Honesty, what separates artists from producers, is a thing lost and found, natural then unlearned, but never secure or definite. We misrecognize it in paradigms and nostalgia, try imitating sounds without understanding their soul. We look for patterns in expression, try inventing our own private theories of what makes great art only to have the next anomaly prove it wrong.
Simply put, we overthink. In fact, as producers it’s our job to overthink, to analyze and criticize our work against impossible standards. And somewhere in this process, in the solitary relationships we maintain with our computers, we often lose touch with our spontaneous and authentic selves. We begin behaving like machines, creating musical packages of tropes and archetypes, songs designed to be played with, played between instead of just played. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and a habit I noticed myself developing in my isolated Reclusion 2 sessions. In striving for perfection, I was putting form ahead of content, generic criteria ahead of my own. I was losing my personality; I was losing my honesty.
I retraced my steps to before I became a producer, a professional overthinker, to my awkward preteen years in the suburbs, making routine visits to the rap/R&B section of the local HMV. Was there anything in the content I could relate to? Absolutely not. Did I love the music honestly? Without question. And without ambition, without the unending compulsion to criticize and study it – I just liked it. These were the albums that shaped me before I knew I was being shaped; the tracks I replayed for pleasure instead of examination. In the search for honesty this was the place to start.
The result of that search is a 10-part free EP series called REVISIONS. Each track in REVISIONS is composed almost exclusively from a different rap/R&B album from the last 15 years from my personal CD collection. With the exception of the odd 808/909, every melodic, percussive and atmospheric element in each track is created using its corresponding source album. It’s as honest a look at my influences and process as I’m able to give, and I’m excited to be able to share all of what I’ve been working on for the past year.
Over the next five months a new REVISIONS EP will be posted for free download every two weeks on www.soundcloud.com/johnromanrevisions accompanied by a blog post here on EARMILK. I plan on making the entries a mix of articles and track breakdowns, depending on what people are finding most interesting. Feel free to send your feedback and requests to @johnromandj on Twitter.
So now, without further delay, I’m proud to present the first EP of the series: REVISIONS001.
01. "Give U My Life"
A revision of DMX's Great Depression
02. "Citric Jazz"
A revision of Aesop Rock's None Shall Pass