Exclusive Podcast Interview: Josh Rip Talks About His Upcoming Album Trinity and More…

joshrip

Josh Mallett (aka RIP), has been making music for the past 17 years. In that time he has aspired to become a well known local DJ, producer and filmmaker. His passion for music and video production can easily be measured by the amount of energy and focus he puts into every project. He is canny in his decision making when it comes to producing big sounding records with cinema quality music videos on a limited budget. Of course, he would tell you that his friends and family are the real reason he has achieved what he has. Not only because they (and God) inspire him to make the music he does, but also because they often play significant roles in his songs and videos.

We sat down with Josh and spoke to him about his upcoming album, Trinity, set to be released on May 19th, 2017. It’s coincidentally the third album in a series of releases which have spanned from 2010 until now, the previous albums titled, Fashionably Late and Sellout.

In addition, we talk a bit about the music industry and get the scoop on his coming of age story, a testament to the evolution of a striving artist who started from the ground up.

Josh Rip, originally based out of Northern Chicago, has now been a Madison-based artist for a number of years. Since his arrival he has managed to win five Madison Hip Hop Awards, an achievement very few can say they have accomplished. His last two albums were huge successes in the Madison hip hop community, and no doubt the third will be as well.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. 

J: So we are chilling in the studio with Josh Rip. 

R: What’s going on?

J: It’s going pretty good. How are you?

R: Excellent man!

J: So, when and where did you start making music?

R: Man, this is throwing it back. This is going to date me, but I started making music in the 90’s in my bedroom. I had started DJing at 14 years old back home in Waukegan, Illinois.

J: What type of music gear did you start with?

S: Meow?

Sammie, Josh’s cat just jumped up on Josh’s lap. 

R: Welcome, cat, Sammie. *chuckles*

J: That is a really cool cat. Is she a tortoiseshell?

sammie
Sammie

R: I’m not really sure.

J: She looks like a tortoiseshell. They have a lot of personality.

R: She loves attention, that’s for sure!

*We laugh*

J: So, anyway. Back to the question. What type of music gear did you start with?

R: I started with a Radio Shack mixer, turntable, cassette player and CD player. I would record music on my computer before digital work stations like FL Studio were popular. This was back when Cool Edit Pro existed, which is now Adobe Audition. I would record instrumentals through my analog mixer into a program called N-Track Studio. That was when I got my first taste of really being able to record stuff digitally. I was 14 then and couldn’t afford to go to a recording studio… and then I got into producing with FL Studio right around 2001-2002. It was called Fruity Loops at the time.

J: What gear do you use today?

R: I have a home studio in my basement. I have a TASCAM 8-track digital audio workstation and a MIDI controller. I use a lot of software. I have a couple racks and a compressor for my vocals. It’s pretty much all software though. I use Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Audition, After Effects and Premier. And I still rock FL Studio.

J: So I see you have a platinum record on your wall. What is that for? 

R: It’s a certification for Twista’s Kamikaze album. Back in the early 2000’s I created a website for Twista which later became his official website. I had been making my own websites on sites like Angelfire since the late 90’s and started my own official website rip-records.com in March of 2000. Being from Chicago, Twista was one of my major influences but he didn’t have a fan page back then, so I built one for fun and that hobby kind of turned into something. The website was going strong with hundreds of thousands of views per month during the time when Twista was in between labels. The site helped his career by showing Atlantic Records that he had a huge core following, and because of that, they gave me a platinum plaque.

J: That’s awesome! So what projects are you currently working on?

R: My current project is called, Trinity. It’s my third studio album, hence the name, but there are other reasons for that too. It’s a new direction, a new phase in my life. Sellout was released 5 years ago and in that time I grew a lot. I matured and came to a point where my new music was leaning on my faith. I wouldn’t put the album in a box calling it Christian hip hop though. I think it’s got its own lane.

riptrinity
Trinity image from whoisrip.com

J: How is this new project different from previous records you’ve made?

