Killer Mike

Until The Ribbon Breaks is the name for the musical project of British singer/producer Pete Lawrie Winfield. Combining elements of R&B and hip-hop, Winfield released his debut EP, A Taste of Silver, in 2013, and that led to opening slots for tours with Lorde and Phantogram. 

The Daily Texan spoke with Winfield about the new EP he is releasing in March and his music writing process.

The Daily Texan: How long have you been making music? And how long did it take you to write and record the Taste of Silver EP?

Pete Lawrie Winfield: I’ve been making music since I was 16. Both my parents are classical musicians, so instruments have always been a part of my life. I didn’t start making production-style music until I was 16. 

DT: At what point did you realize that you wanted to make music rather than film, which you were studying?

PW: The process for film just took too long. With a film, it often takes two years to enjoy the finished product, and by then you might hate it. When you write a song and finish a song, you can enjoy it right then. You might hate it after two years, but that’s a different story. 

DT: Your EP came out about seven months ago. Are you working on new music or focusing on touring? 

PW: I’m always working on new music. If I’m not writing, I get restless. There’s an EP coming out in the end of March and then a full-length album later this year. For the new EP, I was inspired by old cassette mixtapes that had a lot of different sounds. I don’t think there’s an intentional thread connecting the last EP with the new one, and if it happens to be one, then that’s great. 

DT: How important is the visual aspect to the music you make?

PW: It’s just as important as the music — they go hand in hand for me. I wrote all the music while projecting silent film footage. It was integral in the process. I watched films by David Lynch and Terrence Malick and a lot of silent documentaries. Well not silent, but filled with montages. Long montages were a big part of it. 

DT: How did you get involved in working with Killer Mike and El-P for Run The Jewels?

PW: I made a song, the remix of “Pressure,” with this artist called Mr. Exquire. He came in and did a verse for it, and I was telling him that El-P was one of my favorite rappers. He told me that they were friends and gave me his phone number. I called him up and he was like, yeah, I’d love to work with you. He sent me this song for Run The Jewels and told me I had 24 hours to get something back to him. I started freaking out. I think it ended up really well, though. I got to play the song live a couple of times with him and Killer Mike and it was just incredible. 

DT: How was your tour with Lorde? And, given the choice, would you pick a headlining set to a smaller crowd or an opening slot on a bigger stage?

PW: They’re both equally satisfying but in different ways. We got to play with Lorde right before she blew up and became the Lorde she is today. She was still very popular, and we were in the states right when her song hit No. 1 there, and it was very exciting to watch how quickly it all happened. 

Acclaimed New York rapper Talib Kweli will play three shows for this year's SXSW (Photo Courtesy of talibkweli.com).

With so many artists coming, it’s easy to lose yourself in the music. This year’s South By Southwest hip-hop lineup offers both legendary emcees and youngblood up-and-comers, offering something for everyone. The Daily Texan lists the top 10 for your convenience.

MC Lars

Tuesday, March 12, Flamingo Cantina, 1:10-2 a.m.

MC Lars is a nerdy dude who, instead of rapping about drugs or sex, shows an appreciation for English literature. He graduated from Stanford University with an English degree and studied abroad at the University of Oxford. His 2012 Edgar Allan Poe EP reflects his love for the language, like “Flow Like Poe”’s chorus, “I’m going hard on that tetrameter.” 

Hopsin

Wednesday, March 13, Antone’s, 10-10:40 p.m.

Hopsin self-produces much of his alternative hip-hop releases. With clever wordplay, he frequently disses mainstream rappers like Tyler, the Creator; Drake; and Soulja Boy for being bad influences on modern youth. His rhymes criticize underage drinking, dropping out of school and the hip-hop industry as a whole. 

Dead Prez

Wednesday, March 13, Antone’s, 11-11:40 p.m.

For the more politically inclined, Dead Prez offers critical social commentary. The hip-hop duo, made up of stic.man and M-1, often critique white racism, the prison-industrial complex and the public school system. In 2008, at one of their performances at Evergreen State College in Washington, a riot ensued and ended with the flipping of a police car. 

Slim Thug

Wednesday, March 13, The Main, 1:20-2 a.m. 

Slim Thug shows why Houston is still the third hip-hop capital of the US, behind New York and California. Although his lyrics are particularly uninspiring, his deep, relaxed flow makes for a good time. 

YelaWolf

Thursday, March 14, Club de Ville, TBA

YelaWolf looks to make up for last year’s SXSW, when he had to cancel his performance because of a ruptured spleen. The heavily tattooed Alabama rapper is known for his extremely fast flow and semi-redneck subject matter, typified on his 2010 single “Pop the Trunk.” The show is scheduled as “Yelawolf with Special Guests,” so maybe he’ll be joined onstage by some big names.

Killer Mike

Thursday, March 14, Bar 96, 12:30-1:30 a.m. 

After winning a Grammy with fellow Atlanta group OutKast in 2003 for “The Whole World,” last year’s R.A.P. Music took Killer Mike to the next level. He’s easily one of the most interesting rappers of 2013, offering a mixture of exciting gangster rap and thought-provoking political commentary. 

RZA

Thursday, March 14, Scoot Inn, 1:15-2 a.m. 

As the leader and producer of the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA needs no introduction. Like most Wu-Tang solo performances, RZA is likely to select individual verses from Wu-Tang Clan releases while interspersing songs from his solo career as Bobby Digital.  

Joey Bada$$ & Pro Era

Thursday, March 14, The North Door, 1:20-2 a.m. 

Friday, March 15, Lucille, TBA

The 18-year-old Brooklyn native was signed to Cinematic Music Group at age 15 for his freestyling techniques. Last year, Bada$$ released two mixtapes, 1999 and Rejex, to critical acclaim. Inspired by fellow East Coast rap acts, the Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep, Bada$$’s lyrics portray a young mind growing up in a bleak inner city over New York-style minimalist beats. 

Talib Kweli

Friday, March 15, Empire Control Room, 1-1:40 a.m.

The Pandora Porch, 12-1 a.m. 

Saturday, March 16, Haven, 1-2 a.m.

Kweli is often regarded as one of the best rap artists of our time, along with frequent collaborator Mos Def. His music features jazz and soul influences, and his lyrics frequently deal with philosophical issues and how they apply to modern-day black society. 

Z-Ro

Saturday, March 16, The Main, 1:10-2 a.m. 

Rounding out this year’s Houston presence is Z-Ro, a rapper known for his deep voice, singing and hood rep. He’s released an incredible 16 albums and 13 mixtapes since 1999. Z-ro typifies the Dirty South movement with a slow vocal delivery and often reminisces about deceased fellow Houston rappers Pimp C and DJ Screw. 

Honorable mentions:

The Pharcyde

Saturday, March 16, Club de Ville, 1:15 - 2:00 a.m. 

Big K.R.I.T.

Friday, March 15, FADER Fort, 3:45 PM 

Chief Keef

Saturday, March 16, 1100 Warehouse, 10:35 -10:55 p.m. 

RiFF RaFF

Friday, March 15, Scoot Inn, 10:15-10:45 p.m. 

Trinidad Jame$  

Friday, March 15, Suite 101, 1:30 - 2:00 a.m. 

Many “Best of 2012” music lists resemble Billboard’s pop charts, but this past year saw landmark achievements in multiple genres. The Daily Texan consolidated last year’s best rock, metal, pop and hip-hop albums into one list.

10: Killer Mike

Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music is fast-paced, in-your-face political rap with the potential to easily offend. Offering unrelenting social criticism from an African-American standpoint, the album’s high point is the middle track “Reagan,” where Mike concisely attacks the U.S. government and famously declares he’s “glad Reagan dead.” With a heavy, soulful flow, Killer Mike is most easily compared to The Notorious B.I.G. but with more conscientious lyrical content in the vein of Public Enemy. 


