music journalism

Vintersorg Interview

vintersorg
                             
By Jimmy Ness

This is the extended version of my first feature for Noisey/Vice. You can check it out here.

While you, dear reader, might have enjoyed black metal for the corpse paint, lavish leather outfits and Satan worship, if you were weird like me you listened to it for the educational value. Andreas Hedlund, also known as Vintersorg after the band he founded in 1996, sings about his passion for science, astronomy, philosophy and nature. Long before I peeled off my metal spikes and put away the impaled bovine heads, I spent hours absorbing his thought-provoking brand of metal.

The 39 year-old plays multiple instruments and leads about half a dozen other projects including Borknagar, Fission, Havayoth, Cronian and Otyg. Despite having cult status among fans, he rarely performs live and instead focuses on his job as a primary school teacher.

His music incorporates folk and progressive elements, and has been labeled everything from space metal to avant garde. But one thing is for certain, if you have never heard someone scream about Christopher Columbus over blast beat drumming, you're in for a treat.

Vintersorg recently called me from Sweden and while my 13 year-old self wept tears of joy, we chatted about being a black metal school teacher, his favourite scientific theories and man’s relationship with nature.

When did you become interested in space, science and the earth?

I guess my interest in these subjects came along with the fact that I was born, in a way. Of course I didn’t really investigate it from the very beginning. When you are a newborn, you don’t have the ability to understand who you are and what you are in this kind of world. But as soon as my mind woke up, I was very interested in all of the subjects that refer to man and nature. I live quite remotely from big cities. I live very far north in Sweden quite near the Polar Circle actually, so I’ve always had these elements around me, the elements of nature. For me I didn’t actually think of it as an interest because it was just my ordinary life. Then of course when I grew up I understood that you could choose a life from another perspective - if you are living in a big city or if you’re living out in the desert or whatever. My mind was just open from the beginning from where I was standing. As a child, you just relate to what you see around you.

Why did you start to write about this stuff in your lyrics?

I don’t know really. For me it was very natural to write about this stuff because that was the world I was growing up in. Of course when you spend so many years with these kind of surroundings you start to get more interested in them. I was learning more about nature so when you are learning more about nature, you are learning more about science. From the beginning of course I was looking at nature from a visual point of view, but after a while you start learning about the other stuff behind the obvious visual kind of things. I always felt a very strong connection with science, nature and folklore. I don’t see that they are opposites. Folklore is of course a kind of pagan belief, but they saw nature from a different perspective they didn’t know about science. I don’t blame them. I think folklore still has a place in life. Of course from our historical perspective, but also from looking at nature with a romantic perspective.   

Do you have a favourite scientific theory that you think one day might be proven to be true?

Some years ago I kind of soaked my mind with that stuff for 24 hours a day. I follow the progress in science but not as frequently as I did five, six, seven years ago. I believe Stephen Hawking’s theory called T.O.E (Theory Of Everything). I think somehow you can find out the theory that connects all of the other theories together, but that one is of course very obscure and hard to translate into our way of thinking. I think there is one great theory that will connect all the other theories. I see wholeness in everything actually.

You are a primary school teacher. What grade and what subject do you teach?

I teach children everything from when they are six years old. I teach several subjects right now.  I teach scientific stuff, I also have done some social stuff. I work all my days with children and I think that’s the best way you can have a relationship with humanity because children are so new into this world. They have all this curiosity, they are so open minded. Many adults are also open minded, but when you are a child you don’t have this baggage of cultural stuff, this baggage of religious stuff, you don’t even know what they are. I really like to work with kids because they are so curious about stuff. They want to learn. In seventh grade your mind is filled with other things, your testosterone increases [laughs].

Do any of the students, parents or teachers know that you are a progressive black metal singer?

Yup. I’m 39 years old, so I have parents that are at my age. I live in a small town so they know me perfectly. They know me as a musician and also some of them are my friends and that’s no problem. I’m a very open minded person. I’m very open with who I am and what I do. So everybody knows what I do and everybody’s cool with that. Everybody actually thinks it’s really cool to have a teacher that’s kind of a… well they think of me as a rock star, but I don’t think of me as a rock star. You know the drill.

Are you ever tempted to yell at the students in your black metal voice?

Actually I don’t really do that. Of course kids push your buttons, your invisible buttons at times. But there’s a thing that I do when I go into the school building, I remind myself that the first rule of working with kids is don’t let them push your buttons and when they try to do to it I remind myself that he or she is just trying to do that. But I’m not getting offended by it, so I stay very cool and it’s whatever. I don’t really yell at the children at school with my black metal voice but if you ask my kids at home, they may have another theory about that.

What made you choose a steady occupation over touring full time?

