Jordan Lawrence - 2016 Top 10 Albums

Photography: Adela Locsin 

Photography: Adela Locsin 

In no particular order, Jordan Lawrence, Co-Founder, Black Lodge Management (Bay Faction, Hiding Out, Vertigo), gives The Hook his top 10 albums of 2016!

1. Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo
Kanye's most frustrating work, but also his most brilliant. The energy on this record, the samples, and the features all make it hard to beat. The press and release mess around it made it all the more irresistible to enjoy and really take in. 

2. Frank Ocean - Blonde
A beautiful follow-up to Channel Orange, Frank's vocals over minimal yet lush guitar arrangements put you in his place in the driver's seat. Well worth the hype. 

3. The Weeknd - Starboy
Not a single bad song on this record. Perhaps his most commercial release yet while still maintaining his character. 

4. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
The brightness we needed in a fairly dark year. Between the optimism of the record itself and the incredible marketing done around it, Chance is a true indie staple in a major label-run industry. 

5. Drake - Views
While this record is longer than it needs to be and has a good few filler tracks, it also has some of my favorite Drake songs. Just solid. 

6. Bad Suns - Disappear Here
The band expanded on what they did with their debut in terms of songwriting, along with adding more of a rock edge to it. 

7. Joseph - I’m Alone, No You’re Not
Beautifully written songs and vocal arrangements from these three sisters, whose familial ties give the record all he more unity. 

8. Maren Morris - Hero
I'm normally hesitant with country, but these songs just scream pop records. Maren's performance and the diversity here set her up for a long, unique career. 

9. AURORA - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
Perhaps one of the most intriguing releases of the year for me. A singer-songwriter from Norway, singing honestly in English over tracks that perfectly blend sounds of nature and electronic minimalism. 

10. Pinegrove - Cardinal
A step in a different direction for a label and scene that tend to do the same stale things over and over again. Some great, dynamic, honest songs here with instruments and timbres not normally heard from bands on Run For Cover and similar labels.

Harlem Hip-Hop Artist To Follow - DaZay Burnett

Last winter, I sat in a class with a group of artists and we discussed the difference between truth and beauty while arguing whether one was more important than the other in regard to art.

Like any debate, there were people who felt strongly about both subjects, but what seemed most shocking was that most leaned toward the idea that beauty was more important than truth in art. Some emphasized the significance of packaging and marketing, claiming that art itself is the distortion of reality. Some also argued that art, for many, is an avenue of escape and people should not be burdened with “truth” when experiencing it. Others, like myself, perceived art to be a creative depiction of reality that magnifies truth instead of distorting it.

It offers a quality of direction in a world that is, for lack of better wording, all over the place. For example, hip-hop artists such as Tupac Shakur, Public Enemy, NWA, and Wu Tang Clan emphasize the conflicts of poverty, government corruption, and social injustice. They delivered grand truths, focusing on their positions in the world instead of the positions that they are in because of the money and popularity that they’ve generated. They make music for their communities, music that evokes emotion and action. That’s what makes them passionate and what makes other people passionate about them and their music. Likewise, mastermind manager, lyricist, and vocalist DaZay Burnett uses hip-hop to not only express himself, but to portray his experiences and their relationship with other people’s experiences.

DaZay Burnett grew up in Harlem, New York, home of the creative and performing arts where he immersed himself in both. He performed in musicals and talent shows at Beacon High School and attended weekend classes at The Harlem School of the Arts. He established The Vagabondz with his best friend Tyrone during their freshman year in high school. BrokeMc of The Deli Online Publication suggests that the collective sound authentically Westcoast; however, DaZay’s and his counterparts’,Tye’s and Zymoon’s complex, well informed yet, humble lyricism backed by synthetic instrumentals gives them a Wu Tang Clan texture and mien infused with their own organic aesthetic. What makes the group unique is the obvious gap between their age and wisdom. It is most evident in their debut album LESSONS.

DaZay states, "Yeah we definitely get the conscious rap label a lot, which I’m always kinda boosted by because if you peep our earlier tracks on soundcloud (Leopard Interior EP), it’s all sex, drugs, light and dark songs. But that’s just the life we were living at the time growing up in NYC, beefin with other public schools, turnin up at brooklyn free’s (frees= house parties), so the music is like a piece of that moment in time. I feel like we matured fast from that route though, especially with LESSONS, the subject matter is more focused on issues that a lot of people don’t know youth go through in this city, and just our day to day life lessons. Whether that be through songs talking about guns, not being able to afford college, police brutality, or even a lovey dovey song like “Come Tru."

Not only is DaZay a rapper, but he is also a dedicated student and business man. He attended the University of the Arts in Center City Philadelphia as a musical theater major, but has declared Music Business Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) as his major for his sophomore year to educate himself about the music industry in order to manage his collective to the best of his ability.

Though the Vagabondz members are scattered among different universities, they not only find ways to connect with each other, they also use their college experiences as networking opportunities to build their collective.

The current line-up of artists are the following: Vocalist, manager, and lyricist DaZay, rapper Tyrone and Zymoon, hype-men Young Choc and Simon, and producers Broccoli Rabe, DJ Sun, Helixzx, and DJ Fortunes.

Recently on July 22nd, they successfully hosted their second Beast Coast Bondz Bash, bringing in an audience upwards of 100 people. The Beast Coast Bondz Bash is a cultural event that chains upcoming hip-hop artists from different states and puts them on the same stage. The first event’s line-up consisted of local artist from Philly and UArts students. Beast Coast Bondz Bash II was curated of artists from Philly and Jersey.

Not every song is pretty and light because it can’t be like that, that’s not how life is for us.

While it is refreshing to have young artists commit to maintaining the politically and socially responsive nature of hip-hop culture, the glorification of violence, money, drugs, and casual sex are also facets of it. For some, it is a mask. For others, it is a part of life that should be exhibited in art like every other human experience. Growing up in Harlem, New York, there were moments when those things were aspects of Burnett’s existence and subsequently reflected in his earlier music, specifically his collective’s EP, Leopard Interior. DaZay; however, has chosen to use his music as a platform to depict a truth that not only resonates with him, but with other people.

He uses his voice to speak for those that cannot be heard, and he stated "I just write about how I perceive the world, and I’m inspired by life experiences and stories I hear from teens from Harlem who feel they don’t really have a voice in society just because where we are and how black youth are perceived. Regardless of how the media tries to make it seem, we’re not all the same and I feel like I have a duty to talk about what I see in my hood on the daily so I just tell my side of the story as honestly as I can. Not every song is pretty and light because it can’t be like that, that’s not how life is for us. We got the turn up songs too don’t get me wrong, but if you have a voice that people want to listen to why not let them know what’s going on out here? That’s just my take, I just want to unify everybody."

The Hook will be following DaZay, as well as The Vagabondz and their music. Stay tuned for this articles corresponding interview to learn more about The Vagabondz, The Beast Coast Bondz Bash, DaZay, and his perception of the role of women and drugs in music and student debt. 

For more, check out the links below!

DaZay Burnett: Facebook // Soundcloud // Datpiff

Baltimore DJ & Producer To Follow - DJ Sun

Photographer: Anna Cordova

Photographer: Anna Cordova

A little less than a week ago, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with virtuoso, producer, and scratch DJ, Jason Nobel, also known as DJ Sun!

The first time I saw DJ Sun was in passing. A few of my friends were on their way to a party, and I suck at social gatherings, but loud music, discomfort, and displacement are my idea of a good time, so I tagged along. We flocked to the basement where all of the excitement was, and it was so congested that we had to form a chain to travel through the crowd. We huddled up against a wall that was either white or concrete colored, but couldn’t tell because of how dark it was. Our bodies swayed a little bit, but not too much because we were too cool to dance.

I could see DJ Sun in my peripheral, standing behind a table in a clustered corner, and even then - being a dot in a scattered plot point graph of a section, something about him stood out. Maybe he illuminated simply because he’s DJ Sun (I saw the opportunity to use his name as a metaphor and I took it). Perhaps, it was because he had crowd control. He’d drop a song and suddenly the entire basement would explode with a boisterous uproar, followed by dancing, or in my case, head bopping, at the most two-stepping.

In that moment, people who may have never connected outside of that basement made an incorporeal relation with each other.

However, parties aren’t the pinnacle of DJ Sun's turn-tabling career. He performs a few times a month with The Vagabondz, a backpack culture collective that he joined in the beginning of his freshman year at the University of the Arts. The group originated in Harlem, New York, and is managed by expert lyricist, DaZay. He also does sets on Truwave, a Philadelphia based online radio station that primarily focuses on EDM and alternative sounds. The channel allows local, high profile DJs, most who produce their own music, to spin their records or mixes for a few hours. They then make it sharable by a link that can either be distributed via email, text message, or social media!

Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland for most of his life, DJ Sun immersed himself into the industry by developing his craft through classical music. Having a background with the harp (for fourteen years), it became his gateway to both music production and DJ’ing. In fact, he says that he treats DJ’ing as a type of instrument, waking up in the morning and practicing for a few hours before doing anything else. If that doesn’t prove him to be the epitome of dedication, perhaps, his prolificacy does.

Currently, he’s producing instrumentals and working on Eps and mix-tapes for/with an array of artists including one of his good friends and primarily EDM-trap producer, GoodBoy, who is co-producing his EP. He’s also working on singles with artists such as the multifaceted videographer, rapper, and designer, Rae Paradiso, as well as rapper, singer/songwriter, Joshua Tree.
DJ Sun also harbors a huge desire to connect and give artists he’s worked with the opportunity to network and collaborate with each other. He curated those with stylistic similarities and invited them to what he titled, Cypher Sunday’s, a studio session where rappers come together and freestyle on a series of instrumentals selected by himself and a few of his friends, who are also genius producers, making Cypher Sunday’s a plethora of promotion for everyone. Check it out below!

He also assembled & coordinated an event, along with DaZay, the Music Business Entrepreneurship & Technology major at the University of the Arts, Kyle Barret, and photographer, Anna Cordova, called The Beastcoast Bondz Bash. An epic concert that I went to, another event held in a dark room (because everyone knows that being around a lot of people at once is more enjoyable when you can barely see them.) The lineup was filled with raw talent, all matured artists using their musical abilities as strings to guide the response of the audience. The performers included Joshua Tree, BIA, Malik Ninety Five, Apollo, Watch Gang, Excursions, and The Vagabondz. 

Photographer: Kyle Barrett

Photographer: Kyle Barrett

Music brings interconnectedness that has a laser effect of being a narrow beam of light, finding listeners and attaching them to others either. I was first struck at the party, not only by DJ Sun, but by so many others just like us, with racing hearts when they hear their favorite song; whose skin tingles, blanketed with goosebumps when a rapper or singer delivers a spine-chilling verse.

Perhaps, the connection is bigger than basement parties, derived from something not so concrete or specific. It isn’t the love of the same music that brings people together, but simply the love of music in general. So, here I am, writing about a DJ who I’ve only gotten close enough to see from side-eye view at a party. It was as simple as both of us loving music enough to talk to each other. That’s what motivates me to write about music, and what motivates DJ Sun to make and mix it.

He states, “DJ’ing is my favorite thing in the world. When I drop a beat and everyone starts bopping their heads and there’s twenty thousand people, that’s a connection that everyone’s making at the same moment. You can’t beat that.” 

It is obvious that because of DJ Sun's solid work ethic, his career flourish and will take him well beyond the stars and back. Being only a freshman in college and already peddling down the road to success, The Hook will be following him for as long as possible. I already can’t wait for our follow up interview with him - our discussion focusing on the outcome of the projects afore-mentioned in the article. 

For more information on DJ Sun, or simply for the love of social media stalking (we all do it for one reason or another), check out his links below!

DJ Sun: Facebook // Instagram // Youtube // Soundcloud