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 Thundercat. Skyzoo 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.
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.