Rappers G and Q make up the Phoenix, Arizona Hip-Hop duo Full Rebel Jacket. Formerly known as America Negro, FRJ dropped a ten song EP in mid-2012 that showcased the groups’ unique sound. Originating from Dallas and Anchorage respectively, Full Rebel Jacket’s sound is a hybrid of West Coast and Southern rap.
Influenced by the greats, G and Q are hoping to become greats themselves by lacing their music with that they call “hard beats and crazy content.” The group is hard at work on a follow-up EP and a full-length album, both due out in 2013.
Full Rebel Jacket recently spoke with The Real Hip-Hop.com about the Phoenix rap scene, the Rebel EP, and their upcoming projects.
TRHH: How did you to come together to form Full Rebel Jacket?
G: We were messing around with mixtapes before under another named called American Negro. We decided to get off the practice squad and do this for real and we became Full Rebel Jacket. Before all of that happened we were just two friends who have love for the music. I found some old CD’S that I recorded raps to and I told Q about it. We were sitting in the parking lot chillin’ and I said, “Yeah you know I used to rap right?” He was like, “Nigga please, you ain’t rap.” Everybody used to say that they rapped. I let him hear some of the stuff that I had done before with my group in college and I don’t know if it was a moment or what but Q was like, “Man y’all niggas might as well be UGK as far as I’m concerned.” He asked me why I stopped rapping and I couldn’t answer the question. That weekend I went out and bought microphones, software, and a whole lot of recording equipment. I recorded a new freestyle and brought it to him and he said it was dope. It just took off from there.
TRHH: Tell me about the Rebel EP.
G: We wanted to make a statement album. This is going to be our debut full-length project that we did 100% so we wanted to make sure that it was a statement. It’s like a resume when you walk into a job you want to list all of the great things we’ve done. We wanted to have a calling card. We started as American Negro and released two mixtapes. We were using a lot of internet beats so we sat down and said whatever project we do next we’re going to get a producer to craft our own sound so we can distinguish ourselves from the pack. We worked out a deal with a producer and that ended up falling through so we decided there is no time like the present to start making our own beats. For a while people had been telling me instead of rapping I should make beats too. Q was supportive of it. We didn’t have nothing to lose. We got with our old producer Ant who does a lot of keyboard and melody that you hear on the record. We made our own beats, we got our own engineer, of course we wrote our own raps, and put the whole thing together 100% independent.
TRHH: How do you begin to say, I want to make beats? What was that process like because it’s not easy?
G: No, no it’s not easy. It’s just like anything else. In my head the way I thought about it is you’ve never played basketball before so the first thing you do is buy a ball and go to the court. You may not know how to shoot, dribble, or pass but you start from ground zero. You go to the court and watch other players play, you watch it on TV, and you practice at home. Basically what I was doing was I bought a bunch of books, watched a whole bunch of YouTube videos and listened to a bunch of instrumentals to break down songs and learn what they did. It’s like they say, imitate before you innovate. You copy something to learn how the mechanics work and then just try to build your own style out of that. I also had the help of Ant who had been making beats since he was in middle school. He knew the mechanics of it but he didn’t know everything else. He needed help in certain areas, too. We worked together and bounced ideas off of each other. Q was the same way, he would say, “I like this but I ain’t feeling that.” It was a learning process and we’re still learning.
Q: Just to add to that our personalities are such that we’ll want to do something and a lot of times the things that we come up with will seem impossible or very hard. We always say, what’s the worst that can happen? We’ll be living the way we’re living now so we might as well do it. We just went and did it.
G: Q is exactly right with that. When we started we didn’t know how to make beats. If we never tried we still wouldn’t know how to make beats. If we do one thing we’re better than the day before.
Q: We knew what a good beat sounded like [laughs]. But we ain’t know how to make it.
TRHH: What software do you use to make beats?
Q: We use Reason to sequence the beats, we use Pro Tools for mixing, we use a MPD26 to control certain aspects of Reason and we also use keyboards to control our melody.
TRHH: Why was it important for you to put out the song ‘Stray Bullet’?
Q: Well to me ‘Stray Bullet’ was reflective of what we see. We see a lot of people doing things and not really being conscious of the consequences of what they were doing. We came with the name ‘Stray Bullet’ because somebody is shooting a gun on purpose but not hitting the person who they want to hit. That was really the correlation between the title and the song. The video just portrayed different representations of a stray bullet. We did the whole shooting and editing for the video. It was all our vision from the song to the visuals and everything.
G: To add to that, a song like ‘Stray Bullet’ is so important because a lot of times people don’t think about their consequences or actions. As far as the musicality of the song it allows us to stand out and shows a group that’s multi-faceted and a group that’s able to tackle tough subjects. It’s good for anybody to be well rounded as an artist.
TRHH: You guys’ sound reminds me of everyone from Outkast to UGK. Who would you say inspired you musically?
G: First of all I’m from Texas so that’s probably where you’re going to get the UGK or Outkast influence because that’s what I grew up on. As far as who inspired the sound I would say Pimp C and Organized Noize definitely because of what they were doing with music at the time they were doing it. Organized Noize was bringing in live instrumentation over sampled drums and that was a cool sound. It had a real distinctive flavor to it. It was southern but it was its own thing. I always wanted to make beats that had a smooth type of feel to them. Also Kanye West as far as the arrangements go because Kanye has a cinematic type of feel to his songs. He tries to take a song somewhere where you didn’t think the beat was going to go. He’d bring in a choir and some horns where you didn’t think they would be. I think the creativity of all of those people combined is really what contributed to the sound as far as the beats go for the songs on the EP.
Q: Pretty much for me all of my influences were people who had something to say but they also had dope beats, like 2Pac, Ice Cube, Goodie Mob, Scarface, and UGK. They had dope beats but they weren’t just talking about hanging out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and going to the club—all of that cliché shit. To have a message and to present it in a way where you can still enjoy the music, that’s one of the things that I wanted to make sure we did.
G: We think that’s an important thing because a lot of times in music you get one or the other. You’ll get dope beats but it’s only party music or you get dudes talking about something but the beats is terrible. We came from the era where you don’t have to do that. Scarface didn’t do that. Pac didn’t do that. You can have dope beats and substance. We were aiming for that.
TRHH: I never thought about it like that but that’s pretty accurate. What’s the Phoenix rap scene like? You never hear about people coming out of Phoenix.
G: That’s because there is no rap scene in Phoenix! I don’t want to diss it like that but Phoenix is different than any other city that I’ve been to. I grew up in Dallas and went to school in Houston. Phoenix has a followers mentality. They don’t have the ear of what’s a good record right now. They wait for somebody else to say it’s a good record and then jump on it. One of the biggest criticisms about Phoenix music is that it sounds like everywhere else. You can get an artist in Phoenix and he’ll make a Flocka record and another artist down the street will make a Dub C record, and another guy will make a 2 Chainz record. They just grab whatever is popular and make that. I think that’s kind of detrimental to the scene because you never create your own sound and you never have something to hold on to and call your own. And on top of that you got bad ears too? It don’t combine for a very good scene, man.
Q: The other thing about Phoenix is it’s a melting pot. It’s good living here besides the summer when it’s hot as hell. You can stay out of trouble because it’s so spread out but everybody comes here from somewhere else. Me personally, I’ve been here for a while and I’ve only met a handful of people that are actually from Phoenix. So everybody brings their own personal flavor of music here. Most of the artists out here who I’ve heard of are not from Phoenix. We got that combined with everybody seeming to want to make that current hit record. It just sounds like somebody that’s already out. It seems like the people don’t comprehend the fact that Drake is signed already. If you’re making a record that sounds like Drake you’re probably not going to get any attention because they already have the real Drake.
TRHH: What inspired you to write ‘Purple Lights’?
G: We wanted to do a record that would be a little different than everything else on the album. We wanted to make a celebratory record about working hard. In the video we have a body builder, but if you’re body builder, working out, or a football player when you do that last rep, that feeling that you have like, man I worked hard and I’m about to go and prove to the world why I should have this opportunity or why I should be here. That was the inspiration for ‘Purple Lights’. It’s not a bragging song but a “watch me work” type of record.
Q: The song title is interesting. Greg sees music in colors. So once the beat was done I asked him what color it was and he said purple. He named it ‘Purple Lights’.
TRHH: That’s interesting. I remember when Kanye first came out he was on MTV and said he saw music in colors. I can’t even comprehend what that’s like.
G: It’s crazy man because for me I hear a record and it makes me feel the way I feel when I look at a color. Red records are club/hype/super crazy records. Blue records are crisp or Outkast type of records. Purple records just have a different feel to them.
TRHH: What are your goals in the music industry?
G: Long-term goals are to be as big as Kanye and Jay-Z are but do it independent. I feel like the way the game is going it’s more important to be independent than signed to a label. You get signed to a label you’ll be famous and broke. If you do it independent you might have a little money but nobody will know you. I’d rather have my sanity and the control to do what I want and still be eating. Short-term wise I do wanna go gold. Going gold independent would be one hell of an accomplishment.
Q: I agree with what he said. The goal is to make an impact on the industry, make our little mark in Hip-Hop. It’s something I’ve never really thought about before to be able to do something that I love and has always been a part of my life, to have our own page in that book. And definitely being able to support ourselves and our families doing something we love.
G: Culturally, we don’t want to be culture warriors but we want to make good music that will impact people and change lives. I think Big Boi was saying fans come to him and say, “That one record you had really changed my life and helped me get through things.” That means something to me and us as artists. To make the kind of music that people listen to and it means something. They can learn from it or and I can teach somebody with it. In addition to the monetary things and notoriety you also want to make an impact on someone’s life.
TRHH: What’s next up for you guys?
G: Man what don’t we got coming up? The main thing that we’re working on right now is this new EP, Dancin’ Candy. It’s going to be more up-tempo records than what you heard on the Rebel EP but not anything that’ll take us out of our lane. It’s still in our lane but the records are more up-tempo. That’s in the immediate future but we’re also going to release a follow-up to that as well as a complete album. The single should be out by the end of the year and the EP will drop at the beginning of next year.
Download: Full Rebel Jacket – The Rebel EP