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Low End Theories

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Getting by with a little help: Friends of Friends founder Leeor Brown - PHOTO BY DANNY LIAO
  • Photo by Danny Liao
  • Getting by with a little help: Friends of Friends founder Leeor Brown

For independent record labels, exposure leads to expansion. An originally tight-knit community gradually comes untethered. Artists leave for the promise of bigger budgets and bigger hits elsewhere. Risk is jettisoned for the safe bet.

L.A.-based electronic-music label Friends of Friends (FoF) isn't the exception to the narrative, but it's close. Five years removed from the label's inception, founder Leeor Brown hasn't altered his approach.

"I'm just trying to play the long game, to keep working on projects that I'm proud of, that I think are pushing boundaries," Brown says over lunch at La Tropicana, a Highland Park market that doubles as a deli, near his home.

Also nearby is the FoF office, an open, spacious, wood-floored room on a second floor that overlooks the neighborhood's tree-lined streets. Inside, Brown's small staff is relaxed but on task. Breaks are taken both to pet Brown's dog and to ensure it doesn't run out the door.

Born out of its founder's vision and careful curation, FoF was one of the earliest labels to emerge from the salad days of L.A.'s semi-legendary beat scene. Compared to the punishingly percussive, bass-heavy hip-hop/electronic hybrid most associated with the scene, FoF's music is softer, more melodic. It's built to help you weather a breakup, not splinter speakers.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hip-Hop

RL Grime Explores Bass Music's Softer Side

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Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 3:30 AM
COURTESY OF MIXED MANAGEMENT AND ANDI ELLOWAY
  • Courtesy of Mixed Management and Andi Elloway
RL Grime is no stranger to bangers, but he's also got a soft side.

The 23-year-old L.A. native says he's always wanted to produce songs that are more mellow, which is what he's done on Void — his first full-length album, due out next month on L.A. label WeDidIt. 

The trap/bass music DJ and producer's reinvention also comes with his first headlining tour, which kicks off today. He'll also play two sets at Hard Day of the Dead on Sunday — his own, and a second set with his Void Team crew.

We sat down with the dude himself, who's actual name is Henry Steinway, to talk about the motivations behind his musical shift, his thoughts on trap music, and where he hopes to take RL Grime in the future.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hip-Hop

Salva Ditches the Trap and Gets Back to "Real Rap Music"

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Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 4:30 AM
PHOTO BY ANDY J. SCOTT
  • Photo by Andy J. Scott
You know a music trend has lost its sparkle when even a guy who’s benefited from it starts looking elsewhere.

Two years ago, Salva got his big career break after he and RL Grime dropped a trap remix of Kanye West’s song “Mercy.” The track arrived right when the trap beat was making its ascent in EDM. But as time passed and trap’s popularity reached Katy Perry proportions, the 33-year-old electronic producer realized he had much more to offer compared to all the remixers lurking on SoundCloud.

“I started getting bored,” Salva says. “I turned a corner. Not on some ego shit, but just on something like, ‘You know what? I’m seasoned.’ I’m not a 19-year-old kid just figuring this out. I want to do bigger things, and these cats can remix rap songs all day, but they don’t have what it takes to get into the studio with a rapper — let alone someone like Schoolboy Q and Freddie Gibbs — and speak the language of real rap music.”

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Daddy Kev at the Eagle Rock Music Festival - COLIN YOUNG-WOLFF
  • COLIN YOUNG-WOLFF
  • Daddy Kev at the Eagle Rock Music Festival
Held every Wednesday at Lincoln Heights club the Airliner, Low End Theory can be wild, filled with lots of hard-partying fans with a love for avant-garde hip-hop.

But the calm behind the storm rarely has more than a couple of drinks himself, and sticks to the periphery when he's not DJing or MCing. Kevin Marques Moo, better known as Daddy Kev, is a Low End Theory co-founder and the owner of Alpha Pup Records.

On Wednesdays he's focused on making sure the signature event runs like clockwork, but he's also scouting future beat scene talent.

In a way, Low End is as much talent incubator as performance space. It has paid big dividends for Alpha Pup, whose roster includes noisemakers (literal and figurative) Nosaj Thing, Free the Robots, Dibiase, and Jonwayne. 

But anyone looking to get signed to Kev's label should know it takes more than a good show and an easy smile. At Low End Theory, Daddy Kev is always watching. 

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Groundislava - FRIENDS OF FRIENDS
  • Friends of Friends
  • Groundislava
Like a lot of teenagers in 2003, Jasper Patterson was obsessed with The Matrix. Then his mother gave him a copy of William Gibson’s groundbreaking cyberpunk sci-fi novel, Neuromancer. “This is where it all started,” she told him.

Ever since, Patterson, who produces electronic music under the name Groundislava, has been a huge cyberpunk fan. And with his forthcoming third album, Frozen Throne, due out in September, he’s finally incorporating that obsession into his music.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

Low End Theories

The Koreatown Oddity Was Caught Driving While Black

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Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 8:15 AM
NEW LOS ANGELES RECORDS
  • New Los Angeles Records
When he's not rapping in a wolf mask as the Koreatown Oddity, Dominique Purdy writes screenplays. His first feature script, Driving While Black, starts shooting in a few weeks.

