Taz Arnold Is a Freaky Bitch
I usually ignore unsolicited emails from music PR people because they're kind of like the worst people in the world and prolonged communication with them constricts my bowels. But when I saw "Freaky Bitch" on the subject line of one of my 398 million electronic messages, I was intrigued. I love freaky bitches. Who doesn't? So, I investigated farther and arrived at a private YouTube video of what I presumed was a black dude wearing his own 2012 version of an Aladdin Sane getup as he sang over a beat so cacophonous and funky it sounded like it was 12 different Funkadelic songs being played at the same time. Not to mention the entire time he was surrounded by seven really bonerable alien-looking freaky bitches with killer curves and face paint. The video and music blew me away. It was one of the strangest and genuinely fun things I've come across this year in terms of hip hop, which is saying a lot considering I spent a entire day with the Flatbush Zombies back in January. So, I knew right away I had to talk to the dude behind this song and share it with all of you nerds.
The brother behind "Freaky Bitch" is Taz Arnold, a native LA artist who I am ashamed to say I knew nothing about until I got him on the phone yesterday evening. It was news to me, but Taz has been on the forefront of hip hop and street culture for the past two decades as an artist, producer, and fashion designer working with and influencing many of the artist that I am obsessed with. As a member of The Sa-Ra Creative Partners, he helped craft beats for artists like Dr. Dre, Jill Scott, and Erykah Badu. The group has also released three stellar full-length albums. As a former GOOD Music signee with Sa-Ra, he's also been known to hang out with Kanye West and was spotted hitting up runway shows with 'Ye during Fashion Week a few years back in a pair of leopard print pants that people are still talking about. In the street wear world, Taz is credited with spawning the snap-back craze that is so heavy right now with his clothing line TI$A, which was started in 2008. With Ti$a's launch, he also designed some highly sought-after collabos with luxury leather brand MCM.
Taz was kind enough to give VICE the exclusive drop of his video for "Freaky Bitch," which you can watch above. "Freaky Bitch" hails from his inaugural solo full-length, Rad America, which debuted on the internet a couple of weeks ago and features LA rapper Thundercat on the bass. Here is what the Taz had to say about being a freaky bitch:
VICE: What's up man?
Taz Arnold: What's up. I heard you don't know anything about me? You don't know about my past or my music?
Nah, I know nothing. That's why I originally asked you to write something up for me to run with the video. I wanted you to come up with some kind of manifesto to help give people an idea of your essence. Needless to say, your video left a big impression upon me.
Yeah, I don't really like talking about myself or promoting myself. I want the work to speak for itself, which is why I didn't write. But in reality I'm crazy as fuck dog. Just ask me whatever you want to know and I'm sure you'll get the content that you need.
So, what's the mission behind the whole Ti$a thing?
What's going on with the music aspect of it right now is that it's really just about raising the bar, instead of trying to attain some sort of commercial success. I feel like being as creative as possible is the new commercial success in a realm where everything is free with the internet. It's all about your work and nothing else. When art is only influenced by material gain, it puts me in a weird position, because I can't do what I do. I can't say "freaky bitch." But if nobody pushes the envelope, all we'll have is mediocrity. So, I'm like fuck it. I make money and I do my thing.
Is the person you are portraying in the video a character of yours, like a David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust thing? Or is that just Taz?
Minus the face paint, that is my persona. I'm a big fan of Bowie, but this shit right here is really fashion from another planet. It represents a mind that has traveled to other places that your next-door neighbor hasn't been to mentally.
Where was the video shot?
Inside my studio in Downtown LA. That's where Ti$a has it's showroom, but on the other side of the showroom is where all my keyboards and shit are. You can see all those in the video.
The video seems pretty essential to your overall vision.
Definitely. I think the people will understand the music more as they hear it with movement. That's what videos are for. You might not have liked “Beat It” or “Billie Jean” if you hadn't seen the videos.
Tell me about how you got into fashion.
I was an ex-Polo booster throughout the 90s. I have somewhat of a street reputation. I was really into Polo at the time, just as much as I'm into vintage things now. I was a part of the community that brought the whole inner-city push for high end fashion in the 90s.
I know people are really into your Ti$a caps. What makes them special?
We only sell certain types of caps. You can wear the hats with the loafers that we make. It's all part of a style that is of the 80s and 90s. That style allows you to wear a Starter cap with a tuxedo and a pinky ring. You can still be from the street, even though you’re dressed up.
What do you think about the style of other MCs?
By the time our style gets to the stylists who are dressing the celebrities, it loses some of the punk edge. But me and a few of the other cats that I run with have been at the forefront of fashion in regards to the inner-city shit for a long time.
Where'd you meet those guys?
They're are all guys I would see at parties drinking beer and trying to talk to the same girls. So our style just came together naturally.
Back to the music, what qualifies as a freaky bitch?
I'm a freaky bitch. The chicks in the video are definitely freaky bitches. In the video all of us are together, vibing and learning shit, as one.
Can you give me an anecdote that personifies an encounter with a freaky bitch?
I had a girl one time, a really pretty Spanish chick. And we were dating a little bit. But this incident happened before we got intimate on any level. One night we were in my loft, inside my studio smoking weed or whatever. And I thought maybe she was with it and maybe I might smash. I wasn't sure, so I was like, "let's find out." So, I'm sitting there chilling with this girl, holding her from the back and then she started laughing. I was like damn this is really kind of weird. What would be making this bitch laugh? Then she started to growl like a wolf. It was somewhere between a cat or wolf growl. I said, "Hold on," cause I started to get spooked out, “I'll be right back.” And I stepped out. Without being explicit, that's a freaky bitch.
Man, I love it when a girl gets freaky like that. What about a time you acted like a freaky bitch?
When I'm on stage sometimes. I'll let girls sit on my face and it'll look like I am eating them out. It's all simulated, but it might look like I'm fucking them. Or maybe they'll ride me. You look like a bitch, you know, with two girls fucking you—one fucking your mouth and the other girl straddling your cock. I feel like I'm a freaky bitch at that point.
So tell me about the album.
All the vocals are freestyle, from the beginning to the end. It kind of plays as a medley. I went in and did the whole album—all 45 minutes in one sitting. It's kind of an experiment. I didn’t even overdub my vocals.
Why take that approach?
It's more soulful and urgent. It's easier to have a picture mentally and just talk about it, rather than write it out. “Freaky Bitch,” for instance, doesn't even have a real hook in it. It's also easier to sing than rap, because there are fewer words involved. So, you can do more with the timing and the phrasing than what is acceptable in rap. It's so much more fun to do improvisation and so much cooler.
Where do you think you are as an artist now?
I think I'm in a distant place that is far extreme, with my dress and the music. And that is mainly because nothing really excites me right now. What I've tried to do with the music is take something that people like and make something new.
Do you think the world is ready for you?
I don't underestimate the audience. I think at some point they will grow in regards to what their tastes are and appreciate shit that is modern and really cool like Stereolab or Radiohead. Just basic shit. It's like, "Dude, who's not up on this, yet?" I'm an average hip-hop fan too. I'm just a guy from LA who loves this music and culture and finally grew up. For the black youth and people in general, someone needs to do something for them the way that Fab Five Freddy and Andy Warhol did it for the previous generation.
That's what's up man. We'll definitely be watching what you continue to do. Thanks!
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