Back in 2009, Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege and Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin released their first mixtapes titled “The Swelly Express”. Although earlier in the year the popular music blog Pretty Much Amazing put a number of the songs from Chiddy Bang’s MySpace account in constant rotation, the two Philly-born, alternative hip-hop artists were relatively unknown outside of Pennsylvania when the album dropped. All that has changed, and changed fast. With two more mixtapes released since then, a couple of EPs and, as of February 22nd of this year, their first full length studio album “Breakfast”. Touring almost constantly in the last year, Chiddy and Xaphoon Jones took a couple minutes out of their busy schedule just before heading onstage at this year’s Sasquatch Music Festival to talk about where they’ve been, where they’re headed and what it’s like meeting childhood heroes.
** Chiddy Bang at Sasquatch 2012, photographed by Chelsea Chernobyl
Although “The Swelly Express” got their first big hit “Opposite of Adults” into rotation around the States, the most interesting part for many was hearing Black Thought of the Roots making a guest appearance on the album.
Chiddy: Seriously, right? He goes into the booth and just lays down the most legendary verse we’d ever heard and I could just look at his face [gesturing to Xaphoon]…
Xaphoon: And I’m behind the deck, thinking, “I’m recording Black Thought right now!” Being someone who’s grown up in Philly, going to see them at Clark Park or South Street when they were promoting their album, or even just going to buy their CD’s as a kid, you know? You don’t notice how much your childhood heroes effect you until you kinda compare them to other people. When we were at Big Sean’s album release party we ran into Jay-Z and Kanye and we were both going, “Whoa, this is CRAZY!” but I didn’t have the same gut feeling like I did being around Black Thought.
Off “The Swelly Express” you guys released a video for “Opposite of Adults”. That’s one of the most fun video’s I’ve seen in a long time, it’s hilarious and got style at the same time. Is that reflective of the way you record and the way your creative process works?
Xaphoon: I don’t think you’d see a lot of other acts around do a video like that, except four years later we’re starting to see it now in Little Wayne and Tyga videos they have the big heads or they’re being silly with it, but, at the time, we just tried to illustrate the point that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re not stressing or worrying about looking gangsta, we’re just having fun…
Chiddy: Ya, it’s fun and because we’re not worrying about that shit or walkin’ around all stressed out, it’s easier for it too stand out. It stood out and was, I guess, a contribution to the scene and it was great for us. I love it, man!
After “Swelly” you guys dropped the “Air Swell” mixtape with a whole host of UK artists on it. The one that stood out for me was your remix of “Stylo” by Gorillaz. How did that come about?
Xaphoon: Ya, we’re on the same label, Parlophone, so that was one of the first cool “label-things” we got to do being newly on that label. [The label] just asked us, “Do you wanna remix the new Gorillaz single?” And we’re like, “Fuck Ya! Of course we wanna remix that shit!” And the fact that [Parlophone] liked it enough to put it out was awesome!
Chiddy: That’s definitely one of my favourite remixes. Just everything about making that was amazing. Definitely. I mean, we don’t even perform it [live] ever but…
Xaphoon: … It kinda like sets it off in the direction that I was feeling about us which is that our remixes are way better than our regular songs [laughs]: you know, taking people’s ideas and putting them in a new context.
Your first studio album, “Breakfast” just dropped end of February. That was pushed back a couple of times though… was that a perfection move on your part?
Xaphoon: It’s hard when you’re signed for a big song such as “Opposite” and then you tell the label that you don’t want to put it on your first record cause you want to make your first record from start to finish and really congruent and linear, and, well, flow. It would feel weird to take older songs that don’t really fit into what you’re trying to do right now. It’s very easy to make a big song if you sing over a big song but we wanted to push on, grow, and do cooler things in the studio with instruments. We wanted to work with artists instead of just sampling artists, you know, go into the lab with them! So, a song like “Opposite just wouldn’t have fit into the grain of the album. Telling that to your label… well, you have to take your time after that and make them feel confident again before they pump the record.
Found the “Chiddy Bang Store” online: T-shirts, wristbands, booty shorts…
Chiddy: Booty shorts? [laughs] Shit. We’re into that now?
The merch store on your website…
Chiddy: Oh ya, that’s ours. It’s official. There’s good shit there!
Wondering if that was your idea? Gonna get into the fashion loop a la Kanye?
Xaphoon: We might, who knows? [Pointing to Chiddy’s shirt of his own creation] “Waffles and Cream”. We got style.
Chiddy: We doin’ it with style every day, so we’ll see.
Looking into your facts I found something interesting: Chiddy, you’ve got a Guinness World Record! Nine hours and change freestyle rap?
Chiddy: Nine hours plus, man, ya. Basically, our manager came in the process of making it and said, “Yo, we want you guys to do something to remain in the face of the public and at that time we weren’t ready to put out any new music so I just basically accepted it as a challenge for myself, you know what I mean? I didn’t wake up and decide I wanted to do it… my manager presented it to me and I was like, “What do I got to lose, right?” So I tried it and I just happened to do it. It was in Vegas and it was amazing. I started at about 11:30 in the morning and [rapped] till about 8:47. It was crazy.
Tours coming up: You’ve got the Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller tour booked then a tour with the group Fun., and you’re not done there. You guys tired already just looking at that sort of schedule?
Xaphoon: It’s gonna be crazy but I feel like a lot of people wanted to be on those two tours and… well, we got that. It’s gonna be a crazy summer and we’re very lucky to be touring with people that don’t have any problem selling tickets [laughs]! We’re gonna have a lot of fun and make a lot of groovy music!
Chiddy: MAD crazy music’s gonna come outta this summer. It’s gonna kill!
The “Grab a Plate” mixtape that you’re looking to drop, when’s that happening and what’s it all about?
Xaphoon: Those are the kind of songs that have sort of trickled out while the album’s been out and we might release one or two more still. There’s actually one called “Twisted” that’s brand new that’ll come out as part of a May or June release.
Chiddy: We’re really pumped for “Twisted”. It’s gonna be good and when something’s brand new you really get hyped but we also are getting to know when something’s good and not just “good right now”, you know?
After a few jokes about going to see their show which was scheduled for 4:20, Chiddy and Xaphoon took to the stage and had the crowd jamming in no time. Hand in the air, a cacophony of sound after (and during) every song, Chiddy Bang responded to the crowd with style, knowing that, playing the main stage at a festival as massive as Sasquatch was special in its own right but just the next stop on their way to the top. I for one, will be counting down the days till their next album drops and getting my hands on the next mixtape as soon as possible. Check out their site over at chiddybang.net if nothing else so that you can see just how much fun these guys have making stellar hip-hop and the reason guys like Jay-Z and Kanye may just be taking more notice of this Philly duo very soon!