Euphoria Fest started off Thursday night with their best Thursday Night Pre-Party yet. Reserved only for campers, local acts Resonant Frequency, The Bishops, and Autobody all put on incredible shows and got the crowd grooving to some funky beats. They set the crowd up perfectly for Manic Focus to close the night out with his non-stop bangers that left everyone thirsty to come back tomorrow for more great music.
Today marks the first full day of Euphoria Fest, and there are some amazing acts to check out today. Here are a few of them that we think will put on some ‘Euphoric’ shows today:
Sip Sip formed in summer 2009 when individuals from Austin bands Mother Falcon, Corduroi, and PowerNap collaborated to create an original summer lineup under the moniker ‘The Summertime Band’. Since then Sip Sip has accumulated 18 performers from varying musical backgrounds.
Sip Sip’s sound can be described as a blend of electronicgroove, jazz horns, rock, group vocals and crowd participation. All of this culminates in intense performances that regularly shake the foundations of the venues they frequent.
Their live performances command crowd participation and audience engagement, featuring several members in costume, party favors, and repeated chants. Don’t miss unique show at Euphoria. “When I sip, you sip, we sip.”
Flamingosis (the name comes from a free-style Frisbee moved that his father invented) is an electronic producer, beat-boxer, and entertainer from New Jersey. His real name is Aaron Velasquez and his music has been influenced by Flying Lotus, J Dilla, Madlib, and many others that have helped him craft his own unique sound of vintage funk with soulful disco music.
Flamingosis will bringing these beautiful vibes to the Euphoria Stage from 4-5pm today. Make sure you catch his infectiously energetic live show!
Magna Carda has quickly established itself as one of Austin’s top hip-hop acts. In a city that is not as well known for hip-hop, this group is changing the game and proving that there is an audience here to support their music.
Magna Carda is led by the city’s most dynamic MC-producer duo — Megz Kelli and Dougie Do — “whose work pairs like a fine wine with the meat-and-potatoes backbone of the group’s signature live instrumentation.” With their genre-defying blend of rap-meets-jazz-meets-R&B-meets-electronic, the band has quickly captured the imagination of listeners and the attention of critics alike in Austin and beyond.
They play today on Euphoria’s Dragonfly Amphitheater on the water from 4:50-5:50pm. This is a must for any hip-hop fan at Euphoria this year.
Also, make sure you check back in soon for an upcoming JamFeed interview with Magna Carda!
Pretty Lights (Live):
Derek Vincent Smith AKA Pretty Lights, is one of the most influential electronic music producers in the electronic music scene today. Pretty Lights has become an extremely influential and his sound has shaped many of the artists following in his footsteps.
Smith dropped out of school in Boulder after his freshmen year and hasn’t looked back. He continues to push the boundaries in electronic music, and this year at Euphoria he is bringing a live band to play with him on stage. This show is sure to make things even more Euphoric than his normal sets.
Even if you’ve seen Pretty Ligths beofre, this show is guranteed to be full of some amazing surprises. Derek is not one to let fans down, especially with an entire live band behind him.
Make sure you follow all these artists and Euphoria Music Festival on JamFeed to stay up to date with all things music!
Today is the start of the 6th annual Euphoria Music Festival at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, TX. It is shaping up to be a beautiful opening day, with potentially the best Thursday Night pre-party lineup so far from Euphoria. We have some amazing local Austin talent leading off the weekend, followed by one of the top acts from All Good Records.
Local Austin hip-hop trio The Bishops will be kicking off the festival this year. The Bishops are a rare super group in the music industry. They are made up of three people who are real-life family members, and each of them have their own career outside of this new collaboration. They teamed up to release their first synth-ed up single ‘Blood Ring,’ which caught fire on some Spotify playlists and captured almost 500,000 streams for the young family trio.
They clearly will not be stopping here. As Cara Bishop says herself in their hit single, “Not one, not two, but three,” The Bishops are ready to show Austin fans what they are all about with a full hour set tonight. This will do be the biggest festival yet for the band. The Bishops kick off Euphoria Fest tonight at 6:30pm CST – don’t miss it!
Following The Bishops at 7:45pm is another amazing local Austin trio Resonant Frequency. They have started off 2017 with a huge bang, playing late night STS9 afterparty shows, opening for RJD2, and also playing 2 sets at Head for the Hills Festival 2 weeks ago.
They have truly started to developer their own sound and vibe, which is a mix of future funk, soul, and a little southern texas hip hop swag. They are guaranteed to keep you on you dancing throughout the entire set, and all three musicians are incredibly talented and know how to put on a great live set.
This is their first Euphoria Fest set, so you can bet on them spicing it up with some surprise guests, and bringing their funkiest beats to kick off Euphoria Fest the right way. Make sure you are there to see what it’s like to get everyone to vibe on the same Resonant Frequency.
Last, the headline for tonight’s lineup, Manic Focus. Manic Focus is the electronic music project of John “JmaC” McCarten, a Chicago-based producer originally hailing from the Twin Cities. He’s become well known for his multi-dimensional sound, including elements of soul, dubstep, hip-hop, blues, and funk. It’s an amazing complitation of heavy and smooth sounds that make for an incredible live performance.
JmaC teamed up with GRiZ and All Good Records in 2014 for his fourth album ‘Cerebral Eclipse’ and he hasn’t looked back since. He is at the forefront of this new age funk revolution and he is the perfect fit to bring home the night and end night one of Euphoria with a bang.
As you can see, this is one of the best Thursday Euphoria has booked yet. Their mix of strong local talent to kick things off, and following it with Manic Focus as the headliner is guaranteed to put music fans in a state of Euphoria tonight.
Make sure you follow Euphoria Music Festival on JamFeed to stay connected to all the amazing content created during this festival. We will also be making some exciting announcements over the next week, so stay tuned!
JamFeed recently sat down with Brian Gustafson and Deniz Baykal of Blunt Force, one of Austin’s hottest up and coming electronic duos. The two 24 year olds jumped on the music scene quickly after meeting at St. Edwards University in Austin and have already opened for well-known acts such as Savoy, The Floozies, Opiuo & Sunsquabi.
After spending an hour with them, these guys not only impressed me with their music, but also their personalities and overall passion for what they do. They are approaching one of the most exciting times in their career, including their fourth year performing at Euphoria Music Festival, a multi-state tour with Bass Physics, and some new singles being announced amid all the traveling.
Even with all the excitement, these guys remain humble and very determined to network their way to the top of the electronic music scene by giving their music away for free and getting people to support them through tours and merch like many of their idols. The next 30-60 days could be some of the best months yet for Blunt Force, and you can guarantee they are going to have one hell of a time on this ride.
Make sure you follow Blunt Force on JamFeed to know first when they drop these new singles in the upcoming weeks, and make sure to catch them in Austin this weekend at Euphoria Fest!
Where did you guys meet? And how did your musical career begin together as Blunt Force?
Deniz: We actually met in Austin. We both went to St. Edward’s University and had some mutual friends that introduced us. My girlfriend at the time was friends with his roommate, and they were like “Hey, y’all both make music, y’all should meet.” And we ended up getting this place to jam because we really had nowhere outside the dorms to chill and make music.
Brian: Yeah, I was making house music at the time, complete opposite end of the spectrum, and Deniz was making some shitty dubstep.
Where does your funk influence come from?
Brian: So I first started Blunt Force by myself. It was just me, and then I asked Deniz to come on board later. Like I said, I was making house music at the time because I had just gotten into electronic music. Then I went to my first camping festival, Electric Forest, and was lucky enough to catch Big Grizmatik (live trio of GRiZ, Big Gigantic, and Gramatik). I was definitely a fan, but not a die-hard fan at the time, and I was absolutely blown away. I had a full house music EP ready to go at the time, and I had a complete change of heart because of my experience at Electric Forest. This led me into all of that old-school funk, like Parliament Funkadalic, and then some newer funk bands like Lettuce, and The Motet, and I just loved the groove. Then when Deniz came on board full-time, you could hear our sound start to from to more of a mix of funk, glitch hop, and something a bit darker and heavier.
How did you guys come up with the name ‘Blunt Force’?
Brian: I was in a pretty crappy reggae band in high school. We played maybe two or three shows. I wouldn’t even call it a band really… more like a collection of friends just being idiots and thinking we were Slightly Stoopid.
How old were you when you got into producing music?
