Tag Archives: community

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

EssBe pic 3

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.

 

Taking L's Pic

“Taking L’s” cover art

 

 

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Pushing the Tracks: “528Hz (solfeggio & fibonacci)” featuring Knockzarelli & Row & Nora Yvelle

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Right on the heels of Sacramento Knoxx’s new track “May 14th Transformations,”–a uniquely bound ride into production prominence–comes “528HZ (solfeggio & fibonacci),” an ear-opening cut featuring Knockzarelli, Row and Nora Yvelle, with production by XXYYXX.

“528HZ…” is an attention-grabbing song that ensnares you at numerous points. From XXYYXX’s low-buzzing melodies that swirl into beautiful waves of artistic vibes to Row’s dominating presence behind the mic to Yvelle’s free-flowing singing, “528HZ…” is a wonderful work of music on all sides that truly represents the strength behind Southwest Detroit’s culture. “Fuck the system I see these Donald Sterling’s lurking,” Row spits. “Searching every way to keep our voices from merging.”

On the song’s mystifying vocal coda, Yvelle beautifully backs Row’s inspiring bars: “Just always know, you’re not alone… Together we can make it known.”

instagram: @Knockzarelli
Knockzarelli is an emcee from Southwest Detroit, with a multidisciplinary artistic vision, this hybrid culture creator spreads messages of love, resistance, and knowledge that promote creation & healing. And with this piece he inspires us to dodge the lies and wanted to remind us of our true divine beauty we all have within ourselves. Catch him at www.sKnoxx.com #RAIZup
Row Mendez
Row is an up and coming artist, emcee, & culture creator from Southwest Detroit. His artistic imprint to the universe leaves strong leadership for the youth, and assures that our ambition will carry us through our struggles. follow up: www.rowmendez.bandcamp.com

Nora Yvelle
Nora is a vocal artist, community activist, and culture creator she plans on singing your ears into a trance, a place of peace, and understanding. “This track personifies the visions of youth in the community bringing awareness and striving for change and showing a beautiful way. Music is a way of healing through the ears.” Nora is from Hitsville, Detroit, Michigan.
contact: Norasingz@Yahoo.com

produced by XXYYXX
recorded at The Urban Arts Academy, Detroit, MI

 

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Pushing the Tracks: “May 14th Transformations” by Sacramento Knoxx

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When you think Detroit hip-hop, one of the biggest names that should never be forgotten is Sacramento Knoxx. As an activist, educator, producer, filmmaker, picture artist and musician, Knoxx is an individual that’s everywhere in the game. When he’s not teaching the youth or building his community, he’s working tirelessly in the studio, polishing off songs left and right.

As a producer, Knoxx is a mastermind. T. Love from Okayplayer called him a “mad scientist,” and to refute that claim would be stupid. Knoxx’s production is lush, with sounds hitting you on all sides. The construction of each track is carefully worked into a perfective state, and when certain tracks hit, they hit. His magnum opus, Rise of The Turtle, brilliantly showcases the work, detail and imagery Knoxx puts into his songs, and how creative he can get with the absence of lyrics.

“May 14th Transformations” is Knoxx’s newest cut. Having been released today (on his birthday no less!), “May 14th” is a spiritual ride into the hip-hop tao. It’s a commanding beat, while at the same time keeping everything calm and cool. The sampling is perfectly placed, with stuttering, bangs and a gliding melody. “Give a little back,” the sampled melody professes, and if you could find a silver lining it would probably be that, because Knoxx once again gives back and supplies it all.

Happy birthday Knoxx!

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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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Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With James Gardin (Part One)

via blatpack.com

via blatpack.com

If you’re at all familiar with Michigan hip-hop and Michigan music in general, then the name James Gardin (fka P.H.I.L.T.H.Y.) is commonplace. As one of Lansing’s premier music icons for the last decade, James has shown how to get down, how to dance, how to properly enjoy a live show, how to fight for a cause and how to live in general. More than that though, James has fueled the hip-hop community beneficially in other ways. Working with Michigan State’s MRULE and various other youth programs to donate art workshops, not to mention spending time in South Africa teaching kids with HIV/AIDS music and uniting them through it, James has never stopped being an influential and important figure in his community.

Musically, James has opened for the likes of Talib Kweli, The Cool Kids, Grieves and The Pack. He was also recently named one of Rapzilla’s Freshman of 2014.

Today we’re excited to unveil part one of our interview with the man himself! Check out the video below, and don’t forget to check out James’ pages and music!

For more on James Gardin:
James Gardin on Soundcloud
James Gardin on BandCamp
@JamesGardin on Twitter

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An Emotional Night of Hip-Hop’s Finest: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib at The Metro

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By: Daniel Hodgman

It was around 7pm on Friday when I found myself walking along Addison Street in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood when I stopped at the Clark Street junction. In front of me, basking in the city’s aura, was Wrigley Field. The bright red lights had seized me, and for a couple of minutes I was in complete awe. Being new in a city is something I’ve experienced before, but I feel it’s a completely different circumstance for cities like Chicago. There are so many landmarks, and so many spacious areas to explore, and maybe in due time I’ll pass by without even stopping to steal a glance, but that night I had to take it all in. I was starstruck, and boy was I about to be starstruck all night.

Taking a left on Clark, I quickly hopped in line at the Metro, one of Chicago’s patented music venues, and as I stood there in a complete haze, I had no idea what was about to rush over me. On the Metro’s large venue sign in the front it simply read: 3/7/14 Freddie Gibbs & Madlib.

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Hip-Hop and Transformative Teaching for the Community: Bonus Cut Visits #ULITT2014

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By: Daniel Hodgman

On Saturday, Gus and I headed over to Brody on the campus of Michigan State University to attend the Urban Literacies Institute for Transformative Teaching (ULITT), an annual event that supports teachers, educators, students, youth organizers, activists and community leaders that engage in social justice and hip-hop pedagogy. One of ULITT’s most important missions is to explore critical issues affecting today’s youth, and through this ULITT uses spoken word poetry and hip-hop as powerful tools and a lens to explore language, privilege, youth development and community action. ULITT is held by CAITLAH, a campus program organized by one of the directors David Kirkland, dedicated to further understanding teaching and learning through the fields of arts and humanities. CAITLAH works with educators, students, families, communities and schools to better the advancement of language and literacy for life.

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