Awkward Landing
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Awkward Landing


Band Hip Hop Alternative


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"All Together Now"

More than 30 MCs will spit at Edo G’s second annual Boston Unity Fest this Saturday, which should prove that the local rap scene is civilized enough to conduct itself without supervision from the BPD gang unit. Even off-stage and in the lab, most Boston rappers who are talented enough to succeed beyond the Bean have been collaborating for a minute. Here are four standout posse cuts.

Awkward Landing featuring Esoteric, “Spikes for the Punch Bowl”
The scene’s newest format deserters – and most explosive live hip-hop act – join Esoteric on a Joe Beats produced bass fiasco. When it comes to quick rhymes and arcane pop culture references, there’s no question whiteboys do it best. Especially in Boston. - The Boston Phoenix

"BOSS TEN Weekly Dig top 10 groups to look out for in 2007"

"In 2006 Awkward Landing went from resembling Def Jux heroes like Aesop Rock and El-P to trumping anything those dudes have released in five years. With a pair of beasts, j.Ring and Normal, who are capable of ripping both booths and stages, plus daring in house beats from Pete Productions and DJ Shiftee (the youngest-ever DMC champion) on the decks, this will likely be the next Boston crew to ripple through the underground." - Weekly Dig Dec. 20, 2006

"URB Magazine Album Review"

Awkward Landing
"Whats Eating Awkward Landing"


"This Beantown hip hop quartet has been described as a west coast Organized Konfusion, but the intricate production and clever syllable-heavy rhyme schemes sounds like they should be lamping with Aesop Rock and the Def Jux crew up there in Yankee territory. Awkward Landing is on the come up for real." Permanent Ink - URB Magazine

"Awkward Moment: Hub underground rap group is Landing on hip-hop scene"

"If you didnt know better, you might have mistaken Awkward Landing for the headliners at New York MC Cage's gig at the Middle East last week. The Boston-based, Cape Cod bred alternative rap syndicate, led by rappers J Ring and Normal, not only wrecked shop, they were well represented by hip-hop heads sporting Awkward Landing T-shirts.

The same scene has become common at other Boston rap concerts: Awkward Landing plows the venue right before the big-name touring act and delivers a mammouth, show stealing show.

"At first we got more love in New York. It took a minute to cut through Boston," Ring said after Awkward landing's riotous set at the Cage show...

...While their debut was imaginative but rough sounding, this year's "What's Eating Awkward Landing?" EP is a masterful stew of eclectic hip hop. Ring and Normal often spit complicated rhymes, but never at the listeners exspense. Likewise, Pete's knack for tough melody lifts the overall vibe out from the depths of underground hip-hop...

Chris Faraone

- Boston Herald Dec. 15, 2005

"Rhymes will be flying at Hip Hop Fest"

Except for a few high-profile acts that have gone national, the Boston hip hop scene continues to move to its own rhythm and rhymes. But that doesnt mean the scene isnt making vital music. The Boston Hip Hop Fest at the Middle East Downstairs on Saturday will feature an array of some of the city's worthiest performers.


This trio has an affection for old school hip-hop, when the rhymes were taut, creative, and sometimes silly. Pete Productions supplies plenty of dirty beats for J-Ring and Normal--who have an obvious chemistry--to drop some funky verses over. They put out "Whats Eating Awkward landing?" and its a solid mix of attitude and wicked language. "Kids try to put us into catagories, but the only category we fall into is straight, unadulterated hip-hop." Normal says.

Ken Capobianco - Boston Globe

"Awkward Phase"

Despite hip hop's global reach, locals will freely admit that Ca - Boston Metro-Brian coleman

"The All Spin Zone w 2007 DMC World Supremacy Champion"

The All-Spin Zone

Samuel M. Zornow ’08 is no slouch. Here’s how his alter ego DJ Shiftee got to the top—and what the view’s like from up there
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Published On Wednesday, November 14, 2007 6:20 PM
Crimson Staff Writer

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SIDEBAR: DJ Lingo for the Layman

He is a disc jockey, a turntablist, a master of wax. He is an opinionated old-school hip-hop head, and a part-time math geek. He is definitely a musician.

He is also the DJ battle champion of the world.

But in order to understand who Samuel M. Zornow ’08 really is, you have to understand what Samuel M. Zornow ’08 really does.

“When I’m talking to some people, they’ve never seen anything like this,” he says. “They have an idea in their minds of what you do, and it’s wrong.”


“It’s the act of manipulating vinyl records and a mixing device to create these new sounds and make these new pieces of music out of old pieces of music,” says Zornow. “But that’s not really going to translate until they see it.”

This is what DJs do: they take two record players (but, please, call them turntables) and use them in ways your parents never would have imagined. An obsolete music listening technology is transformed into a cutting-edge music making technology.

This is what DJs do: they scratch and they beat-juggle.

You probably know what scratching is—moving the record back and forth while the needle’s down—but it’s far more complex than you’d think. DJs with staggering rhythmic precision and hand control can master techniques with names like “chirps” and “flares” and “orbits” and “crabs.”

