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Interview: Mndsgn

“Music is meant for unification, not separation”


Forefront producer and beat-maker Mndsgn has, for the last ten years, blended “dirty soul vibes”, hip-hop and electric funk. Born Ringgo Ancheta in San Diego to Filipino parents, he came from a culture of b-boying and black churches, and the influence of gospel and funk music translated to beat-making in his early high school years. In 2014, he released Yawn Zen, his debut with California-based indie record label, Stones Throw Records, which he up with electric funk trip Body Wash (2016) and the beat tape Snax (2018). Now based in LA and embarking on an Asia tour, Mndsgn sits down with us ahead of his show at Eaton Hong Kong to talk about the idea of home and the importance of creative expression.

How did your upbringing shape your art?
I’ve always felt out of place, especially ever since relocating to the southern region of New Jersey at a young age. The demographic was predominantly white and most of my peers were upper-middle class. Even all of my brown friends lived in nice, big houses while I grew up living in small apartments. I did a good job of internalising the alienation, of not being able to relate to the wealth class of my peers. In doing so, I allowed myself to get lost in various forms of self-expression via drawing, dancing and music. Having a creative outlet allows you to tap into a home.

What is hip-hop to you, and how does a culture express itself with it?
It’s power to the people, utilising resources to rebuild and reinvent. It’s deconstructing what was given to us. It’s problem solving. There’s power in communion and the refusal to keep old/obsolete ideas alive. Every new, young generation is always met with opposition from its elders [and because they are] so powerful, it can sometimes be perceived as a threat to the power structure. But the new will always prevail and the old will eventually die. What is important is that we stick together through acceptance of each other’s differences to enable more originality and innovation. 

Part of your sound seems to have been co-opted by the so-called lo-fi movement. How do you feel about that?
To me, those labels are just echoes and refractions of things that came before. Back in hip-hop’s infancy, people had no choice but to record their beats on a two-track tape machine, so the result would sometimes be distorted, overdriven or just noisy. Nowadays, our resources are not as limited with computers and software like Ableton Live.  “Lo-fi” music seems to be more of an emulation of what once was. I do love it when it’s done tastefully.

What are you looking to explore in your music now?
Simplicity. I don’t believe music has to be overly dressed up all the time.  It doesn’t always have to be crispy and clean. Rawness and simplicity are some things I would hope to continue to convey in my new works.

What’s next for you?
I released Snax last year, which is more of a compilation of remixes I’ve made for fun and for DJ-ing.  Snaxx will follow this year and comprises more instrumental works.  A few of my incredibly talented friends are also featured on the record, including Jon Bap, Pink Siifu and Asal Hazel.  As that’s being released, I’ll be working on my next album to be released under Stone’s Throw.

We’re beginning to see regional hip-hop artists picking up followings worldwide, and an authentic subculture developing. Do you have any advice for listeners or artists in our city?
Just continue to communicate and support each other. Music is meant for unification, not separation. Support, support, support! Go to the shows, pay for the tickets, buy the records, tapes or CDs. Artists are not paid as much as they should be. Yet, it remains a privilege to be able to experience someone’s work that came about simply for the love of it!

By Nicky James

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