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Tim Arnold: “It’s an Incredible Feeling to be on the Same Wave Length as so Many Other People.”

August 2, 2017

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It’s been a minute since the original trio of Good Old War played a show together in Philadelphia.

On Thursday at World Cafe Live, Tim Arnold will perform with Keith Goodwin and Dan Schwartz for the first time in Philly since Tim left the band in 2014 to start a family in Georgia and deal with health issues.

Now that he’s back, the band is in massive creation mode. They have three EPs ready to drop, with the first due out on September 1.

We caught up with Tim and learned about the new music the band is making and how he has worked through his personal issues.

You’re back with the band?

Yes sir, it’s official.

You never really left, right? You were still touring with them, even while being in Georgia for a while.

It was pretty bad before I went down to Georgia and then I tried to clean up my shit. I had a child and I was really trying to figure things out. So, it was on and off. It was never like I was seriously back in the band. It was like a trial run. I’d go on tour and then come back home and act a fool again.

Eventually, it was time. I went into drug treatment. They did a couple of tours without me while I learned how to be a human being.

Now, we’re back in it. It’s been a while now. I’ve proven to them that I can be a sober person.

I feel like a new man. I think we’re all feeling that kind of surge of energy.

Is that represented in the new music you guys are creating?

I definitely think so, yeah.

 

How is the new music different from when you guys started nearly a decade ago?

It’s the same structure to begin with. We have acoustic guitar and three vocalists. That’s the same.

But I think there’s definitely a lot more to write about now. Our chops are really up. And I think we’re just really having a lot of fun.

That’s not to say we weren’t having fun before but it’s different. Our sound is still Good Old War but there’s been sort of an awakening almost.

The difficulties you went through, are they a part of the music you guys are creating now?

Definitely. I think it’s been a part of the last couple records. It’s veiled in different ways. Now, it’s a clear scenario. Everything is more transparent. I’m not lying about doing dope anymore.

How long were you going through these difficulties?

Dude. The whole time. It’s been a while. It got really bad towards the end though. That’s why I had to drop it.

How long have you been clean now?

Almost two years.

What does life for Tim Arnold look like now?

I have a three-year old. That’s what it looks like. I’m just a single dad living in the burbs, playing in a band. It’s simple and that’s kind of how I need it to be right now.

In the immediate perspective, it’s not so simple. But if I step back, I see that I’m just taking care of my daughter and making music. That’s it.

What about life with the band? How often are you together?

Every day. We practice every day, at least Monday through Friday at the very least. It’s like a real job.

Do you have any fear about going on the road and running into temptation again?

No. They were actually big proponents of me getting clean. They don’t really mess around on the road. I’m pretty lucky to have that kind of support in a situation like that. I’m being held accountable and they’re not really in my face.

Has the music scene here changed since you guys got started?

A lot of the bands that were coming up just as we were getting started are still around. They’re still playing. But there are a lot of new bands, going through a lot of the stuff we went through. It’s hard for me to say. I’m not too involved. I’m living in the burbs and kind of focusing on myself right now, as selfish as that sounds.

But there are a lot of people making really good music now and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It’s a pretty diverse city and music is a big part of it.

That Americana, folky sound seems to be in favor now and you guys have been doing it for almost 10 years.

Yeah. We started it.

I’m kidding!

It’s cool. I know Satellite Hearts, Levee Drivers and The Lawsuits. They’re awesome.

That Americana sound is in favor now but it was on the rise when we were coming up, which was good inspiration and motivation.

 

What do you look forward to about being on the road again?

You know, chicks and stuff.

Ha, JK!

I look forward to just playing all the time, that vibe from playing in front of people. It’s totally being in the moment. It’s very present. It’s almost like meditating. You’re just doing what you’re doing at exactly that moment and so is everybody else. It’s an incredible feeling to be on the same wave length as so many other people, especially the people you are creating the sound with.

It’s live. You’re taking risks. You could suck and you could play the most amazing show of your life. Either way, it’s fun and every night is different.

It’s what I’ve loved to do for such a long time. I think now it’s going to be less about getting fucked up and more about just being awesome. It’s going to be really cool.

The World Café show is one of the last on the summer tour. Is it special to come back and play in Philly?

It is. And I love the World Café. That place sounds glorious. Everyone there is super chill. I’m glad we’re playing there. It’s going to be really sweet. I haven’t played a real Philly show in a while.

Shirley Manson: “The Role of the Artist is More Important Than Ever.”

August 2, 2017

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Garbage, the 90s hit-making group, will take the stage tonight at The Mann Center with Blondie, the legendary rock/punk/new wave band.

So, we caught up with Garbage’s lead singer, Shirley Manson, and talked about the role of the artist in the bizarre world we live in today, and why Garbage won’t make shiny, happy music. (image via Shirley’s facebook page)

What’s it like to make music and perform in this day and age? What’s it like to be on stage in this climate?

The actual experience of being on stage has not changed much, thank god. That has not been tampered with. That’s still as gorgeous of an experience as it’s always been. There’s a relationship that exists that remains unhampered with by anything outside the magic that exists when audience and band are together. That still remains the same, unlike every other aspect in the music industry.

Over the tenure of your career, what has changed?

What hasn’t changed? When we started Garbage, guitar music was very much in vogue. There were hundreds and hundreds of bands that were able to rise up and enter the mainstream. And now it’s very, very difficult for guitar bands to get that kind of exposure.

Of course, there are still hundreds of thousands of amazing guitar bands but they haven’t necessarily infiltrated the mainstream. They don’t enjoy the same cultural attention as, perhaps, a pop artist would. So, that has changed.

Is that because of the audience or the industry?

The industry has control over what people hear, what they’re exposed to.

The problem with bands and guitars is that they are not as economically viable as a young, 16-year-old kid straight out of school. They can make more money on a solo pop artist than they can with a band. A band costs a lot more money to put on the road and everything.

Record companies gravitate toward what makes them the most money and what makes them the most money are the artists who sell the most, obviously, and those artists tend to be mainstream, pop-oriented.

That’s one of the reasons we’re seeing less and less bands now. Record companies don’t want to be bothered dealing with them. I’m not sure I entirely blame them. Bands are pains in the ass, you know?

If we’re only getting that shiny, pop music that is going to sell, is there a larger impact on society?

I would argue yes but it’s also a little more complicated than that. Everything effects everything else, the domino effect. We currently have a culture that is obsessed with money, and obsessed with profit, and obsessed with whatever is most popular, and with what is the most dominating presence on social media, and so on and so on.

I just think we’re living in a strange time that none of us has fully gotten a grasp on yet. It’s the whole fallout from the technological revolution. This is the first time that human beings have dealt with so much at such speeds. We are all absorbing so much information in ways – and better ways – than we ever have as the human race. The human brain is really struggling to keep up with that.

It has yet to settle. We’ll see a shift again. I think we’re already seeing a mild shift right now. The shine of our smartphones is beginning to wear off. We’re not as enamored as we were, perhaps, five years ago. Things are changing, I think.

Is there still a role for the artist? Not just as an entertainer, but as an actual artist who is pushing boundaries and making a statement?

I think there is always a role for the artist. How big that role will be, I don’t know. But the role is always there.

It’s very important in our culture that we allow people to be in dissent, to argue with us, to debate with us, to challenge us. We all need to learn to engage in conversation without losing our temper, without getting upset, or resorting to insults. Like, you know, our current president.

We really have to elevate ourselves to the point when we are all challenging ourselves so that we can get to a point when everyone seems more happy. Clearly, all the sides of the equation are not happy right now.

We’re seeing a lot of unhappiness from all sides. The role of the artist is more important than ever.

Does that inspire you? To see what’s happening in society or in our political world?

We feel that we just want to create full-stop. What inspires us changes on a day-to-day level. Sometimes it will be our relationships. Sometimes it will be the kids. Sometimes it will be the environment. It changes from day-to-day.

That said, we’re just about release a new song that was inspired by the current climate and the imaginings of where, if we continue in this vein, where we could end up. It’s a bit of a rumination of where we feel our culture is currently headed. We hope that it will turn around again.

The song is an imagining of a future where everything that doesn’t make money is considered useless and destroyed. In this case, I was focusing on the idea of a horse. The horse used to be our beast of burden. We utilized the horse in a lot of different ways in industry and so forth. But the horse has become obsolete in terms of industry now. We ruminated on a future when government decides that horses have to go because they don’t serve a purpose any more. What a tragedy that would be.

That’s really depressing.

It is depressing! But I believe that history is long and we have not seen the end of the arc. We never will. We’re just these little creatures that scurry around for a small amount of time on Earth and sometimes, we mess things up.

Sometimes we make glorious art and sometimes we do beautiful things. I do believe that mankind will ultimately balance everything out. We all do evolve. We make mistakes but we ultimately tumble forward. So, I don’t feel too depressed.

Sometimes when there is difficulty, a light comes at the end of it, you know?

Could Garbage craft a song that is a feel-good radio hit?

I do but I feel like the world is populated with pop songs. And I want to do something that people aren’t talking about.

Sure, we could make a throwaway pop song but so what? It could be a cynical move to try to get plays on the radio and sell more records but ultimately, as an artist, it sort of wrong.

I feel like that’s for young kids! It’s what the young artists can do. They’re just discovering their joy. They’re just discovering love and sex and adventure. I feel like I want to do what nobody else I doing. I want to be different from everybody else. I want to serve a purpose. I want to look behind the curtain and lift up the carpet and figure out who left the big turd in the middle of the carpet.

Are you excited to hit the road and tour with Blondie?

It feels to me like a magical summer camp. We get to go out with people who have influenced and inspired us, and who we love and respect. We get to share the stage with them every night and it feels like an extraordinary adventure and wonderful privilege. We don’t take it lightly. It’s not often you get to share the stage with your idols.

I imagine Screaming Females had a similar feeling when they toured with you.

The beauty of being a musician and getting to travel, you get to play with other bands. Seeing bands like Screaming Females, who were just emerging, is exciting to see.

And it’s a privilege to share the stage with a young band. You continue to learn from new artists. They may learn from you but you really learn from them. It’s great to be reminded of that headspace when you’re just starting out. I gets you back in touch with what should be your priorities.

 

WIN FREE TICKETS! See Beach Slang @ The TLA on December 2!

July 28, 2017
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If you miss Beach Slang at Made in America in September, you can catch them upon their return from their fall tour, when they headline the TLA on December 2.

If you want a pair of tickets, email us at freeJUMPstuff@gmail.com (put “Beach Slang” in the subject line and your full name in the content box).

If you don’t want to take a chance, you can purchase tickets online here.

Wax Future: “All We Really Want is a Connection.”

July 20, 2017

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Text and images by Chip Frenette.

Heavy metal guitar, samples, hip hop beats and bubble machines are just the beginning of the experience that is Wax Future live, on stage.

Working the way through their summer tour with three dates left, the Manayunk-based act, Wax Future, recently opened up day two on the office stage at Camp Bisco. Wax Future did so with their rapidly developed and dedicated following in tow. It’s a following that is likely to grow as they play upcoming events Farm Fest, Big Dub and the Luna Light, Music and Arts Festival.

On day one of Camp Bisco, heavy rains moved through Montage Mountain and Resort in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Rain continued on through the early afternoon on day two when Wax Future took the stage. The rain fell steadily and the ground became muddy. But the crowd that had gathered was sizeable for this opening act on a dismal day. This was no random gathering of people. Wax Future bring a following – The Wax Mob.

Wax Future is Keith Wadsworth on guitar and vocals, Connor Hansell on synth and bass, and Aaron Harel on drums.

Wadsworth and Hansell have been developing Wax Future and producing for three years. Harel just recently joined the group. The band’s performance at Camp Bisco was the first with Harel officially as a member of the band. They had played together before, when Harel was with the act Mr. Sampson.

“We used to play shows together all the way back when they were called Rat’s Music,” said Harel of his new bandmates. “We got hooked up that way.”

Wadsworth was previously in the punk band The Beta Phase before working with Hansell on this electro-funk project.

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The use of samples coming from Hansell’s workstation of mixers, computers, synthesizers and a bass cover a wide range of genres. Rock, punk, hip hop and jazz are all present to create an eclectic sound. They are mixed with deep, low frequency bass grooves that sink into the bones of the listener.

When this project hatched three years ago, they had no idea how to produce the sound that they are producing live, let alone what their sound would be. The two had worked together in the studio on other projects, but never their own.

Working together and seeing Hansell’s competence in the studio drove Wadsworth’s desire to get know and work more with him. A trip to Basslights festival is when they decided that they would be working together on a project of their own.

“Let’s make something compelling, and then let’s figure out how we’re going to play it,” Hansell recalled saying.

That is when they started Googling how to use digital audio workstations live and what applications to use. It was a learning experience from the first minute for Hansell and Wadsworth.

“We didn’t even know like what application we were going to use to perform live,” said Hansell. “We didn’t really know how to bring our computer and computer music to the stage.”

After hours and hours of tutorials and a few months, the duo had produced a few tracks and some confidence. It was time to road test their sound at an open mic night at the Grape Room in Manayunk.

While the band was on the office stage at Camp Bisco, The Wax Mob was properly entertained.

Wadsworth engaged their fans frequently during sets, encouraging them to jump up and down or scream, and they followed his commands. He head banged and whipped his long orange locks during his hard-driven guitar solos.

This band brings a lot of energy to the stage and their fans return it in kind. There is more than just a band playing here. They are developing a following that carries a culture. One part of that culture is bubbles.

“There are bubbles at every show,” said Marissa Lugo of Brooklyn,  who danced as she toted a rather large, battery-powered bubble machine on her shoulder.

After their set, the bandmates joined their crowd and hung out with their fans. Two hours after their set ended, the trio could not walk more than 20 or 30 feet without fans stopping them. Some simply wanted to say hello. Others offered feedback about their set. The bandmates happily obliged all of them.

“It is a goal of mine to meet everyone in the world,” said Wadsworth. “Everyone has a story to tell.”

But there is more to it than just meeting people. Hansell explained that the interactions with The Wax Mob lets the band know more about how to better entertain them. Better entertained fans keep coming to shows. Fans coming to shows keeps Wax Future doing what they enjoy most – playing music.

“We just want to be out here and make music and meet people,” said Hansell. “All we really want is a connection.”

The Wax Mob got their name from their ability to mob social media with announcements or comments that are unsolicited by the band and drive attention to event promoters. Wax Future credit much of their quick and early success to the dedication and assertiveness of their fans.

“We have a group of completely dedicated and die-hard fans,” said Wadsworth. “If there is an opportunity for us to play somewhere, they make it known that they want us there.’”

It’s easy to become a member of the Wax Mob. Go to some shows and enjoy some music. Wax Future will perform at Farm Fest in Hammonton, New Jersey this weekend, at Big Dub in Artemas, Pennsylvania on July 26, and at the Luna Light, Music and Arts Festival in Darlington, Maryland September 28 and 29.

 

Kevin Hart Day at @ Max’s Cheesesteaks with Freeway, Chill Moody and Bria Marie.

July 7, 2017

KevinHartDay04Philly celebrated Kevin Hart‘s 38th birthday yesterday with a party in front of Max’s Cheesesteaks on Erie Avenue, about a block away from where the comedian grew up.

Mural Arts painted his likeness on the side of the building, enshrining the hometown hero who is said to be the highest paid comedian in the world right now. For his part, Hart begged people not to pee on his mural, even though it’s on the second floor.

Bria Marie and Chill Moody got the party started and then, after speeches from all the politicians and Kevin Hart, Freeway took the stage.

Free performed his three biggest hits, ending with “What We Do.” By that point, many in the crowd had jumped the security fence and a bunch of random folks rocked out on stage with the rapper who used to hang our not far way in North Philly.

With everyone singing along, it was a great moment to end a day full of Philly love.

Matthew Neenan: “I Always Need to Try New Things.”

July 7, 2017

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BalletX begins their summer series next Wednesday, featuring three pieces, including two world premieres. 

Choreographer Jodie Gates, a former principal dancer with the Pennsylvania Ballet, returns to Philadelphia with a brand new piece. The music for the performance was created by Ryan Lott of the electronic trio Son Lux.

Matthew Neenan, who co-founded BalletX with Christine Cox in 2005, will also debut a piece. And the troupe will bring back “Castrati,” which they debuted in 2011.

The Wilma Theater, the company’s regular home, is undergoing renovations, so this series will take place at the Prince Theater

Our G.W. Miller III attended a rehearsal and then spoke with Neenan about his new piece and what makes this company so special.

This production will be at the Prince. Does that change the way you created the performance?

It totally changed my whole thinking. I had a while different idea for a dance in mind. The piece I had in mind involved a dinner table but I think that would work better at The Wilma. What I love about that theater is that you always feel like the audience is kind of hugging the performers. If there’s going to be a table and all, that would be more intimate. At The Prince, the audience is kind of further back.

