Disturb the equilibrium 

New York trio takes underground hip hop in a new direction

WHO: The Anti-Pop Consortium

WHERE: Garfinkel’s

WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 31

It all started with words spoken, a literary token, in some downtown theatre showdown… well something like that anyway.

The trio that was to become the Anti-Pop Consortium first crossed verbal paths during the fall of 1997, at an event entitled Rap Meets Poetry at an offshoot of New York’s Nuyorican Theatre. Among the performers that night was a man who went by the name of Beans, and in his audience, were the rest of the future consortium, Priest and M. Sayyid. It was a meeting of minds. Priest recalls the encounter as a major turning point.

"His cathartic tales and childhood reflections, delivered with a rapid-fire staccato flow, were a smash."

One thing led to another and the trio united under a missive to "disturb the equilibrium" and "resist the evil empire (that) hip-hop was slowly becoming." All sounds pretty ominous, but what does it mean?

Anti-Pop’s manager, Amaechi Zoigwe, says basically a lot of modern hip hop isn’t worth listening to.

"On one side there is this regurgitated, recycled hip hop and on the other is the underground hardcore kind, but it’s all just boring."

He says Anti-Pop sets a new sophisticated direction in the underground hip hop movement, with music that is "an electronic experiment by virtuoso verse-ists trained in graphic, visual and sound art."

It seems the fans are agreeing. Zoigwe says Anti-Pop’s debut album Tragic Epilogue which was released in February, 2000, has been named album of the year by U.K magazine The Wire . The New York Times also recently credited the band as putting on "the show of the week" in the Big Apple, he added. The fan base has also spread to Asia, with the planned release of a limited edition CD in Japan this March, all financed by a Japanese record company. That project will be followed by a planned new world-wide release album in the fall.

The "consortium" aside, Anti-Pop’s members – including occasional group member, E. Blaize – have been busy undertaking individual projects of their own. Beans has put out a 12 inch recording on label Mo’Wax entitled Nude Paper, while Priest has released High Priests’ Sonics for the Youth as well as Isolationist in conjunction with DJ Vadim from the U.K. Another side project has been the Diagnol Ryme Garganchula 2.0 released under the name, Tri-Pinnacle.

Priest’s public profile is arguably the highest among band members, not least because of his infamous brush with law enforcement authorities. Priest was arrested and jailed in the mid ’90s on charges of vandalism, following an enthusiastic photo-copy and sticker advertising campaign in N.Y. Zoigwe recalls seeing the signage well before he met Priest and wondering what it was all about.

"I kept seeing these stickers of poetic terrorism all over the subway," he laughs. "But our mayor, Giuliani , soon stomped that out."

Charges against Priest were eventually dropped but the publicity heightened his popularity within the underground and experimental hip hop scene.

In addition to their musical musings, it appears the Anti-Pop artists take appealing to the eye as seriously as pleasing the ear. Zoigwe says the band members are given free clothes all the time because, well, they just look so good.

"The guys are painfully hip walking advertisements and designers from London’s Soho to New York just give them gear ’cause they make a strong fashion statement."

In that case, the band members just must be playing hard to get when they reportedly perform a show backstage, while cardboard cutouts of themselves stand under the stage lights. It must be art.

Whistlerites will get a chance to see and hear some of New York’s finest cutting edge hip hop when they perform later this week as part of their current North American west coast tour.

As to whether Anti-Pop has succeeded in its stated goal to "disturb the equilibrium" and carve a new path out of the stagnant, back waters of mainstream hip hop, well come and decide for yourself.

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