Catching Up w/ True Laurels' Favorite Artists From 2014

2014 saw four new issues of True Laurels and while we wish we could have caught back up with every single artist featured, here's what seven artists from the zine took from this year and how they're going into 2015. Check it!


Butch Dawson (True Laurels Vol. 2)

What was your favorite musical moment from 2014?

My favorite musical moment of 2014 was experiencing my first tour and first time in LA.

Best artist you got put onto?

I got put on to Thundercat this year and I listen to him all the time so he has to be my best artist.

What’s the most valuable lesson you learned this year to carry over to 2015?

I've learned that things are possible for a Baltimore guy like me and for all musicians from Baltimore, and that i shouldn't doubt myself or have a conscience when it comes to taking the next step. I wanna be able to take my confidence into the next year and show myself that I'm capable of doing what I need to do.

Abdu Ali (True Laurels Vol. 1)

You've been very candid online with your take on the structure of our society this year. What's a more fitting explanation: The world's bullshit making you more conscious or is your increased level of consciousness hipping you to the bullshit?

It's a combination of both: me being more conscious/educated on the shade of society and the current events of shade that have taken place as well. Both sort of provoke each other to come about. Also with age comes wisdom. As you get older, if fortunate, you become less blind and your perception of the world you live in starts to become more raw and real.

Something you did that even surprised you this year?

At the last Kahlon, during my performance I got too overwhelmed by the energy and became very emotional and idk. It was an out-of-body experience I had on stage for the first time, it was a lot to deal with. I loved it though. It was like I saw and felt that burning bush, as if "god" came down to me touched me and spoke to me.

3 Essential Do's & Don'ts for DIY touring.

Do: Be vegan. Drink a gallon of water everyday. Sleep as much as possible (fuck going out to sight see and all that). Don't: Eat bad. Smoke or Drink. Don't hold any emotions or feelings in.

Your most valuable takeaway from 2014? 

To do the most you can, be uninhabited, and try to stay calm and positive. All three are vital. And try to be healthy as fuck. Drink a gallon of water a day. Try to eat meat once a week or twice. Or never. And vitamins are bullshit. They basically don't work. Most herbal supplements are bullshit because they are cheaply manufactured and can fuck your body up. If anything use raw herbs or powders. Get mad iodine (salt with iodine or from sea plants), b12 (veggies or a high quality b12 product that contains no cyanide), vitamin d (from sunlight or uv light) in your body. FOOD IS THE BEST MEDICINE.

UNIIQU3 (True Laurels Vol. 5)

Overall, club music seemed to have reemerged as a leading genre of interest on the web this year. As an artist in that field, how'd it make you feel?

To see something that we just grew up on grow to be enjoyed and accepted internationally was beyond amazing. It also gave me hope and reassurance that I'm doing something right, as far as my music career goes. Overall it's just a blessing. 

You were on the road a lot this year. What was your best and worst touring experience?

This year was my first year being on the road. My best experience would have to be traveling to Australia. It's half ways around the world and it was my first tour! The whole thing was an amazing experience. My worst experience would have to be when I was getting picked up from the airport one time, my driver had the wrong name on the board so I walked around the ground transportation for an hour, but eventually I found him. 

5 mixes you really rocked with from 2014?

That's kinda hard, I'm such a music junkie but here you go!

1.  Pause FadetoMind :: Kingdom b2b Rizzla b2b Prince Will - Fade to Mind on Rinse FM - 10.9.2014

2.  Pelicanfly :: Dj Slow - As The World Turns Slow Chapter 1 




What's a non-music-related goal you have for 2015?

I really want to be the best version of Cherise I can be, and I'm well on my way there. 

B L A C K I E (True Laurels Vol. 2)

You've been a fighter through your music since Day 1. Has this year's heightened exposure to police killing black men added more fuel to your fire?

Not really. Not at all. I'm focusing on making sure my family is living good and all that outside of music. That's the first & only real battle. I got a black child. Fuck the police state. Fuck these tyrants.

Something you HAVE to get better at in 2015.

I want to get better at maintaining my own personal solitude. Kick all the fakes, flakes and mistakes to the dumpster.

Something new you learned about yourself this year?

This year I learned I can move on in my life and not let anyone (even myself) restrain me.

Three albums that got the most spins from you in 2014?

Ola Playa - Slime Season

Blunt Fang - 777 #1 Hits

Deftones - White Pony


Chrissy Vasquez (True Laurels Vol. 4)

What was your biggest challenge of 2014?

