For the past month or so, it has been my goal to start work on a full new album to follow up on last year’s ‘Laying The Gauntlet‘. That project was aimed at being a conceptual one; I wanted to try and recreate the atmosphere of the Hip-Hop music that was so inspiring to me in my youth, and frame it as a modern radio show. In the time that has passed since then, I felt that although I did succeed in this goal, I only really scratched the surface of what my true connection to Hip-Hop is. Sure, I aired some feelings about the way Hip-Hop has gone now, and drew some musical lines back to producers like J Dilla, 9th Wonder, Nicolay, Madlib and the like. But attempting to mimic the sounds that certain individuals spoke to me with seems somewhat superficial. What I really should have targeted was the foundations that these artists built from – powerful kicks, soulful melodies, experimentation, individuality. Overall, if I’m honest with myself, ‘Laying The Gauntlet‘ is not the Hip-Hop roots homage that I set out to make.
So the question I now find myself wrestling with is: do I want to try broaching the same territory again, but improve on my previous effort, or do I try something totally new?
Though targeting my musical influences is still important to me, I’m finding that other aspects of life are dominating my psyche at this time. My personal progress away from the depression that has dogged my life for so many years yields lots of hope and ambition, but I still find myself drawn to the darkness and solitude that have become so familiar to me. It seems no amount of music in this ilk can fully express the bounty of emotion that has built up inside me over many years, nor can it help me to find what is truly at the core of it. I also find myself hampered by the other aspect of life that is currently clouding my vision: the desperate state of the world and this country; my contempt for the government that controls us; the media that influences us; and the ignorance of the masses who are so easily led by those two powers. The problem with this is that I feel I already approached this unrest, and the anger that comes with it, in the Snypa D Delic album ‘Bullet Tooth Snipes‘. I featured heavily on this album, and produced the majority of it, and I feel I vented a lot of my frustrations there.
So where do I go with my new album? Having listened fanatically to Kendrick Lamar‘s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly‘ over the past 6 months or so, I envy the fact that he found such profound inspiration from travelling to Africa. As a white British/Irish man, there isn’t such a strong cultural identity for me to discover (at least, none that I’m aware of) that could provide such inspiration for my own brand of Hip-Hop. I find myself always looking inward for inspiration, driven by emotions and thoughts that are barely influenced by other people as I mostly live such a solitary lifestyle. Recent local events, such as the stabbing of a young man near my place of work, open my eyes to the suffering and loss others experience, but this has all been covered countless times by every Hip-Hop artist you could care to name. If I am to make new music, it needs to be just that: ‘new‘.
The search for some genuine inspiration for a new album continues as of this point in time. I am yet to find an answer to the questions that have plagued me since I first decided to work on a new project. My approach has been to start making beats at a high rate, in the hope that something might inspire me organically as I go. It strikes me, as I proceed with this, that most vocalists do not also make their own instrumentals, so I go on to think about whether it might help to search for beats made by other producers to use on my songs. Collaborations and features have been a strong presence in my previous Hip-Hop albums, and this is perhaps something that I would like to do differently this time around. Ultimately, I want every album I make to be a work of art, and I’m determined that I will one day produce my masterpiece. But at this early stage, I am yet to lay the first of my foundations for this new album…unless this process of wrestling for the right inspiration is an essential building block along the way.
I would love to know the thoughts of some other artists; what is most important to you when starting a new project? How do you go about finding inspiration? Either comment on this post or get at me on Twitter to let me know!