I’ve been blessed enough to listen a couple times now and Tenacity, in my opinion, has done what we’ve needed in hip-hop for a minute now. And that’s simply to start the discussion, there’s a myriad of topics on this, Tenacity calls out everyone and approaches these topics with passion and energy. The government, relationships and everything in between, Tenacity is presenting both sides of the story to let you decide where you stand. DRUGS BEATS straight up killed this, there’s an eclectic sound on this, bangers, jazzy cuts and more. I won’t spoil too much now, it’s easy to put together an album of fire tracks with one producer, but I feel Tenacity has created something here for us to study and genuinely discuss, for now you can stream “Discussions” below.
It’s panning out to be an exciting year for the 1Hood and Driving While Black Records artist, Jordan Montgomery. As his latest single, “Welch’s Grape“, has become a local favorite in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Jordan plans to take the single to new heights with the release of its highly anticipated video.
“The beat gave me an early 2000s Dipset feel which was very influential on my style as an artist”, says Jordan. “At first it was going to be a throwaway single but it really began to take off on its own so I decided to create a video for it.”
Shot by Jordan Armstrong and produced by A-Kxng, this fun and colorful video serves as the perfect backdrop for Jordan to show why he’s one of the most exciting hip hop acts to rise out of the Burgh. Be on the lookout for his new album, “Thank You 4 Your Purchase But We R Not For $ale“, which is set to drop this Summer.
Mello Music Group let’s just face it, is one of the best record labels of our time (I’d say all time, but I still have to educate myself on the full breadth of hip-hop’s labels). They’ve been putting us on to the underground’s greatest, introducing us to new unbelievable talent. To me, they’re the perfect label.
But enough of that, earlier this week they brought us the new talent MC Paul Barman, today they bring us the return of Denmark Vessey in “Sun Go Nova”. I’m always ready for new Denmark Vessey music as he’s one of hip-hop’s most creative and original acts, however what completely threw me off was that this project is divided into two volumes. The second volume is produced entirely by Vessey himself, but volume I is produced by none other than Earl Sweatshirt & Knxwledge. I’m not going to reveal much more, but here’s the first single from “Sun Go Nova” which happens to be the title track, produced by Knxwledge.
“Sun Go Nova” comes out April 20th. You can pre-order the album HERE.
Ohio’s own Senseless dropped his “Yeah Whatever, EP” late last year and the visuals are coming in! The latest is “Mosey On In”. What I love about the “Yeah, Whatever” EP is Senseless dives deep into the funky & jazzy side of hip-hop and the video for “Mosey On In” gives into this as well.
The grind is something that’s been romanticized for as long as I can remember. Work hard and you’ll get what you want, work hard and you’ll make the money you want, work hard you’ll gain the respect of your peers. When we talk about the grind, we always hear about the long days, sleepless nights, but Florida’s Durell in his EP “Call Me Later, Way Too Busy” he goes more into the relationship and friendship aspect of this grinding lifestyle we’re accustomed to.
“Call Me Later, Way Too Busy” starts with “Beep” that has us introduced to a woman who’s trying to get ahold Durell on the phone and ends up leaving a voice message, her frustration growing. The first track “Runnin’ Runnin’ Runnin’” has our hero, doing nothing wrong, nothing shady, just putting in the work to get to where he wants to be. This is the running theme throughout the entirety of the EP.
Durell’s voice and cadence is a unique one, his lower seemingly nonchalant delivery adds to a project whos subject matter is being focused on your work and not letting the distractions get to you. Durell also clearly spent a lot of time picking out the production, the way this EP flows, you’d think one person produced this.
The interludes dispersed throughout the project really piece the low-key story being told, in my personal opinion though the last two joints on the project really bring the concept home. In “ More Money” Durell makes it a point to show the listener, he’s here to be productive, he’s here to make money and support his mother. While others may take him ignoring their calls as rude, Durell is chasing a much bigger purpose. “IDK” stole the show for me, as Durell comes with an energy we only see peeks of in the rest of the EP. Durell is also the most personal on this joint too.
“Call Me Later, Way Too Busy” is an ode to the grind and in some ways a letter to those who don’t understand what he’s pursuing, what the bigger picture is. This EP is cohesive, it bangs in the whip all the while putting together a story that we all can relate to. Who knows what’s next for the Florida native, but if he’s still too busy, I know we’re about to get a serious full-length from him eventually.
Last week I gave you Ozay Moore’s single “Crowd React” which featured his supergroup Lightheaded. Now I’m here with Ozay Moore’s official return in his album “In The Wake Of O”.
In classic Ozay still, you can hear the jazz influences throughout the project and per usual Ozay remains the utmost honest with his fans. “In The Wake Of O” features production from Stro Elliot (of the Roots), Tall Black Guy, Ess Be and more. You can stream the bright and vibrant “In The Wake Of O” below. Keep your ears perked though we’ll be reviewing the project and sitting down with the Illect artist soon.
I get a chance to listen to a lot of hip-hop and in the ten years I’ve been doing this, I’ve grown an absolute love for hip-hop groups. DeepSpace5, Lootpack, Slum Village, Odd Future, Foreign Exchange, hip-hop groups give multiple emcees a chance to showcase themselves. The group can become a force to be reckoned with, a statue in hip-hop forever.
However over the last couple of years the group has kind of fallen off, and boy this trio from New York called Urbvn Architects is up next. Josh Alias, Yung K and Blaq Kush make up the group and they’re exploding into 2018 with their EP “Triple Threat”. Instead of having multiple tracks with all three artists, the project is a three song EP where every member gives us a solo track. I don’t want to spoil too much but give this a listen and let me know what you think, there’s more to come from UA but for now enjoy the “Triple Threat” EP. You can follow the group’s moves on Instagram HERE.
In my attempts to continue to educate the masses on the instrumental side of hip hop and also the vast world of hip-hop that exists outside of the United States. Today I sit down with Canadian hip-hop artists Soulfistikato who’s coming off the release of his instrumental album “The Head Nod”. We talk Canadian hip-hop, the varied sounds across his project and more.
Dead End Hip Hop: Tell me who Soulfistikato is for those who still don’t know?
Soulfistikato: There are many roles I play but in this conversation, SoulFistikato is a musical creator, bender of frequencies, nurturer of vibes, a builder of sonic shelters and spring boards. Simpler labels like producer or beat-maker don’t always feel right to me but I’m cool with their uses too.
DEHH: How did you get into hip-hop, more so what got you into doing production?
Soulfistikato: My parents exposed me to all kinds of music early on that made me want to create. And I was a basement kid growing up. There was a time when hanging around my brother and the guys he spun records with was all I wanted to do. They spent hours messing around digging through crates, building their routines, and I sat there taking in the vibe and dissecting the techniques. The call to start producing reached me through listening. It was “T.R.O.Y.” and “The Chronic” that captured me the deepest. Pete Rock and Dre made me hear hip hop in a completely different way than I was used to up to then. The degree to which it was different revealed creative possibilities and made me realize I had a voice somewhere in there. A couple years later ‘Runnin’ by The Pharcyde drops and solidifies it for me. It blended a bit of what I knew and a bit of what was taking me by surprise and married them perfectly. Hearing the way Jay Dee (now better known as Dilla) pieced it together made me want to create, by any means necessary. It started with two tape decks, then a Tascam 4-track, then beyond. The final push came when I couldn’t find anyone making the type of beats that inspired me as an emcee because I was always writing and freestyling too. These were the signs that kept me motivated to stay focused on the journey to where I find myself now.
DEHH: I know I’m not supposed to ask about secrets, but what equipment do you use?
Soulfistikato: True, those are secrets. But I’ll share the progression, mostly in hopes of inspiring someone out there. I made my first beat with a borrowed Yamaha MIDI keyboard and a handful of sounds, recorded on a Tascam 4 track tape machine. I made what I was comfortable calling my first full mixtape with an Akai LPD8, and a quarter crate of records.
By the time I started making ‘The Head Nod’ I had reshaped my process a few times and sampling alone wasn’t enough for me anymore. A handful of hardware pieces went into it but at the core, it was my Maschine MK1, a bunch of instruments, and a few really carefully chosen records. Like we always say though, it’s not what you got but what you do with it. That’s true no matter your set up. The only limits you’ll have are the ones you seem to not want to let go of. Some of them will help, many will cripple you.
