Author: jaketet

Everything with a Purpose: an Interview with phebreze.

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The cover of Neophantasia

“A lot of music today it doesn’t really bring a huge response out of people.” Says phebreze, “I really like putting it all together and I think that the cover art, what I’m talking about in the song, and the music itself has to make you feel something.” No, it’s not the household air-freshener making that artistic statement. phebreze is a young producer and musician who is gearing up to release his first album. We sat down with phebreze, whose real name is Carter, and chatted with him over Skype.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

First off, how did you come up with the name, phebreze?

So I knew I wanted convey like an aesthetic and a style with a name.  I really liked breezy and natural imagery so I knew I had to have something with breeze. I had just made a series of playlists on Spotify with replacing the ph with f and that’s how I came up with it. phebreze to me means a refreshing new aesthetic and style of music. Also it sounds and looks cool.

Walk me through the creative process for one of your songs. Say “tropics”.

That one actually had a really interesting process. A lot of the songs start from voice memos, I have 800 recorded, full of song ideas. I have so many ideas and directions at once and it is really hard for me to decide which direction to take and which ones I want to record. So this started as a voice memo in 2015, so I must have been like 15, where I was playing high notes on the keyboard and my friend was just playing around with chords and that’s actually the voice memo at the end of tropics. I’ve actually been working on that song for several months, just coming back to it because I was like “I don’t really know how to feel about it”. And it came to a point where I wanted to put it out but I knew it needed a little something else and so I added the voice memo at the end, just kind of like a record with the crackling, you can actually here me say “yeah I got it” at the end. I’m glad you asked about that one.

Neophantasia, walk me through what exactly that means and why you chose that title for the album.

I came up with this title also when I was 15, in January of 2015, that’s how long the album has been circulating in my mind. I wanted to convey a message of what the album was and what the sound was and I wanted to convey that with a single word. So I thought what if I combine two words that describe me and my ventures in music. Neophyte, a person who is new to like a skill or belief. And fantasia, a unique kind of music. Since it is my first album I’m a new member of the music scene and industry and it is a new a different kind of music, so I just added the ph and there you go.

You have been relatively quiet regarding the new album with the exception of a couple of Periscopes. Walk me through what I can expect on the album.

Right now it’s 13 tracks, around 50 minutes long, and each track is kind of personal and each track really makes you feel something. I’m not going to release a track list but I am going to release a single, so I’ll talk a little about that. Cafune, it’s a Portuguese word: to lovingly run your fingers through your lover’s hair. It’s kind of depressing once you know what it’s about but it sounds like just another love song. It’s about a dream I had where I fell in love with a girl and how I forgot her face after the dream ends. It’s about how I could have this connection with a girl in a dream and how it doesn’t translate to real life. That’s probably one of my most favorite tracks in the whole project. It’s kind of like “I want to have these dreamy adventures with you, even if it can’t happen and even if you’re a dream girl”. The other stuff on the album is different from what I have on my Soundcloud. All of the stuff has lyrics and I am experimenting with a lot of different sounds. Each song should make you feel something. I have synesthesia and I hope that each one of these songs can trigger that reaction even if you don’t have synesthesia and should make you feel and see something. If I had to describe the album it would be a refreshing new sound that’s both personal and makes you feel something. I am very excited for people to hear it. I kind of want to step away from it and get some more inspiration before finishing it so I don’t know exactly when it will come out.

How many takes does it take you to make those Twitter videos?

Well the one that took me the longest was probably Weight Off by Kaytranada and BadBadNotGood. To answer the question it takes me several hours to make them. The first couple of hours is to figure out the instrument parts, I have to loop them and it takes me a while just to figure out the choreography of everything. It takes just as long to record it because just one little fuck up can mess up everything. So I’ll usually start at like 5pm and finish up at about 11.  I love making them.

Name some artists that have influenced you.

Tame Impala, just because their sound, especially their Innerspeaker, just blew me away, I knew that I had to make something that gave people the same feeling Innerspeaker gave people. Childish Gambino, especially with his lyricism. Tyler the Creator, just because everything he does is just so beautifully artistic and all of his music endeavors are just really good. Steve lacy and The Internet. Also Abra, I’m forever thankful for everything that she has done, she has helped propped me up especially with where she is right now, she has posted one of my remixes of her songs and she plays my beats on periscopes; she is one of the best ever. Also SZA, Toro y Moi, Kilo Kish, Kendrick Lamar for sure, if we are going older then like Stevie Ray Vaughan, he’s like the first musician I listened to, Anderson .Paak, Flying Lotus, Frank Ocean definitely for sure, Homeshake, Knxledge, Black party and Kari faux, collaborators of Childish Gambino and both have helped me with production. Mac Demarco too, Erykah Badu, Thundercat, Lorde, Nicotine’s Famous Honey, so many others.  Just know that if I didn’t mention them I’m probably like “oh shit I forgot to mention you”.

Soundcloud recently laid off 40% of its workers and is struggling financially, what, is your opinion on the place of such an open forum in music today? What does it give the industry?

I think that Soundcloud is a really really good platform to begin to share your music on, you can talk to Chance the Rapper about that. I think that labels could capitalize off of that like “check out this dude that is working his fucking ass off”. Soundcloud has a fan base and they are all super supportive of local artists. I think the whole Soundcloud community is tightknit and really supportive, but I think the reason it is going down are platforms like Spotify and Apple Music giving more perks for larger artists and having larger catalogs. Also they tried making more money with Soundcloud go which was a flop. It sucks that they had to make cuts because Soundcloud is great for both the artist and the listener.

You’ve remixed Bonfire by Childish Gambino and listed him as an influence. What do you think of Donald Glover’s decision to retire Gambino?

I respect it. I would also agree with him that there is always a time and place for an artist and for them to continue to making music that they want. Awaken My Love was revolutionary and out of left field in the best way possible. Donald has a lot of dreams and he wants to pursue all of them before he dies. That’s the thing with all artists, what the fuck is travis scott is going to do when he’s 60? The artist should decide that, like don’t let the people decide when you are done. Just have a fucking great final album and mic drop on the industry. Don’t let other people decide when you stop being relevant.  Glover is such a pioneer with so many different careers, and his last album is going to get everyone hyped up for it. I’m really excited to see what he brings to the table for this last album and I think that his decision to walk away from it makes everyone remember that Gambino was the guy that put out four crazy studio albums. You can’t make music until you’re dead because you’re going to peeter out, you just can’t just keep putting stuff out. I think that his decision to end it makes everyone just remember what he did and how great of an artist he was.

Neophantasia comes out later this year.

What is Vince Staples Saying?

Vince Staples just dropped a great album. It seems ignorant to think that Staples was not artistically inclined in this album and was not using metaphors throughout the project. Here are some parts of the album that beg further examination and my hypotheses on them. You would be best served to listen to the album while reading this as the sound of the songs are just as important as their lyrics.

 

First we must examine the use of boats in the visuals for the album.

 

Why would Vince so heavily include the imagery of a boat in distress? Well there are a couple hypotheses.

One is that Vince is commenting on the ridiculousness of this common dream in the rap community of yachting and boating. Yachting and boating is only a dream because it is a declaration of wealth and power. Staples could be saying that such a dream is futile as material goods and materialism as a whole, is fleeting and unfulfilling. In the video for Big Fish, Staples could be saying that once the material good fails (as it inevitably will), you will be thrust into a cold and harsh world (the sharks).

Another could simply be that Vince doesn’t like this dream. And while he understands the inaccessibility of boats to the inner cities. He simply is not a fan of fetishizing the ownership of boats. He thinks it is wack.

Who knows? The use of boats in music videos have always been prevalent, Staples’ spin on this is clever and new, regardless of what he is saying.

 

Something that is more prevalent in this album than in other Staples’ projects is the use of house beats. Flume is a producer on the album and Love Can Be sounds like a U.K. house track.  This serves as a metaphor of shucking the preconceived boxes that Staples has been put into. House beats are often seen as a white form of production (even with roots in Chicago and Detroit) and Staples’ use of such beats are a deviation from the traditional form of Hip-Hop. Staples has never been one to conform to those around him and this shows that. Staples is actively flipping off the community that tries to label him and put him where they think he should be. By switching up the entire narrative re: production, Staples continues to assert control of his creative process and through that, his art.

 

Fish. It is all over this album. But what does it mean? In one phrase it can be summed up, the futility of man and his endeavors.

Crabs in a Bucket: a critique of the inner city and society as a whole, Crabs in a Bucket references crabs pushing each other down in order to escape the bucket. This critique of our current capitalist culture can apply to humanity as a whole. Humanity, as a whole is always trying to grow and make itself better. But because we are all trying to do that, we will inevitably end up hurting our peers and cancelling out any good we do.

Yeah Right: similar to Crabs in a Bucket, Yeah Right critiques the things that motivate us. The material possessions that are in front of us, preventing us from true harmony and true success. (maybe Staples is a socialist)

BagBak: in this song Vince is pretty much saying that no matter what he does, things will always follow him. No matter what anyone does, things are predetermined.

Most of all, Staples is calling humanity a big fish in a small pond. It may seem like we are the big predator of the world but in the grandest scale of things we are simply little guppies.

 

Drop Everything and Listen to Big Fish Theory Right Now

Vince Staples has not missed a beat. In the same vein as Summertime ’06 (and half as long), the industrial sound has a champion in Long Beach’s very own. His new album Big Fish Theory misses no beats and is incredible. Not much can be put into words on how Staples takes sounds that should not sound good and crafts masterpieces. Staples continues to blend many themes and emotions throughout this album, something that has been prevalent in his earlier work. Early favorites are “Alyssa Interlude”, “Love Can Be”, and the Kendrick-assisted “Yeah Right”.

There are a few weak spots on the album, namely “Homage”. And while Vince’s ability to jump around in theme is a hallmark of his work, this album seemed slightly more disjointed than ’06.

But this is still one of the best albums of the year. Staples continues his hot streak of music and this album is sure to become a cult-classic. It is one that you need to hear in order to truly understand.

 

Shamana + Soundcloud songs for your summer

I don’t know who Shamana is or any of the history behind this song. But if you pride yourself on finding really cool stuff that not many others have found outside of the Soundcloud-verse. Check him out and check out this song.

On a related note, here are some Soundcloud songs, not all new, that you should be bumping heading into summer:

https://soundcloud.com/mxmtoon/the-idea-of-you

 

 

Song Review: Love Galore

Last week, SZA released a new song. It features Travis Scott and is named “Love Galore”. A music video was released along with it and I would advise against watching it at work. Those are the facts. Now for some opinion. The song is great. SZA, as she often does, is able to pair her smooth and sultry voice with minimalistic beats that get out of the way of her voice. Crooning about lost lovers sounds like it could almost turn into the song of the summer between her great singing and Travis Scott’s auto tuned emotion. While Scott often uses auto tune, this slowed down and mellowed song puts the full effect of the software on display. Scott is able to reach out to the listener through the disjointed notes, perfectly capturing the disconnect of emotions. When contrasted with SZA’s clear voice, the effect is nothing short of great.

The music video however, while the butterflies are stunning, comes up short. See for yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHXfCOjb3fk

Drake, it’s 2017 bud

Unless you were living under a rock for the last month, you know that Drake recently dropped his *******playlist******* More Life. The album is already topping the charts and will, no doubt, make Drizzy a lot of money. Yet, it is far from a good album and acts as another data point in the downward trend of Drake’s work and image.

Ever since the album Views, Drake’s work has lacked any sense of artistic integrity. Rather than take elements from songs and genres that he likes, something that many rappers do, Drake hijacks the latest trend in worldpop and then claims it as his own (Also what the hell is up with his Jamaican fetish???). The lack of storytelling or a common theme in recent projects have forced most people to write him off as a sellout, something that I fully believe he is.

The last time that Drake showed any resemblance of artistic vision was on What a Time to be Alive,  the mixtape with Future represented the end of a 2014-2015 campaign that saw Drake fully embody who he wanted to be. A hyper masculine figure fully capable of flexing not only rapping prowess but also of physical image. 2015 brought with it the Meek Mill beef, Back to Back, and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, between these two projects Drake established himself as raps power monger. During this period his bars were clever and angry, the perfect mix of what Drake wanted to embody. Having grown from the renown sadboi from Marvin’s Room, Drake was now where he wanted to be. And then 2016 came around.

In 2015 Kendrick Lamar cemented himself as the best rapper since the 90s. To Pimp A Butterfly was a magnum opus, the likes of which we may never see again for another decade or two. While Drake could not, in any way, shape, or form, compete with Compton’s prodigal son, 2015 was a strong enough year for Drake that he could lay claim to the top of rap. 2016 changed that in a big way, Kendrick released untitled unmastered and Drake released Views around the same time. untitled unmastered, an eight track compilation of rejects from previous albums, ethered Views in the eyes of the critics. Views was a steaming pile of trends with ugly cover art and bad lyrics (“Chaining Tatum”, are you kidding me!?). There was so much hype around the release of the album that this got most thinking that Kendrick’s worst were still better than Drake’s best. Drake went on tour for Views and each night was an over the top visual spectacle, it looked as if Drake might find a niche of his own. Then in October 2016, he ridiculed Kid Cudi’s mental health, this was the last straw, Drake was officially a jerk-sellout-muscle bound-tool of the industry.

More Life sees Drake acting as a curator of worldpop. Taking elements from nearly all continents and compiling them into a single body of work. This would be interesting, commendable even, if the list of features indicated that Drake was creating something rather than slapping his name on something that Popcaan cosigned. More Life and Views, to many, sound as if label executives were DJing a 9th grade dance. There is little to no substance to either album and the songs sound filtered and photoshopped. Simply, the albums are bad.

That being said, the music sounds good. As with all of his work, Drake has figured out a way to make his music sound appealing and is able to make it popular in the mainstream. “Passionfruit” will probably be the most ubiquitous song of 2017, the smooth beat and wholesome message makes it perfect for elevator listening. But that isn’t where rap is going, and Drake should know that. Rap is going in a more raw and intellectual direction. While there are out liars (Kodak Black, I’m looking at you), as a whole, rap music is not what it was ten years ago. Ten years ago rap was the very definition of unenlightened, Soulja Boy had the biggest song of the year. It was still pre-808s and Heartbreaks, the album that would pivot rap into an introspective and brooding genre. After 808s, rap became more intellectual and emotion driven. It became more personal and real. It seems like Drake hasn’t gotten the memo.

Anna Don’t Disappear, album review

Anna Don’t Disappear is a strong showing out of Toronto based indie band Red Nightfall. The front half of the album sounds okay, slightly predictable even. The front half is reminiscent of bands trying too hard to fit a specific mold. On the second half however, the music becomes more stripped and raw. The band seems to really find a rhythm and a purpose. The second half is considerably more soul baring and raw than the first. It is refreshing to see a band evolve throughout the album. Namely, on the track “St. Petersburg”, it feels like the band is coming into their own as soul felt indie rockers. The track seems to highlight just what the band can do.

    All in all, the album warrants a listen. The emotional honesty of the second half is enjoyable and nice listening. While the front half of the album could use some work, the second half cements Red Nightfall as a band to keep an eye on.

 

You can listen to the album here.