Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Fans will have to wait until October 12 to hear The Burnerz, but they promise to leak new singles (not on the record) every week until then. So who are the The Burnerz? They are a new duo consisting of Zumbi of the hip-hop group Zion I and the Houston-based Trackmasters producer, The Are. Now, after a year of scratching out rhymes, making beats, mixing, and mastering, The Burnerz—who met on tour in Europe in 2003—just completed one of the most energizing independent hip-hop albums of the year.

The Burnerz recruited The Grouch, OneBeLo, Martin Luther, and C-Holiday for the album. “Instead of going through layers of editing (like we do for Zion I),” explains Zumbi of his approach, “We tried to capture the raw emotion of both lyrics and beats for this album.”

Zumbi has always set a new standard for socially conscious hip-hop and this album is no exception. The track “The Edge” where The Grouch and Zumbi spit rhymes about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. “It's about feeling hopeless and fearful, but having just enough strength to turn around and confront one's demons,” explains Zumbi.

As the charismatic emcee of Bay Area group Zion I, Zumbi has released six critically acclaimed albums along with numerous EPs and mixtapes. Zumbi contributed to the Grammy-Award winning group Linkin Park’s album Reanimation as well as the BassNectar album, and mixtapes for the Roots, K'naan and Q-Tip. Currently, Zion I are touring with reggae sensations Rebelution. Their seventh album Atomic Clock drops Nov 9.

Veteran producer, The Are, hails from Houston, TX but his production style is more drum-heavy east coast in sound than southern. He began his career with the trio K-Otix in the early mid 90s, touring Europe and releasing the 2001 LP, Universal, and contributing two tracks for EMC (Punchline, Masta Ace, Wordsworth, and Stricklin). But, it’s been within the last couple years, that The Are has flourished: After signing with the production team the Trackmasters, he produced singles for Keisha Cole (“Where this Love?”), Lil Kim and Lords of the Underground, as well as many others. His Michael Jackson instrumental remix CD, Dem Damb Jacksons, became an online collectors item in 2007. Finally, he produced the first single off the forthcoming Keisha Cole album.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blue Sky Black Death's LP "Third Party" Go Indie Rock

Blue Sky Black Death (abbreviated BSBD) is the production duo Ian Taggart and Kingston Maguire.

Best known for their brand of orchestral Hip-Hop instrumentals and shoegaze influenced production which has been the backdrop for many vocalists and hip-hop MCs - including members of Hieroglyphics, Jedi Mind Tricks, Non Phixion and Wu Tang among many others, the the duo has produced what is easily their most catchy and pop-oriented effort to date, Third Party, a collaboration with indie-pop songwriter Alexander Chen (of Boy In Static and The Consulate General) for CT based label, Fake Four, Inc.

Third Party melds synth-pop, indie rock and BSBD's own take on shoegaze with Chen's cold, yet, oddly moving vocals. The possibility of collaboration was originally discussed when the three parties shared a gig in San Francisco in 2009. When Alex Chen moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Gothenburg, Sweden in 2010, BSBD stayed in contact. Chord Sketches and drum loops made their way between Sweden and California and eventually Alex Chen, the "third party," had written an entire album inspired by everything from science fiction to politics to thoughts on human immortality.

Musically Kingston and Ian draw inspiration from 80's pop melodies and modern indie rock experimentation while maintaining an underlying percussive influence of hip-hop, while Chen's densely layered harmonies seamlessly weave in and out of the duo's intricately layered compositions. The album finds that perfect "sweet spot" - with enough sonic details to envelope you in headphones - but with hooks and beats constructed to shake the house.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Twin brothers Jonathan and Jarred Lindsay aka Mackamillion and Mr. Mackmore, known as the hip-hop duo Double Vision, are the newest force poised to take over hip-hop. Their debut album, Bifocal, is being released next month on the ultra-hip indie rock label No Sleep Records and is reminiscent of Pharcyde, Outkast mixed with Gym Class Heroes. Backpack Cat spoke to the backpackers from their shared apartment in LA.

NB: Being twins, have you guys ever played a trick on kids at school or your teachers ?
DV: Once. It was at Palms elementary school here in L.A. Some kid who knew us really well told on us, so we beat him up later.

NB: Do you like being compared to other twin rappers, like Ying-Yang Twins or Kane and Abel?
DV: As far as Ying Yang twins, were they even actually twins? As for Kane and Abel, they were a pretty good group. People used to call us that when we were younger, so that comparison is cool--minus the gangster image.

NB: Of all the rappers today, who do you wish had a twin?
DV: nicky minaj, but if you see nina sky, tell them to get at us!

The Eastbay Express called Bifocal an "impressive debut" and "We won't be revoking your hipster card any time soon, Double Vision..." For full article, click here.

Visit DoubleVision on twitter: dvhiphop On Twitter | dvhiphop on

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Zion-I Hit the Road for West Coast Tour

From The Grouch and the Mighty Underdogs to Rebelution and Soja, hip-hop duo Zion-I have toured around the country with some of the most talented musical acts in the country. Now, as they put finishing touches on they're 7th album, they are getting ready to hit the road again, bringing one of the best live hip-hop shows to cities across America. The forty city tour starts in their home town of Oakland with a rare reunion show with Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Qweli) and ends in September. The guys will be performing songs from their forthcoming album.


July 31, 2010 Oakland, CA, Fox Theater **Opening for BLACK STAR

August 6, 2010 Santa Fe, NM - Santa Fe Brewing Company

August 7, 2010 Morrison, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheater w/ Pretty Lights

August 13, 2010 Plainfield, VT - Rhinofest Music Festival

August 14, 2010 Portland, ME - Asylum

August 19, 2010 Reno, NV - The Beach Club at the Grand Sierra Resort

August 20, 2010 Bend, OR - Domino Room

August 21, 2010 Bellingham, WA - Wild Buffalo

August 22, 2010 Portland, OR - 2410 Mississippi

August 27, 2010 Sacramento, CA - The Venue

August 28, 2010 Fairfax, CA - 19 Broadway

August 29, 2010 Arcata, CA - Humbrew

September 4, 2010 Seattle, WA - Chop Suey

September 5, 2010 Eugene, OR - WOW Hall

September 15, 2010 Aspen, CO - Belly Up

September 16, 2010 Boulder, CO - Fox Theater

September 17, 2010 Fort Collins, CO - Aggie Theater

September 18, 2010 Denver CO - Cervantes

September 23, 2010 San Francisco, CA - Amp Live @ The Mighty

September 24, 2010 Santa Barbara, CA - West Beach Festival

Friday, July 16, 2010


NB: Who is the Foreign Globester?
FG: He's a guy who is against the grain in his home town. He travels the world with what he has to offer and gets better reception over seas and in other areas of the u.s. for what he does. He's so foreign to everyone--even in his birth place. He has no time to see or care on who will except what he brings to the table. He's gotta keep it moving. Whatever he's doing, he'll be foreign to the globe with no home.He's no sob story. He's a figure-outter!

NB: How did you meet the Rondo Brothers?
FG: I was recording an album with my man Sean from Hate Breed called "KING BEAST" and we happened to record it at the Rondo's studio. They turned out to be some really down to earth cool cats and we started vibing the next thing i know they were asking me to come record for commercials and projects they were doing. When I came to record, they let me breathe do what i felt and it was on. We did a Palm Centro commercial where santa clause was fat and came out young and skinny. These guys want to create not follow.

NB: What does the Globester do for fun?
FG: Uniquely investigate...

NB: I read somewhere you tell stories around campfires in the Yukon, bonfires in the Middle East, woodfires in South Africa? Have you ever told stories around a pit-fire in the Hamptons at Martha Stewarts or Diddy's? What was that like?
FG: Undisclosed posture

NB: I also read somewhere that you seek love and find emptiness. That's sad, have you ever found love, even from a rescue dog?
FG: Being foreign to the globe, you experience small scale and big scale things, intermediate beings, it's all relevant and how you engulf it in. I love and hate my past and future! I love frog leaps im making , and I hate some toad warts I left.

Click here for more info on the Foreign Globester !!!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Burnerz, a collabo between Zumbi (of Zion I) & Houston producer the Are, are readying a project of their own this Fall. Backpack Cat asked Zumbi some questions about his latest musical endevour, what it's like to work with a new producer and who exactly is The Are?

NB: Who is The Are and how'd you meet him?
Zumbi: The Are is a veteran producer out of Houston, TX. He began his career with K-Otix in the early 2000's. Within the last couple years, he signed on to Trackmasters and has credits on Keisha Cole's last album, along with credits with the Game and Ludacris. We met while on our 2nd tour in Europe during 2003. We spent 3 weeks travelling, and became homies while on the road.

NB: How is this record different from a Zion I album?
Zumbi: I feel like it is more of a testament to raw emotion. Usually, Zion I records go thru several layers of editing before they are sent out to the public. On the Burnerz album, everything has been done with the idea to capture the initial emotion of both lyrics and beats, and then it is served directly to the listener without any manicuring.

NB: What's the idea behind your record?

Zumbi: The concept of the Burnerz is to bring the world honest hip hop music, less concerned with image, while being totally committed to fresh musical content.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oakland Emcee and Poet Ise Lyfe Talks Pistols and Prayers

Oakland emcee, poet, and activist Ise Lyfe is proud to announce the release of his debut book, Pistols & Prayers, a collection of prayers, poetry, journal entries, rhymes, and short essays. A powerful collage of thought provoking social commentary, Pistols & Prayers is a compelling glimpse into the author's coming of age as a man, artist, and advocate for social change. I caught up with the artist this week and asked him a few questions about the book:

NB: Michael Eric Dyson once said "Guns are at once the merchandise of manhood and the of its destruction." Can you explain the title of your book--why you used a pistol juxtaposed with prayers?

ISE: One, by the time I started to take my rhyming seriously as a career option, there were less an less venues, stages, and clubs that had a place for emcee's to come out and rock. Literally, club owners were taking stages out of the club and there was just small corner setups for a DJ. It was like being a rap artist was like the corny thing to be, which was a little heart breaking for me, cause when I was growing up it was the ILLEST thing you could be. So what was left? Spoken Word venues! I'm an emcee, but I think when people think of me their mind goes to "poet." But thats because I got on through poetry slams and HBO Def Poetry because that was the more accessible forum and platform for me. So in Spoken Word Culture, if you were up there on the mic rockin' it, we called it "Bustin'"- like a gun. Folks in the audience would make gun gestures with their fingers and yell out "BUP BUP BUP" making gun sounds to let you know that they were feeling you. So my book has elements to it that are spiritual, personal, reflective, vulnerable (Prayers), and at the same time theres another side of the book that is hardcore, Hip-Hop, powerful, controversial, hilarious, (Pistols).

The second reason for the title is to point out an irony. That we live in a time where people are excepting the ridiculous notion of killing in the name of God. Both sides of wars posture God or their spiritual belief as the reason for killing. I hoped that the title would put me in a position to say that...

NB: What inspired you to write Pistols and Prayers?
ISE: I'm a writer, you know? I thought it would be cool to act on that in a traditional form, but bring forth a SUPER non-traditional text. I'm glad to be an author who is also a Hip-Hop artist, not just some rapper who wrote a book. It puts me in a space to rep for Hip-Hop from two differnt spaces.

NB: How did it come about to make it into a play?
ISE: I was approached by my agent to apply to have my next big theater piece commisioned by a foundation in an effort to put my work on the next level. It worked! So when it came time to decide what I was going to put up, I thought it was a dope creative and business opportunity to base a play on my book. Creatively, I think its one of the "coolest" things I've done...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Good Times for Dark Time Sunshine

Seattle mainstay Onry Ozzborn has spent the last five years on Rhymesayers Entertainment putting out underground hip hop classics such as Grayskul’s Bloody Radio and touring and collaborating with everyone from Aesop Rock to Atmosphere. Now he has started a new group with producer Zavala called Dark Time Sunshine - some say this sounds like a “Psychedelic Gangstarr” others refer to the “slight bit of Company Flow twirling in the waters beneath them” - whatever it is - it’s some of the most exciting new hip hop to hit ears in a long time.

Under the moniker of Cape Cowen, Onry spits abstract anthems while Zavala’s boom bap psych rock production swirls, twists and bangs beneath. The album features Aesop Rock ,P.O.S., Solillaquists Of Sound ,Qwel ,Ceschi Ramos , Oldominion, Champagne Champagne and an array of great vocalists such as Reva Devito ,Poeina Saddarth ,Kaitlyn Leathers and more.

The duo met a couple of years ago in Portland, OR at a professional DART competition where Zavala was crowned victor and won a life-time supply of Tap Out attire (but that’s neither here nor there) - although it’s still a proud moment in D.T.S history. Both interested in Hip Hop,Punk, Electronics and Lady Ga Ga, the two started to formulate a genre of music some call snob rap ,dark pop and theatrical lazor blur under the moniker DARK TIME SUNSHINE. After releasing the FREE album BELIEVEYOUME (released mid - Nov 2009) the duo sets sail soon to bring forth their OFFICIAL, debut release of VESSEL (via Fake Four Inc.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hip-Hop Symphony Jazz Mafia Readies LP: Brass, Bows, & Beats

The Jazz Mafia—a collective of MCs, jazz virtuosos, arrangers, and composers—that include many of the Bay Area’s most innovative and prolific musical forces are releasing their debut album, Brass, Bows & Beats.

Unlike anything else to date, Jazz Mafia is the first hip-hop orchestra to perform 60 minutes of entirely original composition. Among the list of MCs making up the collective are Lyrics Born, Dublin, Aima The Dreamer, and Seneca. Now, Jazz Mafia are set to hit the road, bringing their borderless tour de force—by principal composer, arranger, and conductor Adam Theis (pictured)—outside the Bay Area for the first time.

The Jazz Mafia is bravado post-modern orchestration, improvisation, blistering solos, spoken-word, Latin poly-rhythms, boom-bap rhymes, and emotive ballads, all spun together with the spirit of a Jazz-era big band—but also masterfully adhering to symphonic structural elements.

Production on Brass, Bows & Beats is shared by Ben Yonas and Adam Theis. The album drops June 15, 2010.

June 8 Sonoma Valley Jazz at Grinstead Amphitheatre Sonoma, CA
June 11 Harmony Festival at Sonoma County Fairgrounds Santa Rosa, CA
June 13 Playboy Jazz Festival at Hollywood Bowl Hollywood, CA
June 25 (le) Poisson Rouge New York, NY
June 27 Montreal Jazz Festival Main Stage Montreal, QC
August 7 Newport Jazz Festival Newport, RI
August 14 San Jose Jazz Festival/California Stage Theater San Jose, CA
September 17 Monterey Jazz Festival Monterey, CA
October 15 Laxson Auditorium/CSU Chico Chico, CA
October 30 Kimo Theater Albuquerque, NM

Monday, May 10, 2010


No doubt, one of LA's best kept secrets is rapper and musician Amad Jamal. He's been on the scene for a while, releasing singles on ABB Records with DJ Khalil, Evidence of Dilated Peoples, and producer Brisk One, but now after years of recording --and a few life hurdles--Amad Jamal is finally ready to release Barely Hangin’ On: The Chronicles of a Brotha Like Rodney King (Urban Umpire Records/ABB Records). Guest appearances on the LP include Dilated Peoples, Defari, Mayya Lady Dragon, and Gotham Green. Production is on Barely Hangin’ On is shared by Brisk One and DJ Dahi.

Barely Hang’ On’s jazz infused beats and live instrumentation make it unlike any other hip-hop record to date. In fact, the album was completely remixed after it was finished. Amad-Jamal and his partna Colonious Funk (of The Solution) added live base, drums and sound to all 13 tracks.

Born and raised in LA, Amad Jamal, named by his mother after the famous Jazz legend, had a pretty typical upbringing, listening to N.W.A records and free styling at The Good Life Café as a teen. He attended John Burrows Jr High with Rakaa Iriscience where they were both immersed in the graffiti scene.

This is really one of the dopest new hip-hop albums in the past few years. Do not miss it!

Monday, April 26, 2010

DLabrie Brings Underground Rap to Korea

Bay Area rapper DLabrie hopped on a plane and went to Korea this month and showed the country a little bit of indie hip-hop! Below, I asked Labrie, who's album Mr. Netw3rk (June 2010) about shows, hip-hop and korean bbq.

NB: How did you book shows in Korea?
DLabrie: In 2002 I went to Japan on a fluke with my very 1st album "Little Malcolm EP." I did a few shows and sold a lot of albums. The trip really gave me a lot of game on how it is in Asia. So the next year I got a chance to go to Korea and I did the same the thing. Although the scene is very different from Japan. I hit the spots with music and met the right people. I've been back three times since and it just keeps growing.

NB: What was the crowd like at shows?
I stayed two weeks & did seven shows mostly at bars and lounges near the college areas. There's a lot of universities out there that's where a lot of the young people hang out who are into hip-hop. My favorite area is by Hongik University because thats the 1st area I checked out with that type of flavor.

NB: What's the hip-hop scene like in Korea? Any good Korean rappers?
DLabrie: The scene is small. Hip hop is not the main thing there its still growing. The youth know about it since they have MTV and they know about alot of the big stars Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Kanye of course. Some people know other hip hop through the internet and from cats who come to the US and bring stuff back. They show a lot of love because they wanna see the real thing in the flesh. They definately appreciate it when I come through even if I'm not famous as Jay Z to them it don't matter. They still see rap as something amazing, they have graphitti, alot of breakers, dj's but they also dont know all the politics and negative aspects that we debate and talk shit about out here all day.

