Something heartening in hip-hop now, speaking of the US which is where my eyes are most of the time, is the way circles of artists are working together and then putting out often copious amounts of releases, often so many that it’s hard to keep track, and repeatedly guesting on each other’s work. This single is an example of this kind of hyper-activity and movement made manifest.
‘Basquiat x Warhol,’ the exact release date and circumstances thereof are vague and hard to work out it, but it seems it was only put up on Soundcloud, has two MCs, Paranom and Haze and is produced by Grubby Pawz (hard to top that moniker). All three are linked to the current hip-hop ferment in Massachusetts getting some traction and attention.
Automatically this song interested me in the way it reflects the current production trend for minimal/no drums and the lack of development in the music. This state of becoming and stasis in hip-hop or other forms of electronic and contemporary music always appeals to me. But it’s also interesting the way the voices of the MCs are perfectly matched. They could be the same voice, just slightly altered.
Often multiple-MC offerings are defined by a kind of internal disjunction, with the next MC wanting to be different, sharper, ‘better’ and more recognised than the earlier one/s to get that attention turned on them, while also making connections with what came before. Contrast is everything. Here the focus is different, it seems to me, and then it is echoed with the two samples from the key US artists that are included for no immediately apparent reason in terms of the song’s lyrical content. But the fact that they are together encourages us to re-assess all of this and make connections.
‘Interview (Basquiat) Verse 1: Paranom Verse 2: Haze Interview (Warhol),’ shared by Haze when we were in contact via email. ‘The sample is surprisingly not a jazz sample, it's from a pop record backed by jazz musicians,' he added. 'The track was recorded the day we began recording our debut album together. We knew it wouldn't be part of the album though but a Soundcloud track for promo. Paranom and I wrote our verses and laid our verses in the span of an hour.’
Asked about the origin of the samples, Haze replied: ‘That night we watched some interviews from both while working on music and found snippets we liked. No major science there.’ And then he shared that his favourite lines were from the opening: ‘Cats are rocking designer shades that are made of wool/My team don't pull/no punches like De Niro in Raging Bull' and ‘Prepare for war/once the troop is formed and we swarm/you've been warned/you feeling wrath just like a woman scorned.’
He told me that for the second part he had been listening to ‘Hell Hath No Fury by The Clipse and had the line semi-worked out in (his) head around the time of recording.’ While Paranom’s lines about Stevie Wonder I thought were also pretty nice: ‘Hold the keys like Stevie Wonder in the dark/Hold the gun right to your heart...’