Head to the back counter at Human Head Records in Brooklyn, where the shop’s excellent electronic music section resides, and Stephen Silvestri will likely greet you, pile of records & seltzer in tow. On an E-ZPass tip, I checked out the store for the first time, saw they were carrying some of my favorite labels (shoutout Is / Was & Vanity Press), got to chatting with Stephen, and had him do this mix 🙂
What’s in this mix?
I collect a lot of house/techno records from the NYC area from the late 80s to the early 90s so there’s a good smattering of that. A couple of UK records, some Detroit. I opened the mix with a track from Don Carlos the famous Italian house music producer. But the era is most definitely around 1989-1996. Always all vinyl! I’m not sure why I chose to focus this mix on this era but I guess it’s what I’m feeling currently.
What’s something you’ve learned (that you didn’t expect to) from working at record shops?
A deeper appreciation for visual art and typography. I am inundated with visual imagery working with records and you start to get really good at being able to determine eras of design preference. Some record art is totally pop art, some conceptual, some campy, some commercial, some political, etc. The spectrum of artistic design reflects the breadth of music which is obviously wide. But sometimes the visual is better than the music, or vice versa, or sometimes it doesn’t seem to quite match with the music or the content of the record. I could go on about layers of human behavior that I have learned about but that’s a whole other topic.
I had the pleasure of chopping it up with local independent rapper Wes Phili on how he’s been, where he’s been, and what went into his debut album Black Flower.
First of all, how old are you, tell me about where you are from, and what kind of influence where you are from has had on your music.
26, from North Philly. Grew up seeing both sides of the fence. Divorced parents; Mother, a lawyer who would eventually move to a more quiet area just outside of Philly. Father, a working man living in one of North Philly`s several hoods. My music comes from my experiences growing up in both, along with having lived in NYC in my later teens & early 20s. Philly is an MC`s mecca…long history of battle rap and great lyricists just like its brother NYC. Reppin Philly is askin for that torch…and by default you can’t be weak on a mic if you wanna carry that…bein nice at ya craft is showin respect to those that paved the way for you.
What kind of hip-hop scene, if any, were you exposed to growing up?
“The Infamous” by Mobb Deep was the first album I ever owned. That was my introduction to rap as a kid…and I was hooked. From there, I then moved on to albums like “Illmatic”, “Enter the 36 Chambers”, “OB4CL”….and the rest was history.
You said recently you are in Japan for the time being, tell me a little bit about what you’re up to, and what the change has been like.
I came out here just for a change of scenery to help me reflect on my life and figure out what I really wanted to do with it. Felt like I was in a bubble back home, and I needed to get outta that and find a place of solitude away from everything familiar, where I could breathe and think clearly. Still a working man, but my free time is almost entirely spent on perfecting my craft. The goal being to live completely off my music soon.
In a sentence or less, how would you describe your style?
Eclectic… I`m a little a bit of everything and future releases will reflect that.
Who do you listen to music-wise? and who has inspired you? Hip hop related or not.
I listen to anything and everything. If it sounds good, I`ll listen to it; regardless of genre. Recently though, my playlist has been filled with a lot of Roc Marciano, Mick Jenkins, Mach Hommy, (Illmatic – I Am… era) Nas, Lupe Fiasco, and Black Thought. All of these MCs have elite pens, and you can learn something different from listening to each. No matter how much I improve, I`ll always be a student of the game.
You said it took about a year to complete Black Flower. When you first started did you intend for it to take that long?
Absolutely. I like to take my time when making music in general…and doubly so with Black Flower. Black Flower was me really challenging myself lyrically and content-wise. In my opinion, storytelling is what separates your average artist from your truly great ones…and instead of doing that with just one track, I wanted to challenge myself to do it throughout an entire album. One single story told throughout 10 tracks. A lot of effort went into this project, and I feel my penmanship grew with each track I wrote.
What does your writing process look like? I.e., medium, ambiance, company etc.
Complete solitude. I lock myself in my room and tune out everything around me, focusing only on what`s directly in front of me. There`s an interesting story from Nas`s early career about how he went “missing” for a day or so. He was found in a room that he rented just for writing, with papers filled with rhymes and verses scattered everywhere and all that. I`m not much different.
What goals, if any, did you have going into the creation of Black Flower, and do you think you achieved those goals?
