Album Premiere: ‘The Blackwashing’

Album Premiere: ‘The Blackwashing’

Today, on Juneteenth, the day of emancipation, we bring to you The Blackwashing, an eclectic assortment of 24 tracks from some of the best and brightest black underground artists going today.

Conceptualized and spearheaded by mynameisblueskye and his new label ASAS in partnership with staple independent label Z Tapes and ourselves, The Blackwashing was coined as such as something of a counterattack: to whitewash has been to obscure, often by the whites who take social and political power and craft the narratives to fit their agendas. In response and in this context, to blackwash is to to reveal, to shine a light upon what and who has been ignored. Socially, it seems as though we may finally be at the point where what were previously open secrets regarding the systemic racism stitched into the very fiber of our nation’s institutions are now simply open, impossible to ignore for even the most passive among us. Similarly, with this compilation, we hope to spotlight black artists who in many cases have received but a fraction of attention that they deserve.

That’s not to say everything on The Blackwashing will be unfamiliar: there’s a good chance you’ve heard Kimya Dawson’s stark, harrowing 2015 spoken word piece “At the Seams” before, though if you haven’t, today’s a good a day as any as it’s still depressingly relevant five years later (and updated for The Blackwashing). Elsewhere, you’ll find sounds and perspectives that run the gamut, from The Cocker Spaniels’ funk-infused indie rocker “Snuff Film” which tackles the uncomfortable fact that it took something as disgusting as the George Floyd murder and its mass circulation to finally get people’s attention en masse, the zany and chaotic art pop of Jhariah’s “Split”, the Freaky Friday race-swap punk of Imani Coppola’s “Woke Up White” where she makes use of her newfound privilege to get away with all the dumb shit white people get away with, the seven-minute experimental synth hop epic of Savan DePaul’s “Final Flight of the Dying Cicada”, the ingenious blend of synthwave and brass instrumentation on the soulful “Shiparound” from Model Decoy, and a beautiful cover of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “You Don’t Have to Cry” from Citrus City’s Shormey. And that, as you might’ve been hearing a lot recently, is just “the tip of the iceberg”.

Yes, this one is “political”, and yes, it has to be. How could it fucking not be, at a time where the festering wounds of social and political inequality have been displayed for the world after having been poorly, sloppily hidden for far too long? It’s time to apply disinfectant, clean out the puss that is a law enforcement system whose roots were first planted deep in the soil of racism. To those who think this started a few weeks ago, this might sting a bit, but you best buck up. We’ve waited too long to heal: it’s time to get started. We hope The Blackwashing can provide a soundtrack to that healing.


You can stream The Blackwashing in its entirety below:


‘The Blackwashing’ is out now via ASAS, Z Tapes, and COUNTERZINE and is available to purchase digitally through Z Tapes’ Bandcamp. All proceeds will be donated to and split between the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Bail Out, Community Justice Exchange National Bail Fund, Homeless Black Trans Women Fund, and You Good, Sis.

Track Premiere: Port Lucian’s “20z”

Track Premiere: Port Lucian’s “20z”

Today, we’re excited to premiere the newest track from Philadelphia bedroom pop artist Port Lucian, “20z”.


Processed with VSCO with a8 preset
Portia Maidment (Port Lucian)

Queer musician (and self-described “hermit) Portia Maidment, Port Lucian follows up earlier 2020 singles “Give It Up” and “Full Control?” with “20z”, a track most obviously inspired by turning recently turning 20 and the combination of uncertainty at that age as well as the psychological angst involved with feeling like you should be more certain at that arbitrary milestone. More specifically, Maidment examines these feelings through the lens of “long car rides [they] would take to Oberlin every weekend from Cleveland, and the timeless sort of feeling that going down the highway gives [them]” back when she lived in Ohio. Ultimately, “20z” is a track about time sneaking up on you when it feels like you’re trapped still in some sort of rift, whether it be the highway or anywhere you’re left to contemplate where you are in life and where you think you should be.

In terms of form and texture, it’s tempting to compare “20z” to music of Beach House with its thick haze of reverb, delay, and fuzz, though while it’s a generally gentle composition, there is notably more sporadic anxiety present than in much of that Baltimore duo’s work. The delay effect applied to Maidment’s vocals in particular could be described as “dreamy”, but disorienting may be more apt, spaced a bit further than many similar tricks implemented by artists going for a purely relaxed and nostalgic sound. Combine this with a surprising fade out-and-back-in and a rhythm which is both more active and tense than much of what the dream pop/shoegaze world offers (and undergoes a notable shift around the midway point) and “20z” ends up a surreal reflection of nostalgia’s decay amidst existential dread and the unknowable future.


You can stream “20z” below:


Port Lucian’s “20z” releases tomorrow, June 19th, and will be available for purchase at her Bandcamp. You can follow Port Lucian on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit their website to keep up-to-date with her work.

Leaaves Shares “Spun, Pt. II”, Announces New Cassette ’12 Worlds’ on Strategic Tape Reserve

Leaaves Shares “Spun, Pt. II”, Announces New Cassette ’12 Worlds’ on Strategic Tape Reserve

Today, we’re thrilled to share “Spun, Pt. II”, the new track from NYC ambient/drone artist Leaaves, as well as announce his upcoming album on Strategic Tape Reserve, 12 Worlds.


Nate Wagner/Leaaves

It feels like just yesterday that we first covered the music of Nate Wagner in our premiere of “This Is a Frozen House…”, and then we remember it’s been 10 months: enough time for him to release cassettes with Feels So Reel (Caught, the tape from which the aforementioned track comes), Personal Archives (December’s Viennese Period), and Alien Garage (February’s Moon King). Considering the prolific purveyor of experimental instrumentals’ tendency to travel the tape label landscape, it seemed only a matter of time before Wagner teamed up with our favorite German ferric material disseminator, Strategic Tape Reserve. After more than two dozen projects, Leaaves’ now prepares for the release of 12 Worlds on the imprint.

Wagner, a guitarist by trade, makes music stands out among the STR pack, if largely due to its relative strait-laced focus on beauty when contrasted against the oddity of conceptual compilations centered around Nordic-walking and Welsh audiobooks. Whettman Chelmets might be the closest comparison on label, though if Chelmets is more Boards of Canada-meets-Godspeed, Leaaves’ work is closer to that of Basinski. “Spun, Pt. II” is a gorgeous minimalist guitar piece, looped and disintegrated as it were. There’s an air of cold that persists from “This Is a Frozen House…”, but if that track was the sounds of freezing over completely, “Spun, Pt. II” is more akin to a cool, gentle wind on an otherwise sunny day: more refreshing than chilling.


You can stream Leaaves’ “Spun, Pt. II” below:


12 Worlds tracklist:

  1. “Eleanor”
  2. “Limits of Distance”
  3. “Alligator Bridge”
  4. “Slow Break”
  5. “Entering the Heart”
  6. “Spun, Pt. II”
  7. “I Don’t Want to Grow Older”


12 worlds tape
’12 Worlds’ cassettes


’12 Worlds’ releases June 19th, cassette and digital, on Strategic Tape Reserve and is available to pre-order here now. Be sure to follow Leaaves on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and SoundCloud for further updates.

EP Review: ‘Noise Pollution’

EP Review: ‘Noise Pollution’

Various Artists

Noise Pollution

(It’s Trash! Records)

So I got this cool little 7″ four song multi-artist compilation from It’s Trash! Records the other day (along with some others) exclusively featuring punk bands from Hamilton, ON. On the A-side we have tracks from Flesh Rag as well as Jimmy and the Jerks, and on the B-side we’ve got Get off the Cop and Noble Savages.

Flesh Rag’s song “I Gotta Go” is a bouncy garage rock number just leaning into punk territory characterized by simple, loud drumming and a jagged guitar riff. The groove’s pretty good on this one.

Jimmy and the Jerks’ track “Critical Mass Critical Trash” is my least favorite here. I’m usually not much of a fan of vocals being mixed as loud as they are here when it comes to the garage and/or hardcore varieties of punk, and the drumming’s pretty plain. The bass is definitely on point though.

The real winners are on the B-side. “Joy Device” by Get off the Cop has a sick cowpunk jaunt of a riff driving it and the vocals are real gross, just like I like ’em. It moves along with that swagger, then explodes into cacophony, then retreads back. Dynamics and the mix of styles on this one are awesome and I can’t say I’ve heard much quite like it.

“She’s So Serious” is Noble Savages’ contribution. It’s pretty straightforward punk, but the “She’s so so so so so so serious” chorus gets me shouting along, and guitar tone is raw, like stripping metal. Good stuff.

Noise Pollution is a fun little sampler of what Hamilton’s punk scene has to offer. It probably won’t change your life, but it’s definitely worth a listen. Nothing offensive, two good songs, and a real gem in “Joy Device”.


Favorite track: “Joy Device”


Rating: Recommended


You can purchase Noise Pollution here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on June 18th, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

Album Review: Super FM’s ‘Fuckbird Barnacle’

Album Review: Super FM’s ‘Fuckbird Barnacle’

Super FM

Fuckbird Barnacle

(King Pizza Records)

How much analysis does an album called Fuckbird Barnacle demand? I doubt Super FM would want me to over analyze this. The album cover is a cartoon style drawing with a naked man with a soft, shitty body (much like mine) staring in a mirror with a dripping crystal formation on it. I don’t know if the crystals originated from the mirror, or if the man puked them onto the mirror. Maybe it means the man is crystals? What does that mean? Fuckbird Barnacle is loony fucking nonsense, and I’m into loony fucking nonsense.

It’s a garage punk album. No innovation in sound, really, but the guitars sound fat, the tone is great and manages to distinguish the band from many of their contemporaries. Also, the guitarist occasionally likes to go “fuck this song, I’m gonna do a weird lil alien riff”, and then he does, and it’s cool. He probably listens to Mr. Bungle. Actually, all these guys probably really dig Mike Patton. And the Dead Milkmen.

Lyrics range from “TV set is broken, fuck you” in “Dad Clone” to the intro of “Nullo”, which is “Okay, super, this is a song about cutting off your dick and your balls“. I could take the time picking these lines apart bit by bit, trying to explain what they mean, but I don’t know that I could truly understand what deep philosophical truths Super FM is trying to bestow upon our consciousnesses.

This is a really stupid album. In a good way. It’s a little short on hooks, and if you’re lame and don’t like dumb fun, you’ll hate this because dumb fun is the name of the game. But as someone who really wishes more stupid bands would throw themselves into the art of dumbness, this is pretty refreshing.


Favorite tracks: “Worms”, “Dad Clone”


Rating: Recommended


You can purchase Super FM’s Fuckbird Barnacle here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on June 23rd, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

EP Review: Johnny Otis Dávila’s ‘P.I.F.F.’

EP Review: Johnny Otis Dávila’s ‘P.I.F.F.’

Johnny Otis Dávila


(Discos Diaspora)

For those who don’t already know, Johnny Otis Dávila is probably best known for his work on guitar in the now defunct Dávila 666, probably the biggest band in Puerto Rican garage rock the past decade. Since Dávila 666, Johnny’s been part of Terror Amor (still playing with AJ), and now we have this, where Johnny takes front and center. If Dávila 666 was akin to Radio Birdman with smatterings of bubblegum influence, Johnny’s four song EP P.I.F.F. is akin to Greg Cartwright’s loud rockin’ days with Compulsive Gamblers and Reigning Sound during the first half of the 2000s.

This is loud, loud guitar driven rock ‘n’ roll. Not as loud as Too Much Guitar, but not too far behind. Opener “Calle de Susto” is probably the best original here. It’s the highest in energy and features soaring backing vocals, some nice pounding tambourine, a great, brief, efficient guitar solo, and Johnny’s most dynamic lead vocal performance. “Mi nena” is good as well, and “¡Ay Dioj!”, while probably the weakest thing here, is still solid. What might be most surprising though is that Johnny covers one of my all-time favorite songs in Compulsive Gamblers’ “Stop & Think It Over” (called “Stop” here), and manages to do justice to what I pretty much already considered to be perfect. It’s very faithful to the original, as it should be, but there are enough differences to warrant its existence. Johnny’s vocals are more clean during the choruses as opposed to the gruff vocals of Greg, there’s some tasteful use of acoustic guitar, and the rhythm during the chorus is different, swinging where the original pounds, courtesy of the drumming shift.

If you’re a fan of guitar rock, you should check this out. This thing’s a nine minute good time, and I hope more’s coming.


Favorite tracks: “Calle de Susto”, “Stop”


Rating: Recommended


You can download Johnny Otis Dávila’s P.I.F.F. for free here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on July 4th, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

Album Review: VCR’s ‘R.I.P. Sportsboy’

Album Review: VCR’s ‘R.I.P. Sportsboy’


R.I.P. Sportsboy

(Barf Bag Records)

Do you remember Wacky Races? You know, that crazy ass cartoon where every episode was a race with a bunch of crazy ass people/creatures in crazy ass cars trying to take each other out (in kid-friendly ways, of course). You know Superjail? That crazy ass cartoon where every episode the crazy ass Warden concocts some half-baked scheme that ends up taking all his crazy ass prisoners out (in not kid-friendly ways)? Well, VCR’s R.I.P. Sportsboy is what you might get if Black Francis and John Zorn hung out, did a buttload of shrooms and crack, ditched the horns for synths, and sound-tracked a Wacky Races/Superjail crossover episode.

Yes, it’s as awesome as that sounds.

This is one of the most spastic records probably in existence, definitely one of the most spastic punk records. It’s synth punk to the naked ear, sure, but these guys are playing some fucked up no wave jazz grindcore shit, it’s just way too catchy and way too brightly toned to be thought of in such a heavy and grimy context. This record is brutal as all get out, but it’s cartoon violence.

R.I.P. Sportsboy is a concept album, I guess. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust Sportsboy, or whatever. The “story” (what little you can make out from low-mixed shrieks of vague lyrics and bizarre samples) is completely insane. The grooves and their constant shifting, re-implementation, and modification are what makes this special. This isn’t an album of songs, rather each track is a movement that implants a visual scene in your brain of animated chaos, a rebellion of stupidity breeding violence and coming full circle. It’s structured almost like a a classical piece, taken to its zany and immature extremes.

At only 17 minutes, R.I.P. Sportsboy demands to be heard start to finish each time you listen.  It’s a punk rock epic that flips genre tropes on their heads, successfully marries accessibility and complexity, and it’s unlike anything in your record collection.



Favorite tracks: Best listened to as a whole


Music videos for “Murder City Rules”, “Scream Again”, “One Trick Dog”, and “Shut Up”:





Rating: Essential


You can purchase VCR’s R.I.P. Sportsboy here or here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on June 24th, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

The Return of Bandcamp Day AKA Music Industry BLACK-out Day

The Return of Bandcamp Day AKA Music Industry BLACK-out Day

Here we go again, in more sense than one.

Today is yet another Bandcamp Day, where the online marketplace waives their revenue share for 24 hours so that 100% of proceeds go to the artists and labels who sell on Bandcamp. Right now is yet another instance where we are raw from another reprehensible act of murder of a black man, George Floyd, by a cop, Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was cold, unaffected, without remorse as he suffocated that man for nine fucking minutes while his fellow officers aided him. There is no good cop here.

Since then, there have been protests again. Some have turned into riots, others have remained peaceful. Both were met with violence from the police departments that were supposedly established to serve and protect. Politicians implemented curfews to stifle free speech: rioting is illegal (though perhaps not unjustified) no matter the time of day, but now the First Amendment goes to bed at 6PM for many. Members of the media and lawyers have been arrested on site for simply documenting the events that occur. The curtain is being pulled back as America exposes itself as simply yet another country that has successfully sold the idea of freedom to a large percentage of its populace, while in reality only keeps its citizens on leashes just long enough so that they forget it runs out. Somehow it snuck up on people, this circumstance we’re now in. As black men, women, and children kept dying one after another over the most insignificant shit or absolutely nothing at all, officers never saw justice. They couldn’t see it if you pumped a syringe full of it and stabbed them in the eye with it. They walk, they keep policing, their budgets are increased by the politicians who’ve built the militarized police state (who couldn’t be bothered to help build roads, or schools, or anything that actually helps their citizenry) that perpetuates a cycle of violence, hate, paranoia, and racial prejudice. They say the riots are too much, they say the demonstrations are too much, they say that taking a knee before a fucking football game is too much, but to them, the stack of bodies is never enough. I don’t know how more of us didn’t see it. Some of us saw it but thought it’d take more than some to do anything about it.

Well, now we’ve got more than some.

Now is the time to exercise your power, however much or little of you have. Donate to bail funds, relief funds, and justice organizations. If you can’t afford to pay, protest at a demonstration. If you can’t do that, disseminate important information. E-mail your officials. Send a fucking fancam to a police app so those departments have to work to dig out bootlicker tips (the k-pop stans have really put punk to shame). You don’t have to do everything. But do something. Do something beyond changing your profile pic to a black square for a day, because the system does not fear empty symbolic gestures that fade in a week or two. They fear dissent and they fear exposure. Call them what they are, show others who they are. America has long held the misplaced confidence that it is the best country in the world, but now is the time to prove that it can be if the citizenry makes it happen. Those who have sought the power to govern and police others will never use that power responsibly: as it has always been, it will be the people who dictate where we go from here.

This platform is small, and I don’t know who will see those words above and who among those who do will even care. We are, historically, a small arts webzine. But I feel as though I need to say them. More tangibly, we can share black art and support it. On behalf of COUNTERZINE, I spent $150 on music exclusively from black artists, and I’d like to share those artists with you. I’m fucking livid right now, but as important as it is to destroy the institutions that perpetuate violence and systemic racism, it is also important to elevate and appreciate creation and the voices of black artists. I don’t want to make this more about musical commentary than the message behind it, but you can expect full reviews of Chloe Hotline’s CYNTHIA, drea the vibe dealer’s priestess of vibrations pt 2, Fat Tony & Taydex’s Wake Up, and Death’s …For the Whole World to See in the coming weeks. For now, don’t listen to what I have to say about them. Listen to what they have to say about them.


The Cocker Spaniels – Plays Well With Others

What I bought: Digital

What I paid: $5


Backxwash – God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It

What I bought: Digital

What I paid: $8

Read our full review



What I bought: Full digital discography

What I paid: $15



What I bought: Cassette

What I paid: $6 + shipping


Chloe Hotline – CYNTHIA

What I bought: Digital

What I paid: $10


drea the vibe dealer – priestess of vibrations pt 2

What I bought: Digital

What I paid: $6


Lonnie Holley – MITH

What I bought: Cassette

What I paid: $8 + shipping


Fat Tony & Taydex – Wake Up

What I bought: Vinyl

What I paid: $16 + shipping


A Day Without Love

What I bought: Full digital discography

What I paid: $1


They Hate Change – Now, and Never Again

What I bought: Digital

What I paid: $5



What I bought: Full digital discography

What I paid: $12


Death – …For the Whole World to See

What I bought: Vinyl

What I paid: $20


Quinton Barnes – AARUPA

What I bought: Lathe vinyl

What I paid: $30 + shipping

Read our full review


Lesibu Grand – Hush Hush

What I bought: Digital

What I paid: $1

Special thanks to mynameisblueskye (Chris Bynes) for bringing Lesibu Grand to my attention



What I bought: Cassette

What I paid: $12 + shipping


Grimalkin Sampler

What I bought: Digital

What I paid: $5


In addition to the purchases made on Bandcamp, I’ve matched it with another $150 split between community bail funds, mutual aid funds, and racial justice organizers on behalf of COUNTERZINE. Should you be interested in donating in a similar fashion (you can donate at any level), the easiest way to do this is to visit this ActBlue link. Receipt shown below:



What’s covered in this article is but a tiny fraction of the great art created by independent black artists. We also highly recommend you take a look through this document of 1000+ black producers, artists, and labels (complete with links), as well as this article from Post-Trash.

For those looking to expand their views and knowledge beyond the realm of music, here’s a helpful document compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein containing reading and film suggestions that might help in broadening perspectives and understanding of race as it exists in the social context.

Lastly, fuck the cops, fuck the government, black lives matter.

Album Review: Howie Moonlight’s ‘On the Run (From Love)’

Album Review: Howie Moonlight’s ‘On the Run (From Love)’

Howie Moonlight

On the Run (From Love)

(Brain Tape)

Sudbury is likely one of the most overlooked locations for music modern day, and Howie Moonlight’s debut mini-album is a prime example of why.  Their music has lingered in my mind and in my music library long before this release through audio rips of their performance videos on YouTube of pop gems such as “Shanghai” and “On the Run (From Love)”, and their lone studio recorded single (re-recorded for this release) “Fear and Loathing in Space”.  As luck would have it, they release this, and Howie’s crew disbands almost immediately after.  But, at least we have this.

This thing is made up of seven songs and three audio “logs”: all killer, no filler.  The version of “Fear and Loathing in Space”, while perhaps slightly less successful of a pop mix when compared to the original, is actually more interesting.  It’s off-kilter and there’s more depth to the mix.  “Shanghai” and the title track are predictably fantastic, but I’m finding myself listening to “She’s a Working Man” and “Shut Up and Love Me” even more.  The former has a brilliant and brightly toned synth lead, a chugging guitar riff, and drumming like thunderous claps, sweeping the listener up in a wave of infectious cheese.  “Shut Up and Love Me” just breezes by so quick.  It’s the simplest, most direct track, and the somewhat loungy vocals are at their most charming here. “Planetoid//Continuum” could be swapped into a Miami Vice soundtrack and your only question would be “how did I miss these guys 30 years ago?”.

Everything here is absurdly fun and that’s what matters.  Imagine if Star Trek was a teen romantic comedy series set in the ’90s, back when the hip thing was to have bands on the show.  Howie Moonlight would be the band playing a residency at the space club.  The deep, naturally produced mixes put the listener right there, and who honestly wouldn’t rather be in a space club right now?


Favorite tracks: “She’s a Working Man”, “Shanghai”, “Shut Up and Love Me”


Music video for “On the Run (From Love)”:


Rating: Strongly Recommended


You can purchase Howie Moonlight’s On the Run (From Love) here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on June 16th, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

DJ TBear Talks Oaxacan Hip-Hop, Label Bear House Co., Love of ’90s Rap, and Importance of Elevating Female Voices

DJ TBear Talks Oaxacan Hip-Hop, Label Bear House Co., Love of ’90s Rap, and Importance of Elevating Female Voices

Mexican recording artists have long been subjugated to stereotypes projected on them by outsiders. They’re not all sombrero-wearing mustached men walking around with guitars. You’ll look to Mexico City to find Americanized acts making accessible pop music and walk away satisfied. Still, if you pay attention, at this very moment, there is a vibrant community being emboldened south of the capital by one man in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca, for how small it is, and in spite of its shout-out in Childish Gambino’s “This is America”, is still stuck in the mud of traditionalism. English is hardly spoken, the population is hardly sizable, and the clothes people wear there are still mostly reliant on generations past. The music produced by DJ TBear realizes this and works to assist women in feeling empowered enough to rap in their own native language in their own native country. There’s nothing that will drive change more than empowerment.

In the thick of the globe’s coated 2019 summer, Middle Mexico’s musical pioneer and founder of rap record label Bear House, DJ TBear, dropped a pin to his home studio, graciously offering the space for an on-location interview. The New York Times ran a Surfacing profile in 2018, where DJ T-Bear was credited with founding the label many women are signed to as rappers themselves. This makes TBear a crucial figure in the music industry south of our border, unwittingly or not. He is fighting the good fight.

The album DJ TBear produced in 2016 for Mare Advertencia Lirika is filled with nature sounds and wildlife expressions, recalling the same kinds of sounds Kanye West used in his WTT days. The album is carried on by soft strings, and grooves that feel authentically Mexican. The singing is heartfelt. Once the woman begins rapping, the production wraps around her vocals to keep up with her flow. Things start to get a little breezier 10 minutes in, which is when the authentic Mexican sound makes a return for more rapid fire raps from Lirika.



The repurposed garage exists in the hills in residential suburbia. The recording studio is aplomb with the usual: stacks of vinyl touching the ceiling, audio equipment scattered about like crisp leaves looking up at door hinges on a windy day. The homes surrounding the artist are slightly elevated but otherwise plain-looking. There’s a Starbucks nearby.



Headquartered here, on the outskirts of San Felipe de Agua, an upscale suburb of the city center, DJ TBear’s figure is cut like a gentle giant. Well over six feet tall, his enormous glasses work hard to frame his face. He looks like the typical producer and studio owner. He settles into the studio, and after some niceties, we begin our interview to find out more about what the artist stands for, the label Bear House Co., what his vision for Oaxaca is, and what’s next for Oaxaca and him.



This interview was originally conducted in Spanish and has been lightly edited for clarity. Translator: Oscar Anthony Vanegas. 


DJ TBear


Mustafa Abubaker: What was the first day of Bear House Studio Company?


DJ TBear: It was a small home studio around 2008. It was first when I started to record people who rap in Oaxaca, Mexico. In 2008, we started doing more recordings, and we were progressing. We did more beat making, and that was the start. That was the start of Bearhouse Studio Company, but I started doing rap in 2002.


Abubaker: How do you describe Bear House Studio Company music?


TBear: The music is rap. The majority is heavily influenced by the 1990’s rap in the United States. Tupac, Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious BIG “Biggie Smalls” and Dr. Dre. That was the influence. For beat producing, my biggest influences were DJ Premier. DJ Premier and Dr. Dre have been my influences. The people who record in Bearhouse Studio have beats like that type. Type from the 90s. The rap has lyrics that range from different topics. Some lyrics talk about parties. Lyrics talk about what is happening in society or a problem.


Abubaker: Why are all the artists in Bear House Studio women? Why are there no men?


TBear: I started doing this in 2002. The people that I started with are the initiators of rap in Oaxaca, Mexico. At that time, we were called a different name. When I lived in Baja California, Mexico, my group was basically West Side Connection. In 2004 women started to join. They formed the first group in Oaxaca, Mexico that was called Libertencia Lyrica (Lyrical Liberty). I produced some of their songs and one of their CD’s. Now the women that are in Bearhouse Studio Company, a lot of them talk about different topics. Some of them rap about parties. For example, a rapper who is not directly connected with Bearhouse Studio Company, one the initiators of rap in Oaxaca, Mexico, whom I have worked with and produced a CD with, is Mare Advertencia Lirika. That CD, all the songs are mine. She does consciousness rap and empowers women. For example, Aries, another girl who is with Bearhouse, her rap is more party-like. Also, there are men in Bearhouse, but I have had more success with women.


Abubaker: What was your thought process in making Bear House Studio Company?


TBear: The name is from my nickname. Oso, which is a bear in Spanish. When I was younger, I played American football. They called my nickname Oso. From there, I stayed with that nickname, and I used it as my DJ name. I called my studio the house of the bear. That was my thought process for the name. For the studio, I do not want it to just be a small studio. I make t-shirts; we want to make a clothing brand. That is what Bear House is. It is a brand.


Abubaker: In what creative state is Bear House Studio Company?


TBear: Right now, we are in reconstruction. There are new, and there are people who left. We are working on a CD for one of the new MCs called Reves Martinez. We have nothing recorded for now. We have small collaborations with Mara Advertencia Lirika. Another with one rapper from Oaxaca, but he lives in Fresno, California. For now, we are working on beats and production. I am working on a DJ competition and will be competing in the Red Bull Freestyle competition.


Abubaker: How do you incorporate American and foreign styles when producing?


TBear: For the time that I lived in Baja, California, I have a lot of influence from the rap of the United States. I try to equilibrate by integrating Latin and Mexican things and music from Oaxaca. I find the balance. My music and production have to do more with rap from the USA, though.


Abubaker: What did you do to start your projects?


TBear: If you are asking in what ways I find inspiration for my projects when I start them, let’s say, I like to listen to music. Mexican music, like “Tigres del Norte” or funk genre from the USA. Also, jazz music. All that is what I listen to inspire me to work on something. When I am not working from a music perspective, we are working on t-shirt designs. We want to start making t-shirt designs for our company.


Abubaker: Are there visuals and videos for Bear House Studio Company?


TBear: For the moment, there are no music videos. There are a few small music videos. There is not anyone that we have recorded a music video with high production. First, we want to make sure an artist has made it big in the industry. Oaxaca has a market that is not as popular as Guadalajara or Monterrey. It is harder to make it here.


Abubaker: Will we see Bear House Studio Company in the United States?


TBear: I hope so. I hope to go to the United States to play as a DJ. That is a dream.


Abubaker: What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry?


TBear: The industry in Mexico is growing, but it is growing with modern rap with no real containment. For example, I listened to rap in the ’90s. Tupac can rap about drugs and another song rap about consciousness. “California Love” talks about gangster life, but “Keep Your Head Up” talks about helping women. In Mexico, rap is more about gangster and unrealistic things that the rapper is most likely lying about. But that is what is selling right now. Same in the United States. Trap music is what is selling in the USA. In Mexico, you can get a trap beat to be more present in the scene.


Abubaker: What is the biggest problem in music in Oaxaca and Mexico?


TBear: The biggest problem in music in Mexico, and I lived it as DJ and rapper, is… If you have ever heard the comparison of Mexico to crabs. The one who wants to get out, the other crabs hold you back. People hold you back. In the USA, people support you. In Mexico, if they see you rising, then people talk bad about you and try to hold you back. There is no support from the community for a rapper trying to make it big and become a star. If they see you rising to the top, people try to hold you back. In Mexico and Oaxaca, that is the biggest problem.


Abubaker: How would you describe Oaxacan hip-hop?


TBear: This is how it was in 2002. We started with lyrics with party and not that much consciousness rap. From there, things started to blossom. Consciousness rap, party rap, gangster rap, trap rap. From a straightforward way of rapping, there have been more and more branches added to the genre.


Abubaker: What makes Oaxaca different?


TBear: What makes this rap different from the rest of the country? There is nothing that makes it different. I once thought the idea, but at that time, I was further ahead of my time. I used to listen to “Dirty South” rap, which is Texas rap and Mississippi rap, but there was no one in Oaxaca to rap on those beats that I produced. I wanted Oaxaca to have their own sound, but it never happened. I want Oaxaca to have a sound that is different from the rest of the country… a sound that is from Oaxaca and different.


Abubaker: What is the culture of Oaxaca music?


TBear: What is specific to the music from Oaxaca is how some sounds are from bands, like “Dios Nunca Muere.” That is what marks the trademark sound of Oaxaca.


Abubaker: What is your responsibility at Bear House Studio Company?


TBear: I am the owner and beatmaker.


Abubaker: What are you working on right now?


TBear: What I am working on now is making beats for one of my own CD’s. I haven’t had the chance to make my own thing where I work with artists. I usually do work where I come out as a producer, but I want to come out with something as my own.


Abubaker: What do you think about Latin artists like Bad Bunny?


TBear: I think Latin people boost Bad Bunny because of the way paved by Daddy Yankee. The ones who started Latin music really paved the way. They opened the lanes for artists like Bad Bunny to make it. I like his rhythm because it is trap, but I don’t always like his lyrics. I listen to American rap. I like Ozuna, who is another Spanish artist, more. I feel like this is the result of a lot of artists opening the lane for today’s artists being so successful.


Abubaker: If you make music with someone, who would it be?


TBear: With a rapper, in today’s time, I like J. Cole. I like how he raps. Joey Bada$$ too. I like how he raps. Older times, I would like to work with Tupac. DJ Premier.


Abubaker: Why don’t you rap in English if it is so popular?


TBear: A lot of times, it is the difficulty of learning the English language. The rap in English has more words that you can cut. It is more malleable. “Thank you” can turn into “thanks.” There is more fluidity in English rap. I don’t understand a lot of rap, but I like the flow on the beats. I desire to learn the language better.


Abubaker: Do you have merchandise for Bear House?


TBear: T-shirts.


Abubaker: What is next for Bear House in the future?


TBear: Reconstruction. We want new people. There have been rappers that left, and we are looking to get new artists. We also want to empower the brand. We want the t-shirts to be more known. We have been promoting our shirts in Fresno, California, and are looking to expand the brand.


Be sure to follow DJ TBear on Instagram and Bear House Co. on YouTube to keep up-to-date with their work.


Born July 25, 1993, in Queens, New York, Mustafa ‘Mus’ Abubaker is a Pakistani American writer and editor from Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys reading, cooking, and running. Visit his website, follow him on Twitter, and on Instagram.