I have a brief history with Fiona Apple. Well, that’s a stretch cause this history is entirely one sided but it still has always stuck out to me. When I was a senior in high school, Fiona went to the night school version of my high school. I guess part of the deal of being in that night school was working during the day and she was given a job in my school office. I remember walking by the administrative office (which was right by the school entrance) and casually glancing in one day and seeing a new girl. She was sitting behind a desk just kinda staring off into space. My high school wasn’t huge so a new girl was always a big deal…and she was striking. She glanced back at me wildly disinterested and I kept it moving. As the days went on, I would actually be excited to catch a glimpse of this girl every morning. She was beautiful. Huge green eyes, pouty lips and she didn’t dress like the other cornball girls in my school. She also never smiled. I don’t recall ever seeing her smile that entire year. Just a hard return glance was all i ever got. To a 17 year old boy, that was intimidating as fuck.
As the year went on, i realized I wasn’t the only one who had noticed her and pretty much every dude I knew was buzzing about her. One time, i was in the locker room telling a friend about how hot I thought she was and this dude “Mike” walks up “You guys talking about Fiona?”. “Mike” (as i will call him here) was a handsome, charming and all around liked guy in the school. He was a few grades below me but was definitely a “cool kid” by all accounts. We nodded and he was like “Oh yeah, that’s my girl…” and he said it in a way that wasn’t meaning a friend who was a girl. He definitely made it sound like they were a thing. Somehow the conversation swung to my crush on her and he was like “Oh you like her? Hey man, lemme know I bet i can hook that up”. Now, I was confused cause, well, that was his girlfriend as far as I knew and he was talking about her like he could pimp her out. Now, looking back, this was an absurd exchange and both bullshit and kinda awful but, at the time, my young brain couldn’t even figure out what the fuck he was talking about so I sheepishly just exited the conversation and went about my day. As weeks passed, I would see mike and her playing around (actually, she did smile in those times) and once he stopped me and was like “Hey Tony, this is Fiona”. I said hi. She nodded back and that was that.
The school year ended and she was just a memory as the mysterious hot girl from night school. A few years later , I’m watching MTV and a video comes on. I squint in disbelief. holy shit…that’s the girl from the office! Her debut video :”Shadow boxer” had dropped and ,man, I was shocked. While the genre wasn’t my first choice (i was literally only listening to hip hop back then) I thought the song was cool and definitely read any article I came across on her. This was the magazine era so they were plentiful.
As the years past, I kept an eye on her career. That weird thing where you feel some sort of vague investment in someone cause you have some distant connection to them. I didn’t know her AT ALL but i felt like I knew about her before all this. like a hometown hero syndrome or something. Every time she would come out with something new, I’d check it. Usually I’d glom on to a song or two of each album and that would be that. It was a case of be music being something i knew was great but wasn’t always my specific cup of tea. That was until her album “Idler wheel…” came out. I heard the first single “Every single night” and was obsessed with it. When the album dropped, I purchased it. I don’t think I had purchased an album before or after that for years. I was on tour in Europe during that period so it was perfect timing. There is no time in my life when i get to truly sit with an album and digest it more than when I’m on tour. Traveling with my headphones on…it’s all I have. And this album was the soundtrack to that tour. I ran it back, over and over for an entire month. To this day, I can honestly say it’s one of my all time favorite albums. Ever. Ever. Ever.
Which leads me to her new album. “Fetch the bolt cutters” dropped last week and I had no idea it was coming until the day before. I was psyched and, again, what timing? Here i am, trapped in my house for who knows how long. All i do every day is eat, watch things, make beats, play videos games, jerk off and sleep. THAT’S IT. So, when the album dropped, I woke up the next morning , put my headphones on and just took a walk. Cruising through the mostly barren city, face mask on, new Fiona blaring.
Now, here’s the thing about Fiona apple’s music. It’s not for everyone. But it’s also music that seems to only work in extremes. It’s either Genius or it’s garbage. At least with how it’s perceived by listeners, from what i see on the internet. The reality is definitely in a grey area, just like all art. That said, I think Apple is brilliant. That also said, I think some of her music is unlistenable. She can be both those things at the same time. This is a trademark of innovative artists everywhere. I mean, let’s be honest, Prince is one of the all time greats but for every few hits, there’s one that missed but, hey, he tried and that’s the point.
On this album, I’ve seen her described as “unhinged” and , musically, I can certainly see that. The songs are often incredibly manic , jumping from idea to idea with what seems like no real focus. But that’s kinda the beauty of her musical mind. There is an unfiltered aspect to her recent output that makes sense within the chaos. She colors outside of the lines like very few artists and it usually works. Fiona apple is the only person who could ever make a Fiona apple album.
Now, while her being stamped as “unhinged” is generally referring to her presumed mental state i would argue that’s bullshit. Unhinged means crazy. it means no control. If we are talking about lyrics, she’s as hinged as it gets. She is razor sharp and laser focused. Her songs are about specific things and feelings that a lot of people can relate to, while also being very personal and nuanced. They are about insecurity, discomfort and complex relationships. As someone who grew up listening to rap, i’ve often scoffed at modern rock lyrics. It often comes off as either corny or some emo high school poetry written by a loser pussy. The “woe is me” factor of it has never appealed to me. Say what you will about rap but, when the lyricism is good, it’s really another level of communication. Singing may emote emotions that rapping never could but, on a word for word basis, I’ll put rap up against anything (not all rap obviously, but there are a handful of truly special writers out there). Fiona writes lyrics that are almost rap like but , obviously, leaning heavier towards poetry. But it’s not some hidden message shit that requires a cliff notes. It just requires you to listen and really take it in for what it is. It’s a feat when a song has nothing to do with you at all and it still resonates. Take “ladies” , for instance. It’s an ode to the women who date the men she dated after her and how they should unite and not disregard one another. I mean, that’s my dumbed down explanation of it but you know what i mean. The song just rings so true on so many levels and her ability to pinpoint these minute things is part of what makes her a master of her craft.
She has a truly specific viewpoint that comes across in her songs. She probably gets very pigeon holed by the media as this or that but she’s far more multifaceted and level headed that she gets credit for. She’s not an angry feminist. She’s not some crazy bitch. She’s a distinct thinker that’s able to express that in a way not many people can.
So, all that said, this album is a brilliant mess. It’s often hard to sit through. It’s often jarring. It’s maniacal at times. Other times it’s soft and warm but far less than “idler wheel” was. The thing about a Fiona Apple album is that there is no such thing as a “Shitty Fiona Apple album”. She is beyond that level of critique. She makes music entirely for her and it shows. And while this album seems to have her unraveling a bit musically , it surely is with purpose and exactly what she wanted to do. And I can’t fault her for that ever. I’m happy an album like this can not only be made but can get heard by so many people out there. This is important music. it matters. I may not run it back over and over like i did the previous album but that’s simply cause “The Idler wheel” was MY album. that’s the one that spoke to me directly. This album, less so but that shouldn’t belittle the achievement it is, as a work of art and i’m pretty sure there are tons of people for whom it channels directly into their soul. And that’s a good thing cause the world needs more Fiona apples but I guess we are stuck with only one. But thank god/satan/buddha/allah we have that one.
I rarely play music festivals but I’m playing Shambhala this year and it got me thinking about this funny shit that happened at festival I played a long time ago. Usually, I go to these things alone, play, and get out as quickly as possible. It’s just not my scene. but this one time, it was a drivable distance from NYC so I invited a few friends with me and we made a night out of it. The plan was to take some shrooms and some molly and whyle the fuck out. My friends needed minimal prompting so it was an easy sell.
