Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
I was originally introduced to 2 Hungry Brothers, the duo of Ben Boogie and Deep (pictured Left to Right), by my friend Substantial a little over a year ago. Ever since that first conversation with Deep I’ve noticed more and more emcees I know and respect in the New York City area have been working with them. When Deep hit me with Table Manners, which is 2 Hungry Brothers’ latest release, and I saw the lineup on it, I knew it was time to find out more about them. This week I sat down with Deep, who is the more vocal of the two, and learned all I could about this dynamic duo that has both Portishead and Homeboy Sandman in their CD changers, including what they look for in artists and how food brought them together.
Adam Bernard: Start me off with some background info. How did you two meet and when did you get so hungry? Deep: The hunger in 2 Hungry Bros is actually just hunger for food and different types of it. Two lower east side kids, Ben and I met in kindergarten and started hanging out in first grade. My dad worked in D’Agostino's and they used to have a huge annual party for Christmas with all kinds of food and free arcade games and rides, so Ben and I would go every year, play a video game, then go for a hamburger, tag team on Gauntlet, go for a pizza, etc. Another tradition in the lower east side was the bingo hall's Halloween party. I would be Dracula and he would be the Wolfman and we would run around crazy, gettin that grub. At this party there were three DJs who would always rock, big ups to Aramus, Cello, and Carlton. It was during the freestyle, house, Hip-Hop era and everything was dope. Everything was together. That inspired us a lot. As we grew up, whenever we talked about our dates we'd end up talking about the restaurants we ate in or the different kinds of food. I went away for high school and when I came back I found out one of my neighbors, Jav The Rapmononov, had an SP1200. I had a lot of records, so we started making beats. Ben and I went around using other people’s machines for a while until we had enough money raised for our own MPC2000. We would always go digging for records, especially with our old crew, 3 Ninez, in DC. We are always hungry for something new, something fresh, something dope, something smart, something motivating.
Adam Bernard: As a production duo you’ve worked with a ton of great artists. When you meet an artist what qualities do you look for in them that you feel would make them someone you’d want to work with? Deep: 1) That they can rap better than me. Which is not sooo hard, but you better be able to freestyle!!!! 2) A good business mentality. True artists are artists because they have issues. They have to be able to express their perspective in a relevant manner and not let personal issues destroy or hinder their career. 3) The people have got to be as hungry as we are because 2 Hungry Bros will move to the next table in the next restaurant if the menu ain't right. By “hungry” I mean motivated and not lazy. Some people think it's all talent. I wish it was, but sadly no. To sum it all up the three qualities we look for are wit, charisma and motivation.
Adam Bernard: Let’s flip that question now. What are the qualities in 2 Hungry Bros that make them someone an artist would want to work with? Deep: The 2 Hungry Bros are true school heads and straight shooters. I am not going to let an artist put out a trashy rhyme over one of our beats. It's going to hurt both brands.
Adam Bernard: How did everything come together for your latest album, Table Manners? Deep: Our first album, Frequent Flyers, took forever, almost three years because we were trying to establish ourselves. This album took a year. After the Flyers CD we built a lot of strong relationships. We were also resident DJs at Nuyorican for a while. That really helped, thanks to Rocky, Rugged N Raw, and Phoenix. Everyone was willing to go in.
Adam Bernard: Was there any last minute deadline craziness? Deep: I wouldn't say last minute, but our studio had a glitch and our primary sessions with Reef The Lost Cauze, Loer Velocity, and Fresh Daily were erased. A large part of the year was getting those tracks back. Loer did a track over a beat that had the same sample Madlib used for that Percee P song with Vinnie Paz. I just kept hearing that sample popping up in the west so I pulled the song. There is a video for that first session we had masterfully created by The New Pop on our MySpace pages.
Adam Bernard: What was your strangest in-studio session? Deep: For this album, maybe arguing with Homeboy Sandman about not allowing all the kids in the South Bronx to come into the studio while there were five artists already there. Homeboy Sandman is a hero, though! Don't get it twisted. Some of the funniest sessions we have ever had in our lives, though, were with Jak Progresso. Jak Progresso in the studio is like recording with The Mask.
Adam Bernard: It’s time to dispense some advice to the people. You’ve seen a lot of artists come and go; what do you feel is the best way for a producer or emcee to make their way in NYC? Deep: Just be yourself and ignore the radio. That stuff was made at least six months ago in the studio before they released it. By the time you are hearing it they are already devising the next fad. You can be the next thing if you just listen to yourself. That's what everyone was doing when they made Hip-Hop. And yo, cut the damn coke talk already. Jesus. At least Jay-Z was subtle about it. With all the damn gentrification where the hell do you have space to be tough and kill your own kind?
Adam Bernard: Finally, are there any missteps you’ve made that you’d like to warn others about? Deep: Make sure the art and credits are done concurrently with the album so as to avoid delay. Don't front on Homeboy Sandman, Fresh Daily, P.Casso or 8thw1. Don't spell 8thw1's name incorrectly.
If it’s the end of the month it’s time for yours truly, Adam B, to extend my praise and express my disappointment regarding the major events that have gone on in the past 30 (or so) days. Longtime readers probably already know I was seriously bummed about the cancellation of Dirt and the passing of George Carlin, but thankfully there were plenty of good points to the month, as well, including some vicious quotes by Kid Rock regarding the music industry and the news that I may, in fact, have a Midas Touch. Let’s vibe people.
The Adam B Midas Touch - Stephen Colbert has his “Colbert Bump,” which is the noticeable jump in popularity a politician sees after appearing on his show, and now it seems I have my own version of it, a little somethin somethin Rabbi Darkside has dubbed “The Adam B Midas Touch,” and it applies to the artists who have been featured on this site. In just the past month three former Adam’s World Artists Of The Week have been seen on MTV; Substantial had his latest video debut on Sucka Free, Rabbi D was a coach on Made, and Seme Rock performed on that same episode of Made. Who will the stars align for next? Well, you can always scan through the Artist Of The Week Archives and take a guess.
Shameless Self-Promotion - For those who thought I’d already dabbled sufficiently in the art form that is shameless self-promotion, you ain’t seen nothin yet. This month the official Adam B t-shirts arrived and they are fantastic. Look for them on all those aforementioned, soon-to-be-insanely popular, former Artists Of The Week throughout the rest of ’08 and beyond. I’ve also ordered some Adam B stickers that will be available soon, too (definitely by the time the Beyond Race Presents show I'm hosting at Cousin Larry’s in Danbury, CT happens on August, 30th). All in all the big PR push gets even bigger.
Kid Rock - In a recent interview with BBC News Kid Rock ripped the industry a new one (does it even have room for any more “new ones?”) when he told them where they can shove their iTunes downloads. Eventually an artist had to catch on that iTunes really wasn’t really that much better for their pockets than illegal downloading and Kid Rock voiced his distaste for the fact that this new model of selling music was run using the same old system with the artists getting next to nothing. As odd as it may sound to some, Kid Rock, if he wanted to be, could be quite the leader in the industry. He has the artistic credibility, the money, and even, apparently, the mind. I don’t know if he has the desire for such a role, but it’s good to know he’s there.
FX Buries Dirt - I’m really upset at this one. FX has chosen to cancel Dirt, one of my favorite shows on television, and one of the only shows I watched religiously. Lucy Spiller and Don Konkey were two of my favorite characters on TV. Lucy’s version of multitasking, which consisted of speeding away from the paparazzi while also outlining an article, made for one of the sexier scenes in television history (though probably only to me since I’m also a celebrity journalist).
The Passing of George Carlin - I don’t even know what to say about this other than he was a legend, I’ve loved watching his acts over the years, and he will be sorely missed. One of my favorite George Carlin moments was actually from an episode of Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn when he was doing a skit with Colin and Jim Norton. Carlin was playing a priest and, well, I’ll let the clip speak for itself…
By now everyone has seen the undeniably fabricated first week sales numbers of Lil’ Wayne’s latest album. Personally, when I heard the final tally I had visions of Rick Ross and Jay-Z, both of whom were given a sizable sales boost by virtue of their own label picking up a large number of their albums to create inflated numbers. Let’s set the record straight; there is no way in an industry where the biggest of artists are down 60% and rap artists, on average, are down even more, that Lil’ Wayne not only didn’t go down in sales, but went up by over 100% from his previous effort. There’s an old pro wrestling term for the folks who believe Wayne’s first week numbers are real; marks. This post isn’t going to be about all the ways I feel those numbers have been falsified, though, rather I’m going to turn my attention to the actual importance of first week sales numbers and why, in the long run, we’d all be better off if we didn’t know them.
For all the important statistics Soundscan has been providing record labels for the past 17 years none has been more overrated than first week sales. If you look at the importance placed on where a record debuts since Soundscan’s inception in 1991 you can also see a parallel in the downturn in the quality of the music. Artists and their labels have gone from making music to attempting to make a sales splash which, in turn, has resulted in a music listening public being force fed some truly awful tunes all under the covert sales pitch of “it debuted at #1,” or the classic cliché “it shipped gold” (how many times did we hear that about a rap album in the 90’s!?!?)
If you look at pre-Soundscan music history artists used to work hard to push their albums for literally years, not just one week. They would release multiple singles and build an audience and, in turn, sales over a period of time. There was a long term vision for each artist (or at least most artists) and the labels saw that and recognized there was money to be made that way. Today only a handful of artists still work the singles game correctly to create album sales. Fergie, Daughtry and Nickleback all stayed in Billboard’s Top 20 for over a full year, the latter sticking around for TWO years. Hate on them all you want, but THAT is an accomplishment. There is also a long list of albums that have ended up going multi-platinum without ever hitting #1. Once again, it’s all about building an audience, not making a quick buck.
The idea of taking one’s time with an album doesn’t necessarily fit into today’s iTunes - first week sales numbers - if the first single doesn’t hit you won’t get another chance - music industry. It should, though. That is, if the industry wants to survive. The age of an album shouldn’t have anything to do with how hard you push it, and this goes for artists, both mainstream and independent, as well as labels. The only thing anyone should be concerned about is whether the album in question is good. If your album is good it doesn’t matter how old it is, and if you don’t feel it’s good you probably shouldn’t have released it in the first place.
There is one very easy way to bring those ideals back again, but what I’m about to suggest may not fly in an instant information age. I think it would do a world of good if we delayed sales numbers by a full month. This way when Lil’ Wayne, or anyone (I don’t mean to pick on Wayne, he’s just an obvious example right now), releases an album the question people will have of it during its second and third weeks of release won’t be “how much did it sell,” or “what was his sales drop from week one to week two,” but rather “is it any good?” And when the sales numbers eventually come out they won’t have that huge of an affect on the way people feel about the record because most folks will have come to a conclusion about it based on the musical merits of the album. In an era where sales numbers are at an all-time low this is an idea the industry should strongly consider. Significantly more artists are being hurt today rather than helped by people looking at sales numbers and labels need to realize their true return on investment in an artist should be measured over months and years, not days and weeks.
Right now far too many people think of an album’s validity in terms of sales. We need to right that and remind people that sales aren’t the be all and end all of music. If an artist only sells 6,000 albums in their first week it doesn’t make them any less talented than an artist who sells 60,000. Remember, we’re supposed to be enjoying music, not playing a numbers game.
Some groups come together because it just makes sense. That was the reasoning that brought NYC based rap duo Metermaids together. After Swell (right in pic) and Sentence (left in pic) rocked a number of shows where shared the bill they decided that they liked each other’s styles enough to hit the studio together to record a few tracks. Shortly after those sessions they toured together with brokeMC, Domer and DJ Halo. According to Sentence, “toward the end of the tour we both mutually decided that we should form a group because we thought that the combination was such a stronger presentation than what either of us could do by ourselves.” Now, over a year after that decision was made, an album, Nightlife, has been completed. This week I’m sitting down with Swell and Sentence to find out more about the record, why they named themselves after such an awful group of people, and what happened on their first major tour that made them seriously question their paths in life.
Adam Bernard: You named your group after some of the most detestable people in the world, the folks who put tickets on our cars when the parking meters run out. What made you choose such a moniker? Swell: I think the fact that metermaids are so detestable made it such an appealing name to me. That, and the fact that the name is feminine. I was consciously trying to choose something that no rapper would ever name their rap group. Also, there's something to be said about the fact that metermaids aren't the ones necessarily doing something wrong; if people didn't park illegally, they wouldn't have a problem.
Adam Bernard: OK, but why isn't there a "The" in front of your name? Grammatically you're KILLIN me! Swell: Ha ha! I don't know if I can really answer that question. I am an English major, as well, so I suppose there is no excuse. When I came up with the name, I remember feeling like there were too many "The" bands out there. So I left it out. People always add it on anyway, so there you go.
Adam Bernard: Let’s move to your music. What do you feel you’re bringing to the scene that it's missing right now? Sentence: I think we bring a combination of honesty and craftsmanship, and I think we bring accessibility. We make songs about what we know and we don't butter up, bullshit, or dumb down ideas. We lay that over song structure and beats that we've put a huge amount of effort into. The end result is something that a lot of people can get into. We have a sort of cross-genre sound that heads can feel regardless of if they're into rock or Hip-Hop or soul or anything else. We add to that an energetic live show and people end up relating to the music both in the speakers and on the stage and that's the most important part of anyone's music, I think.
