The Soundtrack to Adrian Younge's Life
By Craig D. Lindsey
Adrian Younge always has movies on his mind. Actually, he always has the music that plays in movies on his mind.
The 33-year-old Angelino musician, DJ and record-store proprietor -- who DJs at Verdugo Bar tonight -- rose to prominence when he scored and edited Black Dynamite, the uproarious, 2009 parody of/salute to blaxploitation movies. In it, star and co-writer Michael Jai White played a crime-stopping, kung fu-fighting badass who loves the ladies and hates The Man.
For that movie, Younge cribbed from some obvious, classic blaxploitation soundtracks, like Curtis Mayfield's Superfly. But he also piggy-backed on some little-known ones, like James Brown's score for Black Caesar.
"I wanted to pay homage to those great composers and the great songs that they wrote for these movies," says Younge, speaking from The Artform Studio, the hair salon/record store he co-runs. (By the way, you shouldn't worry about the "e" in his last name; it's still pronounced "young.") "I wanted to keep it as close to that vibe as possible."
For an upcoming album, Younge is taking that sounds he made for the movie -- which will also be featured in the Black Dynamite cartoon show, premiering on Adult Swim next spring -- and melding it with something he created a decade ago.
In 2000 Younge, then an up-and-coming hip-hop producer, was growing increasingly tired of making beats on an MPC. So, he went out and bought instruments -- electric guitar, bass, piano, drums -- and taught himself how to play them. "If I wanted a certain type of melody, I would just play it until I got it right."
Eventually, Younge made enough melodies to assemble on an EP called Adrian Younge Presents Venice Dawn. What he called a "faux Italian score" came from his inspiration from the trippy stylings of Air and Portishead as well as the foreign-film soundtracks of Ennio Morricone and other European composers from the '60s and '70s. "I wanted to make music that made me feel the way those composers made me feel." (The EP became available for free download on waxpoetics.com recently.)
Now, a decade later, Younge is putting the finishing touches on the follow-up. Titled Something About April, the album will be a mashup of Younge's blaxploitation-era sound from Dynamite with his European movie-era sound from the EP. Scheduled for release early in the fall, the album also includes appearances from multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee, Italian band Calibro 35 and '70s funk guitar great/Funk Brother Dennis Coffey.
"I want listeners to feel as though they went through an experience," he says. "When I did Venice Dawn, there were times where people would cry after listening to it. I'd like that to happen again. Because that means that I made something that touched somebody."
Tonight, he'll be at Verdugo Bar for "Rendezvous!," a free monthly night of music where Younge and other DJs play rare, uber-obscure grooves, sometimes from old soundtracks. Tomorrow he'll be in New York for a special free show at Le Poisson Rouge, featuring him and Erykah Badu, who will be DJing under the moniker Lo Down Loretta Brown.
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