No grand goals or schemes…I just wanted to test myself, tell a story, and create a listening experience as best as I could. If the end result attracted an audience & fanbase, cool. If it didn`t, also cool. This was more for me to experiment with my artistry and push my boundaries further. Do I feel I accomplished that? Absolutely.
How do you feel about how it’s been received thus far?
I`m pleased. I haven`t really been heavily promoting the album or anything I`ve done to keep it real… I`ll just finish something and if I like how it sounds I`ll put it out there, then will move directly onto the next thing. I`m assuming most are finding out about the album through word of mouth, and the feedback I`ve been getting back has been entirely positive. This just motivates me to continue taking my time to make sure everything I release continues to be of quality.
Tell me about your relationship with JLVSN, and how you two worked together to put together an album like this.
JLVSN is the god and is one of the most talented producers out there by far. He reached out to me letting me know he was feeling my sound, and proceeded to send me pure heat. Everything he sent me I connected with instantly, and knew immediately I was going to make an album with dude. Much more will be coming from us both soon.
What was the process behind choosing samples and some of the theme-central intros/outros?
I`m a film addict and I wanted to do something with that…so I decided to make a film through music. Once I had an idea in mind for the story I wanted to tell, knowing what to use for the skits came naturally. As for the samples, I knew what vibes and feelings I wanted the listener to experience on each track, so it was just about choosing samples that could bring those to light.
Only two features on the album, but Heem Stogied and Estee Nack definitely stood their ground, tell me a little about your relationship with these two, and how these features came about.
I first heard Heem Stogied on one of Mach Hommy`s earlier joints and thought dude was ill. So, I went on to check out his King Stogied Dump Gawd tape and was like damn…. dude raw as hell. Whole style from the flow, energy (unmatched here), cadence, and lyrics…all the coldest shit man.
I got put onto Estee Nack from the knowledge god Nick Gauder (fadeawaybarber). Listened to a few tracks of his on SoundCloud and was like yo…his talent is ridiculous. The rhyme schemes, unorthodox flows…there’s layers to his shit man…and those adlibs…no words man shit crazy.
They both came through and were perfect fits for the album.
How did you link up with Camouflage Monk? He has an insanely elite group of collaborators and you seem to fit right in skill-wise.
Camouflage Monk is God…you know it, your friends know it, and anyone else that`s up to speed with the renaissance going on in hip hop right now knows it. No doubt he`ll be revered in the same respects as Knxwledge, Madlib, and the likes real soon. I reached out to him and had him check out a track I did with Nicholas Craven (another god) and he was feeling it so we connected. Expect more from him & I soon too.
Based off some of the really personal songs on this album like What A Man Wants it seems like despite having been through a lot of strife, you have evolved to a very pragmatic outlook on everything. Speak on that a little.
“What A Man Wants” is the most personal song I`ve ever written. A lot of that song drew from previous relationships I`ve experienced, and in particular, touched on some feelings that I never got a chance to share with my woman that I loved, who had passed away in the middle of me making the album. Took a lot to write that song and finish it. It had my own personal experiences mixed with the story I was telling on the album.
On songs like Heist! You do some really quality storytelling, which has become a less followed path as of more recent times, what inspires you to do so?
The challenge of doing it. Storytelling without sacrificing lyricism…and by that I`m referring to all the similes…metaphors…entendres etc. that are a trademark of hip hop. Making a story interesting but easy to follow while still maintaining a certain level of wordplay ain`t an easy feat…and learning how to do that was a difficult but enjoyable process
What is your favorite song on the album?
High Tension is my personal favorite, then after that would probably be Pipe Dreams. High Tension, because as someone else put it, it`s got an abundance of “flavor”. Pipe Dreams because it takes me back to that old The Infamous & Hell On Earth era Mobb Deep sound.
Will you be returning to Philly anytime soon? What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get back?
Definitely… that’s home. Cliché but likely grab me a good Philly Cheese Steak…been a while…damn.
What can we expect in terms of future releases, collaborations etc.?
Big things…and I mean BIG things starting this year and going into next. Both in the underground scene and outside of it. A massive release with THE ONE AND ONLY God sorcerer Evilldewer, and a few high-level collabs. Stay tuned.
Absolutely. Plan on making a few trips back to do some shows around the end of this year and throughout the next. Maybe even sooner if the bag is right.
Thank you for the interview and the music Wes Phili, looking forward to what you have in store.
Appreciate your time king. Peace to you, and salute.
Listen to Black Flower here: https://wesphili.bandcamp.com/releases.
From hazy break-beats, to pumping acid techno, to hands-in-the-air Detroit diva house, 2018 was another great year for dance music. So many upstart labels shined and delivered great releases, countless new names floated to the top of lineups, and some of our favorite artists continued to bring the goods.
Bearing in mind that year-end lists tire everyone out and usually suck, here are forty tracks that heavily sound-tracked my radio show, club gigs, car stereo, and beyond — presented in alphabetical order because any ranking would be completely arbitrary.
Tune into WKDU one last time in 2018 for the ‘Resolutions Show’ from 8:30 – 10:30 pm, where we’ll read your resolutions on air, play some of the tracks below, and prepare you for a brand new year!
🎉 HAPPY NEW YEAR 🎉
The Top 40 Dance Tracks of 2018 (in alphabetical order)
|Waajeed||After You Left||DIRT TECH RECK|
|Hugo Massien||Alien Shapes||E-BEAMZ|
|Videopath||And So Do Eye||Peach Discs|
|Sa’D Ali||Asylum (Louie Vega Deep In The Underground)||Nulu Electronic|
|Steffi||Between Form & Matter||Air Texture|
|Sami||Bright Blue feat. ZSY||1432 R|
|Dj Steaw||Celestial Vibrations||Rutillance Recordings|
|Leo Pol||Dark Outside||Bass Culture|
|J. Albert||Deep State Riddim||Trilogy Tapes|
|Marquis Hawkes, Ursula Rucker||Don’t U (Dubbed Out Vocal)||Aus Music|
|Roza Terenzi||Electronique||Oscillate Tracks|
|Almaty||Gennaro (Endian Remix)||naïve|
|Moodymann||Got Me Coming Back Rite Now||Mahogani Music|
|Lady Blacktronica||How I Learned||Meda Fury|
|Omar S featuring Simon Black||I’ll Do It Again||FXHE|
|Scott Richmond and John Selway||Keep On Climbing||Firehouse NYC|
|Teakup||Lose My Mind||is / was|
|Heckadecimal||Murder Tape||Great Circles|
|Brother Nebula||Parting Infinity||Legwork|
|DJ Koze||Pick Up||Pampa|
|Hoshina Anniversary||Pimp||Jack Dept.|
|BMG & Derek Plaslaiko||Rendezvous (NWB Mix)||Interdimensional Transmissions|
|DJ Dre||Respect||These Things Take Time|
|Galcher Lustwerk||Rules Meant to Be Broken||Lustwerk Music|
|D. Tiffany||Sip & Savour||Planet Euphorique|
|AceMo||Speedn N Smokin||Vanity Press|
|Will Dimaggio||Steppin W Friends||Future Times|
|Universal Cave||Take Your Time (Universal Cave’s 909 Rubdown)||Universal Cave|
|Omar S & Brian Kage||Thru The Madness||Michigander|
|Antemeridian||Tuesday AM||The Bunker NY|
|Alex Falk||Upp||International Black|
|The Horn||Villager (Luca Lozano Remix)||Klasse Wrecks|
|Scott Grooves||We Move…We Have To||Natural Midi|
|Marie Davidson||Work It||Ninja Tune|
|Shawn Rudiman||Works On Paper||Pittsburgh Tracks|
|Cassy X Pete Moss||You Gotta Know (Ron Trent Remix)||Kwench|
Thank you to all the labels, artists, PRs, etc for the great music!!! See you next year — SPREAD LOVE ❤ ❤ ❤
Catch the Hot Mix on Tuesday nights at 10 pm for a preview of The Top 40 Dance Tracks of 2019 ; )
On May 24th, Boiler Room announced their release of a new film platform, 4:3. Coined a “Netflix for the Underground”, the techno moguls will curate visual media that focuses on documenting club & dance music culture. The pieces on the site are sure to be entertaining, but more importantly, the collection will trace music history and likely inform its future.
Since their first broadcast in 2010, Boiler Room has become become a keystone production company in the growth and international migration of dance music. According to their website, what began as a webcam taped to a wall in a basement has now become a collection of over 4,000 performances by over 5,000 artists.
4:3 refers to the aspect ratio commonly known as “full screen”. In this new era where screen-based media is accessible to a resounding number of people in the first world, Boiler Room hopes that this platform will fill the gaps between those 5 million actively involved in their social community and the 157 million that they connect with monthly through various media campaigns and networks.
But this visual platform won’t just exist online. Tackling themes like “performance, identity, youth culture and anti-establishment”, the company plans to facilitate a body of live events, making 4:3 “rooted in physical experience”. This will include “parties, smoked out film screenings and exhibitions around the world”.
May 29th was the official launch of the site, though there was a soft launch on the 24th, with artists Elijah Wood, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Peaches, and Jenn Nkiru featured as curators.
With the official launch, the site is holding a week long tribute to cult icon Arthur Russell, complete with unseen pieces from the artist’s personal archives and a sound installation by renowned techno artist Andy Stott. Boiler Room will also host a live screening of “Wild Combination (A Portrait of Arthur Russell)” featuring Optimo’s JD Twitch. The event will take place within a church.
As per the company’s website, “Everything [they] do is rooted in the energy of club culture and its ability to bring people together. Open dance floors; where music, ideas and people meet.” In an interview with Campaign, Stephen Mai, chief content officer at Boiler Room, touched on the impact that 4:3 could have on the influential members of Gen Z and Y. This type of foresight seems to speak to the importance of curation in the digital age.
When Google ranks the order in which websites appear in a search, its algorithm determines the likelihood of which the searcher will visit a particular website. Coined “filter bubbles”, these rankings can have a huge impact on our own individual beliefs, behaviors and understanding of the world, from our political affiliation, to what media we consume, and more.
This same concept can greatly impact music listeners and culture consumers depending on which platforms they use. If a listener relies heavily on Spotify in order to find new music, their discoveries can be limited based on what Spotify’s ranking algorithm puts in their suggested playlists or in the “related artists” section. (Maybe this type of thing something to do with the explosion in popularity of repetitive SoundCloud rappers in the past year or so….)
The many curators of 4:3 could bring together content which even the most savvy culture connoisseurs might otherwise have to scour the internet to find. From futuristic Audio Visual pieces to cross-cultural documentaries, providing audiences with films that are culturally rich, even educational, and artistically diverse has the potential to be highly impactful. 4:3 seems less like a musical Netflix, and more like a musical FilmStruck.
According to Mai, the website will “champion underground art movements across music, art, fashion, film and culture by curating and commissioning relevant content that brands can integrate with.”
Though this is worded to sound almost noble, the use of the term brand gives me pause. Market dominance is implicit in the extension of any company. While 4:3 appears largely beneficial to audiences, the idea of pushing the agendas of various brands seems to dilute the innocence of its mission. At the end of the day, Boiler Room is a private company. If plans for 4:3 include privileging content that promotes brand initiatives over that which is artistically significant, might this platform become bias to the point of disingenuousness?
What do you think about 4:3? Do you think other companies might follow in Boiler Room’s footsteps? Or that maybe Boiler Room will use 4:3 to create VR concert experience one day? Is 4:3 just a scam for Boiler Room to monopolize “underground” music?
There is no formula for running a label and there are no limitations as to who can run a label and who cannot. As a result, concepts and sounds are constantly being recycled. I wish people asked themselves more often what is the purpose behind their projects, are they in any way original, are they contributing anything to the big picture, and so on.
New York nightlife is at its peak right now. There are a lot of venues, crews, labels, promoters etc. We have recently abolished the Cabaret Law and the office of Night Mayor was created. I hope we are off to a fresh start and an even brighter future.
Sometimes I just don’t eat until Monday.
John Selway Pres. Semblance Factor EP is will be available in all fine outlets on March 19th.
1. Lot.te – Graft (NYT05)
2. Richard Hinge – Changes (NYT01)
3. Dawid Dahl – Gehenna (NYT Imports 01)
4. Brenecki – The Oven (NYT02)
5. Another Alias – Craic Fiend (NYT Imports 01)
6. Alex Alben – Irin (NYT03)
7. TBA – NYT08
8. Steve Stoll – She rises up (NYT04)
9. TBA – NYT Imports 03
10. Endlec – Rhythm 387_1 (NYT Imports 02)
11. Steve Stoll – No questions please (NYT04)
12. Lot.te – Ultra Vires (NYT05)
13. Liquid Asset – Contact (NYT06)
14. John Selway – Jack the Void (Raw) (NYT07)
15. Endlec – Rhythm 401_Mix 1 (NYT Imports 02)
16. TBA – NYT Imports 04
17. John Selway – Defiance (NYT07)
18. Liquid Asset – Forgetmenot (NYT06)