Halfway through Antipop Consortium's new record, Arrhythmia, there's a skit called "Tron Man Speaks," in which a robot calls into a radio show to play his music, declaring, "It is called Tron Man Stigmata; I sampled static from a Victrola and processed the sounds." Aside from being pretty funny, "Tron Man Speaks" is a little commentary on how some people perceive APC's music--a progressive mashing of hiphop lyricism with groundbreaking, electro-style samples and beats.
"The Tron Man thing was my little term I was using; I was like, 'This is all Tronned out.' I meant it in the way that cats think that just cause you're doing something on some next, that you're like the 'electronica' guy. [The skit] had a definite finger directed towards quote unquote 'electronica,'" explains M. Sayyid, who makes up APC along with Beans, Priest, and producer Earl Blaize. "There are just a lot of little condescending mentalities in certain scenes towards hiphop. So it was a chance to open up some peoples' eyes, cause you get a lot of underlying strange things from people who call themselves so open-minded, you know what I mean? So it was like, 'Tron Man, you're not going to whip me up, playing wild stuff that's just mad noises. I'm definitely not feeling that stuff, you know?"
Though glitchy electronic music is not Sayyid's favorite, it's undeniable that APC's ingenuity parallels the kind found in some electronic music. By making fidgety beats out of ping-pong noises, futuristic melodies, and grooves wrought by minimalism, they probably have more in common with Boards of Canada than anybody else in hiphop, and their lyrics adjust accordingly--poetic, smart rhymes that mold themselves to the left-handed pulse of their rhythms.
Arrhythmia is amazingly tight, with the occasional jazz scats, harmonies, and professional operatic arias (on the track "Mega," which Sayyid wrote: "I just wanted it to break down like Queen"). Most importantly, it shows you can make a song that sounds as innovative as it does hot. As Sayyid admits, "People aren't going to check for you if it isn't fresh. People listen to APC for certain reasons--we have a certain sound based on certain chances we take in our music. [For the new record], we wanted to have a competitive nature in the production, so it could bump, like, in any situation. But we also wanted to keep it as advanced as possible. It's glossy, but it hasn't lost anything in the gloss, because we've kept it as experimental as possible, most of the time."
Their love for experimentation and pushing forth a new sound has garnered APC a lot of acclaim, not to mention diehard fans. In fact, much of their exposure came from a European tour last year, opening for Radiohead--pretty good for some guys who came from the slam scene of Nuyorican Café and releasing their own tapes. Sayyid notes, "It puts what you're doing on the mature level. It makes it something that you can kinda like look at yourself in the mirror and go, 'All right, cool. I'm not running around like, 'throw your hands up in the air,' rapper guy. I'm playing joints, we're sequencing joints, we're spitting hot lyrics. I think it's important to be seen as a producer as well as an emcee or lyricist."
Sayyid further points out that the delineation between electronic music and hiphop is semantic, and that all the great hiphop artists have been electronic artists, as well. "It's funny; the stuff that we're inspired by is all electronic, because that's what we came up under--Afrika Bambaataa, Mantronix, Tom Tom Club. I mean, Tom Tom Club was a white group that was doing progressive music inspired by beats, and it was broken by black radio. It's hiphop. Or look at Art of Noise. Those are hiphop classics, and they're all electronic.
"When I really started knowing about the game, this guy I know that lived near me named Rahim, he's like, 'Yo, I want you to check this tape out, it's got some hot joints and instrumentals and everything.' And so I started listening and I'm like, 'Oh, this is ill on some hiphop, really on some next, but they were actually 'electronic' groups, quote unquote--including one guy from [Antipop's record label] Warp, who's real popular, Aphex Twin. And the way I was introduced to them was this 'new form of underground hiphop instrumentals.'"
Sayyid says Antipop Consortium doesn't tend to get pigeonholed as part of a genre, per se, but sometimes people try to put their music in certain categories. "When you're doing something different, people like to throw things on you, and we're like, 'we're doing what we've been doing from the get-go, which is beats and rhymes and pushing the envelope." But he does admit that he doesn't have any control with how people see APC. "The fact of the matter is, whatever I say, people are going to look into what you're doing however they want. But the way I like to show up to the party is kinda like, 'Yo, I'm on some next, the stuff that's kinda bugged, it's progressive, we push the envelope; walk with us and check what we're doing."