Friday, January 12, 2018

Keep the Feel Fridays: Volume 1: #NU2B Sampler & Joaquin Daniels' Well-Traveled


Late in 2017 Keep the Feel released their stellar Next Up 2 Bat sampler, with songs from Abstract Rude's handpicked roster of up and coming talent. With songs from Jroz, Joaquin Daniels, Woes, B.Squid, Namek and more, the eclectic vibe is heavy yet the compilation coheres in its offering.

Jroz's "Graffiti Anthem 2.0" buzzes with youthful energy. North Star is a contemplative melody from Rude with meditative bars from Daniels, Namek reuniting with Malathion. B.Squid's "Thousand Winters" brings a creepy pop sensibility to the forefront along with her unique lyricism. Both Misleeding's "Love Starved" and Jaeda & Rude's " Sloww Burn" showcase sophisticated and novel music poems on sexuality. Woes oozes wisdom on "The Only Constant Is Change". Wisdom and earnest respect for the process of art are apparent and consistent themes and through lines on this meaty and diverse record.

Rude himself blesses an EP's worth of songs on the album but never overshadows his artists. The album crescendos with the KTF roll call and winds down with pensive but epic tracks like "On A Clear Day" with Daniels and Mozaic and the bluesy "Time As We Think" single by Rude and Squid.

A slammin' compilation of top-flight hip-hop about wisdom and the love of the culture, don't miss this one.


His first album in about a decade, Joaquin Daniels’ Well-Traveled LP returns to and expands on some of the themes of his classic Keep the Feel debut EP Endure. These themes are perseverance, mastering your arts, and the value of honest communication between grown folks. The record has truly fun and raucous tracks like “Highest Degree” and “Breaking off Styles” which is an insane Project Blowed posse cut that also happens to include what is probably the best 2mex verse on a technical level…ever. It also has epic and profound meditations on love and life like “Red Note Chemistry” and “On A Clear Day”. It’s the same guy but the writing is more mature; more cynical but still positive about life while spitting original yet relatable bars about life experiences with music and friends. The beats are a pristine and undeniable delight. Production from Elusive, Namek, Spok, Rokem, E.Q. and DJ Fat Jack give Joaquin bangin' platforms on which to poeticize for the listener- the Keep the Feel team rallied to give this album a full sound flavor palette and a message worthy of sharing- one of enduring your travels and never letting the trials of life dull your spark. 

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program ( and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wiggy Wednesdays: RiBs with Greaseball & Cuda

Greaseball - Happiness to Me 

Given that MC Lyfe, Johnny Greaseball’s counterpart in Riverside’s Herbalistics duo, dropped his album at the beginning of 2017 I found it very appropriate that Greaseball dropped his album on the very last day of 2017. Greaseball has been teasing the world for years with lots of great Herbalistics songs, Burgundy’s songs, Strange People songs, and even his own “Bad Cat EP” some years back. Throughout the years of the wunderkind’s mic mastery, fans like me have waited for an LP to quench the need for his work. One of the most zeitgeisty rappers out there, his work reminds of the Grouch, of De La Soul, of Retch and Da$h and other grimy corner kids with humble yet booming stories of the towns they’re from.

"You were born good so you let the world win"

The skits remind me and WCA's Sham of MC Chris and the Chronic albums. Grease's philosophical perspective on hedonism and existentialism is funny and well delivered; trumpeted in a monologue in the intro and explicated in the spare but stunning title track. It's for the best that he doesn't let the album get any more tripped up in philosophical dissertation because it's plenty substantial with meaty poetry and bars for days over his indie-rock infused alt-rap beats. Outside of the skits and "Nice Day", most of the songs compile his singles and releases from the last few years but it does all coagulate beautifully into a melodic and lyrical mosaic, produced mainly by him along with some notable contributions from Asend, Kordisepz and just a couple others.

"Jaime, Let's Go Get Diana" and "Brown Skinned Martha" show that there's still no one better than Grease at depicting the 3rd generation Riverside Mexican late capitalism era stoner kid milieu so unpretentiously in hip-hop form than him. It develops the down to earth relatable rapport he nurtured with listeners on Herbalistics music. "Go On & Cry" depicts Grease at his best: being irreverent, insightful, cynical, funky, and true to himself.

"Then I'll go down to the park and smoke cigarettes by little kids when it gets dark"

Even though the album goes from the disrespectful "Cypher Effect" style stomp-your-face verses of "The Sickness" and "Corny Rappers" to the sweet hipster song tinged "Rock Fights" and "Martha", it doesn't feel disjointed. It feels true to how men are here and now and I mean that in the best way such a sobering truth could be meant.

If "Corny Rappers" is his greatest fuck-your-life barfest, "Never my Love" is his greatest deep statement-about-love-in-the-form-of-a-3-minute-song poem; produced by Asend it's a masterpiece of confessional yet concise rhyming and melody. "One for Big Lou" is Greaseball's secret origin, his penultimate ode to his father, and another of his greatest works.

"Nice Day" hints at the exisentialist zen-stoner trickster Grease may be becoming in the future. The fact that he even delivered his long-awaited LP can't help but give us hope that the Burgundys, Herbalistics and Strange People EPs and LPs will come to fruition as well but in the meantime Greaseball delivered an album with a philosophical thesis which bodes well for the promise his existence has always implied; the promise of a new southwestern Latino beatnik rapper Kerouac who could spit well about the scum and sugar right outside all of our car doors.

Cuda- Back to the Monkey Bars

Cuda's Monkey Bars was another holiday season delight with impeccable songwriting and thought provoking content. He deploys I.E. staples and legends like Notiz Yong, CJ Simmons, Slick C, Yung Miss, D'zyl 5k1, Curtiss King, Dirty Birdy and more to great effect and absolutely kills shit alongside them. The tape balances the solo exhibitions, concept songs and posse cuts pretty ideally in my assessment.

"I'm just Cuda. I don't need the fame to get respect on my name, now do I?"

On the opening song "Just Cuda" he slyly reintroduces himself, his wary outlook on the modern world, his playful openness and soulful musicality and poetry. On "L's Matter" he goes into mind-bending yet undeniably insightful commentary on race today and not at all in the same predictable ways. He shows how complex our political discourse can get even in rap(!!) by infusing his Californian multi-cultural love with his spirituality into our society's internecine conflicts.

"Queen Me" is a Lion's roar calling for his mate and the bars and clearly communicated contractual suggestions had me bobbin' my head and nodding along in no time!

"I do it well but when it comes down to it my soul ain't for sale"

On "Soul not 4 Sale" he bars out on a banger while explaining how he balances his walk with his pursuit of artistic greatness. He is consistently impressive with the kind of discussion he can write in your mind in the confines of 16 bars. His voice is unique and his pen thoughtful. Like anyone on Uproar, he is an artist determined to not waste the opportunity to keep your attention-peep the tape from one of the calmest yet deepest Jedi I've heard on the mic.

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program ( and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at

Sunday, December 31, 2017

RiBs: Reviews In Brief of new albums by Cam Gnarly / Noa James & Calmfixup!

If Peace of Cake found Noa James shedding his growl for a spacy strange proclamation of his love for all life on earh, Gnarly Orca finds him making those ideas sound familiar over incredibly effective and infectious bleeding edge new hip-hop in collaboration with one of the Inland Empire's parallel Buddhas, Cam Gnarly, a favorite of mine from these parts.

The quality of the production of this album can't be overstated, every synth shines, every drum crisp and every melody links flawlessly with Gnarly's clever sung refrains and James' enlightened earnest baritone. Noa sings throughout as well, perhaps most notably on the EP's closer "My Folks" where the duo establish a new shout-out anthem.

Gnarly sounds as confident as ever and at home on spacy smooth stony melodic chillers such as each track here. "Lifting Me Up" has him with his classic cadence and a chorus, like most here, that could double as a mantra of self-improvement and manifesting one's most majestic desires.

Both of these artists have espoused the spirituality of posi-waves for years now. There was never any doubt that their content could mesh well in that way. What is a delightful if not shocking surprise was how perfect the project would be musically as well. The lyrics are original and life-affirming and barsy as they need to be to do the beats justice but are more focused on connecting with earth-beings at their most vulnerable and chillactimous. The mood the album strikes, the tones it hits in its short but substantial 5 tracks, the sincere and musical way in which our stars use their voices to share with you their good news about existence all comes together to make one of the year's most delicious delights and just in time before the year's final quarter is out! Chill to this record, you won't regret it.

The elusive multi-instrumentalist, performer and studio wizard for the West Coast Avengers (my) crew has shocked WCA's followers by dropping a complete hard rock and singer-songwriter guitar song filled album. Calmfix displays a hilarious and self-deprecating awareness in his lyrics, an original but warm and familiar sense of melody, pop sensibility for days and indefatigable rock chops. Every part of this record is by Calmfixup- from every instrument to the vocals to the engineering, mastering and album art. The album has echoes of alt-rock legends like Stone Temple Pilots and Nirvana but there's also a refreshing and clean modernity that makes this album ready made for any mood- like the man himself, the songs traverse trivial topic matter, depressing realities about humanity and lots of thoughtful yet animated navel-gazing observations in between perhaps best summarized by Fix's proclamation, "I calculate every little thing 'cept everything I probly should". Groove to the guitar ballads and rock out to the thrashers, particularly my favorite "Habit". After this air tight debut, Calmfixup shouldn't have to start over again any time soon but when he does, I'll be here for it- you should too!

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program ( and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at

Friday, December 29, 2017

From Mayweather to Marshall Mathers: Race and Historical Revisionism in Hip-Hop

I’ve never been into sports (shocker). The dynamics of sports fandom always shock me in how bare they lay the folly of man. It tripped me out earlier this year when the Mayweather/McGregor fight happened and life felt like an SNL sketch: all the black sports enthusiasts I knew wanted Mayweather to win and all non-black enthusiasts wanted McGregor to win. What felt like an SNL sketch is that these are consistently the lines along which people were aligning but everyone had detailed ESPN ass explanations for their thoughts that never addressed race. Like we were all walking around acting like race wasn’t why we were aligned the way we were. I honestly wasn’t aligned a particular way and ended up seeing the fight at a cousin’s house almost by accident.

Since the initial reaction to Eminem in 1998-2000, I hadn’t seen much of the same kind of polarization about him until recent years. Most of the hip-hop artists I know including many of color are proudly influenced by Eminem. We’ve seen a generation of multi-ethnic battle rappers grow up on Eminem as well as music making rappers like the Game and more. In recent years, coinciding with the Obama years and the growing acceptance of the idea that systemic racism still exists pervasively in the west, this has shifted greatly.

Younger hip-hop fans of color often discuss him as a Weird Al type joke, an old weirdo who talks about chopping up his mom and wife and other Wypipo shit. Now, right alongside a revolution in how we think about institutional racism, there’s been evolutions and revolutions for feminist discourse in the mainstream in recent years as well. The feminist revisionist view of Eminem has been a conversation that’s played out much more publically: Eminem is super problematic and ultimately a stunted man-child spokesman for Columbiners and directionless young men everywhere. If young hip-hop fans were coming from this direction in their critiques of Eminem wholly, I’d have cottoned to their critiques sooner but given how much horrible man-child content comes from a lot of lauded new rappers it surprised me when I slowly but ultimately came to the conclusion that the new young hip-hop fan of color’s rejection of Eminem is a progressive political development.
It has been agreed upon for a while that there are people as barsy as Eminem of color that didn’t get the shine he did because they didn’t look cute and pale. It’s also agreed upon that Eminem didn’t move hip-hop topically to a good place though he did move it to a new and original place. He expanded the transgressor personality of gangsta rappers into a version of it that white people and other poor people in general that were not gang affiliated thought they could adopt and they did. Eminem probably deserves some blame for the nature of hype-beasts and fuckboys in the modern era too but I digress.

It is celebrated when Moonlight wins an Oscar against La La Land, when the Grammy’s don’t nominate white people for best album and other important but not important cultural moments. Eminem’s legacy is being revised with such an angle and it’s okay, it’s for the good of society though the rapid change does leave his fans of color looking a bit a shade of Uncle Tom-ish. I don’t think we actually are, but I see how it looks that way. In retrospect, Eminem’s rise portended Donald Trump’s rise. Rap didn’t know where it was going post-2pac and here were directionless white men saying, “we want to be bad-asses too, we want to brag about our transgressive behavior too, we want a way to express our anger, disillusionment and ennui with society too” and Eminem gave it to them. Dr.Dre was a genius for seeing this.

