In a My Spilt Milk exclusive, the producer explains the roots and process for the songs on his most recent EP.
It’s tempting to say that hip-hop has caught up to AF the Naysayer in 2019, but that’s not quite right. Cardi B. and Post Malone aren’t missing their next biggest hits by sleeping on his Parts Act. 1, but he’s not as alone in his musical world as he used to be. The soundtrack to Stranger Things worked with a similar vocabulary and helped usher those sounds back into the musical world. The bandwagon hasn’t rolled AF up either because there has always been more to his sound. He has folded the mid-’90s glitch percussive elements into his tracks, and glitch’s aesthetic fascination with deterioration helps to shape his pieces as well. Every track sounds as if it was recorded on a mixer with one channel that caught too much of a spilled coffee or has a wire that’s working loose. When rapper Darby Capital explodes into “Honey Vinegar” on Parts Act 1, he does so with such ferocity that he pins the needles in the red and distorts badly. AF didn’t fix that, though. Capital’s intensity doubles as his performance is paired with an electronic crackle that makes the first line, “Ohmigod it’s automatic fire,” sound like something he discovered as it burned his shirt.
AF wanted to make people aware of how these songs came about, and he volunteered these explanatory notes including links to the songs that inspired these compositions. I appreciate that he wrote these and pass them along because they provide insight not only into the creative process and the way his imagination reaches beyond genre boundaries. If nothing else, his links to source material turned me on to some tracks and artists that I didn’t know before this.
At this point, I turn the floor over to AF the Naysayer.
“Honey Vinegar” (feat Darby Capital)
It's no secret that German electronic musician Jan Jelinek has profoundly impacted the way I craft my production. I've been a fan of his work since discovering his alias Farben via Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music on Techno.org. His calming but vaguely melancholy sound seasoned with glitch-like textures over minute cuts and click samples and a house rhythm just speaks directly to my soul. This work is my love letter to Jelinek's earlier work. While sculpting the overall idea for the instrumental I posed the question: how would Jan tackle crafting a song for an emcee? The answer is what you hear on my EP.
After finishing the skeleton of the instrumental, I wanted a rapper with aggressive energy and an abrasive tone and knew Darby Capital would be perfect for the task. I've been a fan of his since hearing his project with fellow producer PRIME8 PIMPIN (Wushu Era, available on PRIME8 PIMPIN's BandCamp page). In my opinion, the best way to describe Darby Capital's rapping is as if Col. Stinkmeaner from the cartoon iteration of The Boondocks became an emcee. Overall, I am very pleased with the contrast of the lethargic mood of the instrumental and downright rough and gritty distorted vocals.
AF the Naysayer - "Honey Vinegar (feat. Darby Capital)"
Farben - "Farben Says: Love Oh Love"
Darby Capitol - "Wushu Era"
“Whirlpool” (feat ILL MO)
I was first introduced to ILL MO through producer Tower da Funkmasta of Taiwanese hip-hop group Juzzy Orange. At the time, he had one of his music projects in purgatory due to a disagreement with the producer he was working with. I agreed to fill in and finish to reproduce every song he had already written and previously recorded. The original version of “Whirlpool” had a very bright and whimsical melody playing throughout the chorus. I felt like it didn't fit the tone of ILL MO's lyrics.
My idea for the instrumental came into existence as a modernized version of the drum pattern of Joeski Love's "Pee-wee's Dance," but also had a similar synth bass line to DJ Dahi's work on "Worst Behavior" by Drake. Overall, I wanted the track to have a mid-‘80s rap production as the foundation hidden behind contemporary trap music. West Coast legend Daz Dillinger modernized "Pee-wee's Dance" with 2pac's "Ambitionz Az a Ridah" for his generation in the early to mid-‘90s. I believe I subconsciously came up with this idea due to Daz. In the end, the overall goal was to craft the song in a way where my stepfather could appreciate it while still being relatable to my students at Upbeat Academy.
AF the Naysayer - "Whirlpool" (feat. ILL MO)
Drake - "Worst Behavior"
Joeski Love - "Pee-Wee's Dance"
2Pac - "Ambitionz Az A Ridah"
“Don't Forget My Energy”
"Don't Forget My Energy" was originally the instrumental of a remix I created for Phony Ppl. I had the opportunity to pick and chose what song I wanted to remix from the Phony Ppl's Yesterday's Tomorrow album from their manager Kaslow after nagging him for a two-month period. I remember blindly picking "End Of The niGht," never having heard the original before. My normal process for remixing a song involves me reverse engineering a song using the vocal stems only. Little did I know that Louis Futon had already done a remix to this song and my original skeleton of the remix was too similar to theirs. Phony Ppl's original song was already great, so it was quite the climb to craft an original-sounding remix that would be up to par to the source material while still being able to appeal to a different demographic of listeners outside of their fan base.
To spark creativity, I limited myself to using an Atari ST sound generator to design a majority of the sounds used in the instrumental. I also transferred the ideas used in "Honey Vinegar," such as the use of cuts and click samples you would find in sub-genre microhouse. Instead of making a derivative work using samples of records or field recordings, I re-sampled sounds I engineered out of the Atari ST emulator. Outside of the Atari sounds, I used a Fender Rhodes plugin with a gracious amount tape delay to add a joyous bounce to the rhythm section. I used Arturia's Arp 2600V plugin for my synth bass. Overall, I wanted "Don't Forget My Energy" to be the opposite "End Of The niGht;" I wanted to embrace low-quality fidelity tropes with open arms, such as wow-n-flutter, tape hiss, and digital clipping. At the end of the day, my goal was to put a lo-fi mask on a high fidelity face, and I think it turned out really nicely.
AF the Naysayer - "Don't Forget My Energy"
Phony Ppl - "End of The niGht"
Phony Ppl - "End of The niGht (Louis Futon Remix)"
“I Don't Feel Bad” (feat. Formo Sir)
Instrumentally, my main inspiration for "I Don't Feel Bad" is Dave Hollister's "One Woman Man." In the summer of 2015, I was living in the 7th Ward. I remember lying on the floor of the room I had sublet from fellow producer Gl!nn and listening to a chopped and screwed version of "One Woman Man" for hours. I deconstructed the arrangement and went right to work on "I Don't Feel Bad." For the chorus, the first and third verses, and the bridge I wanted to limit the number of instruments I used to the same amount on Hollister's song. For the second verse, I just wanted to surprise the listener by temporally taking the piece in a different direction.
I aimed to achieve a drum pattern that's sonically reminiscent of Art of Noise's "Moments in Love." I attempted to get as close as I could to the percussion sounds used on the Art of Noise record by using the E-mu Pro-cussion sound module. Granted, it's not the Fairlight CMI Series III, but it got the job done. Of all the songs on the EP, this track took me the longest to produce. I went through several revisions for over a week. Towards the end, I added various automation effects on different parts of the drums to give a lively feel to the main drum pattern. This song is truly a concoction of the influence of G-funk during my adolescent years, trap music, and traces of ideas used in IDM (Intelligent Dance Music).
AF the Naysayer - "I Don't Feel Bad (feat. Formo Sir)"
Formo Sir - "Don't Feel Bad"
Dave Hollister - "One Woman Man"
Art of Noise - "Moments In Love"