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Photo by Matthew Moyer, collaging by Tyler Barney
Snotnoze Saleem is a unique new voice in Orlando hip-hop
With daily life in Florida coming at us like a crushing fast-forward wave of bad news and worse policy, a fitting soundtrack to the perpetual state of alarm is the music of Orlando MC/producer Snotnoze Saleem.
Saleem’s music is suffused with a sense of outraged urgency; leftfield samples and avant beats interlocked like a Jenga skyscraper while he breathlessly spits out manifestos in an array of cadences and voices — trying to keep pace with the world falling apart. He crammed more rapidfire ideas into the albums he released last year through Illuminated Paths — Intifada
and Type Shit
— than some artists do over a career.
Saleem’s live work is just as integral and unpredictable, whether playing with beatmakers at Please Understand or, say, Orlando expat experimental collective Auto Chlor, whom he’ll open for at Uncle Lou’s
on Sunday, Feb. 12
. Orlando Weekly
talked to the young musician about process, product and the surreality of the Sunshine State.
What influences you when writing lyrics?
The instrumental is usually the biggest factor in determining what I write. I’m at the mercy of the beat. If it’s some insane, messy, blast beat with a saxophone thing, I’ll be more uptempo and say more outlandish things just because that would make sense. And if it’s mellow I’ll adjust accordingly. But also everyday life, things I read in a book or online, memes, things people say that stick with me, things I’ve seen and felt both here and overseas. I get frustrated by the state of things. I think this is a healthy outlet.
Talk about your production style.
My production style is what hip-hop producers have been doing for decades now, chopping up, looping, and just generally messing with old samples, it's just that my sample choices are a little unorthodox. Same thing with rhyme flow, just intently studying my favorite rappers, how they start and end a verse, how they create a line, but of course I have to put myself into it. There's too many to mention but I have to give MF Doom the biggest credit for showing how to fit rhymes into a bar, rest in peace. I would put Outkast up there as well, both members.
When I listen to your music I hear a certain sense of urgency. Do you feel that when writing and recording?
I think that's just hip-hop, artists are always releasing a ton of stuff all the time. I only have two tapes out at the time of this writing, I need to catch up. I do feel some urgency in some of the messages I try to get across, and then inevitably feel like they're not getting across well, leading me to promptly try again.
How did you link up with Illuminated Paths?
The guy who recorded, mixed and mastered my first tape as Snotnoze Saleem, Matt Kamm — he knew Josh [Rogers], who runs Illuminated Paths and he put me in contact. I’ve been a fan of the label for a long time so I thought it was cool to release something on it. I met Matt from Jordan [Duttinger] who runs Godless America, which put out one of my beat tapes [as Hyperlink] back when I was only producing. … All very nice people.
Hip-hop can often have a very place-specific sound — how has living in Central Florida shaped your music?
Listening to rap growing up because that’s what was around me. Getting into punk and realizing they’re kind of like sister genres. Going to freaky weirdo (in a good way) shows at Uncle Lou’s or a house or some stinky storage closet. Seeing tourists from all over the world coming to the Most Magical Place on Earth, probably unaware that it is immediately surrounded by some of the highest homeless and human trafficking rates in the country. I try to combine these disparate sources into the sound. Hopefully I do Florida justice; this is a strange place.