Adam Bernard: And you have a new album that just hit stores. Tell me all about Nightlife? Sentence: Nightlife is a cross-section of our lives during the year or so that went into making it. It's based on our experiences and it's got a lot of ups and downs, but it's mostly high-energy and positive. It's definitely Hip-Hop, but it's got a lot of influences of rock and soul. And it's fun. It's smart lyrics, solid production, and some pretty catchy hooks.
Adam Bernard: Feedback can be a beautiful thing. What's the nicest thing a critic or a fan has said to you about your work? Sentence: I was once compared to Outkast, Eminem and Aesop Rock all in the same review... but I think that was more ignorance than flattery. Personally, I think the nicest things I've ever heard about our music have come from people who have been following us for a long time, both as Metermaids now and during our solo endeavors, and just want to express their honest appreciation for what we do. It's cool to get a good sound bite from a critic, but when I get a MySpace message, or someone coming up to us at a show on tour, and they're telling us that what we've done has been part of their personal soundtrack for however long, that really means something.
Adam Bernard: Now flip the script and tell me the worst thing you've heard about yourselves, and has any of it been directed at your race? Swell: We actually haven't had anything particularly nasty or pointed written about our recorded music. Pretty much all of our reviews mention our race, and in that same breath we are always compared to Eminem or Atmosphere. We can't escape it. I did come across a review of our show when we opened for Fabolous that wasn't very flattering, but that wasn't a great show for us, so the reviewer wasn't being nasty. He or she just saw us have a shitty show in front of a hostile crowd. Ha ha.
Adam Bernard: I wasn’t at that show, but I’ve seen you live a number of times. For those who haven't made it to one of your shows yet, describe the energy of a typical Metermaids performance? Swell: Sentence and I both absolutely love to perform and we love to perform together. That's what drew us to each other in the first place and made us feel like we had something special. The energy of our live show is just two friends doing exactly what they want to be doing and I think that the reaction crowds have had to us across the country is a reflection of that. We want everyone to feel as good as we do when we're on stage. I'm sure Raffi would answer that question the same way.
Adam Bernard: Awesome, a Raffi reference. Baby Beluga is in the house! Finally, since you’ve done a few national tours, hit me with your best road story from being trapped in a van with the likes of Domer and DJ Halo. Sentence: There are a million stories, but the first one that comes to mind is from the Unnatural Disasters Tour in 2007 when we were headed from Salt Lake City to Minnesota and we got caught in this monumental snow storm in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming. They closed the highway down and, after sitting on the side of the road waiting for it to reopen for about eight hours, we went back to town and found out all the motels were sold out. The only place for us refugees was the Armory, which was basically this big open gym with 200 people stacked cot-to-cot. There were kids crying and old ladies snoring and a lot of misery… and our convoy of rappers in the corner. And this place was like, on military lock down. All we could do to stay sane was go out to the van and drink as much beer as we could as fast as possible to try to drown out the deafening sound of depression and the anticipation of not being able to sleep that night. We all ended up with like an hour of sleep and a pretty strong feeling that we'd gone horribly astray with our lives and this was some cosmic payback.
Welcome to an all hard rockin edition of From A to B 90’s Style, your monthly look back at what made the 90’s music scene so special… and sometimes so awful. I am, of course, joined by my fellow superstar journalist Bear “F’in” Frazer as this month we take a look at videos by The Prodigy, Orgy, R.E.M. and Reef. Three cheers for incredibly short band names!
Adam: We start by rockin with the insane.
Bear: Nice! My favorite freaks... in electronica music, that is, and best of all they’re true Electro folks – they’re from England! Adam: Prodigy definitely made some of the sickest electronic music ever. Bear: Killer headbutt! Look at them... they really want someone to play a game with them. Maybe it's Dance Dance Revolution. Adam: Prodigy would FUCK UP DDR. Hmm, a black dude with crazy tats or a white guy with freaky hair and pierced everything... which one does the cop harass first? Bear: Obviously the black dude. Adam: True, we're talking about cops here Bear: Look at that crocodile. He seems very relaxed in such an intense setting. Adam: Cuz he's breathing. Bear: Perhaps that's also because Adam Sandler killed his brother instead of him Adam: These guys have some bug issues. Bear: I know. Haven't they ever heard of Raid? Adam: That hole in the wall isn't too good either. Bear: They must have some wicked magnet in the ceiling. Adam: Perhaps a MONSTER Magnet. Bear: Uh oh, the croc is angry! He must not like the magnet, or the scary black dude. Man, that black dude is insulting that cracker, calling him a psycho and insane. Adam: Well, he's right. All white people are insane. Bear: Yeah. All thanks to Macaulay Culkin giving us crackers a bad rep.
Bear: Here’s another personal fave I know we both like.
Adam: Ah, science class. Bear: I know, right? Enter Dexter's Lab. Adam: I liked Candyass, does that make me emo? Bear: Only if you like makeup and glitter. Adam: I own glitter, but only so I can throw it at you at inopportune times. Bear: Ha ha! These dudes love wax clothing. Hello 1984! Adam: How much for a band in a box? Bear: Look at all these computer screens and this white setting. I bet this influenced all Apple stores nationwide. Adam: Yeah, later I'm going to go have an iOrgy. Bear: Sweet. I’ve heard iOrgy's are awesome. Adam: They're the best. Bear: I bet that chick is invited. Adam: She'll get an evite. Bear: That's what happens when you break somebody's iHeart. You stitch it up with an iOrgy. Adam: So, how come this band is all dudes but they call themselves Orgy? Bear: Adam, some things are best left unanswered. Adam: I think I've figured out too much.
Adam: We stay rockin with my next pick.
Adam: this is some shoddy camera work. Bear: REM is the best band on earth. Why? Because they can make an awesome song and shoot an awesome video, with shoddy camerawork, for 30 bucks! Adam: Yeah, "let's just get together in the old warehouse and bring that flashing light." Bear: Watch out, Prodigy, Michael Stipe would mess you up in Dance Dance Revolution. Adam: Or perhaps Writhe Writhe Revolution Bear: True. I just can't decide what is cooler, he bright flashing lights or Michael Stipe's bald alien skull. Adam: I can see the reflection of the moon in it. Bear: Uh oh, killer guitar solo. It looks like he is giving himself open pelvis surgery. Adam: I've oftentimes envisioned Michael Stipe as Bonk. Bear:E.T.'s lost cousin. Adam:Sam Cassell's white brother Bear: Are they singing to a giant photo of an airplane? Evidently, not even they want to be there. Adam: Seriously, record label... it's called a budget! Oh man, I think I'm having a seizure. Bear: Look. This video gave you a seizure and it cost R.E.M. thirty bucks. Gnarls Barkely, on the other hand… Oh my God! It's me! Adam: ROTFL!!! Bear: I forgot, I was in this video! The lights must've made me forgot! Adam: Can I get my head out from in-between my legs yet?
