HipHopDX Premiere – During the UnderCover Presents’ A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest event in San Francisco earlier this year, Oakland MC/singer RyanNicole nearly stole the show with her effortless rhyming style and powerful on-stage presence.
2x-GRAMMY®/Latin Grammy recognized producer, songwriter and artist Starita — who’s worked with artists such as Childish Gambino and A Tribe Called Quest — knows this. So naturally, he recruited the explosive talent for his new single, “Human.” The Hip Hop/Tech House hybrid bursts with a sharp uniqueness, simultaneously delivering plenty of heart and soul.
“This track is especially relevant in this divisive time with the most divisive rhetoric,” RyanNicole tells HipHopDX. “It’s a reminder that despite the stark differences, we are all the same. The song comes through me and emerges from the beat. “As an activist, black woman and Oaklander, I can identify with this track. Everyone can connect as humans.” The Queen of Everything, as she’s sometimes called, isn’t afraid to take risks and step outside the Hip Hop box.
“I accept opportunities like making this track because it allows me to challenge and stretch myself,” she says. “Through my work, I hope to inspire others to explore; believing that Spirit is leading us and to not living in a box. TRY! LIVE! This collaboration is an example of me working with a producer that people wouldn’t normally see me with.
“Having worked with Starita on the last UnderCover project, I personally witnessed his talent, respect for the creative process and openness to doing things differently. I wanted to continue this collaboration as he pushes artists to do things that are out of their comfort zone. And I value these creatively challenging experiences. The list of artists he’s worked with is impressive. I want to be a part of his A-list of collaborators.”
Starita jumped at the opportunity to work with RyanNicole. He’s also a fan of the song’s message. “This song speaks to what it means to be human, to be ok with the range of our existence — the dark with the light, high with low, left and right,” Starita explains. “And more importantly, to realize the oneness of it all.
“If we could, just for a moment, live in awareness, we would realize that we too are all part of this whole and together as one family.”
Starita adds, “I’ve stopped forcing making music and instead let myself be guided by the message of the song and in a way, channel the spirit the song conveys through sound. My process is usually to take a simple rhythm and melody and make it expand, grow, evolve into something massive; a complex soundscape.
“Using classical elements/instruments and incorporating it with electronic music, allows me to take the listener on a musical and emotional journey and tell the story sonically.”
“Human” is the fourth track Starita has released as a solo artist following “Rules” with ATCQ’s Jarobi, “Lights On” with Trevor Hall and “The One” with Trent Park.
Starita has been hitting the studio hard (what’s new) with many collaborators for a string of releases slated for Spring/Summer 2019. The first is set for release April 26th between Starita, RyanNicole, Aima The Dreamer and Terra Lopez for UnderCover Presents – Tribute to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Midnight Marauders.’ The crew took on Tribe’s summer jam The Chase, Part II reinterpreting it into something very unexpected. While recording at Airship Laboratories in Richmond, CA an interview took place over the course of the day and they had alot to say about the process! Starita speaks about how he approached this particular song as an artist although he is also the producer on the album project. Needless to say this is going to be a treat for dance music and Tribe lovers!
Starita: “Back in ’93, I was working at a record store in Jackson MS, called Be – Bop Record Shop. ’93 was THE year, so many records hit that year… I was listening to Tribe non-stop and many other conscious hip hop acts along with discovering dance music. I was introduced to Orbital II and it blew my mind much like ‘Midnight Marauders’ did at that time. After playing many instruments, I picked up the 1s and 2s….turntables. DJing became a huge focus in my life and I began playing parties in clubs I wasn’t even old enough to get into at that time! Breakbeat was big in the south so, I was mostly playing that and some house back then. When I approached this song I wanted to do a reinterpretation that was true to what I was listening to back in ’93 in addition to Tribe… house and breaks. The track starts out deep and dark in the Orbital style but then, I wanted to bring it up with an all out party jam. I like to give the listener a certain vibe to settle into so they think they are getting one thing. Then, I flip the script on the whole thing to blow the mind because I want folks to get out of their comfort zone.”
RyanNicole: I’m a polymath. The gift and curse of that is that I’m doing so many things…this project showcases that. Fans that do know me see that I’m vulnerable enough to stretch and for fans who don’t know me, will take from it the love I have for this work. As far as the track, as soon as the beat dropped I was like ‘oh this is so fun!’ I would have never expected a house and breakbeat track from The Chase. It’s just like a party, it’s just like a great time! It nods to the feeling and the vibe that we talk about in terms of the original. You know, the dusk in the summer vibe, but it just kicks it up to a whole other level and expands it to a broader audience.”
Aima The Dreamer: “I love the approach we took! I’m a big breakbeat fan and to proudly date myself, ’93 is when I started writing raps. Tribe was super influential so I was really excited to be brought in specifically on this track. Ryan and I were talking about how iconic the song was and how it set the tone for so many of us….definitely really enjoyed flipping it. It’s interesting because you want to keep the nuances but keep that flavor to it and I think we did a good job”
UnderCover Presents was founded by Lyz Luke in 2010 and has rapidly established itself as an inspirational collective that gathers musicians and artists from every facet of San Francisco Bay Area’s creative community. Since its founding, UnderCover has paid tribute to 14 albums, worked with over 150 local bands, and presented to over 35,000 audience members throughout San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. UnderCover has won Best of Awards from SF Weekly, SF Bay Guardian, East Bay Express, and has also attained two (2) Mayoral Proclamations for Green Day and Sly & The Family Stone at their tributes. UnderCover has become a true public celebration of local music, which is evident by their sold-out shows.
The concept is simple, one distinctive band per song reinterpreting an entire classic album from start to finish. A selection committee decides on the bands to be included in the tribute based upon their locality, distinctive sound, established following, among a variety of other criteria. With each tribute, artists are highly encouraged to put their own sound and personality on their rendition. The result is a cross-pollination of cultures, musicians, photographers, filmmakers, writers and visual artists that doesn’t typically happen on one show bill, or for that matter even festivals.
This time around, UnderCover Presents is honoring A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Midnight Marauders,’ an album that bridged the gap between hip-hop and jazz. Given that the album just celebrated its 25th anniversary, UnderCover felt it appropriate to continue to introduce this classic record to new audiences. Not to mention that the messages embedded in this album continues to echo resoundingly as we witness all that is taking place in the world. The collective is collaborating with Starita as music producer for the album recording, based upon his deep production experience across a multitude of genres in addition to his relationship and last work with Phife Dawg and ATCQ. For the first time, UnderCover will be releasing a double vinyl to commemorate this tribute. Today UnderCover Presents shares the first cover for “We Can Get Down” by high energy soul rock band Royal Jelly Jive. You can listen on Soundcloud.
With this ATCQ’s ‘Midnight Marauders’ tribute, UnderCover has united 13 local bands from a wide range of genres, 7 MCs (including Gift of Gab,Lateef the Truthspeaker, Karega, Starita, RyanNicole, RAV-E Sandhu), over 100+ artists, 9 engineers, 5 music studios, and 1 vinyl pressing plant, to produce an album within 65 days, from pre-production to mastering. The result is a one-of-a-kind and unexpected soundscape of reinterpreted tracks for a mixed genre collection – Experimental Orchestral, World, Cumbia, Reggaeton, Latin Hip Hop, New Orleans Jazz, R&B, Soul, Indie Folk, Rock, Funk, Future Soul, Alternative Rock, Jazz, Electronic, Dance, Ghangra and Afrobeat.
UnderCover Presents: A Tribute to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Midnight Marauders’ is out 4/26/19.
A Tribe Called Quest Week will feature 3 shows, starting on Thursday, May 16 through Saturday, May 18, 2019 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, CA followed by an After Party at 7th West, Oakland, on Sunday, May 20, 2019. UnderCover will dedicate Friday as “Phifeday” in honor of Phife Dawg. Details are below, tickets can be purchased here.