Midweek Beats + Pieces vol. 16
Aotearoa Hip-Hop: The Music, The People, The History, Susumu Yokota, etc
Before we get into this week’s newsletter, I just want to send some love and appreciation out to everyone who has responded so warmly to the Susumu Yokota retrospective I put together for Wax Poetics with my good friend Ken Hidaka. Doing work like that is a true joy. For anyone who missed it, you can read the story here. This week’s photos were shot with 35mm Portra 400 film on an Olympus MJU II, before being scanned and developed by Wellington Photographic Supplies.
WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING:
Two and a half years ago, I agreed to help out with research and writing for a podcast series about the history of Hip-Hop in Aotearoa New Zealand for ROVA and Mai FM. On the 19th of November, we unveil the first season of Aotearoa Hip-Hop: The Music, The People, The History. Over six, narrative led episodes, hosted by DJ Sirvere, we follow the rise of early 80s Wellington hip-hop pioneers DJ Tee Pee and Upper Hutt Posse and chart early scene developments from Auckland to Dunedin and back again, before taking a pause in 1996 as Aotearoa hip-hop/RnB legend Che Fu leaves Supergroove and explodes as a solo artist.
To date, we’ve clocked over one hundred interviews for this project. We’ll be rolling out a second season in 2022. I nearly had a nervous breakdown several times while we were putting this together, so I hope people enjoy this or at the least, find some of it interesting. If you’d like to stay more in the loop, you can follow the podcast on Instagram here. More details soon.
In other news, I’ve recorded a new DJ mix for Palestine’s Radio Alhara. I’ll give you a heads up on that when they give me an air date. I’ve also been doing some lounge bar DJing again in Wellington at Laundry, and building up my collection of regional versions of New Jack Swing from the eighties and nineties.
Bonus: Here’s a video of previously unseen footage of Susumu Yokota performing. If you enjoyed me and Ken’s article, you might want to watch it.
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:
Mixmag: The Vinyl Straw, Why The Vinyl Industry Is At Breaking Point, by Megan Townsend.
What buyers are wanting from their vinyl has also changed, with an ICM poll in 2016 revealing that 48% of buyers don’t play their records. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) revealed in their All About Music 2020 edition, that one in five vinyl owners don’t even own a record player. The same report reflected that many of those purchasing vinyl records have usually listened to the track/EP/album on Spotify beforehand.
“It’s a collector’s item now, it’s not something to consume or play,” comments Tomas Fraser. “Sure, there’s a demand for vinyl but not in a functional sense. The demand is shifting and people are wanting digipaks, full-colour sleeves. Small labels can’t make that, that’s two grand a time. Now we’re just pressing vinyl because it’s validating and it makes you feel like a real label, but people are rarely taking those records home to play them.”
The industry is at its strongest since the advent of the CD disk, so why has it become near-impossible to get music pressed onto wax? Megan Townsend digs in.
Bandcamp Daily: The Story of Native American Metal Band Winterhawk, by Brad Sanders.
Alfonso Kolb was only 18 years old when he first met Nik Alexander. It was 1978, and Kolb was a budding drummer whose only real experience playing with other musicians was in his local “rez band” on the Rincon Indian Reservation in San Diego County. At his brother’s behest, Kolb drove up to Escondido to audition for a guy who was looking for Native American drummers. That guy turned out to be Alexander, a Cree activist and musician who was heading up a new all-Native rock band called Winterhawk. “There were not a lot of Native American rock drummers,” Kolb dryly recalls. He got the job.
Winterhawk infused heavy metal with Native sounds, wrote lyrics that excoriated the white man, and wore traditional garb on their record covers. Their very existence in the late 1970s was a provocation. Brad Sanders goes long.
The New York Times: Helado Negro at the End of the World, by Isabelia Herrera.
Ed Horrox, the 4AD executive who signed Helado Negro to the label, said that Lange has a powerful ability to forge connections: “Whether it’s in person, whether it’s on a Zoom call, whether it’s a bloody three-line text,” he said in a video chat, “he’s got a knack for sharing warmth and positivity.” Horrox first found Lange’s work while searching for music to play on his London-based radio show, “Happy Death,” and followed him through the years. The response to Lange’s arrival on 4AD from listeners proclaiming him “my favorite artist” was “quite overwhelming,” Horrox said.
The Ecuadorean American musician’s new album, “Far In,” is filled with celestial lullabies that confront earthly anxieties. Isabelia Herrera meets Helado Negro.
INews: Jesy Nelson’s blackfishing controversy was preventable. Both she and her team are responsible, by Nicolas-Tyrell Scott.
Blackfishing, coined by Wanna Thompson (as well as a Twitter-used formerly known as Deja), refers to influencers, celebrities and public figures adopting aesthetics derived from Black women, including, but not exclusive to darkening their skin tone, and has since closely been associated with blackface. It also refers to attempts to position oneself as racially ambiguous – in other words, anything but white.
Excuses and a failure to acknowledge the role played by all only aggravates the very communities that the singer is attempting to cater to. Nicolas-Tyrell Scott is at his keyboard.
WHAT I’VE BEEN LISTENING TO:
Presha, Rats (Samurai Music)
Speaking personally, my journey with jungle/drum and bass began in the mid 90s through UK compilation album releases like the Metalheadz Platinum Breakz and Good Looking Logical Progression series’. The music on those albums was innovative, futuristic, soulful and 100% built for the late night dancefloor. Rats is Samurai Music boss Presha’s love letter to a genre that has sustained him for a quarter of a century. Across the four songs contained in it, Presha hits all the same high notes as those 90s sounds I so loved. I believe that is what they call, restoring the feeling.
UNiiQU3, Heartbeats (Local Action)
This is another EP length release, but it’s a bit longer than Rats. Over six songs, Jersey’s club queen UNIIQU3 shows why she really is the breakout star of the longstanding Jersey Club movement. I say this without an hyperbole, Heartbeats feels like a Double Cup moment. All of the songs on Heartbeats were composed, produced and voiced by UNIIQU3, with features from New York rapper Dai Burger and fellow Jersey artists R3LL, SJAYY and DJ K-Deucez. I’m sure a lot of you are already familiar, but if you haven’t given UNIIQU3 a chance, now is the time.
JPEGMAFIA, LP! (Bandcamp)
Produced by JPEGMAFIA, Mixed by JPEGMAFIA, Mastered by JPEGMAFIA. This album is a lot of fun, but it was always going to be a lot of fun.
For those in Aotearoa, The Springboard Award 2022 nominations are opening soon.
FRKTL has created the cover art for Amélie Nilles’s debut EP, A croqué le fruit étrange.
New Race Banyon music just dropped over on Bandcamp.
DJ Lag has a fresh mix up on Dazed.
Sherelle’s Mixmag cover story was blinding and brilliant.