The Lasso challenges the boundaries of instrumental hip-hop

When you're from Michigan, it's hard to stay away. This turned out to be true for music producer Andy Catlin, the Grand Rapids-born music producer known as the Lasso.

Catlin, who spent weekends as a kid visiting family in Delray and going to concerts in Detroit, recently returned to Michigan after living in Tucson, Arizona, for four years. Before moving to Tucson, and ultimately re-settling in Ferndale, Catlin had been creating a lane for himself as a hip-hop producer and sound engineer in Kalamazoo. But it wasn't until he headed southwest that his career really began to take off.

"I had already been doing Lasso records, but moving to Arizona was a chance for a fresh-start," Catlin says while sitting comfortably in his home-studio surrounded by analog keyboards and electronic drum machines. "I moved to Tucson with so much fire. I wanted to meet people. I wanted to collaborate. I really wanted to produce songs for someone who could sing and rap. As soon as I got there, I basically Googled 'hip-hop in Tucson' and found out there was this little venue called the Scratch Shack that had hip-hop shows all the time. I just went there and introduced myself to people."

It was during this moment that Catlin befriended a fellow midwestern transplant: the Chicago-born rapper and vocalist Lando Chill. After months of working on music together and forming a band, Catlin and Chill caught the attention of hip-hop record label Mello Music Group. They signed to the label and released multiple projects together, including an excellent LP in 2018, Black Ego. This initial chance with Mello would lead to more opportunity for Catlin.

On Friday, Catlin will release The Sound of Lasso — his debut solo album on Mello Music Group. At 14 tracks, Lasso is a collection of ethereal compositions that push boundaries and challenge the archetype of what an instrumental hip-hop album can be. On Lasso, the beats flow together, sseamlessly creating a vast array of soundscapes for the mind to wander through. Even without lyrics, the album is rich with story and visuals.

Catlin returned to Michigan and moved to Ferndale with his wife this past summer. The Sound of Lasso was recorded over the course of eight weeks amid Catlin's return to Michigan.

"Putting the album together was incredibly fast," says Catlin. "By mid-August I was back (in Michigan), and Mello had been talking to me about doing a solo album. Something like a deadline is exciting to me 'cause I'll just keep creating and not really doing anything with it. I pretty much wrote and recorded everything in eight weeks between the beginning of October and the day I turned it in on December 5. I wanted (The Sound of Lasso) to be its own thing. Just 'cause I'm on this hip-hop label, I don't need to make straight-up hip-hop music. I wanted to showcase the sounds I have and find this different thing that's somewhere between a soundtrack and a beat-tape."

To enhance the sound of the album, Catlin enlisted the help of his musician friends — many from his previous life in Michigan — to play on the record. On Lasso, what shines through is Catlin's love of music, something that goes all the way back to his days in elementary school.

"As soon as I hit fourth grade, I started asking my parents about playing music," he says. "My grandpa gave me a Yamaha piano. All I wanted to do was practice it. That was what I started to do for fun. I joined school band and music just became what I wanted to do. By the time I finished high school, I had learned how to play the clarinet, the trombone, tuba, guitar, and keyboards."

Moving forward, we can expect more from the Lasso. Before that, Catlin plans to continue acclimating himself and making music every day.

"I have this huge list of people that I want to collaborate with," he says. "Just to be disciplined with making music. That's my main goal these days. I have more records to make and I'm working on records with a lot of different people. But if I think about that too much, I get overwhelmed. I just try and think about it as 'a-day-at-a-time.' Everything good that's happened in my career has come from focusing on the craft, so I've doubled down on that more than ever."

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