.com
7/23/09 6:51:44 PM
7/21/09 2:43:10 PM
7/23/09 5:52:07 PM
THE BLOCK BUSTER By David Ma Photography by Phil Knott
With the hottest song of this (and last) summer burning up the charts, Kid Cudi is still impressed with his own success.
et lagged and drained, Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi was ready to unwind at home after a long trip to Austrailia. But his downtime was put on hold when he learned that Kanye West had called while he was away. Just hours later, Cudi was back on a plane headed to Hawaii to work on what would later become the platinum album 808s & Heartbreak. Just months prior, Mescudi had released a successful mixtape—A Kid Named Cudi. Its single, “Day ‘n’ Nite,” drew strong internet buzz, making its way to Kanye who dug what he heard and wanted to collaborate with the young rapper. A signing to G.O.O.D. Music (Kanye’s label) followed, as did studio-time with the likes of Common and Will.I.Am, a hype performance at the VMAs, and an appearance on Snoop’s MTV show, Dogg After Dark. Now Cudi has thousands of fans visiting his blog daily, eager to learn more about the singer/songwriter, rapper/actor whose popularity continues to build at a rapid pace. With an anticipated and ballyhooed debut on its way, URB spoke with Kid Cudi to learn about his fast-paced success, from hustling retail gigs in Manhattan to hustling sitcoms for HBO. He still hasn’t found time to unwind, here’s why:
You’re grinding these days and I’m sure you’re looking toward the future. But let’s go back to the start. Your songs have many eclectic touches, but hip-hop underpins your music most. Talk about your first exposure to hip-hop and how it struck you. I’ve been watching MTV forever, all my life really, and I remember seeing Run DMC’s “Walk This Way” video and thinking it was fresh as shit. It was black and white and just so iconic. It was the first time I heard rap music and it was fused with rock. Since that was basically my first glimpse of hip-hop, I sorta thought that’s how rap’s supposed to sound all along [laughs]. I later found out what true hip-hop is, but my music will always be eclectic and have that hip-hop influence. Who are some of current artists you like and what qualities of theirs do you admire? I definitely look up to MGMT, Ratatat, Coldplay, Jay-Z, and Kanye. I mostly think it’s because these people are innovative in their own way, but more so, they’ve always seem like they’re improving and stepping up their game with each release. That’s something I really admire about their creative process—the ability to improve.
What’s your own creative process like? I put things into my Blackberry [laughs]! Seriously, I write my raps there. Sometimes I listen to things and it hits me right away and I’ll write to it immediately. Sometimes though, I’ll get into the studio and listen to things for a few days and vibe out to songs for a while before getting into it. The overall process is really just listening to tracks carefully and vibing off what I think sounds right. “Day ‘n’ Nite” was all over the web really fast. What was putting that track together like? I was really just trying to get my feelings out at that time. It’s like when you’re writing a love letter to a girl. When you commit to writing a love letter, you make sure every word is right. That’s how I was feeling with “Day ‘N’ Nite” and I’m really glad people seem to like that one. It’s all about the fans. How important is it for you to stay connected to your fans? Is that part of the reason for the blog? Yeah. It’s definitely the only outlet where people can go and see me for me. It’s the only thing I do where I’m in total
7/23/09 6:26:08 PM
American Apparel - Broadway Store “I worked at American Apparel for almost a year before I was fired for always being late. My excuse was always, ‘I had studio late last night.’ Well, not really an excuse, more like a fact. Shit, I didn’t come to NY to fold clothes in the American Apparel stock room forever.”
7/23/09 6:08:17 PM
Dean and Deluca - 86th Street “Those jerks gave me soooo much shit. I remember this one dick who was the manager of the pastry section. His favorite things to do were snitch on and lie about people to get them fired and make himself look good. When I quit, they never sent my last check. No worries, my bank account is cool now.”
7/23/09 6:17:32 PM
BAPE - Soho The coolest job I ever had and my last. I used to play my iPod in the store and see if people would vibe to my music. Then people started recognizing me while I was at work. My old store manager, Zuk, and owner of the brand, NIGO, both support my career 100 percent and I still go there and pop tags almost every week. Gotta have my BAPE shit, mane.
7/23/09 6:18:43 PM
Bathing Ape: Cleveland Indians 59fifty cap by New Era; Red checkered vest, BAPE knit hoodie, and Teriyaki Source Panda, all by A Bathing Ape; Air Yeezy sneakers by Nike. American Apparel: Dov’s hoodie and fine jersey short sleeve ring t-shirt, both by American Apparel; Air Jordan 5 Retro DMP Raging Bull Pack sneakers by Jordan. Abercrombie & Fitch: Pine Point Trail Polo by Abercrombie & Fitch; AirYeezy’s by Nike. Transportation by Zipcar.
Abercrombie & Fitch - South Street Seaport It was like high school. Mad hot chicks, other aspiring musicians and actors and I met my dude Riliwan who eventually introduced me to Dot, producer of “Day n Nite.” I got accused of stealing and was fired, but nonetheless, a good fuckin’ preppy techno time.
control of everything. I also like putting stuff on there that I think is cool or meaningful for people to check out. The blog allows me to do and say whatever to my fans—it’s really the only way I can directly communicate to them. You’ve blogged about meeting fans at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. What was your experience at the VMAs? Man, it was so surreal. I was just this super fan among all these famous people! I was on the red carpet and saw a bunch of kids who recognized me! I was like: “How do you know who I am [laughs]?” They were screaming out my name so I walked over and just started talking. Usually, when celebrities roll up to the red carpet, people usher you along to keep things moving. So people were looking at me like I was odd or something. These kids were like, “Oh my God! I can’t believe you’re talking to us!” and I was like, “You called my name, didn’t you?” I was also walking around with Paul Wall and Travis Barker. I ran into [Young] Jeezy and also met T.I. It was cool to have these moments with these innovators who were just normal, cool-ass people. I met actors too! I met Christopher MintzPlasse. He’s the dude who played McLovin in Superbad! He was the coolest kid ever. Another famous person you know closely is Mr. Kanye West. Talk about working with him. When I’m working with Kanye I feel like I’m with somebody who truly understands music. He also understands where I want to take things with my own music. He’s one of those dudes that just wants to create. Everytime I’m with him I learn something new—everytime. Do you remember what the first time being in the studio with Kanye was like? The first time in the studio, Kanye and I were working on a
track for Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3. I remember being in the booth just humming and rapping along to this track. Mind you, I was just doing this for reference, not for real or anything. Kanye overheard what I was doing and was like “Yo, we gotta lay that down!” So, I did an entire verse right there. I remember looking out of the booth’s windows and seeing Kanye and everybody going crazy! They were loving it! Like, everyone was excited about some shit I was doing? Wow. Ultimately, Jay passed on the beat, so we used it for a song on Kanye’s album called “Welcome To Heartbreak.” I feel like me and Kanye are always on the same page and that’s a real dope thing.
album, too. And Common? He’s just so ill. He’s an OG that you have no choice but to admire. He’s perfected his craft, so I’m honored to have him on my album.
A lot of people don’t know you co-wrote Kanye’s big hit, “Heartless.” Talk about how everything came about for that one. Kanye flew me out to Hawaii with some other dudes to help work on his album. It was like group therapy or something. We chopped it up, hung out, and everyone just brought ideas in this group format. We all worked together on it. It wasn’t like me and Kanye went into a room and wrote shit down on a piece of paper.
So the album’s done? Yes sir.
So Kanye’s gonna repay the favor by doing a guest spot on your album right? [laughs] Yeah, he’s on it. Common and Snoop Dogg are on the album, too. How was working with those guys? I actually linked up with Snoop because he reached out for me to do his show on MTV. Pretty much on the strength of that alone, I asked Snoop to be on my album and he accepted. It was a super-dream come true. I mean, Snoop’s one of my favorite rappers. He asked me to do some stuff for his new
You said on your blog that Lily Allen and Andre 3000 declined to be on the album. What happened there? I’m huge fans of them both and had some A&R folks reach out to their management. There’s definitely no hard feelings or beef or anything. Lily was on a big tour and Andre was focusing on his own project. I was cool with it and I totally understand. I mean, this is my first album! Hopefully I could work with them in the future.
In a nutshell, describe your debut, Man On The Moon: The Guardian. It’s really cinematic and everything is really detailed. That’s all I can say for now. I also read that you have some acting gigs in the works. With a big debut on the way and all the fanfare— how do you completely devote yourself to one thing and make sure it’s good? I like to leave a hint of my personality in everything I do. I wanna execute things the right way. I’m that new kid in class and I feel really blessed. Nothing’s out of reach from here on out.
Watch video of our photo shoot by TheNewPop @ URB.com/KidCudiShoot URB.com
7/23/09 6:23:50 PM
SLUMMING IT! Photography by MEL D. COLE
URB 46 | URB.com
Bastiaan Bosma @ ALIFE
7/21/09 9:58:39 PM
Drake & Vashtie
Sometimes, photography is just being there. If Ricky Powell was around during hip-hop’s for mative years, and B+ was present during it’s Golden Era, than Mel D. Cole is in the right place at the right time for capturing the colorful and capricious style of late ’Oughts hip-hop. Using the precision of a digital camera and the power of the Internet, Cole, though his VillageSlum.com website, is documenting the scene as it happens. No need to wait for the coffee table book. And no wonder Kid Cudi picked Cole as a fave photog. URB.com
7/21/09 9:59:56 PM
Mos Def and GoldMedal Man URB 48 | URB.com
7/27/09 10:25:41 AM
Spank Rock, Santigold & X X XChange
The Arab Parrot
7/21/09 10:01:44 PM
park life L.A.â€™s decade-long Dub Club spreads its roots with a new film By Daiana Feuer
7/23/09 7:35:46 PM
Four Angelenos have made it their mission to push a new wave of rub-a-dub reggae—the minimal drum and bass driven Jamaican form that cooks at a medium pace. The chosen attack: throw a “Dub Club” party every week strictly dedicated to Jamaican music from the 1970s and early ‘80s, the “golden” era of rub-a-dub soundsystem, as Eddie “Dungeonmaster” Rouche calls it. Nine years ago, he and Jason “Roy Corduroy” Mason approached their Future Pigeon bandmate Tom Chasteen with the vintage party idea. Later, David “Boss Harmony” Orlando would join the selectors’ cause and the four of them would endeavor to create the “tuffest” dancehall vibe this smoggy side of the Caribbean Sea. At first, Dub Club really went for reverb-heavy, meltyour-face dub music, experimenting with synthesizers, echo units, fog machines and hardcore dub all night. It was purist from the start, but it hadn’t found its soul. “A lot of places said they played dub, but really they were playing drum and bass or even house music with dub influences. If you’re going to play dub, play some K9 or King Tubby records,” says Chasteen. That brought in the first fifty people. After learning more about soundsystem dance parties, the guys shifted focus to Jamaican roots reggae and the beginning of dancehall, in which a “selector” plays 45s on a turntable and a “DJ”—what America calls an “MC”— “rides the riddim” on a microphone like a jockey on a horse. “It’s the idea of going back, going to the roots and the original nature of things,” Chasteen adds, who pioneered L.A. downtempo record label Exist Dance in the early ‘90s. “I’ve become less interested in sampling something old and putting a hip-hop beat under it. I’d rather hear the original riddim the way it was played. Audiences still respond to that riddim.” And so, the party grew in size and scope, and Dub Club started booking original artists from Jamaica to come toast over tracks—heavy hitters like U Roy, The Heptones, Scientist, and Mad Professor. “In the beginning we were basically thinking of our dream people to get in there,” says Dungeonmaster. “It was completely insane to us at one point that a Rasta would ever even show up to what we were doing. Little by little, it was like, wouldn’t it be crazy if a Rasta got up on a mic?” Now, on any given Wednesday, between 500 and 800 people gather at the Echoplex, a music venue in L.A.’s hipsterized Echo Park neighborhood. The Echoplex and its sister upstairs, the Echo, are popular nightspots, constantly occupied by every kind of indie band, DJ and local riff raff. Yet it’s another world when you walk into Dub Club and hear the looping bass lines boom in front of wild, colorful images on screen, and see hundreds of people dancing in the signature water drop reps so commonly elicited by that music. “Dub Club is really a temple to me,” says Tippa Lee, a veteran of Jamaican soundsystem who often performs at the party. “It continue the positive vibe, one love, one I-nity. We all work together as human being and love another. It’s spiritual. It’s not no lusty music. It’s good for the soul and the meditation. That’s why people come to the Dub Club. And it become the Rasta man scene!” Beyond throwing a good party and getting autographs from reggae’s greatest—the Dub Club fellas hope to impart wisdom about the origins of some of our most dearly beloved social practices, like hip-hop—by way of Kool Herc bringing the system to the Bronx in 1973—and American “DJ” culture. Chasteen says, “What I really want to show is that the roots of reggae really come from soundsystem reggae, toasting over the turntables. That is the style that fell directly into hip-hop and other forms of modern electronic music.” To bring the world a little closer to what’s happening at Dub Club, the guys put together a documentary called Return Of The Rub-A-Dub Style with director Steve Hanft— well known for making Beck’s “Loser” music video—capturing performances and interviews of soundsystem legends visiting the east-side haunt. Hanft became involved filming some of the early shows with artists like Tippa Lee
and Ranking Joe. He says, “That turned into, ‘Wow, this is pretty special footage. We could make a whole film.’ Sort of like Buena Vista Social Club, we’re reintroducing an old style that kicks ass.” While Bob Marley internationalized band-backed Rastafari reggae and King Tubby made the first iterations of dub, it was the local Jamaican scene’s need for a social outlet that gave rise to the remix culture of non-commercial soundsystem as early as the 1950s. An engineer like Scientist may have originated a classic “riddim” we’d all recognize on the drop of a note, even if the pattern lingers nameless in our mind. Many “riddims” are trapped inside popular music— the original foundation beats upon which thousands of modern songs have been built. Even the “Macarena” has its heart in the right place. During the ’60s, producers began cutting a “version,” an instrumental b-side to a song on a 45, broken down to a bass line and drum beat “riddim” specifically for the dance hall or soundsystem party. The version serves a purpose similar to an instrumental hip-hop track. It’s for the selector to play in the dance, to blend under the tracks, extend the tracks or cut with, and the “DJ” either freestyles over the beat or performs his signature song for a particular “riddim.” Chasteen explains, “It’s different from freestyling in hip-hop because the DJ freestyles in relation to the original music. They take the version track you’re playing and reference its original vocals but change the words around. Play any riddim for Ranking Joe or Brigadier Jerry—play one of a hundred instrumentals for them and they will jump on it with set lyrics in their heads ready to go. You could play them something they never heard and they would just freestyle on it.” As an example, in the documentary, Hanft strings together a brief collage in which Tristan Palma, Sister Nancy, Brigadier Jerry, and Ranking Joe individually perform their variation of words on top of the classic “Cuss Cuss” beat: “Come out me life with your fussing and fight…” The original “Cuss Cuss” a-side was produced by Harry J. Johnson and performed by singer Lloyd Robinson in 1969 for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One label— the quintessential Kingston studio. As Dungeonmaster puts it, “Basically all the very best reggae music forever was recorded on Studio One. In the late 1970s, people decided to go back and remake these old
Studio One songs into newer contexts.” Tippa Lee explains: “Lloyd Robinson, the original ‘Cuss Cuss’ singer, ‘People, people, don’t want no cuss cuss,’—so they would just turn [the 45] over and U Roy would hold the mic now and say ‘Come out of my life with your fussing and fight, it’s a ‘Cuss Cuss’ in a rub-a-dub style.’” An entertainment collective or “soundsystem” would gather at dance halls and outdoor parties because the lower class was not permitted inside the uptown clubs and could not afford to see bands play. U Roy, who first popularized the DJ form on records, says in an opening Rub-A-Dub scene, “Soundsystem was the poor people’s enjoyment in Jamaica. The dance dem is the thing that relieve the people [of ] them stress and keep them going.” Ranking Joe adds, “In the ghetto, down man just buy him roots or buy him Heineken or buy him beer and build him spliff and just enjoy himself.” While Bob Marley entertained folks abroad with bandstyle music, the Jamaicans left behind cultivated a different sound, which was at first ridiculed for its seemingly endless loops of continuous beats weaving in and out of each other, strange equalization, and its overly present bass. Dungeonmaster says, “Reggae gave way to this rub-a-dub where the beats slowed down and the music simplified. It became more minimal. The Roots Radics carry the quintessential rub-a-dub sound—this super hard, mostly slower tempo, a minimal, tuff riddim.” Jamaican music passed through different styles and feels before arriving at rub-a-dub. “We begin with ska in the ‘50s and rocksteady—which were more or less names for dance styles. By the late 1970s, the Rastafari creed enveloped a roots ideology that was more ‘cultural.’ “A ‘culture’ DJ speak a lot of the Bible and Jah, Rastafari,” Tippa Lee explains. “The man that’s cultural and spiritual, he stay on the rub-a-dub style. He speaks of what he see everyday and lives spiritually with his singing. He don’t try to go astray and what’s not what he preaching.” This contrasts the “slack” DJ, an alternate swagger that mirrors later dancehall and today’s commercial rap. “The ‘slack’ style of music is glamour, gold and money,” Tippa Lee continues, slipping into poetics. “When you ‘culture’ you live your true beliefs. A lot of people don’t like to hear the truth. When you see the truth, it kind of put you through the box. And if you sing about cars and rim and URB.com
7/23/09 7:37:08 PM
bling, you carry the sling. So the ‘culture’ side is more spiritual. Some people are ‘slack,’ they wanna be superstar. But, in the long run, the ‘culture’ man will rise up like a burning spear. Through the years, the original roots music is still living.” Up until the mid-80s, the “riddim,” named after a particular song or the most classic “version,” would be recorded by studio bands like Roots Radics. But, in 1985, a track out of King Jammy’s studio changed Jamaican music as we know it, and the first big digital “riddim” emerged. Created by Wayne Smith and King Jammy, “Under Me Sleng Teng” used a standard preset of the Casio MT-40 synthesizer, and, within months, shifted reggae production from live instrumentation to riddims created with drum machines and computers— the departure from roots reggae came to be known as “ragga.” Fun fact: M.I.A. references the “Sleng Teng” riddim in “Pull Up The People.” The Rub-A-Dub doc provides a place to start uncovering the endless amount of reggae records out there. Chasteen says, “There’s a million obscure songs you never heard. It’s an endless treasure hunt.” Sister Nancy is another legendary artist we meet in the film, credited as the first female dancehall DJ and Brigadier Jerry’s sister. Winston Riley recorded Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” on the “Stalag” riddim in 1982 for his Techniques label. “Stalag” updated Dillinger’s original version of
an unreleased Max Romeo tune. Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” lyrics stake her ground as a woman in a maledominated field by reinterpreting the Maytals’ original 1963 chorus about rising against oppression: “A some a dem a seh me a go mash up dem plan/A true dem nuh know me a one bisnis ‘oman/Sister Nancy she a one ina 3 million/So bam bam, bam bam dilla, bam bam.” Watching this scene, with the entire audience carrying the chorus, it’s inevitable to respond, “Oh shit, I know that bam bam…” “It’s about bringing the audience to a higher level of happiness through culture and music,” says Dungeonmaster. But the Dub Club beat doesn’t drop after pointing at Jamaica’s undeniable influence on the world musically. They’ve put together a home team of local L.A. DJs with completely different backgrounds. Jah Faith hails from Trinidad, Dylan Judah is white, and Chico Don is a Latino from Long Beach—there’s no racial discrimination or judgment passed on who may call himself a DJ if he’s got the heart to back up his flow. Additionally, Chasteen has put together a studio band and a new wave of instrumental riddims they’ve recorded into tracks with both the visiting artists and local DJs. The first album has emerged with the documentary, but Chasteen assures us, “It’s only the tip of the iceberg.”
“Dub Club is a temple to me.”
URB 52 | URB.com
7/23/09 7:37:41 PM
Watch exclusive bonus material from Return Of The Rub-A-Dub Style @ URB.com/RubADub
7/23/09 7:38:27 PM
URB 54 | URB.com
7/23/09 2:10:47 PM
7/23/09 2:11:20 PM
7/23/09 2:11:56 PM
R AVE ACT Drawing 90,000 people in a single day, Electric Daisy Carnival is suddenly the largest festival in America. How SoCal massive culture got it’s groove back. by Charlie Amter photography by Caesar Sebastian, Pamela Lin, michael ivankay, Drew “Rukes” Ressler
“Everybody calm down…we’re making history here,” boomed the voice of Bunny from Rabbit in the Moon over the Los Angeles Coliseum’s PA during a rare break in the beats. The longtime dance music purveyor was trying to pacify 50,000 or so anxious fans, some who had come from as far away as Mexico City, who packed the stadium to witness Italian superstar DJ Benny Benassi, only to be greeted with frustrating silence (too many had crowded the main stage area to see the “Satisfaction” maestro). But as soon as Los Angeles fire marshals gave the all clear, the party was back on. Benassi fired up his set with a take on Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” and the teenage masses roared loud enough to raise the ghosts of 1984 Olympic past. But this wasn’t sports, this was dance music, and the capacity crowds could portend a titanic shift in perceptions of what your parents once not so politely referred to as a “rave.” Big doesn’t even begin to describe Los Angeles’ Electronic Daisy Carnival. Over 135,000 electronic music fans descended in droves upon the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and the surrounding area over two days, according to promoters, smashing 2008’s record of 60,000, when the annual experiential event took place on a single day. Saturday alone saw over 90,000 pass through the gates in what is sure to be remembered as a watershed moment in the history of dance music festivals in the United States.
With virtually no support from mainstream media outlets, tens of thousands drove from Las Vegas, Orange County, Phoenix, San Francisco and all points in between to catch acts such as Boys Noize, Paul van Dyk, Simian Mobile Disco, Paul Oakenfold and David Guetta on five different stages. Now that EDC is officially on the map as an event to rival the largest rock festivals, promoters worldwide are wondering: is this the return of the 1990s proverbial “massive?” Or something bigger altogether? Does EDC’s stunning turnout presage huge numbers at upcoming North American dance music events such as New York’s Electric Zoo or next year’s Ultra festival in Miami? Or is EDC, like so many other things, an “only in LA” experience? “Things have been building for sure, especially in Southern California,” said San Francisco-based DJ/ Producer Kaskade, who had just finished a star turn on the main stage as the sun was setting over downtown Los Angeles. “But this past year was something different…” Imagine Coachella’s busiest day, crammed into a space half the size, and you’re getting close to the 2009 Electric Daisy experience. “Glastonbury may pull in 250,000 or so, but the dance tent, or whatever they call it, holds maybe only 40,000 people,” the DJ, born Ryan Raddon explained. “EDC was way bigger. The thing that makes it so unique is that it’s really EDM [electronic dance music] all the way. Even the side stage’s sole focus is
7/21/09 9:53:45 PM
great electronic music, which is unique.” So how is it, exactly, that Electric Daisy Carnival became such a blockbuster success in a scene that as recently as 2005 was declared by the New York Times to be “nearly extinct?” Enter one promoter with a vision: Pasquale Rotella. “We never stopped enjoying putting events together,” said Rotella of his company, Insomniac, who have been producing dance music events since the early ’90s. “We love the music and we keep doing it. Sometimes it’s more popular than at other times… it goes up and down in cycles.” The native Angeleno said EDC’s large turnout this year is not necessarily a harbinger of dance music’s ascension into the mainstream, but instead a reflection of Southern California’s particular lust for a wellput-together electronic music experience. “If [these numbers of people] were happening everywhere I’d say this really is the return of the massive. But what we do is unique. Daisy has been a special event for many years. People who have come to our events over the years have helped spread the word about this particular party and helped it grow.” Kascade echoed the sentiment that EDC could only take place in SoCal, despite a vibrant scene in his hometown of San Francisco. “Southern California has more people than the Bay Area, bottom line,” he said. “But you have to give Pasquale credit for putting on a proper festival. “I mean, look at all these people!” he enthused while waving his hand towards the jammed football field
URB 58 | URB.com
7/23/09 2:15:52 PM
Imagine Coachella’s busiest day, crammed into a space half the size, and you’re getting close...
7/21/09 9:54:58 PM
from a skybox high above the Coliseum. “U2 couldn’t come to the Coliseum and do these numbers.” Rotella said he, too, was caught off-guard by the massive turnout. “We did better than I thought on both days,” he said, adding that he rebuffed an offer to outright sell the festival to a nationally known concert giant. “We’re going to sell fewer tickets for Saturday next year, actually.” Rotella is the rare example of an independent promoter putting on concerts of this size, but make no mistake, the 34-year-old is no novice—despite scary moments inside the festival Friday night when gatecrashers barreled through a weak point in the fencing behind the Neon Garden stage. “We did a lot to protect our perimeter,” he said somewhat defensively of the hundreds of successful gatecrashers. “We even bought a K-rail, which is the fencing that stops cars from rolling onto the crowd at NASCAR type events.” But it wasn’t enough to stop the roving crews who stalked the perimeter like wolves. “We spent around $80,000 to secure the event,” Rotella sighs. “But the gatecrashers are just getting ballsier every year. It’s unfortunate that those people planned it. They were Twittering and very organized.” Rotella says he has already started reviewing his security plan for 2010 and promised the dangerous situation would not repeat itself (URB witnessed multiple injuries as a result of the stampede, including a member of MSTRKRFT’s management team, who
sustained a foot injury). “Next year you are going to have to show a ticket to even get near the grounds,” he insists. So who, exactly, is coming to EDC in such great numbers? From the highly costumed to the virtually naked, there is no such thing as a “typical” EDC attendee. Rather, the crowd represents a cross section of folks as diverse as SoCal itself. Orange County jocks mingle with Hollywood hipsters, under-age girls from The Valley flirt openly with 30-something Burning Man survivors. Latinos and Asians make up a greater percentage of the audience than you’ll likely find at any other large scale concert. Rotella admits, not all of them are there for the music. “It’s a combination of crowds,” he said. “People love the theme…we put a lot into creating an atmosphere with the carnival rides and the art installations.” And while you can bet a solid percentage of the crowd come to EDC to hang with friends, meet members of the opposite sex or maybe, God forbid, take a pill, most come for the talent, says the promoter. “We had an amazing lineup this year,” enthuses Rotella about the massive list of DJs. “My main goal is that it’s enjoyable for everyone next year so that they can enjoy the music more.” Remarkably, despite the historic numbers that filled the Coliseum and surrounding area, no one was seriously injured during the course of the festival. According to LAFD spokesman Devin Gates, a total of 152 “incidents” related to narcotics took place over the course of the festival, resulting in around 70 trips
to area hospitals. Crime was surprisingly light as well, given the numbers and general edgy feel of the event. Lt. Jiro Oka of the LAPD’s Southwest Division said it was a busy weekend for police, but they had more calls Sunday than on Saturday during the actual fest. “We had a lot of calls the next day for cars that were broken into,” he said. For his part, Rotella says he is thankful everything went as smoothly as it did: “I’m very pleased the way things went this year,” he said. No kidding. The Insomniac founder is likely still counting the money earned from 2009’s affair, but things weren’t always so rosy during years past when the masses passed on events like his. “Of course we had to go smaller venues to adjust to leaner years,” he says. “But I never considered stopping. Dance music has been trendier at certain times over the past decade for sure, but we’ve always just been doing what we love. The core heads have always been there. In a way the lean years are almost better because it’s a cleansing—people who were onto the next thing weren’t the ones [in years past] on the dance floor. “ If recent history is any gauge at all, the dance floor is likely only going to grow larger next year in Los Angeles, for better or worse.
URB 60 | URB.com
7/23/09 1:11:56 PM
7/23/09 2:17:25 PM
Photo pg. 54 by DRR, pg. 56 by CS, pg. 58 by mi (top) and CS (bottom), pg. 59 by PL, pg. 60 by CS, pg. 61. by (clockwise from top left) DRR, CS, CS, PI, CS
7/21/09 2:39:28 PM
amanda blank i love you 3.5 stars
(Downtown) Because Amanda Blank’s hyperbolic narratives of copulation have made the blogosphere’s wet toes tingle, and considering her close-affiliation with nymphomania-connoisseurs Spank Rock, one may feel inclined to close the blinds before listening to the Philadelphia Philly’s debut, I Love You. Blank indeed slides through her fair share of risque territory on bangers like “Might Like You Better” or the dub-oozing “Something Bigger, Something Better.” However, while carnal lust is certainly fulfilled, the harsh realities of the morning after sprout into the lonely consequences of satiating solely the flesh and not the aorta. A surprisingly responsible stance for a foulmouthed, attractive, Caucasian, rapping daughter of a college professor who has said she wants her music to be primarily enjoyed by young girls and gay men. Blank embodies an absurd irony; with that in mind, it may seem odd that the title, I Love You, is not a clandestine thesis for the record. The full dynamic shines through on the almost unbelievably straight-forward “A Love Song,” which is begging to be shifted into a subversion of LL Cool J’s classic hip-hop ballad “I Need Love,” but amazingly, it never deconstructs anything; it is literally a song about craving a metaphysical connection with a soulmate. Similarly, over new wave synths, “Shame On Me” hears Amanda set aside her rapid-fire rhymes to soulfully expel regress with PJ Harvey-like confidence. Nonetheless, whether it’s the heart, soul or ovaries that are dictating the desires on I Love You, always lurking under Amanda Blank’s flow are exotically growling beats by the crème de la crème of contemporary beatsmiths—Diplo, Switch and XXXChange—which remain sweaty, fast-paced and aggressive throughout the Philly rapper/singer’s first full-length. In fact, these ace beats can is so audibly assertive that they run the risk of drowning out Ms. Blank’s unexpected pleas for emotional fulfillment. But, it’s the challenge of hearing Amanda claw her way through relentless electro barrages in an effort to deliver her heartfelt lyrics that makes tracks like “DJ” or the melancholy “Leaving You Behind” (which is assisted by the likeminded lovelorn hipster-bait Lykke Li) some of the most unexpectedly personable material to come out of this party-centric clique. by Paul Glanting photography by Phil Knott
David Sitek of TV on the Radio was widely reported to be a producer on I Love You, but does not appear on the final album.
