When the Asheville Beat Tape Collective celebrates its three-year anniversary at Emerald Lounge on Friday, Feb. 21, it may be the last time the uses that name.
Technically, the moniker still refers to the organization started by formerly local DJ and producer Nigel Geiger in 2010 as a unifying force for sonic artists in Asheville. Under the collective’s banner, acts like electro hip-hop duo Two Fresh, electro-soul outfit RBTS WIN and analog-synth group Sonmi (since disbanded) put out a pair of compilation albums. The most recent release was in October 2011.
“We’re not trying to write something that will redefine music,” says producer Paul Gaeta, aka Panther God, of the collective’s material. “We love hip-hop music that you can nod your head and dance to. We all make house or bass music or trap on the side as experiments, but our hearts and souls are in this weird hip-hop music.”
Gaeta and other artists have continued to pursue these interests while based in Asheville but have found allies and larger followings in Atlanta and Charlotte. For this and other reasons, the concept of the collective as a purely local entity has faded over time.
From the start, group members played local Beat Night shows with guest artists from across the Southeast. Many of these gigs were at BoBo Gallery (since rebranded as the restaurant BoBo Pho) until problems arose.
“People would drive up from South Carolina, and we would have so many issues,” remembers Gaeta, who stepped up in a loose leadership role after Geiger moved to Michigan in 2012. “We would show up to set up, and there’d be a sign on the door: ‘Emergency: Closed.’ No phone call, no nothing.”
A shift to Blend Hookah Bar and Gallery (now closed) provided a venue but presented new conflicts — a beleaguered sound system, a rough crowd of regulars, little to no payment — that gradually disenfranchised the collective’s members.
Even for those who remained loyal to the cause of the collaborative music releases and shared showcases, the name has become increasingly inaccurate. Though producer Ryan Goodling, aka eMe, and experimental composer and producer Samuel Paradise call Asheville home, many of their peers — like progressive hip-hop producer Prof.logik, currently based in Spartanburg, S.C. — live elsewhere.
“We need to find a way, while respecting the roots of it, to represent Asheville but to be more real about what [the collective] actually is,” says Gaeta.
The third anniversary show offers the potential to do just that. Joining Panther God and fellow Asheville producer Mike McBride, aka Peripheral, on the lineup are Atlanta-based producer/composer 10th Letter and musician/producer Deku. Charlotte’s Deflon, who describes his sound as “a futuristic blend of synth-driven R&B and instrumental hip-hop,” is also on the roster.
The main attraction, however, is MNDSGN — a producer from Los Angeles with whom Gaeta connected after MNDSGN remixed a Panther God song. The well-respected performer carries the kind of name recognition to rally the troops and open the invitation for new artists to play at future Asheville Beat Tape Collective shows. “He represents the same ethos: understated and jazzy and not superaggressive. Kids who follow this type of music really love him,” Gaeta says.
The LA scene from which MNDSGN stems has a long history of leading a movement of cross-genre music lovers. Instrumental hip-hop producer DJ Shadow, producer and multi-instrumentalist Madlib and, most recently, experimental multi-genre producer Flying Lotus are at the forefront. The late hip-hop producer and rapper J Dilla’s legacy remains influential. “What happens there reverberates to the rest of the nation. It’s recognized as the hub for this kind of music,” Gaeta says.
LA’s popular Low End Theory nights are a rough template for local Beat Nights (which have found a new home at One Stop with an eye toward expanding to The Mothlight). Though producers fly in to LA from Japan and New York, the events are centered on local talent, a blueprint Gaeta believes Asheville, as part of a larger Southeast network, can follow.
First, it needs a new name. Any suggestions?
what: Asheville Beat Tape Collective third anniversary,
with MNDSGN, Panther God, 10th Letter, Peripheral, Deflon and Deku
where: Emerald Lounge, emeraldlounge.com
when: Friday, Feb. 21, at 8 p.m. $5