Prime Element and Black Mask are two local hip-hop outfits making compelling music, and now members of the two acts are making music together. How Cliché, a new EP featuring A.V.I.U.S. from Prime Element and the multi-talented AG Flux from Black Mask, dropped today. In advance of the release party next Wednesday, December 18, at Cervantes' Other Side, we spoke with the pair about the new record and how they ended up collaborating.
Westword: How did you guys meet?
AG Flux: We first met a Warped Tour. The first time I moved here with Black Mask, they were on the road for the Warped Tour thing. I just did the Denver stop because I literally had moved here a week before. I knew about Prime Element, just studied the scene a little bit before I came out here, heard of their name. We initially met then the first time, and then after that, it was really just [that] I think we did a tour -- Ice Age Tour or whatever.
A.V.I.U.S.: Yeah, we did a Northwest tour, hit up Montana, a couple states.
AG: Black Mask, Prime Element thing, and that's pretty much where we kicked it off. I think a year ago, about December 12, when I put out Scenic Exchange, that day, you hit me up, and you were like, "We should do something."
AG: Pretty much came out of nowhere.
So what did you see in his style that you thought would be a good match for you?
A: Basically, it was everything.
AG: The feminine voice?
A: Yeah. [laughs] No, I mean, we hit it off on the road. Maulskull and Aklock were more involved with Cysko [Rockwel], and they kind of hung out more. And me and AG kind of hung out more on tour. We kind of just almost like a homie thing; we had the same interests in music, same interests in style of music.
I noticed his rap style is more like mine. It's not so critical. It's not so, some would say, tongue twister. It's more straight-to-the-point storytelling, and, basically, like I said, when I saw him on stage and when I heard his solo album, I was like, "I really want to work with this dude."
It really all started the first time we went out to Montana. We were on tour with Sweatshop [Union]. I think we had done like twelve or thirteen shows. The whole Northwest, every state we went to, they were like, "Oh, you're from Colorado! Do you know Black Mask?" And we're like, "No, we've never met these dudes. Heard about 'em, never met 'em."
So when we got back, it just so happened that a few months later, we met them on the Warped Tour and did a few of the Warped Tour stops with them. It just kind of clicked that way, and we've been friends ever since -- about two years, a year and a half.
And do you guys have long-term plans as a duo? Or is this a one-off thing?
AG: It's just kind of like a one-off for now. You know, we'll kind of see what comes of it. We haven't set any expectations, really. We're just kind of having fun, doing music together, and we're focusing one step at a time, I'd say.
A: Yeah, same for me. It's kind of like it all started too because I had AG on my solo project that's coming out in January. We did a single together. The song came out really great. So we're like, "Let's put our heads together and work on a project." It's been going great. He's busy with his group stuff. I'm busy with my group stuff, so we're just kind of seeing what happens. I know we'll work together in the future. I'm going to purchase some beats from him, and he's going to obviously jump on my albums, and I'll probably jump on his.
Just from listening to the single, "How Cliché," it was clear that you guys are focused on the way that language works. I was wondering how you expanded on that throughout the EP.
AG: I mean, it's really just going off the "How Cliché" concept really. So, phrases that we thought were very cliché or here every day or something like that. And then we kind of base it off something in our life that we can reflect on. It doesn't really get too deep with it, I mean, as far as an explanation for it. ["How Cliché"] was basically an addressment, basically, of the whole project, of the things cliché and stuff like that, but we basically just pick at different areas of cliché... words and then kind of put them to our own experiences...
What do you think of the state of language in rap? Do you think there's too much cliché? There's a de-emphasis of the word?
A: For me, I would say that hip-hop's cliché has changed tremendously. It used to be more about style and, you know, everyone just coming hard. And now it's like, who can be the weirdest? Who can talk about aliens and living on Mars? Who can get the weirdest fucking sound ever? To me, that's how I feel. And with the project, I think it's more or less taking it back to when albums meant something and not just slapping together a mixtape, calling it a mixtape and releasing it -- rapping over other people's beats. That's what it meant for me anyway.
AG: Yeah, hip-hop has always been cliché in a way. I think the way we did it, though, I liked because we kind of defined it more. We didn't just have a saying and then do it in a song, a couple lines. We went at it full, 100 percent into that concept of it.
I was impressed how focused you guys were on that one single. You both had different takes on it. [AG was] a little more philosophical. [A.V.I.U.S.] was a little more...
AG: Showing the different ones, yup. We try to do that with the songs, as far as trying to put different lights in it. Like, I'll talk about something from a certain angle, and then he'll go at it a different way too. So we try to cover a spectrum of bases.
Can we expect to see some collaborations between the different guys in Prime Element and Black Mask?
A: Definitely, yeah. I mean, I already have some beats from Maulskull, who's a great producer and doing big things with well-known artists across the country. I already have some beats picked out from AG selections that he's made and produced recently. Like I said, he's going to be on one or two tracks on my new album that I already know of. So I would say yes.
AG: It is pretty much just overlapping. I don't think we're going to be too thought out, for now. We see each other have a certain song that begs for an A.V.I.U.S. voice or an Es Nine production or Maulskull and A.V.I.U.S...
Are you doing all the production on the EP?
AG: There's eight tracks, and I did seven. That one is produced by Shuko that we got out of house. Really bangin'.
I noticed there was a bunch of scratching. Was that Cysko?
A: It was not. It was actually AG. He's done most of the post, pre-production, everything. He's made the beats. He's engineered the project. He's now doing all the cuts for the project that we know of so far. I'm just basically rapping on it. [Laughs] I didn't do anything cool; I picked out some samples here and there, some interludes.
Like the bit of Andre. Andre 3000?
AG: Oh, yeah. Good call. And honestly, I came from a deejaying background, so this stuff is always cool to have in my back pocket, kind of plan C situations. We've tried to get other DJs on this stuff, but people are busy this time of year, got other things to do, and our deadline is kind of tight and specific. So, at certain times like that -- and we get to sit with the samples and these songs for so long and kind of let them marinate more, so than if we just pass them off to somebody and be like, "Do some scratches." So that's what the advantage is for me doing them in house.
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