All posts by Paley Martin

Geminelle: Radiant, Raw, a Woman Rediscovering Herself

Without the story, there is no artist. Without the struggle, there is no sound. Without the journey, there is no soul. With introspection and experience, the path to one’s truth is uncovered in its deep and ever-changing form. Morphing always, the product is not as much a set identity as it is an energy, a humble knowing.

So-Cal bred, Brooklyn based singer-songwriter Geminelle speaks this universal language of self-discovery that embraces audiences with something both resonating and relatable. Sharing her journey through her sound, Geminelle sings not just with candor but a radiance that embraces and invites. A captivating appeal, though, only begins to describe what makes this songstress such a rarity. Entwining glowing vocals with grounded lyrics, Geminelle talks about what it means to be human, to be perfect in one’s imperfection, and to walk through clarity and confusion with spirit and sense.

“I believe that music has the power to heal,” she says in our recent interview. “It’s a beautiful chance to share my story, to share my experiences, my journey, my testimony,” she adds. With roots in San Diego, Geminelle’s aqueous influence is illuminated in her philosophy and entrenched in her music. Growing up by the sea and amidst the mountains fostered an adventurous nature that later found her performing on city streets from Austin and New Orleans to Chicago. Her transition to New York, however, was about being “humbled”, a career move in which she “[learned] how to be a big fish in a gigantic lake, an ocean even.”

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No matter the city, Geminelle maintains a connection and drive that keeps her moving forward personally and artistically. “Every day, I’m trying to figure out myself a little bit more,” she says. “I write from a really real place…and a lot of that is just self reflection and self love and learning self love,” she continues. “All I really want to do is inspire people to be greater.”

With a summer album release ahead, Geminelle’s Audiobook will talk about self-confrontation, self-destruction, and a time in which she was forced to look inside. “It’s my literal journey, for a span of a year and a half,” she says. “I think you can expect from Audiobook this journey of a woman who is rediscovering herself…aside from societal influences, aside from damage and self hate.”

A self-named “writer, artist, counselor,” and “healer”, Geminelle uses her honey-like vocals to grow closer to herself while doing the same with her audience. A woman of many titles, she emanates that which brought her here today. Many roles, cities, and songs later, Geminelle warrants a pensive listen and soothing effect that binds growth with veracity. Like the sea that touches a melding, setting sun, Geminelle abides less by the beginning of one chapter and end of another and more by the remarkable amalgamation of where and how each moment has rippled into the next.

Check out Geminelle’s music here.

A Listener’s Reflection: My Moment with “The Black Album”

There is a rich beauty when it comes to our anecdotes with the music we love. it’s an understated art, actually. When music is feeding you the right way, you’ll never forget it. When it comes to Jay-Z’s The Black Album, I haven’t forgotten about my first “Moment of Clarity”. Today, fifteen years later, this reflection sticks with me just as that album did back in 2003. Without further adieu, my story, my moment that I’ll never forget…

I was in the third grade when Jay-Z’s The Black Album came out. Before The Black Album, my Jay-Z fandom was on the rise, but revolved solely around “Big Pimpin”, “Excuse Me”, and “I Just Wanna Love You”. What can I say, 95.5 the Beat kept me as cultured as I could be as a white kid in the suburbs of Georgia.

2003 was the year The Black Album was released and was also no exception to my family’s annual California visit. My mom was from Santa Barbara and while she had moved to the Southeast as an early twenty-something, the rest of the family stay scattered up and down the California coast. It was my favorite place to be, my utopia, and each trip was accompanied by some sort of defining soundtrack.

Weeks prior to our departure, I had sought out The Black Album at a local Target. As a proud owner of a walkman, I prioritized my CD purchases and was now building up a collection of everything from NOW to Destiny’s Child’s Writings on the Wall to No Doubt’s Rock Steady. It’s safe to say I didn’t have much of a range. But The Black Album felt like a bold move. I’d never been so honored to own anything, and I couldn’t wait to pop it in my walkman as I walked the shores and drove the coasts of California.

When the trip at last arrived, I packed my prized possession carefully in my backpack and waited patiently until at last we were at SFO. The time was near, I knew, but I forced myself to wait until the moment was right. My sister in the back seat, and I in the passenger, sat silently as my mom drove in our Hertz rental car into the Northern California haze. That’s when I knew that it was time. The day had been long and dusk was setting upon us and my backpack looked as though it had been waiting all day anxious to be unzipped.

I pulled the walkman out, peeled off the album’s plastic sheet, and inserted the CD. Three, two, one…

Play.

After the button was pressed, nothing could permeate my mode. I was no longer nine year old me, I was no longer going or having come from somewhere. Every molecule of me was absorbed by that album. Like a first kiss, The Black Album engulfed my being. Outside of the car window, scenes fluttered by. The Golden Gate Bridge lay ahead, a rather pristine structure subjected to the thick of yet another gray afternoon. That’s when “Moment of Clarity” started.

I stared outside with awe, this grandiose red monster of a structure swallowing my family and I the second Jay-Z lets loose his first exclamation of the track. Of course, nobody else could hear it but I, which was all the more exciting.

Beneath us, the San Francisco Bay looked as morose as ever. But something about the dampened exterior felt right. Eight Black Album tracks later, it would just be wrong to desire anything but. Jay-Z rang in my ear for the rest of that day and remainder of that trip. Jumping around the city and meandering around the state, I let The Black Album do most of the talking during those two weeks of travel. Juxtaposed with the pastels of old Victorian houses stacked atop steep hills and the rolling hills that traced our Northern California beginnings to our Southern conclusion, Jay-Z’s Brooklyn bite sandwiched me between itself and my soft surroundings. Nothing about it made sense, really. Yet to me it defined how naturally something so seemingly arbitrary would resonate during that time, age, and for the next twelve years.

That album stayed with me like a committed friend, accompanying me with the brash attitude of “99 Problems” when I needed not to care and the ambitious cadence of “My First Song” when I needed to keep on moving. There was something about The Black Album that I’ll never forget – the tangibility of inserting it into my walkman, holding it close, keeping it unscathed, and relaxing my mouth to open my ears to this sound both foreign and contagiously forward.

My Black Album memory will always be tattooed in my mind and musicality. I’ve spent many moments and months with it and to this day, I have yet to tire of it.

Mood Ring: Paley

A nod to the muses who have shaped me and a poetic stab at how

(THE MUSES)

dea(T)h by chocolate – sia

SIA

Sia, a voice that punctures my heart. You melt my soul, like the springtime after a frosted winter. You make me feel ways familiar, powerful and then powerless, like a flower that wilts in the cold and the next seed that blooms in its place. Your voice is the like seasons, one tumbling faithfully into the next. Holding on, moving forward.

when it (H)urts so bad – lauryn hill

LAURYN

Lauryn, you will never know what you mean to me. I listened to you like an abiding child, but then I grew up. I left home and decided to be on my own. I didn’t need you anymore; I knew what to do. But really, I didn’t. When I came back, you were still there – the scuffle in your voice, the prowess in your rhymes, and the words I praised like a hymn burning before my eyes. It was all there, and it all felt the same. I read every letter and memorized every rhyme. Neither time nor space let me escape you; you were always a part of me. The sweetest thing I’ve ever known.

b(E)st for last – adele

Adele, your voice spinning on vinyl, skipping from time to time like my heart too at 19 and 21. The needle presses down, and I let you take over. Nothing else matters. Your music, bare and unfiltered, swallows me, and I am gone.

li(M)p – fiona apple

Fiona, oh the many hours I’ve spent with you, wondering what happens when the pawn hits and when the wounds are licked. Oh, Fiona, the anomalous and biting you, the temptress who has me forever tangled in a woven web too sticky for my hands to paw through. Here, you coax me to stay, and suddenly I realize this is where I belong. You show me what it means to be unapologetic, but true. A real woman, everything that I have desired and aspired to be. I feed off of your anger and run with your fuel. Oh, Fiona, you’re All I Need….

that h(U)mp – erykah badu

Erykah

Erykah, undulating like a high tide. Your hips, your voice, rising and falling, sweeping the ocean floor. I soak my feet in your water, scraping my toes deep in the sand and watching the trees sway. Left and right, left and right. I look at your moon and watch until it submerges its skin into a pool of yellow. You are the orange moon and the light of the sun. I stand on the land, gazing at your grace from a nameless place.

(S)ome unholy war – amy winehouse

AMY

Amy, Amy, Amy, wisdom and blues. When young blood married an old soul, there was you. You are so much more than words could articulate. You were a Queen whose boundless presence outlived her years. You shared your gifts, and for that, I bow to you. Amy, Amy, Amy, wherever you are, thank you.

skin – sad(E)

SADE

Sade, the mother, the lover, and the holy spirit. You are everything – the moon and the sky. You are almost impractical, and I often wonder…are you real?

at la(S)t – etta james

ETTA

Etta, there was a time when my mother found solace in you. She held my baby sister in her arms, listening to you sing. At last, she thought, things were going to be ok. At last, there was family and prosperity, balance and hope. But, some things don’t last forever. When tragedy struck, At Last was no longer a refuge but an acknowledgment of where things once were and could, perhaps, be in brighter days to come. In our family, that song never died and neither did you. Etta, you transcend the chapters in our life to which we tend to cling. You get us through Stormy Weather while reminding us that there is such a thing as a Sunday Kind of Love.

With The River, Carly June Shares a Candid Testimony

Atlanta native Carly June shares a candid testimony of self…

in her new five track EP The River. The rock and soul singer incorporates influences of folk and americana into her music, weaving in vintage guitar tones and an old school sound. “Every note, every sound was my decision,” she says. The singer/songwriter lets listeners in, sharing thoughts about her experience with mental health, drug addiction, love, loss, and running from oneself. The River is a true reflection of Carly June’s journey, thoughts on her past experiences as told by her present.

This EP is a bold debut for Carly June whose background in musical theatre is evident in her glowing and poignant vocals. Yet, nothing in The River takes back seat. Her tracks are equal part soul-bearing lyricism, vocal precedence, and illustrious instrumentation. In The River, Carly June’s undisguised performance cements her undeniable artistry. Raw with anecdotes both dark and dense, her lyrics yield a nakedness that breaks the barrier between artist and audience.

In “My Mind”, Carly June punctures the mental turmoil inside of the “wandering little middle man” that is her mind. “The River” guides us deeper into a “dark side”, a place deceptive in its comforting facade and warm embrace. Take my hand, and I’ll wash away all your fears, and we’ll go to the river,” she sings. In “Mountaintop Removal” Carly June covers a song by one of her idols, Lissie. “I want to emulate [Lissie],” she says. “Broken Old Door” slips into this theme of what once seemed right, a perpetuation of the pushing and pulling seen in the songs above. At last, “Ride” echoes Carly June’s frame of mind. She begs the question, “Please tell me why – why must the broken be cursed and diseased?” Stewing, confiding, and intensifying, she admits a hurt, a struggle she’s grappling with. “Let’s ride, we ride, we ride,” she repeats. Alongside the thoughtful strumming of a guitar and minimalistic piano chords, Carly June leaves the audience out of breath with “Ride”.

The River jumps straight into the deep end. It’s a place where confidence coincides with vulnerability and confession collaborates with clarity. “I want to be your mystery, that ethereal girl that nobody else seems to see,” says Carly June. With that message, she tears into her identity today while alluding to a world left to be explored. This EP tears into the pangs of life, purging years worth of inquiry and introspection. The River brings this artist’s tale to life with eloquence and expansion, a story that needed to be told.

The River can now be found on Spotify, iTunesCarly’s website, and more.

With Kandy Blaqkard, “Or Nah” Isn’t a Question

Raw, ruthless, and rugged are three traits hard to come by as a female MC in the year 2014. Without placing blame on the world of “Fancy,” “Anaconda,” and “We Can’t Stop,” the genre reliant on edge, allure, and cold-blooded braggadocio has needed to find its next Kim, Foxy, or Left Eye. Hip hop heads have kept on turning, eyes wide opened for that next someone to step in and shock. Stilettos, Adidas, or Timbs, it doesn’t matter – as long as she brings it, and brings it hard core. You craved that someone intimidating enough to scare, but seductive so as to entice. Someone who brings the heavy hand when you don’t do what she likes and the walk bold enough to push even the dimes to the side. Someone that comes to mind when the fellow fella rappers beg for that “bad bitch”…

 

That someone? Well, I think I’ve found her…But, I warn you now, hip hop heads and dime pieces, to take your seat or better yet, your asses to the sidelines. We called, she answered. You wanted a bad bitch, she came even badder. She kicked in the door before you invited her in, and you liked it. A lot.

 

Her name is Kandy Blaqkard, and you best remember it now ‘cause she ain’t wearing no name tag. Twenty years old with a flow like you’ve never heard and a mouth that will chop it up like a connoisseur, she doesn’t need to announce her entrance. With her recent single “Or Nah,” Atlanta based Blaqkard responds to the alike titled track by Ty Dolla $ign. Despite the song name, “Or Nah” commands more than it questions. This MC doesn’t have time to waste. Then again, who would say nah anyways? Peep the track below to see how Ms. Blaqkard gets with it.

PRDKT Drops New EP Daylight

Waking up from Lucid Dreams, PRDKT welcomes you to the next chapter in his recent EP Daylight. Guided by gusto and thick with definitive flow, the project is his aim to “focus on the universal truths.” He’s getting personal, telling his story, and breaking through with a voice rare to today’s hip hop industry. With featured artists galore, every song presents a new perspective. Diverse in its flavor, but all the more true to its tale, Daylight shines through without an apology. Intellectual, cerebral, honest: PRDKT proves that he has what it takes not only as a rapper, but as an authentic artist.

 

The Day I Stopped Hanging Out on Writer’s Block

Before I get started, I’ll be quite honest with you.

My title is a bunch of bull shit. This piece is really just an excuse to get me to start writing again. An exercise, if I may (I’m going to take a momentary pause to admit that it just took me three attempts to correctly spell “exercise”… case in point). Today I am facing my demons, throwing in the towel, and coming back to the good old Macbook Pro to type it out. Whatever the “it” is, I have yet to determine. But, I figured the easiest transition from not writing at all to honing in on what I will be writing about would be to (whew, long sentence, let’s take a breath…) write about why writing can be such a terrifying thing to writers. Should I say “write” again?

 

So, I’m no expert, but here’s my theory. As with anything else, labels – the ones we give to ourselves and the ones others give to us voluntarily or not – tend to come with responsibility. A lot of responsibility. And, while some thrive off of the “R” word, most of us regard it with one of the following: fear, discomfort, or stress (sounds like a lovable combo). In turn, the more we believe that we are this ‘thing’ – a writer, an artist, an actor – the more we feel obligated to live up to that role. Ah, the other “R” word.

 

These roles are not attached to our passion, but our egos. They are what we think we should be instead of what we are. ‘If I am a writer, I have to look a certain way or act a certain way. I must emulate the wit of Woody Allen or the poeticism of Emerson.’ These days, this may be achieved by taking an engaging Instagram photo that will become the object of your followers’ two-tap “like” button or constantly updating your Twitter feed with epic, retweet-worthy one-liners. Cultivating this personal brand or, more realistically, artifice, is what we have to do to be heard, right?

 

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Roles are limited. Human expressivity is not.

 

Creation never needs to be proven. Not to yourself, not to your friends, nor to that creepy guy that just popped up on your Facebook news feed.  Rule of thumb: Stop trying to be and just be. Like anything else, it’s a practice. You might have to take a step back (or two or five) and observe yourself objectively as if an outsider. Are you playing the part or are you being authentic? Big question. Sometimes hard to come to terms with the real answer. Eliminating these self-inflicted duties is good for starters, but there’s more.

 

Two words: monkey mind. I’m going to use my most reliable point of reference here, myself, on this one. I am, hands down, wholly guilty of what the Buddhists like to call the “monkey mind.” The mind that forever wanders and twists and turns and chatters and giggles and sighs and screams and …. well, you get my point. I probably would have been better off just saying “anxiety”. If anything is going to be the cock block of creativity, it’s this guy.

He/she/it has been my biggest deterrent from writing.

When I think about the act of writing, my mind floods with ideas. When I think about those ideas, on the other hand, my mind clutters with concerns. “How will I approach that topic? Will my vocabulary or knowledge stretch far enough to do it justice? Will my piece be seen or heard? Do people even read anymore? Who am I writing for – me or them?” By the time I’m done thinking about actually sitting down and writing, I’m so exhausted by all of these extraneous questions that I don’t even attempt to break out the pen.

 

It all boils down to fear, really. Fear of facing the facts of self, fear of putting the ego at risk, fear of diluting the content with tiresome verbiage and weary diction. We tend to ride on the coat tails of fear. Before we have even given ourselves the chance to explore our words or our canvas of choice, we have already opted out.

 

I’ll admit, words are scary. So are standards. And Society. And the internal critic. But, as I have attempted to do with this piece, you have to break through the barrier at some point or another.  Get rid of the role, the fear, the monkey mind. There is no need to apprehend the act or pressure to play the part anymore. Not tomorrow, not next week, but now is the time to stop hanging out on Writer’s Block.

My Tattoo: What it Means to be “Evolving” and to Still Love H.E.R.

Two years ago, I got the word “evolving” tattooed on my inner bicep. I was heavy in my Erykah Badu phase at the time, and when I saw her walk naked through the streets of Houston, Texas for her “Window Seat” video with the word “EVOLVING” tattooed on her back, I was set. The word was so bold, so timeless, so absolute. For me, it was perfect. Watching the video, gazing at her bare body sway through the streets with puzzled onlookers was so powerful. It was beautiful. Simple, but complex. Vulnerable, but effortless. It was Erykah. And in my eyes, Erykah was queen. I was a senior in high school at the time, bouncing from the business of beer pong and gossip and yearning to explore something bigger. I delved into my music as a form of escapism, so much so that it became my world. Some artists came and went, but Erykah was there to stay. Baduizm was my Bible. But, Mama’s Gun and New Amerykah Part One and Two had me just as much hooked. Worldwide Underground? Equally as D-O-P-E. It didn’t matter, really. I knew every word, every rhyme, every afro-pickin-rimshot-gettin’ lyric. Common used to love H.E.R.? Well, I still did.

Needless to say, I was set on this tattoo. Not only did I admire the source, but more importantly I aligned with the word. And that word stood for something more than anything I, you, or anyone else could fully articulate. It was a symbol of eternity, a stamp of surrendering to inevitability. When I thought of evolving, I thought of my life. My fate and my destiny. What did it mean to me? How would it apply? Would this be something I would want forever? At some point, I just said yes. I set aside the extraneous questions, sat myself down in that Santa Barbara tattoo shop, and let the artist dig his needle deep into my skin. The ink burned, but I was proud to wear my bandage around town as thin lines of blood dripped from the fresh sketch. My 13 year-old sister was with me at the time, as was my best friend. Both watched me and held my hands as I cringed heavily in the chair, snapping photos of me that looked as if an exorcism was taking place – Watery eyes, stiff limbs, teeth clenched tightly. We all got a good laugh out of it. The outcome? “Evolving”.

After the fact, I found myself either readily opened or inferiorly insecure about it, depending on my audience. When grandparents were around, I would try to hide it with crossed arms or long sleeves. With friends, I would sport it around town with tank tops, flinging my arms about until someone asked. I was hyper-aware of the tattoo-to-onlooker relationship, but eventually that became exhausting. I stopped caring, and with a move to LA and hop-skip to college, so did the people around me. It was just something that was there, not as mentally prevalent as it once was. More like a beauty mark than a fatal illustration of permanence.

Two years later, I look at my tattoo with admiration and humility. It is a constant reminder of the natural process. Of course, I have gotten my fair share of inquisitions (“oh, so you’re into labeling?”), but the underlying concept is the universal truth that we are evolving every second. Each moment arrives as a new experience, a small slice of the holistic narrative. I didn’t need a tattoo to tell me that, but I’m thankful that everyday it does. Even when I’m sleeping. I think about the concept often, and what it means to subject myself to the natural forces. When I make a fool of myself or when I do something not as perfectly as I would have liked to, I think about what it means to grow.

Who I am today may not be who I am tomorrow. My perspective as a twenty year-old will not be what it will be as a thirty year-old. I can’t rush the process, be who I am not, or define myself by a rigid identity or what the next person wants me to be. I am evolving. I am changing. And that is OK. Thanks to Erykah Badu, the music that rearranges my molecules, and the concept that has forever been implanted into my everyday thought process, I sway through the streets with that same sureness. I’m not singing “Window Seat”, but I’m riding that same bus.

A Word With the Wise: Introducing Rael J Wallace

“I’m scared of music, it’s like that perfect woman. I feel like i’m not good enough for her, but I’m addicted.” – Rael J Wallace

I met Ramel “Rael” J. wallace a few months back in San Diego. He was getting interviewed with local college radio show The Beat Bombardment, dawning a strange black cloth over his head and a sense of humble humor outstretched to all present in the studio. I could tell by his goofy get-up and unsuspecting smile that he was a good person to have around.

The first time Ramel and I hung out one on one, he sat on my floor and recited some of his spoken word poetry. “This is the kind of vibe I’m into these days,” he said prompting his succeeding flow. Staring off into the distance, he recited it as if his brain had left him and his words had transcended conventional thought. I was shocked, and meanwhile selfishly ashamed of my own poetry which I had previously thought to be at least somewhat poignant. This was some serious next level art without at all trying to be. Organic and effortless.

A few weeks later, he picked me up for a hip hop and art showcase wearing a cumbersome sombrero paired with a Cuban-esque outfit. Linen pants and loafers coupled with a button down and Mexican headpiece? This was just Ramel. Not needing to prove that he is this or that or to play a certain role. Being goofy if the day’s vibe or sombrero calls for it. No matter the scene or context, Ra(m)el has a reputation for keeping it rael.

For the next few months while I was in San Diego, I got to know him as a person, an artist, and eventually as a cohost on my radio show. His music matched the tone with which he conducted himself – equally hilarious and thought provoking, rhythmically inclined and naturally communally-oriented. There is that all-embracing feel in his music. He wants to uplift himself as much as he does the friends and artists around him. Always as excited about his work as he is enthused about yours, Ramel is the rael deal. The Homie with a capital H.

Acquaint yourself with the Raelest himself, the Homie, Ramel “Rael” J. Wallace. Read below for our interview…

 

AN: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music? Was there an album or an artist that prompted you into thinking that this was what you wanted to follow?

RJ: Music has always been medicine to me, and I know i’m not alone in this world. So if music is medicine for me, it must also be medicine for others. Listening to artist like 2Pac growing up, taught me this was more than music. It was about the human experience, revolution and pushing the issues in the culture. Another major influence is Blu, an artist that reveal himself in so many ways and still keep a sense of humor. They are two artist that inspire you to do better in life, but also recognize that we are influenced by the yearns of the flesh. Artist like that influenced me so much that I had to contribute the art. I’ve always needed a vehicle for my social outlooks, and it just so happened that I was good at creating/writing music. It lead me to being surrounded by likeminded individuals and it opened me up to the idea that music can leap past cognition and hit a person in the heart. Thus music and frequency has the potential of changing people drastically. Art and sound make the mind transcend into areas beyond the flesh. Once I realized the power of music I decided that it was my destiny to be blessed with this gift. The gift to artistically share my ideas on truth and the illusion of reality.

 

AN: Who is Rael J Wallace – both in and out of the music?

RJ: I’m an everyday person, I love my mom, and I’m a non religious black man in America.  Looking for a new Raeligion and trying to discover my Iniverse in a verse.

 

j-wallace-art-nouveau-magazineAN: Can you tell me a little bit about the San Diego music scene that you are involved with?

RJ: I represent 8th& G, New world Color, Breakbreadtv & Crateworthy. Bam Circa 86 is my OG and the music sounds like psychedelic dirty South west coast jazz. We’ve been pushing music for the past half a decade, while we discovered the origins of our city. San Diego is like the Galapagos island before Darwin got there. Major things are happening and no juan notices. It’s like once you go there you notice the evolution. I’m like darwin, trying to get people to understand and connect the dots, because the history of San Diego is hidden, it really is like an island. San Diego is known as, “Americas Finest City” and is home to lots of tourist and military influence. ie its political, and all politics slow down art. The counter cultures are strong in San Diego, and I have plans to showcase that idea soon. Artist like Gonjasufi, Gaslamp Killer, Blame One, Masters of the Universe, Mitchy Slick all have a major influence on the perspective of the San Diego, and have all had the opportunity to expand out of the city. It doesn’t happen to most. And as Havana Maxie would put it, ” All art is not for public consumption”. Some and I might say most art is solely created out of a need for expression. And people just want to create and evolve at their own pace in San Diego. It’s not aligned to deadlines. Time doesn’t exist out here to people, but I can’t cast the first stone. I always have the feeling that I need to create or my heart won’t beat the right way, even if nobody sees. You can watch me take the blue pill or not, but eventually you’ll be introduced, and I have a nice smile I swear.

 

AN: Where is your mind at these days. What’s influencing you?

RJ: Being around other creatives is the most inspirational thing I can do besides live life. So to concrete the idea my team & I are opening up a workspace in Barrio Logan, California (  2151 Logan Avenue, California ) called The Church. A place where art is our raeligion, so we pray to creation. The owners of BreakBreadtv teamed with a local Visual company Milton: Motion & Design to open up a space for creatives (Thanks to Mark Escobar & Frank Luna). we have a community feast and greeting at The Church on July 1st.

I’ve been helping Breakbreadtv for the past year as Creative Director, and working with students at Platt College with visuals. I’m scared of music, it’s like that perfect woman. I feel like i’m not good enough for her, but i’m addicted. It’s fun as a creative because you have to move around and try different forms of expression. A creative or imaginative person just needs to let that out. And as humans we are natural thinkers, so we are instinctually creative. Just look at the imagination of a child; it’s other worldly. So i’ve been helping film things, create ideas and I write music everyday.

 

AN: You were recently signed to a label. What’s happening with that and how do you see that helping you in the future?

RJ: I recently got signed to New World Color, an indie LA record label owned by producer Mainframe and rapper Blu. I’m really just testing the waters, because as an artist you feel like you reach a ceiling when it comes to promotion, my hands can only reach so far. This allows me to feed more mouths, yet have artistic freedom. New World Color was a training ground for cats like Johnson& Johnson, DJ Exile, Blu & Danny Brown, so I feel blessed beyond articulation. I plan to be in the same likeness as my peers but by my own definition. I just have to put in the work and I’ve been working on this deal for about 4 years. From the initial push at recording to 18 of Blu’s productions on a project entitled The Laundry Room I( released in 2011), then doing a followup official project with Blu called Raelblz in 2012. I’m beyond amped that the pot is finally boiling over. I inked a 2 album deal with New World Color  so I plan on building a great relationship with the people that influenced me initially. I’m going to do a reissue of  The Holyfield with 5 bonus tracks. The Holyfield is a project I did with Soulection producer Abjo, about imagination. We are releasing it on iTunes via New World Color along with some dope visuals in the near future. The second project is entitled Kali/Cali which is about time.

 

AN: Tell me about Kali.

RJ: She represents the Hindu Goddess of time, space, death and reincarnation. When you think about all those concepts, they are essentially the same thing. Death implies life and life implies death. As does time defining space. It also happens that I am from Cali- fornia/Kalifornia. Either way San Diego, California is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The curves of the hills became Kali’s hips, the oceans transformed into her eyes, and we had pillow talk on the clouds every afternoon. The concepts began to overlap and they eventually became each other. Kali became my California. And I started to study the archetype of the Woman Goddess, and how woman was the foundation of life. Man was to build his renaissance upon her. These concepts became the basis for not only an album but also the basis for how I approach art. Kali is the comic constant within my music. Kali was time, the perfect woman that you can never have back.

 

AN: Give us an idea of a day in the life of Rael J.

RJ: Wake up, go to Church and record, eat korea BBQ, and try not to get deported. #jamaica

Adrian Younge Talks on Making “Arguably Archaic Art”

I first heard about Los Angeles-based composer Adrian Younge on the Wax Poetics Magazine site. “Adrian Younge Presents Venice Dawn: Wax Poetics Records Releases Free EP from 2000”, read the headline. Maybe it was the word “free” that jumped out at me, but something prompted me to dig a little deeper. I downloaded the Venice Dawn EP, a 5 song soundtrack to a fictional film intended to, as the article stated, “[connect] the dots between Black Dynamite, Younge’s early work, and his newest album, Something About April.” There was one song in particular, “1969 Organ”, that caught my attention. I listened to it over and over and over again, fascinated by the eerie composition whose sounds I couldn’t quite describe. Futuristic, yet retro. Uncanny, yet lustful. Over the next few years, I continued listening to Younge. From Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics to Something About April and Black Dynamite to 12 Reasons to Die, each album was unique from the last. Elongated vocal vibratos buzzed with liberated self-awareness. Psychedellic soundscapes bounced around unscathed sonic territory. Adrian Younge had both achieved and conceived of something formerly foreign to the ears. Stylistically vintage, Younge’s music is something of a progressive pastiche.

He has worked with artists like Ghostface Killah and Philadelphia soul group The Delfonics, composed the score for the Blaxploitation film and Adult Swim cartoon Black Dynamite, is a multi-instrumentalist, owns a record store in Los Angeles, and was an entertainment law professor (to name a few of his achievements). Oh, and did I mention he has an album with Souls of Mischief coming out in August? Needless to say, he is an accomplished artist. What makes Younge so meritorious though, is his understanding of what it means to create with Soul. Soul is the medium he uses within all he has done and all he will continue to do.

In my interview with Adrian Younge below, he expounds on the value of this very vital element as he makes what he likes to call his “arguably archaic art.”

 

Art Nouveau Magazine: What kind of music did you listen to as a kid? Was there a particular album or artist definitive to your upbringing?

Adrian Younge: My parents are from Guyana. In my house, it was r&b to reggae. As far as my musical core, what served to create my personal palette for music is literally hip hop. Hip hop showed me a source material to the music I love and strive to make. Hip hop culture is based on the recreation of old soul or actually the recreation of vinyl culture remixed with a modern day perspective. Hip hop went back to just vinyl and flipped it in a new way. Hip hop introduced me to all that good music back then, and that’s where I get my musical influences from. Hip hop was the door to the music that really changed my life.

AN: On Souls of Mischief’s 93 ti Infinity

AY: That album represented me personally. There were crews like Wu Tang I loved to death, but I didn’t identify with Wu Tang like identified with Souls of Mischief. I wasn’t selling drugs. I wasn’t robbing fools. But I loved the music. With Souls of Mischief, everything they talked about as far as getting girls to wearing fly clothes – that was my upbringing as a west coast dude. That 93 til Infinity album introduced me to different forms of jazz music to how to really flip drums. I learned a lot from that album.

AN: How do you choose the artists you want to work with?

AY: I view myself as a composer, not a beat maker. A beat maker is the type of dude that can make ten beats in a day, because it doesn’t take as much time. With me, I could make one song every two or three days. When I’m putting that amount of labor and attention to somebody, it has to be somebody I’m passionate about. When I have artists that want me to do a track for them, it has to be something I really, really want to do. It’s so labor intensive because of the fact that I play so many of the instruments, I compose it, I mix it. It has to be worth it. When I determine whether someone or a group is worth it, I have to see how I feel when I hear their voice. Is it something that moves me and pushes me to try to be better? Do their vocals push me to be better? If it does, then I want to work with them, then that just means that I’m making music to try to make someone else better. I want them to try to make me better.

AN: Do you have relationships with these artists beforehand or do you meet with them, see if you vibe, and take it from there?

AY: Yes and no. More times than not, yes. I’ve wanted to work with Souls of Mischief all my life. We met on Twitter, and then we talked on the phone, and then out of nowhere we’re just brothers. I’ve known them so long with their music, they just haven’t known me as long. Even though they were fans of me for a year or two, I’ve been fans of theirs since ’93. I always tell people that as a musician, you communicate with people through your music, and when you meet people you feel like they know you. It’s kind of true to an extent, because you’ve communicated to them personally somehow. They’ve communicated with me since 93, and when we met, we vibed very quickly. And then we started immediately thereafter.

AN: How is the album [with Souls of Mischief] coming along?

AY: The album is done. I think it’s their best work ever. It’s just something that I’ve never really heard in hip hop. It’s like if Bob James and Herbie Hancock got together with A Tribe Called Quest to make an album for Souls of Mischief in the 90’s but produced it in the late 60’s/ early 70’s. That’s what this album is…With this unique sonic perspective and many core changes and composition for hip hop itself. With them as vocalists, I have them acting like horns as if we’re making a jazz album instead of just a monotone vocal run throughout the album, and they’re helping me to be a better composer. We’re just making each other better. I just, honestly, can’t wait for the world to hear this album

AN: How do you maintain your signature sound while focusing in on what they’re about?

AY: I need to be able to go over to their side, and they need to be able to come over to mine. If their side is something of garbage to me, I don’t even want to do it. If it’s something that really inspires me, I want to see how we can make each other better.

AN: What are your thoughts on hip hop in 2014?

AY: Hip hop in 2014 is different in a way that has pros and cons. Musically, do I like it as much? No, I don’t. As far as the subcultures, do I like it as much? No, I don’t. Do I like the fact that I hear rap music on NBA TV and the Grammys? I love it. The argument is a little deeper than do I like it now better than I like it then. There are two sides. As far as music, I don’t like current hip hop music as much as I did back then because of the fact hip hop has become popular music in a way that it never has been. Because of that, a lot of hip hop and rap acts have to succumb to what it takes to what it takes to make popular music. There was a time when hip hop was predominantly underground, so people were experimenting all the time. New albums are generally experimental albums. They are the love of a subculture that was not popular to the world, so it had a different edge to it. Now, a lot of that edge is just lost. A lot of it is just music to make money. Not that they weren’t trying to make money then, but it’s just different. I love music with an edge, and there is still that. There is still that around the world. It’s just not as prevalent as it once was.

AN: Are there any artists today that you find yourself drawn to?

AY: I have a record store and all I do is listen to old records. The only new music I listen to is if I have friends or MCs that are doing new stuff…It’s not because new music is horrible, but I’m inspired by analog recording. I’m inspired by vinyl. So that’s what I use as my fuel to make music. When I listen to a lot of modern stuff, it’s just derivative of music that’s even not as good as the music that I love from back in the day…There is a lot of great stuff [today]; it’s just that I’m not educated enough to know what’s out there, because I’m kind of in my own world.

AN: Why do you choose to stick with the analog production process as opposed to digital?

AY: To me, the best music ever made was made without computers. Computers make the production of music easier, and the drawback of that is that it’s music based on the concept of emulation. A gourmet restaurant uses organic materials to create food for their consumers. I want to have the same artisan approach with the music I create. When you have computers, you cannot have that artisan approach. There is a loss of quality, a loss of production value, a loss of seriousness when it comes to making that kind of music. And there’s also a loss of compelling-ness in the performance. When you’re recording digitally, you can do a million takes. When you’re recording analog, you only have one take. You’ve got to get it right the first time. And it makes a big difference. That’s why I make it arguably archaic art.

AN: On Soul…

AY: I’m a lover of soul music. Any music that has soul, it could be a country music that sings soul. Lionel Richie is a country singer, but he has soul. I look at hip hop as a category of soul music. My boundaries are whether the song has soul or not. I love classic rock albums, but the classic rock albums I love have soul in them…whether it’s r&b, whether it’s hip hop, whether it’s psychedelic rock, that’s what I’m into.

AN: Do you have any words of wisdom to your listeners out there?

AY: Don’t close yourself off to music that is made right now, because timeless music is always timeless. To me, timeless music is something from a long time ago. I think artists need to look back to move forward as far as just creating art and look at what people did and try to determine what you can do as an artist to try and make what they did better now.  A lot of people aren’t looking back, and when you don’t look back, your foundation isn’t as strong. You’re just starting all over. It’s best to look back and see what people have done and try to build on top of that.

 

Jess Glynne Drops Debut Single “Right Here”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A7tKcwMhKc&feature=youtu.be

UK soul singer Jess Glynne greets us with the groove that is “Right Here”. With her sultry vocals fused with an unstoppable beat, Glynne is bound to have you running to the nearest dance floor. “Right Here” is three minutes and forty seconds of shoes off and fists in the air, capable of catching the crowds’ attention with a chorus that reminds us to be in the moment. Pulling influences from soul to hip hop to pop, Glynne attributes her sound to artists like Lauryn Hill, Etta James, and Kendrick Lamar. As “Right Here” marks her debut single, I’m intrigued to see what this lovely red headed Brit will bring onto the scene next.

ATLiens: The Next Generation

Although some dismiss the city solely as the proud originator of Ratchet with a capital R, Atlanta undoubtedly has a reputation for breeding originality. While Los Angeles and New York are oftentimes pinned as the meccas for cutting edge artistry, Atlanta is known to bring a certain flavor that no other city could attempt to emulate if they tried. It exists somewhere in the middle of the west coast fame infatuation meets idea replication and the east coast money hungry hustle, somewhere sweet enough to take its time, slow enough to ride the grind, slick enough to step into the groove, and slimy enough to bust a move. While Trinidad James, Future, and 2 Chainz do their best to keep Hotlanta’s name on everyone’s radar, it’s been a while since ATL hip hop has really said something significant. As Outkast, Goodie Mob, Luda, Jermaine Dupree, and the like transition into their later years, the city’s void for a younger, more conscious crop has continued to grow. As much as ATLiens love a good twerking soundtrack, we plead for something, anything, that will live up to – if not work towards – our city’s rap predecessors. Fortunately, our prayers have been answered.

Speaking of a new crop, ATL’s late teens and early 20 somethings are making moves on the mic. And it’s impressive. Below are a couple of artist who have recently thrown music my way. Check them out, see what they are about, and if it works for you – tap in, tune out, and let their music do the rest. Can anyone say HOOTIE HOOOO???

 

Nate Schultz and Shawn Lobel

Meet 19 year old Nate Schultz. He’s “the kid that’s quick witted”, the white dude that ended up on WorldstarHipHop for dropping a mad freestyle session (and then some), and the guy who’s way too multifaceted for his own good but too charismatic for anyone to hate on him for it. Mind you,The Sundown Nate’s first mixtape, and already it’s apparent that his rhyme knows no limits. With producer Shawn Lobel as his collaborative partner, the duo does their deed by mixing something that looks not to the past but solely forward in creating a new sound for the next generation.

 

Product

https://soundcloud.com/theoriginalproduct/sets/lucid-dreams

Product is another up-and-coming artist whose lyrical exercises transcend beyond basic hip hop or free-form prose. Product has a story to tell, and he tells it well. He has been writing poetry since he was a kid and his flawless rhymes prove the time spent behind the pen and pad. Settled atop familiar instrumentals, Product’s mixtape showcases not only his respect for the classics but word and his word only.

Blacc Market

Free Thought Records & Blacc Market Presents: The UGLY by Blacc Market

Now, Blacc Market is a different, darker kind of producer and MC. With heavy MF Doom, Wu Tang, and Alchemist influences, Blacc Market takes listeners into grim territory capable of bending minds and making you question who or what is lurking behind you. In case you can’t tell by his title, Blacc Market’s track list – “Disturbed”, “Bitch”, and “Fatal” to name a few – validate that which swarms inside of this MC’s sinister reverberations. Download his mixtape The UGLY for free.

 

Russ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1OkEWt2nwk

Russ is part of DIEMON, a now bicoastal rap collective. Just last week, he released his latest album Pink Elephant. This dude’s been at it for a minute, and each time I hear from him, his music impresses me more. He makes it apparent that, while he is part of a bigger collective, he has been cultivating a sound that is very much his own. Something that can’t be replicated, something that knows its voice, its pace. This is some of that put-on-repeat material.

 

Ro Akin

Ro Akin reminds me of A$AP Rocky if he took a few trips to Africa, slowed down his pace, and didn’t have an abundant crew of (how many other) A$APs following him around. Is that fair? Heavy beats, staccato flow, fly style. “Do your thing/ I just play my role”, rhymes the MC. Yeah, we like the way you think. Download his mixtape Mixed Feelings.

A Day in the Life of the FOKN Bois

Every once in a while, I develop an obsession with something new. Wax Poetics magazine, Baduizm, gold hoop earrings, the new coffee shop that’s not necessarily convenient but good enough to make the trip for, etc. While some infatuations come and go, others seem to stick around. Some linger without a cause. Some are fleeting and gone before I can grasp why they were there in the first place. In recent months, my obsession has been Africa. I’m not quite sure what sparked it, but I’ve had Africa on the brain. I want to go there one day to teach the kids who need it the most, to wear the clothes with loud patterns and vibrant colors, to see an elephant, battle a lion, build a pyramid with aliens and kick it with King Tut. You know how it goes. At this point, my fascinations are substance level, but seeking.

Africa is the birthplace of man, the land rich and influential in philosophies and history, yet on many levels enigmatic. When most of us think about Africa, we eclipse the richness of its past with the ironic impoverishment of its present. Pot bellies and diseases, flies, starvation, and heat more hellacious than we could imagine outside of our AC systems. Of course, not all of Africa undergoes these hardships, but it’s safe to say a fair portion does.

While my fascination with the continent grew, so did my intrigue with its music. Many Western artists incorporate African influences into their sound, but what does modern day music there actually sound like? I started my research with Questlove’s Okayafrica site – a good starting point, if I do say so myself.

Scrolling through the plethora of posts, I noticed one  with an image of two long-dreaded dudes laying of the dirt. One looked like he may have had a rough night prior and the other, like he had just gotten painfully socked in his southern region. Whatever the case, these guys call themselves the FOKN Bois and could probably be best be described as Ghanian comedians and entertainers. The Okayafrica post was promoting the sequel to their musical, Coz Ov Moni 1, a forty-four minute long day-in-the life exposé of these two goof balls (bet you haven’t heard that term for a while).

I got through the first ten minutes and had to take a break, not because I was bored but because I was trying to keep up with the subtitles. Nevertheless, the musical was interesting to me because it highlighted both the drastic similarities and differences between our westernized culture and theirs in Ghana. The duo jokes around with one another about the girls of their interest, having an undying affinity for some A-S-S, and loving a good meal cooked by a good woman (sounds like a Goodie Mob song, huh?). They check their Facebook, they get suited up before going out to the club, they get into an unexpected brawls after a drunken night, and seductively dance with their nurses. Ok, that last part is, perhaps, an inkling out of the norm.

According to the FOKN Bois website, Coz Ov Moni 1 is “the 1st pidgen musical in the world that has been touring film festivals, music festivals and cinemas around the world after it premiered to two full viewings at the National Theatre in Accra, Ghana. It is used as teaching material in universities such as Haverford in Pennsylvania, Cal State University in California, been the subject of a Cambridge University graduate’s thesis, the subject of national documentaries and more. It is a classic film that has won the hearts of Ghanaians in Ghana and the diaspora as well as film and music lovers worldwide.” Wanlov the Kubolor of FOKN Bois calls it “a real life jungle book.”

While the significance of the film is obviously something recognized by higher level institutions and most importantly its native country, to me it was the hilarious, educational, and ‘why-can’t-I-stop-watching-this’ breed of entertaining (kind of like R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet”, but better). Most of all, the film showcased the similar topics that exist in cultures worldwide while exposing the areas of day-to-day existence that may not be so familiar. Check out the film below and look here for more info on the recent sequel.

 

Nate Schultz and Shawn Lobel Present “Sundown”

“For those who don’t know, I’m the kid that’s quick witted…this is not the next anybody, this is Nathan,” rhymes MC Nate Schultz. Backed by producer Shawn Lobel, the duo drops their first mixtape Sundown. The college sophomores have been collaborating since their high school days, which stands apparent through their creative charisma. Lobel’s dream-like beats flawlessly cushion the main attraction of the mix: Schultz’s lyricism – something that is and has been a missing variable in today’s hip hop. Schultz boasts the ability to jump from ‘Jay-Z circa 1996’ speed rap to a slower, Kid Cudi-like tempo to a middle ground pace that gives us as listeners the ability to digest his narrative. Never missing a beat or a chance to shout out to his Atlanta roots, Schultz comes through with a freshman mixtape that sounds more like a veteran flow. If you ask me and their 1 million hits on HotNewHipHop, Schultz and Lobel are off to a good start.

Download the mixtape here.


 

The Illusionary

IMG_4942

Ask yourself… What will feed your soul instead of your ego?

If we keep on going at this pace, where will we go?

Right into the chaos and right through the people

Over the mountains to bypass the steeple

~

As yourself, is this where you’d want a flower’s seed to grow?

Begging the question only a speck of dirt could know

Has the world come to stand so feeble?

It’s not all bloodshed, tears, and evil

The truth isn’t too far; it’s just the illusion that lurks outside of your window.

Splitting Peas, Carving Carrots, and Loving Courtney Barnett

NPR’s Bob Boilen always delivers the best, so I’m not shy about admitting where I usually find my favorite new artists. Last week on his All Things Considered podcast, he, music critic Maria Sherman, and WSPN’s Becka Schwartz presented their favorite finds from the 2013 CMJ Music Festival. From Priests to Jacco Gardener to Eagulls, Boilen and his crew introduced myself and other listeners to names both new to our ears and others (Nick Waterhouse, Arcade Fire, etc.) more familiar. Out of the twenty-one songs played, Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener” was the track that grabbed my attention.

Barnett is a singer, songwriter, and guitar player from Melbourne, Australia. She made her first debut last year with I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris, an EP that landed her name in the pages of Pitchfork and speakers worldwide. This year, she released her second EP How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose and a combination of her projects thus far entitled Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. All EP’s aside, she also has her own label, Milk! Records. Obviously, the 2012-2013 year has been just as kind to the twenty-five year old Barnett as her music has to us. With such a successful breakthrough behind her, Barnett’s rapid popularity is likely to maintain its stamina.

As we all know, acquiring instantaneous acclaim these days is not hard to come by. Credible artistry, on the other hand, is. Barnett isn’t the flesh baring sexpot type nor is she the thirsty to gain attention entertainer. Her lyrics are not particularly easy to sing-along to. Her look is not exactly premeditated. As an artist should be, she is what she is. In her music and in her look, that is what you are going to get.

Long rambles melt together in the lyrics to her songs. An indifferent attitude marks her sense of humor dry. She tell you how it is. No strings attached, no need to keep digging for the emotionally charged meaning behind. In “Avant Gardener”, Barnett jumps from gardening to an anaphylactic attack to smoking bongs, and somehow, it all makes sense. “I much prefer the mundane/ I take a hit from/ An asthma puffer/ I do it wrong/ I was never good at smoking bongs/ I’m not that good at breathing in”, sings Barnett. Her stream-of-consciousness approach is refreshing in the world of music that can oftentimes feel so systematic.

I look forward to hearing what comes next from Ms. Barnett. For those of you have not yet been introduced, let your ears become attuned to her garage-pop accented string of songs. Like tomorrow’s overcast haze with a chance of the sun, Courtney Barnett is the kind of forecast you sleep in late enough to feel cozy for and wake up just early enough to be a part of – the kind that feels just right.

Rippling Ride

IMG_4016

Steady pulse,

Open heart,

Balanced whole

Rarely apart

 

A fist clenched so tight

Irreconcilable might

Strong hopes lost in the night

 

Alas, the let go

The sun melts into snow

Soft wind through the window

Wet sand to the toe

 

Around came the light

Appeased without fight

A lift off into flight

A love found in plain sight

 

Steady pulse,

Open heart,

Balanced whole

Rarely apart

 

State of mind

Pace of page

Needn’t time for rearrange

 

A most distinguished unwind

Climbed the staircase you couldn’t find

 

There’s the gift in being you

The reason you went through

 

The light at the end of the tunnel

The end to a means of a struggle

 

Steady pulse,

Open heart,

Balanced whole

Rarely apart

 

Awakened eyes

Ends tied

This sleepless dream

The rationale in

This rippling ride

Kosher Condition

IMG_4813

Degraded

Falsely Anticipated

Expected

Rejected

Pretense unpolished the perfected

Beneath painted toes

Bleeding the hue that truth came to know

Delicate like a dandelion

Bold like a rose

When the first door opened

The last had to close

Like the pupils in her eyes

Like the skin on his nose

The petals only fall from the stem that grows.