Deniz: I was playing drums in high school, for this punk rock band. We were just like some white boys getting drunk and thinking we were the shit. [Laughs]
Brian: Yeah, you guys were probably way better than we were back then. [Laughs]
Deniz: We played some different shows in Austin and San Antonio and then we kind of all just went our separate ways. I went to Nocturnal Fest my senior year without telling my parents. I just like left. It was incredible! I miss it. That festival was amazing. The first year was the best, with the upside-down stage. That was when all the big dudes we know now, like The Untouchables, Bassnectar, and Zeds Dead, were on the come up. That’s when it all just came together for me. Pretty Lights and Zeds Dead were when I realized that I like the heavy stuff, for sure, but also that funk/soul sound with it.
Do you guys plan to continue living in Austin?
Brian: For the unforeseeable future, yeah. We’ve been here about 5 years and both have jobs here now.
Deniz: I’d really like to move, though. I mean I love this city, but I also want to just try something new.
Brian: Yeah, definitely. But we have no plans to go anywhere yet.
Deniz: Yeah, nothing in particular. I just want to see something new.
I’ve seen you guys open for Sunsquabi at Stubb’s Indoor, and also the Floozies. How did you get connected with All Good Records crew?
Brian: Our booking agent, Kevin Woods, was good friends with Kevin and Chris from Sunsquabi, and I remember him introducing us when the guys came down to play a show here in Austin. A few months later, I had a few dates lined up in Colorado and Kevin had the idea to ask Chris [from Sunsquabi] to play drums with me for a few of the dates. That kind of got our foot in the door with the Squab boys. Then we all became good friends, and I think they came back down and we played another show with them at Holy Mountain. Eventually, they reached out to us about playing support for them on a few dates on their Odyssey Tour and we were like “alright, let’s do it!”.
Are you guys looking to sign to a label like All Good Records or something similar? Or are you trying to stay independent?
Deniz: There are a couple out there that we would definitely get on board with.
Brian: That’s true, but I think we are both have the same kind of overall view that we want to give our music away for free and make our money off touring, merch, all that kind of stuff.
Deniz: Absolutely. You make that music for your ears obviously, but it’s also meant for others to listen to. You want it to be in people’s ears and not have to be like “shit, I don’t have another dollar or two to buy this music”.
Brian: Exactly. If you want this song on your iPod, then I want you to be able to have it on there no matter what. That’s the way we have seen GRiZ and Gramatik do it, and it works.
Deniz: That’s a big difference in the way we started. For example, last year we didn’t have any new music besides Dreamer. We went out on tour and just played before making anything, and people loved it. We just kind of did it backwards. Most people put out an album and then tour, and we were just like “fuck it, lets just go and do it”.
Brian: We already had some music, but it was just from a while ago, ya know?
Deniz: Yeah, but now it’s time to put out some new music. We have two new singles coming out in the next month that we’re really excited about.
Who all is a regular part of the Blunt Force team outside of you two?
Brian: There’s three of us. Our manager Kevin Woods, and us. We’ve been doing all the managerial stuff on our own, but we are starting to get to the point where we can’t do it as well. We may be making some changes sometime soon.
Deniz: We are kind of diminishing the amount of time we could be working on music when we have to handle all this stuff, on top of working full-time jobs. Hopefully that will change soon. We can feel it coming.
You guys are about to start a tour with Bass Physics, right?
Brian: We actually met him at Euphoria on the Thursday night pre-party. We’ve always been a fan of his music, with that hip-hop sound. He played right after us, and we ended up just talking back stage afterwards. His manager came up to us after our set and said he really liked our show and that maybe we could find a way to tour together. It’s funny that was only just an idea over a year ago and we just played our first few dates of the tour.
Deniz: Yeah, we just kicked it off this past weekend with 2 dates in Arkansas, and 1 in Dallas. Then we come back for Euphoria, and then head back out on tour starting out in Colorado. We’ll play around 16 shows till the 29th of April. We get to play some places we’ve never played before, so that is definitely exciting.
Brian: We’ve only done one other tour and it was mostly the Southeast, so we are excited to hit the Midwest with cities like Chicago, St Louis, Kansas City, and some other awesome cities.
And you guys are playing Euphoria again this year. How many times have you played Euphoria Fest?
Brian: This will be number four. Euphoria has become like a second-home to us and we couldn’t be any more thankful for the opportunities they’ve given us over the past few years. Each year always finds a way to top the year before. You could say we’re pretty excited for our set there this weekend.
Are you guys going to be releasing your new music as singles, an EP, or what?
Deniz: They will be singles. It’s looking like two new singles in the next month. We’re really excited to share what we’ve been working on with everyone.
What other artists / type of music do you listen to for inspiration or when you aren’t working on your own music?
Deniz: I think Zed’s Dead is a big one for me. Obviously Pretty Lights and Gramatik have been a huge inspiration, as well. I grew up on a lot of indie and punk rock… like Blink 182. I actually just saw them last week in Austin, and Travis Barker is my true inspiration- my number one right there. He is a true robot. [Laughs]
Brian: I actually listen to a lot of Reggae music. Obviously, I love a lot of other types of music, but I honestly listen to reggae music more than electronic music when I’m just hanging out. I love that white boy reggae music like Sublime and Slightly Stoopid.
What is the coolest / wildest crowd you’ve ever played in front of?
Deniz: I think Opiuo was pretty sick. It was a two years ago at Empire Control Room, the show was completely sold out. I think capacity there is something like 1100. It was incredible. Hands down one of the best shows we’ve ever played to date.
Brian: I would say mine would be the Euphoria Denali show in Alaska. It was during the summer solstice and our set was at like 11pm and it was still fully light outside. It was the coolest experience just because it was so beautiful out there. They had the old bus from Into The Wild right next to the stage. It was amazing!
What software do you produce your music on? Have you always used it?
Brian: Ableton Live.
Deniz: Yeah, Ableton. I’m a huge fan of Native Instruments’ Massive VST as well. It just is so powerful and can create some of the fatter, beefier sound that I like, and it’s super intuitive. It’s my go-to.
So you guys both produce?
Brian: Yeah, but when we first started off it was more of Deniz just playing drums for me, and I was making more of the production decisions since I had started Blunt Force before he came in. But you can definitely see a difference in our sound and our live sets when Deniz came on-board as a contributing member of the group. Once Deniz came in, we kept the funk and hip hop sounds in there, but it definitely got a little heavier.
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician on the grind to make it big?
Deniz: To keep going to shows, keep listening to music, and stay inspired. Going out to shows is like therapy, and that’s where all the creative ideas flow. There’s always the cliché of saying “just keep at it, keep going, work hard”, but I really think that going to shows and seeing live music is what really gives you the inspiration to say “I can do that, and I’ve gotta keep learning and working on this”. In my opinion, live music makes you want to go home right away and just start making more music.
Brian: I would say once you start trying to make your own music, that seeing something through and finishing a project is huge. Because, just like anyone else who creates music, I have a ton of unfinished projects on my computer. I’ve realized that managing my work-flow and understanding that I need to do X,Y,and Z to finish this project. Once you get that feeling of completion, you’re like, “oh damn, I can do this”! And I feel like that’s the most important thing to keep your motivation and creativity flowing as an artist.
Deniz: Honestly, when it comes to production, it’s a lot of trial and error. When you are teaching yourself and you get stuck on something, don’t scrap it- save it. Just put it somewhere for later and start something new. There was a big writer’s block point in my life where I would start something and just throw it away because I didn’t like it. You have to just keep creating, and you can come back to projects and finish them.
Brian: Some days are tough, and then other days the music just comes out and you pump out a whole song in a single day. Those are the best. Those songs are the ones that are the most fluid in terms of composition, and you don’t feel like you’re forcing anything.
Deniz: Absolutely. And learn from artists who share the production techniques online. Artists like illGates and Slynk. Watch their videos, tutorials, see what they’re doing with their business, their marketing, etc.
Brian: When you’re coming up in the music scene, you think it’s you against everyone else and that there’s this big competition. But that’s not how it actually works. Everybody is in this together, and if you network with other musicians and artists I think that is your best way to succeed.
It’s only one week away for music fans to enter a state of Euphoria. Austin’s top electronic festival is back at it again with one of their strongest lineups to date. There are lots of excited music fans ready for Pretty Lights, Disco Biscuits, and many more amazing artists to take the stage. There is one person who is more excited than most, and that is one of Euphoria Fest’s founders Mitch Morales.
