Devin Burgess Showcases Versatility with That’s Unfortunate LP

Devin Burgess
Devin Burgess
Photo Credit: Curtis Turner

Devin Burgess is flying high after the release of what he knows is his most well-rounded project yet. That’s Unfortunate, Devin’s latest full-length album, arrived last week complete with 20 songs, a handful of features, and a multi-faceted display of the Cincinnati rapper/producer’s far-reaching skills.

After losing his job last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Burgess says, “I had all this free time, and I could finally sit down and work on music. That’s Unfortunate is a product of that.”

With the newfound time to dedicate toward his craft, Burgess has been firing on all cylinders. So far this year, he’s shared Swooty Mac collab Sunday Morning, his solo EP 2018 and his alter-ego beat tape Kei$ha, not to mention co-producing Brandon Isaac’s latest album, The Sketches of Healing 2020. However, That’s Unfortunate stands apart from Burgess’s latest projects for its versatility. The LP balances vibe-y cuts, party tracks, love songs and bangers, and hears the MC switch up his flow between melodic anthems and hard-hitting raps.  

“I always feel like people want to put me in a box or think that I’m one dimensional – that I can’t tap into different things,” he tells Audiofemme. “So, I wanted this to be the fullest representation of me. Like, if no one ever heard me before, this project is the best way to introduce everyone to me and what I have to offer.”

That’s Unfortunate opens with a powerful spoken word by B.A.D. (Be A Difference) and snippets of poetry are woven throughout the effort. 

“I’ve always gravitated toward B.A.D.’s poems,” Burgess says of the Cincy-based poet and songwriter. “I thought it was important for a Black woman to be the first voice people heard on my album. I wanted it to be something unexpected. And Black women are the reason I am the way I am today. I was raised pretty much by my mom and my aunties and my grannies, so I wanted to show some love.”

Other highlights include a well-placed sample from The Lox and Dipset’s August Verzuz battle on the outro of “Peace,” as well as a feature from Pink Siifu. 

“That’s the homie,” Burgess says of the Cincinnati-bred Siifu. “We were listening to different beats, and he’s always eager to make music. We got the beat from demahjiae, he’s an Oakland-based producer, and I think Siifu wrote his verse in like ten minutes!”

“I had never gotten a verse like that from him,” he continues. “The tracks we’ve done in the past have been more vibe-y, more personal, but on this one he was just going off. So, I knew that I needed to show up, because I’m not trying to get washed on my own record. I wanna make sure that if he’s up here, I’ve gotta match it or be above it. I think it’s healthy competition – it keeps everyone on their toes.”

Burgess has already released clips for That’s Unfortunate cuts “Everlasting” and “Baritone,” and says he has a third video on the way. “I’ve already reached a personal best for videos since I’ve [filmed] three, and I’m definitely trying to put out as many visuals as possible,” he says. 

“The energy around this project has been so different, but in a good way,” he adds. “I’ve never felt this way about a body of work before and I feel like I really applied myself in every way, shape and form. I feel like this is the most cohesive, most consistent body of work I’ve ever done.”

Follow Devin Burgess on Instagram for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Oompa Celebrates “Feeling Like a Bad Bitch” With “Lebron”

Photo Credit: Ally Schmaling

Boston-based rapper Oompa makes music as empowering as it is energizing and sonically unique, and her latest single “Lebron” is no exception. In the beat-driven track, her powerful voice raps about independence, confidence, and trusting yourself. “I’m the judge/And the jury/And I call it how I see it,” she declares in the first verse, going on to interweave biblical and basketball references alike into an upbeat self-esteem anthem.

Oompa came up with the idea to sing about pro basketball player Lebron James when she was contemplating who embodied “that feeling of feeling like a bad bitch,” she explains. “I was like, who must feel like a bad bitch all the time? It’s between Drake and Lebron — it’s got to be Lebron. It doesn’t matter what conversation Lebron is in — he just seems so unaffected by people’s opinions, and he outperforms himself. It seems like he’s always in competition with himself.”

She aimed to give a sound to this stance of being who you are and not worrying about anybody else through punchy drum patterns and a strong bass track. “I was like, when I’m in the club, I want to feel this tickle my sternum,” she says. She also incorporated sparse, sometimes nonsensical lyrics that flowed naturally without much thought — a style she’s applied to the whole of her forthcoming album Unbothered, which comes out October 1 and includes “Lebron.”

“I just wanted this whole project to be about fun for me,” she says. “It’s about removing this pressure to be a better lyricist or songwriter or have a better production team — all the things that suck the life out of making music. I never give myself that space; I’m super precise. [But here] I give myself permission to say things, and I think that comes through in the record. It feels fun and like summertime vibes.”

That would just as accurately describe the video for “Lebron,” which features Oompa shooting hoops and dancing on the basketball court with friends. “It’s really about seeing the city come together and having a great time on the court,” she says. However, it also alludes to the story of how the rapper got her stage name. “I used to play basketball at Washington Park, and all the older kids would call me ‘Oompa Loompa baby’ because I was short and chubby,” she recalls. This, for her, was a Lebron moment — not just because she was playing basketball, but also because she put herself out there and didn’t worry about what other people thought.

In a broader sense, her upcoming album revolves around the concept of joy. “Joy as aliveness, joy as a commitment to being on Earth, and also this idea that joy is not a constant; it is not a thing that once achieved, you get it forever, but it is about the commitment to the pursuit of it and finding joy in the pursuit,” she explains.

Her latest single, “Go,” for instance, captures the kind of sound you might hear by the pool on a tropical vacation, with dreamy synths, warped vocals, and a catchy R&B-inspired tune as she sings about the bliss of a new relationship that nevertheless seems doomed from the outset. Paying homage to funk and soul, the song was inspired by a moment Oompa shared with a partner. “We were in a convertible with the top down, and I was like, where are we going? And at the time, I was just completely avoiding all the red flags with a particular relationship and was like, we’re just gonna have a good time. It’s the summer, the top is down, we’re just gonna go ’til we can’t go no more,” she remembers.

Oompa recorded her latest music in a home studio she set up during the pandemic, where she honed her improvisational style. “I free-styled it four bars and free-styled it another four bars and wrote another five bars, and this was a process of letting go and not being so meticulous and feeling what it means to embody this place I’m in,” she says. “The process was a lot of freestyle, a lot of carelessness in the way that I needed.”

She’s currently working on several music videos as well as a short film to accompany her album. Outside of her music, she’s an activist for LGBTQ+ rights and currently serves on the leadership council for The Record Co, which provides affordable workspaces for emerging musicians in Boston, particularly queer artists and artists of color. The organization is “trying to understand the barriers between music makers and their music,” she says. “One of the biggest things we’d talked about was how hard it is to make music in the first place.”

In her own musical journey, Oompa has surmounted obstacles by being true to herself and following her passions. She began by rewriting Eve and Left Eye lyrics in her journal and rapping them, then joined rap battles in middle school, got into spoken word poetry in high school, and started performing on stage in college. “I was so afraid to perform, but I was like, I’ve got such a burning passion for it,” she remembers. She met some friends who help her put out her first mixtape and has continued to chase whatever she feels excited about – in true Lebron form.

Follow Oompa on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Khari Unleashes Institutionalized Sequel to This Is How We Feel EP Series

Photo Credit: Noir Media

Khari continues his hard-hitting three-part EP series This Is How We Feel with Act 2 (Institutionalized). Picking up where Act 1 (Trapped) left off, the Cincinnati native continues to balance harrowing lyricism with thoughtful ruminations about racism, the criminal justice system, mental health and more. Production is handled by Courtney Kemper, G1, AvAtor Hughes, Nick Burke and Maaster Matt, with features from Kamiylah Faatin and Paris.

This year, Khari also launched his own record label, Be The Best (BTB) Records, through which Act 2 (Institutionalized) was released. 

“I really wanted to… take back control over my art instead of just giving it out to streaming right away,” he tells Audiofemme

Here, Khari talks about his new project, when Act 3 will be released, upcoming visuals and more. Listen to This Is How We Feel: Act 2 (Institutionalized) and read his full interview below. 

AF: What does that phrase institutionalized mean to you as it relates to this project? 

This whole EP series has been a process of me taking the listener through what it means to be mentally in a prison, or even physically in a prison, because I’ve got a lot of family and friends locked up. So, looking at the similarities between those two, even in your day-to-day life, we can be institutionalized. We can be programmed. We can be conditioned to think a certain way. Whether it’s school – I’ve been institutionalized by that – there’s a number of things that line means, but that’s really like the main thing I was trying to get across to people.

AF: “Numb” is a super powerful song to start the EP with. That song, and a lot of these records, is very personal; what headspace were you in when you were writing and recording it?

I really wanted to be vulnerable and honest this time around, just give people more of me. And “Numb,” I wrote around the time when George Floyd had just got murdered. Everything was happening in the country, just a whole bunch of turmoil, and I was just feeling like super numb to it all because, mind you, this stuff been happening forever. I was at a point where I was like, I don’t even know how to feel about anything anymore. I’ve been through so much stuff in my personal life, and then also the plight of my people, it’s all weighed down on me. So, I tried my best to convey that on that record. 

AF: “Eve” is another important song. How did you and Kamiylah Faatin get linked up?

She’s actually the first R&B singer [to be signed] to my record label, BTB Records. She’s super talented.

AF: Having her on the track took it to another level, for sure. 

Oh yeah. That song was for Black women, so I really wanted her voice on there. She just really gave it that energy, so I was just extremely, extremely blessed to have her on the track. 

AF: On Act 2, you talk about taking back ownership of your craft, and you’re releasing the project on Bandcamp and through your record label for one week before streaming services. What made you want to do it that way?

That was a big thing for me this time around. I really wanted to, like you said, take back control over my art instead of just giving it out to streaming right away. Because we only get half a penny for every stream. It’s like all this work just to build up a certain number of streams and hope people listen to it on these platforms, when there’s people that are willing to support what we’re doing out here. I just wanted to take it back to when I was a young kid, 15 years old, selling my mixtapes at my school. Just put it out there and allow people to support it this way and see what we can bring in. Especially now with the label, trying to build that up. 

AF: It’s super dope that you launched your own label here because you’re keeping the talent and revenue in Cincinnati. Like, you can keep building it up and become a pioneer in the city.

It’s funny you say that, because that’s always been a big goal on my list. To really be a staple in Cincinnati. I think what we’re missing is the revenue and the attention. We can bring that in. We can make it so these talented artists here can start really living off this music. 

AF: I also saw your “Sha’Carri (Amari Freestyle)” on Instagram where you rap about Sha’Carri Richardson being suspended from competing in the Tokyo Olympics. What made you want to write a song about that?

