In a rap game not short on out-there producer, Lee Bannon is making a point of heading to the outer limits.
The Cali-born, Brooklyn-based producer has already amassed a glittering CV: Talib Kweli, Ab-Soul, Curren$y and, most notably, Joey Bada$$’ Pro Era crew have all made use of his beats. Like Keyboard Kid 606, he’s proven himself something of a stylistic nomad, tripping from boom-bap to ambient to fringe electronica. 2009 debut Me And Marvin used Gaye samples to make scrambled head nod, and subsequent releases (The Big Toy Box, The Checkpoint Mixtape) upped the exposure. His real triumph, however, was 2011′s Fantastic Plastic – a severely underrated capriccio taking in Sun Ra, Matthewdavid and, naturally, Jay Dee.
Following on from the Caligula theme music 2.7.5 tape, Bannon is just about to loose Never/mind/the/darkness/of/it – his darkest, meanest EP to date. Compared to this year’s excellent work with Super Helpful, Bannon’s on a major downer – these are heavy, glowering propositions. They sound great, too: see the fist-pumping El-P feel of ‘Relalhmatic’; molasses-thick R&B nightmare ’547′; and the shimmering drone of ‘Chocolate Coated Smoke’, closer in spirit to GAS than, say, Friendzone.
Never/mind/the/darkness/of/it is out this week.
» On Friday, May 10th, one of the many Downtown Music Festival shows occurred at Element featuring performances by Earl Sweatshirt, Antwon, Ryan Hemsworth and Branchez. Click on photo above for full set.
Isaiah Toothtaker in Los Angeles at Low End Theory on May 15th, 2013.
Knuckle-throwing rap auteurs meet, make wavy banger
On his recent Lil Wayne collab “Beat the Shit,” Gunplay identifies himself as a “knuckle-throwing knucklehead,” the type to “bring that ruckus up in here, throwing bottles, throwing chairs.” It was only a matter of time, then, before he came across Arizona’s Isaiah Toothtaker, a terrifyingly tattooed dude who purportedly earned his surname by filling a mason jar with the gnashers he knocked out during bar brawls. We’re only glad they didn’t meet on opposite ends of a broken pool cue.
The former stands out within Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group as exceptionally talented and just the right amount of strange. The latter lords over the left-field hardcore rap posse Machina Muerte and has notched recent collaborations with in-demand producer Harry Fraud and in-prison rhymer Max B. And they make a perfect pair on new song “Frownin.” The version you’ll hear below is remixed by Blue Sky Black Death (the original is on the way), the dark-minded Seattle beat collective who brought us Nacho Picasso in 2012. The track is as bleak as anything on Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein, but dipped in the purple swirl du jour that characterizes the work of guys like Clams Casino and Ryan Hemsworth. Gunplay moves through that magnificent murk head down with a workman-like flow, while Toothy delivers macabre punchlines with characteristic glee.
The electrifyingly eclectic Antwon is a pop culture obsessive whose grab-bag interests — from thrash metal to avant-garde film to Fox sitcoms — are well suited to his alternately raw and sensitive avant-rap. That freewheeling sensibility, delivered in a deep, unhurried voice over shifting beats, and showcased on the Fantasy Beds and End of Earth mixtapes as well as the recent In Dark Denim LP, have won widespread acclaim for the San Jose MC. SPIN sat down with Antwon to discuss his jones for Martin Lawrence, Meatloaf, and Kid Rock.
Danzig and Ozzy Osbourne
“For singers, it’s probably a tie between Danzig and Ozzy. I love rock’n’roll. The guitar is an African instrument, and it’s black people music. I grew up feeling that, and later knowing that. But music is music and it all has feeling. With Danzig and Ozzy, it’s the voice and the writing. I fell in love with Danzig’s voice, and I just recently started getting into his lyrics. Danzig II: Lucifuge was my favorite album growing up.”
“War Hungry fucking rule. They’re a hardcore band from Eastern Pennsylvania, near Philly. War Hungry for reals. I saw them play with Trash Talk in the teeniest basement, like the littlest basement in West Philly. It was fucking insane. It was really cool because I had never seen people wearing really nice clothes moshing that hard, really violently. It was some shit like you seriously had to have been there.”
Martin Lawrence and Martin
“Fuckin’ Martin! Fuckin’ love Martin all day. It’s so sad how Martin Lawrence fell off. I still love him to death because that was the show. Martin and probably In Living Color. That shit ruled. I go back to Living Single reruns. Living Single was my shit. They had the best intro song. That show, and fucking New York Undercover. The episode where Ice T kidnapped his son and daughter — that shit was gnarly.”
“I ain’t had a home cooked meal in a while. Fuck, I don’t even know the last time someone has cooked for me. I smoke too much weed and don’t even remember. It’s been so long since my Mom cooked meatloaf. I like meatloaf a lot; Meatloaf and broccoli. I’d have steamed broccoli and put cheese on it when I was a kid.”
Kid Rock’s Devil Without a Cause
“I listened to that shit the other day. Remember the things as a kid, where you would send a penny and you got twelve CDs back? I got the Len CD, Redman, some weak shit, Devil Without a Cause and Weezer’s Blue Album. Devil Without a Cause still holds up because [Kid Rock] produced that whole album. He just did it with another producer who could get his sound to where he wanted it to be. So it’s basically like a real Kid Rock album. He plays all the instruments on there. I kinda want to go see him on this tour. I feel like if I’m gonna splurge on a show this year, it’ll be Kid Rock.”
Harmony Korine and Larry Clark
“Harmony Korine rules. Harmony Korine is definitely weird and I fuck with that stuff. He’s always thinking outside of something. My favorite movies that I really relate to are Larry Clark movies. I swear I watch them and it’s like I ditched school, walked into some party and was like ‘What the fuck?’ [Clark’s] photo book Tulsa is crazy. I remember me and my boy Nick got fucked up one night, sitting in the dark and drawing and shit and looking at the Tulsa book.”
“I’m so manic, I can’t let myself have a day off — I feel like I’m wasting time. But my favorite thing to do on a day off is just lying in bed, having sex all day.”
We invited our good friend Antwon to come over and and drop some tunes in our Glassroom. Here is”Still Guarded” and “Cold Sweat” performed live. This is a track that is from Antwon’s In Dark Denim mixtape that was produced by Cities Aviv.
Peace’d Out have yet to tour or do a show. Nonetheless, after finishing their EP, they are now working on their debut full length recording. They’ve now released a video from their EP of them performing the song “I would like. To feed your fingertips. To the wolverines.” live.
The song features Peace’d Out playing at Bright Lights Studio. The track is killer, in our opinion – one of our favorites on the self-titled release we gave high praise to. We have no idea when the next release will come out, nor when (if ever) the band will tour; vocalist Vinnie Caruana is working on his solo career, and guitarist Steve Choi is performing with the reunited RX Bandits at the Skate & Surf Festival. We’ll keep you updated as things come along. Watch the video after the break.
We’ll be hanging poolside with Nite Jewel and Chrome Sparks on April 13!
If you enjoyed the SPIN House experience in Austin during SXSW, you will certainly dig the SPIN House in Palm Springs next weekend! We’ll be chilling (to whatever extent possible, because it is damn hot there) poolside on Saturday, April 13 between noon and 5 p.m. while enjoying sets by ANTWON, King Tuff, and Nite Jewel. And Chrome Sparks will be DJ-ing!
The price of admission? Nothing, it’s free! BUT, you must RSVP here. And you must be 21+. Admission is based on capacity, but you gotta get your name on the list to get in, so RSVP! Now!
Art by Meaghan Garvey.
The main problem with most “Rappers to Watch this Year” lists is that they suck. They’re dictated as much by Trojan Horse PR buzz, social media favoritism, and plain hedged bets as much as actual taste, and at Noisey, we think that’s no good. In 2013, hip-hop is as diverse, fun, and straight-up incredible as it’s ever been, and we want to tell you who’s worth your time this year. Some of these guys you might not know about yet, others are already your new favorite rapper, and others still might be names you’ve written off who you should really reconsider. As such, this isn’t as much a bunch of predictions as to who we’re guaranteeing to blow up this year as much as it’s a survey of what we find interesting, weird, and worthwhile in the realm of rap.
Special thanks to Davey Boy Smith of Southern Hospitality and Frances Capell of Real Gold Plated for going above and beyond with helping compile and write this list, Meaghan Garvey for contributing art, and Martin Spasov for jumping in and helping at the last minute.
If the rap game were a John Hughes film, San Jose’s Antwon would be the dude from the wrong side of the tracks wearing cut-off Pantera T-shirts and scheming on Molly Ringwald’s virginity. With his deep, powerful voice and dark inclinations, his songs are best suited for a house party where shit gets broken and girls get naked. On his latest mixtape In Dark Denim, he raps brazenly about freaky sex and rocking a broken Motorola phone over beats resembling the warped soundtracks of a box of dusty VHS tapes. The 26-year-old rapper got his start in punk bands and I just found out he still lives with his mom, but somehow, that makes him even more real in the not-giving-a-fuck sense of the word. Isn’t that pretty much what being hardcore is all about? —FC