Interview: Grandmilly & Shozae

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Things tend to take time. MC Grandmilly and producer Shozae, both from the Uniondale/Hemsptead area of Long Island, NY, have been working on music together since 2012 or 2013, but Adventureland, due August 24 on Stones Throw, will be their first physical album release. I first saw Grandmilly on stage in 2012, among SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan massive, but I didn’t see Grandmilly perform live until May 2018, with Shozae. Boiler Room co-founder and longtime Stones Throw fam Sofie Fatouretchi has known Grandmilly since at least 2013, as she deejayed for him during sets in both Los Angeles and New York that year. However, as you’ll read, it was a very recent email from her that helped put the Adventureland Ferris wheel in rotation, as it were. (And for at least two years, I’ve been bugging Shozae for the instrumental to “Exits,” a track off his 2013 album with New Jersey MC SageInfinite, Dark Minded — no luck yet, but maybe this feature will curry enough favor to seal the deal 😉 )

I spoke with Grandmilly and Shozae on July 25, just under a month shy of their Stones Throw debut. Our discussion covers the conjoining paths that led the two artists to this shared milestone, as well as the timeless process by which this album came together. Also: Gaia, The Warriors, and Toni Braxton.


When we last spoke, you guys mentioned that you linked up through Y2the3rd and Ace Who. When was that, and how long ago was it that you began working on music with each other?

Grandmilly: Maybe 2010, 2011 when I first encountered Shozae. When I first met him was like 2012. I knew he made music, but I hadn’t heard what he was working with until one day I had come over his house and we all migrated to his backyard because he had the garage with equipment, microphones and everything. He threw a beat on, and we all just attacked the beat, and I was like, ‘Yo, I’m rocking with this nigga, no matter what, all the way,’ because his sound is where I was trying to go at the time. He was making East Coast music, and that’s where I was leaning towards.

Was The Miseducation EP the first project you guys worked on together?

Shozae: Nah, at the time, we made “Extendos,” which was just a random single. After that, Milly was working on albums, so I had a couple joints on his albums here and there: Amerikkka the Beautiful and then Miseducation. At the time, we wasn’t making albums together, but we had a couple joints together so we was slowly gradually getting to that. I was making albums on my own also so that was something that was gonna happen anyway.

Milly, you’ve posted photos of you on stage with Spaceghostpurrp at SOBs in July 2012. I was in the crowd at that show, and I remember being amazed at the amount of people he brought up there with him. What impact did that night and the overall Raider Klan movement have on you?

G: It was cool. Purrp had fans. He wasn’t super famous, but it was a lot of people, and the energy backstage was undeniable. You felt like you was with a bunch of stars, people who was destined to be somebody. I tell my manager Kazeem all the time, I cherish those times going back and forth from the city to meet with Purrp and Denzel Curry and Matt Stoops, because it was fun. Purrp lived in Miami, so he’d only be in New York for a couple dates. His manager Randy Acker would set him up with NY dates. Me and Kazeem, Sho sometimes, we’d go up there and wind up being on stage or backstage with this nigga, smoking weed, enjoying being with Raider Klan.

It’s funny, I was looking at a video just recently of the show and saw you on stage in the back wilding out, and then I found myself in the audience also wilding out. It was a crazy show.

G: Yea, that shit was fun. That’s what I want to bring to hip-hop. Everybody, when they get into the spot, they all stone faced and want to make an issue out of everything, but I want to bring the level of fun where everybody knows the words to they favorite songs, the bitches come scantily clad, you know, that energy. You’ve got other artists that support each other. I’m feeling a ton of other rappers right now, like Tha God Fahim, Bubrock, Roc Marciano of course. It’s a lot of shit that should be done as far as rap goes, but I enjoy it.

For those who don’t know, tell the people a little bit about your respective crews, Zero Klique and Midnite Society.

G: Zero Klique Entertainment formed one time I was in my manager’s kitchen and told him I wanted to make an entertainment company. I had this ideology of completion, of a 360-degree cipher… beginnings and ends, but because they’re beginnings and ends, there are no beginnings or ends, you dig what I’m saying? Real brotherhood shit. I came up with Zero Klique, not Zero Gang, not Zero Squad, because Boot Camp Clik from back in the day and Screwed Up Click were the only real cliques. It could’ve been Zero Mob or whatever, but I chose Zero Klique because that stands out more to me. Sho already had Midnite Society rocking. He brought me in on what he was doing.

S: Midnite formed back in ‘04. My brother Ace, Petey Max, Super Vic, and QS formed that shit up, and I was just a young boy at the time doing dumb shit still, but I wanted to rap. Nobody gave me a chance to rap, nobody wanted me in they studio. I used to ask people all the time, but these guys was upstairs rapping in my mother’s house, so I’m like, you know, I’m gonna go upstairs and rap with these guys. I was freestyling, and they loved my energy, so they was like, “Yo, you with us.” After that, we just kept going and making music. We got a vision to stay true to hip-hop and be what we can be. It’s still like that, and as time went by, we met up with Milly and Zero Klique, and me and Milly [became] another duo in and of ourselves, another branch.

