Category: Local music

Ice-T gets back to hip-hop roots in ‘The Art of Rap’

In the new film ‘Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,’ Ice-T reels in artists like Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Eminem to tell the story of hip-hop’s gritty beginnings.
Ice-T“Look around you,” says Ice-T. “Where are the Bentleys?”

Even amid the pleasantly neutral setting of a Hollywood press day, there’s still one topic that gets the 54-year-old rapper-actor riled up, and it’s not his 12 seasons on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

“In rap, everyone is driving a Bentley and drinking Cristal,” says Ice-T, born Tracy Marrow. “That’s not reality. We have a war, we have a black president, we have people unemployed, we have people losing their homes, we have some pretty serious stuff and music is not reflecting it. It’s like everything is Lady Gaga and life is perfect.”

To remind the public of a time when hip-hop more regularly addressed societal concerns comes Ice-T’s directorial debut, “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.”

The documentary -- out this week -- offers candid interviews with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Grandmaster Caz, Kanye West, Mos Def, Nas, Rakim and many others, probing the masters of the genre on their inspiration. The film stops short, however, of presenting a thesis. Still, Ice-T had a mission: To capture secrets of the craft from as many artists as possible, and remind artists, fans and moguls that rap is more than “money, cars, girls, jewelry or beefs.”

The film is arriving at a time when other hip-hop pioneers are taking a preservationist view toward the genre. In L.A., acclaimed indie artist Murs is staging a six-month-long hip-hop performance series, “Through the Mic,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Superstar Jay-Z has also become a curator of sorts, and is programming a multi-genre, two-day festival in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend.

As one of L.A’s groundbreaking rap pioneers, Ice-T specialized in bringing a moralistic bent to inner-city tales. His 1988 single “Colors,” from the film of the same name, captured the toll L.A. gang life has on a family, and 1992’s “Cop Killer” was a ferocious reaction against the LAPD following the beating of Rodney King.

The latter, recorded with his rock band Body Count, galvanized those who fought for explicit content stickers on albums, and the violence-in-lyrics controversy ultimately led to his split from Warner Bros. Records. His 1993 “Race War” addressed whether any lessons had been learned from the L.A. riots (they had), and now “The Art of Rap” culls stories from many who had a hand in hip-hop’s countercultural beginnings.

Today, Ice-T’s acting and celebrity persona have arguably eclipsed his rap roots. His résumé ranges from the tough 1991 film “New Jack City” to the blithe, unscripted E! series “Ice Loves Coco.” But despite venturing out of the studio and in front of the camera, Ice-T’s plea to return substance to the pop charts isn’t just talk.

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A Beach Boys homecoming at the Hollywood Bowl

The group’s trademark SoCal sound will be in full effect Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl. Here are a few points to ponder about Brian Wilson and the crew.

Original members of The Beach Boys, from left, Brian Wilson, David Marks and Mike Love, perform together during a concert at the Beacon Theater in New York. (AP Photo / Jason DeCrow)
Brian Wilson officially quit as a touring member of the Beach Boys in the mid-1960s and has only been on stage periodically with the band since. As for an album together? It’s been decades. But this week Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks stop at the Hollywood Bowl for a 50th anniversary tour which kicked off last month in Arizona. 

The Saturday night show — followed by the release of their new album together, “Why God Made the Radio,” on June 5 — is a homecoming of sorts for this quintessential SoCal band. In celebration of this landmark event, Pop & Hiss compiled a list of facts, stats and random bits of info associated with Beach Boys, Version 2012. 

Lies, damned lies and statistics:

For avid Beach Boys fans, no fact is too innocuous to share with the world, and thank God the Internet was invented for exactly this purpose. Helpful tidbits amid all the Beach Boys minutiae include lists of songs the group has performed since launching the anniversary tour.

Songs played at all 19 shows as of Friday include cornerstone hits from the Beach Boys songbook: “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Help Me, Rhonda”; their last No. 1 hit, 1988’s “Kokomo”; and their newly written and recorded anniversary celebration single, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” (Marketing lesson 101: Always plug the new stuff.)

Some surprises among the stats:

“All This Is That,” a relatively obscure song from the 1972 album “So Tough,” which was credited as Carl & the Passions, has been included nearly every night — as has “Don’t Back Down,” a song that never charted from 1964’s “All Summer Long” album. “This Whole World,” from 1971’s “Sunflower,” has turned up 10 times, according to the obsessive documentarians at

The group’s Top 10 hit that has surfaced least frequently? “Dance, Dance, Dance,” which has been played, played, played just five times so far.
New thoughts on old songs:

In Mark Dillon’s new book “Fifty Sides of the Beach Boys,” the Canadian author interviewed — yep — 50 different sources about their favorite songs from the group’s career. 

