Tag Archives: drake

Wisconsin Sound #8

DEAD HORSES ON THE ROAD

At the end of September the Oshkosh-born/Milwaukee-based acoustic folk band Dead Horses released their new album Cartoon Moon. The beautiful and thoughtful 10-track project was recorded at Cartoon Moon Studios in Nashville with former Wilco and Uncle Tupelo drummer Ken Coomer. Last month they hit the road on a 10-state, 14-date tour in support of Mandolin Orange. I spoke with lead singer Sarah Vos during the band’s day off in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dead Horses
Dead Horses

VOS
We are going to go to the beach and see the ocean today. I haven’t seen the Atlantic for quite some time so I’m pretty excited.

WiG
How has the road been?

VOS
It’s awesome because we’re playing all these new cities and they’re pretty nice rooms, and really, really receptive crowds. So it’s been a blast.

WiG
How was it returning to Nashville where the new album was recorded?

VOS
There was a cool coming around with that it being almost exactly a year later. It was really fun. Our producer Ken Coomer came out to the show with his wife and his son and we got to hang out with him backstage. It felt very special. I’m a big fan of Nashville. It’s going to be a main stop for us for touring in the future. We’ve started to make friends down there.

WiG
It was a good show?

VOS
It was a great show, one of our best in Nashville. We’ve done the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, so that was pretty cool. We got to play at The Station Inn,  which is kind of a historic bluegrass venue.  To do that as part of the festival was really neat. You have all these dreams and goals, as soon as you reach one goal you kind of got your eye on the next one and you never quite make it to the horizon. But I always try to remind the guys in the band that we should be celebrating because we are very blessed.

WiG
I read that Cartoon Moon is the record that you really want people to hear. What sets it apart and what makes it so special for you?

VOS
I think it’s a patient record. It shows how we have matured through the years. I feel that it’s crafted a lot more, it’s more deliberate than other things we’ve done. That’s something that I want to continue to do as we keep making records. Because you know in the industry they talk about how bands don’t make as much money from records anymore.

But when I look at the way music has affected me and the reasons that I even wanted to be a musician, it was growing up and listening to records. To this day I’m always searching for new things to listen to and I love that. Recording it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I love having this very focused project that was collaboration between the members of the band and the producer and the sound engineer.  

WiG
Have you been writing new songs while you’ve been on tour or performing any new material?

Dead Horses live at Anodyne Coffee. [PHOTO - DeWook Photography]
Dead Horses live at Anodyne Coffee. [PHOTO – DeWook Photography]
VOS
Usually when I write it’s pretty private, at least when I start the songs. But at the Nashville show I was very inspired by all the things that we’ve seen touring and the people we’ve met. Traveling right now across the country during such a crazy time in politics and things that are happening in the country, I’ve been telling the audiences at every show that I think regardless of where you stand, a lot of people feel pretty disheartened by the state of things. But we’ve been meeting such compassionate and wonderful people everywhere. So I’ve been trying to remind people at all the shows that it’s going to be ok. Don’t lose hope because things are going to work out.

But yeah, I always write a lot, I journal a lot, and a lot of times I just write down little snippets of things. Or even just word combinations that strike my fancy. As far as actual songs I’m not sure exactly how the new record that we’re beginning to dream up is going to go, but I just feel very confident that everything that we need is already there. I can’t wait to make another one.

Click here to listen to Dead Horses on WUWM.

B-FREE’S NEW ALBUM & POWERFUL PERFORMANCES

In the fall of 2004 I saw Jill Scott in concert at the Chicago Theatre. That performance remains the most emotionally resonant live music experience of my life. The songstress regaled us with poignant stories in between beautiful songs performed with a full band and mini orchestra. My friend and I were brought to tears and compelled to call our loved ones immediately after the show.

'Ode 2 a Luv Affair' artwork
‘Ode 2 a Luv Affair’ artwork

Listening to the latest record by Milwaukee R&B singer B~Free (Britney Farr-Freeman) reminds me of that autumn night in Chicago. Ode 2 A Luv Affair is B-Free’s second studio album. It takes listeners on a journey through the trials and tribulations of love. The recording process was challenging for a couple of reasons. Freeman, who also works as an educator, contracted a throat illness from one of her students that required surgery.

“It was difficult for me to allow myself to be as comfortable in that space as I once was. There were a lot of moments of rawness and vulnerability that I wasn’t quite ready to deal with. For example, when I was recording ‘The Vow’ I was pretty much crying the whole time,” Freeman tells me.

I first saw B~Free at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn last year when she shared a bill with Klassik, who was being backed by Foreign Goods. Freeman is now a member of Foreign Goods, which she credits with allowing her to be more comfortable collaborating and playing in front of larger audiences. Last week she was joined by her bandmates at Turner Hall to see Esperanza Spalding, an experience as affecting for her as the Jill Scott concert was for me in 2004.

B-Free [PHOTO - Mahdi Gransberry]
B-Free [PHOTO – Mahdi Gransberry]
“It was absolutely phenomenal,” says Freeman. “I was so inspired and moved emotionally and musically. It made me sincerely question my own existence. It was so deep without even trying to be. She conveys such a strong message about finding your own path and putting everything that you’ve been taught or forced to believe to the wayside. That’s always something that I’ve been aiming towards in my own life and artistry. I want to be able to wield that same power with whatever I put out into the world.”

The response to Ode 2 A Luv Affair has been positive, albeit a few detailed critiques on the album’s iTunes page. She is in the early stages of developing her next record, but before that she will go into the studio with Foreign Goods to record their first album this winter.

“It’s our goal to have it be a project that highlights everyone’s talents. There will definitely be some rap on there, some jazz, some harmonies, vocals, R&B, just a mixture of everything that we do. So we’re excited and we’re gearing up for the process,” says Freeman.

Tonight you can see B~Free with Foreign Goods for free at Club Garibaldi for a live broadcast of 91.7 WMSE’s Local/Live. Erin Wolf and Cal Roach will talk to B~Free and take audience questions in between a live performance. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the segment runs from 6 to 7 p.m. If you can’t make the show you can tune in at 91.7FM or go online wmse.org.

THE JAZZ ESTATE REOPENS BETTER THAN EVER

Unbeknownst to many Wisconsin music fans, Milwaukee has a storied jazz history. The scene has gone through its ups and downs and is currently experiencing a resurgence. One of those reasons was the temporary closing of the Jazz Estate.

Jazz Estate exterior
Jazz Estate exterior

The historic East Side haunt became the focal point of the Milwaukee jazz scene in the 2000s. When it closed its doors last year a few venues began hosting live jazz. After much anticipation and a few delays, the Estate officially reopens tonight.

In November 2015 the Jazz Estate was sold to John Dye, owner and operator of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge since 2008. I spoke with Dye at his acclaimed South Side lounge while they were hosting a Jazz Estate cocktail preview.

“It’s always been one of the places in Milwaukee that I’ve been interested in, but they approached me,” says Dye of his new business venture.