R: Like I said, this album is more faith based. It deals with my struggles and addictions, issues with my family. I wouldn’t say it has a darker vibe to it but it’s more vulnerable. On my last two albums I took a more commercial approach. They were feel good albums. I geared them toward radio play. This new album is me, the real me. This is who I am and you can’t use it against me. I put all my faults out there for the world, to let people know I am still accepted by God despite my flaws. That is the message I am trying to convey on the album.

J: What makes this project stand out from the other records you have made?

R: What makes this album special to me personally is I feel God really had his hand on this album, especially lyrically. There were some lyrics where I thought wow, this is something I never could have come up with on my own.  Everyone has their own beliefs. I believe our talents were given to us by God.

J: What artists did you work with on your latest project?

R: The artists I worked with on this album were artists I have worked with on previous projects. My guy Billy, aka Sincere, I worked with him on my last album. He is a real talented dude. My homie, ANT da Hopeboy, he blessed me with some vocals. He and I actually won collaboration of the year in 2013 at the Madison Hip Hop Awards. A new vocalist I featured on this album was Katie Scullen. I actually had recorded something with her for my last album but the song didn’t make the cut. I love her voice. She has a distinct soulful voice. She has a passion. Even when we shot the video for the single she came out and got her feet dirty out in the swampy grass. She is an artist in every form.

J: Who are your musical influences?

R: Early on, early 90’s I listened to a lot of Chicago rap, artists like Twista, Crucial Conflict and Do or Die, but also Warren G and Dr. Dre. And then I got out of that phase and I started becoming influenced by everything. I became more influenced by pop culture and even country music.

J: How do you connect with your fan base?

R: Through social media and live shows mostly. I get a lot of response on Facebook. I also love to perform live. My CD release party will be held at Lucky’s 1313 Brew Pub, Wednesday May 17th, 2017. I will also be performing May 27th, 2017 at Brat Fest. I love my supporters though. I don’t even like the word fan because that just sounds like we are on two different levels. One of my favorite lyrics is that “I was given a platform but never a pedestal.” I don’t like being put on that level where people feel like they can’t reach out to me.

RElease-Party-FB-Header-1100x615

J: I totally agree. So how do you feel about the music industry? 

R: Bittersweet. We are in a different era from when I started making music. I feel like the industry is over-saturated. Anybody can record music or film a video and put it on YouTube and consider themselves an artist, which is great, but it’s also a double-edged sword. It’s harder to get music on blogs. It’s harder to get noticed. At the same time there are a lot of self made musicians who are making it without a record label. Back in the day you needed a record label to help get your music out. Today, if you can get an organic following of supporters you might not need a record label because you have so many supporters and so much muscle already behind you.

J: Do you feel the digital age has helped or hurt artists sell albums? 

R: I feel like the digital age has helped and hurt. I read somewhere that they are really starting to crack down on piracy, which I feel is a good thing. It seems like people are starting to accept paying for music online. At first they didn’t want to, but now it seems people are coming around… I believe digital is the future though. I knew that back before mp3’s were even popular. I was already streaming music from my website in the late 90’s. It’s a good thing. It gives people a platform to promote their music and get recognized across the world. Traditionally, I wouldn’t have been able to get my music out to people from other countries very easily.

J: Would you be upset if people pirated your music?

R: My music has been pirated. Fashionably Late, I think I’ve seen it on the Pirate Bay. I wouldn’t be upset. I see it like people want my music and they will get it by any means necessary. I appreciate it. At the end of the day, people who are going to buy music will buy it, and people who are going to pirate it will pirate it. There is no stopping it, but I prefer people purchase my music since it helps me continue doing what I am doing.

J: In what formats do you release your music?

R: I typically release my music in two formats, on CD and digitally (iTunes, Spotify etc.). When I released Fashionably Late in 2010, I thought that would be the last CD I ever pressed up, but the funny thing is I’m still pressing up CD’s. I like to have a hard copy.

