Billie Essco interview

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RD:  What can you share about the hip hop music scene coming out of Buffalo? Who are some of your favorite artist to come out of your area?

Essco: Buffalo has a deep rooted music scene, that is as historical and segregated as the city itself. You have legends like Rick James, Brian McKnight, Kool N’ The Gang, and then there’s a break from that to present day. During that break there was a lot of underground music going on like Benny(of Griselda), Conway and Buff City Records, Thugzman, Pif City and Infra Red Squad . These were the underground barrier breakers. Then you have a 2010-2014 run. You have a bunch of groups submerging like Well Fed, Loyalty Ent, Koolie High and F1rst Class. Now today you’re getting these super solo artists like myself or YoLeek, or an Auragino, so the music scene has been growing. Right now I think it’s in a place where I don’t think a lot of cities are in, because it’s an untapped resource of talent. I think that because nobody is checking of Buffalo, and there isn’t a massive culture overhaul in here. It allows everyone to be an individual and grow into their own entity. Instead of following the trend of the city. Once everyone comes together there will be a massive shift in music.

I appreciate every artist busting moves and doing something. There’s some younger talent that I really look at, that excites me. We just lost an amazing talent, by the name of GuRazor. He was killed this year and it’s so sad because he was up and coming and had his own movement brewing.

RD: What was it like touring with Westside Gunn & Conway for the “Key to Life” tour?

Essco: It was amazing because it allowed me to travel with my friends, because outside of music, those are really my friends and I can honestly say that. So it was dope to be able to perform with them, run to backstage and help with the crew and load in/load out. The in’s and out’s of the road I got to see first hand. Of course the fan reaction and interaction. You get to meet a lot of people on the road and it’s dope when they know who you are and what you do.

RD: You’re featured on Westside Gunn’s ‘FLYGOD’ album what can you share about the process of working with your fellow Buffalo native?

Essco: Me and Westside have a special connection, because we understand each other on a lot of levels, even though he’s older than me, he’s like a big brother. We look at each other as peers, so it’s dope when I get to see him execute some of these moves that he plan to do and brought in fruition’. As far as the song, me and him have a good musical chemistry but it’s even outside of laying down verses. So initially we were going to do the “Vivian at the Art Basel”, and then he had a new vision. He called me one day and said “Man I got an idea, I’m gonna need you to come to the studio.” and I pulled up, the rest is history.

RD: Your clothing line CZEN has been well received. What is the inspiration behind making the fashion line?

Essco: In a sense it’s crazy that it’s well received because even though I know that what I’m doing has a substance and it has something real and unique. At the same time it’s dope to see how many people understand it, come to like it and want to buy it, and share it with their friends, and talk about it. So it’s a good process to see something go from your brain to your computer, to a shirt, to seeing your friend wearing it and they’re in the middle of Mexico. With clothes I have an opinion on it and I’m trying to speak a language through it. So that’s really why I make clothes, to share my opinion through clothing and to speak a language more so through design. I believe that logos and designs are art and art period is a visual representation of what is going on in the world. As well as being very appreciative to someone’s growth because it allows you to see more things. So when making clothing, I’m trying to articulate a language that can speak to different people from different walks of life, and can connect them, which would further the conversation.

RD: What was the creative process like for making your album ‘Avant Garde’?

Essco: Life had to happen for that album to be what it was. I went through a series of events that were just life changing and it was a matter of realization in the moment. So I was seeing the signs and reacting to them simultaneously, so it spawned the thought of Avant Garde. Once I found the title things started happening that shaped the story that I was writing as just the film, and then started becoming life. So the more I was just living my life, the more this story of Avant Garde was being written. It took a lot and it took me through a very up time and a very down time to create that, but I believe that it articulated through the music.

RD: What can you share with fans about your new album release ‘CAFE’?

Essco: That it’s me, that it’s understanding yourself and articulating these findings to your peer group. To have a conversation with the world about different topics that I’ll think about on a daily, and people engage in my clothing, music and pictures and they like me. So this is me showing them what it all took to make what you like, and more so what you like, but what I am because what you like just happens to be, but what I am.

 

Follow Billie Essco
Twitter: @ChaseDinero
Instagram: uptownchase

Producer Spotlight Interview: Juelz White

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‘This that RZA meets Dilla shit’-Westside Gunn

 That’s a line from ‘Camouflage Hilfiger’, a raucous solo cut from our guest Juelz White’s debut album ‘This Shit Aint Free’. Bold? Sure, but it does help describe how Juelz goes from jazzy somber productions to tracks that could soundtrack a riot. Using a combination of well-flipped samples, live instruments and an endless supply of cracking drums the man cooks up a lot of flavors. After producing all of Turbin (Gold Chain Music)’s Sean Sisero album Juelz went on to release TSAF and the stellar Ricky Williams EP. We caught up with him to discuss these projects and his future plans

RD: What’s your history? You are a relatively new artist to us

JW: I started making beats in 2009 when I was 17. Grew up around a lot of jazz and classic rock. My dad has been playing bass for 50 years, that’s the instrument I pay the most attention to.

RD: You produced a full-length for longtime GCM member Turbin, how did that relationship come about?

JW: We met through a mutual friend when I was 21. He had taken a liking to my beats and wanted to start working together. Over the next few years we became good friends while putting together the Sean Sisero LP. During the making of, I met Planet Asia, Phil The Agony, Dirty Diggs, Rah Digga and more artists that I was able to build a relationship with.

RD: Take us behind the scenes for the making of ‘This Shit Aint Free’. It features everyone from Planet Asia/Tristate to newer favorites like Westside Gunn/Conway and Hus Kingpin. What was the selection process like? How did you decide who to put on songs together?

JW: It was magic, and it started with Gunn blessing us with a 3 minute song instead of just a 16 bar verse. Then I had to follow it up quickly with another hard joint, that’s when I hit fashawn and sent him the Braille instrumental. Most of the features rocked with the beat I had set up for them. Hus I had sent like 8 to choose from and he picked the Only For Pretty Girls joint. Phil The Agony chose the Erewhon beat over the ESMVP beat, S/O Esem, and then Phil surprised me with the DJ Babu cuts. The Conway feature really was unexpected as well, we had came up on some extra money when rapping up the album and agreed he’d be the perfect addition.  When the album was done I played it for Phil and he took me to Fat Beats to set up a deal.

RD: You followed that with the incredible ‘Ricky Williams EP’ that brought Willie the Kid, Recognize Ali and Ill Conscious into the fold. Tell me about putting that together

JW:  S/O Official Crate Music for making the Ricky Williams EP what it was. When we started I reached out to Fash first and sent him a couple beats. He chose the Xanax joint and layed that first verse. I reached out to APlus Tha Kid for a hook and Mikels for the second verse. We made that the first release of the project. Fly Thoughts happened after Supreme Cerebral linked me with Recognize Ali and ill Conscious. I had been wanting to work with Rec Ali and ill Conscious and Supreme and I have a solid amount of work together since we met at a Planet Asia Show in 2015.

RD: You just dropped a beat tape called ‘Draft Day’, I take it your a big football fan?

JW: Indeed, thanks to my brother Vince. He’s a football guru.

RD: What’s your favorite record of yours to this point?

JW: Camouflage Killer aka Camouflage Hilfiger. I had sent Gunn that beat early in 2015 in hopes it will end up on FLYGOD or something. He liked the beat but nothing had come of it. So i hit him back in December to get a quote for a verse. Let him know I’m putting together my debut project and I wanted him to be on the first single. Shot him the doe he asked for, expecting a 16 bar verse. He recorded the rough draft same day, Christmas Eve. Flew back to Buffalo from ATL after Christmas and re-recorded it at Daringer’s studio. Needless to say we bugged out when we heard it, got it mixed and mastered right away and released it.

RD: What’s your ultimate goal as a producer?

JW: My ultimate goal is to never stop creating. I have many plans outside of producing hip hop music. I wont ever stop digging, spinning vinyl and making beats but I’ve always wanted to get into movies and TV shows, doing the music on those.

RD: Plans for the rest of this year and beyond?

JW: Chris Mikels debut album will drop this year. Me and Phil The Agony have some work on the way. And possibly we’ll hear the long awaited music from Antony Harp this year.

You can purchase This Shit Aint Free here https://www.fatbeats.com/products/juelz-white-this-shit-aint-free-cd

Official Crate Music bandcamp (Ricky Williams EP and an old beat tape of Juelz’s)

https://juelzwhite-officialcratemusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-ricky-williams-ep

Juelz media= iamjuelzwhite (Twitter) juelzwhiteyo (IG)

 

Fly Anakin interview

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Fly Anakin joined us for an interview to speak about his music and inspirations in hip hop.

RDHow did Mutant Academy form?

FA: Mutant Academy started as a rap duo between Henny L.O. & myself.

While making music in the city we came across some dope producers

and emcees online & locally. The original plan was to keep it limited

but the universe wanted otherwise.

 

RD:Which member do you have the longest history with?

FA: Henny L.O., outside of being the co-founder he coached me in the

beginning stages of my rap life. He had all the golden era shit on his

computer cause of his big brother Mirtaw. We raised each other as teens.

 

RD: Your joint album with Koncept Jackson ‘Chapel Drive’ did really well last year.

Which song did you feel was your best from that project?

FA: Yeah yo, we knew Chapel Drive would crack the door open. It’s either

“Huarache Ultras” or “When Thugs Cry” for me. I haven’t really

listened to that project in a while it might change after another listen.

 

RD: Lately you have had a lot of collabs, do you have any personal favorites?

FA: Some unreleased shit.

 

RDWhat does the future hold for yourself and the group?

FA: Top of the world… I believe that firmly. We’re the best at what we do

the world will find out and we will be respected globally. Mad music too.

 

RD: Who are your favorite Rappers?

FA: Mutant Academy, Wu-Tang Clan, Nickelus F, Outkast, Roc Marciano, Kool G Rap, Suga Free, Curren$y, Future, Young Thug, Prodigy & Nas. There’s way more but that’s off head.

 

RD:  Was there anyone you admired in the music industry that inspired you

to become an artist?

FA: Not to be cliché, because anybody that knows me will laugh when they read this.

Method Man made me wanna be a rapper initially cause he made it look cool.

I use to watch How High everyday and Wu-Tang shaped me as a youth.

People often confuse me for him.

Follow Fly Anakin

Twitter and Instagram: @flyanakin
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANKHLEJOHN

 

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ANKHLEJOHN

 

RD: From All Ceven to Vinyl Villain and VHS you’ve worked with some top producers. Can you share what the process of your beat selection?

ANKH: My process is based on the vibes from the sunrise. My producers already know my sound, so the real process is figuring out what type of drip I want to provide. A little bit of drip (tomato sauce) on any one of those productions and you got a Shaap Records exclusive.

RD: Is there anything you can share with fans about your up coming collaboration with Big Ghost ‘Van Ghost’

ANKH: Van Ghost is sinister. It’s a very confident record I would say. It’s raw as hell ya know, I’m not really a structured type of artist I can be all over the place at times but it all fits as one. Van Ghost is a journey man you can close your eyes and picture all of it.

RD: Who comprises Shaap Records?

ANKH: I’m Shaap Records. I work with a few artist to give us all the Shaap Records experience. The label is still under construction and will be that way for a minute. I’m definitely open to working with new talents, but it’s critical. Shaap Records is for everybody but everybody not shaap (hip). I really want to take Shaap Records in the direction of VICELAND or NOISEY. Shaap Records is more than music; more of a lifestyle.

RD: What does the rest of 2018 hold for the label?

ANKH: I’m still building the brand of Shaap Records. It will be big one day man that’s why it’s no rush. Anything I drop is from the foundation of Shaap Records. I’m currently experiencing with the merch and visuals. Fuck 2018, we here forever. Y’all are just witnessing the foundation of what could be one of the biggest platforms ever.

RD:  Who are you top three producers to use for your tracks?

ANKH: All Ceven, Viles, Big Ghost. I can’t just pick 3, Slumlord is in my top as well.

RD: What can you share about the inspirations behind your style of flow and rhyming?

ANKH: My style comes from being broke. The actual dirt of shit, I come from that. It also comes from being up, not only financially but also mentally, my higher self. It’s hard to explain a raw approach to this shit but that’s how I am. No politics, all truth.

Follow ANKHLEJOHN :

Twitter:

@ANKHLEJOHN

INSTAGRAM:

https://www.instagram.com/ankhnasty/?hl=en

 

 

 

 

Producer Spotlight Interviews: Bozack Morris (GGBR Tapes & Records)

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This week’s producer spotlight interview shines on Toronto’s own Bozack Morris. He runs GGBR Tapes & Records with DJ Big Jacks, offering unique collectibles ranging from vinyl to USB sticks. They first caught my attention in 2016 with 2 tremendous drops; ‘Never Change’ featuring Westside Gunn and Conway, and ‘Reality Rap’ featuring Meyhem Lauren. Intrigued, I immediately scoured Bozack’s soundcloud and found some really ill remixes including Lana Del Rey’s Summertime Sadness.

Bozack and GGBR as a company are not going to flood the market with releases, there is a high focus on quality over quantity. Utilizing unique colorways, killer artwork and top grade vinyl they have released pieces that are sure to be worth much more down the road. Here’s what he had to say for himself

RD: You run GGBR Tapes & Records along with DJ Big Jacks, take me thru the challenges of pressing vinyl and cassettes. Is one more difficult than the other?

BM: There’s more options with vinyl, with special editions, sizes and the colors. We do limited edition test presses with hand silk screened artwork for the covers. Cassettes are a bit more limited during manufacturing, but we do put a lot of thought into what we have control over (shell color/tape cases). Myself and Jacks plan a new theme for each release, we want the customers to have a unique experience with each drop.

RD: What was the selection process like for the emcees on the first 2 drops? Westside/Conway and Meyhem are some heavy hitters.

BM: Those were not the first GGBR drops, just the first 2 that were my productions. Loose Cannons 001 and 002 were supposed to be for my first EP, but I was waiting on something for 1 of the songs. ‘Never Change’ arrived in my inbox, and Jacks said ‘DONT WAIT, DROP THAT SHIT NOW!’ so I ended up splitting the EP into three 7 inches instead. Doing it that way had its pros and cons, it gave the songs a more individual way to shine.

RD: Cassettes are as big as ever, is that something you foresaw?

BM: I actually did not. Put out a 70s soul mix titled ‘ Black Zodiac Two’ on cassette inspired by the old DJ mix tapes. Then we got inspired the homie DJ Neil Armstrong, who put it on a cassette-shaped USB, and decided to put it on a USB stick as well. Years later, the cassettes are sold out while the USB’s are just sitting there.

RD: What goes into the color selection process for the vinyl, tapes and merch?

BM: It depends on the release, we try to tie the title of the song or artist into the physical. We are always doing special editions. Hus Kingpin & Big Ghost’s ‘Coke Case’ has a cocaine-like white powder on it, Daniel Son’s Karate Practice has a black belt on white vinyl. One day we’d love to do something never done before on a vinyl release.

RD: What gives your beats a signature sound? From the pronounced keys on ‘Never Change’ to the insane organ build-up on ‘Reality Rap’ almost every song has a trait that stands out

BM: It’s from the records, I’m a crate digger and am constantly inspired by the sounds I hear. When producing I’m trying to communicate a certain feel, sometimes I’m emo, sometimes I’m in the mood for some raw shit. Whatever the feeling may be, I try to capture it in the lab.

RD: You had 1 of the underground’s favorite placements this year with Conway’s ‘Biscotti Biscuit’. Did that relationship stem from your previous work with him?

BM: You could say that, having already worked with them played a role in getting on ‘Blakk Tape’.

RD: One of GGBR’s upcoming drops is with one of Respect Due’s favorites, Daniel Son. Take me thru making ‘Karate Practice’.

BM: Dan’s the homie, I met him and Saipher Soze last year after they dropped their ‘Divizion Rivals’ tape. One day he took an old instrumental I had up on soundcloud and bodied it. He sent me a clip, so I reworked the beat, had Futurewave master it and that was it. Glad to see that one getting the vinyl treatment.

RD: You have an EP with the energetic Heem Stogied, if you could lock in with any emcee on the planet for 4 tracks who would it be? Would the batch be ready, or would you chef up something new?

BM: Rappers can be unpredictable when selecting beats, even when you create something with them in mind they can pick something unexpected. Their mood when picking plays a huge part, that is something I’ve noticed with experience. Conway went with something melodic instead of my grimier beats for ‘Biscotti Biscuit’, but that is part of the magic of the whole thing. Sometimes the magic happens when you go against the grain and try different things. Conway is my favorite rapper at the moment, so I already have one of my wish list guys come to reality. DOOM and Roc Marciano come to mind, I think they’d push me to create something different and push my skills. I’d like to work with more singers/vocalists in the future.

RD: What does the future hold for the company and yourself?

BM: We still feel we aren’t where we want to be, when we get our props and get where we want to be…then its really on. Not to brag, but GGBR has something coming that everyone has been waiting to hear. It’s certainly something I’ve wanted to hear. But until we get the gold, we’re going to keep pushing this dope music out.

Follow Bozack Morris at:

GGBR bandcamp:

https://ggbrrecords.bandcamp.com

Twitter and IG: @bozackula