justLISTEN! Boombox Saints

Interview by Jenkin Au
Words by Ryan Goldade & Amie Nguyen
Photography by Jenkin Au

The justalilhype! Crew sat down with Boombox Saints, a local hip-hop group that are on the cusp of blowing up.  Although they’ve had more personnel changes than Destiny’s Child, Boombox Saints have grown, changed and evolved into the members and sounds that are present today.  Today, Adlib, Freaky P, and Huggy Fresh make up the current members of this group, with DJ Relik as their DJ. Much of their recent success has come from their Should’ve Been An Album mixtape, and with an LP in their near future, anything is possible for the saints.

Please tell us about yourselves.

Adlib:  I’m Adi a.k.a. Adlib.  We make music, write songs, and entertain people.  That’s what we do.

Freaky P:  I’m Freaky P, JP.  Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, I moved to Vancouver four years ago.  I met these guys through a friend who’s Adi’s “sort of” cousin.  You know how the Flip game works, right?  Everyone’s related.  I came here for a change of pace and to do music.  I’m really fortunate to have met these guys.

Huggy Fresh:  I’m Geff, also known as Huggy Fresh.  I’m one-third of the Boombox Saints.  I’m originally from Winnipeg.  I moved here when I was a kid; eleven years old.  I’ve always been into writing my own stuff as far as music and recording.  I’ve known Adi since grade six.

When you came here, was it first just to visit or did you plan to stay?

P: Well…..  I had someone I knew who moved here. An ex … let’s just say a friend.  I met her two months before and we did the long distance thing.  She said, “You should move out here.”  I had the chance so I said, “Fuck it!  Why not? Let’s check out the West Coast. It’ll be great.”

What made you stay?

P: Boombox.  The whole vibe out here, it’s real chill.  It feels right here, the weathers good.  I don’t want to shovel snow anymore.

H:  An opportunity came up to be a part of a group, and progressive.

P: *Interrupts* Yeah right, you do it for the girls! I don’t know why you’re bullshitting the people.

So where did you fall into the hip-hop scene before joining together as BBS?

P: Basketball!

A: Music has always been a part of my life.  I grew up listening to hip hop without getting into the scene, really.  I was being more of a fan, if anything, just doing my stuff on the low and writing. Just waiting for a chance to do it, I guess.

H: I grew up with the culture, even as a kid.  I am just a fan of the music, and everything about the hip-hop culture.  Pretty much the same as Adi, I used to do stuff like write on my own, just for my own purposes.

A: You fall in love with the culture.  You don’t even necessarily feel like you’re a part of it, you don’t even realize you’re a part of it until it consumes you.  When I was younger, hip-hop was a lot different than it is right now.  Now, hip-hop is everywhere. Back then it was a different thing.

P: I used to battle, that was my whole thing.  I was writing when I was 12 years old in my notebook.

Did you battle cats at 12?

P: Naw, I didn’t battle cats at twelve, but before I got here, I won a whole bunch of battles back in Hamilton.  Nothing really crazy, but that was my whole thing, just dissin’ cats.  I would never battle now, not anymore.  That’s done; I’m just tryin’ to write songs.  I love the whole punch line thing.  Punch line flow.

How did BBS join together?

A: It started in 2000 with our homies, Pluskratch and Rob Palacol.  They were a production group; they were making beats and stuff.  I always saw Paul around the clubs and I’d always holla at him like, “Hey man, I do music!” I was just always in his ear about it, showing him that I do music.

How did you show him?

A: He hooked me up with his cousin Rob, and Rob and I would just jam.  We started as a band.  So many people have been a part of this whole Boombox project.  Everyone has different visions and everyone went their separate ways.  Three years ago, when P first came here, that’s when it kind of started changing, and cultivated into the sound we have right now.  It’s a totally different vibe now, but that’s how it started.  It’s been a long journey to get here, but the group that we have right now all has the same vision about where we want to take this.  It’s definitely in a different place, a better place right now.  We’re thankful and blessed that we got to work with all those people before to get to where we are right now.  It’s been a long way.

Being the latest member, what was your first impression of BBS?

P:  I remember going to one of the rehearsals just down the street here at Crying Sky.  I don’t know who was all there, but there were a lot of people.  They had the keys there, the drummer, the bass, the guitar, these two guys [Adlib and Huggy] and a DJ too.  It was like an eight piece group.

A: We were very ambitious.  We had no idea what we were trying to do, we were just tryin’ to …

P: *interrupts* Tryin’ to go in there and just make magic!  I remember I went in there, and I didn’t want to say anything.  I was just trying to catch the vibe; I didn’t feel like I was in a place to say anything.  I was just there to spectate.  Everyone was going at it and I love the live sound.  It just hit me, I was thinking, “This is good, this is where I should be.”

Where did the name come from?  Was it there since the beginning?

A: Rob and Paul came up with the name.  I think it was influenced from that movie, Boondock Saints.  They just ran with that.  I think Paul told me one time that the Boondock Saints were about two brothers that were just killin’ everyone.

H: In the name of God.

A: Yeah.  They just wanted to do that to the whole music scene and have this different vibe.  It was pretty cool, it was different.

P: I remember them talking about trying to take samples out of the movie.  Just like, the speech, the narrative.

A: So yeah, the name was there.  It’s a dope name.

You mentioned before that you started in 2000, but recently, the bigger steps have taken place.

A: Yeah, definitely.

P: The last two years!

A: The last two years have been really crazy for us.  I think the problem before with Boombox was that we had all these songs, but we didn’t have the resources to record them.  For some reason or another, we didn’t have a chance to record them. We finally buckled down and we hooked up with Mike [“Window” Alcantara].  He helped us out with recording, so we started recording our mixtape, and after the mixtape, everything just kind of snowballed.  Then we got to do a couple shows.  Things have been really good.

P: Once the content was there, once we had a product…

A: Yeah, the music’s always been there, but it’s a different thing to finally have it in your hand.

That was around 2008?

A: It came out 2009, but we started working on it in 2008.  Should’ve Been An Album.

Who were some of the members at the time?

A: Pluskratch was highly involved with that.

H: And us three.

A: And Hunt did some production. K-rec.  Window, of course.

P: He’s a man of many hats.

A: Like I said, a lot of people have been involved with this project.  It’s crazy how many people have helped Boombox get to where it is right now.

A lot of bands change the line up over time.  What are some of the main reasons why people have come and gone from the group?

A: Everybody has their own vision, you know what I mean?  People have their own goals in life.  Even us as individuals, we all have different ambitions and goals.  Everyone SHOULD be going for what they really want.

H: Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.  Is that too racist?

(Everyone laughs)

P: Too many generals, not enough soldiers

A: Not even, it’s just everyone has different goals.  There comes a point in time that if that’s not what you really want to do, then you gotta go do what you really want to do.

H: Fortunately for us, we have the same drive and goals that we want to achieve.  As a team, it makes it a lot faster for us to get there.

A: The focus, now, is easier with just the three of us.  If we have to get something done, we all know what we have to do to get there.  It’s just a different focus, basically.

While we’re talking about members, where does Relly fall into this?

A: Relly’s our DJ.

H: DJ Relik!

A: Relly and I have been friends for a long time.  Luckily for us, he was willing to help us out and join.  He’s one of the best in the city.  Relik is at a point in his life where this works for him, and it works for us.

Where do you guys each fit in to make a cohesive sound?

A: I think that’s what’s so great about us right now; it’s that we’ve finally found that formula.  Everyone has their role in the group for the song writing process. I dunno … I come up with the melodies for the hooks.  I’m like the glue between these two guys.  As individuals, they’re both really good MC’s, they both have different styles.

H: I try to take it and find the concept and direction of each song.  I try to find that way.  We all do, it’s a group thing, but I try to steer it towards how the feel of the song should be; the whole mood, envision how every song should sound.  I hope people can relate.  Trying to get universally related to and finding the words too.

A: And Huggy just gets the girls.  Huggy’s got that flow!  It’s very distinct.  That’s what’s dope about it, we’re all so different but it works.

BBS caters to a worldwide audience, but within Vancouver, where do you think it fits?

A:  There are a lot of different things going on.  There’s a lot of talent in Vancouver.  For us, we’re just trying to focus on what we’re doing and not really think about where we fit.  Not like, do we want to be in this circle or that.  We just try and think about our music first and what it sounds like.  If it happens to fall in this category, then it does.

P: It’s what we feel, you know?  However we feel at the time, we’ll do it.  There’s nothing we don’t do.

A: That’s the thing, that’s a hard question because honestly I don’t really know where we fall into, because we kinda fall everywhere.  You want slow shit, you want fast shit? Ya know?

H: Smorgasbord .

A: It’s true though, like you said, we have that universal appeal, right?  It’s hard to really say where we fall into the scene, but I pride myself on that.

P: I love that we can go to any type of show and rock it.  And we’ve proven it.

A: That’s the thing, there’s so much talent in Vancouver and think it’s time for Vancouver to really make that push.  There are so many things going on here.

P: It’s a reflection of ourselves, we’re in Vancouver and there are so many cultures.

While we’re on culture, a lot of people say you have this really distinct Filipino feel to you. Fans want music that is relatable. How has the BBS catered to that need?

A: With our music, we don’t really look at it that way.  I guess it just comes out ‘cause we are, you know, we’re Filipino.  It’s obviously going to come out in our music.

H: I think we’re just this inviting type of vibe that comes out from us.  We come off as easily approachable, and that’s how our music is too.  So everyone has some form from the music to relate to.

As you guys grow, what type of identity are you looking to maintain?  Filipino? Canadian? Both? Would you adjust if you move into the states?

P:  I would like to rep for the Flips but not to be pigeon-holed as “those Filipino guys.”  I’ll rep it just being me, hopefully something that they can identify with.  But I’d definitely be more universal.

A: It definitely follows with the music first, and then be like, “Oh shit, they’re Filipino? Sick.”  Or “Oh shit, they’re Canadian? Sick.” Instead of the other way around, like, “Oh, those Filipino-Canadian rappers.”  It should be like, “That song is dope. Oh did you know they’re Filipino?”

Has money ever been a problem with the group?

(BBS laughs)

A:  If we all had money, it would be a different story.  That’s an awesome question.  At first we couldn’t record because we couldn’t afford to get in a studio, we couldn’t get it done.  It costs money to record, it costs money to print CD’s, it costs money to do all that stuff.

P: It costs money to live.

Where has it hit you guys the hardest?

P: Rent. I not going to lie, the price of living is insane.  It’s Vancouver, one of the most expensive places to live.

A: Money is always going to be a problem; it’s just what you do with what you have.

P: How you make it out of your situation, playing the cards you were dealt.

A: Exactly.  We’ve come the point right now, where I don’t even know how we got here.  Luckily, there have been so many people who’ve helped us.  My mentality was like “We help you out, you help us out.”  That was always how it was, just making those connections and networking.

You guys got the single “She Got” on iTunes right now.  Selling singles today is a different game than what it used to be, with piracy and everything.  How was it been for you so far?

P: It’s good.  Had good reception, but it only goes so far.

H: Yeah, until it hits Limewire.

Has Limewire been a big problem with you guys so far?

H: Not really.

P: More like the torrents.

H: If anything we see it as more promo, more access for people to get it.

Eventually you have to draw the line right?

A: Eventually, yeah, but we’re not at that point yet.  Our main concern is to get the music to the people.  It’s great we have the single on iTunes, but for me, it’s getting the music out there.  People gotta hear your shit.  Bottom line.

I guess you have to draw that line when you produce an album.  Are you working on something like that?

A: We’re working on that right now.

When do you think it’ll come out?

A: When it comes out…when it’s ready.

P: It’s always been worked on.

A: Yeah, it’s a work in progress, but it has got to sound right.

P: We got a few things coming out before that though.

What’s it going to sound like?

A: It’ll sound like Boombox.  It’s going to have that sound, it depends how you interpret it.

Is there a certain goal that you’re all working towards?

H: Just taking it one step at a time.

P: We just want to straight up do it … To the point where it’s self sustainable.  We don’t really have to work a day job.  That would be the ultimate goal, to eat off it.

H: Make this shit a career.

A: Yeah, to make it a career, to turn it from a hobby into a career.  We all work.  I work a 9-5, you know, we all work.  We all have our everyday struggles but at the end I just want to do it.

P: I just want to eat, man!

Has this hobby ever felt like work?

Everyone: No, never.

A: We’re pretty lucky, we get to do music, we get to do shows.

P: Outside of the music, we’re all friends.  We just kick it.

What is HYPE?

H: What’s HYPE? Anyone and everyone that’s been involved with Boombox to get us to our point now.  That’s HYPE.  And we love everyone for that.

P: This life is HYPE man, all HYPE.  So believe it.  Believe the HYPE.

A: Getting to do what you love is HYPE.