Random Record Review: Hxlt “Hxlt”

     Allow me to start honesty.  I actually stumbled on this project while parousing the various media outlets I read to stay up on things.  What actually caught my attention was the cover art.  The shot was dope, and the subject matter was lit.  I usually go with my gut on things like that, and my gut didn’t disappoint. 
     Lately we have become accustom to let’s say “other” types of music crossing our path.  So this was a refreshing surprise compared to the A-typical radio type music we are accustomed to dominating the media publications.  Now we’re not saying the sound doesn’t have its pop appeal.  Its just so (for lack of a better word) different.  Original yet nostalgic, and not just nostalgic for the older listener.  Hxlt is defenitely a voice for the youth with a taste for a more retro aesthetic.  Like 80’s night meets Sonic Youth, with a hip hop twist if thats a fair analogy.  I guess I should admit Im a huge Sonic Youth fan (which I seriously am by the way), and I love Steely Dan too.  There I feel so much better admitting a few of my guilty pleasures.
      I spend alot of time hunting for new and obscure music, but Hxlt isn’t really to obscure.  So how did he stay off my radar?  How did this talented artist stay unnoticed by me?  I can only say that I wasn’t on my note I guess, but this new project makes me wanna check out his whole catalog.  With a sound thats got such a multi genre appeal, he has the potential to make quit the mark in music.  There were a couple tracks that I had to listen to a couple times before I really “got it,” but once I did the project actually came accross as a complete body of work.  I like that he takes a new approach on familiar subjects like relationships and life.  I found the project very relatable but yet very innovative. 
     All together the project jams, but songs like Reaper, Together, and Rock n Roll do stand out.  Songs like those will make their way to my turn up playlist but when the mood is right I’ll jam the project front to back.  Either way its defenitely a good listen.  If for nothing else, but a break from what has become the standard in mainstream music.

– $oCity

Random Record Review; Adrian Younge “Something About April 2”

     Throughout musical history there are artists that gain critical acclaim, but still remain below the radar of conventional music lovers.  Adrian Younge is no exception.  In hip hop its rare to find someone that appreciates real musicianship instead of the digital productions we have become accustom to.  The only group that comes to mind in using live instrumentation to accompany an emcee is The Roots.  They carved out quite the niche in the culture with this dynamic and no one has filled their shoes yet.  Quite honestly Im not sure if anyone can. 
     Enters Adrian Younge a musician turned producer with an affinity for all things analog.  When I listen to him I feel a sort of nostalgia for a time when music wasn’t as formulaic as it has become these days.  Not to say that he doesn’t have a formula, because he defenitely does.  Just that his formula is his own.  From the moves he makes like collaborations with Ghostface Killah, to this project which includes work with Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab.  This melding of two artists from different genres not only works very well, but gives you insight into what could be some of his influences.  His dynamic ear on the boards and talent as a multi-instrumentalist is apparent on this project. 
     Adrian Younge is really almost creating a sub_genre with a retro take on the hip hop aesthetic.  All his projects have been solid and this is really no exception.  My only negative is that he has certain melodies and cadences he relies on.  With a sound I would describe as a cross between Air and Isaac Hayes he’s not a slouch by any means.  This album is to me a relaxed play straight through type project.  Defenitely in our rotation.

– $oCity

Random Record Review: J Dilla “Dillatronic”

     Let me start by saying a I’m a huge fan of Dilla, and a definite fan of instumental hiphop.  J Dilla had an ear for samples seasoned producers wish they had.   He’s to production what 2pac is to rap.  Both had a huge catalog of unreleased material, and both had a tireless work ethic.  Its seems coincidental that artistically they might be suffering the same fate.  The issue with having so much music available is that as fans we want to hear it all.  I myself have countless Dilla tracks in my catalog, and this project is just another addition.  The problem is that just because the track is layed down by a legendary artist doesn’t mean it needs to be released.
     Let me say this…  The project is solid and most of the beats jam.  However quite a few have a feel of never really being meant to be released.  Like they were still works in progress…  I don’t know what the reasoning was in the selection of the tracks but some should have been left off the project.  If for no other reason than listenability.
     I’m a fan of the boxed set ¡aesthetic!™…  Meaning if your going to release unfinished works by an artist then release them as bonus’ material added to an already solid project or additional outtakes to accompany the solid material.  All togther the project jams.  Its listenable all the way through.  I love Dilla and hope they release more material.  I just hope its solid material…

Presenting J Dilla's equipment to the Smithsonian...

– $oCity

Random Record Review: Travi$ Scott “Rodeo”

2015 has really been a great year for music but particularly what I like to call the new hip hop.  In case your wondering what I mean when I say that…  Its hip hop but it’s so much more, so much more honest and raw than what we’ve become accustomed to.  The common theme in music nowadays is to be very formulaic and redundant.  Travis $cott really broke free from that trend on this project..  On songs like “Piss on your grave” & “Pornography” he uses guitars and different melodies as more dominant tools than we’re used to in rap.  Honestly you really see where Kanye gets his sound from.  Now I might get some heat for this but Ye’s sound didn’t change until he took Travis under his wing.  It’s no doubt a symbiotic relationship as Travis wouldn’t be near as successful without him.  Still it was ingenious on Ye’s part to take a young talent under his wing like that.  It defenitely played a part in sustaining his career to this point.
I don’t think Travis would have gotten the recognition he gets if not for Ye, but his sound is to me a crucial part of the new hip hop sound.  No one sounds like him, no one has his energy, and no one rep H-town the way he does.  He is to me more of the real Houston representative than he gets credit.  From downtown to Fort Bend I hear the city when I hear Travis $cott.  I hear the ambiance of my favorite dive bars, the drone of cars the interstate, and the diversity of the city.  I even heard Pimp C unapologetically tell em his truth.  Even his name is made up of 2 streets historically Houston.
Like all things Houston its complicated, vibrant, and jamming.  Although the city is often overlooked, Travis $cott is far from it.  He’s more in the forefront of a new wave with new energy.  The project is overall a solid consistant project.  That has the rare trait of being listenable from beginning to end.  It may take some people to catch on to it, but this album is a certified classic.  I can’t wait til Og Ron C Chop Not Slops it up.  Defenitely a solid project.

– $oCity

Random Record Review: Vince Staples “Summertime ’06”

     It seems like 2015 is turning out to be what i like to call a renaisance in music with content.  Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly”, Yella Wolf’s “A Love Story”, & A$AP Rocky’s “A.L.L.A.” have set the stage for what is turning out to be a great year for unconventional styles.  Artists are starting to take more risks.  I mean yea I’d like to see more experimentation with styles and delivery, but this is a great piece of work.
It’s certified street music.  I might even go as far as calling it gangster music with an intelligent twist.  Vince is reflective yet honest in his perspective of street life, and california gang culture.  Singles like “Seniorita” and “Get Paid” have actual real content despite some of the simplistic hooks. 
     I’ve been a fan of Vince since “Shyne Cold Chain,” but that doesn’t mean I’m biased.  Kids got bars and his delivery is all his own.  Anyone who knows us, knows we lean towards artists with originality.  True individuals that aren’t scared to let that trait shine through in their music.  Its an album you can ride to.  Bus, bike, plane, or car.  Keep it in rotation….

– $oCity

Experimentation in Music: The missing element (Just A Thought)

A later incarnation of the Glen Branca guitar orchestra….

     Without giving away my exact age……… I’m an 80’s baby.  A kid of the Reagan era.  That decade and the 90’s were the last decades of (in my opinion) truly ground breaking contributions to music.  Groups like Polvo, Sonic Youth, The Boredoms, Glen Branca, Mr. Bungle, John Zorn and countless other groups were testing the boundaries in music and genres of music.
     These days it seems the safe route is preferred.  In this era of boundless levels of exposure and technology, people seem scared to try a new sound.  Ok ok I kinda get it…  There’s not too much left to try,  “everything” has been done right?  Bullshit…  Expression is expression…  The consensus is cash rules and thats a reasonable motivation, I get it.
     Still every genre has monotony, those people who immitate to flatter.  ¡Fresh Aesthetic!™ tries our best to digest as much art as possible and the consensus is that it appears most artist are scared to take risks.  Safe for the sake of digestability is a common theme.  Even when the subjects matter is risque….  The presentation is safe.  I often here the young and old speak on how this era lacks leaders and innovators.  The John Coltrane’s and Sun Ra’s…  The visionaries to lead us into the future.  The missing link seems to be a unique perspective…  A window into the mind of the individual.  City culture is made up of unique individuals.  Shouldn’t art be a reflection of this uniqueness……  Just a thought….

– $oCity

Artist Q & A – That Purple Bastard

Welcome to another volume of our Q & A series.  For this volume we switch from the visual arts to more auditory expression.  We sat down with the talented Hip Hop producer “That Purple Bastard.”  His sound is his own.  Psychedelic, but still is able to catch the ear of your hip hop purist.  The culture is changing and artists like this are needed to help keep it evolving.  This ever expanding genre seems to be in a type of rebirth.  New styles and new blood are making ¡fresh! sounds that change the aesthetic of the hip hop we’re used to.  In this first set of volumes I’m intentionally speaking with artist who have roots in Houston.  Besides the obvious reason (we’re based out of Houston), there is a more significant reason I’m doing this.  Like this country often called “a nation of immigrants,” more of the influential players in the culture tend to be migrating away from their places of origin.  I don’t even wanna speculate into their reasons, but I can guess…lol…   The reason is different for every artist in every genre I’m sure, but the out come is the same.  That outcome is evolution that can’t be achieved by staying stagnant.  That Purple Bastard is no exception.  With a diverse catalog of beats and colabo’s his style is doing just that, but enough of me let’s get to business.

Check it out….

$ocity –  How did you come up with the name “That Purple Bastard?”

TPBThat Purple Bastard” was the name of the first solo album I ever released and was intended to be a one-off in that I was only gonna use it for that project specifically. Shortly after releasing that album I linked up with a rapper called Ensane who I had met through work and we started working on an album together. Well it ended up during the process of recording that record Ensane would shout me out while we would be recording tracks and he would always say “Purple Bastard” or “Purple Bastard Productions” at the beginning or end of a song. So it just kind of stuck after that. The name itself was a take-off on the story “That Yellow Bastard” from Frank Miller’s graphic novel Sin City. There wasn’t anything specific about the story that made me choose it, I just kind of liked the cadence of the title and I just switched it up to “Purple” to reflect my more psychedelic influences.

     $ocity – Your from houston.  Have you worked with many Houston artist?  If so who?

TPB – Yeah I’ve done stuff with a lot of Houston underground guys. My biggest co-collaborators have been Ensane, D-Risha, Dirty & Nasty, & Renzo, but I’ve also done one-offs for a lot of other artists here and there.

$ocity – How would you describe your sound?

TBPThat’s always something that’s been hard for me to pin down. I believe it shifts a lot for me depending on how I’m feeling or what I’m really into at a given time. If I’m to trace a common thread throughout my work I’d say there’s always a thread of psychedelia and experimentation juxtaposed against some mundane element. Generally this is manifested as a writhing sample or melody up against a relatively normal sounding beat, but not always. I suppose if I were to poeticize it I would say that most of my art is about the struggle of the soul against the physical world.

$ocity – Who were your biggest influences?

TBP – There have been a lot but two of my biggest will always be DJ Screw and Lee “Scratch” Perry. They both started with pretty normal music as their foundation but were able to turn these raw materials into something really magical and culturally transformative. I suppose that’s what most great artists do, but as someone coming from a DJ/producer background myself, I’m always interested in that second level of abstraction where you get the combined magic/power of the original recorded music multiplied by whatever crazy realms the DJ/producer decided to take it to after that.

$ocity – Who do you have in your listening rotation these days?

TBP – Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of old Memphis underground rap/beat tape stuff- DJ Paul & DJ Squeeky tapes mostly. The last album I released with D-Risha (“GIALLO” which we released under the group name 6 Demon Bag) was a homage to that stuff so I’ve kinda been on it even more since doing that record.

$ocity – Would you say Houston or LA had the bigger influence on your style?

TBP – Houston definitely. I lived there for a vast majority of my life so it shaped pretty much everything about me including my production style/taste. I will say that out here (LA) I feel that music is more producer-centric so your average producer is encouraged to push the envelope more and take more creative chances and that has been a real breath of fresh air coming from Houston. I felt like I was always fighting an uphill battle in the Houston scene with my sound so it was weird coming out here and just having people accept me from the jump.

$ocity – Any new artists that you’re digging?

TBP – Yeah, I always check for a lot of the beat scene guys I’ve met since being out here because they make some crazy original music. Underground guys like Repeated Measures, Gypsy Mamba, and the guys from Team Supreme are always coming out with some crazy stuff that I would have never thought to make. I follow some really interesting producers & music curators on Soundcloud so a lot of times I’ll just go on there and listen to my stream for inspiration.

$ocity – What’s the biggest challenge you face as a producer trying to get people on your wave?

TBP – I think for one thing it’s really hard to develop a singular musical identity, especially for someone like me who enjoys changing it up creatively so often. One of the most important things for branding yourself is consistency, but if you listen to my past projects they may sound like night and day even if they were only released 6 months apart. What I tend to get is people gravitating towards single projects I’ve done rather than following me consistently as an artist and that can be really frustrating at times. I mean you can’t blame people for liking what they like, but at the same time it makes it really difficult to build any type of following as an artist.

$ocity – What made you pursue being a producer?

TBP – I didn’t grow up learning music or any instruments or anything like that and got into it relatively late when I was like 18 or 19. I started off making little beats on programs like Acid Pro and MTV Music Generator for PS1 but I didn’t really get heavy into it until I started DJing in college. It was a really slow evolution for me and I didn’t really even start putting myself out there till I went to HCC to learn audio engineering. It was there I really started networking with people who were trying to do the same thing as me and I began to learn the more practical side of it.

$ocity – I know you‘ve done some beat battles, even won a few.  Do you think that that is a good avenue for a producer to go for exposure?

     TBP – I have mixed feelings about it. I think there are a lot of beat battles (and other “talent-searches”) out there that are really a hustle and way to scam money off of artists. If you have to pay more than $20 or so to be in the competition, then it’s probably a scam. I think the list of producers who actually “got-on” as a result of winning a beat battle is extremely short, but a lot of these competitions will oversell the networking opportunities they provide with “industry execs” to make an artist feel like they’re getting a real shot at long term success just by participating. That being said, I feel that the beat battle I won after I first moved out here (which had no entrance fee) gave me a lot of traction and buzz here in the local scene and led to some great opportunities. So really if you are considering signing up for one of these you have to look really closely at the language they use in order to determine intent. If it sounds really official and seems like they’re trying hard to sell you on it, I would steer clear. If it sounds like something fun and lighthearted and they’re not charging a huge fee, then go for it.

    $ocity – I’ve heard a few of your beats.  I like your sound, its very diverse and definitely original.  Do you think there is still room for originality in the mainstream?  Seems like a lot of homogenized beats coming out lately.

     TBP – I think there is room for originality but the percentage of original sounding artists getting on in the mainstream is extremely small, probably like 1% or something like that. I think with hip hop specifically it is even more problematic because you have so many people coming in with a hustler mentality where their intent is just to make money off of whatever is commercially viable versus just making good art. That’s not to say that good or even great art isn’t sometimes a byproduct of that, but it also means that there is an unnecessary glut of crappy factory loop-based music to slosh through before finding something worthwhile. I think one of the biggest ironies about trying to “get on” as a producer (or rapper for that matter) strictly as a hustle is that there are literally so many people trying to do it that if your goal is to make money/make a career, you will almost certainly get a bigger return on investment for your time doing literally anything else- be it going to college, working in fast food, selling drugs, etc.

$ocity – In hip hop there’s alot of competition, but there’s a lot of community also.  What do you think?

TBP – I think hip hop as an art form has always thrived on paradoxes, and that’s just one of them. It’s all about the glorification of one’s self/ego, but you will always need a community/audience to listen to you talk about how awesome you are or else what’s the point?

   $ocity – These days it seems like everyone is making beats or rapping.  Seems like it would be hard to stand out.  In your experience do you have trouble building a name for yourself with this flood of producers in the industry.

     TBP – I addressed a lot of this in questions 11 and 8, but to expand on that, yeah, it’s damn near impossible. I think hard work will always be a factor in anything you do, but the scariest thing about this industry is how much it has to do with luck and being at the right place at the right time. Being related to or having a close family friend in the biz really seems to help, so if you’ve got that you’re halfway there (lol)!

$ocity – As much as I hate categorizing artist amongst genres, I have to ask….  How would you categorize your sound?

     TBP – Probably “Psychedelic Hip Hop” would be a wide enough net to catch most of what I do, though it isn’t always psychedelic or hip hop.

$ocity – I’m still partial to the MPC and the Korg MS2000  What are your favorite programs and/or equipment to use?

TBP – I used to use a lot more hardware when I lived in Houston, but since I live in a much smaller space here in LA, I produce almost exclusively “in the box”. I use a combo of Reason and Ableton Live and a few midi controllers.

  $ocity – It seems like a lot if producers are scared to experiment.  Is experimentation a big part of why your sound is so original?

TBP – I like to think so. Music for me is still a process of childlike discovery so if I want to figure something out in that realm I tend to just try stuff I think might work instead of going and looking up a specific process on YouTube. In that process of trying to figure something out I usually end up stumbling on a totally different sound that is often more interesting than the one I sought out in the first place. It’s a very abstract way of working, but it keeps things interesting for me.

$ocity – Who are your top 5 producers?

TBPDJ Screw, “Scratch” Perry, Mannie Fresh, DJ Paul, Shlohmo

$ocity – There seems to be this need to separate styles of hip hop into different genres.  Do you think it’s more create sub genres or to expand on what it is to be Hip Hop?

TBP – I think sub-genres can be helpful in that they can help people find a specific type of music that they are looking for as opposed to sifting through other stuff that may fall under the now huge umbrella of hip hop that they’re not really at all interested in.

$ocity – Any advice for other artist.

TBP  – Just be true to yourself and honest with yourself about your intentions getting into it.

Random Record Review (R3) – Yellawolf “Love Story.”

   Ok ok so as of late albums like Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” have been pushing the envelope on what Hip Hop is Supposed to sound like.  This album to me is no different in the regard that it makes you question what Hip Hop really is.  I think works like these are very important, because it expands on the context of the genre.  Like Miles Davis did to Jazz with “In A Silent way”, “Bitches Brew”, and countless other works from that era.  There is this sort of revolution in Hip Hop.  A renaisance if you will of ideas and expression.
     Yellawolf comes with what to me sounds like his most honest and diverse album to date.  Songs like “Best Friend” ft. Eminem are deep and heart felt without being too soft.  Don’t think its all peaches and cream though.  He’s got some hard tracks too…..  Of course I have my favorite songs, but what I enjoyed about this album most was the unapologetic honesty of the project.  This is defenitely what I feel to be an ahead of its time type of project.  A timeless classic that won’t truely be appreciated for a while.  I on the other hand will be appreciating this project now, as you should.  Enjoy…..

– $oCity

Why Is Vinyl Still Relavent?…

One of my fondest childhood memories is that crackle when the needle is set down on that old dusty (record).  To me there’s no better sound, but maybe I’m a little biased.  Mine is one of the last generations that had the record as the primary listening option.  The last generation to have dj’s have no other options except to actually beat match (actual DJ’ing).   Until the cd came along the best way to enjoy music was vinyl.  The sound could deteriorate on a tape.  No quatized beat matching programs, no usb interfaces.  Yea dj’s had playlists and things but every mix was different because of the human element.  To me thats what makes vinyl so unique…  The human element.
So in this digital age the age where everything can deleted, copied, shared instantly.  Why have records been such a mainstay in our culture?  I think part of it is the tradition.  The fact that someone older than us put us up on the whole vinyl experience.  Let’s not forget that vinyl is nearly 150 years old.  So part of the reason could be nostalia.  Some say the music sounds different.  I personally think its a little of both.  That and the whole experience of grabbing the record putting it on that platter, and dropping that needle.
The way the music is experienced is different.  You had to “work” for it.  Not to say that you don’t now, but the result is instatanious.  A record is more personal you hold it look at it and absorb the album artwork like its a 12″ canvas.  With digital media that experience is missing.  In the words of a friend of mine “there’s a definite disconnect…”  In a world of constant movement a record makes you sit down and appreciate the sounds on the hifi.  Not just skip through the song you don’t favor.  Unless you wanna keep getting up to move the needle it almost forces you to appreciate the whole body of work.  If you ever really listen to older recordings the flow of the tracklist is even different.  Artists knew you were going to sit down and listen to the whole album so the music flowed.  A mood was created.  Not just this track then that track, but rather a composition.  A real body of work.
Its nice to slow it down and really listen to good music once in a while.  I was reading about how vinyl record sales have gone up but the record labels aren’t making that much money from vinyl record sales.  That leaves the question that if they aren’t making money off of the record sales, why keep pressing them?  I think its supplying a need.  Record labels cant keep up with these independent artist due to how accessible digital media is.  Anybody can put a mp3 on itunes, but who can press a record as easily?  People enjoy the nostalgia of it.  The change in pace.  That timeless cool that comes from the feeling of putting that needle onto the platter.  Going back to a simpler time to the tune of modern music.  Now that’s ¡Fresh!

ALBUM REVIEW. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

Earl does it again… A good read….

Cut x Sewn Media


20 year old lyricist extraordinaire Earl Sweatshirt has had an eventful four years. From the dark immature doldrums of his first eponymous mixtape Earl to the Free Earl movement and from the highly anticipated debut album Doris to this release, it’s obvious that the Odd Future rapper connects with a large audience who yearn to hear his existential yet widely relatable struggles. 

When I run don't chase me : Sweatshirt's bold attitude contributes heavily to his style“When I run don’t chase me”: Sweatshirt’s bold attitude contributes heavily to his style

This release follows up the consistently enjoyable Doris. An album that highlights a depressed Earl who criticizes the world around him for the majority of the project and the same can be said for I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. It illustrates the social problems faced by Earl and the album’s subject matter is dominated by darkness. All tracks apart from ‘Off Top’ are produced by Earl operating under the pseudonym ‘randomblackdude’. This…

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