Today we see the release of Ann Arbor-based abstract hip-hop producer Charles Trees‘ debut Accepted Truth on Moodgadget. Mr. Trees is Charles Tillinghast, a longtime friend of many of Moodgadget’s recording artists, his addition to the lineup was natural, adding to the eclectic variety of the catalogue, while broadcasting yet another unique slice of the ever-hoppin’ Ann Arbor music scene to the rest of the world. Charles first appeared on the compilation No New Enemies Vol. 1 last fall with the track “Memories,” now he’s back with a fully fleshed-out album. To celebrate, I have a free download for you, his track “It’s The…” off the new album. You can also hear the sweeping, poignant sequence “In Return / Daisha / Memories Reprise,” and a beat of his from his myspace called “Oh.” Extra points if anyone can identify the source of his sample in that beat, I just heard it today and instantly recognized it.
These tracks will appeal to hip-hop fans across the board, with references abound that can be identified with Metal Fingers, Flying Lotus, Daedalus, and of course, that Dilla-defined disjointed Detroit swagger. What helps to separate this release from the pack is Charles’ incorporation of a political thread throughout. This release is very politically conscious, but on a subconscious level. Charles says of the album’s relation to the current state of things, “American values, once held in high regard with pride, respect and admiration, have found their way into the dirt, deceived by those who were sworn to uphold them in the first place. I love my country and its people and culture, but somehow, being critical of your government has become unpatriotic. Question everything, before your rights are all taken away from you!”
I was approached do the artwork for Accepted Truth during the most heated moments of the election, and right when the news about the collapsing economy was hitting the fan. Charles had one simple request for his cover– incorporate the American flag. A simple request that couldn’t have been more challenging. There is a very fine line when it comes to successfully presenting the American flag in an artistic sense, between overt patriotism and desecrating the flag. The album artwork had to balance itself on this line, while reflecting the politically conscious, often sarcastic view embodied in Charles’ music. The music speaks to both extremes of this artistic balance, and yet it maintains an identity all its own, and so after playing with a few concepts, I arrived at a basic layout that looked something like the final product, except sharper, more like shards of glass. Charles asked for blood, and so I went overboard with the blood, looking in Charles’ words like ‘Uncle Sam took a shotgun blast to the head.’ To give the white stripes in the flag some character, and to further capture the dramatic prose I kept seeing in headlines, I added newspaper, distorting excerpts of words from guys like Alan Greenspan. The final result can and should be perceived in different lights, giving it a message that is similar to the music, up to the listener to decide.
Charles Trees – It’s The… (Click for free download!)
Charles Trees – In Return / Daisha / Memories Reprise
Charles Trees – Oh