This is how it’s supposed to happen. You begin with empty club nights and wind up with lines down the block. You refuse to stop evolving even after nearly a decade of creative left turns. You operate at a loss until you start winning. You constantly take risks and experiment with 23rd-century sounds. You cultivate local phenoms and help launch them into international stars. You do this until legends like Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu pop up to play secret sets.
This has been the path of Low End Theory, subwoofer-rattling proof that it’s possible to do it the right way. No advance hype until it was warranted. No gimmicks. Just the wild style warped into the future.
It’s fitting that the Lincoln Heights weekly is holding its second annual festival at the Shrine. After all, that’s what its usual home (the Airliner) has been for beat music over the last nine summers. And this year’s lineup doubles as a de facto Hall of Fame of homegrown beat artists.
In addition, LET co-founder and resident Daddy Kev will host an engineering seminar. The vaunted multimedia artist Strangeloop offers a 3-D workshop. And there’s a “Beat Invitational,” where aspirants can battle their favorite producers.
But the main draw remains the music itself, booming with lethal efficiency. In advance of this Saturday’s event, here’s a quick breakdown of the arsenal:
Who: Scene breakout star, Brainfeeder boss, Kendrick Lamar collaborator, sometime animated rapper (Captain Murphy), budding beat world Dr. Dre
Song You Need to Hear: “Coronus, the Terminator”
Recommended If You Like: Alice Coltrane, J Dilla, Radiohead, DMT
Who: Odd Future enfant terrible turned curmudgeonly seer. Rap inspiration for misanthropes on all continents
RIYL: Nobody else
Who: Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar collaborator, former member of Suicidal Tendencies, greatest jazz bassist since Jaco Pastorius
Song: “Them Changes”
RIYL: George Duke, Naruto, Pharoah Sanders
Who: Cosmic assassin answering the question, “What if Bach made beats?”
Song: “Don’t Mind Me”
RIYL: Boards of Canada, medical marijuana dispensaries
The Residents (Daddy Kev, Nobody, The Gaslamp Killer, D-Styles and Nocando)
Who: The best DJ crew since Beat Junkies, plus Nocando — one of the best live rappers in L.A.
RIYL: Mayhem, soul-splintering bass, fun
Who: Beat-scene pioneer, eclectic iconoclast, among the most underrated DJs alive
Song: Any of his mixes (check out his mix for Fact magazine to start)
RIYL: Muttonchop sideburns, being impressed by the unexpected
Who: Maker of beats that sound like wildflowers blooming
RIYL: Windchimes, chill
Who: The rap-game Anthony Muñoz, the offensive lineman who pancakes you
Song: “The Come Up, Part 2”
RIYL: Guillotine raps
Who: Beat scene Sun-Ra
Song: “All Is Well …”
RIYL: Astral projection, time travel, backwoods
Who: Boom-bap hover-converter
Song: “Snakes on the Moon”
RIYL: The feeling of ’90s rap without the regressive “real hip-hop” clichés
Who: Best chopper since the Pampered Chef.
Song: SP-184 mix.
RIYL: J Dilla, video games, J Dilla video games.
Who: Bakersfield-raised golden skywriter, quietly excellent and unsung
Song: “Winds of Change”
RIYL: Nightclubs on the sun playing acid house, psych beats and ethereal jazz
Milo (aka Scallops Hotel)
Who: Wittgenstein meets wry rap lyrics
Song: “Tense Present”
RIYL: Scallops, upper-level philosophy, koans with no answer
Open Mike Eagle
Who: Best otherground rapper alive
Song: “Very Much Money (Ice King Dream)”
RIYL: Fomenting the socialist revolution
Free the Robots: Jazz + trip-hop + bass = singular cyberfunk
House Shoes: Detroit hip-hop ambassador, blistering DJ, lovable rogue
Anderson .Paak: Best bet to steal the show
Astronautica: Space exploration soundtracked by sultry beats
An L.A. native, L.A. Weekly columnist Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Shots Fired podcast. Find him online at passionweiss.com, follow him on Twitter and also check out his archives.