In the run-up to TUSK Virtual, we’ve asked some of our favourite music writers to talk to some of the artists performing at this year’s festival. The first edition in this short series pairs Stewart Smith (The Wire, Bandcamp Daily, The Quietus, etc.) with Chicago composer Angel Bat Dawid.
Angel Bat Dawid blew us all away with her debut album The Oracle in 2019. Recorded single-handedly on her iPhone, its eight tracks explore spiritual jazz, hip-hop, blues, gospel and poetry, all tied together by Angel’s gorgeous clarinet and voice. Since then, the Chicago composer has released two singles and collaborated with rappers and Afrobeat stars. Plans to tour with her group Tha Brothahood have been put on hold by Covid 19, but for Tusk, she’ll be teaming up with electronic artist Out Ennui. In this truly epic interview she discusses her collaborations, inspirations and the importance of grassroots spaces. As she says, “I’m all about the DIY!”
How has lockdown been treating you? Obviously it’s a difficult time for us all, but it seems like you’re continuing to write and record. What have the challenges been and how have you overcome them?
Yes, these times today have been globally traumatic and challenging for everyone. If it wasn’t for this music I’d be a mess for sure! Composing and creating music has been the elixir of life for me during this time. As soon as the lockdown started here I went into deep hermit mode and began to work on a lot of different things. So as one by one my gigs and tours were cancelling… one by one new opportunities were opening for me to DJ, work on mixing and editing my next two albums, new music collaborations with people from all over the world, Zoom programming, all things I could do just right from the comfort of my home (I’ve been teaching a music class in a Juvenile Detention Center through Zoom and it’s been so awesome to connect with these brilliant young youth that are in challenging positions… this been my favorite thing amongst everything… and I also teach my one piano student a genius nine year old pianist/composer). So I actually have been amazingly blessed and happy that my family and friends are healthy and I also received a lot of support from arts programs here in Chicago that were providing support to artists. It was actually kind of wonderful in isolation to have all the time in the world to create. There were many days when I would be so lost in the throes of composition that I would be up for two days straight… lol. I think it was my way to process all the traumatic events that were taking place in the world. The quarantine gave me so much time to work. So despite all the chaos, I have been in an epic state of Peace. Pouring whatever concerns into the music.
You recently put out a solo organ track ‘Voice ‘o ‘Heab’N’.Can you tell me about that?
Yes so this was one of the amazing opportunities that came my way. This record label Mexican Summer hit me up about contributing to a wonderful compilation series they were putting together called Looking Glass. So I was really excited about the opportunity to compose something new. I always meditate and pray before I start to compose anything. It gives me purpose for my compositions. So I just went through my regular process and started playing some chords on my midi keyboard (I use Fl Studio). I just picked like a basic generic organ sound and was kinda feelin’ the vibe. And then I heard in my mind the words‘Voice O’ Heab’N’ (Like the old negro spiritual ‘I gotta shoe’way of saying Heaven..that’s why you gotta meditate and pray before you do anything cause it will open your ears up to hear important messages from other realms ). So I was all in my spiritual feelings and was like damn… I wish I had a real Hammond B3 organ. And then I was like, wait a minute we in the future now! I can totally get Hammond B3 VST plugin (which is a lot cheaper than getting a real organ, and definitely not as heavy…lol, but I still want a real one eventually). Looked that shit up and that’s when I found Arturia B3 V2-V Collection and a whole new mystical magical world of real B3 organ sounds were at my fingertips! I also listened to this video of Sun Ra playing organ in which he recorded on a reel to reel… it’s so epically spooky, creepy and hauntingly ethereal and beautiful. I def wanted to tap into that frequency. I really wanted this to sound like I recorded it 60 years ago in the musty basement of an old baptist church that was once an underground railroad stop (true story I have actually been to such a basement when I was a little girl… it was definitely filled with an intense energy, I remember holding on to my Daddy’s leg cause I was super sensitive as a child to the paranormal and was a bit overwhelmed).
You also released a hip-hop track, ‘George Floyd’ with Berry Blacc. Could you tell me about that?
