Elevator 26: Alloysious Massaquoi

26Alloysi2headerWhat’s the thing nowadays? Oh, I remember – it’s making tame pop music but dressing your videos and promo images up to make you look hip, rebellious, intense and sensual. Watch a new pop music video with the sound off – now unmute it. There’s frequently a massive discontinuity between the sound and the visuals.

Not so with Alloysious Massaquoi, one third of the musical team Young Fathers. Young Fathers are punk and afro-futurism and hip-hop and ambient-electro and dub and post-rock all at the same time. Their musical and visual landscape is tender, melancholic, explosive, angry, dissonant, brooding, passionate and creepy.

Alloysious Massaquoi’s lyrics match that landscape perfectly. He interweaves his laments, confessions, chants, battle cries, exorcisms and praises with those of Kayus Bankole and ‘G’ Hastings and the effect is beguiling. Exhibit A: ‘Come to Life’

Alloysious Massaquoi was born in Liberia. His family moved to Scotland when he was four. Alloysious, Kayus and G connected at an under-16s hip-hop night in Edinburgh. “We’d go to open-mics where people would battle and rap for ages, but we’d do three-minute structured songs with our own beats. The ‘real hip hop’ guys didn’t get it. We loved that,” explains G.

They formed Young Fathers in 2008, and recorded the album ‘Inconceivable Child… Conceived’. They’ve been signed to indie-prog-rap label Anticon since 2012, which is opening them up to a much bigger audience, an audience they’re ready to entertain, woo and confront with willful dissonance and wily charisma.

In this Kaltbult magazine interview Alloysious enthuses: “We take it serious. We’re not here to have a laugh, to mess around. We’re doing something that we love, and it means something to us, if we’re on stage and we’re not smiling it’s because we don’t feel like smiling…you can’t tell me when to smile or not, to make you feel more at ease.”

At a recent festival Young Fathers received homophobic heckles when they showed affection for one another on stage. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t faze them one bit.  “With us being really close, rapping to each other close as hell, I enjoy that because it’s more about us, the brotherhood, the brotherly love, the family fuel.”

Alloysious’ more personal lyrics hang like a broken violin on the wall, beautiful yet damaged. ‘Sister’ flashbacks to a tender memory of his sibling.

Whoever ends up the target of his serenade might feel both an empathy and an antipathy well up within him or her.

There’s a raw ‘I think you just read my diary’ vibe in a number of Young Fathers songs. Though Young Fathers embrace the surreal and the experimental, more than anything else you feel like you’re getting a slice of reality on every record.

This track ‘Effigy’ is killer.

To download their E.P.s Tape One, Tape Two and their new album Dead go to the Young Fathers site

Alloysious has a catchphrase or mantra of sorts: “Learn to keep learning.” Most rap acts don’t share this philosophy and consequently rappers are in danger.


Elevator 15: DoseOne


Back in 1997 I made predictions about Adam ‘DoseOne’ Drucker’s rap career. I was dead wrong and I’m happy I was wrong. I told my brother and various other hip-hop heads, ‘Wow, this Dose-1 has to be one of the best rappers in the world; it’s just a pity so few people are ever gonna hear him.’

I love his demeanour, his imagery, his multiple complex flows, his voice, his ready-to-pounceness, his unabashedly theatrical delivery.

I guess I thought that other people just wouldn’t dig him. There is no one quite like DoseOne. My wife calls him ‘The Worm’. This is what he sounded like in the late 90’s.

I first met him a few hours before he freestyle-battled Enimem at Scribble Jam 1997. We planned to hang out during the months I lived in Cincinnati but it didn’t work out. I still have a tape of him freestyling on a radio show called ‘B-boys Underground’ from around that time. His intensity clearly made an impression on a number of like-minded left-fielders. He co-founded Anticon, moved to Northern California, worked his ass off, toured extensively and sure enough, he’s made many colourful, ambitious, experimental and dynamic records since. I was wrong. Other people do dig ‘im.

Here’s his man-being-chased-by-a-? collaboration with Slug

This is the doused-in-angst, perfectly delivered ‘Soft Atlas’

I love his work with Jel as the group Themselves.

How ’bout Good People Check or Oversleeping?

To call his shows [especially with his band Subtle, which is really a deluxe version of Themselves] engaging would be an understatement. Dose’s stage presence is immense. He beguiles the audience by cracking surreal jokes, by pulling plastic forks out of a painted skull and by whispering in individual audience members’ ears. He dares you to mock him. He might not have the same exact motives as comedian Andy Kaufmann, but he clearly wants the audience to be impacted by the show, by the interaction, by his carnivorous poetry filtered through growls and roars, by Jel’s nifty finger work on the MPC, by the spectacle even if it means being heckled and misunderstood.

By the way Subtle are the best hip-hop band I have ever seen: tight, epic, surreal, melodic, ethereal and funny.

Amazing in the studio too:

In this interview with close friend and collaborator Yoni Wolf, Dose talks about his early musical journey and his childhood.

Dose will treat you, the listener, like his sparring partner, his local corner store owner, his ex-partner, his best friend, his therapist, his art teacher, his rap battle nemesis, his muse, his fellow wanderer. Listening to a DoseOne record is like stumbling through The Wood between the Worlds in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew dotted with mystery pools, some leading to worlds of hope, beauty and innocence, others to sloughs of existential doubt, nightmares and ‘deathiness’. Dose One is undoubtedly a disorientator and an elevator.

Here’s his artist page on Anticon.