"I'm feeling like this five year anniversary is more of a rebirth for us," says producer Phingaz, a member of the evolving eight-person rap collective known as the Background Noise Crew. They're gearing up for the release of Everybody Does This, Volume 2, the group's second album as a full-fledged group. "For some people, it probably takes five years. When first started as a crew, we were trying to get an identity. I feel like now, our machine is a little more oiled,"
With multiple MCs and producers, many of whom play dual roles, making up the multifaceted hip-hop hydra, it seems immediately tricky to pull together a cohesive vision, but even in gathering for the interview, it was clear they've figured that part out. Already claiming 16 releases to their name, the group as individuals - -Phingaz, Egypto Knuckles, T.Q.D., Analyrical, Bully Oshin, Status Reign, and newly added members JL Magee and Legend Has It -- have been grinding on their own material and fine-tuning their solo presence since the beginning. But now, with a half decade as a label and group approaching, all parties agreed it was time to work on another crew record and to step their game up from all angles.
"We haven't all been interested at the same time in the way we are now," says T.Q.D., whose typically quick mode of working didn't easily align with the schedules of the other mebers. "Life happened to a lot of people,". Show veteran and battle rapper Analyrical found that the inner workings have tightened in a specific effort to re-establish themselves on the scene. "It all just worked out beautifully. The communication aspect has worked out so much better. If we did do a song, everybody in the crew had a chance to listen to it before it got put on the record. Everyone's got their flavor on it,".
The addition of new members JL Magee and Legend Has It, known collectively as ZOMBIExZOMBIE, also helped to reinvigorate the sound. Producer Egypto Knuckles notes the two "basically lit a fire under our ass. They gave us the blood transfusion we needed to survive. It felt like we were back in 2007 again and we just wanted to do something. We were looking for the outlet for our voice, and we finally found it on EBT2. I'm excited for what we've got in store, and I think when people get hit in the head with it, they're going to really dig the vibe that we're on,".
With only one full crew track (opener "See The Future"), the album is decidedly varied, with a number of voices and sub-groups coming together under a single umbrella, but the decision to keep all production limited to Phingaz and Egypto keeps the structure solid. For example, Bully Oshin's multiple name changes (Phingaz lists "ToneKrusher Smith aka Fruvolous McSpiteful aka Baby Daddy aka Blackjack Armstrong..." as the rapper's former aliases) attests to his bugged-out and bold style, but it fits right in alongside T.Q.D.'s introspective soul-searching raps, thanks to the shared collective vision and the grounded production work.
As Egypto pulls from classic sample-based boom-bap, Phingaz works in a more experimental mode, such as on "Lights On, Mic On" which features a prominent banjo loop he recorded himself. The rappers find where they fit and bring energy to each track, keeping the album lively and show-ready. In keeping with the album's title, a Background Noise Crew show is one big surge of energy, where everybody backs everyone up, passing mics around in a frenzy that infuriates soundmen. "If they put up 20 mics like they're supposed to, they wouldn't have to worry about it!" says Bully Oshin.
Operating at the level they are now, it's humbling to note that the crew met at the very place the interview took place, the Yafa Grill and Hookah Club, during a series of building sessions that are now the stuff of legend. After Egypto Knuckles left Radio K's Beatbox program, he wanted to continue to maintain relationships with artists he'd met and started inviting members of the hip-hop community to shoot the shit over shisha. Slowly through time, the seeds of Background Noise began to surface.
As T.Q.D. puts it, "At the end of the day, we just ended up being the people that hung out the most. It all developed from there, really,". After working on a few projects with various people who seemed to keep cropping up, the crew eventually formed and have been solidifying their presence ever since. Now that the five year anniversary is around the corner, and with it a new record that stands as a new big statement of purpose, Background Noise Crew are ready to step to the foreground and let everyone know the name.
Background Noise Crew play a release show for "Everybody Does This, Volume 2" on Saturday, August 18th at Hell's Kitchen, with The Tribe and Big Cats!, Unknown Prophets, and Q. Moore. 18+, $5, 10 pm.