The music of 99 Neighbors reflects its composition: young, sprawling, and collaborative. The 12 person collective was founded by rappers HANKNATIVE and Sam Paulino and producer Somba but also counts a pair of painters, graphic designers, and even a web developer among its ranks. The group’s debut project ‘Television’ was released on the first day of the new year and features smart lyrical turns from each of its emcees, delivered over wonky, rubbery production.
ahead of their show in Zone One at Elsewhere on 4/13 , the collective took the time to answer a few of our questions.
A peek at your Facebook page shows a lot of exciting announcements – Your first NY headlining show this weekend, being added to the crazy line-ups for Mad Decent Block Party and Made in America, features on “Keeping up With the Kardashians on E!” What are you guys most looking forward to? How are you going to keep this momentum going?
We’re incredibly excited to come to Zone One this weekend and to show the fans in New York what we’ve been working on with our live band as well as our upcoming music projects we’ve been focused on. We have a single dropping on 99 Neighbors’ first anniversary on April 20th.
In a recent interview with coup de main, you mention how your song creation process is different each time, depending on which artists are present that moment. Is there a particular song that sticks out on the album you can walk us through?
“Redrum” had a unique process; it started with a completely different instrumental. Sam recorded his vocals over a drum loop and the horns which come later in the song. After this, Somba added the bassline, Sam did the drums and the song was essentially brand new. Swank unexpectedly came back from New York and killed his first verse in his first official session as a member. HANKNATIVE came through clutch as always.
With so many artists involved and such a freeform process, was producing a cohesive final product ever a concern? How did you ensure that the tracks on ‘Television’ would hold together and do you think you succeeded?
At first, it was a challenge to create a cohesive product, especially with so many artists and sounds involved. But then we realized, the cohesion is built from the character of the group, which never changed throughout the whole creation process. We’re happy with ‘Television’
Within a similar vein, how did the collective agree upon the album title ‘Television,’ and how does it tie everything together?
We were in our living room brainstorming names for the project and Aidan mentioned ‘Television’ because the album feels like flipping through channels.
You’ve often articulated your vision for 99 Neighbors to be a platform for “free artistry.” But what are your individual takes on the meaning of that? Is it a matter of realizing your own vision through others? The meshing of perspectives to create something new?
There’s a range of answers you’ll get depending on who you ask in the group. Ultimately, our goal is for everyone to be able to express themselves however they want.
Interview by Xin-Rui Lee
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