Rapper-producer tag team Analog Rascals burst into Chapel Hill’s music scene this month with the one-two punch of singles “gringo starbuxxx” and “Angel Up,” the latter of which features Peter Vance of Morning Brigade. Keeping an aggressive schedule, the duo plans to release its debut album, No Linger in the Past, on April 1, along with a third video.
The rascals behind this power play are rapper P-Rob (UNC senior Patrick Robinson) and producer AltAir (alumnus Michael Carey), who met while recording music in the Undergraduate Library last year. The two have a bold vision for off-the-beaten-path hip-hop, reflecting a diverse set of influences and a novel background.
Carey, who studied jazz at UNC, discovered a flourishing jazz-hop scene while living in Japan. He describes the Japanese style as “chilled out” and “laid-back,” with “a lot of filters, a lot of jazz samples” — the influence translates clearly into his beats.
When in the studio, Carey flexes his musicianship at every opportunity. “I record usually at least half or more of the instruments on all the tracks,” he said, as opposed to sampling other recordings. “I think that’s one of the big knocks on rap, especially in production, is the lack of musicality.”
Robinson, as a rapper and a university student, doesn’t fit the rags-to-riches mold that’s served as one of hip-hop’s most enduring tropes through the years. His lyrics are often as challenging as they are charming.
Take the tongue-almost-puncturing-cheek couplet in “Gringo Starbuxxx:” “Dance to Rihanna,/drink ‘til you vomit.” Robinson explains the line as mocking what he calls the “sponsored by Bud Light” account of fun.
Appropriately, he features a satiric amount of coffee in the “Gringo Starbuxxx” video and opts for Ayn Rand and James Joyce references in his rhymes instead of rap cliches.
The Rascals are affiliated with UNC-CH’s resident hip-hop crew No9to5, which takes its name from a mission statement: “It’s about not letting your day job, or any menial tasks that you have, define you,” Robinson said. To that end, the band has been wildly successful.
No Linger in the Past was recorded across time zones, with Carey working full-time in Louisiana and Robinson studying full-time in Chapel Hill. But the two haven’t seen the long-distance partnership as much of an issue.
“Today, it’s like, what is distance anymore?” Carey posited. The majority of the album was written and recorded via email and Skype.
“The cool thing is,” Carey said, “he’ll send me stuff, he’ll just hum out something on his mind and beatbox it over voicemail and I’ll turn it into a song here.”
Robinson then adds both rapping and singing into the mix, with occasional features from select members of No9to5. “We have some songs that are much more minimal on the rapping and I do some singing, then there are other songs that are more just rapid-fire spitting — I’m excited to just let people discover that dynamic,” he said.
When Robinson graduates this May, both musicians intend to stick with Analog Rascals — they’re already excited about the next album. “We’re not going anywhere,” Robinson said.
Actually, they’ll be going lots of places — Robinson plans to move to New York City to pursue an internship on Broadway, while Carey is considering Singapore. But with the band’s long-distance work ethic, the music won’t experience any turbulence.
“Mike’s probably making a song right now,” Robinson said.
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