Now Playing: J.R. Koda

12 Apr

Surprise! I had a conversation with Hillsboro, Ohio’s J.R. Koda, up and coming rapper from the Ohio Valley.  He’s preparing a new mixtape that might impress and inspire all who listen.

iBlogshuffle: First off, How are you doing today?

J.R. Koda: I’m doing pretty good. I just woke up not too long ago and have been listening to music, ready to start the day off.

iB: Sounds like a good day then. So, before we get into it, where did the name J.R. Koda come from?

J.R. Koda: I’ve always liked the name Koda and wanted to use it somehow and saw that it meant “friend” in a Native American language when I looked it up in the dictionary. I was like, “That works because I’m cool with everyone.” Then, I got J.R. from my first and middle name, Joseph Robert. The name just flowed together, so I changed my rap name from Joe Kidd to J.R. Koda in 2009.

iB: I understand that a lot of friends are involved in your live performance. Would you say that they play a part in your writing process as well?

J.R. Koda: Yes, my friends are a big part of what happens in my music. I have a group of people that I hang out with and that I talk about in my songs a lot.  There are a couple of people that I let listen to my music before anyone else to know what they think. I like to talk about life in my music and sometimes I use my friends’ input when writing those songs.

iB: What about life inspires you the most?

J.R. Koda: The struggle inspires me the most. Coming from nothing and doing all you can to make the best of it and keep pushing to make it better. Looking at my family and friends is what inspires me the most. I don’t do this for me; I do it for everyone that I’m surrounded by.

iB: How has coming from a smaller city made an impact on your music? Do you feel like it’s a weakness or an advantage?

J.R. Koda: I think it’s kind of a weakness and an advantage at the same time. It’s a weakness in the fact that not a lot of people know about me and it’s hard to network or work with other people around when there aren’t so many. It’s an advantage because I’m not influenced by too many outside things. When I have a giant following and people notice me while I’m still holding down my little hometown, then that means I worked harder than someone from a big city with a lot more outlets and chances.

iB: Are there any artists that influence/inspire you?

J.R. Koda: Yeah, most people would say Jay-Z, Nas and the typicals. Those ones inspired me to start, but a lot of new artists are out and I relate to them more because they are around my age. The ones that influence me the most are XV, Wale, J.Cole, Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean and Currensy

iB: If you had to use 3 words to describe your music, what would they be?

J.R. Koda: Inspirational, Conceptual, Ohio

iB: Your most recent release is “What Do I Know.” [Featured Above] Could you talk a little about the song?

J.R. Koda: I was listening to the beat and the line “but really what do I know a small city in Ohio.” Then I just built off that and I thought it would be cool to start it off each verse, but talk about something different. The first verse is about how a lot of the blacks in my town want to blame things on the white people, when everyone is going through the same problems.  I just wanted them to know they can make it, they just have to put the work in and let nothing hold them back. The 2nd verse was just how most of my friends don’t have fathers and a lot of people can relate to that. The focus of the 3rd verse was to not let your dream die and keep dreaming and pushing for it.  The hook is all about self doubt, like the back and forth talk. The whole song is really about self doubt

iB: Are you currently working on any projects? I read that we might see a mixtape sometime soon.

J.R. Koda: Yes, and I’m super excited! The mixtape will be called “Return From Nowhere” because I haven’t put out a project in forever, but I didn’t really go anywhere. I’m making the best music I can at the moment and I’m pushing my song writing with the concepts of the songs and the overall make-up of the tape.

iB: It sounds like it’ll be something to look out for! Finally, after someone listens to one of your songs, what do you most hope that they get from it?

J.R. Koda: I hope it’s relatable to their life but most of all I hope they come away with a little sense of who I am.


Human Highway, Devlin & Faded Paper Figures

10 Apr

Human Highway (Indie Rock)

Human Highway, the Canadian Indie Rock band, formed in 2008.  The band name was chosen in reference to Neil Young’s song “Human Highway.”  The band’s style is reminiscent of 1960s/1970s AM radio pop music.  The band was started by Jim Guthrie, who was on tour with the band Islands with second band member, Nick Thorburn.  The band utilizes fantastic harmonies and uses a simple but dynamic approach to songwriting.  The band’s sound can be compared to the styles of The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and the Kinks.

Devlin (Grime/Hip-Hop)

“Community Outcast”

Devlin (James Devlin)  is a London based Grime MC.  Devlin’s career began at the age of 15 after attending Brittons School and Technology College.  Like many grime artists starting on pirate radio stations, Devlin started on the pirate radio station, Flava FM.  His debut album, Bud, Sweat and Beers, is a great display of Devlin’s fast paced, shuffled delivery.  He features several collaborations including Giggs and Labrinth.

Faded Paper Figures (Synthpop/New Wave)

“North By North”

Faded Paper Figures, an Californian Indie Pop/Electronica band formed in 2007.  The band’s style is very much like of the bands The Postal Service and Owl City.  The simple male and female vocals are usually accompanied by a colorful blend of electronic and indie rock sounds.  Usually a smooth synthesized background is built upon by moving guitars and interesting beats.

Harlem Shakes, Trip Lee, & Miike Snow

25 Mar

Harlem Shakes (Indie Rock/ Alternative Rock)

“Technicolor Health”

Harlem Shakes was an indie alternative rock band which was formed in 2006 in New York.  Though the band split in 2009, they managed to release a full length album which was received very well by critics.  The band’s distinct sound is defined by the unique voice of Lexy Benaim, whose energetic phrasing carries each song and captivates the listener.  Harlem Shakes seasoned their songs by sprinkling an eccentric mix of sounds and instruments into their recorded and live performances, including various wind instruments (saxophone and several brass guests).  The songs featured here showcase these elements.  (Above) “Technicolor Health” is decorated with a number of styles which include a strong electronic background complimented by a clear bass line.  The moving bass line then brings us from a busy dreamy state to a relaxed moving percussion segment.  Again, in “Strictly Game” (below) the song begins with a strong synthesized bass fill which brings in the strange improvised baritone saxophone, which can be heard throughout this album.  Also, the contrast from loud to soft and busy to simple, is demonstrated in this song and can be heard in most, if not all, Harlem Shakes songs.

Trip Lee (Rap/Hip-Hop)

“Superstar (Eyes Off Me)”

Trip Lee (William Lee Barefield III) is a Christian Rapper from Dallas, Texas.  He now works out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he has released three studio records.  Trip began rapping when he was 14 years old and soon after chose to devote his talents to ministry through music.  As he started making a name for himself in 2004 and met fellow christian rapper, Lecrae, who took him in as a sort of apprentice.  Soon after, he signed with Reach Records and released his first album, If They Only Knew.  20/20 (2008), which brought us the single “Superstar (Eyes Off Me)” [featured above], made its place in the Billboard top 200 reaching #11 on the Christian Albums chart and #4 on Gospel.  In his most recent album, Between Two Worlds (2010), Trip explores a number of styles including Jazz and also incorporates more organic sounds ranging from Spanish guitar to low brass.

Miike Snow (Indie Pop/ Electropop)

“Billie Holiday”

Miike Snow is comprised of three members.  Two of whom, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, have been friends and had worked together in Sweden for sometime before the band had formed.  While working on an album for Britney Spears, the two met the third member, Andrew Wyatt, the American vocalist.  The band’s style is characterized by the strong use of electronic music.  The broad pop based sound is sometimes reminiscent of the electronic style used by the English band, Muse.  That is, that even with the use of several elements at once, Miike Snow is able to remain careful and precise, avoiding a cluttered sound.  While Andrew Wyatt’s vocal performance is usually, powerful and simple, it is common for them to add some sort of effect to better blend with the style for which the song is calling.  An aspect of Miike Snow’s sound is that none of the songs sound the same, but the style in which they are made makes them distinct and recognizable.  Their self titled album, Miike Snow, is a perfect preview for what is to be expected from this band in the future.

Say Hi, Chiddy Bang, & Beardyman

7 Feb

Say Hi (Indie Rock/ Alternative Rock)

“November Was White, December Was Grey”

Say Hi, a name shortened from Say Hi To Your Mom, is the project of Seattle’s Eric Elbogen.  Since 2002, Say Hi’s albums have all been recorded in Elbogen’s home.  He records himself on all instruments.  On tour, he is accompanied by several friends who fill in the extra spots in the band.  Say Hi’s style is deeply rooted in the acoustic sound, while incorporating electronic undertones, moving bass and guitar, and resonating vocals.  The band’s seventh album, Um, Uh Oh, was released in January of this year which includes the most recent single, “Devils.”

Chiddy Bang (Hip-Hop/ Alternative)

“Because (Feat. Radiohead)”

Chiddy Bang is a Philidelphia based Hip-Hop duo (Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege and Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin).  These two gentlemen met and formed their band in their freshman year of college in 2008 while attending Drexel University.  The group’s unique style is attributed to the sampling and manipulating a wide variety of artists in order to fit their Electronica influenced sound.  In April of last year, Chiddy Bang released a free mini-mixtape called Air Swell which sampled several artists in the UK, as they have been in tour there for the past year.  They have also released an EP called “The Preview” which is meant to keep fans happy until their debut album is released later this year.

Beardyman (Beatbox)

“Beardyman on Pete Mitchel on Xfm – live 2009”

Beardyman (Darren Foreman) is a beatboxer from London, England. In his live sets, Beardyman puts together spontaneous songs as he produces sounds with his mouth and loops/manipulates them through a complex system of equipment including several Kaoss Pads. On earlier tours especially, Beardyman was able to take suggestions from the audience which would determine the development of the music throughout the show. This improvised style of show can be seen in the Battlejam club nights which are also represented in the form of a podcast for those unfortunate fans who cannot attend. Beardyman’s extensive knowledge of a wide variety of musical genres and styles allows him to instantaneously reproduce and blend those styles to complete a piece. His highly anticipated debut album, “I Done A Album”, is to be released on March 21st of this year.

Frank Turner, Bei Maejor, & Imogen Heap

28 Jan

Frank Turner (Folk/Rock)

“The Road”

Frank Turner is an English folk/punk singer who was previously a member of a band called Million Dead.  He has been working on his solo acoustic career since the band’s break up in 2005.  His style has become a lighthearted acoustic rock sound with an underlying punk influence.  He has accompanied bands on tour including Celtic punk band, Flogging Molly, and American punk band, The Offspring. He is currently signed to Epitaph Records.

Bei Maejor (Pop/ R&B)

“She Ain’t You”

Bei Maejor, 23 years old, is an American artist, producer, and songwriter.  He has produced and written songs for many artists including Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Ciera, and Sean Kingston.  He has released two mixtapes, Upside Down 1&2, in 2010 and will be releasing a new mixtape, Upside Down 3 on Jive Records.  He graduated from The University of Michigan and, before he graduated, won a Gold Plaque in 2005 for work in Production.  He has been nominated for two Grammys for his work with Trey Songz and Monica.  Bei Maejor’s style is strongly influenced by modern R&B and his smooth tone has been compared to the artist, Jeremih.

Imogen Heap (Electronica/ Synthpop/ Trip-Hop)

“First Train Home”

Imogen Heap (Imogen Jennifer Jane Heap) of Romford, Havering, is a British singer and composer presenting the world with a unique mix of Electronica, characterized by the use of synthesizers, drum machines, and various looping and sequencing techniques, and other genres. Her sound consists of several sub-genres of electronica including Trip-Hop, a downtempo style of electronic music, and Synthpop, a style of synthesizer music commonly recognized in the New Wave genre.   She is also known for her work in the Electronic music duo Frou Frou.  She has been nominated for several Grammys, two of which were won by her most recent album Ellipse.  She is also recognized for her collaborations with several artists including, english artist, Jeff Beck.  She’s done a wide range of remixes for artists like Sean Lennon, Bon Jovi, and Blue October.  In her solo career, she is most well known for her single “Hide and Seek” (featured in the video below) which was sampled in Jason DeRulo’s “Whatcha Say”.

Blitzen Trapper, Tinie Tempah, & The Cat Empire

21 Jan

Blitzen Trapper (Folk Rock/Indie):

“Black River Killer”

The Portland, Oregon based band consists of 6 members [Eric Earley (guitar/vocals), Erik Menteer (guitar/keyboard), Brian Adrian Koch (drums/vocals), Michael VanPelt (bass), Drew Laughery (keyboards), and Marty Marquis (guitar, keyboards, vocals)] The band formed in the year 2000 and is currently signed to Sub Pop Records. “Furr” (Video) was possibly their most popular hit, released in 2008. The band’s eclectic, lo fi sound is commonly compared to the early works of Beck. Meanwhile, Blitzen Trapper’s folk/americana sound, especially in the style of guitar and vocal phrasing, is very much like that of Bob Dylan.

Visit Blitzen Trapper’s Website

Tinie Tempah (Grime/Drum ‘n’ Base/Hip Hop):

“Invincible (Feat. Kelly Rowland)”

Tinie Tempah (Patrick Junior Chukwuem Okogwu) is a 22 year old, London born, rapper. He emerged from the underground grime scene in 2009/2010 with his single “Pass Out” and is currently one of the most popular acts in the UK. Unlike a lot of artists, particularly in the US, Tinie Tempah’s music utilizes a very fine tuned sound heavily influenced by styles like Drum ‘n’ Base and Dubstep. These genres combined, give the music a mix of low, guttural, bass sounds accompanied by a shuffled, energetic beat. To better illustrate these influences, prominent examples within the featured “Pass Out” video below are 00:04-00:12 (representing a Dubstep bass tone) and 3:24-3:52 (representing a Drum ‘n’ Bass rhythm). Another aspect of this music, which I believe is a large contribution to Tinie’s success in mainstream radio, is his incorporation of modern Hip Hop and R&B. All of these things give him a “fresh” sound, but also give the general population something familiar and popular. He has been nominated for 4 Brit awards (Best Single, British Album of the Year, Best Breakthrough Act, and Best Male Solo Artist) which will be held February 15, 2011. Check out the Micro Mixtape.

The Cat Empire (Ska/Rock/Jazz):

“The Lost Song”

The Cat Empire, from Melbourne, Australia. [The band consists of Felix Riebl (percussion and vocals), Harry James Angus (trumpet and vocals), Ollie McGill (keyboard and backing vocals), Ryan Monro (bass and backing vocals), Will Hull-Brown (drums) and Jamshid “Jumps” Khadiwhala (decks, percussion).] They are commonly accompanied by the Empire Horns and various brass guest artists. The Australian Ska scene started becoming popular in the 1980’s and is sometimes associated with the Punk Rock genre. However, to put The Cat Empire under a label like “ska” is a very loose generalization. This band, with strong jazz background, incorporates elements from Alternative Rock and Reggae.