Foreign Beggars have been rocking venues all over the world for years, fusing hip hop and drum n bass with live vocals and a raucous energy that has to be seen to be believed. Truly. Their extensive back catalogue is testament to their ever-evolving style and passion for music. We caught up with Metropolis before their show this Friday in Room One...
Would you mind introducing yourselves and the roles each member has in Foreign Beggars?
Foreign Beggars consists of MC's Orifice Vulgatron and Metropolis (myself), DJ Nonames and producer Dagnabbit. We used to roll with Shlomo as our fulltime beatboxer (as some of you might recall from our early fabric shows) but he's blowing up suttin different, so nowadays we rotate between ex UK Beatbox Champ MC Zani and the current one Reaps1.
You have a huge array of collaborators and guests on your upcoming album, ‘United Colours of Beggatron’ - what’s it like working with so many established artists?
It's great to be in a position where you can holler at someone you might have come up listening to. We've all been big fans of guys like Guilty Simpson and Phat Kat purely from listening to Dilla, and to hit 'em up and for them be down to work is amazing. Also working with Jehst was pretty cool. We'd tried to get him on the third verse from 'On A Winter's Day' on our previous album, but it never happened. This time around, our studios were virtually next to each other so we managed to link up a couple times.
I think the maddest one was working with Noisia. We'd been feeling their music for a while and we met at Glastonbury a few years ago. Turns out someone had played them our music on a tape when they were driving them to a show in France and they were kinda into it (errr.. thanks dude, whoever you are!). We exchanged details and subsequently went out to Groningen a few times and have been working on some dope tracks, fortunately we were able to put a couple on our album. We really like working with them because we all sit down and build tracks together from scratch. We have input into the beat writing process, and they have input into the verses. Totally different to how a lot of collaborations go, where you just get sent a beat and you send back the verses by email.
There were a few guys we had hoped to work with that never quite happened, particularly with Rustie, who we started a project with, but he pulled out at the last minute. We were like, "Boooooooo!"
Is there anyone else you’d like to work with, dead or alive?
Damn. The list is pretty much endless, I''ll just give you a few...
Hudson Mohawke, Flying Lotus, Poly, Dam Funk, MF Doom, Evil 9, 4Hero, Amy Winehouse, Napalm Death, Theo Parrish, Radiohead, Rustie
Michael Jackson (still in shock over that), Big L, Janis Joplin (would have been amazing on a hook), J Dilla, James Stinson from Drexciya, Left Eye or Aaliyah (daaaaayyyuuummmm!!!!)
What does the album’s title symbolize?
'United Colors of Beggattron' is kind of a spoof on the whole Benetton thing, particularly the ads they came up with in the early 90's where they were trying to make all these crazy statements about the human race, and how things are/should be. We just flipped it up, coz we've been described as a bit of a bag of mixed sweets ourselves, we just wanted to reflect where were coming from.. either that, or it just sounded cool at the time. It was actually OV who came up with it. Shame nobody asked that about our mixtape 'Bukkake Ski Trip'!
You do a huge number of gigs each year - what do you do to hype yourself and prepare for a show?
Depends where we're playing. At Jazz Cafe we drink vintage red wine (French, of course) and smoke cuban cigars, at fabric we do suicide runs up Brixton Hill in full urban fatigues with war paint...We don't really hype ourselves up for a show really, it just comes out when we're on the stage. As the music gets more hype, so does the crowd and so do we. Sometimes it's hard if you've come off the back of a 4 hour bus ride to play at a tiny venue in the middle of fFance where nobody really understands what you're saying - but even then somehow the hype just comes. We just like to have fun on stage, and I think that carries over to the crowd.
And what do you do to chill out?
After the show we just kick back and slowly work our way through the drinks rider. The funny thing is we used to do that BEFORE the show, I guess THAT'S where the hype was coming from!
You like to get the crowd involved in your performances – do you purely feed off the crowd or do you have an idea of what you want to happen before the show?
Well, we have a set-list that we talk about before the show, so it's kinda organised on that level, but we always like to keep things a bit random, and we definitely get a lot of energy off the crowd. If they're down to party, that buzz is gonna come back to us and inspire us to do some crazy shit. That's why we always set the moshpit off. If that shit starts poppin' off on the dancefloor, I get crazy hype!
What’s your take on the vinyl industry? Is it dying a slow death or will it be around forever?
Well, people aren't really buying records the way they used to. Back when we got started in the hip hop scene it was such a huge thing, everyone was buying records, then in 2005 sales just started dwindling. Thing is, I still collect records, and most labels I'm into still put out records. A lot of dope shit gets pressed on wax, like Stones Throw stuff, a lot of stuff like Lotus and Hudson Mohawke will come out on wax, so I think people are still interested. Plus when you look at the drum & bass or dubstep scene, wax is still thriving. Plus people are always gonna collect rare records, so that's why there's still a lot of record stores doing well like Sound of the Universe in Soho, coz they sell to a niche market who will always been into wax.
But as far as the mainstream is concerned, I guess the vinyl industry's already dead. Everyone's bang on MP3''s now. But that doesn't just reflect on the vinyl industry though, more the music industry as a whole...
What’s your take on the current hip hop scene in the UK and around the world?
I think the shit has evolved. In the UK, grime has kinda taken over from what used to be the hip hop scene, coz what those MC's are doing flow-wise is a lot more interesting than listening to some straight boom bap shit that's still trying to sound like the 'golden era'. I think the scene needs to progress. Now you got dudes like Snoop rhyming over Chase and Status, coz I think even the top guys recognise the scene is stagnant. Not that I think that was a particularly hot look, but he definitely gets an 'A' for effort!!
I think hip hop production has evolved particularly since Dilla died, now there's tonnes of dooooooope producers from the UK that make sick beats, like 2tall, Ghosttown, Paul White, Bullion, Floating Points...to me, that shit is more than hip hop. It's the evolution. On a worldwide level, there's still some dope shit coming out, like Guilty Simpson and Doom ('Born Like This' is ridiculoid), and even Ghostface, but a lot of hip hop around the globe is sounding kinda stale, dudes need to up their game.
Who are you really digging at the minute?
Right now I'm feeling a lot of production, guys like Dam Funk, Poly, Bullion, Paul White, Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, Om Unit, SBTRKT, Flying Lotus, lot of the dubstep guys are killing it, this one dude from France, ONRA, is sick! Also really feeling Theo Parrish who should have done a fabric mix by now (you guys need to get on that!!), Omar S, lotta Detroit stuff. Me personally, I've been feeling a lot of 80's boogie stuff. That's probably what I'm bumping the most at the moment!
And finally, what’s it like playing in London compared to the rest of the world?
It's always good to play at home, coz you know the crowd knows where you come from, and our career really started here, so as hyped as shows are wherever we go, it's always great to do it for the home crowd. That's FAMILY!