‘Conn(is)’ Album Review

By: Shamus Hill

Packing the entirety of his life experience into an incredibly well-written, mesmerizing debut album is Connis. Anywhere you’ve looked this week, individuals from Massachusetts and beyond have rallied around the Cambridge native’s Conn(is) — with it being one of the most thorough projects to come out of the state in recent years.

Connis’ career dates back nearly a decade to when he was making music with friends simply for the joy of doing so. From the jump, Connis’ goal has been to provide his listeners with his truest sense of self, while at the same time elevating the people around him and subsequently the music scene in Cambridge. He’s released several projects throughout his tenure as an artist, however Conn(is) is the first to really satisfy the “debut album” label.

From start to finish, Conn(is) vividly captures the instances within Connis’ life that have assisted in molding him into the individual he currently is. He possesses the ability to intricately detail the situations he’s experienced with true precision, which at times can be uplifting and at other times gut-wrenching. No matter the basis of content, Connis doesn’t shy away from dictating exactly what he’s endured. Listening through this project almost feels as if you’re reading his personal journal — each entry tells a vastly different tale, yet flows seamlessly into the next.

“Still Here”, “Stubble”, and “Change Me” were some personal standouts off of Conn(is) for me, as each capture a variety of emotions that are difficult to put into words. With each listen, you really get to know who Connis is, which is something that lacks in a lot of the music released at this point in time. He’s made a name for himself by being himself, and for that Connis will always remain a formidable artist. I honestly can’t say enough about this album, as it will ultimately end up being one of the most memorable projects to ever come out of Massachusetts — and this isn’t an overstatement in the slightest bit. Experience it for yourself if you have not yet.

Watch the short film that Connis released prior to his album dropping here!

Listen to Conn(is) below:

CLICK HERE TO STREAM VIA SPOTIFY/APPLE MUSIC

Features: soap.wav, Packy Marciano, Gogo., Rothstein, Macse

Production: Connis, Amir Rivera, Ricky Sour, Shepard, Yang, BBJ, DOC, Elijah Fox

Mix/Master: Rafael Moure + Connis

Executive Producer: Connis + Grant Baker

Gogo. – “Sauced.” (Prod. Rilla Force)

By: Shamus Hill

In order to properly celebrate his birthday today, Gogo. just unleashed an intoxicating single titled “Sauced.”.

As mentioned during our coverage of soap.wav’s “Did It Again”, Cambridge has quickly become an important hotbed for music within the state of Massachusetts. Gogo. is one of the artists from Cambridge that’s been working tirelessly to maintain his city’s notoriety. Possessing a catalog of music full of alluring bops that take influence from a wide variety of genres, “Sauced.” is only the most recent addition to Gogo.’s already powerful discography.

Rilla Force, who was recently featured on Jymmy Kafka’s “Still There”, showcases exactly why he’s one of the most recruited producers in Massachusetts on this release. The electronic, dancehall-rooted instrumental suits perfectly on Gogo., who makes use of “Sauced.” to exhibit his braggadocios, confident state of mind. He’s more than aware of his talents, and is determined to make 2019 the year that everyone knows exactly who he is.

Listen to “Sauced.” below:

An Interview With Rothstein

By: Shamus Hill

Hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts — Rothstein is an exhilarating force within the Bay State’s music scene. Over the past few years, he’s been busy filling-up his discography with passionate, heart-wrenching music that encapsulates the essence of some of the most prominent moments of his life.

Graduation Music recently spoke with the exceptional artist in order to gain some insight into what makes him the individual that he is. Check out the interview below:


ORIGINS


To begin, when did you start making music? 

I started in high school with my best friend Raf. He used to chop samples & mix vocals in ACID; he’d been toying with it since we were in middle school. Raf is actually still my engineer.

Who were some of your early inspirations, both musically and non-musically speaking? 

50 Cent, Craig David, Phonte, Andre, Joni Mitchell, Jadakiss, Donald Fagen, Steve Winwood, Usher, Alison Krauss, Max B, Paul Simon, Sade, Stephen Sondheim, Paul Rogers, Stevie Wonder, Backstreet Boys… Most of my heroes were and are musicians.

What kind of music did you grow up on?

