music

Uptown Art House Debuts Converge Series with U Street Music Hall by Maxwell Young

Uptown Art House’s fall programming with U Street Music Hall. Graphic design by  St. Clair Castro  of Open Source.

Uptown Art House’s fall programming with U Street Music Hall. Graphic design by St. Clair Castro of Open Source.

Following the exodus from their studio space in Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C., Uptown Art House has focused their attention on collaborating with storied institutions within the local community—creating without borders. In partnership with U Street Music Hall, one of the District’s premiere concert venues (GoldLink recently sold out three nights here), the Art House presents Converge, fall programming on Wednesday nights from 10pm until 2am.

“Gentrification” is one of those buzz words used frequently amongst the creative ecosystem in D.C. due to the displacement of studio space, DIY venues, and residences the phenomenon causes. There’s more on that in this Washington City Paper article featuring Uptown Art House. The reality is the artistic identity is changing in the nation’s capital. Punk, Go-go, and funk communities that defined a predominantly African American city in the mid to late 20th century have been stripped out and re-built as indie-rock, moombahton, and trip-hop communities that represent an evolving white, young professional population. Through the intersection of experimental sound, media, and movement, Converge aims to bridge these gaps between music, art, and society. Burgeoning pockets of D.C.’s music community will be on display as the Art House taps local collectives and DJs to curate specific nights. Below is a highlight of the first three curators of Converge.

September 26 - DJs Underdog & Native Sun

Converge debuts this Wednesday with DJs Underdog and Native Sun. Expect a fusion of global sounds from the D.C.-based disc jockeys, as they have both played for prominent festivals such as Afro Punk. Underdog is a graphic designer for National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institute, and OKAYAFRICA, an editorial website amplifying African culture. Underdog’s sets delve in futurism and play with modern aesthetics without conformity, while Native Sun is known as a melodic archivist, exploring the connections between mainstream and underground cultures.

October 10 - Last Niight

InTheRough first learned of the Last Niight collective during one of their DJ sets at Funk Parade 2017. Roll forward a year and a half later and the DMV collective is hosting their first squad show on October 10th. Comprised of DJs and emcees Koleco, Murjoni, TheAntiSocial, MFundishi, Frankliin, JustJuWit, and Martin J Ballou, Last Niight will convey a full sonic spectrum.

October 17 - UUV Adrenaline Tour

UUV might be most visible as a clothing brand, but its creative direction by Lordy Agency is heavily intertwined with the documentation and elevation of music. Whether it’s D.C.’s rich skateboarding or Go-go communities, founder Naeem Khaliq’s influences behind his Converge curation are rooted in adrenaline culture. Performances by El Cousteau, Ankhle John, Landlord Sho, Mista Selecta, and Lul Bro Bro will amplify the intrinsic energy that surrounds the streets of Washington, D.C.

U Street Music Hall

1115A U ST, NW

Washington, D.C. 20009

NVSV Directs Library Collaborative Tour & Breaks Down Life, Music, and a Beat by Alex Young

Know Pittsburgh Hip-Hop and the New Studio Making It

NVSV in Library Collaborative's green screen room | photograph by Alex Young

NVSV in Library Collaborative's green screen room | photograph by Alex Young

While talking about the benefits of signing a record deal, the rapper NVSV's (NASA) manager, Chanice Lazarre, popped her head in his yellow and blue studio-office to ask, "do you want to do a show at Diesel," the club on Pittsburgh's South Side. The 24-year-old music producer and rapper said yes as he appreciates the exposure.

Through that show and others, and credit to his management at Library Collaborative's independent record label, NVSV has cemented himself as a contributing member of the 'Burgh's local hip-hop scene by taking opportunities to perform. He performed a trap hip-hop show in Butler, Pa. and performed at James Street Gastropub on the North Side last weekend.

NVSV's music features "a lot of personal experience, lessons, and self-reflection. I want people to see what I'm living through," he said.

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At Library Collaborative, "we have artists on the label right now. I am one of them. Then there's Juice, L K Hae, he's like an alternative rock type act, and Tremoravia, he's like a hard rock guy," NVSV said. SMTATOE, a guitarist and pianist, as well as the rapper Vapo Reeves benefit from the label's resources. The diversity of the Library's in-house artists is the best resource. "We definitely have a catalog or library of musicians from different backgrounds," he said.  If "I need these [piano] keys, I can go around the corner and be like, 'Smitty [SMTATOE], can you play these keys for me?' And Smitty is damn near a classically trained pianist."

"Everyone is feeding off everyone else's process, so you end up learning a lot about how all the artists here approach what they do," SMTATOE said. "I've learned a lot from just trying new approaches I wouldn't have tried."

NVSV's appreciation for eclectic styles of music came from his childhood while he grew up in Baltimore. "I listened to a lot of everything... There was a lot of house music and a lot of gospel music. With my mom, I grew up Christian. I went to Catholic schools," he said.

Listeners of NVSV can draw comparisons to Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco. He said he relates to Chicago music the most, and that the listener needs to accept what they're not accustomed to.  "I don't get too caught up in the braggadocios [raps]," NVSV said.

Importantly, NVSV saw education as his way out of the 'hood. Music "was a hobby" of his while he matriculated through school. "When all of my friends are going to the zone school, and they see me going to school with a suit and tie on, I knew education would always be my way out of the city," NVSV said.

It wasn't until NVSV attended The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2011 when he understood the profitability of making music. "I encountered a lot of people who were artistic in their respect," he said. One of the owners of Library Collaborative, Shane Johnson, attended The Art Institute and that's how NVSV learned about the studio.

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After graduation in 2015 with a degree in Industrial Design, NVSV, officially Aaron Adkinson, took a job with Invent Help where he did 3D printing. He'd head straight to the Library after his nine to five shift, and he'd stay there until three in the morning producing all the beats he'd rap over (he produces under the moniker SWGLTUUF). "The owners saw the drive of the musicians they had here. It's just a dedication to that craft that made the owners go forward and start a record label," NVSV said.

The Library Collaborative opened its doors as a full-service multi-media recording studio in Pittsburgh's South Hills on October 13, 2017. They have rooms for recording live instrumentation with guitars and drums, a full environment green screen, a projector room, and more. Artists on the label, like NVSV and SMTATOE, help run the studio's operations and manage clients.

Further, the Library focuses on "making sure the quality of all of our work is up to par, all of it is seen and respected as such," Juice said. Raising the bar of "the music itself but also in the events that the scene provides."

Right now, Pittsburgh is doing well because the art scene is flourishing. Me as an artist, I feel like this place as a sanctuary for artists to come to is going to be on the up and up. I’m not trying to run away from Pittsburgh anytime soon.
— NVSV

Although the city thrives creatively, people, especially rappers like Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, tend to go elsewhere to make names for themselves and come back to visit home when convenient. NVSV wants to be part of the crop of people who stay in the 'Burgh and be the "poster children" for the community. "We need to become the promoters. We're in touch with the culture" he said.

NVSV said he is "hopeful for the future" in Pittsburgh. "By playing, creating and working hard we can inspire the same people that inspire us," Juice said.


ITR: Whenever you were little, who were you listening to?

NVSV: Growing up I listened to a lot of everything. I'm from Baltimore, so there was a lot of house music and a lot of gospel music. With my mom, I grew up Christian. I went to Catholic schools. My mom kept me in private schools because she didn't want me to fall into that crowd which was a crowd I'm familiar with 'cause I grew up in the 'hood. When all of my friends are going to the zone school, and they see me going to school with a suit and tie on, I knew education would always be my way out of the city. When I see people I grew up with pursuing music as their ticket out, I understand that. You do need to get out and school is not for everybody, but I knew that was my way. As far as music, during that transition, I was susceptible to everything. What I listened to really was Jay Z, Lupe, and Kanye. Ludacris too. Ludacris was the first CD I bought. Fuckin' "Chicken and Beer." As of now, we have so many vinyl records here and so many other forms of music that I wasn't aware of before. It's just opened my ear.

ITR: Talk about the artistic freedom you have here at Library Collaborative or the tools that are here and not elsewhere.

NVSV: The perspective of other musicians. I can sit here and twiddle at a beat for hours and I'm like, 'I need these keys.' I can go around the corner and be like, 'Smitty (SMTATOE), can you play these keys for me?' And Smitty is damn near a classically trained pianist. [laughs] I don't have to sample. I can sit here with someone and we bond over music and they express what they're feeling over what I did. It's Library Collaborative because there's a lot of collaboration going on. We don't turn down an opportunity to collaborate. All the projects we've released under the label, every artist that's ever worked here is on each one of those projects. I know a song that I perform called "Entropy" that people love. It was from my last album called "Mystic." It was just a cool song to me and not anything serious. It's me and L K Hae and I just asked him to throw me some guitar lines on it. People love that song and I wasn't expecting them to feel that way towards it. That's a testament to his talent.

ITR: Do you know Geechi P?

NVSV: Yeah.

ITR: He loves that song, "Entropy." We like "Swim At Own Risk" on your "Bamboo" project. What do you like to speak on in your music?

NVSV: It's funny you said that. That song was an inspiration. I've always been NVSV (NASA) and I got it from a college friend. She used to call me NEVA SOBA because every time she saw me I always had a blunt in my ear. I turned that into NVSV since 2012. When I first got here to the studio, I was doing a lot of my own stuff and it was my first time seeing a guitarist and a live drummer. It was new to me so I wanted to do something with that so I created a band called EVRTH (earth). We dismembered, but I wanted to do something different. This genre was neo-soul, Fugees-esque. 'Swim At Your Own Risk' is inspired by a song called 'Oceans' that EVRTH performed. It was written as a double entendre for women as a body of water and as a life force for the world. My writing process is a lot of personal experience, lessons, and self-reflection. I don't get too caught up in the braggadocios. I want people to see what I'm living through.

ITR: What has Pittsburgh meant to you? Were you involved in the creative community in Baltimore before you left to notice a difference or similarity between the two cities?

NVSV: A little bit but it's different when you're doing that as a child to when you're an adult. In Baltimore, I attended the Baltimore School for the Arts until I got kicked out [laughs]. I've always been artistically inclined. So, in Baltimore in 2009, they started cutting art programs. I knew people who didn't have art in school. I'm fortunate to go to private schools so we have art. It was something I felt like I was wasting while I was there and I could have done more with. In Pittsburgh, the Art Institute was my first choice. People are like, 'you chose to come here?' Yeah because I wanted to be an industrial designer and they had Industrial Design. The only other Art Institute that had that was in Orlando so I knew I'd be on the beach all day and I would've failed. It was strategic planning coming to Pittsburgh. When I got here, it was a lot of diversity. I never looked at people as different races because growing up in the inner-city all you see is one race. I remember telling people here I thought white people were exclusive to teachers. [laughs] You know? I didn't think they did anything else in the world. Coming here to Pittsburgh was one of my first times seeing an inter-racial relationship. That opened my eyes to a lot more. They're mixing here and I knew that they've always been mixing. My mom wanted me to go to an H.B.C.U. and I told her that the world isn't black [laughs] and she gave me shit for it. You can't win in a world with all black thinking because that's not what the world is.

ITR: Is Pittsburgh a place you continue to see yourself?

NVSV: Right now, Pittsburgh is doing well because the art scene is flourishing. Me as an artist, I feel like this place as a sanctuary for artists to come to is going to be on the up and up. I'm not trying to run away from Pittsburgh anytime soon. They're going to be poster children and I feel like we are in a position to do that. You guys also. I see you guys everywhere. Reviving Real just to name a couple. I'll be here for a little bit. If I do go anywhere, it'll be overseas. My end goal is to be in Africa. I do music differently from why other people do music. Of course for the money, but what I want to do with my money is different from other people. I still have that industrial design background in mind. Once I do make these millions on millions, my plan is to buy land and start a self-sufficient community, hopefully, a city one day. I have blueprints and shit already. I want to build a city inside of a mountain. I have some architecture friends. I just need to meet some engineers. That's another thing I can attribute to Pittsburgh, meeting people from different fields of studies. I can definitely say thank you to Keep Pittsburgh Dope and them. Just for rubbing shoulders with aeronautics guys like last time I was at Creatives Drink. I met this guy who designed airplanes. We're just being drunk together. It's an experience you can't get anywhere else, and if you can get it somewhere else it needs to be publicized. It's the new age fraternal system or partnerships for life.

ITR: Do you feel like you can achieve your artistic goals in Pittsburgh? Do you think the city moves fast enough? Things happen here but people don't see trends quick enough.

NVSV: Right now, no. But I'm hopeful for the future. It's a big city small town type aspect, but it's like, you ever see the movies with the high school football star of the small town and he doesn't make it to the league? But he goes on to own the local car dealership. [laughs] That's the hero though. That's what Pittsburgh is. They want that local star to come up, but they want him to come up and stay here.

ITR: How do we keep people here? When you look at Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, they came up here and left. But, when you look at these Jimmy Wopo interviews, he's talking about keeping the attention in the city. How can people like yourself keep the community here so that attention stays here?

NVSV: We need to become the promoters. Right now, there's a monopoly on that with Drusky Entertainment and Opus One. I won't even call them promoters. They tell you who is coming to town and they tell you to sell these tickets. They don't promote anything themselves because it's up to the artist to do it. When I'm telling people about 24hrs and people are like, 'who the fuck is that' I'm like 'bro you have no idea.' Then 24 is hitting me up like, 'bro this shit's not sold out.' 'I don't know what you want me to do. I sold these 50 tickets they gave me.' I feel like promoting isn't here in the city. We need a promotion agency to bring these popular acts and that's why they are skipping over Pittsburgh.

More from NVSV:

+ "You have to remember people are sponges."

+ Check out the collaboration with Chicago rapper Qari.

+ "Art is all about risk."

+ "I like when producers drop albums because you can see what they want to hear."

+ "Producing for people is hard when they tell you 'make a beat like this.'"

+ "I love Pittsburgh for what it's given me."

[NVSV & Library Collaborative Video Tracklist in Order: "Déteste (Here's To You Instrumental)" by Yung Mulatto, "UDN2K" by Saani Mac, "No Lil Pups" by Pk Delay, "FlyClassWeirdo (Intro)" by R.D.P., and "Drop" by SWGLTUUF. 'Burgh Noise, of course.]

The Uptown Interview by Maxwell Young

'The Uptown Interview' is a series of candid conversations with some of D.C.'s cultural influencers in an attempt to interpret and preserve the artistic heritage of the city.  In homage to the late Hugh Hefner and 'The Playboy Interview,' InTheRough sat down with two of the most dynamic forces in the District's creative ecosystem: producer/singer Davon Bryant aka Dreamcast and journalist/D.C. cultural archivist Marcus Dowling.  Read on for a couple excerpts from the conversations, and head to the Uptown Art House website for the full interviews. 


Davon Bryant photograph by Maxwell Young

Davon Bryant photograph by Maxwell Young

Dreamcast on making "sit down" music...

MY: So, a full album,  When can we expect that?

DB: I’m thinking within the next 3 to 4 months, man.  I need to have it out.  I really wanna maximize me being on the radio now to push it.  I’m just having fun with it dude, like, it’s really not a job right now.

MY: Is that the main thing you do?

DB: I was just working at a dental office for maybe 6 months to a year, and I ended that before I went to Europe.  But what I’m focusing on now is just making some new content.  I just wanna make some shit that makes people sit down.  There’s so much turn up music.  I want to have that same realm of performances as James Blake, where people come and sit down.  They stand when they really feel the music.  You don’t have to be turnt up.  I want you to come on some acid.

MY: That’s some jam-band shit.  Some Grateful Dead shit.

DB: Yea and just enjoy yourself.  There’s no pressure to look like you’re going to the club.

Marcus Dowling

Marcus Dowling

Marcus Dowling on D.C. being great unto itself...

MD: Before Obama was elected, things would happen in the darkness and they would be amazing.  They would be amazing unto themselves.  There was no mainstream for it.  The Fleur Guys were booking Armin Van Buuren and Tiesto and all of that, and they were killing it.  But it wasn’t like they were killing it and the world needed to know.  Like they could make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and nobody knew.  There was no need for D.C. to become this explosive and expansive scene.

MY: Why do you think that is though?

MD: Because D.C. was a federal town at this point.  D.C. was a government town first and an arts town second.  A government town first and a creative hub second.  When we had jazz and we had go-go, these were things that were nationally renowned if only because people from other places came here and took the culture to their hometown.  Rick Rubin would come down for Junk Yard shows all the time.  So, if you wanna understand how go-go expanded outside of D.C., Rick Rubin would come down to punk and hardcore shows and book go-go bands as the openers.  So you would get Fugazi and Junk Yard Band on a bill.  So, when he started Def Jam with Russell Simmons, he’s like, “Okay, we have to make rap records that are sonically different.”  And Rick was into this sound that’s brash and big and tough.  So, he’s listening to Junk Yard and Trouble Funk and all these bands and he’s like, “Wait, the drums on these tracks are ridiculous.  The rhythms on these tracks are ridiculous.  The least I could do is get these guys up to New York and have them play, so I can sample their drums and rhythms.”  And that’s what he did.  That’s how Trouble Funk’s “Dropped the Bomb” got sampled and Junk Yard Band got signed to a record deal.  And that was only because Rick Rubin was coming down to D.C.  Had he never come down here, the music would’ve never left.  D.C. has been great unto itself, like legendary great.  Not just great in a way where it’s just “cool,” but legendarily great unto itself.

Yung Mulatto Illustrates the Hip-Hop Sound from Pittsburgh by Alex Young

Yung Mulatto photograph by Alex Young

Yung Mulatto photograph by Alex Young

Yung Mulatto can't help his native Southern Charm. He's the type to brew fresh tea leaves for a house guest. Tea time is one of Mulatto's hobbies, "just like doodling has always been," he said. The transplant makes a good impression upon Pittsburgh's resident artists and cool makers. 

Officially named Miles Saal, 20-year-old Mulatto speaks optimistically about his time in the city. "Pittsburgh is nothing like my hometown," he said. "There weren't a lot of arts programs at my magnet high school in Jacksonville, Florida." When he moved to the 'Burgh in 2013, Creative And Performing Arts High School opened the doors for Mulatto to explore his artistry and ingenuity. "A lot of agreeable people here" get his vision.

As an illustrator and music producer, Mulatto satisfies his desires while "trying to connect people with other people," he said. 

At eight-years-old, he handled the piano and the double bass. In high school, he played the trumpet. Since dropping out of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he studied music and film, Mulatto began to produce hip-hop. "I wanted to know more about the local scene beyond Mac and Wiz," Mulatto said.

He adores Pittsburgh for the creative people he meets. CAPA is the reason Mulatto met young rapper, James Perry. The big city, small town vibe familiarizes Mulatto with social circles. Although, SoundCloud digging and the unification of his drawing and musical skills puts Mulatto in the center of Pittsburgh's underground hip-hop community.

Mulatto's sphere of influence grows from drawing cover art for rap mixtapes or Local 412 Trading Cards done on coffee sleeves that idolize the 'Burgh's hip-hop heroes, like Pk Delay in a fur coat from his "M's" cover. Mulatto shouts out the scene regularly and casually. He doodles when he's working at the Jitters coffee shop in Shady Side. He selects local rappers, like Patches, to play through the shop's speakers. What goes in Mulatto's ears travels out of his hand on to the trading cards. The coffee sleeve drawings depict the life of the hip-hop scene and its actors like cartoons. "Danny Phantom, Anime, and Adventure Time are huge influences on my drawing style."

Importantly, Mulatto's work archives what is happening now creatively in popular Pittsburgh. He wrote out a long list of everyone he knew who made hip-hop here and the list travels as a beacon throughout social media space. Wait until the radar detects it.

The respect Mulatto has for the music community breathes organic collaborations with other artists. He drew the "Astro O2" album art for youth rap star Blackboi, and Mulatto sent him beats. Another rapper in Akono Miles received a storyboard cartoon about textbooks from Mulatto. "Cover art is the visual connection with music." Additionally, he joined with lifestyle label Reviving Real to release a mix featuring 15 local artists. He also drew the mix's artwork and placed some of his beats on the project. 

He knows the rap history. "The Bushnel is one of my favorite spots in Pittsburgh," he said. A lot of musicians throw house parties at that venue in the Oakland neighborhood. "I heard extensively about the Shadow Lounge when I moved here."

While exploring the landscape, Mulatto has become a fan of R&B artist Amir Miles and boom bap producer C. Scott.

[I’m] trying to connect people with other people.

Further, Mulatto's beat tapes are tranquil. His production matches the realism in his doodles. Listeners hear suave trumpets. His sounds come to life, and diverse instrumentation builds his music. "Producers shape where the sound will go," he said. "Sampling is big," too. "I kinda want to make the weirdest hip-hop possible. The kind that makes you turn your ear and say, 'This is amazing!'" For a reference, Mulatto likens himself to legendary hip-hop acts like Danger Doom, Outkast, Lil  B, and Tyler The Creator.

Ultimately, Mulatto calls himself a "big picture guy" and must thank the community he engages with and honors. "Pittsburgh has been really good to me," he said. Good times continue on September 16 at The Bushnel where Yung Mulatto hosts a birthday show.

 

Thrival Combines Innovation and Music in Pittsburgh by Alex Young

With its blue-collar industry past, Pittsburgh now reinvents itself as a rising technology hub and do-it-yourself, entrepreneurial boomtown. New and creative ideas breathe throughout the city and a welcoming market support the enterprising spirit.

Three years ago, Thrival Innovation + Music Festival was one of the new and creative ideas in town. The forum provokes thought and the arts due to "innovation-focused programs punctuated by a weekend concert featuring some of the best emerging national music acts and top-tier headliners." The event also seeks to "introduce Pittsburgh as the world leader in post-industrial economic development."

Thrival, part of the Thrill Mill, Inc. nonprofit group, is attractive because it serves as an "incubator and accelerator for early-stage entrepreneurs," while providing a contemporary music outlet. Many people flock to the event, 2,000 showed the first year, 7,000 the second year, and 10,000 people attended in 2015.

Looking for continuous growth in 2016, Thrival is set to put on a bigger production than ever before. The Innovation portion will feature three days each with a separate theme. There will be four keynote speakers, more than 30 programs, and more than 50 total speakers. For example, Dr. Bennett Omalu, the man who discovered "CTE" and its link to professional football during his work in Pittsburgh, and Eugene Robinson, a journalist and Washington Post contributor, will give keynote talks. Programs hit on subjects like the rise of podcasts, food culture, and "How to Build a Music Town."

Innovative interactions will run Tuesday, September 20 through Thursday, Septemeber 22 at places like Alloy 26 Auditorium and New Hazlett Theatre on the North Side of Pittsburgh. After, Thrival's weekend music festival kicks off on Friday, Septemeber 23 to Saturday, Septemeber 24. Headliners include electronic act The Chainsmokers, DJ and producer Hudson Mohawke, hip-hop specialist Ty Dolla $ign, and more. The concert site pays homage to Pittsburgh's old industry ways as Carrie Furnaces, a former steel plant in the Swissvale and Rankin, Pa. neighborhood, will host two stages for musical performances.

In an effort to promote Thrival's musical event, Pittsburgh-based, cultural publication Jenesis Magazine produced several 10-minute music mixes by local DJs. Artists like Christo and DJ Topgun sample some sounds attendees will hear next weekend. Listen to all of the mixes here and go to Boom Concepts tonight from 7-10 p.m. to hear the mixes played live.

For more Thrival information, tickets, and venue locations go here.

Carrie Furnaces

623 E. Eighth Avenue

Homestead, PA 15210

 

Boom Concepts

5139 Penn Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15224