Ryan Rocha is a thinker. You could probably tell by the detail in his paintings. Raised in Sactown but residing in the Bay Area, Ryan cut his teeth as an artist at a young age. Influenced heavily by music, other artists, and his beloved grandmother, today much of Ryan’s personality is fueled through his art, making each piece, engaging and dynamic.
We take a look into the photographic world of Lauren Crew, a Bay Area based photographer with a keen eye for aesthetic. We talk with Lauren about her work, her approach to photography and where she’s going next.
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.
Ladies and gentlemen, FEELS II is in the books. Much love and many thanks to all the folks involved in bringing our first art and music festival to reality. Bringing together a host of musical artists, from Kool A.D., Teebs and Kreayshawn, to visual artists like Ryan Rocha, Bud Snow and more, FEELS II was one to remember.
On the heels of some exciting new releases and a Feels II collab, we caught up with indie zine gods Nighted Life and its founder Nick Garcia. He put us up on Nighted’s origin story, the back catalog, and which shooters to look out for in the 2015. Also included, some thoughts on tall tees and “knowing better, doing worse.”
Another day, another dope ass Dev Hynes creation gracing my screen. Dev, whether under the guise of Blood Orange, or as the mastermind behind some of the warmest, cleverest indie pop and R&B in recent memory, has been busy these last couple years. And whether or not the folks listening always realize who’s behind it all, he’s already had a pretty substantial impact on modern pop, from Solange to Sky Ferreira to Theophilus and beyond.
The visual for “Chamakay”, featuring a supremely dipped Dev gigging his way through Georgetown, Guyana, seems pretty emblematic; suffice to say, Dev is doing his thing right now. Speaking on the video, Dev said, “I decided to visit Georgetown, Guyana for the first time, the town where my mother is from. She, herself has not been back for 30 years, three years before I was born. I tracked down family members, including my 92 year-old grandfather, who I had never met before. In this video you will see our first ever meeting.” Given the context, the whole thing is pretty representative of the things Dev does best. Yes, it’s visually gorgeous, and the song–all airy texture and vibey percussion–is beautiful too. But it’s also from a deeply personal, resonant place. More from Dev, sooner rather than later.
For art curator Trevor Parham, combining his relationship with art and Oakland is both natural and intentional. After growing up in The Town, Trevor moved across the country to study art at UPenn and, soon after building up his creative bars and graduating, set up shop back at home in 2006. Since, he has become immersed in the local art world, positioning himself as a contributor in an array of roles including artist, curator, artist manager, consultant, and gallery manager alike.
Trevor’s unique perspective on the current climate of art culture in Oakland directly informs his latest exhibit, Town Business: State of the Art Hustle, opening at Warehouse 416 this Saturday. Examining the relationship between art and economics in a changing city, the show will run through mid-October, featuring art from a wide range of East Bay creatives spanning the visual art spectrum, including photographer Lauren Crew, graphic artist Ralph Carlile Browne, and even yours truly. “It’s not only a developing city, it’s Oakland,” Trevor says, “It has a specific flavor and a specific way of doing things. And now we have all this business and economic growth. So like, what’s the child of that? How does the art fit in with that?”
I’ll never forget the day I bought my first surfboard. I had been talking with Tiago at my old apartment in Culver City when he said with his typically irrepressible enthusiasm, “Bro! I found you a surfboard, bro! Fifty Dollars. Let’s go!” On July 1st, 2010 I paddled out for the first time.
A year later, Max told me that surfing had changed my life. I never really thought about it. I always just felt how much I loved “tapping the source” as the grimy surf author Kem Nunn would call it. He was right, however, it had transformed me. Physically. Spiritually. Emotionally. I may sound like I’m the stereotypical surf dude, but what I’ve learned from surfing has crossed over into my life on dry land. It may seem like surfing was brought into my life by an enthusiastic friend; like I had simply been introduced to the sport and that’s all that was needed. In truth, however, hobbies don’t form that way. Much of what goes into people’s interests is a result of experience, and my foray into surfing had been slowly brewing over decades.
Back when Kurt Vile‘s album dropped earlier this year, I wrote a piece about how certain music just eases into a groove with my basic temperament. You know the songs I mean. Not the kind of stuff you’d call “fun” or “interesting”. There’s just some shit that seems to vibrate right at your resonant frequency. “Neptune Estate” sounds like somewhere I wanna stay for a while. It’s pretty and gritty and cosmic and positively fucking opiatic. Cast-iron breakbeat and monotonous loop. Intense longing. Dilla horns and grungy melody. It’s like a lo-fi “Fall In Love”. For lack of a better explanation, it’s just my shit right now.
“Neptune Estate” is, of course, yet another startling confirmation of the promise young Archy Marshall, better known as King Krule, represents. And fortunately, it’s one of many highlights on a debut that quietly justifies all the hype. In that regard, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon actually feels a little like a companion piece to Earl’s Doris–a subtly self-assured statement from an preternaturally precocious young dude. 6 Feet establishes an even, anesthetic tone, balancing out the sparse guitar/snarl dynamic of early favorites like “Out Getting Ribs” or “Easy Easy” (peep after the MORE too) with somber jazz chords and dusty, trip-hoppy, drum programming. It’s a satisfying, moody little album, optimal for a settled, reflective listening experience. In other words, if “Neptune Estate” pulls you in like it did me, 6 Feet is well worth getting lost in.
What does it mean to be a photographer these days, when everyone has a Nikon and Instagram has made everyone into an amateur shooter? Well, first and foremost, devotion and understanding of one’s craft is what distinguishes amateurs from professionals, and in that sense, LA-based photographer Sequoia Ziff is a true professional. As the in-house photographer for apparel and accessory company Della and with works featured in Urban Outfitters and Vogue Italia, Sequoia has developed a portfolio of portraits that speaks to her dedication to the craft. Snapping candid, intimate portraits of her subjects, her work hints at an admiration for legends like Annie Lebowitz and Helmut Newton, capturing something essential about each of the people she shoots.
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Sequoia for an upcoming W&B profile on R&B and house vocalist Kelela Mizanekristos, and needless to say, she killed it. Since then, I’d been eager to sit down with Sequoia to learn more about her love of photography and her inspirations. Check out our conversation, and more from Sequoia, below.
It’s hard to think of a rapper/producer combo in recent years that compliment each other as well as Gary, Indiana native Freddie Gibbs and Oxnard, CA legend Madlib. Maybe Lil B and Clams Casino? Keef and Young Chop? Or, if those pairings aren’t really your cup of lean, El-P and Killer Mike? Whatever your preference, it’s clear that MadGibbs is a team that works well–so well that I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that Piñata is the album I’m most looking forward to in the coming year.
Their latest track, “Deeper”, could really be considered something like a “Shame” Pt. II, but this time, instead of kicking hoes to the curb, Gangsta Gibbs flips the coin and gets a little sentimental. Over a typically nostalgic Madlib instrumental, Gibbs gets heated at his old thing for fucking with square dudes, self-consciously asserts that the only difference between him and her new man is that the other guy is “trying to be a fuckin’ astronaut”, and reminisces about finger-fucking her on the bus while singing Usher. All in all, exactly the type of mainey lines and imagery that we’ve come to expect from Gibbs. The duo is slated to continue teasing us with the Deeper EP out on September 24th. Piñata should reach our ears on February 4th.
Anybody who was playing NBA Live much around ’03 or ’04 should know that T-Mac during that era could very well have been the most devastating player in video game history. I used to go stupid with him on the Rockets. He was, after all, going stupid on the league in real life, and he boasted one of the most insane inside-outside games, and general skill sets anybody’s ever seen. Raining 3’s, off-the-glass bashouts, sneaky dimes–he was electrifying to watch, even with the half-lazy eye, and even without the Kobe-esque competitive fire.
Look, I don’t wanna do this as a cautionary tale. There’s no moral of the story here, and it’s not a “what could’ve been” lament. Besides, Bill Simmons already did that excellently, and thoroughly, the way only Bill Simmons does. For good measure, that piece even includes a positively tragic player-by-player recap of Tracy’s perenially fucked up supporting casts, a critique of his unleaderly demeanor, and a wistful meditation on what might’ve been, had he been able to get cozy in his cousin Vince’s shadow. Fortunately though, in that extensive retrospective, Simmons also identifies the seven-year peak of T-Mac’s career as one of the most phenomenal runs of its kind. And it was. 32-a-game-at-23-years-old phenomenal. 22 straight W’s in ’08 phenomenal. I remember running back the 13 in 35 seconds footage a dozen times in a row, because, well, there wasn’t any other option. YouTube must’ve been brand new, and I’m certain I spent my whole lunch in the computer lab that afternoon.
Wise man once said, “When you find a good spot, stick with it.” That’s what he said, so that’s what we’re doing. For the folks that have stepped through these doors before, same time, same place. But if you have yet to rock with us, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org for the address. Nightcap will feature DJ sets from Koslöv, Juan G and Yung_smh. Thank you for supporting us with your eyes and ears. This one’s about to be special.
Because I even half-assedly wear the title of an artist, Cutie & the Boxer hits pretty close to home. Just peep dude’s face at 1:06 in the trailer above. Artist Ushio Shinohara, an otherwise boastful and confident adult, stands splattered in paint, hands on hips, with the defensive face of a guilt-ridden child, crushed in the wake of his wife’s honest critique. I’d say I’ve been there. And I think anyone invested in creative work has. We wouldn’t be able to produce what we do without the support of those around us, but they can be some pretty difficult critics too. Even when people I love and respect the most are only trying to help inspire me through my painter’s-block or calm my approaching-deadline-induced panic, I often can’t help but feel that the creative struggle is only my own. That I’m an artist…and yes, perhaps from time to time, I am a bit sensitive about my shit. As I create, like Ushio, I joke and jab and passive-aggressively or aggressive-aggressively push my loved ones away. Because something about making art to be hung, judged, hated, loved, purchased, or traumatically disregarded is fucking brutal. And sometimes, tragically, relationships suffer in that process.
Director Zachary Heinzerling’s 2013 documentary, Cutie & the Boxer, positions itself within this very space – between lovers and their art. The story follows Japanese artist Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko living in New York, with 40 years of marriage and two extensive art careers under their belts. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, Ushio’s Neo-Dada-pop creations made him a fixture of both the Japanese art world and Andy Warhol’s New York. At 80 though, he’s now struggling to reclaim that stride alongside Noriko, nearly 20 years his junior, whose role as wife and assistant has taken a toll on her personal identity as an artist. The film is a profoundly intimate journey into the lives of Ushio and Noriko as lovers and artists working to navigate their marriage and careers after decades of ups and downs. Cutie & the Boxer is currently playing in select cities and I seriously encourage you to go see it. Love lessons, life lessons, art lessons, and these sick paintings involving a tiny old man throwing bows at a canvas. For more information about the film, check here, and for a brief look into Ushio and Noriko’s creative life, hit the MORE.
I first heard Oh Blimey when a friend sent me a link to her Grind Time battle versus Coco McPuffington in 2011 with the following note: “Remember Sam McDonald from high school?” ‘Here we go again,’ I thought. I didn’t remember her but growing up in San Francisco I knew a lot of aspiring, and not-so-good, MC’s. But by the end of her first verse, which she’s basically screaming, I knew she was different:
“You thought you could handle Goldie Locks? Well I’ma reverse the roles and show you who’s the beast/Cause no one will ever know you’re name bitch/Unless they Google me…”
I’d never seen anyone like her. No, she she doesn’t look like your prototypical battle rapper, with long blonde hair poking out of her red Giants hat–but it’s more than that. In the video, she’s going in so hard, her opponent is left speechless. Needless to say, her ferocity on the mic piqued my curiosity about the person behind the mic. Fortunately, I got the chance to chat with Blimey at the studio in Hunter’s Point, where she and the folks at Bad Shoes records have been putting in work to prep her next album for an end-of-the-year release. In our conversation, she offered up some insight on making the transition from battles to recording, and about her own unconventional path to doing what she loves.
As kids we all start off as artists, don’t we? We draw, we paint, we make sculptures out of bricks, legos, really whatever we can get our hands on. As the years go on though, as the Picasso adage goes, we seem to get caught up in a vicious cycle of working more and creating less. Reflecting on that unfortunate reality, I’ve grown to really appreciate artists like Andrew Ho. Choosing cartoon as his medium of choice, the Los Angeles-based illustrator has managed to maintain a childlike sense of creativity, even in the face of age and mounting responsibility.
Weaving biographical stories into his work, Andrew shares moments of his life in each piece. Ho’s illustrations touch on a broad range of passions and experiences, from love and personal relationships to his undying nostalgia for ’90s hoop. And though the cartoon aesthetic is playful, his work strikes an impressive balance between surface appeal, and hinting at a deeper level of meaning. Last week, I had the chance to ask Andrew a bit more about his work. Chatting about his girl, his artistic development and the underappreciated legacy of Patrick Ewing, Andrew taught a little and shared a lot in our short conversation.
“I’m a hot and bothered astronaut, crashing while jacking off to buffering vids of Asher Roth eating apple sauce”. I can’t remember the last time I heard an opening line from a rapper that caught my attention the way that did. Maybe back when Eminem was gauging my interest in violence. As it’s turned out, violence, and hard drugs, and generally, all kinds of horrific shit continues to be compelling subject matter for me, well into my mid-20’s, so when Earl and friends started mixing up toxic drug cocktails and coughing up blood in the video for “Earl” three years ago, well, that piqued my interest too.
Taking all that into consideration, it struck me as odd that it took me two weeks to give Doris a real listen. I have to admit that even as I started to dig into Earl’s new material, and even as I began to recognize the quantum leap in artistic maturity that brought them to fruition, I guess I wasn’t grabbed quite as forcefully as I was when I first met teenage Thebe a few years ago. Off top, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough to say about the record to write a decent review. After a few full-immersion rotations though, I’ve realized it’s actually everything I wanted Earl’s honest-to-god debut to be. The reasons I love the album are pretty different than the ones that sucked most of us into the Odd Future universe initially. But for whatever Doris lacks in shock value, you’re unlikely to hear a record this year that exists in its own sonic and emotional space the way this one does. For an album made by a kid who stands squarely at the eye of a perpetual tornado of media-cycle/teenage-fan fuckery, it’s startlingly self-contained. It might as well have been created in a vacuum.
In some ways, it would be easy to read an album like Doris as a shrug. Earl is, as is usually the case, locked into his trademark sleepy deadpan, and sonically, the tone of album is decidedly woozy and bleak–all gutbucket drums, crinkly samples, and ominous tones. At first glance, the smattering of guest verses from homies, or the based spontanaeity of it all feel almost haphazard. Verses float into the foreground without much fanfare, and for the most part, they’re delivered with all the urgency of an emphatic eye-roll. And to be real, a cleverly apathetic album, a sort of “okay, here” moment in the face of all those expectations would have been admirable in its own right. But anybody who’s taken the time to dissect even one or two of this kid’s mindfucking, internal-rhyme-jigsaw-puzzle verses could tell you that Doris is more than that. Hidden away under all that gloom is a sharply curated listening experience, overflowing with narcotic charm, thoughtful introspection, and subtly gutsy musical ideas. This is the sound of a young artist confident enough to put together something that reflects his own uncompromising vision. It’s a record that’s completely deserving of our attention, without once going out of its way to demand it.