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Experimental Hip Hop

I AM Cricchi shared how he became a conduit of hope through his eclectically authentic discography in an exclusive interview with A&R Factory

Born in southern Maryland and now based in Texas, Tyler Cricchi, known as I AM Cricchi, presents a compelling narrative in the music world. His journey, transitioning from a typical suburban childhood to grappling with substance abuse in his teenage years, underscores the stark realities that shape his music.

With his vast, eclectic and always raw discography, Cricchi has independently charted multiple times, showcasing his ability to blend genres from hip-hop to country. His music is characterised by its authentic lyrics and versatile delivery, resonating with a wide audience.  In this interview with A&R Factory, we delve into the world of I AM Cricchi, exploring his journey from personal struggles to musical achievements.

I AM Cricchi, welcome to A&R Factory! We’d love to know a little more about your most recent release, Weighted To Breathe featuring Caskey. What’s the story behind the single?

“Weighted To Breathe was written at a time when I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing chasing my dream in music, most regular people usually call it or consider a dream as such, ‘crazy’. The purpose behind this record was to remind myself and anyone else in a similar spot that if we waited or chose to give up, we’d be right back where we were, at a place where most wouldn’t want to be. Some might say at rock bottom. It quickly became one of the biggest solo songs of my career and shortly after I was blessed with the opportunity of having Caskey feature on it. That really proved my point and made everything come full circle because an artist with a much bigger influence and resume thought it was as dope as I did! NEVER GIVE UP!!”

Your upcoming project, The Road Back, talks about overcoming addiction; can you tell us more about the project and the inspiration behind the release?

“Addiction is a topic I hold close to my heart. I personally have been through the depths of hell while abusing drugs and running through the streets. This was my first project with The Lotto Tribe, and I wanted to make sure it was very special because I recognized that they believed in me, similar to the way I believe in myself. I reached out to a hometown producer Tilli Mack and told him I needed something to spill my pain on and thus this record was birthed. The writing aspect of it for me was just a matter of putting myself in the mindset of not ever wanting to go back to my old life. That’s why I’m so inspired after breaking away from it because I never want to go back to that life I used to be, stuck, in. In other words, I wanted it to be the music I wished I had when I was broken and hopeless

More than anything I wanted to create something that could save someone’s life or make a change for someone in a dark time and for me that’s what all this is about. The road back is never easy, but I hope this record gives someone, anyone, hope. It releases on May 3rd, 2024, worldwide, on the first Friday of National Mental Health Awareness month and is supported by the organization, To Write Love On Her Arms which supports mental health.”

How do your most recent releases compare to your past projects like; No Time, Runnin A Lot, I Gotta Grow, and Say Less Do More?

“I definitely don’t fit in any box. I make a variety of genres and I’m always exploring new sounds. The music I write is always dependent on the moment I’m in. Sometimes I’m happy and sometimes I’m not but that’s life and that’s what I put in my music. I don’t over-exaggerate or attempt to portray anything, I’m just me. If there is one thing that ties every song to the next it’s the authenticity of my story. Every song and every word was lived, meant and felt by me. In the end though, all my music is for everyone and anyone. I just want to bring awareness to my story, and my life and give others hope.”

How did you get into music, and where has your creative journey taken you?

“I got into music before I can even remember. My father is what I would call a “beast” on the guitar and loves to play. My dad worked a 9 to 5 for more years than I had been alive, and I never saw the same happiness he had when he was holding that guitar. That put a spark in me. It made me feel that maybe music was where he belonged, but he never tried or never could take the chance to be truly one with.

The ability to write started with my love for poetry in 2nd grade and continued through middle school. It wasn’t until I was in a juvenile youth center that I started to experiment with trying to rap on beats or write with a specific sound in mind. After that, writing music kept me alive through years and years of addiction and depression, almost daily wondering if I should live. It wasn’t until 5 years ago when I got sober that I started to clearly see the vision. Since then, I have hit the iTunes Charts twice independently. I’ve accumulated over a quarter million streams in 2023. I’ve done songs with legends such as Blind Fury, Caskey, Merkules, and many other amazing artists. Most of all I’ve been finding myself along the way and that’s something special to my heart.”

What role has the indie label The Lotto Tribe played in your career?

“That’s a chapter of my life that is just getting started, but something I’m really looking forward to. So far, it’s been nothing but love and solid continuous guidance from them. They continue to bring me confidence and opportunity. They have helped me align contracts with many industry partners and continue to put my name in the right places for growth. I genuinely appreciate them for their work so far and again, I’m very excited to see what the future holds with The Lotto Tribe!”

Which artists inspire you the most, and is there anything else that inspires you to create?

“Artist-wise, I’d say Caskey, Jelly Roll and LaRussell give me the most inspiration currently. The hustle and the constant innovation are something I respect and appreciate from all of them.

I’m inspired by different people at different times, but I often pull my inspiration from my own life. Whatever I’m feeling or whatever I’m dealing with at that moment is what I write about. Music is a way to cope and a safe space for me, so emotions often drive it. I’ll often base the lyrics, beat cadence and melodies off of just how I feel in the moment. Music is something that makes me feel alive and through it, I’ll continue to try my best to be my best.”

Can you tell us a little about your global distribution deal with Memphis’ Select-O-Hits? and being attached to The Orchard?

“This is another chapter of my journey that’s just getting started! Johnny Phillips has been extremely helpful in getting me set up over there at Select-O-Hits and I genuinely look forward to our future years together. They’re very well known from the days of his father Tom and uncle, Sam who founded Sun Records. They’ve also been influential in distributing Memphis hip-hop legends Three 6 Mafia and Lil Wyte. Even Jellyroll had projects through them in his early career. I’m just happy to be here in the now and be a part of something with such a history!”

What else is in the pipeline for you?

“This year will be my greatest yet. My biggest news so far this year will be the full rollout release for the single project with The Lotto Tribe, “The Road Back”. It’s one of my most meaningful pieces to date and I can’t wait to share it with the world. We also have shows lined up across the country including a SXSW visit here in Austin, Texas. I plan on dropping multiple singles and a possible full album once the vibe and timing feels right! There will also be more collaborations, big features and visuals but you’ll just have to follow me and wait to see what things I have in store! This is just the start for me.”

Stream I AM Cricchi on Spotify and discover more about the artist here.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Orizon made his disconcertingly disquiet debut with his avant-garde genre-evasion, WORMNO.1

Orizon’s debut single ‘WORMNO.1’ is a bold, genre-defying escapade that challenges the very fabric of musical norms. This avant-garde piece is a manifesto of Orizon’s unbridled creativity and audacious vision. From the outset, ‘WORMNO.1’ captivates with a cascade of keys, reminiscent of the haunting tones of the ‘Clockwork Orange’ soundtrack. It’s a journey that begins in classical territory but quickly diverges into a realm where hip-hop beats and neo-classical elements coalesce into something entirely new. Orizon’s dark, mantra-like vocals serve as a grounding force amidst the chaos, offering a comforting anchor in this storm of sound.

Listening to ‘WORMNO.1’ is akin to imagining Glenn Branca’s ‘The Ascension’ reimagined with a hip-hop heartbeat. The track is a testament to Orizon’s ability to bend genres to his will, creating a soundscape that is as disquieting as it is mesmerising. The juxtaposition of classical serenity and hip-hop’s raw energy creates a disarming effect, reflecting the tumultuous nature of human emotions and relationships.

Orizon’s debut album, ‘RADIO (INPINK)’, promises to be a journey through love’s many stages, with ‘WORMNO.1’ setting the tone for this exploration through a blend of anarchy, sophistication, and a touch of synth supervillainy.

