Tag Archives: Knxwledge

Big Ups: John Vanderslice Picks His Bandcamp Hip-Hop Favorites

John Vanderslice

Photo by Sarah Cass

John Vanderslice is a rap fanatic. He constantly seeks out the newest voices in the genre, and proselytizes his friends on the wealth of sounds and songs available to discover. But despite his intense love of the music, he’s aware of his own limits as a songwriter. “I don’t think I’m capable of bringing in a lot of what I like in rap [to my own music],” he says. “When I hear J.I.D or EarthGang, who I think are technically very good rappers, I realize the distance between what I can do and them, in a way that doesn’t happen with, say, Celine Dion. When I hear really complicated rap cadences, there’s something in my heart that’s like, ‘God, I will never be able to touch that kind of complexity.”

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The Best Hip-Hop on Bandcamp: January 2019

best_hip_hop-12442019’s first round-up of essential hip-hop releases includes an audio documentary about the Black Panther Party, an expansive snapshot of the U.K.’s interconnected hip-hop, soul, and jazz scenes; and vital modern boom-bap chronicles. We also spotlight a heavyweight dub-infused project that might have passed you by during the holiday season.

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Leaving Records is Dedicated to the Art of Curation


In 2007, Matthew “Matthewdavid” McQueen was sitting in the studio of dublab radio during a Ras G show, when an artist named dak took over the session with an original beat set. McQueen, at the time an intern for both Plug Research and dublab, was blown away by the music he heard coming from the speakers. Dak’s unconventional sound, which blended glitchy syncopation with murky low-end production, got McQueen’s wheels spinning. As he listened, he began to realize that artists like dak were making music that was too experimental and adventurous to find a home at most record labels.

“Dak was a diamond in the rough,” McQueen says. “It was clear that if I did gain his consent and permission [to sign him and release his album] that it would be a very strong, new sound, from a new artist, to help launch a new label.”

That moment in the dublab studio marked the beginning of Leaving Records, a label rooted in Los Angeles beat music and ambient, but which has grown to become a sanctuary for musical free-thinkers. Co-founded with visual artist Jesselisa Moretti, Leaving calls its ethos “all-genre,” which indicates the label’s openness to the possibilities of music, and its aim of knocking down genre walls so that all sounds are permitted. Leaving is a place for Ras G’s Afro-space age beats, the innovative percussion techniques of Deantoni Parks, Julia Holter’s art pop, Laraaji’s ambient zither meditations, and Knxwledge’s dusty soul breaks. The label has few hard rules, but one of them is that Matthewdavid doesn’t sign artists that he has not befriended first.

In that way, Leaving is an expression of both Matthewdavid’s expansive taste and his social circle. The label’s first release was technically Matthewdavid’s Disk Collection, but the catalogue began in earnest with dak’s standthis cassette—a format that, in 2009, was still thought to be archaic. After that initial dublab session, McQueen and dak quickly became close friends, hanging out at dublab and trading beat tapes. McQueen says that dak, like many artists he knows, “doesn’t let everyone in his head” which he associates with the mark of a genius.

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Suzi Analogue Doesn’t Need Your Cosign

Suzi Analog

In 2016, Suzi Analogue moved abruptly to Miami; the cold in New York City was just that tough. “I had a really hard winter,” says the DJ, MC, and producer, born Maya Simone Shipman. “I was going through a lot, as far as anxiety is concerned. I didn’t feel healthy. It was cold, dry air. I was like, ‘You know what? I just need to go. I just need to go and experience something different.’”

The result is Analogue’s new beat tape, ZONEZ V.3, on which she begins to acclimate to her sunny new home. The inspiration for the song “BeachCruiser” was quite literal. “Yup, beach cruising is a thing [in Miami],” she says. “I wanted to tap into the idea of, ‘What does a beach cruiser sound like?’”

Sonically, the track employs darting synths and frenetic, stabbing bass. “This ZONEZ is very New York to Miami,” Analogue says. “I have the island and dance vibes, but then I’m also bringing some more hardcore vibes, inspirations from my nightlife culture in New York [where it’s] cutthroat—the bass has to be banging, the drums have to be hitting. This ZONEZ is a meeting of both of those worlds. I really like that fusion.”

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The Best New Hip-Hop On Bandcamp

Best New Hip Hop

This month’s roundup of fresh new rap releases includes forward-thinking instrumental beatscapes, throwbacks to the rugged Wu-Tang Forever era, and a three-part hip-hop treatise on black history. Consider these projects the inaugural guiding lights for your musical journey through the uncertain and choppy waters of 2017. 

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Swarvy Shares His Most Essential Bandcamp Releases

Swarvy. Photo by Theo Jemison.

Swarvy. Photo by Theo Jemison.

In June 2011, a group of beatmakers gathered in Philadelphia’s Little Bar to honor jazz legend Miles Davis’s landmark album Bitches Brew. The producers were tasked with reworking portions of Davis’s songs, as local rapper Stainless Steele spit bars over their creations. A studio version of the results appeared online several months later in the form of Blasphemous Jazz: The Bitches Brew Sessions, a Low End Theory-meets-Jazzmatazz collage of sounds showcasing the talents of composers like Mndsgn and Knxwledge.

Among the group was a producer named Swarvy, a multi-instrumentalist who was just getting his feet wet when Blasphemous Jazz was released. “It’s everybody there back in Philly playing together, and it was based off this show,” Swarvy says of the event and the album. “[Producer] Sir Froderick had this place and wanted to make events like that one a monthly thing, but we only ended up doing it once.” Swarvy only had a few projects to his credit at the time; as of this feature, he has 21 total Bandcamp releases. We spoke with Swarvy, who walked us through his catalog, pointing out a few projects that might’ve gotten missed along the way.

Swarvy. Photo by Theo Jemison.

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L.A. Is The Best Place For Devonwho’s Sunny Rap Beats


Devon Fox is Devonwho. Photo by Patti Miller.

Last year, at the age of 31, Devon Fox moved back to Los Angeles after a short stint in San Francisco. For almost a decade, Fox had released hip-hop-leaning electronic music under the name Devonwho, but for a couple years in the Bay Area, he seemed to disappear. “Music wasn’t my main focus for a little while,” he says. “I’m getting back into it and just letting go of the whole perfectionist mindset.”

In the late ’00s, Fox gained traction as a member of Klipmode, a small, loosely-defined collective of producers that also included MNDSGN, Knxwledge, and Suzi Analogue. Launched in 2009 with no fixed homebase, the quartet of Klipmode producers helped calcify the L.A. beat scene’s musical urgency with their varying takes on refreshingly weird hip-hop electronica. The collective put Klipmode’s members on national and international radar. As they all struck out in individual directions, the collective’s structure faded, but the producers still hover around the same scene. Three of the four members—Suzi being the only exception—have released projects on the L.A.-based LEAVING Records, a wide-open stage for off-kilter music co-founded by Brainfeeder producer Matthewdavid.

Fox was the last of the Klipmode alumni to make his LEAVING debut, releasing a cassette EP called Lyon in May, effectively ending his hiatus. A new album called Luz builds upon the EP’s sound and finds Fox breaking his instrumental bent with a pair of vocal tracks. Like Lyon before it, Luz is a dense collection of impeccable electro funk: finicky grooves dripping in distinct, synthesized tones. Fellow Cali producer DâM-FunK is a strong influence on Fox’s G-funk aesthetic. “I kind of know the specific sounds that I’m looking for,” Fox says. “Particularly with this record, I had a sound: very warm, sunny.”

Throughout Luz, Fox pivots between synth leads that warble, bend, and blip. It’s a study in texture, but its producer has an equal knack for rhythm. Even when he pushes his tracks into glitchier territory, Fox still sounds naturally funky. The producer spoke with us about his background as a musician, how his new album came together, and why making music in a cramped studio apartment isn’t the best look.

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Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge Are Co-MVPs on “Yes Lawd!”

Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge
Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge. Photo by Eric Coleman.

In February 2015, singer/rapper Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge released a song called “Suede,” a brash, shit-talking ode to good smoke and fine women, set atop a looping Gil Scott-Heron sample. At the time, it offered the best glimpse into what .Paak and Knxwledge were capable of doing together and apart: .Paak, the old soul with the strained voice, and Knxwledge, the proficient beatmaker with an array of cosmic funk instrumentals in his toolbox. “Suede” was profane, but it was also incredibly catchy, full of standout one-liners. “Now most of y’all can’t do shit, but all my chicks cook grits,” .Paak proudly declared. Their subsequent EP—Link Up & Suede—was passable but brief, leaving listeners with just a fleeting example of .Paak and Knxwledge’s work as a unit.

As it turned out, 2015 became a banner year for the two of them: Knxwledge landed a spot on rapper Kendrick Lamar’s acclaimed To Pimp A Butterfly, composing what might be the record’s best beat. Then he released his debut full-length, Hud Dreems, a 26-track collection of soul-sampling vignettes, on L.A.’s Stones Throw Records. .Paak—then a relative unknown—contributed heavily to Dr. Dre’s Compton LP, performing on six of 16 songs alongside luminaries like Jill Scott and Ice Cube. It was still hard to know what to make of .Paak as an artist, though from those features, it was clear he had the potential to be a headliner. On a song like “Animals,” which depicts the perils of inner-city blight, Dre gave .Paak space to shine, even allowing him to take the lead. In January, .Paak released his second album, Malibu, to critical praise, solidifying his newfound fame. He’s now signed to Dre’s Aftermath imprint.

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