The act of repurposing defines the creative vision of Los Angeles beatsmith Linafornia. She grew up around Leimert Park, the home of Project Blowed - the longest running hip hop open mic workshop in the world. She's one of the few LA producers that deviates from utilizing laptops during live performance. Everything you hear is an arrangement of real-time techniques. Linafornia constructs her music primarily with the Roland SP-404 and SP-555. Her sample choices merge her absorption of ‘60s and ‘70s soul music with 90's hip hop roots. From Brazilian samples to Fela Kuti flips, her music travels the globe and comes back full circle to her base in Leimert Park. Linafornia is currently working on project called Lavender, to follow her debut YUNG, and she hosts her own monthly radio show called PRIZM FM on NTS Radio
Linafornia’s life story is a potent example of the power of art as a tool for survival. Read about her inspirational story in this excerpt of a Medium article by Gino Sorcerelli.
“Before making waves with her impressive (mostly) instrumental debut YUNG, L.A. beat scene staple Linafornia first found her way into production as a form of catharsis during a dark time in her life. “I started making beats because I was doing physical therapy, learning how to walk again and stuff like that,” she tells me. “That was the influence.”
Though her early beats were born out of difficult circumstances, Linafornia’s life was in a great place before she had to retrain her brain and body how to walk. In addition to attending school and holding down a job, she’d also landed a dream gig promoting the documentary film Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton as part of Stones Throw Records street team in 2013. Things took an unexpected turn, however, when a severe car accident forced her work obligations to the side so she could focus on healing and recovery.
Thankfully, the folks at Stones Throw responded like champs when she informed them she could no longer provide her services to the promotion of their new film. “They were so kind to me and nice to me,” she says. “They sent me a care package of all these different CDs, all this music I listened to during my recovery time. That’s what pretty much inspired me to want to make music myself.”
As Linafornia looked for a way to test out her musical abilities while she regained her physical strength, the Roland SP-404 provided an affordable and intriguing option for making beats. “I always wanted to be a DJ but I didn’t have enough money to spend on 800 dollar turntables,” she says. “But with the 404 it was super cost effective, it was within my budget.
After an extended recovery period she had the necessary health and confidence to test her skills with a July 2014 live show alongside fellow 404 master ALWAYZ PROFLIFIC, who also happened to be one of the first producers Linafornia saw rocking a 404. Still relatively new to the game and in the process of building her catalog, the two producers decided to use a unique format during the show to share their music. “We both did a back and forth, beat to beat kind of set since I didn’t have a lot of material at the time,” she says.
It may have been Linafornia’s first show, but her performance left a lasting impression on those who saw it. It wasn’t long before requests for more live sets started to come in at a steady clip. She decided to say yes to the majority of the opportunities to play in front of a crowd, quickly making her a fixture at esteemed L.A. venues like Bananas. “I did shows for free every weekend for a year straight in a row,” she says. “Then I eventually competed in beat battles, which was a lot of fun. I won those and that only increased the demand for bookings. I just grew that way.”
See Linafornia’s talents in action: