Some (Personal) Thoughts On The State Of LA’s ‘Hub’

Bumped down to CDR a month or so ago; wicked night. Took in the early screening of the latest ‘beat scene’ / LA documentary which would’ve made for great viewing… if the year was 2009. Unfortunately, it’s not.

Burgeoning beat makers: put down the the joint and make some f**king new music.

Probably worth noting that my partner of ten years thinks this is the funniest thing she’s ever heard, having listened to hazy MPC sessions and often being told “you just don’t get it” for a solid part of the last decade. But that’s not really point here.

So let’s talk about what we do get: LA’s a creative hub and a lot of the guys there like to smoke weed. We also get that digging for records is fun and can inspire moments of creativity. This was a big message back in the days of Scratch, when second-hand record store digging was still a real thing, pre-Discogs and eBay, and DJ Shadow was bringing us new recycled sounds. Remember Entroducing? Released in 1996, the album is made up entirely with sampled material, features Chief Xcel and Lyrics Born in the now-famous Records record store on the cover and remains an important catalyst for the beat-generation. But, in the past decade, where have we progressed to?

In LA, the ‘hub’ community is pushing towards flatlining through endless ‘documentation’ of their ‘scene’. We really don’t need more interviews with people smoking weed on-camera, wearing “Dilla changed my life” tees, playing something out of their MPC for the camera that only emphasises the point that all they’ve done over the last five years is get fat and go to the same clubs.

The excitement and rush I felt when Gaslamp Killer and Flying Lotus dropped onto the scene now seems like a distant peak of a now-plateaued movement. And I still listen to Dublab on the regular as it’s one of the greatest radio sources in the world, and we always throw in during recruiting drives. But to be honest, watching the whole LA thing in documentary form made me pretty depressed – though there does seem to be some notable exceptions.

Firstly, it made me see Illum Sphere’s latest album in a new light. The guy is challenging himself and his fans, and shaking those early (and often incorrect) associations of what he does and is capable of. Leading onto this was the second blessing, which is that it highlighted the cats that are head and shoulders above their contemporaries, carving out their own style and sound to be instantly recognisable.

I’m referring to three in particular that featured in the documentary; Dakim, Ras G and Madlib. Madlib in many ways is the father of worldwide beats, the hip-hop guru producer by which most modern producers are measured, having held it down as the master digger and loop-chopper that none can touch. Like FlyLo, Ras G’s long since transcended any restrictions his hometown ‘scene’ might’ve put on him. Dakim’s a slightly different story, a product of the beat-generation, he’s the first of the new-school to truly take things in a different direction.

The end result for the most part, however, is that the Los Angeles scene has become more of a hinderance to the producers coming through it, as well as those in the worldwide music landscape. In a world of technology where bloggers, online magazines and anyone with a keyboard (myself included) needs fresh content to cover, the overexposure given to LA has become a focus that those within use as a support group for the same tricks, diluting the quality and originality, with no desire to look outside of it. As a result of the hype, those who are on the outside of it’s immediate circle have something to aspire to that’s not fully developed, just overly covered.