Friday, September 18, 2009
Earlier in the week I had a chance to interview one of my favorite MC's....Tunji. I interviewed him back in 2007-08 when Inverse was just starting to make some noise...what more do I need to say?
me: Last time I interviewed you was the end of 2007, tell us what's been goin’ on with you and your crew?
Tunji: Well, a lot has changed since then...My group Inverse put out two projects - So Far (The Collection) in early '08 and and So True EP in early '09 - and a music video this summer that won a big contest on MTVU. But we're actually working separately now, on solo projects. So I'm pretty much just focusing on getting my solo stuff out there in the near future and building the Tunji name and brand.
me: Solo project? Is that what you've got on deck next? Tell us about that!
Tunji: Well, I can't really tell you too much about it because I'm still very much in the beginning stages of planning and writing, but it feels really good right now. I'm working with a lot of the same people who we worked with for Inverse, and a bunch of new faces as well. I'll probably actually end up releasing a free project first, with some stuff people have heard and some new exclusive music, and then follow it up with a more official EP or album soon after. I'm still figuring it all out, but I'm pretty sure I'll put a project out before '09 is over.
me: Definitely excited about that. We've seen you feature on a few prominent LP's such as Keelay & Zaire's debut...what is the process you take for making collaborations happen?
Tunji: Man, honestly, I just work with my friends...I'm a pretty social person, and I actually work in the industry, so I just meet a lot of people who make music and end up becoming cool with them. Then they might hear some of my stuff and think its dope, and a collaboration comes out of it. I'm not the type to collab with people I don't know. There has to be some sort of personal connection with who I'm working with or it just doesn't feel right.
me: On that note, what kind of advice can you give to a fledgling rapper who's trying to make it in the business these days?
Tunji: Basically, work hard as hell. Both at your craft and your promotion of the music you're making. Meet every single person you can in your city, on every level of music. That's producers, promoters, other rappers, other musicians who don't even make hip hop...just meet EVERYBODY. Make connections, and get online. The internet is the greatest marketing tool in the history of indie music, but you have to take advantage of the tools provided and present yourself in a unique and professional way
me: Definitely. What are some of your highlighted albums of 2009?
Tunji: This has been the year of the mixtape. Drake, J. Cole, TiRon Pac Div and Diz Gibran all put out incredible mixtapes. Drake's is easily my most played and favorite hip hop record of the year... Some of the veterans came back with good stuff too. I liked Em's album, Rae's album is insane. I enjoyed the Slaughterhouse and Fabolous albums a lot too. Jay's album really disappointed me. But yeah, as far as my favorites...it's all those mixtapes from rookies. I know I'm forgetting something... Oh, I forgot about Brother Ali's EP. That was great too. and Mos Def's The Ecstatic. Right now I love this group from Sweden called Little Dragon...it's like really quirky trip hop, but superdope. Maxwell's new album is really dope. Mayer Hawthorne's album is absolutely wonderful.and I'm late, but The Wire is the greatest show.....EVER
me: I tried w/ the wire, but couldn't do it.
me: Slept through the first few eps!
Tunji: :-o!!!!!!!!!!! :-/
me: I heard it picks up around s.3?
Tunji: Dude, season one is the ish...Season 2 was the boring one.
me: Forreal? Everyone was saying it was dope so I copped the whole series…couldn't get past ep 3
Tunji: man, are we talking about the same show?
me: The wire, right?
Tunji: cops drug dealers? in baltimore? hahaha
me: I have to recheck then
Tunji: You like Entourage, right?
me: Yeah, only show I'm following
Tunji: okay, we agree there then. haha
me: lol. Nah, i thought something was wrong ‘cause I was the only dude who didn't feel the first few eps…and I really like gangster flicks AND drug dealer entertainment. Anyway, thanks for the interview fam! Always fun.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Today’s interview feature is with both friend and peer, Jennifer aka toki aka TOKiMONSTA. She’s known most notably as the first lady of Brainfeeder (Flying Lotus’ “squad” consisting of artists such as Samiyam, Ras G, Gas Lamp Killer, Mono/Poly, Teebs, Lorn, etc.) and is best known for her infectious melodies and creative glitch use. She’s definitely one to watch and it’s exciting to see her make moves in the LA scene.
State Ya' Name, gangsta:
TOKiMONSTA aka toki aka Jennifer Lee
What hood do you represent?
Race/color/ethnicity all have no bearing on making great music, but to finally clarify to the people...what nationality are you?
What inspired you to start making Hip-hop? A form a music which is traditionally portrayed by the media as misogynistic towards women:
When you have an understanding for how the culture is, men show the biggest support for females that can hold their own. Hip-hop has this really magnetic essence that's raw and yet it maintains this nonchalant artistic integrity—I want to use my musicality to be apart of this.
Seeing as you're from the South Bay area, does your location factor into your creativity? Meaning, does the city you live in influence your music at all?
Well, the general South Bay area has been the home of many dope hip hop artists, but there's not much going on in Torrance. I think it's the lack thereof that has forced me to reach out and gain creativity from other areas---not just LA, but the world.
Does identifying as a Korean-American, play a significant role in your life as an artist? Being Korean myself, I remember being forced into piano lessons and hating music when I was young. Have you experienced much of the same?
The 10 years of retarded classical piano lessons actually turned out to be one of the best things I was ever forced to endure. Being K-A is probably the driving force behind my mentality towards my music. Without trying to generalize, the Korean culture is very pride-based and we tend to feel the need to prove ourselves to the rest of the world—disprove of any doubts regarding what we are capable of. I think that’s what happens after centuries of oppression and control by outside forces. I will never be able to shake the feeling that I need to affirm that I'm a legit producer and not just a gimmick.
What it is like trying to do music full time? Do you get pressure from your parents at all (as typical Asian parents expect you to graduate from college and have a flourishing career as a dr. or lawyer) to just get a day job and do music for fun? What would you say to those who look to you as inspiration? Meaning, if there's another Korean-American female who wants to pursue what you do, what would you say to her?
My family was tripping in the beginning, but now they are fully supportive of my music. Especially since they know that I've tried the white collar work route—working 10 hour salaried corporate positions—and it just wasn't cracking for me. I have to admit the money was nice, but now I'm 100% in love with what I do. If there's anyone of any nationality that has a passion they want to pursue, just do it. It's cliché, but don't live your life wondering, "What if?" If you fail, you will make due with your losses and move on with life as it would've been.... but you will know you tried.
As a gearhead myself, what are you using to make your music?
Without getting too into specifics: PC for production, Mac for live performances, vinyl, an array of diff midi controllers (pads, keyboards, effects), mixer, portable digital condenser mic for real life sampling, my clarinet, piano, these 2 weird wooden wind instruments, SP404, and anything I can bang on for percussion.
I've recently noticed that you're repping the Brainfeeder crew. How did you come to hook up with Flying Lotus and co.?
I guess it was just the course of nature bringing like-minded people together. I didn't see it coming though. It's made a big impact in a short period of time and I'm really appreciative of everyone.
What does it feel like to get recognized in such a short amount of time? Do you get recognized walking down the street these days?
HA. Most people still have a hard time grasping that I make beats. Also, LA is flooded with talented people. You can go anywhere and see your favorite emcee/producer/dj just floating around in the crowd—If you even know what they actually look like.
Now that you have the outlet, when should we expect a full length TOKiMONSTA LP?
I can't say I know exactly when, but I'm hoping sometime early next year. I have a few other things coming out in the meantime, but I realize none of these are stateside. So, I may do a private press/digital release in the meantime
I saw that you've also done tracks (in FlyLo fashion) for local LA rappers such as Surrilla and Dumbfoundead, but do you differentiate what beats become TOKi tracks and which ones become rap beats?
To be honest, I don't work with emcees lately because of the nature of my music. Surrilla and Dumb are great friends of mine, so I've made exceptions to contribute to their body of work. The music I contribute to emcees is different than my personal instrumental work--it's more boom bappy. I haven't grown out of that style either.. I go back here and there. I have musical ADD.
Do you have any other passions other than music?
I love to cook and bake. I'm a foodie in the least pretentious sense of the word. Also, I draw and paint--which is my refuge from my occasional music blocks. In addition to all that, I'm big on fashion. I think I check more fashion blogs than music—what can I say? Fashion and shopping is another creative outlet.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Today was spent interviewing an mc/producer from the Athletic Mic League (my favorite Michigan rap crew), 14KT.
You can find his quick biography here.
Descry: State ya name and where are you from?
KT: 14KT, I'm from Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Descry: You spoke to Potholes briefly about the album with Othello, how far is that in terms of being released?
KT: We're still developing concepts for songs, but we do have a title and were about 8-9 joints deep! Should be done by top of next year hopefully!
Descry: Speaking of new one...you just dropped Nowalataz which received alot of praise on twitter. How do you feel about the immediate access you have to your fans through social media?
KT: Much love to EVERYONE who showed love on the nowalataz album! I think that the immediate access to fans is a great networking tool. I actually tested the nowalataz album out using nothing, but social media to get the word out. I was hoping that if people liked the album, word of mouth would carry it into its success. So far so good. Thank you everyone!
Descry: From a producer to another producer, what are equipment are you using? Do you quantize? What are some of your go to pieces?
KT: I'm using adobe audition, a few synth vsts, motif, turntables, bass, guitar, percussion, and still getting feet wet with Reason. Naw, I don't quantize. My go to pieces are records. I try not to sample sometimes, but vinyl is my vice.
Descry: Do you have a day job? if so, how do you juggle between life and music?
KT: Naw, no day job. Since 06', when I finished college, nothing but music full-time and boy has it been hard..
Descry: Do you have any other passions other than music?
KT: That's a good question. I'm still in the soulsearching phase, but I do have a love for God so I've been thinking of ways to apply whatever my skills are to living more for God. Also, I have a passion for investing and entrepreneurship. I like coming up with ideas/concepts for businesses and projects.
Descry: What's some advice you can give to other producers? Any particular ways to give out beat CDs or the like?
KT: My only advice is to embrace your uniqueness as a person and learn how to incorporate that into your style of production. Also, learn music theory so you can expand on your ideas with production and work better with other musicians.
As far as beat cds, I've tried many methods and some work for different situations. I usually work on beats for a certain artist and send them the joints personally. If I don't do that, I make a small batch of beats and send them to a list of cats. Not really up on just giving out beat cds bcuz cats just leak/bootleg the ish, therefore making it hard for you to get work bcuz artists already heard the. That's something I really hate about the music production game.
Descry: Thanks KT, always a pleasure!
KT: Thank you for taking time out to interview a brother. I really appreciate it!!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
New York City...birthplace of hip-hop. The standard makers for the music I fell in love with--hip-hop. Today features an interview with a Bronx born MC/Producer named 6th Sense who is definitely on the next level.
Co-signed by everyone from Mick Boogie to internet tastemakers like Eskay, 6th Sense is definitely someone you should be checking for!
me: We've been seeing you on a lot of production duties lately. Are you starting to shift your attention away from MCing?
6th: I started off '09 with a resolution of sorts to give the proper attention to my production. I still rhyme though. There are small pieces here and there that have popped up, and there's more to look forward to.
me: Word, I've seen a mpc1000 in a couple of the videos online. Is that your main weapon of choice—any other pieces that you co-sign?
6th: Yeah the MPC1000 is the baby. Not to knock the software out there, I just like the mental process of sequencing drums on the MPC as opposed to clicking the mouse. It's also easy to travel with. I use Reason to play sounds into Pro Tools. There are some other odds and ends that I dabble with, but that's pretty much the core for my basement setup.
me: Any swing settings or other tips you recommend for newer producers who want to get a mpc1000?
6th: None in particular.
me: I'm from the west coast, so besides the cats you work with like Outasight, Fresh
Daily, and Kid Daytona...who else should I be checking for?
6th: That's funny you mention Fresh, cause me and Fresh never did anything together, although he did play me something he did to a beat of mine. Maybe we'll do some music in the future. As far as other folks to check for, just check for everyone that will be on "It's A 6th Sense Mixtape Yo!!" that will be coming out soon.
me: Hmm, I think he showed me that track as well. Didn’t know you didn’t get up in the lab with him.
6th: I think it was called "Gutter Man"
me: Yeah, something like that.
6th: Shout out to Fresh Daily and the whole AOK, great people.
me: Do you have an exact date for the new mixtape?
6th: Not at the moment. Just tying up the last bits and pieces of it. There's a whole lot of material on it. I'd say it's looking at a late October release.
me: Word, thanks for the time homie!
6th: Not a problem. Any time.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I was chillin' w/ the homie One Be Lo, and we got into a discussion about various projects/trading ideas to see how we could smash on you foos for 2010. What resulted at the end of that discussion is this a quick impromptu video interview (conducted with my Blackberry Curve, so excuse the poor quality).
In the video he talks about his anticipated album entitled, B.A.B.Y. (being a black youth), a new Binary Star project (of which I'm helping engineer some of the beats... 'Lo produced some incredible joints), an album with Black Milk (the bonus track on Black Milk's Popular Demand is a track from these sessions), Bean One, a project with Zumbi from Zion-I, various other collaborations, and a brand new show set in the works that I can guarantee will blow your mind.
As was leaked early in September 2009, Pigs is a track that was recorded during the B.A.B.Y. sessions and features Mike Posner on vox. The album itself is amazing and hasn't left my car stereo since 'Lo dropped it off a week ago. It's gonna be released on the MYX Music label and features a host of great underdog MC's and vocalists. Rappers like Freeway (it's the ROC!), Phonte, Jean Grae, Longshot, Supastition, and other dope, DOPE cats rip their features with swift ninja-like skills. Producer Eric G is a relative new comer to the scene, but he contributes ALL of the beats...ALL of them. A few live musicians were contacted as well to really the album some edge, guys like Miles Bonney easily weave through Eric G's production and add great sparkle to beats that already shine...anyhow, enough about that...onto the interview!
Friday, September 4, 2009
Today's interview is with quadruple threat (programmer, DJ, MC, producer), Virgin Island born, hip-hop artist--Insight. He has been releasing music since 1997 and has a staggering 60 releases under his discography. He has done music for and/or recorded with: KRS One, Consequence, Ed Og, Mr Lif, Edan, OC, Opio, AG, and more.
This guy was the first one to ever teach me about the music business (back in...2003) and how to keep moving in such a fast paced industry. I owe alot of my industry knowledge to this guy! Check out a quick conversation we had in AIM (AOL Instant Messsenger) about what he's been up to lately.
Check out his site or blog for more info!
me: Yo, ‘sight
insight: Yooo. Sup kid, I’m in
me: haha, I knew you were somewhere—world traveler
insight: lol. I’ve been busy programming a VST that has an iPhone version, but its 16 tracks with time stretch, automation and a sampler.
me: sounds similar to FXpansion’s Guru?
insight: This is a step sequencer with swing settings that is touch based. It also has an internal puncher, compresser, and effects and a sequencer. I’ve been [working on this project] so I can do music 100 percent without worrying about financial stability.
me: So, your vst, you're a programmer and a rapper? How do they go hand in hand How did you get into programming?
insight: I started out as an artist, DJ and producer. Instead of simply being a producer, I wanted to create a machine. Instead of being limited to functions in particular software, I wanted to develop my own. There is nothing wrong with having goals greater than your reach. By working towards those dreams, I still arrived to a new territory. I believe that since music will become more interactive, programming builds the bridge to it's future. Society is ready. Music files should include other interactive forms of media…especially since we have devices capable of handling and syncing technologies. When I say that the music should be interactive, it's that simple
me: Will you also be including new insight music in the VST package?
insight: I will feature some songs in the vst as demos
me: How did you come to learn programming languages? Which ones are you most adept in?
insight: One big thing that got me into programming was a C toolkit called Juce.
But now I only code using C, C++ or Objective C. I started programming php, mysql and actionscript when Flash was Flash Paper. That was almost nine years ago. Three years ago I started learning C, and I also started programming basic midi applications. Although my goal then was a full fledged sequencer, I didnt know how much information I’d really need. So, I started programming basic windows applications. A year an a half ago, I got a mac, and learned objective C
insight: No doubt bro!
me: What's your direction after the VST is finished?
insight: Some big companies want me to develop applications based on music synthesis. But another Insight album will drop at the same time due to the unsteadiness of the music industry. Something like a co-release with the VST will greatly help the marketing of the new product.
me: Are you still using the mpc 3000?
insight: Yes 3000, although I've been using whatever I'm around.
me: What're some tips you can give to a cat who just finds himself on the 3k or any other drum machine?
insight: Use swig functions more!
me: What're some swing settings you'd recommend?
insight: Experiment with adjusting start time offset to allow drums to punch more, but understand that simply syncing sounds with the machine using midi, wont actually give you the benefit of the machines quality. Understand that simply syncing sounds with the machine using midi, won’t actually give you the benefit of the machines quality.
me: Do you shift in step edit, or do you do it manually?
insight: That depends. I prefer precisely placed patterns so I do drums manually, then go in and manipulate things further to match the samples.
Thanks for the time! Always appreciate it ‘Sight
insight: No doubt bro!
insight: No doubt bro!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The first interview of the series kicks off with my dude from NYC, Outasight. This east coast native has seen a lot in the past few months. There's so much back story about the past few months...where do I begin?
In any case, he just dropped a new track yesterday (September 02, 2009) entitled "Downtown In My Mind" produced by D/Will...so, I took the time to catch up with him this morning.
What's up OU? Right off the bat as a fan....I gotta ask, where's your album [From Here To Eternity] at? I was hoping my summer bbq's would be filled with your music playing in the background.
Well, thank you for the props…The album is just taking time in terms of distribution and getting the right people behind it. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait. When I drop my album, I want it to be done the right way, so as many people as possible can hear it….
You leaked Downtown in My Mind yesterday, what's the story behind the track?
Downtown in My Mind is a joint that reflects when someone who wants to get away from everything, including their own thoughts. I’m a New York City cat, so downtown is a place of vibrancy, a place that is different than say the usual drudges of everyday hustle. Going downtown in your mind is basically opening yourself up from those routine moments…
We've seen you and 6th Sense collaborate on a ton of tracks, how did that initial meeting come about?
6th and I met last December through a mutual friend by the name of Black Element. We live in the same area and are both music geeks, so we hit it off right away and have been making music ever since.
We've also seen a good friend, Cook Classics, on a few of your tracks as well. Matter of fact, I think "What I Know" is my favorite song in 2009. How did that relationship develop?
Cook and I met through 6th actually, as Cook was in NYC at the Knitting Factory at a small show 6th had put together. I rocked a song or two and afterwards Cook and I chopped it up. He sent me some joints the next day and I knew he was a monster from then on. We got a lot of dope joints people haven’t even heard yet, some really big stuff. Cook is definitely the homie too for allowing 6th and I to crash on his couches for over a month this past winter as we mixed and recorded records!
In your pictures of shows and your last mixtape [From Here to There] cover, you're dressed very differently that an average hip-hopper--almost gq-ish. what's your inspiration? Are there any brands you recommend to someone who's trying to get their gentleman game up?
I have always been into more classic styling’s. Basically, a no logo approach. I figure that you should be in style today...what if someone took a photo, 40 years from now? There are a lot of great brands out today, from J Lindeberg, APC, and Dior. But times are hard, so people can even hit places like H&M or Banana Republic and piece it together. The key to fashion is to be yourself, and wear $-!t that fits well, never too baggy and never too tight either!
What are some of your passions besides music?
I’m and avid sports fan-Knicks, Yankees, and Giants. Football is great because it’s once a week so following is way easier than the day in day out grind of baseball or basketball. I play basketball still, regularly, great exercise and I can shoot…
I also enjoy reading and fashion as well.
I am a simple man in a complex world ahaha!
How's the daily grind? Do you currently hold a day job? How're you surviving in a city that has a notioriously high standard of living?
I have not had a day job since October of last year! I am a working artist, via writing, placements, and of course putting out records. I am surviving pretty well. Truly I feel blessed that in these hard times I am able to make a living doing what I want to do. I am thankful on a daily basis!
Time to get tourist. What are some of your fave spots to grub in NYC?
If I were to visit, what kind of food would I be looking at?
First off, you gotta get Pizza. I recommend a spot called Stromboli’s on St Marks and 1st Ave in the East Village. Totally Underrated.
Then on 2nd ave, there’s a spot called Paul’s Burgers. Insanely greasy, insanely delicious.
Sunday brunch at 7A on 7th street and Ave A is where it’s at, just get there before 1 if you want to sit outside, and have a bloody mary, they're delicious!
And if you can, travel up to the Bronx and have authentic Italian food at a little spot known as Patricia’s, their Gnocchi Bolognese is beyond incredible.
Lastly, what will we be seeing from you in the couple of months?
Well I got a new project I’m going to drop September 28th, called the Brand New Day Sessions, which will have a slew of new stuff for the listeners to enjoy. It’s a way to keep people in the know and happy as we prep the album. I’m also rocking the A3C festival in Atlanta and look forward to doing some more show across the land as time goes on. Oh, and the video for Brand New Day!