Throwaway Style is a monthly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, (usually) the first Thursday of every new month on KEXP.org.
Boom-bap oscillates wildly into and out of style about as much as aviator sunglasses. For as long as rap music has married clever sample flips with thumping drum programming, certain strains of rap fans have been waiting in the wings and ready to scream the approach is passé. The truth is good ol’ fashioned East Coast rap production—originated in the birthplace of the genre and innovated in various degrees all over the world—is timeless, evergreen, as essential to rap as the guitar-bass-drums combo is to rock ‘n roll.
Rising out of the early grave rap contrarians and anti-purists have dug for boom-bap is Goldenbeets; Orcas Island-raised, Portland-based digital crate-digging connoisseur. You might recognize the name—retrofitted from the choice ingredient of your favorite bougie vegan restaurant to reflect the most romanticized period in hip-hop history—from sparing appearances on half-decade-old Filthy Fingers United comps. Or you might have heard his immaculate beat for Perry Porter’s “Nature Boy II,” evoking the old Kanye, chop-up-the-soul Kanye (not the recently separated, “slavery was a choice,” Trump supporter on a backwards-moving roll Kanye). After making the song cry, Goldenbeets lays a vintage Ric Flair rant—calling out Magnum T.A., poised for international wrestling megastardom before an accident in his Porsche paralyzed him and ended his career—on top of a choice one-bar loop while Perry and rising Phoenix-by-way-of-Tacoma MC Jaywop do their best to commit arson on the track.
The debut full-length selection of Goldenbeets instrumentals—wisely titled Sommelier—reveals a subtle depth and breadth to the producer’s already well-defined aesthetic. “Skin Contact” and “Pain” evoke the dusky, California bounce mastered by Madlib, while “Like That” and sublime closer “Who Got My Back” so clearly captures a similar feeling to Soul Survivor-era Pete Rock you can practically see the gold chains dangling off of brothers hanging on the corner. Sommelier is heavy on taste and texture, providing easy and accessible listening for beat neophytes (“Do U Think of Me” could easily be mistaken for a Blueprint vintage Just Blaze beat Jay Z simply passed on) and offering little curveballs and surprises to those with a more sophisticated palate (subtle hints of Diggin' in the Crates innovator Lord Finesse grace “Like That”).
Over the course of our email interview, I asked Goldenbeets about his musical upbringing on Orcas Island, linking up with Day One Entertainment—Seattle’s rising stable of rap assassins—discovering J Dilla through the wonders of file sharing, and his artistic process. We also chatted about his affection for indie-rock and the colossus that was “Nature Boy II.”
KEXP: Tell me about growing up on Orcas Island.
Goldenbeets: I think everyone thinks where they grew up was normal until later, right? I knew I was growing up somewhere remote, but I don’t think I really had any idea of just how unique that experience was until later. No elevators, escalators, stoplights.
I also grew up without TV—my parents were kinda hippies, mostly my dad. So I played sports—soccer & hoops, played outside, learned to play guitar, keys later. I’m still pretty trash at all of that except hoops.
It’s an interesting culture ‘cause it’s folks that are ultra-rich and tired of the rat race and then the folks that don’t mind working 2-3 jobs in order to live somewhere beautiful. You don’t see a whole lot of different paths as a professional, so you know if you want to do a lot of things, you have to “get off the rock” as they say.
How did you get into rap music? What are your first memories of falling in love with hip-hop?
Short answer: magnetism. I remember being drawn to an MC Hammer cassette my dad had from teaching in Daly City, CA when I was 2-3. I remember thrifting a Mecca & the Soul Brother cassette at like 7-8 [years old]. I was smack dab halfway between Seattle and Vancouver B.C. radio; a lot of my first music discovery was popping a cassette in and taping hip-hop from the radio. No one told me to do it, I just did it cause I loved it.
That Mecca & the Soul Brother tape ran all the way through high school.
Do you have any musical experience outside of making beats? Like, were you in band or orchestra as a kid?
Yeah, I went to a summer camp without electricity in middle school and you couldn’t listen to music there so I had to learn guitar. That was about the same time I figured out that you could make beats on Garageband so it all went hand in hand.
I was never in a band or anything like that but I definitely was the acoustic guitar guy for a period of time.
You found producers like Dilla and Madlib through file sharing and message boards. Tell me a little about that experience; what sites you were going through, that feeling of first discovering rap instrumental projects.
Yeah, music discovery was always my thing. Started, like we talked about, taping shit off the radio. Then it was MySpace. Discovered a lot of music that way. Limewire. Etc. I definitely was on OkayPlayer, Musicinjection, iMeem. Grew up without TV and in a rural spot, so the internet was really my window in.
I think by the time my taste was really forming in high school, I was definitely moving towards neo-soul & Soulquarians-type shit. That discovery of that Electric Ladyland sleepover & all the albums that came out of it (Voodoo, etc) was the gift that kept on giving. Really the thing that honed me in on Dilla. Then came Donuts. Then my head exploded and the studying really began.
What beat tape or rap instrumental album led you to the idea of making beats? Where did that initial spark come from?
Yeah, it’s always going to be Donuts and I’m sure you can hear it in my shit. The vocal samples out on the front of the mix & the panning whether it’s 100% thematic or just an exclamation in there. There’s Dilla and then there’s everything else that comes after. [MF DOOM's] Special Herbs. [Madlib's] Beat Konducta.
I think I was definitely already making beats before Donuts but that shit blew my mind.
Were you ever interested in rapping or was it always about making beats for you?
The secret is that every producer raps. Every one of them. Whether it’s just to catch the pocket in a session with a rapper or because you actually rap and have something to say—every producer raps. I haven’t written a verse since probably 2016, haven’t recorded a song since like 2015. It’ll never leave the hard drive.
In that press release you sent me, you mentioned both Seattle and Chicago as fruitful places of collaboration for you. I presume you were driving out to Seattle a lot, being from Orcas Island. How did you make your way into the city’s rap scene?
As soon as folks would give me the time of day, I’d make it down to Seattle or link via email. Filthy Fingers United is a beat crew I’ve been associated with at various periods. Those dudes would book me and I’d come down for the weekend and play a show, do some sessions, get some beats off.
From those shows, I met Mika’il (fka Dex Amora) where I made a lot of the first songs folks might know me for. He was in a crew with J’Von and a dude named Zuke Saga (likely one of the more underrated rappers in the PNW). They were doing well on the Soundcloud circuit as well as locally, so it was great to get beats to Dex and then all of a sudden I’d have access to three of the best rappers I’ve ever heard.
Dex and I got some singles off that did great on Soundcloud. Did an EP. Did an LP. That led to the LP [STAY GOLD FRVR] with Tre Ross. Those two relationships and that body of work gave me the chance to work with some other talented folks in the Seattle area. Then I moved to Portland and kinda had to start over!
What about Chicago? What connections did you have out there?
Soundcloud busted things open for me a bit. I’ve still never been out there. There’s an incredible producer named Sev Seveer who actually did some production on some of Saba’s first releases. He played some of my shit at events in Chicago. That led to relationships with Chicago producers and emcees.
There’s a dude named Defcee who has had a prolific 2020. I almost just spilled the beans on just how prolific this man is. He has shit coming with a legendary label and a legendary producer. He did a short project this year with August Fanon. I have an LP with him [coming out] in 2022. He’s been a huge advocate for me in Chicago as well as just a phenomenal writer and emcee. Otherwise, I don’t know, the place has just embraced my shit. Rich Jones [is another artist that needs to be shouted out].
What led you to move from Orcas Island to Portland? Were there any spots you lived in between?
Yeah, it went Orcas to Bellingham to L.A. to Bellingham to Seattle to Portland.
What do you like about Portland’s rap scene? Concurrently, are there any challenges you’ve had to deal with while navigating it?
I was ducked off for years down here. Went back to school, got a job. Got married. Bought a house. I’m really just now getting to know folks in Portland, and I love it. I don’t think I have the license to speak on Portland’s scene in general, but it’s been great getting to know folks.
Sxlxmxn (formerly Stewart Villain) has been super generous with his time and energy. He’s going to hate me for this, but I have to let people know. We have a super-producer living in Portland, Oregon. First time we linked, I showed him some selected drafts for Sommelier and there were a couple he ran back over and over and over. Put the battery in my back.
We have some raaaaappers out here. Milc raps his ass off. He’s a singular individual. Like Dennis Rodman or Action Bronson. Mat Randol was the first dude I worked with out here, always love his shit.
A couple things I’m grappling with in terms of thinking of “the Portland rap scene” or “Seattle rap scene” is that I’ve always kind of been on the outside looking in. Things are changing, but I’ve moved around enough that I don’t always belong to one space. I understand the love people have for the place that they’re from, but I also wonder if we kinda rejected the micro-regional silo and the PNW got together as a cartel, got rid of the wack artists, maybe we’d be able to export a stronger product altogether?
The name goldenbeets comes from a spiritual connection to hip-hop music of the ‘90s, and Havoc from Mobb Deep is on your list of influences. Tell me more about where this influence comes from and the artists who serve as spiritual predecessors to your sound.
Yeah, you said that better than I ever have. I love the 90’s shit. I do more. I try to be a bit more expansive in my sound these days but that’s for sure the genesis spiritually. Beatminerz, Lord Finesse, Pete Rock, Hi Tek, Large Pro, Q-Tip, Dilla. My sample sources are wide and it really comes from having that little bit of swing, samples, 90 bpm. It’s the backbone.
I wish I could tell you there’s some sort of rhyme or reason around it, but it’s just magnetism. I like what I like.
Do you have any musical influences outside of hip-hop?
Yeah, I really like sad girl indie shit. I hate country music but I absolutely love Faye Webster. Broken Social Scene, Soccer Mommy. Haim’s last album is probably tied with Pray for Haiti as my favorite albums this year. Jimmy from Day One has the best taste ever. He put me onto Samia’s The Baby album. Fire. You can hear it in my shit. On my beat tape, Sommelier, that track “Skin Contact” is an indie rock sample.
Being a hip-hop producer, at least for me, means being a student of the game. I’ve always read liner notes. I’m on Discogs a lot trying to figure out who played bass on which record or if a record has a super unique sound or mix, what else did that producer or engineer work on. That’s led me to loving and developing a deep taste for soul, jazz, fusion, R&B. I’m a Pharrell disciple, so for me, it’s how curious can I get? How can I keep that childlike wonder alive?
Even though I have an MPC Live, I wouldn’t consider myself a big gear head. In fact, when I made beats back in the day, I chopped samples on Acid Pro 5.0 and programmed drums on FL Studio. But I’m curious: What’s your setup like? Do you use a sampler or any DAWs?
I am a digital boy. I have an interface, Rockit 8’s and an M-Audio Keystation61. That’s it. I use Ableton for everything but have too many drums. Arturia and Omnisphere mainly for VSTs. Terrabytes of sample material. I’ve been chopping a lot of samples for other producers.
Once in a while I sell an old beat and have to dig back into Garageband to stem an old session out and that’s the hell I have to pay for not learning Ableton sooner.
Part of why I’m asking is because you have a percussive approach to your drum programming that seems like it would be tough to hit so precisely with a software program. It definitely sounds like you’re punching this stuff out on a beat pad.
So I’ve tricked you—I write that in. It’s really important to me that music sounds alive. I like the grid for trap stuff, but even then I like a little swing. All my favorite shit—the MPC 1/4T swing in the 90s, Dilla’s swing, 9th Wonder, Neo-Soul swing, even Kenny Beats & Monte Booker, those hats are a little wonky and that snare hits a tiny bit early.
Tell me how you wound up linking with Day One Entertainment. They’ve got a bunch of killers on their squad.
I went on the Town Talk Podcast with AP in 2017 after the LP with Dex Amora. That’s how I met him originally. For years, Jimmy (Co-Owner/Head of A&R) was just an IG & Twitter account I followed that would post the best music shit I hadn’t heard. I respected the way both of these dudes moved and we had a bit of business we were doing together in 2020. I had a ton of beats sitting around but neither the time, energy, or interest in cold-DM’ing folks. Wasn’t connected down here. It just made sense for both parties to plug in.
Since then, I’ve had the benefit of continuing to work with older frequent collaborators, but also linking with the Day One squad. Jaywop has one of the brighter futures I’ve ever seen. Bright present too. Perry Porter is a kindred spirit. I don’t know if it’s us both being in our 30’s or having similar reference points. Maybe it’s us just being comfortable acknowledging our weirdness (which I think makes for great art), but Perry and I really hit it off. He came down here and started “Nature Boy II” in February. I went out to Vegas and we worked on some shit. There’s a lot coming.
I’ll also say, after the Day One Barboza show. I’ve been to a lot of rap shows in basements where people rap their asses off—and it’s also all stinky dudes in attendance. Wop & Perry are bringing beautiful artsy women out to these shows. It’s a great scene.
How did it feel to hear the finished version of “Nature Boy II”? Perry is reliably great on that track—I think he’s so good at culling atmosphere that people forget he’s a fucking vicious rapper—and Jaywop might have delivered the best verse of his career so far.
It felt phenomenal. That’s the first finished and released track from a stack of very inspirational records. I wish we had a camera recording my face when I flipped that record and Jimmy’s face when he heard Perry start that intro and then of AP’s face when I added the Ric Flair clip. The energy!
Now when Jaywop got on there ... Goddamn. I feel like Jaywop is Drake-level detail-oriented. There’s a lot of shit in that verse I had to ask for some context about, but there isn’t a wasted syllable. It’s all potent as hell, pointed very directly, and it’s that shit. I’m not a big beef guy. I don’t follow rap politics. I don’t follow the hip hop gossip account … but when it’s on record and it’s tangible, and it makes you feel? Powerful shit right there. Good shit Wop & Perry.
Was there a specific feeling you were going for when you were making that track?
There are certain times as a producer that I make a track and there’s certain times a track just makes itself through me. When I found that loop, the rest came together and I just watched myself make it.
In sessions, I really like to talk to artists and help folks feel vulnerable telling what’s really on their mind or their heart. Perry and I had talked about what you had mentioned earlier. He’s a painter and lives an artistic lifestyle, but folks forget that he’ll also tear your head off on a song. We needed at least one of those.
I think Sommelier is such a good title for your album; it indicates the depth of flavor you exhibit as a beatmaker as well as your experience listening to—sampling—a wide variety of beats and beatmaking styles spanning across decades. What kind of experience do you envision listeners having while absorbing this album?
I hope the heads freestyle or pick up a pen. Go hit La Dive on Capitol Hill, get the long day home pour. Feel the sadness & yearning in the vocal samples of the first four tracks, meditate, then carry on with life to Side B.
When we last left AJ Suede, he was on the verge of dropping A Dream Within a Dream, his May EP exclusively made up of beats from respected New York producer Camoflauge Monk—which landed him a great profile in SPIN’s Max Bell-penned rap column Blue Chips. Right on schedule, Suede dropped a new project last month titled Avada Kedavra, adroitly named after the killing curse from Harry Potter. By now, you should know Suede is a reliably good and occasionally brilliant MC—if you don’t, I’m obviously not doing my job—but this entirely self-produced full-length further emphasizes his gifts as a beatmaker; steadily deepening the production winning streak he started on last year’s phenomenal Darth Sueder V: Supreme Chancellor. With the glut of Madlib and Dilla worship and the proliferation of Griselda-type beats, Suede continues to find the smoothest (“Traverse the White Light”), jazziest (“Mind Heavy”), weirdest (“Voodoo Tactics,” containing the album’s only feature—courtesy of Fatboi Sharif, who recently dropped a bonkers full-length on POW Recordings) corners of records to sample; sometimes evoking 90’s vintage RZA and more often occupying a space only Suede himself can fill.
A few different times on trips elsewhere, I’ve stumbled into conversation with a like-minded garage-punk who finds out I’m from the Seattle area and proceeds to rhapsodize to me about how Pony Time was the best band we had in town when they were active. The duo of Stacey Peck and Luke Beetham in tandem have always reminded me most of the best parts of kindred spirit bands the Intelligence and Wounded Lion—the off-center musical approach, the arch sense of humor most of all. Last month, Suicide Squeeze (celebrating their 25th anniversary as a record label) announced they would be digitally distributing the band’s catalog and more recently dropped a few vinyl copies of 2015 quasi-classic Rumors 2: The Rumors are True—sadly, the band’s most recent full-length—on Pony Time’s Bandcamp page. If you’re new to Seattle’s historically excellent garage-rock scene, you could find a much worse place to start than blasting Pony Time on the way to Arby’s.
There’s something about the unassuming coworker who reveals their immense charms in a happenstance encounter. This is the assuredly unintended metaphor for garage-pop trio Linda from Work—who have suffered their fair share of workplace metaphors since forming in 2018—taking a well-worn format and infusing it with a pretty enormous sense of personality. Produced by Jack Endino, their debut LP Burnout fully displays their gifts as an emergent force in Seattle’s ever-crowded rock scene, ruminating on failed relationships and a pernicious lack of healthy sleeping habits. Mary Robins (bass) and Sam Novak (drums) play loosely and freely over frontwoman Hillary Tusick’s songs, occasionally taking unexpected turns like the snowball-rolling-downhill tempo of “Teeth” and the triplets they swerve into and the swing they effortlessly pull off on “You and I.” In addition to her talent for singing, Tusick also possesses a sly gift for lyricism, best displayed on “No” (a single from last year very wisely included here) and its dynamite central lyric: “What doesn’t kill me better run.”
Martin Douglas speaks with the rising Tacoma-raised artist about rap music, art, and his promising career.
Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the …