Medium Rare

Sounds of D.C. Playlist by Maxwell Young

The music scene in Washington, D.C. as well as its surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia, is diverse with different grooves and experimental sounds blurring genre lines.  Over the last several months, these sounds have been on display at numerous events and venues around the District.  InTheRough has documented some of these experiences, like Frankliin's set at D.C. Funk Parade in early May or performances by Alex Vaughn and Meche Krorrect for the Glow End Theory Program at Black Cat.  There are shows three and four days out of the week put on by art and music collectives within the creative community.  Scroll through the Instagram feeds of Medium Rare, Bombay Knox, CMPVTR CLVB, and DCDIT to find show posters from 2014.

From Go-go and jazz to punk rock and indie-dance, the genres of the District have always been "amazing unto themselves," said Marcus Dowling, chronicler of capital culture for publications including the Washington City Paper, Vice and Complex.  The Sounds of D.C. playlist captures a number of the contemporary sounds and artists that are influenced by the rich, musical heritage of Washington, D.C. Listeners will understand the collaborative element to much of the music that is produced in the DMV through tracks like "Devil's Red Dress"--a true rock ballad assembled by Dreamcast and Fat Kneel.  

GoldLink and Fat Trel are DMV artists who have found commercial success.  They continue to promote the budding talent and sounds with their respective tracks "Rough Soul," which features April George of April & Vista, and a Trel track, "IN MY BAG," that's anchored by forefather Wale.  Of course the lineformation family is present in this playlist, especially Tedy Brewski who's purportedly working on new music.  But pay attention to rappers Nappy Nappa and Sir E.U who are headed to London for the first time.

Listen to the playlist above and if you like what you hear, be sure to keep exploring new music by clicking on the artists' profiles.

Rob Smokes Funk Disaster- love was made for these times by Maxwell Young

"It 100% comes down to the collaborative effort.  That's the status quo here."

Rob Smokes Funk Disaster: (left to right: Joe Wilson, Sam Catherman, Rob Stokes, and Jack Delamater)

Rob Smokes Funk Disaster: (left to right: Joe Wilson, Sam Catherman, Rob Stokes, and Jack Delamater)

On May 6, Rob Smokes Funk Disaster released their album love was made for these times.  Rob Stokes, one of the band's members, took to his mediumrare.dc Instagram account to thank artists like Cautious Clay, Milf Mitch, Sir E.U., St. Clair Castro, Nappy Nappa, and Jamal Gray, for without them he "probably would've quit altogether." 

Originally from Uniontown, Pa., about 45 miles away from Pittsburgh, Stokes has been a contributor to the creative community of the District of Columbia for the last six years. What initially started as house shows at his fraternity at George Washington University so that he and his friends could jam, has evolved into helping to cultivate a sustainable community of musicians in D.C.

"My journey in the District started slow," Stokes said.  "I was putting on house shows and meeting people that way.  At the end of the day, it's a lot of listening--like boots on the ground, going to shows, and meeting artists."

The musician, producer, and curator is a member of the CMPVTR CLVB collective and owner of Dead Art, LLC, which is now referred to as Medium Rare.  Both entities are responsible for throwing events highlighting the District's cultural influencers such as the Nike Boy Secret Shows, Phunk.Gif, Ski Club, and the more current Glow End Theory and CTRL Space CMD programs.  It is these outlets that allowed Stokes to foster relationships and collaborate with other DC artists.  InTheRough readers know of his audio production on songs with rappers MILF Mitch and the rest of the lineformation and Goth Money Records crew, but he's also worked with friends Sir E.U and Cautious Clay.

"I've just been putting out beat tapes, so I don't really have a following, honestly.  It was just like, 'I'm gonna try hip hop now or I'm gonna try making music via electronic instruments and stuff.'  So, I haven't put out much in the past four years," he said.

A jazz drummer in high school, Stokes is a percussionist at heart.  His hiatus from playing live instruments ended when he moved to his current home in Ledroit Park.

"Maybe five or six months ago I really started recording live stuff.  I moved from Virginia, which was not an environment conducive to recording drums.  Now, I have a big space where I can record a lot of drums and that's been the most fun; just being able to play to a click and then put the headphones on, go to the drums, lay down the drum track, and lay down the bass track...I definitely wanna see more jamming.  That's really what I'm feeling," he said.

ITR: Is that what we can expect on love was made for these times?

RS: Yea, all instrumental stuff.  There's a lot of Steely Dan, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Bobby Caldwell, and Curtis Mayfield influences.  I didn't try to croon or anything, but the grooves are just classic--like the chord progressions and how things work in terms of composition.  I tried to put my own flip on them in the 21st century, but more specifically 2017 in D.C. being in love in this time and what that's like.

An aspect of eccentricity is evident from the deep-red cover of the album to some of the synthesizer sounds in "old friends" and "lush greens."  According to the multi-hyphenate artist, this was intentional.  A big fan of David Lynch and the '90s cult classic series Twin Peaks, Stokes wanted to incorporate leitmotif, which is a recurrent theme throughout musical composition associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.  The show's composer, Angelo Badalamenti, was particularly adept at this technique because his sounds drew from emotional associations that heightened the drama.

"I'm not trying to rip his style, but I'm trying to make something that is exactly the same representation of the record in terms of the lyrical content," he said. 

Rob Smokes Funk Disaster is comprised of Joe Wilson on keys, Sam Catherman on bass, Jack Delamater on guitar, and Stokes both singing and playing the drum kit.  During their set at Night 1 of Ctrl Space CMD, Delamater flexed his saxophone skills too, in the band's rendition of Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do For Love."  The seven-track album is abundant with psychedelic tones, while Stokes' Bob Dylan-like inflections can be heard on "old friends" and "love."  The former is a song Stokes had worked on with one of his best friends Themba Searles since they were 17.

love was made for these times is available for purchase and download on Bandcamp here.