So this was also another awesome opportunity that came my way during lockdown. This radio station in England, Reform Radio, and record label Remote Rhythm Lab, was trying to figure out how to do something cool and interesting for performances during lockdown. And they had this wonderfully magical idea of teaming up two artists from other countries to create a track together within 48 hours. I was completely through the roof excited about this!! I just couldn’t believe that something so cool was coming my way. So they teamed me up with the amazing Berry Blacc, an incredible MC/Producer who lives in Manchester. We had like a
10 minute logistic chat on zoom and just really hit it off… it’s like we knew each other and I knew that this collaboration was gonna be really important. Now this opportunity came about at the intense time when the George Floyd video devastated our community. Berry hit me up in an email and was like, yo Angel we should somehow respond to all the unrest. And I couldn’t have
agreed with him more. We really needed a space to express how we were feeling with everything. So we started crafting and
sewing together things… and ‘George Floyd’ was born!
‘Transition East’ came out in May and celebrates the Chicago venue of that name, as well as Total Refreshment Centre. Do you have any thoughts on Transition East (the venue) and the importance of grassroots spaces in general? Such spaces are very important to Tusk Festival and the worry is that they won’t survive the pandemic. Is there a similar issue in Chicago?
Yes indeed… all the clubs and venues here are really going through it. Some have even permanently closed. So it’s a difficult
time for a lot of those businesses. Transition East is a little different; it’s more of a private space for the owner, multi-instrumentalist Eliel Sherman Story who is one of my mentors. It’s his music studio where he practices and works but it’s set up
with a stage and there’s a kitchen so all kinds of people book events there. It’s such a beautiful spot! Eliel is also a carpenter so he designed everything. The artwork is so beautiful and there’s a rich and powerful frequency running through the place. When you walk in Eliel is usually wailing gorgeous mystical sounds on his saxophones and is always burning sweet intoxicating Frankincense and Myrrh incense…it’s like a Temple! He rents it out if you ask him, but most people don’t really know about it and it’s not open to the public every day. So it’s gonna still be there because it’s Eliel’s spot…and it’s a recording studio as well (Eliel is also the live sound engineer for the Art Ensemble of Chicago… in fact he at one time he was storing Don Moye’s drum kit there.)
The current Transition East also has a rich great black music history. It’s the child of an older spot in the ’60s with the same name. The old Transition East was a health food restaurant that was also an event space for many significant musicians. A lot of them were part of AACM and it was even owned at one time by the late great Phil Cohran! The space closed sometime in the ’80s is what Eliel told me. The old Transition East was such an important space for him when he was first getting into music, and was quite a spiritual hub too. That’s why he opened up this space in homage to the legacy of that very obscure but massively paramount venue that many now world renowned artists used to play at. There’s so little written about it, but when I have spoken of it to other artists who remember it.. they always speak of it highly. Oral Traditions are very important in the Black Community – legacies are always preserved that way. That’s why I know really ancient sounds and things from way back because relatives, and elders will tell us stories and sing us the old songs – especially in church. Ancient traditions are preserved very well through Oral Traditions in the Black community, maybe even better than if it was written down. The only written information you can really find about Transition East from my knowledge is a small paragraph in George Lewis’ book about the AACM, A Power Stronger Than Itself (all folks interested in and students of any Great Black Music need to have this in your library – PERIOD) and a few really awesome posters online. But other than that you gotta hear about it word of mouth. So for my generation it became a special space for us to explore music and alot of us began to host events and jam sessions and recording sessions there regularly. It’s such an important space for my musical development. The DIY and informal pop up venues are actually very important in my opinion to developing and preserving musical traditions and forging new cultural communities!
The flipside, ‘No Space Fo Us’, was recorded in Brazil with old and new friends. I’m a big fan of Brazilian music, so I’d love to hear more about that trip. Will there be more releases from those sessions?
I’m telling you before the pandemic, I was set to be all over the world. I was in Nova Scotia in January, Brazil in February and right before lockdown I was in Mexico City and was going back to Europe this summer. So I was quite blessed to have had the chance to travel before quarantine. Going to Brazil was a great time indeed. I was invited to be a part of an artist exchange where Brazilian artists came to Chicago last year to play with us and then we all went to Brazil to create with them (this exchange was through an awesome DIY spot here in Chicago Called Comfort Station). Again I just couldn’t believe how awesome this opportunity came to me.
I was also excited because we were also going to Bahia which is the part of Brazil with the richest African culture and presence during their incredible Yemaja Festival. Because of this I guess I didn’t expect to encounter as much racism. But alas I did. During the exchange there was a person (she was not a part of the exchange) that said what she thought was an innocent thing, but it was racist and it made me very uncomfortable to be around her. I don’t give people passes for cultural misunderstanding anymore. It’s unacceptable because we live in 2020 and people should know better. So I was getting very irritated and started to feel a little down about the trip. I knew that I would have to confront the issue to feel better but I didn’t want to be the ‘Angry Black Woman’ either and just go off on this woman lol – cause I was definitely about too (see this is the shit that many artists of color go through when doing art in white spaces. There’s micro aggressions and there’s sometimes this weird uncomfortable thing that people have about black folks and you can tell they just ain’t been around black people. And that’s the real problem – why don’t you know how to be comfortable around black people? It’s 2020 goddammit!). So I sought advice from my good friend and fellow label mate (International Anthem) and epic musician/artist Damon Locks (Black Monument Ensemble) who was also on the trip and who I consider to be so wise and I knew if I asked him what I should do he would give me sound and wise advice. And he really did! He basically told me to just state the facts to the person and leave it at that. And that’s just what I did. I told her that saying those types of things are harmful and I’m telling you so that you will never do that again – and then I bounced out, cause this was not up for discussion or apologies, it was a statement and that’s all I needed to do. So I felt good about that, but then I was still down, because it seemed like no matter where I go in the world folks find a way to make Black folks feel weird, excluded and not apart of the world – like there’s never any SPACE FO US to just be ourselves without being reminded time and time again that your Blackness is something foreign and problematic or a joke. I call it an innocent viciousness. I needed to compose something for sure to release all of those emotions (I forgive. I release).
So my wonderful host was a big time doctor, and I was staying in his beautiful house overlooking the ocean (it was stunning) and he also had a piano in his home and was such a supporter of the arts. So I was really blessed the piano was there. The music in Brazil was absolutely incredible – so many sounds coming at me ( I even went record store digging and spent waaaaay tooo much, lol. The music there was just mind blowing!) So this 5/4 rhythm was all up in my head. I was shocked cause I never really compose in five, but it was there I knew that was Brazil pumping ancient rhythms in my soul. These arpeggios in five took over my fingers! I had plenty of composition paper and started writing things out. I also had my zoom recorder (yeah I done upgraded from my phone since the Oracle, lol) with me which has a multi-track recorder and I heard the melodies and the harmonies and played them on my clarinet. I was having a lot of fun and feeling better. Once I wrote everything out…I knew I wanted to record it. So I hit up Edbrass Brazil, my good friend and fellow musician who was a part of the Exchange (he came to Chicago last year so we was already homies) and asked him if there was a recording studio I could record at and could he gather a few musicians together. He was like, I got u friend! He really was so helpful in getting the studio (Estudio Casa Das Maquinas, ran by musicians Tadeau Mascarenhas and Nancy Viegas who also perform on the track) for me and getting folks together. Ben Lamar Gay (International Anthem) was also on the trip and I asked him if could come through and play on the track. Ben is like my family and came right on through. It was really fun! And yes there were a few other sessions that happened at the studio too. So once it was recorded I remembered that the folks on the label wanted a new track for the B side for the Transition East 45 and I knew that this was the track for it.
Oh and one more thing about this trip to Bahia – I know this is long, but another weird unexpected thing happened. I went to South Africa two years ago and met an amazing sound artist, Joao Orecchia. I guess he randomly saw an Instagram post of mine and hit me up and told me that him and his family (his partner Lindewe Matshikiza is also an artist) had just moved to Bahia for a residency at the Goethe Institute. The randomness of it all!!! I knew we needed to get up and do some music. So they invited me to their home at the Goethe Institute and we had an epic recording session there, and then Joao came through to the studio the next day with pretty much most of the folks on the exchange and we had like this wonderful incredible recording session. It was EPIC!!! I was like how have all my worlds collided into one space – Chicago, Brazil & South Africa!!!
All in all it was the trip of a lifetime – I will never forget it! That trip really allowed me to absorb different musical sounds and use all of that to channel my emotions in difficult situations. It was a blessing of a trip! And I got a whole ass single out of it too!
Your recent collaborations outside jazz include Dumama + Kechou, A Billi Free & Tensei, and Ferdinando Arno (‘What Love ‘has been one of our favourite summer jams). Can you tell me a little about those: how they came about, what you learned from the experience?
I just love collaborations and playing music with others. That has definitely been the hardest part about this quarantine. We literally can’t just get up with folks and play music like we used to for health reasons. So once again all these folks would just randomly hit me up. Mostly from social media you’d be surprised how many people just hit me up on instagram. So I’m a big advocate for using our modern technology to take musical explorations to the next level. That’s why it was nothing for me to use my phone to record The Oracle – it just made sense at the time, like nothing special or unique. All the composers of the past would be using what is accessible to them to get their compositional ideas out. It’s the same with social media too. I always think about Sun Ra passing out his pamphlets of black consciousness in Washington Park here in Chicago back in the day, and starting to record his own shit for his label El Saturn. If he was alive today he would be on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook etc doing the same thing. This new era of communication has its pros and cons of course, but one of the biggest pros is that social media makes it super easy to connect with others globally. And having my own studio at home, which I really beefed up during this lockdown, has made it super easy for me to create at home. It’s been really fun.
Dumma + Keachou: I connected to them through a label in South Africa, Mushroom Hour Half Hour, who I met with on my trip two years ago. I randomly connected with them on Instagram back then cause that trip was random AF and I didn’t know a soul in South Africa. I’m not sure how I even originally found them on the gram, but I started to following them because the music they was putting out on the label was so dope! So I messaged them that I was gonna be in SA and could we just link up. I really didn’t think they would respond (I was super super underground at that time so how would they even know who I was or care for that matter). I was epically surprised to receive a message back from Andrew Curnow (who also is BFF with Joao Orechia who I had the session with in Bahia) that he would love to link up and that there was this cool festival that we should meet up at. And we did! It was soooooo soooo fun (now that trip deserves a book. Ooowwee what a blast I had in South Africa!!) So Andrew and I always keep in contact and he hit me up about contributing to Dumma + Kechou album. I was completely excited about it. Dumma + Kechou are just so amazing, and we all got connected through email and socials and I really consider them good friends now – and of course we all ended up knowing the same people (Like Asher Gamedze who is the only other person on the Oracle knows all of them too – the music world isn’t as big as it seems). The song ‘Uveni’ was deep because it’s a traditional song That Dumma learned from the great South African Musician/Composer Madosini! I had never heard her music before, and looked her up on youtube and was absolutely blown away by her music, and I felt so blessed to be able to play on this song with these two incredible musicians!
The wonderful A Billi I met through producer Chris Kramer who is the founding member of the incredible Tensei. Kramer has produced and collaborated with so many artists on the scene and y’all know how dope Tensei is. So Kramer got in contact with me through a friend and asked me to roll through his home studio one fall day a few years back to add some clarinet and keys to some work he was doing with another really awesome singer/songwriter Jimetta Rose (Jimetta had flown in from LA to work with Kramer). Kramer and I had a blast getting together and creating music. I’ll never forget that session. I guess it went so well, that Kramer hit me up again about A Billi, he was also producing her album at the time too. When I heard A Billi’s wonderful voice and her awesome lyrics I was completely amazed! I just couldn’t believe that I would be on such a dope ass joint!
I met Ferdinando Arno on Facebook. I get this message on messenger saying “hey, I got this cool joint with Zimbabwe musician Daniel Sonora, can you add some lyrics and sing on it…we got you on the studio and do you know a great rapper as well??…and what’s yo paypal? And also we’re gonna add Pharoah Sanders to the joint too.” Like, you can’t make this shit up!!! I almost thought it was a joke or a scam. But it wasn’t. And then when they sent the track I nearly fainted because the music was absolutely mind blowing. I hit up my good friend MC/Footwork King/Visual Artist B’Rael Ali Thunder and asked him if he’s available. Of course he was down… we went to the studio… I mean this studio is one of the best in Chicago… really really top notch! Laid the shit down.. and was jumping up and down and dancing to it. The joint slaps!!!
So once again social media has gotten me many jobs!
I wanted to talk about the clarinet, as I think it’s an underrated instrument in jazz. I understand that it was Mozart’s clarinet concerto that really turned you on to its possibilities, but who are your favourite jazz clarinettists?
Yes, Mozart Clarinet Concerto really just opened my mind to all the possibilities of the clarinet. I always was fascinated when people were virtuoso at their instrument and could do runs and slide up and down scales. I always thought it was the rawest shit ever, and wanted to learn myself. So the Mozart was the first time that I heard a clarinet do such things and I got really obsessed with it in my youth. I used to listen to the tape every night when I went to bed, and woke up in the morning and begged my Mama to buy the sheet music for it so I could play along. It really helped me develop a lot of skills when I first started playing and fanned a continuing thirst to want to know more about the clarinet. It wasn’t an instrument that I was familiar with when I first started playing at 11 years old. But it has been such a good friend of mine all these years. We are one!
Don Byron and Shabaka Hutchings are probably my two favorite clarinetists out here today. Don Byron Tuskegee Experiment album is so essential and influential to me. (‘Waltz for Ellen’ especially really influenced my idea of just the power and pungent beauty of solo clarinet…OMG its soooo beautiful!!!) And Shabaka Hutchings, though more widely known for his incredible tenor Sax skills, he started on clarinet and (boss) bass clarinet. Shabaka is the shit!
Here’s a random story. So Sons of Kemet (one of Shabaka’s ensembles) came to Chicago a few years ago and my friends and I were so excited cause we were just such big fans of Shabaka’s music. So since they were in town and knew folks from International Anthem we all got up for dinner. So after dinner folks wanted somewhere to jam and chill, and my studio was not too far away. So check this secret jam session it was Makaya McCraven, Sons of Kemet, Junius Paul and a few other amazing musicians in the city all came through to my studio and we had this epic secret jam session. It was kind of mind blowing to be playing music with all these incredible folks and then in my studio on top of that!!! So I think I was playing some small instruments, but my clarinet was out and Shabaka looked at me and pointed to it and asked if he could play it. I was like wow, go for it! He sounded so incredible. I was like wow – Brotha just blessed my horn LOL. Now we are all good friends. I’m telling you the musical community I’m in is so supportive and everyone is always trying to lift each other up and when I came out with the Oracle all those folks just sent me so much love and support! Community is so important and jamming with folks is the simplest and most beautiful way to make good friends and new music!
You play bass clarinet as well as B flat. There’s something about the sound of bass clarinet that really sends me. When did you pick it up and what attracted you to the instrument?
So in my youth playing in band the bass clarinet was always given to the students who may have found playing B flat clarinet challenging. Basically if your tone and control on high notes sounded like you were killing a chicken the band director would throw students on the bass clarinet because the tone was lower and would sound better. Also being a kid who was obsessed with all the cool licks and tricks of clarinet music, bass clarinet music was usually whole notes and seemed boring to me. Lol – I was just a kid, what the fuck did I know. Being that I wanted to be really good, I never desired to play bass clarinet ever, even though in college I had to a few times. But I thought it was an insult… LOL. That was until I discovered Eric Dolphy and also to many folks’ surprise Marcus Miller (he played bass clarinet before playing bass… the bass got him more gigs i’m sure) I was like WTF the bass clarinet can do that!!! So in the classical world the bass clarinet was this boring instrument I had no interest in, but in Jazz it was this new thing. My good friend and saxophonist Xristian Espinoza who also has this pawn shop luck on finding all kinds of instruments came through to the studio (we’ve been studio mates for years) with a bass clarinet. I hadn’t played one since college and asked him if I could try it out. It was sooo magical, having that extra bottom low bass frequencies really exploded my mind. I was like yo Xris please let me buy this from you bro! So I just love playing it now, I really love to jump around on instruments during performances and adding different textures/frequencies. I’m so happy I got over my stigma about it and have embraced it completely!
Are there any stories behind your clarinets? i.e. previous owners, unusual features etc.
No stories really, I generally prefer to buy new instruments which can be quite costly. I still have never had my dream clarinet (the Buffet Legende I consider it the Lamborghini of clarinets – imma have it one day TRUST!) The reason I prefer new instruments is because I like to have my own energy on it. Because instruments can be so expensive I have usually had to purchase used ones, but that’s not my preference. Especially bass clarinets they can go up to 20K easily, so I have a used one. But my regular clarinet I’d rather buy a new inexpensive clarinet and if it doesn’t last I know I can just buy a new one without breaking the bank. To me, a better quality used one isn’t as beneficial because I may have to take it to the shop for possible repairs, because you can’t really try them out anymore and eventually will lead to hours and hours of being on ebay looking for a deal can be exhausting. So I know that sounds crazy, but it’s never really the instrument in my opinion that makes the musician. Any clarinet I play will sound good because I’m playing myself – the instrument isn’t playing me. But trust one day I’m about to have my Lamborghini/Maserati of clarinets. Hellzz yeah – Imma get this paper up fasho!
You’ve made rap music with DeLundon, among others, and the production techniques have left their mark on The Oracle and Transition East. I’d be interested to hear about the kind of gear you use and which producers have inspired you?
Yes, Hip Hop is Great Black Music. And being that hip hop is the new music of my era it plays a very important role in my musical evolution. Hip-Hop and I were secret lovers because the thing with hip-hop is that when you grow up in a very religious strict home it was music I had to listen to in secret because hip-hop can get rather salacious and controversial at times. But I needed that voice in my youth and Hip-Hop was just so bangin how could you ignore its power. My brother was always bumpin Wu Tang and we would watch all the music videos shows like Rap City for the latest albums. Fugees The Score was the first hip hop album I ever bought on my own. But I really was still only focusing on the lyrics and didn’t really understand all the ends and outs of beats. My interest in producing came during a pretty down time in my life. I left college to work because I had gotten a brain tumor my junior year. When I had the surgery I had so many bills that I just decided to get a job and work. I was really depressed because I had poured so much work into music and now I was working a 9-5 and music was in the background. I was really down in the dumps. So my Father has all these jazz musicians friends and they use to have these rehearsals and they invited me one day to play with them. I was hella intimidated, even though I was in Jazz band in high school I still was mostly in classical mode. But I went and had a great time. One of the musicians my Dad’s good friend gifted me with a music composition program..he said that I might like it. He was right. I loved it. I discovered that I could compose and then assign different instrument sounds to the notes. And that I could also export these compositions as midi files. Now this was during the time when DAW were getting big…like early 2000’s. So I went and bought a really cheap music software program and started uploading these midi files into the DAW, and that’s when I was opened up to the whole world of VST and plugins. And it was so fun for me and helping me through that time when I couldn’t do music as much. I also started to really listen to beats I like and producers I admired like J Dilla, Timbaland, The Neptunes, and any R&B Hip Hip I loved at the time. I would listen and break down the anatomy of beats. I knew there was always snare, drum, basslines, hi hats etc… and then arranging it all into a song and then I was like, Oh producing is just like composing just using electronic instruments. So that led me down a whole other rabbit hole. My obsession was getting deeper, because I thought my beats were sounding really good. I was like damn I wonder what it would sound like if someone rapped on them? Not really being a part of a hip hop community I knew I’d have to learn to rap so that I could hear how my beats would sound. So I started to write out my favorite MC’s (Nas, Wu, Roots, Common etc) lyrics and notate them as rhythms and then write my own lyrics over the rhythms. I know I’m so nerdy, but I was really trying to understand this beautiful artform called hip hop. Now this led to me getting a lot of hardware and software cause I began to record myself. But I noticed it was always sounding shitty when I was recording myself over beats and began to really study how to mix, edit and master things. These were all skills I learned through trial and error and the University of Youtube. I started heavily getting into sampling. I was always listening to all kinds of music I had a heavy library of things to experiment too. So shit yeah 20 years later, it’s just a part of what I do. And i’m always learning and exploring how to get better at it all, it really help me too because going to studio can be expensive so I’m all about the DIY!
DeLundon is the childhood friend of my sister. I’ve known him since he was a kid. He’s my little brother for real. So he was always a genius type of kid, like he had his own apartment and was starting his own label with my sister and their friends when they were just teenagers. My sister told him back then that I was making beats and he asked if I can send him something for their album. I was like of course this is my fam, and I was super proud of them being so young and so ambitious about music. And to be honest I was making a lot of beats and I thought my beats were cold! I would try and reach out to the hip hop community online on the streets, like the early days of Soundcloud, and different rappers to see if they would like to collabe, but being a woman in this game it got complicated at times, and a lot of folks really thought my music was weird and some folks just didn’t think I was cool enough or hard enough..which rally discouraged me at times to keep on, ( but that’s before I knew much about avant garde experimental music lol..free jazz helped me realize that Ive always been an out kind of person. I really just didnt know thats what I was until I started listening to Sun Ra). So DeLundon heard my beats and was the first person to really get excited about what I was doing.
So then 2012 comes round – the end of the world. I’m working a job that’s paying me really well. I done beefed up my home studio and I’m really deep into the production. I discovered Fl Studio, Reason, and got a good condenser mic, I had an extra room in my apartment that I converted into a studio. Sound proofed it and got keyboard and midi keyboards etc. Everyday after work this was my HEAVEN.
I was having so much fun producing and me and DeLundon was still doing music. And my skills were getting better that I started collabing more with other rappers online. I never had a problem putting myself out there. So 2012 I went on a very spiritual trip that year to Mexico and had this deep experience at the Mayan Pyramids in Chichen Itza. When I came back to Chicago from the trip I got really depressed because I knew that I wanted to do music all the time and leave my job. I was drowning there. And that’s when I started really getting up with Delundon the most. He was building his home studio too. So after work I’d head to his crib, we smoked, order food and began writing and rapping and making beats. We ended up putting out two albums Bakers Street & Convert or Die. And we also started getting up with some local young rappers cause we wanted to start a label too and start producing and recording artist (Assault Underground – woop!). But again back to the salacious and controversial nature of Hip hop. DeLundon is more like Lil Wayne (and I love his music – he’s the trickster and epically witty and shrewd lyricist) and I was more like a super metaphysical and mystical type of artist. But I thought that DeLundon and I as a group really explored the extremes of good and evil. That’s why we would be throwing up the Baphomet images and occult shit lol… So the music would get a little dark, but it was a dark time in my life too. So my frustration with my job and my career came out it in rage and anger sometimes in the music – it was epically cathartic. But it did really scare a lot of my friends lol – folks thought I had become a Satanist and shit… lol most people were used to my ‘angelic’ side…lol. Eventually DeLundon and I parted ways because my music was going in a different direction past genre and more towards Cosmic Black Music (a term I embrace from a wonderful Composer/Multi Instrumentalist here in Chicago and good friend Isaiah Collier) where I could put all my skills together. Everything I learned in Production, Classical, Free Jazz etc all together into one space, and really speak my truth without catering to any genre or standard. Music that fully expressed me!
Your Tusk set will feature electronic artist Oui Ennui, who you’ve been working with lately. Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration and what we might expect from the set?
Yes, I am so excited about this collaboration with Oui Ennui. We also became friends on Instagram. One day I had posted this cool video from Henry Threadgill and I get a message from Oui Ennui cause I had offered to send folks the whole video. So I sent him the link and we been friends ever since. His post were always cool and interesting and I could see we were both deeply into music. One day he sent me his album he wanted me to check out called Love Pragmatic (which btw he’s a music machine factory, this dude has like thousands of unreleased shit – he’s obsessed with synths and is just an amazing composer). I was excited to listen and downloaded it to my phone but I got busy and forgot to listen to it though. Until one day my phone was on like shuffle and I heard this great and amazing music and was like wtf is this! It was Oui’s album! I was floored – hit him up right away in amazement. Ever since then whatever he put out new on Bandcamp, I rushed to buy it cause his music is so incredible. And he puts out albums like every month. It’s brought back that excitement of hearing new music to me. You know when you had to wait on Fridays to go to the mall and buy a cd, pre streaming days. I use to love that. So when he puts out something new it’s that same feeling for me. Also his music goes beyond genre and every album has a story and purpose….his liner notes, artwork etc on all his albums are DEEP! He’s always been super supportive of my music too and even came to a few of my shows. We finally met in person, and I think we both knew one day we would have to get together and create some magic. So when y’all hit me up about this virtual performance I knew I wanted to collaborate with genius composer and good friend Oui Ennui.