Today, Mitch sent a heartfelt email out to Euphoria fans to share his personal excitement for this years festival. He lists his favorite artists, new additions to the festival grounds, but most importantly, that he is marrying his fiancé Tyler at this year’s festival.
Euphoria started marketing the idea of having fans getting married at the festival a few months back, and now it all makes sense. Who better than Euphoria’s founder to lead the way by celebrating himself after building Austin’s best electronic music festival.
If you don’t have tickets yet, make sure you check out JamFeed’s ticket giveaway to Euphoria to win a pair of free weekend passes with camping for you and a friend! You can also buy regular and VIP passes here.
Make sure you read Mitch’s email below to his fans. It will make you wish Euphoria started today instead of April 6!
“Dear Euphoria Family,
Mitch here from Euphoria. I’m writing to you because we need your great vibe and curious spirit back at Euphoria this year. We need you to ensure the culture and community of our great festival remains strong!
I’m most excited for Moby, Bob Moses, Papadosio & Petit Biscuit, and to see what you think of the way we’ve broadened the lineup a bit with acts like Post Malone, Dumpstaphunk & FKJ. Not to mention the new Art Outside Village (curated by one of my favorite festivals) that will be featuring more intentional experiences than ever before. And don’t forget the late-night Silent Disco for our campers!
I can’t wait to reveal what we’ve been working hard on all year, and here’s a little teaser of the Dragonfly amphitheater to get you prepared for the unbelievable set design and installations in store. If you haven’t seen it yet – be sure to watch the 2017 trailer for a glimpse of what is to come.
It’s a very special year for me personally as I’ll be getting married in one of our inaugural festival wedding ceremonies. You may or may not know that I proposed to my longtime girlfriend, Tyler, at Above & Beyond last year, and there isn’t a place we would rather celebrate our commitment to each other than at home with our Euphoria family.
Euphoria fans – you can now win a pair of free weekend passes with camping to the 2017 Euphoria Music Festival at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, TX on April 6-9!
To enter & win, all you have to do is download the JamFeed Music App and follow Euphoria Music Festival to win. AND you can bring a +1 with you to the show!
The winners for each show will be announced by 12pm CST on April 1, 2017 and will be announced via JamFeed Mobile App, email, and Facebook. You can DOUBLE your chances of winning by liking and tagging your +1 on our Facebook giveaway post.
* You must download JamFeed and follow Euphoria Music Festival to be eligible for this ticket giveaway. The winner will be announced via JamFeed Mobile App, email, and Facebook.
Check out the Euphoria Lineup Video Below, and good luck!
Also, check out the JamFeed Demo Video for more info on how our mobile apps can help you stay connected to all your favorite artists, bands, and festivals!
This weekend kicked off the music scene for 2017 in the live music capital of the world. The big hype around Austin, TX was STS9 playing 2 sets for both Friday and Saturday for the first time ever at the ACL Live Moody Theater. As someone who has seen ‘Tribe’ play many times, and at various places across the country, this show was one to be remembered.
Every time I go to Moody Theater in Austin, I am blown away by the acoustics and the overall venue itself. The sound is just noticeably better than anywhere else in Austin, and this was especially true for STS9, who previously played at Austin Music Hall on their stops through the city. Their sound might’ve been the best I have ever heard them live. Their lights didn’t seem to skip a beat much even after STS9 Lighting Director Saxton Waller left the band recently.
The first night clearly belonged to STS9’s drummer, Zack Velmer. They had him up front right next to bass player Alana Rocklin and he kept the crowd going the whole time, taking everyone from long wild build ups to funky drops all night long. This guy’s physical endurance throughout the night continued to blow me away, and he only seemed to get better throughout the whole show. He had the entire crowd at his fingertips and he never let them go until the show was over.
On top of some great STS9 shows at the legendary Moody Theater, some local Austin promoters did an amazing job of putting together STS9 Late Nights at Empire Control Room. (These were not in affiliation with the STS9 event) but it was still a brilliant job marketing and showcasing upcoming talent in Austin that really fits the ‘Tribe’ audience. He^rd Entertainment & Euphoria used this weekend perfectly to showcase some upcoming talent that will be playing at this year’s Euphoria’s Fest in April at Carson Creek Ranch.
There were a variety of impressive late night shows, but the one that stood out to me this weekend was Austin’s own Resonant Frequency. (I must admit, I may be a little bias since I personally know some members of this band) but I’ve probably seen over 10 shows of their shows over the last 2 years and have really watched them evolve their sound and grow as a band.
They seemed like they had been waiting for a moment like this – a solid opportunity to get in front of some like-minded fans, and show them their unique mix of funk, electronic mixes, live instrumentation, and southern rap samples. They hit the ground running and with each song the crowd continued to grow bigger and bigger, until the entire indoor at Empire was packed and boogieing down a couple songs into their set.
But most importantly, they did what tribe fans love most…they never let you go for the entire show. They took you on their own musical journey, and they went from one funky jam to the next showing these Austin fans that they are ready to build their own ‘tribe’ of fans. There were a few songs I saw people going crazier at Resonant Frequency than I saw anyone at STS9 do just an hour earlier. That’s a really good sign. There is something infectious about their funk, and they look like they are ready to show everyone what this “Funky-Resonant Frequency” is all about.
If any of you are fans of GRiZ and his crew of artists at All Good Records, you will immediately understand what makes Resonant Frequency so fun to see live. They have their own unique mix to funk though, which to me is that dirty south “We From Texas” swag to it.
These guys are some serious musicians too…which is what makes their live show significantly better than a lot of electronic shows I see today that are more focused around light shows and DJ’s. These guys can JAM, and their live show seems to get better every time I see it. They have been mastering this new age funk sound for 2 years now, and came out firing Friday night with some of their newly releases singles like “Groove At Last” and played some crowd favorites such as “Fresh Air” & “Like You Like It.”
2017 is starting off great for Resonant Frequency. Along with the STS9 Late Night Show, they are already booked to play at Austin’s premier electronic festival Euphoria Fest in April, and are opening for some great acts in the next 2 weeks in Austin.
They play again next Thursday 2/2 at Empire Control Room, opening up for Opiuo. And they open up again for RJD2 (also at Empire) on Friday 2/17. Make sure you find a way to see them play in the next two weeks…everyone needs a little funk in their life anyway.
Make sure you also follow Resonant Frequency on JamFeed to be the first to know when they drop more funky new singles over the new couple weeks!
This summer you won’t hear suburban hood-rats bumping Wild Cherry, James Brown, or Rick James in daddy’s Jeep, but don’t fret, funk didn’t die with bell-bottoms and black lights. It’s alive and well.
The prevalence and popularity of EDM (electronic dance music) has initiated a resurgence of funk. New technologies and innovative artists have exponentially diversified electronic music. The coevolution is unprecedented, and it’s rapidly changing our perception and definition of “music.”
Now, EDM has more sub-genres than jelly bellies have flavors, and, like those godforsaken things, most new genres are equally indistinguishable in their mediocrity. It’s gotten to the point that categorizing music solely as EDM is inconsequential. Currently, there’s house, trance, glitch, drum and bass, dubstep, brostep, breakstep, and 100 other steps that no one gives two shits about. If you can name more than ten off-hand, congrats! It’s time to check into rehab.
But I’m not here to tell you about Swedish bubblegum techno, I’m here to tell you about a burgeoning new genre referred to by the hipster masses as “New Age Funk,” or “Future Funk,” and even though you’ve “probably never heard of it,” it makes for some groovy dance music.
Funky white boy Grant Kwiecinski, better known by his stage name GRiZ, spearheads the euphonious revolution. The Michigan native electronically emancipated funk music in 2012 when he released Mad Liberation. The sax-studded album is hip-hop oriented, yet manages to blend funky breaks with ambitious drops, eccentric beats, and obscure vocals. With the contemporary drift towards trap culture, GRiZ’s sound is refreshing to say the least. The entire album is polished, however, the Notorious “Better Than I’ve Ever Been” lives up to its name in the fullest.
On March 31st GRiZ smashed the funk once again with Say it Loud, a nominal homage to James Brown’s 1969 release Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud. The innovative album is more adventurous than its predecessor and features: The Floozies, Manic Focus, Mike Avery, Talib Kweli, Jessie Arlen, Sunsquabi, Orlando Napier, and iDA HAWK.
Whether it’s The Floozies’ funky guitar licks and high energy percussion in “Need This,” or Talib Kweli’s smooth flow in “For The Love,” each feature adds a lil’ somethin’ extra to the GRiZ sound, yet the electronic mastermind never strays too far from his funky niche. Grant kicks off the album with “The Anthem” — a soulful, feel-good track with James Brown vocals and children’s chorus reminiscent of the Jackson 5. “The Anthem” will grab you by the hips and drag you onto the floor; the rest is guaranteed to keep you there till dawn.
Interview by Cameron Gibson, words by Yunus Church.
Rap is not exclusively a young man’s game anymore (unfortunately, it’s still too much of a man’s game, but that’s a different matter altogether). Many of my favorite MC’s are closer in age to my father than they are to me, and I have no problem with that whatsoever. After all, the culture we call “hip-hop” wasn’t even supposed to be here. If you let the people from outside of the culture tell it, this rap “fad” wasn’t going to last past its infancy in the 1980s.
Hip-hop is now well into its fifth decade and has left a bigger imprint on the fabric of American culture than any other genre since its inception. In fact, other genres owe quite a bit to rap music. Hip-hop, through its use of sampling, has put a younger generation up on soul, R&B, funk, and jazz records that may have fallen by the wayside without it. But it doesn’t stop with the past. Many of our favorite electronic and funk musicians today now sample hip-hop records when searching for that next song to get the whole party live.
Everything has come full circle, and not only has hip-hop as a whole shown its staying power, but many of its elder statesmen as well.
On June 26, Charles Stewart celebrated his 44th birthday. Stewart, better known as Chali 2na, founding member of both Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli, is over 20 years into a stellar career as one of the premier wordsmiths to ever bless a microphone. Like hip-hop itself, the man never settles, constantly reinvents, and bridges the past and the present with a gracious ease. He’s one of the genre’s true innovators; somebody who never has to worry about “falling off” because his understanding of music and history transcends trendiness.
I believe the word I’m looking for is timeless.
Chali 2na just wrapped up a tour with the Canadian electronic DJ duo The Funk Hunters — just the latest in a long line of his genre-blending collaborations. He was kind enough to take a brief intermission from rocking microphones state-to-state, as he sat down with JamFeed CEO Cameron Gibson before a June 25 show at The Parish in Austin, TX.
The following interview demonstrates Chali 2na’s keen sense of history, open-mindedness, and creativity (there’s a few great analogies you won’t want to miss). Read on to hear more about Chali’s willingness to work outside of hip-hop, his latest EP, his current favorite rapper, and his favorite Jurassic 5 song.
Was the Do512 party at SXSW this year one of your first times playing alongside the Funk Hunters?
That particular run was one of the first runs we did. But we had been well into the run, like 12 or 13 shows, so it wasn’t really the first time.
How did this whole collaboration [with the Funk Hunters] begin?
The guys from the Funk Hunters did a remix to a song of mine called “Lock Shit Down” [featuring Talib Kweli, from 2009’s Fish Outta Water]. They were just trying to submit the beat so they were like, “Let us give you an example of what you would sound like on it.” I heard it and I was like, “Shit, that’s dope! What do I need to do to that?” So they put it out and I guess it made waves in the electronic world that I didn’t know about because I’m not really plugged into that world.
So [the collaboration] was inevitable because my manager Mike also books for [the Funk Hunters]. He was like, “It would be crazy if you guys did a collaboration, a show or something.” And I was down, because I’m really flexible when it comes to doing different things with my music. We sat in a room and kinda halfway rehearsed, and everybody just decided that we needed to take this on the road.
You see a lot of electronic artists mixing in hip-hop these days, but you don’t really see them playing live shows that way. How has the success been?
It’s been fun, man. For me it’s like I said before, I love trying to take the foundation of what I do — which is hip-hop — and mash it up in a sandwich with other things, you know what I mean? And that’s kinda what this is. I’ve been having so much fun with it that I haven’t really been able to compare it with anything, like, “This is as crazy as Jurassic 5, or this is as crazy as this and that.” I just feel like it’s its own thing.
Even the crowd, some of these people have never seen me, or even know who the fuck I am. But it’ll still be a lot of people who are like, “Yeah, I’m a Jurassic 5 fan, what are you doing here?!” So that’s cool. People will show up and may or may not expect me to be there, so it’s a pleasant surprise for ’em. I’m taking it all with a grain of salt, or a big ol’ teaspoon of sugar depending on how you feel (laughs).
You’ve done a lot of collaborations outside of hip-hop, such as Linkin Park, Slightly Stoopid, Galactic, etc. What was your musical upbringing like? What kind of music did you grow up on and what were your big influences?
My mom and dad were really my musical influences. They listened to everything. It was cool. We’re from Chicago, so it was predominantly blues and soul, stuff like that. But then, you know, a lot of caribbean music, reggae music, salsa. It was crazy. A lot of electronic stuff too, being that house music was born in Chicago. I always say that house music is the baby of Studio 54 and all the rest of that stuff. But we took it, did a certain thing to it, and ran with it. The phrase ‘house’ was coined in Chicago because of this club called The Warehouse.
This all happened a little bit before my time. I was three, four, five, or a little bit older, but it was really my uncle and them’s time as far as when house music was born. The clubs they were going to and all that. So I kinda learned vicariously through them about that music, and I think the love of house makes me like what we’re doing [with the Funk Hunters]. I can’t explain it, but I think it’s all married somehow. There’s house, then you go up to Detroit and there’s techno, and from there it just keeps going. So that all added to the electronic aspect, but everything else man, reggae, salsa, disco, r&b, blues, my grandmother likes some classical (laughs). I was an eclectic listener.
Jurassic 5 split around 2007. How long did it take you to get into the independent scene?
Well, when J-5 split, I was in the process of creating a solo album as it was. That may or may not have had something to do with the split, but I think it was really just all of the little grievances. We were just tired, man. We had been playing for a long time, for the better part of our twenties and thirties. We were on the road, away from our children.
How old were you when you moved to LA?
I moved to LA when I was 16. Jurassic started when we were 24, and we just ran. My son was four.
You have one son?
One son. He’s 24 now. He’s an old dude. It’s a trip to see him now and see the type of person he is because of the influences of all the stuff I’ve been doing.
Is he in the music world?
Yeah, he can rap! And he can produce too, but he can rap. That dude can rap. He’s real nonchalant about it, and it’s so funny to me. I remember when I was discovered as a rapper I was trying to show everybody! (laughs) But he’s just like, “Yeah, Chali 2na’s my dad.” That kinda thing.
You just released a new EP, the third installment of your ‘Against the Current’ series, titled ‘Bloodshot Fisheye‘. It sounds like it was really impacted by a lot of the racial injustices that have been going on recently. What made you want to approach the project like this?
Well, I’ve always felt like hip-hop was a mirror to society. Each genre of music that became popular, in some instance, mirrored society. Being that hip-hop was born of angst and crime and struggle, it became an outlet to speak out. I always say that punk rock and hip-hop are twins because they happened at the same time under the same conditions.
The newer hip-hop is not as outspoken as the older stuff, but I still feel that it can be a tool to teach, as well as to party, under the phrase that George Clinton invented: free your mind and your ass will follow.
You learn fast as a child through nursery rhymes. Your mama would be like, “Don’t touch that!” And you would be like, “Okay…” but then you would touch it again. But if you heard it in a nursery rhyme, like, (breaks into nursery rhyme cadence) “This-is-hot,” then you’re like, “Oh, that thing is hot,” and you learn fast. It’s weird. I’ve always felt that and saw how it effects people.
With Bloodshot Fisheye, it was like, I’m not a police officer, I’m not a cat in the street on some thug stuff, I don’t walk around carrying guns. My only weapon is my words and the music that I make. Instead of it being something that tears a person down when they hear it, I wanted it to reflect what was going on around them so it could at least bring them to arms from their own perspective. I’m not trying to be preachy about nothing, I just want to take the blanket off of it so that people can see it.
I’m just asking a question, you can answer it how you want, you know what I’m saying? It creates for great dialogue… Being that Bloodshot Fisheye is only six songs, I wanted it to feel like a protest, but one that was based on the love of your fellow man. That’s why I put the song “Brotherly Love” right smack in the middle of it. It’s like, yeah all of this stuff is going on, but at the center of it all we need to love each other, and we won’t have no problems… or at least, we won’t have these problems. That was the mission.
What are your thoughts on the hip-hop industry right now?
They found a way to devalue something as powerful as hip-hop by taking away the importance of its most powerful part, which is the word. I’m not speaking about hip-hop as a culture, I’m speaking about the musical part of hip-hop, which is rap. You devalue rap by taking away what people are saying.
I always use this analogy: Hip-hop today is like a piece of gum. A person gets the gum, they take the wrapper off, toss it, and chew it until all the flavor’s gone. There’s no nutritional value at all. It’s just fun for your mouth. But that flavor’s gone very quickly, and then you’re ready for that next piece. It’s mass consumption of nothing. Whereas in the beginning, we had a way of getting past the inhibitions, restrictions, and walls that we build as people… You put up walls and tolerate certain stuff. The music can get past all of that. It can make you think.
To go back to that analogy, it just personifies what’s happened with the music. Not just hip-hop, but all music. It’s just really easy to listen to, but they ain’t really saying nothing. Ain’t nobody making an Earth, Wind & Fire song no more (laughs). Those songs last for years. You can play those songs 20 years from now and they still have that nutritional value — that meal.
I want to make meals, man.
Who did you listen to who made you want to get into rapping yourself?
Wow. In the beginning, to be perfectly honest, I learned “Rapper’s Delight.” But not too long after that Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five came out with “The Message,” and that changed the way I thought about it all. The first words of the song were, “Broken glass everywhere, people pissin’ on the stairs you know they just don’t care.” I lived in the projects in Chicago so I was like, “Man, who is this dude?” It was like the news! It made me want to listen because I was able to relate. I couldn’t relate to a lot of the stuff playing on the radio, but I did know about having to duck and dodge these thugs dudes just to get to my house, and things like that. Hearing “The Message” put me on the path of consciousness when it came to hip-hop.
As time progressed, people like KRS-One, Chuck D, Rakim, and all these people who were bringing social issues to the table. Even N.W.A, before the media coined them as “gangsta rap.” Yeah, they were talking about gang bang stuff, but it’s not really that. N.W.A was like the neighborhood Public Enemy. They didn’t wear red or blue, them dudes wore black. They never addressed each other in a gang tone, and they always talked about the social issues in the street. So I appreciated that they were telling the news when people were trying to see the bullshit in it.
Do you still try to mix in a couple J-5 songs in your sets?
Yeah I play a couple. I can’t go nowhere on the planet Earth without playing at least one J-5 song.
Are there any current rappers who you’re into?
I’m a real big fan of Kendrick Lamar, man. That dude is a thinker. For him to be so young, he reminds me of somebody from my generation, as far as chasing after that conscious aspect. I’m not saying that he’s trying to change the world with goodness, but he is showing you a reflection of where he’s from. A real, clear, concise, poetic, intelligent reflection. He’s thinking.
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Sacral Crown, a producer/DJ hailing from Ann Arbor, MI, has been busy this summer. He just returned from Electric Forest, where he was hustling the good old fashioned way by playing at campsites and spreading his music from ear-to-ear. On top of that, he released a charitable EP titled In Memorium. All proceeds from the album will be donated to Haven, a Southeast Michigan charity that helps victims of abuse.
“I’m financially stable right now and it feels good to give back,” Sacral Crown said. “I grew up in an emotionally neglectful home and it’s nice to be able to give back to those who were in less fortunate situations than I was.”
With a vibrant, psychedelic sound, Sacral Crown has shaken up the scene from the midwest to the east coast. You can catch him on tour this summer everywhere from Michigan to Florida (see tour dates at the bottom), but first let’s get to know the man behind the music.
I’m a poet, writer, emcee, music producer, lover, and light warrior.
Where did the name Sacral Crown come from?
I chose this artist name based upon two of the chakras, the Sacral Chakra and the Crown Chakra. The Sacral Chakra is associated with the pleasure/happiness centers of the body. The Crown Chakra reflects our connection to spirituality. So to me, Sacral Crown means happy spirituality, or pleasurable enlightenment.
When did you start experimenting as an emcee or making music of any kind?
When I was 16. I became involved with a program called ‘MC Workshop’ over at The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor.
When do you feel you gained the confidence to share your music with people?
‘MC Workshop’ was a great help with stage performance, teaching me how to feel comfortable on stage, and how to project my voice. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Who are you listening to most these days?
Kalya Scintilla, Papadosio, Tipper, Flying Lotus, Thriftworks, Freddy Todd, the entire Australian glitch scene. I mean, I DJ a lot, so my taste is very wide and I can do this for days.
What is music (to you)?
Self-expression for peace of mind.
Who/what has been your biggest musical inspiration?
My brother. His passing at a young age jumpstarted me into chasing after my own dreams.
Do you perform? What’s it like?
As much as I can — I love it. Performing as an emcee is fun, and technical, and you have to focus on your breath control. A lot of that comes in the writing process and writing in breaks to breathe. And DJing, man, that’s a whole different art form. I love that too, but it’s not as stressful for me. I get to kick it and play my favorite songs for friends and cool new people. Chilling no doubt.
Where is your favorite place to write music — what is that experience like?
I like being by myself in a quiet setting. Where that happens to be doesn’t matter all that much. I’ve written songs in friends’ studios, I’ve written songs at home, I’ve written on the bus, I’ve composed in my car with no air conditioning in the middle of a Georgia summer. Whenever I get the urge, I stop what I’m doing and get to it. That’s love.
Advice for fellow up-and-coming artists?
The first thing I would say is: work. Don’t worry about perfecting what you do, nothing is perfect, so just work at it. The next most important thing is learning to let go of what you’ve made. It’s hard, because every artist wants every part [of their music] to be perfect, but that’s not the nature of things. So let go, learn from the mistakes, and do better on the next project.
The next piece of advice is related to getting gigs. Create your own gigs: throw house parties, get in touch with local venues, invite your friends, throw free events. And finally, don’t forget why you started. Music and life as a whole can get difficult at times. Push through, work hard at your craft, go out and get gigs and be proud of yourself and your contribution to society. Do it for the love and the love will flow right back.
The talented Chi-Town producer Smoko Ono just blessed us with an excellent mix to jam out to. He was recently given a huge nod of approval by Kanye West himself when the Yeezy featuring Vic Mensa single, “U Mad,” dropped last month. It was produced in part by Smoko.
“Smoko Ono Complexion Future Beats Radio Mix” is an immaculate display of his broad abilities.
There’s hip-hop, there’s disco, there’s house, there’s soul, all in a quick 27-minute mix. Despite the wide spectrum of genres, it doesn’t skip a beat. The transitions are smooth, each song stays on just the right amount of time, and the constant spacey sounds layered throughout are great. The mixing is truly on-point.
I lose my shit right around 24:00, when Mensa’s “Feel That” drops (which was also produced by Smoko). Why? Because, well… I feeeeeeeeeel that…
His skills are hard on display. His versatility is impressive, and it’s clear he has an excellent ear for music. Enjoy!
His SoundCloud has a couple more mixes like these, peep the Too Future features if you liked this one. More to come from this versatile producer for sure!
Still Flippin’ Samples. Flip yeah. Today we have a great series of songs that utilize a slow moving bassline that created three classics. The songs are overall pretty different — they all fall under separate genres — but the similarities, the sounds sampled, are very evident. These tracks are excellent, really fun jams to listen to. Enjoy!
The Notorious B.I.G. — “Warning” (1994) (Prod. by Easy Mo Bee)
Hooverphonic — “2Wicky” (1996) (Prod. by Hooverphonic)
Isaac Hayes — “Walk On By” (1969) (Prod. by Isaac Hayes)
Alright so I already misled you. That’s what’s tough about the vernacular of sample flipping, or actually defining an ‘original’ song versus a ‘remix’ or ‘cover’. Isaac Hayes didn’t actually produce “Walk On By.” Hayes’ version is a cover of a song composed by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. There are 12 different covers of the song by David and Bacharach, released in 1964. My personal preference led me to Hayes’ version. It’s the most similar to, and flows best with “2 Wicky” and “Warning.” For the sake of keeping this letter short and sweet, and not going through 12 different samples, we picked these three great jams. That being said, take the “original” label with a grain of salt.
Hayes released a 12-minute ballad of “Walk On By” on his groundbreaking Hot Buttered Soul LP, and it’s a beautiful, groovy song. It’s an excellent, intricate composition and a staple of the amazing music released in 1969. It’s emotional and very thick.
