Tag Archives: Soul

On the Come Up in Music City: Rising Rap and Soul in Nashville

Rising Rap and Soul in Nashville

Jota Ese, Saaneah, & Kyshona Armstrong. Illustrations by Brandon Celi.

Though it’s historically well-known for its country music scene, Nashville, Tennessee isn’t just the town of honky-tonks and the Grand Ole Opry. With indie labels like Infinity Cat and Nervous Nelly Records providing a showcase for punk and rock, and with Americana and folk lining the rosters of Jack White’s Third Man Records and Dualtone, Nashville these days is truly Music City, writ large. Pop aficionados can also find a place here, as well as anyone interested in hip-hop and R&B. It’s those last two genres that have seen the biggest growth lately, as former residents of LA and NYC flock to the city, and established locals can finally find both collaborators and an audience to help support their craft.

Growing up with gospel music in the church, DeRobert Adams, of the G.E.D. Soul Records band DeRobert & The Half-Truths, moved to Nashville’s sister city Murfreesboro in 2000, home of MTSU, where he joined his first band. He’s been making music ever since. G.E.D. Soul has been one of the hardest-working labels in Nashville for the last decade, producing, recording, and distributing funk, soul, and R&B tracks, mostly via the label’s Poor Man Studios in north Nashville. Boasting what the label calls an “analog aesthetic,” the records feel like lost gems dug out of a dusty stack of retired jukebox 45s. Label owner Nicholas DeVan says “Country is still the main attraction, but there’s always been an enormous amount of non-country music being recorded and performed here. I would say that we are seeing a different type of person being in the music scene here, lots of LA folks and musicians from other cities. I feel like Nashville has always been a destination for musicians that need a more low key city than LA or New York; people come here to lose the big city vibe.”

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Chicano Batman on What Freedom Means

Chicano Batman

Chicano Batman by Josue Rivas

Freedom is Free, the latest piece of retro R&B heaven from L.A. troubadours Chicano Batman, is full of heart, soul, and fire. It’s their most reflective release to date, a simmering collection of vintage-organ-laced tunes that renounce modern-day oppression while rejoicing in all things freedom.

Conjuring the supple bass grooves of Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, the romantic atmospherics of Spanish caballero Camilo Sesto, the spirit of Motown, and the strangeness of tropicalia, Freedom is Free is a multifaceted marvel. The funky “The Taker Story” references Daniel Quinn’s heady book Ishmael (“We’ve been enacting the story for 12,000 years/The one that says that man must follow no natural law”), while the title is a deep dive into the idea of mental slavery. “La Jura” is an eerie ode to resistance that borrows the steel riffs of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk,” to critique systematic violence with heartfelt empathy.

We talked with frontman Bardo Martinez about contemporary dystopias, what freedom means, and the uniqueness of growing up Chicano.

(For more with Chicano Batman, tune into the February 25th edition of the Bandcamp Weekly)

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The Rock ‘n’ Soul of Olivier St. Louis 

Oliver St Louis

D.C.-born, Berlin-based singer/producer Olivier St. Louis (formerly Olivier Daysoul) has made a name for himself through his collaborations with renowned electronic music producers like Onra and Hudson Mohawke, as well as through his role as a member of Oddisee’s tight live band, Good Company. In that context his latest, Ever Since The Fall, represents something of a stylistic departure.. Packed with dark, electrifying tones, and St. Louis’s bold, sanctified vocals, Ever Since the Fall is a majestic collection of polished, elegant guitar rock that’s deeply informed by the blues. During rehearsals in preparation for his U.S. tour with Oddisee, we spoke with St. Louis about his newest project and the art of infusing new songs with the spirit of old traditions.

So, could you give a little insight into your background and how you got into music?

Sure. My mother’s Haitian and my father’s Cameroonian. I was born and raised in Washington D.C until the age of 10. Then, I spent the rest of my formative years—up to the age of 18—studying in England at a boarding school. Although I came from a family that prided itself on education first, there was a great appreciation for music. We have a few opera singers and some classically-trained pianists in the family. Although it was mostly classical, there [was sometimes] soul, jazz, and funk often playing in the background at home. My mother was a big fan of Anita Baker, Marvin Gaye, and The Brothers Johnson. So I was influenced by music very early on. I didn’t really consider music as a career, however until I was at university. A random meeting with someone on the bus, while en route to returning a mic to record some demos, introduced me to a whole music scene in D.C. that I wasn’t entirely aware of at the time. Everything branched off from there.

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


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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A Moombah Family Affair: Jon Kwest’s “Soulove” Compilation is Straight From Moombahton’s Big Heart

Jon Kwest

Jon Kwest by Sean OGrady

Eight years after house producer Dave Nada accidentally birthed a subgenre by playing slowed down Dutch house records to satiate a crowd of school-skipping, reggaeton-loving teenagers at an impromptu mid-afternoon basement party in Prince George’s County, Maryland, moombahton finds itself having a moment of sorts. Between Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Sia’s “Cheap Thrills,” and Drake’s “One Dance,” the dembow-riddim driven sound, melded with soulful grooves occupied three of the top 11 positions on Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs chart. However, when Baltimore-born, DC-based, underground-renowned Jon Kwest enlisted an impressive roster of producers to create a Donald Trump protest compilation of soulful moombahton tunes (sales directly benefit the ACLU and Planned Parenthood), something a little deeper at the core of the sound was unearthed.

Moombahton’s growth was given a big boost by producers like David Heartbreak, who, as the subgenre turned just one year of age, began blending moombahton with reggae, dancehall, rap, reggaeton and classic American R&B into the moombahton variant known as moombahsoul. With less synth layers and bass drops, moombahsoul is a suave and “mature” take on moombahton that proves, even nearly a decade later, to be as potentially catchy as it is emotionally restorative. In a very candid conversation, Kwest discusses what went into compiling these tracks, what the present and future hold for the genre, and how there’s so much more to learn about just what moombahton’s simultaneous globalized and local community perspective can provide a world in need of a unifying call to action.

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