Paradise Movement
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Paradise Movement

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"Paradise Movement- To infinity and beyond..."

“I think the state of music – the ball is in our court,” says Johnny Free. “I feel like the people that are on the left are beginning to become the mainstream.”
The MC of York-based hip-hop trio Paradise Movement, Free is a somewhat unlikely candidate to help usher in the next era of mainstream music. As the group’s bio jokes, “From the outside, he’s way more Jack Black than Black Star.” His sometimes comic, always electric delivery pays homage to other Caucasian lyrical wizards, like Sage Francis and Eminem, but is less ponderous and self-serious than either. But when complemented by hook man Ralph Real’s effortless R&B vocals and an uncanny knack for indelible melodies and DJ Pherensik’s production, it creates a sound that is kinetic, infectious and engineered for the dance floor.

The magic that currently typifies Paradise Movement’s sound was sparked when Free first entered Mellow D Studios, where Real was an in-house producer. At that time, Paradise Movement existed with a different lineup. Through that relationship, Free and Real began collaborating on tracks and performing shows together around the region. When Free’s partner decided to leave Paradise Movement, Real was a no-brainer as an addition to the lineup.

Given both the overwhelmingly electronic nature and the irrepressible, live-feeling energy of Paradise Movement’s tracks, I was curious how the material was written. Real explains, “Basically, it was me on the hooks and John on the verses, having a great concept and just bringing it together … real quick.

“It was nothing like we went to some mountain and thought about it,” he laughs. “It was simple and easy like, ‘Yo, here’s the concept. Here’s the beat. Let’s write something.’ It was cake.”

After Real and Free craft the songs, DJ Pherensik offers input, samples and scratching that provide an additional X-factor. Free and Real also credit him with ushering Paradise Movement further into genuine relevance in the exploding “hipster” scene, which is as much about an overall aesthetic as it is about a specific kind of music.

“Yeah, man, he’s really awesome,” Real says of Pherensik. “He just really opened our eyes to what the new hipster scene was about, and almost the new wave of hip-hop. … It’s really positive. It’s really a different swing of hip-hop.”

Free and Real both refer to artists like M.I.A. and Santogold as being emblematic of this new wave of hip-hop. Positivity and lightheartedness indeed are defining elements for Paradise Movement. The songs sound like an Ecstasy-popping, Euro-chic dance-club devotee’s sleepless weekend soundtrack. They also display the international melting pot of influences the members share, the result of a post-modern life in which all musical boundaries are removed via the Internet.
“Stevie Wonder,” Real says without hesitation. “I look at him, like how he touched so many musical genres and fit it into what he had going on. Stevie Wonder was a big, big part of my life.”

He then highlights predominantly East Coast artists from the early to mid-’90s – A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul – who, like Paradise Movement, offered a counterpoint to the violence, negativity, misogyny, etc. in popular rap.
“[They] had a lighter side of hip-hop, but were also musically inclined. It was real fun, it was real free, it was real pop,” Real explains. “You could dance with it, you could still get the message, you could still hear some awesome, really dope MCs that were doing something.”

Free cites a number of artists who dominated the charts with less savory content and arguably a lot more swagger. “Wu-Tang, Jay-Z, Nas,” he says. “Those were like my three favorite as far as who has an influence on how I rap and how I write.”

While those were the artists that were inspirational in his formative days as a rapper, much of what Free seems to be aesthetically sparked by today comes from bands like Kings of Leon, The Strokes, the White Stripes. Paradise Movement’s music unites those seemingly disparate worlds in a way similar to Kanye West’s; it’s futuristic-sounding, barrier-breaking, always danceable hip-hop.

Do Free and Real consider themselves to be, “’Ye” fans?
“It’s impossible not to be a fan of Kanye West,” Free states.

“I mean, he’s a crazy beat maker,” Real interjects. “Every time I see him I just want to punch him in the face! I’m like, ‘Damn it, I wish I was as good as you!’”
As is the case with West and his forward-thinking sound, Paradise Movement’s vibe might incline a listener to guess that they’re from Paris, London, Tokyo or New York City. But York, PA? While they may not be as readily apparent, Real and Free maintain that living in Central PA does have its strategic advantages. Free explains, “It helps us grow a fan base. It’s easy to capture the small town to take over. … The good thing about York is that we’re not far from Philly, New York, D.C., Baltimore, so we’re constantly making road trips, just playing shows out of town as much as we can, meeting people in other cities.”

On March 28, PM released its second full-length album, Kinetic Magnetics, with a party at the Chameleon Club. The evening also served as the debut for the group’s newly assembled band, which helps to translate the album tracks to the live setting.

“I think it’s impossible to capture what we did on the album,” Free explains. “Our album is just produced very finely and fine-tuned. [It’s] meant for the club, meant to be real crisp and clean. The live show is where we just go crazy, let loose.”

Real interjects a warning: “You might come to a show and get water thrown on you, get jumped on, something might happen to you. … It’s a really good show; it’s a really wild show.

“All we really want to do is just draw the energy out of people.”

That live show, in combination with Paradise Movement’s unique slant on hip-hop, is exactly what could help the group fulfill Free’s prediction of pushing its way into the mainstream. It’s almost an “if you build it, they will come” kind of logic.
“I think the rest of the world is just starting to catch on. It’s almost like what’s underground is cool because it was underground for so long. I feel like that’s something that we could use to our advantage,” Free says, “If we could pull a major label deal, I mean, we would definitely do that. We feel that the world is ready for that ‘left’ side of music, you know?” - Fly Magazine 4/08 -Keith Wilson


"SPIN.com- 12 Singles from Rising Bands"

At its essence, “Shake It Off” is a club-banging slam that you should feel guilty listening to on a weekday (because it’s so f’ing fun), if it didn’t end so quickly. An Outkast-like bombardment of high-energy clappers and samples by DJ Pherensik sets the neon mood for rappers Johnny Free and Ralph Real to snap a few feel-good lines, but mostly chirp the cheery chorus (‘Cause if your friends ain’t acting the same/And they always throwing dirt in your name/And it feels like your life won’t change/You need to shake shake shake shake shake shake shake it off). The dancey Pennsylvania-based indie rap duo released their full-length album Kinetic Magnetics earlier this year and look to be jumping ship on a European label. Watch out for their upcoming success, albeit probably won’t be from sleepy York, PA.

Ian Kessler
Spin.com - Ian Kessler of SPIN.com


"Local Music Updates: Halestorm & Paradise Movement"

John Rushie, aka Jonny Free, said the York hip-hop trio signed a three-year management deal with Son of Issachar Talent Management Firm, which works with artists in Europe. Former York Christian artist Knagui Giddins runs the firm and knew Paradise Movement member Ralph Real. (William Thoummarath, aka DJ Pherensik, is the third group member.) Read more on the jump.

The group sent Giddins a copy of their album "Kinetic Magnetics" after it was released in April. Since then Giddins has shopped the record to European record labels and has gotten some interest. The management deal will help the band get signed sooner, Rushie said. They will handle booking Paradise movement shows and printing band CDs and merchandise. A 10-day tour in Europe is also in the works - FlipsidePA.com


"Paradise Movement Live at Small's Nov. 15th"

Paradise Movement aka Johnny Free and Ralph Real blasted into the indie hip-hop world in early 2008 with a fantastic debut album, "Freshman 15." The two are already hard at work on their follow-up record (out as early as December) which Free compares in production to Santogold and the new N.E.R.D.
"We want to release an album that is radio-ready and geared for the club, but still just as much a respectable rap record." Free explains. "The lyrical content has matured, but don't get me wrong, the songs on this album are catchy as hell and will have your girlfriend wishing you were a better dancer!" - Fly Magazine


"Urb.com- NEXT 1000"

Call it “indie-rap” or “hipster-rap” or whatever invented term you’d prefer, but don’t sleep on this group, for real. There are no gimmicks or cheap tricks here; the York, PA hip-hop trio have been turning heads with their electronic and dance-infused hip hop, bringing PA natives out to the dance floor and bringing hip-hop heads out from hiding. Rapper Johnny Free brings wit and humor with sharp flow, and Real and DJ Pherensik round out the group with smooth vocals and live instrumentation. On a mission to bring people of all musical tastes out to the dance floor, Paradise Movement is ready to bust out of PA and onto the national scene any day now. - Aylin Zafar


Discography

"Kinetic Magnetics" Full-length LP 3/28/09

Photos

Bio

At its essence, “Shake It Off” is a club-banging slam that you should feel guilty listening to on a weekday (because it’s so f’ing fun)... The dancey Pennsylvania-based indie rap duo released their full-length album Kinetic Magnetics earlier this year and look to be jumping ship on a European label. Watch out for their upcoming success, albeit probably won’t be from sleepy York, PA

=SPIN.com

"Call it “indie-rap” or “hipster-rap” or whatever invented term you’d prefer, but don’t sleep on this group, for real. There are no gimmicks or cheap tricks here; the York, PA hip-hop trio have been turning heads with their electronic and dance-infused hip hop, bringing PA natives out to the dance floor and bringing hip-hop heads out from hiding. Rapper Johnny Free brings wit and humor with sharp flow, and Real and DJ Pherensik round out the group with smooth vocals and live instrumentation. On a mission to bring people of all musical tastes out to the dance floor, Paradise Movement is ready to bust out of PA and onto the national scene any day now."

-URB.COM

PARADISE MOVEMENT are proof that, not only can lightning strike twice, but that the second shot can be even more electrifying than the first.

In early 2008, the York, PA hip-hop group shook the indie-rap underground with the release of its debut album, Freshman 15, a relentlessly creative effort that, while ferociously sincere and genuinely affecting, still sounds like the soundtrack to a kegger. The lyrics are provocative and smart, winking and menacing, delivered with bravado and flair. But for every fierce diatribe ("Shoots & Ladders", "Get Out") or brokenhearted lament ("Back Home"), there's a track like "Freestyle," a playful street-corner battle-track in which the MCs lay into each other with tongues planted firmly in cheeks.

"We are very committed to making good music, whether it's lighthearted or serious. We just want to make something new and exciting," rapper Johnny Free explains. "We are making the music we want to hear."

Reaction to the album was overwhelmingly positive, with comparisons drawn to everyone from COMMON to BONE THUGS to SAGE FRANCIS, and soon MOVEMENT members Johnny Free, Ralph Real and company found themselves sharing stages with the likes of THE WU-TANG CLAN, REEF THE LOST CAUZE, THE HIEROGLYPHICS and JAY-Z protege and Roc-A-Fella artist FREEWAY. accomplishments made all the more remarkable when considering that PARADISE MOVEMENT were working in a musical vacuum.

The fact is, there was no hip-hop scene in York, PA. Consequently, PM were left with no choice but to start their own. The duo quickly turned rock clubs into hip-hop hangouts where music fans of every stripe flocked to see what all the fuss was about. PARADISE MOVEMENT simultaneously infiltrated the rock scene, joining, if not headlining, countless pop, emo and hardcore shows in famed area clubs like the Chameleon and the Dragonfly, alongside bands such as THE PINK SPIDERS. Slowly but surely, hip-hop fans started appearing out of the ether like bears from hibernation. It just goes to show, if you build it...

Behind the compelling music are two equally compelling artists. One is hard-pressed to find a man less likely to bear the hip-hop torch than Free. From the outside, he's way more Jack Black than Black Star. But with skill and imagination, he deftly transcends the pitfalls of being a Caucasian rapper, embracing the art form so seriously, convincingly and imaginatively that one's ears end up every bit as transfixed as one's eyes. By his side is Real, a hook man with a golden baritone voice that in the early 2000s established him as a formative R&B singer and led to extensive touring in the U.S. and Africa.

Now, with snowballing momentum, PARADISE MOVEMENT are unloading their second thunderclap, the duo's second full-length record, slated for a Spring 2009 release. Proving that their first outing was no fluke, Johnny Free, Real and collaborator DJ Pherensik have crafted an optimistic, kinetic album that hip-hoppers and hipsters alike will revere, balancing electronic hooks with live instrumentation for a production comparable to that of the new N.E.R.D. and SANTOGOLD records.

The tracks' fresh sound is all the more credit to Free and Real, who produced nearly every track on the album themselves. In essence, they're their own Timbaland. The exception to the rule is cameo work by D.C. producer/rapper Oddisee, whose work with everyone from TALIB KWELI to BILAL has earned him praise as "the next J. Dilla."

"We wanted to make an album that was radio-ready and geared for the club, but still just as much a respectable rap record at the same time," Johnny says. "The lyrical content has matured, but don't get me wrong, the songs on this album are catchy as hell and will have your girlfriend wishing you were a better dancer"

"We are taking it to the top this time with a new outlook and a fresh sound that will show the world just how ser