In House With Chiddy Bang: Rap Duo Meet Keith Richards
Gino DePinto, AOL
"We're the rap game interns," Philadelphia native Xaphoon Jones admits to The BoomBox. The producer, one half of the rap outfit Chiddy Bang, has no qualms about labeling himself and his partner, rapper Chiddy, as such. After all, the 21-year-olds first emerged on the scene in 2009, and have experienced three years in the trenches of the music business. Mixtapes have been released, music videos have been sprinkled throughout the Internet and they're finally laying claim to their first official album, 'Breakfast,' due Feb. 28.
Chiddy Bang may be relative newcomers to the hip-hop spectrum but they've already accomplished some eye-opening triumphs. Last year, Chiddy, who lives in the heart of the Poconos in Penn., did what no other rapper could; he spit verses continuously for more than nine hours, breaking the Guinness World Record for Longest Freestyle Rap, as well as the Longest Marathon Rapping Record, all while Xaphoon supplied the beats and support for his rhyming cohort. Besides that insanely awesome achievement, they also recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of a rock legend, the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, and debut the visuals for their album single, 'Ray Charles.'
Read on as Xaphoon and Chiddy explain the inspiration behind their new song -- and showcase the video below -- plus share their memories of blowing smoke with Keith and reveal what other gems they'll be giving on 'Breakfast,' which can be pre-ordered here.
What was the inspiration for the song 'Ray Charles'?
Chiddy: The first legend that inspired it was Ray Charles. The real legend is my brother, Cheeseburger Don. Basically it was a late night studio session. We were all smoking a little bit. [Xaphoon] actually wasn't there, he had come earlier. At the end of the night [Cheeseburger Don] had these shades on.
Xaphoon: Basically how this worked was, Chiddy was writing. Cheeseburger had the shades on smoking, he's smoking or whatever and because it's so late and it's 5[AM], he just kinda passes out.
C: I just looked at him like, "You're on your Ray Charles right now." It was on a whole other level. And then I went into the booth and laid the song down.
People may be confused with all the releases that you've put out up until this point. Just so the critics and fans know, explain what the 'Breakfast' release is.
C: Well we put a lot of mixtapes out in the past. Three mixtapes. The first one was 'The Swelly Express,' the second one was called 'Air Swell' and the third one was 'Peanut Butter and Swelly.' We had a lot of releases but we've never had an actual real release that you can go buy in the stores. That's what this debut is, that's what 'Breakfast' is. Really it's about us coming to the table early in the morning getting down on that food. This is our first meal in the game. This is our first offering.
X: Often overlooked but very important to get your day going.
What sparked the title 'Breakfast'?
C: We noticed that we would have breakfast whenever something significant would happen in our career. When we found out we went platinum, we went out the next day.
X: We were actually out at breakfast when we found out we went platinum for 'Opposite of Adults.' He was eating breakfast right before he broke the [Guinness] World Record for the Longest Freestyle Rap. It's just like a reoccurring theme. When you make mixtapes, there's a lot of informal energy. 'Opposites of Adults' we made by accident, 'Ray Charles' was kinda improvisational energy. But the album is our one chance to make music over a period of one year, two years and every time we come across something special, we're like, "OK, let's put this away." That's what this album is. It's the first step that us two are taking beyond just a kid, a microphone and a laptop.
We've all heard 'Ray Charles,' so what will be the next track you're excited about?
X: 'Talkin' to Myself.'
C: It's a really, really dope song featuring a homie from the U.K., this guy Sam Frank. He's singing on the hook. He's a writer.
X: He's really dope. It's a really good example of what we sound like when we have a budget. There's a string section, I'm playing bass, I'm playing keys. We recorded it at this place called Wendyhouse Studios in West London. We have Bluey Robinson, who's an amazing gospel singer. It's just really layered and textured and that's what we really tried to go for on this album.
C: It really feels like some Kanye-type 'Graduation' [music]. It's really sentimental.
What happens when the two of you don't agree on the songs?
C: I try to get [my manager Anthony's] ideas on everything. He makes the ultimate decision. At this point when you're an artist and you're making so many songs, you sort of need some people there to like tell you which ones they feel the most. We feel everything is a hit. Then we realized when we got signed, like other people may not feel that way, specifically the label. That's why it took so long for us to put out this project.
X: We work really well together. Every once in awhile we have to remind ourselves that we're not really a band, but we're not really one rapper, but we're not really like a rap group. We'll have a three-month period where we'll make super rappy songs, then we'll have a three-month period where we'll make super indie, dancey songs. Its just about staying open-minded. At this point we're good about bouncing ideas off each other.
Do you ever look to groups like Kidz in the Hall that are similar to your producer and rapper dynamic to get inspiration?
C: I mean I came up listening to Jay-Z, Kanye West. I found that I was always a fan of beats that had samples in it. So I was listening to a lot of Dipset like when they were in their heyday, rapping over Just Blaze beats and Heatmakerz beats and stuff. Kanye, I was a fan of 'The College Dropout' definitely and all the stuff that he's done as a producer. My favorite Jay-Z album is 'Blueprint', a lot of samples on there. It was [Xaphoon] that had the whole different like approach, listening to indie music, making beats and presenting stuff to me. That gave us what makes us unique. Take that and mix it with the rap and that's what we do essentially.
X: With groups definitely. People like Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth, Gang Starr. It's like when you put on a Gang Starr record you know how it's gonna sound from start to finish. Rappers tend to go to every producer that's had a hit that year and be like, "OK, 10 beats from these 10 producers." What ends up happening, it's like, yeah, you can make a cool album that way but the only really amazing albums that stand out to me are those producers that have a vision all the way through. That's what was really important to me about this album ['Breakfast'], that it have a nice flow to it. And because I'm producing 13-and-a-half out of 15 songs that you can definitely feel the flow. There's like a theme to it. The beauty of this album is in the details. The little moment, the textures, the intros, the interludes.
Were there any special moments you had when recording this album?
X: There's a line that Chiddy has [on the album] where he says, "I'm getting stoned while my brother rolls/ So me and Keith will probably blow it down." That's a reference to one day we ran into Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones. But unless you listen to that line a couple times you won't get it. It's almost like we made this for us and we'll probably get it more than anyone else will.
How did you run into Keith Richards? That's definitely a memorable experience.
X: We shared a studio with him everyday for like two weeks.
C: Before anyone told me that was Keith Richards, I didn't even know. I was walking down the hallway smelling like reefer and he was like, "Hey!"
X: Everyday he would peek his little British head in the door and he'd [Chiddy] be like, "Wanna smoke something?" We didn't get around to it this time, but if there was any hip-hop group that could use a weird Keith Richards sample, we think it would be us. When you are in music school and you're taking a legal class about not sampling, the Rolling Stones are given as the prime example.
What's the next step for the two of you after the album debuts?
C: Hopefully we can tour and support it, around the country.
X: I think we have goals but I think there's other stuff we just won't know until the album comes out. I know both of us want to go back to Australia for a second time. We both want to go back to the U.K. 'cause we always have fun there. Both of us would like to see the album do really well, have the tour surrounding it do really well and go into the momentum of the next album. But we honestly have no idea what life is gonna be like. It's still a learning experience.