Alejandro Jay Abapo is Silentjay: the Melbourne multi-instrumentalist and producer who provides backing vocals for Hiatus Kaiyote, and who has opened for Flying Lotus and Thundercat. Channeling his love for ’90s beat-tape culture and basketball, the classically trained jazz musician has made Come Fly With Me, a collection of 27 instrumental tracks released through his own label, Nap King Cole Records. It’s afternoon-block-party music that will see you through to sundown.
Broadsheet: How would you describe a beat tape to the uninitiated, and what inspired you to put one together now?
Alejandro Jay Abapo: A beat tape to me is like a collage of ideas and inspiration. Something that can take you on a journey – like an album, but with less fleshed-out ideas … more about grooves that become hypnotic. My uncle and cousin used to make me mixtapes when I was growing up, which I used to have on rotation in headphones or on road trips.
But my first experiences with beat tapes that really inspired me was with Madlib and Jay Dee [later known as J Dilla], and everything that came out from the beat mecca – Los Angeles – after they had paved the way. It was the first time I heard hip-hop where the instrumentals were the focus, rather than the raps. And because of that there was more room for experimentation. When listening to it, I feel like your imagination takes over and fills the space.
BS: How did you set about stitching Come Fly With Me together?
AJA: Come Fly With Me is a collage of “microwave beats” [music made quickly and cheaply]. Microwave beats to me are experiments with getting ideas out quickly, especially when I get stagnant with working on particular songs for too long. Like a microwave meal compared to a six-hour slow roast: both fulfilling, just different!
BS: And apart from music, what inspires you?
AJA: This beat tape is [also] about my love for basketball. Come Fly With Me is actually a documentary my dad owned on VHS about Michael Jordan. Apparently when I was little I used to wake up, put that tape in, sit right in front of the TV and watch it from start to finish, rewind it and watch it all over again! There’s a bunch of other basketball VHS tapes my dad had that I sampled for this beat tape, and each beat on the tape is named after my favourite basketball players’ nicknames.
BS: Fantasy support slot – any artist, any era, anywhere?
*AJA: *Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament-Funkadelic and Prince live in New York ’74. Definitely am not capable of supporting any of these artists, but that would be the dream line-up I’d watch from front and centre!
Come Fly With Me is out now.
The launch party for Come Fly With Me is at Howler in Melbourne on Thursday September 29 with a full live band and a host of Silentjay’s favourite Melbourne DJs, MCs, producers and collaborators. Tickets available here.