California

San Francisco July 2016

March 6, 2017

I tend to always bookend any trips to California with quality time in San Francisco, and the last time I visited the States was no exception. Back in July I was lucky enough to enjoy just over a week in the Bay before flying home to London, getting to see my family and friends and explore the city, as well as hustle a little…

I’ve written before about my love of Amtrak; the beatnik side of me just adores the opportunity for reflection and observation. There’s something remarkably soothing about the trip up to SF from LA, full of epic views and curious characters.

*Roadside Views*

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*Champagne on the Train. Amtrak in style*

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One of the biggest highlights of my last days in SF was getting to meet local legend Dan the Automator and interview him for Wax Poetics at the top of Dolores Park. It was my first time meeting Dan, and such an honour. My buddy Z came through with some very impressive recording equipment, and shooting by the Park’s ‘Gay Beach’ corner allowed an epic panorama of San Francisco as our backdrop. The wind was definitely working against us, which with my mane was a challenge for sure! But, it was so cool to hear Dan’s stories and insights, and I’m super happy with how the final video came out – shout out to the homie DJ Matman for the dope edit! After the shoot we got pizza and drinks at local favourite Pizzeria Delfina – so delicious and definitely worth a visit.

*Behind the scenes*

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Watch the interview below!

*Me and Dan*

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*The iconic and inspiring Women’s Building in the Mission*

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*My cousin’s very cute birthday cake*

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*Prince Paul spinning 45s at The Uptown in Oakland*

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Another highlight of my final sojourn in SF was catching Hieroglyphics play Stern Grove. Dan the Automator was DJing before, and managed to sneak me backstage so that I was able to hang with him and Hiero there. I enjoyed drinking copious amounts of high-grade sake, riding around on milk-float-esque carts, and meeting Del the Funkee Homosapien and Davey D for the first time.  Afterwards we got ice-cream and hit a dive bar for a pool tournament in the Sunset District. Very cool memories.

*Beautiful NorCal trees at Stern Grove. Such a cool hidden spot I had never been to before.*

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I couldn’t wait to hit up the newly reopened SFMoMA, I always love to spend a few hours there when in town. Such a treat. The Miranda July & Harrell Fletcher Learning to Love You More room was my favourite part this time.

*Reflections at the MoMA*

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*Embarcadero at night on 4th July*

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*Leaving Cali Bluez. Nothing quite like rounding off a long trip by gazing out at the runway, sipping on a glass of wine and reflecting on the time gone by.*

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*Living life in the window seat. Always.*

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Los Angeles June 2016

February 26, 2017

After visiting NYC in June last year, I bopped back to the West Coast and enjoyed a couple of weeks hustling and catching up with friends in LA. Here are some photos from that time .. Enjoy!

*After staying at Shutters on the Beach back in 2014, having lunch with Michael Sheehy there has become somewhat of a tradition.*

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*I just love it out by Santa Monica and Venice. Whenever the skies are grey I think of Neil Young’s classic On The Beach.*

*I stayed for a week up in the Hollywood Hills and got to enjoy this glorious view each morning*

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*Breakfast on the deck*

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*Hanging out at Christian Audigier’s dreamy ranch in Topanga*

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*Delicious Vinyl HQ on Sunset Boulevard*

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*Me & J-Lockett*

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*Me & Fat-Leezy*

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Frybros Photography Summer 2016

February 7, 2017

The late-June heat was starting to pick up and I was listening to “Ecstasy” by the Ohio Players on repeat. Staying with my dear friend Teru in Mid City, whom I miss now. Afternoon wine hazes and regular trips over to Delicious Pizza. I can still smell the 7Eleven across the street.

It was a Saturday afternoon that I met up with the amazing Matt Fry before I left LA. We talked and shot pictures in the still afternoon light for hours, before hitting Shintaro in Hollywood for sake and delicious Japanese food. The Cure were playing at the Hollywood Bowl that night, so the streets and traffic were even busier than usual. A magical energy buzzed through the warm evening air like iridescent dragonflies scudding emerald waters.

Below are three photos from the shoot; I love the way that they capture a certain mood.

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Time Waits For No One

July 2, 2016

‘Time waits for no one’ sang the Rolling Stones. And it won’t wait for me.

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Time often passes by much more quickly than one would like it to, especially during those times when we would like it to stretch out and last forever like the long summer holidays you have as a kid. My recent weeks in Los Angeles have somewhat flown by, though, there is plenty to reflect on and be grateful for. Here are just a selection of photos and memories …

~Taking classes at Studio 4~

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~For memorial day I headed out to Malibu with my friends Denisse, Nanna, and Rick, which was all giggles and hot tubs, long drives and pier lights at night. I just love being by the ocean and driving through the stunning Santa Monica mountains; it is so exceptionally beautiful out there.~

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~Santa Monica Pier~

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~Palm trees in Franklin Village~

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~Poolside in Hollywood~

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~Me on the Mama Shelter rooftop, photographed by the homie Mekael Dawson~

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Anyhow, I’m working on trying to enjoy my time and worry less about the speed at which it passes …

 

 

LA Daze

May 29, 2016

Palm trees in the wind and pizza by the slice. Catching up with old friends under cloudy skies. Writing by blue swimming pools and pink sunsets behind the hills of Hollywood. Oh Los Angeles, since getting to you earlier this month, time has been flying by too fast.  I’m feeling very lucky to be spending time with some of my favourite people out here, because conversing and laughing with like-minded souls is the best.

~Stunning views from The Getty~

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Music-wise, I’ve been listening to my very talented friends Nanna B and Jansport J, as well as a little Neil Young :)

I’ve loved helping out at some Delicious Vinyl events while in town, including the WAX record fair at Capitol Records and Boom Yard LA at Delicious Pizza.

~Me selling merch at Boom Yard LA @ Delicious Pizza~

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 ~Capitol Records~

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~Limited Edition Ol’ Dirty Bastard Vinyl~

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A couple of weeks ago I enrolled at Studio4 LA, James Franco’s film and acting school here, so have been taking some classes over in North Hollywood. I also attended a really awesome ‘Intuitive Actor’ workshop at SoHo with Todd Savvas at SoHo House, and have been dabbling in a real mix of yoga classes out here. After meeting the gorgeous Millana Snow in West Hollywood, I attended a poolside yoga class with Serene Social at the Standard Hotel on Sunset. A friend also introduced me to Black Market Yoga in Hollywood (where you can flow to Tom Waits!), and most recently I’ve been hitting up the Y7 Studio on Melrose for their hip-hop scored vinyasa classes.

~Chillin’ by the pool post-yoga~

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~Santa Monica Sunset~

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So California

May 11, 2016

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So last week I left my love San Francisco and came down to Los Angles. I took Amtrak because I really do love the time and space that long-ass train journeys provide. On the course of the trip I met a couple of characters who felt like something out of a Keroauc story. One in particular still stands out. His tanned skin was weathered like dirty leather, and he had one brown and one baby blue eye. He asked me if it was my first time on Amtrak (it wasn’t) and where I was going. He said he was going to New Orleans, and when I asked how long he had been in San Francisco, he replied “I got here today.”  Why would you get to San Francisco and immediately leave? He said he lived in San Francisco, but I didn’t believe him. His world seemed like a completely different one to mine, one that was fluid like oil and for some reason it seemed dark. In writing this out I realise it could completely just be my own romantic projections. Maybe he was having a bad day and there was a not so urgent emergency in New Orleans. Either way, he was a little odd and I didn’t choose to continue the conversation much further, but it made me think of how vastly different all of our paths are. I really think an awareness of the myriad routes and experiences there are in life is beneficial; at once you can appreciate your world and see how small it is.

~Views from the San Joaquin~

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~Difficult to capture the peace and serenity~

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The night I got to LA, my homegirl Denisse – aka Girl Is Tough – had a show at La Cita Bar downtown. I pretty much dropped off my bag and headed straight to see her perform. Her voice is so beautiful and I can’t recommend checking out her music enough.

 

~Girl Is Tough in her element~

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After the show we got late night tacos and horchata :)

I’m staying in the super cute neighbourhood Franklin Village, which has several neat spots to check out, including the Bourjeois Pig and the Oaks Gourmet. And I’ve been getting my yoga fix at Yogaworks in Hollywood on Vine – super chill and yummy free tea.

