Interview: Bi-Polar Bear
Imagine the vocal styles of Atmosphere. Now substitute Ant’s production for a more upbeat and energetic sound. This dynamic fusion gives you the amazing duo, Bi-Polar Bear. The group is made up of August and Ugly Orwell who equally split the MC and production duties. Bi-Polar bear is now working with super producers, Blue Sky Black Death, so classifying their sound is extremely difficult.
Imagine the vocal styles of Atmosphere. Now substitute Ant’s production for a more upbeat and energetic sound. This dynamic fusion gives you the amazing duo, Bi-Polar Bear.The group is made up of August and Ugly Orwell who equally split the MC and production duties. Bi-Polar bear is now working with super producers, Blue Sky Black Death, so classifying their sound is extremely difficult.
For those who are not familiar with Bi-Polar Bear, can you guys give us a run down of what you are about and what are you guys bringing to the table?
August: I think, at least at this point, we’re primarily about a re-imagining of the music that we loved growing up. From a production standpoint, I think we’ve always had that era in mind (hard drums, dirty samples)… but as far as lyrics, or structure, or any other convention goes- it feels like those are slipping further away with each album.
When you guys are in the process of making your albums, do you guys start with a concept and build from there, or does the concept emerge after you guys complete a few tracks?
August: I think we build off a theme that is prevalent in our lives. It’s not necessarily something we talk about… it’s more of a direction that we both seem to understand/agree upon. Today I Found Happy was nothing more than a coping mechanism. It was a way to deal with depths that neither me nor Ugly ever saw coming… and that’s a concept that emerged (brutally, at times) in the two years between ‘Today I Found Happy’ and our first album.
You guys have been compared to Atmosphere on numerous occasions; can you guys let us know how is it being compared to arguably the pinnacle of independent Hip Hop?
August: Well first of all, I gotta say that I always smile when I see that… but why Atmosphere? It seems dangerously close to the old “compare any talented white basketball player to Larry Bird” scenario. I absolutely see it lyrically… I think Ugly is capable of telling a story, or analyzing a relationship, or being brutally honest- and I suppose that’s what Slug is known for at this point (although he certainly isn‘t the only one). Production wise, however… I really don’t get the Ant comparisons. There are certainly people that I have attempted to emulate, but I’ll keep that list to myself.
Ugly: Any comparison like that is a huge compliment and very humbling most definitely. Those guys are extremely talented and have had the long, successful career we would love to one day have. I actually had the pleasure of watching them grow from virtually unknowns doing free shows in the midwest promoting ‘Overcast‘ to the stars they are today. It is a bit ‘Larry Bird’ of the industry to continuously compare us to them, haha, but we definitely take it as a compliment every time. I must point out that August’s first comparison was that of a ‘Young Ice Cube’.
Free Download: Bi-Polar Bear – Today I Found Happy
How is it working with super producers, Blue Sky Black Death, and can you let us know how was it when you first heard the news?
August: All I can really say at this point is that those dudes have been nothing but professionals. The whole thing with them started as a joke between me and Ugly… I was showing him ‘Late Night Cinema’ for the first time (BSBD’s seminal instrumental album), and we were thinking up ways to translate that sort of formlessness to an album with lyrical content. We sent them an email (with our album attached), and Kingston (one half of BSBD) got back to us almost immediately. We worked out the details, and now we’re trying to figure out how to maximize their inclusion. We want our work with them to be different from anything that we’ve ever even thought about doing, and I definitely think we’re gonna get there.
Ugly: It’s rare that we sit down and hear an album these days and really get blown away with what we hear. BSBD’s latest did that for us. For them to compliment our music and work with us on our next project is really a blessing.
Without the internet, I wouldn’t have discovered you guys or the amazing underground scene and 90s era hip hop. How has the internet helped or hurt your hustle.
Ugly: It has only helped, no question. The sad reality is, without a lot of financial backing it’s nearly impossible to successfully get your music out to the masses. The internet is one way that allows us to at least do it in some capacity. We sit in Brooklyn cuttin up drum loops and writing songs trynna come up with rent money and meanwhile there are people all around the world listening to our album and rockin’ BPB shirts. It aint millions, but we get CD and shirt orders from places like the UK, Germany, Japan, etc., places we’ve never been too. Without the internet that would never have been possible. It’s inspiring to see that.
I always thought your name had something to do with polar bears and the Bipolar disorder; can you clarify what the name “Bi-Polar Bear” means and who came up with it?
August: This was another joke that somehow turned into something permanent. I just remember being told (by some doctor that charged more in an hour than I have ever made in my life) that I was Bi-Polar, and that I had to take 128 different drugs (this clown gave me lithium after 45 minutes of knowing me), and that my life would never be the same… all that bullshit that doctors tell you to get you hooked on whatever their pushing. I knew Ugly had gone through some similar experiences as well, so we thought we’d try to make light of a somewhat shitty situation. Also, we knew the possibilities for a logo would be endless.
Ugly, is there a particular girl you wrote “F**k Her” about?
Ugly: I’ve been asked that quite a few times and it’s actually not about a girl at all. The song is about my relationship/fight with depression. The “her” in the story is simply a metaphor.
Everyone has a time when they wanted to be emcees, what was responsible for your “eureka” moment?
Ugly: My pops first put me on to music and my older brother put me on to hip-hop specifically at a very young age. I’m not sure how many 6 year olds were walking around in 1990 with A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, and other rap tapes in their walkman, but I was one of them, haha. As I grew up, freestyling and eventually beat production and writing became things I did for fun. On another note, I’ve had a life long, and for a long time. undiagnosed battle with depression. Some days were up, some we’re down, and reasons were rarely understood. Eventually the down days turned into down weeks, then months, then the better part of a year. Ups and downs are tiring, but extended downs are where you start asking, what’s the point? I think I hit a breaking point late in that year. You either find an outlet or you just quit. I was lucky enough (I think) to find an outlet in music. That was the point where making music became a real part of me beyond just something I liked a lot. In a way, you could call that my “eureka” moment.
Is there anyone else you guys want to collaborate with in the future?
August: This list is endless in a lot of different ways. There are a lot of non-rap groups that I have dreamed of working with (Anticon’s Why? Easily tops that list)… and if we ever got a DJ Premier beat to fuck with, I’m pretty sure we’d both die happily. Also, if I ever won the lottery, I’d probably see what Plug One was charging for a verse.
What are some things you guys might be doing if you weren’t rapping?
August: Ha… I think we’re about to find out- I start teaching full time in January, so I’m thinking a summer funeral (late July, when the baseball season is dragging) might be nice. You’re all invited.
Are there any particular MCs you guys are feeling right now?
Ugly: Yessir, our good friend Kalo outta the Mighty Midwest.
What are some of your hopes for 2010?
Ugly: That ol’ Auggie gives up his dream of becoming a real person with a grown up’s job. I don’t wanna be doing my Peter Pan dance all by myself.
Is there anything Bi-Polar Bear wants to say that you didn’t mention in the interview?
Ugly: We want to thank you guys for taking a peak into our little world as well as anyone taking the time to read about it. For more, download our latest album for free directly from us at Settingworldrecords.com/todayifoundhappy.
And to end this interview, Finish the Sentence:
Bi-Polar Bear is: the ship’s name.
Brooklyn means: home.
Hip Hop is: a piece of the puzzle.
More info: Bi-Polar Bear
Words by: Osman Ahmed
Free Download: Bi-Polar Bear – Today I Found Happy (Album)