The function is to function, as one…
Peek inside the world of Brooklyn label Doom Dab. Just two years since its founding, the high-and-low-brow label has released a series of progressive projects that push R&B, rap and electronic in new directions while playing—just barely—within the confines of popular music.
Every night, in every city, a group of like-minded talents are gathering in a communal space, congregating, collaborating, exchanging energies in hopes of building stronger bonds, both personal and creative…
And so, in the early hours of a frigid January evening, a diverse group of members and affiliates of new-wave New York label Doom Dab are gathered in a dimly lit apartment in Bushwick, creating and talking shit in equal measure.
Gathered for a photo shoot for a single cover and party flyer—both of which are set to be released the following day—the group in attendance consists of contributors to said artwork and friends who happen to all fall under the Doom Dab umbrella.
Those not being photographed gather in the kitchen, politely divvying up a single 6-pack of Pacificos and talking loudly about Britney Spears’s pop music overlording of the 90s. At one point, rising New York culture icon Juliana Huxtable casually stops by.
Meanwhile, in the living room, Doom Dab founders Alberto Arensberg and Billy Scher—both clad in grey kimonos—try their best to look serious in a seated pose as Doom Dab artist K Rizz stands over them in a strappy leather getup that’s part dominatrix and part clubkid formalwear.
Doom Dab, now in its third year, is the brainchild of an unlikely trio that embodies the energy and adventurism that New York (even in its current bloated form) has always been known to foster.
Outcasts with enough flair that you’d easily identify them as the cool kids in any social setting, Hannah Daly and Alberto—friends and co-conspirators pre-Doom Dab—are the college grads who likely showed up to class in last night’s clothes, still reeking of the effortless cool their peers were actively paying a hundred grand to try and learn.
In its original iteration, Doom Dab, which launched in 2013, existed as Good Kids Collective, a loose party-planning committee headed up by Alberto that hosted parties throughout downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. Eventually, Hannah entered the Good Kids mix as a booker and promoter.
Through that project, Hannah and Alberto—a pair of charming multi-hyphenate creatives—made a name for themselves as curators of youth culture, imbibing the city’s sometimes-sanitized culture and offering it outward into a world that still longs for glimpses of New York cool.
NEW NEW YORK COOL.
Eventually, Good Kids faded, and in its wake Alberto and Hannah decided to channel their undeniable taste to create and curate music of their own while maintaining roots in nightlife (through Doom Dab, they still regularly throw parties at the Standard Hotels in New York and LA).
“I think definitely based on our tastes, we know it's going to be different,” Alberto says of the pair’s mentality in the early stages of Doom Dab, which he defines as a creative hub for him and his comrades. “we’re taste-makers, that’s one of our main functions.”
The operation’s third leg, Billy—a childhood friend of Alberto’s and former member of psych-pop band American Royalty—embodies less of the tastemaker mentality and in conversation embraces his role as observer more than center of attention, counteracting the earnestness of his counterparts by offering ideas as a new but conscientious contributor.
Beside Billy’s home studio setup—where the label records a bulk of its material, and gathers hours before the photo shoot—he keeps a book titled “Finding Flow,” a psychological guide that examines the effects our personal histories and choices have on our day-to-day interactions.
“We had to do it,” Billy says of joining with Doom Dab’s founders to launch the label. “Everyone was making really good music but no one was working together. So it was like, that’s sick, that's amazing, everyone was making stuff, so we tried to have some sort of foundation that it could all be family. And we’re all working together anyway.”
Three years into its existence, Doom Dab has released a string of EPs and singles from its growing roster of talent, and the collaborative aspect between founders and artists remains in full force.
The single cover art being shot on the fly is for a single by Billy and Alberto’s group AHBS, “Spill,” which features K Rizz, and when its artwork is complete, everyone now casually kicking it in the living room will either head to LA for a release party or post the flyer to social media. Everything is conceptualized, created and promoted in-house, and the founders intend it to stay that way.
“I’m really interested in creative economies and how we can build one together,” says Hannah. “Realizing we have everything we need, we just have to apply it and learn through just doing it.”
How do you value one another as founders who each have a unique skill set?
Alberto: [Running this label] is a coveted position from all our perspectives. We couldn’t gain more from each other than we do.
Hannah: We’re all very good at different things that all fit together.
Alberto: It feels like a supergroup. These are two of the most talented, inspiring, motivating, far-out people I’ve met in my life. They’re my family.
Hannah: I agree.
Billy: Yeah, oh yeah…
Alberto: It’s strange to depend on other people, but that’s what we’re learning. We’re a tripod now, you know? So, it takes patience, but it stems only from love and respect.
Hannah: Between us, we can do anything. We can figure out how to do anything. We can do that over and over and over.
Beyond Doom Dab’s immediate founding unit lies another triplet of creative forces sustaining entirely on their own axes, exploring sounds and looks traditionally reserved for the fringes, while harboring the sort of mainstream attention Doom Dab sees as one of its founding principals.
“We came at this with a pop mentality,” says Alberto, “We’re trying to make music that people can live with, like for long periods of time.”
Doom Dab’s artist who currently seems most poised for a mainstream breakout is Jay Boogie, a saucy Brooklyn rapper whose older brother was a globe-traveling MC who gave up on his dream only to pass off his passions (and recording equipment) to his inspired little sibling.
Following in the footsteps of breakout in-your-face New York rappers, Boogie exists in a world where sexuality is a game to be played, where rules bend and expectations break. Perhaps the most technically proficient musician of the Doom Dab bunch, Boogie is also an agile rapper who mixes aggressiveness with humor for a mixture that’s part-party-pop, part-power-hop.
In December, Boogie unveiled his debut album “Allure,” on which he spits over a bevy of varied instrumentals and flows effortlessly with a self-assuredness usually reserved for experimental veterans.
On “Not The One (Never Been The One),” a trippy electro-funk banger with machine-gun drums, Boogie rattles off a hook you’d kill to hear on a late weekend night, just before unleashing an undeniable verse:
I never been trendy,
I been rockin’ Fendi,
I been had the Benjis to cop me the Fendi
I don’t think you’re ready, ready for this jelly
If you think you’re ready, come into my ‘telly
Knock on my door, let me show you how I use these paws
On top of most n—gas, there’s no need to pause
I don’t even pause when it comes to the Lord.
Simply put, it usually takes time to get this good…
IT USUALLY TAKES TIME TO GET THIS GOOD...
K Rizz, who sometimes calls herself SlayRizz, is the closest thing to Jay Boogie’s counterpart, but she might better be defined as a Fifth Element-esque dystopian pop queen that’s too weird to believe.
To call the 5-foot-tall K “larger than life” is to sell the cliché short, and despite being a walking caricature of living superstardom into existence, Rizz’s ridiculousness is so disarming it’s impossible not to watch her every action with a charmed grin.
Her music is also fantastic. As Doom Dab’s diva-in-residence, her voice aspires to be as big as Aguilera’s and her songwriting as radio-friendly as Ariana’s (she’s not far off in either regard).
Still, much like rapper RiFF RaFF, whose persona is so outlandish his authenticity was constantly called into question early in his career, K Rizz seems almost impossible to buy into, but she remains so committed to being so entirely herself that you have no choice but to fall in love with her effusive eccentricity.
Like many out-of-this-world characters, K has found success outside of music as well, serving as something of a fashion muse in recent months, seen modeling Fool’s Gold attire and in a recap of New York Fashion Week.
In between photographs for the AHBS single cover, K shows off an Instagram video she took before coming over and asks the rest of the party what time she should post it—early on so that her followers can get inspiration for how they’ll dress that evening, or later, so that they can peep it as they’re already in the midst of their own night out. There’s some back and forth, and she decides to post it immediately, with no filter.
Rounding out the trio of Doom Dab artists is Thurmon Green, a silk-voiced crooner who’s a dead ringer of Makonnen in the right light. Precocious and polite, he doesn’t embody the out-of-this-world ferocity of K or Jay or the offbeat coolness of Hannah and Alberto, but what he lacks in quirkiness he makes up for in raw imagination.
Another multi-hyphenate who studied film in school before realizing he had a beautiful singing tone, Thurmon found success on his own via a string of traditional R&B singles before joining the fold at Doom Dab and releasing his Adolphus EP in late 2014, garnering acclaim from the likes of FADER, Dummy and Noisey.
Sipping slowly on a beer while the Ahbs shoot wraps up, Thurmon gleefully picks out old-school jams to play for his friends, who sing along to every word.
Even if it isn’t his turn in the spotlight at the moment, he seems genuinely happy to have found a group of peers who appreciate his song selection and offer him a welcoming place to hang on a Saturday night.
How careful are you that every artist or song you release through Doom Dab has to be great?
Hannah: I think we’re working with a sound that is very distinct and stands between the genres that we’re into.
Alberto: We only put out three things last year… That could even be seen as a lot. But we’re very, extremely selective.
Billy: It’s also the combination of, if we’re supporting the artist and they’re working with us, we’ll try and figure something out. But we haven’t had to cross that bridge where our friend is not making the tightest music.
As the night carries on, conversations turn to where the night will take the group, a conversation you might imagine them having on any random night they happen to end up together in a Brooklyn apartment.
Eventually, Hannah mentions a “function”—the group’s word for a party, or dinner, or get-together, or any social situation—where she’ll be DJing for a friend's birthday party.
Quickly, everyone starts to ponder outfits, Hannah discusses the songs she’ll play, and the group suddenly looks more like a collection of in-sync friends than a record label with bosses and signees. Still, once they all ride out together, Thurmon gets a chance to hop on the mic and perform guest vocals while Hannah spins—the perk of fostering a hub like Doom Dab’s.
It’s in this part-friendly, part-professional, mutually-beneficial dynamic where Doom Dab has found its fun as well as its success—these are people who would be drinking beers and hanging out in a room singing along to old-school radio hits even if they didn’t rely on one another financially and professionally.
In the east-side heart of a New York City metropolis that’s been declared artistically doomed, this is where real art, real friendship and real creativity is happening—where like-minded friends are finding sustainability within one another without pretense.
...WITHIN ONE ANOTHER, WITHOUT PRETENSE.
Even if Doom Dab’s founders and members foster mainstream pop dreams, their approach subverts the traditional pop system in the best ways;their outfits are outrageous, their aggressive expression has no regard for a regular label rollout and their DIY capabilities have allowed them to go from wanting to start a label to actually starting one and suddenly finding themselves running one.
As Doom Dab grows, its founders wonder what sort of semblance of a “plan” they’ll be able to enact and abide by. In addition to a growing roster, all founders are performers/DJs/producers in their own right who at some point want their turn at the table.
“We want to all move forward,” Billy assures me, but beyond individual aspirations, “it’s about the fam right now.”
“...IT’S ABOUT THE FAM RIGHT NOW.”
For now, Billy, Alberto and Hannah are investing everything they earn through Doom Dab back into the label, which they plan to make a financially viable business in the near future.
Cool kids turned entrepreneurial adults, this is the creative class… Young people who want to control their own lives and livelihoods, and doing something about it, together.