Last seen together on stage at Camp Flog Gnaw 2014, the nerds who served as voices for the inner monologue of our wildest and impassioned years reunited as three for the first time in three years at ComplexCon to celebrate style, music, sneakers, and art.Read More
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From Black Star, Run The Jewels and Mobb Deep to arguably the most coveted group of all time: Outkast - the idea of Hip Hop duos has always been a forceful, innovative approach to the craft. Similar to the way Batman and Robin don their superhero suits, two characters side by side are relying on unprecedented chemistry and work ethic for the betterment of the art they are creating.
Though they are less frequent in today’s industry, unique duos have been able to squirm their way into the spotlight, but none like Mississippi’s Rae Sremmurd. Comprised of Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, the two artists bring an undeniable energy and unique vocal performance to the stage.
Today, they’re sitting casually on a couch at the back of the room. Swae Lee decked out in his usual fashionable attire with a Calvin Klein denim hat and some minimalistic chains, including one with a purple, rectangle jewel hanging off of his neck. His counterpart, Slim Jxmmi sits next to him shirtless, his tattoos entangled across his body as if they’re forming some sort of complex spider-web. He occasionally raises his right hand up to bring a burgundy coloured vape to his lips.
The duo has been making massive waves in the past year with the release of their Sremmlife 2 project and alongside it, their viral hit “Black Beatles”. A hypnotic, grooving melody that drops into a movement inducing banger. The two have a slew of influences and their appreciation of the artists that have come before them is evident in their work.
"Man, Lil Wayne is one of my favorite artists for real, he made me appreciate lyrics. It was just tight the way he rapped, he knew how to swag over a track and say something at the same time, and his lyrics were always off the chain."
Today, Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi are carving out their own space amongst the hillside of the mountain that all rap pioneers have conquered at one time or another. They are still just getting started though with no signs of slowing down.
"86-years-old where I'm at? I'm Dr. Dre, don't nobody know where I'm at, everyone just know I'm rich, that's it. Goals, you know what I'm saying."
Reigning from one of the most important communities in hip-hop, Brooklyn’s The Underachievers are a special duo who are increasingly elevating their place within the magnificent history that was born and still very much today, thrives there.
Equal parts clever and inventive, Issa Gold and AK the Savior are sitting casually on the couch at the back of the trailer, completely at home and enthusiastic to share. Issa is rocking an orange striped COMME des GARÇONS shirt, a small embroidered heart glimmers on the left side of his chest. AK has a blue camo Bathing Ape crewneck on. Every now and then he plays with one of the blonde dreads hanging off the left side of his head. The two rappers have been making serious noise for their psychedelic, distinctive works of art. Undoubtedly to think on this level, they’ve put in the work in developing their minds.
"I was probably like 9 years old, I set up this whole intricate scheme where we'd rob Pokémon cards. That was back in my savage days. Before I was an enlightened man I was a goon,” says Issa with a laugh.
Likely it was the self-education, about the world and themselves, reading and meditating, that brought enormous growth to these two talented thinkers and MCs."Once you quiet your mind and find that nirvana,” begins Issa, “that's when your purest thoughts come to you. The base of meditation is to disconnect yourself from the noise so you can talk to your unconscious mind."
That’s just what these two do, speaking of their psychedelic thoughts paired alongside their conscious, and acutely aware sense of social issues. They’re doing it their way and intend to keep it so.
“Artists like J. Cole, Kendrick and Chance the Rapper, specifically those three, always keep me grounded and keep me wanting to chase the things that I know are my true passions. We came into music with a set goal which was to enlighten our generation and bring unity amongst the youth. [As we grow as artists] you get strayed away sometimes but those three artists keep me knowing if I stay true to myself then you will make it big, cause the game will adjust to you. Kendrick represents that.”
What’s most important is the goal they have set, and must keep on striving towards. Enlightening and banding together their generation to help those that need it most. There’s a connectedness that runs linear in thinking this way, in caring about the way you inspire. That community that grows from innovative thinkers is especially crucial.
“Faith is the biggest fuckin' question mark in the planet. But with the shit we believe in it’s a network of people around the world who are waking up to the same things we’re waking up to, who haven’t spoken to any of us,” Issa says. There must be some truth to that.
“The law of attraction is real. You get what you put out. First thing that comes to mind is karma, my karma is instant. I try to treat people and things how I like to be treated. I don’t step on ants and roaches. I love all of Gods creatures.”
Fresh in the unzipped, open camo-jacket, his dark curly hair poking out from under his ushanka winter hat, California based hip-hop artist Ab-Soul is casually sitting back, one foot kicked up on the table, listening intently before expressing himself. His unique sense of humour and astute cognizant mind come through every time he speaks. The TDE signed artist is part of the elite, top tier crew of conscious and introspective MCs currently running the game. “I shook shit up when I made Pineal Gland. The third eye guys, we came out, we came out heavy. ‘Beastcoast', that’s where hip hop started. Shoutout to the the Pro Era gang, Joey, CJ and Kirk, Flatbush Zombies, them’s the homies. This is an intelligent movement. That’s what hip hop is, I’m glad we can continue to push that notion. When I hear you I don’t just wanna dance and turn up, I wanna learn something. I wanna hear something, say something. I’m glad to be a part of that,” he says.
The 30-year old is also a cornerstone of one of hip-hops most revered collectives: Black Hippy. Alongside other Southern-California based artists Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, and Kendrick Lamar they’ve been dominating the game for the last several years. “…Black Hippy is just a name, it's a name for our fusion,” he says, “we all have our own personal goals that we have to reach, there's still a lot of ground that I wanna cover personally. I still got a lot of ground to cover before I can think about putting together a group album. I could probably speak for them when I say that as well.”
A frequent collaborator and close friend of Kendrick Lamar, who himself is off the release of his fourth studio album: DAMN. Ab-Soul has an extremely unique and rare view into his label-mates vision and latest project. “Me and Kendrick are like Ken and Ryu [from Streetfighter]. And I’m Ken, in a lot of ways,” he says, pointing to his long hair with a smile, “what I personally feel like he was tryna do is get back to ‘K.dot’, he’s been Kendrick Lamar for awhile. Kendrick Lamar is the ‘good kid.’ He’s the more introspective kid, but this album he was tryna get back to his roots. Sag his pants, really roll through the hood. With To Pimp a Butterfly he was more so tryna make music that our big homies, that our parents would love. This album he kinda did it for us, our generation, and how we feel.”
".. You know who that is right? You don't know who the blind woman is?!” he exclaims about BLOOD (the opening track to Kendrick’s DAMN.)
Soul is currently working on his next project as well, a follow up to last years Do What Thou Wilt. “It’s a woman appreciation album,” he says. Fans are also in anticipation for follow-ups to his revered, Longterm and Control System projects, “Longterm 3 of course, there’s 4 instalments of LongTerm,” he flashes four fingers up, “when I can honestly tell the story of the Rich and Famous, (from my perspective), that’s when you’ll get LongTerm 3.”
“[As for] Control System part 2? Control System is like Scarface,” he says, with a slight laugh, “I’m scared to listen to that again. That was a cornerstone of my life. A lot happened with me in my personal life when that dropped. To go back there would be kinda ill, but I’ll never say never.”
In the signature ScHoolboy Q brimmed hat and sunglasses, the Southern California rapper sits forward, pondering the notion presented. His ‘HiiiPower” tattoo, upon his right forearm is visible as he raises his hand up to brush the beard on his chin. He is good-humoured, relaxed and engaged, wearing a sleeveless Los Angeles Angels baseball tee. The 30-year old TDE artist is in a focused state these days, working on his next solo album and being a dad. The latter of which is of the utmost importance to him.
He picks up the CD case lying on the table beside him and moves it around in his hands for a second, as if the sight of it inflicts visions of nostalgia upon his mind, "I hated on 'Get Rich Or Die Tryin’,” he says, “I was hating on 50 cause I was so much into Nas. Once I got over that hate stage, 50 became one of my biggest inspirations to rap, if it wasn't for him no telling what I'd be doing. I related to damn near everything he was talking about. 50 to this day is still one of my favourite artists.”
In the last five years ScHoolboy, along with his notorious TDE label-mates Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul, have all been quickly elevated to elite status within the game. Together they make up the supergroup Black Hippy. The members are all frequent collaborators and have made notable appearances on each others solo projects, but have yet to release a full-length project as a group. "I'm already working on my next album, the chances of us getting into the studio together and working on Black Hippy is slim. I'm with it though, I wanna do it.” With the strenuous lifestyle and effort that goes into the creation of each piece of art, a rare break is more likely to be spent amongst family, then working on a separate joint album. “We not just gonna go into the studio and finish the album in a month. Maybe some of these other rappers do their music like that, but we don’t make our music like that. Everything we do over there, it’s like a concept. It’s just something we all done as an artist, and that’s why we click so much. We’re all pretty much the same mellow dudes, focused on our crafts and concepts and shit,” he explains. “Plus I’m a daddy, I love being a daddy. Anytime I can get to spend time with my daughter cause I’m always moving, I wanna spend that time with her.”
Despite no word of releasing a joint album, the TDE crew continues to dominate the rap world as solo artists and is undoubtedly the powerhouse in LA. “Every rapper that ever came to TDE that we was getting ready to f*** with, they always exit themselves out because they weren't humble enough. It was a lotta LA artists that could've been signed to TDE but they was just doing what they doing. Now everyone out there in that city is under us.”
But it’s not just the city of Los Angeles that is marked by this team's artistic ability, the entire country reveres them individually and the hopes of a joint project will likely never die out. ScHoolboy is acutely aware of the role him and his collaborators hold in inspiring the people and making effective change in the areas that call for it most. “People just getting killed left and right. You’ll have 400-500 people die in Chicago, every year. That’s fucking insane, how can that many people die in a year from…? N****s always wanna talk about that gangster shit, ain’t nothing gangster bout none of that shit,” he says.
The artist does not struggle to admit his purpose. “Kids are born everyday, people die everyday. I believe that’s what we’re here for, just to reproduce. That’s why it’s the best feeling in the world, it’s the one way you can bring somebody into this world.”
He has obviously grown over the years of his increasingly levitating career, but he keeps that childish glow and humour amongst him. He recounts losing his virginity, and admits that at the age of 12 he didn’t have too much of an idea of what he was doing. “I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. But I was wrong,” he says bursting out with laughter. There’s a heavy sense of maturity upon him as well. A sincere father who knows exactly where his fullest priorities lie, “I don’t know what love is, it’s just a word. I know how I feel when I see my daughter, or my mom, or when I hear about bad things about my homeboys. Love is just a word. You just have that feeling,” he thinks aloud.
ScHoolboy continues to invest diligent work into his follow-up to the Blank Face LP which is said to feature work from producer Zaytoven and has been hinted to drop by ScHoolboy himself after SZA’s CTRL on June 9th.
Montreal producer/songwriter/rapper JEI BANDIT has just released his new EP, BOLT. This seven song project has some insane production by Jei himself along with Jamvvis, knwbe and Octn. We also see features from KARYKE, knwbe and lunadeth. This EP is a little bit all over the place, but nonetheless is an absolute piece of art, something that Jei mentioned had taken over a year to create.
The name BOLT was inspired by Bandit's fear of thunderstorms when he was a child. He's now using it as a symbol of his way of being, having overcome these events while experiencing a period of personal growth.