It was a super duper backwoods hippie festival in New Hampshire. We arrived on the grounds, got the lay of the land and pretty much had like 4 hours to kill before i had to play. My friends had no obligations so they took shrooms right away but I had to wait til after I was done “working”. I decided i was gonna pop my molly halfway through my set and see what happens. I did and , with like ten minutes left, it kicked in. For real, it was the most fun I ever had playing in my life. By the time I got off stage, I was HIGH. Right then, a camera crew starts to interview me. Reminder: I was so high…but I was also beaming cause my Serotonin was doing cartwheels in my brain. I willfully and joyfully do the interview and thank god it never surfaced cause I bet I looked like a complete saucer eyed psycho.
After I got off stage I located my friends and I took the shrooms , while my friends took their molly. They had been tripping for a few hours at this point and , adding the molly to it, were pretty far ahead of me. Because I was an artist, I had access to a special “backstage area” which was basically open farm land and a cabin where artists could chill, eat and use the bathroom. We were all tripping and decided it would be a great idea to go there and pee and be indoors for a little cause it was pretty cold out. But also, the whole “changing of scenery” quest one does when tripping was in full effect. We walked down this long, almost pitch dark pathway, lit only by scattered glow sticks (of course it was cause festival). We go the house and entered the main room. I recall it being pretty empty. maybe one of two people in it. There was a couch there so my friends and I b-lined for that. basking in the comfort of the couch, one of my friends needed to use the bathroom but just as she got up to do that, a very intense man in a pink fur coat came in and the other people in the room seemed very focused on him. Turns out, he was one of the festival paramedics (I actually named a song after him cause it was such a bizarre sight to see a guy who looked like the lead singer of Midnight Oil , in a pink fur , NO SHIRT underneath and some weird colorful raver pants be the person who might just save your life). Anyway, turns out a girl had locked herself in the bathroom and was unresponsive. The only girls in the room where my two friends. They turned to us and asked if anyone could go in and check on her. I guess they wanted a girl to go in , in case she was exposed or something. I was happy to not be an option cause I was way too high and that would literally be the last thing I wanna do…possibly find a dead person…ON SHROOMS? no thanks. But one of my friends reacted as if it was nothing and was like “Sure, I’ll do it”. This this day, that blows my mind. I don’t know if you’ve done Mushrooms before but taking responsibility in social and public situations is pretty low on the list of desired activities. I once had a near meltdown with friends , while shrooming, cause none of us wanted to go get a bottle of water from the bodega. We were scared of THAT concept. So, imagine being super high and being asked to go check if some random girl is maybe dead on a toilet. But my friend did that…and the girl was alive. Just passed out. She made sure the girl wasn’t in any compromising positions and send in Doctor sunflower to check on her. My friend was in the bathroom for what felt like an hour (but was probably like 2 minutes) so when she got out we are ready to GTFO there, Like, I’m not a “vibes” guy, in general. but in that moment, I was MR. Vibes and the vibes were dark and ominous so we needed to not be in there anymore.
We stepped outside and it was like the cold air washing over us changed everything. The heaviness of that other situation evaporated and we were back on our path. We walked around the secluded area where only artists could be. It was a farm so we passed a horse.I almost didn’t believe he was real, at first. Ever seen a horse when you’re tripping? It’s something else. Pretty sure I tried to talk to her and told her how majestic she was. Or not. But it was something. The cold was becoming overwhelming so we decided we would go warm up in my friends car and listen to music. We got in and my friend put on “Drunk in love” by Beyonce and, I gotta say, it seemed like the best song ever at that time. I remember blabbering in about the production and being just blown away at the whole construction of the song cause I was absolutely tripping my balls off. I mean, it’s a cool song but high me REALLY felt it. Which is very funny to look back on and makes me kinda wish i had video of me in that moment so I could show future generations and be like “That’s what high people do”.
So, after we warmed up in the car, we decided to brave into the actual festival. This was a little nerve wracking but also kinda exciting. We walked on the campus and the first thing I saw was one of those art tents. At these festivals they often have these “shops” where people sell their art. It’s generally art based on drugs or hippie shit and, to the sober eye, is terrible. Well, when I saw it in that condition i was like “ohhhhhhh I get it now!”. Keep in mind, I still didn’t think it was good but I finally understood the appeal of it. And my mushroom mind went down that path for a while, which was amusing, to say the least.
So we are just walking around the grounds, It’s pretty dark and all the people passing us seemed like shadows. We decide to check out one of the music tents cause what else are we gonna do? Now, I’m no fan of EDM. In fact, I kinda think it’s the worst. That said, when on the right combo of drugs, I’ve been known to be more lenient to certain kinds of music. We walk in this tent and bunch of extremely high scattered hippies were dancing to music that can best be described as what would happen if you put some cymbals and a robot in a dryer and set it on “fuck your ears”. Not even in my highest state could I tolerate it so we dipped out. It should be noted that one of my friends who was with me came up in the NYC club scene and was very down to stay so sorry to her. Couldn’t do it.
I think we meandered around for a little more and decided it was time to leave. My friend who drove us there had been high for , i dunno, 6 or 7 hours so she felt confident about driving us back to out hotel a mile or so away. It’s 4 am in new hampshire in the middle of nowhere so it’s not like there was much activity. At least that’s how we justified doing what we definitely shouldn’t have been doing…driving anywhere on mushrooms and molly. So, we did it. She drove. she drove great. It wasn’t far and we didn’t see another car on the road. I’m pretty sure she drove like 25 miles per hour the whole way. The entire time, assuring us she was good. It was misty out and it actually looked very beautiful , as things tend to look when you’re high on mushrooms. We go to the hotel and she parked saying “Wow, I can’t believe i just made it here”. Score one for bad choices that pan out!
We got into our shitty Days Inn hotel room. The girls shared one bed and I had the other. we milled about, cleaned up and had high conversations for a while until we all eventually fell asleep. The next day we woke up, braindead as ever, and headed back the city.
A few days later, I get a text from one of the girls asking me if I had any bug bites on me. I did not. Then the other girls responded (it was group text) “Umm,..yeah, I’m covered in them”. WHELP…turns out the bed they slept in had bed bugs. OOOOOOOPS. Me being the lucky piece of shit I am, avoided it entirely but they go devoured. Go days Inn. They took all the proper precautions and were fine but , apparently , being covered in bed bug bites really sucks. All i could think about was those bed bugs sucking that drugged up blood and tripping their faces off before they died from an overdose. What a way to go out.
So, yeah, that was the last festival I played. Can’t say I’ll ever do any of that again but it was certainly memorable. And isn’t that what life is all about…memories? and Bed bugs. And festival paramedics dressed like club kids. God bless America.
The term “Influence” is heavily leaned on when it comes to artists. People want a simplified and generalized way to pinpoint why an artist does what they do. So to ask them “what/who is your biggest influence” is like the catch all question. Whenever you read an interview and that word comes up, the answer is typically something like “My parents” or “I heard this one album and it changed how I listened to music”. while those things are certainly valid and everyone has their own process when it comes to becoming who they are, personally, I loath the question. Between that and “What inspires you?!” I don’t know what i hate worse. But the reason I hate that question is cause , often, what influences you is subtle. It’s an amalgamation of things you can’t even clearly identify. It’s a whole lot of grey area. For me, my go to stock answer was “The hip hop I grew up on”. which is a purposely boring answer for a boring lazy question. If pressed further I’ll go into more detail about the producers of my youth that set the standard that would later be what I strive for. That said, it’s kinda bullshit. I mean, without question, I was inspired by their work and have taken little things from all sorts of people before me (as well as contemporaries and people 20 years younger than me). But, for me, my actual biggest musical influence was this dude Manny. Just some random nobody of a guy I once knew who had a profound effect on my life. Now, before I get into this, I realize this all is gonna sound like a set up for some fucked up pedophile story of horrors but I assure , it is not. Hell, looking back on it now, it’s crazy that it even happened. It really makes no sense. Like, when i think of people finding mentors, there are few cases where someone did it out of the kindness of their heart but I genuinely believe this was the case. But, hey, maybe I’m just blurry eyed from the nostalgia of it all.
So, Manny was a dude I met when I was about 12/13. He worked in the toy store section of a drug store called Mckays on 6th ave and west 4th street in Manhattan. I met him cause manny was a dork who would buy and trade japanese toys with my friend, Ko, who was also a dork and had japanese toys to buy and trade. No clue how they met but I would roll with Ko to see manny and they would conduct business. At the time, manny seemed endlessly older than me. In reality, he was probably 18 or 19 when I met him. So, just some background, when i was 12 i was obsessed with hip hop. This was far before the internet and all we really had to go one was Video music box, Yo MTV raps and WBLS. So, my knowledge of the music was pretty contained to whatever they played. Which was a pretty vast array of stuff but, you know, i was 12…I liked Kid N play just as much as I liked 2 live crew and just as much as i liked public enemy. I just liked it all. I guess manny caught wind of my interest in hip hop and he would chat about it with me. He’d mention groups I never heard of and tell me who was ACTUALLY dope and who was wack. He’d even explain why to me. Sure, this was one mans opinion. a 19 year old who works at a drug store and loves toys but, to me, his word was gospel. Lucky for me, Manny actually had great taste. On top of that, he told me he went to high school with slick rick and MC serch so to my young brain, that was the coolest shit ever. So, anyway, as time went on, I started visiting manny without Ko. He was like this fountain of knowledge and I couldn’t get enough of it. I should mention, he also was a rapper. He had a crew called DB4. He would read me his rhymes and break them down for me. Thing is, Manny was a good writer. A student of rakim for sure. That said, he was a terrible rapper. His voice sucked. His flow was suspect. His boys were actually pretty good and his producer was very dope. but, regardless, this was all very new and adult to me so I was with it. Around 14 years old, inspired by manny, i started writing my own rhymes. i didn’t tell manny cause, well, I was justifiably embarrassed. A year or so later, I felt confident to read him some shit. Not rap it, but read it to him. I was always good with punchlines. I was funny so those came easy to me. I’d sloppily read my raps to manny and he’s bug out over certain lines…and then one day, he asked if he could use some of my lines on a song he was recording.
I was over the moon. He changed a bunch of parts but the majority of it was my stuff. So, it was then I started doing a little ghost writing for manny. About a year later, I was chilling in Mckays with Manny and his producer, duke, was there. Duke was a huge dude who wore all those wooden africa medallions. While he looked pretty stoic and intense, he was actually incredibly friendly. Almost nerdy, in a way. We started talking about making beats and I was like “my dad has mad records, I bet he got some samples you will like” his eyes lit up and he was all about it. I went home and ran through tons of my dads old jazz records. I recorded all the parts I thought were good to sample and gave them to Duke on a tape. He listened in front of me on his walkman. I couldn’t hear what he was listening to but I was following his every reaction meticulously. His eyes would get wide at some parts and his head would bob and I would be overrun with an adrenaline burst. He took the tape and that was that. A month later, Manny played me a song where Duke had used a loop and some drums i gave him and manny rapped my raps over it. Granted, manny rapped them badly but still..this was the greatest feeling ever. and on top of that, these grown men were giving me props like I was a major piece of the puzzle. I wasn’t really but it felt like that. By the time I was 16, manny and I were just straight up friends. we would hang at his job for hours and shoot the shit. He would tell me about his life. His love life was particularly harrowing. I was used to high school stories of sex and relationships. Like “Oh she sucked his dick where? no way!”. Manny was another level from that. By the time he was in his early 20’s, he had just had a kid with his girl. At the same time, he was also fucking the girl who worked with him at mckays. He would tell me shit I couldn’t comprehend. Like i didn’t even know how to finger a girl right and this dude had a kid and side pieces. The craziest shit being how, on the night his child was born, he was literally fucking another woman in a nearby hotel while his wife was in labor. yes, manny was not perfect. In fact, the older I got the more his stories stuck with me and honestly bothered me. Even back then, it never felt “cool” even though it was presented to me in that way. When he told me these stories, it was in a matter of fact and almost charming way that it never seemed that bad at the time. Looking back, dude was a piece of shit with girls. No doubt about it. But he was also a kid himself. Not making excuses but I’m also not treating him like he knew what the fuck he was doing with his life.
But i digress…
So, At this point , Manny had molded my taste in rap music, inspired me to rhyme and put the very first bug in my ear to think about beats and how they are made. When I was around 14, he had introduced me to a new radio show called The stretch armstrong show. Now, those of you in the know, realize this was a huge deal. It was a radio show on Columbia universities radio station that would play from 1 am to 4 am every thursday night (technically friday). Manny would record them and lend me the tapes. This may have been the most mind expanding part of my formative years cause the stuff they played on Stretch was out there. It was experimental and weird but also creative and inspiring. What is was , was the beginnings of “underground rap” and it was exactly what my ears craved. It was that show that set me on my path and , shortly after, had me digging around for other similar things. Which would lead me to other underground radio shows and , more importantly, rap music from other places. Up until that point, I only knew NYC stuff with a little gangster rap from L.A. and Houston thrown in, This was all so new and exciting to me and, honestly, I was more on board with it than Manny was. He was more traditional than I was , musically but , still, I’d play him stuff he hadn’t heard and he would be down with it. We were becoming less of a mentor/understudy vibe and more on the same level. My opinions slowly became my own and we would debate rap stuff…which, when you’re a real rap nerd, is heaven on earth. Can’t say I ever wanna do that these days but back then? Wooooooo! I loved it.
Manny was the first person to ever bring me to a studio. He had gotten some studio time in Brooklyn and asked if i wanted to come along and check it out. I jumped at the opportunity. The day before it was planned, I started feeling very sick. It was strep throat and i felt like I was dying. But there was no way I was gonna miss this opportunity. So a dragged my sick ass to the studio in a part of brooklyn i didn’t even know existed. This was 1993. Things were different. I brought a 40 of olde english , with hopes it would both relax me and make me feel better. It did not , in fact, i took one sip and felt 100 times worse but it made a good prop for me to have in my first experience in a recording studio. So, nervously and sick as I could possibly be, I entered the studio. It was a small room with a few seats, a small couch and mixing board. There was a mic booth that could fit maybe 3 or 4 people if they were smashed together. Manny was there. His producer was there. They were the guys I was friendly with. Also there was this dude Darren. He was the best rapper in the group and also kind of a dick. He was openly not fond of white people in general and definitely barely tolerated my presence. I honestly can’t blame the guy. Who brought the 16 year old white kid? These were grown men. Granted , I was fully grown at that age and looked older but still, I had no business being there. He had invited a few of his friends and they were even less friendly than he was. His boys were thugged out dudes from Brownsville, to this day still one of the toughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I basically sat back in the corner of the couch and just watched. I often wonder if I hadn’t been sick if I would have engaged more but probably not. i felt like a fly on the wall. What I saw was not what i expected. recording was sloppy. It took forever. It was boring. They were smoking blunts, drinking Hennessey and just kinda dragging ass. Watching a rapper do his takes over and over again was mind numbing (This is something I would later become well acquainted with later in life when I started rapping badly). Eventually, they finished a few songs. They were okay. Manny, in particular , struggled with his verses but it’s interesting. His boys seemed oblivious to him being the obvious weak link. Like, sure, he wrote good stuff but he couldn’t rap for shit. I was hyper aware of that then and , to this day, it shocked me that I didn’t see one shared eye roll glance between his group member when he fucked up his sloppy verse for the 27th time. They were all genuinely supportive of one another. At the end of the session they had some time left so they put on a beat and everyone kicked freestyles. This part was the best thing of the whole night for me. They all were pretty mediocre at it but the energy was amazing. Darrens boys got in and started rapping and it sounded familiar. Then one of them said his rap name Fish-b-one and i realized , holy shit, this is the dude from Da Bushwackass. A group i had recently heard freestyling for the first time on stretch and bobbito.
So, I’m like “Holy shit…this person is famous” when in reality, they hadn’t even put a record out yet but they had freestyle on the radio once. still, I was enthralled to be witnessing it. The was until his verse started veering into how much he hated white people. that part was a little uncomfortable. “I don’t give a damn about no white man!” he bellowed and i just kinda sunk into my seat a little more. Thing is, I was never mad at shit like that. I accepted my place and just kinda kept my head down. I was a guest in all of this, in my mind, so I acted accordingly. But , still, having those words snarled in your direction is, at the very least, uncomfortable. The session ended, manny put me in a cab and that was it. I missed school for a week with step throat but , when i finally came back and regaled all my friends with my story of studio time, they didn’t even know what i was talking about. In a way, part of what made this all so special to me is that is was something I had all to myself. It was this separate world from my normal life that was all I cared about.
By my senior year in high school, I began seeing manny less. I’d pop in and chill for an hour once a month or so , if he wasn’t busy. My social life started taking precedence over everything. The next year, i went to college and when i came back from my first semester, Mckay’s had closed. I still had manny’s number and we spoke on the phone a few more times but , eventually, we drifted apart…or his number got changed. I really don’t recall. In truth, it’s kinda like our mentorship expired. we were friends but I can’t say how much of that as one sided. Even though I never got a vibe from him that it was fake. That said, I do feel he genuinely enjoyed shooting the shit with me and he enjoyed being a teacher to an eager pupil. He set me on a path that really defined my entire life and he doesn’t even know it. I haven’t had any contact with him in over 20 years. every now and then I google him to see if anything comes up but his name is so common it’s pretty much impossible. Also, i know so little about him outside of his name and where he went to high school. He could have moved 15 times. he could be dead for all I know. In a way, i’d rather not know what happened to him cause his place in my head is such a specific thing. I wouldn’t wanna taint that. I mean, i hope he’s doing well and happy but outside that, he lives in that time for me and will always be one of those rare people I can look back on in my entire life and , without question, say was the most influential person, musically, in my life. Which makes the fact that he was a bad rapper all the more endearing.
My buddy and fellow music guy Eliot Lipp and I have put together a special treat for you guys. It’s a limited edition 7″ on Young Heavy Souls Records. This is a collaboration between Eliot and I. The tracks are very much a perfect hybrid of our two styles and also some perfect summertime type shit.
You can peep it in various places right here:
And if you wanna buy the record, go here:
Lipp and I are also working on more stuff for the future so this isn’t just a one off. Enjoy!
It’s been 8 years since I last had a video made but time flies, right?
Here’s a new video for the song “Slippery Slope”, featuring Billy Woods, Open Mike Eagle and Breezly Brewin. The video was created and directed by Mr. Oz
There was a time , not so long ago, where music reviews were serious business. They could make or break an artist/album. In the 90’s, a 5 mic rating from the Source was basically anointing you king. As magazines phased out, websites like pitchfork giving you a 9.2 pretty much meant you were selling out shows for the next two years. But, in the last 5 years or so , something happened. Well, to be fair, it had been happening but it started to mold how public critics were formed and how they were viewed. What happened was, obviously, the internet. Prior to the internet, the phrase “everyone’s a critic” certainly existed but it wasn’t until we were able to see every single persons every waking thought on every known topic that that phrase became a palpable reality. The playing field was evened to the point where a person who had dedicated their life to studying music/film/art and gleaned a deep knowledge in the thing they were obsessed with was all of a sudden seen as just as important a voice as some guy on youtube. Or some kid in a comment section. Just…anybody.
Now, as a musician, i’ve always had a weird relationship with critics. It goes both ways. No one wants to hear their hard work get shit on but everyone enjoys an old critical jerk off sesh in their favor. In reality, they both share the same negative space. Good and bad reviews , on their own, are just one persons opinion and that doesn’t amount to much. They really only matter (and by “matter” i mean effect the project in discussion) when
A)a large consensus of opinion happens
B)someone of notoriety and validity gives their educated take
One thing that always mattered to me, regarding the person reviewing my music, was that they were informed. They knew what they were talking about. Not just about me but about the music that came before me and the music that came before that because it’s all connected. When I listen to music, I am filtering it through years and years of references , personal quirks, ideas and all sorts of back of the brain type shit that I’m probably not even aware of, in order for me to come to a conclusion about how i feel about it. I’m not a “critic” but , like everyone else, I am critical. About everything. As we should be. We can’t just sit back and happily ingest everything that’s thrown at us. But if your job is a critic, you better have a wealth of knowledge and massive perspective before you can start telling people your opinion on art. Otherwise, you’re just…some fucking guy. And it’s okay to be some fucking guy. But it’s also okay to not feel compelled to film a 15 minute youtube video reviewing music you have absolutely no clue about.
Now, why am i writing this, you may ask? Well, I recently put out a new album. I’m not a big deal so my albums don’t get reviewed that often. In the past, i have gotten good and bad reviews of all types. Regardless of the reviewers reaction, if i feel they are coming from a knowledgeable place, I respect their opinion. This time around, the majority of reviews I’ve been getting have been from people who have literally never heard of me prior to this album and I just think that’s weird. The funny thing is, for the most part, the reviews have been great. Now, new fans are kinda what keep this ship going so I would never complain about someone discovering my music and enjoying it. I’m not insane. But this is about being a public critic. I realize “not trying” is a big thing now in music and it bleeds over into the other parts that surround music. Music reviews are no different. Now, if I was a guy who was trying to make a name for himself reviewing albums, I would , at the very least, do a tiny bit of research about the artist I was reviewing. perhaps check out his older work. Look into his influences. Hell, even just reading a wikipedia page. You know, do the due diligence that is required of someone who is trying to have an opinion that holds weight. But, these days, it seems like it’s much easier to just put the album on once, let it run and be like “Hey, i have no idea who this guy is (is he a band or a dj?) but this song sounds cool…” and then post it on youtube. That isn’t being a critic. That’s just a random person listening to music and reacting to it. In it’s essence, it’s a reaction video and there are very few things more lazy and pointless than reaction videos. Reacting is something we all do but also something that 100% doesn’t need to filmed and publicly shared as some sort of valid opinion piece. Not everyone with a youtube channel is Anthony Fantano. And , regardless of what you think about him, the dude is a well read fan of music. He knows his shit. You may disagree with his opinions but his opinions are, at the very least, well informed and have a genuine perspective. Now, i realize this sounds ungrateful towards people who have reviewed my new album and , really, it’s not. i appreciate any and all support. But this is more about setting a standard. Just cause you like music, doesn’t mean you’re qualified to review it. It would be like a person who watched law & order all the time thinking they could be a lawyer.
Listen, everyone has opinions. In fact, for some, opinions are all you got. Your balls and your word, as scarface put it. But there comes a time when we must do some self evaluation and deeply consider if the thoughts and opinions we have are worth sharing. And trust me, the irony of me writing all this and saying that is not lost on me. But, hey, you’re here and you’re reading it so….GOTCHA!