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YRB Interview: Chiddy Bang

Chiddy Bang has been relentlessly touring since bowing on the scene a few years back. Most recently, Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege and Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin partnered with Taco Bell for their “Feed the Beat” campaign, releasing their Pharrell-assisted song “The Good Life” on the restaurant chain’s Facebook page.

Aside from their business ventures, the Philly hip-hop duo dropped their new mixtape Peanut Butter and Swelly today in anticipation of their debut album Breakfast, dropping in August. YRB caught up with the guys to chop it up about Chiddy breaking the Guinness World Record for Longest Freestyle (he finished in 09:15:15), why they changed their album’s name to Breakfast, why it’s taken so long for it to drop and what we can expect on their new mixtape.

YRB: Chiddy, you broke this awesome record. Did you ever think to yourself at any point before attempting the freestyle that you wouldn’t make it?
Maybe in a couple weeks prior to it, when it was building up. My man was like, “You gon’ do this!” and I was thinking about it like… I never thought I wasn’t going to make it, but I was like, damn! This is going to be tough! I never rapped for more than an hour. How am I supposed to rap for 9? And freestyle at that? But I just had the confidence to pull through and accomplish it, really. I tried not to think about it too much, the fact that it’s a Guinness World Record and I tried to have fun with it. I had people with me that were important to me. I had my brother with me, I had Xaph on the DJ set, I had my manager there. So it was all straight. It was good.

YRB: How did you prepare? Did you read a rhyme dictionary or anything like that?
Nah, man.
Xaphoon: I was trying to get him to prepare, but he wouldn’t listen. He was like, “Nah, don’t worry, I got it!” I was like, “No you don’t.” I guess he had to prove it.

YRB: What goes through your mind when you’re rapping for 9+ hours straight? Do you even think?
At that point, it becomes mechanical in a sense. You sort of hit cruise control and you just coast, and you just ride it and continue to. I probably could have kept on rhyming longer, but MTV had other plans. They wanted me to go right into the performance. So if it wasn’t for that, I probably would have pushed it to like 10 hours. I think that’s a little cooler, rhyming for 10 hours. But going through my head, it’s just like damn, we doing this. This is crazy. The day of the actual freestyle, MTV interviewed me and was like “What is your take on it?” I was like, when this thing is all over, hopefully people will see how difficult of an accomplishment this actually is. I definitely saw it. It was never something where I was like “I can’t do this,” but it was like wow, this is definitely going to be putting myself to the test.

YRB: Were you turned off from rapping afterwards?
We have a freestyle portion of our set that we usually do, and we perform and stuff like that. And I had to cut them for a bit. A brief hiatus from freestyling during the show. It was like, I just came off the nine hours, I need to chill. It was definitely a break there with me and freestyling, but I’m back at it.

YRB: The album’s been on the way for a minute. What’s the hold-up?
Man, I guess just trying to reach a happy compromise with the label. Just trying to basically give them the hits that they want, but also be true to what we want to do as artists. I think that’s the biggest conflict that artists have right now with their labels. The labels see themselves making less and less money, so their pressure is to come with radio singles that are going to sell more and more, and we see artists getting pushed to radio more and more desperately and in turn, we want to make more underground, boom bap stuff that we find as pure. You either play the game or you don’t, so what’s taken so long is compromise, sample-clearance, mixing – just getting everything perfectly in place. We don’t want to put out this record until it’s the absolute best. You only get one first album, so we’ve just been taking the time to do it right.

YRB: Is that frustrating to have to compromise with your music?
It’s only frustrating in the sense that learning in high school or college is frustrating in the sense that there are challenges and you learn things, but this is an area that we’re both new to and we’re both learning. We might not be in it forever but we are right now, so we’re learning and adapting. There are awesome parts and not awesome parts, but for the most part, it’s pretty awesome.

YRB: I take it the album isn’t finished?
It’s pretty much there. The album’s going to come out in August, I think. Right now, we’re tying down mix issues and stuff. But we do have a mixtape coming out.

YRB: What’s on there?
It’s going to be wild things. We got a lot of new material, we got a lot of individual remixes that never came out, we got a lot of stuff that did come out but was individual releases. We’re touring in summer, dropping the full-length in August.

YRB: What’s one track people are going to love?
There’s a clip from one of the songs in the mixtape in our trailer called “All Over” that samples a song by the Smiths’ front man Morrissey. People are going to be like, what the hell? They’re getting weirder and weirder with their sample choices.

YRB: Are you consciously trying to expand your sampling horizons?
The only thing I’m trying to get away from in sampling is the notion that we have to sample a really big song to make a big song, or the notion that I have to sample someone else’s hook and make it my own. What our goal is with “Manners,” which is the first single off of Breakfast, is to take a song that virtually nobody knows about and combine it with our style and make it a huge song. But on the record, you’re going to see a lot of instrumentation, playing guitars and pianos and percussion and stuff. You’re going to see lots of unexpected sample choices, African choirs and horn symphonies from the 1940s. When we did it back in 2008, no one was sampling MGMT. Now, everybody is sampling that kind of stuff. So we’re going to try and push the envelope even further.

YRB: What made you change the name of the album from The Swelly Life to Breakfast?
Breakfast is just more accessible. More people can relate to that. Everybody loves breakfast, can’t really hate on that. It’s the first meal of the day, this is our first offering.
Xaphoon: It’s like calling your album “Children.” Is someone really going to publish an article being like “Fuck children! I hate them!” You can’t hate on children. It’s universal and the most important meal of the day. We always happen to be having good things happen to us while we’re having breakfast. After a crazy show, we always go out for breakfast. We’re very passionate about it. Our crew of writers and producers is called the Breakfast Music Family International. We’re going to take it there in 2011.

YRB: What records will definitely make the album?
The album is all songs that you don’t know.
Xaphoon: There are no songs on there that you’ve heard before. Except for the mixtape, which might have a few remixes. Like “Young Blood” that we did for The Naked + Famous and stuff like that. The mixtape might have a few songs, but the album is 100 percent fresh and new. So you won’t know until you hear it.

YRB: You collaborated with some big names. What’s your most coveted collaboration on the album?
I think with our album, we tried to kind of keep it like Nas said. There’s a famous Nas quote from the song “Got Urself A Gun,” in which he says, “My first album had no famous guest appearances / The outcome, I’m crowned the best lyricist.” Not that we’re not going to have features on the album. There’s a lot that’s in the works or we’re mixing or getting things signed off on, but at this point, we don’t want to say anything and then not have it make the album or different things. So we’re going to keep our lips sealed on features.

YRB: You guys recently teamed with Taco Bell. What made you want to get involved with them?
We’ve been on so many college tours and last summer, we did a whole American tour. All east coast, all west coast. We constantly find ourselves going to late-night food stops like Taco Bell. And when they approached us to be “Feed the Beat” artists, we’re like, this makes perfect sense. And that’s how we got into talks with them about doing the remix that’s available. I actually did the remix. It’s available for free on the Taco Bell Facebook. It’s one of our songs, “The Good Life,” that we did with Pharrell. But I kind of made a brand new beat for it and flipped it around, so that’s available for free and we’re going to do a whole bunch of cool projects with them. We’re launching the mixtape with them, so that’s popped off.

YRB: What else is in store?
I think you can just look at it like this: mixtape, the summer is devoted to festivals, and then the album’s going to drop. After that, it’s question mark question mark.
Chiddy: How many will we sell?
Xaphoon: Will my mom like it?

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