Jonathan Merenivitch kicks off the year with his newest release Radio City Killa as solo rap/rock infusion Big Star Mafia
Okay, so 2020 isn’t off to the most stellar start. Tensions are rising following the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by order of President Trump, triggering global alarm around the idea of an even more unsafe world than we thought. But! Let’s remember Jan. 3, 2020, not as the day that Trump potentially solidified re-election by instigating war, but instead as the day that the world was granted the gift of the first official recordings released by Big Star Mafia—the one-man rap/rock sampling/cover project manifested by none other than Atlanta’s very own Jonathan Merenivitch of indie Atlanta outfit Shepherds.
The recordings were mixed, mastered, and finalized all in about a week or so following Shepherds’ U.S. tour last fall, with little outside input save for a couple close friends and one live set. This project is exactly what it sounds like: a musical combination of ’70s power pop outfit Big Star and the notorious horror-themed underground rap group Three 6 Mafia, both bred in Memphis, Tenn.
“I was in the van on tour talking about places Shepherds could go next time we hit the road,” recalls Merenivitch. “At some point in the conversation, Memphis came up as a possible stop. Everyone started reminiscing about their respective memories of Memphis and opinions on the city varied from charmingly dilapidated to total shit hole. I began to think of artists that came from Memphis and realized my two favorites were Big Star and Three 6 Mafia who are about as different from each other as you could possibly imagine. Of course, in my head, that means they should be combined musically. When I got back from tour I just started working on it.”
While this project might seem like a total offshoot from what Merenivitch normally dabbles in, it’s a new effort attuned with what he generally strives for in all his music projects, including Shepherds, which released its last full-length Insignificant Whip via Arrowhawk Records in October.
“It fits with my aesthetic as an artist,” says Merenivitch of this spontaneous release. “I’ve always attempted to combine ostensibly black art forms with ostensibly white art forms, especially ones that would serve as a challenge to combine. I tried to get the feel of an obscure Memphis rap tape from the mid-’90s. There’s something about that particular style that just appeals to me. The collision of horror/Satan references, lo-fi production, dissonant dread, and distorted 808s works so well. I tried to replicate that sound as much as possible.”
Big Star Mafia plays at Octane West Side for Intersection: Atlanta showcase & popup market on Thurs., Jan. 9. Early show. Doors 6pm. Suggested donation $5-$10.