The year was 1998. While New Orleans, Houston and Atlanta pretty much monopolized the conversation of Southern Hip Hop’s eventual rise to dominance, Miami seemed to be stuck in an era of 2 Live Crew and the over-the-top sexual exploits of Luther Campbell. Then came Trick Daddy’s “Nann” record. The Liberty City, Florida native came with the same ridiculously crass rhymes many remembered from his guest appearance on Campbell’s “Scarred” but this time, he brought a sassy-mouthed Katrina Laverne Taylor who was just as lyrically audacious. Of course, she would be known to simply as Trina.
One of the most daring bands to emerge from LA’s contemporary music scene is Odd Future offshoot, The Internet. Originally consisting of Syd tha Kid and Matt Martians, the two made quite a stir when they dropped 2011’s experimental soul album Purple Naked Ladies. Featuring controversial videos for the singles “Cocaine” and “Fastlane,” critics either loved the duo’s creativity or hated their left-field sound. Regardless, the project gained the group a nice following and band additions through keyboardist Jameel Bruner, bass player Patrick Paige and drummer Christopher Smith.
As a five piece band, The Internet dropped the appropriately titled Feel Good in 2013. This time, critics praised the project as an easier listen than their debut. “Overall, Feel Good nails the delicate balance between experimentation and restraint, making the listener feel…great,” said Now Toronto’s Holly Mackenzie. There are also those impressive side collaborative projects with Mac Miller and Raleigh Ritchie.
Following rumors and even one city councilman attempting to halt the process, Mr. Shawn Carter himself and Los Angeles Eric Garcetti officially announced in April that Made In America would make its way west Labor Day weekend. Running congruently with the east coast leg in Philadelphia, MIA LA didn’t reach the heights of its bi-coastal brother for several reasons. Outside of a strange city hall festival layout, an unfulfilling artist line-up felt lacked much inspiration despite heavyweight names. Despite issues, Made in America LA represents exactly the growth Downtown LA has needed since The Staples Center and L.A. Live came into existence almost decades ago.
“Basically, my own solo career is an extension of whatever work I’ve done with The Roots; it’s not separate,” says lyrical pastor Dice Raw. It is a suitable description of the Philly-based artist who has been a part of essentially every release from the iconic hip-hop band going as far back as 1994’s Do You Want More?!!!??! Never one to settle for associations and guest verses despite how big, Dice Raw has been subtly building a solo career for quite some time.
Producer, composer and now label owner Adrian Younge is almost an anomaly in contemporary music. Having a breakout year in 2009 thanks to his work on theBlack Dynamite soundtrack, Younge eventually became the go-to producer for anything involving vintage soul. That includes collaborative projects with everyone ranging from The Delfonics to Ghostface Killah.
As head of Linear Labs Records, Younge is preparing the release of Souls of Mischief’s sixth studio album, There Is Only Now. Set to drop Aug. 26, the project will include guest appearances from Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes.
Speaking with SoulTrain.com, the reigning champion of analogue discusses his handcrafted approach to music recording, sequel to Twelve Reasons To Die, future collaborative projects and among others.
SoulTrain.com: Talk about the inception of Linear Labs Records. Was it a difficult transition from artist to label owner?
Adrian Younge: It was always one of my dreams to own a label and I’m just humble that I’m finally here and able to really do it. I’ve learned so much from working with Wax Poetics and Rza, that I feel like I’m finally at that point with myself. As far as Linear Labs, I basically wanted to create a label that spoke to consumers that appreciate handcrafted products. I want my music to be deemed as handcrafted artist and produced music, a kind of bespoke perspective on the creation of this kind of art. So basically, my label is essentially founded upon the music I do. I want people to understand the level of quality they’re going to receive when they see the Linear Labs logo or hear music from us. I want to be a modern Motown, but not the Motown of the ‘60s; I want to be the Motown of the ‘70s when they were a little bit more cutting edge. That’s basically what I’m looking at and I’m just happy that Souls of Mischief’s album is going to be the label’s first release.
How does one turn down an opportunity to work on tour with Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez to become the creative director for a television show in China? When you’re acclaimed vocal coach, producer, motivational speaker and entrepreneur Nicholas Cooper, the answer is simple. “You say ‘no’ by looking toward the future,” he says. “Do I stick with someone who already has a career, or do I fortify the career I think I’m going to have?” Such a statement makes sense knowing the storied history of one of the go-to guys within the music industry. For the past few of decades, Cooper has been taking perfectly executed risks as well as breaking many glass ceilings. Before turning 18-years-old, he sang for President Ronald Reagan, appeared on television and landed his first Broadway gig.
The past few decades have been quite kind to legendary music executive Steve Rifkind. Since the early days of working with his father Jules Rifkind at Spring Records, Steve has always had a special ear for the best urban music had to offer. Growing-up during Hip Hop’s early ages, it made perfect sense for him to use firsthand knowledge in forming his own label. With Loud Records, Rifkind became one of the many key figures in changing the culture’s business and creative trajectory.
“I’m feeling fantastic today,” says Inglewood, California native Tiffany Gouché as she prepares for her set at Los Angeles’ Lyric Theater during a sit-down withSoulTrain.com next door inside Voila! Gallery. And emotions should be overwhelmingly positive. It’s been only a day since Gouché released her debut EPFantasy in late July, and the audience is peaking with anticipation before the performance considering that she’s dropped one of the best alternative R&B/soul projects one will undoubtedly hear all year. But there’s more however with Gouché’s already impressive writing and producing credits officially making her a force to be reckoned with.
Past midnight, 93-years-old jazz icon Clark Terry lays on a bed as he mumbles (no pun intended) his almost academic doodle tongue technique to twenty something-year-old pianist Justin Kauflin. Nasal cannula assisting with oxygen flow, the man who served as Miles Davis and Quincy Jones’ mentor can barely see out of his diabetes affected eyes. That’s fine however, his Virginia Beach-based protege can’t see either. It’s just another night in a years worth of practice in Terry’s Pine Bluff, Arkansas home. Though TC (as many call him) has become a legend over the years, his health has deteriorated to near non-functionality. On the other hand, Kauflin is a struggling musician who recently travelled back home with his parents as the tough New York jazz scene didn’t accommodate the lack of eyesight. In this father and son like relationship, both use their passion for jazz to persevere essentially impossible obstacles; a big theme in Al Hicks’ phenomenally inspirational directorial debut Keep On Keepin’ On.
Essentially creating a lane for successful hip-hop acts in Pittsburg, PA, Rostrum Records has cultivated the lucrative careers of Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller. Next up to bat is Boaz Bey, or simply Boaz. Describing himself as a “fly brother, all around hustler and extraordinary musician,” the MC says growing up in the area of Larimer and watching hip-hop’s growth during the ‘90s gave him music aspirations. Helps that he came from a musically inclined family as well. “Music is something I’ve always been inspired by, and hip-hop was something I just gravitated to,” he adds. Boaz remembers his early fascination with Will Smith’s turn in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and House Party’s Kid & Play as forming his approach to relateability. “ I thought that was cool because it made me feel that regular people could have this ability,” says Boaz. “The raps they were giving off were that they were just everyday cats from the hood.”