Iman Omari

It’s sort of remarkable how broad R&B has again become. Not all that long ago it was as stifled and formulaic as light jazz or contemporary pop country—just a bunch of nameless R. Kelly and Destiny’s Child clones clogging up urban radio.

But the so-called “alt-R&B” movement, which has been gathering steam since at least 2011, changed all of that. Freed from the shackles of A&R men, and spurred on by the breakthroughs of James Blake, The Weeknd, How to Dress Well and others , the once stale niche has been steadily expanding and mutating (Check our DecibelCast Vol. 19 for the bass-ier side of that spectrum).

Among those at the forefront of this expansion, is 23-year-old Iman Omari, a gifted and super prolific (releasing EPs via his Bandcamp page almost monthly these days) composer, producer/remixer and vocalist. The Los Angeleno, who has ties to Kendrick Lamar and Knxledge, actually got his start writing beats with MTV Music Generator on the original Sony Playstaion.

Omari’s take on the genre is essentially hip-hop based, but he also draws on decades of West Coast music– from cool jazz of Brubek to the shamanic acid imagery of The Doors to the squelchy sythesized funk of Parliment, all the way up to the post-millennial boom-bap of the Low End Theory collective. (The way in which he crafts his beats in particular, recalls the off-kilter wonk of Flying Lotus and the Brainfeeder camp.)

Omari’s sound is heavily atmospheric, with multi-layered ambiance created from chopping and looping vocals, synths and samples. In a manner parallel to the mainstream obsession with extensive vocal processing, Omari frequently treats both his own vocals and other instruments, with a heavy amount of effects.

But rather than autotuning, the kind of effects processing he prefers is this distinct warbling kind of thing, that creates woozy, psychedelic melodies that feel bent or wavy, kind of like the way sunlight passes through water.

From the latest “tape,” Vibe Tape +++3:

“Bars w/ Cav”

“Buildin'”

 

And some older stuff:

“Addicted [flip]”  from  Vibe Tape +++(2)

Iman Omari – “Too Late ft. MoRuf”  from (VIBE)rations LP

“Take Away feat. Good Joon”  from Energy EP

“No Stress”  from (VIBE)rations LP

“First Time”  from Energy EP

Omari recently dropped a guest spot for the radio show Soulection, playing a mix of original stuff (starting at about the 1:30:00 mark) and then stick around for an interview.

Captain Murphy – “Duality” Mixtape

For the past six-or-so months, the name Captain Murphy had been appearing on some pretty stellar hip-hop alongside the likes of Earl Sweatshirt and Flying Lotus.

Up until a few weeks ago Murphy remained essentially anonymous prompting much Internetz speculation as to the truth of his identity–was it an alias of Odd Future‘s Tyler the Creator or the aforementioned Earl; some other established MC perhaps, or maybe a total unknown?

The mystery was solved at L.A.’s weekly Low End Theory club night a few weeks back, where Murphy was booked as headliner, and as it turned out, was none other than Steven Ellison, who is much better known as Flying Lotus.

Murphy’s unmasking coincided with the release of his debut mixtape Duality, in what was presumably a kind of oddball publicity maneuver.

Duality is being offered as a free download complete with a grip of original artwork, just in time for the holidays.

It’s classic “mixtape” in the tradition of Quasimoto’s The Unseen or MF Doom’s Operation Doomsday—meaning quirky nonsensical rhyming over sample-heavy, lo-fi beats, spliced with various and sundry snippets of cartoons and video games circa the ’90s.

The production, which is predictably dope, is mostly handled by Mr. Lotus and other Brainfeeder-affiliated artists like Samiyam, Teebs and Jeremiah Jae, but Madlib and Hudson Mohawke/Lunice project TNGHT also contribute.  The surprising thing here is just how accomplished a lyricist old FlyLo is. It’s understandable that he was mistaken for Earl or Tyler.

Get it HERE (and be sure to scope the bizarro visual accompaniment while you’re over there)

Here are a few videos from the album:

And here’s some footage of Murphy and Earl Sweatshirt performing “Between Friends” at the Low End Theory.

Shlohmo – “Vacation EP”

As somebody who’s been into Shlohmo’s beats for a minute now, it’s nice to see him getting the props he so deserves these days.

Currently residing in NYC, the SoCal native cut his teeth at the now legendary Low End Theory (I had the chance to see him headline the SF edition of Low End Theory back in January, and it did not disappoint).

Many were completely unaware of him until a couple of high-profile remixes he did in 2010-11, but the release of his stunning debut LP, 2011’s “Places,” changed all of that, earning some serious Internet Hype Points (including some from this blog) in the process.

He’s undeniably the best of the second generation abstract/left-field beatmakers, and I feel the best of them overall after Flying Lotus (who has been pretty quiet for the last year or so).

With his new Vacation EP, released on LA-based Friends of Friends imprint, Shlohmo continues in the vein he’s been working for sometime: moody and atmospheric with unusual sound design and his unmistakably off-kilter percussion – full of stutters, pops and clicks. Amazing stuff from someone who, at only 23, has quite a promising future ahead of him.

 

Shlohmo – “wen uuu (Teebs Remix)”

And here are Some Shlohmo remixes for y’all:

The Weeknd feat. Drake – “Crew Love (Shlohmo Remix)”

Drake – “Marvin’s Room (Shlohmo’s Thru tha Floor Remix)”

Soulja Boy – “Pretty Boy Swag (Shlohmo Remix)”

Burial – “Shell of Light (Shlohmo Remix)”