What is Alice Cooper’s favorite number, you ask? In the book, they quote him discussing “In My Room”: “I was 15, I was the perfect age for that. Your room is your sanctuary. It’s your Batcave. It’s the only thing you own, so there’s a certain holiness to it. ‘Mom, Dad — don’t come in my room. It’s off limits.’”

As for the ubiquitous Zooey Deschanel? She cites “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” from the watershed 1966 album “Pet Sounds” album. “Talk about blowing my mind. I can listen to the song over and over again.” She’s also a big fan of the separate vocal and instrumental tracks that became available with the 1997 “Pet Sounds” box set: “Listening to just the vocals is really exciting. It still sounds fresh. It always makes me happy.”

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Exclusive video: Los Lobos' watershed 1992 'Kiko' album returns

Los Lobos is revisiting its watershed 1992 album “Kiko” in a 20th anniversary reissue, adding to the original studio album with previously unreleased early and alternate takes of several songs. Simultaneously, a document of the band’s 2006 performance of “Kiko” in its entirety will be released separately on CD, DVD and Blu-ray, with both “Kiko” projects coming Aug. 21.

“Kiko” was hailed in 1992 as a new artistic pinnacle for the widely lauded East L.A. group and appeared on numerous critics’ yearly Top 10 lists. It was the No. 1 choice in The Times’ consensus Top 10 among its staff writers and regular contributors, and made the Top 10 of Village Voice magazine’s annual poll of some 300 pop music critics.

“ ‘Kiko’ is the band's masterpiece -- a startling leap forward in sonic reach and depth of vision,” Mike Boehm wrote in reviewing the album for The Times two decades ago. “ ‘Kiko’ is a long, troubled dream of an album that holds the temporal and the spiritual in a single gaze: It shows us a suffering humanity an angel's breath removed from an overarching realm of spirits, magic and hallucination.”

“Kiko Live” has never been released or broadcast, and includes interviews with the band members and others about the making of the album. In 2006, Los Lobos did a series of live performances focusing on it in its entirety. Above is exclusive video of the group's performance of "Kiko and the Lavendar Moon."

The CD also includes three tracks the band recorded live at Capitol Records in Hollywood for a “Hollywood House Party with Los Lobos” special that aired in 1992 on National Public Radio. The album reissue and the “Kiko Live” DVD/Blu-ray are being released by the Shout! Factory reissue specialty label.

Instead of “segregating our influences, treating them parochially,” as band member Steve Berlin described the band’s approach before “Kiko,” for that album “whatever our unconscious minds’ response was to the stimuli, that was what we wanted. We let our imagination take over and didn’t try to control it.”

The band is continuing on a tour that included the first Los Lobos Cinco de Mayo Festival at the Greek Theatre, at which the group headlined a bill that included Mariachi El Bronx and X and such guests appearing with Los Lobos as Neko Case, Alejandro Escovedo, Flaco Jimenez, and Dave and Phil Alvin.


Los Lobos songbook drives 'Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe'

Los Lobos discovers you can go home again

Los Lobos' Long, Troubled Dream: 'Kiko'

-- Randy Lewis

Redd Kross survives the 'awkward' stage, readies new album

Redd Kross
The first new album in 15 years from Redd Kross was five years in the making. It may have taken even longer had Steven McDonald not signed on for a desk job. In the summer of 2010 the Redd Kross co-founder and current member of OFF! went to work as an A&R executive for Warner Bros. 

"It smoked me out of my hive," McDonald told Pop & Hiss Monday afternoon. While McDonald relished the opportunity to champion young artists, he ultimately found life behind the scenes "a little awkward."

"I had to figure out whether I wanted to go on tour and be an artist again, or if I just wanted to be chasing down other artists and trying to get 15% of their touring or merch money," he said. "Not to be too crass, but it was an eye-opening experience. When you have 10 bosses, you can believe what you’re saying, but it’s hard to pull it off when there’s so many voices that actually have more say than you do."

Having reunited in 2006, Redd Kross had been tinkering with new material long before McDonald took a day job, but plans to release a new album accelerated soon after he left the gig. The band, which had its beginnings in punk rock when an 11-year-old McDonald began playing music with his teenage brother Jeff more than 30 years ago, has now signed with celebrated North Carolina indie label Merge Records. A new 10-track album, "Researching the Blues," is due Aug. 7.

The band's last album, 1997's "Show World," was a crisp power-pop collection, one long removed from the band's far more scrappy start on 1982's "Born Innocent." The new album was largely written by Jeff and produced by his younger brother, and Steven hesitates to speculate on where it would fit in the Redd Kross canon, declaring it a "straightforward, simple collection of tunes."

"It’s certainly not as trashy and snotty as the ‘Born Innocent’ era," he said. "I don’t know how to eloquently put it. Styles have changed. With each of our records there was always at least a three-year gap and an evolution happening. When we were young it was happening much quicker. We were literally just going through puberty on record."

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In rotation: Magic Wands' 'Aloha Moon'

In Rotation: Magic Wands' "Aloha Moon." A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers and contributors are listening to right now...

Magic Wands
The music world would seem to have maxed out on its need for synth-pop acts now, yet locals Magic Wands win affection with a calming effervescence. The 10 tracks on the act's full-length debut don't unfold so much as softly purr, with titles such as “Teenage Love” and “Kaleidoscope Hearts” summarizing the starry-eyed romanticism the pair specializes in. 

Even when Magic Wands flash a little teeth, Chris and Dexy Valentine do it with noir-like seductiveness on “Kiss Me Dead,” in which guitars and electronics churn with an incandescence that feels as if it can evaporate at a moment's notice. 

“Space” boasts a racing rhythm that wouldn't be out of place in a “Tron” film, and “Crystals” is layer upon layer of twilight atmospheres. In a twist, it's Dexy who sounds ice cold, and the synths that croon with warmth. 

It all would be a tad drowsy if Magic Wands didn't have an occasional dip into something more sinister. “How can anyone ever feel the same?” Dexy sings around breathy beats and echoing guitars on “Black Magic.” It's a simple question but one no doubt responsible for a few sleepless nights. 

Magic Wands
“Aloha Moon”
Bright Antenna


Screaming Females talk soft and play loud

Album review: Jack White's 'Blunderbuss'

L.A. Unheard: Sneakpeek looks back in anger [Song premiere]

—Todd Martens

Photo credit: Kristin Gerbert

Coachella 2012: The antics of Le Butcherettes make a mom worry

Click here for complete Coachella coverage

Teri Suaréz is trying to finish a record. Her phone, however, won't stop interrupting. It's her mother. "She's freaking out," Suaréz said. 

This past Sunday, Suaréz sent her mother into a state of panic when, at the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, she walked away from her guitar and keyboard and climbed to the top of a lighting rig. Then she locked her legs around it and leaned over backward

"That's why my mom is calling me," Suaréz said. "She said, ‘Please don’t ever do that again!’ I said, ‘Oh, no, Mom. I won’t do that ever again. I’ll be more careful. I swear.’ But she’s still really scared about it. She keeps calling to see if I’m OK."

COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

For now, yes, Suaréz is fine. If anything, the 22 year old is a little nervous herself. While Le Butcherettes concerts are known for their unpredictability, Suaréz has no intention of putting her life -- or at least a few of her bones -- in danger at Coachella on Sunday. On stage, as Teri "Gender Bender" Suaréz, the artist is reckless, abusing her guitar and her voice with delight. Off stage, Suaréz constantly laughs at herself, apologizes after nearly every sentence and admits to being paralyzed with shyness. 

"It hasn't been a hard time," Suaréz said of harmonizing the two extremes of her personality, and then adds, "but, existentially speaking, it has been." 

Suaréz and her band, which currently includes drummer Lia Braswell and At the Drive-In principal Omar Rodriguez Lopez on bass, is rooted in the anything-goes ethos of punk rock. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and based in L.A., Le Butcherettes are a collision of genres and cultures, as Suaréz quotes from the novels most of us never read, serenades in Spanish, occasionally pretends to be Russian and lashes out at what she sees as political and societal constraints.

When Le Butcherettes opened for Iggy & the Stooges last winter, it was easy to label Suaréz as something of a spiritual heir to Iggy Pop. She's aware of that, and she hasn't stopped thinking about it. "I feel like everyone is expecting me to be crazy," she said of her band's live performances, and she said Iggy told her the "same story."

