Music fans can relentlessly argue about what does or does not constitute “real hip hop” around the (over-sized) clock, if they so feel inclined, and so they often do. And this isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s what they’ve been doing for decades, every single time a new fad or era enters the picture. Is trap music an evolution or unfortunate deviation of the art form? Does it take any talent to be a mumble rapper? Does talent or lyrical ability even matter any more? Should it? Should the callous dismissal of the importance of forefathers and what they’ve accomplished be a strike against the new bloods, or does the foundational origins even matter at this point? How the fuck did some paranoid ill-informed obsession with the Illuminati begin infiltrating every discussion and social media comment pertaining to anything, regardless of topic; what the fuck do lean sipping sneaker heads believe they are genuinely in danger of from a secret society; and how much do you think I could stand to yield dollar-wise if I penned a hypebeast version of The Davinci Code centered around symbolism hidden in pop up shops, instead of museums? Besides the last one, are any of these discussions even worth having, or are they simply a waste of time? The good news about all of it is that, just like Sweet Brown so brilliantly put it, some people ain’t got time for any of that. Some people are simply focusing instead on simply pushing the art form forward. Why talk when you can do?
For more than 30 years, DJ/producer, Cut Chemist (born Lucas MacFadden) has dedicated his life to hip hop and the art of turntablism, cementing his place as one of the most influential, critically acclaimed, and widely respected figures to ever do it. Back in the late 1980s, MacFadden helped found the crew Jurassic 5, as well as hip hop/latin jazz-funk fusion outfit, Ozamatli. In fact, if you watch award-winning filmmaker, Ava DuVernay‘s 2008 debut documentary, This Is The Life, about the now-legendary Good Life Cafe in South Central, which operated as an important breeding ground for underground LA hip hop, you’ll notice Chemist as an prominent fixture within that scene. His live shows are well known for being mindbending showcases of pure skill and ingenuity, whether solo or alongside fellow turntable legend/innovator, DJ Shadow. Beginning with 1999‘s Brainfreeze collaboration, which focused around rare soul and funk 7-inches, the Chemist and Shadow released a trio of DJ mixes supported by tours, even performing entire concerts with them mixing nothing but 45s. 4 years ago, we hosted a ticket giveaway for the pair’s Renegades Of Rhythm tour which saw the duo sifting through Afrika Bambaataa‘s 40,000-record-deep collection — now housed/archived at Cornell University — to tour it as a multi-faceted routine utilizing the “Master Of Records‘s” actual LPs, six turntables, and real-time sampling of the vinyl as they played them, condensed down to embody the Bambaataa‘s essence and presented with a focus on 3 major aspects: “Bambaataa as artist, exploring the influence of his classics like ‘Planet Rock;’ Bambaataa as collector, and the genre-defining breaks he discovered; and Bambaataa as peacemaker and force for social change.” In 2010, MacFadden began his acclaimed Sound of the Police mix set/tour based around Ethio jazz and consisting of him equipped with only a single deck, a mixer, and a loop pedal, wherein he created live samples from original vinyl pressings on the spot. More recently he launched the Tunnel Vision tour, where each act, including Edan, Paten Locke, Mr. Lif, Myka 9, and Deantoni Parks (The Mars Volta) participated in the other’s sets.
One has to wonder if Chemist possesses any shark DNA, with what seems to be a compulsion to constantly keep moving forward to remain alive. That’s not to say that he’s afraid of death, at least not in a metaphorical sense. In fact, he not only embraces it, but relies on it. Regarding his upcoming studio album, Die Cut, which is slated for a March release, he explains, “This is the death of a musical identity and the birth of another.” Adding, “It isn’t just the cut-and-paste style anymore. I’m collaborating with more musicians and sampling less. This is different. The content is emotionally heavier, even though it’s still fun. It harks back to the energy you can share with live musicians rather than being a DJ alone on stage. I wanted to capture that with this style of music.”
Although MacFadden is clearly pushing himself into uncharted territory, the new solo LP is considered somewhat of a follow up to his critically acclaimed 2006 debut, The Audience Is Listening. which featured a song titled “Storm.” Just yesterday, the producer debuted a new video for the Die Cut track, “Metal Storm” on MXDWN, explaining the following about the record.
“It’s the first song on the album, so it picks up where The Audience’s Listening left off.”
“It certainly gives you something familiar to wet the palette as you dive into this new world of Cut Chemist.“
Among the artists which collaborate on Die Cut are Deantoni Parks; Biz Markie, actress, Erika Christensen (Parenthood); tune-yards; Farmer Dave Scher; and Dexter Story. “Metalstorm,” features a truly leftfield and compelling beat, as well as verses by underground powerhouses, Edan and Mr. Lif. Check out the video for the cut, also directed by MacFadden, followed by a selection of upcoming tour dates.
Oh… and remember that, just because Cut Chemist seems more focused on advancing his own skills than on what anyone else might be doing, that doesn’t mean that Edan and Lif aren’t utilizing their collective time on the mic by mercilessly going in on and dismantling wack rappers, at alrge. That, of course, is historically embedded into the foundations of hip hop, as well.
CUT CHEMIST TOUR DATES:
Expect more dates to arrive.
Cut Chemist will also be appearing during SXSW