New York natives Mark Scott and Kye Brewin are The Higher Up. Scott is an emcee with a slick and substantive delivery, Brewin is a producer with a sample-based boom bap sound. Together they make up one of the most promising young acts in Hip-Hop.
The Higher Up has a golden era formula with a modern day aesthetic. Their music is very much Hip-Hop, but relevant to the sounds and themes of today. The duo recently released their debut project, The Higher Up Album, for free. The Higher Up Album is produced entirely by Kye Brewin and features appearances by Breeze Brewin, Marcos Crespo Jr., Jannel McLean, and Wordsworth.
Mark Scott and Kye Brewin of The Higher Up spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the origins of their group, their goals in the game of rap, and the creation of The Higher Up Album.
TRHH: I got hip to y’all through a tweet from Big Ghost…
Kye Brewin: Shout out to Big Ghost.
Mark Scott: [Laughs] Yeah, shout out to him. We put out one single called “Patients” and Kye tweeted it to Ghost. I don’t think he expected him to respond.
Kye Brewin: Ghost was fuckin’ with it.
Mark Scott: Ghost posted, “Yo, this is crazy!” and I was like, “Wow.” I follow him. He’s the most honest.
Kye Brewin: We’ve been following him for years. It was mad love for him to do that.
Mark Scott: Years. So he was like, “Let me know when the album drops.” So we let him know and I guess he really likes it.
TRHH: Tell me about the song Patients.
Kye Brewing: I don’t know, I just wanted a banger, yo. I found one sample and it was cool but I didn’t know what to do with it. It didn’t stand alone by itself. I ended up coming across the flute that you hear and I had to find a way to blend the piano and the flute together. It just started coming together. It was a banger. I had to make the drums hit.
Mark Scott: Kye hit me like, “Yo, I got something crazy for you.” I walked in and he was playing it and I was like, “Wow!” it was incredible. Patients was the easiest song that I wrote. As a writer when you hear certain instrumentals you get loose. I had that done the same day, probably in the same hour.
Kye Brewin: That’s usually how we work. As soon as I send him the beat this dude is writing the whole song. He hits me back like 3-4 hours later like, “Yo, I did it.” It’s real organic.
Mark Scott: When we put Patients out I thought it was one of the songs we should lead-off with because as intricate as it is, it’s also really playful. We were sure a lot of people would really enjoy it. Now it’s got a couple thousand plays on SoundCloud and hopefully more as time passes and more people listen to our work.
TRHH: Did you guys record this album together?
Kye Brewin: We usually record it together but he goes off and writes it in his own space. For the recording part, yeah.
TRHH: Mark, what’s your writing process like? Do you write rhymes to the beat or whenever you feel inspired?
Mark Scott: When I started writing I wrote without a beat. It was like that for years. I always knew that Kye did beats. He comes from a lineage of music people who have been in this industry and have made a name for themselves – The Juggaknots, Matic Entertainment, Queen Herawin, Breeze Brewin’. He’s been doing beats for a long time. When I hit him I told I had been writing. He always had people approaching him because there are 100,000 rappers per area code in America [laughs]. I was very confident in my material. As we started coming up with concepts for projects he would send me the beat and it would be crafted so it fit my persona. Right now we’re just clicking on all cylinders because he knows where I’m going to go with it and I know where he’s going to go with it. For example, on the second verse of Patients he said, “You came in on that verse exactly how I wanted you to do it.”
Kye Brewin: Whenever I’m making beats that I know are going to be on a Higher Up project with me and this dude I immediately try to picture how he’s going to approach the song. Usually he does that. Sometimes he’ll do it in different ways. I’ll still fuck with it but I will usually make it so that he can flow over the joint.
TRHH: Kye, what work station do you use?
Kye Brewin: I use Reason. I do most of my stuff in Reason and Pro Tools. I’m starting to get into actual samplers but I started with computer beats. I started on FL Studio and worked my way up to Reason.
Mark Scott: We’re not high maintenance. We’re building this thing from the ground up. The more access we get to certain resources the more we’ll be able to adjust to that. We know from a bare bones standpoint we’re able to just come in and if there is a mic in the room, a computer, a little keyboard, and some records we’ll knock it out.
TRHH: How did you guys come together to form The Higher Up?
Kye Brewin: We was in middle school together. I knew that he liked dope music so when he came up to me I already knew what it was – we were gonna make real Hip-Hop. A lot of people approach me like, “Yo, I know you make beats,” but they don’t know the kind of beats I make. I dabble with the trap a little bit but for the most part I like my boom bap.
Mark Scott: I had a little bit of a different approach. I think that as a writer you have to be adept enough to adjust to whatever you’ve got in front of you. Also you have to be honest and you have to write something about your life experiences that people can resonate with. The first song we ever did together was Dead Presidents. I jumped on one of his beats at first back when he had a SoundCloud, back when SoundCloud was not poppin’. He didn’t know that I had joints ready for his beats on SoundCloud but I wanted to show him what I could do.
Kye Brewin: I wasn’t crazy about my beats back then.
Mark Scott: [Laughs] Hov is my favorite all-around artist just looking at him as a person and the moves that he did. It’s between Reasonable Doubt, Blueprint, and the Black Album as my favorite albums. Dead Presidents was easily my favorite instrumental at the time. When I wrote to it I wanted to deliver it right. He heard it and I guess he saw something. We were 14 or 15.
Kye Brewin: We’ve learned a lot. We know what to do and not do at this point. We spent as long as we did mainly because we’ve never released a project like this. We’re two different minds working together. That’s what took us so long, and we’re focusing on real life stuff that gets in the way. Best believe for the next project we’re going to go back to the original format where we’re just knocking out joints and throwing them y’all way.
Mark Scott: We’re just developing this formula where we’re going to really hit the gas now and keep giving everybody content and a body of work. I think that’s what’s important. I don’t think it’s important to have the one banger. You only have the one banger and eventually people are going to want to tap into what you have of substance and as an artist. We’re on that wave right now. We’re working consistently and constantly. We finally got that bug.
TRHH: How is this album different from Therapy Sessions?
Kye Brewin: First of all let me just start off by saying Therapy Sessions is a Higher Up project but it’s different.
Mark Scott: [Laughs] It’s a Higher Up project in a sense that he did all the beats.
Kye Brewin: I didn’t give it to him for a project. It was just all my old beats and he just did it. I’ve been working since I was 13, I’m 22 now. When you get 200 plays on your SoundCloud it discourages you after a while.
Mark Scott: Especially when you have an attitude that you’re better than everybody [laughs]. It’s like, why are people throwing out these duds and getting all this love? Where is it coming from? Is it real? What happened with Therapy Sessions was we were in a car and I was dropping him off. We would get together every now and again and work. I was like 19. Like he said before, sometimes real life issues get in the way. We had a conversation, and it wasn’t a fall out because he’s my brother. We had a back and forth and he was like, “I don’t know,” and when he said that I knew what he meant. The “I don’t know” question is so deep.
I’m sitting there thinking we’re on the cusp of where we could hit this road and make timeless, classic stuff that people are going to look back on and say, “That was really good and I’m still listening to it today.” We wasn’t on the same page so I said let me kick his ass. I made Therapy Sessions. I sat down with all of his beats. Some of them were downloadable, some of them were not. I would ask him on the sly, “Can you send me that one joint,” and he didn’t know what I was doing with it. I was also going through something personal at the time and that’s why I called it Therapy Sessions. By the time I was 20 I found a studio in the Bronx by the Gun Hill stop and started knocking out these songs. Shout out to D-Trackz and Mada at The Attic Studios. I eventually let Kye know about it and it ended up being better than he expected.
Kye Brewin: Yeah ‘cause it’s a bunch of old beats!
Mark Scott: [Laughs] By the time I was finished with it he was like, “Yo, I love it but damn you used all my old beats!”
Kye Brewin: It woke me up because if you could do this with all my old material that ranges back to when I first started producing, let’s go back into the studio and let’s really work and show everybody what I can really do.
Mark Scott: Therapy Sessions was a really impassioned project because of a lot of personal issues and a lot of turmoil that I was going through at the time and I voiced it. A lot of things go with that because you don’t necessarily know how that’s going to come out and I was really confident in my writing ability and in how his songs would sound. From that I did everything from scratch. At the end of the whole day I said this is a Higher Up thing because this is work that Kye put in. I tried to make something out of it and then I said, “Yo, look at this. Imagine if we sat down and did something organically.” From that, that’s how we started working on The Higher Up Album. We were doing the album before Therapy Sessions.
Kye Brewin: We took a long break from The Higher Up Album and did the second half of the album last year. It took a while and our promise to the fans is it won’t happen again.
Mark Scott: We’re in that zone right now. We’re very happy with the product but we’ve been working on this since 2012-2013. The new stuff that we have in the vault is all about progress.
TRHH: Your sound is brand new but has golden era elements. Did you consciously set out to avoid trends when recording this album?
Kye Brewin: As far as what trend? You’re talking about trap?
TRHH: Yeah. The popular drug culture music.
Kye Brewin: Here’s our thing, we didn’t wanna be associated with weed. We didn’t want to be associated with drugs. We want people to look at us for substance, for our music, and what we say, not just as something you can get high to. You can get high to our music but that’s not something we wanna be known for. We didn’t do trap because I sent him maybe five beats that we knew would be on the album and I wanted a consistent sound on the album and at the same time I wanted variety as well. We’re not against trap. If the record is right we’re gonna do it.
Mark Scott: I believe Hip-Hop is drug culture. I don’t think it’s a new thing. I’m sure 75-to-80% of these guys that are talking about certain things that are the trend now are doing it because it’s a trend. They’re not doing it because it’s the life that they came from. There are exceptions to that rule. I’m all about making your life better and making process. Actively using certain agents is a detriment to your health because you’re so far stuck in a certain environment is working backwards. I’m not an addict. Kye is not an addict. We have delved into certain things. I’ve had my own personal things. Cigarettes is on the album and it talks about the battle I had with smoking. It’s not that I don’t glorify it, but I don’t use that as my whole angle.
We just like to go in and give people insight into what we’re thinking. He does his beats and give’s insight into what he’s thinking, when I write I give insight into what I’m thinking and it’s honest, real, and relatable to everybody. But we still have fun with the music. You can play certain joints at social events. It’s not following a trend. On my Twitter bio I say that we do Hip-Hop the new old fashion way. Also with that, a lot of people think that when they’re hearing a sample beat you gotta be “lyrical miracle” and you don’t really have to do that. You can put your words together in a creative way that people can follow. They’re following your every bar, your every line, they’re following the changes in the beat, and they’re following the changes in cadence and flow. Everything comes from the mind and the soul.
TRHH: What’s the ultimate goal for The Higher Up?
Kye Brewin: Sky is the limit. I’m down to win a Grammy off of this. You got underground artists really out here making money and getting off a positive message — household names that started in the underground with samples. Sky is the limit honestly.
Mark Scott: We’re going to take this thing as far as we can, but we also know that we’re both very able artists. We have some ideas for the next one and it’s gonna be real funny for the audience. We wanna take it as far as possible because what we’re offering is refreshing. I wanna make people look at the world different than they did yesterday and hopefully that will cut through the bullshit and reach audiences on a level never seen before. I just got that passion about it. I think we can do it – I firmly believe it.
Download: The Higher Up – The Higher Up Album