California Sounds: Three essential Ras G tracks you should know
On Monday, news broke that Ras G, a Leimert Park-based artist and producer central to the city’s instrumental beat scene, had died at age 39. His death generated an outpouring of love, respect and admiration from peers including area producers and musicians Flying Lotus, Tokimonsta, Shlohmo, Matthewdavid and Thundercat.
Though not the most famous producer to spring from the city’s fertile experimental beat community, the artist born Gregory Shorter created a deep bounty of tracks. Below, a few works of note:
Ras G, “Juju” (Poo-Bah)
His most popular track, “Juju,” features trademark G traits: dusty-groove snaps and pops, drawn from the sound of vintage vinyl; a meditative use of bells, which adds an airy lightness to his work; and a woozy, J Dilla-inspired beat. A producer drawn to repetition, Ras tracks often present a musical idea — a rhythm, a sampled midrange voice, lots of squiggly, pew-pew-pew toy space-gun sounds, generous use of air-horn — into which the producer dives like a peyote-fueled shaman exploring his psyche.
Ras G, “Alkebulan” (Brainfeeder)
Among the first artists to release music on Brainfeeder, the influential Flying Lotus-affiliated abstract beat label, Ras G knew music history as only a record store clerk could. A longtime buyer at the Pasadena shop Poobah Records, Ras drew from obscure cosmic jazz, soul, reggae and music of the African diaspora on his debut album for the fledgling label.
Called “Brotha From Anotha Planet,” it helped set the tone for a decade in which the L.A. beat scene went international through the success of Flying Lotus, Tokimonsta and others.
Dexter Story, “Veggie Wodem Combo” (Ras G Afrikan Space Program Remix)” (Soundway)
Ras G was a master remixer who reveled in tearing apart and then reconstructing song parts. He connected the seams of these rebuilt tracks with his own cosmic glue.
His remix of multi-instrumentalist Dexter Story’s 2015 work merges bits of keyboard, hand clap, tambourine, analog synth and Ras’ gentle scat-singing to create a mystical new track.
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