Tag Archives: Detroit

On “Big Shoes,” Big Tone Takes Listeners on a Journey

Big Tone

“I was becoming a father around the time we finished recording this album,” says the rapper Big Tone, talking about his latest LP Big Shoes. “What started out as a project designed to preserve the music changed its purpose. It’s not just about me any more, it’s about my family. The tone of the record reflects being in that new space in life, and the responsibility that comes along with it.”

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How Black Noi$e Put a Detroit Stamp on the Burgeoning Bicoastal Techno-Rap Scene

Black Noise

Rob Mansel, aka Black Noi$e, says he’ll never leave Detroit. It’s not for lack of opportunity—he’s about to join a crew of up-and-coming rappers and producers who span both coasts for a two-month tour with Earl Sweatshirt. But it lends an extra level of commitment that Mansel waxes poetic about the Motor City while hunkered down next to a space heater in the middle of a polar vortex, his plastic-wrapped windows barely keeping out negative 20-degree weather.

“Everyone is always like, ‘You need to come to New York.’ I’m like, ‘I’ll come visit y’all. I’m going to stay here though,’” Mansel says.  Continue reading

25 Years In, Detroit Techno Pioneers Ectomorph Begin Anew On Debut LP


In 1994, Detroit techno became international business. Pioneers such as Derrick May, Carl Craig, and Kevin Saunderson had not only forged and matured a radical new sound on their own terms, but established credible crossover pop projects such as Inner City, racking up huge radio play and lucrative bookings at festivals and clubs. DBX, Drexciya, and Basic Channel continued to push the music in radical new directions, shifting impressive stacks of vinyl in the process. It seemed as if they had created the sort of industry the city desperately needed. The only problem was, the economics were happening everywhere else.

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Album of the Day: Waajeed, “From the Dirt”

Detroit producer Waajeed has worn many hats over the years. Raised in Conant Gardens—a neighborhood on the east side—Waajeed came up learning from some of the city’s music legends including rap trio Slum Village, singer Dwele, producers Theo Parrish and Mad Mike, and the funk maestro Amp Fiddler. When he first came on the scene in the late ‘90s, Waajeed was known as a graphic artist and DJ. In the 2000s, he began producing hip-hop, soul, and R&B records. In 2013, Waajeed launched his own record label, Dirt Tech Reck, and started making dance music.

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How a Lost Charles Mingus Recording Finally Saw the Light of Day

Charles Mingus

Several years ago, Amir Abdullah—better known as DJ Amir, half of the Brooklyn DJ/crate-digger duo Kon & Amir—was in Detroit researching the city’s short-lived but legendary Strata Records label. (Abdullah, in 2011, founded his own label, 180 Proof Records, specifically to license and reissue the Strata catalog.) Among the papers of poet John Sinclair, who worked as Strata’s publicist until its demise in 1975, he found a flyer from February 1973.

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At 21, Choker Is Already A Jack Of All Trades


Photo by Tyler Smith.

There’s a kind of internal tug-of-war that takes place any time a listener discovers a new musician. They want the artists to succeed financially, sure, but only if they can remain our little secret. That struggle will doubtlessly go down the minute people start discovering Choker, an emerging 21-year-old jack-of-all-trades whose debut album, PEAK, is a deep dive into his brilliant mind.

Like other artists from Detroit, Choker’s music bears the influence of J Dilla and Slum Village, while opener “Mango (Mountain Version)” evokes shades of Frank Ocean. The beats are hazy and drowsy, and the lyrics reflect Choker’s vulnerability—he sings and raps about self-doubt and falling in and out of love. “I’m never stagnant emotionally,” he says. “So whenever I’m making music, it’s going to reflect how I feel at that moment.”

Though he is quiet and reserved, Choker’s talent is impossible to deny. He’s mellow, but excited when the topic turns to the possibility of people discovering his music. Consider this interview an introduction; he won’t need one for long.

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For Illa J, ‘Home’ Is Where The Heart Is

Illa J

Photo by Robert Winter.

It would be easy for singer-songwriter John Yancey, known artistically as Illa J, to coast on the growing legend of his older brother, hip-hop producer J Dilla. But over the last 10 years, Illa J has worked to create his own lane, and to make the music in which he’s personally interested. In that time, the Detroit native has released albums with rappers Frank Nitt and Slum Village, and production duo Potatohead People. While these projects have mostly featured Illa J as an MC, his artistic abilities extend far beyond that—for one thing, he can sing. In fact, he was singing long before he ever wrote rhymes; he just never released a project that highlighted that skill.

All of that’s changed with his new record, Home. Produced by frequent collaborator Calvin Valentine, the soul-sampling songs are the perfect backdrop for Illa J’s velvety voice. We spoke with Illa about his creative approach to singing, vocal training, and what home means to him.

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Vibesounds Wants To Be Detroit’s Next Great Hip-Hop Producer


Detroit is the historical and present home to some of hip-hop’s greatest producers: J Dilla, WaajeedKarriem Riggins, Black Milk, 14KT, and Apollo Brown. While he’s just starting to come into his own as a producer, Vibesounds is looking to make his own mark in the city’s scene.

Born Yohancé Carter, Vibesounds has been writing music for quite some time, methodically working on his craft. Practice is a driving force behind his debut instrumental album, H.E.R., which reflects on the past few years of Carter’s life after a failed relationship and subsequent alcohol abuse. But like the work of the aforementioned Detroit luminaries, H.E.R. is full of methodical beats that’ll keep your head moving, complete with sharp snare hits and deep kick drums. We spoke to Vibesounds about his path to H.E.R., his process, love, and recognition.

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