Yes in My Backyard: An Interview with Antipop Consortium


Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

New York’s quintessential avant-rap crew Antipop Consortium have re-emerged after a six-year absence–an eternity in hip-hop terms–with the strongest album of their career, the mind-rattling Fluorescent Black. The four-member APC crew–rappers Beans, M. Sayyid, and High Priest, along with producer Earl Blaize–met at a Nuyorican Theatre rap/poetry slam in the late ’90s. Over the course of five records, they’ve remained hip-hop’s pre-eminent boundary pushers, boldly forging new paths in maddening free-associative word-puree, jazz-style improv, and alternatingly skeletal and impossibly layered robo-beats. Fluorescent Black ups the anti-, touching everything from Hot 97-ready head-knockers (“Lay Me Down”) to Beefheartian electrosizzle (“End Game”), covering them all with APC’s trademark polysyllabic brainspew. Live drums rattle, samples pile up and argue, snares hiccup and headbang, phonemes repeat and stutter in ProTools purgatory. Tonight is their CD release party at Santos Party House with CX Kidtronix and friends. We decided to find out a little more about how their most recent art-rap monsterwork came together.

The four years where you guys were broken up were probably the biggest years of the underground rap backlash from rock critics.

Beans: To be honest with you, I was touring a lot with indie rock guys, doing my solo thing heavy. I was working and recording so I didn’t even notice that there was some sort of backlash happening in underground rap nor did I care. I was able to eat and tour and that’s what I paid attention to doing. Everything else was really just background noise. People’s taste did change but I felt that it has more to do with the music quality. It was like the underground turned tail and chased what everyone else was striving towards, which was disappointing.
M. Sayyid: Yeah, I have to second Beans on that. I wasn’t focusing so much on “underground,” I was tryin’ to just make sure my bars were up, because during those years I was droppin’ mixtape material.

Did you think about APC’s place in the world when making a new record?

Sayyid: Honestly, at this point, when I make music, I’m mostly concerned about how it makes me feel, cause once I start thinkin’ about other people, it messes with my swag. My dues were–and are–paid, so I just got in the booth or the board and kept it movin’.
Beans: When we first got together to discuss making a record, we had a meeting to say what each of us was looking for creatively in terms of making an album and then we just did it. We still have some things we want to do that haven’t tried yet. But so far, so good.
Priest: We wanted people to know that was a concentrated effort, not just a money grab.

Is the title of the record a reference to the Deerhunter song “Fluorescent Grey”?

Beans: No! It comes from a lyric I said in “Apparently,” and it was Sayyid’s idea to use it as the title for the album.

Was there a conscious game plan when making the beats?

Sayyid: Make the shit hotter and stronger.
Earl Blaize: The idea was to continue the legacy of what hip-hop was from its inception. Fusing synths, acoustic instruments, and live musicianship is how Kurtis Blow, Jimmy Spicer, the Sugarhill Gang, the Treacherous Three made music. The additional use of sound effects to create an environment for the listener to be transported is essential in the mix process as well.

How did you guys get those crazy live drums on “Lay Me Down”?

Blaize: The drums were put together using several different live drum loops of various tempos, and pieced together without the use of any time-stretching. After the live guitar and bass was recorded, then the accents were programmed using individual live drum elements.

What’s your favorite and least favorite things about hip-hop in 2009?

Sayyid: Wow, hmmm… There’s a lot that I like and it’s more than what I dislike. I like Raekwon’s album, Jay-Z, Eminem… and I’m lookin’ forward to the new Clipse album. Oh yeah, of course Doom, as well as that Ron Browz featuring Lloyd Banks joint.
Beans: I like Doom, Eve’s “Me N My,” Raekwon’s record, and some of Jay’s record. Everything else kinda fell off my radar.

There’s a lot of singing on the new record… Who’s got the best singing voice in the group?

Beans: I don’t know. There was only one of us singing, so you tell me. [Laughs]

Tell me about the album cover. How did that image come together?

Sayyid: We fought over it. Beans called me up after going back and forth on email. When I heard in his voice how much he wanted to use it. I said, “Ok this guy’s really passionate about this. Let ’em have it how he wants.” Then I had a lot of explaining to do to Blaize.
Beans: The cover comes from some rough sketches that I drew up after having a conversation with Priest and Earl while we were all looking at Earl’s screensaver while we were recording the album. The painting was done by Mark Evans based on those rough sketches. The woman on the cover of the album is the physical representation of the APC logo.
Sayyid: I don’t see it as the physical representation of the logo but Beans does. I would say spiritual representation more than physical.

What was your favorite thing you saw at All Tomorrow’s Parties?

Priest: Boredoms.
Beans: Hands down, the Boredoms. That was awe-inspiring!
Blaize: The Flaming Lips performance was quite memorable
Sayyid: The Jim Jarmusch lecture was really cool.

What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?

Beans: For pizza, it’s Two Boots or Lombardi’s. Japanese, I like Typhoon on
St. Marks.
Sayyid: Charles Southern up on 148th. The BBQ beef ribs…crazy.
Blaize: Serendipity 3 for dessert, Angel’s Ristorante for Italian, and Smoke Joint for BBQ.
Preist: My crib for sure. By invite only.

Download: [audio-1]
Download: Antipop Corsortium, “Capricon One”