By Jimmy Ness
Onra’s latest strand of funk makes you feel like a baby-faced Prince still elegantly rocking crotch-hugging leather pants and frilly silk shirts. “L.O.V.E” has an obvious post-disco 80s influence with cloudy funk vocals, nostalgic synth-work, and beep-bop you’d imagine little green men grooving to. It’s the perfect soundtrack to hot weather, pool parties and driving a ragged convertible around Florida. Yes, I just described Miami Vice.
The first leak from Onra’s forthcoming Fools Gold debut displays his evolution beyond the vintage boogie-funk of 2010 album Long Distance with half-spoken vocal samples and summer vibes. But the Vietnamese-Parisian producer doesn’t just make music for dance floor disciples. His Eastern inspired beat tapes Chinoiseries I & II contained unique Chinese vocal samples from the 50s and banged harder than a ninja assassin smoke grenade. The 30 year old has also drawn more than a few J Dilla comparisons by writers desperate to categorize his protean production.
If you’re a crappy Youtube artist thinking of adding vocals to “L.O.V.E” or any of Onra’s beats, please don’t. I’m wearing a tight pink suit and growing a puffy blonde mullet. I don’t want anyone to kill my excited preparation for Onra’s new opus.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m from Maryland, DC. Umm I’m 21 and ah you know, fuckin’ living in LA now because there’s more shit to do than in Maryland. I was out in the country. There were too many fuckin’ cows, waking up every day with the smell of manure and shit. So that’s just how it is, I’m living in LA now. Fucking young ass just turned 21 in January.
How did you start making music?
My mom and my step-dad bought me a Studio Bible and it was when I was living in the country. I had nothing to do so I just fucked around on my computer and tried to do something with my life. I just started making beats and long after that I got good, and I moved to LA. Your production style is very diverse.
How would you describe your sound?
Honestly, I don’t know. My influences are weird. One day I want to make some trap ass gutter shit and listen to Gucci. Then the next day I want to make some Progressive House like Swedish House Mafia, or some random day I just want to make some motherfucking grungy ass dubstep or
something. My managers hate it too because I have to make some hiphop shit and I’m just not in the mood , I just wanna make some dance shit. Or one day I have to make some dance shit and I just want to make some weird-ass bass shit. I don’t know. It’s whatever the fuck I feel like, I need to change my work ethic but that’s how it is.
What is Trap-Step?
Trap-step is a mixture of trap music, you know the snares and 808s. You know the entrance of a trap song then right before the verse is about to come on you drop some nasty sick ass tune. It’s like the best of both worlds. You get to hear some grungy ass shit that makes you want to grit your face and as soon as the drop comes on, you want to slap the shit out of the person next to you.
A few years ago you flew to Hawaii and watched Kanye make a beat for My Dark Twisted Fantasy?
Yeah it was my boy Lino who told me to go out there. I went out with him and he was like ‘yo lets chill with them.’ We went out there kicking it in Hawaii. Lino, this guy I’ve been working with for hella long, he’s a great rapper. We went there and watched them make beats for like an hour. It was weird, quick and fast but they made a lot. [Kanye] He was really nice. He was really passionate about everything.
How do you and Kreyashawn know each other?
I’ve known her because she used to fuck with the crew. Everybody from the Bay I used to fuck with. So we were just friends and shit cause we would Tweet, and Skype each other and talk on UStream. She fucked with Lil B and I fucked with Lil B. One day we were like yo let’s make a freestyle and shit, and from there we did “Shrimp”.
What do you think about the hate she receives?
She’s a really cool and talented girl. I think people say the hype is leaving because she hasn’t dropped new music. But I’m quite excited to hear her album though.
You also linked up with Theophilus London through Twitter and made the beat for “Big Spender” with A$AP Rocky?
Yeah we did, because of Kreyashawn.
I sent Theo the “Big Spender” beat around August or something, a long time ago. He went crazy over it. We finished it in Australia and I was like “when are we going to release it?” Then around January, this year, A$AP Rocky jumped on it. They didn’t finish it though so that’s why it took so long. Then we had to wait a couple of months to get the sample cleared, so that’s how it happened.
I met A$AP at South by Southwest but I think I’m going to meet A$AP today again at his show, him
and A$AP Ant.
One of my favorite tracks you’ve produced is “Tell ya” with A$AP Ant and Bodega Bams. How did that come about?
It’s really grimy. I usually don’t make music like that and it was one of those things where I randomly felt like making music like that. It was weird. I just felt like making some grimy ass shit. My boy Bodega I’ve known him for years and years, he’s my big brother, and he’s an incredible rapper. Whenever I make some grungy hiphop shit I always sent it to him cause you know, he does that New York type shit. He did it and then gave it to A$AP Ant. I didn’t know that then. He hopped on it and I heard it and it was sick as shit. Then they shot the video, everyone from A$AP heard it and they fucking pushed that shit. So that’s how Told Ya came about. I love the tune.
Are you doing anything with the A$AP crew in the near future?
Yams hit me up and said that they wanted some tracks for the A$AP Mobb album so we talked about it and shit. You’re going to hear some new Carnage and A$AP soon. Some massive tunes.
You also rap, is that something you do just for fun?
When I rap, yeah it’s for the fun. It’s really like I have nothing to do that day and I’m not inspired to make any beats. So I rap on some shit and people like it, so why not make more you know. A lot of people tell me they like the videos and all that because it’s really fun, like a really fun energy. And that’s how I want it to be, I want it to be like, it’s like whatever you know. But not in the whatever sense that people don’t take me seriously. I’ll tell you a secret. It’s kind of cool that I don’t take my rapping seriously because at the end of it, I know that my beats and my production is something serious. I like to fuck with people’s heads. So they hear my rapping and THEN hear my beats….. and they are like “fuck is he actually a genius?”
What do you want to achieve from your career?
I want to be known as a legend. I want people to see me and be like “this guy is like remarkable.” I want to be on the Daft Punk, Timberland or Dr Dre level. I want to be known, you know. That’s my goal in life, to be one of those people that when I walk in front of other people there is a whole mob everywhere, like wow! Like they are in awe. That’s what drives me. Every single time I go to a show I’m pissed off because I haven’t reached that level yet, so it makes me work harder.
By Jimmy Ness
Bring the menacing shit. Razor blades in larynx, Bodega Bamz snarls all over “Told Ya” and treats apocalyptic Baltimore like a crack Disneyland. What Bamz lacks in technical street slang, he makes up for with threatening conviction. His diamonds are black and blue cause he bruised them. Straight out of Spanish Harlem, Bamz proves New York rappers adding winter grime to Southern beats hasn’t lost its charm.
A$AP Ant goes next and dismisses your assumption Rocky and Ferg were the only ones in the crew worth watching. Employing a double-time flow, he decimates DJ Carnage’s post-regional bass thump and as a screwed sample of Three-Six Mafia’s “Playa Haters” lurks in the background. The legend of Juicy J grows bigger.
Look out for Carnage too. His growing catalogue of excellent beats includes electronic, hip-hop and everything between. He also raps with an engaging sense of humor and doesn’t take this music shit seriously. Catch him making indie girls feel awkward in the “Loaded” video with Theophilus London. If you weren’t surfing the trill-wave, you might opt to buy a board. And for the record, Ant and SchoolBoy Q need to collaborate on a bucket hat appreciation track immediately.
By Jimmy Ness
Do I sense a funk revival? “Trippy Mane” is the best recent ad-lib, TDE are the coolest black hippies around and Dam Funk has been making undeniable cosmic jams for years. Maybe we won’t be wearing flowery headscarves anytime soon, but these two Seattle ladies are definitely onto something a young John Travolta would enjoy.
Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons urge listeners to “Leave your face at the door” and “Turn off your swag” at the beginning of this carefree joint. “QueenS” is about nothing but groovin,’ boasting an extremely danceable beat that Daft Punk should’ve made post-Homework.
Multiple hazy vocal layers and background ‘ooh aahs’ remind us of the importance of enjoying music with drugs — with the afro’d pair telling everyone to shake their groove thangs in a way which comes off as genuine rather than nostalgic.
You might know THEEsatisfaction from their guest features with label mates Shabbaz Palaces on Black Up. But this particular track has no dark conscious raps or deeper meanings — this is simply some cool futuristic funk. You should probably get your platforms with goldfish in them ready for the release of their mixtape Awe Natural3 later this month.
By Jimmy Ness
Originally published at passionweiss.com
Cleveland’s coldest is too often dismissed as Kid Cudi’s lesser sidekick. Undoubtedly Chip’s affiliation with melodramatic Mescudi has grown his fan base, often at the expense of his credibility. But he’s also a talented and likable rapper worthy of individual praise.
Charles Worth claimed to decline appearing on this year’s underwhelming XXL Freshman cover, and who could blame him? The 25 year old was part of the underground circuit before Cudi became a hipster hit and comparing him to the likes of this, proves he’s disrespected.
On Chip’s first mixtapes he rapped with an unremarkable Southern style, which sounded sleepier than a sedated Z-Ro. His albums suffered from the traditional pitfalls: bloated posse cuts, weak hooks, unoriginality etc. But like most early projects, talent was hidden amongst cliché talk of guns and girls. Charles soon took an evolutionary leap after his fourth project You Can’t Stop Me and left his Chopped and Screwed days behind for a more light-hearted style.
Nerdy humorists from the popular SomethingAwful.com forum helped turn Chip into a minor internet celebrity after his 2007 S.L.A.B freestyle. His absurd “Interior Crocodile Alligator, I drive a mobile Chevrolet theatre.” line spread everywhere and has millions of Youtube views. From videos of National Geographic crocodile documentaries to typical internet fuckery, it proved he knew how to write catchy and sometimes humorous lyrics.
Chip showcased his impressive flow and unique style on 2009’s The Cleveland Show, but his real magnum opus was released two years later. Gift Raps has thirteen solid tracks without a single false move. The coldest sounds better than anyone over Chuck Inglish’s inspired beats and has enough charisma to carry the project without guest features. From smooth double-time rhyming on intro “The Entrance” to boom-bap raps on the triumphant “Light One Up”, it’s still one of the most cohesive and replayable albums in recent memory.
The ménage a trios fantasy portrayed in “Plural” is one of Chip’s best tracks period. Charles tells an uncomplicated tale about hanging out with two females before a drug-induced party. Instead of focusing on lyrical dexterity, he keeps the rhymes simple which strengthens the imagery.
“More girls arrive to my surprise. They had a bag of shrooms and kush and didn’t bring no guys. Here we go, get ready, good thoughts and fly colours.”
And finally we have a hypnotic chorus, which threatens to stay in the listener’s brain forever.
“Two going at once, I like my girls like I like my blunts (wherever, whenever). And that’s two going at once.”
Yes, Chip is not covering deep subject matter or rhyming the elements on the periodic table. But rappers often forget that music is meant to be enjoyable. Charles doesn’t over-extend himself and covers well-tread topics with a new perspective or vocabulary. He switches from comparing Cleveland and Jumanji to warning listeners not to eat high fructose corn syrup, all with the same light-hearted tone. His feel good raps have more in common with the Run DMC’s of the 1980s, than today’s jaded generation.
Teenage skateboarders and trap-stars reuse each others lines while Chip spits under-utilized slang. Who else still says fresh or talks about handing out money instead of making it rain?
“Forever I’ll be F R E $ H, chillin’ up in I-Hop with that country fried steak, super smooth Kenny G and these raps be the sack, shined up in the wax, bet them panties gon’ collapse.”
This year’s project Tell Ya Friends had a little too much filler and not enough Cbuck Inglish, but there’s still some of The Ripper’s magic on tracks like the audio smoker’s session “Soothing” or Lex Luger produced “Out Here”. The latter sounds surprisingly unlike “Blowing Money Fast” version ten and you can hear the beat maker was also inspired by the glorious Gift Raps production.
If Chip‘s strong points aren‘t enough to convince you, feel free to stick with Slaughterhouse reciting dictionaries. Sometimes less is more.
Disclaimer: I was a kid when I wrote this so please withhold any judgements on quality :)
Dance duo The Crystal Method rode the commercial boom of electronica in the 90s and haven't let up since. Their music has appeared in more than 30 films and currently serves as the soundtrack to TV crime series Bones. Groove Guide magazine tries to discover the secret to making a decade of toe tapping beats.
By Jimmy Ness
Glow sticks and sweaty pill-poppers are the first things that come to mind when you imagine dance parties. But Ken Jordan, one half of iconic duo The Crystal Method, says there was more to the electronic scene in the 1990s.
"Early on it was kind of renegade. It was still a lot of raves. They were not that well organised, they were not at normal venues. You wouldn't even be sure the event was going to happen."
"For us, we were interested in the whole thing. Yeah there were drugs on the scene, but we were more interested in the music, the lights and the big stages. You have to make music that sounds good to sober people too."
Ken sounds remarkably grounded considering how far The Crystal Method has come. Before co-creating one of America's most popular electronic groups, he met music partner Scott Kirkland while they were working at a supermarket in Las Vegas.
The pair made their own studio dubbed "The Bomb Shelter" in a house they owned together.
"We built it inside of a garage. We didn't know how to build anything so we weren't very good at construction, but somehow those walls and the ceiling stayed up for like 13 years," Ken laughs.
"It was a real amateur job and it kind of looked a mess, but it sounded pretty good and it was soundproof. Early on we had no air conditioning. It was pretty rough in there, it was tough to invite people to come over to work."
Their first album Vegas came out four years after they started The Crystal Method in 1993. It was a breakout success reaching platinum status in the states with many songs used in film, advertising and game soundtracks.
Unlike dance acts who are good for a ringtone download and forgotten a minute later, they proved themselves to be a group worth knowing about.
The Crystal Method were invited to provide music for Hugh Jackman's latest film Real Steel and recently worked on a Nike soundtrack designed specifically for exercise. The group is also famed for their collaborations and have worked with Tom Morello, Scott Weiland and Pete Hook of New Order.
But what lead them to DJing? Ken says, in his casual way, that electronic music was "sort of like a natural progression."
"We liked Depeche Mode and stuff like that. It was just something you could do with samples, synthesisers and drum machines. So it just kind of lead down that road and then we went to some raves, and we were like wow this is great music."
The duo further ensured their longevity with a broad sound which included experimentation with rock and heavy metal influences.
Ken says that's not likely to change either.
"Rock is what we grew up listening to before we started making music. That's what Scott's dad played for him and my older brother for me. We love it then, we've always loved it and I think that will always be a part of our sound."
Sounds fair enough to me.
Weeks before the release of his new album The Dreamer/The Believer, cardigan wearing Common humorously claimed he was hip-hop on his latest single Sweet.
The 39 year old vet, known for his modelling work with The Gap, used non-ironic lines including: “You never wanna go against me, you know that man. You too soft for that.”
Despite hurting Drake's feelings and starting the rivalry as marketing for his new album, the 2011 Common is definitely not the same person who infamously shocked Ice Cube with his 1996 diss “The Bitch In Yoo.”
No, this is a different era. This is the Queen Latifah squeezing, knitted scarf and corduroys Common.
Former teen actor Drake, real name Aubrey Graham, has also become synonymous with being soft. Thanks to his emotional rapping style and this photo, and this one, this one, and this one…. oh and this one.
However, the problem isn't if they make terrible songs or even that they are soft. Because who really cares?
It’s the absolute lack of believability that one could actually harm the other. Any anger between the two will result in nothing more than a prolonged tickle fight.
Drake carried on the ridiculousness by releasing his indirect response to Common this week on the new Rick Ross mixtape Rich Forever.
Make you sure you look at his tough guy expression and have a laugh. Is anyone out there taking these guys seriously? Give me a break.
First album: Space Jam soundtrack.
I loved the movie so it made sense that I got the album too. My first introduction to Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Method Man and D'Angelo, so not a bad start really.
This was my favourite track and I still know it word for word:
Note: Technically my first CD was actually the self-titled album by cheesy 90s group All-4-One, but my mother made me return it because it had subtle masturbation metaphors. I brought it because of the strength of this uplifting and revolutionary ballad. I was like eight or nine so give me a break.
First concert: Blindspott
I can’t remember exactly, but New Zealand nu metal band Blindspott played at my high school and I still remember the vocalist pretending to scream as a pre-recorded track played in the background.
Last album: Big L: Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
I had a big gap in my music knowledge so this album was on my to-listen list for a long time. Pretty entertaining album thanks to Big L's wordplay, despite the samey beats with shouted hooks.
Last concert: Kanye West and Jay-Z: Watch The Throne.
My first time seeing both of them and my first show at The Staples Centre. Say what you want about Ye's arrogance or the declining quality in Jay's music, but they are amazing live.
Favourite albums: A ridiculously hard question.
I’d say the holy Wu trinity: Supreme Clientele, Ironman and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx or Tool`s Anima album. Maybe throw in some Chip Tha Ripper, Vintersorg, *Shels, and B.I.G as well.
Musical guilty pleasure: More cheesy 90s R&B or power metal I liked when I was angry and 13.
If you're reading, share your survey answers!
J.Cole's much hyped debut on Jay-Z's RocNation label shows an awkward transition from lyrical mixtape MC to commercial pop-rapper.
Cole World lacks the raw energy of his digital releases, instead focusing on bland R&B tracks with tween star Trey Songz, and tepid dubstep with a tired Hova.
But it's not all bad.
Jermaine sprinkles a few great lines on each track, which are worth listening to despite sub-par choruses.
The North Carolina native touches on some interesting subjects, speaking from the viewpoint of a pregnant woman during Lost Ones and about daddy issues on Breakdown.
Dollar And A Dream III, Lights Please and Sideline Story are also rapped with enough conviction to satisfy hungry fans.
Cole World isn't another example of major labels crushing young talent to conform, but you can still pick up their poison touch.
By Jimmy Ness
“You see a mouse trap, I see free cheese and a fucking challenge.”
Scroobius Pip isn’t your typical rapper. The heavily accented Englishman delivers intellectual lyrics in a unique spoken style. His free-thinking wordplay covers a series of touchy subjects and is told with genuine conviction.
Loud crunchy guitar and industrial beats create a flurry of intensity to back the lyrical blast, which has Pip almost shouting at times.
The production is often jarring and lacks any real catchiness, but it’s the lyrical power that will have you picking up new pop culture references on each listen.
Pip even sings an anti-war chant over a Soulja Boy cover (better than it sounds) and reaches a touching note with a Kate Bush tribute. The pace slows during the final tracks as Pip’s personal reflections bring the album to a powerful end.
Distraction Pieces is not an easy listen, but it’s a worthy one.
By Jimmy Ness
Ask any guitar groupie who the six-string king is, and Joe Satriani might be the first name that comes out of their mouth. The 55-year-old virtuoso has spent decades training and working with the best guitarists in the world.
It all began on the day Jimi Hendrix died. A young Joseph Satriani ran up to his football coach during a training session and immediately announced he was quitting to become a guitarist.
Was it the universe's way of replacing one genius with another?
Joe says he can only guess. "In my 14-year-old brain, I felt I was losing something that I couldn't live without. That wasting my time playing sports was something I had to stop, and I had to learn how to play music so I could replace what I was going to be missing. It was a very emotional moment."
The fretboard wizard soon discovered he was blessed with a natural skill. He was playing in a band and at high school events within eight months of first picking up a guitar.