Junk Science "Really, Man" video directed by John Ta (2010)
Everything about talented Brooklyn hip-hop duo Junk Science, who very recently released their third album A Miraculous Kind Of Machine, seems to relate back to New York City and also manages to create something new & innovative. Comprised of emcee Baje One and DJ/producer Snafu, Junk Science's last album, 2007's Gran'Dads Nerve Tonic on Embedded/Definitive Jux Records, involved them teaming up with their local Brooklyn brewery Sixpoint Craft Ales, who made a special limited edition promotional beer specifically for the rap duo. And for their latest album, released on Baje One's recently set up, Brooklyn based Modern Shark record label, they plan on releasing a series of limited edition toys to tie in with the label's output -- all made in the basement of Brooklyn emcee Tone Tank, whose next album will be released on Modern Shark in September. Meantime, the engrossing John Ta directed video (above) for the new Junk Science album track "Really, Man" reenacts the tragic interaction between one time famous NYC resident John Lennon and his deranged fan/killer Mark David Chapman. The clip was all filmed in New York City with an innovative and (happily) much less tragic spin on the outcome of that infamous meeting between artist and obsessed fan.
Snafu and Baje, who met in Brooklyn in the mid 90's while attending high school together, immediately forged a bond through hip-hop (and video games) and started making music. In 2003 they began recording what would become their debut album Feeding Einstein. In 2005 they won Scion's NextUp Song Contest for their track "Roads." The video for that track (below) was noticed by DJ Ese of Embedded Records, who promptly signed the group, released their first album, and in 2007 released (via Def Jux) their second album, the one that inspired its own beer. According to the artists, their third and latest release, A Miraculous Kind of Machine, is closer to the sound that they wanted to achieve all along. "For the first two [albums] I feel like we were still trying to figure out what our thing is," said Baje One. He set up Modern Shark after both his previous labels, Embedded and Def Jux, kind of faded away too: "That's why I started my own label," he said. In addition to the new Junk Science, Modern Shark will be releasing groups and acts in the duo's extended hip-hop collective, Nuclear Family, comprised of such artists as Cool Calm Pete, Scott Thorough, and Tone Tank (formerly with Iller Than Theirs).
With the new Modern Shark label, Baje One said, he wants to raise the bar. "If we make physical product for anything, it's gotta be crazy. It's gotta be awesome, completely different. Or if it's going to be vinyl, it has to be presented amazing," he said. "And we are going to have records where there is not even a CD or vinyl but instead what you buy is a toy, like with Tone Tank, who is designing toys for our release and for his own...bootleg toys he makes in his basement." Baje One recognizes that, "A lot of people don't care about physical product anymore when it comes to music. They just download everything. Whether you pay for it or not, it is just about the file and for anyone who grew up before this [digital] time we still want something tangible. So we want to give them something that doesn't even look like a CD but [instead is] a cool piece of art you could put on your desk and admire and it happens to have music on it."
Junk Science "Roads"
The new album, their best yet, features the track "First Snow," which is done with a video game beat. "[It]'s about growing up in Brooklyn and just witnessing little changes in your neighborhood," said Baje, who grow up in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn -- a neighborhood that has changed a lot over the recent years. "Watching the thing change and watching people come and go in the neighborhood and how that actually effects the character [of a neighborhood], when someone passes away or somebody moves out permanently, that has this real lasting effect and that is really what that song is about," he said. As for one of the more positive things about the new Brooklyn, where the nightlife -- once all locked down in Manhattan -- has moved across the river to Brooklyn, Baje said, "There are a lot of legendary rappers from Brooklyn who did not do their first show in Brooklyn til five years ago because there were no official venues there to play at or a scene for it. Masta Ace did his first show in Brooklyn last year, so imagine that! A legend from the borough."
As far as being a New York hometown hip-hop act, Baje said that it has both its advantages and disadvantages. "It's sort of up and down. Being from New York I feel like we have more of a built-in crowd of people, but on the other hand, New York is a place where people come; they come here to make it or they come here after they've already made it and they have a huge crowd because there are so many people here [in New York] that are interested in everything," he said. "But when you actually grow up in New York, it's weird being a local group in this big a place. There is a lot of competition. The good thing about being from New York is that there is an infinite crowd always. It's just trying to get in front of them."
Finally, I asked Baje about John Lennon, who is the subject of the new Junk Science video. "The idea [for the video] was actually the director's. Me and Snaf wanted to do something totally different but the director had this really strong idea and we just decided to go with it," he related. So was John Lennon an inspiration to him as an artist? "John Lennon actually hasn't been the biggest influence on me. I love some of the Beatles stuff and some of his solo stuff but I didn't grow up on it at all. I do feel like John Lennon was a very special person though, a one-of-a-kind individual who was able to envision life in different ways than most people. He was a visionary, and in the end it makes sense that he was murdered because that seems to be what happens to people who see outside the matrix."
Junk Science "Fire Drill"