The paths of Oakland MC Jay Stone and L.A.-based producer Monster Rally converged to produce one of the most intriguing hip-hop releases of this nascent year: The Foreign Pedestrians EP on Gold Robot Records.
While Monster Rally’s music was familiar to me via his featured work on multisensory experience blog Stadiums & Shrines, Stone is a new discovery, and Foreign Pedestrians comes across like the soundtrack to Adult Swim vignettes.
“The whole thing is taking place in some weird animation … you can see it in your mind,” Monster Rally’s Ted Feighan says of the EP, on a call from L.A. In fact, he tells me that “I know some people at Adult Swim and they’ve even played some Monster Rally instrumentals in between segments, it’s awesome.” But on Foreign Pedestrians, he embarks on a more comprehensive collaborative project with Stone — one that conjures up Danger Doom-like smiles throughout.
I mention the Adult Swim reference to Stone on a separate call. He’s munching away at a hoagie after playing golf with his dad in Berkeley (food is a recurring theme in his rhymes; golf is not). “I wanna get that shit on Adult Swim if I can, man,” he says. “My homies Tyler and Jasper have a show on there already, called Loiter Squad.”
It’s at this point that I realize Jay is talking about Tyler The Creator, but he’s so matter-of-fact when he mentions the cult-hip-hop-hero and leader of the Odd Future crew that it’s clear this dude is just focused on creating.
Jay talks about a potential film collab with Tyler in the future and then impresses with his hip-hop philosophy: “Right now is the pioneering time in hip-hop. Its the time for muthafuckas to be like ‘Yeah, I do hip-hop and I might be dope at making music, but its not the only thing that I do, so I’m bout to show you everything I got.’ A lot of people are multi-faceted these days and trying to pave new pathways in the way you can expose yourself to the masses.”
This is precisely where his work with Monster Rally comes in. Both artists have side businesses — at the time of this interview, Feighan was fresh off a four-day appearance at the L.A. Art Book Fair to promote his Valley Cruise Press apparel/books/art company. (He also designed the cover art for the album and does for all of his solo releases.) And Stone takes after Feighan: “He inspired me to go further with my shit, cause I got my own business too, a vintage sportswear brand called 5th Handed.”
Okay … so we get it now: MC and producer, both extremely artistically well-rounded and forward thinking beyond hip-hop. But we’ve barely scratched the surface on Foreign Pedestrians, where around one corner, Stone is dropping gems like “Eatin’ cannabis souffle, sippin on an IPA, I’m the pharaoh of the Bay!” and around the other, Feighan uses samples “from this Jimmy Buffett knock-off guy,” he explain,s about the Blaxploitation-like first movement on “Melancholy.”
“The cover of that record has this dude sitting on a beach with a coconut,” he adds with a chuckle.
When Feighan says this, it dawns on me how much fun these guys are having on Foreign Pedestrians — it seemingly never stops. On “Cognac,” Stone tells a hilariously food-inspired tale of intimacy: “She’s sippin’ absinthe through a piece of German chocolate licorice/ her nipples ticklish.” And then, on “Parthenogenesis,” arguably the album’s crowning moment, Feighan opens with a whimsical vocal sample, into a crisp bass-to-snare drum beat backing a tropical melody, laden with the sound of birds cooing as they hover over the shore and Stone comes in with the goods:
Pedestrian, down the sidewalk, moving heel-to-toe
Equestrian, crewneck olympics, 1984
Enough with your semantics Amadeus, what you said before
That the consequences of your actions were gargantuan
You said it three times in english, latin and mandarin
That each fine line cross-cut like adamantium
And when you find your mind’s lost, just don’t start panicking
Use the force Darth Vader, middle-aged Anakin
Real shit right there. And much like myself, Jay Stone was new to Monster Rally until Gold Robot Records boss, Hunter Mack, introduced the music to him. “I hadn’t heard of Jay until Hunter connected us. Then I heard him and I was surprised that I hadn’t heard him,” he laughs. “People in Oakland know who he is, but Jay didn’t have a lot of reach outside of Oakland and now it’s good that more people are getting exposed to him.”
I ask Jay about hip-hop interconnectedness in the Bay and he basically sums up the scene like this: “Shit be hella cliquey. People only fuck with motherfuckers that they know. Its got potential, but it still takes for MFers to be open. You gotta be open to building with people.”
Building with people is what Jay Stone and Monster Rally have done on Foreign Pedestrians. And this is what Stone hopes to continue to do this coming summer when he heads to New York in April for “four to five months.” Before that, the pair will be going on a weeklong West Coast tour in March and then “getting over to New York and Philly in early spring,” Feighan says.
But don’t think that Jay Stone is going to pack up to New York and never come back. “Cali is always home. No matter where you go!” he says. “I’m only planning on living there for the summer and a little bit of fall before that cold air comes in.” Smart man, considering the freezing temperatures sweeping the Big Apple right now.
More than anything, the Bay needs a rapper like Jay Stone around, and Foreign Pedestrians is a game-changer. From Monster Rally’s smooth instrumentals (which also appear as a standalone second half to the album) to Stone’s riddling rhyme schemes, this record won’t leave the rotation anytime soon.
Moment of Truth appears every Tuesday on All Shook Down.