One of Cork’s lesser-known musical success stories is Robert O’Halloran, a beatmaker better known in Irish hip-hop circles as Jar Jar Jr. (or ｊａｒ ｊａｒ ｊｒ, as the kids say). Assembling jazzy, lo-fi beats of the old-school persuasion, O’Halloran’s traversion of “the Rhodes less travelled”, to coin his own phrase, has led to a dedicated cult following online, aided and abetted by visual collaborators around the world taking his work as muse for their own pop-culture-riffing visuals.
The resultant numbers have been staggering, as his work with recontextualised vocals of hip-hop legends like MF Doom and Nas have further bolstered casual interest in O’Halloran’s work: the video for ‘Ambitions’, below, has climbed past a million views on YouTube already, and placed him on music aggregator Indie Shuffle’s best-of list for 2016 alongside Chance the Rapper, Jurassic 5 and others.
After a quietly busy 2017 that saw O’Halloran engage in collaboration with UK rapper Looms among others, he’s emerged in earnest with his debut full-length beat tape, ‘Fallen Angel’, self-released last week and already garnering admiring glances from the likes of LA label Soulection.
It’s a departure from dreamy climes and further into O’Halloran’s predilection for sample-digging, with moody tones in tracks like ‘Sing Soprano’ and ‘Ask My Reverend’ contrasting nicely with the playfulness of bits like ‘Manhattan Warmonger’ and ‘Lord of Latveria’.
He doesn’t stray far from the pop-culture references that have stood to him, though, as the instrumental work is pockmarked throughout its twenty or so minutes with samples from classic Marvel cartoons and black comedy classic ‘Dr. Strangelove’ as he recontextualises Madvillain tracks.
Listen to the full tape below, or listen to the instrumentals in tracks/purchase from O’Halloran’s Bandcamp.
Update: It’s 2016, I found this post and enjoyed it. I’ve now added a Spotify playlist of all of the albums available.
Below is a list of my favourite records of the ten years between the turn of the millenium, the year 2000 and 2010. Ranking these albums was led by a) what the album means to me and b) how often I’d listen to it. Each and every one of these albums blew me away repeatedly at some time between the ages of 18 and 27. Each one has something special going for it, something magical that brings me back to it. For that I can only thank the creators of each.
Without further ado, here are my favourite 50 albums from the decade. And remember, you can’t be wrong if they are your favourites.
The LA label Stones Throw has held a high watermark in the quality of its musical output in the world of hip-hop, and in its latter years, beyond the fringes of rap, into punk, electronica, outsider music and jazz. It has been consistently referenced into the fabric of posts on this site, since I started.
More than any other label, independent or otherwise, it has stamped its communication and catalogue with its own identity, whether it’s their online site (a good example of how to do a music label website right), email marketing, their artwork or their personal touch (the label’s artwork director and co-founder Jeff Jank once emailed me to tell me about a new Dilla release which doesn’t really happen with most labels).
The film recounts the history of the label, giving context through a prologue about Peanut Butter Wolf, the label’s founder. Wolf has an aspiring musician, a music-mad kid who spent his lunch money on vinyl and with his friend, recorded a radio show-style chart countdown of the albums they collectively owned. The recording ends abruptly, when the budding DJ is forced to end play time to finish a book report for school.
That enthusiasm and thirst for music lead Wolf to form a group with his lifelong friend and rapper Charizma, only for the progressing career of both to end with the untimely passing of Charizma in a random car jacking.
That sadness and leads to a void musically, that is partly filled by the set up of Stones Throw, which Wolf sets up after meeting Madlib and his then group, Lootpack.
The film charts the ups and downs of the label between profiles of its artists, given insight by peers, label admirers and clear enthusiasts including Questlove, Mike D, Common, J Rocc, Talib Kweli, Flying Lotus, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Kanye.
