White Crate — April 16, 2021
Read up on the experimental musical legacy of Mills College, explore the explosion in new SF rap, and revisit an Afro-Cuban jazz joy of an album from last summer
Like many people, last month I was disappointed to hear the news about Oakland’s 169-year-old Mills College. For those unfamiliar, the private liberal arts women’s college announced that, after granting its last degrees in 2023, it will transition to an institute focused on women’s leadership, gender and racial equity, and more.
But I confess I was ignorant of the college’s impact on experimental music:
The musical legacy of Mills College is dauntingly vast. Just listing all the artists who have passed through as students and professors—figures as diverse as Terry Riley, Laurie Anderson, Phil Lesh, and Joanna Newsom—could take days. […] Mills (whose undergraduates are solely women, but whose graduate program is co-ed) has birthed so much fascinating work, it’s hard to imagine what American experimental music over the past 100 years would sound like without it.
And so now I'm blasting a 33-minute piece called "Alien Bog/Beautiful Soop" by electronic music innovator Pauline Oliveros and imagining I’m hearing the alien-sounding frog pond outside her window at Mills. To learn more, be sure to check out Bandcamp’s full piece - A Guide to the Extensive Musical Legacy of Mills College.
On a separate note, there’s another thing I overlooked for a long time but recently opened my eyes to: If you don’t think there’s a rich hip hop scene in the Bay Area, you’re not paying attention. Just over the past few months, I’ve gotten hooked on a wide variety of rappers and producers like Dregs One, the Watershed, Guapdad 4000, DÆMON, and Ian Kelly. And, you might be surprised to know, a lot of the action is happening in SF right now. According to local legend Equipto:
Frisco ain’t never really had that highlight—the Bay Area might've—but Frisco never really had that run. And that’s what’s cultivating right now. There's more eyes are on San Francisco.
To dig in, check out this great new KQED Piece: A Salute to San Francisco Rap.
THAT NEW NEW
Described on Bandcamp New & Notable as “a work of cinematic reach and breadth,” A Shadow No Light Could Make is the latest release from Bay Area mastering engineer, sound designer, and producer Nathan Moody. The dark ambient and classical album employs a wide variety of sounds, from violin and voice to synthesizers and found objects.
Hitta Slim, a Richmond rapper signed to E-40's Sick Wid It Records, has released a bunch of new singles, including “I’m Out”, “The Beach”, and “Lean on Me” (featuring Mistah F.A.B.), which has a video premiering later this morning.
Alameda-based Bad Time Records opened up pre-orders for I Can't Take it Anymore by New Orleans ska punk group Joystick!
Following the release of his debut album Tembo Kia Ngoma last month, Kiazi Malonga brings his Congolese drumming to “Réunion des Tambours”, an electronic production also featuring drummers Jeff Pierre (Haiti) and Boris Reine-Adelaide (Martinique).
Alt-folk pop group The Lost Days released Lost Demos, “a project inspired by late night guitars, cheap wine, faded memories, close harmonies, Bill Fox, Daniel Johnston, and the Byrds.” Recorded in an Oakland living room in 2019, the release features four original songs plus a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “To Go Home.”
Oakland experimental R&B artist SPELLLING announced her upcoming album The Turning Wheel (due out June 25), and released its opening track “Little Deer” as the first single.
What began as a tape label has become a platform designed to help artists who, due systemic oppression, might not have had the resources or opportunities to release music otherwise. Today, Ratskin is a family of artists dedicated to shattering genres.
Ratskin Records has been home to artists like Dax Pierson, Daddona, Tieraney Carter (aka Wizard Apprentice), Sharmi Basu (aka Beast Nest), Golden Champagne Flavored Sweatshirt, and SPELLLING. Released at the end of March, the label’s latest is Nightmare In Paradise, a Black classical, neo-soul work by Tyler Holmes.
Last June, Cuban and Bay Area singer Bobi Céspedes released Mujer y Cantante, her third solo album. Backed by a full Latin jazz band of bass, bongos, güiro, congas, coro, guitar, piano, trumpet, and beyond, the artist sounds inspired by the same performers she has shared the stage with, including Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Rubén Blades.
Living in the Bay Area gave me a lot of freedom to express myself, to come up with new things, to try new things and new ideas. I have always been busy with one project or another, and I think that I have given a lot to the community in regards to the music. This area has been a blessing for my culture and for my development as an artist. I’ve traveled all over the world, but I consider California, the Bay Area, the best place to express yourself culturally and artistically.
After my Lakeview/Oceanview buddy turned me onto the news that Alien Mac Kitty (AMK)—daughter of late SF rapper Ronald Fields (aka Cougnut)—had got a hold of the rights to her dad’s music, I had to keep digging. A lot of local hip hop heads have probably listened to everything by Cougnut, his crew, and all intersecting circles, but it’s all new to me. First stop for me was Silenced by the Greed.
And goddamn it’s good.
As far as I know, it was the only album released by Oakland rapper and producer Edward Lewis, aka Lex A.D. It’s almost an hour of pure mid-90s G-funk. Beyond the back-to-back tracks “Bay Luv” (feat. Cougnut) and “West Coast Thang,” the whole album slaps that chill, smoked up, hustlin but bumpin funk that makes Cali hip hop so irresistible.
If you ever want to press play on the growing list of artists covered on White Crate, follow this Spotify playlist. Shuffle and crossfade recommended!