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Art You Can Hear

The only thing almost as beautiful as art you can see… is art you can hear!

Music is the soundtrack to our lives. It’s heard in movies, commercials, and even retail outlets. It sets the mood for parties, keeps children intrigued, and even keeps you entertained while on hold.

Like many people, my musical journey started at a very young age. My Father LOVED jazz (and still does). Growing up, he exposed us to the sounds of Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock, and The Dave Brubek Quartet.

All of my siblings gave it a go with musical instruments. Both my Brothers tried their hand at clarinet and my Sister played the flute (she was REALLY GOOD too!). And me… I started playing the alto sax in the 4th grade. I got pretty good at it and eventually moved up to the bari sax. The influence at home got me interested in the Jazz Band in Junior High. To this day, I still know how to read music, and although I don’t play anymore… I plan to pick it back up in the near future.

If you have seen any of my time lapse art videos, you know I make my own beats. You can check out my latest HERE.

Lots of my art collectors have asked about what music I like, so here it is...some music over the years that has inspired me and sort of ‘guided’ me through my journey. I tried to list these in order… but in the end, there's too many that are equally great!I’m very open-minded and experiment a LOT… not just with my art, but with music too.

I’ll start off with “MISC” and end with HIP-HOP. I hope at least a couple of these catch your attention!

20. Herbie Mann “Coming Home Baby”- There’s a rich story behind this track. In 1995, around the time I was REALLY getting into jazz and an increasing interest in music in general, my Dad made me a mix tape. Yes, it was a dubbed cassette! Remember those? Anyway, this song was included in that tape…and somehow between me moving away for the military… it was lost.

After 15 years of searching for this song on the Internet, YouTube, etc….. I FINALLY found it! This was a significant track because when I heard this sound for the very first time, I was experimenting with stenciling and image transfer techniques (at age 13). Very cool to go back and put myself in a place where I (unknowingly) fooled around with techniques that I would eventually strive to master 23 years later!

SIDE NOTE: If you’re a fan of string bass, the solo in the end is SPOT ON. One of the main reasons I fell in love with this song many years ago!

19. Weather Report “Birdland”- this song is timeless and needs no explanation. If you’re a fan of real instruments and catchy upbeat jazz, go check it out ASAP. I didn’t know this until a couple years ago, but this song is a tribute to a jazz club in New York, which featured many famous artists like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. The club was named after the OG “Bird”…the legendary Charlie Parker.

18. Souljazz Orchestra “Kapital”- A head knocker. Lots of percussion and live horns. It’s got a very active melody with notes all the way up and down the scale. Go check it out!

17. Ikebe Shakedown “No Answer”- You’ll immediately know why I’m drawn to this track when you hear the bari sax and the horns. This one has a very funkadelic vibe. When I first heard this track last year… I played it at least 10 times in a row. Definitely has a positive influence on me. If you’re a fan of afro-funk, it’s impossible to listen without bobbing your head!

16. Popof “Serenity”- Just a chill and relax kinda vibe to this one. Very shifty. Seems like something that would be in one of those old Kia commercials (the ones with the huge hipster mice). This track definitely makes me think of tie-die colors and other far outta space things.

15. Big Mean Sound Machine “Sweet Tooth”- The keys, the sax, and the horns. They all go together perfectly and makes you wanna get up and go do something fun! If you’re down in spirits… this track is a “pick me up”. Very refreshing!

14. Fever Ray “If I Had A Heart”- I first heard this track on Breaking Bad. I think it was in season 4, when Jessie was going through some hard times at his pad. Anyway…. It’s very dark and mysterious, and puts me in a vibe when I wanna create something real gritty. I’m not really sure of what the message is in this song, but I love it for the beat. It also makes me think about Jessie Pinkman!

13. Budos Band “Nature’s Wrath” – I first discovered Budos Band after talking with another Wu-Tang junkie. Budos brings a different element to afrobeat and funk. As an avid fan of the bari and tenor sax, I love hearing how this band mixes it in with the bass line. If you haven’t heard of this band…they’re definitely worth a listen!

12. Matisyahu “King Without A Crown”- I may get some flack for having only 1 reggae jam on this list, but here it is. This single takes me back to my Island days. I’ve heard there’s a few different versions of this song, but I like em all!

11. Kendrick Lamar “The Art of Peer Pressure”- this track starts out with a soulful piano-driven melody and thick bass line, and turns quickly to a masterpiece of a story. “I’m with the homies right now”.

Kendrick tells the story of how he’s normally a level-headed, genuinely nice guy with great intentions….until he’s ridin with the homies, and peer pressure gets the best of him, which leads to him taking part in a robbery.

10. Kanye West “Wolves”- this track is on Kanye’s most recent album ‘The Life of Pablo’ and features a heavy bass line, larger than life beat. Towards the end of the track Kanye presents a what-if scenario: “what if Mary….. was in the club….before she met Joseph; around hella thugs”. Most have a love/hate relationship with Kanye, but this is worth a listen. Probably in my top 5 Kanye tracks.

9. Immortal Technique “Goonies Never Die”- Now this…. is a fun track! If you know anything about the 1985 movie “The Goonies”… you’re immediately drawn into the action with the high speed pursuit in the beginning of the film. IT samples one of the main music themes in the movie… and IT. IS. AMAZING!

8. Kendrick Lamar “How Much A Dollar Cost” feat James Fauntleroy & Ron Isley- This track speaks volumes of an ongoing problem in America. K.Dot talks about a gas station experience in which a homeless man approaches him and asks for a dollar. There’s far too many tracks from Kendrick that would’ve made this list. He’s definitely here for the long haul and is representing the Best Coast to the fullest!

“Have you ever opened up Exodus 14? A humble man is all that we ever need”

7. Run The Jewels “A Report To The Shareholders”- Really…. ANYTHING RTJ puts their hands on turns to GOLD!, but this track in particular has a special ring to it. I love the fast, 80s style beat. On their 3rd album “RTJ3”. Go check out El-P’s Rhythm Roulette on YouTube and you’ll see why these guys are on sooo many levels of genius.

6. Dr. Dre feat Snoop Dogg “On the Blvd”- This track was on ‘The Wash’ soundtrack and remains in my all-time top 20 tracks ever! It’s fun, upbeat, and just very WEST COAST. Dr Dre flexes on the beat and rhymes too. It makes you just wanna go out lowridin on a nice sunny day.

The Game "1992" album art

5. The Game “1992” (full album)- Over the last couple years, lots of emphasis and focus has been put on the LA riots of 1992, since its 25 year anniversary just passed. The Game did a superb job in revisiting the tone of the city at the time, by laying in-depth storytelling over sampled beats. A special shout out to “Colors” and “However Do You Want It”… which is my current ring tone.

4. Clams Casino “Be Somebody” & “I Am God”- Both these tracks display the pure genius of CC. He makes ‘bigger than life’ beats that make you feel the same emotions he feels when he created them. I especially like CC because he rolls with A$AP Rocky, another personal favorite of mine for his innovative sound and delivery.

3. Dr Dre. “Compton”(full album)- This album is PERFECTION. It’s refreshing to know that a master creator such as Dre can still lay down beats and bend notes likes he did on this album. The entire project is FIRE from start to finish. My personal favorite “Genocide” feat. Kendrick Lamar. This is one of the toughest beats ever! Special nod to Anderson Paak, who also makes a few appearances throughout the project.

2. Kid Cudi “Frequency”- if you’re a fan of Cudi like I am, you know he went through some personal issues recently, but he’s back. I was a lil discouraged by the rock type album he put out (Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven)…. But I’m very impressed with his follow-up “Passion, Pain, and Demon Slayin’. This track “Frequency” is the intro track to his newest album and sets the tone.

2 ½. Dead Prez “Don’t Hate My Grind” feat Bun B- Yes… I had to create a 2 & half JUST to fit this one inActive high hats and synth chords fill this track on Dead Prez’s 2009 ‘Turn Off The Radio Vol 3’ album. “We all in the game, just different levels. Dealing with the same hell, just different devils”

1. Kanye West “YEEZUS” (full album). They say a particular sound or song puts us in a certain state of mind when we first hear it.

Kanye West "Yeezus" album art

I feel this way about Kanye’s 2013 album because it puts me at a turning point of my art career. This album gave me LIFE during my tour in South Korea. If you haven’t already noticed, I’m a huge Kanye fan and to me…this is one of his best. In my personal favorite “Blood On The Leaves”, he samples Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit”. Go check it out!

Well…. There you have it. A list of 20 of my more recent musical inspirations.

What song is stuck in your life soundtrack? Leave a note in the COMMENTS!

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