<iframe width=”400″ height=”100″ style=”position: relative; display: block; width: 400px; height: 100px;” src=”http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/album=3558516832/size=venti/bgcol=FFFFFF/linkcol=4285BB/” allowtransparency=”true” frameborder=”0″><a href=”http://mishkanyc.bandcamp.com/album/main-attrakionz-808s-dark-grapes-ii”>Main Attrakionz – 808s & Dark Grapes II by Main Attrakionz</a></iframe>
Today marks the release of 808s and Dark Grapes II by the Oakland rap duo Main Attrakionz. By my count, 808s is their fourth full length released in 2011. This count doesn’t include either member’s solo albums (Squadda B’s I Smoke Because I Don’t Care About Death and Mondre’s Dope Since 1991); releases by their extended Bay Area family Green Ova; and the half-dozen collaborations and guest appearances they’ve made. That’s more than 100 songs since January 1, 2011.
Terms like “full length” and “album” are perhaps misleading to anyone not following contemporary rap music. You can’t buy a CD of their last album Chandelier, there isn’t a 12” of Squadda B’s “I Miss Ya’ll/Focus” single. Their releases are shared viatumblr, bandcamp, and twitter, and then reviewed and re-shared alongside southern rap or shimmering pop, depending on the blog. A lot of different paths lead to these MP3s.
There are people who feel like downloading music has cheapened the listening experience and made even favorite songs feel disposable and tossed-off. With Main Attrakionz, the immediate availability and constant flux of new music feels agile, necessary, and as natural as breathing. The production, handled primarily by Squadda B himself, is a big part of this. Main Attrakionz tend towards beats that are dense and immersive, warm and often dark. There’s an ease to it, the sounds are deep enough that a willing listener can submerge fully into their songs, but there’s also a restlessness, evident in shifting structures and sudden blossoms of melody. Unexpectedly contemporary touchstones such as Björk and Imogen Heap are splintered and reprocessed as spacious, blurred anthems, while references to MC Eiht, the Clipse, and Pete Rock ground the song in rap’s legacy.
This unique intersection of hip hop’s grim realities and the visionary haze of drug music is where Main Attrakionz’s productivity really delivers. Each song feels like a confrontation between the duo’s surroundings and their varied strategies for dealing with them. Their glistening, overcast beats may recall the murky headspace of the codeine and marijuana invoked in their lyrics, but more essentially mirror the uneasy potentials of the world around us. This shifting unpredictability, the notion that another day on earth isn’t guaranteed to anyone, is a prominent message since the dawn of rap. But no rappers have done the work of continuing to explore what this means on a day to day basis better than Main Attrakionz.
Averaging a dozen new songs a month, Main Attrakionz can almost be described as creating an ongoing audio diary. No emotion is off limits, but more importantly, no emotion is indescribable. Oddly singular moods like not wanting to answer the phone are explored with the same rigor and thought as a complicated relationship with a younger sibling. One song might take pride in a selfless act (“could’ve copped new kicks but gave that to my mother”) and another might admit wrongdoing (“I swear I hear the devil’s feet only ‘cause I let him walk with me”). Whether prideful, confessional, celebratory or depressed, Mondre and Squadda’s songs all ultimately fall under the category of balancing their desires against their ideals and dreams. This is an everyday struggle, and at the rate that Main Attrakionz produces music, one that’s articulated every day.
In advance of their performance at the New Museum, Mondre and Squadda B answered a few questions about their history, their practice, and their feelings about their New York debut. They revealed the same dedications apparent in their songs—the respect for their friends and collaborators; their lifelong commitment to rap; the drive to improve their craft; and a gentle nostalgia for the past.
Ethan Swan: When and how did you meet?
Squadda B: Carver Middle School, 7th grade in 3rd period math class; we just left class and started kickin it from there.
ES: How long before you started making music together?
Mondre: We started making music like the next week; started a group called 4 Figures that was me, Charles (aka Squadda B), Sean and Miguel, just guys we went to school with.
ES: When/what was the first thing you released publicly?
S: As far as internet releases are concerned, Diamonds on the Turf (June, 2009) was first.
ES: When you listen back to it now, how do you feel about it?
S: I feel like we came a long way; it’s personal memories, [when I listen back now] I don’t really focus on the music itself [but] what was going on at the time.
M: It’s been two years, so much has happened in two years.
ES: I remember an interview where Raekwon described Wu Tang’s development, explaining that simpler songs like “Method Man” were intentionally released first to help prepare listeners for their more complex work. Or in his words, “you can’t feed steak to a baby.” Recent Main Attrakionz mixtapes like “Chandelier” and “Blackberry Kush” seem to be more daring than your first tapes, both in production and rhyme pattern. Is this a result of your development and growth as artists, or is there a bigger plan at work?
S: Nah, there wasn’t no plan; it’s unintentional…I wish we had a plan like that, but nothing as far as easing the listener in; time just flies so we have more experiences to talk about.
M: Chandelier was how we was living at the time, and Blackberry Kush was what we was smoking at the time.
S: It’s always personal, man.
ES: Along the same lines, have you ever received or made a beat that was too hectic to rhyme over?
M: Nah, that’s when Green Ova comes in good; I had a couple of beats that were crazy so I threw ‘em to Shady and he killed him; we all gon eat, man.
ES: The New Museum is two blocks from the original Def Jam offices, and just down the street from the Mercer Hotel where “Watch the Throne” was recorded. What are your feelings about playing in New York for the first time?
S: Excited man, definitely a blessing.
M: I ain’t know Def Jam was around the corner, so it’s definitely some hip hop in the air; shouts out to New York, man.
ES: You’ve collaborated with and/or shouted out some New York artists in the past, is there anyone you’re looking forward to meeting in person at the show? Do you have a wish list of New Yorkers you’d like to show up?
S: No I didn’t have no wish list. There’s a lot of artists I do want to meet from New York, though.
M: Diddy should bring some Ciroc.
S: I do wanna meet Diddy.
M: And tell Dame Dash to stop in.
S: For sure Dame Dash! Styles P.
M: Mazaradi Fox. The whole 5 Boroughs, man.
S: Man I fuck with NY, all 5 boroughs.
M: I wanna see who got the lo-fi lab out there, recording out the closet.
Main Attrakionz perform live at the New Museum on Friday, August 26, 2011 at 7PM. For more information and tickets visit the NM website HERE
To download Main Attrakionz new album, 808s and Dark Grapes II, visit Mishka’s website HERE
For an extensive, 2+ hour collection of Main Attrakionz songs from the past two years, visit LWH’s website HERE
Always Open :: NewMuseum.org
// From our friends at the New Museum