Record Label: Stones Throw
Karriem Riggins is best known as a jazz drummer and hip-hop producer for artists like Common, Slum Village, Talib Kweli and The Roots, but he doesn't categorize himself as anything but an artist. He advises younger musicians to do the same. "You don't have to put yourself in a box...there's so many different ways to go," Riggins says. A student of late jazz bassist Ray Brown, he tours with another Brown protégé, Grammy Award winner Diana Krall. In 2011, he collaborated with former Beatle Paul McCartney in concert and on Kisses on the Bottom, McCartney's first studio release in five years. Names of some of the jazz artists he's backed reads like the genre's hall of fame - Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson, Donald Byrd and Ron Carter.
But on his solo debut Alone Together, set for an October 23 release on Stones Throw Records (Vinyl and digital will be released in two-parts over summer and fall 2012), Riggins plants himself firmly as a hip-hop producer with a 34-track instrumental odyssey through nearly every influence on his career thus far. The project was inspired by much of the music he was creating while living in Los Angeles, and also by the love of his son and family.
Now residing in his native Detroit, Riggins is back where it all began. "I feel like I can really breath and stay inspired here, and I have room to set up my lab and be creative," he says. This is the rationale behind the title Alone Together, taken from a jazz standard written by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz that begin with the words, "Alone together, above the crowd."
"Coming back to the machines, I feel like I can really express myself," Riggins says. "This is the way that I express my rhythms."
Machines, however, are just one way he expresses his rhythms. Midway through the album, the track "Water" is interrupted by a vocal snippet where the speaker places Riggins "right at the intersection of hip-hop and jazz." Alone Together is that intersection; it's the jazz music he's played professionally since the age of 19, and it's crafting beats like "Africa" on an MPC5000 while touring throughout Eastern Europe and Russia.
"I need the balance," Riggins says, of working with the likes of Krall and McCartney, and also being able to go back to the studio and create hip-hop. "Without that, I couldn't be who I am."
Songs on Alone Together range from 14 seconds to a little over three minutes, and are the essence of man vs. machine. When Riggins channels Elvin Jones on the album's climax and tribute to his longtime friend, "J Dilla the Greatest," his tools are a Gretsch drum kit, the Fender Rhodes and an MPC3000. As versed as he is in jazz and pop, the machines will always be at the root – until the next thing.
"There's always something new to figure out," he says. "That's the blessing in it."
After spending much of 2012 in the studio, Black Milk returns in top form with Synth or Soul, a vinyl-only EP release prepared especially for Record Store Day. Black Milk’s first official release of 2013 also marks the launch of his instrumental series Fuzz, Freqs, & Colors. The series is a collaborative project with illustrator Upendo Taylor (Nike, Gatorade, Leroy Jenkins), with each volume bringing vibrant, colorful, and forward-thinking visuals to both represent and complement its sound and aesthetic.Synth or Soul offers a distinctly different styles on each side of the record, while showcasing development in his trademark synth-driven or soul-sampling production.
His debut LP for Definitive Jux, DJ/producer RJD2's DEAD RINGER is a deeply creative and musically poignant hip-hop record for summer 2002. Creating a raging underground listenership from a series of 45s and white labels and being the only non-MC signed to Def Jux, RJD2's talent as a DJ and as producer, to match beats and lay cult/pop gems over dusty soul tracks, is paralleled only by people like DJ Shadow and Z-Trip. However, his ability to record and marry MCs to his primarily instrumental and sample-based style is evidenced in outstanding tracks with Copywrite and Blueprint as well as his legacy with the MHz crew; at the end of the day that puts our man from Ohio ahead of his primarily one-dimensional peer group. This set will stand out as monumental for Definitive Jux, who with their first record outside of the New York MC box continues to stride toward really being definitive in their roster and catalog of independent hip-hop.
L.A. producer, Mndsgn’s most recent project, Breatharian, gets the official re-issue treatment via the newly formed Fresh Selects label. The rising instrumentalist - best known for his work with the likes of Danny Brown, Jonwayne, Sonnymoon, Blu, Knxwledge, and more - sees his first retail release in over 4 years and has pulled out all the stops for the occasion. A diverse, conceptual beat tape that takes a varied approach into exploring the strange phenomenon known as “breatharianism” - the project made waves when it first dropped last summer and has now been professionally mixed, mastered, and pressed to vinyl for the first time. Along with it are two new bonus beats, “Hiking” and “Bweyy” (featuring co-producer, Swarvy); the album also marks Mnd’s first ever official music video - in the form of two-fer, “Hiking” / “Fif Dim.
Donuts began simply enough as an idea to turn a particularly good demo beat tape into a full-length release, and has since became a classic hip-hop album, one of the defining works of the artist’s life. Completed during a year in which J Dilla spent mostly in a hospital bed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Donuts would gain particular poignancy when, only three days after it’s release, February 10, 2006, the artist passed away, losing his battle with a rare blood disease. Back late 2005 when Stones Throw was getting ready to release J Dilla’s Donuts, they made a casual decision to use a drawing for the cover of the 2LP vinyl release, rather than the standard cover photo of Dilla used for the other releases. But now here it is, better late than never: J Dilla’s classic album Donuts now released on vinyl with the smile on the cover. Cover & illustrations by Jeff Jank; photo of Dilla by Andrew Gura. Just a few months ago Stones Throw published a short back-story on the cover photo.