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Fly From The 518: Abs01ute and Shyste Pack Style and Substance Into Debut Concept Album

Travel 150 miles north of the Big Apple on I-87 and you’ll hit New York’s Capital City, Albany. Amongst the…

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.

My name is J.D, the music fanatic, writer, blogger, and educator. I've been in love with hip hop since Bishop got too close to the ledge. If it moves me, I'll cover it. I've written an unpublished novel, created Shiny Glass Houses, and had my work featured on the Bloglin for Mishka NYC. I'm lurking in the shadows on twitter @ThexGlassxHouse. Read. Comment. Get money.
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A Conversation With New York Creative Rodney Hazard

“The process is never linear.” Those were some true words spoken by the New York DJ, Producer and Art Director,…

“The process is never linear.” Those were some true words spoken by the New York DJ, Producer and Art Director, Rodney Hazard.

He’s been on the music scene for quite some time now and recently dropped a new album titled Saint or Savage. The album features several up and coming artists that had a chance to collaborate with the Producer. He spoke with AAHH and broke down the meaning behind the title.

“It’s about making less of a choice and having more action. Stepping into who you truly are and who you want to become, but with more redemption. Which one are you right now, Saint or Savage?”

The basis of the title is also the same mindset he used when he approached the artist on collaborating with him for this project. He only works with artists who are trying to make a difference and be their best self.

“When I decided which artist I would have on the album it was a natural process. I’ve mostly worked with them in the past as well. They all had versatility and were different. The process is never linear; creativity comes in all forms and I wanted to express that.” Hazard wanted this album to be something people never heard before, and you can be assured it’s definitely different!

While some people typically crave to become rappers and singers, its rare to hear that someone’s dream is to be a producer. So we asked Rodney Hazard what advice he would give other people who inspire to be in his shoes.

“It’s important to know that an artists work is never finished so just put your material out there! You must pay attention to the music but keep the people, your audience, as the main focus point.”

It’s clear that Rodney Hazard is making his way through the music industry and bringing new artists up with him. Names such as Young $yrup and True City are on the rise as well.

Young $yrup is also featured on Rodneys newest music video for his song “True Eyes” which is off of his album Saint or Savage. Check out the official music video, below!

 
I’m sure it won’t be long before the name Rodney Hazard becomes a household name. He’s full of knowledge, creativity and knows how important it is to put his audience first. He also lives by the famous saying “each one, teach one.” He believes that we all should strive to help each other, lead and do well!

Saint or Savage is available now on all digital platforms.

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Expect Excellence from Fashion Startup [strive/arrive]

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes…

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes self-empowerment, and thrives on community involvement.

The official brand entitled & stylized as [strive/arrive] was created in 2017 by then 20-year-old Anwar Alston in Greensboro, North Carolina. From the get-go, Anwar placed a heavy emphasis on pushing clothes to his community and keeping everything local. Frequenting the Greensboro Cultural Center for runway fashion shows, Strive has become a stylish symbol of the city’s youth culture and garnered an “if you know you know” type of following.

According to Anwar, every article of clothing visually represents his state of mind throughout his design process. This has led Strive to produce a variety of custom pieces like jackets and jeans scribbled with a vibrant sharpie, to professionally tagged and branded collared shirts and sweatpants; each incorporating different meanings and phrases within them. Strive’s garments showcase eloquent diversity in style and function, and continue to evolve in colorways and material. My personal favorite from the Strive catalog is a baby blue t-shirt reading: HANDLE THE PRESSURE, in a simplistic square outline.

While diverse, the main thing you will notice is consistent in Strive’s clothing is the use of bright colors. Anwar notes that this is intended to promote positivity and mental wellbeing; both important factors to his creative process. One upcoming drop stylized as s[PRIDE] will advocate for the LGBTQ community by incorporating the pride rainbow into t-shirts as well as a thought-provoking design reading “love is ____.”

And though Strive makes an effort to push clothes locally, the brand is also making big moves internationally. This summer will mark the brand’s first major collaboration with London based streetwear brand: Amien Ghaker Jomaa. The drop is scheduled for mid-July along with a separate line of athletic wear. s[PRIDE] is currently available for pre-order on strivearrive.com and in the meantime, Anwar will be holding a fashion show periodically in the Van Dyke performance space of the Greensboro Cultural Center.

Stylish, refreshing, and impressively busy— [strive/arrive] is a growing company that fashion scouts must undoubtedly keep an eye on.