Horror is a common theme through both of your discographies. For Milly, it starts with the Bvndvnvz x Blvck Mvgic projects tied in with Raider Klan. For Sho, the name Midnite Society conjures it.

S: We naturally formed that way. I guess, a dark place is like a low place in life, and we’re all comfortable in that place, being that we all struggle in a way. That darkness is something we all related to, something we all have, and being that we all have it, we just naturally gravitate towards it even more with each other. Our chemistry is pure because of that, the same struggle, the darkness, the shit people don’t want to talk about.

At the same time, though, it’s interesting because you’ve really only done one project that’s explicitly horror-oriented, Mausoleum. Otherwise, it’s just something that’s in the cut. It’s not like anyone would say you guys make horrorcore or horror rap.

S: We don’t always stay there, in that dark place when we’re creating. Mausoleum was dark because it was released on Halloween—

G: Progressive rap is really what it is. I think anything trying to move music to the next level is progressive.

Let’s get to Adventureland: where and when did you guys record it?

G: We recorded it in Sho’s basement, but we mixed the tracks at 1Netouch studios.

S: I think it was early 2017.

There are a bunch of vocal samples throughout the album, which all sound like they’re from the same source. How’d you come across these?

S: Doing my research. Every time we do an album, we try and research something in particular and grab it, so [the songs] could be cohesive, connect and make sense with each other, so it’s not just a bunch of things slapped together. We came across a documentary about New York gangs in the 70s, which becomes the inspiration for The Warriors. It was so dope, because it’s talking about the same things we living in now. The documentary was like two hours long, so we had mad fun with it, you know what I mean? We chopped the shit out of it and made a whole album out of it.

Did you have some beats together already?

S: Nah, everything was all from scratch. None of those beats are pre-made or beats we had already stashed. To be honest, that’s how we make all of our music, on the spot: make the beats, make the raps.

Milly, do those samples drive the direction of your writing when you’re hearing them for the first time?

G: Yeah, but I leave most of my stuff to Gaia.

To what?

G: I call it Gaia. Gaia is God to me. I just write and try to go as hard as possible so I can entertain the people and give them that wow factor, but I always try to be abstract. Mayans were abstract [in] the way they spelled their names and the names of the gods. You couldn’t even really pronounce that shit. Their art was real abstract. It was clearly something you could see, but it was all jumbled up. I got a song on Adventureland called “Street Life.” It sounds like The Warriors. It sounds like meeting up with a bunch of niggas at midnight, you know what I mean? “When it’s nighttime, I activate the prana in my right mind/ Paradigms I alter with my rhyme catch up another time/ Lost and found wide awake sleep when I’m buried in the ground/ Rock this halo high like an angel from out the underground/ Black Cesar time pieces and Bathing Ape sneakers/ Pistol squeezes, say hi to Jesus in between the wheezing…

Sho, do you have a favorite verse or line from Milly on this project?

S: My favorite verse is probably on “Chancellor.”

Are there any lines that Milly spit on this that you wanted to pick his brain about?

S: I think the only thing probably was “Pleasant Times,” because he was getting real dark with that one.

G: We could make a sick video for that shit. It’s only crazy, because it’s an uncomfortable time but it’s called “Pleasant Times.”

S: Going back to what we were saying, we’re comfortable in that uncomfortable element.

G: You kind of imposing your will at the time, your will be done. The Bible alludes to that: free will is the nature of God, you being God, and you being made in His image. People call it devilish shit, but it’s real.

That’s a dope theme for the project, which I hadn’t considered.

S: It’s also a way for us to express where we live. Adventureland: that’s an ill way to just [represent] Long Island, you know, smack in the middle.

Milly, do you have a favorite beat or sample from the album?

G: “Fool’s Gold.” It’s fire because right before the song comes on, the interlude has a guy talking about mobilizing, getting in formation, fucking organizing, and just being God or feeling like you a god. They was really talking that on the East Coast, in the Bronx, Harlem, Queens, and all these places. Right before the record, you hear that and the beat just cuts in and sounds amazing. It feels good, because it’s finally something that I can all the way be proud of. I enjoy a lot of my past work, but this one is really important to me. I think Sho outshined a lot of producers and did a lot of ill shit.

Funny you picked that beat, because I’d like to run down a few of my favorite lines and see if you could break them down, and the first is actually off that track. You say, “Bless my body, rap not a hobby, learned my rules from a native dude.”

G: I used to watch consciousness videos, real deep, thought-provoking videos. There was this one Yogi, and he would explain the nature of God and the temple and a lot about the cleanliness and the righteousness or the nature of being a man. That’s what that really means. “Rap not a hobby, learned my rules from a native dude,” the native of the land, somebody who knows everything.

What about on “Street Life,” when you say, “Morality ain’t reality, so I grab my pistol and swing it at your cabbage, g?”

G: That’s just more of the ills of the world, people doing whatever they got to do to get a dollar, you know what I mean? It reminds me of that Kool G Rap song, [singing] “It’s a damn shame what you gotta do just to make a dollar.” Anybody consciously destroying somebody or shooting someone is taking a backseat to morals.

But that’s the way of the world?

G: It’s not necessarily the way of the world. It’s reality at that time, but it ain’t reality, because who know what I’ve done, who knows what the man on the other side of the gun did? [That] is always the question. It’s destructive behavior, but morality ain’t reality.

It’s kind of high and low as well, because you start with something to dwell on and then go base from there.

G: Its prophetic, I guess.

Sho, tell us something about your production process that might not be evident to listeners.

S: I wake up in the morning real early sometimes, and I get going, like “Put that shit on, let’s go.” We dig, and then once I hear it, I know it, I’m real confident, and I just move forward and attack it, and then Milly’s right there, so as soon as that shit hit, boom, Millly’s writing. I guess that’s something you might not know unless you in the room with us. People probably think the beat’s already made; nah, that shit is right there, like boom boom boom boom.

What about in terms of actual resources and gear? What do you use?

S: I use the Maschine from time to time, but most of the time I get busy on Fruity Loops. As for the samples, we’ve got mad vinyls in the crib. Sometimes we might go to YouTube if we can’t get it to transfer right, but most of the time we try to keep it in-house as natural as it gets. Everything is on the spot for that reason. It’s like if you go to the store for a turkey sandwich, you want your turkey sandwich to be made then. You don’t want [the beat] made three weeks before you plan to listen to that shit. That’s not the move.

What about sourcing the records themselves? How do you come across stuff?

S: I came across mad vinyls from my man Dunny Cold-Facts. His pops used to DJ and when we was young we used go to his crib. I was mad young, this was probably in the 90s that we used to be around him deejaying in the garage. One day he was giving away mad vinyls, so I came across a lot. And then you got your friends sometimes; Zeem has given me vinyls on my birthday.

In the run-up to the album, you guys dropped a couple EPs: Motel Six and Mausoleum. How did you select songs and concepts for them?

G: Motel Six was kind of one of those brain farts. I just said “Motel Six” one day, and I was like, me and Sho should make a joint based around it, the actual motel. He had a bunch of beats that I had recorded to, and we just put them together like that. Mausoleum came because we was watching the movie. We found it on the internet on some wicked-ass website.

S: Yeah, it was trash.

G: The movie was terrible, a real fucking b-movie, but we [wanted] to do something entertaining, so we took the movie and did the EP.

Does working on shorter projects like that help set you up for a larger project?

G: Yeah, pretty much. I got another project called Usual Suspects that I want to put out before Adventureland actually drops, but I might just sit on it.

S: It do kind of set up the album, because in between you got something to listen to and keep you occupied.

Does the same apply for you as creators?

S: Hell yeah, for sure, most definitely. That’s how it usually was done: you make an EP and then the LP.

Milly, you mentioned that when you were coming up you used to listen to R&B more than rap. Who were some of the artists you most enjoyed back then?

G: I liked Case, Xscape, Mary J. Blige, Dru Hill, Jaheim, Stevie Wonder, all the old school shit, Lauryn Hill. I was a big Fugees fan, my brother, sister and mother too. I was a crazy big D’Angelo fan back in the day when he put out Voodoo, when he did the video ass-naked.

S: My fam played all that shit.

G: My moms used to have this wild crush on D’Angelo. She was obsessed.

Sho, do you share a soft spot for R&B as well?

S: Yeah, I fuck with the R&B.

G: Toni Braxton.

S: I got Toni on the wall in the basement.

G: R. Kelly.

S: Jagged Edge is wavy.

G: 112.

S: Sade, Soul II Soul…

This is your first project on Stones Throw. How’d you get up with the label?

S: One day I was chilling, and I got an email from Sofie, the DJ from Boiler Room. Zeem hooked us up to all of that, had Milly and all of us go up there. One day, she emailed me like, “Yo, [Peanut Butter] Wolf heard your shit, and he’s fucking with it.” And that’s how it all happened. Shouts out to Sofie.

The LP includes 10 of the 16 tracks on the digital version, and to my ears, it’s very different experience listening to it this way. The skits are obvious omissions, but how did you determine which songs to include on the wax? Was it just a matter of track length?

S: Yeah, when making vinyl with hip-hop tracks or tracks with a lot of bass, the grooves in the vinyl has to be cut slightly thicker, so technically having a lot of songs over a certain duration would take away from the quality of the music. It can still be done, but when playing it back, it’ll sound slightly lowered, and we wanted to avoid that.

Stones Throw boasts a very diverse roster that touches and mixes many different genres—

S: That’s why I like it over there, heavy, because of the diversity.

Has there been any talk of collaboration between you guys and other folks on the label?

S: I mean, as far as right now — we would love to do that in the future — but I think the main focus is trying to move this particular album, getting it to where it needs to be.

Milly mentioned Usual Suspects earlier. Do you two have any other projects planned for the future?

S: Yeah, we got Under Surveillance. You want to talk about that?

G: Yeah, Under Surveillance is gonna come out soon. I’m not sure when, but that shit’s fire. I don’t know if we’re going to make it an EP or a full-length album, but it’s wiretaps in between some of the hottest songs. It’s real rugged, like a mob movie.

S: After that, we got another tape.

G: The Long Island Sound.

S: That one is it. I don’t want to give it away, though.

Any final thoughts?

S: The album is coming August 24, so make sure everybody gets that. Buy the vinyl, support. Shouts out to everybody.

G: Word.

Watch: Grandmilly & Shozae – “Cyber Tech Suits”

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A gravitron getting lifted off its base and spinning through the funhouse like a flying saucer, Grandmilly & Shozae’s debut LP, Adventureland, is out August 24 via Stone’s Throw. Having just released the project’s third visual, the duo sat down for a mini-interview to discuss the new video and upcoming album. Get in your pre-order now and look out for our full feature interview coming soon.

How’d you guys first link up with one another?

Grandmilly: Me and Sho linked up through another emcee in town named Y2the3rd, and me and Sho’s brother Ace knew each other and was cool. We also had a lot of mutual friends so it was nature more or less how we linked up.

Shozae: The rest has been history ever since.

It sounds like Milly channeled Blackstreet on the hook for this one, not a side we’re used to hearing from you. Where’d that come from?

Grandmilly: I used to sing for my moms in church, and I used to sing for my homies on they hooks and everything. I was really into rhythm and blues when I was younger. I actually used to listen to more of that than rap growing up, so it came from my upbringing really.

Shozae: Word up and we bringing different vibes of hip-hop on this album, that’s kind of how the album title came about…

For those who don’t know, tell us a little bit about the title.

Grandmilly: Well, there’s an amusement park on Long Island named Adventureland, and I used to go there a lot with my school and with my fam sometimes, and I used to love going. It was enjoyable, most fun you could have as a kid. It’s also a play on life and life’s hurdles and curve balls that might oftentimes take us for a wild ride.

Shozae: The album has its ups and downs, its fun moments and its spooky moments, similar to life and an amusement park. Every ride is different, but still cohesive enough with each other to form a park.

What brought you two out to Coney Island for the video shoot rather than Farmingdale?

Grandmilly: The scenery was a little more adult, and that’s only because Adventureland is more of a children themed spot. Coney had a better energy.

Shozae: The director, Quest set that shot up. He had a vision, and he’s dope, so I rolled with it.

Are those De La dunks I spot Sho sporting?

Grandmilly: Fly shit only!

Shozae: Haha! Yeah, those are the De La’s; I’m always representing Strong Island someway.

Between “Adventure Land (Grand Opening),” “Graffiti” and now “Cyber Tech Suits,” you guys seem to be building some pretty striking visual themes for this project. What’s the science behind the TV screens in each these last two and the projector screen in the first?

Grandmilly: I’m not sure but it’s dope. I can’t wait till yall see it.

Shozae: I like how you pointed that out. It’s something Quest came up with, but I feel that it happened naturally by being creatively consistent with the samples you hear before each song.

Column: Favorite Rap Mixtapes of June 2018

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With a cascade of releases spewing from the likes of DatPiff, LiveMixtapes, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, it can be difficult to keep up with the overbearing yet increasingly vital mixtape game. In this column, we aim to immerse ourselves in this hyper-prolific world and share our favorite releases each month. The focus will primarily be on rap mixtapes — loosely defined here as free (or sometimes free-to-stream) digital releases — but we’ll keep things loose enough to branch out if/when we feel it necessary. (Check out last month’s installment here.)

Rap tightened its waist this month, brought in the belt a few notches, squeezed back into its G.O.O.D. jeans, and burst onto the scene with more surprise releases than a zoo covertly infiltrated by eco-terrorists. While Yeezy and co. continued their string of seven-track Fridays, a gifted young lady came blazing out The City that Bombed Itself, with 15 minutes of audiovisual rap that stand to reclaim the word “lean” from woozier realms. Meanwhile, Bey and Jay dropped the album. Rothbarth shrugged. I bugged. XXXTentacion died. Then Gibbs got one. Southern cooking more your flavor? Both Zaytoven and DJ Michael Watts threw new summer sizzlers on the grill. Plus, now we’ve all these mixtapes to run down! What’s a rap columnist to do? Perhaps Beyoncé hubby S. Carter said it best when he mouthed the Migos ad lib, “skrrt, skrrt, skrrt.”


