After six years spent apart pursuing solo projects, Beans, M. Sayyid, Earl Blaize, and High Priest have reunited to form the ever infamous Anti-Pop Consortium. The three MCs and producer from New York first hooked up back in 2000 for ‘Tragic Epilogue;’ their debut as a collective. Later that year they released ‘Shopping Carts Crashing,’ followed by ‘Arrhythmia’ in 2002, then the collaboration album ‘Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp’ released in February 2003, their last offering as a combined force before the six year hiatus. Until now…
Anti-Pop’s work continues to divide hip hop heads across the globe, and I think this is because critics struggle to define and pigeon-hole their sound, and this frustrates those with experience. Call them avant-garde, call them post modern, or just call them new-age lyricists hurtling at the speed of light through the labyrinth tunnels of imagination, using recycled rulebooks as free-writing fodder. Call them what you like, but just beware that your words will not fully justify the fusion of intelligent wordplay and experimental electronic beats and soundscapes you seek to describe.
ukhh caught up with Beans and Priest to talk about APC’s new album, Fluorescent Black – released on Big Dada in late September, and what it’s like to be back and touring together again…
Overall, how has the response been since your return?
Beans I feel it’s mixed. People are responsive to the music, but aren’t sure how it fits in today’s climate. It seems that because people have embraced using synths in their music that they’ve caught up to what we’ve been doing for years. To me, it’s really weird… The reviews are positive but their attentions appear elsewhere, like the more pop-orientated material. This album, to me, is a good balance for old fans and people who may not have heard of us before. Moving forward, I honestly feel that what we, as a group, need to focus more on the “anti” than the “pop.”
Priest The response has been mostly favourable in my eyes – our core audience has changed and matured, as have we.
When you guys split back in early 2003, did you always know you would get back together at some stage? Or was there some kind of finality about it at the time?
Beans I had no idea we would ever get back together, ever. I didn’t see it coming.
Priest At the time it was very final. Honestly, I wish we would have approached it as a hiatus as opposed to a formal break up, but tensions were running high and we needed to decompress.
So take us through a little bit of what you’ve been doing for the last six years since the APC vs. Matthew Shipp album?
Beans We all did solo material. I put out 3 full lengths, Priest and Sayyid did Airbourne Audio and released solo material as well. I tour and did what I always do best: music.
Priest We’ve been pursuing solo careers, raising families and living life outside of music, honestly.
What was it like working together again after so long apart? Was it straight down to business?
Beans It was like we hadn’t left. We got together and discussed what we wanted to achieve on the record and strived towards making it happen.
Priest Once we were in the studio it was pretty much as we left, back to business.
Do you feel that after pursuing solo projects for a number of years you have more respect for each other’s individual artistry? And has this affected the level of chemistry on this album?
Beans Yes, we bring those individual experiences to the table. Truly indeed!!
Priest I think respectively we have strengthened our resolve as solo artists, and this has helped us as a group and enabled us to bring more to the table, collectively and individually.
When you released Arrhythmia you were signed to WARP records, and on your return as a collective you release Fluorescent Black on Big Dada. Is there a reason for your strong affiliation with British record labels?
Beans They tend to see the light first.
Priest Not specifically- though we had relationships with Big Dada prior to Fluorescent Black.
Tell us about the collabo with Roots Manuva on the track NY to Tokyo. Was that something that was instigated by Big Dada? Or have you been fans of his for a while?
Beans We’ve known Roots for a while even before we broke up and were signed to Big Dada. Using a British MC just fit the concept for the song; NY to Tokyo. It worked out really well – I like his verse a lot.
Priest As Airborn we toured with Roots, and as a performer we are fans.
You’re doing some mad touring for this album, worldwide yo! Of all the places you’ve played out across the planet, what are some of your favourite countries/cities/towns to have performed in?
Beans Personally, I prefer Europe because the venues treat the musicians with way more respect than they do in the States. Plus, the food is better while travelling.
Priest Paris is always strong, Berlin is Crazy!! Can’t wait for East Asia, but there is no place like home.
Do you feel that Fluorescent Black is the best record you have ever released? If so, what do you think differentiates it from your back catalogue?
Beans I feel it’s a progression from the last record because it feels more confident and we’re more mature as men, but I feel that the best has yet to arrive from us. Personally, I’m ready to start the next album.
Priest Each time I think we have progressively gotten better (at least that is the intention). With this particular LP we approached it more as a group, as opposed to 3 solo MCs. E. Blaize helped provide the uniformity necessary to give the LP consistency.
There is no doubt that the album is multi-faceted and rich in flavour, in terms of both the lyrics and production. The opening of title track Fluorescent Black states: ‘Understand the transition right now… we’re at a pivotal axis in history right now.’ Is this how the four of you feel about the direction your music is taking?
Beans It’s a good indicator of where we were when making this record, but I’m ready to start the next one!!
Priest When I made that statement I wanted the grandiosity of the LP to be felt. Also we are at a historically transitional phase as well.
How does the production process work with the four of you beat-wise? Is it a case of Earl Blaize laying something down, then a collaboration of thoughts and ideas before the final product?
Beans This is the Priest album. He handled most of the production. Usually, any one of us can bring a beat to the table. Whoever rhymes on the track first sets the pace for the others to follow, and then E. Blaize adds his 2 sense to the mix.
Priest With this particular LP I held a majority of the production, aided by the team with Blaize being the final stop. Whoever rhymes first on the track usually dictates the direction of the song.
As well established and internationally successful musical artists, do you guys still have time to take great involvement in the poetry scene? Are there any poetry nights/slams in New York that you visit regularly (when you’re not globetrotting)?
Beans No, not as much.
Priest Not as much as in the past, but there is venue called the Shrine (after Fela’s stronghold).
How do you plan to top Fluorescent Black? And what are your future aspirations?
Beans We have some ideas of what we would like to next but what would be the point in telling you? Stay tuned!
Priest Wait and see… Can’t divulge just yet!
Finally APC, a word on the UK music scene… You’re now signed to Big Dada, for this album and one more to come. What is it like to be surrounded by some of the UK’s finest indie/electronic/hip hop talent? And which artists are you really feeling?
Beans It’s cool!
Priest Wiley, Roger Robinson, Kevin Martin, Charlie Dark, Tony Nwakachu, Zomby.
Any big ups or final words?
Beans Yes, buy this album… NOW!
Priest Peace to : Roots Manuva, Juice Aleem, Stef Eye Megman, King Britt, Brainfeeder crew et al, Antipop Recordings.
Due to the fusion of styles that their sound provides, APC have always had fans from many different backgrounds and subcultures; straight up b-boys, indie heads, rockers, and electro fiends, but also those with poetic and literary orientation. Although I’m sure their widespread fan-base will have paid attention to Beans, Sayyid, Blaize and Priest’s solo pursuits, many mouths will be watering over their newest offering, Fluorescent Black.
The big date to watch is Thursday 5th November, when APC will be performing at Scala for their UK album launch with Juice Aleem and APSCI. Luckily, as devoted readers of ukhh.com, you have the chance to win a copy of their new album AND two tickets to the Scala date. Just follow this link
Other UK dates are 4th Nov at Audio in Brighton, 6th Nov at Wire in Leeds, 7th Nov at The Croft in Bristol. They then head into Europe with dates in France, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Denmark, Holland and Belgium all before christmas!! Check the myspace for full details
– Andy Patton