Flosstradamus: Big Billin'
Its 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 were experiencing
music that weve 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 J2Ks 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
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 Twistas 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 didnt 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 Id 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. Id say that
was two years ago, and then we started doing festival circuits and touring.
Weve been around the world a couple of times, did Coachella twice,
Lollapalooza twice. The last two years weve 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 youre hearing. Were 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 its 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 Sisters] 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 youve
gotta get on this while its hot, because in two years its going to be
completely inaccessible. I kinda knew it was going to happen, but its 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 wasnt already happening. Here in Chicago theres House
parties as in playing House music and theres also Hip-Hop stuff, but both of
those things in Chicago were like set to their own people and theyd never let
[J2K] and I play at those parties. So we said lets take both of those and do
our own little thing. Thats 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 wasnt forced; it was just happening. We knew that something
different was going to happen. And its cool because we know Santi, we know
M.I.A. a little bit. Its crazy seeing our friends come up and get big and
being a part of that too.
AHHA: Were watching
artists like M.I.A. performing at the Grammys 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 its at
J2K: I think that it
has the potential to, but theres something you gotta be mindful of, and its
that you dont 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, theres longevity to it. Certain trends Ive 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, itll be the same exact way. People
are gonna still make music, and with our scene people are trying to push the
boundaries. Theyre trying to get more and more creative and experimental. If
that breaks into the commercial spotlight then more power to it, because were
trying to make a living and trying to survive. A lot of people are doing this
art and arent wealthy, just like Southern rap. Were from blue collar
families. The fact that we can make a living off this and its commercially
tangible, Im happy. Itll 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. Im 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. Theyre 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. Its cool because were 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. Well 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, were just trying to
find our sound. People were surprised when they heard Big Bills but thats
because we havent put out any original releases, just remixes. No one really
knew what a Flosstradamus song sounds like, and even with that song, it isnt
like oh thats what they sound like. Thats part of how we sound and what we
like, but were really versatile. DJ-set wise, the reason why we had a such a
good response was because we played everything. We dont want an album thats
just everything, but we dont want to limit ourselves as far as what direction
wed 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 doesnt fit?
J2K: Well genres are
actually played out. Put that on the record, the word genre is like so
played. It doesnt 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
cant just call Pharrell a Hip-Hop producer or a Pop producer, hes a music
connoisseur and is extremely talented. You could tell by how he perked up when
he heard like Boys Noize that hes an appreciator and likes good music. Thats
like us, and when we hear something that catches our attention, we go for it.
Thats why we can remix anything.
AHHA: Do you ever get
any heat from Hip-Hop?
J2K: In the
beginning, yeah. Slowly, but surely its wearing off. The Hip-Hop world is very
defensive and competitive and its 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 Souths
got something to say, and they just bounced. It was incredible because look at
where theyre 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 theyll 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 youre 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 hes like Oh your kids will love it. Josh [J2K] and I
would joke when wed see people at our shows backed into a corner and were
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 dont really get that concept.
J2K: Oh they will.
Long story short, in the economy that were in now, were just trying to
survive. Were not buying a yacht, were not trying to buy Bentleys, were just
trying to make a living off this. Some people are like, Man thats selling
out! You wanna call it selling out? Im doing this so I can be putting my kids
through school so they wont have to worry, their foods gonna be on the table,
whatever. At the end of the day, if the corporation is decent its not
like were gonna be working with Haliburton [laughs] if its a decent corporation
with art in mind and we have creative control of the project, then were cool
AHHA: If you werent
here doing this, where would you be?
working at Whole Foods.
J2K: Well just call
them odd jobs.
Download "Big Bills" for free here.