~My new hood~

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~The pool~

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Last Thursday was ‘Cinco de Mayo’, which I’ve honestly never heard of before, but I had a nice time catching up and drinking margaritas with my buddy LA Jay at Antonios on Melrose, before hitting up a party at the old Delicious Vinyl Shop spot on Sunset. I heard a song by Bia called “Gucci Comin’ Home” which I’ve been listening to on repeat since …

~Antonios~

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~My homie blew up all these balloons :) ~

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~Jansport J on the decks~

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At the weekend I finally got to check out Delicious Pizza in West Adams! I remember visiting the space back in 2013 before anything got set up, so it was really neat to come back and see everything in business. I had a ‘Soulflower’ pizza (dig the Pharcyde reference??) which was delicious, and some funky cold sangria (Tone Loc).

~Delicious Pizza~

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~Hip-hop memorabilia~

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 ~Delicious Vinyl Radio~

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I rounded off the weekend with a delicious brunch and catch up with my girl Teru at SoHo House in West Hollywood. One of the marks of a great friendship is being able to just pick up where you left off, even after a long period of not seeing each other. Which, over wine and cheese, we did :)

It’s been super cloudy in LA since I got to town so I’m hoping the sun breaks through soon ..

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Sailing On

May 6, 2016

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At the start of last week I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favourite human beings and probably one of the most influential musicians of all time. George Clinton, the inimitable force behind the P-Funk juggernaut and a bonafide hero to many. Clinton is a dream to chat to, and I can’t wait to share our conversation with my write up real soon.

Since our interview I’ve been listening to a nice little mix of Smokey Robinson, Kendrick Lamar, Sly Stone, and Parliament (of course…).

I’ve also been listening to Deru’s “1979: Remixed” and a sweet little mix City Pop Vol. 2 that dropped on Wax Poetics:

~Ridiculous car in the Marina~

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I hit up Laughing Lotus Yoga on 16th St last Thursday and would definitely recommend going – the pranayama and sweet tea felt hella good :)  One of my favourite thrift stores in the city is Crossroads Trading by Church & Market, and on this trip I managed to pick up a vintage Missoni dress (pictured below) and some vintage Marni wedges for a song. There is also a cute cafe super close by called Church Street Cafe which I often stop at to write, and recommend if in the area.

~Bathroom selfie on Saturday night~

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On Saturday I hopped around a few parties with friends and got to see a really neat hotel called The Phoenix . It reminded me of the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs with it’s super retro US motel vibe.

~The Phoenix pool~

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I also got to visit a pretty dope house nicknamed ‘The Starship’ which was used as a location for HBO’s Silicon Valley.

~View from The Starship’s roof terrace~

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On Sunday I got to go out sailing around Marin which was super beautiful and a lot of fun. The waters were royal blue and the local wine flowed. We stopped off at Tiburon and Angel Island, before heading to a spot called Fish in Sausalito for dinner (luckily they serve salad ;) ). I just love how the fog envelops the land like something from science fiction when it rolls in at dusk.

~View from the water back to San Francisco~

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~Angel Island~

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 ~Party on a boat~

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~Sausalito~

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 ~Fog coming for Sausalito~

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As we sailed back to San Francisco through the dusky purple fog, fittingly listening to lots of vintage Prince, I found myself very nostalgic thinking about the first time I visited California with my family. I was 16 and remember taking the ferry to Sausalito one day, eating ice-cream by the water and being so excited about it all. I thought about all that had happened in my life since (a decade sounds rather epic, doesn’t it?) and how most of it I would have never predicted back then. It’s a funny feeling, a sort of culmination of energies and emotions, at once appreciative of it all though somehow there’s a sadness to it. To feel happy and sad at the same time, and that life is short but long too in many ways. It is quite amazing how all these feelings exist simultaneously. There are so many facets within us to experience that it is really rather staggering to contemplate.

~Embarcadero~

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~The Ferry Building. Time waits for no man~

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Having Big Fun

April 26, 2016

Propelled by the energies of joy, it is no secret that time takes flight when you are having fun. I love spending time here in California, and, it feels like the past week has somewhat flown by …

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A lot of dope music has come through my inbox just recently, so I’ve had a mix of Black Milk, Saba, The Lytics, Brassfoot, and Funkineven on rotation. Take a listen!

