Credit: Chris Spivey
Hippie Tribe is (from left to right):
Starting out as classmates who shared a passion for music, Blond.Bomber and DP.ThuHippie realized that they could take things to the next level when friends urged them to release music together. Taking to SoundCloud and going by Hippie Tribe, the guys posted their first song “HBTB” in 2016 and never looked back. The alt hip-hop duo then started gaining a following, especially after the release of their April Showers may flowers EP in 2019. After establishing their own imprint, OTOLO Records, Hippie Tribe released Gullah Punk: mod 1, their first capsule of an extensive project that they will be rolling out in the next few months. We had the chance to catch up with Hippie Tribe in the midst of all the excitement, where we learned more about the project, their friendship, and their unique approach to creating original, genre-defying songs.
Melodic Mag: How did you two meet, and how long was it before you formed Hippie Tribe together?
Blond.Bomber: We met on my recruiting visit – DP was one of the older players hosting, and one of the first things he told me was to never cut my hair. We kicked it the whole weekend and after I committed, as soon as I got to campus, we were coolin heavy. We didn’t make music or even really think about it until like the end of my sophomore year.
DP.ThuHippie: Yeah, me and Chief (Blond.Bomber) were just coolin when he got to school. We both played defense, both from the Midwest, so it was all natural, and then we connected on the music. We found out we both grew up playing in the church, he was classically trained piano, I was writing songs on guitar. We were freestyling at parties and all that and it got to the point where people were just like nah, y’all need to make music ASAP. Hippie Tribe started when we dropped our first track “HBTB” on SoundCloud in late 2016.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind “Billie Dream” and “SANTANA” from your new two-pack EP Gullah Punk: mod 1 and how it all came together?
DP: Have you ever seen the Dali painting Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee? For a lot of reasons, it all spoke to me and the previous relationship I was healing from at that time. Similar to the lady in the painting, I was in complete bliss at the start of it all – I was in this dream state. As things progressed and started changing, I found myself searching for that feeling, chasing that feeling – I started to neglect myself, confusing sacrifice and compromise. But after a while, I woke up and once I did, I realized how much of a fever dream it all was. The Dali painting’s full title is Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening. So, I guess “Billie Dream ” was made as a kind of a follow up to the fever dream – it’s like what happened the second after waking up.
Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was a big inspiration conceptually and musically. I woke up with the hook in my head and sent a voice memo to Niko and JJ – they hit me back hella quick like, “Lay that shit.” But I sort of took on the role of the person who was denied by the other partner – so I’m lowkey Billie in this song. I’m running around thinking I’m in love and being loved, but in reality, that shit was a façade. But now that I’m aware of the façade, I’ll never let that shit happen again – fool me once, ya know? Musically, I knew I wanted the drums and bassline to be emphasized just like “Billie Jean,” and I knew that during my verse, I wanted more of a hip-hop sound and pattern so I could really bar out. All in all, I cooked up 95% of the beat in like 20-30 minutes, then Niko came through and added some fixings and from there, the verse was easy. “Billie Dream” was born.
“SANTANA” probably the liveliest joint I ever made, and it’s fitting because the environment I made it in was hella live. [Laughs] I was chilling with a friend in Gullah (Hippie Tribe’s home studio) – she’s Afro-Latina, so she’s telling me about how growing up, one day she could be hearing Bone Thugs or Busta or Missy and the next it’s straight Afro-Cubano instrumentals, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, or Carlos Santana. I had recently watched a masterclass with Carlos Santana, so I knew he was big on African drum patterns and rhythms. Now look, I never ever claimed to be a Santana head, but [she] finally brings up this song, “Oye Como Va.” It had this almost French café vibe to it, but still, it made you want to move. Well, she gets up and gets to dancing and just seeing the way she swayed through the air to the track, watching her fingers slowly slip above her head and to the lights – I was mesmerized. “Somethin’ bout how she danced to Santana” popped in my head and looking back, that freedom she felt when the track came on, I was inspired to recreate the feeling I had seeing her react to the music. I turned the record off and immediately programmed the guitar riff in Logic and I was like, “Damn, I feel like this would make Santana make that smush face.” From there, the lyrics were pretty easy – if you’re inspired, don’t sit on the wall and let shit pass you by – especially if it’s something that could change ya life – if it’s something that takes your breath.
BB: DP made this whole thing top to bottom. It started off how it usually does – he just sends me and JJ a voice memo with a hook idea or melody in the middle of the night, then by the morning, he cooked a whole beat and got a verse and bridge and alternate ending. [Bomber & DP laugh] But basically, I just asked him what he needed from me and he said he needed a controlled rage and sticky bars…like he needed them shits to be mad quotable. I think we pieced the whole record together real well.
Why did you decide to release these two tracks together? Did you have other tracks in mind to choose from?
BB: mod 1 is the first capsule in our album rollout. There were a few records we were deciding between, but once we started to really map out everything, we knew we wanted to introduce our new sounds immediately – rip the band-aid off type. Compared to our discography, these records sound much closer to our live shows with heavier rock influences.
DP: I won’t cap, back in like February or March, we had a whole three projects planned when we first started dropping records. We were gonna do three EPs, a couple of them being collabs and the last being an EP of tracks we made at the end of 2018. But then Gullah Punk happened. I made them both a few nights apart. And just like every song or lyric you hear from us, it’s all recall.
What did you guys gain from making the project? Did you learn anything surprising after working with Boone McElroy and Sage Skolfield?
BB: We were already confident that we could make anything, but now we know that we’re on the right path with our sound. It’s so unique and addictive, we really do this rockstar shit and to have the caliber of people like Boone and Sage stamp the records is just another sign that we moving in the right direction. Not a lot of people got their numbers in their phones.
DP: The main thing we learned from working with them is that there’s really levels to all this. I know people say that all the time, but damn that shit is true. Boone and Sage are the real deal and we are too and that’s why this all working how it is.
Credit: Chris Spivey
How many more Gullah Punk mods are you planning on releasing?
DP: How bad do you wanna know? You gotta ask Chief and if he says it’s cool, I’ll tell you.
BB: Don’t do that! Nah, Dee (DP) is calling the shots, ask him how many tracks are on the album right now. [Both laugh]
DP: Uhh, just know we’re cooking up the best album of 20whatever. Oh and we’re writing, directing, shooting, and starring in a series of film shorts with it, too.
Could you tell us more about the Von King Woodstock Festival that happened on October 2? How did the idea come about?
DP: The idea was born because we got tired of not getting invited to festivals when we feel like we’re the best performers in NYC. So we said fuck it, we’ll throw our own festival. Just like when venues wouldn’t book us or tried to give us shitty deals in 2019, we just started throwing our own parties and performing. Then once 250 plus people started pulling up, all of a sudden we’re booked at every small venue in the city. We’re just tired of waiting to get invited to shit – we can do everything ourselves in our own hood, gathering our own resources. It’s more effort, but it’s worth it – all just a matter of doing it.
BB: This is the same energy we’re bringing with the album, too. Nobody is coming to save us, the shit is rigged against us. So it’s just us and God and this punk-ass life we can’t get enough of. So we just gonna keep going against the grain until it’s straight, we on the outside looking out.
What are a few words you would use to describe your live shows?
BB: Ethereal, captivating.
DP: Oooh, nice, bruv. Our shows are cosmic and otherworldly.
BB: Woooh, cosmic! How about refreshing?
BB: Alive and well.
Thanks again for your time! Do you have any final thoughts or comments?
DP: We appreciate all the support and glad y’all enjoyed the records. Stay locked in – we’re those ones. Don’t just watch, come join the Tribe.