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Time keeps on ticking with an Adam Yauch tribute and new album in the works

Among a handful of the local music-scene tributes to recently deceased Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, Time offered his respects for the fallen MC and activist on a new tune, "Too Sweet to Be Sour," a cross-Atlantic collaboration with British MC Akira the Don. The track opens with a crisp horn line looping over a pounding '80s analog kit reminiscent of Rick Rubin's License to Ill-era productions. The sampled chorus, Yauch's line "Too sweet to be sour/To nice to be mean," introduces each MC, whose verses mingle memories and some clever Beastie references.

For his part, Time has been busy lately, working on a new album called Newstalgia that's due out this fall, collaborating with Maudlin Magpie's Jason Horodyski on a project fusing folk and hip-hop, nabbing an engineering credit on Common's last record, and shooting two new music videos. We caught up with Time (aka Chris Steele) for a quick chat about his recent projects.

Westword: How did you link up with Akira? Had you guys worked together before?

Time: Yeah, I got on his last mixtape, Manga Music. It was all based on anime. We met on Twitter, actually. He was talking about getting on his new mixtape, and then after he heard the news about MCA, he made the track that night and sent it to me. He was like, "Can you get me something tomorrow night?" It's been getting played in London on the BBC and all that.

What did the Beastie Boys mean to you as an artist growing up?

They encouraged me. Stereotypes were broken with the Beastie Boys.... What I really respected from MCA was his activist work against the war in Iraq with his song "World Gone Mad," and all the support he gave to the Free Tibet movement.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a new album. It's called Newstalgia. I got Jamie from Xiu Xiu on there. Common's dad, Lonnie, is on there. I got a production credit on Common's last album actually as an engineer. I recorded his dad's verse -- It was cool. It was in my apartment. It was surreal.

You recorded Common's dad in your apartment for his last album?

For the The Dream/The Believer, yeah.

How did that come about?

We were in 7-Eleven one day. Common's dad came in to get coffee because he lives over on Colfax. We just started talking to him and became friends. We've been friends for a year and a half or two. He just called me up one day and was like, "Your studio, do you think it would be good enough for my son's album?" I was like, "I don't know, but we can try," and he told me they needed it by tomorrow. We tried it. Warner Brothers was cool with it. It was crazy. He was on the phone saying he didn't know what they were talking about, so he handed me the phone, and it was No ID -- he did Watch the Throne and all that. He was telling me that he was gonna send over some stems

[audio files of tracks]

so Pops would know where to be.

What's he do on your album?

He does a poem. We released a video for it recently ["5th Horseman"]. He does a spoken-word piece in the middle of the track. It's kind of like the voice of reason.

Do you bubble with a lot of artists when you're working on music?

I kinda keep to myself. Two years ago, I did twelve albums in twelve months [aka the Hydra series], and that had a lot of local people on it, like Whygee and Doctor Oscify. I work with people. Have you heard Maudlin Magpie? I have them on the album. I've been working in the alternative scene.

Is it strange collaborating with a folk artist? What does that bring to the music when it takes your left-field hip-hop stuff and mixes with something like Maudlin Magpie?

It fits pretty smoothly. If I was doing Cherry Creek rap it would be strange, but our topics are pretty existential. It's called "This Is Not an Exit," and it's about different escapes that can be death-like in the moment. He does the chorus. We're doing an album together, and it's gonna be more mixed. He'll do some singing and I'll do some rapping, and we'll go back and forth. It's a lot different.

What is it about the music you make that resonates with fans so much?

I'm not sure. I've been questioning myself. I've noticed the honesty and the emotional side -- they used to call it emo rap -- but if that's the case, then you can call Tupac or Bob Dylan emo rap or emo rock. It's just the personal nature of it -- feelings. Everyday working-class stuff. You listen to a lot of commercial rappers, they aren't talking about working-class stuff. They're talking about extremely posh rap. Cherry Creek rap -- "I've got a Mercedes. I've got a chain. I've got a country club." That rap is cool. I like that rap myself, but it's more of a fantasy at that point, where I feel like I'm rich when I listen to it, but then I get out of my Nissan with three hubcaps.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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