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Homecoming King: PB Wolf Q&A

(Editor’s Note: I interviewed Chris Manak (PB Wolf) for a couple local websites before his big show in San Jose a few weeks back. We talk a lot about his early history, specifically his start in San Jose. Take a look Stones Throw fans! – DM) 

HOMECOMING: PB WOLF PLAYS FIRST SAN JOSE SHOW IN DECADES W/ EGYPTIAN LOVER 

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Stones Throw is a defiant panoply of inventive music, a cadre of artists whom flout convention while making some of the most varied, artful projects in recent memory. It’s all due to Chris Manak, who helms the powerhouse label which he founded in San Jose, his hometown and early base of operations.  Continue reading



THIRD SIGHT: AN ORAL HISTORY OF RAP’S MOST RELUCTANT LONGSHOTS
02/13/2017, 11:31 AM
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , ,

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Iconoclastic rap group Third Sight has stealthily built a resume over the last two decades as one of the more prolific and consistent backpack-style acts left. They have effectively outlived the two genres with which they were initially associated— Underground Hip-Hop and Turntablism. By staying true to their core aesthetic, they have developed a dedicated fan base that is entirely too small, a committed group of record collectors scattered throughout the group’s home turf of California’s Bay Area, Japan, and Western Europe.

Is this is all that can be expected for a group that refuses to be anything but itself? Their records are defined by dark, minimal beats, virtuosic rapping and scratching, and a macabre sensibility tinged with scatological subject matter. Before embarking on this project, we knew Third Sight was a niche group, but I don’t think any of us realized how underrated and underrepresented they actually were among even hardcore hip-hop heads. They’ve never been signed to a label. None of their lyrics are transcribed on Genius. Their most-played track on Spotify has barely more than 10k plays. (For comparisons’ sake, note that Ka, an artist mining a similar minimal aesthetic, has more than 10 times as many.)

As we approached several seasoned rap bloggers, the type of dudes whose vocation is to champion lesser-known MCs, we soon learned many had never heard of them. Perhaps this is by design yet their records draw consistently high prices on sites like Discogs due to the confluence of extremely high quality music with extremely low number of units pressed.

Perhaps they are best suited to their role as perpetual underdogs, as their output is by definition not for everyone. Let’s begin with the simple fact that the lead MC, a thoughtful and charismatic rhyme animal with a unique flow, has chosen for himself the moniker Jihad, a word fraught with horrible political and ideological connotations. As a switch-up, he will sometimes refer to himself as the equally problematic (though for completely different reasons) Captain Cum Stain. Every Third Sight album features long spoken sections from the pimp-ish character Sir Limpdic. Every release is filled with the kind of dense, dizzying polyrhythms, both vocal and scratched, that are somewhat difficult to comprehend upon first listen.

So, this 10-Piece Oral History is for Third Sight fans worldwide. Enjoy the thoughtful and detailed descriptions of Jihad the Roughneck, DJ D-Styles, and the rest of the folks who’ve had a hand in this unique and engaging career so far. 

THE CAST:

JIHAD – MC

D-STYLES (Invisibl Skratch Piklz) – TURNTABLIST / PRODUCER

DU-FUNK – DJ / PRODUCER

JERRY D “DA HERMIT” (Tone Freq) – SOUND ENGINEER / PRODUCER

ROB SATO – ARTIST / ILLUSTRATOR

 I. PRE-VISION: FROM OUTTA NOWHERE

Let’s start with foundational benchmarks in your history: How did everyone meet? Had you previously already knew of one another? You two met at junior college, correct?

Jihad: I was in another rap group before Third Sight called Un-Cut Poets and we broke up over creative differences around 1990, maybe ‘91. Continue reading



Medicinal Muzik: Q&A w/ Oh No and Tristate
01/24/2017, 8:48 PM
Filed under: Guest Spots, Interviews | Tags: ,

Our good pal, music journalist Layne Weiss (LA Weekly, Wax Poetics, Mass Appeal) quickly spoke with Oh No and Tristate about their new project. For fans of their fuzzy, disjointed brand of stoner rap, take a look. – DM

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3 Dimensional Prescriptions, the new album from beatsmith Oh No and MC TriState explores the concept that music is medicine. But as with most medicine, as with most drugs, not everyone is going to have the same reaction or experience listening to their brand of medication. For some, the duo’s latest may bring about inspiration, creativity, or joy; others may get angry, sad, a little crazy, or all at once. This isn’t a one-size fits all brand of treatment. It is up to the listener to choose your own adventure.

Produced entirely by Oh No, whos comes from the pedigree of Madlib-esque inventions, the album features collaborations from stalwarts Evidence, Westside Gunn, Planet Asia, Lyric Jones, and others. This project comes courtesy of Bay Area stronghold imprint, Hieroglyphics Emporium, and is out now.

What does the title Three Dimensional Prescriptions mean and represent?

TriState: The title is like Oh and I are both kinda on some techy shit. And you know, he does his thing in the world. Everybody knows that. And I get down with the tech shit too. I work with a corporation called Hunt AR. And we do AR (Augmented Reality) And anyway, you know. I just thought it would be a good way to tie in our relation into tech shit. He does VR (Virtual Reality). I do AR. That’s the Three Dimensional side of it.

So the “prescriptions” are each song. I look at each song like a prescription. Like you need to get your fix for your addiction. Listening to one of these songs might help you. Oh No is known as Dr No so that goes into the prescription thing as well. So the doctor prescribes you medication or prescription drugs for your issues. That’s another way you can look at these prescriptions.

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Galt Macdermot’s Essential Song List
11/22/2016, 6:50 PM
Filed under: Interviews, Random | Tags: , , ,

galtI was recently lucky enough to connect with legendary composer Galt Macdermot and was asked to write a short primer on his essential recordings (heads might find the list tepid but this is real broad, easy swath of his jams). In the end, that’s the beauty of Macdermot’s enormously effusive catalogue– there’s so much to celebrate. Take a look / listen to the story I did For Redbullmusicacademy HERE. Thank you Galt, huge honor.



Miles Ahead: A Talk With Robert Glasper
08/07/2016, 11:34 PM
Filed under: Guest Spots, Interviews | Tags: , , ,

The homie Layne Weiss–an emerging journalist whose bylines include LA WeeklyMass Appeal and others– was gracious enough to pen this recent piece on jazz pianist/producer/fusionist, Robert Glasper. Read a bit of Ms. Weiss’ coverage on Glasper and his latest release, a Miles Davis remix project, Everything’s Beautiful. – DM

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By Layne Weiss

When Robert Glasper was asked to remix Miles Davis’ music, he knew it’d be no easy feat. Other artists have remixed the jazz icon’s music in the past, but for him it was different. “I thought I could do it as long as I did it my way,” Glasper reflects. “I felt it was cool as long as I didn’t pattern it after anybody else.”

Everything’s Beautiful, Glasper’s tribute to Miles Davis, features a diverse and eclectic mix of artists– Phonte, Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder and more whom, according to Glasper, all had a genuine love for Davis. “I didn’t wanna just get random artists just because they’re artists and they can sell albums or anything like that,” he explains. “I really wanted to make this a labor of love because he’s royal to the music world, he’s jazz royalty first. And so I really wanted it to be a real honest project.”

Glasper has spent the majority of his career fusing jazz, hip-hop and r&b together in a way that has made jazz relevant and enjoyable to hip-hop fans. “I’ve made jazz sound like it was made today,” he says. “Every other genre has a representative of today. R&B music right now, they’re not caught up on Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, at all. They’re all about Rihanna and Chris Brown. But the jazz world is caught up on John Coltrane and Miles Davis. They’re not caught up on any new people out there right now. They’re not caught up on us, on me.”

Continue reading



Bill Curtis: Fatback’s Rise and the Making of Rap’s First Release
07/06/2016, 4:59 PM
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , , , ,

“My aim is to be a kingpin with words, kids will jock my personality like King Tim the Third…” – Edan [Beauty and the Beat, 2005 LP]

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I recently spoke with Bill “Fatback” Curtis, longtime leader behind one of the most understated funk groups ever, The Fatback Band. Besides being astoundingly prolific, they’re also known for releasing rap’s first commercially recorded song, 1979’s “King Tim III (Personality Jock)”. My piece with Bill recently ran for The Guardian and I was only allotted roughly 1000 or so words. For those who are into Fatback, below is the extended transcript of our my talk with Bill on their ascent and lasting impact. – DM

Bill’s beginning and love of drums:

“I started in high school, probably sometime around the 10th grade, playing professional. I mostly was playing blues, most cats were only playing blues then. I got the gig because I was the only one in town with a set of drums. But  I didn’t know how to play the drums then. And my mother wouldn’t let no body borrow the drums. And the drummer the group I wanted to play with didn’t have drums. But I wasn’t letting no one borrow my drum set so they’d take me along and I eventually got good and played around town.”

On growing up around jazz greats:

“Bedford, North Carolina. It was like a mecca where all these bands would come through and I’d see them all. Butter Johnson and his band would come through. Duke Ellington would also come by. I saw Louis Jordan and all those acts. But I would only just watch the drummers.”

The making of rap’s first commercially released recording:

“That came about because I made a track and basically we were doing an album and I didn’t hear a single. I told my partner Jerry Thomas that we needed a hit to help the album. Otherwise, ain’t no one was gonna hear the album. So I said, ‘Jerry, what if we do a rap song?’ Jerry said ‘We ain’t got no one in the band who does rap, you crazy?’”

“I kept telling him I would love to make a rap track as our single and one of our members at the time was like, ‘I have a friend that lives in the projects and he’s a rapper.’ So I told him to bring his friend to the studio tomorrow and we’ll make it happen. I asked him what the rapper’s name was and he said ‘Timothy Washington.’”

On Fatback’s artistic pivots:

“From the time that Perception started, every one of our records was different from the last. We didn’t stay in any type of genre and whatever was going on, I was a part of it. So Disco was all big then, so I decided to just do it. Then as the band grew, my sound got more sophisticated, my sound got more polished. Then we played ballads eventually. I always wanted to include songs on the album where people would not recognize was us. I still do that to this day. I still put out 1 album a year since 2001.”

Continue reading



On Music Journalism…
07/05/2016, 6:27 PM
Filed under: Interviews, Random

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Humblebrag: I’m always honored anytime anyone cares about my writing. Read a recent interview aimed at aspiring writers where I discuss my career and music journalism’s rapidly changing landscape. Peep it HERE.