As I may have already written, this blog will probably be extra self-promotey in the next few months, as we’re getting ready to release my new album. So if you come here for the insightful political commentary or hard-hitting investigative features, sorry to disappoint you. But I’ll try to make the birth of my new album as interesting as possible, tying it to various thoughts of mine on hip hop, writing and art in general. Here’s a short preview:
1. It’s called “EL GUANTE’S HAUNTED STUDIO APARTMENT,” which is a reference to “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite,” an album I’ve always really enjoyed. The title was chosen based on a few ideas. The supernatural pops up on a bunch of tracks (Kodama, Bring Out Your Dead, Love in the Time of Zombies, Flicker and Orwell Oh Well), and I like the thought of inverting a classic “cool” album into something a little more sinister and weird. It’s actually hard to describe here just how well that title fits the “mood” of the album. You’ll have to listen for yourself.
2. My cousin Jason Myhre did the artwork here, and it’s FULL of subtle references to other stuff: my last album, my tattoos, the cover art on the two singles, the Maxwell album, all kinds of stuff. I really like the cover—it’s very understated, kind of disorienting if you look at it long enough. The back cover (not pictured here) is a direct parody of the Maxwell album.
3. We’ll be having release parties in Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Des Moines and elsewhere all through March. Check the MySpace for all those details. The album will also be on ITunes and in some stores.
4. I am going to update my MySpace with new songs SOON! I’ve had the same five up for way too long.
5. Production from DJ Pain 1 (Madison, WI), Ethos Mega of Office Hours (Madison, WI), G-Force the Earthworm (Eugene OR), Tracksmith of the Figureheads (Milwaukee, WI) and See More Perspective (Minneapolis, MN). There are also two beatbox tracks, one featuring See More, and one featuring Twin Cities hip hop legend Truthmaze. Overall, the album has a pretty varied soundscape, from playful, organic jazz to glitchy electronica to some crazy stuff that’s hard to compare to anything else; it’s definitely not sped-up soul sample boom-bap (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s all very musical though; I think even people who don’t like to listen to the words will really dig the album.
6. It’s pretty long. I know the ideal length of a hip hop album is about 45 minutes, and this album is damn near 80. But I’m thinking of this release almost as three EPs rolled into one CD; it’s divided into “sessions:” the first is the proper album of 12 hip hop tracks, the second contains the trio of songs that Tracksmith produced (which have a very different feel) and the third is all live spoken-word tracks. I think of the third session as bonus tracks basically, as most casual listeners probably won’t get through them…
7. But I really wanted to include those spoken-word tracks, both because I believe in them as pieces and to showcase the other side of me as an artist. I can’t think of another hip hop album that has this many spoken-word pieces on it. Unfortunately, some of my best stuff was written too late to be included, but they’ll make it on to subsequent releases.
8. I’ll be doing a track-by-track “director’s commentary” as the release date approaches, but for now I’ll say that my favorite songs are “One of These Mornings” (which will probably be the second single), “Spirit Bomb,” “Scratching the Surface with a Sledgehammer” and the re-recording of “Flicker,” an older song that I think is the best thing I’ve ever written. I’m really interested in hearing how people respond to the song “Your Boyfriend Leaves Much to be Desired,” which is a probable second single B-side and something that could potentially catch on with college radio. On one level, it’s a goofy shit-talking song, but I wrote it with some serious stuff in mind… more on that when I do the full album run-down.
9. I love concept albums. And though this album isn’t a single story type concept album, it does have some underlying themes. The most obvious is probably the deconstruction and subversion of indie hip hop and spoken-word clichés. This is explicit in tracks like “…Sledgehammer” and “A Paid Advertisement,” but it’s also implicit in songs like “Home Sick Home,” which takes the “rep your state/city/region” idea and turns it on its head, as well as “The Fourth Wall,” which is simultaneously a working-class “everyman” hip hop track and a call to be something more than “everyman.”
10. It’s been a long, painful journey, but I’m now giddy like a little kid going to Dairy Queen. Everything’s really come together in the past few months—the album sounds incredible, the artwork is hot, the release parties are coming together, it’s all very exciting. I just hope other people enjoy the album as much as I do. More to come, including videos, exclusive tracks and more.