Forbidden Fruit 2015

Looking at the Forbidden Fruit festival, lineup aside, it really is quite an exceptional festival. Considering it is right on the edge of Dublin city centre, everything really went of without a hitch. There was no huge traffic jams throughout the weekend, just about every act was on time and the atmosphere is one of a kind. With plenty of great food and attractions, it really is easy to get lost in the festivals characteristics before even reaching a stage.
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After a brief sit down in the Hotpress tent for interviews with Rusangano Family and Joey Bada$$, the first act I saw perform was Earl Sweatshirt. Completely abandoning his older material in favor of a set that is very heavy on his new album works wonders for his show. He fully immerses himself in each track, something that couldn’t be done on older songs that do not fully represent where he is at now in life. He may not like to go outside, but he is not as much of an introvert as his album title would have you think. He commands the stage with a new found decisiveness but is always willing to keep it playful throughout.
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Next up, Joey Bada$$ delivered something a lot different from the last set. Where Earl commanded the stage, Joey owned it. This being his second festival set in Ireland in as many years, he’s very comfortably on the larger stage. He bounds and leaps around through tracks Christ Conscious and No 99, never missing a beat or a line. With Statik Selektah on DJ duties the show was s always going to sound crisp. His live cuts and scratches add an essential air of improvisation to create a classic hip hop show for the young emcee.
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Only the Wu Tang Clan could really follow the great sets from the last two artists. There is always going to be doubts and fears going into a Wu show, mostly concerning the lineup but also the overall quality. However, they proved that even without two vital members (Method Man and Raekwon) their legacy holds up regardless of who is there. GZA and Ghostface Killah seem most at ease controlling the pace of the show. They break out all the old material, including their solo work, leaving little to no room for anything from the November release, A Better Tomorrow. It seems like an odd decision not to push the album, but they obviously have listened to people opinions on it and are not willing to sacrifice the energy of such a well executed show. It may run a bit shorter than advertised but they no doubt left their mark on the main stage. As far as their live shows go I think we got the best possible one available from Wu Tang Clan in 2015.
11281704_902161956511497_630921381_n On Sunday, the Undergrowth stage got very full, very quickly in anticipation of Run the Jewels‘ set. Walking on stage to ‘We Are the Champions’ is a sure fire way to get any crowd hyped for a show, but what followed was chaos that was bound to happen, Queen or no Queen. Their self titled opener and subsequent ‘Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)’ only drew more people into the tent to expend the last of their energy before making their way home. Killer Mike ,El-P and Trackstar the DJ all looked as happy to be on the stage as the mass amount of their fans watching them. Mike’s signature dance moves during ‘Get It’ were in no way stifled by his arm in a sling and El-P is as charismatic as ever, controlling the crowd at the helm of the show. The closing encore of ‘A Christmas Fuckin Miracle’ and ‘Angel Duster’ no doubt left an imprint of the letters RTJ on anyone who had stumbled into that tent unknowingly for the best set all weekend.
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Words & pictures by Ross Logan
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Flying Lotus, Vicar Street Dublin

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Even though this was advertised as an AV show, it was still quite jarring to see the stage setup initially. Any idea of what was to be expected was thrown out the window with the first sight of the hexagonal cage placed in front of Flying Lotus’ equipment. Premature doubts that the show may not deliver in the relatively intimate venue were completely unfounded. As soon as a suited and masked Flylo appeared on stage and gave a brief speech about Ireland and ‘yokes’, the visual and musical spectacle began.

He incorporates every facet imaginable to create an incredibly immersive live experience. There is no doubt that he is a true visionary with such a mind bending display of constantly morphing graphics that swallow the Vicar Street stage whole. Visually, it is literally jaw dropping at times as each colour or pattern change syncs perfectly with the tempo and tone of the music. He has assembled a visceral presentation, one that rivals the quality of any other live show around at the moment.

The swirling lights and designs are only slightly more hypnotising than the music. There’s plenty of Flying Lotus material, both new and old, and his villainous and verbally gifted alter ego Captain Murphy makes an appearance. There is even some Schoolboy Q and Dr. Dre thrown in for good measure. However, one of the secret ingredients of the show was the last minute addition of Thundercat. He adds an air of improvisation to a clearly well planned and thought out display.

It is evident to me now that Flying Lotus and truly revolutionised the idea of a live performance. He highlights not just the importance of the visual aspect but also knows that it is important to treat fans to something they could not hear anywhere else. He previews an unreleased Chance the Rapper verse on ‘Ready Err Not’ and remixes his ‘Wesley’s Theory’ beat that opens Kendrick Lamar’s latest album. The audience should feel like they are witnessing something special and this is an element that Flying Lotus has cemented into his show.

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-Ross Logan

Interview with Emzee A

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Emzee A is a new Irish hip hop artist currently residing in Navan. He recently released his excellent single ‘Lucid Dreaming’ and was also one of two artists to briefly perform alongside Jay Electronica at his Whelans show. We got to that chance to talk to Emzee A about that once in a lifetime experience and what the future holds for him.

First off, how was the experience of performing alongside Jay Electronica in Whelans? That’s something you dream of before going to a gig as an upcoming rapper.

“That will always be an experience I will never forget. The way it happened, the concert itself in its entirety and the fact that Jay Electronica has been hands down one of the best rappers to come out in the last 10 years and is definitely one of my favourite rappers of all time. You can imagine how incredible that feeling was for me performing on the same stage with him. I was also proud of how well I handled the whole situation and how he got everyone to sing along to my song. It was all too good to be true at the time and I also want to use this opportunity to thank Paul Moore from Joe.ie for writing about it which made it go a bit viral and all that.”

Can you explain the concept behind your latest single Lucid Dreaming?

“Great question. Lucid dreaming came into my life about a year ago after my best friend experienced sleep paralysis. I also wrote a song about that titled Demon-strate, you can check that out on my YouTube channel. I took a big interest on how the mind works in a dream state, with the help of the book Dreams by Carl Gustav Jung and countless amounts of research and watching lucid dreaming videos haha. I came up with the concept and I advise everyone to definitely try it out, it’s worth it.”

What is your main objective as an artist?

“My main objective as an artist is to show people that great hip hop music is being made here in Ireland. I have a lot of respect for artists like Rejjie Snow, Lethal Dialect, DAH JEVU and also Simi Crowns. They are all doing good things and laying, the platform for new acts like myself giving us something to work on. Collectively we can all put Ireland fully on the map in a couple of year’s time.”

Where do you get inspiration from?

“I am inspired by real life experiences and also listening to a wide range of music. I am really into the creative process of making a song and if a song sounds good to me, I am always motivated to come up with my own. Also, getting to vibe with my musical peers like Natural B, Ditch, Jack Noir, Innate and Ted, who are all incredible at what they do, is always motivating when everyone is in their zone.”

Do you have an EP or album in the works?
 

“Yes, I am currently working on my Second E.P titled #UNXPCTD (pronounced UNEXPECTED). That is set for release end of the summer, hopefully if everything goes to plan. I am really excited about this one; some of my personal favourite songs are going to be on it, so look out for that.”

Any gigs coming up?

“I was only performing at the Tribe of Nomads show hosted by Simi Crowns couple of weeks ago. It was such a humbling experience and a night I will never forget. In terms of other upcoming shows, I will be performing at the Apollo Sessions next Sunday. Right now, it’s all about doing open mics and stuff. The competition is really fierce when it comes to performing at shows I will tell you that much, but I’m only getting started so I have to wait my turn. I love being on stage.”

What has been the defining moment for you as an artist? Jay Electronica aside…

“Lots of great defining moments, but I will have to say it was when a song I co-wrote and featured on with The Hijackers & Sadbh O’Donnell, titled ‘Lose Your Mind’, got to number 9 on the Irish official chart in 2010. I was still in college at the time and the whole experience kind of took me by surprise, but it’s pretty cool and humbling to have that on my resume. Not a lot of artists can say that!”

What’s been your favourite album of 2015 so far? We’ve had a lot of good ones!

“Yeah 2015 is looking great musically. I will have to go with Earl Sweatshirt’s ‘I Don’t like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside’ album. He is ridiculously good. ‘If Your Reading This It’s too Late’ by Drake is a good shout too and obviously Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.”

If you could open for one artist who would it be?

“That’s a tough one but I would have to say Childish Gambino. He is one of my favourite rappers of all time and I highly look up to him. It would be a dream come true to share a stage with him.”

If you could choose three albums to bring on holiday, what would they be?

“It would have to be The Documentary by Game, CAMP by Childish Gambino and Section 80 by Kendrick Lamar.”

-Ross Logan

Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb

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Much like himself, Tyler the Creator’s fourth album Cherry Bomb is a complex being. At times, it is intricately layered with serene production and backing vocals. However, it can also be a distorted, messy affair that lacks structure, or the finesse that we have come to expect from him. He has never been one to make music for anyone but himself and this seems to be the main motivation behind Cherry Bomb, an album that he can listen to. The main problem is that while he is an incredibly gifted musician and producer, not everyone has the same ears as he does.

After a barrage of subpar, bass heavy tracks (‘Buffalo’,’ Pilot’), ‘Find Your Wings’ welcomes a different side of Tyler, one we have briefly glimpsed before but never properly met. The smooth jazz horns, piano and chord patterns fully represent him at his best in terms of production. Very few musicians have such an ability to induce euphoria, but it is a quality that he has down at a t (no pun intended). Even the choice of backing vocalists is exceptionally varied. The odd combination of Toro Y Moi and Charlie Wilson expand the sound of ‘Fucking Young/Perfect’ with beautiful delivery behind Tyler, as he voices his desires for a younger woman. Sure there is the odd jarring note and the subject matter is questionable, but it is a Tyler the Creator song after all.

The temporary lull in tempo and aggression that is ‘Find Your Wings’ is directly counteracted by the vicious title track. It is one of a few songs that are intentionally muffled or over distorted. He may be the type of artist to have a reason for everything but there are more than a few moments where you find yourself questioning the methods to his madness. Album closer ‘Okaga C.A’ builds itself on off key melodies and vocals and never feels like it fully realises any of its potential, which is somewhat scarce to begin with.

The most prominent guest spots come in the form of Kanye West and Lil Wayne on ‘Smuckers’. Tyler is perhaps the only person who could not only unite these two on one track, but to also get the best out of them while doing so. On paper, it could have been a mismatch, but he knows what he wants from featured artists. It is not additional attention or to beef up the track list or expectations and sales in the process. It is to further the song in the direction he feels it going. A quality that is all but lost in music these days.

It is hard to deny that Cherry Bomb as a whole is very scattered. He may wish to replicate the music that he listens to, but who says that NERD, Death Grips and Stevie Wonder make for a particularly good combination. Well Tyler, does and sometimes it makes for a completely immersive and captivating track. Other songs are forgettable due their chaotic harshness and bad mixing. Cherry Bomb will most certainly serve as a tool to keep people guessing as to what we will hear next from him, if nothing else.

3/5

-Ross Logan

Hank Shocklee (The Bomb Squad), the Sugar Club Dublin

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Hank Shocklee is one of the members of Public Enemy associates and producers, the Bomb Squad. In the late 80s their chaotic and attention grabbing sound helped to influence and shape hip hop as we know it today. Since ChoiceCuts were able to book him for a DJ set, it was no surprise that a Q & A would take place also, considering the wealth of knowledge and experience that he has garnered over the years.

Before this could take place, the audience were treated to a screening of Prophets of Rage. This BBC documentary about Public Enemy details everything from their early beginnings to the controversies that eventually led to their downfall and demise. Opposing sides of stories are told, from the militant perspective of Griff to Flavor Flav’s colourful outlook on past events. The documentary also served as a basic introduction to P.E, allowing for the more detailed and exploratory questions to be kept for later on.

The Q & A, which was hosted by Olan from All City record shop, went into everything from early sampling techniques, to the equipment used, to what it was like to have so many musicians working on one project. Some producers are known for being introverts who become almost obsessed with their craft, but Hank is as outgoing and enthusiastic as they come and still stays dedicated. As expected, he is full of stories. My favourite being about Flavor Flav’s previous job of driving a bus full of children with cerebral palsy. Certain anecdotes would seem unbelievable if they hadn’t had come straight from someone who was there to witness it all.

Unfortunately I had to miss his DJ set. Coming one of the most influential producers of all time, we can assume it was great. The Q & A section of the night was most definitely the highlight. It is rare to come across a night as informative or inspiring. Due to the crowd’s reaction, we can hopefully expect more night’s like this with hip hop’s elite.

-Ross Logan

Ghostpoet, the Button Factory Dublin

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Despite the downtrodden nature of many of his tracks, Ghostpoet had no problem entertaining the Button Factory with vigour and enthusiasm while opening his current tour in Dublin. His past experiences of touring have paid off and gifted him with an obvious prowess for performing. For a set that runs well over 75 minutes, his smooth voice and high level of charisma never falter. While he may be the main attraction for the night, the accompanying band contributes just as much to the show as he does.

Each member of the band is as professional as they come. They amplify the sound of older tracks (‘Cash and Carry Me Home’) achieving a much bigger sound than the original recording. His keyboard player/backup singer assists him with a serene and reserved quality to her vocals. She replicates the voice of the female role on his current album, Shedding Skin, with a haunting perfection. It is often the new material that provides the most enthralling moments of the show.

It feels like there is an unspoken bond between him and his audience. One that allows tracks like ‘Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me’ and ‘Yes I Helped You Pack’ to be performed with compassion, despite the deeply personal subject matters. He bares this weight with no burden, trusting in the crowd to be as receptive as they are. It’s clear that he is comfortable being at the helm of the show, always controlling the pace but never undermining the importance of musicians joining him on stage.

While there may be a slight reluctance to his showmanship at times, he is clearly thankful of the position that he is in. After an encore of ‘Lines’ he jumps into the crowd to embrace his fans. He makes an impression on everyone from the diehards to the casual gig goers, humbled by the full venue for a Wednesday night. A turnout like this can be expected with a truly personal and intimate showing like this from one of the U.K’s most unique artists.

-Ross Logan

Artist of the Month: Dah Jevu

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Dah Jevu are a relatively new act based in Dublin. The two emcees, Bobby Basil and Tafari Pesto provide an insight into the abstract and alternative side of Irish hip hop. They’re debut video, ‘Hawks of Nepthys’ has already racked up almost 15,000 views on YouTube. The intriguing, gritty video was edited and shot by Hugh Mulhern.

Having already supported Smoke DZA and Jay Electronica this year, along with their full live band, Dah Jevu have a busy few months ahead. I’ve seen them a handful of times now and it is an energetic and one of a kind set. Life Festival, Electric Picnic and BARE In The Woods festival are just a few of the places you’ll be able to catch them this summer and we highly recommend that you do. We briefly spoke to Bobby about their live show and what the future holds:

How did the live band come together?

“It was mostly people from my old school and others that we knew.”

Will they help with production in the future?

“At the moment it will be mostly for the live show, but there is a track coming out at the end of the summer with them on it.”

Which was a better performance for you, Jay Electronica or Smoke DZA?

“There was a lot more people at Jay Electronica because Whelan’s is a bigger venue. It felt like a tougher crowd which made us work harder. The sound is better in Whelan’s too so I’d probably say Jay Electronica.”

What is your favourite thing about performing?

“For me, the more people there the better. It’s like a form of stress release. I can be uptight before we go on but that goes when we start performing.”

Last time we talked you said you wouldn’t release a project until the right amount of hype is there. Do you think you are any closer to that now?

“No I don’t think we’re going to release an EP anytime soon. We do have two music videos coming soon though. I might go to London before we release an EP.”

What has been the defining moment for you so far?

“I’d have to say the Hawks of Nepthys video. It made a lot of people aware of who we are and got us where we are now.”

Dah Jevu Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dahjevu?fref=ts

-Ross Logan

Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful

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For a rapper from Queens, Action Bronson is an incredibly unique artist. His descriptive and wacky lyrics can often feature him doing gymnastics in and out of different vehicles or “getting topped off in the front row of the opera”. In a few short years he has made the transition from a chef to a world conquering rapper and all round character. On this album he verges on becoming comparable to Tenacious D in regards to hip hop. They may have primarily been a parody act but it is important to remember that they are also both great musicians and the same goes for Bronson. He may not be a parody act but that doesn’t stop him from injecting his own brand of humour throughout Mr. Wonderful also.

Some may argue that a Tenacious D comparison could be a step too far, but he does open Mr. Wonderful with his best Billy Joel rendition, “I got a brand new car, I got a jazz guitar”. He then proceeds to treat the listener to the playful wordplay that he admits himself can be over the top, “at the bar looking Swedish in a trench coat, stupid”. It is all very tongue in cheek and it’s what makes Bronson one of a kind. He has made quite a name for himself solely off his intriguingly bizarre raps and pure charisma. The latter of which translates perfectly to this album with each track providing a different look at his tastes and talents.

His production and sample choices are second to none, The Alchemist, Mark Ronson and Party Supplies to name just a few. Each beat is vastly different but that only allows Bronson to prove his versatility. He croons over Ronson’s ‘Baby Blue’ hook along with Chance the Rapper, on what is the most accessible track he’s released.  Any chances he takes with either singing or venturing into other genres (‘City Boy Blues’) all feel apt to the world he has created on the album. Easy Rider closes the album in stereotypical Bronson fashion. A psychedelic guitar riff along with sensory, braggadocios raps and a revving motorcycle all culminate to finalise things with his best track yet.

It is a very cohesive project despite the several producing contributors. Many tracks begin at the end of the previous one, also aiding in creating a full and consistent sound throughout the album. The title Mr Wonderful may have to be taken with a pinch of salt, like much of his aesthetic. However, he has truly earned himself this self appointed title with this release. The future looks a lot brighter for him after such a versatile debut showing.

4/5

-Ross Logan

Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit. I Don’t Go Outside.

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Earl Sweatshirt has progressed into a different artist than what was heard on his debut album ‘Doris’. The monotonous delivery that we were reluctantly becoming accustomed to has been cast aside in favour of a more passionate and natural style of performing. Many praised his premature level of skill that he introduced us to on his initial mixtape. Now it seems like all this discussed potential has finally been realised and Earl has now progressed into the mature, intelligent artist we have been waiting to meet.

The production was handled almost entirely by Earl, aside from ‘Off Top’, which was handled by his fellow Odd Future member Left Brain. It is an altogether dark, gritty and fuzzy sound that takes over the whole album. Echoing drums are often accompanied eerie synths and low bass lines, all of which aid in creating an air of perfected melancholy throughout. The only downfalls come in the form of a few ill fitting features. Vince Staples may introduce Wool with vicious intent, but Wiki soils AM/Radio with his weak appearance.

Earl’s recently acquired higher level of self awareness, both musically and personally, has allowed him to become more comfortable and confident in the studio. You can hear it in his voice that he is less doubtful of himself. He is far from the fidgety, withdrawn young man that we saw in the first interviews concerning his return from Samoa. It’s clear that the culmination of all his experiences has led to this album, one that many have been waiting to hear from him for quite some time.

It is not just his sound that has matured but the lyrical content and themes also. He focuses on relationships with his friends, mother, family and record label. It is can be brutally honest at times. He goes into detail on very personal matters on tracks like Grief and Faucet, resulting in two of the most personal tracks we may have heard from him yet. On DNA he states he’s “ here, there, up and down, low and peaking”, admitting that the new found confidence may not be fully instilled in the doubtful young artist.

Earl has stated that this is the first project he’s released that he can fully stand behind and it shows. The confidence in himself and his work, as well as the natural progression that comes with someone who started so young, was all he needed to finally justify all that hype and meet the expectations of those who have been waiting. While the album may only be 30 minutes long, there is enough buried content for an immediate second or third listen. The more you grasp, the more you want to listen again. It is an enthralling record from a rapper who is wise beyond his years. He should prove to be one of the best emcees of our time if this is the standard set for his future.

4/5

-Ross Logan

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

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There are a large variety of themes and issues addressed on Kendrick Lamar’s third album, To Pimp A Butterfly. Anger , depression, & race to name a few. Each one is explored in detail, always drawing back to his own life for comparison and relatability. Almost every track runs well over four minutes, resulting in a massive & heavily conceptual album that feels incredibly complex & oppressed but uplifting. This is exactly what many have been clamouring for from him, an album that is original, experimental and timeless, but most importantly one that is 100% Kendrick.

The main theme is one of a caterpillar and a butterfly. He explains the former is the boy in him from Compton, who he was before fame, a brash self aware child with a growing conscience. He created the butterfly persona in order to be ‘pimped’ out to record labels and sell his personality to his masses, something that he is not happy with. He uses different pitches for his voice throughout the album perhaps to discern between the two sides of his character. The high pitched voice features on ‘Hood Politics’ as he explains just that from a younger, more naive point of view. than that on ‘Mortal Man’ features no pitch change and a more educated look on life, with the amalgamations of both the caterpillar and butterfly’s separate perspectives.

Depression is another theme that is explored in detail throughout the album. During ‘u’, he goes on a self deprecating rant that deals with feelings of guilt and self loathing that have come with fame. However for every dark cloud on the album there’s a silver lining. ‘I’ offers a different perspective from the same suicidal state of mind, but is instead a much needed message of hope from an otherwise visceral look at his life.

The production is an eclectic mix of many sounds, all of which fit into Kendrick’s overall vision of what he wanted from this album. It sounds like a lot more live instruments were used and less heavy bass & electronic elements than on what we have previously heard from him. That’s not to say those elements are not present but are used more so with minimal perfection.

There is a heavy jazz influence from the get go on Wesley’s Theory’ which features Flying Lotus, Thundercat & George Clinton. The jazz under tones are not just heard in the production though, but also in Kendrick’s abnormal delivery. ‘For Free (Interlude)’ almost has the same tone as scat singing, but with him rapping about what “keeps him obnoxious”. There are also traces of funk that take over the infectious ‘King Kunta’, just one of the tracks that deal directly with race.

This is a very angry album, but not a violent one. It offers some solutions and a brighter side, while never downplaying the rightful resentment and anger that his race have towards their own justice system. That raw emotion is best captured on the brutally honest ‘The Blacker the Berry’. It is also a record that takes chances, through both thought provoking lyrics about the state of society and genre bending music. Kendrick could have taken a more commercial route that may have sold more but he is not one to stand idly by and collect cheques. He wants to spread the knowledge he has acquired through struggle, but most importantly the idea of respect for each other, and that in itself is quite admirable. All that and I didn’t even mention his conversation with Tupac at the end. Yes, Tupac. Hear it to believe it.

4/5

-Ross Logan