Bear: You’ll hate me for this one.
Adam: Oh great, now you go and ruin my day with some fruity ass rock band. Bear: Hey, speaking of bands in a box… Adam: He sounds like he's having a large object inserted into his ass. Don't place your hands on his hole? WHAT? Bear: That's why he wants you to run his fingers... through his soul. Adam: Do you know these guys personally, because I can't imagine another reason you'd choose this video. Bear: Yeah, we chill with Georges St. Pierre regularly. I can't put my hands on, though. Evidently, I ran out of batteries. Adam: I bet this guy has Don West's old job selling baseball cards at 3am on cable. Bear: I think dude is having a seizure. Adam: …and his ass exploded in a watery burst. Bear: I wonder how many gallons of water they wasted shooting this video. Adam: My hands are on, damnit! Bear: What are they on? A bottle of Aquafina? Adam: Oh no, that's not water my friend!
Finding a manager you can trust in the music industry is one of the most difficult tasks every artist has to deal with. A manager is supposed to be not only a person of extreme business acumen with a rolodex bursting at the seams, but also a confidant and even, when the relationship is good enough, a friend. An artist should be able to tell when that relationship is going sour as there have been career moves of many a famous person that have blatantly showed their management to have given up all hope on them. Today I’m taking at look at some of those moments in an effort to warn all the artists out there about some of the key phrases that, if they hear them, should have them shopping for new representation.
- “Rickrolling is really popular right now; you should really do a remake of ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’” Sadly, High School Musical star Ashley Tisdale listened to this “advice” and the ramifications are painful in oh so many ways (but thank God for Tay Zonday!).
- “Doing a song with Ja Rule will really resurrect your career.” Bobby Brown, this may have been your manager’s prerogative, but every little step you took closer to Ja Rule was a step further away from a comeback (even if your vocals did sound dope).
- “I don’t care if you don’t know him, you gotta start a high profile beef for this record to sell.” OK, this one has worked a few times, but more often than not these fabricated beefs just get boring and the masses become disinterested. If you want to see how well a high profile beef can affect album sales just ask Benzino how he’s doing post-Eminem bashing.
- “Reality TV is definitely the way to go to hype your next project.” How are those album sales for Bret Michaels doing after two seasons of Rock of Love? And has anyone from The Surreal Life or Celebrity Fit Club gone on to do anything other than the reunion episodes of those shows?
- “Don’t be worried about that sex tape, it’s going to launch your career to new heights.” Even with a mega-hit of a single in “Sexy Can I” Ray J’s having a hard time selling albums. Well, at least Kim K got a reality show out of it. Refer to the previous listing for all the potential in that.
- “Now that you’re married you really need to do a television show together.” Sure, only if you really want to get divorced. Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, Dave Navarro and Carmen Electra, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline… and the list goes on and on.
- “You can always try to market your American Idol appearance later in life.” Unless by “later in life” you mean three hours from your disappearance from the show it’s a safe bet that those WERE your 15 minutes of fame. Hope they were fun.
- “No one’s going to think you’re gay.” If this sentence has to be uttered rest assured it’s false. Everyone is going to think you’re gay. Whether it’s you shirt, your pants, your shoes, or the person you’re taking to an awards show. You should probably handle that, unless you are gay, in which case go on wit yo bad self.
Now, we all know there are a lot more than just those eight signs that your management may hate you, so please, feel free to add on. Hit me with your best examples!
The other day I received a CD by Bing Ji Ling. The happy blue eyed soul was a nice respite from all the anger and turmoil we hear about on a daily basis. Wanting to know more I hit up his website. There I found Bing pictured as, and this is the best possible description I can come up with, a hippie pimp with an incorrigible ice cream obsession. Obviously, my interest grew, which is why I sat down with him this week to find out who Bing Ji Ling is, what makes him tick, and which of the world’s problems could be solved with his music.
Adam Bernard: Let’s start with the real basics; how old are you and where do you hail from? Bing Ji Ling: I'm about three scoops young! Originally hail from Northern California, but I also spent time in Southern California and Houston, TX growing up. I've been living in New York City for a few years now. Prior to that I spent quite a bit of time in San Francisco and a year in Shanghai, China.
Adam Bernard: For those who don’t know you, please relate the story of how you became Bing Ji Ling. Bing Ji Ling: The story of my life is a long one involving ice cream and a love of nearly naked, girls:
While en route to a rural Californian hospital a baby plopped out of a nice lady in the back of her husband's Chinese ice cream truck. The child was named Bing Ji Ling, which is Chinese for "Ice Cream." By age two, the young parents discovered that their kid had a unique ability to measure the "pleasure factor" of any flavor of ice cream. Word quickly spread about "the singing ice cream baby." People came from miles around to the family ice cream parlor to behold Bing's penchant for singing of ice cream and / or nearly naked girls. Business boomed.
By the age of five Bing had composed all the jingles for the company’s new fleet of ice cream trucks. So great was the success that a local ordinance banned the ice cream music for creating traffic jams caused by the dancing crowds of nearly naked girls who swarmed the trucks. The Ice Cream business was killed. Little Bing Ji Ling cried and cried and cried.
For the next twelve years Bing Ji Ling kept his gift to himself; he was scarred. He spent most of his time in his room looking at pictures of nearly naked girls and listening to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Hall & Oates, Luther Vandross, Prince, Freddie Jackson, New Edition, and many others. At age 19 Bing was convinced to hit the road and spread love in a way he knew would not be banned, he became a preacher of religion. While on the road he met a man named merkley??? The two became fast friends and both of them moved to San Francisco where they could create the music they wanted because singing and dancing about love, ice cream and girls had yet to be banned.
Adam Bernard: That’s a crazy tale, and there is no way I can transition properly from it, so I won’t even attempt to. One thing I noticed about you is that your look and your music seem to be a world apart. Is that intentional? How important is your look to you? Bing Ji Ling: Really?!?!? I've always just done what makes me happy. I hope that my music and my look reflect that. I'm pretty into aesthetics, and that includes my outward appearance.
Adam Bernard: You sing what most people would define as “blue eyed soul.” Were you weaned on soul music as a child, or was it a discovery you made on your own later in life? What brought you to soul? Bing Ji Ling: My junior high and high school years were spent in Houston, TX. That is where I discovered "black" music. I used to love listening to Magic 102FM. I was first introduced to soul music through 80's R&B like New Edition, Luther Vandross, Freddie Jackson, and Hall & Oates. As time went on I discovered 60's and 70's stuff by way of Fishbone and similar groups. It's been an endless journey from there. I'm always exploring to find new music, both old and new.
Adam Bernard: I listened to your latest EP, June Degrees in December, and you have an affinity for happy, positive music. Have you found the music world is lacking these types of tunes today? What inspires you to continue to write about the sunnier side of things? Bing Ji Ling: I suppose it's just my natural disposition. I've always been a sunshine guy. I love the beach and the blue sky. Though I really appreciate and admire those who make "dark" music I'm just pre-disposed to be sunny. My favorite music is uplifting, positive stuff. I love the way it makes me feel and I want to continue to contribute to that energy. There's enough darkness in the world as it is.
Adam Bernard: Why do you feel there isn’t more happy music in today’s scene? Bing Ji Ling: It may be a reflection of what's going on in the world, I guess.
Adam Bernard: OK, so with that in mind, which of the world’s problems could be solved by listening to some Bing Ji Ling? Bing Ji Ling: So far, just problems relating to love. That's really the only subject I've addressed thus far. I'm writing songs about other things now, so hopefully I'll be able to help in some new areas, too.
Adam Bernard: Finally, have you found a scene that you fit into, or do you prefer not fitting in anywhere? Bing Ji Ling: I'm definitely a chameleon. I make my sweet soul stuff, but also make deep, hypnotic dance music with my two side projects, Coppa and Expanding Head Band, and play as a side man for some rock n roll projects, like Tommy Guerrero, Band of Thieves, and now The Phenomenal Handclap band. I'm all over the map with my musical tastes and it reflects in the projects I get involved with.
Carly Simon once sang “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.” If you happen to be one of pop singer Katy Perry’s ex-boyfriends it’s not just your vanity doing the talking; according to her, the song really is about you. “One of my best friends says the pro of dating Katy Perry is she’ll probably write a song about you and it will be fantastic,” she says with a grin, “the con is if you dump her she’ll write a song about you and the whole fucking world’s gonna sing along.”
A lot of folks have been singing along to Perry’s current hits “I Kissed a Girl” and “UR So Gay.” She says her lyrics in the latter are “not necessarily targeted at one person, but were kind of my general feeling about these sensitive guys with guyliner that borrow my jeans and wear them.” Perry readily admits she’s also poking fun at herself, noting “I’m just as much a part of the joke as all of my exes. I shop at H&M and I MySpace and I do all those things. I live in Los Feliz, which is basically the Williamsburg, Brooklyn of California.”
Los Feliz hasn’t always been home for Perry, who grew up fairly sheltered in a Santa Barbara household with parents that were traveling ministers. “My parents weren’t spinning Rolling Stones or Beatles records in the background having glasses of wine,” she remembers, “they were teaching me ‘Oh Happy Day’ and we were taking communion.”
All this changed for Perry in her teenage years when she would travel down to Nashville to work under the tutelage of a number of producers and songwriters. One day one she was sent home with a question to consider. “I was asked if I could work with one person in the world who would it be.” Perry turned on the TV to VH1, which was airing a show on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, Perry’s personal favorite artist and album at the time. The name Glen Ballard came up and that’s who Perry came back to her producer with. Shortly thereafter she and her father were pulling up to Ballard’s office for a meeting.
Perry remembers that meeting and not realizing how big it really was. “When you’re like 16 or 17 you don’t know what you’re dealing with. You’re just like, ‘I write songs, I like to sing, I like to sing about the boys that dumped me.’ You don’t know that you’re taking a meeting with Glen fucking Ballard.” Ballard, however, liked what he heard. The two started working together and Ballard gave Perry her first assignment. “He told me ‘write a song every day. I don’t care if its shit, just write a song every day.’ I was like who can write a song every day?! I’ll tell you, I can write a song every day now if my life depended on it.”
The Ballard experience was followed by a few false starts, one at the age of 18 with Island and another with a band she was a part of that was signed to Columbia. Now, however, the start is very real. Perry has the Warped Tour dates to prove it.
Knowing that Warped Tour has a notoriously rock oriented crowd Perry expects some skepticism when concertgoers first see her. “Since I’m an unabashed pop girl I’m sure they’re gonna come to the stage with their arms crossed wondering okay, who is this major label douchebag girl?” Perry hopes her performances will do all the explaining for her. “Let people be surprised and entertained and have them go back Katy Perry fans saying she fucking brings it.” The “bringing it” in Perry’s case involves the mixing of a live rock show with songs that have a synth pop element to them. She’s also looking to channel a little bit of early Gwen Stefani and No Doubt from when they were on Warped Tour, noting “she looked like she was having so much fucking fun.”
It’s apropos that Perry brings up No Doubt because much like when bassist Tony Kanal broke up with Gwen and it led to the writing of the group’s mega hit “Don’t Speak,” if you mess with Katy Perry’s heart her next song will be about you.
It was inevitable. Nothing could live up to the ridiculous hype Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Carter III received. Personally, I was already getting sick of Lil’ Wayne, an artist whose work I had actually enjoyed during his Cash Money Hot Boys days, and the obscene amount of hype surrounding his latest release. Ironically, all of those feelings actually worked to lower my expectations for the album. Even with those MAD TV-esque lowered expectations, however, Tha Carter III still ended up ranking as a major disappointment to me (message to Wayne; go crawling back to Mannie Fresh now, your beat selection without him is horrible). I’m not here to give a review of Tha Carter III, though, rather I want to put it in perspective with some of life’s other great disappointments. I’ve chosen five big ones, so let’s see how Tha Carter III stacks up, or I guess in this case… down.
Finding out what your college degree is really worth – There’s a moment that happens to all of us a few months after graduation that I like to call realization. It’s the realization that the big money job, or any job for that matter, that you thought you’d have once you busted your ass and earned your degree, isn’t right there waiting for you. When most of us exit college we find the path to what we want turns out to be just as hard as before and end up working side jobs doing things we could have done as high school drop outs just to pay the bills. On the disappointment scale Tha Carter III, although very similar in that it came with a high expectation that was followed by a stunningly terrible actuality, isn’t nearly as bad as this. You never expected Tha Carter III to pay your bills (unless you’re Lil’ Wayne and according to current sales predictions he’s going to do just fine).
Finding out there was no puppy farm – For those folks out there who had a dog pass away when they were young they probably got the old “we sent him to a farm where there are big fields for him to run around and play on.” Eventually we grow up and find out there is no such farm and that our beloved pet had in fact passed on. On the disappointment scale Tha Carter III actually ranks worse than this because at least with the puppy farm story our parents were trying to soften the blow of news they knew was potentially traumatic. We were never given such emotional cushioning for what Tha Carter III would do to us.
Missing your train by five seconds – You run as fast as you can but you get there just in time to see the train’s lights as it pulls away from the station. If the train in question is a subway Tha Carter III is a much worse disappointment than this since another train will be around sooner rather than later. If, however, it was a Metro North train, and the last train home at that, it ranks as a far worse disappointment than Tha Carter III.
Your team losing in the playoffs – This always feels like a swift punch to the gut. A season that was filled with so much promise and that led to a playoff birth gets cut short, and usually in quite the painful way. Knicks – Rockets in ’94 comes to mind, as does Mets – Cards in ’06 (get the bat off your shoulder Carlos!). Tha Carter III can’t even come close to matching this kind of soul sucking disappointment.
The last episode of Seinfeld – Critically panned by most everyone, the last episode of Seinfeld saw the group of friends land in jail for not being good citizens. It was one of the few missteps in Jerry Seinfeld’s career as it’s one of the only episodes even hardcore fans don’t watch when it’s rerun on one of the thousand or so stations still carrying the program in syndication. When something that had been so historically good, and so historically popular, falls so short it’s a huge disappointment. Taking a look at the old disappointment scale, the last episode of Seinfeld narrowly beats out Tha Carter III. Although they had a similarly amazing hype machine behind them, Seinfeld had that aforementioned quality of being historically good. In the eyes of many people Lil’ Wayne was just building his credibility as an artist now.
So there you have it. A wide range of the disappointments we face in life and where Tha Carter III ranks among them. Of course there will still be plenty of people who buy into Lil’ Wayne’s hype, but not I. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few really good songs on the album, but we were told we’d be getting the next Chronic, when in actuality we got a lot of sticks and stems.
When people start talking about the greatest emcees of all-time the usual cast of characters is brought up. KRS-One, Rakim, 2Pac, Biggie, etc., all get mentioned. Older fans, like myself, will bring up Slick Rick and The Fresh Prince, while younger fans will point to Jay-Z, Eminem and Nas. There’s one artist that seemingly NEVER gets mentioned, though, and it’s someone who has long deserved to be in the discussion; Naughty By Nature’s lead emcee, Treach (center in pic, but you should know that!). Don’t ask me why people forget about Treach when they’re talking about the all-time greats, but let’s take a look at his career and see why we need to put him in that category.
Naughty By Nature first hit the scene in 1991 with their classic debut single “O.P.P.” Not a lot of groups can follow up a classic. It’s one of the hardest things to do in music. Once you’ve made a classic it’s usually downhill from there. Even if all your work after that step down is still pretty fantastic, pleasing a crowd that has already heard you craft a classic is damned near impossible. Naughty By Nature, led by Treach (props to Vinnie, too, who was also nice on the mic), not only followed up “O.P.P.” with another classic off of their self-titled debut album, they totally changed the game in terms of what was being played in the suburbs while doing it.
The follow up to “O.P.P.” was the acerbic blues song “Ghetto Bastard.” “O.P.P” may have introduced the world to Treach’s skills, but “Ghetto Bastard” was the song that secured his spot as one of the top emcees around. The closing line of the second verse, “how will I do it, how will I make it, I won’t, that’s how,” is still one of the most, if not the most, gut wrenching lines in the history of Hip-Hop, partly due to the sincerity Treach offers it up with.
Before “Ghetto Bastard,” which Treach wrote and rapped all three verses of, the majority of the rap music that had flooded the suburbs was party rap. Some of it was fantastic, some of it not so much so, but Naughty By Nature seemed to understand the landscape of things and by leading of with “O.P.P.” they broke into the suburbs and then once they had them hooked they introduced them to “Ghetto Bastard.” Sure, there were groups here and there that had brought hard stuff to the burbs before them, but “Ghetto Bastard,” at least in my area, was the song that really opened the floodgates for the acceptance and embracing of more street oriented Hip-Hop in the suburbs.
Naughty By Nature, led by Treach, then took full advantage of the doors they opened. Another classic, “Uptown Anthem,” was released off of their eponymous debut album, and then came the monster. Nobody thought Naughty By Nature could top “O.P.P.” in terms of making another anthemic song, but “Hip-Hop Hooray” proved to be one of the biggest party songs in the history of the genre. Once “Hip-Hop Hooray” dropped there was no doubt about it; Naughty By Nature had cemented their place in Hip-Hop history.
So Treach, as the lead emcee for Naughty By Nature had the anthems, he had the deadly serious songs, and he broke boundaries and opened doors for rap artists that had been previously only been open for the party rappers. Any artist who came out after Naughty By Nature that managed to grab a suburban audience with tales of hood life owes them just as much thanks as they owe NWA for essentially creating the reality rap genre.
It is for all these reasons that the next time you hear people trying to list the greatest emcees of all-time you should make sure Treach’s name is in the mix. I’m not saying he’s THE greatest, but when people are listing their top 20, or even top 10, he needs to be in the conversation.
Rarely does an artist hook me instantaneously, but that’s exactly what happened when I first heard Lauren Ianuzzi. The song was “A Funk I Won’t Forget” and within seconds I knew she was something special. A diminutive woman with big vocals and equally big hair, I dug her voice as well as her funk infused soul sound. She reminded me of a cross between Joss Stone and Nikka Costa and after listening to all the songs of hers I could get my hands on I hit up the Bergen County, NJ native to find out more about her. During that conversation I learned that Ianuzzi is not only a fantastic artist, but she’s also an uber cool chick to hang out with. Trust me when I say this, Lauren Ianuzzi is about to become one of your favorite artists.
Adam Bernard: Start me off with some personal history. Was there any moment when you were young when you absolutely knew you had to be a singer? Lauren Ianuzzi: There were a couple "Eureka!" moments when it came to singing. The first one happened so early on that I can't even remember it! My parents say that over the baby monitor in my room they'd hear me in my crib at the crack of dawn making up songs about my dolls, the sky, and other inspiring contents of my bedroom. The second one was at my first dance recital, in which I was the only kid who remembered the steps. When I realized that the ball was in my court I took up half the stage and started singing along with the song, "Broadway Baby." I can only imagine how hard my parents were laughing in the audience.
Adam Bernard: What initially drew you to soul singing and when did you discover you had the voice for it? Lauren Ianuzzi: I can't remember a time when I didn't listening to soul; it was part of my everyday life. Actually, my mom was the soul fan and my dad was the rock fan, so my experience with music up until I was about 12 was a complete education in classic pop history. For a while my favorite singers were all from previous generations; Carole King, Stevie Wonder, Steven Tyler, David Lee Roth… don't worry, Sammy, I love you, too. In middle school I discovered some artists on my own; Mariah Carey, I still know every single Mariah riff off Daydream and Butterfly, Lauryn Hill, and all the pop and R&B divas on the Top 40 station. My vintage music knowledge is cool now, but then it was all about listening to whatever was of the moment. My parents had just started leaving me in the house alone after school, so I'd blast the radio or one of my CDs and belt, belt, belt. I'd create new harmonies, play with improvising. I just went with the natural flow and taught myself how to sing since I never had real training. It was my secret, though. No one knew I could sing pop and soul for years.
Adam Bernard: Well, I for one am glad the secret’s out. In addition to your singing there’s a lot of live instrumentation in your work. How many of those instruments do you play? Lauren Ianuzzi: I do all the piano work. Occasionally, I'll throw in some organ stuff, too. I used to play tenor sax in high school, but now I focus on the keys. I'd love to bust that sax out at a show sometime, though!
Adam Bernard: The subject matter of your songs range, but quite a few of them are pretty racy. I think I heard a mention of handcuffs in one and making a guy beg on his hands and knees in another. Is this the everyday Lauren Ianuzzi, or an aspect of yourself you like to convey on record? Lauren Ianuzzi: I have a lot of fun with those lines. It's definitely an exaggeration of a certain side of myself. I wouldn't quite go there in broad daylight, or at the deli or something! I will say that my closest friends know I am pretty bawdy, but always with humor and finesse.
Adam Bernard: So if that’s one side of you, what’s the everyday Lauren Ianuzzi like? Tell me why she’s cool to hang out with. Lauren Ianuzzi: I'm sweet and spicy. I'm adventurous, but not dangerous. I can hang out with guys without making their girlfriends uncomfortable. I'm a good-time chick from Jerz who loves pizza and beer and hates drama. Plus, I'm a college grad, so I've got a brain too!
Adam Bernard: Ah yes, college. I know while you were there you wrote two fully orchestrated musical comedies. Tell me about those. Lauren Ianuzzi: The first one, "We So ARE Them," was a satirical ode to the awkward days of middle school. My friend and I co-wrote the script and lyrics. We created the premise of the show one night in an empty cafeteria, completely stressed out of our minds. As co-directors we took it all the way to the main stage, by ourselves, completely student-run and school-funded! I wrote the music, orchestrated it, and played piano in the pit. Some highlights include the big-band tap number "Who Cares, She's Hot" the makeout ode "Seven Minutes in Heaven," and the emo ballad "Why I Wear Black," complete with a flute solo by my co-director. The second musical comedy I wrote never made it off the page, but it's called "The Upper Hand," and it's about a meek husband-to-be with a controlling, emasculating wife. It's an R-rated creation! I did get an A+ on it in Playwriting, though.
Adam Bernard: What have you incorporated from your years of doing musical theater into your solo performances? Lauren Ianuzzi: My onstage dynamic is pretty theatrical. It's always fun to get into the character of each song. The essence of everything I write comes from my life, but I paraphrase my experiences and channel them through different girls; a rock goddess on "Strawberry Poison," a female James Brown on "Funk I Won't Forget," a jazzy minx on "Cotton Underwear Days." I also think that much of my lyrical puns and wordplay come from that musical theatre world.
Adam Bernard: Finally, you have a very funky personal style. I love your hair. So my last question of the day to you is how would you define your style and how would you say your style defines you? Lauren Ianuzzi: Well, first off, thank you! This hair is all me, natural curls! My style is, like my music, a colorful paraphrasing of my real life personality. I'm always drawn to bold prints and hues, experimental pieces, form-fitting and at times flashy ensembles! I love to play with makeup, too. Bottom line, I'm not afraid to take risks! I do it on the low-budge, though. Bargain shopping is way more fun! My style defines me because I often take fashion cues from both sides of my musical spectrum. I love the warm, woodsy tones of 70's soul, and the big earrings, sky high shoes, and glitter of funk. I also gravitate to the leather, teased hair, and tight denim and spandex of the hair-metal era.
It is always great to celebrate one of our own and today an extreme amount of kudos, props, shout outs, whatever slanguage you want to use for praise, goes out to former Artist Of The Week Substantial, who’s video for “It’s You (I Think)” has made it into rotation on MTV2 and has even aired on MTV. Check it out:
I’ve known Substantial since our mutual friend Sean “Ope” Williams introduced us in late 2003 / early 2004. He brought him to a radio show I was co-hosting at the time and I knew as soon as I heard him rhyme there was something special about the emcee from Maryland. We shared a vision regarding Hip-Hop and quickly became friends.
As the years passed I kept wondering “why hasn’t he blown up yet?” (This is actually something I wonder about quite a few of my friends) We continued to work together on a number of things. I wrote about him quite a few times, continued having him on my radio show as a guest, and even threw a small concert where he was the headliner.
Eventually Substantial moved from Brooklyn, where he had been living, back down to Maryland. He earned himself a fantastic position with a great company and continued to make the music he wanted to make. The fact that he’s been making music for himself first makes it even more refreshing to see his video airing on MTV now. So many artists feel they need to “sell out” and change who they are to get airplay, but Substantial is in the process of proving all of them wrong.
You don’t need to sell out to make it. What artists need to do is treat music like the artistic craft that it is and realize some things stick with people while other things don’t and how that turns out isn’t necessarily a reflection on the art created, but rather the feelings of the people who hear it. Make art to make art, not to make money. The confluence of art and money doesn’t necessarily equate to something being good. If you do your thing and do it to the best of your abilities and so that it makes you happy that should be what counts. That’s what Substantial did, and it just so happens that what he’s creating now is striking a chord with a larger audience.
The other day I was interviewing Ice Cube when I realized something; his career and the career of Will Smith are strikingly similar with only one small twist. Yes, that’s right, Ice Cube and Will Smith have a lot more in common than most people think. Why then is Will the guy everyone wants to invite into their homes while Cube is still feared by so many? It all has to do with which medium they choose to be violent in.
Will Smith has always been known as a clean rapper. This isn’t a knock against him. I will always defend Will as one of the greatest of all time both for his skills and the doors he’s opened for Hip-Hop. As one half of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince Will was one of the first rappers suburban parents approved of. His albums showed an incredible amount of skill and were filled with fun topics like thinking one could beat Mike Tyson. Ice Cube, on the other hand, scared the piss out of suburban America.
Most people’s introduction to Ice Cube was through the seminal reality rap group NWA and their hits “Straight Outta Compton” and “Fuck Tha Police.” His anti-establishment rhymes were laced with the violent imagery of the streets and NWA quickly made parental advisory stickers a hot button topic. Well into both of their respective careers Ice Cube and Will Smith made the leap into acting. When they did this a trading of places began to happen, but it was a trading of places that didn’t change many people’s opinions of either.
Both Cube and Will have extensive film resumes, but lately we’ve been seeing family movies from Ice Cube and more violent fare from Will. Cube has been working his Are We There Yet? series of films, films which many of his fans from his NWA days love to criticize (although if they have kids they should probably love them since those films are about the only way your five year old is going to be exposed to something Ice Cube has done), while Will has done more violent, shoot em up, flicks such as Men in Black, Wild Wild West (sorry Will, it gets a mention), I Robot, and I Am Legend. With that in mind, why is suburban America still afraid of Ice Cube while Will continues to get a seat at the dinner table?