“2 Wicky” is a perfect example of the trip-hop, electronic experimental movement from Europe in the ’90s. It has a grungy sound mixed in with electronic samples. In this case, it contains a lot of Hayes’ jam, like the spacey guitar and smooth bassline. It has the hazy, emotional female lyrics and hooks classic to that genre. There are gems from European bands like Hooverphonic splattered throughout the music-sphere.
The lyrics in “2 Wicky” are arguably in-line with Biggie’s “Warning.” They both have an overall theme of people trying to hurt you. I see similarities. The big difference, though, is the absolutely flabbergasting poetic lyrical destruction that Biggie lays down in “Warning.” The lyrics in “2 Wicky” are pretty simple. The rapping in “Warning” is everything but simple.
The intro to “Warning,” a single off of Biggie’s Ready to Die, is a quick indicator that Biggie is about to go on a rant, he’s about to tell a story. It’s a very simple kick-drum beat and a slow, simple bassline taken directly from “Walk On By.” That bassline is the heart, or main sample, in these three songs. It’s very similar, if not identical, in all three. The kick-drum beat is also there, but each producer changes the sound.
In Biggie’s version, Easy Mo Bee turned the drums up way louder than in the other songs. It’s a way for the producer to leave the song up to the lyricist. Those cracking drums help us concentrate on what Biggies says.
And thankfully Mo Bee did turn them up, because Biggie goes off! The way the story starts and unfolds is hilariously creative. One of Biggie’s good friends pages him *early in the morning* to let him know he’s got some enemies looking to bring him down. And so the story unfolds…
In the first verse we’re introduced to the problem, and a quick back story. The smooth way of saying simple things is evident throughout:
Now they heard you blowin’ up like nitro,
And they wanna stick the knife through your windpipe slow.
Then in the second verse, Biggie has another very unique way of flexin’ for the folks. He indirectly tells the listeners how B.I.G. he really is, and how much he’s accomplished. He talks about the money, the cars, the drugs, and the watches, but in HIS way of doing it:
They heard about the Rolex’s and the Lexus with the Texas license plate, outta state
They heard about the pounds you got down in Georgetown,
And they heard you got half of Virginia locked down.
Not only is his lyricism one-of-a-kind, but the way he delivers the message is great. Such a Biggie Smalls way to tell the world how raw he really is. He takes on the character of his friend on the other end of the phone, and ‘humbly’ tells us all how successful Biggie Smalls is. I love that about Biggie. Creative mind, man.
At the end of the song, he wraps up the story by telling us how he’s going to solve this problem. He tells his enemies what he’ll do to them. But it’s the perfect example of Biggie’s ability — intelligence, really — to tell stories and say things through clever poetry that makes you laugh, but cringe in fright too:
There’s gunna be a lot of slow singing,
and flower bringing,
if my burglar alarm starts ringing.
Or you could say, “Trespassers will be shot.”
And I feed ’em gun powder,
so they can devour,
trying to drop my decimals.
Hahahaha. Such a perfect example of his uniqueness, and masterful ability to bleed his personality through the lyrics while maintaining an immaculate flow and perfect rhyming. He truly was at the top of the game. R.I.P, the rap game definitely missed your talents.
There are similarities in these three great songs, and all stem from the same foundational beat. The similar inspiration of the producers led to very different songs, in different genres, that actually inter-connect and, for some not fully understood reason, make listening to each more enjoyable.
Tell us about your favorite sample flip. For us, there’s nothing better than diving deeper into the music that moves us.
Happy Jamming, friends. We have a dope cypher for your listening pleasure today. The track is called “Purp Interlude,” off of producer Thelonious Martin’s 2014 studio album, Wünderkid. You can check out the full album stream here for free.
Martin is a talented producer from Chicago with a wide spectrum of music knowledge. His beats are unique, very hip-hop leaning, but definitely incorporate a wide variety of influences that make them different.
The name of the song says it all. This track provides a bit of a break in the mostly instrumental album to feature hard verses from versatile and creative rapper Joey Purp.
The entire album is Madlib-esque, where the producer’s craft is the main focus but featured rappers hop on songs throughout.
While Wünderkid clearly proves the young producer is full of potential and set for a very promising career, the delivery by Joey Purp is also on-point. He’s emotional, flows smoothly, and has a very personal voice.
Joey Purp is versatile, he implements different voices and emotions in his songs. He’ll smooth out and rhyme slow through some verses, and on the other end of the spectrum he can start yelling and getting more metal. I love the style he takes on during “Purp Interlude.” It feels very raw, in the best sense of the word. He’s laying down some heavy thoughts but flows through it seamlessly, with a great hook and memorable lines that make it an altogether quick and easy listen.
…she did not take ’em from me. Told me boy save your money, so I started a company…
The beat is dope, and compliments a cypher like Purp’s perfectly. I immediately start bobbing my head when the first beat drops. The soft guitar riff laid on top of the steady organ and mixed in with those marching drums constitutes an eerie, but really enjoyable beat. The hymn popping up in the background talks together with Purp perfectly, too.
It’s an overall excellent composition. The compliment between the straight forward but unique beat and the emotional cypher makes this an easy, but meaningful listen. There’s clear chemistry between the producer and the rapper, it flows very well and definitely stuck out in the album as a whole.
Joey Purp is one of the two members of Leather Corduroys, set to release an album sometime this year. Thelonious Martin is already being hailed as the next unique, jazzy producer in the game while still very young. More to come form him soon. Keep an eye out for these two!
There’s music everywhere. There is new music being created left and right, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In this case, the more the merrier. A few months back we did a spotlight on a young, talented producer by the name of Owen Bones. He’s been posting new music through his SoundCloud the last few weeks, and he’s got our attention. Earlier this week he dropped a remix of rapper Towkio’s EP, .WAV Theory.
Towkio is a high-energy rapper blasting his way into the spotlight. He’s part of the SaveMoney crew in Chicago, and .WAV Theory was not only getting huge hype before it dropped but the reception has been powerful. People seem to like his fast-paced, versatile style. He raps, but also sings his own hooks. His voice is probably not going to get him into Julliard, but it’s his confidence that people are attracted to. Fun stuff.
As a nod of respect of sorts, Owen Bones remixed “Reflection” off of Towkio’s EP. Both the original by Towkio and the remix by Owen Bones push the borders on inter-mixing genres. Owen’s remix is crazy, it’s got an odd choppy intro. And that’s what I love about this song.
This jam is intense, it’ll rattle your bones. There’s sounds coming in from every direction, and it’s freaky. It’s high-paced and full of different instruments, it’s like those intense AraabMuzik instrumentals. Until he gets to the hook around 1:20.
Owen did an amazing job transitioning from the intense intro into a more mellow, soft sounding hook. He highlights Towkio’s voice perfectly, oozing the emotion of that hook through to the listener. He builds up the momentum while Towkio sings, and then drops into the second ‘crazy’, fast-paced part of the song. The amount of bells, whistles, “Woops,” soft symbols, and intricacies in the entire mix is impressive. It’s a thick song, which is a staple of Owen Bones. Peep the Jam below, and have fun with it!
Owen Bones is set to drop his next EP, Sabotage, very soon. He’s already posted two singles to tease us into the EP. He gave us a peak into his first drop, an immaculate song called “Flying High,” when he debuted his audio/visual piece earlier this year. You can peep the entire song on his SoundCloud. We are excited for the entire EP, to say the least. Jam on friends!
Yo friends. We have an immaculate mix below by DJ Major Taylor aka Ralph Darden. The timing is no accident. This wily veteran knows how to mix and scratch records to the core. He’s a DJ for the people. He’ll turn a house, bar, club, or warehouse into a genuine dance party. His knowledge for good music stretches far, and he incorporates so many old and new sounds together flawlessly.
He’s an artist and a thoughtful dude, and it’s evident in “Sound of the Beast.” He released the mix two months ago, but considering the recent civil unrest in Baltimore, it is more pertinent now than ever. Musicians and artists have been loudly voicing social frustrations for years, and it’s evident in the depth of variety of tracks he incorporates into this mix. We’ll let the mix speak for itself. Get your friends together, enjoy this groovy mix, and let’s jam with the rest of them.
Vic has been letting his shit bubble, and now it’s about to BLOW. Soon after getting the nod from Kanye by collaborating with him on “U Mad,” Jay-Z dropped the news that Vic was the latest member of Roc Nation. That’s a co-sign from both seats on the throne. Whew. What a move for the SaveMoney army, because family matters.
Long story short, Mensa is fueled by immense creativity. He’s destined to be a star. He’s versatile and does the whole ‘transcend’ genre bit very well. So naturally, we’re huge fans. We know we’re not the only ones feeling that. Below is a Vic Mensa banger produced by his go-to producer and Chicago native @Smoko_Ono, the same magician responsible for the production behind “U Mad” alongside @StefanPonce.
The track is called “Feel That,” and Vic shows off his ability to flow into different sounds. Smoko Ono doesn’t leave him hanging and creates a unique and immaculate beat, helping to catapult Vic into stardom. The intro to this track is chilling. Can’t wait to hear Vic’s album and see what else they’ve got in store.
Turn it up though. It gets better the second time around. Chi-Town stand up.
If you like what you hear and want to learn more about Vic Mensa, here’s a monster freestyle and and insightful interview with Power 106 in LA. Peep into the mind of an up-and-comer that’s here to stay.
Is Michael Angelakos in a hurry? That’s the question to ask when listening to his indietronica band Passion Pit’s new release, Kindred. The album clocks in at just under 40 minutes with ten succinct tracks and is packed with reverberated percussion, multi-tracked choruses, and a variety of sentimental hooks and beats, a familiar follow-up to their 2012 effort Gossamer.
The pace seems deliberate and almost every song is an up-tempo cacophony of ultra-saturation. The band has found and fine-tuned their sound over the past three years, and they don’t mind showing off their propensity for triumphant ballads, opening Kindred with the cheerfully excellent “Lifted Up (1985),” an emphatic tribute to self-affirmation.
But Angelakos, who has been open about his battles with bipolar disorder and depression, skillfully layers the album with complexity amid the confident melodies and, at times, electronic chaos. I recommend skipping the final track, “Ten Feet Tall (II),” which deserves a plaque in the Hall of Auto-Tune Infamy (sorry, Game!) but nearly every other sing is constructed with an admirable brevity and buoyancy. The lyrics personify the struggle of breaking through pain and the joy of companionship and several of the songs are influenced by Angelakos’ recent marriage. On “Where The Sky Hangs” he sings, “I step up and take it, but I fall to the side/ I’ve got somebody else just to keep me on my toes again” over a direct, patient bass line that evokes the best of 1980’s synth-pop.
With all their keyboard whooshes and Angelakos’ piercing falsetto, Passion Pit can occasionally wander into the exhausting territory of over-produced pop-melodrama. But Kindred shows that they have found a way to commit to the tension of delivering personal ideas amid universal rhythms. In a year where many artists are wearing their hearts on their sleeves, it’s nice to have a band that doesn’t indulge too deeply and gets right to the point. They know your time is precious.
As far as electronic music goes, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation have already etched out their place in the history books. Use whatever cliched phrase for prolonged accomplishment and achievement that you want. Canonized. Gold-standard. The “bar.” Thievery is all of these things and more.
The Washington, D.C. based DJ collective is celebrating 20 years in the game this year, and do not appear to be slowing down any time soon. 2014’s Saudade marked Rob and Eric’s ninth studio album together, with at least twice as many compilation albums to their name. Like the rest of Thievery Corporation’s catalog, Saudade does a remarkable job of — for lack of a better word — incorporating the worldly sounds that inspire them into their music in order to create something fully unique. In this case, Saudade is a return to some of their bossa nova inspired roots.
JamFeed CEO Cameron Gibson was able to sit down with Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza last month, right before he went on stage for a solo DJ set at The 1up in Denver.
Rob touched on everything from not forcing music onto his son, to Thievery’s original influences, to their current influences, to beginning to record their upcoming album in Jamaica (I told you they weren’t slowing down), and more.
Thievery Corporation is a group out of D.C. Are you born and raised in D.C.?
I was born outside of Chicago but grew up around D.C. I was there most of my life, I live in San Francisco now. D.C. was very inspirational because of the whole punk scene going on, the Dischord record label, the indie bands coming out of there. It’s where I met Eric and where we started Thievery Corporation.
You have a kid now, congratulations!
Yes, a four-year-old son.
Is he getting into the music scene?
I don’t know about the music “scene,” but he’s definitely getting into music. I try not to force anything on him, I just let him experience music as he feels comfortable. I’ve seen a lot of kids whose parents try to make them do music and then they wind up wanting to have nothing to do with music. I’d rather have my son come to it on his own.
How did you come to it on your own?
My family moved to Connecticut for two years, so I went up there and they had an electronic music fest, one of the only ones in the country. This is 1984. I was working with drum machines, analog synthesizers, step sequencers, things like that… old school stuff.
So what brought you back to the solo DJ scene?
I started out making techno records before Thievery. This is like, 1991. I had a record label called Juju Thievery Corporation. We were about 19, 20 years old making techno records. And then with Thievery we started incorporating organic forms of music with electronic and then over the years it’s just become a lot more organic. But electronic music is part of my roots… Well, it is my roots.
So I was living in San Francisco and people were just asking me more and more to DJ. And I also have a bunch of clubs in Mexico, so we had a lot of DJs coming through our clubs, the BPM Festival, you know, people were asking me to do remixes a lot, asking me to DJ, so I started doing it and found that I really enjoyed it. It’s a way to be excited about modern music again and to travel.
Do you do solo stuff while you’re on tour with Thievery?
Sometimes I’ll do some after parties, things like that. Or I might do a gig if we’re in a town for a couple days.
How do you feel about Austin, TX?
I love Austin! It’s always been one of our favorite cities as a band. We definitely have a special connection. But Colorado has kind of become our second home…
Where do y’all get the most response from outside of the U.S.?
Probably Athens, Greece. People love us out there. Same with Lisbon, Portugal.
I know that Thievery incorporates lots of worldly sounds and uses lots of different languages. How many languages do you actually speak?
I speak English, some Spanish, and music, my third and most universal language! I’ve been able to connect with people from all sorts of cultures and societies through music.
Is there any place that stood out to you outside of the U.S.?
I definitely want to spend more time in Asia. Hong Kong, Thailand, Bali, Japan… I’ve never been to Vietnam so I’d love to go there as well. That whole region is just fascinating. I really enjoy traveling and exploring.
Could you speak on your influences a little bit? Who inspired you?
Well, I was inspired by a lot of punk music back in the day. A lot of people during the late-80s and early-90s who experimented with electronic music like Renegade Soundwave, Big Beat Manifesto, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, all these different kinds of people. And then jazz, reggae, dub, Brazilian music, there’s so many influences. What really brought me and Eric together is our appreciation of lots of different types of sounds.
So how did you and Eric meet originally?
We met back in 1995. This May it’ll be 20 years. We were listening to a lot of music from Japan and things like that, guys who were experimenting with electronic and jazz. So we both had this mutual appreciation of all these different styles — jazz, bossa nova, dub, Indian sounds. We just started talking about all these styles of music that we love and trying to figure out if there was a way to incorporate them all into electronic music. So we decided to get our equipment together and see if we could get anything cool sounding.
I think you did a good job.
Yeah (laughs). The first couple days we came up with a few songs and it went from there.
So what inspires you at this point?
I think one of the interesting things about what’s happening today is that sound systems are so much better and the ability to express different frequencies and things like that… and electronic music to me is really exciting right now. So I feel like it’s a very interesting time musically. People could say a lot of negative things about “mainstream EDM” and everything, but people have always said bad things about mainstream culture in general (laughs). Every era had its mainstream, or “lame-stream.”
During the 80’s there was a lot of horrible music, but also cool stuff happening in the underground. Same thing with today. There’s lots of cheesy stuff, but there’s also some pretty cool stuff going on — you just have to dig.
Were you and Eric friends before Thievery? And how does your relationship go today with you doing independent stuff?
I would say we became friends at the time we started and as we kept going we became great friends. I think at the end of the day me and Eric have a mutual respect for each other and we admire each other as friends, as musicians, as artists. I think we both feel grateful that we can have a career that’s lasted 20 years.
Do you guys have anything special for year 20 coming up?
We just finished recording in Jamaica. We’re working on a new album, so hopefully it’ll be out by the end of the year or early next year.
Is that the first time y’all have recorded in Jamaica?
First time, yeah.
How was that?
Amazing. We’re super excited. We were down there for ten days. We still have some ways to go in the recording process.
After all of this time, did you ever see yourself getting back into independent music again?
Well, in a way I never felt like I left. We put all of our stuff out ourselves and have always done things independently. So I think the thing is that we’ve never really had any roles. When it comes to my own career I’ve never felt like I have any roles I have to abide by.
You guys have taken a lot of political stands in your music. How did that evolve?
Because we’re from Washington you had a lot of politically outspoken artists. But within the art scene, people like Fugazi, you know, any of that whole scene, they were always speaking on what’s happening in the world. And we were also influenced by people like Public Enemy and The Clash. And because we’re independent we never had to answer to a major record label, we could do what we wanted.
That freedom in your music and your musical choices really shows. How do you recommend that to young musicians going forward?
The first thing I would say is that it’s very difficult out there, so it’s hard to really think of it as a career [at first]. When we started Thievery we just did it as a hobby. We never had any idea that people would pay us to buy records or play concerts. So I think that kind of passion has to be the underlying thing — you would do it even if nobody bought it. That’s how much you love it.
Be sure to follow both Thievery Corporation and Rob Garza on JamFeed to stay up-to-date with all of their latest releases, tour announcements, and general news. Congratulations on 20 years, guys!
It was about 6:00 pm on Sunday, April 12th. My JamFeed co-workers and I were at Carson Creek Ranch, located just outside of Austin, for Euphoria Festival 2015. We had been running around the entire weekend conducting interviews with Euphoria artists, catching as many shows as possible, charging our phones when we could, and trying diligently to stay dry and clean (the word ‘clean’ is a relative term in this case, to the point where I would have paid a large sum of money for the chance to ‘shower’ in the Colorado River for 20 seconds).
But I digress. For me, 6:00 pm on April 12th meant one thing and one thing only: my responsibilities for the weekend were over, and I had t-minus six hours until my 24th birthday.
All of JamFeed’s interviews had been conducted, my phone had been dead for the past day with no hope of charging it (and really, at that point, no urge to charge it), and we had two fresh cases of beer ready to go for Big Gigantic’s 9:00 pm show.
So despite being exhausted, I thought that I might as well get into “birthday turn up” mode. And then it happened.
JamFeed CEO Cameron Gibson, who had been messing around on his phone for the past couple minutes, looked up at me with a twinkle in his eyes. It was the same twinkle that James Harden gets after he barrels into a hopeless defender and draws contact, knowing that he’s going to the free throw line for the 46th time that game (well, it’s the twinkle that Harden would have if he wasn’t a soulless cyborg). It’s the same twinkle that the developers at Apple get after they create yet another product that is due to self-destruct after at most two years of use, knowing that our helpless consumer asses are getting strangled by their corporate leash yet again. Cameron had that twinkle.
“We got Big G at 7:30,” he said.
Oh, the irony. The JamFeed team is getting ready to down 60 beers in two hours in preparation for the Big Gigantic show, and now we get the chance to interview them. All of a sudden getting wasted for my birthday seemed very inconsequential. This is Big Gigantic, one of the best bands in the business.
For those who don’t know — which should be a small portion of music fans at this point — the duo based out of Boulder, Colorado has been puttin’ down the funk since 2008. They are one of the first groups to combine live instrumentation with electronic music in the right way, blending elements of hip-hop, funk, jazz, and soul to create a sound that makes for one of the best live music experiences one can expose themselves to. Their style is still getting heavily bitten to this day.
So with all of this on my mind, I placed my bucket hat over my head and passed out in my folding chair. When Cameron woke me up an hour later I was ready to rock. No excuses.
Cameron and I sat down with Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken, otherwise known as Big Gigantic, at 7:30, and needless to say, the following interview coupled with their subsequent 9:00 pm performance was the best birthday present that I could’ve ever asked for. Big G, if you are reading this, thank you guys.
Peep the below video of their Euphoria opener, the remix to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us.”
The guys spoke candidly about their origins, the divvying up of responsibilities that makes their operation run so smoothly, the shows that put them on the national radar, their first hip-hop remix (hint: it’s a Pharcyde song), their legendary rain-soaked Austin City Limits performance last year, and much more. Enjoy.
So how long have you been working with Ben Baruch, your manager?
Dom: Almost since the beginning. About five years. We did about a year by ourselves.
Did y’all meet in Boulder?
Dom: Yeah, yeah, we were getting it started right when he moved to town. He moved from LA. He started taking over the Fox Theater booking and stuff. We were just all going out together because we love music, you know? We met at shows, we got some shows for ourselves, we would get happy hour, the three of us. And then I remember we had a conversation like, “maybe Ben should be our manager.”
Did he have ThisSongIsSick at that point? (editor’s note: the founder of the highly successful and influential electronic/hip-hop/indie/alternative blog ThisSongIsSick is actually Nick Guarino, not Ben Baruch)
Dom: Nope, but Nick was coming up too, man. He was our other homie. He was like, “yeah I run this blog, it’s kinda getting big.” I was like, “bro send me music so I can hear what’s up!” But anyways, we had a dinner with Ben one day and we asked him to be our manager. He said that he was thinking the same thing!
So it was pretty mutual?
Dom: Yeah, definitely.
So where are y’all from originally? Did you meet in Colorado?
Jeremy: Yup, met in Colorado. I’m from Virginia.
Dom: I’m from Vegas.
Awesome. Did you meet at the University of Colorado?
Dom: No, just kind of around town, you know.
Jeremy: We both played in different bands around town and the music community there is pretty small. We used to do gigs together, stuff like that.
Dom: We did wedding gigs and shit, jazz gigs, funk gigs, all kinds of shit.
Was it just y’all two from the very beginning?
Dom: Yup! (Jeremy nods approvingly) I was getting stuff together and thinking about concepts and I just decided that I want one other guy, you know, and it was just like, “yup, let’s keep it like that.”
So we know that during live shows Dom is on the saxophone and alternates that with keys and the laptop, while Jeremy is on drums, but how does the beat-making process come about?
Dom: I make all the music. Our thing is very different but it works so well because Jeremy handles so much other stuff.
Jeremy: I do a lot of our business stuff.
Dom: We’ve been playing for so long together and we have such a connection musically that it’s like, when I’m thinking about writing I’m thinking about us playing. You know what I mean? So even though Jeremy’s not writing, we know what the concept is that we’re going for so it’s really easy to write in a style that Jeremy’s about.
How would y’all describe that style?
Jeremy: It’s a lot of different stuff.
Dom: We never know how to classify it. Saxophone, drums, and bass is the style (laughs).
Where do your sax roots come from, Dom?
Dom: In school, I started in sixth grade.
Vegas just doesn’t seem like a sax place to me.
Dom: It was though! Back in the day my grandfather was a drummer, there was a lot of jazz stuff going on in Vegas, you know, like Frank Sinatra was playing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and shit like that. So it was definitely poppin’ at a time. It’s not like that anymore, but I just stuck with it, man. I fell in love with it, ended up going to college and getting my masters and then I was touring with an afro-beat band for awhile. After that simmered down a little bit we started Big G.
Did you ever find it hard while you were in school to strike the balance between focusing on graduating and your music career simultaneously?
Dom: Well I didn’t really do anything until after school. When I was in school, I was in school, pretty much. There was a little bit of time to do local gigs and stuff, but I didn’t start really giggin’ a lot until after I graduated.
Do you guys remember the first show you played together where you really realized “this is what works?”
Jeremy: It’s always felt kinda natural from the beginning. The first show we played was with Murph, who used to be in Sound Tribe (STS9). We opened up for a side project that he had. It was sold out the first night, in Boulder, and the whole thing just kind of came together. It always felt like we were doing it for fun, but at the same time it was like, “wow, I think people are really going to like this.” It kept growing and because of the Murph connection, he had us open up for Sound Tribe and we gained a national fan base by doing after shows and bouncing around with them.
Dom: There were definitely a couple shows. Camp Bisco 2010…
Was it Red Rocks where it was you guys, Ghostland Observatory and STS9?
Dom: Yeah, we did one of those, that was years ago.
Jeremy: Dude, playing Red Rocks was… I don’t know if you guys have been there before but it’s just the most incredible place. That’s where you want to play wherever you live. It’s epic.
Dom: You’re immersed in nature and the way the crowd is set up, the way the bleachers go up and the stage is at the bottom, it’s different from every other venue. It really feels like people are on top of you like “aaaagghhhh!!”