The latter name on the list is the latest incarnation of Negashi Armada (formerly of Supreeme and former Crib Notes scribe). I caught up with Negashi on Christmas eve and he told me all about what he has in store.
Negashi Armada: When I first started making solo records I wanted to come up with a new way to make music. It’s not like I wanted to change genres, I still wanted to make rap music. But when you make music you come up with different rules in your head. With Blunt Fang I tried to break some of those rules and even make up new ones. For example, when I write melodies I try to make sure that it doesn't sound like the ‘70s, or soulful in that way because you’ll find yourself sounding like Outkast, and one of the most soulless things you can do, especially if you’re trying to have a sense of soul or heart with your music, is sound like Outkast, here in Atlanta. It’s a band wagon that’s way overdone at this point. …As much as I appreciate Aquemini and ATLiens and all of those records. Cee-Lo is another one that I stay away from. I don’t listen to it. I respect him as an artist, and I try to steer clear from pretty much all of the Dungeon Family stuff unless it’s Witchdoctor. Part of my thing, and part of Supreeme's thing was to take these unsung rap icons and kind of borrow from them.
What has been an influence on Blunt Fang’s songs?
What’s been a big influence on these songs are the first Dinosaur Jr. album and Zuma by Neil Young. The kind of emotions in a lot of Neil Young’s songs affects me. I do like the super sappy stuff, like Harvest Moon, I can’t even front… But a lot of the more electric stuff, the Crazy Horse stuff, gives me the same feelings that I get from a lot of rap music. It makes me think about the same characters that I see in my life.
Also, I use a lot of similar instruments that you hear on Dinosaur Jr’s first album. They use a Casio keyboard, which is pretty much like the one that I use. I used to be really into shoegazer stuff too, Like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, and I still think that stuff is really pretty, and still has a big effect on me. But I wanted to make stuff that punches you in the chest a little more.
Tell me about the mixtape that you have in the works.
I have a mixtape coming up called BFF which stands for Blunt Fang Forever. Tom Cruz from Supreeme will be on there. King Self, Jay Young, Fat Tony, and B L A C K I E. He’s been a big influence on Blunt Fang, absolutely. He’s a friend from Houston. I hate to come up with a quick title for it like this, but he makes “noise crunk.” He built his own sound system that’s like a wall of PAs and he makes all of the beats with analogue beat machines, and it’s super loud, super fast. It’s like Three-6 Mafia meets hardcore punk. He’s one of the first people that I’ve ever seen gracefully introduce both influences in a way that’s not corny or hokey. The thing about blending those influences is that a guitar is just a guitar and a drum is just a drum. Genre distinctions are things that we make up in our heads. If you listen to a song that was made in the ‘60s like Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the ending is just like screaming and people are banging really loud floor toms. If you were to take just a second of that music and loop it you would have a noise song. B L A C K I E was the first person to really show me that you can be hard and loud and fast and rock and roll, and rap.
Also, I’ve always loved cartoons. A lot of Blunt Fang’s sound has that ‘90s punk aesthetic that doesn’t really exist. It was made up by TV shows for kids, like the electric guitars at the beginning of the Power Rangers. That type of sound has been a big influence on Blunt Fang. If you think about it, that’s some of the first music that you listen to on a regular basis. A lot of times I’ll go back and listen to it and realize that I like it a lot more than a lot of contemporary music.
This all sounds like a very experimental, but very natural and personal take on hip-hop music, which has largely been defined by its more commercial characters over the last several years.
Yeah, but that’s changing. People like Lil B and Tyler the Creator have made this a really exciting time for the music. When I talk to people who are on the outside of it I hear things like “All rap sucks these days. The new Jay-Z album is horrible.” Well yeah, if you keep looking in the same places you’re going to be disappointed by the same faces. But there are a lot of new cats in the game that I really like. But if you take someone like Drake, for example - no disrespect to the guy - but there’s a fine line that you have to straddle between pandering to audiences and making genuine connections with an audience. Pimp C, Cam’Ron are people that I really like, but they say things that I personally do not like. I feel like Drake, and a lot of modern rappers, just try to say things that they think everyone will like. Pimp C, on the other hand, will talk about how you can see a girl’s hairy asshole while she’s stripping. No one wants to hear about that, but it is a real part of the human anatomy.
I’m glad that people like Lil B exist because it seems like they truly have taken hip-hop to a new place.
It will always be about having a cool image: a cool idea of a person, or someone that you think is cool, or fucked up. But now if you’re an interpreting guy or an interesting woman with something interesting to say there is a place for you in the rap world. For a while there it seemed like they were trying to close that door. But now it seems like it’s open wider than ever. I even like Flockaveli a lot. I like the production that Lex Luger does. It’s like crunk on crack.
Tell me about the Blunt Fang track you’ve given us to post here.
It’s a BFF freestyle to give you a little taste of the flavor I’m putting down.
I'm recording the mixtape at Thug Mansion Jr. Studios. But Fangstyle is just old school king of lo-fi rap shit that I made at Pride Rock (my house).
A big piece of Blunt Fang, besides the Zuma/Dinosaur Jr. amp fuzz stoner-punk shit is fruity "gay" cartooney swaggey instruments because I feel like nothing is more hard than making something hard with soft components.
With Cross Burner I had to play everything start to finish like a metronome. Every drum hit, every key. My dumb ass finally figured out how to loop things in GarageBand a few weeks ago. So now my songs have a backbone that I can always count on to be there. This one samples a Dragon Ball movie called called The Path To Power.
Being a teenager in Atlanta I always felt like I had to repress a lot of my dorkier, cartoon and comic book tendencies. But when you’re younger everyone’s into that shit. The soundtracks to some of those things are so good and so epic. Something that I’ve been realizing lately by watching a lot of Looney Tunes is that in old time musicals and stuff, people had this system of sounds in their minds that associated feelings with certain sounds and events, all because of opera. Looney Tunes took opera to the next level. If you watch an opera and something scary is happening, you can hear it. Or something silly happens, like the sound of someone slipping on a banana peel, you know the sound associated with that. But you don’t see that anymore. To me, the ‘90s was the end of a thousand years of culture. In the ‘90s kids still watched Scooby-Doo and Looney Tunes and people still had back-up dancers in their videos. Things were still connected to the old show business traditions. I grew up during that time and that’s the biggest influence on my music. Also, when I go back and listen to super old and really obscure proto crunk stuff there’s a ton of inspiration there. There was a group that I could never figure out their name. They’re either called SWAT Team or Unforgiven. Nobody else really knows, either. They might have been from Decatur and they had a song called “Buck On Dem Hoes.” It’s riddled with gunshots and it’s so pre Wacka Flocka that it’s not even funny. The first time I heard that song I knew it was time to go home.
Related: God Bless Supreeme (includes download links to Supreeme's entire discography)
Beck and Alabama Shakes...that's about it. I'm sure there's an unknown or two I would…
Well, this years Music Midtown sucks!
I'm pretty sure he was 19.
3 people apparently love handing over an extra 40% in fees for nothing in return…
Dang. I thought they would name some actual headliners.
Forgot to mention that Iggy did a stellar show @ the Agora in the spring…