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from the editor Summer. The time of countless music festivals, student’s getting their hard earned results and numerous designers getting scouted at shows all over the world. With that in mind we have done our best to deliver our best issue yet, so you have something to indulge in, when you’re not enjoying what summer has to offer.
Summer 2013 of album / single artwork and its influence on sales, popularity among other things.
We managed to grab the incredibly talented and humble Ricardo Bessa for an interview, where he reveal’s all, while the A$AP Rocky inspired Gabz tells us about his fascination with gold and more. As usual we have our quarterly dose of tech (featuring a hella cool Vespa chair), an incredible spread of inspiration as well as numerous insights into how best deal with clients. Not mentioning Calvin dropping some knowledge on the importance
This issue we bring you an all new improved Versus feature, with three ‘one v one’ rounds, featuring; Childish Gambino v Chance The Rapper and J.Cole vs Oddissee. Upcoming emcee Dom Mclennon sits down with us for an interview, where he talks Mayans and influences, while the incredible Grieves takes some time out of his hectic schedule to tell us what we can expect from him on his new album and his favourite new act. We also look at the role of gay rapper’s in the hip-hop community, count down our 10 favourite summer songs of all time, introduce the UK wunderkid Shakka, review Yeezus and more!
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.
I’m a Senior Broadcast Journalism major at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. A huge fan of Hip-Hop since my youth I’ve been listening to and enjoying Hip-Hop for over 15 years.
I’m studying Graphic design New Media with a love for typographic design and hip hop music. I really think music and design go hand in hand and Versus is the perfect example of this.
twitter : @vrsmag facebook : facebook.com/vrsmag
web : vrsmag.com email : email@example.com
get in touch 2
Ricardo Bessa is a man of many talents, but the one that caught my eye and many others is his incredible illustrative style. Using a very distinct colour palette and working on a variety of incredibly interesting projects has garnered Ricardo quite the following. We sit down and find out the influences behind his work and how is it working for someone like D&AD. Hey Ricardo. Could we start with a little introduction on who you are and what you do?
Sure! Hi! I’m an illustrator, occasional storyboard artist, dweller of the internet and reader of books. I like drawing nice things and looking at nice colours. How important would you say education is to an illustrator? Good question. I’m not so sure myself – as someone who didn’t actually do an undergrad in Illustration, and who’s just starting out, I’m hoping it’s more about the drive, the motivation and the self-initiated projects and the research you end up doing yourself. Of course, a good education may help a lot, specially if your institution provides you with ways to get a foot in the door, but with those things I mentioned, even the best school won’t magically bestow a successful career upon you.
What was it like doing a cover illustration for Florence + The Machine? Did you actually get to meet her? It was great, but no, I didn’t meet her. That cover was for a competition and there were quite a few people who also got to make covers for her, and it all ended up in a show, so that would be a lot of people for the poor lady to meet. I did, however, get a signed copy, which is awesome! Any other musicians you would like to collaborate with?
It’s hard not to just mention all the musicians I like. But I think I’d like to do something really nice for the band Boy.
It is clear looking at your work you have a very defined style, much of it is down to your choice of colours in my opinion. How would you describe your style and has it evolved over time? I’m never sure when people ask me that question. It has definitely changed over time, it used to be a lot more animeinspired. I think it’s a mix of American comics, Japanese manga and my own life. I do come from a sunny place, and I think that shows in the way I colour. Fantasy seems to play a bit part in your work. What is your inspiration behind your work?
Fantasy is a big one. Fantasy is what allows me to make shiny things, for the most part. Fantasy world also lend themselves to the kinds of thing I like doing – nice curvy lines. I feel that, if I were to base myself in the real world, I’d be doing a lot more VRS Magazine
“When the right substances can really put you in an altered state where you’re a different type of aware than normal”
straight lines in general. They’re not my faourite things to do.
What’s it like working for D&AD? Have you ever seen a piece of work and straight away wanted to work with the said designer? It’s great! A lot of work, but such a learning experience. I’ve been on an on & off basis lately, nut when I was working full-time, I’d just bring so much stuff to watch at home everyday. There have been plenty of designers whose work I got to know through it – can’t pinpoint any right now, but I definitely developed a taste for it I didn’t have before. Unfortunately that still didn’t make me very good at graphic design. What does your studio set up consist of?
It’s a pretty simple setup – a pencil case with basic material, enough paper, my laptop, a scanner and a tablet. I also have other stuff tucked away nearby which I use occasionally, like acrylics and charcoal. Is there anything you can’t do without while creating your illustrations?
I’m not sure how I’d be able to create colour illustration without Photoshop, to be honest! Even though I always draw on paper, I’ve become so used to it that I haven’t even tried to really finish anything traditionally in years. If I were to find myself computerless, I’d make do, but my work would look considerably differently. Design
You work both with the digital and analogue but if you had to not be able to work with one which one would you let go? Why would I have to let go? Is there a gun to my head? Because I reeeally don’t want to pick. But if the world is at stake, I guess I’d pick traditional. As much as I loe colours, nothing beats a pencil line on a good sketchbook page. Plus I could learn to colour traditionally too. Messier, but I hear people do it. What three things would you take with yourself on a deserted island?
Plenty of food and water, books, and probably a boat with enough guel. I don’t think I’d be a good fit for a deserted island! Was the ‘gallery of mo’ inspired by actual people you know or have met, or are they just figments of your imagination?
For Gallery of Mo, people actually sent in their photographs to get their portraits done, so they’re all real people! They commissioned an artist of their choice and the money went to Movember. I had fun trying to make the mustaches as outrageous as possible. Coincidentally, I actually know 3 of the guys who commissioned me. What would be one media property you would love the chance to work on?
Something video-game related would be amazing, although not necessarily for the production of the game. Something like the recent Tomb Raider show sounds like an amazing project. If you could learn one other medium outside of illustration what would it be and why?
Does music count? If so, I’d love to learn the piano properly. I taught myself a little bit and I really like it, even though it’s barely worth saying that I’m really bad at it. It’s definitelt my favourite instrument. What do you like to get up to when not drawing?
I spend too much time online, that’s for sure. One of my guilty pleasure is just to navigate the Wikipedia pages of horror movies. I love reading about them, although I generally don’t like watching them alone. You’d think I’m a fan by how much I know about them, but nope. I also read quite a bit, or at least try to – not much time nowadays, inbetween all that working and procrastinating. What do you have planned for the rest of 2013?
I’m taking a bit of a break during June for various reason, but when I’m back, I really look fotward to drawing a lot. A LOT. I’d also love yo do a zine at some point, but I can’t be sure whether it’s happening this year. @notdesignated ricardobessa.com
A new kind of
Industrial Revolution Journalist and editor Alistair Heath thinks that another industrial evolution is on the horizon and that it is all down to one revolutionary device: the 3D printer. It has been cited as one of the most important and revolutionary pieces of technology of the last century. Having the opportunity to print joints for a broken piece of furniture or a replacement case for your iPhone without having the need to leave the house and having to buy them is unprecedented.
In this particular case, the owner of the website the blueprintâ€™s were hosted on, decided to step in and take them down, no harm done. Although if a law student can print weapons, what is stopping terrorists or gangs making use of this technology? This is one of the challenges brought about by this new technology - a challenge for the open source community that needs to be resolved so that Alistair Heathâ€™s so called second industrial revolution can happen.
As with any open source product the issue of censorship arises. Does it require a governing body that decides what is deemed safe or should it be left to the community? This issue was recently highlighted when Cory Wilson, a 25 year old law students who heads the controversial group Defense Distributed, successfully fired a gun that had been assembled from parts printed using a 3D printer. The student was able to bypass the usual restrictions of gun ownership because the 3D printerâ€™s capabilities had not been applied to the law in the US, or anywhere else in the world.
As the 3D printer becomes more affordable and therefore more accessible to the mass market, it is now finally begging to show its true capabilities. The success of this device is dependent on its open source nature allowing both professionals and amateurs alike to create brand new products. This is all down to the fact that it is bypassing the need for mass production and effectively cuts out the middleman, making it likely to boost product development and productivity tenfold.
Words by Konrad Ziemlewski
Versus tech of The
quarter Summer Vespa BV-12 Chair 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
Edi Multifunctional Desk Lamp Everyone need’s a lamp and the choices are endless. Ranging from some very basic functional pieces of kit, for a few bob to some extremely dynamic and multi functional lamps, by the likes of Phillipe Stark. What we have here though, is by all means, a bit of a bargain. Designed by Tomasso Bistacchi, this desk lamp is much more than just a light bulb. The stand (made from walnut) has numerous spaces for pens and pencils, with slots for business cards and notes. The lamp itself is built from metal and is able to slide into the wooden block at numerous angles, depending on the amount of light needed - clearly a cue from the current geometric trends in design. The decision to use pastel colours and to limit the palette of colours, makes this an ideal addition to any designers workspace, for a reasonable price too. Price: £25
Boom Freaq What true hip-hop head at some point has not thought about owning a boom box, I mean really? The Freaq is designed by the brilliant ‘Novogratz’ and features ‘Soundfreaqs’ award winning line of speakers. This ode to the old school has already gained a number of gongs, most significantly winning the ‘Gear of the Year’ award from WIRED Magazine. Though this shows with the Freaq being meticulously constructed so it is able to get every little nuance out of any and every music genre you throw at it. The device also allows you to stream music through Bluetooth using any iOS or Android device, as well as coming with an iPod/Phone dock. We suggest you pre-order this device soon if you want to treat your ears to it on release day.
Wake Alarm All of us at VRS hate the dreaded pain of getting up in the morning, so we are always on the lookout for anything that can be that task a little more tolerable. The Wake Alarm application, takes the idea behind the alarm clock and turns it into a game with a very attractive, minimalistic UI. To set your alarm all you have to do is spin the dial and to see your saved alarms just swipe the screen. When your alarm goes off you can either slap it to set it to snooze, or flip it over to turn it off. You also have the option of shaking it till the alarm turn’s of which is sure to get you out of bed.
NOCS ns2 Air Monitors Stunning. There is no way to get around the fact that these NOCS monitors are absolutely gorgeous. They are incredibly easy to set up, and as you can see they’re pretty compact; making it really fun being able set up a sound system that can envelop any space with the tunes of your choice. But returning to the aesthetics of the speakers. They are designed by Swedes, and feature a soft-touch rubber coating on them that makes them feel incredible, in addition as Kevlar reinforced woofers. To set them up, all you have to do is press the ‘setup’ key on the speakers and they connect to your Wi-Fi network (there is the option of setting up a temporary Wi-Fi network too) and the speaker is ready to stream music from any Wi-Fi enabled device. These beauties that come in a myriad of colours, and are absolutely ideal for your bedroom, living room or for your workstation.
