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from the editor Autumn’s kinda like Nicki Minaj. Kinda beautiful, but also absolutely shit. We here at VRS have had a bit of a reshuffle, and are moving towards greener pastures (so many potential seasonal puns), hopefully in the form of a print run for you guys in the not too distant future. Anyway VRS family, we’ve got another issue full of content for you to sink your slightly frostbitten jaw into. We’re happy to introduce two new writers into the collective, Dan and Robbie, who will be putting pen to paper to perturb and pleasure you all; their first pieces are a great interview with the world famous Peanut Butter Wolf and an exquisite review of Earl’s debut album ‘Doris’ respectively.
Autumn 2013 In addition to this we’ve spoken to the vibrant Owuor Arunga from Macklemore’s camp about what it’s like to be propelled into the lime light, pitted up the dashing Q-Tip and Ab-Soul against one another to see who comes out on top, listened to a ton of albums and pensively questioned a bunch of great artwork. Freddie Gibbs finally gets the respect he deserves in a piece discussing the place of gangsta rap, Konrad lays down the knowledge with 7 things your degree never taught you, Rich Davies spurts artistic and life-guiding wonder into your eagerly awaiting eyes and Mayday puts down The Noose for a slightly more upbeat interview.
We hope you enjoy the issue, enjoyed the website and are enjoying our attempts at providing you with our favourite parts of the wonderful spheres we dip our toes into.
I have been fascinated by design from a very young age, currently studying Graphic Design New Media at UCA I am passionately pursuing design. Also I have a massive love for hip hop, loving its eclectic mix of genres and lyricism.
I’ve been listening to hip-hop music for along as I can remember, and the massive variation of samples and styles have led me to appreciate almost every kind of music you can imagine. Incredibly passionate about everything sartorial, creative or innovative.
Music is absolutely the most important thing in my life, but writing happens to be all I’m good at. I study English and Philosophy and when I grow up, I only ever want to continue appreciating music, both with my ears and my writing.
MF DOOM enthusiast, studying at Leeds University. If you hear music playing chances are I will be somewhere close by.
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get in touch 2
vrs Interviews Richard Davies
which I find I get a lot of ideas. I’m a big fan of the likes of Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison – such great storytellers.
Let’s get the formalities out of the way. Who are you and what is it you actuall do? My name is Rich Davies and I’m a digital artist and graphic designer from South Wales, UK. You can also find me under my other persona, turksworks. Clearly judging by the majority of your work, saying you’re a massive film buff is an understatement. What movies and directors are your favourite? Yes its pretty obvious that I’m a big movie fan! I grew up watching a lot of films from the 80’s so a lot of influences stem from movies like Star Wars, Back To The Future and Blade Runner. I particularly love great visual stylists like Ridley Scott, David Lynch and Tim Burton. I would say that their work is a massive influence and got me wanting to do something creative for a living. Outside of your filmic influences who or what else inspire you? I’m always inspired by other illustrators and their work. There’s so many great poster artists around but people like Jason Edmiston and Ken Taylor make me want to improve all the time. Their work is out of this world technically and you can’t fail to be inspired by it. I also read a lot on my daily commute to work Design
One thing I feel I have to mention is, to me, your work feels and looks like something Drew Struzan would be doing, had he started out digitally. Have you ever had a chance to meet the man himself? It would be a dream of mine to meet the great man himself! He’s clearly a big influence in my work as I grew up studying his poster artwork when I was young. The resemblance to his work is a huge compliment personally but its not a conscious or deliberate thing really. I think all those years of having film posters on my bedroom walls when I was a kid has found its way through into my artwork somehow!
“found its way through into my artwork somehow!” You have already had quite a lengthy career in the design industry. But how did you find it starting out? When did you get your break? Its been a long journey to this point. After art college, I struggled to find a job as a designer. So for a few years, I did some odd jobs just to get by. However I still believed in myself and eventually a design company in Cardiff offered me an opportunity to work with them
for which I will always be grateful. In my spare time , I started doing some illustration work just for myself and it just grew from there. The real breakthrough was the commission for Rolling Stone Magazine. It was really tough at the start but if you stick at it and believe in yourself, you could end up doing a cover for Rolling Stone! What was it like working with Rolling Stone? They had seen some of my portrait work on my website and they were looking for something different for their Steve Jobs tribute issue. They were a pleasure to work with and were one of the easier clients to deal with. They pretty much liked the first version that I gave them so that came as a pleasant surprise! It was such an honour to work with such an iconic publication and all this being my first commission too! What do you feel are the benefits and pitfalls, when looking at personal work versus client work? The most difficult thing about personal work and client work is to get the balance right. I think its good to get a good mix of client work to show how professional you can be together with personal work to show how creative you can be. Sometimes clients are more interested in your personal work rather than your commercial work as it shows an insight into your personality. However, you have to be careful its not too much of one over the other. Obviously the client work pays the bills so, more often than not, it is the priority. Personal work is also the opportunity to experiment with styles or techniques that you would never risk with client work.
important as having a website. It’s been so useful for me over the last couple of years, I’ve met other like minded designers which can be a big help when you’re first starting out. Its also such an instant medium too as I can put a work in progress on Twitter and get feedback immediately. It’s now an important part of my daily work flow.
“She has this air of mystery and a sort of femme fatale style”
Quite possibly my favourite piece of yours is, the Lana Del Rey Cover for Dazed and Confused. What was your process behind this piece? Thank you, I’m really glad you like it, its one of my favourite recent illustrations. I just wanted to create something that captured Lana Del Rey and her music. She has this air of mystery and a sort of ‘femme fatale’ style. I find her music is quite dark and yet has pop sensibilities hence the use of bright colours merged with darker shades. How important and influential is music to your work and day-to-day life? Music is very important to both my work and daily routine. I work a lot to music at home and it can sometimes dictate on how a final piece turns out. Depending on the mood I’m in, it may be electronica or heavy rock music but it helps me concentrate on what I’m doing. I’d love to do a gig poster one day as I love my music as much as movies.
What one piece of advice would you have loved to be given when you were younger? Just to stick at it, believe in yourself, work hard and your dream job will happen. Your someone that has very much stuck to illustration and graphic design throughout his work, but if you could magically learn one other skill / medium, what would it be and why? Well I’ve always said that if I wasn’t doing what I do now then I would love to be a filmmaker. I think I could give it a good go! How important do you believe social media is in 2013, when it comes to broadening your horizons as a designer? Social media is now a huge part of being a designer. It’s such an important part of getting your work known, probably as
Any creative’s we should be looking out for? I work with a lot of talented designers and illustrators in something called the Poster Posse. Its a collective of designers and illustrators who regularly produce prints based on movies or pop cultural icons. One such designer is Samuel Ho, check out his amazing illustrative style. Another talented illustrator to look out for is Marie Bergeron, he’s incredible. Have you got any rituals, oddities etc. that you always do whilst working? Apart from singing very loudly and very badly to music whilst I’m working, I don’t have too many rituals although the singing is enough for anybody. What do you love to get up to when not dabbling in the Adobe Suite? I’m a big sports fan so when I get a chance I get to go to plenty of rugby and football matches. Its a sharp contrast to being stuck in front of a computer screen all day. I also try to visit the gym and get some exercise whenever I can. Any last words? Just stick to your guns and chase your dreams. Work hard and be nice to be people. You’ll get your rewards in the end. @turksworks turksworks.co.uk
you call yourself a designer? With the creative industry becoming all the more popular in recent years, has this sharp increase in designers produced better work or has it had a degrading effect on the industry?
Around 6 years ago, when I first picked up the Adobe Suite, I was the only person in my class with knowledge and access to the software. Recently though the increase in design crowd sourcing websites and the ease of how you can acquire the Creative Suite, through numerous sources (hint hint, wink wink) has increased the pool of ‘designers’ worldwide. But has this helped raise the quality control of design work coming out of the creative industry? In my opinion, it’s had the exact opposite effect. People are becoming comfortable with bad work.
I would call extremely talented that are that young. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting, learning and exploring creative software at that age, but you have to be damn sure your skilled enough to be charging someone for your services. The problem isn’t only with young ‘designers’ but with the industry clearly lowering the requirements for a designer.
Lately I have noticed a rise in poor quality of work; be it badly designed logos, advertising material etc. by these so-called ‘designers’. Too often work is based on tutorials found in publications such as Creative Arts or their replicas.
“The Industry is lowering the bar”
A lot of these designers are still at school or college, meaning they’re under 18. Due to the increasing popularity of websites like Cargocollective and 4ormat, anyone is able to create a good looking website in minute and put on the front of being a talented and skilled creative. The chances of someone at that age being skilled or knowledgeable enough to call themselves a designer is extremely slim. I only know a handful of creatives that
Having dived in and out of a number of studios this year on freelance duty, I have ran into a number of shocking pieces of paid work, designed for these studios/companies by freelance ‘designers’. Work that I would expect of someone in their first or second year at university… not a creative establishing themselves in the industry.
I guess I can’t totally blame the designers. The fact that the industry is lowering the bar, means a designer can spend less time and effort in designing outcomes, rather they can concentrate on quantity over quality. Though seeing designers willing to tone down their creativity for a paycheque is extremely disheartening. So what can we do, as genuine designers? If you’re only just establishing yourself in the industry having graduated this past summer, or been producing dope work for years, self-promotion and word of mouth are more key than ever before. Concentrate your time on promoting your work in select avenues (Behance, Twitter or Dribble for example) that best suit your work. Make sure to keep a tight relationship with your clients and colleagues too, because you never know when your next job might come up. Even with the influx of these so-called ‘designers’, as long as you do right by yourself and your clients then the real designers will always outshine the imitators when the final curtain falls. Words by Konrad Ziemlewski
LIFE POST GRAD An insight into the life of a graduate, graphic designer and how he stays creative
Life for the newly graduated creative is an exciting and intimidating one. Dealing with the pressure of finding a job and standing out from the crowd can be difficult. What follows here are a few points that should help when making the transition from student to model participant in the working world. Firstly, more importantly than anything else, I feel it’s always best to stay focused. It is very easy to get complacent and comfortable in the post university chilled out grad stage. Keep the bigger picture in focus; you want to start earning money doing what you enjoy and what you should be doing is thinking of how and when you want to do this. Just this positive thinking alone will keep you from falling into the dreaded ‘complacency phase’. Setting targets to meet gives you something to get up for everyday. If you know that on Monday you will be applying to studios for internships, then Tuesday is dedicated to working on little projects that will help you through the drudgery of getting up everyday. Design
Giving yourself projects to work on has a double benefit, self directed briefs allow for you to keep working on your style whilst also giving you those important pieces to include in your portfolio. Getting more work under your belt is always a good thing because it will give employees a better idea of who you are (as a creative) and where you’ll fit in with the dynamic of the studio should you be offered a job there. It’s not all about doing what you know either, now you’re done with university it’s down to you to shape yourself as a designer and add more skills to your toolset. If that involves learning a technique from scratch then so be it; if an employer knows that you are going out of your way to improve yourself and your work, it makes you that much more employable. The next point is sometimes discouraged but I thought I’d mention it anyway. It’s good for you to keep having fun. That can involve seeing family and friends, going out and just generally enjoying life. Doing this will keep you sane and keep your mind balanced while you
continue on the job hunt. Plus you know what they say: “Work hard, play hard”. To extend on the fun point, it’s also important to surround yourself with positivity. You need people around you that are supporting you throughout this journey; I am hoping that this is case for most anyway but it’s still good to mention. I often found that the best way to deal with negativity was to shut it out, it wont help you so there is no point dwelling on it. Right? Surround yourself with like-minded creative too, people that you were close to on your course most likely will be going through the same difficulties and emotions, so it’s definitely a good idea to band together and help each other out. These points all helped me to stay focused & I feel that they will help any type of creative too, at all levels of university life and perhaps even more so after graduating. Words by Calvin Ncube @minimal_pixel
Phonebloks Do you have a spare two grand in your pocket? If so, their is no reason why you shouldn’t be dropping your earnings on this hella-cool Vespa office chair. Rather than simply recycling old Vespas’ into scrap-metal, the Italian company have decided to create an incredibly stylish, unique and novel office chair. The original Vespa frames are upholstered and padded with leather, that comes together in an incredibly retro look. The chair’s creators are Bel & Bel from Barcelona (commissioned by Vespa themselves). Not only do you get an incredibly elegant and well designed chair, but the ‘Full’ version comes with working flashing lights, as well as incorporating a comfortable armrest in chrome. Price: £1836
Jawbone mini For those times when your headphones just can’t do the job, a Jawbone Mini Jambox has your back. Perfectly sized for on the go use (at 6inch by 2inch), don’t let the small size full you, packed behind the aluminium exterior are two acoustic stereo drivers and a bass radiator that provide one hell of an oomph. Bluetooth, stereo connectivity, a built in microphone and up to 10hours of battery are all packed into this beautiful little device, coming in a range of colours, to suit all your moods. What that all this oomph cost you? A fairly hefty £150. Price £15
ring clock Love watches? Love sci-fi? Want a crazy way to start a conversation? Then the ring clock will tick all those boxes and more. Made from surgical grade, allergy free aluminium (yeah you heard that right), the ring shows time using small blue and orange LED’s when you spin it’s face. The watch charges by using a supplied dock and will last up to a week on one charge. The aluminium body does also provide water resistance to a few meters, so no need to worry when showing it off at pool parties next summer. The Ring Clock is only currently available in the States for approximately £149.99. Price: £149.99
THe q camera If you love taking photos and have a camera fetish, ‘TheQ’ should definitely be on your Christmas wish list. Coming in various colours, this small piece of kit is constantly connected to the web, which allows it to sync photos automatically to any one of your social networks or even to the cloud, if you want to keep your stuff private. TheQ has a 5million megapixel sensor, a manual focus ring, built-in flash and to top it all off is waterproof (perfect for next summer then). All of this comes in at a pretty reasonable £175. Price: £175
leap motion With the Xbox One and Playstation 4 moving ‘kinect’ technology to the forefront with their new consoles, ‘Leap Motion’ has moved ahead of them, by releasing their own nifty little product. Packaged in a very Apple like frame (at only 3inch long), the Leap is a motion device that your able to plug in to any windows/mac machine , allowing you to control anything by gestures. Using a state of the art sensor, you are able to browse the web, type, play music & games (Leap have opened an open source app store to supplement the device) all without touching anything solid. At only £69.99 this is an absolute steal. Price £69.99
behind the mask
Compared to 10 years ago, the image of an artist has become the single most important thing besides the music, sometimes even usurping music itself. Take Lady Gaga for example; though she produces some of the more experimental pop music, it’s her fashion statements (the crazy ass meat dress or the ironic hand bra) that really get the world talking. This time though I want to focus on one item in particular - the headgear. Numerous artists, be it Daft Punk, MF DOOM, SBTRKT and even Slipknot have become instantly recognisable for their masks. The question I want to ask is: would these artist’s careers really have been any different had they never put it on.
Let’s start off with the newest addition to the mask-wearing club, SBTRKT. The London based producer/DJ wears an African-style mask that covers the top half of his face. The mask is used across all sorts of media be it print or online, his merch, t-shirts or posters as well as his album covers. His mask has already transcended his identity, with you recognising the mask much quicker than his music. Visually the mask is a throwback to the African tribe masks, resembling animals of sorts. Specifically they are based on the Dogon people and tribes of Congo that feature a load of geometric shapes to build imagery. A Hidden Place is the designer behind SBTRKT’s masks (even he has kept his identity secret). He believes the masks he creates allow his client to remain totally anonymous and let the focus remain on his music (which is the case once you get over the fact that the dude is wearing a tribal mask).
eventually it turned into a marketing ploy. The mask is often given out to fans for free at shows, just for the hell of it initially, but now DOOM quite often uses the mask for deceit. Rather than performing himself he gets someone to wear his mask and perform as if it were him, lip-syncing the tracks. Understandable the paying fans are never left amused. Electronic DJ has done something similar. On a regular basis he blows of shows last minute, but by using a mask he avoids getting the shit kicked out of him. It doesn’t help that he often is accused of stealing huge chunks of songs for his own. Then you have Tyler the Creator, who is part of the LA based Odd Future crew. He himself started out his career wearing ski masks, with crosses drawn across them in music videos and at concerts. For Tyler the mask represented a play
“DOOM WAS GOING THROUGH A PREIOD OF GRIEVANCE WHEN HIS YOUNGER BROTHER DIED”
Words by Konrad Ziemlewski Photography by Dan Wilton & Rosaline Shahnavaz Design
Moving on from SBTRKT we hit MF DOOM, the New York based rapper who changed his name from Zev Love X almost 15 years ago - the reason for this name change? It’s all down to the infamous DOOM mask (based on the Marvel character Doctor Doom); rumour is the mask was only used because DOOM was going through a period of grievance when his younger brother died. DOOM mask is full of issues; it started out as a personal way to mask pain but
on his ‘demonic’ character he often plays with in his rhymes, going antiestablishment (which was exemplified when storming off at the billboard awards, whilst being on the cover) and simply stating there are no boundaries able to hold him. The masks stood for the face of his movement. When it comes to SBTRKT, DOOM and Tyler the masks tread a fine line between persona and gimmicks, but for others such as Seattle group Shabazz Palace, the masks take on a whole new meaning.
The reasons for Shabazz using the masks was totally down to their African roots and the success DOOM was getting at the time from using his. The mix of a marketing ploy and a reason laid in foundation was good enough for their fans to support the decision. The crazy thing about the Shabazz’s masks is that they are much more visual compared to many others. They are MASSIVE, up to a metre in height and often, again, resembling an animal. Palaceer Lazaro (emcee for Shabazz) has said the masks help channel positive energy into him, enhancing his performances at shows. You can’t have a conversation about masks without mentioning the French pioneering duo known as Daft Punk. Having been going strong for over 20 years, they are the only artists I can think of that have actually had their masks change and develop along with the music. Daft Punk actually started out in the 90s by wearing bags and Halloween masks on their heads. An
artist friend of the duo designed the initial concept of the helmets that we see now, and since then the helmet has gone through several transformations. Starting off with very digital, 8bit designs and slowly but surely becoming more minimalist and in tune with the times like the flashy helmets they use now - the design almost represents the visual trajectory in which the duo’s music has gone. The reasons for using the helmets are pretty specific for the pair. Initially they wanted to make sure they could live normal lives, as they are not the most social of people, if they were ever to make it big. Secondly they were adamant that having something iconic, beyond the music would help them break into the mainstream, especially since what they were doing was so left field back in the 90s. DJ’s were nowhere near the global superstar status that the likes of Skillrex and even the mediocre David Guetta have now. The masks also
allowed them to collaborate with artists that would of never given them a second look, be it for their nationality, looks or ethnicity. Be it Kanye, Gaga, Buckethead or whoever else - mask wearers in music are often in it for one of two things. Either they are looking for something bigger than themselves, whether that be an icon, an outer body experience for the artist, or just to allowed fans and the public to transcend beyond the music they produce. Or they are the complete opposite - with the music lacking they rely on the shock factor to make them famous and help spread the message they intend to get out. In either case masks have been around for decades in music, with many notable examples to date, and it doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.
Showcase Each issue we search far and wide for the best upcoming, undiscovered talent we can find. This issue we speak to Brooklyn based designer Tim with a hip-hop obsession. Our first photographer, with a throwback to film, Rosaline. Along with illustrators Llyod and Earlson with very different stylistic approaches.
Collaborated on the Cover
“I wish I took more of a risk with my education and I didn’t commit to paying such a giant tab”
Hey Tim. Could you give us a short description of who you are and what you do? I’m a Brooklyn-based graphic designer, illustrator, and artist. I’m also a comedy connoisseur, an NBA fanboy, a wannabe entrepreneur, and a consumer of loud rap music. Having spent all your life in and around the famous NYC surrounded by urban culture and artistry all your life, how has this famous city inspired you as a person and designer? I grew up close to Manhattan, yet I’m also from a beach town, so we had an interesting mix of cultural ideas to work with. On one hand, you could hear and smell the ocean from anywhere in my town, and on the other hand, you could hop on a train into NYC and catch a Knicks game, explore the village, and watch a bum vomit on himself - you know, all of those real New York City experiences. It really was a beautiful situation to grow up in and it never lacked any sources of inspiration. Design
Everything from the cultural diversity, the eclectic music I grew up with, and the calmness of the beach, has all shaped who I am as a person and a designer today. Do you feel your decision to go to college and get a design degree has helped you on your way or only been a hindrance? That’s a complicated question because I can only answer based on where I am now, and I can’t exclude 4 years of college and guess what my life would have been like. I will say that I wish I took more risks with my education and didn’t commit to paying such a giant tab to a private university. That can definitely be classified as a hindrance! The U.S. needs to work on that problem... You have already managed to work with some huge big name brands such as Microsoft and Yamaha but what one brand or IP would you love to have the chance to work with?
mean the ideal project for me means tons of creative freedom combined with massive exposure. Being a huge music fan some sort of collaboration in that arena would be amazing, perhaps a Kanye West project. Working on a high-profile project with the NBA could be a lot of fun as well. Anything that combines some of my real-world passions with my creative skillset is a dream come true for me. Where do you want to find yourself in 3 years time? I would like to say in 3 years I’d be a very in-demand freelance creative who commands giant budgets and also has his own line of products...We can all dream right? Although, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if I had a creative director role at a super fun, forward thinking place with enough time to pursue illustration and other creative work on the side.
