Friday, March 18, 2011

Local Hip Hop Artists Talk Music

On Friday, Feb. 25 The Specktators (right) and Green Skeem (below left) performed a double-threat "electrohop" (yes, we did make that up) show at The Landshark in downtown East Lansing for the second time this year. Before the show, VIM was able to speak with the aspiring entertainers. Below is what they had to say.

VIM: How long have you been involved in music and what was it that got you started?
Courtney Rodgers (of Green Skeem): We didn’t begin performing until after spring break of ’09 when we created a song, kind of as a joke. I used to beat box just for fun, so music has always been in my life.
Dan Wiseman (of Green Skeem): Originally we were just doing our own thing and then the two of us teamed up because we had the same fan base (we’re from the same town). I was always more of an athlete, sports guy than musical.
Matt Duda (of Specktators): I started making music way back in my sophomore year of college as an experiment with my roommate, using different kinds of music and vocals. This eventually evolved into the creation of an online mixtape. After a while, I realized my brother can rap better than me so we teamed up and I began to focus more on the production end of things.
Patrick Duda (of Specktators): I was lucky enough to gain interest while I was still in high school, since I’m younger than my brother. Upon graduation, I moved in with [him] and we messed around for about a year and a half.

VIM: What influenced you to lean toward hip-hop in your style as opposed to another genre of music?
CR: Fans of hip-hop seem to be the most accepting of our sound, currently, which is actually more of a mix of the electronic and pop genres, though we really do not have a “genre.”
DW: [Hip-hop] is definitely not even our favorite [type of music]. We really like dubstep, classic rock and techo, but [hip-hop] was something we could do together without having a whole band or playing instruments.
PD: We’re a little different [from Green Skeem] in that hip-hop has always been my personal favorite, while [Matt] kind of turned me on to liking techno as well. I’d have to say our music falls under “electropop,” though we don’t really have a genre.

VIM: Are there any specific artists that have influenced your music?
CR: We typically take a lot from everything, [though] I really like Outkast . . . Andre 3000 is ridiculous.
DW: Everyday experiences are our biggest influences — more events than [specific] people.
MD: Structure-wise we’re influenced by a lot of new [acts] like Chiddy Bang, Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean. Though we do enjoy classics like Kanye West and Eminem, too.

VIM: What kinds of things do you do to prepare for a show like tonight’s?
CR: Often I have a drink or two to loosen, shake the nerves. We [also] usually start the day with [breakfast at] Denny’s.
DW: We’re around each other all the time, chilling at each other’s places [in the days leading up to a show]. It seems like we’ve been together for a really long time.
MD: Because we have such good chemistry, it makes performing not seem like work or a chore. It’s fun.

VIM: Can you tell readers a little bit more about the show.
PD: We are two separate groups, so we started REFS (for Repping Everything Flawless) as a collective. It’s us and everybody that supports us. We want everyone to be a part of our efforts.
MD: We realized that we can’t achieve anything [alone].

VIM: Do you have any advice for students interested in breaking into the music industry?
CR: You have to work. A lot of people think [success] just happens. Especially coming out of East Lansing you have to work twice as hard.
DW: This isn’t our job and we have tons [of other things] going on. That’s the cool thing about being on a college campus — it’s what rap is all about, working and making things happen.
MD: Hip-hop is so popular right now and, in essence, is easy to start up. You really have to grind and work hard.
PD: You have to invest in yourself. I can’t tell you how much money we’ve spent on improving our music. For example, you have to avoid [buying] that new pair of shoes.

VIM: Okay, so this is totally random, but what do you think of Fox’s GLEE?
CR: I saw it once, but [think] it seems so fake.
MD: I think [the idea behind] it is pretty cool but would never watch it regularly.

VIM: Anything else you’d like to add?
CR: We do everything online and all [of] our music can be downloaded for free.
DW: Our first EP is titled Michigan Left and we try to come out with new songs as often as possible.
MD: I learned a lot from being solo about the importance of utilizing online tools. Most importantly that CDs were a big waste of money and that if people want your music, really want it, they’ll find it. It takes you about six months to do a project. We call our philosophy of constantly release music a “Never-ending Mixtape.” If we don’t have a show, people need [ways] to connect with us and now is the time. We’ll be releasing 6–10 new songs next fall.

Check both acts out at The Landshark (again) on Friday, March 25 at 8:30 p.m.

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