Galactic Goes Ghetto

Listen to Galactic on Rhapsody,
and check out clips from the new album at MySpace...

By: Brian Bavosa

Galactic by Ryan Mastro
Several key things characterize New Orleans: the food, the culture, the French Quarter and, maybe most of all, the music. Specifically, the jazz and funk roots that run deeper than a Northern California redwood. Since the early '90s, no other band has clung to these lifelines like Galactic. We were lucky enough to catch up with drummer Stanton Moore and collaborator Boots Riley (The Coup) to discuss Galactic's upcoming release, From the Corner to the Block, which draws upon New Orleans but also stretches across the country all the way to California.

In addition to Moore on the skins, Galactic is saxophonist Ben Ellman, bassist Robert Mercurio, guitarist Jeff Raines and keyboardist Richard Vogel. As co-producer, Ellman tackles double duty on From the Corner to the Block. "We knew that it was going to be a few years since the last record, and we wanted to do something that we felt was going to have some impact and really be interesting," says Moore. "So, we came up with the idea of trying to have a whole bunch of MCs on the record." With this album, out August 21 on the band's new label ANTI- Records, Galactic returns to the streets with a cast of characters that Moore calls, "a dream lineup."

The record features a slew of today's most innovative hip-hop linguists, including Lyrics Born, Jurassic 5's Chali 2Na, Boots Riley, Digable Planets' Ladybug Mecca, Mr. Lif and Gift of Gab from Blackalicious. The new album will also feature unique collaborations with New Orleans artists Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Juvenile, Soul Rebels Brass Band and Trombone Shorty. Other guest appearances include DJ Z-Trip, Vursatyl (Lifesavas), Ohmega Watts and Nino Moschella.

Moore points out a notable difference working with ANTI-. "This is the first time that we've really had a label that was willing to give a budget to do these sorts of things. The marketing budget is much more substantial, and their plan is much more in depth. They seem to just know a little more about what's going on than any label we've dealt with before," says Moore. "They seem to be genuinely interested in marketing the record and selling it, as opposed to just having people hear it and getting it on the shelves. Just in the initial stages, it seems that we are doing way more than we ever have before for a record. It's nice. It feels like we're taking a step forward." Along with added marketing prowess, Galactic and ANTI- are working on some videos, including one with Lyrics Born, for From the Corner to the Block, another first for the band.

Ladybug Mecca
Originally intended to follow a screenplay by Henry Griffin, Moore and company eventually realized that wasn't logistically possible. Instead, they gave the MCs instructions with childlike simplicity - rhyme about a corner. It could be a corner of their past, a physical street corner or, in Ladybug's case, a mathematical corner that busted many of our heads with splintering headaches in our Sophomore geometry class. Lyrics Born, on the album's first track, "I Got It (What You Need?)," explores an imaginary persona in a hot, slamming start to the record.

"We approached these guys, and Lady, and we said either write about specific corners, experiences that you knew there, stuff that happened or you can even play a character," Moore explains. "That's what Lyrics Born did. He decided to play this character. Each person came up with an original approach. There's underlying continuity but there's also individual choice. I think it worked out that way."

Boots Riley from the Oakland based hip-hip legends The Coup is quick to point out that the seemingly genre-smashing effort is nothing more than a common ground for artists to get their message out there, whether it be instrumental booty shaking grooves, deliriously infectious hooks or a flat out brain busting message. "Oakland has a deep history of funk, too, but black music in the United States can be traced to New Orleans. So, there are a lot of similarities between the two. Same with the music," comments Riley.

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