Everyone must say Nike here, right? I
“He didn’t seem too fussed about the camera himself, but It felt like his crew had their hands around my throat” Could you start off by giving us a little insight into who you are and what you do? I’m Rosaline, I’m from South-West London and I take photos. My favourite thing to photograph is people. Can you pinpoint a specific moment in your life, where you finally knew you wanted to take photography as a direction? It all stems from my father’s photo albums. They always fascinated me. Although it was never his profession, he has an amazing collection of photographs. They were my way of learning about his and my mother’s lives before me. So I guess I was drawn to Photography’s inherent nature of capturing fragments of time and isolating them as documented moments. He ended up passing down his very worn out Yashica Electro 35 to me, which is when I really started to pursue Photography. I learnt most of what I know today from my secondary school art teacher who taught me how to use the darkroom during Friday lunch times.
I noticed you seem much more focused on the dying art of print rather than digital. What’s your reasoning behind this? I only shoot film. It’s how I started taking photographs, and I think that it’s the best way for every beginner to initiate their understanding of Photography. Picking up an analogue SLR as your first camera will lay the foundations, then it’s down to you how you’ll develop that. I will always opt for film over digital. The physicality of a photograph is important to me. There is so much is lost in the abyss of the digital world. Obviously digital has its pros as well as its cons, but there is something more rich and valuable about analogue, and the presence of a photograph. Even when you’re shooting, each frame is carefully considered and constructed. There’s more sentiment. We love our hip-hop at VRS so I have to ask. How was it photographing MF DOOM?
realised how protective his entourage are. He didn’t seem too fussed about the camera himself, but it felt like his crew had their hands around my throat. There was a lot of pressure to get what I could as quick as possible in the dimly lit Boiler Room venue. Which in a sense is the total opposite to how I usually work. I like to spend time getting to know my subjects, so I can get them in their most kind of natural and rawest form. I’m not sure if I engaged with DOOM at all. Either way, it was incredible to see him live and particularly at such an intimate venue. There’s definitely an essence of the atmosphere in the final images. If you could collaborate with one creative? I would love to work with Bill Henson. I’m not sure how much of a ‘collaboration’ it would be though. It’s most likely I’d just sit there in awe of his work. It’s so beautiful.
Photographing DOOM was pretty crazy. I obviously knew a lot about him before and I listen to his music, but I never quite
Collaborated on the Cover
earlson vios be.net/earlsonvios
“My dream would be to work with Manny Pacquiao” Design
Is there a moment that you can pinpoint where you knew this is the career you wanted?
long time for me to figure out the colour palette in the background to match the main illustration.
It all started for me when I joined a digital art community called ‘Vector x Vexel’. A community that showcases numerous vector based illustrations and other medias. They have so many great artists there. This helped me up my game and improve as a designer.
What do you love to do when your enjoying some down time?
You clearly have a strong interest in sports judging by your NBA and NFL projects. Are there any specific sportsmen or women, past or present you would love to work with?
If you had the chance to work on one, current, musicians album cover, who would it be and why?
Hopefully one day I will get the chance to work with a NBA superstar / legend of my choice. My dream though would be to work with Manny Pacquiao, for obvious reasons.
When I have down time I usually play video games , listen to music or spend hours browsing the web for design inspiration.
There are so many great bands and musicians I would love to work with, but if I had to choose one I would love to work with a Philippine rock band called ‘Wilabaliw’. I have been a fan for a while and feel their creative lyrics and music would tie well in with my illustration.
What is one thing you love and one thing you hate drawing and why? I love doing the inking part and hate doing the background, it always takes a
lloyd de guzman be.net/dglloyd
Who is Llyod and what does he do? A 22 year old young Filipino who was born in Bulacan Philippines. Iâ€™ve finished my studies and have a degree in Information Technology. At the age of twenty I was hired for my first job. I usually describe myself as a man of a few words. I have always experessed myself through my artwork. Throughout my life I have observed the world and developed my skills in my craft to produce the work myself and my clients envision. Outside of art I am extremely passionate about travelling and a keen biker. Some would say a gear head - often I travel and get inspired by what I see. I often also spend time reading mangas and browsing the world wide web (it really is big) for inspiration and in general to just be in awe. As every artist knows, inspiration is everywhere. But who or what are those few special things that have really inspired you? To be honest the vast majority of inspiration comes from back home. Seeing so many Phillipino artists, with crazy skills doing so well, makes me up my game tenfold. Throughout your illustrations you have a very unique and overt way of using colour. Could you give us a little insight in how you go about creating your pieces? When it comes to colours I tend to have a few go to colours I use all the time. Since I already know what colours and tones work well together - I hate spending hours playing around with colours unless I am aiming for a specific emotion from the piece that I can not achieve anyother way. Design
What do you think about the current plethora of Asian but specifically Philippine illustrators and designers that are coming out of nowhere and producing some unique and outstanding work? I believe there has always been an endless supply of talented Filipino artists in the industry. Yet due to recent technological developments and websites like Behance we have finally gotten the chance to shine on the world stage. Without these websites theres no chance we would be so popular or able to get work at this rate.
What does your creative process look like? I have a pretty standard yet long process. First I start of with sketches that serve as drafts and then the process starts digitally. I begin with simple line work, then add the detail. This is followed by the colour work - which I really enjoy mixing colours to get everything just right.
things DESIGN SCHOOL NEVER TAUGHT YOU An insight into what could be done to improve design degree’s and in turn students all across the board.
SOFTWARE SKILLS Currently there is still a fair share of students that go into University not having much experience with the Adobe Suite or any other design software. Now this seems to be predominantly a problem in the UK rather than across the board, but it still is a massive issue. Personally I knew the basics of a few creative programs before starting but many others hadn’t even used Photoshop before. This becomes much more of a problem when many tutors rely on tutorials from around the web by people such as Andrew Kramer and Nick Campbell to teach their students for them. Not only does this make many students reliant on tutorials, but also it prevents them from understanding
what skills they are actually developing, since all they are doing is copying existing work. Tutorials should only be used to get your head around a piece of software or for a specific skill (neon lighting for example) - not for an entire project.
There should be a design seminar called ‘Rejection’ on every single design course. If you just imagine this scenario... You just got picked to design a concept for Nike’s new t-shirt line along with 5 other designers. You spend weeks sketching, designing and producing what you believe is an absolutely brilliant piece only to be told your outcome hasn’t been chosen. Many creatives would be thrown by such terrible news (myself included), but it’s knowing that rejection is a totally normal thing in such a competitive industry that will prevent you from becoming broken. Rejection is commonplace in the creative industry, making sure you have skin as thick as a rhino is what will help you get through it.
Words by Konrad Ziemlewski Photography by James Perkins
Every University and College is different, the same applies to what tutor(s) you manage to get at whilst studying for your degree. Having spoken to numerous colleagues and designers around the world that have studied at Universities such as LCC, St Martins, Brighton, Stanford, Vancouver etc. I compiled a list of 10 things everyone wishes they were taught whilst studying for their degree. 30
Though Universities and their tutors almost always recommend work experience, very rarely do you get any help with getting placements. Classes on CV development, portfolio marketing, interview techniques and the like would be great ways to get students on the right path. Many tutors are quite often designers themselves so making use of their contacts is a great idea. Don’t be picky though, take any placement you can whilst at university, the amount you learn about the industry you might want to work in, in just two weeks, is amazing.
The so-called ‘elevator pitch’ is quite often more important than your portfolio - something that I found was never mentioned at University. This is something that applies to freelance designers as much as it does to anyone working at a design studio. You have to learn how best to get your ideas across to your client in as short a space as possible, without ever losing their attention. Being confident, proactive and concise will build the initial relationship that could very well lead to future work..
WORLD AGAINST DESIGNER
kEEPING YOUR CREATIVITY
A lot of students straight out of University suffer bouts of ‘No’s’ when trying to get a job. The problem is many feel sorry for themselves and fall back into their shell thinking it’s them against the world. If you can’t get a design job initially, find something part time, shelf stacking at ASDA, whatever. Make sure you can pay your rent, survive. But never, ever stop being creative - the second you do, you very well may never get to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Everyone knows the portfolio is a prime tool to get work in the creative industry, but what many seem to forget is that the sort of work you have in your portfolio tends to dictate the sort of work you will be getting. If you want to go into illustration, there is no point having endless pieces of motion graphics and editorial design sitting in your portfolio. The final year is quite often the best time to produce work in your chosen field. If you’re somebody that likes to dabble between mediums, set up multiple versions of your portfolio that can be sent with the right job application.
Nick Campbell (of greyscalegorilla) said it best, ‘Never be the smartest guy in the room’. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first job or your 10th; one of the best ways to stay creative is to keep learning. By being the smartest guy in the room you only become complacent and happy with anything you produce since no one can really stand-up to you. Although leaving a studio comes with a risk, the rewards you can achieve from moving on outweigh that risk tenfold.
“never be the smartest guy in the room”
Having graduated only a few months ago I know that the above tidbits would of helped me a great deal, going through the post-graduate stage. Universities and Colleges must take action, especially with the influx of creatives in the industry. It is hard enough for designers with incridible ability to find work but, so it should be no surprise those not given the best education are now struggling. 31
The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs The pop charts across the globe have changed. No longer are they the breeding ground for stories of violence, murder and rape – the pictures changed, but the artists haven’t. When N.W.A hit the scene in the early 90s, they made gangsta rap a valuable commodity and it stayed that way in one form or another till the early 2000s. Over the past few years though, there has been a massive decline in new rappers picking the torch up for gangsta rap, whilst the veterans of the movement seemingly have abandoned it all together.
