The Mountain Brothers are a 3-man hiphop group from Philadelphia (home of the Cheese Steak! YUM!). They combine unique lyrics, rhyme styles and original beats to form some organic Philly shit comparable to groups like the Roots or Bahamadia. Optic, Quotashun and I, your host, Kwestion, caught up with the MB's while in Toronto for a dope show as part of the Illamental summer beats series.See Also:
Kwestion: Who are the Mountain Brothers and where did you get the name?
Styles: Well, were a group from Philadelphia, playing hiphop music, trying to take it back to the essence of beats and rhymes without any of this image type stuff, just the rhymes and the beats. We're all from Philly, been together for seven years and me and Chops went to school together. We all went to Penn State and that's where we got together. The name Mountain Brothers comes from a Chinese legend.
Peril: Basically it's about a group of bandits that live on a mountain who stole from the rich and gave to the poor and fought against the government. Y'know basically just fought for the people, kinda like how we look at hiphop, bringing it back to the people. Kwest: When did your interest in music come?
Peril: We all started out as fans of hiphop. I started in the mid-80s. Some of the groups I listened to were KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions, Big Daddy Kane, and EPMD, and Audio 2. It wasn't until I met Chops, well first I met Styles at the summer program and he had a tape that he and Chops had worked on and I listened to it and liked it. I was going to Penn State the next year and he told me to look up Chops and it turned out that my roommate was Chops' brother so I met Chops through him and we started working on stuff together.
Chops: When I started listening to hiphop it was a little bit earlier than him cause I'm a little older, but I started out with groups like Run DMC, the Fat Boys and Whodini and groups like that. In 9th grade, a friend of mine let me borrow a little drum machine and I would just sit in my basement and make beats.
Kwest: Did you rhyme over that shit?
Chops: We'll we did for school projects and shit and for fun and stuff, but it wasn't anything I would show to anyone now.
Kwest: You guys were signed to Ruffhouse, what happened with that deal? I heard some stuff about what they wanted you to do....
Peril: That was a misprint in like one article.
Styles: But it was creative stuff. We basically signed with them, recorded our whole album and then they wanted to change some stuff to make it more commercial.
Kwest: How do you feel about being an independent group? Is it comparable to being with Ruffhouse?
Styles: I'm much happier being independent than signed to Ruffhouse. I mean it might be different being signed to a different label but just the fact that we can make creative decisions, or we can put out music whenever we want to. With Ruffhouse you have to fight through the system in order to do what you want to do and now we're free of those constraints so it's really cool. The flipside is is that you have to handle all the business and the label stuff.
Chops: Yeah, it's like we get to direct the direction of the music and stuff, but at the same time there's only the three of us and Amelia (Moore, Mountain Brothers' manager-peace Amelia!) and we have to do all the work that 10 or 15 people were doing at Ruffhouse. It's on a smaller scale but we have to the work ourselves. It's definitely worth it though.
Kwest: Being from Philadelphia, have you been influenced by other groups from Philly or the Philly scene?Peril: There's like so many different underground groups and styles that I think every group has their own thing going on. There isn't really one "Philly sound" but you know, you got the Roots and Bahamadia and us who vibe off an organic sound but there's lots of other sounds in Philly. I think that's one thing that's good about Philly, they're kind of isolated and aren't really part of all the trends going on in New York.
Kwest: The Mountain Brothers have few, if not any samples in their music, what's the deal with this, do you have something against sampling?
Chops: Yeah, there's nothing against sampling, its just that it gets boring when somebody takes a loop and its obvious and everybody knows it already. Or even with some of my favorite producers I'll hear a beat by them and there's another artist with another producer that has the same beat and that's somewhat disappointing, even if the beats are phat, its still the same track. So when we do original music, we're trying to avoid that sort of thing. Yeah. Just trying to have something a little bit different. to be different and creative.
Kwest: Do you play instruments?
Chops: Yeah. All the stuff you hear on the record I pretty much played, or played on the keyboard.
Kwest: Do you have any plans of touring with a live band?
Chops: We actually did before. When we were on Ruffhouse, we toured with this band and they broke up, then we got together with another band and they broke up too so it's kind of hectic.
Styles: Bands tend to break up, that's the problem.
Chops: Right now we're touring with a DJ, his name is Rolly Roll from the 5th Platoon. He's not with us today, but we usually tour with him.
Kwest: Would a band be better than a DJ?
Chops: Well what would be the shit would be both.
Styles: With a band you got a lot of energy cause there's like four live musicians on stage and that's a lot of energy, and the music comes through well.
Kwest: The video for Galaxies was shot not long ago, how did you enjoy that experience?
Styles: We did the whole video in like 2 days, but it came out really well. One of the producers we worked with won an Emmy.
Kwest: So it was a good experience?
Chops: Yeah, it was fun. It was different cause you have to lip synch your lines and to make a slow motion shot you have to rap twice as fast as the real song then they play it back so it looks like slow motion.
Kwest: Your song "Brand Names" talks about all the brand names involved in hiphop. How do you feel about the commercialization of hiphop?
Styles: We wrote the song like two years ago right when hiphop was starting to go into that trend. I guess that's our view of it its' just a big trend I mean people jump on trends all the time.
Kwest: Do you still feel the same way about it two years later?
Peril: Yeah, because it just works you know? I guess it's not that big now.
Styles: Now I feel it's more of the thug stuff, before it was just brand names in songs and stuff.
Kwest: Other than MCing, are any of you involved in other aspects of hiphop? Do you B-Boy or write graffiti ?
Styles: Not enough to say we do, but we'd definitely like to learn.
Kwest: What do you think of the state of hiphop today?
Styles: I think hiphop is really large right now, I mean in the underground there's a lot of innovation, which is cool. You know, there are a couple different worlds in hiphop but you can't really be upset you just have to find your place in it. You got the underground, the mainstream, the thugs, you just got to find where you fit in. There's a lot of good underground stuff out there; you just have to hunt for it, which makes it more fun.
Kwest: So what do the Mountain Brothers bring to hiphop that hasn't been brought already? Styles: I think in terms of our sound, musically Chops' beats are original. They're organic and just the way they're put together is unique.
Peril: There aren't that many groups out there that do what Chops does, like no samples but bringing all the tracks together. As far as lyrics, I think we all have our different styles and we all try.
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