BY CLAIRE KEENAN
Some fresh tunes for 2018 by people who’ve lived together for their whole lives.
The Two of Us by Chloe x Halle
This mixtape feels like it came out of a dream. At just 19 and 17 years old they have written, mixed, and performed a whole mixtape by themselves. But the best part is, their songs flow into one another so you just have to sit back and listen to what sounds like a half an hour long song.
Something To Tell You by Haim
The three sisters are finally back with their second album that was released this July. They sing, they play their own instruments, and they look incredibly cool while doing all of it. With metallic beats and lots of background vocals, this album is a hit.
Inside a Dream by Echosmith
Though they released a Christmas single, this is their most recent project. Released late September, this brother – brother - sister trio released a new EP. It’s filled with acoustic pop songs and shows off Sydney’s vocals, as she is the only singer throughout the entire EP.
The Con X: Covers by Teagan and Sara
The twins are taking a break from original music, and have released an album entirely of covers. Songs by Sara Bareilles, Cyndi Lauper and CHVRCHES have been re-done in Teagan and Sara’s own special way.
Perplexing Pegasus by Rae Sremmurd
Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but the fact that I only now learned that the “Black Beatles” singers are brother was a big surprise. This rap duo hasn’t released an album since 2016, but this new single was released in August. This mellow hip-hop beat will hopefully feature in their new album “Sremmlife 3” which will be dropping sometime this year.
Other Notable Mentions:
Their last album was June 2016, but these four brothers are back in the studio. Hopefully their deep vocals and accordion will make 2018 a little better!
September 2015 is the last time these brothers released an album and so it’s been quite some time since we’ve received more than four songs from them. But, it doesn’t look like they’re making anything soon. They are playing lots of festivals, supporting friends, and enjoying their job.
jinsang: lo-fi and chill
Over the past year or so there has been a popularity surge in the genre that has come to be known as “Lo-fi hip hop”.The genre is general, encompassing subgenres such as vaporwave, chillhop, future funk, and many more. The music of these subgenres is made by producers from all over the world, from all instrumental backgrounds, but one of these producers stands out from the rest. In my view, he stands out because he has perfected the formula for Lo-fi hip hop; and he goes by the name of Jinsang. I’ll be briefly breaking down the specifics of the Lo-fi genre as a movement, the musical style of the genre, and how Jinsang exemplifies these characteristics.
What is Lo-fi hip hop?:
One of the many great things about the internet is the accessibility of information to anyone who desires it. On the other hand, one of the few drawbacks is that the general public can only access information on an individual that they personally wishes to share. The Lo-fi genre capitalizes greatly on this; many beat makers’ identities are shrouded in mystery, few ever venturing to show their face. This is a calculated decision on the part of the producer, as it allows the listener to project their identity and lived experiences onto the music and the person behind it. From a marketing perspective this seems like a strange decision to make, after all, one can not form a connection with an artist without some general background on said artist to relate to. The explanation for this is that Lo-fi producers are not marketing themselves as artists or as people, but as emotions and ideas. These expressions include (but are not limited to); nostalgia, serenity, and the balance between ambiguity and specificity.
The root of most Lo-fi hip hop being made today can be traced back to one man; the japanese producer Seba Jun (stage name Nujabes, the reverse of his real name). If you happen to find yourself on soundcloud listening to Lo-fi hip hop, vaporwave, or even acid jazz, you’ll find that many of the thumbnails and profile pictures associated with it are screenshots from vintage anime. This can all be traced back to Shinichirō Watanabe’s 2004 anime; Samurai Champloo, the soundtrack to which is produced largely by Nujabes. As a result of this connection, many Lo-fi beats include snippets of anime dialogue, dubbed or otherwise. This, along with the musical style pioneered by Nujabes, creates the nostalgia that is characteristic of the genre.
Jinsang has acknowledged his inspiration on numerous occasions, remixing Nujabes track “Aruarian Dance,” (an instrumental that appeared on the Samurai Champloo soundtrack) back in 2015. He also tweeted his gratitude to the late producer in February of this year, saying simply; “THANK U SEBA JUN.”
Lo-fi hip hop has received a burst of popularity mid-2016 due to a youtube algorithm that tailors suggestions according to retention time. The trend started when mixes that were geared towards people looking to relax or study with minimal instrumental background were being posted on mass. Mixes of half an hour to an hour in length would recommend other mixes of the same kind and of similar length. Although the recommendation algorithm may have inflated the popularity of the Lo-fi genre, the mixes themselves were a testament to the purpose of Lo-fi hip hop. This purpose is to serve as a backdrop to life. Significant enough to be noticeable and pleasant, but not so significant that it steers the narrative of the experience.
Jinsang uses the idea of serenity to drive his aesthetic, but doesn’t confine himself to atmospheric and/or monotonous production. Jinsang’s sample choice is often very melody driven, and certain beats stick in the mind very easily. Tracks like “Herewego”, “Reflection”, and “Affection” from his 2016 album “Life” have very distinct melodies that stick out from the flow of the album. In my opinion, these tracks were strategically placed within the tracklist of the album. Looking at their placements; track six, eleven, and sixteen respectively, it could be said that they are placed intermittently to ground the listener and call them out of the Lo-fi trance that Jinsang has put them in. Regardless, this willingness depart from the norm and the conscientious crafting of the album experience is part of what makes Jinsang so innovative as a producer.
jinsang: Lo-fi and chill
Ambiguity and specificity:
Lo-fi hip hop is an instrumental genre, and it is not one that showcases virtuoso talent. As a result, the best way to communicate an idea as a Lo-fi producer is through the title of the track in question. Since it is difficult to develop a textual idea in an instrumental, many Lo-fi beats have very general titles. Titles relating to moods, times of day, and the four seasons of the year are common archetypes. However, this does not account for all Lo-fi hip hop beats. It is not uncommon to find track titles that express very specific themes or ideas. These titles may include relatively specific locations, activities, or lines from hypothetical conversations. This is because Lo-fi hip hop, in its pursuit of audience connection, exists at the intersection of the ambiguous and the specific, of the nebulous and the defined. The listener can project their own experiences onto the sonic canvas or let their imagination run free with the possibilities of specific events.
Jinsang commented on his own musical background in an interview with DOPECAUSEWESAID’s David Anthony G. in May of this year, stating that his own musical background was limited to having “toyed with piano in my childhood and [having] played guitar for a bit in high school,” which only makes the quality of his beats that much more impressive. Jinsang exemplifies the balance of the ambiguous and the specific in his title selection for his song titles as well as his album titles. For instance, his 2016 album “Life” has the most general title imaginable, but includes tracks with titles such as “last autumn,” and “alone, together,” both of which have very specific titles. As a contrast, his 2014 tape, entitled “Kona Park” is a reference to a specific park south of Los Angeles, but includes tracks with titles such as “feelings,” and “homecoming // memories,” both of which have very general titles. Jinsang’s titles work in two ways. They either provide a general backdrop for the listener to project their own thoughts, or they suggest a theme that the listener can then expand on with their own imagination.
The name “Lo-fi hip hop” references two aspects of the style; low fidelity and hip hop. Low fidelity refers to a quality of audio recording that is lower than the current standard. This diminished sound quality allows producers to manipulate their samples more easily, because the samples in question have very little bass. This effect is often accentuated with the use of filters such as a high-pass filter, to cut out lower frequencies. The ideal time period to find this sound is from the late 60s to the early 80s. Particularly jazz, funk, and Jpop samples of this time. This is where the hip hop connection is revealed; many early 90s “boom bap” hip hop producers used samples from this era and combined them with drums from their time.
The style of Lo-fi tends to lean towards the style of J Dilla as opposed to the style of Kanye West. Where Kanye normally chops his samples (which is common practice for stylistic and copyright reasons), Dilla would be more likely to find a sample that would play continuously, chopping the audio as little as possible to create a flowing, natural sound. It is this sound that Lo-fi producers seek to recreate. For many of them it is the sound of their childhood.
Jinsang commented on his sample choice in his DOPECAUSEWESAID interview, stating that he “grew up with a lot of jazz and 70s music.” This comes across in his sample catalogue, which ranges from Japanese rock/funk musician Makoto Matsushita to bossa nova giant Stan Getz. Jinsang incorporates the classic boom bap drums and auxiliary percussion into his beats, but goes a step further in paying homage to the 90s rap era by incorporating ad libs from hip hop legends such as Big L and The Notorious B.I.G.
Essentially the purpose of Lo-fi hip hop is to recreate the sound of an era that has passed us by, much in the way life passes us by. What Jinsang and so many others seek to create is what we all seek to experience; a chance to appreciate experience. Not necessarily a chance to stop time, but a chance to slow it down, and enjoy it along the way. As you delve down the road of Lo-fi hip hop, I encourage you to let Jinsang be your guide.
Girl at the bus stop: samples San Getz's "Detour Ahead"
Reflection: samples Hiroshima's "Roomful of mirrors
Recommendations from the author
Life (2016): Contains tracks: 'Untitled6', which may or may not contain adlibs from 2chainz, and 'Herewego' which goes back and forth between flute and guitar
Kona Park (2014)
One of Jinsang's most popular tracks, contains adlibs from Big L