It is time to close the doors here at You Must Learn.
Though I likely should have made this announcement some months ago, the decision has only come into clear focus within the last few weeks. I’ve abandoned these shores for the greener (read: faster) pastures of tumblr with Yaks Might Leak…which I may now call You Must Learn. I’m not sure. I’m also blogging for Respect-mag.com, where you can catch all of the glorious thinkpieces you weren’t missing from my days of more frequent posting.
To eulogize a bit: You Must Learn was started over two years ago by my main man Nick Heller, who has since gone on to become quite the music video director. Sometime in late 2009, I grabbed the reigns of YML and steered it toward my own deranged creative vision. Which is to say it never really cohered into much more than posts about Yelawolf songs, rambling near 2000 word dedications to Rich Boy, and extreme invectives against Drake (the most offensive of which has since been deleted, not because the Illuminati got to me, but because…well the reason isn’t important, but don’t try to find it, it’s not here). I always wanted to redesign and refocus YML. The time was never right, and, so, rather than paring things down and creating something with a clearer vision, I just sort of stopped posting this May. I made the jump to Tumblr and basically kept doing everything I was doing here.
With new opportunities arising (and a few things still waiting in the wings), You Must Learn no longer really makes sense. I’m not sure who will read this final post, but thanks to anyone and everyone that has spent any time on You Must Learn over the last 2+ years. You helped validate my rampant egomania and simultaneously temper it by occasionally telling me (online and, more importantly, in person) that I was a raving, pedantic lunatic and that no one cares about a Rich Boy essay.
As you may have noticed if you check in here regularly, things have crept to somewhat of a halt since April.
This post is not the return of the gangsta, but rather a message that our hiatus is going to be a little bit longer. I’m currently switching over to posterous as a blogging platform because WordPress just ain’t doin it right. The return of YML will feature a bit more focused content, a new contributor, and a few goodies in the way of pieces I’ve been planning for a while.
For now, you can do the knowledge over at Yaks Might Leak, a little tumblr that’s going to supplement You Must Learn from now until the next rapture, whenever that may be. You can also catch frequent contributions from me for my main man Rajib’s spot, Whole Wheat Cracker.
So hang tight and respect the Yak.
Update: You can also peep some new posts from Mr. Nicolas Heller and I at Free Shabazz, the latest blogging venture from the illegitimate children of Ricky Shabazz.
A few weeks ago, a tweet by Jay Cue of NRK sent my world into a temporary tailspin. I was introduced unsuspectingly to the world of Action Bastard, a young Baltimorean emcee/producer with a pension for dense, clever, often cleverly offensive rhymes and Neptunes inspired weirdo synth beats. If this sounds like everyone’s favorite love them or hate them or love to hate them group of rapping misfits Odd Future, there’s certainly reason for this–Action views his contemporaries like OF and NRK through the lens of a fan and a peer. Below we talk about influences, the present, Baltimore, and nerd rap.
When did you first figure out you wanted to rap and produce and what were the records that inspired you?
When me and my younger brother (twitter.com/2377y I don’t know why he spells it like that) were like elementary school age we used to do stupid freestyles all the time. I always enjoyed hearing actual beats on songs rather than the people rapping over it, so I always wondered what it was like behind the scenes and shit. My uncle makes beats and raps, so I grew up watching him a lot.
I would say the records that inspired me were damn near everything Timbaland and the Neptunes put out. Timbo’s production was just ridiculous. He threw baby noises and Godzilla roars on a track and that shit came out awesome sauce. The Neptunes just made the type of spacey, melodic beats I always wanted to hear. I also would say It’s Dark and Hell is Hot because it just sounded like the soundtrack to a drug dealer horror movie. Dame Grease was channeling the Phantom of the Opera or some shit with that one.
What was your first experience producing? What were you working with?
My first experience was with MTV Music Generator 2 for PS2. Me and Malcolm saw that shit in a blockbuster near his house and went half on it. We would switch off and make beats until he got Digital Hitz Factory and I kept Music Generator. My beats were acceptable for tracks made on a video game, but I was all broke and didn’t want to invest in music equipment. I also couldn’t actually record anything on those beats. We would have to hook the PS2 audio up to a computer and do a bunch of extra unnecessary shit to put them in mp3 form. In retrospect, that shit was the pits, but it taught me a lot about music and chords and shit, though.
To get a little more into your production style and how your influences play out: when you started making beats, were you trying to mimic the stuff you were hearing from the Neptunes and Timbaland, or did their influence come later?
Hell yeah. I did my damnest to try to emulate Neptunes chords and shit and I would fail, in my opinion. Like, other people would hear it and be like “Whoa, this is some Neptunes shit” and I would be offended like “Don’t disrespect Pharrell & Chad like that”. I even sampled the intro to Clones and reversed it for one old ass beat I made. I was just a major Star Trak stan. I was the nigga throwing the Star Trak sign up in pictures talking about BAPE all the time when I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t even try to copy Timbaland. Timbaland beats are hard to emulate.
5 favorite Neptunes beats? 5 Timbo beats?
Shit, I knew I would have to do this one day. Alright, in no particular order:
“Grinding” by the Clipse
“Rock n Roll” by Fam-Lay
“Allure” by Jay-Z
“Champion” by Clipse
“Midnight Hour” by Natasha Ramos
“I’ll Be Around” by Cee-Lo
“Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake
“If Your Girl Only Knew” by Aaliyah
“Money Talks” by Lil Kim
“The Bounce” by Jay-Z & Kanye West
I know I’m gonna see this and be pissed I forgot something because I seriously couldn’t list my favorite beats from those niggas.
What’s your favorite song/album out right now? What sucks?
I have, like, music ADD, so my shit flips all around randomly. I would say my favorite song right now is “Kelly Star” by the Lover Lover. I don’t wanna sound bias, but me and Lover Lover just have a good musical relationship where I just send her beats I think she would like and she sends back masterpieces. The albums I’m listening to the most right now are “XXX” by Danny Brown and “Samoan Fantasies” by Lombardi & Luwees. I also started listening to “Autumn Harvest” by Charles Hamilton a lot again.
What really sucks right now is all of the fucking Lex Luger copycats. I read that shitty “Top Whatever Upcoming Producers” list on Complex and found out most of the beats I thought Lex Luger made were made by a bunch of different niggas. It’s bad enough Lex Luger makes the same beat over and over, but now there are Lex Luger clones making Lex Luger beats.
What is the Elite Hunters Club? Who’s in it? What do y’all have in the works?
The Elite Hunters Club is Me, Malcolm Maximillion, The Lover Lover, Yosemite Rell and Uncle Russie. I had offered the name for the group because I heard it on Hostel. That was the name of the niggas that, like, paid money to torture people. I thought it had a nice ring to it and I was like “Hey, we’re spending our own money on equipment to kill beats and shame these rap niggas, so why not?” and everybody liked it.
Right now we have The Lover Lover working on her follow up to “Cult Following” which is gonna have a bunch of my beats on it. Malcolm Maximillion is working on “The Dexter Morgan Mixtape” and “Inspired by Pain”. As a group, we’re putting out “Bag Limits”, our first album and “Fuck Stuart” which is gonna be a mixtape of us rapping over a bunch of industry beats. Last but not least, I’m trying to work on getting shit done for “Suck My Dick, I’m a Shark”, my first project.
Do you and the EHC have any female fans?
Well, yeah, they just won’t write EHC on their titties for us. The only rap group without female fans is M.O.P.
What’s the response been to EHC in Baltimore? Are you guys playing shows or is your music confined mostly to the internet at the moment?
I honestly have no idea. We’re about to start trying to perform locally and build a hometown fanbase, but only our friends know about our music, mostly. Malcolm has done some shows before, but me and other members are virgins to this performing shit. I mostly choose to stay on the internet because I don’t really like how Baltimore’s rap scene is going right now.
What’s the scene like in Baltimore for music like what you’re making?
Ha, I don’t think there is a scene for music like ours. Baltimore niggas are mainly involved in rap battles and shit right now. The dudes that are doing regular rap songs are mostly on the gangster shit and that’s not me at all. Elite Hunters Club is making our own music scene.
There’s definitely an audience for what you’re doing, but do you think you’ll have to leave Baltimore to reach it?
Absolutely. Thanks to the internet, it’s becoming easier to find an audience, but it doesn’t have the same effect as performing live. Anybody can put together a dumb ass song and put it on the internet and spam people, but to actually be able to entertain people live is a huge part of connecting with your audience as an artist. That’s the main way most artists are making money right now, so we’re trying to have shows and step up our performing game.
A lot of niggas just straight move to New York and LA because there’s always a place available where they can just perform or socialize and connect with like-minded people. We have that in Baltimore, but not on the scale of those cities. Malcolm Maximillion and Uncle Russie were in New York not too long ago for the Rap Yard BBQ hosted by Combat Jack and Dallas Penn. They didn’t even rap, they were just meeting people and getting their names out. Right now, we’re just trying to build a buzz and plan out what we’re gonna do.
You’ve worked with NRK, you’ve rocked over an old Tyler beat. What’re your thoughts on what these guys are doing? What’s your relationship with them? Is it all through the internet?
