San Francisco based hip-hop group 40Love just released their sophomore album, “Bangerang!” this last Thursday, Nov. 6. Bay Area based writer and photographer, Seher Sikandar, sat down with the hard working four at their album release party at Café du Nord.
Hear about middle schoolers with dreams, the masterminding behind the 40Love and “Bangerang!” names, Whooligan’s Island, and why Hazel (the singer/emcee) isn’t from Earth. A pretty – and yes, talented group of youngins on the come up.
SEHER: Welcome 40Love – it’s an exciting night tonight! Let’s start off with a round of introductions; what does each of you do with 40Love?
MILES/MIKOS: My name is Mikos. I make the beats, part time emcee, record all the tracks. Hold it down.
JULIO/WHOOLIGAN: DJ Whooligan. DJ, do some studio stuff, and later on with some production and beats and stuff.
HAZEL/HAZE: I’m Haze. I’m an emcee and singer for 40Love.
GEOFF/G-OFF: My name’s Geoff. I’m the male counterpart as far as emceeing goes. I’m just the all around hustler for 40Love. Yeah, just the male emcee – I just hold it down…for all the fellas, you feel me? [laughs]
SEHER: So, how’d you meet? How’d all this happen?
WHOOLIGAN: I guess I’ll explain that one. I used to work at Amoeba Music on Haight St. in San Francisco for almost five, six years. And while working in the hip hop section, Miles and Geoff – they frequented Amoeba a lot. They bought a lot of records, bought a lot of music – they were really interested. I have a few years on them, so. Just them coming up in the store and always kinda having a conversation with me. You know, them asking me for advice on some stuff, me seeing what’s good with them and what their lifestyle’s all about. We kinda just became friends and built up this relationship through music. And as the years progressed, we started being interested in each other’s music and you know, above all, we became good friends. We started doing some shows together just to see how we’d work together. And then after we did a few shows and just rocked and did well – it was full throttle from there.
SEHER: So how did Hazel come into the picture? Was she also kickin' it at Amoeba?
HAZE: Nah. I actually met them through poetry ‘cause I’m also a poet. But, yeah, Youth Speaks, the organization – we met through there and then that kinda just went naturally into hip hop and emceeing and stuff.
WHOOLIGAN: 40Love did the first album, “Advantage,” and I wasn’t with the group at that point. But it was probably about a year now since I’ve joined the group and then we started working on the new album, “Bangerang!”
MIKOS: And me and G-Off, we’ve been working together since like 6th, 7th grade, so that’s how it all started right there.
SEHER: So you guys started around 2006?
MIKOS: 40Love started in summer 2006 with the first release in ’07.
SEHER: So what was that first project that Julio just mentioned? Tell me a bit about that project. \
G-OFF: Yeah, we recorded all of it in ’06 and the reason it was delayed was because we really didn’t have the funds and were really just starting to make our own music. We just started making songs. Like, most of the songs we made, were on “Advantage.” “Float” was the first 40Love song.
SEHER: And you guys made a video for that, right?
G-OFF: Yeah, we made a video for that – it’s on YouTube. [laughing] I just felt like once we were done with “Advantage,” we just started hitting our stride as far as music that we knew we could create and created this cohesive chemistry as a group. I mean, “Advantage” was the very early recordings of 40Love. We were still really trying to find our sound and when we really found our sound was towards the end of the album. So once the album stopped and we finally put it out, we had all this new material that was, you know, “Bangerang!” and we had this whole concept for what “Bangerang” was. I mean, “Bangerang!” is just so well thought out – and every beat, every word, every lyric, every measure means something to us deeply. This is – “Bangerang!” is the project we’ve been wanting to make our whole lives and we finally did it and we’re at du Nord right now. Chillin’.
SEHER: So it looks like what inspired the most recent project was really a lot of leftover material?
MIKOS: Not so much.
WHOOLIGAN: Not really.
G-OFF: No, no. “Advantage” was just us making songs and we put [some] songs together. “Bangerang!” was just so much more formulated. Once we already knew what we were capable of, and what we wanted to produce, we were able to kinda, you know. “Bangerang!” is a project. “Advantage” was just more us making songs, coming up.
WHOOLIGAN: “Bangerang!” is a lot more conceptual as far as the material.
SEHER: So that process, that journey that you guys took with “Advantage” got you to a certain mindset and realization of your capabilities, of your vision – all that. So what do you feel are your strengths, what is your vision, what is it that makes “Bangerang!” what you’ve been trying to do for so long?
HAZE: One thing. Just every song has a new vibe and is almost a new world in itself. Just kinda you never know what’s gonna be coming next. “Advantage” was a lot of battle verses and that kind of thing. Just kinda like asserting lyricism.
GEOFF/MIKOS: Showcasing skill.
HAZE: Yeah, showcasing skill and this just has more conceptual storytelling, just a lot of different vibes brought together.
MIKOS: This shit is serious. [laughs]
SEHER: So what are all of your favorite tracks from the new album? Two max.
MIKOS: Alright, 2 max. I gotta say, uh. I mean, right now, for me, favorite track for me is “XO.”
SEHER: “XO?” Why?
MIKOS: It’s just like – it’s just the kind of music I wanna make. It’s just like, it’s beautiful but it’s hard, and it’s epic but it slaps – but it does everything, for me.
SEHER: All right. Julio?
G-OFF: Don’t take mine.
WHOOLIGAN: [to Mikos] That was mine first. “Curry Dip” is one of my favorite joints on the album.
SEHER: I like curry.
WHOOLIGAN: Peace to Malik. He’s in the room and out of Aquarius. Keelay’s on the verse and hook. That’s one of my favorite joints on the album.
MIKOS: [to Julio] What’s your favorite joint that you scratch on? Like, what are your favorite cuts on the whole album?
WHOOLIGAN: G-Off’s PSA is probably my one.
MIKOS: Yeah, word. Peep G-Off’s PSA.
HAZE: My favorite tracks are “In the City” and “Chant.” Probably because, “In the City,” I just love rapping like that. The hook is amazing and shouts out to Jesse Boykins, ‘cause he kills it. And it’s just a vibin’ out, hella positive track. Then, “Chant” is like a story in itself because it’s like a beat change-up and it kinda switches on itself. And if you pay attention, yeah – you’ll definitely notice what we’re trying to do there. And the beat on “Chant” just kills me, so.
G-OFF: I think one of the major differences from “Bangerang!” than from “Advantage” is that we were able to get really dope features that don’t usually necessarily make the music that we make. One of my favorite tracks is “Heads Up,” featuring the Jacka of the Mob Figaz. Shout out to the Jacka – he just came in there, ripped it. And we made a whole track out of it. He’s definitely coming up; he’s probably top three best rappers in the Bay Area right now.
MIKOS: Word, he’s comin' up.
WHOOLIGAN: “Politikin’” is sick.
G-OFF: “Politikin’” with L’Roneous.
SEHER: You got a few features in there. You got Black Spade…
G-OFF: But also Black Spade. “Ghost” is…”Ghost” is like, I don’t know. Black Spade is probably one of my favorite artists out right now. I mean, his last album is bananas and he was able to bring some of that to 40Love.
HAZE: Yeah, “Ghost” is really like one of my favorite tracks, though.
WHOOLIGAN: Keelay and Zaire laced us.
G-OFF: So, that’s the whole album. [laughs]
SEHER: Go get it. So, how would you describe your sound? What are your influences, do you have any other artists that you really look at or look up to?
HAZE: Just to say one real quick, I’m really into this girl, Warrior Queen right now. She’s just crazy ‘cause she spits so hard. And it’s this dancehall, grime, reggae, crazy stuff from the UK. And she just kills it, so, she’s one of my influences at the moment.
G-OFF: Charles Stepney of Chess Records. He did Muddy Waters: Electric Mud. He also worked with Minnie Ripperton and her group Rotary Connection. And also this dude that does folk music called Terry Callier. “What Color Is Love” I think is like one of the major inspirations as far as what “Bangerang!” was for us – as far as what I think.
HAZE: And Minnie Ripperton.
G-OFF: And Minnie Ripperton, “Come to My Garden.” The first album.
MIKOS: [to Geoff] What makes you want to spit?
G-OFF: Turf Talk, “West Coast Vaccine.” That’s a good album. When we first started coming up with the sound we wanted, I really wanted to blend Turf Talk, “West Coast Vaccine’ with Edan, “Beauty and the Beat.”
G-OFF: And that’s…if I could compare “Bangerang!” to anything, I think it’d be that.
HAZE: Well, those are modern folks, but just spitters, like – Pharoahe Monch, and Kardinal Offishall. And Jean Grae, of course. Just yeah, hella folks.
SEHER: Hazel, you named Jean Grae. In saying “of course,” I’m guessing you meant as a woman, you have to throw it down for your females…or? Is that what you meant?
HAZE: No, I just always say Jean Grae because I love her.
G-OFF: She’s your favorite emcee.
HAZE: Well yeah, and she’s never gotten the respect she deserves in hip hop. And she’s always held it down and she’s so sick. I’ve had the privilege of meeting her before and she’s just so kinda jaded by the industry right now. But she is, yeah – so dope.
SEHER: But does being a woman and emcee, and being the only woman in the group – does that hold any stake for you? Or a lot of pride that you’re doing something in what is largely a male dominant industry?
WHOOLIGAN: And killin’ it.
G-OFF: Killin’ it.
HAZE: For sure. I have a verse about what I want female rappers to do.
SEHER: What track?
HAZE: “Let Me Do That.” It’s kinda about just not being afraid to be kinda gritty with it and not have to be like, [makes girly voice] “oh, and I’m rappin’ about this and na-na na-na na,” which is cool, too, but I – [laughs] – but I hella love like Ladybug Mecca and stuff. I’m not trying to hate at all.
MIKOS: Speaking of Digable Planets. For me, that’s like my shit right there. Slum Village, you know what I’m saying, like – that’s the kinda shit I vibe to. And I just feel like the different energy levels of music we all listen to and everything – we all like the same music, but we also like different types of music at the same time – like really different types of music. And it all just kinda meets. Like, this album wouldn’t have been the same if any of us had no part in it.
WHOOLIGAN: Musically, Mikos and I share a lot of the same kinda vibe. Slum Village is like one of my all-time, like, grooviest shit to listen to. But as far as DJ’s are concerned, I mean, DJ Jazzy Jeff is definitely someone I think revolutionized the game when he was kinda doing his thing. More recently, Revolution is seriously like the cleanest and illest on the cuts. And just like the DJ game. But I mean, as far as DJ’s that I respect and I appreciate and I vibe off is kinda like the local DJ’s that I’m blessed to rock on a daily basis with, you know what I’m saying. I just remember when I was first going to high school as a freshman, one of my homeboys, DJ Deuce Ace, he always had his garage door open and kinda taught me how to cut and just showed me the basics of the turntable. I was just thirteen, fourteen years old, so it was just ill. And now, to be able to rock parties with him and book him for shows and him do the same. And just all my friends and stuff and the DJs I kinda hear in the Bay Area…the Bay Area has the best DJ’s in the f*****g planet.
MIKOS: Yeah, for real.
SEHER: Any DJ shout outs?
WHOOLIGAN: Anyone that knows me, that I DJ with. I mean, all those cats – they know who they are.
MIKOS: Shout outs to Platurn and J Boogie, they’re in the house tonight.
G-OFF: Shout out to Joe Quixx, too.
SEHER: So why don’t you guys blast each other out. What is it so and so does that’s unique or that you really respect about your group members?
G-OFF: I don’t think this crew would be anywhere if it weren’t for the ill ass beats, you feel me. I mean, Mikos – he can be humble and shit, I don’t give a f***k [others laugh], but Mikos – he is the best producer in the Bay. Like, I’ll put him against anything. Mikos and Keelay. Frickin’…
HAZE: For real.
WHOOLIGAN: Two different styles yet so ill.
G-OFF: Two different styles and it’s just like, that’s what it is. Shout out to Keelay. Him and Mikos are my favorite producers right now. And Illmind, but. [laughs] …And Whooligan! [laughs] We’re dropping an EP after this and it’s about to be phenomenal.
HAZE: Just, G-Off, oh my God, I’ve just seen him grow so much on this album. Not like he even needed to but, it’s just like…
G-OFF: I needed to.
HAZE: No. But like, it’s just like reaching new dimensions of craziness ‘cause he always just comes with the hardest 16’s – always. You know that that’s what’s gonna be coming from him. He’s just putting so much just like, crazy spirit in it. And like, I don’t know – some of the new shit that you’ve been writing is just off the wall, so unexpected, beautiful, and like, hard at the same time. Just so sick.
MIKOS: Without Whooligan, like honestly, even when Whooligan isn’t cutting on a track, like his spirit is in that shit. “Bangerang!” would not have been what it is without Whooligan. I guess you could give the Executive Producer kinda label, I don’t know – I don’t know how to label it. But he’s just there and his energy is in each and every damn song, whether you hear him scratchin’ on it or not, so I just wanted to say that. And, I mean, I roll with this dude to his gigs all the time – he holds down the f*****g party and his scratches are ridiculous. I’m a fan of dude, you know what I’m saying.
WHOOLIGAN: Thanks, Mikos. As far as Haze is concerned – male, female – Haze spits. Just as an emcee is concerned, like, Haze can gobble up a lot of Bay Area emcees. [others chuckle] Just her imagery and her ability to capture a vivid image, you know what I’m saying – or my ability to capture an image when I listen to Haze is kinda remarkable. Like, she kinda takes it to that outerplanetary shit. There are still things even from “Advantage” that I’m still trying to formulate and kinda think about.
WHOOLIGAN: And we got a new album, but I still need to go back to different songs and keep listening to things. That’s the thing about our group, too, like off-top it’s dope to listen to, it’s great music. But at the same time you gotta go back to each song, you gotta listen to what people are saying, you gotta listen to what the music’s about.
G-OFF: Also. Just one thing about Haze is that like, Haze isn’t from Earth, blood. [Haze laughs] Haze is from a different planet, you feel me. Like, the way she writes and shit that she says will not hit you three, four months after it and then you’ll finally realize and be like, “OK.” And then you listen to it another three, four months and you’ll discover something else. So it’s just, like – I just came to the conclusion she’s just not from this planet.
SEHER: Where, one, does the name 40Love come from and what does it mean? And secondly, why “Bangerang!” title wise?
G-OFF: Um, I love 40’s. [others laugh, clap]
SEHER: Pretty much? Is that pretty much how it is?
G-OFF: No, I mean. [others laugh] I think 40Love kinda even represents San Francisco, like yo, growing up we always – you cop a 40, you go to Dolores Park, you go to Golden Gate Park, you go to a…you get a 40 and you go to a park. [others laugh] That’s it. So we got love and appreciation for 40’s – that’s one thing. And there’s also a tennis reference, you know.
MIKOS: We got the advantage. Peep the first album name, you know, it’s simple, like…
SEHER: Are you guys avid tennis players?
HAZE: [holding back a laugh] No.
MIKOS: Can’t say we are. [laughing]
SEHER: I know we talked about a lot of Bay pride, I just want to know where all you guys are from.
MIKOS: I’m from San Francisco, Bayview district. Born and raised.
WHOOLIGAN: I’m from San Lorenzo, East Bay. I’ve been in the city for about eight years now.
HAZE: San Francisco from the Sunset.
G-OFF: I’m from San Bruno.
G-OFF: Trenchtown stand up.
SEHER: And “Bangerang!” – what’s that? What is that?
G-OFF: “Bangerang!” is a term from the movie “Hook.” You know Rufio? He said…
MIKOS: [screeches] BANGERAAAAANNNNGGG!!
G-OFF: Bangerang! And that’s catchy and we love it and that’s kinda like –
[Julio begins to interject]
G-OFF: No, no. Julio’s gonna break it down – he went to college longer than we did. [laughing]
SEHER: The etymology of “Bangerang!”
WHOOLIGAN: So there’s a particular scene in “Hook” where it’s Rufio and all the Lost Boys and they’re kinda chillin’ there and they’re all feasting on all this food and they’re drinking all these wines and juices and all these delicious beverages. And then Hook is there, and he can’t see any of this, you know what I’m saying. He can’t pretty much imagine, like he’s not there where all the Lost Boys are – feasting on this food. So finally, one of the Lost Boys says, ‘you gotta use your imagination.’ You gotta kinda look inside yourself and take it to that next level, you know what’ I’m saying. So, once he starts doing that, he’s able to feast, he’s able to eat all this food – and he kills Rufio right there. That’s where Rufio and Hook – that’s kinda the defining moment of their relationship, where really hook is really, Hook is Bangerang. So that’s what it is right there – we are “Bangerang!” [clapping] We use our imagination, we f*****g look at ourselves and our inner souls and we f*****g put this ill shit on wax, son! It’s not boom-bap – it’s not just like, okay, let’s make a beat, let’s put 16’s and a hook on it. Everything we do is conceptual; every song is a project.
SEHER: I know you alluded to future projects. Julio, I remember you saying you were going to be working on some production type stuff on future 40Love projects. And it looks like Geoff and Whooligan have an EP coming out. Tell us a little bit about what you all have in the works.
G-OFF: Is the name official?
G-OFF: Ok. No names yet. [laughing] I just got a gang of beats I’m writing to and I still need to write to and it’s about to be hot. And it’s on some real hip hop, Gangstarr, bring out the MPC, you know, bring out the sample -rap. That type shit. We’re going to get some definite accompaniment, you know, with Haze and people on deck.
HAZE: Also, they just did a track on Mushroom Jazz. Mark Farina’s.
WHOOLIGAN: Colossus just did a beat for us. Originally we just did a track with him because we wanted to do something ill. And then it ended up getting to the ears of Mark Farina and he wanted Colossus to do a remix for it. I put the cuts on the hook, and Geoff spit three verses to it. And it became one of the featured joints on Mark Farina’s new Mushroom Jazz 6. And it’s getting like thousands of plays worldwide right now.
G-OFF: Pfff, crazy. I mean, it’s opening week it was #1 on iTunes in the US – as far as electronica music. US, UK, Canada, and I think it was 6th in Australia.
G-OFF: Yeah, that’s where it stands right now as far as Mushroom Jazz. We’re definitely blessed and we’re really gracious that we had the opportunity to do that. And especially right off the bat.
WHOOLIGAN: Yeah, fa sho. Yeah.
HAZE: And there’s also some more Om Hip Hop stuff in the works. And me and Denise Wallace, who’s singing with us tonight, are working on some things.
MIKOS: Me and Whooligan got a little – I don’t even know what the hell it is. But, Whooligan’s Island, we fittin’ to take you there – watch out. [laughing] My homies Aquarius who are in the building right now, I am trying to produce their album, you know what I’m saying – were working on it. That’s our family right there. Malik was the only artist to be on “Advantage” and “Bangerang!” I got some ish coming out with 5th Ave from Sacramento. Shout out to 5th Ave. I don’t know, just working on mad ish. [laughs]
SEHER: Who would you love to work with? One person.
40LOVE: Pff. Pshhhh. [AKA “Oh, wow.”]
WHOOLIGAN: I’ve never even thought of that.
HAZE: Andre 3000.
MIKOS: Well, since she took mine. Honestly, I’m just gonna say Redman. I just wanna do some ridiculous off the wall shit with him.
WHOOLIGAN: I can’t even begin to…
G-OFF: I want to work with Timbaland. [laughing] That’d be sick.
SEHER: And for the next interview, we’ll have Julio’s answer. [laughing] Any last words, shout outs, plugs?
WHOOLIGAN: I mean as far as everyone that helped us out on the album – Amanda Lopez, she did the photography for us and she’s an ill photographer. Peace to her. And Mario Salangsang of 21st Century Maroon Colony (21MC).
G-OFF: Also Vimby.com.
WHOOLIGAN: Ankh Marketing, Amoeba Records.
G-OFF: Om Records, Om Hip Hop.
WHOOLIGAN: Yeah, that’s kind of our core family right there.
HAZE: Since-88 crew.
G-OFF: Om Hip Hop is officially endorsing us, so we’ll see what that means. [laughing]
WHOOLIGAN: The SoleVibe family out there. Fortilive.
HAZE: Youth Speaks.
MIKOS: And…the ‘Sco.
G-OFF: And Trenchtown!
MIKOS: And Trenchtown. San Lorenzo.
SEHER: Congratulations on your album release and good luck tonight. Thank you – peace!
40LOVE: Thank you! Peace!