Posts Tagged 'Rhymesayers'

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 12

For the new music recommended in March, click here.

Hard to believe it, but this is the 1 year anniversary of the “What I’m Hearing” posts. Last April, I embarked on a mission to bring quality music, both mainstream and not, to readers looking to expand their musical vocabulary beyond the monosyllabic songs pumped ad nauseum from radio towers across the nation. As has been the trend, this month is no exception to the rule as I found a good number of fantastic new artists. As always, all of these artists can be found on iTunes for purchase. This month’s iPod update consisted of 63 songs spanning hip-hop, DIY and electronic. Enjoy!

Brother Ali, The Truth is Here: Originally introduced to the underground hip-hop scene by Slug of Atmosphere, Brother Ali has worked with producer Ant and had his albums released by hip-hop stalwart Rhymesayers. A converted Muslim and Caucasian albino, Ali frequently faced questions of his race early on due to voice, delivery and moniker. On The Truth is Here, his fourth studio album, Ali uses alternatively jazzy and bumping Ant produced beats to explore issues of race, social and economic divides and his adjustments to life in light of his growing success. While 9 full length tracks, this album is billed as an EP preceeding a full album release to come this fall. One thing is certain, the disc doesn’t listen like an EP. Thoughtful, introspective and lyrically deft lyrics keep the listener entertained while Ant’s production of top-notch songs outshines the cookie-cutter beats saturating mainstream hip-hop. Ali’s style varies from aggressive spitting on tracks like “Philistine David ” to laid back delivery on the album’s opener, “Real As Can Be.” Beyond all of this, Ali’s scope encompasses a variety of questions with universal significance. When he asks, “Can you tell me, what language do you laugh in?/The human reaction of smiles and cries/what language are the tears when they’re falling from your eyes?” it is not a question intended to divide in the style of Babel, but rather to point out the similarities we share as humans. An intelligent, varied and musical foray into hip-hop. Don’t Sleep On: “As Real As Can Be,” “The Believers” (feat. Slug) and “Good Lord.”

Filastine, Dirty Bomb: Formerly a member of ¡Tchkung! out of Seattle, Grey Filastine, upon the break-up of the group, has gone on to explore global sounds in experimental electronica. On his February release, Dirty Bomb, Filastine mashes glitch, hip-hop and industrial with sounds from Asia, Europe and the Middle East, including cameos from overseas musicians. The textures are dense and layered, sheets of sound that have no one city of origin, making this album a true global citizen. Hand drums, zithers and traditional chants find themselves side by side with throbbing bass lines and electric blips, all finding their places here in the hands of a producer adept at finding harmony between cross-cultural sounds. While some of the tracks can become repetitive, the majority are well fleshed out and driving. In “Singularities,” the beat is built up, deconstructed and then slammed back down in grimy fashion, an example of excellent production that runs throughout the album. Don’t Sleep On: “Singularities,” “Strategy of Tension,” and “Bitrate Sneers.”

Harmonic 313, When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence: Under the pseudonym Harmonic 313, producer Mark Pritchard has released an album of spacey and electronic music. Interesting about the tracks here is that they range greatly from straight ahead ambient electronica to tracks that sound like J Dilla beats blended with Kraftwerk’s Trans-Atlantic Express on acid. Using sonic pulses, computer blips and beeps and thick bass, Pritchard crafts an album that sounds almost entirely machine created, as if a hard drive rather than a human is behind the composition. Even vocals go hardwired on “Word Problems,” where a children’s spelling computer game serves as the spoken medium. Don’t Sleep On: “Call to Arms,” “Falling Away” (feat. Steve Spacek) and “Köln”

Peter Björn and John, Living Thing: Following a two year hiatus after 2005’s Writer’s Block, punctuated only by a digital only release limited to 5,000 US copies in 2006 (Seaside Rock), PB&J have returned with the March release of their 5th full length album. It has been a busy 4 years for the group as they climbed the ladder of musical notoriety through the ubiquitous hit “Young Folks.” They’ve gone on to be featured on hip-hop mixtapes and make all sorts of late night talk show rounds. While there are no comparable tracks on this album, it nonetheless provides more of the same feel. Tracks range from optimistic up-tempo to slow and melancholy utilizing various levels of production quality. The positive is that the success of “Young Folks” hasn’t spawned an album of copycats. These are original and show the trio expanding their sound, bringing in slightly more electronic drum programming at points. The album’s clear winner, “Nothing to Worry About,” is an about-face from “Young Folks,” female vocalist replaced with a chorus of distorted children at full volume and a funky bass line complimented by drums echoing off the inside walls of the song. A solid outing without going stale. Don’t Sleep On: “Nothing to Worry About,” “Just the Past,” and “It Don’t Move Me.”

Röyksopp, Junior: Big since their debut album in 2001, the fittingly titled Junior is only the 3rd release from Röyksopp in 8 years. And, given the shift in style between Melody A.M. and The Understanding, what happened next was of a great deal of interest. Turns out, the duo has managed to find a middle ground between the two, with various tracks exemplifying the more mellow and sugary aspects of Melody (“Happy Up Here”) and the more polished and electro-heavy Understanding (“Röyksopp Forever.”) The album retains the precision and vision of the duo’s work, bringing in female vocalists, chill melodies at times and electric tweaks that made “Eple” so popular. Don’t Sleep On: “Happy Up Here,” “Vision One,” and “Silver Cruiser.”

The tUnE-YaRds, Bird Brains: DIY. A term that, in an age of bloggers, home studios, and rising costs in all sectors has come to be a badge of honor and distinction. But there’s DIY music, and then there’s the unreal, experimental and phenomenal Bird Brains from The Tune-Yards (capitalization varies depending on site), aka Merrill Garbus. If what I’ve heard is true, Garbus crafted this entire album using small recorders and computer programs available through shareware. The result is a gritty, honest and surprising album that takes lo-fi to a new level. With a distinct and quirky voice, Garbus backs herself with drums and percussion sounds like something being slammed against a hard surface, ukulele and an entire arsenal of found sounds like kids playing in a park, birds chirping outside a window and conversations with a child. At times, the recording equipment’s range is tested as you can hear it clip, but this only adds to the allure of the tracks. Take Björk, mix her with Seu Jorge’s acoustic live recordings for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and then juice the entire blend with a sense of creativity large enough to view the world around it as an instrument and you have the Tune-Yards. Nothing is out of bounds here. Spoons on glasses, discussions of blueberries, and steps on wooden stairs are just some of the interesting sounds turned music. One can only hope that follow up efforts will be equally beautiful in their range and direction. Don’t Sleep On: “For You,” “News,” and “Little Tiger.”

So that’s it for April. Chubb Rock and Wordsmith, new Del the Funky Homosapien and a ton of other new music is coming in May, so stay tuned, and keep your listening intelligent.

Part 1: Opio and Tajai Interview (Souls of Mischief)

Opio of Souls of Mischief

Opio of Souls of Mischief

Tajai of Souls of Mischief

Tajai of Souls of Mischief

Since the early 1990s, Oakland, California based Hip-Hop collective Hieroglyphics has taken on many shapes and sounds, from the lyrically complex and dense solo stylings of Del tha Funkee Homosapien to the rapid-fire and diverse delivery of Hieroglyphics to the smooth and masterful underground sound of Souls of Mischief. Spanning nearly two decades, Hiero and Souls of Mischief have brought new sounds and ideas to the industry while also providing a backbone of creativity that has helped influence the entire Bay Area music scene.

In November I had the opportunity to sit down with Tajai and Opio of Hiero and SOM, two members responsible for an incredible amount of solo and collaborative work for the HieroImperium. In part 1, we discussed their musical backgrounds, the formation of Hiero and the difficulty of staying relevant in a music industry that places an emphasis on the “next big thing.”

ACtual: Starting off early, what were both of your initial musical influences and inspirations, and when did you decide that rapping is what you wanted to do?

Opio: I used to be hella into Reggae, really. Yellowman is one of my favorites, obviously Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, they had the swagger that got me on rap. My parents were really into music, so through them I heard Earth, Wind and Fire, Parliament-Funkadelic, stuff like that. When I first really started to hear rap, I heard “Rapper’s Delight,” stuff like that, Grandmaster Flash. They used to play Rock and Roll stations out here, mixing, like college radio. Really the first time I heard “Rapper’s Delight,” I was just hooked to the way he was spittin’, it was cool, and it just evolved from there. All the older cats in my neighborhood were listening to them, breakdancing, graffiti and all of that was a part of it too. At the same time cats were breaking, graffiti artists, so it was that whole Hip-Hop culture, it wasn’t only just the rapping, I was breakdancing, all of that.

Tajai: Funk, I would say Funk was my biggest influence. Parliament, Bootsy, George Clinton, and then Too Short is probably the main reason I rap just because all the other rappers, I saw other people doing it, but I didn’t think that people from here could do it. As a kid, it was just my perception of it was something that other people did until I saw Too Short rapping and then I was like, “He’s from here and he raps.” That’s when I really started seriously rapping.

AC: You two as well as the Souls of Mischief crew met early on. Talk about how all of you met, came together and the creation of both Souls and Hieroglyphics.

T: We grew up in the same area, so I’ve known Casual and A-Plus since like Kindergarten, 1st grade. Del was at the same school as us, we just sort of all had a mutual interest in Hip-Hop, so once Del got on in ’91 he sort of brought us into the industry, but we had been rapping together for a long time before that. Casual went to junior high with Op.

O: The first time I went into the studio ever, me and Casual rented a studio in the 8th grade. Our man Terai came with us, he was in the 7th grade. I wasn’t even rapping then, I was a DJ, so I was DJing, scratching during that time. This is in the 7th/8th grade, me and Casual went to junior high and he already knew them. I would listen to their music when I was in junior high but I hadn’t really started to kick it with Tajai and A-Plus, but he would have tapes and be like, “listen to my partners.” I’d see them up the block and be like, “there goes Tajai right there.” We really started hanging out in high school, but the whole time we lived right around the same area. We all lived around the same block as each other but we weren’t really in communication until high school, and that’s when we really became a lot more serious about the rapping.

AC: You were released on Jive Records in 1993. Talk about the process of creating that album and what working for a major label was like. You were what, 17, 18 when that album came out?

O: Yea. That album to me was something, that, I would listen to songs that they had done when I was in junior high and me and Casual went into the studio, we were kinda serious about the whole rap thing. Tajai and A-Plus were working with Sir Jinks and they had a professional sound that inspired us to get on our business a little more. This is early on, so we had been working on our craft until we came out. We were probably 13, 14 really serious going to the studio.

That album, even though we recorded it in 2 weeks, it was something that was formulating for a lot of years. I really think it was highly influenced also by the whole crew aspect, not just the fact that we were Souls of Mischief, because we’re competitive by nature within Souls of Mischief, but then there was also Del and Casual, Pep Love, we had these other fierce MCs. Even during the time before ’93 til Infinity came out, everybody heard the demos, so we had something to live up to. People would hear the demos and be like, “the album will be wack, whatever,” and they heard other cats around us that were really shining, so it was a long time coming to me, that album getting done, even though it seemed like it popped out of nowhere, we had been working for some years.

AC: When Hiero formed, what was your original vision for the group and how did you go about making Third Eye Vision?

T: We’ve been together as a crew since before Del’s first record. Our vision then was let’s just all be the best we can be, get signed and be super stars. That’s different than how things progressed just dealing with major label politics, and the fact that, for someone to walk into Hip-Hop today, they have no idea that even when we came out it was still like a sub-culture. So being a super-star and blowing up meant selling a couple of thousand records, maybe going gold, but not platinum. The only people going platinum were guys like Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer.

So once we got off the majors, it was like let’s not stop making music just because we don’t have a label, let’s keep making music and then Domino was like, “Shoot, we might as well put this record out instead of trying to shop it, and from there we started Hiero Imperium and we’ve been rolling since then because it’s been, I’m not going to say easier logistically, but easier in regard to being able to be agile and creative. And now, almost 10, 11 years later, we’re really reaping the rewards of having laid that groundwork of being independent so long. Third Eye was something we recorded out of the need to make music, and then from there it built up to this independent label.

AC: With HieroImperium, you guys have been putting out albums and podcasts for a while now. What do you find to be the hardest part of being in this industry for as long as you guys have?

T: We’re not new, that’s the problem. To people who have never heard of us, which is not that many people, it’s like, “Wow these guys are fantastic!” But to people who have, it’s like, we come with something we feel is our best work and it’s like, “Ok, that’s dope.” There’s so much garbage out here that gets attention because it’s new, and that’s the frustrating part about it. If you’re consistent in music, that’s not good enough a lot of times, you have to have controversy or you have to fall real low to bring yourself back up, but we’ve been consistent and there’s so many of us, that that’s the biggest problem I see, we’re not new.

O: Also, over the years of doing it, touring, consistently going out and being on the road, not just only recording the albums, but the whole rap life in and of itself can take its toll. Sometimes people get jaded, but I think that luckily because there’s a lot of us, we’re able to keep ourselves focused and sharp. Without other people pushing you, and you’re hearing people recording songs and maintaining that creative energy and you don’t have it, your brother can lift you up a little bit and you hear some new shit, “oh man that’s dope,” it kinda gets your juices flowing. Maybe you’re at the house just bored, you wrote so many raps you’re through with it for a hot second, so it’s always a good thing to have other cats around you working and doing stuff. Casual, he’s always busy, Del is always in the lab working, A-Plus just consistent with the beats, so you can always go to those guys and be like, “What’s new?” just to get a little spark.

AC: In terms of approaching the writing, how would you say that your styles differ when you’re trying to come up with stuff for an individual album vs. working on a Souls project or working on a Hieroglyphics project, how do you approach each of those differently?

T: You’re competing against yourself when you’re making a solo record, so you get to look at things more holistically, you look at the entire project as a whole and where things fit in. Whereas when you’re in a group, you’re looking at how you fit into that particular song. With your own records I think it’s harder because you have to push yourself a little bit harder to be better than yourself, verse by verse and song by song. With a group album I think it’s easier because there’s so many other people you’re competing against that you have to come with your best work, that’s the main difference for me.

O: To me, I just feel more comfortable in the group element whether it’s Souls of Mischief or Hieroglyphics, I like the collaboration aspect of things and working with other cats, so to me that’s always been fun. I saw the challenge more so than doing music with others, trying to do something by myself like it’s a Herculean task cause you have so much more that you have to do. At the same time, once the process gets going, you kinda relax in your environment and it’s a good place to be because you can advance your style a little more. You get to go longer.

Especially in Souls of Mischief, we try to keep that quick jab approach so for me it’s kinda fun to just run my mouth for a little while. I’ve always been trying to explore more avant-garde styles whenever we’re doing songs with Souls of Mischief, so you can see the different elements that we bring to the table when you see our solo projects. You can see the different parts working. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what it’s like when you’re listening to the group all together then you get to hear the solo and be like, “So that’s how Souls of Mischief comes together,” at least for me because I’m a fan of Souls of Mischief too, even though I’m in the group, when I’m with other cats I love to hear the music and I like to hear the solo albums as well to see them even go further with it.

AC: Going off what you were saying earlier about the hardest thing is having been here for so long because new stuff always gets more attention. You hear a lot of mainstream writers, media people that say Hip-Hop is dead, and rappers will sometimes say that too. But there’s a lot of really good Hip-Hop out there if you know where to find it, so what do you listen to and what other artists in the genre inspire you?

T: Percy P, Guilty Simpson, Madlib, Black Milk. There’s a lot of groups that you probably won’t hear anywhere but satellite radio. I like Lil Wayne because he’s pushing the boundaries of mainstream but he’s doing something wild and crazy to something that just listened to dance rap so that’s good because maybe their minds will open a little more to people who dwell completely outside of that, but ain’t really much on TV that I like, not because it’s on TV, but because Rap music is really Pop music now. Hip-Hop can’t ever be dead. It may not inspire you the way that it used to, but that’s probably because you’re just not into it anymore. But as far as Hip-Hop, when we do shows and there’s thousands of kids there, it’s like, what are they talking about?

O: The way that Hip-Hop has been brought to the table and how it’s shown, it’s really not the true artform of it. It doesn’t represent. It’s more for trying to sell products, clothes, alcohol, stuff like that. It’s like a big commercial. But when there’s true artists trying to explore the creative process and what it takes to make a great song or a great lyric, a guy like J Electronica for instance is really dope. There’s people out there that’s doing it, but when you watch Rap City, you don’t get to see those guys that often.

I just feel like the vehicle that people are going to start getting Hip-Hop with is going to open the doors for more creative styles, people that are pushing the envelope stylistically and creatively which for me is the essence of Hip-Hop. How it was when De La Soul was coming out and A Tribe Called Quest was coming out, new flavors. I feel like that old form of commercialized, over-commercialized Hip-Hop, that is dead. It’s old hat, you can only use that so much before people get numb to it and it becomes a hard sell, pouring champagne everywhere, throwing money everywhere, people have seen that so much it doesn’t sell shoes how it used to, so now they’re going to start looking to the underground to do that.

AC: We were talking earlier about your latest project, Vulture’s Wisdom, Vol. 1. Talk about your vision for the trilogy, when the other albums are going to come out and what the idea behind these solo albums is.

O: I was just working with my man Architect, I’ve always been a fan of his music and his beats for a long time. He’s always been a cat that was out there, the style of his music is something that I always had a good time and enjoyed listening to. He worked next to us at High Street studios, he had a spot next to me so we had more of a chance to kick it and hang out and we were talking about doing a record, but it never really came together. Eventually I saw him in traffic one time and he was like, “I’ve got some beats, I’ve been thinking about you, we should do an album together.” When he hit me some of the beats and the style he was working with, it was perfect, we were right on the same page at the same exact time, so from there we just started collaborating and made a lot of music. Then we decided that we should not really stop at just one thing but hit cats with at least three projects, so that’s how the whole idea for the trilogy came up. The concept behind the title, like we were talking about earlier how everyone says Hip-Hop is dead, there’s nothing there, it’s over with whatever, we were like, “Nah, we can eat here, it’s still a viable option for us,” so that’s how the Vulture’s Wisdom title came into play.

We just are really trying to kill the backstory in terms of that being the forefront, we want to make the music the forefront, the style, the beats, the rhymes, the lyrics, not really like this guy did this, that, and the other. There’s always the story and sometimes it’s more interesting than the music and then you hear the music and you’re like, “this is what all the hoopla is about?” We want to bring it back to where the music is what people care about more so than the imagery. I feel like the 90s are something that people are trying to reach for right now, like that’s the golden ear, which for me is ’88, but other cats are more caught up in that ’93 era right now, always reaching back to the 90s and trying to bring it forward to here. Whereas I’ve always been a part of that connected to the whole essence of real Hip-Hop, so that’s where I come from, that’s my pedigree, whereas other cats might be trying to bring that back, I’m just trying to stay in that vein that I’ve always been in, that true essence of Hip-Hop, so it’s not a stretch for me to come and do something that people might call “real Hip-Hop,” that’s what we do, that’s Hieroglyphics, some of that good shit.

AC: Tajai – Stanford Anthropology grad, is that right?

T: Yea.

AC: How do you feel that education, that degree has helped your music? Have you incorporated that in your career at all?

T: It’s helped me with research, but that’s about it. School is school, it’s different from music, it just helped me research topics. Aside from that, it maybe helped me be organized in terms of my business, just going to school in general, but that’s about it.

AC: How important is it to you guys that you’re not major label? Do you think that you would have gotten anywhere near what you have accomplished if you were working for a major?

T: You’re just at the mercy of the market. There’s artists like J*Davey, Bilal, artists that you’ll never see their record. They’ve been in the industry now for almost a decade but because it doesn’t fit the labels idea of what records are supposed to be, it never comes out, so in that respect we probably would never have been able to bust the moves we could. It’s still different, it’s not like you’re doing it for a more noble purpose when you’re independent or you’re major. The way it is now, we’re like a major independent, us, DefJux, Rhymesayers, probably Stones Throw are labels where people want to get on the label, so it’s like they’re treating our independent record label like we would treat a major as a signed artist. We have more control, but really the market determines a lot of it and it’s harder right now to not be seen as generic in this marketplace because there’s so much. I mean, I think there’s more musicians than fans almost, especially rappers. So it’s hard to distinguish yourself as far as “into the marketplace,” so in that respect, it might even be better to be on a major label where they have the money to market you, where you have a shoe and a commercial and an appearance on Entourage and all these different things that are going to give you more exposure. Like when we put out a record, when we put out Vulture’s Wisdom, it has 8 videos, and how many of those are going to be on TV? We send them to TV, but do they end up on TV? No. So it’s really like we’re relegated to YouTube and MySpace and satellite radio and internet radio, and that’s the downside of being independent. It’s more a matter of exposure and it’s a double-edged sword. They’ll spend the money to expose you, but if they don’t like what they hear, they’re not going to expose you at all and you might never see the light of day.

O: If you’re doing it in terms of a business endeavor, you have to take advantage of what’s out there. I feel like for Souls of Mischief at the time, how the market was, us going major label was the best way for us to go at the time. To try to go independent would have been a bad look. It gave us a really good opportunity to get our music out there. We made what we really wanted and it got out to the people. For a time, the labels were all about trying to make super Pop Hip-Hop and I don’t know if they were going towards super avant-garde now, but definitely the tide has changed in terms of which artists are selling records. Lupe Fiasco is outselling artists, he’s like top-tier in terms of who the guy is. Kanye West outselling 50 Cent, so there’s a changing of the guard where if you are really more on the creative side of things, you might be able to get in and bust some moves, if you’ve got what it takes. Some people don’t necessarily have that appeal so it might be bad for them to go the independent route, you gotta really weigh your options. Cause the main thing, what you want to do is get your music out there for people to see you and listen to you and at the end of the day, to me that’s the most important thing. Then you can do whatever you gotta do with your hustle.

Check back with Evolving Music on Friday for part 2 where we discuss the future plans of the group, their thoughts on the remix culture and their favorite Hip-Hop albums of all time.

Doomtree Interview

Doomtree

Doomtree

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Doomtree, they bring a variety of MCs and DJs to the table in what has become a comfortable and exciting collaboration of individuals exploring how to produce and expand new hip-hop while pulling from other musical genres and multiple rapping styles. Doomtree demonstrates the potential that is created when numerous artists, most from seemingly disparate backgrounds, get together to create something new and different. Last week I had the opportunity to chat with P.O.S. and Mike Mictlan of Doomtree about their style, the idea behind the group, and of course politics. Enjoy.

AC: Hey, this is POS and Mike on the line?
POS: Yea.
MM: This is Mike.
AC: How you guys doing? Where you at today?
POS: Minneapolis, 32nd right off of Hennepin
MM: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Park and Franklin.

AC: What’s the general hip-hop scene like in Minnesota? People are starting to hear the name Doomtree and before that Atmosphere was real big. What are some other artists?
POS: For the most part, as far as hip-hop, it’s very diverse and large scene aside from Atmosphere and Doomtree, we’ve got Brother Ali, Self Divine, Kill the Vultures on some avant hip-hop, it can go on and on. It’s one of those cities that no matter where you’re at, any night of the week you can find a hip-hop show, and chances are three out of four will be decent. What do you think Mike?
MM: I could go on and on with that list. I’ve got a lot of favorite rappers out here, the scene is very thick in terms of hip-hop and music in general. Not only can you find hip-hop three nights a week, but you can find a lot of genres.
POS: Any number of punk rock, metal, hardcore, indie rock, pop, anything you’re looking for.

AC: You guys are obviously MCs, but there’s a lot of other musical genres and tastes that you bring into it. Talk a bit about your influences and what kind of musical backgrounds you both have.
MM: I’ve chosen rap my designated favorite style of music since I was 4 years old. Aside from rapping on an independent rap label, I’m a connoisseur of gangsta rap and various other hip-hop genres. In terms of doing actual music, right now I just rap my ass off.
POS: As far as me, I came up more interested in punk and hardcore from a very young age, as soon as I heard it, that’s what grabbed my attention because of the energy of it. And then as I grew up I got more into the experimental areas of that stuff, like the Fugazis, as well as underground hip-hop, all the old Rhymesayers stuff. I currently make hip-hop and play guitar and sing in a hardcore band, not really hardcore anymore, but it’s something off the wall called Building Better Bombs, it’s like a dancey, hardcore screamy mess.
AC: What kind of things do you do in order to get ready for these very different shows? Between your more punk and hardcore shows, and then coming in to do a hip-hop show with Doomtree, do you use different methods of preparation?
POS: Not at all. It’s all the same to me. It’s different songs and setting, and hip-hop shows tend to have more people at them, but I’ve been making music since I was real young, and it’s always been about getting a chance to go out and perform it and have a good time, it’s one of my favorite things to do. Preparation is about the same for both, it’s just wait until you get to go do it, and then go do it.

AC: In terms of the group Doomtree, where did the name come from and how did you guys form up?
MM: I don’t think any of us really know where it came from.
POS: It was some non-sensical banter. Sometimes you get something stuck in your head and say it, and then when we were tossing around names for an early stage of it, it was just a production crew called Doomtree. Then that blossomed as we started playing more rap shows. How it came together was me, MK Larada, Bobby Gorgeous and Cecil Otter started doing some shows that I had booked, solo shows. Cecil would come out and do my back ups. He had songs, but he was nervous, but then as he got less nervous we started splitting the sets in half. Sam was somebody we went to high school with, Mike we met in high school, and from there it snowballed into a nice solid crew that we all felt good around.
MM: I met Stef (P.O.S.) when I was in high school, we’ve been wanting to rap together ever since…Doomtree’s a monster.

AC: Obviously we have you two on the line, but you’ve just dropped a lot of names for a lot of people in Doomtree, so for the people who don’t know the crew out there, why don’t you talk a little bit about what the other members bring to the table in terms of their styles and musical input, and how do they form the rest of the group?
MM: Well we’re talking about 9 people altogether.
POS: I don’t want to step on you Mike, but I just thought of a solid answer. It’s essentially 5 solo MCs, myself, Mike, Sims, Dessa, Cecil Otter and Turbo Nemesis is a DJ, Paper Tiger is a DJ and producer, MK Larada is a producer, Lazerbeak is a mega super producer. We essentially make solo songs, each bring our own style, I don’t want to go into everyone’s style, but everyone brings their own favorite elements of music into it and then we pile it on. Mike’s from LA, we all have our own sound, our own individual styles, and when we write songs together we try to balance everything out to make sure everyone gets the proper shine, everyone gets the proper words in to round out the song as well as flex their own personal style, from solid pattern rapping to as poetic as people want to write.

AC: It sounds like you have a great collaboration and you just released your first album. Talk about the tracks on this album and what the listeners can expect to hear.
MM: This album is a long time coming. There isn’t really any filler. We just had a lot of straightforward rap. When I listen to it, I may be biased, it doesn’t sound like everything else, but it fits right in. It doesn’t sound like the new, it doesn’t sound like the old, but it fits somewhere in there, at least to me when I step outside it as a listenter. We all have a solo track on there, and the other 18 songs are all of us together with different styles. I think a lot of it is straightforward.
POS: I think straightforward to us is a little different. I definitely agree with Mike that we don’t sound like new, we don’t sound like old, but we mix right in. We all bring elements of what you expect to hear from hip-hop, but we all also bring out own little flair. I think that’s an accident, being in the Midwest, and kinda being outsiders in the Minneapolis hip-hop scene for a really long time, we ended up playing a lot of shows with a lot of bands, a lot of rock bands, catering to different crowds than rap crowds until we could actually get outselves put on, so I think over the years our style just kinda developed in that way. It’s not like excessively rock music by any means, but the rules are cast aside in terms of how it’s supposed to go, the roots are in raw pattern hip-hop, and trying to be the best possible rappers we can be without having to talk about rap all the time. If people haven’t heard any of us before and they pick up the Doomtree record, they could and they should expect to hear quality hip-hop production, quality raps varied over 5 entirely different sounding MCs with 5 entirely different styles, but it’s all stuff that you’re used to if you’re a fan of rap. If you’re not a fan of rap, the beats can get aggressive or melodic enough to where you’re in, just one of those things where we don’t put on any kind of face for anybody, we just go do it.
MM: And that’s exactly what I meant by straight up.

