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Straight Outta Chachiville

Compton rapper Problem reps all of California (and the L.A. Rams) in his music.

LA Weekly

img_1786“One of my friends called me one day and was like, ‘We’re gonna call you Chachi,’” Compton rapper Problem tells me. He’s talking about Chachi Arcola, Scott Baio’s character in Happy Days, the younger cousin and sidekick of Henry Winkler’s Fonzie. Toward the end of Happy Days’ 11-season run, Baio co-starred in the show’s spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachi, then got his first chance to be sole lead on the ’80s sitcom Charles in Charge.

“So that’s kind of how my career went,” continues the 31-year-old, who’s using the nickname in the title of his next record, Chachiville. “First I was writing for people, then I started being a featured artist on stuff, and then I had my own thing.”

It’s Sunday morning and we’re in San Bruno, a sleepy suburb south of San Francisco, having breakfast next door to a taekwondo studio and a Weight Watchers. The goatee’d emcee, whose most famous track is the 2013 single “Like Whaaat,” has brought along his manager, Melissa Keklak, and nephew-turned-DJ Kyle aka DJ Kai, who, though only 15 years old, has already joined the rapper for one national tour.

Problem grew up in Compton in the ’90s and considers himself lucky, because his musical awakening came around the same time many of the West Coast’s second generation of rappers were coming up. He says he used to run into Nipsey Hussle while pasting promotional posters around South Central and recalls meeting Ty Dolla $ign back when he “looked like D’Angelo, sitting in his mama’s house, just playing the fucking piano and shit.” Problem credits Inglewood rapper Skeme for helping him get on the radio the first time, and says that Schoolboy Q was once his roommate for six months. (Click here to read more)

Pop Duo XYLO Haven’t Played A Show Yet, But They’re Already An Internet Sensation

LA Weekly

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The Internet is a peculiar thing. Especially when it comes to releasing and disseminating music. Take, for example, the brother-sister indie pop band, XYLØ. Even though they’ve never had their own show, haven’t recorded an album, and have only released four songs, their music is everywhere.

One of their songs, “Afterlife,” premiered on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 radio station. Another song, “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” played in the background of a KTLA newscast. Two of their songs have been listened to over one million times on both Spotify and SoundCloud, and they have fans hailing from as far away as Malaysia, Israel and Russia. And they’ve only been around for a little over a year.

“That’s what’s blowing my mind,” says Chase Duddy, the band’s producer. “With technology, you can just put your music out there and anything can happen.”

He and his 21-year-old sister Paige made their first song, “America,” in spring of 2014. “Most people think since we’re brother and sister that we’re in a family band and that we performed for our parents after dinner in front of the fireplace,” says Chase, who is 10 years older than his sister. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

They recorded one song for their parents and grandparents back when Paige, the band’s vocalist, was only 13. But that was just for fun; the idea of forming a band and taking music seriously never entered their minds. Not only was there a huge age gap that made working together difficult (while Paige was in middle school and high school, Chase was already pursuing his career), but the pair were geographically isolated from one another. Chase spent the bulk of his twenties living in Hollywood and Los Feliz, while Paige remained in Westlake Village, where they both live today. (Click here to read more)

PREMIERE: GET DARK WITH RAIDER KLAN’S AMBER LONDON ON ‘LIFE II DEATH’

Noisey

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Amber London is in a moment of transition.  Like many 23-year-olds, the Houston-bred rapper is contemplating moving out of her family’s home, what she wants from her career, and where her identity fits with that vision. “I’m figuring out who I am,” she says. “Just figuring out the world that I’m living in, and, you know, young adult-type problems.”

But Amber London—née Linwood—isn’t your average 23-year-old. She’s got five releases under her belt, 15,000 Twitter followers (and counting), and a standout flow that’s earned her endorsements from the likes of Spaceghostpurrp and Gangsta Boo.

It makes sense, then, that the self-proclaimed “Underground Queen” would document her life in flux on her latest release, Life II Death. The mixtape marks her first project since 2014’s chopped and screwed record Hard 2 Find. Her penchant for the style is still there, but it also sees her shedding the hazy, early 90s influence that dominated earlier works like 2012’s acclaimed 1994. Nixing the retro sound was a conscious decision, she says, largely because the 90s have become too popular for her taste. “The 90s will always be an influence, but I met too many people who are doing it now,” she says. “It’s all about staying ahead of the game.”

London, who grew up in Alief, Houston and still lives with her family, has been rapping since the age of 13.  Most of her songs are born from the freestyles she spits through a computer mic when she has something on her mind.

(Click here to read more)

Love Mixtapes? Like Vinyl? This Company Combines Them Both

LA Weekly

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Sometime in early September, a few hundred people around the world received in the mail a flat, cardboard box containing a heavily padded, highly anticipated vinyl record. Ostensibly, those same few hundred people slipped the record out of its astral-themed jacket and then placed it under the needle of their record player.

Assuming they started with side A, they would have listened to the opening track, “Control,” an upbeat dance-pop tune by the Sydney band Olympic Ayres. Had they started with the other side, they would have heard a moodier, piano-laced ballad called “Baptize” from a Los Angeles band named RKCB. Because therein lies the beauty of this vinyl release: It’s a mixtape, not an album.

Called Vinyl Moon, the nascent, Los Angeles–based endeavor is a subscription-based vinyl mixtape series, featuring a new 10-track release mailed out every month. Each curated release consists of songs from relatively obscure and unknown indie artists and bands. In addition to the records, each volume comes with stickers and postcards, and each record jacket is decorated with original, custom artwork from different artists.

(Click here to read more)

Skeme Stays True to his Inglewood Roots — Except When He’s Ghostwriting Other People’s Hits

LA Weekly

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At Time for a Cut Barber Shop in Inglewood, Lonnie Kimble, known to rap fans as Skeme, sits slouched in a faux leather chair, his dreads pulled back in a ponytail and his knees peeking out of holes in his distressed Yves St. Laurent jeans. A bootlegged version of Straight Outta Compton, with Chinese subtitles, plays on the TV, while the shop’s lone barber, Marlon, shaves the head of one of Skeme’s “brothers.”

It’s a sizzling Friday afternoon in September and some of the guys in the shop have wet towels draped over their heads. The rest of Skeme’s crew is camped out in the back of the room, sitting in a semi-circle around the shop’s lone floor fan.

As his friends joke and gossip, Skeme looks on with a smile. These men — his crew and the other customers — are the people he makes music for, releasing all nine of his mixtapes for free. Though he has been offered deals with labels such as Top Dawg Entertainment, he has remained unsigned. He hasn’t upgraded his lifestyle by relocating to Hollywood or the Valley, instead remaining a constant fixture in the neighborhood he grew up in and still calls home.

His music, he says, is tailored specifically for the streets, with themes of drugs, death and money. “These songs were made for Inglewood niggas,” Skeme says, his voice raspy from years of smoking clove cigarettes. “I speak with their tongue. I say the shit that they’re going through.”

(Click here to read more)

Here’s How One Writer Spent Way Too Long Deciding The Best Rap Song Every Year From 1979 to 2014

Noisey/VICE

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Oh, Shea Serrano. It seems like just yesterday the beloved music writer was an 8th grade science teacher, moonlighting some of his first writing gigs for Noisey and dropping sage hip-hop knowledge and witticisms in pieces like his review of a middle school talent show and that profile on Houston rapper Maxo Kream. Well, Shea’s all grown up now, having found his way to a staff writer gig at Grantland. He’s even got a couple books to his name now. If you consider a “coloring and activity book” a real book, pssshhh. (Just kidding, we think it’s awesome.)

Serrano’s latest, The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Reconstructed, hasn’t even come out yet—it drops October 13—and it’s already the number one best-selling book in three of Amazon’s categories (rap, history and criticism, and popular humor and entertainment). The publishers have even already ordered a second printing of it. We’re so proud!

And anyway, with a foreword written by Ice-T, there’s no way the fully-illustrated, 36-chapter year-by-year analysis of rap’s most important songs will suck. Of course, you might disagree with some of Serrano’s choices—was “Still Tippin’” really more important than “Drop It Like It’s Hot” in 2004?—but that’s life, bro.

Given our excitement for what just might be one of the most important rap tomes in the history of rap tomes, we gave Serrano a call at his home in Houston to find out more about the book, blowing his deadline, and predicting Kanye’s bid for presidency. (Click here to read more)

Southern Hospitality is LA’s Coolest Rap Party…And It’s Free

LA Weekly

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If you want to hear rap and hip-hop on a weekend night in the City of Angels, your options are limited. If you’re willing to dress up, pay a cover and order bottle service, you can head to the clubs in Hollywood. If you’d prefer something more laid-back, you could choose a hipster dive bar, but be prepared for a track list of overplayed, run-of-the-mill, old-school jams. Or you could opt for a warehouse party filled with kids half your age.

“There seems to be no middle ground in the rap club scene,” says British DJ and promoter David Sadeghi, better known in the hip-hop scene as Davey Boy Smith. Luckily for hip-hop heads, Sadeghi has a solution to this problem in the form of a monthly rap dance party called Southern Hospitality at Los Globos.

The event, which has been held in London in various forms and iterations since 2004, is the antithesis of what one would normally expect from a rap party. It’s not scene-y or gaudy, but laid-back and welcoming. The dance floor is huge and if you want to twerk sans smirks and Miley Cyrus references, this is the place to do it (there’s even mirrors on the walls so you can watch your performance).

(Click here to read more)

Lil Debbie’s New EP, Home Grown, Is An Ode To Weed

LA Weekly

IMG_3210 It’s Friday night, a little after 10:30, and I’m hoofing it through Hollywood to a spot called Las Palmas where Lil Debbie is premiering her new EP, Home Grown. There are stragglers hanging out front and they’re all young, definitely not over the age of 25, some of them probably not even over 21, which I assume is why they are hanging outside to begin with. Because that’s the thing about rap and hip-hop shows: They’re always mired with youngins.

The last — and only — time I saw Lil Debbie was back in 2013 at a place called Venue in downtown Oakland. The Venue is one of those multi-use spaces with a stage and a bar and lots of floor space, and I remember being impressed with the size of the room when I got there. Impressed because I didn’t know much about Lil Debbie, other than the fact that she was in the White Girl Mob, and impressed because I hadn’t been to a rap show since high school.

V-Nasty was there, and probably Kreayshawn, too, but all I can remember is Lil Debbie strutting across the stage in a pair of silk boxer shorts, gesticulating and waving the mic around. Her tiny, 5’2″ frame was a mere wisp compared to V-Nasty, and yet she was just as fierce, just as tough. The rest of the night is a blur — let’s be honest, I probably drank one too many glasses of Moscato — but I remember watching her perform as if it were yesterday.

(Click here to read more)

I Wore Pasties At EDC And It Wasn’t That Bad

LA Weekly

It’s easy to make friends when you wear pasties at EDC. I would know. I did it last night.

I didn’t plan for this to happen. When I packed for the festival, I chose regular clothes—shorts, tank tops, a sundress. You see, I’m not a raver and I’d never been to a rave before, so I had no idea what to expect. Actually, that’s not true. I once saw a gaggle of girls dressed in tutus and furry boots leaving a hotel in downtown L.A., apparently on their way to a rave. So I knew enough about rave culture to recognize the tropes: the boots, the bracelets, the drugs, the glow sticks. I just had no idea what to expect once I got there.

I barfed and went home early on my first night at EDC. I’d drunk too little water and inhaled too much dust. I was also completely and utterly overwhelmed. The last time I’d gone to a large-scale musical event was back in 1999 to see The Spice Girls at the Forum. (I must admit, even though I am a music journalist, I’ve never been to a music festival — not even Coachella.) Needless to say, I was wholly unprepared for the sheer size, scale and volume of the event.

And then there were the outfits — or rather, lack thereof. Girls were wearing panties and bras and thongs like it was the most normal thing in the world. Of course, it was over 100 degrees outside, and I sure as hell am no Mormon. But still, I was shocked. One girl wore a unitard made entirely of (thin) black duct tape. Others seemed to have given up on clothes all together. (Click here to read more)

Tokimonsta Mixes Hip-Hop and EDM For The EDC Masses

LA Weekly

tokimonsta_marcotorres_5It’s a little past 11 o’clock on Friday and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is pulsing with sound, lights and bodies. Polyester jellyfish and gigantic LED mushrooms hover above the crowd; the smell of funnel cakes and body odor wafts through the 100-degree air on this first night of EDC Las Vegas. Dust and dirt coalesce into one invisible mass, infiltrating the throats and nasal passages of thousands of ravers, their plastic beaded bracelets click-clacking as they record videos with their smartphones and chug Powerades and syrupy cocktails. A never-ending torrent of synths and molecule-rearranging bass tumble from myriad speakers throughout the 2.5-mile-long complex.

At each stage, a different gradation of EDM plays, as artists and DJs spin melodies, adjust volumes, and tweak tempos. The beat drops, building into an explosive climax at one stage, while a steady wave of trance hypnotizes the crowd at another. Elsewhere, a percussive house jam segues into a drum solo. And over there, to the north, a tinkle of bells unfurls into an Indian-laced flute melody and the crowd goes wild as they recognize the beat to Nas’s “Oochie Wally.”

This is not what they were expecting. This is hip-hop, not EDM. But wait. Don’t you hear the bass? The electro tinge? Isn’t what you’re doing with your feet called dancing? And isn’t that, by virtue of its various qualities, the very definition of electronic dance music?

You nod your head “yes” and wave your bangled arms in the air. This is EDM, you decide. And that blue-haired DJ on the stage knows what she’s doing, you realize. She’s blurring the lines between genres. She’s breaking the rules. She’s pioneering a new sound. (Click here to read more)

HOW AN L.A. BLOCK BECAME ANALOG ALLEY, A DESTINATION FOR ALL THINGS RETRO

LA Weekly

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Most of the time, when people talk about Sawtelle Boulevard, they mention the Japanophile stretch near Olympic, known as Little Osaka, where you can buy authentic red bean mochi, Sanrio knickknacks and mouthwatering ramen. (The general area around the stretch is now technically known as Sawtelle Japantown). But if you walk a few blocks north of that stretch, toward Santa Monica Boulevard, you’ll discover Analog Alley.

It’s where the eight-decade-old Nuart Theatre shows indie and cult films and where you can rent videos from one of the last independently owned video stores in the city. You’ll find a record store with a hammock hanging out front and a used bookstore with a tintype photography studio. Down the side street of Idaho Avenue, there’s another used bookstore, this one filled with gewgaws and doo-dads from yore. If you want a slice of the past, this is where you go.

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Two or three years ago, recalls Sebastian Mathews, the owner of Touch Vinyl and Cinefile Video, “there’s these little obsolete businesses around and we were all starting to feel that analog needs to come to the forefront.” As a result, local shopkeepers decided to brand the area Analog Alley, and since then, foot traffic and business in general have improved. (Click here to read more)

Son Of A Cocaine Dealer, Rapper Bricc Baby Lives Up To His Name

LA Weekly 

MPA_Shitro_Karte 2_001 It helps to have friends in high places. Just ask Bricc Baby, an underground L.A. rapper who came out with his second mixtape (Nasty Dealer) in April.

Bricc grew up in South L.A., where he befriended a young Kid Ink and Casey Veggies. Later, he moved to Atlanta where he met Future, Young Thug, Young Scooter and Peewee Longway. The Atlanta gang taught him how to freestyle, and he was Casey Veggies’ driver for his first tour. He formed Batgang with Kid Ink, who also helped the young rapper choose his name (he was formerly MPA Shitro, Shitty Montana and Bricc Baby Shitro) and took him on tour in both Europe and the United States.

“Yeah, I’m pretty lucky,” says the 27-year-old MC. “I’m blessed to be in a position where I run into people that are real heavy in the game.”

(Click here to read more)

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