Back in the early 90′s, or it might have even been the late 80′s, there was a hip hop/r&b type of group out of Portland, no, not Maine, but Portland Oregon. The group had a semi national hit with the jam “If U Were Mine”, that made some noise. For the most part though, Portland Oregon, the Pacific Northwest’s second largest city, has failed to really make much noise on the hip hop scene. Yes, they’ve had some exposure for Lifesavas and Cool Nutz, but for the most part, the city has been laying low. One group trying change that is Animal Farm. The four man crew has been involved in the Portland scene for five years plus, three as it’s current line up. The crew dropped their debut album, The Unknown, last year and since then have been steadily gaining attention on the west coast. The album even features a track with the legendary KRS-One. I sat down with one of the members, Gen. Erik, who MC’s and does the majority of the group’s production and we kicked it about the group and it’s history as well as it’s future.
WYDU: What’s good man? So who is Animal Farm?
Gen. Erik: Animal Farm consists of Gen.Erik, Hanif Wondir, KWils, and Fury. We are all MCs and I also produce the majority of the tracks. We’re a fun group of hip-hop heads who love what we do and take pride in putting on a high energy live show.
W: How did you all come together? Some of you are from Portland, some from Eugene, what’s the story of joining forces?
E: I met the rest of the crew shortly after I moved down to Eugene from Portland. KWils and I were a group called Money Shot. It was actually initially with Ethic from Sandpeople as well, but it was kind of a side project for all of us at the time. We didn’t take it too seriously, and we had girls in bikinis dancing and making out with each other on stage. Hanif and Fury were in a group called SoundProof. After I began DJing for SoundProof, we all started to do shows together and the rest is history. I think we really worked well together, because we all really had such a great time on stage with each other. After a little while, I moved back to Portland and Hanif eventually returned to the Bay Area, which has definitely made creating music more difficult.
W: Portland is starting to make some noise. Not a lot of people out side of the region know that the city has a pretty lengthy history itself in hip hop lore. How is the scene out there? How do you feel about the Northwest being somewhat the forgotten region? Do you see that changing in the near future?
E: Portland is dope. There are thousands of MCs and DJs, but I guess that’s probably anywhere at this point considering hip-hop’s global popularity. Since we haven’t had any real commercial success from hip-hop acts out of Portland, we’re all still hungry, which allows all of us to push each other to new heights. The city is really bubbling right now, not just in music, but in other aspects of the arts as well. That being said, it’s just a matter of time before we make ourselves known. Although we’ve been saying it for years, the Northwest is still that next region to blow.
W: The latest album is called “The Unknown”, why did you choose that name for it? Any hidden meanings behind it? Or am I just an idiot and reading into it too much? haha
E: I think from your questioning that you’ve got the meaning. The idea of The Unknown has really been somewhat prophetic, because we released this album without a lot of name recognition. The journey that this album has helped to manifest was also really unknown to us, but it’s led us to our next step in making our dreams a reality. I think the next album should be called “Almost Famous”.
W: I noticed some tones of social commentary and some political jabs on tracks like “Crying” and “War”….why is important for you guys to deliver those kind of messages? Do you think there is enough of that kind of thing in hip hop these days?
E: As much as we love to have a good time, unfortunately life is not all fun and games. We have to remember the people who are being oppressed and are starving and those who have limited access to safe water or the technology we take for granted. If we have the opportunity to have a platform through our music, and we don’t speak about social injustices, then we are really selling ourselves short. In the words of the great Dr. Marti
n Luther King “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In other words, if anyone in the world is being enslaved, it could happen to any of us.
W: You have KRS on the track “Peace”, you know I have to ask how that collaboration came down? How was it working with a legend in hip hop?
E: Of course you have to ask. This is the million dollar question. I feel like I need to create an answer and then just copy and paste every time it’s asked. Then again, I really shouldn’t complain because we were blessed to be able to work with KRS, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest to ever rock a crowd. We actually connected with him through a promoter, prior to a couple shows we were scheduled to do together. We gave him the beats when he was in town and the rest is history.
W: Y’all got up to 3rd on the CMJ chart and were named in Urb’s Next 1000, it seems like the group is starting to gain some shine. You’ve been together for three plus years now, how do you like were the group sits at this point?
E: I couldn’t ask for better positioning for Animal Farm at this point. We’re all veterans to the game, so we understand the attention we’ve received in such short time is somewhat of a rarity. We really try not to take this for granted. We’ve got a lot more in the works for 2009 and we’re really ready to take our music and exposure to the next level.
W: The Focused Noise Mixtape features a couple other artists a long with you guys, how did you all hook up with them?
E: I’m in a group with Mic Crenshaw called Line of Fire. We put out an album under the name Cleveland Steamers, but we had to change it due to the negative connotations. It only made sense that we all started working together to help promote all of our music. Since we were already doing a lot of shows in Portland with Serge Severe, we decided to add him to the Focused Noise roster as well. Also, Nightclubber Lang from Boom Bap Project is Hanif Wondir’s older brother and a good friend of ours, so having him host the mixtape was a no brainer, since he is world renowned for his trash talking ability.
W: As you mentioned, you are doing a lot of shows with Mic Crenshaw and Serge Severe. How important is it to tour with people you get along with, or is it?
E: It is extremely important to get along with people you are touring with. No high maintenance people allowed. I brought someone along to run merch on a recent trip and they were trying to control the air, the music, and have us pick up random girls along the way. It was very distracting and, although entertaining, was not our objective. We all try to handle this as a business, but we have become friends throughout the process, which I think is essential.
W: In this times of unemployment and increased inflation all over, why should a hard working American spend his beer money on one of your shows? What do you guys bring to the table for your live shows?
E: Because they would feel better in the morning than they would if they used their money for beer. They would just wake up hungover, next to some ugly girl with missing teeth and realize that their life still sucks. At least at our show, they would forget about their problems for a few hours and have a good time. Our show is a surprise, sometimes even to us. We’ll bring everything from 2 DJs (Wicked and Wels) on 4 turntables to B-boys to signed pictures of Kevin Bacon to Bell Biv Devoe cover songs.
W: What does the future hold for Animal Farm? Any new projects on the horizon?
E: There is a lot on the horizon which I can’t really discuss yet, but the details will be worked out soon. I can promise it will be exciting and the new albums from Animal Farm, Line of Fire, and Serge Severe, as well as a mixtape, are just around the corner.
W: Any last words for the believers, non believers and anyone in between?
E: Yeah. Lord loves a workin’ man. Don’t trust whitey. See a doctor and get rid of it.
W: Thanks and see y’all in Boise!