Silibil 'n' Brains: the Prank they're Making into a Film

If you were down with your American hip hop back in, say, 2003, you may have distant, hazy memories of a Californian rap duo who came bursting onto the scene, touted by some as the next big rap import from the West Coast. They were called Silibil 'n' Brains, a cheeky, outspoken hip hop outfit from Hemet, California. They had a record deal with Sony and Jonathan Shalit, a.k.a. The Man Who Discovered Charlotte Church for a manager. They were living the high life – private parties, all access passes, award ceremonies, cash, girls...

Feature by Hannah Morgan | 10 Nov 2008
  • Silibil 'n' Brains

The only problem was that these two hip hop upstarts weren't from the West Coast at all. They were actually straight outta the East Side. Of Scotland. What started out as a cheeky experiment by two Dundee art students had spiralled more than a little out of hand.

Five years on and that experiment will soon be turned into a film, and Irvine Welsh is apparently on board to pen the screenplay. We caught up with Billy Boyd (a.k.a. Silibil) to find out more.

Tell us how it all started? How did you go from being art students in Dundee to faux-American rappers with a £150,000 recording deal?

Basically we were two art students who met in Dundee, with a joint love for real hip hop, skateboarding and snowboarding. We began making music together (rubbish at first, I won’t lie) but quickly developed a skill in writing rhymes to the point that we decided to record some tracks. Once we were happy with a demo the next step was to try get signed. Simple right? We started calling up management labels in London stating that we were two rappers from Scotland. We were rewarded with a number of people hanging up on us, laughing at us and all round not taking us seriously.

So what set the ball rolling?

Angered and armed with the Jerky Boys back catalogue, for a joke, I once called a company in an American accent claiming to be from California. I told them we were spending time in the UK. We had a demo, would they like to hear it? Yes they did, it appeared. We then formulated a plan to get one over on the industry. We would become these alter egos, get signed, become superstars and then at our peak announce our true heritage, making a fool of the industry that denied us as Scots in the process.

What happened next?

We were invited to play a showcase in London, where we were spotted by an A'n'R at Universal who approached and asked the fatal question... 'Where are you from?' And that was it - from that answer of 'California' we knew there was no turning back. He recommended we got a manager - enter Shalit Global, who then touted us around the labels. A bidding war started and we ended up signing to Sony Records.

Tell us a bit about your experience of fame... any particular highlights/low points?

For me, it was definitely the shows. Playing live and performing is always going to be my high point. We headlined university tours, toured with D12, played the Nass festival... Another highlight has to be the Brit awards. I was at the Brit awards with an access all areas pass. One minute I'm partying with Kelly Osbourne, the next laughing with David Walliams and then playing drinking games with Green Day. All under the pretence I'm American and they all have no idea.

How easy was it to pull the wool over people's eyes? Were there any moments when your cover was almost blown?

God yeah there were moments. One time we were out having drinks with people from the label when across the bar Gav made eye contact with a girl we knew from Dundee. She tried to make her way over, but we managed to convince the guys to head to another bar before she did. As far as keeping up the pretence goes I think it became second nature to us. I began to find it harder speaking in my Scottish accent than my adopted one, and I think bizarrely the more drunk I got the more American I became.

Now your story's being made into a film, and we hear Irvine Welsh is writing the screenplay. How did all this come about?

Basically, we documented our whole time in London on video and in journals. Gav has turned his journals into a chapter-by-chapter breakdown which will be made into a book next year. The agents got in contact with a few companies and Irvine Welsh was very interested in the story, being a fellow Scot. He's now signed up to write the screenplay for the movie. It doesn't get much bigger than this really.

Apart from the film, what else does the future hold for Silibil 'n' Brains?

Since I left London I've started a project called Concrete Jungle Collective. We own a streetwear boutique and art gallery in Dundee, throw events at the Reading Rooms in Dundee, produce and record music and will be working with Trainer Spotter on a CJC x Trainer Spotter clothing collaboration very soon. We're also lining up some big shows and a tour with the first big show at Edinburgh's Hogmanay party. Come see us on the Party stage! We're also lining up dates with our DJs and live performances in Ibiza next summer. As for Gavin, he's having success with his new band Hopeless Heroic - please look them up on Myspace and support their cause.

Any pearls of wisdom for aspiring Scottish rappers out there?

Hahaha.. Blag your way to the top! Nah, I think it depends on how far you want to take it, first things first. If the skill is there, the world's your oyster.