“Somebody else wanna tell this part? I always do this,” said Audible Doctor. Soul Khan reluctantly spoke up. “So a bunch of people worked at Fat Beats and that bunch of people would be us. And often, we would drink together. And when we would drink together, we would go around the corner.”
“You’re butchering it,” interrupted J57.
“I’m not butchering it, I’m giving the facts and the facts that matter, you douchebag,” retorted Soul Khan. “Right now, we are at 6th Avenue between 8th and 9th Street where Fat Beats is located.”
“Come find us,” said Koncept.
“We’ll make it worth your time. Pause.” said Soul Khan. “On 6th Avenue, there is a store with alcohol in it and we buy it from there. The owner–the proprietor of that establishment insisted that each beverage be placed in a brown bag, which I guess you could say is the etymology of ‘Brown Bag AllStar.’”
Six employees of Fat Beats, a New York-based record store, comprise Brown Bag AllStars, an indie rap group with an old school slant and a disdain for tired trends. Of the six of them, there are two DJs, two producers, and four MCs. After closing on a Wednesday night, Soul Khan, Koncept, The Audible Doctor, and J57 sat around in a circle, while DeeJay Element and E-Holla stood behind the store’s turntables.
“Brown Bag AllStars was a crew of people who would hang out here, drink and play music and that’s it. It was people who interned here, worked here and just friends of that really knew music,” said J57. One night, they went to a friend’s studio to record some music.
“We did a couple songs. They came out alright because we were wasted,” said J57. Eventually, they whittled down the group to the current six members and put the booze aside long enough to record a mixtape.
Though they’re surrounded by classic hip-hop records and describe their sound as “boom-bappery,” they hesitate to pigeonhole themselves as throwback rappers.
“I don’t think [working at Fat Beats] forced us into a certain sound, I think it more showed us what not to do,” said Audible Doctor. Having hosted many upcoming rap artists in their store, the Brown Bag AllStars are wary of following trends and fads.
“It enabled us to bounce what we were doing off the average rap customer,” said Soul Khan, “Most artists these days either suffer from trying to pander to too many people to the point where it wears them thin and there’s nothing individual or interesting about them; or the other side of that which is they’re very self indulgent. Like, ‘This is my experience, this is my life,’” he said in a mock rapper voice, “And no one cares. 99% of the time, your autobiography is something that never needed to be told unless it’s some real riveting Antwone Fischer shit and usually it’s not.”
“I feel like there’s this new outcrop of dudes who are like, ‘I’m a regular guy and I’m gonna tell you where I’m coming from.’ That’s the new thing in indie hip-hop and they all sound the same and no one gives a shit,” he continued. “OK, so you collected comic book cards and you blew into your Nintendo cartridge and it’s all very nostalgic. I don’t give a shit. There are so many trends and shit that we just don’t follow because we’re tired of them.”
So far, the Brown Bag AllStars have officially released The Brown Tape, which they recorded in late 2007 and early 2008. “If you’re unhappy with the quality, we made it in six hours, so shut the fuck up,” said Soul Khan. The tape quickly found an audience with Fat Beats patrons and it was released digitally by Coalmine Records on August 4, 2009 with two new remixes.
The group followed with Brown Bag Season, a marketing campaign of two albums’ worth of free songs released from May to August. Brown Bag Season was their answer to rappers who flood rap blogs with sub par music. “Shitted on everyone else’s shit, might I say,” said Soul Khan.
“I had DJ Premier yesterday say to me ‘Who the fuck is this playing?’ and it was a Brown Bag track and he said that he had to play it on his show and to send it to him. I thought that was a pretty damn good day. And then ten minutes later O.C. said the same thing,” said Koncept.
“We’re never satisfied,” he said with a sudden zeal, “We’re in the studio every single day.”
“We’re just trying to get sharper and sharper — not even to outdo each other — we’re all working together to outdo everybody else,” said J57.
“It’s a return to being human beings when you rap, not shoe models, not Twitterers who happen to rap,” said Soul Khan.
Soul Khan did roll call with another monologue.
“You’ve got J over here who’s like the benevolent pizza chef. You’ve got Koncept who punches dogs if they look at him the wrong way. You’ve got Audible Doctor who probably owns only velour clothing at home. You’ve got me – I think someone said on stage, I dance like Luther Vandross, but after he died.”
“We have DJs, they’re really good at what they do,” added J57.
“We spend much more time on music now,” said Soul Khan, “I guarantee, our first official album, even just production alone, is going to crush everyone’s. Everyone you know and love in the rap scene, give ‘em a hug.” They anticipate the album will be finished in February and come out this year.
“If I’m talking too much at any point you may try to punch me in the mouth, but I may respond,” said Soul Khan.