You know their names. Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, TOKiMONSTA, Daedelus, Thundercat, Shlohmo... the list goes on. Hailing from the City of Angels, these are the artists who are synonymous with the world-renowned sound known as the beat scene.
Los Angeles’ rich musical history and its inhabitants’ dedication to such a powerful style of sound can be compared to that of Chicago’s relationship with house, London’s allegiance to garage and Detroit’s techno mania. While the aforementioned genres have long debated the official birthplace of their noise, the LA beat scene’s indisputable place of origin is well documented and continues to keep its floors packed and its soundsystems busy.
Low End Theory (LET) has run its weekly, beat-driven Wednesday outing at the show’s Lincoln Heights venue - The Airliner - since the party’s inception in 2006. During the early days, this smoked out, supportive and unassuming producers saloon was an essential melting-pot for some of the most prolific names in electronic music.
As the stature of LET’s regulars and residents began to skyrocket, the beat scene’s abstract yet heavily infectious electronic mysticism soon gained global recognition. Between 2008 - 2011, the beat scene made some serious waves in the music world with the help of olympian, left-field works such as Flying Lotus’ groundbreaking ‘Los Angeles’ LP, Baths’ lovely ‘Cerulean’, Nosaj Thing’s haunted ‘Drift’, Juj’s dusty ‘Walnut’, and a number of other superlative releases.
The meteoric rise of their sound - and the resulting fame which followed the scene’s original artists - pushed many of these visionaries into boundless creative territories. As these artists gravitated towards larger productions and different artistic mediums, the LET staples of the beat scene’s “golden-era” left behind a pair of very big shoes to fill.
Despite the general fixation on the genre’s older pioneering sounds, Low End Theory and its close-knit family have their eyes locked on the future. The controversy surrounding former LET resident, Brainfeeder artist, and RBMA DJ The Gaslamp Killer - which surfaced back in October 2017 - was an uncertain time for the various electronic music communities surrounding the scene. Handling the matter judiciously, Low End Theory and Brainfeeder have kept their integrity intact by stepping away from the dispute and focusing on maintaining a model of harvesting forward-thinking music to the masses.
The sonic trailblazing of OG artists like Dibiase, Ras G, Free the Robots, Samiyam and beyond - alongside LET and its Alpha Pup label’s steady commitment to new talent - has birthed an eclectic breed of noteworthy artists who continue to fly the beat scene’s banner with pride, variety and a serious creative spirit.
Eureka The Butcher
Grammy Award-winning artist Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez (a.k.a Eureka The Butcher) has enjoyed a successful career in music, touring with his family bands Zechs Marquise and The Mars Volta. After meeting Low End Theory resident DJ Nobody while touring through Europe in the mid-2000’s, he soon learned all about the fiery musical think-tank and all its beat-driven glory. “I fell in love with all of it: the sound, the feel, the sense of community. From there I was hooked”, says Lopez. “I made it out to Low End every chance I got.”
His early arrival to the LA beat scene inspired Lopez to find new ways of approaching his craft right off the bat. “I had been programing and making electronic music for years with no real direction or new inspiration”, Lopez explains. “That changed when I went to Low End that first time. I now had a different kind of drive.”
Lopez re-released his 2013 Eureka The Butcher LP ‘Music For Mothers’ via Alpha Pup’s sister label Dome of Doom in 2016 and has become a regular player at LET’s weekly club nights. The splashy textures and stark drive of Eureka The Butcher’s renegade sound was further solidified after the release of his 2017 sophomore album, ‘¡EUREKA!’. Wildly unpredictable, Eureka The Butcher’s production constantly keeps audiences guessing and engaged.
When speaking about what direction he believes the beat scene is heading, Lopez confirmed that he is “optimistic about the future of the beat scene, more so than most other types of music. People continue to take risks and experiment. They shape and mold their art to be what they want to hear. They merge ideas and inspirations. There is confidence within the scene. It's unapologetic in its sound.”
Coming in hot with some epic SP-404 madness, Linafornia’s raw and neck-breaking sound makes her one of the most triumphant artists to grace the beat scene over the past few years. The artist first attracted a great deal of attention after winning back-to-back L.A. Beat Cinema competitions back in 2016. Her debut release ‘YUNG’ on Dome of Doom resulted in widespread acclaim for the authentic artist, who has taken the beat scene’s invaluable influence and planted her own distinct stamp on its surroundings.
The Leimert Park native’s uncompromising style of live performance is an immediate attention grabber. With a peaceful demeanor and irrefutable swag, Linafornia always delivers with a profound mix of bewitching hip-hop and wet, jazzy beats.
Aside from TOKiMONSTA, the early days of the beat scene saw very few performances from female artists. “One of the main reasons why I decided to start making beats and working on sets myself is because I would go to these shows and there would never be any women on the bill actually playing a beat set,” says Linafornia. “For a long time, I would be the only woman producer on a show flyer."
This reality is starting to change. Numerous female artists such as Sha Sha Kimbo, Huxley Anne, Shiva, Astronautica, Eden Hagos and more have found the spotlight and continue to prove themselves both at home and throughout the country.
“It's a bug out now when women approach me at shows and tell me they got a SP-404 after seeing me play a set from like more than a year ago or something”, says Linafornia. “That's tight. Like... damn! All that practicing in my room made a difference. It reached somebody to the point where they wanted to create music too. Sound energy is wild powerful.”
Creating beats for a large portion of Los Angeles’ indie-rap contingency, Kenny Segal’s work ethic of 20 plus years and his noticeable dedication to his craft has come to solidify his reputation as one of the best hip-hop producers in the city. Originally playing drum ‘n’ bass at Low End Theory founder Daddy Kev’s Konkrete Jungle party in the ‘90s, Segal eventually made the switch to hip-hop after being inspired by LA’s phenomenal and innovative underground rap scene. “By the mid-2000s, the drum 'n' bass wave had crested. As it pulled back out to sea, in its wake were the initial ingredients that led to the beat scene”, explains Segal. He was one of the first artists to play Low End Theory and continues to appear on the party’s bill to this day.
It was in 2012 that Segal linked up with Team Supreme, the beat cypher supergroup that introduced him to his now lifelong friends Mr. Carmack and Mike Parvizi (Penthouse Penthouse). Recently, the three friends have created a new beat-infused jazz project called Jefferson Park Boys. The project’s reposed and spacious feel aims to create “a narrative and some context to both the work we had already released on various rap albums and for the future.” Through the popularity of musicians such as Brainfeeder artist Kamasi Washington - along with the plethora of jazz samples which seep their way into various beat-maker’s productions - a new jam-based and scholarly musical dimension is beginning to grab the some much deserved attention from beat scene enthusiasts.
When addressing the current status of the beat scene, Segal offered some straightforward wisdom on the matter: “At this point, without a doubt, the beat scene wave has crested as well... but to me that is exciting because it means the next wave is forming out there in the ocean and hopefully I get to ride this one too, just like the previous ones.”
Hailing from San Francisco and currently stationed in LA, Woolymammoth is a formidable and explosive bass-centric producer whose strange brew of spacious and erratic tones should not be taken lightly. Wicked in every sense of the word, Woolymammoth takes his grimacing musical cues from artists such as Dibiase, Lorn and EPROM.
Crewed up with the impactful music collective Courteous Family - a noteworthy tribe of beat connoisseurs who are breathing new life into the genre with heavy, bass-focused manufacturing - like-minded artists such as Tsuruda, Aztek and Huxley Anne have pushed Woolymammoth to find comfort and union in his craft.
“I'm so inspired by the whole crew and I’m grateful to be apart of it all. I met Anton and Tristan (the co-founders of the label) back in high school when it was all just starting up. They became some of my closest friends throughout school and when they left to LA to start working on making Courteous a label, I had to make the trip as well. It's kind of like an extended family of producers that support and work with one another.”
It is the fresh eyes and fresh ears of emergent collectives like Courteous Family that are making all the difference in keeping the beat scene relevant and exciting. Woolymammoth has just released his debut full-length LP ‘Filling Spots’, which can be streamed in full below.
Courteous Family staple and Low End Theory’s February 2018 resident DJ, Huxley Anne is a true renaissance woman of modern electronic music. Between her enthusiasm for art, her prowess as a sound technician and her innate ability to weave tracks together with a large and reflective mindset, Huxley Anne is as well spoken as they come.
So well spoken in fact, Mixmag finds that her summary of the beat-scene scene’s existence - both past and present - truly hits the nail on the head.
“I wasn’t prepared for such a music-shattering realization. It was in 2008, when Flying Lotus released ‘Los Angeles’. It was all these beats, but inside this crazy electronic soundscape. It broke how I had previously conceived of music, I hadn’t ever heard sounds like that. This time around though, when I dove into the music, it was in the present. Everyone wasn’t dead! In fact, they were just fucking beginning. It was hard at first, there was so little music like that. It almost feels now like I grew up with the sound. Yet by 2010, the year I graduated high school, I was listening to gorgeous, intricate records by artists like Teebs, Shlohmo, Daedelus, Samiyam, TOKiMONSTA, Nosaj Thing, Gonjasufi, listening to the dawn of the LA beat scene."
"They cracked open this nebulous universe, tore the sky apart and brought a new, authentic form of expression into the world. It’s our job to honor that, to push it even further, to collide with other planets and infuse the development of our music with the magic they melted into the foundation. New humans step into the shoes of the architects, as the architects move forward to craft another palace.”
Cameron is Mixmag's US Digital Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter here
Vassilis Skandalis is Mixmag's Senior Designer