Forbidden Fruit 2015

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Festival season is fast approaching and while there may already be plenty of lineups floating around, Forbidden Fruit was the one that stuck out the most to me. Upgrading to a 3 day affair, it is looking to be the best year so far at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Here’s what we know so far and we’ll update it as we find out more.

Friday May 29th – tickets €49.50

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Headliners Fatboy Slim will close the first night, accompanied by Disciples, Nicholas Jarr, Idris Elba and more to be announced. Gates: 4.30p.m

Saturday May 30th – tickets €59.50

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Shaolin legends Wu Tang Clan will be headlining Saturday in what could be their last gig in the country. The addition of Earl Sweatshirt and Joey Bada$$ also makes the line up even more enticing for many hip hop fans. Also scheduled are Groove Armada (DJ set), Jamie XX, Mr. Scruff, Mount Kimble (DJ set), Tensnake, Bakermat, Kelela, Damian Lazarus & the Ancient Moons, Brooka Brass Band and more to be announced. Gates: 2.30p.m

Sunday May 31st – tickets €59.50

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Our artists of the year in 2014 (plus gig and album of the year) Run The Jewels return to Dublin to play Sunday of Forbidden Fruit. If their last gig at the Opium Rooms is anything to go by then this should be an amazing set. Also on Sunday: Richie Hawtin, Booka Shade, Matador, Cyril Hahn, Dusky, Waze & Odessey, Hot Since 82, Maya Jane Coles, Adam Beyer & many more to come. Gates: 2.30p.m

Weekend tickets are €119.

Tickets for Forbbiden Fruit are available from ticketmaster.ie Brought to you by POD & Bulmers Ireland.

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Badbadnotgood & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul

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It is amazing to see how far Badbadnotgood have come in just a few short years. Humbly beginning as a hip hop cover band with a jazz twist, their initial covers of and subsequent endorsements from Tyler, the Creator and MF DOOM brought them to the attention of the hip hop community. This collaborative record with Ghostface Killah assures us that their days of being a YouTube cover band are well and truly over, and that their sound has progressed into something truly to behold.

It surprised many when this album was announced, but Ghostface is known for being Wu Tang Clan’s hardest working member, so it is no surprise that he wants to experiment with his production. After all, this is his fourth release since A Better Tomorrow in November. He most certainly has no shortage of the gritty, sometimes emotional raps that we have grown accustomed to. ‘6 Degrees’ & ‘Tone’s Rap’ are as engaging as anything else we’ve heard from Ghost, as he captivates the listener with an exaggerated delivery on the latter. His descriptive rhymes meld with the cinematic production, creating tracks that have character and structure, two elements missing on some of his more forgettable albums.

Despite the Wu veteran at the helm and the various guests that pop up (Danny Brown, DOOM), it is Badbadnotgood that shine the most on Sour Soul. They prove they can make grimy hip hop loops that would make even RZA envious (‘Gunshowers’). However, they can also create a sound that is fuller than that of the production on the average hip hop album. The breakdown at the end of ‘Ray Gun’ magnifies their sound to grand proportions with striking brass, resulting in a brief glimpse of something that wouldn’t sound out of place of on a James Bond soundtrack.

As a whole Sour Soul is an anomaly. Both artists have somehow created a consistent and timeless hip hop/jazz album. Sure both genres have always had extremely close ties, but Badbadnotgood are on their way to becoming the pinnacle of the mixture of the two sounds. They will make themselves a commodity in hip hop if they can continue to provide such a unique sound for artists. Becoming rap’s most sought after band, after the Roots, shouldn’t be hard for them. I suppose someone has to fill the Tonight Show slot eventually.

4/5

-Ross Logan

Three Gigs In 8 Days? Yes Please

March is just around the corner and there is already at least 3 great gigs lined up. First off:

Hidden Agenda presents Jay Electronica at Whelans March 12th, tickets are €18. The elusive rapper may do his best to keep off the radar but this suggests we might finally get his album this year. Either way, this gig is not to be missed!

Just two days after that, ChoiceCuts will bring back a familiar face in Pharoahe Monch to the Sugar Club. One of the best emcees of our time has a notoriously good live show and tickets are only €20.

As if that wasn’t enough, one of the best Irish hip hop shows around will make it’s way to the Workman’s Club in Dublin March 20th. God Knows, MuRli & our artist of the month MynameisjOhn, have an energetic live show that really has to be seen to be believed. Read our review of their support set at Run the Jewels to get an idea of what to expect, tickets are €10.

Smoke DZA, The Sugar Club Dublin

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After Hare Squead opened things up at the Sugar Club, which I missed unfortunately, Dah Jevu had no problem warming up the venue on a cold Tuesday night with a full band in tow providing a foreboding soundtrack for the set. Front men Bobby Basil and Tafari Pesto bellow dark and gritty verses, introducing us to the “dark side of the fucking moon” as promised. They are witty and entertaining between tracks and there is enough character in these two that is sure to capture the attention of many in due time.

After the abrasive opening set, Smoke DZA delivered a completely different hip hop show. He is remarkably comfortable on stage, as his purple bathrobe suggests. His unique voice and flow are showcased over varied production, jumping from relaxed ‘smoking’ tracks to a rendition of the most annoying track of the moment, ‘Coco’. The energy from DZA and his hype man, Al Doe, feels suitable for the occasion but is damped by the disinterest from the DJ, who spends more time texting than scratching and cuts every track a few bars too short. His glum demeanour throughout the short lived set burdens the atmosphere on the stage.

Smoke DZA may be stocked full of personality on record but it is a quality that doesn’t translate as well to the stage as it should. It is clear from the forced crowd interaction and ceremonial “Undertaker moment” of performing in the dark, that this is the show you will get regardless of the country or venue. It is one that does entertain but at the same time lacks conviction. The potential is there for perfectly good hip hop show, but it needs a breath of fresh air if DZA wants to move on to bigger venues and more importantly for him, bigger checks.

-Ross Logan

Interview with Trackstar the DJ

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I was fortunate enough to catch Run the Jewels’ gig last December at Opium Rooms in Dublin. Aside from the two emcees in the group, a familiar face was in charge of DJ duties for the night. Trackstar the DJ began working for Killer Mike and eventually progressed into Run the Jewels as the group was formed. He is far from just being hired help. He appears in music videos, live on Conan & David Letterman, and just about anywhere that RTJ have made their mark. We were lucky enough to get to chat to Trackstar about his early career, Mike and El-P and his various other projects.

-Where are you from?/When did you start DJing?

“I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and moved to St Louis for college where I started DJing at my school’s radio station KWUR. I ended up staying in St. Louis and working in the hip hop scene there for ten years, and that’s where the first decade of my life as a DJ happened–I like to say Gabe is from Madison but Trackstar is from St Louis.”

-Can you remember your first show?

“I do remember my first off-campus DJ gig. I was working my part time job and met a rapper/promoter named John Harrington, who is one of the greatest dudes ever–I told him I was a DJ and he booked me to play at an upcoming show with his group the Midwest Avengers, as well as an incredible duo Bits N Pieces, both of whom are legendary acts in the St Louis underground rap scene. I don’t remember all the details, but I know I played some rap music and I must not have sucked too bad because I ended up working John a ton more over the years lol.”

-How did you become the DJ for Killer Mike and Run the Jewels?

“I’ll try to tell the short version, but it’s a great story: Basically, sometime in 2008 I read a Killer Mike interview where he gave out his phone number at the end. At that time (now too) he was my favorite rapper, so being the go-getter I am, I called it, expecting a fanline of some sort. It turned out that was actually his number, he answered the phone, and we had a conversation that led to me doing a Best of Killer Mike mixtape with The Smoking Section in 2009 called Anger & Ambition, which he hosted. From there, he and I did shows sporadically for a couple years before I became his official tour DJ and moved to Atlanta. My timing was amazing–six months later he and El dropped R.A.P. Music, and the next year when they formed Run The Jewels I became the DJ for the best rap group in the world.”

-Aside from RTJ, who has been your favourite artist to perform with?

“I’ve been rocking with my StL crew (Tef Poe, Rockwell Knuckles, Gotta Be Karim, Family Affair, Wafeek, Black Spade, Vandalyzm, among others) for 10+ years, so I’d have to say them for sure–having Tef and Rocky open up five dates on the RTJ2 tour was definitely a huge highlight of this entire experience for me. They performed as a duo under the name David Ruffin Theory–I presented their project, which I highly recommend and you can check at www.davidruffintheory.com. You may have heard Tef’s name recently, he’s been one of the leading voices in the Ferguson movement since Michael Brown was killed.”

-Mike and El seem like pretty easy going guys. What’s it like touring with them?

“The guys you see onstage and in interviews is who they are 24 hours a day, so it’s constantly entertaining and enlightening. It’s basically just like listening to RTJ2 overall–heavy conversations about serious issues and a constant stream of ridiculous and immature jokes, all with an undercurrent of love for each other and our fellow man.”

-You are about to play Sundance, Coachella and Madison Square Garden with Jack White in the next few months. Do you like stepping out of your comfort zone to play to crowds like this?

“I definitely do, all of these experiences are just unreal–I never even imagined doing anything like this. Folks are always saying I’m living the dream, but honestly my dream was to work at Vintage Vinyl in St Louis and do cool rap stuff around town with my friends. The crazy thing is, we’ve been playing so many crazy festivals and huge crowds over the last few years that shows like that aren’t that far out of my comfort zone anymore, although there was definitely some butterflies before stepping onstage at MSG–that was some historic shit.”

-Touring the past year has brought you across the world and you were on Conan and Letterman. What has been the defining performance for you so far?

“That’s a tough question, there’s been so many amazing shows…I think I might actually say it was a show we did in Salt Lake City this past summer, opening for the Wu-Tang Clan. Wu was such a huge part of my growing up as a rap fan, getting to watch the show from onstage, and meet them all (and get my copy of Wu-Tang Forever signed by everyone) was definitely one of the coolest moments–something I never would have imagined in 1997 when 16-year old Gabe was screaming all the words at their show in Chicago when they were touring with Rage Against the Machine.”

-What is the best thing about your job?

“The travel is great, but most places we go we don’t actually get to see anything besides the airport, the hotel and the venue…so me being me I’m going to say it’s definitely getting to meet and even become friends with so many artists I was a fan of growing up. Mike and I toured with Big Boi, and with the GZA, we’ve brought guys like Bun B, Q-Bert, Z-Trip and Zack De La Rocha out to perform with us, and I’ve met so many legendary MCs, DJs and producers who I looked up to while I was coming up like Q-Tip, Scarface, Jazzy Jeff, Rakim, way to many to name…not to mention a couple guys named Jaime and Mike lol.”

-What is the worst?

“Definitely being away from my ridiculously supportive wife. Camille has her own successful jewelry business which keeps her busy, and she meets up with us on the road as often as possible but it’s still rough being gone basically six months out of the year. We all deal pretty well with the grueling schedule and day-to-day insanity, but I think Mike and El will agree that being away from our ladies is the hardest thing about the touring lifestyle.”

-What promoted your decision to create your Rap Fan clothing line?

“On the first Mike & El tour for RAP Music and Cancer 4 Cure, I wanted to supplement my income at the merch table, so I tried to come up with something that wasn’t purely self-promoting (more universal than just a shirt that says DJ TRACKSTAR). I wanted something that was true to who I was, and I realized there was nothing more consistent or meaningful in my life over the last twenty years than my identity as a rap fan. Fortunately, it turns out a few other people could relate to that sentiment, and it’s gone pretty well.”

-Do you have another mixtape on the way anytime soon?

I’m always working on multiple projects at once that are somewhere between 10% and 80% done–right now I’ve got three or four in the works but I don’t have any clue right now which I’ll finish first, but there’s some cool concepts I’ve got brewing and you’ll see them pop up eventually on The Smoking Section (or my twitter, or Instagram, or Facebook).

-If you weren’t a DJ, what do you think you would you be doing instead?

“I went to school for business, but I could never really see myself in a suit and tie…I’d probably have still involved myself in music somehow entrepreneurially, or ended up working with kids in some capacity. I did a lot of work with youth through hip hop while I was in St Louis, and definitely saw that as an alternate career path if DJing didn’t work out. Fortunately I haven’t had to figure that out quite yet.”

Run the Jewels will play Forbidden Fruit Festival at Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin between May 29th-31st. Have your fists and guns at the ready.

Photo by binaire.tv

-Ross Logan

Interview with MynameisjOhn

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MynameisjOhn is a producer based in Limerick Ireland. After releasing the critically acclaimed Rusangano/Family with God Knows last year, he provided about half of the beats for MuRli’s excellent Surface Tension EP, which we gave 4/5 in our review. We got a chance to catch up with jOhn to discuss software, influences and what they have lined up next.

– What music did you listen to growing up?

“Oh, I’ve had my phases, but a pretty healthy diet of mostly good music. Some questionable bits too, but some diamonds also. Hiphop is probably the obvious one, but whatever. Early on, it was all Beastie Boys, Nas, Wu Tang, Prefuse 73, Ice Cube, Portishead, Curtis Mayfield, Bjork, James Brown, Axelrod, Jimi Hendrix, Warp Records, Ninja Tunes. I dug a bit deeper than that though. I literally always had headphones on, and cycled a lot.  That’s my favourite way of getting to know an album, peddling away at the same bpm as the track.”

– How long have you been making music?

“Since lunchtime.”

– What equipment/software do you use?

“The usual shebang. Turntable, mixer, records, Serato, Logic, a sampler, mics, yelps, screams, barks, whooshs and pops. I try to keep it simple enough really, and just focus on creating a sound that reflects where we’re all at. Sometimes, I wipe tears over the sampler pads to give it more of a human feel.”

– Your production draws inspiration from many different countries and places. Who is your biggest musical influence as a producer?

“Naive Ted. I tried to think of a load of legendary producers or DJs who had some impact on me or what or I do, but I reckon the one that stands out the most over time is Deviant & Naive Ted. There’s an integrity to every angle of his game.

But influence, in general, comes from every where. The sounds produced may seem like its a bigger cultural influence going on, but its actually way more local. It can be from your students in a classroom to a young producer down the road to an honest friend who just helps or advises you. It’s the one reason we never do shout-outs or thank-you’s with our releases, because the list would just be painfully long to read. I think the music we all make locally is a product of our environment, with the inspiration being all the real people we’ve met and worked with over the years through gigs, and events. Whether that’s the crowds, the promoters, our mates who DJ, independent radio, the support bands, the taxi-drivers, the man who makes the burritos. They’re definitely our biggest influence.”

– You manage to encapsulate the message of God Knows and MuRli quite well through your production. Do you always make their beats with them in mind or do you just make whatever comes naturally?

“Right now, all focus is on just making beats that the lads will vibe to. I think we’re developing a sound and it’s really interesting to just try concentrate on that and see where the experiments lead us. It’s mad exciting working with the lads, because they’re just so versatile. They’ll kill anything you throw at them. It’s like a constant challenge, because they keep just upping their game at a vicious rate so you cant help but be motivated.”

– What track are you most proud of?

“Weirdly, it’s probably the outro on Rusangano Family, called ‘Eggspectations’. It’s a simple silly little ditty, but i think it gets the point across.”

– Do you get many requests for beats from other artists?

“At the moment – Yes. And I’d love to work with all of them. Making music with other people in any capacity is brilliant, and you always learn something from everyone. But we have jobs and commitments, so you can only spread yourself so much. It’s kind of tough, but we have to stick to the plan and focus on trying to explore our own sound first and foremost for now. There’s so many people, even just locally, that I want to do stuff with, but it’s a time issue unfortunately. Hopefully in the future though!”

– If you could make a beat for any artist who would it be?

“God Knows + MuRli.”

– Whats the next project you have in the works?

“So, the worst kept secret is that myself, God Knows and MuRli will all be uniting as ‘Rusangano Family’ and making an album as a proper band. It’s what we’ve been working towards for a while. We all feel real hungry for this and we’re ready to push the boat out a bit more in term of the concept and philosophy behind what we do. We want to be pretty adventurous with the album, but we we’re still in the early planning stages and seeing how to achieve it. You can expect that to materialize in the physical world at the end of the summer. I’m going to keep DJing in between and stay focused on being a good human.”

God Knows & MynameisjOhn bandcamp: http://godknows-mynameisjohn.bandcamp.com/

Rusangano/Family will play the Workman’s Club, Dublin March 20th.

-Ross Logan