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Ab-Soul at the Catalyst 05.24.2017 Interview

 

Ab-Soul is an American rapper from Carson, California. Ab-Soul grew up in a record store his parents owned, and credits much of his musical knowledge to this experience. He points to Nas, Jay Z, and Eminem as being his biggest influences– pushing him into a rap career. He also credits his rapping skills to BlackPlanet freestyle chat, a site where people freestyle over text, sometimes known as “key-styling.” Ab Soul recorded his first song in 2002, and his most recent album, Do What Thou Wilt, was released in 2016. Do What Thou Wilt includes features from award winning artists such as School Boy Q, Rapsody, SZA, Mac Miller, and more.

 

On May 24th, on the last legs of his West Coast YMF (young mind f***) tour, Ab-Soul stopped by the Catalyst to spit some bars in the atrium and chat with KZSC DJs Kaviar and Jinx for a bit. Peep the interview below!

 

Kaviar & Jinx: Thanks for meeting with us! Great show.

Soul: Of course, of course.

Kaviar: So tell us a bit about Do What Thou Wilt. That’s a satanic reference, yeah?

Soul: Nah, It’s not Satanic. It’s a quote by Aleister Crowley. He’s saying that the righteous will remain righteous and the filthy will remain filthy. And love is the law, love is always the law.

Kaviar: So do you think people are redeemable then?

Soul: Of course, everybody’s redeemable. It’s just a word isn’t it? I make a lot of money off of words, I believe in them.

Jinx: Alright, alright. Can you tell us a bit about your beginnings doing internet rap battles? Did that shape who you are as a rapper today?

Soul: Sure. That was really the groundwork for what I do now. Like that was actual writing you know? It was my journalism at the time. It was a large part of– at that time, which had to be like 2002 or something– the biggest thing more than anything was vernacular. Everyone was trying to get the best rhymes, you know? That’s definitely where I perfected that.

Kaviar: Do you think that the written word is different from the spoken word?

Soul: Certainly– can you say “hate” out of “love” ?

Kaviar: mmmmm

Soul: yeah, that’s right I’d like to see you try that. YMF. (ab souls coined term meaning “young mind f***”).*laughing*  You have just been YMF’d.

Kaviar: Alright, I like that. I’m gonna keep that with me.

Soul: But yeah, going back on it, Aleister Crowley is not a satanist. He’s a Crowliest, he was trying to start his own thing. And Jesus is my idol, just sayin’

Kaviar: Alright we’ll have to do some more research. On another note, your couch talk with Princess Nokia.

Soul: nice. She’s great.

Kaviar: Oh yeah, that’s one of my favorite pieces of art I’ve ever seen, let alone artist on artist interview.

Soul: YESS! I had no idea she was so….soo…

Kaviar: She is awakened.

Soul: Oh yeah, she is awakened. My girl is big with like Allure magazine you know what I’m saying, it’s important that we do a lot more female publications. All the marches and stuff you know, it’s really important. It’s the time, you know, I was rooting for Hillary ‘cause it was the time for the divine female. It’s the time.

Kaviar: Hell yeah

Jinx: So I’m curious with your strong feelings about the importance of feminine energy in hip hop, what’s your take on the word b*****? Do you feel like it’s been reclaimed?

Soul: Right, “b****”– it’s just like the word “n****.” I mean if you was my girl, you’d be my b****. And you’d like it, you know.

Jinx: hmmm okay

Soul: But if I were to say, “b***** get the f*** out my face” then not so much.

Jinx: yeah definitely not.

Soul: exactly, you’d be like “who you callin’ b*****?” you know what I’m saying? It’s all about the way you say it with words like that. Like I said, you can’t say hate out of love. Again, it’s about more than just what it spells. But you know, I’m still doing the research, I’m still learning, trying to figure it all out.

Kaviar: we’re all learning and unlearning!

Jinx: Well we’ll let you go. Thanks for meeting with us! And again incredible show.

Soul: of course! It was great meeting you too, lots of love.

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from left to right: DJ Lyzard, Jinx, Ab-Soul, & DJ Kaviar

 

Concert Review: Noname at the Chapel on 02/18/2017

In the never ending, open seas of modern rap, Fatimah Warner, known better by her stage name, “Noname” is like a glimpse of land or a taste of fresh produce. She is so many things that I, as a hip hop consumer, crave in modern rap: she is lighthearted and fun while taking on important topics, her songs are complex and beautiful, and more importantly she is having the time of her life doing it.

Noname grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, and her roots are very evident in her music. She takes pride in her hometown, and consistently credits the city for her musical inspiration and success. She began as a slam poet, which led her to many open mics around the city, even bringing her to land 3rd place in Chicago’s “Louder than a Bomb” competition. Before long, she began rapping, and in 2013 she was featured on Chance the Rappers “Acid Rap,” with a verse in his song “Lost.” After this, she became visible to the industry’s eye, and over the next few years she was featured on a number of other artists albums such as  Mick Jenkins’ mixtape The Water[s],  Ramaj Eroc’s track “I Love You More“and multiple tracks on Kirk Knight’s album Late Knight Special. She also released a full unofficial mixtape called What the F*ck is a Noname Gypsy on youtube in 2014.  In 2013, with a name change from Noname Gypsy to just Noname, Fatima Warner announced that she was recording her own mixtape, and three years later, in July 2016, her first full mixtape and biggest hit yet, Telefone, was released.  

Her decision to remove “gypsy” from her stage name in 2016 reflects on Noname’s ability to learn and understand her mistakes. For those who may not know, the term “gypsy” is a derogatory term to refer to the Roma people whom have faced an extreme amount of discrimination; being pushed from nation to nation and often denied legal status. The word has been appropriated in the US to mean “carefree” or “traveler,” however to many people across the globe it is still extremely offensive and hurtful. So if you have an instagram bio or forever 21 t-shirt that reads “gypsy soul” or “free spirited gypsy,” it’s time to toss it. Noname was open, understanding and apologetic about her name change, as you can see from this tweet in March:

In November 2016, Noname announced a US tour and by March 2017 half the shows had already sold out. Queen Beats DJ Jinx, along with KZSC staff member and mentee Kaviar were lucky enough to attend her show in San Francisco on February 18th, and have a quick chat with Noname and her incredible opener, Ravyn Lenae, after the show.

While standing in line outside the venue, and waiting in front of the stage for Ravyn Lenae to come out, the excitement and respect was palpable. It felt like every person present was there to witness Noname and her art, not just for a good time. The venue was packed and people were up to typical concert shenanigans, but there was no shoving or hostility; it smelt like soap and flowers. When the DJ backing Ravyn Lenae came out to hype the crowd (with tasteful yet banging throwback jams) people were getting down and dancing together. Not in a “imma do my thing over here as I try to ignore Steven over there groping Sally-May” kind of way, but just sincerely having a good time together. All of this goes to show that Noname has mastered her art and is speaking truths in a way that is immediately recognizable and impossible to disregard. She talks about tragedy and resistance, but is also honest about her experience and insecurities in a way that makes it easy to recognize her humanity.

You don’t have to see Noname in person to know she’s going to give a good live performance. Her vocal style and lyrical personality set her up to be an incredible performer, and as expected, she didn’t disappoint on Saturday evening at the Chapel. Both her and Ravyn Lenae held a kind of on stage presence that is unforgettable; they interacted with the audience in a genuine, sincere way, and it was easy to tell that in that moment, the Chapel stage was exactly where they wanted to be.


Ravyn Lenae made it a point to talk about each of the songs she sang. She emphasized that her intent was communication and gave her words weight. During her set she projected stars and a moon on the ceiling of the Chapel and it fit seamlessly with her bubble-bath low-fi production. She carried herself with an ease that was admirable and soothing. Similarly, Noname had this endearing way of prancing around the stage while the instrumentation was taking over, her big smile and wide eyes not once slipping from her face. She was so clearly living by her own rules and needs, it’s refreshing to see an artist so unconcerned with fitting into the industries expectations and regulations. Her music speaks to her own experiences and feelings, and that’s what makes it so unique.

Once the show finished and the audience was filing out, we decided to hang around for a bit to see if Noname was planning on making an appearance at any point. We introduced ourselves to the security, and they told us they would send the message along that we would love to chat, despite being previously told Noname was not doing any press that night. While we waited in the main bar, we were lucky enough to catch Ravyn Lenae and ask her about her own work and her experience working with Noname, along with the many other artists featured on Telefone.

Lenae, who just like Noname comes from Southside Chicago, was noticeably nonchalant and humble about her impressive success at the young age of 17. When we asked her about working on Telefone, and touring with Noname she explained that it was “all very organic,” going on to note that her and Fatima had been good friends for a while, and working on music together was really just hanging out with a close friend. She said that her part on “Forever” wasn’t even pre written, she just came to the studio and they perfected it together day of recording.

After about ten minutes, Noname came out into the bar and introduced herself to a few fans. We talked to her about KZSC and Queen Beats and what an inspiration she is for the show. She was flattered and happy we were doing our radio show and even though she was clearly exhausted from two back to back concerts, she was more than willing to engage with us (and even take a picture!)

Walking out of The Chapel and  making our way to the Bart that night, it was hard not to feel like we had been imparted with a small piece of Chicago magic. Noname’s Telefone tour swooped through town propelled by respect for craft, words, hip-hop, people, and Chicago. MC Lyte’s utopian view in “If women ran hip-hop” was a reality at Noname’s show, and it was not because she is a female MC, it’s because for that night, she really ran hip hop.

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Queen Beats DJs Jinx and Caviar with Noname

— written by Jinx and Kaviar, for more fun articles about the women of hip hop like us on facebook and tune in every Friday night from 12-2!

Nef The Pharoah Interview & Concert Review

I caught Vallejo rapper, Nef The Pharoah last week during his Changuary Tour stop at the Catalyst. We talked about his extensive amount of vlogging done in high school, Nardwaur, and alcohols endorsed by other rap artists. Enjoy that and peep concert review below written by staff member, Riz Aliga.

-Elbo

Interview

Riz gettin’ hyphy

Concert Review

By the age of four, Tonee Hayes aka Nef the Pharaoh began developing his  own rap style in his hometown Vallejo the famous hotbed of hip-hop for the Bay Area producing stars such as Mac Dre and E-40. His rapping career dates back to his entry of a talent contest, which he won and led to his feature on the cover of the Vallejo Times-Herald.  He was given the nickname Nef (short for nephew) from his uncle, which he incorporated into part of his stage name. After the passing of his grandmother in 2009, he stepped away from music. However, he soon began using music as a form of therapy. He then moved to the Sacramento, CA and attended Inderkum High School in Natomas, CA.

In January 2015, he released his hit song “Big Tymin,’” which put him on the Bay Area radar. The song was then remixed later that year by the LA rappers, YG, and Ty Dolla Sign. After receiving recognition by Bay Area’s site Thizzler On The Roof and recognition by Drake and Kendrick Lamar (noisey), while working with artists such as: The HBK Gang, Willie Joe, Mozzy, Eric Bellinger, D.R.A.M., Snoop Dogg, and E-40, he signed with Vallejo’s own, E-40’s Sick Wid It Records and many of his songs were on the radio waves after that. After going on tour around the world with G-Eazy and around California with The HBK Gang, Nef’s group #KILFMB (Keep it Lit For My Brothers) decided that Nef needed his own headlining tour. The tour was introduced as “Fresh Out of Space” in late 2016. Nef opened a lot of Baydrestians’ eyes because of who he worked with and because his music is just down right too damn hyphy.

During his stop in Santa Cruz for the Changuary Tour, he had VernDuzit, Kay Bellz, and DAGHE open up. With my hyphyness, knowing and screaming all the Bay Area songs being played, I was fortunate to personally get pulled on stage to hype up the crowd to HBK Gang’s Kool John and P-Lo’s “B*tch I Look Good” played by DAGHE. Nef then opened up to “Dumb Life” off of “Fresh Out of Space 3.” He was able to keep the energy of the crowd throughout the show by performing songs such as: “Mobbin,” “707,” “Say Daat” “Lauryn Hill,” and my favorites “Old School Hyphy” and “Everything Big.” During his performance someone offered him to smoke a swisher, but if you really listen to Mac Dre and Nef, everyone knows “if it ain’t a backwood, it ain’t all that good.” He closed out the show performing “Big Tymin” and I joined Nef going dumb on stage when the DJ played Vallejo’s own Mac Dre’s classic song “Get Stupid.” Nef is only going up, making connections, as he has inspired artists all over the Bay Area to hop on his style of music, such as an upcoming group from Vallejo SOBxRBE (Strictly Only Brothers, Real Boi Entertainment) who has been putting up big numbers on the internet. They will be touring with HBK Gang representative and platinum selling artist Sage The Gemini for the “West For Winter” Tour and will finish in Santa Cruz (I strongly recommend that if you are in the area, you should attend this concert. I know of SlimmyB of SOBxRBE and they are LIT live).

-Riz

Caleborate Interview & Concert Review

Wassup radio family,

Last week I caught up with Berkeley rapper, Caleborate for a hefty interview before his headlining show in the Atrium. Rizal Aliga aka Mr. Hella Hyphy himself was also in attendance and wrote a solid concert review which is also below. Peep it!

-Elbo

SHOW REVIEW

The Bay Area’s hip-hop scene has seen a spike in national attention lately due to the upcoming of artists like Kehlani, Noodles, The HBK Gang, Kamaiyah, and now twenty-three year old Berkeley rapper, Caleborate. His first headlining tour, The 1993 Tour, covers a majority of the west coast,  displaying his growth as a performer. Prior to their stop at the Social Hall in San Francisco, the TBKTR squad made a quick pit stop at The Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz, where I caught them. Last time Caleborate was at The Catalyst was earlier this summer when he opened up for P-Lo’s Before Anything Tour. Prior to attending this show, I anticipated a virtualized environment with high energy and enthusiasm. Jordan Garrett, Nick James, Beejus, and Caleborate’s brother, Cash Campain — who happens to be an R&B singer. Each opened up the night with smooth performances. When Caleborate finally made his way to the stage; he did not disappoint. DJ OG Kel, DJ Adrian Per and guitarist J Hawk were on stage with him. He began his set with “Mind Piece,” then showcased his dance moves during “El Bandito,” (my favorite song from his Hella Good album) and heart felt song “Good Great” (another personal favorite). Caleborate’s energy was in the air, especially as he interacted with his audience, talking to everyone between songs and feeling out our energy himelf. He ended the night by jumping into the crowd while performing “$aggin’ Par.” It’s no question that TBKTR & Caleborate are here to spread positive vibes, inspire others, and most importantly, just to have a great time. The addition of guitarist Jay Hawk and his skillful solos or a mannequin challenge filmed by house DJ Adrian Per, Caleborate, wants you to enjoy yourself and listen to his project that he spent so much time on. The 1993 tour spread love and positive vibes and his performance was a night of excellence. Keep your eyes and ears open for young and talented Bay Area artist Caleborate because he could be headlining or performing in bigger venues the next time you see him. – Rizal Aliga

ur boi n caleboratecaleborate touching our hearts

 

photos by Asid Theekri

Why We Should Be Listening to the Female Voices of Hip Hop

Hip hop is uniquely powerful because it sits comfortably at the borderline between poetry and song. It bridges the gap between the two, and in turn contains the qualities of both song and spoken word.  Unlike poems (or any other word based message), music has the upper hand of getting caught in your head for long periods of time. This is a vital tool for those trying to spread a political message–– having the power to keep words in someone’s head is just about the best way to spread a political agenda. Just think, what if on the same day, at the same time, the whole world (including all the world leaders), had the chorus to Queen Latifah’s Black on Black Love repeating in their head? What about Salt n Peppa’s feminist anthem None of Your Business? Would political decision making be affected? Similar to poetry however, rap is much more lyric based than any other musical genre. Because of it’s fast paced nature, rap is able to squeeze an immense amount of lyrical content into a short two minute song. It is not tied to traditional song structures in the same way as other music often is, and in turn, rap can really pack a punch.

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With so much political power, hip hop is the perfect art form to be leading many of today’s revolutionary movements. It reclaims oppressive spaces through its loud, commanding, and aggressive nature, creating a genre of wildly popular music. Unfortunately, most artists in modern mainstream hip hop have very little interest in women’s issues. First and foremost rap addresses racism–– a critical issue for men and women both nationally and globally. Too often however, these political anthems are not intersectional. I’m sure most of us know the feeling of thinking we’ve found a great new rap song until about thirty seconds in when the artist starts describing how he’s going to force women to have sex with him. Suddenly your foot stops tapping and you’re not feeling as empowered as you were a second ago. Of course there are countless male rappers out there who don’t do this, but I think we can agree this is an all too familiar feeling for those of us who seek out rap in our day to day lives. Which is why, now more than ever, it is time for female hip hop artists to finally have their time in the limelight.

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It’s interesting to note that, generally speaking, female rappers are much more likely to include political lyrics in their songs than male rappers. There are many possible reasons for this, but one of them is simply that women have to work much harder than their male peers to get the mic in the first place, so are probably more inclined to say something that really needs to be heard. Unlike what was mentioned earlier, female rappers are consistently intersectional and most songs will engage with both gender and race, rarely choosing one. One of the most common threads in hip hop by women is the idea of ownership over their own body and sexuality, two things which are often portrayed as under male control in mainstream media. There is little more refreshing to me as a woman in the United States than seeing another woman stand up, take control, get angry, and rile up a crowd all while being sexy as hell.

With all of this said, now more than ever it is time for us, as hip hop consumers, to support and nurture female rappers. They stand strong in solidarity against sexist and racist rhetoric that is too often a structure for our society. Female rappers are a triple threat: they are women, they are usually people of color, and they refuse to be silenced. They are prepared and capable to be our generation’s revolutionary leaders––if only we would open our ears and listen to what they have to say! The hip hop industry has been paving the way to produce political leaders for years, it’s now time to give these women the platform for their own voices and a fan base to support them.

So where do we begin?

For starters, tune in to Queen Beats every Tuesday night from 12-2am on KZSC, Santa Cruz. (88.1FM or kzsc.org) Next, like Queen Beats on Facebook and stay updated with what women are up to in the hip hop industry: https://www.facebook.com/QueenBeatsKZSC/

Call in! Make requests! Enjoy! We are the generation that is going to give these women their space, so let’s start now!

*artists shown in included images– top: Alphamama, bottom: Akua Naru, featured image: Soom T

Day N Night Hip-Hop Festival (Recap + Video)

Here’s the recap video for the first annual Day N Night Festival in Orange County. This was actually the first music festival I’d ever been to, and while I’d love to comment on all the things I felt went wrong or hit my Kanye rant about the state of today’s hip-hop, I think I’ll just focus on the positive and let you watch the video for yourselves.

Festival highlights include:

  • Being actually impressed with Lil Yachty & his braid-driven stage presence
  • YG tearing the stage down before ASAP Rocky came on and moaned about acid
  • Lil Uzi Vert hopping that trashcan
  • Interviewing Allan Kingdom
  • Sitting in the parking lot for 5 hrs. Saturday due to terrible traffic organization (shouts out TAPS)
  • Seeing the live performance of Fettiwith Playboi Carti, Maxo Kream, & Dash
  • Being offered Xanax 4 seperate times
  • YG performing songs from 2010 and his mostly hometown fans knowing every single word
  • Accidentally buying beer for a 16 y/o and watching him run from security
  • YG perform FDT
  • YG proving why he’s #2 west coast rapper behind Earl Sweatshirt
  • YG

VIDEO

 

Loukas