(Cover by Jake Mulka; other photos by Broccoli)
Lord Gulley‘s sound is hard to define but easy to appreciate. From Nightmerica and his rapping days to his current form as a producer, Gulley has shown an aversion to the ordinary and an embrace of the cutting edge. The vibes are so different that it’s sometimes hard to believe they come from the same person, but on Not I Gulley proves that his changing style is very much a strength rather than a shortcoming.
Sitting in the newly established Shadow Temple Studios, I can’t help but get a familiar feeling. Gulley’s Instagram feed is filled with snippets of beats at all hours of the day; an 8am morning is just as likely as a 4am night. Seeing it in person makes a lot of sense.
In our short conversation, he exhibits his usual unassuming presence; he lets the music do the talking most of the time.
“It’s really a random project, just some stuff that I would do. When I came up with the title, the idea was, “people be on this or that, but not I.” Some people would be like, “I’m not going to just put my friends on a bunch of songs,” and I’m like, “not I,” you know what I’m sayin? So it’s a play on words, but really it’s just a bunch of songs that I’ve had sittin for a while. I thought it was time for them to come out, get the dust off ’em.”
The project begins casually enough; the intro slowly grows in complexity, aided by sampled quotes like, “…people don’t like to look themselves in the mirror…that’s one of the hardest things to do…” From there comes three instrumentals back to back, with the Burial-esque vocal processing of “Lone,” the jazz-inspired dissonance of “Menthol,” and the wavy panning of “Analyze.”
“I make beats every day, so it’s nothing new really. I guess one of the fun parts about it was making Prada and Slave’s song, cuz we were just in the studio blowed, making random shit back when I was at the Russell. And the Slave and Stefan song, which was made within the last few days. That was Stefan’s first time coming to the stu, it was just a vibe.”
“I like making shit where it comes out good in the end because everyone’s having a good time, you know what I’m sayin? It wasn’t pressured, nobody felt like they had to finish it on time or whatnot. If you find your pocket, you’ll get shit done.”
The next few tracks include vocal features: JRU Nukem casually graces “Sub Zero,” while Flare and Slave exhibit more sinister flows on “You Knew.” After that comes two more instrumentals; “Sometimes,” a highlight of the project in my opinion, followed by the upbeat chops of “Vegeta.”
The last two tracks are a good showing of Gulley’s versatility; “Mindstate” features Stefan XIX and Slave on a track reminiscent of boom-bap roots, sprinkled with jagged trap hi hats and a steady piano sample. “Precision,” on the other hand, is a dark and looming ode to hedonism, featuring substance-fueled bars via Prada Leary and Slave.
The wide-ranging project might serve as a confusing introduction for those that are new to Gulley’s work. Even for longtime fans, the stylistic trajectories surely keep people guessing about what’s coming next. Based on his answers, their uncertainty is justified.
“(What’s next?) Oh yeah, there’s a lot. I’m probably not gonna drop any more dolo projects after this until my album, L&S, which features a lot of Detroit artists like Nolan the Ninja, Phil Swish, Rich Marciano, Amber Chene, Jaye Prime, Laz of Clear Soul, Adolph JYN (fellow Nightmerican), et cetera, et cetera. And then after that, me, Satomi the Redfox, and Prism started a band called MLT | LIQ (pronounced “Malt Liquor”), so we’re trying to get that album done as soon as possible. That’s really my main focus right now, MLT | LIQ and the L&S joint. Oh, and I’m also doing Amber Chene’s whole project, that’s probably coming out pretty soon actually. That’s probably all I can talk about for now.”
When asked about any final thoughts on his latest offering, he had this to say:
“Not I is really just something for people to…I wouldn’t really say enjoy, more like do shit to. It’s one of those things you could do your homework to and shit. I don’t wanna say chill, cuz there’s some beats on there that’s not chill; There’s definitely some tracks you can turn up with, then there’s chill tracks you can smoke a blunt to. The tracks are honestly so mad random but they flow well together, it’s just an experience. It’s not necessarily some shit other people would do, but it’s some shit that I would do.”
If you like this project, it sounds like we’ll be getting new material from the Shadow Temple Shogun in the near future. Until then, check Not I below and tell a friend to tell a friend.