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 →
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 →
Soul / funk / rock artist and Philadelphia native Bilal headlines a show at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown tonight. In the past, he has worked with big names like Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, and Kimbra just to name a few. His last solo release was In Another Life, released last year. Opening up for Bilal will be the fellow Philadelphian Ursula Rucker. She is a poet, activist, and recording artist who has been performing for over seventeen years. This show featuring some of Philly’s finest is not to be missed. Tickets and more information about the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Check out the video for “Money Over Love” below. Continue reading →
Fans of awesome, live local music rejoice — the Spruce Street Harbor Park Waterfront Sessions Live Music Series is returning this week with a stacked lineup of artists from throughout the area. Every Thursday evening from June to August, Spruce Street Harbor Park will be showcasing a myriad of talent right on the Waterfront, kicking off on June 9th from 7:30-9:30 p.m. with rock ‘n’ rollers Oldermost and singer-songwriter Joey Sweeney. Continue reading →
I could sit here and regale you with stories and stats about the Prison-Industrial Complex all day, but is that going to do anything? Even for the most #woke among us, it’s hard to know where to start to deal with something as massively unassailable as a for-profit prison system that funnels young lives straight into jails. But—much like music—it’s best to start with stories. Sunday night at World Cafe Live, Philly organization Beyond the Bars hit home with a massive benefit show incorporating both to strike back.
By going into prisons and teaching music to incarcerated youth, Beyond the Bars staff and volunteers are able to bring hope and respite to members of society that most people have already written off as a loss. “Even though they’re in prison, they’re still people, man. Just people,” said Bars staff member Christopher Thornton. Continue reading →
After selling out their release show at Johnny Brenda’s, South Philly rapper Lushlife and beat makers CSLSX have now shared a video for “The Waking World” (featuring Swedish dream-rock outfit I Break Horses) from the new Ritualize LP. The clip opens with archival footage of a tape player inside of a jail cell before moving through scenes of young men in class, late night city life and quick shots of the outside world.
The ending is a beautiful explosion of flying galaxy lights paired with the airy vocals of I Break Horses, reaching a transcendental high that Lushlife aptly described as “celestial.” Check it out below and revisit Lushlife’s Unlocked feature here.
Lushlife, a.k.a. Raj Haldar (the focus of this past weeks UNLOCKED series), and CSLSX (pronounced casual sex, if you’ve only ever seen it in print), have put together something really special with Ritualize. CSLSX’s production is bursting at the seams with elements of classic hip-hop, indie rock, and shoegaze. Let’s call it dream-hop. Raj’s lyrics are planted firmly in Philadelphia, but peppered with so much more that widens the appeal, and with a flow that recalls the golden era of rap. Marrying these two together solidifies what will hopefully be a word wide hit, if only on the level that underground albums become world wide hits. It’s a wholly unique experience that I’ve not heard anything like since DFA produced Automato’s album a decade ago (and that quickly got buried in the underground). Continue reading →
Self-proclaimed “sludge punk” trio Fight Amp are set to play Kung Fu Necktie tonight for what will be, according to the band’s Facebook page, one of their only Philly dates of the year. Last year, the group released Constantly Off, a new collection of angsty, energetic punk-rock, that was their first new material in over three years. That is all to say that you better catch Fight Amp in person while you have the chance — tickets to the 21+ show are available at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →