M. Sayyid: The Other Side

May 17th, 2017 | Category: Interviews

Around the bend of the millennium, New York hip-hop collective Antipop Consortium emerged as a voice of possible futures. The spaced-out mix and match of M. Sayyid, Beans, High Priest, and Earl Blaize was a welcome beacon to the hip-hop of the new century. Emcee M. Sayyid’s flow is “forward-leaning” and abstract, but also as contagious as the flu. He’s also the storyteller of the crew, with an unmistakable Slick-Rick-from-the-Dark-Side vibe. Just listen to “9.99” from Tragic Epilogue (75 Ark, 2000) or “Z St.” from Arrhythmia (Warp, 2002).

As with any collection of volatile forces, APC’s work as a cohesive group has been sporadic at best, with seven years between their last two proper full-lengths. As I wrote about the gap in 2009,

When Antipop Consortium threw down the progressive hip-hop gauntlet on 2002’s Arrhythmia they didn’t expect to have to reunite several years later to pick it up—but they did. Their recent Fluorescent Black answers every challenge presented on Arrhythmia and then some. It’s weird, it’s word, and it’s war. The lyrics are abstract but tight and the beats are quirky but banging—and the whole package will stomp a mudhole in your ass.

Their separate ways are always active in the meantime though, working with everyone from DJ Vadim and DJ Krush to Matthew Shipp and Bill Laswell. As Mike Ladd, who worked with Sayyid on his latest, Error Tape 1, tells me,

Like the whole APC crew, always beyond forward. Sayyid is honestly one of my favorite people in to work with in music. He always finds a way to push you further constantly challenging himself and those around him in the most positive ways. I’ve known this brother for almost 20 years and never seen his energy slip. Very, very glad we’re in the same town and still get to work together from time to time.

When I first got into APC, I read that M.Sayyid used to work with Mark Pauline’s rabid robot-art crew, Survival Research Laboratories. A fact he confirms below. He also tells me about working with several other familiar, formative names, including Andy Jenkins, Mark Lewman, Spike Jonze, and Nick Philip.

I only recently came across last year’s Error Tape 1, and have had it in rotation nonstop. The “1” in the title ominously hints at future further installments. Sayyid tells me there will be two. “I’m working on tape 2 now,” he says.

Roy Christopher: How long have you been in Paris? That has to be mad different from working in New York.

M. Sayyid: Yeah I moved here in fall 2013 with my wife who’s Parisian. It was super hard to get in the zone, but it had less to do with Paris and more to do with my own personal journey and difficulty finding my sound. Like most things worthwhile it took time for me to find my sound then it took time for me to understand my vocal character and what my strong points were.

It was about a two-year quest. Once 2015 hit, I had a comfortable studio and engineer vibe.

The biggest achievement was my writing. I had no one around me who could understand what exactly I was saying so it forced me to write from a different place–a place of deep honesty woven in pattern.

RC: How did you end up working with Survival Research Laboratories?

MS: I used to read RE:Search Magazine when I moved to San Jose at 18 after high school. I was living in a house of art with Nick Philip and around a lot of Nor Cal skate culture.

One day I was in a gallery in Downtown San Jose, and the owners asked me to help them prepare an exhibition for Mark Pauline. I knew who he was from the magazine so I was pumped, and I worked that exhibition with him. Also my homey Chris Cotton was a technician for his Bay Bridge show (insane), so I was around that universe a bunch of times in 89-90.

RC: Did working with SRL inform your music at all?

MS: For sure, it was the “other side,” and I was a magnet for anything on the “other side,” and so were the [SRL] guys. So, when we met, we spoke a similar language.

RC: Your music always sounds like it’s beaming in from some alternate future. What else works its way in there?

MS: Hmmm… Definitely my obsession with Basquiat after his death in 89 changed what I thought was possible in the art-making process… I was in an art collective with Andy Jenkins, Spike Jonze, Mark Lewman, and a bunch of other BMX-related folks called The Basement. For literature it was all about Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Bukowski… Then musically it was rap and punk and people like Laurie Anderson.

Again, all of this was like a way to the “other side.”

RC: What else are you working on that you want to bring up here?

MS: Promos for Error Tape 1 (i.e., videos, short tracks, etc.). I provided musical direction and songs for a French television mini series that I’m also acting in called Aurore directed by Laetitia Masson coming out on Arté.tv in September… I’m also in the process of furthering my creative performance coaching work with a platform for artistic self improvement called “insyncro,” designed to combine a practice of meditation physical training and relaxation for working artist to improve process in art making.


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