[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 want to understand where Alexander Spit is coming from, consider the abridged ingredients list that fueled his commercial debut, A Breathtaking Trip to That Otherside: an iMac, ProTools, a piano, a four-track recorder, two 11×17 drawing sketchbooks, cigarettes, marijuana, beer, whiskey, MDMA and psilocybin.
Mushrooms and molly are off today's menu on a bright February Friday afternoon at Spit's two-bedroom apartment in Virgil Village. The Bay Area-bred producer-rapper of Filipino ancestry is sticking to softer psychedelics, twisting spliffs with scientific precision.
It's a welcome respite from a frenzied six weeks. The 25-year-old born Alexander Manzano just released his first album for respected indie-rap imprint Decon, played Last Call With Carson Daly, and dropped a highly praised, “Method-acted” music video re-creation of Hunter S. Thompson's trek from L.A. to Las Vegas — in which Spit's drugs took hold well before the edge of the desert. It encapsulates the doom-laden vibes and berserk distortion of his breakout record.
“[A Breathtaking Trip] was really me being a recluse, not relating to people and popping mollys or eating mushrooms nightly for six months,” Spit says, wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt featuring Stones Throw chanteuse Anika. “Fascinated” is written in florid script across his forearm — a reminder to remain curious. “I like to rap about what I do. If I was going out and eating mushrooms every other day, I was going to rap about it.”
The tangible results are in his living room. The floor and couches are covered in freshly pressed 7-inches featuring collaborations with Queens gourmand Action Bronson and hallucinogenic standard-bearer Alchemist. Spit is midway through signing and mailing them out, a vestige of the DIY ethos he's cultivated over the last decade.
As a teen, Spit rapped in the Bay Area crew Instant Messengers, whose first record was released on a label run by Grouch of Living Legends. When that ran its course, he moved to L.A. for greener rap prospects, equally powerful drugs and a job at Fairfax streetwear hive The Hundreds.
When not seized with fear and loathing, Spit produced an excellent and ethereal R&B album with Bago. But his focal point was recording his own raspy and rancid trips — a very welcome addition to the too-slim psychedelic rap canon. Spit's production mimics the fun-house angles and warp-speed derangement of a weird descent: Voices are clipped and melted, synths muck through effects that seem smothered in kief.
“When I'm making an executive decision on a design, song or visual representation, I always ask myself, 'Does this feel formulaic?' ” Spit says. “If it is, then I don't release it.”
His studio is in the next room, part of a spacious apartment shared with Odd Future photographer and tour manager Brick Stowell. It's filled with art, music, photography books, a Wild at Heart poster, an old-school silver boom box and cassettes from some of Spit's earliest inspirations (The Beastie Boys, Nirvana). He's still looking for the tape of Wu-Tang's Enter the 36 Chambers.
There's also a full-sized American flag on the wall with “Spit” spray-painted across it. It seems ready to be soaked in ether and huffed. But there are albums to autograph and a beat tape to finish, and the gnawing desire to improve. For him, the lingering effects of psychedelics remain a door always slightly ajar.
“I trip less now, but it's still something I tap into,” Spit says. “I'll catch myself stressing about these orders to ship, or my girl trippin' on me, or rent coming up, but then if I take some shrooms, none of that shit really matters. It grounds you. It's like hitting a reset button for your mind.”