AC: How would you view the traditional music industry with major labels and CD distribution, and where it’s intersecting now and clashing in some cases with the mp3 and download industry.
POS: That’s something we kept in mind when we went into this record coming out. A lot of these songs were done and started being written 2 years ago, and then the others are brand new, mega fresh. But a lot of that came from trying to find the right people to help us with the right deal and right situation. We ended up talking to some smaller majors, some moderately bigger majors and some indies and we ultimately wanted it by ourselves and looked into who we could talk to to help us do that. We ended up going alone because we didn’t want to give up our digital rights, and people are offering these ancient deals that just don’t make sense anymore. It’s the kind of thing where the artist has more control over the product than ever in the history of music. That’s a double-edged sword because there’s tried and true ways of getting it done out there and getting paid for it, and then there’s this whole experimental new world that we’re kinda just launching ourselves into. So I don’t really know how the music business is supposed to go, but when people say that they can’t do it the way that we want to, we just say sorry we’re going to go do it this way now.

AC: In terms of not giving up your digital rights, you look at Radiohead and NIN who recently had very well publicized free releases and downloads of albums. Do you think it’s beneficial to give parts of your songs to fans in remix contest format? Do you agree with putting your music out there to let the fans interact with your music?
MM: I’m totally into that. Two people I know, their next project is acapellas and instrumentals for free downloads on their Myspace. What it’s really all about is getting your music out there. Especially with CD sales, all that we have left is touring, playing shows and selling merchandise if we’re ever going to make money. So in my eyes, I see using your CDs and music as a tool to get people to your shows and stay current to what you’re making. With the digital insurgence, if you will, we’re definitely at a point where we need to put as much music out as possible, so if that makes people remix it and get it out even more, that’s where it’s at.
AC: That’s demonstrated by the fact that before I heard about you through your PR company, I checked the “Dots and Dashes” track off Indiefeed Hip-Hop. What kind of touring are you doing and where can people look out for you coming up?
MM: After we put the crew record out on July 29th, one of the big reasons we didn’t go with any of the labels is that we wanted a very rigorous release schedule. With the finishing of our crew record, we had almost everybody finishing solo projects. On the 26th of August we had Cecil Otter drop his solo record. Me and Lazerbeak are putting out a collaboration out at the end of this month, September 23rd, and then we hope to have something coming from our camp at least every month until the summer. We just got off a tour with the Flobots, and I believe we’ll probably be going out with POS for his solo record coming out.

AC: You’re up in Minnesota right now and the Republican National Convention is taking place. What’s the atmosphere up there like, and where does Doomtree stand, if anywhere, politically?
MM: We’re all pretty incredibly liberal people.
POS: We’re on the left, like in the corner, talking to ourselves. The atmosphere out here is crazy. We’re in Minneapolis the conventions in St. Paul, but you can still see like 6 police helicopters flying over Minneapolis two days before.
MM
: I’ve seen unmarked vans with the doors open with guys in SWAT gear just waiting to pull up, I thought it was a drive by.
POS: Today was the first day of the convention and there was a cop car that got destroyed and a bunch of people got maced. There’s 72 hour holding cells for people if you don’t have a permit to demonstrate. Seems like a total headache nightmare…I’ll probably head down there tomorrow.
MM: There was a raid the night before last. Like 150 people got arrested.
POS: They weren’t arrested…they just busted into peoples’ houses got information and left. It’s bad news bears, but it’s to be expected, it’s the Republican National Convention. They definitely took down anything that isn’t bolted down. They were knocking down stuff 6 miles out from where the convention is, taking down lightposts just in case.

AC: That’s all the questions I’ve got for you guys today. Do you two want to plug anything, talk about any albums coming out, go for it.
POS: I just want to pump Doomtree.net and myspace.com/doomtree. People can go there and figure out whatever’s going on without having to think, they can just go there and look.
AC: I certainly appreciate you taking the time to talking to us at Evolving Music today.
MM: I appreciate you having us.
POS: Thanks man.


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