Aaron Brink (ABX) and Steve Reidell (STV SLV) just want you to dance. They're not a band, and they're not really DJs either. Rather than wasting time trying to classify themselves the duo has concentrated on utilizing their keen ears and technological savvy to create booty-shaking music on their laptops. Together, they're known as the The Hood Internet, a self-certified internet platinum duo that specializes in creating catchy mashups of hot indie rock songs fused with hip hop jams. They've garnered praise from Blender and New York Magazine's Vulture Blog, as well as scored high-profile gigs at the South by Southwest (SXSW) and Monolith music festivals. Through it all, they've retained their internet sensation status by being refreshingly prolific and posting all music on their website: thehoodinternet.com. I spoke to The Hood Internet about their music, the blurring of lines between musical genres, and how wild David Banner is.
GapersBlock: Where did the idea for the mashups come from?
STV SLV: It kind of started as a joke. We had heard some mashups of equally silly proportions to the ones that we do and we thought we could do just as well or better. So, we just decided to go for the gold.
ABX: I did one of them on a whim. I had some free time and remixed a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah track with a Clipse track just for fun. Steve had this blog that he wasn't doing anything with and we decided that we would post mashups for our friends to download. It sort of took off from there, but it was supposed to be a here and there type of thing as a joke. But, it expanded pretty quickly.
GB: When making these mashups, do you feel like you are re-arranging songs, or do you feel like you are creating a whole new sound?
STV SLV: It's just more of a re-imagination. Like a different take or a different idea. It's not re-establishing it or making it better, it's just a different thought behind it. There are a lot of hip hop remixes and a lot of remixes in general nowadays. This is just another angle, another way of hearing things.
GB: All of your songs are categorized as one artist or group "versus" another artist or group. Is there any competition between the two of you?
STV SLV: No, no, no. There's no competition. We a team.
ABX: Good question. I don't think we really get competitive with all the stuff because we're doing this together. It's not like we make a big deal about whose tracks are whose, or that when we play live we only want to play our own tracks because the stuff that he does feels like the stuff that I do. It's all pretty similar stuff. We're working together, so I would say no, there's no competition.
GB: How about The Hood Internet vs. Master P? What are the chances of that happening?
STV SLV: [Laughs.] In terms of New Orleans, No Limit is alright, but Cash Money is my New Orleans stuff. I would be more likely to go after the CMR angle than the No Limit Soldiers. No disrespect, and rest in peace to Soulja Slim, but it's Cash Money till we die, baby.
ABX: There aren't any immediate plans. I'm thinking of this one Master P a capella track, but it wasn't one of his popular songs. It was something that was really bad. I'm trying to remember what the song title was. Yeah, I don't know about that. Are you a big Master P fan?
GB: No, not particularly. I find him to be extremely amusing.
ABX: Yeah, he is amusing. The thing is, with some artists that are so funny, there's kind of no way to improve on that. He might be so over that top that we just couldn't do anything with it.
GB: How do you feel about people criticizing DJing as more of a synthetic, rather than organic, form of music? Some people feel like DJing is not authentic because the DJ is not playing an actual instrument.
ABX: I think I can relate to that feeling about DJing. For a long time, I wasn't into going to see someone DJ because it didn't feel like a real performance to me. In some ways it still doesn't. I get much more excited about musicians performing and actually playing instruments than I do about seeing someone spin records or play stuff off the computer, which is totally what we do. I think what I enjoy is...There's something about DJing well and playing music that people want to hear and the whole crowd atmosphere that I think is cool. If it's a dance party, it's a dance party and that's fun. I think that's more of what we try to do. More than putting out something artful, we try to play stuff that people are going to like. It seems like there's less art to it, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.
STV SLV: Well, with computers nowadays and things like Ableton Live, Serato, and Traktor, it's like "are you really just up there pressing play?" It's kind of about the end result. It's about making people dance and enjoying the party. You can do that with a live band, but you can also do it with DJing because people like to hear songs that they know and they like to dance to that kind of stuff. There's obviously the question, as I mentioned before, of whether people are just pressing play. I'll tell you what, I saw Justice and I'm pretty sure their whole set was canned, as they say. From start to finish, they may have applied some affects along the way, but...If it is or it isn't, that's not the question because the end result is what counts for people. What they hear and what they want to respond to and dance to. They're two different worlds.
GB: What did you grow up listening to?
STV SLV: Everything. I was growing up listening to The Beatles. My parents were really into The Beatles so I listened to a lot of that. I kind of graduated from that into alternative rock. Being from Minnesota, I listened to a lot of Sigur Rós and Hüsker Dü and The Replacements. I got into all sorts of avenues like punk rock and hip hop and jam bands. I really listened to a lot of everything.
GB: Is hip-hop dead?
STV SLV: That's a ridiculous question. How can anyone even answer that? Nas is the only person you could ask this question. I hereby defer this question to Nas, who is not present.
GB: What do you think of the current hip-hop scene in Chicago?
STV SLV: Clog the shit in Chicago right now. The Cool Kids, Hollywood Holt, Mic Terror, Kid Sister. There's obviously a lot of excitement about that, but there's still a lot of people that have been around for only a minute. Like Dude 'N Nem or Do or Die. Of course, Kanye West is a superstar. We all know that. You got up-and-comers like Yea Big and Kid Static. It's a really good scene.
GB: How was SXSW (South by Southwest) this summer? (Note: The Hood Internet graciously blogged a tour diary from SXSW 2008 for GapersBlock Transmission, check it out here.)
STV SLV: SXSW was a really good time. We played a lot of good shows, met a lot of good musicians, got wasted. There's pretty much the standard stuff. The highlight is that we met Lance Armstrong. Live Strong.
