Adé Hakim On His Role in the Modern Renaissance And Being On To Better Things

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Adé Hakim, (AKA Sixpress) is a Bronx creative, who has been creating his own sound alongside sLUms the NYC hip-hop collective for some time now. He was credited with the production on Earl Sweatshirt’s recently released single “Nowhere2go” and is at the forefront of a new generation of artists in NYC.  He stopped by the WKDU station on April 20th for a short on-air playlist of beats themed “Black History Month Lives On”, and a conversation to discuss what he’s been up to, the modern renaissance, and his latest project: On to Better Things, along with much more. After our interview,  Adé went on to play a prodigious set with fellow New York producer Sporting Life at Big Mama’s warehouse to an audience of fans he was quick to unify.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To start, how much did, and does being from the birthplace of hip-hop, the Bronx, play a role in your music, both in your initial involvement and your creative process? 

Whenever you say the Bronx, anywhere in the Bronx is considered deep. Anywhere. But I really feel like it’s just a way people hide their true feelings for the Bronx. People are afraid of the Bronx, people disrespect the Bronx, you know, but it’s the birthplace of hip hop like you said. We are the most overlooked borough out of all boroughs, beyond New York, one of the most overlook boroughs ever. But um, how it affected my music? shit, my mom listened to Slick Rick all the time. Like when I was younger, Children’s Story. I know he’s from the UK, but he came out and laid the foundation while living in the Bronx. He came out and did his thing in the Bronx just like a bunch of other Bronx artists. My dad would listen to KRS-ONE and he really respected his, his lyrics and how he painted a message and stuff. But hip-hop has to expand no matter what. It moved from the Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn to Staten Island, to New Jersey, to just worldwide, from all over to the West Coast, you know, Philly.

You’re completely self-taught, right?

Yeah. Yeah.

So obviously there’s a lot of work that goes into being self-taught, especially to get to where you’re at now. What can you credit that drive to?

Well, I started off rapping. And the drive for producing came from knowing at really early, like really early age, that it was corny to rap on YouTube beats. So, the drive was to make my own beats and then I fell in love with beat making from there and kind of neglected rapping because a lot of people abuse the mic, you know, you have to respect the mic. You have to respect what you say and you have to respect what you dictate into people’s ears. Beats are more free. You can let loose. You don’t need to have any lyrics, you could just let the mind create an image for his own. Rapping is more manipulative. I was talking to my homie Last Name David about that. Rapping is more like you’re forcing someone what to see, so if you don’t treat that influence with caution, then you can make a big left in terms of influence, you can abuse that influence on the mic. I just focused on beats more than anything.

Just to expand a little bit, what is the state of sLUms and its members right now? Is it still a cohesive team effort?

Yeah. Yeah. To keep it a buck, the industry is going to be the industry. But sLUms is a brotherhood. Everybody in sLUms is thriving. We had to thrive together for us to be good independently. You know? We needed each other to ride out this long, you know, and yeah in due time we’ll come together. We started off as a collective communicating that we’re a group, but we also our own people. We’re our own individuals, so, yeah, we’re good.

When you are writing/producing, what kind of environment do you prefer?

Um, home, ha-ha, home.

Do you like to have people around when you’re creating?

oh, uh, I can, I’ve been getting better at it recently. My newer music has been with company, around company. As of the last few weeks, all I’ve been making is collaborative music. When people ask me what I’ve been working on or who I’ve been working with, my response is always like: “nothing much, yeah on my own.” But, shit, I worked with Sporting Life the other day, been working with Lastnamedavis, you know, working with Mike, Darryl, you know, King Carter. I’ve just been working with other people a lot as of late. Just taking advantage of being able to collaborate because I don’t do that as much I feel.

This past September you released the project On to Better Things, how long did it take you to complete it?

Well in London, I was finishing up Untitled Part One and Untitled Part Two and On to Better Things started like uh, let’s see what’s the oldest beat on there? I guess it would be…”Golden Niggas”, “this gold inside. It’s more than that hold” I think I made that around February. Yeah, it started around February then I dropped the first part of the project in September and then dropped the deluxe version in November.

Did you have goals or conceptual bottom lines going into projects?

Sunny Path was completely conceptual and that was the longest project I’ve worked on. It took like a year and a half. That project was focusing on how it was a trend at the time for emcees to rap about how depressed they were and how that’s when people will feel it the most. On my debut project, I had a song where I’m telling myself I’m lost. I remember how much people were moved by it, how many people were like, “Yo, I felt that one, I needed to hear that.” I thought it was cool, but I wanted to move people with a positive message, but it was hard because I was still figuring myself out. I could have a negative mindset sometimes, especially through my music. There was a lot of self-doubt before actually being really confident with myself. So, on Sunny Path I was going to experiment on staying in this sunny path, not just the dark, don’t absorb the darkness or the so-called shadows. That was the basis of the concept for Sunny Path. Knowing that wherever you’re walking, there’s light above you and it’s not just shining above you, it’s shining on your path. So just continue to be yourself because it’s your path. No one else’s same path. That’s what it was. The concept of On to Better Things was me disassociating myself from a lot of bullshit.

Did that tie into leaving the name Sixpress behind?

Yea, on to better things by just disassociating myself from stuff that wasn’t true to me. You know, I liked doing certain things for validation. I found myself doing things for validation, doing things that wasn’t really true to me. Like hanging around environments when I was no longer needed, mooching off of other people, hanging out in other people’s cribs, you know, living the real artist’s life in terms of hopping from couch to couch. I dipped out of my mom’s house for a couple months and I was struggling. So, I made a vow to myself that it would be the last summer that I was struggling and relying on other people to put some food on my plate. I was literally on to better things cause I had to break a cycle that I didn’t want to continue, you know, cause I’m getting way too old to act like a baby.

How do you feel about how it was received?

Oh yeah, I’m slept on it.

Yeah, I agree.

However, I’m totally content because the supporters and fanbase that I have are really strong right now.

It’s really special to have like a fan base like you do. Especially nowadays people are so apt to being fair-weather fans.

Cancel culture is big right now. People just want to cancel black men left and right. So you got to just be appreciative for what you do have in the moment. The fan base is amazing. I’ve been dropping these videos and it’s like there’s fans on different platforms and they all come together. I recognize them “Oh that’s the dude from Twitter or that’s the dude from Instagram”. But sometimes there’s people that solely know me through YouTube, or solely through Twitter. Cause not everyone has every platform, but they still find their ways to support. Some only know me from Soundcloud and they’ve mentioned to me that it’s amazing how much access the consumers have to content nowadays. So like, even if I changed my name once more and never tell anybody, someone would find out. Someone would find it and spread the word. It’s amazing.

Do you have a favorite track from On To Better Things?

Yeah. I love “Dance with Me”. “Dance with Me” is one of my favorites. I’ve had that since like March. That’s one of the older songs too. I performed it before I dropped it, I was performing it for a minute. Then I added an extended version, one that’s slowed down. But yeah, it’s one of my favorites just because of the pace of it, the overall feeling and the message. I give Thebe and Sage a shout out, that was cool. But, um, the, the main message was just to live in harmony, you know? Especially for the time that I wrote it, there was a moon cycle of harmony and love and no contentious energy. I don’t really know, but it was inspired by staying harmonious, you know, and it always feels good performing it. I’m gonna perform it tonight, I love that song.

You’ve said previously, that there is a modern-day renaissance happening right now, can you speak on that?

Okay, so at the beginning of the DJ set we just did, I said that I’m a producer and an MC. I’m also a videographer, editor, I work on animation and I’ve also done clothing designs. I tried to tell all my people, all my loved ones, and just anyone I meet that’s into art, that you don’t have to limit yourself as one type of artists. The idea came from an omen, a good omen I met on the train.

Tell me about it.

It was around the time Donald Trump got elected. Like right around election day. In New York it was hectic and, on the trains, a lot of people just wanted to preach, you know, because a lot of people are asleep and sheep, on the train especially. People view everybody who makes an announcement on the train as crazy. But this guy was speaking to me. He said, “we’re living in a renaissance period.” I can’t take credit for it. He said, “In 1920 there was a renaissance and now it’s come back full circle.” It inspired me because he was asking people on the train “what are you going to do in these times? It’s beyond the presidential election it’s beyond who’s in office, beyond political parties. There’s a lot of sick shit happening, but like, what are we doing? How are we going to control our own actions?” For artists, you can express yourself through many different platforms. I tell everybody that. For example, MIKE had been rapping since I met him and then he began producing and now he’s producing for himself fully in terms of making his own projects and mixing them. He can no longer be categorized as just a rapper, you know, he’s anything he wants to be.

The concept of the renaissance man.

Yeah, exactly. a renaissance man. So, I met that dude on the train, the good omen, and I think I shared that with Mike, the idea of us living in the renaissance period. But it doesn’t just apply to us, it applies to many. It’s not my message to take ownership of, it’s a message to spread! Because we all have something creative to bring to the table.

You are credited on the production of Nowhere2go, Earl Sweatshirt’s first single on Some Rap Songs. what does that mean to you?

Uh, that credit means, uh, we flexing. That’s, that’s a flex, you know, I think Earl was flexing on that song, flexing his flow. You know, the track wasn’t as lyrical compared to the rest. It was more about appreciating the beat and how you could flow on it. Daryl and I had produced that beat. Yeah, it’s just a very flex-worthy track. Not because of the co-sign or the production credit, the vibe of the track is a flex-worthy beat and it has flex-worthy energy.

How did that track come about?

I had already made a track before with Thebe (Earl). We started hanging out in the Summer of 2017 way more than we ever do now. We was hanging out, trying to understand each other more and he really gravitated towards my production. We cut out a track called “Veins”, the original one you haven’t heard. We cut that track and then I felt like we sparked something, sLUms and the whole New York helped spark something out of Earl, sort of to motivate him to complete the project because he was on his grind mode after that. So, I made that “Nowhere2go” beat with Darryl at my house and as soon as I made it, I thought about Thebe and I sent it straight to him. He sent it right back to me. Like he flew out of NYC back to LA, and once he touched down he recorded it and then sent it to me. I was a just a flex cause he shouted out, Mike, Medhane, Glen, Sage and all that. It was just a very bromantic moment, you know?

What was it like being at the New York stop of Earl’s tour? The energy on-stage looked crazy.

Oh yeah. I asked him (Earl) after the show, I said to him: “Did New York bring the energy?” And he was like, “Bro, like of course what kind of question?” ha-ha, he was looking at me, like “that is a stupid question.” But I just wanted to emphasize the fact that hip-hop started in New York. So regardless, if you’re a true MC and you’re serious about your craft and you bring that craft to New York, especially with somebody like Earl, with the fan base that he has, the energy is going to be like no other. I’m not going to say it’s the best, I’m not going to rank it, but it’s going to be special. The energy was amazing. There was mad people I knew in the crowd but I didn’t know they were there at that moment. I feel like there was a lot of love radiating there because a lot of people who’ve supported me- I’m just a regular dude, you know? I don’t consider myself to be a celebrity and I don’t think I ever will. That’s not me. But a lot of people who supported me saw me up there and were really inspired. I got to inspire a lot of people that day because we’re breaking boundaries of what can happen and what can’t. It is really just a stage, you know, it’s just a platform. I produced that track and I was like, “if I hear that beat, I’m running on a stage. I don’t give a fuck, there’s no invitation, but I’m hopping on stage.” It’s a flex, he came to New York to perform that and people who support me in New York were there too.

One theme, that as a listener drew me to your music from the beginning, is the honesty you elicit. talk to me about how important transparency is to you when writing?

Yeah. That’s why I take a long time to make writtens because sometimes I’m just on rapper talk shit mode and I don’t gravitate towards that for myself because I know it’s not true. When I open up about some family issues, when I open up about current living situations, that’s when there’s more meaning. I leave something behind in that track, you know? There’s more meaning when I’m not putting up a front or putting up a guard while trying to write something that sounds cool or sounds hard. It’s more like I’m leaving a part of me on the track for people to resonate with. Because we all one in the same, you know, we’re not too far away from each other besides class levels and privilege levels and all that, we’re still all human. We still understand emotion, and for the people who listen to beats and the lyrics on top of it, I just try to leave as much realness as I can behind. Less of a front, you know, we all have a mask too because that’s a part of being human in this society. We all have a mask. I just try to show my face rather than hide. It makes me prouder of the work.

Any word on what fans can expect from you in 2019?

Um, no, no. I mean I’m working a lot. I’m not working on anything specific but I’m working a lot. Working with Sporting Life on a lot of beats – those beats can go anywhere and everywhere. Um, I’m working with my blood you know, shout out to him or her.

Any other shout outs?

Um, yeah, shout out to all of sLUms, Slauson Malone just put out a project and also shout out to Plaza Llama, and AndyFrenchToast.

Andy was the one who did the video for the Ginger Tea, No Dairy and Roadrunner, right?

Yeah. Yeah. We also did “Dance with Me”, “World Full of Lies”, “Good people” and “Cold Awakenings” together. We worked on a lot of videos. Ashley had helped me with two videos while we were out in Saint Lucia. It was “Wise Guy”, “Nectar” and “Golden Niggas”  Also, shout out Lafi, she shot “Tomb Raiders”. We were in the Metropolitan Museum in the ancient Egypt exhibit, we’re not supposed to record in the museum but we were.

Do you want to talk about the philosophy behind Tomb Raiders?

Oh yeah. Yeah. I’d love to. The main message of that song is the fact that we as black folks are always pressured. Black men especially are always pressured every time we go outside that somebody is trying to shoot us down, somebody is trying to knock us down our square, or that someone was trying to stress us out to death. We stress ourselves out because that’s somebody’s dream. However, we don’t belong in the grave is the main message. We don’t, that’s not where we belong. We don’t belong in the tomb, and it’s really important to know your worth while you’re here. In ancient Egypt or ancient Kemet, Egypt is a Greek name for Kemet, There were so many tombs of black ancestors that got raided and all their tombs, the paintings on the tombs, which are beautiful, if you’ve been to the met, really beautiful but still, it just got raided. These people passed away and now their stuff is on display, their statues, their tombs are all on display. So if you connect that with today, we’re always being trying to get knocked off our square, but we’re worth something. For example, let’s say an artist passed away who got scrutinized their whole career. Once they pass away, you can separate people from their art and then their album gets pushed up so people can profit off of somebody’s death. It’s the same concept. Tomb Raiders is a feeling of being violated, you know? And I kind of connected it with the what they did in the Met to comment on how people act like you’re not worth shit but then they want to be you. And the first line is kind of saying “why am I trying to play smooth for the game?” Because “I make my mistakes cause I’m a human in pain” It’s really thoughts from all over the place coming into one song.
How does it make you feel?

It’s hard to explain, but this is how I’ll do it: I’m a Jewish man, right? I was raised Jewish, not religious, but taught the importance of tradition and our history, yet I don’t know about my ancestors much at all because the Holocaust really wiped it all out, all of our people’s possessions, papers and things like that were destroyed. I understand that I’m still important, even if my ancestors weren’t treated that way. It’s obviously difficult as a white man to understand exactly where you’re coming from because that’s a unique perspective to black men and women. But it goes back to the honesty, I appreciate that you’re being honest about yourself and also educating people.

It’s true. No, you’re right. I was kind of having trouble with trying to express that a lot of our history has been wiped out, you know. But the black history month lives on is an idea is to basically pay homage and give people a platform who didn’t get their due credit. As a producer, I didn’t and don’t get my credit a lot, you know, I know how it feels. I think I’ve played a huge part in sLUms success. Selma Burke carved out the image of FDR that was used on the dime, we all use dimes, you know what I mean? Just bringing light to the little things of how we get discredited for a lot of stuff, but man, life goes on.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z6bLjy-LvA

It’s a message that is really important right now for the public and political sphere. Thank you man. I appreciate you coming in and taking the time to do this.

Yea, of course, Word. Thank you man.

 

Twitter: @kingsunnydey

Instagram: @sunnywalkoflife

Soundcloud & Apple music: Adé Hakim or Sixpress

Deluxe edition of On to Better Things: https://6press.bandcamp.com/album/on-to-better-things-deluxe-edition

 

 

 

          

Live from the Batting Cages, an Interview with Hot Flash Heat Wave

Photographed by Ryce Salazar, Instagram @rysaphoto

Hot Flash Heat Wave continued their very first tour as headliners at Everybody Hits! last Tuesday, March 5th. After being led to the upstairs “green room,” I got the chance to speak with them about touring, good food, garage rock, and their new EP, Mood Ring.

Before their own tour and growing popularity, Hot Flash Heat Wave started as many other bands do: in a garage. The band is made up of Adam Abildgaard, Ted Davis, Nick Duffy, and newest addition (who plays his guitar upside down), Jared Johnson. Adam, Ted and Nick all met in high school and played with the garage scene in the Davis California area, a town just west of Sacramento. Abildgaard explained “It’s all you’ve got when you’re 16. It was great,” and incredibly true and challenging fact.

Mood Ring is out now
https://open.spotify.com/album/20mebssKVj5iNwybufE5oV

The DIY scene, as the bandmates explained, allowed them to create their own platform for themselves and their friends in a time when they were too young to play real venues. Not fitting into the normal scene at their high school led to an interest in going to garage shows to meet other people who didn’t feel as though they fit in either. The scene was an odd, yet close-knit group of people who felt ironically close with other outcasts.

From bunkers on the beach of the Secret Show Society to various house venues, Hot Flash Heat Wave found their popularity was growing. They said they miss playing DIY shows, treasuring that part of their lives they had, calling it “magical.” The band said they felt as though in that time, people truly appreciated the music they were seeing because of the closeness of the audience and the band.

Because it was their first time ever headlining, Hot Flash Heat Wave said the experience of touring was very different… both stressful and cool. Earlier this year, they opened for The Frights and toured alongside the surf-punk band. They explained that there is much more inspiration to perform for people who are actually showing up to see your own band. This is different from being an opener or supporting band, they said, because they felt as though they were trying to “win over” the audience with the first impression of performing as an opener.

Touring on the East Coast seemed like a different country to the bandmates, who appreciated “all the bricks,” in Philadelphia. Through touring, Hot Flash Heat Wave has discovered that every area of America is cool in its own way and have found that there is an incredible amount of like-minded people. This was proven especially in Florida when the band was expecting a low-energy scene but were surprised to perform for kids that were going absolutely crazy for their music.

With exposure to so many different places comes exposure to endless restaurants and food stops. Some of their favorites included Voodoo Donuts, and an extremely hospitable, on-the-house korean joint in Austin TX. The Keyboardist and guitarist, Jarred Johnson, went on about this restaurant in specific, which is located next door to the well-known venue Barracuda’s. He said after the workers refused payment and tip, he felt as though someone had “Punched (him) in the heart.” As for Philadelphia, singer and guitarist/ singer, Ted Davis, was disappointed when he received a philly cheese steak that was missing the cheese…. He forgot to say “with,” I am assuming, a critical use of philly slang.

As of right now, Hot Flash Heat Wave is re-inventing their sound, which can be heard in their newest EP, Mood Ring, which is “lyrically more personal.” Their new music, as explained by Adam, is a more psychedelic take on their west-coast surf style. He went on to list a few other influences which included 80s synth, R&B, 70s, and soul. This is different from their last album, Soaked, which they explained as having a more 60s/ Beatles-esque sound.

If you have listened to their music, one would notice how unique each album is from the others, but the Hot Flash Heat Wave sound still exists. They explained how it is fun to reinvent their sound and how there shouldn’t be any rules when making new music. “It gets stale if we do it over and over again,” Adam said.

The band was also able to do an AudioTree session. They explained they were very nervous about the session, as they did not know the seriousness of the opportunity prior to accepting the offer. It was explained as extremely comprehensive but was still a really cool experience.

The music videos Hot Flash Heat Wave releases are endlessly artistic and visually stimulating. When asked about the process of such videos, drummer Nick Duffy explained that they partnered up with Boredom, a company that helped them make the trippy, cartoon video for Raindrop as well as the retro, chaotic Gutter Girl video. He went on to describe how Raindrop, specifically, was a large production that included over 30 artists and custom costumes. Ironically, one of their more successful videos, Glo Ride, was filmed all by the band on an old camera and the vision for this video was simply wanting to be “emo cowboys.” The singer and guitarist, Adam, was especially excited about the Glo Ride video because he was able to ride a horse for the first time, exclaiming “It’s about damn time. Get me on a Horse!”

With the success of their latest EP and tour, Duffy said to “keep your eyes peeled,” for a new record that will hopefully be on the way this year, following Mood Ring.

After the interview with the three extremely friendly, passionate bandmates, the show began with Field Trip and Early Eyes, two incredibly energetic and charismatic bands. The venue, Everybody Hits! Was lit up with christmas lights for a makeshift stage, as there was no actual stage, allowing the bands and audience to be right up close and personal with each other. Hot Flash Heat Wave particularly took advantage of this and took the mic into the crowd to dance with the kids who came to see them.

Photographed by Ryce Salazar, Instagram @rysaphoto

An intimate show came to an end when the band did two encores and they jokingly refused to do “the whole walking off and coming back on again thing.” Hot Flash Heat Wave proved their spot as headliners with an absolutely kick-ass show, following the interview which showed me the incredible process of getting out of the garage and headlining your own tour.

A Conversation with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal

Image from Primary Talent International

Above the Fillmore lies a secret world with red velvet walls and giant sectional couches, dim lighting and high ceilings, surrounding a bar. This secret world is known as The Foundry, a small upstairs venue that is part of The Fillmore which presented a Secret Boy, AKA Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, on Wednesday of last week, February 27th, after the recent release of his album “Suffer On.

Wicca Phase hails from Scranton, PA, so this night in particular was chosen as his tour-opener and release show for his new album Suffer On which came out on February 25th. The 5 openers ranged from rap to hardcore and included Choice to Make, Guardian, Lil Zubin, Fantasy Camp, and Angel Du$t. Later on in the night, Wicca Phase, whose off-stage name is Adam McIlwee, walked on-stage eager for his first show on tour.

Commenting that he expected 150 less people to be at the show, the whole room was packed with fans of all the openers as well as Wicca. Although Wicca Phase is best known for his goth sound with long, droning, emotional lyrics, he was incredibly charismatic, often breaking out into smiles and laughs at the end of verses. His unique voice is unheard of in the traditional rap scene, with his drawn out and deep moaning lyricism, a genre of rap that is incredibly nichey that seems to only be successfully executed by groups such as Goth Boi Clique and Misery Club, which he is a part of.

One could say his alternative lyrics and approach stem from when he was in in the band Tigers Jaw, where he can be heard singing similar themes of heartbreak and uplifting music paired with the harsh realities of being young and unhinged. When asked about this, he replied saying he writes songs the same way he did when he was in Tigers Jaw, and being in the band helped him develop into a better writer.

In addition to his entire family and girlfriend supporting his home show, a familiar (and tattooed) face, Lil Tracy, made a cameo from the sidelines of the show. It was obvious that McIlwee had an incredible support group as his friends and family alike enjoyed the show just as much as the screaming kids in the audience.

After chants for an encore, Wicca Phase came back out and performed “Absolute in Doubt,” a song he collaborated on with the late GBC member and friend Lil Peep. An emotional end to an incredibly intimate show was the perfect way to kick off his North American Tour.

“It wasn’t somethin’ that I thought aboutBut, knew that you were absolute in doubt”

After the show, I waited… and waited… and waited until the floor cleared and Wicca appeared again to collect some of his belongings from the stage and greet the fans who hung around after the show. I got the chance to have a short interview with him with the last few minutes he had. I leaned over the barricades to ask a few questions…

)O(

Why did you choose to have your album release show in philly?

Adam: It’s the closest place to my hometown where people will actually come to a show, yeah.

Okay, so GBC seems to have started the whole emo-rap genre, do you feel like you have personally contributed to the creation of it?

Adam: Uhhhh, maybe inadvertently, I just wanted to do, like electronic music and this is what happened.

Can you elaborate a little bit on your name?

Adam: Uhh, not too much, it was given to me by an internet artist that I knew and I asked her for a name and that’s what she came back with, um I think it was kind of a troll, like, uh, that I was just going through a “Wicca Phase” and but it stuck.

So did being in Tiger’s Jaw, a more alternative band, help create your style that you have now or did you just want to do something different?

Adam: No, it probably did, I only… I only know how to write songs one way. And I wrote songs like that in Tiger’s Jaw and I write Wicca Phase songs the same way, but I got better at writing songs while I was in Tiger’s Jaw because I practiced.

)O(

After the brief interview and a few pictures, it was apparent that Wicca truly was happy to have dedicated fans who enjoy the different type of music he creates. Even more so, performing seemed to be something he will never take for granted, as I could tell he was trying to deliver the same emotions and feelings he had when creating his music to the crowd in front of him.

His set was filmed which you can check out here:

From The Frontlines of General Admission

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The White Bronco Tour rode its way to an overwhelmingly warm welcome at Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia last Saturday. Action Bronson: rap artist, chef, painter, tv personality and author who released the album White Bronco last November, brought along his long-time friend and fellow rapper Meyhem Lauren, and the legend Roc Marciano for a tundra-flurry of raps. At the merch booth, there were Blue Chips 7000 tapes available along with t-shirts, hoodies and physicals of White Bronco, along with limited edition prints of Bronson’s paintings selling for $100. The show’s audience grew slowly as the show went on, behind each puff of smoke arrived more people until Action took the stage and the venue was packed floor to ceiling.

Meyhem Lauren, co-host of Action Bronson’s Viceland show Fuck, that’s delicious opened with a heavy 30-minute set, performing largely songs from the 2017 DJ Muggs collaborative album: Gems from The Equinox. Although in moments the crowd became lost during some of Muggs’s rawer production, they were brought back into form as Meyhem splintered off into some beat-free verses, flexing his rap muscles. He also debuted a song off of a brand-new Alchemist collaboration entitled Still Playing Celo. His performance was remnant of an opener but exceeded all barriers of talent that accompany that term.

What’s poppin’ pidgeon
Feed ’em with dollar bills
But never give ’em wisdom
Being exhausted keeps the bezel frosted
Lost it. My mind that is, Braun Aromatic couldn’t have a grind like this

-Meyhem Lauren

Shortly after Mayhem left the stage, Roc Marciano strolled to the forefront, Hennessey bottle in hand and his team behind him. He sipped his bottle before blessing the crowd with a sturdy, head-on-my-shoulders continuum of bars. He spat verses from a plethora of albums, more notably Rosebudd’s Revenge, RR2: The Bitter Dose and his own DJ Muggs collaborative album KAOS. Almost the same way that Marciano is able to switch his flow from rugged to flush, he handed off his Hennessey for a Fiji bottle in-between songs. Roc’s fans were in the crowd strong, some of which leaving immediately after his performance, solidifying his role as a co-headliner on this tour. For those who know Roc Marciano, seeing him perform is a wild sight, yet his comfort onstage was undeniable and his demeanor was true to his word.

like a bum eatin’ out the dump, I’m the illest out the bunch. The butterfly was a caterpillar once. Son, if it’s love, then why bring it up like a grudge?
…blood drunk but, nah, I ain’t spiked the punch”
                      -Roc Marciano

Once Roc Marciano had eaten his proverbial fill, Action Bronson “The Human Highlight Reel” took to the stage slowly, with a fist raised high and a stern look that emphasized his role as the main attraction. His entrance to the stage brought with it an applause that matched the volume of the amps I was fortunate enough to be next to. Shortly into his set it was clear Action had blown out his vocal chords slightly, and was experiencing the occasional voice crack on his higher notes. Either due to luck or his abilities, he was still able to produce an awe-inspiring performance, at one point being resourceful enough to do a cover of Biz Markie’s classic raspy voiced single Just a Friend. He continued effortlessly through the new album, tracks like Irishman Freestyle and Prince Charming were only elevated by Bronson’s live delivery and aerobatic ambience. Midway through his set, in memorial to the late Mac Miller, Action took a moment to perform the song Red Dot Music off of Miller’s Watching Movies with the Sound Off, which played out as a somber yet empowering service to his past collaborator and friend. For those who are in the know, the one and only Big Body Bes made a short appearance during Action’s set only to receive an encore in which he returned the stage yelling, “GOD BLESS, WHO ELSE? PHILLY WE OUT HERE!”.  Action finished his set with an encore as well, performing a brand-new song with a lackadaisical flow and guitar strum layered production, it seemed like a well-fitted bonus track off of White Bronco. Action Bronson’s larger than life personality was humbled during his performance and he made sure to show love to the fans that had been with him for the long haul.

