This week’s COREnered takes you to the land of penetrating, head-bopping hip-hop instrumentals with Tunecore artist Cosmonaut Seven, who released an album earlier this year entitled “The Beatmaker Rhyme Formulator.” Take a look at what Cos had to say about some of the forces behind his music.
- What is your first musical memory?
I was a 4th grader in the Broadmoor apartment complex in Riviera Beach, Florida. I remember standing at the door of the apartment and hearing this booming bass and those synthesizer sounds, looking out and seeing this black, jacked-up Camaro circling the complex, showing off the sound. It must have been a new song. Of course I can recall hearing music before then but that memory sticks with me; perhaps because it’s “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa, which is a classic, epic-type song. It was very different from the music my parents played in the house like Chick Corea, Earth Wind and Fire, Grover Washington, etc. This music was futuristic and exciting.
- What was the first concert you ever went to?
Probably an outdoor Jazz concert in Florida with my parents. My first official one was the FreshFest in West Palm Beach Florida in 1988. Heavy D was headlining. I remember Whodini, Fat Boys and Run DMC also performing. Now I’m beginning to remember another moment, unsure whether it’s from the same concert or another one. But, it’s a memory of being backstage at a 2 Live Crew concert and seeing Brother Marquis sitting in a beach chair very intoxicated. The FreshFest concert was the most exciting time for me. Living in West Palm Beach in the early 90s, there wasn’t much in the way of hip hop shows at all. We were blessed to get the FreshFest. That was a big tour too with those artists who were the Jay-Zs and Wu-Tangs of the late 80s-early 90s.
- What or whom do you go to for musical inspiration?
Everywhere. Often I’m inspired by music that is the opposite of my usual production. Project Pat. His flow inspires me. Wiz Khalifa is inspiring me right now. How versatile he is and how dope the music is. Fela Kuti is a big influence for the way he makes his songs 10-14 minutes long. It’s like he gets the audience in a zone or trance and then he hits ‘em with the political philosophy. I make tracks that are about 4-6 minutes with the same thinking.
I am also greatly inspired by J-Dilla. Around ‘07 I started listening to his beat CDs. The things he was doing reminded me of the type of beats I used to make back in the good days; real funky samples and breakbeats well executed. Sometimes I’m influenced by music that moves me and other times I’m inspired by my own desire to live better. That sort of inspiration moves me to make more commercially viable music but is tempered by the need to maintain my integrity and self-respect. I feel a strong need to give the listener something like a sonic vitamin.
- Without using the words “alternative,” “pop,” or “rock,” describe your sound.
Gritty, hard, maybe harsh, lyrical, deep, cerebral. As much as I aspire to make, I guess, gentler tracks, I continue to think that my music is acoustically “basement” and lyrically functional. I try to leave you with information, I call my rhymes “information rap.” I’m still developing as a rhymer though. Production-wise, I’m into the ‘golden-era’ sound which is when samples are well chosen and well chopped.
I started off recording on a 4-track and the mixes were bassy/muddy and loud. They sounded good to me and most listeners, but some suggested I improve my mixes. The few times I went into recording studios, the mixes were too tinny sounding, too much air. It was because of digital recording. There was no bleeding across tracks and no underlying hiss from magnetic tapes. Having gone digital I now see how important that analog noise is to the feel of a recording. I see it in the difference between listening to records and CDs. I try to retain that analog feel through different methods.
In short I describe my sound as futuristic yet basement, which is to say fresh and dirty.
- Stones or Beatles?
Stones. The Beatles are cool too, but if I’m saying who I’m more like I think I’m more like the Rolling Stones because if I was a singer I’d be Howlin’ Wolf rather than say………Nat King Cole. I also play the drums whenever I’m near a set and the stuff I play is either bluesy or rockin’ and rollin’. The Beatles were too rigid for me and they dressed like they just got off work.
- What’s your dream collaboration?
Hmmmm….I’d love to mix down the master recordings of Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix and make the albums they were planning to do. I’m someone who really enjoys listening to good music and rap production evolved out of that. Starting off, me and my crew, The Alleycats, used to sit in the Alleycat Shack and play records all day until we found something that moved us. In those years, I developed an ear for sounds and mixing. I still have a lot to learn but I would love to mix down many different kinds of bands playing reggae, rock, soul. Before The Roots became known I often thought that drummers in bands should be mixed more like drums in rap beats. I still think the way I imagine it hasn’t quite been done but the Roots are the most like it.
Collaborations with other rappers is fine but it isn’t profound to me. Its common. Rappers pay other rappers to do songs. That’s not natural; it’s commercial and contrived. I’m interested in collaborations that are ground breaking and revolutionary, the way Orson Welles collaborated with CBS.
- Do you find the song or does the song find you?
It finds me or we meet up somewhere. The song usually picks the place and I’ll find myself there. I have wanderlust. I cant stand to sit in one place too long so I often will just leave the house and roam the city. Sometimes my stride gives me a rhythm for a beat, a bassline and drum pattern. Sometimes my mind will start going and I’m forming lines for a rap. It might start off with lines I might say to a girl I see and evolve into a scenario. It could be about homeless people that I pass and how I can’t even afford to help them. Then I’m writing in my pad about the government, the war and so on. My thoughts tend to be in this vane. So it’s like the song meets me where there are things and people that will inspire it. I don’t know the exact location but I know it’s out there somewhere.
- How do you discover new music?
Friends, surfing the net, looking at the person next to me’s iPod. I’m usually trying to discover old music though. That’s where the new stuff comes from anyway right? Actually, I got a friend who is heavy into Southern Rap. When I hang out at his crib we play chess and he plays iTunes and that’s when I hear all the new hotness out of the South. Turns out I’m really feelin’ much of the music I hear there. Right now I’m rockin’ that “Lemonade” track by Gucci Mane and that’s also where I heard “Who I Am” by Wiz Khalifa. The truth is that I’ve been sort of insular for the past few years. I wouldn’t listen to any rap that was recent. Now I’ve reconciled my idealistic view of the world with reality.
Often times though I will be inspired by some music with interesting sounds. For example I was playing some music from India and heard a song called Bairagi. The sitar in it so moved me that I stopped everything and made a beat from it. Then I put some vocals I had already recorded on it. Then the next day I shot some green screen of myself rapping and made a video of it. This song isn’t on my album with this beat but the lyrics are on a song called Pulsator Devastator.
Here’s the video: