The tears are 10 years dry. The emotional abrasions have long faded. But a decade after Edward Ma’s debut as edIT, his first song collection retains a melancholic timelessness.
Released on British imprint Planet Mu in the spring of 2004, Crying Over Pros for No Reason materialized and vanished with little fanfare. In the candlelit corners of instrumental hip-hop at the time, Prefuse 73, Dabrye and RJD2 reigned. Within the embryonic local beat scene, Daedelus attracted the rave reviews.
Daedelus’ friend and former USC classmate, Ma was better known as a resident DJ at Konkrete Jungle, a now-defunct drum & bass and hip-hop club night.
“The record initially flopped. Hardcore speed jungle was in and the quasi–Boards of Canada emotional vibe was considered old news,” Ma says with the sly grin that surfaces when posterity proves you right.
The now-veteran producer speaks in the airy living room of the home that he shares with his girlfriend, dog and triumvirate of cats. An antique player piano hulks next to a window offering a wintergreen view of the Franklin Hills. Several guitars slouch in a corner — the same ones he used to make Crying Over Pros a decade ago.
Ma has since toured the world countless times with The Glitch Mob, the bass-music blitzkrieg he co-founded in 2006. As one of the original residents of Low End Theory, Ma was among the first to spin dubstep domestically. When the Mob started ascending in the late ’00s, he was at the vanguard of popularizing the genre’s bone-chipping U.S. mutations.
This broader context affords Crying Over Pros a unique center of gravity. Its elegiac slink starkly contrasts with the electro-shock bangers of The Glitch Mob. Fusing Warp Records IDM, drum & bass and boom-bap, the debut doubles as both slept-on gem and touchstone for the L.A. beat scene that arose shortly after its release.
Its reissue last month on Glitch Mob’s Glass Air imprint (with five bonus tracks) solidifies its spot in the underground canon.
“Over time, the record developed a cult following and began selling,” says Ma, who sports a blue button-up shirt and black pants. The sides of his head are shaved, giving him the vague air of an action hero. “It started off slow and eventually became one of Planet Mu’s best-known releases.”
Back then, its mere release marked a certain triumph for Ma. The Boston native arrived in L.A. in the late ’90s to attend USC’s theater school. Switching paths, he spent his postgrad years spinning at raves, making beats for members of Project Blowed and feverishly work-ing on his debut.
“I wrote it with no attention to fans or outside perceptions. It was just me vibing and giving myself to the music,” Ma says. “Music was in a different place then. There was no social media, YouTube or SoundCloud. People didn’t feel the need to make bangers to get more fol-lowers.”
After three years of experimentation, Ma mailed a demo of Crying Over Pros to Planet Mu owner Mike Paradinas, who bugged over its progressive beats and unfiltered emotion. Paradinas then spent nine months tracking down Ma, who had written the wrong email address on the CD-R.
After all the crossed signals and bad timing, edIT’s first salvo feels fresher than ever. Sonic fads and subcultures come and go but some heart somewhere is always breaking.
Ma won’t identify the source of the album’s heartache, saying only, “I made the record for the ones that could’ve been, the ones that would never be and those who got away. The 10-year anniversary edition is my way of saying goodbye.”