Monday, May 26, 2014

New Song: KNOCK (Blamsiss Remix); Free Download + Some Thoughts on #YesAllWomen

Business first: here's a new song for you. Free download. Blamsiss reached out to me a few months ago about potentially doing a song, and this beat immediately grabbed my attention. Beautiful. Official blurb:

A brand new, original remix of the most cutting song from Guante's 2014 experimental mixtape "DUNGEONS," "Knock" can be summed up in one line: "there's a difference between tragedy and injustice." Over a haunting, hypnotic banger from up-and-coming Minneapolis producer Blamsiss, Guante challenges listeners to dig deeper, to explore how so much of the pain we experience in life has its roots not in "destiny" or "circumstance," but in how society is set up to benefit some at the expense of others.

Recorded/Mixed by Graham O'Brien at Bellows STP, 2014
Download the original version, plus the entire "DUNGEONS" project, HERE.

Normally, that's where this post would end. Download the new song, check out the DUNGEONS mixtape if you missed it, etc. But this is a song I've been writing for a long time. And with everything that's happened over the past week-- the UC-Santa Barbara shooting, the #YesAllWomen hashtag, and the ongoing conversation around how gender-based violence is rooted in specific social/cultural attitudes and practices, the song has taken on new meaning. Here's what I've been thinking lately, pulled from my Facebook page:

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.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

TruArtSpeaks presents THE PUSH BACK

Image via the Raise Up Project; click it for more info

This month, I'll be facilitating a series of workshops through TruArtSpeaks called THE PUSH BACK. It's the local arm of a national initiative encouraging young people to share their stories and opinions regarding the dropout crisis. Official info:

Thursday, May 01, 2014

New Music: Manny Phesto, K.Raydio & Psymun, Medium Zach, The Lioness and more

I won't belabor this point, but a quick intro: As much as we need to be able to navigate established media structures, I think we should also be recognizing our own power as media. Tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts, etc.; these are all forms of media, capable of spreading the word about work we value and enjoy. And as a musician, I think reviews or pull-quotes from other musicians I respect are just as valuable as quotes from music writers, if not moreso. So in that spirit, I want to highlight a few recent local releases: