I often find myself so busy these days with my numerous musical, film and blogging ventures (not to mention consistent gig schedule) that I often neglect the practice that got me where I am today : the mixtape. Luckily for me (and hopefully for the masses), I found some time this weekend to get in a mix I’ve playfully titled a collection of songs artisanally blended in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Hip-hop will always be my bread and butter, and it is certainly represented on here by the likes of Pop Smoke, MIKE, Tyler the Creator and Lil’ Wayne, Pharrell, Kenny Mason, Isaiah Rashad and Lil’ Uzi Vert, but I wanted to make sure that a wider spectrum of music got some shine, hence the inclusion of songs from Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Leon Bridges, Thundercat, Ariana Grande, Cautious Clay, KAYTRANADA and many more. If you find yourself trying to cool down on one of these warm summer evenings and think you’re in need of a soundtrack, reach for this mix! Donate if you choose, download if you like, stream when you can and share as often as possible!
“Epochis an emotional record about being mentally compromised during COVID. I started writing Epoch in July of 2020 with production by Big Lo (Pensacola, FL). The goal was to document the feelings that kept revolving in my mind, all the terrible/beautiful thoughts wound together creating a timestamp for my depression. These feelings are valid and need to be nursed and if not faced they can become monsters you find under the bed. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to release this project for Freecember this year. It was a light at the end of the tunnel with so many detours in between, 2020 has been a challenge for all of us and I sincerely hope you find something in this project that will keep you going like it did for me. Thank you for listening, thank you for the support, peace love and light.”
Over the past 5 or so years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Ceschi Ramos and become a member of the Fake Four Inc. family. With a roster full of underground heavyweights and close peers already on the docket, it is a HUGE honor to find myself as an official member now, courtesy of the first #FREEcember release of 2020, The Reclamation Project. During the course of 2020, a span of time where many people where given the opportunity to reflect on their life uninterrupted, I decided to take the process a step further by revisiting two of my previous instrumental releases : Slow Burnout and This Town Has Turned To Dust. I picked my favorite ‘beats’ from these albums, removed previously used elements, and approached them as traditional narrative-structure songs. I am very happy with the final result, and honored to have it be a part of Fake Four‘s yearly tradition. I even made some quick, low budget visuals to go with each song in preparation for Fake Four Fridays, which will air Friday, December 4th at twitch.tv/fakefourinc at 7 PM EST. For those unable to view the stream, or those who are impatient and want to see them immediately, I have created a non-presentational form YouTube playlist.
Download the album for free, donate if you can, and PLEASE share it around, as it would mean the world to me. Thank you in advance to those that do help, and have a great weekend to everyone!
If there were an underground MC whose musings I wouldn’t mind listening to in a collective, non-album intended format, I’d imagine it’d be Virgil Wolfe, based simply on their penchant for deep analytical thought and the skill of wording the unique way they views the world. With B-Sides, a project released on Bandcamp‘s September-edition of their revenue sharing special, we get the closest thing to a free roam through Virgil Wolfe‘s mind that I imagine we are able to get… musical sketches, abstract and experimental sequences and a handful of proper songs make up the project, all with a surprisingly strong ability to hold together despite their different reasons for and times of creation. If you’re looking for a chance to support a true original, definitely drop a few bucks for Virgil Wolfe, and if nothing else, share this one around for others to take part in.
In a mere 6-ish months, Milled Pavement Records has gone from being on the underground bubble to being a forced to be reckoned with for East Coast-based and forward-thinking artists. With homies like Brzowski, Anthony Maintain and MC Homeless already making appearances on the roster, it was a safe assumption that anything from the collective that crossed my radar would be quality, and Marrow kept that streak going by getting me hip to his latest release, The Damage Done. As a fan of groups like Non-Phixion and Darkleaf, this project hit me right in the feels, and the backstory given for the project makes the lyrical and musical onslaught that much more interesting. Definitely take a moment to read the Bandcamp liner notes when (not if!) you go to check this one out, support if you can, and share it around for other heads to enjoy!
