New Music: Ottawa’s Antiks going strong with release of second album ‘The Thing Is’

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When I first started Ottawa Showbox in May of 2012, one of the first hip hop groups in Ottawa I came across was Antiks. Consisting of emcees Jayem and Lex, Antiks released their first mixtape called Here’s The Thing back in February of 2012 and it thoroughly impressed my eardrums. Their style struck me as some blend of Beastie Boys and Atmosphere, and production quality on their first record was great. I remember thinking that I’d really like to hear more from these guys.

Well, they’ve finally delivered. Adding guitarist Ryan Farrell and drummer Derek Hillier to the group, their new album called The Thing Is experiments with some new things and contains some interesting anecdotes throughout, some of which I’ll mention in a minute. But first, believe me when I say that there isn’t a bad track on this album. Not only have these guys succeeded in overcoming the sophomore blues by going a very different direction with the new record, they also collaborated with a few talented local producers and MC’s to make things a little more interesting. Produced by Ottawa’s DJ Greg Reain, with special production appearances by Jeepz and Crack Moses, each track on the album has its own character and proves to be integral to creating an overall “feel” while listening. Ranging from melodic, reverb-heavy tracks such as “Contra”, soulful ones like “Therapy”, and definitive anthemic tracks like their collab “Walk on By” with outstanding local hip hop artist G. Grand, Antiks dug deep to diversify their sound and make and album that stood out. Their song “Step To It” sums it up nicely: “Step to it, get to it, what ya doin? A million MCs in the world, you gotta move it”.

My favourite track on the album is “Contra”, a beautifully constructed and well-written song that demands attention from the listener immediately. Other must-hear songs include “Walk on By” (ft. G. Grand), and “Willy No Man” (ft. Dynamite Motel), but as I said, this album is an ear party all the way through. I also really enjoy the interludes included on the record, two of which feature emcees Jayem and Lex rapping over the beatboxing of MC Dimz, respectively. To me, this is what real hip hop is all about. You don’t need layers of tracks and loads of production to do that, and I found it refreshing to Antiks try out some interesting things such as interludes. Their lyrical flow and the quality of their lyrical content was evident throughout the entire the album.

My interpretation is that the album (or parts of it), in a way, is their tribute to Adam Yauch (“MCA”) and the legend that is the Beastie Boys. You can hear certain similarities to classic Beastie Boys albums like Paul’s Boutique, from which they sample “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” in  “JAYem & Dimz [interlude]”. Their use of raw beatboxing by MC Dimz, sampling/use of funk/soul tracks and bass lines, and scratching by DJ SoNice, to name a few things, all subtly pay tribute to the Beastie Boys and remind us of their influence on hip hop music. Big high five, guys.

Other little treats on the album include a comically inspiring clip of Sylvester Stallone reciting a clip from Rocky Balboa, and a random interlude called “The Rap Music” which samples Charles Aznavour’s “Parce Que Tu Crois”, slowed down and popularized by Dr. Dre with his hit “What’s the Difference” off The Chronic 2001. The last track “Fooled Ones” samples the song “Everybody Plays the Fool” by The Main Ingredient, a song nominated for a Grammy Award in the category Best R&B Song in 1973. What a perfect ending to an album, don’t you think?

One thing is certain – these guys are just getting started. Hearing what’s on this album, one can only imagine how far Antiks go with the kind of talent and production they have at their fingertips. I got in touch with emcees Jayem and Lex of Antiks, as well as G. Grant, to discuss The Thing Is. Read the interviews below:

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(L = Lex,  J = Jayem)

1. Can you guys give your take on the hip hop scene in Ottawa? What’s it like here? 

L: The hip hop scene in Ottawa is definitely looking good. There’s some great groups out here, and with events like Hip Hop Karaoke, you see tons of people showing up so it’s obvious there’s a high demand for rap in the city. I think a lot of clubs focus on EDM just because the money is there right now. I like that kind of music but it’d be nice to see a few more clubs do some dedicated hip hop nights.

J: Ottawa has a very healthy rap scene. I mean there’s going to be terrible acts in every city, hopefully we’re not included with those, but with dope groups like Flight Distance, Just Poets, Zoo Legacy, and artists like G. Grand, it’s hard to say we’re not holding our own.

2. In what respects is your new album “The Thing Is” different from your previous material? 

J: I think the tone on “The Thing Is” is much different than anything we’ve done before. When Lex and I started making music a couple years back we had no idea what the hell we were doing or what we wanted to sound like. We learned a lot since then so when we started recording this album, we were way more confident, knew what sound we wanted and the balance we wanted to strike in terms of humour. But ultimately we wanted to make a good hip hop record, something that we’d listen to, as opposed to trying to guess what others might like.

L: I think with this record, it’s the first time we tried to say something beyond a bunch of silly shit our friends expect us to say. Don’t get me wrong there’s some horribly immature stuff peppered throughout it, and some fun tracks, but we definitely opened up much more on this one. I think we were also trying to step our game up lyrically, a lot of that just comes with experience, so hopefully we didn’t suck to bad on that front.

3. Can you talk about your collaborations on this album?

 L:  We’ve got some super talented artists on this album that we were lucky to be able to scam into performing with us. G. Grand was a rapper that we’ve all loved, so when he agreed to hop on our track ‘Walk on By’, which was produced by our boy Jeepz, we pretty much sounded like a bunch of Japanese school girls that caught a glimpse of One Direction. We actually met Dynamite Motel through some friends, became friends, and then made it our mission to do a track with her. We got love for funk and jazz music so we’re glad that got represented on this record.

J:  Ottawa’s got some sick producers and we were looking to showcase that. We linked up with Jeepz, who produced some awesome stuff for Just Poets and G.Grand. We got onto Crack Moses through the last Flight Distance record, reached out and thankfully he was down with working together. Greg Reain, who’s on the team, also killed it with his production. Hopefully we didn’t butcher their tracks too much or else we’re back to recording on my T-Pain app. Also shouts to MC Dimz who beatboxed on two tracks, dude is a mad talent, and DJ So Nice who did some dope scratches on ‘Perfect Machines’.

4. Which tracks are you most excited for people to hear?

L: I’m really excited for people to hear ‘Man vs. Food’ and the track we did with Dynamite Motel called ‘Willy No Man’. I think those tracks show the range of sound we can bang out.

J: For me I’m looking forward to seeing how people respond to our collab tracks. G. Grand has an awesome verse on ‘Walk on By’ and the beatbox tracks we did with Dimz are killer.

g. grand, ottawa rappers, hip hop,

Q&A with G. Grand

1. How did your collaboration with the guys in Antiks come about?

We first met at a show that we did at the Atomic Rooster last year with Dynamite Motel. The guys from the Antiks were cool and mentioned that they were fans of the “Life is Grand” project Jeepz and I released in 2012. They killed their set, reached out to Jeepz and I afterwards about doing some work in the future and they followed through by sending me a beat and a concept for the track we recorded.

2. What are they like, and what was it like working with them?

The guys themselves are all very laid back in general but intense when it comes to their music. They’re passionate people that like to have fun. Recording with them was dope as well in that Jayem was enthusiastic and encouraging about me getting involved in the project & their engineer DJ Greg Reain was extremely professional and efficient. Performing at shows with them has always been fun too.

3. Can you explain what your role and contribution on the new album?

My contribution to the project was pretty straight forward in that the guys wanted me to drop a verse for them on a track produced by my collaborator Jeepz. The beat was dope and I really just wanted to make sure that my bars were on point and that I hit the theme of having to walk away from bad relationship on the head. So hopefully I did that.

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