Still seeking the beat 

Beatnuts head out on 20th anniversary tour, prepare to release eighth studio album


Who: The Beatnuts

When: Sunday, March 7, 9 p.m.

Where: Garfinkel's

Cost: $20 in advance at Billabong, Katmandu, Garf's or

The Beatnuts - better known as Psycho Les and JuJu - have been making music together for almost 20 years, and they're still on the vinyl digger's never-ending quest for the next sick beat.

The team grew up just a few blocks away from one another in Queens, New York. They were introduced by a mutual friend, DJ Mo.

"We're from the same neighbourhood, basically - I'm from Corona, he's from Jackson Heights - and the only thing that divides that neighbourhood is this big avenue called Junction Boulevard," JuJu explained.

JuJu got his introduction to the world of hip hop in junior high, after hearing some Harlem underground records. The old school record collections JuJu was hearing featured an incredible range of genres and artists.

"It was like, 'what is all this stuff?'" But the one thing that they all had in common was that they'd all have those two-minute, 60-second breaks; that's what we responded to."

Curiosity officially piqued, a young JuJu began experimenting on his own, buying records and digging for records, searching for "common ground" and, of course, catchy breaks.

"It was just an amazing time for music, it was an amazing time to grow up, just to see where it's all come from," he said.

At that time, hip hop was still very much an underground culture. To catch the freshest tracks you'd have to stay up really late at night, tuned into public or college radio stations.

"...It was before they called it hip hop, you know what I mean?" JuJu laughed. "Before it became rap."

"To have been there, when it came from nothing to being an economic force now..." he trailed off. "It's influenced all kinds of music all around the world."

After this Canadian tour, The Beatnuts are heading over to Japan for another tour, a reach which the artist never imagined would be possible for the genre of hip hop.

"We always do Tokyo and stuff like that, but now we're going to all these places on the outskirts," he added.

The Beatnuts' upbringing and surroundings have infused and inspired their distinct sound, which combines elements of hardcore hip hop while still using heavy drums and loops and sampling jazz, funk and Latin-influenced music. Also, with two sisters 16 years older than him around in the '70s, JuJu was exposed to everything from Fleetwood Mac to Linda Ronstadt.

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