VIBE Interview: Pretty Lights Enters New Prisms With ‘A Color Map Of The Sun’

"I would be a fucking scientist. I'd be on some crazy deep space zero-point energy shit. Powerless wire systems, water engines… I'd be taking down the oil industry. I'd be re-inventing the energy infrastructure of the world." -Pretty Lights

Pretty Lights is a like a mad scientist, a perfectionist at making music sound non-perfect. But talking to Derek Smith in a corner of the Trump Hotel in Soho is like chilling with your buddy. He asks "What's up?" to the bellhops and talks music, he smokes bogies and laughs at himself. You'd never realize the 31-year-old from Colorado draws over 45,000 fans at festivals or that he's just dropped the highly-buzzed and craved album, A Color Map of the Sun, today (July 2). Smith just might be one of the chillest dudes in the EDM game…or perhaps the “modern hip-hop/soul/electronica game.” But that doesn't mean Smith won't speak his mind about Daft Punk and Mos Def, or the way he wants his music to be. -@SarahPolonsky

VIBE: Everyone says your new album, Color Map of the Sun, is your first sample-free album.
Pretty Lights: Is that what people are saying? That's not how I would put it. I'd say it’s a completely sample-based record. I just made all the samples. A lot of people compared it to the Daft Punk record…how an electronic artist(s) used musicians, but that's not what I did. I literally made wax to sound like it was 60-years-old so it did sound like a sample. It’s sample-free in that sense. I don't have to hire a 'sample lawyer' and go clear a bunch of shit.

Do you like the new Daft Punk?
Personally, objectively or subjectively? I mean it's not my stuff. I don't put it on repeat in the ride or anything. But it grew on me a little bit.

Like a fungus? What do you put on repeat in your ride?
I listen to old weird shit, like old soul and soundtracks. Scores and stuff like that. And gangster rap! Of course, ‘90's gangster rap and Chicago soul.

You've said this was the most-labor intensive album you’ve ever made. For someone who isn't familiar with you and isn't familiar with how labor intensive it is, can you break that down simply? What does it take to create the most labor-intensive album?
When it comes down to it, the fact that it's the most labor-intensive album doesn't really mean anything. You know what I mean? Like, who gives a shit? At the end of the day it's about good music, right? I kind of realized that, I'd always realized that, but since I was putting so much into the process of it, I talked about that so much to people when they asked about it.

I would research microphones from the period of time I was trying to emulate, like 1940's French soundtrack music, and we used that gear. And we'd record at low budget studios. I did everything like it would have been done 50 years ago. I told them I wanted to record the tape, came in there and the studio had this 1970 high-tech tape machine ready for me, the multi-track. I said 'no not like that, I want your old school shitty tape machine and I want to do it as low-fi as possible because I want it to sound gritty.’

What instruments do you play?
On the record...I can't even think of them. Bass, flute, guitar, keys, marxophone, Hawaiian art violin, xylophone, harmonium, marimba, I don't know all kinds of crazy shit. I'm not like a shredder on anything, but I can play whatever good enough to make a nice melody, to chop it up, and make it sound hot.

Why did you choose a phrase from Isaac Newton as album’s title? What does it say about the album?
I'm actually really into brilliant inventors, scientists, and astronomers. Like Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, the freak.

I was thinking drops, like Isaac Newton's apple...
Yeah he knew all about droppin' it. No, but I was just thinking so long about the title and I feel like so many people name records on a whim. You know, the records done what should I name it? Uhhh…this. You know it's named 'Daydream' or 'Atmospheric Wonderland,' I don't know.

I like names that are poetic and beautiful. Ambiguous, deep and relatable. It's literally talking about the spectrum of color and plus I wanted to have a title that was a very subtle throwback to one of my favorite records of all time, Dark Side of the Moon. When he [Newton] wrote the essay that phrase was in, he was playing with prisms and light and things like that. So A Color Map of the Sun is what he wrote to describe the way light disassembles itself in a prism and becomes every color we see. I just thought it was extremely beautiful, it related to the album on a lyrical level, on a musical level, on just the meaning of my project level, it worked. It was just the perfect name for what I was looking for.

There's a lot of shit talk about EDM and the laziness of bedroom producers become mainstream DJs and open format DJs become producers. How do you combat this, and stay unique and keep it fresh and soulful?
Because I was from Colorado, I started getting shows opening up for these jam bands and kids would hear my sound and freak out over it. And it eventually moved into that [EDM] space, but my music was rooted in hip-hop. It's always been about hip-hop production. Not club hip-hop, but like real hip-hop. So it's trying to make bangers, tracks that could move a crowd, like actually kinetically move people. Get their hands in the sky, get them actually jumping and shit like that, and that was difficult. The idea of a hip-hop producer being able to play headline shows of 20,000 people would have been insane to anyone in the hip-hop game even two years ago.

You've got Talib Kweli featured, and let's talk about that. What was that like, did you guys get up in the studio?
He's definitely one of the MC's I respect the most. He's very conscious and dope, and just on the level. He was actually supposed to be at a Blackstar show, which is one of the illest hip-hop records of all time, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. But 90 percent of the Mos Def shows I've tried to see, he doesn't show up. So I hit Kweli up through my homie, sent him a version of my beat and told him we should connect on this. He loved the beat, he came over, we kicked it before the show and I told him, ‘I'm not gonna put your whole verse on the track, because I'm not making a hip-hop record like that. I'll make you a beat you can use for your record, and do whatever you want with it for free. But I want you to write a verse that I can do whatever I want with.’ I took it and I chopped it up. I liked the verse so much I used a big part of it, eight bars of it. I usually don't do that.

Is there a current rapper out there that you want on the next Pretty Light's track? Or even on stage with you?
Slug. He's the most poignant, brilliant lyricist (as it connects to me) that I've ever heard. And I grew up on that shit, Atmosphere. And I've been working it slowly, we're homies on Twitter.

If you weren't in this profession what would you do?
I would be a fucking scientist. I'd be on some crazy deep space zero-point energy shit. Powerless wire systems, water engines… I'd be taking down the oil industry. I'd be re-inventing the energy infrastructure of the world. And all that will still happen.

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French Montana Sued For Sexual Assault, Battery And Emotional Distress

French Montana is being accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman, according to a lawsuit filed in L.A. Superior Court on Thursday (March 26). The accuser claims that she was sexually assaulted at the rapper's home two years ago.

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, is suing for assault and battery, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and more. Montana, his Coke Boys Records imprint, and employee, Mansour Bennounare, are named in the suit, which alleges that on or around March 28, 2018, the woman was invited to a recording studio where Montana and Bennouna were “working.” The documents allege that Montana and Bennouna were “drinking and using drugs” in the studio and offered her drinks, before inviting her back to Montana’s home in Hidden Hills, Calif.

The woman allegedly arrived at the home at around 6 a.m. Thirty minutes later, the woman claims that she stepped outside to phone a friend but was “lucid” and “unable to carry a conversation.” The woman went back inside Montana’s kitchen and although she “wanted to leave” she was urged to “take a shot,” the documents assert.

After being given a drink, the woman says that she blacked out and was therefore unable to give consent to “engage in any sexual activity” but remembers “several men” coming in out of the bedroom. She believes that Montana was one of the men.

The accuser says she woke up on a couch in a room “filled with curtains” at around 1 p.m. She was “confused” and “intoxicated” and felt pain in her pelvic area, vagina, and lower back, the suit states. The lawsuit also alleges that Bennouna was laying behind her in a “spooning manner,” groping her, and rubbing his genitals against her back.

The woman began “crying hysterically” because she believed that she had been drugged and raped. She grabbed her things and left the home. According to the suit, the woman went to a local hospital where a rape kit was administered. She also reported the alleged incident to police, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the defendants earn money from “promoting drinking, taking drugs and having sex with women,” and use their business as a front to “lure” women to their homes where they provide them with drugs and alcohol to have sex, with or without consent.

“Defendants had a longstanding practice of inviting women to their recording sessions, or choosing women at bars, and inviting them back to the Hidden Hills house which is also a hub of EMPLOYER DEFENDANTS business enterprises,” the lawsuit reads. “There Defendants would supply the women with drinks and drugs, with the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with them, without any regard to whether or not they consented, or were able to consent.”

The alleged assault caused the woman to have anxiety, “extreme emotional distress,” flashbacks, depression, and prevented her from continuing to pursue a career in modeling and acting. The suit is asking for a jury trial.

Montana, whose birth name is Karim Kharbouch, hasn’t publicly responded to the allegations.

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Prince’s Siblings Reportedly File Petition To Get Money From His Estate

The heirs to Prince’s fortune want his estate to pay up. According to The Blast, the music legend’s siblings, Norine, Sharon and John, filed legal documents in hopes of green lighting “payment for service and efforts provided to the Estate.”

The trio claims that while “others” have been compensated, they have yet to be paid after putting time and energy into “business matters” related to the estate, which is being run by Comerica Bank.

“As this Court is aware, the Estate has now been on-going for over three years,” the documents reportedly state. “In this time, millions have been paid to the Personal Representatives, their accountants, attorneys, and legal advisors.”

The heirs accused Comerica of making money decisions without notifying them, which the bank has denied. Last year, a Minnesota judge denied the siblings’ request to limit the bank’s power over the estate.

Prince’s brothers and sisters want a judge to force Comerica to compensate them so that they can get out of financial ruin, including paying legal bills.

The Purple One’s estate is worth an estimated $200 million (down from $300 million) since his death in 2016. Prince died without a will but a judge ruled that his estate would be split between his six half-siblings. His brother, Alfred Jackson, who was 1/6 of the estate heirs died in 2019. Last December, Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, sold off a chunk of her percentage of the estate to cover legal bills.

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Here’s How New Orleans Is Being Affected By Coronavirus

New Orleans has twice as many COVID-19 cases per capita than any other county or parish in the country. This time last month, the Big Easy welcomed over a million visitors for Mardi Gras, which likely contributed to the diseases spreading rapidly around the city.

New Orleans registered its first case of COVID-19 on March 9. As of Friday (March 27), the city reported more than 20 additional coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 119. The death tole increased by 19% in one day, according to the Times-Picayune. That said, the number of those who have contracted the disease could vary due to a lack of testing in Louisiana, and around the country. The state reported 441 new cases as of Friday.

Male patients account for 43% of the COVID-19 cases in the state, while women make up 57%. The largest number of cases by age group are adults between the ages of 50-59. Orleans Parish, which is Louisiana’s third most populous parish behind East Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parish, reported 57 of the 87 coronavirus-related deaths.

At least 24% percent of New Orleans residents are living below the poverty line, and 1 in 5 households are without a vehicle, further limiting access to testing and treatment, USA Today reports. The poverty stats, compounded with lack of access to proper health care and those with underlying medical conditions, contribute to the spike in cases.

“New Orleans is preparing to mobilize in a way we hope we will never see again in our lifetimes,” New Orleans Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said, per USA Today. “This disaster will define us for generations.”

The city is running out of hospital beds, and ventilators could be next on the list. Of the more the 773 reported patients hospitalized over COVID-19, 270 of them require ventilators. Louisiana has close to 2,800 ventilators statewide. While the city works to gain access to necessary medical supplies, others are stepping forward to help feed NOLA residents.

Earlier in the week, New Orleans Saints player Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, announced that they are donating $5 million to various charities including Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health, Jimmy Johns, and Waitr, to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana.

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Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020. The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need. Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:31am PDT

In neighboring Mississippi, there are 570 confirmed COVID-19 cases and eight deaths out of 3,139 tests administered. Mississippi also has more women battling the disease (59%) than men (41%).

According to the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago and other “hot spots” will have a worse week next week than they had this week.

In Milwaukee, the city’s Black community is being hit harder than any other group in the state. All of the eight deaths (five men and three women) in Milwaukee County were Black people, and seven of the eight were Milwaukee residents.

Philadelphia has at least 475 cases of the disease with over 2,200 confirmed cases statewide. On a positive note, more than 21,000 people  have tested negative for coronavirus in Pennsylvania.

With over 42,246 people testing positive for the disease, New York tops the list of coronavirus cases around the country and has been receiving the brunt of nationwide press around the pandemic, while states like Michigan, which falls fifth on the nationwide list, aren't generating the same amount of national headlines. The Midwestern state has been considered an epicenter  for the disease, and cities such as Detroit and Flint, where residents have been without clean water for years, are among the most vulnerable.

As of Thursday (March 28), the U.S. confirmed more cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world. Over 100,000 people tested positive for the disease and while hospitals are still in need of critical supplies and testing kits, there is one small glimmer of hope: the fatality rate in the U.S. remains at less than 10% (1607 confirmed deaths), and over 2,000 people in the country have been reported as recovered from COVID-19.

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