Tag Archives: Hip-Hop

“I Hustle From Sunup to Sundown and Even Then I Need a Night Light”: Hezekiah’s Remarkable Comeback

Hezekiah

2016 was a tough year for the U.S. as a whole, marked by political unrest and the loss of many beloved public figures; for Philadelphia-based rapper, producer, and singer Hezekiah, it was just as eventful on a smaller scale, replete with professional triumphs and personal tragedy. His funky rock outfit, Johnny Popcorn, dropped their catchy, hard-hitting, anthemic opus Totem Poleand Hezekiah was struck with a sudden brain aneurysm that hospitalized him and (very briefly) limited his musical output.

For the past 20+ years, Hezekiah has been working to refine his own brand of soulful, progressive hip-hop. In addition to his solo work and Johnny Popcorn, Hezekiah is a co-founder of Beat Society, a legendary live beat event that was one of the first of its kind. In the early part of the 2000’s, Beat Society played host to then-up-and-coming producers such as Kanye West and Illmind, with a young Diplo serving as the in-house DJ.

Currently recovering from the aneurysm, Hezekiah is gearing up for the release of his newest, star-studded solo EP, GODS. We sat down with him to talk about his career and get insight into what his future holds.

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Lahore State of Mind: Pakistan’s Jaubi Pays Tribute to J Dilla

Jaubi

This month, as with every February for over a decade, rap fans far and wide celebrate the life and work of the late hip-hop producer James “J Dilla” Yancey. In 2016, in addition to the usual mixtapes and freestyles, another tribute to the man’s legacy emerged online from a perhaps-unexpected place.

Jaubi, a collective of Indian classical musicians from Lahore, Pakistan, quietly uploaded a video on Youtube to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Dilla’s passing: a cover version of “Time: The Donut of the Heart” from Dilla’s final album Donuts. A sarangi plays the signature loop, tabla and vocals provide a surprising bounce and plaintive acoustic guitar chords add melodic cohesion. In 60 short seconds, the members of Jaubi take Dilla’s original and turn it into something wholly different, yet instantly recognizable.

According to Ali Riaz Baqar, Jaubi’s founder and guitarist, the cover was made quickly with little expectation: “It’s ironic because that track was done in probably half an hour?  I said to my friends, ‘If 50 people like this, I’ll be happy.’”

Within days, the video racked up tens of thousands of views on Youtube. Stones Throw Records, Madlib, and the estate of J Dilla himself all featured it on their social media, exposing the group to a wider audience than they could have imagined. The influx of attention lead to a deal with London’s Astigmatic Records to release their debut EP, The Deconstructed Ego, on vinyl.

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Eight Artists At the Forefront of the Twin Cities Hip-Hop Charge

finding-novyon-600

Finding Novyon

The leading lights of the Twin Cities hip-hop scene haven’t had a lot of time to worry about chart status or mainstream fame—even when it arrives. Instead, their DIY work ethic, community-minded focus, and everybody-knows-everybody support system has resulted in one of the most distinct and tight-knit indie rap scenes in all of North America. A haven for the nonconformists, Afropunks, backpackers, and cross-cultural iconoclasts that keep the indie-rap fires stoked, Minneapolis and St. Paul have nurtured the venerable label Rhymesayers, their affiliated record store/rap-nerd Valhalla Fifth Element, the long-running destination festival Soundset, and a number of renowned artists from Atmosphere to Brother Ali to Doomtree.

And while there’s been no shortage of recent success stories—pretty much all of Minnesota is pulling for Lizzo to blow all the way up—there are still a crucial number of artists who have set up shop in the Twin Cities and made their names by staying there to find a career-sustaining niche. A few of these artists go way back, and some are just establishing themselves, but they’re all contributing to—and advancing—one of the most eclectic, loyal, and adventurous indie scenes going.

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Being Quelle Chris: A Look Inside The Rapper’s Quirky Hip-Hop Sound

Chris Quelle

On a breezy winter afternoon in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, Quelle Chris is reclining on his couch, playing video games and enjoying a smoke. It’s a rare bit of downtime for the producer/rapper; he lives here with his girlfriend—rapper/actor/comedian Jean Grae—and relaxes with Playstation, weed, and Netflix. After pouring each of us a glass of Red Label whiskey, he shuts the window to drown out the sounds of traffic. “If I keep this open, we may not hear any of the interview,” Quelle says. It’s a slightly ironic move—that same hum of traffic is part of the palette of sound Quelle uses to create some of the most unique, forward-thinking hip-hop around.

Most hip-hop producers who build their work from samples spend a lot of time in record shops, digging through crates to find the gems they’ll eventually chop and manipulate into new masterpieces. But Quelle is different; when he goes looking for sounds, he starts with the television.

“I’ll sit and watch hours and hours of the most terrible movies, just waiting for those little moments,” he says. “Not even just samples, but [the sound of] someone tripping up a flight of steps in a movie.” He calls his sound “explorer hip-hop.” It’s perhaps best compared to Madlib or Knxwledge, both of whom use random clips—vocal splices, in particular—from films to create their music, stringing things together with a heavy helping of oddball soul. Some of Quelle’s productions do the same; others seem to go out of their way to create dissonance.

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The Month in Mixtapes: January 2017

Month In Mixtapes

Given the massive number of hip-hop mixtapes released on Bandcamp, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Each month, Marvin Lin will help ease you into this bounty of music by spotlighting releases by rappers and beatmakers using the Bandcamp “mixtape” tag.

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