New hip-hop group Redbeard Samurai is the latest musical act to pop up between the musically-rich Eastman and River campuses, and though their name might not ring a bell yet, you only have to hear about its members ambition to see that they’re on their way.
Eastman junior Blake Pattengale, who plays jazz guitar, raps, and, serves as the chief producer behind Redbeard Samurai, is setting his sights for the act at points beyond UR and Rochester.
“My goal isn’t to be a U of R band, because I find a lot of bands oversaturate the market here […] my goal is much more long term in terms of trying to expand the cities that we play in and our network of musicians,” he said.
It’s especially surprising that the group isn’t more well known simply due to the ambition of their production
“It’s so much fun to be in the studio with people and have a sonic vision in mind. They’re playing the notes right and everything, but you’re listening for the end goal and trying to get them to play it a very specific way. It’s nice to have musicians at Eastman who can meet those needs,” Pattengale said, describing his songwriting process for the project.
While Pattengale does a large amount of the composition himself, the live format of Redbeard Samurai is a grandiose collaborative undertaking.
“The recording aspect of it is mostly me. It’s largely electronic and sample based music, but […] it’s nice to mix sample based music and Eastman musicians. In the live setting, we try to accomplish that with an eight-piece band: full rhythm section, bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, and a horn player who also sings, a girl who’s a vocalist, and I rap, and then another guy who plays sax,” Pattengale said.
Redbeard Samurai’s sound is one that seeks to combine the broad appeal and entertainment value of hip-hop with the refinement, intricacy, and musicality of jazz and soul music.
“My goal is to give people music that they hear and rhythmically it feels good and you want to dance to it, but harmonically it’s more challenging than most music you’re going to hear in the pop realm,” Pattengale said. “Sometimes the music I write is more exploratory, but for Redbeard Samurai I’ve tried to narrow my focus to writing hip-hop music. “
This sound draws inspiration from the likes of The Gorillaz and Kanye West, but Pattengale cited Del the Funky Homosapien as the largest effector of the style.
“He has this album ‘Deltron 3030’ which in my opinion is the best fucking album. The beats are just gnarly and his lyrics are some of the most intricate and well-versed lyrics I’ve heard,” Pattengale said.
Lyrically, Redbeard Samurai as an alias as well as an act is a form of escapism for Pattengale.
“Redbeard Samurai for me is an attempt at creating something that is a part of me but isn’t fully me, it’s a lot easier to be vulnerable that way […] it makes it easier to say stuff that I wouldn’t say as Blake. I’m not always exactly like Redbeard Samurai. It’s like taking a part of me and putting a microscope on it,” he said.
Looking forward, Redbeard Samurai’s members are finishing up their full-length debut with the goal of a large and widely publicized release.
“I’ve always seen bands release music, in my opinion, too early. I’ve done it myself, I’ve released a bunch of stuff to ill effect. You basically release it to your friends and family on Facebook and that’s it. With this project, I really want to put in a lot of time on the back end to get press and get the word out and not just do all this work and release an album for nothing,” Pattengale said, stressing the importance he is placing on proper planning in order to ensure an effective release.
The live act will also see sonic expansion in the future, with their eyes on the horizon.
“I’m really hoping to explore more with the band. I’d like to create a dichotomy where when you come to see a live show it’s a different experience than listening to the record,” Pattengale said. “In terms of long term goals, as far as us as a band, nothing short of world domination.”