You Are What You Beat


By Quan Vu

Musically speaking, “DIY” is a term most often associated with the anti-establishment fury of punk rock, but there are few rockers doing it themselves more than instrumental hip-hop duo Skrapez. San Diego natives Jon “Tenshun” Calzo and David “Psychopop” Lampley release cassettes and vinyl they dub and cut at home - talk about DIY... not to mention hassle with bootleggers.

“When I see someone’s album, I see it as an art piece,” says Tenshun. “When it’s DIY, and they made it themselves... it’s like they actually put their hands on [it]. That’s what I hope people think when they see my music.”

Carrying the same raw energy as punk, Skrapez’ music is sometimes labeled as “noise.” The main focus seems to be on drums, which are passed through so many filters and effects to arrive at purposefully lo-fi, harsh, “dirty” textures. The complete sound’s free-form structure and trippy, psychedelic nature recall the experimental jazz of Sun Ra.

Now that renowned S.D.-bred singer and Skrapez mentor Gonjasufi has launched his AIR label, these guys are on track to blow even more minds in the near future.

Many hip-hop producers started out composing instrumentals, mixing samples from their parents’ records with beats from a drum machine. Rapper Tory-T (aka Taurean Thomas), who assumes production duties for the first time on his debut solo album, Enough About Me, took a different path - prayer.

“I did a lot of praying. It was right after my mom passed,” says the Sacramento native who now resides in Clairemont. “I’d talk to my mom. I’d get high as f***. Then I would be just like, ‘God, put Ray Charles in me or somebody in me.’ I would play the keys and sh!t. And I’d be playing sh!t that I didn’t even know I knew how to play.”

Though he’s not in quite the same league as the late Sir Charles, Tory-T makes beats that sound better than they have any business sounding. With its angular minimalism, his track “Minds of Mayans,” on which he samples echoes bouncing off Mexican pyramids, could be an outtake from Kanye West’s “Yeezus.” His “And You Know This Kid” has a solid bass groove and snappy drums accented by horn stabs for an Old School feel.

Lyrically, this is Tory’s most personal music yet, which is no surprise considering he’s most known as part of live hip-hop band The Concrete Project. Here’s to hoping he incorporates his production acumen into the band now that it’s re-formed.