In ‘WORMNO.1’, Orizon laid down the gauntlet for the future of music. It’s a bold statement from an artist unafraid to venture into uncharted territories. As the final notes fade, one thing is clear: Orizon is not just here to play music; he’s here to change the game.

WORMNO.1 was officially released on the 2nd of January; stream the track on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

It’s all bells and no whistles in Roman Gastelum’s ingenuitive hip-hop track, Pavlov’s Dogs

After a bell ring in the intro to pay a conceptual nod to the iconic conditioning experiment, Roman Gastelum moves straight in with an amalgam of funk grooves, jazzy timbres, and hip-hop beats in his standout single, Pavlov’s Dogs taken from his debut LP, EQlibrium.

With the single and LP title, we probably don’t need to tell you that the LA-based bassist, vocalist, lyricist, and composer is an intellectual cut above the rest. In fact, if there were any more genius touches to this release, Roman Gastelum’s door would be blown off its hinges after an army of sapiophiles came knocking. But it is far from just pretentious art over substance.

The sublime sonic atmosphere conjured around the bruisingly clever bars by the artist who received his Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from the Musicians Institute in LA ensured that even on the 100th listen, you’ll take something new from Pavlov’s Dogs. As the cherry on the urban alchemist cake, the spacey sci-fi surrealism towards the outro is a lesson in experimental scintillation.

Pavlov’s Dogs is now available to stream on Spotify with the rest of the EQlibrium LP which dropped on September 29.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

The debut single, Defective by Design, from r.a.g.s. is a wavey lo-fi outcry of poetic raw emotion.

With a sound that will draw in fans of Kae the Tempest and George the Poet like a moth to a flame, the visceral with uninhibited candour single, Defective by Design, from r.a.g.s. and tee fisher is a gravitational force in and of its hip-hop self.

Experimentalism was in no short order in the chilled wavey lo-fi outcry of poetic raw emotion. While the title gives a few clues as to what the lyrics allude to, there’s no preparing for the intellect in the wordplay, which finds profound new ways to illustrate the frustration of feeling as though you were always fated to live a life bookended with mental cognitions that will always lead you down the wrong path of perception and action.

r.a.g.s. started his musical journey by learning Indian classical keyboard at age five; he took his immersion in the music world a step further by enrolling at Leeds Conservatoire studying jazz and learning how to produce his own music. His debut single effortlessly distinguished him as an artist who will never leave authenticity by the wayside. Naturally, we can’t wait to what lingers in his obscure pipeline.

Defective by Design hit the airwaves on August 28; stream it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

MANTRABLU tripped out trap in his latest juggernaut of a track, NIPTUCK

Brooklyn-based singer, rapper, and producer MANTRABLU has dropped his juggernaut of an experimental trap hit, NIPTUCK; with the razor-sharp wit and equally as cutting trip-hop atmosphere, few urban originators have as much edge as the artist who takes his influence from everything from math rock to neo-soul to jazz-funk.

After a wavy chiptune prelude, MANTRABLU’s rolling-with-the-punches rap bars adrenalize the texturally complex soundscape that stands as a testament to his trailblazing authenticity. Get behind him or get out of the way, because if any contemporary artist has what it takes to make a fresh mark on the Brooklyn hip-hop landscape it is him – especially now he’s breaking away from his production-focused discography and going back to his origins as a songwriter.

Stream NIPTUCK which hit the airwaves in May 2023 on Spotify and Bandcamp.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Jazzy hip hop hit the streets of London through Dylan Dixon’s luminary hit, REAPER

After a hiatus, Southwest London’s slickest rapper, Dylan Dixon, is on razor-sharp form in his sophomore single, REAPER. With instrumentals that would be equally as home in the East Coast hip-hop arena, the trumpet-infused triumph is a scintillating hit that more than compensates for the lack of experimentation in the UK hip-hop scene that scarcely looks beyond drill and grime.

While the cinematic soul of the jazzy instrumentals set a euphonic score, Dixon comes in heavy with his bars that are enough to leave your head in a spin with their cutting canter and charisma-dripping wordplay, which inadvertently makes a mockery of what most rappers think are dynamic bars.

Influenced by the likes of Griselda, Kanye, and Ghetts, Dixon found his own urban signature in unchartered territory, through determination to never to assimilate while paying homage to the pioneering acts who came before him.

Stream REAPER on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

$LADEGEEKIN reinvented West Coast hip-hop with his intricately experimental hit, REDO

Indio, California rapper, engineer, and producer $LADEGEEKIN, has dropped his sophomore hit, REDO. If it has been a while since a hard-hitting hip-hop production has left an ever-lasting mark on your rhythmic pulses and psyche, delve right into the hit that makes it impossible to resist the mesmerism in the beats.

After an intro of inventively arranged effect-laden guitars, $LADEGEEKIN starts to bridge the gap between alt-hip-hop and the West Coast style. Even with the passion poured into the narratively vulnerable bars, they keep an assuredly steady pace to become the centre of gravity within REDO.

His debut single, $our Diesel, was impressive. With his sophomore single, he’s proven that he’s got exactly what it takes to make his way up from the Cali underground hip-hop scene. Save a spot on your radar. We’d put money on more infectiously intellectual hits being in the pipeline.

REDO was officially released on December 25th. Hear it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

 

Atlanta Hip Hop Pioneer Caleb X Illuminated the Way to Tranquillity with his Vibe-Heavy Hit, Peace

Cleveland, Ohio-born, Atlanta-based artist Caleb X started a flood of tranquil melodicism by bringing in the new wave of hip-hop with his latest single, Peace.

Even with the nostalgic samples implanted in the glossily smooth hit, which illuminates the path to catharsis and emotional sanctity, there is no denying the experimentally contemporary edge that effortlessly complements the authenticity within the bars.

Though he may be influenced by DMX and Tupac, Caleb X ripped up the hip-hop rulebook before creating this vibe-heavy hit that will spice any future-embracing hip-hop playlist up with its mellifluous soul and style.

Peace was officially released on January 20th. Hear it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Take a psychonautic trip with Dirt Cookie’s spacey synthwave rap hit, Word Vomit

After the success of his 2022 sophomore album, Peace in the Valley, the up-and-coming alt-hip-hop originator, Dirt Cookie, pulled a fresh antagonistically infectious earworm out of the oven with his latest single, Word Vomit. 

After confessing that he doesn’t want to write about sex anymore over spacey synths and purposefully scratchy beats, the psychotropic feat of synthwave rap kicks into a melodic flow, led by his snappy rap verses that throw lyrical curveball after curveball. 

There’s no anticipating the direction Dirt Cookie will take while he’s rapping through the droning synthesisers and 8-Bit style instrumentals, and that’s a major part of the experimental success of Word Vomit. The clue is kinda in the title.

As we have no idea what to expect from his next release, especially based on the indie folk hits in his sophomore album, we’re already stoked to hear it. He’s the GOAT of hip hop wildcards. 

Word Vomit is now available to stream on Spotify. 

Review by Amelia Vandergast  

Beavus has launched his experimentally originated hip-hop eponymous debut album.

The up-and-coming alternative artist, Beavus, proved that beyond-the-curve experimentalism is in high demand with hip-hop fans after the launch of his self-titled debut album.

The standout single, Song 4 Might Be Finished, is a meditatively chill window into the artist’s vibe-heavy inclination. Running through like a semi-lucid lo-fi trappy lullaby, the single exposes you to intimate confessionalism while the downtempo beats drench you with tranquil catharsis.

The sense of sweet yet cheeky playfulness takes the soundscape to the next level, and Beavus’ 5,000 monthly Spotify listeners would be more than inclined to agree.

Check out the eponymous debut album from Beavus on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast