AUTOmatic Embraces Classic Hip-Hop
The band and its leader Darius Windom have even collaborated with Speech.
It seems that today’s hip-hop radio has been infiltrated by rolling hi-hats, bumping 808’s, gothic synths and the drug-induced lyrics of Atlanta-based trap music. Rap collective AUTOmatic has stuck to what its members know…original hip-hop. Darius Windom, better known by his stage name A.P.R.I.M.E, has carried the torch with his mix of soulful samples and boom bap. He is a member of the Milwaukee-bred rap collective AUTOmatic and is joined by members DJ JDL Rockwell and producer Trellmatic. When APRIME is not vibing out in the studio he has been working on his solo project, 3099. AUTOmatic has even had the opportunity to work with the rapper Speech, from the 90’s hip-hop group Arrested Development. APRIME put down the mic for a minute to answer our questions.
When did you begin playing music?
I started recording music in 2004 but I started rapping back in the mid-nineties when I was a kid.
How did the band come together?
AUTOMatic was formed in 2007 when me and producer Trellmatic came together after hearing each other’s music and digging it. Then in 2010, JDL Rockwell joined AUTOMatic as our DJ and has become our recording engineer and served as a person to bounce a lot of ideas off of.
3099 came together in down time between AUTOMatic projects as a solo identity under which I can put out material that I’ve written, developed, and produced or co-produced that isn’t restricted by what we’ve spent time establishing in AUTOMatic.
What are some artists that inspire you?
The Native Tongues collective, Heatwave, Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper, Dilla, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, to name a few.
Where did your name come from?
APRIME is an acronym that means Armond’s (my middle name) Phenomenal Rhymes Incite Mind Elevation. The name 3099 comes from a short story I wrote in 2007. I like the way it sounded so I started to use it. People who listen to AUTOMatic have heard me say it a bunch and now with the release of the “3099” project it brings things full circle. AUTOMatic is a loose mash-up of both Trell’s and my name.
How would you describe your music?
Soulful, organic, and heartfelt, regardless of the soundscapes. With AUTOMatic, Trell and I use a lot of soul and jazz samples to create more of a golden era/90’s boom bap vibe. With 3099, me and JDL, under our production name Surrender Dorothee, use a lot of synths, drum programming, and live instrumentation to create a vibe that is more funk, electronica, and new wave.
What’s your inspiration going into making a song?
I really don’t have any particular inspiration. The lyrics, sounds, and ideas just come to me at random times. When I have a beat or music from Trell or JDL, or something that I’ve worked on, the track normally tells me where to go regarding a topic. But usually, the words just find me.
How do you link up with other artists for collaborations?
Most of the time I reach out to certain artists and there’s a mutual respect for one another’s craft. Other times an artist will reach out to me. I am pretty much always down to work with an artist that reaches out to me because I believe that if a fellow artist makes the effort to invite me to do a collaboration, that’s a big gesture. They are saying “You do something we like and we want that as a part of our creation.” It is both gratifying and humbling when that happens. That’s how a joint like “On The Job” with producer Mr. Bop (aka DJ Damage of Jazz Liberatorz from France) came about. He heard AUTOMatic, dug it, hit me up, and before you knew it we did a track for his double 10 “Sounds Great.” It ended up being A1 on the release…and then 88Nine’s Marcus Doucette heard it playing in the clubs in Paris and that is how got it into 88Nine’s rotation.
88Nine is actually how me and Speech from Arrested Development got connected as well. He heard one of our songs and contacted Jordan Lee to ask who it was done by and he put us in contact with each other. He has been a mentor to me whenever I’ve needed some guidance and he was gracious enough to jump on our song “Rising Sun” from “ARISING” and feature me on his song “Right Direction” from AD’s Changing The Narrative album.
What’s the vibe in the studio when you are recording/practicing?
There’s a free spirited, fun vibe in the studio. I can be very silly when experimenting and working things out, so there are plenty of outrageous out-takes that JDL has kept.
There are plenty. To name a few, Vincent VanGREAT, Blizz McFly, The Midnight Reruns, Claire Kelly, Lex Allen, Space Raft, No No Yeah Okay, Sounds of Time, Klassik, Mike Regal. Also the big homie Stricklin who shouldn’t be classified as local, even though he lives in Milwaukee, because he tours the world in eMC and with Masta Ace.
What do you think of the local music scene?
The local scene is pretty cool. The younger generation are running it right now. A handful of them are bringing long-fought-for and much deserved national attention to our scene. Every generation that comes up keeps getting closer to being the one that blows Milwaukee wide open to becoming a national hotbed. They seem pretty supportive of one another, and that kind of support helps when you’re trying to elevate an entire scene.
Do you most often play in Milwaukee?
We play a lot of shows in Milwaukee but most recently we’ve been all around the state and did an in-studio performance at KURE at Iowa State.
Do you have a favorite place to play?
Cactus Club, hands down. That’s like our home. Alex, the soundman there, is the best in the city. I love it there.
What’s the best way to connect with your fans?
In person or the internet. We are out and about doing shows pretty regularly and depending on the neighborhood, we get to see a lot of people that kind of keep to their slice of Milwaukee. I love to get feedback from them or just build with them about our projects. It allows us to find out what they both like and dislike about us. The internet and our social media put us in contact with our fans outside of Milwaukee, which is a huge benefit especially when it comes to people overseas.
Have you toured anywhere?
We do a lot of one-off shows but we haven’t really toured yet. We are working on putting something together. Right now the closest thing we have to a tour is our ever evolving listener supported radio station/college radio station efforts. That has taken us to a few places outside of Milwaukee recently and we are going to be doing some tapings and other in-studio performances in the next few months.
Any albums or EPs coming out soon?
Last month we released the AUTOMatic Presents 3099 EP and we are in the middle of supporting that release. Right now we are working on a full length AUTOMatic album to be released in fall or winter of this year and I’m also working on the full length 3099 album that will be out early next year if all goes right. I also have another semi-solo project completely recorded and ready to be mixed and mastered but I’m waiting on a few things to come together for it to actually get the greenlight.
What are your plans for the future?
Honestly, I just want to achieve my dream of being a full time musician. People say that life’s too short but life is mad long…especially when you’re not doing what you love.Cascio Interstate Music is proud to sponsor Urban Milwaukee’s Band of the Week column. Running in tandem with their own Band of the Month program, supporting local music is key to CIM’s mission.