Author: Nicholas Vogt

Stash Marina Opens Up On The Introspective And Fucking Powerful Xposed

It is so great to hear new music from Stash Marina! The wildly talented rapper, singer’s and all-around-awesome person’s latest Xposed is absolutely her best work yet. The whole EP feels like a sort of personal essay or poem. Really Stash describes Xposed the best on the Ep’s Intro. Over a new age slow jam of a beat, Stash sets things up for us: “I like to keep it upbeat, happy. But that’s not the reality of things. There’s a time to show people they can have fun, but still express how I feel about shit.”  And Stash truly is expressing how she feels. She totally bares her soul on Xposed. The Ep is a mediation on relationships, The good, bad and ugly. And, how they go from good to bad to ugly.

One of the standout tracks later on Xposed, is the dark, wavy R&B of “Swoop’d.” Stash tells the story of a relationship starting out with infatuation: “everything about you I had never seen before/pants, shoes, attitude.” But, as the song goes on we see things fall apart: “you just making shit up to a twisted reality/you don’t want me and/you sabotage it again and again and again.” At this point Stash is angry sad, maybe confused, but then we get to the aftermath when she sings “Yeah I got my heart broke/I don’t give a fuck/because at least I got to try this shit out” Stash’s music has always been self aware and insightful, but Xposed is really next level. Those lines at the end of “Swoop’d” are an important theme throughout the whole project. Stash is right there in the moment feeling these powerful emotions, but at the same time she is taking a step back and reflecting on everything she has been through.

Right after “Swoop’d” is the the EP’s saddest moment, “lovelost.” Stash opens the track the very heavy and very real statement “This is a sad one. It was the only one that actually mattered.” And, she goes on to rap about reconciling memories of an ex who she has feelings for– “visualizing your face thinking of you as nothing but that gold,” –but who she knows has hurt her and will do it again: “you still didn’t hear me/tore me up to watch it/you knew me too well/and you still jumped out of pocket.”

I know I described Stash as a “rapper and singer,” but really her music is unique a hybrid of both.  On one of the Ep’s more playful moments, the excellently named “you betta be muh fuckin jesus,” she raps for the most part, but sings her adlibs in the background effortlessly.  Stash has always mixed singing and rapping in her music, but her vocals on Xposed are the strongest they have ever been.

The production also is a perfect fit for Stash’s balance of emotional depth and introspection, but also just her downright grooviness and swag.  Over its 8 tracks, Xposed features a diverse batch of soulful and complex production with contributions from many of her frequent collaborators. Feathermeal, Don D, Froze and Blown (of Candy Drips fame!) and Stony Willis all have beats on the project. The production ranges from the ethereal reggae of “RosyHips” to the lo fi jazz rap of “you betta be muh fuckin jesus” to the  bass heavy funk of “muerte del amour.” Not to mention that unique synth anthem for the aforementioned “XPOSEDintro”, and the solemn, minimal sounds on “Lovelost.”

Even though she is being very open and vulnerable on these songs, we should  in no way take that as sign of weakness. As Stash points out in the intro: one side of Xposed is exposing her feelings and experiences, the other is about exposing folks who have wronged her. “fuk boi” has got to be one of the most beautiful R&B songs calling out shitty men. And, the more songs calling out shitty men the better. The whole song is full of great lines, but one of my favorites is: “And you bragging to your boys how your money game specific/but you show up to my crib with a beer/asking can we split it/oh you ballin now.”

The righteous anger continues on the triumphant “free.” Stash once again goes in on people who are her way: “excuse me? Do I need to go get my peeps and kick your bitch ass on Canal Street?” It’s a hilarious line, and it’s clear Stash is not taking anyone’s shit. But,  Even though this track is much more aggressive than other moments on Xposed , Stash still keeps things positive: “stop hating on us get your shit up with us.” Having “free” as the EP’s final track is a brilliant way to sum up the project. Stash has gone through a lot. But, in the end she is  moving forward with her head up, handling her shit. She’s free.