My dad is a drummer & he plays mostly jazz so it was mostly that from him. My mom always played me this gorgeously wimpy singer / songwriter folk-pop stuff from the 70s. My cousin always put me on with the heady indie shit the cool, artsy older kids were listening to. All of my friends listened to hip hop — that’s my first love, the lens through which I view all of my music — even the stuff that sounds nothing like it.


CAMBRIDGE 


How has Cambridge molded you as a person? 

Growing up in Cambridge didn’t make me weird, but it helped. Diversity is a fact of life there — of race, of sexual orientation, of class, of taste, of cuisine, of culture. It also engendered in me a special hatred for a certain kind of New England prep school frat boy WASPism, a love for a certain shitty brand of iced coffee and an unshakeable coldness of demeanor.

Why is being from Cambridge important to you? 

It is and it isn’t — I’m very proud to be from a city as progressive, as strange and as undeniably good at ball as Cambridge. On the other hand, I’ve always lived in my own little world. That’s where most of my music takes place. I love Cambridge mostly for the people. Many of them have since dispersed, but I made lifelong friendships there with some of the weirdest and brightest people you could hope to meet.

Can you speak on your decision to move away from Cambridge to further your career? 

I didn’t leave Cambridge to further my career — I left Cambridge to start it. I was 20 when I moved to New York; I had dropped out of college after a year of absolute fuckery and was living in my mom’s apartment in Cambridge, writing songs and moping. My friend Taylor had just opened a tiny little menswear boutique in Williamsburg and he offered me a bed upstairs if I’d run the shop with him, leave MA and attempt to make a career of my music instead of remaining a sad sack of shit. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Cambridge is a wonderful place but it’s where I grew up, and growing up is hell. When I came back after dropping out, all it represented to me was failure.

Describe Cambridge in one word.

Collage.


MUSIC


What do you want listeners to take-away from your music?

I want them to be moved. I want them to hear, articulated in simple terms, the things they could never quite put into words. I want them to be awash in imagery. I want them to feel something.

In your opinion, why is self-expression important? 

Expression is important to me because we’ve turned this innately selfish thing into a means to relate to one another — to alleviate the sorrow and loneliness and apathy and guilt and pain that come with being human. It’s given me purpose and joy, and the fact that I get to live off it is still fucking surreal to me. 

How was your journey towards becoming comfortable enough to put your real life experiences into your music? Was this something that felt natural to you or did it take time to develop?

Writing was always therapy so I’ve always been more open in song than I am in real life. I’ve always been a storyteller, and I’ve always felt like an outsider, so I think I’m particularly conscious of what experiences of mine people relate to. I’m lucky to be dating a woman who can listen to scathing songs about her or wistful songs about exes without batting an eye. I’m lucky to be the child of a mother who can listen to my war stories without judgement and tell me what she likes about the songwriting. Even if it made everyone uncomfortable though, I’d still write this shit. It’s for me.

What was the process of obtaining your stylistic elements like? 

I think it went for me the way it goes for most — imitate your idols until you learn all their tricks, then put said tricks (and whatever tricks you got of your own) to use to make something truly your own. I used to try and rap like Ka over dusty lo-fi beats. I heard House of Balloons and did my best Abel impression for like a year. I always had a very distinctive way of writing lyrics, but it all came together just over 2 years ago when I wrote a song that changed my life and helped me define my voice for good. I’ve been on autopilot ever since.

When making a song, what’s the setting typically like? Are there any specific people that help facilitate a better music-making experience?

When I work on music, it’s in one of 5 places:

  • The desk in my windowless little room in Queens
  • Fallen Atom’s living room
  • Candid, the studio in Brooklyn where 3 of my closest producers- Gabe Monro, DOC and Elijah Fox- reside
  • Raf’s home studio all the way uptown
  • Ricky Sour’s bedroom

These guys make the experience what it is. Raf and I have been doing this forever and his patience knows no limits. He’s a phenomenal engineer and without him there’s no Rothstein. Fallen is the best guitar player in the world — this dude has played for J Balvin, Liam Payne, Rita Ora, just tons of fucking people. He’s my secret weapon. Gabe is the only guy down to stay up and work till the morning with me. He executive produced my upcoming album PARADISE, and I think he’s one of the best producers working right now. DOC is a hit machine, probably the purest producer I’ve ever met. Elijah is someone whose affable genius inspires awe in everyone he meets. He’s the one who wanders into the room, lays keys or backing vocals and completely transforms a song, then he’s gone in 15 minutes. Ricky is going to be the greatest producer out of Cambridge ever. With these guys all within 15 minutes of home, I can’t lose.

How would you describe your music? 

My music is like if Raymond Carver wrote R&B songs. It’s like if James Blake and Future raised a depressive child who painted his nails black and started using early in life. I have so much fun making these comparisons but it’s hard to know exactly what to say because my music sounds exactly like me, and it really doesn’t sound enough like anyone else to warrant comparison. I’m making my favorite shit in the world right now.

In your opinion, what’s the ideal setting for listening to your music? 

If you are listening to Rothstein you should be wiping frozen tears from your face with a designer handkerchief while you speed down the Mass Pike, heartbroken and desperate, driven only by the desire to dispatch your remaining enemies. 

Who are your favorite artists from Massachusetts? 

Gabe Gill is my favorite artist in MA. Gabe is a boy genius future pop star from Northampton; his music sounds like Matchbox 20 on acid and his writing is some of the best there is. He’s got so much to say, such beautiful ways of saying it, such vision and passion and empathy, such effervescent swag. I can’t say enough about that kid.

I’ve been listening to a number of acts from home — Maka is a unicorn in a scene overpopulated with clones, a well of originality and joyful escapism. I listen to his music all the time. Connis is the best rapper in the state and it’s not even really all that close. His upcoming album is very special. TeaMarrr is making really cool, personal R&B and she owns any stage she touches. Dutchy DoBad, Jiggz and 7891 Kal are making high quality street music. Honeyfitz is like a badass Conor Oberst. Stizz inspired me (and everyone else) a great deal and made an album that I think of as our First Classic Record (I got Maka down for the second one with Waterworld). Gogo is a problem. Los Elk have been going crazy… I know I’m missing plenty of names here but MA has a lot going on man, I’m excited to see what the future holds.


2018 


Which 2018 release of yours was your favorite? 

It’s either “A Million” or “Endless Winter Freestyle”. They’re very different songs but they’re both kind of State of the Union moments for me — whereas most of my music is story driven and imagery driven and very much wrapped up in relationships with other people, those 2 are moments where I break the fourth wall and just talk my shit for a minute. 

Can you describe the feelings you experienced surrounding the release of your debut album, HIGH WATER

I made most of HIGH WATER in 2016 so it was a massive relief to finally get it off. I make a whole lot of music so I’d already moved all the way on by the time it was released but watching fans hear it for the first time renewed my excitement for it and hearing “High Tide” play in an episode of network TV was totally surreal. The release show was a moment for me too; it was my first New York headliner at a venue I actually really wanted to play at. That shit was beautiful man. My band is superb and these guys helped me give the kind of show you can’t get just from listening to the record and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

Last year was an incredibly successful one for you, racking in over a million plays and 126K+ monthly listeners on Spotify. Do you feel like this has changed your perspective at all, or do you still feel the same as you always have? 

I’m very grateful but nowhere near satisfied.

For the younger artists out there, do you have any tips pertaining to how they too can grow their listenership? 

First, you have to be yourself. Then you have be good, but that matters a lot less. Don’t get into this to make money; get a job, reinvest your earnings, pay the people you work with fairly, surround yourself with good art, be persistent. Understand that nobody owes you anything and everyone wants something from you- be useful, be quiet, work hard, make something beautiful.

What was your biggest lesson from last year? 

I used to internally justify my pain / isolation / bad habits / depression / drug use / antisocial behavior with the “it’s all part of Being An Artist, man” thing and I gave that up this past year. I don’t need to suffer to be great. I don’t need to be lonely to be great.


2019 & ON


What’s next for Rothstein? 