J: Do you feel physical media is still relevant?

R: Physical media is still important. You get things with it you don’t get with digital media. Interacting with fans and giving them something personal that they can take with them is important. I remember buying Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme on cassette which had a booklet of pictures and all the lyrics, and for some reason I really liked that. Being an aspiring rapper, I wanted to get to know the artist. When you search for lyrics online they are often wrong. So having something official from the artist is a good thing, credits, who produced what tracks, I love that. It’s an art form in and of itself.

J: How do you feel about streaming services like Spotify?

R: It’s the future. It’s what people are using to listen to music. Trinity has been distributed on Spotify as well as my last two albums. I am open to having my album on all platforms, whether they pay full price on iTunes or stream through services like Spotify where I get pennies on the dollar per stream, if that, or whether people pirate it, as long as my music is getting out there that’s all that matters to me honestly. This latest album especially is not about the money. This album is about evangelizing and ministry. God has blessed me with the things he has and so the money I make is a blessing from God from Him. He will take care of me.

J: How do you finance the production of your album and your videos then?

R: I pour a lot of my own personal money into my music, income I make DJing and producing videos for other people on the side. My music career is not funding itself. But even if I made a million dollars I would put 60% of that back into the music. It’s a never ending investment. You have to invest in yourself. I feel that is why people have taken me seriously for this long because I am constantly investing in myself. I cut a lot of costs by producing my own videos, recording my own music. I am a very frugal guy not just in my music career but in my personal life. I cut out middlemen and get the best prices I can on resources. But it still gets expensive. You have to pay for help, for visual effects, sub contractors etc. There are a lot of talented people out there but they are not going anywhere because they don’t invest in themselves.

J: Your music videos look amazing by the way. What gear do you use to make them? 

R: I shot on a Canon T2i for a couple of years which was a DSLR. Then I upgraded to a Panasonic GH4 which was a DSLM. It was mirrorless, so it wasn’t a DSLR, but it was a camera. And then I just recently upgraded to a film camera, the Black Magic Ursa Mini 4.6k which was a big step for me, but it was something I needed to get to take things to the next level.

J: When and where can we purchase your next album?

R: Trinity will be available on my website, whoisrip.com. You will be able to order the CD from there. The CD is great. It has a booklet with all of the lyrics to the songs as well as a bunch of pictures. It will also be available at all digital retailers.

J: Anything else you want the readers to know?

R: I want to thank everyone for reading. I want to thank Murfie for interviewing me. I want to thank everyone who helped out with my album. My homie, Memory, lent me some dope production. He is a great guitarist and producer. I recommend him to everyone. DJ Pain 1 lent some percussive production on the album. Katie Scullen, ANT and my homie Sincere, you guys are awesome. I appreciate all the supporters who are still rocking with me with this new album, new sound and new direction. I love you guys.

Listen to the full RIP interview on Audiomack: 

Check out more of Rip’s latest music videos from his upcoming album Trinity

Music by RIP

Rip SelloutRip Fashionably Late

Shop Murfie During the 10th Anniversary of Record Store Day!

recordstoreday
Image courtesy of recordstoreday.com

It’s that time again! Record Store Day will be held worldwide on Saturday, April 22nd 2017. This year is especially important because it marks the 10th anniversary of the holiday’s inauguration in 2007.

What is Record Store Day (RSD)?

Record Store Day was founded in 2007 as a means of celebrating the culture of the independent record store. It brings together musicians, fans and record stores alike from all across the globe. A number of records are pressed specifically for the occasion and are distributed to participating shops in various countries. Live performances also take place in various record stores during this day.

What is happening at Murfie on Record Store Day?

The staff at Murfie have sifted through the inventory in our warehouse and personally handpicked CDs we know to be popular or hard to find. We’ll be making them available for purchase this Saturday in celebration of RSD. We made sure to include albums from a wide range of genres in order to satisfy the eclectic tastes of our customers. Whether you’re the curious listener in search of new music, or the veteran connoisseur looking to add to your collection, we’ve likely found something just for you.

Here is just a sample of some of the albums we found for you! See any that you like?

cd-table

For all you listeners out there looking for the classics, we’ve picked a number of albums from the greats including Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Queen, Prince, The Police, Bruce Springsteen, Carly Simon, Yes, The Talking Heads and Fleetwood Mac.

If you’re looking for Jazz or Soul we’ve selected a few great recordings from Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as solid picks from Coltrane, Wes, and Miles. We also have a few titles from Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Lester Young and Count Basie.

Rock and Progressive Rock fans, you won’t be disappointed. We’ve picked a number of hit albums from artists such as Goldfrapp, Phil Collins, Fall Out Boy, Queens of the Stone Age, Modest Mouse, Evanescence, Def Leppard, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Willie Nelson, Spoon and Jefferson Airplane. Of course we also had to include Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon”!      

If Metal or Punk is more your thing, we’ve selected albums from Metallica (including the self-titled black album which went 16x platinum), Medadeth, System of a Down, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Blizzard of OZ”, Mudvayne, Disturbed, Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, blink-182, Green Day, Sum 41 and Linkin Park.

Pop and Top 40 fans, we’ve picked a ton of everyone’s favorites from artists such as Lady Gaga, Keri Hilson, Katy Perry, Madonna, Selena Gomez, Black Eyed Peas, Taylor Swift, Amy Winehouse, Aaliyah, John Legend, John Mayer, Coldplay, Maroon 5 and One Direction.    

Hip-hop heads jump around! We picked classics from artists such as House of Pain, Blackalicious, Public Enemy, Dr. Dre and Eminem. We also included more modern rap albums from artists like Wale, N.E.R.D., LMFAO, Outkast, Lil Wayne and  Kanye West. In addition, we chose albums from reggae/rap artist Damien Marley as well as reggae legend, Bob Marley, for you to enjoy.    

For the Electronic and Experimental listeners, we picked several titles from artists like Telepopmusik, Vangelis, Jamie Lidell and the Blue Man Group.   

We also have a number of soundtracks we will be selling including, Space Jam, Twin Peaks and Star Wars Episode 1.    

All this and more will be for sale Saturday, April 22nd 2017. We’ve selected albums from almost every genre to ensure you of a sweet find during your dig!  

Don’t see what you’re looking for?

If during RSD you aren’t finding the albums you’re craving, don’t forget to check the rest of the Murfie shop. We have a wide selection of albums to choose from, many of which sell for low, low prices!

What options do I have after purchasing my albums?

Murfie provides a service that allows listeners to purchase albums and instantly stream them in the following formats: FLAC and ALAC, mp3 and AAC. You can also send us albums you’ve purchased from other vendors and we will rip them to your Murfie account.

The physical copies of the albums are yours, but we will store them indefinitely in our warehouse until you choose to have them sent to you. This way you can maintain a clutter-free environment while you enjoy your favorite albums from your preferred devices.

Check out our FAQ for answers to all your basic questions or feel free to contact us, and we will gladly answer any of your questions about our services.

Interview with Rip [Podcast]

Rip‘ is a Madison-based musician, DJ, producer, and filmmaker who seems to thrive when he’s hard at work. As a five-time winner at the Madison Hip Hop Awards, Rip has gained both local and national recognition for the music he makes, including his many followers on YouTube who love his danceable pop tunes. Rip has some exciting movie and music-related projects to share with us, along with insights about hip-hop in Madison, Facebook craziness, and connecting with fans.

Here’s a transcript of our interview, along with the Soundcloud link below for your listening pleasure.

Making of a SelloutWho: Rip; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
What: Rip talks about his projects, the Madison scene, his Facebook break, and wild cinematography
Where: Murfie HQ, Madison, WI
When: Thursday, August 20th, 2015
How: Recorded by Kayla Liederbach

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


K: So right now I have DJ Rip here at the Murfie office, big welcome Rip.

