Strange/Gibberish isn't a record label, but they release albums. They're not a band or a collective, but they support each other in the same way. They're from Orlando, but not only from Orlando.
"I guess the goal at Strange/Gibberish is to promote hip-hop and music in general. To be creative and unbound," says Omar Laracuente, otherwise known as hip-hop producer Amable. At 31, Amable has been a DJ for nearly a decade, but he's finally turning heads in the music world thanks to this somewhat mysterious project. "Some would say that Strange/Gibberish is on the left field of hip-hop, whatever that means. We do what we wish."
So far that's meant cranking out free downloadable albums once a month at their website, www.strangegibberish.net, and in the process introducing a stream of promising, on-the-rise producers, DJs and MCs. The new discoveries, and the anticipation behind the more established artists on the "label," is reminiscent of the beginnings of Stones Throw, home to Madlib and, since the '90s, the greedily energetic hip-hop searchlight founded by producer Peanut Butter Wolf.
This month, Strange/Gibberish stepped up the pace with a new compilation and a solo EP from Amable, Mono 07. (Amable is also part of the Booty Clap Coalition and DNA Explosion.)
Mono 07 is a fascinating listen, employing bongos, jazz guitar and, of course, music from the James Bond films, a sonic jumble with a teasingly unveiled cohesion.
If S/G is Stones Throw and Amable is Madlib, then New Jersey rapper-producer Turtle Handz is their PB Wolf. Like Stones Throw collaborator MF Doom, Turtle Handz is rarely seen without a metallic mask that hides his face (but can't contain his dreads). He founded Strange/Gibberish around three years ago, and premiered their website and free-for-all mission with the 2006 solo release Green With Envy. Afterward he became a full-time Internet prowler, scanning MySpace for other artists who shared his philosophy. So far he's helped introduce over a dozen musicians, like talented local MC and remix artist Akwaknot (who can actually turn bluegrass standard "Man of Constant Sorrow" into a jazzy head-nodder), prolific local rapper D. Strange and witty Orlando producer Deepcrates. National acts followed, from California's Exterminator Academy to New Jersey's Mentally Ill Chemical Abusers and Virginia's V-Sharp.
Now, after more than a year of steady releases, Strange/Gibberish is turning into a self-feeding mechanism for hip-hop heads: The acts are so diverse and tight-knit that they're practically assembling their own fantasy league of future collaborators. It's lo-fi, sure, and they can get too ambitious for their own good (the Halloween-themed compilation Helloween 2008 was uneven to the point of schizophrenia), but in an exhausted indie-rap landscape, Strange/Gibberish is a welcome transfusion of new firstname.lastname@example.org