You can listen to Xposed, and all of Stash’s music on her bandcamp

-Nicholas Vogt
Twitter: @nicholasvogt

Never Uninspired: An Interview With Keyboard Kid

Like his frequent collaborator Lil B, Keyboard Kid is a prolific and uniquely talented artist. He produces for folks across the board, has a pretty vast discography of instrumental albums, and he raps, too! And, Keyboard is also one of the most positive dudes ever. He’s super insightful, forward-thinking and well…Based. His newest release, the instrumental collection Based In The Rain 4 is out now (you can get it on cassette now from Candy Drips!) Recently Keyboard Kid and I chatted about his career in music, Limewire, what it means to be truly be “Based,” his hometown, videogame soundtracks,  and much, much more…

Nick: The first thing I wanted to ask was how did you get your start in music? What made you wanna get into making beats?

Keyboard Kid: I always was into music growing up. I was very musical and kinda just did it as a hobby. I’d write songs. I went to church when I was younger, so I was in love with instruments. One of the first things I did as a kid when I was probably like 7 or so was I started playing the trumpet. I played that for about a year and I ended up breaking my hand playing football.

Nick: Oh damn.

Keyboard Kid: Yeah, and then I never picked the trumpet back up, but I always had the love for music. The next thing I wanted to learn how to play was the drums, but, I grew up in an apartment, a five kid household; so there wasn’t really no room for no drums. But (I) used to write songs. I used to download instrumentals by the time I got to be in highschool. I was probably like 15 or so. On Napster or Limewire. I forget which one. It was probably Limewire at the time. I would search for instrumentals. I was really into the Roc-A-Fella records sound, the soul sound, at the time. Like Just Blaze and Kanye. And I remember I downloaded some leaked Kanye. It was the “Through The Wire” instrumental. That was before I really had even heard the song. And, I fell in love with it.

I used to write my own rhymes to Kanye’s songs. Over the beat and shit. And, one day I was like “I wanna make my own beats. I wanna make something like Kanye. Something dope!” So, then I just started downloading software. And, I had some cheap ass “E-DJ” or something like that. Just a couple of break loops. But it was really by chance. I was trying to find something that I could make beats on. And my homeboy, one of my older friends, had Reason. I went to his house and he showed me Reason. It was real dope, but it looked a little complicated as someone that didn’t know music technically.

So, I was like “yo, I don’t know if that’s gonna work.” I went home and just tried to find out what was out there. I was fairly new to the software game. Because back then everybody was on MPCs. If you didn’t have have an MPC you wasn’t doing nothing. So, I was like “Do I wanna by a $2000 MPC or do I wanna buy this little car?” I was like 16, and I rather would’ve had the car. Luckily, I stumbled across FL Studio. I just downloaded it. I was kinda nerdy, you know what I mean? I was always good with computers. My mom worked with computers at Microsoft. I was just familiar with them. And, I actually figured out how to crack FL way back.

Nick: Nice.

Keyboard Kid: It was FL one, man. I’m talking like the dinkiest sounds you could find. And, I would mess with it for hours. My friends would come over like “What the hell you doing?” So, my summer going into Junior year I spent teaching myself Fruity Loops. So, it got to the point where I could make a decent loop for me and my friends to rap on. And that’s kinda how it all began. And, I made a beat one day and people was like “Yo, this is actually dope! You should get somebody to rap on it.” I was like “Yeah, ok” I formed a small group with a mutual friend. He had access to a studio, so I would go in and make beats and rap on them. That kinda dissolved. It was around ’04 or ’05 I was just fresh out of highschool.

I didn’t have much going on with the music. I didn’t really know what to do. And nobody in my city in Seattle really understood my sound or my style of beats. It was real colorful and different. I gave some people some beats and they were like “Yo, these are dope as fuck. But, they’re just too different. They’re not really what we’re looking for.” I was kinda discouraged at the time.

