BADBADNOTGOOD is a formally trained trio of young musicians made up of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, and Alex Sowinski on drums. Since first meeting at music school in 2011, the three have challenged the rule book on improvised instrumental music and taken a fresh look at the jazz tradition by setting their sights on the future.
With early champions including acclaimed BBC broadcaster Gilles Peterson and Tyler The Creator, the band released their first EP BBNG in June 2011 to wide praise. The marriage of jazz virtuosity and hip hop source material offered a new take on the traditional "standard" applied to the hip hop songbook; writing inspired arrangements for golden era classics instead of one-dimensional covers.
The band hit a landmark when introducing original material into their compositions with BBNG2 in 2012. New songs like "Rotten Decay", "Vices" or "UWM" carried on the proud heritage of musical juxtaposition by bringing together jazz, hip hop, punk, and dance music into vigorous balance. Since then, they've won praise from the four corners of the globe and collaborated with Bootsy Collins, RZA, Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, MF Doom, and Danny Brown among many. Their notorious live performances have brought fans across the whole musical spectrum together, taking the band around the world from Coachella to Glastonbury.
Now, the inseparable friends are prepping to release their biggest project to date III on prodigious young label Innovative Leisure, a highly-anticipated project ushering in the group's newest explorations which are proving to be limitless.
"I am a wizard, an illusionist. I am a dreamer in a dream without a society. I am Hodgy."
Fans might be surprised to find a worldlier perspective from Hodgy on his major label debut Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide, releasing via Columbia this fall. The 13-track LP features guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes and Salomon Faye as well as production from BadBadNotGood, 88-Keys, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Nottz, Rahki and Jonti, a diverse array of artists to help bring life to tracks like the Rahki-helmed "Resurrection," where Hodgy converses with God, and "Laguna," which sees him expressing his passage way through in life.
"My debut album is gratefully my past to present," explains Hodgy, born Gerard Long. "Same time I had got my solo deal, around the time me and my child's mother were at wit's end, I was in search for a higher ground."
He began work on the set after he signed his solo deal under the Odd Future umbrella in 2013, but only this year recorded almost all of the rhymes on Fireplace off the top of his head. "I had to do a lot of living and transform in order to feel and speak my truth, to say what I really felt on the album rather than just rap. I'm gifted."
Fireplace, which includes snippets from a conversation with his mother and a few sound bites from his son, is the culmination of years of hard work both in and out of Odd Future. Born in Livingston, NJ, he moved to his current home of Pasadena, CA with his mother at the age of nine, developing his musical foundation by listening to the neo-soul music being played around the house. Though he started to rap around six years old, groups like Portishead and Bush Tetras started to attract his attention through his adolescence, helping to develop an accentuated perspective on the variety of music and genres.
It was when he met Left Brain in 2006 that he connected with the founding members of OF (Tyler, The Creator, Casey Veggies and Left Brain), and by 2011, the group had added in members like Frank Ocean and Mike G to become one of hip-hop's most prominent and forward-thinking collectives. Around that time, Hodgy began to test the waters as a solo artist, releasing a pair of untitled EPs in 2012 and 2013 as well as collaborating with Left as MellowHype and Domo Genesis as MellowHigh. "It was [Trenton] that brought life to my attention," he explains.
At a heightened mental space in his life, Hodgy is thinking beyond Fireplace. He has a collaborative album with Nelly Furtado in the works and is currently putting together the pieces for another MellowHype project, all while envisioning his sophomore album.
"I am a breathing manifestation, a traveling light; a mirror for humanity. I am Hodgy."
O∆, the debut album from self produced american songwriter, London O'Connor, is a post-any-genre narrative told through vivid and visual production he made from the contents of his backpack while sleeping on floors and couches in New York City. It details the suburban world he grew up in and fled from in Southern California years before. His story is not that unlike many others, "a kid who feels stifled in America's suburbs and wants to get out." But, there is a clarity and vulnerability in London's version that is rare. From the meticulously simplified arrangements to the lyrics that stand out more as admissions than punchlines, to his opening live sets in New York that saw him perched on top of a solitary cube of light in a blacked out venue-- London's mode of expression is to reduce until there is nothing left to hide behind.
"I remember being in the mall, and pop music is just everywhere," says O'Connor, who grew up in the San Diego suburb of San Marcos. From his earliest memories, he was enamored with the textures of pop songs, but had a gnawing distaste for their lyrics. "I remember feeling that this certain kind of person is talking about certain experiences—and I feel like they're lying to me. Making O∆ was about two things. It was an album like a movie about where I was from and how it really was. I didn't want it to be a filtered story the way most pop music is. I wanted it to be real. I guess in other music people aren't talking about the things that I notice about life or the things that are really important to me. How I feel actually being here. I wanted to express those things. But it was also about me needing to breathe and make a place in this world where I could live safely. Safely in a world where I could be myself - and survive."
London O'Connor applied and was accepted to music college in New York, and within his first week met his instant and inseparable friend, Davis. "I was never supposed to produce my first album, or any of my albums. Davis was supposed to produce them. He was the greatest artist I have ever met. I was going to help him with the vision on his projects and he was going to produce mine." Davis' sudden and unforeseen death left London without both a brother, accomplice or producer. A resourceful and strong-willed artist by nature, London didn't seek to find a replacement, but instead sought to "defend himself" with sound. He stepped up his production, locking himself in a room for almost two years training his arrangement and composition skills, and simplifying his lyrics. He focused his expression first to the production of ambient music (a space to inhabit) and then built up to pop structured songs. His first lyrics were those of a captain traversing a sterile environment. O∆ is the result of that era of trauma and resolution. The goal wasn't to produce pop standards, but to render memories and surroundings with pop music's core simplicity.
His response since leaving this bedroom has been both exacting and holistic. His release of singles "GUTS" and "Nobody Hangs Out Anymore" traveled quickly from soundcloud playlists to DJ rotations on BBC Radio 1 and some American non comm stations. His one-of-one performance cube which he likens to a ship, sat with him on a plane to play shows in the UK and France within months of his album's initial self release. The original version lingers on the internet along with a tweet of his cellphone number "if you're from nowhere I'm here until my cell phone explodes 858 232 9290." The creative direction of London's body of art and the viscerality of its themes to overcome one's environment liken the symbol, O∆, in the eyes of his fans to one perceived like the emblem for the Rebel Alliance.
A remastered version of O∆ will be released physically and digitally February 17 on True Panther Sounds. London is currently traveling and continuing work on his self produced follow up album.