STV SLV and ABX meet Lance Armstrong
ABX: It was great. That was my first time there, in Austin. We got to see a lot of cool bands, do a lot of DJ sets the three days that we were there. It was busy but lots of fun. A lot of cool people come down to that stuff. The wildest thing that happened was we caught a set by David Banner, and he was out of control. [Laughs.] He spent half the show in the audience. He was putting girls up on his shoulders, talking about how much he loves white people, getting out of control. He was taking people's chains off their neck and wearing them around. That was the highlight I think, about as wild as Austin got for us.
David Banner at SXSW 2008 (photo by The Hood Internet)
GB: Do you think people living in the hood access your site on the internet?
STV SLV: [Laughs.] Yeah, I'm sure. We got a lot of friends on MySpace and the Facebooks. That's plural. There are people from all over that are into it. I guess it's hard to say. We appeal mostly to the internet. There are probably hood portions of the internet.
GB: Do you feel like you're riding the wave of mix tape artists like Lil' Wayne right now?
STV SLV: We've gotten a lot of press and a lot of love from the internet. We wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the internet. We throw a lot of stuff to the wall, see what hits, what people like, what people don't like. Our site definitely posts a lot of tracks. We have a lot of quality, we have a lot of quantity, and there's a fine line between the two that we teeter on.
GB: ABX, you reside in New York and STV SLV is from Chicago. Is it difficult creating music or coming out to shows sometimes?
ABX: Not for the most part. We're pretty much in constant contact through email or talking on the phone. It doesn't necessarily take a lot of staying in touch. Pretty much on a day-to-day basis, I'll make my track, and he'll make his. There really hasn't been an issue of us using the same stuff or anything like that. For the live shows it's maybe a little more difficult. Obviously, we have to be in the same place to do the shows, so this means a lot of time spent in airports and flying around just to do a show. Other than that, it's not like we have to have practice or anything like that. I think it goes pretty easily.
GB: Back in 1981, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five opened for The Clash, and they got booed off the stage. Do you feel like we're kind of past that, or do you think a lot of people are against hip hop and rock merging together?
STV SLV: I don't know, music is progressing in a lot of ways since Grandmaster Flash and The Clash toured together. I don't think that kind of thing happens anymore. There are audience members who can ruin that sort of thing. They want to hear one thing and they have no tolerance or patience for anything else. No, I don't think that animosity exists any more. It might in small pockets, but on the whole...it's more of an open-minded world nowadays.
GB: Is that similar to how rappers love Fall Out Boy?
STV SLV: Well, that's a Roc-A-Fella thing. Def Jam. That's a Jay Z thing. But, that's it. Before loving Fall Out Boy, a lot of rappers, you would see them on late night television shows saying they were into John Mayer. The boundaries are being shattered. It's not about being into only one style of music anymore.
ABX: Yeah. I think that's been going on for a while. I think the dialogue between the two genres has gotten better. There was rap rock and stuff like that. But, I think that there are definitely people who are opening up to different kinds of music like rock, hip hop, dance music, all those things. I think there's more room to like a variety of things and people are diversifying their interests. I think that's a good thing. I don't know if it necessarily means that something's going to continue to a point where there's too much overlap between those worlds, and I think that's fine. I think most people like to keep them separate. The indie rock stuff I listen to and the hip-hop I like—I like to keep them separate. So, I think combining the two isn't something that will overtake that. But, I also think that many people like to combine things that they like, and that's basically what we do.
GB: Do you feel like you appeal more to the hip-hop crowd or the indie rock crowd?
STV SLV: That's hard question. We play to both, you know. Like a Saturday night at Subterranean is definitely a hip-hop crowd. At the Hideout it's probably more of an indie rock set. People seem to respond to it on both levels. So, the answer is C.
ABX: I'm going to guess more to the rock listeners. I think we appeal most to people who like both. That would be my first answer. But, if I had to pick between the two, I would say that...I think on both sides there are people that feel pretty strongly about whatever they're into and don't like people messing with their songs. Some people might not be into that. I think with the rock listeners, we're changing the songs pretty drastically. So, I think there's less for them to have beef with what we do, and maybe not so much with hip hop.
GB: Where do you see The Hood Internet in a year from now?
STV SLV: It's a fun form of music, but mashups are already a genre that is looked upon with a raised eyebrow. That's okay. We're having some fun with it playing these shows. In a year, it's hard to say. People could just be like "oh my God, it's done," and that could be it. The backlash could have already begun. Hopefully, we'll progress onto different things, like making more remixes for people and doing more production work. It's hard to say, I don't know.
GB: Are there any plans in the future for an album that would hit the stores?
STV SLV: Probably not. Unless we got a whole lot of clearance, it would be pretty hard to do. We're sampling very large, if not entire, portions of people's work to create what we do. I don't think we would be able to get away with charging money for that. Everything will continue to go up on the site for free, as it always has.
GB: Do you guys have street cred?
STV SLV: I would like to defer this question.
ABX: [Laughs.] No, not at all. At least I don't think so. I don't know, I can't say I've been on the street to find out, but next time I'm on the street I'll check it out.
The Hood Internet dropped their third big mixtape earlier this week. You can download it from a variety of sources listed on their website along with past mixes. They're also hosting BOOTIE CHICAGO (a bootleg mashup party) tonight, 10/23 at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago Ave. Tickets are $8 at the door and special mix CDs will be given away all night.
You can also check out photos of past Hood Internet antics at SXSW 2008 where they blogged a tour diary for Gapers Block: Transmission.
About the Author:
Raf Miastkowski is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago and a former intern at The Onion's A.V. Club. He enjoys obsessing over the White Sox, kung-fu movies, and chicken wings.