But, also I was like “yo, what do I have to lose?” So, I just started hitting everybody up I could find doing music on Myspace. Back when Myspace was a thing.

I always liked The Pack’s music. And, something just spoke to me. Almost like a voice spoke to me to tell me to contact Brandon, Lil B. I was like “What do I got to lose?” I messaged everybody in The Pack at the time. And, Brandon hit me back. I actually didn’t even send him a beat! On Myspace I was like “Hey, I would love to send you some music. I don’t want nothing from you. I just wanna make some dope music!” And, you know how Lil B is. A super cool, open nice person. He gave me an email. Some random email. I sent a couple beats, and he was like “Yo, these are fire! Send me some more!” He gave me a different email address I sent him some more to that one. He was like “Yo, this is so crazy I fuck with you!” Then he gave me his real email and his number. I called him, and we ended up talking for like 2 hours on the phone about music, about everything. He was like “Yo, my group situation just started to dissolve. I’m looking into doing solo music. Would you like to be a part of what I’m doing?” I was like “Yeah, I don’t got much going.” But, I was like “What’s Based?”

He was saying it was gonna be called “Based World” and it was about living with love, kinda being a rebel but living with love and positivity. And, that was something I could get behind. I was like “I’m down with Based World. I’ll help!” And our relationship just grew from there. We would send music back and forth and talk about music. Discuss ideas. He would ask me like, “where do you see music going?”

I was a young cat and I was smoking weed. Me and my homies we would listen to ambient music on Youtube and shit. And I was like “Yo, what if we rapped on ambient music?” I wanted to switch up the genre. Something calming, but still on hard-hitting ambient beats. And that was kinda the birth of Cloud Rap, really. I started experimenting with more atmospheric sounds. I would treat the sample like an atmosphere or a pad. Just trying to play it, and make it make sense. That was kinda what made me feel like I really could take music serious. I was probably like 19 at the time.

Nick: Wow. That’s awesome. And, you really addressed a lot of the shit I wanted to talk about right there! Something I’ve always felt about Cloud Rap is that there is a lot of emotion in it. And, you kinda just touched on that about how that sound came from ambient music. For me the idea of “Cloud Rap” is very emotional. When I listen to your music and also Clams Casino it feels deeply sad to me, but also hopeful. When you’re making a beat, do you feel like you are really in the zone and emotionally connected to it kinda?

Keyboard Kid: Totally, man! Not being a musician that’s technically trained it’s all emotion, all feeling. Especially growing up here in the Northwest. I spend a lot of time inside because of the rain. “Cloud” really came from Seattle, man. People really credit Clams a lot, but he told me the beats he made were inspired by my music. Because he saw me out there working with Lil B and he got inspired. So, it came through me and it filtered through Oakland with Squadda B and Main Attrakionz. They were all in North Oakland like where Oakland and Berkeley meet. Like the Turf out there. Where all the young cats would kick it.

I was using the internet and getting the beats out there. They would play each other the music. They were like “Who is this? This is crazy!” I was actually in The Bay with Squadda not too long ago. And he told me “A lot of your earlier music inspired me.” It’s just crazy because where I’m at there isn’t really a market. So, It really got picked up and commercialized. But, it all started from me.

Nick: Yeah, I feel like you are kind of a touchstone for so much music in the last like 7 years. You’ve produced for SO MANY people. You mentioned Squadda, and there have been a lot of other people on the come up that you’ve worked with. A lot of folks might be like “Oh, Keyboard Kid that’s Lil B’s producer” Which is true, but you’ve been a producer for so many other artists, too. What makes you wanna work with someone? Is there like a quality that certain rappers have? Is there something you see in the folks you’ve collaborated with?

Keyboard Kid: Yeah, I’ve always felt kinda eccentric. Like an individual. A little bit ahead of my time as far as what’s going on. I’m always looking to push culture forward. It’s just in my nature. I’m always questioning. If someone tells me something I gotta ask why. I don’t just take things at face value. I always felt like rap could always go further. It could evolve. And, when the big money gets involved people just start chasing trends. When I came in I just wanted to say “fuck all the trends.” I was like “Why isn’t my my music hip hop? I grew up listening to hip hop.”

My feeling is I don’t care what you’re doing. If you’re making dope music and doing something different then I wanna help you. I like taking risks. So, a lot of times people be asking me “Why’d you work with them?” And it’s because I wanna do something different. I don’t want my  music to sound like everybody else’s. I wanna take risks on these young kids because I remember when I didn’t have the same opportunities. Nobody really wanted to give me a shot. So, I feel like why not just help them and carve new lanes and new paths. That’s kinda what helps me make my decisions as far as who to work with. And, also personal interaction. I feel like I can kinda tell from how people approach you when they message you. It’s almost like I’ve learned a language through the internet. Like I can see who’s sincere.

Nick: Hell yeah. I actually feel kinda the same way about getting a feel from how people approach or talk with you online. I mean, in setting up this interview or the times we have talked on Twitter or whatever before you have always been very real and very positive. And, I do think that’s rare. And it’s important. It seems like you and Lil B are definitely similar when it comes to positivity. I think the Based movement inspired a lot of folks to be more open and more positive, but it has been a while. Do you think things have changed over the years at all?

Keyboard Kid: I feel like it definitely has changed, perverted a bit from what it used to be. There’s a lot more troll culture now. I mean we were kinda pioneers of that with “Based,” but I feel like there’s a lot more now. Here’s the thing: we were trolling, but with Based it was always a foundation of love, you feel me? It’s about love and understanding and trying to do something positive. I feel like a lot of people now do unnecessary things to get seen. It’s like a lot of things when money gets involved and people see you can make a lot of money. And, everybody is trying to innovate and do their thing, but let’s keep positivity first.

Let’s keep love first. I make hip hop, man. No matter how it sounds, and hip hop is about uplifting the people. As long as these young guys and these new acts are coming in with positivity and trying to help people and help music then I got no beef with what they’re doing.

And, you know a lot of the time you gotta meet people in person. That’s why I don’t really wanna point the finger and judge. And, you know times have changed. Young people have a lot more stuff to deal with these days. It’s crazy times, man. But, as long as you keep love and positivity and fun first then it’s all good. It’s just art people gotta express themselves, but people also gotta know if you’re making art you got a responsibility to push culture forward. That’s how I look at music and at art. It really is a universal language. It is saying things and speaking to people in different ways. So, lay the foundation with love. And stay true to you! Be original. I understand there’s trends. But, influence is one thing, and to emulate is another thing.

Nick: What you just said is exactly what I see as being Based. Being true to yourself, being real. It’s interesting that you called Based sort of a “positive trolling.” And I think it definitely was especially at first. Some of the things Lil B was doing like calling himself a “Bitch” and the way he dressed was like shit people never would have done in mainstream rap before. And, that is totally a troll move to me. It shook things up a lot. Have you heard about these fucking Alt Right guys who have kind of taken Based and co-opted it, trying to make it some hateful thing?

Keyboard Kid: Man, I’m on the internet all the time, so I’ve been seeing it. We’re seeing it emerge now it started on 4 Chan and the chatrooms. They definitely perverted the use of based. Using it for the opposite. Those people are strange, man. They have nothing to do with Based. They’re just complete trolls. They’re just using something that is widely accepted by a lot of people, especially young people, as a way to be impressionable on the young people. We got a lot of new, coming-of-age, spongey minds out there.

I really feel like that is some weirdo shit, man. There’s some things in the works, though. You know Lil B is aware of it, and we were having a conversation about it over the weekend. And then Fader came out with the article about it. People are noticing that. True Based people. All of that will be addressed soon. This stuff’s copywritten. So, if need be there could be some steps taken.

Nick: Yeah I mean Lil B was calling out folks for being Fake Based years ago and these guys are absolutely the definition of Fake Based.

Keyboard Kid: The truest form. Real talk.

Nick: Earlier you mentioned samples, and how you were using ambient music in your production and that helped you kinda find your sound. I wanted to ask you about what leads you to a sample? And what makes you wanna choose the samples you use? One of my favorite tracks on the new project is “Tokyo Ghoul Music” which has this awesome guitar sample on it. I feel like you really have a knack for finding beautiful samples.

Keyboard Kid: It’s just life, you know? Life experience. Everything that makes me “me” is what I put into my music. Genres I stumbled across when I was younger and pop culture. I’ve always been into animation. And, a lot of my samples come from that realm. I’ve always been into cinematography and movies. I’m all about the feel and the textures of the music I create. It’s like water, you know? Water is metaphorical for me. Say, music was water. If you could submerge yourself in the water, that’s how I feel about music. I want it to fill the room you’re in. I feel it in the air. The viscosity. Is it a thick texture? Is it smooth? Is it floaty? To me music comes out like a 3D space. It’s kinda weird to explain.

Nick: I totally get it. And anybody who has heard your music will understand that I think. That makes a ton of sense, and I think perfectly describes your beats.

Keyboard Kid: It’s like watching a movie. I want you to feel that whole vibe. Like the song “Kush In The Beamer” I want you to feel like you’re smoking kush in a Beamer.

Nick: You’ve made so many beats! I feel like you’ve done so many instrumentals and you are always producing for rappers. Do you ever feel like you get “writer’s block?” like do you ever hit a wall where you just don’t have ideas, or can’t create?

Keyboard Kid: Yeah more so that I’ve gotten older. Not so much a “writer’s block,” but more like a time thing. I got a daughter now. And I got a family. It’s a blessing, you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s been a balancing act with work and personal life as of recently. Sometimes I feel like I might have to go digging for new sounds. But, it’s never like I can’t make a beat. Honestly, if I had nothing else to do I’d make beats all day every day.

I’m never uninspired it’s kinda crazy. I can find inspiration in many things. Just life. Some of the things that help me if I do get in a place that’s kinda slow is I’ll play videogames. And I’ll think in my head like, “what would I make for the soundtrack for this game?” I’ll play games for like 30 minutes, and then I’ll hop back on the beats. I keep my playstation and my beats right next to each other.

Nick: That makes a lot of sense. I feel like a lot of your production does remind me of video game soundtracks in a lot of ways. That’s something you have in common with Lil B, I think. He’s a huge fan of videogames, of course. And also he’s ALWAYS working. He has put out so much music.

Keyboard Kid: I always felt like I’m the producer version of Lil B. We’re definitely kindred spirits in the creative sense.

Nick: And you’re not just a producer, of course. Earlier you were talking about rapping over instrumentals. And, it’s a bit rare to hear you rap, but I’ve definitely heard you spit on a couple things. I think you did an album with Pepperboy?

Keyboard Kid: Yeah! We did the whole Endangered project.

Nick: Oh! And I remember there’s a Mishka song, too. One of those posse cuts. I think I was on that song, actually.

Keyboard Kid: Hell yeah.

Nick: Is rapping something you wanna purse more? Or do you feel like it is more of a “here and there” thing for you?

Keyboard Kid: It’s one of those things where I get to a certain point and I feel like I’ve expressed myself as much as I can through the beats, but I have more stuff I need to get out. That’s what leads me to make rap projects. I got a few projects on my bandcamp page. Mostly freestyle shit. I’ve never really sat down and wrote except for one little mixtape I did called Under The Sea under my alias Namor. I didn’t even write all the songs on there, but I did write a few. Most of the songs that I do write I never record.

But, I do have a passion for rapping in general. I freestyle all the time. My homies are like, “just go in the booth and record the shit!” So, I think when the time is right I definitely wanna make an album. I just wanna do it right. There’s legit people in the industry I wanna tap in with and make it happen. We got a lot of work to do this year with Based World Records starting up. Getting things really popping. I think after we do this, I’ll have time to really go in on a real album. With me rapping and writing my songs and telling my stories. But, the story hasn’t even been finished yet, and I can’t even make the album I wanna make. You know what I’m saying?

Nick: You mean you feel like you wanna have more experiences, do more shit to be able to write about it?

Keyboard Kid: Yeah I wanna live a little more. There’s things going on in my career right now that I wanna talk about, but in retrospect probably. I wanna be able to close the chapter. I feel like I’m still writing chapters, getting things going. Even me and Lil B just working and trying new things. Black Ken’s really the start of a second life for Based World. After me and him knock a few more tapes out we’ll start working on my project.

I also wanna make like a Neptunes style compilation album like Clones where I produce for various artists.

Nick: You have so many connections with different artists I feel like that would be dope.

Keyboard Kid: Yeah I just wanna tap in with all the cats across the region even folks overseas. Get em all on the album. Put together some cool collaborations of underground people you haven’t heard work together. I think that’d be my goal. I’d want that album released on a major label. To shine light on people I’ve always listened to and respected.

Nick: That really speaks to how you’ve been you’re whole career in music. You’ve always lifted people up like you were saying earlier. I definitely wanna hear that project! Looking forward to it.

Keyboard Kid: It’ll be dope. And I’ve been working on my business side of things. I’ve been working with a young artist from Seattle named Misunderstood. I’m gonna be cultivating her sound. I really got my hands in a bunch of things. Just staying busy, man.

Nick: What do you think about the local scene in Seattle? I talked with AJ Suede a few weeks ago and he was mentioning that the music scene is pretty dope. Do you feel like you are really a part of the local scene?

Keyboard Kid: I feel like I’m one of the artists that helped cultivate the underground sound and scene. Just from being in touch with the Based aspect of it. And with my sound getting bigger. I’ve inspired a lot and got some shit popping out of here. A lot of people see me, and were inspired to do their own thing. GBC started up here and Thraxxhouse. I gave them the green light to use that name. Those are my little homies. Like Key Nyata, that’s my bro.

I feel like I definitely carved a scene. I think it could be more organized and more orchestrated. I’m from here so I feel like it gets redundant. The type of bills and lineups they have. But, you know I feel like I’ve done what I can do in Seattle I’m just trying to go global now. Seattle is cool. It’s a cool little scene and there’s a lot of people dedicated to the craft and the art. It’s definitely an artists’ scene like AJ was saying. AJ’s real cool. The weather really does make people wanna stay inside. It’s a producer’s place. A lot more producers and musicians came out of Washington than people know about. But, that’s because we have to go other places to get noticed. You can’t get plugged in here. There’s no real hub.

Nick: Like you gotta go to LA or to San Francisco or to like NYC?

Keyboard Kid: Yeah you eventually gotta move. Maybe just for a little bit. I feel like I was kinda in my utilization of the internet. I was getting seen. And, like I was saying when I was coming up no one really understood my shit. They weren’t really fucking with it. My first show as Keyboard Kid wasn’t in Seattle. I got booked in New York and Vegas and Portland and shit before here. Seattle can be kind of elitist and they need to stop doing that. They got their own little closed circle like a who’s. I think they should be a little more open. There’s a lot of young talent out here. There’s just not the platform. We don’t have the radio stations and shit like that.

Nick: That’s pretty much all I wanted to talk to you about. I feel like we’ve covered a lot of stuff! Is there anything else you wanna say?

Keyboard Kid: Shout out Candy Drips. Shout out Based World records. Everybody go grab that Based In The Rain 4. And look out for Millennium Thraxx it’s gonna be a very high energy, colorful project I’m dropping soon. And look out for all the music me and Lil B are gonna be dropping.

Nick: Hell yeah I really feel like Lil B is back and this is, like you said, a kind of second coming. I’m psyched to hear you guys working together on new shit.

Keyboard Kid: He’s definitely fired up. He’s got that fire in him. A lot’s happened and a lot of it happened very quickly. And we worked so hard. We had to take a little breather. But, now we back, we fresh, and going crazy.

-Nicholas Vogt
Twitter: @nicholasvogt

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

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.

Lakutis takes us for a ride on “Motorcycle”

It's been about three years since we heard from the NYC rapper Lakutis, but he has zoomed back like Ghostrider on the ridiculous banger "Motorcycle." Lakutis' style has always been a balance dark and aggressive, lyrically and technically impressive but also the totally absurd. And "Motorcycle" is no different.

"Motorcycle" is very minimal. The beat's mostly drums, bass, street fighter taunts and horror movie screams. The hook (which is most of the song) is really just "Motorcycle, bitch rrrroooooowwww!" He does get into a quick, and super witty verse –"Your shit fake Saucony Only," "Bitch it's over…walkie talkie" –before zipping back off into the dark night. The hilarious onomatopoeia adlibs are the real highlight of "Motorcycle" though. In the background Lakutis vrooms, glugs, beeps and even makes 8-bit punching noises all over the place.  It's great to hear a new track from him, and I'm hoping this is a sign of more Lakutis tunes to come.

♬ Young Breh – Rap Mansion; record review

Candy Drips’ own Young Breh are back!

Like 2015’s Lean On Us before it, Breh’s new EP Rap Mansion is probably best described in their own words: “FUCKIN DUDES FUCKIN RAPPIN OK.” Nashville rappers Young Breh and Froze are the fuckin dudes in question, trading witty and hilarious bars and just plain going in on every song.

Right off the bat, on the opening track “Bars Are Back In Town,” they are going in. Line’s like Breh’s “Bernie Sanders the mixtape/ give em free education” or Froze’s “I got so many hoes I mean I really am bitches.” And their pop culture references are on point and clever as hell. There are so many quotable ones, but some of my favorites are Young Breh’s Evil Dead nod “Heater Is my Boomstick” on “Fuck Rehab” or Froze’s legendary Pokemon reference “rare like Articuno” on “We Got Em” (that line is fitting for Froze, of course, since Articuno is an ice type.)

Production-wise Rap Mansion is largely hi energy chopped-up soul, reminiscent of the work of the “old Kanye” or the golden age of Dipset. The beat for “Summertime” especially stands out in how the track samples the familiar “Walk On By,”  but flips into something new, fresh and unique. And, Speaking Of samples, one of the greatest feats of sampling on the EP is the intro to “Fuck Rehab.” No, the beginning of “Rehab” doesn’t sample music or sounds, but rather an epic Stone Cold Steve Austin rant about an absurd fast food feast.

Another highlight is Froze’s singing! He soulfully belts out the hooks on “1016 2 ” –the Perfect “fuck you” of “done with your shit/for real this time/you’re the last thot that I want on my mind” — and on the ode to getting high “Fuck Rehab.” On The New Age-y interlude “Anime Club” Froze’s distorted voice croons over a beat that sounds like Tame Impala did the fusion dance with Blue Sky Black Death.

Young Breh and Froze make an awesome team. It’s clear the dudes had a genuinely great time working on this EP. And listening to Rap Mansion feels like being right there with them.

? ? Now Playing: Kelela – LMK (produced by Jam City)

Kelela’s new single “LMK” is an epic song about a small moment in time. She meets someone and flirts briefly. She’s about to leave, but wonders about a potential, casual hookup. Even though the stakes are low  –“it ain’t that deep either way”– the song freezes this moment in time. Kelela’s voice and her songwriting on “LMK” are as strong as ever. Late on the track she even raps a little with a flow that reminds me a bit of the bars Prince spits on the legendary “Sexy Motherfucker.”

Jam City’s beat for “LMK” is, like most of Kelela’s work, reminiscent of ’90s R&B, but deeply warped and dystopian. This is maybe a lighter song than we’ve heard from her in the past, but it is still  very Kelela: mysterious, ambitious and unique. Kelela’s new album Take Me Apart is out in October.

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