“A Love Song” “DJ”
Thunderheist Rye Rye URB.com
7/27/09 10:18:07 AM
NEW REVIEWS DAILY ON URB.COM
That might just be the indie rock choruses and guitar flourishes, though. Despite missteps like the cheap cheat of the serial killer disclaimer before lead single “I Never Knew You” and the senseless rambling that detracts from the banging beat and catchy chorus of “Kick Rocks,” Depart From Me is a cohesive album of dark hip hop from an MC in top form. Thomas Quinlan COSMIC GATE Sign of the Times
Amazing Baby Infinity +1
4.5 stars (Shangri-La) While many bands fail in finding an autonomous sound, Amazing Baby finds their form, despite heavy affiliations with 2008 surprise stars MGMT. They’ve managed to meld sundry lead guitar hooks and soft-spoken vocals as well as studio efforts comparable to Brian Eno, to create a hybrid of psyche-rock and pop. Each song is liable to give way to disco violin, lead guitar assuming the role of the rhythm, and even horns, all without a moments notice. First single “Headdress,” begins with guitarist Simon O’Connor channeling a Thin Lizzy-esque riff, leading into vamped piano chords, a background choral arrangement, and front man Will Roan’s aggressive and subtle vocals perched on top of both. The remainder of the record weaves in and out of psychedelia, sometimes heaving monumental guitar driven openings (“Invisible Palace”) and others (“The Narwhal”) nearly subside entirely on vocals. Needless to say, for a band only formed in January 2008, not only is this release very ambitious, but also well meticulously well crafted. Travis Hayden AWOL One & Factor Owl Hours
(Fake Four Inc./Redeye ) It a cliché for an MC to state that his newest album is his greatest to date, but sometimes it just might be true. Two years removed from the underground classic Only Death Can Kill You, Awol One returns with Owl Hours. With executive producer Xzibit, one might be concerned that the ride pimper would guide the Shape
Shifter toward a more commercial sound; however, nothing could be further from the truth. The X man lets Awol One be himself, and in doing so, this LA connection has made a great underground party album. Factor provides a sonic back drop of electronic pop and folk hip-hop vibrations. “Stand Up” (ft. Myka 9 & Aesop Rock), “Brains Out” (ft. Xzibit), and the incredibly electro “Waste The Wine” (ft. Tash & E-Swift of Tha LIks) are the party anthems. With catchy choruses and vivid imagery these are stories that most listeners can relate to—the polar opposite of every club hit you hear on the radio. Owl Hours is the everyman’s tale of traveling up town and downtown again, being a glamorous drunk, or being as Official as you possibly can be. It appears that Awol One might just be right in his assessment . Jason Kordich
I have always believed trance was meant to be played at extreme volumes, overloaded with bass and preferably surrounded by thousands of half-naked ravers Cosmic Gate proves there are other options. Unlike almost any other full-length in this genre, exceptions granted to landmark releases by Armin van Buuren and Tiesto, Sign of the Times is as dynamic in your earbuds as it is on a club system. Fueled by thumping bass pumps and pulsating synths, to the “casual” listener, this may sound like genre fodder—but honestly, what wouldn’t. What differentiates it from glut is its tireless energy, the passion that has defined both Nic Chagall and DJ Bossi’s careers. From Aruna’s seductive vocals and the fuzzy, plucked synth on “Under Your Spell”, to the atmospheric breakdown on “Not Enough Time,” Chagall and Bossi prove they are masters at harnessing the energy of trance. So regardless of where this album settles in your musical habits—sitting idly on your hard drive or providing a new goto track for DJ sets—Sign of the Times is the tour de force that will catalyze the trance genre. Elliot Townsend
CAGE Depart From Me
4 stars (Definitive Jux) Four years ago, Chris Palko traded in the sex, drugs and ultraviolence of his early discography for serious and sombre cautionary tales on Hell’s Winter. Follow-up album Depart From Me continues down this rocky road, creating a clever combination of personal songs delving into his past as a patient at Stony Lodge Mental Hospital, a decidedly important moment in the evolution of Cage, as well as some surprisingly creepy first person character studies of the mentally deranged. The production, supplied by El-P, Blockhead, Aesop Rock, F. Sean and the late Camu Tao, is rock- and electronic-influenced hip-hop that fits Def Jux’s musical mold while maintaining a more universally appealing sound.
4 stars (Nettwerk) Red is a glamorized, rhythm guitar and drum-heavy party that makes it sound like Datarock live in a spaceship, hovering from city to city to make people lose their shit to their futuristic echoes. Opener, “The Blog,” makes you feel like you are at a Van Halen concert on Mars, with the guys using hair-metal drums and a vocoder to sing about technology, even sampling speeches about Facebook and
MySpace. The album clearly pulls heavily from late seventies/eighties influences (the band once mentioned that all of the equipment used on Red was made before 1983) but is equally futuristic in that retro-style we’ve learned to accept since it’s become apparent the jetpacks are not coming in our lifetime. Throw in a spoken word piece about one’s concern of the great unknown (“Fear of Death”) and it would seem as though Datarock might be covering too much ground. But this is actually Red’s greatest strength: It either has you dancing your intergalactic ass off, or taking notes on all the existential lyricism. The album is a poetry jam in Studio 54…if Studio 54 was inside of a moon crater. Datarock is able to express all their ideas while still maintaining the Devo-esque jumpsuit-identity they have established so well. So if you like to dance to something with substance that doesn’t veer into preachiness or lose any fun, Red is a winner. Alex Chapman
SPEECH DEBELLE Speech Therapy
4 stars UK import Speech Debelle has a way with words that most artists from the West can’t harness after years in the game. Her ferociously warm lyrics and smooth voice accompanied by top notch production make Speech Therapy a brand new classic, comparable in style to Black Thought and The Roots on holiday in East London. For this record, Debelle abandons her beauty for verbal daggers; touching on everything from her day-in-the-life to subjects of social awareness. And of course, what would a hip-hop record be without an all-out assault on whack MC’s. “The Key” has Debelle carefully pronouncing every word over a jazzy beat reminiscent of early Tribe material. On “Spinnin’,” she gets her lyrical wheels turning faster as she spits darts with an undeniably catchy hook sandwiched between. Musically, the live instrumentation and golden-era feel to the production make this record an enjoyable listen. Debelle’s uniquely fresh vocals mixed with the emotion pumped into every track make this record as good as a cup of Earl Grey accompanied by a hot biscuit. Landon Antonetti
URB 64 | URB.com
7/21/09 10:07:22 PM
felix da housecat He Was King
EYEDEA & Abilities By The Throat
(Chocolate Industries) A drum roll and a dirty rhythm guitar introduces 23-year-old London artist Ben Esser on his debut album, Braveface. Esser a writer/producer/drummer/songwriter, gets right down to mesmerizes listeners by mixing garage-ska-influenced electro pop with melodic and poignant lyrics. The sort of musical polyglot that seem to reproduce rapidly on the British Isles. Esser also thoroughly grasps the British tradition of truth through selfdeprication, and does not shy away from talking about his own wretching experiences. “Satisified,” offers a confessional over a tango rhythm with exotic sound effects, describes a woman that no matter what he does he can not satisfy. “SI beg you not to be the fool my boy, you’ll be her slave until you die. She’s not satisfied however hard I try.” There is, of course, a healthy helping of cheeky yang to offset the confessional ying. “This Time Around” is a precise reincarnation of ‘90s Brit Pop that easily recalls early Blur. Other quick contemporary references include The Street’s Mike Skinner and recent pop sensation Calvin Harris. So who cares if Esser is clearly a product of his environment, right down to the postMillennial Morrissey pompadour. Put him in line with several decades of British music that will always satisfy the NME reader within. Jamel Corbett
(Rhymesayers) “I’m not shit,” Minnesota rapper Eyedea begins his duo’s third LP, setting the tone early. After spending a good portion of 2004’s E&A discussing the overall wackness of rappers, fans and the industry as a whole, the subject matter here has changed as Eyedea examines his life as a person rather than a rapper. Beware: failed relationships, self-loathing, anger and ultimately a positive outlook (see: “Smile”) dominate their first album in five year. Despite the timing, it’s not much of a summertime joint. Importantly, the duo’s chemistry has evolved and the kinks seem to have been ironed out, as producer (and former DJ battle champion) Abilities creates a solid landscape for Eyedea to pour his heart out. The tracks rarely bang or bump; instead, they are filled with hip-hop and rock & roll-inspired electronics that pave the ground for rapping, thinking, bitching and, occasionally, story telling. Of course, there’s still time for Abilities shows off his scratching talents, like on the obviously named “Spin Cycle.” While his partner delivers, it’s the development of Eyedea that needs to be celebrated most. After stints in the worlds of live freestyle/jazz and alternative rock (both of which, strangely seem to inspire this record), he’s back on his hip-hop ish, using his always exhilarating double-and-triple time (and sometimes more) style that he’s indie-famous for. Combined with newly found experiences, newly discovered self-awareness and newly refined skills, By the Throat catches this almost forgotten duo at a new height of their combined powers. It was well worth the wait. Adam Figman
(Nettwerk) When Felix Stallings, Jr. attempted to bring in P-Funk-flavored sounds with 2007’s Virgo Blaktro and the Movie Disco, moving away from his successful electroclash style, his intent didn’t exactly pan out like he’d hoped. Here, it seems, the Chicago DJ/producer finally finds the perfect balance of electronic pop, dreamy synths, and a splash of nu funk grooves. Stallings (better known as Felix Da Housecat) has built a legendary space for himself in the world of house music, and his 10th studio release, only solidifies his position. The album opens with the dance floor gem “We All Wanna Be Prince,” an ode to the artist himself. Comprised entirely of lyrics from Prince songs, Felix takes on the sound of the enigmatic singer, doubles it with highpitched songstress Nesh, and creates a pulsating, sexy beat that’s as irresistibly dance-friendly as it is beguiling in it’s cheeky tribute. Just as exciting is the piss-take titled “LA Ravers” a montage (mockery?) of the West Coast’s current techno explosion. Coming from a Chicago jock who crafted crates of ’90s acid house before making his fame on the hyper-fashionable NYC electroclash scene, it’s an eyebrow raiser. But take the jokes for what they are and discover that Felix’s style-shifting is refreshing at album length. It may even make He Was Kings the finest full-length effort he’s ever done. Aylin Zafar
(Marine Parade) With his 2003 debut, Now and Them, Adam Freeland broke through to a more mainstream crowd than his original nu-school breaks audience with a grimy sound and brash lyrics. It took six years for the followup to be released and while little has changed, Freeland has worked to recalibrate his music to better embody that of the live band he’s been performing with. The result is a much more stable sound—if such a word could possibly be used to describe Freeland’s always marauding style. Where Freeland was once open to dabble in a bit of everything from
techno to hip-hop and dub, he seems to have now settled comfortably into an electro-rock niche once carved out by The Prodigy. All of the angry sociopolitical commentary is still present. Even the club-friendly lead-off single “Under Control,” carries the same antiestablishment undertone reminiscent of of Bush-era hit “We Want Your Soul” (which Freeland often performed in a W mask). Hard-hitting industrial beats become laced with grungy guitars and grainy vintage synths, all while maintaining enough bounce to still be suitable for the club crowd. That sweet spot between the dancefloor and the moshpit is something that more and more electronic acts seem to be pursuing these days. Freeland shows he’s still a vet of that particular tightrope. Dan Vidal
health Get Color
(Lovepump United) Fresh from touring with Nine Inch Nails and Of Montreal, HEALTH set about producing their sophomore album, Get Color, straight onto 2-inch tape to amp up their already magnificent auditory experience. Citing a rich array of artists from the postpunk, new wave and early indie eras as influences, this LA foursome layer richly constructed noise in a brazen explosion of distortion to offer an exquisite and weird sophomore album. One-two-punch album opener “In Heat” kicks off a collection of tracks featuring killer harmonizing and a riveting juxtaposition of otherworldly vocals and hypnotizing instrumentation. If their self-titled album was a colossal wall of sound, Get Color is an ocean with increased depth, variety, and ambition. Each song boasts enhanced cohesion, achieved mostly by strengthening the repetitions and loops, while the bombardment of drums and distortion is more powerful than ever before. Also newly added is the band’s own version of the ballad, two of which—“We Are Water” and “In Violet”—delicately close Get Color. For some, HEALTH will still be written off as noise, but for fans, it sounds like the quartet tapped into its groove. Areti Sakellaris
7/21/09 10:07:39 PM
LUSHlife Cassette City
hercules & love affair Sidetracked
(Renaissance) Coming off their critically-acclaimed self-titled debut, Hercules and Love Affair’s Andy Butler has been commissioned by label Renaissance to spearhead their new Sidetracked project, a series fashioned to show the skills of electronic artists who can and DJ “on the side.” Butler carries H&LA’s infectious disco-era stylizations over to his DJ set with tracks like Fax Yourself’s “Sunshine” and Gino Soccio’s enjoyable “Dream On.” Playing with space and time, Butler enter into sizable trances of sonic pleasure, keeping a consistent head nodding and danceable bassline while piling up different elements into an anachronistic salad of old and new melodies all combining and fusing to make something refreshingly current. In addition to the mixing of first generation discofied house gems, there is an exclusive Hercules and Love Affair track titled “I Can’t Wait” that compliments the feeling of the compilation with its potent electricity. If this upbeat, highly danceable music is what’s in store from Hercules in the future, then I can’t wait. Jorge Cuellar
LTJ Bukem FabricLive.46
(Fabric) While many shy away from the ear-f**k of an assault that drum & bass can be, LTJ Bukem is considered a master of the genre for his ability to bring fans of lighter downtempo and house BPMs into this too often purist sonic world. On the semi-retired superstar’s comeback to the big league of mix-CD jocks, he offers a return to the style that suited him so well in the ‘90s. The entire mix, like much drum & bass, is crafted around the same heavy kick and snappy snare, and proceeds to intertwine some very unique (if interchangeable) tracks. What causes this mi to excel is the fact that while the drum pattern is largely the same throughout, Bukem manages to shift from one melody to another almost seemlessly. And it will save your sanity by offering well-deserved breaks from the incessant percussive attack. Hardcore fans will shrug and sigh, used to their beloved jungle music’s continuing misalignment. But Bukem deserves accolades for his ability to expand beyond the generic framework and incorporate new melodic dynamics. Even my less-than-receptive ears were pleased by certain segments of Bukem’s mix—and this alone indicates his ability to breach genre and style boundaries, and insert his personal flavor into his work. Elliot Townsend
4.5 stars (Rapster) Living proof that critically acclaimed is not the same as being a household name, Lushlife is better known in Tokyo, Japan than his native Philadelphia land. His most famed masterpiece to date is a West Sounds mashup of albums by Kanye West and the Beach Boys. Having inked with !K7 subsidiary Rapster, Lushlife drops the airy and refreshing Cassette City with little regard for the mainstream, despite making an album they’d adore. This is not an angry, bitter backpack rapper decrying pop commercialism to declare himself the realest in hip-hop. Lushlife combines the wit of Rhymefest, street smarts of Lupe Fiasco and pop sensibility of Mr. West into an entertaining and uncompromising LP. “The Songbird Athletic” opens with a light folksy guitar and evolves into up-tempo jazzy b-boy harmony guaranteed to please. “Bottle Rocket” bubbles and pops over pianos, “a breath of fresh air in your MP3.” He lives up to those words on the groovy “Daylight Into Me” too, name checking all the desires of any poverty stricken rapper yet still coming off unobsessed with material wealth only with rocking clubs at night. If 2009 is finally ready to move on from the Autotune paralysis that has held the past few season’s hostage, then Lushlife could very well lead the way. Steve “Flash” Juon
moby Wait For Me
(Mute) Before listening to Wait For Me, take everything you know about Moby’s as an electronica superstar and completely disregard it. Following a brief detour back to club music with 2008’s Last Night, this is arguably Moby’s most organic album recorded entirely his “bedroom studio” in his Lower East Side of Manhattan. Of course, Moby would be pained to remind you that his first decade’s work, including the multi-platinum Play, was recorded at home as well. That dichotomy of pop pariah perception and homespun reality is exactly what Moby is now trying to overcome, and Wait For Me, with it’s dark and occasionally obstinate presentation is the sound of an artist
insisting that he’s not the character he played on TV. Taking inspiration from a speech by director David Lynch (who created the album’s first video, “Shot in the Back of the Head”) about the commercialization of modern artistic creativity, Moby decided to compose a much more introspective, “mournful” collection to embodied a greater personal devotion to his work. The result is is sullen and foreboding, ominous and fragile. While it may be Moby’s darkest record yet, Wait For Me should, at very least, serve as an optimistic sign that Moby’s independent creative juices are still flowing. Elliot Townsend
Mungolian Jetset We Gave It All Away... And Now We Are Taking It Back
(Smalltown Supersound) Mongolia is a country located in East and Central Asia right next to Russia and nearly blanketed by China. Mungolia? Apparently that’s tucked away inner imaginations of two really way off Norwegian dudes. Actually a collaboration between DJ Pål ”Strangefruit” Nyhus and partner Knut Sævik, together as Mungolia Jetset they surpass the normal concepts of dance and dive into something that’s as lush as a tropical forest, but as barren and deserted as Area 51. We Gave It All Away... And Now We Are Taking It Back is surprisingly literal, a collection of features, collaborations (including sets with the likes of Lindstrøm and the Shortwave Set), remixes that were once “given away” and are now “taken back to be presented in its full Mungolian context” (whatever that means). The music manages to thinly tread between dance, jazz and even pop to give it it’s own “Mungolian” sound. The album is almost indefinable, despite being culled from far more approachable styles. It twists and turns, constantly reaching for a broader spectrum. And it arrives at a place so damn exotic that it’s like venturing into a seemingly limitless alien world. Somewhere, Ghengis Khan is probably wishes he would of formed the Mungols instead. Som Khamsaysoury
new reviews daily on URB.com URB158_CDS_R2.indd 66
7/21/09 10:08:08 PM
NICKODEMU S un People
The Rebel Yell Love & War
(ESL) DJing for over a decade in the musical melting pot that is NYC, it’s little wonder why Nickodemus’ sophomore album embodies such worldly flavor. All about positivity and good times, Sun People showcases upbeat guests from Brooklyn to Turkey, Guinea to Romania. And while the specific genres differ greatly from track to track, the energy and vibes are at a constantly high. The dancehall flavored “Just Move!” features MC Kwasi on a percussive, funky groove, while “La Lluvia” adds some Latin spice, made poignant by a punchy horn section. “Gira Do Sol” features the enchanting vocals of Liliana Araujo that transform a basic salsa melody into a thick and funky, bass-heavy track, and “2 Sips & Magic” plays as if straight off a Thievery Corporation b-side, infused with some extra bass drive. With apparently zero reservations when it comes to transforming exotic, cross-continental energy into more danceable beats, Nickodemus pulls off the difficult trick of believably embracing myriad world genres. In doing so, he has created an album as successfully diverse as any in recent years. Elliott Townsend
scratch perverts Beatdown
(Fabric) UK turntablist juggernaut the Scratch Perverts form like Voltron once again to sponsor a new energetic mix for London’s Fabric, featuring some of the most talented producers, MCs and DJs on both sides of the pond. Whether you’re the guy sweating profusely in the corner of the club, the dude with the unbelievably loud sound system in his Civic, or the hip-hop head with collector’s taste for dope rhymes and heavy beats, this record’s got something you. Covering the full berth of bass oriented contemporary cuts, Chase & Status’ “Saxon” is only fit for kevlar speakers, while scene stars Diplo and Flying Lotus provide their own distinct brand of mish and mash to the aural stew with respective tracks “Roberta Flack” & “Hey.” Beatdown is a solid mix of danceable, raw club bangers, but offers enough changes direction of the breeze often enough to stay engaging across it’s 37 very short tracks. Perfect for listeners with attention spans like gold fish. Landon Antonetti
(BBE/Rapster) After years of composing such hits as Erykah Badu’s “Love Of My Life” and providing the keys accompaniment to The Roots, Grammy award winning songwriter/producer, James Poyser offers a new rendering, this time in the form of a group. Rebel Yell is Poyser plus producer Khari Ferrari Mateen, plus vocalist SupaStar. The style is not the traditional R&B you’d expect. Rather, their debut rebels against this expectation. Yelling the sounds and messages of “The Revolution,” “Save The World,” and “Heartbreak”—all with well thought out and tightly knitted lyrics over 80’s pop, rock, psychedelic, house, rap, and soul music—Love & War clearly achieves their misfit objective. The tunes remind you of the risk that black artists like Prince and Living Colour use to take; out of the box, rugged yet smooth, upbeat, and strangely addictive. However, one wonders what could of been if this threesome would have rebelled not just against radio R&B, but against what is becoming typical throwback music in general. Myisha Cherry
Simian Mobile Disco Temporary Pleasure
3.5 stars DUDley perkins Holy Smokes
(Ramp) Oxnard-born rapper/talker Dudley Perkins can always be counted on to be entertaining. His new release, is no exception. With obvious influences from funk gods George Clinton and Blowfly, Perkins spreads his surprisingly serious message. Over bass heavy, offkilter beats, he addresses racism, war, and the future of humankind, but in a tone that makes you wonder if he’s serious about any of it. As always, the beats on this CD are unusual. But while 2006’s Expressions thrived with beats from Madlib, Holy Smokes taps a wide array of producers with results that are hit or miss. But out of Madlib’s shadow, Perkin’s is allowed to shine brighter than ever. And he’s up for the challenge. Still, one wonders what’s the point of excellent rapping on lukewarm beats. Holy Smokes’s replay value is relatively low, compared to previous releases. Doug Mahoney
(Wichita) The great thing about SMD is that they really know how to utilize vocals. Who knows if it’s their indie production gigs, or all of the remixes they crank out, but James Ford and James Anthony Shaw are two techtronica teammates who are more successful than most when inviting friends into the vocal booth. Kick off “Cream Dream” offers a throwback arpeggiating synth/drum combo with the sing-song stylings of Gruff Rhys—although one wonders if its title hints at their work on Peaches’ latest, I Feel Cream. Some of the hooks could use some fine-tuning (see: “Audacity of Huge”), but the verses themselves are usually strong enough to dwarf such shortcomings. Of course, the whole, “Let’s rock shit out with our peeps” can be a doubleedged circuit board. When vocals are absent, the album loses momentum very quickly. A couple tracks may become short-lived flings, but for the most part, the pleasure to be had from Temporary Pleasure will not be short-lived. James Shahan
3.5 Stars (Nation) Infused with an undying passion for Chicago’s acid-jack sound, the first record under the artist name of Melin Oliphant III is anything but ordinary. At just over 84 minutes, Faith is a lengthy testament to an undying love for Chicago’s nearly forgotten sound that once redefined dance music with legends like Phuture and Fast Eddie releasing DIY “acid house” records that reached from the airwaves of Chicago to the rave revolution in the UK. Each track is constructed around simple four and eight bar loops, created —as they were 20 years ago—from archaic machines pushed into sonic service in ways their Japanese inventors never imagined. But while you may expect this to become repetitive, each additional layer adds new texture and sensation. Faith’s sonic palette may sound flimsy compared to the electro overdriven dance floors of 2009, but it’s doubtful any of those producers have the same steely commitment to their sound as Traxx. Elliot Townsend
troublemaker The Maestro
(Soul Kitchen) Josh Kouzomis knows how to make ’em dance. From top to bottom, The Maestro hosts a handful of jams that will keep your joints shaking. Whether partnering with Z-Trip or remixing Johnny Cash and Good Charlotte, his style is about as assorted as those three names put together. Featuring vocalists on just about every cut, Troublemaker knows how to mold to whichever genre necessary without losing his own musical identity. He flexes his synth muscles on “Louder,” rocks out on famed jungle MC Messinian on “All Night,” and even gets a little political with the help of Next 100 class of ’08 and ’09 87 Stick Up Kids & Micah James on “Mr. Officer.” While you’ll all appreciate the versatility, hip-hop influenced tracks, like the Lady Tigra feature “TNT” and the banger “Hollyrock Beatdown” are what really shine on The Maestro. Some of the calmer cuts can seem to lag, but the album’s mandate is never forgotten. Whether composing with snaps and bass or drums and guitar, Troublemaker is always making you move. Alex Chapman Voodeux Paranormal
(Mothership) Last year, producers Tanner Ross and James Watts released an EP and a bunch of singles that gave techno-heads a tiny taste of the sound they called “haunted.” Now, with their debut 10-track LP for Claude Von Stroke’s Mothership label, there’s a whole house full of ghosts, skeletons, and dark corners to explore. Each track is like wandering down a dark corridor. You never know what’s going to pop out of any given doorway or drip down unexpectedly onto your face. Spectral keyboard effects, insectine buzzes and bone chilling rattles lace the entire album, while usually maintaining enough thumping bass to rock any club. The eerily lonely synth stabs of “The Third Floor” and the title track’s minimalist slow build and unsettling chimes trade tempo for mood. But “Skeleton Key” and “Deadend Motel” provide excellent examples of Voodeux’s ability to fuse their creepy sound with the club-friendly. Looks like they’ll be haunting the underground for a while to come. Daniel Vidal URB.com
7/21/09 10:08:28 PM
Felix “You Can’t Hold Me Down” “It’s a project between Niki Siano from Studio 54 and Author Russell. Its one of these tracks that exists between disco and house music, which is an era of music that kind of interests me. You would think that it was a little confusing when technology hadn’t completely eliminated the live musician from the picture. I was asked to do an interview about Arthur Russell, and I was happy to do because I had things to say, but I realized if there was a contemporary of his that I feel more akin to, it is August Darnell from Kid Creole. Arthur’s music is a little on the abstract side for me. August Darnell is the opposite extreme. He’s so direct its almost like show tunes.”
Dave Valentin “Flute Juice” “A really fun record I found last year. It’s kind of like electro-disco-Brazillian thing, with drum machines and chants. The music I’m gravitating toward [for the podcast] is a little bit more on the ’80s drum machine tip. That’s not necessarily representative of what I’ve been playing, but I wanted to do that for this. I don’t know why.”
BUTLER’S CHOICE Ever since his soulful and epic hit “Blind” positioned disco as the new rival sound set to kill off grinding electro for aging hipsters, Hercules and Love Affair mastermind Andy Butler has become a pied-piper for the Paradise Garage renaissance. Butler picked some of his favorite “heavy handed” disco-house crossover cuts for a new podcast on URB.com.
Permanent Vacation “Zuker Hut” “I’ll probably throw on a little bit of new stuff from artists or labels that I’m supportive of. Maybe something from Permanent Vacation, this track that I’ve been playing sometimes called ‘Zucker Hut.’”
Vincent Montana, Jr. Presents ‘Goody Goody’ “It Looks Like Love” “I wanted to put on a 1989 remix that’s funny because it was an updated version then, which obviously now its not terribly updated. But it sounds really fun because it has these late ’80s sounding drums. It’s a really effective remix of a great classic disco song. It’s fun to blend from that into modern contemporary music. I’m more interested in old edit and old remix right now than contemporary younger guys.”
in flagranti “I Can Thrill And Delight” “It’s a very short song but it samples an old Dash track. It’s not exactly disco, but it’s an early ’80s. I don’t know what you’d call it. Kind of industrial disco? What In Flagranti do exists in between the remix and the edit. They have a very overt approach into incorporating disco samples into their music.”
john rocca “If You Want To Be Real” “I think it came out in ’84 or ’83, but this remix was done in ’87 by Farley Jackmaster Funk, who is a legendary Chicago pioneer of house music. John Rocca is a guy who started out making music in the disco era with a band called Freeez. The song [he’s most famous for] is ‘I.O.U.’ He has a really high falsetto and I really love his music.”
Download Hercules & Love Affair Podcast @ URB.com/H&LAPodcast
Jay-Z alone does not get to decide when it’s time for the robots to go home. There’s still plenty of autotune rockers we’ll be bouncing all this summer...
90 | URB.com
Rick Ross ft. Kanye West, Lil Wayne & T-Pain - “Maybach Music 2”
Felix Da Housecat - “We All Wanna Be Prince”
Roger Troutman - “Computer Love”
B.o.B. - “Autotune”
Lil Wayne feat. Drake - “We Like Her Too”
Lupe Fiasco - “Shining Down”
Royce Da 5’9” - “Weathermen”
Major Lazer ft. Nina Sky & Ricky Blaze - “Keep It Goin’ Louder”
Brokencyde - “Freaxxx”
7/20/09 4:17:51 PM
DEATH Peaches’ favorite new producer is no Joker By Dennis Sebayan Photography By Dina Goldstein
Drums of Death made a mixtape in his bedroom. It comprised of fluffy, wonky beats and voice overlays by Peaches. The recording achieved cult status and reached the dark queen in her underground lair. His real name is Colin Bailey, he’s Scottish and his purpose in chopping Peaches’ songs up was to remind people how great her albums were. He also wanted to gain her new fans and, admittedly, annoy some of her existing ones. The effort pleased Peaches so much that she choose his cover of “Rock Show” as the official version on I Feel Cream; she also invited him on as the opening act of her tour. Drums of Death embodies the grimy London underground in which Bailey came up. “Breathe” is a perfect, noisy example, where growling beats quiver out of the speaker, drenched in feedback. Later this year, Baily releases his LP on Hot Chip’s Greco-Roman imprint—a first for both he and the label. “It’s very personal,” he states, hinting at a sonic orgy of pop, acid house, hip-hop, heavy metal, and good old- fashioned voodoo. Bailey was in punk rock bands all of his life until he began producing electronic music five years ago. He has been happily surprised by American reactions to his performances, which echo the raw intensity of hardcore. Often times, Bailey jumps into the crowd. A big visual aspect is his face, which is painted ghoulishly white. When he’s up on stage, people come up and dab their hands in his makeup. “People project onto the paint what they want it to mean to them,” he discerns. “For some, it’s scary; for [others], it’s exciting; [and] for others, it’s just plain weird.” Regardless of what they think, by the end of his show, everybody in the room is going through the process with him.