The White Bronco Tour is coming to a city near you and I suggest you get those tickets before they’re gone. No lack of substance, no Auto-Tone or background vocals, real hip-hop shared between the artist and the individual.

“Understand I’m only rhyming for this son of mine
And so my daughter can be a lawyer and reap the spoils
We ate the tuna, it’s suede puma, my look is Jay Buhner
Dawgie cause some of us just age sooner
I’m still twisted, rocking lizards from a strange river
Forbidden jungle in the joint paper, point shaver
Check the bio, I fixed the game between Kentucky and Miami of Ohio
I been wild” 
-Action Bronson

Mom Jeans, Just Friends, Awakebutstillinbed

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Mom Jeans lead vocal and guitar, Eric Butler

Words by Brooklyn Fellner                                                                            Photos by Kayla Aughenbaugh

Union Transfer was particularly spooky this Halloween as they welcomed Mom Jeans, Just Friends, Retirement Party, and Awakebutstillinbed to their stage. With a large following, Mom Jeans announced on Instagram that they wanted everyone to dress up for their show. So, the Union Transfer was jam-packed with bloodied bodies, fairy princesses, and Dragon Ball Z characters that transformed the floor from pop-punk kids into a sea of disguised music lovers. The high ceilings and old architecture was the perfect setting for the holiday, as fog machines began to pump the floor with eerie faux smoke. Arriving in time for Awakebutstillinbed, I was greeted by the lead singer, Shannon Taylor in the lobby of the building next to a row of merch tables. She frantically gave me a press pass labeled “Nerd,” which I suppose was a joke made up by the box office at the UT. Shannon was then on stage setting up with her band two minutes later.

The band opened with a song about Philly, as Shannon disclosed she had lived here for some time. Paying homage to the city, Shannon credits her development as a DIY artist to the punk and emo culture that Philadelphia has to offer. A fast paced guitar mixed with a downcast melody and a hoarse, female voice radiated emo vibrations throughout the venue. Taylor’s voice resonated through UT, echoing with every scream she belted into the microphone. She moved all over the stage between verses, headbanging with her bandmates and slamming on her guitar in unison with the bassist. When it came to their third song, “fathers,” a more upbeat song with punk influences, the audience as well as the band were in sync with each other and it became clear to me that Awakebutstillinbed had a huge following in Philadelphia.

As the set went on, the music became more depressing in a thoughtful way, not a “this-is-so-sad-I-want-to-cry” type of way, but as a heartfelt connection to the feelings Shannon had. The last song played was particularly filled with emotion, and the band truly portrayed that as they played. The dark, soulful song ended with Shannon throwing her guitar under her arm, across her back and finishing with her chilling lyrics alone in the microphone. After the short set, Taylor escorted myself and Kayla backstage for an interview. There were several backstage rooms equipped with a large couch where Shannon plopped down on and began eating chicken wings. Her drummer and father accompanied us as we did the interview…. (interview at end of article).

Continue reading “Mom Jeans, Just Friends, Awakebutstillinbed”

Hollerboard goes IRL for a ‘Redux’

From basement dancefloors in Philly’s Ukrainian social club, to parties around the world, to the New York Times review section — the infamous Hollerboard helped birth one of the most fertile periods in dance music and partying in recent memory.
RJD2 Diplo Cosmo SXSW 2006.jpg
RJD2, Diplo, & Cosmo Baker at SXSW 2006 (All photos courtesy of Cosmo Baker)
“Kinda crazy to think about how a community that existed in real life ended up becoming an online community, centered around like minded people, like minded DJs, and friends IRL. We really were just playing around and trying to do things a little differently, and I guess that impacted the world.” – Cosmo Baker
Founded by Wesley “Diplo” Pentz and his Hollertronix partner Mike “Lowbudget” McGuire, the Hollerboard was a go-to source for hot music, trash talk, and early memes before the era of Facebook and Soundcloud.
Ahead of a blow-out party at Warehouse on Watts featuring some of the most famous Hollerboard alumni, we chatted with 1/2 of Hollertronix duo Mike ‘Lowbudget’ McGuire to get the scoop on how the Hollerboard came to be.
redux
How did Hollertronix and the Hollerboard start? What was going on in the Philly scene and beyond at that point?
Lowbudget: I know for us we were all hip hop dudes that felt a bit restricted in the scene musically. We found ourselves liking a lot of the new hip hop , especially the stuff coming out of the south. There was also a growing indie dance scene lead by Dave P as well. We were really into all of this stuff and and we just wanted to play everything we liked.
It was a culmination of what a bunch of 20-something music heads had been into their whole lives and it turned out there was a lot of people that were on the same frequency. As for the board, messageboards were pretty much the only form of any kind of social media. There were a lot of local Philly messageboards where people would talk about parties and music and beef over graffiti and gossip, They were a major part of the early “word of mouth (or internet)” success of our early parties. So when we became more established we started a messageboard of our own.
Cosmo DJ AM Hollerboard
RIP DJ AM!
How did you get to know Wes / Diplo?
We actually met at an underground hip hop show in Brooklyn. I was the DJ for this indie rap labal called Arrakis and he was there DJing. We kept running into each other at parties in Philly after that. We realized we had a lit of similiarly unusual interests and thought we should spin together.
Hollertronix & Roxy At The Rub at Southpaw 2004
Diplo, Roxy Cottontail, and Lowbudget
What were the projects that Holletronix put out?
Our main mixtape was Never Scared. It was on the NY Times albums of the year ( a mixtape, Iknow, weird) in 2003. We made a bunch of 12 inches with mashups and a few other random mixes here and there. But the mixtape was really the main thing.

https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?feed=%2Flowbeezy%2Fdiplo-and-lowbudget-are-hollertronix-never-scared%2F

What were the parties like at that time?
It seemed like every where we played, it was a mix of all types of subcultures. From hip hop to punk to what would soon be called “hipsters”, everyone kinda came together  because they knew it was gonna be a wild scene.
Hollertronix June 2003
Hollertronix party flier at the Ukie Club
What do you think the impact of the Hollerboard was then and into today?
I think a lot of the sounds you’ve been hearing in music for the last 10 years are a lot of times an amalgamation of the carious sounds being traded on the board. So many relevant producers and djs from this time were part of this scene.
Cosmo Craze A-Trak Pase Chromeo Amanda Blank JOTS Miami 2009
Miami 2009 with Craze, Pase, Chromeo Amanda Blank, Jokers of the Scene, A-Trak, Cosmo Baker
See you at Warehouse on Watts. NOTE: this will also be Spank Rock’s last time performing under that moniker !!!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDLMJccb1YU&w=560&h=315]

Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Review

by Abby Wagner and Matt Coakley

Pitchfork Music Festival can only be described as a musical wonderland — where psychedelia, dad rock and R&B join forces for a weekend of joy. Featuring headliners Courtney Barnett, Tame Impala, The War on Drugs, Fleet Foxes, Chaka Khan and Ms. Lauryn Hill — festival-goers knew they were in for a treat! The festival was held in Chicago’s Union Park July 20–22. With rain and thunderstorms in the weekend’s forecast, no one was really sure how things would play out.

The festival had three stages — two main stages (Red Stage and Green Stage) and one smaller stage (Blue Stage). The park was crawling with families, hipsters, and all around music lovers the entire weekend. When festival-goers weren’t entranced by a performer, they were typically found crowded around the park’s sole water fountain or checking out some of the great food and merchandise. The main street was lined with local food vendors and funky screen printers selling various prints. The churro ice cream sundae was particularly to die for. There was also a huge tent where records could be purchased and a few others with clothes and jewelry. Rumors of Bai Brands founder, Ben Weiss, making an appearance never seemed to come to fruition, although there were representatives in their decadent sponsor tent offering a photo booth while giving out free Bai beverages and swag.

Friday had a pretty stacked afternoon: Saba, Sid, Lucy Dacus, Tierra Whack and Julien Baker all gave great performances. Indie rock group, Big Thief, kicked off the evening at the Blue Stage. Songwriters and soulmates, Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek (aided by touring bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivcheniaput) put on a stunning performance. Charming and vulnerable as always, they modestly walked onstage and launched into the most rockin’ mom-appreciation song in the whole world, “Masterpiece.” Fans knew they weren’t pulling any stops when they immediately went into the dark banger “Shark Smile” off their 2017 album “Capacity.” Almost as if we were living out some dramatic music video fantasy, it began to rain during the first chorus. It rained a bit periodically through their set, but never too much for the entranced audience to do anything about it. They played another song about Lenker’s mom off “Masterpiece,” a faster arrangement of the brooding “Mary” off “Capacity” and FIVE new, unreleased songs. “Shoulders” and “Not” stood out as potential highlights to look for on their next release.

Like cattle, festival-goers moseyed around the park, still in a trance over Big Thief’s performance, and made their way over to the main stages where Courtney Barnett was performing. The incredible crowd that amassed in front of her proves that straight up rock will never die! Barnett’s new album, “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” is getting a lot of love from critics and fans alike. She played a healthy variety of old and new songs, playing all the hits (and closing, of course, with “Pedestrian at Best”). With a slight shift in direction moving from one stage to the next, Tame Impala wrapped up the night with an other-worldly performance, as always. Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter Kevin Parker is simply on another level. Everything his band played sounded totally on point (save for a couple songs at the start of the show plagued by technical difficulties) and he even threw in a couple deep cuts (“Sundown Syndrome,” “Alter Ego”) for the #realfans. Their captivating light show and psychedelic LED screens mesmerized and entertained concert-goers near and around the stage, regardless of whether or not they could see the band. All around, it was a great way to conclude the first day of the festival.

Saturday started off on the right tone, with Chicago native Paul Cherry delivering a groovy set at the early hour of 1:00 p.m. There were some really cool acts throughout the afternoon, but the highlight was Nilüfer Yanya, who played the Red Stage at 3:20 p.m. She bills herself as “soulful indie” and that’s truly the best way to describe it. Heavy on the soul! She and her band gave an engaging and energetic live performance that was hard to forget. They even played Pixies’ classic “Hey,” which was awesome. She may be under the radar right now but that won’t last for long. As Twitter user @PTrewn puts it: “Nilüfer Yanya is a full length album away from being everyone’s favorite artist.”

As great as Yanya’s performance was, Moses Sumney was the set to beat that afternoon. He and his accompanists performed lush arrangements of songs from his debut studio album “Aromanticism” — all without the use of a prerecorded track! They used loopers and other effects pedals to give the performance a certain etherealness and otherworldliness. The violist even used a pitch shifter to make his violin sound like a bass instrument at times. Sumney stood magnificently at the front of the stage, brandishing his gold nose ring and gold rimmed sunglasses, and donning flowy black clothes and black boots. His appearance matched his music wonderfully; as Morrissey once put it, “I wear black on the outside, ‘cause black is how I feel on the inside.” Sumney stood in front of a black and gold podium which looked straight out of a sci-fi movie. Highlights from his set included “Quarrel,” “Lonely World,” “Make Out In My Car,” and he even did a beautiful Björk cover from her 1993 “Debut.”

Blood Orange played a great set full of groovy, dreamy original music. Their LED screens showed their music videos as well as strange clips from YouTube, including but not limited to, Lil Wayne shredding on guitar and people drag racing. If anyone came to Pitchfork to smooch with their lover, this was probably when they were doing it. Blood Orange is some real deal baby making music with nothing but good vibes. Everyone in the park was feeling the grooves on jams such as “Best To You” and “It Is What It Is.”

After a day full of R&B and indie, everyone was ready for some good-old-fashioned dad rock. Oh, yes! Hailing from Philadelphia (Go Birds!), indie rock legends, The War On Drugs, played a headlining set at the Red Stage. If you’ve never been to a War On Drugs show, let’s just say there are loud guitar sounds and lots of indiscernible singing, punctuated by lead singer Adam Granduciel’s impassioned “Woo!’s” and “Yeah!’s,” followed by long guitar solos. It’s awesome. How often do you see typically ordinary dads go all out with arms and legs flying? Not that often, right? This band really ignites something in these men that is not often sparked. It speaks to them. We need more bands with this magic formula to get dads moving and grooving again!

Fleet Foxes closed the second night with a wonderful performance, featuring their sweet, winter-time classic, “White Winter Hymnal.”

Sunday also featured a variety of great acts throughout the day. Earlier performances from acts such as Kelly Lee Owens and Ravyn Lenae got everyone amped up for another night of killer acts. Lenae, a Chicago native, put on quite a show, performing soulful tracks off her recent Steve Lacy-produced EP “Crush.” She spread positive vibes left and right as she lit up the stage with her words and her shiny metallic outfit.

At 4:00 p.m., the Blue Stage was the place to be. Philadelphia bedroom pop kween Michelle Zauner, better known by her stage name Japanese Breakfast (or her Twitter handle, @Jbrekkie, to the #realfans) gave a truly swell and upbeat performance. Playing songs off her 2016 debut “Psychopomp” as well as last year’s “Soft Songs from Another Planet,” Jbrekkie entertained the masses with her erratic dance moves and beautiful washed-out vocals. She and her band also pulled out a really fun and spot-on rendition of the Cranberries’ 1992 hit song “Dreams.” with her drummer singing backup vocals.

Chicago rapper, Noname, had one of the most energetic sets of the evening. Despite a couple lyrical flubs chalked up to “smoking before the set,” she was totally on point and delivered bar after bar with eloquence and fervor. That being said, she got increasingly frustrated with the crowd as the show went on because of their participation (or lack thereof). She voiced this frustration mid-way through her set, addressing the audience as “you lazy white privileged people.” Her backing band was entertaining, supporting Noname with smooth, jazzy arrangements. However, the band was perhaps a tad overzealous; there were times when the busy bass lines would poke out over Noname’s vocals. Several other musicians from the weekend’s lineup joined her onstage for various features, such as Smino and Ravyn Lenae. Overall, she glowed and rapped with the smoothest of flows.

D.R.A.M. probably would have been a fine choice for almost any other music festival lineup — such as Chicago’s other popular festival, Lollapalooza. D.R.A.M.’s music and performance featured many misogynistic undertones which have sadly become normalized in popular music. Many concert-goers were unamused when he announced his “exciting” new song, “Best Hugs,” whose chorus sings “Your girlfriend gives the best hugs” (a euphemism that didn’t go over anyone’s head). There was also another song about a girl being all alone in a sundress (as if that begs for him to approach her). His questionable lyrics were accentuated by his choice of LED visuals, flashing breasts and pole dancers in bright neon. Also, just as a side note, he said “goddamn” way way too much. Alex Cameron and (Sandy) Alex G both gave solid indie rock performances at the Blue Stage, entertaining the exodus of hipsters as they made their way from D.R.A.M.’s stage to literally anywhere else.

Veteran R&B and disco singer, Chaka Khan, got people moving their feet as the sun began to inch its way out of the sky. Chaka Khan busted out all the classics and crowd favorites, including her 1974 smash hit with Rufus, “Tell Me Something Good” (written by the one and only Stevie Wonder!) and her 1978 hit “I’m Every Woman.” Even though her vocal performance was slightly weaker in her old age, she came through with enough energy and catchy hooks to get everyone singing and dancing along. Her band picked up any slack in her performance; her backup vocalists were on point with their dance moves and harmonies, and the lead guitarist shredded away with each extended jam. He eventually played behind his head and even used his face and head to play the final chords.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, the headliner everyone was waiting for, only made us wait about 20 minutes this time, as she took the stage around 8:50 p.m. after her DJ got the crowd warmed up. Her set celebrated the 20th anniversary of her 1998 album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” The ex-Fugees singer really brought the heat, delivering each of her classic songs with passion and grace, even as she faced monitoring difficulties throughout her set. She conducted her band and backup singers on the spot and made each song special and powerful. Most of the songs were played in a new arrangement, featuring remixed verses and choruses as well as extended jams at the end. This may have gotten in the way of singing along for some fans, but there was never a dull moment so everyone was captivated the entire time. The people truly needed Lauryn Hill to reemerge now more than ever. Her words of justice and empowerment from 20 years ago still ring true today with her songs like “Forgive Them Father” — during which she showed clips of police brutality and racial injustice throughout the years. Her set was a perfect bookend to a perfect weekend at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival.