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Def Jux Legend Mr. Lif Discusses His First Solo Album In Seven Years: "Don't Look Down" on Mello Music Group

Posted by Billyjam, June 30, 2016 08:45pm | Post a Comment


After a seven year span with no new Mr. Lif solo album, 2016 marked the triumphant return of the revered Boston emcee, who plays the Elbo Room in San Francisco July 7th, with the powerful album Don’t Look Down. The new ten track release's many guests include Del The Funky Homosapien and the group the artist born Jeffrey Haynes is a longtime member of, The Perceptionists. Released by Mello Music Group in CD, cassette, and vinyl formats, Don't Look Down finds the former Def Jux artist in top form and full of creative energy. As he says himself, he is more like a hungry young artist starting out than one who's been in the hip-hop game since the mid nineties. In short he is far from jaded. "I feel like I just started" not "the older guy" but "I feel brand new," he told me by phone recently. "For me, my career begins now," he stated. But that is not to say that he has been idle for the past seven years. Between  Don’t Look Down and his previous album, 2009's I Heard It Before, Mr. Lif has been busy, among other things, working on his home studio and performing and recording with Thievery Corporation. And a year ago he worked on the collaborative project Terra Bella with the Polish Ambassador and Ayla Nereo.

"It's really been an adventure.....I'm really blessed right now," said Lif who takes nothing for granted in life. "As you get older a lot of that gloss and shininess of the world, I don't want to say that it wears away, but you start to see really things as they are. And that includes the way you see yourself. You start to realize that these really are my tendencies and my habits," he said adding that, "Music is a great conduit to express all of that." This he does throughout the new album on which he bears his soul and shares the challenges of his personal life, accurately described by his label as cathartic confessionals. Mello Music Group, who in advance of Don't Look Down re-released his Def Jux classic I-Phantom (also on LP format) is the perfect new home for Lif. (Mello Music CEO) "Mike or Mello as he is known is a true music fan and it's a great label to be on as an artist," said Lif.  It's also the perfect label to be on after the now defunct and legendary Definitive Jux label. Speaking of the label's famed founder he noted, "El-P has had a great impact on my career," and  "is a great friend too."  "And it's great to see him reinvent himself again. He' s done it with Company Flow, with Def Jux, and now with Run The Jewels!"

Mr. Lif also stresses the importance of "surrounding myself with artists who are inspirational, artists like Thievery Corporation." As for how he became an extended member of the famed DC group founded by Eric Hilton and Rob Garza, he said that It began "when Eric Hilton gave me a call back in December 2009" to see if he was down to collaborate. That conversation resulted in a studio session two months later. Their recording, recalled Lif, "ended up being the track that became 'Culture of Fear'" which in turn would become the title track of the 2011 Thievery Corporation album Culture Of Fear. Then what began as a one off studio session quickly morphed into Mr. Lif becoming a key part of the touring Thievery Corporation band. Starting in June 2011. he has been on stage with the band for every tour and concert date with the exception of only one in five years. "We love working together and we've cut a couple of new songs for their new album that's coming out hopefully later this year or else early next year."

Performing with Thievery Corporation as well as rebuilding his music production studio were each instrumental in the lead up to Don't Look Down. "In the years leading up to even signing with Mello Music Group there was some kind of technical whim that came alive in me. I became an absolute nerd about studio gear and started to rebuild my studio. I became really obsessed with audio. And what's the best way to try out new equipment? Record songs. So I've just been on a three or four year spree of just finishing tons of songs. Don't Look Down contains ten of those songs but believe me there's a lot more," he promised noting that fans should be on the lookout for a few EPs and at least one more album in the not too distant future.  Add those future releases to an artist discography that began back in 1997 when Mr. Lif put out his first record, the 12" single "Madness in a Cup." "Next year is gonna be a big celebration, my twentieth year!" he said almost in disbelief at the landmark year, adding, "When I started doing this I never anticipated how much fire I would have in my belly after two decades."

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Mr. Lif  plays the Elbo Room in San Francisco on Thursday July 7th at 9pm along with Erica Dee
plus opening acts Z-Man, Whatzreal, OneWerd, DJ Zobe, & Ray Reck. TIx and more info


Mr. Lif "Let Go (feat. Selina Carrera)" from  Don’t Look Down (2016) (Mello Music Group)

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Don't Look Down (1), Def Jux (6), Definitive Jux (1), Mr. Lif @ Elbo Room (1), El-p (16), Rtj (2), Run The Jewels (20), Thievery Corporation (3), Mr. Lif Interview (1)