Month: September 2017 (page 2 of 2)

Iconoclast: An Interview With AJ Suede

AJ Suede is one of the most thoughtful, dedicated rappers and producers I know of.  His new album Gotham Fortress is maybe his best work yet. A dark, complex and intense project that walks the line between many sounds not just in rap but also AJ ventures into punk and hardcore, too.

AJ and I are old friends and we’ve known each other since 2012. We were somewhat out of touch the last few years, and when I called him on a Tuesday afternoon (before both of us had work) for this interview it was great to catch up with him. AJ and I talked about his relatively recent move to Seattle, the process of making his new album, old skate videos, Skyrim and more…

Nick: How have you been? You’re on the west coast now, right?

AJ: Yeah I moved to Seattle.

Nick: Oh nice. I’ve never been there but I’ve heard it’s really cool. What brought you there?

AJ:  There are a lot of people out here who’ve been listening to my music who lived out here who were like “yo, you need to come out here. Do some shows.” And I just stayed too long, you know?

Nick: Do you like it out there?

AJ: Yeah definitely. Weed is legal recreationally. Everyone is chilling. It’s cool. Minimum wage is $15 so I can still work part time.

Nick: Oh that’s right! That’s dope how high that minimum wage is. What are you doing for work?

AJ: I work at a pizza shop.

Nick: Oh word! Actually now that you say that I think you mention the pizza shop on the album. You talk about work a lot on there. There’s a line about punching a clock  and I remember you mentioning working on the weekends.

AJ: Yeah that’s what I’m doing. That and the music.

Nick: You are a super hard worker and you always have been. And it’s good you’ve been able to balance working a job and working on music. You’ve been making music for a while now it’s been at least five years since I first heard stuff by you. Do you feel like anything has changed with the scene you’re a part of? I feel like with the sort of “internet rap” community things have changed but it’s hard to put my finger on it…

AJ: Yeah it’s pretty crazy how it went from what it was when a lot of people were getting covered on Mishka in like 2012 to where certain people are now. Even in Seattle. Inside the city there’s a whole bunch of artists who are very popular in the city and have no presence on the internet. And vice versa. When I got out here I knew a lot of people from the internet side of shit, and I knew a lot of people from playing around the city. I think I bridged that a little bit as far as getting locals to play shows with people who were popping online and just kinda bringing it all together. Seattle is dope for just music in general. Bands play with rappers. And there’s a whole bunch of boom bap, too. You know I love Boom bap and I still bump hella boom bap, and there is an element of that shit that goes on that’s older. But, they’re not as accepting of new shit, so I don’t really pay attention to that.

Nick: That actually is something I wanted to ask you about. I feel like with your music you kinda bridge the gap between Boom Bap or “real hip hop” shit and the new side of things. There’s so much criticism from older people of younger guys in rap now who are popular like Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty. We saw the whole thing with Joe Budden yelling at Yachty. What do you think about that sort of rift between the older generation and newer rappers?

AJ: I mean it depends. It’s not like a general thing. I don’t really listen to Yachty. I like Lil Uzi Vert, he has hella shit I fuck with. But, I’m not really into auto-tune stuff. Some of the newer stuff I’m starting to hear is getting heavier and heavier into the auto-tune as things keep on evolving. But then There’s Roc Marciano praising Lil B for Black Ken. That’s one of the most East Coast Mcs in the game. There’s only a rift if you choose to have a rift. And, Joe Budden’s always been like that. But, as far as I’m concerned I’m gonna have bars regardless. And I love trap music, too. But, there’s a lot of stuff that I can’t get with.

Nick: As far as production goes you used to produce most of your own stuff, but on the new album you’ve worked with some other producers especially Wolftone.

AJ: Yeah that’s one of the people who brought me out here. I stayed on his couch for a minute before I got my own space. He’s been fucking with my music and was like “yo, come out here.” He’s played in hella punk bands he’s a big part of the Seattle scene. I was in the room when the beats were being made. I was like “yo, you have to take that out.” or “make that darker, speed that up.” I was there. It’s kind of a new sound. There’s only a couple people out here with it. Everybody who’s featured on the album was there in person. I wasn’t really living in my own space. I didn’t have my computer with me. So, I was making music when there was time to make music. It wasn’t like I would go in the booth and make some shit. It would be like once a week or maybe twice a week. But yeah when it came to features everybody was there.

Nick: One producer’s name that stood out to me on the album is Spaceghostpurrp. That’s a name I haven’t seen in a while, and that’s maybe because I kinda haven’t been paying attention. But, is he someone you’ve known or is this collab kind of a new thing?

AJ: I have like two other joints on his beats. We’re not really in touch though.

Nick: I’ve always thought his production was his biggest strength and his beats are unique for sure. When I heard the track he produced I knew right away like “this is the Spaceghost one.”

AJ: I haven’t heard him make a beat like that before, though. I was pretty hype.

Nick: Yeah it’s true. That track has his sound but it does feel different kinda.

AJ: It wasn’t supposed to make the tape, but I fuck with it. It’s just because that’s the only one where I wasn’t in the studio with the producer. But, other than that it definitely belonged there.

Nick: Is it different rapping on other producers’ beats vs. your own stuff?

AJ: Nah for a while I was only rapping on stuff I produced. Like on Gold and Water and all that. But that one year that I dropped like twelve I got to jump on beats that were so many different sounds that it made me a better rapper. You only have a one track mind if you’re only rapping on your stuff and you learn how to be a better producer just hearing what other people do. Now it’s perfect, though. I was in the room the whole time, so everything was being written while the beat was being made. It just worked out.

Nick: Yeah sounds like you were almost like an “executive producer” or something like the whole thing is your vision.

AJ: Yeah, but it was a good combo the whole time. The whole thing was in sync.

Nick: That’s cool you were able to work in the same space. I feel like that’s rare, too. Most collabs happen over the internet like over email or whatever. But you were able to work together in person.

AJ: Yeah anytime I work with somebody over email it doesn’t work. That’s why I don’t really do any verses that way unless somebody’s buying them. Sometimes somebody might record a line, have something a little too loud. And then you have to keep sending emails back and forth. It’s just not organic. It can be, but in general it’s not.

Nick: You mentioned earlier how in the music scene in Seattle there’s kind of a cross pollination of punk and rap. And it makes a lot of sense that you are working with people like Wolftone who’s in both worlds. I can hear that sound in the album especially on “Cryptocurrency” and “Iconoclast.” That feels like a new direction for you. The screaming is awesome. When I was listening for the first time and I heard you doing those screaming vocals I was like “Holy shit!” It’s dope. I really like how extreme it is. Is hardcore and kinda more intense punk stuff something you’ve always been into?

AJ: Yeah, but that was all through skate videos. And Tony Hawk games. That put me on to punk really early. And I always wanted to do that. I kinda waited till it was a little bit more authentic and I was chilling with enough people who knew what was up.

Nick: You definitely pulled it off. “Iconoclast” might be my favorite track on the album. I love the energy you brought to it.

AJ: That sample on “Iconoclast” is from a recording of one of Wolf’s old bands. He took the distortion of the guitar off of it and turned it into that beat. I wanted something that’s in 3/4 time signature where we could do breakdowns and hit different tempos. At this point I’m really just exercising my lyrical ability because I’ve gone on so many different types of beats. So, I wanted something in a different time signature. That was one of the first tracks I made for the album we made that three maybe four months ago.

Nick: Earlier you mentioned how you wanted a dark sound for some of the beats, and a bunch of times on the album you mention darkness. There’s a line “I keep the candles around because I know the dark is afraid of the light.” and you mention feeling like you’re surrounded by vampires at one point. The whole song “Negative Energy” is like a struggle against negativity and stress, trying to not let it drag you down. I feel like there is a lot of anxiety and kinda dread on this album. And I know darkness has always been a part of your music. But, do you feel like it is more a part of Gotham Fortress than your earlier work?

AJ: I think that has a lot to do with the area. It’s just always raining. It hasn’t rained in three months since its been summer. But, it’s very gloomy. That lack of sun. Seeing people who were born and raised here it does make people negative. Really dark really depressed.

Nick: That’s interesting that Seattle’s weather has that much of an effect on people. It’s almost surreal or something.

AJ: Yeah I mean I always kinda had that feeling. But, it wasn’t matched. when I moved here there’s people out here who can match that a lot better. When I was in New York and in parts of PA, sure. But, here it’s definitely a different atmosphere. Living here a lot of what people do is indoors because it’s always raining. We were in the studio all the time when it was raining. And that could be twelve days at a time easily.

Nick: Wow.

