Words by David C. Obenour
Once in a thousand year climate events happening every year. Civic rights being taken away and threatened each month. A different mass shooting every week. Systemic racism cranking away day-in and day-out. What a Time to be DEAD, indeed. While North Carolina by way of Atlanta rapper, DayTripper isn’t all as bleak as that – he’s got his eyes open too. Whether it’s through his solo work or with The Difference Machine and Clan Destined, his art promises to provoke thought. On his latest solo release, What a Time to be DEAD, this message flows through seamlessly weaved soulful samples under a haze of psychedelia and driven home with powerful percussion.
Off Shelf: Working in a number of outfits, what to you stands out about a track that you want to keep for yourself as a Day Tripper release?
DayTripper: Typically… nothing really! In all my iterations, I’ve just rapped on group production. This album though, I definitely wanted to just get things off my chest that musically may not have matched my group aesthetic all the way. I wouldn’t say I kept anything for myself outside the fact that it was my solo album and it was where I was at musically. I’m just kinda making things that I like but without any feedback from my partners. Sorry, that might not have fully answered your question. [laughs]
OS: You talk about using music as a way to pursue enlightenment, I was wondering if you could expand on that?
DT: Surely… there are so many lessons that can be taught through music. Most of what I know about existence in general is through that lens. Some meditate, some do drugs, some go into trance states and come out the other side with even a little bit more understanding of their place in this vast universe. Some lucky ones even find purpose. I use music to draw the ley lines, to be the microscope and the mirror. Through the love, pain, enrichment, glory, and stress that come along with many aspects of making music, there are correspondences that line up with life in general. Some paint, some design, some sell, some play stock markets… music is the tool I use to gain wisdom and understanding.
OS: As a listener, how do you get yourself in the best headspace to pursue that enlightenment? How is it similar and different to how you pursue it as an artist?
DT: It’s all one in the same to me. The artist has to be a listener. Honestly I’m not into headspace as anything more than a great side effect of constant creation and work. The inspiration always comes if you’re constantly in that flow. Everything isn’t going to be the best thing you’ve ever done but I don’t think that matters much. It’s more about dedication than anything. I definitely have my own rituals for studio time but I don’t know how much it actually helps… maybe its a placebo, not sure.
OS: What was your thinking behind the title What a Time to be DEAD?
DT: So the title is a play on the phrase, “what a time to be alive.” Sometimes people say that phrase and they really mean it like, “the roaring 20’s, what a time to be alive!!” or, “the birth of hip-hop, what a time to be alive!” but most times its said with a sarcastic tone. I just expounded on that and made the phrase more true to reality.
First of all, without getting too weird… if time itself is circular or infinite, then we’re all dead already anyway. We’re all some form of a ghost reflecting on being alive, and at the same time some living being reflecting on being a ghost.
The other angle, was more of a social commentary on the state of the world. Seems like so many things are dead now. Sacred things are being killed off and forgotten. Society is polishing brass on the Titanic, hence it’s all death. That being said, it is kinda exciting to witness and have a front row seat for it. There’s lots of potential, lots of fun, lots of entertainment, lots of things we can do to participate in it – both positive and negative.
OS: Can you talk about some of the samples that you pulled from for the album? What were some of your favorite stand moments in how they flowed into your tracks?
DT: So I’m not gonna say too much about the samples used cause… ya’know. [laughs] But I will say that they run the gamut from indigenous music to soul music to obscure 80’s music. Truly a reflection of my tastes in music in general. I’m all over the place but I’m still me. It still sounds like me.
OS: I absolutely love when the drums kick in on Collapse. Can you talk about how you know when to release a track just into an instrumental groove?
DT: That song is very near and dear to my heart. It may be the clearest I’ve ever been about how I feel. And I just thought that that’s the way it should be shared with no distraction from the vocals. In my mind, it’s like the drums are saying, “the saga continues”. I got all my feelings out, I emptied myself, but life goes on. The beat goes on. And of course I wanted it to bang. [laughs]
OS: East Point Villa is another one of those moments that just lifts off right from the go – which makes me realize, that’s also that drum sound you get. Can you talk about how you look to drums in shaping your tracks?
DT: Drums are everything! I’m not the best but I always just try to focus on drums lending to the feeling rather than taking away from it. They dictate so much that they have to be heavily considered. If you have something to say, the drums will help you say it. Kinetic energy at work. My fav producers always had drums man… shouts to my brother Yamin Semali for really showing me how to get drums like I want ’em.
OS: What a Time to be DEAD has a really great flow to it from track to track. Can you talk about what considerations you have when sequencing an album?
DT: Mostly, I’m trying to tell a story. Things need to make sense both subject matter wise and sonically. I think about instruments used, loudness, softness, rap flow, bassline, drums… all those things are being considered. I want the picture to fit the frame. That’s also why songs that I enjoy – peep the b sides – didn’t make the cut. For whatever reason, they didn’t match the story to me.
OS: Right now, the album is just available digitally through Bandcamp. Do you have any plans for a physical release? Would you want one?
DT: Yes and yes! I have a vinyl deal in the works. Trying to push some other projects through first and then I will circle back to my project. It’s easier to do things by yourself so I kinda put that behind the group situations that I’m involved with. I love physical media. Im a child of that era. There’s nothing like holding art in your hands.
OS: Vinyl has definitely come back into the public’s favor – which I imagine could swing both good and bad in terms of turntablism. What effects does that have on what your trying to do as both a performer and an artist trying to get their own music out there?
DT: Vinyl is mostly a must for me. I’m old school like that. But I wouldn’t let it keep me from releasing music. We’re doing god’s work after all. The message is in the medium and the medium is its own message. Shouts to my guy, Conspiracy.