Viewing entries in
Music

Rick Rubin's Shangri-La Studios

Comment

Rick Rubin's Shangri-La Studios

Comment Malibu, California
  Recording Studio at Shangri-la

Recording Studio at Shangri-la

  Jane Shin, Me, Martine Syms inside Bob Dylan's Tour Bus

Jane Shin, Me, Martine Syms inside Bob Dylan's Tour Bus


In 1991 Red Hot Chili Peppers dropped their album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, produced by Rick Rubin. As a little girl who listened to a lot of KROQ, this album became a favorite in my early youth and one that I have enjoyed revisiting as an adult. In 2018, twenty-seven years after its release, the track Breaking the Girl hits me harder than ever. Over the years I realized that if you grew up in Southern California during this time, there’s a big chance that you too hold this project close to your heart. As I aged into my pre-teens and teens, with a subscription to both Rolling Stone and Spin, learning about producers became increasingly important to me, and Rick Rubin was a name that was continually lauded, often being spoken about as a guru or a god amongst men. 

It was an overcast October day with the smell of Malibu sea foam in the air. As I drove up PCH to Malibu, I was overcome with emotion thinking about the afternoon I would spend at Shangri-La Studios, for an intimate listening party celebrating Nils Frahm’s upcoming album, All Melody, graciously hosted by Rick Rubin. Before even listening to the project, I knew that it would be something special–it had to be if Rick was opening up his beautiful space for us to experience it.  I pulled up to Morning View Drive and my first vision of the compound was a charcoal black studio that could've easily been confused for a cool church, its cross window overlooked the front lawn. Its appearance reminded me of the thousands of black metal albums I use to sift through at Amoeba every Sunday when Asael and I would look for rare Norwegian cuts. We had arrived at Shangri-La. It was a beautiful sight to take in. I had dreamt about this moment and now here I was. I had the privilege of inviting my two favorite music heads, Martine Syms and Jane Shin, to join me on this special afternoon, which blossomed into a day that none of us will ever forget. 

We ascended up the driveway and walked onto a path that wrapped into the backyard. I was overwhelmed experiencing the energy at Shangri-La Studios. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time a musical experience evoked so much emotion from me. Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Gossip, Gogol Bordello, Kanye West – these are but a few, some personal favorites, that Rick Rubin has produced for, most of who I’ve seen live. Gogol Bordello at the Key Club in 2006 and Kanye West at Made in America 2014 are still two of the best shows I have ever been to.

 
  Some of Rick Rubin's Studio Equipment

Some of Rick Rubin's Studio Equipment


I walked through the doors dividing the house from the yard and I was enveloped in the luxurious smell of incense, which was burning throughout the space, even boasting an artfully constructed table for the sole purpose of holding sticks of incense. This was living. There were pianos at every turn, which further sparked my curiosity to explore. As a multi-instrumentalist I wanted to poke my head in every nook and cranny to see what kind of equipment I’d uncover. On my exploration I found myself in Rick’s main recording area, bouncing atop his yoga ball in front of the motherboard. Every inch of the studio was left open for guests to experience and interestingly among all of the music supervisors and corporate music bros, it was the 3 WOC (us!) who were nerding out over every piece of equipment. True music lovers. Martine, Jane, and myself converged in the giant studio, in awe of the moment, when Rick came thru and greeted us with a warm welcome. After we were done tripping out, it was time to get some fresh air so we headed outside. I made my way into Bob Dylan’s former tour-bus-turned-recording-studio, casually parked in the backyard. It had been restored and made into a cozy studio perfect for the most intimate moments. Had I been followed with a camera crew you would’ve seen the pure joy wash over me as I played with mini pianos in the bus and snapped photos with my friends. 

We got word that the listening party was about to commence so we made our way back inside to take a seat. Nils stood before us to briefly introduce his new project, All Melody, which was recorded in the Berlin studio he spent two years building and perfecting. He now calls Saal 3 his music home, which is part of the historical 1950s East German Funkhaus building beside the River Spree. Our listening session would be broken up into two parts, with an intermission that allowed us to stretch our legs and inhale some more of the perfect Malibu air. 