The back stories of Madlib, MF Doom and J Dilla and how they came to be on Stones Throw are among the most fascinating. Small details matter: while Madlib was sleeping in the Stones Throw label HQ, MF Doom would be down in the bomb shelter studio recording vocals over tracks Madlib made that day that would eventually become one of the best rap albums of all-time – Madvillain. The only thing they did together was “chocolate mushrooms.”
The film really gives a sense of the “quiet power” and mutual respect between producers Madlib and Dilla, who made the Jaylib Champion Sound record together after Dilla was tractor-beamed into the sunny world of LA by the label.
The section on J Dilla, who of course died of a rare blood disease in 2006 remains poignant, particularly the story about him wearing 45 records on his wrist as a boy and the footage of him in the wheelchair at a gig shortly before he died. Music was his life, and he left a elegant parting gift in the stunning soulful sample-heavy beat record Donuts.
After Dilla died, the label went through some turmoil that resulted in some terrible releases: Gary Wilson, Wolf’s alter-ego Folerio, Wolf’s brother’s punk band. It’s understandable that labels will hit bad patches but the film paints this period as sort of an identity crisis, but talking heads like A-Trak are too polite and respectful of the label to say so.
Similarly missing in the film are details of record construction: surface level details are given about now-classic records but little else in terms of creativity and process. But those omissions are forgivable thanks to the film’s positivity, which is warranted and infectious.
In the last five or so years, the label had a renaissance of sorts, while moving away from its core sound of hip-hop, that lead to the release of records from soul-nerd Mayer Hawthorne, the classic-soul of Aloe Blacc and the west coast funk of Dam Funk. Hawthorne and Blacc both moved to major labels in 2011, a move that presumably helped the financial stability of the label at the time.
Wolf talks about the difficulty of running a label who want to remain staunchly independent, resisting being bought out by a major. He defines Stones Throw in opposition to the major label system, which moulds artists for an audience where as Wolf is a curator, a finder of artists who just need a family, an audience.
I did find myself wondering if, with Blacc and Hawthorne, Stones Throw could have made a distribution deal with a larger label to get the music out while retaining creative control. Wolf acknowledges he may not have made the best business decisions. That Aloe Blacc declined to be interviewed for the film maybe tells you how the vision differed in that case.
But Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton isn’t a film about the business acumen of a record label. It’s a film about a shared ethos, a thirst and desire for creativity, for the love of it. It’s a film about a label as a home, a family, as Questlove puts it, who are welcomed into the fold by Wolf, a man “embracing the unembraced.”
A new look weekly chart featuring ten of my most-played tracks this week.
This time around the chart features key cuts from Harlem, Solar Bears, Arcade Fire, Tieranniesaur, Madvillain, The Joy Formidable, Monarchy’s Kelis remix, Jay Electronica, R.S.A.G and Digital Farm Animals.
Arcade Fire – ‘The Suburbs’ My favourite of the two new tracks from the new 12″ which has grown in stature with each listen.
Tieranniesaur – ‘Sketch!’ The best compilation to come out of Ireland in a long time and best of all, Popical Island #1 showcases 15 bright new indie-pop gems you maybe didn’t know this country had.
Harlem – ‘Friendly Ghost’ Jangly indie-rock from Austin three-piece Harlem’s Hippies album out now on Matador.
The Adult Swim Singles Program brings us a great new tune from Madvillain (Madlib and MF Doom of course) called ‘Papermill’. Exciting! It’s only 105 seconds long but it’s always good to hear DOOM on a Madlib beat.
The Singles Program sees eight tracks from eight different artists – with one each week. So far there has been Bonnie Prince Billy with singles from Cults, Washed Out, LCD Soundsystem, Black Lips and more on the way. Check the site to get the track or listen below.
Double exciting is the news that a new Fly Lo album is due on Warp on April 20th called Cosmogramma. If you still need more of a fix this site has live sets from him including a recent Warp 20 show. 2010 will be the year Flying Lotus finally plays Ireland.
What else has been happening? Oh yeh, New Madvillain.