Tuesday, March 10th marks the long-awaited release date of Mod Sun’s debut full-length album “Look Up” on Rostrum Records!
Hailing from Bloomington MN, Mod Sun is known as the pioneer of “Hippy-Hop” – his unique blend of upbeat and colorfully flavored instrumentals in combination with uplifting, weed-laced lyrics. After a number of years playing drums in semi-successful post-hardcore bands (Four Letter Lie, Scary Kids Scaring Kids) as a teenager, Mod Sun (formerly Derek Smith) decided to pick up the mic and change his creative focus to making rap music. MOD SUN is an acronym for “Movement on Dreams, Stand Under None” – a mantra Mod embodies in all that he does. His personality is as infectious in person as it is in his songs, claiming that he “…has no fans, just friends”.
Look Up is Mod’s first official album after a slew of mixtapes and EPs dating back to 2009. The project boasts a number of heavy-hitting features including G-Eazy, Machine Gun Kelly, Dizzy Wright, Travis Barker, Riff Raff and even an unofficial interlude by Tech N9ne, a long-time friend of Mod’s. The album flows seamlessly with spacey, otherworldly interludes linking one track to the next. Keeping with the style of his last few projects, the production on this album leans more towards live instrumentation than the sample-based instrumentals common in his earlier work. Produced by Mod himself, lead single “Howlin at the Moon” is a trippy, synth-y foray into a 1970’s fever dream (seriously, check out the video below).
The album opens with a trippy introduction by Mod Sun, urging listeners to “find magic in the everyday” and segueing into the first track, “Headed Home”. The album doesn’t quite gain pace until the 3rd track, the garage-rock fueled “Free Love”, a party anthem perfect for any hippy on a summer’s day. G-Eazy steps up to the mic on “Goddess”, his lady killer flow mixing well with the sing-song chorus (“I just wanna run away with you”). The interlude by Tech N9ne is surprisingly one of the highlights of the album. Tech touches on the struggle to find happiness in one of his most light-hearted appearances on a track to date. Serving the role of the ‘club banger’ we get “My Hippy”, a track that’s been out for a while but reappears on the album with a new feature from Dizzy Wright. The heavy bass and hi-hat-laden track makes for a great opener to Mod’s live set. Another highlight on the album is “Shoot ‘Em Down” featuring Machine Gun Kelly. Mod and MGK trade off rapid-fire verses while Blackbear holds it down with a chorus that threatens to “Shoot ‘Em Down with a peace sign”. The instrumental doesn’t stand out as much as others on the album, but the acoustic guitar and live drum rhythm (common in a lot of Mod’s newer tracks) lets the rappers really take the spotlight and show off their lyricism.
As far as lyrics on the album as a whole, Mod doesn’t fail to impress. Although he often gets criticized for having a simpler flow (some even denying his style is “rap” at all), he seems to really have stepped up his game on Look Up. Tracks like “My Favorite Shirt is My Skin”, “Not That Bad (feat. Jody Highroller)” and “Same Way Pt. 2” really show off Mod’s lyrical ability. His verses are peppy and upbeat, telling psychedelic stories and sharing his words of wisdom. Although they may not be as complex or intellectual as some ‘conscious rappers’, it’s impossible to listen to a Mod Sun track without leaving happy and inspired. My personal favorite track on the album is “Same Way Pt 2”, a follow-up to “Same Way” which was a track off of his very first mixtape. The track features a children’s chorus singing the hook, and one of Mod’s most personal and touching verses yet – “I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a hero, I vow to make this world a better place before my child turns zero”. It’s a perfect conclusion to the musical portion of the album, fading out with ambient bell chimes and violins accompanying the eerie voices of children singing, like waking up from a dream.
As the music fades, the album changes pace and we hear Mod Sun begin to narrate a novel. Not only does Look Up include 15 tracks (long for an LP) of new original material, but Mod also decided to include his autobiographical book “Did I Ever Wake Up..?” with the bundle in the form of an audiobook narrated and scored by himself.
The album dropped TODAY, March 10th which happens to coincide with Mod’s birthday, to be celebrated with a hometown show at the legendary First Avenue in Minneapolis. Last month he embarked on his first national headlining tour, accompanied by fellow MCs Dillon Cooper, KR, and Karizma, his good friend (and co-producer on Look Up) Blackbear, and DJ Gnash. The Look Up Tour brings more production than ever before to Mod’s live set, adding onstage light-up set pieces and a live band to his show. The tour comes to Madison on Friday March 13th at The Sett in Union South!
WUD Music presents the Look Up Tour featuring Mod Sun, Dillon Cooper, Blackbear and KR
Friday, March 13th – The Sett in Union South