Sayyid, High Priest, and Beans of NYC-based hip-hop group Antipop Consortium (APC) took some time before their performance last Thursday at Berbati’s to talk about their new album, the tour and who they dream about late at night.
The new album, Arrythmia, is sort of a different sounding album than the first album, a bit more electronically produced. Why is that?
BEANS: You know, from where we were, doing the Tragic Epilogue album to where we are now with Arrhythmia, is just a balance of where we come from to where we’re going. I don’t think it’s really all that different for us, it’s just more of a natural progression, really. The electronic element has always been a part of our music. I don’t know why for some people it seems different now, but it’s always been a part of what we’ve incorporated.
SAYYID: But it’s a different sounding album based on the fact that we’re better now. We’ve developed a little more and have an understanding of our production a little bit more. This is one installation from the various installations that you will be able to purchase from APC.
You also work with Earl Blaize on your productions.
B: Yeah, he doesn’t tour with us, but he’s worked with us on all of the albums so far.
So how do you start on your productions?
HIGH PRIEST: We all produce. Things can happen in any format, where any one of us can bring any element to the table, whether it’s lyrics or production, and the rest of us just add on. And Earl Blaize is the refinery, it’s where it gets all its sheen at the end.
S: This album is more collaborative than previous albums, because there were a couple of songs, like “Human Shield” and “Ghost Lawn,” which we recorded on tour, stuff that we all played on.
So you basically start off with a sound or lyric and build off that?
Is there a certain approach you have to writing lyrics?
S: No, I don’t think we have a specific approach. I know that we usually start off with the blank sheet, but that is usually accompanied by a track, or an idea, we have in mind.
B: I’ll give you an example. When we were doing “Human Shield,” we were all in the same hotel room. I started playing something, then Sayyid added the beat to it, and then Priest added his element. Then Priest came up with the chorus idea, and we all worked on the chorus. Then we took that back to how we were gonna structure that specific piece, how we were going to trade off, who was going to come in with which parts when. Then when we got back we laid it that way. Then we did it at Earl’s, and he added the sheen. So the song’s done like that, but it’s not as formulated.
So you are all from New York?
H: Yes … NYC!
S: Yeah, New York City.
How did you guys get started? How did you form APC?
B: We all met in ’94 at an event called Rap Meets Poetry. Priest and I were doing separate things, Sayyid came through one day with a mutual friend, and that’s how we met. In ’97 Priest came out with the idea to start putting out our own releases, because at the time we couldn’t really get deals. So we decided to put it out ourselves. This was during the resurgence of independents – people were starting to put out more independent [hip-hop] records. Then Priest came out with the idea for Antipop Records, and we released a series of cassettes, called Consortiums. We put those out, then a year later we put out the first single, “Disorientation.” Then we went to London, did a remix for Attica Blues. That was one of the first group recordings for Antipop Consortium.
And so Tragic Epilogue was a collection of a lot of the earlier stuff that you did?
B: I think Tragic Epilogue was the last of the Consortium tapes. That was the basis, and then we added on from there.
H: Primarily it was a situation where channels for independent releases of hip-hop were opening up again, considering that things go up or down in popularity, and accessibility and what have you. It was like the upswing of that era, you know, and for a model we were looking at a lot of the punk labels – like SST. We just did work together, as a compilation, as solo artists. A series of tapes evolved into Tragic Epilogue.
So how did you switch over to Warp Records?
H: Fortunately, we always have and still have a lot of latitude and flexibility with our relationship with other labels. When our situation was through with 75 Ark – it was a licensing situation in cooperation with Antipop Records – we had leeway. That’s when our relationship with Warp Records began.
So you guys have put out a lot of work?
S: A decent amount.
Beause you guys also had an EP, The Ends Against The Middle. So do you record all the time, or are you looking for a project, setting goals for projects?
S: I can say that we all stay working, we all stay in the studio. So when it comes to how long things take or how much of a process things are, at the same time you gotta remember this is our life. This is what we do, this is how we get paid. We come out with things day-to-day, and those things turn into songs or concepts for albums, or into various little things, songs or skits. We stay focused in the lab.
You’ve been called “avant-garde hip-hop.” What would you consider yourself?
S: I consider myself from a “tron” movement, in between hip-hop and electronica – no man – it’s hip-hop. It’s rhymes and beats, you know what I mean? That’s what it is.
I’ve read some press that sort of dismisses the street credibility of your sound or lyrics or whatever. What do you have to say about that?
S: Street credibility! What the fuck are cats talking about street credibility? People who say that, man –
B: – Let me tell you something about that. Street credibility is when you have like 100 bucks, and you spend 100 bucks to press out at least 100 cassettes, and then spend the rest of the dough to build up your own stickers. You go to Kinko’s, or you work at Kinko’s, you print out your own stickers, you stick that stuff around the city. People don’t even listen to the music yet, but they see the image of what you’re doing through the stickers, all the hard work you doing sticking these things on the lampposts. Then you go into stores, selling hand-to-hand on consignment, trying to sell these cassettes, getting as little as possible. Then at least from the little money that you’re getting from these cassettes you wait a year to raise up at least 1,000 dollars and you put up your own single. Then it starts to get a little noise, then you put up your own money, fly over to Europe and book your own shows, sleep in somebody’s house, sleep in the van and go on tour. To put our your own music. If that’s not street credibility, I don’t know what is. So I’m not even trying to hear that. We’re here, you’re talking to us now because of all the hard work we’ve put in, you know, on our own merit and our own efforts. I’m not even trying to hear anything about “no street credibility.”
S: A lot of times you have people writing or working for the media in some form, and they have various images of things that they haven’t experienced in life, and when you have something that isn’t cookie-cut into what they feel is a certain experience, they talk about credibility. But we know what that’s all about.
H: When it comes down to the end of the day, journalism is very agenda-oriented, so all you can do is not let that affect what you’re trying to do, and with our relationship, all that we can hope is for people to see the work. See the gems, see the honesty.
Where do you see hip-hop going and your place in that?
B: I just see us continuing to follow the path that we set out for ourselves for the past decade. We met in the early ’90s, and now we’re here in 2002. We’re just going to continue doing what we’re doing, being honest and truthful to myself. And to us as a crew, we’re going to continue to be interesting. We’re going to bring honesty, and we’re going to bring heat.