Matson on Music
The Internet buys Teena Marie's gear
Things have changed for Syd tha Kid, 20-year-old rising engineer and producer for Los Angeles hip-hop crew Odd Future and singer-songwriter in the band The Internet, which plays the Crocodile Sunday.
For one, now that she's making some money, she doesn't have to steal music online anymore.
"I buy all my music now," she says, on the phone from Hollywood.
She also bought R&B legend Teena Marie's personal recording equipment, and set it up in a new space which may become a hub for a new generation of R&B.
"Her daughter's a friend of mine, through my girlfriend," says Bennet, who co-owns the studio with Teena Marie's daughter.
When you talk famous pop music studios, you talk about Electric Ladyland, Muscle Shoals, Chess, Hyde Street. But Sydney Bennet is more new-school. A child of the digital home-recording era, she made the original, spaced-out Odd Future music at "The Trap," aka her parents' house, using not-great microphones and computers, recording rappers in a closet.
"I was using a small condenser microphone that was supposed to be used on acoustic guitar," she says. "I didn't know at the time."
Her do-it-yourself spirit has been crucial. Odd Future and its blog-fueled rise is one of the true independent music stories recently. Also valuable: roots in the music business. Syd grew up inspired by her uncle Mikey Bennet, who used to produce and record for Maxi Priest and the Marleys at Grafton Studios, in Jamaica, where he still lives.
"My uncle just sits out there and chills," says Bennet. "He has a lady that makes him food. The studio makes money by itself."
Syd still records mainly at home (with better equipment and know-how) with The Internet's Matt Martians, and their band.
"The reason I wanted to build another [studio] is to sell studio time," she says.
Sometimes the Internet's music feels half-formed, sometimes delightfully open and free. Recent album "Purple Naked Ladies" is a series of neo-soul/hip-hop vignettes. You can dance to it or just zone out. Local audiences will find a parallel in THEESatisfaction, Seattle's digital-minded duo, which also used to record in a closet.
"Aw, I was just listening to them!" says Bennet. "That's the new wave."
It's hard to say The Internet is the future of any particular kind of music. But it's easy to notice in Bennet and THEESatisfaction that the line between songwriter and producer isn't what it used to be. These progeny of '80s R&B/soul/disco seem to be more holistically involved in music than stars back then.
Maybe theirs is a minor corner of the music biz. But it feels full of possibility.