In an interview on “Rosenberg Real Late” in the lead-up to the release of his highly-anticipated project, “90059”, Jay Rock says that he is the “big brother” of TDE. Top Dog Entertainment has become a staple of the rap game and being the elder statesman of such a prolific group is no small title. On his most recent release, Jay Rock pulls through and makes a project that is simultaneously true to his Watts roots and consumable by the masses of America.

This is the recipe of a major hit in the landscape of American hip-hop. People that live far from America’s most dangerous neighborhoods want to hear, now more than ever, the sounds of the projects. Jay Rock is unique from his TDE brethren, but also falls beautifully in line with the sound each artist has cultivated. Nowhere is this synergy more evident than one of the highlights of the album, Vice City. Over an exquisitely produced beat Kendrick, Ab-Soul, and Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock cement TDE’s place at the forefront of rap. Each maintains their identity while attacking the beat in a similar cadence.

The content of the album is what you would expect from an album titled after the zip code of Jay Rock’s old stomping grounds. The Watts native sticks largely to the subjects of “big-booty bitches” and flipping dope in the hood. The draw for the album is that Jay Rock’s reality, his old circumstances, creates such compelling music.

The standout track on the album has got to be Fly on the Wall. Busta Rhymes accompanies Jay Rock on the track, but Jay Rock does not pale in comparison to the rap legend. Jay Rock shows impressive maturity and range on the track, choosing to weave a rich narrative for the listener. There is no doubt that Jay Rock can rap and he does what we expect of him very well. However, on this track we see a new side of Jay Rock, a more Kendrick-esque ability to create deeper meaning through lyricism and raw talent.

Must Listen:
Gumbo, Fly on the Wall feat. Busta Rhymes, Vice City, Wanna Ride

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I sat down with Jake Sabetta, Andy Post, and Evan Levy, three members of a new CC student band, to talk about new music, influences, and Tarantino movies. The three of them are super excited to play their own kind of live music again after the disbanding of Funkdozer.

Their as-yet-untitled band plays Saturday, September 12, at the Eggplant House at 10:30pm.

TB: So, can you guys introduce yourselves?

Jake Sabetta: I’m Jake Sabetta, I play guitar, that is my primary instrument, and I’ve played with these guys, Andy Post and Evan Levy for two years now, in pretty much every band that I’ve played in at CC. So it’s a good connection that we’ve got, and I’m happy to be joining these two again.

 Evan Levy: I’m Evan, and I’m gonna be playing saxophone. I’m used to playing with other horn players, as of now I’m alone, so I’ll probably be playing a lot of things along with Jake, I think. I just got a little ceramic flute that I’m excited to try out… It might not work at all, but- (JS: What’s it called?)- an ocarina. Yeah. Perhaps gonna try to get some pedal action going on the saxophone- guitar pedals- for loops or delays so they can sound a little cooler.

 Andy Post: I’m Andy Post, I play keyboard. I’ve played in two bands with these guys. (JS: He composes a lot of good music. EL: Yeah he does.)


TB: Right on, cool. So as far as this project goes, what kind of style are y’all going for? I know all three of you were in Funkdozer, are you going for that funky style again, or something new?

EL: So, originally, we were really excited about neo-soul, that’s the genre that includes D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Roy Hargrove, or Questlove sort of stuff. It’s a real groovy sort of genre, I think we’re gonna lay off on the funk a little bit, get a little more tasteful, especially with Sophie on vocals, which is crucial, and James Dineen is gonna do some rapping, which is another component of this genre of music. We’ll also inevitably dabble in funk.

 JS: I think the biggest thing we learned in Funkdozer, as we were primarily a rock band for the first year, not playing any funk at all, we took this wild detour into funk, is funk is like the Dao, like anything in Zen, I think it’s always there, it’ll always be present in this band, but I think in a different fashion than it was in Funkdozer. It won’t be as loud, but definitely there.

 AP: “Jazz is the teacher, funk is the preacher…” There’s another part to that.

 JS: “One without the other, you’ve got nothing but the blues.”

 AP: Original compositions is a pretty big goal.


What are your personal influences as far as individual style goes? Musicians, bands, other artists…

JS: I think in the multiple bands we’ve played in, the three of us and some other people, like the bands themselves all shared influences, and Funkdozer I all of us were into Lettuce, Soulive, stuff like that, and I think people will find out the shared interests of this band as we grow, so far Roy Hargrove is a big one, Erykah Badu… We can do individually I guess, there’s a lot of influences…

 EL: Yeah, there’s a lot, I think it’s better to keep it to group-wide influences, more telling of it, we could all list dozens of influential artists, but it’s the ones that tie us together (laughter).


As far as starting this project, how does it feel to start a new project? What are you excited about? What are you concerned about?

EL: Well, none of us- we haven’t played together, with all seven of us yet, and we have a show tomorrow, so I’m really excited to hear what we sound like with all of us together.

 AP: We’ve had different combinations of six, different combinations of five, but… Yeah getting seven people together with crazy schedules is a concern, I guess the hope is that we can find- like, last year with Funkdozer I felt like we all found a common thread that we were psyched on playing, and had efficient practices and also with fun and competition. One of the things Evan said to me when we started this group is that there’s not like an alpha male, or like super stressed out person, which we’ve experienced in the past, so I’m hoping that there’s still some drive, but we can all be a relaxed group with a good ethic.

EL: I’m excited that this group isn’t afraid to play quietly, and my experience at CC is that student bands play loud all the time, and that’s their one little volume knob, but I think, you know, we’re all interested in creating space… as Miles Davis once said, “It’s not about the notes you play, it’s about the notes you don’t play.” So, I think I’m excited to work with that.

 JS: I think most bands, are trying to push it to 13, like Spinal Tap, and we’re trying to keep it around three.


What is the most rewarding moment of the career y’all have had so far?

AP: Last year, first round of Battle of the Bands, that felt there were a lot of people, and also a lot of people listening, including people on stage, I just felt like we had the audience’s ear more so than before, kinda listening more to the aesthetic of the music rather than dancing and shouting names.

 JS: Yeah, I mean Andy was playing really colorful ideas during his solos and I remember looking up during his solos and seeing kids dancing, but like, with their eyes wide open, looking at him in awe, his fingers, what he was playing- that was a cool moment.

 EL: Yeah, the moment it just kinda gets going during a gig and it doesn’t stop.


Last two questions- fun ones! Each of you, what is your favorite album of 2015 so far?

EL: Snarky Puppy’s new album Sylva is really cool. It’s a group that is the modern incarnation of the jazz band, they play some weird stuff, and this album is accompanied by an orchestra, so it’s really cool.

 AP: Their dynamics, especially with an orchestra, it’s like funk plus the adaptability of an orchestra, which is really cool. I’m getting into this album by Kamasi Washington, he’s one of the saxophone players on Kendrick Lamar’s new album.

 JS: D’Angelo’s album came out this year, right?

 EL: No, I thought it was October 2014. That would be a good choice though.

 JS: Ah well. There’s this guitarist called Plini, he just released an EP called… I think it’s called Things to Come? [Note: Google says the EP is called The End of Everything]. I think he’s making the most creative music I’ve ever heard, and his band is… so good.


Alright, last one- favorite Tarantino movie?

JS: Ah!

 AP: I’ve seen parts of… what is that one? Pulp Fiction. I’m not much of a movie guy.

 EL: Yeah, I’m not much of a movie guy either, I’ve seen Pulp Fiction and I’ve gotten through Reservoir Dogs.

 AP: Oh, I’ve also seen Django Unchained at the theater. I fell asleep.

 JS: Well, I know everyone would say Pulp Fiction, so I’m gonna go Jackie Brown, even though it isn’t as good as Pulp Fiction. Gotta be different.

TB: Thanks guys.


ZZ Ward is cool. Like, somehow-manages-to-pull-off-a-fedora cool. To add to that, she has a kind of blues-pop vibe that pulls a listener in like the various lovers ZZ Ward addresses in her music. In “LOVE 3X” she paints a picture of what can only be described as a tumultuous relationship in the extreme. Check it out above, watch for her album in early 2016, and listen to more on her Soundcloud.