October 26, 2009

Night of the Living Bassheadz

Photos by Omar Mouallem
Photos by Omar Mouallem

Nes One and DJ Agile Agilities might be better known locally as “the twins,” but they are planets apart in style from that marginally successful mid-90s G-funk duo. Artistically, they are Night of the Living Bassheadz, two twin brothers — one emcee, one producer/DJ — with a cohesive sound influenced as much by rap as it is by cinema. Over the years, they have been integral to Edmonton’s hip hop scene, organizing weekly bar nights and open mics. Lately, they’ve been under the radar, working on their debut album, Audio Revolver, and short films that utilize hip hop elements.

From your band name and the countless movie clips sampled on the record, it’s obvious one of you or both are movie buffs. What are the movies that influence your music?

Nes One: A lot of movies influence our music. This album is actually a concept album where the samples are like another character in the album. Especially for Agile; It’s him speaking to the listener without grabbing a mic. As for influential movies, we wanted to use the movies we grew up watching such as Full Metal Jacket, Natural Born Killers, Taxi Driver, Roots, JFK, Wizards, and Afro Samurai. These movies had an impact on our lives because they had multiple meanings in them that were expressed in the most artful way.

What kind of movie samples were you looking for when trying to make the dark, sort of macabre beats?

Agile: I was trying to look for samples that meshed with the tracks. Samples give the track it’s own personality and visual story for the listener. With this album we came up with a concept and wanted to provide a beginning and ending for the album. It came out dark because of where we were living at during the creation of the album. The environment we lived in (Edmonton’s 107 Avenue and 105 Street) was dark, gritty and emotional, and we reflected that in our music. Especially with the samples, beats, lyrics and cuts. We used the “Jimmy Hendrix Big Bang Theory,” which is: Start with the big chaotic impact in the beginning and then finish with the beautiful completed final piece at the end.


Nes One, you’re going to school for TV and film, right? Has this expanded your musical reach or talent?

Nes One: Yes, it has expanded my musical reach by introducing me to a whole different audience. It’s also challenging for me, because it’s a whole different art. Last summer my first film Ronin’s Rungot screened at Nextfest. It was exciting to see my finished work on a big screen in a packed theater house. It was fun, because I got some laughs… Also I just completed a new film called Drop Dat Beat, a short documentary about beatboxers in Edmonton. I got a standing ovation when the film was first screened. That gave me a sign that I’m on the right path with my films. Plus I was very happy because it was a mixed crowed of people young and old who had no clue hip hop existed in Edmonton.

None of these films couldn’t be done without the music of Agile. He really has a gift when scoring films. He’s done at least six film projects with people who don’t do hip hop music.

Debut albums usually take the longest to complete. And from the fact that I collaborated with you on the song “Modern Day Slave” over a year ago, I know that, despite it being so long ago, it was one of the last tracks recorded for Audio Revolver. What was the timeline of your album like?

Nes One: We started recording our album in the end of 2006 and finished in the summer 2009. When we completed our video last July, we were basically finished with the album. If you watch the video “Shut Off The Machine,” it’s the unmastered version fresh off the mixing program. We did this album with a full D.I.Y approach. Not only learning how to make the beats but recording and mixing as well. It wasn’t easy, but it was a life-learning experience because of that the music meant much more to us than anything else that was going on in our lives. Growing up on ’90s music was more impacting and meaningful. We wanted to add that vibe and feeling while creating the album, because now the music industry likes to create gimmicks and product rappers. Audio Revolver was the counterattack of that. Yes, you can do music in your home and basement, yes you can produce, and promote yourself — just as long as you take each accomplishment one step at a time you will have success in this game.

Nes, you rap a lot about the brainwashing, conformity and subservience of black people. How do you think blacks are perceived in Edmonton? What was it like 10 years ago for blacks?

Nes One: There was a lot of ignorance toward black people when I was growing up. I believe the racism is caused by the lack of understanding ones’ culture. If the school systems in North America started to teach about true African culture — people like Imhotep, the first engineer; Kushites, Nubian Royalty who taught the Greeks and Romans; Benjamin Banneker, who mapped out the architecture of Washington D.C. — the blind fold on a lot white people’s eyes would be lifted. The sad thing is the school system wants to keep the youth dumb, deaf and blind, so they can produce sheep who are slaves for the continuous cycle in the system.

I work with a lot of ignorant people who think the African culture has not contributed to our world, when the African culture birthed our civilization. When I mention these names of great African people [to others] they’re surprised. This is mainly caused by eliminating ones’ history. If you delete ones’ past, how are you going to survive the future?

Night of the Living Bassheadz

Agile, do Nes’s rapped ideas also represent your philosophies on society? Or do you disagree sometimes?

Agile: I agree with him completely. My beats fit with his lyrics and his lyrics fit with my beats.

What input do you have in Nes’s rhymes? Are you closer because you’re brothers? Or does that make you more protective of each others’ ideas?

Agile: Nes says the things that I want to say, it’s just that I can’t rhyme. Sometimes I come up with a concept after we have a serious talk about some issues, then we put it down on our music.

I know this question is more suitable for Tiger Beat magazine, but do people mistake you guys ever? If so, how does one distinguish between the two of you?

Agile: We look totally different now that we are older. I have hair and Nes One has a shaved head.

When I first moved to Edmonton, you guys were key organizers in the local scene with 180 Degrees open mic nights, then Wildstyle Wednesdays for a while before new management took it out your hands. Why did you guys step out of the scene so suddenly? Was it just your schedules?

Nes: First of all Wildstyle Wednesdays never got taken out of our hands. We simply just passed the night to iD because we felt that we had to focus more on our music and our label, On the Grind Records. We felt that we contributed a lot to the Edmonton hip hop scene, and it was time to pass the torch to someone new. We’ve been contributing to the scene for almost 10 years. Agile Agilities was the one who came up with the name Wildstyle Wednesdays. I even used to do radio segments of the hip hop scene for CJSR back in 2002, getting interviews of local artist and visiting artist who came to Edmonton. Now it’s good to see new heads coming into the game, contributing to the scene— that’s what hip hop is all about.

The tough thing about doing hip hop in Edmonton is having hip hop nights on weekdays. These fucking bar owners are afraid of the hip hop crowd. What we need to do is bring hip hop back on a Friday or Saturday, just like the old school Velvet Underground Days. We need to bring that back! These bar owners need to stop acting like pussies and man up on bringing hip hop back on weekends.

How has Edmonton’s hip-hop scene changed over the last few years? Is there anyone locally — new or old — that you’re excited about?

Nes: The scene has gotten more diverse and original. I remember when artists [in Edmonton] were unoriginal and had no clue on what hip hop was. A lot of artists thought hip hop was all about bitches, hoes, drugs, and all that other stereotypical bullshit. Plus the radio stations like the Bounce lied to us about wanting an all urban station. Now The Bounce plays Nickleback and Britney Spears and other corny shit. But now we have MySpace and YouTube that counter that crap and it helps the true artist. Plus, we’ve been liking all the new artist emerging out of Edmonton. 2009 has been a landmark year for all local artists.

Who are some of these landmark rappers?

Agile: Juice, Hotep, Architect, ExcLOUusive, Defiance, Lil Bajin, Sharp 1, Riot, Humble Sun, even local artists who do other music genres like Jamie Valtrie. Some of theses artist are producers as well, and are leaving an impact in Edmonton.

Of course, everyone here on UGS has been talking about the Touch/K-Blitz battle. Since you guys don’t frequent the boards, I was wondering what your opinion on the battle was? Do you think it was productive?

Nes One: It’s hip hop, this shit happens all the time. I just hope the artists who are beefing don’t take it to heart, because two years from now Touch and K-Blitz will be laughing about this beef, drinking beers, smoking blunts and recording tracks together. It’s all part of the game.

Shout outs?

Nes One: Black Friday!


17 Responses

  1. Solid interview. Cant wait to hear the album. As a younger cat coming up in the scene, listening to these guys and seeing how they perfect their craft I got a lot of respect for that.

    These fucking bar owners are afraid of the hip hop crowd.

    Truest words I ever read. Not only bar owners, venue owners too!

  2. ^^ Workinonit…

    This record is going to surprise a lot of people. It’s grimy as hell, and everything is on point. It’s obvious these guys put a lot of effort into honing their craft, which is something A LOT of artists in Edmonton need to focus on doing.

    1. ^^^
      If you don’t feel the need to drop names than why bother saying something like that?

      anyways this interview was a fine read, peace to the bassheadz

  3. ^^ I don’t know all of the artists names in the city, Chris – that’s why there’s no names mentioned.

    You know just as well as I do that there’s plenty of rappers in this city that are busting out half-assed CD-R “mixtapes” in hope of getting some props.

    These are the artists I’m referring to.

    I have no issues telling artists by name that they need to put in work, but I’d also be willing to bet the majority of them don’t even come on this board anyways, so why name drop?

    Also, why do it online when I could just tell them when they try to pass me a copy of their half-assed CD-R?

  4. Supreme Being Unit rip-off! 😉

    But for real, if either of those guys reads this, I’d be done to do up a review of the album for either Exclaim or Urbnet.com. Word.

  5. The CD Release performance was amazing. The songss they do with the live band – Omega Theory, so much soul. Reminds me of the roots, but more Rock. Coped the album and my fav track – Soul Music Vol 1 + 2

    Dave is an AMAZING graf artist as well. (Didn’t see that medntioned)

    1 luv

  6. I just saw this interview. It’s a good look for “The Twins” and the Edmonton Hip Hop scene.

    Nes – Thanks for giving me a shout out. I appreciate it.

    BTW, just so it’s clear I’m a beatmaker and not an MC.

    You can check out some some samples of my beats at http://www.myspace.com/exclousiv

    I’m hoping bigger and better things in 2010 for the WHOLE E-Town Hip Hop scene.