Travel 150 miles north of the Big Apple on I-87 and you’ll hit New York’s Capital City, Albany. Amongst the city’s blue collar herds of hard workers and packs of drunk, stumbling college kids, you’ll find Abs01ute and Shyste, a producer and MC whose hard-nosed sound is the lovechild of the hustle and grit the city is known for. It’s easy to get lost between Albany’s bars, but it’s those same dark alleys where Abs01te and Shyste’s Lord of the Flys had time to incubate.
Like the boys from the 1954 novel by William Golding, Shyste and Abs01ute were left to govern themselves over the past four years, crafting and fine tuning a project that mirrors the social and political shit storm we’re currently living in. The result is a standout project featuring Abs01ute’s carefully complex production and Shyste’s menacing bars.
The duo took a few minutes to discuss the project’s origins, life in Albany, and what it would be like to smash Bea Arthur.
How did you two link up and craft the idea for Lord of the Flys?
Abs01ute: We have known each other for years prior to collaborating. After talking at a few shows here and there, I sent Shyste some beats. Recording a few songs was all we were aiming to do at first, but after recording them we agreed we should move forward with a full length. Shyste came up with the idea for the title, and I went ahead and dug into the sample stash to craft a sound I thought would reflect the vision. The 1990 Lord of the Flies film provided the backdrop, and I sprinkled in movie clips to add a cinematic angle. We would send each other verses and beats until we piled up 17 tracks. The collaborative process was seamless. We both let each other tackle our respective roles, and the final product is something we are both very proud of.
Explain the hip hop dynamic in the 518. Does art imitate life in the capital city?
Shyste: Albany is a blue collar city. I think that reflects in the art on many levels. From the process of creating and performing the music, to marketing yourself and trying to stay in everyone’s focus, it’s a grind. It’s time, energy, money, stress. A little less time, a little less energy, a little more money, a little more stress. It’s a serious grind, like grinding down stone into sand for others to walk on (laughs). And it’s not just Albany, it’s the entire 518. There are a lot of people putting in work out here. If you want to make some noise, you have to be consistent; you have to be your own union, your own promoter, and so on. Hip hop, and music in general in the 518, is definitely a blue collar grind.
The record samples from Japanese pop records from the 60s. Where does an idea like that grow roots?
Abs01ute: The Japanese pop stuff came to me randomly. I tend to search anywhere to find samples. Over the years it has changed. I sample literally anything I hear and think I can flip. I found the bulk of the samples used on LOTF online. One source led me to another and before I knew it I was deep into obscure records from overseas. LOTF is about half sampled from those records, I also added other beats I thought fit nice. Without indulging too much about the samples, it was a mix of records from movie soundtracks, video games, and even Game of Thrones.
The album mirrors the themes of William Golding’s original book. Explain those ties.
Shyste: The album loosely mirrors Golding’s themes from the book. There’s a variety of concepts like chaos, abandonment, ego, and the power struggle. These are all presented from different perspectives. The story line of the book is a solid reflection of what’s going on in society right now. There are many different personality archetypes struggling for some kind of power, freedom, war or peace. This is how factions are created and people begin to choose sides. All these different concepts are presented in a hip hop format. All off the cuff.
There’s plenty of people out there who love full length releases; people who devour entire projects from end to end. What can we expect from Lord of the Flys?
Shyste: In an industry of cookie cutter artists and artists who rely on gimmicks, we are giving the listening audience an actual experience. It’s best to listen to the album from beginning to end. The movie clips are placed in a way that gives the project a linear feel. The album definitely has its own particular sound and vibe in order to give it a more dramatic or theatrical feel. The lyrics, the production, the mixing and mastering, are clean and professional. It’s not just music, it’s an experience.
Speaking of an experience… Fuck, Kill, Marry: Hillary Clinton, Bea Arthur, and Mariah Carey?
Shyste: Fuck Mariah Carey, because I’m assuming that’s a given and everybody else has (laughs). Kill Hillary Clinton because she’s awful; one of the worst. And marry Bea Arthur because she’ll kick the bucket way before me and then I gets me some of that “Golden Girls” money.
Upcoming shows? Where can people buy or stream the album?
Abs01ute: Our release party is at Lost & Found in Albany, New York on December 16th at 9:30 pm. You can find our album on all digital outlets including Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, Amazon, and YouTube. Or you can check out https://lordoftheflys.bandcamp.com/ for hard copies that will ship with a signed poster and two artist stickers.
Big thanks for to Shyste and Abs01ute for talking with us. Be sure to check out Lord of the Flys, available now on all streaming platforms.