Just a few years ago, Thelonious Martin was an ambitious beat-maker studying music at Columbia College in Chicago — the same school that Kanye West famously dropped out of — and professionally networking with other youthfully eager artists, specifically Vic Mensa and his SAVEMONEY crew. After being introduced to Stones Throw Records through their work with raunchy, late-night TV network Adult Swim, he committed himself to studying the styles of label figureheads like J Dilla and Madlib, eventually becoming sharp enough to emulate them.
Thelonious Martin’s new EP, Late Night Programming, is an ode to his inspirers and an old-school beat tape packed with hard drums, thick strings, recycled Dilla sound-bites (think the Jadakiss laugh: “Ah-ha!”) and dialogue that’s been carefully chosen from his favorite TV shows. The Michigan Daily caught up with him to talk about making the 25-minute masterpiece.
Late Night Programming is a special project. Of course, its beats are sharp, soulful and enticing, but its interludes and theme add a cinematic quality. Was your creative process for the EP any different from usual? Were you making music with a story or specific TV shows in mind?
This process was definitely different from a vast majority of my newer projects, but more so of an expansion of my previous beat tapes from when I started. This project is very cohesive, and so when I was looking for interludes, I stayed true to my own character, my likes, dislikes, etc. So picking shows was a breeze, I didn't get outside of myself, which is so important. Be yourself and good things will happen.
I know that your first experience with J Dilla’s music — which is one of your largest influences — came while watching Adult Swim. Have you had the idea to create something like this EP — which is a sort of ode to late-night TV binge sessions — for a while, perhaps even since back then, at fourteen, or did it occur to you more recently?
I think this is all starting to come together in a way where I'm comfortable to tell my story. I've made attempts to or had projects with hints of this but none like this. This is me fully comfortable and creating just for myself. I think the 14-year-old me would be extremely happy with the results.
Over the summer you released “Bomaye,” an awesome single for Adult Swim with Joey Purp. How did it feel to get that sort of musical recognition from the network itself, especially after they had played such a taste-making role in your development?
It's been amazing working with Adult Swim. Jason Clark, who is responsible for the initial Adult Swim x Stones Throw campaign to begin with has been a great friend. Everything is coming full circle and to be apart of an incredible alumni is truly humbling. I hope there's a kid getting into music the same way I did right now, that'd be awesome.
You’ve chosen a special moment to release Late Night Programming. More and more people are habitually streaming TV online instead of watching it live. Are you worried that “bumps” as we knew them may lose some of their esteem?
It’s odd you ask that. I don’t even have cable, I use Hulu, Netflix, and stream sports. Yet nothing beats being at my grandma's house and just watching Cartoon Network. I think as much as we’ve invested into the generation of television, even the Adult Swim network online shows bumps and what not. What's quality will always remain.
What shows are you watching right now? I’ve been obsessed with “Atlanta” and “Westworld.” Their teams are doing really impressive work.
I’ve been watching “Atlanta,” rewatching “”Community,” “Cowboy Bebop,” “Trigun” and I just started watching “”Insecure.”
Oh and I can’t wait for the new season of “Rick and Morty”…I’m itching for it.
Would you ever consider writing or working on an original television series? You would be an especially fit music supervisor.
I would love to do music supervision!
Honestly, it’s a dream of mine, as much as I’d like to score, music supervision is much of the same, creating those moments. Shouts to Scott Verner I’d like pick his brain, he created so many moments on Entourage with his music selection.
I know that you prefer working with artists in person instead of exchanging files through email. In the documentary on your Wunderkid studio sessions, it seems like that tactic allows you to achieve a unique musical synergy. Could you see yourself making a full-length collaboration with one or two other artists? If so, who might they be? Polo Sporting Goods with RetcH was a great project.
Working on a quite a few producer/artist projects at the moment. Theophilus Martins and I have a project, I just dropped an album with my man K.eye.D, I'm working on a EP with my guy Swade and Topaz Jones just dropped his own album but we're back at work on some new material.
I’m truly a fan of showcasing the chemistry between an artist and a producer, there's nothing like it, showing the range and depth achievable by two artist on the same page. It’s beautiful.
You have expressed interest in creating music that’s well beyond the scope of hip hop and proven yourself more than capable on songs like “Corners of Your Mind.” Is there a broadly musical follow-up to Wunderkid in the works?
As Seen On TV will definitely dive deeper into more genres beside rap. I'm happy to show my chops outside of what's expected of me, I don’t just listen to rap so my music is going to reflect that. I can’t wait to break out the mean flute solos on the next album. I’m kidding about the flute solo, but look for it to be musically in depth like my taste in music.