From Philadelphia, Chiddy Bang duo Noah Beresin and Chidera ‘Chiddy’ Anamege have come along way from skipping class at university to play music. Having just dropped their newest studio album Breakfast that features the contagious track, Ray Charles, that both pays tribute to the “swagged-out” musician; and creates a fun and playful side of hip-hop. ACCLAIM talks to Chiddy about breaking the world record for Longest Freestyle Rap, the pros of being discovered on Myspace and why they filmed a music video on a $200 flip-camera.
I’ve read that you guys met at university and got together purely to ‘get out of going to classes’ – surely, you never expected skipping class to come this far?
That’s true, we never anticipated that we would get this far; what we wanted to do was to take it one step at a time. We weren’t thinking that we would go the long distance, and tour the world and do all of that stuff. At the time, we were just like ‘we’re making cool music’ and ‘let’s skip class and go into the studio and make another track’. We’d just started making tracks that we took pride in and we were passionate about it first and foremost, and we thought it was cool – people seemed to catch on to that too, eventually.
You guys became ‘internet sensations’ from your mixtapes on Myspace – do you think critics are often unfair to artists that were discovered online?
Yeah, I think so. I think that a lot of them may not understand the dynamic of the groups or the musicians they criticise. Really, with us, it was more the hip-hop world didn’t really understand us or, you know, what we do. The Internet was great for us, because it helped us develop a presence. People would check for us on blogs and Myspace and those people became our fans and stuck with us.
We just released an album online right now, and it’s already number four on iTunes and I think that’s just amazing – it just goes to show that the online presence are there, that the fans that we’ve developed and built over all of these years are supporting us. I feel like a lot of the people that criticise that might be older, or listen to a different style of music, or might not be receptive to what it is that we do. But it’s good to know that there are people, online or not, that listen to our music.
Despite being tongue-in-cheek, your Ray Charles single is a huge tribute to his music, does he mean a lot to both of you?
Well, I mean, Ray Charles is definitely an inspiring individual, as a person and musically. But that song isn’t a tribute to his music per-se, it’s more a tribute to what he represents. I think what’s really cool about Ray Charles is that me and Noah consider him a really swagged-out individual that is able to do so many things with less, you know? Just being blind. When we did the track, we were just fooling around and having a little bit of fun with it, and I looked over to my brother and he had his shades on, and his head tilted back and in that moment I was like ‘Dude, you look like Ray Charles’ and I went into the booth and I was just having fun and freestyling and I used that as inspiration for the whole session and it turned out to be really, really, epic.
We had the label pretty freaked out about it, ‘cos before that we’d sent them a bunch of stuff and they’d been like ‘yeah, yeah, it’s cool’ and we sent them the Ray Charles’ track and they were like ‘YES. This is the one!’ But it’s definitely a tribute of sorts to a great man, but it’s less of a musical tribute. I think my man Questlove from the Roots summed it up, he said ‘If Ray Charles had his own TV show in the 70’s then our track would be the opening song’.
You have a very diverse array of samples, from Radiohead to MGMT… What else has inspired your music?
For me, I just like rapping over cool beats, generally speaking. All the sampling though, is Noah, he chops up a whole bunch of samples and my job is to be a filter and select the stuff that I like. Basically, when we started Noah would just bring me a heap of them and the ones I’d connect with I’d pick and I’d rap on it and it was that simple. It didn’t matter if the beat sample was Radiohead or whatever. It just so happened that they would be the ones I’d select and in this day and age it’s pretty much the same. I just have to listen and for any song that I feel like speaks to me and then I’ll rap on it.
But musically, I’ve always been inspired by going into the studio and just getting something out. I’ve been rapping since I was thirteen or fourteen and I just found myself in love with spitting on beats. And Noah’s been producing since he was young – it’s something he’s always had a passion for. When we met at college we just knew that it was both of our passion and so we both wanted to actively pursue it.
Your last album features Pharrell, Q-Tip and Killer Mike. Who would be a dream collaboration apart from these guys?
Well, that album is an EP and is more of a preview for our music. We just dropped our new album Breakfast which actually came out today in the States. But for collaborations? I think Kanye West, definitely. Or just people we really look up to, but Kanye, for both of us, I mean from a production side for Noah and I admire what he does.
What can a listener expect from your new album Breakfast?
It’s all of the music that we’ve been working on for the past year and a half, and I think what people should expect from it is an album that caters to the fans but it still explores us coming up with a new sound. I think what’s refreshing about it is that Noah has come up with a lot the music from scratch. At the start it was all about sampling and chopping up songs and putting them into a new context but this sees us exploring and creating new beats. I mean, we also have access to more equipment. When we started we only had a mic and laptop and now we have all sorts of stuff. This is our first attempt of a major label album.
Whilst a lot of your songs are party-orientated, tracks like Dreams have heavier undertones; do you think that’s important to have a balance?
Yeah it is important to have a balance, I mean, no-one parties 24/7. It’s like night and day – you can’t have one without the other. On our last album, we had quite a few party tracks but we’ve got some other stuff too. It’s like telling a story – you have to have a beginning, middle and end. I think it makes the story more well rounded and it gives people more to relate too.
Your powerful video for Sooner or Later was filmed in your home village in Nigeria, can you tell us a little bit about that?
That was a video I basically shot on my flip-camera whilst I was [visiting] where my parents grew up in Nigeria – it’s a little bit of who I am and I basically went out there and just filmed it. I was just going to the city from the village where my parents once lived and I thought it would be great to get some footage of everything, and after just put it together with the song Sooner or Later and it worked really well together. You know, the lyrics went well with the vibe of the footage. And really, I felt people needed to see that. People who have never ever been to Nigeria, they can experience a little bit of it through that video—and something that is as personal as me just filming what I saw on a $200 flip-camera.
Many of your other videos have a distinctive playful look, do you get to work on those too?
We like to bounce ideas between us and the directors and it’s usually a very balanced effort. We love the directors that aren’t so stern – we prefer the ones that are like ‘Chiddy, what do you think about doing this?’ and I’m like ‘oh, I don’t mind that – but what about…’ I think the directors that are open to our ideas are the difference between the videos that get done and look really good and the ones that look… crap.
Notably, you broke two Guinness world records, by rapping for 9 hours and 18 minutes, on the MTV Music Awards last year, did you expect to do it? Or practise at all?
I didn’t practise. I didn’t expect to. I didn’t even know if I was gonna do it. My manager was like ‘Look, we haven’t put out any music for a while and we need something to stay relevant, do you wanna come to Vegas and attempt to break this world record, MTV will get behind it.’ He was almost daring me to do it like, ‘but of course, you won’t freestyle for nine hours!’ And I was like ‘Right, I think I will.’ So they flew us out to Vegas, put us up in a nice hotel and they were like ‘What do you want?’ And I told them I wanted a big breakfast the morning of, so they brought me a huge breakfast and I started rapping at like, 9:30am and didn’t stop until 6:30-7pm.
Did you think you could do it?
I did it! I got it! I’m a champion! (laughs) I mean, by the time you got to six hours, I kinda knew, I was thinking ‘if I got to six… I could probably do another three more… I’ve already got this far.’ I was always confident but it definitely felt like a long time and it wasn’t easy. By any means. But I had topics in front of me – I had the fans sending me topics on Twitter – anything they wanted me to rap about so that made it a little easier. I got it done.
What’s coming up next now that the new album’s out?
Just doing shows to promote it, basically. We’re doing a show tonight in Washington DC and then on to Philly tomorrow. And the day after that in New York. Just getting fans to come out and party with us to the new album. Then we’re heading to the UK. Then South by Southwest. Then we’re supporting Professor Green on his world tour. Just touring and building awareness. We’re definitely trying to put Australia in the equation, but unfortunately we had to cancel a show there. It’s tough balancing everything. I can honestly say though, touring Australia for Parklife Festival last year was the best time we’ve ever had. I mean, we were twenty years old and in Australia! Hopefully we can come back soon.
Breakfast is out now. For more info on Chiddy Bang check www.chiddybang.net