San Francisco label Text Me Records has done a good job thus far of pushing a vast selection of new artists through its New Phone, Who Dis? monthly showcase. So far, we’ve caught R&B crooner Kyle Dion, dynamic duo Ricky Lake, hometown hero Mars Today, Awful Records singer Alexandria, and countless others strut their stuff and more at Cafe du Nord, and there’s zero signs of slowing down any time soon.
For this month’s edition, catch your favorite rapper’s soon-to-be favorite rappers: Fat Tony, FLACO, Odie, and Lord Morgan total up October’s bill. Houston’s Fat Tony and Indianapolis’ FLACO’s visit is in part with their “Tour from Nowhere” dates and take a swing at bringing their modern take on regional rap to the Bay Area. Odie, who claims both Northern California and Toronto, is a rapper-singer with a taste for a melancholy rap that is a clear hybrid of his respective cities.
Text Me is also celebrating the release of signees Lord Morgan’s second studio album entitled Vibration is Player, the follow-up to their 2016 breakout Under My Roof. This time around, the guys are experimenting with their sound in hopes of identifying the very thing that defines them. The Bay Bridged had a chance to speak with them about finding a new direction and growing up through endless practice, collaboration, and of course, good vibes.
The Bay Bridged: You guys just dropped a project last week — your second album, yes?
Lord Morgan: More like our 50th. Technically, it’s our fourth album, but on record I’d probably count it as the second album.
EyyeLL: This one is actually being pushed and distributed as our second album, yeah.
TBB: Morgan, you and I spoke previously about the record and you mentioned a lot of these songs are actually a year old or so. How come it took so long to release them?
LM: We really started working on newer stuff and
E: Another thing too was we had made a huge batch — tons of songs in the past two years or so, so we were being really picky when it came to selecting what we wanted to present to everybody this time instead of just putting together another compilation. It was a different formula on how we approached this album than how we did the last ones. So, we were really, really detailed and picky when it came to picking songs. And that’s why some of the songs were recorded a while ago, but others were recorded within the same month that we dropped it as a single, like ‘All SZN,’ for instance.
TBB: Talk me through this formula you guys went through.
E: Well, mostly it was just a direction. Our past albums and projects we didn’t really know exactly how to piece things together sonically. We kind of just threw things together that we thought sounded good. But this time we actually had a plan to sort of create a whole theme to the tape, so that way if you listen to it from top to bottom it makes sense. And that was our mission basically.
TBB: VIP definitely sounds not as dark as Under My Roof, both conceptually and sonically. What was the (album) direction this time around?
LM: I just felt like I got a place as an artist where it’s like, ‘OK, I’ve done this, I’ve done that, I’ve got this off my chest,’ et cetera. I feel like I got to a place where I was just ready to make good music, feel-good music — stuff to make people feel something and [the record] just kind of [arrived] in the shape and form it came out in. It’s funny because feel like that second half of the album could’ve been a part of Under My Roof, whereas the first part is me doing different creative things, but also me just trying to make happier, fun music. And so it kind of just merged together like that. The thing about ‘All SZN’ is that song originally wasn’t even on [Vibration is Player] and we just ended up making it right before we were going to put the project out but everyone was like, ‘That needs to go on the tape.’
TBB: Even from track to track, your vocals sound different. Some of the older tracks, like “Married to the Game,” you actually sound older in age, whereas something like “Really Wants,” which has its own context, your tone and approach is also wildly different.
LM: I mean, that was also the diversity I was trying to bring because all the music I’ve been making up until now I feel like I’ve kind of kept it the same voice or done the same style. And this is me just jumping out and being like, ‘Alright, look, I can really rap and I’m going to do all these different things that I’m a fan of but want to attempt to do different.’ And that’s all the culmination of practice and experience towards a bigger picture. I hope one day get to a point where I can do something even crazier with my voice. So, it’s just really like my growth as an artist up until now.
TBB: So, what does “Vibration is Player” even mean though?
LM: You know, it’s kind of like a spin-off of ‘good vibes is dope,’ ‘good vibes is pimp.’ ‘Good vibes’ is, you know…it’s slang for good vibes as energy. Good energy is always cool. Being positive and being happy, just sending off vibes and receiving them, that whole process within itself is the coolest thing ever. I think that’s how everyone should live their life — everyone should be positive. And I feel like that’s what music should be about is sending off good vibes and energy.
TBB: At this point, has your chemistry and work dynamic with each other evolved and grown?
LM: You know, I don’t think it’s changed at all. Me and El’s chemistry continues to just get doper and doper where I feel like we’re at a place now where we can make anything, but also something different, you know?
E: To add to it, we’ve done and practiced so much to where if we hear a sound, a certain sound, we can go in that direction. Things aren’t just created — beginning to end, we have direction now. (Morgan) knows — just the fact that he’s practicing so he doesn’t sound redundant when it comes to his rap voice, every track he sounds a little different here and there but that’s just because he’s trying to match the feel of the different instrumentals that I’m making.
TBB: You mention direction and formula — is that implemented to how you guys collaborate? Is there a structure in place — EyyeLL makes a beat, Morgan writes to it — or is it more fluid than that?
E: It can go either way. I’ll send him beats I’ve already made and he’ll do something to it. Or we’ll get together and create something completely organic and from those, I would say, comes our best songs, to be honest. When we’re actually in the room together and vibing off of each other’s energies, it becomes really good stuff.
LM: Sometimes he also sends me some fire, where he’s already got a chorus to it and it’s pretty dope, so there’s that. There’s also been times where we’re hanging out and I’ll ask him to show me what he’s got and he’ll put something on and I’ll just be like, ‘Bruh, this is the one.’ And then, you know, he’ll send it to me later and tell me he came up with a chorus and he’ll ask what I think. I would like more of that to happen where I’ll pick the beat, usually it’s one out of a dozen beats he has just chillin’ there, then he’ll do a chorus and send it over to me, then on some first-shot shit — he didn’t even need to change anything — it goes hard.
TBB: EyyeLL, I did notice that you started putting your voice on the record. I remember before you told me when you first started making music you wanted to sing at first but you didn’t like how it sounded, so you focused on making beats instead. What made you want to go back to putting yourself on record?
E: I mean, I’m an artist, so I want to touch on all outlets, you know, whether it comes to painting, drawing, music. I’ve always just put my vocals on things, whether it was rapping or fake-singing, melodic-rapping, whatever, I’ve always done that. It’s just I wasn’t confident enough at first in the beginning to really put myself out there. But now because I understand music and structures a lot more — it helps me a lot especially working with Morgan — and understanding how to write verses and choruses, eventually I developed my own formula and basically learned how to put my own voice on things. I’m more comfortable now, and I kind of even want to start building my own entity when it comes to being an artist versus a producer; I want to do both. I guess this record is also sort of my breakout.
TBB: With all this new music coming out of the Bay Area, so much so that a lot of blogs and whatnot are dubbing it as a “new wave” out here, do you guys ever think about where you fit in? I know some people really see themselves as conduits for this movement, while others don’t really care and just progress forward with blinders on, which is fine too.
LM: It’s really a bigger picture to me. That’s why I say this tape really shows our growth because I felt like we can really go in any direction. We still haven’t found our sound yet; I feel like we play around with different things, like “All SZN” was kind of an experiment that just all sounded sonically well and it [was received] well. I was never really trying to conform to the Bay Area or what California sound is, or LA, or anything, I’m a fan of hip-hop as a whole. I might fuck around and drop something that sounds from the 90s, then turn around and drop something that’s like Outkast. I feel like hip-hop has so many styles, you can almost take one style and make a hit song, but that really hinges on how far you push your abilities and that’s how I feel we’ve grown. I feel like I’m always on that search of finding specifically what my sound is or what our sound is, but as a student of hip-hop, I’m also just trying to make good music and when it comes, it’ll come.
E: What we’re contributing, it is for the culture. While we do appreciate what it’s doing for the Bay, and we want to be a part of that, we’re still doing everything that we want to do. Not so much because of what’s going on, it’s sort of everything that we want to do and if you like it, then you like it, if you don’t, then you don’t. But the thing is, we’re always going to be creating. Eventually, down the line, I guarantee we’re going to push out something you’re going to like. Time does its thing, you know?
TBB: What do you guys have planned for the rest of 2017? You guys have a show on Oct. 12 at Cafe du Nord coming up.
E: I’m ready to get out there, I want to show everyone our songs. We haven’t performed or anything for a long time, nor have we had a body of work to really do. This is like the time to do it and I’m super hyped for it. I want to kill it. On top of that, I really like the artists we’re performing with — Like Odie and Fat Tony, they’re really dope, so I’m excited for that, to meet them and everyone else. It’s going to be good vibes that night.
Fat Tony, Flaco, Odie, Lord Morgan, Studio Dad
Cafe du Nord
October 12, 2017