From The Vault: Step Brothers

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Photo courtesy of John Lake

At the start of 2014 I had the opportunity to interview two artists I admire greatly — Evidence and The Alchemist. The two men were a newly formed group called “Step Brothers” with an album on the way titled, “Lord Steppington.”

I was excited – I’m a fan. I did not anticipate that both men would take the piss out of me for half of the conversation. In true Step Brothers fashion, they were not serious. My questions were met with deadpan absurd responses followed by the two giggling like school girls.

The situation made the interview memorable, to say the least.


TRHH: How’d you come up with the title Lord Steppington?

Alchemist: The album is very British-inspired so it’s a lot of tea drinking, scones, and Benny Hill episodes. We just really dug into our British bag. Lord Steppington is just a caviar eating, lord of the underground of rap that looks down on the rest of the underground. We’re just full of caviar, basically.

Evidence: The person, I feel you imagine him and the beauty of it is everybody imagines him or her a little differently. I picture Lord Steppington as like…. like… next question!

Alchemist: I picture him like the Planter’s Peanut logo guy but he has the first Organized Konfusion album. He’s the sultan of the underground. He frowns upon others. He’s the Lord of the Steppington’s. He has totally condescending taste and he’s the man!

TRHH: The video for “Step Masters” was hilarious. Who came up with the concept and how long did it take to film?

Alchemist: That was from the creative mind of Jason Goldwatch who has been doing videos a long time. He knows us well and kind of came up with the idea. We actually shot that all in one day.

TRHH: Really?

Alchemist: Hard to believe. He spent a lot of money, Jason. I know you can tell by the crazy production value of the video. How can anyone do that in one day of sunshine? But Jason is a magician. If you see his face you can see that day took a lot of toll on him, permanently.

TRHH: You were doing a lot of different shit. It didn’t seem like one day to me.

Alchemist: We didn’t stop, you know. We spent out on this one, so don’t expect any more videos because we spent what we’d spend on five videos on this one. The eggs that we threw wasn’t a regular egg, let me say that.

TRHH: Were they organic?

Alchemist: It was like a Whole Foods special egg.

TRHH: The song “Step Masters” had kind of an old school feel to it. Did that come from the drums or did the chorus come first?

Alchemist: Usually the beats come first. The beat is knockin’. We got a really good mix out of that one. It’s crazy, even when I hear it right now. I like that we stay competitive even sonically somehow. That one, you can play it back to back with some other shit that’s knockin’ and it still hits. For us our rule is, if it’s knockin’ for a show then we’re good money. That should do some damage in the shows. The chorus was fun and it seems like it will be a good one for the shows.

TRHH: Al, what beat-making equipment are you currently using?

Alchemist: I’m using the Linux. It’s like a new thing they’re working on. It’s a prototype design. It works in brain waves, so you don’t really have to touch or do anything anymore, you kind of just think the shit and it fuckin’ programs it for you. It’s a new thing that they’re working on right now. It’s another thing I got called an Oxcom 2011. It’s something you put in the vocal booth and it’s for your feet. When you kick it programs your drums for you. It’s like a laser sensor. I’m programming most of my drums with my feet right now. You get a better feel. You really do the kick drum with your foot. I do the snare with my foot too, so it’s ill.

TRHH: [Laughs] No shit?

Alchemist: It’s being developed overseas right now.

TRHH: Evidence, you produced one song on the album, was it difficult for you to sit back and play the emcee role on this album?

Evidence: Yeah, how ‘bout that. Yeah.

TRHH: That works. Why?

Evidence: I’m surprised I got one on it. It’s fuckin’ crazy. I gotta make the album, too. Just because I make beats doesn’t mean that I’ll make the album. It might have just been the fact that we were on the road and out of the country and Alchemist’s ears were hearing a little more worldly than when he was out in L.A. The fact that we were on Atmosphere’s tour bus and the bus was moving. A lot of people who record on a bus wait for that shit to stop but we actually recorded while it was moving. I think the experience made him want to keep the song more than the song itself. When he’s on the beats he’s flying the plane and I kinda have to get coffee for him and shit. I like that joint, I think it’s bangin’.

TRHH: How was doing this album different from doing a Dilated album or a Prodigy album?

Evidence: Dilated is like a 180. It’s more premeditated. We come from being on the label era where even though we weren’t making commercial records, the songs were still in formats with choruses and big mixes on ‘em. Being in a group with Rakaa, who is very aware of his words, we gotta pass a lot of clearances before we can get to the flight, so to speak. The Step Brothers is the exact opposite. You put up a beat, go, and what happens, happens. It’s a lot more loose. It reflects our personalities. We just hang out and we’ve been doing this for a long time like this.

We weren’t consciously setting out to make the album, we were just making music for the period of a year and it was taking up disc space on Pro Tools. We looked at the song titles and said, “Oh shit, this is something we should share with people.” With Dilated we’re consciously aware that we’re making an album, so it might be taken a little more seriously and be a little more stiff, or it might end up sounding bigger, better, or worse – whatever. Different variables happen because of it. I love both, but this is definitely a lot of fun.

TRHH: Whose idea was it to put the Kanye and ?uestlove vocal samples on the album? That shit was incredible.

Evidence: The Kanye one was me, the ?uest one was Alchemist. It wasn’t conscious. I gotta give myself credit ‘cause I was early on the Kanye thing. We did that song a while ago and now Kanye is doing his “motivational spiritual enlightening speeches”. What does he call them? Not rants.

Alchemist: I feel like they’re public therapy sessions.

Evidence: Nah, they’re motivational streams of consciousness. I was early on the Kanye motivational streams of consciousness and now everybody is kinda doing that. ?uestlove is like our hero. We have a ?uestlove shrine in the studio. When we play that, “Tip is very smooth, Phife is very hype,” we flicker lights on and off in rhythm and some of them are fluorescent colored. We have a pick, but it’s not really his afro pick, but we have one that looks like it. It’s crazy.

TRHH: I saw that The Whooliganz appear on the album, Al, how’d you manage to reunite The Whooliganz twenty years after their break up?

Evidence: Our album just got shelved you know? They wouldn’t let us get off the launching pad. Our album got grounded for flight but the plane stayed for twenty years on the tarmac. We just got clearance for liftoff via Rhymesayers, who woulda thunk? Kinda crazy.

TRHH: Why should fans cop Lord Steppington on January 21st?

Evidence: You’ll have to check with Rhymesayers, but there is a significant portion of the proceeds that are helping kids get reestablished music instruments in their schools, focusing on the oboe and the violin in Eastern Europe. That’s a good reason right there. Some people are natural on the piano, but kids out there on the strings are serious and they need those instruments. Eastern European kids on oboes and violins, support that.

TRHH: Word, that’s a good cause.

Alchemist: There is another one called Clitorade [laughs].

Purchase: Step Brothers – Lord Steppington

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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