Let me paint a scenario for you. You're sitting on a tightrope. It's a familiar rope, you know it well. But you're sitting in a place on it that you don't like being. It feels unstable no matter what position you try, and you haven't stood up on it in a while. You find moments of comfort where you are, but the tightrope is tense yet unsteady, and theres an underlying layer of uneasiness you can't seem to do anything about. The tightrope feels thinner than usual, and definitely tighter. You have lost the equilibrium you once had on this tightrope and are now sitting on it, unsure what to do.
At one point you were moving swiftly on it, agile and ready to juggle any need that came your way. Until, rather suddenly, a few juggling pins bombarded you out of nowhere. Just one missed catch threw everything off and created a spiral that caused you to drop all of your juggling pins. Whatever it was, it probably wasn't in your control, or maybe even your choice. Yet, here you are, sitting on a tightrope fidgeting your empty hands while the reality of your slump really sets in. It feels like ages since you knew what you were doing.
You can see other people on tightropes, too. And you can see you aren't alone, everyone is trying to balance themselves. Everyone's rope is different in length, width, height, making the conditions for each journey appear easier or more difficult. Some people have nothing to juggle, some are clearly juggling too much. But, you can't really tell what their tightrope is like without walking on it. You're the only one that knows the intricacies of your particular tightrope because you're the only one who's occupying it, and it's been that way for quite some time. Probably your whole life.
For some people, it looks very easy for them to walk back and forth on it every day, fulfilling their own needs, growing as people. A slip here and there doesn't phase them much. For others, their tightropes are almost always bouncing with different kinds of energy, like excitement, chaos or drama. Others just can't seem to get a grip, no matter how determined they are. Sometimes you have the opportunity to help others when they've lost their balance. You don't mind when your tightrope absorbs some of their unsteadiness and begins to sway. Besides, your tightrope hasn't been stable in a while anyway, so a few more shakes is hardly noticeable. You'd rather see their strength grow as they tiptoe and eventually get back to walking their tightrope with ease again.
Meanwhile, you're just sitting smack dab in the middle of yours, dangling your legs, maybe swaying it back and forth like a swing in an effort to feel playful. But all you really feel is stuck. Stuck inside your own mind and body. Frustrated that they won't cooperate. You know how to walk this tightrope, you've even done cartwheels on it before. You have confidence in a lot of scenarios, but somehow you can't figure out how to just get up and start moving again. Your tightrope has been put higher, a sign of your growth, but it will also to test you. You can feel it getting tenser every day that you don't have the courage to walk on it again. Instead you overthink every step.
Do you go to the left? The right? Either way, you get further away from one of the two sides. Which needs your attention and focus the most? You think back to every pin you were juggling before your crisis. It's very hard to juggle on a tightrope. How can you possibly start over? This is how you've found yourself paralyzed, making no progress at all. The tension in your tightrope is so high now that you imagine it snapping out from beneath you without warning. The higher it gets, the further you are afraid to fall should you take a wrong step. It's easier to find distractions in other tightropes instead of learning how to walk your own, but you know you can't do that forever. That tightrope represents your ability to be independent and navigate your life as your own person vs. the fear of being responsible for every step you take.
The tightrope wouldn't be as high as it is if you hadn't already succeeded at something. It's been laid before you like this for a reason. Not for you to sit and ponder how to approach it. The tension in the tightrope becomes even higher, at this point you've been in pain for longer than you realize. You have to do something. Anything.
You have two options; fall off the rope or stand up on it. You know this rope is not your enemy, so you don't want to leave it. You want to balance on it, so you do. You stand up very slowly on your tightrope, and maybe curl your toes around it for some security. As you trust your weight on the tightrope, the tension begins to release and offer slack. As you stand up completely, you notice that you see the path more clearly from that vantage point. You begin to turn yourself towards the direction of your priorities. You know if you look back that you could lose your balance again, so instead you take a deep breath and let go of the things that have drained your attention in the past. As you exhale, more tension is released from the rope and it becomes more bearable. You feel less fragile, and you stretch your arms freely. They aren't tied up in anything any longer. The freedom inspires you as you wear a genuine smile for the first time in ages.
There is an urge to rediscover yourself along this tightrope. You have the opportunity to shed the weight of personality traits or habits that hinder your ability to walk your tightrope. There are new patterns to experiment with, and new heights to reach. You are proud of the courage it took to stand up on your tightrope again. You lost sight of who you were when you were sitting still on that rope, and that's the root of your paralyzing fear. Who am I? You don't have a definite answer, but the further you navigate the tightrope, the greater your sense of purpose becomes. The stronger your balance becomes. The clearer your mind becomes. The deeper your appreciation for yourself becomes. You and that rope, you've been together this whole time. You learn to trust that it doesn't want you to fall. That tightrope, the one right beneath your own feet, has been trying to show you the way all along.
Ricky Raw Talks 808 Fest, Early ATL Bass Music + The 808 Track
Atlanta is about to get a whole lot of bass in its face this week, and if you’re an Atlanta music nerd like I am, you should already know why. The annual celebration of bass, 808 Fest, is returning this year in full force. The festival kicks off at Aisle 5 tomorrow and will take place over four days with headliners including Conrank, Treasure Fingers, and MONO/POLY, as well as performances by local favorites like Mighty High Coup and Scales.
Speaking of Mighty High Coup, they’re the voices behind The 808 Track - a song which countless Bassnectar fans will be jamming out to properly tomorrow. August 8th is a national holiday according to Bass Heads, and if it weren’t for that track I may not have grown the same appreciation for the 808 that I have today.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate bass music than by gathering with a bunch of ATLiens to do what we do best - and 808 Fest has the 404 covered. Ricky Rothstein, aka Ricky Raw, is not only the mind behind Mighty High Coup, but he's also the founder and producer of 808 Fest. I sat down with him to learn how he jumped into electronic music, the inspiration behind The 808 Track, and what he’s excited about for this year’s 808 Fest.
RJ: Have you always lived around Atlanta?
RR: Mhm, I was born in Clayton County hospital, Riverdale - Southside. I live in Zone 6 right now and have for almost 10 years. Once I was old enough to choose where to live, I’ve pretty much been in East Atlanta.
RJ: You said you fell in love with bass at a young age?
RR: Yup, I was a bass player at age 12 when I got my first bass guitar for Christmas. Then I started a band with Nick Weiller aka Bro Safari, at the time he was the guitar player, and then the third member Kerry Henderson. We played our very first gig at Samba Reptile at 14 years old. We weren’t really even old enough to be in the venue, but we played around 2AM and the only people there was the band after us. We planned to start a mosh pit at the end of our last song, so I threw down my bass and jumped into the crowd which was like three people. So I got a black eye by some dudes head smashing me in the face, and that was my first live club performance.
RJ: How did that lead into you getting involved with electronic?
RR: So, when I first started play the bass guitar I was into heavy metal, and that slowly went into punk rock. I went to Independence High School and I got a job across the street at this pizza place with all these Roswell kids who introduced me to drum and bass. And I loved it because before that everything was techno, any type of dance music. And this was in the late 90s so I mean, it really was. It was much more limited than it is today, like 10 years before dubstep existed. So by the time I was 17 I was able to buy turntables, two Technics, 1210s - I think. Then a friend sold me his mixer and gave me a bunch of Joker (not the DJ, the label - which was an old jump up DnB label) and Aphrodite records. So I got into mixing DnB, and then Bro Safari, who was going to college in Alabama, came back to Atlanta to come to some big rave or whatever it was and we chatted again, hadn’t seen each other in a while. He was like ‘I’m spinning drum and bass now,’ and I was like ‘I’m spinning drum and bass!’ When Nick came over, he was just kinda getting into it, and I was transitioning into the darker drum and bass. I spun jump up cause that’s what I had, but I was trying to buy records of the darker stuff. Me and some friends would go every Tuesday and buy all the new stuff at Rewind Records and Satellite Records. And then Nick was more into the jump up stuff so I started showing him more of what I was getting into, and pretty soon after that he started Evol Intent* and then he was a million miles past, production-wise, he just took off. He had Gigantor, and then soon brought on The Enemy, AJ, and made the trio Evol Intent. They put out some great stuff, and we kinda traded gigs. And yeah, that was the beginning of DJing. I started rapping over drum and bass, got into production soon after that, which led to more rapping just naturally as a next move.
*Evol Intent was a hardstep trio that formed in 2000 which included Mike Diasio (Gigantor) and Ashely Jones (The Enemy) - slated to headline 808 Fest on Wednesday under his alias Treasure Fingers.
RJ: So then at what point was Mighty High Coup found?
RR: Mighty High Coup started, in my opinion… So we would all go to this rap battle called Mic Club at Apache Cafe, hosted by DRES Tha BEATnik, and I met a lot of rappers there - a lot of really talented people - but, specifically, Mr. SOS and A-Bomb. They had two completely opposite styles. A-Bomb was the most ‘get drunk, get money’ kinda rapper ever, and then SOS was the most hiphop, had a backpack on every time he was on stage and still rocked a Kangol hat. So, to me, I just thought it’d be really cool to have a group where everyone is different. Cause most groups would have very similar styles, and I thought Atlanta was one of the only places that you would have people who are polar opposities work together on a song. I was making lots of beats, and playing around with verses but I wasn’t writing full songs - I was a battle rapper. But then these guys came in and wrote their verse, so you have three battle rapper verses and it starts to feel like a song. So, that’s how that got started and here we are three albums later. And we have half of a new album recorded with those guys too.
RJ: Oooh, will we get to hear any new stuff debut at 808 Fest?
RR: We’ll see, we’ll see. Mighty High Coup is playing 8.09. We’ll kick off 8.08, it’ll be all DJs, and the next night we’ll have some live performances.
RJ: So, now that we’re on to 808 Fest, looking at where it started and where it is now, does it follow the vision you saw for it or is it taking its own path?
RR: Both. When I started the first year in 2011, it was on a Wednesday and we had a really big year. I got Kilo Ali, it was his first show since he was out of jail, and it was a big deal. We had about 550 people show up to Connect Lounge on a Wednesday. It looked amazing, it was a great time. At that point I thought the sky was the limit. The next year, I did a 2-day thing at the Quad, and it was well-attended, but I learned that people just don’t like to go to the same club two nights in a row. The third year we did multiple venues for one night in East Atlanta Village. The fourth year we did multiple venues on Edgewood and that was on a Saturday. Last year 8.08 was on a Monday so we did Friday-Monday and made 8.08 the closing day and last year was definitely our highest attended yet. And now this year we’re going to kick off on Tuesday, 8.08, and move into the weekend.
RJ: So 808 Fest started in 2011, and The 808 Track came out in 2010?
RR: That sounds right, well the Bassnectar version. Mighty High Coup’s version came out in 2009. That was a cool story, some of my friends were playing it backstage at Bonnaroo all weekend and I guess he was playing that year and then heard the track a few times and started asking them ‘who is this?’ We had just put the video out, and I guess people were watching it around Bassnectar and he heard it and he called me probably a week after Bonnaroo and said he wanted to sample it. It’s not exactly a remix, it’s his song that he made and then sampled Mighty High Coup. His song was definitely its own thing, I wouldn’t consider it a remix at all.
RJ: I’d be curious to hear the original.
RR: Yeah, it’s online, Mighty High Coup - 808s.
RJ: So, would you say that 808s are your most often used drum samples?
RR: Yeah, I use 808s in almost every single song. And there are so many things that kinda qualify as an 808, you know theres sine waves that people would consider an 808. Even though, technically, nothing is an 808 unless it came out of the Roland TR-808. And then, to take that sound and use it in todays music, it takes a little bit of processing. That sound, even though it’s the most raw and true to the 808 sound, you still gotta throw some EQs and properly process and compress. You can use it as it is, but it’s such an old machine. In today's scene, you need a certain level of quality to even be relevant.
RJ: Which 808 sample is your favorite?
RR: The one that’s most famous is the 808 kick drum, specifically the one that has a sustain, a long tone. I mean, there’s a million versions even of that, but that’s what I use. That’s what people think of as the 808. You know, there’s the 808 cowbell, the 808 clap, there’s the 808 this the 808 that. *laughs* And, to get back to that song, I wrote that song as a joke. It was making fun of mainstream rap music, saying all you needed to make rap music these days was an 808 kick drum, an 808 hat, 808 snare drum, 808 clap, 808 this, 808 that, 808 boom and an 808 bap. Boom. That’s it, you know? And when we wrote the song, to me, at first it was so silly - that song wasn’t even going to make it on to our record because it was just so goofy. I like to say that I make pop songs that are making fun of pop songs. I have a song Heady Music with McBeezy, it’s like a heady song but it’s also making fun of that at the same time. Cause, you know, it’s entertainment. I don’t take it too too seriously. But as I played the album to all sorts of people, the 808 song was the one that stood out - it was different. There’s nothing in that song besides original 808 samples and a Sir-Mix-A-Lot sampler, and then some effects on them. But that’s literally the whole track, there’s nothing that wasn’t out of an 808 sampler.
RJ: I just love the way so many different music cultures have become so affected by that sound. I think that’s all I’ve got for you, is there anything else you want to add?
RR: Support your local bass head! Support your locals as much as you support the big guys. Support the people you see have the drive and the talent in the here and now, the culture you live in because that’s where the next big thing is going to come from. Make sure you give them the same, if not more support, as the people who are already there. Some people have the full potential but they’ll never make it anywhere if they don’t get the little bit of reassurance that they need. So, yeah, support your local bass head.
I’ll be doing exactly that this week, and you’ll know where to find me! Come celebrate all things bass at 808 Fest! Also, you should read this very insightful article about the 808.
UPCOMING ATLANTA EVENTS
August 9: Locals SuperJam [Aisle 5]
August 14: Beer & Comedy Night [SweetWater Brewery]
August 17: MCBEEZY w/ Briggs Eyeland [Aisle 5]
August 18-20: Atlanta Underground Film Festival [Synchronicity Theatre]
August 25: Underwear Comedy Party [Village Theatre]
Atlanta got a new paint job last month. Or, to be accurate, seventeen of them. If you’re tuned into the art scene here, you already know all about the OuterSpace Project. It’s easily one of the coolest annual projects in Atlanta, and this was the first year I immersed myself in all it had to offer.
The OuterSpace Project is a public outdoor mural expo that just held it’s third year, each being more successful than the last. Over the course of a week, Greg Mike’s ABV Gallery selects both locally favored and world-renowned artists to create massive new works around the city. Since street art is my very favorite thing about Atlanta, I was overly stoked to watch the murals go up and feed off the creative buzz going on throughout the art community all week. Below are a few of my favorite murals from this year’s OSP artists.
I’d move to the beltline just so I could see this mural every day. Created by Ouizi, the only female OSP muralist (and my new fan girl obsession), this piece is nothing short of strikingly beautiful to see in person. I urge you to pop down to Paris on Ponce and see it first chance you get!
I’ve been following Greg’s work for a year or two now, and this is the most vibrant piece I’ve seen yet. It’s also in a prime location, adding a much needed pop of color to thousands of work commutes. Definitely keep an eye out for it next time you drive on the connector!
Maybe I just have a color fetish, but this piece spoke to me immediately. The smooth shapes and bright hues are Aaron Kai’s signature style, and it definitely stole my heart. You should head to Decatur and scope it out yourself - prepare to be captivated.
Big Teeff’s mural definitely wins the ‘most clever’ superlative. I love pieces with depth, and this solution adds so much to a business that has a 9 foot fence covering most of it’s back wall. Don’t ask what I climbed to get high enough to snap a photo of the full wall, just enjoy the fact that I did it for you so that you won’t lose sleep over wondering what’s behind the fence (photo in bottom gallery).
BIG BANG BLOCK PARTY
To top it off, at the end of the week there was a huge block party thrown at Terminal West featuring Emancipator. OSP is known for merging public art with live music, and ties in the action sports community by partnering with Zumiez and including a half-pipe at the celebration (shoutout Zumiez for hooking me up with a sick screen print!). Shots by Carl aka my mega talented friend Carlie captured some great photos from the show, check em out!
Oh, and did I mention there’s even more art at the block party? You can watch 10+ wall-sized canvases come alive as artists live paint (and simultaneously dance) throughout the night. I especially love this because watching the skill, the eye, and pure talent that goes into each stroke or spray is how you really build a deep appreciation for it all. See gallery below :)
I have to tip my snapback to ya, Greg Mike. This vision of yours is truly spectacular and I have much gratitude for the work you and your dedicated team did to bring so many creative minds together. Art is the ultimate gift, and the world needs more events that create perpetual inspiration like this. Check out the rest of my photos below, and go to OuterSpace Project’s website for the map of how to find each of them in person. It makes for the perfect Atlanta adventure, get out and explore!
Wondering what’s next? Here’s a list of upcoming can't-miss Atlanta events you'll find me at:
July 27: Animal Ace EP Release Showcase [Aisle 5]
July 29: Lights Out ATL: Tsurda X Proko [Aisle 5]
July 31: Beer & Comedy Night [SweetWater Brewery]
August 8-11: 808 Fest 2017 [Aisle 5, The Music Room, Speakeasy, Basement EAV]
August 19: A-Town Music Fest with Big Boi + Goodie Mob [Wolf Creek Amphitheater]
Until then, keep creating my friends. Much love!
My favorite month of the year wouldn’t be complete without a banging playlist to take with me on all of my adventures. This mix is filled with a variety of sounds, moods and genres - perfect for my fluid gemini personality. Consider it my birthday gift to you, because who doesn’t need some groovy tunes filled with summer vibes?
Typically I try to write a birthday blog post recounting ‘how it feels to be so-and-so age’ since that’s the quintessential question everyone gets asked when they turn a year older. However, I thought I’d do something different this year and tell you what it sounds like in stead. So, I made a mixtape with 25 tracks (which I could totally spin to represent each year of my life if I really wanted to) but it’s more fun to just have you listen and see how it fits into your life as it is! In case you’re curious, here’s where you can read about my thoughts on 23 and 24.
FRESH FRUIT - CARTER REEVES
When I first heard this track it put such a huge smile on my face - and it reminded me of the way I felt the first time I heard Aer. Carefree, summer cruising, light and happy tunes. Turns out Carter Reeves is half of Aer and this is his first single on his solo project - awesome! Loving the whole EP so far, and can’t wait for another bite.
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL PT. 2 - PINK FLOYD
Classic classic classic - I love this song so much and I jammed out so hard when Moon Taxi covered it at both Shaky Knees and Bunbury Music Festival. It’s so powerful and especially meaningful in the political climate today. Always stand up for what you believe in, think for yourself and don’t become another brick in the wall.
CAN’T STOP - RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
"Addicted to the shindig” may be the number one chili peppers lyric that describes me, and this song is their favorite to open with. They kicked off their Bonnaroo set with it, and the custom painted RHCP hat I made for myself proudly bears “Can’t Stop” under the bill. If that doesn’t prove I was meant to be at that set on my birthday eve, I don’t know what does!
BEAUTY OF THE UNHIDDEN HEART (BASSNECTAR REMIX) - THE GLITCH MOB
This remix is quickly becoming one of my all time favorites - it’s jam packed with synthy melody and lyrics that speak to my soul. To me, it means that when you open your heart to love and new experiences, you will always feel it all again in new moments throughout your life. That love will always be with you. And I can’t wait for the day I finally get to hear this heavy beauty banger live and direct!
MISS PRIMETIME - BIG GIGANTIC FT. PELL
This track has summer anthem written all over it. Big G and Pell make the perfect duo and I totally lost it when I heard it dropped at Bonnaroo! That saxophone just sends me sailing into a sea of happiness, paired with Pell’s groovy hip hop flow, it totally belongs on this playlist and will amp up just about any summer situation you can think of.
This mix has so many more tracks for you to discover, but those are the highlights! Let me know if you found something new that you enjoyed - music is my favorite thing to talk about. And it may give me some ideas for future mixtape posts. Until then... keep dancing!
What would life be without stress? I've come to realize that, while unmonitored stress is harmful, stress itself is a necessary tension - an inescapable layer of inner emotion. Humans are intricate beings, and we naturally crave balance and equilibrium. Our nervous systems each have over 100 billion neurons that fire all day every day. No matter what, there’s always something triggering your internal and external feedback loops. There’s always something (or someone) that could use your attention. But, when life starts to pile up, we push things to the back burner as they slowly eat away at our minds. Life is so complex and constant that the stress that comes with it can be detrimental if you’re not paying attention.
Underlying stress affects more people now than ever, and half the time we don’t even know the damage it’s doing. It actually changes our behavior and causes negative thoughts to run through our minds, causing negative words to come out of our mouths, causing a negative lifestyle over time. It’s interesting how we feel the need to hide our stress and internalize it, like it's a secret we don't want others to find out. We try to deal with it on our own but, more often than not, that internal energy festers and bounces around and can eventually cause hypertension, mounting anxiety and who knows what else. That negative energy needs somewhere to go, and often it manifests through words and actions that have nothing to do with the actual cause of the stress. I sometimes wonder why there are so many mean people in the world (and on the internet), but maybe I should be helping those people recognize that stress has turned them into someone they never wanted to be in the first place.
HELP IS NEVER FAR AWAY
If all of this is starting to stress you out, you've come to the right place. This post is all about channeling inner anxiety and stress, recognizing it as a good thing, and using it as motivation for outward progress. I often re-read this post from Bassnectar's blog about Indicators; “An Indicator – your mind is letting you know that something in life needs your attention.” Stress is very much an indicator, but sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint the cause. And it’s rarely singular; when multiple types of stress collide it becomes this sort of negative feedback loop and that could take some serious attention to detangle.
SUGGESTION #1: SELF-CHECK
SUGGESTION #2: FIDGET TOYS
Don’t roll your eyes at this one just yet - while fidget toys are becoming a fad with children in school, I’ve become an advocate for them since I have firsthand experience that they can serve a really great purpose. Even though they are criticized for being more of a distraction than anything, I think that’s exactly what we need sometimes. If you’ve got loads of extra nervous energy, or if your brain is moving faster than your reality, fidget toys can be a great outlet to channel or expel that energy while keeping you focused on the task at hand. I have a fidget cube, basically a six-sided cube with a different texture or tinker feature on each side. When I was working Bassnectar Atlantic City, my mind was racing because I wanted to be on my A-game. I had a zillion things I was internally juggling, and I kept my fidget cube clipped to my belt loop the whole weekend for easy access. It helped keep me grounded and focused, and allowed me to release my extra mental energy in a healthy way. I’ll never work an event without one again! If you can relate to that ‘extra’ energy feeling or have anxiety in certain situations, you should definitely look into getting one.
SUGGESTION #3: FIND A NEW OUTLET
I was inspired by my friend Kevin Leahy, another Ambassador, who was talking about how great it is to try new things. I wholeheartedly agree, and believe that forming new habits is especially helpful for balancing your mental health (so is reconnecting to things you used to love to do!). It’s good to keep our mind and body guessing - and trying something new is a fun motivator for breaking a cycle you might find yourself in. I remember when I first discovered rock stacking. It’s exactly what it sounds like; just find some rocks and try to balance them on top of one another. It’s a meditative practice in many cultures and it also connects you to the Earth, creates art, and teaches patience and intent. It’s kind of like a nature puzzle, and you can’t really be taught how to do it - you just have to feel it out for yourself. But doing something new and learning as you go is the whole point - it’ll kick start your critical thinking and maybe even evoke a deeper connection you didn’t know was there. I highly recommend rock stacking (and have no shame sharing that my room is full of rocks I started collecting because I’m a weirdo - I even named some of them and rearrange the stacks regularly). Other possible outlets you could try out: painting/drawing, writing/journaling/blogging, photography, swimming, volunteering, running, meditating, tennis, hiking, jiu jitsu, reading, cooking, hula hooping, yoga, slacklining, gardening, water aerobics, learning an instrument, jewelry making, crafting… the list goes on and on! Jump in already 😃
The bottom line; tune in with yourself. Recognize when you’re stressed, learn how to best channel it, and be better prepared for it next time. I really can’t stress this enough - you have the power to make your stress work for you rather than against you! Don’t let it take years off of your life, don’t even let it ruin your day, just begin recognizing it and redirecting it in a productive way. Life is too wonderful to spend it being worried or distracted by negativity. Give one of my suggestions a try sometime - your inner self will thank you!
Writer, stargazer, believer in human beings. Die-hard rock and roller with an insatiable urge to dance my way through life.