Time Machine - Outtatime
Author: Saeed Saeed
Monday, 23 June 2008
The clock ticks closer to the release of Time Machine’s anticipated sophomore album Life is Expensive and the group are in full promotion mode. Days consist of interviews with the global press who have all been alerted of the LA trio’s potential after their acclaimed 2004 debut, Slow Your Roll, became the must have for any indie-hip hop connoisseur. Additionally, their recent remixes of MIA and Kid Sister/Janet Jackson has been circulating clubs worldwide with Diplo even spinning them in his DJ sets.
“We definitely created what we wanted to do, but of course the main question is: what will the people that like our previous record think of our evolution-” producer/DJ Mekalek says whimsically.
Time Machine’s sound has been compared to the likes of Jurassic Five and Ugly Duckling. But while these groups are obsessed with ‘80s era hip-hop, Time Machine always had a distinct affection for the sounds that emerged a decade later. “Our drums sound tough and real organic,” says Mekalek. “That definitely is one of the most dominant things of hip hop in the early ‘90s. Nobody was using drum machines during that time. Especially now as in the ‘80s drum machines and synthetic sounds are and were necessary for the songs. While in the ‘90s it was more organic. People were using traditional instruments like drums and horns”
Time Machine first hooked up in ‘99 when childhood friends Jet Set Jay and Mekalek were working on some tracks together. Biscuit, a mutual friend and an aspiring rapper entered their Washington DC studio with a verse to an uncompleted song called Block Trooping. The trio were so happy with the resulting chemistry they decided to dub their new group Time Machine and began working on what was to become their debut Slow Your Roll. The album’s success catapulted the group into sharing stages with the likes of Common, Masta Ace and The Beatnuts.
The four years spent between recordings has found the group building a steady following on the back of regular appearances in the US weekly hip hop party circuit which had them travelling coast to coast on a constant basis. In addition to their big beats and unabashed party vibes, Time Machine’s high-energy sets also come complete with a repertoire of synchronised dance moves.
Jay, who shares MCing duties with Biscuit, credits Time Machine’s entertaining and inclusive hip hop shows as ushering in a new legion of fans that may not necessarily dig the genre. “A lot of times when we are doing that type of weekly party atmosphere people just come out to have a good time and it results in this hyper crowd or casual concert crowd of people that just want to sit down and watch”
With the exception of the group’s 2003 relocation to Los Angeles where they set up a permanent base, Jay states that nothing has changed in the song writing process since their first studio session. “Usually our process is that Mek will provide us with the beat first and if we all agree to make a song out of it, Biscuit and I will sit down and throw around some ideas and figure out what this beat makes us want to talk about.”
It is the change in America’s social climate that infuses most of the lyrical content in Life Is Expensive. In one of the album’s stand out tracks Something We’re Becoming, Jay and Biscuit use their trade mark wit to lament the central role money plays in acquiring happiness: ‘When we were young we thought you shouldn’t do things for the money/ But that’s before we knew the things that money could do/ Like if your day is cloudy, cash wont make it sunny/ But if it’s already sunny, it can buy you a pool”.
“It’s kind of like a musical play with words and the lessons you learned,” Biscuit says of the album’s title. “Life in the United States right now is literally expensive. So we have this fun party vibe throughout the album but at the end of it it’s like you have to come back to reality – whatever your reality may be – and there is always a price for that lesson.”
For Time Machine life after the highs of touring is the daily struggles of running an independent label. Jay states that one of the challenges of running their Glow In The Dark Records is the fleeting nature of the industry. “For example at first, our biggest money maker has been selling vinyl records but now it’s gone. Now the digital thing with downloads has become a steadier source of income so that is cool. We have seen such drastic changes, but in terms of running your label it’s good because you do things exactly the way you want to do it”.
It is this DIY ethic that continues to be a hallmark of Time Machine’s success and musical outlook. “Artistic control is everything,” declares Biscuit. “As far as business control we are only three people, but for the most part if you want to do something right you gotta do it yourself. We stay true to ourselves as artists. We might be creative but you will never find us rapping about things we don’t do, or about a car we have, or drugs or something outlandish. When you hear the record that’s who we are”.
WHO: Time Machine
WHAT: Life Is Expensive through Shogun
WHEN: Out now