Archive for the 'Review' Category

Coming soon, to a magazine stand near you

Issue five of Line Zero will be featuring another one of my reviews in print. This one is 6 whole pages written by me about a really awesome dude named Beefy. Check out the mag when it hits the shelves, until then; here’s a sneak peek of my article:

Note: The following review featured in this post is from a draft from before the editors had a look at my submission. Overlook any errors.

Everything Is Better With Sprinkles
A review of Beefy’s album “With Sprinkles”
Eldon K.R.

When you think of the word “Beefy” music isn’t one of the first things you think of, especially when you live as close to a Taco Bell as I do, unless you’re really keen on the Nerdcore scene. In that case you might say, “Oh yeah, I love that guy!”; but more often than not you’ll get an answer regarding burritos.

In a previous review we discussed Chiptune, a feel good offshoot of alt-rock that incorporates nostalgic beeps and boops alongside guitar riffs and drum kicks. Today, for the uninitiated, we’ll learn about Nerdcore; a small yet fast growing offshoot of hip-hop that mixes traditional rap tracks with chip-tune influence that criss-crosses your standard fare quick-tongued lyricist flows with nerdy pop culture references guaranteed to build up your geek-cred.

One of the many talented artists that’s been on the scene since Nerdcore’s conception is Beef Thompson, commonly known by friends and koopa-troopas alike as Beefy. He’s released several albums (most of them are free), but his most recent is With Sprinkles, an amazing album that showcases his volatile skills as a lyricist as well as his encyclopedic knowledge on all things geeky. I really like Beefy’s music because not only do I nostalgia over the nerdy references, but nearly all the beats on his tracks are well-blended and highly instrumental and hearken back to the flavor of hip-hop I used to listen to back in the mid 90s and early 00s. I honestly think that some of his beats wouldn’t be out-of-place on a Tupac album. You know… if Tupac carried a Gameboy and many-sided dice instead of a gun.

The album’s tracks vary in topics from playing Street Fighter and rolling character sheets to working up the courage to ask out the cute girl who works at Gamestop, and stuffed to the gills with lyrical magnificence. Beefy’s cadence and wordplay in his flows really blend and weave well with the beats, which is a good change of pace from the standard rap-in-a-can that’s produced by a majority of hip-hop artists these days, and he’s definitely ahead of the curve in how he doesn’t mutilate his tracks with auto-tune, which is a big plus.

In short, Beefy’s got the beats that will make other drivers bob their heads at the intersection, with enough flows, wordplay, and geeky references to make you the coolest kid at the rejects table in the lunch room; unless you’re sitting next to that kid who eats paste.

I was actually able to get in touch with Beefy for this article, this is what he had to say about his album, and Nerdcore in general:

Eldon KR: To start, why don’t you tell the lovely readers of LZ who you are and what it is that you do.

Beef Thompson: Well my name is Beefy and I make a brand of hip-hop music for and about self described geeks called Nerdcore. I’ve beening making music since 2004 in the Northwest, but it’s only been pretty good for the last couple of years.

EKR: See, now you’re selling yourself short. I think your fans would disagree with that statement. For those who don’t know, what’s Nerdcore?

BT: Nerdcore is a subgenre of hip-hop for people who enjoy pop culture and can relate to the geek mentality and not getting the girl. If mainstream rap is for winners, nerdcore is for the underdogs.

EKR: And what are your songs in particular about in comparison to the rest of the subgenre?

BT: I tend to write songs with feeling and emotion. Some nerd rappers just list references of things they enjoy and that works for them, but I like to make my music personal or to take a concept based on a pop culture item and rap from that perspective. I also write a lot of songs about girls because that is every songwriter’s job.

EKR: What would you say makes Nerdcore Nerdcore? Is it the beats, the words, both? Could one rap about Sonic, Mario, or Warcraft over a traditional hip-hop beat and have the same effect, or is it the beeps and boops of 8-bit with nerd verbiage on top that completes the package?

BT: Nerdcore is still so new that every musican and every fan may give a different answer. I think nerdcore is more about the perspective of the performance moreso than the way their music is constructed. I’ve definetly done tracks with a heavy 8-bit and gamer influence, but I also like to do tracks that sample movie scores or TV theme songs. I’ve also rapped about popular sidekicks over a hard rap beat. So we’re for sure not trying to peg ourselves as “rappers who only rap over chiptune music.” The best in nerdcore have a wide range of topics and musical styling and that is what I would like to accomplish as well

EKR: What did you do before Nerdcore, what made you decide to do it, and how did you make the transition?

BT: I started rapping back in middle school and in those days all I heard was the late 90s dirty south stuff and some East Coasters like Biggie so I thought that was all hip-hop was. So I’d write like them but it was so souless because that wasn’t me at all. I could never perform these songs in front of people I knew because I would be called out for being a major phoney. Then in highschool I heard Fette’s Vette by mc chris and that opened me up to the notion that you can write a good rap song that has humor without being a joke. You don’t have to write about violence towards people but you can for sure rap about wanting to drop kick your xbox when it red rings on you. And as a high school kid that was a huge discovery for me. And since then I’ve been writing music that was honest to my experiences and I’ve been able to find a lot of really amazing fans who seem to feel the same way that I do about geek life

EKR: We’ve already established that Nerdcore isn’t about guns, loose women, or crack. So how do Nerdcore artists settle their disputes since drive-bys are out of the question? Nerf guns? Slap fights?

BT: Nerdcore disputes only end when they meet face to face. Otherwise they just flame each other for an eternity because we’re all net nerd trolls deep down on the inside. but when faced with real life confrontation, we always come down on the side of friendship. I’ve yet to hear of any physical scuffle within the nerdcore ranks. Marriages have ended and I didn’t hear about so much as a black eye

EKR: Marriages?

BT: Nerdcore is full of drama

EKR: How’s that?

BT: When we started out we were this small yet close community. But at the same time we were all internet strangers so there were a lot of people fanning flames and excalating drama, myself included sadly. But now that we’ve grown in numbers and more and more people are going on the road and doing shows like Nerdapalooza together, a lot of the online beef has been put to rest. but there are still the instances of real life drama going down

EKR: How well were you recieved when you started out, and what’s your take on folks who still think that Nerdcore is a joke and doesn’t take the genre seriously. What’s your advice on how to handle the criticism?

BT: I was well received by the few nerdcore fans there were when I started. I got into it relatively early on and I’ve been able to grow that fanbase. I feel that people who judge nerdcore poorly do so based on a lot of the very early music we were making. A new listener may also listen to someone’s 2nd ever demo and assume that all nerdcore is just like that. So there is a lot of criticism we deserve, but I feel that overall the musicians who are working hard are putting out a quality product I’m proud to be associated with

EKR: How often do you do shows? And are you able to do tech support for your fans after shows?

BT: I was doing regular gigs in Northwest for a few years, but now I work and go to school and help raise a 4 year old, so going out and doing shows is a rare event for me these days. But then I remember that the nerdcore rappers who are on tour these days all finished their schooling before they started putting on albums, so I just did things a little out of order. As for tech support, it depends of how messed their system is. I could possibly help with an iphone though. Give em advice on final boss battles

EKR: What occupies your time when you’re not rolling doubles, or putting sprinkles on things? Do you traverse pipes in search of mushrooms?

BT: I spend a good chunk of time watching tv shows and movies, or what I call “research.” Recently I’ve been playing a lot of Team Fortress 2 but now that school is in full swing and I’ve got a full time job it is becoming difficult to get my TF2 time in. With a 4 year old girl around I have a lot more tea parties than a lot of other rappers

EKR: So what does a Nerdcore artist do to keep the server bill paid, does your schooling have any relevance to what you rhyme about?

BT: My schooling is actually the complete opposite of musical pursuits. I’m going to school to become an American Sign Language interpreter at the moment. And for dollars I work with people with developmental disabilities. So basically I’m a lot like P. Diddy and Jay-Z, slight differences

EKR: How does the creative proccess for your music start, where does it go from there? Where do you find your inspiration, and how do you motivate yourself to throw lyrics around instead of reaching for the sticks?

BT: Sometimes it’s a struggle. Sometimes I’ll have an idea in my head for years and just can’t find the right way to get it onto the paper. Other times I’ll hear the beat and it’ll inspire a track I write and record that night. So it really depends. It helps to be in the right mindset and to be in a good mood, otherwise my tracks just get mopey and depressing. When I’m doing grammar club tracks with shael he’ll come up with a concept or even just a chorus, and I write around what he’s already produced, and I think I like that collab process the most

EKR: Speaking of collabs in hip-hop in general, where do you think that all comes from? You see a lot more collaboration among rappers than in any other genre.

BT: We’re a family. Starting out the public thought we were a gimmick and established rap artists were keeping us away with 10 foot poles. We’ve all come up doing shows together or seeing each other at cons. So it’s only natual for us to hop on each others tracks. Some of my favorite musical acts are nerdcore artists and I’m honored when they wanna work with me

EKR: Where does the name Beefy come from?

BT: I’m a big guy. When I was a kid and I joined my first forum I posted a pic and some dude took the image and turned into a rap album and called me MC Beefy B and the title was something about how I like to eat food. I was not impressed with the insult, but I did enjoy the name beefy and it kind of stuck. Now even my mom calls me Beefy

EKR: And where do you get the ideas for the naming convention behind your albums? Whitesican, Rolling Doubles, With Sprinkles, The Adventures of BT, etc.

BT: Usually just inside jokes or nerd references. With sprinkles came from our household motto that everything is better with sprinkles and i liked the idea of the cover says “Beefy With Sprinkles.” Rolling Doubles refers to my song table top and the dope feeling you get when you get to roll again. And the Adventures of BT started as a way to label my free albums. If it’s an adventure of BT, it’s always a free adventure!

EKR: What advice would you have to offer for fledgling Nerdcore artists just starting out? Is there a Nerdcore primer of sorts? Or is it one of those “How I mine for fish” kind of things where if you ask, you don’t need to know?

BT: Make music. Make a million tracks. Make a song, then make another one. then one more for good measure. You’re only going to get good with practice. there is a lot of growing pains with music, especially hip-hop because it’s a lot harder to piece together bars in a way that is both pleasing to the ear and within your skill set to perform


Contrary to the name, their songs aren’t about Zombie Romany – A review of the music of Gypsy Revival

The following article and interview is being published in issue number three of Line Zero. You should consider getting a subscription. Its a pretty bitchin’ publication.

As I stated in my previous review it’s only every once in a great while that I fall in love with the music of a particular band and wonder why the rest of the world isn’t already humming along with me. The bands I feel this way about are few and far between. And it usually happens completely by accident. This review highlights just one such occasion. Last summer my mother, a family friend, and myself all piled into the car and drove to Indiana Beach for her company picnic. Roller coasters, water slides, a free meal; I was in. But by the end of the day after spending several hours under the sun, and getting thrown around by roller coasters I was tired, starting to get a little sore, and ready to call it a day. As the sun started to fade beneath the landscape we ducked into one of the bars for a bite to eat before making the long trip back home. As I reached for my wallet to show proof of ID before being served a drink I began to hear the stirrings of music that makes me think of cross country journeys and missing the person you love. The name of the band on stage was Gypsy Revival, and the more I watched them play; the more I was tapping my toes, the more I felt the urge to get up and dance and clap my hands. The sheer talent of these musicians and their charismatic stage presence was flat-out contagious. While they performed several flawless covers; it was their performance of their own material that sold me so completely. Anybody can listen to Gypsy Revival’s music and find something to like, something to relate to; it’s not hard to resist the urge to sing along. The EP that I bought that night is quickly working it’s way into being the most played album in my collection. The lyrics, and even the tune of the music in their songs makes me think of optimism, their songs remind me of hope. That even if you’re down on your luck and the deck is stacked against you there are still good things to come. I had a blast, I had more drinks that night than I’ve ever had any time I’ve visited a bar just so I could stay put and listen to them playing longer. Though I don’t remember a whole lot after the first few rounds of drinks, their music stuck with me. And what turned into a quick meal before the road turned into being the last four people in the amusement park after they closed. Davey Allen, Gypsy Revival’s front-man was kind enough to take time out of his full day of being awesome to answer a few questions for me:

ELDON KR: How ’bout you talk about yourself and your band mates for a little bit.

DAVEY: Well I (Davey) was born into a Tennessean family. True southerners with a love for moonshine mountain music and sense to wash it down with the sweet gospel music of Sunday hymns.

Mike Sanson (drummer) is originally from Perth, Australia but immigrated to the United States at a very young age. Very little of his Aussie accent remains and he considers himself a life-long resident of these great United States of America.

Jesse Langebartels’ (guitar) first taste of music came from his father’s guitar playing. Jesse was able to manufacture these sounds into playing of his own. Later, he truly cut his teeth on honky – tonk and blues music, channeling such greats as Albert King, Duane Allman, and Allen Collins.

EKR: How did the band form, and how long have you dudes been rocking Indiana?

DA: Mike and I have been playing together for more than a decade. We were introduced to Jesse through a mutual friend/musician. Jesse recruited me to play bass with a band he was helping along, Rodney James Band. That venture soon died out but the wheels that would later start Gypsy Revival were put into motion. Jesse briefly joined Mike and I’s band, Davey and the Chorus Caravan. When our bass player moved to Memphis we collectively decided that a fresh start was needed, and thus Gypsy Revival was born. Since then we have been playing around the Midwest, going on three years now. We’ve played in such cities as Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, Lexington, Chicago, Nashville, and of course Indianapolis.

EKR: What does the band do when you guys aren’t rocking out? Are there day jobs? Daring daylight bank heists? Destruction of small villages?

DA: We all work as aid workers for the UN Envoy to the Midwest.

EKR: How many shows do you do in a week?

DA: We play anywhere from 2 to 5 shows in a week. We’d prefer seven.

EKR: How does the creative process for your music start, and where does it go from there?

DA: Our creative process mainly comes from whiskey and left-handed cigarettes. But listening to certain music puts me in the mood to write. Artists such as John Prine, Cole Porter, Tom Waits, Townes Van Zant, and Robert Allen Zimmerman are particularly inspiring. I think changing your environment really helps. Whether it is moving the piano to the other side of the room or writing in a notebook at a bar till the wee hours of the morning, changing your perspective is a must.

EKR: Where do you find inspiration for your music? Do you get random ideas for verses in the shower? Are the songs based on events in your life, or do you throw a bunch of word magnets in to a hat and fling it at the fridge?

DA: Mainly I find inspiration from what I see on a day-to-day basis. I try to take very specific people and events and then make their edges blurry enough so that they’re accessible to the listener. The best songs, the songs that are timeless, were once very time-specific.

EKR: Does the band have a bat cave or a fortress of solitude or a magic basement, or is it just wherever you guys can crack a window to let the smoke out?

DA: We have a rarely used lake cottage that produces our best work. Water is calming and inspirational.

EKR: What would you say the theme is in most of your songs?

DA: The human condition. Our music is at its best when it is spontaneous. Much like our music, life is unpredictable and you never know what cards you’ll be dealt. So folks deal with this instability with numerous outlets, which make up the majority of our songs’ “themes”. Whether it’s love won and lost, or a wine-o suppressing his life’s faux pas writing about the human experience is very rewarding. You can create or recount history with a simple pen stroke. (Or keystroke .. my best writing is done with an old-time typewriter)

EKR: How did you get the name Gypsy Revival?

DA: I’ve always been fascinated by the “gypsy” lifestyle. The reference doesn’t encompass all gypsies (gypsy as an ethnicity), but specifically the nomadic gypsies. I’m interested in cultures that continually move from location to location. Whether by choice or necessity due to persecution or lack of resources, the family on the road gives a new idea to “home”. We’re trying to channel that open-road mentality in our music. The world is our oyster.

EKR: Are there any talks for a record deal or are you guys going the independent route?

DA: We like independence. The current state of the established record company is in decline. The mass produced and distributed compact disc is singing its swan song. Most of the online resources a signed band has we also have. Aside from capital and more industry connections we have many opportunities your typical signed band does.

EKR: What’s the hardest part in what you guys do? Is is the creative process, the traveling, booking shows, etc?
DA: Jesse books the majority of our shows so he’d probably say, “booking the shows.” But for myself it is the challenge of being different. There are literally thousands of bands that are trying to do something similar to what we’re doing and setting yourself apart can be difficult. In the age of the sound-byte you have 30 seconds (sometimes less) to either win someone over or turn him or her away. So it makes it hard to be memorable to someone, especially when it is so saturated. Truly, I think we do an OK job but I can never let myself fully believe that for fear we might start to the same routine over and over.

EKR: What advice do you have to offer for groups of creative individuals who want to start playing music in smokey amusement park bars?

DA: For that specifically it helps to fuck the bartender. But in general there’s always a balance between artistic wants and basic business needs. A good question to ask is, “is what we’re doing making someone money?” While no one wants to compromise their artistic values, if you want continued opportunities you have to at least “peek into the front office,” so to speak. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’re not putting money in the pockets of club owners right down to the bar staff don’t expect to come back. And on the other hand if you suck as a band and aren’t original don’t expect anyone (beyond your girlfriends and mothers) to come to your shows. A balance.


February 2018
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