AAC Sound Series Mix #25: GENG PTP
AAC Sound Series is a digital platform featuring sound-based work commissioned monthly by Abrons Arts Center For our 25th mix, we bring you a brand new mix from sonic explorer, legacy worker, wordsmith, educator, organizer, and born and raised New Yorker GENG PTP reflecting on 9/11 and the changing landscape of New York City’s sound. Listen to the mix below, as well as check out our short interview with GENG PTP below.
Interview with Geng PTP
Firstly, tell us a little bit about what inspired the mix
This mix is what we once would have called a “fat tape”–a mixing of moments from various sources, placed together to, at best, tell a story and serve as a time capsule. My mix consists of some favorite moments from my own local radio and mixtape archives, spanning 1995 to 1998–years which signal the beginnings of my musical practices. In 1995, I made the transition from crafting mixtapes with two cassette decks to utilizing the traditional DJ set up of two turntables and a mixer (and a microphone). By 1998, I had performed turntablist routines on stage at the legendary Nuyorican Poets Cafe, started collaborating with the Atoms Family crew, turned a new page on rhyme writing, plus made my first beats on an AKAI MPC2000.
I wanted the mix to reflect and communicate some of the creators and energy I was either around or highly admired. There are moments of legacy breakthroughs with artists who were present in the 80’s catching a new wind–Sadat X (of Brand Nubian), Lin Que (formerly Isis of X-Clan), and MF DOOM (fka Zev Luv X of KMD) – plus the beginnings of a handful who publicly transcended beyond the music–Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def of UTD), Jean Grae (fka What What of Natural Resource), El-P (originally of Company Flow, now of Run The Jewels fame), and…MF DOOM (before an album dropped). I also wanted to highlight many of the women who were present in the era.
Lastly, I honored the making of a “fat tape” and the analog through the actual physical ritual of using cassettes to capture each of these moments.
Who are you listening to lately?
KA’s new album, A Martyr’s Reward, and live 70’s jazz bootlegs on cassette that I picked up in Rhode Island.
Can you talk about how you sourced your audio for this mix? What sounds or sources of pre-9/11 New York stick out to you?
I recorded each track in this mix like I would have with a dual cassette setup in the 90’s –using cassettes, pausing at the endpoints of each song to then prepare for the next moment to be printed to the tape. It was then digitized into Ableton for (volume) leveling and one little effect I thought would be cool. The source material is all 90’s radio and mixtape cassette recordings, moments of impromptu freestyles, interviews, and phone calls, demo-only tracks, mixtape-specific blends, and other important rarities of the era. It’s a reflection of the music that meant a lot to myself and the crews I ran with.
Pre-9/11 NYC sounds like cassette tape hiss, radio tuner white noise, and a different shade of floral codespeak…plus snaps/crackin’ jokes.
How do you feel 9/11 changed the NYC music landscape?
I think much of the energy began to rapidly shift away from downtown as the so-called cool creative cultural center in NYC. The immense loss of life in lower Manhattan ushered a flight from those who lived that far down on the map. Developers were super thirsty to buy up this historic land and cashed in and blew it all up. It was an accelerated wave of gentrification that many had not seen before – especially in areas like the East Village and the Lower East Side – where so many tenements and old businesses were getting gated up and leveled, then a year later, a glassy high-rise condo stood erected, and then a couple of years after, it would still be vacant because no one was willing to pay the price. It’s like there were just too many new developments overturning the ecosystem of each neighborhood.
Folks started to move across the East River to Williamsburg and parts of Bushwick. That’s where the parties and much of the arts started to bubble, even though there was plenty already going on over there in the ’90s (see: Lyricist Lounge and Spectre and the Word Sound crew in Greenpoint).
The music industry was in full panic mode already since the Internet got into more homes and Napster came about fully by ‘99. A new digital era was already upon us, and recording budgets were dwindling as technology became more accessible at that. Mixtapes became CD-R’s and analog material was being aged out at that moment. Cultural media outlet –radio, print, even television–all had to change to adapt to an unfamiliar corner of the industry and I hate to sound like a bitter elder, but I don’t think anything changed, in that regard, for the better. The only place I could place any trust in was with local active independent creators.
On another level, 9/11 here saw new justice mechanisms kicked into gear as a response. It wasn’t just a green light for the parties in power to pull the war card, but the city saw an upshot in the various types of policing–a new age of American “lawfulness”–where stop and frisk and bag checks in the subway became a supposed norm and the heightened surveillance state around Islam, and most non-Western things, was full on front street. There was also the socio-political implosion of it all, with some folks revealing a nationalistic stance in their ideology, so naturally, some infighting or outing occurred within these independent/DIY communities.
All in all, music has always stood as a reflection of the human environment and experience. The 2001 turmoil boiled the pot over in a myriad of ways that set precedent to much of how we practice, perceive, and perform/engage with culture today. Some great work and a whole lotta microwaves came of it in the end.
GENG PTP is a New Yorker since birth and is a sonic explorer, legacy worker, wordsmith, educator, and organizer–active in the city’s hip hop community since days of dial-up most notably as a DJ, archivist, and member of the legendary underground hip hop group, Atoms Family, by the late 90’s. In 2009, he founded PTP (Purple Tape Pedigree), an artist collective existing as “purveyors of weaponized media.” During these last 10+ years, GENG PTP–through his own work and the PTP legacy–has forged a sound and visual narrative around the honoring of lineage, energy, and counter-culturalism, so as to challenge traditions of industry and the greater systems at play. He also creates music as King Vision Ultra–alongside other collaborative projects–and has released two albums: 2020’s An Unknown Infinite with amani, and 2018’s Pain of Mind, plus 2020’s QUATTRO, an original score to Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s animated short, The Running Man.
In Spring 2019, he scored/performed a movement of Jonathan Gonzalez’s Lucifer Landing II at Abrons Arts Center. In Fall 2018, he co-produced/performed in Revision Suite with Salome Asega for Abrons Arts Center. He’s been a featured performer at Central Park Summerstage (w/ Armand Hammer & The Alchemist), Park Avenue Armory (w/ Matana Roberts), Issue Project Room, The DiMenna Center for Classical Music (w/ Matana Roberts), MoMA PS1 (w/ Black Quantum Futurism and Matana Roberts + Warm-Up), New Forms Festival (Vancouver, BC: PTP showcase + panel), Transference Fest (Chicago, IL), Sonic Acts Festival (Amsterdam), 3HD Festival (Berlin), Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe, Ende Tymes, Forward Festival (Washington, DC), and more.
As an educator, GENG PTP focuses on the socio-political contexts of hip hop as a liberation and archival technology, one that adds on to the oral tradition through both word and sampled sound. In Fall 2020, he created his first class, Found Sound: Authorship & Appropriation,for The School of Making Thinking and Abrons Arts Center. He has also presented workshops around DIY label management and responsibility (with Black Science Fiction), and prison abolition (with Black Beyond and Everlasting Time), as well as guest lectures at Pace University, Parsons School of Design, and the International Center of Photography.
Hear more from GENG PTP at La Meme Young’s THE GENG PTP TALK, A Closer Listen’s Sound Proposition, FreeMusicEmpire’s State of the Game – Mid-2021 Album Review, and Resident Advisor’s Label of the Month piece on PTP.
Photo of GENG PTP in Summer 2001 holding a paintball gun in front of his mom’s altar, image courtesy of the artist