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BEEN ON TASK

From tats to tags, visual artist Jus Ontask takes us inside his creative process in a couple different mediums. Luckily, the homie and OnTask family member Veeejzilla was around to document, giving us a step-by-step look at these pieces coming together.

NATURE BOY

Fresh off his debut, and helping to grow a gear empire, Andre Martel is ready for the world

NATURE BOY

Andre Martel

It’s not every punker that would throw a Lambo in his music video. Then again, Andre Martel is a man of broad taste. His debut full-length, His Majesty Obscured pairs cloudy psychedelia and off-the-wall slap with his own high-intensity delivery, swerving in and out of moods and ideas. One moment, he’s in heavy flex mode. The next, he’s onto emo spaceouts. The clothing line he and Antwon design, Nature World, draws on ’90s canon staples like Bugle Boy and Fubu, and alternates imagery between femdom S&M scenes, combat boots, and what may or may not be a Bobby Brackins reference.

At this point, the “Holy shit this guy loves punk stuff AND he’s great rapper!!!” angle on Twon has probably been exhausted, but the cross-cultural tendencies that have come to define Nature as a crew are still worth thinking about. They’re also–and this should be obvious to people who spend much time engaging with lots of different shit–not exactly disparate sets of ideas.

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IN WITH THE NEW

We check in with YK's own DJ Shruggs to see where he's been, and where he's going

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Our first transcendent moment with Shruggs happened at the first FEELS. As the art show slowly turned turnt, and FEELS rose to life, Shruggs (born Skyler Strickland-King) hopped on the tables. It was unexpected, considering he wasn’t on the bill, but the impromptu set set the stage for what was to come.

Rising to prominence in the Bay alongside his Youthful Kinfolk collaborators, Shruggs’ weekly radio presence in the form of Rime Radio continues provide a rarefied collection of slaps you wouldn’t really expect to hear together. Broadcasting live on All Day Play FM at Downtown’s Youth Radio, Rime brings together an eclectic mix of rap and electronic, splitting the difference between dark and moody, and smooth and melodic. That unpredictability is a good thing, and one that sets Shruggs apart when approaching his craft. With YK’s Open House event on the way for tomorrow afternoon, we sat down with Shruggs to check in on what’s next.

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ON TECH & THE PRISON SYSTEM

Pendarvis Harshaw dives deep into the ways technology is changing the world for the incarcerated

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Fusion

All praises due to our good friend Pendarvis, for helping to tell stories that matter. As the journalist, and photojournalist, behind OG Told Me, Pen’s photo-interview-essay series with Oakland’s assorted elders is just one of the many storytelling exercises he’s been a part of. More recently though, Pen set up shop in a new position at SF’s Fusion to continue on the journalistic path, with a newfound focus on the strange, exciting, and frequently troubling space that is the tech sector.

Pen’s latest project, a collaboration with Fusion’s Senior Editor Kevin Roose, sheds some light on the fascinating but under-covered intersection between tech and the prison system. “Tech Behind Bars” is split into three pieces, each focused on a different issue–the first on the illicit market for digital devices behind bars, the second on the difficulties inmates encounter on entering a “digital society,” and the third on “video visitations” and the range of new tech devices being introduced into the corrective industry’s institutional framework.

For those of who mostly encounter tech reporting through stories about either how many hundreds of millions some enterprise software startup just raised, or which cool ass neighborhood landmark is about to get bulldozed, reporting like this is always refreshing. As we keep on grappling with the big questions–like say, whether all this new technology will keep opening up lanes for empowering people, or whether powerful people will just have more efficient weapons at their disposal to shit on everyone else and sell them things–it’s cool to talk about the impact of all these advances on people who tend to get left out of the conversation. In any case, Pen and Kevin have more insight than I do on the subject, so peep the excerpts below, and follow the links. More than worth the read.

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RARE COLLECT

Oakland's own Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment is a video game archive for the people

Museum of Art & Digital Media Photography by Max Claus

The first time I walked into The MADE, it was a trip. A trip because I hadn’t expected to confront my childhood and feel the nostalgia of remembering how dope it was to be a kid. As the bleeps and bops, loading screens, and box art images flashed in my head, I kept asking myself, “how haven’t I heard about this place?”

If at some point in the past, you were obsessed and consumed with video games, The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment is quite literally a safe place you can go to relive and reflect on a time when NBA Jam Tournament Edition was all that mattered and which one of your homies got all 120 stars in Super Mario 64. Looking around at everything for me started to trigger vivid memories of once meaningful video game achievements and that one time on my birthday when I wanted Street Fighter 2 for the SNES but that shit was sold out everywhere. Haven’t fucked with birthdays since then.

The MADE is a non-profit museum that houses a collection of historically significant works in video games. It is dedicated to educating and teaching the public about how video games are created, and how they’ve changed over the years. Its main goals are preserving the history of video games and heralding them as an artistic medium.

Oh, and you can play them.

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KOSSISKO – “THIS MAY BE ME”

The artist formerly known as 100s takes a step toward reinvention

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Kossisko

“To the 100s fans, I appreciate each and every one of you, but it’s now time for me to continue my journey. So this is goodbye.” So says the kinda-epitaph that closes out the video for “Ten Freaky Hoes,” the vocoder-laced slice of synth boogie g-funk that served as the de facto lead single for IVRY. Released in the fall of last year, the video is an at-least-for-now swan song for the 100s project, which found the Berkeley native going balls to the wall with uncompromising, $hort-inspired pimp raps. A few years removed from stumbling on a YouTube embed of “My Activator” on Yams’ Tumblr, IVRY and Ice Cold Perm stand as two of the most all-around solid rap projects I can remember from the last half a decade.

As of last week though, the Kossisko persona has gone live, following up a few one-offs with a legitimate introduction in “This May Be Me”. Slow burning and new wavey, with Kossi singing in a Billy Idol/Bowie on “China Girl”-register, the song is likely to be billed as a rebrand, which it isn’t exactly. Like a bunch of the best tracks from Perm or IVRY, production on this one is led by Joe Wax, and there’s a pretty clear kinship between the slinky ’80s synth slow-burn here, and the more Purple Rain-ish chunks of IVRY–even putting aside the guitar solo. Anyway, it’s a jam, and the video’s pretty wet too. I guess a little change never hurt anybody.

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NOISE POP SHOWS YOU SHOULD HIT

This week, SF's sprawling indie fest is coming to a venue near you

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Noise Pop

Now in their third decade of operation, Noise Pop has had the kind of longevity most music events can only dream about. Dispersed across a few dozen venues in the city, and now the Town, NP’s 2015 iteration brings with it another lineup that’s impossibly stacked with shows, featuring buzzy indie outfits, electronic experimenters, and onetime P4k darlings. In 2015, I’m kinda inherently suspicious of big, broadly booked festivals that purposefully don’t really book rappers, but shit, you still gotta to give it Noise Pop for consistently booking solid bands, and putting on for a good chunk of the local scene. Plus, any festival that counts DJ Rashad and R. Stevie Moore as alums is OK by me.

In that spirit, we figured we should put together a quick overview of some of the folks playing the festival that shouldn’t be missed. You might notice the acts here fall a little further down the bill, and that a lot of them are from Oakland or SF. This is for a few reasons, one of which is that if you want to see Caribou or the dude from Death Cab, you’re shit outta luck anyway. The other reason, obviously, are that the bands are tight, and that you should support tight bands that live near where you live. OK, let’s do this.

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OUT FROM WITHIN

A look inside the visual mind of Ryan L. Rocha

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Meeting Ryan Rocha makes you wonder how many budding artists are standing behind coffee counters around the world. It was a simple interaction at the coffee counter that led to our initial conversation. My $5 Yeezus Tour tee always a grand conversation starter. Our conversation about music, led to a conversation about art, and a conversation about art introduced me to his work.

Raised in Sactown, with relatives in the Bay, Ryan’s work serves as a road map into the mind of a critical thinker. Drawing much from his experiences and relationships for inspirations, Ryan cites his grandmother as one of his primary influences.

As one of the visual artists from last November’s FEELS II Festival, we thought it only appropriate to check in with the mixed media artist. After recently publishing a collection of drawings, writings, and paintings entitled “Four Piece,” Ryan spoke with us about life in Sac, the meanings behind his work, and his beloved Vava.

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THE WINE & BOWTIES FEBRUARY SOUNDTRACK

Bowties-approved experiences for your ears

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Delroy Edwards

Once upon a time, we used to throw up a gang of new music downloads here every few weeks. Back when Hypem reigned supreme and personal music blogs had a little more pull, bundling up musical selections for my friends was damn near my favorite thing to do. It was an innocent time. KanyeUniverseCity was poppin and the most divisive issue was chillwave. We were willing to believe Wale and Cudi were people with interesting things to say about the world. I think we’re still trying to wash our hands of some things from that era, but there was a certain optimism in the air, and that felt cool.

My outlook on the digital “culture” media landscape in 2015 is a little more cynical. The whole inglorious end of the Carles saga feels like an omen of a gloomy and boring future full of scalable content. The process of consolidation, the gradual convergence of the music hype cycle into an increasingly smaller pool of opinions and buzz artists–it’s all happening. It’s definitely not not happening.

And yet, there are still things about the internet that are great and worth not taking for granted. There may be less blogspots serving up 320 vinyl rips of weird prog and jazz oddities, but the YouTube rabbit hole is still real as fuck, and you can still mute your computer when Taco Bell ads pop up. There are also lots of labels reissuing tight shit and plenty of individual humans making cool shit in their rooms on computers. Lots of them have Soundcloud pages they update regularly. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s still pretty fun to go digging, as long as you’re looking in the right places. So in that spirit, here goes some Bowties-approved music from pon di interwebs. There’s some South African funk, some Rich Homie, some John Carpenter horror themes, some grimy house, some Willow Smith space soul. In other words, hopefully something for everybody. Who knows, maybe this’ll become a tradition again.

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THE MATING DANCE

Malidoma Collective set it off Saturday night with yet another vibey celebration

the Mating Dance

Gotta say, this creative community we have here is a beautiful thing, and like Marshawn, I’m thankful for all the crews and collectives doing good work and cultivating their lane. One such squad doing just that is the Malidoma Collective, the multitalented supergroup of musicians, photographers, filmmakers, and other artists “projecting a spectrum of the female vision and voice,” and “rekindling the spirit of reciprocity” here in the Town.

On Saturday, Malidoma hosted the second iteration of its Mating Dance, so Max, Jasmin, Kev and I made moves out to Oakland Terminal to soak up the scene. Borrowing the wall-to-wall celestial backdrop provided by current visiting artist Joshua Mays, Malidoma celebrated all things “euphoric and seductive”, with guest performances from Queens D. Light and Rayana Jay, slaps courtesy of Shruggs, Spencer Stevens, Jjaahz, and Nono, interactive art pieces, and a scene-stealing burlesque show from D. Faust, silhouetted against a full-wall anime projection. As usual, all good folks, all good vibes. Here’s to the next one.

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THE REAL U.S.

American Matthew quit his day job to create stuff; now he's on a cross-country, crowdfunded tour

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Matthew Nelson is an artist from Fort Worth, Texas who believes in himself so much, that he devised a plan to traverse the Northeastern and Southern United States playing free DJ shows for which he does not get paid. Belief: that’s the central tenet of his musical tour, called BIYDIY (for “Believe in Yourself, Do It Yourself,”) on which he’s embarking with his longtime friend Blue, Anthony Blue, Jr., sometimes called Stonie.

Matthew, 29, known by his moniker, “American Matthew”, currently lives with his business partner Wayne Wilson in San Juan, Puerto Rico—a jewel of a place, one that he says is lit up with clear waves, blonde beaches, palm trees—the kind of stuff you’d see on a faded poster in a travel agency. But from today ’til February 28th, American Matthew will be stateside, playing shows in cities including but not limited to: Philly, DC, Miami, Houston and Denton. The latter is a city in Texas that he pronounces with a marked twang, Deyntin, home to the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, and the only place in the Lone Star State to ban fracking. Blue’s middle brother (also named Blue, which gets confusing sometimes), has a residency at a bar in Denton, and while Matthew and Blue were home for the holidays, they threw a party at said bar, then another one at a warehouse the very next night. Back to back shows, and they pretty much killed.

DJing those two nights ultimately planted the seeds for what would become BIYDIY, what Matthew calls an independent DJ show. Money: that’s the other essential aspect in this series of performances. Matthew’s what you might call a bohemian. But in actuality, he’s more political than that. He says everything has a financial implication, and that there is always a money conversation happening. He moons over things that won’t cost him much, because he says cash is complicated.

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Straight Shots

Gorgeous views from across the pond, shot by Magdalena Korpas

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There’s a unique crispness to the photos of Magdalena Korpas. Born in Gdansk, Poland, Magdalena’s love for photography has taken her all over the world, from Amsterdam to Paris, to her current home in Los Angeles. And while her acting endeavors have provided her with some considerable recognition in the field, Magdalena’s passion for photography reigns supreme.

Magdalena describes her work as an effort to quench her curiosity around the complexity of human behavior. Whether friends, family or strangers she meets along her travels, Magdalena takes to her subjects with an honest lens, capturing individuals authentically, and as they are. Fortunately for us, Magdalena’s work found our inbox. Hence the words, and the accompanying photos below.

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American Reject

Brooklyn's Chelsea Reject is on the verge

American Reject

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Duck Down Music, founded by Black Moon member and Brooklyn underground legend Buckshot, has been home to some of the borough’s most rugged hip hop since its inception 20 years ago. Along the way, it has housed 9th Wonder, B-Real, Heltah Skeltah, MURS, Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price, Smif N Wessun, and Statik Selektah. And aside from the signature dungeony boom bap we’ve all come to expect from those artists, they’ve got another thing in common. They’re all dudes.

Enter: Chelsea Reject. The 22-year-old Bucktown native is the most exciting new addition to the label’s roster in recent memory. She has made the seamless transition from spoken-word artist to emcee, bringing to her live performances an intimacy and vulnerability that belie her age. Set to release her debut, CMPLX, in Spring 2015, Duck Down’s only female artist has been busy, performing at the Music Hall of Williamsburg alongside Talib Kweli in December. With upcoming performances in Cambridge, New York, and Philadelphia, Chelsea has already worked with the likes of Buckshot and Pro Era members CJ Fly, Nyck Caution, and Kirk Knight. Today, she drops a new video for “Go,” which features T’nah Apex & CJ Fly.

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