“We’re going to do some really nice versions of classic cocktails from the ‘70s and ‘80s, ones that nobody really touches. They’re good drinks, but they’re just a little uninspired,” says Dye. You might say he’s done the same thing with the Estate.

Opened in 1977, the building fell into disrepair over the years. The Estate’s reopening was originally slated for July, but more renovations were required than anticipated. Given his dedication to preserving history, Dye took his time to do it right. Last week I attended the club’s soft opening and I’m happy to report he’s done just that.

Jazz Estate interior
Jazz Estate interior

As soon as I walked into the Estate there was a “new club smell.” It’s as if Dye’s team polished every inch of the club and then added a few of their own flourishes, like the tin ceiling in the front room and the house drum kit. The vintage looking lights and register give the bar a Bryant’s vibe. The seating and sightlines in the back area are improved as well. And the acoustics are excellent.

The Jazz Estate will feature live music on Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., with cover ranging from $5 to $12 in the first month. There is no cover for the grand opening Thursday night. DJs and pre-recorded old school soul and jazz will play the other nights at the Estate, which is better than ever.Click here for more information and to view their calendar.

SOUL LOW COVERS FEMMES, NEW RIO TURBO & UPCOMING DANCE PARTY

Soul Low at Cactus Club
Soul Low at Cactus Club

In my second feature for WiG I wrote about the young Milwaukee pop rockers of Soul Low. The success of their debut record (Uneasy) and acclaim for their latest effort (Nosebleeds) has put them in an exclusive category of Wisconsin music, alongside only a few other bands. One of those is The Violent Femmes. With lead singer Jake Balistreri’s quivering falsetto so similar to the Femme’s Gordon Gano, it was just a matter of time before the Soul Low boys paid homage to their Milwaukee music ancestors by covering “Blister in the Sun,” the Femmes’ biggest hit. I had heard the song was in Soul Low’s repertoire, but hadn’t experienced it live until last Friday night at Cactus Club. It was Night One of Gloss Records’ Halloween Spooktacular. Soul Low — half of whom were dressed as Power Rangers — closed their set with the rollicking, fine-tuned cover.

161027_vddp_posterPerforming right before Soul Low at Cactus Club  was Rio Turbo, Milwaukee’s premier trash pop dance party. Joey Turbo  dressed in neon orange hunter regalia — and his Turbette dancers debuted three new songs to kick off their set. “No He Can’t” is an instant hit, with a driving beat that my feet couldn’t deny. “Ballad” is a trippy, airy track that made me think of The Flaming Lips, with Turbo sounding a bit like Wayne Coyne. Rio Turbo also debuted their sick new neon sign, which sat on the table in front of DJ SPACE BAR, the latest edition to the Turbo lineup.

Also on Friday I announced the Beyonce + Jay Z vs. Rihanna + Drake dance party at Company Brewing on Saturday, November 26. I’m producing this event with my girlfriend and visual artist Kristina Rolander, which Rio Turbo will be making a special appearance at. The event also includes an all-star lineup of DJs (Bizzon, Annalog, Optimist, Turtle Sooup), host Lex Allen, cocktail specials and an original photo backdrop by Kristina.  Click here for more information and to RSVP.

NEW MUSIC FROM WEBSTERX, BO TRIPLEX & HIS BEAUTIFUL BAND, AUTOMATIC

Artwork by Janice Vogt
Artwork by Janice Vogt

Experimental hip-hop artist WebsterX has released his first song of the year, “Blue Streak.” Since putting out his debut project Desperate Youth in 2013, the most high profile member of the New Age Narcissism collective released some major “loosies” (singles not attached to a larger project) with 2014’s “doomsday (feat. siren),” 2015’s “Lately” and “Kinfolk (feat. Allan Kingdom).” Not to mention, last fall’s excellent 3-track, Radiohead-inspired collaboration with Q the Sun entitled KidX.

Thankfully for fans, the Four Giants produced “Blue Streak” does not continue the “loosie” trend. It is the first single from what will be WebsterX’s debut studio album. Upon the song’s release WebsterX also announced that he agreed to a distribution deal with Chicago-based label Closed Sessions. The outfit was responsible for helping the early career development of Chicago rappers like Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. WebsterX will maintain 100% ownership of his masters and will benefit from the label’s influence and reach. Click here to listen to “Blue Streak.”

"Hold Me Down" artwork by Jessica Yimenez
“Hold Me Down” artwork by Jessica Yimenez

Milwaukee bassist, New Age Narcissism member and music scene all-star Bo Triplex released a new single as part of the Nightmare on Center Street II playlist. “Hold Me Down” is from Bo Triplex and His Beautiful Band’s forthcoming EP deux, which has an early February release date. Bo says of the track, “‘Hold Me Down’ is a clash of worlds. Bo has been captured by those he came to defeat and though they taunt him so he refuses to give up. For he knows y’all are holding him down. Special thanks to Beathouse Music Inc. and Yessica Jimenez for the art.” Click here to listen to “Hold Me Down.”

“For the 3rd single from their upcoming full length, Marathon (11.11.16), smooth hip-hop group AUTOMatic brings the classic early 90’s R&B vibes with their certified slow jam, “You Don’t Love Me.” Emcee APRIME explores what it’s like to be caught in the trap of a love/hate relationship – something all of us have been in at least once in our life. Producer Trellmatic’s production is top notch and he adds updated drums to the retro groove. This one is for everybody that grew up with the Quiet Storm radio show playing in the background, late at night.” Click here to listen to “You Don’t Love Me.”

NEW VIDEOS FROM ISHDARR, HOT COFFIN, THE RECORD COMPANY, NO NO YEAH OKAY

Last WiG issue’s featured artist IshDARR released the first video (“Locals” directed by Damien Blue) from his latest project Broken Hearts & Bankrolls, which has received over 4 million streams in its first 3 weeks. Metal band Hot Coffin spent a late night making a freaky video in The Oriental Theatre for their song “Whistle, Hawk & Spit,” which was directed and edited by Jed Schlegelmilch. Burlington-native Chris Vos’ wildly successful LA-based blues rock band The Record Company released a lighthearted, hula hoop-centric video for their hit “Rita Mae Young.” Also, local chill wave rockers No No Yeah Okay put out an eerie Ryan Bilinski directed video for “Great Scott” from their debut EP Dual.

Meet the man behind Milwaukee’s rap phenom IshDARR

WRITTEN BY JOEY GRIHALVA

Once upon a time record label reps crisscrossed the globe in search of promising young musicians. You might find one hanging out in the back of a small club or at a showcase. These days most up-and-coming artists are left to their own devices. The current industry model requires a built-in following on the Internet and on stage before labels bother to reach out. But the emergence of the do-it-yourself online infrastructure makes you wonder what major labels are still good for.

That being said, when an artist does get tapped by the industryeven if they choose not to pursue a contractit can decidedly improve their circumstances. Such is the case of Milwaukee rapper Ishmael “IshDARR” Ali.

Ishmael "IshDARR" Ali
Ishmael “IshDARR” Ali

At 20-years-old IshDARR is the hottest Wisconsin hip-hop artist by industry standards, with over 7 million streams of his single “Too Bad,” a brand new projectBroken Hearts & Bankrollscharting on the iTunes Store, and a world tour under his belt.  

I recently sat down with the man behind-the-scenesIshDARR’s close friend and manager Enrique “Mag” Rodriguez. We scheduled our interview for his studio, which I assumed was a converted recording space in a commercial or industrial section of town.

Imagine my surprise when I pulled up to a modest two-story home in Burnham Park on Milwaukee’s South Side. The front lawn was filled with a trampoline, bicycles, and all sorts of toys. Like many 22-year-olds, Rodriguez is living with his parents. But unlike many millennials, Rodriguez and IshDARR almost bought a house in Los Angeles this summer.

“We live by this saying, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’” Rodriguez tells me in his upstairs bedroom studio, a sparse space with a single microphone in one corner, an old laptop with a busted screen connected to a large monitor in the middle, and a mattress pushed up against the opposite wall.

As Rodriguez plays me tracks from Broken Hearts & Bankrolls we talk about how he got started producing in high school, their experience with the music industry, their house party series, their new studio, and their decision to stay based in Milwaukee.  

BOODAH’S LITTLE BROTHER

“I actually used to rap starting in 7th grade,” says Rodriguez. “But I only rapped because I wanted to learn how to record and I didn’t know any rappers. Being raised on the South Side nobody really rapped, that wasn’t a thing over here.”

That would change when Rodriguez enrolled in Messmer Prep for 8th grade on Milwaukee’s North Side. There he met Radonte Ashford II aka “Wave Chapelle” and Isaiah “BoodahDARR” Ali. The trio bonded over their love of hip-hop and formed a group called NoNam3. Rodriguez had been playing the clarinet since 4th grade and Messmer’s band director Greg Flattery became supportive of their music.

“One day I showed up to school and our band director had a Mac in this room with a really good interface, two expensive microphones, some of the walls were soundproofed and he was like, ‘Here you guys go, create.’”

Rodriguez and Ashford II spent the summer before their junior year learning how to use the makeshift studio. The next semester Ali’s little brother Ishmael started at Messmer.

ishhiding
IshDARR

“It’s crazy because he was always just Boodah’s little brother. He was the youngest so he was never the focus and his voice was very high pitched. After high school I worked with Wave for a little bit but then he moved down to Memphis and I quit making music. I had a regular job at a banking company and it was kind of cool. Then one day I got a call from Boodah. He wanted to try some stuff with Ish.”

Boodah, Ish and Rodriguez created a group—iLL Collective—that put out three songs and a video. But the project ended faster than it formed, as Boodah left for college at UW-Parkside.

After another false start, Rodriguez pledged to leave music alone for good. But a message from Ish two months later reeled him back in. Throughout the winter of 2013 and spring of 2014  the duo worked on music that would eventually became The Better Life EP.

AMANDA & ATLANTIC

As they were preparing to release The Better Life Rodriguez and Ish received an email from an A&R at Epic Records named Amanda Berkowitz. She expressed interest in their music. Shortly after Berkowitz left Epic and started her own creative agency in New York City. Over time Berkowitz would become Rodriguez’s mentor and eventually IshDARR’s co-manager.  

“I’ve seen people post about Amanda being ‘Ish’s secret manager.’ But she’s not a secret, she just doesn’t live here. She is someone we go to for advice. If we need something she’ll help us make it happen. She coordinates things. She tells us what to watch out for, the ins and outs of the industry, she makes sure we’re heading in the right direction. But she’s also trying to figure it out just like us. ”

In the summer of 2014 Rodriguez and Ish were flown out to Los Angeles by Mike Caren, who was at the time Vice President of A&R at Atlantic Records.

Ish and Mag in NYC
Ish and Mag in NYC

The scene Rodriguez describes is straight out of a movie. Big house in Beverly Hills. Plaques on the walls from household names. Caren sits Ish down in the big chair, listens to his music and asks him about his plans. Rodriguez says the meeting went well, but they decided to pass on the opportunity.

“We could sense they saw it becoming something bigger and wanted it early. We were like, ‘We either give this to them or we do it ourselves and see what happens.’ At the time we had nothing to lose. Ish was 17, I was 19.”

“That was our biggest motivation. Somebody actually opened the door in the industry for us and was like, ‘We want you guys to be a part of this.’”

Prior to the Atlantic meeting Ish opened for West Coast rapper Schoolboy Q at The Rave. Ish linked up with Q’s independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) and were attached to Ab-Soul’s tour that Fall. Ish refers to that experience as a major milestone in his career.

During this time labels were knocking on Ish’s door and flooding Rodriguez’s email with beats. That is how they got their hands on the J Gramm instrumental for what would become “Too Bad,” Ish’s biggest single. J Gramm is responsible for some major hits, including “Broccoli ft. Lil Yachty,” Big Baby D.R.A.M.’s current smash. “Too Bad” got a huge lift when actress Chloë Grace Moretz tweeted it out, generating 14,000 streams overnight.

“I think most people aren’t prepared for stuff like that to happen, that’s why they can’t follow up. You’ve got to be able to push records and give them a life instead of just dropping a song and moving on to the next thing.”

HOUSE PARTIES & HUGS

The first time I met Rodriguez was the summer of 2015 in the alley entrance of a barbershop on Historic Mitchell Street. It was the initial house party in a series to celebrate IshDARR’s second projectOld Soul, Young Spirit. The party featured a slew of local rappers doing a couple songs each in between DJs playing dance hits. Guest rappers included Von Alexander, Job Jetson, Klassik, Pizzle, and WebsterX. It was a packed, sweaty, rowdy affair. IshDARR closed the night with a wild rendition of “Too Bad.”

Ish at a house party.
Ish at a house party

“I used to throw parties all over the city,” says Rodriguez. “I realized the easiest way to bring people together is by giving them alcohol and music. We did three OSYS parties and brought out 100 to 150 kids to each. I’m not sure that would’ve happened if they were concerts. We’re exposing them to Ish while they are there for a party. I think that was one of the big reasons we were able to sell out The Rave last December.”

IshDARR’s camp originally had a tour in the works for this fall but ran into routing issues. They also realized they stand to make more money hosting house parties. Rather than paying to rent a venue and the associated fees (security, sound) all they need is a fan with a house and they take care of the rest. Having sold out college houses all over Wisconsin, they are taking “The Locals Experience” around the country this fall.

“Ish knows he’s not ‘somebody’ yet, but he knows he wants to be somebody. And he wants his fans to know that at one point they met him and Ish appreciated them. So he’ll stand at the door and say ‘Thank you,’ take pictures, and give everybody hugs.”

THE PLANT & THE CITY

While working on Broken Hearts & Bankrolls Rodriguez bought new equipment for the studio he is building on the East Side using blueprints he received from friends in New York. But they decided to keep the project cohesive and finish it with their bedroom equipment.

“We’ve recorded in big studios all over the country, but there’s nothing like recording in this room for some reason,” Rodriguez says about his bedroom studio.

ishhat
IshDARR

“There’s an aesthetic to making a project, it has to fit with what’s going on in your life. We could just put out a project full of singles and it might do well and we might make some money, but it’s not genuine. I can’t speak for Ish, but this last year has literally been broken hearts and bankrolls. With the rising fame this stuff has happened in his life and it’s happened in my life.”

“I think this project is a good interpretation for people to get to know Ish better. It’s a very dark project and that might throw some people a little bit. Because it’s pretty conscious and coming from Ish’s heart. I think now that he’s growing as an artist, he’s more worried about what he wants instead of what people want to hear.”

While Ish has drawn comparisons to Midwest contemporary Chance the Rapper, the moody music and honest lyrics on BHBR are closer to Drake. In fact, one of BHRB’s standout tracks—“Dumb Playing”—was created by frequent Drake producer Chilly Gonzales. Rodriguez—who records, mixes, masters and even does graphic design for IshDARR and his affiliates—cites Drake’s friend and producer Noah “40” Shabib as a major influence.

“I feel like to be great you have to imitate greatness. I studied that man’s sound. I want to imitate my version of what he’s done. There’s a lot that ‘40’ did that people don’t even know about. That goes with being behind-the-scenes. And I’m cool with that. I love being behind-the-scenes. I generally don’t like being in crowds. I have social anxiety. I like watering the plant, I don’t like being the plant.”

magseat
Mag

When Rodriguez talks about IshDARR’s notoriety he often uses Drake as an example of someone who lifted his or her city up. Drake’s success shined a light on the Toronto hip-hop and R&B scene, which brought artists like The Weeknd and PARTYNEXTDOOR to the mainstream. Rodriguez believes IshDARR could do the same for Milwaukee’s bubbling hip-hop scene and be a positive influence on the city in general.  

“There’s too much going on here, there’s a lot of lost youth. The segregation in the city is ridiculous among browns and blacks. I think it’s important for people like me and Ish to promote that you can do something positive rather than being out in the streets killing yourself.”

IshDARR was one of the first artists to be featured at a Freespace event, which is a monthly all-ages music showcase run by Janice Vogt, Vincent Gaa, WebsterX and Kane the Rapper. Rodriguez sees Vogt and Gaa as important community leaders supporting the city.  IshDARR has also modeled for Milwaukee streetwear brand Among the Prime.

“We want to help build Milwaukee. And I think artists lose themselves when they leave their city. We’ve been all over Europe, we’ve been all over this country, but there’s nothing like coming home and ordering some chimichangas from down the block. That’s just how this goes.”

ON STAGE

IshDARR will be in Racine October 27, at The Altamont in Marquette (Michigan) on October 28, and in Madison on October 29. Follow @IshDARR on Twitter and SnapChat for updates from “The Locals Experience.”

fullsizerender-1 

[ FULL INTERVIEW ]

When I arrive at Enrique “Mag” Rodriguez’s house he and the Canadian producer Canis Major are slowly rising. They “went hard” the night before at Bad Genie in downtown Milwaukee. Canis leaves the house to get Wendy’s.

Mag offers to play songs of the new IshDARR project Broken Hearts & Bankrolls.

fullsizerender

WiG
Are you calling this the first official album?

MAG
Some people say first album, some people say sophomore album. This is really still a mixtape. We haven’t really worked on an album yet. We consider this a mixtape. The only difference is that we got really good support from Spotify and Apple Music. It definitely sounds like an album though.

[He plays me the intro “Crown Ct, Racine” and second track “Yes, You.”]

IshDARR
IshDARR

MAG
The first one was produced by Canis Major. And the second one I think his name is Vincent Leone, some kid from Sweden. He’s like 16. He’s sent us some dope stuff.

WiG
Ya’ll getting that a lot? Beat submissions.

MAG
Personally on my email I get 10 to 15 beats a day. I try to get to all of them because you never know what you might find. But it gets a little overwhelming after a while. Since we finished the project about two weeks ago we’ve been taking a break. We did this last time and we did this when we dropped The Better Life. We took a break for like a month of no studio. Just letting experiences happen.  

Plus we have so much music. We recorded about 85 songs and only put 12 on the new project. I’m going to play you this song “Dumb Playing.” This was produced by Chilly Gonzales. I don’t know if you’re familiar…

WiG
I’ve heard his name.

MAG
You know So Far Gone by Drake?

WiG
Of course.

MAG
You know the last song where it’s just keys and shit?

WiG
Yeah.

"Four The Fuck Of It" artwork
“Four The Fuck Of It” artwork

MAG
Where he pops a bottle of champagne? Chilly did that. On a song I produced, “Four The Fuck Of It,” I sampled this random song that he had out, made it into the beat, and he fucked with it. He reached out to me like, “Yo,  I love what you did to the beat…” Then he reached out to Ish and built a relationship with Ish. He sent me 20 samples of different piano keys and was like, “Here you go, do whatever you want with them.”

He’s a grammy-winning producer. He’s worked on Drake’s albums. That was so dope. And so this is the song he did for us.

[Plays “Dumb, Playing.” It’s really fucking good.]

WiG
For a track like that, Chilly makes the beat, sends it to you, then you record Ish’s vocals. And do you handle the effects on his voice?

MAG
Yeah. I recorded, mixed, and mastered everything on the project. I’m going to say that track is the one I did the least amount of work on to be honest, because all I did was some rearranging. Everything else on the project we had an original of the song. Usually how it works is they send us an MP3 of what they arranged and we record over that. Then we’ll send it to them and ask if they can send us the stems. They’ll send us every individual component, like the kick, keys, et cetera, and then we rearrange everything.

WiG
What software do you use?

MAG
I use Pro Tools. I produce on FL Studio though. I wish I had a version of a song before we released it to give you an idea. This isn’t on the project but to give you an idea I’ll play you “Mucho Mango.” You heard that track, right?

WiG
Yeah. That’s an example of how Ish pays homage to the old school. Did you sample the original song?

MAG
We just used the vocal sample for that one. What’s crazy about that song is that we recorded it September 7th of last year and we just kind of sat on it. We didn’t do anything with it because we had already dropped OSYS and we dropped “Sugar” and we were still moving singles. So we just kind of left it alone. And when we were doing the rollout for this project we were like,  “Well we gotta drop a loosie. We should drop two new singles and two loosies.” One of the loosies being an original and one being a remix.

"Mucho Mango" artwork
“Mucho Mango” artwork

For “Mucho Mango,” I think one day me and Ish were listening to some old stuff and this is something that came up and we were like, “Yo, we should do it.” We reached out to the producer ESTA. and he was like “Yo, I love it, let me do some stuff to it,” and he sent us the stems. But what was funny, you’ll hear from the original version, is that we didn’t even get the right stuff. He forgot a lot of stuff because I think he was in a rush. He had a gig somewhere else. But it was low-key dope. You’ll hear it, it’s completely different than the original.

[Plays the original version of “Mucho Mango.”]

WiG
Yeah, you can hear the guitar way more, it’s different.

MAG
At first we didn’t know what to do with it because we got the stems and we were like, “Damn, this is like a completely different beat.” And we were just like, “Fuck it.” We went in and redid it and it came out dope. I personally like the new version better.

WiG
Yeah the new version is clean, I fuck with it. I was wondering though if the sample is why it’s not on the project? Like if you couldn’t get it cleared.

MAG
No, we can get stuff cleared. I don’t know, I think it didn’t fit the vibe of the project. We have some amazing songs that will probably never be released. But I feel like there’s an aesthetic to making an album or a project. It has to fit with what’s going on in your life. We could just put out a project full of singles and it might do well, but it’s not genuine.  

When we do these projects it’s not about just having a song blow up. Of course you want that because it’s good for business and you can make some money. But it’s also about creating music that’s genuine. I can’t speak for Ish, but literally this last year has been broken hearts and bankrolls. With the rising fame this stuff happened in his life and it’s happened in my life. It can happen to anybody, so I think this project is a good interpretation for people to get to know Ish better.  

"Old Soul, Young Spirit" artwork
“Old Soul, Young Spirit” artwork

I think Old Soul, Young Spirit was that too, at that time. It describes him perfectly at that time. I think there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to ask why isn’t there another “Too Bad.” I feel like the best way to answer that question is that “Too Bad” was where Ish was then. And I think now this project is where he’s at. It’s a very dark project and I think that might throw some people off a little bit. Because it’s pretty conscious and coming from Ish’s heart. I think now that he’s growing as an artist, he’s more worried about what he wants instead of what people want to hear. Records like “Mucho Mango” were like, “Oh, what do people want to hear?” So they’re fun records.

WiG
Let’s take it back a little bit. How did you meet Ish?

MAG
I met Ish in high school. I was two grades above him. Me and his brother were in the same class, BoodahDARR. It was me, Boodah and Wave Chapelle, we’re all good friends. We were known as the music guys. I actually used to rap starting in 7th grade. But I only rapped because I wanted to learn how to record and I didn’t know any rappers. Being raised on the South Side nobody really rapped. That wasn’t really a thing over here. So I figured I had to record myself. It was cool and that’s what I was known for my first two years of high school. That’s how I got connected to Wave.

WiG
Was he rapping early on in high school?

MAG
Oh yeah. I’ve been in school with Wave since 8th grade. I went to Messmer Prep with him in 8th grade, then high school, and he was always rapping. I was in band in high school…

WiG
Did you play an instrument as a kid?

MAG
Yeah I played the clarinet. I messed around with drums and trumpet, some piano. But I played the clarinet from 4th grade to senior year of high school, which is weird. I don’t know why I played the clarinet looking back at it, but that’s my only real music background. So in high school our band director was very supportive of me doing music. I don’t know how this happened but one day I showed up to school and he had a Mac in this room with a really good interface, two expensive microphones, some of the walls were soundproofed and he was like, “Here you guys go, create.”

WiG
Damn.

IshDARR
IshDARR

MAG
It was crazy because we got that equipment sophomore year of high school, but I was literally clueless as to what to do with it. During the summer before junior year me and Wave spent all our time figuring it out and we created the studio. Then that next semester is when Ish came to Messmer. It’s crazy because he was just there. The main focus was always Wave, Boodah and myself. We were in a group called NoNam3. He was the youngest one so he was never a focus and his voice was very high pitched. I remember always being cool with him but I don’t know what it was, I guess because he was two years younger than us. But he was always just Boodah’s little brother.

After High School I worked with Wave for a little bit but then he moved down to Memphis and I quit making music. My sister was in college and I wasn’t going to college. I was just like, “What am I doing?”

WiG
You were just working?

MAG
Yeah I had a regular job at a banking company and it was kind of cool. Then one day I got a call from Boodah. It was right before the college semester started after our senior year. He wanted to try some stuff with Ish. I used to just have this cheap interface and cheap microphone so I was like, “Yeah whatever, let’s do it.”

We actually created a group call iLL Collective and there’s still a video on YouTube. I’ll show it to you. I guess this is the first song that Ish had out. And it got good views. It almost became something but then it fell apart faster than it got together because Boodah went to college like two weeks after we released this.

WiG
So he went out of town?

MAG
Yeah he went to UW-Parkside and he was living in the dorms.

[Plays me about a minute of iLL Collective’s video for “Dimes&Nicks”]

MAG
That is kind of where it all started. What’s funny about this track is that Ish used to have a very high-pitched voice. I mean it wasn’t super high-pitched but it was before puberty. But when we recorded this I was like, “Bro are you sick?” and he said, “maybe.” but this was about the time that his voice started changing. So I was just like,”Word this sounds dope, you should be sick a little more.” But really his voice was changing.  

The iLL Collective thing didn’t really fall apart, it was just Boodah went to college, I was working and Ish went back to high school. Then I was like, “Okay, for real, this music stuff is done. I’m not doing it anymore.” Then I got a call from Ish two months later. Actually he tweeted me like, “Yo Mag, trying to get in the stu, what’s up?” So I said, “cool, come thru.”

His mom was very protective at the time. She wouldn’t let him just leave and come down here. Because he lived out in Brown Deer so getting all the way over here from Brown Deer was a mission. I was driving at the time so I said, “Yo, ask your mom if it’s cool if I take my stuff there and we record over there.” Me and his mom were cool so literally for the next three months I would drive three times a week to Brown Deer and we would work on music. We didn’t even really know what it was becoming.

This would have been the Winter of 2013 into the Spring of 2014. We just kind of did that for a couple months and we finally put together an EP that we didn’t even know was coming together. I think the second time we were in the studio we were like, “Yo, let’s drop an EP April 4th.” We wanted 4-4-14 for like Milwaukee or whatever. So we just put this idea in our head and it was slowly coming together and one day we got an email from an A&R at Epic Records that was like “Yo, I love the music…”

The Better Life EP
The Better Life EP

That got us excited. Labels are interested? “They Lost Me” was his biggest song at the time. It had about 8,000 plays on SoundCloud. So we really started focusing on what we wanted to do. We were like, “Yo, let’s just do this. We’ve been doing this for so long and we have the resources to do it, so let’s put it together and make it happen.”  

We worked on the EP and dropped it in the Spring of 2014. At the time that A&R that reached out from Epic Records ended up leaving Epic Records and became Ish’s other manager. Her name is Amanda Berkowitz. She still co-manages Ish with me. She’s like a creative from New York. She has her own marketing company with some friends. She kind of lets us do whatever we want. If we need something she’ll help us figure it out. She coordinates things for us. We’ll have the ideas and then she kind of tells us, “Okay, try doing this or try doing that.”

WiG
Was Ish doing any shows in 2014 at all?

MAG
Not prior to the EP. For some reason almost to this day we’ve always had an issue in Milwaukee.

WiG
I mean there’s not a lot of all-ages venues.

MAG
But even outside of that. There’s always a showcase going on. But they would never invite Ish.  I sent out like 50 emails in that month when the EP was coming out to all different things that were going on. Nobody was really fucking with it. Some people said he wasn’t good enough or that he wasn’t “ready for something like this.”

WiG
And he was like 16 at the time?

ishworldtour
OSYS World Tour

MAG
He was 17 at the time. It was just weird and that has gone on up until, maybe, I’ll say when we announced the world tour last year, when we went to Europe. People didn’t really care for Ish in the city. We were doing shows all over the country but people didn’t really care for him here. I still don’t really have an answer as to why people didn’t really like him. I don’t know what’s going on. You’ve met Ish before though, right?

WiG
Yeah, yeah.

MAG
He’s a likable kid. I’m confused by it.

WiG
Jealousy issues maybe.

Ish in Europe
Ish in Europe

MAG
But at the time there was no reason to be jealous of anything because we had nothing. So the weekend of the first EP release I put together a party at the old Art is For Lovers gallery because I knew Karl at the time and I was like, “Yo, I need a spot,” and he was like, “Cool.” We did it there and the next day we did the Schoolboy Q show yet at the Rave. The Rave used to do this thing where you had to buy tickets, you had to buy like 20 tickets, and you would get them for half the price, but they would give you 40 tickets so you could make some money if you sold tickets. We’re like, “Alright whatever, we want to see Schoolboy Q, all of our friends want to see Schoolboy Q.” So we bought the tickets and we got our money back and we did the show at The Rave and it was dope.

WiG
That was 2014?

MAG
Yep, the weekend of April 4th. Something happened that weekend though. Because the project dropped and it just kind of sat there for a couple days and then the next thing you know blogs started picking it up. 2dope Boyz picked it up. They used to do this thing “2dope to sleep on,” and they put Ish on that. And it just started growing. That summer we had a lot of labels started calling to talk to us.

At this moment Amanda was someone we would go to for advice, she really wasn’t on the team just yet. But she kind of told us the ins and outs of the industry, how the industry works, what to watch out for, and that definitely helped out alot. I see her as a mentor because that’s mainly what she does for us. She makes sure we’re heading in the right direction all the time.

Berkowitz, Mag and IshDARR in New York City.
Berkowitz, Mag and Ish in NYC

I’ve seen people post about Amanda being “Ish’s secret manager.” But she’s not a secret, she just doesn’t live here. She’s worked in the industry and she’s been trying to figure it out just like us. For some reason it’s worked out for all of us and we’re very thankful that it happened. But yeah, that summer Atlantic flew us out. That was our first real experience with the industry. I think that was our biggest motivation. Somebody actually opened up the door in the industry for us and they were like, “We want you guys to be a part of this.” For me at the time I was 19, Ish was 17, for us to walk in…I don’t know if you know who Mike Caren is?

WiG
Nah.

MAG
He’s like one of the most powerful people in the music industry. He runs Warner and Atlantic and he flew us out and as soon as we got out of the airport we went to the hotel, changed and he welcomed us to his house in Beverly Hills. He had all kinds of plaques on the walls from everybody. Anybody you can think of.

At the time Ish would want me to talk for him sometimes. He was only 17 and he was a little scared and so there was a main chair in the room and then there were three chairs around on the side and one farthest off to the side and that’s the one Mike Caren sat in. Then he put Ish on the main chair and he made sure we were behind Ish and he was like, “Alright, play me some music.”

IshDARR
IshDARR

We played him like two songs and then he was like, “I like it. What do you wanna do?” He was very direct and Ish had never experienced that. The meeting didn’t go bad, it was a good meeting, they were cool people I guess. But we walked away from that opportunity because we could sense that they knew this would become something bigger and they wanted it early. We were like, “We either give this to them, or we do it ourselves and see what happens.” And at the time we had nothing to lose. Ish was 17, I was 19.

It was like, “Yo, we walk away from this, worst comes to worst, we try again next year.” It was just kind of like, “Fuck it, let’s keep going.” So we walked away from that situation and kept doing music and we started working on OSYS that summer. We ended up getting linked with TDE and they put Ish on the Ab-Soul tour that Fall. We did the Midwest run with Ab-Soul and that was dope. It was good exposure for Ish. We got to experience what tour life was like. And started interacting with new fans.

Then we dropped the project Old Soul Young Spirit and the same thing kind of happened. We dropped the project and nobody really cared for a couple of days and then one day that actress Chloë Grace Moretz tweeted out “Too Bad” and it exploded. At first it was like 14K overnight. We were like, “Holy shit, what is going on?”

WiG
Who produced “Too Bad”?

MAG
J Gramm.

WiG
Who’s that?

MAG
He’s a producer. He’s got that “Broccoli” record out right now with D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty. He did a lot of early Travis Scott. He’s been in the industry for a while.

WiG
How’d you link up with him?

MAG
We actually never really linked up with him. All these people wanted to sign Ish at the time so A&R’s kept sending us beats like, “Yo, you should try this out.” That’s one of the beats we got from an A&R who is a good friend of mine now. He linked us with it and we made it happen. That’s the funny thing about this music stuff, people always ask me, “Yo, how did this happen?” And I’m just like, “I don’t know.” Good music just moves by itself. I think that’s the biggest part.

I think most people aren’t prepared for stuff like that to happen, that’s why they can’t follow up. We’ve been pushing “Too Bad” for a year and a half now. That’s a big thing that we had to learn, you’ve got to be able to push records. You’ve got to give them a life instead of just dropping a song and moving on to the next thing. So yeah, I don’t even remember what the original question was.

osyshouse1
OSYS House party flyer

WiG
We were just kind of running through the timeline I guess. And then that OSYS house party was last year, that was crazy.

MAG
Me and Ish get these ideas that just pop in our heads and we think alike, so we’re just like, “Let’s do it!” That’s kind of what we’re doing with “The Locals Experience.” I used to throw parties all over the city, that’s kind of what I was known for in high school. And I realized that the easiest way to bring people together is by giving them alcohol and music. For some reason it works and people will pay to be there just because it’s a party.

So we did three OSYS parties and each party we brought out 100 to 150 kids. I’m not sure that would’ve happened if they were concerts. But we’re exposing them to Ish while they are there for a party. I think that was one of the big reasons why we were able to sell out The Rave last…

Ish at The Rave
Ish at The Rave

WiG
December, right?

MAG
Yeah, yeah.

WiG
I remember because it was my birthday and we were out of town. The OSYS party at the barbershop was in late May or early June I want to say.

MAG
They were all at the barbershop. That is my boy’s barbershop. He used to let me throw parties there. He is one of my best friends. He was just like, “Yeah bro, do whatever you guys want.” He would just give me the key. To this day, I don’t know why people trust me. He literally just gave me a key to his business and he was just like, “Here you go.” You were in there, you know that’s a respectable business district on the South Side so I don’t know how…like, I didn’t have to beg for it, he was just like, “Here you go.” He let me do it so many times. And there were all kinds of shit going on in there, I don’t even know…it’s crazy.

I think with those parties, the name for it is “guerilla marketing.” But we didn’t even know that’s what we were doing. And that’s kind of what we’re doing with “The Locals Experience” parties. Two weeks ago we brought out over 200 kids to a UWM party, we brought 200 kids out at Oshkosh, and then Madison was the craziest one. We had this apartment. I hit up my sister cuz my sister went to Madison and I was like, “Yo, I need a house. We have to throw this party.”

Ish at a college house party.
Ish at a college house party

We had a frat scheduled but they cancelled on us like the day before. And then we almost cancelled the Madison show but Ish was like, “No man, let’s figure it out.” So I got this apartment and we gave out the address at six o’clock and the next thing you know there was like a line of a hundred kids on the side of this apartment complex ready to go into this party. It sold out in nine minutes. We had over 200 kids in a space the size of this whole upstairs and then an extra room about this size, just crammed in there. Then Ish came out, turned up.

They weren’t even concerts. Ish would come out, play a couple songs and then play whatever songs are popping right now. Then after that Ish would come down and take pictures and when everybody was leaving Ish would be at the door shaking everybody’s hand and taking pictures, doing whatever. The stuff like that is what makes Ish different I think compared to other artists. Some artists in the city would never do that because they have such big egos, even though they are nowhere.

Ish knows that he’s not “somebody” yet, but he knows that he wants to be somebody and he wants his fans to know that at one point they met him and Ish appreciated them. So he’ll stand at the door and say “Thank you,” take pictures, and give everybody hugs. It’s a nice thing to see that you’re working with someone genuine that actually cares for the people that are coming out to see him.

Mag
Mag

We’re doing one today in Whitewater and another one tomorrow in La Crosse. Then we’re actually going to take these across the country. We were gonna do a tour but we cancelled it because we were having routing issues and there’s a lot of politics when it comes to doing a tour. We were just like, “Yo, we can make money doing house parties and there’s no initial investment.” We don’t have to book a venue, we don’t have to do anything. We just have to find a fan who has a house. Fans want to have Ish at their house and people love parties. So we’re just going to hit a bunch of colleges across the country and just kind of crash and throw a big party. And most venues don’t even pay that well anyways. New artists aren’t going to make a ton of money. But you can make money charging $10 a head and bring 200 kids in. You don’t have to pay anybody.

WiG
Don’t got to pay sound guys or security or shit like that?

MAG
We bring everything ourselves. We have a guy that does sound. We don’t need security, we roll 10 to 15 deep everywhere we go.

WiG
You mentioned Drake before and I have a sense you’re probably a Drake fan. But who else are you inspired and influenced by?

MAG
I wouldn’t even say I’m that influenced by Drake, I’m more influenced by his producer “40.” That’s honestly who I look up to. I studied this man’s sound. I feel like to be great you have to imitate greatness. I want to imitate my version of what he did. There’s a lot that “40” did that people don’t even know he did. That goes with being behind-the-scenes. And I’m cool with that. I love being behind-the-scenes. I generally don’t like being in crowds. I have social anxiety. I like watering the plant, I don’t like being the plant.

WiG
I do see you out though every now and then.

Ish and Wave Chapelle perform at Freespace
Ish and Wave Chapelle perform at Freespace

MAG
Yeah. I like to support. I’ll be at Freespace. I try not to go that much anymore just because people recognize me now and they want to talk to me and pitch me their music. A lot of people think I’m like this asshole because people come up to me and are like, “Yo aren’t you Mag, blah blah blah.” They don’t know that when I’m out in public I have really bad social anxiety. I’m usually keeping to myself and I try not to focus on people.

When people come up to me and get too close and start talking and there’s all this noise, I can be like, “Yo, email me” or “Here’s my number, just text me or something.” I feel like that’s why I don’t go to places anymore. I don’t want to seem rude. I don’t want to be that guy. Because I used to be that kid that wanted people to hear me out and check out my shit. I know what it feels like when people want you to listen to their stuff. And I don’t want to disappoint no kids.

But so outside of “40,” I look up to…new artists inspire me a lot. Canis Major, his production inspires me a lot, just seeing him work and make beats inspires me. I look up to people like Kanye. I like the way he thinks and the way he moves. A big thing too is that I look up to people who aren’t even in the music industry. There’s this guy named Gary Vee. I’m really big into marketing now. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about marketing in the past year. Especially for how I’m marketing this project. This guy Gary Vee, he’s not even rich yet. He’s made some money, but his ideas are amazing. And they work for everybody. If you get a chance you should check him out. He has some dope ideas on how to brand yourself and branding artists.

WiG
I get the sense that you’re not just a producer, you’re not just Ish’s manager, you’re a renaissance man in terms of production, marketing and graphic design, you do most of the artwork, right?

MAG
Yeah except for the project. I haven’t done the artwork for the projects, I feel like that’s too much of a responsibility.

WiG
Is it the same artist who did the covers for both projects?

"Broken Hearts & Bankrolls" artwork
“Broken Hearts & Bankrolls” artwork

MAG
Yeah his name is Nick Bilardello. He’s actually one of the biggest art directors in the industry. He’s done some work for Bruno Mars, he did some Wale stuff, he worked on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3. He’s well-known, he’s done some amazing stuff. He’s in Amanda’s marketing company, her creative group. We’ve always trusted him with the artwork and he’s probably going to do all the artwork for projects because it keeps it cohesive.

WiG
So when you say “the studio,” this is the studio?

MAG
This is the studio.

WiG
Word. But I saw on social media that you want to build a “proper” studio…

MAG
Well I’m building one right now. It’s out on the East Side. It’s going to be a real studio. We could’ve built that studio maybe six months ago if we really wanted to but I just have this idea that we’re stuck in this room for some reason. We’ve recorded in big studios all over and there’s nothing like recording in this room for some reason. It just feels like home. There’s nothing fancy and I’m kind of glad we did the interview here.

Like people always ask me, “Yo, where do you guys record?” It’s good people will see it’s just a room with a microphone and really that’s all there is to it. But I am building a proper studio. I got some blueprints from my homies in New York. They’re building the walls this week. It should be done by the end of the month.

WiG
That says something about you and Ish’s sort of commitment or comfort level with Milwaukee. Because obviously where you’re at and where you’re headed you could move to a bigger market, but something’s keeping you here and you’re investing in a studio.

MAG
I think artists get lost when they leave their city. We live by this saying, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Like this computer [shows me this old PC laptop with a busted screen], the computer that we work on and record everything is broken. It’s like a broken screen I just connect to a monitor. Granted, I have a Mac, Ish has two Macs. We have these good computers but we just kind of have this…I don’t know what it is, but it’s like one of those things where it’s like, our headphone jack doesn’t even work on this interface. I already ordered a new interface, we could’ve just plugged into the new one, but we wanted everything on the project to be together and cohesive.

ishmetro
IshDARR

When we start on the next project it’s going to be all new equipment in a new studio and it’ll be a new experience overall. I don’t know, I think it’s stupid when I say it out loud, but I guess that’s just what it is. But yeah, I think artists lose themselves when they leave their city. We almost moved to LA this summer. We were kind of like, “Fuck it, let’s get out of here.” We went out there, we went house shopping. We found a house. We almost signed the lease.