AJ: Yeah it’s crazy, but I think the result though is a lot of people are multidisciplined artists. Like everybody plays more than one instrument to a certain extent. And I think it’s because you’re forced to spend so much time inside. A lot of the people I’ve been working with here are just used to being inside working.

Nick: You get pretty political at times on the album. It’s not like overbearing or too heavy handed but you definitely have some moments. There’s a diss to Bill O’Reilly and you call out fake woke people. There’s an alt-right diss, too. Do you feel like this is more political than you’ve been in the past? I mean now is definitely the time to get political.

AJ: Yeah I mean I’ve always spoke about stuff. When I moved here it was January 16th I think the inauguration was the 18th or the 19th? This is a big protest city. Living in PA I’ve seen what was going on during the election. I’ve seen all the confederate shit. I’ve always not been receptive to it, obviously. But at least around here nobody was either. On all fronts. But yeah, that was just a result. A lot of good punk music came out. Good punk music and most good music in general, even hip hop, comes out when there’s some republican dickhead in office. And it’s not like this is a left or right thing. Because I think the very very very far left can be intolerant as well. And borderline delusional. But I’m definitely not fucking with that alt right neo nazi shit. And I’m making that really known. Especially because I know people who I grew up with who voted that way. You gotta speak out because shit’s not right.

Nick: Absolutely. This is a much less serious question, but you’ve always made references to sort of “nerdy” stuff like video games. And those kind of references come up a lot on Gotham. There’s a line where you mention Tomb Raider. And I think you say “always watching sci fi” on a song, too. Of course, I’ve always been into games. Are you still playing video games? Is there anything you’re into right now?

AJ: I don’t have the time.

Nick: Yeah unfortunately it’s the same for me. 

AJ: I mean before though I was playing Skyrim for like four years.

Nick: Yeah that’s a classic!

AJ: I got Elder Scrolls Online and played that for a little bit. But, I just don’t have the time. I had to get in the studio. You know, when were people playing computer games I was on Abelton. But, I grew up on that.

Nick: Earlier You mentioned how rapping on other producers’ beats has helped improve you as a rapper. And, I wanted to ask about being both a producer and a rapper. Do you think being a producer yourself helps has helped you with rapping? And maybe vice versa?

AJ: I don’t think it does. I think it can make you overthink your rapping. And it definitely makes you overthink your engineering. I think just working on being a better rapper has made me a better rapper. Focusing less on being a producer has made me a better rapper. When I go from an intense period of producing to trying to jump right back into rapping you focus too much on the math of the rapping instead of just following how you feel.

Nick: Do you feel like trying to be a better rapper has been your main focus lately?

AJ: Nah I’ve just been living. But, now that I took those six, seven months I’m working on producing right now. Like as of the last two weeks. I’ve jumped back into it. I got a new laptop and all of that. And I’ve had this whole entire period of working around dope producers. Now that it’s time for me to get back into it I’m sure that I’ll be better than I was.

Aj’s latest full length release ‘Gotham Fortress’ is available for download and stream on most major outlets as well as bandcamp and soundcloud.

Limited edition cassette’s of Gotham Fortress are available as a co-release from Black House Records and  Candy Drips.

Looking for more music from this artist?  go to Ajsuede.com

KING BEET by YungWardenBuffett


This release takes flight as soon as the beat drops on Occasional Smoker (produced by Forest Slikk) as the artist, Yung Warden Buffett applies his raspy, uptempo delivery to its opening line: (When I grow up one day gonna be a nasty fuck like Lester Green). A perfect salute to Lester aka Beetlejuice (Beet for short) who is seen on the cover and in the title, of the KING BEET ep.

Each track contains a Beetle bite as a matter of fact. In the hook on Ignoramus (produced by White Whoadie) Warden sings (‘Your situation is uglier than Beetlejuice dome’) harsh, but a whole bop nevertheless. THATS CREEP throws down a nice and nasty lurker of a production for Fuck Off With That Camera that Y.W.B attacks off top with another great opening line “Go ahead and bang my line I’ll tell you bitch I’M OUT ON BUSINESS.” The end joint, Suction featuring Lil Baby Goat (produced by DIRT MAN) is a trap beat backed, ego flashing offering that ends with guess what? A Beet soundbite. It’s a complete lace up.

