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Raj Haldar of Lushlife, the Eagles’ official stadium DJ, celebrates everything Philly with a War on Drugs remix

Lushlife | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

When he hasn’t been working on musical projects of one sort of another — the powerful 2017 Lushlife outing My Idols are Dead and My Enemies are in Power, the spaced-out Skull Eclipses record that drops later in 2018 with his collaborator Botany — Philly’s Raj Halder has held down a sweet gig as the official stadium DJ for the Philadelphia Eagles for the past few years.

This year in particular was a great one to have that job, and with the Eagles facing off against the New England Patriots this Sunday in the Super Bowl, Raj took a moment to celebrate Philadelphia underdogs of various sorts — both athletic and musical — with a remix of “In Chains” from The War on Drugs’ Grammy-award winning album A Deeper Understanding. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Raj Haldar of Lushlife and The Skull Eclipses

Raj Haldar | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

At last September’s Philly Music and Arts Fest, Philly rapper Raj Haldar and Austin-based producer Botany debuted material as The Skull Eclipses. Haldar brought some fire that night, piquing interest for his new project, though to be fair current fans of his other nom de plume Lushlife were already plenty familiar with the level of focused intensity and urgency in Haldar’s lyrical delivery, and all the thoughtfulness with which he crafts a verse.

In the below interview, conducted later that evening, Haldar seemed more than satisfied with their first outing. He was just a bit opaque about this project back then, by necessity, but at the same time you could see him wrestling a bit to keep his exuberance for it pent up. He talked openly about his work as Lushlife, and about what he described as an organic transition from being a recording auteur to now entrusting the beats to the capable hands of a skilled producer. Haldar shared his thoughts on Philly, too, from the perspective of an artist who’s spent significant amounts of his life and recording career in London, New York, and Los Angeles as well, and the unique position to be able to comment on the pros and cons of life both as an aspiring and professional recording artist informed and impacted by those communities.

Prior to their stage premiere at World Cafe last Fall, The Skull Eclipses had issued their first single, “Totality Piece,” featuring Philly native Mary Lattimore on harp, having timed it as a soundtrack for viewing the solar eclipse in August. This year, they’ve lined up international tour dates in support their upcoming record release, including a performance at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday, March 9th. More information can be found here. Continue reading →

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And now, music to score the solar eclipse care of Lushlife, Mary Lattimore and Botany

Lushlife
Lushlife | Photo by Ebru Yildiz ebruyildiz.net | courtesy of the artist

Today, for the first time in nearly four decades, the moon will cross the path of the sun in the skies above North America — and finding the right soundtrack for the total solar eclipse has become something of a cottage industry in the past week.

Playlists were crafted — check out WXPN’s here — viewing parties were planned, and in the case of Philadelphia’s Raj Haldar, a score was written. Continue reading →

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Listen to Lushlife cover Grizzly Bear for Rough Trade’s A Song A Day Keeps The Pain Away initiative

Lushlife
Lushlife at Johnny Brenda’s 2/27/16 | Photo by Matthew Shaver | mattshaverphoto.com

Philly rapper Lushlife is the latest to appear on Rough Trade Publishing’s A Song A Day Keeps The Pain Away initiative, a response to the 2017 election where daily music for the first 90 days of 2017 will rally support and raise funds for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

For the project, Lushlife presents a cover of “Foreground,” a song from Grizzly Bear’s acclaimed 2009 album Veckatimest — and though it begins with his signature flow backed by psychedelic boom-bap production, it quickly takes a melodic turn, giving us a listen to a different side of Lushlife main man Raj Haldar: the melodic vocalist. Continue reading →

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Watch Lushlife’s one-take reflection piece for “Totally Mutual Feeling” feat. Khruangbin

Lushlife
Lushlife at Johnny Brenda’s | Photo by Matthew Shaver | mattshaverphoto.com

Local rapper/producer Lushlife premiered the video for his collaboration with Khruangbin, “Totally Mutual Feeling,” directed by duo Lamar + Nik. A part of Lushlife’s Idols and Enemies project, we find him spitting his quick-hitting lines inside a mirror-infested room, following the camera through a minimalistic set of reflection. A trippy beat and heavenly vocals from Khruangbin keeps your ears on high alert, as this almost 2-and-a-half minute track flies by way too fast, landing as another solid tune from Philly’s expansive hip-hop scene. Continue reading →

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Hurry, Lushlife and more contribute songs to subscription comp benefiting the SPLC

Hurry | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Hurry | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Rough Trade Publishing, representatives of local acts Hurry and Lushlife, are “fighting against complacency” with a new three-month, song-a-day subscription service on Bandcamp to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center. Subscribers will receive previously unreleased tracks from catalog artists in their email each day, along with access to all new material published by the company on the Bandcamp app.

Continue reading →

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Lushlife releases Idols and Enemies mixtape to benefit the ACLU

Lushlife
Lushlife at Johnny Brenda’s 2/27/16 | Photo by Matthew Shaver | mattshaverphoto.com

Over the weekend, we told you about a cryptic video Lushlife posted on Facebook. Today we have details about what it all means.

The Philly rapper (known offstage as Raj Haldar) just released Idols and Enemies, an interdisciplinary mixtape featuring Killer Mile, Jedediah Prudy, Moor Mother, Sad13, Sut Jhally, Kool AD, Sun Airway, Khruangbin, Billy Woods and Little Strike. Philly musician and DJ (and Key Contributor) John Morrison executive produced the project, which is available as an $8 download, and it supports the ACLU.  Continue reading →

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Digging For Something: Lushlife’s Raj Haldar on sample mixing, musicology and No Dead Languages

Lushlife | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN
Lushlife | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

For the past decade-plus, rapper / producer / DJ Raj Haldar has built up a catalog of music unlike any in of hip-hop. Working under the stage name Lushlife, Haldar has carved out a very particular sonic space in the pop cultural landscape. On full-length projects like Cassette City, Plateau Vision and 2016’s Ritualize, Lushlife has explored the seemingly improbable fusion of the flossy, stream-of-consciousness approach you hear from rap outsiders like Camp Lo and Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah with electronic beats and dense, ornate baroque-pop arrangements reminiscent of Beach Boys’ auteur Brian Wilson.

His latest, No Dead Languages, is a unique detour back into the artist’s musical history. Compiled of recordings made at the turn of the millennium, the EP is a suite of dense, sample-heavy instrumental hip-hop and electronica of the sort that ruled the late 90s / early 2000s.

Speaking from the road in the midst of a tour with underground rap pioneers Blackalicious, we spoke with Haldar about sample / crate-digging culture, his creative process and his formative years spent bent over a drum machine, trying to find a way to fuse the disparate sonic locus points into a whole and natural musical cosmos. We’re also stoked to bring you the premiere of the title track to No Dead Languages, which you can listen to below. Continue reading →

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An Experimental Musical Dreamscape: Listen to Lushlife’s “The League of Frightened Men”

Lushlife | Credit: Megan Matuzak
Lushlife | Photo by Megan Matuzak

Late last week, Philadelphia rapper Lushlife released the intro track to his forthcoming EP No Dead Languages, which will be made available on October 7 via Bandcamp. The song, “The League of Frightened Men,” spans an impressive and immersive eight minutes. The length sounds intimidating, but Lushlife takes listeners on an ambient journey that doesn’t appear to include any of his own vocals.

The song begins with the introduction of archival audio of a man speaking about the anti-anxiety properties of certain drugs that are never explicitly named. The track is carried by speedy percussion played on loop that gives the track a nineties kickback feel, an energy that isn’t an unusual find in Haldar’s music. Continue reading →