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SP-33: Escape From Tha Carter – Review & Interview by Jayson

Not a mash-up, but a concept project. That’s how SP-33 described his Escape From The Carter album to us. I can dig it. Described in brief as the pop music of the kind of slow-burn dystopia that played out in movies like Blade Runner and Escape From New York, Escape From Tha Carter is one of the most interesting things I’ve heard this year. And you know what? I buy it. It is totally successful in doing what SP-33 set out to have it do. I love those movies too and have watched them all a bunch of times. When someone sets out a project with a goal like this, you have to say “Ok, so does it work, does it take me there?” It does. Escape sounds like the failed pictures of the future that inspired it.

This is an expert level mix. I kinda missed out on Lil Wayne, but man, I have to imagine that his stuff doesn’t sound anything like this. That is one of those “hallmarks of success” indicators for me. SP-33 manages to completely re-contextualize Lil Wayne in a way that, if I didn’t know the source, I’d just think this some original raps were happening. Dirty future. I love it.

Drop The World

SP-33 also graciously agreed to do an interview with us, check it out:

Me: You wrote explicitly that this is not a mashup and you’re deconstructing and reconstructing the sources. What goes into that process? Can you describe the difference for the readers who might not understand the difference?

SP-33: I think of a mash-up of taking track A (usually being an instrumental) and over lapping it with Track B (usually being an acapella that has the same tempo as track A). I even think of a mash-up  as altering the tracks a tad before combining them (similar to what Girl Talk does).  I wanted to stay away from this simplistic construction (in my opinion), because I was getting really sick of hearing a Phoenix song mixed with a Rick Ross song.

So my process involved absolutely shredding apart Track A (instrumental) and Track B (acapella).  One of my favorite examples is with my version of “Drop The World”. This song was actually constructed by many tracks and samples. I started off with this great sound effect and drone from Carpenter’s “Decent into New York”. Then I slowly mixed in a time stretched and pitched down sample from Carpenter’s “Escape From White Kong” song (from ‘Big Trouble In Little China’). I also mixed this great guitar sample that I chopped up from Carpenter’s “Village of the Damned”.

I then added some portions that I played myself.  I included these little synth hits from the iPhone app ‘Bloom’. I also included some field recordings of a thunderstorm and original drums that I constructed with the thunder sounds (mostly by pitching up and down the recorded thunder hits).

Then I chopped up Wayne’s lyrics from his version of “Drop The World”. Instead of doing full verses I sprinkled little bits and pieces of his first verse and blended them into the surrounding music with reverb. So rather than a continuous stream of Weezy rapping, it is more like Wayne is reciting a poem over an ambient scape.

Me: You described the creative process as wondering what the radio stations in those grimy, dystopian movies would sound like. You also mentioned that you were just listening to a lot of Lil Wayne at the time and that’s how the two came together. Was a real challenge to make Lil Wayne’s vocals fit into the theme you were creating, or was there some deeper connection you saw?

SP-33: I originally thought of the concept while watching Blade Runner. There is this one scene where Deckard is at a bar and the radio is playing some old opera music. During this scene, I always thought what pop music of the time would sound like. This was emphasized while I was watching “Escape From New York” and the cab driver would listen to old cassettes. I guess it is probable that the record industry folded (especially with the way things are going right now in modern day life). But I wanted to explore what pop music would sound like in these movies, and not just some lame DnB/techno interpretation of “futuristic music”  that you see in a lot of these films,  but real music that reflected the times.

So I thought Lil Wayne was the perfect candidate to use for this concept.  It seems like a lot of pop musicians stay around for decades (like Cher or The Rolling Stones who have been around for like 30-40 years). So it is probable that Wayne could still be around when society crumbles. The sound of Wayne’s voice also captures the feel of a post apocalyptic world. His voice is raspy, dark, and full of grit. He reminds me of that crazy wild card villain, like in “The Warriors” or that ‘off/strange’ right hand man of The Duke in “Escape From New York”. So I thought Wayne was a perfect fit with this concept.

Me: Out of all the movies you were watching, is Escape From New York your favorite?

SP-33: I would say out of all the Sci-Fi movies ‘Blade Runner’ is probably my favorite. It does so much visually that it is hard not to fall in love with that movie. I’m not a huge Sci-Fi movie nut, in fact I find it really hard to find good Sci-Fi movies. But I think ‘Escape From New York’ represents the kind of films that I love. These semi camp/cheesy, but well formed and stylized cult movies,  like ‘The Warriors’, ‘Dawn of the Dead’, ‘Zombi 2’, John Carpenter’s films, ‘Running Man’, etc.

Me: Any plans to make this a series?

SP-33: I really don’t have any plans to do another concept album. It was kind of a rare once in a lifetime thing I wanted to convey. It might be kinda cool to do like an R.Kelly R&B concept album if I were to make it a series (haha).

Me: What’s next?

SP-33: I have a couple of things that I am working on. A few collaborative projects that are pretty early in development, nothing too solid yet. I am mostly working on an EP. It is all original material (mostly sculpted and altered samples). It has the same dark tone as ‘Escape’ with that same melancholy vibe, it is going to be a bit cleaner in sound and a more emotional listening experience. Right now it is coming together as this down tempo moody house EP. I guess I am a victim of my environment (Chicago)  and upbringing, so an homage to house music would make sense…

Escape From Tha Carter is available as a free download on SP-33’s site. You need to get on that.

– Jayson


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great interview and respect is due to SP-33 for this album. I had a similar reaction to Jayson. After listening through a couple times, I went to check out some of the soundtrack source material and was kind of shocked how much reworking had been done to create these new tracks — but while still maintaining the feel of that world. It’s cool hearing how that process went and how much work went into it.

Comment by ymatto

You know, I just have to state that I’ve been relistening to this album again and not only do I like the concept, but I’m finding myself just flat out really viscerally digging the music all the way through. There is a ton going on here that’s completely effective. I am entirely looking forward to whatever SP-33 does next.

Comment by ymatto

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