My biggest challenge in 2014 was going to summer school and going on the Freakshow Tour. I had to wake up early in the a.m for a straight month and ride my Huffy bike to school while going out of town on weekends, coming back to school exhausted and not ready to pass some days. In general, it's hard trying to level out school and performing. It's like, "Okay do I take this chance and be half sleep in the morning while the school bus is 20 minutes away?" and I always did it. To be able to express is a blessing. 

What artists did you listen to the most this year?

Artists I listen to the most: Nas. 2Pac, Crystal Castles, Andre 3000, A Tribe Called Quest, Michael Jackson, Erykah Badu. Can't forget the good bike rides listening to Earl Sweatshirt. I listen to tons of artist and tons of genres. So it's not as if I listen to the same people everyday.

You're always carrying around a gallon of water. What health tips can you lend us going into next year?

Yes. I try my best to drink a gallon of water a day. Your body and my body needs water. I've transitioned from a vegetarian to a vegan, it being a full year now. I'm not saying in order to be healthy you have to drop the meat and lift the veggies...however, that would be a good option. I recommend everyone to eat many servings of vegetables and fruit a day. It's many fun things you can do with your food to make a healthy lifestyle not so bland. I enjoy making a good vegan meal with a spot of green tea. Sip it, it's good for you and very relaxing. Everyone should have up to 2 spots of tea a day. For my protein I like to eat beans and eat tree nuts...and digging my finger in the peanut butter jar. Be optimistic when it comes to having a colorful diet. Broccoli is your friend. Pineapples love you. Always remember that you can either look at your body as a trash can or a temple, and that what you eat on a daily basis can either better you or harm you in the long run.

Was there anything you read that changed your perspective?

I'm in the process of reading "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. To sum it up, it talks a lot about the mental and how you can think positively and act on your goals, pushing them to your full potential. Most of the people who are successful now is because it took hard work and a smooth thought process. You can do anything you desire as long as you strive for it. In the book he talks about successful people and situations where a blockage may come into your life and you just have to bite your way through it. I'm not going to summarize the entire book, but here's something I underlined: "Tolerance and an open mind are practical necessities for the dreamer of today. Those who are afraid of new ideas are doomed before they start."

Hi$to (True Laurels Vol. 3)

With some of your peers being featured in both Boiler Room's Baltimore and Jersey club episodes, how were you affected? Were you motivated?

I was definitely moved and more confident in being next. I've payed attention to these people for years prior to moving to Baltimore and I get respect from most of them featured in both episodes. I have a few joints with TT The Artist, a remix I'm working on for James Nasty, and I'm working on a beat I want UNIIQU3 to hop on for my next tape. I met Sliink again around this time last year and talked to him about working before but he was touring heavy over seas after that. One day.

What there a moment this year that made you really miss Houston?

Not really but I say that because I spent three months in Houston over the summer. But if there was a moment, it was definitely SXSW. I missed out on it this year and I usually kick it in H-town before I go to Austin. 

Did you develop any new musical routines during the year?

I've been practicing  new scratch techniques on the turntables. I learned a personal technique where I can knock out remixes within a day. And I'm currently working on fusing visuals I create with my sounds right now for my short film dropping next year. 

Four tracks that never left your rotation in 2014? 

That's kinda hard but my favorites I mostly play are:

Lakim- "Rent4"

iLoveMakonnen - "Don't Sell Molly"

DJ Rashad - "Do It Again"

HI$TO & Gianni Lee - "Shake"

Asaad (True Laurels Vol. 2)

What's your proudest moment of 2014?

The entire 2014. The fact that I stopped lying.

You were on the road with Ab-Soul for the These Days Tour. Your three favorite stops and why?

Chicago because I like the thrill. Toronto because I'm Drake there lol. Madison, Wisconsin was a great vibe. 

I saw online you were talking about getting your health right this year. What was your method?

I rid the lying, rid the stress, told the truth and got some rest. 

Your 5 favorite tracks from the year? 

Lil Mouse- Don't Get Smoked

Asaad- Blue Note Entendre 

Pharrell- Gust Of Wind

Rick Ross Feat. Yo Gotti- Trap Luv

Chief Keef- Faneto 

Matic808: Laurels Mix

As an exclusive for True Laurels Volume 5, Baltimore Club producer/DJ, Matic 808—who's featured in the issue—put together a sick club mix of select artists who've been featured in True Laurels so far. Songs from DonChristian, Abdu Ali, Chiffon, Butch Dawson and B L A C K I E are featured, with their vocals chopped, sped up and distorted. Artwork for the mix is provided by Denver-based artist, Antonina Clarke. Listen below! 


