Record Label: Mello Music Group
"The cover photo is a picture of my great grandmother, Mabel. She, like my own mother, died young after years of struggling with her demons. This album is dedicated to my mother, Jody, and my great grandmother." - Red Pill
Consider yourself lucky if you can’t empathize with Red Pill. No one channels bleakness better than the blue-collar Michigan MC, whose sophomore solo LP for Mello Music Group, "Instinctive Drowning" plays out like the ghost of Bukowski on a snarling bender. His songs are lifelines for the doomed, death letters written for fatigued skeptics, the anthems of an existence precariously balanced among a fifth of gin and a loaded .38 revolver aimed at the temple.
The album title doesn’t come from some glib “sad boy” gimmick—it’s an allusion to his unstinting depression and chronic alcoholism. The saddest stories are usually the most honest and almost no one is more honest than Red Pill. His music is his own atheist confession booth. "Instinctive Drowning" unravels as a litany of fear and loathing: rooted in the worry that his afflictions are genetic. Many others in his close family have suffered their own battles as well. Pill’s own mother passed at 45 from alcohol-related issues. If he ends up next, the album might as well serve as his requiem.
There is “The New Normal,” which chronicles his bout with viral meningitis, a disease practically alien to those in their late 20s, save for those whose livers are already ravaged. After two weeks of vomiting and vows to quit drinking, Pill finally recovered and went to the liquor store. “Club Privilege” is a club song for people who would sooner kill themselves than go to the club. It doubles as examination of white privilege, where Pill acknowledges the absurdity of his self-pity, while starting brawls and screaming at bouncers.
There is “Fuck Your Ambition.” It is what it sounds like: a rejection of white-picket fence ideals that never really existed. It lampoons the Horatio Alger myths, the lies about self-sufficiency and the way Capitalism has created a slovenly class of consumers. It could come off as self-righteous, but Red Pill is never above the fray. He’s the condemned marching alongside us, suffering for our sins, chewing on stale pizza crust.
Virtuosic Ohio native, Ill Poetic, handled production. The co-owner of San Diego’s Beat Box Records ceaselessly trawled his own bins, sampling forgotten art-punk 45s to foreign psych-funk. From there, he enlisted his Ohio band and a a wide range of musicians and singers to add their seasoning. The music is equally comforting and unsettling, eerie and familiar, offering the ideal contrast with Pill’s lyrics—creating something with soulful depth but raw grit.
Of course, there is a paradox at the heart of this record. For an album that courts death so closely, it manages to be oddly life-affirming. Maybe Pill is an optimist after all. There is the still the slight hope that he can escape, the notion that by writing these songs he can somehow heal himself and help others. He still probably will drown, but for now, few can float this well.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
International tourists and touring artists alike flocked to Fat Beats for rare vinyl, kindred spirits, and exclusive in-store performances from Jay Z, Eminem, Gang Starr, Outkast, Slum Village, Mos Def, and more. One thing was clear: the Fat Beats phenomenon could no longer be contained in a single basement shop.
In the late nineties, Abajian proceeded to open new stores in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He further expanded the company’s profile to include global distribution and record label branches. Distribution has since proven to be the company’s strongest and most enduring enterprise. Today Fat Beats Distribution stands poised as one of the country’s pre-eminent distributors of vinyl & specialty item records: a proud survivor in an industry now famous for its mortality rate. Despite market fluctuations, technology innovations, and stylistic revolutions, Fat Beats has remained steadfast in its commitment to the timeless vinyl format and to the loyal community who keeps it spinning.
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