Beatfarm It’s all them
THUNDER BAY – Entertainment – I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’m a hip hop “noob”. Sure I remember digging the odd song from Public Enemy and NWA. I really got into the Judgement Night soundtrack via my metalhead roots, but that was a collaborative project with bands I already listened to. Later I got a small taste of it from the blockbuster film Training Day. Most recently I was second camera operator on Tim Cheppenko’s music video “L”. And that’s about it for my hip hop exposure. So when I worked out the details to sit down with local rap foursome Beatfarm, I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to go down. Fortunately the aforementioned Cheppenko is one quarter of this outfit, and I’ve had the luxury of doing photography for a few of their gigs at Crocks… but when you know so little about a genre you have to have a little trepidation about jumping in headfirst.
Those nerves disappeared extremely quick. Beatfarm is a riot to sit with. The “personas” you see on stage; it’s all them. From the larger than life Giordano Ruberto aka Chef G, to the poetic Tim Cheppenko, to the introspective Jordan “JD” Danielsson, and the totally down to earth Brady Gurney. We sat down in their small recording studio to chat about the group and their upcoming album.
“They tell me, speak your mind and put your time in, ain’t nobody gonna rob you of your basic right.
Everybody’s got their moment that’ll make it right, and this is ours.”
– Beatfarm, Speak Your Mind
Scott: Guys, thanks a bunch for taking the time to sit down with me. So let’s dive right in. Tell me about the four faces of Beatfarm… your roots, how you got started.
Chef G: It didn’t come easy for me. I’ve been listening to hip hop as long as I can remember. The culture of hip hop was my main influence… but I wasn’t sure I’d end up in a group. My friends were all asking when I’d get on stage. Eventually I grew some cojones and did it, and fell in love with everything that was missing in my life about the art. I’ve had the chance to open for Tech N9ne, Celph Titled, Apathy, Mad Child… just a bunch of awesome people.
Cheppenko: I started messing around with music when i was about 16 or 17. I started toying with rap. When you hear it from the outside you look at it as this watered down gangsta rap, but when you get beneath that it’s just not what you think it is. I’d sit in my kitchen doing freestyles while i was makingand I’d sit there kind of amazed that I could do it. My friends really were the ones who pushed me into it. Then I remember we were listening to this horrible stuff… T-Pain or something like that and thought, “man I could do better than this”. My friends were like; “So do it”. And here I am.
JD: I had kind of a funny start to the whole thing. I was in college taking multimedia, and got to try out Garageband. So I got myself a Mac and started playing around cuz doing music seemed like something I’d be interested in. I can’t play an instrument worth a darn so I started coming up with rhymes. I met Brady through a mutual friend and he and I just started putting it all together.
Brady: When I was a kid I had no ambition for hip hop whatsoever. I didn’t even like rap. I’m initially from Dryden and moved here in 2002. Lev (Mike Flemming) from Deepcave was a tenant living in our home at the time. He introduced me to Atmosphere and a bunch of other underground artists and that’s when I first started writing lyrics. Most of them sucked at first… it takes time and practice. After 2-3 years when I reached legal age, I started going out to the hip hop shows. That’s where I met Chad Nevamind Miles (Deepcave). I showed up at his house and he had no idea who I was but he took me under his wing. After a break from writing JD and I hooked up and started making material.
At this point Chef G takes a call “Hey man… I’m doing an interview, I’ll call you back.” As he hangs up he flashes a wry grin and states he’s been waiting for the chance to say that. “Dream come true right there.”
Scott: Walk me through how Beatfarm got started
JD: So it was after Brady and I were doing our material for fun. When I was finally convinced to do my first show, we heard Gio was performing that night too. We were kind of excited to see him cuz he got started the same time as us. We saw his performance, and after complimenting each other on our sets, Brady and I decided “Hey we got to get this guy into Beatfarm”. Chef came by a few times and we jammed out and it just worked. Same kind of story with Tim (Cheppenko). We caught a show and he was just unreal and the smaller local labels were all interested in “signing him”. We thought it was just funny. It was never a formal thing, we just said “Hey Tim, come make some music with us.”
Chef G: The cool thing is we’ve only been doing the Beatfarm thing a little while but we’re like four best friends. These guys are my homies man. There’s no one else I’d rather make music with. There’s no drama with us. I think that’s why we’ve been moving so fast here.
Scott: So assuming you got a break from the recording or shows, you could just hang out?
JD: Absolutely… one or two of us are always hanging out, having a beer, sitting in the studio, whatever.
Scott: Who were your main influences as you got into this game?
JD: I think for me, Lupe Fiasco is one artist who’s new stuff I have to have. I’m always paying attention to what he’s doing. I think Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) is another one. I’ve always been impressed that he does his own beats and stuff as well, which is what I’m all about.
Brady: I fell in love with Atmosphere’s style. His sense of lyricism. Very poetic, very storytelling. I’ve tried to be like that in my writing style. Also some of the other acts from Rhymesayers; Brother Ali… Mac Lethal who was with them for a while. He’s great at multiple rhymes and he’s really fast too. That’s basically what I base a lot of my style on.
Chef G: Myself, I’m probably the encyclopedia of hip hop in Beatfarm. I think the whole culture influenced me. I live it. If I could I’d be outside with people playing chess in the background, homies are break dancing, beatboxing and we’re freestylin’. One of the local rappers is always saying “man you’re like 24 and you know more about hip hop than most people my age and I’m 38′. I derive most of my sound from the old artists, the roots of hip hop. I love newer stuff too though… probably Tech N9ne is one of my favorites… I love his work ethic.
Cheppenko: The main influence outside the rap thing for me is the drive to achieve that “unachievable goal”. That dream that nobody wants you to chase. I don’t think it’s unachievable though because here we are doing it. As far as my real hip hop influences, it had to have started with Nas. I listened to some of the mainstream stuff but the rhyming of Nas, the multi-lyric thing. Also Big L. I know he never had the time to spread his wings like some other artists, but you put him on stage and he did any lyrics ten times better than anyone out there today. Wax is another one. He’s dope… just savage. He started making beats with cell phones and pots and a container of rice… just ridiculous. I respect everything he does.
Scott: From the shows I’ve seen, when you guys are performing there seems to be a bit of one-upmanship. Like JD does a verse and suddenly Chef jumps into everyone’s face. (All four laugh).
JD: It’s like a friendly competition. It’s always trying to top the other guy but it’s all fun.
Chef G: And we all know that too and we play off it. Brady’s got all these different styles he can do, JD’s really polished, Tim’s just a lyrical demon, and I’m more the show man. We all bring our influences from different aspects of the game and it works together.
Scott: JD, walk us through the recording process a bit. I’ve been through it myself but I imagine hip hop’s a very different game than say metal or punk that I’m more familiar with. How did the Beatfarm Army EP play out?
JD: Ha, it’s a long process. It all starts with probably hundreds of beats. Every night we pounded out a lot of beats. Some of it was good and some was really bad. We sit around and have a beer or two and come up with ideas. We’d freestyle… or rather they’d freestyle. I’d just sit here and make the music. Eventually we picked the beats that we thought were album worthy, and then began the lyric phase. Sometimes we discussed concepts… sometimes we’d just say “lets write some dope lyrics”. We work together on everything we do, so we can play off the verse or last line from the other guys. We find it helps for me to sit down with one guy at a time when recording the verses. That element can take a long time. You want to control how your verse sounds, but the group needs to be happy with everything. We factor it all in when we go through it.
Brady: Constructive criticism is key for us. We help each other out to make it work.
JD: (nodding) It took us a while to get comfortable in that but we’re there now.
Cheppenko: Yeah if we have a problem with a line or something, it’s better to deal with it now, live in the studio than three weeks later when your already attached to it.
At this point we all broke into a 10 or so minute lighthearted chat about the ups and downs of the recording process. The thing that struck me about these guys was the lack of drama and the way they play off each other. I really got to see that friendship Chef G mentioned.
Scott: You guys have been involved in some pretty big shows; I’ve had the chance to shoot a few of them. What sticks out as your most memorable?
Chef G: I gotta say our best show was our Beatfarm Christmas show. It was the first headline show for us, we made money, it had a great turnout. We had our core of fans show up which we love. Our core of fans is amazing, but there were a lot of other people there. Tech N9ne and Mad Child was probably the other. When we opened for them there were at least 500 people at that show, and even as an opener we played to like 300 fans. I think we made an impression because we’re back on the bill for their next show here on August 20th.
Scott: Let’s talk about that for a sec.
Cheppenko: Yeah… Tech N9ne. So it’s probably close to the anniversary of the biggest show ever. We’re super stoked to be doing it again. You’ve got the excitement of that but also the feeling of can we bring it as big as last time. August 20th at Crocks and on top of that, Liqz and Driveby are going to be there.
Scott: So we’ve all had the ones we want to forget. What’s yours?
Brady: I think it was our show at the Wayland. It was just JD and I at the time… I was kinda rattled, I couldn’t get it together… kyboshed 2 or 3 of our songs… Just terrible. We played another show one time that was just kind of weird. I won’t name the venue, but there were no monitors on stage, it was just an off atmosphere.
Scott: Let’s talk about the EP.
Cheppenko: The Beatfarm Army EP drops this Saturday, August 3rd. I’m holding the album in my hand. I can feel the wrapper and can see the artwork. It feels unreal. The title is a tribute to all the fans who have supported us as we’ve grown. It’s all original material; the beats, music and lyrics are all ours. There are a few songs you’ve heard us do live but not like they sound on the album.
JD: I did the album artwork as I’m trained in graphic design… it’s my day job.
Brady: And props to Ascension/Dave Zahodnik for the cover photo and Loft out Loud for the promo video.
Scott: What’s next for you guys?
Chef G: We’re gonna start on our full length album and all have solo projects in the works. Expect big things from us!
Scott: Tell me about the next show and why should people check you guys out?
Brady: The EP release show, August 3rd. We’re actually gonna be performing at JD’s place. People can camp out there and check out Beatfarm. It’s probably going to turn into an annual event. JD: When you tell people you’re a rapper you often hear, “oh no… another bunch of white kids trying to be rappers”. So it’s funny how often it’s followed by “hey you guys are actually good.” The words “actually good” are pretty awesome to hear. We aren’t trying to be so called street rappers pretending to be something we’re not. We just really like rap music.
Scott: Last question… Say a kid reading this is thinking “man I want to get into hip hop”. What would you say to him or her?
Chef G: Follow your dreams. No matter what your doing in your life… stuck in a dead end job, have bigger aspirations, life’s not going your way? Just stick with it. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t take the risk. If you picture it and see it in your mind you want to achieve it. Just go with it… go with the flow. Rap’s about the flow. Do it and don’t look back.