This week, we turn the lens of our Artist Spotlight series to the New York City-based jazz/hip-hop/experimental outfit Standing on the Corner. Since about 2014, the duo comprised of Jasper Marsalis and Gio Escobar have been working on projects together, blending elements of every genre surrounding them into these frantic tapes of pitched-down love and hate songs.
The group employs all kinds of musical techniques to get their point across, the point being an absorption of the outside world which is then transcribed indoors, jamming, laughing, commiserating – it all comes out through their somewhat sardonic and displaced sense of rhythm and humor. Tons of injected Dilla swing upon off-kilter chords in the group’s music, as is the style in a lot of the more contemporary jazz schools such as The New School, which incidentally is Escobar’s alma mater.
Their first album, a self-titled walk around the city, sets a strong and confident tone for the group’s attention and shows the impact that the city has on them. Specifically 9/11, with the album being released on September 11th, 2016 and features a standing Twin Towers on the cover. Ambiguous, but the statement it makes is made to reflect the sheer impact the event had on the duo. After scoring a spot on King Krule’s tour, the group began to raise a few eyebrows, being one of the more noteworthy acts with a unique and broad set of talents to come out of the New York hip-hop scene. Live, they perform as a jazz ensemble, recreating tracks with a more improvisational flair to them, the same that builds the albums.
Recently the attention to the group, specifically Gio, has gotten him to produce a few interlude tracks on Solange’s new
Collab credits also extend to Earl Sweatshirt’s fascination with their music, who goes further to highlight even the minor acts in this crazy NYC hip-hop scene that’s far from the A$AP or Carti crews that have been the mainstays of the mainstream this decade. Guys like MIKE, Deem Spencer, and Medhane all contribute to this new wave of smoked out hip-hop that’s not quite conscious, at least not overtly. Esoteric? Yes. But hidden in the grooves and implied in the lyrics. Why make this music? It’s hard to grasp sometimes, with beats lacking tangible rhythms, words lacking immediate sense in slant rhymes, and promotion just lacking. But it’s an admirable undertaking by these youths putting in effort and scraping by to make some great art reflective of their city and mindsets.
2017’s Red Burns was presented as a two-track, hourlong tape, but you can find the split sections through some online digging. It’s a collage of New York walks for all seasons and headspaces. Like their music videos, the group shows a flair and an eye for the vintage analog ’70s style that is so present in their music. Being that their favorite film is the 1971 blaxploitation flick Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, it’s no surprise they drown the music in something dated yet refreshing.
Their music screams “record collector” “sample finder,” mixing and mashing sounds to create tracks that scoff at the thought of a static, unchanging loop with no forethought. There’s also some definite borderline plunderphonics appreciation as well as a bit of FlyLo worship in the sampling of that Captain Murphy tape that true fans know and love. Aside from the big two, Solange and Earl, SOTC has been seen on tapes by Caleb Giles and Medslaus (the combo of Medhane and Slauson Malone), and just around the city, bringing some more art to life that’s reflective of their talents.
To just call this hip-hop would be as reductive as calling this just jazz would be reductive as just calling this experimental. It’s almost too many things from an artist’s perspective but they are almost unconsciously thrown in there, boiling down with the other musical flavors to create that final product, something soulful and unique. It works as a sound collage, with Gio’s Puerto Rican heritage shining through some of the samples and rhythmic soul.
Really the music is the sum of its parts, the parts being the environment that Gio and Jasper are steeped in. It is possible to separate this album from New York City, but to do so would remove a lot of the character that’s present within the tracks, to the point where it becomes weird background music and not the finalized, contextualized, hypnotic product that is so tied with the delivery. Check out a playlist of our favorite SOTC tracks below.