Apathy, Ryu and Scoop Deville explain the political inspirations of Uzi Does It, and how to pimp the major label structure to give fans exactly what they want.
When three of underground Hip Hop’s heavy hitters came together to form a group, it was undeniable that the resulting project would be one that could not go unmentioned by fans of the genre. Apathy and Ryu (of Demigodz/Army of the Pharoahs and Styles of Beyond/Fort Minor respectively) teamed up with Scoop Deville (most recently known for producing singles for Snoop Dogg) to produce the recently released Uzi Does It.
With no restrictions, they presented the world with a project significantly different than the work they have all done in the past. HipHopDX had the opportunity to speak with the group on subjects including how South African history played a part in their promotion of the album, getting spins on noteworthy FM radio stations in California, and their feelings about going independent versus dealing with major record labels.
HipHopDX: What’s up with the koala logo all over your website?
Ryu: The koala was an idea that was invented by my friend, 2Tone. He has a clothing company out here called True Love and False Idols, which I also do [public relations] for. We’ve always loved the koala and thought it would be a good idea for our logo because it basically describes us. The koala looks cute and cuddly, but it’ll rip your face off if it has the proper drugs in its system.
DX: Is there any significance behind the name of the group?
Ryu: Actually it has a lot lighter significance than what’s on the surface. We had come from a bunch of different situations. I was in a group called Fort Minor, which I still am. Apathy had a situation at Atlantic Records. Scoop [Deville] was doing his thing. We decided to pull together as one and go real hard with what we wanted to do.
Apathy: “Get busy” is an old school saying, too, that encapsulates so many things. When we set out to get a name, we weren’t like “We need to find something profound and meaningful.” We were just fucking around.
DX: In October it was jokingly announced that the group signed with Tokyo Sex Whale Records in a deal that is pretty unheard of. Really…what’s the deal with this?
Apathy: Tokyo Sex Whale is the dopest name you could ever come up with in your life. We decided to run with it. I’ll tell you the real story about where we got it from though. My girlfriend was studying South Africa in History, and Nelson Mandela had a good friend named Tokyo Sexwale. She was reading the book out loud to me and I was like, “What?! What did you say his name was?” and I called Ryu and told him we had the name of our record label.
Ryu: There’s another meaning behind it as well that made sense for the group. Our music tends to bring people together from opposite sides of the earth. Traditionally, Japanese fisherman and whales didn’t really get along, but through the power of music, we got Tokyo Sex Whale. You can tell from the logo. We have a Japanese girl standing behind a whale’s ass. That’s not something that’s easy to do, but through the power of music, that was something we were able to make happen.
DX: Obviously with this, though, you were making a statement about record labels. On a serious note, will you explain your stance on the matter?
Ryu: The situation that we had with our record labels wasn’t something that was in our control, and it was what it was. We weren’t bitter because we understood the direction the industry was going. What we decided to do was put into action the way we thought a record should be put out, and we did that using major label resources. You can get to any major label resource. You can hire the same PR firm as them, the same promotion, everybody. We hired all the same people that the majors hire. We sent out the record and wanted to get people that were 100% into our ideas and record.
Apathy: When it comes labels, and this is such a cliché and funny thing, we’re not jaded or angry, we just realize it doesn’t work and we want more money and control. What human being would say they didn’t want more money and control? When you’re with a major label it’s like having a pimp – you get fucked for free, they take all the money, and let you keep working for it. We wanted to put out our own stuff. We know what to do. Five or 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been possible, but now the playing field has been leveled and majors don’t have as much clout and power as they used to.
Ryu: When we put Uzi Does It together, we played it for Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, who is a good friend of ours. He begged us not to go with a major even though majors were kinda sniffing around the project in its early stages. We didn’t want to be confined to release dates and big build up for first week sales, etc. When you put out a record you have to capture that moment in time. Had we went with a major, that shit wouldn’t even be out yet. We wanted to do it our way. Let the word of mouth spread, and slowly but surely this project will get bigger. And it has since its conception.
DX: You’ve been working with Topspin Media as well. What’s their role in the release of your album? What about Mike Shinoda?
Apathy: We worked with Shinoda on numerous things; he and Ryu go back to when they were teenagers. He heard the project and loved it from the first song we started doing in its demo stages. He ushered us into Topspin Media to meet his homeboy Ian [Rogers], the CEO. We were just going to work with them on light media stuff, but Ian heard our music and ultimately said he didn’t know what he could do for us, but would love to take in the project and manage us. All the ideas he came up with were so revolutionary and mind blowing. We couldn’t believe it. He was so humble about it, but he was responsible for most of our craziest ideas, like making the Uzi USB a reality.
DX: So tell me a little more about the Uzi USB?
Apathy: It’s a USB-shaped like an Uzi. It’s a 2GB USB that you could put whatever you want onto, but the album comes on it as well.
Ryu: Who doesn’t want a gun? The thing goes into our whole marketing plan. People don’t buy CDs anymore, which is unfortunate, so we thought we should sell products that people can’t live without that have our album on them. We have a couple things that we’ll release later, like a koala bear stuffed animal holding the Uzi. We have a t-shirt, a whole line of clothes really, that we did with True Love and False Idols. We’re doing skate decks right now but we’re narrowing it down to the right design.
DX: Speaking of marketing tactics, you sold Uzi Does It for the low price of one dollar for one weekend. How did that come about?
Ryu: You bet your ass we did. We ran this promotion with MySpace. We played it for them and this guy over there genuinely liked the album. Our manager, Ian, approached them about selling the album for a dollar all weekend, and weirdly enough they said okay. MySpace even linked back to the Get Busy Committee website, which is really rare, so we were fortunate. They had our back on the project and we appreciate it.
DX: Your respective past releases are definitely “underground” Hip Hop albums, and although the Get Busy Committee is obviously still an indie project, how does this differ stylistically from your past work?
Apathy: You gotta understand that Ryu and I are in our thirties, and our musical tastes are crazy, even by normal standards. We listen to Santogold and Major Lazer, and a whole bunch of Punk music. Our fans love our underground Hip Hop, but if they got in our car or listened to our iPod’s, they’d probably be a little disappointed that we didn’t throw on the latest underground Hip Hop CD. We grew up in the ‘80s and were fans of the music, and I think that shines through in ours. We’ve been doing underground Hip Hop so long…before some of our fans were even alive! There comes a point when you get exhausted. We got love for it, we got respect for it, but how many times can you do the same formula over and over again? We wanted to go all out and have fun with it.
Ryu: We wanted to make sure we had no limitations whatsoever. No matter what we’d give to the labels, they had a formula, and it never fit or was good enough. Having no boundaries on song structure, beats, etc. contributed to our sound. We did it as bonkers as we could, and for some stupid ass reason it worked. We’ve never had so much fun or been so excited in our lives over making a record.
DX: So is there more to come from Get Busy Committee?
Ryu: We’re working on it right now. Scoop’s making beats right now. Get Busy isn’t a side project, it is the project. The next one will be nuttier than the first because now we have zero limitations whatsoever. Before we didn’t know how people would react, but the reaction was so good that now we’ll push it even further.
DX: There’s proof that everything is working, because I heard about a Los Angeles radio station showing one of Get Busy’s tracks a lot of love.
Ryu: It’s the biggest Rock Alternative station in the country; it’s called KROQ. We have never been played on the station, they just really liked that song. They ran it one night to test it out and it did so well on the phones, the deejays liked it, the homegirl Nicole [Alvarez] kept bangin it for us, and they’re still playing it. Because of that another station in San Diego picked it up. The song was our single, called “I Don’t Care About You.”
DX: So with all the joking around that you guys do, what’s the dynamic like in the studio? You’re all used to creating music in group settings, but how has it been linking up with new people?
Scoop Deville: Everything in the studio is natural because we’ve been working for a long time. Ryu came to my crib a long time ago, actually to meet my father, who in the early ‘90’ was a huge icon in west coast Hip Hop. His name is Kid Frost. Ryu didn’t even know I made beats. As soon as he heard what we were doing, everything came naturally. We love to do what we do, we work fast, and everything is fun.
Apathy: When we all work it’s crazy. There are certain things we don’t have to say to one another, we just fill in the blanks. People assume Scoop is just some guy doing beats for Ryu and I. That’s not it at all. Scoop raps and comes up with hooks, too.
DX: What are you guys up to separately, on the solo front?
Ryu: I’m concentrating on Get Busy Committee and trying to get my alcohol consumption to the point where I’m ready to go on the road. It’s been a while since I’ve been out with Fort Minor. So I’m practicing everyday, drinking as much beer and smoking as much weed as possible. Scoop just did the past two singles for Snoop Dogg. He just did a couple tracks for Game. Just getting his production on anywhere he can. Scoop’s working on an album right now that you could compare to [Dr. Dre's] The Chronic, where he takes every artist that he works with in L.A. and the east coast and puts it together to make a Chronic-type album featuring everybody that we mess with. That’s it. I got a wife and kids, so I don’t do much. In the meantime go to GetBusyCommittee.com, download some songs for free, and buy an Uzi and a t-shirt. Tell people if you think the shit is hot. We appreciate the fans and all the love.