The list of my hip-hop/rap peers that I respect is a vast one, but the club of my hip-hop/rap peers that truly inspire me is a very exclusive one. One of the longest standing members of this club is the Austin-based legend Curbside Jones. Since the day I discovered Wolves’ Clothing, every single bit of creative output from Curbside Jones has been amazing, be it music, videos, animations, clothing, photography or whatever he chooses to dip his toes into. Gyakusou Vol. 1, the brief but powerful collaboration with Japanese producer Ballhead, is further proof of Curbside Jones‘ ability to make nothing less that concept albums. Check the Bandcamp page for a complete breakdown on the origins and inspiration for the project, and cop it while you’re there, because it’s a bonafide banger.
With the world in such emotional taxing, tumultuous times, it’s sometimes hard to focus on, or even think about, music. One thing that I love about hip-hop, however, is its ability to rationalize madness, remind us of the wins and losses of our past, and most important of all, inspire change and evolution (if not revolution). Luckily, the San Antonio-based powerhouse that is Third Root is fully aware of their ability to make those specific impacts, and with they culled an all-star lineup to put together Passion of the Poets : Adrian Quesada, El Dusty and Illfudge all get producer credits, while guest features include Black Pumas, Mad1ne, Grupo Fantasma, Kam Franklin and Bavu Blakes. If you’re simply curious about listening, you can find this one any and everywhere you stream or buy music online, but if you’re looking to support deeper, visit the Bandcamp page for exclusive merchandise. Most importantly, spread the Third Root word if you’re feeling what they’re dealing.
The way that the internet has made our massive world figuratively ‘smaller’ has allowed for collaborative possibilities that, even a generation ago, could not have existed. The story of the EXOCIETY collective perfectly illustrates this, as the ultra-talented Austin-based MC known as Scuare has shown us. About a decade ago, he connected with non-TexansRav and Kill Bill over the website Newgrounds, and a bond was formed that has lasted despite proximity and time. With each member growing and the world changing drastically since their inception, it makes sense that SKIN would reflect this range of change, despite it’s semi-short runtime. Each member provides production, along with fellow collaborator Gold Midas, on the project, which takes a deep dive into the realms of creativity and sonic exploration. I could throw a bunch of adjectives around, but this one deserves a direct listen, as it is quite gripping. Check it out on Bandcamp or your favorite streaming service, and spread it around for others to do the same.
As a recent featured artist of the month, I already deeply appreciate Bandcamp and all that it does for independent musicians. In light of the recent COVID-19 Pandemic scares and the subsequent social distancing, many musicians (independent or otherwise) are feeling the sting of financial uncertainty. In an effort to do what they can, Bandcamp has made the decision to waive all payout fees for money that artists earn on sells for the duration of Friday, March 20th. Many of us are feeling the same strain, but if you can, I urge you to support your favorite artist(s) by purchasing an album or two. In the case of Chief and TheDoomsdayDevice music, I urge you to get music whether you opt to purchase or not, as my music was always meant to have a therapeutic element to it. For your convenience, I am providing album links below :
Keeping up with the release schedule of Bjorn Vader could fuel a blog of its own. Granted, to make this statement in February, where he’s only released a couple of songs, sounds like a contradictory statement, but even when quantity is not a factor he’s focused on, the quality is always there.
Fences West is a somber, organ driven tune with a seeming focus on meditation and reflection. The track is spacious, with a muted but driven drum track playing the background supporting role, and the organ run carries us emotionally through the track.
By comparison, the lightness is San Javier Strut is more comparable to the lightness of a crisp morning, with hope, aspirations and high spirits being the key factors. The playful way that the organ and horns take turns on center stage works well, with this interplay providing shades and textures over the combination of drums and percussion that plays the foundation role.
Bjorn Vader has truly taken major steps in the transition from music fan to music producer. He, very similar to myself, is a testament that the line between those who enjoy and those who contribute is imaginary, if not non-existent, and is completely crossable if you’re willing to put in time that equals the love and respect for the art form. Stay connected to Bjorn Vader‘s Bandcamp page, as he stays uploading new tracks, and make sure your friends are hip to it as well.