There’s an old adage that states actions speak louder than words, but in when it comes to entertainment the stories of Ice Cube and Will Smith show that’s not true. The visuals people have seen of Ice Cube involve him being a comedic family man, but no matter how many PG rated movies he makes nobody will ever be able to get the words “Fuck Tha Police” out of their minds when they see him. This is a fact he’s actually quite proud of… as he should be. When you pen something as important as “Fuck Tha Police” it should stick in people’s minds. Will Smith, on the other hand, can do as many sci-fi action flicks as he wants and shoot numerous weapons and kill hundreds of bad guys and everyone will remember him as the guy who told us “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Now, I know Will also had a sitcom, which is a visual medium, but it’s still interesting that after a 10+ year movie career involving quite a few gun toting roles Will is still considered the less violent, kind hearted man. This, my friends, perfectly illustrates the power of rap music… at least good rap music.
Within the world of good rap music words can create visuals so vivid and so indelible that they stick with us for a lifetime. Actions are supposed to speak louder than words. That’s why we have the saying. The truth of the matter, however, is that actions speak louder than words only if those words aren’t put to a beat. If you’re an MC, no matter what else you do in life you will (no pun intended) be remembered for your words. It’s something for all artists to think about when they’re creating their songs.
Seattle is a city most known for rainy days, flannel t-shirts and grunge rock. Believe it or not there’s a Hip-Hop scene tucked away in the city, as well, and Steelo is one of the groups on the verge of making a name for themselves there. Steelo is the duo of A.Uno and Bobby K (left to right in picture). According to A.Uno the two met through interesting circumstances. “When we decided to go in the studio to work on a track together neither one of us had heard the other person,” he remembers, “we were just looking for the chance to make a song and split studio time. We didn't realize what we had created until our song caught on at the local club and people encouraged us to stick with it.” The song became a local hit and their latest single, “Let It Roll,” is getting national radio airplay. In addition to their performance work, Steelo also makes public speaking appearances at local schools to help inspire students to find and follow their passions. This week A.Uno and Bobby K took some time out of their busy schedules to sit down with me to discuss their music, their work with the youth, and how a clothing ad they did affected one of their speaking gigs in the most ironic of ways.
Adam Bernard: Start this interview off by taking a few seconds to describe your partner. A.Uno: With one listen you can tell that Bobby K’s a very talented singer, but what people should know is that he's a very talented writer, as well, and has a great ear for melodies. He's a perfectionist and always strives to put his best foot forward in all that he does. His family and friends are most important to him and he's the type of guy to do whatever it takes when he believes in something. The other thing about Bobby is that he's a realist and always keeps a level head. He's the type of dude you need in your crew because he makes you think things through rather than act on instinct. Just a classy dude all around. Bobby K: The biggest reason I do music with A.Uno, aside from talent, is that he is a dude you can let your grandmother meet and know he's gonna impress her. It's important to have a guy who you know you can count on in every situation, both musically and socially. He puts respect and integrity at the forefront of his personality and is always willing to do what it takes to succeed. We always struggle to get over the stigma of being a "rap group," where a lot of people are quick to want to write us off, but he breaks down barriers that have been set by those before. A true professional and my best friend.
Adam Bernard: We don’t see a lot of duos where one artist is a singer and the other is an MC. What led you two to explore this musical idea and what do you feel is gained by having both a singer and an MC? Bobby K: The idea was really built on our situation at the time, being that each of us just wanted to create good music, but couldn't financially handle it without one and other. We were blessed in the fact that our sounds meshed together the way they did. When we did our first show we didn't even have a full set of music. We had one original song and for the rest of the set we had the DJ spin instrumentals and we freestyled and made songs up on the fly. The people loved it. A.Uno: We actually thrive on the fact that there is no singer/rapper duo in the mainstream right now. While most rappers seek out singers, and visa versa, we keep it in house and always strive for different musical concepts, not just your average verse - hook - verse - hook song. We're never afraid to take chances and it shows through in our music. Also, while rappers out there have rap fans, and R&B singers have R&B fans, we're able to reach a bigger audience because we have rap and R&B throughout our songs. We pull from a variety of people, from young to old, and people from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Hip-Hop heads respect my tri-lingual flows, and ladies fall in love with Bobby K voice at every show we do. Bobby K: What more can you ask for??
Adam Bernard: What's the Hip-Hop scene like in Seattle? Bobby K: When people think of music in Seattle they think of alternative music; Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, etc. We have a lot of talent in the Seattle area, but are lacking a truly unified effort to shed light here. At times it's hard for us to advance as artists because of lack of support from radio and DJs. Don't get us wrong, we have a good share of support from key players, DJ B-Mello has been real cool, but we are ultimately the masters of our own success. A.Uno: Because there aren't a lot of options for independent artists we've had to put our efforts into reaching other regions, such as California and New York. The only act in Seattle who packs shows and has had success lately is the Blue Scholars. However, we're not really in competition for listeners with them because our styles are very different. People in Seattle tell us all the time that our sound is different than the stuff they're used to hearing from Hip-Hop artists, so we strive everyday at becoming the scene in Seattle for music.
Adam Bernard: I hear you also work with students. Talk to me about some of those public speaking gigs and what you hope to accomplish through them. A.Uno: We both have the same vision of reaching out to younger generations to let them know you can achieve your goals when you run with your passion. We are two guys who have a passion and a vision who are going for it and they can do the same. It's amazing how many students are able to relate to our story when we talk about struggles and adversity. We find it a blessing to be able to positively influence the choices students make in their lives. We don't expect students to be inspired to rap and sing, but to be inspired to be passionate in whatever it is they choose to do. We hope to take our message nationally, reaching as many students as we can.
Adam Bernard: You have some songs that are of a sexual nature, notably "One Night Stand." Have you received any flak from school executives regarding your lyrical content? Bobby K: We haven't so far. At the end of the day we're all human. We're not saying that to be human is to have a one night stand, but that there are times when a young man's mind wanders. If you notice in the song, it says, "If I could have a one night stand... it would be wit' somebody like you." When we wrote this song it was an idea that when you see a beautiful woman you're mind can take you places. A.Uno: At the end of the day we get flak from schools for just being a "Hip-Hop and R&B duo." We were recently turned down to speak at a school because they saw photos from a photo shoot we did for Lowrider Clothing's "Back To School" campaign. Pretty ironic.
Adam Bernard: Finally, what has been your favorite, or most memorable, moment from one of your school gigs? A.Uno: The response from the students at the end of the presentation is always memorable. It's also dope to break down stereotypes teachers and faculty members have about Hip-Hop music. By the end of the program teachers often ask for autographs, too, and thank us for taking the time to speak to their students. Bobby K: And we get messages all the time from students telling us we've inspired them to pursue what they're passionate about. That's one of the best feelings for us.