Mndsgn's 'Rare Pleasure' Dials Up a '70s Fusion Vibe
Listening to the seductive beats of Mndsgn (pronounced "mind design") offers some interesting revelations about jazz’s present-day influence. This electronic artist is one example of how the music inspires many outside the genre, especially within the vibrant experimental hip-hop community in Los Angeles.
Two L.A.-based record labels specialize in this jazz-adjacent sound: Stones Throw and Brainfeeder. (We’ve covered the latter often on this program.) Mndsgn is the first artist we’ve featured on Stones Throw. You might be familiar with another of their artists: Madlib, who put his own spin on classic Blue Note albums with Shades of Blue. Mndsgn creates similarly intoxicating compositions, and has also sampled his fair share of vintage jazz. However, on his latest recording, Rare Pleasure, he steps out from behind the decks to lead a band of jazz-trained instrumentalists.
Born Ringgo Ancheta in San Diego, Mndsgn is mostly self-taught as a musician. Hip-hop and R&B were his first influences growing up in a quiet suburb outside of Philadelphia. As he got older, his crate-digging adventures led him into the jazz section in his local record store. There, he discovered forgotten fusion joints from the early '70s to the mid-'80s, such as Chick Corea’s “Fickle Funk,” Les McCann’s “Sometimes I Cry,” and Hubert Law’s “Land of Passion.”
This period of jazz is considered a golden age for many hip-hop producers. It’s also a period wrought in jazz controversy, often misunderstood by the purists or generally ignored in the jazz mainstream.
We tackle this irony while listening to Rare Pleasure, a throwback album reminiscent of that former time. It’s a deeply vibey, feel-good listen that conjures my own imagination of George Duke and Herbie Hancock. Mndsgn's song “Hope You’re Doing Better” can be taken as an anecdote to cure our collective present-day anxiety. He also directed a charming, homemade video to go along with it.
While getting into the tranquility of Mndsgn, we float around with some other jazz-adjacent artists hovering in his circumference, like Jon Bap, DJ Harrison (from Butcher Brown), Swarvy, The Katalyst, and Anna Wise.
Jazz’s legacy is secure with these artists often discretely drawing upon its power.