Then we came back home and we were like, “Nah, we don’t want to leave.” It’s no point, to leave. It’s home. It was never really a conversation we had, we just came back and said, “Nah, we don’t want to leave. Let’s stay here.” There’s nothing like being here. We’ve been all over Europe, we’ve been all over this country, but there’s nothing like coming home and ordering some chimichangas from down the block. That’s just the way this goes.

I think artists always feel like you get on and you leave. But why not get on and stay here? Because I feel like when you grow up you want to be famous or make money and enjoy the stuff that you saw growing up. I think now that we’re here we get to enjoy stuff that we always saw here. And if we want to travel, we can travel and see other places. But all of our friends are here, all of our family is here. It’s kind of like, let’s keep the ball rolling. If we really want to move in time we can buy a house somewhere else.

WiG
And the infrastructure has changed where you can be a successful musician who makes money in your city because of the Internet.

MAG
Yeah, because of the Internet. You don’t need to leave. Before you had to leave because the only way you could work with producers is to be in the same city as them. Canis Major is the perfect example. He lives in a town of like 150 and he’s one of the biggest producers on YouTube and people don’t even know he lives in this tiny city in the middle of Canada. If he can do it, we can do it.

A big thing too is we want to help build Milwaukee. There’s too much going on here, there’s a lot of lost youth. And I think stuff like this inspires kids. Every once in awhile some kid will message me and be like, “Yo, you guys inspire me.” And even sometimes adults will be like, “Yo, you guys inspire me to do this or that.” And I think that’s important for the culture of the city.

IshDARR at Summerfest 2016
IshDARR at Summerfest 2016

Big organizations have kind of caught on too. The Bucks have reached out to us in the past and they started building that relationship in case this becomes something. Cuz you know they’re investing a lot into the city too. They’re building the new arena and now the city is investing a bunch of money. But you know the segregation in the city is ridiculous among brown and blacks. So I think it’s important for people like me and Ish to promote that you can do something positive rather than being out in the street killing yourself.

For me at least that was a big thing on why to stay here. I’d rather motivate these kids. And we have great people like Janice and Vincent doing Freespace. It’s Janice’s birthday today too. We need amazing people like that because they create something. I know kids who have gotten stuck and needed to get home and Janice called them an Uber. That’s amazing that there’s someone out there who actually cares about these kids like that and is trying to motivate them.

WiG
Yeah, Janice is cool as fuck. That’s great man. Thanks for talking.

MAG
Dope.

ishpolaroid

Music reviews, February 26, 2015

Imagine Dragons :: ‘Smoke + Mirrors’

Imagine Dragons is known for a joyfully bombastic stage performance and sophomore album Smoke + Mirrors is its perfect translation. The band retreads the most successful musical ideas from Night Visions — “Gold” is as anthemic as “Radioactive,” and the first single, “I Bet My Life,” recalls the band’s first hit, the neo-folk-rock “It’s Time.” The band also stretches in new directions, trying on Coldplay’s sound in “It Comes Back To You” and embracing pop and EDM on “Summer.” Through it all, Imagine Dragons retains its skill in moving from whispers to screams, even within a single song.

 Drake :: ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’

Drake took a page out of Beyoncé’s playbook and dropped a new body of work without warning. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late dives even deeper into Drake’s exploration of fame’s dark side, but lacks crossover hits like “Hold On, We’re Going Home” or “Take Care” that could earn him new fans. This intense, sparse new chapter is for Drake vets. Songs such as “Legend” and “Energy” sway woozily against a gloomy backdrop as Drake attacks his enemies and worried he’d would be more legendary dead than alive. It’s a bracing listen.

Jose Gonzalez :: ‘Vestiges & Claws’

Swedish singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez hasn’t released a solo studio album in almost eight years, spending the interim as half of folk rock duo Junip. Time away hasn’t changed his quiet, acoustic guitar-anchored pop, which first echoed across the TV landscape on The O.C. and One Tree Hill. On first listen, Vestiges & Claws almost fades into the background. A world of rhythmic textures and subtle vocals reveal themselves on repeated listens. The finger-picking style and subtle backing percussion of “Let It Carry You” feel epic and familiar. The questions of “The Forest” hang in the mind long after the song fades. For those who can appreciate it, Gonzalez’s return is surprising and rich.

Kiings :: ‘WWYDF’

This debut from Milwaukee-based electronic duo Kiings is both an introduction to the band and a celebration of many other Wisconsin artists. Sean Foran and Chris Siegel call their style of music “Future Soul” and are joined in performing it by a number of local favorites: Field Report’s Christopher Porterfield, ex-San Fermin vocalist Rae Cassidy, Milwaukee hip-hop artist WebsterX and Brooklyn-based Wisconsinite Christine Hoberg. Together, they create complex rhythmic structures, often threatening to collapse into formlessness but always staying intact. On the best tracks — “You Can’t See Me,” with Hoberg, and “Garden,” featuring Porterfield and Wisconsin rapper Milo, there is a warmth that rises out of the groove, pulling the listener in deep. It’s a welcome respite from a cold Milwaukee winter.

Music Review: Drake silences the jokes with cold, dark album

Drake, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” (Cash Money)

For as long as Drake’s been around, almost everything about him — his Mr. Sensitive image, his sweater collection, his cheesy photos with various professional athletes — has been the subject of a never-ending stream of Internet memes.

Still, Drake and his talent are no joke, and the Grammy winner’s surprise album, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” dares critics to say otherwise. Released six years to the day that Drake debuted his super successful “So Far Gone” mixtape, the Toronto native’s latest set finds him in a serious space, not asking for respect, but demanding it.

If the mixtape’s previously released track, “6 God,” wasn’t warning enough, Drake is more confrontational these days. “Please don’t speak to me like I’m that Drake from four years ago, I’m at a higher place, thinkin’ they lions and tigers and bears, I go huntin’, put heads on my fireplace,” he raps on “Energy.”

As usual, he’s bragging about his crown (see: opening track “Legend”) but brooding over its weight (“No Tellin’”). Compared to previous projects, though, “If You’re Reading This” is darker and grittier, with a mix of lyrics and tone, that Drake, his longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shebib and crew have no doubt fashioned to match the brutal cold of Toronto, or “the 6,” as they call it. (The name nods to the city’s 416 and 647 area codes).

The set is as much about the rapper’s hometown as it is about his hometown crew, whose Canadian and Jamaican accents distinguish the music and whose names are strewn throughout standout track “Know Yourself.”

On another gem, “You & the 6,” Drake credits Toronto and his mother for raising him. But the message is far from saccharine. “I got no friends in this, mama,” Drake raps about the business. “I don’t pretend with this, mama. I don’t joke with this, mama. I pull the knife out my back and cut they throat with it, mama.”

On the flip side, the very smooth “Company,” featuring Travi$ Scott, and the sexy “Jungle” prove Drake still has a way with R&B.

There’s no word yet on when Drake’s tentatively titled “Views from the 6” will be released. But like any good mixtape, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” lays down promising ground work.