Its here! The EP Extended Play is officially released on my bandcamp:
Download and enjoy!
Its here! The EP Extended Play is officially released on my bandcamp:
Download and enjoy!
The back cover to Extended Play.
The project will be out this month!
Graphic design by Jadyn Klassen
A few years ago I worked at an AM Radio station in Altona, MB. There was a lot of down time while I only had to make sure nothing went wrong. I would often have my notebook out, writing between sportscasts & weather updates. However, listening to other music would distract me from my job too much, so I had to write to the quite hum of radio programs.
One day I was looking through some of my writings and I was dissatisfied with a lot of what filled the pages. I thought of songs that last through time. Songs where an artists relays an important message. I began to think of if I never achieved that before my life was over. If my music and my songs were mostly just a bunch of mediocre or below average rap verses.
So I set off on an attempt to write my magnum opus. A defining piece of work that would convey my thoughts, convictions, beliefs and discoveries up until that point in my life. I wrote this piece as though, if it were to be the last thing I ever wrote, I wanted to be able to be at peace with that.
On the video side of things, a friend from church directed, shot, and produced the whole thing. He is an incredibly talented person. Check out his work here:
Last Verse is the final song on my upcoming project “Extended Play”. I hope it blesses you!
Still waiting on the artwork. Hopefully this project will still see a release of Jan 2013. Although I am playing with the idea of a new title, which might set it back. We’ll see.
When I wrote Honest I was in an interesting place in my life. It was March of 2012. I had moved to Hamilton in Sept of 2012, leaving friends and family back in Manitoba only to be volunteering at a few great places. I had a difficult time finding work and settling in. Honest documents, with full disclosure, the year or so of my life up until the point of writing. It started with the self-loathing of my own music and traveled into some of the small rise & fall that was Captain Bear (which could now be used as a name for my ego, ha) then goes into some of my desires to be alone and back into my thoughts on my music & employment situation. It ends on a note of reminder of the goodness of God and then my desire to be older, wiser, more mature.
My friend Blaine (bassist in Captain Bear) told me he’s planning on getting the last line of this song tattooed on himself. It was one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever had of my writing. I’m blown away that it effected him to such a degree.
The snippet here digs into my vision of what I’m wanting to accomplish with my music: to speak honestly. I second guess my talents, abilities and even wonder if I really should be making music, especially Hip Hop, a culture that I don’t fit well into. Yet when its all said and done, I’m guided by my faith in Christ which compels me to speak honestly to whoever will listen, and even more so at times, I do this for self sanity. To tell our stories to each other is a necessary practice. This is how I’ve learned from others. I pray that some can learn from me. 2013 may see an Honest pt. 2. Who knows.
The masters for Extended Play are in my hands (thanks SD!) I’m waiting on the artwork now from my brother Jadyn which he will be working on over his Christmas break from work. I’m fairly excited and nervous about releasing this project. Should be an adventure to see what happens. I’m going to wait until Jan 2013 to bring it out, I’m hoping to do a house show as a release party.
In anticipation for the release I’m gonna go through each song a little bit. Even just for my own clarity, documenting the journey.
All In started in my bedroom back in Manitoba. I found the sample off of one of my dad’s records and instantly started writing to it, before even finishing the instrumental. The whole vibe was saying All In. There have been 3 or 4 notebooks since the beginnings of those lyrics. The song came a long way both in what was written and produced.
My favorite line in this one is “All in like Joseph/ hopeless on both ends/ but hope is in more than my own knowing”
In the book of Genisis there is a story of a young man with 11 brothers who is favored by his dad. His brothers get sick of him so they throw him in a pit. One of them convinces the other brothers that him being dead doesn’t do them much good, why not sell him to slave traders and make some money off of him? So they throw him a rope. I view my life like Joseph at that moment sometimes. I have 2 options, neither of which I’m always convinced are good for me. He had the option of staying in the pit to die or climbing out to be sold into slavery. Yet God used this awful situation to do great things through Joseph. Which is why I say hope is in my own knowing. I chose to follow where God leads in every circumstance, even when its seems harmful to me.
The singing was hard for me to get to sound right. I tried it myself and couldn’t nail it. Then I had my roommate & close friend Thomas try it and it was good, but not quite what it needed either. Jon (The Runaway) came through and blessed it with a couple of lyric flips and some ill harmonies and extras which really took it to the next level.
Still feel like I could do another 10 versions of this song to reach its full potential, but at a certain point you gotta let the bird out of the cage and see where it flies.
Extended Play is on its way. Jan 2013.
Another spoken word piece I composed that never found a home. A good context for this one is “I Used to Love H.E.R.” by Common.
The beat on this one is MAD old. Seen a lot of revisions. The first version of it I made when I lived in Kitchener. Its a sample of mewithoutYou I believe.
The play on words here is that I believe Hip Hop is Misunderstood. Hip Hop has done a lot of good, it gave an alternative lifestyle to people in some desperate situations. Its also done bad, but I think that gets focused on all over the place (Bill O’Reily anyone?). Hip Hop has done both good and bad because Hip Hop is the people. Like Mos Def said “So the next time you ask yourself where Hip Hop is goin’ ask yourself ‘where am I goin?’ ‘how am I doin’”
And so even if Hip Hop has a scattered blemished past, we can remember the words of Rakim “It’s not where you’re from, its where you’re at”
The other side of the play on words is that how am I to really think I understand Hip Hop? I am practically the anti-thesis of what Hip Hop is. All of what I say about it could be written off as misunderstandings.
EP Progress report: The songs have been sent to SD and to Jadyn, SD will be mastering the tracks soon, Jadyn will hopefully be designing the album artwork. Still looking at a 2012 release date.
Also talking to some people about music videos, adding some visual elements to the songs.
God is good all the time.
—Towards the Wilderness
Today I don’t feel like saying anything about this one.
Its just a spoken word piece with some chill background. Enjoy.
Progress report on the EP: I have an initial mix. I’ll be bouncing it off some good people, making edits and then sending it off for mastering. Still hoping for a release this year.
“The loathing of darkness is the love of the luminous.
The question at heart is not ‘why?’ but ‘who is this
That makes west crawl from east,
and wolves starve for sheep
and a sky full of stars that we’ll never see?’”
There is so much to be said about this song.
This song was created by Captain Bear. We played it live a number of times, but never recorded it. When we were first making it in Dan’s basement we wanted to be sure we’d remember everything so I recorded us playing it on Garage Band on my laptop. From that recording I sampled Larry Abrams guitar part and created the instrumental. That’s Blaine Jack & Larry discussing the song at the beginning. A slight bit of Dan Ginters drums made it in as well, but its mostly a drum sample and programmed drums.
The content of verse one is about my ancestors, the Mennonites. One of our strongest beliefs is in peace and non-violence. The strength they showed in Russia while being persecuted has always fascinated me. Willing to die, unwilling to kill. Some would look at this as weak and foolish but I wanted to challenge Captain Bear’s audience (who was probably 85% Mennonite) to re-discover their roots and be confident in them. It really is an encouragement to people to be strong in their convictions.
I may add more to this later, right now I must be on my way.
Be on the look out for my upcoming 6 song EP, or don’t, you know it’s really your choice. Just continue to enjoy music.
One of the functions of this blog is to serve as a “behind the scenes” into my creations. I find it fun to dive into my creations in this way, so I view it more for myself than anything else.
Over a year ago now I had the idea of a project titled Notebooking. It was 12 or so songs of things that I’d had in my notebook for a while that I just wanted to get out. I have a lot of trouble putting out anything with my voice on it. I edited, re-edited and eventually became tired of most of the songs and moved on to some other projects.
Recently (as in this morning) I decided I’d take some of my newest songs and compile an EP. It will be 6 songs and hopefully be released in 2012. There is some recording to do but mostly I just need mixing and mastering done so I think this is within the realm of possibility.
As a lead up to this new EP I’m going to be posting songs that didn’t make it. Some of these may resurface in other forms (remixes?) someday, but for now, they are dead songs to me; they sit in folders on my computer and will probably never see the light of day through any real release.
Notebooking Intro is a simple tune. Youtube rappers weave their way through-out, talking about their notebooks. The content focuses on the relationship I have with the Creator. Its more introspective than I really like to be, which may be why it never really excited me as a song. The beat is by Reflex The Architect from the Scribbling Idiots.
“I’m not going to heaven, neither are you/
Its on its way to us, and I pray it comes soon”
—COKE LA ROCK (B9)
Drive, thump, groove, grimey distorted bass, moving synth, delayed sample and a beat break. Its a Clutch beat if there ever was one. At one point up for sale on at www.soundcloud.com/deejayclutch but I was to fond of it to sell it.
I’ll be honest, there’s been some lack-luster verses over my beats. Throw away forgettable stuff. Obviously I won’t name names but I got sick of it. The beats I really like need some passion, someone who is going to take some time to craft something genuine, authentic and real. When I had the idea of taking a bunch of my favorite beats I’ve made this year and making a beat tape, then getting emcees to rhyme on each beat, I made a tracklist filled with names of guys I wanted featured on it. The more I looked over it, the more I realized I only wanted a few close friends I trusted to really bring their best to the tracks. I’ve written for a lot of the beats too.
Speaking of emcees, let me introduce you to the first one: Coke La Rock. Right hand man to the legendary father of hip hop Kool DJ Herc, Coke La Rock started toasting (it would later be dubbed “rapping”) in 1973 at Herc’s parties on a mic in a room where the crowd couldn’t see him. All of his rhymes were improvised on the spot, what we now know as “freestyle”. After violence that was brought upon Herc in ‘77, the 2 of them decided to step back from the scene and let the next generation carry on their legacy. La Rock had just had a son and wanted to spend more time with him. He did not record anything until 2008.
Coke La Rock [Left] Kool DJ Herc [Right] (early ’70s)
Coke La Rock [Left] Kool DJ Herc [Right] (2010)
Making songs for the club, or even songs that are really dance-able, are not in my repertoire. I enjoy thinking I’m still discovering my sound, and that as long as I’ll be making music my style and sound will be evolving. Emcees can continue to ask for “bangers”, but I’m just going to be making what I feel like making.
All that being said. Feisty is one of those beats that made me want to go in. Its on some raw rap, synth & break, distorted bass vibe that I don’t make too often. This one came together nicely. Its one of the beats I’m the most proud of on Dedication, simply because it is the combination of some of my favourite elements or beat making.
The name may give away who was sampled. I doubt anyone will be able to pick out where the sample is from though.
Cornbread is regarded as the father of modern graffiti. He is one of the only people not from New York to be credited as an originator of an element of Hip Hop. In his home town of Philadelphia, in the late 60’s, he started putting his nickname on train cars with spray paint to impress a girl (writing the message “Cornbread Loves Cynthia”). From there he went on to tagging things like police cars, the Jackson 5’s jet, and even an elephant at the Philly Zoo. He now works as a social worker.
—Young Theives Interlude
For those who know the origins of Hip Hop, this will come as no surprise, but most Hip Hop artists are thieves. Hip Hop was created by a group of “have-nots” in the South Bronx of New York. With no money for instruments, the record player became their instrument and they manipulated existing music. This is a copyright nightmare. In the 80’s some lawyers and business men had a hay-day and some have made a living off of suing for Hip Hop’s collage style production.
The sample based production I do puts me in the category of these young thieves. What I do is unfortunately not at all legal. I do believe that this will change someday as we view music as a building block for more music, ideally we could all rejoice at music being made from all sorts of sources. The great song book of the world will one day expand without restrictions. Or at least that is my hippy hope.
For the Young Thieves Interlude I straight up looped something from a record. Its such a good loop though. I heard it and just had to make it live on. Brilliance. And put on some samples from an 80’s documentary of some rock artists saying that what Hip Hop producers do is pathetic. They may be right.
—CRAZY LEGS (Real Grime)
The simple method is sometimes the most effective. I like a complex beat with layers and things that I can dig into, figure out whats happening and analyze. But sometimes you just got to stick to the bare essentials and let it ride.
Some years ago I met a guy named Harvey who worked with my sister who knew me from my online alias of “djclutch” because of a message board on the website www.sphereofhiphop.com. I knew him as Tatra. We got to talking and found we were fans of the same artists, we got along great, had lunch now and then and went digging. He educated me in a lot of good hip hop, funk, soul, and more. One of the first albums he ever borrowed to me was Full Clip by Gangstarr. It was my first exposure to DJ Premier’s production.
For those who don’t know, Premier is a legend. He has a very unique style of production. Often its as simple as a unreal drum sound, with a dope chopped up sample and an infections bass line. Simple as that, and he’s made some of the greatest hip hop beats of all time. Hands down.
Real Grime is my attempt at that sound. I layered a drum break with a chopped up guitar and layered bass sample. Little sound effect going through out for good measure and there you have it.
Crazy Legs is the resurrecter of Breaking. After its birth in the mid-late 70’s B-Boying became a dying art form. The B-Boys and B-Girls growing up and seeing it as a childish dance were abandoning it. Crazy Legs formed the Rock Steady Crew in 1979 and got a crew going that toured Japan, London, Paris etc. along side other pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy, & Grandmixer D.ST. Rock Steady Crew was featured in movies like Flashdance, Wild Style, and Beat Street. Crazy Legs produced the documentary The Freshest Kids which tells the story of B-Boying from its beginnings, and discusses why they do not use or accept the terms “breakdancing” and “breakdancer”. Crazy Legs is still involved in furthering the art with the annual Rock Steady Anniversary in NYC, an event honoring the deceased members of the crew, and celebrating hip hop’s 4 elements.
Crazy Legs [front middle] & The Rock Steady Crew
—MELLE MEL (La Via Quille)
Don’t look to hard into the meaning of “La Via Quille”. I don’t know what it means, I just named it that cause I wanted it to sound like The Vehicle in french. This beat was made during a session before MC Forty came up to Canada for a visit. The bass driven ending was inspired by the Nas song Loco-motive off of his newest album Life Is Good.
Creating in community is something I really value. I thrive off of getting feedback from trusted friends, so before I’ve completed a project I’ll often send it over to some people and get some reactions and ask for their input. Jon Corbin (The Runaway) has been solid in this department. One of the things he said was that the end of this beat, where it switches to a bass driven groove, was too short, which I agree with. But when I played it for Forty, he thought it should be cut from the song. I made the executive decision and extended it on the final version, plus made it a running interlude that weaves through the project. The value I have for Forty’s opinion is immense, but this case he was terribly mistaken.
Melle Mel is credited as being the first emcee to spit a socially conscience hip hop song, The Message. He was a part of Grandmaster Flash’s crew The Furious Five along with Cowboy, Kid Creole, Rahiem, and Scorpio. It is also said he was the first rapper to call himself an “MC” (Master of Ceremony). Another one of his memorable contributions to the great songbook of Hip Hop is the anti-cocaine song White Lines (which had an odd video made by a young Spike Lee and stared a young Laurence Fishburne). He, along with Grandmaster Flash and the rest of the Furious Five, were the first Hip Hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame. You can see him in Ice T’s new documentary Art Of Rap, where Ice T deems him one of the greatest emcees of all time.
—HENRY CHALFANT (Above Our Heads)
Inspiration for Above Our Heads came from the complicatedly simple production of Undun by The Roots. This is one of those grey beats. Something chill and underdeveloped for the sake of not adding anything to take away from the soul of it.
Classical music is something I don’t listen to a whole lot of, but there are a few composers that I enjoy. The sample I took for Above Our Heads is from a beautiful composition by a Icelandic pianist my brother Jadyn introduced me to.
These kind of piano based, relaxed songs are often my favorites on other peoples records. I remember buying Hip Hop albums in high school and always hoping for at least one song that had piano and a solid drum sound. Artists like K-os, Mars iLL, Sev Statik, are a few I can recall that delivered. More recently the albums How I Got Over & Undun by the Roots both had songs with this kind of sound I enjoy.
Henry Chalfant played an important roll in facilitating and encouraging the culture of Hip Hop during the years of its inception. He was a photographer in New York who had a small studio where he put up his pictures of the subway trains. Many early graffiti artists would come to his studio to see the art, meet with other artists and gain inspiration. Chalfant also had the Rock Steady Crew perform in his studio for a showcase of the four elements of the hip hop culture. His photos were used for the brilliant documentary Style Wars which he co-produced.