I met Steve Reidell, better known these days as STV SLV, one half of mash-up outfit extraordinaire Hood Internet, in 1998. It was the year Juvenile’s 400 Degreez came out, and we made endless mixtapes for friends (you know, the cassette tape kind) full of Cash Money hits.
Millions of downloads, seven mixtapes (the Internet kind), and one album later, Hood Internet is now an established presence in today’s music scene. For the uninitiated: formed in Chicago in 2007, Hood Internet (Aaron Brink, known to fans as ABX, completes the duo) crafts skillful, dance-tastic indie rock/EDM/trap/pop/hiphop mash-ups (R. Kelly vs. Phoenix, “Ignition: 1901 Remix” is a recent memorable example). Even with the veritable flood of mash-ups released on sites like Soundcloud and Hype Machine, Hood has set themselves apart with a true songwriting approach to their material. Sure, there’s some A + B = ridiculous, but when it’s funny, it’s not condescending. And when it’s good, it’s art.
Hood Internet released their first original album, FEAT, last year, with features by Class Actress, AC Newman, Tobacco, Donwill, Psalm One, and Kid Static, among others. Last year also saw a successful, high profile tour with Star Slinger. Now on the road with Oscillator Bug and Black Moth Super Rainbow, Hood just dropped their latest installment of genre-ignoring dance floor hits, the aptly titled MIXTAPE VOLUME SEVEN. I caught up with STV over Memorial Day weekend to talk influences and mixtapes.
TSS: When you were little, what did you want to be?
STV: I think my first notion of wanting to be something was to be an airplane pilot.
TSS: Fly society.
STV: [Laughs] Yep! I don’t remember this personally, but my mom has a memory that during an episode of Reading Rainbow where they had a segment about some dude making electronic music in New York, I was watching it and told her that’s what I wanted to do. I don’t remember that.
TSS: When did guitar come into the picture?
STV: With guitar I started in high school, but I was pretty bad, I was more of a bass player then. I played a lot freshman year of college. My roommate had a guitar and I would skip class and sit in the dorm and learn chords.
TSS: Having a strong basis in an instrument is important, even if you’re doing all electronic-based stuff. I know you and ABX both have long backgrounds in rock bands, and I think you’ve got a songwriting approach rather than a traditional “mash-up” approach, if you will. Ugh, the word mash-up sucks.
STV: [Laughs] yeah, but it still fits what we do best, probably.
TSS: 1998 was a big year in a lot of ways. How much was 400 Degreez a point of inspiration for you? So much of what you do features Southern Hip-Hop.
STV: I didn’t really know much about Southern Hip-Hop until some friends hipped me to 400 Degreez and in turn all the other Cash Money artists from the time. B.G.’s Chopper City In The Ghetto was a big favorite. Mannie Fresh was doing all the production for Cash Money then, and his style was so unique, so consistent. His beats were the unifying facet of the label at the time. I just hadn’t heard anything like them before. And of course that eventually led the way to finding out about bounce music, which was a key history lesson in understanding the origins of the CMR dudes’ cadences.
TSS: Yeah, it always surprises me that no one really knows much about bounce outside of New Orleans. Or at least didn’t til Diplo [laughs]. So much of Cash Money’s stuff came out of bounce, but nobody outside the regional South really knew it.
STV: Like so many regional art movements: the Internet opened it up to the masses. And from a visual art perspective, so many Southern rap and Hip-Hop artists were hiring Pen & Pixel for cover artwork, and that consistency was fucking awesome. I mean part of why P&P is great is because of their absolute ridiculousness (see: Big Bear Doin Thangs), but, like, diamond-encrusted letters looked like what Cash Money sounded like. To me it became a trusted style, like a known calling card. I bought a Hypnotize Camp Posse CD strictly because of the P&P designed cover. And there weren’t even cars or anything, it was just mostly text [laughs].
TSS: One thing I really appreciate in Hood’s work is that you love and appreciate the ridiculous elements in Southern Hip-Hop but nothing you do comes off as condescending. A good section of Southern Hip-Hop is populist, it’s about dance and fun. You guys seem to understand that.
STV: We sample things that we love. It could be a super lyrical verse or a really repetitive strip club anthem, but it’s all out of love.
TSS: Obviously it was time to make a record after so many years doing mixtapes … how different was the process of making FEAT in terms of how you approached creating a product?
STV: The two goals were to, one, create some new songs and, two, have them feel like a stylistic extension of what Hood Internet was already about. So in trying to realize that into a record, we got to collaborate with a bunch of very different artists. I think the act of making those songs with all the different artists was a good broadening of opportunities and experience for us.
TSS: Was the album-making process similar to making the mixtapes, like you and ABX in different cities, sending things back and forth? Or was there a lot more in person music-making?
STV: ABX and I rarely worked on the record in the same room. There was lots of bouncing projects back and forth over the Internet as we have done in the past. Some of the artists we had on there emailed us audio files, but with some others, we’d go set up some microphones in their apartments or meet at a nearby studio and get it done that way.
TSS: There’s been a lot of talk lately about EDM versus Hip-Hop, a widely read article a few weeks ago, etc., on EDM’s takeover in markets where Hip-Hop is falling behind. I think that’s kind of a false premise, but you’ve got an interesting perspective since you’re involved in both. What do you think?
STV: Yeah. I mean, there will always be changes in what’s selling the most tickets. And the art, the music people are making, to me that’s a pretty separate thing from the ticket sales. So to say that one style has replaced another is pointlessly arbitrary when it’s referring to ticket sales. Like Neil Diamond sells out mad arenas, IS HE REPLACING HIP-HOP RIGHT NOW?
TSS: [Laughing] Yeah, exactly. Any unexpected stuff you didn’t envision in the beginning of this whole Hood thing?
STV: Coming from a history of music projects privy to primarily our friends, we definitely didn’t expect it to go this far. I think one thing that informed our style along the way was adding the aspect of DJing, which we hadn’t really initially set out to do. Finding out that certain things do and don’t work on the dance floor, song transitions that do and don’t work, etc. We’re still learning about that all the time. There’s no immediate plans for a new album-album but we’re gonna keep making new music with other folks. And some more mixtapes will be along later this year.
TSS: Any advice you want to give to people reading this?
STV: To producers: whether you choose to take the legal route of clearing samples or prefer leaving them uncleared — at the very least, acknowledge your sample source. If you liked it enough to sample it, help get the word out about that source in addition to your own work.
TSS: Wise words. Thanks for the time, dude.
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