 
RickRubin_Shangri_La_Jane_Shin.JPG
RickRubin_Shangri_La__Martine_Syms.JPG
  Nils Frahm and Rick Rubin

Nils Frahm and Rick Rubin


It was when we returned for the second half of the listening party that the music began to hit, more so because I ditched the uncomfortable chair I was sitting in and laid myself on the floor but a few feet away from the speakers, much like my adolescent days of listening to punk records on my bedroom floor at maximum volume. The three of us cozied up in our own separate areas of the room ready to absorb all of Frahm's genius, and I am not using that word loosely. I was completely unfazed by everyone around me in this moment; I was there to embrace every sound and to feel the music.  The speakers, which were provided by The Audio Salon, emitted vibrations I had never felt before. The $56,000 Wilson Audio speakers (each), having been measured in the room for both distance and height, brought my ears to a whole other level of listening. It was a full-body experience, transcendent even. I took the opportunity of talking to the owner of Audio Salon after the session and he was happy to share every single detail about the speakers in addition to familiarizing me with his work, which included installing the sound system in Rick Rubin's bedroom. Speakers make the experience and I feel incredibly blessed to have listened to Nils Frahm's masterpiece on this equipment. The music penetrated my skin and spirit. All three of us were brought to tears we'd come to find out when we reconvened conversation post listening session. Nils spoke on his process and the importance of taking one's time to produce quality work–what an idea! It was refreshing to hear someone speak on being thoughtful in their work pushing back against this idea we must always be churning out something to be relevant. He was inspiring. His music was incredible. And when having the chance to speak with Nils, I was completely blown to pieces by his sincerity and genuine push to create good art in this world. Nils Frahm's All Melody LP is out January 26, pre-order here.

When it all came to an end, it felt like a personal beginning. There was gust of wind on my neck and I looked back to see Rick opening a window behind me; there was an exchange between the two of us and in that moment I knew I was on the right path. Thank you again to my friend Julian Schoen for inviting me to experience the most unforgettable music moment of my life.

 
RickRubin_Pianos.JPG
 
RickRubin_Shangri_La_Nils_Frahm.JPG
 
Nils_Frahm_Shangri_La.JPG
RickRubin_Shangri_La_NJinLA.JPG
RickRubin_Shangri_La_TheAudioSalon.JPG
RickRubin_Shangri_La_TourBus.JPG

Comment

NTS 1st Birthday Party

Comment
 Natalie James aka NJ in LA, NTS Radio
 

A couple weeks ago, NTS Radio celebrated it's first birthday at Brain Dead Studios in Chinatown, Los Angeles. If you aren't hip to it already, NTS is the largest underground radio station, originally from London but now also broadcasting in L.A.–you can catch me on air with my monthly series and listen to all my past shows here, with guests like Denzel Curry, Ho99o9 and Quiñ. I was a part of the original LA squad of hosts and DJs, so I was extremely hyped when I was asked to host & DJ the first year party alongside musical guests B. Cool Aid, Katalyst and Jon Bap. This also happened to be my DJ debut which shocked many, including myself. I must give a proper shoutout to my friends Julian Schoen & Alima Lee for teaching me the fundamentals of CDJS and for encouraging my foray into this skill. 

Hundreds of people pulled up to the function and after party, more than I even imagined would come out on a weeknight. It was genuinely cool to see how many people already ride for NTS in this city and it's only getting bigger. NTS is about the culture when others merely pretend to be. Did you know NTS is a Black-owned business? Tight. Giving opportunities to POC and WOC in our city and beyond. Count me in. It looks like this is going to be a monthly thing so keep your eyes and ears open. Hope to see you at the next one.

LISTEN | NTS RADIO

 
DSCF0558.jpg
DSCF0551.jpg
DSCF0541.jpg
 
DSCF0388.jpg
  Photos by Mitchell Croghan

Photos by Mitchell Croghan

NTS with Andre Power

Comment

NTS with Andre Power

Comment Highland Park, California
 Andre Power of Soulection on NTS Radio with Natalie James. 

On my latest show with NTS Radio I welcomed Andre Power of Soulection. I had a blast talking with Power about his trip to SXSL at The White House, traveling the world to DJ, and how to stay positive in a city like Los Angeles.

As always, I played my favorite songs of the moment. If you've missed any of my last 3 shows, make sure to check them out here


PLAYLIST

Murda Beatz - Novacane (feat. Pressa)
Cardi B - Foreva
Ace Tee - Bist Du Down (feat. Kwam.e)
Doja Cat - Touch
KeithCharlesSPACEBAR - Suburbia
Chief Keef - Hit the Lotto (feat. Kash)
6LACK - MTFU
Rue - Clouds
Migos - T-Shirt

LISTEN HERE

 
NTS with Ho99o9

Comment

NTS with Ho99o9

Comment Highland Park, California

Status Update – I have a radio show. It's on NTS.live – originally from London and now also in Los Angeles. 

On my last show I welcomed one of my favorite groups, Ho99o9, to join me in the studio to talk about life on the road, their intense live shows (a personal favorite) and music that inspired both The OGM and Eaddy. We also discussed race in terms of punk and its audience, something I've thought about for 20 years. When the mics were off and we continued to chat, I learned that Eaddy designs a lot of their merchandise, like one of my favorite shirts of 2016. It was a pleasure having both these artists on my show and cannot wait for their album to drop in 2017.

If you see that they are playing in your city, you don't want to miss their live show – it will give you the adrenaline rush you didn't realize you so desperately needed. Bet.

PLAYLIST

Ho99o9 - Dark Paradise
Three 6 Mafia - Sippin' on Some Syrup (feat. UGK & Project Pat)
DMX - Damien
21 Savage - Feel It
Bad Brains - Big Take Over
Ho99o9 - Kill You
Ho99o9 - From the Bottom of the Lake
SpaceGhostPurrp - Mystical Maze
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony - East 1999
Death Grips - Birds
Ho99o9 - Day of Vengeance

LISTEN HERE

Ham Jam x SXSW

Comment

Ham Jam x SXSW

Comment
 

This year at SXSW I was given an all access pass to the All Def Digital x Ham On Everything Ham Jam with 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty and Waka Flocka. The show was turnt to the utmost, as you can imagine, and I snapped these photos while wylin out on stage. You can see a video recap here.

 
Rick Ross at Sonos Studios

Comment

Rick Ross at Sonos Studios

Comment Los Angeles, California
 Photos by  Andres Tardio

Photos by Andres Tardio

The Black Market listening session was casual, which worked to its advantage, but my proximity to the action undoubtedly made for the ultimate experience. Lira Galore pulled up a chair next to me – as to not tire from wearing her incredibly hight stilettos – and everyone took their places. For those of you who follow her on the gram, I must attest that she is even more beautiful in person. I was cooling to the music and vibes – there was one track with Chris Brown that had me feeling all types of ways and I couldn't resist The Dream track. As I was making love to myself thru dance I glanced over to see Meek Mill in a Bathing Ape fit, dripping in gold and diamond chains. Having been a Meek Mill enthusiast over the past four years, I clenched my chest seeing his handsome face. Did I mention he was glowing?

I was dancing, Rick was dancing, and he kindly passed the blunt our way. I politely let it keep moving as I wasn't trying to share my cold with the Maybach Music Group. As the album was coming to its end, Lil Durk and Tracy T slid thru to show some love. Grown men all around me whipped out their phones in hopes of being a part of the action.  It's always so wild to see folks who been acting hard all night go ham just to smell the sweat of an artist. 

At listening parties I always look forward to experiencing the energies of an artist and their friends. The MMG crew made a good impression on me, and not simply because Ricky Rozay squeezed my shoulders after dancing or was kind enough to take a selfie with ya girl. It was the genuine camaraderie between the men and women in MMG, and a willingness to spend time with the family, fans and media who showed up to show support. Although there was no performance, having the opportunity to meet Rick and enjoy his only L.A. listening party made for a great evening. 

Sonos Studios | 145 N La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036 

I woke up on a Wednesday morning excited to see an email in my inbox from Sonos Studio that read "Rick Ross Listening Party." I scrambled to click RSVP knowing in my gut that an hour had already passed, and with Sonos emails, every minute that's passed decreases your chance of getting in. Under my breathe I muttered "please don't be sold out, please don't be sold out." Click. Sold out. I was low-key devastated. It felt like year after year had gone by and I had yet to meet Rick Ross, much less see him perform. For the amount of rap I've clocked, it's almost unbelievable that I've missed the Teflon Don of Maybach Music every single time he's touched down in L.A. Under typical circumstances, I wouldn't let a "sold out" notification keep me from making my dreams come true, but unfortunately I had a cold, and didn't have the energy to make it happen. Instead, I told the universe that if it was meant to be, it would be.

Fast forward 24 hours to the next morning, where I wake up to an email that reads "Rick Ross - Black Market Album Listening Party." I clenched my chest as I opened up the message, which was personal invitation to the function. With no hesitation I responded with a "looking forward to it" and then started to flush my body with fluids so I didn't pull up looking like a sick. Then I started to think, was I going to be showered in Wingstop and Luc Belaire

Strolled up to the velvet ropes and was greeted with open arms, it was then I knew it was going to be a superior evening. I invited my friend Senay Kenfe to join me at the Black Market listening party, who captured both Rozay and Meek Mill on film. The crowd was intimate and the sparkling rosé was flowing. Coincidentally Senay and I were fighting colds so we ordered ourselves some orange juice and found our place near the stage. 

I heard some commotion and looked over my shoulder, Rick Ross was making his way to the Sonos sound stage and his entourage began to post up in our zone. Rozay was dressed nearly head to toe in DGK and had a wrist full of diamonds. I couldn't look away from the prism flicks in his cuts.