Flosstradamus: Big Billin’

It’s no surprise that when the Hip-Hop cycle picked its new

favorite region, the Midwest got next. While Kanye and Common saw it coming,

during this natural regional progression, the categorical Hip-Hop “sound” also

evolved. So not only are we meeting a brand new locale, but we’re experiencing

music that we’ve either never heard or never called Hip-Hop until now.

 

J2K and Autobot, collectively known as Flosstradamus, have

been remixing the Chicago scene for years. Beginning with the party circuit,

launching the career of Kid Sister (a.k.a J2K’s sister), Flosstradamus made

their name from the ground up. Their knack for blending everything from rock to

rap has them moving up the ladder fast as the go-to DJs for reinventing sound.

In the midst of promoting their Green Label Sound single “Big Bills” (featuring

Caroline Polachek from electro-pop outfit Chairlift) and working on their debut

project, Flosstradamus takes a few to discuss their vision of a genre-free

world.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: What have the past three years been like for you two?

 

J2K: [Autobot] and I

started out deejaying parties in Chicago separately – he was doing

something with the Opaque Project and I was doing things with this group called

Life During Wartime. A mutual friend of ours, my roommate at the time, linked

us up. He was like, “You guys are doing the same thing as far as your sound.

You should work together.” So we met up and kinda hit it off and we started

doing little edits together. We did a remix of Twista’s “Overnight Celebrity”

and put that out on our MySpace page, basically, and we started doing parties

together at this really small bar called the Townhall Pub. We called the night

“Get Out of the Hood” because it was in a neighborhood in Chicago that people

really didn’t frequent too often. People would come to party; the first night

we did it was with our immediate friends, like 20 or 30 people. The next time

it doubled and just built and built and built.

 

Within I’d say about six months, MTV2 was doing “My Block”

for Chicago and they wanted to cover Kid Sister, who is actually my sister. She

got her start at Townhall Pub at our parties doing raps here and there before

she started taking it really seriously. MTV2 came to the party and filmed her

performing there and things just started jumping off from there. I’d say that

was two years ago, and then we started doing festival circuits and touring.

We’ve been around the world a couple of times, did Coachella twice,

Lollapalooza twice. The last two years we’ve been touring extensively and just

this last year we got to work in the studio a little bit. That kind of brings

us now to “Big Bills” and all of the stuff you’re hearing. We’re just

developing our sound and put our own records out now.

 

AHHA: When you first

came out, this movement was more concentrated in places like  Chicago, which was a breeding ground

before this scene erupted. Now it’s become worldwide, especially with the

success of Kid Sister and other artists like Santogold, M.I.A., etc. How was it

watching the scene change?

 

J2K: I kind of felt

that it was going to happen anyway. Right around the time of the MTV2 thing,

very early on in [Kid Sister’s] career, she was being courted by a certain

record label. At that point in time I was managing her, [laughs] if you could

call it that. I was on a conference call with these people and remember telling

them that I really believed 100% – and we have much respect for Pharrell

and Kanye and other major producers – but we just felt that there was a

desperate need for a new sound, especially with the way the industry is. Labels

are so desperate for something they can market. I told these people you’ve

gotta get on this while it’s hot, because in two years it’s going to be

completely inaccessible. I kinda knew it was going to happen, but it’s cool to

watch it come through.

 

Autobot: We totally

saw it coming. I mean we started out just to do something different and

something fun that wasn’t already happening. Here in Chicago there’s House

parties as in playing House music and there’s also Hip-Hop stuff, but both of

those things in Chicago were like set to their own people and they’d never let

[J2K] and I play at those parties. So we said let’s take both of those and do

our own little thing. That’s what we were doing, and there were so many

different types of people that would come to our parties because it was so

carefree. It wasn’t forced; it was just happening. We knew that something

different was going to happen. And it’s cool because we know Santi, we know

M.I.A. a little bit. It’s crazy seeing our friends come up and get big and

being a part of that too.

 

AHHA: We’re watching

artists like M.I.A. performing at the Grammy’s and both her and Santogold

getting sampled on Hip-Hop tracks. Do you see this getting to the mainstream in

a big way? Do you want it to go there or are you pleased with where it’s at

now?

 

J2K: I think that it

has the potential to, but there’s something you gotta be mindful of, and it’s

that you don’t want it to become the next like, Snap music, just in and out. I

feel like honestly Southern rap is still really present and did it really well.

There have been a lot of spinoffs down there, but for the most part, I really

like the way the South banded together and made something. I feel that when you

do that, there’s longevity to it. Certain trends I’ve seen – they can

come and go so quickly – one person does it, a million people copy it,

and then it fades off.

 

With the actual Southern rap movement, it seemed as though

there were a ton of people just like us who were making incredible music. Then

someone just shined a spotlight on it and everyone was like, wow this was going

on right under our noses forever. With us, it’ll be the same exact way. People

are gonna still make music, and with our scene people are trying to push the

boundaries. They’re trying to get more and more creative and experimental. If

that breaks into the commercial spotlight then more power to it, because we’re

trying to make a living and trying to survive. A lot of people are doing this

art and aren’t wealthy, just like Southern rap. We’re from blue collar

families. The fact that we can make a living off this and it’s commercially

tangible, I’m happy. It’ll have longevity as long as everyone sticks together.

 

AHHA: Talk about

your deal with Green Label Sound.

 

J2K: We got hooked

up with them a while back. We basically wanted to make sure we had creative

control and they said yes. The deal is kind of amazing. I’m not even gonna

front, they really let us do what we need to get done. It was cool because we

collaborated with this girl Caroline Polachek from this group Chairlift, and we

said we kind of wanted to do a dancey kind of song and she was into it. We

corresponded and sent tracks back and forth and then went out to LA to record

the song, twelve hours a day grinding and we got the song done.

 

Autobot: As far as

labels are concerned, Green Label as an official label is actually doing what

maybe other labels will be doing in the future. They’re taking artists from

different types of music and putting them on this label to release singles. The

cool thing about Green Label is they are taking artists who are killin’ it in

their fields and releasing singles and pushing it like a normal record label

would. It’s cool because we’re seeing what record labels might be doing in the

future for artists.

 

AHHA: How do you go

about deciding what tracks to remix?

 

Autobot: We are DJs

first and foremost and we know what works a crowd and gets the crowd moving. We

take that mentality when we get to the studio. We’ll hear the elements of songs

and put our own little twist on them with our own production. We know what will

go over well in a crowd and on their iPods.

 

AHHA: How will that

carry into your next project?

 

J2K: Honestly, with

us doing this new project with our original production, we’re just trying to

find our sound. People were surprised when they heard “Big Bills” but that’s

because we haven’t put out any original releases, just remixes. No one really

knew what a Flosstradamus song sounds like, and even with that song, it isn’t

like “oh that’s what they sound like.” That’s part of how we sound and what we

like, but we’re really versatile. DJ-set wise, the reason why we had a such a

good response was because we played everything. We don’t want an album that’s

just everything, but we don’t want to limit ourselves as far as what direction

we’d like to go in.

 

AHHA: Do you

consider yourself Hip-Hop, Electronic? Where do you see your music fit in a

world where a lot doesn’t fit?

 

J2K: Well genres are

actually played out. Put that on the record, the word “genre” is like so

played. It doesn’t apply anymore. So many Hip-Hop producers are doing House

tracks. When we were down in Miami working with Pharrell with [Kid Sister], we

were playing a lot of the stuff that we liked – a lot of House and

Electro and Dance stuff – and he looked like a kid in a candy store. You

can’t just call Pharrell a Hip-Hop producer or a Pop producer, he’s a music

connoisseur and is extremely talented. You could tell by how he perked up when

he heard like Boys Noize that he’s an appreciator and likes good music. That’s

like us, and when we hear something that catches our attention, we go for it.

That’s why we can remix anything.

 

AHHA: Do you ever get

any heat from Hip-Hop?

 

J2K: In the

beginning, yeah. Slowly, but surely it’s wearing off. The Hip-Hop world is very

defensive and competitive and it’s about battling and being Number One. When

anything comes out that is new and challenging, it gets defensive. I was

watching the VH1 Hip-Hop documentary the other day and it showed Outkast

winning an MTV VMA and they got booed! And Andre got up and said “The South’s

got something to say,” and they just bounced. It was incredible because look at

where they’re at now and how the South is regarded in Hip-Hop.

 

I think our situation is just like any other new situation

in Hip-Hop. Hated on at first, and slowly but surely they’ll come around. There

will always be haters, but I like haters. They motivate us. Like Katt Williams

says you need haters to let you know you’re doing your thing.

 

Autobot: We always

joke about that. When we started deejaying, the people at the shows, their

minds were blown because they had never heard anything like that before. It was

like in Back to the Future when he plays “Johnny B. Goode” and

the crowd is silent and he’s like “Oh your kids will love it.” Josh [J2K] and I

would joke when we’d see people at our shows backed into a corner and we’re

like “your kids will love it.”

 

J2K: We played a

show with Shawty Lo in like Ft. Myers and it was just rough, man.

 

Autobot: The song

was done and it was like…crickets.

 

J2K: There was like

feedback on the mic and it was like “Sexual Chocolate!” Randy Watson, [laughs].

 

AHHA: From a

business standpoint, you guys are hip to letting corporations work with you.

You have Green Label Sound now, and previously you worked with Scion. A lot of

independent artists don’t really get that concept.

 

J2K: Oh they will.

Long story short, in the economy that we’re in now, we’re just trying to

survive. We’re not buying a yacht, we’re not trying to buy Bentleys, we’re just

trying to make a living off this. Some people are like, “Man that’s selling

out!” You wanna call it selling out? I’m doing this so I can be putting my kids

through school so they won’t have to worry, their food’s gonna be on the table,

whatever. At the end of the day, if the corporation is decent – it’s not

like we’re gonna be working with Haliburton [laughs] – if it’s a decent corporation

with art in mind and we have creative control of the project, then we’re cool

with it.

 

AHHA: If you weren’t

here doing this, where would you be?

 

J2K: Probably

working at Whole Foods.

 

Autobot: Selling

mopeds.

 

J2K: We’ll just call

them “odd jobs.”

Download “Big Bills” for free here.

 

 

 

 

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