Yesterday, a random thought posted on Twitter caught my attention: “Some days are too nice to play rap.”
Co-sign. When enjoying peace of mind, everyone doesn’t want to hear gaudy songs about murder, drug-slangin’ and extravagant wealth. For the average person, that kind of redundant talk can sometimes be a downer. But Bamboo Bros make universal Hip-Hop music with a Zen-like calm, bringing harmony to all within earshot.
Kurious is a seasoned emcee who sharpened his chops on Stretch & Bobbito’s classic radio show and traded bars with the likes of Pete Nice and MF Doom. He’s also known for his debut album, A Constipated Monkey, which contained the hit singles “I’m Kurious” and “Walk Like A Duck.” Dave Dar is a producer/rapper who studio engineered for Hi-Tek & Talib Kweli, along with other Rawkus notables. Kurious and Dave formed Bamboo Bros and recently dropped an enjoyable album called American Jibaro, courtesy of Benchmark Music. American Jibaro has a nostalgic “less-is-more” feel and features Talib Kweli, Pete Rock, Prince Power of PowerRule, among others.
I interviewed Bamboo Bros and discussed their signature sound, the evolution of Hip-Hop and why rap shouldn’t be viewed as “No Country For Old Men.”
Black Pacino: How did Bamboo Bros hook up?
Kurious: We met a long time ago at a party in Jimi Hendrix’s studio (Electric Ladyland) and he gave me his card. I was just like, “Yo, man… that’s a cool muthafucka. “ He gave me props, like, “Yo, Kurious… I like you music and stuff. I work here. If you want to work on anything, I’ll sneak you in here if you want to record.” So, I’m like “that’s a cool ass dude right there.” And I had had his card and called him a couple of months later just to say what’s up, not even for the studio. Like, let me holla at my brother and let him know that I appreciate him. Cuz people talk a lot shit, that industry shit. You meet somebody like, “We’re gonna talk!” You get so much of that shit. So I didn’t want him to think it was that kind of shit, cuz I’m not that type of dude. From there, we spoke and shit.
One day, he was just walking with his man and he seen me on Dyckman at a street festival. It’s summertime, I’m by myself drinking a beer on the corner. He comes with his peoples and then we chilled… I would come to his house, he would have the studio set up. We chilled for about 2 or 3 years before we made any music. So we just kickin’ it like homies and he’s like, “Whenever you’re ready, the mic is right here.” Then, when I signed that deal with Amalgam, that’s where it started. We recorded it and we got going with music but we were chillin for a few years before we did anything.
Pacino: Who came up with the name “Bamboo Bros?”
Kurious: Dave made that name up. It’s with two O’s.
Dave: (Holding up spliff) It’s a play on words off of this too.
Kurious: Because, when we’d be in his crib he’d have the lil’ joint there. And sometimes I’d take a couple of puffs but I don’t really smoke like that nowadays, so I don’t want it to get misconstrued like I’m on some real smoke shit. But the name came from that. But then when we found out about the plant itself, it’s mad resilient. And it grows wild, it’s just an incredible plant in nature. So the name is still significant, it’s just not an all-the-way-out weed thing. With me, it’s definitely not cuz like I said, I barely smoke weed. Once in a while.
Dave: We didn’t promote (weed) very much on the record either. We barely do. We might make subtle references to it but we definitely don’t really promote it like that.
Kurious: But the funny thing is, the music itself is geared for that.
Black Pacino: How would you describe your sound together? We know what ya’all bring to the table individually but what would you describe Bamboo Bros. sound to be?
Dave: We just like funky music. We Spanish, but we consider ourselves two of the funkiest Spanish niggas there are. We like good music, we like Hip-Hop. We come from the 90’s era… from the 80’s era, really. Jorge has got a little more history than me with the older Hip-Hop stuff but we try to keep that good feel, na’mean? It’s just feel-good music.
Kurous: I agree. Since I’m a solo artist… Bamboo is like a different chamber for me. For me, what Bamboo plays in my artistic reign, Bamboo is very down to the core. Sound-wise, it gets to my real personal (level) in a sense that… how can I word this? Spiritual is not a word I’m not really trying to throw out there like that but it’s like a very organic chamber. It’s not when I get on my lil’ ignorant shit or my buggin’ out frat boy shit. The Bamboo shit is more like the roots. You’re going down to how I feel about human beings, the brotherhood of man. Our culture, from the Latin rhythms to the African rhythms.
It’s cutting everything down… stripping everything down and feeling good. More like that. When I get on my other Kurious shit, I get on some of that but then I get on my regular 2010 New York shit. We do a lil’ of that too but the Bamboo thing, it starts with the beats that he makes. He lays the canvas, that’s the foundation. So for me, when I write the music tells me what to say. So the beats that he makes brings out a different thought process.
Dave: It’s really deeply-rooted, down to Earth. Anybody can relate to it. You on the corner sellin’, you can listen to it. It goes for everybody. It’s just pure, we’re not fronting. We’re not saying we got chains and all this other stuff. Not saying we don’t want that either but we’re not saying it.
Kurious: There’s no pretentiousness, know what I mean? Sometimes it’s fun to be a little pretentious; you can play with that as an artistic thing. But this music is real sincere. And it starts with the beats. You hear the integrity in the production. I feel like that’s what made A Tribe Called Quest so hot, it’s what made The Beatles so hot. It’s very simple but it’s perfect in its simplicity. It’s very straight-to-the-point. It’s heartfelt, there’s not a lot of smokescreens. There’s a genius to it, that less-is-more principle.
I’m not comparing us to Tribe Called Quest but just that element. I feel Bamboo has that. It’s like an innocence to the music, it’s not over-complicated, it’s doing what it does. (Dave) is an engineer… you hear the sonics on the Tribe record, how much time and love they put into making that shit sound just right. To a non-subtle ear, it just sounds like simple, like nothing. But to someone who can hear it, it’s like, “Yo, it’s simple but there was a lot put into that.” I think what Dave achieved on the production.
Dave: I maintain the integrity of the sample. Some people don’t chop funky when they chop a sample. I try to keep the integrity of the sample and keep the groove. Chop it a little but… if you’re a diggin’ in the crates dude you’re gonna like it, cuz I’ve got a couple on that nobody knows what it is. I can go to a lot of big “digger” dudes and they won’t know what it is.
Black Pacino: Pete Rock is on the song “Beyond A Sensation.” How did that collaboration happen?
Dave: Pete jumped on it. He heard the beat and he was like, “Yo, I chopped that record before. I like the way you did it.” I’d been working with him, engineering some of his stuff. He was like, “I’ma get on this shit.” And one day we were at a session and he did it. But the funny part is that niggas think he did the beat now, na’mean? So the dude from Hot 97, (Peter) Rosenberg, he’ll play it but he don’t know. He thinks Pete did it, that’s why he’ll really play it. He don’t play it cuz it’s us. Pete’s his man so he’ll play it. But in terms of me, it’s an honor cuz he’s one of my idols.
Black Pacino: How has Hip-Hop changed since you guys first entered the game?
Kurious: You can’t package music and sell it. I never had good experiences with labels and stuff. But now it’s great because you can just leak stuff and just give it away and just build a name. It’s not all about, these people can get their hands on music and steal it and not give you your percentage. Now it’s just Free Willy out here, na’mean? (Laughter) Building a brand. You’re better off selling shirts and doing shows. The concept and the potential.
Also, everything is opposite of what you would ever think. Even the way people’s gear looks. In the 90’s muthafuckas had on Champ hoods, baggies, construction Tims and all that, looking crazy rugged. If you would’ve fuckin told me that in 15 years, people’s gonna be walking around looking like homosexuals in Hip-Hop (I wouldn’t have believed it). And I’m not knocking none of it… but the bowties with the nerd look… you couldn’t even walk up the block like that.
I mean, at least if you got baggy clothes and you walking up the block, muthafuckas don’t know what you have on you. Now when you look at a muthafucka you’re like, “He ain’t got shit.” You can see everything. It is what it is. Fo’real, I really respect young kids and it’s their time. You make your styles as generations go. So, even if some of it I can’t understand, I really respect it.
And on another note, the youth doesn’t seem as hostile or as negative as when we were younger, you know what I’m sayin? Cuz it seems like there’s more hope. You got people owning their own companies and you’re seeing rappers really making great things happen. And I think the kids now, instead of trying to look like the meanest dude out, the want to be the most swaggerific out. And I’m not mad at that.
Dave: I like a video that my man J-Rawls put out recently with Sadat X and Wise Intelligent. And what he’s saying basically is it was a nice era when you had Brand Nubian and other rappers like that, almost giving you history lesson or something like that. In that song he’s saying ain’t no rapper really doing nothing like that no more, not even droppin’ a little jewel, know what I’m sayin? That’s what I don’t like. I just wish there was a few more bigger rappers droppin jewels.
Kurious: To take what he said a little bit in another direction, but along the same lines… I miss hearing a female rapper droppin jewels like a mutha, like Latifah used to do or even Lauryn Hill. You don’t got that rapper that’s getting promoted and pushed from a female perspective. With males I think you see more (variety); you got your (Talib) Kwelis and dudes that are like in that conscious lane, like Common. But with the females you don’t have anything but chicks portraying themselves as materialistic or a hoe-like perception. You don’t have that woman right now that they’re promoting that’s really making women feel good about being women and not promoting a whole bunch of other shit. I love hoes (laughter). But let’s get a little bit of everything.
Pacino: Any parting thoughts for our viewers?
Kurious: There’s a group of old-school artists that are really on top of their game, that are really dope. Like, shout-out to my man Sean P, you know? Muthafuckas is really nice, really ridiculous with it. (Rap) has been looked at as a youthful thing but the truth of the matter is the art form is young. So a lot of the artists haven’t gotten a chance to get older and stay on top of their game.
When we’re young, we think we’re not gonna get older. I remember being 21 going, “He’s 27? He’s mad old!” (Laughter) But watch your mouth when you say that because you’re gonna get older and that clock goes fast. Even when Game was like, “You 36, still rappin? Ugh!” He’s probably 35 right now (laughs). Nah, he ain’t that old. But the point is time flies and I was the same way. I would be like, “Muthafuckas is old, B.” But any time somebody disregards somebody because of age, that’s like discriminating because of race. That’s coward shit. For somebody to go, “Oh, you old” and use that against you, that’s because you’re nice and they can’t say nothing else. Everybody, if they’re lucky, gets old. That’s like a low blow, weak shit.
Dave Dar: That’s an old divide and conquer tactic. Old against the youth. It should be all love, na’mean? But that tactic has been used so well, that’s why the young rappers be dissin old rappers, cuz that’s how it is. Mick Jagger can tour til he’s 70. In Rock, they pay homage to them dudes.
Kurious: A lot of the great young artists, they pay homage. Because to be really great at what you do, there’s a certain level of respect has to come with it… for the doors of greatness to become open. That comes with respecting those that paved the way for you. And then a lot of us older dudes didn’t do what we’re supposed to do. Like dudes is crackheads and don’t rhyme and doing all kinds of shit. So it’s also an OG’s responsibility to stay on top of their game. And continue not so they just respect what you did in the past, but so they continue to respect you being a man of respect. That’s up to the individual.
A lot of these old dudes want respect but they’re not conducting themselves in a manner which is really worthy of it. We gotta stay on top of our shit too cuz why would a kid want to listen to me when I’m fuckin up across the board. But some people get amazed like, “How the fuck you still do that?” It could be possibly because I took a break. But they just think that when you get older you’re supposed to get wacker or something. It’s not professional football (laughter). Yo, B… I been doing this, I’ma keep killin it.
Dave Dar: I think some of them rappers might have fallen off a little (with age) but some of them got nicer. I think Jorge is one of them. I think AG is an example. Sean Price. There’s a few examples of dudes who went higher, know what I’m sayin? Grand Puba, when he first came out, he was kind of older and he was killin it. Stay true to yourself, keep getting knowledge of self. Have fun.
Links of interest:
Photos by Eric Johnson (header pic), PhotoRob (performance pics) and Sundiata Acree (candid pics).