Chronicles: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata

Freddie-Gibbs-Madlib-Piñata (Truants)

‘When I first started working with Madlib, I had heard how he and MF Doom had made such a classic album. And I was like, man, I think I’m way better, or at least as good, as MF Doom. I can do that too. It started off as a challenge—no disrespect to MF Doom, he set the bar. I wanted something that was gonna sit in rap history.’ Conspiring together with the reclusive genius Madlib; the baby faced killa Freddie Gibbs is making extremely clear that there is a new villain in town. The stars also seemingly aligned to coincide with this momentous occasion as the project was released a few days short of the 10 year anniversary of the cult classic Madvillany. Our attention is firmly focused on MadGibbs right now though. Three years in the making, Piñata is just the type of raw and uncut product that you would expect from the coming together of two highly skilled purists. Two rare breeds who are single-handedly keeping their arts alive, crate digging and greezy gun talk respectively. A self-described, “gangster Blaxploitation film on wax” Gibbs’ autobiographical raps are suited for the screen as proven by the video for the first single “Thuggin” which was released in 2011. And who better to score this film than Madlib? Whilst many rappers are still trying to convince you that they have the Medellin on speed dial (Jay-Z at least has a photo) or that they are in fact convicted drug trafficking kingpins – Gibbs honestly rapped “I’ve never been a drug kingpin” (Live from Gary Indiana) so the symbolism of  the opening scene in “Thuggin” that shows the robbery and murder of the wannabe Tony Montana in the two tone ‘Scarface’ leather jacket sends a clear message out to all.

“Scarface”, the first track on the album, acts as both an introduction to the beginnings of his life as a dealer, his favourite rapper of the same name as well as the film. The film which inspired a generation of hustlers turned rappers, turned designers, turned moguls (in some cases) and became The Complete Idiot’s Guide To: Getting The World and Everything In It. Granted, Gibbs doesn’t relay elaborate and grandiose Mafioso tales of multi-million dollar transactions and the lifestyle that accompanied it like his 90′s predecessors but he still acknowledges the inspirational and educational value of the story. The brevity of the song mirrors his stunted come up because no sooner than he has begun his Montana-esque rise to power, ‘Deeper’, the subsequent track, already sees him in prison. Call it the sequel to 50 Cent’s “21 Questions”. Gibbs’ early material shows that he has a penchant for jacking R&B beats, be it from from the Isley brothers to somewhat surprisingly Bow Wow & Omarion, and Madlib, doing what he does best, flips the perfect dusty soul sample to match the tone of the unrequited love song. Gibb’s hasn’t gone Drake on us but it is a clear moment of vulnerability that shows us, once again, what it’s like when thugs cry. Not one to dwell on the past –  the painful memories of his unfaithful sweetheart are dissipated in a thick cloud of kush smoke. It’s a real shame Mr Jackson Jr, Mr Gibbs and Mr Brown didn’t get in the studio together to record this track. Can you imagine the studio session for “High”? If not, the lyrical trip to “Harolds”, an ode to the Chicago chicken shack should say it all – “six wing mild sauce with all the fries you can give me.” “High” is not the first time Danny Brown has laced a Madlib production, it’s just that this time he’s not playing the lead Cocaine Cowboy. Gibbs on the other hand, who was previously unaware of Madlib’s craft, handles his unpredictable productions with great deftness showing his versatility as a rapper. Madlib, ‘[doesn’t] have time to sit there and coach somebody… to sit there like a babysitter,’ and the Baby Face Killa certainly doesn’t need one. It’s not completely new territory for him and they are definitely no odd couple. In the past Gibbs has been paired with crate diggers like Statik Selektah and Alchemist and it’s not like we haven’t heard raps about drugs, weed and women before. It just hasn’t been executed this expertly, vividly and sincerely since Roc Marciano’s Marcberg.