This is ironic because, at the moment, he can't drive. That's because he got a ticket he got for, you guessed it, driving while black.

"On my last delivery of my last day, I got pulled over," says Purdy, who's taking a one-month break from his day job delivering pizzas so he can promote his recently-released debut album, 200 Tree Rings. "They said I had a warrant for failure to appear for some driving violation or whatever." He was just given a citation, but doesn't want to get another one - or worse - if he's pulled over again. So for now, he's bumming rides and taking the bus.

As his stage name implies, Purdy was born and raised in Koreatown, part of a black community that was a stronger presence there pre-Rodney King. He got his start doing stand-up but soon turned to rap, inspired in part by two friends of his mother's, Ice-T and Grandmaster Caz. Producing his own beats and releasing mixtapes on cassettes, he soon attracted the attention of the Low End Theory scene, where he's become a familiar figure.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday, February 7, 2014

Low End Theories

Meet the Caltech PhD Student Making Music on the Side

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Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 4:00 AM
ingMOB - GABRIELLE AGIN-LIEBES
  • Gabrielle Agin-Liebes
  • ingMOB
It's not that Raymond Weitekamp isn't making sense, it's just that the things he's talking about right now - polymers and the various wavelengths of the light spectrum and such - are impenetrable topics to someone with only a base level understanding of chemistry. 

Wearing safety goggles and describing huge pieces of scientific machinery, Weitekamp is giving a tour of the labs at Pasadena's California Institute of Technology. The sunlit lab has the sterile, slightly acidic smell of a doctor's office, and some of the machines in this long room are bigger than a Fiat. A few other white coat clad scientists quietly go about their work. 

A PhD student in CalTech's chemistry program, Weitekamp spends 12 hours a day, seven days a week on campus, studying under Nobel Prize winning professor Robert Grubbs, among others. His desk is a messy pile of precariously stacked books, papers and science projects. His focus is on "developing self-assembled nanostructured materials with resonant optical properties, called photonic crystals," and his research has been published in academic journals. 

Next week, the 25 year old will release his debut album, Marrow, under the name ingMob. While the Altadena native is a disciple of avant-garde computer programming musicianship, Marrow is a digital/analog fusion that sounds less like scientific experimentation and more like emotional catharsis. 

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bizarre Ride

Toy Light: The Beat Scene's Collegiate Recruit

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Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 4:00 AM
Toy Light - KYLER BOYLE
  • Kyler Boyle
  • Toy Light
[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]


If you're anything like I am, your last year of college was an anxiety-riddled, hallucinogen-addled holding pattern. A bachelor's degree in the humanities usually leaves you qualified to immediately do little more than play-act as a barista at a post-grad internship. The best hope of avoiding indigence is accruing an impressive résumé prior to entering the "real world."

But some are more naturally inclined toward the life philosophy outlined by grizzly-voiced rap legend Xzibit: "Never see a 9-to-5, because it just ain't me." Judging from last month's self-released EP Afterlife, Walker Ashby tilts in that same direction.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Jonwayne - MAX BELL
  • Max Bell
  • Jonwayne
Thundercat, Moses Sumney, & Jonwayne

Echoplex

12/5/13

The Echoplex sold out last night, on the basis of a button hammering beat junkie turned rapper, a soulful singer/songwriter, and a virtuosic electric bassist. The message here: Don't take L.A.'s inimitable musical eclecticism for granted.

Stones Throw's Jonwayne kicked things off. Despite the fact that he released an outstanding hip-hop album just a couple months ago (Rap Album One), Wayne didn't rhyme once. Instead, his set was comprised of boom-bap beats. It wasn't exactly what you might hear from him at the more electronically inclined Low End Theory (where Wayne first cut his teeth as a live performer), but it was banging nonetheless.

See also: Jonwayne Has One of the Best Rap Albums of the Year

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bizarre Ride

Low End Theory's Nobody Stays Digging

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Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 3:00 AM

CEETHREEDOM
  • Ceethreedom

[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]

"If you set yourself up as the 'I don't give a fuck guy,' you can do whatever you want."

This is Nobody explaining the creative left hooks of his singular and fearless career. Since his first release on Ubiquity Records in 1999, the multihyphenate born Elvin Estela has spiraled through down-tempo instrumental hip-hop, sad-robot auto-tuned love letters, club rap and psychedelic rock.

His collaborators list could fill up the rest of this column, including underground hip-hop griots Freestyle Fellowship, beat-scene pioneer Prefuse 73 and members of prog-rock shredders The Mars Volta. There was a mid-2000s sabbatical to mess around on guitar and record beautiful psychedelic squalls with singer Niki Randa, under the name Blank Blue. But his most famous turn might be as one of the four resident DJs at Lincoln Heights' Low End Theory.

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