Shower Me With Your Love

Shower Me With Your Love
"...we don't need no piece of paper from the city hall, keeping us tried and true..."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011: APOCALYPSE FROM NOW ON: A year in review...

me in front of the word 'burn' @Myrtle and Ryerson
In a year that began with deadbirds literally falling from the sky and will end with our President signing a bill that yields the indefinite detention of ANYONE, I must once again adhere to the title of the first Jane’s Addiction record, Nothing’s Shocking.  And while this line of thinking may seem distraught, manic, or downright nihilistic to some, it can more accurately be diagnosed as a dogmatic, spiritual journey into narcissistic fear-and-loathing, with the resulting, clamorous truth being that an END may very well be NEAR.  I mean, the Earth-tipping disasters (outside of what the folks associated with HAARP may or may not have controlled) were beyond astonishing in 2011.  Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, and forest fires historically exceeded prior levels of damage and death.  In wake of the madness, I personally occupied plenty of Innervisions (puns over everything), while a respectable number of others across the nation and globe occupied the streets in protest.   But mostly we occupied the internet and to those who accomplished something, whether it be in Egypt or Oakland or in the future of Artificial Intelligence (it seems that’s what  the late Mr. Jobs has left us with) I commend your efforts, but am truly interested in this Anonymous-mess and don’t see why people are so taken aback by the actions of any governing body.  It’s a wash.  Better get it in your soul and cling to some integrity.  And perhaps some faith.  IT’s gonna get uglier folks, but as IT does, I sure do enjoy ITs soundtrack. "Now go start your own band!"

DJ Tara has been blessing SoCo with crate-digging gems every Thursday evening.  I usually approach her at least twice during her set (in the most polite and non-interrupting way possible, of course) to ask about a track or version of a track that she’s just dropped.  Tara has more than a few rarities in her back pocket and that’s just one dope part of her entire artistic landscape as a deejay.  Don’t sleep on one of BK’s nicest turntablists. Read more about this talented woman and peep her mix here.

Speaking of Brooklyn, the Stuyvesants create hip hop music that captures the warmth and groove of 70s soul music and appropriate it into head-nods that you and I LOVE. The partnership of Algorythm and Flwrpt was created in Bed-Stuy and has recently churned out two volumes of The Finer Things which you can freely grab here.  These cats get plenty of rotation at HQ and I look forward to pollyin’ with them some more in the future.

So, my best of 2011 list is without Thrones, Futures, Wolves, or Drakes and you shouldn’t be surprised.  I am just one man with an opinion.  Impressionable, yet picky, with a oversized pair of ears for what I think is dope.  Unfortunately I haven’t been behind the decks much lately, but if I had, I would have been dropping tracks from these artists and WILL BE in 2012.  I did spend waaaay too much time on this PC this year, but had I not, this list wouldn't exist. So read ‘em and no particular order...  

Curren$y + Alchemist*Convert Coup*WMG
Peep my original review of Spitta's major label debut here.  His prior tapes and  his work with Alchemist was about the only thing I was bumping at the beginning of the year.  The New Orleans pothead is one of my favorite dudes in the biz. He obviously doesn't take himself too seriously; but is a true talent on the mic. Reference his ability to spit over anything and do it with inherent comfort and genuine happiness. Self-made, honest and fly as fuck. _m/ life is a reminder to do you and if you are supposed to make a mark, you will.  Smoke one and smile for your boy.

James Blake*James Blake*A&M/Atlas
At 22, this British dubstep producer/vocalist can truly sing the gospel.  In place of church organs and Biblical hymns, Blakes' magnifying bellow (a la Luther Vandross) smothers his own minimal keys, clicks and fuzz with love songs for generation Y.  The result is green and laced with the kind of electronic production that we as music lovers should grow accustomed to if we haven't already.  This is not dubstep nor R&B, yet a polished, internet-love-child of the two. 

J.Period+DJ Spinna*Man Or The Music 2*Independent
Two of Brooklyn's most admired producer/deejays paired up this past summer to create the second annual commemoration of MJ's legacy with another stellar mixtape highlighted by rare live versions, covers, interviews and an overall cohesiveness that is sure to make even the most devout fan appreciate the collection of tunes and/or say "oh shit, I've never heard that!" And although Irene ruined Spike Lee's annual MJ tribute party in BK where physical copies were to be handed out, they still gave it away free online. Get it here and cherish the GOAT. 

Pharoahe Monch*W.A.R (We Are Renegades)*Duckdown
Big shout to the homie Jason Vaughn of Boycott Magazine.  I think he posted a track from this album earlier this year and I loved it but forgot to cop the whole joint. Here Pharoahe discusses the future as every emcee/teacher should. On "Blackhand Side'' he complains...a generation overly obsessed with mobsters/ our revolutionaries want Grammys and Oscars/ imposters, fake auras and weak chakras/ making a mockery of music to be pop stars. Prophetic, grown, and revolutionary, indeed.  This shit right here.
Gary Clark Jr.*Bright Lights EP*WMG
South ATX, tried and true.  The future is limitless for this dude as he continues turning the heads and ears of the entire industry as of late (he did Letterman last week). Besides the powerful title cut which producer Rob Cavallo appropriately beefed up from the original version Clark was shopping on his 2010 self-titled record, the self-produced closer, an acoustic version of  "When My Train Pulls In"  (from his very first recording in '01) is a true fan's treat, delving  into an old blues medley Clark used to open his shows with back in Austin. The song brings a smile to my face daily.  Hope to catch up soon, G. Godspeed.

Big K.R.I.T.*Return of 4Eva*Independent
 "Refrain from being lame, say it like you mean it/ get up off yo feet like it's the first time you seen it..." Well it wasn't the first time I'd seen or heard a country boy spit about country living (you can hear 'Kast, UGK, and MJG in his voice) but to produce the entire record dolo and have a sincere, true to soil, cocaine-less flow AND garnish the attention of everybody from down bottom and a few others (he's featured on the Roots' new record), Justin Scott will indeed be a King Remembered In Time if he keeps this up.  The Brothers of Soul-sampling "Dreamin'" was one of my favorite tracks of the year, while "The Vent" should be a lament for us all.  Mississippi stand up.  

Action Bronson*Dr. Lecter*Independent
Fuck a hater. Bronsolino's voice is strikingly similar to one Ghostface. But shit, that doesn't make him a shark.  He's a talented chef that can rap and his passion and bars are some of the illest to emerge from NYC over the past decade.  AB is also fucking hilarious, sifting between WWF metaphors and vagina/culinary comparisons in one fail swoop. The 3bills+ emcee isn't all jokes though--his Flushing, Queens street tales pop with neck-snap precision .  Production here is 90s-superb from Tommy Mas, while he also dropped Well Done this year with NYC standout Statik Selektah.  This Albanian monster serves up platters of heat.  Don't sleep.

Kendrick Lamar*Section.80*Top Dawg
Upon digesting this record amongst a slue of others in the same week  I'll admit that "...if I can fuck her in front of all of these passengers/ they'll  probably think I'm a terrorist/ eat my asparagus..." caused me to press stop.  I then met Chris Wade on an airplane because we liked each others Jordans and he told me this dude had released the record of the year.  As I gave it a re-listen (most of the gems are at the end) I realized that this twenty-nothing from Compton was the voice of the thinking, emotionally charged, yet self-aware, internet-toting generation Y.  Plus he can spit Bone Thugs-fast ("Rigamortis") and may have song of the year with "HiiiPower". 

Phonte*Charity Starts At Home*Foreign Exchange Music
Shouts to Bavu Blakes for turning me on to this record from one of the game's most dynamic artists.  Phonte's first solo joint  (but don't forget Little Brother and his Grammy nominated Foreign Exchange) captures the essence of hip hop independence.  Produced by LB extraordinaire 9th Wonder, Charity glides out of the speakers with honesty and whit.  On "The Good Fight" fam in my ear all day and they yellin'/ keep it real 'Te and don't ever sell out, but how the fuck you sell out when ain't nobody sellin'? Lines like that along with "I made a new lane for myself and said fuck it/ why rage against the machine when you can just unplug it..." still have me grinning about the true definition of hustle.

The Roots*Undun*Def Jam
Dark, shimmering, hopeful, and hopeless, Illidelph's finest took on the task of  conceptually casting a record about a man's life of crime and eventual death and the orchestration plays out with marvelous candor. Undun came just weeks ago and it hasn't left iPod rotation yet.  Black Thought is top five, dead or alive, and always has been to me. Phonte and Big K.R.I.T. join in delivering the dramatic scenes within the backwards death of our main character Redford Stevens.  ?uestlove goes completely Animal (Jim Henson) on "Will To Power" before the record collects itself with thematic strings only to be #undun upon next listen. Play it again, Sam. Instant classic.

Thundercat*The Golden Age of Apocalypse*Brainfeeder
Stephen Bruner is a bass player and his eclectic debut plays like a  jazz/funk fusion monster whose Dr. Frankenstein just happens to be west coast taste-maker Flying Lotus.  Between fits of broken garage and muddled confusion only similar to something formatted by Herbie Hancock, Bruner's compositions and playing style allow each track to dance to it's own complexities.  Unique, fresh and virtuous in his tastes, Bruner sings, too.  I see many collabs in the future.  Here, have a sample.

WU LYF*Go Tell Fire To The Mountain*L Y F
This is ONLY the third time I've mentioned these young fellas from across the pond this year.  They are the band of the year for me hands down.  Start with their website.  The music can be safely described as indie-pop, complete with an Afro-rhythmic bounce and single note chords of jubilation and darkness that get delivered in the same song, however, what deviates the sound of these youngsters from Manchester away from so many similar outfits are the vocal stylings of Ellery Roberts, whose grunts recall a schizophrenic Waits that can't fully pronounce words, and whose tortured wails resurrect a once hungry Isaac Brock.   World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation has a posse.  I promise.

Oddisee*Rock Creek Park*Mellow Music
DMV's finest producer and soul aficionado goes by the moniker Oddisee and I only know this thanks again to Bavu Blakes.  Named after one of his favorite get-away spots outside of DC, Oddisee's 2011 release reveals a brand of crisp hip hop production that incorporates both live instrumentation and a knack for percussive perfection and delightful samples.  The first track I heard was "The Carter Baron" and I never looked back. In fact, I've nearly soaked up the kid's entire catalog (see both collectives Diamond District and Low Budget) and am looking forward to anything he touches in 2012.

Frank Ocean*Nostalgia, Ultra*Independent
The short version: Los Angeles via New Orleans college-dropout ghostwrites several hit pop songs. Signs to Def Jam. Gets shelved by said label. Says fuck Def Jam and releases album free. Associates with Odd Future. Releases record of the year about hitting some weed laced with Novocaine at Coachella with a porn star. Covers Fader Magazine... in all honesty though, dude can sing AND write (see "We All Try'' and his youthful, yet accurate story-telling and commentary on marriage over an Eagles' classic on "American Wedding"). Frank Ocean: household name.

Freddie Gibbs*Cold Day In Hell*LRG
Gangsta Gibbs is most certainly that.  There isn't much going on economically in Gary, Indiana and Gibbs lyrically brings that to fruition the same way gangster rap was accurately brought to wax in the early 90's.  I can't think of another gangster rapper the spits as nice as Gibbs and obviously still has one foot in the trap.  You can hear it in his voice.  The hunger and honesty make Freddie Gibbs appealing to me.  I've never sold rocks, robbed a man or did a bid, but Gibbs paints a movie on the mic and each tale is compelling.  While titles like "Rob Me A N****" and "My Homeboy's Girlfriend" may seem absurd, Gibbs hits narrative home-runs with production from an army of lesser-knowns.  And he just cut a record with Madlib. Get to know Freddie.

East Cameron Folkcore*Sound & Fury: Songs In The Key Of Love And Death*Independent
This is a personal and emotional record for me.  In short, the sound is classic Americana, constructed in movements that are dedicated to the life and death of a fallen friend.  I am honored to be featured on the record.  Much of it is a tough  listen unless you are unbeknownst to the players and people involved.  Strings of every kind, brass and keys, along with the earnest pipes of Jesse Moore and our East Cameron Road family deliver an album that has been mostly slept on.  You should give it a listen.

So...honorable-mention-slash-records-I-spent-considerable-time-with include:

Shabazz Palaces' Black Up, Evidence's Cats & Dogs, Bavu Blakes' SANCT EP, Blu's No York, Death Grips' ExMilitary (dubby electronic punk-hop with screaming rapper and Zach Hill on drums....yes, please) Jay-Z+Kanye West's Watch The Throne, Talib Kweli's Gutter Rainbows, Elzhi's El-matic (Detroit emcee does QB classic proper justice) Skyzoo's The Great Debater, Adele's 21, Aloe Blacc's Good Things (a year late), Chuuwee's Hot'N'Ready (kid from Sac-town is about to make waves...TRUST), Girls's Broken Dreams Club AND Father, Son, Holy Ghost (I absolutely love the SF trio), Cults's Self Titled debut, the Weeknd's House of Balloons, Washed Out's Within and Without (about the only 'chill-wave' I can stomach), Iceage's New Brigade (punk fucking rawk!), and Smith Westerns' Dye It Blonde.

Shit I can't get into and am still scratching my head on:

Kids these days...
Odd Future (I do respect the manner in which they have taken over with cult status through doing shit completely independent, but substance?? anyone??? I already loved their heroes.  I guess they're reinventing them for those too young to know), A$AP Rocky (ummm really? WOW. Harlem kid in love with Houston's syrupy sound and OFWGKTA's 'swag' for 3 milli?!?! Sure thing 'Rakim' smfh), Danny Brown (love the sound of his voice, but his gross-out humor doesn't make me laugh nor gross me out...had great production on XXX though), Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire (ummmm, really??? no comment) and Das Racist (only annoy me a little bit and I actually bumped Sit Down, Man  for about a week), and Drake. And Wale :'(

The song of the year actually comes from an album that was never released and may never see the light of day.  The mysteriousness of Jay Electronica partially haunts my yearning for quality hip hop, as his pen and vision (to me) have yielded some of the best music to emerge over the last five years.  Although he signed to Roc Nation in the later part of last year and followed that with the release of what I will dub 'song of the year' in 2011, there has still been no word from the enlightened sooth-Sayer from NOLA's Magnolia Projects.  Not only does "Shiny Suit Theory" feature Jay-Z (his bars on the track are nicer than anything he spit on WTT), but in his own verse, Jay Electronica speaks as Sean Combs, reenacting the courting that took place between Bad Boy and himself just years ago.  The story has legs.  There is no percussion on the track, yet a looped piano with inserted applause and a beautiful singing voice the appears at the conclusion of Hov's verse.  Come home Mr. Thedford.  The game needs your record.

In closing, I'd like to say FUCK YOU to Penn St., David Stern and Rick Perry in particular (for marring my name when I tell people I'm from Texas).  I'd like to congratulate my boy Chippy on taking over his new pizza spot in Georgetown, Texas called Manhattan Pie Company and my boys Nathan and Dennis for opening The White Horse in East Austin last week. I'll see you guys next week for New Year's Eve!  Another thank you goes out to Ferrari Sheppard and Chuck D for using Twitter to enlighten. I enjoy what you gentlemen have to say everyday.  Farewell to Troy Davis, Gil Scott-Heron, Elizabeth Taylor, Nick Ashford, Joe Frasier,  Betty Ford, Al Davis, Heavy D, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Andy Rooney, Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs and the millions who lost their life this year due to hunger and war.  Hello to the future, however bright and/or terrifying it may be.
Thanks for reading...see you next year.


Favorite wall in LES

Friday, November 11, 2011

Been a minute...catch up like Heinz, small fries. We in the grease.

First off, I’ll break my inexcusable silence with a loud “CALVIN GOT A JOB!”  SoCo, an affordable, southern-infused restaurant and nightspot, sits smack dab in the middle of a softly-gentrified section of Brooklyn. Just a block from FDB headquarters.  Chicken and red velvet cake waffles, lobster-shrimp-and-grits, and goat cheese baked macaroni highlight a small dinner menu whose desserts are provided by an in-house pastry chef (donut holes, yo). The cocktail menu often has yours truly roasting marshmallows,  muddling blueberries, blessing margaritas with agave nectar or pouring one of thirty some-odd brews from around the globe.  NYC turntablists such as Frei and Music Rocka bless the decks on the weekends with classic soul, hip hop and R&B, while your boy usually handles iPod duties during the week – dropping anything from Gary Clark Jr. to East Cameron to Bavu Blakes to The Best Love In Town.  Yes, I bring Texas to all my endeavors up here, BUT I am sincerely proud to be a part of SoCo, which to me defines Brooklyn class and preserves Brooklyn culture.  Bitter and booshie should be checked at the door with your coat; manners and respect are welcome and warmly reciprocated.  Come holler at us NYC.

Rockwell9000, a baby-faced, hip hop producer from Austin by way of Saturn, is slightly slept-on at this point.  I bumped Rock’s first tape for nearly two months last year.  Then he dropped The Good Life whose title-track is the kind of soul bounce that stands strong alone—emcee-less and ready to be lyrically blessed, except, you know how certain tracks speak to you without words? Of course you do.  You already feel me and my tastes if you’re reading this shit and hopefully you’ve copped a tape from the Rockness himself. Have a listen here.  I had a word or two with him recently and I loved what he had to say…Peep production game from a kid whose feet are barely wet, but whose ears are already soaked in his own head-nods.

What caused you to want to start deejaying and producing and how long have you been at it?
*I honestly fell into it on accident. I got stoned, saw an iPod mixer at an Urban Outfitters, bought it because it was only $50 and tried to scratch my iPod on it. That didn't work so well. So my friend convinced me to just buy a real turntable and try it out. So I did, and I sucked. But I realized if I was going to enjoy it I’d have to be semi good at it, so I just practiced every day for 6 hours a day and began learning. I started producing at the same time because I thought," if I want to show off my skills, I want to be able to take all the credit. I don't want someone paying more attention to the beat than my cuts and then not get the credit I want." So I made my own beats so I could know people were groovin’ to my shit regardless if they jammed the beat or the technique. All in all I’ve been at it for 4 years.

You have a knack for combining samples and cuts in a way that sounds very natural and polished.  What producers do you look up to and who or what has influenced you along the way?
*Kid Koala, Cut Chemist, DJ shadow and RjD2 were the first sparks that ignited the flame. They all make all their tracks out of several samples versus just taking so many samples from one song. I believe with the combination of all these sounds you get something more original out of something borrowed. But Kid Koala was the main influence and still is to this day. The style of his cuts his something amazing. It’s artistic and on point, yet just a little sloppy which gives it that old jazz band feel.

Do you prefer producing instrumentals or would you more so like to create canvases for emcess?
I like both honestly, but what I’ve noticed is that mc's are hard to motivate, well not just mc's, anyone really. But it’s much harder to get someone on a beat than it is just to keep poppin’  ‘em out  like an Irish woman does babies. But for now due to those circumstances, I’m good doing just instrumentals.

What do you think is wrong with hip hop music?
Absolutely nothing. It's diverse, strong and anyone can at least try it out whether they’re good at it or not.  Different songs have different uses. Everyone hates on radio rap and how "that’s not hip hop".  But honestly, it’s just a different more commercial form. I believe that shit helps the hip hop community stay alive and strong more than anything. People got mad when Nike stepped into the skateboarding game several years ago with P Rod's first pro model shoe, but now look, who doesn't own a pair of Nikes. Things like that help keep that economy up.  If you're a purest and want to hear "real" hip hop, then stick to your J5 and other great lyrical groups. If you're wanting to boogie or feel like a boss, then pump you some Rick Ross or Wayne. Neither is greater or more important than the other, they’re just different forms of hip hop trying to get by.
Since we last spoke I’ve been blessed with a copy of Bavu Blakes's SANCT EP.  Be it by sheer accident or in perfect dogmatic contradiction, producer Reggie Coby (LOEGz, Dredd Skott) and Blakes decided to use a slow and distorted filter on Blakes’s voice as a precursor to each track – not dissimilar to the same filter used by Tyler the Creator at the beginning of his records.  Blakes opens SANCT with the line “God just snatched me out of everything’’, while Tyler reveals his depression and anger in a mock therapy session at the beginning and throughout both Bastard and Goblin.  No disrespect to Mr. Blakes, as the more I think about it the more I feel like it must have been coincidental. But then again, Bavu is the exact opposite of everything about Odd Future and their founder Tyler, who may be the most popular twenty-nothing living on God’s green earth.  Not that they lack talent or are in any way devilish (debatable for some I’m sure), but they do not give thanks or praise to anyone besides Pharrel and Marshall Mathers. More importantly they do not write the kind of sincere, cohesive and soulful music that Blakes and company have been delivering for over a decade.  That being said, SANCT is a genuine piece of hip-hop and just a teaser until Blakes is settled in with fatherhood.  Opener “Don’t Turn Me Down’’ roars with Carter Arrington’s guitar licks sweltering around  a soul-clapping, Dungeon Family-esque romp, as Blakes and Coby swap verses and undress themselves in the presence of something greater…I came back from the dead to write it and I’m willing to sacrifice it/ Music is my Issac.  Joined by family and super talents D-Madness, Pamela Okeke, Blaxsmith, Easy Lee and John Keyzz, Blakes has reconnected to the Nobody Who Knows and we are all super stoked to hear more.  I’ve awoken many a morning with Mr. Coby’s layered “FIIIINE, GREEEEAAT” echoing through my spirit!  Congrats on the EP and your new family Vu.  We can’t wait for a full length and hopefully a piece of vinyl.  ATX stand tall.  

Speaking of, D-Madness will unveil his new project, entitled 10yr, in Austin this coming Tuesday which includes ATX vet and songstress Yadira Brown.  I will be in town and look forward to hearing an oldy-but-goodie, brand new collab.  Austin continues to swell with hip hop, as young gunner Kydd Jones just leaked his single with Yelawolf.  Both emcees go in.  Meanwhile, my slick-as-grease pahtna Kaizen dropped his new mixtape just weeks ago.  Southern bangers. In addition, Texas mindful emcees Crew 54 have a sports show and they does it big every Sunday.  I love me some Cowboys and yes, Romo is my quarterback.  Look for them to salvage the season in the coming weeks, while the Longhorns should close out with a respectable bowl appearance following a victory over the Aggies.

I was stoked to catch WULYF in Brooklyn earlier this week.  Band of the year without a doubt.  These youngsters from across the pond compose the kind of jittery, expansive rock that bubbles within the confines of their contemporaries, yet, Ellery Robery's voice is in an obtuse league of its own. Check out their website to decipher the lyrics and get hip to the boys from Manchester.

Speaking of hip and the hop, the most spectacular emcee sharing oxygen with the others is still Daniel Dumile.  Ego Trip co-founder Jeff Mao just did an interview with the metal-faced anomaly.  The piece includes listening sessions from KMD to MMM…Food, as the masked Long Islander explains a bit of his madness.  Best time I’ve spent on the internet all year.

The FDB jukebox has been bumping Oddisee without fail (thanks Minister Blakes), as well as the compositionsof bass player extraordinaire ThundercatSkyzoo is heavily slept on, while I’d rather bump the new Freddie Gibbs tape before listening once more to Wale’s MMG premiere.  I’ll quote Jay Electronica on that note… “Guru told me slow up your flow, ‘cause science and metaphors will slow up your dough”.  So true and SO blatant in this context.  I will listen to ANYTHING once and I bumped Wale’s tapes for nearly three years.  He is comfortable and paid now. 
That is all.

I’ve also been inhaling a heavy dose of Aloe Blacc (who hasn’t hopefully) as well as Antony and the Johnsons, more Possessed by Paul James and the latest spoken word from my man Hobomouth, aka DJ Fuckface, aka Allen Idle, aka my brother-from-another-mother.

Speaking of family, my people will be gathering this weekend in Austin for the anniversary of fallen kindred spirit Jon Pettis.  The Revival Fund will sponsor the shows this week which include a stellar line-up of Texas talent and beyond.  Miss you boys and hope to have a beer next week.

My boy Mez hooked me up with a Butter ‘N Bacon tee before I moved to NYC earlier this summer.  I’m also a proud owner of a dope snap-back of the same brand.  A kid in Brooklyn offered me $50 for the shirt a couple weeks ago.  I declined, yet immediately text my boy with the news.  Keep up with the Texas company and their gear.  Shit is tight like gnat bootie.

On the fashion tip, I will admit I have a soft spot for the not-so-realistic adventures within HBO’s How To Make It In America, however, Mr. Wahlberg writes a great story.  Fashion heads must watch for the interpretive dynamic of how it goes down (kindof) in the rotten apple.  Boardwalk Empire is my shit though.  Steve Buscemi will prevail (duh) but he’s going to have to kill Jimmy and his own flesh and blood.  Straight up.

Congrats to AKV for scoring a spot on the eastside of the ATX.  If you read my shit you already know of the great things to come for Steph and her crew.  Big-ups, yo.

I’ll leave you with a few rumors…
My boy Giant Steps James is about to move Beauty Bar Austin to an east side venue with more space.   Get ready for shows, on shows, on shows, and unfortunately, perhaps the beginning of the end of Red River (Plush stand tall for as long as possible).

A new hip hop nightclub may be on the verge of opening it’s doors in downtown Austin.  Dresscode will include mandatory sneakers.  This is not a joke. Nor is Chicken George, NickNack or TMC.  Fuck a Spiro’s--let’s get it right this time kids.

My boy Eric, aka RecoBlaze, aka Eric Van Buren, has built a dope studio in his new digs (with the help of a hobo) and will soon began working with Possessed By Paul James on a new record. Man. I’m almost speechless.  Reco produced five tracks of hip hop music that I got to spit on nearly two years ago.  The kid is expanding his production wings and will succeed without a doubt.  He also holds down the low-end in East Cameron Folkcore. If you don’t know, you betta ask…

My longtime football friend and ATX cohort Chad Holt has been working with his college buddy and film producer Bob Ray for quite some time now.  They’ve toured twice in support of the cunning documentary Total Badass, which is a piece of film worth your time as a human being.  Ray’s Crashcam films has already brought a dope roller derby documentary, as well as Rock Opera.  Become an Austinite in one fell swoop with a viewing all of the above.

I’m hoping to see Immortal Technique, the Game and Mr. Gary Clark Jr. while I’m in Austin next week.  I’ll definitely see you on the court at Eastwoods on Monday and Wednesday.  Until next time (promise it won’t be so long) I’M O-U-T.  Happy birthday Momma.


The most difficult part about leaving Texas back in June was walking away from the Seguin Independent School District.  For three years I educated, mentored, fathered and blessed a group of young people who taught me so much about life in a small town, despite me being raised in a similar environment.   Every small town is the same and completely different.  I will never forget my time there and never completely understood my influence over so many kids until I was packing up to leave for good.  Thank you Seguin and keep your heads up for small-town Texas.  Family forever. #STS #Saigon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

512 future: Kydd & KaiZen

Nonchalant emcee-producer Kydd Jones has a posse that’s bubbling.  The internets have been paying attention too, as a handful of his videos have 25,000+ plays. And why not?  With a penchant for building mildly smooth head nods that sound dusty yet contemporary, and surrounding himself with other bleeding edge artists and like-minded producers, the young mouthpiece is set to release his second full length – The Sounds in My Head Pt. 2. The sophomore follow up to Pt.1 will include guest appearances by proven grinders Pac Div, Yelawolf and GLC.  Dude can flat out spit and holds down his hometown proper on tracks like the jazzy “Jungle’’ where he claims…city where the hippy be/ more bars than 66 Sixth Streets/ fuck that devil shit, by the Frost Tower fixin' to level it/ Austin rebel shit/ Austin bass and treble mix/ though some ni**as peddle it/ skaters and my peddlers develop it.  I’ve had my eye on Mr. Jones for a brief period and caught up with him earlier this month.

How long have you been reppin’ Texas and what is your favorite thing about the state/ Austin?   I was born in Austin so I’ve been here pretty much my whole life. I love the feeling of Austin.  We have this warm vibe here that makes people want to come here and stay for good.  It must be the food and the music.

Are you influenced by any ATX artists (music or other)?
Tee-Double and Gary Clark Jr. both understand music on a level that I can appreciate.

Did you rap or produce first? Which do you like more? What did you first hear or see that made you want to make your own shit?
Well I started rapping around 9 years old and I didn’t know what a producer was at the time.  I needed beats so I would loop the end of songs on tapes and that process alone was almost impossible! We made it work somehow, but that got old quick.  I was 15 when I produced my first record and since then I’ve gone through phases where I produce a shit load, but can’t write or don’t want to write.   Or I would be writing more without the motivation to produce.  At this point though, I’m doing both pretty well I think.

Tell me about LNS.
Well the LNS crew is a group of creative people, producers, writers, emcees and the list goes on.  We are the Leaders of the New Skool—it’s almost like a group with elite powers that evolve through time.  I’ve watched too many episodes of Heroes!  My album The Sounds in My Head Pt.2 will be out later this month.   It will be crazy good like ya momma’s cookin’ unless she sucks! #Lz But yeah, Pt.2 is some of my best work, but I’ll let the music speak for itself.

What does the future look like for you?   Everything G.O.O.D. (Getting Out Our Dreams)

The homie KaiZen, aka Zen Dutchmaster, is another 512-er standing tall for Texas hip hop. Draping his bars with genuine couth, Zen’s refined flow and scholarship are the reflection of an artist who’s ventured through life with an innate sense of absorption.  KaiZen is on a mission to pass his words to your well being.  He answered some questions from likedeaddogs headquarters--inhale the flavor of a cultured gentleman. 

I think an emcee’s life experiences and the way they digest other artist’s music has a considerable impact on their own body of work.  What has had the biggest impact on yourself as an emcee?   The Power of Music has had the biggest impact on me and continues to impact me every day.  You can go all around the world and find songs or written pages from before Christ that still influence the way people think and see the world today.  Music, like all literature, allows the writer to live forever and has the potential to influence the world forever.  When I realized how powerful music and words can be and how eternal they are, I was hooked.   I had to leave my mark—bomb the wall of life with my own personal graph design.  Feel me?  I’m just blessed to live in a time where “Hip-Hop” has provided an avenue that allows for the explicit expression of my story, no holds barred.   I don’t like to be censored—at any fucking time. lol

People love to place an artist’s sound in a box or domain...sounds like this or influenced by that.  If you would, box yourself up in your own words before anybody else does  :) *you can be as vague or explanatory as you’d like… Hmmm.  I hate boxes. Lol  You’re talking to somebody who grew up on Pearl Jam and Dr. Dre, but I also love listening to Stravinsky symphonies, too.  I love the calculated aggression the Bad Boy/Death Row era, but I also learned from it.  Just as I learned from Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Tupac and even Jimi Hendrix.  They all danced with the same demons. . . I almost feel like they were all afraid of their own greatness.  I’m not always so serious though.  I bump all kinds of music because I’m in all types of moods any given moment.  Honestly, I can’t even say a box man because I am influenced by everything I see.   The universe is so big, but it’s the right size box for me.

How long have you been spitting and what are your immediate and long-term plans?   I’ve been spitting since I was 20.  I came home one winter break when I was working/interning at the radio station.  I heard Nas’ “H- to the OMO”.  That Jay-Z diss.  And I just loved how he just came out so fluid, but so gangsta and so meticulously brilliant.  I was like, I wanna do that.  I immediately just wrote some words on a legal pad.  No bars or rhythm to it—that stuff was all in my head.  I just needed to put the words down.  My brother over heard me and said it was tight.  That gave me the confidence to go spit it to the people at the radio and they liked it.  I been writing and spitting ever since.  KaiZen (continually improving) every time! LONG TERM: Music is my life, so I want to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.  I want to have the relevancy and the freedom to drop an album when I’m inspired to.  Jay-Z and Nas inspire me to be at their age and still spitting with such tenacity and sharpness.  I want to change peoples’ perception of what a rapper can say or where he can come from.  As well as where he can go.  I’m not headed for no casket or no jail cell anytime soon, so people should expect to see me everywhere for a long time.  I want to get into sports ownership, free agency and such.  Plus, I want to be the first rapper with a successful cannabis dispensary chain (once it’s all legal of course).  The main thing is that I want to enjoy my life and my music to be a reflection of that.  All of it.

Tell me about Word, Power, Life.   Words Power your Life bruh.  If you think/speak BIG, you are BIG.  It’s no bullshit.  It’s not enough to have though in your head.  Manifest it vocally and you’ll see it manifest in the physical.  Trill talk.  You seen it with ‘Pac and Biggie and even others.   No disrespect to their music or their message, but I’m trying to give people something that will inspire them to make themselves great and this world a better place.

“Everybody wants to be a deejay, everybody wants to be an emcee…” so said Posdnus twenty-two years ago.  How do you stay fresh in an oversaturated sea?    Maaaan, believe it or not… I don’t know how I stay fresh bruh, cuz I’ve been this way my whole life.  Thank God.  I don’t know how to do anything else.  God’s surrounded with an ill group of individuals that don’t let wack shit ride in the circle . . . period.  It’s nothing cocky or personal.  That’s just how confident we are in our fresh and our swag.  Like, I said, I’ve always been this way.  I don’t think I’m gonna change.  I got too many people that would call me out on it.  Lol (including you!)    My best answer for the question is I just stay true to myself and God.  The best move you can make in an oversaturated market is an original one.  I don’t know how to be anybody but myself.  I’m TRILL-HUNDRED PERCENT authentic bruh.  The artists I respect the most and admire have always been true to themselves their entire career (i.e. Jay-Z, Nas, Dr. Dre, Snoop, etc.)  The artists that fell off or are washed up have never really been one person to the public (i.e. Ja Rule, Milli Vanilli, Ma$e, Loon, etc.).  They’ve always been jumping from one costume to the next.  I spit about my real life man.  Music isn’t just my hobby, it’s my craft.

Momma and Dahm maxin' outside of Mr. CoCo
Being super new to our neighborhood, the lady and I constantly keep our eyes and ears peeled for eateries, bars, bodegas, etc. that we should make a part of our new life in Brooklyn.  Mr. CoCo’s seems very unassuming from the outside (other than having an above average quality of produce), but inside the nearly new bodega lies a fantastic grocery store that somehow fits into the tiny, no more than 500 square foot space.  With a healthy selection of foods and hard to find brands comparable to those offered by Texas’s finest Whole Foods (without the dreaded ‘whole paycheck’ cost), Mr. CoCo’s is our new spot for everything from hummus to the latest flavors of Ben & Jerry’s. The essentials, 
duh.  There’s also a sushi chef on site – dicing up 
sashimi and rolling out California, Dragon and Crazy rolls 
of tasty fish.  I’ll quote Belinda J, as she said it best, 
“Mr. CoCo’s is down with the PEOPLE.’’  I love that woman.  

Thanks to our good friend Regina, we have also become weekend fixtures at Project Parlor, our new favorite watering hole located down the street in Bed-Stuy.  Sporting a graveled courtyard out back complete with large picnic-style tables, (perfect for conversations and carcinogens) the cash-only bar and artist safe haven is dog friendly, host to barbeque cookoffs and the occasional band.  The outdoor area reminds me a lot of Sidebar in Austin, while the interior d├ęcor is dim-lit and is decorated with a rotation of local art pieces, complete with comfy couches and tables for lounging.  Patrons may also enjoy viewing anything from classic black and white movies, to cartoons, to gay musicals which are projected each night on the main wall.  The makeshift deejay booth is at the front of the bar and if you’re lucky, Mickey Perez will be blessing the evening with an array of hip hop, funk and ‘80s classics.  Cheers to Project Parlor for having $3 PBR tallboys and exceptional service as well.  I’ll see you soon.

Christopher Wallace and Easy
We walked by the Emerson last Saturday night and were astonished to hear a live deejay blaring from the inside, which was also surprisingly packed.  The bar is one of the closest to our pad and we’d been inside before to find a relatively empty space without tunes and a friendly bartender informing us that they’d been open for less than eight months.  As we crept in (free) to peep what all the commotion was about; we were shocked to find legendary deejay and producer Easy Mo Bee diggin’ through six crates of wax, while a crowd of hands-in-air swayed back and forth to Golden Era greatness.  For the first time I felt like I was on the corner of 7th and Red River and I was grinning from ear to ear.  The Emerson isn’t very big and there was no AC, but no one cared (except for Easy, who when I asked if he played there regularly, unbeknownst at the time of his identity, he replied ‘hell no, shit it’s hot in here!’).  We stuck around for about an hour before heading out to get some fresh air (we had guests with us, but if it was up to me we would have stayed).  I hope that the people in charge of the Emerson will regularly host a deejay that drops that kind of hip hop.  It was refreshing.

I’ll leave you with a bit of news that I didn’t initially broadcast because, well, haters will hate AND my girl and I are very private about our personal lives.  We are officially engaged. 
We will wait to become more settled before picking a date; but you can bet your ass it WILL be in Texas and it WON'T be during football season.  Be happy for us and feast your eyes on the sweet potato falafel that my boo whipped up for us last week.  We kill it in the kitchen on Grand Ave. I’m going to spend the rest of my days with this woman and it feels spectacular to know that.  I love you baby.

I’ll be waxin’ ‘em again Friday, September 2nd on Roosevelt Island before the free screening of one of my favorite animated flicks over the last ten years: UP.  Thanks for reading, kiddos.

Photo by Quito...Miss ya'll in ATX



Saturday, August 13, 2011

bah-Voo, AKV, John's Coffee and Donut

Mr. Blakes
Texas hip hop ambassador Bavu Blakes has BEEN dope. The musician-journalist-minister is hands down the most reputable mic-controller to ever claim Austin and one of the top 10 emcees to EVER rep the Lone Star state. Well, at least for the Nobody Who Knows. Blakes’s commanding, yet inviting intonations of blue collar consciousness have painted paragraphs for well over a decade. Sharp and confident, Mr. Blakes lyrically is both a gatekeeper of information and a muse for the selfless, modern man. Whether it be the skirt lifting of atrocities or his emotive display of spirituality and introspection--Vu’s soulful style has been the archetype for a region of the country whose hip hop is thoughtlessly branded as inane, luxurious brag rap. Blessed with an army of fantastic collaborators throughout his career ranging from Adrian Quesada to D-madness to S-1, this righteous mouthpiece and purveyor of substantive music has also shared stages with De La Soul, the Roots and Guru - to name a few. Currently residing on the west coast, the soon-to-be father took a moment to answer some questions about his forthcoming record.

Soooo, will it be Mr. Blakes/ Rev. Blakes/Bavu Blakes  ??? 
I’m a broadcaster, musician, writer and a minister, a servant, not a reverend. What’s a reverend?

Your body of work speaks for itself and I consider you to be a true preservationist of soulful, conscious hip hop music. What makes you tic as an emcee in 2011?
Habit and sense of purpose. The fact that you, and some others -- I call ya’ll The Nobody Who Knows -- consider me to be anything encourages me to stay productive. I’m thankful to be an emcee and a musician, like the folks I’ve admired all my life. I’ve taken all my influences, mixed them in a bowl, rubbed it all over myself and eventually broke out of my shell!
I jam a lot of old school, Oddisee instrumentals, “Nobody Else” by NickNack, Soul Seekers and all things Adrian Quesada. I’ve turned into one of those “I don’t jam a lotta rap” cats.

Some may be unaware of your writing talent beyond penning beats to bars. How do you disassociate the two OR interweave the two skills in your song writing and vice versa?   
Great question (dap). I don’t disassociate different types of writing. I think efficiency is the key to greatness, including writing. I interweave it all as much as possible.
I’m far more conscious of tempo, melody and pocket in songwriting. Lyrically I try to stay out of the way of the music. But sometimes I write all the lyrics and melodies, and then go get the music to match it after the fact.
Writing is about color and imagery without wasting words or even syllables. I learned that consciously in journalism school and at work with John Bianco and in English class with John Trimble, then eventually I discovered that it’s true in all forms of writing. Check out Easy Lee aka Charlie Peters; he’s a writer!

What do fans of your penmanship have to look forward to with your new work?  
Grind over glory. Faith over fear. And far fewer features.
This new SANCT EP is just an update, an answer to “what’ve you been up to?”. And honestly, after S1 blew up and my Too Selfish album blew away, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be satisfied with my production sound again. I was wrong. Plus I’m down with D-Madness ‘nem.

Who handled production duties?
Reggie Coby. And the bonus track for the CD version is by Fire Winn.

Is there a scheduled release date?
My son’s release date is September 22. So it’s hard to be too specific about the SANCT EP right this second, except to say that I’lI start taking pre-orders on premium packages shortly. When I get to 300 pre-orders I’ll start shipping them out.
This is for The Nobody Who Knows. Y’all are like a members-only support group, and you are my priority as an artist.

Why did you move and how is the ‘scene’ in Long Beach? How do you remain connected to the Capital City?
My wife wanted to do her PhD in a major market, like Los Angeles, and she has family here. I wanted more opportunity, and I’ve found it.
I moved to Cali just to get naked. I’m out here turning my strengths into my weaknesses, and vice versa. So I’m not on the scene like that, especially not until I have the SANCT EP in my hand.
I remain connected to the Casual City through my people. I lived in Austin way too long, but it’ll always be home, and home to a lot of my people. I would’ve maybe named my son Austin if the missus let me, nah...

If you could paint the future, what would it look and sound like for Bavu Blakes? Do you plan to tour? How do you stay fresh in an oversaturated sea?
The future looks blessed, like my son. The future looks like time, energy and money well-spent. The future looks like a great marriage, a movement toward ministry and channeling the power and truth of the most high god. The future looks like multi-tasking through multi-media. The future looks like successful artists performing songs I wrote no matter who knows it. The future looks like a few paid trips around the world.
Touring the world a few times is still my dream.
I stay fresh by staying out of the way. I focus on having a quality life experience, saying my prayers and being professional.

On a different musical note, I don’t understand the hype behind Brooklyn hardcore newbies Cerebral Ballzy. I caught their set at the free Rock Yard concert in BK last week and it left me severely unsatisfied. The terrible sound (the vocals were the loudest thing in the mix) was not their fault, however, front man and unoriginal nasal whiner Honor Titus did not a break a sweat. Now, while we aren’t in the heat wave of Texas anymore, my punk rock co-conspirators, I think we can all agree that a vocalist should be moving around enough to perspire in the month of August. Yes?  The 20-nothing Titus posed and squealed (that's right, not a scream or yell or any other exerted throat force) while standing still, and at one point climbed the speakers to lay down topless while doing his 'thing' on the mic.  I didn't process his antics as any kind of a statement or a new approach to being aggressive. Rather it seemed out of sheer laziness and, in my opinion, an embarrassment to the culture as a whole. Zero pipes and zero emotion. But he did look the part ... I guess. Is that where we are, Brooklyn?! People were moshing and going crazy to these kids, too. I never in my life wanted to play after a band so badly. Surely I must of caught them on a bad day, perhaps??  Cerebral Bore-me.

Stephanie Williams is the kind of young, hustle-hard visionary that maps her own route and then mashes the gas. Stylishly hip from toe to lip; the 23-year-old voguish trend-getter has built an online boutique from the Austin (under)ground up, and her cultivated vision and business sense are quickly turning a hobby into paper and notoriety. The thrift store that is Austin Knight Vintage specializes in fusing aged fashions with modern design and presentation. ‘Let us do the digging’ is the motto for Williams’s well conducted site, whose foundation is built upon a small collection of uncommon pieces (jewelry, snapbacks, dresses, and everything in-between)  that come and go with the quickness. So by commendable design, you are forced to follow the social networking and shopping habits of Williams (side hustles include graphic design, photography, video production, AND Miss Thang is knee-deep in the hip hop game, to boot) for a chance to purchase her affordable, unburied treasures. I’ve copped a couple items myself and have MISSED more than a couple must-buys. You see, Williams keeps the images of purchased clothing posted as ‘SOLD’ (great idea) for proper enticement and a flavor sample of what’s really good with vintage gear in 2011. Did I mention her FREE SHIPPING policy?!! Young entrepreneurs and fashionistas take note… AKV is on it.

Bo knows.
So I must reevaluate my first notation of the shoe game in Brooklyn (see 6/7/2011 post).  While Air Jordans are abundant and to me, never lame (XIII’s and prior, that is), I can’t help but notice that the only other kicks I see are the Air Max ‘95s, the Air Griffey Max or any one of the 20 color combinations of the Air Foamposite Ones and Foamposite Pros.  I’m a little annoyed.  It’s so bad that I even got my girl calling shit out and she is nowhere near a sneaker head!  Are these the only kicks that people think are nice? Are they bootlegs and super cheap somewhere, hence why everybody seems to be rocking them? I copped the Air Trainer Max ’91 (Bo Jackson's) for $70 at Footlocker and I feel super fly. I had those jawns in 6th grade and I am happy to own them again. I guess I’d rather see the same Nikes every day then have to see another kid wearing earthy, plain boot shoes with a rolled up flannel shirt. The Williamsburg uniform makes me want to vomit, but then again so does Williamsburg most of the time, so I guess that’s fitting.

Bacon with your French toast? Yes, please.
I’m completely addicted to John’s Coffee and Donuts. By far the finest breakfast diner I’ve experienced in or out of Texas, (that’s a bold statement folks) the tiny hole-in-the wall is always packed and seating is limited, but that’s the only negative thing I can say about a place that thrives with two short-order cooks and hand written checks. Waffle House: eat your heart out. JC&D pummels any competition with a greasy spoon, three-page menu that leaves no breakfast base uncovered. And on the cheap.  My lady and I  don't even spend $20 per visit, and that’s after a fat tip and fatter bellies. I cosign with a passion and am infatuated with the speed and accuracy of the cooks, who do it all on a single flat grill. Getting known here is my next mission.

Huge shout out goes to David Reyneke and Andrew Martin over at Potholes In My Blog. I’ve recently joined the team and am happy to be a contributor. Check for me in the reviews section. Speaking of blogs and talented artists; all of Austin needs to peep my boy Bak’s the Feedbak for the latest on local nightlife. Meanwhile, the emcee/b-boy/producer team of Mamba and Kwestro have properly organized their own music blog with Boycott Mag. I would also like to give a huge thanks and bow to photographers Marcos Molina and Miguel Angel. Subcomandante Quito and uLovei respectively are killing the photo game at any and every hot spot in the ATX. If you’re somewhere, they’re bound to snap you and have it posted with the quickness. Bravo, as always, gentlemen.

I’ll probably miss FunFunFun Fest this year, but the rockers-for-life crew over at Transmission Entertainment have out done themselves yet again. I said it a couple years back and now it is so—the Austin music festival rivals any other of its kind simply due to the rare quality and combination of acts involved. This year that bill includes:  Slayer, Public Enemy, Rakim, Odd Future (perhaps the reason it sold out so fast), Hum, Danzig, Murder City Devils, the Damned, Girls, Deathgrips, Boris, Flying Lotus, Black Milk, Passion Pit, and Future Islands, to name a few. If you've got tix, I'm jealous for sure.

Finally, on the day that Watch the Throne dropped, so did the Dow, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and coincidentally (?) the UK riots ensued. Jay Electronica tweeted the circumstances. Let’s not forget that ‘Hov’s Blueprint also was released on 9/11/01--just food for third-eye thought. I hope the outer worldly emcee from the Magnolia PJs does indeed  eventually drop his own album on Roc Nation. Here’s reason to believe it may come soon. Until next time, you can follow me on Twitter @kiLsmizno and I finally completed the Bandcamp pages for Like Dogs and Bohemian Grove Disco. Go download all of our shit for free. I’ll be dropping wax on Plush ATX on Saturday, August 27th with the homies Digg and Kurupt.