Our recent documentation of The Geek x Vrv's live show in Berlin remarked on the fast-earned success of two Parisian producers in a modern wave of sample-based electronic music production. Joined by 20syl & Mr. J Medeiros under their newly-founded hiphop group AllttA made for a night of electronic hiphop with abundant French influence.
The energy of the room filled with intensity and understandbly so as well-positioned French turntablist, lyricist, and producer 20syl would share the stage with the electro-soul heavy-hitters from Paris. As our second part of documenting a night of electronic hiphop with The Geek x Vrv & AllttA (20syl + Mr. J Medeiros), we received some words from French-native 20syl (pronounced: vain-syl) and Californian Mr. J Medeiros complete with photos of the show.
To get an understanding of this new project, we wanted to know the meaning behing the AllttA name. 20syl explains the abstract idea behind the acronym of AllttA:
AllttA can also be interpreted as Alta meaning “High” or “Upper”- we use two capitol “A’s” to point upwards. The hand symbol for AllttA points up. There is an arrow in the negative space between the fingers. By name it means “High” as in position. By acronym it means “A Little Lower Than The Angels” High + Low = duel nature.
This is the theme of our album, “The Upper Hand”, a title which directs back to the AllttA symbol we make with our hands.“The Upper Hand” could also refer to the hand above all. I also take It as a graphical element and the symmetry of the letters have been really important while creating all the visual elements for the album and the live show.
20syl is just one half of the group and has a musical career already stacked with projects and activity. From founding hiphop & jazz band Hocus Pocus in 1997 to the co-founding the inspirational electronic hiphop turntablist group C2C to creating On and On records to his own solo career as 20syl, we asked him how he's made all of this happen in a young career to which he explained:
It just feels necessary for me to be searching for a renew after each project I’m working on. I’m trying not to repeat myself, improve new techniques and explore different mediums. I think I just need It physically and mentally.
AllttA is now the next chapter in this career path with long-time collaborator Mr. J Medeiros originally of The Procussions. Despite being from opposite sides of the planet, Medeiros and The Procussions found themselves making music with a bunch of Frenchman on Hocus Pocus's 2005 release 72 Touches. Such an occurrence seems now serendipidous, as it enabled 20syl and Mr. J Medeiros to build what they have today. 20syl remarked that the momentum between them never stopped:
We never stop working with each other. J dropped some verses on my projects and I produced / remixed some of his solo tracks. So It felt natural to work on a full project together. J came up with this name and the whole concept was born (lyrically, musically and visually)
Now, together they're creating new visions from their individual and collective pasts giving them a chance to re-approach their careers. Mr. J Medeiros is the other contributor of AllttA, a California-native, also a co-creator of a hiphop group: The Procussions -- a result of two rap battle b-boy groups combining forces. On the night of AllttA live in Berlin's Gretchen Club, Medeiros's act of intricate lyrical bars interwoven with potent messages with convincing crowd interaction demonstrated his long-time experience, so we asked him how he got started in the first place:
knew I loved Hip Hop when I first heard RUN DMC as a young child. It wasn’t till I heard Nas that I knew I wanted to be a song writer who raps. I wanted to write stories with a technic that was complicated but felt natural. Battling was a way to perform, learn rhyme schemes on the fly, and build courage.
Rap battling at the core of his career, however spiraled out creating a path for him as the traveling American rapper and the only American on the stage all evening. Such specific life events produced the chance to be on stage in Europe with 20syl for this show. We were curious to know a little bit more about the differences between performing stateside vand in Europe:
The distance between shows in the U.S. is quite different. You’re guaranteed at least an eight hour drive per show. The biggest difference however is that in Europe (especially France) you have a better chance of sharing a meal with everyone who works to make a show possible and you recognize you’re all a team for the night.
We knew that two complex musical careers stood before us on stage and know that the AllttA project perhaps lent even its own members some perspective on their past, present, and the future. We asked Medeiros what differences he noticed between the days of The Proccussions x Hocus Pocus and now:
I came from a “purist” era in Hip Hop which seemed to have a bunch of unspoken rules and like everyone in that era I was a little stubborn to change, it wasn’t till I let go of the rules they made before me that I was able to make my own, or have none at all. From “Hip Hop” to “AllttA” I hope you can see we’ve grown not just with the “times” but into our own selves as well. Hopefully we will keep growing./p>
Regardless of the past, it was just these two and an audience living the present moment on an early spring evening in Berlin's renowned Gretchen Club. The Gretchen is celebrated for its booking practices in innovative electronic musicians and a fitting host for AllttA's Berlin debut . They took to the stage giving a precisely-coordinated display of heavy lyrical flows in both French and English along with live beatmaking in sync with AllttA custom visuals. These elements combined brought witnesses on a ride through the old and the new tracks like the known collaboration "Hip Hop ?". This particular track featured The Procussions and Hocus Pocus together for the first time hitting charts internationally off of Hocus Pocus's 2005 release 75 Touches.
...This song feels a bit naive to me but at the same time I still like the production and love to perform it. « Dans dix ans on risque de se marrer quand on se reverra avec du recul » (In 10 years we’ll laugh looking back at our old style) that’s exactly what happens now !
Other tracks like their title track "AllttA", "The Woods", and "Drugs" showed us what they're placing down for listeners to pick up. AllttA brings a message of authenticity in the recorded tracks and a down-to-earth live performance. Being a culmination of two thoroughbred hiphop careers re-envisioning themselves, listeners cannot expect to stay at the surface, but rather to take a ride deeper. This idea confirmed by their live presence, which grasped eager listeners by exploring an array of themes from art, love, and deception to knowledge, drugs, dreams and hiphop. We can listen to an album over and over, but our feelings about music tend to come full circle when we hear it live for the first time.
I hope people who listen to this record will feel inspired to explore musical and philosophical avenues they weren’t aware of or at the very least feel like they didn’t waste their time - ha!
- Mr. J Medeiros
Get a copy of The Upper Hand via the iTunes download link at the top.
All photo credit goes to the great MarcDouc. Check his work out HERE.