“Blissfully Inadequate RED” is a musical presentation by 24-year old producer/visual artist Graffititech. I call it a “musical presentation” because that is the best way to describe the 41-minute collective of original tracks and vocal/musical samples. I tried listening to “RED” at first by listening to a few minutes, stepping away to do something, then returning to it, picking up right where I left off without starting over. But I found “RED” lost something when I listened to it that way. To really appreciate it I needed to listen to it all at once from beginning to end. Once I did that I was fully able to appreciate the nuanced, purposefully multi-layered, and well-constructed music “RED” offers. Each section of music relates to the sections that come before it and after it. They support each other and are best appreciated as a unit. It was the difference between sitting down and enjoying a good meal and gobbling down a few tasty snacks. The meal was much better, and much more satisfying. Check it out below:
Graffititech is a preacher’s kid (dad was a pastor at an AME church), and an August baby who grew up in West Baltimore on what he calls”the good side of North Avenue” with a chuckle. He was always interested in music. “I banged on things at Grandma’s, pretending to have concerts,” he explains. “I started around eight or nine with stuff like early Fruity Loops.” He had two older brothers into music, and his mom exposed him to a good deal of music as well. “I heard a lot of Baltimore club music and Baltimore house music. I loved it.” But as much as he loved music, when it came to his own talents, Graffititech freely admits that at that time, “I sucked.”Since he was a visual artist as well, he still had an artistic outlet he could use to express himself as he put the music aside. But when he started attending Woodlawn High School he began finding his way back to music. Though initially he felt he “still sucked”, he started working on his craft, and in time he changed his “I suck” opinion to “wow, I’m not horrible at this.” Why did he get better? “I listened to a lot of music. I studied music. I remembered lyrics. I could hear a song once and remember almost all the lyrics. Listened to the background music in songs. I became a music junkie. And that helped me learn to lay out music.” As a senior, he began sharing his music. “People said I was good at it,” he says, still sounding a bit surprised. He went on to meet other producers and rappers, and started releasing mixtapes in 2010.
When listening to “RED”, you travel a lot of ground in terms of musical genres. Graffititech listens to all kinds of music – everything from unknown local artists to Afrobeat to classical music composers like Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi. You can hear the classical music influences in “RED” in its composition. It has an order and structure that helps frame all of music contained within it. Graffititech is also a Neptunes fan, and you can also hear that influence in the moody energy and the more frenetic and pleasantly discordant parts of “RED”. The spoken samples are also unusual choices – while many producers insert parts of Martin Luther King speeches into their mixes, Graffititech’s selection of a less well known passage from King’s famous “Been To The Mountaintop” speech is quietly brilliant and more effective. Additionally, as music tends to be very short these days, his 41-minute “RED” is unusual in that respect as well. But as he explains, “I like long compositions. I’ll make a song as long as I want. I study music scores, structure, transitions…I don’t make it long just for the sake of being long. If it has to be 7 minutes, that’s how long it will be. I like long format music.” What doesn’t Graffititech like as a producer? He says he “hates producer showcases…the kind where if a rapper can’t rap to your beat because it’s too complex they say oh that beat sucks because they can’t rap to it.” He also doesn’t like the “oversaturation of music production. Oversaturation alters expectations.”
While much of his focus has been on music recently, Graffititech still considers himself a visual artist as well as a producer. Though his Associate’s degree from CCBC Catonsville is in General Studies, he still maintains a great deal of emphasis on further educating himself in visual art and graphic design. “I earned college credit in visual art while I was in high school. I was always into things like sketching, industrial design and product design…its funny, though I hate the assembly line approach to music, I love it in manufacturing.” He considers himself well balanced between the visual art and his music. “Art isn’t exclusive. Art is human. Some of us naturally excel at it. We all have the ability to create something.”
Though he does recognize his talent, Graffititech is still hard on himself. “I am my harshest critic. I always think of myself as student before anything else.” As he continues to make a name for himself on the local scene with his eclectic and unusual musicality, he finds more people becoming aware of him. “I’m working on something with Greenspan,” he shares. In the future he’d love to work with Blaqstarr, TT The Artist, Jay Electronica, and Tinashe. He’d also like to “score a movie with an orchestra. Something where you feel the music. Strings…keys…all that good stuff…” Until that happens, he continues to put out work like “RED”, which even he admits is “great. It’s really great. And doing work that like pushes me to do better.”