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Cold Chillin': Von Pea and The Other Guys Break Down Their New Album, 'The Fiasco'

We're a little over a year of Donald Trump being elected to the office of President of the United States of America; even typing that is weird as shit. And because of how weird and horrific and challenging it's been, heads cope in different ways. If you're me, you write your feelings out while downing bottles of brown liquor. If you're someone like Von Pea, you link up with the Washington, D.C.-based production duo known as The Other Guys and craft what became the 10-track album The Fiasco, which is out now (digitally, with vinyl expected to drop in January of 2018).

"Sometimes I feel like I’m being trolled by the world," Brooklyn's own Von Pea says when asked about the title of this album. "There's always some silly shit happening that doesn’t make sense to me. World leaders beefing on Twitter that can literally set off a nuclear war…and a lot of minor dumb shit.

"I realize how many things are marketing and cult of personality in general," Pea continues. "I’d compare it to a rebellious teen once their parents get a divorce. My perspective on a lot of things has changed and I’m walking in a new direction. This isn’t the guy from To: You."

What Pea's referring to is the first project he worked on with The Other Guys, 2014's To: You. While it's just as many tracks as The Fiasco, it's largely considered an EP; it's also not the first time these three have linked up on tracks. Many should remember Von and Donwill being featured on The Other Guys' 2014 single "Blow My Mind," The Other Guys actually point to Von doing the intro of their 2013 instrumental release The Week as the first time they actually worked together. Either way, it was after "Blow My Mind" that they all say was when they realized that this could be more than Von hopping on a single of theirs.

"They caught me at a good time where I was open to working on a full project," Von remembers, "not to mention I really liked the beats." And while To: You might have started out as one thing, he reflects on how it became "a group album. At first I was asked to be on multiple songs, as it was their album, but when it came together we shared the billing. I remember walking around listening to the beat that became “Chasing Amy” and saying 'yeah…this project is gonna work out'."

Mighty Joe of The Other Guys says while he and Isaiah "always set out to make something that sounds cohesive," he remembers that "Von kind of lead the project where he wanted to go and we simply allowed it to grow in that direction." For what it's worth, it definitely helped that, as Joe put it, Von is "one of the easiest artists we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. From the moment we begin the project it was an effortless affair. We’d give him the canvas and he’d paint a masterpiece."

Listening to Von describe his process, he definitely is all about substance over flash. "I focus on the overall feeling of the album," he says, "and wait to hear beats that make me want to write. I’ve turned down bangers on To: You and The Fiasco that didn’t necessarily jump out but sounded like they were made for the overall mood of the album. Overall, I tend to think those instant gratification beats don’t fit my style."

With Von and Don dropping an excellent Tanya Morgan album earlier this year, along with The Other Guys releasing their own instrumental project, it's interesting to note that while The Other Guys hit up Von about working on what ultimately became The Fiasco, this project wasn't even set to drop in 2017. Von's actually got a whole album that he self-produced follow-up to 2010's Pea's Gotta Have It (titled City For Sale) that he's set to release in 2018 (while Mighty Joe didn't want to spill the beans on future Other Guys material, he did say that they have some instrumental projects on the way). In order to make something completely different, Von and The Other Guys set to create an album that doesn't sound like a Tanya Morgan album OR Von's next solo album.

Von remembers that it was Joe's idea to work on something new, and admits that he lacked motivation on this release until he came up with a direction. Dipping back to the insanity that is Trump's Cheeto-hued America, and the time of year, this fits with the vision Von had for The Fiasco.

"I wanted the album to sound 'cold,'" Von admits, "so I’m happy its coming out when it is. I haven't gotten to walk around NY playing this in the cold yet." We have, and it's perfect Timbs and heavy coat material. The Other Guys definitely agree. "To: You was definitely more of a jazzy album," Mighty Joe confesses. "I think Isaiah and I were listening to a lot of Tribe when we were making it. The tracks on The Fiasco are harder and darker. It has a grittier feel and some of the samples on it would’ve never worked on To: You."

"Cold" vibes in a post-Trump album? That's some grown-up shit, especially in a world where the majority of the most popular tracks in the popular rap realm are turnt anthems? This is grown hip-hop, which Von acknowledges with what he considers his favorite line from the album: "rap hit a generation gap and it lost me/lil fuckers on their tour bus in a car seat." Von pinpoints when he realized that the rap game had "lost him."

"I remember watching a certain video a few years ago and saying 'wow…I’m not in this generation at all' [laughs]. Before the video was over, I felt the divide set in. It was dope, but it felt like watching Kids for the first time and not watching my contemporaries. I like a lot of the so-called 'mumble' stuff because it has that feeling or energy to it and it's perfect to drive to, but I do think a lot of the 'I’m too cool to rap like I care about rapping' is corny. That, and I don't wanna hear about what you're doing to 'my girl' for 15 songs." Facts, Pea. Facts.

Truth be told, it's shit like that that makes Von one of my favorite emcees. It could be because we're in the same age bracket, but it's more about the "everyman" quality about his pen. He's not busting out SAT words with his pen because it's more about getting the message across in a way that we all can understand. And because he's a true everyman (someone who Cardi B would probably call "regular degular shmegular"), Pea isn't concerned with comparing his pen game to others.

"I don’t worry about that," Pea admits, "because I know when I hear someone that makes me sit back and just listen. On one hand, I know I can hang with a lot of emcees out here, but on the other, I admire other strengths I don’t necessarily have. I can't do what Black Thought does, what DOOM does, what Lupe, Elzhi, or Royce does. Flows I can't necessarily do, pictures I haven’t been able to paint. I can definitely hang, though."

When it comes to "hanging" with some of the illest in the game, Von does exceptionally well with the spitters featured on The Fiasco. Not only does Donwill hop on "Oh Yeah," but Skyzoo and Rob Cave are featured on "Wires." The best example of dope rhymers linking up on The Fiasco, though, is "Talent," which features rap vet J-Live alongside Verbal Kent and Wordsworth. Mighty Joe called "Talent" a "gift from God. We were grateful we were able to fit such talented and unique artists on one track and make them all fit together nicely."

With 10 tracks on the project, there is one cut that The Other Guys didn't produce, though: "Louie BK," which features a sample that Gravediggaz lovers will remember.

"I have an unreleased project (I produced) with Elucid and it was his idea to make a new track over that sample," Pea explains. "Flipping that and trying to chop it felt useless because it's so good as is. Elucid and I stopped that album," which Von Pea teases could hit in 2018, "and I still had the loop sitting around. I had recorded something to it for myself and had it for a while, just a track I'd made to listen to myself. Joe heard it and wanted to include it on this project. It was on SoundCloud for a while."

Maybe if we're lucky af, we'll get that Pea/Elucid project. For now, we have The Fiasco, which is chock full of cold-as-hell hip-hop for the brisk season. It's also, in our opinion, one of the flyer projects to drop from heads who are old enough to have remembered where hip-hop came from, and dope enough to channel that energy in 2017 (and beyond). Or, as Von amazingly put it on his current favorite from The Fiasco ("Easy"), "my song sound like I'm in the '90s...out of 100, I ain't on no dumb shit."

With so much knowledge out there, you can't afford to be on no dumb shit. Stay woke.

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