But they have these rafters on the sides of the stage, which I’ve always liked. So, I thought, how can I utilize that? I came up with a concept that takes advantage of that – people higher and lower. For me, that kind of represents power, authority. Within that, more ideas came to mind about power struggle and authoritative nature, and why someone’s in charge.

Of course, that got me thinking about our political scenario going on – not just in our country but the whole world. It’s just been such a sensitive subject for all of us, around the world.

Is that an overarching theme for the three pieces in the summer series?

No. I think Jodie’s kind of touches on it. You kind of can’t right now. We’re all feeling this.

The one piece, Castrati, has been done before. It deals with, well, you know.

My piece definitely is taking on that theme. I have the song “My country ‘tis of thee” in the piece, which represents our country but it can take on a deeper meaning.

When you design a production for a particular venue, does that limit your ability to take it elsewhere?

Well, that’s the thing. With this, I think we could have a small set. We could probably just build something. I know I’m taking the risk that the piece can’t tour. But this piece is a little strange, a little out there, a little awkward, and I’m not sure how people are going to respond to it.

I just can’t always be doing the same thing. I always need to try new things. It may not always be your best work but it becomes part of another layer as an artist.

I also want to make sure all the pieces are very diverse. Jodie Gates is really using ballet techniques. Not that we aren’t with mine but we are allowing it to be a little more awkward and out there. We’re developing a new vocabulary.

It’s always important to me that if you have three different works on the program, the audience should experience three different meals.

How did you wind up working with Jodie and Ryan Lott?

This will be her third work for the company. She and Ryan know each other from Los Angeles.

I was working in New York while they were rehearsing her piece but I know that both of these world premieres are extremely different. Even costume-wise and stuff.

How do you prepare people for what they’re going to experience when they’re seeing three different performances like that?

You can’t, really. You just have to trust that they’ll understand.

One thing we’ve gotten better at as a company is doing more full-lengths, with one thread line from beginning to end. Five or six years ago, when I was directing the company, a lot of the choreographers we were bringing in were doing the same things. Everything was kind of dark. The lighting was dark. The costumes were dark, jet black, sweats and a tank top. All the movement was very harsh.

That was interesting. You want to let the choreographer have their own voice. But now that there are so many pieces in the repertoire, we can bring works back. That means we can do that and a new choreographer can say, “Oh, I’m going to do something completely different.” That makes your piece stand out on its own.

And from the audience perspective, they want to see everything. They want to see something light, something on point, something off point, maybe something a little more weird or abstract, and maybe something that is more simple, and another that is a complete reflection of the music, like a beautiful Bach piano concerto.

Your new piece seems to maximize the silence.

It starts with a kind of eerie feel and then it gets into more of a melody, a little jazzy, a little fun. Then it goes into the silence. Then I have this classical sounding piece that Wynton Marsalis is playing.

Is that something that makes BalletX special, different from more traditional ballet? The diversity of styles and arrangements?

I’d say yes and no. I’ve done that for even big classical companies. Sometimes, I’ll do a hodgepodge of different music, especially if you’re using recorded music. When I have live music, I do stuff from the same composer.

And taking advantage of the silence, is that a hallmark of BalletX?

You don’t see that as much in traditional ballet. But a lot of choreographers do take advantage of the silence. I really love those moments of silence. I think it’s nice for the audience to just kind of sit back. It allows the dancers to become a little more human. They become the music. They become the voice of the piece rather than the music dictating them.

Zilla Rocca: It’s A South Philly Album

July 5, 2017

Zilla Rocca is a productive – if not busy – man at peace.  He’s a solo artist, one third of his own nuclear family and one half of Career Crooks (along with producer Small Professor). The duo recently released the Good Luck With That LP.

The album tackles and speaks to Zilla’s own life and experiences, likely knowing it won’t necessarily speak or be relatable to everyone. Nor will it speak to what many want to portray. His lyrics often capture that time right before many people fall asleep, when the truth isn’t escapable, despite what one wishes to portray to others or tell themselves.

Topics range from dusted rappers, exes and lust, to a story about a degenerate gambler and the consequences, as well as the workingman’s plight as someone who is not new to the game of life or the music industry (please refer: #FailedRapTales).

Zilla was kind enough to break from 4th of July festivities to speak with JUMP.

 

So besides a new wife and newer baby, what’s your world like since the last time we caught up for JUMP?

Just being a dad and a family man, but that’s changed everything for me. It’s made me realize why I still want to make music, since music isn’t the number 1 priority for all facets of my life anymore, and that is because I just love doing it, man. It’s been almost 20 years since I decided to rap as a very young man, and with that decision, I’ve made so many weird and interesting friends all over the planet. My son isn’t even 2 years old yet and loves to make beats! It’s crazy. I used to sing him the hook to “The World is Yours” to rock him to sleep when he was first born. I still love it as a fan and as an artist, so with Career Crooks, it’s exciting to stay sharp and put out an album with Small Pro, who I’ve been friends with for almost 10 years now. My time is more limited than ever, so I like spending it only on things I really enjoy with people I care about the most. That’s different. Also, shouts to URBNET for signing me – got my first deal well into my thirties!

When or how did the idea for the first song, the title track “Good Luck With That,” come to be?

We were wrapping up the album and felt like we didn’t have a good introduction song. So I was listening to Heltah Skeltah’s first album Nocturnal where they intro’d the album by using all of the song titles. I thought that was a dope idea, and Smalls sent me the beat. He originally made it for Westside Gunn and Conway but was like, “I’d rather just use it for ours instead of waiting on those dudes to check for it.” And voila – that’s the opener.

Is it a point of frustration or pride that a detail like this could be missed by some listeners?

This album dropped May 19th, and by May 20th people were incredibly vocal about all the parts of the album they loved and understood right away. That’s never happened to me before, because most of my records were more layered and abstract to a degree. Like even when I thought I was being straight forward, my projects typically took a while for people to pick up on. But with the Career Crooks album, it’s unapologetic East Coast rap, and people knew of me and Small Pro as friends and Wrecking Crew members for years now, but having a real duo set up, they were accepting it with open arms right away. It was really inspiring to have people from around the world catch references I made to obscure athletes, or be impressed with the album art. It’s a South Philly album and I’m grateful people from different corners of the planet are rocking with it.

What is the significance of the Mike Mulligan character from Fargo?

We’re hip hop guys, so someone like Bokeem Woodbine has been one of “our guys” since the early ’90s, from “Strapped” to “Dead Presidents” to even being in the Wu-Tang videos for “The Jump Off” and “Careful Click Click.” When he stole the entire second season of Fargo, it was like watching a dude from your neighborhood who could hoop a little bit get drafted in the NBA lottery, like, “Wow I always thought he was good but now he’s on the main stage!” I would argue that the second season of Fargo is one of the greatest television shows ever made, and Bokeem’s character Mike Milligan is the first person I think of at least as to why it happened that way. The grandiose speeches, the ruthless pursuit of power, the hair, the showdowns with law… We just wanted to pay homage to him on this album.

And Steve Martin? You sort of black out on this one…

I don’t know man ha ha! I just was freestyling to another Small Pro beat on a Saturday afternoon like seven years ago while I was going to the laundromat on Front and Snyder Avenue. I was just walking back and forth to get my clothes washed, rapping to myself, and boom – “Keep pace, lead car, ZR, Planes Trains Automobiles, STEVE MARTIN!” Smalls remixed it for the album and we made it a single with a video that we shot at Jinxed in Fishtown – shouts to everyone at Jinxed for taking me in. They did a lot for me. Anyway, we performed “Steve Martin” for the first time together in New York a few weeks back and Quelle Chris said to me, “I like songs like that where you keep bringing back the same couplets,” and I was like “Me too!” So it’s just a song about reacting to a beat without much thought to it and going off.

You had mentioned the song is actually old (originally having a different beat). What made you release it now? What made it relevant?

Like I said, that song existed many many moons ago and I always loved it, but it never made it on any of my projects for whatever reason. So when we were rounding out this album as Career Crooks, I thought it would be dope to revisit. Small Pro hates almost all of his beats that are old, so naturally he wanted to put a new spin on it. I love the final version – it’s really hectic. It’s a great closer for a show and an album to me, and it sums up our group so far–just two guys who have chemistry and go with the feeling. It’s carefree but it’s gritty.

You had mentioned the EP is a mix of old and new. How do you go about selecting something out of the vault?