DEHH: Let’s jump into “The Head Nod” how did that idea come about?
Soulfistikato: It’s a project I started working on spontaneously. There was no big plan or vision for it in the beginning. I just knew I was working toward something. The vision came as the track list grew. And as it grew it drove me to want a group of tracks that evoke your inner pendulum no matter what you’re doing when you hear them. I wanted to make something that put you back in touch with the different layers of your personal momentum. All of which manifest themselves physically, where I come from, in a head nod.
DEHH: One thing I absolutely loved about “The Head Nod” is that you didn’t just give us a couple fire beats, I genuinely feel you gave us an experience, what was the creative process in making “The Head Nod”
Soulfistikato: Thank you for that, means a lot. In short, I made a batch of about 20 complete beats and a few really tight grooves, then I cut it down to the eight tracks I felt were both the best and fit best together. The fit part is where I think the experience comes from. I wanted each track to pick the conversation up where the last left off. Ultimately, every track had to engage you immediately, get heads nodding, and keep them there. Some dope beats that didn’t accomplish this didn’t make it.
DEHH: I wanna branch out just a bit, tell me a bit about the hip-hop scene in Canada
Soulfistikato: There are diverse scenes here from Vancouver to Halifax and we even have a Francofone scene in Quebec that has always been strong and unique. Toronto and its surrounding areas have always had tons of talent. It really differs from one area, and then province, to the next. Not different from the scene in the US. It has to be said though, the rise of the trap sound has made things more uniform than they once were. I grew up, and have been creating, between Toronto and an outskirt city called Brampton. The Toronto scene is always changing and can sometimes go through unpredictable turnovers, which many people hate hearing and love to argue about, but it was what it was. You could go hard and be in demand, then go away to record an album and come back to a very different scene. As for Brampton, it’s packed with talent. Most of which people in the city itself don’t even know is from there. Classic small town story. Even when they think they know the next up and comer, there are many pioneers still living in the city and creating that go unnoticed. It’s a challenge I’m engaging but it takes time. Long answer, I know. Things are looking up over the last 10 years but there’s still work to do that many of us are constantly at it.
DEHH: What do you want people to walk away with after listening to “The Head Nod”?
Soulfistikato: A vibe. The kind of vibe that leaves something imprinted on you that you can always go back to. Maybe it’s something they’ve always known and are reconnecting with or maybe it’s something brand new and it’s helped them transition. I want people to walk away nodding their heads, smiling with the experience, and asking what I’ve got for them next.
DEHH: What was your favorite track to make on the EP and why?
Soulfistikato: Concentrated feeling is integral to my process. Once it becomes too much about pushing squares around and adjusting percentages I’m disinterested. Every track was a trip and I loved the unique shape each one took on. I don’t think I can pick just one. It’s a tie between ‘Give Back’ and ‘Holding Fire’. On ‘Give Back’ I went all in and put down all the instrumentation live. It’s all me. The ‘Holding Fire’ process started out differently but ended in a similar way. It came together over a few studio sessions that were each all about intense experimentation. The track has a lot of nuances. On the last session I actually meant to just go in and clean things up. Inspiration hit and I ended up recording a bunch of live instrumentation around the core sample to finish off the track. Then I wrote two verses and a chorus. I wrote and recorded vocals to a few of the tracks because it still just comes naturally to me but only left the chorus on this one. It’s so important to go in to every session focused but also completely open to almost anything happening.
DEHH: For those looking to get into production, what tips can you offer them?
Soulfistikato: Mostly unpopular ones. Always have fun, and love every minute of what you do. Stick to your vision, without apologies. Learn from as many people as you can, as often as you can. Go out to shows when you can. Learn what makes other producers’ beats move audiences. Study as many forms of music as possible. Start with whatever you can afford but get at least one mic. Learn to play at least one instrument. It will give you a deeper understanding of how instruments move through music (and it will keep you sane and creating when the power grid goes down for the final time). Spend more time experimenting than you do emulating. Influence is great but I’m a believer in doing your own thing and not trying to sound like anyone at all. The influence of music you love is already within you. Intentionally trying to sound like someone else is redundant. Make your own sounds, even if you think they suck at first. Keep at it because this is what will lead to you having a style listeners can pick out of the soundscape. And finally, care of John Cage, “do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes”. Go all in when you’re creating. Save editing and analyzing for the day after.
DEHH: I know 2018 just started but enlighten me on your plans for the New Year
Soulfistikato: Lots of plans in motion. There’s always room to add a project here and there if it’s interesting enough but between producing and mixing, plans for most of the next couple of years are made. My next few projects will be with a wide range of artists from vocalists to spoken word artists to dancers, so stay tuned. Special stuff coming. I’ve also been patiently waiting for the universe to send me the right female voice for a project I’ve got tucked away. Lastly, I’ll be looking to get back out and perform a bit more later this year. Other than that, I stay learning and experimenting constantly.
We’ve all heard the phrase “wrong place, wrong time” but Durell elaborates on this topic in his latest visuals for “Wrong Time”. Music videos these days tend to be kind of monotonous to me, but “Wrong Time” has a dark black & white tone with our hero doing nothing but conversing with us as he sparks a blunt.
“Wrong Time” details a relationship with a woman that started at the wrong time. Both parties clearly in different stages of their lives, Durell is confident in where he’s at and refuses to falter on his quest. No hate harbored on this, Durell articulates a situation I’m sure many of us have felt. Peep the video above and if you haven’t you can stream Durell’s “Call Me Later, Way Too Busy” right HERE.
I apologize for the late start but in honor of Black History Month, I’ll be highlighting Black Women in the industry, writers, publicists, event managers and everything in between. Today’s interview is with South Carolina standout Candice Johnson who runs BINACT. Through her “BINACT: Brings The Beats” Candice is introducing the area to more independent hip-hop artists. I had the chance to sit down with her to talk about her journey, BINACT, The Grammys and much more.
Dead End Hip Hop: This honestly is a long time coming and it’s an honor to be able to interview you, for those who don’t know who is Candice Johnson?
Candice Johnson: I’m honored! You’re one of my favorite influencers. I’m happy to be able to do this.
I’m an accountant by day and a civil servant by night. I’m a loving daughter and a caring friend to my tribe. I’m a lighthearted soul that adores cats and playing The Sims. I’ve earned a few nicknames: Candiiboo, Faerie Tigress, Young Pikachu, the list goes on. But, most of all, I’m a creative and I’m still getting used to that title and what comes with it.
DEHH: Before we get into the nitty gritty, tell me how got into writing about music?
Candice Johnson: Honestly, I’m not one of those people with a pretty story about their journey to writing. I got a “C” in my 6th grade English class that still burns me up to this day thinking about it, considering I was a straight “A” student until then. I loved reading, but at the time, I didn’t think writing was a skill I possessed. Fast forward a few grades and English classes later, I’m writing heartfelt love letters to crushes and Shakespearian play parodies. By my senior year of high school, I completed a short story that would later transform into a novel idea. (I’m getting to the music, I promise.) I went to college and for my first two years, I was dedicated to working towards my Finance degree. I told myself I wanted to be a stockbroker. I finished up the degree, but those last two years showed me that while my career dreams were important, my writing dreams were just as significant and valid. My co-worker at the time (now my graphic designer) and I would converse about our favorite artists during our shifts. Once we re-connected after graduation, she inspired me to organize my thoughts about music and start a blog to keep regularly writing.
DEHH: What’s #BINACT?
Candice Johnson: First things first: BINACT stands for But I’m Not A Critic Though. BINACT is an multi-genre music blog dedicated to providing positive perspectives to an evolving music society. BINACT prides itself on highlighting talented mainstream and independent artists. A one-stop shop for young music consumers, ranging from casual listener to crate digging connoisseur, it also serves as a safe space for independent artists to openly ask questions, learn, and grow from someone who genuinely cares about their trajectory.
DEHH: I think one of my bigger frustrations of being a writer is some people refuse to see me as anything other than a writer, however with you, you’re wearing numerous hats, how are you able to balance everything without losing your mind?
Candice Johnson: It’s frustrating, to say the least, especially since I’m learning to accept my writer hat. I am just now arriving at a place where people are starting to respect my voice and platform. Most people don’t realize that I’m working 40 hours a week while keeping my blog updated. I am the Editor-in-Chief, the Content Coordinator, the Social Media Manager, the Accountant, all of that. Outside of these things, I volunteer my time, keep my friends and family happy, and sometimes (when I’m lucky) I take self-care moments to rest and sleep.
DEHH: Now when people think hip-hop South Carolina isn’t usually the first state that comes to mind, tell me about SC culture and how has #BINACT and the events that you’ve hosted over the years helped give more shine to SC music?
Candice Johnson: This is a heavy question. SC culture is currently in its defining stages, as far as accepting hip-hop culture is concerned. In the last decade or so, Columbia, the capital city and the city that raised me, has made some big additions to the downtown area. These changes accommodate the growing number of students that attend the public universities housed in the heart of the city and the professionals that are pouring in from new businesses. There are a number of establishments that allow music acts to perform, but they tend to look for only a certain type of sound. The prerequisite “live bands only” and similar phrasing is placed to deter hip-hop acts from getting a shot. A bar will play The Migos, Future, and 2 Chainz, but if you ask for an independent artist with a similar sound to book a show, your emails go unanswered and calls unreturned. This isn’t true of every bar or establishment in South Carolina, but there are very few that are immediately willing to allow hip-hop acts in their spaces.
My event series “BINACT Brings The Beats” (or #BINACTBTB) was created to do two things: 1) provide a comfortable space to enjoy music (functioning as an alternative to the club, if you will) and 2) give independent artists in my city a chance to shine. I generally serve as a liaison between indie artists and venue owners to help bridge the gap. In the past year, I’ve used 4 different venues to host my events. I make sure to plan and execute everything to leave the owners with a positive view of BINACT and the artists that I believe in. The more positive & beneficial we can interactions involving hip-hop culture, the more inclined they are to bring more of us into their establishment.
DEHH: I’ma stray for just a second, but be honest with me, what did you think of the Grammys last month?
Candice Johnson: *sigh* I have so many feelings about the Grammys. But, I’m tired. Donald Glover’s performance was everything I needed, but I will say that I’m sick of the Grammys pretending to reward artists for pushing the envelope and being innovative when they actually don’t.
DEHH: As someone who writes about music, promotes other artists, I’m sure you’re bombarded daily with people approaching you, what’s something artists can do to refine their approach when inquiring about their art?
Candice Johnson: Be genuine and follow instructions. Show or tell me why you love your music. That’s it. I’d like to think I’m easy to contact and get along with. I am accessible and I give all music a shot. I listen to every submission that comes in my inbox; I may take a little while to get to it but I listen. I know this is said all the time but please don’t spam. DO NOT SPAM. It’s rude and the interaction has no effort or thought behind it whatsoever. Most of the time I will forget about the tag on Twitter or Facebook and your song will get lost.
DEHH: Who are some people that have inspired you on your journey?
Candice Johnson: My parents, my friends, and my readers are people who inspire me. They’re the ones that remind me that I’m not just a number cruncher. Many of them are working on their own hustles and that’s inspiring as hell.
This may sound corny but Donald Glover has inspired me to be my truest self. I’ve been listening to his music and following his other talents since 2011. Watching his journey from a fan point of view has been nothing short of amazing. The way that he approaches everything with signature DG flavor is something I adopted into my philosophy in the past few years. I’m the only Candice Johnson that has a BINACT. No one can take that away from me.
Also Angie Martinez and Erin Ashley Simon because…duh.
DEHH: 2018 is sounding like a huge year for a lot of people, what can we expect from you and BINACT this year?
Candice Johnson: Video content is coming. I’m not fully pivoting to video but expect videos and more visuals in the upcoming months.
My monthly independent artist listening event series, BINACT Brings The Beats #BINACTBTB, is in full effect all 2018. Right now it’s only available to South Carolina artists but I’m working on going to Charlotte, NC very soon. If you want to support my cause from your city, check the merch page!
There are a few more things I’m rolling out this year pertaining to assisting artists. You can subscribe to my email list to get the deets.
DEHH: Thank you so much for stopping by, where can we find you?
Candice Johnson: Thank you for having me!
#BINACT on most social media platforms
@BINACTCJ on Facebook