Queen Key – Eat My Pussy

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To think of Queen Key as a persona is to do her art and her existence a great disservice; even cursory investigation will confirm that the image put forth on Eat My Pussy is the genuine article. It’s a new sort of rap authenticity, skipping “realness” and proceeding straight to fantasy; Key’s primary concern is not what others think of her but rather, to quote “Tell,” how best to tell this bitch she wants to fuck her husband. She’s an endearing figure, a sort of incarnate id, and it’s no surprise that her ascension has come about organically rather than through any reinvention. It was last September that the “My Way” video started to get attention, and a mere nine months later, Key finds herself not only recording, but also holding her own with Chicago mainstays like Tink and King Louie. Despite showing significant improvement over the run of YouTube loosies with which she closed 2017, Eat My Pussy is still just the beginning for Queen Key; nine more tracks are set to be added to the tape on Thursday, and it’s a safe assumption that work on the next is already underway.


EvillDewer – 13

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In response to the sea change in how music is consumed, distributed, and (mercifully, reluctantly) purchased, independent Boston-area rappers and producers have secured the bag by refashioning the mixtape into a luxury item. These tapes can feel like stately public affairs, brimming with artistic self-assurance, collaborative joy, and emerging regalia. Netherrealms, the second most recent, cassette-only offering from Boston-based producer and “waveform scientician” EvillDewer, featured architects of this local insurgence like Estee Nack and Paranom. On his latest, 13, EvillDewer scraps guest verses to foreground his chopped, flipped, and time-stretched MPC juggling. Though a solo effort, the result is hardly insular: it’s a glimpse into the librarian-like mind of someone who pulls from actual library records, jingles, karate flicks, krautrock, and public access clips. Don’t let the erudition fool you; 13 is as fit for the subwoofer as it is for the gala.


Tierra Whack – Whack World

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Tierra Whack is here with that quick fix. Compact, efficient, just how we like it. Fifteen tracks in 15 minutes. Stop it. Don’t waste a moment thinking it’s a gimmick. You don’t have any time to lose. There’s no fat on this record; all of that’s been sliced up and disposed of. Whack World arguably packs in as much as any of 2018’s G.O.O.D. releases. The North Philly rapper pulls u-turns, changes vehicles, jumps a bridge, and still has time to swing through a fast-food drive-through on her way to the award show.


ShoZae – Coffy

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So firstly, if you haven’t seen the 1973 film Coffy starring Pam Grier, written and directed by Jack Hill, please do so before it inevitably gets remade. Second, if you haven’t listened to the Roy Ayers soundtrack, take care of that too. You good? OK, now you can function in a society and begin to appreciate what Midnite Society producer/recent Stones Throw signee ShoZae is doing with this, his latest tape. I don’t mean to pose barriers to entry — you can enjoy the 2018 Coffy without knowing its precedents — but at least in hip-hop, there’s something to be said for plotting courses of inspiration. They don’t have to be chronological or linear and often aren’t, but the dig is key. To that point, Coffy is entry-level blaxploitation, but maybe from there you check out The Final Comedown. Likewise, maybe this tape leads you to the Patron Series, Beneath the Mantle Vol. 1, the catalogs of the artists featured therein, and ShoZae & Grandmilly’s forthcoming Stones Throw LP, Adventureland. That’s how this record we call Earth spins.


Lukah – Chickenwire

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Humor and braggadocio are two methods of dealing with trauma in the places America chooses to ignore. On Chickenwire, South Memphis rapper Lukah claims he saw his first murder at age 12. This experience hardens him for a life in an unforgiving landscape. Simultaneously, he emerged from the womb clutching two backwoods and a pound of gas, with “handsome features” and a sensuous voice that’ll make you tingle. “Why you praying to God when you about to pay him a visit?” he asks. Lukah’s delivery is well-enunciated and confident, with quip after quip sliding off of his silver tongue over a half-hour of hook-less verses, as fluid and loose as backseat freestyles. “Bounce,” according to DJ Squeeky, is a necessary component of the Memphis rap sound, which by now has come to be acknowledged as the precursor to many of hip-hop’s hottest trends. Chickenwire contains no bounce. Some tracks betray their R&B samples in clipped slivers, but most are wordless, tangled loops, with production shared by the MC himself, Suni Katz, and Memphis avant-rapper Cities Aviv. Lukah is both menacing and hilarious; he remarks on many things that are “fucked up” about the world, but singles out a series of mental images that are absurd and shocking, like “Precious wearing a thong,” “a Blood Crip-walkin’,” “having thugs at your door dressed as Jehovahs,” etc. This tape is the sort of thing you can play all the way through while puffing a backwoods on a porch in the sweltering, humid heat, but the MC never fails to remind you: don’t let your guard down.


Chief Keef – Ottopsy EP

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Ottopsy listens like an EP for Keef fans, a sort of gift from Sosa before he drops his next project, Mansion Musick, due out in July. It contains the type of forward-thinking hip-hop we’ve come to expect from post-Interscope Chief Keef, and if you enjoy his more creative (dare I say avant-garde?) side, this is for you. The beats are inventive as ever (especially the instrumental for “Randomly” ft. Tadoe), the autotune hooks catchy as all hell (lookout for those high notes on “I Need More”). Keef has endured some tough losses in the last year (RIP Fredo), and I hope his creative outlets are helping him push through. Not suggesting that Keef is using loss as an impetus to make music — I’m just happy to see him putting out quality tracks during hard times, which is inspiring.


Navy Blue – From the Heart

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Flipping through the playlists of collaborators like MIKE and Adé Hakim, you’ll likely find a fair share of aesthetically common ground between them, Navy Blue, and other members of their SLUMS NYC collective. But general nouns like aesthetics, mood, honesty, and intimacy are about as far as those comparisons can fairly go, because upon arriving at the latter two, shit gets personal. With bars like “My uncle had a junior and he named him the third/ Won’t show up at your communion ‘cause auntie has some nerve/ Mommy did it all by herself/ Mommy buried grandma by herself, ain’t none of y’all helped,” From the Heart is not just aptly titled, but also keeps faithfully close to that most vital organ.

Watch: Grandmilly & Shozae – “Graffiti”

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Have you ever seen the movie, Adventureland? If not, it’s basically Caddyshack in an amusement park, but with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart and Ryan Reynolds all playing exactly the characters you’d imagine. A fair portrait of white-suburbanite collegeiate malaise, it’s nothing like the real Adventureland. Yes, Adventureland is a real place, but it’s not in Western Pennsylvania as the 2009 bromantic blahmedy would have you believe (I’m just riffing here btw, the flick ain’t that bad). It’s in Farmingdale, NY, and although that town’s doing the bar/restaurant/brick sidewalk/unaffordable apartment thing lately, the Adventureland I remember is closer in spirit to the menacing grimace evoked by Grandmilly & Shozae’s latest video, “Graffiti.” It’s not an evil carinval, or anything tired like that, but well, your cotten candy might could get eaten, see.

Also, Grandmilly & Shozae are on Stone’s Throw now (!!!), and their first album for the label, Adventureland, will be out this summer. (Talk about “The writing’s on the wall.”) Celebrate this beautiful news by streaming the hell out of this amazing video.

Premiere: Grandmilly & Shozae – Mausoleum

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You just checked out of the Motel Six, permanent like, and in this here-one-minute, gone-the-next climate, that means you’re headed straight to the Mausoleum premiering six feet below, courtesy of rapper Grandmilly’s Zero Klique and producer Shozae’s Midnite Society. Do not ride the ambulance, do not pass the morgue, go direct to the burial ground first previewed in last Friday’s “Halloween” mix and now available in full for this All Hallows’ Eve. Trick or treat, you orange-headed fucker.

Column: Favorite Rap Mixtapes of October 2017

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With a cascade of releases spewing from the likes of DatPiff, LiveMixtapes, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, it can be difficult to keep up with the overbearing yet increasingly vital mixtape game. In this column, we aim to immerse ourselves in this hyper-prolific world and share our favorite releases each month. The focus will primarily be on rap mixtapes — loosely defined here as free (or sometimes free-to-stream) digital releases — but we’ll keep things loose enough to branch out if/when we feel it necessary. (Check out last month’s installment here.)


Trippie Redd – A Love Letter To You 2

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All those Lil Uzi Vert comparisons notwithstanding, Ohio’s Trippie Redd is doing a fine job carving out his own lane as hip-hop’s closest thing to an opera singer. I mean, sure, there’s crooning, but then there’s Trippie Redd’s emotive bellow that erupts like a bat out of hell on the pre-hook for In Too Deep (I see the future in my plans / I’m gonna be good, it’s in God’s hands). Redd’s consistently ariose flow is the major draw for me: he’s got an amazing ear for melody, particularly those that instill sadness. While not entirely morose, the tape does embody themes of loneliness, nostalgia, and heartbreak (Baby wish me well / You know that I live in hell / I’m hellboy, I live in hell). Using autotune and endlessly-alluring, eerie, and ambient instrumentals as his brush, Trippie paints a world of vivid, lush euphony. And he does it effortlessly, with genuine affect.


Antwon – Sunnyvale Gardens

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There’s a lot of talk about potential in the rap game these days. With infinite, uh, clout at stake for those early champions of the next to claim their fifteen minutes, rap nerdery can feel more than a little obsessed with the obscure. But what exactly are we hoping that these teenagers might turn into? With Sunnyvale Gardens, underground veteran Antwon provides one possible answer, summarizing the year in Soundcloud while retaining the form of an actual, polished album. It’s a reassuring step forward, a promise that the genre’s core tenets – unabashed emo influence, guitar front and center, gargled autotune melody – can carry weight even in the absence of minute-and-a-half runtimes and blown out mastering. In spanning seemingly the entire history of rap since 2010, Sunnyvale Gardens can certainly feel a bit uneven; more often than not, however, it’s worth your while – Antwon is the ideal auteur for the goofy sincerity of rap’s current moment.


Grandmilly & Shozae – Motel Six

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The desk clerk hardly takes her eyes off the TV, absolutely never shoots you a straight glance, but make no mistake, she’ll scan her peripherals enough times to piece together a mental image. So it pays for you to look around too, giving her as little as possible without making it obvious. The game plays out perpetually. That’s what passes for hospitality here — that and musty carpets and buckled wallboards and busted heat pumps and penitentiary-level shower pressure and springy mattresses and HBO — because they know you’re only here on business. Bring your own amenities.


Evil Haze x CowboyKiller – Western Haze EP

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Cowpokin’ ain’t a far cry from trappin’. Texan/Pennsylvanian tag-team Evil Haze and CowboyKiller ride foreign horses and tote big irons, shooting hissed bars from the hip atop oppressively crusty bass lines. Their first three-track collab, Western Haze is a desert heat wave, warping its cracking samples on the scorched horizon: it stifles in the biblical sense, drying my throat like baked clay as my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. Lay me in the dust of death and ride off, pistols blazing. I hear the whine of slide guitar against the lens flare in the pale blue sky. “I’m causing damage while you on the internet spamming,” CowboyKiller whispers from a distance so great that I’m unnerved to hear him at all. It cuts deep.


YoungBoy Never Broke Again – Ain’t Too Long

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Ain’t Too Long, the latest chapter in Baton Rouge rapper YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s rapid ascent to hip-hop’s front page, arrived early October in peculiar form: a playlist of 8 YouTube videos on YoungBoy’s official page, not accessible via the usual mixtape sites nor the main-channel streaming services. This very unceremoniousness is exactly what makes the 18 year-old rapper so refreshing: his melodic, repetitive storytelling bears equal imprints of gen Z stylistic cues and Kevin Gates-esque confessionalism, and this latest tape finds him pensive and morose even in the face of great success. “Pour One” and “Better Man” start at the origin of his struggle and tell a story elliptically, looking back on betrayal and past selves with equal parts disbelief and gratitude. The circular melancholy in YoungBoy’s grates on the listener, at times unrelentingly sad even as the beat continues to bounce and fade out. What else are you looking for?


Gunplay – Haram

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There’s not good reason that Gunplay isn’t one of the biggest rappers in the world. He has more than enough intensity, talent, grind, uniqueness and hit-making ability to get over. Crossover appeal? C Monster and I saw him rock a noise showcase during Red Bull music week a couple years ago! Plus, Gucci Mane and DMX sustained careers through worse recidivism. Regardless, a couple years removed from a debut album that was understandably underwhelming (in that it was so needlessly belated and highly anticipated), Gunplay has sounded reinvigorated throughout 2017, powdery explosiveness complemented by a sensibility that was at the heart of his finest early works and now feels more attuned. Gunplay with precision and consistency.


Injury Reserve – Drive It Like It’s Stolen

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God, these three will never get the credit they deserve. Drive It Like It’s Stolen is everything Injury Reserve fans have come to expect: beat-heavy, lyrically conscious songs drizzled with some of the silkiest flow in the game. The 23-minute mixtape showcases the dichotomy of the trio in a short amount of time. “See You Sweet” and “Boom (X3)” are tough enough to “have the landlord knocking like a burglary,” while “North Pole” and “Colors” sway slow enough to swing a room into a smoke-sesh. Jokes aside, Drive it Like It’s Stolen has moved Injury Reserve to a more permanent position in rap and lets the world know that the trio has finished flossing and is ready to eat again.


araabMUZIK – One of One

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In 2010, Dipset Trance Party was, as far as I was concerned, one of the coolest and most confounding things in music. Hosted by someone calling themselves “Your Boy SK,” the series of beat tapes, somehow inspired simultaneously by vocal trance and by the rhythm-focused, high-fidelity Dipset production aesthetic, introduced the world to araabMUZIK. Since the release of his debut album Electronic Dream one year later, in what was surely the biggest Dipset Trance Party success story, we haven’t heard very much from the producer, known for feverishly punching out drum sequences on his MPC as if it were a live percussion instrument. At six tracks, One of One feels like the perfect serving of his simple yet intoxicating blend of beats and emotional dance music. Nevelle Viracocha’s vocals on “Lock and Load” and “Wanted,” seated in the middle of the mix and shrouded in delay, take me back to the bygone Trance Party even more effectively than araabMUZIK’s studio efforts, while the drums hit with the swinging, hand-plucked weight I’ve come to expect from him. One of One is a nifty, powerful little collection of beats, as ready for SoundCloud freestyling as for home listening.


Future & Young Thug – Super Slimey

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According to the October 2017 edition of Physics Today:

Allison Sweeney and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania now report that they may have a solution to the long-standing puzzle of how the squid lens establishes its protein-density gradient in a way that maintains uniform transparency. They found that cells at different radial positions within the lens produce different ratios of some 40 subtly different variants of S-crystallin. All the mixtures form gels — or at least a volume-spanning protein network — but at varying densities. The gelation prevents the proteins from aggregating into opaque clumps and damps local density fluctuations that could distort vision.


Lil Durk – Signed to the Streets 2.5

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I guess Lil Durk and Dej Loaf aren’t together anymore. I hope they’re ok! Really. Though never short on flexes, Lil Durk’s music has always had a believable earnestness far beyond that of his peers, neither cartoonishly immersed in his feelings nor insistent that they don’t exist. Despite never quite breaking out beyond Chicago, Durk has enjoyed massive sustained popularity there since well before drill entered (and subsequently exited) the national stage. There was a brief period this summer when it seemed like Distance was going to break through, and practically every track on Signed to the Streets 2.5 is similarly easy to imagine as a hit. Then again, that’s been the case for most of his career.

Mix: Chocolate Grinder Mix 123 – The World’s A Graveyard and Every Day Is Halloween

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In the mob’s damning stares, the shtetl woman saw reflections of not only burning torches but also burning hypocrisy, and this the worse conflagration. It wasn’t enough that they’d spread their shameful lies to her customers. It wasn’t enough that they’d marked and ransacked her market stall. They, whose children daily enjoyed the fruits of her sister-kin’s bloody toils, now dared bring their accusations of blood libel to a part of town they’d otherwise never deign to enter and to the door of her family home?! No, not this night, she thought, not without real sacrifice. For that was what they accused, and that was what they demanded, wasn’t it? So be it then.

“Yes! Yes, I drank of your child’s blood!” she moaned at her nearest accuser. “And yours,” she cried to the next. “He’s the fat one, isn’t he? Tonight I’ll bathe in his!” The crowd inhaled a ghastly gasp. “And yours!” And another. “And yours!” The horde receded. “And tomorrow the streets will run red with goyim baby blood!”

Stream below, download the WAV version, and subscribe to our podcast here.

[00:17] Angelo Badalamenti – “Dark Mood Woods (Twin Lakes Mix)”
[04:27] Grandmilly & Shozae – “Halloween” (Unreleased)
[06:34] Alförjs – “Ajiba”
[09:21] 30XX – “Death Machine”
[09:21] Mars89 – “Poltergeist”
[11:04] Evan Caminiti – “Possession”
[14:35] ELUCID – “Piano Wire”
[16:45] Oaht – “Till Days Over (Gothic Marxism Mix)”
[19:45] Anthony Pasquarosa – “Godforsaken Country (Seq. 2)”
[21:58] Rozewood – “Stranger Danger”

Special thanks to Grandmilly and Shozae, whose Mausoleum EP is coming October 31; and to Andy Koufax, whose voice can be heard on the “Twin Lakes” and “Gothic Marxism” mixes and whose ancestral in-laws inspired the tale above.

♫ Listen: Grandmilly – “Annunaki” ft. Dunny Cold-Facts / “Elohim”

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I make music for dust heads, walk out Nike Town with a crisp pair.” The opening line from Grandmilly’s “Annunaki” verse (the song’s second) is about as fine an introduction as you’re going to get. A former Raider Klan member (and one of the only NY rappers who can stake that claim, if memory serves), Grandmilly has been quietly yet consistently putting out quality projects since 2012’s BVNDVNVZ x BLVCK MVGIC. A few noteworthy catalog entries include a 2012 EP with Bones and a 2015 LP with SageInfinite, which just might be the best thing the Mishka label ever released.

Over the years, one of Grandmilly’s closest collaborators has been Shozae, a producer whose Midnite Society claims some of very the same Uniondale and Hempstead, Long Island blocks as Milly’s Zero Klique. Last year, Sho and Milly teamed up for an EP called 2 Stoopid Dogz, and the duo is currently sitting on a follow-up cassette called Adventureland, which definitely exists but also definitely isn’t out-out … at least, not yet. In the meantime, they’ve been posting a number of loosies, including these similarly branded 80 Proof elixirs, the first of which features Sho’s fellow Midnite Socialite Dunny Cold-Facts.

All that still isn’t nearly as solid an introduction as “I make music for dust heads,” though.