The hip-hop duo Chiddy Bang brought its electronic firestorm of sound to the Noyes Community Center on Saturday night for a concert organized by the West Campus Program Council. The group features D.J. Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin and rapper Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege and has been responsible for ushering in an evolutionary new take on hip-hop. Drawing on electronic sounds from all genres, Chiddy Bang has created a fresh sound that embodies the youth they have come to represent. Jones’ samples and remixes have given recent hits a second life: He masterfully reworked MGMT’s “Kids” into the group’s 2010 smash “Opposite of Adults” and vaulted Cee-Lo Green’s voice a few octaves with the “Fuck You Remix.” Chiddy’s verses, meanwhile, have an infectious energy about them — there’s an undeniable youthfulness to the sound, and it gets you moving. The two were signed to EMI in March 2010 and are releasing their first full-length album, The Swelly Life, later this year.
Chiddy Bang came into this world from the golden streets of Philadelphia. Xaphoon and Chiddy met as freshmen at Drexel University in 2008 and quickly began their rise to fame. Two mixtapes soon followed, The Swelly Express in 2009 and the flawless Air Swell the following year. By unpacking and providing a fresh perspective on contemporary artists like Passion Pit, Dr. Dog and Gorillaz, Chiddy Bang crashes through the walls that separate genres and creates a sound that belongs to the current generation of technical and electric brilliance. They’re also pretty cool.
The Sun: So you guys first found acclaim and success through blogs like Pretty Much Amazing and have gained a lot of recognition through online media. Do you think having that as a main access point to your music has changed the way you go about creating?
Xaphoon Jones: Oh, for sure. These days, anyone with a blog will be like, “Yeah, of course you can get that interview!” You gotta show respect to the people that put the game where it is right now, and I think the blog scene is a big part of that.
Sun: If you had a choice between the way music was marketed before internet distribution, geared more around CD releases and full albums, and the way it is now, which kind of exposure would you prefer?
X.J.: Well, we’re about to release our first full-length CD, so I guess I’ll be able to tell you after that. We’ve put out mixtapes and now we’ll put out “real” releases, so I guess we’ll see what works the best.
Sun: What kind of process do you go through when selecting samples?
X.J.: I draw on everything, and then he [Chiddy] tells me what he connects to.
Sun: With the tracks that are re-workings of songs that have already been established as hits like MGMT’s “Kids” or Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You,” does understanding them as accepted hits affect the way you attack lyrical content?
Chiddy: I just try to channel the same energy every time. I’m looking for a fresh, spontaneous mindset when I come up with the music — I don’t really like spending too much time on something. If it gives me that instant reaction, I’ll just go with it and finish it. The “Kids” remix was like —
X.J.: One thought.
C.: Exactly, it was one thought. Boom, bat, done. I’m trying to look for something like that every time I write.
Sun: What are you guys listening to the most when it’s not hip-hop?
C.: Xaphoon is schooling me on some dope shit.
X.J.: I’m trying to school him on some stuff — I showed him MGMT, but then he goes and discovers his own sound. I’d say when dealing outside of hip-hop, Chiddy and I kind of found our common area in soul music.
C.: Definitely, definitely.
X.J.: Sam Cooke, Lee Dorsey, people like that.
C.: That stuff just gives you chills, you know?
Sun: Yup. I had Otis Redding on when I was still in the crib. So much soul.
C.: So much soul! That’s one soulful dude.
Sun: Being a Philly man myself, I gotta ask about the city’s traces in your music. Is there any aspect of Philly that really rubbed off on your sound or style while you were at Drexel? Specific moments, landmarks or the lifestyle?
X.J.: The thing about Philly that really translates with us, I think, is its diversity. There’s so much shit going on — there’s this huge jazz scene, Brazilian dance, world music. West Philly is like a town by itself — there’s a lot of culture that’s piled together in Philly. You got Jamaicans, Africans, all these college kids, the Italians in South Philly, the whole Vietnamese town. Chiddy really brings the Newark, Jersey battle-rap element to our sound, whereas I was a Philly kid growing up on studio rap.
C.: It was definitely dope — coming from Jersey, I brought that element, but I can’t lie, Philly definitely influenced me during that first year of college. There are so many people in Philly that are rapping, making music, just being out there. I had always been a fan of The Roots, but when I actually had the opportunity to meet them and go into the studio and just kick it with them — Tariq [Roots MC Black Thought] is just the legend, man. He just showed us so much love. We met him outside of 30th Street Station one day and he just showed us so much love. And I was just thinking, in New York, if this was some New York shit I don’t know if that would have happened. Mind-blowing type.
Sun: So your music is based around a very electronic concept, always on the cusp of emerging technologies. And that gets reflected through with Chiddy’s lyrics, which usually deal with pretty current and contemporary topics. Is that sort of commentary a conscious decision, or do you think it’s just a result of making music now?
X.J.: For me, discovering electronic music was a huge turning point in my life — going to the U.K. and discovering stuff like 2-step and garage, going on tour in Australia and discovering house music. That all comes back into our music and gets mixed in, and for me that’s just what’s natural.
C.: Initially it was Xaphoon who approached me in the beginning, and was like, yo—
X.J.: There’s no one that’s waving this flag right now. We could make this our lane.
C.: And it just worked.
Check out The Sun's exclusive interview with Chiddy Bang on Youtube: