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Constant Deviants: Avant Garde

A career in the music industry can go one of two ways: easy or hard. Either you have a Drake…

A career in the music industry can go one of two ways: easy or hard. Either you have a Drake “struggle” or you really live that life – and that means every sense of the word. Enter Constant Deviants, the Baltimore duo of M.I. and DJ/Producer CUTT, who have definitely seen ups and downs on the path to their latest release, Avant Garde, currently available on their own imprint SIX2SIX. Back in 2000, M.I. signed a solo deal with Arista Records, with Cutt aiding in production while solidifying his career as a DJ and engineer. Unfortunately a few snags led the duo to return to the drawing board and ultimately return to their roots.

Constant Deviants: Avant GardeI had the pleasure of getting an advance copy of their 2nd full length LP, Avant Garde, and it was pleasure to listen to. Right from the title cut, the album sets the tone. It’s organic, rough, gritty, polished and reeks of experience. With CUTT handling all of the production himself, the album is coherent sonically, and really brings out the best in M.I., who’s bars shine over my fave joints on the project: M’s for Millennium, which is a clever spin on alphabet raps, I’m Still Up, which is my new late night anthem and It’s Like That, which features the album’s sole guest, Aye Wun. Another stand out was the track Breathing’ – a track that put me in the mindset of mid-nineties Beatnuts (production-wise). The album effortlessly carries the 90’s hip-hop aesthetic – right down to the record pops.

We recently had a chance to talk to the guys about their project, their new movie and more. Check the interview below:


Can you start by telling me how guys got involved in music?

M.I. – My whole family are musicians, so I grew up around music. My pops was a jazz musician. He played the trumpet , so I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree

CUTT – Same here. My father plays piano and guitar. We always had a piano in the house and a decent record collection. I started DJing when I was 11. I always wanted to be involved with music somehow.

How did Constant Deviants come together?

M.I.- We met at a mutual friend’s college. CUTT was djing a party and I got on the mic. By the end of the night we were in the studio working on a demo

Avant Garde is your fourth studio album, what’s different this time around?

M.I. – I would say that every album is different in essence, because the moment is different, but it’s still your classic Constant Deviants music. We did try to bridge the gap from old to new on this one

CUTT – With Avant Garde we had a specific direction we wanted to go in. Bringing the classic era sound into the present.

You guys have been busy lately – tell me about Swiss Banks.

M.I.- That’s an album I did wth our Swiss cousins SWC Records. Video director JPowell and I felt it would be a dope project to do a movie for, so it just kind of evolved. We’re actually working on our second movie this summer entitled Six to Six. Gotta be versatile.

How was that experience – are you planning any more films?

M.I. – I’m falling in love with making films – like I am with music at this point. I’m living a double life [laughs].

What are your thoughts on the current hip-hop scene?

M.I. – Hip hop is what it has always been. You have mainstream and underground. Me personally, I have respect for both and think it’s great for the culture. That’s what makes it “hip hop”.

CUTT – I have no problem with the current scene. Everything is not for everybody. I’m just glad there still is a scene. It gives us an opportunity to do what we do. 

What do you guys have coming up?

M.I. – We have another LP in the works entitled L&L. We’ll keep that a secret for now! I also have 2 solo projects in the works.

CUTT – Already started working on our new project. Also just wrapped up producing an album titled Groceries for extended Six2Six crew member Aye Wun – a dope MC from Queens, NY. He’s featured on the Avant Garde album track called It’s Like That.

Any last words or shout outs?

M.I. – Shouts to John at UrbanElite, shouts to Shareef Hakim at Black Fist Promotions, shouts to Set Rule at Six2Six Records and everyone involved thus far in helping us move forward. Shouts to people like yourself for the outlet and the opportunity for exposure. 

CUTT – Peace to all who support us.

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
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#IndieSpotlight: Dough the Freshkids’ ‘Black Rome’ Is A Buzzworthy Slice Of Hip Hop Goodness

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by…

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by a heightened sense of knowledge of self and anti-oppressive forces that be. The ironic commercial appeal of empowering groups like Public Enemy or Brand Nubian eventually morphed into the current era where “rap” has become a business move/career choice rather than a voice of the underdog filled with subversive talking points that rival university lectures.

This is what I found so intriguing about the new project Black Rome by Dough the Freshkid — representing Crenshaw, California. The follow up to his free tape Six Shots and released via his independent label Every Penny Count, the 15-song effort is a blend of vibes, ranging from an early millennium G-Unit mixtape structure (see the chorus on “Cookin’”), 90s east coast soundscapes (see “We Rich” with its scratch hook), to deeply reflective contextual content aimed at giving opposing viewpoints to widely accepted “fact.”

 
An example of this is the title track, which focuses on the idea that a false image of “white Jesus” was shaped by artist Leonardo DaVinci. Its execution is reminiscent of similar records, such as “Why Is That” by BDP and “Nature Of The Threat” by Ras Kass. This song could literally be transcribed into an incredibly compelling University level essay.

 
Elsewhere on the record, he traverses themes such as the (historical) political and social-economic climate in the United States (see “God’s Curse” verse two) to gang life in LA. Nothing is ever glorified, and everything comes off as methodically thoughtful. On the track “I See He Blued Up,” he addresses industry Crippin,’ as well as unnecessary killing in the streets. “Man up, out the choppas down and out your hands up,” he raps, pointing to the glorification of needless gun violence.

 
Some of the standouts include the gorgeous instrumental that rides with the top down on “Palm Trees II” featuring Tropic626— which I found myself revisiting quite a few times this week — and the unspoken dopeness of “Still Arlington (1994)” which featured Wee Dogg.

“I never promote crack in my raps, I only promote facts in my raps,” he implores as the project comes to a close with the dramatically honest, autobiographical “Sincerely Me.” Even at its most informative and reflective, Dough manages to make this project an incredibly digestible gem packed with lots of wisdom and great talking points. Worth a spot on your end of year playlist if you’re looking for some undeniable fire that is still creeping under the radar.

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Outside The Box: Discover The Positive World Of Krhazey Whytheycallhimthat

Every once in a while you come across an artist who falls outside the box of industry convention; by that…

Every once in a while you come across an artist who falls outside the box of industry convention; by that I — of course — an artist who doesn’t seem motivated by the basics that have poisoned the soul of the culture. An artist that puts his music first. Brooklyn MC Krhazey Whytheycallhimthat is one of those artists. “A positive change in consciousness has the power to topple barriers almost as easy as a negative change creates them,” he tells AAHH describing his mantra for creating.

If that doesn’t create an immediate sense of urgency for his music, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Off the bat, there is something endearing about his admirable need for not only a purpose but to give back. Early on in his career, he began volunteering his time — and his unique brand of Hip Hop to the 25-year-old Art Start. The program dedicates itself to New York City’s underserved youth, delivering consistent creative workshops inside homeless shelters, alternative to incarceration programs, and partnering youth agencies.

“The program gave me a sense of direction, understanding and a hope for change; real change in myself and my environment,” he says.

 
What I find so cool about his music is the way that it all seems to contrast and compliment itself at the same time. His latest joints are a great example. “Jack Frost” for example has this bouncy ballad behind it, paired with these haunting lyrics that have this almost literal intention of describing this cold-heartedness developed though…well…life. Then there’s “23:5,” which has this almost “Marvin’s Room” feel to it — complete with a call to his ex. But it spirals into this realization that the liquor is a crutch, followed an aggressive assertion of the path before him.

Then the vibe of his latest “Makeda” is a pseudo-love track with hella depth, and again a completely different vibe.

Everything I hear from this kid I like. Even going back to the summer, with his super dope single/video “BTD,” with it’s kind of goofy visual concept.

 
Without being driven by the same old, his music has this certain unspoken originality to it. Even the fact that he rocks an anime-inspired kung-fu headband ends up coming across like DOOM’s mask in a sense. It’s hard not to get into.

And the spirit of giving back, which inspired him to start his own foundation — Young Heroes Undefeated — is an added layer that makes you want to root for him. “We make original comic books for children with special needs and use the profits to send the kids and their families on all expense paid vacations,” he explains of the foundation’s mission.

With a four comic series being released next year — on top of a solo LP and a project from my his Audio Temple — there is a lot to look forward to here. He’ll be launching a kickstarter for his foundation in coming weeks; stay tuned to our Instagram for details on how to support something positive.

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#Indiespotlight: Prototype & Lazarus The Kid’s ”Voicemail” Is A Journey Worth Taking

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a…

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a rainy day, I rode around giving this one a fair shake and was taken for more of a journey than I expected. 

The concise EP is immensely musical, with these lush, expansive musical landscapes for Prototype to literally bleed his heart out upon; there is no hyperbole in the emotion packed within these five tracks. Atop soulful samples, energetic drum patterns, and pretty piano keys, there’s a sense of loss and sadness that lingers amongst the celebration and assertion of the dream chase. 

Immediately on the heartfelt “Color,” we’re introduced to demise of a powerful relationship in Prototypes life — one which he gave his all to, and once thought would possibly end in marriage. It’s a loss that is later encapsulated with an emotionally charged piano interlude brimming with a heavy-hearted sense of despair. 

There’s also the loss of Jason Kalinga, who is actually featured “Simba.” The second verse of “Better Way” is a letter to his lost friend, who was another powerful figure in his life.

Amongst the deep moments standing as an endearing open book into his world, there is an incredible sense of confidence; Prototype is chasing the vision in his head — and it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting to detract him from his vision after taking in this project. 

Ending off with the crown jewel, “November 15,” Prototype & Lazarus The Kid position themselves as exciting artists putting out music with not only a purpose  but a strong sense of its emotional connection. They know what they’re doing, and it’s something that hinges more on the artistic merit side of things than the trendy shit. This isn’t for cool points, it’s a therapeutic listen made for longevity. This is a catalog worth keeping an eye on.

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#Indiespotlight: Prototype & Lazarus The Kid’s ”Voicemail” Is A Journey Worth Taking

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a…

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a rainy day, I rode around giving this one a fair shake and was taken for more of a journey than I expected. 

The concise EP is immensely musical, with these lush, expansive musical landscapes for Prototype to literally bleed his heart out upon; there is no hyperbole in the emotion packed within these five tracks. Atop soulful samples, energetic drum patterns, and pretty piano keys, there’s a sense of loss and sadness that lingers amongst the celebration and assertion of the dream chase. 

Immediately on the heartfelt “Color,” we’re introduced to demise of a powerful relationship in Prototypes life — one which he gave his all to, and once thought would possibly end in marriage. It’s a loss that is later encapsulated with an emotionally charged piano interlude brimming with a heavy-hearted sense of despair. 

There’s also the loss of Jason Kalinga, who is actually featured “Simba.” The second verse of “Better Way” is a letter to his lost friend, who was another powerful figure in his life.

Amongst the deep moments standing as an endearing open book into his world, there is an incredible sense of confidence; Prototype is chasing the vision in his head — and it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting to detract him from his vision after taking in this project. 

Ending off with the crown jewel, “November 15,” Prototype & Lazarus The Kid position themselves as exciting artists putting out music with not only a purpose  but a strong sense of its emotional connection. They know what they’re doing, and it’s something that hinges more on the artistic merit side of things than the trendy shit. This isn’t for cool points, it’s a therapeutic listen made for longevity. This is a catalog worth keeping an eye on.

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Rapper Chinx Dies At Age 31

Lionel Pickens, aka Chinx Drugz, was an up and coming rapper with a bright future. For those who didn’t know,...

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