In today’s fast-paced society, emcees have the power to play the role of modern-day philosophers, imparting beliefs and morals to followers through their own life experiences. While that connection proves little more than an afterthought in most cases, Brooklyn hip-hop duo The Underachievers approach their music with a distinct awareness for the message behind it–one that reflects their soul-searching and marked spirituality. Hitting the scene in 2013 with their debut mixtape, Indigoism, AK and Issa Gold impressed hip-hop heads with their quick-hitting lyricism all the while coating their rhymes in every facet of psychedelia, both lyrically and sonically.
Since that first project, The Underachievers have only gotten more ambitious displaying an ability to convey their musings equally effectively over head-banging and laid-back soundscapes. Their latest album, Evermore: The Art of Duality, sees them bringing both sides together for a culmination of the sounds explored in their catalogue thus far. As its name suggests, the project explores themes of dualism and inner-turmoil featuring some of The Underachievers’ most philosophically poignant lyricism yet. Aside from being split into two distinct parts, a chilled-out, thoughtful A-side and a more intense, mischievous B-side, feelings of contrast are deeply embedded within each song allowing the duo to explore duality on a multitude of levels.
We had a chance to catch up with Issa Gold about putting together a hip-hop concept album, the philosophy behind their music and the duo’s broader aspirations. Check the interview below and grab a copy of Evermore: The Art of Duality here.
TMN: How did you first get into rapping, and did you guys get into it together, or separately?
Issa: Well, AK started rapping at the age of 12 or 13, so he’d been in it for like 11 years and I started rapping around late 2011. He was the influence for me becoming a rapper. Originally, he was rapping and I was studying the Internet and figuring out ways you can blow up instantaneously using it. So I went to AK and I was like “Yo, I’ll be your manager, because I have this whole vision for how you can become famous.” At the same time, I was working on a clothing line to push this whole Indigo message that I had. After “managing” him for a week, I was in the studio with him just sitting there one day and I was like, “I’ll write a rap”–it was almost a joke at the time. It’s a song that ended up on Indigoism. It’s funny because that’s the reason that song has two verses from AK because I wasn’t even supposed to be on it. So, people started to motivate me like, “You should just rap. You should keep doing it.”
The next song we made was “The Mahdi” which is probably one of our biggest songs. AK was working with a producer at the time too, and the producer who made that beat was really big on us making more music together. So, I pretty much took my Indigo dream and the whole plan I had for attacking the Internet into it. AK was “AK The Underachiever” at the time and he was like yeah you can fucking join The Underachievers, and he took me under his wing. We pretty much blended the two movements of his being a musician and me having my own vision–and we were already on the same wavelength in terms of the message in the music. That’s how it really started–it was experiment-that-worked type shit.
TMN: How did you and AK first meet?
Issa: With AK, it’s kind of funny how we met.
When I was younger, psychedelics weren’t as cool, especially in the inner city. Being black in the hood, doing psychedelics was pretty much the equivalent of doing heroine. Back then, me and my friend Juice (of Flatbush Zombies
) were super outcasts in a sense because we did psychedelics and people didn’t understand.
So, one day I meet this kid named Jacob, random kid, we’re buying weed from the same drug dealer. We started talking, it turns out this kid does psychedelics. That’s the problem when you find someone who does psychedelics it’s like, “Oh, we’re family.” So he takes me to AK’s crib the next day, and AK is some rapper dude from the hood. Juice, Jacob and I are talking about psychedelics and AK just walks in the room and he’s like, “Yo I wanna try ’em.” We look at him like, “What the fuck, no way does this dude from the hood want to try psychedelics” and our friendship started from there. Continue reading