First Look Friday: Oslo MC Ivan Ave Talks 'Low Jams' + Debuts "Obedience" [Official Video]
Photo courtesy of Mohamed Chakiri.
Oslo-based MC Ivan Ave has quietly been putting tracks to bed since his early ventures with Fredfades on their collaborative Hands and Breathe projects. A keen ear for seamless production and a profound respect for the culture have quickly made him the sixth man on a number of short lists boasting the coldest rising MC's. Approaching the game with profound humility and a hunter's bloodthirst, Ave has proven himself a lyrical technician whose approach to the mic is as much about what he's saying as how he is saying it; the careful word placement and delicious adlibs at the core of his rhymes often find him approaching tracks in the same way that a seasoned horn player might capitalize on the nuance and negative space in the rhythm.
Just a month out from Jakarta Records' formal release of the Low Jams LP - a small masterpiece of a sonic appetizer produced by Mndsgn - Ivan Ave returns with the debut of the official video for the project's opening track "Obedience." The project is an enveloping headnodder that peppers irresistible grooves with vivid double-entendres and exists in the same elusive strata of true school perfection occupied by Nas' debut Illmatic LP. While carrying the torch may be a daunting task for some, Ivan - clearly above average - is the unassuming keeper of the flame. Check out the text below to read our exclusive interview with Ivan Ave. Scroll down to check out the official video for "Obedience" directed by Jonas Meek Stromman and edited by Isak Gundrosen. Purchase the Low Jams LP via Jakarta Records. Stay tuned for more from Ivan Ave.
Okayplayer: Why Ivan Ave? There’s nothing average about what you bring to the table as a hip-hop artist.
Ivan Ave: I used to go by Ivan Average as an inside joke, because I was something like a George Costanza of the local scene. I didn't know what I wanted in this game and I didn't dress, sound or mean mug like someone who does. So I couldn't call my self "Mr I'mma Get It"--like half of these rappers do. I had to shorten it to Ave when I realized I actually wanted to get somewhere, though.
OKP: Some people are getting their first taste of you with the Low Jams LP produced by MNDSGN, but you have been around for a while. What was your goal with this project from EP to full length?
IA:Low Jams was the product of my musical correspondence with Ringgo. We just wanted to do something interesting together. I would send him samples from my record collection, rip some parts that I felt he could flip. He sent me a bunch of beats and I selected the ones I felt the most. I had a plan to release the first four tracks on Soundcloud, just to let the world have a listen. And then expand on those and make an album with other producers, some of my own beats, etc. But things happened when I put those first songs out. People started listening. When I got some distance from the tracks, I felt like it was a piece in its own right. Jakarta reached out and we decided to do a 12" with instrumentals on the flip. Peace to my brother Mohamed Chakiri who did the cover photo.
OKP: How does Low Jams compare to the Hands and Breathe EP’s you dropped with Fredfades?
IA: I hope to always keep looking for an honest expression musically. I think I'm getting closer. So the main difference is I feel more like myself on Low Jams. It depicts a very real winter in my mid twenties. I've always tried to tell the truth lyrically, but you also have to provide a vibe that communicates that truth effectively.
OKP: How did your relationships with those producers (Fredfades and MNDSGN) come about and what would you say is unique/best about each?
IA: Fred is one of my best friends. We linked years ago through the graffiti scene here. He has always been a mentor when it comes to record digging, DJing and production. Oslo is a good place to be for music heads, because of people like him. He keeps it rugged one hundred percent. If the SP-1200 cult had a suicide pact he would be pouring the Kool-Aid. Ringgo I got to know through a shared friend, shouts to Tania. I was in LA last summer and since then we stayed in touch and finally got some tracks together. I love his work for its uncompromising soulfulness. Layers and layers of that raw feel.
OKP: Your flow is very distinctive and rhythmic but so is your wordplay. What would you say drives your attention to lyricism? Who are some of the MC’s that influenced your style? Any unexpected sources of inspiration?
>>>Click Through to Page 2 for the Premiere of "Obedience" Official Video
IA: I remember Rakim in an interview talking about how he was trying to rap like a sax player lays down his chops. That was an eye opener. I was somewhere in my teens when I first heard that. To me the parallels to jazz is what keeps hip-hop so fresh. I've always been drawn to the work of jazzy MCs. I take this craft very seriously, because it's something that meant a lot to us growing up (in Oslo) and I'm not about to try and hollow out something holy. It's a humbling thing to write raps in 2014. It's like trying to do something new on keys in the footsteps of Ahmad Jamal, George Duke, Weldon Irvine, etc. Some of my main inspirations growing up have been Black Thought, Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def, Dilla, DOOM - the usual suspects. But also lyricists like Robert Wyatt and Arthur Russell.
OKP: Who are some of your favorite artists? What have you been listening to/inspired by lately?
IA: Taylor Mcferrin's Early Riser LP is this year's biggest record to me. Yawn Zen by Mndsgn -- that's on repeat. As far as rap, I always listen to new stuff by Black Milk, Homeboy Sandman, Black Jungle Squad, etc. One of my favorite artists right now is just getting started, Charlotte Dos Santos from Oslo. She echoes 90's r&b and 70's soul jazz, which are two of my main genres for sure. My record collection spans from fusion jazz to psych, prog, soul, funk, boogie, so it's hard to single anything out. Artists somehow related to the Soulquarian movement tend to be on my decks a lot, from Tarika Blue to Thundercat.
OKP: Do you have a bucket list of producers you’d like to collaborate with?
IA: A beat by Dwele would be ill. Jai Paul, Black Milk, Flying Lotus - the list goes on. But I'm already humbled and amazed to be working with people I used to listen to on the bus.
OKP: What is the creative process like for you? Does it differ from project to project?
IA:Moleskine in every jacket, awkward silence at the party when something pops up -- its that rap life. So I have depots of things I want to write out. But it never comes together without a good beat. I can go for weeks and not write much, then the right beat can pull a song out in ten minutes. I've really only done EPs so far. The process has been the same. Now, working on my first album, beat selection is even more critical. I like albums that feel whole. So that's a new challenge but the writing part is the same.
OKP: Have you dabbled in production at all or do you have plans to?
IA: I have a little bit, but mostly with loops. I'm working on it. I just got some ill records today. Stay tuned.
OKP: You are from Norway. Are you still based there? What is the hip-hop scene like there? How is your music received by the hometown crowd?
IA: I work and live in Oslo and I definitely feel like a part of a solid scene here. A lot of beautiful, positive people. But I would say my circle is more about cratedigging, DJing and dancing than it is about rap. The rap scene is small but the crowds are good. We have had the opportunity to open for some bigger golden age acts and its always inspiring. People are starting to follow what I do. Mad gratitude.
OKP: How many languages do you speak? What made you decide to rhyme in English? Do you ever rock/record in other languages or mix it up at all?
IA: I speak Norwegian and English. Writing in English felt natural from the start because I only really listened to rap from the US. I have family on the East Coast and have been going back and forth to NYC quite a bit the last five years. Its a part of my linguistic self. Plus its a cool experiment to write something in my room and have it absorbed by someone in Brazil or Germany, so English works for me. I'm sticking with it.
OKP: Are there other things specific to your home country that are reflected in your music? Who are some of the artists you are inspired by/working with there?
IA: Musically I think I'm more influenced by what's out there rather than what's near by, like most of us who grew up online. I think the dark winter up here shaped the vibe on the last EP, though. It all goes into the mix. I stay inspired by DJing back to back with friends who know about records, by jamming out with jazz musicians like my drummer and trumpet player - stuff like that. Norwegian acts I really like these days would be Mopti, Emilie Nicholas, and Highasakite, to name a few.
OKP: How have your travels figured into your work or your plans for future projects? Are you collaborating with any other artists/producers stateside?
IA: Traveling is definitely a boost in itself. I hope to be traveling more next year to do shows and eventually make a living touring. But I respect the learning curve and the slow build. Lately I've been working with DJ Harrison, Like (of Pac Div), Elaquent and some other producers and MCs. We'll see what it all amounts to but as long as I feel what I'm working on, I'm happy.
OKP: What were your hopes for the Low Jams full length ahead of the release and what kind of feedback have you been getting since the LP dropped?
IA: I was hoping Low Jams would connect. The feedback has been great and I definitely feel like continuing the quest. I was ready to quit a couple years ago, so I deeply appreciate the latest growth.
OKP: What’s next for Ivan Ave?
IA: I'm working on my album -- trying to pull it together sonically. Looking at a release date early next year. Its a trip. I hope to share my new vibes with as many people as possible, as soon as possible, but I'm definitely giving it the time it deserves.