2016 was, to put it lightly, tumultuous. A messy election – and even messier conclusion – was at the forefront of the mainstream news cycle. We mourned legends and buried loved ones. The hubris of corrupt world leaders continued to endanger millions of lives. Dangerous ideologies re-emerged, while our own notions of how the world worked shattered.
Despite all this, 2016 was a formative year. People came together to create, celebrate and endure despite everything. This mix is a celebration of that spirit, and features just some of the artists who released music in 2016 via albums, EPs, singles and loose tracks.
The “Summer in Lisbon” mix is the follow-up to my entry in the Classical Trax “Bailewave” takeover for Thump Brazil. This is an ode to kuduro and batida, a style of music that I love and a movement of artistry that greatly inspired me as a DJ. In the center of the cover is a raven, which is found on the crest of Lisbon, and is the mascot for the Baltimore Ravens football team. Baltimore is where I continue to mature as a DJ, and a city where I’ve been fortunate enough to play kuduro to a very eclectic and welcoming audience. The drummers in the clouds represent the african rhythms which are frenetically manipulated for to create the foundation for batida music. Finally, the surfer represents me, riding the waves of the rhythms.
Tracklist coming soon. In the meantime, just vibe!
College Park-based funk outfit Box Era hosted another jam-packed edition of Boxapalooza, a house show that brings some of the D.C.’s areas best talents for a one-night smorgasbord of hip-hop, rock, funk and everything in between. Close to 200 people filed into Xanadu, the codename for Box Era’s house, which saw them headline the night, with performances by The Red Fens, G.U.M.P., and 20NVR. Dusty, a talented photographer from the area, who has photographed art shows, Young Thug Concerts, and Parallel Diamonds moshpits, as well as Frankliin, DJ/producer and overall creative with Last Niight, took some great flicks of 20NVR’s set Follow Dusty on Twitter and check his VSCO page for more of his work! Follow Frankliin on Soundcloud and Twitter.
Mix + Photos by Antonio Hernandez.
Bounge (Rebecca Drumm) is a recording and visual artist based out of Baltimore. Often, she is a lone “wolf” – writing, producing, recording and engineering all her music. Recently, however, Bounge has decided to let collaborations with Not A Collective, which have long remained in the vault, to see the light of day. This Mercury Rising mix features a mix of unreleased and released songs/beats, as well as forthcoming collaboration with Not A Collective.
Tracklist coming soon!
Words + Mix by Antonio Hernandez. Photos courtesy of CHESS.
With the release of Dizzy Gordo’s “Young Gordo” album, music collective CHESS continues its impressive streak of releases over the past year, including Miles Meraki’s “Angels May Die” album, and a slew of tracks from Gordo, Meraki, Allen Le Grand and Knight. Born in Alexandria, Virginia and raised in Forestville, Maryland, Gordo merges sub-shattering bass and syrupy melodies, with effortless braggadocio that incorporates the DMV’s unique slang, with references to choppin’ (the cousin of beating your feet) and boof (read: narcotics). “Young Gordo” is the rapper’s first full-length project and marks a year’s worth of work, and is something he hopes “everybody could vibe with.” Via e-mail, I chatted with Gordo about his work and his life.
The Mercury Rising mix includes a number of songs from “Young Gordo,” “Trap Gordo,” features and an exclusive via CHESS.
Q: How did you get into music? What made you decide to make your own?
DIZZY GORDO: I always been into music. I was playing instruments when I was younger and I was a big Lil Wayne fan. My cousin was always freestyling and shit so I played around with that but it was never serious. Then one day I was bored and downloaded Audacity and used my Call of Duty headset and recorded a “Brand New Guy” freestyle over that A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q jawn and I been rappin’ ever since.
How did you link up with CHESS and After F?
DIZZY GORDO: Codie (CHESS Media Manager) been my mans since 6th grade, and Allen has been my engineer since back in high school and he got the studio. Working with him and Codie, I found out about CHESS. I ended up meeting everybody that year right before I dropped my Trap Gordo EP in February of 2014. Everything was natural and the music was tight so we just started working.
^ Dizzy Gordo (photo courtesy of CHESS).
I didn’t get apart of the group until like December though. I had been a fan of the (Kool Klux) Klan when I was in Middle School and shit but didn’t know any of them. When I started rapping Cal Rips, was one of the first people who followed me and that’s how I got introduced to the rest of Klan. I met rMell (Gram Fam) when he was in Klan through Codie so I already knew him. Miles is also apart of CHEES, and I met Matt (McGHee) on Twitter.
^ Dizzy Gordo & Allen Le Grand interview with T. Brown (@tbrownmedia) for her #MediaMonday series.
One of the first things I noticed was the difference in your hooks, as compared to the Trap Gordo EP. Did you hone in on that for the album?
DIZZY GORDO: Nah, not really. It’s not really a certain rubric I go by when I make songs. I just wanted to show people I could rap. “Young Gordo” is more about me and the shit I dealt wit so it was just easier to make the shit that’s just sitting around in my head. It’s an accumulation of music since last June when I dropped the single.
Your sound has been very consistent. How do you work with the producers? Do you spend time in the studio with guys like Miles Meraki or Clayt da Great?
DIZZY GORDO: Appreciate it. I’m rarely in the studio wit the producer. People usually hit me wit beats or I’m finding new producers online. Like Fxnesse is in Tennessee and OG Taxx is in Detroit. Miles and Allen used to stay in the same neighborhood, so when we first met we started making music. I met Clayt at Cal’s house and shit just clicked and we’ve been working ever since. That’s our (After F) in house producer.
“People need to stop blaming not getting on because people not tryna listen… keep working on their craft and make it undeniable”
What are some of the challenges of being an artist in the area, which is still arguably considered up-and-coming?
DIZZY GORDO: I never tripped off the fact that there aren’t a lot of artist coming out of this area, because it’s the same almost everywhere else. People need to stop blaming not getting on because people not tryna listen or give them a chance and just keep working on their craft and make it undeniable.
How do you measure the success of the project? Do you base it on plays, downloads, crowd reaction? A mix of all three?
DIZZY GORDO: It’s a mix of all three. I love performing and seeing people know the words to my music. It’s motivation for me to keep making the music and putting it out for the people.
Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
DIZZY GORDO: Somewhere smoking gas.
Mercury Rising Mix Tracklist:
Dizzy Gordo – Young Gordo
Dizzy Gordo – Pockets
Dizzy Gordo – Know Im Poppin
Yin Yang ft. Dizzy Gordo – 24 Hours
Dizzy Gordo – Catch Up
Dizzy Gordo – Yola
Dizzy Gordo – GTF
Dizzy Gordo – Ok (exclusive)
Dizzy Gordo – TMWYN
Dizzy Gordo ft. Aceology – Guapanese
Miles Meraki & Dizzy Gordo – Eat Shit (Prod. ClaytDaGreat)
Dizzy Gordo – Curbside
Allen Le Grand ft. Cal Rips, Dizzy Gordo, & King Rosè – Deposit
Dizzy Gordo – No Remix
Words, Photos and Mix by Antonio Hernandez. (IG photos courtesy of FRNVR)
In the basement of a split-level house, tucked away in a nondescript neighborhood just outside of College Park, some of Maryland’s most promising young artists gave one of the best shows I had seen last year. Four-piece jam bank Box Era hosted and headlined “Boxapalooza” last June, attracting an audience that packed each room in the house and eventually spilled out into the back patio. Riverdale’s 20NVR crew gave a performance that proved that they were more than ready for the big stage.
I first got word of the show via an Instagram post by 20NVR co-founder Kassim Okusaga, whom I had met many years ago through a mutual friend. At the time, he was just 16, and recorded music as KO, with his friend Peter. Together, they formed the pseudo-label “DaDaDamn Records,” and started recording and sharing their music amongst friends, mostly for fun about “a lot of cheesy shit,” as he put it. Eventually, Kassim realized that he wanted to take rap more serious, and with Peter’s encouragement, decided to move on. His first mixtape “A Consumer’s Mind” was his first mixtape and only release with producer LaBrew Solomon of Solo Recordings.
Frustrated by creative partnerships and results that weren’t what he had envisioned, Kassim decided to once again go on his own and re-strategize. But what had been missing was already around him: best friend and lyricist D-Keyz, producer and crooner Baptizeee, vocalist Fayson and singer Hasani. Together, they formed 20NVR, a crew founded on shared experiences of setbacks. Most recently, the crew performed at University of Maryland’s Art Attack with the Hip Hop Orchestra, with much acclaim.
^ Mercury Rising Mix: 20 NVR
Q: Who came up with the name 20NVR?
KASSIM: Fayson did by accident. Someone asked him when his album is coming out, and he say in the year two-thousand never, and it was just so clever.
How did you all meet?
KASSIM: “Keyz is actually my best friend, I met him freshman year. I met Hasani with Keyz, who was trying to join the dance team. I met Baptizeee through poetry. He did this dope poem, and I went up to him and we just got cool. I met Fayson, when we had psychology together.”
BAPTIZEEE: “Kassim was like the cool kid on campus, and I don’t know why (laughs). So I thought this nigga was lame as hell. We rode the bus together one time, and I talked to him and he broke down music and showed me some. I didn’t think any of it was tight, but he was a nice guy to talk to. I told him I was doing some poetry and y’all should come out and see me. They came out and saw me and since then it’s been happiness. “
HASANI: “I met Oceans (Baptizeee) at Lyrical Storm, he did this tight poem about the Wizard of Oz. “
D-KEYZ: “He was kind of a catalyst, because Kassim, he’s such a nice guy! I love that. He’s one of the most genuine people you will ever know. At that age, and as a blooming artist, that’s awesome. Whenever I hear somebody, I try to do the same, because you never know what you can spark; you could spark a career.”
“I was looking for facial expressions and see if I’m fucking up or if I’m doing it. People were amazed because I was real reserved in high school” – D-KEYZ
What were your first experiences in music?
D-KEYZ: “I probably didn’t rap out loud before my first time, since my junior year [of high school]. We used to have these cyphers, and I wrote this verse to Chris Brown “Look At Me Now,” because I just liked the beat and Lil Wayne is my favorite artist of all time. I wrote a verse, and we were doing the cypher, and I didn’t know the instrumental would come up, and Kassim already had heard the verse I had written to it, and he was like “spit it! spit it!” and this was the first time I rapped in front of more than one person. This was fight or flight syndrome. I rapped it, and in the middle of me rapping it, I was looking for facial expressions and see if I’m fucking up or if I’m doing it. People were amazed because I was real reserved in high school.”
“I always knew I could sing, but the people around made me feel like it’s something I could actually do” – HASANI
HASANI: “When I was in the 11th grade, I participated in this talent show with this girl. I was known for dancing, so when I went on stage, it was like why is the mic up there? So I sang, but she pretty much fucked that shit up for me because she forgot the words. I looked at the dude who was doing the music and I did the “turn that shit off face” and I walked off stage. It was a cover, John Legend “Used to Love You” You know that song? How do you forget that song?
I always knew I could sing, but the people around made me feel like it’s something I could actually do. Not to try and stunt or anything, but I have a nice voice – nice enough to do music on my own, anyway. These are friends, they take it serious, and I’m going to take it just serious as they are, and now we have 20NVR.”
BAPTIZEEE: “I started poetry in 11th or 12th grade, but I went to performing arts schools in Missouri, until 9th grade. I’ve always known music, I’ve always been involved in music, but I didn’t start doing my own music until 12th grade. [In Missouri], it’s not like how it is now, because I was secluded. I went to charter schools and gifted schools, so I didn’t get to see the reality, and I wasn’t necessarily paying attention at a young age. I know it’s hectic there now. There was segregation and all that. I went to a school, and there was only eight black kids, so it was mostly white kids.”
FAYSON: “I’m a church kid. I started off singing in church choirs. I used to write raps on MySpace to other people’s songs; parody songs, like Weird Al. My mom was a Preacher and my dad… came to church (laughs). Riding with my mom to church, we listened to gospel: Kirk Franklin, Donny McGurklin. When I rode with my dad to church it was like, Ludacris, Ja Rule and Jay-Z. He played a lot of old music like Isley Brothers; smooth stuff like Sade and Smokey Robinson.[My mom] wanted us to understand that you have a choice on who you’re going to serve. You can like this music, you don’t have to live by it. All music is good music. Some songs she couldn’t help but like because it was good music. We would be listening to the Clarks Sisters one minute, and then she’ll turned to 93.9 (WKYS) and listen to “Gold Digger, or “Shake It Fast” by Mystikal.
“Me and Baptizeee have great chemistry, so when me and him are on the same wavelength it’s ridiculous.” – FAYSON
FAYSON: “Me and Baptizeee have great chemistry, so when me and him are on the same wavelength it’s ridiculous. Anything that me and him come up with together is probably going to be one of my standouts. “Dumb” is a close second, another unreleased track. When it drops, it’s going to be a problem.”
Do you feel that there are enough opportunities to showcase your music and perform?
FAYSON: “To an extent. I tend to play the background a lot, and I’m not really social. I need to get out of that. Seeing Kassim do his stuff, it’s a lot of politics. A lot of people in this area, they already know what’s going to happen. No matter how good your music is, the higher ups are going to make sure you don’t get seen, because you didn’t buy 2,000 plays on Soundcloud. They already know, and everybody’s funding each other. But it’s cool because you’re going to give us respect or we’re going to take the respect.”
D-KEYZ: “You definitely need to know where to look. It’s kind of one of those things of knowing the right people. Luckily, 20NVR, we’ve been blessed enough where we ran into some amazing people who can get us into some great places. There’s a definitely a lot of talent, and a lot of people who have this dream. It’s just a bunch of perspectives clashing in a small area, it’s really cool to see.”
“My solution is to make fans everywhere else first” – KASSIM
BAPTIZEEE: “Yes and no. There’s enough outlets, but it’s always overpopulated, and because of that, the quality of people – the turnout – is starting to become diminished because people are like we’ve seen this already. “
KASSIM: “The area wants to say they show love, but they don’t show that much love. And it’s cool because this is how you know if you want it bad enough. You can make excuses, but once you find the excuse, you have to find solutions. My solution is to make fans everywhere else first, and then just keep generating here as well.”
2016 is shaping up to be 20NVR’s breakout year. Just a couple days ago, The Hip Hop Orchestra – a group of over 20 musicians and artists including members of 20NVR – reached the second round of Afropunk’s Battle of the Bands and will take their talents to Brooklyn. The guys are also working on a group album to be released this summer, while Fayson and Kassim are working on their own projects. Kassim’s mantra “so youthful,” reflects the energy, camaraderie and dedication that binds the crew.
Spring is off to a polarizing start in the District and in Baltimore. Daytime high’s in the 70’s, low’s in the 40’s, and pockets of rain have been alternately interrupted by as many cloudless days as overcast afternoons, and I have been filled with different energies. Recently I did a couple mixes that were posted, with two different vibes The first, is the second entry into La Liga Zine’s #LaLigaMix series. Inspired by their first mix which highlighted Latinx artists across a number of genres, I wanted to focus on electronic music from women DJs, producers, rappers and publishers who are killing it!
I returned the favor to BVRNADETTE, who did a Melt Mix last year, by doing a short mix of some Nigerian pop, gqom and afrohouse, and was a great opportunity to play around with some tunes I played with this past weekend at 9:30 Club’s Backbar with Gonzalo Silva aka DJ Reck (Thread/Brick Bandits). Listen below, and stay tuned to the series!
The second installment of #ElectricWinter, features an eclectic set collection of songs from rappers, singers, bands and producers from the DMV and Baltimore, ranging from Baltimore Club to Go-go and everything in between. Check the tracklist and stream below!
Act I – 00:00
Jacob Marley – “Soul Pond” (feat. Christal Sade)
Chiffon – “Venerable”
Blaqstarr – “I’m Flyin’”
A Mirror And The Reflections – “Outta My Bed”
Meche Korrect – “Mama Said”
GoldLink – “Dance on Me”
New Impressionz – “Down For You”
Babeo Baggins – “Team” (feat. Babenstein & Babe Simpson)
Jeausmeaux – “Ready”
Pilate – “Drummer Boy 2015”
Act II – 14:20
Jacob Marley – “Bali”
Kelow – “Brazil / Kitty Litter”
Chaz French – “Questions”
Vans Westly – “Corolla (prod. Drew Scott)”
Nigel Frank ft. Sir E.U, Why Fi & Nero Scream – “Efishent”
Nappy Nappa – “D.C. Daily News” (prod. Rezt)
Soduh – “Fall of Iris”
Black Zheep DZ, Soduh & ICce – “Trap Cathedral 2.0”
Dylijens – “WURWFAM” (prod. + feat. Butch Dawson)
Jay Verze – “Crazy”
Cal Rips – “Imaginary Girlfriend” ft. Beya Likhari b/w UncleRussie – “Aphrodite”
Act III – 30:25
Jacob Marley – “Air Chrysalis”
Normaling (feat. DDM) – “Shade”
Normaling – “Do It To the Katz” (VIP Edit)
Calvo – “Flower Bomb” b/w Yoshi – “Deep Inside Me Two”
Elon x Schwarz – “Hero”
DUOLO – “Cryo”
Schwarz x Kilbourne – “Do or Die [Y.O.L.O]”
DJ Juwan – “Get Buck”
DJ Lor Yae – “Throw Back Thursday”
The “Melt” series comes to a close with a fitting mix by Baltimore’s Jumbled, who compiles his own “Best of” 2015! A slew of dope hip-hop joints, including some gems from some of Baltimore’s best!