In The Moment With Derrick Hodge

Blue Note Jazz Club - New York

Bassist, musician, producer, composer Derrick Hodge is a man full of soul, compassion and creativity. You may not know him by name but if you are a fan of music you have more than likely vibed out to some of his music and not even realized it. Derrick has released two albums of his own, partnered on albums with Robert Glasper and his bass-lines have set the tone for artists such as Jill Scott, Maxwell, Lupe Fiasco, Common and well - “you get the point.“ But Derrick is much more than a bass player; he is also a writer, producer and composer fully aware of who he is.

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Aaron Paschal: Lately people seem to be becoming more familiar with you and your work as a multi-faceted musician; what’s that been like for you?

Derrick Hodge: I’m one of those people who lives in the moment of creating and when I’m doing that I’m going 100%. I do that with all aspects of my life. I try to have that balance whether I’m composing or performing, or if I’m collaborating with other artists. The other side of that is that you become so focused that you kind of put the blinders on and don’t realize what’s going on around you. Recently, I’ve been having more conversations with my manager and focusing on making sure that my story is told. I’m always in the moment of just creating and making music and not really worried about getting attention and all of that stuff but as I’m sitting here, I’m realizing that so many people identify with my journey and with the music that I’ve created. Whether it’s my own music or music that I’ve created with other artists or projects that I’ve been on so I’m like “if that’s helping tell other people pursue their journeys just go with it, just let it be.”

The people have kind of enlightened me lately by saying, “oh wow, I read this interview” or “I saw this article” so there seems to be some interest with people wanting to know more about me and my music. It’s really just opened my eyes and so I’m riding this wave and going with it. With me it was never about the attention or like “it’s about time people recognized” that’s not the way that I’m conditioned to think. I just know the moment of now and the way that people have been showing love here recently is just a sign for me to just make sure that my story is told.

AP: So many great musicians have come out of Philadelphia. What type of influence has Philly had on you and your music?

DH: Being from Philadelphia I definitely feel like I’m a product of that hotbed of talent. When I was young my mother was in the choir at church and I always sat right up by the front pew. While I was up there I would always sit back and focus in on the bass player. The choir at the church was amazing! A lot of talented artists “including Patti Labelle” sang in the choir but I wanted to be just like that bass player. He just seemed so cool to me and it was just something about the sound of the bass that hit me. I just remember the spirit and feeling of that sound; it stayed with me and I knew “I wanted to be just like him.” That feeling and energy stuck with me for a whole year and then when I got big enough to handle a bass it was on.

That same energy traveled with me when we moved to Williamsburg, New Jersey. I feel really fortunate because Williamsburg was a hotbed of talent as well. My best friend Thaddaeus Tribebett “a bass player,” Adam Blackstone “another amazing bassist,” Wayne Moore and so many other great artists were right there in Jersey. 

I was fortunate to get on some of my earliest records when I was 14/15 years old thanks to James Poyser who at the time was super respected but still growing into the James Poyser that everyone knows now, so I look in hindsight like “wow, I was fortunate to be schooled by one of the best in the game at a very young age.” I’m blessed that people like James and Jeffrey Townes (Jazzy Jeff) gave me those type of opportunities when I was coming up. I feel really fortunate because I was doing records and going to college to study jazz and classical music all while being in Philly where you’re kind of forced to be influenced by a bunch of different things because everybody is living on top of each other. In Philly you can’t be like “I’m just into this or that type of music” and I really feel like that’s an advantage. Even to this day I try not to pigeon hole myself into just one style of music, I try to be honest to what I’m feeling in the moment. 

Even though there was so much talent around me in Philly and Jersey my mother had the biggest influence on me.
— Derrick Hodge
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AP: What has being a part of a legendary label like Blue Note been like so far?