URB 70 | URB.com
7/23/09 12:26:45 PM
UK indie instigators shoot for the big time by Celeste Tabora photography by Phil Knot t
“It’s difficult not to enjoy being in a band,” confesses Maccabees’ guitarist and co-vocalist Felix White as he frantically packs for the UK’s Glastonbury Festival. (Wellies… Check!) “The way we’ve always done it since we were 17 is just get together in a room and bash a song into place, you know? We exist on that group dynamic.” The Maccabees recorded their new album Wall Of Arms with producer Marcus Dravs (who has worked with Björk, Coldplay, and Arcade Fire) in studios in Liverpool, London and Paris. The result is a record with a unified sound and a consistent feel. It’s quite an impressive listen for what is essentially a Britpop record. You hear bits of the aforementioned Arcade Fire’s melodic style, the underrated pop skill of Aztec Camera, echoey vocal tone like that of a slightlysofter Ian Curtis, and guitar work sometimes akin to Bloc Party—or maybe it’s Blur? Or maybe Placebo? It is angular, melodic, hurried, while still pacing itself;
it is a great representation of what this band can do in 11 interconnected tracks. It is very easy to throw a bunch of songs you’ve written on a record and create a compilation of songs—it is quite a different thing to have the foresight to omit those compositions that stick out in order to create a complete work. “At first we were kind of written off as a two-dimensional indie group, and since then we’ve proved a lot of people wrong,” he insists. “That really is the best thing. I think you need a little bit of fire in your bellies. Making this record in particular, there was kind of a point to prove and that’s the kind of healthy thing for a group.” One can hear White pacing while talking about The Maccabees’ first album, Colour It In. “The first time, we bashed the record out as you would hear it live,” he says. Comparatively, “With this record, before we wrote any songs there was kind of a concept: That it had to be a cohesive sounding album and there was going to be much more to it. We’re normally so meticulous with writing music that by the time we get into the studio it’s more or less done. Orlando [Week, the band’s main vocalist and lead guitar player] lyrically works everything out before hand. The music’s arranged between us, to the point of being completely finished.” Though White is waiting for his ride to Glastonbury to pick him up any minute now, he goes on explaining his take on studio time, “The recording process is a beautiful thing, especially when you’re sat there in the mixing room and you hear it come together for the last time.” He pauses, the amount of sincerity that he has changes his tone of voice. “Its finally become reality, that’s the best feeling. Songwriting quite often can be a difficult process because you’re really testing yourself. It’s full of doubt and like, trying to push yourself further you know so that’s the toughest bit of the job but all of it has its just rewards.” “We all have fun in our own ways, you know?” And with that he’s off to the festival to share The Maccabees’ music with the large crowds of muddy, happy music lovers. URB.com
7/23/09 12:21:23 PM
NOSAJ THING Jobless beat junkie
The current recession might not appear to be yielding new opportunities, but for some, the economic-induced layoffs might just serve as a divine force, giving us license to pursue what we were made for. Such is the case with 24 year-old Jason Chung (flip his first name and you’ll get his DJ moniker, Nosaj Thing), who is poised to emerge as the biggest thing in the beat movement today. Signing with Alpha Pup Records the same week as his departure from his day job at an audio company, Chung is finally getting his due attention, with a little push from fate. The Pasadena producer’s foray into music isn’t perhaps the most conventional story, paying credit to his local skating rink. “I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and I used to roller skate. All the cool kids there had these really big-wheeled roller skates, so I was rocking those and skating to electro-funk,” says Chung. His childhood love of hip-hop soon escalated into a full-fledged love for beat experimentation on his friends’ turntables. Years of perfecting his scratching skills whilst keeping tabs on his favorite DJs at the head of the movement, led him to a fateful posting on D-Styles’ message board for an opportunity to open for the likes of Daddy Kev and Daedelus at a one-night warehouse party called Shock Value. Fast forward a few years and Chung has not only been able to join the ranks of those DJs he opened for on that fateful night—as part of the renowned weekly club party, Low End Theory—but has emerged as one of the most promising and innovative producers around. Hell, even Kid Cudi got in on the action. Ever modest, Chung is quick to point out that the other resident DJs at Low End have served as his inspiration and he seems to still be in disbelief as to his inclusion as part of the elite group of LA music-makers. What sets Chung apart, however, is the almost scientific-like precision with which he constructs his pieces. His first album, Drift, was released in early June and is already making waves for its innovative use of sound design to bring a deeply personal quality to the electronic genre. “A lot was done through software instruments. The challenge with that was creating a human feel to it, adding in organic elements,” says Chung. “This record is more cinematic and has a story-telling feel going on.” And tell a story, it does—his sound glides between the negative spaces that seem to exist in music and life, creeping up on its listener, and manages to sound at once haunting and optimistic. Admitting his affinity for more melancholy music, Chung explains, “It’s more of a ‘headphone album.’ It’s a record you have to listen to alone.” There might not be a day job on the table for the young producer per se, but things are only really beginning for Chung. His debut album proves that instrumental music, as epic and melancholy as he makes it, really is able to tell a story, perhaps more universal and fitting for the times than even he may realize. By Aylin Zafar Photography by Curran Clark
URB 72 | URB.com
7/27/09 10:15:01 AM
7/22/09 9:57:02 AM
London crew makes technicolor dream music by Michael Vazquez
“Last night at 205 Chrystie, just after 1 am, Nirvana’s cheerleaders got an update during Ebony Bones’s set, as one of the coolest singers and the two awesomest bandmates/back-up vocalists I’ve seen in a minute went through alternately joyous and solemn dances in the spirit of ‘A small village in Africa,’ per lead singer Ebony’s quip. And while their garb is tribal, they are far more steeped in subculture—namely that great tradition of conceptual British art-pop informed by a societal, political, and historical consciousness, and expressed by the Bones crew to an at-times harrowing and often rapturous and delirious pitch. During one moment, the back-up singers vamped with a boppy, New Wave dolly coo, while asking a question pondered since time immemorial by thinkers like Morrissey, Eldridge Cleaver, et, al: ‘Why do we smile at the people that we hate the most?’ If Ms. Bones’s alarmed and stern tones occasionally erupted to a righteously guttural wail, more vengeful than plaintive, indifferent to perfect pitch, then all the better for it. The entire unit, from the Pharaoh head-garbed, shirtless guitarist to the more trad-dressing keyboardist and drummer whose dark, brooding, fantastical notes and tom-tom heavy on-the-third new wave stomp-friendly arrangements, kept shit at a very high place for the entire set. This is one of the best bands I’ve heard in a while. You could compare ‘em to Blood Brothers, or Lene Lovitch, or Rip Rig & Panic, or The Higsons, or APB, or The Selector, or countless other groups, but these cats aren’t mercenarily derivative; what sounds Ebony Bones do carry of the past are the stuff that’s best worth remembering.”
This was the sentiment one vlogger (me) expressed after filming Ebony Bones hustling on a stage that would barely fit a trio, much less two-thirds of a collective of 12. “Like the 12 tribes of Judah” is how leader Ebony Thomas puts it. These are bedroom musicians who’ve never been onstage. Who now travel around the world espousing a simple credo of “embracing the ridiculous” and “preaching optimism as cultural rebellion”. While the Ebony Bones crew play up their sense of fun and outré fashion, there’s no denying their serious side, manifested in say, “Story Of St. Ockwell” which like Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots)” takes on the subject of a police shooting of an innocent, unarmed civilian; “We Know All About You” is “based loosely on George Orwell’s “1984,” it’s about the loss of liberty in society”; even their debut LP, Bone of My Bones, takes its title from Genesis – the book, not the band. In an e-mail interview typed back and forth during Glastonbury—where Thomas and Co. played three different stages, the former child actor (Ebony made her bones in the Royal Shakespeare company, followed by seven years on a British soap opera, Family Affairs) turned global pop ingénue drops nuggets like: “Nothing worse in life than carrying the burden of an untold story”; “The only way to stand out from the crowd is to go no where near them”; and “I’m so bloody bored of seeing boys in skinny jeans, black t-shirts, and guitars.” Full Interview @ URB.com/EbonyBones
URB 74 | URB.com
URB158_EBONY BONES_R1.indd 74
7/27/09 9:49:05 AM
hipster haunt LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy crafts his next album in the Hollywood Hills by Joshua Glazer photography by Kristin Burns
People say LA has no history. So what do you call mansion once owned by Harry Houdini—where it’s rumored the Beatles took acid for the first time and Jimi Hendrix had sex with a man? When we learned that James Murphy was recording the new LCD Soundsystem album in the famed haunted house where the Red Hot Chili Peppers created Blood Suger Sex Magik with Rick Rubin, we had to pay a visit. What made you decide to record out here in LA for this album, specifically here at this house? I never record in New York because there’s too many distractions. I came out here because I’m scoring a movie and it was shooting the same time I was out here. So it was perfect. But, the more I thought about it, studios are more expensive then they used to be and I have to live where I work. I don’t like to wake-up someplace and then have to go to work. Now I can wake up at night and work on something fulfilling. So, I guess I just had a picture of my head of being in a studio in a beat-up mansion in LA and falling into a pool.
Is it all analog, you don’t mess with the laptop We have the computer for recording and editing. We don’t process anything in the computer. Why not? It sounds terrible. I like things to sound good and have character. The computer has very little character. I know some people who make very good music on computer, but the thrust of their ideas is very different then mine. What I like to do is have sounds that when you magnify them they retain their quality. When I do remixes I get the song in parts, and some of the parts sound terrible and the only reason that the song sounds okay is that they masked it all in a way that the ball of shit sounds okay. We do the opposite. I get angry when we have to mix because I cant hear any of the parts that clearly anymore. Once the mix is done you never get to hear the bass alone again. Why don’t you release the parts? Because then people would butcher it on Ableton.
So this is the stereotypical place to do it. The fact that this place has been used before is a minus to me, but it seemed to fit the bill. I don’t give a shit about that stuff. How daunting is it to set up across coast? Its pretty intense. We had to rent a truck from a company that moves gear and we filled it with all our stuff from New York. The only thing we rented was the console because I’m not gonna decommission a console. I don’t need much for a console, so we rented that and a patch bay. It took about 12 days to get operational. Are you just trying to get the raw recording here? I cannot record and mix separately in a traditional sense. We don’t do basic tracks then do overdubs. Since I play pretty much everything, its all overdubs. Sometimes it’ll be whole song from start to finish including vocals, sometimes it’ll be little thing, just sketches that I can go back to. When I get back to New York I expect to have to just do detail work. What do you think is happening with this record? It sounds like my band. Its no more different from the last record then the last record was different from the first record. Its a bit less organic, which is what I was going for on the last record. I felt the first record was too organic, which is why I called the second record Sound of Silver. I wanted to make a more fake, more shiny, inorganic record. Inorganic usually is something bad nowadays—people on their laptops. I mean it a little bit more like space. This one is way more like that. I’m way more into the aesthetic focus and thrust of this record then last time.
URB 76 | URB.com
"Nothing Can MoogMerize you like an ems" Watch the video clip @ URB.com/LCDInStudio
7/27/09 9:59:22 AM
7/23/09 11:59:25 AM
MONKEYING AROUND :: GEAR BY APE SCHOOL When Michael Johnson took a position teaching music technology at a Philadelphia arts university, he didn’t expect to stumble upon a piece of musical history. There, he discovered a Moog Modular synthesizer—only the fourth Moog ever installed. Such a treasure inspired Johnson to “do” rather than just teach. The result is his debut album as Ape School, and these are the vintage pieces that make the album come alive. 1. Moog Modular
Stumbled on this when i began work at the University which currently employs me. 4th one ever built and installed by the hands of Bob Moog himself. Most modules don’t even have the Moog logo. The holy grail for all analog dorks, I consider myself incredibly privileged to have constant access to this lumbering beast.
2. Electro Harmonix HOG -
I had the POG at first and that convinced me that I needed the deluxe model. It was a good choice as this thing in combination with cruddy drum machines and bonkers synth sequences resulted in listenable unlistenability till the wee hours...
3. Hagstrom II Wang Hungry Custom
Passed around from friend to friend in the 90s, I finally ended up with this frankenstein of a guitar. It’s got six layers of truck paint on it and the pickups are wired all wrong, but I love it like a family member. Sounds like complete crap, but I’ve made it the staple of my mobile arsenal.
4. KMD Drum Exciter
Weird little gadget which clips onto a drum and is triggered by the vibration. Basically a white noise source and an oscillator which can be blended and ADSR’d. Freaky sounding and awesome, helps to emulate the white noise gating I use on nearly all snare sounds when recording.
5. Lexicon Jamman
I got this as a consolation prize when a wily young Dr. Science couldn’t quite deliver the mega phaser he tried to build for me. Lucky, indeed. Has since become a staple of everything I ever do live, from synth looping to huge vocal choirs made up of my own voice.
6. Korg MS-10
I stole this from a friend, then sent him money. My first forays into CV and modular synths began in combination with the Jamman. Hours of bleary-eyed brain melting.
7. 1965 Ampeg Gemini II
It’s been through the war, but it’s the greatest guitar amp I’ve ever owned. Treble kicker makes bursting eardrums easy!
8. Oberheim OB-8
Donated to the University, it was in bad shape when it arrived and is still quite moody. Voice panning and smooth oscillation combine for utter glee. The backbone of my recordings, though the Moog is getting more press. Photos by A. Scott Rosenthal
URB 78 | URB.com
7/21/09 10:12:34 PM
7/20/09 4:21:05 PM
Welcome back to the 2nd installment of Living In My Headphones. I’m enjoying the beginning of what is shaping up to be a very hot English summer. The world has changed in the past six , months, especially politics , yours becoming more positive dal scan into ng olvi diss ours and despair! And there’s the Watchmen!!! They should have made it into an HBO series. What a pity. And having to admit that the ‘force’ is weak, Star Trek taking out Star Wars is something I never thought possible. I thought I would give my e thoughts on the current stat c musi our and of branding culture. The biggest change in electronic music over the past few years with the to increasingly lack of money s sale c musi of out be made is that artist branding has in become an important factor do er long No e. aliv staying labels really break artists. They are more of an identity for the label boss and a few single based artists to ing create an identity for tour and DJing, which is now the primary way to make money. The most popular nights and events are those with some historical branding or an al identity beyond the individu nd beyo ing feel a to create that of the artist or music. DJs have become brands with their own logos, touring brands and identity in a way never seen before. There are shows taking identity to the next level with the French doing it better than anyone, from the Etienne De Crecy cube to Daft Punk’s pyramid to the Justice cross. On your side i of the pond people like Kerr Chandler with his hologram show and Deadmau5 are taking s it to new extremes. It seem tity iden an ting crea that and brand and embracing the technology is the new force
within the electronic music world. Good or bad, I supp ose to really make it these days there has to be a package, an all round identity rather than just plain old tracks! Like Joe Strummer said, the futu re is unwritten, who knows what the next chapter will bring. I’ve been locked in the stud io working on a new UNKLE albu m that we are demoing right now and recording over the summ er to ﬁnish in the autumn. So far it’s been a very organic experience without any concepts or limits and sounding in its early days much more raw and uplifting. We’ve also done one new UNKL E track and one new UNKLE remix for my upcoming Global Underground mix album being released at the end of July . After a four-year hiatus I’ve decide to do it in Bangkok, home of the sunrise and suns et which is the main theme of the mix. It is an eclectic mix of electronic sounds and songs from the Doves to Radiohead, James Holden to Carl Craig and Radio Slave to Dub Fire. Oh yeah, the UNKLE track is called ‘Heavy Drug’ and it’s an uplifting house groove certain to blow most jams. Our remix is of a band called The Big Pink, an amazing new band from London, kind of Massive Attack meet s My Bloody Valentine with a sprinkle of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Talking of Massive Attack, they’re in the studio ﬁnally ﬁnishing their new album with ex-UNKLE and DFA member Tim Goldsworthy at the helm. Can’t wait for that shit. Other things to keep on the radar, if you’re looking for a new rocking band check out the Sleepy Sun from the Bay. I saw their show in London recently and it blew my mind. On the DJ front, keep watching Fergie and Steve Mac, both of which are turning out club gems, and the return of Mark Broom dropping some deep classics. Watch out for School of Seven Bells; blissful female vocals over beautifully crafted beats. Their hypnotic sounds have been blowing up in the UK. And lastly, for a big festival anthem get Sasha’s remix of the Doves’ ‘Jetstream’. That song is the perfect summer tonic. Until next time, enjoy the long days and nights. It’s gonna be a hot one.
7/17/09 2:45:45 PM
We are an independent music technology company. We are musicians. We are Producers. We are the Emcees and DJs born out of Hip Hop Culture. We know the struggle of trying to come up in this game which is why we created this affordable line of powerful music production tools.
WHAT IT DO If you are an Emcee and need beats for your Mix Tape or Album then these are your Thangz: Tons of our hottest NEW royalty free bangers in so many flavors (East, West, South, R&B, Neo-Soul, Electronica, Reggaeton, and more). If you are a DJ or Remixer and want to add flavor to your set, then these are your Thangz: Sample it and mash it up with built in FX, Tap Tempo and Sequencing. Oh yeah, they light up like UFOs so you can drop your Alien Funk in a dark club for all the Earthlingz!
Portable Powerful Production
Do you make beats and wanna blaze em in the street? Well, both Thangz run on battery juice so get off the grid and sample, chop, make kits, sequence and bang your heat everywhere! Use the software or hardware stand alone or together.
JUST WANNA I AINT NO TECH, I T! MAKE A DAMN BEA We got dem SOUNDS for that A$$! We lived in the lab for over 2 years, recording and tweaking the sickest sounds - drum kits, vintage instruments, synths, exotic percussion, real strings, guitar chops, beatboxin', even bangin' on the lunch table! Tons of preset kits and instruments are ready to go, stock. With over 3000 samples included, youâ€™ll have plenty of sounds to create your own presets. These Thangz are powerful yet easy to use, so whether you're a seasoned vet or new to the game, you will be creating classics in no time. You don't need big bank to Do Thangz..... just the right tools, swag and the hustle to GO HARD! For When, Where and How much visit
Turn Your Mac or PC into a Beat Thang ÂŠ Copyright 2009 Beat Kangz Electronics LLC. Beat Thang and Beat Thang Virtual logos, names and trademarks are the property of Beat Kangz Electronics LLC.
7/18/09 1:36:41 PM
THE RUINS OF NEW YORK CITY New York City is brimming with abandoned, hidden, and forgotten spaces. Besides a select group of men who make their living discovering their hidden value, few people are aware these places exist. We put our boots on and went exploring. TH E R UI NS OF N EW YORK C IT Y | N OW PL AYIN G AT PAL L AD IUMB OOTS .C OM
7/21/09 2:37:06 PM
Published on Aug 27, 2009
Published on Aug 27, 2009
URB's summer issue offers up our first ever guest editor, hip-hop phenom Kid Cudi. Plus MGMT, LCD Soundsystem, Amanda Blnak, DJ Craze vs. A-...