If this year were an episode of Friends it would be The One Where Roth Drops All The Music. I’ve been writing a lot of music for other artists, and it’ll be exciting to see that all finally exist outside of my head. With any luck you might hear some of those on the radio this year; these guys are heavy hitters and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to help them fulfill their visions. I’ve got a lot of my own on the way this year too- next up is LET ME DOWN EASY, a short EP with Fallen on production. Then it’s DEADMALL + ROTHSTEIN, with Gabe Gill & Honeyfitz. After that, I got 2 singles Ricky Sour & I produced (one of which features Radamiz, who, aside from being one of my only true Artist Friends in this shit, is very possibly the best rapper alive). Then it’s finally time for PARADISE, my album, my best work yet. When I drop these, they’ll tell you more than I could ever hope to say here. I hope you dance.


Listen to some of Rothstein’s music down below:

Gogo. – “Captian.” (Prod. abu617)

By: Shamus Hill

Making his return to the Graduation Music site today is Gogo., who recently collaborated with abu617 in order to gift fans with “Captian.”.

While the Cambridge-native maintains his usual melodic style here, this release doesn’t have the tropical, shimmering feel that’s typically attached to Gogo.’s discography. He possesses a more serious demeanor on this track, and abu617’s contemplative production allows for Gogo. to relay how he’s been feeling as of late. More than aware of his own talents, Gogo.’s not entertaining the thought of anything that isn’t assisting him in reaching his goals. Embedding himself seamlessly within the instrumental, this release is one of Gogo.’s most addictive to-date.

Listen to “Captian.” below:

Gogo – “King Of The Jungle” [Music Video]

By: Shamus Hill

Gogo and BT Living recently combined forces in order to gift fans with the official visuals for Gogo’s “King Of The Jungle”, an addictive offering that the Graduation Music staff has had in rotation since it dropped this past summer.

Gogo had himself quite the 2018, delivering a handful of melodic masterpieces that have helped him gain a solid position within the Massachusetts music scene. His vocal range allows him to capture a wide variety of emotions in his music, and this attribute is something that I truly believe will assist in lifting Gogo into a universal limelight. The Cambridge-native is yet another example of the immense amount of talent that’s present within the city, and as he settles into 2019 it’s becoming apparent that he’s moving towards having a successful year.

Watch the official video for “King Of The Jungle” below:

Artist: Gogo

Production: Gogo

Director: BT Livin

Creative Director: Sim

Photography: @LexOnOne

Connis – “Tall Model B*tch” ft. Maka, FAbzabove, Gogo, & Donald Grunge [Prod. Maka]

By: Seamus Fay

One of the main criticisms of the Massachusetts music scene right now is that instead of coming together and collaborating, artists see everything as a competition and are hesitant to embrace the sense of “community” that people are looking for. Regardless of your thoughts on the criticism, it’s always refreshing to see this concept of collaboration come to fruition, and today, this is perfectly exemplified with Connis’ brand new song, “Tall Model B*tch”. Bringing together the names of Maka, FAbzabove, Gogo, and Donald Grunge, this one represents a special moment for Massachusetts, and rightfully so, the music follows up with a high level of quality to match.

Produced by the hitmaker himself, Maka, “Tall Model B*tch”`finds its energy within an endless supply of playful flows as well an electric melody. The beat is simplistic, but by matching the hard-hitting bass with lyrical acrobatics from every single artist on the song, it comes through as immensely powerful. There doesn’t exist one unimpressive verse on “Tall Model B*tch”, and with every single artist going as hard as they possibly can, it goes without saying that Connis’ latest is going to do serious numbers — plus, you can pretty much already tell that this track performed live might just shut down a venue on any given night.

That said, listen at the link below and embrace the sight of so many Mass-based artists coming together on one song!

GoGo – “King of the Jungle”

By: Mal Pearson

This morning Cambridge artist GoGo dropped the first single from his upcoming project Good Energy. The single “King of the Jungle” is a four-minute bounce that opens with dialogue pulled from the 1951 film Bride of the Gorilla. Gogo is melodic, as he hums on the self-produced instrumental with the type of effortlessness similar to Kid Cudi. Where the track stands out is it’s repetitive and catchy lyrics.

I smoke the fonto, I feel it burning my nostrils
Kick in the front door
Now I’m standing tall like Mutombo
You gotta get right
Before you get left

Gogo is having fun here and he’s doing it well. “King of the Jungle” is something light and catchy for the upcoming Summer. With that said, expect more from the Cambridge-based artist in the near future and listen to his newest offering at the link below: