According to their folklore, electronic rap act Anti-Pop Consortium came together to "disturb the equilibrium." With left-of-center releases like 2000's Tragic Epilogue and last year's Shopping Carts Crashing, lyricists Priest, Beans and M. Sayyid and DJ E. Blaize have gotten off to a pretty good start. But they're nowhere near done.
Their third full-length album for Warp Records, Arrhythmia, hit stores April 2 and, according to Beans, is their best yet.
"I think it's a nice middle ground between the stuff that we were doing on Tragic to where we're going," Beans said, stroking his red mohawk. "It's a bit more accessible, but at the same time we didn't sacrifice accessibility for our own creative intuitions. It wasn't a labor of compromise."
Which is not to say that it wasn't a lot of labor. Much of the album was worked on while the group was on tour in Europe with Radiohead, who handpicked APC to open for them. Many of the songs were recorded in hotel rooms, and the final product was more than two months late to the label.
After spending all that time with the tunes, some favorites emerged, such as "We Kill Soap Scum," a unanimous pick. "Sayyid definitely made it cohesive by talking about people striving for their aspirations and having those latent talents bottled up," Priest said. Another song, "Conspiracy of Myth," touches on the political climate right now as it relates to the events of September 11.
"To encapsulate the whole album," Priest said, "the overall feel is just definitely individuality 'cause everything is getting to a point where it's kind of cookie-cutter formatted, and we just really wanted to have an individual voice."
The group has that going for it in spades. The live performances consist of the three lyricists not only rhyming, but also turning their backs to the audience and playing keyboards, computers and other instruments to get their signature spaced-out vibe.
"It's all about self-expression through experimentation," Beans said.
"In our circle and in the circle of people who are lyricists and MCs," M. Sayyid said, "we're known as the cats on some next. When we got together doing beats and writing, our agenda wasn't to be popular. Anti-Pop felt so true to what we were doing because when we were making joints straight to tape it was all about how ill we could be, how far we could push the limit but still stay within the realm of lyrical skills. So that's what we still try to hold down."
"Even though we have an individual voice, we're not trying to create some new subgenre," Priest added, referring to the sound that APC create by infusing hip-hop with electronic music. "At the end of the day, it's beats and rhymes and lyrics. A lot of guys that come out, they're so disgruntled with the state of the game, and our title being Anti-Pop easily lends itself to that, but it's not really a matter of being frustrated or disgruntled. It's just a matter of having an agenda to rep individually."
It's not easy to get such an individual sound, but APC's mix of influences and musical tastes sets them apart. That they all bring something different to the table is the key. "That's one thing about APC," M. Sayyid said with a laugh, "we don't always agree on everything, but I think that's the nice thing about it. We're still able to bubble."
"We're all individuals who work well collectively," Beans echoed. "That's why the variation happens from track to track, but it's all bonded and knitted and threaded by Earl Blaize."
Clearly individuality is a prevalent theme among the group, but the guys say the success of their music and the group can be broken down to something much more simple: a mathematical equation. "Beats over lyrics equals heat," Priest said.
"Cats play samplers and beats live," M. Sayyid said, speaking of himself and the other members of APC. "Plus we sing when we have to, we spit hot lyrics when we have to. I don't really know a lot of cats who are on that level. It's like, can you be lyrical as well as expansive? That's where we come in."