R: I appreciate you having me, I always love doing interviews with you, it’s always a fun time.

K: Yes, and me and Rip, we go way back, just to fill everyone in. Like maybe six years?

R: Has it been that long?

K: Well I worked at Blue Velvet for five years, during college and a little bit after, which is a martini place in downtown Madison. Are you still DJing there?

R: Yeah I am, but you’re making me sound old now! Oh man, seriously time has been flying by since I came to Madison, it’s crazy.

K: You’re from Chicago area originally, right?

R: I grew up in the Chicagoland area, mainly Waukegan the majority of my childhood. I moved to Madison about, maybe if you wanna be technical, I made the official move in 2010, but I was hanging out here a few years before that.

K: How has the past year or so been for you in Madison? It’s finally summer now, maybe you get to go outside a bit more?

R: You know what, especially coming into today, it’s starting to get into fall now. I feel like the summer flew by. Honestly I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to enjoy the summer to be honest. It’s kind of sad, but…

K: Those creative types. So you recently produced a song for the Latin singer Rochelle, tell me a bit about that—it seemed like your career has gone full circle, since you used to listen to her.

R: Yeah, I don’t know how many people are familiar with Rochelle, but she was big in the 90s, especially in Chicago where I’m from. She had a song in the 90s called “Prayin’ for an Angel”, and I was a huge fan. She actually has a manger from Waukegan, where I’m from. So kind of just being intertwined from the same inner circle, he reached out to me. He’s been trying to get me to produce things for a while. And I just produced a song for her on her new album, so that was kind of crazy because I grew up being a fan of hers, and then producing something for her was cool.

K: And you’re also a director, and have made really great-looking videos. Tell me a bit about the feature length movie you’re working on.

R: I’m actually working on two movies right now. I just started a new one, and it’s still in the pre-production phase. I’m actually going to go work on it tonight after we’re done here. I teamed up with a local writer and director, because I’m not sure if a lot of people know I produce and direct all my music videos for my music. So I kind of got into this love and passion for filmmaking, and I’m working on a feature length film now with a local writer/director. And we just teamed up. He’s a great writer, great storyteller, and a great director. And he kind of brings something to the table that I lack, or don’t really have a burning desire for, which is the writing aspect of things. And I bring the creative aspect to the table that he lacks, which is the cinematography and the camerawork, and filmmaking process and everything. It’s crazy because he and I are like one in the same almost, you know what I mean? We have the same drive, same determination, same passion, same views, outlooks and beliefs on a lot of things, and it’s just kind of crazy that we’re two similar guys and we just teamed up. We’ve been working on this movie for two months now, and it’s all locally filmed, directed, produced right here in Madison. And we’ve had a lot of hurdles, but we’re still dealing with it, and the driven people we are, we’re not going to let it stop us or slow us down.

K: That’s awesome, so you’re staying busy. And it seems like you’re always churning out fresh video content. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a video, cinematically?

R: I’d have to say, when we were right on King Street in front of the courthouse, in my “Supernatural” music video. It’s probably my most notable piece of work. There was a 3D modeled rendered car that was coming at me, and I smash it, and it goes flying over my head. So it’s like this visual effect that I think was pretty dope. The best thing I’ve done so far, music video wise.

Continue reading Interview with Rip [Podcast]

Interview with DJ Pain 1 [Podcast]

DJ Pain 1DJ Pain 1 is a prominent hip-hop producer, and over the years he’s worked with names you know like Young Jeezy, Public Enemy and Ludacris. He’s also a Madison local and active community member who volunteers for non-profits. We had the great pleasure of having him here at the Murfie office recently.

