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Native Sun News: Producer reaches into golden years of hip-hop

The following story was written and reported by A.Teef, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Producer AsriOne with his MPD 18 Sampler/Drum machine. Photo by/A.Teef

Art Beats: AsriOne
By A.Teef
Native Sun News Correspondent

RAPID CITY—In the scope of modern music journalism, it’s most common to find stories about the next up-and-coming talent who is poised and ready for stardom.

More often than not, the subject is happy and eager to be interviewed and thrilled to gain the notoriety that comes with press coverage. That, in my opinion, is fantastic and a mostly-great thing for music in general. Regardless of my opinion, it has always been a necessary element in propelling many a “local act” into the realm of widely acclaimed artists.

However, aside from bolstering the hype of a burgeoning music career, I believe the same media can serve another purpose: to very publicly appreciate the work of artists who have trouble imagining life without their crafts, the kind with a great deal of devotion and proficiency but little concern for commercial appeal or self-promotion.

Enter AsriOne, a lifelong resident of Rapid City, 21 years old at time of press, and a hidden gem of the city’s musical culture. A member of local hip-hop collective “Demwitz Crew,” Asri is, among other things, a beat producer and aspiring emcee. Ever-so-quietly, he has been crafting beats for 5 years and seems to be on a course of artistic development laden with very few plateaus, let alone valleys.

At the risk of sounding like more of a fan than a journalist, I must say it has been a personal joy to watch his progress occurring with every track via Soundcloud, a popular music sharing website. The more time passes, the more I can hear in his beats glimmers of world-renowned producers like RZA of The Wu-Tang Clan (who he cites as a major influence), Madlib, and Ant of Atmosphere (another major influence).

Given the fact that he is not difficult to contact online, I wondered for some time how it could be that he didn’t have digital inboxes flooded with requests from rappers to use his work. In hip-hop culture there’s a social state of existence known as being “slept on,” which means that a person or group is highly skilled or even has superior skills or style, yet receives less attention than their peers who are more gregarious and demanding of the spotlight. After all the wondering, what I’ve found is that the local and regional hip-hop community has definitely been sleeping on AsriOne.

Naturally, I met with Asri to discuss his music. He has an unassuming manner about him, to be sure. Looking at the guy, one wouldn’t intuitively guess that he must produce the kinds of beats that harken back to the mid-late 1990’s and what is often considered to be the “Golden Age” of hip-hop culture as a whole. Gold, platinum and diamond-encrusted jewelry and teeth are nowhere to be found, and nothing about his outward appearance is flashy or bombastic. In contrast to his bold and unflinching approach to sample-based beat production, the young man himself is quite taciturn, seeming reluctant to say much (especially about himself) even when asked.

By his lack of deference and subscription to the norms of modern hip-hop and his awareness of the genre as a global culture with its own history, one gets the impression that he may not have considered his body of work as a “career” even in an artistic sense. Some may call that unprofessional, but I say it’s beautiful in its creative purity. It’s rare anymore to come across an artist who is truly unaffected by convention and naturally inclined to make hip-hop an expression of one’s undiluted self the way club beats simply do not for the most part.

From his own perspective, his abilities are more of a lifestyle to be experienced than a commercial or professional aspiration. He says with utter matter-of-factness, “I’m just a regular guy, doing this.”

AsriOne is also a bit of an oddity as a producer in a few qualitatively sonic ways. Throughout his Soundcloud catalogue, hisses, clicks and cracks abound, instrumentation levels occasionally push or smash the traditional limits of high fidelity, and there is a prevalent sense that what’s being presented is more like an aural version of a graffiti sketch journal than a beat sales inventory. But if one can appreciate the art of his beats for art’s sake rather than for its projected economic value, their rough-hewn complexity and the way they ignore expectation starts to gradually become endearing and refreshing.

It’s beautiful music if you don’t need it to be pop music – and by “beautiful” I don’t necessarily mean “pretty.” I’d discuss the difference here, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say that what these efforts lack in cleanliness and tailoring to popular markets they more than make up for (to me) in raw, emotional style.

Further contributing to AsriOne’s unique tonality and distinguishing him from his peers is the pronounced psychological response triggered by many of his releases. The influence of hip-hop is ever present in his work but his selection and looping of classic soul samples quite frequently takes on a hypnotic quality which lulls the listener into a soundscape of surrealism and grit.

This dissociative bent borders at times on forays into the traits of several new-wave experimental, glitch, and lo-fi genres of electronica. For particular examples of the effect I’m describing, I recommend the tracks “Leave My Mind” and “Bet Ya Never Knew” (available for listening on Soundcloud) as great places to start. In a strange and counterintuitive way, his aberrant tendencies as a hip-hop producer actually lend him what I see as potential crossover appeal between his work and electronic music in general.

Even if you don’t plan to rap over his beats, they still have a high meditative listening value (especially during creative activities and pursuits). And while AsriOne is very much a hip-hop producer, I don’t think it’s necessary to be an emcee or a hip-hop fan to appreciate what he does. You just have to be comfortable with something a little different.

All that said, I believe the most important fact I can reiterate about AsriOne is that he’s 21 years old – he has lots of years left to keep developing into a phenomenal artist. For all the reasons stated above, I look forward to witnessing the process. In the meantime, especially if you’re an emcee out of Rapid City, you would do well for yourself to check out this young man’s Soundcloud profile immediately. Beyond that, keep an ear out for his Bandcamp release tentatively titled “Beatz, Loopz, and Bluntz vol. 2” which is slated to drop this summer.

(Animal Teef can be reached at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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