I think what they’re doing is awesome. Watching Odd Future basically come out of nowhere and build a fanbase through the internet was pretty inspiring. Now this nigga Tyler nominated for a VMA when last year they were practically unheard of and it’s good to see stuff like that happen [Ed. Note - this interview was conducted before Tyler actually won the VMA, so move back in time to an age before thousands of people tweeted "who the fuck just won this VMA?"]. I actually found out about NRK because when I started following Hal Williams (@PYRAMIDVRITRA) on twitter, I saw he was part of another body of artists and checked them out. I was just supporting music that I liked and they checked out some of our shit and that’s how “Evil Jesus” came about. I’m hoping to work with them more in the future and shit.
It’s basically all internet interaction. I want to travel and shit because that’s what musicians do if they want to branch out, but right now I’m just working on music to put out first. There’s like a musical renaissance going on through the internet right now and I’m trying to be apart of it. I’ve discovered so much new music in the past year that it’s ridiculous. What’s even cooler is meeting people on the internet that make good music and fuck with your music, too. It’s like a new level of fan interaction when everyone is a fan and an artist.
Where does your content come from?
Just my brain. I’ve always been weird and I’ve embraced that shit and it just reflects in my lyrics. I made up my own genre based on the main content of my music and I named it “Potheadpsychotittynerd rap”. I’m not really in to being all introspective, so a lot of my raps right now are just me having fun with the random shit that comes to my brain. Don’t expect too many thought-provoking ”rapping civil rights leader” type of songs on “Suck My Dick, I’m A Shark” or anything.
“Potheadpsychotittynerd rap” sounds about right. But if someone called you a nerd rapper, would you object?
I wouldn’t at all. I actually like nerdcore rap like MC Front-A-Lot and MC Lars, but I don’t think I would be considered that nerdy. It would be awesome if I am considered nerdcore, but I think I rap about sex too much, though.
When I think of nerd rap, I think of some of the stuff I listened to in my teens–Aesop Rock and the Definitive Jux roster. Does that stuff cross your mind when you think of nerdcore, or is that a subgenre of rap that you see as totally different? Did it have any influence on you?
Yeah, I would say that Def Jux and Stones Throw and labels like that are in a different subgenre. They’re like the epitome of independent rap labels to me because the artists just make whatever they want and it sounds good. That’s how I want to be; Let me make the type of music I want and as long as I’m happy, you shut the fuck up. Yeah, I’m a nerd, but I like football, titties, reefer, and cursing all the time. Def Jux is full of niggas that can’t be categorized easily and I support that.
Metal Gear Solid or Tenchu?
Metal Gear Solid. Tenchu is fun and ninjas are the shit, but Metal Gear Solid was a game changer. After that shit came out, every game had stealth missions. The characters, the wild ass story, just everything about it makes it a classic.
You think you can get Otakon to sponsor an album?
Ha, I wish. I’m definitely going to try though. If they do it, I might get on ustream and cry or some shit. That would be a surefire way to get showered in weeaboo pussy.
Is your goal to rap and produce from here on out or do you see yourself playing more of a background role as the producer alone like you do on Lover Lover records?
I’m always going to prefer making beats over rapping, but I don’t think I’m going to stop doing the rap thing. I’m not trying to be a Kanye West or anything because then people are gonna expect me to put my voice over my beats all the time and I’m good without the pressure. After I put out “Suck My Dick, I’m a Shark”, I’m gonna focus more on trying to get recognized for my beats and doing more production for Elite Hunters Club.
Returning briefly from my hiatus to present Thoth’s Volume 1 hosted by Statik Selektah. I absolutely promise I’ll be back soon with other big time content, but this shit knocks so you should download it.
“What It Is” – Thoth (prod. Rune)
I’ve known Thoth for seven or eight years now. I’ve heard a lot of material that will never see the light of day, I’ve talked about a lot of future dreams, and I’ve had many conversations about the mixtape you see above, Volume 1. It’s been a long road to getting Volume 1 out, but it’s here, it’s great, and it’s only the beginning (and it features production from YML favorite and friend RUNE!–you can check out their collaboration, “What it Is” above).
Peep the tracklist and download below, featuring some serious indie heavy hitters. Motherfucking Raekwon. Damn.
In my ongoing attempts to bring you music that I love,The Round Upis going to provide a weekly window into the new (and occasionally not so new) songs that are the populating my playlists. Expect it every Wednesday. Hold me to my word. (right click tracks to download)
Skipping the Round Up this week because I haven’t had time to dig, download, and organize thoughts. We shall resume in May with a double dosage of Round Up goodness. Sorry to the seven of you who care.