Vex Ruffin has developed a reputation for a sound and aesthetic that’s deceptively simple; as Ruffin is an untrained punk musician at heart, who uses a few basic instruments in an uncomplicated and unfussy fashion, which he has dubbed minimalist. Although not immediately apparent, his icily minimalist and brooding sound is partially rooted in sampling and hip hop beat-making culture; in fact, reportedly, Ruffin’s SP 303 sampler, which provides drums and other electronic adornments was a purchase inspired by the renowned producer Madlib. Lyrically, Ruffin’s material can frequently be ironically detached while expressing an anxious uncertainty as you would have heard on his strange and exceptional self-titled debut released through Stones Throw Records back in 2013.
Vex Ruffin’s latest single “The Balance” is a collaboration with YO! MTV Raps host, actor, painter, photographer and icon Fab 5 Freddy and interestingly enough, the single is Fab 5 Freddy’s first musical project since the release of “Change the Beat” over 30 years ago. And as the story goes, the collaboration between Ruffin and the hip hop legend came to fruition through an introduction from a mutual friend director and animator Ben Marlowe, who coincidentally produced the video for “The Balance.” As Fab 5 Freddy explains in press notes, “I liked the way this idea organically developed and I began to see my involvement as a sort of art performance piece. The track reminded me of cool dance records that downtown NY DJ’s played back then in the 80’s at places like The Mudd Club, The Garage, Area, Danceteria and Nells where I hung out so I put myself in that mindset when working on my lyrics for this song.” And interestingly, “The Balance” consists of a sinuous and funky bass line, stuttering drum programming, swirling electronics, bleeps and bloops run through tons of reverb paired with Vex Ruffin’s plaintive falsetto singing lyrics about desperately trying to keep himself balanced and Fab 5 Freddy’s old school braggadocio to craft a swaggering and strutting song that sounds as though it could have been released in 1983 — sonically, it gently nods towards The Clash‘s “Magnificent Seven,” and “This Is Radio Clash” as much as it does to classic dub.
The recently released video is a mix of black and white shot, live action footage of Ruffin and Fab 5 Freddy and trippy animation that features neon bright figures dancing in a charcoal drawn version of New York City, line drawings, psychedelic imagery that suggests that someone is losing their head both literally and figuratively.