In this interview, he brings up some important topics—like the pressure that Madison police put on venues that try to book hip-hop shows. Unfortunately, the lack of hip-hop in Madison makes it hard for talented acts to really blossom in town. What you might not know about DJ Pain 1 is that his real name is Pacal Bayley. He’s a true lover of all dedicated musicians, a physical music collector, and a mushroom hunter—although he’ll never tell you where he finds morels.

Now, I don’t want to give away all the best parts. Here’s a transcript of our interview along with the recorded version (below) on our Soundcloud player.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Who: DJ Pain 1; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
Where: Murfie HQ, Madison, WI
When: Wednesday July 1st, 2015

K: So I am currently in one of the Murfie warehouse rooms surrounded by discs with DJ Pain 1. Welcome to the office, first of all.

DJ: This is kind of surreal.

K: It is. Being surrounded by so much music kind of makes you think about all the albums that have come out over the years.

DJ: Well all I see is boxes, so I’m just smelling cardboard—and there are all these boxes with numbers written on all of them. It’s like musical coffins or something.

K: That’s one way to think about it, for the people who store their CDs here. We do have people who get their CDs digitized and shipped back to them. But I suppose it is a good resting place, and these boxes are actually like water resistant and temperature—

DJ: Oh they are?

K: Yeah we make sure everything stays nice and cozy in there. But you know there are a lot of things to talk about in music, especially someone like you who is involved on all these different levels. So over the years as you’ve gained all your experience, the music industry has changed a lot, especially recently, in terms of the way people listen to music, and the way it’s being released. So in your opinion, is the music industry changing for better or for worse?

DJ: I think it’s always a duality. I think access is a good thing, and access has been improving for decades now. And so what access begets is saturation. And of course it changes the landscape as far as fans are concerned and their expectations of artists. They expect a lot of music, and they expect instant access, and they expect free most of all. And so that’s not necessary a bad thing, because it’s forced artists to really adapt in new and innovative ways, whether it’s just challenging the traditions of a genre or finding new and exciting ways to market and promote themselves. So, it’s good for some and bad for others, I guess that’s a subjective question. And I don’t necessarily know, because I’m benefiting a lot from it—but then on a macro level the music industry is just kind of crumbling before my very eyes. At first that kind of scared me, but now I’m just sitting there looking at my watch waiting for it to happen, because I kind of can’t stand the paradigm. But it also every now and then lets me in through a door, and then I make some money and get some notoriety off it.

DJ Pain 1K: Well I like what you said about finding ways to adapt that are new and interesting. I feel like that’s gonna be the differentiator between people who succeed regardless of how the music industry ends up being. So what are some of the best ways that you’ve learned to connect with your audience and make a living?

DJ: I give a lot of stuff away for free. And maybe the ratio is somewhere around 10:1 or 15:1. 15 being what I give away and 1 being what I sell. It gives me more leverage for the people that are following me and benefiting from the resources I give out. So I don’t know if it works, but it’s worked for me in some capacity, so I’m going to keep doing it.

K: Well especially if your music is good and people like it.

DJ: Yeah with me I really speak more to the producer community, so: free resources for producers, a lot of video advice for just aspiring artists of all kinds, and streaming Q&A shows, panels, the professional development stuff that we do locally here. I’ve done it around the country too a little.

K: So you’ve seen Madison’s music scene, and you’ve also traveled to different places. How does Madison’s music scene compare to other places?

DJ: That goes back to the word access. I’m gonna use Appleton as an example just because it’s so close and it’s so much smaller than Madison. I mean, their population is a lot smaller than Madison’s. You know alone we have 40,000+ just students, just like a transient population, but Appleton has more venues, more music events going on concurrently, more music festivals, and just it seems that there’s more access. And I know that things have changed maybe in the last year or two, but when I go there it appears to me that they have more going on. When you come to Madison there are very few options as far as live music goes, and especially if you’re a fan of what people would consider—quote urban unquote—styles of music. That’s unfortunate. Because I mean the talent here isn’t any less amazing. And I’ve been all over the place and we have great talent here. But I think access and opportunity not only allows for sustainability, but it also promotes talent too, and growth too. I mean people feel boxed in here, so I don’t think we’re all growing as much as we could be.

K: You know, when you say that, I do realize I haven’t seen a lot of hip-hop and rap shows being promoted.

DJ: No they’re all banned, it’s banned. Name a venue and I’m probably banned from it.

K: Really! Majestic? Frequency?

Continue reading Interview with DJ Pain 1 [Podcast]

Album Review: “Lantern” by Hudson Mohawke

Hudson Mohawke Lantern

Lantern
Released: June 16th, 2015
Reviewed by Erik Wermuth
Rating: 3/5

Almost two years ago, when Jay-Z’s album Magna Carta Holy Grail dropped, Hudson Mohawke tweeted that “This record could’ve came out 10 yrs ago and no one would’ve batted an eye lid”. Admittedly, the Glasgow native had submitted several beats for consideration that Jay-Z ultimately decided not to use. It should be fairly obvious that he was not in a neutral headspace about the album when it dropped, but the critique highlights one of the central conflicts in music today: now that the technology for production and distribution has advanced to the point where anyone with a computer and some time on their hands can put out a body of work, why does so much of it still sound so much the same?

It would be tempting to use Mohawke’s own words against him and his latest release, the LP Lantern, but that would be both cheap and incorrect. 10 years ago, his style alone would have (and did) raise eyebrows. After a series of mixtapes and a reality TV talent-search appearance in the mid-to-late 2000’s, the happy trapper (trappist?) started gaining a significant amount of traction, especially for an unheralded teenager out of Scotland. The work he produced during this period was hard-hitting enough to send club crowds over the edge, while providing enough passion and innovation to keep critical listeners coming back for more.

The unique blend of happy-hardcore intensity and trap rhythms that dominated his music in the last decade culminated in the prestigious Warp Records releasing his first LP Butter in 2009. The album’s combination of creative power and head-nodding accessibility made it a critical success that led to high-profile collaborations with the Canadian producer Lunice as the duo TNGHT and with Kanye West on his Yeezus album, both of which vastly increased his popularity with American listeners. It is within the context of his meteoric rise to fame and its aftermath that his most recent album Lantern must be understood.

Hud Mo is clearly a very talented producer, and nothing in Lantern shakes my faith in that. He has his sound down tight. After making waves in December with his contributions to the Rap Monument, he’s moved away from hip-hop/rap to a more R&B/soul-centered approach, particularly in terms of the artists he features such as Jhene and Antony Hegarty. He interviewed extensively in the lead-up to his sophomore effort’s release, stating again and again that he wanted to get away from his status as a trap god and move on to more interesting musical territory. This impulse, in and of itself, is an essential one for any musician who wants to develop his art. Sadly, instead of moving in new creative directions, the album sounds like a watered down version of his earlier works. Lantern lacks the immediacy and creative urgency that made early Hudson Mohawke so compelling. There are, of course, some exceptions: “Scud Books” is a strong, triumphal track, “Ryderz” has something of his old Saturday morning whimsy, and “Lil Djembe” is a short, but punchy beat that has flashes of his old brilliance. However, while none of these would be out of place in his earlier work, none measure up to the expectation of excellence he has established for himself.

Hud Mo achieved success by taking opposing genres and binding them into something greater than the individual components. Butter was so magical because he lashed two dominating musical forces together without losing the purity or energy of either. It drew praise for its accessibility, but it’s important to remember that being able to access something only matters if the content is worth accessing. Like all the best electronic music, Butter burst with inventiveness and left the listener with a real sense of passion– even when it grated, its freshness and originality were never in doubt. But praise can be toxic if misdirected, and I worry that Hud Mo heard too much about how surprisingly listenable Butter was and decided to move only in that direction on Lantern. The listener is still treated to the occasional whining treble and high hat nod to trap roots, but they serve more as a sad reminder of what was than as the basis for an exciting new direction.

Ultimately, Lantern is still a solid album by a great producer. Had it come out ten years ago, eyelids would definitely have batted. 5 years ago, less so. Coming out today it sounds like one long compromise to pop sensibilities, some of which Mohawke himself helped to create—a canned production of known quantities. The creative verve that was beneath the surface of all his releases from his first EP LuckyMe in 2005 to Butter in 2009 is mostly a no-show. The taming of his trap sensibilities that Lantern represents was a major disappointment, mostly because of how high of a bar he had set for himself. At best it represents stagnation for one of the world’s premiere electronic artists and at worst it marks the beginning of a long, slow creative death. As a cutting-edge producer, if mainstream news outlets are describing your new work as lush, listenable lounge music, it’s a safe bet that you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the line. That being said, this is only his second solo album, and his side work has remained impeccable. Here’s to hoping Hud Mo can right the ship. I give Lantern an uninspired 3/5.

80s music gems, Vol. 1

I wasn’t alive for very long in the 80s. But thanks to the radio stations I listened to while growing up, I know plenty of 80s tunes that still rock today. The genres from that decade reach all over the place, and there’s plenty to love. Here are some 80s music gems that I recommend for those who are feeling a bit nostalgic…

Whitney HoustonWhitney (1987)

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston was sensational! R&B truly shaped itself in the 80s, and Whitney’s vocal skills were powerful and internationally acclaimed. The album Whitney debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, making history, as it was the first album by a female artist to do so. The song “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” is absolute fire on here—catchy in the best way with tons of synthesizer. Plus the video is adorable.

 

Queen The Game (1980)

Queen the game

Queen! A favorite of many, Queen had already established themselves in the seventies as an energetic arena rock band. However, their 1980 release The Game marked the first time the band used synthesizer on their recordings. It was their only album to reach #1 in the US, and it went on to become their best-selling studio album, containing the memorable tracks “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”.

 

Violent Femmes Violent Femmes (1983)

Violent Femmes

The Violent Femmes are based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (woooo!). Apparently the band was discovered while playing in front of the Oriental Theatre the night of a Pretenders show, when Chrissie Hynde asked them to do a set on stage. Most of the songs on this debut album were written while the singer Gordon Gano was still in high school. It’s hard to describe their sound, but words that come to mind are: raw, gritty, angsty, and sarcastic. Great tracks on here include “Blister In The Sun”, “Add It Up” and “Gone Daddy Gone”.

Beastie BoysLicensed To Ill (1986)

3679-large

It’s hard to believe these guys started in the 80s! Songs like “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)”, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, and “Brass Monkey” are still played all over the place. The Beastie Boys brought an interesting twist to hip hop at the time—they were white, and they incorporated a punk rock sound to their music. Licensed To Ill was the first rap album to top the Billboard chart. Their lyrics offend just about everyone if you pick them apart, but there’s something distinct about the band’s energy and voice that makes them unique and lovable.

What are your favorite 80s music gems? Let us know in the comments!


Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.


VOTE: 2015 Murfie Listener’s Choice Awards

If you’re like us at the office… then maybe you enjoy the excitement of the GRAMMYs, but you think the nominees aren’t really THE best out of all the music out there. Obviously a lot of it has to do with what’s mainstream, what’s played on commercial radio, and things like that.

The Murfie staffers discussed this a bit, and we came up with our own list of nominees and categories. We have a broad range of musical taste here and totally pride ourselves on exploring what’s not popular, without denying the popular stuff that’s rightfully good.

Now, you, the people, can choose the winners in our 2015 Murfie Listener’s Choice Awards! Voting ends on Thursday, February 5th at noon—one vote per person, please! We’ll let you know who the winners are before the GRAMMYs air on Sunday February 8th!

Click the “Vote” button after each category to save your vote.

[Click “Continue reading” to view all categories]

Continue reading VOTE: 2015 Murfie Listener’s Choice Awards