HEAT RISING: Brooklyn MPC wizards Party Supplies can flip hip-hop fire, but they would rather make you dance
by Aaron Zorgel
January 30, 2013
Producers are an integral part of music creation, but so few of these sonic gurus get the recognition they deserve. HEAT RISING looks at the best beats by an up-and-coming producer, and talks about where they’re from (ROOTS), what they’ve done (RESUME), and why they’re an exciting presence in music today (REASONS TO WATCH).
ROOTS: It’s hard to figure out what Party Supplies’ main musical focus is, simply because they’re so goddamned good at everything. Does that sound too ass-kissy? Just listen, and read on — if you’re not already a fan, I’ll try to give you at least one reason to be. Yeah, I’m on some real “Stan” shit right now.
The Brooklyn-based production duo/two man band first got recognition as remixers, shortly after being picked up by Fool’s Gold Records in 2011. As if a co-sign from A-Trak wasn’t enough, Party Supplies collaborated with Action Bronson, handling all of the production work on one of the best mixtapes of 2012. But before you bill them as rap producers, keep in mind that they’re getting ready to release an album of original material on Fool’s Gold in February. So, are you a fan yet? It’s ok, so is this guy.
Party Supplies is often referenced as the alias of songwriter/guitarist/producer Justin Nealis, but the moniker has always represented a collaborative effort between Nealis and his somewhat-shrouded creative partner, multi-instrumentalist Sean Mahon. If Party Supplies has a “frontman,” it’s Nealis (it’s actually difficult to find a photo of Mahon — admittedly, I’m only half-certain that’s him beside Nealis in the Kramer shirt above), but whether they’re remxing, beatmaking, or performing live, it seems fair to say that Mahon is an essential part of the equation.
Shortly after signing to Fool’s Gold in 2011, Party Supplies released a mixtape of remixes, with re-worked productions ranging from The Arcade Fire to Taylor Swift, called Fireworks. Nealis’ first foray into music was on a gifted guitar, and while he still uses that skill to supplement both productions and live performances, the central nervous system to any Party Supplies production is the MPC drum machine. Nealis runs everything into his MPC1000 (YouTube clips and daytime cable television inclusive), and then feeds a stereo mix into ProTools, which should give you some idea of why the title of this article bequeaths him drum machine wizard status. You can check out his chops in a live version of his Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (one of the more recognized tracks from Fireworks) remix below.
RESUME: The remixes on Fireworks showcase one side of the multi-faceted attack of Party Supplies, and it wasn’t long before we heard about Blue Chips, the collaborative album between Nealis, Mahon, and a rising, rapping Queens-born dynamo by the name of Action Bronson. Party Supplies took care of the boom-bap breaks, live bass guitar, varied samples (Dean Martin, John Mellencamp, Extreme, Iron Butterfly, etc.), and piano, and Bronsolini brought the Albanian, food-referencing heat, making Blue Chips one of the most exciting collaborations of the year.
Even though Nealis has said that the only rapper he wants to work with regularly is Bronson, Party Supplies found time to put together the excellent beat for “Grown Up” by Danny Brown, another hip-hop highlight of 2012.
REASONS TO WATCH: After more than a year of buildup and single song releases, Party Supplies is finally prepping the release of their first all-original solo record. R.M.D.N.I., an acronym for Real Men Don’t Need Instructions, is set for a February release on Fool’s Gold Records. If you’re familiar with Blue Chips, but haven’t heard Party Supplies’ original material or remix work, it might come as a stylistic shock to you. It’s still all MPC-based, but Nealis takes on vocal and guitar duties (often affecting a British accent), wailing over top of danceable, saccharine electro-pop creations that borrow more from The Go! Team than Ghostface.
Even though hip-hop production and remixing is comfortably within their wheelhouse, Party Supplies could have bigger plans—maybe even shaking hands with the pop music world—in 2013.