Words by Konrad Ziemlewski Photography by Justin Boyd Design
A big reason for this has been Jay-Z’s change of mentality and subject matter. Rather than popularising the crack game he has decided to portray himself as an extremely successful ‘business man’ that earned his success through hard graft whilst dodging the violence of the streets. Then you have the likes of Yeezy who has embraced his middle class persona and become one of the biggest (possibly only second to Jay) hip-hop stars around. Even the likes of Chief Keef who gained fame by focusing on extremely violent subject matter has hinted his work in the future is likely to be much more toned down, whilst Pusha T is slowly drifting away from his signature style of gangbangers, hoes and drugs. Gangsta rap still has its followers but they have moved back down to the seedy underground, the streets, back to where it all started for the movement. The mixtape is the new home for this genre of music, the blogs are where it gathers momentum and can avoid the pressure / critique associated with mainstream music. Even some of the biggest, current, so called front runners of this movement barely make a dent into the pop charts, be it Bun B, Killer Mike or the not so ‘Young’ Jeezy, so this move back to the underground is no surprise - especially since this is its natural habitat. Many would say gangsta rap is in a state of decay, but from out of the rubble we are seeing a new leader of the movement, Freddie Gibbs. A native of Gary, Indiana, Gibbs now resides in LA and has already released over 10 projects under his name, yet his latest effort ‘ESGN’ was
his most focused project. Gibbs was even signed to Interscope all the way back in 2007, but rather than changing his delivery to suit the radio populous, Gibbs went against the grain using hard beats… a delivery similar to a Rottweiler stuck in a cage. It’s not as if Gibbs hasn’t ventured into pop territory before; a stand-out being his collaboration with ZZ Ward on ‘Criminal’ but it’s always on his own terms, he has to be able to speak his mind. It was no different on ESGN. He remained true to himself and a certified thug. The lead single ‘One Eighty Seven’ and its follow up ‘The Real G Money’ really let everyone know what we were getting into. 187 is a straight up club banger (Gibbs saying so himself in an interview with XXL) whilst the latter is a much more story driven single. In the same interview with XXL, Gibbs even stated that “Michael Jackson is dead, so I gotta pick up the torch and run with it for my city.” – which whilst being a seemingly ludicrous jest at first, Gibbs’ background is somewhat similar to the king of pop. Both came from very deprived backgrounds in a city falling apart, yet survived and moved on to bigger and better things.
“I gotta pick up the torch for my city” The upward trajectory Gibbs is on shows no sign of stopping. He has a project with critically acclaimed Madlib called ‘Piñata’ dropping early 2014 and another album planned for late 2014. Judging by the short but sweet sneak peek at ‘Piñata’ in the form of ‘Deeper EP’ Gibbs and Madlib were
made for each other. Deeper focuses on a yin & yang narrative of heartbreak and violence that hasn’t been seen in gangsta rap since the early days. Madlib matches this with a selection of horns and orchestral strings and rhythmic beats that transport the listener into Gibbs’ own harsh landscape. Though Gibbs might not be able to match MJ’s popularity and most probably never will, he is an extremely talented and layered individual that needs to be on every hip-hop heads radar. It is a massive shame many will dismiss his music before even listening; but the ones that don’t will have another reason to believe hip-hop is still moving in the right direction, Gibbs being a shining example.
OWUOR ARUNGA Stepping out of the shadows
Outside of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis there has only been one other member that has been there from the start. Owuor Arunga. The â€˜Pied Piperâ€™ Wwe sat down with Owuor, in the middle of the stage to let this fountain of knowledge get everything of his chest.
Words by Konrad Ziemlewski | Photography by Rosaline Shahnavaz Design
Can we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself and how you got around to doing what you do?
around that - if we had an extra class to take, it was a music class; it was this mentality of music all the time.
I started playing when I was 9 years old. I always used to watch TV and there was this one commercial that came on, with a dope musician that was selling this fantasy of Jazz. That’s when I decided to play the trumpet. That was the moment I knew what I wanted to do.
How did you develop a relationship with Macklemore? Ben and I met in high school through a mutual friend, Kassa Overall, who was in the group. Kassa always got into trouble, but also a square, very intelligent. A pretty boy, with bad girls, that was an inner link between Ben and myself. We were just like kids with similar interests: music, fashion shoes.
Essentially it has gone full circle then. With the ‘Miller’ commercial airing ‘Can’t Hold Us’
Favourite pair of kicks?
Ha-ha right! Literally never thought of that but your right. That’s crazy. How has African culture influenced you musically? Well Kenya’s a mix of African music. The type of music we play is like, Bob Marley, Koffi Olomide, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner. You’ll have other musicians like David Bowie, or The Clash, especially in the 80s there was a British invasion when I grew up. Any current influences? Andre 3000, Erykah Badu and Robert Glasper - so many groups, especially for us when we go on tour. Ryan hit me up with ‘Rammstein’ and their show was crazy, I didn’t understand a word, but the energy was ridiculous. Ever tried to getting into rapping yourself? Everybody tries to be a rapper. That’s like asking me if I have ever tried to impersonate Michael Jackson, you know? Back in the day there was a noise ordinance in Seattle. There weren’t many music clubs for us kids to go to, unless you were over 21 you couldn’t go. The Mayor shut shit down. The community centres would have these parties, where we would have cyphers. The school I went to though. Garfield High School. The school was known for music; Quincy Jones went there, Bruce Lee went there, Jimmy Hendrix, all these OG’s that taught me to play music. We had a lot of emcee’s - every corner had a cypher popping off. Cat’s that knew hip-hop, jazz, classical. This created a very healthy music scene, in a creative environment. The school had this legacy of music, we were constantly
“The school was known for music; quincy jones went there, bruce lee, jimmy hendrix, all these og’s that taught me to play music”
You know I don’t… wait I do! It’s ever changing, but the ‘Lucas Puig Adidas’, they’re hella light, like you don’t have anything on your feet and are walking on clouds. Jordans are a bit like that too but there’s more bulk and presence to a Jordan, but the Puig’s are crazy. Besides working with Ben and Ryan you have a few other projects. How about you first tell us all about Black Stax? Black Stax is my first hip-hop crew that brought me in as one of their own. Black Stax are OG’s, that started out with Jace Ecaj and Blak - I still remember when I caught them at a show on Jackson Street, and the way they were feeding off of each other, spitting 4 lines each; with one dropping rhymes in between was mind blowing. It was captivating. For them to take me in like that was mad humbling. We played shows every Tuesday and Thursday. We made sure we perfected everything and obliterated shows. I most definitely was their apprentice. I dropped whatever they needed. It was a completely different flow to what I do with Ryan. How do Silas Blak and Jace Ecaj differ to Macklemore as emcee’s? They’re more rubiks, outside the box. I think Ben is the type of artist that wants to tell a story, that wants to connect with you, trying to connect with you through his words. Being able to connect with you through a logical, clean, for the lack of a better word, syntactic way. The emcee’s in Black Stax though – they’re hitting you with ideas, concepts. Rapid fire, big picture, rapid fire, big VRS Magazine
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picture - now you here, now you’re there. Taking you on a different type of journey in a different realm. They’re like ying and yang. Then we have Kore Lonz - a much more reggae influenced group. Does the range of musicians you work with accurately hold up with your eclectic music taste? Kore Ionz? Hahahaha. Kore Ionz is my first reggae band, my first reggae crew. They open up for every single big reggae band to come out of Seattle, so I got that education. I mean my parents listen to reggae, I listen to reggae but I never really knew reggae as it is now. I found out about the cats in New Zealand doing shit, in Australia, Jamaica and more. It was a massive education. That shaped me as a musician. What was it like, working with the Rick Rubin of the Jazz world, Robert Glasper? Robert went to the ‘New School’, I went to ‘New School’ as well, a University in New York. He was one of the first people I met; my class was full of incredible musicians, doing dope things. Robert was essentially the big homie, with the cesspool of knowledge that we would pick up from, be it rhythmically, melodically or harmonically. I always go back in my log or my brain and ask: ‘What would Robert do?’ Any plans for your own album in the future? There’s always plans, but I need to find the time. I’m only ever in Seattle for 72 hours at a time really, which isn’t very long. Whenever I arrive I tend to get a lot of cat’s wanting me to drop something special on their tracks, which I get onto right away. This prevents me working on my own shit though. But I am working on something, an EP definitely I even have a name. Google. Poodle. Noodle. Doodle. Catchy right? I hope I’m not assuming, but you support the Seattle Sounders right? If you could see any Premier League game, whom would you see? Are you serious? Come on man, of course! As for a team? Is Drogba still at Chelsea? Design
Pretty sure he has been in Turkey for a year or two… Are you serious? Man. That shows how in touch I am with the PL, but Chelsea definitely peaks my interest. How have you found you’ve had to adapt from performing shows to performing on live television, with such a drastically diverse audience? Or haven’t you? Performing is an ever-changing struggle and adaptation. You have to be a Chameleon. Every show is different. Back when we first performed in London, I was on crutches, hobbling. The energy from the crowd though, got me up walking, jumping, I even threw my crutches away! Every show is different, due to the crowd’s energy. As for recent TV performances, to me their ego checks. On one hand you think millions of people are watching you perform, how crazy is that? But at the same time, nothing should distract you from rocking this performance like any show, because of that we rock for fans that are out their specifically to see us. Touring with Macklemore, must have put you in proximity to some pretty big stars. Has their been any particular person you ran into, and were left star struck? Ah man I have a funny story for this. I ran into Riff Raff once at one of these shows. When I say I ran into him, I saw him and ran up to him, all crazy like. But before being able to talk to him, his bodyguard just looked at me and brushed me off haha. Clearly they did not know who the Pied Piper was right? I imagine not. Though it’s no problem. Chances are I will run into him again and even so, some artists I run into we will be able to kick-it, some I won’t, but it’s all part of the bigger picture. How do you find family life, with having tw daughters, and travelling the globe? In the beginning I never really considered what effect I had on my family. In the beginning I never even had a phone. Then I got a phone. Then I got an international calling plan. So I
was able to keep in touch. Now though my wife is with me on this European leg, while my two daughters will be involved in the US. I’m getting better as I grow older at this parenting thing. It’s a never-ending learning curve. You’re here in London, with a very different music scene to the one in the US. Do you keep your ears peeled for any artists from our shores? I’ll be honest bro; I’m really feeling Labrinth. His writing ability and production are absolutely crazy. Then there’s also Katy B. She’s doing something so different to the cats back home. Her beats are wild (Owuar proceeds’ to go into a crazy beatbox freestyle) and her music videos are cinematic events.
“In the beggining i never even had a phone. Then i got a phone. Then i got an international calling plan. so i could keep in touch” Something that I have always found fascinating about you guys is the immense quality and attention to detail in the music videos and any merchandise, album covers etc. Obviously Ryan and Ben are both creatively included but how much input do you have to any visually creative outputs of the group? Me, Ben and Ryan work organically. I mean we sleep together. Tour together.
Take the same flight together. They tend to come up with the concepts, but then they talk to me and it’s like I give my opinion and we develop it further. With ‘Can’t Hold Us’, Ben, Ryan, Zack and Trish sat down around a table coming up with concepts in Hawaii while I was on the beach sipping a piña colada. Then they came up to me, we talked and embarked on a hell of a shoot. The same is true for merch, album/single covers or anything else.
man. Normally I go on iTunes to download any music I like. I never like going through the depths of the internet to find music I want to listen to. But for Chance, I was willing to trawl through the internet, go through numerous websites, channels etc. until I could download his mixtape. That’s how much effort I am willing to go through just to listen to his music. He would definitely be number three. That’s if he wanted to be!
If you started your own record label, which three current artists would you go out and sign?
How did you react to your VMA wins?
Well first of all I would sign my sister, she’s amazing. Secondly I would grab Ray Dalton. He’s crazy. He’s like a musical war machine. He can do whatever he wants with his voice, aerial acrobatics, throw grenades, go high, go low, anything. His personality is something that I feel would connect with everyone too, as well as his background. As for the last spot, I really don’t know, we need a strong triple hit. I mean this is the world’s introduction to the label. Maybe I should do an audition call for the last spot?
It was crazy. I didn’t sleep for a few days after. I couldn’t believe it. It was so humbling. I could not believe Thrift Shop didn’t win though. I think it’s been our dopest music video, and to see Justin pick that gong up was a shock. You should’ve seen my face. They brought Wanz all the way out for what? Haha!
I mean you have an incredibly talented musician in your sister. An atomic voice in Ray Dalton. What about an MC? What about Chance? Oh my god, I didn’t even think about him not being signed. Chance is amazing
A massive thank you to Owuar for agreeing to sit down with us and being such a humble gent. Not to mention a massive thank you to the numerous team members and the likes of Budo, Wanz and Andrew Joslyn making us feel straight at home. @owuorobi arungamusic.com Design
EARL SWEATSHIRT Doris It’s been three years now since Earl released his self-titled EP and announced himself as yet another precocious talent of the Odd Future collective. Just like Tyler before him, the young rapper stuck almost exclusively to Grand Theft Auto themes of rape, murder and all other heinous hobbies of the warp-minded… but with a wickedly intelligent poeticism that set him apart from the rest. Even while he spent 2 years in a Samoan school for Troubled Teens, the howls of ‘Free Earl’ to ever increasing crowds at Odd Future shows only helped to cement his cult status. No material output, not even a material presence, and adolescent Sweatshirt’s popularity grew and grew. No surprise then that Earl’s longawaited label debut ‘Doris’ was met with much anticipation. ‘Expectations set high because daddy was a poet’ says Earl, and with only the spectacular leadsingle ‘Chum’ to go by, he was not wrong. It’s an immediate shame then that the opening track, to what is without doubt the most complex album so far from any of the Odd Future collective, is clumsy and uninteresting. ‘Pre’’ sets off the album with excitingly deep bass, but then SK la Flame’s opening verse is as shallow as the safe end of a child’s paddling pool. It remains a mystery why such a track was chosen as the opener (except for the aptitude of it’s title) especially when what comes next is exactly the sort of poetic exploration of
teenage angst that everyone expected. Neptune’s produced ‘Burgundy’ is the first standout track on the album. ‘Nobody care about how you feel, man, we want raps’ says Vince Staples before Earl, in an MF Doom style drone, reels through bar after bar of introspection and vicious self awareness. ‘Burgundy’ is what we were waiting for, what we were expecting, but by sticking through what came before it feels hard earned. This is very much the story of the album. Some of the tracks are unbelievably good. Earls beat-poet flow and jawdropping wordplay, flittered across organs, piano riffs and fittingly sinister baselines are like a Dre produced Gill Scott-Heron cut. Then all of a sudden Tyler (on Sasquatch) or another aficionado will come in with verses on totally different themes: far from terrible, just far from Earl.
At only 19, it’s difficult to say that the prodigious Earl Sweatshirt has already produced a coming-of-age record with his label debut, but the maturity of wordplay, and dark, brooding lyricism suggests otherwise. However the album lacks the musical authority that such a promising rapper’s debut deserves. Earl plays the quiet moody one in OF, but being part of such a strong collective has caused him a disservice. ‘Doris’ taken at face value is nothing short of brilliant, with very few moments that let it down; so still to say that it could’ve been even better is not a insult to Earls talent, but rather a testament to how promising his future in rap really is. Words by Robbie Russell
On tracks like Hive (ft. Vince Staples & Casey Veggies), Sunday (ft. Frank Ocean) and Guild (ft. Mac Miller) you start to wonder why so many of the bars are given to other rappers when it’s evident from Hoarse (incidentally the best track on the album) and Chum that Earl is more than capable of sustaining the spotlight himself. The collaborations don’t ruin the tracks, but the problem is that in dropping more conventional, and therefore more easily appreciated verses, it becomes easy to forget that you’re not listening to an Odd Future Collective album.
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JANELLE MONAE Electric Lady Janelle Monáe returns with her third album entitled The Electric Lady, and man is that the case with this fantastic collection of tracks from the Atlanta starlet. Though she’s well known for her feature on the now unforgettable(y bad) track with Fun, Janelle has been in the industry for longer than most, having worked with Outkast on their first few albums along with Dungeon Family’s very own Cee Lo Green. Electric Lady finally brings all of her unique talents to the forefront with the funkiest album we here at VRS have heard in a long while. The album is meant to be a prequel to her sophomore album ‘The Archandroid’ and continues to follow the dystopian setting of a world where androids have assimilated in to the population to form the newest ‘race’ if you will, where they are discriminated for being themselves. The skits that are interspersed between the tracks presented by ‘DJ Crash Crash’ are hilarious, this is one of the first albums for me where I’ve actually enjoyed the skits and opted to keep them. Most artists fall at the first hurdle when it comes to skits, there’s only a few exceptions for me personally - the top dogs being Outkast, Em, Wu-Tang, Kendrick and especially Kanye’s Blame Game skit in particular. For Monáe to sit comfortably in this category with these titans is no mean feat, and as they’re inevitably sandwiched in between two great tracks, the comedic breather is a great addition. The Electric Lady opens up with a stunning string of tracks featuring Prince, Erykah Badu, Solange and Miguel who all add something both instrumental and personal to the tracks. The collaboration with Prince will immediately draw the most attention
to people listening and it doesn’t let you down. The guttural sounding guitar at the beginning adds a sweet grungy sound to the track, whilst Monáe’s mesmerising delivery cuts through it, then when you add Prince’s backing vocals during the later choruses and the horns at the end… it’s one of the best tracks of the year. Tracks like Victory have all the elements of classic Badu, the prominent bassline intertwined with funky guitar chords and a piercing vocal that seems to know no bounds. The manner in which Janelle balances her more somber tracks like It’s Code and her get out of your chair and do some kind of migraine skank/charleston mix tracks like Dance Apocolyptic is remarkable, it’s an album which has songs to suit pretty much whatever mood you’re in. Though Monáe puts forward her very best, an equal amount of the credit has to be shared with the performance artists who play on the album. Tracks like Victory with it’s fantastic guitar solo and We Were Rock & Roll with it’s XXy riffs reminiscent of Big Boi’s ‘Apple of My Eye’ highlight everyone on the track and rightfully so. With nearly 40 musicians taking part on the album, Janelle obviously wanted to put a focus on the great music which supports her attention drawing persona - and she’s achieved that in a way that I haven’t seen from a solo artist for a very long time. When Ghetto Woman comes on,
you immediately are graced with a psychedelic intro and a distorted quasielectro baseline. Chronology out the window, 3:11 sees the Electric Lady spazz out and and spit one of the most interesting 16s I’ve heard in a long while; this kind of performance just screams out to people like Jean Grae, Minaj or Rapsody to collaborate with her on something a little more hip-hop. Monáe lays on the truth throughout the song as she talks about the perseverance of the struggling young woman: ‘You’re the reason I believe in me/For real’, his is a track for all of her fans who feel like there’s noone there for them, a Gaga-esque style of subject matter. This is the kind of inclusivity which follows on as an extension from the ‘droid’ which is referenced to a myriad of times throughout her albums, chiefly through the protagonist ‘Cindie’ who the albums are based around. Janelle Monáe has described the ‘droid’ (Cindie being) in various interviews over the past few years, the most clear being in one with MTV UK - ‘I love speaking about the android because they are the new “other”. People are afraid of the other and I believe we’re going to live in a world with androids because of technology and the way it advances.’ Make of that what you will. This album is a contender for the best of the year, there’s an unbelievable amount of creativity here which has been injected into each song. She simply does not conform, working with artists who she deems to be worth while, not those who are ‘hot right now’; exemplified by features from Erykah Badu & Esperanza Spalding (if you haven’t heard of Spalding then I’d recommend you check out ‘Radio Music Society’ as soon as possible, a perfect album for those moody sunday mornings). All in all, there are very few tracks on here that I’l be skipping, and I feel as if this will be one of those albums, like GKMC, that I return to frequently simply to hear an artist who’s proud to have their own style, and executes it in a reverent manner. Words by Jonathon Bartlett
Drake Never was the same
Drake’s back, and he’s in full form once again. Being one of the few artists who manages to stay current time and time again (unlike his mentor Weezy), Nothing Was The Same had a lot of expectation riding on it prior to it’s release and I can begrudgingly say that it wasn’t unwarranted. The album opens up with ‘Tuscan’ Leather, a title that wouldn’t be out of place on Watch The Throne, and is produced by Drake’s long time companion ‘40’. Featuring a sample that’s been reworked so much it’s difficult to even realise that it’s Whitney, the track shows that Aubrey can still work his lyrical muscles on a track; with most people (rightfully) getting at him for being ‘soft’, bars like ‘Aye B, I got your CD, you get an E for effort’ show that he’s still got chops when it comes to writing bars. The track finishes with a rather hollow Curtis Mayfield throwback excerpt which to me was an odd juxtaposition, though, in addition to the other components of the track sets us up for a perfect microcosm of what the album is itself. That being an album which perfectly combines the sounds of Thank Me Later, Take Care and So Far Gone to form a sound which is an amalgamation of styles, proudly sitting somewhere in the gulf between hip hop and r’n’b. The production on this album is stellar, as we see Drake take the Throne from
Jay Z’s Magna Carter Holy Grail which was released earlier this summer. Boi 1da always comes through correct, tracks like ‘The Language’ are perfectly crafted and minimalistic - highlighting Drake’s signature flows as he rides the beat (particularly on the first verse) on a level that’s only matched by recent Danny Brown.
ever heard given the subject matter; unfortunately some Wu members have added their verses to the track, seemingly taking advice from Ab Soul to appeal to new fans ‘Now all I need is a feature from Drake’, though I’ve gotta shout out Inspectah Deck for not giving into the money spinning bullshit that his cohorts have.
