Washington, D.C.—We’ve been programmed to listen to and make music based off parameters that have been pre-selected for us. Songs have to ‘sound like something’ so that they can be played on the appropriate radio stations, placed in the proper cubby holes of vinyl shops, and marketed to the record labels’ desired audiences—all of this to boost the bottom line. As consumers, we inform this system through our purchasing behavior. Artists are encouraged to tailor their sounds to those which are most popular and lucrative. Search “type beat” on YouTube for confirmation. Kids want to make music and listen to sounds that resemble the production of a Pierre Bourne or Kenny Beats while A&R’s want to find whoever is next, a replication of [insert pop icon]. It’s easy to plug into this equation.
Model Home, however, “is the potential of two people.” The experimental duo of sonic engineer Pat Cain and emcee NAPPYNAPPA do not follow a blueprint. They are focused on the freedom to connect with each other and fellow musicians, tapping into the impulses of their present experiences.
“What you guys don’t see: Devante will rap for twenty minutes straight that I edit down to three or four minutes.” Cain spoke of his partner’s endurance on Late Bloom Radio in January. “It’s just a zone you get into and it’s cool to be honest with the moment,” he said.
Cain is a Maryland-based transplant from Buffalo, NY and NAPPYNAPPA is a native of Southeast, Washington, D.C. They have worked in tandem prior to Model Home as Delta-7, an experimental hip hop quartet alongside Tony Cruise and Sir E.U. Performances at Rhizome and Studio Gaga were far-out, featuring custom synthesizers, voice modifiers, and lyrical improvisation that all mashed together into inscrutable sonic trips.
Model Home is no less experimental. “They’re all sounds. Specifically with Pat, there’s a bit more freedom,” NAPPA said on air. “In the earlier get-togethers, we talked about using the voice as an instrument on equal footing [as production],” Cain explained further.
The two recorded together for nine months before they debuted their first self-titled tape last June. Since then, they’ve added five more Model Home LPs with a seventh dropping in the spring. They are available on all streaming platforms. NAPPA, the early-twenty-something, delivers an array of cadences, sliding in and out of sing-songy lullabies that are distorted by Cain’s staticky, radio wave-type bleeps and bloops and electronic production.
“I don’t place the entire Model Home in hip hop or any genre, but the cadences and how I project my vocals are hip hop influenced,” the rapper clarified.
For as textured as these projects sound, most of them are completed in one day’s work. “It’s usually a nice day, nice weather. Not a lot of pressure going on.” Cain insists it’s “just hanging out and making music.”
The recording process is flexible and non-pretentious. Cain listed his basement set up on radio, including “homemade synthesizers, synthesizers in general, surged synthesizers, the geek stuff,” he simplified, “and a lot of tapes, too.”
I caught a glimpse during an evening session with producer Jamal Gray and multi-instrumentalist Dajando Smith. The image of technicolored wires plugged into circuit boards reminded me of an excerpt from Joan Didion’s book The White Album, where she describes a California studio in which The Doors recorded their third LP Waiting for the Sun. She writes, “There were masses of wires and banks of the ominous blinking circuitry with which musicians live so easily.” This comfort must be extended to those who dive into the world of synthesizers; an esoteric community of curious musicians and tinkerers playing with electrical pulses to emanate one-of-a-kind sounds.
In the Model Home studio, audio is recorded onto cassette which is then recorded onto computer where slight edits are made. The three of them—Cain, Gray, and Smith—were jamming, seemingly messing around with ideas and rhythms they would cut at a later time until I realized that those loose compositions were actually being recorded in real-time. There is no planning ahead in these sessions. “If it feels good and it sounds good then that’s what it is,” NAPPA said matter of fact.
It’s easy to label Model Home as a series of left-of-center projects that sound more cacophonous than melodic. At least, that was my sentiment upon listening to MH 1. On the spectrum of experimental and commercial music, Model Home is an acquired taste; however, we are being primed and prepped for a gradual change in music preference as we speak.
Beyond building the architecture of Model Home’s sonic bed, Cain’s modular synthesizer expertise has been sought out by other musicians, collaborating with producer Machell Andre as well as helping Tony Cruise and Sir E.U execute their 2018 LP African American Psycho. There’s demand for the level of experimentation that encompasses Model Home, and having it interpreted by other artists within the DMV’s music community will only make it more encouraged and robust.