MadGibbs (1)

From Harold’s, back to his own culinary establishment “Fast Freddie’s” on the next track “Bomb”. The strung out string sample evokes the paranoia of  the Geto Boys’ classic “Mind Playing Tricks On Meas Gibbs raps, “drugs got me wakin’ up in cold sweats / sometimes I’m slightly off my rocker, but I’m on deck.” Undoubtedly caused by all the ‘a la carte’ weed he’s been smoking but he has no choice but to hold it down as he has the most Michellin starred chef on the planet, Raekwon, joining him in the kitchen. Like the true culinary wizard that he is, Raekwon the Chef serves up his signature dish of exotic non-sequitors with effortless calm. Gibbs “[does] not give a solitary fuck” on “Shittsville” and continues not to throughout the album. This sentiment or lack thereof will undoubtedly continue throughout his career – a trait that both he and Madlib share. ‘Certain guys aren’t gonna do the things that I do musically to set themselves apart. They just gonna be another motherfucker on Worldstar.’ Gibbs has expressed ambitions to one day be like the next Master P but for now  is content with starting small, growing his fan base and perfecting his art and with 10 years under his belt he’s finally starting to get the attention he deserves. Madlib existed in this slightly nerdy, slightly inaccessible, avant-garde ‘art rap’ (for want of a better word) Wes Anderson type world with Doom and Gibbs being more rugged Tarentino types. His remixes of Norega, Big Pun, M.O.P and the super grimy production for Ghostface Killah  have hinted at a more rugged side it seems, he just need Gibbs to coax it out of him. By teaming up with each other they have diversified their audiences without having to switch lanes or water down their output.

Holding back or pulling punches is not something the ESGN honcho is capable of, which is clearly proven by the pleasure he takes in destroying his former boss Young Jeezy on “Real” (Remember Everybody Ain’t Loyal). Madlib again providing the suitably rugged and varying terrain for Gibbs to navigate. A diss record is a rare thing these days unless you’re Drake and Jay-Z and however unlikely it is that they’ll come to blows over a Basquiat it’s surely only a matter of time before Jeezy satisfies the public’s blood lust, right? Then again, no one really cares. Do they? The killing spree continues on the superbly gritty “Uno” which sees him lining up Lil Wayne. Unlike Tony Montana, who declares himself the bad guy in a druken stupor, Gibbs announces his arrival with a deadly cool. The rap game needs people like him, not because of his ‘gangsta’ image but because of his authenticity. Despite his fearless displays of cocaine fueled confidence he realises that he isn’t bullet proof and that he may end up the victim of crime he committed in his past but as long as he goes down in a Lennox-like blaze of glory he doesn’t care. He has repeatedly emphasized his ‘realness’ and until anyone proves otherwise; who are we to doubt his credentials? With a major in Robbing (with Honours) from the Drug Dealing College – Gangsta Gibbs is top of his class . For someone who robs both recreationally and as an occupation the fact that he’s found time to work with one of the biggest record nerds around whilst mentoring young truants like Domo, Earl and Mac Miller is a feat any Blaxploitation hero should be proud of.  That said, Gibbs’ final classroom scene, the title track “Pinata”, could have done with a better cast. More importantly, how can you let an ‘extra’ have the last word? Naturally, one of the highlights of the album belongs to Scarface on “Broken”Once again Gibbs shows us what’s behind his hardcore image as he raps about his humble beginnings, giving into peer pressure and his twisted relationship with his police officer father. Madlib’s production here pulls hard on our heartstrings turning Isaac Hayes’ “Wherever You Are”- which also touches on wrong decisions made in the past – into a melancholic masterpiece. Scarface, however, chooses not to “talk [his] old business” preferring to focus on the finer aspects of his life away from the streets that involve a beach, a buxom female and pint of Guinness. Both he and Raekwon, having survived a life in the streets,  play the role of those who have ‘made it’ and as such serve as mentors to Gibbs, offering jewels of wisdom and insight into the luxurious life that he can one day hope to enjoy. “Lakers” the uplifting and anthemic ode to his new home in Los Angeles suggest that he is starting to enjoy life more as the Gary Indiana native links up once again with Polyester the Saint as well as TDE’s Ab Soul to re-pledge his allegiance to the yellow and purple. Gibbs has returned to the city of angels with the gems from Scarface in order to “prepare [his] broken dream” and like our favourite bad guy; we are rooting for him all the way.

The line between Freddie Gibbs the gangster and Freddie Gibbs the rapper may be blurred  but as much as he touts the Gangsta Gibbs image, how many ‘killers’ would you catch singing  “Me & U” ,”Waterfalls” and “Living For the Love of You”  a capella? We know he raps about selling drugs but he’s given us a brief glimpses of his gentler nature and it’s these introspective moments that we want to see more of. On this premise it should be safe to approach (with caution) and congratulate him for one of the best rap albums of the year. By releasing a string of EP’s over the course of a few years they maintained a steady and healthy buzz of anticipation that meant there was not an unrealistic amount of hype to live up to. With a product this strong Lord knows what he’s got in store for his next album Eastside Slim.  Slated for release this winter and we’re already fiending. Do yourself a favour and crack open one of his piñatas. ‘Straight street shit.’

Piñata was released on the 18th of March by Madlib Invazion.

Words by Koyejo Oloko, 31 March 2014. Tags: | Leave a comment

Exclusive: Chainless – Grey Veils EP Stream

chainless-grey-veils-truants

We’ll say it again: 2013 was the year of the label. Every DJ and his mum seemed to set up a new stable to bypass release schedules and change artistic modes. When a label comes along out of nowhere with a determinedly clear aesthetic vision, however, is when it gets interesting. The latest to meet that criteria is London imprint Cohort. Balancing sound and image perfectly, their carefully designed artwork, right down their white vinyl and beautifully rendered labels, matches the ominous splendour of their debut release. This comes from Lisbon artist Chainless, a shadowy figure unbound by reputation or expectation. “We live in an age where we are bombarded with thousands of images everyday, and everyone exposes themselves, and feels comfortable with it. I don’t,” he explains. All this would be moot, though, if the music weren’t up to scratch. Citing influences such as Art of Noise, John Carpenter and Isao Tomita, Chainless goes dark on the Grey Veils EP. Think ghostly chants and cavernous, sepulchral chords, an imagined rave in an 18th-Century monastery. Trance synths over heavy grime and dubstep kicks, booming echoey percussion that will fill you with dread as it hits your solar plexus. Enjoy this exclusive first play of the full EP, and then go cop it ahead of its release next week. We can’t wait to hear who else they’ve got lined up for us this year.

Chainless – Grey Veils by Cohort Recordings

Chainless – Grey Veils EP is out on March 31 on Cohort. Pre-order here.

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 26 March 2014. Leave a comment

Truancy Volume 92: Local Action

truancy-volume-92-local-action-truants

We recently sat down for a lengthy Skype chat with Tom Lea, head of the peerless Local Action record label. There’s no one out there doing what they do, perfectly bisecting the spectrum of grime and garage. We talked early beginnings, the various directions the label has taken, the parties they’ve thrown (especially their epic Christmas party with friends Unknown To The Unknown last year) and more. We talked sweetboy life and going to Nando’s. And then fate, and a clumsy thumb, led to the whole thing being lost to the ether. Tom was good enough not only to provide this killer mix, but also to jot down his responses and sum up the path his baby has taken since its inception in 2010.

Tell us about how you came to set up the label. “I’d wanted to run a label for a while, then the record store Phonica – I used to share an office with them – approached me about working with them on one. Obviously they sorted distribution, manufacturing and everything like that from their end, and I was never gonna turn down that shortcut.” What led to the breakaway from Phonica? “A couple of things, really – Phonica’s great but it’s primarily a house, techno and disco store, and I felt like to release stuff like grime, footwork and bassline through them wouldn’t have worked. Also, I wanted to have complete creative control – it’s not like Phonica ever put their foot down over not releasing anything, but if I’m gonna run a label I want to be able to go over-budget on some dumb reissue that only 50 people will buy, and not have to worry about it being somebody else’s money I’ve spent on it.”

The artwork started off with the simple logo over a beautifully hued photo, before branching out in different directions for albums and white labels. How important is the visual identity to you? “I think about it loads. When you’re releasing 12”s, it’s definitely smart to have one template for the artwork and stick to it – the sort of thing L.I.E.S., Hessle, Punch Drunk do. It means people can instantly identify your records, it makes them seem more collectable, like Mr. Men books or some shit, and ultimately it means you save time and money. I used a template like that for the label’s first two years, but I felt that “Brandy & Coke” and Raw Missions really needed to be presented differently, and now me and Andy, the label’s designer, are doing a different design for each 12”. It does delay releases, so God knows – maybe we’ll go back to some kind of template soon.”

The next white label is the DJ Q – Trust Again remixes package. Can you talk about how that came about? “We just uploaded the acapella for a competition with Juno, that was it really. I couldn’t believe it when four of my favourite producers responded with remixes – totally grateful and overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure it we’d do a 12” or not, but they started getting such a good reaction, and people like Slackk and Oil Gang were battering the Rabit one in particular, that we had to. It was the same thing with Skydiver, the Cassie compilation – no one got a fee for it or anything, so I was blown away by how many people responded.”

Stream: DJ Q – Trust Again (Major Grave Remix) (Local Action)

You’ve got albums coming from Q and Slackk, the two anchors of the label. How are they coming along? “They are the two anchors of the label, you’re right. I started working with both around the same time – and to be honest, it followed a period of not really knowing where I wanted the label to go. When I started LA in 2010, there was so much promise and so many ideas punting around 130bpm in the UK – that period where Funky had made everyone drop their tempo, and Night Slugs, labels like that had started up – but a year and a half later everyone had gone into their own lanes, and shit just wasn’t as interesting to me. I’d been fans of both Q and Slackk for a while, but when I first heard “Brandy & Coke”, and “Sleet Riddim” – which eventually became “Blue Sleet”, on Raw Missions – that was the moment where I was like “fuck, this is what the label needs to do next”. What Q does with garage and pop music, and what Slackk had started doing with grime – and fucking hell, look at Boxed now and how ahead of the game he was with that EP – it was the opposite of all this Soundcloud house bullshit that was getting hyped all over the shop.

Stream: DJ Q feat. Kai Ryder – Be Mine (Local Action)

“The Q album’s out on March 31 [stream on Pitchfork], it’s a pop record that, to my ears, is basically how UK pop music should sound now – big vocals and melodies but totally in the lineage of Wookie, MJ Cole, The Streets, Dizzee, shit like that. Slackk’s album’s very close to finished, and you’ll hear more about it soon.”

Tell us about the mix – how representative of your DJing style is it? I dunno, the start’s probably more patient than I am in a club half the time. Bunch of grime, bit of rap, forthcoming label bits, it’s fairly representative.

What’s your drink of choice? “Amaretto, ice and lime.” And when was the last time you danced?This Saturday.”

Truancy Volume 92 – Local Action by TRUANTS

Tracklist:

Yamaneko – Seabrooke Rise (Local Action)
P. Morris – Submission Devil Mix
Dark0 – Karmmm
ZMoney – I Can’t Stop
P. Morris – Turtle Lounge
Fatima Al Qadiri – Vatican Vibes
Slackk – Voodoo Sketches (Local Action)
Yamaneko – Slew Wave (Local Action)
Shriekin’ Specialist – Snowy Island Breaks (Local Action)
William Skeng – Graveyard VIP
Dubbel Dutch – Load It Edit
Dark0 – Scyther
Shriekin’ Specialist – Temple 2 (Local Action)
Slackk – Millipede (Local Action)
Murlo – Roman Baths
DJ Milktray – Wifey Riddim Edit
DJ Milktray – Velour Pool
Yamaneko – Tugboat Otherworld Mix
Unknown – Unknown

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 25 March 2014. Leave a comment

Introducing: LinG

ling-truants-mix

We’ve something special here. Liverpool artist LinG, who’s also a member of three-piece Ninetails, recently put out the Anthracite EP on Get Some. It’s an EP that mixes the sound of classic grime and garage with organic, filtered noise, distilled through the heavy machinery of the industrial north. To coincide with Anthracite he’s given us a stellar mix that transcends the club-ready beats he makes, blending film scores and abstract experimental music, dropping in some classic grime and finally going down the rabbit hole with Holden and Grouper. We quizzed him about how he juggles the organic and the synthetic, how he started off making donk edits of metalcore, and his views on the Liverpool scene.

Stream: LinG – Anthracite EP (Get Some)

Hi! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. What have you been up to lately? “Hey, my pleasure. At the moment when not at work, I’m spending at lot of my time focusing on the new Ninetails album Faixa. We are trying to turn this album out a lot quicker than the last one.”

There’s not much about you online. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? “My name is Jacob King. I’m 22. I originally come from a small town called Leek in Staffordshire, but I’m now currently based in Liverpool. I started showing a real interest in music at around 15, I bought a drum kit of my mate for £30 and it started to expand from there. My interest in electronic production began through my mate Ben. One day after school he brought over his copy of Reason and I was immediately hooked. We used to spent hours making ridiculous donk edits of metalcore tunes. Eventually I started taking electronic production more seriously and decided to study audio production at university.”

How did you get involved with the Get Some team? “I became aware of Get Some in 2011 when they put out Crypt’s GSR001 EP. I uploaded a few of my tracks to Soundcloud and forwarded them to Get Some via their dropbox. A few weeks later they got in touch and wanted to put out an EP from me. It was great to gain some recognition from a label whose previous releases I’ve respected.

In my mind your sound is somewhere on a line between Perc and Burial, with a dash of Gang Gang Dance thrown in. What do you think of that summation? “Yeah I can see the relation to those artists from this EP but I’d only cite Burial as a real influence out of that selection. That being said I really wouldn’t want to be grouped with the dozens of Burial impersonators out there. The new material I have been working on follows a completely new aesthetic and it is important for me as an artist to keep progressing into new unexplored areas. So hopefully after my next release the comparisons will be completely different.”

Stream/download: LinG – Demigod (Get Some)

You say you want to present a sound both digital and organic – how difficult is that to reconcile for you? “The organic component comes from the massive amount of found-sound that I use within my tracks. The majority of all percussive/atmospheric elements included in the Anthracite EP were crafted from my field recordings. I tend to have stages throughout the year where I’ll constantly have my field recorder on me and just have it running for long periods of time. I then import the recordings to my computer and start processing from there. This is where the digital element comes into play. Processing the field recordings is a really enjoyable part of the creation process and often completely determines the direction of track. I maybe went a little overboard with the processing on this EP which makes it difficult to differentiate between the organic and digital sounds, but a clearer hybrid of both is a goal I’m working towards.”

How did you end up working with Rugrat, who features on the EP? “When I first moved to Liverpool I got in touch with Rugrat. We would share beats with one another and eventually I asked him to MC at a couple of shows that I was DJing. I had done a remix for Rugz a few months prior to the completion of ‘Droop’. Once I had completed the instrumental for ‘Droop’ I placed the acappella of his from the remix on top of it. I loved how it sounded, so I immediately booked in some studio time and asked him to bring some fresh bars.”

The mix you’ve done for us, I don’t know what to say. It’s really quite stunning. Can you tell us about your key influences and inspirations, outside of those you included here? “Thank you. I find it pretty hard to pin down my key influences. I grew up listening to lots of metal and post-hardcore and eventually got turned on to D&B, it gave me that same kind of visceral feeling and consequently opened up my eyes to the world of electronic music. This exposure to very aggressive sounds is something that has obviously influenced my sound. Alongside this I have a great interest in much prettier genres such as ambient and R&B. I’m currently trying to expand my knowledge in modern classical music. Jordan from Ninetails has turned me on to some great composers such as György Ligeti and this is all really exciting territory to be exploring.”

Apart from the imperceptible layering, the transition that goes from Actress through Oneohtrix Point Never and Future Sound of London into Visionist is beautiful in its simplicity. How did you go about stitching it all together?  “I did the mix on my girlfriend’s DVS setup. I had a clear idea about how I wanted the mix to progress. I wanted to create a cinematic mix, something less club-orientated that would suit personal listening situations. I like my mixes to slowly increase in tempo but before getting too settled they get rudely interrupted by intertwining ambient sections.”

As well as your Ling project, you’re also a part of Ninetails, who were just named as the Guardian’s 1,713th NBOTD. Is LinG a world apart from Ninetails, or do you bring electronica to the band? Or is it more complicated than either of those polarities? “LinG is 1/3 of of Ninetails. Before our new stuff I would have said that Ninetails was a world apart from LinG, but our latest record (Quiet Confidence) has seen me step away from the drum kit completely to provide an electronic palette of percussion/samples. Already during the demo stages of the Ninetails record, I can see a stronger LinG imprint.”

What’s Liverpool like, both in terms of the electronic scene and for “band” culture? Does the scepter of the Fab Four still loom, beyond a few tourist landmarks? “The scenes are fairly electric for both. There are a few nights doing things that I like such as Abandon Silence and Deep Hedonia. Also there is a fairly new grime night called Go!,which looks pretty promising. The only time i ever really hear anyone talk about The Beatles is when I’m reading music reviews about an act associated with Liverpool.”

What’s your drink of choice? “Blood orange San Pellegrino.” And when was the last time you danced? “Last night when i was working on a track.”

Truants Exclusive – Ling – Cine Mix [GETSOME] by TRUANTS

Tracklist:
Ernst Reijseger – Shadow
Cryosmurf – …
Holly Herndon – Chorus
Asusu – Velez
Fennesz & Sakamoto – Oto
Actress – Gaze
Oneohtrix Point Never – Zebra
The Future Sound Of London – Papua New Guinea
Visionist – M
Halls – Arc
Burial – Come Down To Us
Ling – Grounded Play
Mssingno – Xe2
Spinline – Monday Luv
Ruff Sqwad – Functions On the Low
Rabit – Sun Showers
Ling – Droop Ft Rugrat [Acapella]
Ling – Droop
TCF – 7a6eba595638b069bd02c44bfa3cc892ef83631fd59bad82602b8da4eacc76d2
Holden – Inter-City 125
Grouper – Vanishing Point
Calla Soiled – Sweet Tear(アナタガ… Remix)
Billow Observatory – Calumet

LinG – Anthracite EP is out now. Buy here.

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 22 March 2014. Leave a comment

Recommended: Samrai – Riddim Trax EP

970643_3971539303715_1261484952_nAt the heart of Swing Ting, a Manchester-based collective whose core members curate nights, deejay at night and create music, sit Deejay Samrai and Platt. The duo came together initially to form a function where they could play out a diverse range of bass-driven tracks, non-ironically, to a crowd of slaves to the rhythm. Since its birth in 2008, the crew has since garnered the most apt residents for their monthly parties, including Murlo and Joey B. As well as promoting and playing out, the pair has also released a splattering of tracks, including “Head Gone“, which features one of our favourite vocal hooks by Mr Fox (one that Murlo later twisted into this bombastic number). So evidently, within Swing Ting, there is a steadfast dedication to diversity and dancefloor, which provides the context needed to appreciate Samrai’s neat, four-track debut solo release: Riddim Trax.

Stream: Samrai – Let It Ride featuring Mr Fox (Niche ‘N’ Bump)

The clue’s in the name: the priority here is rhythm. This is of course expected of the label, Niche ‘N’ Bump, which has always remained faithful to UK funky in its output. The record opens with “Let It Ride”, wherein a rumba-style beat gurgles and Mr Fox sings, soothing, “Music’s flowing, yeah yeah… Got me going, crazy…” This is not breakthrough lyricism but that’s the point. In true singjay style, Fox weaves another layer into the track’s soft, skippy rhythmical texture. The second, and final, number on the A-side is “Responsibility Riddim”. It’s an instrumental version of the previous track - again, proof of Samrai’s club-driven ethic. But its placement straight after the vocal mix is interesting because, in a clever bit of foreshadowing, it lets the listener know that the mood shifts when the record’s flipped. 

If the A-side is all bloom and breeze, the B-side is shards of ice and tarmac. In “Problematic Riddim”, four to the floor, militant snares march you onwards until you reach a contrastingly giggly climax, its trembling synths reminiscent of a Sega level-up skit. Samrai continues to tease us; starry bursts dissipate as soon as they arrive. Things take a step even more left of centre in the finale, “Concrete Riddim”, when we are exposed to the producer’s most angular, spasming track yet. Muted drum sounds are stalked by prolonged, alien synths while some weird speech is muffled at the back; a plate of sounds that’ll have drum and bass heads licking their lips. Bashment in groove but grimier in tone, it is a brutally and beautifully contorted track. But the regular “hey[s]!” keep you stomping. And that’s the goal.

Stream: Samrai – Concrete Riddim (Niche ‘N’ Bump)

 

Words by Erin Mathias, 21 March 2014. Leave a comment

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