Tag Archives: All of the Above

Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With Raphael Downes

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The hip-hop scene in Lansing, Michigan is an interesting one. It seems to rise and fall with the student population that comes and goes every four years from Michigan State University. There are also MCs, producers, DJs, B-boys/girls and graffiti artists that were born and raised in Lansing, developing their craft within the Capitol area.

Raphael Downes is one of these MCs, having been in the scene from the days of Respiration at Mac’s Bar. When you watch him perform and listen to his music, you can tell that rapping is something that comes natural to him. However, its also something that he’s worked on, which has to be done if you’re serious about making a career in music. During a freestyle, he gets open with the best of them. On stage his persona is nothing short of infectious.

Raphael is a man of faith. There is the religious side to him, something that drives his everyday life, as well as his belief in hope and being positive. These themes are deeply rooted in his music and are the essence of hip-hop; speaking on your truth and experiences. There are references to raising his daughter, living paycheck to paycheck and how good it can feel to build on even the smallest of victories during the day. Raphael’s project, The Bridge, will be released in the near future and incorporates these ideas.  With the superb production of Ozay Moore and KuroiOto, The Bridge is supported by a strong percussive foundation. Guest appearances by James Gardin, Jahshua Smith and Red Pill only add to an already solid effort by Raphael. The allure of The Bridge is that it’s not about buying into a certain set of values. Instead, The Bridge is about hope and survival, no matter what the circumstances might be. This is something that people do all over the world everyday. We may come from different places, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relate to each other.

Recently we were fortunate enough to sit down with Raphael and talk about how he got involved in hip-hop, his love of literature, the All of the Above Hip-Hop Collective (AOTA) and what went into creating The Bridge.

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Bonus Cut Presents: An Interview With Lansing Hip-Hop Artist and Educator Ess Be

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By: Gus Navarro

The first time I met Ess Be, I thought he was a rapper. This was at the ULITT Conference at Michigan State University back in March and he was participating in a cypher workshop led by the incomparable Toni Blackman. His rhymes were on point and to be quite honest, I didn’t know any better. As it turns out, he is in fact a producer and member of the Lansing-based hip-hop collective, All Of The Above (AOTA), and a recent signee to illect Recordings. Although he has been making beats for over ten years, you probably haven’t heard of Ess Be unless you’re aware of what’s going down hip-hop wise in the Lansing area. This is because he just recently released Bag Fries, his first official instrumental project. Spanning only seven tracks, Bag Fries is a project that demonstrates his varying production styles and abilities.

Not only is Ess Be a good producer, he is a great person that is passionate about music and developing his craft. In this interview he speaks about playing pots and pans as a young one and the moment when he first picked up a pair of drumsticks. From there we learn about the beginnings of his hip-hop production, something that he would come to work on obsessively, locked away in his room for hours on end. Bag Fries is the result of the work he’s put in over time and is something that he can bring back to the students he teaches at AOTA. It was a pleasure to sit down and talk about Bag Fries, hip-hop culture and Fruity Loops. With more music on the way in 2015, stay tuned to what Ess Be has in coming down the pipeline.

Podcast

Listen to Bag Fries here

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A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Ozay Moore

 

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By: Gus Navarro 

On May 26th, Ozay Moore dropped Taking L’s, his first record in more than five years. Released via Mello Orange Music and produced entirely by 14KT, L’s has that classic hip-hop feel but also achieves a whole new level of depth and honesty. The record is driven by the idea that not every “L” or loss you take in life is negative. As Ozay explains, “Not every L is a bad L to take. For instance, you might take a loss and come to find out that it ended up being the best thing for your situation at the time.” As that concept propels the album forward, the genius of Ozay is in the way he combines the hard-hitting elements of hip-hop with reflections on his life and how the world has changed since he first became a rapper.

There is the B-boy joint, “Bang,” that hits hard with the assistance of KT’s thumping kick drums and on point hand claps. “The Fix” is about substance abuse and the twisted web that a dependence on drugs can create. The seventh track, “Pillow Thoughts,” finds Ozay at a level of reflection and vulnerability that can be rare for the often braggadocious mentality of hip-hop. The power of “Pillow Thoughts” is the feeling that Ozay and KT are able to create. In one well soft-spoken and insightful verse, Ozay talks about his family, being there for his kids and the grind of working a 9-5 job. “Record Store Day” pays homage to physically purchasing music from a store after a solid day of crate digging and touches on how the digital age has impacted music consumption and the changing business of independently owned record stores. As he lays it down, “Am I the last in the world without an Ipod?/ I guess I gotta get with it but the times change quicker than the pace I’m used to keepin’/ Man, I still enjoy diggin’/ Sparkin’ conversations at the mom and pop shops about releases.”

What becomes clear is that Taking L’s is a reflection on the complexities of life. There are times of elation and warmth that have to be balanced with the inevitable moments of pain and sorrow. Ozay reminds us of the power of vulnerability and that when one door closes, another opens somewhere else. With all of the self-absorbed music being made these days, Taking L’s removes the glitz and glam that is often exaggerated in popular music. Instead he shares insights and tells stories about love, family, supporting local music and the how society has changed in a way that is as relatable as it is insightful. There is no doubt that Taking L’s is a welcome and long-awaited addition to the musical archives of hip-hop culture.

 

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“Taking L’s” cover art

 

 

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A Track-By-Track Look Into Ozay Moore’s “Taking L’s”

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On May 26th, the incredibly honest and personal MC Ozay Moore (fka Othello) released the album Taking L’s. Produced entirely by 14KT, Taking L’s is an in-depth look into life, where Ozay explains that not all L’s are bad, and that sometimes they’re the best thing that can happen to you given the circumstance. With songs about introspection, love, heartache, growing up, substance abuse, wins and losses, Taking L’s is a ride through hip-hop with depth that keeps on unraveling and truth that seeps through the speakers.

Here, Gus and Dan break down the album track-by-track.

Be sure to peep and buy the album either digitally or June 9th during the official label release. Click here to purchase the album!

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The Celebration of the Hip-Hop Commune: Rockin’ With All of the Above

via All of the Above

via All of the Above

By: Justin Cook

On the evening of April 25th 2014, I witnessed hip-hop in the rawest form: DJing, MCing, B-Boying and graffiti along the dome of my mental. It was unlike any show I’d ever been to. The sense of community vision and celebration was all around. It all started as I walked into the Loft, a local venue in Lansing, Michigan, and met up with fellow Bonus Cut member Gus Navarro. DJ Ruckus spun classics as people slowly filled the dance floor. I began to recognize a lot of familiar faces: the great people of All of the Above, friends, classmates and co-opers of East Lansing.

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