Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Even More New Twin Cities Music: Chantz Erolin, deM atlaS, Bomba de Luz

I've been challenging myself to write more about the local music I've been listening to, mostly because I want to model how we can serve as our own media. I'd love to see a world where artists are always talking about one another's work, thinking critically about it, signal-boosting each other, etc. Last time, I talked about K.Raydio & Psymun, Manny Phesto, Medium Zach, and The Lioness. A few more here. I don't want to just write about people I know or work with, but this batch happens to be that:


deM atlaS: "All We Got"
When deM atlaS signed with Rhymesayers a few months back, everyone knew that was a big deal. Those of us who had seen him perform also knew he was someone special, and the real question was how he would do in the spotlight. This is his first video out on RSE, an if it's any indication of things to come, this will be a bountiful partnership.

As an MC, it's important to have style, technique, songwriting chops, a unique voice, etc. But what deM atlaS really excels it, at least in my opinion, is the intangibles: being able to communicate something that is hard to put into words, being able to create a mood that transcends an emoji. This song is gorgeous. And I think it's gorgeous aside from the lyrics, aside from the beat, aside from the video-- it really captures something that other artists could spend lifetimes trying to capture. What that "something" is, I guess, is up to you. I try to avoid writing about music in such abstract terms, but again, that's what makes this guy special. There's a spirit in his music that transcends his image, his affiliations, and maybe even his music itself.

If you want to hear more, definitely check out the Charle Brwn EP, as well as the Sifu Hotman suite that we did together. It's been a pleasure working with deM, and I'm also proud to say that we have NEW Sifu Hotman stuff coming out very soon.


Bomba de Luz: "Be Minor"
In marketing/promotion strategy, having a "hook" can be really important-- a concept or identity that makes you stick out from everyone else, an easy "in" for music writers, bloggers or fans to latch on to that may or may not have anything to do with the music. With Bomba de Luz, I think their hook has been that they're teenagers, and I wonder how much that's helped them vs. how much that's distracted people from how special their music is.

Because it's easy to frame this as "they're pretty good and they're so young!" instead of "their songwriting is better than most bands, and their vocalist has one of the best voices in any local band, and they've succeeded, over and over again, at making catchy, haunting, unique songs. "Be Minor" is the latest, and it's from their upcoming album. Buy the single and/or listen to their last project here. Oh and I should also mention the song me and Lydia made, which you can get for free here.


Chantz Erolin: "BREAK SHIT AND DIE"
I've made about a half dozen songs with Chantz, and when I tell people that he's my favorite Twin Cities MC, I'm not joking. That is not to say that he's the "best" or most talented, just that he embodies all of the things that I look for in an MC. He's wildly smart, but not in a showoffy or elitist way. His work is edgy and political but human first. His technical chops are some of the best in town, at both the bar-for-bar micro level and total song macro level. He's vulnerable. He takes chances. He's funny. He's real.

In a scene where the appearance of depth is so valued and celebrated, Chantz's music is actually deep. There's so much going on in his lyrics, often about race, class, gender and resistance, even when the songs themselves aren't really "about" that stuff. That's rare, and valuable.

He also has access to some of the best producers around, and the result is hip hop that is forward-thinking and unique but that still bangs. It's not indie weirdo stuff, except when it is. It's not "yet another song about turning up," except when it is. That's another thing I appreciate about Chantz-- he breaks rules, whether those are yours, mine, or his own.

"BREAK SHIT AND DIE" isn't a proper album; just five songs that aren't going to be on upcoming releases. But it's still a great intro to his work. I can't wait to hear what's next. If you want hear more, here's a song we made about mixed-race identity, and here's a song we made about whiteness in indie rap. Both of his verses on those two songs are phenomenal.

There's so much good art being made here right now. Let's keep talking about it.

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