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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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Faces of Philadelphia (Musicians) portrait series opens at Brewerytown Beats tonight

anna mraz
Portrait of Raj Haldar by Anna Mraz | photo via Philebrity

Local artist Anna Mraz is celebrating the diverse spirit of the Philly music scene with her Faces of Philadelphia (Musicians) exhibit, opening tonight at Brewerytown Beats. We want to give several hat tips to Philebrity, who spotted the First Friday event and gave us a sneak peak into the watercolor-on-plexiglass portraits that will be lining the walls of the Brewerytown record store.

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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.

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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 →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Bilal at Johnny Brenda’s, Lushlife at Boot and Saddle, Lotus at The Mann Center and more

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Bilal | Photo by Kawai Matthews

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 →

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Spruce Street Harbor Park Waterfront Sessions return this week

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Oldermost | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

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 →