DH: Being a part of the Blue Note family is something that was really unexpected. Aside from a few of my friends like Robert Glasper and Terrance Blanchard jazz music wasn’t necessarily something that I identified with in terms of the sound and ascetics of it. I didn’t grow up listening to jazz. The cool thing about Blue Note, “especially for me and my reality of it” is when Don Wells came on he just had a certain spirit about him that I related to. Within literally two minutes of our conversation he told me that I needed to be a part of the Blue Note family and because I liked his energy so much I was like “if I want to create music and put something out under a label I want it to be connected to somebody that’s that open and that rocks with who I am” and its been a beautiful relationship every since. Lately Blue Note has been getting a lot of love and acknowledgment and one of the common denominators in all of it is the spirit of acceptance. All of the artists on Blue Note are pretty much unapologetically themselves and that’s dope and refreshing to see and be a part of. Once I got on the Blue Note label I started going back through their history and realized that this spirit isn’t anything new for them. They’ve always supported artists by letting them express themselves creatively so I’m definitely happy and honored to be championing that forward.

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AP: Do you ever just grab a bass and vibe out for yourself?

DH: Man I often grab a bass and just vibe out for myself. I feel like muscle memory has no respect of person and because I compose and write that’s a lot of focus time working on other things. Fortunately we are in a position where people are paying to hear us tell our story so I try to honor that by just taking time out and shedding “playing the bass” when I’m home even if I’m not even hooked up. I’ll make time to go over mechanics and keeping up with my reading so I can be on point when it’s time. I jump between acoustic a lot so it’s kind of easy for all that stuff to get exposed if I stay away from it for too long. It’s tough but I try to balance it.

AP: When it’s time to pick up a bass and play how do you determine which one you want to vibe with?

DH: Man, often times I don’t even think about which bass I’m going to play. I know a lot of people see me playing a certain type of bass and assume that that’s the only one I play but I’m so open minded and have always enjoyed different sounds and just reacting in the moment. Sometimes just for the fun of it I’ll go grab a bass that I haven’t played in forever and play it. There’s been times when I’ve been recording a record and just grabbed a studio bass that’s sitting in the corner with dirty strings and all and if I like the sound of it that will set the vibe. I just love being in the moment and getting out of my own way. I’m never like “oh, they’re going to love this!” I don’t want that, I’d rather they just feel that I was living in the moment and going with the vibe and whatever album comes out I feel like I could never redo it or recreate it because it was specifically created in that moment. Every decision, from the mic placement to trusting the first take of everything, that’s all in trusting the process so I’m really like water in that way.

I try to get out of my own way and allow my art to reflect what I’m feeling in the moment and what makes sense with the times. That helps me eliminate the critique of surface things. You look at artists like Ryan Porter, Kamasi Washington and a lot of other musicians and there’s a mutual respect with the honesty and passion of us just relating and wanting to document what’s truly “us” and what we feel.

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AP: You mentioned composing, how did you get into that?

DH: Composing has been a dream come true. It literally was “All a Dream!” Even though there was so much talent around me in Philly and Jersey my mother had the biggest influence on me. She always told me to just go after the things that I wanted in life. Going through school I was in the orchestra and enjoyed that sound. I couldn’t read music that well but I loved it and was also fascinated by the music in movies. When I got to college I decided to make my weaknesses a strength so I went hardcore in trying to get that together. I studied hard so that I could start writing and there was really no particular class that did it for me; it was more so things like just chilling in the library or grabbing a steak and just writing, hoping it would be good. A lot of the stuff that I wrote I had never heard. Even to this day there’s some that I still haven’t heard. I was just writing to put in the work and develop those skills.

Fortunately after word of mouth got out about my writing I got connected to a few people like Terrance Blanchard that said “hey man, I believe in you” and they gave me a shot. Composing and writing for films just kind of opened up from there. I always put in work and pursue things with a leap of faith from my end before the attention comes and it all just kind of works out for me in an interesting way.

AP: What was it like working with Nas and the National Orchestra at the Kennedy Center?

DH: Working with Nas was so special to me because when I was in college I was listening to (Illmatic) and (StillMatic) “which actually doesn’t get as much praise as it should” pretty much daily. I remember the feeling that I got listening to those albums. Nas was/is such a dope poet to me and I just looked forward to the day to vibe with him. And with this shout out to Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) when the doors to Carnegie Hall opened up to him he decided to add some strings at the last minute and so I got some string players together and my friend Rob (Robert Glasper) was like “yo, Derrick writes” and so just on that whim I wrote for the string section right there in the moment at Carnegie Hall. Fast forward from there to when the Kennedy Center opportunity came along - they referenced and remembered what I did with Yasiin at Carnegie Hall and so the pathway to that opportunity is all due to my peer group. When that opportunity came along I was like “out of respect for Nas and Yasiin let me take this serious”. The cool thing was they were like “man do whatever you wanna do”. Nas didn’t even know how I had arranged things until a few weeks before. I sent it to him and we just went out there and rocked and that’s what I love!

A lot of opportunities have come my way since then but I just remember the beginning of it. Nas hadn’t done anything like this before either and for him to have the trust in me and be like “I want someone that looks like us to help me tell our stories in our own narrative” I hold that in high regards and that’s why I try to make sure even to this day that anything that I’m doing is accessible to other people that want to do the things that I’m doing so they can have the same opportunities. 

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AP: Can you tell us a little about your “brotherhood” with Robert Glasper, Chris “Daddy” Dave and some of the other guys that you rock with and how you guys come together on projects?

DH: We create music together and apart but because we all know that underlying thing is trust. We all know that we all have each other’s best interest at heart. The feeling always comes across the same and that’s the cool thing. It kind of feeds off of who we are so anytime we get together and document things together it comes out super dope and the music comes out by us just being in the moment. When you listen to albums like (Black Radio) or even the mixtape that just came out (F**k Yo Feelings) that’s us just reacting to each other in the moment. People are hearing our first and only time playing it. People are actually hearing us react to each other in the moment and the cool thing is that people can hear that natural camaraderie in the music and that adaptation to each other’s story without it feeling forced and I feel like that’s what people need now. Something honest and unapologetic; not something that’s pristine and polished with multiple take versions of who you “think” they want you to be and when you’re doing something together with like minded people that are just as bold as you are that makes it easy. This is the way that we’ve always been. We’ve never been any other way other than documenting things “in the moment.” I can’t even remember any time when we weren’t just vibing and cracking jokes or arguing about James Harden versus Steph Curry or whatever and then just going in and vibing out followed by going out to eat some Thai food or something. That’s been us from the beginning and I’d be shocked if that ever changed because that’s just the trust and respect that we have in each other as artists and brothers so we just try to get out of each other’s way.

AP: What’s the last album you banged all the way through?

DH: That’s an easy one, Lupe Fiasco’s (Drogas Wave). I played acoustic bass on a song on that album called (Manilla) and the album just rolled up on it’s one year anniversary and I know how much that album meant to Lupe so I wanted to go back and revisit it and experience that album all over again so I’ve been listening to Drogas Wave pretty much nonstop lately.

AP: When you listen to music are you able to sit back and enjoy it for what it is or does the musician in you kick in? 

DH: I’m a weirdo! (laughs) When I listen to music I listen to it and enjoy it for what it is whether I’m a part of it or not. I do have to be conscious of which lens I want to experience it in because the producer in me will be like “okay, maybe if I could go back I would have done this or that” and if it was produced by someone else I might be like “if they would have mixed it this way or done certain things differently” so I have to force myself to stop thinking like that but at the same time there’s a certain naiveness that I feel fortunate to still have that to this day - I don’t really listen to music with a critical ear and I hope that never changes. I want to listen to and experience music for what it is because at the end of the day people put hours of their lives into their craft and eventually get into rooms with other people that have been doing the same thing and I don’t want to judge them. Everybody has a story to tell and we all tell them differently.

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AP: If you had to choose one song to introduce people to your work which song would it be?

DH: Ahh man! Can I pick three? (laughs) It’s weird because I feel like kind of what defines me is the abstract of it and the contrasts that take place in the moments. I would have people listen to (Doxology) which is me playing acoustic bass high registered and features my bro Travis Sayles on organ. It kind of represents me paying homage to a certain spirit and sound that I was familiar with growing up that I wanted to make sure that I documented so definitely (Doxology).

In terms of what people speak on of my personality I think (Message of Hope) off of my (Live Today) album is a song that represents me in that form so I’d tell people to check that out. And then there’s that abstract - other side of my personality that shows that I’m willing to jump into other things. In that respect I’d say checkout (Underground Rhapsody). If people check these songs out they will pretty much get a hybrid of what goes on in my mind.

AP: What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the works?

DH: I can’t speak too much on it right now but I’m excited! I’ve been working on some new ideas for the Blue Note label and it’s really cool because it’s kind of a hybrid of my different experiences. So it’s fun putting all of these different elements together. Kind of how we just talked about documenting and feeding off of each other; this next project is in that spirit and I’m writing for it now and I’m excited. I should be getting in the studio in a couple of months and tracking that out and I’m super hyped so look out for that on the Blue Note label!

A Conversation With Ryan Porter

(Interview & Photography by: Aaron Paschal)

Force For Good
I’ve never had a problem paying things forward. Like I said… “music is my way of being a Force For Good.”
— Ryan Porter

I’ve been a fan of Ryan Portrer’s music since I heard the first note off of his sophomore album (The Optimist). When I saw that Kamasi Washington was was booked to play at The Rose Music Center the first thing I did was reach out to Ryan Porter to see if he was touring along with Kamasi and if so if he’d be willing to get together for an interview. 

Well he obviously agreed but I’m not sure if I would consider this an interview. Although this was our first time meeting it was more like two old friends getting together and just talking.

As we headed to the backstage dressing room of the Rose Music Center the mass shootings that took place in Dayton, Ohio’s popular Oregon District a few days earlier was clearly at the forefront of Ryan’s mind...

Ryan Porter

Current Events

Ryan Porter: How are things here in Dayton since the shootings?

Aaron Paschal: Dayton is strong. Of course we are in the early stages of the healing process and we are still in a bit of shock that we had a mass shooting in our city but overall there’s a genuine effort to come together as a community and start the healing process as one united front.

RP: I’m real sad about what happened here in Dayton and  it’s impossible to not feel attached to it. You don’t even have to know people personally to feel the pain from senseless shootings. I didn’t know Nipsey Hussle at all because we ran in different circles but at the same time because I know his neighborhood and the type of people that come from there and I knew what he was trying to do I still felt a connection to him. Like he could have been my nephew so it hurts. It took awhile for me to watch all of that video because it just hurt so much. And that was just one person so I can’t even imagine what Dayton is going through with nine innocent lives being taken away.

The weight of what people are dealing with right now is serious. There’s a lot of change going on right now and some people are having a hard time embracing it. I’m a musician so my surroundings change all the time. I was in a different country last night. I understand that my job is temporary. I’ve had to understand all of these different things about what I’m doing in order to embrace change and I feel like sometimes the way things are set up people are so secure with things being the same all of the time. So when things become a little unbuckled they have every right to be stressed out and worried about the outcome. I feel like the current president is someone who kind of fuels these things. Pushes things in a direction that it really doesn’t have to go in and he doesn’t understand the weight of his words. Some people are actually going to take these things to heart and act out.

As someone that travels a lot and goes to different countries we get images subconsciously handed to us all of the time. If you want to know what it’s like in Jamaica; here we have this image for you. If you want to know what it’s like in any country around the world; “here, this is what we want you to think of this place.” But when you go to these places and you get a chance to actually see and meet the people for your self and have a cultural exchange it shows you that here in the United States we focus way too much on race. Once you get to a place that you can actually turn that down and focus on individuals instead of race you can actually handle some things together. 

I give by spreading love and unity through music. We promote unity and togetherness by being in a band. People see and hear us working alongside each other. They see what we can accomplish as a unit. I feel like we inspire people through our music so I feel like I’m in a good place right now. So I’m going to continue on this path and promote love and unity through music. 

The thing that hurts is when you know that there are kids out there that look up to you and that you are inspiring them to go out and chase their dreams and then you hear about all of the shootings that can impact or even end their lives… that hurts. It happens in L.A. too where you go out looking for people and you hear that something bad happened to them and you’re like “that wasn’t supposed to happen. It’s unfortunate.

Weapon of Choice


AP: what was it about the trombone that got your attention?

RP: I was hanging out in my grandfather in his garage one day and he had tons of records.  This one record started playing and as soon as I heard it it made me inquire about it. I was like “man who is this? What instrument is he playing?” My grandfather was like that’s J.J. Johnson and he showed me the record. After that I’d be hanging out with my grandfather asking him to play some J.J. for me. I was five years old at the time and I’ve been hooked ever since so the trombone pretty much chose me.

Force For Good

Musicians have been blessed with the gift oof taking pain and suffering and turning it into love. John Coltrane is the perfect example of that. In fact my new album (Force for Good) is the growth and development that Coltrane had in music helps me and is kind of a template for me to work off. It’s like “so he was one of the best and I want to know what he was thinking about, how did he get to be the best?” His thing was he loved music so much that he was willing to change who he was to be the best at what he did. He knew what his purpose was so he changed a lot about himself. That’s one of the things that I appreciated about him because he had this Force For Good method. He was in a world where they were burning up churches with black girls in it and the forces of evil were there but at the end he wasn’t a politician, he was a saxophone player. He used his music (the song Alabama) to created these feelings that went beyond words. It became somewhat of a film score to me for someone that was trying to be on this path to be a Force For Good for other people and so that’s what inspired the title for my newest album.

AP: I hear the influence of John Coltrane’s music on your album, especially on the song (Carriacou).

RP: Laughs, Oh yeah. It’s not necessarily his music but more so his spirit and a lot of Kamasi Washington. But that’s really where it’s is trying to bring the spirit to the music. We understand that music can be healing and some music can be used to kind of detach from the world for a few minutes. Music can be used to help with a wide range of emotions but I feel like now there’s so much going on out in the world that there has to be more music for healing. That’s my contribution to society. People see that and that’s how you become an influence. Growing up in Los Angeles I saw that all of the time. By people just doing they're things they became a part of the daily rhythm of other people’s lives and helped influence them in that way. It’s amazing how that really becomes contagious.

I try to give all that I can. If I had a lot I would give a lot. When we were overseas in the Netherlands touring I heard about this 9 year old kid that was in Brass Band School that had to turn in his trumpet because he was about to move away. This little man loves playing the trumpet so in my heart I knew I had to do something. So I didn’t mind taking a chance on this kid by getting him a trumpet so that he can keep playing. I’ve never had a problem paying things forward. Like I said... “music is my way of being a Force For Good.”

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock

AP: What’s it like to be out on the road sharing the same stage with Herbie Hancock?

RP: Being on tour with Herbie Hancock has been amazing. I look at it as a blessing. I just turned 40 and he is 79 so that’s a lot of experience that he has to share with me and the other guys as we travel from place to place to perform. So many things have changed since he started playing music and he went right along with the changes… even to this day. So it’s inspiring. I really appreciate being here and having someone like Herbie that I can go to and talk to about not just music but we talk about any and everything. It’s amazing. The people that come to the show tonight are definitely in for a treat.


AP: There’s a song on Force For Good titled (Maggie); I know that song is special to you - do you mind telling us a little about it?

RP: This song is for my mother. She passed away a few years ago and this song helped me bring things to closure. My mother had a beautiful soul. She was a visual artist and always encouraged me and my siblings to embrace who we were. She developed Alzheimer and dementia in the later stages of her life. When play or even hear this song I “feel” my mother’s spirit. It also makes me think of all other women that carry that sweet, loving spirit. (Maggie) is my tribute to my mother and I know that through this song I’m able to not only honor her but I’m able to share my love for her through music with everyone that listens to it.


AP: I know you have two kids… do they realize who their dad is as related to the music industry and how dope you are? Do you think they feel pressure to be musicians?

RP: (laughs) I have two daughters and they are my life. They are starting to realize exactly what I do. They know that I travel a lot to play and they see my daily grind. I never pressure them about music or playing any instruments, “I save that for their homework!” (laughs.) No, but seriously they see and hear me practicing and working on my music all of the time and so if they choose to play music that’s how I’ll influence them. My oldest daughter does play the guitar and even taught some of her classmates how to play (the ABC Song) off of my (Spangle Lang Lane) album. So that was a proud dad moment where I had to fight back the tears! My youngest daughter is more of a visual artist and she’s good at it! So yeah, both of my daughters are great and I’m excited to see where their futures are going to take them. They have a pretty good feel for what I do, but they aren’t old enough to listen to all of the songs that I play on so that’ll come later in time. It’s hard being on tour and away from them for long periods of time but they know that I love them and that this is how I provide for them.

West Coast Get Down

Kamasi Washington and Ryan Porter

AP: The West Coast Get Down has been dropping a lot of great music the past few years. What’s it like to be a part of a group that understands the power of unity and togetherness when it comes to making music and longevity?

RP: Man its great! We all inspire each other and we know that as individuals and as a collective that we inspire a younger generation. When we were younger we had musicians in our neighborhoods that cared enough about us to invest in us. There were people that would drive around and pick us up, donate instruments and provide a safe place to practice our music. That’s how I met Kamasi Washington, Terrace Martin and some of the other people associated with the West Coast Get Down.

Growing up in L.A. carrying that instrument case around pretty much gave you a free pass to move around the different gang territories without being bothered. I always knew that gang life wasn’t for me and I loved music so it all worked out great. Not only that but when I first met Kamasi I was like, “okay, here’s someone that loves music just as much as me!” So with the West Coast Get Down we are able to all get together and make music in ways that we couldn’t if we all just worked alone. The way technology is now and how artists tend to record albums they miss out on so much. I miss the days of bands like the Ohio Players and Earth With and Fire. So many great songs come together by pushing each other and bouncing ideas around a room full of other talented people. I hope we get back to having more bands and groups in the music industry.

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Ryan Porter

Ryan Porter’s third studio album “Force For Good” was released June 14, 2019 and is available for purchase on all streaming services.

You can also keep up with him on instagram: @ryanpapaporter

twitter: @ryanpapaporter


Meet drummer: Johnny Radelat


I sat down with drummer Johnny Radelat before he took the stage with Gary Clark Jr. and the rest of the band at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre and asked him a few questions.

Aaron Paschal: It’s great seeing you again! I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk with me and CincyMusic! 

As a musician and drummer to be specific, do you notice that everything in life has some type of rhythm or pattern to it?

Johnny Radelat: Yes! I can turn on the turn signal in my car and find myself hearing the rhythm of the blinkers. As a drummer there’s always a pop, pop, pop, pop going on in my head so I’m unable to turn that off. Everything has a rhythm to it and sometimes it can be annoying but that’s how I know I love what I do

AP: I read somewhere that you’re a big Sheila E. fan; can you tell us a little bit about that?

JR: There’s so many female drummers and I seem to like all of the good ones! Shelia E. is one of my favorite drummers period and she’s actually going to be on Gary Clark Jr.’s new album when it drops so that’s something to be excited about.

AP: I also heard that Patrick Ewing is one of your favorite NBA players. Patrick Ewing? What’s up with that?

JR: I grew up in New Jersey so I’m a Knick’s fan and when I was coming up Patrick Ewing was the man so yeah, he’s my favorite player.


AP: How did you come about linking up with Gary Clark Jr. and becoming part of his band?

JR: I knew Gary from playing local gigs in and around Austin, Texas. We all played together so for the first national tour we went on we all got together and had a thirty minute rehearsal and everything just clicked right off the bat. We just have this natural chemistry and we all get along really well which is about 60% of what it takes for any band to make it. And the way Gary approaches performing really keeps us on our toes because we are never really sure where he’s going to take it on any particular song throughout the set. Even though we pretty much perform the same songs night after night and know what’s coming up next on the set list Gary plays what he feels and we all vibe off of the crowd so the songs are played differently from show to show.

AP: You guys have toured all over the place. Is there a certain city or venue that stands out to you?

JR: There are certain cities that I love performing in but as far as the venue and setting I’d have to say that Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, CO is always great. We just did our first headliner there and it was amazing! That venue just has that natural and spiritual energy there. It’s beyond the musical history of the venue; Red Rocks is just amazing.

AP: I know you stay busy touring with Gary Clark Jr. but what other artists or projects are you involved with when time permits?


JR: I toured with Robert Finley a couple of months ago and will be doing some on and off the road work with him in the near future. He is a stable artist for Dan Aurbachs (Black Keys) label. Dan produced and co-wrote on his record “Goin’ Platinum”… it’s a great album! Robert Finley has had a very interesting  journey to get where he is now and I encourage you guys to check him out.

AP: If you could jam with any artists “dead or alive” who would you like to sit in with?

JR: “Man!” (Laughs and pauses for a while.)  Well I’d have to play with Booker T. “who is one of my absolute favorites.” His style and stuff he did with Stax Records is one of my favorites of all time. Of course Bob Marley is one of the artists, I love the way he ran his band. This may sound kind of odd to you but I’d also love to jam with Iggy Pop and The Stooges due to their drum arrangements.

AP: Okay, last question; what’s the last album you listened to all the way through and what’s in your current rotation?

JR: Last night I listened to Pink Floyd’s - Animals album all the way through. I’ve also been on a Van Morrison kick lately.

My family is Cuban and now there’s a whole collection of pre 1950’s Cuban music that’s available that I’ve been listening to and soaking in lately. Up until now none of that music was available in digital format so you had to have it on vinyl or cassette.

Harlem River Drive is a rare album that’s nice and I’ve been listening to. It’s by Eddie Palmieri's super group, which was the first to really merge black and Latin styles and musicians.


I also caught up with Johnny after the concert and asked him what they thought about playing at the Taft Theatre.

JR: We loved the old theatre venue and the very resonant onstage sound. We don’t usually play seated venues so when we started and saw that most of the floor was already standing in the aisles and ready to go it was a pleasant surprise. Very electric crowd for a mid-week show, Cincinnati definitely showed up!


More about Johnny Radelat

Johnny Radelat is the drummer for Gary Clark Jr., He got his start playing in reggae, R&B, soul, and Funk bands. I first photographed him at afropunk Brooklyn in August of 2017 and later got a chance to meet him and take his portrait after their performance at the inaugural Bourbon and Beyond in Louisville later that same year. If you’re lucky enough to catch a live performance or even watch a YouTube video of Gary Clark Jr. you’ll find it hard to miss Johnny Radelat jamming out on his Gretsch drums and Sabian cymbals!

follow him on instagram: @johnnyradelat

Never Thought...


Mortal Man

Never Thought...

By: Mike Cooley

When you can’t find nobody else to speak to you can speak through the music. Help other people feel your pain, your struggle, your passion. You know, what you live and die for, your values in life
You know what I mean?
— Busta Rhymes (Music for Life) off of Hi-Tek's Hi Technology II album

I've been making beats since 17 or 18 years old. That's when I got my first drum machine and started expressing myself through beats. It's my main passion and probably how I best express myself. I started making because I rapped and over time I grew tired of rapping over my favorite rapper's and producer's instrumentals so I got a drum machine and got into making my own.

A few weeks ago a Jesse, who was a rapper and a close friend to my brother was killed. It was senseless violence. I was upset and I was hurt. I felt like I had to do something with this pain so I made a beat so that I along with my brother who is a rapper as well could make a tribute song for Jesse. Near the end of the song there's a synth that comes in and that particular part is where I envision Jesse's voice coming in laying his verse. That's my way of paying homage to him.


I was sitting in the house for days just pissed off, Jesse had just turned 21, he has a baby on the way, he just got married so it hurt, I was hurt. I knew sitting around the house drinking or smoking wasn't going to do anything so I decided to make that beat and I did feel a lot better after releasing my pain, using my music as an outlet. 


All of this took place right around the same time that the Mortal Man project was released so I was like "this timing is right on point, like this project was made with me in mind!"

A lot of times when I'm dealing with situations like this I don't talk about it. I feel like talking about it is just going to make me think about it and feel worse about it so I try to avoid those feelings. Bringing up issues that you are trying to push down is tough but sometimes I do feel better after talking about them... dealing with and releasing that pain does help.

Never Thought
— Mike Cooley
I made it for my little brothers who had just lost a great friend to senseless violence. His name was Jesse. The plan is they’ll rap on the 2 empty verses and then when the beat switches and the instrumental starts going crazy that’s like Jesse’s verse. They all used to cipher together at parties. Since he’s not here to rap I put the synth lead in there to represent him.
— Never Thought...

Mike Cooley

Never Thought...

DJ + Rapper + Beat Maker + Music LOVER

Maschinist. Trunk Bound Regime extremist

instagram: @atrunkboundcooley

tumblr: liquorandbeats


be sure to leave comments below to keep the conversation going, offer words of encouragement or to share your story.

In The Pines with Fantastic Negrito

Fantastic Negrito interview

when i was in louisville to cover bourbon and beyond i had a chance to sit down and talk to grammy award winner - fantastic negrito. we talked music, comebacks and collaborations. It’s hard for me to categorize his music; though my one and only attempt would be: DOPE! If by chance you have not heard his the last days of oakland album i suggest you do so quick, fast and in a hurry! i definitely suggest bangin’; in the pines, hump Thru the Winter, about a Bird, lost in a crowd, rant rushmore… well just play the whole album!

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will you describe your style of music to people who may be unaware of who you are?

FN: i describe my style as black’s roots for everyone.  edgy, raw, blues with a punk attitude. like i have all those mixtures… blues, funk, rock, punk, soul – it’s an amazing garden to pick from.

so you KILLED it on stage! they loved you…

FN: i know how to do a show! that’s what i think i’m best at. I’m a songwriter and a showman!

as an artist it’s tempting to settle into a comfort zone and do “what’s working.” how do you avoid that trap?

FN: my comfort zone is to be uncomfortable. i like to be challenged and to be a contributor. to do this music with the intention of contributing usually works out well.

who are some artists you have worked with recently?

FN: i did a song with zz ward called cannonball that we performed here today and i also worked with mistah f.a.b. and zion i on the oakland resist-mix.

do you have any other collaborations in the works or better yet is there an artist that you’re itching to work with?

FN: i’m on tour with sturgill simpson i think we’ll definitely do a collab, i think we’re definitely gonna cook something up, we keep talking about it.

i’m going to just throw this out there and i know it doesn’t mean anything but i’d love to see you do something with gary clark jr.

FN: i have something in the works with gary clark jr. it’s just a matter of if he gets to it. there’s a song called chronic pain, i don’t know if he’s gonna get on it or not but i hope so.

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do you mind speaking on your past and how it impacts your music?

FN: sure, the road that i’ve traveled… man the things that don’t break us down makes us stronger. my story goes in three phases. i started off wanting to be some big star - got signed to a label for a million bucks. the second phase is losing all of that. i was driving down the street one day in los angeles and i simply woke up three days later i was in a coma, lost my playing hand and then i delved into the underground music life, ran a few afterhours and illegal night clubs - that was fun. and I had a lot of incarnations i had stuff like chocolate butterfly, blood Sugar – i was just having fun then i decided to quit/retire i sold all of my stuff because I never thought that I would play again. i went up to oakland, ca my hometown and decided to become a cannabis farmer.  got out of music for five years and then boom! came back as fantastic negrito. i came back and those have been my three different phases, going out and then coming back and i think that’s okay. it’s okay to quit, put something down for a little while.

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what brought you back to music?

FN:  well i had a son. my son brought me back. i couldn’t put him to sleep one day and i just had a raggedy guitar hanging around the house and i just picked it up and played like a g major and that changed the course of my life because his reaction to it was so beautiful that i decided maybe there’s something to this music. so i slowly started playing again and came up with fantastic negrito and i haven’t looked back.

you can follow fantastic negrito’s journey on his website: as well as instagram: @fantasticnegrito and on twitter: @musicnegrito