Chiddy Bang: Swelly good

The year was 1989. On February 22nd, the Philadelphia duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince won the first rap Grammy ever awarded. The DJ/Vocalist group thereby took hip-hop music to new heights; they put a city famous for a crack (in the Liberty Bell) on the rap map; and they showed that a 100 people orchestra wasn’t needed to produce beautiful tunes.

21 years later, a new ‘He’s the DJ, I’m the rapper’-styled duo has emerged straight out of Philly and started spreading their work all over the world.

“Xaphoon, you crazy!” says Chidera ‘Chiddy’ Anamege on the track Chiddy Freestyle, aimed at his colleague, the musical mastermind Noah ‘Xaphoon Jones’ Beresin. And here, the Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince vs. Chiddy Bang analogy stops. Because Xaphoon Jones is far more than just a DJ being told to “spin that s**t”, or someone who simply plays a string of beats through some gnarly, old speakers. Xaphoon plays the drum and keyboard; he uses electro tones, pop sounds and grime influences. Add to this the lyrics of a young man with lyrical precision likely of Martin Luther King King and you have an old, simple concept executed on a whole new level. Chiddy is more today than one day – he rather raps about what’s real than what could be – and together it all melts into a mix of perfection from track to track to track.

“It’s always been our type of thing,” Xaphoon Jones says, “and it feels like people in this area [Philadelphia] were looking for something else – hopefully we bring that to them. We just do what we love. Our sound is all over the place right now, but in a way it’s very consistent.”

The 19-year-old duo met at Drexel University in Philadelphia. And there already is the difference from many other hip-hop groups that might take these two to the top. They’re college kids, not street kids. No heavy gold chains, no loaded guns, no rhymes with Maybach puns. “We were freshmen at college and just had the same interests, so we started making music and shows and put them on the Internet,” Xaphoon says casually when explaining how it all got started.

Chiddy Bang’s big break came after the music blog Pretty Much Amazing featured five of their tracks in a post in February 2009. The tracks – Sooner or Later, Fresh Like Us, On Our Way, Ice Cream Man and Because – all received great criticism, and nine months later their mixtape The Swelly Express saw daylight for the first time. The mixtape featured a sample of MGMT’s song Kids called Opposite of Adults, which proved to be what was needed to take advantage of the publicity and really get things rolling.

Now, with their album, Chiddy Bang: The Preview, released on October 11th, Chiddy and Xaphoon just want the world to hear what they have to say. “We see what’s going on today and worry about it, so we try to transform that into music. The songs are quite autobiographical,” Xaphoon explains. “The upcoming album is just music we’ve worked on while being on the road. It’s not really huge music for stadiums, more just what we’re into right now. But it’s just a preview for our real album coming in 2011.”

On a number of songs recorded the duo has been influenced by the UK. In the spring of 2010 they went on tour in Britain, where Opposite of adults entered the Singles Chart at #12, and couldn’t help but to arrange a little gift to their UK fan base. “We just looked around and saw that almost every of our latest songs had something to do with the UK; it just kind of happened,” Xaphoon says. From it all came mixtape number two: Air Swelly. “We weren’t really trying to promote ourselves in Britain with it, but we made that mixtape in March and it was just to say thank you to people after coming to the UK a lot from February.”

The record includes guest performances from British artists Kate Nash, Ellie Goulding and Tinie Tempah, as well as the official Chiddy Bang remix of the Gorillaz song Stylo.

In October, Chiddy and Xaphoon packed their bags and came back from across the Atlantic to join Tinie Tempah on a UK nationwide tour. Two separate stories of success joining forces and taking over the nation perhaps? To Xaphoon Jones the way to the top seems quite simple, though. “We have a lot of interest in what we’re doing, we’re young, full of energy and enjoy making music.”

And with their preview album just released, performances in full-booked venues filling up the calendar, and their name spreading across the Internet like the musical antidote against the death of hip hop, the upcoming years for Chiddy and Xaphoon are bound to be more than just crazy. And don’t be surprised if a new Grammy travels home to Philadelphia within short.

(a feature from November, 2010, published in Verve Magazine. Image: Chuff Media)

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One Response to “Chiddy Bang: Swelly good”
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