eyes opened wide.

South By Southwest 2010

Autor Jesse Abraham | 31.03.2010 | Category Uncategorized

Pre-SXSW 8:AM Freestyle

So my homie who was kind enough to put me up for the 5 days I was gonna be in Austin for the 2010 SXSW Festival was running late picking me up from the airport. No huge deal. It was early in the evening, I had a phone interview in a few hours, and what seemed to be the only attractive non-smoking female on the entire airport premises had just sat down next to me.  No buds in her ears and fresh off a phone call, she was unobstructed. I engaged, “Wanna be the first person I meet in Austin?”  And so it began – the quest for connections, ascension, attention and affection. Time to be ostentatious in Austin, Texas.

Turns out this wasn’t just some cute girl. A blogger? A hip-hop blogger!? Well well…this could go in many interesting directions. (It went nowhere…) But what it was was a sign of what SXSW was all about. Everyone was there with a purpose – whether it was your intention to enjoy the show or be the show, it was gonna be what you made of it.  I had 4 priorities on this adventure:

1. Hit as many stages/microphones/cameras as possible.

2. Connect to music folk with whom I would not normally have a chance to get face time.

3. Take advantage of the opportunity to build with artists on a more personal level, as only a psychotically unique experience like SXSW can provide.

4. Explore.

The physical position I’m currently in is quite uncomfortable. (I’m typing this while enduring the flu, which is apparently a common offspring begotten by musicians and SXSW.)  Adjustment…

Oh, and I’m acting like the experience of getting myself from Brooklyn to Texas was insipid or flavorless. As if I could do something like fly 2000 miles to a music festival in a mundane manner.

Jesse Abraham @ LGA Airport, en route to SXSW 2010

So…Upon hitting 6th Street my first night out in Austin, I realized something: It was St. Patrick’s Day.  Normally on nights such as these I do everything I can to avoid large crowds.  However, I’ve been on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, Mumbai during Monsoon season, and Barcelona on July 4th…well that was actually a pretty mellow night.  But this – this collection of moonstruck musical madcaps was madness. By the night’s end, after witnessing inspiring sets by XV, Miz Metro, The Beatards, and The Bad Rabbits, and sharing verbal space with a number of faces, old and new, I found myself walking to a friend’s apartment.  My accomplice for the week, the homie Premonition, and I simultaneously came to a halt as we absorbed the sight immediately surrounding us.  A couple was being driven in a cart by a man mounted on a horse next to a woman lying face first on the sidewalk crying across from a bleeding guy being handcuffed by a cop outside of a night club that was alleviating itself of its hundreds of satisfied patrons as a woman dressed as a leprechaun played the flute to a dog and there were fire trucks.

Jesse Abraham & Premonition seek refuge @ SXSW \’10

This was five hours into a five-day-long enterprise.  I woke up the next morning with plans of investigating the industry side of SXSW.  I wandered into the Austin Convention Center for a few Demo Listening Sessions.  Artists would drop their CD singles into a crate to be picked at random and critiqued by the esteemed panelists. The panel for the general listening session was comprised of Don DeBiase (big-shot producer/writer from Cleveland), Lawrence Gelburd (producer, owner of Gelboni Productions in Philly), and Marc Wilson (Manager/A&R for Warner Music in LA).  50 minutes into the hour-long event, my CD was grabbed.  Given the quality of the work that had been presented thus far, and the level of enthusiasm that was shown for such work, I was nothing but excited for my at-bat.  It was gratifying to hear my newest song, Spiderman on Vitamins (infinite shouts to Spills), blasted on some loud speakers to a room full of musical dignitaries.  It’s possible I bobbed my head more voluntarily than usual at that moment, but the panel could tell how confident I was in my product and they all made a point to express how much that matters in terms of an artist’s potential to succeed.  Marc expressed his concern that the first verse wasn’t hard hitting enough in terms of the lyrical content (which I agree with), Lawrence was into it without hesitation and Don, although he compared me to Vanilla Ice & ICP, was overwhelmingly supportive as well.  (Since returning from Austin I’ve been building with Don & Lawrence…they’re groovy dudes…)

So that was entertaining and constructive. The next Demo Listening sesh wasn’t for another couple of hours and Premonition had texted me about this spot where there were free entrees and beverages being passed around. I bounced over there to find Prem chilling with the big homie C-Rayz Walz and a few disciples and ruffians.  We engaged in some poly, caught an interview and convos and I bounced back to the convention center for the hip-hop specific version of the Demo Listening Session.

The panelists for the Hip-Hop Demo Listening Session were Quincy Jones III (the super famous Quincy’s son), Dante Ross (Producer, SRC), Deuce Malone (Radio Personality in Austin, TX).  The format was exactly the same as the previous session, the only difference being that the volume was louder, 90 seconds of each song was played instead of 60 seconds, and the panelists spoke for longer.  This time my CD was pulled third.  QDIII (as he called himself) said the track was a “definite banger,” Dante Ross said it had crossover appeal but my voice reminded him of a man named Marshall Mathers, and Deuce said that the start of the first verse didn’t pull him in and sounded a bit rushed but once the song progressed he was into it. “Keep doin what you’re doin,” they all said.  Well…I approached them all afterward to essentially let them know that if I actually kept doing what I was doing, I wouldn’t be very pleased.  I want development and growth, and I was looking to them for a bit of guidance.  Dante Ross and I then embarked on a nearly hour-long convo/search for Travis Barker, discussing some details of my situation and the music industry in general.  Dante, with ties to lower Manhattan, the NYC public school system, Judaism, basketball and true-to-life hip-hop reflective of my own, was amazingly candid and generous with his time and commentary.  His advice was to make the Internet work for me as hard as possible, be prepared to do get stuff done on my own, and always look for ways to spread my product other than conventional music outlets.  And then – he disappeared.  So I dove back into the madness.

By this point I had been in Austin nearly 24 hours and was starting to get a feel for the town. West is very different from east, there’s free refills on green tea in certain spots, and everyone thinks they’re famous. Paradise. I headed into Aces as Homeboy Sandman and Sosa were on stage setting up for their show, which was a few hours away.  This was my first face-to-face with these two since arriving at SXSW so that was electric and galvanizing.  Spirits were high and the crowd outside was growing by the jiffy.  I sauntered up to the balcony, said peace to Kosha Dillz and Flex Mathews, kicked it with Bun-B and Peter Rosenberg (for a second), chilled with Sosa and P.So and got myself a good spot for the show.  Boy Sands did a little “Welcome, whatup” intro which led into a 45-minute long “Noisemakers” interview between Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg and UGK’s Bun-B.  The quantity was matched by the quality, as the interview kept the attention of the hip-hop hungry crowd quite powerfully.  Bun, a lyrical legend and unquestioned down-south pioneer, spoke directly about his formative stages as an emcee, his partnership with the late Pimp C, and his countless collaborations and connections to hip-hop heroes worldwide.  The interview was captivating, but verbose to the point where I found myself texting Sands, who I could see standing in front of the stage, throwing infinite pounds to approaching supporters as always, which read, “Bun-B’s incredible & everything:::but I’m ready to see Boy Sands get busy sun!”

And get busy he did.  Homeboy Sandman is super-consistent as a performer – whether he’s rocking in front of 11 heads, a room full of his most ardent admirers, complete strangers, or a combination, he enraptures the audience. He consumes the audience. He relishes, penetrates and awes the audience.  After he got of stage I told him how dope it was seeing him on such a stage in such an environment. I mentioned how spectacular it was to see someone like my family on that stage. He corrected me and said, “That is your family on that stage.” That was substantive.

The rest of that night was spent in a boisterous manner, chasing peoples and notions and possibilities.  A vortex of sounds and shapes, gleefully frolicking with one another like crabs on the sand.  Shouts to everyone involved in Thursday night’s escapades.

Upon waking on Friday I learned that I would be performing in a few hours.  Normal.  Prem came by and we got some details together, as we planned to share the stage time.  Brief rehearsal, CD’s with beats burned (always bring a backup) and off to the Red Fez we went.  Amazingly there was a modest crowd at the spot when we showed up, as it was definitely still morning by SXSW standards.  But this was the Hip Hop Howl Showcase presented by a pair of NYC’s most invigorating artists: Crosby and Miz Metro. Some of the performers other than myself and Prem included Circa ’95, The Beatards, MC Eyeris, Wordspit, Mazzi, Donny Goines, Boy Sands, Kinky Notti, P.So, Jasmine Solano, Mike Maven, Flex Mathews, Kosha Dillz, Team Facelift, C-Rayz, True 2 Life, Emilio Rojas, and Rebel Diaz.  I have relatively strong ties to all these cats, and it was a beast of a show.  Prem set it off with 2 joints, then we rocked Relax on Tracks, I performed Bananas and then closed with Spiderman on Vitamins. It was the first time I had performed either of those tracks, so it was exciting to finally get to do so. And shouts to DJ Vinyl Richie for holding down nearly everybody’s set – he’s a good dude and a sick turntablist wordup.

After getting some food and watching a few other sets, I ran over to the Nah’ Right showcase to meet up with Ashley Outrageous. She was busy interviewing Emilio Sparks so I ran over to The Ranch where Homeboy Sandman was performing.  I walked in as he was getting comfortable, rocking The Essence, and I ran my ass up to the front and rocked out. It was a glorious venue, partially outdoors with a playground of a stage.  Before I knew it he was calling me up to rock with him for the impromptu Freestyle of Mine portion of his set.  It was spectacular as ever rocking with him (I’d done it once before at Public Assembly last summer) and Sosa even hooked me up with a drop when I shouted out NYC. The crowd was diggin it and it was a royal moment. So I chilled for a bit after the set, kicking it with P.So and Sand’s manager Eric, the homie 6th Sense and Sosa.  We made our way back over to The Red Fez for a few more sets, and then Prem and I wandered to a rooftop spot called The Six Lounge where Mike Maven and his band were rocking with Donny Goines. Before we knew it we were up there freestyling about girls and pizza and turning right on red.  Jolly smiles yes indeed.

The next day I had an early morning interview with and 101x at Buffalo Billiards. Apparently it had become winter overnight so my outdoor freestyle had to be taken a few times due to wind/mic issues. No matter…freestyles tend to get better with every take anyways.  As Austin had become a tundra overnight the streets were a bit thinner than usual.  Premonition had gone back to NYC and most of my homies’ sets had been completed during the week. My place of residence switched from downtown to out of town, and fatigue was setting in throughout the festival.  But the revelry was far from over.  Saturday night brought the Audible Treats showcase at The Independent. My homie Bisco Smith rocked his set superbly, followed by sincerely impressive sets by Finale, Crown Royal and Diamond District.  And of course Boy Sands jumped up and wowed the crowd with an a capella. I bumped into a few homies from Beyond Race Magazine, politicked for a bit and called it a night.

After a day of rest and recovery on Sunday it was time to journey home. Monday’s trek back to the NYC was a particularly lengthy one, as I flew into a town that when I had left was riddled with sunlight and breezes but was now drowning in gray rain and rolling winds.  I cabbed my way straight to some students’ houses, lugging my luggage from Geometry to Algebra.  I made it home, collapsed, and then had the flu for a week.  But now I transition into the Spring of 2010 with a sense of adventure and projections both behind and ahead of me. SXSW 2010 was a journey of many kinds, and I look forward to the mayhem that will certainly be following in its trails…

Thangs be poppin. .Yep.

Spills vs. feleciacruz Make Dope Art

Autor Jesse Abraham | 07.03.2010 | Category Uncategorized

So my peoples Spills and feleciacruz are out in Cambodia, living the lives of merry travelers while providing music, inspiration and smiles to countless young faces on a daily basis. They build; they share; they teach and they learn. Simultaneously, they have remained active as artists in their own right, creating music, literature and videos during their stay in Cambodia.  Recently they dropped a video for their song All The Time, which is a brilliant depiction of their spirit, flavor and talents.


Additionally, feleciacruz creates video blog entries relating to her existence as the multi-faceted actuality that she is.  I met Spills and Felecia 45 days before they moved to Cambodia, and was fortunate enough to spend a delicious amount of that time with them.  I had the privilege of participating in the creation of Alphabutter, multiple shows, freestyles all over the city, and the experience of sending these two hip-hop heroes on their way towards a mythical adventure.  Feleciacruz captured these moments in a recent video.


Yeah so these are dope individuals. Get familiar.  .Yep.

Working With Kamikaze Picnic

Autor Jesse Abraham | 06.03.2010 | Category Uncategorized

About a year ago I found myself in a familiar position – standing on stage at Sin Sin, facing a human who I had never before seen, yet was suddenly required to mock and publicly ridicule in the form of a rap battle.  (Jump to the 13:00 mark)  After succeeding in ruining this man’s evening, I found myself facing yet another stranger: A man donning the moniker of Kamikaze Picnic.  I looked him up and down, perceived him as not much of a threat, and launched into an incredibly mediocre diatribe against him.  Little did I know…

Months later I was participating in the Hip Hop Subway Series and I suddenly found myself face to face with Mr. Picnic once again.  He approached me and asked if I wanted to participate in his next album, which was called “91”. Turns out that this guy dropped an album called “100” last year, with plans of releasing an album every month until he gets down to 0.  He writes a short story, breaks it up into different scenes, which become songs, produces a handful of beats and recruits some of NYC’s brightest talent to come in and lyrically portray these characters he has crafted.  He mixes all the tracks, does all the scratching and arranging, and acts as the main character on each record.  This was all explained to me in an email, which ended with a request that I play the role of a Shark being hunted by Chaz Kangas, who was attempting to steal my DNA for some reason.

Clearly I was going to do this.

After recording Aqua Scuba DNA, in my Randolph voice, I got a feel for what Kamikaze was working towards.  He was masterfully creative and didn’t take himself too seriously, was ambitious and enterprising, and wasn’t afraid to try something divergent from the norm.  So when it came time for “90”, I was like, “Just tell me when to come through and I’m there.”

So the story behind “90”, it turned out, was going to take place at a college called Tough Guy University.  My man BS, a constant collaborator of Kamikaze Picnic’s, had created a “bro” type of character, Brodie Stroker, as part of this TGU ensemble. Kamikaze was playing his buddy, Joey Brodafucco. Asked to be the tertiary member of this squad, I dug back into my memories of Emory and all of its brolific splendor.  Southern? Frat Guy? Bro!? Done deal. I wrote and recorded six verses that night as a character named Jaffe Jaff – a stereotypical “hick” with a slight vocal resemblance to Foghorn Leghorn.  Working with KP was good fun.  He coached me towards helping to achieve his specific vision, and was careful to make sure I didn’t color outside of his guidelines.  For instance, we weren’t allowed to curse, we couldn’t rap about rapping, and clearly we had to remain in character, stick to the themes and attempt to move the story along in our verses.

Although I played the role of Jaffe Jaff (whatup Jared) throughout the bulk of the album, I doubled as a character named Dean Ice – the dean of Tough Guy University. Here I am welcoming the students to their new school, alongside BS and Kamikaze, in Tough Guy University Orientation.

My introduction as Jaffe Jaff comes in the form of a song describing TGU’s college town, Broho. In this track I, Jaffe Jaff, simply bump into Joey Brodafucco and engage him in a classically fraternal dialogue.

Suddenly it turns out that Joey needs to raise money and awareness towards a significant cause – the importance of celebrities. So he and I hold a Celebrity Awareness Drive in attempts to raise awareness regarding this vital issue.

A representative from The House of Fame approaches Joey, Brodie and I to ask us if we would like to apply for a fellowship at the Look-Alike Foundation. The three bros decide to have plastic surgery in order to resemble their favorite renowned citizens. Joey, Brodie, and I get a Three For One Special in order to surgically resemble Nicholas Cage, Tom Cruise, and Tom Hanks, respectively.

We awake from our procedures to find that the surgeon has botched the job, mismatching our favorite celebrities’ facial features amongst the three of us, leaving us as a collective Celebrity Mashup.

Distraught, we seek advice from a local hobo.  We learn to value indifference regarding our appearances, and become steadfast nihilists.  We decide to wear the most arbitrary and nonsensical of outfits, complete with laceless Anarchy Shoes.

Then I disappear and Joey turns into a wolf and lots of weird stuff happens and the end.

When “90” was complete, Kamikaze invited all of the cast members out for dumplings and drinks.  He is a grand individual with a fearless sense of conception, and I am pleased to have been a part of this project.  It is unorthodox, unconventional and potentially a “street-cred killer” – all features with which I occasionally enjoy being connected.  FUN is the word.  Oh and yeah, Kamikaze beat me in the battle. .Yep.