The first time I heard hip-hop duo Chiddy Bang, I was in my first year at university. The combination of Noah 'Xaphoon Jones' Beresin's fantastic production and crisp beats and Chidera 'Chiddy' Anamege's awesome raps and freestyles was just too good. The next thing I knew, I was obsessed, and The Swelly Life mixtape soon took over my eardrums. With tracks such as "Opposite of Adults (KIDS)," "Truth," "Silver Screen," "Dream Chasin'" and so many more, the pair quickly displayed their ability to take samples from music of the past and today, add some modern flavour to it and combine it with Chiddy's slicks raps in order to give the listener a truly unique take on the hip-hop genre.
While the duo have only been making music together for the better part of three years, that time has been nothing but good to them. From their beginnings at Philadelphia's Drexel University, to the blogosphere bringing them into the spotlight, to the release of multiple, praised mixtapes, and their sudden rise to fame over the past year, Chiddy Bang have shown that they not only have what it takes to make it big in the music industry, but to do something entirely unique while they're at it.
While Chiddy Bang's fanbase continues to grow, the pair are continuously giving their loyal listeners a constant stream of free music, whether it's The Swelly Life mixtape, the Air Swell mixtape, Peanut Butter and Swelly, or The Preview EP. With the (possible) Fall release of their debut album Breakfast fast approaching, there couldn't be a better time to talk to the duo about all things Chiddy Bang. Courtesy of Taco Bell and their Feed the Beat program, I had the chance to chat with Noah and Chiddy via telephone as the two landed back on the East Coast.
Some Kind of Awesome: Both you and Noah met each other back in 2008 at Drexel University. How did you two recognize each others talent and combine it into what we know as Chiddy Bang. And what was that whole initial experience like?
Chidera 'Chiddy' Anamege: Initially I was business major, you know, I went to Drexel. I was a freshman, and I was just trying to get into the studio, just trying to get, you know what I'm saying, some studio access. So, I was looking for, you know, whoever could make that a possibility for me. And Drexel, there's a studio on campus and they have a great music industry program, and the music industry majors are the only ones that have access to that studio. I had a next door neighbour who was in the music industry program, I tracked him down, day after day trying to get in there. Finally, he was like, "Yo, my boy is a producer, he's dope. You guys should link up and try to do some stuff." I was like, "Aight, fuck it." We linked up, my man started playing me a bunch of beats, and I thought they were dope. We've just been rockin' ever since. I knew there was something special about it from the first couple of beats.
SKoA: In 2009, Pretty Much Amazing showcased five of your songs, and brought you guys to the attention of a lot of people that had never heard your music. They even debuted your first mixtape, The Swelly Express. Do you attribute a lot of your success to the attention that blogs, such as Pretty Much Amazing? And how did the two of you feel once Chiddy Bang was becoming more and more well known?
CA: Initially, there was a group of websites that supported us, people like Pretty Much Amazing and Neon Gold. Initially, Noah would have a list of thirty blogs, and he would just send our music to them, and we would be hoping that a few of them would just post about our shit. And, I don't know man, it just picked up. Blogs started posting our stuff more and more, and we started getting up on The Hype Machine.
Yeah man, it was dope. We definitely owe a lot of our success to the blogosphere, and in 2009, when we were trying to break through, I guess that was the time. That was the time to be. It was definitely a good time, and with The Hype Machine, it ranked the most blogged about things on the Internet. We would be blogged about, and we would be releasing tracks, and tracks would be going number one on The Hype Machine. That was definitely a plus for us.
SKoA: The Swelly Express, your first mixtape, showcased yours and Noah's ability to combine really slick samples, good raps, and awesome freestyles. It also told the story of the two of you and your journey to meet record label executives in New York City. Tell me about these meetings you had with label executives, and why did you decide to release the mixtape for free instead?
CA: Well, we started the group on the premise of just releasing free stuff, anyways. The very first song we ever did was a song called "On Our Way," and did that for free, and we did a couple more tracks and released those for free. That was always the nature of how we tried to audition our music. So, you know, we wanted to just give it to the fans for free, instead of trying to sell it, cause it's harder to do that. You know what I'm saying? It's harder to sit there and be like, "Yo, I'm selling you this, do you want to buy it?" We thought that we could spread ourselves wide, instead of spreading ourselves thin, by, you know, releasing it for free. It was hard to put the mixtape together and put that out for free. That's what we did, though. It's a tribute to the fans every time we do it. You know, free music is amazing.
SKoA: Speaking of which, you guys did the same thing this summer with the release of the Peanut Butter and Swelly mixtape.
CA: Yeah, yeah. That was the placeholder for the debut album Breakfast. We're working on that, working on putting the finishing touches on that, and we wanted to just put a mixtape out, give something to the fans while we cooked that up.
SKoA: You also released the Air Swell mixtape last year, mostly due to the fact that you two have a huge following in the U.K. What are the differences between your U.K. fanbase and your North American fanbase? Why did you ultimately decide to put out the Air Swell mixtape?
CA: Yeah, I mean I would say that the U.K. fanbase was more on a mainstream level, because we broke through with the "Opposite of Adults (KIDS)" record that went Top 20 over there. So, a lot of people that became familiar with us was through the radio. In the U.K. they would hear us on the radio, but over here, I would say it's more people that discovered us through our mixtapes, our less known songs, and just people that became fans by following our body of work. We go out to the U.K. and we play at festivals, and it's like 8,000 people going crazy, and it's fun, but America is where we really just want to break through. And so, we're over here grinding and doing shows, and working on the album trying to get that shit to sound right.
SKoA: How do you feel having such a large amount of popularity, not only in North America, but around the world?
CA: I mean, I feel like that's amazing. You know, that people are checking for us, that's definitely a plus. It's definitely something that we're a fan of, but we can't wait to give the world our first offering, the first meal, which is Breakfast. You know, it's the first meal of the day, so you've got to eat that, you've got to start your day off on the right note. And you know, we went Platinum in Australia, we've been touring throughout Europe, and all of our stuff we've released for free. So, we just want to continue with that, sort of step it up with the release of the album.
SKoA: As well as releasing music for free, Chiddy Bang is mostly known for the use of samples. You've got a very unique sound and style that couldn't be put under one specific genre. What influences do you draw from when making a song? And what goes into the samples that you choose?
Noah 'Xaphoon Jones' Beresin: Man, that's a very broad question, cause basically I was raised on mid-'90s to '80s culture of creating hip hop. You know, people like Beatrock and J Dilla, who sold records and the hits of back in the day, and influence in new, crazy ways. And, combining that ethic with the more modern DJ ethic. I'm mostly just trying to get the most number of people dancing as possible, and that's sort of made me draw on more modern bands and sources. It was really just, you know, seeing how we could get the most people going crazy at one time.
SKoA: You've worked with a lot big names recently, such as Pharrell Williams on "The Good Life," Q-Tip on "Here We Go," as well as touring alongside Tinie Tempah in Europe. What have been the standout moments for you in your sudden rise to fame?
NB: The standout moments for me? The standout moment for me is actually not even a show that I was playing, or a studio session that I was involved in. The standout moment for me was not even related to Chiddy Bang. It was at a Big Sean show, I had just produced two records for Big Sean and his album had come out. Jay-Z and Kanye West were there, and a song that I had produced had come on. Jay-Z and Kanye West were standing next to me on the stage and they started dancing, and I just looked around and I couldn't believe it. I was just like, "Holy shit! Jay-Z and Kanye West just danced to a song that I made the beat for, that I produced. Holy shit!" I must've walked a mile and a half and I didn't even know what was going on.
SKoA: Speaking of standout moments, Chiddy recently broke the Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle, beating the previous record by over three minutes. How did it feel the entire time you were freestyling?
Chidera 'Chiddy' Anamege: Man, I don't even know how I pulled that one off. It was just, like, it was mental. I was constantly telling myself, "I can do this." You know, initially my manager comes to me and says, "MTV wants you to do this Guinness Book of World Records freestyle, and they have this new online awards show that they're watching, and they want the key part of it to be around you freestyling for nine hours." I was like, "I don't know, I've never freestyled for more than an hour." My manager sort of convinced me, though.
So, we went out to Las Vegas, started at 11:30 in the morning, and I did it until about nine something in the evening. I was just rapping, just consistently. It was cool, though, because I had television in front of me, which helped me a lot. Fans could tweet in, so I always had a fresh set of words and ideas that I could draw from. It sort of enabled me to keep up with the flow. It was amazing, and at the end of it I was presented with two plaques, one for the longest freestyle rap and the second for the longest continuous rap. That was cool, man. Just something else to add, you know.
SKoA: After Chiddy beat the Guinness World Record for longest freestyle, the two of you debuted the track "Mind Your Manners," which you recently released as the first single from Breakfast. How has the recording process been for the album so far?
Noah 'Xaphoon Jones' Beresin: Man, it's been all over the place, you know. I've done a shitload of tracks for this record, and it's been a really crazy experience because I've learned a lot. When a label as powerful as EMI can put out people like Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg, they know, financially speaking, that those are going to make a lot of money. And they know that we're living in a time where the music industry is struggling to, kind of, keep living like they have been living all throughout the '70s, '80s, and '90s. So, financially speaking, you know when they sit down in their first, second, third, or fourth quarter planning sessions and they go, "Hmm, what record should we put out?" They want to do what makes money for them and the company.
I mean, so it's been crazy for me, to come strictly from the making music perspective, I don't know anything about the business side.I took a lot of business music classes when I was a music major, but I was only at school for a couple of months. I wasn't really prepared for the craziness of constantly pitching them songs. There were pitching sessions in Florida, then ones in London, California, New York, Philadelphia and everywhere with a bunch of writers, and Pharrell, Q-Tip, Ellie Goulding or whoever. Just to be able to see the craziness of how the label accepts what they believe is going to do well on the radio, what they believe is going to sell a lot. It's been a crazy experience, and I think we're finally at the end of it. Definitly, recording has been eye-opening.
SKoA: Any hint at a specific release date, or a tour in support of Breakfast once it's released?
NB: I would say if our album doesn't come out by November, then they're certainly not going to release it in the fourth quarter. So, that would mean we would have to wait to put it out next year. If that happens, I'll probably go over to EMI and shoot somebody. I mean, I'll get away with it (laughs). But actually, I wouldn't shoot somebody, I would express my feelings. Maybe I'll move to England, open a farm, you know, grow vegetables, like potatoes and stuff (laughs).
SKoA: I think you could do very well growing potatoes over in the U.K.
NB: Thank you. You know, the other day, we couldn't find our tour manager because the hotel had moved his room and not checked in with me, and he had our passports. I was actually contemplating what I could do over here in Wales, and I was like, "I could always be a farmer."
SKoA: You could either here sheep or grow potatoes.
NB: I know. I could always just see a bunch walking around the highways, and there'd always be a few stragglers. But, you know, I think the album will come out, and if it doesn't I'm not so worried, you know. I mean, I'd feel bad for Chiddy, but I will continue to be making music with lots, and lots, and lots of people.
SKoA: You've been putting out the Xaphoon Jones mixtapes, with Vol. 2 having come out last April. Are you working on a third?
NB: I'm not working on a third one, because it's album time right now. You know, I'm producing, there's tons I need to do, so I'm not going to put out Xaphoon Jones Mixtape Vol. 3 for quite some time. But, if the fans demand it, then I'll come back.
SKoA: Is there a specific sample that you really want to work with?
NB: I mean, yeah, but if I told you then you might tell your friends who make beats and next thing you know it'll be all over the Internet, and I'll be like, "Damn, he beat me to it!" I mean, in this day and age, it's a safe bet that anyone you meet has some kind of friend that's involved in music, somehow, or wants to be, or makes beats, or raps, or something. It's a safe bet.
SKoA: So, since we're doing the interview on behalf of Taco Bell and the Feed the Beat program, I figure it might as well be time for me to ask you about your work with them. How has your experience been working with Taco Bell and Feed the Beat? And how excited are you for the VMA pre-show this Friday?
NB: Man, working with Taco Bell, we get to do things that we would never be able to do otherwise. Like, play the MLB All-Star game, that's something that you can't just walk into and do. To get to do that was amazing, to get to be part of the VMA's is amazing, and I think we're just getting warmed up.
As for the VMA's, I'm definitely excited. Swizz Beatz is one of my favourites, I mean, I love Swizz Beatz as a producer. Maybe not so much on the artist side of things, but, as a producer, I'm such a fan. I mean, he produced "Touch It" by Busta Rhymes, which is one of the greatest beats of all time.
SKoA: Do the two of you get a lot of free food too?
NB: You know what? Our manager takes all the free Taco Bell cards, so we actually don't get any free Taco Bell. The Taco Bell people send them to our manager to give to us, and he just takes them. If you're out there, Taco Bell people, I'm going to have to give you my home address, because Anthony, [our manager], takes all of it (laughs).
SKoA: Or you could take it one step further and start a corn farm over in England, then you can make your own tacos.
NB: (Laughs) Yeah, well we're actually working on an organic Taco Bell branch.