May 8, 2008

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Another round of Firepower
Hip-hop group Monkey Biz releases third album
By Brian Early bearly@hippopress.com

Local hip-hop collective Monkey Biz recently released its latest installment of Firepower, a series of albums.

“Every April I drop a Firepower,” said Jesse Lannoo, better known as Apeshit. This one is Firepower III: Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire. Monkey Biz is Apeshit, DC the MIDI Alien (Daryl Christie) and DJ Illogix (Adam Marcello). DC produced the beats, Apeshit wrote the lyrics and Illogix made the scratches.

Apeshit is known to bring up war references on a regular basis. He calls himself a war buff (“I’m a huge fan of Ken Burns”). The cover of each Firepower album has some image of war. This year, it’s three Civil War soldiers. The photo is real, save the faces of the artists, which are transposed onto the picture.

“I spit firepower, I have my nuclear weapons in my arsenal,” Apeshit said of naming of the albums. But his struggle isn’t to bring death. His is to bring the word of hip-hop to other areas. He wants to command respect from other areas in New England and beyond.

“I look at underground hip-hop like a general in the war room. How am I going to get a foothold in Portland [Maine] and Burlington [Vermont]?”

Many artists, he said, use icons like thugs and drug dealers for their heroes. He tries to use real heroes, like generals.

“I kind of want to save hip-hop in a way,” he said. And the war is against those who give hip-hop a bad name.

“Hip-hop is not united as it used to be,” he said. Most of the time, he said, people associate rap with hip-hop. “Rap is something you do. Hip-hop is something you live,” he said.

Life is a struggle, and hip-hop is something that brings people together, not apart, he said. But the album is not about war, it’s about life, love and challenges, the war of life, perhaps. But there’s also arrogance to it.

“There’s a lot of cockiness and competitiveness,” he said of the album. “There’s restlessness to go out and kill shows. We’re all about battling.”

Not in the violent way, but going out and competing with other collectives. “If you’re jealous of what we’re doing, those are the people we’re trying to squash.”

Monkey Biz is rarely together. They don’t even record the music together. DC produces the beats and gives it to Apeshit, who writes around the lyrics and records them, then gives the record to Illogix to make the cuts, also known as scratching.

“DC has the best beats around and Illogix is the fastest scratcher around,” he said.

The Firepowers also serves as self-promotion for future work. Monkey Biz will drop the Firepower in spring for another album in the summer which he’s producing with Undu-Kati, called “Jaw and Order.”

“You have all the aspects of hip-hop in this three-man clip,” he said of Firepower.. “We’re very talented. All three of us.”


Firepower III
Firepower III is available at undergroundhiphop.com.