Beat-juggling is taking small sections of two records and creating a new beat by “juggling” them using a fader. All this is done live and on-the-fly.

DJ Shiftee may be one of the best beat-jugglers on the planet, and he has parlayed these skills into a successful battle DJ career, rising to the top of his niche of the broader DJ culture.

“The main point of battle DJing for me is showing off,” says Zornow. “You’re showing your skills and you’re showing your an action-packed manner.”

After carefully assembling and rehearsing their 60- to 90-second routines, battle DJs compete head-to-head to determine who’s got the most talent and innovation. It’s like a chess tournament, if chess tournaments featured the members of the Wu-Tang Clan.

“You have to have a stage persona,” according to Zornow, who says he becomes DJ Shiftee whenever there are turntables nearby.

“If I go onstage, I switch. I’d like to hope that Sam Zornow is a nice guy, who’s like polite and sort of shy and not jerky...and then on stage, I try to be a son of a bitch,” he says. “When I’m battling someone, I’m out for blood. I’m in your face. I’m there to mess you up.”

Zornow uses the reflective windows of his Mather Tower suite to practice dissing his opponents.

“I’m not necessarily gangster in real life,” he says, “but there is that aspect of my personality. I’m a competitive person.”


Zornow’s journey to the top of the underground DJ battling community begins, ironically, with that most mainstream of musical experiences: watching MTV. Back when the network actually played music videos, young Sam fell in love with rap hits, circa 1995.

“I think probably the first hip-hop song that I liked a lot—and this doesn’t bode well for my being an old-time underground head—was ‘Big Poppa’ by the Notorious B.I.G.”

Zornow’s hip-hop horizons steadily broadened, as he devoured all the underground stuff he could get his hands on. It didn’t hurt that he lived just outside of New York City, the birthplace of hip-hop and still the rap capital of the world.

“By eighth grade and ninth grade I started going into Manhattan to go to record stores,” he says. “The DJing came as a result of being very interested in hip-hop culture and wanting to somehow find a way to be in it.”

Zornow journeyed into the big city with childhood friend and current MIT senior Mike S. Fleder. “Both of us were always looking for music that people from our neighborhood didn’t normally listen to,” he says. “It’s a little bit of a counterculture thing.”

But this was hardly a full-blown adolescent rebellion: Zornow’s parents were on board from the get-go.

“I think a lot of people had their eyebrows raised a bit when he was first getting into this,” says David M. Zornow ’76, Sam’s father.

The family went to Sam Ash—Guitar Center for the headphones set—where Sam got his first pair of turntables. He bought them with Bar Mitzvah money.

Zornow says that after a few weeks of lessons from a shifty Sam Ash salesman who charged 50 bucks an hour and, in retrospect, “didn’t know how to scratch,” he turned to instructional videos to hone his skills.

“I learned tha - The Harvard Crimson


"Principle Over Property" EP 2003

"What's Eating Awkward Landing" EP 2005

Good Morning/Subwoofas vinyl single 2005

"Kill Your Radio" EP 2006



Rock n' Roll!!!!!! For everybody that is bored with hip hop, this is for you!!!
"Quite possibly the best live act in Boston" -Weekly Dig
"Boston's top ten group to look out for in 2007."- Boston Phoenix.
"If you didnt know any better you might have mistaken A.L. for the headliners at New York emcee Cage's gig...this week"- Chris Faraone, Boston Herald
"Hip hop artistry is at the core of A.L., and their energetic and charismatic show which is why they have been rightfully marked as one of Boston's rising star groups."-Brian Coleman hip hop historian. author of "Rakim Told Me", "Check the Technique".

“What’s Eating Awkward Landing” was released to rave reviews. Labeled impressive and given 3 ½ out of 5 stars in URB Magazine, A.L. utilized this exposure burning down venues across the East Coast. During the next two years A.L had the pleasure of sharing the stage with the likes of Rahzel, Gift of Gab, Kool Keith, Aceyalone, Zion I, Z Trip, Murs, Cage, Ed OG, D Block, La Cosa Nostra and more.
The two emcees are considered by critics, fans, and fellow artists as two of the best in the city. The production is refreshing and different. Thier dj was the N.Y. city DMC champion at 17 yrs old. That should be reason enough to at least check these guys out when they visit the planet again.
Currently A.L. is on the moons of Jupiter creating there new brain kill. An album without a name, it includes collaborations with Amp Live of Zion I, Joe Beats, Esoteric and more. Set to be released in late 2007, heads are waiting for the Apocolypse. AWKWARD LANDING is going to keep rockin' until they actually see someone's head blows right off their body at our show. I'm talking about spontaneous combustion. Until then they work extremely hard for the love of our culture and for the fans waiting for something to wake them up again. Awkward Landing, Spokinn Movement, Dewy Dezimal...Semantics Family Tree. F@#k any DJ that don’t spin wax! Thank you.