Is Always Right Whether you’re a freelance designer or working at a studio, working with a client is never easy. As a designer you have to be able to adapt and make a client feel comfortable to get the best results. Having worked with a range of people (in my so far short design ‘career’) here are some of my tips to have the best relationships possible with your clients. Break the ice
Before getting into the nitty gritty of the task at hand, get to know your client. If they are local, organise a social gathering; for some drinks, a bit of football etc, or just a chat over Skype will do. Find out what your client is like outside of work and what they like to do. Not only is this just an easy way to break the ice but also what you find out could be quite influential during your project. Do your research
Get involved in your clients business. Ask if you can spend a day at their offices, in their meetings - this will show your enthusiasm and build on your knowledge. If that’s not possible in most cases your client will have a website, so make sure you read around and ask around to get the most information on your client that you can.
up regular meetings (online or in person) so that both of the parties know what’s going on will make sure what you’re doing matches what your client requires, and stops you wasting your time. Keep to deadlines
Do not miss any deadlines! If you say you will have something ready on Thursday morning make goddamn sure the client gets it first thing on Thursday. Being prompt and on time keeps the project flowing, as well as showing your commitment to the project. Be vocal
Every great project starts with a brief of high quality, agreeing on the brief and some groundwork upfront ensures both you and your client are aiming for the same end product. Making sure you continuously involve your client in the design process as well as offering reasonable suggestions to their feedback, will make sure that both you and your client are happy with the final result. Words by Konrad Ziemlewski Picture by Tarin Yuangtrakul
Making sure you communicate with your client correctly is perhaps the single most important thing you have to do. Setting
Words & Pictures “has a half naked woman spread across it, the credibility and respect I hold for the artist drops drastically” There is one consistent aspect of hip-hop that stands out. Musicians today have so many outlets open to them that they can use to get heard. It turns out that being heard sometimes isn’t enough to make an impact because as an artist you need to be able to stand out from the crowd. Using visuals is a great way to get noticed in the highly competitive realm of the lyricists & emcees. Being noticed is the first stage of many that can lead to a breakthrough in the competitive realm of the urban artists. This article is going to explore the relationship between the bars & the pixels a little more, to discover whether artists need to invest that little more time into the visual side of their music or if in fact the art doesn’t play that big of a role in sales.
I’ll be straight. There have been times when I have picked up an album in a record shop or browsed through music online and thought to myself ‘I’m not buying that’ because of the way in which it’s presented. You may say that yes in fact I am biased because I am a designer and I pay more attention to how things look. A very valid point; however I do think that when a single or album cover, for example, has a half naked woman spread across it, the credibility and respect I hold for the artist drops drastically. That is just an opinion however. Not the focus of this piece. I just find it interesting to think that maybe I’m not alone in thinking this way.
If you’re like me and find the act of discovering a new talent quite fun, then you will understand how important it is to make a good first impression. I am not saying that the visuals are the most important aspect of an artist’s credence, because you can have pretty dire looking artwork and still spit dope rhymes. However, it’s fair to say that the current generation is at a point where image is just as big a part as the message delivered through the mic. A new artist on the scene has to consider, first and foremost, their relevance to the game and what they are bringing to the table. It’s important now more than ever to be unique and relevant. Great looking album art can help achieve these traits, raising the quality of the entire production to a higher level. I’m going to use Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’s artwork as an example, because it already starts off the journey in your mind, giving you the vibe of the album (pun intended), an indication of what to expect. The artwork gives you a set of visuals that Kendrick Design
then breathes life into as you play through the album. GKMC is the last album I purchased that stands out in my mind as an all round classic in terms of both the audio and the visual.
You can equally argue, though, that artwork isn’t of that much of importance. Lupe Fiasco’s latest studio effort Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1 falls into this category. This album’s artwork stands out, not because of an intricate or well thought out design, but because of the fact that it has in fact nothing at all on the cover, except for the Parental Advisory label. Lupe himself did explain why the whole album art was just black, but if you are curious as to why, then simply listen to the classic Johnny Cash track “The Man in Black”. This classic song is about how one man only wears black clothes in recognition of the hardships and troubles in the world. We all know Lupe as a man of the world, a character very aware and vocal about what he thinks. In a sense the album cover is just another way of him voicing his opinion through design. Album art can also detract from the audio and the view of the artist as well. Asaad’s ‘Boss Status’ cover is an example of cover art that can put a listener off before even listening to the lyrics. This cover, most likely designed for shock value I suspect, shows an illustration of Biggie and Tupac having sex with Tupac holding a pistol. Sometimes art like this could make the wrong impression on the listener, making them turn off completely. An example like the Boss Status cover though, just shows that art - when all’s said and done - is a matter of taste. Both Kendrick and Lupe show with their cover art that there are important statements that can be made through album visuals, Lupe shows that an album cover can deliver a message about the artist and their thoughts with simplicity. It’s all about the execution in this case it seems. On the other hand Kendrick uses the album cover to set up the canvas in your mind, which is then painted using through the imagery created by the songs. Sometimes an album cover can definitely affect the sales for the artist, but if done right then they can help make a large impact on the listener. Ultimately, the reason why people buy an album is for the audio, but the visuals add an extra element that separates true talent from mediocrity. Words by Calvin Ncube
Each issue we search far and wide for the best upcoming, undiscovered talent we can find. This time we uncover the extremely talented illustrator Anthony Petrie. A multidisciplinary artist, with an eye for all thingâ€™s retro Paul Panfalone. While this time we have an insight into not one but two of our cover collaborators Oliver Santiago and Johnny Dombrowski. Design
Who is Paul Panfalone? I am an artist and designer originally from East Aurora, New York, a small suburb just outside the hard luck city of Buffalo. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the raddest decade to be a kid: the 1980’s. I was heavily inspired by the toy packaging, comic books, and cartoons of that era. G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, Robotech, M.A.S.K., X-Men, etc. were all huge influences on me. I began drawing at a very young age and continued on that path into college where I studied Graphic Design. I have been working as a Designer for well over a decade in one capacity or another and have returned to my illustrative roots within the last few years. I’ve recently relocated to Southern California where I’m actively sharpening my creative claws in anticipation of some new challenges ahead. Your work ranges from typography, to branding to illustration. Is there a particular field you would love to concentrate on or do you enjoy being able to dabble in and out of mediums? My focus is primarily on branding and illustration, in which typography is obviously an integral part to both. In my heart, illustration will always be my one true passion. I carry that spirit through to the branding and design work I do; to me, anything that I create is an illustration at its core. To put it plainly, I’m telling stories with images and that is the very definition of ‘illustration.’
What’s the story behind the M.A.S.K projects? Are they inspired by James White at all? I was sitting in front of my iMac watching a marathon of old M.A.S.K. cartoons one night and wondered why it hadn’t gotten the retro love that other 80’s toy franchises were getting at the time. It was one of the best, no argument. So I thought I’d whip out a couple posters just for the hell of it. I did a very limited print run and gave a few away via my blog. The response was truly overwhelming. I’m still getting requests for more M.A.S.K. related stuff and I’m currently toying around with a few ideas on how to make that happen. James White is not only one of my personal design heroes, but he’s also a good friend. You really won’t find a better guy to grab a beer with in the industry. As talented as he is, that dude continues to challenge himself to be better at his craft every single day, and that’s something that should inspire just about anyone. Both James and I grew up in the 80’s so we were inspired by the same things as kids, you can see that in both of our work. We’ve had many talks about our shared Design
influences and we both agree we were super lucky to have grown up when we did. Kids today are just getting gypped and they don’t even realise it. Whom or what would be your dream collaboration?
Oh man, I’ve always dreamt of designing skateboard decks since I had my old Vision board back in the day, so collaborating with a legend like Tony Hawk or other members of the original Bones Brigade would be off the charts. Here’s a wild thought, teaming up with a toy company like Hasbro or Mattel to work on some toy packaging would actually bring my life full circle, now that would completely blow my mind. What is your favourite piece of work you have produced so far and why?
I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I’ll say the MCA poster I created to honor the late Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA) of the Beastie Boys is a meaningful one to me. It was an emotional day when I learned he lost his battle with cancer, it hit me pretty damn hard. The Beastie Boys represented such a carefree, yet important part of my life as a teenager. Their music was the epitome of fun to me, it was an innocent escape; and to have life step in and smack me in the face with cold hard reality was really a tough pill to swallow. I put a lot of love and respect into that illustration, it was the only way I knew how to reconcile my feelings about such a terrible loss.
Collaborated on the Summer â€˜13 Cover
What made you get into design and illustration? It started as a hobby back in high school. Back then I didn’t have a style and was still experimenting. Through the years I have learnt and developed a lot to arrive where I am now. How do you go about sorting out your colour palette’s? Your work is often bright and colourful but the way you make the colour blend and interact is outstanding. I often go through numerous colour palette’s before setteling on one. Though I do often choose the brigher colours since their more often than not much more eye-catching. What does your creative process look like?
Often I just browse anything I get my hands on to get inspired. I usually follow this by sketches and thumbnails. Then it’s onto the final study of the project before I go onto the colour, which usually tends to be the most important part. What do you like to get up to, outside design?
When I’m not in the mood to create design I listen to random music, read some art books, and play computer games. This tends to help me get my mind off things and relax.
Hi Anthony, could you please start us off with a little introduction about yourself and your background? I’m an alumni of the Rhode Island School of Design, and I’ve been designing professionally in the product industry for 10 years. About a year ago I started working with Gallery 1988 out of Los Angeles; creating pop culture-inspired posters for their group exhibitions as well as some other commercial graphic design and illustration work. I like creating good design for good people, and I have an unhealthy obsession with zombies. Some of my clients over the years include Marvel, CBS, Paramount, The Academy, AMC, Bad Robot, Reebok, Hasbro, NFL, MLB and Nickelodeon. Whom or what inspires you?
I think travel is the best way for me to get inspired. Any time I’m able to get out of my little bubble is an opportunity to find inspiration. I love architecture, furniture design, anything 3-dimensional. My work outside of poster illustration is spread across a broad range of mediums, so it’s important to have an all-encompassing view on design. I think it makes you a more complete artist. What has been the most challenging project you have worked on and why?
I think each poster has its unique set of challenges, so its difficult to pick one. Beyond deadlines and technical issues, I think the Argo poster was the most difficult one conceptually. Aside from the pressure of being involved in a project for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with so many top artists bringing their ‘A’ game, settling on a concept to visually depict a serious Best Picture Oscar contender in one poster was intimidating. I actually had created an entirely different poster for it, until I changed my mind at the last minute and went forward with the current version.
Your illustrations are always full of detail and emotion. Is that something you aim for before starting or something you do subconsciously? I think people appreciate a high level of detail in illustrated posters; it shows that every part of the composition has been considered. That being said, I probably spend more time coming up with the concept and layout. However, I think execution needs to be on par with the idea in order to create a complete poster. I do all of my rendering on the computer where it’s easy to be bound by the limitations of a program, so it’s important to me to make sure all of my lines are not just detailed, but also expressive. You have done quite a few project’s based around comic book characters. What about them do you love?
Comic art is something I pull from most in terms of an aesthetic. Stylistically, contrasting thick & thin black outlines and vibrant colors are just appealing to me. Contextually, I love artwork as a conveyor of story. Like a lot of people my age, comics are something that were so engrained in my childhood, that my passion for that medium continued throughout my life. I try to approach each poster as one panel of a comic, in order to emulate that visual story-telling style. What one designer / property (film, music, game etc) would you love to work with?
I’m always looking to branch out, as most of my poster work centers around TV and film. I would love to do some more gig posters, maybe some work on video games. To be honest, I would love to work on some original content, not necessarily licensed properties. If I could do anything, I would probably just draw samurais and sharks all day. VRS Magazine
johnny Dombrowski @jdombrowski johnnydombrowski.com
Tell us a little bit about what you do? I’m a freelance illustrator working out of New York City. I received my Bachelor’s in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts and have been hiding in the alleyways of the city ever since. Growing up in Connecticut, I was always obsessed with creating art in one form or another. From skipping lunch to go draw in the art classrooms all the way back to finger painting instead of going outside. Some things never change. When it comes to art, for me, it isn’t as much of a passion as it is a need. We often ask how an artist responds to good news and critique, but what is your reaction to getting a bad response to one of your pieces and how does it shape you as a person and designer?