Apply the metaphor to 15 years later and American politics was asking itself where to go after the Reaganism on steroids of governance of W. Bush and the updated Clintonianism of Obama (not a knock, just the reality Obama had to deal with). There Trump was, an Eminem to the parents of grandparents of suburban white Eminem fans, saying “yes you too can say what you want and it can be offensive, you can ‘keep it real’ and be crass like the Hollywood that disrespects your whitebread Christian lifestyle”. Given the economic environment, none of this should have been surprising. When oppressed people aren’t prepared to seize a moment (and there are legit structural factors that explain that, not a knock) white directionless angry people will fill in the cultural space.

American politics has since been recapitulated to soothe the anxieties, fears and hates of old white people. End of the day it’s because they showed up but it doesn’t make it less whack or much less unjust. Minorities didn’t stop having problems, they just weren’t in a MLK or Rodney King riots moment at the moments Eminem and Trump seized the spotlight which is apparently what it takes to create a cultural opening that can’t be co-opted by white people (well when you factor in Sublime, mostly can’t be co-opted, natch).

I don’t know what the larger solutions are to all of this but I do suspect that if Eminem’s rise in our consciousness was a prescient symbol of things to come (the re-emergent dominance of white men’s problems as the central focus of art and American politics), then him being brought low could perhaps portend the end of those things that came (white backlash). I sometimes suspect that Eminem is emotionally intelligent enough to be grappling with that on its deepest levels- that its just and right for him to be downgraded in retroactive evaluation as part of a larger and ultimately good societal shift in values and priorities. The awareness of white privilege is at an all-time high, young intelligent people of color are tired of the lower standard for white people, how easy it is for them to get props for stuff more vulnerable populations work unrecognized for decades at, and just the sheer number imbalance. End of the day, they could probably strongly argue that there’s nothing white people get recognized for that a more deserving hard up population member shouldn’t be getting recognized for, based on the merit and the politics of the moment.

I’ve been accused of white appeasement when I bring this kind of thing up but my only concern is for accuracy. If I’ve been defensive of Eminem it’s not because I Stan for him, I really hardly listen to him these days; but because it seems inaccurate to me to downplay his accomplishments and skill. As someone who is interested in cultural egalitarianism, Black Liberation, Reconquista, feminism and other progressive movements, I think it’s important to be accurate when we attack undeserving lauded whites and Eminem just wasn’t at the top of my list. I now realize the folly of my ways- Eminem is an easy but important target to take down a notch for the larger cause of not awarding white people for doing 75% of what other races do and being treated like an innovator (not that Em is that necessarily, but as his career becomes more checkered with hit or miss releases, he becomes a symbol for overly praised white mediocrity) and the cause of not letting white men take over the national conversation just because they have an angry untended-to boner.

So I relent and admit that the cause of historical revisionist downgrade of Eminem and his work is a societal good but I would humbly request to the cultural victors that they show a little patience with Eminem fans of all color as they gradually come to the same conclusion. We’re not trying to be Uncle Toms. We’re just older and in the year 2000, it was seen as a victory for racial harmony that for one of the first times since the Beastie Boys and House of Pain a white rapper was seen as very good at hip-hop and poised to take over the world commercially.

Post script: a wrinkle in this I think about a lot is how generally (I swear to god I know this is a generalization please don’t crucify me for this) black music audiences are on the pulse of new work while basically all the other races fandoms gradually catalog the best of what happened in the decade prior. So I was 12 years old in the late 90’s, studying the works of Dr.Dre like they were a Mark Twain collection, assembling a cache of albums already known to be classic and studying them as such while my black friends listened to all the new releases like Cash Money and Project Pat and debated if they would later be classics. So we’re in this moment where Latinos and whites love Eminem and the whole Dr. Dre gangsta rap/g-funk/boom-bap/skribble jam paradigm he came out of while savvy black music fans think of this kind of filing system hip-hop fandom as white, out-of-touch, nerdy, passé. 90% of the Latino rappers I know are blatantly influenced by Eminem, my self included. This adds pressure to the historical revisionism debate from two directions: 1) black fandom becomes increasingly aware that not only are whites but now Latinos are particularly defensive of the air and attention sucking Eminem and 2) Non-black fandoms circle the wagons in defense of the star that showed them you didn’t have to be black to be a cool hip-hop type. So there’s an interesting and arguably unique confluence of tribalism, revisionism and just cultural difference in how groups of people process and assess music. White westerners are obsessed with a canon: a set of material agreed upon as classic whereas those who reject white western-ism, often black youth, are obsessed with the opposite: the vibrant and surprising pulse of the new and this disparity further creates the divide in opinion. I personally think this is great as long as we are aware of it and charitable to each other’s differing sensibilities.

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program ( and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Recent Video Round Up with: Theez, Hvlloween, East of the River, RasJosh Beats & Ital Santos

                                                        "JEFE GOLDBLUM"

Yung Thesis’ rebrand as the reborn “Theez” continues apace with this simple yet fresh Enkrypt Los Angeles live but studio quality performance of his new song “Jefe Goldblum”! His humor and skill is always top-flight so never sleep on the kid!


Hvlloween’s new 6th Element videos keep coming with drama and cinematic high value production. Hvlloween is a tenacious and undeniable talent from the 951 area and he won’t be ignored- step into his dark yet all too familiar world for a moment, won’t you?

                                                      "BOMBER ( HAN SOLO) "

Do you like weed? Do you like Star Wars? Do you like bars and beats and videos by long-time Herbalistics’ videographer Ppaaccee aka Alex Reynoso? Of course you do! Check this ish out witcha bad self. 



One of the most ambitious EOTR/Mighty Muds One productions yet, Muds gives each feature on this banging and aggressive single from Mescal’s latest LP their own scene in this epic and well-executed posse cut visual. Take particular note of the drone pullout shots from the Hollywood sign circa the Mad Macks section to be impressed and entertained!
                                                       "HERE TO STAY"

The latest of Ital Santos’ trilogy of music videos for his new Reflections instrumental LP depicts some of the I.E.’s finest, just doing what they do, with no plans of leaving. I love the everyday celebration of 909 life these guys display and the music is funky and substantial, even without lyrics in this instance. Put something in the air and head nod to this. 

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program ( and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

4Square: C.J. Simmons, Curtiss King, Noa James, and Ital Santos

This year we wanted to do something different at the end of the year than just more reviews, profiles and video round ups. We wanted to add a little retrospect and creativity to the pieces so we're putting our year end content under the banner of The Wrap Up. To start off 2017's Wrap Up, we bring you the first installment of a series that will explore album covers we like, 4square. We're getting quotes from the artists and the visual artists they teamed up with for their album covers about some of our favorite releases from 2017.
In this series, we're asking musicians and the visual artists that helped them with their album art for quotes and stories about the covers to their records. I'll add a little commentary and perhaps on occasion some additional relevant imagery. We haven't failed to notice that our readership has tripled in the last 2 years and we want to reward y'all for that with some fun content, so thank you for reading as always!


ALBUM TITLE: The Transition

King Dice Says: CJ Simmons' The Transition is the first major release after rebranding in early 2017. Simmons (formerly Young Jig) visually displays the transition of what can be interpreted as a boy to a man, an artist journey of self-discovery, or even in the grander sense of life as the simple act of being alive can be described as a series of transitions. On the far left we see an unfinished flat sketch on notebook paper; invoking memories of childhood school days. The first image transitions into a visibly taller and now more refined image with more detail and shading, but keep in mind the second image has an important "piece" of the first image stationed right over the heart (please see Young Jig's Open Heart and Black Heart projects for more information). The second image gives way to the most complete of the three figures now complete with color and sporting a more confident pose signifying CJ's newfound comfort in his artistry under the new moniker. Ultimately a sense of growth and evolution are obviously being broadcast through the art with excellent execution.

K.I.T. on the album art for Transition: "For the Transition, the artwork was a far cry from previous work I had done with CJ mainly because the focus was on him instead of the concept of the record at hand. Compared the single artwork for Be Free and Pina Colada, the Transition is an artistic rendition of not a theme, but a quality I had gotten to observe over time. The proudest moment I had taken apart of was Jig's wedding day and I've never seen him more in his element. So as the gradient of drafting increases from college ruled lined paper to a final digital render of the man himself, the middle ground where he made a commitment to the woman he wants to spend eternity with felt like the middle ground with which he will stand upon, regardless of the hardships he'll most certainly encounter in changing his moniker. That cover basically drew itself to be honest haha."

MUSICIAN: Curtiss King
ALBUM TITLE: Summer Salt

King Dice Says: Curtiss King remains a powerful force in California's music scene. Anyone who has followed his career can attest to the level of talent on display in each project, from production to the flow to occasionally singing. With that being said, King has publicly announced Summer Salt would be his final foray into releasing projects as a rapper. His most recent album cover shows Curtiss sprinkling what could very well be the Summer Salt itself onto a dish he's preparing very much in the vein of Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe aka #SaltBae. Producer of the project OhGoshLeotus can be seen in the background seemingly looking on in disapproval. This entire scene happening in front of a circus tent, complete with flying trapeze artists, surrounded by a world on fire. It seems King has become a maser of his own destiny and managed to use the same Summer Salt described in the project's opening track as something he can now use to his advantage as opposed to being controlled by its effects. All the while the world is falling apart around him and the only part not burning is literally, and I'm assuming quite figuratively as well, a circus. 

ALBUM TITLE: Peace of Cake
ALBUM ART BY: Deladeso

King Dice Says: Noa James' Peace of Cake is, in my humble opinion, a project responsible for giving us many of the Inland Empire's underground POSI anthems for 2017. You're taking the aggressive style Noa James is widely known for, motivational messages, super dope beats (see Orca de Tres Leche, and Serman Chocolate Cake). and mixing it all up. The cover we get for this project is a zombified Noa James who seems to have turned into a cake and is giving us, the listener, a piece of him. We are getting a piece of his "brain" as he shares his thoughts, a piece of his eye as he shares his vision, and a there is much more to be given. Simple but compelling. 

MUSICIAN: Ital Santos
ALBUM TITLE: Reflections

King Dice Says: Ital Santos' Reflections' is the only instrumental album to make my list for this article. The cover has striking imagery that I instantly connected to. Growing up Catholic in Southern California, I couldn't help but instantly see the resemblance to the painting "Virgen de Guadalupe". Maybe its the pose, maybe its the rays of light emanating from behind Ital's head, whatever it is... it is captivating. When coupled with the project's title Reflections The sense of being God or in control of one's fate is apparent. Ital has a sort of tradition of religious iconography and imagery being present in his work (see the cover of his Sermones project), Reflections continues in that tradition. I've always viewed the image of rays coming from behind a person's head in illustrations as meaning having a message from God and maybe Ital shares that sentiment with this project as it's content being a divine message to be shared with the world.  

Ital Santos on the album art for Reflections
I finished the album first... I sent [iNanz] a picture of me and the album. told her to do what she do

inane about Reflections: Ray Ban eye wear was the fun part. It evolved from there. The vibe. I noticed his eyes are something he hides.

Follow King Dice on his dope ass social media pages at @KingDiceSays on everything.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

4square with Cam Archer, MC Lyfe, RasJosh Beats, So Cal Street Team & More!

Welcome to the latest 4square installment from JooseBoxx!

MUSICIAN: Cam Archer
ALBUM TITLE: Spirit Gunner


"The idea to go with an Akira inspired cover on this album was technically Kit. I had a similar idea but involved me actually in front of a car. We had discussed a homage to Akria in the past and this album made a lot of sense to put it into action. It plays well off of certain areas of the story within the album and the different emotions that went into it. The energy of the album I guess you could say, had some Akira in it. Especially from Testsuo's point of view.

Kit is the best artist I personally know and one of the best I've seen due to him immense versatility. I can give him a concept idea and 90% of the time he takes it and brings it to life exactly the way I had envisioned. Even when there are alterations to be made, I know they'll be done with great detail. As for the time at which this cover came about, I would say the album concept and length was already decided. However, he started working on it in another room during the very first recording session for the album."


"Well, the covers were really extensions of the individuals I see them both as. For the Transition, the artwork was a far cry from previous work I had done with CJ mainly because the focus was on him instead of the concept of the record at hand. Compared the single artwork for Be Free and Pina Colada, the Transition is an artistic rendition of not a theme, but a quality I had gotten to observe over time. The proudest moment I had taken apart of was Jig's wedding day and i've never seen him more in his element. So as the gradient of drafting increases from college ruled lined paper to a final digital render of the man himself, the middle ground where he made a commitment to the woman he wants to spend eternity with felt like the middle ground with which he will stand upon, regardless of the hardships he'll most certainly encounter in changing his moniker. That cover basically drew itself to be honest haha.

For Cam's cover, the idea was much less tangible and shifted from concept to concept. He's obviously a big fan of japanese culture, sports, video games and the like, so the ideas given started with the initial inspiration of Yu Yu Hakusho but hit a wall early on. As he had me sit in on sessions for SpiritGunner, I got a better feel of the direction he wanted to take the visual design. A thread that ties together these two covers in particular is the bond shared between members of Half Valve and OE. There's no yes-men in our collectives (respectively) so subpar work won't reach the masses 9 out of 10 times. Speaking from such stipulation, members of both camps trust my artistic vision and if all else fails, will let me take the wheel in putting together something fye. I dropped the idea of doing an Akira homage and having the 5.0 from the first cover make a return and Cam responded with a Drake meme and it was lit. I painted most of said cover during the session for Nights and completed it before we finished the BGIV track. The back cover was inspired by a Yoshiro Togashi promo piece and actually went through two drafts before getting it right. The OG draft is the first time i've put myself into any of my clients work. "

* Spirit Gunner back cover
* for comparative reference, art from Akira



"When I was broke and in the streets I would go to the top of the city, smoke and think: one day I'm gonna be known in my city. I'm gonna do great things and become a success. All while being a broke kid on top of a mountain. The irony is funny cause even at my lowest point I managed to still be on top of the world in a sense. I would sit there and think like 'Damb, this happened over there, I did this over here, I smoke over with so and so in that lot...I went to school there, lost my virginity over there like- damn, this city has really seen the best and worst of me and now when i go to the top I smoke and remind myself where I once was compared to where I am now and to where the future will lead me next.
MUSICIAN: RasJosh Beats & Tanjint Wiggy
ALBUM TITLE: Inland Imperial
ALBUM ART BY: Ryan Gaffin, Cash Tijerina of New Culture Media Group & Tan Nguyen of CopyCats


"I wanted something that evoked our last West Coast Avengers group album, “The Inland Empire Strikes Back”,  but also just something really attention grabbing. I knew I wanted a juxtaposition of the fantastical and the street. Ryan Gaffin got to showing me photos he had taken of Fontana. I saw the ones that made the front and back cover and just knew if we added Star Wars crafts to them I’d have what I wanted.
Something about the electrical tower’s geometry made me think of an Imperial Star Destroyer. I was wondering how we could turn the tower into a Star Destroyer when Cash suggested we depict a Star Destroyer crashing INTO the tower. Once he did the Photoshop work to make that happen I knew I had my cover. Cash knows me well because when I said it reminded me of the Led Zeppelin I cover, Cash said he was inspired to make an homage to that image by the black-and-white coloration of Ryan Gaffin’s photos. I don’t remember ever explicitly telling how much I like Zeppelin but either way he knew, so the confluence of Fontana and Star Wars and classic rock homage made me very pleased with it. "

* for comparative reference, art from Led Zeppelin I

* for comparative reference, image of the Hindenberg disaster before being edited for Zeppelin cover

MUSICIAN: So Cal Street Team
ALBUM ART BY: Wellington Rawls

Yung Miss (of SCST):

"I came up with the concept from a picture of us I have as my desktop screensaver.
Basically the same picture just updated with our separate looks after growth.

Seeing the picture whenever I logged on to work always inspired me to make something happen."

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program ( and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at