To call Atlanta’s Awful Records prolific would be an understatement. The team of outlandish emcees and producers have been releasing music at a ridiculous pace while pushing the boundaries of DIY artistry in the most delightfully bizarre ways. With artists like Fatherand Slug Christ, regulars in our Hip-Hop Dojos who’ve both garnered substantial followings, and an array of connections through out Atlanta’s booming hip-hop scene, the label’s poised to continue its ascent. There’s still a lot of people out there, from the hip-hop purists to the “it’s not really music” snobs, who just don’t get the appeal of the style of music Awful Records puts out–often lo-fi, disorienting, highly experimental and at times superficially narcissistic (see Slug Christ’s NSFW album art as an example). What those people are missing, though, is the raw creativity and talent that this crew has as well as the camp-y, avant-garde tone of their lyrics and style.
Last week, Ethereal, a member of the Awful Recs crew, put out his latest album, Final Fantasy. Self-described as a ‘megalomaniac’–someone obsessed with their own power–Ethereal’s album is a culmination of its title and that introspective diagnosis.
With airy, other-worldly production from Ethereal himself accompanied by charmingly lackadaisical, yet impressively imaginative, flows, it’s also one of the most accessible projects for those just getting familiar with the up ‘n coming crew.
Spanning from wavey, lo-fi vibes on “Fantasy!,” the Slug Christ-featuring “Ultima” and “I Can’t Feel,” which includes a cleverly placed Rick & Morty sample, to oddball bangers like “Bump” and “Come Here,” the album never loses site of its core escapist aesthetic. As a result, it’s the type of album you can just hit play on and zone out, but if you do choose to listen closer, you’ll find some lyrical gems. Stream and cop the album below. Also, make sure to follow Awful Records on Soundcloud and do your best to keep up with their near-daily releases.
A few months back, we wrote a piece about Toro y Moititled “5 Faces of Chaz” exploring the broad-ranging styles and experimentations he’s taken with his music thus far, which really just scratches the surface of his creative scope. Chaz Bundick, the enigma behind Toro, has dabbled in hip-hop in the past (Tyler, the Creator loves him and they’ve got a song together called “Hey You”) and, shortly after releasing a stellar indie-rock leaning album in What for?, he seems to be re-opening that facet of his style. Through his Soundcloud page, he’s released a couple unique trap and hip-hop inspired productions including “2Late,” a collab with former Das Racist member Kool A.D., as well as an epic instrumental titled “That Instead of This,” which we can only really describe as “trapwave.”
Yesterday, he released a collaboration with TMN-favorite, Atlanta emcee Rome Fortune, who couldn’t be a better partner-in-crime for a producer as adventurous as Chaz. In some ways similar to Toro y Moi, albeit much earlier in his career, Fortune has been consistently ahead of the curve proving audacious when it comes to stepping out of any genre constraints. His work with Four Tet, most recently on “Leaders,” is the perfect example of how Rome Fortune can be a chameleon of sorts shaping his delivery to match an unconventional instrumental.
Toro y Moi and Rome Fortune’s inventive styles fuse masterfully on “Pitch Black,” which starts off with an ominous bass-line and disorienting arpeggiated synths before falling into a smooth groove. In Toro’s keys and trickling percussion, you can hear bits of the production style on his 2013 album Anything in Return but with a marked cadence friendlier to an emcee. That being said, it’s not by any means a traditionally structured hip-hop strong with a constantly shifting backdrop. Rome raps accordingly, though, with flows that span slow and spread-out raps, melodic chorus-esque portions and traditional hard-hitting delivery sections. Similarly, the lyrics mirror the juxtaposition created by the instrumental as Rome calls himself the “coolest motherfunker in the planet” all the while talking about a soul-sucking relationship.
Collaborations like this one are important for music and have become increasingly feasible in the digital age. Songs like “Pitch Black” tear down genre walls and, in doing so, push culture forward by bringing together fans of both styles. In short, Rome’s right he really is “the coolest montherfunker on the planet.”
Future hip-hop is a relatively new genre, engineered with the intent to blend the best components of the music world. Meshing lyrical content and melodic flow of artists with the unparalleled smoothness and texture of future beats is the perfect way to satiate all of the auditory senses in one track.
A couple days ago, Atlanta artist and HW&W collective member Gravez released his version of last year’s popular Soulection track, “One Step Back.” In his latest creation, Gravez has taken the noisy original tune and sparingly injected it with synths, the softly inarticulate crooning of Denmark’s Galimatias, and segments of low-pitched dynamics common in the future genre.
The idiophones and hi-hats dotted through this track add to a uniquely smooth quality that is juxtaposed by the fast rhyming vocals of Goldlink. “One Step Back” is a symbol of how contrasting styles can be combined to create a special tune; it is the divergence of styles creating a peaceful banger.
Gravez is wrapping up a tour with shows in Boston and San Francisco in mid-July. Check out “One Step Back” above and download the track here.
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again? Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin? Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in? Do you ever feel already buried deep six feet under? Screams but no one seems to hear a thing. Do you know that there’s still a chance for you ’cause there’s a spark in you? You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine. Just own the night like the 4th of July…
You guys are all Fireworks!!! Enjoy our eclectic 4th of July playlist–fitting for your pre, during and post celebrations (don’t worry there’s no Katy Perry in there).
As a wise Ninja once said, “Fourth me up fam!” Peep below or check it on Soundcloud here.
Funk and jazz’s cross-genre transcendence may be more prevalent today than ever. To some degree or another, it can be heard in hip-hop, electronic, indie and just about any other style of music you can think of. If you’re still not convinced in listening to contemporary albums from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, The Social Experiment, Thundercat and Griz, look no further than Masego and Medasin‘s recently released funktasitc Pink Polo EP. On the project, Masego, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, plays sax, sings and produces while Medasin, a master of monster beats, contributes a marked bombastic, atmospheric trap vibe through out.
The resulting combination makes for an incredibly unique and enjoyable listening experience that recalls the greats of both funk and jazz while injecting the sounds of contemporary electronic music. Through out the 8-track project, epic sax solos are mixed in with 808s, heavy drops and James Brown-esque vocals–it’s unlike anything we’ve ever heard before. There’s straight party starters on the project like “Shut up and Groove,” “Bounce,” and “Girls That Dance,” but there’s also supreme jams on songs like “Sunday Vibes” that make us wonder what it might sound like if Thelonius Monk had access to modern day recording equipment.
Masego probably sums up the style of this project best in his Soundcloud description calling it “Traphouse Jazz.” The Pink Polo EP, released through the rapidly rising Film Noirrecords, arrives right in time for your sunny 4th of July celebrations. Stream it below and, if you’re digging it as much as us, buy it over at Bandcamp.
On his aptly-titled debut mixtape Hello World, Atlanta emcee Daye Jack first showed us that he was special as an emcee. In the year and a half since that release, though, it’s become increasingly evident that rapping was just scratching the surface for the multi-faceted artist. From singing over incredibly jazzy backdrops to delivering quick-hitting raps on future electronic stylings, Jack’s shown us he can do it all and even, at times, seamless fusions of all of the above.
It’s not just the cadence and delivery that are impressive, though, Jack’s nearly always got a perspective and message. Whether it be social injustice, poisonous relationships or life ambitions, the young artist tackles topics with artistry, eloquence and a wisdom beyond his years.
Never have Daye Jack’s range of talents been more apparent than on the Soul Glitch, his latest EP. It’s a completely fluid, yet varied collection of song that solidifies Daye Jack as one of the most progressive artists in hip-hop. The opening track, “First Glitch,” with its future-jazz vibe, sets the tone for the entire project baking in a sprinkle of the project’s surplus of sounds. From there, the project takes a markedly jazzy feel with “Easy” and “Stars Align,” which seem to be inextricably tied through contrast–the former touching on the struggles of a 9 to 5 and the latter on the triumphs of carrying out your dreams. “Choices,” the next song, continues that theme of life decisions but also introduces the more dance-leaning sound that fully manifests on the Yoko Ono-sampling “Bonds” and “Trapped In Love.” The closer of the deluxe edition, “Save My Soul,” may pack the most powerful emotional punch from both its massive future electronic production and the incredibly powerful portrayal of inner turmoil. It’s the type of project that demands a full listen from start to finish and, with its variation in styles, can be made to fit just about any listening atmosphere or mood.
Stream Soul Glitch below. You can grab a free download over at Daye Jack’s website or pick up the deluxe edition over at iTunes
We’re excited to welcome MondreM.A.N. and Squadda Bambino of Main Attrakionz to our first ever Dojo By the Bay series, a monthly interview feature focused on talented artists from the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 2011, North Oakland’s Main Attrakionz first emerged on the national scene with their Blackberry Ku$h and 808s & Dark Grapes II mixtapes, helping pioneer a style of hip-hop that combines ethereal, lo-fi production with stream-of-conscious flows–a style that rose around the same time as experimentation by Lil B, who Squadda’s produced a number of tracks for, but had an accessibility, positivity and technique all its own.
Dubbed “cloud rap,” their approach on those projects resonated with up ’n coming talent from around the country resulting in collaborations and co-signs from the likes of A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and Clams Casino. Their ability to combine street lyricism and a distinct Bay Area flavor with atmospheric, hazy instrumentals culminated on their 2012 debut album, Bossalinis & Fooliyones, a polished collection of songs with an array of fitting, top-notch production to match. Over the last three years, Squadda and Mondre have continued to churn out projects under their Green Ova collective while working on their long-anticipated sophomore album, 808s & Dark Grapes III, which is fully produced by Friendzoneand set to drop on June 30th on Neil Young’s Vapor Records.
That breakout year was far from the start for Squadda Bambino (pictured below left) and MondreM.A.N. (right), the emcees behind Main Attrakionz, though. Growing up, the two absorbed anything that was available to them through music videos and radio during a time when rap was flourishing in the mainstream. Their rap careers began at about 12 years old on karaoke machines and any instrumentals they could get their hands on. Squadda and Mondre joined forces in the seventh grade when they entered talent shows together and, their early and shared vision of success, made them quick best friends along with their Green Ova family which solidified not long after.
TMN: What’s one musical memory that stood out to you as kids?
MondreM.A.N.: I’m going to say me buying my first CD. I was like 9 years old. My first CDs I ever bought were B.G.‘sCheckmate and Big Tymers’ I Got That Work. Moms let me buy it, had a cd player. Just, damn, listening to all those lyrics man, that blew my mind away. From there, became a Cash Money fan. I just became a fan of their movement. I realized there was 6 of them, in-house producer, kind of like a family and shit. They were doing their thing back then.
Squadda B: Yeah, Cash Money, was definitely influential. Also, Onyx “Slam” back in the day. I’ve seen a video of me rapping Onyx back in the day.
TMN: You guys first started rapping together at Carter Middle School. Can you take us back to your mindset during those days?
Squadda: Just a thirst to make it happen–a thirst and a fantasy. Really wanting that shit but it not really seeming like reality yet.
TMN: In general, you seem to really rap about what you live but, as kids, what did you rap about?
Squadda: I used to rap about see-through PS2s and shit. Fantasy raps. You know, our visions.
Mondre: We had the imagination, man. [We rapped about] shit niggas ain’t have.
TMN: You started rapping on Karaoke machines and whatever instrumentals you could find. What were some of the ones that stood out to you back then?
Squadda: All the traditional shit—that’s what was presented to us. You get your 50 cent instrumentals, you could find that. You could get the down south ones real then but you couldn’t really get a lot of beats back then, and nobody was giving us them. So, we were on a lot of instrumentals, products of the music and what was going on. We rapped on David Banner & Lil Flip, “Like A Pimp.” We rapped on Lil Flip “Game Over” and “Blood Hound,” 50 Cent back in middle school.
TMN: Did you listen to anything outside of hip-hop growing up?
Squadda: It’s funny because whatever was on the TV or radio was what was making it happen back then. You’re watching TV, see what comes on, top 20 hits—all that shit had influence on us. It’s just evolving to the point where we’re like just making whatever we like to hear now to replace that shit. Songs still come to me to this day from the 90’s or early 2000s—just life has a big influence on everybody. We just re-do it and re-create.
TMN: Can you talk a bit about the formation of Green Ova?
Squadda: We always had families. In middle school we were part of a squad but in high school there was just too many people. There’s only 6 of us now and if you listen to 808s & Dark Grapes III songs we got all of them on there–Robbie Rob, Dope G, Lo Da Kid and Shady Blaze. It just evolved and came to where it is now but we always kind of rapped with a lot of people and moved with big numbers.
TMN: Squadda, as a producer yourself, you always use some really interesting samples. Where do you usually look for those?
Squadda: It’s evolved. Always trying to recreate what influenced us. I would always hear about producers with vinyls and shit but I always grew up with hella CDs so I kind of wanted to make it a thing and create my own culture out of what really touched on me. It’s always different but that’s why I like working with Friendzone because they kind of have a culture of their own too of how they find samples.
TMN: With the Internet being such an integral role in your careers thus far, what are your thoughts on its role in the music industry in this era?
Squadda: Shit, if you got your head on straight, it can only be a good thing. I love it. I remember hearing about other artists really talking about us. It’s a good thing to have so many people have other ways to find your music other than going to a store. Yeah, the money changes and things change, but I think it’s great.
TMN: Mondre, what’s your favorite thing about working with Squadda? And visa versa?
Mondre: I mean, shit, everything man. Watching him grow, you know what I’m saying? With the beats, the music and everything. Shit, I say everything man. We came in this together and we still here. Better than ever. Wiser and everything.
Squadda: Just bringing the flavor, man. When he come with the effort, it’s real nice. The flows that he comes with every time, you can definitely count on it—it’s consistent. From when I first rapped with him, you know Mondre’s gonna come with it. Makes you think about your shit even more. It’s fun working with him because you know he’s going come with something. It’s kind of rare for me to feel like that too. I don’t really get that feeling rapping with other people—no disrespect. But it’s always been like that since we were kids with Mondre.