NB: Did you eat any Korean food? If so, what?
DLabrie: Hell yeah! They got the illest freshest seafood. I had Live Octopus still sqirmin down my throat. Thet got markets where they sell u everythang Live straight out the tank and straight to the cooker- sea urchan , clams, every kind of fish, prawns, crab and much wierder shit than that some I liked some I didn't. The food is very intimidating but its very good you just gotta give it a chance. They eat alot of soups, vegatables, with spicy sauces and eating meals there is family style it's not like this is mine this is yours. You all eat together. They got a lot of spots where they let you put your own food in the cooker right in front of you and you make your own soup, they also give you food in bowl that's still boilin hot while you stir it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Author Anna David Gets Real About Reality TV

Calling all intellectual reality TV fans (yes, they exist). I may have found a new heroine: a collection of essays by best-selling authors on the subject! Reality Matters (HarperCollins), edited by NY-based author Anna David (Bought and Party Girl), hits stores this week and includes literary luminaries waxing philosophical about the appeal of shows like American Idol, The Real World, and Big Brother and their effect on American culture. From her Chelsea apartment, we talked about the book, reality TV, and why she wants to see Kanye with a show of his own.

NB: How'd you come up with the idea for a reality TV anthology?
AD: Well, I know that I’m obsessed with certain reality shows and it occurred to me that fellow writers – who are all, let’s face it, usually home all day and aching from within the depths of their souls for some new form of procrastination – had to also be. Since so many of us long to have our work have the same kind of impact on society that say, your average Hills character does and are sorely disappointed when it doesn’t, I figured there had to be a form of narcissistic envy contributing to their fascination. I turned out to be right: the only writer I contacted who told me that he didn’t love reality TV confessed in the next sentence that he didn’t actually own a television.

NB: Who are/what some of your favorite writers and pieces?
AD: Oh, I could never say. The whole Sophie’s Choice thing.

NB: Did any of the writers laugh at you when you asked them to contribute?
AD: Not one. There was a writer that wrote a piece that I didn’t end up using – she’s a great writer and was initially willing to rework it but we had this conversation where I said, essentially, that I wanted her essay to cover the deep issues in her life that the particular show she was addressing hit on. She paused and said, “I’m sorry but you want me to explain how a reality show impacts my deep issues?” I was embarrassed when she phrased it that way but the truth is, most of the pieces in the collection actually do that.

NB: Reality TV gets a bad rap. Do you think there's any redeeming value in it?
AD: One hundred percent. I believe we can learn so much about humanity and ourselves from it. I’m entirely serious. I hate to admit it but when I watch the kids on The Real World talk crap about one person because they’re mad at that girl and try to get everyone on their side or do something passive aggressive in retaliation that just makes everything worse, I completely relate. I may not act that way anymore but I once did and seeing how ugly it is when someone else does it reminds me of why I don’t let my id rule my life anymore. And The Bachelor? Watching these guys have to decide between two women they’re “sure” they love only to break up with the one they chose a few months later is a great antidote to all the messages we get about love being about romance and falling for someone quickly.

NB: Is there a reality show that's too bad to watch?
AD: America’s Got Talent. I had to watch it when I was writing a reality show blog for and I wanted to tear my eyeballs out; never has there been a greater argument for the fact that America doesn’t, in fact, have any talent. I think it has – blessedly – been cancelled. Potentially A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila though I can’t say for sure since I only caught a snippet once at the gym.

NB: Is there anything in the book a hip-hop head might like?
AD: The piece about The Amazing Race covers the writer’s experience working on the show and how he used the sort of scheming values preached on Survivor to try to retain his job there, and I think anyone who has struggled to reach the top -- or likes music about that – would relate to the ethical quandary he faces. But also anyone who likes to laugh at how ridiculous certain reality show characters and then be loathe to admit that they relate to them will enjoy the whole book.

NB: If you could create one reality show on a backpack rapper, who would it be?
AD: If we’re counting Kanye as backpack, then him for sure. Just seeing him on Punk’d years ago – I can’t remember exactly what he did but I think he lost it worse than anyone ever had in the history of that show -- was one of my all-time enjoyable television experiences. And his life, just what he says at award shows and to reporters, practically already is a reality show. I’d imagine he’s much too savvy a businessman to subject himself to something that would surely make everyone detest him more than they already do, though.

Click here to buy Reality Matters.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010