pathos (or... "why is this shit so weird?")
I’ve been doing this since I was 14.
I’m 27 now.
What took so long?
When I was 16 and first peeked past Madvillainy into the seemingly-infinite DOOM catalog, I got hung up on his use of third person pronouns. What protagonist refers to themselves in the third person, except Snarf?
Then it hit.
DOOM plays both narrator and protagonist. All emcees do.
Expanding on that. Thinking of literary form. Terminology from high school English class. What are the other big ‘literary elements’?
Where are you from? What does that place sound like?
Many emcees have enough common context with the sacred scrolls that they don’t necessarily have to answer these questions in order to render effective work. If you hear Nas or Cam or Del and find yourself reflected in their art without hesitation, you have, at the very least, a blueprint for how your environs might be rendered in sonics.
But what does it sound like where I’m from?
Where am I from?
Rest stop motels off I-8. Off-res residential compounds populated by people from all over the world who wait tables or deal cards or clean rooms at the nearby resort-casino. Thick bamboo surrounding the shower heads at my favorite beach, where we fished our way through long swathes of couch surfing.
I have so few models because virtually nobody makes it out of those contexts with enough excess energy to pour it into a creative practice. Early, ultimately abortive, attempts at Cutting My Teeth were difficult to pull across the finish line, because I was willfully suspending this line of inquiry in service of ‘getting something out there.’ That dissonance, that sense of displacement, was not just evident but overwhelming in the few works I managed to complete*.* Paralyzing, even.
I started playing piano to recall my context. I started playing basketball to recall my context.
I broke my hand playing basketball. Even after recovering, the lingering pain was too intense to continue playing piano.
There was a house near the courts near my apartment. They always left the door unlocked for me. I’d lay on the couch and watch Emily Sprague’s old YouTube videos (most of which are now unlisted). Pre-Water Memory. There was something restorative there, something grounding. I dug deeper. KAS, Lightbath, Subotnick, Ciani, Barbieri, Made of Oak, RAAL, Stars of the Lid, Meng Qi.
The challenges of marrying the affective conceits of environmental music with hip-hop, particularly my angular, breathless approach to hip-hop, were more numerous than I could have imagined, but I was and am dedicated to bridging those discourses as fully as one may in a lifetime. Years of practice and study, under Lightbath’s guidance, as well as that of my friend Max Bowen, have put me in a place to at least articulate the paradoxes for which I have taken responsibility.
Early last year Tyler Etters relayed to me the parable of the ceramics class, and I set about making as many pots as I could. One beat a week that I could stomach rapping on, rapped on, mixed. He and Ryan Laws kept me honest. I took breaks. To mourn my father. To build colorwheel. To rest.
All told there were 14 pots made in about as many weeks, with four times that many left unfinished. Ten of those made it into my bones, and might make it into yours, if we’re both very lucky.
I played my first show in five years in September. Dilla beats. Pete Rock. Alchemist. A very talented engineer, Jared Marxuach, approached me afterward. We made two songs together, and he agreed to pull this project into the light with me.
It’ll be here soon.
This is a prospectus, not a dissertation. I understand that what’s earth-shattering about it to me may not be so revelatory to others. I have scoured the canon and can tell you in good faith that nothing like this exists.
Even if it’s not for you, even if it’s not for any of you, there will still be more.
That’s a promise.
[more to follow]
ethos (or... "got anything more.... regular?")
In September of last year one of my dearest friends, Chucky BLK, put together a show funded with a grant from the city of Austin. It was shot by Pillarboxed. It was my first time performing since 2017, and one of the songs I played was from that year. None of the beats in the set are the beats on the record. I met Jared, who engineered the record, that night.
Three of these tracks are on the record, two are not. Here’s a playlist of all the live videos, professionally shot, three cameras, good sound, the works. Alternate instrumentation, mixtape style. If things are too slooshy or bloopy or “the vocals are too low” on the record but you think the rhymes may be tight, this supplement is for you.
logos (or... "what does Colorwheel have to do with this?")
Yeah yeah, the nerd shit.
I had the same misunderstanding that a lot of people have when getting into modular synthesis. The thought is something like “I make the patch, the patch makes the music — if I know what to plug in where, the thing plays itself.” Really a synth only plays itself the way the overtones of a piano play themselves. There’s gotta be a root intention. Still, generative systems are interesting.
If you have ears, you may have noticed that nearly all generative systems are harmonically identical — they work off pentatonics, offering very little opportunity to shift the harmonic impression of a piece while it plays (think Marbles button-presses — not exactly a performance gesture!).
Colorwheel is the antidote to that. Still those familiar pentatonic shapes (although you can now program custom scales instead), but outfitted with 17 controls that facilitate movement through different harmonic zones.
The record and cw came into being at the same time (I recorded nearly all of the vocals for the record the same week I released cw). As a result, only tracks 1 and 10 feature a release version of Colorwheel. Seven of the others make use of prototypes of the thing (that’s how I was able to finish both in such proximity; each informed the other). The only track without any cw representation is “Interstate Trips.”
I’ll say that what I did with cw here is a massive underutilization. Basically I didn’t have the ears yet to actually make use of the tool for its main purpose: harmonic motion. As a result, the record trades almost exclusively in static harmony (the big exception is “Rain Gutter Collar Bones,” which is a reharmonization of Stella by Starlight).