September 19, 2013

The Rhetorical Question With Dynamic Inkline

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Ithaca High School graduates Sean and Kevin Lewis are the hip-hop (brother) duo Dynamic Inkline. After hitting it big this summer with the music video for their song “Our Town” —  or the “Ithaca Song,” as some may think of it — they met with The Sun to talk about their music and what it’s like being start-up rappers in upstate New York.

1. THE SUN: What does Dynamic Inkline mean?

SEAN LEWIS: Dynamic Inkline is basically our representation of what we’re trying to do  … because obviously you have to start from the bottom and work your way up at an incline. And how we came up with the name was we wanted something that could be like, I have my name and he has his name, but together it also stands for something else. So I’m Dynamic, he’s Inkline. But together, obviously, Dynamic Inkline works as a duo as well.

2. SUN: When and why did you guys start being a group?

S.L.: It’s one of those things where we’ve both gone to college, and we were arguing with ourselves, “Do we finish school and then try to pursue it?” But, especially in hip hop and the music industry in general, it’s kind of a younger person’s game. We could have done an extra two years [at school], but then it would have been an extra two years down the road and we [would’ve] had to start [as rappers] there as opposed to being like, “You can always go back to school, but you can’t [always] start your 21 year-old, 22 year-old hip hop career.”

3. SUN: How would you describe your music?

S.L.: I would describe us as East Coast hip hop and, even though most of the time we’re doing like a boom-bap, 90s, hip hop feel, I would say that we’re just more diverse than the average hip hop artist. … I feel like that’s what sets us apart is our diversity and our subject matter. We always try to talk about something that actually matters, some kind of substance that people can relate to, not just, “Oh we’re cool, we’re hip hop artists.”

KEVIN LEWIS: Definitely just going over a diverse amount of instrumentals and then just actually telling, like he was saying, our story, as opposed to just saying, “We sell drugs … du du du.”

4. SUN: Where have you guys gotten to perform?

K.L.: Our first performance was in Florida because our oldest brother plugged us in for a show down there. It was very tiny: It was probably between 25 to 50 people. And then in town is where we’ve done a lot of our shows. We’ve performed at The Haunt, we’ve performed at the State Theater, we opened up for Cam’ron and at The Gates.

5. SUN: Since you are from here, how important is Ithaca to you?

S.L.: I feel like Ithaca is just a really special place, especially for the arts and music because there is just so much going on constantly and creatively around here. … For example, we’re opening up for [The Gunpoets] in November … They’ve  shown us that if you do it big in Ithaca, you can start branching out doing stuff here, doing stuff there and a lot more doors will open. We’ll always have love for Ithaca. … This is our home base. This is where we’re building everything from. I feel like with that and the “Our Town” video, we kind of just wanted to put our stamp on it and be like, this is where we’re from, this is what we’re representing and kind of make a very relatable track to anyone who has ever been here, been to school here or just lives here right now. Definitely very important to us overall.

6. SUN: How do you divide up the work on top of your regular lives?

K.L.: It’s difficult. It’s a lot of hours in a week. We both work probably 50 to 60 hours a week just trying to make money, and then for the actual music, it’s just everything on top of that — just a lot of writing in spare time after work, and before work. We usually don’t meet up unless we’re doing stuff like, “Okay we’re going to write to this beat together.” Or like, “ we need to like put this showtape together.” A lot of it is, I would say, more individual than most people would think.

7. SUN: Since ‘Our Town’ has gotten so much attention lately, what does it feel like to have a song that’s popular?

K.L.: It’s definitely cool. It’s the best feeling when someone will come up to me who I …  don’t know at all and they’re just like, “Oh yah, you’re the kids in the “Our Town” video, right?” That’s just an awesome feeling. Z 95.5 absolutely killed it for us when they started giving it airplay. So that was just a huge help for the video and our  success with that entire project … but overall I’d say really nothing’s changed. It’s just a little bit of exposure which has been helpful, for sure.

8. SUN: Which of your songs is your favorite to perform or was your favorite to write and why?

S.L.: One of my more favorite tracks of what we have released is “Represent.” It’s a track off of our Hear to Have Fun album. More or less, that’s, in one song, what we’re trying to portray for the rest of our career. In that one song, we summed up who we are, kind of a brief bio of where we’re from, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

K.L.: For performing, my favorite is “Stop, Drop, Roll.” It’s one of those more typical club tracks, but that’s kind of why I like performing it.

9. SUN: What are you guys doing next?

S.L.: We have a new project. We haven’t announced the name yet, but we’ll announce it now: It’s called The Write Brothers … That’s going to be coming out in October.

10. SUN: Could you guys imagine ever doing Slope Day?

S.L.: We actually would love to … I feel like honestly we’re at the point where we could open up Slope Day next year. … To my knowledge, nobody from Ithaca has ever performed at Slope Day.

K.L.: Whenever they want to have us, we’re down.

Meredith Joyce is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at [email protected]