Compliments usually go in one ear and out the other. The bad responses are the ones I listen to. Most of them coming from the inside of my head. As long as criticism is constructive, I try to use it to make the work stronger. Whether it’s polishing the technique or developing the narrative, there’s always room for improvement. Without disappointment or criticism, no matter where it comes from, we won’t improve as artists. Where do you get your influences from?
I try to get it from everywhere. Anything that catches my eye. There’s a list a mile long of artists that have influenced me and it keeps getting bigger. But on top of looking at artists and illustrators, I’ve been flipping through black and white photography, I love old film noirs, dusty pulp magazine, the list Design
goes on and on. Just taking little bits and pieces from every thing I like and mashing them into my own Frankenstein’s Monster. What is the one defining thing you try and portray through your illustrations?
It seems like in most of my work, I try to show some form of our basic human elements. Our basic tendencies. Trying to capture that certain something that boils in our blood. Those sparks in our heads that move us forward. Things that make us both human and inhuman. What was the idea behind the ‘Origin of Violence’?
When I was trying to understand something as complex as human nature, I wanted to break it down in to something more understandable. I wanted to concentrate on those inner workings of our subconscious- the things we try to control. Things like fear, lust and finally, anger. “Origins of Violence | Entertaining Dissonance” is the first in a series to try and explore that. Each piece of the series will focus on a different argument or blame for where violent behaviour stems from. Whether it’s in our blood or, in this case, the argument would be entertainment: TV, Movies, Video Games, etc. Do I believe that’s where it comes from? Absolutely not, but that’s not the point. If you could have give one piece of advice to yourself at 15 what would it have been? Keep doing what you’re doing. You can and will get better.
Versus Interviews Gaks
Gerrel, can you pinpoint that moment when you realised all you wanted to do was design? I was always a creative kid at heart. I’ve been dabbling in drawing, painting, digital media and the arts in general from a very young age. So, honestly, I think I’ve always wanted to be in the creative space, there wasn’t really a defining moment in my life that it snapped into place. You hail from one of the most beautiful parts of the planet in Trinidad and Tobago. How would you say growing up there rather than somewhere like New York has influenced you artistically and as a person? Born and bred in Trinidad and Tobago, one would assume that the culture of the island would somehow influence my work, but that’s not the case. Being the tech savvy and nerdy personality that I am and growing up in this super connected world – I took most of my influences from what I came across online. Being influenced as a person however, island life is a bit more laidback and slow-paced than say, big cities like New York. That aspect of Caribbean life has definitely found weaved its way into my personality, I’m probably one of the most laid back individuals you’d ever meet. Day-to-day where do you get your inspiration from?
The most random of things spark my imagination, so there isn’t really a go-to place for inspiration for me. Some elements that do help the process though, are: Art blogs, video games, movies, working out, naps and traveling. I’ve actually got a personal project in the works based on Grand Theft Auto. Being such an avid gamer, is there one property that stands out that you would love to work on? I would love the opportunity to work with Rockstar Games, the minds behind some of the biggest and greatest titles in the gaming industry. How do you overcome, the bitch that is, procrastination?
can do per say, but it can sometimes express an idea more so than a stagnant image. I truly believe that the animated Gif is a powerful format that all artists should keep an eye on. What is it with you and gold recently?
Haha! It’s a by-product of what I’ve been exposed to lately in fashion, music videos, magazines and urban culture. Have you ever thought about doing song/album covers? Your project ‘Goldie’ looked destined to be commissioned for A$AP Rocky’s single of the same name.
The project ‘Goldie’ IS actually based off A$AP Rocky’s single Goldie. I have pondered about designing covers and whatnot and I’m always being approached to do so, but I don’t think I’ve found a project that has interested me enough just yet. What was the idea behind the hair study?
I don’t, haha. I’m a devoted procrastinator, but I’m trying to stop. Not sure how I’m going to solve this problem just yet, but it’s of top priority.
The ‘Hair Study’ project was simply an exercise in patience and line control. What’s more aggravating and line heavy than drawing hair in Illustrator? It was just a project to keep the ole designing joints from getting rusty. Practise makes Perfect!
Gifs in my opinion, give creative’s a much broader canvas to play around on. If used correctly, you can inject new life and emotion into your work. It may not change what a designer
Honestly, none. I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished throughout the years and I consider each project to be a learning experience. Even though some of my previous projects aren’t technically and conceptually adept, I still cherish them, because without it I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Recently .gif’s have taken over the arts industry. How do you feel they are going to influence and change what a designer can do?
What one project would you love to go back and change?
“I truly believe that the animated Gif is a powerful format that all artists should keep an eye on”
Could you walk us through your general work process? I tend to start of with a design brief be it for a client or selfdirected. Then I go into the sketch phase, which can range from basic doodles to thumbnails. Following this I do the final line work over the design I have chosen, lastly adding colour and/ or shadow to flesh out the concept. It might sound fairly simple in writing but it never really is. You have an extremely diverse style, in the sense that you often use bright colour’s with sometimes quite downright morbid imagery. Is that something you give much thought to, or does it happen naturally? It typically happens organically. I’m a sucker for vibrant colours and I’m also a lover of melancholic themes, it just so happens that both tend to surface throughout my creative process. It may seem like an unlikely marriage, but they go together very effortlessly most of the time. One designer you would love to work with and why? I’ll have to go with Joshua Smith aka Hyrdro74.
How influential do you feel the 3D Printer will be in the design industry and the outside world? By the looks of things thus far, I believe it’s going to be a predominant device in a few short years. What are you listening to now? Daft Punk – Touch
What do you have planned for the rest of 2013? Just to continue doing what I do best, which is creating. Any last words?
Just a few words I live by – Work Hard, stay positive, be kind and stay humble. @gaksdesigns gaksdesigns.com
Versus Interviews by Konrad Ziemlewski
Ever since popping up on our radar’s in early 2012, Dom Mclennon has been going from strength to strength. With cosigns from blogs like Pigeons & Planes among others, his stock is on the rise. An EP is planned for release this year with other project’s in the pipeline. Before Dom became completely overwhelmed we sat down to talk music, inspiration and the future. Hey Dom. Could you introduce yourself to our readers please?
Of course! Well first and foremost my name is Dom McLennon; I’m a 20 year old musician from Connecticut that’s a part of the ASF Collective. I have been doing music for a couple of years now, whilst rapping and recording has been going on for about 2 years. Since then my life has been relatively good! You have been on the grind for a while but now are finally gathering huge momentum with blogs like Pigeons and Planes supporting your music. How does it feel with such respectable people digging your music?
Honestly it’s a blessing. I’m wholeheartedly thankful for the relationships I’ve been developing with various writers and content creators over the past year. Last summer I submitted a song to a contest on P&P, after that I linked with the guy who ran it, Jon Tanners, the next week in New York and we ended up having our first conversation that went on for hours. He’s a great guy and I owe a lot of the exposure I’ve been getting lately to people who believe in my work like him. How would you describe the style you put through your music?
It’s mainly all parts of my imagination. A lot of people have tried to pinpoint the direct inspiration for what I create but every song is different. They could be based off interactions with
my friends, things I observe or trying to elaborate of parts of my imagination. I feel as though music, just like any other art doesn’t always exactly have to be ‘still life’ in a sense. A lot of people, especially in hip-hop will try to check your credibility on whether or not you’re ‘real’ but if you can express your imagination without exploiting emotions to get a reaction? I feel that’s where some of the most beautiful art comes from. Often an artist’s parents and surrounding’s influence the direction they go down. In your case how influential was your upbringing in relation to the music your putting out?
Well my mom raised me on Whitney Houston and a lot of old and new Motown R&B and Soul music. I definitely try to capture that feeling through my sound, because a lot of stuff lately doesn’t harness that natural human sound that really makes music of that era great. As musicians and creators we should definitely look to the era before our own for inspiration because as advanced as technology gets, nothing beats the sound of a drum stick hitting a real snare head or strings from a bass guitar resonating through the room. That’s the realest it gets to me. Recently you released a very artsy animated cover to go along with your single ‘Angels’. What was the concept behind it?
Well the artwork was all HKCovers. We (Kevin Abstract & I) definitely wanted to do something different and I’ve been looking more and more into the dance scene and how their music is released. A lot of their shows have associated visuals that are really intricate and interesting so we figured we should do the same for our releases. Angels was just the beginning of the visual treatments were working on. We have some crazy shit in store for the future. What was the first record you ever bought?
First record I got was It Was Written by Nas, but the first I bought with my own money was Donuts by Dilla. Who would be your ideal producer/rapper collaboration?
I’d LOVE to work with Flying Lotus. In my opinion the entire VRS Magazine
Brainfeeder record label is incredible. Either him or Jamie XX because I feel we have similar visions for our music. When it comes to rappers, I’ve always been a fan of Mac Miller so that will always be a goal of mine to work with him. He’s the same age as me pretty much and he’s doing everything I hope to do in the future so mad props to him.
MAAD World clearly has an agenda. What was the inspiration behind the track? Well I recorded it December 22 2012 as I was really fed up with end of the world talk. I read a lot and I already debunked pretty much all that stuff in my head for a year already and I was originally planning on putting this over the second beat in MAAD City by Kendrick but the instrumental didn’t exist. I had an extra 48 written for that version too so the release of MAAD world is cut short.
The premise of the song is just telling people to smarten up. Everybody’s popping Molly and destroying their brains, giving drugs a bad name when the right substances can really put you in an altered state where you’re a different type of aware than normal. People do stuff recklessly that could definitely benefit them but they’re more concerned about getting fucked up and having a good time. It’s understandable but there’s much more to life. To me I feel the whole world could be more enlightened if they just paid attention to the simple shit. What artists have and are continuously inspiring you to create music? Blu probably will always be my favourite rapper just because
the output of his creative process is probably the most natural sound I’ve heard out of any current rapper. Outside of rap is where lots of my inspiration lies though. Teebs, Kiko Kish, Tokimonsta, How To Dress Well, Toro y Moi, The XX, Purity Ring, Chrome Sparks, Mala, oh and I recently just started listening to James Blake, he’s on another level. Do you know any artist’s we should be looking out for?
A ton. First and foremost my crew ASF has been putting out great content for a while; we keep a high quality standard so I got to give them a shout out. I’ve been discovering a lot of local talent and I’m really thinking about some more executive stuff outside of just recording in regards to it, but I’ll say more about that later. Also, I met Chance the Rapper last October performing in St Louis with my crew, as well as Big KRIT. He’s great. Can’t really say anything negative about his craft. He’s next. Quality over Quantity?
I feel like it’s a really delicate balance. I’m doing some really ambitious stuff in the near future sonically so you’ll see me a lot in the near future. I’d love to put some of this stuff out now but I know if I wait the reception will only get better. I recently wrapped up working on an EP so I’m taking a short break since I recorded the whole thing with my wisdom teeth coming in, but it had to get done you know?
Outside of that, I’m working on a really big project releasing towards the end of the year, but I’ll talk more about that later. VRS Magazine
How important do you feel an artist’s internet presence is in the digital age?
run out of excuses when not putting their work out to the public?
Honestly it can be everything as of late. Like, I’m from Connecticut. It’s not the biggest place in the world and we’re just north of a cultural Mecca and south of it’s less busy alternative. So social networking has really helped me a ton in building connections in both places as well as nationally and internationally. If somebody is approachable online then more or less you’d think the same in person. Nobody wants to support someone who isn’t personable, it’s kind of common sense. I feel like when people make themselves unattainable online they’re just missing opportunities to work with the next big thing. I know when I was a producer there were some opportunities I passed up on just because I wasn’t approachable, and some of those people are really successful right now. And back then, as a producer I had an enormous ego. I’m glad that I made the decision to be a more approachable person though, because it’s humbled me a lot. Just interacting with the people who I didn’t know has actually impacted and helped with my craft.
None at all. You can create in so many ways even if you aren’t on your computer. In college I used to write drum patterns in my notebook and put them into FL Studio on break, or if I got my work done early I’d just have my sound on mute and put together drums and throw the sample or some sort of melody on top afterwards. Since I started focusing on song writing more though, I literally wake up and sleep writing. Whether it’s in my head or on paper.
“When the right substances can really put you in an altered state where you’re a different type of aware than normal” How did the collaboration with Azekel come about? Are there any other UK artists you pay attention to?
Actually that’s all down to my management. He introduced me to Azekel when we first started working together and I really dug his sound. I love R&B because it’s what I grew up on so to hear some R&B that wasn’t necessarily club music was really refreshing and I jumped at the opportunity. It’s a lot more expressive to write R&B stuff sometimes than hip-hop because sometimes the sound gets so boxed in. Also, the UK has always had an advanced sound to me musically. I pay attention to that scene a lot because their producers are always incredible; I mentioned Jamie XX before, he’s the fucking man. I could go on and on but yeah, I love the UK sound right now. What do you see yourself doing in the future? Are you aiming to stay independent and hold control over your music, or would you like the help of the major’s?
I really try to make every action in my life something I can elaborate on in song, whether its just saying it through some references that me and my close friends might only get or just giving it a more detailed perspective, it’s an interesting exercise for the mind and it makes writing a ton easier when I have all these thoughts kind of in storage. If you want to be an artist you really have to make your craft your life. I’ve never said this before but I really feel there is no secret or payroll or any bull that you have to be on or contribute to in order to succeed with music.
If you work hard and you’re talented, people will pay attention to you. All it takes is one person to believe in you. How you pursue that is up to you, but if you want to be as successful anyone else in this music industry? You better be working twice as hard as them. As a benchmark I don’t really see anyone else working as hard as Jay-Z. What do you love to get up to when out of the studio?
Honestly I just love being in good company, whether or not we do something exciting or not as long as I’m not around too many people that I don’t know I’m usually really comfortable. I honestly just spend a lot of time writing at my friends houses and chilling with ASF. I’m a simple dude, the party scene isn’t really for me, I guess I’m more or less an after party guy. Any last words?
Yeah, big shouts out to all of my friends who finished their exams this year, JayDee @UNregular Radio, she treated me really well out in Boston. DoughMars, YGRH, SPC, M&D (A lot of abbreviations but they know who they are) all the supporters and the kids who we’re following me on Twitter back when I was posting videos of me recording my first mixtape when I sucked and decided to bear with me all the way up to this, y’all are dope as hell. And last but not least ASF, without AliveSinceForever I’d be nobody. Stay Positive. @Domclennon dommclennon.com
I definitely want 100% creative control over everything I do. Artistic integrity is everything to me honestly, so as a creative I’d rather stay unknown that compromise that for major help. If people believe in what I create enough though, I could see really big things happening, whether or not it’s independent. Either way, what I have planned for my career can be achieved with or without a major label, I’m confident in that.
With the influx of technology, do you feel artist’s have Design
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Chance the rapper
“Lean all on the square / That’s a fuckin’ rhombus” Chancelor Bennett has suddenly blown up, in a serious way. The 20-year-old chi-town prodigy, better known by his stage name ‘Chance The Rapper’ has put the city back on the map again after recent domination of the New Yorkers. His mixtape ‘Acid Rap’ was the one to watch for nearly every hip-hop blogger on the planet, and for good reason. His track collection speaks for itself as to why Chance is on the lips of every label in America right now. His versatility is mind blowing and beat selection sees a return to the more soulful side of our beloved genre, something that I think has been overlooked in recent years. Thankfully though, Chance and a select few others (Badbadnotgood, Oddisee, Mayer Hawthorne, Freddie Joachim and Joey Bada$$ being some of the most notable) are changing this precedent. The newest mixtape includes features from Ab-Soul, Childish Gambino, Action Bronson & Twista amongst others, inferring respect from his more revered peers, and most of them do it well (Soulo, what on earth were you on when you wrote that soccer line?). Though this isn’t his debut to the game, far from it.
Prior to Acid Raps, Channo released a mixtape called ’10 Days’, created whilst he endured a 10 day suspension from highschool That taste for lyricism present in such a young talent, produced in such a short space of time deserves respect in itself. When you add the extra ingredient of his raspy melodic vocals, the Chance broth is more than a pleasant experience. The mixtape also sees production from Chuck Inglish, a tip from someone who’s worked on the come-up with many of our current periods most notable artists including Kid Cudi, Asher Roth & ScHoolboy Q.
He’s one of the few artists who can imbue that elusive hedonistic, carefree youthful vibe to a track, something that has been in short supply as of late (I’m discounting Macklemore for personal reasons). Tracks like ‘U Got Me Fucked Up’, ‘Juice’ & ‘Favourite Song’ put Chance in a lane of his own; his vocals shine a great deal more over fantastic production.
If we go even further back than 10 Days though, it’s been clear to those keen basement dwelling music fiends that Chance was destined for fame. His work with former group ‘Instrumentality’ shows fleeting moments of the aforementioned characteristics that make him so great right now. Going in over the top of tracks like Daft Punk’s ‘Something About Us’ shows a level of confidence (or hubris) unprecedented in most young rappers. If you haven’t already, check out the mixtapes ‘Back To School Pack’ and ‘Good Enough’, there’s a distinctive Cudi/Yeezy blend to the sound that is fairly explicit, though thankfully he’s grown into his own sound.
Chance has already delivered two well received mixtapes, something few artists can claim to have done, and is not looking like letting up on quality. There’s a certain visceral feeling to his music as if he’s desperate to succeed. Particularly on the more sombre tracks like ‘Acid Rain’ and ‘Paranoia’ where his passion alone puts him at a different standing to other, less noticeably hungry artists. I’m hoping he gets some more notable guest features like the cut with Joey Badass ‘Wendy N Becky’, because it’s a joy to hear him collaborate.
top 10 songs of the Summer Design
Something about summer just seems to captivate humanity and work hormones and appetites into frenzy. That could be just be because of the bikinis and barbecues, but one thing is for certain; summer feels like one 3 month long party. And like any good party it has got to have its music. From the beach to the campfire, these are the top 10 hip-hop songs that became sound tracks for the summer. 43
Common - The light Released July 18th 2000
10 9 8 7 6
Jay z - Big pimpin ft ugk Released April 11th 2000
outkast - elevators Released July 8th 1996
nelly - country grammar Released June 6th 2000
Craig Mack - Flava in your ear remix Released July 31rd 1994
Common’s ode to love became not only the Chicago native’s biggest hit to that point, but also THE love song of that particular summer. Teenagers across the globe who were trying to get down with that honey they met on vacation used this song to try and woo their summer lover. “The Light” may have faded some as other songs have replaced it as the go to rap for seducing the girl of your dreams. But the song remains quintessential Common - uplifting, and thought provoking.
If Common’s tune inspired a few romantic forays during the summer of 2000, this Jay-Z and UGK colabo was the cause of some dirty, nasty hit and runs. It was everywhere from Spring Break till the leaves turned orange. ‘Big Pimpin’ was big TIME! 13 years later Jay is a married man so his one-nighters may be behind him, but he still knows to churn out a hit or two.
This joint from the ATLiens still has everyone slamming the doors on their Accords like they were Caddys. When someone says they want to throw on cruising music, this is the type of song they’re talking about. Laid back, and soulful - “Elevators” is a hit everyone can ride too. Currently though, Outkast is on indefinite hiatus. Big Boi just dropped an excellent solo record and 3-Stacks is promoting his Jimi Hendrix biopic “All Is By My Side”; but all the world is really waiting for is the two to get back in the booth together. The third track from the summer of 2000, Nelly’s Country Grammar swept the streets of America putting Nelly and his hometown St. Louis on the map. Nelly catches a lot of flack from his rap peers, but very few can match the success the St. Lunatic had with his debut.
Mack’s original was big, but the remix was huge! How couldn’t it with that list of features? It truly was a collaboration of some of the biggest names in New York hip-hop. This record isn’t just a summer hit; it’s a hip-hop classic.
DMX - Rough Rydes Anthem Released May 5th 1998
5 4 3 2 1
Dr Dre - Nuthin but a g’thang Released June 18th 1992
Drake - forever
Released August 27th 2009
run dmc ft aerosmith - walk this way Released June 4th 1986
the fresh prince - summertime Released June 20th 1991
“Stop! Drop! Shut em down open up shop!” Who wasn’t screaming those lyrics during the summer of ’98? The video only furthered the success of the track and it became a favorite tune for all impromptu car shows and races on the streets in your local hood. X’s troubles away from the mic have been well documented, but this song serves as a reminder that he never had any trouble navigating an instrumental.
After Dre had dropped the Chronic, he had already made a name for himself with NWA. But after issues with Easy E and Ruthless, Dre chose to go his own way. In the process he was introduced to Snoop and unleashed the laid back Long Beach native on the world of hip-hop. Snoop’s vocal style meshed perfectly with Dre’s G-Funk instrumentals and “ Nuthin’ But A G Thang” is the perfect testimony to this. The song became a huge hit and The Chronic went down as one of hip-hop’s all time greatest albums.
“Forever” wasn’t just a song. It was a monumental collaboration. Drake, Kanye and Lil Wayne were the faces of hip-hop in 2009 and were pushing huge numbers. But when they reached out to Eminem for a verse, the track was pushed into another stratosphere. Each artist brought their best to the table, you could feel the competition between the MCs throughout the track - but in the end it was Eminem who stole the show. After a somewhat disappointing release in “Relapse” many fans cite this song as ‘the return of Eminem’ to the top of the rap game. “Forever” sold more than 3 million singles and stole the summer of 2009, culminating in a highlight performance during the 52nd Grammy Awards.
Today, rappers and rockers collaborating is a fairly common occurrence. But that wasn’t the case in 1986, when hip-hop pioneers Run DMC teamed up with Aerosmith to release a new version of the classic hit “Walk This Way”. The Run DMC twist on the song proved to be a success and the song became one of the biggest hits of that summer. It’s also is credited with helping bring hip-hop into the mainstream, serving as one of the most groundbreaking tracks in the history of hip-hop.
I honestly couldn’t find a way around putting this song at the top of this list. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince aka Will Smith had themselves a few hits before Will turned to acting, but none of those hits ever came close to the success of “Summertime”. Every song on this list ruled the summer in which they were released but “Summertime” is an every summer hit, one that is still played in heavy rotation during the warmer months of the year world wide. No barbecue, pool party, or block party is complete until this song gets at least one play.
Yeezus is the most confusing collection of songs from Kanye West that we’ve seen so far in his long and illustrious career in hip-hop. Oh and before we begin, I can assure the readers categorically that you will not see ‘industrial’ used as an adjective in this article.
The album is a romp through the mind of a tortured genius, clearly struggling to find his new direction as he jumps onto various trends that have been bubbling just under the mainstream of rap over the past few years. However, the final piece is not Kanye amalgamating all of the elements that made said subgenres interesting and creating a unified piece of glorious music. Instead it’s a confusing collection of tracks that often seem rushed, which have then been released under the façade of the album being ‘raw’. Which it is, but that isn’t to its merit. As many commentators, chiefly Charlemagne, have stated, Kanye’s hypocrisy has elevated to an unprecedented level with this album. His sole interview with the New York Times saw us hear some of the most superfluous vacuous dribble I’ve heard from an artist in years, being inspired by the Corbusier lamp? In fact I can see the similarities between that and Yeezus, they both hang lifelessly on their own, poorly illuminate something that doesn’t need to be. Design
Tracks like ‘I’m In It’ show such little inspiration that for me personally; it was unbearable to listen to. The disdain only grew after reading an interview with Assassin, the artist who provides the dancehall vocals, where he stated that he’d never even spoken to Kanye – neither in person nor through text/ email. How can an album, which is supposedly his attempt at ‘breaking the glass ceiling’, have such a lack of intimacy and focus? Coupled with the finishing line ‘I be speaking Swaghili’ amongst other cringe worthy lyricism, the album does have a raw feel to it, but unfortunately that’s the same ‘raw’ lyricism that you’ll hear from a teenager trying his hand at freestyling.
The production for me is a tempestuous topic; there are moments of brilliance – Blood On The Leaves, Bound 2 & Black Skinhead being the three standout tracks. But in general it leaves an unfamiliar sour taste in my mouth after being a fan of every project Kanye’s put out thus far. Frankly, Kanye hasn’t tried anything new here, and even if he had it is not ‘trendsetting’. It’s essentially the outcome of mixing Travi$ Scott’s ‘Owl Pharoah’ with Deathgrips ‘No Love Deep Web’ with a seasoning of unnecessary hubris for good taste - oh, and that’s Greek, not Roman. Just to be clear.
The pressure of being Jay-Z prodigy would make many an artist fold, but after a solid, yet unspectacular debut album in Sideline Story, Cole has now delivered an exquisite follow up with Born Sinner. This album essentially serves as an reintroduction to the artist, after he became a slave to chasing mainstream success with debut album. Born Sinner gets rid of the pop production and easy going lyrics, rather swerving towards a much more honest and gritty feel.
Action Bronson and frequent collaborator Harry Fraud have once again teamed up on their latest effort; a seven song EP entitled “Saab Stories”. Fraud provides the perfect production to match the vocal and lyrical stylings of Bronson. However, “Saab Stories” doesn’t deliver anything lasting from the pair, and instead is plagued by Bronson’s inability to connect thoughts in a narrative fashion.
What Born Sinner proves is Cole really isn’t a waste of time. He is a rapper’s rapper and is improving all the time. The move to go face to face with Yeezus turns out could have been a piece of genius.
When the beat resumes, the tone is much darker as we see Bronson describe a female who’s undergone a mastectomy and can no longer use her body to make ends. As the story continues, Bronson is reminded of his cousin’s drug addiction, and after some imagery of sea turtles instinctively seeking out the ocean his thoughts turn inward. Bronson briefly wrestles with those inner thoughts before the song abruptly ends. There are truly moments of brilliance on the track where Bronson is as vivid and descriptive as any rapper. But in the end, the lasting impression of the track is somewhat muddled, and the moments of surreal genius are outweighed by the lack of lucid concentration.
Thematically the album stands as a symbol of spiritual warfare. Cole is in a tug of war between women, fame and temptation, whilst at the same time trying to be himself. This is seen on a number of track’s, such as ‘Chaining Day. Then on other tracks (Runaway) he portrays himself as a troubled man, needing saving.But it’s the albums most anticipated track, ‘Let down Nas’ that also turns out to be its best. Cole excusing himself for trying to fit in with the wrong crowd, as he raps “Pac was like Jesus / Nas wrote the Bible / Long live our idols/ May they never be our rivals”.
Bronson is much like an intelligent and talented child, easily distracted by outside elements and unable to focus on one subject for more than a few bars at a time. He’ll give you brilliant and thoughtful plot lines only to abandon them four bars later to remind you of his New York roots, or affinity for marijuana. “Alligator” is the perfect track to exemplify Bronson’s inability to focus his lyrical energy. The song bounces from Bronson being courtside with Spike Lee, to him buying exotic animals for his birthday. This whirlwind of arrogance, typical amongst rappers, lasts for two verses until suddenly the beat breaks and the mood shifts.
The scattered subject matter has become Bronson’s calling card- whilst also creating part of his mystique. At times it serves as a hindrance, but it’s also part of why I’m compelled to continue to listen to Bronson. Just to see if he can break away from the nonsensical lyricism to become a more focused, powerful lyricist. It doesn’t happen on “Saab Stories”, but as typical Bronson flashes enough moments of artistic genius to keep listeners engaged. VRS Magazine
Mac Miller’s new studio album “Watching Movies With The Sound Off” is an interesting romp through the mind of the Pittsburg emcee. The journey through Miller’s psyche is an enjoyable one that, makes for a well-executed sophomore album.
Mixtapes and EPs are essential for the success of hiphop artists, especially artists trying to make a name in the mainstream. A dope mixtape can be all the break a rapper needs to go from relative obscurity to a household name. Jez Dior’s newest work “Scarlett Sage” is just that type of tape.
High points on this album include ‘Matches’ with Ab-Soul where the TDE emcee lays his bars down pushing Miller to match & in my opinion fulfilling the featured artists purpose of flexing their skill but not overshadowing the artist. Miller is very versatile & even at points taking to singing on the tracks like ‘Objects in the Mirror’, a track for those road trips “Lets leave it all in the rearview” if taken literally. The overall sound of the album has is a laid back feel, with catchy beats that will get any summer time chill out session or drive that bit more enjoyable.
All of this is done though without sacrificing the essence of hip-hop or lyricism as Dior manages to still deliver thoughtful, and powerful moments. For a 10 song effort “Scarlett Sage” does a fantastic job of being able to provide those rare instances of lasting impressions. For those that hear it, the tracks “Blue”, “Hide”, “Tough to Talk to” and “Downfall” are all the types of joints that will end up on repeat for fans. The interesting part is that each song appeals to a different type of hip-hop head and that’s the genius of “Scarlett Sage”, Dior’s ability to maximize his fan base while keeping a relatively consistent and uniformed sound.
Most of the albums sound is quasi-experimental. With a few synths and looping drums to compliment the ever-adapting flow the emcee delivers through the mic. All round this sound suits Miller. It’s not perfect sounding, but that’s fine because that’s not what he is going for. Mac’s flow has rawness to it, but at the same time he does surprise with the occasional effect thrown in to switch it up. This isn’t just done for the sake of it and brings a quality to the album. It sounds like a refined mixtape, all about his colorful imagery and flexibility.
Watching Movies with the Sound off has a distinctly laid back sound that’s coupled with the lyrical flexibility brought by Mac Miller and some of the featured artists including AbSoul and New York native Action Bronson. It’s clear that with Miller, inspiration rubs off real quick and having these artists included on the album made him up his game, his delivery and ability has definitely grown from this sophomore effort. Listening suggestion: loud with the windows down. Expect some excessive head nodding and toe tapping when you’ve got this album pumping.
Blended perfectly to include elements of pop, rock, and the blues while remaining a true hip-hop record, “Scarlett Sage” is exactly the kind of material that works in the mainstream. Dior on this tape is reminiscent of Drake when he was first debuting - except Dior possesses a deeper musical awareness; understanding the risks and rewards of each sample, lyric and narrative choice. Every move on “Scarlett Sage” feels specifically designed to tap into the psyche of the masses and appeal to the mainstream.
Shakka Shakka has been bubbling in the underground UK scene for a while now, and following his feature on Wretch 32’s ‘Blackout’, he’s on track to revitalise an ailing rnb scene.
“Many conversations, telling me where I’m from / Would you buy a one way ticket and fly to a city other than where your’e from”
Shakka is an artist with unparalleled potential in the UK today. His raw talent is shown both through pieces written by him as well as through his inventive covers, a series that he entitles ‘Shakkapella’. Recently he’s shot to relative fame as a result of featuring on Wretch 32’s new single ‘Blackout’. Recently the pair performed it live on The Graham Norton Show; following the performance Norton said to Wretch in a rather stunned manner ‘We have to have to have a shoutout to Shakka there, he did a lot of the work. I felt like he was carrying it…’ Delving deeper into Shakka’s history he has relatively little to tell, in comparison to that of some other artists who we’ve featured on Introducing in the past. Though don’t misconstrue this for a negative, everything he has put out until this point has been of note. The mixtape ‘The Shakka Crown Affair’ is a delight to listen to, if you ignore the frustrating skits that are littered throughout. Tracks like ‘Thankyou’ and ‘Sooner Or Later’ are performed with such jubilant zeal that it’s actually difficult to refrain from smiling when you listen.
Antithetically, if you listen to other songs like ‘Spaceship’ and ‘Drivin’’ you are struck by his song-writing prowess and almost incomprehensible range. The latter, Drivin’, is sincerely one of my favourite songs of all time. Wielding such striking vocals Design
over the simple yet intricate piano, this is the pinnacle of his work thus far, though the quality of his subsequent work is nothing to turn your nose up at. The manner in which pictures are painted in his music is simply astonishing, and unfortunately often a trait that is allocated rather haphazardly by critics. Though in Shakka’s case he truly can create something novel and touching when he puts pen to paper.
After reaching #6 in the charts with the aforementioned Wretch track, Shakka’s on the up. His newest release is entitled ‘Spin’ and strikes me as the kind of stadium anthem that’s going to be great for any festival slots that come his way. This is the first track released from the upcoming EP ‘Tribe’, entitled so to represent those people who don’t fit into a particular ‘clique’, perfectly encapsulating Shakka’s nonconformist approach to music. I implore you to download his 2011 debut ‘The Shakka Crown Affair’; you most certainly will not be disappointed. Keep your eye on this guy. He’s undoubtedly due to make big motions in the coming year.
rise of the
“I believe that marriage isn’t / Between and a man and woman / But between love and love.” Rewind your mind to July 4rd of last year. You’re tucking into your pasta and pesto, reading the usual blogs and all of a sudden the internet goes into overdrive following a Tumblr post from a certain Frank Ocean stating that his first love was a man. “4 Summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide, most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence. Until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping. No negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It changed my life.”
The entire industry went into, for lack of a better word, a clusterfuck. Apologies for being so crass but there’s little other way to describe it. Just one week prior to the release of the fantastic album Channel Orange, one of music’s most beloved crooners let the masses know that he has/had bisexual tendencies. Cue southern American die-hard rap fans scrubbing themselves with steel wool in the shower to try and cleanse themselves of the abhorrent sins they’ve put their own mentality through by listening to a gay man’s music. Miguel quite rightly stated following Frank’s two Grammy awards that him coming out placed a lesser emphasis on the album, but thankfully since then people seem to have taken their tinfoil hats off for long enough to realise that there are artists out there who can make good music, and be gay – ridiculous right? But hear me out.
Kanye West famously said ‘the exact opposite word of ‘hiphop,’ I think, is ‘gay’ back in 2005. We’ve moved fields and bounds since then in terms of mentality when considering homosexual artists, with Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj parading
around at the top of the charts shrieking to the hilltops that they’re bisexual. Yet no one really ever bat an eye-lid, my guess is because they aren’t men, and are chiefly using this faux-sexuality to sell records to a wider audience.
The music should always take precedent over the personal life of an artist, and as we’ve seen an influx of gay artists into the rap game as of late, I thought that bringing some of the best to your attention wouldn’t be a bad move. To start we have Mykki Blanco, one of the craziest dudes I’ve ever seen. Taking inspiration from the famous Lil Kim alter ego, Blanco is one insane man. Though if you check out Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss, you’ll see that he isn’t style over substance, a fact backed up by the inclusion of one of the best tracks from the the tape entitled ‘Kingpinning’ by Diplo on a mixtape created for Danish streetwear giant Wood Wood. He doesn’t just have bars though; Mykki’s a business(wo)man. The video for the trap inspired Wavvy, arguably his best track, begins with him looking like any other rapper would do. But half way through the visuals, after a Playstation interlude – perhaps a nod to Mr Ocean – he reappears donning a brunette wig. Spitting fire that’s a little reminiscent of Busta… if he were more concerned with interior design. Tentatively linked together is an artist who’s produced tracks for Blanco; Le1f, another fantastic gay musician. Known mostly for having produced for Das Racist, the New York born producer/rapper has been on his grind for a while. His low-fi trap style tracks are immersive, and are the audio equivalent of codeine. Take a look at his track ‘Wut’ for example, having over 1 million youtube views (following another inundation of the blogosphere due to his risqué videos), Le1f destroys the Major-Lazer-esque beat in signature style, ‘This yuppie’s talkin’ blah blah, He wants to Bink my Jar Jar / Hes twinked out. I’m like nuh uh. I’m laughin’ at em like haha’. The mixtape he released early this year ‘Fly Zone’ is still in my rotation, check out ‘Coins’ and you’ll understand why.
Last but not least there’s Cakes Da Killa, in my view the best of the bunch lyrically, and his beat choice isn’t too awry either. Following the other artist’s lead, Cakes conforms to his peers with the outlandish visuals for his music videos. VRS Magazine
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a gay male artist on something like the XXL Freshman list in the near future.”
His music reminds me of Nicki Minaj back when she used to be able to express emotion through her face, he’s relentless, the punch lines and he is unabashed in his delivery, tracks like ‘Da Good Book’ show his own personal style, featuring rapid trap inspired beats and interesting samples over a choppy, versatile flow. His mixtape ‘The Eulogy’ is one of the most interesting I’ve heard in a while, and for me Cakes takes the tiara as my favourite ‘gapper’, his bold and raucous style is a breath of fresh air in the smog of current hip-hop. Of course there are wonderful female gay musicians that haven’t been mentioned, but they seem to receive less flack from the critics so attention has been focused on their male counterparts. Artists like Angel Haze, Syd Tha Kid, EvOn, God Des & She and MC Jazz to name but a few are killing the game in their own respective lanes, and don’t receive anywhere near as much outrage as their male counterparts. Though of course they are still fighting the same stigma.
In an interview with Fader, Le1f brusquely expressed ‘I am gay, and I’m proud to be called a gay rapper, but it’s not gay rap. That’s not a genre. My goal is always to make songs that a gay dude or a straight dude can listen to and just think, This dude has swag’; a seemingly recurring feature amongst the aforementioned artists. The general audience are incredibly quick to pigeonhole gay rappers/musicians into a separate category and frankly it makes no sense whatsoever. I know for certain that Haze or Cakes Da Killa can more than hold their own with peers in their field. So why should they have to try so vehemently to ‘break the glass ceiling’ which was purportedly shattered in some flamboyant fashion by Frank Ocean a year ago? The answer is: they shouldn’t. If artists of this calibre continue to rise through the ranks of hip-hop then I wouldn’t be surprised to see a gay male artist on something like the XXL Freshman list in the near future. Words by Jonathon Bartlett Pictures by Cody Davis
Versus Interviews by Konrad Ziemlewski
Grieves has been on the grind since 2007, but rose to world prominence with his release Together/Apart. A resident of Seattle, not that he wants you to care, Grieves has been on a musical hiatus for well over a year, with just a few numerous features. Now though he is gearing up for his new album and a hectic 2013, or what’s left of it...
After you success with Together/Apart you seemed to have gone hiding under a rock. What have you been up too? I’ve been going through some changes. Life doesn’t stop and wait for you when you’re on the road. You come home... and
sometimes you have no clue where you are. I had to take some time to get that part of me in order. Although I have been writing and recording a lot in the past few months and I’m round the corners on a new record I’ve been working on with B.Lewis. Guess it was a good way to get yourself in order, as well as being able to look back at everything right?
Yeah. What good is art, if the life it reflects is crumbling away? What direction are you looking to take with the new record? Something that’s always played a prominent role in your music is emotion and the use of live instruments. Is that something you plan to carry on, or are you deviating from it? I will never stray from making honest, organic music. Though VRS Magazine
my methods may vary. This time around I’ve been working with an amazing producer called B.Lewis who is helping me add a new energy to this record. The subjects are more focused on the things that nobody ever taught me how to deal with. What is the relationship and process like between you and B.Lewis?
This process had been unlike anything I have ever done. I hope on a plane, fly to San Jose California and I sit in his garage and write songs from scratch. He starts with the drums and I start developing a cadence. After that, we start trying to write up a melody. By the end of each day, most of the time, we have a brand new song. I’ve never worked like that before. Normally I have a batch of beats that I thumb through for a while till one clicks with me. Now I’m putting it all out on the table as soon as we starts. It’s pretty crazy. Something I find quite synonymous with Seattle rappers such as yourself, Macklemore and Sol is that you’re all much more willing to put your heart on the page. Is that something you pride yourself on?
The day I have to cover up the way I actually feel to write a song, is the day I’m going to stop writing songs. What good is all of this if I can’t be honest with myself. I have to ask. Is Budo involved with the new record at all? You guys have always seemed to have a pretty tight relationship.
Budo is not. He’s actually branching out and doing his own thing now. Him and I got together a few years back to make a couple songs and it turned into 3 years on the road. I don’t think he ever planned on that and at this point, I think he needs some room to do other kinds of music. I respect that. Looking back. How did you come by hip-hop? What was it that made you take this direction with your life?
It just happened this way. I have always been somewhat musically inclined, but once I discovered hip-hop... something just clicked. No band members to manage, no separate writing, just me, my words and a beat. I loved it. I imagine being musically self taught allowed you to get much more involved in your music, that allowed for more personal records?
It never hurts to have an understanding of your craft. Even to this day I still try to learn more and more. Lately I have been taking vocal and piano lessons to help me on my weaker points in both those fields. I’m not just interested in rapping. It’s the whole studio and music making process that captivates me. What is the relationship between yourself and the other hip-hop acts from Seattle?
I came up with all these guys. Watched everybody grow into what they are, or are not now. It’s been a pretty cool experience. One thing about me though is, I’ve never really been branded as a rapper from Seattle... I’m also pretty sure a lot of Seattle fans have no clue that I live in this city. I’m more like that bastard child rapper of Seattle. I can handle that. Design
Hell the way I see it you can be called whatever but if you make good music you will always gain respect from your audience. In the end though if your happy with yourself that’s what matters. Amen!
Are there any artists you feel we should be looking out for? Chords! He’s from Sweden and by far one of my favourites right now. His album ‘Looped State of Mind’ is fucking brilliant. I want everybody reading this, to sit down and listen to that record! You’ll thank me for the Goosebumps later. What artists and producers would you love to work with in the future? Personally I would throw a few dollar’s your way to get Dessa and you involved.
Haha! I would love to work with Dessa, she’s amazing. I would love to do some more work with Chords sometime soon, as well as people like Rattatat, Flako and Black Milk. What was the European leg of your tour like, with Brother Ali and Budo last year?
It was a blast. My only problem was I got sick as fuck and ended up getting sent home once we hit Copenhagen. A mega disappointment.
much louder to me than blowing up on the Internet.
Though in certain cases if the artist has the talent why not? Though I agree with you, earning your keep through hard work tends to mould artists that survive in this crazy industry. Yeah. It’s a different world. I’ve been pounding the pavement since 2004.
What do you think about the recent ‘revolution’ in r&b with the likes of The Weeknd, Frank Ocean and PARTYNEXTDOOR coming out with these much more emotive songs; hell to me they are drug infused poetry. Their much closer to the sort of stuff you put out from an emotive perspective, possibly opening up a whole new audience to your music. I do like the direction.. But my heart will always lay in the smoother R&B. D’angelo, Bilal, Rapheal Siddiq. I love that stuff. It is nice to see heart felt music gain attention though. There’s only so much reckless knucklehead kid rap I can take. I will let you end your own interview... I’m going to let brave heart end this one. “You may take our wives.. But you can never take our freedom!!” @grievesmusic grievesmusic.com
Are you planning to come back?
Yes. As soon as I can, I’m coming back. You let them know, Ol Skinny Bones Jones is coming for them!
With us living in an age where blogs can make or break an artists career. Do you feel having a strong internet presence is important? I do. But I don’t think that’s everything. There are too many kids blowing up with little to no experience on the stage or grinding it out on the road. That kind of experience will always speak
For a group that hasn’t commercially released a project of its own, “Black Hippy” gets an awful lot of buzz. The west coast based quartet that features a four-man lineup of Jay Rock, AbSoul, Schoolboy Q, and Kendrick Lamar once again had the hip-hop world talking in early June. Except this time it had nothing to do with the fearsome foursome themselves, but the possibility of a fifth member joining the fold. The speculation was kicked off after a series of tweets between Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul, which congratulated Bronson on his signing to Top Dawg Entertainment the label, that houses “Black Hippy”. So this being the age of the Internet fans automatically assumed that Bronson was going to be joining the group. This lead to message board, and chat room debates over if Bronson was a good fit for the hip-hop super group.
Two things were very quickly pointed out as reasons Bronson didn’t fit into the same mold as the other members. One, he’s white, some felt if he joined then the group might have had to change their signature name. Two, he’s not from the west coast. Bronson is a Queens, New York native does geographically fall outside of the footprint of the group. But outside of these trivial things like race and birthplace does Bronson mesh well with the other members?
Action Bronson, the chef turned rapper, has received tons of praise for his work in the booth from his hip-hop peers and fans alike. Still, he’s most recognizable as the “white guy that sounds like Ghostface” and has yet to really establish himself
a true identity. Kendrick, Q, and Soul have all done that; but fourth member Jay Rock, I feel, is in much the same position as Bronson so this doesn’t disqualify Bronson for inclusion into the group. However, what might is Bronson’s style behind the mic.
ach of the four members of “Black Hippy” are amongst the best story tellers in Hip-Hop, and each one has been praised for their new era sound while staying true to the lyricism of their hip-hop flag bearers. Bronson on the other hands voice, flow, delivery, and beats are very much inspired by 1990s New York Hip-Hop and combined with his nonsensical, and often unrelated word play he has created a sound that works very good for him. Though I’m not sure it would work if he tried to integrate it with the sound of “Black Hippy”.
However, this debate will never be resolved as it is clear now that Bronson will not be joining the group as its fifth member. Reports are surfacing saying the tweets that initially spurred the online diatribe were nothing more than a joke between the artists. Still, maybe someday in the future the whole group and Bronson will collaborate and we can get a glimpse of what a white hippy in “Black Hippy” would of sounded like. I don’t think it would work, but I’ve been wrong before and I’ll gladly be wrong in the name of great music. Words by Justin Prince Picture by Brock
Versus is the signature feature of each of our quarterly magazines. The VRS writers are selected to defend the most positive traits of a selected musical artist or group against another. The outcome is decided by the VRS team as a whole, indicating our collective preference in the hypothetical â€˜Versusâ€™ battle. Design
Chance The rapper
Production VRS Magazine
“Versatility is his strong suit, able to swap up his flows at the drop (or throw) of a hat”
Comparing Chance The Rapper and Childish Gambino is a little like comparing the regular coloured Fleshlights with the Avatar edition. They’re exactly the same, whilst being completely different.
Chance is ‘the’ 20-year-old phenomenon from Chicago city, offering the same high-school subject matter of an early Mac Miller but with a greater variation in flow and a more varied approach the tone of his tracks. Versatility is his strong suit, able to swap up his flows at the drop (or throw) of a hat, capable of making radio bangers along with more conscious, backpacker friendly tracks.
On the other hand, we’ve got the more experienced Childish Gambino. He’s 29 years young; and jack-of-all-trades, master of all. Having put out 6 projects thus far, he’s streets ahead of Channo in terms of quantity, but what about quality? In terms of popularity, if we take the definitive route of Facebook to compare the two then Mr Glover wins 10 times over. However, as of late Gambino has been a ghost of his former self. Since Royalty no one has really heard anything of particular note from the Georgian raised Mystique. On the other hand, Chance’s sophomore mixtape ‘Acid Rap’ had everyone’s expectations sky high following the singles he dropped before hand, ‘Juice’ most notably. The expectations were exceeded, tracks like ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses’ and ‘Favourite Song’ (coincidentally featuring Gambino too) had the blogosphere going crazy; and a feature from Twista? How could anyone not enjoy that blast from the past?
In direct contrast, Gambino’s most recent project ‘ROYAL TY’ was a mixed bag, the tracks that were released before hand were some of the worst, though featured the most prominent artists and producers. Boi-1da, Beck, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q & Nipsey Hustle all featured on the three tracks the audience heard prior to the tape. Riding the Community wave, Glover had an unprecedented amount of popularity for Design
a rapper who’d released only one luke-warm album. Royalty released and tracks like R.I.P, one of the best from last year, featuring UGK champion Bun B had brought together fans of Rhymesayers along with the Bricksquad gangbangers.
If written a year ago, Gambino would have this in his tie-dye Sandqvist bag, but given the fact that he’s seemingly dropped off as of late to focus on other ventures, Chance wins this round simply due to the slew of incredible tracks on Acid Rap. The lyricism of the two artists is probably the most difficult category to separate the two. Childish takes the belt hands down for his punch lines, those funny lines that stick in your head for weeks afterwards ‘She’s an overachiever/Cause all she do is suck-seed’ for example. Whereas Chance avoids the ‘funny’ lyrics in general, opting more for imagery in his bars ‘Spineless bitches in backless dresses’, lines like this make the listener stop what they’re doing, pause the track and reflect for a moment on the line. The best bar, in my humble opinion, from the two of them comes from Chance. ‘Lean all on the square / That’s a fuckin Rhombus’ – this line from Smoke Again is one of those that warrants some kind of facial contortion, and anything that can make a man screw his face up through eminence alone is notable. If you take into account the way in which he bodies Ab-Soul on that track too, his lyrics cry out for veneration.
In addition to their impressive bars, both Chance and Gambino can sing as well as rap, though the latter is coyer when it comes to the more melodic approach. Gambino’s ‘Got This Money’ is a perfect example of how he can make own a track with that high pitched, slow roll style; particularly the acoustic version. Chance however isn’t quite on the same level, on ‘Everything’s Good’ we hear him stretching his vocals to the limit. But they don’t quite cut it in comparison to Gambino. In the lyrics category, Channo’s got to take this one again.
“anyone who can compete with Danny Brown’s delivery on a track deserves a pat on the back”
Some of the lines from Acid Rap were in my head for days as a result of awe, as opposed to those from Gambino, which were stuck due to being… ignant.
that Peacock had cosigns from former chef rap moguls, and dropped acid in South America to create mind boggling youtube videos.
Toxic is a perfect example of Gambino being able to flow with someone usually impossible to compete with, Danny Brown.
Overall, it’s a tough one. This year Chance has been the rapper on everyones lips, though tracks like R.I.P show an ear for beats and features that Chance can’t quite yet reach. The battle has to go in favour of Chance though, being 20 years old and creating a mixtape like Acid Rap is an achievement most rappers would tattoo a tear for.
Now onto flow and delivery. Again, both artists are masters of this as you can see just from clicking shuffle on either discography, but Gambino has such a greater wealth of material out that there’s a lot more opportunity for him to show his range. ‘He who’s speaking the least, is Chief Keefing the peace / Leaving seeds in your niece/ Praying that she ain’t late, spraying like that ak / Now that shit my name same. Bino you so nasty, ass like an ashtray.’
For the final round, Gambino has to take it. He’s demonstrated that there is nearly no variation of 808s or middle-class synth that he cannot master.
Words by Jonathon Bartlett
Taking tips from Yeezy on the beat change, Skywlkr swaps up the beat to a slower tempo to allow Childish to do his thing; anyone who can compete with Danny Brown’s delivery on a track deserves a pat on the back and an indiscrete act of fellatio. Conversely, Chance has a more limited selection of beat styles to that of Gambino, who’s proven that he can go in over pretty much any beat/sample on the planet. Though, this isn’t a negative. Chance has mastered the soulful sample, and was only outshone by Vic Mensa on his latest tape.
Introducin’, Chance the Ruthless / Trip shrooms and lucy, dreams is lucid / Loosely based on music, swallow my mucus / Hope your pussy get herpes and yo’ ass get lupus’ His style is very different to the ASAP flow that’s been inundating the scene as of late. On Good Ass Intro he pretty much sets up the rest of the mixtape with a startling show of talent, similar to a Peacock displaying his plumage; if
Production VRS Magazine
Having pitted numerous cliques versus each other in past editions of this feature we decided we wanted some one v ones for a change. To make it a bit more interesting though we made sure that the artists that go against each other are similar in style and content yet only one would be signed. Here we have the turn of two upcoming femcee’s: Hustle Gang’s Iggy Azaela vs Chicago born K.Flay.
When it comes to popularity, recognition and fanbase it’s clear that the Australian Iggy is streets ahead of her counterpart with 10’s of million Youtube views and the marketing team of Hustle Gang doing everything they can to sell her unique qualities. Being Australian and being personally picked by T.I. to join his label has obviously garnered a bit of publicity for Iggy. With her debut album coming out sometime in 2013 and rumoured features from T.I. and Bobby Ray she has every chance of dominating the hip-hop/pop landscape like Nicki Minaj in the foreseeable future. Unlike Iggy, K.Flay has no label to call home, but she clearly is slowly gaining respect from some top emcee’s, with her recent co-sign from Danny Brown when he featured on her track ‘Hail Marry’ being a prime example. Having already released 3 EP’s and working on her 4th, K.Flay’s stock is surely to continue to rise. But for now it is clear that when it comes to popularity and recognition Miss Azaela wins the round.
When it comes to the lyrical capabilities though we pretty much have a role reversal between the two ladies. K.Flay comes from the school of underground; she has been learning, changing and fine tuning her craft for years, doing the rounds and experiencing life. Iggy on the other hand after a turbulent childhood came to the US, and after being picked up so early in her career by Hustle Gang never got to experience the tour grind and the lifestyle that accompanies it. Both artists draw on their upbringing and experiences in their music and lyrics, but it is K.Flay that has that something a bit special. She is willing to let the listener in to the most vulnerable times of her life, as well as being able to put out a party track that still retain her clever punch lines and heartfelt honesty “When life brings trouble, you can fight or run away / I have no struggle, relax watch me float away”. Although Iggy doesn’t touch the intricate rhymes K.Flay is capable of, she sure hell knows how to cause controversy and make party bangers. She announced her entrance to the world with her track ‘Pu$$y’ that went viral almost immediately. The song is pretty self-explanatory but her choice to use children in the accompanying music video made it spread like wildfire. While her track ‘Work’ (in my opinion one of her strongest) has strong crossover appeal, with it garnering her highest chart positions worldwide to date. Though Iggy has the potential to release a number of songs that could be heralded as strong pieces of lyrical work, I still don’t believe her ability matches that of K.Flay. For that reason alone we can give this round to the Chicago born femcee.
“Both artists draw on their upbringing and experiences in their music and lyrics” Design
Flow and delivery can make or break an artist. KRS-ONE once said that he has seen many an artist that have absolutely no lyrical content but could rock a crowd due to the power of their voice and their ability to switch up flow’s as they like. Case in point Schoolboy Q. This is when it gets interesting between the two ladies with both having quite a range in their delivery and tones. Of the two artists the most accomplished singer is K.Flay without a doubt, with her often opting to sing on a number of songs, chief example being ‘The Police’, this fits her indie/hip-hop style perfectly. Though Iggy can’t sing it doesn’t add to her detriment, she has numerous flow’s at her disposal - being able to spit double-time one minute and then go slow and sexual the next. Both artists’ adaptability with their voices and deliveries allows them to perform over a wide variety of beats i.e. the extremely powerful ‘West Ghost’ by K.Flay or the Iggy assisted Steve Aoki track ‘Beat Down’. For that reason I think this is a tie.
Having not had a chance to see either artist live, I can’t say much about their live performances. Though I have spent a bit of time watching their live performances through multiple sources and have come to two conclusions. Iggy Azaela is very much a snowwoman; she often performs high-energy shows, making sure she involves the crowd as soon as possible. Her shows also have a much higher budget in comparison to
K.Flay so the use of props/dancers etc is much more obvious. On the other hand we have K.Flay, whose shows remind me of watching indie bands such as ‘The Neighbourhood’. She clearly hasn’t got as much experience rocking the crowd as Iggy but she is able to compensate with her ability to involve and connect with her audience. Both artists also take a strong interest in the visual side of their work, with both getting involved with directing and art direction. Iggy directed the completely crazy ‘Beat Down’, while K.Flay’s clear cut minimalistic aesthetic is clearly visible throughout her music videos. Though I’m all for high-energy shows (I have seen Macklemore numerous times) the connection between the audience and artist at a show is something special. So K.Flay takes this round. Though personally I would edge K.Flay ahead of Iggy Azaela, overall it really is down to the listener. If you want something easy to listen to in the background then Iggy is for you. However, if you want to be challenged and provoked then K.Flay all the way.
Words by Konrad Ziemlewski
“she is able to compensate with her ability to involve and connect with her audience” 68
Production VRS Magazine
“Lyrically, we are talking about two of the better young rappers in the game” J. Cole is obviously the better-known artist here, bringing to the table; his record boss Jay-Z’s cosign, a handful of hits, and a certified Gold record with his debut album. Oddisee, on the other hand, has quietly been making a name for himself in the underground ‘backpack’ circuit. Still, he’s managed to have his tracks featured in a series of commercials, most notably the promos for this years NBA Finals – in addition to releasing critically acclaimed work both as a solo artist, and with his Washington, DC based crew ‘Diamond District’. However, as Oddisee’s name is beginning to creep up more and more in mainstream circles, the bulk of his success has still been regulated to the underground. This fact gives J. Cole the first edge in the “tale of the tape” in the category of name recognition. Though this is by no means a knockout blow for Oddisee, as his strong catalogue of music gives him a great chance to rebound. Lyrically, we are talking about two of the better young rappers in the game. From a stylistic standpoint, the two share many of the same traits using past experiences such as relationships, deaths of loved ones, and the environment they grew up in to paint vivid pictures of the scenes of their past. Both have an incredible ability to tell resonating stories that connect with their target audiences; a skill that is lost on many emerging MCs. I’m tempted to call this category a white-wash, but I think that would be unfair to Oddisee Design
who I believe only narrowly edges out Cole due to having a slightly broader subject area. Oddisee makes records for everyone, men, women, and children of all ages. That is not to say that Cole doesn’t, but the bulk of Cole’s work seems to be definitively targeted at women, especially his major label debut “The Sideline Story”. Whereas Oddisee’s work is more evenly spread out to each demographic, giving him the advantage in lyrical content.
Some of the MC’s greatest weapons are of course: flow and delivery. Flow can make average lyrics seem great, and great lyrics seem average. Both Oddisee and Cole have distinctive flows that let listeners know right away who is on the track, but who has the better flow? It’s a tough call, but I think J. Cole is able to do just a little more with his vocals than Oddisee allowing him to have a greater ranging flow that can fit with a multitude of instrumental selections. So Cole’s up 2-1 but does he have the fight in the bag? I’m not sure of that yet, as the biggest category for a hip-hop artist (or any musician for that matter) still remains. Stage presence. I’m not entirely sure if I can be a fair judge on comparing Cole’s stage presence with Oddisee’s, as I’ve never been fortunate enough to see either perform (the perils of a broke college kid); but, I have sat down and watched several live performances by both artists on Youtube. Though admittedly
“big industry special effects that take away from the emotion in his music” watching a live performance that’s been recorded isn’t the same as being there first hand, so if any of you readers out there want to throw my opinion out the window on this subject go right ahead. Just don’t throw the magazine with it.
J. Cole and Oddisee are very engaging on stage, and their smooth laid back styles put the crowd at ease for a mellow, mesmerizing show. The main difference in stage presence is that Cole is slightly more animated, and is playing at bigger venues (lots of college campuses for J). Whereas Oddisee is a little more nonchalant, playing mostly at bars and dive joints. Now some will read that and assume that Cole has the edge due to being more animated, but I actually think that here, Cole’s animation is a hindrance. Because, Oddisee is more reserved on stage, though he still gets live when the moment calls for it. He delivers his lyrics in a cleaner manner than Cole does during live performances. Plus, something about the smaller venues gives Oddisee’s shows a more ‘grass roots’, organic vibe; whereas sometimes I feel Cole’s shows are too overpowered by big industry special effects that take away from the emotion in his music.
their own taste. For me personally, I dig both of these guys and depending on what mood I’m feeling at that moment, I may favor one or the other. So my advice for the readers: Go listen to both J. Cole and Oddisee and decide for yourself who the better MC is. I will make a suggestion though; check out Cole’s “Truly Yours EPs” (both I and II) and Oddisee’s “People Hear What They See” to catch both of these artists at the top of their game. Words by Justin Prince
So who wins? I don’t know. It’s a draw. Or is it?
That’s the beauty of music. It’s subjective and entirely up to each individual to form their own opinions and cultivate
Versus VIdS of The
quarter Summer Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Can’t Hold Us After listening to The Heist the first time, I had a pretty good idea about what tracks would potentially have great visuals if made into singles. Can’t Hold Us was one of the tracks on that list. I had no idea of the sheer scope the final video would then have. The video blew me away with the narrative (expand). This, coupled with the creative and artful shots, makes for a truly energetic video that stays true to the track. Ryan Lewis takes the helm on this one by directing as part of a team of three and as ever he fails to disappoint, just further confirmation of his creative skill that spans disciplines. The video is a masterpiece that makes you want to listen to the album again and again, leaving you in awe of what this duo is capable of. That is why it takes the well-deserved number one spot on this list.
Janelle Monáe - Q.U.E.E.N ft Erykah Badu Janelle Monáe and Erykah Badu. On paper this duo looks like it could produce something really special, so I was excited to see what the visuals and audio for Q.U.E.E.N would be like. I was pleasantly surprised by the catchy old school funk inspired beat, which was clearly produced to be infectious. The video itself looks really good and it has a clean feel to it, allowing Janelle and Erykah have a stage to perform. The best part of this track is the solo-rap that Janelle switches up to before the end. This was the part that made me excited about this artist & more interested to check out her her past work. Her newest album is due for release in Autumn 2013 so keep an eye out for its review in the Autumn 2013 issue. 1ST Runner up ain’t bad at all, if the quality stays this high for her then the future is positive for Miss Monáe. 5
Smokey Robotic - Unlike Anyone The Versus Spring 13 featured group Smokey Robotic have taken the third spot in issue. Unlike Anyone is ‘the’ track, and just as expected, it is the group at their best. It takes a lot to make a video truly unique in the industry these days; you need to have a truly unique or clever idea to go along with the lyrics. However, sometimes you can have some pretty cool visuals that just fit with the track that create an engrossing experience for the viewer. Smokey Robotic’s visuals for Unlike Anyone do exactly that. The video keeps within the psychedelic edge the group are known for, and tells an interesting story that compliments both the tracks sound and lyrics. The group call their music genre ‘superfuturemusic’ and Unlike Anyone shows us exactly what this genre is supposed to look and sound like. For that reason, along with the fact that this group continues to bring us something we haven’t seen or heard before, we here at VRS feel that Unlike Anyone should be in your ‘One to watch list’ if you haven’t watched it yet.
Jez Dior - Move On Firstly, I just need to mention the fresh feel that Jez is bringing to the game right now. There is always a sense of the unexpected when you start one of his tracks. Move on is no exception. You’re immediately hit with the flashing lights and the eye-catching visuals that slap you and make you sit up and pay attention. The hook, skilfully sampled from Lana Del Rey’s ‘Never Let You Go’, sets you up for Jez Dior’s lyrics to then come in and complete the piece. The sound is something that you know you’ve heard before, but in a way like you haven’t. It sounds like a very well balanced mix of styles carefully blended together in order to make the final component. Jez stands out, showing us what he can do in terms of technical skill and delivery. This track whets the appetite for more to come, and, in my opinion so does everything else that he’s released so far. Keep an eye out for Jez Dior’s EP because if this is anything to go by, it will be something pretty special.
Voli - 5AM Voli, a relatively new comer to my radar, has definitely made an impact. The first time I heard this emcee’s skill was when I watched the visuals for his track ‘5AM’. Everything is on point. It’s all about the talent this emcee possesses. The video is about his braggadocio, with the subtle cuts to some stock imagery and video to reinforce the lyric references. Voli’s flow is smooth with a sound similar to that of Childish Gambino, though at the same time unique as a result of his delivery. The visuals for 5AM are simple but effective, so there aren’t any fancy visual effects to take away from Voli’s art. Instead of the fancy effects, you’re shown some well composed and edited shots that do a much better job than any fancy effects would do. After seeing and hearing this artist’s work, I will be sure to follow and see what else he has to offer in the future & I really think you should too.
tracks of the Quarter Black Hippy - U.O.E.N.O The original landed Rick Ross in a real pickle, though not the kind that he’d be looking forward to in a quarter pounder. Truth be told, following Rocko making the decision to remove Ross’s banal, misogynistic hate filled verse from the track, it’s grown into one of the best beats we’ve heard this year.
The Black Hippy remix sees the four stalwarts destroy the beat with their greatly differing styles and flows, meshed effortlessly in a manner only capable by those highly revered TDE signees. Surprisingly on this track though, Q and Rock take the spotlight, unusual given the material we’ve seen from Soulo and Kendrick in the past. Q makes the whole track, referencing the Ross Rape Gate scandal which saw him lose his Reebok sponsor - ‘Molly in her drink but she asked me to / And oh yeah I got this on cam’ - if that isn’t firing shots then I don’t know what is. Rock also brings a surprisingly unique flow to the track with the line-‘ I’m so dope I’m a walkin’ kilo! (kilo)!’ Spat with the now signature ASAP pitch change. Everyone does their thing on this track, coupled with that infectious beat, this one’s gonna be on rotation for a while.
Woodkid - I love you ft Angel Haze
With the overload of hip-hop music coming out in the past few months, I decided to go a bit left field with my choice for ‘Track of the Quarter’. You might not know Woodkid but I would be surprised if you haven’t seen his work. The French video director/musician is the mastermind behind the brilliant ‘Born to Die’ video for Lana Del Rey and produced the title track for Assassins Creed 3 that was also sampled by Kendrick Lamar in ‘The Spiteful Chant’ ft ScHoolboy Q.
Here we have him hook up with Angel Haze for a remix of ‘I Love You’, the strongest track from his recently released album ‘The Golden Age’. The song depicts the story of a couple in a love/hate relationship. But what really drew me in is the unexpectedly beautiful singing voice that Angel Haze has and how well it goes with Woodkid’s eerie tone. In between all these loved up lyrics Haze delivers a barrage of rat-tat-tat rhymes, “your grip won’t let me free”, something we have come accustom to. The production is way out of Angel Haze’s comfort zone but she adapts brilliantly switching up her tones and delivery to compliment the epic production and her counterparts voice.
Although this song is much more radio-friendly than normal for me, the delivery of both artists and the exquisite production make this a must-pick for me.
Summer J.cole - power Trip ft Miguel Ever since Truly Yours & Truly Yours 2 dropped earlier on this year, J Cole has had a lot to live up to for his upcoming sophomore studio album. Power Trip is a great track that helped to ease the wait. Cole’s delivery is oozing with the quality that is reminiscent of his past mixtape efforts The Come Up & The Warm Up. Miguel comes on the track and lays down his silky voice to compliment Cole’s rapping, making for an exquisite end result. The track sounds like an instant classic, one that shows that Cole is back and is still killing it on the mic. Having heard the track once, all I wanted to do was to press repeat. This track got me hyped for Born Sinner and as you can see from our review in this issue, Cole sure did not disappoint.
Wale - Poor Decisions “Poor Decisions “ is my track of the quarter and honestly one of the best tracks of the year so far. Wale and Lupe (especially Lupe) are at the pinnacle of their lyrical ability in this ode to bad choices. They’re so good, that even the lackluster and repetitive Rick Ross can’t even ruin this song. Lupe however steals the show, in one verse hitting a bevy of subjects including faith, relationships, and eating habits. The verse is another shining example of when Lupe is in the zone that his lyricism is leaps and bounds ahead of any other rapper. The verse is so good in fact that our friends at Vibe called it the best verse of the year. That’s heavy praise and when coupled with a Wale’s own quality verse “Poor Decisions” is one of the best decisions MMG has made yet.