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ADRIAN YOUNGE: Injecting Analog Warmth & Cinematic Soul Into Latest Wu-Tang Collab
Pushing the boundaries of music, Adrian Younge can be classified as a renaissance man. He taught himself how to play the keyboards, drums, saxophone, guitar and bass, solely because he wanted to fully understand his vision. Those instruments, typically found in classical and soul music, have a distinct sound, and when played together, a unique listening experience emerges. Younge, an introspective and humble artist, realized in the beginning of his production career that the source material he was sampling inspired him more than the hip-hop culture of the time. “Classic rock, R&B, eclectic instruments… those instruments were integral to the sound of the music that was inspiring me, and for that reason, I wanted to learn them,” says Younge.
The vibe of Italian soundtracks is a prominent theme throughout the albums Younge has been involved in. After he started making music in the ’90s, his fascination with Italian soundtracks grew; it’s a genre of music that he had to find as a DJ and producer. Younge reflected, “It’s a sound I was searching for, for a long time.”
Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah have joined forces once again for the sequel to their 2013 album, Twelve Reasons to Die – aptly titled Twelve Reasons to Die II. This new album perfectly combines all of the aforementioned styles, musical vision, and passion; it’s a record with a truly balanced sound and lyrical prowess. The album tells the story of a resurrected Tony Starks (Ghostface), who is in search of revenge against the DeLuca mob family. Ghostface Killah is also known as Iron Man, so that connection to, and his involvement with, the album makes complete sense.
Capturing the cinematic soul of the ’70s is not an easy task, but for Younge, it seems to come naturally. He has consistently used psychedelic soul and cinematic instruments blended with hip-hop aesthetics to enhance his vision as an artist. The sound he has created “coincides with the perspective of my label (Linear Labs), utilizing handcrafted, tailored production approaches that make intriguing sonic landscapes,” says Younge. Younge’s passion for music and creativity became clear when reflected about his musical vision: “I have a desire for people to feel something different when they listen to my music…I hope they feel the organic nature of our creation.”
This album synthesizes the perspectives of modern lyrical takes over stylized ’70s musical cues, resulting in a fresh and contemporary take on traditional rap music. Special guests such as RZA, Raekwon, Vince Staples, and Bilal appear on the album and they each bring a distinct feeling but together, a unique sound emerged. No, this album is no darker from the first; it represents a continuation of the storyline. Each song is strong enough to stand on its own but “Death’s Invitation Interlude (ft. RZA)” and “Let The Record Spin Interlude (ft. RZA)” specifically highlight the balance between darker lyrics and light instrumentation to create a new tone. The storyline, feelings, and instrumentation complement each other well. “People listening to the instruments should be able to feel where the story is going and the lyrics should be illuminating the direction.”
Younge notes that a fan said she was moved by his music because it sounds like nothing else ever created before: “This hit home with me because you can’t and shouldn’t compare my music to anything. Her comment inspired me to continue,” he says.
The importance of maintaining positive working relationships with other artists seems to be a critical element to Younge’s vision. Not only does he compose music for his ten-piece band, Venice Dawn, but he notes that he “always wants to make sure they are represented on the albums…they are my family.” The collaboration process with Ghostface Killah and the members of Wu-Tang Clan is filled with a mutual feeling of respect because they all “really dig” what the other does. “I have mad respect and mad love for those dudes,” says Younge. This positivity and sense of family makes itself apparent in this resilient album.
“The working relationship is great. For this album, I put a plot together, and Ghostface went with it. A member of my band wrote the storyline, which was then turned into lyrics. I wrote the music and they [Wu-Tang Clan] rapped over each track,” says Younge.
Younge, a prominent force in the hip-hop industry, sets himself apart from all competition. He only does analogue recording. The music on Twelve Reasons to Die II was crafted with precision and nostalgia and Younge notes that it was “illuminated by the music of hip-hop for the masses.” The music came first and the lyrics were layered over it; Ghostface Killah and Raekwon recorded the vocals in Pro Tools and then Younge transferred it to tape and morphed the analogue music and vocals into one beautiful sound.
Younge offers advice for musicians trying to break into the industry. “Try to be the van Gogh of music and go in a new direction. Try to create a league of your own. Do things that are counter to what everyone else is creating.” He goes on to say, “Try to make music that you love, even if it doesn’t necessarily fall within a trendy category, and when you do that, you become inclined and can cultivate a very devoted audience.”
photo by Artform Studio