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An Ode to ‘Your Hand In Mine’ by Explosions in the Sky

An old song that’s fairly recent plays via random algorithm sequence

dictated by 1’s and 0’s as far as we know, although this frequency prompts

insightful inquiries into the former me; one in the same

but another day comes and I am born yet again.

 

I always play this song when something’s on my mind

but not in the literal sense, hence if such were the case

I’d put it on loop and play it all the time.

Thoughts always pacing, walking, sometimes racing

within the confines of the infinite lines of the figure 8 track

of the super highway that is consciousness;

 

I promise this: whenever I look back and listen to this melody

the weight will fall off my shoulders and give way to serenity.

The vibes strive to make me feel alive as I feel the kind and all too familiar syncopation

adjust my mood to its sonic stipulations.

 

In a world where war comes in many forms

any moment of peaceful trancsendence is to be remembered and cherished;

it could be laying in the grass on a sunny day,

a hot dog in the city with mustard and relish,

a walk down the street or through memory lane,

a random street fair you find around the corner,

a cold glass of water on a summer afternoon,

a nap on a plane or a car or a train,

a clear night sky with a shining moon,

or anything that takes you to another plain.

 

Ironically enough I find the most peace with a song

from a band called ‘Explosions in the Sky’.

The name is the same as my favorite thing to do

with a lover. It’s called “Your Hand In Mine.” -RSM

 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW With COLLABORATIN MINDS, Hip Hop Duo from The Bronx

I recently sat down with BX hip hop duo Collaboratin Minds. The team includes Queensbridge born, BX raised and all-NYC rapper Young InQ with his right hand man, first cousin and hip hop mentor Lapse. These two are poised to take the hip hop scene by storm with their new mixtape ‘Dead To America,’ which was just released yesterday on iTunes. Hip hop heads, take heed: If you haven’t heard their music yet, you’re missing out big time. The duo has been rhyming since their early years (especially Lapse) and have collaborated with Don Mega, Fred the Godson and Rsonist of the Heatmakerz. They recently released their new music video for their single ‘BX to BK’ (Prod. Hesam, Directed by Ian Schwaier):

This is my interview with Collaboratin Minds, recorded on January 26, 2014 at Diamond District Studios. Lapse and Young InQ discuss their plans for 2014, their humble beginnings, talk about their (unexpected) musical influences and offer much insight and advice to rookie MCs. Here it is:

The transcript for the interview is below:

Ruben M.: So you’ve been rapping since you were 12 years old?

Lapse: Nah, I’ve been rapping probably like, I wouldn’t say 12, I was probably like, 8, but it wasn’t like, real shit. It was like fake shit, little kid shit.

Young InQ: You were serious! You would go HAM back in the day! He used to have these rap battles online-

L: But that wasn’t until I was like, 13.

YI: Until later right?

L: Yeah. I didn’t have a computer at the time, so-

YI: Yeah yeah yeah.

L: I’ve been trying to write since I was like 8 years old.

YI: I’ve been at it since I was like, 16 or seriously since I was like 18 or 19, I’m 23 now, so you can do the math (laughs).

L: I’m not going disclose my age right now.

(laughter)

L: I’m like 45 right now, yeah I’m 45.

(More laughter)

(Editor’s note: He’s not really 45.)

RM: Alright, I got a good question for you guys, especially considering these 2 gentlemen on the wall (points to mural of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur): Who are your biggest influences in hip hop?

L: My biggest influence was Tupac, this man right here (points to mural), until after he died then I had to get new rappers to follow and to learn their style and everything like that. And I only say ‘learn their style’ to improve mine, to make mine better, to improve my own style.  I’m not a biter, I don’t take anybody else’s style.

RM: Word. Original is the name of the game man. What about you, InQ?

YI: Well, originally, my mom had me listening to old school classics, stuff like that. I listen to like, Marvin Gaye and things like that. I know that’s not hip hop but that’s how my music knowledge started,

… Otis Redding, and things like that but as far as hip hop goes, not on some sentimental or suck up shit but this guy right here (points to Lapse), he taught me alot about what I know about hip hop and things like that.

L: That’s the good thing about InQ, he doesn’t really have any other rappers that influence him like that. He has his own unique style, period. Like, that’s InQ’s style.

