This Music Monday is back on the eclectic tip with tons of great new songs. It starts off with the Hamilton mixtape, which everyone has been talking about since the cast of Hamilton told off the Vice President-elect last week. As Slate says of the track “Immigrants (We Get Job Done),” it is the “proud, furious immigrant anthem (that) we need right now.”
The track is helmed by Somali-Canadian rapper K’NAAN and features Mexican-American rapper Snow tha Product, Pakistani-British rapper Riz MC and Puerto Rican rapper Residente — all of whom are either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants.
Appropriately followed by gypsy-punk classic “Immigrant Punk” by Gogol Bordello, the two songs’ overlapping themes make excellent bedfellows, especially accompanied by Calle 13 and Orisha’s immigration anthem, “Pa’l Norte.”
We raise spirits a bit (and space things out) by introducing Chaz Bundick’s solo work with the instrumental genius duo The Mattson 2. The track “Star Stuff” is a psychedelic trip led by the multi-talented Bundick, who is most famously affiliated with his band Toro Y Moi, along with twin musical geniuses Jared and Jonathan Mattson.
Bundick has multiple music projects to his name, a healthy DJ career, apparel and shoe design credits, as well as tons of other visually-based art projects. He graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s in graphic design. He began making music as a teen in punk and indie bands, and the Toro y Moi moniker started in 2001, when he was still in Columbia, South Carolina. He says electronica, indie rock, ’60s baroque pop, ’80s R&B, French house and underground hip-hop all heavily affected his early solo music. Bundick cites Big Star, Talking Heads and Todd Rundgren, as well as the psychedelic soul of Brazilian legend Tim Maia and the ‘70s-era jazz-funk of France’s Cortex as strong influences on his recent offerings.
“I’ve done electronic R&B and more traditional recorded-type R&B stuff. I just wanted to see what else was out there,” Bundick says, describing the direction of previous album What For? “It’s all coming from the same mindset and point of creativity. It’s just me trying to take what I already have, and then taking it further.”
Bundick was the subject of a brief documentary entitled Chaz: in Parts, which you can view below. Much of the video was filmed at his Berkeley, California, studio.
Los Angeles-based Low Leaf combines psychedelia with R&B and soul in her unique sound. The Filipina-American musician Angelica Lopez incorporates ethereal harp into mellow, soul-warming music in which just about everyone can find something to love. Evoking images of nature, she creates beautiful but accessible tunes.
Lopez began learning classical piano at the age of five, and began harp in the third grade.
“(I was drawn to) the vibration when I play it. I immediately wanted to get closer to that sound,” Lopez tells the Filipino publication Coconuts. “I stopped playing when my teacher retired and then revisited the harp after college because I wanted to incorporate it with my beats; I started making beats when I was 18. ”
She explains her influences, as well. “Growing up, I was a big fan of Lauryn Hill, Aaliyah. I listened to jazz, a lot of hip-hop, RNB, bossa nova. I listened to a lot of Beatles, because of my dad. He’d play those albums every single road trip. I think that really influenced me with my guitar-writing stuff. Those were the first songs I learned on the guitar, but I dunno. It’s all swimming in my consciousness. What I like about music is, when it’s done right, it’s timeless.”
K’Naan was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, at the height of civil unrest. The Somali-Canadian rapper is also a talented poet, instrumentalist, singer and songwriter who cites Ethio-jazz, Somali music and other world sounds as influences. Most recently, he can be heard in “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)” from the Hamilton Mixtape — our first song for this week’s Music Monday playlist.
Born to a family of artists of all walks, K’Naan was blessed with a childhood literally filled with music and poetry until the start of the civil war in Somalia. After three of his schoolmates were gunned down when he was twelve, K’naan nearly died in an incident when he mistook a grenade for a potato — and threw it just before it detonated. After that, his mother sought an American visa for each family member in the hope of joining her husband, his father, who worked as a cab driver in New York City. Not long after that, the family relocated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where they still reside.
Influenced by Nas and Rakim, the Muslim rapper taught himself rap diction and hip hop rhythms by phonetically rapping along to songs well before he knew English. K’naan describes his music as “urgent music with a message,” and uses his music as as a means of education and protest in a “mix of tradition and a kind of articulation of my own life and my past experiences.”
Oregon-born Laura Gibson creates beautiful folk music that takes zero shit. With an MFA in fiction writing, her lyrics are lush and literate, recalling experiences and painting portraits of places with great detail and palpable feeling.
In 2015, Gibson was principal composer and lyricist for Up the Fall, a musical production created for performers with developmental disabilities, for the Portland-based Non-Profit PHAME Academy. She has also collaborated with Oregon Ballet Theater and Portland Playhouse to create incredible music to go along with dance and theater performances.