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REVIEW: Redemption by Jay Rock

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken…

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken through to his final form of artistry and is forging his way ahead. The project came with two documentary-style visuals, Road to Redemption parts 1 & 2, that show the TDE rapper’s evolution since signing with Warner Bros Records in 2007, to signing exclusively with Top Dawg and Interscope. The visuals also portray the extremely positive impact the rapper has had on his community in Watts, California since flourishing in the music industry. This mini-doc series serves as a visualization to many of the concepts on this album and provides insight into Rock as a person and his perception in Hip Hop. There is truly no slowing down for the TDE spitter, who showcases his striking ambition for life and Hip Hop on this exemplary 13 track album.

1) The Bloodiest

“The Bloodiest” is Rock’s opening track. Perhaps it’s name is a metaphor for his past life as a violent criminal, perhaps a prelude for the album’s rawness, but either way it’s a hell of an opening statement. The Devil thought he had me I was on back burners, are the words that start the song. Emanating chills, he continues with ghostly, technical bars before wrecking the beat with quick & agile rhyme schemes he matches with the dense subject matter. The listener cannot help but focus like attending a college lecture. The beat, while fire, is the least important aspect of “The Bloodiest,” because Jay Rock is able to say so much in so little time.

2) For What it’s Worth

Track two. “For What it’s Worth.” I’m not even gonna front, at first listen I skipped this song because of the background singing that is now a staple of “woke” Hip Hop. But I’m glad I went back and listened in depth because it is by far the strongest song on Redemption. It’s mellow- but if you hone in on what Rock is spitting you will literally get chills up and down your spine. Exploring the problems of having a relationship during the brink of success, the TDE MC explains how dangerous pussy can be. That pretty flower will spoil you then it poisons you, is just one quick outtake of all the truth he spits on this male-centric, relationship anxiety inspired second track.

3) Knock it Off

“Knock it Off” immediately lightens things up by upping its tempo while Jay Rock touches on a new and less serious subject. The track is dedicated to exposing fakes that try to be like Jay Rock and TDE. The groove is spit over the now classic flute enhanced rap instrumental. “You ain’t me n*gga knock it off!” The background vocals on this track are saucy as hell but don’t overpower Rock’s energy; showcasing the tastefulness of the mix.

4) ES Tales

“Back in these projects/back in these projects/ I lost it all…now I’m back in these projects,” is the haunting opener to Rock’s next track: “ES Tales.” The tone of the album switches up at this point to a digital sounding, video game inspired upbeat tempo; though Jay Rock sticks to his Watts inspired storytelling rap style. At this point in the album, he has outdone himself in regards to lyrical capacity and rhyme scheme, and this track is perhaps one of the strongest in showcasing how many different flows the artist is capable of.

5) Rotation 112th

“Rotation 112th” maintains an upbeat tempo with the fire flute samples that complement the lyrical transitions from low sing/rap to high energy yelling. This song is impossible not to nod your head to; it’s a perfect filler track in the sense that it fits the mood thus far in the project but doesn’t too much to progress its major themes. A smoke break to Rock’s relentlessly meaningful content.

6) Tap Out

TDE calls upon Jeremih’s soothing vocals for the mid-album radio song: “Tap Out.” I call it a radio song because its bound to be stuck in your head. Not in an annoying mainstream way, but in a way that you don’t even notice until you’re humming the lyrics at random times all day. Other reviewers called this track the token sex song of the project.

7) OSOM

I was happy that TDE showed J. Cole some love on this next track; because even if you claim you hate Cole you can’t hate on TDE, especially on this track. “OSOM” (outta sight outta mind) is a tribute to paranoia, as shown in the visuals that recently dropped featuring Cole and Rock together fighting off an overwhelming feeling of dread after a botched robbery. Cole always spits with uncharacteristic rawness when featured and this track was no different.

8) King’s Dead

I don’t even have to go into “King’s Dead” since it was Redemption’s first single. But if for some reason you haven’t heard it yet: it’s fire. K Dot freaked it.

9) Troopers

“Troopers” is an ode to loyalty; noting the kinship that comes with drug dealing and crime. “you ain’t gotta question when its brackin’” is a nice line that sums up the unspoken allegiance Rock feels to his closest homies in Watts. The track is ominous in sound and subjects with the chorus continuously warning his momma that he might not make it home from his escapades with the streets. Though not a hype track or a deeply lyrical journey this track is a good Segway between “Kings Dead” & “Broke+-.”

10) Broke +-

Track 10 is the densest of this project. The Black Hippy rapper delves into American history, capitalism, and personal morals before painting a sonic image of what it means to be “broke” in America. B is for the blood/R is for the ropes/O is for oppression/K is for the kush need it just to cope/E is for the evolution. The words are rapped over a slow, gloomy beat and does well to ground the project after taking its listeners up and down.

11) Wow Freestyle

Wooooow. K dot and Jay Rock reminisce on this joint. It’s a fun sounding track that lightens the mood with back and forth from Rock to Dot and back again. Rock also experiments with his voice adding a little crack to his breathier bars; similar to what Kendrick does on songs like “u.” It gives his words an exasperated effect and adds a nice variety to his cadence.

12) Redemption

Aaaaaand the title track where Jay highlights his near-fatal motorcycle crash that inspired a lot of this album’s subject matter and sound. He explains how he imagined his funeral would be while hooked up to various machines in the hospital helping him breathe. The track is also a testament to second chances; which is what Rock felt life gave him after he made a full recovery from a broken femur and pelvis among other severe injuries. The song isn’t pushing itself to be too strand out, but includes beautiful words from TDE’s one and only: SZA, making it an objectively fire and insightful title track.

13) WIN

“WIN” is a perfect closer to the album. It’s almost a corny track with the chorus a repetitive Win, win, win, win trademarked with Kendrick’s backing vocals. It doesn’t have as much lyrical depth as the rest of the album but it doesn’t need that because it’s almost like a summation of what the album felt like. A thin slice of tiramisu after a hearty meal; eaten simply as a compliment.

REDEMPTION is one of my favorite albums thus far in 2018. It contains the quintessential components of what makes a Hip-hop album fire; from concepts to storytelling to hype tracks. And for Jay Rock specifically, the album represents his growth and development through life and as an artist. If you listen to Hood Tales and Redemption back to back you can really grasp these changes and see how much ground a rapper can cover with a lucrative career. The crew at Above Average is hyped for what TDE will follow this project with!

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#IndieSpotlight: Meet Chicago MC Hunnid

Leaning back in a vintage Bryant Park Chair with a ‘life is good’ smile, award-winning Chicago MC, Hunnid was in…

Leaning back in a vintage Bryant Park Chair with a ‘life is good’ smile, award-winning Chicago MC, Hunnid was in great spirits for our interview in New York City. Now back at his childhood home in the Southside of Chicago known as the Wild Wild 100’s – where he was born and raised – he tells me in depth of what is was like growing up in a poverty stricken environment. “First off, It’s fun, but It’s wild being exposed to a lot of things that you really shouldn’t be exposed to so young. – like crime. Nonetheless, it just embedded a lot of principles in me I wouldn’t change for nothing. That type of struggle you just have to experience and learn from it. Made me strong, aware, and  intelligent,” he notes.

In just a matter of years, Chicago has become the home city for a lot of the hottest hip-hop talents out right now since the early 2000’s. Chance The Rapper and a dozen of hungry new acts are making a way for themselves coming out of Chi-Raq. Hunnid, being one of the emerging talents, tells me staying grounded and passionate is the key to his way into the game. Hunnid is a person who is going to get it by any means necessary. “It’s no pressure [coming from Chicago] because I’m in my own lane, I don’t do drill rap – I don’t categorize myself,” he states. Music been in Hunnid’s life since an early age; he played drums and written poetry. “God chose music for me.”

Coming off his Love V.S. Lust EP, which dropped last June, Hunnid makes sure to drop buzzing tracks for his fans until his next project. Hunnid’s “Money Up” single, which its video premiered on AAHH, racked up over 50k plays to date. This is an anthem about hard work, endurance and dedication – which are what his career rooted from. As he is known for his lyrical flow, “Money Up” takes a less complexed style. Hunnid clarifies why he released it. “I really put value in connecting with the crowd and understanding my crowd. I feel like you got to dumb it down if you want to appeal to masses to some degree,” he says. His upcoming single, “Bust That,” has a different kind a vibe; afro-beat and R&B. “I describe a women’s body movements to firearms,” notes Hunnid.

 
Hunnid and I started discussing the state of hip-hop and where it’s heading in the near future. We both agree that it is changing due to lack of talent. “I feel like a lot of this music is fast food now because it lacks passion. If you passionate about a lot of things and it can be felt — its real, it will never die.”

Like a lot of hip-hop heads, there’s a lot to say or not about the newly released XXL 2018 Freshman List. Does the list still matter?  “I don’t pay attention to it anymore,” says Hunnid. “I don’t. Were in a different age where popularity can make you whatever you want to be. There are so many dope individuals. But they’re just not out here selling their souls. People can take it how they want it – I feel like you have to sell yourself in some way [face tats, color hair] to draw attention to yourself because you lack skill.”

Towards the end of our conversation, we touched on the violence going down in his hometown. “Long Live Streetz is the last thing I want to say,” he says. His cousin, Streetz was an emerging hip-hop mc that was murdered alongside Chicago journalist/blogger Zach TV just a few weeks ago. “I want to make it to that platform where I can say something, and it’ll literally happen. The only person with that type of platform [making a change] is Chance the Rapper, but everybody else is not doing much.”

Hunnid plans on making it big in the game because music is indeed his passion. While on his way to stardom, he wants to take action in his community on gun violence and wants to tell the rest of his story to change the world.

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