October Faves: B L A C K I E, Cities Aviv, Danny Brown + More


It took me a while to let this dude fully in—probably because I was fanning out too hard on Death Grips for a while. But nonetheless, Houston's B L A C K I E has a contagious agro-approach to his brand of noise rap. When the tape's intro —"Girl In The Front"—hits, the intensity of his industrial production, the "listen up" assertion of speech and the "no bullshit" kind of empowerment doesn't dip throughout the entire project. He's especially on fire on two tracks, " B L A C K I a wasteland" and "Revolutionary Party Vol.2 (Sex, Drugs & Illegal Activity)". The latter is a constant chant of "No time for fear" woven through by more-conventional spitting than B L A C K I E usually delivers over harsh synths. "B L A C K I a wasteland" is the tape's hardest-hitting track; it's a big confessional "Fuck the world" coming at everything fraudulent. As the beat halts for an a cappella, he says, "I get pissed and piss on critics that get rich pitching bullshit with false lyrics/ Leave a lipstick on the tip of dicks of fraudulent major label dipshits with no spirits". It ends with a "LOVE MYSELF, I WANNA HATE THE WORLD." chant. Yeah, it's giving crazy energy. Really, ONLY 4 THE REAL is a firm, "This is how punk-rap is done". Go listen.

2. Cities Aviv- URL IRL

In the last quarter of 2012, Cities Aviv released one of the better projects of the year, on the low, with Black Pleasure. I still have yet to put that record on the back-burner but at the end of September (of this year) he dropped the first single from his Come To Life LP, "URL IRL"—a track that he produced which takes familiar sampling of soul/disco but instead of flipping that into rappity rap, he loops the sample, speeds shit up and makes rap that is actually danceable. To put it plainly, the song is fucking nuts. In what he describes as being a meeting between the digital world and physical being, "URL IRL" is a persuasion to wake up and realize what's really going on.

3. Kelela- CUT 4 ME

I'm just really happy that R&B is back. And no I don't mean back like "the good ole days". There are enough good artists in the genre now putting out quality material to have substantial discourse on the topic, which wasn't the case less than five years ago. We're really on a different wave in the 2010's—even if the better chunk of R&B artists are channeling 90's sexy, chill swag of Aaliyah, Total and R. Kelly. Truth is, they can't duplicate that era, even if that's what may be the motivation for some. Kelela did a great job with her debut album, CUT 4 ME, at exposing her influences all while fitting into a gap that wasn't occupied. Mostly all of her labelmates on Fade To Mind are DJ's and producers that specialize in meshing sounds from all genres and there's no difference in CUT 4 ME, except that Kelela is soulfully crooning over those sounds. "Enemy" sounds like it belongs in a video game or should be played at a rave, sans vocals, but somehow she made a way for it all to fit with fluidity. Here's to more weird R&B! This shit is so good.

4. Danny Brown- Old

What made XXX so good was the insinuation of carelessness throughout the album. At one second, DB was facing blunts and right after that he was giving a guide to how fucked up Detroit is and not far after, he was telling you he wouldn't conform to making radio songs. He did all of this while snorting Adderall. The seesaw effect was incredible; you didn't know what was gonna happen next, which made perfect sense for how his music sounded and how he looked. Old was an uncomfortable shift in pace. This time around (to both show people he could still rap the way he did before Fools Gold and to say "Fuck you, I did it" to those same people) he split his character in two. Neither side is bad; Danny Brown can rap his ass off and his delivery is entertaining enough to keep you engaged, but that becomes more difficult when he's forcing you to absorb only half of what makes him great at a time. The introspective, thoughtful Side A is a good insight into the root of his drug problems but it gets boring when you have to hear ten straight tracks of only that. Same with the wilder, "new" DB on Side B. We all like to drop Mollie and get high but bashing your head on a wall for nine tracks in a row after telling us how doing this shit is ruining your life and killing you, makes me uncomfortble as a listener and quite bored. Maybe that's the point? Maybe Danny is saying fuck everybody. But where will he go from here? My faves are "Torture", "Dubstep", "Clean Up" and "Smokin' and Drinkin'".


I'm not fully proud of liking this song (LOL). Maybe because this dude's name is really PARTYNEXTDOOR and that he's basically Drake's attempt to have his own version of The Weekend signed to OVO, even if that version is a super poor-man's version. Going back to 90's-inspired R&B, this guy is all about reaching for that aesthetic, while still being heavily reliant on autotuning his voice (very now). He's your average Canadian singer that raps/rapper that sings (my assessment of "average" is solely based on The Weekend and Drake) about strippers, dudes who aren't cool as him and all that other passive-agressive jerk talk. But it sounds so good! I don't get it. My iTunes says I've played this song 128 times already and it just came out last week...WTF! Am I bugging?