Signing to a record label can be a difficult decision for independent artists. Will the label constrain them? Is the tradeoff of gaining promotion worth the loss of independence? One record label that strives to eschew this problem is Pitchfork Records. The independent label has seven artists signed so far, one of which is the duo of lyricist KenSon and beat-maker Noah Boa, who are known together as Bottom Notch. With origins in the hallways of Berkeley High School, the hip-hop duo now have multiple EPs under their belt, and KenSon released his first solo EP on Thursday.
What separates Pitchfork Records from other labels is that its primary goal is to promote the artist. “It’s an interesting situation because it’s not really a record deal — it’s an opportunity to get more promotion and notoriety,” KenSon said. “It’s different in that the main thing they provide to their artists is promotion in addition to recording and video services. With Pitchfork, we can do pretty much whatever we want to do.” The label is based on the East Coast, which the duo hope will allow them to reach a broader audience.
The duo are also the only hip-hop act on the label, which puts them in a unique situation as the first to experiment with what Pitchfork Records has to offer in terms of mixing and recording music.
“A big opportunity it opens for us is that it allows other people to mix and master our music that we wouldn’t have had before,” Boa said.
Boa commented on how the group are particularly excited to work with Dave Esposito, another artist on the label who also happens to to be one of its co-founders.
In addition to their work collaborating with Esposito, the band are always looking to work with artists from different genres. One venue that allows the group to work with different types of musicians is the Ivy Room in Albany, where the duo perform every month with DJ Tycho.
“We did a show there a while ago to promote our album Fresh is In,” KenSon said. “A couple months later, we contacted them to perform another show, and they said yeah. After that, the owner of the Ivy Room asked us if we wanted to do a monthly show.”
KenSon also plans to perform tracks from his debut solo EP at the group’s next performance at the Ivy Room later this month. One such track is the single “Get Me Now,” which talks about the instantaneous nature of our society.
“I came up with the song when I was thinking about hip-hop music fans,” KenSon said. “Many of them always want more from the artist as fast as possible, which is kind of like the instant gratification mentality of our society today.”
While tracks such as “Give Me Now” or “Dear God” — from the duo’s Do Write Music EP — highlight the group at the peak of their lyrical and production mastery, tunes such as “Drinkin’ Song” seem a bit disconnected; the lyrics to these tracks are not nearly as strong or as intricate. The group are still in their beginnings, though, so there’s hope that their future tracks will feature a more mature undertone.
Although not every track is as fleshed out as every other, Bottom Notch show no signs of slowing down or giving up any time soon. The group have hopes of reaching double-platinum one day, and while this goal may seem far-fetched, their determination and perseverance are something all artists should strive for. With this kind of mentality, the band’s goal may not be so out of reach.
“I feel it’s better to go too far than to ever have it in your mind that you should quit or that you can fail,” KenSon said. “You are your own answer. Don’t let yourself distract yourself from your goals.”