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Interview With Ambient/Electronic Artist Dude Reppin Knowhere

Dude Reppin Knowhere “Airplane Mode”

 

There’s something undeniably peaceful about airplane mode. With your phone off, severed from global communications and away from the constant press of social media, you’re free to lose yourself in your own thoughts. On an airplane, you’re both everywhere and nowhere: you’re on the planet, but you’re extraterritorial. You’ve escaped the bounds of the ordinary, and you’re in transit, in-between stations and plucked out of time.

What if a rapper tried to represent that in-between state? Could an innovative emcee bring the netherworld to life in the same way a more conventional vocalist puts on for his block? For Dude Reppin Knowhere, that’s not just a theoretical question. He’s the poet of the transcendent — a sonic sculptor whose work breathes life into imaginary landscapes. “Airplane Mode,” his latest single, sounds like no place on earth, and that’s by design. Its molasses-slow, pitched-down vocals, shuddering beats, and soothing synthesizers are all deeply suggestive of an interior world. It’s a meditative track, but it’s propulsive, too; the Dude boasts that he can’t be found, but that doesn’t mean he’s not on the move. Geopositioning has been switched off, all coordinates are scrambled, and the artist is free to define himself as he likes.

His Spacegod EP was similarly unclassifiable. There, over five memorable tracks, The Dude Reppin Knowhere took us deep into the void and dazzled us with sheer creativity. In the heart of “know” place, detached from outside pressures, The Dude forged a deeply personal, singular style: one that incorporates elements of thunderous East Coast hip-hop, syrupy, sinister Dirty South rap, chilly transatlantic house music, and Eastern European phonk. “Airplane Mode” is the apex of The Dude’s trajectory and the culmination of his journey into innerspace — a song that shows loyalty to no particular genre but deep knowledge of all of them.

The clip for “Airplane Mode” takes the viewer to places where the everyday intersects with the cosmic. It’s a trip to the most dream-haunted, sun-drunk part of the United States: the shimmering Southwest. We’re shown the wide-open highways under the high sky, the sand dunes of the desert, and the deserted gas stations, and we’re taken to some of the true man-made wonders of the region: the neon-draped Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in New Mexico, the UFO-haunted streets of Lowell, Arizona, and the otherworldly sight of the International Car Forest of the Last Church, the bizarre, unforgettable “garden” of vehicles half-buried, face first, in the sands of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Throughout, the Dude saturates these images in radiant color and superimposes one atop the other. We’re never anywhere for long — we’re traveling at the speed of thought, untethered and unmastered, becoming one with the universal. The majority of the video was captured by DRK himself, and edited by him and KYNGATHAMONSTAS, a close friend and fellow artist.

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What is your typical songwriting process like? Where do you source your inspiration from?

I have two main ways of going about writing a song. Throughout the day, especially when traveling, melodies, diddlies, and lyrics will just appear from Knowhere. I record and write these in my phone and then start to compose music for them when I get into the studio. The other way is making the music first. All it takes is one simple melody and I can write a whole song to it. Sometimes even just a drum beat will kick off the lyrical composition. In some instances the lyrics flow out instantly and the song is completed in almost a freestyle way. Other times I am very intricate and think about, pick and choose, switch around words until the final piece is acceptable.

I can get inspired by anything, anyone, an experience that happens to me, observing an experience happening to someone else… More specifically I get inspired by traveling- hitting the open road or spending time in airports and planes. I’m a big car nut as well so the art of performance driving and being in and around custom builds makes me feel a certain way which inspires me to write.

There is a clear combination of various genres in “Airplane Mode”. How has your upbringing and musical inspirations influenced your sound?

I’m happy to hear you picked up on that. Nearly all of my songs are difficult to place in one genre. I grew up listening to The Beatles, Grateful Dead, CSNY… also a lot of Jazz and Classical music. Across these genres there are so many styles and listening experiences. This translated into why I create in different moods, for different moods. I enjoy creating (and listening to) music that is both relaxing or stimulating, makes you think deeply or makes you space out. My musical inspirations shape my sound by showing how inspiration comes from so many places besides other artists. The artists that inspire me end up being the trendsetters who craft their own style.

Take us through the process of creating the song and music video for, “Airplane Mode”. 

Yes, it was a journey that took on a life of its own. Normally when I work with producer COLORMIND, we build the beat from scratch. We feel out our own vibe and then start from the ground up. Though I heard this fresh poppy beat he had recently made and I jumped on it, throwing down lyrics about traveling with my phone off or on ‘Airplane Mode’. At that time I was going through a rough breakup and was down in Orlando Florida at Corey’s studio enjoying my time away from the phone. After recording most of the vocals it was very experimental and almost accidental that we slowed the whole track down. I remember we looked at each other like ‘This is it.’ The vibe was too slurpy to deny. The chorus for Airplane Mode was actually the prechorus on the original composition and there was an additional verse written as well. But the final version just fell into place and the way the synths sounded so dreamy.. we had yet another unclassifiable track.

Shortly after making the song, I drove through the mountains near Athens Georgia out to New Orleans, then through Texas to Taos New Mexico and on to Bisbee Arizona. I had just sold my DSLR camera and was beginning to experiment shooting with iPhone. Using a gimbal stabilizer from DJI with tripod, I was able to capture video content of the landscape, and also of myself within that landscape performing the song. I used a trick of performing the song at the original speed then slowing down the video file to the speed of the slowed down audio version. This creates a slow-mo effect, but hits right on the beat. It took me months to edit down this footage to a point I was very happy with, and then through divine intervention a good friend of mine KYNGATHAMONSTAS reached out to me to ask if I was working on any video projects as she had been creating custom visual overlays. I sent her the file, thinking she would just put some overlays on, then she went full send and did a custom overlapping loop blend treatment to the whole video. She came up with this technique as she went, also incorporating some of the overlays of original footage she captured of the natural landscape of Tulum, Mexico.

What do you hope listeners will take away from the song and visuals? What did you take away from both the song and visuals after watching for yourself? 

I intend to bring viewers into a type of dream state relaxing and psychedelic dimension where technology isn’t a thing. Yes I get that you need a phone or computer to watch it, but the message is to be careful and balance our time online in screen world. The video is meant to be intensely engaging with many details that may require multiple viewings to catch. I hope that the viewer will be left inspired to take some time for themselves, out in the natural world while pausing connection with the digital world.

I get very excited every time I watch the video. It blows my mind and exceeded any original vision for it. It feels great to have created this piece, to share the experience, and to be transmitted into this dream zone any time. The song played on big headphones or a good car audio system gives me a feeling that’s hard to describe. The vibe gives me permission to be on my own, above the clouds, unaffected by whatever confusion or negativity is happening in the world.

Are there any small details or easter eggs in the video that you feel are particularly important to mention or hint to?

Zombie emoji with Instagram eyes.

Why was it important to include the image at the very end of the video?

The last image is of myself and KYNGA in Coba Mexico picking ‘psychedelic weed’ local to the Mayan village there. I’m wearing a t-shirt hand painted with wax from the people of the village and she is just always a vibe. It’s a picture of us both collaborating on the path chosen for us.

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