Posted on April 25, 2011
Make sure you don’t miss the show if we’re playing near you….are we playing near you? Find out at DessaTickets.com!
Restless and passionate but with an unflinching realism at his core, Sims has seen enough of life to know there are no easy answers. His second full-length release, Bad Time Zoo, out February 15th on Doomtree Records, reflects this rapper’s ongoing quest for solid understanding in a society on the brink of dystopia. For Sims, it’s been a long road.
Andrew Sims grew up in the working-class Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins, Minnesota. His parents were both musicians with problems of their own, and Sims often had to look out for himself and his younger brother. “I was super short-fused,” he remembers. “I got in fights almost every day until I was about 13.”
He found solace in rap and R&B music, nurturing a love for mainstream hits as well as then-underground artists such as the Wu-Tang Clan. His parents didn’t approve of his new love, however, so he built a secret stash of cassette mixtapes that he traded to kids at school. He soon found a gift for rhyme and begin channeling his aggression into feisty, kinetic wordplay.
His rap habit quickly grew from playground cyphers to recorded projects. In high school, he met a local producer and rapper named P.O.S. who would sell him beats for $30 a pop and let him record at his house for free. Eventually, their home-recording experiment blossomed into a full-on musical enterprise that would pull in other aspiring artists and help put Minneapolis hip-hop on the map.
Enter Doomtree. Hailing from the same untamed Minneapolis indie music scene that spawned both punk legends the Replacements and, 20 years later, hip-hop powerhouse Rhymesayers, Doomtree has become one of the most trusted and influential names in grassroots hip-hop.
Since its birth in 2002, Doomtree has grown from a CD-R-slinging, fast-food-fueled DIY collective into a tightly knit, business-savvy operation. In addition to Sims and P.O.S., Doomtree’s roster includes some of the most daring artists working in hip-hop today: Lazerbeak, Dessa, Mike Mictlan, Paper Tiger, and Cecil Otter.
In a genre that all too often rewards imitation over innovation, Doomtree’s artists strive for originality without sacrificing mass appeal. As a result, fans of Doomtree have come to expect uncommon hip-hop delivered in clever, club-rocking doses, and Bad Time Zoo will not disappoint.
Setting himself as spokesman for a generation fraught by vapid commercialism, political cynicism, and the paradoxical power of technology to both connect us and drive us apart, Sims seeks a path out of the disappointment that plagues modern life. The time of plenty, inbox full / So why do I feel so goddamn empty? he demands on opening track “Future Shock.”
But while he casts himself as an alienated prophet, make no mistake: Sims’ message is of empowerment, hope, and badass beats. The results are epically infectious.
Over the pulse and sway of Lazerbeak’s urgent, expansive production, Sims raises 50-story verses and swings wrecking-ball choruses. With scenes straight from Darwin’s nightmares – people as animals gorging in the streets (“The Veldt”) – Bad Time Zoo is not so much a hip-hop album as a teeming, beat-driven urban wilderness.
On the horn-sample-driven first single, “Burn It Down,” Sims raps like a red-eyed city planner who just downed his eighth Red Bull and Adderall cocktail and is on the street corner calling for destruction before renewal. Or take the thumping, wickedly funny “One Dimensional Man,” an indictment of complacent liberals: You did your part, you gave your hundred bucks to NPR / You joined a co-op now, bought the hybrid car. (For the record, Sims votes Democrat and drives a hybrid.)
But lest you think you need an advanced degree and a machete to enter Bad Time Zoo, Sims keeps his narratives grounded and real, and Lazerbeak’s musical compositions would sound just as good on a club PA as headphones. Just spin “Love My Girl,” a pop confection that juxtaposes dark observations on the dating life with a surprisingly sweet candy center.
A pop-culture omnivore, Sims cites influences that range from the sci-fi of Ray Bradbury, to the films of David Lynch, to the 1940s graphic novels of Will Eisner. But most of all, Sims listens to the world around him.
“I draw a lot more from human interaction than I do from music,” he says. “I listen and try to understand how people function.”
Like all good writers, Sims has an ear for what makes us human.
“What are your soft spots? When are you at your most defensive, your most unabashedly happy or proud?” he elaborates. “Or when I see someone try to cobble a defense together when they’re hurting. Those moments are noteworthy to me. I try to pay attention to them.”
Pay attention to Sims, and you’ll be better for it.
False Hopes 4 (out of print)
Lights Out Paris
False Hopes 14
Burn It Down 12″
Bad Time Zoo (produced by Lazerbeak)
Wildlife – EP
Make sure you don’t miss the show if we’re playing near you….are we playing near you? Find out at DessaTickets.com!
It is my great honor to present to you the brand new music video for “One Dimensional Man” off of Bad Time Zoo, courtesy of Alternative Press, who are world premiering it at their site right HERE. The video is directed by the undeniable powerhouse that is Isaac Gale and David Jensen (of “Burn It Down” and “Let It Go” fame), and edited/colored by the one and only JoLynn Garnes (of Winnebago Man and Fearless Freaks fame). BOOM! This one is pretty crazy, hope you like it.
Haha, the Plain Ole Bill cameos steal the show for me. One of the great actors of our time, a true visionary. Please help us get the word out about this if you can. Huge thanks to everyone that helped out with the shoot, and to CO Gallery for letting us use the space. First time I’ve ever: had huge fake sores applied to my face in makeup; been a part of an infomercial studio audience; drank Black Label at noon (to my knowledge at least); and the list goes on.
Sims has been out on the east coast with Astronautalis for close to a week now, and it sounds like the tour is off to a phenomenal start. The guys sent over a few pictures from the road to give you an idea of what they’re getting into. I’ll post a few below, and you can check out the rest of them right HERE (courtesy of Ricardo Zapata).
In other show news, we had quite the insane gathering at First Ave on Sunday night. It was the huge Gayngs takeover that included us and about 20 some other bands. Such a beautiful night. I couldn’t help but feel extreme pride for my friends and for my city. 60 plus musicians sharing stages together throughout the night and not a single ego getting in the way ever. Can’t begin to tell you how extremely rare that is. There were a ton of different photographers in the building to document everything. You can check photos out HERE (by Stacy Schwartz), HERE (by Erik Hess), and HERE (by Ben LaFond).
In other Gayngs/Doomtree news (if you missed the post from Friday), we just dropped this Affiliyated remix EP with seven reworkings of songs off the Relayted album. I’m so pumped about how this all turned out. Listened to it all the way through for the first time this weekend, and I gotta say that everyone really brought their A-game to the table (and I don’t even usually like remix albums). You can download the whole thing for free over at our bandcamp page right HERE or just click the cover above. We’ll all be heading down to Austin for SXSW next week. The official Doomtree showcase is on Wednesday (with solo and crew sets all night long) at Flamingo Cantina, and then we’ll be doing another official crew set on Thursday for the Gayngs showcase at Mohawk. Many more day party shows to be announced in the coming days as well. I should have a full on SXSW updated schedule up here by Friday.
Now on to the second installment of Bonus Classic Album Jams. I don’t know if I’m finally starting to feel nostalgic for turn of the millennium semi underground hip hop, but I’ve been revisiting my favorite rap albums from back in highschool over the last couple weeks and am finding it thoroughly enjoyable. Simpler times or something I guess. This week I’d like to talk about the album that truly and abruptly got me back into hip hop. Things Fall Apart by The Legendary Roots Crew.
Like I said last week, I grew up listening to R&B and rap mostly via the local radio stations, but around 7th grade wound up getting way into indie rock (blame it on Pavement I guess), something that I basically listened to exclusively up until senior year of highschool (with the exception of It Takes A Nation Of Millions).
Things Fall Apart dropped in the beginning of ’99, and I caught the video for “You Got Me” after school one day. Totally blew my mind, especially the crazy rapid fire Questlove drum part at the end. I’m not sure if it was the fact that they were actually playing instruments (this is at the beginning of TPC! really starting to play out in the city and me being a super snobby band dude), or the Badu hook, or just how cool the video was, but I loved it all. Went out and got the album and listened to it for at least a year straight. Instant classic. I remember even trying to have serious arguments with people back then about how Black Thought was the greatest rapper of all time, haha (he’s nice, but not quite that nice).
It became my gateway into the current rap music of the time, and also gave me the desire to go back over the last decade and re-educate myself on all the albums, artists, and events in hip hop that I had missed out on. Anybody that had a guest verse on this album, I’d do my research and buy their albums too. Which got me into Mos Def, Common, and really the whole OkayPlayer circle of artists (I was a serious OkayPlayer dude back then too, had all the gear and everything). Beanie Sigel had a guest verse, which slowly got me into Jay-Z and the Rocafella roster, and more mainstream stuff in general. It’s weird, but I can basically trace the start of my entire involvement in and love for hip hop to this one album. Not The Chronic or Reasonable Doubt or Illmatic or 36 Chambers or Southernplayalistic, all of which I would learn to adore after the fact. It was Things Fall Apart. So strange. A case of the right place at the right time I think more than anything.
I could go on and on about this, but I’ll spare you any more of the sentimental “I love this culture so much” mushiness for the time being. Suffice it to say that when I fell back in love with hip hop in senior year, I plummeted hard. And it is because of that falling that I ever decided to pick up an MPC a year later in the hopes of contributing a little something to this artform that I gained so much joy out of.
I can’t really tell how well this thing has aged, since at this point it holds so much more importance to me than just the music, but I still know every word to every song (interludes, hidden tracks and all). Definitely worth pulling out again if you’ve got it in your collection. Below are a few of my favorite tracks, beginning with that awesome video for “You Got Me” that started it all for me.
As a Roots bonus, here’s a link I just got put up on where Questlove breaks down a million different celebrity encounters that he’s had over his years in the industry. It is both a hilarious and extremely intimate look into celebrity culture, and I definitely wasted several evenings last week getting caught up to speed on all of these. Highly recommended, check it out HERE. There are some serious gems in there.
Well, that about does it. Hope you all have a great week. I’ll see you next Tuesday with a special SXSW send off post. Don’t forget to show everybody that Sims video!
I try to imagine what Spud Webb was thinking about flying towards the rim in the 1986 Slam Dunk contest. The electricity in the Reunion Center must’ve have been staggering as his undersized 5’7” frame was mid flight. Time seems drastically slow down in a transitional state like that, ample time to think. Was he worried that he might brick the dunk or worse completely miss the rim? At some point did he wonder exactly how he came to be in this moment, in way over his head competing with the likes of Dominique Wilkins? Or did he fall into a Zen state and become one with the air or something, nothingness or whatever? He must’ve felt some pressure, but then again nobody expected him to win so in some regards all bets are off being in his position.
I spend a lot of time feeling like I’m hurling through the air, and find it difficult to shape my thoughts mid-air. I don’t want to disappoint the people that help launch me into mid air, the people that support me, the people that cheer me on towards the rim. I know that’s fear talking and I do my best to ignore it, but it is loud. We’re all afraid of failure. When I find myself afraid I think of Spud, try my best to take the pressure off and just hurl myself toward the goal. I know that sometimes I will completely brick my dunks but the ones I make will be incredible. When my fingertips touched the rim last night at the end of this long promo cycle I looked up and saw a community cheering in support of the underdogs. I feel like Spud Webb winning the Slam Dunk contest right now because of you.
Spud’s dunks were not technically the best dunk of the evening. But the collective excitement of people seeing the undersized, underpowered man reaching the rim made them the most spectacular. He won because of the people’s support for the underdog. I think he and I both owe them a huge thank you.
Here’s a quick update of what I’ve been up to for the last week or so, tons of photos and minimal description fit for 2011.
I shot another video with Isaac Gale, here’s a couple teaser shots, more of these soon. You will probably be really confused by these shots, but that’s cool, I am too.
Tuesdays with Sims
I’m hijacking this edition of Tuesdays with Lazerbeak; bang, you got took Beak. I’m not a big blogger so Imma do my best to keep this thing concise and interesting.
It snowed a bit this weekend. I’m sure you’ve seen this by now:
(more after the jump, click the top)
So Beak and I are working like crazy. Been that way, and we’re not gonna stop. So here’s a little manifesto track for you, just a little snack until we serve up our record. You might recognize the beat.
I was unpacking some of my stuff earlier from the move (yes I know its been over 3 months since I moved but I’m busy procrastinating) and I found some records I had, albums that I have purchased more than 3 copies of because I could not stand life without them. They were either lost or stolen but certainly replaced. I love all of these albums although you may think my taste is a little questionable with a couple of these, but I love them regardless. Some of them I didn’t know that I had done that with until I found all 3 copies in my cd piles, like this one:
Click for more
Despite the fact that I didn’t make these beats Imma post ’em up on here so y’all can peep ’em. Figured I could let you know a little about my process in writing. I don’t know maybe we’ll do some remix contest or something in the future. MK made this beat a year or two ago and sent it to me with some other ones. I sort of forgot about it until I was trying to piece together FH14. So I found it and made one of those really quick songs. The kind that you start and finish within an hour. That rarely happens to me. Soon as I finished and called him. He didn’t have the beat anymore. His computer had crashed and the only surviving version of the beat was an MP3 on my iTunes. Dang. Thinking that we weren’t going to be able to use the song I sent him the file anyway. He was able to add a few things on top of it and we made the damn thing happen.
Check out the new video “Heavy Rescue”
Lighting by Paul Guthrie
Directed by Stef Alexander
Shot and Edited by Isaac Gale
Train Footage by Isaac Gale & Ryan Kron Thompson
Production Assistant: Becky Hoffmann
Music produced by Cecil Otter and Lazerbeak
Guitar by Jake Hanson