Shlohmo Talks New EP and Influences from J Dilla to New Order
The Wedidit leader’s latest effort takes a dark turn.
Once the golden boy of L.A.'s Low End Theory nightclub and its associated scene, Shlohmo has evolved into an international underground hero.
In 2009, the Los Angeles native (born Henry Laufer) was composing crunchy and glittering psychedelic hip-hop instrumentals, and mixes speckled with tracks from his beat culture contemporaries. But this week, the 23-year-old DJ/producer unveiled “Laid Out,” an EP on his home label Friends of Friends that demonstrates how far he's ventured from his roots. The stony rhythms on his previous work have been subsumed by a striking, highly distorted ghastliness that rattles around a framework provided by clipped and bass-heavy Southern hip-hop production.
“I think [the EP] sounds more obviously dark because I think I'm definitely more in control of the aesthetics I want to present now, in terms of technical ability,” he says.
Shlohmo’s distinctively melancholy and bass-drenched songs caught the attention of R&B crooner Jeremih, who announced his collaboration with the producer earlier this week. They’ve also earned him the status of blogosphere darling and ringleader of the Wedidit collective, which has garnered a cult following, ravenous for its fresh take on traditional hip-hop structures.
Laufer’s most recent experiments reflect a changing blend of influences, so CODE asked him to map his musical heritage by selecting a few examples of artists and records that have played an instrumental role in the evolution of his sound. Check his diverse selections below.
J Dilla’s “Dime Piece”
“I went through a big Dilla phase throughout all of high school and most of college. I was still trying to find out what I was doing. I was like, 18, and I was just making beats. I think ‘Bad Vibes’ and the ‘Places’ EP were the first time I really felt like I had direction with what I was doing. I never feel like I made happy music, so it's funny, because ‘Bad Vibes’ sounds very pleasant to people. I was making it from the angrier, depressed standpoint, so it's remedy music—it sounds pleasant, but it's still dark to me. I feel like that's always been where my head's been at, but the music has come out seeming lighter-hearted than the place that it comes from for me.”
DJ Screw and Point Blank’s "My Mind Went Blank"
“I found out about Screw music when I was 15. My mom was like, ‘You have to do some shit this summer,’ so me and my friend Juj applied for this DJ class at UCLA. We were pissed because we had to do something, but it ended up being really tight. It was this 20-something-year-old Filipino cat teaching us how to scratch DJ. But there was this other kid in the class who was really bad, and would go super slow, and couldn't really do it, so the teacher dude was like, ‘Ha, we got a regular old DJ Screw in the class.’
No one really knew what he was talking about, so he showed us some chopped and screwed music, the Screw-tapes and all that. He played us some of the first Chopped and Screwed music I'd ever heard. So then I went back in time and started listening to [Screw's] tapes and researching and whatnot. “There’s certain songs—slowed-down guitar, whenever the original beat has a guitar sample and that gets screwed, it just sounds so good. Slow guitar with hi-hats is very pleasing to me. Every remix I do, one of the first things I do is see how every stem I get sounds halftime. I’ll slow shit in half and see what happens.”
New Order's "Truth"
“New Order and those really stark goth sounds are definitely where the sound of the new EP comes from, but it's more rap music or R&B melodically. I've been going through more of these very stark, really brash sounds; affected drum machines and stuff. It has that hollowness that old New Order has, with emotionless drums. Sounds that sound flat, but in context, sound more removed and dark. What I'm going for right now combines that with the structure of late '90s/early 2000s R&B.”
Mariah Carey's “Rainbow”
“I'm incorporating that heavy distortion and noise shit—that goth, bass, spacey- ness and mood—with that late '90s/early 2000s double-time R&B structure and melodies that I really like. That's a lot of where my stuff comes from, the really beautiful Mariah ballads, when she's just ripping it, and there are gospel chord changes and that kind of stuff. I like that within hip-hop production. I just had the Mariah "Rainbow" cassette on repeat in my car. It's actually my girlfriend's cassette. I think I got it for her on Ebay.”