Independence Day – Druzi Baby Savors Freedom and Fulfillment on ‘I J Q S D’

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Druzi Baby embarks on a new quest for independence, ownership and fulfillment on “I J Q S D.”

These days, Druzi Baby relishes a newfound sense of personal freedom.

The Ypsilanti hip-hop artist and producer embarks on a new quest for independence, ownership and fulfillment on his latest introspective single, “I J Q S D (I Just Quit Sellin’ Dope),” now available on all streaming platforms.

“I literally just quit sellin’ dope last summer and was dead broke. Bills paid and all, but not much extra – it was time. I had some weird ass vibes while I was on vacation in Florida and just had a hard gut feeling it was time to move on in life,” said Drew Denton, aka Druzi Baby.

“In reality, there are so many better ways to make money. Yeah, it’s harder work, but there isn’t a price you can put on a peace of mind. I hope people can take away that you really ain’t gotta take yourself so seriously. Most people are living beyond their means and portraying an unrealistic lifestyle, and that shit ain’t sustainable.”

Throughout “I J Q S D,” funky electric guitars, shimmering beats, thoughtful electronic drums and confident bass encourage listeners to think ahead and move forward.

Druzi Baby thoughtfully reflects, “I can’t spend no more time livin’ outside of my means/I’ve been lyin’ to myself/That’s not following my dreams/Put my life at risk because I’m lazy/Had some other options/Didn’t take ‘em/Can’t stand these little jobs/All these people fake/Gotta be my own boss/That’s the only way.”

“I just turned 30 this year. I’m not about to be out here living a pipe dream. I just wanna work, take care of myself and my family, and make some music while I’m at it at this point,” said Denton, who wrote the track and produced the beat.

Druzi Baby also celebrates taking charge in his new “I J Q S D” video, which features him proudly strolling along empty Ypsi railroad tracks and conducting recording sessions at The Workshop. He teamed up with director Christopher Kulick to record and edit the project.

“I met Chris through our intern, M33shka, and (Chris) is out here a bit from California and just getting started shooting videos. I wanted to work with him because he’s got a good eye and needed some experience. We recorded most of it at my studio, The Workshop, here in Ypsi, and it was shot all in about two hours,” Denton said.

“My business partner/mentor, Mello, makes an appearance in the video. That’s the OG, he runs The Workshop with me. Super talented dude who definitely doesn’t get the shine he deserves because that dude has been putting in the work behind the scenes these past five to six years.”

Continue reading “Independence Day – Druzi Baby Savors Freedom and Fulfillment on ‘I J Q S D’”

Symphonic Tsunami – Skywerth Turns Pandemic Tide with Refreshing ‘Waves’ Single

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Skywerth blends metal, psych rock, industrial, prog and hip-hop on “Waves.” Courtesy photo

Last spring, Skywerth watched a bewildered nation quickly unravel before his stunned eyes.

The Detroit multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter felt overwhelmed by the social, economic and political upheaval arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had just watched Ahmaud Arbery getting shot down in his own neighborhood and the music industry crumbling overnight all while looking at the incredible divide and conspiracy theories being pushed on social media,” he said.

That lingering frustration, disappointment and anger prompted Skywerth to pen his latest striking multi-genre, emotional-fueled single, “Waves,” featuring Hamtramck indie folk duo Jackamo.

“It was so apocalyptic, so I just wrote exactly what I was observing. Social media is tailored for you, so if anything pops up on your feed that is outside of your belief system, it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb, and your friends are going to say it’s wrong, too. No matter what it is, you are constantly being told that you’re right.” he said.

Now available on all streaming platforms, “Waves” elegantly rises with the genre-bending tides of metal, psych rock, industrial, prog and hip-hop into a symphonic tsunami. Thumping drums, tingling cymbals, swirling electric guitars, crawling bass and expansive synths quickly engulf listeners in a welcoming sense of relief and escape.

Skywerth reflects, “Alone in the waves with your eyes open wide, living in a paradise/Stare into the light/Hands upon the shore, eyes are getting sore/Here we are, caught in the eye of the storm/As the rain starts to fall, as the rain starts.”

“Lyrically, it’s a bit of a pessimistic song. If the song can make two people put their phones down and reconnect with one another in real life for two days, then it would make the year for me,” he said.

Skywerth also forges a beautiful musical connection with Jackamo’s Alison and Tessa Wiercioch, who provide somber, thoughtful harmonies on “Waves.”

“I fell in love with Jackamo the moment I heard them. We have mutual friends, and they also work with Steve (Lehane) at Rustbelt Studios. After writing the lyrics, I knew Ali, Tessa and I could do something pretty cool,” he said.

Along with Jackamo, Skywerth collaborated with Eric Hoegemeyer (soundscapes, synths), Matt Voss (drums) and co-producer Steve Lehane (bass, drum machines, production) on “Waves,” which initially started as an instrumental track.

“After the pandemic hit and I wrote the lyrics, I had this sort of organized chaos. Instead of being consumed by this confusion surrounding me, I had all my thoughts and observations laid out on something that was familiar and felt like home to me,” said Skywerth, who recorded the track at Royal Oak’s Rustbelt Studios and credited Lehane with transforming “Waves” into a vocal track.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision to weave all of these (multi-genre) elements together. I’ve got a bit of ADD, so when something sounds the same for several minutes I get bored. I need to change things a bit to keep me interested. I think the dynamics of the tune help outline the emotions felt from the pandemic.”

Skywerth brings those heavy emotions to life in his wistful new video for “Waves” as he ponders the pandemic’s ongoing impact with Alison Wiercioch in Hamtramck. Filmed and edited by Sara Showers and Cheyenne Comerford, the video also features footage of Skywerth performing live inside a vacant Magic Bag in Ferndale.  

“We started tossing around ideas for a video in late 2020, and we shot at The Magic Bag in February. It was quite unsettling being in the venue during the pandemic. We also shot in Hamtramck back in the spring, and it was a group of friends running around with a camera,” he said.

Continue reading “Symphonic Tsunami – Skywerth Turns Pandemic Tide with Refreshing ‘Waves’ Single”

Confidence Boost – FROSTisRAD Smashes Lingering Insecurities on ‘McLovin/The Ugly One’

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FROSTisRAD embodies a bold and brash mindset on “McLovin/The Ugly One.” Photo – Myron “TheMrMr” Watkins

Backed by hip-hop swagger and emo pop-punk tenacity, FROSTisRAD provides the ultimate confidence boost for angsty listeners.

The Detroit alternative rapper infuses courage, strength and authenticity into his latest insecurity-smashing single, “McLovin/The Ugly One,” now available on all streaming platforms. FROSTisRAD’s fearless multi-genre anthem delightfully draws inspiration from “Superbad’s” much-adored McLovin character.

“He was the man in that movie, like a lot of people overlook that. He was the realest one. He wanted to tell the homeboy, ‘Like Yo, we’re going to be roommates together. You just need to tell him,’” said Jeremy Ian Doneghy-Horrington, aka FROSTisRAD.

“He’s the only one who ended up with the girl at the end. He was rolling with the cops shooting the guns, like he was the man. He was overshadowed; he needed more props.”

Throughout “McLovin/The Ugly One,” FROSTisRAD instantly adds a sonic backbone as vivid, ascending electric guitars, booming bass, light cymbal taps and intermittent electric drums push listeners into unfamiliar territory.

In tandem, AV CLUB bandmates Armando De Jesus III (guitar, audio engineer), Antonio De Jesus (drums, film), VA (bass, multi-instrumentalist) and Myron “TheMrMr” Watkins (film/DJ) help FROSTisRAD solidify his bold and brash mindset.

FROSTisRAD reveals, “Pops told me right/Keep ’em at a distance/And everything is tight/I’m mostly talking shit/Yo/I don’t believe the hype/Lambo for the weekend/They can’t believe my life/I don’t give a fuck/This is nothing/Bitch I’m super bad/I’m McLovin/Yea/Got two on me/You the one I’m fucking/Bitch I’m super bad/I’m McLovin/Yea.”

That newfound “McLovin” self-assurance also prompts FROSTisRAD to accept his true self and look past others’ shortcomings and hang-ups. He developed the initial reflective concept for the track while recording it in his home studio.

“I know I’m gonna be friends and forgive people when they do shit. Because that’s just my nature, it’s the kinda guy that I am. It’s just a battle in my head if I’m gonna stay mad at people,” said Doneghy-Horrington.

“I feel everyone doesn’t do things purposely or intentionally to hurt each other. It’s just based on how they’re feeling that day, and they don’t know how to fucking manage the way that they feel or treat people sometimes.”

Continue reading “Confidence Boost – FROSTisRAD Smashes Lingering Insecurities on ‘McLovin/The Ugly One’”

Return on Investment – LovelyOcean Relishes Artistic Focus on ‘No Down Payment’

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LovelyOcean celebrates pursuing her artistic endeavors on “No Down Payment.” Illustration courtesy of artist

For LovelyOcean, a full-time focus on music will pay dividends for years to come.

The Los Angeles hip-hop singer-songwriter relishes the freedom and gratification of pursuing her emerging creative endeavors on “No Down Payment,” now available on all streaming platforms.

“I like to think of ‘No Down Payment’ as a form of background motivation. It’s like, ‘Yeah, this music isn’t paying any of the bills yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t someday.’ I think it’s important that we continue to work on things we love as to not get worn down by work, life and other bullshit,” said LovelyOcean.

“Up until this point, I had been working in the social work field, and it was killing my spirit. But it served as the biggest motivation to work on music so I could get out. I quit my job back in March, and I’ve never felt better.”

LovelyOcean celebrates her “No Down Payment” independence as shiny, cyclical synths, jumpy bass and gentle percussion smoothly glide alongside hypnotic, ‘90s-esque beats.

She reflects, “Just trying to break the mold/They warned me as a youth/Back when I played with dough/Things come natural/Need it off top/The world is gonna feel my flow/No static/We live from the radio/Tryna make it through/Ima shine like I was radial/And have a packed house/Up at SoFi Stadium.”

“Somedays I’m like, ‘Damn, I really wish this shit would pay off soon.’ It can be really discouraging to put your all into music, but no one is really fucking with it. I don’t like to have to ask people I’m close with if they’ve listened to the song. I don’t like begging for support,” LovelyOcean said.

“I’ve been using this time to recover and refocus so I can work on an album, but at this moment my songwriting waterfall is kinda dry. I’m glad I don’t feel stressed by work anymore, but I do feel more pressure to be artistic.”

LovelyOcean started co-writing her creative autonomy anthem with Chuck Chill in January. They recorded the track together in their magical closet studio and watched it quickly flourish over several days.

“It took about two days for the song to be written and probably two days to record it. I’ll spend one day recording it so I can get comfortable with it, and then I’ll record it another day so I can really solidify the vibes. Chuck Chill came up with the concept for the song and the majority of the lyrics,” she said.

“This is the first time I have ever let someone else take over the writing, but I knew he would do the song justice because he’s an excellent artist. Chuck Chill and I have collaborated on multiple tracks so far. He was featured on ‘Theta Waves’ on my last EP, and I’ve been featured on a few of his mixtapes.”

Continue reading “Return on Investment – LovelyOcean Relishes Artistic Focus on ‘No Down Payment’”

Fantastic Voyage – Nick Behnan Embarks on Instrumental ‘Magic Trip’ Album Odyssey

Nick Behnan glides from one genre-filled world to the next on his latest instrumental album, “Magic Trip.”

Backed by timeless grooves, majestic electric guitars and funky beats, Nick Behnan effortlessly embarks on an enchanting instrumental journey.

The Detroit singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist beautifully glides from one hypnotic genre-filled world to the next on his latest 10-track, funkified R&B-rock odyssey, Magic Trip.  

Initially written and recorded for sync licensing opportunities, each fluid, spellbinding track showcases Behnan’s versatility, prolificacy and creativity as an evolving songwriter and producer.

“I’ve never released an instrumental album before that shows my love for all genres. My main focus was to pick songs that were groovy, funky and somewhat up-tempo, but I try to write and produce the same way that I listen to music as a fan,” Behnan said.

“I never just listen to one kind of music all night. It will roll from Gregory Isaacs to The Congos to The Bee Gees to Prince to Wilco to Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar to Beck and many others all in one night. The trick was picking the songs because I have so many; I could easily put out five albums right now.”

While Magic Trip eloquently blends Behnan’s eclectic, refreshing influences, it instantly soars into a laid-back, welcoming sonic adventure on the jam-tastic, improvisational title track. Shimmery, wah-wah electric guitars, majestic bass, whirring synths and soft drums recreate the sound and feel of a sunny, breezy spring day in the mind’s eye.

“Several of the songs were made mostly with TV and film licensing in mind while others were started a few years ago. Some songs like, “Magic Trip” and “Inner City Funk” are brand new. Overall, I hope people feel good when they listen to it and enjoy grooving and rocking out to the music,” he said.

Continue reading “Fantastic Voyage – Nick Behnan Embarks on Instrumental ‘Magic Trip’ Album Odyssey”

Made to Heal – The Stratton Playlist December 2020 Edition Provides Soothing Escape

As the year (thankfully) comes to a close, we reflect on the strength, grit and willpower that slowly got us through. Together, we relied on new soothing, hopeful tracks that provided a welcome escape from the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation, political rifts, grief and loss.

Uplifting, rewarding bits of indie folk, country-pop, folk rock, psych rock, shiny lo-fi soul, reggae, dreamy pop, chill hip-hop and experimental art rock demonstrate the courageous creative and emotional spirit we all share heading into 2021.

The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist provides an introspective sonic path for healing, reflection and growth. Featured musical healers and friends include Lily Milo, Meredith Shock, Mark Jewett, The Soods, Dani Darling, Joss Jaffe, Ava Panza, Blaksmith, Dirt Room and more.

Thank you for everyone who supported The Stratton Setlist in 2020. It’s an honor to feature you and the share wonderful music you create today and tomorrow. Interested in becoming part of The Stratton Playlist on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres welcome.

The Flight Team Hosts Toys for Tots Donation Drive, Livestream Show Saturday at Grove Studios

An Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti hip-hop group will brighten the holidays for Washtenaw County children in need.

The Flight Team will host the “Super Fly Toy Drive and Live Show” Saturday, Dec. 19 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Grove Studios, 884 Railroad St., Suite B in Ypsilanti.

The holiday-themed event will include a contactless drive-thru collection for Ypsilanti Toys for Tots donations and a virtual livestream telethon featuring performances from The Flight Team’s Dre Dav, King Micah The Infamous, Villin, Brad Spliff, DJ Nitro and other local artists.

“We know Christmas is especially hard on people this year due to the pandemic and the loss of employment so we want to help ease some of the stress and make kids smile along the way. Some of us have benefited from programs like this when were young so it’s nice to be able to give back,” said Neiko “DJ Nitro” Thomas-Cook of The Flight Team.

For Saturday’s event, community members can donate and drop off new, sealed toys at a curbside collection bin located outside Grove Studios, a 24/7 self-service recording and rehearsal space. All toys must be unwrapped and sanitized before they’re donated. No plush toys will be accepted this year.

“All the donations will be given to Toys for Tots the following day when we plan to volunteer and help them sort through the donations we provided. Toy donations will be accepted at five other locations through Saturday, and people are also invited to make monetary donations online,” Thomas-Cook said.

Once community members drop off Toys for Tots donations at Grove Studios, they will be able to catch The Flight Team’s livestream telethon via Facebook and Instagram. The fun event will allow the group to personally connect and engage with fans for the holidays.

“We’ll be playing Christmas tunes, trivia and silly-themed games for your entertainment and have some special surprise performances from local favorites. We want to prompt people to come back and give to a community that has given us so much,” Thomas-Cook said.

“Grove is becoming an important pillar in the artistic community here in Ypsilanti. It’s a hub for The Flight Team where we can practice and have group meetings in a professional environment. We wanted to partner with Grove for the simple fact that it’s an awesome environment to throw a show and perform.”

To support The Flight Team’s “Super Fly Toy Drive and Live Show,” donate a toy at one of the following locations below by Saturday. You can also make a monetary donation online through Sunday.

The Mike C Collection

226 W. Michigan Ave. Bldg. Ground Floor

Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Suite 328 Recording Studio

239 S. Ford Blvd.

Ypsilanti, MI 48198

Leon Speakers

715 W. Ellsworth Road

Ann Arbor, MI 48108

The Workshop Recording Studio

317 Ecorse Road, Suite 12

Ypsilanti, MI 48198

Ypscity

2898 Washtenaw Ave. D

Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Grove Studios

884 Railroad St., Suite B

Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Beneath the Surface – Dirty Ol’ Men Reveal Tenacious Tales on ‘Six Feet’ Album

Dirty Ol’ Men recorded “Six Feet” during the first 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The album’s iconic cover dates back to the Elaine Massacre of 1919 and features seven of 12 men who were wrongly prosecuted and executed for an “attempted insurrection” in Elaine, Arkansas.

For Six Feet, Dirty Ol’ Men keep it 100.

The international collective of hip-hop producers, musicians and curators reveal compelling conversations, thought-provoking narratives and tenacious tales about social injustice, systemic racism, internal struggles and personal aspirations on their latest quarantine-fueled album.

“The songs that came out are representative of the discussions and conversations we have as men when we’re not recording. Because as a group, we still get together on a weekly basis or sometimes two to three times a week to just talk. We have members of our collective who may have autoimmune situations, so they haven’t been able to be out and about,” said Rod Wallace, a metro Detroit hip-hop producer.

“We have members of our group who have been through a lot in the last few months. A part of what we do is support them by meeting up and talking regularly; even a song like ‘Piss’ is a song that represents us playfully jiving with each other and talking crazy. It all was just very organic.”

Wallace and his Six Feet collaborators spent the first 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic writing, recording and producing the project’s seven raw, honest tracks through Songlab TV, an innovative, online one-session approach to songwriting that’s documented by Digital Hustle Films.

“When COVID hit, we decided to build something called Songlab TV where a sample or an idea is given to a producer who makes a beat while a rapper writes and records their verses and an engineer mixes it,” said Wallace about Dirty Ol’ Men’s creative approach for Six Feet.

“Four of the seven songs on the album came from that process; while the other three, they just weren’t recorded, but they went through a similar process. We acknowledge that a lot of music is made that way these days, but a lot of it isn’t made at the time because those four songs were synchronous experiences.”

Executive produced by Wallace and Anthony “Gadget” Mims, Six Feet serves as Dirty Ol’ Men’s second release this year since dropping the Motor City-fueled East Grand in February. Collaborators from Michigan, California, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois and Japan brought initial stems, beats and samples online to share their profound musical conversations with listeners.

Continue reading “Beneath the Surface – Dirty Ol’ Men Reveal Tenacious Tales on ‘Six Feet’ Album”

Necessary Nourishment – The Stratton Playlist November 2020 Edition Refuels for Road Ahead

With November’s upcoming arrival, some soulful sonic nourishment is needed to weather and withstand the remainder of 2020.

Fortifying morsels of lo-fi folk, shiny indie pop, fiery classic rock, breezy dance, garage-filled indie rock, heartfelt acoustic ballads and groovy, emotive hip-hop strengthen the mind and spirit for the unknown road ahead.

The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist shares a satiating sonic respite before the chaotic journey resumes. Featured sonic companions include Grooblen, Au Gres, Michael Snyder-Barker and The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, The Kodaks with Jemmi Hazeman and Quells, Lily Talmers, Louis Picasso & The Gallery and more.

Interested in becoming part of The Stratton Playlist on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres welcome.

Jazzy Impressions – Blank Tape Tax Reinvigorates Minor Threat’s Punky ‘Filler’

Blank Tape Tax reinterprets Minor Threat’s “Filler” as a timeless, feverish tribute to modal jazz.

Blank Tape Tax eloquently unearths the jazzy side of hardcore punk.

The Detroit experimental sextet of Ben Yost (drums, vocals), Emily Parrish (vocals), Michael King (upright bass), William Marshall Bennett (piano), Mark Royzenblat (guitar) and Isaac Burgess (guitar) beautifully reinterprets Minor Threat’s “Filler” as a timeless, feverish tribute to modal jazz.

“I was practicing a lot of up-tempo swing and double-time swing, and I was listening to a lot of John Coltrane. The way I was going about practicing involved listening to a song in my mind. I’d hum along to the song, ‘Impressions,’ by Coltrane, and I would play and imagine the song, and every now and then, I would hum ‘Filler’ by Minor Threat. That’s how it started,” Yost said.

That coincidental fusion sparked the melodic, glistening frenzy of Blank Tape Tax’s refreshing rendition of “Filler,” out today via all streaming platforms. Frantic upright bass, thunderous drums, crashing cymbals, sleek piano and swirling electric guitars seamlessly blend two divergent genres into a magnetic, holistic sound.

Backed by lush, intelligent instrumentation throughout “Filler,” Parrish soulfully sings, “Your brain is clay/What’s going on? You picked up a bible/And now you’re gone/You call it religion/You’re full of shit/Filler.”

“I think there are similarities between certain types of hardcore, like 7 Seconds, Minor Threat and Better Than a Thousand, and modal jazz, like Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, especially in up-tempo stuff. The pulse is really similar between the D-beat and up-tempo swing,” Yost said.

“I had written a piano score for it, and I gave it to William, and he read it down. If I write a song, then I’ll bring it to the band, and I’ll just say, ‘This is kind of how it goes.’ And then they’ll kind of just do their own thing, and whatever they come up with is awesome. I’m totally happy with it, and there’s not a whole lot of talking back and forth, like ‘Oh, you should do this,’ or ‘No, you should change that.’ Everyone already knows what to do, and it just falls into place. I’ve never had that in other bands.”

Along with his bandmates, Yost recorded “Filler,” originally a 1984 track written and recorded by Minor Threat, during a live performance for the Hazel Park-based podcast, “Broadcast from Cow Haus,” in March. While the podcast episode’s release has been pushed back, Tom Skill and Joshua Young, co-hosts of “Broadcast from Cow Haus” and members of Detroit ska band CbJ, encouraged Blank Tape Tax to put out the track.

“We did four songs, and there’s a video of all of it. They do their show in season blocks, and they are two episodes short of a season right now. They need to wait to get those two new episodes filmed before they can put everything out,” said Yost, whose band name comes from a levy that was placed on purchasing blank tapes.

Continue reading “Jazzy Impressions – Blank Tape Tax Reinvigorates Minor Threat’s Punky ‘Filler’”