There are some great tracks on the album though. Come Thru particularly with a little help from Sampha who’s seemingly Drake’s new Weeknd after Abel left the label sometime earlier this year. Pound Cake featuring Jay Z has to be the best example of the remarkable production on the album, sampling C.R.E.A.M in a fantastic manner and pushing Aubrey to produce his best as a result of Hova sharing the track. Jay’s verses on this by far outshines any of his work on MCHG - ‘Niggas is frontin’, that’s up-side down cake’ impressed me and made me guffaw at the same time. Though after the beat swaps into ‘Paris Morton’, the piano is so smooth that you almost don’t want Drake’s banal attempt at recollecting his former life as an ‘average joe’ yet again. The introspective tracks start to wear thin pretty soon, especially lines like ‘Next time we talk, I don’t wanna talk, I wanna trust’ because… well, I don’t have the vocabulary to explain how hilarious I found that trio of lines.
A little off topic, but none the less something that had to be said for the album. As a result of Drake trying to please too many people, a lot of the tracks come off as seemingly being written for radio appeal. For example, on ‘Own It’, where more often than not the lyrics are repeated to increase the likelihood that the track will be one of the rare few tracks that predate 2003 that’s added onto the droves ‘old skool hip hop’ (sic) DJ’s playlists. I feel as if Drake’s relied a little too much on production on this album, his lyrics occasionally wow you as you listen, but unlike Take Care or So Far Gone I don’t personally see many of these songs having much replay value. This is a solid Drake album, yes, but it’s the same subject matter that we’ve heard time and time again from him. I’m afraid no matter how many thousands of beautiful girl’s hearts you break (and proceed to tell us you’ve ‘regretfully’ broken) Drake, you aren’t gonna win mine.
I feel a little dirty having talked so highly about a piece of work by Drake, so I’l point out the negatives. First and foremost, he definitely did not start from ‘the bottom’ by any means, which makes the ‘Started From The Bottom’ just as disingenuous as Pusha T’s forthcoming album, which I can preemptively state will inevitably be littered with a cornucopia of equally farcical lines regarding his cocaine deals. In addition to this, Wu Tang Forever may be one of the most upsetting titles for a song I’ve
Words by Jonathon Bartlett
7 VRS Magazine
THE WYLD I must admit that I ran into ‘The Wyld’ on the blogosphere sometime early last year when they dropped their rock/rap single ‘Revolution’. Though far from a perfect song, they peaked my interest and I was eagerly awaiting new singles from the group, yet they unfortunately fell into obscurity. Fast-forward to a few weeks ago and the Kiwi group drop lead single ‘Odyssey’ off of their new EP through Complex Magazine. Unlike before, this track really grabbed me; with the crazy African drums, chanting and rapid-fire lyrics… this was fresh. Brilliant. Straight away I made use of my PHD in Googling and went away to find any and every song by the group and my word I was not disappointed. Before I delve deep into the discography it’s best you know a little about the group. ‘The Wyld’ are a rock/hiphop fusion band from New Zealand somewhat reminiscent of an aboriginal Linkin Park. They consist of Joe Pascoe (producer/guitarist), Mo Kheir (rapper) and Brandon Black (singer/ producer) who all met whilst studying at University. The lead track ‘Odyssey’ best describes the groups aesthetic. They are willing to explore all avenues (lyrically, vocally and production wise) to create a dope track, rather than stay safe and pigeonhole themselves to any Design
one genre. Take ‘Questions’ for example, it starts off with a screeching guitar and swiftly moves into a melodic, calm chorus supported with vicious rhymes and a trance infused, Purity Ring sample, Dom Mclennon collab. The Wyld are not afraid of being different.
“rather than pigeonhole themselves to any one genre” Since their inception they have slowly but surely gained the attention of some outstanding blogs such as Pigeons&Planes (who arranged the Dom Mclennon collaboration), Complex Magazine and MTV Iggy; with interest realistically only going to grow when they release their EP. Since their introduction to the masses with ‘Revolution’, they have managed to tighten up sonically in their own brand of ‘Keys meets West’. Mo provides an incredibly versatile flow that is full of satirical raps, but surprisingly he can
also hold his own against most singers. While Joe and Brandon bring a very distinct Ryan-Lewis-esque production to the table. All of this hard work has culminated with major brands taking interest in the brand such as Red Bull, who’ve signed the group up for a series of campaigns. With future collaborations between The Wyld and Dom Mclennon in the works, a debut album on the horizon and tours planned, the future looks bright for this group of Kiwis. 2014 could be a massive year for the group; they have the opportunity to be the first relevant rock/rap group since Linkin Park. The question is, do they have the substance to reach the expectations? Words by Konrad Ziemlewski
Words by Konrad Ziemlewski Photography by MAYDAY
Under the guidence of Strange Music top dawg Tech N9ne MAYDAY have amassed quite the reputation in their short existance. Led by the exquisite Wrekonize, we talk competition, touring and his British past.
Could we start off with you guys telling us who and what Mayday is? We’re a collective fused out of the depths of what I think we all love about music: creativity and originality, and music that speaks to the soul. We record music, produce, do remixes, and pack a killer live show. What’s the story behind the name? Since I interpret it as you guys being the beacon for a sort of musical uprising. You got it completely. The group name came from the fact that we wanted to do something different. A distress signal of sorts. It was our battle cry and also our way to say that we’re bringing something new and exciting to the table and it demanded attention. What is it like working with the Strange Music family and a living legend like Tech N9ne? Is there a competitive mentality between yourselves and the rest of the SM family? It’s a great family atmosphere amongst the artists, great place to work. Tech and Travis are both incredibly inspiring in their respective avenues. There’s always a bit of competitive spirit amongst artists, but it’s a healthy amount and never a problem.
Wrek, you yourself have always been a competitive person and have had your fair share of time in the battle rap ring. What would you say are the differences between performing against someone and getting in the booth working on a track? I love the battle scene most definitely but there’s something unique and special about the connection people have with song lyrics and concepts. Music just touches people in a more personal and lasting way than battles do. That’s what I’ve found from personal experience. Not to say that battles don’t have a lasting effect with people because they definitely do, just not the same as the one from recordings. I think a lot of it is down to the way battle raps tend to be punch line after punch line while, the stories and nuances an artist can put through a song are much stronger Most definitely. Sometimes battling lacks the depth and diversity of the human spirit to satisfy what the everyday person needs. But what makes it great is that at one point or another we all love a good brawl! I know you guys just released your sophomore album, but looking a bit back. Did you think your first ever
release ‘Take Me to Your Leader’ would receive such rave reviews from critics and fans alike? I’d like to say ‘yes’, but truthfully we definitely underestimated the scope of the acclaim. We knew we all loved the album but we were being introduced to a new fan base through Tech and Strange and also trying some things on the album that would be new to our already gathered fans. So the reaction was a nice surprise on all sides. Now moving back to the present. Why did you guys settle on ‘Believers’ as the title for your sophomore album? We felt that going into this album our music was the kind of thing you couldn’t have explained to you. You needed to hear it or see the live show to fully get the vibe of it, one of the “see it to believe it” situations. So it was a call to those yet to believe and a nod to the ones who already are on board. We also liked the idea that to really become anything in this life you have to believe it first before anyone else can. So the believers are the ones who make up their own realities. I imagine you pride yourselves on your live performances. Would you say you put in almost, if not as much work into your live shows, as your recorded music? Oh yeah, most definitely. It’s an equal balance I’d say
“The believers are the ones who make up their own realities” Design
What is it like balancing projects between your solo ambitions and working on Mayday projects? Doing both these albums around the same time was definitely a crazy experience - a bit stressful to say the least, but I survived somehow. After all
was said and done I was proud to have come out with 2 solid albums that don’t sound monotonous when compared. I definitely have crafted a few songs that could have been solo songs to start and ended up changing over to ¡MAYDAY! material or vice versa. R.E.M was originally intended for a solo project. Also Dig it Out and The Noose before we pitched it to Tech N9ne. I can imagine, but having ¡MAYDAY! behind you and vice versa must of helped a lot? Definitely. It’s a cohesive unit to the core. I worked with all these guys separately for years before we all came together in ¡MAYDAY!, so the relationships run deep
Only recently while really digging deep into your career, I noticed you were born in London Wrek. Do you ever think what would it had been like for you had you stayed and been brought up on grime and UK hiphop? Haha...nah not really. Try not to think too far into alternate realities. But what I will say is I’m dying to get over there and rock a show or work with some UK artists. I’m a fan of the scene over there for sure. That has to happen. So what sort of artists do you tend to keep up with from our shores? I’m a huge Jehst fan but every time I mention him to someone from over
“i’m Dying to work with el-p on both fronts” 52
Benz vs Tech N9ne in an arm wrestle, who wins? Hahaha...knowing our relationship with Tech right now I think they’d use each others weight to swing each other around and kick a door down. We’re too used to teaming up to break barriers right now. there I get a mixed familiarity. Maybe he’s more underground than I thought he was. I also dig Roots Manuva, Dizzee Rascal for sure (met him in Puerto Rico years ago), Lewis Parker, and Wiley. We’d have to recommend you check out Rejjie Snow & Shakka (if you’re into your r’n’b). But, looking forward towards your tour, what are you looking forward to the most?
take a chance on listening to our music for the first time. The War Within and Believers are out now!! More to come! Thanks again brother.
Major thanks for taking time out to sit down and talk with myself and introduce yourself and Mayday to our readers. Really appreciate it. I will leave the closing statement to you. Any last words? My pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity. Just want to thank everyone for supporting myself and ¡MAYDAY!, and also thanks to everyone who’s going to
Dope. Will do. Been a bit out of the loop on the scene over there… gotta get back on it. What I love most about touring is the real time feedback and love we feel from what we’re doing in the studio and on stage. It really is a great feeling to go out and kick it with long-time fans and new fans alike. It’s also a great way to take in the country as a whole day at a time. It’s a fly by of the whole country. Sometimes it’s too fast to see anything but it can be great when the stars align. You have already worked with numerous names in the hip-hop industry but if you could choose one artist and one producer to work with, who would they be? I’m dying to work with El-p on both fronts. Been a huge fan of his and we’re cool. He has already told me he’s down. It’s just about when the schedules align. Definitely, El-p’s production would suit your off the wall flow to a T. Though, I have to ask. Kendrick shut the internet down for a week with his Control verse. What’s your take on it? What impact do you think it has had on the hip-hop landscape? I enjoyed the verse personally. But I think it was a bit overblown on the whole “response” front. But definitely enjoyed it. I don’t think it will have much lasting affect on the landscape, not much does these days.
“His daring approach to creation of music will never cease to be being inspiring”
Going up against each other this time are two of my favourite rappers of all time. The new kid on the block Ab-Soul, part of the ever expanding TDE collective and arguably sitting at #2 just behind Kendrick in terms of reputation and credibility. On the other side, we have the legendary Tribe member Q-Tip, who over the years has not only shown his penchant for creating incredible beats, but also has the title of one of the smoothest MCs to ever pick up the mic. For reasons of fairness I’m not gonna include the group albums for the piece: firstly because I don’t feel like there’s much room for Tribe to get trumped as a collective which creates a dull article, and secondly because Ab’s verse on Black Hippy’s ‘Zip That Chop That’ has a special place in my heart (I never drove a fast car, I almost ran over Tracy Chapman she said ‘drive slow’ I said fuck off ) and if I included that they’d win off of that alone. I digress. Q-Tip is one of those people who’s very respected as part of his group, but doesn’t gain anywhere near as much credit when performing solo - comparable to Black Thought and The Roots in many ways. Though this is completely unjustified, his first two albums Amplified and The Renaissance are two of the most daring and interesting albums I’ve heard - his daring approach to the creation of music is something which will never cease to be inspiring. In addition to this, his most recent piece of work Kamaal/The Abstract was met by a flood of praise
from critics, even if it didn’t sell well. Infact I’ve never met anyone outside of this magazine who actually listened to The Abstract, which as far as I’m concerned is some kind of musical sin, just listen to ‘Feelin’ where Tip airs his qualms surrounding discrimination ‘’This profiling cop with his profiling ass / Figured the best thing he could do was find a cat to harass. / The little kitten was me, not that one in the tree / The black one with the promise and the wish to be free’ Amongst all of the BET inspired hash tagging of #kendricksverse, we mustn’t forget (nor should the publications and broadcasters) that there is more to TDE than Mr Control. Ab’s got more material out independently in comparison to tip, but it’s far more varied in terms of its quality. His debut album Longterm Mentality was released in 2011 to little more than a murmur from the public, offering a few good tracks (Moscato and Real Thinkers the most notable) but nothing too ground breaking. However, following Control System’s release in 2012, people started to pay some real attention. It’s an album that includes some absolutely remarkable songs, Book Of Soul being one of the best tracks to ever come from TDE and arguably one of the most powerfully introspective tracks I’ve ever heard. The cadence produced towards the end of the first verse is chillingly strong:
‘And as much I wanna cower and bid the mic adieu / And fall off a fucking tower tryna find you / I gotta stay cuz I remember that day I looked you in the face and told you nothing can stop me Not even you’ Tip has tracks like ‘You’ which are beautiful in their own right, but I don’t feel as if he can quite complete with the unabashed candour of AbSoul. Though, his technical ability is far superior. To reference to a simple line from the aforementioned ‘You’ - ‘I had a notion that things were fishy’, it’s these simple little bars that Q-Tip intermittently juxtaposes throughout his tracks that really show his talent. His lines aren’t as punchy as those of Soul’s, but he vary rarely creates a track that doesn’t provide a positive reaction, his nonchalance is astounding, the music comes across as spontaneously effortless which is a trait that few other rappers can claim to hold.
a party I’d rather face death than the end of that god forsaken song. Overall though, the few diamonds that Soul has pumped out are stellar; perhaps even more so than the best tracks from Q-Tip. However, his record is no where near as consistent as Kamaal’s. It’s undoubtedly Q-Tip that wins, if not for the fact that I’m eagerly awaiting his next album ‘The Last Zulu’ - whereas oflate Ab Soul has took a turn for the worst in terms of quality, and I fear he may never reach the same level of quality that we saw when he released Control System. Words by Jonathon Bartlett
The self proclaimed ‘Soul Brother Number 2’ does have some belters in his back catalogue though, Mr ABSOULutely is one of those tracks that I’l throw on just before a night out, inducing some kind of delusion where I’m suddenly in the heart of the west coast with a bottle of grey goose. Whilst the same can be said for Tip, his recent ‘effort’ (I use the term loosely) with Fergie has lost him a lot of respect from my camp, ‘A Little Party Never Killed Nobody’ sounds like a cut from Miley’s ‘Bangerz’ album that they didn’t think was quite good enough. Admittedly, he’s just a feature, but if that came on at
“I’m Suddenly in the heart of the west coast with a bottle of grey goose” Design
A celebration of the often underappreaciated ‘Amerikkkas Most Wanted’ that brought the streets to the mainstream. Recently several west coast albums were just re-released including NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” and Eazy E’s “Eazy Duz It”. However, the one that really jumped out at us was Ice Cube’s “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”. Each one of these records is a classic in their own right. “Straight Outta Compton” was raw and instrumental in bringing gangsta rap to mainstream America. But, lets be honest it’s a record that’s been written about so much, what new could be wrote about it? “Eazy Duz It” was one of the first albums where Dr. Dre began using the G-Funk style that he would become famous for and Eazy’s record went double platinum with almost no radio or TV play, making it a complete grass roots success. While Eazy’s album hasn’t been written about to the degree of “Straight Outta Compton” it doesn’t carry the same weight to me as a listener as Cube’s “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” does. The record was Cube’s solo debut after he had parted ways with NWA and Ruthless Records and the anger he felt from that split is seething on every track of “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”. Cube, also, was very much aware of his surroundings and while you can argue that his rhyme schemes can be simplistic; his ability to paint vivid pictures of the world as he saw it, is second to none. Cube takes the issues of racism, drug addictions, and the poverty of America’s inner cities and spins them in a lyrical tale that resonated not just with urban youths but also their suburban counterparts. For the first time thanks to records like “Endangered Species”, young white American’s were hearing a first hand account of what it was like to grow up black in America in the 90’s. “Just send another nigga to the morgue! A point scored- they don’t give a fuck about us, rather catch us with guns and white powder!” Cube spits angrily on the record as he describes the way in which Design
he felt the LAPD police solved issues in African-American’s neighborhoods by killing them or throwing them in jail. He goes on to explain that this is what was felt in the black communities, and that because they felt like the police weren’t there to help them, then violence was what they’d resort too. Such lyrics proved prophetic as Cube explains several times on the album, that his community will be a flashpoint for racial violence if things don’t change. Two years later following the Rodney King incident riots broke out in L.A. that lasted for six days and saw 53 people killed.
“His ability to paint vivid pictures of the world as he saw it is second to none” The record is also noteworthy not just because of Cube’s poignant and foreshadowing rhymes, but also for the production. The topics Cube was addressing on “Amerikka’s Most Wanted” were very much in line with the same lyrical expressions of New York based rap group Public Enemy. So when Cube nabbed PE’s production team The Bomb Squad to produce the record, it added some extra weight and grit to Cube’s socially and politically conscious lyrics that weren’t present in his previous appearances with N.W.A. The grimier New York-esque instrumentals that were backed by heavy percussion, synths, and wailing
guitars also conveyed Cube’s anger with America and his former label mates perfectly. From the title to each track on the record, Cube had a message he was trying to get across on “Amerikkla’s Most Wanted”. The message was of course that the racism and imbalance of power among white and black societies was not only hurting the black communities but would soon be hurting America as a whole. He was letting the nation know that the continued inequality displayed by upper-class white American’s was going to be no longer tolerated, AfricanAmericans were growing angry and would soon begin to fight back. In many ways this record isn’t just a historic hiphop record that became influential to a generation of up and coming MC’s, it also served as living history of race in America during the late 1980s and early ‘90s. It also was Cube’s debut solo album, proving both to him and the music world that he could step away from N.W.A (notably Eazy E), and still create music that resonated with the street. What I don’t think that Ice Cube was aware of was the fact that it was also resonating with the youth of white America as well. Even now as Cube still tinkers with music in between a successful film career “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” serves as his chef d’oeuvre and secures his place as a hiphop legend. Words by Justin Prince @JPrince83 Photography by Eva Rinaldi
MURD ERED ON YOUR OWN SH*T A look at some the most violent lyrical acts of murder in recent times, following Kendricks assault on the industry.
Andre 300 - I’m Sorry
Eminem - Drop The World
What better place to start than with one of the best rappers of all time? If you ever get Andre as a feature you should already be quite aware that he’s going to have a better verse than you 9 times out of 10. However, this particular verse from him set the bar at a new height as far as I’m concerned, almost entirely due to the personal nature of his bars. The fact three stacks used this as an opportunity to apologise to his family, Big Boi and Erykah is mesmerising (heartbreaking for T.I though, as this is one of his best performances in a while), his candour combined with one of the best flows the game’s ever heard makes this a perfect example of being ‘murdered’ on your own track.
Renegade came and happened, and since then there’s very few other songs which can match up to it. This one can’t, but, this is an unequivocal battering of Lil Wayne by the hands of Eminem. Just like three stacks, if you get Em on a feature then there’s no realistic way that you’re gonna come out better than him; take note of the upcoming track on Busta’s new album just for clarification. This is one of the many songs that Eminem’s put together that almost seem beyond belief, the double rhymes and quick time flow work together to let you know that he is one of the best to ever pick up the microphone. Judging on Wayne’s more contemporary work, this showed some flicker of aptitude, but that just wasn’t enough to compete with the guy from Detroit.
Words by Jonathon Bartlett Photography by NRK P3
We’ve all heard Control, and we’ve all heard Kendrick’s verse. When you get someone to feature on your track, the main purpose is to try and bring something different to your sound, to appeal to a different audience and potentially gain some new fans. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the hideous situation can occur when the artist who’s featuring on your track outshines you, bodies you, formerly ‘Renegades’ you and now, ‘Controls’ you. We put together a list of some of our favourite tracks where the title artist gets murdered by the featuring partner. 58
Lupe - touch the sky Touch The Sky was most of the world’s introduction to the Chi town native, and whilst Lupe doesn’t get the full star treatment in the video, he really put his all into the verse. Coming onto a track with Kanye during his comeup was gold dust for Lupe, this was his chance at letting people really hear what he had to say, and boy did he do that. Juxtaposing entendre upon entendre, anime references and justifiable braggadocio into the verse; this was the perfect micro-taster for Food & Liquor which has now become one of the most respected hip-hop albums, I’d argue, in history. The verse has such longevity that even whilst writing this, one of the
top comments on the Youtube video is ‘Thumbs up if you came for LUPE verse’ - and if you don’t appreciate ‘jarvis andrews’ opinion then close the tab right now.
Capital Steez Survival Tactics
Firstly, rest in peace to someone who had real potential to become a big name in the rap game. Secondly, avoid all of the bullshit in the comments for the video about it foreboding his death. Thirdly, look’s like Joey’s been one-upped again here. Steez expertly weaves his rhymes to include swathes of political commentary and, then just for jokes, throws in a little dig at Lil B seemingly out of nowhere. Steez has some incredible verses throughout his small body of work, but this was one of the songs from 1999 that had everyone losing their shit, if one of the other P.E members was on here it would’ve still worked out great, but there’s no-one in the team that could out-do him.
Yelawolf - You aint no DJ Black Thought If you had to pick a rapper that’d easily BET Cypher be outshone, Big Boi would be one of the last ones to pick. If you’ve ever even glimpsed at his back catalogue, add the fact that Andre created the beat and there’s a mountain of pressure on Yela here to kill the verse - not that he’s bothered, as he’s perpetually compared with Eminem as a result of being signed to Death Row. Lines on here like ‘Yeah I’m pale, but I impale you with an Impala’ and ‘I stole your couch and I took your truck to move it with’ delivered with that unquestionable nasally tone cut up Big Boi’s smooth Atlanta tones and, quite simply, outshine him. Bad luck Sir Lucious..
Nicki Minaj - Monster A little similar to Black Thought actually, except Nicki was fresh to the ears of many rap listeners when this track came out; shrugging off Yeezus and Jay Hova with a flow that 3 stacks would be proud of, this still remains one of our favourite verses in the past few years. Given that MBDTF is regarded as Kanye’s ‘perfect’ album, for Minaj to have arguably one of the best verses is nothing short of a massive achievement. If you think she’s fake, then she ain’t noticed ‘cause her money ain’t.’ Whether or not you think she’s a good rapper is pretty much irrelevant, if you don’t reverethis (reportedly Kanye ghost-written) verse, then you’re in the vast minority.
You’re going up against two of the best to ever hold the mic, Mos Def and Eminem, and you’re the lesser known underdog that’s better known for your work with The Roots. Black Thought is massively underrated, and always has been, but when you watch this and see him rip through that sweet DJ Premier beat you have to understand that he did his thing, and he did it better than the best. Even Premo thought so himself.
Vic Mensa Cocoa Butter Kisses If you don’t think this is the best song on Acid Rap then I really do hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. Twista, arguably the best chopper on the planet, and Chance, the current generation’s Kanye West, come together on a track with some upstart who was best known for being in Kids These Days - and get bested. Mensa destroys this beat, and has shown in recent efforts (most notably his Innanetape) that he’s got some real chops and he’s looking to cash in on all those people loving Channo.
Bun B - R.I.P The UGK stalwart has one of the smoothest voices in the game, when you couple that with this beautiful Kavinsky beat you create some kind of harmonic matrimonial stardust that only comes round one in a blue moon. Royalty wafull of great features, admittedly, but the way Bun opens up this track takes the cake. Where else can you find someone who’ll tell you he’s a trill ‘parabolic’ O.G and then proceed to ask why you aren’t doing more with your life?
Chance - Wendy & Becky Two of the new school’s finest, Joey goes on this with Chance and frankly gets knocked out of the park. This was one of my first introductions to Chance and ever since then I’ve been hooked. Straight after hearing this I did my research and copped every piece Chance had put out until that point. His cadence and style straight outshines Joey’s nonchalant style on this track, that’s what gives Channo the edge here, he’s feeling the track, something that can never be overlooked.
I’ve purposely left out the likes of ‘International Player’s Anthem,’ ‘Renegade’ and the like because there’s little need to flog a dead horse. These artists have all shown their best on these songs, and as a result are all still making music today in some form or another. Sure, they may not be the next Conor Maynard or whoever the fuck they’ve dressed up in a jacket comprised mainly of zips, but they’ve got the balls to jump on someone else’s beat, and show the world that they’re not to be taken lightly. What an insult, being murdered on YOUR OWN shit. 59
WOLF Hip-hop would not be the same without Chris Manak. Better known by his moniker of Peanut Butter Wolf, he started Stones Throw Records 17 years ago and the momentum of the label has continued to grow year on year, fuelled by one man’s taste. 60
Initially started in 1996 in order to release both Wolf and the late emcee Charizma’s first album, Stones Throw has since blossomed into a worldwide, multi-genre label. The roster of artists on the label goes from the incredibly talented Madlib, to multiinstrumentalist James Pants and soulman Mayer Hawthorne. But, despite releasing countless hits, across the world, somehow Stones Throw has continued to hold underground status. I was 18 in 2004 when I heard “Madvillainy” by emcee MF Doom and multi-talented producer/emcee/DJ Madlib. Coupling Doom’s rhymes with beats laced with soul, jazz and funk samples. The album knocked me back, and put me on the track to some of the best, most innovative, hip hop music I
had ever heard. Following this, J Dilla’s 2006 release ‘Donuts’, was another landmark for the hip-hop community. An album that rightly received critical acclaim from hip-hop lovers and music aficionados in general. The consistent quality of release, in addition to the organic sound of music from the Stones Throw camp has ensured that the label stands the test of time. Peanut Butter Wolf is currently in the UK for a one-off AV set with none other than DJ Premier on 19th October (Scala, Pentonville Road, Kings Cross). Thankfully, the Stones Throw boss man had time to answer a couple of questions for our readers.
“His ability to paint vivid pictures of the world as he saw it is second to none”
So, you started Stones Throw records way back in 1996 with release of ‘My World Premier’, by Charizma and yourself. At this time did you think that, come 2013, you would be releasing such a vast selection of varied music? I was really sure but I do remember that back when I started it, I didn’t wanna give the label an overtly “hip hop slang” name like Cold Chillin or Def Jam, because I didn’t want it to sound dated in a few years and I wasn’t sure I’d always do only hip hop. Same with the logo; the guy I hired didn’t know much about hip hop as a music or even a culture and I told him I wanted the logo to be broad enough to the point where you didn’t know what kind of label it was. At the same time, in 1996, I was pretty much exclusively into the hip hop scene and didn’t know any rock groups, electronic artists etc that I was interested in signing. As a label, from an outsider’s point of view, Stones Throw seems to take chances on musicians and genres, somewhat looking forward past what most people are currently doing in the music scene and propelling artists that most major
labels would turn their nose up at into the limelight. Is there a combination of qualities that you must see in an artist to warrant giving them a chance? From a creative standpoint, I simply like artists whose music I wanna put the Stones Throw logo on top of. I get stuff sent to me all the time where I think, “wow, that’s pretty good, but would I PERSONALLY buy that if it were on a record?”. I never think, “Will a lot of people buy that on a record?”. The answer to question number one has to be yes and question number two could be yes or no. What is your current capacity at Stones Throw? Do you still work with Egon on the A&R side of things? There’s only been one A&R at Stones Throw in 17 years. Me. Artists like Madlib are consistently working on diverse forms of music, releasing countless projects across genres. Do you let artists with such creativity do their own thing, or are most projects discussed and cleared first? VRS Magazine
When I like an artist, I usually like the different things they do, but Madlib has been that rare guy who records tons and tons of stuff and is excited about releasing most of it. I do get involved creatively in projects but am careful about how I do it. The main thing is to sign artists who already have a respect for what Stones Throw has accomplished and sign artists who’s creative vision I seem to agree with. When there’s that mutual respect, it’s harmonious. The main debate I have with artists is when they wanna put out everything they’ve ever recorded and make their album long, whereas I think it should be shorter. But whereas a major label may push an artist in a more commercial direction and say, “go back and record the single. Where’s the hit?”. I still get involved creatively and say more or less the same thing: “I think you guys should go back and record a few more songs so we have more choices” or “let’s make this album 40 minutes of music instead of 78 minutes”. I’m not completely hands off. People who know a bit about you will know that you lived with Eothen Alapatt (Egon), Jeff Jank and Madlib in the early days of the label, this must have been an incredibly creative environment to be in? Do you have any anecdotes from this period to share with our readers? When I decided to take the label from San Francisco to Los Angeles (7 hour drive), I brought in Egon and Jank and put them up in my house as part of their financial compensation. I also picked up Madlib along the way and he stayed with us too. During the recording of Madvillainy, Doom stayed with us too. And some of us had girlfriends who stayed with us, so it was definitely too many people for that house. I hated doing the dishes. There are a lot of stories and memories. Design
Stones Throw has recently begun distribution for Leaving Records, a cassette label started in 2009 by Matthewdavid and Jesselisa Moretti. The cassette movement seems to be flourishing at the moment with labels such as Paxico Records and Dirty Tapes also becoming very popular. In the past couple of years we have also seen a dramatic increase in the sales of vinyl. Although, Stones Throw have always continued to release physical formats of its releases; what, in your opinion, has fuelled this renewed interest in the physical format? For us, it hasn’t really be a renewed interest. We pressed every record on vinyl when we started and still do vinyl on most of our albums now. It’s just that CDs are pretty much done whereas they made up for like 85% of labels’ sales back in the late 90’s til around mid 2000’s, when most of the chain record stores closed their doors and record distributors/labels followed suit.
You recently asked Facebook who they would like to see collaborating with Madlib; but who would you like to see working with the Beat Konducta? I don’t really know. That’s why I asked the Facebook fans! What, 17 years into Stones Throw, now gives you the most pleasure, DJ’ing, production or is most of your time taken up working with and finding new artists for the label? Finding new artists doesn’t take much time, but developing them and getting them to a point where people care about them is what takes most of my time these days. I do enjoy DJing still too though. I go back and forth between DJ and label guy. Words by Daniel Crow
Who has the most insane record collection out of all you guys at Stones Throw? There must be some serious weight! I have the best record collection for my taste. Madlib has the best for his taste. Dam-Funk, etc. Hand in hand with the rise of cassette releases, the beat scene in LA is flourishing at the moment. Artists such as Knxwledge, Mndsgn, Ahnnu and Samiyam are pioneers of this current scene that is spreading at a ferocious rate. What do you think sparked this movement and, what is your opinion on the current scene? Madlib and Dilla. Before that, Pete Rock and Premier influenced them… It just happens like that.
Jeff Broadway has recently released his full feature length documentary Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton (This is Stones Throw Records), a kickstarter funded project, about the culture and the artists of the label.
Featuring interviews with Owuor Arunga, Mayday!, Peanut Butter Wolf & Richard Davies.