The Salt Lake City resident, a member of Schemaposse, when the JGRXXN lead power crew was alive and kicking, is clearly still putting in work. Yung Warden Buffett being just one of many artistic pseudonyms (Tanqueray Romano, Lil Black Lung, Father Creak) where he explores his often dark psyche realms. And with a distinct voice that sounds like himself but also like, Mystikal and Lil Wyte were personas of a man who trades one liner jabs with himself in the world’s first M.P.D buddy (not buddy cop, no no no) film…  Hold up, don’t steal the screenplay idea that I just made right now. Writing this review for Candy Drips blog is as binding as a copyright. Just kidding. Or am I? In summary, check out KING BEET by Young Warden Buffett. It’s cohesive for an EP. The tracks are short but succinct.

*Sidenote: The Schema might have dissolved but some of my favorite examples of contemporary chopping (double time rhyming) were done by Warden and another posse member, Kold Blooded. I have a short list of others but lets spare that for another time.

 

EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: CORRUPT FROM THE GET GO By MC Holocaust

 

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CORRUPT FROM THE GET GO by MC HOLOCAUST

The Birmingham, Alabama based MC Holocaust, one of the co-creators of Doomshop Records isn’t concerned with the hype, he makes no attempt to work with artists who have a buzz or change his sound to a popular or commercially digestible one. It’s dialed in and zoned out, ominous funk, and Candy Drips is fortunate to get an exclusive premiere of his latest, Corrupt From The Get Go.

A sound directly influenced by the evil sample drenched, 808 patterns and choice of circumstance lo-fi vocals of mid to late 90s Memphis rap that spawned the obscure subgenre Devil Shyt. Although Memphis artists coined the term first, Devil Shyt is now a community with artists from all over the globe, creating dark atmospheric street based horror stories in rap form. Now throw in Houston’s dark offerings (the Geto Boys obviously, Ganksta N.I.P, Point Blank etc), the sinister side of the West Coast scene (Brother Lynch Hung, X Raided, even Spice 1 although he never gets the props he deserves) and some will also say, early Spaceghostpurpp with his Phonk creations. No-one has a better grip on this murky melange than DOOMSHOP does right now. Holocausts’ tape is like a South Park Coalition release with most of its production handled by in house artists covering all these sonic elements and more.

The amount of timeless samples embedded on this tape are drowned out by unrecognizable rarities, a signature Shop move, in a successful strategy to distance themselves from the pack.

For instance, the intro track, Nobody Likes U Holocaust (produced by KevinTheCreep), contains a perfect Adina Howard sample. Seconds into the tape and I’m already blown away by its usage. Next, Hate You More Than Myself  begins with an uncomfortable Requiem For A Dream scene soundbite while Gangsta Walk Adolf contains Scarface and Bushwick Bill snippets, a salute to that aforementioned Houston influence and a heavy bass that sounds very similar to the one used on the Keith Murray track Dip Dip Di but slowed down, a la DJ Screw. Besides the intro it’s all paired with Holocausts laid back devious flow.

The title track continues the audio mayhem and Mothafuckas Don’t Exist (a crazy, rattling beat produced by Bonkura) contains my favorite lyrical quote (the devil, heavy metal, very skilled with a shovel / disrespectful, next level, fuck life, I ain’t special) while Gotta Plan 2 is pure on a mission mentality that has been missing in rap for years. On A Rampage Ghetto Blaster (produced by Jak3) starts like a UK bassline track before quickly spinning off into an advanced get buck state and Undaground Enemy (AKOZA edit) where ‘Caust states (OGs I sample really fuckin with me / Ima real MC / undaground enemy) maintains the momentum.

Here the tape transitions to smoother selections, like the barrel has gotten too hot and it needs a cool down. Feeble Hearted (prod. by Jake3 and KevinTheCreep) is a lil ranfla roller while Execute Me, Gospel (produced by DJ Sacred) and  Another Friday Night (produced by Tyris White) featuring Slim Guerilla also both seal in the funky flavor with soulful source material.

I excitedly compare this movement to B movie culture, for decades remaining far outside the big industry rap and Hollywood radars. Often low budget, shocking, exhilarating and well, usually problematic. And with a name like MC Holocaust, it’s not a reach. Every time I see his name I think of the 1975 film The Black Gestapo. It makes normal people uncomfortable but for those who seek out the nasties, it fits like a murder glove.

 

-CECIL BLAM DEMENTED
Twitter: @BLAMLORD

The Walking Miscarriage by Jak Tripper

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The Walking Miscarriage by Jak Tripper/Jakprogresso

The rap community is bombarded by its most recent fads like replicant trap beats and copycat catchphrases but deep down in its core there remains a solid resistance to the bogus consumer hive mind. A veneration for crate digging and complex rhyme schemes.

Jak Tripper aka Jak Progresso is of the latter and his self born Blak Church movement in Putnam County, NY is where he has whipped up product over the last 5 years. The Walking Miscarriage is the latest in a history of audio violence.

From the opening sample on Glum Tree (“Open the gate and let Ja(c)k into the kitchen”) it is clear that came to cook and with bars like (I’m malnourished with flies on my rib cage like third world / I once cut my arm so bad the E.R. intern nurse earled) it’s going to be served up still bleeding, chef’s choice. Cannibal savory wordplay swirling around in a murky stew of self produced, sample saturated, phencyclidine dunked beats. The second track, Parke-Davis is like a paean to (the pharmaceutical company that invented PCP) this angel dusted, demonic celebration of depraved natures.

Red City Knights opens with a Vincent Price soundbite, a dreamy beat and a verse from Lodeck. Monks hit profundo basso notes under Self Indulged where Jak offers a different street perspective (I glorify drugs, and glamorize the cult, they trappin over streets / I trip out in traps and just rap over beats). Psychonaut is a relentless barrage of.. bar rage, so much that he just goes until he quits. On Wallpaper Paste Jak spits: (I’m stoned as a witch trial / from the corner with a lemonade stand in Harlem selling piss vials) and Joel’s Tennis Shoes is book-ended by audio from a docu on serial killer Joel David Rifkin and a William S. Burroughs quip. It’s like an odyssey through lyrical dominance, addiction and dissociation.

One of the many monstrosities from within the Church that Jak built. And if he grabs your ear go and check out his previous releases on Bandcamp. I thoroughly enjoyed every track on this. It would be lazy to categorize his work as horrorcore when it clearly doesn’t abide by those boundaries. You might have seen him with his partner in rhyme, The Buttress and if you aren’t familiar with his work on the battle rap circuits, peep his lyrical homicides on Ibattle, We Go Hard TV, RBE and URLTV.

Next up from him is DARK ENERGY JUDO.

Greenova Greatest Hits (Produced By Squadda B) SIDE B TRAILER

Greenova Greatest Hits (Produced By Squadda B) SIDE B TRAILER

Tedy Brewski’s Beach Is Better

As I write this, dear readers it is now September 1st and a chilly morning. Although it’s not officially done, summer is essentially over. But, fear not! D.C rapper and underground rap legend Tedy Brewski has come through with a dose of tropical swag for us, a final celebration of summer, his new EP Platinum Beach.

Tedy has always been an impressive rapper and he is all over these beats, switching his flows and voices effortlessly. On “Blue Blockers” Tedy weaves in and out of singing and rapping, and on “Skinny Dip” he finesses the words “Skinny Dip” into a sort of hybrid hook, adlib and also lazer sound effect. Brewski’s sense of humor and wildly creative lines are as on point as ever. All of Tedy’s lines are quotable, but maybe the most epic is on “Juugfest” where he rhymes “merlot” with “shirt off.”

Although most of Platinum Beach is wavy and breezy,  Beach’s standout track is the totally insane “BOGO.” Over what sounds like warped trap circus music (produced by by Killjoys and StereoRYZE) Tedy unleashes some of his craziest flows ever. And he’s spitting some most ridiculous lines, too: “Ima cop a bird no Dodo,”  “In a knife fight with a pistol,”  “I just popped a bean no senzu.”

Finishing out Platinum Beach is the jazzy, auto-tuned serenade “All I Do” produced by Cezzy. Brewski’s layers harmonizing and his encouragement to stay positive (be thankful/be grateful/be thoughtful/be awesome!) makes this one of the most beautiful odes to getting money since Young Thug’s “Digits.” He breaks out into rapping later in the song and proclaims “everyday I drop a fire flow” which I think sums up Tedy Brewski perfectly.

Simple Steven – OVRWHLMD (Official Music Video) (prod. Party…

Simple Steven – OVRWHLMD (Official Music Video) (prod. Party Trash)

Michelle Branch – Everywhere [Official Music Video]

Michelle Branch – Everywhere [Official Music Video]

Stash Marina – SuperFragile

Stash Marina – SuperFragile

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