I’m very very critical of using stuff that’s in the stash. There’s a reason why most songs I’ve made that haven’t been released, you know, haven’t been released, ha ha. But sometimes, you make a song you love and it’s always the odd man out when you compile a mixtape, an album, an EP, etc. So we didn’t have to dig too hard. The album started with Small Pro remixing songs I made with another cat, and that relationship soured, so I wanted to get the songs out because I still loved them. Smalls loves remixing, so I thought it would be a real quick turnaround, but the more he kept doing it, the more we felt like it should be something more than that, it should be an actual realized group. So then we started making new songs and there you have it. He really did a Madlib job to the album in terms of beat switches, interludes, movie clips, arrangement, etc. I’m used to being the one doing that but he really did incredible work. I got to sick back and be a lazy ass rapper for once.

You being a happily married man, I’m guessing “Lipstick Itch” was an older track?

I wrote “Lipstick Itch” in 2012 right when I broke up with my last girlfriend. My next girlfriend became my wife, so I was conflicted about putting the song on there, but I felt like the song is very real to men who are in the late 20s or early 30s and how it gets harder with relationships sometimes as you get older. Like you start realizing what makes you actually happy, how maybe you were the root of the problem in past relationships. “Lipstick Itch” is a song I don’t replay a lot because I’m so far removed from that guy now, but it’s 100 percent honest about where I was going into my thirties as a single guy at the time.

Where did the idea for the story in “Cold Ten Thousand” come from? 

“Cold Ten Thousand” is loosely based on people I knew for a long time in South Philly, who were real people but also fit the film noir archetypes – the loser who always eats through money, the unsatisfied wife who makes a move in a dangerous direction, the loan shark who is your buddy but is only there to collect. And I delivered pizza for a long time, so I met guys who were hustling gigs, betting money, paying off bookies with their side gigs specifically. One of my best friends was a bookie when we were teenagers so other parts of the song are based on the degenerates he was dealing with who were kids and grown men, going to their house trying to shake them down, or showing up at their jobs to collect. It’s not fun, ha ha.

I know you pay attention to things like sequencing. What was the narrative arc you had in mind when arranging this album?

We arranged it like Nas’ It Was Written — not to fit any specific concepts, just to put a collection of hot songs together. There’s some story joints in there, some rapping for the sake of rapping, some wild hot beats on deck, posse cuts. That was it.

To say someone is a student of the game is cliche, but it would be hard to argue you don’t fit the bill. How does being a prolific consumer of music affect you as an MC?

I study people heavily, from their flows, to their rhyme schemes, to how they move on stage, to their artwork, etc. I never felt like I had all the answers as an artists, so I always kept a sharp eye as a student from the time I was 14 until now. Plus, I’ve been a producer for 15 years, so that led me to be a consumer of all types of music too. In general, I like to learn and always find out what made people do things that they’ve done, what environments were they in, what was the hot style at the time everyone was copying, etc. With us, Career Crooks pay a lot of homage to ’90s rap specifically but from a place where it’s not in opposition to anything current. I like 2 Chainz, Drake, Kanye, Vince Staples, I just don’t make that music naturally on my own. Small Pro loves all kinds of producers, from Dabrye and Lex Luger, to Large Professor (obviously) and Havoc. We’re the only rap duo in South Philly that loves Prefuse 73.

When your son is old enough to understand, what is the first song of yours would you sit down with him and play for him? And why that one?

Man….that’s an incredible question. There’s a song I’m writing now about him and his mom, it’s taken me forever to write because our lives change constantly with him growing, learning more stuff. It’s hard for me to put in all in a song because I always feel like there’s stuff I’m leaving out and I want it to be special. Regardless though, like most sons, I think he’ll think either I’m a total cornball or a superhero whenever he hears my songs and understands it. He did like the video for “Steve Martin.” But he’s been listening to nothing but rap and podcasts whenever he’s in the car with me. He’s a big talker already because of that.

From story telling to honest introspection to elements of the noir rap you pioneered to nods to artists and a time you hold in high esteem without simply trying to recreate that time and place. It’s all in there. Do you think this album best represents you?

This album came together in a strange way, where some songs were written in ’09, ’12, ’14, ’16. So it does take a picture of where I was in all of those stages as an artist and as a person. I lived in four or five different parts of the city during those times, went headlong into specific styles and everything. It represents me, but it’s also more like my first project ever, Bring Me the Head of Zilla Rocca, where I can hear myself just enjoying the art of rapping. Most of my projects over the years weren’t very joyful – they were focused, or conceptual, or made in reaction to something negative. Good Luck With That is an effortless listen so I hope people want to hear what we do next.

 

 

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