Stono Echo
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Stono Echo

Jacksonville, FL | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | INDIE

Jacksonville, FL | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2016
Duo Hip Hop Soul

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Creating hip-hop influenced soul is often a difficult river to navigate. Much of the time, the lyrics are too over-the-top to be taken seriously. Other times, the musical end falters, with the producer being afraid to fully commit to the proper aesthetic. However, the Jacksonville-based duo Stono Echo—comprised of producer Paten Locke and singer/musician Jay Myztroh—have found a way to make things work, as evidenced by their incredibly entertaining debut EP entitled Black Diamonds.

Locke and Myztroh first worked together on last year’s Food Chain album, Locke’s collaboration with homie/Full Plate Music co-founder Dillon Maurer. Myztroh had played much of the live music on the album, and after a studio session, he mentioned to Locke that he is just as good of a vocalist as he is an instrumentalist. That piqued Locke’s interest, and the two decided to explore collaborating from there. Black Diamonds is the fruit of their labor.

The EP reeks of funk and soul, as Locke and Myztroh split duties throughout the project. Locke handles things on the production end, including his masterful work on the sampler, while Myztroh handles the singing, as well as playing the keys and tenor saxophone. Myztroh uses his compelling, often gospel-influenced vocals to deliver insightful lyrics on a myriad of topics. Musically, Locke’s beats run from straight boom-bap to jazz-soaked grooves, but they always compliment the vocals without overpowering them.

Black Diamonds begins with “Workin,’” Stono Echo’s ode to the psychic and spiritual value of doing what you love. “There came a day my rate of pay took backseat to my goals,” Myztroh begins the song. “I work for me, or J-O-B’s have to enrich my soul / Evoke my gifts, uplift my spirits, skills, and knowledge stored / Time’s just too precious.” It’s not very often that you hear people singing about the emotional satisfaction that one gets from doing what they love, but Myztroh articulates the sentiment in a straightforward manner, adding, “If you love what you do and you love to put work in, it won’t feel like workin.’” Locke puts in serious, well, work behind the boards, smoothly chopping sounds and backing them with subtle strings and massive drums.

Like most soul artists, Stono Echo speak on the topic of love throughout Black Diamonds, both the pursuit and the loss. On the shimmering yet brief “Flash! Impact,” Myztroh examines his infatuation with the object of his affection. But the group tackles the other side of the coin on “Holdin,’” a funky horn-driven track where Myztroh exhibits the five stages of break-up grief. In between dusty horns and drums, mixed with samples of Busta Rhymes muttering and chanting, Myztroh goes from being angry at his love for wanting to leave him, to bargaining for her to stay, to pledging to “hit my knees and I pray to ya / Hail Mary, Queen Cheeba of the universe / Accept this adoration, swear I can put you first.” Myztroh wrings the angst and conviction of his powerful voice into the song, making it the most soulful entry on the project.

Black Diamonds features a trio of tracks dedicated towards engaging in discourse on social issues and working to making your voice heard. “Politrickin,’” which was first released days before the 2016 election, is an uptempo, jazzy, piano-laden track where Myztroh lambasts those who seek power by lying to the general population, devaluing the lives of the economically disadvantaged, and pushing a corporatized version of democracy.

On “SoapBox,” Myztroh stages an impromptu rally on record, channeling James Brown over a beautiful piano groove, advocating Black empowerment, an end to police brutality, and the death of the new Jim Crow laws taking hold in this country. “Yesterday (Another Day)” acts as a potent companion piece, as Myztroh describes a peaceful anti-police brutality demonstration gone awry, as cops brutalize the legal protesters. Over a restrained piano groove and a solid drum pattern, Myztroh describes the chaos of being tear-gassed by the authorities, then sings, “Well, it just seems like a trick to me, these choices of the free / Police occupy communities, body count increase.”

The EP closes with “Outer Limits,” an ethereal track where Myztroh finds himself contemplating his place on this planet. With layers of echo and effects, he sings about learning to think bigger and elevate his consciousness beyond the earthly plane. It’s an inspirational note to end things on, and further showcases the creativity of Myztroh as a singer and Locke as a producer.

Black Diamonds is an outstanding work that dodges all of the potential landmines that go along with combining hip-hop beats with soulful vocals. The only issue is that it’s too brief, clocking in at a little under half an hour. But there’s something to be said for collaborators keeping things on the short end their first time out. Hopefully Locke and Myztroh will continue this musical partnership, as they clearly have lots to offer.

Notable Tracks: “Holdin’” | “SoapBox” | “Workin’” - Albumism


Jay Myztroh and Paten Locke big up their debut Stono Echo full-length, Black Diamonds

story by NICK McGREGOR

The last two weeks of the year may not have much in the way of touring acts for Northeast Florida music fans. But that’s actually a good thing—it allows us the rare chance to enjoy local heroes in intimate, celebratory year-end sets. Take soul-infused hip-hop duo Stono Echo’s Dec. 23 performance at Nighthawks. Jay Myztroh and Paten Locke are celebrating the vinyl release of their stunning new full-length Black Diamonds, with a build-your-own vegan feast courtesy of Full Plate Fam and jerk chicken from local promoter Ian Ranne to boot. Does free sound good, too?

“It’s for the fanbase,” Myztroh tells Folio Weekly. “It’s for the people who’s supported Stono Echo’s sound, message, vibe and energy. We’ve felt a lot of love from the people here in Jacksonville, so we wanted to put Black Diamonds on showcase and bring a community energy into it with the food as well.”

Myztroh, well-known in NEFla for his live band Elevated Hip-Hop Experience teamed with Locke and Full Plate Fam founder Dillon on 2016’s excellent Food Chain. But after Myztroh laid down the instrumental tracks, he hinted to Locke that he was an accomplished vocalist who’d been honing his chops in private. “Black Diamonds is a synthesis of all the skills I’ve been refining for the last 15 years,” Myztroh says. “For the first time, I’ve found exactly what my voice is—exactly what I wanted to scream to the world. It’s a representation of exactly where I am right now, how I feel about my art form, and how I feel about society.”

Black Diamonds connects the personal and the political in a dazzling, often devastating way. Myztroh’s yearning lyrics dissect the dissipation of a relationship on “Holdin’,” while “Workin’” celebrates the joy of doing what you truly love. On the flip side, the hard-hitting trio of “Politrickin’,” “SoapBox” and “Yesterday (Another Day)” address a litany of societal ills: police brutality, our skewed justice system and the electoral upheaval wrenching the nation. Which lends itself to the surprising sentiment that Locke delivers: “This Stono Echo album might be the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

“I grew up politically informed—very hands on,” Locke says. “But in my own music, I’ve only spoken on certain things. So to hear these ideas fleshed out in song with Jay’s lyrics … he’s speaking on things I’ve always felt but maybe never expressed as plainly. The sentiments we’ve touched on with this record have always driven me as a person. I’m very happy that Jay is saying the things he’s saying—and saying them now. It’s powerful music. There’s something very important about this record.”

Myztroh seconds that—and says that the reciprocal relationship in Stono Echo, with Locke laying down beats, has empowered him like never before. “The fact that Black Diamonds is resonating on a deeper level is the most interesting thing,” he says. “It’s really about me finally being personal. Saying what’s all the way inside and not running from the way my voice sounds. As a musician on the bar scene, I emulated Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Prince and Marvin Gaye. And like those artists, I had to just be completely and brutally honest with myself. That seemed to be the trick: Be truthful, no matter what that turned into. You gotta let the music be a mirror for yourself.”

Such sincerity follows only when two artists feel genuinely comfortable with each other. Locke says he feels a real kinship with Myztroh, one that transcends collaborator status and carries into the realm of friendship and fandom. “Things have always been very natural between us,” Locke says. “Whenever we speak, we see the same things. Everything about Stono Echo, every discussion we have, we find we’re entirely on the same page. That leaves us room to appreciate each other’s expression.”

And that expression culminates in the vinyl release of Black Diamonds, something Myztroh describes as a dream he’s had since he was a 5-year-old kid putting the needle down on the colorful platters of his first Fisher-Price record player. “I’ll be proud of this for the remainder of time here,” he says with pride. “The fact that it’s this project, where I finally did find my voice, is just the cherry on top.”

Even though the focus is on the new release for the moment, Myztroh says he and Locke have plenty of new material on deck for 2018. Ever the studio genius, Myztroh says he still has to remaster some tracks, laying down background vocals here, inserting new saxophone solos there, and adding a few fresh verses on certain tracks.

“We’re constantly working,” Locke laughs. “We could put out a couple records right now, and there will soon be even more new stuff. There’s gonna be more music coming in 2018. But right now, we’re gonna appreciate Black Diamonds and all the hard work that went into it. We’re proud of this one—and very happy to mark its release publicly with the people who’ve been supporting us all along.” - Folio Weekly


“Cosmic Gospel” is how the group describes their intermittently patterned sound comprised of electrifying vocals, synthesized riffs and heavy boombastic beats. Actually, it’s more like “cosmic hop”, a blend of soulful sounds infused with hip hop. Black Diamonds, the debut EP from Stono Echo is a selection of deeply submerged, raw emotions and insight. From the Full Plate camp who brought you Dillon, Paten Locke, Willie Evans Jr., and Batsauce, Stono Echo is a duo that classifies distinction. With harmonies and melodies reminiscent of Spacek, TV On the Radio, and even the funky unpredictability of Electric Wire Hustle and Thom Yorke, Stono Echo sets themselves apart by escaping the conventional maze of soulful hip hop and designing their own wild spiritual journey to cool.

Without the use of suggestive comparisons, P and J’s sound can be described as pure roots culture. There is a slight gospel tone that adds to the mystic of their influences. Jazz is a apparently invited, as so hip hop, electro, rock and soul, however they manage to achieve a sonic balance that justifies the distance between their competitive sound and use of samples. Paired with integrated messaging and socio-economic commentary, tracks such as “Workin” and the scatty, upbeat bossa-styled “Politrickin”, weave a dynamic wave that causes you to pay attention. It’s the title track “Black Diamonds” that smacks the dome and lifts you up. Listening transports you, makes you feel like you’re riding a cosmic rollercoaster through space, time and black lives matter. “SoapBox” put me in the mind state of a classic street evangelist. Better yet, the preacher from Ralph Bakshi’s “Streetfight” aka “Coonskin”. The familiar tone made me double check to see if N.E.R.D. was featured on the record. Stop playin! Hip hop is in full force. I kept this EP on repeat for weeks. Black Diamonds is church. Go and get you some. (And…it’s available on limited edition vinyl!)

Jacksonville, Florida-based soul/hip-hop duo Stono Echo presents their EP Black Diamonds. The duo is comprised of producer/DJ Paten Locke on the beats and scratches + multi-instrumentalist & composer and Jay Myztroh on vocals & accompaniments. Their last release was the 2016 single Politrickin. Paten also collaborates extensively with Edan, as well as Dillon Maurer, who is also Paten’s partner at Full Plate, their imprint and the label behind Black Diamonds. The self-proclaimed ‘cosmic gospel’ duo’s name references the 1739 Stono Rebellion. - The Art of Noise


Discography

'Black Diamonds' - 2017 - Vinyl/Digital/CD

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Bio

Stono Echo sounds like Otis Reading meets D'Angelo meets Gang Star.

Myztroh wields the most creative vocal melodies. His work as a conductor and composition degree is showcased in his rich background harmonies.

Paten Locke is responsible for the musical landscapes. His experience and resume authenticate the Hip-Hop represented in the project.

The duo's unified voice and philosophy are expressed beautifully through their songs . The name Stono Echo alludes to the 1739 Stono Rebellion. Their music serves as a vehicle of emancipation for both the musicians and the listeners. This collaboration unites people under their rhythms and move them with frequencies of harmony, love and justice.

As music lovers first their sound invokes the spirits ofthe greats like James Brown and Jay Dilla while exuding an energy of freshness.