When finding oneself in a Helluvastate, there can be no time for thinking, nor apprehension, nor revision; there is only the moment and its instantaneous feeling and resulting creativity. “This is some road trip sh*t,” Helladope rapper/producer Tay Sean said of his forthcoming freely downloadable collaboration with State of the Artist (SOTA) emcee TH, Thadwick Tristen Trevor III & Swan Coltrane: Adventures in a Helluvastate, or just Helluvastate “for flyer purposes and stuff.” Rather than the soundtrack to packed SUVs of suburban families heading to Chelan, the mixtape seeks to capture the free-flowing nature of being completely comfortable amongst close friends, living in the moment and heading to a shared destination excited to see what comes up along the way, with due time set aside for getting lifted and getting laid.
The much-whispered about project, one anticipated by Seattle hip-hop aficionados for its uniting not only of two of the local scene’s most exciting voices but also its most active crews in Members Only and Cloud Nice, is one long in the making. Tay and TH began working together before the recording of “Extrahelladope,” the infectious lead single off SOTA’s spring 2010 full-length Seattlecalifragilisticextrahelladopeness, which featured Tay Sean and his Helladope compatriot Jerm. “[Helluvastate] came about pretty organically,” TH said, “just based off the strength of wanting to do more music and put more stuff out and meeting up every Monday.”
These informal cypher sessions created enough material for a whole project, and also for a new creative process for Tay Sean. Adventures in a Helluvastate features limited production from the locally renowned Beacon Hill beatsmith, instead drawing on beats (some licensed and some not, hence, the release of a mixtape rather than a proper album) by Cloud Nice cohort Mikey Nice and Nigerian-Canadian producer KenLo, among others. Freed from the immense investment of producing, Tay Sean also freed himself from the self-imposed pressures of creation with coaxing by TH.
“When you’ve got your solo project you want it to be your little baby [because] it’s a strong reflection of you,” he said. “With this project, it was releasing those fears, not being so scared of what’s everybody going to think … just letting go of the pretense and hesitating and second-guessing everything and just letting it flow.”
Lyrically, this meant a new approach to writing rhymes by actually writing them down. Usually a perfectionist waiting for the right words to come to him wherever they may be, Tay often writes very little but composes verses in his head over as long as weeks at a time. For Helluvastate, the lyrical approach was more instantaneous, about channeling the moment and immediate reactions to beats. “[TH] is already hella good at that. I think a lot of his verses reflect that kind of freedom,” Tay said.
Such freedom gained through momentary reactions and gut-feelings is representative of the project as a whole, one both rappers referred to repeatedly as “natural” and “organic.” Guests appearances by other emcees, including the other SOTA boys Hyphen8d and Parker, occurred out of whoever was in the studio at the time, mostly close friends. A hook by singer Sean Symphony was recorded while he had a cold, and after re-recording it while in better health, the emcees decided to use the original cut for a more “rough-around-the-edges” sound.
What is not rough is the chemistry Tay and TH felt in the studio, nor how comfortable they feel working with each other. Listening to the duo practice their verses from the mixtape’s cuts, including Tay Sean-produced first single “Make Moves” (released today), I witnessed two friends who happened to also be rappers sparring back and forth, finishing each others’ verses when one forgot lines, laughing at punch lines, sitting on the couch in an apartment living room while typically blunted Dilla-esque beats played in the background.
Adventures in a Helluvastate will be released in the very near future. Until then, be sure to check out Helluvastate opening for Champagne Champagne and Onry Ozzborn Thursday at the High Dive. For more info go here.