Flosstradamus Believe That Electronic Dance Music Is Here To Stay, Recall Hip Hop's EDM Roots
Exclusive: The duo responsible for both "Post-Apocalyptic Trap" and De La Soul's "Are You In?" album look back to Hip Hop's roots on how Electronic music is relevant to the culture and the mainstream.
If you've ever wondered what “Post-Apocalyptic Trap” sounds like, take a listen to “Total Recall,” the lead single from Flosstradmus's EP of the same name. It's a well-constructed mash-up of dance and Hip Hop, with a frenetic synth that recalls FischerSpooner's 2002 hit “Emerge” running head-on into the drum pattern from Lex Luger's next great trap single. Indeed, if Floss went into “Total Recall” hoping to create three-and-a-half minutes of the zeitgeist of club music, then they succeed with flying colors. The track borrows from both the regional and the global, proving that even popular regional scenes now have the potential to become worldwide phenomenons thanks to the Internet. Just like the tag hints, “Total Recall” sounds like the instrumental to the street anthem we'll be playing after the world ends.
A duo that has the chops to both move your feet and nod your head, courtesy of mixing electronic synths with Hip Hop drums and rhythms, Flosstradamus, composed of J2K and Autobot (referenced in this interview as Josh and Curt, respectively) have crafted a sound that fits perfectly on taste-maker labels Fool's Gold and Mad Decent Records, which currently split Floss's releases. The two boutique labels are famous for knowing how to rock a party, and Flosstradamus are a no-brainer for both rosters, as their releases freely juggle dance and Hip Hop sonics with incredible precision and balance. When HipHopDX caught them at the Fool's Gold Party at South By Southwest, their set kept the attention of both Hip Hop heads and dance fanatics, a feat that only comes with years of keeping your ear in tune with your audience.
DX had a chance to speak to both members of Flosstradamus while they were at South By Southwest, and during the course of our in-person interview, they helped us better understand why turntablists gravitate towards dance music, provided insight on whether or not America is finally set for Electronic Dance Music to become a mainstream force, and Josh admitted to getting nervous before performing the Peanut Butter Stomp in Chicago with the cast of Yo Gabba Gabba.
Photograph by Clayton Hauck
HipHopDX: Muchlike A-Trak, co-owner of Fool's Gold Records, an imprint you two are currently signed to, you both come from a deejay/turntablist background. You also have a Hip Hop sound that's rooted in dance. Why is it that deejays with that turntablist skill set eventually gravitate toward dance music?
Curt: He and I did both start [with] turntablism, and I think one thing that I learned in it is, in the turntablist world, it was all about doing creative, different wacky stuff, so I was raised on that. It was like “You gotta do the next level, most creative, cool thing” and then that's how you get fans. That's how you get acceptance by your peers.
When I ended up just going to dance music, I just got, like anyone, just a little less fed up with doing turntablism stuff, and I went over to the dance world. Doing dance stuff, I took that mentality of wanting to do creative mixes and create different things in that world, and that's just where it stuck. That's what we like to do as [Flosstradamus] in our sets, too. We like to keep it creative, make the blends a little heady and a little different.
Josh: Yeah, of course. There's so many deejays that don't necessarily show their personalities in their mixes or put their stamp on whatever it may be, because when you break it down, we're all playing MP3's. That's what we're doing. We're playing other people's music for the most part to a crowd, and when you're doing something that's that simple, you have to try and make it interesting at the same time, so people have certain ways of doing it. Some people just push play and get the crowd hype. They're like a one man show. I'll use Steve Aoki as an example. That dude will push play, and he's not up there technically going crazy, but the kids are going nuts because he's engaging them. He's jumping on the speakers and crowd surfing and it's like a whole party.
For us, we go the other route. I mean, we're dancing and having a good time up there, but we're really focusing on trying to do something that'll make kids think. We like tricking kids into liking music that they wouldn't normally like by sandwiching it in between things that they know and love.
DX: So with that said, do you think your partnerships with both Mad Decent and Fool's Gold really lend themselves to a set of fans that are willing and open to see where you guys are willing to go?
Curt: Oh, totally. If we weren't on those labels, we would be fans of those labels.
Josh: For sure.
Curt: They're putting out the music that we, as just consumers of music, like to listen to, so yeah, totally. And I think their fan base is like Josh and I. I'll have like a Grizzly Bear MP3 on my computer and I'll have a 3 Inches of Blood MP3 –
Josh: Our first song that we put out was a mash-up, but our first mix of two songs was Sigur Ros “Staralfur” and “Overnight Celebrity” by Twista. To have those two things work together and those two genres mix perfectly, that means you can go anywhere.
DX: Do you think that kind of mindset really is a product of the Internet age as well?
DX: With access to all that music, those connections now make sense in a way they didn't before.
Curt: Totally, and I think for us, we grew up in Chicago, and Chicago, even back in the day with music too, but especially when we were kids, there was so much stuff happening. Chicago is in the middle of the United States, so when we have Hip Hop on the radio there, we have [West Coast] Hip Hop playing, we have New York Hip Hop, we have Chicago Hip Hop playing, and we have dance music. We have House and Juke music, [which] is Hip Hop and house music mashed together, so we had all of that stuff influencing who we were.
DX: Danny Brown made a similar point when I asked him about his grime influence on XXX, and he was saying that Detroit techno really played a part in that, so it sounds like for you two, just being around Chicago house and that dance scene really fed its way into how you guys throw out what you do.
Curt: That's what I was trying to get at with that too, is that we were kids of the Internet, but we had all of that that just on the radio. All of that stuff [was] happening, and now, someone in some weird, far country in the middle of nowhere, if they have Internet, they're influenced kind of like [how] we were able to be by the radio, but it's all in front of them on the Internet and they can look it up.
Josh: Yeah, there's some regional influence and then there's also the influence of the entire world. You can access whatever you want, whatever you feel, because kids can be fans or whatever. It's their choice now. It's not necessarily what the radio's force-feeding to them. It's also up to them a little bit more. A lot more, actually.
DX: Spin magazine recently dedicated a large portion of one of their issues to Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and said that it is set to finally make mainstream strides stateside. With you guys playing both globally and domestically, would you co-sign that statement? Do you really see it building in a way it hasn't in the past?
Curt: Oh yeah. Totally. I mean, we grew up in Chicago where dance music was always prevalent, but we're seeing it a lot more now. All sorts of kids are into it. I always make the joke, but back in the day, when a friend would hear what we're doing, they'd be like “Oh, you're making Techno.” Now, people are saying different genres whenever they hear Electronic music. They're like “Oh, Dubstep,” or they're saying House or Electro, and now it just doesn't have that stamp on it. Now, people are actually branding it to what it is instead of just being like “Oh, it's sounds electronic. That's techno.” Like “Fatboy Slim – that's Techno” when in reality he's like a sub-genre of an EDM thing.
DX: He's Big Beat, right?
Curt: Yeah, he's Big Beat. Yeah. Totally.
Josh: Also, I was just gonna say it's influenced Pop music and it's influenced mainstream music for the last 20 years, but it hasn't been acknowledged. The producer – I even think around the time that Timbaland started becoming an artist frontman, when it was like “Oh, those beats,” or like The Neptunes when you're like “Oh, the production is everything. Anyone could get on this beat and it would be amazing.” Those guys are sort of the forefront of that, and now it's just become so huge. You can be a solo artist as an electronic musician. The Neptunes could do an instrumental record right now and people would actually buy it and be into it.
DX: It's been there sort of in whispers for decades, but you're finally seeing its obvious influence in the Top 40, whereas before, you could only hear it in the synths or something.
Curt: Oh yeah. Taylor Swift is a Country artist. She's a Country artist on Country radio, but if you listen to her songs, it's like a House beat with a banjo over the top of it.
Curt: It's definitely influencing the mainstream.
DX: To touch upon something that happened a little while back, how did you guys end up hooking up with Yo Gabba Gabba?
Josh: It was kind of cool. Actually, they came through Chicago doing a live show, so what we did was we actually performed on their show. It was like 20,000 kids out there doing their thing, and we came out and taught kids how to do the Peanut Butter Stomp. They just reached out to us, and my sister, Kid Sister, she came out and did a song of hers.
Curt: The one thing with that that was super funny, this dude has done so many shows with me. I mean, we've done Coachella and all these big festivals and stuff. I've never seen him get nervous. He got so nervous [there], and in front of a room full of three-year olds.
Josh: Because they're not drunk! I feel like drunk people are more forgiving. They're like “Woo, we're here to have a party!” They don't even know music's on any more, but the kids were like “You better perform...” So anyways –
Curt: -- So anyways, he gets on stage and we were supposed to introduce ourselves and say who we were and then go into the instructional video, and he went out and said he was Curt, which is me. He goes out and he says “Hi, I'm Curt,” and I just was like “Uhh...” and it got me shook –
Josh: You saved it, though!
Curt: But I saved it last minute. I just said “I'm Josh.”
Josh: He said he was Josh, and then we started teaching kids how to dance the Peanut Butter Stomp.
DX: [Laughs] I would think with kids, they'd be receptive and willing to go with it. Of all the people to get nervous in front of...
Josh: Yeah, but the parents were there too. It's kind of cool. Biz Markie was there and he does “Biz's Beat of the Day,” which is a little beat-box he does for the kids. The kids are excited for him because they know him from the show, so it's like “Oh, Biz's Beat of the Day!” and the parents are fanning out because they're music heads. I feel like the people that kind of watch that show are into music and are into that kind of stuff, so it was crazy, man. It was dope.
DX: Nice. And they reached out to you?
Curt: I don't even remember what the initial connection was with that, but yeah. They hollered at us, and there we were with some giant puppets.
DX: It seems like such a weird connection, but then again, it makes perfect sense considering that Flosstradamus sounds a bit like what they promote on the show.
Curt: Yeah, totally.
DX: And it's totally tapped into what's happening in the mainstream.
Curt: Some of those tracks knock. I'd put them in our set if we're playing to three year olds.
DX: You guys ever played “Party in My Tummy”?
Curt: Not live.
DX: That's my song. [Laughs]
Josh: It's in my iTunes.
Curt: I might put it out at some point, but one of my best friends just had a little kid, and for his birthday, I made a little birthday mixtape and I put that on it.
DX: Josh, you just mentioned your sister, Kid Sister. You guys have collaborated with her a ton. At this point, is she basically an honorary member of Flosstradamus?
Josh: [Laughs] Oh, yeah yeah, totally. That's all family, both real and metaphysical. We just did that song “Luuk Out Gurl” off of Jubilation. It's so rad to have a sibling who not only is in music but is also on the same exact wavelength as you, so I send her stuff constantly, and she's like “Oh, cool, ” and just does a song and flips it back.
DX: Speaking on Danny Brown again, he was on “From the Back” off of the same EP. How did you guys end up hooking up with Danny?
Josh: That was through Nick [Catchdubs] at Fool's Gold. He put that together. Nick was like “Oh, should go check [Danny Brown] out, man. He's in your city” just to see him. I went out and he blew me away, because there weren't that many people there. This was before he'd really kind of blown up, and he just gave it like 110%. I was just like “Dude, I love that” because rappers can get so much about the floss and the glossiness of it and all that, and he seems like a down-to-earth dude from Detroit who just like doesn't give a fuck and likes to smoke blunts, fuck bitches for real –
Josh: – and be up on stage having a good time. So I just went up to him after the show and was like “Yo, good show.” I didn't even expect him to know who I was, but he was like “Oh, Flosstradamus! What's good?” and I was like “Cool, man. Cool” and then I talked to Nick and he put us together.
DX: Considering that much of your group's sound and rhythms are rooted in Hip Hop, do you feel that Hip Hop fans should be more receptive to your music?
Curt: Yeah. I want the same amount of Hip Hop fans as House fans. I don't know, like I said earlier, we like all different types of music and yeah, I think that the people that would be into Hip Hop would be into us, because we're playing tracks that are in the tempo of what they like.
Josh: And the term “Hip Hop fan” is just like, I don't even know what that is any more, because within the realm of Hip Hop, there's dozens of sub-genres, let alone influences from so many different styles of music, so it's like if a Hip Hop fan doesn't like our music, cool. That doesn't necessarily have to be because he's a Hip Hop fan or not. It just might not speak to him. But I feel like if someone likes our style, you can nod your head to it, so obviously there's like the basis of Hip Hop there, just to be able to actually like groove to it. I feel like that's there, that's present.
DX: You're right. At times, it seems like Hip Hop heads will get locked into a certain sound, and as light-hearted guys who seem to be all about making feel good music that pushes sonic boundaries, I could see it being hard for your sound to translate to some Hip Hop fans because it's not necessarily rooted in that battle mentality in Hop Hop, of showing that you're “hard” or the best.
Josh: Well, that's the thing. If you look back in Hip Hop, if you go back to the roots of Hip Hop, it starts in sampling Disco and like Dance music. It goes back to Dance music.
DX: With Afrika Bambaataa and the block parties and all that.
Josh: Exactly, and it was all about fun and togetherness and creativity and all positivity, and it got kind of fucked up and got kind of convoluted and super Hollywood or whatever, but the core of Hip Hop and what it's about is for people to go out, have fun, and be cool with each other. We promote that kind of atmosphere and that kind of environment and that attitude with everything that we do, so I mean that's the foundation of rap and Hip Hop and I think that's what we put out.
Curt: He nailed it.
DX: Do you think that part of it is just people downloading too much and not going to enough shows to see that live element at play?
Josh: Umm...Nah. I don't know.
Curt: I think everyone comes into Hip Hop at a different point of their life, and [if] you came in in the golden-era, you might stick with that. You might go on to the next thing. It might help you go [further] into it, and I just think everyone just has their own idea of what Hip Hop is. I don't think you could open up a Webster's Dictionary and look at a picture of what Hip Hop is. It's evolved through so many genres, so many different BPM ranges . . . It's always something different.
Josh: And also, if you came into a genre of music when it was at its true pinnacle or maybe its first pinnacle – you know, maybe it hit a dip right after – I can't blame someone for getting locked in that, because then it's like “Aww man, all the new shit that came after Illmatic was just garbage.” It's like “Sort of.” Yeah, there's some truth to that. I can understand that. If you get locked into a classic time with classic albums, then that's you. That's who you are, but I feel like that person should open up, and when things start to go back up again, don't deny it just because it's not what that is. If someone puts out a dope record and it's a classic, it's just a classic. It doesn't matter when it came out or what it's about. It just is what it is.
DX: Lastly, You guys have dropped a couple separate EPs in the last few months. At this point, is it just promotion for those releases or have you guys already moved onto the next thing?
Josh: We're working on a new EP for Fool's Gold. The last one was on Mad Decent and the one before was on Fool's Gold. Both of them are family and both are super supportive and have been down with us from the beginning, so it made sense for us, but that structure and how music is right now, I like it. A lot of people hate the Lil B approach, where you're releasing like 70 songs a year, but that is what music is right now and that's what fans are right now. They want constant content from you and I feel like for us, we kind of have, not only as fans but also as musicians, kind of got on that level, so we're gonna keep doing EPs throughout the year and keep giving out free stuff and just releasing and giving people music, because that's what we want to do and that's what they want from you.
DX: Do you see that trend kind of becoming the norm, just in terms of EPs superseding full-length releases?
Curt: Yeah, it seems to be that way, because even the way people get music, half the songs that we have, I only have one song by that artist. They might have put out 12 other ones, but I only have one song from that artist, and I think that's just what it is. [With] EPs, it slims it down. You have three songs to choose from, so I think that's just what's happening now with the way people consume music. I don't know, half the time I don't know what label [an artist's] on or anything. It's just that I like that song and I'll have it.
Josh: And honestly, I'll be straight up: I'm pro-piracy. I'm not trying to say “Fuck the industry” or whatever. I'm not on that, but I just like what it has done to music, and I think it's leveled the playing field. I think it's made it so, once again, it's not about the radio. Kids like A$AP [Rocky] can get on the radio because he's dope and that's it, and that's all that matters. He's putting out music for free and just giving it to people, and I think that that has helped things and I think it's gonna make artists who are in that place, like Kanye West, who's a great example, push themselves and actually progress as artists.
That last album, [My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy], is influenced by so many different things, and you can tell that he's keeping current but at the same time doing him. He had Pete Rock producing on that. He had Q-Tip in the studio, but at the same time, I'm not gonna say any names, but there's newer producers that he's worked with that are up on the new stuff. Even James Blake, for example, so I like it. I like what it's done.