You might have noticed a few features about Baltimore/NY hip hop duo Constant Deviants on the site recently, singing the praises of their frankly awesome new material. Rapper M.I and producer DJ Cutt make up the duo, and they've been a strong presence in the US underground scene for a while now. We wanted to show that the UK's hip hop heads are loving the Constant Deviants vibe too, so we got in touch with them to chat about their new album, the history of the Constant Deviants project, and their influences.
Hey guys, what's happening? How's 2015 been so far for Constant Deviants?
M.I: It's been cool, just putting the final touches on Avant Garde and prepping for the May 12th release. In the meantime we dropped Swiss Banks the movie and the affiliated LP. The movie was directed by JPowell who also films a lot of our videos, and the LP was produced as a collaboration between ourselves and SWC out of Switzerland
For those who don't know, talk us through the history of Constant Deviants and the releases to date.
M.I: We met at a college in NY that a mutual friend went to. Cutt was DJing a party and I grabbed the mic and rhymed. The rest is history. This LP is our fourth release. Two were recorded in the 90's but not released until we released them on our label Six2Six Records. The names are Concrete Utopia, Amongst Friends, Diamond and now Avant Garde.
You spent a number of years working on solo projects for Arista and Roc a Fella. Can you tell us how that came about and what you were working on at the time?
M.I: Really that was just part of the entire story. And mostly a small part of it. After releasing a few singles with the label Brooklyn Pipeline we went solo to grow some. We still worked together and my demo fell into the hands of Mark Pitts. He dug it and wanted to give me a shot, but in the long run that stagnated my career. Other than learning a lot from him about the game and myself it was a waste of time.
CUTT: Working professionally as an engineer in New York during the 90's, I was lucky enough to be at a spot where I had the opportunity to work on some cool projects like the early Roc A Fella stuff, Capone and Noreaga, and many others as well. I did some serious jazz records too. I worked with Roy Ayers, Billy Cobham, and Blue Note Records. Like M.I. said, up to that point we had only worked with each other. Even during this time, although we weren't doing the Constant Deviants thing, we were still working together for the most part. It allowed us to experience other people's processes.
The sound you have clearly has the hallmark signature of the classic hip hop era. Would you say it is the dynamic of Constant Deviants working as a production/emcee duo that has helped contribute to that?
M.I: Definitely! At the end of the day that is what we come from, and years of practice has made it very easy for us to just do what we do, and create what we feel represents us as a group worth mentioning.
CUTT: That's our era. It's a part of who we are, so will always be the backbone of our sound.
We're pretty sure we can guess a lot of your influences as they'll be the legendary names in hip hop, but is there anyone a bit more left-field you draw inspiration from?
M.I: Actually for me my influences are my crew. One Speaker Supreme, Rome, Sparrow, Bosch just to name a few.
Constant Deviants stand out from a lot of other rap artists making music today, we mean that in a good way! Was it a conscious decision to retain a trademark style over the years, given so many different offshoots of hip hop and rap music have developed over time?
M.I: We have been independent and also worked inside the machine as well, so we have experimented with all types of sounds. But our original sound always feels like the right sound for us. We do try to incorporate different sounds so we don't just get looked at as one dimensional, but still keep that classic sound.
CUTT: The music we make comes natural to us. We have no issues with the change and growth of the music, we just do what feels right to us. It wasn't a conscious decision to retain our sound, more like a decision to not be over influenced by the current trends
M.I, we heard you're a very prolific writer. What other projects are you involved with?
M.I: I have thousands of songs recorded. Not all of them have made their way onto a "project". I have been on a lot of compilation projects and helped others with their projects as well. I will leave it up to the readers to do their research if they feel it's worth their while.
Are you up to anything else Cutt?
CUTT: Just wrapped up an album I produced for a young Queens NY MC Aye Wun. It's good hip hop. M.I. and myself are also starting to work on a new project. I'm always working whether its making beats, recording, or mixing, I like to stay busy. That's how you stay sharp.
Does the other work you guys do have any effect in terms of operating as Constant Deviants, or do you find time easy to allocate to all of the various projects?
M.I: I'm constantly working in music, so for me it's easy. I love the feeling of having a project to work on and bring to completion.
CUTT: When we are focused on doing the Constant Deviants stuff, it always takes priority.
Let's talk about your new album, Avant Garde. Is there any special meaning behind the name?
M.I: We felt we wanted to go for a little different sound this time. Avant Garde is experimental art and being we spent so much time in French Suisse and France last year it just felt like a good fit.
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