Bringing with them a marriage between jazz, hip hop, and soul music, A Tribe Called Quest’s former DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad and composer Adrian Younge are performing in Santa Barbara for the first time together in their latest music project, The Midnight Hour. Debuting last year with an eponymous 20-track LP, the duo has started gearing up for the 2020 release of its currently untitled sophomore album, dropping the record’s first single “Harmony” last month. It is this single The Midnight Hour is promoting on its current tour, which will make a stop at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on November 14.
In an interview with the News-Press, Mr. Younge said The Midnight Hour’s origin lies several years back. In 2014, he asked Mr. Muhammad to collaborate with him on “There Is Only Now,” a record by hip hop group Souls of Mischief on which he was serving as producer. Throughout the recording of that album, Mr. Younge and Mr. Muhammad enjoyed the creative chemistry they had and decided to carry on working together. While it’s hard to miss the jazz leanings when listening to the music on The Midnight Hour’s first record, Mr. Younge said hip hop remains the foundation of the music he now makes with Mr. Muhammad, which isn’t too far removed from their work on “There Is Only Now.”
“It’s not really stepping out of what we’ve always been doing,” he said.
Talking about how The Midnight Hour’s second album is shaping up to be different than the first, Mr. Younge described it as having “deeper” compositions that utilize more complex aspects of music theory. Of the group’s latest single release “Harmony,” Mr. Younge called it a jazzy soul song “about falling in love with somebody” and expressed pleasure with how it has gone over in a live setting.
In concerts, Mr. Younge primarily plays keyboard while Mr. Muhammad lays down the foundation on bass guitar, but when the two go into the recording studio they both take on the role of multi-instrumentalists. Between the two of them, there’s no strict splitting up of duties like relegating one member to composing music while the other writes lyrics. Referring to their creative process as “a very collaborative effort,” Mr. Younge described it as very simple: They go into a recording studio, pick up a bunch of instruments, and just start writing.Not only do they work well together, but Mr. Younge added that they are quite similar as people. Between their taste in music, growing up on artists like Curtis Mayfield and Idris Muhammad, to the fact that they both started out their careers as DJs, they share a lot of common ground.
Of the nearly two-dozen songs that have so far been released by The Midnight Hour, Mr. Younge told the News-Press he doesn’t have a general favorite or one he particularly enjoys playing live, calling The Midnight Hour concerts “one continuous performance.” When asked about performing live versus working in the studio, the composer doesn’t have a preference there either.
“When I’m recording, I’m transcribing my art. When I’m performing I’m living it live, so I really like both,” he said.Tickets for The Midnight Hour’s November 14 performance cost between $20 and $25 and can be purchased online at www.sohosb.com. Doors to the venue open at 7:00 p.m., with the performance beginning at 8:00 p.m. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is located at 1221 State St. Ste. 205.