Guesswho: We’re doing very well.
Whatizface: We're doing good, man. We're doing fantastic. Things are going well.
Your new project, Got Game? is made up of beats with samples from Nintendo games. That gives a new definition to digging in the crates.
Guesswho: Basically when you go into a record shop to find the breaks for your beats and whatever, it's like you're digging through the crates. The first record that you pick up, you put on the Tech and within the first 30 seconds, you're going to find that break. It's not like that here. Instead of putting wax onto the turntable, you're blowing on the cartridge, putting it in, hitting reset and there's no "Rewind" button. We're video game nerds though.
Whatizface: A lot of times we were playing the heatrock games that everybody knows and we're playing it at first and there's nothing, but then you play it for three hours and you find this eight bar break that's bananas.
Guesswho: What I think would be interesting would be to meet the people who make these things. They must be so bugged out. The synthesizers that they used to make these games were the first computer synthesizers. They weren't actual instruments. The people just wrote codes for the music, which is amazing. What's interesting is that with all of the advancements in technology, we're going back and we're sampling from the first synthesized sounds. We're fucking around with early computer chips. It's mad funny because we have all of this high-tech gear but we're doing everything in 8 bit. But it's good too because I think that people are really feeling the nostalgia behind the Nintendo video games. It's a certain aesthetic that I think our generation, especially, appeals to. You play the different games and you play the songs for people, like this one song "Double Dragon," and the beat comes on and the people just immediately identify with it. You put on "Contra" and the people automatically start saying up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-b-a-select-start.
How did the project come about?
Whatizface: About a year ago, me and this producer had a falling out. I was living in Chicago and I moved out to New York City. I moved out here for about three months. We were both at this Stretch Armstrong event and I bumped into him and it was the first time I had seen him in three years. We talked about making music together again. We wanted to take a different approach where we made something different and we made something new without changing who we are. So we kind of dug into what we liked and who we are as people and what we dug in the music. We were jotting down ideas and the Nintendo idea just popped up. One day we just got up, sat down, plugged in the Nintendo and the first game that we played was Double Dragon. We found a sample and we just went with it. That's the song that's been getting us some love. And from there, we just kind of formulated it and said, "Let's try and take this to another level. Let's play Nintendo games and find samples and do what we can." Other people have done this before, but no one's really taken it to that next level in hip-hop.
Guesswho: Yeah. We're not just placing drums underneath a preexisting sample. We're making music out of it. We're actually taking it and doing something with it. A lot of people make drum and bass with it. Not too many people have really gotten too deep into making good hip-hop out of it, so to speak.
Whatizface: And because it's Nintendo, the way we get away with it is on the mixtape level and not as an album. So we're basically just grinding it out, giving something to the people and then we're switching it up.
Guesswho: But this album is like a test because when we were little, we were nasty at rapping and nasty at playing video games, so in this project the two kind of go hand in hand.
What Nintendo games have the best samples?
Whatizface: There's a game called Overlord that was an original drop from Virgin. It's fire. T&C Surf Design had a lot of samples in it. We did a song with that.
Guesswho: It's about police brutality and in particular how cops are still crazy and how they let off shots.
Whatizface: We did Mega Man. We did Super Mario Brothers 3. But then there was this one track that was real crazy on Samurai Zombie Nation. That track was really fire. These are games where if you played Nintendo as a kid and really got into it, you would know about these. We tried to keep the games to where people would really know what they were, but then when we started digging we realized that there were a lot of games that never made it to America or if they did it was on the low.
Guesswho: You have these games with these 808 basslines and they have these intricate synth lines going and they're really amazing. We get busy and really chop up and just figure it out as we go. It's really fun.
What game has been the most disappointing in terms of not having samples that you liked?
Guesswho: Metroid. We were really geeked when we started digging and we went straight to the classics. We went to Metroid and it didn't have anything. Metroid was a big let down.
Whatizface: You start digging and you think you're going to get this thing out of it but you don't. When we started playing our tracks for people, they said, "That's fresh. I know this level or that game. That's where you got it from." But a lot of the dope games just didn't have the best music to it. But we did Mike Tyson's Punchout and that was ridiculous.
Guesswho: The important thing to know is that when we were making this project, we were not just sampling the games. We're composing around the songs. There are parts that are recognizable, but we do pull parts off and really do make compositions instead of just relying on what's there. We did a song over Marble Madness and the beat had to be really chopped up so that it could work. It's one of those games where everybody knows Marble Madness. If you hear those three or four notes, people are like, ‘Marble Madness. That's what's up!’ It's about beefing it up. One thing that's important to know is that we were not just adding drums to the beats. It's not that easy. At times I wish it was, but we're not just sitting down, taking a sample and looping up a four-bar beat. We've spent a lot of time making this.
Are you guys concerned at all with this project being looked at as a gimmick?
Whatizface: I think the thing is that there is no way to get away from the idea of it being a gimmick, but when you listen to the music itself, you can't always tell. Some people couldn't really tell that we sampled a Nintendo game. We did a good job on the production tip of making sure that it didn't just sound like Nintendo games.
Guesswho: You can't think of it as a gimmick. You have to think of it as a theme. Wu-Tang found a lot of music in the old martial arts films. They used to smoke a lot of wet and pretend they were ninjas and RZA put it on blast. Now when you hear those beats, people aren't thinking about kung-fu movies, they're thinking about Wu-Tang's music. It's our theme and our backbone and it's the theme that allows us to launch this music. This is our theme but we're not relying on that and I hope that it comes across as that in our songs. And when you listen to this album, you're not going to just sit back and say, "Oh, these guys are relying on a bunch of fresh beats from Nintendo." When you listen to it, you're going to really feel us as MCs. It's much more than Nintendo games. We're making good music out of it.
Have you gotten the response you wanted for Got Game? at your live shows?
Whatizface: Definitely. It's more than we expected.
Guesswho: When we perform, it's there. We've been doing our thing independently for so long. When we perform, it's not like we just jump up on stage and say some shit. We get on stage and because a lot of our songs are so high energy with fast breakbeats and all that and because we're goofy motherfuckers that like to entertain people, word of mouth is starting to spread and we're seeing a lot of new faces.
From listening to Got Game?, it's really hard to put No Question in one specific category. Who is your ideal fan?
Guesswho: We make rap music for people with a good taste in rap music. The people that I want to listen to our music are people who know who Kool G. Rap and Percee P are. I want the people that bumped Nocturnal by Heltah Skeltah. I also want the people that fucking listen to Black Sabbath and the people who just know what good music is and cross genres and don't limit themselves to one thing. If you listen to hip-hop music, it's generally limited to one to three topics and it's hard for people to identify with that.
Whatizface: The way that we make our music attracts a lot of people that aren't really into hip-hop and the ones that aren't really feeling the gimmick aspect of it. It's nice. We have fans that listen to Pantera and fans that are into hard rock. We also want the fans that listen to straight hip-hop, but we don't want to deny any fans the right to listen to our music.
Guesswho: Recently there was a girl that said something to ‘Face. She said, "I don't really like the kind of music you make but I like the music that you make," meaning that she doesn't really listen to hip-hop music but she likes the type of hip-hop that we make.
Whatizface: That's great because we have the people that appreciate what we love. There are some people who think hip-hop is what's on the radio and they don't feel it, then they check out what we do and they find themselves actually liking hip-hop. It's like we just turned people on to what we love and they love what we love.
How did the group No Question come together?
Guesswho: Well, we had both moved from different cities to this kind of rural, commuter town in Connecticut. I was from New York and ‘Face was from Boston. And we ended up in an English class or some shit together. And we were just completely opposite from everybody else in our school because they grew up with soccer moms and they were in the woods. We were city kids and we immediately identified with each other. We were skateboarding and writing graffiti.
Whatizface: I remember when we were sitting in class, goofing around. We were two slackjobs sitting in class, talking and I had Cypress Hill's first album right when it came out. Cypress Hill, Spice One, Naughty by Nature and the Juice Soundtrack was what we were listening to when everybody else around us was listening to Aerosmith, which was cool, but we immediately identified with each other.
Guesswho: At some point we started rapping and we did a couple of shows together too...but we had gone our separate ways.
Whatizface: I was out in Chicago doing the battle scene.
Guesswho: And I was going to school.
Whatizface: And when we both came back to New York, we bumped into each other again and it was like we picked up right where we left off.
You guys also have other groups that you work with. How do you guys balance everything?
Guesswho: We've kind of put the other stuff on hold. We're making our own individual music. Face produces some of the tracks. H. Fraud also produces for us and DJs now when we do shows. And we're doing individual projects just keeping it moving. But as far as other groups, I'm fucking with ‘Face now. I had the Bad News project that was moving for a little bit. That was a good project for me to do but it just served a different purpose. This is what we're doing. We're writers and we're artists and me and ‘Face clicked really well as friends and as musicians even more so.
Whatizface: No doubt. I think that at one point he was doing his Bad News thing and I was doing my shows as Whatzisface and I was on an independent label. I was going through some things. I recorded a whole album and it never came out and I lost the masters to it. After that I fell back from the solo thing. It was so discouraging. This group thing is so much more fun. When I can't do something or get something done, I always got Guess right behind me to pick me back up and get me to where I need to be going and to get me in the studio. If I have a tendency where I want to get down or slack a little bit, it just helps. The grind is 100% as opposed to 95%.
What are your goals for your music?
Guesswho: Well, I think that first things first, we want to make good music above all. Our goals were initially as just a group to motivate each other to just come with it for our own satisfaction. We make the music that we like to make and we like to perform. We just wanted to make the music that we wanted to make and we enjoy it to the fullest. Now I think it's starting to progress into something bigger. I didn't expect that to happen and now we're getting a lot of love for it and it's starting to move into something that's way above us. Now we're starting to move all over the world. We have fans in Sweden and Norway asking us when our album is coming out. It's an amazing thing to go from doing something that you just love to do to doing it to where it becomes something worthwhile.
What's the next move for No Question?
Whatizface: Right now we're working on putting together some overseas stuff. It's all in the works. There's nothing official yet. We're also working on some college tours. But everything is in the works. For the most part, we're just going to be traveling the U.S. and doing shows. Hopefully we're going to have this album done to give to the fans sooner rather than later. That's pretty much where we're at.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Guesswho: I don't know. This is No Question. It is what it is. Check us out.
Whatizface: Get involved. Get involved in good music.
Guesswho: Support the people that you like because hip-hop is dying and it's in a fucked up state of affairs right now.
Whatizface: For all you people out there that are saying hip-hop is dead and that you're not feeling all the gimmicky rap that's on your radio station, get up off your ass and start supporting the people that aren't on that radio station so that we can start giving you that fresh shit. Part of the reason you're tired of it is because you're not taking the initiative to get out and find new artists. I can give you a list of artists from hip-hop to rock to the indie scene that will knock your socks off. Music is not dead. It's just that people are not supporting the right kind of music.
Guesswho: And fuck radio.
Whatizface: Yeah, fuck radio. (laughs)