Up and coming Isla Vista recording artists you should know about
Hip-hop Chronicles: Isla Vista and the 805 Part II
In part I of the introductory chapter, “Hip-hop Chronicles: Isla Vista and the 805“, we get a firsthand look inside the minds of current and former Gauchos: Kulture, Zane Taylor, and Jonny Donson.
The artists highlighted in this chapter vary in style but have at least one thing in common: they live or have lived in the 805 at one point in time. Nonetheless, their music is a window into their personal world consisting of multiple layers (musical and nonmusical), regions, cultures, and attitudes that partially make up their (as well as their music’s) identity.
Although some of their music may have been created in Isla Vista, with Isla Vistians in mind, and embodies their time here, it’s not limited to that. This is why it’s not surprising to have different, sometimes oppositional, perspectives coming from the same place (Isla Vista & Hip-Hop).
Please join me in exploring the musicality found within the following recording artists: a couple more UCSB students, Laura Lora and AL-X The Great, plus a Santa Barbara native who goes by the name of Brayell.
Basic info: Laura Lora, originally from Ghana, grew up in South LA, also calls Toronto home
Music taste: Wizkid, Kendrick Lamar, Vybz, Kartel, Fka Twigs, Party Next Door
Music projects: Summer Lust EP( Summer 17′), A Kold Beginning (Decemeber 2015)
Music details: Summer Lust is a reflective project inspired by the personal experiences women face in Isla Vista. Laura Lora says: “It speaks of the journey of finding self-worth, especially in a hookup culture that only values the physical and temporary feelings.”
Lora’s time in Isla Vista has taught her a lot about herself; giving her new perspectives on life and Love.
“I found myself sinking into such toxic culture leading me to lose my self-worth, as well as agency altogether.”
The following playlist contains a few songs from both the mixtape, A Kold Beginning, and Summer Lust EP. The last two tracks on this list, “Lust” and “Trust”, are singles from the upcoming project Summer Lust.
“Beauty is ugly”, she says in Vlog #4 of her Youtube series in which she unapologetically talks down mainstream beauty standards through her personal narrative. In this way, Lora is shedding light on important issues often overlooked.
In a male-dominated industry, she’s reclaiming the notion of sexuality and sensualness by fiercely taking ownership of her body in the video to “Buy Yuh A Kingdom”.
“He said he goin’ buy me a kingdom and make me the queen. But, I don’t wait for no one, I do as I please.”
LauraLora’s Youtube Description of “Buy Yuh A Kingdom” (the 5th track on her 2015 tape A Kold Beginning): A sultry track incorporating sounds of dancehall, Rhythm & Blues, as well as catchy melodic lyrics, giving it a pop feel.
Laura Lora’s idiosyncratic ability to make a bold empowering presence in her music with her assertive tone all the while showing a sense fragility and vulnerability is what makes her stand out.
Al-X The Great
Basic info: AL-X The Great, born in Hong Kong, raised in Tokyo, Japan, and Pacific Palisades California, Currently living in Santa Barbara, CA
Music taste: Skizzy Mars, Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, Biggie, Pac, Mos Def
Music details: Hip-hop’s diverse content allows it to branch out into sub-genres and slightly modified versions of itself. Trip-hop, which is a mixture of reggae and hip-hop with a slow tempo, soft ambient sounds, is an example of this branching.
Sunscreen fits this category perfectly! The very first song, “Trip-Hop” (go figure) starts off with ocean wave-like-sounds which immediately take me back to sunsets in IV. Strangely, those sound waves simultaneously carry me on a path down a peaceful memory lane; reminiscing on my innocent childhood days. Track #2 “Tumbling” has to be my favorite off of this effortlessly smooth project.
Don’t let the softness and the slow tempo in the sound fool you though, as AL-X The Great brings a more upbeat and faster flow in “Coastal” and “Sunscreen”.
But if for whatever crazy reason you’re not feeling the chill vibe in these mellow tracks maybe you’ll dig the more trap-like/house-electronic sound in the Makara Remix of the final track “Sunscreen”.
In naming his mixtape Sunscreen, his mother and his upbringing, growing up in Pacific Palisades in LA, had a major influence.
“Don’t forget your sunscreen!” he recalls his mom shouting as he took off to the beach.
“As I would run out the door my mom would always say that. This kind of gave me the idea that people could just bring the EP, Sunscreen, with them. Also, the entire vibe of the EP is pretty ‘ocean-like’, so I’d say it fits.”
Basic info: Brandon Kelley, from Santa Barbara, CA, currently living in Isla Vista
Music taste: Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Mayer, Musiq Soulchild, Russ, Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, the Palmer Squares, Stevie Wonder, Maxwell
Music projects: The Mentable (Mixtape, September 2014)
Music details: Brayell writes and composes all of his music; incorporating the three instruments he plays into his own work. Since the undeniably infectious “Roll On”, he has set out to self-produce all of his musical projects. So far “All Alone”, a heartfelt tribute to his late grandmother, is the only self-produced track under his belt. His work is diverse in nature as he impressively shifts from soulfully harmonizing in songs like “Driftin’ Away” to delivering straight bars in the psychedelically eerie “Samya”; truthfully unorthodox.
“‘All Alone’ is a ballad to my grandmother”, says Brayell. When asked about the message behind the song he had this to say:
I wrote and produced this record two days prior to her passing, thinking she had at least a year before needing to be sent to a care home. Overall, I’m telling her that she wouldn’t suffer alone because her loved ones would be close.
Whether it’s the steady emotional flow, the captivating rhyme scheme or the clever word-play, Brayell Music will have you bopping your head to the beat and vibing to the sound.
In track #4 “Time Pt.II”, The Mentable’s interlude, and in his guitar cover of “Electric Feel” by MGMT we get a firsthand look at the acoustic, or “Braycoustic” as he puts it, side to Brayell. His vocals and guitar chords compliment each other well, producing a nice, subtle melodious sound.
Right when I thought I had him all figured out, he hits me with more clever hard knock bars paired with a vicious flow as seen in his featured performances: YouTube channel @TheCypherEffect and in a video filmed in IV with The Palmer Squares which has garnered nearly 100k views.
Brayell in The Cypher Effect