Leading up to Upstream Music Fest + Summit, the regionally focused festival happening in Pioneer Square June 1-3 with over 200 acts, KEXP will highlight a series of local artists every week with a short feature on the artist and a few tracks to start with if you're unfamiliar with their work. This week we spotlight Tacoma's Bujemane, who will be playing Upstream on Saturday, June 2nd at 10:00pm.
Bujemane raps like a severely hungover friend muttering his way through breakfast conversation. The beats he raps over are dreamy and narcoticized, brightly colored synth arpeggios and floating keyboard lines over booming bass. I suppose those are the two primary aesthetic checkpoints of the so-called "mumble-rap" subgenre of hip-hop, increasingly fruitful and derided upon mention because of a limiting descriptor. In Bujemane's case, he's resisting the notion of being a rapper in general, feeling the label is restricting to what he does as an artist and its world is full of politics he declines to engage in.
However, Buje – known to the United States government as Austin Howard – does make rap music, and at a pretty high level. His latest release, Sorry We Couldn't Wait For U, comes after years of winking at the idea of leaving the rap game (titles of past releases include I Quit and Thank You This Has Been a Very Fun Experience), though a period of fastidious style refinement. In an edition of Throwaway Style from earlier this year, our very own Dusty Henry wrote the following:
Sorry We Couldn't Wait For U feels even more liberated from the confines of genre than even TYTHBAVFE (which is still excellent). It's not that he's jetting out into experimental directions, fusing obscure sounds or trying to create something unfamiliar to listeners' ears. To put it simply – Sorry is fun to listen to. Yeah, I know that sounds super vapid, but I don't intend it to be. Howard's vision to create without restrictions is part of what keeps Sorry from being bogged down. The way he vocalizes on his tracks is so fluid, seeping into the tone of the song. It's like he's sinking his teeth into the beat, extracting the mood and carrying out its will. The swells of lead patches against high hats on opener "Anytime" demand Howard's performance. It's a chicken and egg scenario. Is the beat dictating his flow, or is his flow dictating the beat? The fact that the lines are blurred almost proves his entire point. There's no separation between the rhythm and voice. They're one in the same, executing an idea together.
We recently reached out to Bujemane about some of his favorite songs from his catalog, the vibe and the stories around them.
Bujemane: "First I should mention Sorry We Couldn't Wait For U was made within a week. I got back from Los Angeles and [producer] Gary's computer broke, so we ended up losing about thirty songs. The tape was kind of just a fresh start. We would link up and just ask around on Twitter where we could record. Shout out to Trenice, we made "Pores" at his spot and ordered pizza. We were in his house by ourselves working! Haha! Most of the project was written and produced in a single session."
Bujemane: "My man Nate actually told me to start the song 'What It Hit For' and then I just finished writing the song while Gary was finishing the beat. The "in the drive-thru for the chicken strips" bar just became iconic because brothers love chicken strips. I don't even eat meat anymore, though."
Bujemane: "This one was recorded up at UW, shout out DG and D. White. This was the same deal; we were looking for places to record and they let us come and chill. I wrote the song and then took a nap. PHX shot the video in the front yard before Aramis and I left for L.A."
Bujemane: "I think I had a cold when I recorded this and thought it was going to sound bad. It was one of those songs I had to bug Gary to send me because I couldn't stop singing it in my head. When I wrote it, I felt really pretty; I was hitting the Nae Nae, like, 'Damn, I got girls, bro.'"
Bujemane: "I spent a week in Oregon with Nate and Gary. These dudes spent seven days getting drunk around Portland; I just kinda hung out and watched Forensic Files. There was a whole project full of songs made and they've kinda just been floating around. I actually took this song off of Soundcloud because it didn't get enough plays, haha. I plan on re-releasing it with my next project; it has a few songs recorded on Christmas. I had to take advantage of the open studio time. A lot of these songs have a really new sound, Gary and I just tried to take what we were doing and go a little bit harder.
I don't want to announce the title of the new project, but there's about six songs and if you figure out the name, I'll give you a prize."
Seattle's rising hip-hop stars Kung Foo Grip recently released 2KFG, their best album yet, and are scheduled to play Upstream Music Fest on Sunday, June 3rd. We reached out to them to chat about 2KFG collaborator Keyboard Kid, performing live, and video games.
This year's Sound Off! winner has a singing and songwriting voice that can turn deep-seated emotions into whirlwinds. We talk to her about Sound Off!, songwriting, and her Upstream Music Fest performance Saturday, June 2nd at 9pm
Tacoma's Buje Mane doesn't consider himself a rapper, but he's finding a way to pave new territory in the genre.