9: Title Fight

Floral Green saw Title Fight trade pop influences for grungier ones while unquestionably remaining punk. The band members grew confident enough to experiment and try something new on every track. There are anthemic Sonic Youth-inspired ballads like “Leaf,” and simple, chord-heavy songs like “Secret Society.” It’s the little things, the half-measure double speed on the bass drum on “Make You Cry,” clever lines like “telling white lies to black cats,” from “Lefty,” and the analog big muff guitar overdrive tone on “Frown,” that make Floral Green an addictive record.


8: Grimes

The cover art for Visions is a flaming human skull throwing up, but don’t let that fool you. Grimes’ electronic music is simple and refreshingly under-produced (supposedly the Canadian artist recorded the entire thing in her apartment on GarageBand). The ubiquitous use of reverb supplements her trademark whispering falsetto while she pronounces words in a strange, childish lisp that renders her lyrics almost unintelligible.


7: Chromatics

Beginning with a toned-down Neil Young cover song “Into The Black,” Chromatics set the stage for Kill For Love — somber and delicate, before diving into their original squealing electronica music. With 16 songs clocking at 77 minutes, Chromatics gracefully take their time in crafting a neo-disco synthesized revival, sometimes confidently holding out whole notes for 16 full measures. Other highlights include the longest song, “These Streets Will Never Look the Same,” an 8:36 Night At The Roxbury head-bopper and the shimmering title track, “Kill For Love.”


6: Purity Ring

The Canadian electronic duo‘s debut album Shrines is filled with immense soundscapes marked by heavy vocal samples, pulsating synthesizers and thundering bass.
The simple yet unconventional melodies over double-timed hi-hat hits provide an updated reboot to electronica. Singer Megan James’ voice tastefully mixes into the ambience to narrate a surprisingly morbid digital fairy tale with prevalent lyrical subjects of heart surgery and mutilation. 


5: Taylor Swift

Swift has proven the power of repetition — her supporters have remained a part of her loveless journey and her detractors have finally succumbed to their doom, singing the irresistible “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” with genuine enthusiasm. Red made it almost impossible to dislike Swift as she wandered from her typical country singer-songwriter roots. She renovates her personal love stories, incorporating dubstep-esque production in certain songs while maintaining her sweet, chirping, powerful falsetto in a revised formula for certain success.


4: Converge

The heaviest and most urgent record to come out in 2012, All We Love We Leave Behind, sees Converge retain its title of metallic perfection. Blending mathcore polyrhythms, death metal screams and hardcore punk speed, the album is 17 tracks of nonstop auditory assault that necessitates a second listen. After 23 years, Converge is still proving there are time signatures besides the standard 4/4.


3: Fiona Apple

The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, thankfully shortened to The Idler Wheel, is an organic masterpiece by 1998 Grammy-winner Fiona Apple. Composed of 10 songs, The Idler Wheel’s heavy emphasis on lyrics, acoustic instruments and vocals, ranging from bewailing moans to cringing falsetto, gives the album a genuine, heartfelt singer-songwriter feel. The lyrics could be the best of the entire year, with highlight, “The lava of the volcano shot up hot from under the sea/One thing leads to another and you made an island of me.” 


2: Kendrick Lamar

Another product of the master Dr. Dre, poster child, M.A.A.D. City dominated radio waves for a good reason. Lamar’s unconventional rapping, heavy use of half rhyme and syllabic mastery relate a coming-of-age story of a good kid growing up in a bad city. The album is a musical autobiography detailing a young Lamar’s introduction to gang life in Compton after stealing his mom’s van. Songs consistently end with phone messages from his mother trying to talk sense into him, creating an overall sense of solidarity and cohesiveness. 


1: Frank Ocean

The Odd Future breakout star deserves all the hype and praise he received last year. Channel Orange intersperses feedback and noise in between songs to create a scattered and technological feel to contextualize Ocean’s unique version of R&B in the 21st century. Ocean’s incredible vocal talents relate unabashedly honest lyrics in a laid-back style. The album’s slow tempos, sensual keyboard melodies and noticeable lack of auto tune challenge modern pop’s monopoly of the airwaves, proving there is hope for heart-felt music once again.