It’s funny how that came about, because I told myself I was not gonna rap until the album came out. Like, no one’s gonna hear me rap until the album. But I just had to put that out, because that really is some bullshit. You know I’m saying? And that there are people locked up for [marijuana] right now. Why? When these big white corporations are eating off marijuana? I already was touching on some of these topics in the project, and then I just felt like I had to drop something because it’s a stupid situation.

AF: Absolutely. “Tin Man” is another song that stood out on the project. What was making that track like?

That was a fun song to record because that was my first time using auto-tune. With this project, I was trying to step outside my comfort zone and not be so locked into being this guy that’s only doing one type of sound. So, I wanted to do the auto-tune, I wanted to have more trap sounds, more modern sounds, but still give the substance and the content.

AF: You’re gearing up to drop a video for that song next; any release date in mind for Act 3 yet?

Well, I said Act 2 was gonna come out in January [laughs], but I do want to get Act 3 out soon, maybe at the top of next year, because I’m already working on some newer things that’ll be, like, the next phase of my career past This Is How We Feel. I’m excited about that. 

AF: Who have you been listening to/inspired by lately?

I really like the new J. Cole album, that’s really inspired me a lot. Tyler, the Creator’s album is probably my favorite right now. And H.E.R., I’ve been really tapped in with R&B lately and her new project, too. But, I like what these more lyrical guys are doing right now, you know, stepping outside their comfort zone. I’m trying to do the same thing right now, so that’s given me a confirmation about what I’m doing.

AF: What else have you got planned coming up?

Visuals, visuals, visuals. I want to do a visual for every song on the project. And I want to do a tour, since we can do shows now. I’m definitely trying to tour in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky – do like a little tri-state tour. So, that’s getting set up for probably the fall.

Follow Khari on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Papa Gora Talks Latest Album The Feel, New Videos And More

Papa Gora
Papa Gora
Photo Credit: Noir Media

For Papa Gora, everything comes down to timing. The Cincinnati native has been working hard the past few years to emerge as a rising star in the city’s hip hop scene and released his latest album, The Feel (An Album by Papa Gora), earlier this year. The project was initially meant to drop in 2020 – a year that seemed bleak for many local artists. However, Papa Gora decided to delay the album, which ended up bringing on a host of new opportunities, remote performances and organic collaborations. 

“Everything with this album was based on a feeling; I wanted to make sure that I expressed myself so people could feel something from the music,” he tells Audiofemme. “This one started with production – the beats. The intro song [‘The Best’] was the first beat that I got, and from there, more producers were sending me different sounds.”

“Nothing was forced, it came about really naturally,” he adds. The feelings he wanted to capture shine through on every track on the album – from the spiritual highs of “Testify” to the raw emotion on “Violence,” which features Cincinnati rapper Jay Hill

“I had ‘Violence’ sitting there and was like, who can bring that emotion in? Jay Hill,” he says. “Shalom, same experience. He’s more of a poet and he was transitioning into songwriting at that time, and we ended up making ‘Divine Timing’ maybe in 20, 25 minutes. And also Harmony [Haze], her vocals are just amazing. I needed that texture to add an extra layer to that song, [‘Truth Will Set You Free’], and she did amazing.”

Papa Gora’s visceral vocals also stand out on “Too Wild,” which, like “Violence,” speaks vulnerably about police brutality, systemic racism and loss. 

“I can’t say there was a particular thing that triggered those songs, but they came from a soulful place; a place of this keeps happening,” Papa Gora says. “Even before 2020, stuff like police brutality, violence, people getting murdered… I actually had a coworker whose son got killed, and I’m not saying she was the reason I wrote the song, but it is something that constantly happens and myself, as an artist, I feel like I have a responsibility to speak out about it.” 

Papa Gora also recently wrapped up a remote performance series called “Live-N-Direct,” for which he was able to virtually perform several of the album’s solo tracks as well as collaborations.  

“It was awesome. I honestly did it because I miss performing,” he said about the series. “I miss that, and it’s not the same as performing in front of people, but performing in general is just my favorite thing to do. And I was able to include Shalom and Jay Hill on the performances, and we did the season finale at a clothing store in Cincinnati. It was a great experience and it came about naturally.”

Later this month, Papa Gora will head to Texas for a string of live shows. He’s also performing at the Thompson House in Newport, Kentucky on May 28. Currently, he is putting the finishing touches on a new music video for album cut “Open Your Heart,” which is slated for release at the end of this month.

“I always say the album is done, but it’s not finished,” he reflects. “I’m really big on visuals and I feel like I need to take my time and push out visuals for almost every song on this album. That’s one thing I’m really focusing on right now, but my studio is also in my house, so I’m always creating.”

Follow Papa Gora on Instagram for ongoing updates. 

Cincy Rapper Swooty Mac Releases Sunday Morning LP in Collab with Devin Burgess

Swooty Mac
Swooty Mac
Photo Credit: Guy Nee Whang

Swooty Mac and Devin Burgess have gifted fans their first joint project: Sunday Morning. The eight-song offering houses some of Swooty’s most honest and direct lyricism ever, not to mention some truly excellent beats by Burgess. The project also includes an ample amount of vibe-y bangers (opener “Function” and “Twenty” are my favorites) and the boo’d up “Bath Water – Extended.”

Cincinnati rapper Swooty and rapper/producer Burgess first linked up on Swooty’s 2018 debut EP, Jolie: The Swooty McDurman Project. Since then, Swooty says he and Burgess have teamed up together on roughly 20 songs – some released, some still in the vault.

“It was different [making Sunday Morning] mostly because [Devin] didn’t rap on the project. Usually we’re trading bars, but he didn’t rap on this at all or even do a background vocal. That was the biggest difference,” Swooty explains. “We have a pretty good chemistry, though, so it’s kind of hard for us not to come up with something.”

The beat Burgess made for “Bath Water – Extended” is what kicked off Sunday Morning. After hearing the instrumental, Swooty co-wrote the sensual cut with JayBee Lamahj and set out to make a full project with Burgess.

Swooty explains that initially, Sunday Morning was set to be a four-song EP. But, it was Burgess – who also mixed, mastered and engineered the project – who wanted to turn it into an album. Swooty agreed to record four more songs, but then he learned he was going to become a father for the second time.

“I’ve got a 7-year-old and [now] a 1-year-old and, you know, I had to handle my responsibilities before I dive too much into being a rapper,” he says, taking some time off to focus on his family before returning to finish Sunday Morning. “But, it worked out,” he continues, “because two years later we came out with a dope ass project.”

Learning he was going to have another child also made finishing Sunday Morning “even more special,” Swooty said. The album tackles several vulnerable topics that the rapper had previously steered clear of, for the most part.

“The stuff I was going through, the stuff that I was talking about on the project, it [took] time for me to express that stuff,” he confessed. “A lot of my music is personal, but it’s like surface-level stuff. This was, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and see what’s going on. Like, I feel this way, and now I’m telling you why.”

Swooty dabbles in love on the pleading “Teach Me” and insecurity on the self-reckoning “blue af,” but he pushes his boundaries the most on “Neo.” On the stripped-down cut, the rapper examines co-parenting and juggles anxiety with ambition in an intensely personal, yet sharply relatable way, making it a standout track. Amazingly, though, it was almost cut entirely from the project.

“[‘Neo’] was just me being open and it’s one of the most vulnerable tracks on there,” Swooty says. “I wasn’t really rapping; I was kind of just talking and saying how I feel. Me and my daughter’s mom were going through some stuff at the time – arguing, breakups, and that’s pretty much what I was talking about on that record. And the reason everybody likes it is the reason I almost didn’t put it on there – I was thinking, don’t nobody wanna hear me be all sad and shit.”

Because of the song’s success, Swooty said he’s become more comfortable being vulnerable in his music. “I can do more stuff where I’m being sensitive,” he says. “I don’t gotta stick my chest out and be the big bad guy all the time.”

“I’m extremely proud of Swoot for delivering and executing such vulnerability and emotion,” Burgess adds. “I know how much that can take out of a person.”

Looking ahead, fans can expect some visuals from the project – possibly merging with companion clips for Swooty’s 2020 offering, Do4Luv. Devin Burgess, on the other hand, is set to release his live EP, 2018, on Valentine’s Day, followed by his rap album, That’s Unfortunate, next month.

“I really put thought and effort into other people’s music as if it was my own,” Burgess says of Sunday Morning. “I try to make everything as special as possible and this felt special to me.”

Follow Swooty Mac and Devin Burgess via Instagram for ongoing updates.

Dayo Gold Channels Great-Grandfather on Timeless Eddie Kane EP

Dayo Gold / Eddie Kane
Dayo Gold / Eddie Kane
Photo Credit: Mookie Love

Dayo Gold makes his return with his latest offering, The Eddie Kane Chronicles, Vol. 1. The six-track EP finds the Cincinnati rapper trying out a smooth flow with classic, old school beats – a stylistic choice that he says is a testament to his great-grandfather. 

“My great-grandad’s real name is Ed Bendross,” Dayo told Audiofemme. “His nickname – one of my aunts always used to call him – was Eddie Kane, because he always stayed with a cane as he got older. The other reason she called him that was because he was just so smooth. You never saw him sweat, never saw him pressed, never saw him yelling, none of that. It was just a little trove in the family, and they’ve always said that I remind them of him.”

“So, once I got to sit down – with all of this quarantine stuff going on – I really just got to sit down with myself and I felt like a lot of those comparisons were similar,” he continued. “[This project] is almost like a reincarnation of him, but it’s still me… It’s almost like you’re getting a piece of both of us.”

While listeners can usually depend on Dayo’s music to set the roll-a-blunt-and-sip-some-wine vibe, the MC sounds especially at-ease over the EP’s nostalgic-sounding instrumentals.

“I feel like it was just my most natural sound at the end of the day; like the beats brought that out in me,” he said. “With this quarantine time, I’ve been experimenting to find out what my fans like, and I’m seeing that people are digging this vibe. So, I can be my real, natural self, and it still works.”

Most of the beats on the EP were provided by Dayo’s “right-hand man,” local beatsmith Trey Young, while “Old School” was produced by Eb & Flow.  

“As far as anything that I drop, he’s always there giving me some input or advice,” Dayo said of Trey. “He’s always hands-on with my projects, and this one he definitely showed up big. He made a majority of the beats, and we just sat there and kind of went for a certain type of sound this time – and built upon that sound.”

Next up for Dayo will be The Eddie Kane Chronicles, Vol. 2, which he says he’s already gotten started on. The “Twang” rapper also plans to drop a video for “Old School” next month, following visuals for EP cuts “Caprice” and “A Wise Man Once Said,” the latter of which features Sax B. 

“I think videos are the best way to get to the people right now,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t have enough visuals already – for my best songs. My problem was that I usually have samples and stuff, but that’s another reason I’m really proud of this tape; there’s no samples. We really did it from the ground-up.” 

Although the current pause on live shows means he probably won’t be able to play The Eddie Kane Chronicles, Vol. 1 for an in-person audience anytime soon, Dayo says one silver lining of the pandemic has been the extra time to write and record new music. 

“I feel like as artists, or really just anybody who’s a creative, this year has been a blessing in disguise,” he explained. “You can get more creative, and it’s a chance to see what works inside your home.”

“Being a creative, you just gotta stay flexible,” he added. “So, I’m not trying to rush anything. And being sensitive to the world as well, since there’s been a lot going on.”

Earlier this year, Dayo did get to participate in one of Mind The Method’s live-streamed performances. He’ll also be featured in Donuts N’ Akahol’s upcoming virtual cypher.

But for now, he’s celebrating his new EP. 

“I feel like what made this project special is that I truly believe in it and I believe in the process as well,” he said. “I believe that this is a great foundation for what I’m doing and the direction – brand-wise and sound-wise. And I appreciate everybody that helped, whether it was visually, sonically and in any way. I just wanna keep going off of this and hopefully people like what’s going on.” 

Follow Dayo Gold on Instagram for ongoing updates.

JayBee Lamahj Brings The PHONK to Bittersweet LP Nostalgie Supreme

JayBee Lamahj serves up the bittersweet taste of nostalgia on his third studio album, Nostalgie Supreme. Using dreamlike and jazz-tinged production – courtesy of his PHONK bandmates Amari Emàn, Roberto, and others – the rapper thoughtfully and effectively captures his past, while offering a hopeful, triumphant gaze into his future.

“From this project, I want people to take away just an appreciation of their life,” Lamahj says over the phone. “Also, in regard to what’s been going on in the world right now, just an accountability and respect for life and our relationships.”

From the album’s invigorating opener, “WAKE UP,” to the reflective anchor track, “All Growed Up,” Lamahj explores themes of self-growth, love, and childhood. After listening, he says he hopes fans will be inspired to reconnect with their “inner child” and rediscover “the things that brought them happiness when they were small.”

“I want people to be proud of how far they’ve come and be proud of how far they’re willing to go [to get to] where they wanna be,” he adds. “I want people to hopefully feel happy about where they’re heading, because I do. That’s kind of what this album is celebrating; it’s just the growth that comes with life, the loss that comes with life, and the love that comes with life.”

Lamahj’s self-growth, childhood, and future were clearly on his mind two years ago, when he and Emàn began recording Nostalgie Supreme. However, the album’s themes mean even more to him today, as next month the rapper and his partner will welcome their first child together.

“In the midst of [making] this album, me and my lady lost a child, so there’s a little bit of talk about that [on the record],” he says. “There’s also lines like, ‘Nostalgia got me missing things I probably won’t feel ’til I have a mini-me.’ That’s the opening line of the outro [song], and I recorded that last summer. And here we are now; my album’s dropping like a month before my first-born. So, it’s cool to see my words catch up to me.”

JayBee Lamahj
Photo by Mandy Di Salvo

Besides Emàn and Roberto, Nostalgie Supreme also features several other local talents, including Joness and NTRL WNDRS on the breezy “Braids In Da Summa,” Perez on “Deep End,” F.A.M.E. and Phonz on “Angels,” The PHONK on the “BluuMile Interlude,” and Paris and F.A.M.E. on “3Ls.”

“There’s a lot of special people on the album,” Lamahj noted. 

Earlier this month, Lamahj also released his music video for album cut “Can’t Tell.” Directed by Cincinnati-based NTNK Productions, the clip finds the rapper starring as a funky substitute teacher. 

Nostalgie Supreme follows Lamahj’s 2017 debut, Yllwbrkrd, and his sophomore effort, 2018’s Phonk Phoever. In the meantime, Lamahj kept fans fed this year with his Nostalgie Prelude Deluxe Edition – an offering of loosies that he made during the Nostalgie Supreme recording sessions. 

“It’s a taste of what was being made in the process,” he explains. “You know, we created a lot of music, besides just the album.”

Now that Nostalgie Supreme is here, Lamahj can’t wait to perform it. The rapper and his band, The PHONK, were able to play the album all the way through at Nostalgia Wine over the weekend, marking the group’s first in-person performance since February.

“I’ve been dying to get back out there!” he exclaims. “I’ve been missing performing. As soon as we’re able to perform again, we’re gonna be out there like six days a week.” 

Follow JayBee Lamahj and The PHONK on Instagram for ongoing updates.

PLAYING CINCY: K. Savage On Making The Most Out Of Quarantine As An Independent Artist

IN2ITIV3 / K. Savage
IN2ITIV3 / K. Savage
Photo Credit: Anna Silvius

2020 has been a tough year for independent artists. With no touring in sight – save for a few one-off virtual performances – underground bands and solo acts have had to be creative in finding new sources of revenue and staying relevant to their fans. For Cincinnati rapper/producer Kelby Savage, this has meant focusing instead on the business side of his artistry, like designing a brand new website, writing press releases and creating an electronic press kit (EPK). 

“Since we didn’t have any, like, traditional live shows lined up, it allowed me to take more time to do all the other back-end stuff,” Savage tells me on a quiet afternoon at Dive Bar. “I guess my goal at the end of the day is to kind of formulate a team, but until I can get that team, I’ve got to do everything myself.”

Since independent artists often have to juggle many of the music industry roles supporting their art – publicist included – Savage’s strides in bolstering his digital footprint (as well as that of his band, IN2ITIV3) is an effective way to push his career forward without touring. It’s also important, Savage says, in keeping his business self-sufficient.

Although the independent path is challenging, Savage says, “I’m not worried about somebody who’s got my masters.” Self-ownership was a big talking point of Nipsey Hussle’s and recently came back into the mainstream discussion during Kanye West’s latest tweet-storm

“I was surprised to hear about these bigger artists, that are legendary, that are mad about their masters,” Savage reflects on ‘Ye. “That kind of makes me glad that I ain’t blown up yet, ’cause a lot of these artists that are huge – like Trippie Redd and stuff – they all signed to labels that got their masters. I’m trying to figure out how I can get my shit going viral like them, but I ain’t signing to no labels.” 

“Russ is a prime example,” he continues. “I’ve been studying people like him on how to do that. I always wanted to be that artist to take the long road. I’ve taken this time to learn how to do all the other stuff, like the videos, designing my own album covers and being self-sufficient.”

Along with building an impressive press portfolio and getting serious about self-ownership, K. Savage is also using quarantine to strengthen his and IN2ITIV3’s video catalogue. The artist just recently unveiled his “Danny DeVITO” video and plans to continue releasing his vault of self-produced singles with accompanying visuals.  

“I have enough music to release [a project], but I don’t really wanna do that right now, with the way things are looking,” he explains. “Since I can’t perform these projects live, I think it’s just a singles climate for now.”

As for IN2ITIV3, Savage revealed that the genre-fluid band is gearing up to release their live EP, which will feature live recordings of new material and one track from their self-titled debut project. The EP, due this fall, was recorded at Urban Artifact. The “punkadelic” rock band recently premiered their music video for “Moon,” a loosie they dropped this summer.

Besides one live-streamed performance earlier this year, the band also performed at a Black Lives Matter rally in Milford, Ohio.

“I kinda grew up there and spent a lot of time in Milford, so I’ve experienced – just from being a minority out there – a lot of racial tension,” Savage says of the experience. “So, coming back and doing a whole rally and speaking my side of things out there, that made things come full circle for me.”

Savage also attended another protest organized by Patterns of Chaos alum Jay Hill in Cincinnati this June. 

“I shot a lot of video at that one, masked up. It was my first protest experience and I didn’t know what to expect,” he remembers. “I was already hearing about people getting pepper-sprayed and stuff.” 

“And I didn’t even have like a traditional mask; I had a t-shirt, Taliban-looking thing on,” he adds with a laugh.

Unfortunately, between the emotional weight of continued racial injustices and not being able to perform music with his friends, Savage says the past few months have taken a toll on his mental health – a sobering reality for many people this year. 

“Being locked-down, this shit has had a really big impact on everybody’s morale right now,” he confesses. “I went through like a depression episode. I was still making music, despite how bad I felt. It became a positive way to channel those feelings.”

Although Savage, and other independent artists like him, continue to grapple with the uncertain future of touring, he’s making the most out of this time by working on his web presence, expanding his already multi-faceted skillset and recording live sessions.

Keep up with Savage on his Instagram and follow IN2ITIV3 for more about their upcoming EP here.

Alleyes Manifest Artfully Melds Past and Present on James Wavey LPs

Babe, the new album by James Wavey/Alleyes Manifest, is a worn patchwork quilt come to life in ten warm, layered tracks.

“Love songs for listeners” is how Oakland’s Michael Bridgmon (Alleyes is his producer name, while James Wavey is his performance persona) describes it on Bandcamp. This is interesting phrasing; does this mean these songs are for music lovers — the “listeners” who comb through errant playlists to find their next obsession — or are these songs for the listeners of others, those precious few who always show up, sit down, and notice?

There is a lot to notice on this album. It’s a quick listen, but there are so many threads of influences and textures that it feels more substantial. There are two interludes — “Sunrise” and “Sunset” — both of which sound like hearing a radio blasting from an adjacent room, complete with echoes and crackles. I wish they were a bit longer and more connected to the songs they separate, as they do interrupt the flow of the LP a bit, but it’s always been my personal preference that album transitions sound seamless, interlude or not.

I assumed the audio on the two interludes were taken from samples, but it’s just as likely they were carefully designed pastiche tracks. Bridgmon’s main influences seem to be ’60s and ’70s soul and rock. The album cover certainly looks straight out of the ’60s — it literally says “stereo” in minute text below Bridgmon’s embroidered white collar — but some of the riffs hit a little harder and crunchier than those of the ’60s, like the excellent guitar that forms the backbone of “Cold Sweats.” The song starts with a very old-school soul lament (“cold sweats/since you’ve been away”) but soon transitions to a slow rap verse that manages to pull the sound out of last century with the power of Bridgmon’s vocal inflections. With a different beat, the verse could have been the moodiest track on a modern, rap-only album. It’s a good, well-balanced mix, and the LP sounds like a true conflation of genres. Bridgmon is by no means attempting to hide his commitment to soul and psychedelic rock here, but what works is that he also isn’t attempting to recreate it to the point that it becomes boring tunnel-vision. Even the simple-but-effective “Codependent” still has enough subtle effects to make it sound modern.

Opener “Anything Goes” is another great example of the balance Bridgmon achieves on Babe, its smooth raps stitched together with some truly sweet, almost reverent lyrics about his person of interest: “bein’ around you so spiritual/feel like I’m floatin’ in the Sistine Chapel on a cloud.” “Shoot Your Shot (Ghost)” is another starry-eyed track, albeit one where the various eras of influence do feel a bit disjointed, the raps slightly less seamless than those on some of the other tracks, especially during the repetitive chorus. However, it still works on the basis of the lyrics alone (“flowers won’t do/hope that one day we’ll tie the knot together/cold? Here’s my sweater”), which create a dreamy, lived-in atmosphere even when love may be the last thing on the listener’s mind.

The album closes out on the high-energy “Pillow Talk” and “Smooth Tiger,” the former of which feels almost like another interlude at a quick minute and a half. “Smooth Tiger” has a funky vibe and would make a killer track for a title sequence in a pulp film. Bridgmon is having fun here — as I believe he is the whole time — but the additional theatricality is really what was needed to end the album with enough punch to make you ready for another go round.

Bridgmon has long straddled multiple genres. Recently, Bridgmon re-released his 2018 James Wavey LP, Otoño, on vinyl. Even two years after the fact, this seems a relevant move for three reasons; firstly, the timeless quality of the work welcomes new chances at old formats. Secondly, vinyl has dragged itself almost fully from the trenches in the last year, making even 7” single releases by major pop artists such as Five Seconds of Summer and Taylor Swift seem necessary rather than niche. And finally, some of the themes of Onoño are still distressingly relevant, as can be seen in “Soul Music,” which is more about police brutality than anything, thanks to this central line: “know my pigment’s the future/keep your revolution/people wonder why we get high/argue that ain’t the solution/dealin’ with PTSD cause we saw cops shootin’.” In fact, many aspects of the album touch on things that have come up in the current national public discourse on race: personal responsibility; relationships with sexuality and religion (on “Christian Guilt”); the singer’s up/down relationship with self-worth and black masculinity.

The latter assertion comes from the newly released video for Otoño track “Photogenic,” where Bridgmon hams it up with his frequent collaborator Bryson Wallace in a black and white shoot. Both men occupy the limited-aspect ratio space very differently. Wallace, while filmed in black and white, maintains a clear connection with the present due to his choices in dress and mannerism, and even his style of rapping, which takes up the first half of the song. When Wavey comes in, he’s in full Jimi Hendrix regalia, at one point literally lying on the floor on a pile of women’s intimates, staring directly at the camera as he absently strums an electric guitar. Despite differences in aesthetic, the two friends tie it all together at the end, clasping hands and laughing while wearing oversized t-shirts airbrushed with each other’s faces. It’s a celebration of friendship, yes, but also one of claiming space and declaring self-worth, even if you don’t fully believe it — the embodiment of a fake it till you make it ethos, if you will.

Both Babe and Otoño manage many feats, their greatest perhaps that they allow their creator to wend his way through his many personas with ease, donning and shedding different names as though he’s making his way through a coat rack at the thrift store. But it’s not coming from some inability to commit; there is clearly something about these personas, especially James Wavey and his flamboyant romanticism, that put Bridgmon at ease, at least enough for him to rake through the threads of his life and find what needs to be drawn to the surface. Sometimes distance is what’s needed to create good art — and sometimes that distance means allowing yourself to be flamboyant and romantic, especially when the greater world frequently insists that the only way to make it through is to be the opposite.

Follow Alleyes Manifest on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Khari Launches This Is How We Feel Series with Reflections on Incarceration


Photo Credit: Khira Burton

Khari begins an introspective journey with his new project, This Is How We Feel: Act 1 (Trapped). Boasting his trademark thought-provoking lyricism, packaged in a silky melodic flow, Act 1 (Trapped) is the first vulnerable offering from the trilogy.

“Making this project was definitely therapeutic for me, but it was probably the hardest material I ever had to make,” he told Audiofemme. “I told myself that I wanted to touch on a deeper layer of Black plight and trauma that is prevalent in my music. For me, that layer was the feelings and the mental aspect that doesn’t often get talked about when it comes to experiencing racism, police brutality, drugs and gun violence.”

The Cincinnati-bred MC describes his This Is How We Feel series as mirroring “the steps of a person going through the prison system.”

“The first act is Trapped because when you first are incarcerated, you are literally trapped in your cell,” he explained. “Throughout this first act, I talk about different ways we may be trapped by society and our own personal struggles. I sometimes feel trapped by my thoughts, societal pressures, expressing my love and the longing for financial gain. I even feel trapped by the pursuit of my rap career, and these are all things I touch on in this first act.”

Though Khari doesn’t have a release date for the next installment yet, he said fans can expect it before the end of the year. “I definitely want to let people live with this first act before going into the next act,” he explained. “Now that the project has been released, I feel a sense of relief because it now belongs to the world and even though it is a personal story, I made it with the intention of it being a story for everyone, hence the We in the title; it was initially called This Is How I Feel.”

When asked what he feels role is during these uncertain times, Khari said, “I think my role as an artist is to speak on something that is personal, real and honest.”

“People want to feel something right now, and it’s weird how eerily this project lines up with the [current] times, given the fact that I began this concept over a year ago,” he continued. “It just goes to show that our voices and our creativity are always needed to spark minds, and at the very least help people make sense of all that’s going on.”

Follow Khari on Facebook for ongoing updates.

WhatUpWally? Recruits Cincinnati’s Best Rappers & Producers For ‘Pandemic’ LP

Photo Credit: Chaya J.

Wally Hart, aka WhatUpWally?, tapped some of Cincinnati’s best rappers, beatsmiths and vocalists for his debut album, Pandemic. Spanning across 14 tracks and picking up assists from over 15 MCs – not to mention another seven producers – the sharply-made effort cuts through the noise of other quarantine offerings and provides relevant, outspoken takes, rooted in a love for hip hop.

Pandemic was created during Cincinnati’s COVID-19 stay-at-home mandate, with WhatUpWally? first approaching fellow artists with the idea in early March. In what ended up being a four-month process, the album’s many collaborators would send track recordings to each other via Dropbox or work at opposite ends of the studio, the hip hop aficionado/music educator told Audiofemme.

“The result is a full coherent concept album with 26 collaborators that is meant to be listened to from front to back, in order,” Hart wrote on Facebook. “The mood of the album represents the mood of various times during the pandemic.”

Photo Provided by WhatUpWally?

“I thought we were going to end Pandemic on a happy and optimistic note so I sent out a beat to AC [the Entity], SamSun, [Sharp.One], and Wonder [Brown] and asked them to write something with a hopeful tone to end the album with. That was it. The album was finished and it was dark with an optimistic ending,” Hart says, but in the wake of continued police brutality that sparked “the beginning of the largest civil rights movement in the nation’s history, we had to go in and rewrite the ending.”

The police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the likely racially-motivated murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery are most felt in the album’s “Outro” and bonus track, “XPac,” which samples a speech by Malcolm X and interview with Tupac. WhatUpWally? also offers a razor-sharp analysis of systemic racism, oppression and economic disparity in the stinging “Capitalism Kills.”

Besides timely boldness, the album stands out in its sonic diversity. Boasting a wide range of talent, Pandemic has songs for classic hip hop lovers and contemporary fans alike, with the unifying factor being thoughtful lyricism. Scratching and nostalgic flows are on full display in the opening “Cincinnati Cypher” and “Use Your Sword.” A few places down the tracklist, “Duke Energy” stands out as a new-school melodic high-point, where Khari and Spirit swap bars about cutting the negative energy out of their lives.

“Some really dope art is coming out of this time,” Hart noted to Audiofemme. On Facebook, he added that Pandemic is a “representation” of these times and, he hopes, will provide a reflective listening experience.

Check out the album on Bandcamp and see the full tracklist below.

PLAYING CINCY: GrandAce Urges Fans To “Bus Back” Against Systemic Racism In New Single

Photo Credit: Romain Maya

GrandAce confronts systemic racism and police brutality head-on with his bouncy new single, “Bus Back.” The self-produced track lays down a vibey minimalistic base, while the Cincinnati MC gets straight to work.

“These last few weeks have had me spinning, so I had to resort to music to figure things out,” he wrote of the single on YouTube. “I want retaliation in the form of policy, legislation, and defunding corrupt systems. To those in power, it’s really not even hard.”

In a statement provided to Audiofemme, GrandAce further elaborated on why he chose to speak out against ongoing injustices and contribute to the current Black Lives Matter movement with his music.

“I’m not a big artist nor do I have a large platform, but I realize that my greatest superpower is that I’m able to use my voice to speak out on what’s wrong,” he explained over email. “If my words can resonate with even one person, it can make the movement behind the fight for justice and equality one person stronger. I’ve always made music with the aim of soundtracking life, and that includes revolution as well.”

“‘Bus Back’ [means] not only in the physical [sense], it’s also firing back at oppression through policy, legislation, dismantling of systemic inequality, and my joy,” GrandAce continued. “The beauty of joy is that it can be weaponized to overcome the worst situations. I hope others hear it and are inspired to keep pushing forward.”

“Bus Back” follows a healthy dose of singles from the Queen City rapper this year, including “Mad Shook” from earlier this month, “Satellites,” “Free Space,” and “Magic Something.” Last year saw the arrival of GrandAce’s Christmas three-pack, aloneon25, and his five-song EP, Also Codachrome.

Listen to GrandAce’s new single “Bus Back” below. Also, find more resources and organizations to donate to in the fight against police brutality and systemic racism here.

Project Poppa Reflects on the Impact of Violence with Emotionally Vulnerable New Track “I Can’t Breathe”

Project Poppa is settling into venerability. His latest release, “I Can’t Breathe,” sees the East Oakland rapper’s voice choked with emotion as he details the complexities and dangers of being a young Black man in America. “A lot of people like to say how are we mad what’s goin’ on/when we doing it to each other” he says in the song’s spoken intro. “I can’t be no hypocrite, family/I’m going to speak from both sides.”

This intro has a impromptu air, closer to the way one would address a younger sibling or cousin who was having trouble understanding current events than a soap-box speech devoid of patience. It works, even in a single with a short running time, where every moment away from singing or rapping is all the more noticeable.

To call this a “single” in and of itself feels strange. In modern music, the word has clear connotations of being connected to a greater project, yet placing any work released as direct commentary about the current state of political unrest on the same wavelength as the standard album cycle seems trite at best.

I find myself wondering how many takes felt necessary to complete “Breathe” to Project Poppa’s satisfaction. I would not be surprised if it was only one, even as he heard his voice near breaking multiple times; there’s an authenticity in its rawness that feels right, as opposed to feeling like a sloppy practice run. And the track is far from sloppy. It took me a few passing glances at the album art, distorted slightly on the SoundCloud player, to realize that one of the figures holding a gun to Project Poppa’s head was a white cop, the other another young black man like himself. Obvious? Maybe. Effective? Certainly. Something released outside of the album cycle, in quarantine, might have gotten away with a mobile phone picture, or even plain text, but no — Project Poppa made the choice to reuse the art from his 2017 album, War Outside. The message is clear: the visual is still as relevant as it was months, weeks, 1,216 days later.

“They say we trippin’ cause we breaking the stores/but what’s a life to a broken door/ain’t no comparing it” begins the first verse, echoing many a sentiment that has been expressed, on both micro and macro levels, in the past few weeks. And it’s true; what is a broken door to what Project Poppa chronicles here: a lifetime of looking over your shoulder, watching yourself like your own personal security camera, trying emerge unscathed from run-ins with both law enforcement and members of your own community? Like Project Poppa stated early on, he wants to look at both sides, but I interpreted this less as “both sides are equally culpable” and more as an attempt to look at ones own behavior from the lens of understanding that the odds are inherently stacked against you from the get-go.

The key line of the song comes almost at the end: “I’m just a young black man with hella dead friends.” Here is where Project Poppa gets notably emotional, where the beats kicks into high gear, and the song ends on a series of bold bars. The rhymes are more up front, with less lyrical complexity and less of a distinct story than the earlier parts of the song, but like that key line, they hit and keep hitting.

Despite the clear emotion, there is very little bombast here, in contrast to some of his earlier work. In general, Project Poppa seems to be moving to smaller, intensely personal projects like his street preacher mixtape, which is yet to be released on Spotify with the rest of his discography – it lives solely on SoundCloud, the stomping ground for anything supposedly “less polished.” Of course, no one is obligated to examine their own pain in their art, but for Project Poppa, even if the greater obstacles feel insurmountable, vulnerability is serving him, hopefully both personally as well as artistically.

Follow Project Poppa on Twitter and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Bay Area artists who would like to be featured in this column can reach out to @carmakout on Instagram.

Freddie is Ready for Their Closeup with Melanin Monroe EP


You know you are in for something good the moment that Oakland singer Freddie’s voice comes in on their EP opener “Oblivion.” Later in the song, their rich, evocative voice moves to deliver that ever-elusive diva wish: “I wanna be adored by ya/I wanna be adored by everyone.” It almost sounds slurred, or mumbled into a collar. But nothing is truly that sloppy in the world of Melanin Monroe, where songs switch from rap to R&B to soul with the gleeful precision of a gymnast changing grip on the uneven bars. “Oblivion” retains its glam, R&B sensuality, even as Freddie runs through rapid, breathless bars in the rap outro. The enunciation may not be perfection, but I don’t think that’s the goal here – Freddie’s aim is to keep the listener on their toes at every turn.

The R&B and soul genres easily lend themselves to expand into adjacent styles, whether rap or something else, but rarely is the mix ever this playful or deft in balance, and Freddie manages a feat on Melanin Monroe by honoring each new element without letting one overshadow any of the others. This could be due to the power of Freddie’s voice alone, which sounds natural in each of its many iterations, but the transitions are especially smooth on “Oblivion” and “Banjee.” “Banjee” is — and there’s really no other way to say this — a fucking bop. “If you a bad faggot with some bad habits let me hear you sang/let me hear you sang!” Freddie drawls at the apex of the chorus, as a tropical-adjacent beat tumbles down after their vocals. It sounds like a church organ that had one too many Mai Tais, and it’s a choice that turns a good song into a great one, one that deserves to be blasted out of car windows all across the Bay when it gets to hot to to keep them shut.

“I’m lookin’ hella five to the one-oh,” Freddie announces pre-chorus (the area code for the Bay is 510 for you out-of-towners). What does it mean to look 510, to embody the Bay Area? For Freddie, this means, in part, to be Black, to be queer, to be gender non-conforming, and to make music about all these experiences with tenderness and precision. Of course it’s not that simple; there are a million different answers to what it means to “be” the Bay Area, and they can be seen on the streets of every town and city as people protest, as people try to smile through their masks, as people go on their daily walks with their hand hovering over the pause button.

And yet! It is brave, still, to make music as a Black, queer, gender non-conforming person in the year 2020, especially taking into account the danger people of those identities face, daily, unfairly, without respite. Despite genre shifts, despite welcome levity with lines like “slim thick like a grown bambi,” Melanin Monroe represents a desire to be seen. Not just in terms of love or sexual desirability — though that is important too, as noted in “Weak,” where Freddie bemoans the shifting attentions of a lover — but in terms of personal autonomy. Instances of having to declare the self are sprinkled throughout the EP: “Banjee” has a little chanted “I’m Benjee/I’m Banjee”  backing the chorus, while “Y D K M N,” a rework of the 1999 Destiny’ Child hit, “Say My Name,” is more literal about the power of putting a name to something, whether it be a person or a relationship. Freddie lets it be known that they look 510, if you will, because sometimes there is no other choice but to make a declaration of the self and the right of said self to exist in place, free from (or at least defiant of) the panicked oscillations of fear.

Not that getting to that place of declaration is easy. “Fitness” is atmospheric and has some fun ’90s throwback vocal stylings, but below the basic sentiment of the chorus (“I’ve been putting in some hard, hard work”) is a sense that it took Freddie a long time to get to the place where they could confidently sing the opening line (“click, kaboom/everybody knows when I step in the room”) with authentic bravado. But the work, whatever it was, paid off: Freddie has a voice worth listening to, both literally and figuratively.

Follow Freddie on Twitter and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Bay Area artists who would like to be featured in this column can reach out to @carmakout on Instagram.

Get To Know Cincinnati’s Virtual Rap Playoffs Winner Duprae


Photo Credit: Vince Young

Duprae is plotting his Cincinnati takeover. The up-and-coming MC was recently crowned the winner of the 2020 Rap Playoffs, hosted by the “Queen Behind The Scene,” NaQuia Chante. Beginning on April 15 and wrapping up this past Friday (May 1), the virtual tournament-style battle saw some of Cincinnati’s most talented artists – including Joness, Aziza Love, and Audley – go head-to-head over four rounds. Duprae was finally victorious in the G.O.A.T. Round against singer/songwriter Naji. Fans were encouraged to vote for their favorite artists in the comments.

“You’re going against different people, every few days, battling them – verse for verse. So, it was definitely a different experience,” Duprae tells Audiofemme.

Now that he’s the Cincinnati Rap Playoffs champ, Duprae is planning to release his debut full-length effort, Whatever It Takes, later this year. The album will be preceded by a new single, set to arrive later this month.

“My new music will really represent me and what I’m trying to do, and the message that I’m trying to get out there,” he added.

Check out our full interview with the Rap Playoffs winner below.


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S/O to @jayduprae THE CHAMPION of the Rap Playoffs! ‼️Go follow him RIGHT now‼️ He needs to drop ASAP! Stay locked in as he receives his prizes from our dope sponsors! Thanks again to @vic_land of @audiofemme , @djjdough @goodcoapparel @dreshotthis @blackcoffeecincy @donutsnakahol and @looney_turner at @timelessrstudio ! Take a look at all his rounds to get to the crown! #naquiachante #queenbehindthescene #pinkbrainsagency #cincycreator #dreshotthis #donutsnakahol #ikeepgoodco #audiofemme #timelessrecordingstudio #blackcoffeecincy #rapplayoffs #newmusic #bars #cincinnatirap #rappmusic #nba #nbaplayoffs #cincinnatimusic #rapbattle #rapcontest #16bars #typebeats #beats #rapchallenge #hiphop #unsignedartist

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AF: Congratulations on your win! What has this whole experience been like for you?

D: Thank you! It’s been very interesting. I really got the call to be in the competition from NaQuia, just randomly, out of the blue. I saw a post about it and I thought, “Wow this looks really dope.” Then I got a message from her saying, “Hey, do you wanna be in this?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure!” I definitely didn’t expect it to turn out to be what it was, but it was a great opportunity to do it.

AF: Had you done anything like this before?

D: No – especially with everything going on right now, it definitely had a different feel to it. I’ve been in different rap competitions, shows, performances, stuff like that, but I’ve never been in a competition like this, where it was tournament-style. You’re going against different people, every few days, battling them – verse for verse. So, it was definitely a different experience.

AF: Was it difficult to come up with fresh verses for every round?

D: I’ve gotten a lot better, a lot quicker, with writing verses. Last year, I was doing a segment called “Issa Rap Thursday” and I was coming up with new material every week. The day would come, Thursday, and I’d write a whole new verse, get it memorized, record it, make a video, and put it out. So, I’ve gotten into a habit of being able to write quickly and apply it. It really pushed me to make quality [verses] too, not just put something together.

AF: Tell me a little bit about how you selected your beats. I really liked the beat you used in Round 2, and then later on you also used Wu-Tang classic “C.R.E.A.M.

D: The first two I just found on YouTube, for just something I could vibe with. The first round was about basketball and I wanted to really come with that kind of mindset. That first beat, to me, was really triumphant-sounding, so I thought that worked well with that. The second round was more soulful/R&B round, and I think that beat that I found brought a vibe and something special – a little more soulful, intimate. I really connected with that. The third round was picked by Graval over at Donuts n. Akahol. I was asking one of my friends, like, “Should I use [Drake’s] ‘Pound Cake’ beat?” Because I really wanted to show my lyrical abilities. And then one of my homies, his name’s Rob, he told me that I should go with something classic, like the “C.R.E.A.M.” beat. So, I was like, “Okay, I’ll play around with it.” It wasn’t until I started playing around with it that I realized that “C.R.E.A.M.” is the original sample used in “Pound Cake,” so I thought that was completely crazy. So, I started playing around with both, I added a drop for the transition, and the rest is history. I combined both beats for the round – I love both of those beats too. I love soulful samples.

AF: Was there any round you were especially nervous about?

D: I was kind of nervous – really, every round made me kind of nervous! But, the round that made me the most nervous was probably the third round. I didn’t know that it was gonna be a combined round, against two people, Naji and Turner Allen. One thing that the judges went by was the fans in the comments, and both of those guys had crazy support. I was thinking, “Man, they’re about to flush me in the comments.” So, it really depended on the judges’ votes. That round had me a little nervous. I was happy to come up with a win in that round.

AF: It’s so cool this was all able to happen virtually. Such a dope idea.

D: Definitely. Shout out to NaQuia – she really put this together and it seemed like she came up with it out of nowhere, but she’s really been putting on for the city, bringing people closer together, and I think a lot of people got a lot of different looks and opportunities from this event. It definitely wouldn’t have been possible without her.

AF: Where can people go to hear more music from you?

D: See that’s the thing, right now, they can’t! I’m currently working on a project right now called Whatever It Takes that I‘m looking to drop in the fall. I’m working on some singles right now, too. My new music will really represent me and what I’m trying to do, and the message that I’m trying to get out there.

AF: When will we get to hear some of those first singles?

D: I think you’ll see something very soon. I’m looking to drop something later this month or, at the latest, early June.

AF: With social distancing, lots of studios are closed. Has it been tough for you to record your album?

D: It definitely feels like things are limited right now. Who would ever have seen this coming, you know? It’s just been a time that no one ever thought would happen. I’ve actually got equipment at my house that I can record and send it out to different engineers. So, it’s definitely been tough, but it’s still possible.

AF: How has self-isolating been for you?

D: Self-isolating has been weird for me. Being around my family, I still see them, and I still see my girlfriend, and I’ve been doing drive-bys to see people. You really have to connect with people as much as you can. I heard someone say, just because we’re social distancing, doesn’t mean you have to distance yourself socially. We don’t have to disconnect from people. If you have a loved one, call them. If you have friends that you haven’t spoken to, talk to them. Right now, we really have to stick together and manage our relationships.

AF: Besides making music, what else do you like to do?

D: I love to play basketball and I’m hurting right now, because I can’t. I miss being able to play basketball. I’m just a regular, everyday citizen! I’m watching different things on Netflix. I love doing artistic things, like drawing and painting. I’m also a student right now, so I have a lot of homework to do. Homework hasn’t stopped for me because I’m in online classes.

AF: What else can you tell us about your debut album?

D: Whatever It Takes is a long-time-coming project for me because I was definitely getting around in my city, a couple of years ago, making connections and playing shows. But I really felt like I had to journey to find myself and also to find God. I went through a lot of different struggles to really put out this album. I really think it’s feedback from making music and focusing on my walk with Christ. Now, being able to come back a couple of years later, a lot of time and effort has went into this project. I really can’t wait for people to hear it.

Blimes and Gab Debunk “Female Rap” Stereotype With Forthcoming Debut & TV Show

Tía Blimes (aka Blimes Brixton) and Gabrielle Kadushin (aka Gifted Gab) first met on Facebook in 2017 through a mutual friend, and when they met up in person in Seattle, it was clear they had a special connection. “We solidified our bond IRL during a street fight with a girl who kicked the car we were passengers in,” Blimes remembers.

The next time they hung out, they wrote and recorded their first song, “Come Correct,” whose video got over 10 million views. In it, they rap about brushing off haters — “We be the mama and the papa / so every time you bullshit us / all we hear is blah blah” — then close the video with a fist-bump. The public’s positive reaction to the song encouraged them to officially become a musical duo, dubbed Blimes and Gab.

They’ve recorded several more songs since, culminating in a debut album called Talk About It that comes out this summer. The tracks range from “Feelin It,” which captures the mood of a rowdy house party, and “Magic,” a celebration of hard-earned career success.

The overall message of their music? “That we’re not the ones to fuck with because we’ve done the work and paid our dues, that we know how to have a good-ass time, we’re self-accepting and loving, and that we don’t take ourselves or this business too seriously,” says Blimes. “Oh, and that we can rap and sing hella good.”

The artists’ musical careers go way back. Blimes participated in rap battles in middle school, which is where she adopted the first iteration of her stage name, “Oh Blimey.”

“I was into UK hip-hop and admittedly really loved the Harry Potter series, so I grabbed that term from the British slang phrase used to express one’s surprise, excitement, or alarm,” she says. “I hoped to alarm my opponents when we battled and sometimes put on an accent as a character to throw off the competition. Iono, some 12-year-old shit.” Gab’s name, more predictably, is an offshoot of her real first name, taking into account the “gift of gab” she possesses.

Blimes and Gab are currently writing a scripted comedy series about their friendship and their journey to gain recognition in the music industry, which will be directed and produced by Nelson George (A Ballerina’s Tale, Life Support, Brooklyn Boheme). 

They sometimes get categorized as “female rappers,” but they hope to debunk the misconception that “female rap” is something distinct from regular rap. “Women have been around in the game just as long as the men. We are not new to this,” says Gab. “You hear ‘female rapper,’ and most people have a preconceived notion without ever even hearing you. Luckily, when they do, they more often than not switch their tune.”

Blimes, who identifies as gay, views being part of the LGBTQ community similarly: It’s not so much about making music about LGBTQ issues as elevating the community by modeling success. “If I can be myself and be respected in the mainstream, then I’m advocating for the LGBTQ community,” she says. “That’s my goal: not to be looked at for my gender or sexual preference but for my ability to make dope music.”

Follow Blimes and Gab on Facebook for ongoing updates.

WOMAN OF INTEREST: Lena NW Brings Rap, Gaming, and the Apocalypse to Life with Nightmare Temptation Academy

Lena NW’s video game/album Nightmare Temptation Academy begins with a giant trigger warning. The elements of the game the player is cautioned about include “graphic sexual cartoon violence,” “glamorization of romanticizing of mental illness,” “furries,” “feminism,” “cartoon vagina,” “cartoon penis,” and “inter-dimensional sex.” This opening encapsulates the darkly hilarious art that is the work of Lena NW, also known as Fellatia G.

NW has been known for games including Viral, which explores internet culture through a quest to become a social media star, and Fuck Everything, which addresses rape culture and the male gaze through a bar setting that allows the player to have sex with various people, animals, and inanimate objects. Her creations are incisive, educational, entertaining, and disturbing all at once.

Nightmare Temptation Academy takes place in a high school during an apocalyptic era, mixing social critique with teenage angst — a lot of teenage angst. The soundtrack to the game, interspersed throughout it in the form of music videos and performed by NW’s rapping alter-ego Fellatia G, features lyrics such as “I hate my fucking life and I kind of want to die,” “I’ve got no self-awareness but I’m still so self-conscious,” “I’ve been forced to endure my existence / I never consented to being born,” and “Dorian, you’ve got me worrying / snorting heroin again / laced with fentanyl / blaming mental illness / it’s detrimental to your health.”

Throughout the game, you navigate through high school as the protagonist, a horny and depressed 14-year-old girl, tries to convince a senior boy to have sex with her, contemplates suicide, views a classmate’s erotic art featuring two boys in school, and argues about feminism with a popular girl.

NW started rapping when she was 15 and selected the name Fellatia G to take ownership of her reputation as a high school “slut.” She embodies this persona in a way that almost parodies herself; when she noticed that the song “Armageddon Is So Whatever” contained no sexual references, she added the evocative, seductively sung simile, “It all just blows up in your face like a hot load.”

Nightmare Temptation Academy is largely a reflection of what NW was dealing with during her own high school years. “I struggled with depression and not fitting in and all the stuff going on in the world, but it’s easy to sort of be like, ‘Oh, I could not exist,’ and that’s almost a comforting place to go,” she says. “In the process of making music like that, I’m dealing with these feelings. There’s almost a sense of humor in having to deal with this condition — it’s almost like a coping strategy to make light of your darkness, to have fun with it.”

The apocalyptic theme seemed particularly appropriate to DB during this time in history, especially now that the release of the game happens to coincide with the coronavirus pandemic. People are trying to “cope with the feeling like either we’re being robbed of a future or the future is uncertain, and trying to grapple with feeling everything is hopeless,” she explains.

The game also hyperbolizes the brainwashing that technology allows for: in the fictional school, the characters put on helmets that directly implant messages into their minds. “It’s like the cyber space of our of millennial internet culture deteriorating on the other side of the screen,” she says. Even as the world is ending, the characters are still wrapped up in their own petty social dynamics, which serves as commentary on the lack of concern many people currently have for world issues.

You can currently download to game and play for yourself on, but be warned: You will encounter graphic sexual cartoon violence, cartoon genitalia, furries, feminism, and much, much more.

Follow Lena NW on Instagram and Twitter for ongoing updates.

Zach slump talks ‘Outskirts & Outcasts,’ Casual Crooks & more

With hard work and a multi-faceted team, Ohio-bred collective Casual Crooks has been steadily paving their way to becoming the next big Midwest next rap crew. Their latest release comes from group member and rapper Zach slump, who recently dropped his first project of the year, Outskirts & Outcasts. Boasting emotionally-charged lyrics and a diverse collection of beats, the record welcomes another win for slump and the Crooks.

With two features from groupmate Sioux on energetic banger “Like a Jitt” and laidback party track “Trap Trap,” Outskirts & Outcasts finds slump delivering undeniably catchy hooks and aggressive bars. The Ohio-based MC recruited multiple producers – hailing from Ireland to California – to assemble the project’s spacey and off-kilter beats, which anchor the likes of “Mad Late,” “Dash Home” and more.

Slump has already released three visuals from the album, the most recent being “Mad Late.” All the visuals are handled by Lunar Thought, Casual Crooks’ videographer.

“I had found out about his music in high school and here we are, three years later, doing all my videos,” slump says of working with Lunar. “I swear, some of my videos are his best videos! We’re starting to mesh so good.”

He plans to drop a few more clips from the project, including “Like a Jitt” and “Pulse Dance.”

“I’m really hyped for the ‘Pulse Dance’ video because it’s got a vintage sound,” he says. “We’re gonna have a party and have it like ’70s-themed.”

After he’s done promoting Outskirts & Outcasts, Zach slump plans to drop off a bite-sized five-track EP over the summer, with visuals for every song. As for a new Casual Crooks record, slump says the group’s solo projects have taken priority.

“We’re all so into making our own music, that’s it’s really hard to get that shit finished,” he says. “We have like five songs finished that are technically taped, but we’re all perfectionists, so we’ll see how long that takes to come out.”

That doesn’t mean the group is slowing down, though. The Crooks have carved out a dedicated fanbase due to their work ethic and consistency, which slump hopes will be part of his legacy.

“It’s just work, but we love it,” he says. “We really wanna leave a legacy. I know how much music means to me – I just wanna mean that to somebody with my discography.”

“It’s crazy because we taught ourselves how to record everything,” he continues. “This is going from the ground up… to creating something that’s respectable. It’s been an interesting-ass journey.”

Stream Zach slump’s Outskirts & Outcasts below.

Khari Reflects on his Hustle with “K-Balla” Video


From Khari

This month, Khari dropped an inspiring clip to accompany his second single of the year, “K-Balla.” The video, directed by Khari himself and filmed by NTNK Productions, finds the Cincinnati rapper reflecting on his younger self’s work ethic in basketball and rap, as he continues to chase his dreams today.

“The video works as a snapshot of the past,” he told Audiofemme. “I go back and witness a younger version of myself practicing basketball with my dad. I am a 10 year old, grinding on the court and writing raps. As the video progresses, I witness a 15-year-old version of myself on the same grind. Playing basketball and writing raps. I wanted to mirror these moments to show the dedication I put into my two crafts as a kid.”

Lyrically, Khari also recalls his ingenuity and entrepreneurship as he raps about selling his own mixtapes for $500 as a teenager, taking notes from legends like E-40 and Nipsey Hussle.

“I was on the court, in the booth, with no plan B / Never won a ring, but I bet I’d win a Grammy,” he raps.

“The song itself serves as a story and a reflection on my path as a kid,” Khari continued. “I reminisce when I went by the rap name K-Balla and I sold mixtapes to my high school classmates while also having dreams of reaching the NBA. I soon realized that hip hop would be my true passion and that’s what we tried to convey towards the end of this video.”

The two-minute clip is edited in black-and-white – a fitting filter for Khari’s genuine bars and producer Consistent’s old-school scratching.

Last year, Khari served up his Sinsinnati project, as well as his Skywalker EP, which saw contributions from B.A.N.K.$., Phresh Kyd, Amauri J and Papa Gora. So far this year, Khari has already dropped off his “Insomnia 2020” single, followed by “K-Balla.”

Watch Khari’s video for “K-Balla” below.

Devin Burgess Gets ‘Alone’ EP Off His Chest

Devin Burgess / Alone

Devin Burgess / Alone
Photo by Roberto

Jumping into 2020 head-first, Devin Burgess released his 14-track Alone EP last week. The 26-minute project finds an engaging balance between Burgess’ introspective and unfiltered lyrics and his gritty self-produced beats. The tape’s flow can best be described as short bouts of transparent expression – whether it be frustration, fear or solitude.

“The project is so self-reflective,” Burgess says of the EP. “I feel like this project was for me, so I can exhale. Just get this all off my chest.”

Alone starts off strong, with lyrical notes of insecurity and resentment. Burgess masterfully juggles his introspective yet biting verses, not to be overshadowed by the tape’s hypnotic beats.

On “Freelance,” the Cincinnati MC shares financial woes that many freelancers – including myself – can identify with. “A lot of it stems from insecurity about being appreciated musically,” he says. “That, and I did a lot of freelance work last year and I need my paper! If you’re taking time to do something, you want to be compensated in some way, shape or form.”

Devin Burgess / Photo by Roberto

The EP truly takes form with “Wallet.” A project highlight, the song contains incredible duality. Despite Burgess’ vibe-creating drawl, lyrical undertones confront police brutality, with a gunshot punctuating the track’s abrupt ending.

“There’s a lot of undertones in the project. ‘Wallet’ is about me driving with weed in my car and my fear of being stopped by the police,” he explains. “I’m a black man, and an extremist, so in my mind, I’m thinking if I get pulled over by the cops, it’s a wrap. It’s about me being irresponsible, obviously, but also the fear of police brutality happening to me.”

Alone was predominately recorded at home, so that Burgess could tap into his most vulnerable lyrics. “I’ve been real keen on being self-aware about when I get anxious and what makes me anxious,” he says. “A lot of times when I write [music] I learn things about myself that I didn’t know.”

The project also sees an appearance from Kei$ha, Burgess’ wig-wearing producer alter-ego. “It was a Halloween show, it was costume themed. I wasn’t gonna wear a costume, but I didn’t wanna be the only guy there without a costume, so I got a wig,” Burgess explains about how Kei$ha came to be. “A week later… I was talking with [Cincinnati artist] D-Eight about the time before we were born. I was like, ‘Yeah, my mom thought I was gonna be a girl and she was gonna name me Keisha.’ And he was like, ‘You should be Keisha.’ So I came home, put the wig on, and Kei$ha was born,” he continues. “That’s my producer alias.”

No stranger to artistic antics, the rapper explained how swapping his bathrobe for a wig helps him have fun at shows. “It’s just something goofy to do,” he says. “It’s another way to keep my name in people’s mouths and stay interesting.” Kei$ha’s production style can best be described as a “beats hoarder,” with Burgess saying she adds a little “dustiness” to the EP.

As usual, Burgess has several production jobs on the horizon. But for now, with the release of Alone, he can breathe a sigh of relief.

Stream the EP below.

PLAYING CINCY: Roberto finds himself on ‘Many Truths’ EP

Photo by Annie Noelker

Cincinnati-bred rapper Roberto has delivered his first project of the year: the Many Truths EP. Balancing carefully crafted verses with a casual flow, Roberto’s introspective lyrics are perfectly housed within Matador’s gritty lo-fi production. Vulnerability and easy-listening coexist as the standout qualities of the six-track project, while songstress Ladi Tajo adds a drop of syrupy sweetness on the EP’s lone collaboration, “nowhere2run.”

“Ladi Tajo and I are really good friends and have been for a while. We’d been working on some tracks for a collab LP that we plan to release in the spring and were in the studio together when Matador sent the instrumentals through,” Roberto tells AudioFemme of the feature.

The Cincy MC makes lyrical strides throughout the first five songs, sprinkling personal anecdotes and inner thoughts along the way. However, Many Truths hits its peak vulnerability on closing track, “Close To You,” where Roberto wraps up a project that you can tell he’s proud of.

“I felt like I was taking a victory lap, in a way. It was probably around 5 or 6 a.m. and I was in the studio recording [“Close To You”], running off adrenaline and coffee,” he described of the final song. “I was just reflecting on everything, from seeing success in music before I graduated high school, and then taking a three-year hiatus, disappointing releases, the fear of being seen, and everything that kept me from releasing music for a long time.”

“I felt like everything had come full-circle,” he continued. “Whether it be the fact that I’ve been trying to muster up a project I felt confident in for years, my long-time relationship with Matador finally becoming fruitful, constantly wondering when I’d be able to get a record out with Ladi Tajo, or comparing myself, wanting to prove myself to my peers – it was all laid to rest in the five-day period of creating the project.”

Many Truths
‘Many Truths’ cover art/ by @stkales

Roberto describes obstacles that many artists struggle with – the pursuit of perfection, feelings of self-doubt, and the fear of being exposed. At the beginning of “nowhere2run,” a conversation between him and Ladi Tajo epitomizes the feeling, where he can be heard jokingly suggesting they start from scratch entirely, rather than put out their record.

“For a long time, that’s precisely how I’ve felt,” he said. “And all I had to do was lock in, focus, and be honest with myself. Essentially it felt like I had been worrying so long about how others saw me, that I had forgotten to see myself.”

From top to bottom, the one-minute “Many Truths” intro provides a perfect bite-sized sample of what’s to come. “Dear, Mrs. Whatshername” and “Canismoke.wav” ease the listener to-and-fro the standout track, “nowhere2run.” The EP ends on a strong note, with the “Close To You” outro.  Matador and Roberto are a clear producer-rapper match made in heaven, with Matador’s immersive lo-fi acting as the ideal backdrop to Roberto’s gentle, yet purposeful, bars.

“The last three years or so has, in essence, been me tirelessly creating content just to leave it on my hard drive and try to create something better the next day. I’ve written and conceptualized entire albums just to scrap them entirely or to throw away certain songs,” he said. “The recordings you hear [in Many Truths] are the first and only drafts I made for the songs and the mixing and mastering was done immediately after writing and recording each individual track, with me virtually living in the studio to make sure I had no choice but to get it finished.”

Stream Many Truths below.

Guayaba Melds Bossa Nova, Psychedelia and Horrorcore on New LP

Photo by Úna Blue

In 1959, in the midst of an American craze for bossa nova, Brazilian director Marcel Camus made his stunning film Black Orpheus, an adaptation of the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice set in the mid-century favelas of Rio de Janeiro. In the opening scene, a clamoring procession of villagers play tambourines and drums, women transport jugs of water on their heads, and children play dice in the dirt. Slowly, soft singing and nylon-string guitar fades in like a gloomy, mysterious fog. This is “saudade,” the Portuguese word for a profound, encompassing melancholy, and the essence of Fantasmagoría, the new spell-binding album from Afro-Cuban rapper Guayaba, which arrived November 11.

The follow-up to 2016’s Black Trash/White House, Fantasmagoría is more than Black Orpheus—it’s a fever dream imbued with elements of South American psychedelia, negro spirituals and horrorcore. With artful concept and elaborate production, Guayaba guides the listener through revenge, magic, and death, then brings us back to life again. The album channels saudade, as well as magical elements of Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition akin to Santeria, and the concise, pared-down beauty of bossa nova. In fact, the film Black Orpheus—which Guayaba “enjoys quite a bit”—is referenced directly in a track by the same name.

Audiofemme caught up with Guayaba to hear about their early days of performing, their wordplay and theme-driven songwriting process, and the making of Fantasmagoría.

AF: Tell me about how you got into music – what inspired you to start performing?

G: Music has been in my life for as long as I can remember, which may be a stereotypical answer. I was in choir from a young age, sang in a few school talent shows, had a bit of classical training in community college and some vocal music classes in college. I was absolutely terrified of performing in the beginning, so I worked my way up in a somewhat linear fashion; uploading music semi-anonymously to myspace, then uploading videos of myself on youtube, onto coffeeshops/busking, and finally my first live show in January of 2015. By then I felt prepared enough to perform in front of others, but it was somewhat of a journey. As for my inspiration, I wanted to do operatic vocals for a gothic metal band. I wish my origin story was more exciting.

AF: Do you have a creative process? Do songs most often happen in pieces, on-stage, or all at once in the studio for you?

G: My creative process definitely takes place in pieces. It may take a minute for me to put together a song; sometimes it’s very easy, sometimes it’s 3D chess. I like to include particular themes and wordplay in my music that I do have to think about, so I’ll often revisit lines to see how I feel about them. 

AF: How do you define your sound and influences? Or do you prefer to let it all be undefined and organic?

G: I jokingly have referred to my music as ‘funeral trap’ before, but I do feel like that’s a somewhat accurate description of my rapping. I stand at a crossroads of horrorcore, alternative r&b, psychedelia and latin music. and I like to play with the idea of what things are or aren’t musically. Things are developing so rapidly in the musical climate, especially in hip-hop. As a joke I often call myself a grindcore musician as my songs are often short. 

My influences are extremely broad; I minored in ethnomusicology at Evergreen and have an appreciation for every genre. For this album specifically, my influences are across the board; from Yma Sumac to Billie Holiday to Diamanda Galas and so on. I was and am a huge metalhead and goth kid, and elements of that slip into this record as well. There’s an overwhelming sense of dread hanging over the head of the listener, and it invokes a sense of saudade despite there being very subtly bossa influence. We’ve taken South American psychedelia, negro spirituals, choruses of the dead, and dances of the living and invited them to stay here for a while.

AF: Tell me about the inspiration behind your new album, Fantasmagoría. What does the title mean? Or rather, where is Fantasmagoría? It feels like you’ve taken us to a new place.

G: The definition of Fantasmagoría is “a sequence of real or imaginary images like those seen in a dream.” It was also a form of horror theatre that used projected images and often sensory elements. The album’s overarching themes are sleep, death, magic, and revenge, and guides you through an uneasy dream that turns into a nightmare within a nightmare. It is largely based on my own dreams, of which I am lost deep in forests being chased, feeling a terror I’d never feel in the waking world. Fear that gives me the anxiety of death and forces me to come to terms with it. I float down rivers of crocodiles and wild dogs snap at my heels. I wanted to build a sense of urgency that occurs when you have to run, but it feels as though you’re running through quicksand. I want to portray the feeling of seeing who you hate the most, but only being able to hit them in slow motion. The frustration, the fear, the anxiety; it’s something we all experience. But the way I experience it lies deep within a jungle and I will only take you deeper.

AF: How did the new album challenge you? How do you think it expands on your earlier work?

G: This album challenged me in ways that I could never imagine. I’ve never put so much work into a piece of art before, and I’ve never invested so much of myself into something like this. Black Trash/White House was a fun experiment in finding my sound/establishing myself as Guayaba. It was recorded in Luna God’s (the producer’s) bedroom and I just didn’t take it as seriously as I could’ve. We put a lot of hard work and time into Fantasmagoría; I wanted a cohesive concept that I felt proud of, not just something I slapped together out of what felt like necessity. BT/WH was surprisingly well-received, and I had to elevate that. I had to take my time, but things happen for different reasons.

 AF: Who was essential to making this album happen? Who appeared on the album and what did they bring to the table?

G: Eric Padget is the other essential person on this project I couldn’t have done myself. Eric had me come in for sessions in his isolation booth, engineered and mixed the record, and has generally taken care of every aspect of what needs to be done that I’m not able to take on (distribution, promotions, etc). He is also just an amazing friend who got me through hard times when I thought I was going to give up, or on days where it felt like I could sleep through a week. Eric is amazing and this project would not exist without him.

Fish Narc is the producer of “Mariposa Mala,” and WOLFTONE produced the rest of the beats on the album. He’s a good friend who made the beats for me knowing the sound I was looking for, so I just went for it. We brought in Lori Goldston, an amazing noise cellist, and Michaud Savage, who played the classical nylon stringed guitar. Eric also played the cornet which was excellent. I did all of the percussion and vocals/animal sounds as well.

Without their involvement, this would’ve been a completely different album. Eric is amazing to the point that, towards the end of the record when I asked about adding live instruments, he asked “What did you have in mind?” without hesitation. They added an entirely new dimension to the beats and made them stand out in a way that I think is really exciting.

AF: As a fan of Latin music, I was really interested in your song entitled “Black Orpheus”—which, in some ways, fees like a modernized version of the classic by Antonio Jobim. What’s the story behind that one?

G: Black Orpheus is a film that I enjoy quite a bit. Stunning music and visuals, I love the intersection of the greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice in the setting of Carnival. It’s not a concept I’d seen before and it’s quite interesting to see how that was interpreted in 1959, as many black actors in starring roles in a film in North America would be unheard of at the time. It also touches on elements of Candomblé, which has very similar elements to Santería. There are touches of bossa nova throughout the project; the saudade invokes a melancholy that goes with the tone of the album, and in a way is a neighboring diaspora that has many similarities to Cuba; there is a large black population, but only white Brazilians are praised and put into the spotlight. Orfeu Negro was refreshing for that reason as well. I wanted to draw those parallels to a modern setting while also keeping elements of the Greek myth intact.

AF: I love “ D.U.M.E.” It’s like a scorned lover incanting a curse, and it aches in such a gorgeous way. Is this song based on real life, a character, or a combination of the two? Do you tend to write from real life or by embodying other characters/points-of-views?

G: This is rather dark, but “D.U.M.E.” is a spell I’ve cast on an abuser of mine who froze my life for a second and that I was able to break free from. I’ve never felt such a blind, visceral hatred for someone to the point of putting so strong of a curse on them; but this person is dangerous and harmful to black women, and I bind him from hurting others the way he hurt me. There isn’t much to be done about the damage caused, but this song was a way for me to help release some of the hurt and hatred I have inside, because it felt like it truly did something. I’d like to think that it’s a spell that can be  used for anyone who feels the way that I do about someone, but only if the person is still being actively harmful. The “D.U.M.E.” candle is one of the most powerful and isn’t to be toyed with.

I often write from real life, but I like to toy with different ideas and experiences for sure. I’m working on an upcoming EP and there’s a song about a haunted phone number, for example. I rap as a more fantastical version of myself, who is able to say what they wouldn’t be able to in real life. I’m rather shy off stage and its great to tell the stories I’d like through performance.

AF: What are your thoughts on the rapidly changing/contracting Seattle music scene? What has been the most challenging about the change? Do you plan to remain here as an artist?

G: The changing of the music scene in the city has a direct correlation to the city changing as well. The city has become more corporate and I think that means they are looking for safer, more radio-friendly artists to play events, and I do still feel like parts of the city are afraid of hip-hop. Seattle drains me as a city. People are (usually) extremely kind to me when I perform, but there’s still a veneer of strange, unwarranted judgement that drives many artists away from performing live. I’ve definitely gotten off of the stage and cried a few times due to the passive aggression of reactions to my performances; I know others have experienced that as well, and if it keeps happening, there won’t be many artists left.

I, like a few others, are tokenized as being the “alternative women” rapping in Seattle. There’s a rather obvious rotation that we’re included in to diversify bills, and it really makes you question whether you have talent or if you’re just filling a slot. 

Many, many artists are realizing the stagnation of the city and are leaving after a certain point. I completely understand. I’m lucky to have a wonderful audience of fellow queer folks, but many of the tech bros (as a whole, there are obvious exceptions) that attend shows are belligerent, rude, and downright people I don’t care much for performing in front of. I’ve never lived in Seattle in my life and likely never will; it’s a city that makes me wildly uncomfortable that is only going to get worse as Amazon roots deeper into the soil; but I play music there and seeing the change has been astounding.

AF: What are your goals as an artist overall?

G: My goals are to be able to make the exact music I have in mind, and to collaborate with artists that I respect and think I’d work well with. I’d like to work with multiple producers who have me in mind, I’d like to go all out with performances, and I’d like to hone my craft overall; I never want to stop learning and growing as an artist. I’d like to DJ at some point as well. Ultimately I don’t think I’ll be rich and famous and have no desire to be; I’d like to be able to take care of myself and my tía, be able to tour around the world, and to just quietly spread my sound through alternative genres and be recognized as an artist that puts a lot of work into their craft.

Follow Guayaba on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PLAYING CINCY: Zell’s World Is The Class Clown In “That’s What It Is” Video

Zell's World

Zell’s World released a fun video for his new single, “That’s What It Is.” The turn-up track marks the first offering from Zell’s forthcoming sophomore effort, Welcome 2 Zell’s World. The Chicago-bred and Cincinnati-based rapper last dropped his 5-track Want No Love EP in 2016.

“With this next project, I’d say, people should expect to hear a totally different Zell’s,” he tells AudioFemme. “I’ve angled more toward the club, the turn up [and] the gritty, mature type sound.”

While Want No Love‘s subject matter centered around relationships, Zell’s ready to get into his party bag on this next project. He says his latest single, “That’s What It Is,” is a good indicator of where his style is heading.

Zell's World
Zell’s World / Photo by Tef Jones

“The overall sound is something totally different from what I usually do, but I had to find a style and sound that really captured who I am and showed my personality,” he says. “Me and my team are really expecting great things to transpire from the release of this project. We’ve even had several meetings with the talk of a potential major EP deal, so we’re very optimistic.”

As for the video, Zell’s enlisted Cincinnati videographer Dre Shot This, and several friends, to shoot a high school-themed clip that caters to the song’s fun and laid back lyrics.

“It was so much fun, and lots of people showed up, which I thought was dope as hell!” Zell’s says of the video shoot. “When we shot, I just thought about being a class clown like I was in high school! That’s really where it all came from. I’m overall silly, but I wanted that edgy content to compliment the song.”

Zell’s is gearing up to release his Welcome 2 Zell’s World album before the end of this year.

“I am beyond excited,” he says. “This is a great milestone that shows growth, change, and maturity. I’m really looking forward to what people think!”

For now, check out his latest release, “That’s What It Is,” and watch the video below.

PLAYING CINCY: Khari Unites Cincinnati Emcees In “Da Art Of Ignorance” Remix

Da Art of Ignorance remix

Earlier this year, Cincinnati rapper Khari released his debut project, Sinsinnati. Now, he’s enlisted some of the Queen City’s best talent to hop on a remix of the standout track, “Da Art of Ignorance.” Maintaining his hard-hitting chorus, Khari swaps his verses out for bars from Allen4President, Dayo Gold, Phresh Kyd, Roberto, B.A.N.K.$. and ¡Jay Hill!

The original “Da Art of Ignorance” arrived with a thought-provoking visual, directed by Kevin Garner and backed by Khari’s affiliated production company, Be The Best Entertainment (BTB). In the newly remixed version, the Cincinnati emcees apply the pressure to the bold and dance-worthy track.

After Khari’s initial hook, Allen4President cuts in around the :40 mark. “I seen it all / From the dope killings and the potholes / From the Queen City to the King’s Island / We got queens, really, so why kings wildin’?” he raps.

“I hopped on the remix for numerous reasons,” Allen told AudioFemme. “It’s a good song and I can relate to it. I truly believe it’s a crazy world, but I can’t speak to what I don’t know. I’ve seen, heard, and have done a lot in Cincinnati. It just made sense and was on par with what I normally make music about – the real-life experiences of Cincinnati.”

“I’m happy for Khari, simply because I like all of the moves he makes, along with his team,” he continued. “There’s a big support system behind Khari and the rest of BTB and I’m happy he reached out in the way he did. He’s 1,000% accomplishing a lot in a small amount of time and it’s inspiring to see. Gotta respect and show love to the real!”

Following Allen’s verse, Dayo Gold arrives to lay some heat of his own.

“Khari is just a guy with a lot of energy and passion when he’s performing and I immediately connected with that,” Dayo said of working with Khari. “He hollered at me about jumping on the remix and I said yeah, no question. I’ve always wanted to jump on a remix—it’s just so hip hop to me. Especially with the song being from someone I view with dope talent.”

Landing at around the 2-minute mark Phresh Kyd hops in with his own flow. “What’s inside I bet will differ / From whatever you consider / Let me guess, I’m a high-class pothead / On the way to penitentiary since I’m not dead,” he spits.

B.A.N.K.$. marks the track’s next arrival with a boost of energy. “Mr. Miyagi, we turn up the party / Popping the bottles, I’m pouring Bacardi / Feel Like a Migos, I’ll take a Ferrari / Offset, now I got me a Cardi,” he raps.

Patterns of Chaos’ ¡Jay Hill! and Roberto trade the remix’s remaining bars, maintaining fierce intensity until Khari closes out the track.

“I decided to recruit those guys because, first and foremost, they are good artist friends of mine here in the city and I respect all of their artistry,” Khari said. “The idea of doing a remix came about when I put on my show for my album Sinsinnati. All those guys were on the bill with me and we all put on a great show in front of a nice crowd at Arts’ OTA. The idea hit me instantly after seeing everyone rock their sets to do a remix with those guys.”

“‘Da Art of Ignorance’ was the fan-favorite off my album and every time I perform it people sing all the words,” he continued. “So it felt right to bring the city together even more with a remix that included some of my favorite Cincy artists.”

Check out Khari’s remixed “Da Art of Ignorance,” featuring ¡Jay Hill!, Roberto, B.A.N.K.$., Phresh Kyd, Dayo Gold and Allen4President below.