Because of kids again actually. I became a father 9 years ago and before that I was kind of having that debate with myself. Like am I going to become a professional musician all year long? So then I had a son and then it was not a debate for me anymore. It was very clear. It was about the time I was pursuing my teacher degree so it was very natural for me to stay at home, have my daytime job and be with my kids. Then two years later I had a daughter, so for me it’s been a very easy choice to stay at home and be with my children. But I like to do some gigs now and then. So now we are doing some festivals and stuff. With Borknagar, everybody in the band except the drummer has kids so everybody is kind of in the same position.

One of my favourite songs of yours is “The Explorer.” Can you tell us about the concept behind this song?

First of all, that album [Visions from the Spiral Generator] was kind of a leap in another direction. I wanted to make it very clear that this how I feel about life and everything. The song “The Explorer” for me is kind of a statement - that is a little bit who I am. I refer to other explorers in the lyrics a little bit, but for me I see myself as an explorer as well. I don’t know everything, I’ve never been the kind of guy that thinks “Oh, I’m the best in the world, I know everything, I have the authority to that or do this.” For me, I’m totally the opposite. I’m a little bit of a curious guy. I’m a little bit of a shy guy. I think “how is this going to work? What is this all about?” Some would see this as a kind of insecurity, but I know who I am. I always try to be a better person. I want to see how I can benefit things in the world and also that will mean I will be a better person. But also I’m totally a nature freak. I’m not a Greenpeace freak, personally I think they are using the wrong means to do their thing. I don’t quite know how to put it so let me use an example: you see a bulldozer going to put down a rainforest. They drill a hole in the bulldozer’s gas tank, so alright the bulldozer isn’t going to devastate the rainforest, but the fire will.

Your two most recent albums Jordpuls and Orkan are part of a series of four albums, one dedicated to each element of the planet. 
Why did you decide to move from space back down to earth?

For me, I couldn’t really let this kind of stuff go away. The four elements have been my guiding star since I was kid, you know. Of course the four elements in the classical theatrical way isn’t really how we see the world now days cause that’s from the old Greek stuff, but I still like the four elements as kind of a symbolic theme as to how life is built up, how we can feel it, how we can see it, hear it, everything.

You’re not the cliché black metal musician. You don’t wear corpse paint or just sing about negative themes. You’re an open-minded family man. Does that seem strange to you? 

Well I haven’t really thought about it that much. Someone would probably think that I’m not the right one for the job at some times, but on the other hand I like black metal for all of its aspects. I like death metal. I like progressive rock from the 60s and 70s. I like heavy metal from the 80s. I like so many different kinds of music, so I have never tried to adapt myself. I try to express something and I try to express it out of passion. I really feel like I have a kind of addiction to music.

Your folk band OTYG has recently reformed. Can you tell us about the line-up and if you plan to do any shows?

No shows planned at the moment, but we are doing a new album with totally brand new songs. It’s going to be something really special actually. All the members that have been in the band are going to be on the album. So the drummer from the first album is going to do like half of the album and the drummer from the second album is going to do the other half. It’s going to be a big happy family thing.

You are constantly creating new music. How do you stay inspired?

I would say you are asking the wrong guy, cause I don’t really know! I’ve been addicted to music since I was like four to six years old. I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life. I’ve been a caretaker. I’ve been a car mechanic. I’ve done so much different stuff work wise and now I’m a teacher, but music has been my best and most comforting friend since I was very young. I can’t really imagine my life without music. Some people really don’t care about music at all, but for me it’s like a drug. It’s a very friendly drug because it makes you really think and it makes you feel. I can’t explain it more than that.    

Musicians from Scandinavia always seem to have a strong connection to nature. Why do you think this is?

I don’t know really. For me, I’m so bred into it that I don’t really know how to answer. I think everybody is interested in nature, it just depends on where you are living. Here in Scandinavia there are not that much people per square mile so everybody has a relationship with nature in one form or another. But also in terms of the definition, what is nature? A city, isn’t that nature? Well from my point of view its not really, from my point of view nature is a thing that man hasn’t made, but it’s a tricky kind of question. Nature has so many elements that appeal to man. For example, you have a black forest. It appeals to a lot of emotions, so it could appeal to like fear or it could appeal to excitement. It’s totally different depending how you see it. Nature has so many things that man is dependant on and also has so many feelings wound up in it. I think it’s very natural to use that kind of force as an inspiration source.

I heard you’ve actually gone and lived in the wild before?

Yeah, between 96 and 99 I lived in a cabin in the woods. But of course I had some connection with the outside, I cut back into my small town from time to time to get some stuff but for three years I lived in an old cabin and it was actually one of the best things I could do with my life at the time.

Wow…

Yeah, and it just fulfilled my vision of how life could be. When you wake up in that old cabin, it’s 2 minus degrees indoors and you know you have to get up and make a f**king fire. [laughs] You know in the winter I had to go to the lake, and make a really big hole in the ice with an axe to get water. You know that you’re alive when you do that kind of stuff. 

The PotW Staff Remembers Their First Favorite Album


Music listeners are essentially dopamine addicts. The chemicals are secreted every time we hear a song we love.  We all remember the CD that changed us from casual listeners into audio fiends. Maybe we enjoyed the smooth grooves of a boyband or decided Sisqo had some street cred, but there’s nothing quite like discovering that life-changing album. Even if it was Creed’s greatest hits. Allow us to wax nostalgic for a second.



My introduction to music had an uncertain beginning. As an eight year old, I went through the painful process of being forced to return several albums by god-fearing parents. Targets included: Coolio for explicit language/bad hair, The Bloodhound Gang for poo jokes and boy band All-4-One, of “I Swear” fame, for sweetly harmonizing sex metaphors.

Months after letting Bryan Adams and a Christian rap tape gather dust, I sat watching Space Jam in a small theater. During the scene when a young Michael Jordan dunks, my eyes watered as I pictured myself also soaring through the air. I was blissfully unaware of a future in which I would a) still be white and b) only grow to the height of Big Sean. However, as soon as I could convince my family I wasn’t about to turn into Satan, the Space Jam soundtrack was in my uncoordinated little hands.

It was a crash course in rap and R&B, featuring everyone from Jay-Z to D’Angelo, to disappearing acts like Changing Faces and my former musical brethren All-4-One. Before his underage rendezvous gained interest, R Kelly sung his anthem “I Believe I Can Fly,” Coolio gave inspirational life advice which he clearly didn’t follow on “The Winner,” and Biz Markie met the Spin Doctors on “That’s The Way I Like It.” There was also a mysterious artist called “feat”or “ft,” who seemed incredibly prolific and appeared on almost every song. I distinctly remember telling people they were my favorite artist, until I discovered months later that “ft” was actually short for featuring.

“Hit Em High” was the album’s posse cut and undoubtedly my personal favorite. Somehow it managed to sound hardcore despite featuring no swear words, a feat even that the mighty Lil Romeo was unable to achieve. I listened to the soundtrack almost every day and could rap the lyrics word for word. My perception of music was forever altered and although my basketball career tanked, my obsession with everything audio had begun. It wasn’t until years later that my musical taste regressed to Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Oh the follies of youth.

 


Roach Gigz - Going Off

Originally published at passionweiss

by Jimmy Ness

For better or often worse, 2012 is the year of the white rapper. Roach Gigz joins the ranks of the chosen few who rhyme without catering to college bros, performing at the Gathering of the Juggalos or sounding like this. The San Francisco native was named “Roach” after the Caucasian character in Next Friday who feeds weed brownies to his dog, and for this effort he deserves a baker’s dozen of the finest space cookies.

“Going off” is simple and direct. Gigz rhymes over a mechanical beat and drops a few bars. But this isn’t a rappity-rap song by a mean-mugging street poet. Roachy Balboa is a versatile wordsmith with a sense of humor. He rhymes “I got neck two times, like a fat face” and chubby fans get their feelings hurt. With his official debut, Bugged Out coming next month, the lyrics also introduce Roach to those who aren’t part of his core Bay Area audience. We learn he’s a hippy, had a kid too early, likes Spanish girls and owns two houses. Gigz would also like to date Nicki Minaj. She would probably be terrible dinner company and speak in cartoon voices the entire time, but whatever man. 

The video is equally uncomplicated with Roach as the central figure, stop motion editing and few distractions other than some ladies and his son’s juicebox. Gigz might look like Baby Bash, but he rhymes well enough to help Kid Rock become a distant memory. The white rap OG MC Serch would be proud.

Novembre hasn't broken up

novembre band
Just a little update because I know a lot of people have been coming to this site after wondering why the band Novembre has been so quiet lately. Vocalist and guitarist Carmelo Orlando said recently that the rumors they have split up are false. He also said Novembre are revealing some "unexpected news." I have no idea what that means exactly, but the good part is the band hasn't gone anywhere yet. If you haven't read it already, check out an old interview here. Remember I wrote it about five years ago so don't judge the quality too harshly!

Future ft DJ Infamous - Itchin'

  
 By Jimmy Ness and originally published at Passionweiss

Future’s best friends are his cash, calculator and accountant. The Dungeon Family affiliate joins Mike Will Made It for another hypnotic victory lap and their money multiplies. You know how it goes. As rap’s auto-tune flame keeper, Future favours charisma and song-writing over lyricism. Heavy bass and sharp keys support lyrics about his mom telling him to hit the streets, neighbors from hell and having guns/drugs as his two main hoes. The track’s not quite as hot as jams like “Magic” or “Parachute,” which have converted non-believers (myself included) into disciples, but it’s still catchy enough to be memorable.

The video is oddly cinematic and Future’s robotic vocals work well with the paranoid concept of hustling under surveillance. FBI agents follow him as he goes about his shady dealings, raps outside a dog cage and visits the Blue Flame strip club instead of remaining inconspicuous. Ludacris has a brief cameo in the video, but he needs to stay in the studio until he creates something which makes us forget about several shit albums in a row. A Birdman hand-rub would have been 100 times more powerful.

Despite only a minimal appearance, this is actually a song by Michigan’s DJ Infamous. He does whatever rap DJ’s usually do on tracks, which is pay for them and for that we should be thankful. There’s also an “Itchin’ Remix” floating around that features a motley crew consisting of Jeezy, Young Gotti and Fabolous. Their verses aren’t anything special and Jeezy probably feels weird about Gotti impersonating him on the same track. Plus they can’t swag rap better than Juicy J or Dos Chainz so stick to the original until one of them shouts some new similes.


Onra - Deep In The Night review

onra deep in the night review

By Jimmy Ness

Deep In The Night crystallizes the cheesy but affable Romanticism of the pre-Internet world. Onra’s new EP replicates the vibe of 80s and early 90s R&B, well before it stagnated into a series of David Guetta remixes. This five-track project conjures images of Jheri Curls, New Jack Swing and synchronized dance moves — the post-disco sound complete with snappy drum beats and retro synths. There’s even an expertly played keyboard solo.

For an artist deeply inspired by nostalgia, the French Vietnamese beat-maker always experiments with new sounds and states his sole mission is progression. Yet vintage vocal samples stop the album from sounding too lonely. Rarely wading into the mainstream pop landscape, he lambently glides over funk, electro, rap, Chinese pop and even Bollywood.

Onra has vastly evolved beyond his 2006 debut, a soul-inspired hip-hop album that led to forced J Dilla comparisons. But he quickly shrugged that off when he distilled 30 vintage Chinese and Vietnamese vinyl records into the two-part Chinoiseries. People also lump him in the same category as Daft Punk because they are both French and like Funk, but Onra claims that he’s barely listened to them.

The new EP doesn’t quite match the retro revelry of the future funk of Onra's previous album Long Distance, probably because of its brief runtime and my appreciation for Earth, Wind and Fire over “Cooleyhighharmony.” But there are still some jams on here. After Hours sounds like a soundtrack to playing under sprinkling fire hydrants and the synth-heavy title song is the perfect companion to  Mobbdeen’s gay clubbing adventures. R&B hasn’t completely lost its charm.


 


Shady Blaze interview

main attrakionz

Shady Blaze spits syllables like a Gatling gun and his rapid fire flows have 90s rap fans reminiscing over smoking sessions to “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.” Despite his close friendship with fellow Oakland natives Main Attrakionz, Blaze doesn’t just make cloud-rap or whatever else avid Tumblr users want to call it. Instead the Green Ova soldier works with a variety of producers to keep his sound in constant evolution. 

His early work (and by early I mean like a year ago) stuck to traditional themes of narcotics, guns and women. But he’s recently touched on NWO conspiracies, family issues and even flirted with slow rapping like regular humans. Despite terrible phone reception and my recording software threatening to kill the interview, we talked about him wanting be a singer, his rap influences, learning the speed flow technique and meeting Main Attrakionz. He also complimented me on my questions which was the perfect confidence boost for a hung-over Sunday.

By Jimmy Ness
 
There isn’t a lot about you on the internet, tell us about yourself?

Man, I’m from East Oakland, California. I’m 24 year’s old and I’m part of Green Ova Chapter Five. I’ve been rapping since I was a little kid. Just got serious with it when I was about 19 because Main Attrakionz really pushed me to keep doing this and here I am.

Where does your rap name come from?

At first my name was Velocity, because of how fast I was. After that, Shady Blaze basically came from my friends and the streets. Shady came from the part of East Oakland I lived in. It was off of 89th Avenue and that was known as the Shady eighties. I moved from there and basically I was known as Little Shady. Blaze came from when I used to produce and make hot beats. So I just put Shady Blaze together when I first created my Twitter, but my rap name at the time was Velocity. Then everyone just started calling me Shady Blaze so I just went with that.

How did you start rapping?

I’m not going to lie to you, at first I wanted to be a singer. When I was a little kid I wanted to sing. At the age of 11, I realized I wasn’t good enough to be a singer. I couldn’t sing for shit. Then when I moved to 89th Avenue in Oakland, I met a lot of friends there who were really into hip-hop and they kind of introduced me to it. I started copying them and writing raps and rapping on the street. We were making little songs on little cassette tapes. We would play an instrumental on another radio and record to it. We just played it to everyone and from there I’ve just been rapping ever since.

Did you come from a musical family?

My dad is a singer. He’s got his own studio. I didn’t really know him when I was little. I didn’t know anything about him. My mom happened to run into him again and I met him when I was 14 and he had a studio up and he was making his own music, he was doing shows and all of that. [The father of Shady Blaze is a traditional R&B singer named Supa Jay]

Who influenced your rapid-fire style?

It’s got to be Bone Thugs N Harmony. But when I first got hooked on rap, I was listening to a lot of Ca$h Money. Juvenile, BG, Lil Wayne, Young Turk, Big Tymers. That’s all I listened to.

Then I found a CD in my stepdad’s car and it was Bizzy Bone’s Heaven’z Movie. I was just going through it and listening like hmm let me just see what’s on here. And I listened to “When Thug’s Cry” and I didn’t know the song, but I recognized it so I listened again. I was like 14 year’s old at the time. The fast rap just caught me. I was like man this is incredible so I started listening to his other stuff. I took it to school one day and I’m like “ya’ll know this guy right here?” and they were like “yeah it’s Bizzy Bone, he’s from Bone Thugs N Harmony.”

My friends were telling me Bone Thugs N Harmony just dropped a new album called BTNHResurrection. So I went to the store fast and picked that up and became a big BTNH fan. I started buying all their old stuff Art Of War, East 1999, all of it, Faces Of Death. I’ve got everything. I just started listening to them and it just spoke to me. But then their fast rap kind put me on to Tech N9ne and Twista and D-Loc and Dalima and all those fast rappers. It just started catching me and then I started doing it.

Did people think you were copying or biting their style when you started rhyming fast?

I experienced a lot of it. At first it got to me. At first you want to click everybody that says something and start typing back to them fast and hit them back up. But at the same time, the deeper you get in the game the more people are gunna come at you. So you just have to start learning how to accept it, how to take it. I would just stick to myself.

People can stay he’s biting their style, he’s biting this style. But the game got to evolve man. They did their thing. They influenced me to do it, and want to be not like them, but to do music the way they did it. It’s cool to me. I love doing it. I love their style. I love the way they make their music. It makes me feel good when I’m making my own, you know what I mean?

How did you learn the fast rapping technique?

That’s crazy you asked that because I’m going to be real. When I first listened to Bone Thugs N Harmony, I was like they rap so fast! So I never understood what they were saying at first. But I just loved the way they did their thing and I started with Bizzy Bone. I had a cassette tape player, so I would record his CD to a tape. You could play it back and rewind it and slow it down, you could make it go slower. So I would write down each lyric he would say and as I would play it back at regular speed I would start rapping with him trying to see if I could keep up. At first it was hard, but as I started memorizing those words I started getting it down and I started writing my own fast raps after that.

You also slow down and rhyme normally on some of your tracks as well?

To be honest with you, it started in 2011 – when I actually started to rap fast. Before that I was rapping slow. That’s what is crazy. It all started because of my homie Squadda B from Main Attrakionz. He hit me up and was like “there’s a group out there called Children of the Corn and they remind me of your style.” I guess they were on some fast rap type of stuff. Then the next day he sent me a beat and I just started rapping fast. When we made the song it was called “Dirt On My Name.” After that, he just started sending me a bunch of beats and we made Shady Bambino.

It dropped February 2011 on greenovamusic.bandcamp.com and it was just fast raps on that. That’s what really put me out there. That’s what really got me noticed, Squadda B’s beats and the fast raps. So I stuck with it. I didn’t really go back to doing slow raps. But now and then, yeah I do slow raps. It depends on the beat and how I feel.

Do you make music full time or work on the side?

Nah, I do music full time. Actually I’m not even really making that much money to be honest. I’m not doing that many shows, but when you do a show you get paid this and that. Basically I’m living with my girl to be honest and she’s paying, she’s paying for the rent, she paying all that. I’m just going from studio to studio you know what I mean? I’m not working. I’m not doing anything. I’m just recording.

What do you think of the music scene in the Bay Area?

Right now, there are a lot of different styles in the Bay Area. It’s just our radio people are getting paid to play just one type of music. There are so many different styles and so many talented rappers that are not getting known and not getting looked at because they are coming up from nothing. Like Biggie and Pac and shit, we are coming from nothing right now but that’s not what the radio wants to see. They want to see people who have got the money already. People who have got the money to pay the radio stations to play their music over and over again. And people who are tying to come up don’t get noticed because of that. It kinda sucks out here, but that Hyphy shit was cool. That was a movement. The DJs were playing it all over.

How did you link up with Main Attrakionz?

I had just turned 15 year’s old. They were 12 when I met them. I met them through a friend. I produced at first, I didn’t rap. I had a keyboard and everything at my mom’s house in this little garage. One of my friends hit me up and was like “there are these two kids and they are dope at rapping, we are going to bring them over.” We went over there to pick them up and it was Squadda and Mondre. We came up with the name Main Attrakionz. We were all Main Attrakionz as a group. I didn’t see them again for about four years and when I met back up with them they were Main Attrakionz. They kept the name.

You guys mention Green Ova a lot and also release albums under the Green Ova name, what is it?

Green Ova is a family. You know what I mean? A bunch of guys, we grew up together and we trying to survive out here. No matter what we go through, we have to get money and make sure we are good. So that’s basically it. When you hear Green Ova that’s all you really need to know, get money and survive. Aint doing stupid stuff, getting locked up, getting into a beef situation or any of that. We are just doing us. The members of it are just Squadda B, Mondre, Dope G, LOLO and then me. That’s the Green Ova chapters, one to five.

As far as a record label, Main Attrakionz basically started this whole thing. If it wasn’t for them I basically wouldn’t be rapping right now, I’m going to be honest with you. I would not be rapping.

Producer Ryan Hemsworth said in an interview that you and Main Attrakionz were fastest working artists he knew. You went through a period of constantly dropping new albums but you’ve slowed down recently, why is that?

[Laughs] Oh man, you ask some good questions. The time when I was recording and dropping back to back mixtapes, I didn’t care about the mixing process. I didn’t care about any of that. I just wanted to get the songs out, you know what I mean? All of that backfired on me you know cause Shady Bambino was cool, it sounded good but Shady Business that was just awful. That was a half-ass album.

And then from all the blogs and the critics and everything, I learned that it was quality over quantity. You got to make sure your songs sound good before you put them out. I used to just put my songs out just because I did it, instead of putting time into it. That’s why we have to slow the writing process and make sure everything actually sounds good before we put it out for the public.

You touch on some political themes and personal stuff in your music?

It’s just me being real man. A lot of the times when I’m in the studio, I’m in there alone. It’s just me. I just sit in there listening to the beat for so long and I just start thinking there’s so much going on in the world today that shouldn’t be happening. Everything feels funny to me. Everything in the world when it comes to the radio, the videos, everything just looks so funny to me. If it’s funny, I just have to express myself and how I feel about it.

And my family, they go through problems as well. I don’t want to say that when you go through so many problems you write better music but it happens ya know?

You work with a lot of different producers?

I work with so many producers because I put my email on Twitter and everybody hits me up with beats. And there are so many feels and styles and so many different types of rap I can do. They are not out yet but they will be out. I don’t like sounding the same on a track, if you get a rapper that sounds the same on every track you get bored after a while. I love coming different and I love trying different things because if it’s boring for the public, it’s boring for me. So the only answer is to try something new.

You’re making a new mixtape with Deniro Farrar?

Yeah at first it was an EP, but with all the songs we got now it will be like a project.

Deniro said you haven’t actually met in person?

Yeah, we never met. Basically I was on the internet and his manager contacted me. He said he had a song with Deniro Farrar on it and it was the “NWO” track with [producer] Nem270. I listened to the verse and I was like this is deep, I should get with it. So I wrote my verse for it and after listening to the whole song I realized me and him had the same look on what was happening in the world, government and all of that. So we did a second song and I was like damn this chemistry is like really building up. So it’s crazy because he sees the same shit I see and he’s not even around me, he’s from the East Coast and I’m from over here, the West Coast. To see other people feel the same way I do, that’s deep. I feel like I’m not the only one. I don’t feel like I’m insane, like damn this shit is real. So we both make music and we might as well start this revolution. Get people to rock with us. Let’s do it.

What are the world views that you and Deniro share?

Fucked up government man. Shit isn’t fair for people. Some people starve, some people are hungry and poor as hell and then you got the rich people who don’t even pay for shit. Everything’s backwards in the world today man. I’m not saying I’m going to be on the one to put shit back together, but I’m not going to stand here and just watch it happen. I’m going speak my mind about it. I’m not trying to be a superhero or nothing, save the world and shit, I know I can’t do that. But at the same time, shit going on in the world is looking stupid man.

What do you want to achieve with your career?

I want to do this long term because I love doing it. I love being able to express myself in music and get paid for it, you feel me? At the end of the day it’s all fun, you can have the shows, you can have the videos. I’m going to be doing this for a long time for sure. I definitely don’t want to go to working in a warehouse or no McDonald’s making hotdogs or hamburgers and shit. This is definitely the real deal. Anyone that says they rap and they don’t want to make money off it, they lying. I for sure want to make this a career, this is cool.




Onra - L.O.V.E

Onra - L.O.V.E
Originally published at passionweiss
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By Jimmy Ness
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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.
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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.
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Deniro Farrar - Play No Games


By Jimmy Ness

Smashed buildings, muddy water and sledgehammers. “Play No Games” is rugged imagery on a gritty and grey specrum. Deniro Farrar locks eyes with the viewer and rhymes about poverty. It’s an overused subject, but he speaks without a trace of pretentious bravado or corny consciousness.

No witty punchlines, no preachiness, no swag. Just compelling rhymes. Farrar wears a weathered sports cap and dirty boots as he raps about alcohol addiction and death. “Sick and tired of funerals and going to these wakes. Killing off each other, while they laugh in our face.” His raps are straightforward and his intentions are clear: he simply wants to tell his story.

Halifax producer Ryan Hemsworth’s thumping minimal beat is something you’d expect The Weekend to wail hipster drug tales over. Yet it somehow works for Farrar’s precise delivery. A haunting How To Dress Well sample repeats itself and the song reeks of hopelessness. As “Play No Games” ends, Deniro throws his hands in the air and walks away, having experienced the track’s despair personally in Charlotte’s housing projects. It’s struggle rap at its finest.

DJ Carnage Interview


Originally published at Passionweiss
DJ Carnage is a young producer who doesn’t care about old school rap values. He’ll make authentic gutter music for grill wearers and annoy them next week with poppy dubstep. Sneaking on the internet radar after producing Kreyashawn’s collaboration with Theophilus London “Shrimp Pt.2”, his uniquely rhythmic bass obviously stood out and he’s continued to carve a creative sound, whether working with the A$AP crew or remixing Beyonce.The DC native is also a charismatic rapper who smiles in all of his music videos and swears too much during interviews. We talked on a fuzzy phone line about working with the A$AP Rocky, smelling manure in Maryland and his varied production style.

By Jimmy Ness

What have you been doing at Coachella?
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Man, I’ve been out here on the Borgore tour. You know, I’ve been on the bus with Document One and Borgore and we have been doing shows and shows and shows. One of the stops on Borgore’s tour is Coachella. We’ve been watching other shows too, it’s pretty cool. I watched Rehab yesterday. I also watched Feed me, Madeon, Afrojack and we watched Swedish House, oh and The Black Keys.
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I read on Twitter, you said Kendrick Lamar sounded a bit like DMX?
Kendrick ….uh yeah when he was rapping he was very grungy, I don’t know. I can’t do real hiphop music, like I can’t listen to it. It has to be fast or obnoxiously stupid or something. I don’t know, I just can’t sit there and listen to someone try to be lyrical. You know, I just can’t do it.

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.
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How did you start making music?
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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.
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How would you describe your sound?
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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?
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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.
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A few years ago you flew to Hawaii and watched Kanye make a beat for My Dark Twisted Fantasy?
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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.
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How do you and Kreyashawn know each other?
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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”.
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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.
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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$AP Ant.
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One of my favorite tracks you’ve produced is “Tell ya” with A$AP Ant and Bodega Bams. How did that come about?
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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.
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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.
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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?”
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What do you want to achieve from your career?
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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.



A$AP Ant and Bodega Bamz - Told Ya (Produced By DJ Carnage)


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.

Tree - Sunday School review


By Jimmy Ness

Despite blessing himself with one of the most un-googleable names imaginable, the sample-warping Chicago producer/rapper Tree is intriguing. He sounds like an injured donkey but also boasts a deep singing voice. His bizarre drawl is singular but bears a resemblance to Danny Brown, Z-Ro, and Pastor Troy. He flips soul records like a traditionalist, but he sounds little like a traditionalist. He’s not the most eloquent rapper, but he’s relatable, charismatic and a great producer. His new mixtape is a lot better than the alternate Sunday school where you inevitably fell asleep or were invited to nerdy prayer parties.

The album initially takes a while to process because it’s hard to take Tree’s break-neck voice in large doses. But “Die” is an immediate stand out. The chorus “Lord, don‘t let me die, man’ hits anyone who has clung to religious notions when life is going downhill. This struggle with religion defines much of the album’, particularly on “All” and “Chuch” where Tree questions whether he is a good person despite being a piff-puffin’, lady lovin’ sinner. Later in the mixtape, his lyrics invoke personal moments including loneliness, fighting with his brother, and being poor. It’s compelling, but unfortunately, there’s not a lot of it. Luckily, his charm carries the rote gangsterisms that it often falls back on.


Tree isn’t a perfect rapper. His vocab is simple and some of his rhymes are little more than struggle rap without the narrative. He also follows in the hefty footsteps of Rick Ross circa “Hustlin,” by rhyming the same word with itself about five times. But like ODB before him, there’s something unique about Tree that makes the clumsiness enjoyable. ‘Talkin’ Naples, Naples, Italy and Caicos, my homies riding horses,’ is my favorite line from the album and a ridiculous attempt at bravado. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but imagine a 90′s Snoop Dogg riding a galloping white stallion while eating a croissant.

Tree doesn’t have to rap fast or super-technical to be interesting. He’s simply a fun listen and judging by his thoughtful demeanor during interviews his unique sound was definitely a planned decision. “Couple of niggaz don’t like my shit, but a couple of these niggaz don’t write my shit,” his raspy voice proclaims on “Doo Doo” before launching into more simple memorable rhymes. The line works as a mission statement: you might not like Tree’s style, but it’s original and difficult to emulate.

Sunday School is self-produced and Tree’s beat-making game is sharp. He chops vocals in a different way than most soul samplers: often just looping one or two hypnotic words which relate to the song’s theme. Instead of drowning us with overplayed Amy Winehouse or Aretha Franklin samples, he uses just a smidgen of their voice to much greater effect than every boring snap-backer jumping on an Adele chorus. Tree also knows how to compliment his voice with odd tempos and sudden beat changes which make you listen more closely. GLC’s feature on “Texas Tea” is a memorable example simply because of how the music changes with his performance.

Tree might be struggling to explain away his sins, but I’m pleased he found stolen equipment to practice his divinity skills on. If you need further convincing on MC perennial woody plant, listen for the nice production and appreciate the rest later. Don’t be fooled by first impressions, King Louie and Chief Keef aren’t the only Chicago rappers worth checking for.

Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath) interview


Before auto-tune, MTV and million dollar deals for mentioning your favorite skin care product on Twitter, bands were just a group of guys with long hair, guitars and lots of drugs. Musician Glenn Hughes spoke to Groove Guide magazine about being in Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, and living to tell the tale.

By Jimmy Ness

Despite dodging a drug-fuelled death, bass player and vocalist Glenn Hughes is completely honest about his time with two of most infamous rock bands.

“Along came the birds, and then came the dealers, then the dealer comes along with something called Cocaine, which nobody knew about, and it was kinda like a party favorite on a Friday night. Have a couple of lines,” Hughes recalls in his strong British accent.

“Some of us didn’t make it. Some of us got addicted. Some of us ended up dead. And you’re talking to one guy that survived. That’s really my story in a nutshell."


Deep Purple recruited Hughes in 1973 and he brought a unique funk sound to their next four albums. Legendary 'Smoke On The Water' guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was reportedly unhappy with the new direction and quit two years later.

Hughes says he was unaware of any issues with his Motown-influenced style.

"It was bizzare because you know we never really discussed the funky stuff until he left the band. They knew what they were getting into when they asked me to join. I'm a very groove orientated bass player."

Ex-vocalist David Coverdale and the other band members remain friends with Hughes, but he isn't exactly on sociable terms with Blackmore.
"The bizzare thing is, I haven't spoken to him since 1977. And people scratch their heads at that.

"He's unapproachable and unreachable. I can't control the way he thinks or whatever he does, but he's just not a happy go-lucky kind of guy."
The band split in 1976 due to the overdose of guitarist Tommy Bolin and fighting between band members.

They reunited with their original line-up in 1984, but Hughes had moved on to other projects.
Shady music manager Don Arden aka "The Al Capone of Pop" recruited him into Black Sabbath for their 1986 album 'Seventh Star'.

"He came to me in this big Rolls Royce and told me he was going to make me a star," Hughes jokes in his best gangster-sounding Arden impersonation.

"He wanted me to be in Electric Light Orchestra but I actually got out of it because he tried to force me in, I was frightened of him."

Seventh Star was intended to be the first solo album by guitarist Tommy Iommi, but Arden pressured them into calling it a Black Sabbath record with Hughes substituting Ozzy Osbourne as lead singer.

Replacing a legendary front man is anything but easy, Glenn says.

"Of course it's difficult stepping into Ozzy's shoes because I don't sound like him.

"He sounds very monotonous and very one tone, while my voice is sort of multi-coloured."

Only a few shows later, Hughes was fired because he lost his voice from throat injuries he sustained while fighting their tour manager.

After decades of being sober, he says he's a different person compared to his younger self.

"I lived below a dark cloud... I don't remember the eighties. Let's just say I've become involved in my own life."

Glenn crashed into the music scene at full pace, but he's not a burnt-out former addict.

His revitalized career has produced 18 solo albums amongst other projects including Tommy Iommi's 2005 Fused, this time without the forced Black Sabbath moniker.

As our interview shifts to other subjects including modern music and Glenn's fascination with Twitter, it becomes more obvious this old rock-star still has plenty of energy.

And despite any mistakes, Hughes is adament he wouldn't change a thing.

"I think I've sort of come out of the trenches pretty well. I've never been someone who has regrets."

Whatever you do, don’t funk with my crew: THEEsatisfaction



By Jimmy Ness

Originally published at passionweiss

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.