Tap into your inner self tonight with the help of rising VA artist, Shaolinn as she premieres the latest in her soul-gripping musical collection with the “Blackstone” EP, out now on all streaming platforms. The show, specially curated by Shaolinn herself, will be held at the Bunker Brewpub in Virginia Beach, with doors opening at 8 PM and the show starting at 9 PM. Other featured artists joining the night’s celebratory events include Gee Litt, Boris the Lucid, Brooklynn, Tson, Khi Infinite, and DJ J-Rok. Read Sumone’s short and sweet conversation with the Heir Wave artist below.
Your release show for your upcoming EP, “Blackstone,” is [tomorrow]. What are you most excited about for the show since it will be the first show you’ve personally curated?
Just seeing all the talent and working with a band for the first time.
What were your thoughts working through the curation process when developing the lineup for the show?
Seeing my favorite local artists peeps and performing with a band for the first time.
Did you find growing up in the 757 to be influential in your creative process or musical style?
Yes, in the process, but not in a musical way. A lot of the artists I listen to aren’t from the 757, but more from the world. I do work with a lot of talented people from the 757, though.
How did you find time to record music prior to being signed to Heir Wave? Was it difficult recording during those times, or do you look back at those moments more fondly?
It wasn’t really different; because to get there, I already had a process in place. It can get expensive, but I had supportive people around me to lend a hand.
When do you feel you create your best work?
On nights when my mind is clear, and I can really dive into the music.
In “Heavy Heart,” you repeatedly mention “being free,” “letting go,” and “finding peace.” What are some words of encouragement that you or someone else provided that ultimately led you to let go and find your peace amidst your self-love journey?
I’m actually still finding my peace. It’s something we all need to work towards. Surrounding yourself with positive people helps a lot.
In a previous conversation, you stated that you did not think people would like “Heavy Heart” “but surprisingly listeners did.” Has your mindset changed when it comes to writing or releasing music after seeing a lot of people gravitate towards your music?
Yes. I didn’t think people wanted such a “talky” song. It’s not a catchy melodic song. I didn’t think people would care about me talking about my life. When I perform it, so many people come up to me and tell me how they relate to it. After that, it made me feel more encouraged to be open about my personal life.
On your IG live minutes prior to the visual premiere of “Vivian,” you expressed surreal excitement. What message did you hope fans would receive when watching the video?
The perspective of a drug addict and how hard it is for someone going through the struggles of it all. The harm isn’t malicious. It’s hard on everyone.
What are you most proud of thus far in your career?
I’m just proud to be here and have this opportunity and the inspiration from all of the people around me. I just want to keep going and, along with myself, make everyone around proud of me.
What do you hope listeners get from your music?
Anything. Anything that they feel. I speak my story, and I hope it makes people tap into their own story and bring something special out of them.
Era Hardaway is a twenty-seven year old rapper, producer, and entrepreneur continuing the honored lineage of innovative thinkers and musicians from Virginia. Following the release of the emcee’s latest EP, “Undeniable,” I had the opportunity to get better acquainted with Hardaway’s journey and vision.
Era and I met up at his studio in Norfolk, VA, where he develops the bulk of his material. As an artist who is always working, you always have something new and crazy sounding to play, and today I was the lucky guest. Displaying his range as a more than capable producer that’s laced countless other artists with beats, such as Young Crazy, he began to demonstrate a number of styles from trap and drill to cinematic soundscapes that belong in the next Final Fantasy.
How did you get into music, was there something else you wanted to do before that?
I learned the turntables early on, but it wasn’t something I really had my heart set on. Before the music shit, I really wanted to be a street ball player. My mom bought me a basketball, and I’d be in my room rolling the ball between my legs acting like I’m shaking defenders off. I had all the And1 mixtapes, even the joints where they went overseas. I used to always watch the marathons on ESPN. I started getting into other leagues that started up like YPA and a few others in the street ball community. So that’s what I wanted to be, then I decided I wanted to go to the NBA, but I was ass at basketball. I had handles but my shot was wack. I mean, now I’m alright but back then? Yeah, nah.
What got me into music at first was when I started DJing parties with my pops. This was probably like age 7 or 8; my pops would get a party and let me do half the set and keep half the bread. When I started doing that, I thought, ‘This might be it,’ because I started buying kicks and shit. But I still just wasn’t ready to step into rapping yet. One day when my dad was teaching me how to blend, I said, ‘Man, who is making these beats?’ When you listen to a beat without the lyrics, you just wonder how they put it together. So around the age of 13, I did my research and found out about Fruity Loops, and once I started making beats, I knew this is what I was going to do.
