After watching the Grammy’s this past weekend and seeing the victories by Chance the Rapper and Oakland native Fantastic Negrito, I began to think about the role record labels play in the success of an artist. Chance and Fantastic Negrito defied the odds and were able to achieve music’s biggest award without the help of a major label. As many Bay Area hip-hop lovers know, the independent grind is nothing new to us, but to see Oakland’s own Fantastic Negrito achieving independent success on music biggest stage is truly inspiring.
One of the benefits of not being on a major label is having creative and artistic independence, and the ability to be surrounded by authentic support of the person who is running the label. That’s what makes Richmond grassroots non-profit Left-N-Right records so inspiring and innovative. Founded by a group of artists who met each other as participants of the popular Oakland non-profit Youth Radio, the duo are now part of a music collective that has their eyes set on putting Richmond – the blue collar city commonly mischaracterized in the local media – on the map.
“We run as a non-profit in a sense because it’s the same mentality. It’s not so much a business, but when we think of our art, we are in a generation where everything is streaming.” Says rapper and producer Wallah Umoja, one of the label’s co-founders who has been making music since the age of 14. “I wanted to have something that felt like left field, very different, new to the ears but also in a pocket. So I made left field in the right pocket in a sense.”
While many record labels tend to skim money off the top and only worry about making a profit, Left-N-Right Records approach is a little different.
“You have to find other ways to get paid, you also have to provide something to people that will make them want to pay you in the first place, but it’s not always going to be your music, it’s going to your service. So we run as a grassroots organization. We’re more like a cooperative, we work a little differently. We’re not trying to make money off your work.” Wallah Umoja added.
When listening to the musical output of Left-N-Rights artists such as Richmond native and resident producer Shruggs, you can hear the old school influence with a modern approach.
“We find shit that we remember that slapped from yesteryear. We’re just like ok, what can we do with that. For me it’s like I have to think about what can I do to the song to make it better.” Shruggs shared on how he finds the right sample to make a beat.
While Shruggs typically digs through the crates to find his samples, and takes a more laid back approach, for Wallah Umoja the inspiration for a beat come a little quicker.
“It’s within the first three seconds I know, and I’ll just stop in the middle of everything.” Wallah added. “I have my preferences, stuff I used to grow up on, I’ll try and reimagine that. I want to bring it to people that might have grown up on similar stuff and they don’t understand or would have thought that that could work.”
Both Shruggs and Wallah have put out multiple instrumental albums and Wallah has had a collaboration with Just Rese on one of his previous projects. With 2017 in full swing, the year seems to be jam packed for these two Left-N-Right artists. While Wallah prefers to keep his release dates low-key, there will be a full rollout on when his project comes out. Meanwhile, Shruggs has an EP that will be released later in 2017.
To find out more about Left-N-Right records check out their social media handles below:
*All photos courtesy of Amanda Flowers