Daniel Rafn Reenvisions His Exploratory Pop with Help from Old Grape God and Neo G Yo [EP Premiere]

Vortex Music Magazine

On 'The Hanged Man: Features,' Rafn is joined by two Portland rappers to rework three songs from his fourth LP.

Idiosyncratic pop producer Daniel Rafn dropped his fourth full-length, The Hanged Man, in October 2016. The 10 tracks probe his subconscious utilizing the titular Tarot card as a beacon for his downtempo, dark electropop. From ethereal harps to demure, plodding beats, Rafn always knew he'd like to hear some guest rappers add verses to his effort. And now, that's exactly what Portland emcees Old Grape God and Neo G Yo bring to the table.

"I could imagine what tracks might work with different voices," Rafn says, and this led to The Hanged Man: Features, a three-track companion to the original release. Each rapper brought his own style to the tracks, and Rafn feels like the resulting collaborations "turned out more concise and focused [than the originals], actually."

"This was my first time working with Grape God," Rafn continues, "and it was really incredible. Recording him was sort of like photographing nature: You're just capturing these one-of-a-kind moments that will not happen again. He did something very different with each run-through, so when we were picking a take, we were picking drastically different performances. It's such a live, instinctual way to record because there's some improvisation involved. That was really interesting to me because it's pretty much the opposite of how I record myself when I'm doing final takes.

"Neo G Yo and I have collaborated many times, so it was perfectly natural when he developed this entirely new chorus for 'The Significator,' in addition to his verse. He knew the feeling behind the original album, and I clued him in to the song's theme specifically before he started writing. His lyrics really enhance and support the whole statement, so it was awesome."

This new EP and Rafn's past releases are on his own label, Warble Records. "We're a small label made up of my brothers' respective projects and our closest friends who make music," he says. "We all grew up in Salem, so that's the tying bind." Uniting under one umbrella, "Our informal mentor of the group is Julian Snow, who is a piano teacher at Willamette University. Our most active bands on the roster are my younger brother Kevin's group Seance Crasher and disco pop outfit Coronation."

While Rafn continues to work on "another EP of brand new material that I hope will also have some features," he says, "The new EP should drop this calendar year, and then it'll be on to my next album."

Until then, listen to Daniel Rafn's collabs with emcees Old Grape God and Neo G Yo. And speaking of guest vocalists: DoublePlusGood appears on the original LP and you watch the pair's previous remix of DPG's "Are You Listening" below.

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