How a Collection of Underground Artists Made 'Oscillations' a Compilation that Exemplifies L.A.'s Eclectic Scene
Featuring Blu, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jimetta Rose, Dizz1, and more, Oscillations is an eclectic collection that encapsulate the lack of rules in L.A.’s music scene
Back in July, Strange Neighbor, a small independent label based in Los Angeles, released a seven track compilation. Titled Oscillations, the album is a eclectic fusion of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and electronica that encapsulate the lack of rules in L.A.’s ever-expanding music scene.
With the rise of Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, and Tyler, the Creator, L.A. has continued to be a rap music hub. The city has also been the nucleus of a fascinating avant-garde scene, birthing acts like Thundercat, Flying Lotus, and Kamasi Washington. Oscillations — which means back and forth movement — stands out because it captures the dexterity of the scene in a smaller scale, featuring a collection of alternative West Coast vets who have been embed in L.A.’s fertile underground music scene for years.
“L.A. music to me has a lot of freedom. It’s expansive. And I think that’s why a lot of people have become attracted to it,” singer Nia Andrews, one of the stars of Oscillations, said. “Anything goes. You can find a lane. And if you can’t find one, you can carve one.”
Andrews has been a fixture in the underground L.A. circuit for years. (We covered her debut EP Colours back in 2013.) Very few know the textures of the scene like her. As a young girl, Andrews was exposed to legendary left-field artists from the city such as the Jazzyfatnastees and The Pharcyde. Later, in high school, she was a member of a jazz band with Terrace Martin, Washington, and Thundercat.
Andrews appears on the serene Oscillations standout “A Song About Timing,”alongside producers Mndsgn and Swarvy, who is from Philly but is accepted with open arms in L.A.
“Swarvy is not from here but something about his spirit feels like the L.A. of old,” Nia said.
Swarvy and Andrews were introduced by Adrian White, the owner of Strange Neighbor. The two ended up clicking almost instantly; they wrote “A Song About Timing” on the spot:
“I listened to some beats. I wrote a few initial scratches,” Andrews said. “Where it really locked in is when I went to Swarvy’s crib…having sessions with people is kinda like dating. Like you don’t always know if you’re gonna click.”
“A Song About Timing” is an example of how Oscillations brings together artists of different backgrounds to embrace one scene.
Producer Dizz1 is featured on three songs off of the compilation: “Hard To Breathe,” a collaboration between OG rapper MED and Jimetta Rose; “We Make It Look Easy,” by Blu and Georgia Anne Muldrow; and “‘King of the Bright,” a spooky instrumental track.
Dizz1 was born and raised in Australia, but he has been a major player in L.A.’s illustrious Beat Scene, which exemplifies the freedom and genre-bending that has inspired projects like Oscillations.
The early groundwork for the Beat Scene was laid by L.A. producer and Alpha Pup label owner Daddy Kev in 2006, when he established Low End Theory, a long-running experimental hip-hop and electronic club night that has featured some of L.A.’s most innovative artists. (In the beginning of August, Low End Theory closed its doors for good; for the occasion, Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt reunited.)
For Oscillations, Dizz1 got involved after speaking with White, who broke down the vision for the project. Dizz1 got to work, first with the brawny “Hard To Breathe,” which started when he sent a couple beats to MED.
“I think he might have sent me one or two beats…It was pretty funky,” MED said. “I did my thing on it. He liked it so that was a good thing.”
Speaking on the production of “Hard to Breath,” Dizz1 said:
“I just kinda thought the beat had a Dr Dre-esque sound. I’ve always been influenced by his vibe. He’s the king of that sound and then I guess for me I always want to put my little twist on it. It’s always gonna be influences from all the greats, obviously. Even if I’m not aware of it. It’s stuff that made me excited so I’m trying to recreate that in my own way.”
Once MED sent back the vocals, Dizz had to figure out the hook. Dizz1 knew he wanted something featuring a “female vocalist.” That’s when MED suggested the incomparable Rose.
“I got called by MED to write a hook for the song, and I didn’t know what it was a part of at all,” Rose said. “I guess he had been tapped to make the first song for this project that Dizz1 was still conceptualizing at the time.”
“Hard to Breath” was completed in 2016; Rose didn’t know what the song was for or what happened to it until a year later.
“I had written the song, recorded it, I heard that he liked it, but I didn’t hear what the plan for the song was until it was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to do this whole compilation,’” Rose said.
The album’s opener is “We Make It Look Easy,” a soulful thumper Dizz1 put together featuring Blu and Georgia Anne Muldrow, two of the most talented artists to grow out of L.A,’s music scene. On the track, Blu pays homage to the rappers that influenced him, from J. Dilla to Mac Dre. However, the standout of the track is Muldrow, who, with her distinctive voice, sings about putting her “life in this work to make it look easy.”
“I think Georgia Anne Muldrow gets respect but not enough respect,” MED said. “I think she’s definitely very important to the culture. When it comes to such a male-dominated industry, and you have a woman who can make her own beats. She really doesn’t need nobody in a sense.”
Speaking to the artists involved with Oscillations, it’s clear that Dizz1 is the straw that stirred this drink. It’s funny, he’s a transplant, but he has captured L.A.’s free and ever-evolving musical spirit.
“I feel like in the two years that Dizz1 was compiling this music, his ear was very much to the ground of the change that was happening here in LA,” Rose said. “I have been saying that there’s a renaissance going on here for a long time.”
Andrews, who knows all the crooks and nannies of the L.A. scene, concurs.
“L.A. was an underdog music scene for so long. Not to the people who are in it, Andrews said. “We knew it was dope, But it was like this best-kept secret.”
Layne Weiss is a Los Angeles-based author whose work has appeared in a number of publications including LA Weekly, Bandcamp Paper Mag, Wax Poetics and Mass Appeal. You can follow her work here.