What’s Good? EZRAKH (Part Two)

9 Feb

EZRAKH

Continued from What’s Good? EZRAKH (Part 1) . . .

Retail DJ: Beyond the ones that aren’t from your brother or your friend—where did you buy those? Where do you generally find records?

EZRAKH: Well, I actually used to have an internship at Turntable Lab. They’re a good spot to go to. Like I said, I don’t really buy new records that much—everything’s moving away from physical formats. If I do, randomly, like if I’m in the mood and I’m on 6th Ave near the Village . . . you know how the people have tables set up?

Retail DJ: Yeah.

EZRAKH: A lot of the guys with those big record tables set up—if I have time and I’m there, I’ll just sit for a couple minutes and look for something. That’s how I found the Herb Alpert “Rise” record. Just randomly doing things like that, I can come across good stuff. I found a pressing of “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five like that as well. It’s not that I don’t want to [buy records/music]. I support the artists by buying their digital formats mostly. But if there’s something I really want I’ll get it. One of the things on my list to get actually is Only Built for Cuban Links II [by Raekwon]. Turntable lab has it on purple vinyl. So I’m probably going to be getting that soon!

Retail DJ: What do you mean by “purple vinyl”?

EZRAKH: It’s just the colored vinyl.

Retail DJ: Does it play differently or is it totally for aesthetics?

EZRAKH: Nope—plays the same. It’s more of an aesthetic thing. I mean, for Serato, when they put the colored vinyl thing out, it’s all for aesthetic. But even when you have actual records, in some cases, they’re probably collectors’ editions and/or have only a certain amount of pressings.

Retail DJ: So besides these favorites that you pulled for us, if we were to raid your computer or iPod (or whatever you listen to when you’re on the go), what do you think would be your top 5 songs right now? What is presently on heavy rotation?

EZRAKH: Right now. . . I really like Shafiq Husayn’s  album En A-Free-Ka. He’s really great in terms of music. It’s all-in-all a great album. He’s actually one of the members of Sa-Ra. His songs “Changes” and “Le’Star” are my two favorites of his. I’ll have to play those later for you.

Le’Star:

Changes:

Retail DJ: It’s more like funk and soul, right? Because I feel like that’s what a lot of the Sa-Ra tracks sounded like.

EZRAKH: Well yeah, that’s the great thing about it. You can’t put his or Sa-Ra’s music in a box really, because it still has a hip hop aesthetic to it. They do these songs where they’re like, chatting or rapping over them, and it’s like, “This sounds like old school hip hop party music, but it’s so soulful and futuristic!” So in that respect, you really can’t necessarily classify them as of yet. I feel like they’re doing something great by just creating new sounds—or, at least, blending old sounds to create something new.

I’m also listening to MF Doom – “Absolutely.” This is a good track. It’s from his album Born Like This.

J*Davey came out with a new EP that’s really good, but one of my favorite songs that I’ve had on rotation from them lately is “Li’l Big Heads”

Retail DJ: Yeah! I like that song. It has the weirdest video. Have you seen the video? 

EZRAKH: Nah, I haven’t seen the video.

Retail DJ: It’s crazy and involves claymation things that fight:
http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=37342967

EZRAKH: Hmmm…I’m also listening to –and it’s not new, but it’s been on heavy rotation on my iPod—Roy Ayers’ and Fela Kuti’s album Upside Down. They have a song called 2000 Black that’s really good. It’s like…13 minutes long (like every Fela Kuti song)! [laughs] But it’s really good!

Hmmm…one more? How could I forget? I saved the best for last: Jay Electronica.

Retail DJ: Yeah! It’s crazy—I was just about to ask you about him! Perfect segue.

EZRAKH: He gets me excited and amped about hip hop again. He conjures good feelings about where hip hop could still go because he has a classic feel that harks upon Rakim, Nas (Illmatic). He has a style like that, but on the same end, he goes and flips it on people and does 9 minute songs over movie scores. He raps over Radiohead. That’s actually the song I’m really feeling right now: “Uzi Weighs a Ton”

I just feel real tough when I listen to it. [laughs] It’s that kinda track. It’s really dope. And he lays everything down. No matter what your beliefs are, he really is saying something positive in his rhymes. I just hope more people get the chance to hear it. I hope that certain powers that be aren’t fearful of what he can say because, I mean, he’s saying a lot of great stuff.

Retail DJ: I noticed that on your blog—which I know you don’t get to update that often, but when you do, there’s awesome content—you mentioned him on his January 1st post. He was also brought up by NSR, an MC we recently interviewed. Everyone’s talking about him! He’s an underground artist, but then in some ways he’s not because he’s become really popular these days. Who else is out there whom you could classify as “underground” that you hope blows up and gets more recognition?

To Read More, Click Below

EZRAKH: Hmmm. One of them could be Shafiq Husayn. I feel like—and this is not to take a swipe at anyone—in a certain sense, his music could be a little too “intelligent” for the masses. And that happens with a lot of underground artists. Another artist is Blah Blah Blah. I just saw them live. They’re really good. It’s like a mix of Radiohead and Joy Division and so many other things all in one. It’s really good. Sonically, they just work really well together. I doubt they have been getting a lot of mainstream play, but they’re great artists.

I actually did a post about Nneka  recently. She’s also really good. She reminds me of a mixture of Lauryn Hill, a little bit of Erykah Badu, and Santigold, all in one. She is very conscious. Like I said before, I feel, in terms of mainstream recognition, it’s kinda tough for artists nowadays because a lot of the stuff is watered-down. It’s not intelligent. It’s almost like chickenfeed. It’s like, “Eat this, so you’ll feel full and know you’re satisfied.”

Retail DJ: It’s funny that you mention that. I feel like you are reading my mind—predicting the questions, if you will. I was wondering, then, what is the “chicken feed” for you right now? What are some tracks that you just can’t stand?

EZRAKH: Well, for a minute, “Empire State of Mind.”

Retail DJ: And people still play it all the time!

EZRAKH: I love the Alicia Keys’ version. It reminds me of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” which is an amazing piece of music. And Alicia Keys is an amazing artist. If they had played that more than the Jay-Z track, I would have been like, “Oh I want to listen to this. I’m in an Empire State of Mind!” [laughs] I feel like that’s definite chickenfeed for the masses—and that’s no disrespect to Jay-Z. He’s just a very smart businessman. But that’s the terrible thing about music nowadays. Of course, we all have to eat, we all have to live, to provide for ourselves, to survive. But I feel like it’s so much about this chasing after money. Fame is even cool, but if I could live on a tenured principle’s salary and have recognition, then that would be ideal. Of course, I’d strive for more, but I wouldn’t want the whole process to be about money. 

Retail DJ: So on that note, there’s obviously a lot of money in production. I know you are dabbling here and there in production and you have some of those tracks on your soundcloud. Where do you plan on taking that? Is this something you want to do in the future or is this just a side project?

EZRAKH: Well, I am a musician first, so I feel like that, in the longrun, could be more important than my DJing. But I feel like my DJing is a great outlet in terms old getting my music and my flavor—the flavors of music I’ve heard and liked—to the public. Though I produced these tracks, I am still trying to perfect and refine [the skill]. I am always more critical of my own work. If someone needs a beat or a track, yeah, I’d probably sell it to them, make it for them, but in terms of my sound, I’m still refining it. I’m not too long off, though. I feel like I am getting closer to [the sound I want]. Most of the mainstream producers out there are able to produce so many different types of tracks. But you look at the RZA for example, his work involved old soul samples with hints of vocals that were really harmonic. Then you have Bangladesh, who from what I see, in terms of his mainstream production, makes crazy bangers. You also have Kanye, who obviously has some influence from RZA in his samples—the pitched up vocals especially (in his first two albums). I feel like all these producers have established a sound. Of course, they still went and explored all these different sounds, but I still feel like that’s one of the things I have to do. I have to establish my trademark sound.

Retail DJ: So returning to the theme of survival, what do you do during the day? Do you have a Monday through Friday gig?

EZRAKH: Yes, I do. I am a an afterschool counselor and mentor at the YMCA. Shoutout to all the YMCA kids! [laughs] It’s with elementary school kids. It’s a good job. Although I am often tired after doing it, I feel satisfied after doing it—unlike the many other jobs I’ve had. I’ve worked in retail. I’ve worked at bars bartending, at restaurants waiting tables. I’ve worked at a bank as a teller. And none of those gave me the satisfaction that working at the Y did or DJing. It’s good because just like in my DJing or my counseling work, a positive piece of me comes through, and hopefully it makes a lasting impact on the kids because things aren’t looking too good right now in terms of pop culture. That’s what a lot of the older people like to think, right? I’m not even that old, but it’s always “bad” to those who are older. It was “bad” when my mom and dad were kids too.

Retail DJ: Do the kids have any impact on what you play or what you listen to?

EZRAKH: Well, there have been a couple times that I’ve brought my iPod to work, and all they asked to listen to was Michael Jackson. One of those students has a dad who’s a DJ, so it made sense. But in terms of the music, I feel like, for the most part, it helps keep me conscious about what I play and what I put out. At certain levels, you have certain types of music—whether it be club, dancehall, or hardcore punk  music—in which vulgarity is a regular thing. It just makes me more mindful about what I want to do. Particularly, this mix I am putting together for Retail DJ—I was listening to it all the way through, and I realized it has a pretty positive feel to it. It’s uplifting. Hopefully people get that from it. It has a real soulful feel.

Retail DJ: Would it be something you’d get dressed to?

EZRAKH: Yeah. It’s one of those mixes you’d play in the morning when you’re getting up, about to go to work, or before you go out. You’ll see when you hear it!

Retail DJ: The little bit you played for us already sounded amazing. So we’re excited!

EZRAKH: Cool.

Retail DJ: So what is in the works beyond the mix you are working on for us and your gig with the guys at Late Night Left? 

EZRAKH: First off, I want to say, I have a facebook page. It’s just EZRAKH. They’ll be updated on all of the events by going there. Right now, I’m set to do an artist showcase (for both performance and visual art) on February 26th in North New Jersey at the Coffee Cave. It’s a really great spot. They have great people.

I actually got hooked up with that gig from starting a project with a few friends of mine (it’s still going on). It’s called Down to Earth People. It’s a collective of artists, writers, organizers, etc. Our aim is to get good people, good music, and art (good or bad—that’s up for interpretation) together in one place. It’s also a great avenue for networking with people. We had an event called “The Last Seed” in Newark, NJ at a big warehouse loft out there called The Seed Gallery. It has 3 floors—each one filled with tons of art—it’s actually an artist who lives there. It was packed—I mean imagine all that space packed with people. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Unfortunately, that spot is being taken back by the city of Newark as I believe it was part of a grant. We’re still looking for another location to do our next event—probably at the Coffee Cave, another spot in Newark, Jersey City, or Brooklyn. We’re really just trying to create a movement from Jersey to Brooklyn of artists, intelligent people (some of whom may not even realize they are intelligent!). There’s going to be an event on April 14th at the Coffee Cave. We are bringing three different artists—two from Chicago (the ones I worked with while I was out there) as well as a group from Seattle (with whom I connected during a gig out at Blue Owl in Manhattan). It’s minimal, tech hip hop. You could move to it, it’s really soulful. It’s really stripped down, but it’s good.

Retail DJ: So you are on Facebook. You’re on Twitter as well, right?

EZRAKH: Yeaaaah, I don’t really “twit” or “tweet” [laughs] I feel like that’s a lot of work!

Retail DJ: Any other sites for events and info?

EZRAKH: You could also go through my blog (when I get the chance to update it). I post event flyers there and mixtapes and/or songs:

www.spanktownsound.blogspot.com .

Retail DJ: So my last question for you is actually related to something you have on your facebook. You have a quotation there from the Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451, which is one of my favorite books. It reads:

You’re afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was young I shoved my ignorance in people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.

Can you tell us what this means for you personally and why it’s one of your favorite quotations? Does it have any relationship to the music you make and the work that you do?

EZRAKH: I don’t think it relates entirely to my exploration of music because I don’t think you can make mistakes in music. It doesn’t work like that—not to me, at least. I might not like it, but being that it’s a piece of art, who am I to say that it’s bad? I just won’t mess with it.

The most significance it has is to my business dealings in terms of music and my social dealings with people. I am a people person—I definitely like to talk to people. I like to put myself out there. I like to experience. I am a social creature. I feel like that’s who we should be for the most part. But like it says in the quote, certain things will happen that are out of our power, that we are ignorant of and that we don’t always realize we are doing wrong or recognize  are happening. But with each experience, you have to take the important lesson of it. There’s always a lesson in everything you do. In terms of business dealings, sometimes, people will try to take advantage of you, but like I said before, you have to learn your lesson.

When you talk to other people, be you. Try to relate to people in terms of their conversation, but don’t try to pass it off like “Oh, I know so much about this.” Don’t be afraid to say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about” or “Can you please fill me in?” If they know more about something, really pick their brain so you can work on it. Even at the end of it, do you own independent research so you can have your own personal learning experience from it.

Retail DJ

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4 Responses to “What’s Good? EZRAKH (Part Two)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Get Ready With EZRAKH – The Mix « Retail DJ - February 11, 2010

    […] more about EZRAKH, check out our What’s Good Interviews Part One and Part Two as well as our Get Ready With EZRAKH feature. Enjoy this […]

  2. What’s Good? EZRAKH (Part One) « Retail DJ - February 22, 2010

    […] To be continued . . . Check back tomorrow to Part Two! […]

  3. EZRAKH for LNL « Retail DJ - February 23, 2010

    […] collaboration. He killed it, I’m sure. Though just in case you managed to miss any of the talent we showcased recently, here’s a […]

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    […] interview (parts 1 and 2), photoshoot, and exclusive mix for Retail DJ (+ special goodie […]

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