After an extended absense, political rap is back on the map. One duo are taking it back to the start with a sound bursting out of the Bronx and Brooklyn. Old Money, a duo formed of Ahmad Julian and Andre Oswald, their fascinating stance injects afro-futurism and global dance styles into rap today – shaped equally by growing up in the streets of rap's birth, their experiences studying philosphy in New England and the blog streetstyle world they used to swim in. No wonder they found such a natural home on Dutty Artz, the fabulously forward-thinking label formed by DJ Rupture, and, with debut mixtape Fire in the Dark available now, we jumped at the chance to share this mix, and hope you like it. Old Money, vintage souls, new ideas. Enjoy.
Dazed Digital: You were brought up in the Bronx and Brooklyn. How did growing up in the boroughs of hip hop's birth influence you?
Ahmad Julian: Tremendously, though I'd say it influenced us more so in the past than it does now, at least musically speaking. Of course, certain things stay with you – a certain awareness, a certain paranoia, how you carry yourself, sartorial choices, vernacular, etc. But at this point I'd say equally important as far as influence goes would be the internet and our travels, which have enabled us to connect dots where we might not have otherwise. All of this, hopefully, comes through in the music.
DD: What are the biggest misconceptions about these places?
AJ: I think any kind of assumption that these places, along with its inhabitants, are monolithic in any regard might be the biggest. Besides that, I'm not sure that there are any? There's truth to the general ideas people might have, it just may be a bit incomplete. I think some people think it's unsafe, which is true. In some places. And there are several structural things in place that fosters that. I think some people think Brooklyn in particular (as well as Harlem) is "nice/r" now. Which is also true, in some respects. Though that's usually just code to mean more white middle/upper class people and organic produce and higher rent and displaced poor people. I believe some may be under the impression that police are out of fucking control, which also continues to be true. It's all of this and more.
DD: Who should we check out from around there?
AJ: I'd start with Mega Max aka MEGA.DOPE.POP. I don't think it's an overstatement in the slightest when I say that he's the modern Basquiat. Like for real, not in the way that rappers be saying it, though I think he'd insist on the term #postbasquiat. He directed the trailer for our Fire In The Dark project, the "Rumble in Tenochtitlan" video and he's about to be in Dubai custom designing furniture or something hella dope like that.
Lichiban is another visual artist that just relocated to the West Coast actually, but you should still check her out because her shit is amazing. Quan Luv - another incredible artist. And lastly, I'd check out a young photographer based in Brooklyn by the name of Olivia Seally. Her work has always been a huge inspiration to me.
DD: How has philosophy shaped how you make music?
AJ: Infused in the whole shit. And the philosophies vary. Sometimes it's a less crass version of "money over bitches" – sometimes it's one that espouses that divine nature present and accessible in all of us. Depends on the mood. But sometimes I just vibe off of one sentence I read pertaining to the awesome properties of melanin, for example, and then compose a full track just meditating on that shit alone.
I think some people think Brooklyn is 'nice/r' now. Though that's usually just code to mean more white middle/upper class people and organic produce and higher rent and displaced poor people
DD: Tell me about this extended mix in particular - what has been included this time around?
AJ: It started from the seed of Bounty Killer's "Look Into My Eyes" and M.I.A.'s "Pull Up The People" being connected in our mind's eye, and expanded from there thematically.
"The Harder They Come" comes to mind as one of the key components. It has a bit of a special resonance after recently seeing someone on twitter more or less saying, "The only thing holding this thing together is Jesus." That struck me as one of the realest things ever said. Check the song lyrics:
Well they tell me of a pie up in the sky/ Waiting for me when I die/ But between the day you're born and when you die/ They never seem to hear even your cry
PREACH (pun intended).
Favourite moment of the mix might be the juxtaposition of Ella Fitzgerald and Kid Sister, which came about as a result of hearing Ms. Fitzgerald scatting in an old live performance clip, and noticing the similarity between that and the hook of "Click Clack" by Kid Sister. We play them alongside each other for a while in the mix and I just really like how that moment came together. I don't think it was a purposeful reference on Kid Sister's part, which actually makes it even doper in a way, but yeah I hope she hears it and digs it.
There's also some more scatting via Outkast, who channeled Cab Calloway with "Mighty O." "Illuminati" by Homeboy Sandman – one of the best rap songs in recent memory. "Zulu Comprurar," a favourite from last year. Some classic Dancehall, and some more world town sounds that connect around similar sounds/feelings. We like to look at mixes as mini-manifestos of sorts.
DD: Your style covers a range of genres. What new sounds are you currently getting excited about?
AJ: I wouldn't say "new" sounds necessarily, because I think that contributes to a hype/abandon cycle, but South African house, ballroom, bass centric sounds from the UK. If it's got some swing and some ass to it, we fucks with it.
Oh, and this doesn't quite qualify as a "sound" per se, but I really like what I've heard from an artist by the name of E.M.M.A. She's supposed to release an album on Keysound later this month. Only heard a bit of it during a recent stay in Boston (what up, Wayne), but it sounded great.
DD: What is next for Old Money?
AJ: Continuing to get the word out about Fire In The Dark. It was a few years in the making, so we definitely want to make sure people get a chance to sit with it for a bit longer. But then you can look for the Mothership EP this fall. A museum collaboration in the works. A few more things. Stay tuned via twitter and oldmoneycrime.com.
Old Money Mix - Track List
1. Peace of Mind - Ring Shout
2. The Click Song - Miriam Makeba
3. Ooh Poo Pah Doo - Trombone Shorty
4. Say It Loud (I'm Black And I'm Proud) Pt. 1 - James Brown
5. Burn Hollywood Burn - Public Enemy
6. I Wanna Kill Sam - Ice Cube
7. Obeah Room - Lee 'Scratch' Perry
8. Zulu Compurar (feat. Okmalumkoolkat) - LV
9. Illuminati - Homeboy Sandman
10. Silent Murder - Nas
11. Synthesizer - Outkast
12. Soldier - Erykah Badu
13. The Healer/Hip Hop - Erykah Badu
14. Look Into My Eyes - Bounty Killer
15. They Don't Care About Us (Remastered) - Michael Jackson
16. Sufferer - Bounty Killer
17. Guns Of Brooklyn - Santogold
18. Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come Part 1
19. Here I Come - Barrington Levy
20. Old Money's Click Click Clack Blend - Ella Scats w/ Kid Sister
21. Conflict Diamonds - Lupe Fiasco
22. These are the days - Busy Signal
23. Mighty "O" - Outkast
24. Crack Music (Feat. The Game) - Kanye West
25. Full Speed - DJ Marfox
26. Do Maiorão - Bráulio ZP
27. On The Nile (Lamin Fofana Remix) - Jay Weed
28. My Name Is (Main Mix) - DJ Zinhle Feat. Busiswa Gqulu
29. Oh Boy - Cooly G
30. Panic Button - DJ Whisky
31. Afrocentric - DJ Naughty
32. Sound of Our 4Fathers - DJ Spoko
33 Deep in the Village - Hagan
34. Wavejumper - Drexciya
35. The Keepers - Santigold
36. Apolinar (Javier Estrada Prehispanico Remix) - Matanza
37. One Note Samba (Live) - Ella Fitzgerald
38. Click Clack (Show It Off) - Kid Sister