1) Saba “World in my Hands (ft. Amino & LEGIT)”

2) Black Milk & Nat Turner “Never”

3) Brassfoot “Dreamstate Intercal”

4) Funkineven “SSS (90s cut)”

5) The Lytics “Ring My Alarm”

As always, I’ve been spending a solid amount of time in cafes writing. Right now I would recommend The Blue Fig on Valencia for classic, chill coffee-house vibes, and Stanza Coffee on 16th for a trendy vibe and yummy coffee. Both have nice outdoor seating, as does my go-to veggie spot Herbivore on Valencia which also deserves a shout out!

~Coffee love in The Mission~

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I caught up with a friend for dinner last Tuesday and saw a sneak preview of the book So Much to Be Done, which is a collection of the writings of Barbara Brenner. Barbara was an incredible activist I had the honour of working with in the summers of 2009 and 2010 when I interned for the non-profit organisation Breast Cancer Action. Undoubtedly she was one of the most intelligent, straight-talking, and warm-hearted individuals I have ever known. After having breast cancer herself (twice), she was diagnosed with ALS in 2010 and passed away in 2013. I think it is fantastic that her writing is being published in a collection like this, and I look forward to reading it properly. You can learn more about Barbara here and check out the book here .

On Wednesday I hopped over to the East Bay to visit Berkeley University. The campus is so stunning and whenever I’ve been the vibe has always felt so good. The last time I was out there was 2011, when I was working on my undergraduate thesis. I visited the Bancroft archives to find some of Sarah Webster Fabio’s work (a really inspiring poet and activist I recommend getting hip to), and remember imagining how rad it must be to study there. Here are some pictures …

~Berkeley Campus~

IMG_6272~Beautiful Berkeley trees~

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~Me posing on campus~

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~Gold shoes in the grass~

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~More magical Berkeley trees~

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And for the first time ever I ventured down to San Jose in the South Bay for a little party with some buddies. I was super excited for the little adventure, mostly because of my love of the Dionne Warwick song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” (written by my hero Burt Bacharach). I remember dancing around to that song as a kid, probably never imagining that one day I too would have some friends down in San Jose.

 ~San Jose Station~

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~A backyard worthy of DJ Khaled~

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We headed back up to the city the next day to hang out at The Battery, and ended up at an incredible studio spot in SoMA. I really wish I had taken pictures, because the set up was pretty spectacular. Next time hey ;)

For now all I have is this accidental post-brunch-bliss selfie …

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Back to the Bay

April 19, 2016

I have so much love for Northern California. Each time I come back here I am struck by the unique beauty of the landscape. Towering trees with the deepest green leaves, awkward hills, azure skies, and curious fog soothe the heart and mind like nothing else. I flew back here last week and so far have mostly been catching up with family and friends, and exploring the city a little…

~Me before takeoff~

Me before takeoff

~Golden Gate Bridge from the sky~

Golden Gate Bridge from the Sky

~Angel Island~

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~Market Street~

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The weather took a beautiful turn the past few days, so it’s been all about parks. I hit up Golden Gate Park on Saturday, feeling super calm and happy just to be there, and then chilled out on Dolores Park on Sunday for a pretty different vibe. Last time I was in SF, the park was being completely dug up, so it was good to see it back in swing. Dolores Park is like London Fields in the summer, but it feels quirkier and more entertaining. You get intermittent whiffs of barbeques and joints, sounds of champagne corks popping, and endless overheard conversations relaying gossip and dissecting therapy sessions. I love it.

~Golden Gate Park~

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~Amoeba on Record Store Day ~

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~Wax Poetics looking super fresh inside Amoeba!~

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~Me in Dolores Park on a hot-hot day~

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I’ve been hitting up my favourite yoga studio in SF, Yoga To The People , at 16th St & Mission. It’s on the fifth floor and has such great views of the city. It’s also all donation-based, so not super expensive like some spots, which, seems to be much more in line with the spirit of yoga to me.

I also discovered a new vintage shop called Wallflower on Valencia that I love and recommend checking out. It has a great selection of well curated seventies clothes and furnishings. Fly!

~Wallflower~

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I caught the Dam Funk show at 1015 Folsom on Friday which was tons of fun. It was my first time seeing The Whooligan from Soulection play, and he totally rocked the basement room.

~Dam Funk going in~

 ~Me about to head to the club~

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For an interview that was due to take place last week (yet to be re-scheduled, I’ll announce it once it happens ;) ), I spent some time researching Bay Area funk bands, so have been listening to Graham Central Station on repeat since. Right now this is my jam:

I’ve also been listening to a ton of G-Funk since I finally got around to watching Straight Outta Compton on the plane. I love the scene where they play out the release of Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline.” I didn’t rush to see it when it came out because I felt weird when I first saw the trailer (something about actors playing people who are still alive), but now definitely recommend watching it! Mega props to F. Gary Gray! Hip-hop nerd fact: Gray directed a ton of great hip-hop music videos before feature films like Friday, including the Masta Ace video for “Saturday Nite Live.” Shout out to my DV crew!

While wandering about I’ve been thinking about the many charms of San Francisco; how there are so many epochs to feel nostalgic for. One walk through the city can evoke so many different moods and feelings: you get a view across the water to Marin County and want to be attending a seventies cocktail party like something out of Play It Again Sam, or walk past a smoke shop to hear E40 playing and want to be at a Mac Dre party in Oakland, or you can walk around Haight Ashbury (just look past all the touristy trash) and wonder what it really was like to be a freewheeling Grateful Dead head back in the day. It’s like the Digital Underground song “Want It All” – which is about the wanting, not the having. Cities like this stimulate your imagination and trigger so many desires. But, of course, you can’t ‘have it all’ in the sense of living different lives simultaneously.

To this predicament I see three answers.

The first is summed up towards the end of Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog, where Ghost Dog states that it is impossible to return to the spirit of an age, and therefore we must embrace the present time’s spirit.

The other two thoughts are from my recent time in India:

If you believe in reincarnation, then all these different lives are either ones you have already lived or ones that are to come.

Or, if you contemplate how we already have everything in the universe within ourselves, any longings or desires can dissipate or transform into a truer feeling of peace. All the ideas, images, concepts etc, exist within your mind. Anything you can dream is already within you. Pretty dope huh?

~ Wisdom from Dog Eared Books in The Mission ~

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Robert Glasper Interview

February 19, 2015

The first time that I saw Robert Glasper play was in San Francisco, September 2011. It was the day after my 23rd birthday, and after celebrating the night away in dive bars on Valencia Street and a rooftop somewhere in the Mission, I was feeling a little bit fragile.

We met before the show to do an interview for Mint Magazine (big shout out to the OG Mint crew!), and Glasper’s warm personality and sense of humour was more than enough to make me forget about my post-birthday state.

The show was beautiful, and I have been fortunate enough to catch him several times since. Glasper’s recognition has grown rather meteorically since we met, so it was exciting to get to chat to him just before his star set off.

I was travelling within California a lot at that time, and remember I ended up transcribing our interview while sat in a waiting lounge at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (a bizarrely cheap layover from SF to LA), and how much it blew my mind hearing him break down the structure of Busta Rhymes’ flow.

Anyhow, here is the interview as it ran in Mint Magazine in 2011 …

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Soothing and stimulating at the same time – hip hop blended jazz with electronic frosting and sprinkles of just about anything; the music of Robert Glasper satiates just about any musical appetite – and, is truly beautiful.

Having missed their show at Ronnie Scott’s in London earlier this year – I was psyched to catch the Robert Glasper Trio playing a stunning show at the YBCA Forum in downtown San Francisco as part of the SFJAZZ Festival last month.

Just like the rich jazz being played, the atmosphere of the show was all-absorbing, allowing each of the Trio’s songs to take you on a journey through an array of emotions, memories and melodies. Touching on J Dilla, Errol Garner, Cindy Lauper and even an incredibly poignant rendition of ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’, the band’s set catered to its typically diverse SF audience, leaving the house mesmerised and inspired.

So, before the show I caught up with Robert over a bottle of wine to chat about jazz, hip hop, live shows, upcoming projects, public image, Micheal Jackson, the industry, music itself and everything in between…

So I’m intrigued about the show tonight, to see what the audience reaction is when you play? Cos when I’ve been to jazz shows before it’s kind of like you sit down, but when I go to hip hop shows generally people are up all moving around-

Exactly.

So I’m curious when you play whether it’s really varied like your music?

It’s a mixture, yeah. I have a hip hop audience, and I have an older jazz audience as well – some people will be like ‘woo!’, and some people will be sitting there like (taps moderately), like it’s golf or something. One time I was playing some J Dilla and I looked over to a black dude, he was like 19, and this old white lady, she had to be like 75, sitting next to each other and both were bumping their heads to the hip hop shit we were playing – where else do you see that? (laughs) It’s really hilarious. I talked to him afterwards like ‘yeah, loved the Dilla stuff you did’, and then I talked to her afterwards and she was like ‘I loved the version you did of Starlight by Starlight’.

Do you feel like sometimes it sort of educates both?

Oh, exactly. And they both leave with something that they weren’t hip to before so.

Having the more classical jazz mixed with contemporary music like hip hop, it feels like your music reflects all sides of your musical tastes and personality – and so I was wondering whether you feel that your music is something that’s particularly personal to you?

Totally. It’s definitely a part of my experience of what I love as a person – I don’t play this music to please anybody, I play it for me because I love it (laughs). So, hopefully you’ll like what I’m doing for me (laughs). Sounds vain, but that’s the truth – I literally play stuff that I like.

That’s being true to yourself I think.

It’s being true to yourself, yeah. You’re never going to please everybody, so you might as well be true to who you are.

Cool. Sometimes when you see musicians play you can tell someone’s obviously just intensely in the groove – I was wondering whether it’s ever gotten so intense that you’ve not been able to come out?

Oh – I’m all about that. I will stay on the groove forever – people have to tell me to stop (laughs) – cos to me: that’s the feeling. A lot of people when they do a concert feel like they have to play all these songs – but you’re just rushing through the songs, no-one walks away feeling anything. I like to find a space in a song, and if it feels spiritual or like it needs to keep coming I’ll keep going, cos to me that’s spiritual food for somebody. I like to be the soundtrack to people thoughts, so sometimes we’ll be playing something and not a lot’s going on but we keep repeating, repeating. With this trio we do something that sounds like a dj cutting because we play the exact same way every time – I like to do that a lot; act like a piano trio sample, but live (laughs). So yeah, I’m totally about that. And that’s what John Coltrane was about too – he would play vamps for an hour, literally – two hours. One time he played one song for three hours. You give it time to grow, give it time to feel – it’s almost like a relationship or something. You can’t be like: ‘what’s your name? You wanna go on a date? Let’s get a’ – you gotta chill, and then you feel something from someone. You gotta take the time you know?

And how do you feel that your relationship with music first started? Whether it was hearing certain records or…?

My Mom used to play Oscar Peterson around the house all the time – Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald – they had a duet album or something and she used to play it all the time. And I think that’s what really got me into wanting to play jazz, hearing Oscar Peterson around the house.

I would never ask someone to choose just one favourite record – but if you could tell me about one of your favourite records?

Of any genre?

Yeah, any genre. And why…

Oh my god. Wow. Right now? I’d probably say ‘Off the Wall’, Micheal Jackson. It’s definitely one of the top five for me, but right now it’s probably my favourite. A lot of records they’ll have like two songs that I like, but the whole record I don’t like. But Micheal Jackson ‘Off the Wall’ – I love the whole record.

And I was kinda curious if you’re a fan of Elzhi’s ‘Elmatic’ that came out earlier this year?

I haven’t heard it yet. But I played with Elzhi last month (both laugh). I heard him do some stuff live – he did a show in New York last month, and he had me and my drummer sit in with him on a song, but I haven’t heard the actual album yet.

Oh okay, just cos I find with how that album brings in all the instrumentals, the interludes between the tracks-

Oh he does that on there?

Yeah – it’s really good.

That’s like Pete-Rock isms I say, cos Pete Rock does that. His interludes are so dope, really short like 30 seconds – ‘woo-what’s that??’ Then it fades out, onto the next song.

Yeah – it’s like it frames it, cos then you can hear and look for it in the actual track itself.

Word.

I find listening to stuff like that just reminds me how rich hip hop is – cos you can listen to it and not realise just how many styles are in there. So I find it similar to your music, you can appreciate the DNA of the music.

Exactly.

Cool, and apart from playing jazz festivals (like SFJazz) – what are you up to at the moment? Are you recording?

I just finished my new record, so it’s gonna come out in January. It features my experiment band, which is the second half of ‘Double Booked’, and I have special guests on there: Erykah Badu, Legacy, Bilal, Musiq Soulchild, Lupe Fiasco and Mos Def – a lot of people (laughs). It was that kinda record like: ‘let me call my friends, call up all my favours – put them all on one album’.

Will it be jazz stuff?

No, it’s really more to cater to the mainstream, so people can become fans of mine and know who I am. It’s like meeting halfway. Because as far as jazz music goes, you know, we’re under the radar. The average person doesn’t know who anybody in jazz is, except they’ll be like ‘Miles Davis?’ It’s always somebody dead – they won’t know anybody offhand that’s alive, and that’s the total opposite for any other genre. I don’t have to listen to RnB to know who Rhianna or Beyonce is. You can be in a cab, see a billboard, you’re gonna see it regardless – Pop, Rock, even Country. Jazz? You don’t see people – and you don’t hear them.

Why do you think that is?

Well, because jazz is not current. It’s a music that has prided itself on the history to the point where people think it’s dead. When people talk about jazz they always talk in the past tense –like ‘yeah, John Coltrane, Miles Davis…’ I love those guys but it’s like ‘look, there’s people here alive still playing music’. Nowadays that’s why we’re not popular anymore, because we’re not of the generation that is now. So, that’s where I come in – I’m playing stuff that’s of now. That’s why I play Radiohead and hip hop – all these things – cos that’s my generation, that’s what I like. And that’s why I don’t just stop at jazz, you know, I’m Mos Def’s music director, played and recorded with Q Tip – most hip hop cats I’ve played with…

Does your new album have a title yet?

‘Black Radio’ – it’s the title track and the song that me and Mos Def wrote together for the record. ‘Black Radio’ – meaning like when an aeroplane crashes and the only thing that survives is the Black Box…

I didn’t know that…?

Whenever an aeroplane crashes, they get all their information on how it crashed and what happened from this thing called the Black Box, or Black Radio. It’s the only thing that survives, so Mos Def has this joke that ‘if that survives-why don’t they make the whole plane like that?’ (laughs). But yeah, ‘Black Radio’ cos I feel like good music will survive, surpass all the bullshit that’s out. And all the artists on the record are black radio personality people/ artists, so it has a double meaning to it.

Yeah, especially with the way that the music industry’s going at the moment – not that it’s going down the drain, but it’s a really crazy time with everything being download – you don’t really get albums you know, people just listen to tracks.

People don’t listen to records anymore, attention spans are shorter…it’s really hard. And everything has to have 19 producers; everybody’s trying to get the ‘hot person’ on a record – nobody does a record where it’s just one producer anymore. Most of the records I love, they just have one producer – ‘Off the wall’, one producer – Radiohead, one producer.

I guess Tribe stuff-

Tribe stuff – is the Ummah. And it’s just one thing.

That one crew.

That’s it. That’s their sound, and this is the record. Nowadays, they have a rapper with like ten tracks and ten different producers and none of it has a vibe – always a different thing so the whole record doesn’t flow.

Yeah, so it’s not one cohesive entity.

Know what I mean? It becomes a money thing like ‘this producer – he’s hot right now’ and it’s not about the music anymore. So, yeah, that’s why music is interesting right now, very interesting (laughs).

Yeah. I hadn’t realised quite how much stuff you’d done with other artists – cos you worked with Ali Shaheed Muhammad on his solo stuff, Bilal on ‘Airtight’s Revenge’ and a ton of others – are there any artists who you haven’t worked with yet that you’d really like to?

There are some artists that I’ve never worked with that I’d like to work with…Busta Rhymes.

Wow. I can’t imagine, cos he’s so hype-

He’s so hype-

On a jazz kind of tip-

Right. But J Dilla did a lot of his early – ‘Woo Hah – Got You All in Check’ – all that shit, that’s J Dilla. Busta’s so great over core progressions, really musical instrumental shit – I love the way he sounds with that. He’s definitely one that I’ve never worked with that I really want to work with, for sure.

That would be very cool.

Yeah. He’s an underrated rapper in general to me. Rhythmically? No-one fucks with him. He phrases his rhymes like a jazz trumpeter – it’s like listening to a jazz trumpet listening to Busta Rhymes. Two of my musician friends actually transcribed Busta Rhymes’ rhythms, because he’s so rhythmically ridiculous. And you can understand everything he’s saying, not in gibberish either. He’s like: ‘you’re going to understand it, and I’m going to say it fast as hell – my rhythm’s gonna be crazy, and what I’m saying is going to be stupid too.’ But, you get past how good he is because of how crazy and shit he is. Sometimes you can see an artist, and not really see how good they are. It’s like Michael Jackson; he’s like…a thing. And he’s so a thing that you forget to be like: ‘wow-let’s just listen to him sing, his vocals’. He can really sing, but you’re in love with Michael Jackson as a whole. So, let’s just break it down, cos Michael Jackson is the greatest artist of all time in my humble opinion. First of all – he’s the most famous person other than Jesus.

Is he?

Who else is more famous than Michael Jackson? What physical person is more famous than Michael Jackson?

Ah…I find it so subjective though – cos there’s so many people to me, like to my friends I’m all ‘I’m gonna meet…Robert Glasper’ and they’ll be like ‘uummmmm’(Robert laughs) Or something like that, so it’s hard to say…

But Michael Jackson – there’s never been a person as famous as Michael Jackson, period. Not even close. Some people are famous in their lane, like The Beatles. Elvis Presley was famous in his lane, but he’s not famous like Michael Jackson – cos he’s been mega-famous since he was six.

Of course.

So think about that – from 6 to 50. He was super-mega famous when he was six, and he’s always been mega famous – no-one’s had that kind of career. If you put everybody famous in a room ever – everybody’s gonna be looking at Michael Jackson. The other person like that to me is Prince – if you put everybody in a room, people are gonna be like ‘there they are!’ Ever been in a room with Prince before?

Um – no.

He’s such a thing, everybody’s just like – you try not to stare but…(both laugh).

Do you think Michael Jackson’s legacy will continue then?

Oh, without a doubt. And the thing about him – he can really sing, but let’s just break it down and talk about his dancing. He invented a way to dance – no-one dances like Michael Jackson. You watch him in his videos when he’s dancing with people behind him and they’re all doing the same moves – but no-one’s doing it like him. And his robot – oh my god. ‘Dancing Machine’.

Takes me back! His music videos are just-

Ridiculous?

Yeah, ‘Smooth Criminal’ was always my favourite – when they do-

The Lean?

All the way down.

Aahhh – and he’s ground-breaking. Always re-creating himself for the world. Trailblazing. So many sides to Michael that he’s innovated. It’s crazy.

How you were saying about people not recognising talent made me think to a chat I had with Lil’ Fame of MOP – he was saying how everyone focuses on the hard-core, bad boy image that generally people don’t appreciate-

What you’re doing?

Yeah, the actual skill and talent they have.

Especially if you’re a person who’s had a hit song that’s on the radio. A lot of the time you don’t know the artist so well – cos you just see them on TV, see what makes them hot, but you don’t really see them as a person. Some people are the total opposite of what you think. I did a show with Ludacris in Atlanta last month. And, you know, ‘Ludacris’ you think…

What was he like?

So quiet and subdued. I went to the strip-club with him (me laughs). All the girls were dancing and he was just (acts all shy) – he’s not what you would think from his videos and stuff. He’s totally the opposite. It’s crazy.

Public image – so much of it is acting – I don’t think people realise that. Last question: could you just describe what music means to you? If you could possibly say…

I mean, for me – music is probably my only real form of expression, to express how I feel. It’s the only thing that really evokes expression for me. I could be happy but you wouldn’t really know it from my face, or you probably wouldn’t see me cry. But it all comes out when I play. So, it’s probably the only way that I can be emotional I guess you could say. I have that problem in relationships – ‘you don’t show any emotions or feelings! – Do you love me or not??’ ‘Yes! I do…’

Like you can’t say it, but you can play it?

Like: ‘You know what? This is how I deal out my shit right here…’ (Motions playing the piano) That’s what music is to me; it’s the way to give and receive emotion. Don’t come up and hug me – play me a song, and I just feel that so much faster

Communication in a way?

Somewhere near there, yeah.

Somewhere.

Yeah, that’s the vibe.

Alice Price-Styles.

http://robertglasper.com/

 

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