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Exene Cervenka and John Doe releasing new duo album April 10

Exene Cervenka and John Doe will release a new duo album on April 10
 X founding members and singers Exene Cervenka and John Doe are formally releasing their first studio recordings together since 1993 next week on “John Doe and Exene Cervenka Singing and Playing,” from the new Orange County-based Moonlight Graham Records label.

The collection includes seven studio tracks they recorded together in 2010 and previously sold only at stops on their joint tour that year. Those recordings are supplemented by two songs Doe and Cervenka recorded live last year at Moonlight Graham’s store in downtown Orange, including an updated rendition of X’s “See How We Are.”

They will do an in-store performance together on April 10, the album's scheduled release day, at the Amoeba Music store in San Francisco. They have not announced any plans yet for additional performances in Southern California.

The label, which lists Cervenka as its A&R executive, also plans to issue music from former TSOL lead singer Jack Grisham, Blasters singer Phil Alvin and other stalwarts of the Southern California music scene.

Cervenka's most recent solo effort is the 2011 album "The Excitement of Maybe"; Doe's is 2011's "Keeper."


Keeping up with Exene Cervenka

Album review: John Doe's 'Keeper'

Live review: John Doe and Exene Cervenka, at home onstage at the Echoplex

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Exene Cervenka and John Doe at a 2009 performance at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times.

Desert Daze brings 11-day local festival to the Coachella crowd

Desert Daze brings 11-day local festival to the Coachella crowd

The party that is Coachella is not just confined to the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, Calif. Music fans who will be invading the desert communities in April know there are plenty of after-parties and mini-concerts to crash and/or attend in the area too. And now that the festival has virtually cloned itself for a second weekend (it'll be held April 13-15 and April 20-22), it presents indie festival planners such as Phil Pirrone with an interesting challenge: supplying all those extra road-weary travelers with something to do while they’re in town.

Pirrone and his crew, who are responsible for presenting a regular series of festivals called Moon Block Party in Pomona, recently announced the launch of Desert Daze, an 11-day festival centered at Dillon's Roadhouse in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., about a half-hour drive from Coachella. The plan for the festival, to be held April 12-22, is to present more than 100 bands and DJs from L.A. and beyond who will take over the modest desert venue from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

For Pirrone, who’s been organizing community festivals for years with varying success, providing a platform for local bands during such a crazy two-week period seemed ambitious but not impossible.

“We’ve always wanted to do an extended festival, and all these people being in the desert for an extended amount of time presented a perfect opportunity to make that happen,” he said.

The lineup, while it continues to grow, is already packed with local acts including the buzz-worthy psych rock of Long Beach's Crystal Antlers, Santa Ana's Free the Robots, L.A. favorites Dante Vs. Zombies and the D.C.-bred stoner rock outfit Dead Meadow. Desert Daze will feature an outdoor stage, an indoor stage and an intimate “bus stage” created from a gutted-out Greyhound bus-turned-music lounge.

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Bananas' eclectic music monthly draws audiences to Leimert Park

Bananas' eclectic music monthly draws audiences to Leimert Park

Ask a Leimert Park local to describe the flavor of their neighborhood’s rarely exposed music scene, and chances are they'll bring up Bananas. Held inside the giant metal doors of cramped community venue Kaos Network (home of renowned hip-hop workshop Project Blowed), Bananas' monthly music showcase has become an ad hoc meeting ground for local rappers, DJs, bands and out-of-town acts. In just under three years, it has grown into driving force behind advancements in the area’s art and music scene.

Happening on the third Tuesday of each month, the Jan.17 installment will promote a community-based workshop where musicians and MCs exchange their chops on stage. This week's show is co-headlined by local rapper Catch Lungs, retro funk outfit J.R. Tate and the Good Intentions along with eight other acts.

Since it started in 2008, Bananas has been a case study in word-of-mouth advertising. Though not much promotion is done online, the show never fails to attract a full crowd, sometimes into the hundreds. Patrons reflect the city around them and are often a mix of hip hop heads, Echo Park bike riders, punk rockers. All congregate beneath a ceiling-high mural of an Egyptian pharaoh.

Founded by local rappers/ community activists VerBS and Gumshoe (born Devin Montgomery), the night has been an unexpected, but vital success. “It was kind of like a ‘if you build it, they will come’ type of scenario and it kept getting bigger and bigger,” said VerBS (born Kyle Guy), 25, of Culver City. Apart from his own solo shows, VerBS also reps local hip hop crew the Swim Team. As a local rapper, VerBS has done everything from gritty warehouse gigs to supporting act slots for Murs at the Paid Dues Festival in San Bernadino.

His inspiration to start Bananas began as an experiment to branch out from a previous monthly night he’d created in West L.A. called “The Spliff.”  

In many ways, Banana’s talent pool matches the eclectic crowd. It's ability to include artists from various L.A. music scenes has afforded them an interesting mix of home grown South L.A. talent like Dom Kennedy and U-N-I, as well as the distortion-heavy, experimental rock bands like Professor Calculus.

As more artists and musicians have gravitated toward Leimert in the part few years, VerBS said the success of Bananas has helped spawn the Leimert Park Art Walk, a self-guided monthly tour that now uses the space at Kaos Network as one of it’s primary locations. “The city started to recognize that I could bring people from this whole other realm of L.A. to this part of the city,” VerBS said.

Bananas' has also differentiated itself from other hip-hop monthlies by being a multi-racial event where male and female acts share relatively equal presence on stage. "It's a refreshing vibe at Bananas," said Ben Caldwell, local filmmaker and owner of Kaos Network. "A lot of the times Project Blowed and some of the other local underground hip-hop nights can feel very male-dominated."

In an area that sheds light on community events fueled by creativity, Bananas continues to garner steady source of foot traffic by artists and musicians from all over the city. “If you go to downtown or Silver Lake or Echo Park, those neighborhoods all have their own little flavor  and I think what people are starting to see more lately is that Leimert Park has it’s own unique flavor,” said Caldwell. “I think Banana’s is helping to define that.”


Six acts you can't miss at Fmly Fest

Boom Bip talks residency, playing with Josh Klinghoffer, Eric Avery

Blu and Exile reunite for 'Give Me My Flowers' LP

--Nate Jackson

Photo: Verbs (left) on stage with J.R. Tate and the Good Intentions at Bananas in Leimert Park. Credit: Kaos Network

Boom Bip talks residency, playing with Josh Klinghoffer, Eric Avery

Boom Bip

L.A.’s bounty of starving musicians makes it relatively easy for a beatmaker to find a decent backing band, and a major incentive to shop local. L.A.-based Boom Bip has proven that, and then some, during his current Wednesday night residency at the Satellite. With buddies such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Josh Klinghoffer and former Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery in town this week, the eclectic indie beatmaker is grabbing from the best of the bunch to help him bring his latest album, “Zig Zaj,” to life. The typically one-man show known as Bryan Hollon is using a rotating cast of musicians every week to offer a loose, jammed-out rendition of his new tracks.

On Wednesday night, Klighoffer and Avery will join Hollon to add a little more psychedelic haze to an already trippy set of songs. As he continues to plan ways to re-animate his studio-born cavalcade of moody, layered sound, Hollon spoke with Pop & Hiss about the fun of flying blind onstage and getting by with a little help from his friends.

With all the sound layering on loops you create on “Zig Zaj,” what are some of the main things you try to keep in mind when it comes to adapting it to a live setting?

It’s really difficult to do that. And I’ve learned that over the years. There’s a lot of instrumentation going on, and I make it all myself. When I do it live, I have to put band members together to do it. But a lot of times, I don’t even really remember what I actually recorded, so I’m kind of relearning the songs as I’m teaching them what to do. It turned out to be a really daunting task, and trying to re-create the album perfectly song by song is nearly impossible.

With these residency shows, I’ve decided to get friends involved as well as guests on the record and people I’m working with. Half of the set is structured songs, and the second half of the set is all about sticking to a loose structure and then improvising beyond that. I find that to be way more rewarding than trying to retrace a song as it is on the record.

This week, you’re playing with Josh Klinghoffer of  the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eric Avery, formerly of Jane’s Addiction. Describe your chemistry with these guys and how you plan to utilize them for the show.

They’re both an incredible safety net for me because I know whatever happens onstage, it’s gonna be good. I’ve played with Josh a lot onstage, and he’s always a loose cannon. You never know what he’s gonna do, but it’s always good. This will be be my first time with Eric onstage. We’ve recorded music together, but it’s all been studio stuff. But he’s such an incredible person and performer and the chemistry and friendship is already there. So I’m thinking I’m gonna be much more relaxed for this show, even though I don’t really know what we’re gonna be doing.

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