Pseudo Slang is a hip-hop duo from the Buffalo, NY music scene. Emcee Sick of the Xtracts of Slang and Tone Atlas of the Pseudo Intellectuals teamed up about a decade ago to form Pseudo Slang – a side project that took on a career of its own. After their debut release, The Catalogue (a compilation of tracks PS laid down from 1999 to 2004), Pseudo Slang switched to full time.
After being quickly signed to stalwart hip-hop label Fat Beats Records, Pseudo Slang released the single "Broke and Copasetic" in 2006. National and international tours followed, and the build towards their first complete studio release as a duo is almost at its apex: We'll Keep Looking is available now via Fat Beats Records. Alex Humphrey caught up with Sick to find out more.
First things first how did you get into hip-hop?
Pseudo Slang: Peace Alex, I first got into hip-hop growing up in the Pelham Parkway neighbourhood of the Bronx, it was all around me every day. There were songs over the years which pulled you in – I Know You Got Soul, My Adidas, I Got To Have It, Nobody Beats The Biz, Return of The Funky Man, Just To Get A Rep, and many, many more which were impossible to not get inspired by. Throughout my youth I wrote in a pad all the time almost in an obsessive way, and gradually just gravitated towards songs and verses.
Where did you two meet and how did Pseudo Slang form?
Pseudo Slang: Tone Atlas and I linked up in Buffalo NY through an event I threw with DJ Tommee and DJ LoPro called Baby Steps. There’s a long list of really special and very dope artists who would come through and participate in that Thursday night tradition, which branched out into a huge span of events over the course of about 13 years. We had something called the Local Emcee Showcase, and Tone had had some memorable performances there and we began to link up with some of his beats and just generally had a distinct creative chemistry.
Emcee Sick you described Buffalo as "a special place, an economically challenged rust-belt city lacking in resources that, somehow, in its blue-collar way, creates an unassuming atmosphere for expression", What was it like growing up there and how has it changed over the years?
Pseudo Slang: I didn’t grow up there but after spending almost 15 years of my life in Buffalo I do feel I am a Buffalonian. Buff is a real special place, I’ve met so many cool people and really have grown as a person from my experiences there. Even though economically it is beat down in a pretty serious way, we always got by and made due, setting our sights squarely on the music and creative expansion. When I first arrived there stepping off the Amtrak literally knee-deep in snow, I was taken with the local feel of the city after having come from the always hectic NYC. Rent was cheap and I was really able to focus on writing and other creative stuff without all the distractions downstate. Over the years it’s hard to gauge how much the city changed, but my life certainly did as Baby Steps took off and my own music grew. I’m not sure if I just perceive Buffalo as having grown a whole lot, but either way it has grown somewhat in many positive ways I feel. Buffalo NY is a real hub for community activism, check out organizations such as: PUSH (People United for Sustainable Housing), MAP (Massachusetts Avenue Project), CEJ (Coalition for Economic Justice), and PPG (Partnership for the Public Good). Only a couple years ago it was found to be the second poorest city in the country behind Detroit, but it definitely doesn’t feel like that to me.
You have toured all over America, Canada (with Jeru the Damaja) and Denmark. Where was the best gig you ever did?
Pseudo Slang: Hard to say, there have been so many great ones, the performance with Jeru in Montreal at Le Foufounes Electriques definitely stands out as well as at this spot in Roskilde (Denmark) called Paramount where we rocked with this crew Dialekten – that was just a great vibe.
You were also part of the Slamdance Underground Film Vs. Underground Music Tour ‘09. How were you involved and what are your favourite underground films?
Pseudo Slang: I organized that tour with my man from this band called The Woes (great music, check ‘em out) and the idea behind that tour was to bring our unique musical styles and performances together with underground film and visual arts. From the Slamdance stuff I was and am really into an animation piece called ‘Left and Leave’ by Yongehu Suh, and then through the festival I was exposed to a piece called ‘Worldstar’ by Natasa von Kopp which really struck a note with me.
Before you where signed to Fat Beats Records you independently released your music including The Catalogue album, a collection of your separate unreleased work from 1999 and 2004. How did you get signed and is it much easier now for you?
Pseudo Slang: Yeah, Catalogue was released by Baby Steps Hip Hop acting as the record label, and really made some noise regionally for us. It ended up being quite a successful release and was instrumental in signing with Fat Beats Records, although I wouldn’t say things got easier at all. When you sign any substantial record deal your music grows legs and reaches more people, but at the same time the work increases a hundred-fold. So if you have money to hire out booking agents, accountants, lawyers and all that – you’re set. We’ve always done this music thing hand-to-mouth, so thus I’ve been doing all the booking and biz myself, which is crazy! Just recently with the release of the album (finally) I have hired a booking agent, which is definitely a huge relief.
What advice would you give to MC’s and producers trying to get their music out there?
Pseudo Slang: Getting original and genuine music out there is the whole point, so if your motives aren’t made up of a hundred percent love and passion for that, then you shouldn’t be doing this.
You also did an EP called Thank God It's Not Another Mixtape. Do you have something against mixtapes or was it just a funny title?
Pseudo Slang: Both, ha. At the time everybody had a mixtape out rapping over industry beats and all that, it was kinda too much after a while. On top of being a recording artist I was and am a promoter plus a radio guy, so I was always getting promos which included a lotta these so-called mixtapes. Eventually I just couldn’t even listen to them anymore, so we thought it was a fitting title at the time… plus funny.
We'll Keep Looking your debut is an amazing album. How long did it take to record and what was the process like?
Pseudo Slang: Thanks for the kind words about We’ll Keep Looking, I appreciate it fam. Initially it didn’t take long to record in itself, but in the midst of recording and completing it for the label we were touring extensively. There was a lot of going back and editing stuff, as well as adding and subtracting songs, and in the end we probably have enough material for two more albums just from tracks that didn’t end up on this one. The process involved just stretching out and experimenting with the different ways you can go about writing, recording, mixing and structuring songs (and set that on shuffle). The title obviously reflects that, and pretty much becomes a mission statement not only for music, but for all of life.
Your album features many artists including Vinia Mojica, Grap Luva, DJ Cutler, DJ Tommee, A.L Third. Who is your favourite collaborator apart from each other and why?
Pseudo Slang: Oh man, I can’t choose a fave from all those cats, they’re all great! I’ll use this as an opportunity to mention Gangsta D here who was a hugely important contributing artist on WKL. He was not just the studio engineer, but a prominent part of many creative aspects, and he also played bass and guitar on some cuts as well. Every person you mention is incredibly dope to work with in their own respect, plus there’s also Mysterious L, John Stebbins, and Daringer who made valuable contributions to the record. Bella, Tori and Sophia (Tone’s daughters) definitely were involved in the creative process, and then there are those who have passed who inspired and informed We’ll Keep Looking maybe most of all.
You have been described as making “the thinking fan's kind of hip-hop”. What do you make of that quote and do you think that there isn’t enough thinking going on in rap music these days?
Pseudo Slang: It’s not all like we’re all sitting around pondering things all like that, but I do think that this style we’re comin with here reflects some humble considerations of life, art, philosophy, and what it all means in a simple day-to-day way.
Your track Omelette is all about your morning routine including your addiction to caffeine. What is the perfect breakfast for you guys?
Pseudo Slang: Ha, well Tone isn’t a big coffee maniac like I am, although thanks to some friends of ours he may have turned a new leaf of recent in that regard. The way Tone and Cut are on the hoppy beer tip it wouldn’t be surprising if some Flying Bison is in the perfect breakfast convo. I definitely know Cut is a big bagel and lox dude. My perfect breakfast varies – on studio or show days I keep it very simple with a eggs, toast and a LOT of water. On other days a perfect b-fast would be: dark-roast fresh-ground organic coffee, a bloody mary, oj, steak & eggs, papaya shake, an everything-bagel with fresh lox spread, and lots of water. What can I say? I love me some breakfast.
What’s next for you then in 09 and beyond?
Pseudo Slang: Most immediately this Fall “We’ll Keep Touring” Tour ’09 followed by a Nov / Dec PS Euro-Tour, then some recording with a few VERY special collaborators, and then off on another late-winter US tour. Beyond that a visit to Japan is in the conversation, as well as a healthy dose of the unknown.
Lastly I saw a post on your MySpace looking for a couch to sleep on while you’re on tour. How did that work out for you and if you could stay on anyone’s couch who would it be and why?
Pseudo Slang: The hospitality of people really has been amazing, it’s really heartening as well as humbling to meet so many kind folks out there on the road. I’d have to say my fave couch is a draw between Bryan in Park City and Howie & Carly in Milwaukee, ya’ll can have a couch-off on this next tour! (j/k)
Thank you for your time.
Pseudo Slang: It’s my pleasure, thanks for letting people know about the album, and hope to meet you in person in Nov / Dec. – sick
By: Alex Humphrey