It kind of started from there. For Christmas, my dad bought me the little M Audio package with two small studio monitors and a dynamic mic with the desk stand. You could only do input or output on that M Audio interface; you couldn’t do both. It sucked, but I made it work. I stacked shoe boxes on top of each other in my closet, put my mic on top, and made a make-shift pop filter with a stocking cap—and that was my studio.
Would it be correct to say your parents were supportive of your creative exploration?
Yeah, they were. Both my dad and my mom, although [my] [mom] didn’t really understand it and still doesn’t to a degree. They were always supportive. My dad was one of those people who, no matter what I wanted to do, would support me even if he didn’t understand it. I know as I got older and more mature, they didn’t approve of some of what I was saying about gas, smoking weed, and pulling different girls. I know they don’t want to hear all of that, but this is what’s going on. I’m not capping on anything.
At first, my mom didn’t even know I was rapping. She knew I was DJing, and she didn’t really like that because she was worried about me getting caught up in the party scene. I’m actually glad my dad introduced it to me early on because now when I’m in the club, I don’t even want to be there unless I’m celebrating or I’m paid to be there. It’s old to me now.
I really started rapping in 2009, when I was 16. My mom didn’t know, even though her office was right next to my room. I’m cranking music, but she had her speakers as well, so don’t get me wrong…she was cranking in there too, but I know she can hear me through the walls because I can hear her. The funny thing is, she didn’t realize I rapped until I handed her my first mixtape, “Yeah I Rap.” I spent all my money making about 100 CDs to take to school to give out for free, and they were gone before the first period. People from the Burg hit me up to this day like, ‘Yo, I still got that CD.’ After that, I go home and hand the CD to my mom, and she says, ‘Oh, that’s what you’ve been doing locked inside your room all quiet for long periods of time.’ I was surprised when she said she couldn’t hear me there.
You’re self-taught as a musician, was your process always this DIY? If not, when did that change?
I’m an Internet baby. As computers were being developed, I was around it. I mean, we didn’t always have that, but since maybe around the time I was fourteen, [we] started having iPhones and computers. Even before that, I always asked questions when seeking the source was just asking somebody. When I found out that seeking the source could be a simple search online, I began to look it up first before asking somebody…especially with simple stuff like “how to tie a tie.”
After hearing some of the beats you have, I’m compelled to ask, have you ever thought of composing for video games?
Hell yeah. I’ve also thought about scoring for movies. That’s really the main goal aside from rap. I want to be able to build suspense in a situation with music…really learn the process of that, even the mixing and mastering style of it.
Who were some of your early influences?
Dilla. Definitely Dilla. He was a heavy influence towards my junior & senior year (of highschool). Madlib, of course. And other people I used to watch on YouTube growing up, like Lex Luger and Southside.
I used to always watch everyone’s come up stories because you feel like you’re right there with them. I remember watching Lex Luger talk about how he used to have the computer with the full CPU, monitor, and a keyboard in a bag, and he’d just pull up. The side plate was gone, so you could see all of the computer chips and everything on the inside, and the power button was gone, so he had to hit it a certain way to make it power on. Lex Luger was making beats on that, and that’s when I knew I could be successful wherever I was at as long as I had the tools to make music. As long as I got a computer, I’m good.
When I recall some of your earlier work, like “Slightly Hyped,” many of those earlier influences like Dilla and Madlib shine through. But, there seem to be followers that saw your progression into The Juug Tape as an abandonment of the earlier, more “boom-bappy” sound. To what do you attribute the change in your music?
On “Undeniable,” I rap, ‘The whole juug won’t to dumb it down, just give y’all another sound to show you that across the board I don’t fuck around.’ That was the juug, and that’s why I was making the The Juug Tape. I was giving people bars, and it was cool but I was also like, ‘Let me have fun.’ There are still bars, you know what I’m saying? If you listen, there are still bars in there. A lot of people were telling me, ‘Aww you’re doing the trap sound now?’ and really there’s just a difference between what you make and what you put out because I’ve been making beats like that, and I’ve been making songs like that, but they never heard it until I put out a concentrated version.
Plus, it was just my environment at the time. I always tell people Fredericksburg was cool; that’s where I learned. But being down here in Norfolk really made me a man. I really saw things that I was taught about back home but never got to embrace. So going through all of that, seeing all of that, and growing as a man was what made that music as well.
So now, when I give people the bars, they’re like, ‘Oh shit, he can spit!” Yeah…I’ve been doing that. It’s about having fun. The only thing you can do in this life is take a craft and have fun. The world will try to rob you of all of that, your peace, love, and happiness. So you got to keep yourself excited, do it for yourself first at all times.
You mentioned the difference in experiences you had growing up in Fredericksburg as opposed to Norfolk. Tell me about your upbringing in your hometown compared to what you came to find in your second home?
Fredericksburg is a bit country, my mom is from there, and my dad is from Jersey. My cultural retrospect was very universal. I’d always be out there at my grandparents’ house riding four-wheelers, playing in the dirt, and things of that nature. We’d try to help my uncle work on cars and clean up the shop, my cousin Nick and I. If we weren’t there, we’d be at his house playing ball. It was very wholesome. Fredericksburg is like a commuter town, so there’s not much for the youth to do, but it can get wild out there. There are still hoods out there, and everybody from the Burg knew about the VFW before it got shut down. There used to be parties, but it’d always get shut down when people got to wrecking and shooting. That was the only thing out there until we got Jay’s, and that got shut down too, but by that time, I was in Norfolk. There wasn’t much for the youth, so we’d just hang out at the mall or go to the movies, typical middle-class childhood shit.
When I came down to Norfolk, that’s when I started to see things. Like I was saying, my dad is from Jersey, so he and my uncle used to tell me about certain street shit. They would always be like, ‘Watch out for that,” or ‘Look out for this.’ Before I was ever smoking, my uncle told me the difference between “mid” and “loud,” just so I would know. When they taught me things up there in Fredericksburg, it was never really applied until I came down here to Norfolk. I came down here to go to college, but the environment surrounding it is really gritty, and you have to know how to navigate. With certain people I came to be around, even with some of the things that I got into…I had to dabble in those environments and know how to move. That’s when all that I’d learned in Fredericksburg became applied and I could see, ‘Oh, this is what pops or unc was talking about.’ I’ve seen some wild shit being down here, and that’s why I say it made me a man, the experience. Experience is the best teacher.
There are six songs on “Undeniable,” but as we know, you have plenty more in the tuck. Tell me about the selection and arrangement process for the songs that made the cut.
Initially, I wanted there to be more, but I decided to give a more concentrated body of work. With the arrangement of the tape, I was talking with my manager, and he was like, ‘Bro, I rock with it, and I see what you’re doing, but I think you should take “Step” off or rearrange it.’
I believe sometimes you’ve got to humble yourself with your art, and if it’s someone that you consider very close to you and have respect for their musical ear, you’re going to take that into consideration. That night I rearranged it, and as I was sitting there with my shorty listening to it, I was like, ‘Yeah, he was right.’ Once I made that change, the whole tape flowed differently.
What was your mindset going into the new project, and why the title “Undeniable”?
At this point in my rap career, that’s just how I feel. I can do anything, and you could put me in the studio with damn near anybody, and I’ll make it happen. There’s a high percentage I might body you on your own track.
When I met with RBLE’s Max Fullard at Thank You Gallery in Norfolk, VA for this interview, he took a few minutes to go live on Instagram and talk to his followers. As he perused the gallery’s collection of books, zines and clothing, Fullard joked and laughed while he held his phone and coveted a Star Trak shirt in the collection. This was somewhat of a homecoming for Max since he relocated to LA in 2017 and he seemed happy to be home. He was quick to get down to business, though. And once we got the interview rolling, he was focused and genuine – a combination of qualities that is somewhat rare for someone who interviews musicians on a regular basis.
I’m assuming you’re already familiar with RBLE, but I’ll give you a quick refresher; Virginia-based hip hop collective came together around 2010 (don’t fact-check me, I’m going off of memory) and quickly became eminent in the 757 due to the hustle and grind they devoted to the scene. For a while, it seemed like at least one member of RBLE was performing on any given weekend and their name was on everyone’s lips. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the clique, you’re probably still well-aware of RBLE affiliates DRAM and Sunny & Gabe; the two acts have had a pretty big buzz for a minute now with momentum still building. Regardless of what impetus each member distinctly possesses, the RBLE fam stays close and diligent and Max Fullard is always in the mix; usually front and center.
Fullard has been consistently dropping tracks for the better part of a decade, most notably 2014’s A Rebel Named Max and 2016’s Nights of the Forth, but it was only in September of last year that he decided make the trek to LA. While Max’s reasons for moving to California may have seemed inconsequential at first – “Honestly, man, weather,” he tells me, “Anything drops below 70 and I feel cold” – his motivations were actually more specific and focused.
“One of the reasons I wanted to move to LA, I’m not gonna say I was depressed, but I was a little down,” he confesses, “Like everyday I’d wake up like ‘alright I gotta go to work’ and I’d spend unnecessary money trying to find happiness. That’s why I had to get some of those darker songs on Nights of the Forth out. Because I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.”
A stellar example of one of those “darker songs” is Hurt One, a somber record about feeling alone and looking for hope. But the beat is a banger and Fullard doesn’t want you to think he’s on that depressive tip. In fact, the guy is brimming with optimism and positivity.
“Not to knock anybody who ever thinks really dark thoughts,” he says, “but I was on the outside looking in at myself. I knew I was sad and I knew how to get rid of the sadness; I just wasn’t there yet. You try to put all of your emotions in one song so I was just like ‘I need to get this shit out’. When I went to LA for the first time I was happy.”
So this really becomes a story about a man searching for himself and, for Max, a change of scenery was what he needed.
“I’m not saying it was Virginia that was making me sad it was just Groundhog Day shit,” he continues, “I was like I need to get out. I need to see some other shit. I was working everyday because I was living outside of my means. I bought a drop-top convertible. I bought jewelry. I was racking up my credit cards just trying to find something that was gonna make me happy and I knew I needed to stop or I was gonna fucking fold. So when the LA thing came around I was like this is it.”
LA also found Fullard on his own for the first time. Up until then, he lived in “the RBLE house” with the other members of the crew, a situation that could be a little overwhelming in terms of creativity.
“Now that I am away I get my own solitude and I can become more of who I wanna be,” he says, “As myself instead of who I am in the crew. We have the big RBLE House so – I’m in my room making music, Gabe’s in his room making music, (Artel) Carter’s in his room making music – you’re gonna hear each other making music. So naturally you’ll bust in like ‘what’s this’ or ‘you should do this’ or ‘will you listen to this’. So now that I’m by myself I’m able to form my own identity. I’m not hearing Gabe make his beats and telling him I want it so he’s able to expand and finish his stuff with Sunny & Gabe. Sometimes I’d be like ‘yo, that shit’s fire. Let me get that’. Now, I started using more dudes that I was finding. I utilize Youtube a lot more. I like to straight up buy your beat for what it’s worth, get the stem, and get the contract. That’s it. I lot of Youtube producers give you that on the reg, you don’t gotta meet them, they don’t have to be involved. “
That creative environment also motivated Max in a different way, helping him shape who he wanted to be and what he wanted to get out of making music. “I would come home from work and I’d have a little bit of jealousy that these dudes get to sit around all day and play Madden and work on music. And Sunny & Gabe was popping off and DRAM was popping off and I’m at work, fucking waiting tables. You know, you make a song like this gonna be it and a week later it’s only at like 100 plays. But then I started appreciating 100 plays. When I wrote the song Ten Fans, I was like I have ten fans and that’s it. And those are the people that I’m gonna show my love for, those are the people that I’m gonna keep pushing for.”
Finding his identity outside of RBLE has proven very productive for Max. He released the Max EP on October 26th which showcases a clearly more ambitious and adventurous Max than we’ve ever heard before and he plans to follow that up very soon with two – yes, two – new full lengths in the near future. Max’s influences have always felt West Coast – “the 2000 Myspace West Coast vibes,” as he puts it – so LA seemed like a logical second home for him. LA also puts him geographically close to “cousin of RBLE” DRAM, a detail that isn’t lost on one as motivated as Fullard.
“He lives ten minutes away from me. I see his crib and I’m like I can get this,” he says, “When DRAM blew up I saw that it was possible. So now I go a little harder. Not even in a jealous way, but like DRAM got it I can get it. Because he has the same exact resources that I have, obviously he’s on a label now, but he had Gabe, I have Gabe. He mixed and recorded all that shit in [his sister] Sophia’s kitchen. So he showed us that it was possible with the exact same resources that we have, you know? Same foundation, same fanbase, everything he had with Cha Cha… I just need a Cha Cha, or even if I get three-1/3 of Cha Cha. I just gotta be consistent and he’s showing me that as long as you’re consistent and putting out good product and just keep pushing, it’s gonna happen.”
When Max isn’t learning from his peers, he’s learning from his mistakes. The Max EP showcases the ambitions of a vet that is ready to step into the majors.
“I was very inconsistent before I met DRAM,” he admits, “I was going thru the wrong avenues, I was paying for PR, I was trying to get on blogs. I’ve been in Billboard, I’ve been in Fader and all that shit, but if you’re not consistent it doesn’t matter. Once they see the tweet at the end of the day, you’re at the bottom. So if you’re not getting people to post about and talk about you, you’re just gonna fade out. You gotta stay consistent. Once one song takes off, they’re gonna go back and listen to everything and then I’ll be fine. So that just keeps me going.”
These are words to live by, kids. My dude Max could do a TED Talk on perseverance and following your passions. Or you could just listen to his music and support his dreams. I know he’d do the same for you because he told me as much: “If anybody’s ever feeling lonely, lost, sad or even just happy you can reach out to me – dm, Twitter, IG, email – you can talk to me.” I’d do it soon, though, before he blows up.
AT THE START OF EVERY MONTH, WE’LL BE FEATURING A MIX OF SONGS FROM DJS, WHIPPED UP ESPECIALLY FOR POPSCURE
DJ Gee gave us a taste of her project the Energy Lab, experimental mixes full of diverse tunes. This is her 6th one, blending hip hop, house, and much more. This is just a taste of what she spun for an hour and a half, filling in gaps during Soulflower so well it got everyone moving.
Sunny and Gabe haven’t released a full length in five years, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy. Gabe Niles has been working with legendary producer Rick Rubin off-and-on in LA on secret project with big names. Sunny’s been jamming on side projects such as the jazzy dapzam and collaborations with Opal (which has been featured on a couple TV shows now), and solo stuff kept under wraps for now.
They blessed us with a few bites recently, with Vacay and Hadouken, the single off their new record. Now they’re serving up several slices with “Peace of Cake,” released this week. The first Time Traveler’s Ball last fall spun a few tracks in the DJ setlist, but now they’re performing entirely pre-enjoyed jams live at Origami this Saturday for round 2. Popscure caught up with them before the show to talk about where they started, their travels, and what inspired the long-awaited album.
Tell us a little bit about your origins – how did y’all get together to start making tunes?
Sunny – He ripped my song off of SoundCloud and remixed it. Soon thereafter, I recorded on the coolest beat I’d ever heard. We started e-mailing back and forth and had an album’s worth of music within a couple of months.
What music, art, or otherwise do you pull inspiration from generally?
Sunny – I just let it come through me. I’ve always played with word association and letting my mind go wherever it wants. Kind of like stream of consciousness. Whatever feels right is right. I’m mostly inspired by this and how it mixes with my own state and emotions, and how it can fit into whatever instrument or instrumental I’m faced with at the moment. I love so much music that I have no idea what is influencing me. Love weird shit and honest shit.
Gabe – Colorful things. Chaotic themes. Sci fi. High energy, jazzy moments.
What did you want to do differently with this record?
Sunny – Make it sound a little less dusty. I love Free Candy and the way it sounds but we wanted to clean this stuff up enough to be presentable and ingestible to a wider audience.
Gabe – This record we actually took our time lol. Not really, but the sense of it. Actually just made more songs and chose from a bigger pool of records…so we could be patient and hold on to some classic songs for the next rather than overload.
What scene do you hope to set with this album?
Sunny – Oh man, just a big run through time and space.
Gabe – Space casino latin bar called LNS-19 is pretty much the vibe. LNS-19 stands for Latin Nights Sector-19. Def kinda futuristic. 5th element/Cowboy bebop vibes
I know long-term partner D.r.a.m. is on this record. What are some Other exciting collaborations you worked in?
Sunny – I’ve mostly collabed with my own dark emotions.
Gabe – Oh ye, gotta dream team. Gary Donna from our band touches a lot, he is one of my main collaborators. Dude is crazy. Roget Chahayed on the keys for a couple records. He is a walking platinum plaque. Despo aka Los Hendrix, craaazy guitar player from Yonkers based in LA. He produces for Brent Fiyahz, one of the first musicians I met in LA. Pip, amazing composer. He arranged and played a lot of the strings you hear throughout the record. He produces as well, very well rounded. PaperDiamond mastered it, dude is a genius. Justin Battle and Mike Mizzle came in on “Sistermoon.”
You all are time travelers, what time periods influenced the music on the new record (past or future since you have seen it all)?
Sunny – A mix of everything at once. A lot of 70s I think. A lot of smoky jazz clubs as well. LNS-19 is a smoky jazz club in the future. It’s just whatever you feel; it’s right.
Gabe – Mesoteric Era meets Jetsons meets 2003
As for the present day, how do you feel about tunes coming out lately, for better or worse? What’s exciting you and what’s disappointing (if anything)?
Sunny – There’s a lot of the same shit that’s getting a whole lot of attention right now. There’s also a lot of GREAT shit going on. I’m a little disconnected and only occasionally find/am introduced to something I’m reallllly feeling. When I saw King Krule come out with a big ass buzz it was probably the most motivating thing I’ve ever seen.
Gabe – It’s a lot of good shit that comes out that just gets kinda pushed to the side occasionally. It’s kinda mundane when you hear a lot of the songs that sound exactly the same, but you also gotta understand the culture. It’s a great canvas tho, since it’s kinda flat lines. So it’s still as exciting as it is boring.
From when Sunny and Gabe began roughly 5 years ago to now, how has the industry changed?
Sunny – I have no idea what the industry even is because I’m afraid of it, but it seems like everything is about some playlist or something. I miss albums. I really miss like, guitar music. I don’t really use weird genre names to describe what I like but I miss GUITAR MUSIC. Some hard ass shit. There’s so much smooth shit. I get really tired of stuff that just sounds really good, smooth singers, smooth beats, just FUCK I wanna feel something. My bad, I’m like an old school person who likes shit nobody has ever heard of. But there’s a lot of good shit, again, don’t get me wrong.
Gabe – *Clears throat* it hasn’t. The only things that changed forreal are the gates and the gatekeepers. Play ball.
What does the future hold for music, and what are your efforts to push it in that direction?
Sunny – I want to help inspire others to be different. Straight up. I’ll fight until I’m dead if it’s going to help someone else do what they want instead of try to follow a trend.
Gabe – See above.
Seems like you all have been holding onto these tracks for quite some time… why is now the right time for release?
Sunny – We are SLOW AS FUCK. The tracks got too clean and had to get dirty again. We made SisterMoon last month. There’s so many reasons. We have no boss so for two creatives it’s a nightmare trying to get to a point where we call something “finished” Now is the right time because it just happened to happen. No idea.
Gabe – They forced their way out after holding us at gun point.
Fresh off his first Stones Throw release, Samuel Jones Lunsford (his middle the root of all his personas) is flying high. He’s on tour promoting the record full of funky slow jams, and told Popscure all about his road to his new sound. He’ll be playing at Charlie’s on Saturday alongside Hampton Road’s best R&B and rock & roll, the perfect median for Lunsford’s sound.
How’d you first become interested in playing music?
I was raised in a musical family with an older brother, parents, uncles, and grandparents who all played and sang. There were instruments all around my house growing up and music was constantly being played or listened to on the family stereo. It has always been a huge part of my life since I was born.
Since you started out as a DJ, what were some of your favorite songs that made it into most of your sets?
I first started DJ’ing at friend’s birthday parties around 1996 when I was in 6th grade using a primitive setup consisting of a boombox and/or CD Walkman plugged into a guitar amp. I had the DJ Kool “Let Me Clear My Throat” CD Maxi-Single and definitely played that every single time.
How did funky beats break out of the bluegrass-heavy music scene of your hometown of Roanoke? Is there a solid soul scene or something that needs to be brought to the forefront, you think?
I was always in my own world quite separate from my surroundings – when I was growing up I paid much more attention to what was on TV or radio than what was happening around me locally – I also devoted a lot of time to discovering and devouring tons of different albums. So I was way more influenced by things outside of my hometown. There are certainly a lot of talented musicians and singers of all sorts of genres in the Roanoke area though.
Stimulator Jones is much softer than the raps of Joneski, what different sides of yourself are you trying to work out through each persona?
I had spent so much of my life focusing on creating within the framework of straight-forward traditional hip hop, the Stimulator Jones project was intended to be a vehicle to challenge myself to branch off and expand upon the sounds I was crafting as Joneski and stretch out beyond the basic format of sampled beats, 16 bar rhymes, and scratches and to incorporate more melodic elements, singing, live instrumentation and radio-ready song structure into the material – yet still having it all be filtered through my knowledge of and experience with loop-based programming, DJ’ing, crate-digging, and hip hop culture.
Said you studied a lot of producers and artists in lieu of your debut, “Exotic Worlds and Masterful Treasures.” Which eras and artists were the most influential?
As far as this album goes – I was influenced by a lot of heavy hitters from various eras like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, DeVante Swing, Prince, Jesse Johnson, Ernie Isley, Chris Jasper, Barry White, Kool & The Gang, Dam Funk, Daz Dillinger, DJ Quik, Roger Troutman, Keith Sweat, Mary J. Blige, Yvette Michele, Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall, Jamiroquai, Michael Jackson, D’angelo, Beatminerz, Ohbliv, DJ Harrison, Tuamie, and many others…
What’s the ideal setting or scenario you imagine the record being the soundtrack to?
How’d you get picked up for Stones Throw and first link up with Peanut Butter Wolf?
In late 2015, Sofie Fatouretchi, a wonderful DJ/producer/musician and former employee of both Stones Throw and Boiler Room found my music online and contacted me out of nowhere to ask if I’d be interested in contributing some material to a compilation album she was curating for Stones Throw (‘Sofie’s SOS Tape’). I sent her a folder full of tracks including “Soon Never Comes” which she ended up selecting for inclusion. Apparently Peanut Butter Wolf really liked the song and she put me in touch with him. We had a phone conversation and I ended up coming to LA to meet him and the Stones Throw fam. We hit it off and by the time I flew home we had agreed to work together on releasing some more of my music.
From picking up “My Vinyl Weighs A Ton” back in 8th grade to having PBW help you record, how does it feel and is it how you might’ve expected?
It still feels kind of like a dream, it’s wild to think of the trajectory from listening to that album on my boombox up in my bedroom to now being a part of the Stones Throw roster and a friend of people that I’ve admired and wished I could collaborate with for years. I’m incredibly proud of this accomplishment, but I still have a lot of work to do and I’ve got to keep growing and pushing myself forward.
What’s next for the newly signed Stimulator Jones?
A US tour in October, an EP of some tracks from the ‘Exotic Worlds’ sessions that couldn’t fit on the record, a new album from my rock & roll band The Young Sinclairs, and a self-published book of some utterly insane and hilarious stories and twisted humor I wrote when I was a kid.
AT THE START OF EVERY MONTH, WE’LL BE FEATURING A MIX OF SONGS FROM DJS, WHIPPED UP ESPECIALLY FOR POPSCURE
The secret’s out – Wivve put out the call for this special mix on Instagram last month, and we took the bait. Hip hop heavy with house elements, it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser to thrown on at any function.
The Virginia-based DJ spins all over the 757 and helps put on poppin’ events through Extra Company. In the past, he’s teamed up with Shake, and working with No Preserves this weekend for a stacked lineup, featuring session scarlet Opal and Stones Throw Record’s Simulator Jones.
Breathe (Bass Mix) – Hollaphonic
Blazin feat. Sophiegrophy – Airwolf
Ultimate (Yung Noize Remix) – Denzel Curry
I Want (Braveaux Mod) – MADEINTYO
Na Hora (Ft Faktiss & Chris McClenney) – Sángo
Russian Cream – Key Glock
Move – Key! & Kenny Beats
Love Hurts (feat. Travis Scott) – Playboi Carti
Live SheckWes Die SheckWes – Sheck Wes
Hater – Key! & Kenny Beats
PHARMACIST – NOLANBEROLLIN
PHARMACIST [UZUMI EDIT] – NOLANBEROLLIN
DOESKIFROMDAPACK – DOE$KI
New Slaves – Kanye West
Nonstop – Drake
Skateboard P – elijah who
Get It (4801 FREESTYLE) – Kyere
EVERY MONTH, WE’LL BE FEATURING A MIX OF SONGS FROM DJS, WHIPPED UP ESPECIALLY FOR POPSCURE
Her name is Dionna Edmondson, but you can call her Ella. Clubgoers in NYC know her as Ella Hu$$le, where she serves looks and spins jams any given weekend intertwining classic hip-hop hits seamlessly. If you can’t make it to the big apple for her set, catch her show “Hu$$le in the House” every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month on waxx.fm.
For this mix, she toughened up her love for R&B with rap tracks, creating a perfect blend of hard and soft. Throw this collection of remixes on at your next party for guaranteed grooves.
Walk It Like I Like (Talk It Edit) – Radical One
Oops – Mitchell Yard x Pasquinel
New Freezer (Dembow Remix) – Rich da Kid
Paper Planes (Remix) – Uki
Dude (Remix) – Beanie Man
Murder She Wrote – Chaka Demus
Bizzey (Kazkid remix) – Traag
Taste Riddim – Jamesy
Only You (Edit) – Ashanti
Ton – NA Horeyezon
Ride or Die – Joslyvio (Masquraid x Ravish edit)
Phone Down – Eryka Badu (Kingdom Edit)
Frontin (Edit) – Pasquinel
Shake (Remix) – Rilla Force
Interlude (Remix) – SDP
WYWD (Remix) – Girl Unit ft Kelela
Fin de Demand – Radical One
We asked our readers to name their favorite albums this year and what made them so special. after over 30 responses, we compiled the data to find popscure’s definitive top 5.
5) King Krule “the OOZ”
Artist/producer Archy Marshall has worn many hats and made music under many names in front and behind the scenes. He merges jazz, punk, and trip hop with this one. Despite a catalog of solemn songs, this may be his most melancholy lyrics to date. “The complete package from a talented lyricist, poetic, ambitious, beautiful and ugly at the same time,” said Tony Walters, “The best album this unique voice has made so far.”
4) Thundercat “Drunk”
Bassist Stephen Bruner’s songs have always had a goofy ting, but this record shows a more morbid side. Songs featuring a wide variety of acts from Kenny Loggins to Pharrell tackle the struggles of living life in a narrative that’s sporadic but cohesive. “An epic ride that runs a multitude of emotions, a bunch of breezy goofy tunes but also some potent sadness and profound jams about being an aimless adult,” Tony said, “As always, the bass playing is simply insane.”
3) The War on Drugs “A Deeper Understanding”
Adam Granduciel takes his quintessential dad rock vibes to a more dynamic level. With double the instruments, he’s added layers to a no-nonsense sound. “Immaculately written and produced classic sounding rock music,” said Ryan Bright. “The synth-driven album was a stylistic risk that landed firmly on it’s two feet and will go down as one of the greatest pop albums of this decade,” contributor Chris Craighead claims boldly.
2) SZA “CTRL”
While she’s offered her unique R&B sound on features throughout the years, SZA truly came into her own on her second full length. Really blunt, unapologetic lyrics and strange vocal choices are reminiscent of the late, great Amy Winehouse. “Take all your feels, drop them in the eye of a tornado, and glaze it with napalm,” writer Davey Jones said, “like Rihanna lilting diary excerpts as Björk crafts ekphrastic beats.”
1) Kendrick Lamar “DAMN.”
Unsurprising, this was on nearly half of our participant’s lists for best records. Kung Fu Kenny showcases a spectrum of emotions in this one, from anger to doubt to fear to sadness. Another well-thought-out, cohesive masterpiece that refreshes with each listen and unveils layers to pick apart each time. “I always love his concept albums and I love the stream of consciousness feel in this one,” said London Perry aka Dazeases, “playful and subtly surreal production…like a dream where you sense more of the details than explicitly happen.”
Summer bangers from Drake, Migos and 2 Chainz nearly hit the top spots with three votes each. Among them were R&B debuts from Sampha and Daniel Ceaser, indie sure things from Mac DeMarco and St. Vincent, and a brash third record from Vince Staples. “Sharp, emotional rhymes paired with experimental, energetic production,” London said.
With two votes each, 90s pioneers Bjork and Slowdive didn’t garner quite the enthusiasm as established artists from the 2000s such as Dirty Projectors and Land of Talk. “An intense take on life after a serious relationship, the industrial sounds layered with haunting vocals strangely exude a sense of humanity,” Chris said of the former. “This album feels like a confession I’m privileged to hear,” Frances G. said of the latter. Even though technically released the end of 2016, Run the Jewels still made enough lists to garter a mention. “More high energy bangers with incisive rapping from the best duo in rap today,” said Tony.
Join us today, 8pm @ Charlie’s Cafe
to celebrate the best songs this year. Bring a board game and chat about your faves amongst friends. Curated playlists from Norfolk’s brightest in the music industry and interactive dj set from tmobyle will be the night’s soundtrack!
The breadth of Hip Hop shined bright in 2017 as the genre continues to evolve in height and sound. Hip Hop/R&B dominated listeners’ playlists and headphones; having the most streams of any genre for the second year in a row. Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN,” SZA’s “CTRL” and Jay-Z’s “4:44” have been at the top of the year-end’s ‘best albums of the year’ lists, but I wanted to shed some light on a few lesser-known albums that I had on repeat this year.
J.I.D. – The Never Story
There were few rap albums this year where I was impressed by lyricism and wordplay, but J.I.D’s breathless delivery on “The Never Story” stood out among his contemporaries. Signed by J. Cole’s Dreamville Records and frequent Earthgang collaborator, J.I.D shows a blend of creativity, brashness and humor that embodies East Atlanta.
Smino – Blkswn
After the release of his mixtape “blkjptr” in 2015, Smino and producer Monte Booker coalesced to create an album that highlighted Smino’s unique vocals and church roots. The product is a tightly knit collection of tracks that hone in on Smino’s perspective of the world around him. The record highlights his homage to black women (Anita), his St. Louis upbringing and the Ferguson protests (Long Run), and hedonistic desires (Netflix & Dusse, Silk Pillows). Blkswn takes you on a rambunctious joyride that keeps you wanting more.
Brockhampton – Saturation II
Brockhampton exploded onto the scene in 2017 thanks to the Viceland series American Boyband and their debut album, “Saturation.” Their follow-up, “Saturation II,” is a well-polished record that has each member postulating ideas about their identity and how the world reacts around them.
Gabriel Garzón-Montana – Jardín
Gabriel Garzón-Montana’s Jardín is a fresh breath of air in a period where dark and moody R&B has become the norm. Almost solely produced by Montana, Jardín balances the soundscapes of funk-pop and downtempo hip hop to create one of the most unique sounding albums of 2017.
Sonder – Into;Brent Faiyaz – Sonder Son
Producers Dpat and Atu teamed up with Brent Faiyaz to form the Trio Sonder in 2016. Their debut EP Into is a soulful dive into love and existence, with production reminiscent of 90’s R&B. Faiyaz would later go on to release his debut solo album; reflecting on his own personal experiences. In Sonder Son, Faiyaz allows the listener to accompany him in his reflection of his dreams and the realizations he has in his pursuit of self-actualization.
Join us in a board game fueled listening party tomorrow night @ Charlie’s American Cafe, playing some of the best tunes of 2017 starting @ 8pm