featured interview

Lexicon It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the L! Honestly, rock and rap ain?t our favourite ingredients for a tasteful album. Besides the guitar riff at the end of Kurtis Blow?s ?Deuce? -blast from the past!- not many rock inputs have been able to entertain us (no, not even Run DMC and Aerosmith?s ?Walk This Way?) but Lexicon?s new EP has been a real treat to the ear. Brothers Big Oak and Nick Fury are the voices behind this refreshing L.A. rap group and first caught our attention with their splendid debut album from 2001, ?It?s The L?. With the iTunes-only release ?Rap Stars EP?, these Styles Of Beyond affiliates uplift their sound with live rock instrumentation, anticipating their third full length, which drops somewhere in April next year.

LEXICON: RAP STARS EP

?You?re my junk food, baby, I love you, but you?re killing me?, you rap on ?Junk Food?. What do you prefer: Wendy?s, Taco Bell, McDonalds or KFC or…?

Oak: (laughs) Of those you mentioned, my favourites are Wendy's and Taco Bell. I love them, and they're killing me. McDonalds on rare occasions. I don't like KFC too much. It's creepy. I don't know why, but there's something weird about fast food chicken and mashed potatoes. They have these new bowls where they throw in chicken, corn, gravy, lint, a few hairs and crushed up sleeping pills on top of mashed potatoes. Me and Nick each had one and promptly passed out for 4 hours.

Nick: Our boy's studio is right near a Wendy's so when we were recording this we would order only from the .99 cent value menu. $3.22 a day! Unless we were really hungry, we called those $4.29 days.

How autobiographic is the ?Junk Food? song?

N: Uhm, please see the question below.

Who?s the girl on the cover?

N: Please refer to the previous question.

The song ?Ordinary? appeared on MTV?s ?Viva La Bam?, how did that come together?

O: I think the music supervisor for that show and a few other MTV reality shows was sent a copy and they was feelin it. I'm pretty sure Bam has a say in the music on his show...I heard indirectly that he likes that song a lot. That answer was kinda boring wasn't it? I should have made something up. How's this? Bam told us he was gonna quit his own show if he wasn't able to use the track. We told him we wanted $50,000 for it. He was hesitant, so we settled for a KFC Death Bowl.

What made you decide to put out a rap record mingled with rock influences/live guitars?

N: We were just really unhappy with the state of hip-hop right now. The mainstream has turned into club music and the underground scene is nearly dead, and there was nothing inspiring. Most everything we are listening to these days isn't hip-hop, give or take a few hidden gems. So when we sat down to write this album, we didn't want to be a part of the problem... we wanted to really make something that had some musical substance to it and that offered something new to every music scene. We've had three or so different side projects over the years where Oak and I fronted a band, so the more we started experimenting with our sound for this record, we just decided, fuck it, let?s throw it all together. We were worried about turning off hip-hop fans by adding it, but this is our interpretation of hip-hop. This is ?keeping it real? to us.

O: Totally. I think what we're doing is more ?Keeping It Real? than anything else out there. Since when did ?keep it real? become ?Make up a new dance and copy the hook of the last hit song, and then maybe I will get some airplay!? I think people have forgotten that hip-hop's foundation is creativity, originality, and no biting allowed. Boy, has that changed! Even in the underground, it?s to make every syllable rhyme and make sure nobody knows what the hell you're talking about. And make sure the music is really droning and boring. I don't want to be a part of either of those things. So like Nick said, we're making music we want to make and hopefully it'll be a breath of fresh air for the people out there sick of the same old shit...over and over again.

Why did you decide to release the EP exclusively through iTunes?

O: It was more about the opportunity than wanting to make it exclusive. We've been in the studio for the last 3 years working on our new sound...polishing, writing, re-writing...it was an adventure to say the least. We wanted to release something for our fans who somehow hadn't forgotten about us yet, but it's such a process to actually release a record. Plus, we're still not done with it and we haven't found an official home for it, but in the meantime an old crew-mate and friend named Subtitle told us he just secured a deal through Daddy Kev's Alpha Pup label and the releases go directly through iTunes. The best part was that it only took a month for it to be released. That was the key. Most releases take 3 or 4 months set-up time. This was quick and got the job done. It's a teaser to show people what we've been up to, and what to expect on the full length.

N: Plus, at .99 cents a song, the more we sell, the more we can buy from Wendy's.

O: One song equals 5 chicken nuggets! I never thought about it like that. It's like those ads – ?Hey Nick, we made 15 chicken nuggets today off of 3 downloads of ?Big Money?!

Aren?t you afraid that you won?t reach a lot of your fans by releasing your EP through one medium?

O: Yes, but since it's only an EP/teaser, we figured that those who really want it will be able to get it, and hopefully the songs will spread through the Internet and by word of mouth. When we release the full-length, it'll be a full-blown release. We know we won't hit everyone with it, but we're just happy that we have new music out there, and hopefully it sets us up well for the full record. By the way, it's only $3.99 for 5 songs! Pick it up, pick it up! But also, knowing that we won't hit everyone, we just pressed up a mix tape with new and old songs on it...kind of a Lexicon retrospective while also looking forward. They're free, so we're leaving them all over town, giving them away at shows, sending them around the country, etc. Everyone will know that Lexicon is back!

N: And these days, with record stores closing left and right, R.I.P. Tower, Aron's, the digital medium is slowly becoming the most important. In the old days we would put out a 12 inch or something in a situation like this, but the times are-a-changin!

O: DJ's across the country are still playing it...they just download it rather than waiting for the vinyl in the mail. It works out fine. Thanks to the DJ's out there supporting us...it means a lot.

So this EP is followed by an album, can we expect the same songs on the album and the same style of rock/rap fusion?

N: Yes. We're hoping for a full length by April-ish of next year, we just are working out the business side of it all while we finish the recording. Definitely the same idea, this is where we are at right now. It's going to be a blend of some raw throwback hip-hop like ?Bangyahead? off of the EP, some fun dancy stuff like ?Junk Food?, and stuff in the middle like ?Big Money?.

O: There's no precedent for it, so we know it's a gamble, but we say ?if the music is dope, the music is dope?. I think those with open minds will get it, and hopefully it'll open up some minds that had been closed before. There's no reason for music genres to be so isolated from each other. Hip-hop and rock like hanging out with each other!

What about the album?s features?

N: The album will just be the L and our band! But watch for remixes. I?m not going to give anything away, but every single we release off of the album will have one or multiple remixes with guests and guest producers. Have a few already in the works, but like I said, can't give anything away yet.

O: Fuck that! The first remix features Clay Aiken and the second single will have a remix produced by the person who wrote ?Jingle Bells?. Not sure of his name, but he's really good with melodies. Sorry for spoiling that, Nick.

Are you fascinated by the mixture of rap and rock from an early age? Like were you fans of Run DMC?s ?Walk This Way??

O: Yes and no...yes in the sense that we loved rock and new wave music growing up in the 80's almost as much as we loved hip-hop in the late 80's and early 90's. There's no doubt, we're hip-hop heads tried and true, but we've never ignored other genres. And by saying ?no?, I mean that we never really were into the fusion of rock and rap. We loved ?Walk this way? like any other kid, but it never seemed extra special at the time. I think it was more about hearing groups blend rock and hip-hop the wrong way, we always knew it could be done better than the groups in the late 90's that made people think that rock/hip-hop fusion had to be real aggressive and loud.

None of those groups ever had a true MC...it was more a rocker decided he'd try rapping. We're MC?s first and foremost, and we were really into the dope Indie and garage rock that came back about 4 or 5 years ago. For the first time ever, we were loving rock as much as hip-hop. From there we decided it was time to change things up and see what happens...

N: Yeah, I have to be honest, I hate mash-ups, I hate rap rock. It's always felt cheesy to me being an emcee. And the kind of rock that was incorporating hip-hop isn't the kind of rock I like. So I had never even thought of doing it ourselves. It just happened naturally.

ROCK MUSIC

What rock groups have been major influences for your style in general and/or this album in particular?

N: The Police, 80's Rolling Stones stuff, a little ELO and ZZ Top, Super Furry Animals, and then a lot of the recent Indie rock stuff like The Stokes, Franz Ferdinand, etc. I really love how the dance and fun and slightly electro vibe is back in rock. But I love finding bands I've never heard of, scouring the Internet and other countries. I can get a spark from the strangest things...

The Beastie Boys must?ve been a big inspiration too?

O: Definitely!! If anyone is a pioneer of the rock/rap fusion, it's them. They've always been a big inspiration, but the funny thing is that they've never been my favourite group. I always would choose to listen to a De La Soul or a Tribe record over a Beasties record. But their vibe and their approach to music is amazing, and we definitely channel that a little bit I like to think. People always compare us to them, but I don't think we actually sound that much like them. I think more than anything we have a similar energy and we both make fun, happy music.

Did you fancy their early punk rock, like on the ?Aglio e Olio EP??

O: I didn't even know about it when I was a kid, but going back and listening to it now make you respect them even more. Total pioneers of this shit. I have more respect and appreciation for them than most bands.

Shall we begin about Limp Bizkit or rather not?

O: Well, I kind of alluded to them before. I mean, you have to respect them for how far they took their music. I see Fred Durst around sometimes in LA, and he's into our music which I think is cool. He may not be a good MC, but he does understand music. I know a lot of people don't respect them, but they hustled and were in the right place at the right time and rolled with it. You can't hate em for that! I just think the rap/rock sound is way more than what they did, but it's not totally their fault that people relate the rap/rock sound to their sound. There just haven?t been any other groups that did it any better.

N: They've actually made some decent songs. ?Faith? was awesome and the one Premier produced was dope. It's cool, I think people took it too seriously. For what it?s worth, it?s not that bad.

What about Body Count?

O: When that dropped, I really wasn't feelin it. It was too hard for me at the time. I just wanted Native Tongues music non-stop. But when I listen to it now, that was some real innovative shit. Ice-T is a genius.

N: Yeah it scared the shit out of me. A couple of my friends were obsessed, because it was hip-hop's permission to buy a rock album, but I never owned it.

Linkin Park?

O: They do what they do and they do it well.

Let?s imagine you had the opportunity to invite any rock star (dead or alive) you want to feature on one of your songs, who would you pick?

N: Lou Reed. He never sounded like he gave a shit and said the greatest things. Plus he?s Jewish so we could all do a cover of ?Hava Nagila?.

O: David Lee Roth! I want to ask him how a straight man could jump around all over the place and doing rockette style leg kicks in leopard spotted tights. He pulled it off amazingly. Those old Van Halen video?s still trip me out.

And if you had to pick one member of The Ramones (dead or alive) who would that be?

O: Definitely Joey, since he was the lead and his voice was so weird and amazing, and he was so awkward looking, but still a total rock star.

RAP MUSIC

Back to rap music: what was your first rap record?

O: Mine was Run DMC ?Raising Hell?. Shortly after that, I had Big Daddy Kane's first record, Kwame's record, Audio Two and Public Enemy?s ?It takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back?. I lived on those when I was little kid. I can't remember what the original allure was, but I was hooked immediately.

N: I can't remember which was first, but it was either Kool Moe Dee's ?How Ya Like Me Now? or Rob Base and EZ Rock ?It Takes Two?.

What or who made you decide to go rappin?

N: We were just absolutely obsessed. Music was big in our family, our grandpa was a singer, our parents were constantly force feeding us whatever they were listening to. But one day Oak brought home ?Basketball? by Kurtis Blow from his friend at school, and we were hooked. It was ours, and not our parents, ya know? So the more and more we became engrossed in the culture, it was just a given we would start to try to flow ourselves. But I started writing first by a year or so I think when I was like 10. And then we would get in fights and I would kick Oak out. Luckily, we made up.

O: That's what you think. I still hold a grudge. One day I'm gonna pull a Liam Gallagher on you and walk off stage and go heckle you from the front row and throw a beer bottle at you. Is that cool?

The press sheet mentions ?Schooled by the untouchable MCs of hip-hop?s golden age 1988 – 1994?, who are some of the rappers from that era you?re influenced by?

O: From the late 80's; Big Daddy Kane, Milk D from Audio Two and the Beasties. As I got a little older, I understood the depth of the MC's better and into the early 90's is when my real influences made their impact on me; Q-Tip and Phife, De La Soul, Buckshot, The Artifacts, Inspectah Deck, Black Thought, Guru, Jay-Z, Tha Alkoholiks, Pharcyde, Del and Souls of Mischief. I still look back to those guys for inspiration.

N: Yup, all of them for me too. LONS (Leaders Of The New School, ed.) also, big time. Charlie Brown was my first big influence. Then Nas came around and flipped it all up. The greatest thing about that era was the number of artists and bands that put shit out on a major label! There was sooo much good music!! Rough House Survivors, Hard 2 Obtain, Y'all So Stupid…I was idolizing all of these groups. They were all a huge influence, every bit of it.

Which rappers do you like today?

O: There's a handful of MC's out now that I like; 50 Cent, Ludacris, Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, Common, but none have influenced me like the early 90's guys. I listen to early 90's hip-hop more than anything still.

RANDOM QUESTIONS

Do you guys skate?

N: I still have a board I use as rare transportation when all else fails, but I?m used to. But I sucked. I couldn't kick flip, everyone was better than me, so I quit.

O: Let's just say I was even worse than Nick. You should see us on Rollerblades though! Every Sunday we head to Venice Beach and grease ourselves up and go for a little skate and finish the day with a 4 hour workout. Then we go and have a gas fight like in ?Zoolander?.

What?s your favourite video game?

O: It's always been ?Madden?. I'm addicted for real. I haven't even bought 07 yet because I?m still playing 06. You can do a franchise mode and I?m in my 13th season. No, I don't have too much time on my hands.

N: ?Guitar Hero? is pretty damn amazing too.

If we say ?Belgium? what are the first things that pop into your mind?

O: Waffles and beer.

N: Double cooked French fries and Flemish.

BEING TWO BROTHERS

Being two brothers, is there a lot of arguing and discussion while working in the studio?

O: Yes and no. Sometimes we'll just be in an edgy mood and everything we say to each other makes the other annoyed. But we still can always sift through it and the music comes out right. But those are rarer occasions...most of the time we're having a blast with whoever is in the studio with us, smoking weed and making gay jokes. It's our pastime. Being brothers is so helpful in this game cause we know we have each other and can trust each other, and we're always real with each other. It helps eliminate the bullshit.

N: I love it. There is a lot of arguing and discussion in the studio with ANYONE... the good thing with being brothers is that it?s always going to work out. We work through it because we have to, we can't just quit the band and find a new brother to work with.

Being two brothers, have you ever fallen in love with the same girl?

O: Remember Annie?

N: We wanted her to live with us and we would both date her. I think I even proposed this idea to her.

O: It kinda worked in ?Gridlock'd!!?. If 2Pac and Tim Roth could pull it off, why not us?

Being two brothers, do you exchange each other?s records?

O: I like what I like when it comes to music, and will listen to my old records over and over again. Plus sometimes I?m too lazy and impatient too look for new music. Nick on the other hand is always looking for good new shit, so he turns me on to tons of new bands. He's like my weekly music magazine!

N: Yeah; I spend a lot of time hunting for new cool music, so I'm always making mix tapes and always trying to show him something.

Being two brothers, have you never thought of collaborating with someone else from the family?

N: We're kind of the black sheep's in our family... so, um, no. But like I said earlier our Grandpa was a singer. He sang with Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Maye West. We have some recordings on record of his stuff with Tommy Dorsey's band and then some solo demos. We've been tempted to do sample him for a hook of a song, but it would have to be perfect. For his respect and ours. He passed away in ?87 so I'm not sure if he would have liked hip-hop much. (laughs)

Being two brothers, is blood thicker than water?

O: Yessir! Lexicon will always be me and Nick. If it's not, than Lexicon doesn't exist. So yeah, we couldn't do this without the other...no way. We each have roles, we manage ourselves, and we make music that only we could make together.

N: Completely. We've always been in our own little world, even before we named it Lexicon. We've been through a lot, in life and music, it would be an impossible bond to even crack. (That was for the girls)

Being two brothers, are you fans of…

The Doobie Brothers?

O: Yes!! ?What A Fool Believes? is one of the best songs ever. I do have a best of Michael McDonald CD!

N: Agree completely. Strangest coolest white guys ever.

The Isley Brothers?

N: So, so. Never really got into them beyond looking for samples.

O: Yeah, I like a few of their songs but I'd never put on their records when chillin out.

The Jungle Brothers?

O: They were my least favourite of the Native Tongues, but still really dope. Don't own any of their albums.

N: Yeah I owned their first one, I can't think of the name right now (?Straight Out The Jungle?, ed.) But they were never my favourite. They always seemed like they were too old for me to like, I have no idea why.

The Chemical Brothers?

N: Not a huge fan, but ?Dig Your Own Grave? is in my Itunes, even though I don't remember ever buying it. (laughs) I love how they all of their influences into one song but it meshes into its own thing. But I'm rarely in the mood to put it on, just a bit intense for a Sunday drive.

The Mountain Brothers?

O: Don't have their albums, but I like them. I like Chops production a lot.

PLEASE COMMENT!

Spytech Records:

O: Great label with great talent...there's nobody out there like Styles of Beyond.

Louis Logic:

N: great guy, great emcee! And his Chihuahua is hot.

O: Great times in Brooklyn.

Demigodz:

O: I love their rugged style. It's been an honour to work with Apathy and Celph on a few different occasions. I'll always like their stuff.

N: Definitely. New York hip-hop at its best.

Count Bass D:

N: Great beats. We were actually going to work with him years back.

O: Yeah, we had picked a beat out and wrote to it and everything, but the timing never worked out. He's really dope.

Bilal Bashir:

O: I wish more people recognized him for the pioneer he is! He was there and making beats for the best of em in the late 80s and early 90's. Unfortunately some people took the credit he should have gotten back in the day. We actually recorded about 7 or 8 songs to some of his original beats from 88-91. We might put it out as a little EP.

N: Absolute Legend. We had him go to storage and break out his old disks for the SP. Going through Ice-T rejected tracks. Just amazing. We did some great stuff with him and will again soon!

Dizzy Dustin:

N: Great guy. Dustin and all of the Blown Celebs are a blast to hang out with.

O: Yeah I love all of those guys...such great times. And his verse on our track ?party party people? was the shit.

Drink And Drive, Mix Drugs, And Have Lots And Lots Of Unprotected Sex:

N: normally on Tuesday nights, but occasionally it will extend into Wednesday.

Los Angeles:

O: The perfect mixture of fun, beauty, and strangeness.

N: Another one my junk foods, baby.

The perfect girl:

N: That's an oxymoron

O: If she's great looking, than hopefully her heart and mind are just as great looking.

Best pick-up line ever:

O: Hey baby, want to hear me freestyle, or maybe listen to my beats? Just kidding. There are no good pick-up lines. You just gotta say the right things at the right time.

N: I just wear a fedora and tip my hat when they walk by...?laaaaaaaaaaaaadies?. It's kinda creepy, really.

What can we expect from you in the future?

N: Lots of great music, and never the same album twice. We are just getting our feet wet even though we have been at this for so long. I have no idea where it is all going to go, and I can't wait to find out.

Shout-outs?

O: The people who we've been locked inside the studio with for the past 2-3 years: C-Minus, Chris Lee, Jason Z, Mr. Pauley, Ed, Fil and the rest who help us bring our ideas to life.

N: And Belgium!

 

POSTED 11|01|2006
conducted by cpf

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