When the remix of Toro Y Moi’s “So Many Details,” featuring Odd Future member Hodgy Beats, was released last month, I had this thought: I’d like to hear more rappers approach Toro Y Moi’s luxuriant productions.
So would Chaz Bundick, the Columbia native who records as Toro Y Moi.
“I would love for someone to rap on something I made,” Bundick said in a recent interview.
The music, classified as electro-pop or chillwave, with its foundation of funk, soul and pop, has a plethora of “pockets.” In hip-hop parlance, that is to say the time signatures and chord progressions are prime for rappers willing to experiment. Furthermore, “Anything in Return,” Bundick’s fifth Carpark Records release in three years, impressively cultivates his affection for hip-hop’s vocal and beat sampling and percussive layers.
In a 2011 article published before the release of “Underneath the Pine,” I wrote that Bundick was leaning toward R&B and hip-hop. On “I Will Talk to You,” a tour-only song that wasn’t included on the album, Bundick says “unh” before he starts to sing.
I went on to explain the significance of the word, which is really more of an utterance. From the article: “ ‘Unh,’ for those who follow the genre, is akin to saying ‘Yo’. It’s a device rappers use to catch a beat, alerting the listener – and song – that their rhyme is about to begin. Or it can be a way to hesitate, as if giving the listener a chance to absorb what was just said. ‘Unh’ also signifies confidence, and there isn’t a rapper who uses it more than Drake, who switches meter and verse topics with the utterance.”
“It was sort of a reference to Drake,” Bundick said in a 2011 interview.
When I think of rappers I’d like to hear rap over a Toro beat, Drake is at the top of the list. So is Kanye West. The list includes, to name but a few, Joey Bada$$, Fred the Godson, Phonte, Danny!, A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar. ( Tyler, the Creator, also a member of Odd Future wasn’t, and the collaboration with Bundick, “ Hey You,” wasn’t remarkable, if only because Tyler’s gruff delivery doesn’t have the necessary pliability.)
The music website Pitchfork, which produces a segment called “Selector” where rappers get to choose one of two beats to rhyme over, has extended an offer to Bundick to submit a beat. But Bundick said Pitchfork required an unreleased track, something he wasn’t willing to do.
The album version of “So Many Details” begins with ambient noise that gives way to keyboard notes and muffled drums before dropping into its distended beat. A tick before Bundick begins his placid falsetto, there’s an “unh” – Bundick sampling his own voice. The song, like the rest of the album, is accented by various vocal samples.
“I wouldn’t rap in my music, so that’s why I put ad-libs in there to emphasize the song is influenced from hip-hop music,” Bundick said. “I really enjoy making hip-hop beats. I might not have been making that music from the start.”
Since his 2010 debut “Causers of This,” Bundick has maintained a chameleonic edge.
“Chaz Bundick’s output as Toro Y Moi doesn’t lend itself to a clear trajectory, but the common thread is that it always sounds damn good,” Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen wrote in a review of “So Many Details.”
“Anything in Return” was kind of a recording experiment, perhaps a reaction to interviewers inquiring about what pop stars he’d like to work with. (To get a sense of Bundick’s increasing popularity, working with a pop star in the near future is conceivable – if he chooses to.) Bundick knows he can succeed in an obscure, indie genre. So why not try to make something more accessible on his own terms?
“And actually make people appreciate it and not have it be so one-dimensional,” he said. “I felt like it was sort of an experiment, really.”
Because of current music trends, the voices of most top-40 singers are filtered through auto-tune, a pitch-altering processor. Performers such as T-Pain and Future, who identify with hip-hop, have kept the production tool omnipresent. The use of auto-tune and a hip-hop beat in “So Many Details” was an exercise.
“I’m not trying to be a pop star,” Bundick said. “All the times before my music referenced hip-hop and R&B, but I never straight up went for it. I really wanted to make an R&B record.”
When he lived in Columbia, Bundick produced Toro’s music in his bedroom. He does the same now that he lives in California.
“It’s just a little bedroom-type room,” he said of his house studio where he has his necessities – guitar, keyboard and bass. “I just work at home. I can’t work anywhere else.”
And he’s always working, reflective in his output. (For those curious, Bundick is working on an album for Les Sins, his beat- and sample-heavy side project.)
“I work constantly,” he said. “I guess I was always taught to have a strong work ethic.”
But always working can lead to burnout, something Bundick is trying to avoid.
“I try to not to get to that point,” he said. “It’s a job right now, so I’d like to keep it as a hobby, too. It’s hard to balance. I try not to take it to seriously. That’s why I change the sound on the records so much.”
Bundick spent time in Columbia over the holidays, and photos of him were posted on Instagram and Twitter by friends.
On Dec. 31, he tweeted: “i like that im still a nerd to all the ppl who really know me.” The tweet was retweeted 71 times and had 90 favorites. I wonder how many of those people know him – or just appreciated the sentiment.
“It’s so funny that people think that I’m cool,” Bundick said. “I’m not used to that. Everyone now that I still hang out with, they just think that I’m Chaz.”