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Friday, February 14, 2014

On The Wheels of Steel He Is....

I love that artists are able to easily share random photos and recordings from deep within their archives through the various social media platforms out there.  Pictures from the 80's and 90's capture the aura of that time better than anything I am capable of writing.  Above is a recent favorite that I stumbled upon while looking at DJ Cash Money's Facebook page of Cash Money and Marvelous performing live at an unnamed venue.  The facial expressions of the people in the audience are priceless.  

Also, check out this memorable picture of Cash with incarcerated rapper Cool C.

And finally, Cash and Marv at Bayside Studios recording "All The Ugly People Be Quiet", vintage Pepsi bottle included.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Producer/Rapper Blueprint Proves Himself a Worthy Writer with The Making of Adventures in Counter-Culture

In all honestly, it had been a while since I had checked for something from Columbus, OH MC/producer Blueprint.  I know him best for his work with RJD2, both on RJ's solo albums and their work as the duo Soul Position.  I was a big fan of 2003 Soul Position debut 8 Million Stories, which dropped during my freshman year of college.  Since then, however, I had lost track of both the man and his music.  

Flash forward to a few weeks ago.  I was checking J-Zone's twitter feed and saw a blog post by Blueprint that Zone had re-tweeted.  Curious, I gave it a look.  After reading it, I continued pouring through Blueprint's blog, admiring his fluid writing style and honest self-analysis.  I loved his approach to writing about gear, production, and the struggles of someone trying to make it as an artist.  

Seeing a link to the Kindle version of his book, The Making of Adventures in Counter-Culture, I decided to give it a look.  I had yet to check the Adventures in Counter-Culture album, but I was eager to get a behind the scenes look at the album making process through the eyes of such a gifted writer.  While brief (the last 30% of the book consists of the lyrics from Adventures in Counter-Culture), Blueprint's book is a highly engaging read.  Hitting all of the marks that make good music writing captivating, Blueprint gives the reader insight into the trials, tribulations, and life events that inspired him to make Adventures in Counter-Culture.  This is an extremely personal book that deals with alcoholism, depression, and the loss of friends and family.  If you listen to a song like "Clouds", the emotional intensity of the content is palpable.  The haunting instrumentation coupled with the Columbus rapper's sobering lyrics will undoubtedly send chills down your spine  

Throughout the book, it is evident to the reader that creating this album was a transformative experience.  Formerly a sample-based producer, Blueprint moved away from his MPC 2000 and towards the DAW Reason (version 2.5).  Instead of utilizing samples, he began making beats that focused on original instrumentation drawn from a MICROKORG synth and other sources.  Making no apologies for this shift, it is clear that Print wanted to re-invent himself and see how far he could push the boundaries of his music.  

The Making of Adventures in Counter-Culture  also gives readers without much background knowledge of the Columbus, OH music scene some valuable insight into the inner workings and important acts.  I loved reading about the interactions between the different genres and how Print would absorb every kind of live music imaginable while trying to remain inspired.  Having never been to Columbus or even Ohio, his descriptions have me wishing I could come through for a show.

I did find the book's ending a bit abrupt, and would have liked to hear more about the uniqueness of his relationship with the Rhymesayers record label.  That said, these were minor flaws.  In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and will gladly purchase future books from Blueprint. The Making of Adventures in Counter-Culture served its purpose by entertaining me and making me want to go out and buy Blueprint's music while schooling me on the Columbus music scene and Blueprint's record making process.  I hope to see more books like this from Blueprint in the not-too-distant future.              

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Essential Jake One Videos

I love the variety of Jake One's production credits.  Check his catalog and you'll find tracks with with De La Soul, Evidence, G-Unit, Rick Ross, Scarface and countless other artists.  Jake's a versatile producer who isn't afraid to push boundaries and step outside of his comfort zone.  He also seems like a very approachable and humble dude, bringing refreshing honesty and openness to his video interviews.  I particularly like his Behind the Beat videos, where he has broken down Chance the Rapper's "Acid Rain", De La's "Rock Co.Kane Flow", Snoop and Wiz Khalifa's "French Inhale".  Using his weapon of choice (the ASR-10), Jake walks viewers through the process of each song from the initial samples to the actual construction of the beat.  Whether you are a aspiring producer looking to beef up your understanding of production techniques, or merely a fan of his work, all three videos are essential.  The "Acid Rain" track is a thing of beauty and I've had the Behind the Beat video of it running on repeat all day.  

While watching Behind the Beat, I stumbled upon a video of his appearance on the Do the Math podcast.  According to their iTunes podcast pageDo the Math is dedicated to "Telling Seattle stories...long form interviews with the creators, innovators and legends of our Seattle Hip-Hop community."  Their video with Jake One is exceptional, as they dig deep into various stages of his career.  He talks at length about how he was influenced by Seattle legends like Supreme La Rock and Vitamin D, his affiliation with Rhymesayers Entertainment, his Snare Jordan drum kit, and a variety of other topics that will get anyone reading this blog hype.  I learned a lot from watching this interview and look forward to watching future episodes of Do the Math and being further educated on the history of Seattle hip-hop.

To purchase Jake One's Snare Jordan kit, click here.
To read my 2008 Can You Dig It? interview with Surpreme La Rock, click here.

Howard B. Knoxz in the Studio with His iMPC

I was thrilled to see Gadget of Scratch Magazine TV post another great iMPC video of Howard B. Knoxz recently.  I wrote about Howard's iMPC car video this past summer and requested he post a follow-up video showcasing more of his work with Akai's production app.  Here we see Howard showcasing several iMPC beats of his and highlighting some of the programming for beats like "Bodega Stories" (9:00 minute mark).  As he demonstrated in the above mentioned car video, one of the most attractive features of the iMPC is the portability.  The most significant upside to the various beat making apps out there is that simplifying the transportation of gear gives producers the ability to tap their creativity in any setting.  Howard explains around the 12:00 minute mark that you can use the iMPC, "In the bed, chillin' on the couch, parking lot...wherever".  Viewers trying to master the iMPC will be happy to see that in addition to highlighting the portability of the app, Howard demonstrates some of the sampling and chopping features around the 13:00 minute mark.

As a fan of many of the DMV producers, I'm excited to see Howard continue to grow as a producer.  It is clear he has a lot of talent and great ideas.  I look forward to hearing more from him as he continues to master the iMPC and his various other samplers and keyboards.