RM: So ‘BX to BK’ was dope. Do you have any other releases or big plans for 2014?

YI: Hell yeah.

L: We got a lot of big releases. First, we want to release ‘BX to BK’ on a huge platform. Right now we released it through a blog site, but we definitely want to te release it through a huger platform, so if anybody has information about that you can contact us, collaboratinminds@gmail.com.

But we’re also trying to release our mixtape, called ‘Dead to America’. Our start release date was supposed to be January 28, but most likely it will be a little bit further than that, but this whole year we’ve been releasing things.

YI: Yeah, the whole year is just about performances, and releasing the mixtape and we actually have a couple of projects we want to slap the world with back to back to back on like some combo jab shit (laughs). Yeah, you know, we’re just trying to hit them with a lot of things but for right now we started off big with ‘BX to BK’. Shout out to Hesam, shout out to Ian [Schwaler], they really helped us out. We got this project coming out ‘Dead to America’  like he said, and that’s gonna be absolutely sick.

L: We got the video ‘Witness to a Murder’ dropping off soon. We put that out  last year, but we’re gonna release the video this year

RM: Alright, so I know you guys mentioned Collaboratin’ Minds. Is this the same thing, is it affiliated with Lapse Entertainment? Is this a bigger group, smaller group, how does that work with Lapse Entertainment?

YI: We’re Collaboratin’ Minds is basically us. It’s under Lapse ENT. He mentored me. I told him anything I do with this music shit is gonna help you boost your label to the top because he deserves to have his own label in my eyes, so Collaboratin’ Minds is what we do together, this is our group that we do together, and then its under Lapse ENT. Lapse ENT is the label, so basically like how Lil Wayne is under Cash Money, you have Drake who’s under YMCMB so that’s how it is, Collaboratin’ Minds is the group, Lapse ENT is the label.

RM: Who would you say you had the best experience working with so far, in your career?

L: Hesam.

YI: Beat wise, yeah. Hesam is a beast. Like I said it goes back to me working with my cousin. I watched this dude go HAM since he was like literally 8, doing the rap thing.

Pretty cool people I worked with, Rsonist of the Heatmakerz, we got him on a feature, and Fred the Godson.

RM: I heard about that.

YI: That’s really big cause that’s 2 people who come from where we come from in The Bronx, and they made it to spot where they have success. We want to follow that. It’s cool that they got back and did things with us. Pretty dope.

RM: Was being an artist always goals of yours or was it something that you just naturally fell into?

YI: Say that again?

RM: Like, was being rapper in the game- did it naturally occur, or did you just wake up one day and was like ‘One day, I’m gonna be an artist’? Or did you just naturally fall into it? Basically how did you end up making the decision like ,‘I’m gonna start hitting the studios, I’ma start recording things, I’ma start doing performances’, what made you turn up your game from like, an idea into a thing that you’re doing, is what I’m trying to say.

L: Well for me, I’ma go back to the other question you asked us too, my bad to cut you off. We also worked with [Don] Mega.

YI: We cannot forget about Mega.

L: We went out to Miami to work with Mega. We did the project, in like no lie like 5 days. Probably like a couple of hours.

YI: We started writing at JFK, we started writing at JFK, finished the writing a song from JFK literally to Miami International.

RM: You should make a new one, ‘BX to BK’ Remix, ‘JFK to Miami’.

(Laughter)

L: We got tracks about us flying out there, we had one on the mixtape called ‘Do It All’, and its about us coming from New York, flying out to Miami, working with Mega, and just going crazy. We did a whole mixtape in like, a couple of days.

YI: Everybody goes to Miami to party and shit like that.

L: No parties.

YI: We’re the only dickheads in the hotel, like, writing our ass off.

(Laughter)

L:  And the last day we were invited to a party. And we were the only ones, like, yeah we ended up going, we were knocked out.

(Laughter)

YI: Bro, imagine trying to do a mixtape in literally like, fuckin’ 4 days.

RM: I don’t want to imagine that. I’d probably knock out in the hotel too.

YI: Yeah you know what I mean, it was crazy.

RM: Your trip to Miami was my next question, but-

L: We can get into it-

YI: That’s like whole other interview.

L: Yeah that’s a whole different subject.

YI: Wait, what was the last question?

RM: The last question was ‘Was being an artist always a goal of yours, or was it something you naturally fell into?

L: It was something that was a goal, but was natural also. Like in my house, my mom, she listened to everything. Like from ODB, to basically the whole Wu Tang Clan, I was about to say Method Man but the whole Wu Tang Clan she would listen to everyday. She got mad Biggy CDs, then she had all the R&B which I hated. I hated R&B, I never liked R&B, at a certain point I was like ‘I don’t wanna hear that shit, break that CD.’

(Laughter)

She had mad shit, like OutKast, a whole bunch of different people, we listened to it, we came up on it. Big Pun of course, was definitely a big influence.

RM: Alright, Alright.

L: After a while, my aunt started coming around. She did music too. She was successful, but that’s a different story. My aunt was the best at it. She would come over, and she would like, write rhymes for my little cousins and all that, everybody she’d write rhymes for all of them and most of the time I’d be like ‘Nah, don’t write nothing for me.’ I wouldn’t tell her I would write my own rhymes and she’d be like ‘I wrote a verse for you, wanna come to the studio and record?’ and I’d be like ‘Nah.’ I write my own verses, so I would write my own verses when I got older, doing everything like that.

So basically my friends found out like ‘Yo, this nigga raps.’ I started having battles in like the 7th grade. So 8th grade came, 9th grade came, and that’s when the internet started getting into play. I started getting online, started battling everybody online. When I couldn’t see them in person, I would be online, battling people through text, through the microphone, through songs, whatever it is.

RM: Carrier pigeons? Any way you can get in contact right?

(Laughter)

L: Yeah, like niggas had crews. It was like Grand Theft Auto: Rap Version.

(Laughter)

YI: For me like, in my eyes I started late. I started in my teens but I was writing for a long time. I did poetry. For anybody who knows me, I did poetry way, way back. I used to take that shit so serious. I used to pass it to girls in school across the room and shit like that. (Laughter)

It was good, you know, it was a way to express myself ’cause I didn’t have any other way to express myself. And then one day, I was like, ‘Maybe I can put this on a beat.’ So my friend gave me the beat cause he did beats for a long time in high school. We kept it on the low, we didn’t wanna tell nobody at the time that we were doing these beats and we were doing the song and stuff. So I brought it to him [Lapse] and he was like ‘Yo, this shit is dope’.

We were in his crib recording in this hot ass basement. We were in there sweatin’. I started recording. I did the track and it was one of the best things I ever heard in my life so i was like, ‘Let me call my cousin and tell him I made a song.’ He was like ‘Yo, we’re gonna fly with this! We gotta keep doing it, keep doing it!’ Ever since then I’ve been on this seriously. Pretty natural right?

(Laughter)

RM: My next question is: What are some ups and downs about being in the rap game? Good and bad.

YI: I say the main thing is the help, the real rap. And I don’t say ‘real rap cause if you rap it’s real, cause you’re a human, you’re a person expressing yourself in a beautiful way. If you wanna be successful, you do what you have to do. What I’m saying is like, the help for other artists to help other artists. You know me, sometimes I feel like I hear a rapper who is not as far along as I am, or not sounding as good as I do, to keep it real, I would just click them off, I would just ignore them. Not knowing no background of them, not knowing anything about them or anything like that, I just wouldn’t do it cause I didn’t like what he was doing.

And that’s the worst thing about us as people. It doesn’t matter, you could be any race it doesn’t matter what race you are, we fail to recognize other people’s artistic side, and to say, ‘This is actually OK.’ Recently I’ve been trying to change. I’ve been trying to tell people ‘I actually like it. Keep doing what you’re doing, if it makes you happy, do it.’

L: For me it was like, what he said but the reverse. When I was a kid, I used to listen to everybody. It didn’t matter if you were wack, if you were nice, I would listen to you, I would do a song, I don’t care. I was getting on everybody’s track. I would say in my mind, ‘If he could make it, I could make it. I’m getting on the track with these wack niggas but after a while started seeing it as a waste of time. I was giving out too many opportunity verses. Too much stuff, so after a while I would be on someone’s track, give them my best verse, but nobody was ever gonna hear it, cause I was rapping with wack rappers.

YI: We fail to help each other out. It’s sad because I know what it’s like to do music to express yourself. And I really feel like if we had more music programs and stuff like that out there, there would probably be less violence, be a lot less, you know, murders, and all that shit would go down. Yeah, the drug rate will probably go way up, but-

(Laughter)

But at the the end of the day, you know it’s like to express yourself we gotta listen to each other more, that’s the main thing.

RM: Well said man, alright. If you could collab with anyone, dead or alive, hint, (points to mural of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac) dead or alive who would it be and why?

L: I would collab with Stack Bundles. Dead or alive, if Stack Bundles was alive right now, I would collab with Stack. He was one of the best to ever do it. Period. He died way ahead of his time.

YI: Way ahead of his time.

L: He was super nice. Like right now, his music right now if you put that out, it would go crazy. Period.

YI: I think dead or alive, that’s a good question. When you say dead or alive you’re automatically gonna think dead, cause you know the dead-

RM: They’re usually the better ones.

YI: Yeah.

L: With alive, they could look back on this interview and be like ‘This nigga said he would collab with me back in the day and now he said nah’.

(Laughter)

RM: Dead’s like a cop out.

YI: Yeah, I’ll take dead, I’ll take dead.

(Laughter)

YI: I’ll do both. A lot of people don’t wanna don’t want to collab with this guy but I’ll collab with Kanye [West].

RM: Alright.

YI: I’ll collab with Kanye and Common on the same track. I know that’s crazy but I want them on the same track.

RM: Chicago, OK.

YI: Yeah. If i had to pick dead, and I know everybody’s gonna look at me like ‘huh?’ but honestly, I’ll go with Whitney Houston. Why?

RM: Why?

YI: Why? Because her voice was so fucking powerful! She’s one of those people where if you’re having a bad day and you just broke up with your girl and you hear some of her music, a tear’s gonna come out your eye.

(Laughter)

You’re gonna drop that one Indian tear. Nah, I’d love Whitney Houston on the track. Just a little something you know what I mean, it’d be beautiful.

Rest in peace to all of our people, we didn’t give you the typical Big and Pac answer, I’m sorry.

(Laughter)

RM: Well, I was looking for something different, So-

YI: Yeah.

L: Well for me, alive, personally alive right now I know there’s a whole bunch of big rappers, popular rappers that’s out there but for me, who I learned, like a lot of my stuff from, is [Lloyd] Banks. I would collab with Banks.

YI: For me, what I want to, or what I’m going to do I should say, is have a big New York City Mixtape. I love New York City rap. Like, it’s different from anywhere else. If we could get not all the New York City rappers, but the big ones like the Fabs and the Jays, D-Block-

L: Maino-

YI: Yeah, you know what I mean, like-

L: Uncle Murda-

YI: Yeah, Uncle Murda, like no disrespect to A$ap Rocky, Juelz [Santana], everybody at Dipset, like if we could just get everybody together on a mixtape that would be the biggest thing ever. Make it a New York thing. In hip hop, it’s not like it left New York, it’s just been sidelined by-

L: Everything else that’s going on.

(Laughter)

YI: Not trying to get into that beef, I respect the South but-

L: It’s not even beef it’s like, nigga if you grind it’s what will happen. They created a sound, like they created a trademark. Like that autotune, they went with that autotune. Like, you can’t even be mad.

YI: Nah, you know what I would never be mad if someone’s successful, cause that means they worked their ass off, that’s respect.

L: Yeah, they iight, they’re grindin’ right now. They could keep it right now, but we’re bringing it back.

YI: Oh yeah we’re bringing it back.

(Laughter)

YI: We’ll bring it back home.

RM: Alright. My last question for this part is if you could give any piece of advice to any up and coming rappers, what would it be and why?

L: Always go with your first instinct. They tell us we think too much. We try to think about stuff, like, ‘We’re playing too much,’ –

YI: That’s perfectionist.

L: ‘We’re playing too much,’ but like, just go with your first instinct.  You gotta make all the decisions. If you think a nigga’s jipping you, he’s probably jipping you. He’s jipping you. That’s it. That’s your first instinct. If you think this nigga’s  fooling you out of money, he’s fooling you out of money. Don’t give him any money. You know this whole game revolves around money. Stop paying everybody.  If you think the nigga’s a scam artist, he’s a scam artist.

Make sure the person is as professional as anybody else. Like this establishment, this establishment right here.

YI: Shout out to Diamond District by the way. Diamond District Studios, downtown.

My thing is for up and coming artists, is you can always get better. And I think that’s the sad part about a lot of rappers. They get that one hit, and then they slow down their productivity. You can always get better. Your best song is your worst song. You get what I’m saying?

RM: I like that.

YI: You know what I mean, your best song is your worst song. So just keep grindin’, don’t stop. Take it to the moon.

Wale (off camera): You’re only as good as your last joint.

YI: Exactly.

L: Another thing, if you’re recording in your house, make sure you get Pro Tools. And get to know how to use it.

(Laughter)

YI: Word. I’m tired of hearing people with horrible- listen, there’s too many studios, there’s too many people recording out here, if you have a wack sound and it’s behind, how do you say it, it’s behind, your vocals sound all choppy and-

L: Distorted.

YI: Yeah distorted. If you have wack vocals and your shit is distorted-

L: That’s 2 no-no’s.

YI: Yeah.

L: You gotta sound good, my nigga. If you’re creating, take it to an engineer or someone who can take it to the next level.

YI: An engineer. And that’s not even talking shit, that’s just real shit. That’s the truth.

L: You need an engineer, period.

YI: You don’t have one? Pay this guy (points to Lapse).

(Laughter)

Word. If you don’t have one pay this guy! That’s real talk.

RM: Any closing remarks? Anything you wanna send out there to anyone before I shut off the camera?

YI: Shout out to you, Ruben.

RM: Thank you, thank you.

YI: Shout out to Wa.

Wa: CM nigga! All day!

(Laughter)

RM: These guys are the fucking future right here! These guys!

YI: Just look out for us. I’m not even gonna say everything we’re doing. I wanna catch every last of ya with a fucking jab, I’ma say this straight to the camera: I wanna catch every last one of ya with a jab straight to the jaw and knock y’all the fuck out, cause our music is that good.

Wa: Two words: SUCKER. FREE.

(Laughter)

YI: And it is Sunday by the way!

-RSM

What is Latin Alternative?

Latin Alternative is an umbrella genre for many different styles of Spanish-language modern day music across a vast array of sounds, countries and musical subgenres. Anything from rock music like pop-rock, alt. rock, rap and club music like reggaeton, 3bal, ruidoson, and other EDM variations, and even as far as Spanish reggae could fall under the meta-genre that is Latin Alternative.The name Latin Alternative usually is used in the United States to refer to all these different genres, although each sub-genre sounds very different from the next.

Personally, my favorite genre of music is alt. rock, and the case is no different when it comes to Latin Alternative.  Here’s an example, with a song from one of my favorite bands, Libido:

Notice the mellowed out intro and harmonious vocals, abruptly turning up the intensity at the pre chorus to an emotional ballad-like tone. Definitely an alt. rock feel. Libido is a Peruvian band that started in the late 90’s and remained active and very popular through the 2000s.

I have a soft spot for Shakira’s early stuff as well, when she sounded more badass and less like the Top 40. Here’s one of my favorites of her olden days:

Here you hear palm muting guitars, and basslines matching with acoustic and electric guitar melodies. Also, the video is pretty trippy, bro.

Moving onto another realm under the Latin Alternative banner is Spanish reggae. My personal fave is Manu Chao, a socially aware Spanish reggae musician who sings in English and French sometimes as well as Spanish:

The smooth, wavy sounds and ska-like rhythms are reggae signatures, mixed in with Spanish lyrics and guitar melodies.  Very cool stuff.

A very interesting side of Latin Alternative music are 3bal and ruidoson, two genres of EDM mixed with traditional Central American rhythms, often fused with cries against political corruption and economic imbalances in Mexico. Here’s an article I wrote about these two developing musical genres.

Some artists and bands to check out are Juanes, Mana, Ataque 77, Rata Blanca, and a little something by yours truly (and please forgive the bad Spanish):

Peace – RSM