Hollyweerd, may just be, by all accounts, the most unorthodox element to arise in the hip-hop scene as of late:
- One of the members actually plays an instrument and wants to be a teacher. Outside of the Roots or J Live respectively, in terms of hip-hop artist. . . .Weird.
- Another of the members could probably list 8-bit samples as a second language. In terms of an American having a second language period . . . Weird. Speaking in 8-bit –- doubly so.
- The other has apparently inspired a cadre of bloggers to create his namesake incarnate online. Unless you’re starting a musical cult. . .Pretty Weird.
- One of the members has secret aspirations to put down both the tattoo and lyricist pen to become a used car salesman. By all accounts . . .Weird. Or as they’d have you say “weerd”, their own amalgam of “weird” and the affirmative “werd”.
Catching up with the crew I got a second to observe them in rare form: Each member of Hollyweerd in some ways seem to be on a constellation of their own. Demond Toney aka “Dreamer” is tinkering and commenting on an instrumental. Jay Proce (Stago Lee) and Chris McAdoo (Love Crusader) speak on the finer points of paintball shooting, and Tuki Carter to my left, seemingly focused on some distant coordinate, becomes animated at the drop of a dime breaking into verse almost instantly.
Despite any perceived “weerdness” the group’s second’s full length LP, Electricity Showroom takes off strong – much where Edible Phat left off. Hollyweerd continues its habit of releasing mixtapes at breakneck speed and offering no shortcuts on quality in the process. Explaining the relatively short period of time its taken the band to garner attention, Dreamer expands on just what it means to get so much attention in such a short period of time. “Some don’t understand that if you’ve been doing it for 14 months, that you’ve got two tattoo artists, a musician that’s been in a jazz band, you have a solo artist – who all been doing their thing individually for a while now.”
“It just so happened we made these songs together,” explains Tuki, who is as lyrically limber as the lanky Ernie Barnes figures he resembles. “Y’know Dreamer masterminded putting Chris and Jay in, who was already on sax solos. We gelled the group over a couple of months.”
As much as this album sounds like a piece of Atlanta, the group isn’t shortsighted in their ambitions to spread word of the “New South”. When questioned on which corner of the world the group is next to stake claim, The Love Crusader exclaims: “Japan! London!” And with a perceivable grin Tuki adds, “Amsterdam, I just gotta get that one out of the way. Then, y’know I’ll be open to everywhere else.”
Perhaps the only real obstacle, if you could call it that, facing Hollyweerd are the initial comparisons to the multi-platinum ATLiens, OutKast. “We’re influenced by them in a sense to fill that void – but don’t get it twisted Hollyweerd is that 2009,” said The Love Crusader. “Don’t let no artist, I don’t care who they are tell you they ain’t influenced by nobody. .. they lying. I’d rather have an OutKast comparison, than any of these other things that there’s a lot of. “
In a candid moment Dreamer expanded on his own motivations. “I have a little brother with his own crew Above Average y’know, and part of it’s just to let them know, there’s something else out there for you to do than the 99% of what we all hear, see every day.” Still, obvious comparison’s aside, to the group’s credit – for any of those unsure after the Edible mixtape – Electricity certainly sheds heavy comparison to Dungeon Family. Not that there aren’t moments you think you’d be listening to 8Ball and MJG (Stago Lee and Tuki’s verses on the cover of Kid Cudi’s Day N Nite), another Parliament (the hook from Spend the Night Part II ), or the closest thing to a disco revival in hip hop (Electric Feel). But in general the execution of the LP – sounds most like the highly favored track “The Arrival” where despite reminiscent tinges of “this or that” – Hollyweerd maintains its own vibe.
Electricity is a mash-up of production from all coasts, and yet in the end what you get aren’t southern artists trying to sound like another region – but a cohesive group that is able to inject their own sensibility into the varied grab bag of references found on Electricity. From Dreamer’s standpoint, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg:
“People don’t get that there’s still another side to Atlanta. All you see on T.V. is the “snap/trap” but there’s still the other side. The Proton’s, Janelle’s, and the Outkasts. Y’know like a “weirdo” is a person who attempts unconventional things, in a conventional way. We’re that balance, opposite to a lot of the music that’s already out, there’s still another side. . . ”
[Artist] come to the South, and see how people are living, fresh air in terms of inspiration, and they picked up on the energy . . . gospel, the blues, the jazz, the hip hop – that’s the new thing. Like a new Motown, Atlanta’s the new Motown.”
Stago Lee, continues “There is a very organic feel here in Atlanta, Georgia . . .the thing about the South I tell people all the time is every great form/genre of American music started in the south and migrated – except for Hip-Hop. and now – it’s the South’s turn.”
Metaphorically speaking, if “snap/trap” music is the conscious everyday side to the Atlanta scene– Electricity Showroom reads like a subconscious stream of thought – the kind of scatterbrain genius that usually gets stuck in your dreams. In that effect, the monikers of the Dreamer, Stago Lee (a throwback to Blues legend Stagger Lee), and Love Crusader all seem like second generations ATLiens sure – albeit from some alternative universe not detached from the 808’s and early days of southern hip-hop influences. Even Tuki’s name (with translations varying from “anchor” or – well as Carter casually reflects in verse “Lyrically I am the Ish”) is about as apt as they come.
Clocking in just over an hour, the EP flits effortlessly between songs, well matched interludes, and 8-bit inspired beats like the track “Hold up Zeldaq”. Interludes are atypical serving as more than filler, but skillfully sampled, if not all out hilarious, mishmash of film references (From Zack and Miri Make a Porno to Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine) that envelop one track after the next. Admittedly, Tuki Carter exclaims, “yea, it’s part of our ADD generation”. ADD or not, the sprawl of Electricity’s landscape is as vast as the city of Atlanta itself, yet all seemingly gels together.
“There was a lady the other day who was saying to us,” Tuki explains, “that these interludes, keep her tapped into the flow of songs.” Through and through Hollyweerd has the uncanny ability to tap into other popular forms of art – and fuse that with their songs, creating an unending segue of sound from start to finish. “Black Dynamite/All in Your Smile”, for instance, ends with a brief melody that is bound to tickle your ears and evoke a smile, either for its sheer sweet sound or the subtle reference to hip-hop pioneers of the past.
Solidly planted amongst the new wave of Atlanta artists, like Janelle Monae, Proton, Grip Plyaz, and others, Electricity sounds a little bit like something from all over, and a lot of Atlanta in every nook and cranny in between. “Mandatory Mandate” for instance opens with a soliloquy reminiscent of “SpottieOtttieDopalicious” yet takes a twist where Love Crusader cruises through a verse as coolly delivered and “lax” as his L.A. counterpart Tuki.
Hollyweerd’s Electricity Showroom essentially is the side of Atlanta you probably haven’t heard unless you’re lucky enough to have caught them at this year’s SXSW festival or tapped into the scene lately. The range of content is a cornucopia here: With references to the bygone days of the “A’s” music scene (Dreamer exclaiming Yeek Yeek on “Bust it Open“), nods to the creative genius of Jimi Hendrix, the everyman anthem “Cut the Check”, certified club bangers “Bust it Open” to the bare bones lo-fi “Kodack” featuring Dreamer singing over a Jon Brion composition. From “Bankhead to Buckhead” and “Bootyshake to Bougeroise”, weird as it sounds Electricity Showroom is a collage representing everything you thought you knew about Atlanta, and a whole lot more you’d be excited to hear. Not to mention (true to frenetic form) another mixtape is on the summer horizon tentatively titled Kandy for Kleptos. “Speedballin” indeed.
Mandatory Mandate [audio:http://dl2.musicwebtown.com/clutchfuchsia/playlists/265265/2566765.mp3]
Miles Again – Day N Nite (Wiimix) [audio:http://dl2.musicwebtown.com/clutchfuchsia/playlists/265265/2566769.mp3]
Black Dynamite/All in Her Smile [audio:http://dl2.musicwebtown.com/clutchfuchsia/playlists/265265/2566775.mp3]