Iconoclastic Space Rap for 3009 – The Return of Anti-Pop Consortium

Feature by Bram Gieben | 01 Sep 2009
  • Anti-Pop Consortium

Anti-Pop Consortium have always broken boundaries – in 2002 they signed with legendary electronic label Warp, releasing the seminal LP Arrhythmia to critical and popular acclaim. They were the first hip-hop act to be signed by Warp, and the wonky, bass-heavy beats of Earl Blaize quickly popularised the group with fans of the laughably-named IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) genre.

Hip-hop heads got it too – the group’s double-time raps fit perfectly with the UK hip-hop scene’s emergent grime stylings; while the band’s esoteric subject matter – name-checking Larry Levan and Alfred Hitchcock - appealed to those fans who liked their hip-hop literate and non-commercial. Even the name was perfect – Anti-Pop Consortium. This was a band that united their fans in opposition to the blandness of the mainstream – a band that this writer can recall getting played in all the Edinburgh clubs, from Scratch to Dogma and everywhere in between.

Fast-forward to 2009 – 12 years since APC formed in New York, after meeting each other in and around the city’s legendary performance poetry scene. The band are now veterans of the rap game. After a split (post Arrhythmia) which saw Beans release an excellent solo LP, and saw M. Sayyid and High Priest collaborate as Airborn Audio, the band decided to reform. They toured, supporting Public Enemy, and pretty soon they had started to talk about recording some new material. The result, the eagerly anticipated Flourescent Black, will be released on Big Dada this month. The Skinny caught up with the three emcees of the group as they hit London to promote the release of the album’s first single, the sinister electro-funk of Apparently.

What was behind the decision to record the new album?

M. Sayyid: It was incidental. We were all together in a club, and it came up, and we were like, 'yo, we wanna try and hit the studio and see what’s good'. Enough time had elapsed that we were able to do it.

Was it hard to get back into the groove of writing together again?

M. Sayyid: It wasn’t any problem. It was actually even better. Obviously, over the course of the years, you step up your game if you work hard. We had all stepped up our game separately, so when we were able to bring it to the table, we were able to step to it in a better way, I think.

How has your subject matter and your lyrical flow changed since Arrythmia?

M. Sayyid: The way that we spit changes, because time changes. I wouldn’t be spitting the same way as back in 2002. You’ve got to have a different swagger.

Did you enjoy each others’ solo projects?

M. Sayyid: Absolutely. We continue to support each other on a solo tip. For sure. It’s a beautiful thing.

Given that hip-hop has so thoroughly colonised the mainstream pop market, do you think it still has a valid underground movement?

High Priest: You’re talking to people who have a lot of different tastes… like, I used to do a lot of mixtapes… it’s hard for me to say that I was listening to a lot of stuff that was quote-unquote ‘underground backpack rap’ in 2002, and it isn’t necessarily what I would listen to right now. There are people in that scene who I listen to.

Beans: One of the things I came to find is that ' underground' is a relative term, because if you talk to some major-label artists like Jay-Z, he might still consider himself to have come from the underground. If you talk to some independent artists, it might not necessarily be their intention to be ‘underground’ – it’s just a matter of exposure. Their vision might still be commercial. At the end of the day it’s about finding a good balance between the two terms ‘commercial’ and ‘artist,’ because the two do sometimes seem to be diametrically opposed.

What was behind the move from Warp to Big Dada – was it because of the Ninja connection via Airborn Audio?

M. Sayyid: Yeah, it was definitely. We’re absolutely going back in to do more Airborn Audio stuff. Beans has a solo album coming called End It All – he’s starting on that pretty soon, he’s got some tracks he’s working on.

Electronic music was a huge part of Arrhythmia – is the same true of Flourescent Black?

Beans: I would say the vision of making art… Art coming first… It comes from having the skills to make hot joints on a production level. It’s stepped up from 2002, from the last album. The most interesting thing is, if you take songs from Arrhythmia and compare them to those from Fluorescent Black – you can hear that the production has been stepped up. You may be nostalgic about Arrhythmia - but if you play any of these new instrumentals out in a club, you will see the reaction. People are gonna respond to the new stuff. Because we put in work in the studio!

Is it a larger, heavier sound than before?

Beans: Yeah! Because, the fact is the greatest thing about growing as an artist is you can actually see the muscular development. Then you’re like, ‘Yo!’ You gain confidence. Once you have confidence and humility it’s a deadly combination.

That’s how the Samurais work, that’s how African warriors work. That’s how everybody in life works – you have to have humility as well as confidence. I stay with that because it works for me. It works in my favour for me to be humble – I feel more comfortable. That’s how I roll out. But I've got the confidence too.

You’re listed as an influence and namechecked by a great many rappers these days – Cadence Weapon and K-the-i?? talk of you as a large influence on their flows and careers. How do you feel about this?

High Priest: It’s great, man. We were inspired by other artists, and we put something new in the game with the intention of adding on, and sharing the experience – pushing the envelope, taking things further. Then somebody else can hear that and be influenced, we can hear it… it’s a cultural exchange. We’re happy to push the envelope further – and we hope that there’s someone on the horizon who can take it in another direction. We’ll be looking for them!

Flourescent Black is released via Big Dada on 7 Sep.