“It sends chills down my spine to hear the final product.”
HipGnosis — also known as Des Moines-based experimental electronic producer Eric Young — is referring to “Build 2020 Manifesto,” to which he contributed several beats. The album, by Denver-based artist Molina, is a hip-hop manifesto about technology, society, politics, economics, the environment and the future.
Available exclusively from Reverb, it’s an ambitious work that demands a fair amount of work from its listeners. However, it’s also a musically intriguing record, with contributions from Young, Albuquerque-based producer Diles, Will Ross of Laramie-based CHiTT Productions and New York’s DJ Icewater.
“He approached me some time back about providing some beats for a project he was working on. He didn’t really say much about it, but he was looking for a mixtape style,” says Young of his introduction to “Build 2020 Manifesto.”
Hip-hop producer Diles — a.k.a. Colin Hazelbaker — was also kept in the dark as he contributed beats for the project.
“He kinda kept ‘Build 2020’ under wraps,” he recalls. “I didn’t even know what it was, but I said you can do whatever you want with these beats. He just kept telling me it was something really big. I just trusted him.”
Will Ross recorded all of Molina’s vocals for the album, so he had a better idea what the project was all about from the beginning. That didn’t stop him from being skeptical, however.
“My initial impression of his idea was, I will believe it when I see it,” he laughs.
HipGnosis comes from the world of experimental electronic music. His interest in psychoacoustics (the effects that certain sounds have on the brain) and technology, coupled with his passion for social justice and grassroots movements, made him an ideal collaborator. His contributions to “Build 2020 Manifesto” create an ominous, glitchy and futuristic mood that are an apt complement to Molina’s words.
Diles began working as a producer for performance poets and spoken word artists, and then branched out into hip-hop production. He confesses that he’s still wrestling with the subject matter of “Build 2020 Manifesto,” but his beats give the album the hip-hop heart it needs to reach the audience Molina hopes will hear it.
Ross has worked on several projects with Molina, ever since recording a spoken word set that the poet performed in 2006 while opening for Saul Williams. His vocal production captures Molina’s crisp delivery without missing a syllable or sibilant.
The job of weaving together these disparate audio sources into a coherent musical statement fell to DJ Icewater, also known as Brooklyn-based mixtape master Rodney Sino-Cruz, who met Molina years ago through hip-hop journalist Jeff Chang.
“I thought you needed the musical diversity because the voice is constant,” Icewater says of the contributions from HipGnosis and Diles. “One style would’ve made it too monotonous. I suggested we get different voices, but we didn’t have time for that. Having the two producers with contrasting styles really helped.”
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